Ep 8. All together now

It’s Her Majesty’s birthday but instead of letting off cannons, honouring knights or playing gin rummy with Madge, her Lady in Waiting, the Queen is on Zoom. The video call is split three ways, linking Windsor, Norfolk and Karori.

“I like the medieval backdrop she’s chosen,” Meghan whispers to Harry, seated together in view of the screen. “The toiling peasants in the field outside, the silverware heaped around the room, the burning bunches of sage leaves to ward off disease.”

“It’s not a backdrop, it’s just Windsor Castle,” says Harry.

“Kate and I are here, Granny,” William says, from the Georgian splendour of his country residence, Anmer Hall. Kate offers a dazzling smile.

“Great, it’s Suck-Up and Slaphead,” hisses Harry.

“Mute your microphone, Harry,” remarks the Queen.

Great, it’s Suck-Up and Slaphead.

Harry, on Wills and Kate

“Let’s get this jolly thing done,” says Prince Philip, irritably. “Where the hell is Charles?”

“He’s on his way over from Karori Park,” Camilla says, settling herself into an armchair with an Aperol Spritz. “He’s doing awfully well with his canine obedience demonstrations, you know. They absolutely throng with onlookers.”

“What sorts of commands is he teaching?” asks the Queen.

“Sit, obviously,” says Camilla. “Stay.”

“Shame you didn’t learn that one, Harry,” remarks William. His brother turns red with annoyance.

“Walkies,” continues Camilla.

“Meghan’s got that one nailed,” adds Wills. Meghan goes pink.

“Not Die for the Queen, I hope,” says Her Majesty, mildly.

“Heavens no,” says Camilla. “He’s changed that to Roll Over For Mummy.”

“He’s been doing that for 70 years,” says Philip. Camilla goes purple.

“Let’s just get orn with it,” Philip continues. “First of all, a cheer for Her Majesty on her 94th birthday. Happy Birthday, Old Boot.”

“I’ll never understand this family,” mutters Meghan.

“Hip hip, hooray!” everyone else says.

“Next on the agenda, this bloody book that’s coming out about the Sussexes.” There’s an icy silence. Harry and Meghan exchange a glance. “Promising an intimate portrait of two rebels, liberated from royal bonds to earn an honest living,” continues Philip, reading from his notes. He looks up. “It’s called Finding Freebies.”

Finding Freedom,” corrects Harry. “I can assure you, Grandpa, it will be in the best possible taste, like everything we do.”

“Such as handing out sex toys in suburban New Zealand?” says Wills, archly.

“Yoni eggs support the pelvic floor muscle,” snaps Meghan “Now, thanks to us, Karori moms fear nothing when they sneeze.”

Thanks to us, Karori moms fear nothing when they sneeze.

Meghan Markle

“This book sounds terrible,” says Philip, getting cross.

“It’s no worse than the memoir Pippa Middleton published,” retorts Harry. “Does My Bum Look Famous in This?”

“Or Camilla’s coffee table book about her spaniels,” adds Meghan. “Toothless Betty & Incontinent Pip: a love story against all odds.”

“Or anything by Sarah, Duchess of York,” says Harry. “Budgie the Helicopter Sells Access to Andrew.”

“I want it pulped,” insists Philip. “Next on the agenda: the Cambridges.”

“We’ve been frightfully busy,” says Kate, silkily. “Clapping for nurses.”

“How are the children?” asks the Queen.

“Louis is fingerpainting,” says Kate. “Charlotte is learning her shapes. George is with his tutor at the moment, studying the constitutional history of the United Kingdom and the right of primogeniture.”

“Jolly good,” says Philip. “But there’s a problem, I’m afraid.”

“The people of Norfolk are restless,” says the Queen. “They’re a bit cross that a family of rich Londoners have escaped to the country, potentially spreading contagion in a region with little specialist care.”

“Restless?” repeats William.

“Haven’t you seen the burning crucifix on your front lawn?” barks Philip. “The locals want you gone.” He slaps his knee, furiously. “I blame the Beckhams, and that sodding Gordon Ramsay.”

“I agree entirely,” adds Camilla. “Lounging around their country homes on Instagram, in flat caps and Burberry jackets. Posh Spice has never gutted a rabbit in her life, or jugged a hare.”

“So we’re sending you to Karori,” says Philip.

“WHAT?” say Wills, Kate, Harry and Meghan.

“United front, and all that,” says the Queen, with a tight smile. “It would be the most perfect birthday gift I can imagine, seeing my grandsons burying the hatchet.” There’s an uncomfortable pause. “That’s settled, then.”

“Good gracious,” Camilla thinks aloud. “Two Dukes, three Duchesses and a King in Waiting, right here in Karori?”

“What on earth will we do all day?” asks Kate, aghast.

“What do you do all day now?” wonders Meghan.

“Where do I start?” says Camilla. “They’re desperate for volunteers at Karori Normal School’s Kiss & Drop. Someone needs to trim the hanging baskets at Marsden Village; the lobelia has run amok. Bill needs a butcher’s boy to deliver schnitzels to old people. And it says here,” she holds up the community paper, “that Marsden Books is for sale.”

“How promising,” says the Queen. “It does sound as if the neighbourhood is in desperate need of royal support. My only question to William and Harry is: will Karori be big enough for both of you?”

In the next compelling instalment, Wills & Kate arrive and Sir Bill English very probably makes a cameo

Ep 7. Gooped!

