Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Anyway … as I was about to tell you before I interrupted myself, what an eventful day today has been.
I started the morning by visiting my doctor.
The poor man was not well and I thought it’s kind to visit the sick.
As soon as I entered the doctor’s surgery he asked me to lie down on the couch. I asked him why and he said: “I want to vacuum clean just where you’re standing!”
Then he looked at me and asked “Do you get severe headaches in the morning, followed by stomach pains and trembling of the knees?”
I replied “No … why?”
“Because I’ve been getting these symptoms for a week and I wondered if you knew what they were!
“Anyhow … what are you here for?” he continued.
I showed him my arm and said “I’ve hurt myself in three places …”
He replied, “Stop visiting these places!”
“And another thing doctor,” I went on, “when I drink tea I get this very sharp pain in my eye.”
“Take the spoon out of the cup before drinking!”
As I got off the couch the doctor asked me, “Tell me, do you have a horse?”
“No I don’t!”
“Pity,” he said, “I have some horse pills I got from a vet … you wouldn’t like to try them do you? You’ll soon be off at a gallop!
When I returned home I found the postman in my front garden.
“Is this letter yours,” he asked, “the surname’s obliterated.”
“My surname is Moubarak” I replied.
He gave me the letter. It was from a lawyer. I had been left two valuable items in Aunt Matilda’s last will and testament.
I took the items to an antiques dealer and he confirmed them as a genuine Stradivarius and a Rembrandt.
Unfortunately, Rembrandt was bad at making violins and Stradivarius was a terrible painter!
Monday, 26 September 2011
Friday, 23 September 2011
For days on end the house was full of excitement because “Aunt Gertrude is coming! Aunt Gertrude is coming!”
I can’t understand all the fuss myself; since no one has met Aunt Gertrude and the last time I saw her was millions of years ago in the Jurassic era I believe.
Sure, the old fossil does keep in touch, once a year, when she sends a re-cycled Christmas card which someone else has sent her. Yes, I mean it … a re-cycled Christmas card! She sticks a piece of paper on the card where previous well-wishers have written and then she writes her Yuletide Greetings. We often peel off the paper carefully and guess who originally sent her the card!
She has always been very tightfisted as I remember. So miserly that she looks at you from on top of her spectacles so as not to wear out the lenses!
Anyway … this distant relative, (she lives in Australia), whom no one has ever met except me has decided to visit us. Apparently her husband, a successful business man, had planned a business trip to the UK before he died suddenly, and she did not want to waste the airline ticket!
As soon as he was underground she was over ground and flying.
And I was tasked to go and meet her in the airport. I took the day off work and left early to get there on time. I waited endlessly in the reception area and eventually my eyes set upon the much awaited relative from down under.
She walked very slowly and carried a small case in her hand. I offered to carry it for her and she refused holding it tightly to her chest. We waited for the rest of her luggage which I loaded onto a trolley and then into my car.
No sooner had we left the airport that she started complaining. “Why do you drive so slow?” she asked, “where I come from we walk faster than that!”
I smiled politely, looked at her from the rear view mirror and said: “There’s a speed restriction area up front. Road works I believe!”
“Why do they have to fix the roads at inconvenient times and near a busy airport? Why can’t they fix them elsewhere?”
I must admit I had no good answer to this one. Why indeed do they fix the roads near the airport and not the ones in a desert somewhere, in the middle of a jungle or up a mountain? How inconsiderate of these road mending people!
“Do you live far?” was her next question.
“It’s about an hour away, I’m afraid!” I replied hesitantly.
“You should consider moving nearer the airport.” she retorted quickly, “it would be more considerate when you have visitors from abroad.”
Once again, she was right of course. We should all leave our place of employment locally, and where the schools are close to hand, and move near the busy airport on the off-chance that our distant relative, (not distant enough right now), might one day in a lifetime get hold of a spare airline ticket and choose to use it rather than attempt to get a reduced refund.
I remained silent and then started to panic as I saw the traffic build up right ahead. There had been an accident and we soon came to a stop on the highway.
“Are we there yet?” she asked.
“Why have we stopped then?”
“There’s been an accident. The police is re-directing us another way.”
“Not many accidents in Australia.” she claimed, “My husband drove for fifty years and never had an accident. Except once! When he reversed on Aristotle, the cat! Didn’t like him anyway … the cat. Didn’t like my husband much either …”
I said nothing and left the highway slowly as directed by the police.
A few minutes later my cell-phone rang. I stopped the car to answer it.
