Goodness! The bones of Thomas Becket returning to England! Being of an evangelical frame of mind, one has little time for papist superstition, but even I have to admit to being curious. Not quite sure how the Hungarians got their hands on Becket’s bits but at least it prevented Henry VIII from throwing them into the river. What do Protestants do with a heap of old bones? (Memorandum to self: ask cook to boil up some pig’s trotters for supper). I believe Becket’s grim fate offers a cautionary tale to those who believe it their duty to challenge the status quo (rare birds indeed): speak out and get the chop. Of course these days the workings of government are more subtle. Troublesome Archbishops would not be confronted by armed knights in their cathedrals at night: just a few discreet whispers of ‘far-right’, ‘friend of Tommy Robinson’ or ‘Islamophobe’ would suffice to demolish credibility and consign the said cleric to oblivion. My Lord the Bishop is fortunate to have me to guide his thoughts along the straight and narrow path towards the sunlit uplands of preferment.
Over Earl Grey and hobnobs yesterday, Signora Neroni recounted her excursion to the Chelsea Flower Show, an event I have so far managed to avoid on account of the dread Titchmarsh who, like the ubiquitous ground elder, pops up everywhere with his ‘bonny’ this and ‘bonny’ that. The Signora was quite skittishly taken with the red-hot pokers whilst Mr. Slope, who accompanied her, found the pansies irresistible. “You really should display your brassicas next year, Mrs. P.,” insisted the Signora, “They are bound to turn a few heads.” One detests vulgar display, but our head gardener, Dribbling, does amazing things with his green fingers in the hothouse, so perhaps we should enter a legume or two. I’m told the flower display based around the portrait head of the Dear Queen used on postage stamps was a riot of colour, but find this hard to believe – have you seen a Penny Black?
Like Burke and Hare, Messrs. Cameron and Osborne are in the body-business, only they want the United Kingdom permanently shackled to a corpse. The Zollverein is falling apart at the seams – not even Dr. Frankenstein is skilful enough to stitch it back together (though he did a marvellous job with Cherie Blair, don’t you think?) – yet the Buttered Potato and the Draper carry on regardless, churning out fibs and horror stories that would embarrass the Penny Dreadfuls. One minute they tell us Brexit would be a step into the unknown, then next they predict calamities closely akin to Ragnarok. Which is it? “These men disgrace the offices they hold,” thundered the Archdeacon. “And what is even more disgusting is the Treasury is playing their game – whatever happened to the impartiality of the British Civil Servant?” Point out that civil servants are partial to all sorts of things, the promise of a GCMG being just one. “What about integrity,” the Archdeacon continued.
“Ah yes, integrity… I think you will find, Archdeacon, that New Labour threw that out of their Big Tent some time ago. Do have a hobnob.” Alas he was not mollified, and stamped across the Close declaring he was off to Salisbury and needed a spade.
“Whatever for, Archdeacon?” I asked.
“To dig up the Blasted Heath!”
Well, I must go. I have organised the ladies of the Barchester Mother’s Union to knit smocks to cover up the naked cupids carved on the eighteenth century marble tombs around the cloister. Some things should remain private… especially privates. Until next time, dear hearts…