One can always do with some friends in high places

As John Key pondered the offer of an elephant from Sri Lanka (only the excess baggage fees held him back) his far more important personal meeting with the Queen a month or so back was almost forgotten.

But from that meeting came momentous results. You recall the news in early November which ran like this, ''the most popular members of the Royal Family - including their newest addition - look set to visit New Zealand next year, even though it's an election year.''

What a coup for Mr Key! How did it come about? A transcript (kindly supplied by the Washington Post) of the private meeting has been sent to us.

How would any of us handle a one-on-one with John Key? A daunting prospect, but the Queen is made of stern stuff.

''Please, John, make yourself at home. How kind of you to come all this way. Some prime ministers grizzle about having to come for tea. Have a lamington. They're the raspberry ones, not those ugly Australian chocolate ones.

''I've got some Anzac biscuits for that new chap from Australia. He's a monarchist. You might learn from him, John. Lovely to see you've brought your children with you.

''My own children keep being roughed up by the police when they stroll around, so I hope your youngsters aren't subjected to that. Mind you, some of my offspring are dodgy-looking characters, but I think a mother can say that and still love them, can't she?

''And your lovely wife is here? She has to keep reminding you where you are, they tell me. How jolly. I hear you've been in Dunedin lately?''

''Have I, your queenship? I'm sorry, I can't recall it. One is so busy, you know.''

''Of course. But I'm told you were speaking to the Young Achievers?''

''Oh, yes. Young Nats most of them, but you'd expect that, wouldn't you?''

''I'm sure I couldn't comment on that. But I have fond memories of Dunedin. We stayed at the Law Courts in '54. Where do you stay?''

''As a matter of fact, your royalness, I never stay in Dunedin. I'm not very popular there.''

''Gracious heavens, why ever not?''

''The people are not too pleased with my Government's plans to close the town down.''

''How selfish of them. I'm sure you are doing it for their own good.

''But you are wise not to stay too long. I used to make my Belfast trips as short as possible, too.''

''I have to report, your majesticness, that Queenstown has been named ''Resort of the Year'' by the Oklahoma City Evening Bugle. I'm told the town was named after a relative of yours.''

''Yes, I believe so. Now, I hope you are comfortable. Room warm enough? This is a pretty old castle, you know.''

''Yes, it's fine. I grew up in a state house so I'm quite at home here.''

''One tries to keep up appearances, but you'd never guess the cost of new battlements.''

''I can imagine, your mightiness, we have the same problem with the Beehive. I'm thinking of having it condemned. Could be cheaper all round.''

''Oh, how lucky you are. We can't pull down the palaces. It must be wonderful being just an ordinary prime minister?''

''Well, not too ordinary, I hope, your marvellousness?''

''Of course not, John. You are quite out of the ordinary. I'm proud to have your country in my collection. But I think you're hiding something. How are you, I mean, really deep down?''Oh, a touch of indigestion now and again. You know what Bellamy's food is like.''

''No, no. I mean how are things that really matter?''''Well, I may as well tell you. I am worried about the next election. I know it's a year away, but it could be dicey.''

''Gracious heavens, you don't mean those Labour people might win?''

''It could happen, your graciousness. They have a new leader who no-one seems to like much. That's always the making of a prime minister. And most of my own caucus are, well, pretty flaky.''

''Oh, John, how dreadful for you. Have another lamington. Is there anything I can do?''

''There is. But I hesitate to ask.''

''Please. What are friends for?''

''Well, your superlativeness, I realise your own travelling is limited ... ''

''Indeed it is. A quick dash down to the dairy for the Morning Star is about my limit these days.''

''... but we desperately need a royal tour next year if I'm to win the election.''

''Well, there's Anne? And young Harry?''

''With all due respect, your excellence, it really has to be William, Kate and George. They're the biggest show in town. Even better if you could throw in the sister-in-law with the tight skirts.''

''I'll see what I can do.''

''Thank you, thank you, your benevolence. I'll get the Buzzy Bee people into gear right away.''

Jim Sullivan is a Dunedin writer and broadcaster.

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