Thursday 8 December 2011

Forest picnic.

Last summer our young priest thought it a good idea to take some youngsters, aged between 16 and 20 from under-privileged families, for a day out in the forest at the edge of town. The idea was to go out on Saturday, have a picnic lunch and return early evening about 5 o’clock in time for evening Mass.

Somehow, he managed to convince me and a few other adults to go with him and help with supervision and also to provide transport there and back.

We arrived at the forest at about 9 in the morning and we parked our cars on the edge of the forest. Everyone was excited and well prepared. They all carried haversacks filled with all sorts of picnic foods and drinks, and cameras, binoculars and all kind of other things that are considered necessary for a day out in the forest. They were all dressed appropriately of course. Shorts were the order of the day and big thick boots and hats. Even the young priest did away with his white collar and wore a multi-colored open necked shirt and a large hat.

I wore an old pair of khaki short trousers I use when gardening and I brought with me my large cowboy-type hat; the one with the large feather. I had an open necked shirt, so no need for the turquoise bow tie with pink flowers!

I brought with me some sandwiches and small drink in a plastic bag, and most important of all six large bars of chocolate. You need chocolates when out for a long walk; it helps keep your sugar levels well under control if you get tired. Six bars should be enough so I can share them around with the rest of the group.

To save me carrying the chocolates in the bag I put them in the back pockets of my khaki shorts. Three bars in each back pocket. They fitted perfectly.

They all moved eagerly ahead into the forest with the priest leading the way and a few adults interspersed every now and then. I chose to be the last one in the long queue of people, which would give me an opportunity to stop and take a rest every now and
then. I’m not into long walks, especially in the forest.

On and on they walked and they sang as they walked. “Sing Halleluiah to the Lord … Our God reigns … Seek ye first the Kingdom of God …” and several other hymns led by the priest at the front and echoed by the rest all the way back to me.

Pleasant it was. But tiring too! Where exactly were we heading? Searching for Dr Livingston or the treasures of the Inca?

It was getting hot … very hot under a punishing sun which you don’t often get around here. Even the feather in my hat was the worst for wear.

After what seemed miles of walking I felt a trickle down my legs. I stopped and to my horror discovered that the six bars of chocolates had melted soaking my short trousers and dripping away leaving a tell-tale track of brown behind me.

I felt my face go red as panic set in.

What am I to do? I pulled out the empty wrappers of chocolates from my pockets, for that is all that was left … empty wrappers. Each bar was 600 grams; so that’s more than three kilos of chocolates melted down my pants and on my legs with embarrassing visual results that would be almost impossible to explain away.

I tried to wipe as much as possible with my handkerchief which soon became soaked anyway and of no use. I hid the handkerchief under some leaves and forest debris. No point in putting it back in my pocket is there?

I scraped as much of the chocolate off my legs but they still looked embarrassingly brown, as indeed was the back of my trousers.

I could see the rest of the gang well away in the distance. I must catch up with them if I’m not to get lost.

I took off my jacket and wrapped it round my waist by the sleeves just like trendy people do when they pretend they are hot. Well … I was hot all right … with embarrassment, panic and fear of getting lost.

I hurried and caught up with the rest of the team just as they were settling down in the woods for a picnic lunch.

I whistled nonchalantly as I arrived and sat on a log some distance away so as not to over-power them with the sweet aroma of melted chocolate.

The young priest said “Grace” and they all started eating their picnics.

Now, why is it when things go wrong for me they continue to go wrong?

As I sat there considering how best to hide my situation for the rest of the day I heard an ominous buzz around me. I’d inadvertently sat on a wasps nest in a hollow in the tree trunk I was on.

Now … they have the whole forest in which to nest … why choose this particular tree trunk?

Pretty soon I was up on my feet and dancing in a panic, tapping on my buttocks and legs as I did so.

Wasps up your short trousers are no fun I tell you.

Everyone stopped eating and turned to me wondering what I was up to. Then they realized and a few adults came to my rescue shooing away the wasps with their hats and napkins.

Once the wasps had gone a pleasant young lady helper offered me her chair and the young priest got me a drink of white wine from his haversack to calm my nerves.

The young lady saw me shivering and said I was in shock. I should take the jacket off my waist and wear it to keep warm.

Well … I could hardly do that? Could I?

The sight of my chocolate stained brown trousers would have sent her into shock as well!

I sat there calmly for the rest of the day and when it was time to go home one of the men helpers offered to drive my car back as I was not in a state to drive … so they said. Although they did not know the real reason why!

