Thursday 6 December 2007

Bothersome women, bothering God

Unable to sleep because of the weight of trivia on my mind, I resolve to get up and deal with all outstanding issues in my life in a manly and decisive fashion. Unfortunately I have failed to allow for the fact that this involves making a series of telephone calls to women. These delightful creatures prove very persuasive when it comes to convincing me that I really ought to do the things I don’t actually want to do; and very unreliable when it comes to doing the things I want them to do with me. I think that both my lunch and dinner guests for tomorrow claiming to be sick must be some sort of record. Fortunately I am able to adopt a foolproof Plan B: going along to a traditional, all-male Fat Boys’ Lunch and inviting a Bloke to the opera and dinner in the evening. Obviously I won’t actually want any dinner, as I’ll still be full of my Fat Boys’ Lunch, but I’ve already pushed my luck with London’s hardest-to-book restaurant by converting a lunch reservation into a post-theatre supper, and I don’t feel inclined to find exactly how far their goodwill stretches.

I ring my friendly local builder to see when he might get round to mending the hole in my roof that has been troubling me for the last month, and find myself involved in a long discussion with his wife about the awfulness of the contemporary Church of England. I asked for this by writing something in the local paper about the limited appeal of the modern liturgy; a piece which provoked the classic e-mail response: “Spot on! These sodding Christians are ruining church for the rest of us.” Why anyone should confuse me with someone who actually gives a toss is a bit of a mystery, but I “hmmm” sympathetically as she tells me that “I was brought up to treat church with a certain respect … not like people these days who just want to use it for drinking coffee and charging around shaking hands … I can’t abide that ‘kiss of peace’ … the Bishop told me I must do whatever I felt comfortable with, so now I just stay on my knees with my eyes tightly shut until it’s over”.

I didn’t tell her the discouraging story of my friend who adopted the identical strategy and found that it worked precisely for one week. The following Sunday, he was treated to a hand descending firmly on his shoulder and a voice booming: “Excuse me!” He looked up into the shining eyes of a man built like a brick lavatory, who had evidently just returned from auditioning for the part of Hoss Cartwright in a new film version of the popular 1960s Western series “Bonanza”. A ham-like hand was firmly extended in my friend’s direction. Clearly the situation offered three options: telling Dan Blocker to f*** off, punching him in the stomach (since his face was out of reach) or shaking his hand. The first two seemed vaguely unchristian as well as almost certainly life-shortening. So my friend shook his hand, and it proved an epiphany. Not in the sense that he immediately signed up for the Alpha course, began talking in tongues and loving his fellow human beings. But because he took his crushed fingers home on the bus and resolved never to go to church again.

It took me all bloody afternoon to pack enough stuff to keep me decently clothed and one Border terrier adequately fed during the forthcoming week away from home. No wonder nearly every attempt I have made in recent years to take a foreign holiday has concluded with me deciding that the packing is more trouble than it is worth, and that what I really need is a nice rest at home, with a decent pot of tea, some proper English biscuits and the Daily Telegraph.

To cap it all, late this evening I found myself in the middle of a huge gathering of bright-eyed God-botherers, who all eagerly agreed with my published views. I regret to say that I was singularly ungracious to them, in the very worst tradition of minor local celebrities. I guess it must go with the territory, whatever that means.

No comments: