As I sit reclining in badger fur backed solid oak chair so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, my mind cannot help but to wrestle my be-trunked consciousness over the canvas pass the referee and onto the ropes of one of the most contentious issues ever to loom large over the peaceful villages and cul-de-sacs of Biffordshire. Not, as more local readers might expect the hullabaloo which had engorged at the Harvest Festival evensong last Sunday when Mrs Arbuthnot’s contribution to the altar display of a small tin of marrowfat peas was deemed below par by Mr Handcuff the organist. Mr Handcuff, I should explain, is a proud grower of both marrows and peas and he seemed to take Mrs Arbuthnot’s contribution as a personal slight as to the greenness of his fingers. Willy Arbuthnot, Mrs Arbuthnot’s asthmatic husband, had taken great delight in ribbing Mr Handcuff, between wheezes, for his distinct lack of plump vegetables at last year’s Harvest Festival following a season where my organist’s charges had been attacked and eaten by a rare strain of Tsetse fly, which had escaped from the nearby Whoft Tropical Diseases lab.
I was certain that Mrs Arbuthnot had not meant to flagrantly remind Mr Handcuff of that summer’s vegetable failings by placing the tin of marrowfat peas so prominently at the front of the altar, but it did make for a rather frosty rendition of Plough The Fields and Scatter later on during Harvest evensong.
No, my thoughts were rather less on vegetable-based ecclesiastical matters and more on the dreadful shadow which has been hanging over our once great nation for these past three years; Brexit. I was granted an audience with Boris Johnson once, just after he ascended to be Mayor of London as he stopped off in Cum-on-the-Wold for a book signing. He wasn’t a book he had wrote you understand but rather the day centred on him signing other people’s books. Something, he seemed to think, which would ingratiate himself to his growing army of rural fans. His gait and general demeanour did appear to me as if someone had plucked the largest and ripest damson plum from the garden and had fashioned some hair from a shredded wheat biscuit before putting it on a stage and calling it Mayor.
Not that Mr Corbyn was any more of a statesman. He had visited Whoft Working Men’s Club many years before when I had been a lowly parish priest. My work in helping fallen women from the county back on their feet had not gone unnoticed in the corridors of power it seemed, and following his visit he asked to see the shed I had converted into a dormitory to house these poor harridans. He was impressed with the stacking system I had devised allowing me to comfortably accommodate up to 80 fallen women at any one time. However, I noticed with abject horror that throughout his visit he had been wearing carpet slippers and in breaks during our conversation had been petting a Pipistrelle bat which appeared to have made a nest for itself in his jacket top pocket.
Of course, for many of the young whelps of the village, it has also been back to school time. And as I sat reclining, I noticed poor Mrs Buktu from the recently constructed Danny Dyer Housing estate trying to get her son Tim off to his first day at big school. I had prayed for the poor afflicted soul. Having been born with smooth emerald-green skin and being quite limbless would be a challenge for even the doughtiest characters among us. I know the impoverished Mrs Buktu had had a terrible time trying to find a suitable school uniform for the lad and had improvised by sewing his school badge onto an old hessian potato sack. At least the young Tim Buktu was a now a little more mobile thanks to the skateboard his loving mother had managed to strap to his stump. I did fear for the boy, knowing full well how cruel children can be when presented with someone whose characteristics might only, in a very small way, differ to their own.
My train of thought was interrupted somewhat by Gumpert, my lithe South American home help who was seeing his house guest of the past two nights to the front door. I have to say I had been very proud of how my taut domestic had welcomed the new Gary Lineker Comprehensive School Headteacher, Mr Groan, into the parish. Mr Groan had moved down from the Scottish Island of Buttock to start a new life in Biffordshire and had struck up an instant, if a little unlikely, friendship with my muscular aide. Gumpert had certainly thrown himself eagerly into helping Mr Groan devise some lesson plans for the forthcoming Michaelmas term, judging by the whoops of near ecstasy and the late-night thrashing about emanating from Gumpert’s quarters.
Gumpert had by now completely derailed my train of thought by moodily stomping into my nook, as he did so dripping water all over the Persian deep shag rug so kindly provided to me by my parishioners. Following him downstairs, I could see that he had been attempting to hammer a picture hook into the hall wall. Clearly, he had been attempting to hang a portrait of his country’s much revered military president, Dr Oetker. I had thought the good doctor had been one of the reasons why Gumpert fled to Biffordshire in the first place, but with water pouring out of the pipe which Gumpert had struck I didn’t think it was perhaps the time nor the place to discuss the recent political turmoil so afflicting his native lands. Suddenly, a beam of ethereal light shone through the kitchen window and iridised what appeared to be a brass tap under the sink. The stop cock! Why, of course! By turning the stop cock a few centimetres to the left I could temporarily close off the water supply to the parochial house saving the ornaments and the Egyptian rat hair hall rug, so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, from a sodden downpour. Verily, the Lord doth move in mysterious ways!
