When my kids were still quite young, probably around kindergarten age, I got tickets to see Brian Ferry. The concert was in the grounds of Petworth House, a 17th-century country house described as “A stately mansion nestled in the South Downs housing the finest art collection in the care of the National Trust.” The beautiful landscaped grounds were designed in the 18th century by one of England’s most famous gardeners, Capability Brown.
It really is a fabulous location for a concert. Everyone takes elaborate picnics, setting up chairs and tables with tablecloths, proper plates and cutlery, champagne glasses and ice buckets.
I was given a ride by some friends and was crammed into their child-friendly but completely uncool, 7-seater minibus. Our picnic baskets overflowed with delicious food and ice buckets with champagne. Everyone was in excellent spirits and even the appalling traffic didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. About 3 miles out of Petworth, the car almost came to a complete stop as we inched along like a snail on valium. We decided to start the party early by opening a bottle of bubbly – well, it wasn’t often we got to let our hair down and forget about squabbling children or wiping dirty bottoms. As the bubbles flowed, but the cars didn’t, we opened a second bottle, along with the smoked salmon appetisers. Our voices got louder and the jokes got ruder.
The conversation turned to another couple we knew who were from extremely posh, well-to-do families. Someone mentioned that they were surprised at this couple’s swearing and in particular how much the word “fuck” was liberally sprinkled throughout their conversation, like confetti at a funeral. Someone else admitted they privately called them ‘Lord and Lady Fuck’, prompting a rash of copycat behaviour.
“Would you mind awfully passing me the fucking smoked salmon?”
“Darling, please pour me another fucking glass of champagne.”
Another 30 minutes passed and still we crawled along, bumper to bumper. The swearing became a little less refined.
“Come on fuckwit, get a fucking move on, we don’t want to mish the fucking concthert.”
“The futhing parking will be full.”
Just then, as if manifested by the power of our cursing, who should we see but Lord and Lady Fuck themselves, walking along carrying picnic baskets with another couple I didn’t recognize. They lived a short distance away in the middle of Petworth, in a beautiful house dating back to the Doomsday era, and so had no need to sit in a stuffy, hot snake of traffic, like some sort of toxic metal centipede.
I jumped up, spilling my glass of champagne that had been precariously balanced in one of the 17 handy cup holders more suited to a sippy cup than long-stemmed crystal.
“Oooh, maybe they would let uth park in their drive?” I slurred, stumbling over to the other side of the car.
“Oh, thuper fucking idea,” someone agreed.
“HowdoIopenthewindow?” I shook the latch, not able to make head nor tail of how it worked.
The person next to me picked up a cushion and whacked it against the window, hitting the lock more by luck than judgement. With a whoosh it slid open. Startled, I nearly fell out.
“Helllooooo,” I called, hanging perilously too far outside. “Are you going to the conthert?”
“Oh hello Claire,” Lord Fuck replied, when he realized who the crazy person was screeching at him. “Yes, we are.”
Enunciating carefully, trying not to slur, I asked: “Can. We. Park. In. Your. Drive?” I smiled winningly.
The four of them stopped walking and turned to me, their eyes wide with shock, as if I had suddenly pointed a sawn-off shotgun at them.
At that point, the long line of cars started moving, as if someone had unblocked a drain. We moved off, our car kangarooing violently so I hit my head on the window frame.
Rubbing my head, I turned to face my friends and was greeted with utter silence and the same look of shocked surprise.
“Whath? Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked, puzzled by the response.
The silence was broken by loud, hysterical laughter, all of them holding their sides as they cackled and howled with mirth, tears rolling down their red faces.
“W-what’s the joke? What’s tho funny?” I said, completely flummoxed, but giggling along with them.
“Claire, do you know what you just said?” My friend finally gasped, when he could stop laughing for a moment to speak.
“Yeth, of courth. I asked if we could park on their drive.”
“No! You didn’t!” He paused and grinned, his eyes gleaming. “What you actually said was: Can we fuck in your drive?!”
Hands over my mouth, cheeks flaming, I looked out the rear window and saw Lord and Lady Fuck standing where we had left them, staring at our disappearing car like it was an alien spaceship.