Goodness! After the Opera Buffa of Bologna it is good to be back in this our Sceptred Isle. Our host, Cardinal Montefiasco, made us most welcome, but it was somewhat disconcerting to find his 15th-century palazzo on the Via Transgenderati made our episcopal palace in Barchester look like a shepherd’s bothy. One must not covet thy neighbour’s ox, goat or any other of his leisure pursuits, so on with this week’s offering.
Monday was the Feast of St. Petronius and all of Bologna was en fête. A makeshift stage had been erected in the Piazza Maggiore by a group of lentil weavers and state-privileged ‘refugees’ in readiness for a musical interpretation of their flight from war-torn wherever, cheered on by crowds of blinkered suicidalists eager to swap their renaissance heritage for bongo-drums and rhythmic hip-wobbling. One despairs of course, but with such madness sweeping Europe what can one do?
Mrs. Dismay’s speech to the party faithful has gone down awfully well at Plumstead Episcopi, where Archdeacon Grantly was beside himself with glee when my Lord the Bishop and I called.
“At last!” he exclaimed, raising his glass of Madeira heavenward, “We have a Tory government worthy of the name! The Blasted Heath must be spinning in his grave! Surely, the restoration of Blue Passports, Imperial measures and control of our fishing grounds is but a heartbeat away. Those political piscatorial poltroons in Edinburgh have been told, in no uncertain terms, that the United Kingdom – in its entirety – will leave the Zollverein as soon as Article 50 is triggered. Krankie’s crew will be spitting feathers!”
Indeed. But if we are admonished to put not our trust in princes, we should be doubly wary of here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians. Mrs. Dismay has yet to deliver, and promises are by no means cast-iron. But what is this? The return of Mr. Farage as some sort of camerlengo, keeping his party together before the white smoke rises and a new leader is elected? Is he an angel or a demon? We are all agog at the speed and drama of recent events: first Ms. James resigns after being spat upon by one of the great unwashed; then poor Mr. Woolfe is punched by a fellow MEP and lies seriously ill. O tempora, o mores! Standards seem to have taken flight in our green and once-pleasant land. Of course, the rot set in with the French Revolution. I feel a tract coming on…
Whilst taking an afternoon perambulation yesterday I noticed posters had appeared on the walls of Hiram’s Hospital warning of something called ‘fracking’. My first thought was, ‘What a nasty, vulgar expression,’ and as I peered at the small print (always a wise precaution), who should accost me but John Bold, waving a copy of The Jupiter.
“Dreadful news, Mrs. Proudie, dreadful news! The government have said yes to fracking, and The Jupiter reveals the first bore holes in Barset will be drilled right here on the Cathedral Green! What this will do to your foundations is anyone’s guess!”
I felt a surge of indignation at this young man’s reference to my whalebone corsetry, but after he explained the danger we all faced, the penny dropped. Here was a cause to unite the whole of Barchester. Before afternoon turned into evening, I had organised the old gentlemen of Hiram’s Hospital into a human chain around the perimeter of the Green, singing “We shall overcome…” For my part, I withdrew to my boudoir and penned a letter to Sir Abraham Haphazzard asking for clarification of our legal position. I’d often assisted with his briefs, now I needed his guiding hand.
You will no doubt be familiar with the old adage, ‘While the cat’s away…’ Well, the Countess de Courcy attended Holy Communion at the Cathedral last Sunday and, upon our return from sunny Italy, gave a disturbing account of Mr. Slope’s sermon (following the lead given by Lambeth), jokingly entitled: ‘You pays your money and Taqiyyas your choice: how to forget about the bomb and love the Jihadist.’
“Oh, the Shia effrontery of the man!” I exclaimed.
“No my dear,” replied the Countess, “Trust me, it was Shiite.”
Salaam alaikum, dear friends, until next week.