Saturday, 31 October 2020

Stars And Celery

 

It was a beautiful warm summer evening. The youngsters from the Youth Club had gathered in the gardens behind St Vincent Church and enjoyed a lovely prayer service led by Father Ignatius and Father Donald, followed by a barbecue and singing by the fire.

As night drew in they had left one by one as their parents came to collect them and take them home. Even the Youth Club Leaders had gone. Only the two priests and Mrs Davenport, their housekeeper, remained in the gardens. She got up from her chair and started collecting the plates and cutlery to take them in the house.

“Oh … do sit down Theresa …” said Father Ignatius, “you’ve been working all evening. Just sit down and relax.”

“But there’s all this washing up to do Father …” she replied, “it won’t get done by itself …”

“Don’t worry about the washing up …” said Father Donald picking up his guitar and playing a tune, “Ignatius and I will do all the washing up later … I promise. Now sit down and let’s enjoy a few moments by the fire as it dies down …”

After a few moments of silence, listening to Father Donald playing his guitar, she could keep quiet no longer.

“What are you looking at up in the sky?” she asked Father Ignatius.

“All those stars … shining brightly in a clear dark sky. There must be hundreds and thousands of them. And they’re so far away …” said Father Ignatius pensively.

She looked up and said nothing for a moment or two.

“How are they held up there in the sky?” she asked.

Father Donald stopped playing the guitar.

“They are not held … they are just there …” he mumbled in his broad Glaswegian accent.

“But why don’t they fall?” she continued, “something must be holding them in the sky …”

“There’s no thing as a sky as such …” Father Donald began to explain, “there are stars, and planets and solar systems which make up the universe and …”

“Of course there’s a sky,” she interrupted, “it’s up there and I can see it. It is black at night and it changes color in the morning to blue and sometimes it is red in the evenings …”

“Dear Lord …” mumbled the priest as he picked up his guitar once again.

“What do you think Father Ignatius?” she asked, “isn’t God wonderful to have made all these stars … and in seven days too! He must have been working real fast.”

“I suppose so …” replied Father Ignatius gently.

“And then He made us humans and He put us on this earth …” she interrupted yet again.

“That’s right … He created the universe and all that is in it … including us,” continued Father Ignatius.

She gazed at the stars silently for a few moments. You could almost see the cogs turning in her head as she thought her next question.

“Do you think He created other living beings on those stars Father?” she asked.

Father Donald stopped playing the guitar and waited in anticipation for his fellow priest to reply.

“That’s a difficult question to answer …” said Father Ignatius eventually.

“Why should we be His only creations?” she enquired again.

“We really don’t know if this is the case,” said Father Donald, “there’s nothing in Scripture to suggest that God created other beings apart from us …”

“What do they look like? I wonder …” she interrupted again, “do they look like us? Or are they green with antennas on their heads like you see in the films …

“It says in the Bible that God made us in His image … so He must look human. Or does He look green with antennas so the people up there can recognize Him?

“And did He send them Jesus like He did to us … only He looked green too?”

“I think you’re running ahead of yourself Theresa …” said Father Ignatius gently, “we really have no way of knowing whether God created other living beings on other planets or other solar systems. Nor indeed what they look like.

“But in reality … that is not important.

“What is important is to focus on Him here and now. To accept Him as our God and Creator; and to love Him just as He loves us.

“There are enough mysteries in our Faith which we are asked to believe without us inventing new ones such as green creatures living in outer space …”

“One day as I was in the kitchen,” she said, “Father Donald waved a few sticks of celery through the open window and shouted the ‘Triffids have landed … the Triffids have landed …’ he has a wicked sense of humor, Father, don’t you think?”

“Sometimes humor helps to lighten the mood …” replied Father Ignatius defending his fellow priest.

“He also told me that there are no animals or pets in Heaven … what do you think Father Ignatius? Are there animals in Heaven?”

“I hope not …” replied Father Ignatius, “I would hate to come face to face with the Sunday roast reprimanding me for what I had done to it!”

“Aye indeed …” said Father Donald, “humour does help to lighten the mood … I hope it helps lighten the washing up which we’ve promised to do. Let’s get started!”

This was an excerpt from my latest book 

featuring Father Ignatius entitled 

IN HIS SERVICE

A delightful selection of short stories featuring Father Ignatius; the main character in the books “Visions”, “The Priest and Prostitute”, “To Love a Priest”, “Don’t Let The Devil Win!” and many others by the same author.

You can read the stories in chronological order or just open at any page and enjoy a daily adventure with the kind and caring priest. Each story is a stand-alone vignette. 

In this book we see Father Ignatius dealing with numerous situations in his daily life as a priest with compassion, with love and with understanding. 

Always there for his parishioners. Always following in his Master’s footsteps. Always In His Service. 

PAPERBACK AND KINDLE VERSIONS HERE

Friday, 30 October 2020

Halloween experience I'll never forget

 

Halloween is meant to be fun. It amuses the children and (for me) it is a source of chocolates and sweets. So I'm in favour of that.

But sometimes Halloween goes too far. That's up to people of course, but I don't like it when it involves me. Do your own thing if you want but don't involve me. Don't put me in a difficult situation.

As happened years ago. I'll never forget it.

We were at a Halloween party given by my boss at his large house somewhere deep in the country. That in itself was a setting for a spooky film. 

A big, dark,18th Century manor, surrounded by tall trees. 

Autumn leaves falling to the ground; giving the impression that the bare trees silhouetted against the dark sky, lit by an anaemic moon, were ready to bend down and grasp you in their branches and do unspeakable things to you.

I had gone there with another work colleague in his car. So there was no way I could back out and pretend I was unwell and wanted to go home.

There were about a dozen or so people at this party. It was quiet and pleasant enough, and everyone was talking about work amongst the canapés and drinks and soft music from a violin being played on the Hi-Fi speakers. 

Why do they call them canapés? Did you know it means a leather settee or couch, in French? What a stupid thing to call them.

For those who don't know it, a canapé is a small piece of bread or pastry with a savoury topping usually from a tin of cat or dog food. It is presented to you on a platter. You take one delicately with your fingers and pretend to enjoy it whilst making meaningless conversation about nothing with someone who would most probably bore the pants off you!

That's the official definition in the new dictionary which I am currently writing.

So there we were boring each other to an early death making inane conversation about profit margins, economic out-turn and the bottom line ... actually ... to be honest ... I was very interested about the bottom line of that beautiful young lady in the very low cut dress both at the front and the back. How did she keep that dress in place? It seemed that the delicate garment was hanging on to dear life at every contour of her body. Do you think she used Velcro? A two-sided tape maybe, stuck to her body at certain parts and holding the dress by Velcro? 

The mysteries of life for ever haunt me ...

As I was saying before that woman interrupted my thoughts ... we were canapeing and drinking and talking when my boss' wife suggested we have a seance. 

