What was taking him so long? Liz sat in her favourite armchair tapping her purple fluffy slippers on the shiny marble floor. Her three dogs were sound asleep around her, poised to wake up in ten minutes, like dopey alarm clocks in time for their dinner. Since moving into her new home she had been feeding the dogs herself which she was not used to at all. It had taken a number of months to get the quantities right, meaning all three dogs looked like plump furry beanbags. In the old days there would have been a helper to do the feeds but Liz had been enjoying being more self sufficient. If only she had not tasked her husband with this errand and done it herself. Where was he?
As if Liz’s husband had heard her inner rants he walked through the front door. In this case he literally walked through the door because that’s what everyone in the afterlife did. No more opening of doors was necessary unless they had guests. This irony was not lost on either himself or his wife considering how many doors were opened for them during their long years of service. Liz stared down at her husband’s hands and saw he was not carrying anything from his errand.
“Philip, where is it? Did you get it?”
Phil let out a long sigh before explaining the sad series of events.
“Lillibet, I went in and out of every bloody book shop up and down Spain. They’re all gone! Even took over the body of one of the book shop owners, called the publishers. No more stock until Monday!”
Liz rolled her eyes, tutted and got to her feet. Even though she had a new lease of life, it still took a couple of gos to get out of the armchair, accidentally startling the corgis who all scurried off into the East Wing. Phil stifled his sniggers knowing it wouldn’t help the situation.
“Oh that’s two days away! We need to know now, Philip,” said Liz as she flicked through the notepad on the little table.
“Don’t tell me that! I know, I know! What are you doing now?” asked Phil as his wife picked up her phone and began to dial the number noted down in front of her.
“I thought you might be useless so I have a back up plan, Philip.” Without missing a beat Liz turned back to the phone and finished dialling the number she had been given by one her new friends when she arrived.
“Charming!” Phil stormed off to the toilet to relieve himself as he almost started light angelic showers over Plymouth on the way back. By the time he returned, Liz had almost finished her chat.
“Oh thank you dearly Mr Jobs, I will be eternally grateful. So I just play it on my television you say? Channel 121? Wonderful! Okay I’ll do that now. Good day to you! Thanks awfully. Bye.” Beaming from ear to ear Liz hung up the phone and stuck her tongue out at Phil who scrunched his face up in response.
“Oh alright. You win as ever. Why do I bother?”
Liz took pity on the wounded animal and handed him the TV controls.
“Make yourself useful as you’re always better with technology and put on channel 121.”
Phil stared at the controls and looked utterly confused. However to Liz she didn’t see anything different to her husband’s usual expression. Vacant bulldog.
“How is this going to help? I thought you wanted the boy’s book?”
Liz’s well known calm, resolve and patience was being tested but she held firm. So much so she may have let out a silent but regal fart. She quietly said a “Forgive one!” to herself.
“Oh Philip just do it, will you? I’ll explain everything!”
Without further delay Phil turned on the 100 inch TV and typed in 1…2…1. The huge blank screen suddenly showed an image which made both of them gasp. Staring back at them on a TV designed for a giant was the face of someone they loved dearly with one word beneath it…. Spare.
“Lillibet, what the blazes is this?” asked Phil with his usual cantankerous tone.
“It’s Harry’s book” responded Liz, knowing this would not help her husband’s comprehension in any way whatsoever.
“How are we going to turn the pages, old girl?”
“Oh Philip you can be so daft sometimes. It’s the audiobook. Mr Steve Jobs got me a copy. That’s who I spoke to just now.”
Phil stared at his grandson’s large face and bulbous nose on the TV screen wondering what to do next. Every fibre in his body wanted to ask what an audiobook was but didn’t want to give Liz the satisfaction. As always she was three steps ahead of her husband and this time no Royal protocol or appointment was involved. Liz took the TV controls back from Phil.
“It’s the audio version of Harry’s book which we can listen to and see if there’s anything to worry about.”
