Formerly @robinrome, now @robinthedoghouse
As you will probably have read in numerous places, starting, I think with my pal Damian Thompson's blog, I got into trouble for referring to Pope Benedict XVI as "the Rat" and speculating about his death.
Mere friendly banter!
Benedict and I are old friends: when I saw him in Rome (this happens less frequently now, since he's stopped being God's Rome correspondent) I would say "Ooh look! It's the Rat!" and he would reply "Wer ist dieser Schweinehundheretischentabletistikendummkopf?" My German is nearly as bad as my Latin, but I gather that this is a term of endearment.
Benedict (Rat) also refers to me as "Mickens Mouse".
You may recall that Benedict used to tweet as @pontifex, and I remember the time he gave me a special mention:
@pontifex Dearly beloved, Laetare Sunday is a day on which we remember the words of Aquinas. P.S. Why isn't Mickens Mouse dead yet?
Anyway, you'll want to know what happened last week. Pope Francis - we at the Tablet haven't yet thought up an insulting nickname for him, as it's still possible that he may be on our side - made the appointment of Cardinal Methuselah, aged 113. Methuselah is a sprightly person for his age: he bungee jumps regularly, boxed 15 rounds with Guido Marini only last week, and plays prop forward for the Italian Rugby team.
Cardinal Methuselah: new blood in the Vatican.
Anyway, in a spirit of merry banter I joined my friend Chris Grady (who enjoys trolling) in speculating that Cardinal Methuselah would outlive Benedict. I didn't know what trouble I was getting myself into!
There came a telephone call from Catherine Popehater, the redoubtable editor of the Tablet. "You fool, Bobbie!" she said. "It is the Tablet's policy to attack Pope Benedict (and indeed all earlier popes) by subtle means, not outright insults. Now you've given the whole game away!"
I could see her point. If the Tablet falls from grace, what will be next? Will people suspect that ACTA is run by the KGB? Will there be whispers about whether Tina Beattie is really to be taken seriously when she claims to be a Catholic?
The answer: prayer and reflection.
So I have decided to go for a period of prayer and reflection, as recommended by nine out of ten bishops to bloggers who point out where the bodies are buried. It's going to be a tough day or two, but I'll be back soon - maybe even in time for the Rat's funeral (oops!)