The Archdeacon is coming to dinner. This is a problem because the Vicar, who does all the cooking, is out all day and so the catering will be left to me. I cannot cook. The Sunday school teacher, whose cup cakes rise half a foot high, knows this and is worried. She offers to leave a three-course meal for three on the vicarage doorstep because the reputation of the parish is at stake.
I do not like this idea because also at stake is my pride, so I tell the Vicar that the Archdeacon can have an all-day breakfast. All-day breakfasts are the only thing I can cook. Now the Vicar is worried. He says it's a helpful thought, but maybe he can stay up late after Parochial Church Council the night before and pile wine and proteins into the slow cooker.
Next evening, as the doorbell rings I realise that I do not quite know what an archdeacon is, but I do know that it's venerable because the Vicar has bought the same duck breasts that nourished a passing bishop. Therefore, I rush up to consult Wikipedia so that I can make intelligent remarks when he's got his coat off.
Wikipedia explains that the office of archdeacon is often described as the 'oculus episcopi'. I can't see how to turn this into small talk, so I seize on a bit about overseeing the welfare of clergy families and decide that an enquiry about the state of North London clergy marriages will be my conversational overture.
But just as I'm poised to beguile him, I fret that I might have looked up Area Dean instead and so I panic and ask shrilly for his views on Waitrose's Seriously Creamy Milk Choc Ices. Luckily he likes ice cream and the topic blossoms into Cornettos and we hardly notice the time passing until the Vicar enters and introduces theological ethics.
I chew on my breast and digest the discovery that oculus episcopii, when off duty, are perfectly normal dinner guests, except that they masticate at table in a cassock.