Liz clicked down to the Play icon ready to start the book and looked at Phil.
“Ready? This might not be what we’re expecting.” For the first time since moving into her new abode Liz sounded worried.
“Lil, last time I saw Harry, he and Meg weren’t happy with things but maybe they’ve calmed down. How bad can it be?”
Twenty minutes later…
“Oh bloody shit! Pause it, I need a loo break,” shouted Phil to anyone who would listen. Liz hit pause with a sigh when she saw there was 13 hours of the book left to go. Phil darted off to the nearby bathroom but carried on his conversation.
“What was he thinking? Saying Wills doesn’t look like his Mum anymore. Looks bald and ugly. That’s rich coming from a ginger. Charles looking old and frail!? This is only the start of the book and it doesn’t sound like the happy tale of his life in our family, does it? Lil?? Lil are you there?”
Phil’s words and the steady stream into the toilet bowl echoed out of the large bathroom, down the hallway and into the living room towards Liz who remained silently still, as if she had paused herself along with the audiobook.
“Lilibet, can you hear me?” Phil sounded more concerned with his wife’s wellbeing this time. He zipped up a little too quickly almost causing a royal incident in the trouser department.
Liz heard the toilet flush, saw Phil walk briskly back into the living room to make sure she was okay. Before he could check her pulse she sprung to life.
“Yes I heard you. You know I don’t like talking to you whilst you’re in the toilet. One is still a member of the Royal Family and doesn’t need to lower one’s standards. I agree, it’s not started well but let’s see where it goes. It’s certainly not anything I would share or write down but he’s always been hot headed. Maybe Harry will settle down and tell a happy story after this.”
Two hours later…
Phil and Liz grabbed the box of tissues at the same time. Their tears streamed down their faces like a volcanic river of emotion erupting from hearing their grand son’s brutal honesty. Thankfully in this case these were not sad tears but those happiest of all tears, ones caused by laughter.
“Haha! Did you hear that Lil? Hahaha! Silly sod wrote that down!” Phil was going red in the face as he convulsed from his giggles.
“Did he really say she patted his bottom like a stallion? Hawhaw!!” Liz poshly sniggered under her breath. Phil nodded back whilst refilling his sore laughed-out lungs with air.
“Yes after giving her a bonk behind a pub. The worst part of that Lil was that he was telling a story about the press printing a story about his drug taking. So… hahaha… he didn’t even need to share the losing his virginity story. What a silly tit!”
Liz paused the book as she tried to compose herself and compute all she had heard thus far. She loved Harry so much and had such a strong bond with him which meant she had such mixed feelings. Phil kept giggling as he got up to make them both a cup of tea.
“Sounds like he had as miserable a time at school as our Charles, except Harry found some drugs to ease the pain,” he said.
Liz nodded as she heard the kettle boil behind her and then a series of clinks and bangs from multiple cupboards, cups, saucers, tea bags and milk.
“Yes, I never knew he disliked it so much. Sounds like he hated learning anything. Very different from his father and brother. Poor boy!”
Phil sighed at his wife’s concessions.
“Oh Lil! Harry is many things but he will never be poor.”
“Oh Philip! You know what I mean,” Liz said, dismissing her husband’s witty retort. Phil smiled before bursting out laughing.
“When he saw that fox! And the drug he had smoked made him think it was a fox from the future! Haha! I thought I was going to shit myself, Lil.”
After a few seconds of silence Liz’s lips quivered before they crumbled into a strudel of laughter as well. Maybe there was a chance the worst was over and the rest of the book was various embarrassing stories about Harry. Wishful thinking perhaps…
Five hours later
“Philip?” asked Liz convinced she knew the unsavoury answer to this question already.
“Yes my love?” Phil responded as he covered up his latest fits of giggles.
“What’s a todger?”
Phil guffawed right in Liz’s face before confirming her fears.
“His John Thomas, his dinky doo, his member, his man servant, his tackle.”
