The Tale of Barbara Regan
Landlady of Buckingham Palace
By Robin Priestley
The story that I am about to convey took place between the months of August 2000 and May 2001. The names, events and details that occur in this story are to the best of my knowledge entirely truthful. I have attempted to convey things as they happened, and hope that the writing and publishing of this story will help unveil some of the deep secrets entwined in our countrys history.
I had been working at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, for around a year when I first met Barbara. We get a fair selection of waifs and strays wandering in, as we charge the lowest prices to see a film in the whole of Central London. On the first encounter Barbara seemed just like any of the other pain in the arse customers that we get coming our way. Barbara was in her fifties or sixties with greying brown hair and yellow decaying teeth. She wore a pair of thick lensed glassed and had the look of someone whose mind was somewhere else. She was wearing what came to be her trademark long green winter coat and pulling her wheeled carry case, with rolled up sleeping mat. She always carried a few carrier bags with her and today was no exception. Barbara, unlike many other of our homeless customers however was quite well presented, despite the fact you could see she wore the same clothes most days. Her bag was neat and orderly and the mat was rolled carefully with two bungee cords. She seemed to have an inbuilt pride that survived through the situation that she found herself in. The other curiosity was that she had a purse full of notes to pay for her ticket with.
Like many other of our regular customers Barbara had a habit of speaking at you for as long as she could. You get the feeling that they realise that you are a captive audience and are paid to sit there and listen to whatever random thoughts their mind may cook up. Working at a cinema box office, especially one with only one screen means that you have a lot of empty time between films with nothing to do. To relieve the boredom I used to bring in books to read however occasionally you are caught short and end up speaking, or rather listening to the tales of our regulars.
However Barbara's tales were to come much later, for now she was just another homeless regular who had forgotten their membership card and was making my job harder than it needed to be. It didn't help that Barbara's surname and firstname were swapped over in our database meaning it took even longer to track her down, and give her the members discount.
Barbara became quite a regular always turning up to the second or third film of the day. I worked on the box office most weekdays and so she became a recognisable face to me and I to her. We all got to know of her however, as every time she came to the cinema we would have to put her case and bags in the staff room to keep them safe. Over the course of a few weeks she began to come in earlier and earlier and stand by the box office chatting to me her hired ear, whilst waiting for the film.
It evolved that she spent the time she wasn't here at the cinema, holed up in the library around the corner. She had a book full of notes, and was supposedly researching for a court case that she hoped to get. Days and months went by and she became more and more engrossed in her case. She was however very very secretive as to what it was all about and refused to give any information at all.
One day she turned up at the cinema in an absolute panic, she was almost beside herself with a mix of anger and worry. Apparently she had been in Macdonald's in Leicester Square and had had her purse stolen. She had caused an absolute fuss in the store and made the manager replay the CCTV footage of her buying her food over and over again. There had been no sign of it being stolen at the till, so she had then presumed it had been taken from where she had sat down. I guess the manager had tired of helping a panic ridden homeless woman, and she had just been told to leave and contact the police. After speaking to her for a while it turned out that the reason she had been so upset wasn't so much the amount of money she had lost, even though this was about eighty pounds, but rather that she would be unable to get any more.
Barbara it turned out was not a beggar; she had a very strange way of getting her money. Apparently, once a month she had to take a train up to a place she called 'her destination' and collect it in person. She had no bank account and was always given a fairly large sum of cash upon arrival at 'her destination'. This explained the fact that she always paid for her cinema tickets with twenty pound notes. As she was telling me this she was constantly looking over her shoulder to make sure that no one else could hear. The problem now was that her return ticket to 'her destination' was in the wallet along with any cash that could have bought a replacement. With no way of getting to the secret destination she had no way of getting any more cash. As I have said Barbara was hardly your average homeless woman, she had a certain air about her that made you think of her as having come from a wealthy family gone wrong. The stories of mysterious benefactors in secret locations only went to further compound these thoughts.
The next week however regular as ever, Barbara appeared at the cinema again about an hour before the film that she was due to see. She spent that hour giving me every detail of her arguments with British Rail about her rights to travel and pay at her destination. By this point in our relation I had become quite tired of her constant talking without ever wanting to hear anything back, so I have to admit certain parts of the tale were lost on me as I tuned out.
