‘Milla’s Diary: Tea with the Mother-in-law

NOTE: This is affectionately written fiction. Any resemblance to royals, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This piece is copyright protected.

Need to know Who’s Who? Check out the first installment of ‘Milla’s Diary.

Now where was I? First let me just say that Esteban (my lamb of a life coach) was spot on with the bullet journaling idea!! Spot on, I tell you. I jot down what needs to be done in this dear little bespoke leather journal, then as I go I can doodle, add photos, memorabilia, you name it. I’m SCADS more productive! It fits perfectly in my Barbour pocket with the fags cigarettes, spare dog lead and phone. I keep great-granny’s little flask in the other pocket. I did tell Dear One the journal was my p.r. person’s idea–told him all the Lady Clerks were required to show their bullet-ed items each day. He swallowed it. Amazing. After he left me that little reminder of a packet of coffee and a truly proper you-know-what bottle with hose (exactly the sort my nanny threatened to employ of we didn’t promptly do our “duty” after breakfast) I really feared he would make sure Esteban was gone for good. So what if SWMNBN thought “colonic irrigation” with coffee (of all things! At least tea would have been British) was a good plan. It’s not like Esteban told her to do it. Why should I pay for her ridiculous cures? I need this life coaching right now. Especially after this week.Oh yes, this week!

Thursday after lunch, The Paige of The Presence came round with a heavy embossed envelope requesting we join the Mother-in-law for tea. It was made out in proper copperplate, by hand, and used our formal Scottish titles. All of this to have tea with my husband’s parents! I ask you! And yet they all scoff when they read in the press that they’re out of touch.

Well its not like we could say “no, thanks we’re nackered” or anything, is it? So we braced ourselves and got ready.

Getting Dear One ready for the off is a career in itself. Wives of my era know this and were well prepared for it by Mummy, Nanny and Daddy’s valet. One watches and learns, doesn’t one?  Dear One’s valet is of course unavailable so that left dressing him up to yours truly. Its always up to One, isn’t it? The wife always gets stuck with the heavy lifting.

I found Grandpapa’s Hunting Balmoral tartan and the nubbly stockings that go with it. Then I dug out the correct tweed jacket, the appropriate shirt, the tie from the appropriate Scottish regiment. But I forgot the silly flashes. You know–those little flag-things that hang down on the top of the stockings? NO Flashes??? GNASH!! No flashes???  World Ends. Film on telly at eleven! Truly world stopping. I got him back in this world all snuggled in the big chair with the Proper Pooh blanket and a really stiff drink. Then in my best “Don’t-you-even-think-of-arguing-with-Mummy-at-the -Supermarket-till” voice I informed him that the flashes would be found and he would be able to carry on. Honestly. What wives must endure. The dogs hid under the piano and I wanted ever so badly to join them. I stuffed his foot into the shoe and to show there were no hard feelings, I sang the little shoe-tying song that Nanny Whosits always used. Anything harkening back to the very dear and still-longed for nursery and Nanny soothes. It’s all cozy, you see. Cozy is good for Dear One.

At last we were on our way. Me in a tea-gown appropriate for a matron in approximately 1955, but possibly a tad daring for the Mother-in-law in 2015, Dear One kitted out down to the flashes and stout shoes. The drive up there was enlivened with a shrewish rant from yours truly on “do-not-talk-out-the-side-of-your-mouth-like-a-gangster-they-can’t-hear-OR-understand-you-please-darling” and a rebuttal in the tried and true husbandly key of “don’t-bloody-tell-me-what-to-bloody-do.” Marital bliss at 65+.

The table was laid out for Edward VII with scrummy smoked salmon sandwiches, fresh oatcakes, enough clotted cream to float a battleship, potted prawns, fruitcake with heather honey and who knows what all. Of course, having clad myself in head-to-toe Spanx to carry off the dress, I had to impersonate Yummy and eat air. So while the M-in-l, Pip and Dear One chomped happily on all matter of goodies, I twiddled a sandwich around and popped a single grape. I’d have stashed some sandwiches for later in my purse, but the corgis were on duty. Greedy little things, the corgis. Sniff out “poachers” any time. I eyed Dear One’s sporran and wondered if he’d slip some in it, but a corgi bite in that region would not be conducive to the evenings jocularity now would it?

