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