Goodness! Such confusion at the 75th Annual Barsetshire Ploughing and Pig Sticking Competition, held this year in Farmer Gruntfuttock’s broad acres in Hogglestock. In the end it was all down to a straight furrow between ‘The Horny Handers’ from Stogpingum and ‘The Turveymen’ from Ullathorne. Everyone assembled in the medieval tithe-barn and my Lord the Bishop was handed the envelope containing the winner. He stepped forward, opened it and was suddenly at a loss for words, so, being ever-helpful, I took it from him and announced, in clearest tones,
“The winning team is… ‘The Turveymen’ from Ullathorne.”
At which point five sturdy yeomen rushed up onto the stage and their foreman began his acceptance speech.
The poor man had only just finished the ‘My Lords, Ladies and gentlemen’ bit when Dr. Wortle pushed his way forward brandishing another, identical, envelope.
“Stop! Stop! No, no no! Ullathorne is not the winner! The trophy goes to Stogpingum! Please come up and take your prize, Horny Handers!”
There was much shuffling round and loud mutterings of an agricultural anatomical nature.
Well, it was not our fault, though we felt totally humiliated. That’s what comes when you entrust counting the point scores to a bunch of 10-year-old Board School scholars. Dr. Wortle quickly made himself scarce, taking his innumerate pupils along with him. We shall have words.
Speaking of schools, those pesky Frankfurters have succeeded in getting sex-education for four-year-olds placed on the curriculum of every academy in the land. The excuse is to make children safer by being more aware. According to the model lesson sent out by Education Secretary Mrs. Greening, the school teacher will use a bright, colourful story book and woollen puppets as a lesson focus and follow this script word for word:
“This is Jane. This is Jane’s friend, Lizzie. Lizzie is Jane’s very special friend. When they grow up, they are going to get married. They live next door to Susan, who used to be known as Walter…”
Mrs. Greening, one notes, hails from Rotherham, a town not noted for protecting children.
As one of the managers at Dr. Wortle’s School I will do my utmost to prevent such filth crossing the threshold. The state is trespassing into territory hitherto belonging to parents, and it has no business doing so. A parent’s duty is to protect their child or children, and if that means disobeying this pernicious law, so be it. As for that communist London Borough replacing Christian worship with morning multi-kulti-fest, words fail me. The Archdeacon, however, felt no such restraint.
“What is it with these prodnose kumbayistas – do they never rest? Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, sticking their fingers into everything. Now they want to teach babes and sucklings a different sort of fiddling! They must be resisted, Mrs. Proudie, resisted I say! Morality is a dirty word to such grubby-nailed you-scratch-my-bits-and-I’ll-scratch yours shrubbery-lurking gabardinoes!”
The Archdeacon can certainly conjure up an image out of nowhere. He stomped off to the Barchester Mechanics’ Institute where he was delivering a lecture: ‘Mittens – God’s answer to self-abuse.’ One hopes it was well received.
Mr. Slope got himself into hot water the other day. He was out and about in town, stopping here and there to do a little street preaching, his message being simply: ‘Jesus is the way.’ A crowd gathered, made up mainly of Mustafa Fatwah and his extended family, and things turned a little nasty. Mr. Slope found himself heckled and jostled, but at that moment Constable Knapweed appeared, brandishing his truncheon and looking mightily fierce.
“Allo, allo, allo,” said the constable, “And what ‘ave we ‘ere?”
Before Mr. Slope could open his mouth, Mustafa Fatwah interjected, telling the constable that he was highly offended by the lies and blasphemies spouted by our chaplain and demanding to know what was going to be done about it. The upshot of this most unfortunate incident was that Mr. Slope was arrested and charged with public order offences. My Lord the Bishop and I had to go and bail him out. Dreadful that such things have come to pass in an English cathedral town.
The Jupiter reports, somewhat jubilantly I fear, on the House of Lords decision to knobble Brexit negotiations. I also understand that President Trumpelstiltskin has accused their lordships of voter fraud, with some names on the roll being totally fictitious and instances of dead peers voting. As an American, he clearly doesn’t understand that this is how things are and have always been – the trick is to get Black Duster-in-waiting to whisk away the cobwebs from each corpse before the cameras zoom in.
Well, I have prattled on long enough. I am planning an afternoon drive to Greshambury as the sun is shining. So, as the incontinence pad of time soaks up the juices of youth and the gadfly of liberty flies into the extractor fan of intolerance, I bid you all adieu. Until next time, dear friends, be good.