The lords and ladies of the realm need not fear - they still have vital role to play
Sunday 14 November 1999
For this purpose all lords, even the young ones, will be required to dress up to look their age by donning tweeds, monocles and fob watches and carrying canes. They will sport wild thatches of hair on the sides of their heads, and sit motionless in rocking-chairs while American tourists are brought in quietly behind their backs, being instructed by their guides not to talk too loudly or throw food.
Some of the clever lords will renovate their suburban homes to resemble atmospheric castles, with deliberately engineered draughts whistling in under the doors and around the stairwells at all times of day and night. The more energetic ones will wrap themselves in ermine and commandeer small punts to take Japanese visitors on fishing expeditions from the banks of their rivers.
Britain will become known as the land of the smiling lord. Every foreign visitor will pick up leaflets in Heathrow Airport decorated by photos of mysterious and alluring lords who will do for Britain what geishas do for Japan and koala bears do for Australia. Tourists will study the behaviour of this indigenous tribe of people, unique to our shores, any encounter with which will offer visitors ... "a rare and precious insight into a uniquely British way of life".
Prices will be high, of course. A tour of a stately home is already expensive. For those willing to pay for the pleasure, even closer encounters will be possible. American businesses will take their best-performing sales staff on incentive trips to serve tea to lords, to sit in baronial halls with lords, to watch lords hunt stag, to have their accents derided by lords. In short to be lorded over, in the good old-fashioned way.
Such a potentially profitable business will raise its share of problems. Unscrupulous lords will employ their cooks and gardeners to stand in for them while they themselves fly off to take part in unlordly activities such as yachting on the Costa del Sol or shopping in New York.
The British Tourist Board will issue warnings for tourists to be on their guard against the possibility that the gentleman with the coat of arms and the pedigree may in fact turn out to be a fraud or an impersonator. Any person claiming the right to sit in the British parliament - it will warn - cannot possibly be regarded as an authentic British lord.
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