(And Other Derring-do’s)
Seated at a small antique breakfast table in his cotton nightshirt, Boris Flashbart lifted the last triangle of orange marmalade toast from his plate and ate it. After a gulp of apple juice, the youth stood, dabbed his lips with a monogrammed napkin, and with a flourish slipped into a blue silk robe.
With a military gait, the young Prince strode across his plush bedroom to the point where the sun flooded in. In one movement he thrust both hands forward and flung the balcony doors open. Hot morning air sucked at the door curtains, and the white muslin fluttered like butterfly wings until they’d settled.
He took four paces out across the stone flags halted – and with feet slightly apart against the ornate parapet – brushed his hands over the rough lichen that carpeted the sandstone top to feel its warmth. His eyes were drawn towards cooling ripples on the vast lake beyond hemmed in by pristine green velvet lawns peppered with shrubs of crimson Azaleas and yellow Rhododendron. He drew in long breaths and smelled the flowery scent.
Boris, or to give him his full title (His Royal Highness Prince Boris Flashbart of Verruca) is still a bit of wimpy young chap having been brought up surrounded by servants and nannies. Just turned sixteen, Royal protocol dictates that the Crown Prince should take command of The Kingdom of Verruca’s Royal Navy – Commissioned to protect the kingdom’s shores from cut-throat pirates.
Prince Flashbart, the eldest son of the King and Queen of Verruca, is about to embark on his first sea voyage. On the trip, he’ll be under the watchful eye (literally) of the Queen’s favourite sea captain, Captain ‘Shaky’ Finn. The Prince has packed his underwear and is itching (because of the fabric conditioner Nanny Bunchkins uses) to set sail from the seaport of Castle Savalon situated on the sunny south coast of Britannia.
Britannia as a whole is divided into four parts – each ruled by four separate monarchs. In our story, the Royal home is Castle Savalon which gives its name to the ancient seaside resort where the landmark castle stands.
Prince Flashbart is both anxious and excited to set sail. But, that’s partly due to his dislike to be anywhere near water, brought about by a childhood embarrassment while in year five at primary school.
You see, when his class went for weekly swimming lessons – his nanny had knitted him a pair of royal blue swimming trunks for the occasion (okay while he was in the water) the problem came when he heaved himself up onto the bank. Due to the knitted trunks becoming sodden – the trunks stayed behind leaving his crown jewels exposed to all and sundry.
There was another experience that bothered him too.
When he was twelve, he fell from the Royal Oak tree branch he was sitting upon (to watch the parlour maids sunbathing) and sprained his wrist. Heavily bandaged by the lovely Nanny Bunchkins, he went for his swimming lesson (in swimming trunks with stronger waist elastic by this time). And because of his bandaged wrist, he could only swim with one arm and spent an hour going round in circles having to be rescued from the water by, Potter the butler (more about him later).
Nanny Bunchkins, has looked after the young Prince since he was born. She’s a lovely woman and reminds, Flashbart of the school cook at Castle Savalon’s Primary. Plump in stature with rosy cheeks and a wide smile – always there to give him a cuddle and slice of bread and jam if something upset him.
Recently home from a six-month voyage of discovery, the Queen’s favourite sailor, Captain ‘Shaky’ Finn and his fearless crew snoozed and sprawled in the sun on the swabbed decks of their flagship galleon anchored in Barnacle Bay. The ship, ‘Duneet Yellasnow’ (a name chosen personally by her Majesty while walking her Corgis in the castle gardens one winter’s day) was in the harbour for repairs and awaiting new orders to sail. The well-deserved rest and relaxation were the Cap’n and crew’s prize in return for booty (especially Rum) they’d seized from the fearsome Swedish Pirate Olus Onnabender.
Cap’n ‘Shaky’ Finn sat like jelly on the skull and crossbones beanbag he’d captured and held on tight to his wobbly fishing rod while he wrestled the giant Haddock he’d caught for tea.
