Read by Tom Sawyer
Twenty-seven, then. It isn't quite the big Three Oh, things aren't that bad yet. But all the same, that red-ringed sign on the highway of life seems around the next corner. So I suppose it depends what a chap's been up to, all this time. But if it may look, to the untrained eye, as if all he's been doing is having a wild, crazy time in Whisky Mist, Boujis and in some ways the military, then it's probably time for a couple of changes.
Time to slow down at parties, and speed up at work. Well, all right, 'work', but you get the idea. Time to think about marriage, one's health and one's future. Time to develop a couple of interests, polo, the environment, underprivileged kids. Time, in other words, to start trying to plan the next Royal wedding.
Still, I'm not sure the trouble really started until my brother's big day.
Which we've all seen, I guess. Even the most avowed anti-monarchist can hardly have missed it. The wedding itself, or the commentary next morning, in which I was accused (and I wish I could say it was only by the tabloids) of lingering over Pippa Middleton's bottom. Well, hands in the air, it was a fine arse. Possibly even a world-beating bum. But while it was perfectly acceptable for the red-tops to drool, and for Joe Public to set up page after page on Facebook about it, for the H-Meister to make a jovial, off-the-cuff comment about the best man's duties with regard to the maid of honour … suddenly, everyone thinks you're Mr Hyde or somebody. A hulking, ginger beast.
Being blown out is one thing - we've all been there, I guess - but who needs it to read about it over their cornflakes? It was in The Mail, it was in The Guardian … the list went on. Shares in the H-Meister PLC more or less plummeted after that. My name was mud on the debutante circuit. However much I tried to keep my gaze focused on the bar, it was backs to the wall when I walked into Boujis, the fillies now convinced, it seemed, that I was some kind of pervert, perhaps even the sort of chap who actively favours the tradesman's entrance. And if it's been decided that a bum's being stared at, how do you persuade the owner otherwise? I took to wearing my Ray Bans indoors, after dark, like George Michael or someone, but if anything, that only seemed to make matters worse.
So, for the first time in my life perhaps, I began to feel the weight of loneliness. Wills wasn't around to hit the clubs with any more, he was too busy pressing the flesh in the colonies, with his new bride, La Middleton, and there was a new generation at Whisky Mist. On the packed, sweaty dance floors I'd once felt at home on, I now felt at sea. I'd never been all that much of a Smiths fan; 'come on guys,' I used to think 'it may never happen', but now, I began to see merit in even Morrissey's solo albums. Long walks were taken, alone in the rain. On occasion, late at night, after ten or so gins in front of a rom com, I even tried my hand at poetry. Basically, thoughts of mortality began to creep on. And say what you like about my brother's big day it was quite an event. So, all in all, it seemed like handy karma if I had one of my own. Because how else to put 'Bumgate', as I came to think of it, behind me?
This, however, was easier said than done.
Eventually, at a bit of a low ebb, I gave an interview to one of the papers (I can't remember which … well, all right, it probably was The Sun) about how much it sucked to be a lonesome prince.
That was when Channel 4 got in touch.
They didn't, they said, like to think of the H-Meister being on his tod, and especially not with the Diamond Jube coming up. Never mind the Olympics.
'Right,' I said 'but what are you going to do about it? Fix me up?'
Well yes, this was exactly what they wanted to do.
'Okay …' I said. 'But what might this involve?'
It all seemed to hinge on the final of the Men's 100 Metres, and whether I had tickets.
'Yeah, I'm sitting next to Elton John, actually … I'm not all that happy about it.'
But this was great, C4 thought; their idea was a Jubilee version of Celebrity Blind Date, with a seat by the H-Meister, at the Games most popular event, as the grand prize.
'Really?' I said 'I'm not a fan of athletics. Plus, if you ask Sir Elton to get his round in, it's a bit like being caught in flagrante with one of the corgis …'
'Sure,' said the C4 boffins. But, as they pointed out, the race would be over in under ten seconds.
'Yes' I said, perking up a bit. 'I hadn't thought about that. And then me and the date would have a night out afterwards?'
Absolutely, was the word. C4 also said that because the quality of the prize, they were expecting top drawer entrants.
'Thanks guys,' I said, quite touched, until they reminded me of the show's format, in which, perforce, the H-Meister's involvement would be a surprise.
So you're supposed to run this stuff past the Palace. You can't just show up on telly and make a fool of yourself without warning everyone, is the protocol. Uncle Edward's It's A Royal Knockout is still a bit of a spooge-covered elephant in the drawing room, at family occasions.
But, on the other hand, during the plans for the Jube celebrations, there'd been an awkward meeting about one of the photo shoots.
'Guys, I don't really think I can stand behind her.'