Archbishop Robert Carolgees will be appearing on Good God! the biblically-based Channel Five game show on Monday afternoon at 3pm. Regrettably, asthmatics will not be permitted into the studio.
As I sat reclining in the solid oak and beaver fur lined study chair so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, I found my mind wandering restlessly toward the subject of the church’s view of Halloween which Biffordshirians of all ages had been enthusiastically preparing for.
It is, of course, when all the souls of the dead are supposed to rise again to walk the earth and, demonic overtones aside, I must admit it is a season I rather enjoy.
I got very much into, and I am certain dear readers will excuse the pun, the spirit of the season by settling down the evening before to watch one of the latest horror releases on Nutflex, which Gumpert kindly installed onto my iPad for me.
Nutflex, my lithe South American home help reliably informed me, was free to view although I noticed from the account settings that he had only quite recently paid a fee for several Greco Roman wrestling films; a genre I know he has a great passion for.
However, before I could even choose a Nutflex film to settle down in front of, my evening was disturbed by my home help, who, in a state of clear agitation, had grabbed my iPad, so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, and had shoved it to one side to gesticulate down towards the front door.
Already that day I had had to suspend my enjoyment of the Times crossword, four down had me in knots from before breakfast time – the clue was ‘Upstairs Lubricant’, KY something, e, l, l, something, and I was determined to crack it before supper.
The chance, however, of the crossword coming to a successful conclusion had been wrestled from my control by Gumpert who, as he was to do later that evening, had interrupted my musings to indicate that something was afoot in the household.
He grumpily mumbled to me that a parishioner had knocked at the door and that he had let them into the hall, a rare example of him dispensing one of his supposed duties as my home help.
There, looking rather forlorn on the hall Persian rug, so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, was Mrs Crudité and her young son Arthur. Poor Arthur was hiding beneath his mother’s skirts and was trembling and crying in clear distress.
I ushered the pair through to the drawing room, where Mrs Crudité managed to bring the fruit of her rather overactive loins, Arthur, I should explain, was the 11th child she had borne in just over 13 years, to the front of her pleated skirt.
Mrs Crudité was not a regular churchgoer you understand but poor Arthur’s reputation did rather precede him. I believe the moniker ‘pumpkin boy’ had been rather unimaginatively given to the trembling youth by his peers and his condition, it would appear, had worsened.
Quite why Mrs Crudité had decided to dye the unfortunate youngsters’ hair green and tie it up in a tight knot was lost on me. Although I am certainly no expert in gourds and squashes it did appear to my untrained eye that her actions, if anything, had made poor Arthur with his bright orange and puffy leathery face even more pumpkin like than it perhaps could have been.
I had to explain to Mrs Crudité that the Lord had not blessed me with healing hands and suggested she tried Dr Woo the Chinese acupuncturist who had recently moved to the village from the foothills of Szechuan province.
I could recommend Dr Woo’s services with some gusto as over the past few weeks he had been a regular visitor to the parochial house.
Gumpert, I should explain, suffers terribly with his lower back and inner thighs and it appeared Dr Woo’s healing hands had worked wonders on my sinewy South American aide.
It had taken many sessions to cure the ailing Gumpert and his healing hadn’t been without its sacrifices and exertions given the slow moans and banging emanating from Gumpert’s room, often well into the small hours.
I would often bump into Dr Woo on the way to breakfast and the poor man had rather developed a limp of his own, due in part I was certain of the enthusiastic effort and interest he was taking in Gumpert’s thighs and lower back.
With Mrs Crudité dealt with my mind turned back to that four down problem, but as mentioned my evening was to be disturbed once more.
As I settled down to enjoy my Nutflex film Gumpert had burst angrily into my study to indicate that some small children were at the door of the parochial house. Peering down at them from the top of the stairs, I could see three children from the newly constructed Danny Dyer estate on the edge of the village.
One I could see had been wrapped in toilet paper, another had scrawled red lipstick all over his face, while a third appeared to be dressed as the Conservative MP for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg.
My heart suddenly lurched forward as I realised the trio were trick or treaters and knowing the Danny Dyer estate as I did I realised that without a treat the trick would likely to be pernicious on the household. Not having any confectionary to hand the threat of some beastly act being employed on us by the trio was becoming ever increasingly likely.
Suddenly from behind a cloud a solid beam of lunar light burst through the front door and iridised a pack of Gumpert’s rolling tobacco which he had left on the hall table after a particularly heavy acupuncture session with Dr Woo.
My path became clear. Catching Gumpert’s gaze I indicated that he should perhaps roll one of his foul-smelling cigarillos for each our seasonally attired guests who by now were menacingly eyeing up the hall of the parochial house, packed as it is with precious ornaments many of which were a gift from my parishioners, with larcenous intent.
My concerns that the hand rolled cigarillos would not slake their thirst for confectionary fell on stony ground as the trio happily accepted a light from Gumpert before trudging around to Mr and Mrs Knightly-Stain across the way, joyously puffing away on the Columbian tobacco.
Verily, the Lord doth move in mysterious ways!