Christmas greetings: “the inclusion of annual newsletters an innovation too far”

Goodness! Just in case a dynamite-laden hansom cab comes crashing through the wrought iron railings around the cathedral and attempts to blow up our Christmas Nativity scene, we have set the old gentlemen from Hiram’s Hospital on guard duty, commanded by Constable Knapweed of Barchester City Constabulary. Well, these are ever-darkening times, and one never knows what dastardly acts are being planned by those who wish us ill. The Nativity figures have been carved by Mr. Bunce, and I must say they look splendid. The animals look particularly realistic, and Mr. Slope has gone into raptures over Mr. Bunce’s ass. It would be a tragedy if they were all turned to matchsticks because of the genocidal tendency of the religion-that-must-not-be named, and I don’t mean the Methodists. But let us not dwell upon the perpetually irate – let us deck our halls with boughs of holly, hang up the mistletoe and whip up the eggnog, for unto us a child is born. Well, not unto me, admittedly, for those days are long gone, but you all know to whom I refer. Rejoice, I say… Rejoice!

What a great invention the penny post is – we should all thank Mr. Rowland Hill for his splendid idea, thus bringing people closer together at this festive time. Every surface in The Palace is covered in Christmas cards, though I do find the inclusion of annual newsletters an innovation too far. Why is it folk feel they have to announce every holiday and trip to London as if it were akin to the Second Coming? It is all so immodest. As for signing cards with the name of one’s pet dog, cat or goldfish, words fail me.

We played a most delightful parlour game at Mary Bold’s tea party yesterday afternoon. Everyone sat round in a circle and took turns to name a recognised criminal mastermind who has never been called to account. Miss Bold started off with the Hildabeast and I then followed with Madame Lagarde, after which the company named the Obamessiah, Mr. Blair, Mr. Cameldung and several Rothschilds, until Mr. Slope brought everything to a halt when he mentioned a certain Australian newspaper mogul. Walls have ears, of course, but oh, the larks! Prison, it must be said, is only for the little people, though occasionally a minor player is thrown to the wolves to give the appearance of doing something. One thinks of Mr. Harris tying his kangaroo down, an odd pastime but his own, which certainly upset the RSPCA, and whatever happened to his two little boys? Lashings of Earl Grey and several mince pies rounded off the gathering perfectly. Mr. Slope made the pies himself, having won prizes at school for exceptional mincing.

Our brief sojourn in Bologna earlier this year introduced the Bishop and me to the delights of pizza. One understands this dish is very popular in Washington circles at the moment, with President O’Barmey spending thousands of dollars on pizzas for all his staff, sending out to somewhere in Chicago rather than patronising a more convenient pizzeria. The things these politicians get up to. All that pizza must make for sticky fingers!

We are hosting a rather special Christmas Day luncheon at The Palace and our guests include Bishop Fontwater of Barnstaple, Bishop Hever of St Ogg’s and the Bishop of Tatchester. Everything has to be just so. Mrs. Gibletts (our cook) has dusted off Mrs. Beeton’s ‘Household Management’, and Mr. Slope is in charge of making sure everything goes swimmingly (he has a tick list. I have often thought of him as a tick). I have ordered a variety of game, though Mrs. Gibletts is by no means a pheasant plucker, so we shall draw upon the expertise of Mr. Coxcomb of Home Farm, whose horny hands are no stranger to birds of all shapes and sizes. The dining room is festooned with greenery and the Christmas tree in the corner truly sparkles with fairy candles. We had thought of inviting Mrs. Dismay and her colleagues from Brussels, but I fear they would only turn their back on her and we can’t have that (apart from which, Herr Druncker would have drained our cellars in record time. If you have ever wondered where the European Wine Lake went, look no further).

Well now, dear friends, you can see how busy we are, and I daresay you are, too. Alas I must say adieu for this week, as I have a tract to write on the evils of sprouts and have promised to join the ladies’ choir of Barchester on their carol singing round robin. So, as the Evacuation of Time splatters over the Commode of Destiny and the Wassailers of Hope-over-Experience warble to the Crowd-scattering Juggernaut of Jihad, I bid you goodnight.