“Where are you? Why have you not picked up Aunt Gertrude from the airport?”
It took a few seconds for my slow brain to realize what I had done. I’d picked the wrong aunt from the airport!
How was I to know? She wore spectacles. She walked slowly. She looked old … she WAS old! She looked Australian, she spoke in an Australian accent and came off an Australian plane!
Was I to check her identity in her passport double-locked in her hand bag held tightly against her chest?
Why is it always my fault when everything goes wrong?
That evening I opened my Bible and read: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43: 1-5.
I bet He knows the right Aunt Gertrude better than me!
Thursday, 22 September 2011
One day God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the rascally behaviour that was going on. So He called one of His angels and sent the angel to Earth for a time.
When he returned, he told God, 'Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not.
God thought for a moment and said, 'Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another opinion.'
So God called another angel and sent him to Earth for a time. When the angel returned he went to God and said, 'Yes, it's true. The Earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are being good.'
God was not pleased. So He decided to e-mail the 5% that were good, because He wanted to encourage them, and give them a little something to help them keep going.
Do you know what the e-mail said?
Okay, I was just wondering, because I didn't get one either!!!
Monday, 19 September 2011
Catechism lessons with the 15 years-old at the local Catholic school were often a challenge to Father Ignatius. The youngsters were unremitting with their questions and they certainly pulled no punches. Today was no exception.
“Is it true that the Host and Wine at Communion are actually the Body and Blood of Jesus?” asked one of the pupils.
“Why would Jesus want us to eat Him?” asked another.
“That’s cannibalism” retorted a third. And so the questions went on.
Father Ignatius waited until they had stopped and then said calmly:
“Our Faith is full of mysteries. That’s why they call it Faith. If everything was explained to us by God, with every little detail made known, and every fact analysed by scientists, learned people and so on; then it wouldn’t be Faith would it?
“For reasons best known to Himself God has chosen to keep certain things hidden from us. And just as well I think, considering how we managed to mess up the world so far.”
“But is the Host the Body of Christ?” interrupted an impatient youngster.
The priest smiled and continued: “Catholics are invited, by the Church, to believe that the Host is indeed the Body of Christ, and the wine is His Blood.
“Many people have difficulties in believing this; and I can understand why.
“They can’t see what Christ meant at the Last Supper when He uttered those words we know so well. Was it symbolism? Was it fact?”
“What do you think Father?”
The priest habitually cleaned his spectacles as a natural pause and to allow the class to settle. He now knew he had their attention. All eagerly awaiting his reply to the challenging question.
“Let me tell you something first before I answer you” he said.
“Many years ago, about seven hundred years after the Birth of Jesus, there was a Basilian monk who lived in Italy in the Church of St Legontian. He doubted, like many others, the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
“One day, as he was celebrating the Holy Mass at the moment of Consecration the Host turned into live flesh, and the wine was changed into live blood.”
“Gosh …" gasped a young girl.
“This flesh and blood have been preserved, totally intact until today.”
“What? How is this possible?” asked one of the boys.
“That’s true … the flesh is the same dimension as the large Host used in Church, it is light brown in colour. The Blood has coagulated and is slightly brownish yellow.
“Various scientific tests have been undertaken over the years on the flesh and blood and it was discovered that the flesh is real human flesh and the blood is real human blood. The flesh is essentially a human heart.
“The flesh and blood are the same blood-type, AB. That’s the same blood type uncovered in the Holy Shroud of Turin.”
“Wow …” said one of the children.
“The preservation of the flesh and blood still in their natural state for all these years, over twelve centuries, is an extraordinary phenomenon.” declared the priest.
“After all this time?”
“Yes,” said Father Ignatius, “after all this time the flesh and blood still exist in their natural state. Why don’t you do some research in the library in time for next week’s lesson.
“Here are some clues on what to look for. Search for Eucharistic Miracle, Lanciano, Italy, 8th century AD, The Real Presence.
“I think that’s enough clues to keep you going for now.”
Friday, 16 September 2011
It was hot and I had left the window open when I heard the noise of fluttering wings and saw a few feathers floating by.
I looked out and saw a pigeon hanging upside down on the edge of the roof. It had somehow gathered some twine on one of its legs and as it flew here and there with the string attached, it eventually got caught on the rainwater gutters of our building. So here it was hanging upside down by its leg on the edge of our building fluttering madly to free itself.
What do I do? Ignore it and let it die a slow death? Hit it on the head with my cricket bat which I bring to work on match days and put it out of its misery? Or phone the Animal Protection people and let them deal with it?
