Monday, 31 January 2011

Some New Books

Some new books are coming out all about animal ethics, from Palgrave Macmillan.
in partnership with the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics headed by its Director Rev. Professor Andrew Linzey. He is one editor of the series along with Professor Priscilla Cohn, Emeritus Professor in Philosophy at Penn State University.

These cover a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, ethics, history, law, literature, linguistics, political theory, religion and science. The scope is both conceptual and practical.

Two books are out soon. One is An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory from Alasdair Cochrane and it uses political theory in relationship to animals relating to liberalism, utilitarianism, communitarianism, Marxism, and feminism. Another, An Introduction to Animals and the Law, by Joan Schaffner looks at animal law as it is evolving and also proposes how law might would look if the inherent worth of all animals was protected.

Later will come books by Andrew Knight on Animal Experiments, Claire Molloy looking at Popular Media and Animals, and Nicola Hoggard Creegan's survey of Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil.

In fact there are fifteen books in the pipeline. More information is via Samantha Calvert Marketing & PR, using, +44 (0)1782 505430 / +44 (0)7967 042050. Do look at the Oxford Centre's website.


When is Rowan Williams going to fucking well resign? His latest pathetic comments after the murder of David Kato in Uganda as recorded by the Irish Times are a disgrace themselves:

Defending Bishop Orombi, Archbishop Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, emphasised that, as with other relevant Anglican primates, Bishop Orombi’s position concerned "exclusion from ministry on grounds of behaviour, not orientation".

He continued that Mr Kato had been "named in this rotten, disgraceful Ugandan publication" – the Rolling Stone newspaper in Kampala – in which "effectively, his murder had been called for."

It illustrated, he said, that "words have results . . . certainly a lesson all need to learn".

Yeah. The rag is rotten. So is Orombi rotten - and that's the point. And calling for something hardly excuses it; is that the implication, Archbishop, really? Are people like 'sheep'?

Honestly, it's that old one again, behaviour not orientation. A fine distinction indeed and utter nonsense. It's like when Williams went on about lifestyle choices. He doesn't get it but then he doesn't want to get it because of the company he'd like to keep. Such follows his earlier rather pathetic statement when he stated:

Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide.

No it hasn't. They have homophobia deep in their cultural and personal veins; think of the former Archbishop of Nigeria and his view of the Muslims not having a monopoly on all the violence.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

From the Other Point of View

Interesting service this morning. The service taker divides her time between Unitarian and Anglican worship, and contrasted the sometimes more charitable and communal attitude of (Anglican) Christians over Unitarians. It is an argument I have often made myself, that in not having a creed (Unitarians reject creeds) you get other forms of producing in-group and out-group techniques (as she put it) or, as I might put it, creeds by the back door.

I think that the attitude, that I do this job and that's it, or I sit here and won't budge ever, is something you can find anywhere, not just in a very long established Unitarian congregation, but such an attitude can be fed by a bloody-minded individualism.

We had a couple of visitors, one of whom was looking for a social contact we cannot provide simply because we don't have the numbers or his interests, and he noted that Vineyard churches do these things. They do, like having walking groups, but his dilemma was that he doesn't have the beliefs that they have (and for someone we've never seen before, he was well up on Unitarians in the United States, for example). Well, that is the point: that for all their behavioural sins, Unitarians often are where they are because they do not have the beliefs that can lead to credal affirmations, or prefer individualism as such.

But there is then the other side of the argument, and the one heard today is the one I also hold. Unitarians therefore have to be self-critical and not allow individualism to be all triumphant, otherwise (and these are my words) it becomes an excuse for a religion rather than a means to broader religion.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Revisionist of a Radical Search

Probably the core of the problem for Theo Hobson has been the Church of England's establishment. He has called for a liberal Christianity that seems to be impossible inside the Church of England, and that anyone on that side of the argument is on a loser. He wanted an "anarchic, post-ecclesial Christian culture" in religion, and the best he could expect to find in Britain was:

...a new, more radical, liberal Christianity that affirmed secular liberalism and was wary of institutional orthodoxy. In place of the traditional church, I proposed a loose culture of informal meetings, celebratory events, artistic expressions of faith – a new, freestyle religious culture.

Now the puzzle is that I am an attender in such a movement, and it is called the Unitarian Church. I suspect, however, that although Unitarians embrace secular liberalism and are wary of institutional orthodoxy, he would also find them lacking in terms of informal meetings, the celebratory and the artistic. It is, after all, a long existing Church, and it also has a Puritan shadow - a bad thing, certainly, but provides some useful tramlines once they are transformed.

He would not be Unitarian for the same reason he is not Quaker, because they [comment]:

throw out the baby Jesus with the bathwater of dogmatism.

Having moved to the United States, he is now happier with The Episcopal Church. It is fresher and forms (most of) its identity with a bolder approach and pioneer of a form of liberal Christianity.

The same contrast can be made between American Unitarian Universalism and British Unitarianism. The American Unitarian product has more argument, more bite, a better sense of political identity and social purpose than its comparatively stuffy British counterpart.

Why so? First because there is a bigger social base of churchgoing in the United States that allows for more risk. It is easier to grow once the recipe is right and the Unitarian Universalist Association has shown steady growth. Secondly the history of denominational competition allows for a more specific identity in the religious supermarket - this attitude affects both Unitarians and Episcopalians.

Actually, Theo Hobson didn't look hard enough. There are a myriad of little groups in Britain that would have met his criteria, ignoring Unitarians and Quakers. My last entry referred to one such, and now I await to see how another such group develops - the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, now that its Latin Rite fantasists have jumped ship from their creation.

The fact is, of course, that The Episcopal Church retains all the doctrines and dogmas of Anglicanism. It is socially inclusive, and it has a wider interpretation, but it remains at core conserving. Whereas I like the idea of the Liberal Rite and then the liberal aspect of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church (the part that has continued - and here is its news) I did conclude that for me the Open Episcopal Church is just the same thing, observing the Nicene Creed for example. The OEC is probably the equivalent of a consistent liberal leaning The Episcopal Church in Britain. Actually, the Scottish Episcopal Church isn't so far away from this. Now I don't observe the Nicene Creed, because in simple terms I don't just interpret it I disagree with it, and even the Apostles' Creed involves active disagreement. In fact I am no longer Jesus centred in any obvious sense (though I've volunteered to take the Easter Day service at Hull) and indeed I embrace secular science and social science.

Clearly Theo Hobson has become a revisionist of his own radical search.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Presbyter at Large

Simon Mapp is an example of a fully ordained priest who now goes outside the main Churches and denominations in order to get some fresh air theologically and ethically. He is active in Sea of Faith and combines that with a fairly conserving approach to liturgical practice.

His website is available here, and exists in its early stages. He writes:

As a minister in the Open Episcopal Church and member of the 'Sea of Faith Network' I offer a unique ministry of both traditional catholic services as well as non-traditional/ christian humanist services.

I have no church building and follow John Wesley's example: 'The world is my parish'.

I offer funeral ministry, relationship blessings to LGBT couples, baptisms and preaching appointments at the invitation at local churches.

The Open Episcopal Church has origins with Bishop Jonathan Blake who left the Church of England to go it alone.
On his webpage about that Church he writes:

We offer the sacraments to everyone anywhere - no one is every refused or turned away. We are a truly inclusive Church.

Through much of my adult life, certainly to date, I have seen Christianity to be anything but the above; rather it has proven to be closed, dogmatic, suffocating and oppressive - not allowing for free thought, challenge and open discussion.

The Complete Story (So Far)

THIS is the complete story mentioned in my previous blog entry: in other words, this is a reposting of the story episodes I did. The only difference is I've increased the spacing. You can read it all here, or perhaps scroll down and read the last installment and anyone might help me and suggest how it all ends. When I do the final episode I'll put the complete thing on to my website.

The local church holds a midweek service, after which the parish priest visits the Church of England primary school. Midweek sermons have to be brief, as the communion service should last no more than half an hour. There were about thirteen people present, which wasn't unusual.

So the priest, Reverend Alan Peart, 51, said his sermon would be the shortest ever, indeed consist of single words only by which he'd like to hear responses from the congregation of hymn titles or other relevant music.

"Grace," said the priest.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet thou art," sang Mrs Grace Smith, 60, sat alone.

"Excellent! Very good. Yes, Grace indeed! So next one we'll have is Pilgrim."

"To be a Pilgrim," said Mrs Eleanor Jones, 72, also sat alone.

"Yes, perhaps a bit easy that one. Cross."

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross," sang Mr Paul Wright, awkwardly, 62, alongside his wife, Carrie, 55, looking at him.

"Harder one then," said the priest. "Let's try the sea."

"Eternal Father, Strong to Save," said Mr Geoff Brown, 70, sat with his friend Mr John Jones, also 70.

"Very good Geoff. Well, a few more. Sending a letter. That's a hard one, perhaps."

"Dear Lord and Father of Mankind," said Mrs Ida Cartwright, 81, sat alongside her friend Miss Joyce Junkin, 79.

"Yeah. Very good Ida," said the priest. "Let's see, oh er. Making love our goal and..."

"Mem'ries, light the corners of my mind, misty water-coloured memories, of the way we were," immediately sang Mrs Janet Ward, 62, sat alongside Mr Peter Ward, 70, who turned slowly and stared at her.

"Yes, well," said the Reverend Peart, "I was going to say how God has a tune for every aspect of our life and world, but perhaps we'd better move on. Let us pray."

At this very same time Mrs Ward's daughter, Mrs Janice Capron, 30, housewife, once a born again Christian, and now nothing much, yet old habits die hard regarding her lapsed believing husband, was busy putting clothes into the washing machine. There was a knock on the door from their postman, Mr Peter Cornet, 55, who had some letters for them and a second bag on his person.

"Your last day," she said, noticing the other bag.

"It is," he said.

"I have a gift for you," she said. "Come in. What have you received from others?"

"Look in this bag," he said. "Three boxes of chocolates, quite a number of envelopes with money in I think, a set of some carriages for my 000 railway, a fishing reel, a fishing line, a book for birdwatchers..."

"I have two gifts for you. Come upstairs."

"Oh? Two?"

She took him into the bedroom. The bed had fresh sheets and pillows on, pulled back. "Undress," she said, and she did herself.

They got into bed, both naked, and she made skillful passionate love with him, after which he was quite exhausted, and yet had his round to continue.

"That was utterly fantastic," he said, getting out as she sat on the side of the the bed combing her hair before she got dressed herself.

"Did you enjoy that?" she asked, dressing, obviously knowing he had.

"Yes indeed. I cannot imagine what my other present is!"

"Oh yes of course," she said, and leaned over to a tube with pound coins in, released one and gave it to him.

"What's this for?" he asked.

"Your other present. No no, it's just your other present. My husband Robert said so."

"Your husband? What did your husband say?"

"When I told him that it was your last round today, and that we ought to give you a present, he said, 'Fuck him, give him a pound.'"