Most of the guests were enthusiastic about it; either genuinely so or they were afraid of the boss. I of course was too much of a coward to be afraid of the boss. I was afraid of losing my job instead.

Anyway, Isabella ... that's the boss's wife, brought out a Luigi Board which she had bought from Italy when she visited her parents the previous year.

About six of the guests sat round a table and put their fingers on this little contraption which moved freely on the Luigi Board.

Isabella read the instructions from the manual that came with the board and then asked, "Is anyone there?"

The little contraption spelled out, "Whatsa do yah wanter ... I am bizzy making dah pizza right now!"

Turns out she had summoned an Italian ghost which came with the Luigi Board as an additional extra.

The seance took a little longer than usual because we had to translate everything the ghost said; but I got a nice recipe for tagliatelle with carbonara sauce.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The Hare, The Tortoise, And Me!

 


We have a rabbit. He lives in a hutch in the garden but he is let out every now and then under supervision. He is not allowed in the house of course, unless he ever enters the kitchen where there are plenty of pots and pans to accommodate him. I have often dreamt of having him in a rabbit pie, or with gravy and potatoes; but like Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny I don't think I'll ever have that rabbit for a meal. The family say he is a pet and they love feeding him and generally looking after him.

The other day I opened the front door and found a box at my feet with a tortoise in it. I looked left and right ... and saw nothing unusual. Why do people look left and right when something like this happens? What was I expecting to see? Someone running away after leaving the box on my doorstep? For all I know the box may have been there for ages and whoever placed it there is now long gone to another Continent.

I picked it up and asked the family, "Has anyone ordered a tortoise from the Internet?"

I didn't know you could buy such things on-line; but they all denied any responsibility. All they said is, "Can we keep him? He'll make a nice friend for Choochoo the rabbit."

Who ever heard of a rabbit called Choochoo? Sounds more like a train to me. Apparently they called him such because of the way his nose moves up and down when he chews on a lettuce leaf.

Anyway, I held the tortoise in my hand and half wondered whether I should phone the Missing Persons Bureau to check whether anyone reported a missing tortoise. I dismissed the idea thinking they'd probably say I'm wasting their time.

Besides, technically speaking, the tortoise was not missing. It did not just decide to go out for a walk and forgot where he lived. He was placed in a box, with a lid on, and the box left at my doorstep. I assumed that the tortoise had not done that to itself; so presumably someone left it here deliberately. Or by accident, mistaking my address for someone else.

I decided that for the time being I'd let him loose in the garden; whilst I sit there to keep an eye on him and searching our recipe book for any meals involving tortoises.

No sooner he was out of the box, Gonzales came out of his shell and started walking towards the end of the garden. I mean ... whoever heard of a tortoise called Gonzales? But I didn't have much say on the matter.

He walked and walked, followed by me to ensure that he doesn't wonder away to the neighbours' gardens. Eventually, walking in a perfectly straight line, he reached the end of the garden after ten minutes or so. Fortunately, he stopped by the pyracantha bushes at the end of my garden.

I was really grateful for his sudden stop because I had no intention of following him inside those bushes. I still have nightmares of the day I fell backwards from a ladder into a bush of these infernal plants; and the humiliation thereafter of having thorns removed from my derriere which looked like a pin cushion by a nurse in hospital. The nurse did not look like a pin cushion ... are you paying attention or not?

So I picked up the tortoise and turned him round a full 180 degrees. To my amazement Gonzales started walking again straight back to where he had come from. I followed him for another ten minutes or so and when he reached the house, I turned him round once again. He walked once more straight towards the pyracantha.

This went on for at least six times or so. Gonzales was intent on walking his own marathon without the incentive of a hare or rabbit named Choochoo chasing him. Up and down the garden he went until I got tired of following him; so I put him in the hutch with the rabbit.

Choochoo and Gonzales have been friends for a couple of weeks now. I've asked around and placed posters enquiring whether anyone has lost a box with a tortoise in it but no one has come forward claiming him. Instead, people look at me furtively and whisper whenever they see me in the street!

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Regrets? I wish I had not eaten that ...

Sometimes in life a song, or a photo from years gone by takes you back many years as you remember different times, different places, different people, and different chocolates even.

It is called nostalgia. Not the chocolate ... the taking your mind back to bygone times. Are you paying attention? Stop thinking of chocolates for a while.

As I was saying; nostalgia isn't what it used to be. In olden times nostalgia took you back to your childhood, to your school days, friends and so on. But as you get older, nostalgia becomes trying to remember what you had for breakfast!  

Anyway, there I was in the garden with this contraption gifted to me. It is the size of a matchbox and it has on it many songs you can hear on speakers or earphones. 

And a song from the past came on. It triggered memories of people I knew then. Things that happened then. Things I cannot change now. Nor make amends.

I doubt many of you are old enough to remember the song. Although it has been re-recorded several times by different artists. My readers are typically young and would only remember songs from the 60s or 70s. 

Well, this song was about regrets, of which I have a few, but then again too few to mention ... ... ...

I hate plagiarism, don't you? I long for the day when there is no more plagiarism in the world. You, may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. I hope someday you will join us. And the world will be as one ... no plagiarism any more.

The memories from the past and the regrets came flooding back as I sat down on the bench crying my heart out.

It was then I realised that someone had left a tray of cacti on the bench!


Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Mrs Frosdick-Borehead

I met Mrs Frosdick-Borehead two days ago. She is a very old lady who lives nearby. So old she is in Genesis; and I don't mean Genesis the rock group with Phil Collins. I meant the first book in the Bible which she helped edit.

She approached me as I was getting out the trash and she said, "Is that yourself ?"

I hesitated and said, "Yes ... it is me!"

She screwed her eyes a little to focus better and then added, "It is you ... isn't it?"

I smiled and replied gently, "yes ... I've always been me ... at least I was this morning when I checked!"

"Where have you been all these years," she said angrily, "I have not seen you for thirteen years. Ever since I asked you to go to the kitchen and get some olives!"

I did not know what to say for a moment or two. My mind focussed on the olives. I like olives. Black ones, green ones, with stones, without stones, stuffed with that red pimento something. How do they get that red thing in the olive? Is there a man with a hole punch making a small hole and then pushing in the pimento with a toothpick? Or are the olives grown with the pimento in them?

She interrupted my tasty train of thought.

"I bet you still haven't found the olives, have you?" she cried.

I wondered who she must have mistaken me for. Her husband perhaps. I've never met him. I assumed he was dead not in the kitchen looking for olives. Maybe he went in the kitchen and stepped into a magic portal which transported him to another world. Maybe he is in an olive grove somewhere in another world still searching for olives.

"Well, don't stand there like an idiot not saying a thing," she continued, "have you got the olives or not?"

I don't know why I said this next thing. May the Good Lord forgive me. The devil tempted me and I succumbed.

"Yes," I said, "I've got the olives. Let me get them for you."

