We knew that the Senior Member of a European Royal Family didn’t want to do the event. They had been strategically guilted into it by a mutual acquaintance of our organisation’s even though the guest list, the ‘cause’ and the whole evening in general was doubtlessly going to prove exceptionally awkward. The Chairman was delighted though. One step closer to the Gong.
The pre-planning had been particularly arduous. The usual merry-go-round of ‘it’s not a fundraising event but you can’t come unless you’ve given us shit-tonnes of cash, by coincidence, prior’. Never in writing. Always sotto voce. The writing of the briefing notes for The Senior Member of a European Royal Family had been a masterpiece of diplomatic suggestion. Never explicitly saying that the guest in question had given us money to be there. But always strongly suggesting that it was The Chairman who had extracted the money from them that they hadn’t given to be there. One step closer to the Gong.
Thankfully, this occasion wasn’t going to be preceded by a butt-clenching palaver of either speechifying or music-making. Drinks, dinner, speech, out. Marvellous. My favourite format. But I most certainly had a couple of drinks before I got there. Not in the least because my ‘wing woman’ for the occasion was The Beahive. My supposed Number Two with an extraordinarily elevated hair-do who hated my guts more than she hated a humid day.
The sense of doom that I’d had about the occasion in the run-up to it had been compounded during the day itself thanks to a dumper truck of snow that had been deposited upon London that afternoon. The telephone calls had been coming in thicker than in a call centre for accident-related damages in Leicester and I’d been doing my very best extended remix version of “I’m so sorry that you can’t come” all day which was, of course, duly followed by “If you think I’m giving you your money back you can kiss my ass” and “Get off the phone, I’ve six other cunts cancelling on me before lunchtime”. After hanging up, of course. And after checking that I had, indeed, hung up. I’d been caught out on that front before.
The large, posh G&Ts from one of those St James’ hotels where politicians tend to meet with regional rentboys were properly kicking in by the time I found myself standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs with the Chairman, the Chief Executive, the Biggest Donor We’d Ever Bagged and The Private Secretary, awaiting the Royal Arrival.
The Royal Arrival was introduced with a slammed door from on high and a deeply muttered but clearly audible, “Who is it tonight?”.
A quieter answer was heard, followed by a Royal “Oh Christ, really?”.
I smirked inwardly as I felt the Biggest Donor We’d Ever Bagged stiffen next to me.
The drinks reception, which followed The World’s Most Awkward Lineup, passed off with reasonable panache but was marked by The Beahive joining one of the groupings in an attempt to get an introduction to The Royal. Americans, I thought. The Chief Executive somehow managed to cast her a glance that had all the vigour and effect of a bodycheck as he and The Royal approached and she deigned to step aside. After standing there for a full ten minutes, with panting eagerness.
Dinner was served and the Beahive and I were left in the Drawing Room like those who King George had ‘rumped’. The plan was that we would slip away once the adjoining door was closed and let The Chairman do whatever he thought would result in the Gong coming his way with the after dinner mints.
“Sit The Fuck Down Darling”, a voice said just as the doors met each other. The Valet had appeared with two plates of Cotswolds Mutton (most certainly not lamb. Aged Sheep was so much more ‘in’). ‘Where?”, I said. “There”, said the Valet, indicating a priceless Chippendale armchair with a plate that was threatening to lose its jus onto both the chair and the newly-restored carpet.
I proceeded to eat my dinner off of my lap, with a glass of red wine teetering on the carpet pile. The Valet flung logs onto the open fire next to me whilst bellowing, without a care of being overheard, “What’s her fucking problem?”, referring to The Beahive. She had declined Mutton and was now plucking books off of the bookshelf without a fear that they were, in fact, alarmed and without a sense of irony that she had instinctively chosen Ronald Reagan’s Biography.
I scarpered into the blizzarded night before pudding was served and waved a cheery and well-oiled farewell to the security detail by the front gate. I could get used to this, I thought.