One must confess the hottest gossip around the Cathedral Close in Barchester this week has been last week’s ‘Affair of the Missing Apostrophe’. Shame and embarrassment, together with an Archiepiscopal admonition, has kept me indoors pouring over Fowler’s Modern English Usage, so I have had to rely on the goodwill of others – and The Jupiter – to shed light on things.
At this point I fear I must announce to all my dear friends that the Bishop and I will be taking an extended trip abroad, leaving on 6th June, and will not return until the end of the month, cannibals and head hunters permitting. As we traverse mountain, swamp and jungle I shall be distribute my latest tract – ‘Always hire a porter to carry the White Man’s Burden’ – which contains practical evangelical tips for the intrepid adventurer, missionary and surgical appliance salesman. Mr. Slope will not be accompanying us, having decided to follow his Baedeker through the avenues, alleyways and back passages of Berlin in search of all that is thigh-slappingly gemütlich. He is packing his lederhosen and dirndl even now.
But enough of this domestic tittle-tattle – what of the world?
My Lord the Bishop, newly returned from the Upper House where he has been debating the ‘Convent Candles (Restricted Usage) Bill’, reports that knives are out for the Prime Minister over Project Fear fibbery and his associated slipperiness. Shadowy figures stalk the corridors of power barely concealing their stilettos, which rules out Dennis Skinner as he simply doesn’t have the calves for it. One senior Parliamentarian says he would never stab Mr. Cameron in the back, preferring to stab him in the front so he can watch his expression (‘Et tu, Brute?’) but the Bishop of Littlehampton is known for hyperbole and his threats are mere trumpery. A vote of no confidence has been mooted, however – does anyone have confidence in politicians these days? And one wonders who is pulling the strings? Swirling Earl Grey tea leaves in my cup this morning I could just make out the sinister profile of Mrs. May, the Madame Mim of the Home Office. Could it be she? But one has to acknowledge that Mrs May is an Islamic scholar of great renown, like many in the present government who are quick to proclaim ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ as soon as the dust from a suicide bomb settles. Mrs. May says many British people have benefited from Sharia Law but asking for a show of hands would be somewhat counter-productive. I say we all used to benefit from Common Law, but that seems to be consigned to the lumber room of history. Do these politicians know how much they are loathed?
Speaking of trumpery, Archdeacon Grantly is rather excited that the Republicans are falling in line behind ‘the Donald’ on his progress towards the U.S. Presidency and is confident, within the first hundred days, that walls will be built and slavery re-instated. I am not so sure.
“I tell you, Mrs. Proudie, the man has bottom. When I look at Mr. Trump I see nothing but a principled Whig.”
“You are quite wrong, Archdeacon,” I replied. “I am sure his quiff is quite natural, if somewhat outré. But pray, what do you see when you look at Mrs. Clinton?”
There followed a loud ‘Harrumph!’ and a reference to Revelation 17:4-6.
With the better weather, sport is once again the talk of the gentlemen here. Bertie Stanhope is forever going on about his last googly and I wish he would just go and silly-mid-off. Cricket is just about bearable, but I find the best way of dealing with football is to ignore it completely – it is a game for under-footmen, stable lads and Northerners – but concede it is useful as a device for letting off steam and preventing revolution. Dr. Thorne informs me that Brazil is hosting a world-wide football shindig this summer, despite there being an outbreak of Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes and particularly dangerous for pregnant women. I can’t imagine many such women would wish to compete in long jumps or shot putting in such an intemperate climate, but these are emancipated times – I blame Mrs. Bloomer and her new-fangled loose-fitting attire. Dr. Thorne is joining the medical team in Rio, but says there is no cure for Zika; one simply has to take precautions against mosquito bites. Advise liberal usage of a hobnob poultice worn under the vest at all times – I have always found it keeps my Lord the Bishop at a safe distance.
Ah, the Cathedral bells are ringing and good Barchester folk are gathering in the Chapel of the Duplicitous Eurocrat to pray for the right outcome in the Neverendum. My Lord the Bishop is delivering a short homily entitled: ‘Drive out the Money Changers and stick with the pound’, which should rally the troops. In a few days we shall be off on our adventure, so I must hand back the Quill of Humility and Temperance to His Grace. Until July, dear hearts, adieu!