LONDON—Kate Middleton left the King Edward VII hospital Thursday morning, after three days of bed rest while the rest of the world went mad over the fact that she’s PREGNANT and carrying a future monarch who, if male, will almost certainly marry Harper Seven Beckham. She’s only sick with the excitement of it all, really. Meanwhile, the photographers I mingled with outside the hospital just seem grouchy and over all of it.
At fewer than 12 weeks pregnant, the Duchess is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, which is acute morning sickness. Even in hospital she’s probably spent a miserable few days feeling dizzy and sick and worried about the inevitable projectile vomiting parody gifs with her poor royal face superimposed over the possessed kid from The Exorcist.
Also having a pretty crappy week: the dozens of photographers stuck outside her hospital waiting for her, the Queen, or any other royal/Middleton with tabloid value to do something in view of their zoom lenses. (Perhaps also just for someone to fall over, because that’s always good fun — unless they’re pregnant like the Duchess of course, in which case it’s just dangerous.) I visited the makeshift press pool on occasion during the week, just to see how folks were holding up. Spoiler: not that well. Brits can get grumpy.
Each time I stopped by over the past two days, more than 70 photographers, assistants, and researchers were present to capture these visits. And that’s not including the crews holed up in the ten newsvans present, or a smaller crew of assistants’ assistants who seemed to spend their shifts outside zooming from one snack bar to the next in search of vaguely palatable hot food. All the foreign news crews wanted to eat seemed to be mushy peas, because when in England… you eat like shit.
Given the unrelenting tedium their positions entailed, not to mention the fact that the week’s average temperatures — factoring windchill — approached freezing, very few of the snappers wanted to stop for much of a chat, even when I offered mince pies as an incentive. To be fair, they were cheap mince pies; to be more fair, who wants to be the person who misses their money shot because they stopped to talk about how they aren’t even a monarchist, it’s just a paycheck, etc. None seemed to care about the Duchess’s predicament at all; one photographer who insisted on remaining nameless said he’d gladly switch places with her and would deal with “her wussy hangover” in exchange for a respite from the cold without any complaints. Wills might have noticed the difference though.
Three separate photographers all called the experience torturous. Another called the job his worst in 2012. One particularly grumpy guy also threatened to hit me when I suggested that, hey, at least the biting weather burns lots of calories — always a bonus in the run-up to holiday parties. (That’s probably not true anyway, but I was terrible at science in school.) Everyone was miserable. I was miserable, and I stayed for no more than an hour or so at a time. Many photographers remained for the duration of Kate’s hospital stay; yes, some even claimed to be ‘working’ through the night. Nobody would explain how toilet breaks worked; surely the fact that all the street’s potted plants looked well-watered was a coincidence. Most photographers appeared to have worked out shift patterns among their colleagues and friends, but they also wanted to make sure they were around for the bigger moments.
Like when Pippa and James emerged from the hospital’s front doors on Wednesday evening, for example.
The street lit up like an epileptic’s worst nightmare. One canny pap who’d missed out on a prime spot in the photogs’ front row lay down on his stomach on the pavement to snap his shots between his competitors’ legs. A lady walking home stopped to take photos of the photographers all taking photos. I yelled out “Pip Pip Hooray” before I could even help myself. And then Pippa and James — who has an unfortunately scraggly beard now — got straight into a taxi and drove off and that was that.
Though the Queen couldn’t make it to Kate’s sickbed, Australian radio DJs pretended to be her when they prank-called the hospital with shocking success. But Kate’s mom Carole did swing by.
And Kate’s husband William popped by each day, which was nice of him.
Also present, this strange man wearing a Prince William mask. (At least two policemen stood at the hospital’s doors at, I believe, all times during Kate’s stay.)
As far as I can tell, the lady above isn’t even tenuously famous. But she got the cameras going anyway — perhaps because your camera trigger finger will freeze if you don’t click it reasonably frequently.
I returned to the hospital one last time this morning about an hour after Kate’s exit. It was a lot quieter. Six newsvans remained, and a few reporters taped generic “I’m standing outside Kate’s hospital and I’m really fucking cold” segments, but understandably, the photographers had almost all moved on — hopefully somewhere indoors. But they’d left behind their handy stepladders (though while I talked with bemused passers-by, two returned to collect theirs), three mismatched gloves, and piles of trash for a nonplussed street sweeper. Their three day-long shift (give or take) had been a real boon for local coffee shops if nothing else.
I did not see this man, who was shooting a betting website’s promotional video, offer odds on possible names for Kate’s baby. Which is a shame, because I would have laid down a substantial wager on Latifah.
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