Celtic Illumination, part 258, ♫ Duke, duke, duke; duke of earl. ♫
It would be fair to say that Graham was having kittens, not literally, but he couldn’t sit still and his behaviour was indicating that two huge orderly’s dressed in white, and each with a syringe full of Deazepam, should leap upon him and sedate him. Graham had been informed that there would be a guest of honour at the party; The Duke of Norfolk was coming. That was it for Graham; everything was now about the fecking Duke of Norfolk. Graham tried to structure the evening, what time the Duke would arrive, where he would sit, should he be given a tour of the new office? I thankfully had been dispatched by Ginny to the butcher’s in the high street and was returning with a sack full of dead animal carcasses.
As I came into the house I was faced with a gross sight that was magical. How he had managed it I shall never know but sitting in the middle of the hallway were twelve boxes of the finest scotch whiskey, each with twelve bottles, a gross of whiskey. I noticed that the advertising on the boxes stated that the whiskey was in celebration of some world class yacht race, so how they ended up in Graham’s house in Wallingford is a question I suppose only Graham could answer, and even then, if he did, could you believe him? Graham was running here there and everywhere as I helped Ginny in the kitchen. We were joking and larking about and Ginny then began to explain to me that everyone would be dressed in a certain way that evening.
Ginny explained that all the chaps would be wearing blue denim jeans, but their shoes would be some Italian handmade job. The shirts would be a specific pattern, from a tailor on Saville Row, and they would all have a jumper tied around their neck. The chapesses would also be wearing jeans but the shoes would be Gucci as would the handbags. The blouses would be a certain make, with a ruffled collar, and each gal would be wearing strings of real pearls. And all the guys and gals would be wearing Rolex watches. I didn’t for one moment think that Ginny was as accomplished a bullshitter as Graham, and it was only as the evening began to get some motion that I realised that not only were they all dressed exactly, as Ginny had told me, but they all drove the same car, same colour, same make, Mercedes, and once again as I opened the door for someone I was told if I worked hard enough I could have my very own the following week.
Graham came into the kitchen in a bit of a fluster, he had ordered pheasant but they hadn’t been plucked, what sort of an idiot was the butcher. He asked if I knew how to pluck a pheasant and I had to smile when I told him that I actually was a member of the Pheasant Pluckers. Of course the joke went straight over his head however I was dispatched to the garden with four pheasants, two large rabbits and a very sharp knife. Graham came and stood beside me as I skinned and gutted the rabbits. When I started on the birds he left and I hoped he didn’t come back with a fecking sheep or something now that he could see I actually knew what I was doing.
It was nice really to be so busy beforehand as there was no waiting about wishing time to pass by. Ginny and I had a laugh as we worked our way through the preparations, Graham ran about the place shouting at things, which is probably what he thought people in charge of things did. Phillip Howard was of course nowhere to be seen. The house filled up pretty quickly and it must be the first time I ever found myself in a room full of people and didn’t find one of them interesting. The whiskey was flowing well and people were getting quite drunk. I was sat in a corner of the living room watching and listening but I felt a shiver go through me when a revolver began to be passed around the front room. I don’t like guns at the best of times but when you have a handful of drunk, chinless wonders, and a live revolver it’s time to leave the room.
I stepped out through the front door to find a young lady sitting on the doorstep; she was smoking a cigarette, so I joined her. A moment or two later her husband joined us and we all three sat smoking. They were not dressed in the uniform of the urban socialite so I imagined that they were real human beings. We began to chat and it turned out that they lived in a house directly opposite. They were musicians who worked on cruise liners and just happened to be home for a week. How the subject came about I’m not sure but they suggested that we all three could go across the road to their house and smoke a spliff. There was no need to twist my arm so the three of us went to their house and their front room. I’ve only ever walked in to a couple of rooms in my whole life where I had immediately felt comfortable and safe. This front room was one of them.
Every inch of wall space was covered with books, the shelves bending and sagging with the weight of the knowledge and adventure that rested there. There were two enormous sofas, huge things that looked soft and comfortable and slack and in the centre of the room a solid wooden coffee table. No television or radio. We sat down and a bag of marijuana was produced. The bag was about the size of a football so God only knows how much was in it. They joked and laughed that this was only one of the benefits of being a musician on a cruise liner. A spliff was created and we puffed our way into dreamland. It was lovely to be sitting in such a safe and quiet environment while across the road a bunch of crazy people tried to out posh each other. Despite the fact that we were as high as kites, and each relaxed as a fart, I was still listening out for a gunshot.
We wandered off to the Wallingford Bridge and leaning over, watched and wondered about the shopping trolley that was languishing in the River Thames, beneath us. Three people standing on a bridge, laughing at a submerged shopping trolley is infinitely better than standing in a room with a bunch of upper class twits. Why were we laughing at the shopping trolley, I haven’t a clue, but I can still see it in my mind. I can still hear Graham too, shouting and bellowing at me. “What are you doing? Why are you all here? Why are you all laughing at me?” I don’t think we had the time, nor the inclination, to answer the third question. “You must come with me, his grace, the Duke of Norfolk want to meet you.” Again, hindsight is a great thing and what Graham said was in fact true, the Duke of Norfolk wanted to meet me, I couldn’t have cared less if I met him, he may have been the premier Duke in the United Kingdom and I believe he was also the premier Earl too, I wondered if I gave him a can of beer would that make him a premier inn?
I told myself not to make any reference to Gene chandler’s song, The Duke of Earl. Had I known then that I was to become the High King of Ireland then I would have understood why such an important fellow would want to meet me. As we walked back Graham was giving me a lecture on how I should address the chap, I should call him, “Your grace”. After smoking so much marijuana I found this extremely funny that I should be calling a fellow Grace. We came into the house and there stood standing in the hallway was the Duke of Earl; well; the Duke of Norfolk. Graham led me along and stopped beside him. “I found him, your grace,” says Graham, fawning like a fecking fairy. “Hello,” says the Duke, stretching out his hand. I took it and shook it but wasn’t impressed as he had a handshake like a wet cabbage. Then Graham said something which changed my view of him forever, because he was guffawing while he said it. ”This is the Irishman who is in Mensa.”
I promise you, pure anger flushed through my veins and I was disheartened that Graham should prove to be a closet racist. The Duke of Norfolk smiled, but I felt that the smile mocked me. “So are you not in Mensa? I asked, purposely forgetting to call him Gracie or whatever it was that Graham had told me to call him. “No,” laughed the Duke. “I’m not in Mensa.” “Why’s that then?” I heard myself say, in an accent that would tell anyone listening that my heart had never left the fields of Ireland. “Are you fecking stupid?” I’m sure it’s not the first time the fellow has been insulted, but Graham grabbed me by the shoulders and while apologising to Gracie, manoeuvred me away and into the kitchen. “You can’t say things like that!” shrieked Graham. “That’s the Duke of Norfolk.” I only wish that I knew then what I know now, because the best possible answer would have been. “So what, he’s only a Duke, I’m the King of Ireland.”