It’s mid-morning, and the queue outside Karori Mall is longer and livelier than usual.

“What’s going on?” asks Bridget, joining the line.

“Haven’t you heard?” someone answers, excitedly. “Meghan Markle’s opened a shop. And she’s giving away designer stuff for free!”

“Like what?” Bridget wants to know. Scanning for clues, she watches delighted shoppers emerging from the mall, carrying gift-wrapped parcels.

Nobody can believe their luck. The Duchess of Sussex has taken over Rosina’s café! A pretty string of bunting hangs in the window, announcing MEGHAN’S POP-UP WELLNESS SHOP. Beneath it is the hand-lettered sign: Another Selfless Act of Kindness from the Duke & Duchess of Sussex.

Instead of the usual stacks of ham sandwiches and slices, the café’s cabinets are chockers with top-selling must-haves from Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxury brand, Goop.

When Bridget makes it inside, she is astounded by the selection. Charcoal toothbrushes! LED light masks! Saffron and 24-carat-gold exfoliating powder! Little jars of leeches! It’s like poking in Gwyneth’s bathroom drawers in her L.A. mansion. Everything that a beautiful, famous, neurotic, evidence-averse, self-promoting millionaire could ever need, is all right here at Rosina’s!

Bridget can take anything she likes from the baskets placed around the shop – a meditation pillow, or a T-shirt with the slogan Science Is Nice, But Have You Tried Woo-Woo?

Science is nice, but have you tried woo-woo?

Gwyneth Paltrow

But the most popular items are right by the door. One basket is packed with Goop’s notorious jade eggs. LADIES, a sign implores, TAKE ONE FOR THE GOOD OF YOUR YONI.

Another offers Gwyneth’s world-famous ‘This Smells Like My Vagina’ candles. Usually marked at $100 each, Meghan is giving them freely to the women of Karori, proposing they LIGHT ONE FOR THE MAN IN YOUR LIFE.

Ripples of excitement radiate outwards from the mall. There are walkers all over Karori, their dogs straining at the lead, gazing astonished at inspirational messages that have appeared all over the suburb.

YOU ARE LOVED is sprayed across the glass windows of the library.

YOU ARE STRONG is painted on the toilet block down at Karori Park.

DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING is splashed all over the bowling club.

DRIVE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE IS ON MEDS is plastered across the intersection at Chaytor Street and Karori Road.

A One News car is already parked up beside the library, where a camera operator is filming. “This feel-good graffiti has all the hallmarks of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex,” a reporter is saying into the lens, “who is well known for her vast and unimaginable self-belief.”

The reporter smiles and holds a jade egg up to the camera. “Could this be the secret to surviving lockdown? Now that Meghan has been giving these away for free, only the ladies of Karori can tell us.” A power-walking middle-aged woman strides past, her cheeks rosy, giggling to herself.

Back at Homewood, Meghan is delighted. She’s back doing what she does best: helping grateful people in Instagrammy ways. Harry is feeling good too. He’s in the shed, rinsing all the paint brushes with solvent. He inhales deeply, and sees little stars bursting all over the place.

Camilla is less than thrilled. She’s spent years being serially upstaged by royal weddings, births, christenings, Meghan’s outfits, and special editions of newspapers whenever Kate Middleton cuts her fringe! Karori was her opportunity to win the hearts of New Zealanders, not the Sussexes’. She stomps off to find Charles.

He’s watching the 1pm press conference, and motions for her to be quiet. “New Zealand appears to be close to elimination,” he says. “Perfectly extraordinary for an unassuming little country like this to be leading the way, when only a generation ago the Rolling Stones called Invercargill ‘the arsehole of the world’.”

“If Invercargill is the arsehole, I suppose Karori is the tummy button,” remarks Camilla. “But really, who pays attention to Keith Richards? He’s looks like he’s spent the last 40 years boiling in a bag of Jack Daniels.”

He looks like he’s spent the last 40 years boiling in a bag of Jack Daniels.

Camilla on Keith Richards

The future king and his wife gaze at the television. The Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield is rattling through the statistics.

“What a kind face he has,” says Camilla. “Intelligent eyes. Good teeth. Excellent fetlocks.”

“Ssh, it’s time for reporters’ questions,” Charles says, crossly.

“Dr Bloomfield,” someone is asking, “Do you have any comment on widespread reports that the suburb of Karori has begun giving off a startling sort of smell?” There is a murmur of interest among the press gallery. The reporter coughs apologetically and adds, “Apparently, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina.”

Camilla switches off the TV in irritation. “Charles,” she snaps. “We can’t allow the Sussexes to dominate the news agenda in this country. It’s time to act. You have to do something to become the King of People’s Hearts.”

“The Duchess of York has been filming herself reading to children,” remarks Charles. “Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, and so on.”

“Who is actually watching?” asks Camilla.

“According to British intelligence, only the FBI,” remarks Charles. “They’re waiting for Andrew to walk into shot, so they can serve him extradition papers.

“I could read something similar to local people, to raise their spirits,” Charles goes on, waving a leather-bound book. “I’ve chosen The Plague by Albert Camus.”

“No. no,” snaps Camilla, rudely. “You need to be seen doing good works.” She taps her chin. “Hmmm, Hairy Maclary. I think dogs might be the way to win over the locals. I’ve never seen so many spoodles, pugs and cavoodles, and that’s just on Messines Road.

