Don't Luck Now

The chair that is always left vacant is a source of much amusement for The Family, but if anyone else were to dare laugh at the long-standing tradition then it would be nothing short of treason.

      The Family are not like us, their ridged way of life would feel alien to the likes you and me, it’s here that Sarah finds herself on Christmas eve 1986. Sarah, big personality and even bigger hair, seemed like a breath of fresh air. Anyway, back to the vacant chair, or Vicky’s Chair as we shall call it for our little tale; perfectly preserved by the best craftsmen, deeply stuffed velvet cushioning, imbedded in dark chocolate mahogany swirls. Vicky’s Chair was always left vacant; a sign of respect for the royal rump who once adorned it. A family tradition, but yet a tradition that was never really spoken of, it’s not like there was a blue plaque above that said, ‘Her Majesty Queen Victoria once farted here’, such a plaque would have been helpful to the newer guests that balanced drinks and canopies in The Rose Drawing Room of Balmoral Castle.

      What proceeded was part-practical joke, part-hazing, where The Family secretly took bets as to who would be first to make the social faux pas and sit in Vicky Chair. They watched out of the corner of their eyes; their money was on the newly married Sarah.

      Philip also watched Sarah out of the corner of his eye, not that Philip; he was off somewhere; insulting an African celebrity, whom Diana had dragged along for emotional support. Philip stood glued to the spot like a statue, standing upright in his livery jacket, shiny buttons, shiny shoes. Secretly his eyes darted back and forth between The Family and Vicky’s Chair and Sarah and Vicky’s Chair. As his heart raced, a mist of droplets glistened on his forehead.

      The events that were to unfold, had actually begun the night before. Philip was also a new kid on the block and had been given the glorious honour of looking after Lucky.

Now in truth, Lucky was anything other than lucky, as to be caught with him in your possession was a sackable offence. No pets allowed for staff. Lucky; the Footmen’s’ mascot ferret, had to be passed among them; never spending any more that 3 nights with any one Footman. Whilst this system meant that they never got caught keeping Lucky as their pet, the hefty musk of his ginger coat, lingered for some time even after Lucky had been handed onto his next keeper.

      Philip had a tough time fitting in with the other Footmen. He understood minding Lucky could crown him as one-of-the-boys. The red-head ferret was delivered to his attic room with a pat-on-the-back. After bedding him down in a cardboard box and rolled up blankets, Philip took himself of to bed.

Before he knew it 5am was buzzing in his sleepy ears, but Philip woke to find luck had run out. Panicked that he had fallen at the first hurdle of male bonding, the last thing he could do was go running like a scared errand boy to the Footmen. As he dodged both his duties and his superiors, he hunted for Lucky through antique filled rooms, with any number hidey holes. There in The Rose Drawing Room, Lucky had found the best seat in the house.

     Lucky was safely secured, Philip quietly buzzed into action; the stench that came from the velvet hit the back of his throat. Using a cocktail of Febreze and Asda own-brand polish, he got to work.

Having finished insulting the African celebrity, that Philip waltzed into The Rose Drawing Room, whiskey in hand, followed by an army of corgi dogs.

      The social hierarchy of dogs is not as complicated at that of The Family; there is one Alpha, the others follow his lead, here the Commander-in-Chief was Chipper. Not much escaped the nose of Chipper, no amount of cheap cleaning products got the better of him. He had been after that damned ferret for years, finally he was onto his trail. He would mark his territory, showing Lucky that ‘Chipper was the king of the castle’. His nose whizzed past Georgian walnut dressers; porcelain vases wobbled precariously.

      The Family watched Sarah, our Philip watched the Family. The Corgis watched for Chippers command. Proudly he jumped up on the velvet antique, raised his leg and anointed the vacant chair. 

Copyright © Sarah Armstrong as ‘Dita Kelly’ 2020