Welcome, dear hearts, to my pre-Christmas newsletter! The Market Square is bedecked with boughs of holly, the old gentlemen at Hiram’s Hospital are rubbing their knees together to keep warm, and Mr. Slope is hoisting his ding-dongs merrily on high. The Archdeacon has been stuffing a nice plump bird in the kitchen, a task he looks forward to each year (though why he does it here behind locked doors and not in his own home is anyone’s guess). Mr. Harding’s new anthem, ‘The May Thou gavest, Lord, is bending, her knee to Juncker and all his works’, set to the tune ‘Craven’, will be sung for the first time on Sunday in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Omnium and the entire Palliser clan – such an honour. I must say The Palace is looking quite festive, with garlands of evergreens in the Great Hall and mistletoe everywhere (why miss an opportunity?). We are planning a Christmas Eve Ball – with two daughters to marry off one has to be pro-active (as they say these days). I have my eye on one of the Gresham boys, but that is another story.
By the by, the Omniums invited baking baroness Mary Berry to Gatherum Castle as part of her stately home progress around the country, but she declined, preferring the pork scratchings at Blandings. Each to their own, as the Duchess said to me, but it seems she’ll miss out on the annual banquet for the Queen’s Own Mounted Brexiteers, known as ‘The Old Intransigents’, which takes place in the Agincourt Room, hosted by the regimental colonel, Lord Silverbridge. “The troopers very much wanted to get stuck into Mary’s posset,” confided the Duchess, “but, alas, that is a pleasure denied them.” Perhaps it is for the best.
We received notification from the Lord Chamberlain that Barchester has been chosen as the setting for next year’s Maungy Thursday ceremonies. This is when the Sovereign distributes little leather bags of hard cheese to twelve of the town’s most vociferous Remainers, whilst the choir intones Purcell’s famous motet, ‘Ner ner ne ner ner…’, and the congregation responds, ‘Yah, boo sucks’. This is followed by the sermon, based on Psalm 58:6, ‘Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth…’, preached with gusto by the Archdeacon, with hand-actions and a mallet, no less. I cannot wait.
Only one small ripple of disquiet – Mustafa Fatwah asked if we could possibly ‘tone down the Jesus thing’ and celebrate a few Muslim festivals in the Cathedral, on the grounds that he would like to feel ‘included’. We declined, suggesting instead his local mosque might join us for carols round the crib. This naturally prompted complaints to Barchester Constabulary (Diversity Enforcement Branch) and a stiff letter from Forever Amber. At least this year’s anonymous death threat was decorated with holly and robins, which was a lovely seasonal touch.
I read in The Jupiter (where else!) a certain Herr Shulz of the Holy Remaining Zollverein is proposing the abolition of nation states and supports the formation of a Euro-army – the one Mr. Clegg swore blind was a complete and utter fantasy of the barking, swivel-eyed Leavers, whilst knowing full well what was on the cards. Looks like conscription is back on the menu, which should cause a few snowflake-flurries in the university campuses of Europe when the pfennig drops, but it could well be the plan is to draft lusty young Muslim migrants instead. It was an Ottoman thing, I believe, to have an army of janissaries with no ethnic or cultural ties to the peoples they were ordered to oppress, so that no qualms got in the way of utter ruthlessness. One can hear Mr. Druncker salivating from here…
Speaker of the said Herr Druncker, he seems to wear more medals than the German Kaiser… I cannot for the life of me think of so many Luxembourgeois victories on the field of battle to merit such a display… the man is to chivalry what Sweeney Todd was to flower arranging. Has anyone else noticed there has been no reference to the European wine-lake since he was appointed? Where has it all gone, we ask…
The cathedral stonemasons have been busy transforming the ‘Merkin Lego’ blocks outside the West Door into carved representations of the politicians responsible for the many multi-culti blessings bestowed upon us. It’s our very own Mount Rushmore, though on a smaller scale. We have Mr. Heath emerging from a gentleman’s convenience with a grin on his face (Gothic); Mr. Major and Mrs. Currie working hard at developing Ugandan relations (Perpendicular); Mr. Blair displaying some of his many faces whilst supping with the devil (Romanesque), and ‘Bolter’ Cameron doing the four-minute mile (Escapist). Who knows, in future years, visitors to Barchester will sees these carvings as part of our rich national heritage, like the Cerne Abbas giant. I, however, regard them as nothing less than monuments to folly on a grand scale.
At the parish church of St. Pederast-behind-the-Bike-sheds this week, Mr. Slope chaired a ‘Forum of Reconciliation’, when victims of abuse, be it sexual or physical, were invited to talk about their sufferings and face their abusers. Mr. Slope has not shared the details – quite rightly so – but has assured me he followed the current guidelines to the letter: everything has been written down verbatim ready to send to the appropriate officer. When I asked who the appropriate officer was, he replied, “The furnace man, Lambeth Palace.”
Dominic Grievance, reshuffled former Attorney-General and half-French Tory rebel, has been rattling Mrs. Dismay’s cage over the Brexit negotiations, demanding MPs and Lords get to vote on the final deal. True to form, the Ironic Lady has given in, which more or less means the whole ‘So-long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen goodbye’ has been scuppered. How supposed Conservatives can even contemplate joining forces with Comrade Corbynov’s Bolshevik horde is beyond comprehension, but perhaps they despise and detest the people even more. One senses mounting anger beyond the bubble, not only toward politicians but also towards the system itself. I do not hear the sound of ‘Ça Ira’ just yet, but Mr. Slope assures me he can get his tongue around ‘Lilliburlero’. He is full of surprises.
Well, I have to get ready as my Lord the Bishop is taking me to the Wassail Fair on Ganderpoke Meadows, where all of Barchester assemble to partake of good cheer, roast chestnuts and cinder toffee. There is ice-block carving, ‘Put the Balaclava on the Wildcat’, and Christmas Pudding Hurling to keep us entertained, and a demonstration of ballroom dancing on ice by the Anton du Bec Preservation Society of Bangalore (part of their world tour). Miss Brontë will be giving an educational talk on ‘Conspicuous Consumption’ in the Grand Marquee, and Mr. Dickens will demonstrate how to cheer up your Bleak House with a coat of distemper. So as the bloomers of Brexit are shredded by the fearsome fangs of ravenous Remainers and the assegai of critical journalism is broken by the tilt-hammer of career opportunism, I bid you a fond au revoir and a Merry Christmas. I shall return – if invited – in the New Year, my dears, so until then…