‘Bite! Bite!’ he cried.
Pepper the purple parrot perched on, Shaky’s shoulder couldn’t contain his excitement, and so began to peck the Captain’s lughole.
‘No! No! Stupid bird,’ he exclaimed, ‘not me. I mean I’ve caught a fish.’
Fish and chips happened to be Cap’n Shaky’s favourite meal, and he’d already ordered, Corky, the ship’s cook to be at the ready in the galley.
‘Quick, Pepper,’ he said to the purple parrot, ‘Avast! And tell the cook to get the chip pan hot.’
Pepper squawked when Cap’n Shaky batted him off his shoulder, and the feather ruffled flapper flew down the hatch to alert Corky the cook.
Corky, the moustachioed cook, was an inventive soul always trying to please his Captain with tasty new recipes (the Queen’s chef had taught him all he knew). His latest invention was Kipper and ice-cream trifle. Corky’s first words to, Pepper, when he flew into the galley, were, ‘Mamma Mia! You puffa de upped pidgeonni,’ his moustache doing a merry dance, ‘Getta outta my galley,’ he cried, batting poor, Pepper with a soup ladle.
Pepper pecked himself out of the sink, shook his feathers then flapped his wings into a Scouse pose and replied in his native tongue, ‘Calm down, calm down,’ he said, ‘Capn’s right made up. Caught a whopper of a fish. Sez ta get a chip pan on sharpish like … Now do one will ya an’ gerra chip pan hot?’ he finished, feathers atop his head Mohawk style.
Meanwhile, seated on their thrones around the bargain priced white plastic patio table (care of the local doubloon shop) on the royal lawns of Castle Savalon, Queen Veronika, and King Alexander were partaking in their afternoon tiffin. Surrounded by her Corgis’ her Maj tinkled a little hand bell to summon, Potter, the butler.
Quick as a flash, the doddery butler scooted up to the table on his phantom in-line roller blades. Skidding to a halt in a cloud of smoke next to the Queen. He said in a faux posh voice, ‘Cough! … You rang, Ma’am?’
Her Maj also coughed and spluttered then took another bite of her crabmeat and marmalade sandwich and answered in a full mouthed tone.
‘Nom nom! Ah, Potter, nom nom, bring me a telescope. I wish to see, nom nom, what goes on in the harbour,’ she said, then began to lob Triple Chocolate Chip Muffins about the lawn for the dogs to fetch.
‘Oh, and, Potter! … Whatever you do, don’t bend at the waist and flail your arms in circles like a complete fruit there’s a good chap.’
‘As you wish, Ma’am,’ he said, and eloquently sloped off.
The ancient seaside resort of Castle Savalon, on the south coast of Verruca, home of the Royals – is a place where the sun always shines (which saves the Royal household a lot of embarrassment when they are criticised by the countries taxpayer’s). There is an exception to the rule at Christmas time. It snows for a full week, but there are still no complaints from the taxpayer’s for they are all too busy playing snowball fights and stuffing themselves with Turkey.
In the sunny months, as it is now, Castle Savalon is a hive of activity. In fact, this very week, her Majesty is to hold a summer, charity ball in aid of bringing Superfast Semaphore to commoner’s houses. The flags used are woven from thin strands of glass less than a tenth as thick as a human hair. The Queen’s chief scientist, Professor Pilchard Bramston, (a pickle manufacturer) invented the system by accident while trying to find a way of bottling up pickled prunes to aid his grandmother’s bowel movements.
In the Charity Ball, Her Majesty is to host upcoming stars and celebrities as well as local dignitaries. The headline act on Castle Savalon’s stage for the soirée is none other than a boy band, ‘Baked Old Hat,’ featuring lead vocalist’s Fairly Berry and Saul Pricklywood. No expense has been spared, and her Maj has even secured the services of, Simon Shallow as the master of ceremonies.