“Alright, enough. I don’t need the full list! Why did he include that story? I don’t remember it coming up at the wedding?”
Liz looked at Phil’s face. He wanted to laugh again. At this point Phil was convinced this book and conversation for that matter was some kind of Private Eye parody.
“What came up at the wedding? The fact Harry boy put Diana’s face cream on his tackle?”
“Well… yes. Did you know?”
Phil shook his head
“Not a dicky bird. The boys kept that from us all I think. Not surprised. It was Will and Kate’s big day. Harry wouldn’t have been that low, at that point, to ruin it all like that. How times have changed. I’m still fuming about him listing his kills.”
Liz nodded, trying to avoid Phil losing his temper once more.
“Yes, that section about his service on the front line in Afghanistan was wonderful until he started talking about the number of people he’d shot. Calling them chess pieces, Philip.”
“Bad show, Harry. You just don’t do that. It sends the wrong signals to the wrong people. Lilibet I really worry how that affects all of the family security.”
Once more Liz stared through the big face of her grandson on the screen contemplating what all this meant for the surviving members of her family.
Everything she’d heard had been a rollercoaster of criticism towards the monarchy and oodles of over sharing. What could be left to share or criticise in the second half of the book? Reluctantly she pressed Play to find out.
Six hours later
“Thank god that’s over!” said Phil letting out a yawn, who unbeknownst to him had been asleep for at least five of the last six hours. The long journey to Spain had taken it out of him. Just because he was in the afterlife didn’t mean he had unlimited amounts of energy. Liz let him rest as she listened intently to the book only stopping it once to feed the dogs.
It was brutal for her as she heard what had allegedly been going on as she carried on her royal duties and looked after Philip in his last days. Never complain, never explain. That was definitely not a motto shared by Harry. Kate and Meghan’s text based bickering, William and Harry’s necklace and dog bowl breaking incident and multiple accusations towards his dad Charles being cold and uncaring. Any fears Liz had that this book was going to be a disaster had been replaced with the realisation it was much, much worse. Harry was and is clearly very, very unhappy, so much so that he’s written everything down in this book for generation after generation to read. After being a beacon of hope to the world for seventy years Liz realised this book had the potential to make that lifetime of service a complete folly.
Phil looked at his darling wife and was rightly worried. He’d only seen that face once before and he definitely didn’t want to revisit that memory again today.
“So what do we do? The boy’s clearly not well and needs our help but there’s only so much we…”
“I’ve already done it,” interrupted Liz calmly. Phil was shocked, he wasn’t quite sure what his wife meant, as he thought he’d been awake throughout the last 13 hours and not seen her move from her seat.
“What?? Done what?” asked Phil, knowing his wife had been known to make some odd decisions now and again.
“Whilst you were snoring in your chair I’ve done something that I think might help Harry.”
Before Phil could ask a further follow up question the door bell rang. DING DONG!
“Philip get that, will you?”
Staring at his soul mate, Phil tried to read Liz’s face. What had she done? Rising from his chair and slowly strolling to the front door a number of thoughts raced through his mind. But none of his ideas seemed to solve the problem they were facing with Harry. Thankfully Phil had never been the cleverest member of the Royal family and as he opened the front door he realised who the genius of the family was.
The light shone through the front door into the eyes of Phil, temporarily blinding him. It took him a few seconds to readjust and realise the light was not coming from the sun but was surrounding the person standing in front of him. Once his vision was restored, Liz’s plan became crystal clear. Phil stared into the eyes of their guest, hypnotised by their beauty and the shock of seeing them after so long. Before Phil could welcome them in, Liz walked past him wearing her coat.
“Mama, I heard about my Harry. How can I help?” asked the softly spoken visitor with their bouncy blonde hair blowing in the wind and default puppy dog-eyed expression.
Before Phil shut the ornate door behind them, he heard Liz whisper softly into the ear of their guest.
“Let’s go for a walk..”
He put the kettle on for their return. There was a lot to discuss.