One day the Sultan of Kybosh was bored. "I am bored", said he, "and I do not know what I shall do. Perhaps I may have the heads cut off some of my lackeys and lickspittles. I think that a bit of lopping might assuage my unbearable ennui. What do you think, Mildred?"
"Nay, my lord", quoth Mildred, who was the Sultana of Kybosh, and the Sultan's wife, to boot, not that he ever did, boot her that is, but she was his wife, and a more loyal and dear little creature could not be wished for, this side of the great Pantechnicon hills.
But the Sultan did wish for a more dear creature. A very dear one indeed, who was often found about his bedchamber of an evening when the wife was at her mother's doing the hoovering and washing up and putting the cat out (it was always catching fire; it used to lie too close to the grate). Salami was the name of this nymph, who cost a packet. But he thought, "I've got the time and I've got the dosh and she's got the required accoutrements for which I hanker, so why not?" But no more of this.
"Nay, my Lord" quoth Mildred. "Pray do not have any of your lickspittles or lackeys, nor indeed any of the sycophants notwithstanding - for they are wont to lie down - do not lop off their heads my Lord. For they were imported especially from Samarkand, and they are not exactly cheap. Also, forsooth, there would be blood everywhere, and heads rolling down the concrete, and Mother would be upset. She is not partial to the rolling of lopped heads, ever since Uncle Traitorius was decapitated for falsifying his tax returns three year gone last Michaelmas. To this day she cannot bear to look at a pumpkin or a melon, her that loved her starters.
"Humour thy humble wife, Lord, and loppeth not any of the said heads. They say such nice things about thee, yon lickspittles etc, and verily they boosteth the Sultanic ego, to boot, not that my lord ever booteth the same, no indeed, being a merciful Lord and not given to indiscriminate bootings."
"Say no more", said the Sultan, whose name was Ken, stubbing out the royal woodbine in the royal Double Diamond ashtray which was part of the rich spoils of battle - to be precise, an unofficial souvenir from a Peak District pub on their honeymoon in the barbarian land of the Angles. "For the Sultana has spoken. And shall an husband not hearken to the wise counsel of his bosom companion? Nay, failing that, and finding his wife somewhat wanting in the bosom department, doth he not therefore nevertheless pay heed to the pleading of his little wife?
"There shall be no lopping of the heads this day. Thy compassionate pleadings are not without effect. Stay thy importunings and listeth unto my decree."
For it was time to make a decree. (The Sultan, or Ken, was in truth somewhat uneasy at the passion of his wife's argument, in favour of the sundry lickspittles and co, and began to wonder: do any of yon crawling bastards ever pay court unto the Sultana and, to be frank, give her a right seeing-to whilst I am on the job with Salami? If so, I am even more inclined to lop such heads as these parasites possess. But he put it to the back of his mind for now.)
For it was time to make a decree. And he gathereth unto him an host of scribes with the golden-nibbed goose's quills, promulgators especially bought in from Alexandria, where they do a sound and reasonably-priced line in promulgators and criers-out and proclamators, and finally a phalanx of trumpeteers with the silver-beribboned ram's horn trumpets to bloweth with. And he decreed his decree.
He decreed ("decree-eth" is the correct term, in the vernacular of the kingdom of Kybosh, but seeing as how it comes out awkward in the Queen's English, we are having to make do with "decreed", which is perfectly serviceable, if a trifle lacking in Eastern Promise, but there you go, the world is not perfect, would that it were, as the Bishop said when the actress admitted it was not her own hair). He decreed, then (well, by the time I had finished the above explanatory paragraph explaining all about the form of words being employed, he had already started decreeing, but you will have to allow for artistic licence, or the whole thing would fall asunder like unto the fabled City of Cosh when assailed by the barbarian hordes in the Pubic Wars).
He decreed, and all hearkened unto his decree:
"For these being the decreeing utterances of the Sultan of Kybosh on this Thursday afternoon, it being a dull day with not a hint of sun and no good for hanging out the royal pillow cases - which costeth a fortune in specially-imported laundresses brought in from Trucial Oman to dryeth the delicate calico by holding it close unto their warm breasts - it being a dull day, forsooth, I, the Thrice-Crowned (the first time it was the wrong crown, and the second attempt had to be aborted owing to the bleeding weather again, I blame the bloody Pantechnicon hills that bring forth the precipitation; anyway, the third time it was a success and lo there was great feasting and jousting and a lot of lopping so it was worth it in the end but I was less than impressed, you can't get the staff these days I blame the unions).
"Where was I? Ah, I, the Thrice-Crowned Sultan of Kybosh do hereby decree a Royal Tea Party in the Peacock Gardens, where all shall partake of the nectars and sweetmeats and there shall be dancing girls and the sweet sounds of the Royal Skiffle Players shall bewitch the ears of the Sultanic guests, only there shall be no feeding of the peacocks, it only encourages them, the next thing you know they will be all over the bleeding palace and into the kitchens like last Christmas."
And so it came to pass that Ken, the Sultan of Kybosh, with his wife Mildred the Sultana, sat and presided over a Tea Party that afternoon.
Luckily, the rain held off, indeed the skies cleared and became like unto a brazen brass, though the grass was wet, but they had mats put down, and it was good. And sundry entertainments were proffered forth, eg a snake charmer and a woman who ate fire and Dromedary Dave and His Dancing Camel. And lo, it was good.
"Though verily", thought Mildred, "lo, and is there not a distinct lack of tea? What will the guests be thinking? True, they have been well-provided with the various nectars and golden wines, and there is no shortage of sherbets, and as for the ambrosial liqueurs from Cush served in goblets of rainbow-hued glass, there can be no complaints there. But he did decree a Tea Party, and people will have expected a nice cup of Earl Grey, or English Breakfast, with milk, or a slice of lemon.
"But I shall not make an issue of it. An argument can only lead to a brown study. He will go off in a huff. And in my experience, it is but a short leap - well, not even so much of a leap, more of a hop or a skip, really - in my experience a series of loppings is generally not far behind. And Mother will get upset again. So I will not so much as raise the subject."
While the Sultana mused in this fashion, Ken, her husband the Sultan, sat with his glass of McEwan's Export, and contemplated.
"I wonder which of these gentry it is that is sniffing around the Sultana's boudoir?" he contemplated. "I will set my loyal snoops and sneaks amongst their number, and verily, I shall pinpoint the man. If indeed it be but one and not a whole bleeding rugby team of the fuckers. She has been looking remarkably chipper of late, and light on her feet, and I can vouch that it is none of my doing. Verily, she has had no visitation from myself these three moons gone."
And the Royal Skiffle Players played their washboards and jugs, and the Dancing Camel danced, and verily did the ambrosial liqueurs from Cush served in goblets of rainbow-hued glass go down a treat.
And the distant pantechnicon hills were transformed, as the sun sank in the blazing sky, from umber, to ochre, and finally they cooled to blue.
And a blood-red sunset stained the desert sky of Kybosh the same colour as that of the concrete when the lopped heads were wont to roll in its midst after yet another lopping.