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.
Never have I been so GLAD to be home. And by home I mean MY home, my bolt-hole in the country. Just me and the dogs. Not even up to the Grands yet. One of the PR Johnnies had the brilliant idea of a joint visit by Dear One, Me, the Mother-in-law and Pip to that lovely vacation spot, Malta. Knackering doesn’t begin to describe the ordeal. Not even on the pitch, if you see what I mean? Good golly Miss Molly, indeed. I’ve got the scars to prove it.
Where to begin? I suppose that would be with Dear One’s speech. As I always say about Dear One’s speeches, cue the scary music and clutch the drapes. Yes, one of those speeches. Climate change… I KNOW, I KNOW! More spider letter stories. More SWMNBN would cry a river over it (after first alerting the press and forcing the boys to go along, but that’s for another day). Draft one I vetted in the bath. Alone. Had to climb out and fetch my spectacles. Dear One’s governess, who taught him “a proper hand” as Queen Mary would have said, was previously employed by Aunt M who was more Royal than anyone we know (although Pushy tries to out-do-her and we all know Pushy would still be sweeping up an Aussie hair salon if Aunt M was still alive! But I’m digressing….) So, his handwriting is difficult to read for anyone born after 1834. The spectacles helped…just.
Draft one featured such helpful suggestions as mandating that all buildings be covered in green plants to suck up the air pollution and that non-organic washing powder be banned. Now, I’ve taken a turn or two at the old twin-tub and I can tell you that any washing powder worth its salt has masses, simply masses, of lovely chemicals swimming in it. How else would they get the smell of men’s underarms out? I nixed that. The greenery thing was solved with a paper clip and photo of his old Gan-Gan hacking savagely at the lovely Ivy on Badminton House during the war. Enough Said. Anyway, who believes all those things they read on Facebook? I may not have any more A levels than SWMNBN (well, one didn’t in my day. Nanny dined out on “No man with a trust fund and a country house marries a bluestocking”), but as I understand it “Pronouncements” of the sort Dear One loves to make are best done with scientific research to back them up. Well, enough on the speech. It was long, boring and except for that line I slipped in after he and the mother-in-law were asleep, completely unmemorable and unquoted. It’s always up to One, isn’t it? A wife’s duty. But, I’m getting ahead of the story.
The speech was for part two of this little voyage. Since the M-i-l and Pip together are equal to two centuries or so of eating cold creamed chicken and drinking awful champagne in toast of nothing, a great deal of fuss was made over them. Well, they’re OLD and, let’s face it, they’ve put in the time. There was the now predictable re-enactment of a supposedly “iconic” photo. If you ask me (and no one did) they looked like they were quarreling over whether he had or had not chatted up a nubile young blond at the polo club the night before. Soldiers may have more fun, but sailors have the world as their playing field after all. Turns out they had been rowing only it was over the underpants she’d brought out for him. Not the right brand. Typical of men, isn’t it? Can’t be bothered to just tell the valet.
We settled in to our joint accommodation–though believe me, THEY got the honeymoon suite and we got the staff accommodation. You’d think people their age would nod off over their Bovril at 7:30 after a dinner of soft fish and mushy peas, but no! First it was the telly blaring full volume and the M-i-l shrieking over it about some joke that would be misunderstood in the tabloids and Pip firing back that he couldn’t hear the Sports over her caterwauling. Once that part of the air was cleared, it was “shake, rattle and roll” time as they knocked back all their evening pills and argued over the ledger they keep for them. Next came a long period of giggling then a loud [let’s just say a window was hastily opened] then a long period that was exceptionally audible to those of us in the rabbit hutch next door.
There was the usual “how did we turn out that” lament on Dear One, the usual hours of praise for the OTH (had they only stopped with her!) then a jab at how funny it was to see her husband, The Equerry, upstaged by his wife (this is considered funny because he EARNED his admiral’s rank and she was given hers so it looks like we’re all about equality in the forces, which of course we aren’t. Who dreams of a daughter going to Sandhurst except to pin the bars on the fiance? I ask you!)
But then it got really good. Both were now sleepy and half over the line into needing dementia-care. For the life of them they couldn’t recall why they’d had Edith! Dear One giggled excitedly. Randy, well that was simple enough–a lovely weekend alone when the M-i-l’s maid forgot to pack that little item all women of the era were expected to have, but Edith? Why? Then they got down to the reason they were trying to recall why he exists. Turns out the annoying little gnat tried to pawn the
props children off on the parents so he and the wife could frolic somewhere alone. Not on. Pip didn’t even recall Edith being married. Had those “supposed” children made it to Paris Match like that Monaco chappie’s bastards? Dear One SO enjoyed all of this. Then they took on Andy and “the tramp” who turns out not to be the ex- but the current bit of fluff with dodgy friends. More fun for Dear One. Something about no barge pole being long enough? Must have been the hearing it thru the wall, but I didn’t quite get it all. Then the M-i-l made a snort and a rude comment on Randy’s “barge pole” and the giggling began anew. What a hoot! Dear One was absolutely jubilant as he wallowed on my boobs.
