mrs proudie

The archaic notion that universities are bastions of liberty and free speech

Lawks a-mercy! The townsfolk of Barchester were somewhat startled the other day when a gaudily-dressed charivari trundled through Bishop Fondling’s Postern (13th century) into the Market Square. The vivid rainbow colours of the conveyance, together with the ribbons adorning the horse’s mane, certainly brightened up a dull-as-ditchwater morning, but even more remarkable were the blowzy women on board. Were they travelling vagabonds determined to sell pegs, tell fortunes or proffer curses? Carrot-red hair and jingly-jangly jewellery, they looked like pantomime dames… and then the pennies dropped… coppers, naturally. There before the multitude, cavorting in bloomers and makeup, were Constable Knapweed and Inspector Cuffem.

“What is the meaning of this exhibition,” I demanded, trying to keep Mr. Slope on a leash as he was clearly beside himself with glee.

“It is called outreach, Ma’am,” said the inspector, “Part of the new policy towards minorities. Today we are connecting with the LGBGTQWERTY brigade: tomorrow we shall be daubing ourselves with boot polish, playing banjos and making chums with the ethnics.”

“Surely that would be offensive,” I remarked, “Not to mention turning Barchester police into some sort of minstrel show. More to the point, if the police go out of their way to identify with minorities and not the majority, how can they claim to be impartial? Isn’t your job to enforce the law without fear or favour? Do you seriously believe these cavortings earn you respect?”

He sniffed.

“We are just doing our bit, Mrs. Proudie.”

I noticed his nails were painted a stunning shade of azure which, I am informed, is called ‘Boys in Blue’. Very bold.

“But this is a waste of time and resources,” I countered. “Shouldn’t you be pounding the beat, looking out for burglars and cutthroats? Isn’t that what ratepayers expect?”

“You are behind the times, Ma’am,” replied the Inspector, as Constable Knapweed rattled his tambourine and fluttered false eyelashes at a passing dragoon. “We have boxes to tick and quotas to fill – that’s what modern policing is all about. Remember, we are no longer a force – we provide a service.”

Dressed like that I shudder to think what sort of service is on offer, though Mr. Slope is much taken with the idea.

A letter from the Revd. Professor Aloysius Combustible, Pro-Vice Chancellor of East Barset Technical University, landed upon my Lord the Bishop’s desk on Wednesday, seeking advice. It appears some low-grade flagellant in Westmonster has asked all universities and colleges to provide a list of those academics offering lectures on Brexit. Alarm bells are ringing throughout academe, with cries of ‘Witch-hunt’ and ‘Persecution’ and ‘Safe-spaces’ resounding in every quadrangle.

“How should I respond? What should I do?” asked the poor Pro-Vice Chancellor, desperate to defend his fellow Marxist tub-thumpers yet not wishing to close the door to any preferment or gong that might come his way. His missive went on to assert the archaic notion that universities are bastions of liberty and free speech, places in which ideas are floated and discussed without fear of suppression.

At this point I fell on the floor laughing my head off (thank goodness for a well-cushioned bustle). Academics sent liberty and free speech to the naughty step years ago, long before even the Blair creature stalked the land and turned everything inside out. As soon as I told my Lord the Bishop what his opinion was on the matter, he replied to the Pro-Vice Chancellor with the short and pithy phrase, ‘Get a grip.’

Mrs. Tereason Dismay’s negotiations in Brussels are not going too well. There are whispers that she sits around the table sobbing her heart out and giving in to every suggestion made by Mr. Juncker, which usually involved alcohol. I do hope she avoids the gin – ‘mother’s ruin’ we used to call it; a drink almost guaranteed to take the lachrymose down the road to deep depression (though I understand it is somewhat fashionable again). Well, there is much to cry and feel depressed about these days, to be sure, and I for one have come to the belief that we shall never be allowed to escape the clutches of the ever-grasping Zollverein.

Mr. Davis too has rolled over, for the British Bulldog has self-identified with the dachshundoodle. Now he tells us we shall still be subject to the European Courts after leaving the evil Empire – something that has to be challenged as unconstitutional. Mrs. Dismay’s job was to go through the motions, make an absolute mess of the whole thing and allow Comrade Corbynov and his Venezuela-bandwagoners to go into reverse gear and introduce toilet-paper rationing. As I remarked to the Archdeacon,

“One may take a cleric’s daughter out of the rectory, but one can’t take the wreck-Tory out of the cleric’s daughter…”

Strange, isn’t it, now the lid is being taken off the murky doings of ex-President Bollock O’Barmey, the American press are not interested? Why, it seems the most natural thing in the world to subvert the constitution and accrue powers to spy on every American citizen, to actively promote third-world illegal immigration and to use the Inland Revenue Service to target opponents. Now we learn the Clinton Foundation actually paid for the dodgy dossier on candidate Trumpelstiltskin, fabricating links with the Russians and making up the O’Barmey bed-wetting story. It is all so disagreeable. Needless to say, the Archdeacon has an opinion.

“Blatant chicanery worthy of Tammany Hall, dear lady,” he spluttered as we passed through the Great West Door of the Cathedral (12th century) on our way to Canon Mountchorister’s ‘Come as you are’ coffee morning after matins on Thursday.

“That panty-suited termagant and her dip-your-bread-in-tell-them-nothing disgrace of a husband are the ones behind the unravelling of Western society. Mr. Clinton is a stain on democracy… as well as Miss Lewinsky’s ensemble. The Hildabeast’s ‘What does it matter?’ attitude to the loss of American lives at the hands of a Mahdistical mob and Bill’s “Pssst… wanna buy a bomb?” style of international diplomacy have left us standing before Satan’s Gate oiling the hinges.

“A little extreme, Archdeacon?” I ventured.

“Indeed they are, the pair of them,” he chortled.

Obituary in The Jupiter: Fats Domino dies: if only he had consulted Mrs. Beeton on calorific intake he might be Thin Domino and still with us…

Cheering news from Austria. Now they have elected a right-thinking government I look forward to the return of the Hapsburgs and a new personal union with Hungary.

Well my dears, I have prattled on long enough and fear it is time to sign off for another week. We are busy preparing for Bonfire Night, and Mr. Slope has promised to do a guy. The old gentlemen from Hiram’s Hospital are bringing in the faggots and we have quite a pyre dominating the Cathedral Close, waiting for my Lord the Bishop to set all ablaze. So, as the Catherine Wheel of Intransigence spins round and round on the fixed pole of Berlaymont and the Woolly Mammoth that is BoJo gets frozen out by the slow-moving glacier that is the kitten-shoed Appeaser, I bid you a very fond adieu.