Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No more bishop-bashing, please

Just beating the story of the love between Lembit Opik MP and one of the 'cheeky girls' (how did he pick between the two?), my favourite news item of recent days is an intriguing story of Christmas cheer. Poor Tom Butler, bishop of Southwark, is in a bit of a mess after a night out at the Irish Embassy. Reports of what happened are a bit hazy, but they seem to involve him banging his head, losing a briefcase and phone and -- the best bits -- half hanging out of a car throwing baby toys about. Now, we should not be quick to pass judgement... It could, of course, be that he suffered some sort of blackout or seizure. Or he might well have been the victim of what we can all recognise as a 'dodgy' glass of wine. (The Telegraph, reporting that the bishop has since the event hosted another party (shock!) suggests that 'Portuguese' wine may have been to blame!) But in particular, the bishop is very keen that it be known that he was not drunk. Some of his arguments in favour of this hypothesis are, however, not strong...
1. "I have been going to receptions for 20 years," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme in his first broadcast interview. "Normally, at a reception, I will have a glass or two of wine. I'm very careful. I don't get drunk frequently. I would not be able to do my job if I got drunk. I certainly don't think it's a resigning matter."
Of course, past attendance at receptions is no guide to his recent performance but it is not clear that it would be impossible to be a bishop if one were ever to get drunk. In any case, in saying he does not get drunk 'frequently', the bishop certain implies he does so 'sometimes'. Good for him, too.
2. The bishop said he had used public transport to make his way home in Streatham, south London, on the evening of 5 December. "I defy anyone who had too much to drink to make that journey," he said.
Again, although not an expert, I can certainly point to occasions when an innate 'homing ability' has got me, a little worse for wear, to my home and even seen to it that I get into bed having folded my clothes neatly and piled them carefully on the floor. (Indeed, probably showing more care than I would normally...)
In short, then, this is all a bit of a mystery. But if you want to send the bishop messages of support, then you can do so here. E-mail:bishop.tom@southwark.anglican.org.

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