I then went into the house and got her a jar of olives which we had bought just recently. A new jar. Unopened. Full of lovely olives with pimento inside each of them.

I gave it to her with a smile.

"I prefer the black ones," she said, "but these will do". And she walked away with my olives.

This morning, whilst pruning the roses in my front garden, a neighbour said to me, "I hear you got caught by Frosdick-Borehead the other day. She always asks people for things she wants to save her going to the supermarket. I gave her a packet of tea the other day. We always buy a few extra in case she asks again. You'd better stock up on olives!"

Monday, 26 October 2020

Alfonse Aubergine


I went to hospital yesterday. I was visiting Alfonse Aubergine. A French friend of mine. 

Now before you start thinking ... I don't want you to assume that I categorise my friends according to their nationality. The French, the Italians and so on. I said French on account of his name being Alfonse Aubergine. It means small hostel; from auberge meaning hostel. 

Had his name been Giuseppe Broccoli, I would have mentioned he's Italian. It's by way of conversation ... you know ... Angus McDonald for instance would be a farmer by trade. 

Anyway, where was I before you interrupted my thoughts? I wish you'd stop doing that. It takes me ages to think what I'm about to write.

I can hear you, you know. When I'm writing I can hear your thoughts say, "Why did he mention Alfonse is French? Did he think we'd assume he is Greek or Swedish with a name like that?"

Well, I was going to tell you that his cousin is called Marcel Ratatouille, but I won't bother now in case you make an issue of it as well. 

Also, when in France he stayed at a hostel run by Madame Leggert. But I won't mention that either.  

In fact, I'll have you know that I love the French. 

A few years ago I was in Paris on holiday and I hit my head against a low door entrance at a restaurant and ended up in hospital. 

The doctor asked me, "Did you not see the sign saying low door"? 

I replied that I did but I could not read French.

The doctor in question was called Dr Michelin. For some reason he was always tired. Maybe he worked too much.

There's a lot of other things I was going to tell you about the French. But I will not now, in case you comment about it. 

So as I was saying, I visited Alfonse Aubergine in hospital yesterday. He is about 80 years old. Not too steady on his feet and he suffers from vertigo. His wife says he hates heights and gets dizzy by just putting his socks on. Maybe he should wash them more often. 

But to continue; he'd come round my home that very morning to help me clean the rain gutters up on the roof. He insisted on going up the ladder to do the job. 

Being the cautious type, I was going to do the job myself, but readily agreed when he volunteered. I thought that if he'd happen to fall off the ladder I could easily run away so he doesn't land on me. 

As it happened he did fall.

He landed right into the pyracantha bush. You know, the one with red berries and many thorns. You should have heard him scream in pain. Totally out of tune he was. No wonder he's not in the church choir with a voice like that.

At the hospital a couple of nurses spent ages taking the thorns out of his backside. I was told by one of the nurses that his whole back is full of spots from where he was hurt by the thorns. 

If you join all the spots together with a pencil you get a picture which you can then colour with colouring pencils. 

His wife likes colouring books; so she'll have a good time colouring him when he gets home. She was there in hospital with a box full of small pots of paint. Maybe she'd paint him instead. 

Portrait of Alfonse as an old man.

Whilst in hospital Alfonse was tested for various allergies. The doctor put various liquids on his arm and wrote next to them what they were derived from - like house dust, animal fur and so on, to see which liquid would cause a reaction with the skin. Turned out he was allergic to the ink in the pen the doctor used. 

Better check the paints his wife brought too, I guess.

Anyway, Alfonse is back home now. His wife tells me he has a beautiful painting on his back, but did not tell me what painting it was. 

I wonder if it is a painting of a nude ... you know, like the old masters used to paint nudes. Rubens, Manet and the others. It would be the first painting of a nude painted on a nude body.

I wonder if it's a painting of the Mona Lisa on his backside. That should bring a smile to her face. 

Have you got any paintings on your back?

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Approachable Ignatius

 

Time was when priests were more approachable and people felt more at ease discussing their problems with them and seeking guidance. But times change and with them habits and customs change too.

Nowadays people are more willing to spend their hard-earned cash consulting psychiatrists and counselors than asking the man of God for his wisdom and opinions.

Somehow, this distancing from one’s flock has been precipitated by busy modern lifestyles where people are working all hours at their disposal. And priests too are pre-occupied with Parish meetings, Ecumenical Councils, and various other tasks and targets set upon them by their clerical hierarchies.

Father Ignatius was well aware of this changing trend, and being an old-fashioned old-school type of priest he did his utmost to keep in touch with grass roots in his church. He knew most people personally by first name, he visited them at home often, or in hospital when they were ill, or at the police station or jail when they were in trouble. And in turn, they did not hesitate to trouble him with their worries and problems at all times of night and day.

Many times did he settle down of an evening to watch his favorite team play football on TV, or to listen to his favorite classical music when the phone rang and a parishioner needed help. Or the door bell rang, and they brought their problems to his doorstep or lounge even!

Mrs Frost was such an example when she turned up to the Parish house one evening in tears.

“My husband has just left home,” she sobbed as she sat down on the settee clutching a handkerchief tightly in her hand.

Father Ignatius listened attentively and sympathetically. There was very little he could practically do straight away. The newly married couple had a row about something or other and Mr Frost stormed out of the house in a temper.

The priest tried his best to console Mrs Frost and after saying a prayer together she calmed down enough to return home; which was within walking distance of the church. Father Ignatius promised to call on them the next day after morning Mass.

Thankfully Mr Frost was at home and with his usual patience and gentleness Father Ignatius succeeded in getting them to discuss their problem. Amongst the tears and prayers it soon became apparent that their troubles stemmed from lack of communication leading to misunderstandings and confusion.

“Praise the Lord …” said the priest gently, “you really do love each other deeply; yet you can’t hear each other because of the noise of your busy lifestyles.

“Let me tell you a story which perhaps may help you to focus on what is going on here …” continued Father Ignatius,

“There once was a married couple who'd been together for many years; longer than the two of you have been married.

“One day the wife was unwell with a heavy cold. Her loving husband stayed at home and helped around the house. After seeing the children to school he offered to make her something to eat.

“She asked for a salad sandwich made with a French baguette which they had just bought that morning.

“The husband went into the kitchen, cut the ends of the French baguette, and with the middle bit made the most delicious sandwich, with tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers - just as his wife likes it.

“She must have felt pretty bad that day, because when he presented the sandwich to her she snapped ‘Why do you always cut the end bits of the baguette for yourself? They're my favorite!’

“He smiled and said ‘My dear, I hate the end bits, they're crunchy and dry ... I've been having them for years because I thought you hated them too!’

“You see … all these years he was trying to please her, and little did he know that she preferred the end bits of the French bread … and all this time she thought he was selfish by taking her favorite bits of the bread to himself, but she said nothing because she loved him as much as he loved her … all because of lack of communication.

