`Is that chair safe to sit on?` asked Prince Phillip when visiting a Mencap furniture workshop recently. I had to laugh, although I was probably supposed to show concerned disapproval as the story was related. But it was the funniest thing I had heard in days so I didn't hold back.
We are in strange days as far as norms and standards are concerned. Today I learnt that David Laws, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is in trouble over expenses. Turned out he didn't want his friends and family to know he was gay so pretended his boyfriend was his landlord and claimed rent. Laws is 44 and says he didn't want people to know. Even though times have changed, he says he grew up keeping it quiet and wanted to keep it that way.
Being 41, I can sympathise with Laws on one level. Nobody admitted to being gay in 1986 unless you were Danny Larue or Holly Johnson. Gay friends my own age tend to be low-key about it, even now. There's still a tinge of fear somehow. Today, thankfully, kids - middle class ones anyway - discuss it with their parents and each other. Indeed, I would hope Wilf or Ruby could, rather than feel alone or ashamed.
I hope Laws survives, though I fear he might not. I wish he had felt able to be be open with those close to him and not got himself into a mess. He is wealthy and never needed the money - and the claims were pretty low. It would be a terrible waste of the talents of capable and essentially honest man.