“I'm taking you to The Grand House today, Amy. It's a stately home, you know.”
I bought two tickets from the kiosk and in we went. I showed the two tickets to the ticket inspector. I knew she was a ticket inspector because she had a badge with the two words: ticket inspector.
“I'm sorry, but there are no guided tours today, the guides are on strike.”
“No problem.” I stuck my right arm in the air and wiggled my fingers. Margaret Thatcher appeared next to us. “Hello Trace, you're going to show us around The Grand House today...”
The ticket inspector interrupted, she wanted to see Trace's ticket. “Oh, no. Trace does not need a ticket, she's a hologram, actually she's meant to look like Hugh Gaitskell – probably a software error.”
Trace rose to the occasion, she doubled her size, which was fine as the ceilings were so high. However she remained looking like Margaret Thatcher. “The next room is The Grand Entrance Hall, please follow me.” We didn't, we went through the door.
“This is where each Duke Of The Family greets his guests. The entrance door is more interesting on the inside – the outside is quite plain.”
“The walls are lined with medieval weapons, such as swords, broadswords, claymores, rapiers, sabres, battle axes, flails, maces, spears, halberds, lances, pikes, longbows, crossbows, muskets and suits of armour. Above are several flags, some very tattered. It is not known whether the items have been used in battle or were made just for display.”
“Please follow me into The Grand Drawing Room.” She disappeared through a wall, Amy and me used the doorway. “The Grand Drawing Room is the ladies room. The walls are lined with portraits in oil of The Family, however the most famous picture, which used to hang over the fireplace has been moved.”
“The Grand Dining Room is at the centre of The Grand House, often called The Christmas Dining Room. Above is the rotunda, the highest point of The Grand House. Look up and you can see the spiral stairway to the lookout platform at the top.”
“Every Xmas The Duke and The Family celebrate here in this room. As you can see the huge table is laid for more than thirty guests. You can read the card for all the courses and all the speeches that were held last year. I'm now going to reduce my size and move to the centre of the table to point out the importance of various pieces of cutlery and porcelain. I could spend all day doing this.”
That Trace in the form of Margaret Thatcher was in the middle of the table and not on the middle made the uniformed guard very uncomfortable. But he could not reach her and Trace ignored her.
“I will now open The Grand Doors. What do you see?”
The huge double doors opened to reveal a small room, which was rather plain. “Do you see a huge, full-length, double-sized painting of The First Duke surrounded by hunting hounds? With wonderful colours, over four hundred years old? It must be The First Duke, he looks so similar to The Seventeenth Duke who found the painting in a storage room nearly one hundred years ago.”
“The Seventeenth Duke, also known as the scoundrel duke, was always short of money to pay his gambling debts and wanted to sell the picture to rich Americans. There was a public outcry, the picture was a national treasure and must not leave the country.”
“There were rumours that The Seventeenth Duke had had the painting made with himself as the subject to generate cash. And worse still, the hounds were painted on later by a second artist to cover up two electric table lamps that the first artist had innocently included in a picture of The Seventeenth Duke.”
“Which duke is it? Your choice. The Seventeenth Duke later sold The Grand House and the grounds to The Trust for money and use of The Grand House at Xmas for The Family. He took the money and was not seen again.”
“His son was probably not his son and was financially very successful in the City and restored the reputation and fortune of The Family. He was made The Eighteenth Duke when The Seventeenth had not been sighted for fifty years.”
We visited The Grand Library, after dinner the ladies retired to The Grand Drawing Room and the gentlemen to The Grand Library to smoke brandy and drink cigars, several Grand Bedrooms and The Grand Orangery. “And here is The Grand Lawn.”
It was huge and seem to stretch to the horizon. “You cannot see the limit of the lawn, there is a ditch to stop animals entering the lawn, but you cannot see it from here, it is a hidden ditch, a so-called ha ha.”
It was just the place for a dog fight. I held out my left hand palm upwards in front of me and moved the middle finger with my right hand towards me. Trace took the horizontal position and stretched out her arms. I pulled on the throttle finger and Margaret Thatcher flew low over my head towards The Grand House. I pulled on the rudder finger and she banked hard and turned to the left.
I practised for five minutes, Amy wanted to join in, I told her to use her fingers like I did. Hugh Gaitskell flew in low over the ha ha with his arms outstretched. Amy soon got the hang of it – as always she was better than me. I discovered that moving my little finger left made Margaret Thatcher fire ping pong balls out of her mouth. A move to the right made a white smoke trail out of her skirt.
A manager came running out of The Grand House, I knew she was a manager because she had a badge with the one word: manager. I told her to use her fingers like I did. Jeremy Thorpe flew in low over the ha ha with his arms outstretched. The manager soon got the hang of it. Let the dog fight commence.
I won, I think that Amy let me win. The three politicians flew close together – green smoke trail, white smoke trail, red smoke trail – barrel rolls, loops and starbursts – like the Frecce Tricolori.
The three politicians took the vertical position and landed slowly like helicopters and formed a group with Margaret Thatcher in the middle. They sang several choruses of:
Lloyd George knew my father, Father knew Lloyd George.
and disappeared. I thanked the manager for all the wonderful stuff that Amy and me had seen that day. I took Amy's hand, we walked to the car park and we drove home.