Following the mysterious and highly lucrative sale of Lady S’ religious sect to the Holy Roman Catholic Church in 2012 I have been carefully silent. My fears were confirmed finally this February yet it is only now that I can reveal the full enormity of the dreadful truth.
Many of you will remember the clandestine meetings between the previous Papa and Lady S back then but should the fog of time have clouded your memory of this momentous occasion you can catch up with my blog…. Meeting The Papa. Of course, it never came to the attention of the Press but then the big deals never do.
Subsequently we spent many months kicking our heels enjoying the slowly changing seasons, walking the dogs and taking a few lazy holidays. We even allowed our self to be distracted by the lengthy sale of a property we had built in the lower part of the estate. It was one of those ‘grey gap-year’ ideas where we were going to down-size as a ‘useful exercise in being closer to our people’ but with only 6 receptions, and no ballroom it turned out to be a step too far for the aristocratic blood coursing through the veins. I did like the cinema though. So we popped it up for sale with those delightful chappies at Knight Frank thinking ‘it’ll be gone in a trice’ but no. It stuck. It stuck in the way immovable objects like mountains stick. Think of Nick Clegg’s – can you remember him? – belief in his party’s electability. That stuck. We even got to the stage of thinking we’d made it too small for the average middle class family and should add a bar or something when finally the bloody thing sold. Hoorah!
And what a frightful mess it had made of ones social plans too. Missed golfing holidays, only twice to the Opera, no Caribbean cruise, it goes on and on. Enough to set the gent of a certain age’s teeth on edge.
But since then we’ve made up for it. Lady S’ almost messianic drive to sell her business, sorry religion, to the highest bidder had been replaced with a serene tranquillity and a desire to ‘see the world a bit’. She had given my alter ego ‘Trevor Travel Planner’ the go ahead to plan some good trips away. But she always suggested the destinations.
There was the June holiday in Crete where, awaiting the arrival of the boys (our daughter Miss Lolita was unable to join us due to a heavy social diary but said, according to Tatler, ‘one is gutted’), I was sipping my Piña Colada whilst looking out over the impossibly blue Aegean. By habit I make sure the sparkler was carefully put to one side to avoid uncomfortable burns like last time, Thinking to myself what a blinder our european cousins the Bubbles had pulled keeping their wonderful islands out of the hands of the Germans and various other Visigoths and scoundrels over the millennia.
We’d grabbed a week’s break from our busy schedule to relax and unwind on the island of Crete. Not yet bought by the Germans, unspoilt and basically piss poor, apart from the place where we were staying of course, where you definitely are spoilt and most certainly could not be poor. Eight quid for a cheeky beer and twenty for a burger was enough to get the nerves a-jangling and that snotty man from Coutts ringing wondering what the hell was going on. Lady S takes a dim view of extravagance and so my choice of hotel could have led to an uncomfortable conversation in her study. To be fair I had pushed the boat out a bit but as all good aristocracy knows; it does not do to be showy. Anyway, if there had been a cockup in arrangements our trusty butler Edwards normally takes one for the team in return for me helping him out with the necessary when a big flutter of his on the gee gees goes sour. Mostly his tips are impeccable though.
Mauritius was interesting. Those chaps at One&Only know how to do a beach resort and the local natives made fabulous friendly staff. Lady S was very keen to learn water skiing while I and the children lolled about drinking mojitos on the beach loungers. I’m not saying we’re boozy or cheap but I did have a chat with the Somelier warning him of our prodigious drinking habits and that he best get another plane load of d’Anjou flown in. Sorted.
And then there was France. Paris, in fact. A rushed visit to the capital taking in the sights with Lady S and Miss Lolita including a surprise visit to the President’s Elysee Palace. Not normally open at the time we went but Lady S always has a way.
Beijing was another story. It’s a 4-night town and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Our Chinese cousins like to do things big. They’ve got the biggest airport they’ve got the biggest wall, the biggest Forbidden City, they’ve even got the biggest smog. In fact the airport terminal is so big its even got its own smog. Inside! Lady S was appalled and she made certain our guide was well aware of it. “You Oriental types need to take a leaf from the book of civilised countries like England. Only burn smokeless fuel!” Emphasising each word with a poke to the chaps chest. His English name was Clarke or ‘Craarrk’ as he pronounced it. Diminutive, stylish, good posture… yes you’ve got it – Gay. Gayer than a row of pinks tents on a lovely day at Henley. But, here’s the thing – there are no gays in China! Isn’t that amazing? It’s official so it must be true. “China is a forward thinking and vibrant society and does not suffer from the ‘gay’ illness”. You have to picture Clark as he is telling us this. He’s got his scarf tied in that way that only women and metrosexual men know how to do, he’s got one hand lightly resting on his hip and a slight pout. “What would you think if your son said he was gay Mrs Ree?” He asked? We felt sorry for him.