“I’ve got it!” Camilla claps her hands. “Canine obedience demonstrations, down at Karori Park. It’s perfect. It performs a vital local service while showing the public you’re capable of decisive leadership.”

“By ordering a dog across a see-saw?” asks Charles, doubtfully.

“I’ll organise it,” says Camilla. “We’ll need some weave poles, a tunnel, hurdles and a whistle. Stop being so limp about everything, Charles! Search for the mongrel inside yourself.”

She bustles from the room. “Stay!” Charles calls, but she disregards his command.

In the next riveting instalment: Bad news for Wills and Kate, and Philip shouts at everyone

Ep 6. Meghan’s plan

Camilla bursts into the drawing room to find Harry fuming, and Meghan leafing angrily through a magazine.

“Bloody Aunt Anne,” Harry is saying, sourly.

“What’s going orn?” Camilla wants to know.

“Princess Anne’s in Vanity Fair,” Meghan says, pained. She looks at Charles. “It’s a magazine for rich Americans who don’t have the attention span for books.” Then she wails, “She’s the COVER.”

“She’s given an interview, slagging us off,” adds Harry.

“Come, come,” says Charles. “I think it’s mostly harmless. She spends a page and half talking about the benefits of tweed.”

“Oh, tweed is frightfully practical,” agrees Camilla. “It’s perfect for the saddle and, with the right tiara, a state banquet.” She settles herself on a fat sofa. “And why wash anything that’s already the colour of dog?”

“She says ‘younger Royals’ want to reinvent the wheel by trying new ways of doing things,” says Meghan. “She says we should follow the example set by wiser, older royals. Like you guys.”

“What are you doing, Pa?” Harry asks Charles, who has just begun scribbing furiously.

“I’m writing a memo to the New Zealand Prime Minister, asking her to consider a homeopathic way forward,” says Charles. “It’s my opinion that bergamot has anti-viral qualities warranting further examination.” He puts down his pen. “I’m also suggesting talking to plants.”

“I say this with love,” continues Meghan, “But this family hasn’t lived in the real world for, like, a really long time. You guys think everybody’s butter comes stamped with a coat of arms.

“You know, I liked Anne. I thought we had a connection. I mean,” she waves a hand, uncertainly, “I like oats. She likes oats.”

I thought we had a connection. I like oats. She likes oats.

Meghan, on Princess Anne

“What I don’t understand is why you both had to dump us and move to America,” says Camilla.

“Malibu isn’t America,” says Harry. “It’s better.”

“In the same way that celebrities aren’t people,” adds Meghan. “They’re better.”

“And why are you even here?” Camilla goes on. “I thought you were buying Mel Gibson’s house.”

“We were,” says Meghan, “But Donald Trump talked Mel out of it.”

“So we’ll probably buy Cher’s,” says Harry. “Once our allowance comes through.” He and Meghan stare pointedly at Charles, who nervously tugs an ear.

“While we’re here, we’re determined to make a difference in our own way,” says Meghan, defiantly tossing her hair.

“How do you propose doing that?” asks Camilla, tartly.

“We’ll do good works privately and humbly, without attracting attention,” replies Meghan, “And then we’ll post the photos on Instagram, and tip off Good Morning America.

“You know, on the drive through Karori today, the deprivation was obvious,” she goes on. “I didn’t see a single Trader Joe’s, or Nobu, or Soho House. How do people here keep themselves healthy? Or network?”

“It’s not all bad,” says Camilla. “There is a One Fat Bird. Kids eat free on Sundays.”

“We drove past the mall and I was horrified, right, Harry?” says Meghan. “No Chanel. No Stella McCartney. No Victoria Beckham.”

“There’s Brumby’s the baker in the village,” adds Harry, “but no paleo bread.”

“Can you imagine how glutinous their diets must be around here?” implores Meghan. “They’re all walking around in their bubbles with their chakras blocked. And why have a headstone engraving business on the main street? It sends the wrong message to people. Instead of saying, Welcome to Karori! We know how to live! It says, Welcome to Karori! This is where you’ll die!”

“You must admit, Karori has kerb appeal,” says Camilla. “It’s obvious the ladies of Hatton, Homewood and Friend Streets keep their herbaceous borders beautifully trimmed.”

“An enormous relief to their husbands,” adds Charles.

“I want to nourish the people, and feed their souls,” declares Meghan. “Starting right now. Come on, Harry – I have an idea.” She sweeps out of the room, and Harry trots after her.

“There are three people in that marriage, Charles,” says Camilla. “Him. Her. And Oprah Winfrey.”

There are three people in that marriage. Him. Her. And Oprah Winfrey.

Camilla, on Harry & Megs

In their bedroom, Meghan is slicing open a box. It has GOOP written across the side. “Gwyneth sent me a care package,” she’s saying, excitedly. “I think this will be perfect to boost everyone’s spirits.”

Harry peers inside, to see a jumble of jade eggs and scented candles. “Are you sure about this, Meghan?” he asks.

“Harry. Was I wrong when I wrote on bananas to sex-workers?”

Meghan winds a Givenchy scarf around her nose and mouth and tugs on a baseball cap. “This is a guerrilla act of kindness. Karori needs it. Karori needs us. They just don’t know it yet.”

She snatches the box, and disappears into the night.

In the next riveting instalment, uproar at Karori Mall and the Windsors Zoom the Queen on her birthday

Ep 5. Book club

Bleep! Bleep! One by one, the Book Bitches of Beauchamp Street materialise on screen for their weekly lockdown club meeting.

