Goodness! The Bishop and I travelled to London the other day to see the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Try as we might, we couldn’t find any works by Landseer or Holman Hunt on display, just innumerable blotches of paint on huge canvasses and some scribbles by Tracy Emin, though at least we were spared her dirty sheets and sanitary accoutrements. As for the Gilbert and George montage, words fail me (but obviously not for long!). My Lord remarked (and I agreed with him) that the art world is gripped by ‘Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome’, where nobody is prepared to stand up and say ‘Rubbish!’ for fear of being ridiculed. Increasingly one feels out of step with the world, and London doesn’t seem to belong to us any more, if indeed it ever did. A relief then to get back to Barchester and The Palace, where stands the clock at ten to three and there are hobnobs still for tea.
At the Barchester Goethe Institute on Saturday evening, the guest speaker, a Baron Munchausen, informed us how the German populace has been warned to stock up on food and water in the event of a terrorist attack. It begs the question – what do they know that we don’t? This caused considerable distress amongst the ladies, some of whom – like the Dear Queen – have relatives living over there. What good does it do tackling the symptom and ignoring the cause? I have packed up several boxes of hobnobs and will shortly post them off to Berlin. I’m sure they will be a welcome change from würst and sauerkraut.
Mr. Slope has taken to visiting the YMCA Swimming Pool on Gusset Makers’ Alley each morning, where he enjoys several lengths before breakfast. He’s bought a pair of Speedos like Tom Daley, but I doubt if they improve his stroke, nor indeed his ‘look’, which redefines the word ‘scrawny’ (he’d do us all a favour if he wore a Burkini, but I digress). This is not the sum total of his fitness campaign however, for he can be seen circling the city walls at twilight on a penny farthing à la Jason Kenny, thus combining exercise with evangelical mission. Many a young man late at night has benefitted from Mr. Slope’s ministrations, which leaves them with a wondrous sense of fulfilment and Mr. S. with an aching jaw.
As you know, I am a manager at Dr. Wortle’s School, where Christian principles are drilled into receptive noddles on a daily basis: lots of ‘Thou shalt nots’ and no mention of ‘begats’, providing young people with backbone and bottom. Well now, the good doctor was recently approached by none other than the Secretary of State for Education (sorry, the name escapes me as they change so often) to take in a quota of ‘refugee children’. He is worried about the impact this will surely have on the curriculum, not to mention the danger of some of the poppets exploding, as has been reported in the news of late – one can never be too vigilant when it comes to these ISIS blighters. Tried to reassure him that Barchester was unlikely to be high up on their list of primary targets, to no avail.
“It’s all very well you saying that, madam,” said Dr. W., “but it is only a matter of time. First they come for the Saturday people, then the Sunday people. We are all doomed…”
I suppose we are. Still, stiff upper lip and all that. We can but hope that education is the way forward and so applaud the University of Bristol’s decision to offer free scholarships to the invaders. I hear their Ph.D. course in Semtex Studies is already over-subscribed…
One wonders if, as the Titanic slowly went down, there was a last-minute vote amongst the crew to decide whether or not to replace Captain Smith with the First Officer? Either way, it would have made little difference to the outcome. Perhaps another Mr. Smith, and a certain comrade, might ponder on this and draw the appropriate lesson (though I understand the comrade in question prefers travelling by rail, provided he can find a seat).
After Wednesday’s news, I join with the Stanhopes and Signora Neroni in mourning for the poor people of Umbria, Lazio and Marche, stricken by the terrible earthquake. It is many years since the earth moved for me, but for the people of those regions tremors are but regular occurrences. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. On that sombre note, dear friends, I bid you all adieu, until next week.