Dear Archbishop Justin Welby,
I confess, at the start of this week, to being somewhat disappointed that you haven’t replied to either my first or my second letter to you, which is a little unkind, especially in view of the generous offer of a consultancy which I have given to you. Do you normally ignore correspondents or are you singling out the Archbishops of Lewes? To begin with, I was sympathetic to your plight, recognising that you have a busy job to get used to and, what with only having been a Bishop for one year, a chronic lack of experience to equip you for the trials ahead. However, I checked out what you have been up to in your first month in the job and found that it amounts to precisely nothing, aside from your opening salvo of homophobic press releases, of course. If you continue to ignore my correspondence, I shall be forced to the conclusion that you are nothing more than a rude, ignorant buffoon who is more interested in the increasingly obscure ecclesiastical debates of your own church than the real world the rest of us live in.
Okay, I admit that I’m annoyed by your complete silence. Sorry about that. I’ll get over it. I expect you’re a bit unnerved by the approach I have made. That’s perfectly normal. Most people are. Let’s turn our attention to more worthy topics. Today I want to talk to you about your coping mechanisms in your new job. It’s all too easy to let such great burdens as weigh down on you to become overwhelming and to break into the church’s drinks cupboard for some form of personal salvation. With so much expectation of your capacity and with so little to fill your idle hands with, you’re bound to find a glass of something to wash down your worries. Of course, I would suggest you put a pen or a keyboard in them, and bloody well reply to my correspondence, but hey, I don’t want to repeat myself.
I would caution against heavy drinking that but that would be sanctimonious. Obviously we can’t have that sort of tittle tattle moralising from the clergy. Of course you’re going to hit the bottle. The real issue is which bottle?
Myself, I was teetotal until the age of 26, when yet another endless dinner at Gray’s Inn left me desperate for the numbness which alcohol has a tendency to induce. Knowing that I could not qualify for the Bar unless I completed that absurd and archaic ritual, instead of running away screaming into the night, I reached out for the bottle of port on the table. Now there’s a drink which most people associate with Christmas, for some reason. Of course, they are thinking of the cheaper brands. With all that money you’ve got locked away, you’ll be able to afford something much better. The advantage of port is that you really can down a lot of alcohol without it necessarily ruining your integrity with that give away breath. However, the disadvantage is that once you’ve got into it properly, it turns your lips, tongue, piss and shit bright red, which can be a bit much at times. I’ve heard that you’re one of the nervous types, so perhaps that isn’t for you?
Of course, many of your vicars turn to that regular sauce, wine. After all, it was a favourite with Jesus H Christ. By the way, did you ever discover what his middle name was? Odd that we’ve remembered only the initial, don’t you think? I’m guessing that your church archives are in better order than mine. Anyway, I digress. What do you make of that old story about JC turning water into wine? Here’s my take. It’s the oldest con-trick in the book, isn’t it? I guess we’ve all done it at one time or another. You buy a bottle of decent plonk and decant the precious liquid into a suitable glass vessel for your later consuming pleasure. Then you weaken the bottom of the bottle by scoring it with a glass cutter. Then you go to the party. On the way in, you stretch out your arm proffering the expensive booze you’ve rocked up with in such a way that you appear to accidentally drop the bottle but in fact you throw it at the floor with this sleight of hand. It hits the deck and breaks, spilling the contents all over your host’s floor. You cry, “Salt, get the salt!” When you host returns with the salt to save his carpet from an ugly white wine stain, you hold up the upper part of the bottle to show him how much money you had lavished on him. Guilt racked, he immediately offers you some of his alcohol and hey presto (!) you’ve converted water into wine. Then you swan around the party telling the story to all the other freeloaders, who go out and tell the world that you converted water into wine! Don’t you reckon that is a plausible explanation for the biblical story?
Anyway, none of that answers the crucial question, which sauce should you get hooked on. Let’s face it, in your job, you’re going to be positively pickling yourself. I’ll be honest, when I’m attending my clerical duties, there isn’t much time for drinking. Yes, I do imbibe a couple of pints of Harvey’s Ale in my extraordinary tankard, but only to be polite. Nevertheless, I think I’m well suited to serving up advice on this subject.
The key obstacle to getting sozzled is how to cope with regular comfort breaks in those robes. They really do make urination difficult. When you’re nearly wetting yourself, unravelling all that finery can be too complicated a chore. Therefore, you need to drink something which is short in measure and strong in spirit. I recommend whiskey. My favourite is Bushmill’s Ten Year Malt, by the way. It’s apt to get you wrecked quickly and may also help you get over your inhibitions in talking to other people. Believe me, you’re going to have to break that instinct pretty soon.
Why not practise by sending me a letter? I won’t mind if it’s clumsily constructed and stained with tears. I want you to think of me as your friend, who can tell you stuff that your brethren don’t feel able to, who can listen to your most secret thoughts. Even the ones which are so twisted that you fear their sinful import. In fact, especially those ones!