Last year, I printed the first half of this piece, as below, but never got round to getting the second half out of storage. I plan to unveil it in two days' time.
"Be careful what you say to Jill", Fr Spikenard had murmured to me as his wife was out of the room and doubtlessly powdering her extremity. I had come down to Barchester to pay them a spring visit, and to see how the Barchester Ordinariate Group was flourishing. "She's in a foul mood ... some 'liberal' Catholic journalist has just written that the Ordinariate is a Damp Squib, and she wants blood". I was not surprised; even when we were all in the Church of England the womenfolk of our movement were combative far beyond us chaps. So, as we made our way, for a pre-lunch stroll, to the Botanical Gardens (constructed in the old Kitchen Garden of the Bishop's Palace: modern Anglican bishops, despite their impeccably 'Green' credentials, prefer the Waitrose delivery van to the employment of gardeners and under-gardeners), I let the other two do the talking. Jill was full of what, in her view, "the Ordinary should do" to put Catholic journals, Catholic journalists, Catholic basset hounds, Catholic whatevers, in what she noisily but imprecisely called 'their place'. "My dear", urged her spouse, "do be careful what you say. The Monsignore, poor chap, has to get on with these people". Jill swiveled gracefully on the heel of her left foot and, perfectly balanced, delivered with her right foot what I can only call a practised kick to her husband's left ankle. "Don't you mydear me, you ... you ... you ... husband", she purred. I felt that, whatever the risks, it was my duty to provide a distraction from this developing 'domestic'. So ...
"So how are you getting on with your three o'clock slot on Sunday afternoons in the the Sacred Heart?" I hastily and heartily enquired. Fr Spikenard let out a roar of laughter ... he always was noisy in his mirth, even when, as now, he was in acute pain. "None of that now. We've really fallen on our feet". We had got as far as the Carnivorous Plants House; he bent momentarily to examine a Drosera erythrogyne, which, red in tooth and claw, was terminating a small fly (and to rub his ankle). "Mercifully, the old Bishop of Hogglestock retired, and we got a new one. Another really alpha-plus Mennini appointment." "Anyone would have been better than that nasty old * *." said Jill. She is not the easiest of women to please. Thank God that I ... er ... Her husband was less reserved. "Absolutely marvellous bloke. The first thing he did was to give us S Philomena's ... lock, stock, and barrel, church, presbytery, school, parish endowments, clerical stipend, and all." S Philomena's Barchester, as readers of Mgr Knox will know, is a glorious extravaganza in High Puginesque; the 'Mr Roodscreen' credited with its design is usually thought to be a pseudonym for old A W himself. "It needed a lot of work", said Jill. "We had to get back the roodscreen from some nice sensible high church Methodists who gave it a home when the Romans threw it out in the early seventies, and to reverse the complete vandalisation of the Sanctuary". "That must have cost you a pretty penny", I suggested. With a modest, triumphant smile, but withal a noticeable limp, Fr Colin remarked, as he led us on to the Cactus House, "As the Bishop suggested, I got together with the Latin Mass Society group in Barchester and we shared the costs. I'll show you the result after lunch".
"You see, this is how we divide up Sunday", he went on to explain. "9.30, I celebrate a Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form for their lot. Then, at 11, I do the Anglican Use solemnly for our lot from S Gregory's. I don't think most of either congregation can spot much difference between the two rites ... the congregations are getting more and more interchangeable ... E and B at 6 ... the Saturday Vigil Mass I retained as a 1970s retro period piece for those who like that sort of thing; it's celebrated for me by an aged retired monsignore ... claims to have been a peritus at the Council of Vienne ... all the authentic rituals of circa 1972 ... archaic ladies with jangly necklaces as Eucharistic Ministers ... sub-orthodox ditties chosen by a 'Liturgy Committee' all in their eighties ... girl servers ... ". "They have trouble keeping those", said Jill, with glee. Her bloodlust appeared to have abated. "The girls soon realise there are better things on offer and buy themselves mantillas and go to the Sunday Masses instead, so as to watch the rather nice-looking boys we have in our serving teams ... I think this year's Chartres Pilgrimage may result in our first engagement ... wonder what their children will be like ... S Pius V crossed with Thomas Cranmer ... ". "Mutual Enrichment", I helpfully suggested, first having checked that my ankles were out of her range.
At this point a most unwanted interruption broke in upon our idyll. From the other side of a large and undisciplined Agave americana 'Variegata' came the sound of a loud and confident voice. It was extremely arrogant, cut-glass and English Establishment; and had all the hallmarks of being an accent, and a timbre, picked up, not from m'tutor at a large school near Slough, but from an expensive elocutionist. The sort of accent Americans can't make up their minds whether they 'just love', or totally hate. The vegetable monstrosity itself seemed to shrink under the burden of the assertive decibels. Then emerged the dapper figure of a carefully groomed gentleman dressed as a bishop. He was accompanied by what was clearly a gaggle of American clergywomen. "Armitage Shanks" hissed Jill under her breath. Her foot (her right foot) began to quiver.
Can this really be the Right Reverend the Father in God the eighty third Lord Bishop of Barchester, Armitage Jefferson Millhouse Shanks, in propria persona? Continued after tomorrow.