Victoria labours over her homework. It’s about Canberra and stuff.

After they get elected, she writes, lots of people find out they were born in two places. So they have to go and wait in the high court. Maybe a roof garden or something, those plants with shiny leaves. She pictures everyone crowding onto the escalator.

The question about voting is pretty easy. Everyone has to unless it’s about gay marriage, then if they don’t like it they don’t have to.

The next thing is about how to choose Prime Ministers. There are two parts. First you get chosen. Then you get thrown out. Sometimes they spill you. It’s a funny word to use. Maybe you spill off the escalator because there are too many people.

She checks with James but he’s not much help. He says they do everything in a cupboard, and when you’re spilt they shut you out. Anyhow he says it’s not this Prime Minister. It was the last one. Or maybe the one before. They shut him out because he wanted to make Prince Phillip into a knight.

This raises more questions than it answers. Victoria knows who Prince Phillip is. He’s married to the queen in England and he’s a very very old man. One puzzle is how can he be so old and still be a prince? That’s not right. Why didn’t he turn into a king?

James says Prince Phillip shouldn’t be a knight because it would be going backwards, like Victoria going back to Reception when she doesn’t fit on the little chairs anymore.

Anyhow Victoria is pretty sure Prince Phillip wouldn’t be strong enough to get onto the horse. And how would he lift that great big lance thing?


That night, in another part of the throbbing metropolis, the grannies lie in bed. They are also pondering deep questions.

‘What’s the difference between a firkin and a merkin,’ Anne asks.

Julia looks up from her book. ‘One’s rude.’

‘Yeah but which?’

‘Merkin. A firkin’s some sort of barrel isn’t it? What on earth are you reading?’

‘I’m not. I’ve just had the two words on my mind for days.’

‘It could be a song.’

‘Why is it rude anyway? Is it what a Scotsman has on his kilt?’

‘No dear, that’s a sporran.’

‘Maybe I’m thinking of those head things. You know, at Buckingham Palace.’

‘Oh yes. Busbies. But that’s a bit big for a merkin. You’d never get your knickers on.’

Anne considers throwing Julia out of bed. She swings her feet round and pushes sideways at Julia’s hip. Julia grabs the edge of the mattress, laughing.


‘It’s a sort of wig thing you put over your pubes. It’s meant to be sexy.’

Anne subsides. In that case it should be called a furkin. No wonder she’s confused.

Like her granddaughter, she is finding that every big question leads to another big question.

‘How on earth do you attach it?’