The interview process was all desperately jolly, and in fact the parishioners were so keen to erode their church's reputation for being a bit stuffy that at times they ventured into the outskirts of hysteria. First I and my two competitors were shown, separately, round the church, churchyard (which is still open for burials), and vicarage (stripped bare apart from a few of the carpets which will also have to go since, I was informed, the former incumbent's dogs wee-ed on them). We were then whooshed around the parish to visit the primary school, dramatic castellated public school (like a miniature Wycombe Abbey) and technical college, before 'meeting the team' over tea and cake; I was introduced to a spectacular retired priest with a plum jacket and gravity-defying bouffant hair. Then we were billetted on various parishioners to relax for half an hour before 'trial by lasagne', otherwise known as supper with the PCC. The following morning was the interview itself, an hour of what amounted to concentrated spiritual analysis which I really don't want to repeat any time soon.
Frankly Aybourne, rather like Lamford, has had too much cash sloshing around in the past. The current vicarage is impressive enough, with soaring ceilings and rooms whose purpose is not really entirely clear. But it was preceded by this building, the Old Rectory, a structure so colossal it makes the Old Rectory in Lamford look like a chalet:
It now houses an entire junior school. The story goes that the then incumbent became Lord of the Manor unexpectedly after his elder brother died, and decided (suddenly having the money) to rebuild the church, in the process moving it to a more comfortable distance from his house. After all, Poor People might turn up, in theory.
The Church of Jesus Christ is always, inescapably, penetrated by the values of the world, but it seldom becomes so spectacular on a local level as it does (or once did) in Aybourne.