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.”
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.
“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