By this time the priest, Alan Peart, had gone into the local primary school, where he was invited in to the 28 years old Miss MacIntosh's class that included Janice Capron's 7 years old daughter, Jenny Capron, among a class of twenty children in total.

"I wonder," said Reverend Peart, "if you children can imagine going to heaven. I wonder about heaven. Would you float upwards, like head first, or is there another way to heaven? What does heaven mean?"

"Hands first," said Peter Wright, just turned 8, grandson of Paul Wright in the congregation earlier that morning.

"Oh," said the priest, who had been trying to suggest that heaven is something else. "How is that then?"

"Because they are praying, sir," said the boy clasping his hands and pushing them up into the air.

"Oh I do like that answer," said the priest. "But I wonder where we think heaven is, like is it..."

"Feet first," said Jenny Capron.

"Hello Jenny," said the priest. "Feet first?"

"Yes, because I went in the bedroom and mummy had her feet right up and her legs with no clothes shouting 'Oh God I'm coming I'm coming' and the mikman was lying on top of her stopping her otherwise she'd have gone to heaven."

Reverend Peart stood stunned, and said quickly, thinking of when he met Janice Capron, "I'm thinking heaven isn't up there, Janice, but is deep inside us. Heaven is, er, being good. Let's talk about being good, everyone."

He looked at Miss MacIntosh who had her hand over her mouth, because she was giggling and looking through the corners of her eyes at Reverend Alan.

The priest of the parish of Blue Velvet, Reverend Alan Peart, 51, was chairing an extraordinary PCC meeting after one of the churchwardens had been found guilty of murder a week ago and just been sentenced the previous day. The work of the church obviously had to go on, and although some people had made a few off the cuff comments to the press already, the meeting was to co-ordinate some sort of collective response and to look ahead.

"He just wasn't the person we thought he was," the vicar said. "We now know she must have covered up for him, but to kill a cold caller at the front door with his spanner was truly shocking. But look, his wife will come back to us and we should show her every generosity. To some extent, she was fortunate he did not turn on her."

"What a bastard," said one in attendance, Mr Edward Conder, 55.

The other churchwarden, Mr Geoffrey Brown, 70, said, "He did go on and on and on about junk mail, cold calling telephone calls, email spam, and people knocking on the door just to sell things. He was utterly fed up with the junk of life, and even recycling was junk that should never have existed in the first place."

The priest said, "Yes, but it's hardly the reason to open your front door and hit a caller over the head with your hefty variable spanner, just because you were mending your bicycle at the time and were distracted."

"Just a bastard," said the man again.

"You are - were - his neighbour," he said to Mr Conder. "How is Mrs Finch?"

"I haven't seen her yet. What a bastard."

"Feelings are going to run high; lots of people with lots of strong reactions - like you Ted - and this is where we have to watch ourselves."

"He's still a bastard."

A lay reader, Dr. Colin Towns, 72, said, "We might also have to watch our language."

Mr Conder insisted: "He's a right bastard because time and time again over the years I went round to his back door and asked if I could borrow a spanner and every time he said he hadn't got one."

"Well," said the priest, "I think we've exhausted that subject for now. Send the press to me if necessary. OK, something more pleasant now - Back to Church Sunday. For example, Mrs Ward, hello Mrs Ward, your daughter Janice Capron used to come to this church and now we never see her. There are all sorts of people who we need to invite back."

"It was her birthday last week," said Mrs Janet Ward, 62.

"Oh?" asked the priest. "Did you get her a present, perhaps something to remind them of coming to church?"

"No, sorry vicar. Peter and I bought her a medium length bath towel."

"Why?" asked Dr. Towns.

"To use after a bath," said Mr Jonathan Pantry, 50.

"Yes I know that. It doesn't seem much of a present," said Dr. Towns.

"Can we get on?" asked Miss Ida Cartwright, 81.

"It was to improve their relationship," said Mrs Ward.

"Hey? Do say more," said Dr. Towns.

There were some groans.

"Well you know that we lost the doctor's surgery."

"We need to campaign about that as a PCC: we need a surgery," said Mr Pantry.

"So Eugene, her husband, went to the vet about their difficulties and he said he doubted he would be much use but suggested that on a hot day with cattle they flap a towel and this helps the cow relax."

"I have to say," added Dr. Towns, "that for once this is an interesting PCC meeting. Go on, I'm intrigued. Is this something we can all do?"

"This is hardly relevant," said Miss Ida Cartwright. "But how come a towel?"

"I think this might be more of a confidential, pastoral matter," said Reverend Peart.

"No it's not, because they asked the milkman to help them with the towel. And that towel didn't work when the milkman flapped it for them."

"Well, is it relevant to this meeting?" asked Reverend Peart.

"They might come back to church if they are a happy couple," said Dr. Towns.

Mrs Ward continued: "Janice felt no better from it. There was no pleasure from the milkman stood above them cooling them down."

"So you bought them a bigger one," said Dr. Towns.

"A bit smaller, actually, and it worked."

"It made her cooler still?" asked Dr. Towns.

"Well, last week they went back to the vet who then talked about virility in healthy, fitter cattle. And the milkman walks loads every day, in and out of his van. So when they got the towel we bought them the milkman swapped roles with her husband, and Eugene flapped the towel, and she said it was wonderful."

"How humiliating for Mr Capron," said Dr. Towns.

"No no. He because he was able to say to the milkman, 'Now that's how you flap a towel,' though I think really it's because we bought them a better towel. So my daughter is much happier."

"Vicar," said Miss Ida Cartwright, "Did I see some new towels on your own washing line?"

"Sales of towels in the town this week have never been higher," said Mrs Jennie camp, 48, a local shopkeeper.

"I really think we must continue and get on with the agenda," said Reverend Peart. "It's nine o'clock already and I would like to be doing other things."

So the meeting continued for another thirty minutes, and Dr. Towns left looking quite bored again.

The Chickens at Blue Velvet

We need to go back in time one day to understand a little more about the previous episode in the Blue Velvet parish saga. The first episode was about a midweek morning. Remember that this is the Blue Velvet parish, so those of a younger mind or with a delicate religion may not believe it all.

It was mid-afternoon. A semi-dressed Reverend Alan Peart, 51, was flapping a towel over Mrs Janice Capron, 31, lying full length on his double bed with the sheets completely to the side, she giggling and saying that she was very hot. She added, "I'd like to use your new shower." This was the one finally put in by the Church authorities.

"I'll get on with some work - the agenda and preparation for a difficult PCC meeting tomorrow in the Church Hall," he replied, and he stopped flapping the towel.

She sat up and took it off him. She said, "If you want me to come more often, you'd better have some reasons for our gossiping locals."

"Back to Church Sunday, I'll put it on the agenda."

"I'm not coming to your church. Not me, nor Eugene. Especially not Eugene."

"I know that, it's just like, then, you're clearly someone else. Someone to attract back. It's cover. I'm pleased though you want to come back here again - not just a delayed birthday present."

"I'll come again with you," she said. "OK. Do that, but we need something else."

"Domestic work?" Julia is busy in her parish, so, you know, like, I am busy, could do with domestic help, that sort of thing."

"Too obvious and people don't have me down as the domestic sort."

"You, a kept housewife?"

"Tell you what. Ask my mother about chickens. When I was a girl I used to do everything with the family chickens; I used to love my chickens: loved the eggs and, when a bit older, I even used to go and wring their necks."


"So you start to keep chickens. I can then come and look after them. Everyone of my mum's generation knows about me and the chickens. Then I can even do the vacuuming too."

"Where can I get them from?"

"Oh my mate Johnny, the milkman, he will bring them for you - a cockerel and hens; he'll even make the compound and henhouse like after he's done his round each day. I'll tell him; he'll do you it all. Do you know where he is this afternoon?"

"No. Of course I don't. Do you?"

"Buying loads of towels wholesale, loads of people in this town suddenly want towels!"

At the next weekday service, Reverend Peart stood in front of the congregation. "Just an addition to the announcements, then; I'm going to put part of the vicarage garden over to keeping chickens. Doing my bit for animal welfare, and should be all done and ready for Animal Welfare Sunday some weeks ahead."

Mr Peter Ward, 70, sat alongside Mrs Janet Ward, 62, raised his hand. "I can tell you everything you need to know about chickens, Reverend. We used to keep them."

"Oh, perhaps you or... maybe you can help me set up and look after the chickens? Yes, I mean, yes you could help me perhaps or..."

Mrs Janet Ward said, "My daughter loved those chickens when we had them, and I bet she can still tell you all about chickens too, Reverend. It might even be a way to get her to come back to church."

"What a good idea," he said. "Good good. Well that's a good thought. Rather your daughter than you, then, Peter."

"Call round to her," then, said Mr Peter Ward, turning to see his wife looking straight at him. "Yes, you see her. I'm sure she could be pleased to help."

"She'll be pleased to see you," said Mrs Ida Cartwright, 81.

"Good good. Then, then I'll go and, yep, have a word. Have a word and see what happens."

So it was that Mr Johnny Levrithe, 35, the milkman, came to the vicarage each day, with wood and materials, and tools, and an extension cable for electricity, to build a large compound for at least twenty chickens and a proud cockerel. And many a day along came Mrs Janice Capron to help, especially as she had been given a house key for when the Rev. Alan Peart was out, and sometimes both of them were there but no one was in the garden.

And so the day came when indeed twenty hens were introduced by Johnny Levrithe and Janice Capron to their new home, and a cockerel, and so yet one more cockadoodle-doo could be heard in the town at daybreak. That and the ringing of the church bells every waking hour.

It was Sunday morning, before dawn, and Janice Capron sat up in bed and took a call on her mobile phone from her husband. He would be home later that day; his dentists' conference had gone well and hoped he would not be over the limit driving home from about midday.

"I knew he was a dentist before he told me," she said.

"Oh, how come?" asked Alan Peart, coming back into the world of the awake and screwing his eyes.

"Because when we first made love I never felt a thing."

She said she would dress up and nip out to let the chickens come out of their large hutch and into their new compound for the day. He said he would get up too, for the eight o'clock service was not far off.

She was soon back and speaking to him into the shower cubicle: "The cockerel, the rooster, isn't there. He is missing. Some people might be wondering if I, you, we, have been looking after all the chickens well enough."

This played on his mind a little, and he said nothing after the eight o'clock communion, but decided to speak after the 10 am parish communion. Janice herself had looked about the streets but only on a direct route back to her house.

"Well, em, everyone," said Reverend Peart; "those of you who have been to the vicarage will have noticed the new compound and hutches for my new chickens. I was, well, very pleased to give work to people in the parish to do this - Johnny Levrithe for his skill, and Janice Capron was recommended by her mum and dad here to look after them and to tell me how to look after them. She is quite an expert, I can say."

"In quite a few things, I hear," said Mrs Ida Cartwright.

"But unfortunately I have to ask you, today, has anyone seen a cock?"

Everyone put their hands up.