“How many problems can be avoided in life if we learn to communicate honestly and openly with each other?

“So as I leave you can I urge you please to find out how you like your sandwiches,” he concluded with a smile.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Have you got a credit card?


It's been a long time since I played you a Country & Western song. Here's one from years gone by by Dick Feller.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Adverts my ****

 

Time was when adverts on TV were amusing. Perhaps even better than the programs they showed. I used to go and make a cup of tea, or go to the bathroom, during the program and return in time for the adverts on TV. We even used to play a game as to who could guess what the advert was within the first few seconds of it showing on the screen. You got one point for each one you guessed right before everyone else. You lost a point for guessing wrong. We also played another game at adding points for the whole evening of watching TV if we had the product advertised in the house. If they advertised a certain brand of soap, and we had it in the house, that's one point. Some evenings we scored as many as seven branded items which we had in the house.

Now adverts are different. For start they are boring. Predictable. And controlled by various regulations, and political correctness.

For example, you are not allowed to advertise sweets and chocolates for children at times when they may be watching. How stupid is that? The reason being that they may want said sweets and put their parents under pressure to buy them. Also, sweets are bad for children, don't you know?

So now we have adverts for sweets and chocolates, the children's varieties, after 10:00pm at night when children are not watching. I often wondered how many grown ups seeing the adverts at that hour suddenly get the urge to buy chocolate buttons or multi-coloured sweeties.

We are also not allowed to advertise on TV any cigarettes, cigars, tobacco or anything related to smoking. But it is OK to advertise throughout the day various alcoholic drinks and spirits as well as many gambling websites where you can gamble your money away. Because these are not as bad as smoking.

Adverts these days are meant to make you feel better, to feel happy and contended that you have made the right choice by buying the product advertised. I suppose this was ever so.

We have adverts for life insurance so that you rest easy in the fact that when it is your turn to rest for eternity your funeral will be paid for. We even have adverts for Undertakers and Funeral Directors which will arrange your funeral to your satisfaction now, including the type and style of funeral you want, number of attendants, type of coffin and so on; so that when you die all you have to do is attend. Or make sure that someone tells the undertaker where you are and they will collect you regardless of distance or time of death. You can even arrange for cremation if you don't want to be buried, thus cheating the devil from grilling you in hell!

I often wonder whether these adverts provide a helpful service to people of a certain age, or whether they are there just to scare the living daylight out of you. Perhaps they are there just to make money; but it would be naive of me to suggest it.

Then there are the adverts for very personal bodily functions and various products, for men and women, on how to avoid, or reduce, or control, or moderate, or learn to live with such bodily functions which so often are part of nature and part of getting old anyway. There are all sorts of garments, or pills, or other contraptions which I did not know existed to help one to live in dignity, discretion, and respectful privacy.

But then I thought, if dignity, discretion, respect and secrecy are the optimum aim of these products, why talk about them so openly and graphically on TV? Why have women, and men, of all ages, describing in detail how they have overcome certain problems? How do you explain the use of such products to a young person watching TV with you? Or perhaps you should ask the young person to explain it to you; as I often do!

You know ... there are even adverts for sex toys and various devices and products which I did not realise were essentials, or even existed, in order to give me a well rounded education in ... ... ...

Often advertisers use celebrities, sports personalities, athletes and other such people to advertise their products such as beauty accessories and perfumes, fashionable clothing, soaps and so on. And I am often told, "this advert is wasted on you, isn't it? You don't even know who this person is. She is a famous model, singer, actress or whatever else the person happens to be." Apparently the fact that this person has advertised a certain product hordes of admirers throughout the land will now buy said product because she said it is good.

And there I was thinking it is only a bottle of cologne to repel any stray cats in your vicinity.

No ... adverts aren't what they used to be. Not as simple and straightforward as in them days. Some are even too technical for me to understand. They say the item can download certain apps and gives you so many megabytes per seconds, and my download limit is so much a month, and the camera has so many pixels.

What's all that about? I don't want someone to control my download limit, and how much I can download in a certain period. It's too personal. 

What is life coming to? One can no longer reminisce about old times. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. These days nostalgia is the latest cell-phone you had before you changed to a new one!

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Kevin in the middle

 


Once upon a time there was a school of fish. That is in fact the collective term for a lot of fish; but in this case it was really a school of fish. That is a school where little fishes go to get an education about the facts of life. Where do baby fishes come from, why we should avoid worms floating at the end of a crooked piece of metal, why a net does not necessarily mean we're about to play basket ball; that sort of thing.

The teacher at this school was an old shark; which is rather ironic that one of the sea's most dangerous killing machines was in charge of innocent little morsels. The head teacher of the school was a whale with a speech impediment whose voice was so shrill it became popular as a soundtrack for relaxation CDs. Why is it people believe they can relax to the sound of whales going whoooooo whoooooo?

Anyway ... let's continue with my story. But to digress, whilst researching this article I discovered that whales actually do fart underwater. That's a true fact you can research yourself. The volume of their toot is so voluminous (big and in huge quantities) that by the end of the motion the whale has sped 100 miles underwater! Like a balloon when it loses all the air inside it.

Where was I when I started? Said the whale ... as well as me before digressing.

Oh ... by the way ... another real fact. Did you know that if you break wind and it's very cold outside  ... like snowing ... the gas emission does not smell. It's because of the effect of the cold on what is released. True ... try it out next winter to find out!

As I was saying before my imagination side-tracked me. In this school of fish there was a small sardine called Sadi. There were also pilchards, anchovies and salmons amongst other species of fish. The teacher was teaching about the class system in society. I know this sounds a bit far fetched, but it was that kind of school preparing youngsters for a life of achievements, success and eventual disappointments.

Sadi said that when she grows up she wanted to end up in a tin of sardines with olive oil; not tomato sauce like the other more common sardines and pilchards.

So you see, even in the nautical world there is a class system which is instilled in young minds at a very early age.

I guess most countries have a class system of sorts. Here in the UK people can be upper class, middle class or working class. But even these classes seem to have sub-structures within them. Like really upper class born from nobility and having names like Quentin rather than Kevin or Dave. Then there is upper class through wealth rather than breeding. People who have made it good in life and hence consider themselves superior than the middle classes. You can distinguish these nouveau riche upper classes because they eat fish and chips, or burgers and fries, with white gloves on.

Then there is the upper-middle class and the lower-middle class, the difference between them being a moot point and only a source of argument and debate between individuals in these classes since no one else seems to care. These are the people who, if they cut a finger, would pretend it was cut opening an oyster rather than a tin of baked beans. They would make guacamole with real avocados rather than squashed peas like a lower class person would do. 

And finally there is the working class, which in itself is divided into many sub-structures each pretending they are better than the other in being at a higher level in an altogether lower strata in life.

I've often wondered why we humans feel the need to classify ourselves as being better, or not, than someone else. We distinguish such levels by the place where we live, the size and type of house, the car we drive, the school and universities we've attended, and so on and so forth.