Bridget leads the group. “Okay, Bitches,” she says. “The Duchess of Cornwall is joining us tonight and I’m not even kidding.” She tops up her glass with more Chardonnay, which she’s been chain-sipping since five this afternoon.

It’s now eight-thirty.

“So Facebook is true?” squeals Stacey. “The Royals really are living here?”

“Oh, it’s not just a rumour,” says Mei. “Look what’s leading Stuff tonight.” She swivels her camera to face her laptop, showing a photo of Camilla splashed across the news, her face buried deep in a stuffed animal.

“Is she pashing a teddy-bear?” asks Stacey. “I don’t get it. But I’m here for it.”

“It’s a long story,” says Bridget. “Just remember to treat her normally. She wants to be one of us.”

Bleep! The women freeze as a golden crown icon blinks onto their screens, blasting a fanfare of brass music. Camilla suddenly appears.

“Am I orn?” she asks, her hair in stiff wings either side of her face.

Bridget stands, pushes back her chair and drops a deep curtsy. “Welcome, Your Excellency,” she says. The others hurriedly do the same. “We’d like to offer you honorary membership of this club. It would mean a lot if you’d accept.” The others nod in agreement. “I mean, it’s not every day that ordinary Kiwis like us can call you a Bitch to your face.”

“Gosh, that would bring back memories,” replies Camilla. “Of 1997, mainly. THENK YOU. I accept.”

“Are you beginning to feel at home here?” asks Mei.

“Most definitely,” Camilla says. “This house is filled with so many furnishings and objets d’art from the Mother Country that I couldn’t possibly be homesick.” She angles the computer to one side, revealing a life-sized wall painting of a jigging Morris dancer, shaking bells on a stick.

Camilla swivels to the other side to show a stuffed fox-hound gripping a hare between bared teeth. Its eyeballs are like pinpricks. The Duchess returns into view. “I find this sort of thing incredibly comforting.”

“Do you have wine?” Bridget asks. “We have a game where, if someone mentions the word ‘book’, you have to have a drink.”

If someone mentions the word ‘book’, you have to have a drink.

Book Club rules

Camilla holds up a bottle of Burgundy and waggles it.

“Perhaps you’d like to start by telling us what you enjoy reading?”

Truth be told, Camilla can’t be arsed with books. Why read, when instead you can squeeze 18 hands of solid muscle between your thighs and gallop rhythmically for hours over the hills and dales of Gloucestershire?

“Books?” she says, perplexedly. “Oops! Said it.” She takes a deep gulp of wine. “Well, I did read a novel in my younger days, by a fellow called Austen. Four girls, no money. Moody chap, big house. Swims in a pond with his shirt on. He marries one of them in the end, but not enough dogs, in my opinion. You can’t set a book in the countryside and not have any dogs.”

She takes another big gulp.

“I think you might enjoy some New Zealand writing, while you’re here,” Bridget says. “The Luminaries won the Man Booker Prize not long ago.”

“Is it any good?” asks Camilla.

“None of us have read it,” says Stacey.

“Nobody in New Zealand has read it,” says Mei.

Camilla pours herself another slug. “To be perfectly honest, we Windsors haven’t the time for long reads. A fish factory doesn’t just open by itself, you know. We must be there to snip the ribbon, or what will a nation eat with its chips?”

“I miss chips,” says Bridget, wistfully. “I miss caramel-walnut slice from Gipps St Deli. I miss getting my eyebrows done.”

“I miss my nan,” adds Stacey.

“I miss the thrill of the hunt,” says Camilla. “I miss hearing the bell for dinner. And lunch. And breakfast. I miss the Red Arrow flypast at Trooping the Colour. And my Clumber Spaniels, Betty and Pip. I couldn’t bring them. Betty barks. Pip bites, and has incontinence. He can’t be allowed out in public.”

“Still, it must be nice having your baby step-grandson with you at Homewood?” asks Mei.

“Who? Archie?” asks Camilla, suppressing a small burp. “Oh, he didn’t come. No. Harry and Meghan didn’t wish to unsettle him, so he’s being looked after by a roster of people the couple trust: Elton John, Oprah, and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”

He’s being looked after by a roster of people the couple trust. Elton John, Oprah, and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Camilla, on Archie

“That’s a shame,” says Stacey. “I was quite looking forward to seeing him in a buggy in Karori Mall.”

“Yeah, the Mall could use some Royal magic,” agrees Bridget. “Maybe you could pop down there when lockdown’s over, Your Greatness, and browse the slipper socks at Ballentynes.”

“When lockdown’s over, I’m going to be a better person,” says Mei, welling up. “I might volunteer in the Mary Potter Hospice shop.”

“I’m going to leave my husband,” says Bridget. “He ate 14 Tim Tams during a vid-con yesterday. There are only 16 in a pack. And then he moved the last two to the end of the packet, so it looked full, and put them back.” She thumps the table, furious. “Who does that? WHO?”

Everyone goes a bit quiet.

“I’m going to stand up to a few people,” says Camilla. “Old horse-face, Anne. Charles’s awful valet, Bates. He’s always limping about, and rummaging in Charles’s drawers. And I’m going to write a poison pen-letter to that dusty old stick-in-the-mud who refused Charles and me a church wedding.”

