Doris’ plan was simple if rather rushed. She took the head cook to one side, explained what had happened and offered to arrange for the immigration rules to be suspended for any of the cook’s relatives who might add to the feasts to be created for Simper’s birthday.
‘Anyone?’ asked Monsieur Blancmange.
‘If you guarantee they are creative.’
‘Mais oui,’ he said, waxing his tache.
Fairytown was beginning to fill for the Big Day. The Lord Chamberlain began to obsess about how it would look. ‘Doris, we need to keep a handle on new buildings. There’s too much random magic in the air. The King will be displeased if, on the Big Ride on the Big Day, their views are spoiled. I have it on the highest authority the Princess will receive a magical pony, with self-righting hooves and a saddle that is genetically suited to preserve the Royal Rump in tiptop condition.’
Doris set her team to work, finding ways to control any signs of mushrooming condominiums and apple based apartments springing up. They had their work cut out.
Doris did wonder when Monsieur Blancmange asked for three visas for his cousins. ‘What do they do?’
‘They have a way with pork. Everyone who eats their creations say they are pig-brilliant.’
Their references were gushing. Simply stunning; the other Kingdoms need to experience such genius soon and Try them, we have no right to hog them to ourselves.
Something jarred but Doris couldn’t put her finger on it and, anyway she was far too busy to worry about three oinks from another land. Henri Cochon came first with his bacon flavoured everlasting breakfast; then Tomas Cochon with his pulled pork parchment – you received a letter then toasted it for the perfect lunch time treat. Doris heard the excitement building. What would the third brother bring?
That’s when things started to go rather wrong. To create his breakfast Henri commissioned a huge sand oven. When asked to move it, he refused. ‘To serve so many on the Big Day, I need this and I need it here, close to the palace,’ he said. Sadly, while that may have been true, it blocked the view of the Royal swans who had spent ages on a rather unique dance routine and everyone knew Simper would be upset if she couldn’t see them on her ride.
Next Tomas had builders make a massive wooden cage into which his pigs were herded. They were tug-o-war breeds, modified over millennia so that, as soon as they came together they tried to pull each other apart. ‘I need this and I need it here, close to the palace,’ Tomas said. While undoubtedly true, the cage filled the one gap between the Magical Forest and the Enchanted Wood from where the Giant Gruntbuttock Bird could be seen on its morning flight. It was well known that whoever saw the Giant Gruntbuttock’s buttocks grunt as it flew at dawn on their birthday would be sure to be lucky throughout the year and Simper would expect to see the flight.
The Lord Chamberlain summoned Doris. ‘Well? What about the Cochons? They have to go, you know.’
Doris couldn’t hide her concern. ‘Yes Sir, and it’s worse than you fear. You see, their big brother, René, has arrived.’
The Lord Chamberlain narrowed his eyes. His slippers stayed worryingly still. ‘And?’
‘It’s his speciality, sir. The ultimate party sausage. Once eaten the recipient just wants to,’ here, Doris coughed and mumbled, ‘paartaaay.’
‘PAAARTAAAY. Sir. It’s a thing.’
‘Really? And why has that ‘thing’ given you a face like a toad who has just stumbled into a group of herons after a night out?’
‘The manufacture requires a brick housing sir. Near water. With plentiful wood supplies. And good air flow.’
‘Dingly Dell, sir. Right in front of Prince Bouffant’s sun porch. Her Ultimatepreciousness will certainly expect an uninterrupted birthday view of the royal eight pack and hereditary pecs.’
The Lord Chamberlain held his head. ‘What are we going to do?’ The usually pertly curled toes on his slippers sagged, just so much like yesterday’s sausage meat.
Doris rubbed her chin. ‘We can’t do anything until after nightfall, sir. They must be allowed to finish their preparations. Otherwise the French cooks will strike.’
‘So something overnight?’
‘Indeed. But equally we can’t do anything that the press might construe as Royal interference. Imagine the headlines on the Big Day.’
‘What then, Minister? You’re paid to find solutions, not come up with more problems.’
‘I think we might just have to trust to Fate.’
‘FATE! Are you bonkers? You don’t need Fate in a magical realm. There’s little point. Fate left in a huff many generations ago, when people kept correcting her attempts at interference.’
Doris smiled. ‘Trust me, sir. I’m not magical and you wanted someone lucky. Though,’ she looked away, ‘ I could perhaps use a magical airbag, if you could, maybe, create one.’
The Lord Chamberlain was too tired to ask why. ‘I’m going to lie down. You’ll need to go round, making sure everyone has a lovely time at the pre Big Day feastings. I don’t think I’ll be very well tomorrow.’
Doris left the old man and went to change. She slipped out and joined the crowds. The evening and night’s feastings were well underway and the people were making the most of the extraordinary concoctions and confections on offer. Having both the Gretels and the Cochons involved in the catering had created a culinary competition never before seen in a Magical Realm. Discretely Doris joined various groups as they tried everything available. She waited until each group had had their fill and then opened the magical airbag. By midnight the olfactory offerings had been captured and Doris could feel the bag straining; magical implements have senses and this bag was no exception. It kept wrinkling its opening and making choking noises. The smell was getting too much even for its magic. This was exactly what Doris had hoped for.
Carefully she took herself away from the cavortings. Stealthily, like the fox after which she was nicknamed, she dragged the bag to the top of the hill and lined the opening up. Directly in the path stood four buildings. When she was sure everything was set, she untied the golden ripcord and allowed the bag to expel its contents with a rifting roar that few, if any, had heard before. Doris turned. Dawn was beginning to break and it would take her two hours to return to her apartment. She had done what she could.
‘They’re cheering your name, sir.’
The Lord Chamberlain looked up from his seat. ‘Me?’
‘Me too, sir.’ Doris lifted the paper and read the opening paragraph of Scurrilous Tweeb’ article. Last night’s unexpected, and unexplained hurricane that ripped a path through Fairyland devastated four buildings. We, at the Times, had wondered how the requirement for the Princess to have the best day ever could be squared away with the need to allow the master chefs their way; we despaired, frankly, at the ingrained incompetence of the Ministry and the enforcers of the King’s Will. Their constant interference and meddling always seemed to make matters worse. But we underestimated the common sense of the current incumbent, Doris ‘The Fox’ Oomboodle and her boss, the Almost Loved Eric the Frown. They did the unexpected and that was nothing. And would you know it? Fate returned, took matters into her own hands and blew away the three Cochon eyesores and the Gretel’s gratuitously ghastly Gingerbread cottage just in time to allow Her Royal Darlingness the views she craved on her wonderful pony (see pages three, four, five and six for pictures); but not before these masters of the kitchen had provided their best work for everyone to sample. We don’t say this often but Fairyland is lucky to have the insightful Monarch and thoughtful civil service that we have.
The Lord Chamberlain stood next to Doris and waved at the sea of happy faces. On the Royal balcony the King and Princess Simper waved back. ‘Doris,’ the old man said as he leaned in close, ‘what did you do with the magical airbag?’
Just then a balloon, pulling a huge banner appeared over the castle battlements: Happy birthday, Your Majesty, it said.
Doris smiled up at the bag. ‘I gave it the freedom to go where the air was fresh, sir. Like us, it needed a little bit of luck.’