Goodness! There’s so much to get one’s teeth into this week that I have taken them out of the glass of water by my bed and actually put them in! So where to begin?
Ah yes, how about the Feast of the Holy Cucumber of St. Legaswide, which Barchester celebrates every year? According to legend, St. Legaswide was the Abbess of a little priory in Tillitt, Herts., which, during the dreadful turbulent times of Stephen and Matilda, found itself besieged by a band of swarthy villains (or indeed, villeins) intent on ravishing the nuns. Armed only with a cucumber, St. Legaswide managed to swipe each and every one as they came in through her rere dorter, thus raising the alarm and enabling the sisters to defend themselves with kitchen implements and other produce. From then on, the cucumber was much venerated by the good nuns and brought out on many occasions, providing comfort and solace before matins no doubt. Centuries later, we still find a place for the Holy Cucumber in our hearts, if nowhere else, for we too are in danger of being ravished by a new set of swarthy villains. Thus it is that Barchester has been in the vanguard of vegetable commemoration long before the Asparagus of Worcester, and mercifully without the dressing up in costume.
Speaking of swarthy villains, there have been dark and ominous doings in the Seraglio – the Sublime Porte is not as sublime as it was, now that Sultan Erdogan has got his enabling law and war has been declared on the Kurds. Turkish he may be – a delight he is not.
As my dear friends and readers know, the Duke of Omnium keeps well-abreast of the whisperings of Whitehall, easy enough when half the permanent secretaries are related to His Grace one way or another. He told the duchess – and she told me – that Mrs Dismay’s general election is a rather spiffing wheeze to prevent legal action being taken against thirty-or-so Tory MPs under investigation for election fraud. All this guff about ‘strengthening her hand’ is a mere distraction – remember, she learnt all there is to know about smoke and mirrors from Cast Iron Dave, who in turn learned the dark arts from the Creature Blair. One cannot help thinking that if the fragrant Theresa is the best hope we have of securing Brexit, then we are well and truly stuffed.
The Jupiter reported Sir Keir Stormtrooper’s gargled explanation of what Comrade Corbynski would do if he were in charge of negotiations with the Eurinal. We can thank the Good Lord he is not, but I have to confess I didn’t understand a word of Sir Keir’s convolutions. Luckily the Archdeacon was on hand to clarify matters.
“I’ll tell you what it boils down to, dear lady,” he said with a self-satisfied smirk, “Flapdoodle and nonsense! Corbynski’s lot simply haven’t a clue, but never fear, the writing is on the wall for them. Mrs. Dismay’s snap election should see the blighters routed once and for all, reduced to the size of a jumble sale tea-tent committee on short rations. Clothed in the garb of Britannia, the Prime Minister will brandish her trident, and Corbynski’s rump will run for cover. With so few of them they could easily shelter beneath the Abottopotomus’s overhang.”
This left me with two images I’d rather not have. It also left me none the wiser.
How do you solve a problem like Shariah? Well, according to Mr Slope, fresh from an ecumenical lederhosen-mit-schuhplattler symposium in Bad Habitzburg-am-Driblingen, Austrian President van der Bellend wants all Austrian women to wear the burkha. Perhaps his suggestion comes after the announcement that Saudi Arabia now has a seat on the Women’s Rights Committee at the League of Nations (or whatever it calls itself), despite it being a sandfly-ridden, oil-rich version of Mordor without the humour. One wonders what King Jan Sobieski, the saviour of Europe back in 1683, would think of this half-witted Bolshevik replacement for the Habsburgs? Lord save us from the Bellends of this world, we pray.
The Archdeacon says you never see a Bellend and a Corbynski in the same room together.
I beg to differ.
The Easter celebrations at Barchester were, as ever, most seemly. Mr. Harding composed two new anthems for the choir, and Easter Sunday Communion was well-attended. We were all somewhat disappointed when Her Majesty declined to favour Barchester Cathedral for the traditional Maundy Thursday ceremonies, but gratified that she sent one of her distant relations in her place. The former Grand Duchess of Saxe-Merkelburg-Multikultistein arrived at the West Door to be greeted by my Lord the Bishop and Dean Trefoil, with Archdeacon Grantly to one side pulling the latter’s strings. She did not strike me as an imposing royal – she had a rather dumpy figure brought on by excessive apfelstrudeling and an unimpressive pudding-basin hairdo (suppose it fits snuggly under the pickelhaube). Worst of all was the black bloomers or ‘trouser suit’, allowing a freedom of movement akin to the sack full of struggling kittens scooped up by our gardener prior to drowning. I was seated in the pew next to her, which enabled a brief exchange of pleasantries before Mr Slope pumped up his organ.
“We are honoured to receive you here in Barchester, Your Grand Ducal Highness..,” I began.
She turned to me with a pasty smile.
“Please, in Germany ve no longer acknowledge former titles; you vill please to call me Merki, yes?”
The pfennig dropped – I thought she looked familiar.
At which point Mr. Slope belted out the opening bars of Handel’s ‘See, the Conquering Hero Comes’.
I shall spare you the rest of the details, other than to say the Grand Duchess refused to wash the feet of the old gentlemen from Hiram’s Hospital on the grounds that they were not Syrian refugees.
And she pocketed the Maundy coins ‘…as part-payment’, whatever that meant.
So my dears, it seems I have prattled on for far too long. As the disintegrating raft that was once the titanic Labour Party hits the iceberg of humiliation and oblivion, it’s time to say adieu for this week.