The more I thought about it the more the poor creature fluttered away desperately to set itself free.
In sheer desperation I did a desperate thing.
I opened the window wider and stepped out on the ledge. It’s wide enough for me to walk on slowly if I lean gently against the tilting roof. It seems solid enough despite the age of the building. And if I’m careful … very careful … I can ease myself slowly near the bird and then, if I bend down a little, I can untangle the string from the gutters.
Great plan! Badly thought out and executed.
As I neared the bird it fluttered even more widely than before and somehow freed itself from the string as it flew away without a word of thanks.
It was then that things got worse. I could not move back towards the window.
No … No … It was not panic … or fear of heights … or anything like that.
It was much worse. My trousers got caught in some loose nails on the roof. It was where you have those loops through which you thread your belt … I think.
Anyway … I was caught … or nailed to the roof by the seat of my pants. I couldn’t move backwards or forwards.
Dash it all … why do people gather in the street at a moment’s notice? Have they got nothing better to do?
I hear my boss talking to me gently through the open window?
“Come back in … I’m sure we can discuss matters like grown ups. Perhaps you need a few days holiday?”
Why do people jump to conclusions whenever someone stands on a ledge? Why can’t they believe my story about the pigeon? Where is that stupid bird? Why is he not here confirming my story?
Miss Frome, the beautiful young Company nurse leans well forwards out of the window and soothingly tries to calm me down. Her décolleté revealing top confuses my troubled mind even more than it is.
Do I look away modestly and lead her to believe I’m not listening? Or do I look her in the eyes … if I can … and explain my predicament.
“Look at me …” she says calmly, “we all care for you … this is a caring employer as you know … despite all the job losses of late …”
I turn back at her but don't know where to look ... I can’t speak as I stand there open-mouthed.
“Ehmmm …” but my voice fails me as no sound comes out.
She continues to calm me down by reciting platitudes about how good our employer is until eventually the fire brigade arrive and release me from the nails which held me captive by the pants.
I don’t know what’s more embarrassing. The story about the pigeon or leaving half my trousers back on the roof!
Had I fallen to my death leaving my trousers behind how would I have answered St Peter when he asked “And where are your slacks young man?”
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
It wasn’t until our meeting was over when my boss made an announcement without having cleared it with me first.
“I hope you’ll enjoy your stay overnight at the hotel we’ve booked for you Mademoiselle Tombal,” he said with a smile, “Victor will meet you at seven this evening for dinner, and then he’ll take you to the theatre to see a performance of our beloved William Shakespeare!”
“What?” I thought to myself silently, “I have other plans for this evening …”
Mademoiselle Tombal said she looked forwards to a pleasant evening and left with one of our executives to be chauffeur driven to the luxurious hotel we had booked for her.
My boss apologized profusely as honestly as he could possibly lie and explained that he had planned to take her out himself but because of urgent family business he’d be for ever grateful if I did it instead.
“And you speak French so well,” he said flattering me, “she’ll be so impressed by it!”
I didn’t believe him but had no option but to accept his unwelcome decision.
I made sure I was impeccably dressed and my shoes very well polished when I picked her up at the hotel and took her to a first class restaurant. We made polite conversation about this and that and I prayed that this evening would soon be over.
After our meal we were chauffeur driven to the theatre for a performance of Hamlet by some of our top British actors.
My boss, who certainly has style, had booked us balcony seats all to ourselves. There we were, Veronique and I in our own balcony, when two men came in pushing a trolley with a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket, two glasses, and a large box of the best chocolate truffles you could imagine.
“My boss is certainly keen to win this contract …” I thought to myself, “he hasn’t missed a trick so far … luxurious hotel, chauffeur driven car, grand restaurant, a balcony at the theatre and now this … I’d better be on my best behaviour … I wouldn’t want to be the reason why this contract is lost!”
Before the performance started I tried to make small conversation about Shakespeare and Hamlet in particular, trying hard to remember what I’d been taught at school all those years ago. But it soon became apparent that Veronique was very well educated in English literature having spent some years at a top British University in her youth.
“Something else which my boss had omitted to tell me …” I thought to myself cursing him in the process.
Thankfully, the performance started giving me the opportunity to remain silent and praying that the evening would soon be over without me making any more silly mistakes. Once this play is finished, I’d accompany her to the hotel and hey presto … I’m free to go home to my family!
As the play progressed I noticed she held a handkerchief to her eyes several times.
