IN a long career in journalism I have been given plenty of advice. Some of it was even asked for, while a lot of it involved going forth and chasing myself, the boiling of heads, and so on.
Yet in all this time I have never been asked to take on the role of agony aunt. Astonishing, right? As anyone who knows me well can testify, I ooze empathy. If there was a perfume named "Compassion" I would reek of the stuff. 
But still the phone does not ring. Dear Deirdre remains on her throne, her words of wisdom accompanying pictures of couples whose first response to trauma is ripping off their clothes.
Deirdre is not alone. There are plenty of other women of a certain age ready and willing to assume the mantle of agony aunt. The first of these the Queen
She does not take on the gig often, it has to be said, which makes her pronouncements all the more worthy of a hearing. And when the monarch does give advice she tends to do so in a roundabout, almost Yoda-like way. Not obvious she is. Ponder carefully her words one must.
Take her message on the eve of the 2014 independence referendum: “Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.” Some took this to mean nothing, just a smooth way of answering an awkward question. Others translated it as: “Vote no or a burning ball of fire will descend from the heavens and obliterate everything from John O’Groats to the Borders.”
This time, thankfully, HRH has been a lot clearer. Addressing her local Women’s Institute in Sandringham, the tensions over Brexit appeared to be at the forefront of her mind. 
“As we look for new answers in the modern age,” she said, “I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view, coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me, these approaches are timeless and I commend them to everyone.” 
With that she was off, doubtless with a couple of Victoria sponges in her bag for tomorrow's afternoon tea. Wonder if she entered anything in the craft competition.
Also giving advice this week has been Annie Lennox, chanteuse and chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. Appearing on a Golden Globes podcast, she urged women to embrace ageing and stay away from the surgeon’s knife and the beautician’s syringe of lip filler.
“Why not maybe just do something tiny, if you need to do something, and then try to let the rest alone?" she asked. "Let yourself become who you are as an older person. You don’t need to lose interest in presenting yourself nicely. You can have your hair done, nails done, dress well and be fit, but really it’s a shame we have to mess so much with this plastic surgery.” Well said, madam.
Two sets of wise words, both worth heeding. The good news is there is plenty more coming round the bend. One newspaper reported yesterday that other royals would be talking about the importance of unity and mutual respect as the big Brexit vote approaches next Tuesday.
The younger royals are very comfortable in the agony aunt role. They are always ready with advice on everything from ridding the planet of plastic to letting your emotions show. 
Prince Charles led the way with his always warmly welcomed advice on architecture and organic food, and his offspring have followed. They tend to get their points across at staged, glitzy press events – see Prince William interviewing Sir David Attenborough in Davos – rather than by writing “black spider” memos, but the intention is similar.
Perhaps it is time to cut out the middle men and women here. Instead of the royals handing out guidance which newspapers then report at length, why not just give them their own columns? "Ask Meghan". "Dear Kate". "Why, William, Why?"
The possibilities are endless. But probably best, just for now, to steer clear of giving Phil his own motoring page. 


ANDRA Neil became agitated this week (is he ever anything else?) about Amazon’s new delivery robot. Of a similar size to a Henry vacuum cleaner, the lockable lid lifts to reveal the purchase inside. 
“What happens when some yob kicks it into a hedge. Or picks it up and runs away with it?”  he asked. 
I understand his pain. People do not like change, particularly of the robot kind. How many delivery drivers will Amazon’s device do out of their jobs? What happens if the robots develop minds of their own and decide to do a Robin Hood, diverting flash goods from rich neighbourhoods to poor?
Another absolute pits idea put forward this week is a robot valet parking system, to be tested at Gatwick in August. You might have thought Gatwick would have had its fill of gizmos after the drone incident, but there we are.
Between this and in-car computers, I despair. 
And I blame the patriarchy. Hating the fact women park so much better than them, men are trying to take away yet another of our pleasures. 


HOW wonderful to see George Alagiah back presenting the BBC Six O’Clock News. I’ll even forgive him the beard.
In a profession that hardly wants for egos landing left, right, and centre, Alagiah seems one of the genuine good guys, warm, professional, hardworking, a joy to have in your home. 
There was a lot of sympathy when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer five years ago, and again when it returned in 2017.
Among the many people to welcome his return on Wednesday was Labour MP David Lammy, who said, "So pleased to see George Alagiah back where he belongs. One of the best in the business."
Alagiah tweeted in response: “Thanks to all for good wishes. We’ve got the cancer in a holding pattern so it’s back to work with colleagues I respect and the viewers who make it worthwhile.”
His reference to a “holding pattern” is a reminder that people with cancer know better than to ever say that it has gone, or that they are “cured”. 
For Alagiah, like so many others, it is one step, one day, one appointment at a time.


THERE are some stories guaranteed to bring on the tears. Take the latest misfortune to be heaped on Louise Linton, the Scottish actress married to Steve Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary.
Our Louise has not had her troubles to seek since leaving Edinburgh. Her memoir of the gap year she spent in Zambia met with a furious response from the country’s high commission in London, and on social media. One of her many toe-curling memories of the trip concerned “a smiling gap-toothed child with HIV whose greatest joy was to sit on my lap and drink from a bottle of Coca-Cola”.
Then there was the time she boasted on Instagram about flying on a government plane with hubby, listing all the brands she was wearing in the photo. People loved that almost as much as her memoir.
But now the teasing must stop. I regret to report that Steve and Louise have had to cut the price of their Park Avenue apartment from £25 million to £22.6 million due to a lack of interest. Feel free to let those tears of laughter flow.