"What, all of you?" he asked. "You don't all keep chickens now do you? Has there been a run on chickens? No, well, I mean has anyone seen a cock not belonging to them?"

Some women raised their hands slowly.

"When was this?" he asked.

"About five years ago, vicar," muttered Mrs Eva Carter, 64.

"Well it obviously wasn't my cock then," said Reverend Peart. "Of course I meant has anyone seen a cock recently."

Some of the younger women and most of the thinner men raised their hands.

"For goodness sake! I mean, has anyone seen my cock recently - the one Janice Capron was looking after?"

From opposite choirstalls, Miss Carolyn Matthews, 28, and Miss Janet String, 35, raised their hands slowly and both started to stare at one another. Reverend Peart had to turn around to see them as their hands slowly went down.

"Oh I don't know; where is my cock?"

"It's there, it's there," some people were saying, and all the congregation seemed to be pointing at him. He went red - but then, from around the high altar table came the cluck cluck of a proud cock, that must have been in the vestry and perhaps behind the large desk some time and must have followed him over the road from the vicarage. Plus he'd opened the little vestry window - enough for a cock to pop in and out.

Later on in the day he called at Janice Capron's and told her he'd let them move about over the garden on the Saturday, and she told him that the compound is big enough not to let them out unless he watches them. A car was heard outside - it was her husband arriving back from the conference. The front door opened and in came her husband, Mr Eugene Capron, 40. So the vicar shook hands with her husband when both were in the lounge.

"What are you doing here?" asked Mr Capron.

"My cock has been going places it shouldn't have been," said Alan Peart. "Janice has told me it should stay in its home and not rove around. Anyway, I'm just going home."

He left, and Janice said, "Helping him with the chickens. His cock was found wandering in the church."

"Ah, what did I say about him?" asked Eugene Capron, passively. "But I had a good time. Amazing new methods in oral technique while keeping people numb - reassuring all our paying patients. You've been all right?"

"I've been fine. Plenty to do with his cock and the hens. He was in a bit of a flap about his cock. Hey, you could try your new method on me as my mouth needs seeing to. It aches a bit at the moment. Could be teeth, or nerves; could be my jaw."

"Well it takes some time to do something different, new, learn the techniques. Good that you keep busy. See if your mouth aches tomorrow. You too warm? He was in a flap? Do you fancy a bit of a flap?"

The New Bishop visits Blue Velvet

After the saga of the chickens, the story continues with a visitation of the Bishop. About a week later the Right Reverend Neville Timothy Williams, 51, arrived in the town, took a walkabout, and spoke to a number of people, before presenting himself for the appointed time at the vicarage, and then took a look around the church with his priest, Reverend Alan Peart, also 51, meeting a few more people, and stayed overnight at the vicarage. It was his first visit as bishop.

Being something of an early riser the bishop, dressed and ready to start the day, knocked on the bedroom door of Alan Peart to tell him to get up and prepare for morning devotions.

The bishop was already downstairs when Alan Peart came into the kitchen. "Just a glass of milk first," said the bishop, and both having downed these he led his priest into the lounge where the bishop had two prayer books and Bible already open, and the bishop took the lead in the devotions. The bishop read from 1 Corinthians 3 (New King James Version):

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

"Jealousy and strife, and carnality," said the bishop, "sort of wrap together here, don't they, and if we go to Galatians 5..."

17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

"So for my little homily I want to talk about good behaviour, especially demanded of our ministers of religion. Now first of all, jealousy itself. We have discussed before how you might feel that I was in the same theological college as you, at the same time, doing the same course, and now I am bishop and you are not. And what is more, I am your bishop. Now your wife Julia does not live with you except maybe on some weekdays?"

"The nearest point of our parishes is 39 miles away; the vicarages are further."

"I'd say I don't like this. I would never have approved. I have not visited her yet."

At this point the front door was heard opening and shutting and then the sound of footsteps.

"Goodness me,"said the bishop, "have we an intruder?"

It was Mrs Janice Capron, 31, and she opened the lounge door and came to a dead stop herself.

"Did you leave the door unlocked last night?" Bishop Neville asked.

"No no, it's alright," said the priest.

"I have a key," she said.

"You have a key?" asked the bishop. "Why does this lady have a key?"

She answered for herself: "I look after the chickens."

"The chickens, I saw yesterday, are outside madam. Who are you? What is your name?"

"I'm Janice Capron. The feed is in the garage. The only way I get to the garage is from inside."

"And when you have fed the chickens, do you leave? And you keep the key on your person."

"I check to see if his chickens are well, and if his cock is fine - especially after it went AWOL."

"His cock went AWOL?"

"His cock and its master think alike: he came out of the vestry and went in the church the other day."

"Both of them, I presume. And then when you have checked them all, and none have gone absent without leave, then what?"

"I might wash up, do some vacuuming: housework."

"For which you are paid."

"I, er, get a payment," she said, looking across to the Reverend Peart.

"And what do you get?" asked the bishop.

"Can I say it is private?"

"No you cannot. The priest here is my representative. He is here because I am not."

"What, you were going to be here?" she asked.

"No, it is something ecclesiastical. He represents me."

"We haven't decided the pay yet," said Reverend Peart.

"I've only just started looking after them," said she.

"Well you'd better do so," said the bishop. "For now."

And she went away and through a door that led to the garage (with a car in it), and used a door to go from the garage into the garden - where she was next seen.

"Now goodness me, if that's not temptation," said the bishop, "for which there can only be jealousy and bad outcomes. Being jealous means not being satisfied with what God has given us and I think we should pray. We lead sacrificial lives, remember."

"Just a minute," said Reverend Peart. "Before you go on. What is all this, this morning?"

"What is all what?"

"This piety, Nev. You and I were never like this when we left theological college. You'd virtually lost your faith. Last time I talked to you as a vicar, you were doing the motions and don't tell me otherwise. And, for that matter, you mention Julia - she, you might remember, was the most stable of the four of us in theological college. You were the one who didn't do the decent thing for her and Sue. I was the one who married her, because I had the sacrificial values that you are now supposed to be preaching and preaching at me!"

"I think you are walking on very dangerous territory. Just remember: you are a priest-in-charge and there's no freehold here. But, er, just look at this situation. A member of your congregation comes in and finds us at our devotions. That is very important."

"You didn't know she was coming in. What's more, she is not a member of the congregation."

"Now that I did not know. But I was talking with your people yesterday, wasn't I? And what if I had not asked you to rise and be ready? That's strange isn't it. Where would you have been, when temptation arrived this morning? You see, evening meetings, up for a later working day, but this woman arrives early."

"The chickens need letting out of the hutch."

"Such a wonderful motivation, chickens."

With that, Janice Capron reappeared.

"Miss Capron," said the bishop.

"I'm Mrs Capron," said Janice; "Introduce yourself please."

The vicar spoke instead: "This is indeed Mrs Janice Capron, a daughter of two regular attenders in the congregation, and so, Mrs Capron, this is Bishop Neville Timothy Williams, the bishop for this diocese and my boss."

"I'll be going now," said Janice. "Unless you've got some washing or something."

"I'm talking to your vicar about the job you do," said the bishop.

"We'll talk about a payment for everything later, Janice," said the vicar, "but nothing now. We'll probably see your children at school this afternoon."

The bishop said, "Breakfast and a walk around town first."

"I'll make breakfast, if you like," said Janice. "Or, I tell you what, why not have breakfast at my mum and dad's. They attend lots of your things and are full of the talk of the town. They're babysitting my youngest - they love to look after the kids - so they are in. I can then do their shopping and see you all later."

The bishop said, "Very good idea."

"I'll ring them on my mobile. By the way, don't worry about the dog - he's a big softy. You two set off and they'll be ready when you arrive."

As the door opened, Mr Peter Ward, 70, was telling the dog, "Go lie down, go lie down."

In went the bishop and the vicar. Reverend Alan Peart said, "I don't believe I've been here for a meal yet, so this is very welcome."

They were taken to the kitchen, at the back of the house.

Mrs Janet Ward, 62, was sat feeding the baby with a bottle of milk, and Mr Peter Ward, having let them in, went across to take over that role as Mrs Ward approached the cooker.

"Very good to meet you all," said the Right Reverend N. T. Williams.

"Would you like a hearty breakfast?" asked Janet Ward. "My daughter Janice says the vicar loves his eggs and bacon. So would it be fruit juice to start? We do have cereals."

The priest meanwhile went over to Mr Ward. "This is Richard," said Mr Ward. "He is a year old. We can't decide whether he looks like his mum or his dad. He even looks a bit like you!"

"Fruit juice would be very good and I will eat as your priest eats," said the bishop to Mrs Ward.

So, the two guests at the table, the frying pan started to sizzle, but they were confronted with rather dirty looking glasses and dirty looking plates put in front of them, with seemingly a film of grease across the plates.

The bishop leaned across and whispered, "This is one of the trials of being a priest - entering dirty homes, putting up with dirty crockery, that sort of thing."

Alan Peart thought, surely, he could speak directly to these leading congregants of his. "Excuse me, but if I may say the glass is a little dirty?"

"I'll try another," said Mrs Ward. It was extraordinary to hear her then say that it's the best that cold water can do to clean them.

"And the plate. Can you look at both of the plates, please - and... and the other glass?" asked the Reverend.

The bishop whispered to him, "Some things you have to put up with. Don't include me."

But, again, it was the best that cold water could do. The two in holy orders looked at each other. So the bishop then asked, "Do you have a problem with the hot water? Is there any way we can help?"

At this point the front door burst open and the dog ran out to the door, distracting everyone. "Shit," Janice Capron said loudly, coming through, with the dog in front of her going backwards and trying to jump up. "You won't have washed up. Goldwater, go off, go lie down! Go on you daft dog."

Janice came straight into the kitchen; looked and paused. "Oh, you haven't started yet." She then took the plates off the table and put them in the sink, and then picked up the glasses and did the same. She turned on the hot water tap and waited for the combi-boiler to heat the water before washing these pots.

Mrs Ward said, "Janice you're wasting water and it comes on our meter."

"I told you before," said Janice, "when it comes to having guests: wash up. I've only been in one shop and I've got you some more washing up liquid."

The two clerics were later visiting the Church primary school and it was back to starting at Miss MacIntosh's class, the one that included Janice Capron's 7 years old daughter, Jenny Capron, among nineteen others.

Miss MacIntosh introduced some of the children to the bishop. "This is Penny, whose dad is a wealthy businessman."

"Hello Penny." The bishop shook Penny's delicate hand.

"This is Ruby, whose mum works in the jewellers. This is Lily, and her sister Daisy, whose dad works in the garden centre. Here is Madison, and her father came from New York in America. Ben - his family goes in for lots of hill walking. Krishnan from our Hindu family and Mohammad is from a Muslim family. Archie's dad is a skilled stonemason. Dylan's dad teaches English in the secondary school. Oscar's mother loves films. Jack's dad is an odd job man. And here is Jenny, who is Janice Capron's daughter."

