Is Christmas becoming a second silly season? It would seem so, judging from the bogus fuss stoked up by the tabloids and the anti-“PC gone mad” brigade about its supposed “banning”. And now the diverting spectacle of a senior Anglican bishop allegedly sitting uninvited in the back of a Mercedes parked outside a City pub in – of all places! – Crucifix Lane, throwing the owner’s childrens’ toys out of the window and solemnly announcing: “I am the Bishop of Southwark. It’s what I do”. The unfortunate bishop is said to have been pulled out of the car, fell and bumped his head, wandered off, and was later found in a confused state on the doorstep of his home, Bishop’s House, Tooting Bec. He had apparently been at an ambassadorial drinks party where one of the other guests was Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the chief MI5 spook. Maybe she had been fingering him over the sherry and nibbles, and he had decided as a first assignment to test his cover by enacting the Gifts of the Magi story in reverse. All very odd. And, as the bishop is on the liberal, pro-gay wing of the C of E [though said by his junior clergy to be a “disciplinarian”], a splendid opening for the po-faced evangelical Anne Atkins mob to pile in and give a new twist to the time-honoured phrase “bashing the bishop”.
This tit-bit in this morning’s news is of personal interest because many years ago my partner and I considered buying Bishop’s House, which the Church Commissioners were then thinking of selling. We were greatly attracted by the elegant, early 19th century residence, though not by the neighbourhood, and decided against the purchase when the then Bishop’s wife let slip that she felt uneasy about her small children if they had not arrived home from school by tea-time.