All this fuss at The Oldie (the latest news is that Richard Ingrams has been locked out) reminds me that ages back I meant to blog about Josephine Pembroke and her online Radio Gorgeous. Josephine, who’s about 50 but looks 36, is the wife of The Oldie‘s publisher, James. Radio Gorgeous is a station which discriminates against men by only featuring the lives and voices of females – arguably a not unreasonable editorial principle given millennia of misogynistic exclusion, Private Eye and cricket. A little correction is in order, surely.
Ever the swashbuckler, I, Madame Arcati – as female as you are lizard, in the Ickian sense – clamped headphones upon my head and decided to listen to the very first thing on Radio Gorgeous that I was drawn to; an example of Fate’s Prodding. And who should I encounter there before I’ve drawn breath but Princess Michael of Kent! Josephine interviewed Princess Pushy on the occasion of the publication of her latest novel, The Queen of Four Kingdoms.
Her Royal Highness is certainly an authority on name-checking the crowned and titled stars of yore – a ‘professor emeritus of history’ fact-checks her books. In speech she accents foreign words, as if her tongue does the italic font. Rouen, for instance, emerges as ‘Rrrooowahn‘ – I’m sure a media queen of etiquette has decreed that one should pronounce foreign terms in the usual English accent. But no matter.
Interest grows when she describes in pornographic detail the burning of Joan of Arc. Apparently she died of smoke inhalation not of actual burning – consumed by ‘à petit feu, I was brought up speaking French, as you may know.’ The executioner wore a leather apron. And a mask. Joan was chained to the post. Her corpse was properly burnt and the ashes thrown into the Seine as ghastly peasants screeched ‘she’s a boy!’
When later the princess talks of people’s unreadable hand-writing, apropos Old French, Josephine laughs, ‘My husband.’
We learn that the princess’ blood group is A-positive – it’s sweet and mosquitoes love it. However it may account for the arthritis she once had in her hands until a homoeopath ‘cured’ her by banning alcohol from her diet – she’s not touched a drop in 13 years. Plus, she had hot wax baths which caused ‘toxins [to come out] and they smell….’ She always had dark shadows around her eyes like her kids because of smoking and drinking – but not now. She nags her dark shadowed children to give up these vices so that they, too, may display faces of unblemished light. But they ignore her. Freddie works for JP Morgan but one day will be a writer, like mummy.
Oh the details! Everything is framed in gilt, in luxe thinking and oneupmanship. The princess is rendered naked. I strongly urge TV channels and radio stations to hire Josephine Pembroke. This woman extracts the nitty-gritty. Like the princess, Josephine is ‘well-organised.’