"Does Jenny's mother spin wool?" asked the bishop.

"It's a female ass, isn't it? Or the name means something like white wave, sort of crashing water. Or pure white. Nice name, Jenny," said the teacher.

"She was conceived in Cornwall," said the Reverend. "It is a Cornish name."

"Oh," said Miss MacIntosh. "Cornwall. And her older brother is William, you might meet him, and the newest is Richard."

"I've met Richard. We had our breakfast at Mr and Mrs Ward's house. And very delicious it was," said Bishop Neville.

"You ate at the Wards' - with Goldwater the dog?" asked Mrs MacIntosh. "You know we don't have a doctor's surgery any more. There is only the vet and the dentist - Eugene Capron himself."

"Everything was very good," said the bishop.

The bishop continued his visit around the school, and his parish visitation more generally, assisted by his priest.

In Norton Velvet

The story continues from the previous episode with a change of location. The story began in September.

The priest of Blue Velvet, Reverend Alan Peart, 51, was walking with his wife through her parish church graveyard, with his wife Reverend Julia Peart, 45, in the parish town of Norton Velvet. She was looking out for needles and other items dropped and he had joined her, both wearing protective gloves and carrying plastic bags for deposits.

"Look," she said, "a pair of knickers left here by this new grave. It is awful what people do. Oh and that card has gone from the new grave just next to them. So you know what's happened."

"It's the old one. Some take them off and others move them to the side," he said. "Every man who's played the field knows that."

She said, "One woman will have returned home with no knickers, creating suspicion with her man, and the other with her knickers but a card inside saying the men at the Fire Station won't forget you. This graveyard is becoming a public toilet!"

"It will have been a public toilet ever since it existed," said Alan Peart. "Well they say behaviour has declined, but even Darwin looking after village affairs for his absent incumbent compromised with an evangelical when he got the drunks off the village streets. How's business?"

"Sort of religious recession," she replied.

"I met the new bishop," he then mentioned.

"What a creep," she replied.

"He was our friend once. He wasn't a creep then."

"Not mine really, not like you. Though we gave him plenty of pizzas from our evening job."

"I fancied you, and you went out with both of us, but you weren't available to any of us. So I still did you a service. And still do."

"And me you. Nobody wanted to leave theological college even single, especially non-conformists. Coming here, after an extra year, and after transferring denomination," she said. "The old bishop, he was good; he maintained the vacancy to put me near you. But this new one knows too much," she said. "He won't replace me if I move on - they'll join this lot to yours."

"Or mine to this, if I was to go," he said. "He knows far too much."

They walked to her vicarage. Sue Clark's ten year old daughter Tina was in the vicarage sat down having her lunch, saying that this afternoon they will talk about history and the coming of industry and Tina wondered how to explain it.

"Capitalism," said Alan Peart. "Say Julia got the freehold of this place."

"Never. Not now," said Julia.

"Like she owns it. And Sue was just a part time worker. Then it would be like Julia is a property owner and your mum is a worker. So she is the capitalist and your mum is a worker. Does that help you?"

"Yes, Uncle Alan," said Tina, Sue's daughter, "because my friend Hamish said his dad says capitalists screw workers and leave lots of people without jobs like his dad."

The adults looked at each other.

"Eat your egg sandwiches," said Sue. "I think you'd better have an example, like Mr Barnes, your teacher's husband, owning the furniture shop and then you have the workers who carry furniture to people's houses. It's like Mr Barnes is always on top of the furniture, with them making him money."

So Tina chomped at her egg sandwiches, with an apple and mug of tea still to go.

"Do you know what's the reading offhand this Sunday?" asked Reverend Julia of Reverend Alan.

"I do. Joshua 5 and Matthew 11."

"Is there a Bible there on the table, Tina?"

"Yes, Julia."

"You find Matthew 11 for me."

"20 to 30 verses. What does it say?" asked Alan. Julia came closer to look.

"I've got 30," said Tina. "It's about eating egg sandwiches like me. The yoke is easy and 'burden' must be about it easy to swallow."

"No, no, it's not about that, Tina. OK, I know. And what about Joshua 5?" asked Julia. "First part of the book."

"A child who can find books in the Bible!" said Alan Peart.

"Is it about cavemen?" asked Tina once she found a passage that seemed to fit. "Make flint knives and circumcise. What's circumcise?"

"Going round the world," said Sue.

"Cavemen in Egypt," said Tina, chomping. "They must have got to Egypt. Did they eat eggs as well?"

"Men have never asked for directions," said Julia. "That's why they were in the desert for forty years."

Suddenly a seemingly naked man appeared in the kitchen, as if from nowhere. All were in a flap. Julia being nearest covered Tina's eyes and put out a protective hand. Sue was the furthest away and started coming forward. Alan decided to tackle him, as if playing rugby, but was tossed away behind the man as if with a touch of his finger.

However, for all his exposure, Sue realised she could not tell if the man was circumcised or not, indeed his bare feet were joined at the toes.

"Real apologoses shit that," said the man. "Is that sand glass?"

"Would you, you whoever you are, get out of this house?" Julia speaking stated shaking, as Alan got up.

"How the hell did you get in here?" Sue asked.

"How in I got? Escapio time!" He ran off into the hallway and Alan followed him, but he was gone.

Then an equally naked appearing man and woman too appeared out of the lounge. Julia recovered Tina's eyes. "A man about eighty comes about this way?" said the athletic man who again had no individual toes. He went away but the woman, curved and medium breasted, perfectly shaped like all of these arrivals, approached the occupants. "Very apologoses," she said. "It's lovely to see these olden buildings and olden techno. Can I taps the sandglass?"

"Eighty?" asked Alan Peart.

"It's actually new double glazing," said Julia. "Why are you naked?" she asked, still shaking.

"Noes. It's what we need, all we need, warm, dry, always the same. This glass has a moist resisting vacuum has ennee. Wow. What they did do! Is your currency euro coins?"

"Pounds," said Alan, looking at her up and down.

"OK. The archetechnos outside the shop bank. Money coins from there?"

"Yes. Notes. Who are you?" Alan asked. "Who are you all?"

"Give me your hand," she said. "Just touch me." He did, under her breasts, that on closer inspection did have some sort of surfacing on them. "That's enough. Good - you goes to one of those coins archetechnos and put your hand on the top. Bye." She ran off into the hallway, and then as he followed there was no sign of anyone.

Trying to discuss what they had encountered all three went with Tina to her school but via the ATMs. Alan Peart touched the metal with his hand, and immediately the machine produced money to the amount of two hundred pounds. They all looked at each other and took the money.

So the little girl in front of the class told her teacher that she looked in the Bible and found out that cavemen went around the world and ate eggs in Egypt, and stayed there for forty years because the men didn't ask for the way out, that a man and woman with no clothes on who just appeared were chasing a man who also had no clothes on who'd just appeared, and that her sort of vicar uncle touched a cash machine and it gave him £200 without him putting a card in - and he took the money and gave it to her mum. And she said that she was told Julia is a vicar capitalist and is screwing her mum who works hard while the workers carry Mr Barnes on top of his furniture. She said too that her uncle who isn't her uncle had married her mother's friend because their new boss would not marry her. Hearing this the teacher waited until break and took some time to write a note for her parent Sue, to ask her to investigate why her daughter was fantasising so much and saying these strange things to her and in front of all the children.

Priest Shops and Plays Golf

Reverend Alan Peart was doing his rounds in the town of Blue Velvet and was accompanying Mrs Dorothy Finch, 55, to the shops. She was the wife of the imprisoned murderer, Mr James Finch, 56, and one time Churchwarden. As they walked she was telling the vicar about visiting her husband in prison and if he could travel there sometime as a visit would be appreciated.

"I can but the chaplain presumably sees him often," he said. "You know that my job is here with you."

"I find it difficult to forgive him," said Mrs Finch.

"Yes it must be difficult."

"I mean, not telling Mr Conder that he had a spanner," she said. "He is a good neighbour. I like Mr Conder," she said.

"And how are you getting on with the new computer he gave you?"

"I have it in the spare bedroom, you know, and there is so much to learn, and for a while I was going downstairs and coming upstairs again, down and up."

"Why so?" he asked.

"Because a speech bubble kept popping up on screen saying 'You've got mail' and I thought Peter Cornet must have kept finding some post for me in his bag, but there was never anything on the doormat."

They first went into the independent travel agent owned and run by Ms Holly Day, an ambitious woman of 30 already owning her own home outright and a new four wheel drive. Mrs Finch was considering her holiday, muttering that this was the first one she could have alone, and thinking she might ask friends to come along.

Reverend Peart asked Ms Day about the competition she ran. "Did anyone win the Seat Ibiza; there was a lot of interest in the town. I had three goes - £3, wow, for a car. Obviously wasn't me!"

"That's where everyone made their mistake," she said. "Mrs Cartwright won. She won a deckchair in Ibiza. It was 'Seat in Ibiza'. So I said to Ida, if she wants to sit in it, she can book a holiday through here."

"What, like, I put in £3 to win a deckchair? The brochure for the competition had a car in it!"

"And a deckchair. Down the bottom, look, on the beach. The car is just an example of a hire car when you get there."

"Ms Day, someone said that before you opened this shop, at another shop you had, someone won a Ford Fiesta."

"They did."

"So was that a car?"

"No, a top shelf magazine I bought from Ford, near Coldstream, when I did my research. It is a beautiful area and I sell holidays to the Scottish Borders," said Holly Day.

"What about Egypt?" said Mrs Finch, holding a brochure with the Pyramids on the front.

"I have a DVD about that by the renowned director, Andrii Litovchenko," said Ms Day. "It's called Five Girls in Egypt, especially if you want to take your friends. Up there among the selection of travel DVDs. He was the director of another DVD we have, Six Girls in One Bus, a bit like Cliff Richard and Summer Holiday but with an archaeological dig."

"I'll take that one on Egypt then," said Mrs Finch.

"That will be £39.99 then," said Ms Day. "It's a good film. Thank you."

Reverend Peart and Mrs Finch left the travel agent and arrived at the shop of Mrs Jennie Camp, 48, a churchgoer, who had extended her range by selling live chickens out the back. Mrs Camp was doing the books so it was up to her daughter, Miss Delilah Camp, 22, to serve.

So they took a look, but he told Mrs Finch that he leaves these decisions about the chickens to Mrs Capron. Mrs Finch, however, was going to join the town's craze for chickens and she wanted more packs of towels. "You never know," she said, and said to Delilah, "With Reverend Peart here I'll take two chickens to start, that can live in the shed now Jim's tools have gone, then get a tin of orange paint, and I need a couple of buckets for the feed - and fill that up with some - and one for water. I have one like but there's a hole in it, Delilah."

So she ended up with plenty for both to carry: two chickens, a pack of towels, a can of paint (so she could start to redecorate after the imprisonment) and two buckets, one containing feed. The DVD was in her pocket.