Apart from the fish, of which I spoke earlier, does any other animal species have a class system? 

What is the impetus or the drive that makes us want to compare our status to others? I can understand the need to better yourself in life. To do better perhaps than your parents before you. Indeed, it seems to be most parents' ambition that their offspring do better than them. But why the need to classify yourself in a group that is considered superior to others.

I believe here in the UK we have a class system so that we have someone to dislike. The upper class dislikes the lower classes and so on. 

If you live in another country and you want to feel British then create a class system like ours. 

Either that, or pretend you don't know who Jesus is. Over here people would say, "He was a great teacher ... a healer ... a wise man ... a religious man ..." Very few would say He was/is the Son of God. 

Once at school, when I was young, our teacher discussed the class system in society and I claimed to be in a class by myself. I don't think my teacher was impressed. But she did not ask where in the hierarchy was my individual personalised class situated!

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Song saves 20 Babies

 

SONG SAVES 20 BABIES


Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Dig for History

 

Have you ever been on a dig? I don't mean digging your own garden to plant vegetables. I mean a historical dig in an ancient site in the hope of finding ... I don't know ... Shakespeare's Stradivarius violin perhaps!

Anyway, the other day I went to a dig not far from us. As a guest of course. They said it was some old burial ground dating back to the stone age, or bronze age or other such thing. But not as old as my mother-in-law I suspect. 

So there they were, these experts with their tiny brushes and little toothpicks gently tickling the ground so as not to disturb anything valuable. The guide was explaining it all to us whilst I was sleep-walking hoping I was at home with a Guinness as a companion rather than him. He was a sure cure to insomnia and was so old I thought they'd dug him up as an exhibit for the visitors. Can you imagine? A real-live bronze age man telling you in perfect English (Cornwall accent) all about life back then.

I suggested they would dig much faster if they used one of those great JCB diggers or excavators you see on building sites, or in farms. I got a sharp elbow in the ribs by you know who.

As we toured the site I noticed on the ground a broken shaving razor. It was old and rusty but you could read the letters Gillet ... I asked the guide whether Gillet was perhaps an ancient bronze age leader, or Roman Centurion perhaps from when they conquered England. He did not reply. Perhaps he was a little hard of hearing. I also noticed several stubs of used cigarettes, proving maybe that these ancient people smoked the same brands as we do.

The dig area was the size of a tennis court; although the whole site to be excavated was perhaps ten times that. I thought it would take ages to get on with this historical dig, and in the meantime hold back whatever work is scheduled to be done here. A new road perhaps, or an apartment block or whatever.  

Is it right that we spend so much time literally digging for history? And if we do find something from the bronze age; a bronze electric kettle perhaps; what would we have learnt? That they were an advanced race who invented the kettle before discovering electricity?

The find would end up in a museum somewhere and then what? People would visit to gawp at it and school children would be asked to write an essay about it. Lord ... how I hated those museum visits in my school days. Our teacher was so old when he retired he became an exhibit at that museum; next to mom-in-law!

And what of the future? Will we leave things underground for future generations to discover?

I remember of a project some years back where they buried a box with various artefacts of today's world for future generations to discover and learn about us. Amongst the things in that box were DVDs of current music, and CDs with photos of our town at the time the box was buried. They forgot to bury with it a DVD/CD player!

I suggested they put in the box my string vest to show the future the size of moths we have.

They ignored me!

Monday, 19 October 2020

What's up doc?

 

It's been a while since I told y'all what's been happening here in my neighbourhood. So let's put things right, shall we?

For a start, the traffic lights at the end of the road got faulty and were stuck on red all the time. You should have seen the queue, (line), of cars all standing there waiting for the lights to change to green. 

The number of cars stretched about half-a-mile or so. There was a lot of hooting of horns, each one thinking the car in front was not moving. A lot of people swearing out of their car windows at each other. Some threatening to write letters of complaint to the authorities. But no one dared cross the intersection and drive on through red; even though there were no cars coming the other way at the intersection because that road was closed due to road works. 

Eventually, all the cars did a U turn and drove back the way they came rather than cross the intersection whilst the lights were on red; and there were no other cars coming from left or right at the intersection. 

Oh ... and another thing happened over here. A local Bank has installed an ATM ... you know, one of those machines where you can withdraw cash ... they installed an ATM up a tree. They said if it proves successful they will do the same in other branches.

I went to visit Mrs McPearson the other day. She is about 80 years old and lives with her 18 years old grand-daughter whose parents, (Mrs McPearson's son and wife), are on business abroad for six months. 

I was discussing her health and she showed the list of medications she takes. To my surprise, I discovered that she has been prescribed birth control pills. I surreptitiously asked her about them. She said they help her sleep.

I explained that there is nothing in birth control pills to help her get to sleep.

She said she knows that; but every morning she grinds one up and puts it in her grand-daughter's orange juice; and that helps Mrs McPearson sleep well at night.

Whilst clearing up some old files I found my old school books and that set me thinking. I read the comments my teacher wrote in red in my book. So what if I did not know what "Armageddon" means? It's not the end of the world is it?

I also found another book about Happy Marriages. Did you know that if it weren't for marriage men would go through life thinking they had no faults at all. 

Marriages can make happy families. I like my family. If it was not for my family I would be having arguments with perfect strangers.

I had a happy family childhood. When I was young my parents were very strict. Until I was 8 I always thought my name was "Shut-up". I was told that my mom did not like me when I was a baby. She used to get morning sickness well after I was born. At least six months after I was born. Then as a teenager my parents used to make me walk the plank. They could not afford a dog. Dad used to take me out fishing and swimming in his boat at sea. He lowered me in the water and taught me to swim. I always got to shore before the sharks.

My parents told me that my uncle used to steal from his job as a road worker. I did not believe it; but when I visited his home all the signs were there.

This uncle cured me from my fear of monsters under the bed. He cut the legs off the bed. After that, I was afraid of squashed monsters under the bed.

He had many ups and downs in life. He worked as an elevator attendant at a local hotel. He once had an argument with his boss and stormed out of the hotel and slammed the revolving door behind him. He was soon back in and got his job back.

He told me he read a book entitled "The 10 films you should see before you die!" He said he only saw nine of them because he did not want to tempt fate.

I was thrown out of a posh restaurant in town for taking a bottle of tomato ketchup with me. The last time I went there they did not have ketchup for me to put on my lobster thermidor. So this time I took my own bottle to put on my oysters starter and the waiter got very angry with me. They asked me to leave before I had even ordered a hamburger and French fries.

Oh by the way ... I meant to tell you ... nearly forgot ... be careful if you receive an e-mail titled "Ding Dong". It's those religious people working from home. 

In church on Sunday the sermon was about you come from dust and will return to dust. That's a good reason not to vacuum clean in case you're picking up someone.

Well, that's generally it from over here. How is it over there where you are?

