“They’re not visiting the Taj Mahal until next Saturday,” I say. We are at an Indian restaurant of the same name and I am regaling my mother with interesting facts about the Duke & Duchess’ India tour itinerary whilst we wait for our food to arrive. We’re lucky that it caters for kids. Mini poppadoms, chips, high chairs, colouring books … it’s a shame all NG wants to do is hide out in the smokers’ tent playing hide and seek with herself.
“Who will sit on the bench, then?” asks my mum, steadying NC, who is sitting on NW’s shoulders, and has consumed a third of a blue paper serviette. He looks queasy, but it could just be the infrared heater light. “Because if they’re going to re-enact the photograph of Diana, it’ll have to be just one of them.”
“I KNOW, RIGHT?” I love my mum. No-one else can fake ‘interested’ when I prattle like this as well as she can. “I bet they’ve had a row about it.”
“How do you think it went?”
I adopt a face I think the Duke of Cambridge might make when he’s being serious. “Kate. Diana was my mother, you know.” I change to a squeaky soprano, “Oh, but my hair will look stunning against the temples.” I become the Duke again, “don’t be rude, darling. I’m trying that hair stuff you gave me. My head just glistens, especially in the heat.”
My mother snorts. Our chips arrive. NG crawls out from beneath a table, covered in ash.
“Come here,” says NW. “You’re very mucky.” He sighs. “Didn’t you say they’re ‘making new memories’? So surely it will be both of them sitting there, with matching neck-wear and grins.”
NG slides behind me and starts tickling my ear with an old cigarette butt. “Please stop that,” I say. “That’s nasty.”
“Oh, but I LOIIIIKE doing it,” she says in her best Bing Bunny voice.
“And I told you I can’t stand that voice,” I say sternly. NW mutters something under his breath which might indicate he’s not keen on my KMiddy one either, but I ignore it.
“Come here,” I say, as a rush of love overwhelms me. I sweep NC off his father’s shoulders and pull NG onto my lap. “They should go completely by themselves – no photographers, even. The best thing they could do is take a selfie.” I angle my phone to demonstrate and admire NC’s enormous eyes in the screen.
Unfortunately, I don’t register that NC’s finger is being squashed between the bench and my back. I am suddenly aware of the screaming. I put the phone down and her face resumes its normal colour. She is panting lightly but there is no damage done.
“Sorry, darling,” I say. “Have some naan.”
“Mummy … wha’ happened?”
“You got yourself trapped and, like a very famous lady who is dead now, even though you are with people whom you assumed love you, you couldn’t escape. So when I took this picture of you on the bench, you look sad.”
We eat in silence. I’m pretty sure all the adults around the table take a minute to absorb the significance of the comment I have just made.
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and a half year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and six month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)