Royal Tits…

God only knows why, but I was standing there wearing a suit. The snappily titled “Protocol Sheet” hadn’t even requested I wear one, though it did tell me how to bow, talk, and behave. As someone who has never enjoyed the royal family at any point, for any reason, I was kind of questioning my morals and wondering if, when push came to shove, I was even capable of going through with my own convictions. I guess not.

We’d been asked to select four “safe” prisoners: safe in that they were deemed by us to be of no real threat to the special visitor despite their violent offences. I hadn’t even really given it a second thought, I just picked people who I thought weren’t going to piss about too much and cost me my job. I’d put the names forward to security and they had checked them out and approved it all, so the line-up consisted of me, my boss (Jane), a kidnapper, two street robbers, and a 19 year old murderer who I hadn’t beaten at chess for two years.

“Right, it’s Ma’am to rhyme with Pam…..got it?” I was trying to help everyone in the line-up.
“Eh?” said one of the lads.
“Oh, fuck it. Say what you want.”
We’d been told to bow and to shake her hand if it was offered. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be. I was second in the line.

I could see outside the door of the centre that people were beginning to mass. Next thing the door opened and in came a tall guy wearing a beige mac and an earpiece. I was about to say hello but he just strode across the room and stood in the far corner eyeballing everyone. He put his right hand inside the front of the mac. If he didn’t have it on a gun I’d be surprised. “Has he got a shooter?” whispered the lad next to me.
“No idea, but I wouldn’t go doing anything to find out.”

Then…..in she came. Princess Anne. Followed by the prison governor, lord high something-or-other with his stupid uniform and sword, head of security, mp, it went on and on. People must have worked very hard to get on the grovelling train. She was wearing a mustard colour wool coat and matching gloves. I was starting to panic. Ma’am, Pam….Ma’am, Pam….. bow from the waist, not too much! Don’t swear, for the love of god Ben, don’t swear.

She was talking to Jane but I wasn’t listening, I was still running through my protocols. Then she was just there…right in front of me. She offered her hand, so I shook it, forgetting to bow and said simply “Hi”. She stared at me for what seemed like ten days, and I remember thinking that she wasn’t as ugly as she looked on tv. Her eyes were crystal blue and it was like looking back in time while we held eye contact, possibly thirty times too long for comfort for both of us. After I’d gone grey she smiled and said “So, what do you do here?”
“Erm….I work in the centre with Jane. We try and help these lads sort themselves out, make something of their lives.”
“Hmmm. Thanks.” She moved on down the line. I noticed she didn’t offer her hand to the others.

It was all over and in truth it was probably only five minutes. “Why didn’t she shake my hand?” said one of the lads after she’d left the room.

“Maybe she forgot,” I lied.

We stood against the heavily barred windows to watch her and the ridiculous entourage walk across the large yard and up the metal staircase to the covered walkway. They were all halfway across when, from four floors of cell windows belonging to the houseblock next door, there came a lone voice “OI! PRINCESS”. Everyone turned around, “GET YOUR FUCKING TITS OUT!” She stopped in her tracks. The head of security – wearing his peaked cap for the first time in years – put his hands over his face. The entire houseblock would be paying for this before the end of the day. And Anne also wasn’t feeling the love. She walked over to the forty or so cell windows and stared at each one of them in turn, daring anyone to say anything as a follow up. Nobody said another word, and faces quickly disappeared from between bars. Satisfied, she turned and led the group up the stairs and disappeared from view in a haze of freshly pressed uniforms, polish, and sycophantic slather.

I still haven’t got an MBE.

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