Thursday, April 27, 2006

H.R.H. Prince Phillip

Name dropping...

( Rats! I should have talked to Her!.. )

Last week Malinka and I were indulging a high-protein supper after the motorway diet of Red Bull and Paprika Pringles. That very same day the photo of Queen Elizabeth was all over the place with the obligatory "Happy Birthday, Your Majesty" splashed in the front pages. Also very big in the news was the inauguration of a Casino in Lisbon, the most recent venture of the Macao-linked Chinese billionaire Stanley Ho. After the excellent red wine, served in successive half-bottles ( Dão Conde Santar 2000, if the Right Honourable Reader is thinking about doing some wine-shopping of his own soon), I proceed to try to embellish as much as possible my own sole encounter with Mr Ho, for Malinka's benefit. After a while, as it has been happening from time to time, Malinka and I agreed that this particular story has the stuff good blogs are made of.
But surely, an anxious Right Honourable Reader is already asking himself, that blogger who claims to be ours is not going to reveal private conversations with third paries, is he? And even involving Royalty? (The tone switching from anxious moral-high-groundish disbelief to incredulous envy-tainted criticism) . The Right Honourable Reader should not worry, though, this blogger of yours will never pursue kiss & tell activities, nothing that will be libelous or defamatory will be divulged in these premices. Simply a matter of something one does not do period.

Nevertheless, one tends to believe that a very short story depicting the episode where this blogger of yours was trying his utmost to impress patriotically H.R.H. the Prince Philip with the size of some wild animals in Portugal can be safely brought to blog light.

Shell I continue? No objections? Good! The story, then.
The dinner had finished, almost drowning with Glory the sparkling dining rooms of the Embassy. A State Visit has a well established routine, and the visiting Head of State always reciprocates the Banquet at Buckingham . ( "Our" own dinner at Buckingham Palace happened the day before and my dashing diplomatic uniform attracted the attention of a rather blue-bloodish celebrity.. but that would be a case of almost kiss and tell all..). This time the Return Banquet had taken place at the Embassy itself; and the topography of the beautiful Belgrave Square building imposed a ground-floor-meal-followed-by-a-first-floor-afterdinner-cigars&drinks routine.
I was upstairs already (not important enough to seat at the U-shaped dining table downstairs I had just finished dinner in the Small Room with some sort of Equerry or Lord-in-Waiting and a few other over-spillers). Guests had started to arrive at the Sitting Rooms, after ascending the very theatrical marble stairs. Princess Diana was one of the first to arrive and she did look around with his gazelle-like eyes, evidently open (either by human curiosity or by the self-discipline imposed on State occasions ) to mingle with the aborigins. This aborigine of yours had no courage to cross the ballroom and declined such portentous encounter with History.
A little later the room started to get filled up with ascending guests, all flushed and in their best moods after the historical Porto Vintage "Quinta do Noval Nacional". Little groups were being formed and getting dismissed shortly after. In one of them I happened to stay standing in front of Prince Philip. Furious at my very recent timidity that had prevented me from sharing some words with the most beautiful woman present (after the Duchess of Kent) I decided not to let go the obvious invitation from Prince Philip to have an aborigine saying something. I made a quick reasoning (in less than a trillionth of a second) and decided to speak of a theme that would amuse the then President of the World Wildlife Fund. I had heard that he had read about or been in the Convent of Mafra, so I opted for mentioning the enormous rats that have been striving in the basements of the huge Monastery for the last couple of centuries. How do you impress a Royal Highness with rats? With the short time available to think, make decisions and talk I calculated that only hyperbole would do. ( As any of my countrymen who have done National Service knows, all the attempts by the military who occupy most of the areas of the Monastery to get rid of the rat infestation are doomed to fail. With the large corridors where to exercise and with plenty of food from the military barracks, the rats had grown heroically in size and numbers. To eradicate them by the usual chemical ways one would have to evacuate the town).
Back to the Sitting Rooms, upstairs, at the Embassy. I follow on the word Mafra and say to Prince Philip. "I am sure you've heard about the rats in the Convent of Mafra. A quarter of a million. And big as cats." His Royal Highness made an interested smile (in my own assessment at the time, the Prince had probably been told the first thing that genuinely interested him during the whole evening). "As big as cats?" - His tone was dream-like with a hint of pleasure.. At that moment SnobsteaksEater, a senior colleague,elbowed me. I was closing the "circle" of people around the Prince and in my enthusiasm I had not noticed that another important guest was trying to join us . I gave way, as they say in The House, and Mr. Stanley Ho (who else?) entered that little schoolyard-like circle. We all went our different ways after that, and I hope no-one has ever told the WWF about the amazing size of the Mafra Convent rats..

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