So they left the shop and he said to her, "I'll carry these for you, but can we take a direct way back down the alleyway, if you can manage the bucket with feed. I'm going to have to go off and prepare for golf so I won't be able to stay for a drink I'm afraid."

"You play golf?" she asked. "I didn't know that."

"Well Eugene Capron plays, and taught his wife a little and I tried it in my youth. I was keen once. He's busy at work so she said she'd come along. Though I was naughty - I said she would need to be like Jesus Christ to beat me."

"You shouldn't say that, being a vicar, vicar. But a good job you are a vicar, coming with me down this lane. I wouldn't with anyone else now, with no husband to defend me any more, like Jim obviously did. What some men can get up to, you know, with a woman, against the hedge."

"Well, whoever I might be, I'm carrying here two chickens under my arm, a tin of paint in one hand and a bucket in the other. So I'd be quite safe."

"That's easy," she said. "I'll put my bucket down, you let me take the chickens, you put your bucket down and the tin of paint."

"In theory," he said, as they carried on walking.

Alan Peart was stood at the doorway of the clubhouse at The Pits Golf Course as Janice Capron, 31, arrived with her husband's golf clubs. She spoke to some retired men there saying that Eugene would be playing in a few hours after dental surgery. The two walked together to the start of the first hole, where they kissed and she suggested a wood to begin with, and he agreed saying to her, "You're learning."

Whereupon two sun tanned players walked up and suggested a game. A long haired, hippie looking man said he would play with the "young lady", if her friend liked, and his other also hippyish looking friend would play with him.

"OK," said Reverend Peart. "I'm Alan and this is my friend Janice. Nine holes? We have only a limited amount of time."

"Hello Janice, Alan, I am Yes and this is my friend Mos. Let's keep this friendly because usually Mos tells me what golf clubs to use, but you can this time if you like Janice - or even your friend. Just friendly, not competitive. Nine holes then. "Give me a nine iron," Yes said to Janice.

"You need a wood - it's 335 yards and that needs a wood," said Janice.

"Well," said Alan Peart, "I'd take the lady's advice and use a wood. That's what I told her last time. She needs a wood."

But Yes said, "Sergio Garcia did it with a nine iron and so can I."

"Who's Sergio Garcia," whispered Janice to Alan.

"Good golfer; big hitter; went out with Greg Norman's daughter," he replied quietly.

Everyone except Yes used a wood and landed ready for the green, but Yes's ball dropped into the small lake positioned over 100 yards in front of the green.

"What we said, Yes," said Janice, thinking she'd lose with this guy.

"You'll have to drop a ball in front," said Alan, walking with the other three.

"No no," my friend can do it. "Mos, can you get the ball from the lake?"

Suddenly Alan and Janice stood startled as Mos approached the lake and the waters separated, creating an instant deep and dry path to a revealed golf ball. "That's the one," said Mos, pointing at the ball, as he walked through the gap, the water unfolding before him, and leaving the waters divided while Yes walked down, swung at the ball with the same nine iron so that it dropped just 3 yards from the hole on the green. When Yes left the small lake (after Mos), the water surface reunited.

Alan and Janice looked at each other, and had to take the route around the small lake to join the other two in front.

"That's his speciality," said Yes about Mos, as they all met up again. Mos, Alan and Janice both then took three shots to get into the hole, whereas Yes took just the one neat putt.

"This golf course," said Alan, "has all these lakes and ponds. They're like old flooded pits. So there's one before the next hole too. And a few more. Now don't drop it in the pond this time, er Yes, because it's not fair. 350 yards so it must be a wood this time."

"OK but no, again I think it's still my nine iron," said Yes. "Garcia could do it and so can I. Whack 'em hard."

So they all played, but this time the slightly nearer pond wasn't the same obstacle, and the ball landed just on the other side. Others had placed their shots further towards the green, with Alan Peart finding form with a huge hit of his own.

This time Mos joined Alan and Janice were walking around this obstacle and talking about different shots to play. And then they noticed Yes was walking straight across the pond towards the the golf ball on the other side.

"Who does he think he is?" asked Janice, "Jesus Christ or something?"

Alan Peart replied, "No, he keeps thinking he's Sergio Garcia."

Despite his early lead, after eight holes Yes was four over par, but Janice suddenly found length and position like she never had in any activity. She was actually at par. "This is better than sex," she said, as she hit her final long putt and achieved below par. Mos was three over par and Alan Peart was two over par, the same as the last time he played and then beat Janice. But as a result of being in teams, Yes declared that Janice and he had won, and Mos and Alan had lost by two shots.

At this point, where the golf course turned around, Yes suggested they all have a quick celebratory drink. "We can do that," said Janice to Alan, feeling victorious and happy, having beaten her golf partner in her team and on her own.

So Mos produced a set of towels from among the clubs - which seemed odd, as so popular in Blue Velvet, and they were all able to sit on one each with one in the middle. Then out of his golf bag came a large breadbun put onto the middle towel. Then Yes pulled out a bottle of red wine from among his clubs. As if from thin air Yes started handing out glasses, and then using his finger end the cork came out of the bottle. He poured.

"Good game," said Yes, "Have a bite first and drink up! Janice, we won - Janice, you won."

Alan Peart, still chewing bread after a first swig of wine, leaned over to Janice to whisper in her ear, "That's not Sergio Garcia, is it?"

She looked down as he said it, grinning slightly. But then when they looked back at their new friends, there was no one there. The two were left still holding their own glasses, but there were no others with them, and there were no towels other than the ones they were sat on.

This left both of them rather silent as they walked back. Leaving Eugene's golf clubs at the clubhouse, the two continued to the vicarage, but after she hugged and kissed Alan she decided to go home and, there, sat down to read while Eugene was out playing golf. The two glasses and two towels were left in the vicarage and found their way eventually into the kitchen at the Church Hall.

A few days later at mid-morning, after seeing to his chickens, she joined him upstairs, and reminded him that it was his day for his six monthly check up at the dental surgery. Getting closer, she told him to answer the questions honestly.

"Eugene doesn't like it if he asks if you are feeling anything and you say no, to avoid him doing more, when he's checking you up. So be honest with him. If it's him."

He wasn't sure what to make of this, or of recent events, but was pleased that they had resumed their lovemaking.

A New Minister for Blue Velvet

The story of Blue Velvet parish
last appeared when Janice Capron, the priest's lover, told him to be honest when visiting her husband at the dental surgery. The whole story began back in September.

Leaving Mrs Janice Capron in bed to relax and read, Reverend Alan Peart got himself up and dressed, into mufti, and picked up the post on his way out. He put the pile into a shopping bag to variously open up at the surgery and anywhere else he might stop and pause. He drove the five minutes journey, including getting in the car and parking, to the surgery itself. In he went and checked in with a receptionist.

He opened one letter that seemed interesting. It consisted of a card and an invitation to the installing of a minister in the Unitarian chapel in the centre of town. He noticed no stamp on the envelope. He muttered to himself that he didn't know if the place was even operating, never mind taking on a minister. In addition there was a short note from the new minister, a Rev. Stella Wedgwood, who would be visiting the town on several dates and a mobile phone number if Alan Peart was interested, and the first date of three was this one. He wasn't sure if he would want to or be able to associate with Unitarians, given the need to keep up appearances about his own apparent beliefs and promises.

He was called in by Eugene Capron, husband of Janice, and sat in the seat. "Make yourself comfortable in there. And, em, Jackie can you leave us and call in Maggie instead. I just want Maggie my assistant who has worked with me for a long time. Ah there already. Come in, and Maggie knows that all that we say in here is covered especially by patient confidentiality and indeed commerical confidentiality. You understand all about this."

"Yes, I do. Deal with it all the time," said Reverend Peart, shifting his bottom about in the patient's chair.

"Now er this contraption I am putting into your mouth, a sort of four armed mouth speculum, helps me to keep your mouth open. Just turn these screws. Put some cotton wool in as well behind these teeth. Good, your mouth can stay like that and I think we'll check." This he did, and continued. "Could do a filling now or have an observation."


"But I definitely think we should have a clean. Maggie will suck out the muck and I'll whir and scrape. Off we go.... Now I have a question. Are you, vicar of Blue Velvet, having an affair with my wife?"

"Wi dhat dhing ing your hang?"

"No, with that thing in your trousers. I might need to drill this tooth."

"Ugging hell wha gan I thay?"

"How about the truth, Reverend Peart, something you are supposed to deal in. I have a letter ready to go to your bishop."

"Oh Goh nod din."

"You and he don't get on?"

"I knew ing ah dheologigal golleg."

"Well do you know that I had my son DNA tested? You see, I suspected some sort of infertility - I'll use the handscraper here Maggie, er thank you - and had my son DNA tested. And he doesn't match me. And my wife, well I do know she gets around a bit. After all, what about the postman? I know all about the postman, a very nice chap, but then I did. And there is give and take. And Johhny Levrithe, or 'Milky' as he is known by my wife. But was the child his or indeed his? You see, both of them are my patients, or the milkman was, and I took a swab from each. And neither of them is the biological father. And then there were these rumours, and her mother talks about you, and among a number of people I took your saliva too. And my son is your biological son."

"Yeah, I'we geen hahhin an ahhair wih your wyhh. Ow!"

"For quite a long a long time, I think."

"It gums ang it goes. I gomhorted her when she stott eeing a hundanentalish Grishian. One hing led to anguhher."

"On again, I think."


"I think I will do that tooth. After all, this is the last time you'll be in my surgery. Now I'll do a slow drill so you don't need anaesthetic, and if you feel something put your hand up and I can stop. Maggie, make me up some mixture please."

Alan Peart's hand went up several times. There was quite a lot of sweat running down his face. Handed the filling mixture this was eventually packed into the made hole.

"My wife has a choice," said Eugene Capron. "She either stops seeing you, and we bring up her son as our own, and a letter via your solicitor please explaining you want no part in his upkeep or life for that matter, or we shall have to separate and divorce; and if so, I will want rights of access, and there will be a letter to your Church. I know this is some strange place, that my wife being a local and knowing so many people seeks sexual satisfaction outside this marriage, but I want some honesty, and it is one thing to have that and quite another to try to kid me that my son was mine and there is no one else for her affections. That's all I've asked of her, all I've asked."

"Ca you emowe dhish outh condragshon?"

"No, because I'm just going to use this instrument, Maggie please, thanks, to pack the filling down further. Thank you - here we go." The dentist operated the tool. Again sweat was rolling down the reverend's face, his arm up and down. "Now to unscrew. When I've done it bite your teeth together. What is your decision?" It was removed.

"Yeah, I like her a lot. I see her once more - she could be at my home now - and then will stay clear if she wants what you say," said the freed Reverend.

"Ah. Not quite the right answer. So if she doesn't - how shall you persuade her anyway?"

"Then I'll talk to you, openly. I don't know. I'll persuade her to stay with the family unit."