“The Archbishop of Canterbury?” asks Stacey.

“No,” says Camilla, “Her Majesty the Queen.” She hiccups. Her mascara has smudged a bit, and she’s lying back in her chair, with her crossed ankles up on a pouffe. She jabs the air with a finger. “And I can think of two other desperately annoying people who need a bloody good ticking orf. In fact, I might go and do it now.”

Camilla sways to her feet, looms close to the screen and stage-whispers: “Until next time, Bitches.”

In the next gripping instalment, Meghan finds meaning at Karori Mall

Ep 4. The plot sickens

Camilla is positively steaming with rage. Harry and Meghan, coming to Karori and bunking down at Homewood? What a ruddy nightmare!

For one thing, Meghan had all manner of odd dietary requirements. She seemed to live on green juice and goji berries, whatever the blazes they were. Inevitably, Charles and Camilla would have to kiss goodbye to the hamper of pheasant they’d brought over from Harrods.

How could Camilla forget their awkward first dinner with Harry’s fiancee, three years ago at Clarence House? Meghan had refused the footman’s offer of a silver platter of partridge.

“I don’t eat anything with a face,” she’d said silkily, “And I’m not crazy about eating anything that’s been traumatised by a face.” She said no to the grouse, trout, lamb’s liver, the pickled hare and the swan cutlets. Then she waved away the truffles, because a pig’s face had dug them up.

Ugh, remembers Camilla. Meghan had even turned down the salad, because “Cabbages have hearts”.

Double ugh, thinks Camilla.

“Charles!” she bellows. She storms about the residence, checking the various rooms, before finding him hunched over a telephone in the study. Charles motions for silence.

“I’m placing an order for supplies,” he stage-whispers, “From a chap at Gipps Street Butchery. Comes highly recommended. Excellent haggis.”

“But the Markles don’t eat meat,” says Camilla, irritably.

“Nonsense,” hisses Charles. “The Harry I know is half-kebab. Never turns down a tasty bird.” He returns to the phone call. “So, my good man, that will be all.”

The Harry I know is half-kebab.

Prince Charles

Bill, Karori’s legendary butcher, is wondering where he’s heard this strangled, cut-glass British accent before. He sticks his pencil back in the pocket of his striped navy apron and reads back the order.

“So that’s five quail, a whole smoked salmon and a dozen Bratwurst, to be delivered to the British High Commissioner’s residence?”

“Indeed, yerse,” replies Charles. “I assume the sausages are of good quality?”

“Of course,” says Bill, affronted. “I stuff them myself. Pure meat, spices, and no gristle. In this game, you’re only as good as your last sausage.”

“Jolly good.”

“I can’t sell a duff sausage in CITY END KARORI,” Bill carries on, crossly.

“I don’t know what that means, but it sounds very reassuring,” says Charles.

“It means, one dodgy lamb medallion and Wellington’s entire civil service would collapse. You should see the Cabinet ministers, Treasury officials and senior civil servants queuing on Saturdays, drooling over my sticky ribs.

“I don’t stock nasty cuts and I don’t sell old boilers,” Bill says, tutting. “The last thing I want is a customer chewing for hours on tough mutton.”

Charles gazes briefly at Camilla before replying, “Well, it’s not that bad once you’re used to it.”

One dodgy lamb medallion and Wellington’s entire civil service would collapse.

Bill, the Gipps Street Butcher

Just then, Camilla hears a child’s wail outside the window. She gets up to have a look and sees a scattering of local people drawing closer to their front gates. What the blazes…? she asks herself.

“Something’s the matter,” she tells Charles. “Wait here.”

Camilla charges outside, crunches down the gravel walk and over to the railings. A semi-circle of startled walkers, many with Labradoodles, are gazing up at a large tree, appalled.

“Mummy!” a little boy is shrieking, covering his face, “Teddy’s DEAD!”

Camilla looks up and is aghast. Prince Charles’ stuffed bear is hanging by its neck from one of her brassieres. Bloody Charles strung a noose, the silly clot! He was supposed to tie it to a branch, not garrote it!

“There, there, young man,” Camilla says, clambering up into the branches to tug down her bra, and unwind Clarence. “It’s perfectly all right. I’ll just give him the kiss of life.” She pretends to resuscitate the bear, and receives a smattering of applause. A Labradoodle barks approval.

There’s a murmur among the walkers. Bloody hell, thinks Camilla. Our cover’s well and truly blown.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” says one woman, shyly. “Are you…?”

Camilla sighs, and forces a gracious smile. “Indeed, I am the Duchess of Cornwall and my husband is self-isolating indoors. We are most grateful to the New Zealand government and the people of Wellington for their generous hospitality.

“We particularly acknowledge the British High Commissioner and her family for making room for us. I believe she’s living quite contentedly in the Karori Bridge Club where they’ve a hotplate, microwave and mini-fridge, as well as several dozen packs of cards.”

The British High Commissioner’s living at the Karori Bridge Club, where they have a hotplate and several dozen packs of cards.

Camilla Parker Bowles

There’s a ripple of excitement among the walkers, except for the Labradoodle, which is hunched behind the buxus evacuating its bowels.

The woman bobs a little curtsy, and eyes Camilla’s bra. “Might you be interested in joining a local Zoom book club, Your Eminence?” she asks. “I think you might enjoy it. We did Fifty Shades of Grey last week.”

“How very kind,” says Camilla. “By all means, invite me. I’m CAMMY@BuckHouse.”

