Opening Day – Part I
Talk about last minute! On the very morning of the opening of Agar Hall, Wayne had managed fix the hot water boiler in the kitchen.
“Wayne, you’re an absolute diamond,” said Joyce, “How Mrs Owens would have catered for the Queen’s visit without a working boiler I do not know.” Wayne tipped his hat, “You’re sure welcome ladies,” he said in his best Wild West accent. “Now don’t be a stranger,” Joyce continued, “In fact, we’re planning an evening of line-dancing in the conservatory next week so do please come along, I imagine that sort of thing is right up your street. Oh, and do bring that lovely girl from the hairdressers’ you’ve been courting.” Wayne looked amused, “Courting? Do yow mean Vicky?” he said, reverting to his own Brummie accent, “We’ve been to the pictures a few toimes but it’s not serious,” he said, affecting an air of nonchalance. “Well, do come in any case, I’m sure you’ll both enjoy it,” said Joyce, “Oh, I must go, that’s the telephone ringing. Thanks again,” and she rushed off to her office to take the call.
The call was bad news, the Queen had apparently gone AWOL and the palace was sending a stand in. The Queen’s senior Lady in Waiting, the Duchess of Grecongarthdale would be along soon. Well, thought Joyce, whatever can have happened to the Queen? Ah well, never mind, the show must go on, and off she hurried to break the bad news and make last minute preparations.
The duchess turned out to be a rather po-faced lady who held her head as if she had a dead fish under her nose, or at least that was how Rabbie put it to Joyce later. A sizeable crowd had gathered and was being held at bay by a police cordon set up by PC Bob Bobby who was taking no chances after last year’s assassination attempt. Scissors in hand, the duchess addressed her rather disappointed audience in clipped tones, “It is with great pleasure…”
The speech was long-winded and pompous but eventually, the duchess turned to cut the ribbon using the scissors handed to her by Hilary.
Hilary was in the top class juniors at Grecondale Boys Grammar and had won the chance to hand the ceremonial scissors to the Queen by writing the best two hundred word essay on ‘What I would do to make Grecondom a better place if I were king’. To say he was disappointed to be handing the scissors to some uppity old duchess and not the Queen would be a huge understatement but he graciously played his part and even managed a smile as he took the scissors back when the ribbon cutting was done.
Eileen was up next. By a similar process, she’d been chosen from the top class juniors of Grecondale Girls Grammar to present flowers to the Queen. Having practiced all week she produced her very best curtsey, “There’s no need to curtsey, girl, I’m a duchess not the Queen,” the duchess said curtly. Blimey, don’t I know it, thought Eileen, blushing furiously at the reprimand.
“And noo will ye care te tak a look aroond the wee hall, Ye Grace,” said Rabbie and, having decided that the Duchess was definitely not his cup of tea he added, “Ma wife would be very glad te show ye aroond.” Joyce glowered at him but it was too late, he’d decided to make himself scarce and she’d just have to grit her teeth and show the duchess around on her own.
Showing the duchess upstairs, Joyce started with the music-come-games room. “If you’d just like to step this way Ma’am,’ she said politely as the duchess swept past her into the room with a distinct look of ennui about her. “Hold these,” she commanded, unceremoniously thrusting her bouquet of flowers into Gavin the Grenadier’s hands.
“This is where our members will come for mental stimulation through activities such as reading and card games,” explained Joyce. The duchess looked around and sniffed loftily.
“And music of course,” added Joyce, feeling a little discouraged. “Do you play, Ma’am?” she asked, with a nod toward the grand piano that she thought she might just have seen the duchess admiring.
The duchess lifted the lid and ran her hand lightly over the keyboard, “Oh I tickle the ivories every now and then,” she said, wistfully, “for the Queen’s pleasure of course,” she added, her hoity toity look returning, “not that she would know a tune if it jumped up and hit her between the eyes!” she added sourly and then, realising she’d been rather indiscrete, she drew herself up and headed out of the room with a brusque “Goodness, is that the time, we really must get on with this tour, I am due back at the palace to resume my duties later this afternoon.”
To be continued…
© 2017, Zoe. All rights reserved.