London Diary: Charles the messenger

Prince Charles is quite popular among minorities, especially Muslims for his passionate advocacy of inter-faith dialogue, and it is reckoned that an appeal by him is more likely to succeed

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Hasan Suroor

A belief in the message that sometimes the messenger is as important as the message, Prince Charles has been drafted in the campaign to persuade ethnic minority groups not to be swayed by anti-Covid vaccine propaganda.

As reported in this column before, South Asian and black expat communities have been found to be extremely reluctant to be vaccinated amid conspiracy theories about its efficacy and the state's motives in pushing it. Its take-up among these communities is half that of white people.

Charles is quite popular among minorities, especially Muslims for his passionate advocacy of inter-faith dialogue, and it is reckoned that an appeal by him is more likely to succeed where politicians have failed.

"There is a feeling that he might have better reach than a minister with political affiliations,” according to figures close to him.

Recently, a number of prominent Asian and black personalities such as actor Meera Syal and broadcaster Rageh Omaar appeared in a widely-circulated video aimed at countering the anti-vaccine propaganda. Asian-origin doctors are also trying to do their bit to reassure, addressing their community's concerns.

“We’re very clear that the messenger is just as important as the message,” Mohammed Sattar, a doctor, was quoted as saying.

There are also plans for a “vaccination bus” to visit predominantly ethnic areas and provide vaccine information in forms easily understood by non-English speaking groups.

Steam(y)-ing ahead

It has been billed as the "ultimate literary parlour game". A British publishing house is to bring out a collection of more than two dozen erotic stories but intriguingly without revealing the identities of their authors. Instead, readers will be invited to guess their identity by their style.

Their names will appear in alphabetical order but without indicating who wrote which story. Suffice it to say that it will contain some of the English-speaking world's well-known writers, including a Booker Prize winner Marlon James, and travel writer Paul Theroux, according to The Times.

The brains behind Anonymous Sex, being promoted as a "Valentine to the world”, are writers Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and Hillary Jordan. Apparently, they came up with the idea several years ago but found time to focus on it only during the lockdown. The stories, they insist, would not be “smutty”.

Philosophically speaking...

An email from the Director of the Centre for Hindu Studies, Shaunaka Rishi Das, forwarding its annual report says: "As a Chinese sage might say, we have had an interesting year. Not being a Chinese sage, I’m inclined to offer a less detached analysis but I’ll settle for, “it was what it was”.

Quarantine confusion

As with much of its handling of the Covid crisis, British Government’s latest wheeze—forcing travellers from countries with high infection rates to quarantine in hotels at their own cost—has drawn criticism for the way it has been rushed through without adequate preparation causing confusion and anger.

The hotel quarantine rule applies to travellers from 30-odd countries, including Brazil, Portugal, UAE and South Africa, struggling to cope with the new Covid variant. It has been criticised for requiring them to pre-book accommodation and pay £1,750 each to suffer ten days of forced isolation in government-approved hotels.

Angry travellers, mostly British citizens returning home, say the cost of stay was "too high" and "crazy". They are also critical that people are being forced to quarantine despite testing negative.

"I did my test for coronavirus. The test was negative. Why do I need to stay in my room for 10 days?" Roger Goncalves, a London-based delivery driver returning from Brazil, told BBC.

The policy had drawn further ridicule after it emerged that these supposedly high-risk passengers are allowed to freely mix with other travellers on flights en route to the UK, and that some "qurantine-only" hotels are taking other guests also undermining the very objective of the policy.

British Museum
British Museum

British museum's colonial bias

The venerable British Museum--home to some of the world's rarest art objects--has been accused of "post-colonial iniquity" in its approach to its African and South American collection. And the accuser is none other than one of its own former trustees --and the country's leading sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley.

It follows controversy over its founder Hans Sloane's links with slave trade. Following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, a bust of Sloane was moved from a pedestal to an indoors cabinet.

Sir Antony described the small displays of African artefacts in the museum’s basement as pathetic and said it needed to be completely “rebuilt” to give items from different cultures more prominence. The “basement” culture of relegating non-western exhibits must end, he told British Archaeology magazine calling for the British Museum to be “modernised, to be reformulated in a responsible, post-colonial way”.

Its director Hartwig Fischer says he is already at it urging critics to have patience.


And, lastly, the big news out of Downing Street is that Boris Johnson's famously temperamental dog, Dilyn, has lately become markedly hostile towards outsiders (Brexit effect?) --particularly targeting female guests with fancy handbags that he loves to maul.

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