Back on the flagship, ‘Duneet Yellasnow’, Cap’n Finn tucked into his fish ‘n’ chips alongside his officer’s, Commander Cedric Lovey, Lieutenant Charles Duffy and Midshipman Jim Landor, all of whom had to make do with the standard issue seamen’s meals of beans on toast. They were all constantly drooling as they ate, not because of the beans on toast, they just couldn’t help but listen to the smacking lips of Captain Finn while he scoffed his crispy fish and fat vinegary chips. Oh well, at least they had their pud to look forward to.
No sooner had they finished their main course when in came Corky the moustachioed cook with a tray full of pud.
‘Ah, signori, I ‘ava for you mya latest creationni. Mya Kipper e ice-cream triffle. I ‘ope you enjoy si?’
All the officers looked down in front of the table in disbelief. Commander Lovey was the first to speak, he looked up – his mouth screwed up, and his black brows slithered like, strictly dancers doing the Samba, saying in a Prince Charles voice, ‘I say, old cookie chap, shouldn’t you have taken the eyes and tail fin orf the Kipper?’
Corky’s droopy tache whirled around like two slugs doing cartwheels – he looked at Lovey as if he’d just seen a ghost and said, ‘Scusami, signori.’ And proceeded to dip his fingers in the triffle er! Trifle then whipped a pair of scissors from his back pocket, snipped off the Kipper’s tail, gouged the eyes out and plonked what was left back into the pudding dish. ‘Mamma Mia!’ Corky continued, ‘You ‘ava me baciarsi youra backside nexta!’ Corky stormed out of the officer’s dining room like a baboon flailing his arms over his head. All the officers smiled an awkward smile and finished eating their pudding.
Meanwhile, back in the gardens of Castle Savalon, Her Majesty bent over the jewel encrusted telescope and peered onto the deck of the ‘Duneet Yellasnow’ observing the antics of the crew.
‘What on earth Captain Finn saw in hiring that crazy cook, I’ll never know. He’s only come up on deck like a raging baboon and … Oh, my word! … now he’s thrown himself over the side, silly man, everyone knows monkeys can’t swim.’ She said, guffawing at the helmsman fishing the Mad cook out – while the rest of the crew roll about on deck in hysterics.
‘What is it, mamma?’ Prince Flashbart enquired as he tiptoed up to the Queen, ‘are you laughing at the commoners scraping up horse poo for the roses again?’
The Queen straightened and took the Prince by the hands then letting go smiled and lovingly shook his rosy cheek. ‘No, my darling. Oh, I do hope you’ll be alright on the flagship my sweet.’
A tear trickled down the Queen’s cheek. Flashbart took out his frilly monogrammed kerchief and gently brushed the glistening teardrop away. The Queen burst into tears. Prince Flashbart took his mother in his arms and said, ‘Oh, mamma! Whatever is the matter pray?’
She replied between breaths, ‘Lily of the Valley … the smell on your kerchief … ever since you were a baby … when Nanny Bunchkins washed your soiled nappies … they always came up and smelt of Lily of the Valley. Wherever you are in the world my darling … whatever dangers you’re in my sweet, I shall always remember you in your Lily of the Valley nappies.’
Prince Flashbart let go of his mother in a flash, flung his kerchief down onto the lawn then casually looked around eyeballing the giggling maids, he flushed as red as cochineal then stormed off in the direction of the Royal Oak tree. His place of sanctuary.
While he sat on a fat branch of the Royal Oak swinging his legs, Prince Flashbart gazed out to sea wondering what lie in store for him on his first sea voyage. Would he get sea sick? Probably, he thought. Would they run into pirates? He felt a shudder race up his spine making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Maybe, just maybe, they may discover a new island? ‘Yes, that’s what we’ll do,’ he said out loud, ‘We’ll set a fair wind towards Africa and discover a new island. I shall order the Captain as soon as we set sail.’ His head swivelled round and round to see if anyone heard him, but they didn’t, as far as he could see, there were only his mother and father plus the daft maids on the lawns.
This is the end of the excerpt …