So, we began the next day riding high. We put up with the screaming over the telly at the breakfast table. Every day is truly brand new to Pip–he forgets everything in his sleep, poor thing. He’s such a lamb. As Pip was dripping the eggy off the toast soldier onto his clean shirt and tie, the Mother-in-law made a gesture with her head and Pip, for once, found the “mute” button on the first try.
“Darling…” She began ominously, aiming her patented smile at Dear One. “Darling, you will remember that Mummy has worked very, very hard to keep all these little colonial whosits in line all these years, won’t you?”
“Of course Mummy, but they prefer ‘Independent Nations‘ now a days.”
“Of course they do!” She gave a hoot of laughter.
“We must be sensitive on this one Mummy…” Dear One said, brandishing the butter knife.
“Of course we must!” This came out in a peel of fun laughter. But then her face changed. It was like a seismic shift. Pip squirmed a bit, as though needing the loo (probably did poor old dear, they get like that, don’t they? men.) Those fabled blue eyes fixed on those of her first born and she spoke in her “don’t-give-me any s*-t you-little-worm-I’m-still-your -sovereign-and-what’s-more-I’m-your-Mother” tone. I couldn’t help it, I sat up even straighter, though I doubt old lady Grantham in her prime could have sat more vertical.
“Don’t cause a cock-up with your silly speech. Just say things that please both sides but mean nothing. Otherwise….” She paused for effect. “I’ve had a lovely offer on Sandringham.” She said this with a thoughtful flounce of her head that nearly unsettled her George III wig.
Dear One’s ears released smoke. The mother-in-law gave a very smug look. Pip asked what happened to the redhead he slept with last night. I reached for a pear. Dear One, though, tried again. Before he spoke I knew, I just knew (well, a wife DOES, doesn’t she?) I kicked him furiously under the table, but no! No, he just HAD to fight back! I swear he’d have been transferred to Eton in a heart beat if he’d just said he found the Prison Camp School “unbecoming,” but NO! he had to whinge on and on. Same problem here, but at a nuclear level, if you see.
He tried to be strong, to speak menacingly. For once he did not use that bad-gangster-movie-side-of-his-mouth-speech. “You know Mummy, ” he began trying to sound like he was about to win, “I’ve been on to the P.M. and that new labor chap–the one with Parka who won’t bow? hmmm?” Smugness makes him do the hmmm-thing. Not good. “Well, the Prince Regent papers are awaiting your signature and the Great Seal. All done up. Ready the moment I tell them you are ga-ga. They know Papa is a loon, it’s only a matter of time.”
“Oh, you’ve been “on” to the PM have you? Good to know. Then I’m sure he’s let you know that my incapacity must be certified by three doctors, the Archbishops or Canterbury and York, two Commonwealth Heads of County–COUNTRY–” She said this to make him squirm “and a Corgi to be identified later. Also a contingent of fell ponies and the chap who winds the clocks, so good luck.” She paused then went on in a very sweet voice. “Now, about Sandringham. I understand they want to put in a shopping mall and a new housing estate. Frightful waste to keep it all for us. Lovely money, too.” She gave an ominous chuckle.
“Mummy, you wouldn’t dare…..”His knuckles turned white as he clutched the butter knife still.
“Oh wouldn’t I? Worked for Uncle David, blackmail. So, you’ll be rewriting the speech and I will personally approve it. I’m tired of all the “drama”” (she made quote fingers, pulled a face and used a funny voice) “of your so-called speeches. If you want to be King you’ll learn to say nothing. The Boy does it fairly well–he’s young, he’ll learn, but you, have had DECADES and ignored me. Yes, ignored me. So kiss the shooting bye-bye, no more playing Bertie and Alice on weekends, no more having minions carry bathwater up to your room in tall copper jugs. A lovely new housing estate–vinyl siding, cheap windows, the works. I bet they’ll put in a Poundland too. And street parking as well. In fact I think the grouse reserve is slated to become a multi-story car park.”
Dear One sat down hard, gasping. I feared he’d need CPR, but I was a bit drunk when I learned and my mobile was in the bedroom. The Mother-in-law high-fived Pip, he passed more wind and we crept quietly to our room, tails between our legs, to prepare for the day. I snuggled him in the Proper Pooh blanket and got out the
tasteless organic biscuits, then got out the iPad and engaged Skype. Just what he needed. “Hello Yummy darling? Is Baby 1 available for Grandpapa? Yes, we’ll hold….”
Technology. Seeing that little face, gumming the same biscuit. So sweet. A wife’s work is never done.