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 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)