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“I am coming round to the idea of a modern-day Great Schism, with those of a pure and Anglican mind setting up a sort of Avignon Archiepiscopate”

Goodness! Well here we are in a brand new year – who knows what things will pop up to entertain, delight and outrage? With the semi-lunatic brigade installed in the Vatican and chancelleries of Europe, and the certifiable in charge in Pyongyang, Caracas and London, it is not going to be dull, is it! Here in Barchester the bunting is safely packed away, the Christmas trees removed and everything has returned to normal… well, as normal as it gets here in Barset. I had thought of visiting one of Madame Hecate Thump’s Palm and Tripe Reading soirées to see what the future holds, but I prefer things to come at me unawares. It perks one up.

I see His Grace has allowed an errant chaplain to pen a missive this week, calling into question the General Sin-odd. Quite right. We have enough of these talking shops, think tanks and fol-de-rols infesting modern life, when what we need are people with gumption (discounting the ghastly John Selwyn Gumption and his force-fed burger-child). The trouble is, with a bench of bishops well-versed in the Book of Common Purpose and favouring the new-fangled Feast of the Blessed Mohammed, we are likely to be led into the Pit of Hell (or Scunthorpe, as we here in Blighty call it). I am coming round to the idea of a modern-day Great Schism, with those of a pure and Anglican mind setting up a sort of Avignon Archiepiscopate seated here in Barchester. Now, who could possibly head such a venture? Answers on an antimacassar posted directly to the Palace (no reverse charges!).

Spring is the perfect time for weddings, and of course we have a royal one coming up. I understand the streets of Windsor are going to be ethnically cleansed of hobos, tramps and vagabonds, so that the world can see the town really is like Shrek’s DuLac, all neat, tidy and Potemkin. This comes at great financial cost, but getting new blood into the royal line is deemed worth it (as we are leaving the Holy Zollverein we need to water down the German). I wish the young(ish) couple well, but I fear for the longevity of their union. Actresses are notoriously fickle in their affections, and gold-diggers not unknown amongst them. Each time royalty marries into the common herd the bloodline gets thinner, which then begs the question, ‘What makes them so special?’ As for their discourtesy towards the US President and hobnobbing with the O’Barmey creature, words fail me.

Speaking of creatures, the Archdeacon tells me that Mr. Blair is making noises again, advocating another referendum to reverse the previous result which he didn’t like.

“I’m not one for folklore and superstition,” spluttered Dr. Grantly as we whitewashed over the lewd frescos in the crypt Chapel of Our Lady Underwear (12th century, by the Master of the Well-turned Ankle) which somehow escaped Lord Cromwell’s inquisitors. “But really there is something of the night about that man. Just when you think he’s gone, he re-appears like some blood-sucking vampire ready to stick his teeth into the body-politic. I’d dearly like to be one of his ‘stakeholders’, though I wouldn’t be holding it for long!”

“I believe he seeks a public forum simply to get out of the house. Remember to whom he is married!”

“Ah yes,” replied the Archdeacon, “The face that launched a thousand pillar boxes.”

“Exactly,” I replied, “She should never wear red.”

I was most put out when told my new Persian carpet would not be delivered for some time, as the Persians were revolting against the mullahs (though why they have taken against this brand of yoghurt is a mystery). Mr. Slope, no stranger to dusky foreign parts, explained it was a revolution against theocracy and a demand for justice, liberty and democracy. We seasoned observers of the political scene know their chances of securing ‘the big three’ are somewhat less that the Bourbons have of being restored in France, but I digress. The Archdeacon suggested President Trumpelstiltskin might be behind the uprising which, if successful, would alter the balance of power in the region. The next thousand and one nights will be crucial.

Having read in The Jupiter that London’s crime figures have gone through the roof during ‘Saracen’ Khan’s tenure of office, I thought I’d have a word with our own boys in blue to see how Barchester compared. I could tell Inspector Cuffem was pleased to see me. Then he adjusted his truncheon.

“Have no fears, dear lady! Barchester is a haven of peace and tranquillity, unlike the capital. The most serious crime we had to investigate last month was the theft of a knocker from Signora Neroni’s frontage, and tracking down the identity of the Phantom Snowballer of Diphtheria Avenue, a case we are still working on as it happens, now the snow has melted.”

“That is good to know, Inspector. Perhaps you should write to The Saracen with a few tips on sleuthing… he’s clearly not doing well and needs all the help he can get.”

“I’ll think about it, Ma’am,” replied the Inspector (which means he won’t).

I see President Jupiter of France is on the cover of this week’s Vanity Fair. How apt. He warns his ‘fellow citizens’ across Europe to avoid nationalism and the far-right and to embrace the oblivion he and Frau Merkin have planned for them. So much Jovian wisdom from one so fundamentally articulate is a wonder to behold: he speaks, and Europe holds its nose. Mr. Slope has known M. Macron ever since he was a can-can girl at the Folies Bergère, when he went by the name ‘Frou-Frou’ and displayed a fine calf. One must admit he has done well for himself… herself… itself… whatever! I don’t think Frau Merkin was ever a dancer in her youth – too busy spying on her neighbours and dropping them in it with the secret police.

Well that’s all I have for you this week, so I will take my leave. My Lord the Bishop and I are attending a charity concert in aid of The Duchess of Cornwall’s Facelift Fund at St. Tampax-Within-the-Gussett, Burleybridge, with music by the West Barset Transphobic Quartet and poetry readings by Dame Judy Dentures from her recently published collection, ‘I Love Trees’.  Here’s my favourite:-

Give me the Birch
Give me the Birch, most-noble of trees,
A jolly good birching will certainly please.
My rosy red cheeks will glow in the dark.
Whenever a birching takes place in the park.

She’s a national treasure.

So, as the Thuggees of Marxist Morality demand the suttee of Western Civilisation and the Blue Passport of Brexit wards off the banshees of Brussels, I shall tuck my hands in my muff and mount the barouche. Adieu, dear hearts, adieu.