Black comedy: Lenny Henry might top the vacant plinth in Trafalgar Square

Goodness! How thrilling it must have been to have witnessed the cut-and-thrust of debate in the Lords on Tuesday, when zimmer-frame-wielding peers knocked the living daylights out of Mrs. Dismay for the second time. Well, they say some women like to return to their abuser, though you wouldn’t catch me doing it. Lord Mountararat gave an impassionate speech against the government from the other side by means of a medium, his death 40 years ago being no impediment to a political career. Lord Tolloller attacked the whole idea of Brexit as being a burdensome restraint on the free movement of Finnish au pairs, a subject close to his heart. Lord Fondlebum of Boy however spoke in favour of restraints, but was asked by the Lord Speaker to keep his hobbies to himself, at which point Mr. Vaz slipped away from his position in the Visitors’ Gallery looking suitably embarrassed. Earl de Courcy and the Duke of Omnium, I am pleased to say, stood up in support of the Prime Minister and warned of the dangers of tying her hands in forthcoming negotiations, which seemed to rekindle Lord Fondlebum’s interest after his slap-down. Lord Gormenghast wanted to know if Britain could lay claim to its share of the European Wine Lake as part of the deal, and the Duke of Denver thought the whole thing whimsical, as indeed he might. So the ball is now in the Prime Minister’s court. Will she press on and overrule Their Lordships, or call a snap election and put Lords reform at the top of her manifesto? One thing is for certain – the CIA will know well before we do.

On the subject of spies, I understand President Trumpton believes he was eavesdropped by dastardly devils connected to the O’Barmey White House, and that new evidence seems to confirm his deepest fears. Knowing very little about the sinister world of under-the-covers, I decided to do some research of my own. To this end, I invited the Abbess of Crewe to afternoon tea (if you want to know about subterfuge and nefarious practices it is always best to cross the Tiber for an hour or so… well, not so much crossing it as dipping one’s toe, so to speak). I could tell our butler did not approve as he announced her arrival.

“Worry not, I’m just having an ecumenical, Spasm,” I said reassuringly. He rolled his eyes heavenward and retreated to his pantry.

“One must be ever watchful and vigilant,” said the Abbess, eyeing up the plate of hobnobs on the what-not, despite it being Lent. “I have made it my business to know everything that goes on in our abbey. Why, there is not one sister who breaks wind without me knowing.”

“How intriguing,” said I, “Pray, do tell.” I offered her a biscuit – it is amazing how people are so willing to be pumped having once got their oats.

It turns out almost anything and everything can be ‘bugged’, be it pot, kettle, chandelier, whalebone corset or chamber pot – something to do with chips (and there are plenty of those in the latter. We really must buy a new one!).

“Information is power, you see, and there is a great gathering of the stuff taking place right now. You need to get with the programme, dear Mrs. Proudie. A little wire-tapping could help thwart your local opposition in the glorious battle for souls.”

I promised to give it some thought. It would also help to keep tabs on Signora Vesey Neroni.

As soon as the Abbess departed I had Spasm sponge down the cushions and antimacassar on her chair. She had a filthy habit.

I never imagined the Archdeacon was a great connoisseur of art, but it appears he is. I came across him studying the Romney portrait of Bishop Blatheryng of Barchester (d. 1775) in the Great Hall of the Palace and muttering under his breath.

“Have you heard what they are doing in Parliament, Mrs. Proudie? Some neo-Marxist philistine-ophile committee of colour-by-numbers Eminologists has decided to clear out all the portraits of our greatest politicians in favour of ‘a more diverse and representative’ collection. Out goes Walpole, Pitt and Wellington, and in comes Diane Abbott (watercolour on paper), Keith Vaz (oil slick on canvas) and the execrable Bercow (elephant dung on cardboard: mixed media). A triumphant portrait of Mr. Blair, mounted on a white charger waving the sword of the Third Way whilst peace descends on the Middle East in the shape of a drone, will be placed in the main lobby, and a conversation piece by Maggi Hambling entitled ‘The Kinnocks counting their stash’ will go to the Lords. This act of sheer vandalism is to encourage ethnicals and women to feel more at home in the corridors of power and to encourage more of the same to consider political careers. What utter rot!”

“Oh dear,” I replied. I’m rather partial to certain pieces of Dante Gabriel Rossetti myself, but decided to keep quiet.

“It’s all part of their dastardly plan, of course – to wipe the slate clean, disown our history and replace it with multi-kulti-drossage. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if the vacant plinth in Trafalgar Square was topped by a statue of Lenny Henry by the end of the year as a tribute to black comedy!”

“I thought you maintained Westminster was all about black comedy, Archdeacon?”

“Quite!” he replied.

With that he proceeded up the grand staircase for his appointment with the Bishop. Usually I am there to give moral support to my lord, but on this occasion I had other business. My presence was required at the International Women’s Day celebration at the parish church of St. Germaine-of-the-foolish-Virgins to receive an award as ‘the most outstanding prelate’s wife of the year’. One is touched, of course, but not all that often.

Well, my dears, I leave you, as ever, pondering the fate of our poor nation and the falling apart of our national fabric. So, as the Cutty Sark of time drifts into the doldrums of illusion, and the branding iron of experience sears the sagging haunches of hope, I bit you adieu.