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Why me Lord?

 

Let us start with a conversation, a monologue, some of us may well have had with God.

"Why me Lord? Why is all this happening to me? You know I love you and I am a good Christian; at least I think I am. Why do you let all this happen to me? One of your followers?

I know you are all-powerful, and to you everything is possible. Thy will be done. And there is nothing any of us can do about it. Whatever is your will, it will be done here on earth and in Heaven.

I know you can make all things happen to me. Misfortune, loss of job, poverty, ill-health, family problems, children problems, loss of loved ones. 

You can make all these thing happen, like you did to Job. Although, strictly speaking, you allowed the devil to do all these things to Job within strict limitations set by you. But that is a moot point. The fact you allowed it to happen to Job still makes you responsible, does it not?

So why do you allow bad things to happen to me, Lord? What have I done wrong? Forgive me if I have offended you in any way. Make it stop!" 

All right ... we may not have said it exactly as above; but how many of us would admit that these thoughts have crossed our minds when things did not go well in our lives?

Why does God allow bad things to happen to us? How does it serve His purpose on earth? Other people would look at us in our sufferings and difficulties and think, "well ... their God is not exactly loving right now, is He?"

I don't claim to have the answers to these questions. 

Maybe, the reason why God allows such things to happen to us is so that others, non-believers, would look at us and see our reactions.

Would we deny God? Turn our back on Him? Give up on Him as He appears to have given up on us? Our reaction to misfortune is what others see in us. Is our Faith just skin deep? Just a show? Or is it real?

Or perhaps God is testing us? But then, what is the point in that if He already knows how we would react anyway?

Or is God perhaps using these moments when things are going bad for us as an opportunity for us to be an example to others?

Or is He perhaps helping us through our misfortunes in order that they may serve as a reminder, in times to come, when we look back and realise that He was by our side all the time?

I know in life I have had many dark moments. Moments when I even forgot to pray and ask for help. Yet, looking back, I now know God was with me all along. Helping me even though I did not realise it. The bad moments of my past help strengthen my Faith right now.

Let us consider this bit from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

“Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and He will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, He will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out”. (1 Corinthians Chapter 10 Verse 13).

God knows when things go wrong in our lives. He allows it to happen. We may never know the reasons why; but we can rest assured that He will not allow us to be pushed beyond our endurance.

I'd like to believe that God is not in the business of losing His followers.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Happy Birthday Sir Cliff Richard

 

SIR CLIFF RICHARD OBE
80 YEARS OLD
14 October 1940
 
Cliff Richard is a British singer, musician, performer, actor and philanthropist. Richard has sold more than 250 million records worldwide.
 
He has achieved 14 UK number-one singles, and is the only singer to have had a number-one single in the UK in each of five consecutive decades.


 "We don't talk any more" was a great hit in the USA together with his other major hit "Devil Woman"
In 1966 Cliff Richard announced publicly that he was a Christian. Many thought this was a bad move in secular Britain and that it would end his career. Of course, it did not.

He released several Christian records as well as his usual rock music.

In November 1999 he released "The Millenium Prayer". It was banned by many radio stations in Britain and did not get any air time. Despite this it reached Number One in the charts.

 

Friday, 16 October 2020

Did you write?

 

Phone rings. Telephone-answering machine. Female voice.

Your call cannot be taken at the moment. Please leave your name and number after the tone. BEEEP ...
 
Hello Vic ... it's aunt Elma again speaking to your damn answering machine. I swear you do it deliberately so you don't speak to me directly. It's always on when you're at work, or out shopping or whatever.
 
Why don't you give me your cell phone number so I can phone you at work?
 
Anyway ... I am phoning to thank you for writing to your uncle Jim about him moving into the garage for this past week. You did write to him ... did you?

(Pause).

How silly of me ... I forgot I was talking to your answering machine. You must have an old model. Why not buy a machine that answers back when asked a question?

Anyway ... your uncle Jim has realised what a stupid stubborn fool he's been and has given up living in the garage and has come in back into the house again. Ha ... Ha ... I knew he wouldn't last more than a few days out there ...

But I showed him who is the boss ... as soon as he got back home, I packed a small suitcase and I moved in the garage myself. I showed him that I will not live with him any more ...

He said nothing and parked his big fat backside on the couch and watched TV all evening. I could see him from the garage window. Watching sports and eating pizza.

Of course I go back into the house whenever I need the little girl's room ... you know ... the bathroom. Or when I need the shower ... or when I need to put my face cream on before going to sleep. I also go into the house for doing the cooking and the washing ... also to vacuum clean because he is as lazy as a ... as a ... what is the name of that lazy animal that hangs off trees? A marmoset ... no ... a sloth ... 
 
I also leave him some cooking ... he likes the way I do lasagne or my hot pot ... if I don't cook for your lazy uncle he'd eat pizza every day. The pizza delivery man has been here so often he is practically one of the family.
 
Anyway ... I've been in the garage for three days now. I'll admit it is a bit cold at night. But don't tell Jim ... I'd hate him to think he's winning. Let him suffer in the house all alone. Him and his TV and pizza ... and country records ... the other day he played Willie Nelson's song ... You left a long long time ago ...  

He played it over and over again that I know all the words by heart. I think he misses me ... you know ...

I think I' get back in the house and make up with him ... I've got to make sure he feeds well you know ... also ... there's a big spider in the garage and I don't like spending another night in the garage with him ... ... ... but don't tell Jim I told you.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Parents


Harvey was 19 years old, so he definitely knew everything there is to know in the world.

He lived with his parents in a small terraced house and went to work at the same factory as his father.

One day, in his spare time, he was helping Father Ignatius paint the wooden fence at the very end of the back gardens; the one separating the Church grounds from the fields beyond.

In conversation, Harvey explained to the wise priest how his parents really knew very little of the modern world. How they lived in ancient times. How their expectations and ambitions were out of sequence with reality. Harvey felt that his parents held him back somewhat. They insisted on his being at home at a certain time … “Can you imagine that? I am 19, and they still want to know who I go out with and where! Archaic or what … I tell you!”

Father Ignatius put down the pot of paint he was holding and sat down on the small step ladder they had brought with them to reach the top of the wooden fence.

“When you look at your parents, Harvey,” he asked, “what do you see?”

Harvey looked at him in puzzlement and replied “I see Mom and Dad … of course!”

“Silly question, I suppose,” continued the priest, “but I’ll ask it again … what do you really see?”

“I don’t know what you’re on about … you’re a bit like them at times Father … you don’t speak straight!”

Father Ignatius laughed.

“It is natural, and a good thing of course, for children to see Mom and Dad when they look at their parents.

“Mom and Dad brought them into this world. Mom and Dad took care of them when they were young. Mom and Dad were involved in their up-bringing and their education. They took time off to attend all the school events such as sports day, music evening and whatever else.

“Your parents did that for you; am I right?”