“Was she getting emotional?” I thought, “Hamlet is not exactly a comedy, but I saw no reason for tears … Maybe she remembers her time at University in England … an old friend perhaps had come to mind … some handsome young man she once loved maybe … and now she wonders what could have been …”
I didn’t know what to do. I looked ahead pretending not to notice her and every so often I looked sideways at her without moving my head. I think she was crying all right. She kept raising her handkerchief to her eyes every now and then.
If I said nothing she’d think I was an un-caring so and so … and if that’s the way I deal with a person who is clearly upset then our Company certainly doesn’t deserve this big contract. And if we were to lose the contract my boss would blame me and most possibly fire me for ruining it all for him.
On the other hand, if I tried to console her and say something she’d probably resent it and be embarrassed by the whole affair and blame me for making it obvious that she’s distressed. And we’d lose the contract and my boss would fire me anyway.
Perhaps if I offered her another chocolate truffle? No … that might remind her of her boy-friend who used to take her to the theatre and buy her chocolates and …
My mind was doing somersaults and I did not know what to do for the best.
Maybe I should pretend to cry too, wipe my eyes every now and then … that would show her that I am a sensitive man well moved by this magnificent performance of Hamlet. But then, people expect business men to be tough … and we’d lose the contract and …
On the other hand, she might think that it’s nice for a man to show his feelings … in touch with one’s feminine side and all that …
To cry or not to cry? That is the question which repeated in my mind.
It was then that she said, “Would you assist me please? I seem to have lost one of my contact lenses. It just fell to the ground.
“I have another pair in my handbag. They are in a little tube. Would you mind getting them for me please?” And she handed me her handbag.
I opened her bag gingerly on my knees and put my hand in to try and find a little plastic tube containing her spare contact lenses.
Why do women have to carry the whole world and his uncle inside their bags? Why do they need all this stuff?
The first thing I picked out was a tube of lipstick … I put it back in. Then a small bottle with some cleaning fluid for lenses, a tube of cool mints sweets, a small box with needles and thread, a packet of French cigarettes … and several other items too … !!!
“The container is in a side pocket on the left” she said.
I looked left and right and left again but it was far too dark to see anything in her handbag. I pushed my head almost right into the handbag resting on my knees but I could not find her contact lenses.
Then I found a cigarette lighter and I thought “Aha … let there be light!”
I lit the lighter … held it in my hand and carefully put it in the handbag … I put my face right into the handbag and peered down in the darkness therein to see if I could find the contact lenses.
And that’s when it happened.
As the man on the stage was saying loudly “To be or not to be” I set my hair on fire.
I dropped the handbag and its contents on the floor … tried frantically to put the fire out without drawing the attention of the whole audience to a separate comedic performance in our balcony … whilst Mademoiselle Veronique emptied the bottle of champagne on my head, followed by the bucket of ice, and then proceeded to hit me several times with her theatre program to ensure the fire in my hair was well and truly out!
I was soaking wet with champagne and freezing water and quite a few of my curls had perished in the forest fire which took place on my cranium.
Eventually the fire was out and we found her spare contact lenses.
She thought the whole performance was hilarious … and I don’t mean Hamlet!
We did win the contract but I had great difficulty explaining my singed hair to my wife and family … and my boss is pleased that I’d go to any lengths to gain a contract for him.
Monday, 12 September 2011
Father Ignatius was often encouraged at the level of participation in church activities by the parishioners at St Vincent. There was a daily babies and toddlers group for mothers and their young ones, a youth club for those aged twelve to sixteen met weekly in the hall, as well as the cub scouts, girl guides and other groups for the young ones in his congregation. Even the not so young met in the Senior Citizens Group and the Seniors Bridge Club. The Choir always attracted new members, Sunday Catechism classes were well attended and no end of boys volunteered as Altar servers during Mass.
He had worked hard over the years encouraging the many groups to be set up and run on a voluntary basis and attracting active participation. He prayed that it would remain always so.
Early one morning he was at his desk when he saw out of the window four young boys come running from the park opposite towards the church. He got up and made his way to church in time for morning Mass.
As he entered the Sacristy he heard the four boys shouting and arguing with each other.
“You’re a cheat …” screamed one of them, “I came first …”
“What is going on here?” asked Father Ignatius in his calm yet masterly voice.
“Henry is a cheat Father!” said a youngster, “we raced from the park and I came first. Peter was second. Joe and Henry came last.”
“No I didn’t …” shouted Henry. “I was first in the Sacristy …”
“All right … calm down now,” said Father Ignatius, “I saw you running from the park. It’s dangerous crossing the road like that. In future I want you to stop and use the proper crossing by the traffic lights. Is that understood?”