The mother-in-law asked politely after the dogs, of course, then asked if the Grands were still alive. I gave the appreciated mono-syllabic response to that last one and get a one hour reply on the fabulousness of Dear One’s little niece and nephew and his even smaller great-nieces–all children of the Most Favored Ones. Well, most-favored by the mother-in-law AFTER darling Randy, of course. Dear One grumbled something barely audible about the Boy and Haza never getting such grandparental enthusiasm, then whinged under his breath about Dear Little Edith but by then Pip had reawakened and was, as usual these days, a bit out of kilter.

“Put on that American shooting channel….” Pip said around a mouthful of curried egg mayonnaise sandwich.

“Which shooting?” The Mother-in-law asked, thinking he meant a crime.

Off they went, right into row mode, which is their S.O.P. until finally it was established that Pip wanted the American cable channel that showed deer stalking tips.

“Hunting.” Dear One said calmly. “The Hunting Network.”

Now Pip and the M-in-law joined forces for their favorite sport of all: bullying their eldest child.

“Are you deaf as well as thick? Hunting is with horses. That’s a different network.”

“Would yo listen to him–Mr America now. Well, good to know that zillion-pound education went to some use.”

They giggled and high-fived each other.

I finally got them back on solid ground by saying a corgi looked ready to have a seizure. Oh lord! Wrong thing to say.

The mother-in-law opened her handbag and did something within it (yes, she does, in fact, carry it at home–like that thingy the oldies buy off telly for when they’ve fallen and can’t get up). The RED ALERT was sounded. I believe fighter jets may have been activated and missiles armed. I expected to hear the Boy’s Med-Evac chopper overhead.

“MILLA….” Dear One hissed. “Now you’ve pissed in the pot old thing.”

A medical team swarmed the room. A minder herded the non-seizure-looking-corgis off to a designated safe-room. Pip glared at his watch–timing it all. A chap with a briefcase arrived and conferred with the mother-in-law over a hastily-produced stack of papers. STAND DOWN was called. Seems the corgi had a Do Not Resuscitate order due to being the equivalent in people years of 109.

“Well, good to have a drill. Whose for drinks?” The mother-in-law asked, brightening visibly.

“Too right….” Said Pip, hauling himself up to ring for the drink’s tray.

I snagged a fast salmon sandwich and forced it down. Those Spanx Johnnies know their stuff alright! No room for that sandwich let alone a chaser.

As the drinkies arrived so did the Emergency Vet–a very nice looking young man with great abs. The mother-in-law fanned herself. Smart neck bow, quick apology–seems he’d been in the stable seeing to the Mother-in-law’s favorite Fell Pony. Long, very detailed description of an abscess followed. Pip went back to sleep. Dear One sneaked out to the Loo and I bolted down my first drink and mixed us all seconds–in my case a triple. Why add more tonic I always say–just adds unnecessary calories.

Sometime later the Mother-in-law looked up, discovered we were still there and asked “Have you a card for  dinner?”

“Of course not Mummy….” Dear One replied.

“Well then, you must at least stay to join us on Skype–we’re catching up with Edith and his family. The children love it.”

“No Mummy, I’m afraid I’ve got an engagement and we’d better step on it.”

In the car I took Dear One’s hand and said “that was close–we were almost trapped into dinner with them. Remember last year? Mushy fish and broth?”

Editor’s note: Unbeknownst to Dear One and ‘Milla, once they were out of sight, the Mother-in-law took Pip’s hand and said: “That was close! We were almost stuck with them at dinner.”

“Sod that…the chicken should be here any minute and I’ve ordered that Judi Dench film you’ve wanted to see and there’s Chunky Monkey for afters….”

“Another drink?”

“Oh yes, after our eldest, just give me the bottle.”

“We’ll share…” She said as the footman brought in a red and white bucket of fried chicken and a carton with mashed potatoes, biscuits, gravy and coleslaw.

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