Being honoured

A little while ago a letter arrived, via my agent, telling me I was to be offered an OBE, and did I want it? This came as a total surprise. I still don’t know who to thank for this, or exactly what I’ve done to deserve it. I’ve been industriously turning out plays, children’s books, novels and films for over thirty years now, so maybe it’s a long-service award. It’s a curious feeling, like discovering the Headmaster has been noticing you all along. So should I accept? My late father-in-law, Quentin Bell, a lifelong anti-imperialist, declined his honour. I know, or suspect I know, several distinguished writers who have refused knighthoods. I have always taken the view that the honours system exists for servants of the public, not for egotistical show-offs like writers and actors, who give each other awards on an almost daily basis. But it felt a little churlish to refuse, and the truth is, I didn’t want to refuse. I don’t need to flash it about; so I’m  just saying thank you, and keeping on writing.

After more thought I realise there is a good justification for honouring celebrities from film and stage and so on. It throws a glamorous sparkle over the entire honours system, and that makes the honours more valuable to those who really deserve them, the public servants who toil unnoticed. I’ve no sparkle to spread myself, but the least I can do is support the honours system, in public and private.

PS: A friend assures me that now I have an OBE I’m entitled to have my children christened in St Paul’s Cathedral. None of the three have been christened, so this is very good news…