"If we separate, and divorce, I'll do as I say. And I will settle for nothing less than you out of this parish. I want a decision tonight from her. I waited until today, and asked people what was happening, and I know it died down and it has started up again. Oh and that means, by the way, that you look after your own chickens and keep your cock in its own little home."

"Yeah, I will. What do I owe you?"

"Quite a great deal. For that in money terms, ask the receptionist. Maggie, tell the receptionist."

But on getting back to the vicarage, and physically shaking, Janice there and she heard it all with her own opened mouth. His mouth still felt as if swollen, yet without any injection it should not have such an overhang.

"He does this to people," she said, " - leaving them in," and reached inside his mouth and pulled out cotton wool.

"There is no more us," he said. "You have to go; I'm really really sorry but he is really serious. Your life is with him, and the baby he knows is mine."

"I'll divorce him. He knew what I was like when I married him."

"No! No scandals, no more cover ups. No you have a family now."

"And in three days, it's what?"

"The town ball and parade."


"Yes, where I first met you."


"Yes, I know, he was conceived not long after. But that's that. We've been on and off. Yes, very enjoyable. More on now than ever before. Look, I can have a word with you then. Tell me then, what he says, what you and he says: it will be a moment to meet then. But that's why this must go off again and can't come on again."

"I'm going," she said, "Not to put you in trouble. But I shall put him in trouble. And I'll see you at the ball. I shall come stunning, and he shall put up with it. I'll see to it he does nothing about it, and I'll have my freedom back."

"And for once, I shall go out and do my job. Go and walk around, go and see people. Do what I am paid to do. And please, I'll do the chickens."

"The bastard will not have me like this," said Janice as she made for his front door. "He'll find out about just who he's married."

Deciding to repent for some sins, the priest went walkabout. The principle of this is to get stopped in the street. He didn't like to call on people unawares, as often their houses were in a mess or items were lying about that a 'vicar' ought not to view. He learnt this once when calling unannounced upon local intellectuals Dr Valdamar Pons (46) and Dr Wilhelmena Pons (36). Both were university lecturers, he in history and she in politics, where they had met, and both were known to share some strange views regarding alien landings, which one wouldn't otherwise expect. What he did not know was their strange preferences for art work on the walls, nor their preferred use of the kitchen for activities other than cooking, and thus leaving around commercial and natural devices to this end. So his calling upon them about three years back left them in some panic, leaving him at the door for a few minutes, as he could just about see her taking down paintings and running around to put different ones up. He, when let in, as a sort of reaction, suggested they could sit in the kitchen, which led to another delay, but as they then went through she realised she had not cleared up devices left on seats tucked under the table. Since then gossip, that took some time to generate, had gone around the town that the local intellectuals now kept the innocuous paintings and prints on the wall and only changed them for the particular company that called on set evenings that appreciated them for creating the mood. All he knew was that these two, who were his churchgoers, simply stopped coming. All this happened not so long into his ministry, and he had worried since that he couldn't go around losing people so easily. These two did not have the social connections in the church and town for persuasion to work to bring them back.

So the Reverend Alan Peart walked around, and had several fairly meaningless conversations, but then the impact of such are never really known. He went into one café and the next and the next. There always seemed to be too many, and a number of non-central ones seemed to close and open with regularity. He walked past this small, dark chapel, and then wondered - of course, this must be the Unitarian one. So he took a look around, and found a noticeboard confirming as much but pointing into the narrow alleyway rather than towards the street. There seemed to be an arched single door in behind the noticeboard and a short yard. The notice board held a poster and underneath a piece of paper indicated services first Sunday in the month at 10:30 am and third Sunday in the month at 3 pm. He couldn't see how this would attract any casual visitor. So he moved on and arrived at the next café.

A woman in there approached him, "Are you a local minister of religion?" If she had an accent, it was slightly Welsh. It was certainly not local.

This was an easy and obvious question to answer, given the collar. "I am."

"So would you be Anglican, or perhaps..."

"I am that."

"I put a note through your door. I am Stella Wedgwood. Did you get my note?"

"You are Reverend Stella Wedgwood? Well, hello!"

She was, and approaching 40 years old. She certainly gave no indication of being a Reverend. Indeed she was wearing very casual, as if it was a little warmer outside than it was. She had sunglasses propped above and into her blonde hair, and jeans. Her top had a tendency to fall forward, and that raised another aspect of remembering etiquette from ministry training and later on the job experience. In every case, whatever the situation, look the chesty or revealing woman in the eyes. The college pastoral studies advisor had said this, but he discovered it on a school visit in the staff room when some teachers were discussing female sixth formers in lurid terms. For it was a fact that once liberated from school uniform, sixth formers come in all kinds of dress, and some females like to display plenty of flesh (whatever the time of year). Some teachers changed outward behaviour in the staff room, but during his visit one took him aside and said that, before going in the classrooms, to put all such thoughts utterly away and be nothing but transparently ignorant of all such temptations. Put them into an imagined bin. Always think of adult women, always think of actual relationships. Indeed it was such good advice and well taken that he found himself, just for once, putting all such thoughts in a suggested mental dustbin, and as he looked the students he talked to only in their eyes and their bodies became windows to only see through.

So could he do this now? Unfortunately, with the adults, he never found it so easy. And this woman was a struggle, as she chatted away, leaned forward and he intended eye contact.

"I really don't know anything about the chapel," he said. "We never mention it in our ecumenical prayers, " he admitted, focusing on something holy and good. "I saw your place - strange times for services."

"It's a curse," she said. "That will change. Well, the problem is that they pay people to come in and take services. They also think two different times suits some who like the morning and some who like the afternoon. But when you have around ten people attending, really it is..."


"Yes, unfortunately. But if you look at the congregation, only two of them were there ten years ago. And only five of them are town people."

"Er, so how can they afford you?"

"The Theophilus Blue Trust. Where the Blue comes from in the town's name, the historian here told me. Presbyterian Puritan money. Do you know who owns this café, indeed all the property around here? Do you know who owns property at the Riverfront?"

"Why would the Puritans pay for money for you, a Unitarian?"

"Because the English Presbyterians, who started when you produced your Prayer Book, by and large became Arminians and Unitarians. Oh yes the non-conformists would have grabbed back all the money, but Parliament stopped them in 1845."

"Ten. Well, when you think of the population, I don't suppose ours is much of a percentage. And perhaps you are unknown, and we are known, and possibly, too, don't we overlap with your beliefs now, sort of taking away your constituency."

"You do. But you ordained make the sorts of promises that we don't."

"Now you're making me jealous," he said.


"Well, you know, what do we believe these days? Gosh I was just thinking of them - I mean I don't disbelieve anything that scientists or social scientists think these days, really," he said.

hat scientists or social scientists think these days, really,
" he said.

"But - though it's not the issue it was - you believe the Trinity, the particular Incarnation, the resurrection, in Christianity?" she effectively asked.

"Well, you know. I mean we affirm it."

"So you affirm it, in what sort of way?"

"As a guiding story, I mean no one knows any of this so we just affirm it."

"As opposed to saying, no one knows any of this."

"Well, you do say that occasionally. You say it is important to ask the questions. Look, there are all sorts of methods we use. You study scripture and preach on what scripture says. We get into history, and talk historically. You talk about communities and saints and all that kind of thing. Or you sort of live the life, or at least recommend it. But everyone lives like we live today, thinks like we think. We are not like they were."

"But that's precisely what you are claiming."

"No, I don't. I say we continue on. We look back and we come forward."

She asked him, "Are you Anglo-Catholic?"


"Well some with your views turn out to be Anglo-Catholic. The sort that aren't running off to the Pope."

"Yes I know but I'm not. Either of them really. Well no more than became adopted by most. And do you have tendencies or otherwise?"

"Yes, we do. Some are more liberal Christian. Some will wear collars like you. Few women do, actually. If you think of the sixties and the trend to social dress, an almost secular radicalism, then we - even in ministry - look quite secular. It has its disadvantages. Some aren't Christian in any meaningful sense, some are but look anonymous."

"Ordained but look lay."

"No I'm not ordained: on a roll of ministers. I'd like to be, though. I have a bishop friend in Wales who offered," she said.

"Who's he?"

"She. She's one of these on her own types."

"Ah - episcopi vagantes."

"Sort of. A bit more to it."

"Gosh. So what have you done today?" he asked, wondering if he could be more personal.

"I had a good look around. I visited a few in the congregation, now that I am their new minister. I talked about the service - the congregation plays a part in welcoming me. And about the future. And now I've just had a drink here before wondering whether to drive all the way back to Wales or get a bed and breakfast, like I did when I arrived last night."

"Wales then?"

"I minister there. The Black Spot. Two concentrations you see, south east and south west."

"Oh. I see. The accent isn't obvious. So that'll be the old coal..."

"No, The west. From Aberystwyth south. I was born in England and an infant in Hereford. We went west, young man. But yes I'm bilingual. I sound more Welsh in Welsh."

"Well," he said, taking a liking to this woman and wishing to hear more, "you have no need to either drive home or get a bed and breakfast, because, as you known, Anglican vicarages come at a certain minimum size, and therefore you can come back, chat some more, eat some more if you like, drink more certainly, and thanks to my housekeeper - well was my housekeeper - there is a nicely made room for you."

"That," she said, "is very generous of you. And you as a fellow trustworthy person of the cloth, I will take up your offer."

And as a result he became a passenger in her car outside for the short trip back to the vicarage where she took her bag to her room and where he opened a bottle of wine and cancelled his appearance at a church discussion group meeting due to "urgent business". That was an evening when he learnt all about the Unitarians, her own Methodist upbringing and her arguing with its leaders about beliefs, and that she was and remained single and kept friends in Swansea or Abertawe as she liked to call it. Her petrol bill each year was phenomenal. Plus he just liked the look of her, and in the next morning as she ran to his bathroom he glimpsed through the crack in his slightly open door a body shape rather more than he might through her nightwear, and felt a weight of contradiction again that this ministry in Blue Velvet only seemed to encourage. Plus, as he waved his new friend off, he knew she agreed to come back in just days for househunting and to attend the Annual Ball, via which she, and not least (as a result) her congregation, could enter more into the life of the town.

When she had gone he thought of two things. That there were Puritans that gave the town its original wealth, one of whom had given its the place its revised name, and what would they make of the place now; and that the money he and others made and invested put into his trust now funded a church that believed as precisely opposite what they believed as you could ever achieve.

Blue Velvet Church Hall Competitions

The story of Blue Velvet last time involved the bishop and the church service for which the church hall events below follow on. It all began back in September.

After the service, the connected Church Hall and back of the church became frantic with activity and people. Many had come into the church hall through the opened fire escape door at the back. People were pouring in from the outside, as well as from the service, so that some church people couldn't get in, and it was standing room only and some opting for standing outside, just leaving enough room for events at the very front near the door.

