Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Boredom an art form for the Royal Family

Charles, Camilla endure visits with grace

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If you had to choose only one reason to not have children or merely pretend you don't have any in your life, it would be to avoid the dullest spectacle known to humankind -- the dreaded dance recital.

Waiting in line at the bank is boring. Listening to middle-aged people talk about their personal finances is even worse.

But when it comes to mind-numbing, soul-destroying, trauma-inducing tedium, there's nothing quite like being forced to sit in a stale room and feign interest while the unco-ordinated offspring of other humans attempt to frolic and flit about in a manner that is supposed to be a routine of some form, but is actually just a series of random movements.

Happily, most people only have to endure this particular brand of boredom once a year, or maybe twice if they're terrible at coming up with excuses to avoid recitals.

For Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, however, experiencing ennui is their life. The man who would be king and his paramour-turned-partner spend their existences being shuttled from one terribly dull activity to another, graciously enduring recital after concert after ceremony with a stoicism all but unparalleled on this planet.

Being a royal anything is bloody awful, as they supposedly say in England. Yes, Prince Charles is a genetic-lottery winner who has more wealth at his disposal than many developing nations. He has never suffered from a lack of food, a need of shelter or a want of medical care.

The prince has spent his life learning to appear grateful at all times, even when he probably wants to run screaming from whatever horribly dull situation happens to engulf him

But given the small parcel of Chuckie's touring life Winnipeggers got to glimpse during this week's mercifully short visit, no sane pauper would ever change places with this prince, not even for a nanosecond.

In Winnipeg, the Duchess had to sit and watch a godforsaken dance recital, simply because somebody with the authority to lengthen the name of companies plunked down the term "Royal" before the words "Winnipeg Ballet" a few decades ago.

Prince Charles, an animal lover, was forced to feed a captive polar bear at Assiniboine Park Zoo, where a big chunk of the zoo is being made into a theme park devoted to the Arctic environmental havoc wrought by climate change.

Most heinously of all, Charles was handed a big pile of gifts to cart home to the United Kingdom, where the Royal Family must operate entire warehouses to store all the junk they're given during their many visits to the nations once ruled by colonial Britain.

"Great, more crap," Prince Charles ought to think to himself every time somebody foists a new Hudson's Bay blanket or cowboy hat into his royal lap.

Of course, Prince Charles is far too gracious and stoic to actually think such a thing. The prince has spent his life learning to appear grateful at all times, even when he probably wants to run screaming from whatever horribly dull situation happens to engulf him.

Charles has spent decades resisting the urge to say anything remotely undiplomatic, unless of course it happens to be about Vladimir Putin, the first Russian leader since Leonid Brezhnev we're allowed to hate.

Chuck has spent a veritable eon living the life he was expected to live. Sure, his holidays must be glorious. Yours would be, too, if you could afford to coat your Corn Flakes in platinum every morning.

But when he travels on family business, he's forced to perpetuate the farce an entire Commonwealth exists merely to receive him, ply him with their weirdest tchotchkes and force him to meet an endless line of people he could not possibly care about.

I sincerely hope Prince Charles does not care about the majority of us. Why? Because the vast majority of us could not care less about him.

This is no slight.

It's just the way it is. You can admire the Royal Family for their public service.

You can respect the royals for their devotion to any number of charities.

But this doesn't mean you give a quantity of human waste about what actually happens to these people, who are utterly unremarkable except for one quirk: They were born to a line of equally unremarkable people granted a state sanction of hereditary wealth.

To democratic-minded North Americans, the British class system is abhorrent, even though we tolerate truly shocking social inequality here at home. Many of us believe social mobility is somehow more possible on this side of the Atlantic.

We're fooling ourselves, of course. But with every generation, fewer of us care about our former British overlords, who are now just allies with superior fashion sense and more volatile pop-music charts.

Canada is less of a British nation. Canada is less of a British anything. So let's just stop pretending we care about Prince Charles so he can stop pretending he cares about us -- and instead can spend what's left of his days doing whatever the hell it is he really wants to do.

Something tells me that would not involve going to children's dance recitals.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2014 A4


Updated on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 9:23 AM CDT: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was at the RWB.

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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