'This is Pippa's feeling too.'
'So it's the rear of the year or the H-Meister, basically? Well, it's no competition, surely?''
And, of course, it wasn't. This looked to be setting an alarming precedent, of yours truly being sidelined at family occasions, so, a bit ticked off, I said yes to C4, basically.
To what I should have remembered, but didn't, had long been the home of the Alternative Queen's Speech.
I should say, to begin with, that I didn't know it would be broadcast during the Jube. It was in the contract, I suppose, but who reads that stuff? Not I, I fear. Nor did I realise that Alan Carr would be hosting, instead of Cilla Black.
Who is Alan Carr? He seems a bit of a loose cannon. Five minutes into the show, and the Middleton bottom had already been raised about eight times, I think. Alan looked to be a sort of a court jester type; no wonder these characters used to be executed, I found myself reflecting, more than once
'So, I'm all of a flutter,' was Carr's opening gambit 'I've always fancied being taken up the aisle by a handsome prince.'
'I, ah, see ...' I said..
'Don't worry, your Uncle Alan understands! Just think of me as your fairy Godmother! Now we have some real princesses lined up for you this evening!'
'Oh God,' I remember thinking, already sweating profusely, 'how many of these are trannies?'
And that's about the last thought I can clearly recall. I'd got a bit tanked up in hospitality beforehand, so the show's just a blur of innuendo now.
The Blind Date format used to be simple enough. As the chap doing the choosing, you'd just pitch your questions so as to establish which of the fillies was most sympatico, when it came to the matter of a roll in the hay. Well, fair enough, anyone could follow that. But now black seemed white, and up down, because if I didn't want to attend the Olympics with a bloke in a dress (and it's not that I'm prejudiced, but I didn't, really) I actually had to think about what I was doing. It went against every fibre of my being, but the more frisky the contestants sounded,the more I had to avoid them. So number three, Delilah, as the least flamboyant, the most down to earth, seemed the one to go for.
'Are you sure you don't want to go for number two?'
'No, I, ah, went before I came on stage.'
'Look, I do the jokes here!'
'That's debatable, Alan.'
Anyway contestant one, Camilla of the husky voice, was, as suspected, a bit of a drag queen. Carr was gutted; the headlines could have been massive, and in a way, I was sorry to disappoint. Not that sorry though - the tabs would have had a field day. I mean, Camilla, seriously? Did everyone think I was totally, gaga? Apparently, yes.
Contestant two, on the other hand, was a serious stunner. The kind of lady who'd drag a chap into sin, break his heart into pieces then sell the story to everyone; Buck House has a history with this kind of filly, and it never ends well, but still, what a mover, I thought, as she swept off into the wings, so radiant, so fragrant that I've forgotten her name. I suppose the old tongue was lolling out, rather.
'Ooh, nice bum!' Alan said. 'I did say, didn't I?'
'I'm happy with my decision, Alan.' I choked.
'So, number three!'
So, number three, Delilah, was, is, a single mum from a council estate. Channel Four go at you like that. But she does have mysterious grace. I've seen a bit of her already, and actually, we get on pretty well. Delilah has shown me a different world, one I never knew existed; you watch this stuff on telly, I guess, but still .. I had, for example, never been to a Harvester.
In Nando's |(so exotic!) the other day, I mentioned something about my burgeoning feelings.
'Look, I ain't easy,' she said, over the hot wings 'if that's what you think.'
'No, but you seem so much more … broad-minded than the fillies in Boujis.'
'Don't get your hopes up, mate' she said, but tellingly I think, she didn't leave the restaurant, or throw her Tango in my face.
Plus, her family background, fractious as it is, is not entirely dissimilar. Some of her uncles, her cousins and so on, have been on benefits for decades. And finding a seat for her son, little Elton, at the Men's 100 metres means the boy's namesake will have to move to a chair further back in the stadium. In a way, I could marry her for that alone.
The Palace aren't keen on any of this, but how can they say much? All past sins, as well as present, and possibly future, look to melt away, in the red-tops, when I'm papped in the park with little Elton, sending him sailing round on the swings, 'Bumgate' now a distant memory.
So it's a question, I guess, of what I could do next. Am I, if she'll have me, going to walk up the aisle in Westminster Abbey, with little Elton in a pushchair, ready to marry the lovely Delilah, as truly a people's prince? It would seem to have fairytale, Merry England qualities. Plus the one thing you're meant to do, as a British royal, is get married. The taxpayer, it seems, will put up with anything, in terms of far-out behaviour, as long as you give them this one special day.
(c) Quintin Forrest, 2012
Quintin Forrest is currently preparing Tales of Modern Stupidity, his debut collection of short stories, for publication as an e-book. He lives in London.