Adam Edwards: Shouldering an intolerable burden
PUBLISHED: 10:29 12 June 2018
The expected night of sybaritic jollity ends with a disappointing takeaway and a cup of instant coffee
Last month my good chum asked me to stay at his London pad, a large basement flat that he usually rents out but which was currently between tenants. It was, he said, to be a night of sybaritic jollity and I arrived at his converted Cotswold barn on a glorious sunny morning with my overnight bag.
He set the scene with a brunch of scrambled eggs and wild smoked salmon and organic coffee from his Nespresso machine before asking me to help him put a set of linen sheets, pillowcases and a duvet into the back of the car. Then he wanted me to negotiate a large painting of a Cotswold landscape into the motor and finally I pushed a fancy Daylesford Organic Farm Shop carrier into the boot.
It was, one might think, a bit over the top for a night in the Smoke but I didn’t mind in the least. This was going to be a bit of a ‘Prince Charles weekend’ I thought to myself. “Shall I unbolt your lavatory seat,” I said. He gave a wry smile.
I did idly wonder if a pantechnicon had taken his antique chest of drawers, his favourite armchair and a score of suitcases (he’s not one to travel light) ahead of us, much as the Prince does when he travels, but I thought it best to not to mob him up. Even so I was disappointed when there wasn’t a chauffeur to take the strain of the drive and so, instead, I offered to steer his ageing BMW down the M4. “I bet Prince Charles doesn’t have to suffer a two hour delay outside Reading,” I said crossly as we drummed our fingers in the static queue.
There was no space outside his Kensington burrow and I had to park three streets away and then go to the local betting shop to get change to feed the meter, only to discover the machine only accepted credit cards. I heaved the bedding from the car and dragged it to his house (where were the footmen when you needed them?). “What do you want me to do with the painting?” I said. “Leave it. I only brought it down to have it cleaned,” he said.
After the drive, and the exertions of making my bed, I needed a drink. I was hoping, in anticipation of my arrival, he had brought a flask containing a pre-mixed Martini or even a bottle or two of my favourite Bell’s whisky, a tot of which I could drink from my special glass. Instead there was a jar of instant coffee and a packet of chocolate digestives in the Dalesford bag. “If you want a beer you could try the corner shop,” he said. “And while you’re there could you get some loo paper, I don’t mind which brand.” (Not for him, I noted, the Kleenex Premium Comfort favoured by the heir to the throne).
Supper that evening was on the sofa with a DVD, Pulp Fiction rather than Gosford Park, and not as I had hoped an organic feast, including home-grown vegetables from his country garden, but rather an Indian takeaway from the Delhi-On-the-Go. It came in a plastic container accompanied by a tiny polythene bag of damp salad. After a few mouthfuls of the lamb jalfrezzi I had had sufficient and he suggested I wrapped the remains in cling film, a plastic film that I, like the Prince, have never come to grips with (it clings to itself and is impossible to find a start to the roll).
The next morning I was looking forward to waking up to a breakfast of fresh coffee and seven boiled eggs (with soldiers) so I, like royalty, could choose which oeuf was à point. “Dash down to Sainsbury’s and get a jam donut,” he said. “I’ll make us a cup of Instant.” He did not share the jammy bun. “No, that’s mine. Only for me,” he said, echoing the Prince when he dined with a banking billionaire. Then he asked me to leave a cash tip for the mythical staff.
Was this part of the ‘intolerable burden’ that I, like Charlie, have to put up with when I go for an overnight sojourn, I thought to myself. If he thinks I’m staying there again he’s much mistaken. Next time I get an invitation I shall tell him that I can’t accept because “I am unable to abandon the beauty of the sunlit scrubland outside my Cotswold home”.
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