A few more weeks passed by and her court case was eventually given a date. Barbara spent even more time at the library researching law, as she was to be representing herself. Quite often she would loose track of time and turn up late to the films she had bought tickets for, this I'll admit did nothing to endear her to the staff at the cinema. I however had begun to develop a bit of an interest in Barbara, and so was more keen than normal to listen to her rants and stories. As her court case came ever closer Barbara, although still keeping the details absolutely hidden, had begun to have the look of someone who is desperate to share her secret. We talked more and more about her case and it turned out it was some sort of property dispute, land that she claimed was rightfully hers, but that was being kept from her.
Eventually the case was looming, the date was two weeks away, and Barbara was in panic mode. Her folders of notes were looking more and more tattered and slung together, and she herself was looking rather less well kept than before. It was around this time that she dropped the bomb on me. Barbara wheeled her trolley into the cinema one afternoon, well before the film, and started to rummage around the carrier bags that she had brought. She pulled out a booklet and turned to me with a look of devilishness. "I thought I would show you what it is that my court case is over" she said. Intrigued I asked what it was. This is when she opened a souvenir brochure of the royal palaces. I have to admit that I started to laugh a bit, "So you're the real Queen then are you Barbara?" The old lady that I had got to know was obviously mad, the tales of secret destinations and benefactors, palaces and land were obviously all cooked up in her warped head. I began to see Barbara in a completely different light.
"No, no, no" she claimed, looking quite upset at my reaction. "I never said that I was the Queen, I simply have a right to the property that she lives in, amongst other royal grounds". Well I thought, I had may as well see how far she was willing to take this. So I started to act like I believed her story, to be honest I half hoped it was true. Can you imagine the outrage that would be caused by someone ousting the Royals from Buckingham Palace? I told Barbara that I was behind her and that I hoped she won her case. Barbara could obviously see that I wasn't taking the matter entirely seriously and tried to instil her concern in me.
Now sounding like a proper lunatic Barbara began to divulge the details of her paranoia. She was unsurprisingly very distrustful of the courts and police who were very biased towards the monarchy, and told me this was the reason why she had kept the whole thing so close to her chest for so long. As I'm sure you would appreciate, the monarchy are not going to take this kind of news lying down, and Barbara was faced with a David and Goliath situation if she was to succeed in her case. However, judging by the amount of paperwork that Barbara was carrying around with her, she had obviously done her homework.
"Take it to the papers!" I cried, they would love it. Especially in our Royal bashing times. Can you imagine the headlines? Have you every heard a more extreme rags to riches tale? But Barbara didn't want to do that. She was convinced that she had the documents and know-how to win fairly in court, and wanted to keep the whole affair secret until she had done. "But Barbara" I implored "You have to get the public behind you, otherwise you will just get caught up in red tape, or worse, and no-one will every get to hear your story", but Barbara stood firm.
The date got closer and closer and Barbara began to take on more of an air of confidence. She even invited me along to the opening reception at one of the Palaces if she won. Incidentally she had decided that she would let the Royals stay in Buckingham Palace for the time being as it would be too much of an upset for the country for them to have to move out. Instead she would just charge them some sort of rent and live in one of the other palaces herself.
Barbara came into the cinema one last time a couple of days before the trial was due. I wished her luck and told her that I hoped to see her at the lavish reception that she was due to have when it was all over. This was the last time I or anyone else at the cinema have ever seen Barbara. She simply disappeared into thin air. At first I didn't really notice her having gone, we have enough other loonies walking in through our doors to keep us occupied, however as time has gone on Barbara has been conspicuous by her absence. This I'll admit has sparked all sorts of conspiracy theories from myself and my friends.
Was Barbara the victim of some Palace hit man? Has she been hidden away and sent to a mental hospital? Is she still in some ultra secret court case that could change the face of our country? Was she perhaps bought out by the Palace and is currently living the life of luxury? All that I know is that since her disappearance, her paranoid fantasies and tales of benefactors and palace grounds have begun to carry a bit more weight. Perhaps everything she said was true; perhaps the strange old lady who came into our cinema really does own Buckingham Palace. Someone out there must know what happened to Barbara, and that is why I wrote this story.
Anyone with any details on Barbara please email: