Only last week the Royal Family announced this year’s Christmas gathering would be ‘larger than usual’ and naturally I was thrilled to be included. Not included, of course, will be Harry but I longed to follow up with my King, and fellow climate warrior on our 2024 resolutions.
Before leaving London I snagged the world’s best driver who navigated the three miles from St John’s Wood to King’s Cross as though his life depended on it—zooming ahead and cutting people off when necessary, but I was running late and it’s not every day one facilitates the journey to Christmas at Sandringham! I thought of having him drive me all the way to King’s Lynn Station but I had my heart set on arriving as my gran had done when she and Princess Anne were of an age, and inarguably it was better optics to arrive by train.
The well-wishers had already begun to camp out for a chance to glimpse the royals on Christmas Day. For Christmas presents I’d brought Solgaard lifepacks and House of Marley earbuds. Lord, it’s so much work finding eco-friendly gifts! The rucksacks promise to remove ocean plastics but are actually made of what they are calling ‘ocean-bound plastics’, and the earbuds swear they plant one tree for every tree used, but are made in China. Not to worry though, Charles loves everything woody and I’m told he flew straight from Cop28 to watch the gargantuan Christmas tree be craned in at Sandringham.
So you're my bloody Prime Minister.
During cake and sandwiches, I had a brief chat with the food writer, Tom Parker Bowles, Queen Camilla's son by a previous marriage. We’d met briefly in Palm Beach but got pulled in two different directions. ‘Feels a bit of a closed club don’t you agree?’ he asked.
‘Well I do rather’. I said and we both laughed. ‘Best to remember they don’t know another way’, he added and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Tom had been through the misfortune of a divorce, only for her to die two years later. But I hadn’t known her, hadn’t known him for that matter, and thought best to say nothing. ‘Catch you next round?’ he asked, holding up his sherry and stepping away.
I needed to talk to the big man anyway—the King, whose secretary had called and asked if I’d handle a ten-minute spot for Sky TV. Of course I would but I couldn’t help worrying that my new field coat wasn’t just a bit too smart, a bit too new, and screamed the type of thing an American would choose if expecting to be photographed. Truth was my hunting clothes were at our country house and there hadn’t been an opportunity to reconnect with them. It’s always the case though, England is littered with wellies I’d left here and there throughout the years.
After church the next day, I was taken to the spot where a two-person television crew would interview me from an absolutely insulting distance. Poor souls, and practically Christmas no less. It was like mucking the stalls during Ascot. One thing was certain, they thought I’d be lulled into a false sense of fair play and spill all. As if.
Happy Christmas to all!
Yes I was aware of the now famous Little Owl killed in a Fenn trap meant for vermin. And no I wasn’t going to sob. The whole point was one of conservation, of keeping rats and weasels from eating pheasant and partridge eggs, of building up the highly desirable bird population. Who were these people? They had no understanding that tens of thousands of acres were being preserved and still they were ‘horrified’. They refused to accept that the Royal Family were actually the largest conservators and ostensibly employed the most and best caretakers on the planet. But to their mind all positive outcomes were unintended and it was wrong to develop a habitat that favoured one species over another. If only I could send each of them away with a jackal.
After the interview I was driven back to Sandringham and decided on a long hot bath before dinner. I’d earned it. And I was sure Sky TV would run footage of Prince William as the patron of the British Trust for Ornithology, leaving them free to love on all God's creatures and interview New York City’s Eric Adams, patron saint of rats. Just then my phone buzzed and I dragged one very wet hand onto the screen of my phone. It was Daddy and Judith saying Happy Christmas but he’d also linked a video. Already it was the Sky TV interview and me saying it was ‘not wrong to favour one species over another’ against King Charles saying ‘loss of biodiversity is the greatest threat humanity ever faced’.
Really, Chuck? Greatest threat to humanity?? UGH! This was the greatest threat to my career! And how could he even think this? Oregon’s Willamette Valley has a HUGE ecosystem and all we care about is their Pinot Noir. Plus biodiversity on earth had not changed in sixty million years! Oh, Daddy why did you even have to send this? Tomorrow was a full day of hunting and I had committed high treason.
Anyone for trotters?
I was consumed with fear when I arrived for the hunt. Closed club indeed! The guns seemed to be on their pegs for an eternity but it was really only four drives. Perhaps I’d panicked for nothing, as no one had said a word. At dinner I moved in on Tom Parker Bowles, asking him if he used any special potato for his line of specialty crisps but his line was one of pork cracklings—hence the name Mr. Trotter’s. Of course it was.
Since our first meeting I’d hoped he would collaborate with me on a gourmet bug cookbook. He claimed he’d 'been there-done that' with his 'The Year of Eating Dangerously’ cookbook but as I’ve explained bugs are not only not dangerous, they are the future! Well at least for some. And surely his newly-minted stepfather would concur.
‘Ah yes, he would’, Tom said. ‘He’s a good egg. And lucky that is for you'.