Just then, a gleaming armoured SUV swings onto Homewood Avenue and approaches the gates, which slide open. The walkers step back to let it pass, except the Labradoodle, which is otherwise occupied. Its number plate reads MEGXIT1.

“IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?” someone squeaks.

“I’m afraid so,” says Camilla. “The Sussexes.” There’s a crash of ominous organ music from a neighbouring house, and the Labradoodle yelps.

“Isn’t it nice,” someone says, “That despite their wholesale public rejection of your way of life and everything the Windsors represent, they come to your side in a crisis?”

“Yerse,” agrees Camilla, through gritted teeth. “As you’ll all see over the course of the next few episodes, we’re just an ordinary happy family.”

In the next fascinating instalment, Camilla gets rat-arsed with her book club and Meghan sprinkles stardust at Karori Mall

Ep 3. The Queen’s speech

Homewood, drawing room

Camilla’s on hold, listening to muzak. It’s Slice of Heaven, because when you’re on hold in New Zealand, it’s always Slice of Heaven.

A smooth prerecorded voice interrupts Dave Dobbyn. “Kia ora, and welcome to Air New Zealand.”

“About chuffing time,” mutters Camilla.

“Your call is important to us, but we’re experiencing a significant volume at present. Your approximate wait time is 19 and a quarter hours.”

“Good Lord,” Camilla says.

“To complain about the presence of children in Koru Lounges, or to criticise our inflight safety videos, press one. Otherwise, please hold.”

“To complain about children in Koru Lounges, or to criticise our inflight safety videos, press one.”

Air NZ Customer Service

Camilla hangs up, grimacing at Charles. “Well, we’re stuck with all those sex aids, I’m afraid.” Charles nervously touches his tie. “I suppose you should put a teddy-bear up somewhere, for passers-by. Do as the locals do.” She picks up a stuffed bear, and waggles it at him.

Charles snatches the bear and clasps it to his chest. “Where did you find my Clarence?” he exclaims.

“Under your pillow, as always,” replies Camilla. “Tie him to the gates, perhaps with a pair of my old tights. Now, it’s time for my breakfast Bloody Mary.”

Charles sighs and carries the bear out of the room. Camilla’s phone rings and, irritated, she picks it up. “Duchess of Cornwall.”

“Turn on the damned television!” shouts Prince Philip. “The Queen is addressing the Commonwealth!”

Camilla scrambles to find a remote control. There’s a selection on a Union Jack tray, so she picks up the largest and jabs it uncertainly at the TV. Her mother in law materialises, stiffly upright in a green dress and gleaming brooch.

“Dearly beloved,” Her Majesty is saying. “I speak to you from self-isolation at Windsor Castle, at a time of enormous upheaval, widespread hardship and a rush on three-ply toilet tissue.

“You know, all this reminds me of London during the Blitz. The Luftwaffe bombed the orangery at Buckingham Palace, and the late Queen Mother picked her way over the wreckage and threw scattered fruits at the underside of the enemy warplanes, incandescent with British rage.

“Londoners never forgot this act of personal lunacy and she basked in the most wonderful approval for the rest of her life, even though she was as boiled as an owl on good brandy most of the time.”

The Queen indicates some papers on her antique desk. “Popularity rankings are very important during a global health emergency. I remain among the top three most popular people in the Commonwealth, along with Ashley Bloomfield, and Jenny from Invercargill.

“I remain among the three most popular people in the Commonwealth, along with Ashley Bloomfield and Jenny from Invercargill.”

The Queen

“The three least popular include the New Zealand Minister of Health David Clark, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.” Camilla isn’t sure, but she thinks she can hear distant booing in the background, beyond the castle walls.

“That is why, for the good of morale, my family has decided that only its most beloved members should remain in Royal Palaces whilst this lockdown continues. The public will not tolerate anything less. To this end, I’ve sent Princess Anne to the Ritz, Prince Edward to the Savoy and Prince Andrew to a Travelodge in Blackpool.

“The Prince of Wales and his second wife,” the Queen’s lips twitch with disapproval and Camilla rolls her eyes, “have already decamped to a distant former colony.

“In the words of Vera Lynn, we’ll meet them again, but it’s a long way to Tipperary. And longer still to New Zealand.” The Queen allows herself a little chuckle. “No need to thank me.

“The Cambridges can stay, for the moment,” continues the Sovereign, “but as for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it transpires that California isn’t far away enough for the British public.

“And so, after close consultation with the White House and the Disney Corporation, alternative accommodations for the couple are being made. An announcement will follow in due course.” The Queen vanishes, and THE END appears across the screen.

“Why, the old boot!” tuts Camilla. Her phone buzzes again: it’s a text from Meghan Markle, saved in Camilla’s contacts as THAT AMERICAN WOMAN.

SOOOOO honored to be joining you guys!!!!! We don’t have to pay tax over there, or rent, hashtag blessed!!!! Intend to hit ground running, even in six-inch Manolos, haha! Can you get me some bananas and a Vivid?

In the next gripping instalment, Harry & Megs touch down, and Karori locals demand answers

Ep 2: Deliverance country

Homewood, yesterday

“Any luck?” Camilla asks Charles, padding into the drawing room in a quilted silk dressing gown. She sweeps open a heavy curtain and surveys a sparkling autumn morning – their first in Karori.

Charles is sitting in front of a pixellated Skype connection, waiting for Windsor Castle to pick up.