Harvey nodded. The priest continued.

“Your father often drove you in his old battered car wherever you needed to go to … like the Saturday football games.

“Your mother made sure you had a packed lunch every day at school, and you had clean clothes every day …”

"Yeh … I understand …” Harvey interrupted.

“I am not criticizing you Harvey,” said the priest gently, “what I’m saying is that our parents care for us. I know mine did … even after I left home and went to Italy to study for the priesthood. My mother used to send me packets of a special cake she used to bake in case Italian food was not nourishing enough!”

Harvey smiled.

“And your parents care for you too … they always will. It’s in the genes as they say.”

Harvey laughed.

“But that’s not what I meant when I said what do you see when you look at your parents.” continued Father Ignatius.

“Most people would say, just as you said … I see Mom and Dad.

“Not many people see an individual human being. A woman and a man. People, no different to you and I.

“People who at one time were children themselves. And they grew up with their own hopes, their own worries and their own fears. People, like every one else, struggling in this world to make the best of their lives, and that of their children.

“We do tend to see our parents differently than anyone else. We see Mom and Dad … we don’t see the people beyond Mom and Dad … the people who are Mom and Dad.

“Our parents are people with their own personal abilities, limitations and foibles. People with their own personal emotions and characteristics and personalities; developed and honed through years of circumstances and experiences which life threw at them.

“Our parents may well curtail our freedoms somewhat … they may well appear ancient and from a different age … but I’m sure they mean well. They behave the way they do because they are human and they have their own human characteristics.

“I know my parents meant well when they tried to teach me right from wrong. Do you think yours do?”

“I suppose …” mumbled Harvey.

“Of course they do,” confirmed the wise old priest, “the thing is … parents too tend to see their children as children … they seldom see beyond the child, and see a growing young man or woman with their own characters, weaknesses, needs and so on. A child your age is eager to explore the world around him … nothing wrong with that. But sometimes parents can’t see that … they forget how they were at that age.

“For a parent, a child is always a child … it’s often very difficult to let go. But they do it out of love.

“Do you think your parents love you?” the priest asked directly.

“Yes … of course.” said the young man emphatically.

“Good …” replied the priest, “you’re right of course.

“… And I’m sure you’ll remember that when in turn one day in the future, you too will become a parent and you’ll love your own children just as your parents love you. You too will not be able to let go … And I suspect your children will think you’re an old relic from times gone by worthy of an exhibit in a museum!”

Harvey laughed.

“Now let’s get on with the painting …” continued Father Ignatius.

Harvey smiled as he dipped the paint brush in the pot of paint.

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

He's gone and left me

 

Phone rings. Telephone-answering machine. Female voice.

Your call cannot be taken at the moment. Please leave your name and number after the tone. BEEEP ...
 
Hello ... it's that damned machine again ... I swear you switch it on to avoid speaking to me ... Vic ... Vic ... pick up the damn phone ... this is an emergency ... it's aunt Elma here ... answer me Vic ...
 
(Pause)
 
Oh all right ... I guess you're not in ... or probably doing your exercises to keep fit ... mind you don't pull a muscle like you did the last time when you hurt your backside ... anyway ... when you finish doing what you're doing ... or when you come back home ... assuming you're not there already and avoiding me ... can you call back please. It's aunt Elma ... and this is an emergency ...
 
He's gone and left me Vic ... your uncle Jim has left me ... he's been gone about a week now ... we had a row and he walked out and left ... we've been married thirty-seven years, four months and twelve days and now he's left. So close to our wedding anniversary and all.  He left a week ago.

He just got up and moved to the garage. This time it's serious because he took with him his country and western records. Waylon Jennings, Jim Ed Brown, Tompall Glaser and all that. He even came back and took the record player, the one you wind up with a handle and a small TV.

He's been in the garage for a week. He sleeps there. I am worried about his lumbago. You know ... his back pain ... not the Brazilian dance ... I tell you Vic ... he can be a right pain your uncle. Starting at the back of the neck and he works his way downwards to your backside ...

He comes in the house every now and then to go to the bathroom, or to help himself from the fridge ... but he stays in the garage. He even phones for pizza deliveries to the garage ... I heard him Vic ... he came in the house and phoned for a pizza ... I heard him say deliver to the garage not to the house as there is no one in the house ...

Can you imagine? I am a no one now ... after thirty-seven years, four months and twelve days I am a no one ... I could cry when I think about it. My mother warned me against him all those years ago. She said if he likes country music he is a no good bum. I once bought him a Frank Sinatra record and he did not play it once. He said it was not country ... he used it as a table coaster and put his beer can on it. What would Sinatra say ... turning in his grave if he knew ...

Speak to him Vic ... better write to him ... if you phone then the phone in the house will ring on account he doesn't have one in the garage ... and I will answer it instead. Write to him ... write to the garage so he gets the letter. 

I can see him now as I talk to you ... he parked the car in the drive and he's sitting in the armchair in the garage ... the one he took from the house and he's listening to Willie Nelson ... you know ... the one with the beard ... I bet he comes in the house soon for more beer.

Bye Vic ... waiting for your letter to Jim ... send it to the garage ...

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Seven Drunken Nights

 



Monday, 12 October 2020

Carrot

 

Is this a carrot which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. (Macbeth)

All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little carrot. (Lady Macbeth)

There is nothing like a carrot
Nothing in the world
There is nothing you can name
That is anything like a carrot (Rodgers & Hammerstein)

Only a life lived for carrots is a life worthwhile. (Albert Einstein)
 
All you need is carrot. (The Beatles)

Crime and Carrot. (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

Antony and Carrot (William Shakespeare)

That which does not kill us makes us carrots. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Sometimes a carrot is just a carrot. (Sigmund Freud)

Carrot = mc2 (Albert Einstein)

On the Origin of Carrots. (Charles Darwin)

Bridge over troubled carrots. (Simon & Garfunkel)

A carrot, a carrot! My kingdom for a carrot! (King Richard III)

I've been through the desert on a carrot with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert, you can remember your carrot
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain (America)

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my carrot to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking carrot and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die (Don McLean)

Add you carrot quotes below.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

The Wedding Feast

 



The Gospel reading today is from Matthew Chapter 22:1-14 Jesus tells a parable about a king preparing a wedding feast for his son. He invites many guests who do not turn up, so eventually, he invites all the people his servants can find in the streets until the wedding hall is full of guests.

Read the story in the Bible. It is not very long.

What Jesus is teaching here is that we are all invited to Heaven. God's invitation is for everyone.

But many don't answer the call. Some even respond violently to the invitation by beating and killing the messengers. Just like we did when we beat and killed the prophets, and just as we still do now in many countries; persecuting and killing people for their religion. Here in the UK we use more subtle methods by mocking and ridiculing anyone who is a Christian. Often you see on TV and hear on radio snide remarks about God and Christianity. Remarks like, "I'm an atheist myself. I don't understand people who still believe in a bearded old man sitting on a cloud looking after us!"

