Caribbean Beat Magazine

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jugs

Nazma Muller on a near miss with Prince Charles

  • Illustration from Dunstan E. Williams

I was on my way back from my lunch-time serving of  torture at the gym (hey, you would put on 15 pounds in six months too if you moved into a freezer, which is what England is like after 26 years in the Caribbean). My gelatinous backside and I were shivering and jiggling back towards the office when I noticed this humongous crowd of little kids clogging up the sidewalk. Strange, I thought, where are they going? There’s nothing but the scrappy organic farmers’ market on. Which, I could have told them, was nothing to squirm and bounce around about as they were doing. Nothing but smelly, spotty cheeses and “unsprayed” apples that sell for 69p a kilo and taste like 6p.

So anyway, I was trying to manouvre through the tide of knee-high, blindingly red and yellow jackets, when I noticed a huge crowd of adults in the market itself. Bloody hell, they must be giving away the wormy cheese. I spot a few fancy bobbies’ hats bobbing above the sea of very excited faces. What the . . . ?

I’d heard the gym staff saying something about a thief and six policemen, but my macometre (a uniquely Trini ability to be nosy) isn’t what it used to be.

Then, I saw them.

There was no mistaking them.

They could only be . . . Prince Charles’ ears! Those famous bright-pink jug handles that only Bing Crosby would envy. They were right there in front of me. I couldn’t believe it! Prince Charlie was standing right there, sticking his nose into a bunch of garlic.

Oooooh, I had to tell somebody! Should I call the newspaper first (even though I could see the back of the news editor’s head from where I was standing) or my Yardie boyfriend? I scrambled for my handy (if rather expensive) mobile among the sweaty socks, gym bra and tights. I cursed my excitable fingers as they fumbled and called Pizza Go Go by mistake. Got through to the Yardie. Decided to play it cool. “You’re not going to believe who I’m looking at?”

Nobody is more cool than the Yardie. “Who?”

“Prince Charles.”

“Yuh gwaan back a Madame Tussaud’s again?”

“No!” I screeched. “He’s right here. Standing less than two feet from me!”

Disbelief had not been suspended: “Where yuh?”

“I’m at the market behind the office! He’s into organic farming, remember. He came to see the market.”

At this point, however, my bubble was deflating rapidly, and after my high-pitched warbling evoked only a gruff, unimpressed “Eeeeeh?” and “Awright”, I hung up.

Maybe the newspaper, by some miracle, didn’t know the next King of Great Britain was less than 50 feet away.

I looked around for photographers. I didn’t recognise either of the two craning their necks over the gawking old ladies and housewives. I raced around to the front of the office. Mo, one of the reporters, was smoking a fag on the steps.

“Hey! Prince Charles is in the market!” I yelled.

He smirked. “Aw, you’ve got to be joking. I told you to stop taking Class A substances.”

“I’m not! He’s right there! Go and see!”

He took another drag. “Couldn’t you do better than that? You really expect me to believe Prince Charles is in that dinky little market round the back there?”

I stomped into the office. Most of the news desk were chomping away at their sandwiches, perusing The Guardian or The Sun.

“Stephen,” I assaulted the news editor, “Prince Charles is in the market!”

“You’re joking,” he smiled at me condescendingly. “Oh, c’mon. Prince Charles? You’re lying.” He laughed dismissively and turned back to his monitor.

Everybody else was looking at me in disbelief, bemused smiles all round.

“I’m not lying!” I was near tears now. “Just look out the window, you can see the crowd from here!”

Stephen, shaking his head, turned to Jon, a reporter.

“What do you think, Jon? You think it’ll make anything? Prince Charles in the market?”

“Nah.”

David, a sub-editor with a sense of humour I normally consider side-splitting, piped up, “Oh, now that you mention it, I saw Robbie Williams in Tesco’s on Tuesday night.”

Stephen perked up. “Aha! Now that’s something. Robbie Williams in Tesco’s? What was he buying?”

I slunk away to my desk, fuming.

Mel, the chief sub, said to me sympathetically, “I guess it’s because you’re not English. Prince Charles is no biggie.”

Hummpph. Well, if the news editor didn’t think Prince Charles was worth even a picture with a caption, I wouldn’t give a jolly hoot either.

Around 7 p.m., as we were winding up the week’s paper, the editor-in-chief, who had been out for lunch when I came back with my news flash, came across to talk to Stephen.

“What do you think for the front page? Should we use Charlie fondling the cheese or sticking his nose in the garlic?”

Stephen glanced up, saw me staring accusingly with my mouth open, grinned mischievously and replied: “Go with the garlic.”