You know, because of the nature of my job, so to speak, I am asked lots of questions. Some, like, “Where does the C of E stand on free speech?“ are easy to answer. We are in favour of it. Others, such as, “Why do you live in such a big house?” require rather more explanation.
Lambeth Palace is indeed big. Most of it is also very old, and quite a lot of bits drop off it from time to time. Many are surprised to learn that it has not always been home to an Anglican Archbishop. In fact, the very last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, one Reginald Pole (1500 – 58) lived at Lambeth Palace and was a very interesting fellow, with an impressive beard. As his name suggests, he first came to this country seeking work as a builder/handyman. It must have come as a great surprise to him, when due to some typographical errors, he became Archbishop of Canterbury. Fortunately, he died of ‘flu before the mix-up was discovered.
But I digress. Like Reginald Pole’s before me, my Archbishopric requires a large staff. The young man with the wire in his ear always sniggers at the mention of “Archbishopric” and has suggested I change it. Just as I didn’t understand his joke about the fat lady and the duck, I have no idea why.
Of course, the young man with the wire in his ear is only one of many souls who dwell within the Palace walls. There are housekeepers, gatekeepers, record keepers and a retired military gent in charge of what was once the Palace prison. He is known as the goalkeeper.
The Palace receives many visitors. They do not, as the young man with the wire in his ear suggests, “come to gawp and swipe the silver”, but are , of course, interested in the ecclesiastical heritage of this country and they need knowledgeable residential guides. Nevertheless, I do note that at times of heavy public traffic through my and my lady wife’s home, significantly more young men and women with wires in their ears are in attendance. I did question the resident young man with the wire in his ear about this. He said, “Well, we don’t want you and yours getting knocked off by some foreign nutter, do we?”
One of my many official duties is to receive and act as host to countless but important foreign dignitaries and to offer them dinner. Fortunately, I am fluent in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Russian, Portugeuse, Japanese, Chinese, and Gaelic and have a smattering of Inuit. When at dinner, if conversation stalls because of my linguistic shortcomings, my ever-resourceful and down-to-earth lady wife is always on hand with sparkling carafes of vodka-laced spring water. As she wisely points out, if he’s off his head, the Grand Ishfi of Kund won’t care what you say.
So, dear reader, as you might imagine, such functions require significant numbers of residential staff, all ready to deal, in an instant, with whatever may crop up. Why, I remember, after a delicious dinner of Aberdeen Angus (with a vegetarian Turnip Surprise alternative), the President-elect of Dragvonia sprang to his feet, pointing at the young man with the wire in his ear, shouting, “ I DO NOT LAK HEEM ! VHY ISS HE VATCHINK ME?” This burly gent then challenged the young man with the wire in his ear to a wrestling match which is what happens in Dragvonia when honour is impugned. The heavy-set Dragvonian advanced upon the young man with the wire in his ear until they were face to face. Nervous laughter rippled round the room.
The small chamber orchestra musicians tried to further lighten the mood, but for reasons best known to themselves struck up with “Abide With Me”. For a second both men stared at each other and then for reasons still beyond me, the Dragvonian gentleman clutched his neck and fainted, several solid silver serving spoons slipping from his cummerbund as he slumped to the floor. Such larks!
I do hope my description of certain aspects of Palace life helps to explain why our home is so very large. Personally, my lady wife and myself are happiest in our small apartment – me beavering away at my 00 gauge railway layout, whilst my lady wife gets very excited at Match of the Day.