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“One wishes the PM would get on with it and trigger this pesky Article”

Goodness! Mr. Slope, fresh from an ecumenical gathering in Utrecht, has much to say about dykes. They seem to do a splendid job, keeping the citizenry safe and dry, along with the little Dutch boys and their ever-ready digits. He tells me it is a very well-organised, well-ordered country, similar to England in many ways, yet still sufficiently different to be interesting. One does not approve, however, of their Fabianistical approach to old age, which allows those who feel they have had enough to pop off with the state’s blessing. Thin end of the wedge, though of course there is an argument for ending suffering with dignity (a principle never yet applied to the BBC Charter, but I digress).

Mr. Slope explained he’s witnessed some of the electioneering that has returned Mr. Rutte to power, and how the Dutch have tacked close to the centrist wind. One hopes clothes pegs were distributed with each vote cast, for one fears Mr. Rutte has pulled a fast one. On a lighter note, Mr. Slope says Amsterdam was a delightful city, with bright lights and cheerful hostelries, where clients dress in the most colourful and exotic garb. Well, some of them do. Some of them don’t dress at all, apparently, and that which is displayed in shop windows is not always Gouda. Still, it is good to have our chaplain back in the bosom of Barchester, once I had made him bathe in Dettol.

Mrs. Dismay is the sort of woman who gets to the middle of the road, stops, and can’t make her mind up to go forwards or back to the curb. Consequently, she is in danger of being run over by the Clapham Omnibus. Now that Her Majesty has given assent, one wishes the PM would get on with it and trigger this pesky Article so Britain can escape the clutches of the Beastly Bureaucrats of Berlaymont. The premiership of Lord Wilmington seems more go-getting than hers (who he, you may ask? My point exactly!). Of course, things are made more complicated by that Scottish terrier yapping across the border, demanding this and that, cocking her leg at the Act of Union. Time she was neutered.

Gossip flowed this way and that at Signora Neroni’s salon on Monday evening.

“My dear Mrs. Proudie,” said the Signora with a wave of her fan, “have you not heard? It appears the Archdeacon was shortlisted for the Diocese of Middlemarch but rejected because of his forthright views on certain matters. Has he not told you?”

Indeed he had not. One isn’t surprised that Dr. Grantly fell at the first hurdle, being slightly to the right of Vlad the Impaler on so many matters ecclesiastical. Not for him the surpliced-ranks of the feminist priestesses, or the rainbow covers of the Book of Homolies, for he is of a more traditional, somewhat antediluvian frame of mind and actually talks about God. All things considered, Mr. Slope would have been a better candidate, but he needs to get a few more things under his belt before episcopacy calls.

I wandered over to the chaise longue by the bay window, where Sir Abraham Haphazzard was engaged in an animated discussion with Sir Omicron Pie.

“It’s the Russians, you know. They are at the bottom of it, mark my words,” said Sir Abraham.

“Are you saying they were responsible for the Indian Mutiny?” replied Sir Omicron.

“Absolutely! The whole thing is covered in vodka and caviar smears, all part of the Great Game.”

“What about the Zulu Wars – the Irish Potato Famine – the Tay Bridge Disaster – Cholera?”

“Russians again!” said Sir Abraham.

“And Louis Napoleon’s election as prince-president?”

“Russians, quite definitely!”

Far be it from me to question the learned and distinguished Sir Abraham, but I ventured to disagree.

“Doesn’t it all sound a little fake, Sir Abraham? I mean, the Russians can’t be responsible for every nefarious event that occurs around the world, surely?”

“Madam,” he replied, “it must be true. The Jupiter has spoken! Does the press ever lie?”

Where to go with that one?

I retreated gracefully to where Mr. Slope was loitering by a tallboy. Ever since seeing the Chippendales he has been beside himself. As I approached I noticed he was eyeing up the ottoman.

“Are you an expert in antiques, Mr. Slope?” I asked.

“Hardly an expert, Madam, merely a voyeur of the divine.”

“O beware the ottoman! One never knows what those Musselmen get up to,” I warned him.

“I am rather partial to them as it happens,” said Mr. Slope, making excuses and heading off towards the dumb waiter. I think something got lost, not in translation so much as the spelling.

Well that is all for this week, dear friends. It has been a quiet seven days in Barchester as we hold our breath for the Great Triggering; quiet but busy with diocesan affairs. I am taking the barouche to Greshambury this afternoon, where work commences on the new lawn and herbaceous borders. I have been asked to dig up the first sod, just so long as it’s not Sir Edward Heath. So, as the gospel truth of fake news reaches the elephantine ear of credulity and the gusset of deception finally unravels from the flannel long johns of neo-liberalism, I bid you all a fond adieu. May your Titchmarsh be ever aphid-free and your Flowerdew open to suggestions.