“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.”
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.
“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)