“Not yet. It takes Father a bit of time to lower himself into the rig and sort out the reins, and so on. Once he’s saddled up, he can trot to the keyboard.”

“I find it extraordinary your mother allows him to ride a carriage about indoors,” Camilla says, still gazing outside. “I mean, who picks up after the pony?”

Suddenly a large, shrieking parrot hives into view in a flash of brown and orange feathers. It startles Camilla backwards. “Good Lord, what’s that?” she yelps.

Charles walks towards the window, his hands clasped behind his back. “I do believe it’s a native New Zealand kaka,” he says. “What a beauty.”

“Look at its beady eyes, its bandy legs and its grasping claws,” says Camilla. “I must say it reminds me somewhat of Sarah, Duchess of York.”

“Look at its beady eyes, its bandy legs and its grasping claws. It reminds me somewhat of Sarah, Duchess of York.”

Camilla

Just then an irritated, tinny-sounding voice cuts through the room. “Charles? Where the bloody hell are you, boy?”

“Father!” says Charles. Hurriedly, he settles himself in front of the laptop, tugging his tie into position. “Father, I’m happy to tell you we arrived safely yesterday and are settling into the residence, albeit without staff. But the butler left us a welcome note on a Post-It on the fridge, and salmon under foil for our supper.”

“Jolly good,” says Prince Philip, a riding helmet high on his head. He waves a leather-gloved hand at the camera, and Charles can see he’s holding a whip. “Long flight, what?”

“Dreadfully, and rather strange,” agrees Charles. “It was first class on Air New Zealand, naturally, but they’ve taken out all but the first row of seating. It’s been given over to essential cargo, so we were surrounded by urgent goods.”

“Boxes of adult accessories,” adds Camilla. “Apparently New Zealanders are ordering them in their droves. I was in 1B. There was a pallet of feather ticklers in 1A and forty kilos of nipple clamps in 1C.”

“That’s the ANZAC spirit!” chuckles Philip. “I’m told there’s not much else to do in New Zealand at weekends, at least while somewhere called ‘Briscoes’ is closed.” His expression darkens. “This is all a conspiracy, this virus, you know.”

“Here we go,” says Camilla, rolling her eyes.

“A conspiracy to do what?” wonders Charles.

“To eliminate cash! I’m telling you, Paywave is behind this!” Prince Philip goes scarlet with fury. “They want your Mummy off the money!” His pony startles and he briefly jerks out of view. Camilla and Charles watch as the carriage inches backwards and Philip returns into frame.

“Paywave is behind this! They want your Mummy off the money!”

Prince Philip to Prince Charles

“Speaking of shopping, my boy, you can’t give anything to the Republicans at such a fraught time for we Windsors. At all times, comply with New Zealand directives. Buy locally. And as for your Savile Row suit and silk tie, get them orf.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Dress like the locals! I’ve been given some intelligence from MI6.” Philip unfolds a scrap of paper from the lapel pocket of his scarlet riding jacket.

“Here it is. According to Judi Dench, who plays M, if you want to blend in with the people of Karori, get Camilla into some of those yoga leggings with geometric shapes on. The tighter, the better.

“Charles, find yourself a zip-up polar fleece, cargo shorts and boat shoes. Apparently this will help you resemble a policy analyst from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.”

“I suppose we could look for bits and pieces in the servants’ quarters,” muses Charles. “Air New Zealand misplaced our luggage, anyway.”

“They’re delivering it today, Charles,” says Camilla. “At least, they’d better. I’ve got a case of vermouth and magnum of champers I can’t do without.”

“Assimilate at all costs!” Philip shouts, reading from his notes. “Place a teddybear in the window, leave the bin out on Wednesdays and rev up an ear-splitting, high-pitched leaf-blower before breakfast every weekday! M says that’s what a local would do!” He clicks to his pony and lurches out of shot.

Camilla notices a white van pulling up outside the ornamental gates on Homewood Avenue. “Oh goody, Charles. This must be our lost luggage.”

Just as the van pulls up, Bridget (lives on Parkvale and is very active on the I LOVE KARORI! Facebook page, usually reporting a wandering tabby or requesting a Kombucha SCOBY) happens to be walking nearby.

She neatly steps two metres away from the courier driver, who is piling Louis Vuitton travelling cases outside Homewood, along with half a dozen large cardboard boxes. He hits the intercom beside the gate, jumps back into his van, guns the engine, fires up Coast FM (I Will Always Love You by the late, great Whitney Houston) and burns off.

Bridget can’t help herself. Appearing nonchalant, she steps closer to the luggage and tries to read the stickers. “Air NZ apologises to HRH for this baggage delay,” she reads aloud. She examines the printing on the nearest box. “LUSTY RABBIT SILICONE LOVE BALLS,” it reads. “FOR HER PLEASURE AND HIS SATISFACTION.”

Bridget, mouth agape, gazes up at the Edwardian splendour of the British High Commissioner’s Residence, where nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out. A curl of smoke seems to be rising from the chimney.

She whips out her phone and types a quick post. “Does anybody know,” she asks 9,000 of her closest neighbours, “What the dang is going on at Homewood?”

In the next exciting instalment, the Queen makes a televised address (possibly) and we hear from the Sussexes (definitely)

Ep 1: And so it begins

The Scottish highlands, not long ago

“Bloody hell, Charles,” remarks Camilla, when he tells her he’s tested positive. She takes two discreet steps backward.