The priest-in-charge, Rev. Alan Peart, 51, now wearing a "Charles Gore" hat as a fashion statement with the fashion events to happen, asked people close by to make more room so that an introductory dance could take place. The Blue Velvet Dance Group were ready and made up to do a dance on the appropriate theme of Salome dancing before Herod, the dancer, Sarah Excel (41), one of the candidates in the Perfectly Fitting Bra contest, whose day job was a appropriately an accountant who was often cleavage revealing.

People outside were breathing on the windows from both sides of the church hall, those outside wanting to see inside, the top panels of the windows opened so that no one inside would suffocate and people outside could hear. The toilets were doubling up as changing rooms, with the dancers emerging first, and thus the dance began, though Stella Wedgwood (39) and Julia Peart (45) used the vestry as a dressing room, not just to disrobe but to change their outfits.

Bishop Neville Timothy Williams (51) found Alan Peart to say, "I want to go first, then I want to leave."

"Well the dancers are ready. You get your equipment, and they'll be done. I'll delay the song competition until after you."

"You should arrange these better. I had given notice for my assistants. Got the MP to help me, as well as this new minister woman," said the bishop.

"Sheila Stone MP? Yes I saw her on the front pew. Why didn't she join the procession?" asked the priest.

"She confessed to me that she is not a Christian. But I have invited her to use the vestry to change, with some others. She's taking part in my worthy tricks, and in the fashion parade."

"I hope she doesn't win: the fashion prize is a meal with me," said Alan Peart.

Sheila Stone (39) was thus in the vestry, changing from her jacket to try on a dress that many a fashion seeking woman might kill for. Indeed, as said, to join in fully, she had earlier volunteered to take part in a fashion display that would accompany the Perfectly Fitting Bra presentation, although the newspapers had just discovered that her new wardrobe had been put down as constituency expenses of appropriate clothing. The MP was a locally born and bred girl, a Tory but one known for laissez-faire attitudes towards just about everything. And thus when Stella Wedgwood asked, with an eye for the controversial, if she was taking part in the bishop's presentation, she decided she would, all for more newspaper publicity.

The dance completed, people clapped, and the hymn and Sheila rewriters were told to wait, as the bishop and some helpers arrived with equipment.

The Bishop had directed some people to his van, to bring this time a "bunsen burner looking thing" with a blow up life-size doll to couple with a clothes hanger on wheels already available. He also had got hold of the same teenager as before to do his opening trick. So the three legged, hollow round topped contraption with a wood effect floor platform on wheels came in through the doors, delayed by so many people in the way, to take its place, with Sheila Stone acting as its assistant, and then a clothes hanger on wheels, like in clothes stores, with costumes hangling along its length, including a special super large black cloak at one end, the thing wheeled in by Julia Peart at one end and Stella Wedgwood at the other, playing his assistants. From the entrance area people could see how the trick was being done, but those in the hall were given the attached microphone delivered narrative that this three legged, platformed and wheeled contraption was "like the inside of a tomb", said this Bishop N. T. Williams, "like the Trinity with its three legs," he added. The two assistants with the MP waving her arms about brought across the black cloak, sweeping the ground and brought it around the contraption, to which the bishop and MP attached the cloak around its top ring. "This could be a burial cloth, like the Turin Shroud," he said, and Stella brought him the blow-up doll, which he placed up above and down through the top ring. He then fastened the cloak with its three large buttons so it concealed the blow up body and the contraption all around, and then he rolled the contraption around on its wheels so that everyone could see all parts around it, and as he did it there was a large bang sound. "Ooh he said," still spinning it, we'd better look inside!" He then brought the buttons back to himself, opened them as Sheila Stone tackled the ring attachments around the buttons area, and there displayed with also her head emerging above the ring was the girl who'd performed in the service earlier. Then she ducked and came out through the enlarged gap of the cloak. Even those outside the hall, who'd seen the girl move from behind the costumes and the cloak and gone on to the platform inside the three legs could not see where the doll had gone. The remains had simply been put, with the pin, into a peel away flap that was part of the platform she was stood on.

The people who had seen nothing but a girl appear from nowhere in a tripod and platform on wheels above the ground clapped.

"Thus can Jesus become transformed and alive again," he claimed.

"Conjouring trick with a blow up doll," said Julia to Stella's ear in front. Like Sheila, Julia started to do some assistant's poses, for fun.

"Now," said the bishop, "Er... Do you normally dress like this," he asked Reverend Wedgwood, looking at her more closely. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is, er, Stella?" She nodded. "Wedgwood Benn who is..."

"Wedgwood," she said. "Only."

"Wedgwood without the Benn, who is going to be apparently a new Unitarian minister here. And I never knew there was such a place here. So I bet she really would like to lock me up, a Christian bishop who proclaims the gospel, and handcuff me many times. So, Stella, please put these on and check they lock on solidly." Given to Julia by a male assistant and handed on, Stella did as asked, one after the other. Sheila was still grinning with poses. "Satisfied?" asked Bishop Williams?

"Yes, but there isn't one for your mouth," she replied, causing Julia behind them to burst out laughing from her grinning while she also did some poses. Sheila didn't react.

"Ah but take me back into my contraption," he said, as he ducked and stepped on to the platform, to then bend over and show himself straining with his forearms. Sheila closed the buttons, and then within thirty seconds heard a "Let me out!" as she thus opened the buttons again and the bishop emerged with all the cuffs in a bundle held from his hands. All he had done was use one of the legs of the contraption to push a level concealed button in each set to open each of the cuffs at the back. Each having been pushed back together inside, he now took the key from Stella and started to open one to the applause. "You cannot imprison the Lord," said the bishop, adding yet another corny theological message.

And then his contraption was removed by those who had brought it in, and the bishop seemed to leave behind it, saying, "Thank you very much! Enjoy your Christian celebrations!" and indicated to Alan Peart to follow him.

So Julia came forward and said, "We have a short hymn and carol rewriting session. It can be humorous, but the winner can write a hymn for the choir to sing. Who have we got?"

"I'm Johnny Levrithe, the local milkman. And I rewrote 'It Came Upon A Midnight Clear'."

"I'm Dr Valdamar Pons, a History Lecturer, and I rewrote 'Away in a Manger'."

"Oh, two carols then. Anyone else? No? Well, yours first, Dr Pons. Do sing it."

"Away in Blue Velvet,
Some land with a shed;
Choices in our shops, a town centre it made;
And along came that Tesco,
To the shed, car park hosts,
So now shops close down
Makes the town one more ghost."

"That's happening our way too," said Juliet. "And your favourite milkman, man about town, has It came upon etcetera - well you sing it too."

"It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious time so bold,
When Janice joined me in my bed,
Just thi-irty one years old.
She taught me things I didn't know,
and grew my confidence;
So then we knew ju-ust what to do,
And invi-i-ited in Florence.

The three of us, we heated up,
Enjoyment a-and pleasure,
But there was now an imbalance
So-o Jim on board made four.
We moved so much, we had no space,
The whole thing lacked 'street cred',
To solve the prob' we-e all went out,
A-and bo-ought the largest bed.

And so we shared wi-ith little care,
Bouncing and stre-etching out,
With room for neighbours to join in,
An e-ever greater weight.
And one fine time, midnight again,
The bed fell through the floor,
All six dropped into-oo hospital,
The-e ro-omping was no more."

People cheered and clapped (including the raised arms of Janice herself). "Oh crumbs," said Julia. Is there anyone else at all? Oh, there is, the coalman for your town and mine too sometimes. Yes, like you. Jim Black - That Jim? - yes? Oh dear. How old are you Jim?"

"Sixty I am."

"Sing for us, Jim. Tune of, oh I can see, Once in Royal David's City. Go on."

"Once when feeling ve-e-ery dirty,
Stood under a show-ow-ower head,
When it came on, boi-oi-oiling water,
Made me jump, and bu-u-umped my head.
Mary came, with first aid kit,
Me curled up, wa-a-a-as that it?

She bent down, to try and ca-are for me,
Turned me round, and sa-aw an effect,
I'd become too o-over excited,
I was stiff, not de-ead but erect.
Mary yet, still gave her hand.
I stretched to life, like a ru-u-ubber band.

I was bruised, and he-ead was still painful,
Mary took me to-o-o her bed,
Rang my wife, and sa-aid what had happened,
After I'd filled up he-e-er coal shed,
Now my wife tells customers for cash
Check the heat, 'fore giving me a wash."

"Crumbs. Well, three carols rewritten there. Does that actually happen Jim when you deliver coal?"

"Yeah. Not every coal bunker. But thanks to Mary, like. She's here somewhere. Can't see her."

"You weren't the Jim of the bed; was that you?"

"But the big bed didn't fall through the floor."

"Oh. Oh. Well it is up to me to declare the winner, and it is the first one about our town centres," said Julia, to instant booing. "So Dr Pons can write a hymn."

"He's a Unitarian," said Stella from nearby. "Chapel trustee and all that."

"So?" said Julia. "We might all be able to sing it."

Then in came Alan Peart, saying to Julia directly, "Even now he's having a go. Wants to see me tomorrow no less." From the crowd emerged Sue Clark (40), after the Sheila event and realising the bishop had gone. She was Julia's actual partner in Norton Velvet. Even though he knew all about them as a couple, the bishop had instructed distance in public occasions. Of course they wished to ignore him, mainly, except when he was present. "How's Tina?" asked Alan of Sue.

"All right, with a babysitter," she replied.

Stella came forward, and Julia said, "Stella, this is Sue. Right, I'll begin with this one now as well. The models seem to be ready, including our MP? Oh, she's doing fashion only. What? Oh she's not! Can one of those lads get the chaise longue in front? Well, ladies and gentlemen, we come to our next event now, which is the Perfectly Fitting Bra display..."

"Hang on," said Alan, "I need to introduce you."

"I've been doing it," said Julia.

"I know, but there's a point. Right, everyone, here's my wife from the next parish, who's been with us already, and as you might know she used to be into underwear..." Some laughed. "And that's when she worked in clothes retailing. So what we are doing is having a little display about best underwear and Julia can introduce a representative who's kindly come here from Bravado. Julia. Again."

"Thanks to my husband," said Julia Peart. "Outside in the street I understand they're having - oh, they've had - a wet T-shirt contest, but here we are the Church of our town and far more responsible. So a representative here from Bravado, Carolyn, who will, she tells me, take your orders afterwards and they'll help church funds, will first judge some of our girls and women on the bras they are wearing, and then introduce some wearing a range she has brought along, and, right, then she'll take your orders as she moves through the crowd. Please Carolyn."

