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“Be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down by dissipation and drunkenness..”

Goodness! Having now been informed, by a reliable source, that Melania is in fact the wife du jour of the president-elect and not a Balkan kingdom, I understand she is having local difficulties with various couturiers who refuse to supply her with gowns. I am parcelling up some of my old crinolines and the odd bustle ready to post on to her along with the necessary unmentionables. We look about the same size (ahem!). I must say it is very mean spirited of the rag-traderratti, who seem unaware they are cutting off their noses to spite their faces, for Melania is a most wonderful, high-profile clothes horse – a role I myself occupy here in Barchester, albeit with an Evangelical flourish…

Well, the Bourbons managed a comeback in 1814 when the Corsican upstart was relocated to a place in the sun, so why not a Blair Restoration in the here and now? It is as if the political graveyard has opened up, spewing forth the decomposing corpses of yesteryear, none more rotten than he of the rictus smile, cheesy soundbite and things which didn’t get better. Of course, since those heady days when he was appointing Anglican bishops and promising education thrice, he has crossed the Tiber, which probably excludes him from the premiership… or does it? I don’t think Comrade Corbynov need worry unduly. Not about that, anyway.

After considerable discussion, my Lord the Bishop and the Dean and Chapter agreed to mark Red Wednesday after all, and in the most dramatic way possible (there was some quibble when Canon Broadsyde asked if it was to commemorate the Bolshevik Revolution, but the pastoral letter from Lambeth soon put his mind at rest). We hired twenty colourful Montgolfier balloons, which were gathered on the Cathedral lawn at dawn and released above the city like a flock of red birds. I was particularly impressed by the fact that the word ‘Virgin’ was emblazoned on each and every one, thus sending a clear religious message to all and sundry.

Mr. Slope was setting up the Cathedral Crib yesterday in preparation for the festive season. He tells me some of the shepherds needed touching up, which doesn’t surprise me given their age. He was just scattering some straw around the manger and manoeuvring his ass into position when he was accosted by Mustafa Fatwah brandishing his chopper. With one blow, the sturdy mussulman split the wooden stable in two, propelling several angels into the air and giving Joseph the shave of his life. To yells of ‘Blasphemy!’ and ‘Death to the unbelievers!’, Mr. Fatwah proceeded to pursue poor Mr. Slope helter-skelter around the cloisters. The doughty Slope, well-accustomed to being chased by the hirsute, easily outran the screaming fanatic and was able to quickly hide behind the Nollekens tombstone of Sir Roger de Coverley, where he remained until order was restored by Constable Knapweed. It transpires that Mr. Fatwah was working undercover for Woolworths, Dortmund branch. Perhaps we should follow the Swedish example and remove all traces of our Christian heritage and ceremonial lest they inflame the wilder passions of the newcomers. Then again, perhaps not.

Along with the Countess de Courcy and other interested ladies, I attended a showing of the proposed uniform designs for the new Zollverein Army, which Britain will have to stump up for despite giving notice to quit. This prestigious event took place in a marquee set up in the grounds of Gatherum Castle – the duke being Lord Lieutenant of the County. The dress uniform was splendid: Prussian Blue tunics with white epaulettes, red collar and cuffs, knee-length black boots and a helmet with a spike on top. It seemed rather familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I was sitting in the parlour sipping my morning Earl Grey when the Archdeacon burst in waving a copy of the Court Circular.

“Have you seen this, Mrs. Proudie?” he bellowed, causing ripples in my teacup.

“Whatever can be the matter, Archdeacon?” I replied, fearing the worst.

“A royal marriage is in the offing! We must do everything we can to oppose it,” he cried.

“But royal marriages are things to be celebrated, surely?” I said, “They bring the nation together.”

“Not this time,” he spluttered. “Prince Harry is going to marry that Merkel creature, the German Chancellor. If they can’t get us one way they will try another. Not only is this a step too far, it clearly shows the prince has inherited the madness of George III. Have you seen the woman? No oil painting to be sure.”

Calmly, I patted the cushion next to me and invited the Archdeacon to sit awhile. Clearly, the poor man was befuddled. Fortunately, having read the full story in ‘Ally Soper’s Half Holiday’ I was able to put him right.

“Prince Harry is courting a young lady called Markle, not Merkel, and as far as I am aware, no marriage has been mooted. You may rest assured Archdeacon, you are worrying over nothing.”

His relief was palpable, and after the door closed behind him, so was mine.

So much to do, dear friends. This weekend sees the First Sunday in Advent and the bishop is preparing his sermon on St. Luke 21:34-36: ‘Be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down by dissipation and drunkenness…’, which may, I fear, put the mockers on things. The good thing about wearing a hinged bustle is that it hides the decanter. Until next week, dear things, be good.