Prince of the road

Prince of the road

Michael Jackson crosses paths with HRH Charles
Prince Charles was heading in my direction. It was, indeed, envisaged that we should meet. His People had spoken to My People, in the way that these matters are arranged. The Prince and I would talk about beer and whisky. We were to meet in Turin, on the roof of a building that had once been the Fiat car factory. For a man who was on the road, he looked in better shape than I did.Turin was a more testing journey than expected. The only remotely suitable flight would deposit me in time for the meeting with the Prince, but only just. If it were, in the British tradition, fashionably late, I understood that I would be granted no such indulgence.In the event, the plane was more or less on time, but when it landed, my troubles started.At the airport, the usual line-up of limo drivers waited, displaying handmade signs bearing the names of their intended passengers. Two had my name. One approached, addressing me in English, but was then himself greeted by a couple of women passengers, with whom he vanished into the crowd. Meanwhile, the second man with a sign bearing my name hustled me away, whisked my bags into a cab, paid the driver, and gave him instructions in Italian.While I tried to establish what the instructions were, the driver had his foot on the gas. He seemed unable to relax until he triumphantly had us sealed in a traffic jam.Had he been instructed to take me to the Fiat building or the hotel? If the former, what was I to do with the baggage on a long tour? If the latter, would he wait while I checked in, then take me to the Fiat building?He spoke no English, and didn't seem to understand schoolboy Latin.I began to think I had been kidnapped by a foreign power, or a conspiracy to prevent my meeting Il Principo des Galles. I tried to call My People, but the phone refused to connect. The Fiat building came into view, and the driver dropped me at what turned out to be the exit, not the entrance.The Fiat building is a big place. A one-way system meant a half-mile drive and three sets of traffic lights to the entrance. While I was establishing this, in blank verse, the driver had removed all my bags from his cab and set them on the pavement.This was not a conspiracy; it was a cock-up. My bags were blocking the pavement of a busy street; people were tripping over them and cursing me. I was cursing the cab driver.His plan to abandon me and make a quick getaway had been foiled by the arrival of the police, hefty and helmeted. They assembled barriers, behind which they trapped me with the luggage-cursing pedestrians. They ordered the cab driver to remove his car to the far side of the street, and to stay put. With everyone penned, parked and policed, near-silence descended.That morning, I had worn my best suit for my planned meeting with the Prince. Sure, it would receive an extra rumpling on the plane,especially if the jacket had to go in the overhead, but there would be no time to change in Turin.Nor did I have another decent suit into which to preen myself. My best suit was my only serviceable one. It was now dripping in sweat.I should have already been on the roof. My altitude was too low by five storeys; my position (not to mention my condition) on the ground seemed hopeless.The penned people began to clap and wave. A mini motorcade, with outriders, swept by. This was not a cock-up; it was a farce. From behind my pile of luggage, and through a film of sweat, I waved, feebly…Will Michael and the Prince finally meet? See the next edition of Whisky Magazine.
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