Last Friday, it chanced that I was lunching with a couple of friends in the Gay Hussar, at the top end of Greek Street, when I felt that strange sensation of recognising a member of the party at the next table. As I was finishing the Hot Cherry Soup, the penny dropped. It was Jacob Rees Mogg, MP. He was tucking heartily into the Smoked Swan's Breast on Scholet, which is always a safe bet. Accidentally, our glances met; and in a couple of moments, our two groups were chatting amicably. You know how such things happen. Jacob explained that one reason for his presence was to give the restaurant, as custom prescribes, a copy of a book he had just published. I should explain to transpontine readers that in the Gay Hussar, traditionally the eatery of choice for those of a particular political tendency, one contributes a copy of one's own publications to the already large collection of the literary endeavours of other members of The Party over the decades.
Conversation settled into Jacob's memories of his old School. Seeing that we were all clerics deservedly enjoying a leisurely day off, he mentioned Fr Alexander Sherbrooke, Rector of the Catholic Parish Church round the corner. "Just within these four walls" he said, "let me tell you something I've heard about when Fr Alexander and Archbishop Nichols were at School together ... ".
"Hang on" said an Ordinariate priest sitting to my left, "I didn't know Nichols was at Eton". Jacob glanced quickly round to check that no stranger was eavesdropping. "No," he said. "They managed to keep it out of his Wikipedia entry. Wrong image. But he was, and he was in the same House as Fr Alexander. More than that, he was Fr Alexander's fag. Rather a cheeky fag, in fact."
I mused silently on how elegantly, just as an Etonian would, the Archbishop had handled the Scalfarigate question on the Beeb that morning, and the waiter refilled our glasses (I suspect he hoped we might soon be gone, because it was past 3 o'clock). When he had left our tables, Jacob continued "I don't think he's ever really forgiven him." "Forgiven him? What on earth for?" we all cried. "Well", said Jacob, "I think the reason is ... well ... to be blunt ... I think Fr Alexander caned Vincent quite a lot, especially whenever he got lippy ... that's why the Cardinal's so cautious nowadays in everything he says ..."
Ah, School days, happy days, the happiest of our lives! Yes? Quanta et qualia fuerunt illa Sabbata ...
Did you know that the good old Anglo-Catholic Hymn I'll sing a song to Mary, the Mother of my God ... goes beautifully to the tune of the Eton Boating Song? I got that idea from the late Fr Melrose of S Giles, Reading. I bet it rejoices the heart of Eton's devout and Royal Founder St Henry VIII.
Num risistis? Eheu!
A very holy and happy Easter to all readers except Mr Scalfari. Hi there, Tucho!