“Yes …” they said in unison.
“Now, what was all this running about?”
“We agreed that the first two to get to church will be the Altar servers today.”
The priest was silently impressed. To think that these eight year olds were rushing to church to serve at Mass. They were certainly a credit to their parents. To wake up early every day and compete to serve at the Altar denotes seeds planted in good fertile ground. There’s hope for the future.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do …” said Father Ignatius, “any two of you who can recite the Lord’s Prayer will serve with me at Mass today ...”
“Easy …” interrupted Mark.
“In Latin …” continued the priest.
“That’s also easy …” said Peter, “Pater Noster …”
And to his pleasure and surprise all four recited the Lord’s Prayer in Latin word perfect. He tried them with the Hail Mary also in Latin and they performed admirably.
“All right … all right … you win” declared Father Ignatius, “I have decided that from now on we will have four Altar servers at daily Mass. Now go and get ready!”
As he left the Sacristy Father Ignatius heard one of the boys say: “When I’m a priest I will have one hundred Altar servers at Mass each day.”
Father Ignatius smiled and prayed to God that indeed it may be so.
Friday, 2 September 2011
I came across an old photo the other day which reminded me of Auntie Matilda.
There I was a young boy wearing a multi-colored pullover. You know the type? Several horizontal lines each a different color – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and then red again and so on. I looked like a proper walking rainbow.
It was a jersey which Auntie Matilda had knitted for my birthday and hideous as it was I had to wear it all day because she was visiting us for the day.
Thinking back, the main thing I remember about Auntie Matilda was her constant knitting. She always had a pair of knitting needles in hand and a bag full of different colored balls of wool as she talked and knitted, and ate and knitted, and drank tea and knitted and did everything else imaginable as she knitted. If knitting was an Olympic Sport she’d win medals for England for her knitting.
Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation or other family event was rewarded by Auntie Matilda knitting us something or other. Pullovers, scarves, hats, caps, gloves, mittens, socks, she’d knitted them all in every color imaginable and in every kind of stitch that it is possible to knit in. She’d even knitted little cozies to keep the teapot warm, and to keep the soft-boiled eggs warm before serving them, and to keep the plates warm before serving a meal and also, would you believe, to keep the thermos flask warm when you’re out on a picnic.
She then diversified into more adventurous items such as knitting a cover for the tables, the chairs, the TV and every other piece of furniture imaginable. We had bed-spreads made of knitting, tapestries on the wall made of knitting, toilet seat covers made of knitting and to cap it all she had a large bag made of knitting to hold her knitting wool and needles.
I guess that if you unravelled all the things she had knitted for us as a family the wool would stretch to Pluto and back several times over.
I remember as a child I’d asked my parents for a fire engine for Christmas. You guessed it … she told them not to buy me one and she knitted me a bright red fire engine!
What’s the use of that? I couldn’t run it on the floor and make fire engine noises as kids do!
As she grew older Auntie Matilda continued knitting. There was no stopping her.
I was once given two Ballet tickets by my boss.
Now let me confess straight-away that I hate ballet. I don’t see the point of a stage full of people walking on tip-toe. Why can’t they hire taller dancers and be done with it?
And I equally dislike the Opera too. It’s so unreal. It’s the only place where someone gets stabbed, or has a sword run through him or takes poison and continues to sing for at least ten minutes. And the other actors, instead of helping him out and calling an ambulance they sing even louder too. What’s all that about?
Anyway … I did not want to go to the Ballet but was coerced to take Auntie Matilda with me because she loved it so. And after all, she was my Aunt and not anyone else’s … she was from my side of the family so I had to take her.
We sat there at the balcony and as soon as the lights went out and the performance started, out came the knitting needles and the balls of wool. I swear she was knitting in tune with the music!
After the performance was over, my boss, who had influence in such circles, invited us to a private party back-stage to meet the cast, choreographers, musicians and so on.
Auntie Matilda was overheard discussing in a loud voice with the producer the benefits of having knitted tutus for the ballerinas. She also suggested knitted trousers for the male dancers!
“It’ll help keep them warm when you’re touring Scotland in winter,” she said “and it’ll also cover the revealing men’s bits … you ken!”
I put my old photo away and said a silent prayer for Auntie Matilda now long departed.
Remember friends, when you’re in Heaven, should you see Jesus walking around with a multi-colored scarf and bonnet you’ll know that Auntie Matilda got to Him first!