“It’s certainly less than ideal,” says Charles. He begins pacing across the tartan carpet, his fingers interlaced in their familiar steeple. “I understand it’s already in the news.”

“I can’t imagine the Scots will take this well,” Camilla says.

“I’m afraid not,” he agrees. “Apparently their Parliament is voting imminently to force us from Balmoral.”

“What risk do we pose to anyone?” scoffs Camilla. “You don’t actually touch anything. Not even your own bottom.”

“You don’t actually touch anything. Not even your own bottom.”

CAMILLA, TO CHARLES

“Still,” says Charles, “It’s frightfully bad form if the British Royal Family starts clogging up their health system. They’re a restless lot, already.”

Camilla glares out of a mullioned window. “It wouldn’t be a bad thing, getting out of here. It’s just heather and midges for miles, and I’m heartily sick of the sporran you keep wearing to dinner.”

“Number 10 has spoken to Mummy about an alternative refuge,” Charles says, riffling among his papers. He picks up a note. “It’s New Zealand.” Camilla stares at him, blankly. “The one that invented pavlova.”

“The dessert with two ingredients?” she says. “Egg whites, and existential despair?”

“It will be something of a sacrifice,” Charles admits, fiddling with his cufflinks. “It’s terribly far away from all my patronages. What will the Red Squirrel Survival Trust do without me?”

“Why New Zealand, for pity’s sake?”

“The Foreign Office says it’s the one place in the Commonwealth so impervious to world events, so naturally enclosed by its own topography and with such unreliable broadband, that we could live there undetected for the entire lockdown.”

“Heavens,” Camilla says. “Less eventful than here?”

“Yes,” says Charles. “There’s no appetite in this place for republicanism, apparently. Its people are polite, easily impressed and pathetically grateful to anyone foreign who goes there on holiday.

“Very little offends the populace. Thousands of them forgave Elton John for walking off in the middle of a recent concert. Imagine paying $120 a pop for Candle in the Wind, and he doesn’t even make it to the chorus! He still got a standing ovation.”

“Extraordinary,” remarks Camilla. “If he’d tried that in Glasgow, they would’ve glassed him.”

“Yes,” agrees Charles. “And the people are endlessly patient, Downing Street says. They’ve been waiting 20 years for IKEA.”

“The people are endlessly patient. They’ve been waiting 20 years for IKEA.”

PRINCE CHARLES, ON NEW ZEALANDERS

“Where the hell will we live?”

“The British High Commissioner’s residence,” says Charles, examining the note. “in a place called Karori. Its single claim to fame is the writer Katherine Mansfield, who lived there for five minutes in the late 19th century. Apparently, she spent the next 30 years slagging it off and quite by accident, revolutionised the short story.”

“Never heard of her, so I imagine she isn’t a patch on Jilly Cooper,” says Camilla, pouring herself a generous G&T. “Who’ll be the neighbours?”

 “Karori Cemetery is quite nearby.”

“Well,” says Camilla, gazing at a Windsor family portrait over the fireplace. “I can tolerate a bit of deathly silence. I’ve spent the last 15 years dining with Princess Michael of Kent.”

“I’ll telephone Mummy, then,” says Charles. “You’d better get your coat.”

In the next gripping instalment (probably): Charles phones an iconic Karori shop and the Queen makes a televised address

The Windsors are coming

Do you know what I was recently paid to do, once a fortnight? I wrote celebrity parodies for Your Weekend and Stuff. I know, right? Pretending to be Celine Dion, Nigella Lawson and Camilla Parker Bowles was probably the jolliest job I’ve ever had and trust me, I’ve been around the block a few times.

But then COVID-19 slamdunked the media business. Newspapers cut their columnists loose, and I spent a couple of days drifting around the house in those free paper slippers you get from hotels.

Still, why stop writing? I don’t know if anyone needs a Royal parody series during a global pandemic but it turns out, it does me the world of good to write one, between cold moments of existential gloom. I know this because the highlight of my first week in lockdown was trying a new head on the vacuum cleaner.

“The highlight of my first week in lockdown was trying a new head on the vacuum cleaner.”

True Story

So here it is, what nobody asked for: A Right Royal Karori Lockdown. It imagines what might happen if the Windsors were quarantined to my neighbourhood – a distant, famously benign New Zealand suburb, with more poodle mixes and Suzuki Swifts than the Queen’s had state banquets.

I really hope it triggers a giggle or two for you during this weirdest month of our lives. I’ll update it as often as possible, even though locked-down life is weirdly busy (only yesterday I spent ten minutes soaping my root vegetables).

You’re welcome to comment on posts, Twitter or Facebook. If you’re an ardent Royalist, I can only apologise. Console yourself knowing it’s all very made up; especially the quotes. Also, let’s be honest – this blog is pretty niche and the Queen will never read it, though let’s not underestimate Harry and Meghan.

If you’re a local, you might recognise versions of places and people you know. The truly savvy will recognise the distinctive penwomanship of star illustrator Sarah Laing – a true Karorian and dazzling talent. She’ll be doing me an immense service by contributing drawings, especially as she’s busy keeping a graphic COVID-19 diary. There are many quietly talented people around here so if I can, I’ll link to them.

If you’ve never visited Wellington’s largest suburb, and sampled its delights: welcome to Karori, perhaps the least remarkable postcode on Earth. Until now.