Awoken, not by the fragrant scent of freshly ground and brewed coffee, but by the acrid odour of burning metal and melting plastic, a series of possibilities presented themselves to the semi-conscious brain.
International NewspapersAs in : Which should I save first ? The laptop or the beagle ? And where did I put that smart peignoir as opposed to the dressing gown with the hole in the sleeve ? Because, if I am going to sweep dramatically down three flights of stairs and out onto the pavement shouting ’FIRE’ at the top of my voice, I would wish for the paparazzi to publish photos of me in the little silk number rather than the faded towelling bathrobe.
Time passes whilst one is reflecting in this manner, however, and the fumes were getting more noxious by the minute. Opting for yesterday’s jeans and sweater, but without pausing for underwear, I grabbed Beagle who was resplendent in her new red collar, secure in the knowledge that she, at least, would maintain the high sartorial standards which Joe Public seems to expect of whomsoever is spotted emerging from Embassy portals— which is why I personally always exit through the back door, unless dressed for a formal occasion. And most especially when heading for the Beagle run. Poncy red collar, needless to say, is a source of great embarrassment to the wearer who still considers herself to be a hunting dog even though her ancestors haven’t chased anything faster than a ham sandwich in generations. Once released into the great outdoors she concentrates on rolling the offending item through as much fox poo as possible in the limited time at her disposal before being snapped back onto the matching red lead by her irate owner. All of which is usually accompanied by a stream of undiplomatic invective fit to start a war.
So I chucked the laptop into a large carrier bag, added a wodge of begging letters I had spent most of the weekend composing for my next charity event and which I would have hated to see go up in smoke after all that effort, and headed for the stair-case. Empty ! No-one. No fire-brigade, no panic-ridden staff, no security men with curly-wurlies coming out of their collars yelling into cell phones. No Ambassadorial husband single-handedly lobbing smoking molotovs back out of bullet-proof windows. Just this awful pungent stench of burning rubber mingling rapidly with subtle overtones of … incense ! Think Indian Temple meets Le Mans ! Through the fumes I perceive the bumbling form of the lovely man we euphemistically call our ’butler’, frantically wafting a fistful of joss sticks at me. Since I have yet to discover an air freshener that does just that, we tend to burn these probably illegal substances when the smell of onions seeping up from the kitchen gets above human and animal tolerance levels.
’Jeeves’, incapable at the best of times of multitasking, had apparently left the coffee pot to boil dry whilst he answered the telephone. At length ! Total coffee pot meltdown. Not the first sclerotic mistake he has made recently, I have to admit, but he ’Does My Flowers’, you see, and as such is ’Indispensable’. The alternative, which would be to do them myself and thus prove to the world at large that they were correct in their preconceptions as to how Ambassadresses fill their days, would be really too distressing to contemplate.