Goodness! It does seem ages since I straddled His Grace’s column, but here I am, back from a short holiday in the Northern Isles. We were inspired by Her Majesty’s Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands, but decided to skip Balmorality in favour of Orkney and Shetland, our aim being to bring joy to the Calvinists. Not an easy task when hobnobs are considered the confectionary of Satan.
I must confess, when I first heard about the ‘Wee Free’ I thought it was something kilted Scotsmen did behind hedgerows when far from facilities, but no. St. Magnus’ Cathedral in Kirkwall was rather splendid – not quite as perpendicular as Barchester but well worth visiting. So nice to be back home again, and now it’s time to catch up on events.
Dark days are upon us, my dears, and there is much sorrow in the land. I recall the recent words of the Mayor of London, who said we must all get used to bombs and the like because it is part and parcel of living in a big city. I disagree, and would suggest his cause is not ours. Here in Barchester we have the local militia out on the streets to support Constable Knapweed and Sergeant Clobberham in tracking down potential threats, which in essence means the detective duo have set up camp opposite Mustafa Fatwah’s ‘Does My Bomb Look Big in This?’ boutique on the High Street.
The militia – known locally as the ‘Old Tea-lighters’, have been strategically placing teddy bears around the town, adopting the Home Office recommended approach of ‘Pre-emptive Inclusiveness’ to melt the hearts of the angry Jihadists before things turn nasty. I have grave doubts about its efficacy. Perhaps Mrs. Dismay knows best. Of course, one grieves for the victims of Manchester and their poor families, but now something must be done, rather than being seen to be done.
There is a palpable, growing feeling that we are at war with an evil ideology, and that the penny is finally beginning to drop – with the exception of the mainstream political parties busy re-arranging deck chairs on the Hesperus. The Archdeacon is of this opinion, complaining daily that we need Lord Palmerston back at the F.O. instead of Abomnable Dr. Phibes of the Hammond Organ.
“We need more ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’, and a lot less ‘Kumbaya,’ dear lady,” he spluttered before Evensong yesterday. I tend to agree with him, but alas so many of our fellow Britons have fallen by the wayside and no longer consider themselves Christian.
“The Romans knew all about diversity,” he continued authoritatively, “for they invented the concept of ‘Divide and Rule’. Listen carefully to the mealy-mouthed Westmonsters, they talk about ‘Our communities’ instead of ‘Our Nation’ or ‘Our People’. Set one group against another and one has the perfect excuse for clamping down heavily on the lot. We are on the threshold of arbitrary government, mark my words.”
Once again I fear he may be right.
The Jupiter is following the Travels of Trumpelstiltskin as he wends his way around the globe. One minute he is dancing with scimitars in Riyadh, the next exchanging gifts with the Bishop of Rome. I must say the latter was rather parsimonious, not to mention self-obsessed by presenting the President with a letter… Talk about cheap. Needless to say, editor Tom Towers is not impressed, posing the question: “Why is the Syrian regime considered so evil and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia acceptable?” Why indeed. It is, in essence, the same question a child might put to Comrade Corbynov – “Please sir, why is the Manchester bomb so bad and the IRA ones good?” We await his answer, but the silence is deafening.
Let us end on a brighter note – a blaze of colour in fact. On Tuesday, I was invited to join the Countess de Courcy and her daughters on a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, leaving Barchester by steam train. Gardeners from all over the country have worked their green fingers to the bone creating designs that would not be unfamiliar to the denizens of a drug-crazed Shanghai opium den (so I am reliably informed), with very little sign of formal parterres and municipal planting we tend to favour. The roses were lovely and the cactus stand an inspiration. It was a relief to rest one’s eyes in the tea tent.
“Do you like Mr. Kipling?” said the countess, offering a plate brimming with confectionary.
“I don’t know, I’ve never kippled,” I replied, which sent the De Courcy girls giggling.
Not a patch on my hobnobs. The Earl Grey was a little peely-wally too.
Well, there is much to do so I must get on. The gargoyles need buffing up and Dean Trefoil is overdue his annual dusting. Mr. Slope is preaching this evening and I have taken it upon myself to vet his sermon before he mounts the pulpit. Mark 14:51 was definitely out, as was Deut. 23:1, so I gave him a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and advised working on some of the more sober passages.
So, as the inevitable charivari of time trundles along the stony pathway of mortality and the dazzling suntan of Burnham blinds voters to socialist reality, I bid you all adieu until next week. Chins up, keep smiling!