If a politician here stood on a Christian ticket he would not last long. Celebrities who have declared they are Christian are often ridiculed.

At the end of this parable there's an intriguing bit. The King enters the hall full of guests and sees a man not wearing wedding clothes. He is angry with him and gets him tied up and thrown out into the street.

Now this seems rather harsh treatment for someone not wearing the right clothes. Until we stop and understand Jewish tradition.

Jesus was talking to the Jews who understood very well that there are special clothes to wear at weddings. Almost every family had such special clothes in case they were invited to a wedding; even the poor would either have such clothes or borrow some.

No one would dare go to a wedding without special clothes. Even more important, traditionally the host of the wedding also provided special garments for those who did not have any, so they can borrow them for the occasion. So it was more offensive to the King for this guest to wear no garment.

Who does this guest represent? It is all those so-called Christians who pretend they are believers, who believe and hope they will go to Heaven; yet their lifestyles and behaviour is far from what you would expect from Christianity. 

Note the distinction between those invited guests who refused to attend and the one with no special clothing. Those who refused to accept God did it knowingly and openly. The guest with the wrong clothes represents those who half-heartedly accept God as an insurance policy ... just in case ... believers in name only.

But how about us? It is just not enough spending a lifetime on our knees praying, or going to church, if our deeds are far from what is expected of us as followers of Christ.

Jesus said, "Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the Kingdom of God, but only those who do what my Father wants them to do". (Matthew 7:21).

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Within himself.

 

Raymond was disabled and forever in a wheelchair. These were the plain facts for all to see. But behind these facts hid a story which challenged Father Ignatius at St Vincent Church.

Raymond was a policeman who was shot whilst on duty and condemned to a lifetime in a wheelchair. Sure, he got compensation and a pension, but this was in no way reparation for what he went through as his young life was suddenly changed overnight.

About a year after the shooting Raymond’s marriage broke down as his wife left him and moved to another town to live with her new lover. Ironically, he was a policeman too. A friend of Raymond. She took with her their two young children.

So, in that moment when Raymond was shot he effectively lost his mobility, his wife and children, his marriage, his job and his best friend.

He often wished he’d lost his life instead. He was on permanent pain-killers and took to drinking to ease the mental and physical agony which tortured his every hour.

Understandably, he stopped going to church, but that did not keep him out of Father Ignatius’ mind and reach. The kindly priest visited Raymond at home every now and then to offer whatever practical help he could.

He arranged for a housekeeper to visit to do the cleaning, cooking and shopping as needed, and a buildings contractor to make the necessary alterations to the house to accommodate a wheelchair user.

As time went by, Father Ignatius continued to visit Raymond for friendly chats and to see he was settling down as best as he could to his new circumstances. Once or twice the priest encouraged Raymond back to church, offering to arrange transport when needed. But this was politely and resolutely refused.

Raymond, it seems, blamed God for what had happened to him.

“I really appreciate your help and sympathy Father,” he said, “and I accept them, reluctantly, from you as a friend … not a priest.

“I don’t need your or anyone else’s sympathy … I don’t want people to look at me in this contraption and feel pity for me …

“I was offered a job as a civilian in the police force, as well as my full pension … but I turned them down. I did not want to be a statistic to help them prove that they have an Equal Opportunities Policy and that they employ all people regardless of disability, race, gender orientation or whatever.

“I am not a statistic Father. I am me … Raymond the cripple!

“Does God understand that? I have always been a good person, a devout Catholic attending church and helping whenever possible … I was on the Parish Council well before you came at St Vincent, Father.

“And how does God reward me? By putting me in this chair and turning my life upside down …”

Father Ignatius knew that the time was not right to get into theological discussion with Raymond. It was obvious that the man was still hurting both literally and mentally and the priest realized that when a man is starving you feed him first before giving him a Bible!

“I see you have a fine collection of empty drinks bottles here …” said the priest changing the subject.

“They help ease the pain.” Raymond replied, “that, and the medicines I take.”

“It’s not wise to mix drink and medicine,” continued Father Ignatius.

“And what will it do Father? Kill me? At least then I’d be out of this chair.”

Father Ignatius chose not to respond. He sat down and picked up a bottle and started reading the label.

“You can’t imagine how empty I feel inside, Father,” Raymond said after a while, “I’m thirty-five with no future, no family and no hope … stuck to this wheelchair whilst the man who put me here will soon be free.

“When I say I’m empty … perhaps it’s wrong … I’m full of resentment, and hate and bitterness at the unfairness and injustice of it all …”

“And full of drink too,” mumbled the priest.

Raymond smiled.

“Trust you to see the funny side … even in this situation,” said Raymond. “I’m surprised you didn’t put your professional hat on and tell me how much God loves me, and how much He cares for me … perhaps He was too busy doing something else the day I got shot!”

“No … I wouldn’t preach to you about God …” Father Ignatius replied, “it’s not my job right now …”

“Hein?”

“If God wants to speak to you … He’ll do so Himself in His own time …” the priest went on, “No … I’m here for more selfish reasons … I need your help.”

“How so?” asked Raymond.

“I’d like you to come and have a chat with the older pupils at school about life in general,” Father Ignatius replied.

“They’re at that age where they are striking out for independence … some of them have started smoking cigarettes … a few of the boys carry knives … just for show, you understand.

“I doubt they’d listen to an old fogy like me. Especially one wearing a white Catholic collar round his neck.

“You, on the other hand, seem ideal … you’ve been a policeman.”

Father Ignatius stopped for a while pretending to think about the proposal he’d just made.

“No … it wouldn’t work … I doubt they’d listen to you either … the police is hardly more popular than a priest … forget I mentioned it.”

“What would you want me to talk about?” Raymond interrupted.

“I don’t know … I was just thinking aloud … I just thought … stupid of me really … I thought that if we could save at least one child from getting into trouble with the police, or from getting injured or killed in a gang fight … then perhaps it would be worth it you speaking to them … but it wouldn’t work.”

The priest dropped the subject and left Raymond.

Over the weeks that followed the policeman thought about Father Ignatius’ suggestion and eventually contacted the priest offering to do one talk at the school.

It went well. Not an overwhelming success, but just well enough to get Raymond out of his self-imposed shell for a short while.

And that’s when God intervened.

One of the youngsters got in trouble with the police for fighting using a knife. The priest managed to keep him out of Court and suggested to the Authorities that the youth be obliged to attend “probational sessions” with the ex-policeman instead.

The experiment worked well in as much that the young boy’s behaviour improved. The police hired Raymond on a part-time basis to help with other delinquent youths.

In time, Raymond eased off the drink … to set a good example to the youths.

The physical pain and the memories are still there … they’ll never go away. But they are eased every now and then as the ex-policeman succeeds in slowly accepting his situation.

“At least he’s started to attend church once again …” thought Father Ignatius.

 

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