The following day we flew to Osaka/Kyoto for a few days of ‘kulcha’ before taking the Shinkansen (bullet train) over to Tokyo. Did a bit of shopping, went to the famous Tsukiji fish market and the popped over to the imperial palace gardens for a walk about. All very nice I thought to myself but a bit dull. As if reading my mind Lady S peered over her pince-nez and said “why don’t you toddle orf and find a nice sushi bar somewhere near? I’m going to have a gander at a few things in the palace and I’ll join you later. Text me.” I couldn’t believe my luck, maybe I’d be able to catch up on a Top Gear episode even. “Oh are you sure darling, wouldn’t you like me to join you” I ventured. “No, no it’s just a bit patchwork or I particularly wanted to see. Terribly dull. Now orf you go.” Us chaps are easily pleased.
Dubai was the real eye opener It was when I got the first inkling as to what was really happening and what a powerful lady she really is. The knowledge has caused me to look back over the last few years of travel with a different eye. A worried eye.
We took a quick ten day break to America doing a whistle-stop tour of Washington – photo of Lady S at The White House – taking in the sights and – a private tour of the The White House’s West Wing which would be an absolute delight for most people. But with my new found knowledge it was full of concern. What was going on? What was Lady S involved with?
We then travelled on down to Florida and hooked up with Lady Benoir (she was a key acolyte in the now sold quasi religious sect) and her husband Jimmy. Like me Jimmy is a simple soul; liking his golf, his footy, and his food. He also has a drink named after him The Jim & Tonic, more of which later. “You boys push off and enjoy a game of golf” Lady Benoir says with Lady S behind appearing aloof. “And have a few beers afterwards.” Not normal words for our women folk to say to their husbands I hear half of you say. And, to be honest, a further concern for me. What are they up to? Shall I burden Jim with my worries? No. I can’t. It’s too big to believe. People will think I’m going mad.
But what was that caused me all this concern? Why have I gone all conspiratorial?
To my surprise Dubai is a wonderful city. It’s not like London or New York or any other major city it’s got its own character and its own skyline. Those imaginative Arab chappies have built a city out of the sand they’ve even built an archipelago of islands called the palm. We were staying at an anonymous but classy hotel at the base of the palm called The Fairmont. It has fabulous views over to the impressive Marina skyline across a large bay. Parachutists pay to be thrown out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft to see the view. And if thats not high enough for you travel up to the top of the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world and have a look down. Awesome.
After a few days of delightful sunbathing Lady S decides she’s got the snorkelling bug and is going to do quite a bit of it from the beach by the hotel. “You just sit and write your err… diary thing darling” she said. Normally I would take this at face value but something didn’t sound right so I played along with it for a few days but determined to find our what was going on.” The snorkelling trips got longer and longer over the days and I couldn’t help but notice the strange freighter moored just off shore. Lady S said it was marvellous to snorkel around because it attracted all the fish. I wasn’t so sure.
The freighter appeared empty but for the occasional flash of a white uniform through the large cabin windows. So on that fateful day I took the hotel’s Kayak out and pottered around the bay eventually coming to the freighter from the far side. There was silence apart from the waves gently lapping against the dark red hull. It was very photogenic so I started to take a few photos of the ship contrasting against the city back drop when all of a sudden a door flung open on the gang way and a burly guard stepped out dressed in a white naval uniform. He pointed at me and shouted ..
“Go away ! You have no business here! Go if you know whats good for you!” Well I must say! He seemed a bit put out so I turned the kayak around and rowed off as quick as I could. After a few hundred metres I stopped and looked around at the ship it was quiet again. What was that all about? So I looked at the pictures I had taken and that was when I realised. Realised what we were into. There, through one of the large windows was Lady S. Standing by a flip chart talking to a large table of men. The last photo caught the guard full on but it wasn’t his face I was interested in it was his name badge on his chest. It was the worst word i could imagine.
The word was S.P.E.C.T.R.E.