Thus a whole glamorous show took place, with volunteers coming on and bravely receiving commentary about what they wore, and surprise surprise the wearers of the brand received the best reports from Carolyn into the microphone. Faces were pressed against the window to see some familiar faces in such a show. Each contestant walked in, took centre stage so to speak, twirled, sat on the chaise longue, and then stood and walked off to the side. There were plenty of male, and not a few female, wolf-whistles throughout. The flashguns went crazy when the Member of Parliament so appeared and in the most expensive of the Bravado lines. And it was equally unsurprising that she was in the last six in line, with the others leaving to the toilets to change, the six standing in line each in their bras and matching briefs, but the MP also had shiny black and silver fashionable shoes that many of the locals suspected they could never afford. Four of the final six wore Bravado products. Once the display of showing the characteristics of properly fitting bras was over from two Bravado models was over, the winner would be announced. So it was up to the Vicar to choose a winner, and so Alan Peart said, into the sound system:

"Thank you Carolyn, and please now make your orders as she comes round. We get fifty per cent of the profits. I think we really appreciate this good advice at what makes a good fitting bra, and the answer is never too small and plenty of support. You cannot have inadequate support! And I think, really, our Member of Parliament does win the competition we had, because she has all round attractive and fully supportative underwear, and so Sheila Stone MP is our winner! She wins a one, two or three piece Bravado set of her choice and a modelling session for the Bravado range that will appear in the next catalogue."

There was mild applause. He grinned because he could hardly see her being a model, being an MP, and reasoned if she won this then she should not win the fashion competition. So then he approached Sheila Stone MP, grasping her bare arms either side, and gave her a kiss on each cheek, to a somewhat second reluctant round of applause.

"And now I think Sheila here and a number of our ladies are going to participate in a fashion competition, if I can hand back to Julia. If those who need to go and change."

"This one is different," Julia said, "because we'll go on a show of hands, so I will try to be fair in seeing how many hands are up to choosing the best dressed. The prize for the winner is once again this year a meal with my husband and your vicar Alan in the Italiano Restaurant, and thank you to Mr. Medici for donating a four course meal of their choice, should they want to eat that much, for the prize."

"Oh, a show of hands?" asked Alan Peart.

"Democratic for a change," she replied. "So it's not me or you deciding."

At this very point, there was a loud slapping sound and louder "Ow!" heard through the hall, and then coming through the crowd, pushing peopole out of the way, came Mrs Janice Capron, 31, the subject of that song, the recent keeper of the town's priest's chickens and one time warmer of his bed. She stomped out of the church hall, and her husband, the dentist, Eugene, 40, followed through the gaps, while Julia Peart shook her head in the direction of Alan Peart, in effect telling the Vicar and her recent lover to stay put and do nothing.

With a slight delay for all to be ready, the fashion show began, with more women (and again only women) taking part than in the underwear competition. Julia kept the microphone and simply gave the names and repeated the women's own self description of what they were wearing. There were again some, if not as many, wolf-whistles, but once again it was the Member of Parliament who set the flashguns going.

Julia commented, "Once again it is a welcome to Sheila Stone, our Member of Parliament, what? This is an Ellen Terry Fashion House shiny turquoise shoulder puffed one piece dress. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Ellen Terry brought up in my parish down the road? I'll have to visit her London shop."

Yet it was the appearance of Janice immediately after her that set the vicar in uncomfortable dilemma, as it was her very appearance some years back that had led to their on-off affair beginning. Her dress was, as already seen in her storming out of the church hall, and obviously to join the queue of competition entrants, ravishing and revealing, intended to win, and it started to look like Janice's means to reconnect with her recent lover.

Julia commented, "Well this is a light, low-cut and revealing, simple white dress that brings out the wearer to its best advantage and contrasts with your naturally curly hair, Janice Capron."

So it came to the contestants and the vote. Then Julia approached her nomimal husband. "Who do you think?"

"Please, not Janice," said Alan, "I don't want another unpleasant trip to the dentist's."

As the hands went up, it was clear that the Member of Parliament had a block vote in her favour, provided by members of the local Tory Party and Conservative Club. As everyone turned around, to check for themselves the voting, it looked obvious enough that the general public were voting for Janice, eagerly led by those who knew her more intimately.

Julia announced, asking hands to raise for Janice Capron and Sheila Stone several times, "Well I really think our Member of Parliament has won this one too. Sheila Stone MP, well done!"

There were some boos and very mild clapping. The flashguns went mad again.

With this, however, Janice Capron stared at Julia Peart with an intense gaze, and then walked out of the church hall to where her husband stood, and produced a second almighty swing of her arm and slap across his face, so that he went straight down on to the floor. She pushed her way out, to leave altogether, and her husband got up to follow. Alan Peart put his head into his hands.

"Oh dear," said Julia Peart, "the competition must have got to her. Well it's definitely our MP who won and she will be having a meal with your vicar of this parish. And don't stay out too late," she said across to her man of sorts, switching off and placing down the microphone. He then gave his house keys to Julia, but she gave them to Stella Wedgwood, as Julia and partner were going to their own home.

At which point music began to play and coloured lights flashed, and some started to dance, as the crowds began to disperse inside and outside.

The MP went to the vestry and emerged wearing yet another outfit, thus providing yet more interest for the photographers. Mr Medici had a car arrive to take the MP and the minister waiting outside, pictured together, to his restaurant, only a few streets away, but getting in it, being in it and getting out of it provided a backdrop for his own publicity photographer, and plenty of other photographers following on too. In the restaurant he first placed them at the window with his logo above, and only then offered them the opportunity to move and go upstairs to a small private room reserved for guests. Up there his photographer was the only one to capture the couple, with wine to begin.

"I go along with this," said Alan Peart. "It's good for the church, this publicity, popular stuff, but is all this the sort wanted by an MP like yourself?"

"I'm not standing at the next election," said Sheila Stone. "It's not worth it. The whips made it clear I'm going nowhere because I'm too independent, and a few secrets, so I want to get into some TV, lots of fashion, presenting, advice: no publicity is bad publicity is it? My dad made more of a career of being an MP. Everyone thought he was completely corrupt, and owned the seat, and he was and just about did. But I'm more like the town as it is, and more like my career as it was. Hey and what about that slap - that dentist and his wife?"

"The less said about that the better," Alan Peart said, as the pasta arrived for both and the photographer appeared and took another picture.

"Ah, she's the affair one then. The rumour about you," said the MP. "And the chickens. You know what they say about chickens walking?"

"Oh shit. No?"

"Poultry in motion. Was she poultry in motion? Better still, are you?"

Mr Medici arrived to ask if the food was good and to have him in yet another photograph.

"I don't eat grain," said the ordained minister.

"It's not a grain," Mr Medici said.

"No, she likened me to a chicken," the minister said.

"Oh, I leave you two alone," he responded. "Anyway, I have a musician playing for you in the background. Do enjoy a the music."

She said, "Funnily enough, I've met your bishops several times for events, but never actually spoken to you. The previous one, Bishop Shamton: I thought he was OK but this one is really shallow isn't he? Does he think he can do tricks to spread religion?"

"Conjouring tricks with blow-up dolls. Bishop Hugh was better than this one, yes. You wouldn't think he's 71, and just brought out a book called All About Doubt. So what was your career then before an MP?"

"So this new one burst that blow up doll, but then what?" asked Sheila Stone. "I was outside."

"Oh. I've seen it before. The girl goes in behind the clothes and that wraparound cloak. There's a peel back panel on the base she stands on. She bursts the doll and what's left goes inside. And those handcuffs that get locked up just spring open at the back. He started buying tricks before he was at theological college. He did some tricks there. He doesn't actually think any differently from me. The difference is, he puts on a show. It's all a display, conjouring tricks and after the one who said it was all more. Career?"

"I was an Events Organiser. I organised businesses getting together either with themselves or with others. So it was sort of doing the things that made businesses more social or around conferencing. I still speak at them, for a good fee."

"How does one get into that?" he asked. "After all, I have no job security and might be thinking of something else after he sees me, tomorrow," said Alan Peart, wondering if he was half-serious.

"I sort of arrived there by who I knew. Everything I've done has been by who I knew. My father said I had to earn my living, and he was always away. So I followed a couple of friends and became a model, at a local studio, and that's how I afforded university. I could have done it just for extra money, like a night out, but I did it properly and carried on afterwards. Thatcherite days for my dad meant nothing mattered, so long as it got paid, and also I was one of Blunkett's Babes, the first of the undegraduate sex workers to pay the introduced university fees. One of my regulars at the studio, who must have spent a few thousand taking the same pictures of me over and over again - I eventually did what you shouldn't and went out for a meal with him - got me into escorting, because he had plenty of money and needed a woman he pretended was his glamorous catch while he attended all these meetings. So I ended up travelling with him and being presented at all the events he went to, and accompanying him overnight. You know. So I got myself properly into an agency, and eventually dropped the modelling. Then there was another chap I accompanied, in a bigger business, who also hired me continuously, and he thought I could actually organise the events he was in, and that's what I did, and so that way he me into his exclusive escort client, which is what he wanted. I like my hair long and down, but he said cut it and put it up. It just wasn't me, in the end. But then my father said I should be an MP to keep it in the family and thus I replaced him at the last election, as he recommended me to the local party and they just did what he said. So that's why I was at such ease doing the stuff tonight, and what I can do. I'm not being an MP any more with the new expenses regime, and anyway there are too many letters and especially emails to answer, all the travelling for no pay, and the double speak. There is something good about a nice life and lots of money. You can have a nice life."

"I should have. Should have job security. You are on call all the time, like, but you can work from home, and some people call our work having a chat. But there is more and more admin and keeping the show on the road. Sabatticals are good. But I can get sacked any time. They won't give freehold like they used to do."

When the food was over, he asked the MP if she might join him at the vicarage.

"I will, to look, have final drink say, but not to stay," she said, thinking of the very recent conversation.

"I didn't mean that," he said, wondering what people did think of him.

When they went in, Stella Wedgwood was reading on the sofa.

"Oh hello," Stella said. "Enjoy the meal?"

"We did yes," said Alan Peart. "And just back here for a final drink. Our MP is resigning."

"Retiring," said Sheila. "Not standing next time. From this, going into the media I hope. Tonight will all be going in the tabloids, I hope."

"Sheila was an Events Organiser," said Alan, editing out the history. "And Stella - you've met already - is to be a new minister in town, non-conformist in every sense!"

And after the ubiquitous coffee, Sheila Stone left to walk and find her car in a nearby street and drive home. The ordained minister was left wondering whether, if Stella Wedgwood hadn't been present, whether the one time escort might have stayed, given that she knew very well that his own so-called wife was in her own real relationship in the next parish as part of the ongoing morality deception so essential for the Church.

"I have to meet the bishop tomorrow morning," said Alan to his staying guest, as it was clear bed time was approaching.

"That's fine," said Stella, "because you know I'd want you to come to the wood with me late tomorrow afternoon and I'll leave in the evening if that's all right. It's just I'd like you to accompany me."

"Fine. It's very pleasant there. Lots of paths, clearings, some ponds. Very attractive. Shall we call on Julia and Sue?"

"No no. But we'll meet some friends. Tell you more tomorrow."

"I'm intrigued. Nice to have a bit of excitement in your life. So much is so boring these days. Sounds interesting."

So the big question is, what happens in the final episode?