Meditation and Reflection

“I always wonder where those who call themselves ‘Progressive’ are progressing to”

Goodness! Well here in Barchester we are preparing for ‘World Peas Day’ and it promises to be a splendid, inclusive event! Mrs. Giblets (our cook) and I have been preparing our pottage for the last three days and it is bubbling away nicely even as I scribble. It now has the consistency of concrete, just the job for providing wholesome nourishment and touching up crumbling masonry. Signora Neroni has promised to bring along some Faggioli (to Mr. Slope’s delight) and the well-known Electric Magic Lantern celebrity chef, Ainsley Haricot, is certain to be the toast of the town when he shows us what he can rustle up in the Market Square. Mr. Bunce and the old gentlemen at Hiram’s Hospital will be on duty to show visitors how skilfully they use their dibbers in the greenhouse. The Cathedral Choir will serenade us with Mr. Harding’s setting of ‘Pease Pudding Hot’ (to the tune of ‘Zadok the Priest’) and I understand, for a small consideration, Mrs. Quiverful’s dumplings may be sampled. The whole county will no doubt be there to see actor Sean Bean cut the ribbon and declare it, “A reet good do!”

Of course, with so many people milling around we will have to be security-conscious. Events in New York have raised awareness, so every litter bin will have to be checked for explosive devices. For this task we shall employ the children of Dr. Wortle’s School, offering a shilling for every bomb found. It will be rather like an Easter Egg hunt (albeit with a Kinder-Surprise). Rather unkindly, the Archdeacon suggested we ‘out-source’ this task to Belgium, where children are now deemed more expendable.

Mr. Slope was in a tizzy the other day having read in The Jupiter of our new Prime Minister’s determination not to allow any more refuge-invaders to come to these shores. It appears he has been spending a lot of his spare time helping convert an old Gentleman’s convenience (on the corner of Bobdown Lane and Noflies Alley) into a temporary hostel for the incomers, cottage-style of course, under the guidance of a Mr. Llewelyn Bowen, an avant-garde designer. He feels his efforts have been in vain. I managed to cheer him up by pointing out that, as more invaders flock to Italy, more Italians are leaving the country looking for a place to live. Perhaps some strapping gondoliers might be persuaded to find la dolce vita in Barchester canal, bringing their poles with them? This immediately brought colour to his cheeks, as one may imagine, and he went off to place advertisements in Corriere della Sera, The Jupiter and Tugboat Quarterly.

I always wonder where those who call themselves ‘Progressive’ are progressing to – what is their final destination, and once they reach it, do they stop being ‘Progressives’ and become ‘Regressives’? The present pope, I think, is one of these creatures. His latest wheeze, to allow divorcees to receive communion, is surely contra dogma, even if it wins plaudits from the liberally-inclined. None of my business of course, for Pope Francis dances to a different tune from the one bashed out on the Palace harmonium, but it does strike me as odd. Is this more St. Marx? Has he gone where Engels fears not to tread? Is he a mole, and if so, for whom? To be blunt, is he the Sixth Man?

At Plumstead on Wednesday evening, the Archdeacon sallied forth, as dessert was served, on the subject of Comrade Corbynov. He was positively chortling with glee:

“I see the Bolsheviks who now dominate the Labour Party have formed themselves into ‘COMICTERN’, dedicated to making themselves look foolish the world over. At least they subscribe to Our Lord’s words, ‘Suffer little children…’ for they have just launched a new youth wing – the Tiny Trots – to inculcate the joy of hair shirts and lentils for generations to come.”

“Hush, my dear,” interjected the saintly Mrs. Grantly, “for there are many who believe in Mr. C.”

“Hah!” snorted the Archdeacon, his face turning puce. “There are those who believe in the tooth fairy, too, and much good may it do them!”

I failed to see what Esther Rantzen had to do with it – though politics and fairy tales are not altogether unrelated. Perhaps I should have invited Esther to our forthcoming event – if I recall, she does a great line in naughty vegetables, but then her child-line activities might get in the way of our bomb-finding ones. As my Lord the Bishop would say, ‘May the Peas of our Lord be always with you.’ Adieu, dear things, until the Archangel of Mirth once again boards the post-chaise of Destiny and rides to the Coaching Inn of next Friday, adieu!