Belfast Telegraph

When my letter from the Queen comes, I'll jump at it right away

By Grace Dent

I write this while recovering from my Queen's New Year Honours "snub". Please accept my commiserations on your "snub" also. In keeping with tradition, there is no airy-fairy middle ground with the dispersal and reporting of end-of-year gongs. One is either "on the list", or one has been "snubbed".

David Beckham "snubbed". Andy Murray "snubbed". We love the crucial inference that the Queen was actually handed a piece of paper with our names on, which she scrumpled promptly into a ball then propelled into an open fire.

Obviously, I did nothing of any merit last year to deserve an honour. But let's be frank: achieving very little isn't a massive calamity in the honours race.

Angela Lansbury was suddenly bestowed with a Damehood. Why now, we don't know. Perhaps the Queen recognised the value in Pete Tong – now MBE – of playing music on the radio for many years which subliminally cajoled people into planning big, belting weekends out taking drugs.

Perhaps Her Majesty is eternally tickled by the image of Michael Crawford – now CBE – rollerskating behind a bus. The process of the Honours list is far from transparent, so we'll never truly know.

Here, it shouts, is a list of special names which seem to be wholly arbitrary (Katherine Jenkins OBE), or at times divisive (Ruth Jones MBE, but James Corden "snubbed") and in places shameless in its ability to provoke.

Remember that senior physician, Sir Marcus Setchell, who led the team who delivered the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby? Well, he was made Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. I'm not a republican, but simply writing about the notion of giving an individual medic special honours is making one of the veins in my neck throb.

Still, I could never argue for these end-of-year gongs to be banished. As long as there are Queen's awards, there is the fun of observing people toadying away publicly in the hope of recognition. (Yes, I do mean you, Gary Barlow.)

More seriously, while we have Queen's Honours we still retain some respect for everyday, non-celebrity acts of greatness, such as Barry and Margaret Mizen – now both appointed MBEs – who've worked tirelessly to help other young people since the murder of their 16-year-old son.

Or to pay tribute to the work of Trevor Jarvis, the Alzheimer's Society ambassador for Dementia; to Christina Selby, who founded Hats4Heroes and has sent 10,000 knitted hats to the British forces in Afghanistan, mainly to cheer soldiers up.

In the rush for us to examine why Beckham and Murray – men bestowed daily with praise, wealth and respect – were "snubbed", not many people stop to examine what the 74% of the honours given to charitable ventures were awarded for.

Just last week, Iain Duncan Smith publicly accused the Trussell Trust – a body which has dispensed 500,000 emergency food parcels to the needy since April – of being little more than troublemakers, so I can't condemn royal efforts to honour the art of being a Good Samaritian.

And, of course, when I'm offered my OBE – and it's "when", not "if", because, let's face it, some of the whimsical observations I make about reality television and pop culture are pretty bloody world-changing – I'll grab it with both hands. For two reasons.

First, refusing an OBE then inevitably making a worthy fuss about it has a habit of making one look like Rick from The Young Ones.

And, second, and more important, it would make my mother really really happy.

And, curiously, as time marches on, I realise that her happiness is more important than anything. I'd be there By Maternal Appointment.

Belfast Telegraph


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