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Caliphate Confectioners refuse to make a cake with the slogan ‘Support the Eastward Position’

Goodness! With the goings-on in Vienna very much in mind, my Lord the Bishop has, on my advice, banned the cathedral choirboys from using the Barchester Municipal Baths for the foreseeable future. With so much Levantine flotsam and jetsam floating about one cannot be sure where a breaststroke may lead, or what may crawl out of the shallows. It’s enough to give one butterflies. Most disturbing of all is the bizarre reasoning of the Austrian judiciary, who have elevated bestial urges above common sense and the rights of the child. I have consulted Sir Abraham Haphazzard on this matter and he has agreed to promote a ‘Removal of Gonads (Halal Compliant) Bill’ in the Commons next week, so that our own swimming pools may be havens of tranquility.

We are, however, in the middle of our own legal wrangle, thanks to Mr. Slope. On Saturday morning he went into Mustafa Fatwah’s Caliphate Confectioners and Bombe Surprise Emporium and ordered a Victoria sponge with the words ‘Support the Eastward Position’ inscribed on top in fondant icing. Mr. Fatwah declined the order, and chased poor Mr. S. down the High Street waving his scimitar and issuing death threats. Luckily the Postern Gate was wide open and so our unfortunate chaplain made his escape. He has referred the case to the Court of Arches, claiming discrimination, so we await the verdict with bated breath. Meanwhile Mr. Fatwah has approached The Jupiter with his version of the story, claiming Mr. Slope made improper suggestions that offended his masculinity. The Jupiter is well-known for its anti-clericalism, so Mr. Slope is getting a very rough ride. He seems to enjoy it though.

Countess de Courcy tells me she has invited the Prime Minister, Mrs. Dismay, to a weekend house-party at Courcy Castle. The poor premier has a stalker, it seems. For days now, a demented tartan-clad figure has been hovering around Number 10, peering in through the letter box, licking windows and demanding to be let in. Not so much a crank as a Krankie, whining and whinging how life is so unfair to those north of the Tweed. No good throwing money at the woman in the hope she will go away, she simply wants it all. No wonder Mrs. Dismay bolted. At least Courcy Castle has a drawbridge to keep undesirables at bay. Anyone know when the Grouch Season starts?

Great excitement in Barchester today as news of the War Office’s decision to deploy the East Barset Yeomanry (Sanitary Unit) to the Russian border is announced. I would have thought we taught Ivan a lesson or two in the Crimea, but it seems things are hotting up over there. I’m sure the twelve stout fellows who make up the ‘Brave Barseters’ will do their duty and strike fear into the Cossacks. We understand they will be joined by the 3rd Wessex Community Organiser Battalion and the South Riding Mounted Diversity Enforcers. I suggested to Mr. Slope that he might accompany the troops as their chaplain, but he wasn’t keen to trail his pike through the snowy wastes. Huzzah!

My daughters and I set up our usual Thursday morning soup kitchen on Ragamuffin Lane and were busy dishing out the Mulligatawny when we were accosted by a pasty-looking down and out with a high forehead and dazed expression.

“Pssst…Missus,” he whispered, “wanna buy me memoirs?”

“Why Mama,” said Augusta, “’tis the former Prime Minister, Cast-out Dave…”

“That may be so, my dear,” I responded, “but we don’t want to be encouraging hawkers of penny dreadfuls, do we?’

Thrusting a tin mug of soup into the poor fellow’s chapped fingers, I urged him to move along, but he was determined to linger a while longer. He gave me a pleading look.

“If nobody buys my book it will be remaindered,” he mumbled.

“That was always your position, sir,” I replied, “and look where it has brought you!”

With that he shuffled off into obscurity. A shiver went down my spine. It was like having an encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Until next week, dear friends…