Needless to say, I did not join them to Saturday evening Mass but drove straight home for a quick shower and change of clothing.

I hate chocolates. I hate picnics. And I hate forests. Wasps too!

Saturday 26 November 2011

Come on.

It was a warm sunny day and Father Ignatius was alone in the Parish House. He got out in the gardens at the back of the house and sat by the little shrine to Our Lady set amongst rose bushes some way from the main building.

He took his Rosary from his pocket and started praying. A few minutes later he heard a bird singing in a tree nearby. It wasn’t so much the usual singing one hears, nor the panic cries of a mother when a cat or other predator approaches the nest … this was more like a calling type of singing. It was as if the bird was beckoning someone to do something.

Father Ignatius got up from his chair and walked into the shadows to better see what caused this bird behavior.

There on a tree nearby was a nest. He could see it clearly now, even though it was well camouflaged amongst the branches and leaves. And in the nest there were three birds … quite well-grown by the looks of their size and the fact they were covered in feathers.

The mother bird kept flying towards the nest singing wildly and then moving away from branch to branch … then it got down to the ground … and up to the nest again … singing all the time.

The three little ones looked over the edge of the nest but stayed put.

The priest realized what was going on. The mother was teaching her little ones to leave the nest and fly.

There she was hopping from one branch to another singing away: no doubt encouraging her young to take flight. You could almost hear her speak: “Come on my dears … don’t be afraid … jump!”

They hesitated. Looked around, looked down at the ground which seems miles away, and then politely said to each other: “You first.” “No, no, after you …” “Ladies first, I always say.”

And none of them had the courage to take off, whilst the mother is cheering heartily: “Come on, you know you can do it!”

Eventually one of the little ones gingerly jumped out of the nest, his wings flapping madly, and somehow landed safely to the ground. In time he was followed by his siblings and yet another generation took flight and left the nest.

The priest smiled as he saw all four birds hop from bush to bush, and eventually up the tree branches again, and then fly away confidently.

He sat down again at the feet of the statue and reflected on what he had just witnessed.

“Our first steps with the Lord are no different to these birds I suppose” he thought to himself.

“We question, we analyze, we debate and then … perhaps … in time, we come to believe.

“Eventually, we make that first step in Faith. Believing, without having all the answers. Without knowing everything about the aero-dynamics of flight, or the effects of gravity as we leave the perceived safety of our nest.

“God does not ask us to know everything about Him, how He thinks, how He works, and how He manages the universe.

“All He asks is that we trust Him and believe, without question and without hesitation.

“His Holy Spirit will then lead us through our journey to the Father.”

Wednesday 23 November 2011

I am really HOT !!!

A friend of mine is quite an inventor. He is always in his little hut at the bottom of the garden making different gadgets and things “to make life better”. Or so he claims. I must admit that some of his inventions are somewhat innovative although I can’t see them catching on and becoming best sellers. For example he has put a little red LED light at the back of his cap which lights up when he goes out walking at night so that vehicles can see him. Practical? Yes … Fashionable … I don’t think so!

The other day he asked me to test his latest invention.

He has somehow managed to weave a very thin wire backwards and forwards inside the lining of a jacket which he bought from a shop. He then connected the wires to a battery the size of a small book which he placed in the inside pocket of the jacket. By flicking a switch the wires warm up gently and keep you warm on cold winter days.

Now I’m sure that I read about similar devices somewhere or other; but my friend assures me that his system is different … I couldn’t understand a word of what he said in techno language, so I nodded politely and smiled.

He took my nodding as acquiescence to testing the “Warma-Coat”; as he calls it.

I put the jacket on one cold and breezy morning and walked to the local shops to buy my newspapers and some chocolates. I just can’t read the papers without chocolates. Somehow they make me concentrate better. But I digress.

On my way to the shops the electric system in my jacket must have short-circuited because I got a slight twinge in my right shoulder which made me wince a little.

I ignored it and carried on walking when it happened again, only a little stronger.

Fortunately, it stopped for a while whilst I was shopping, but when I came to the check-out to pay for my goods … it happened again but much stronger this time. I recoiled a little and grimaced somewhat at the electric shock.

“Are you winking at me?” asked the beautiful young female cashier.

“No … I’m not.” I replied embarrassingly as I winked at her once more.

“There … you did it again” she said, “what’s the matter with you?”

I was about to reply when a further electric shock made me smile involuntarily and wink at her twice.

“You’re being suggestive … you are!” she cried in a loud voice, “I’ll call the manager!”

Seconds later the manager appeared out of nowhere with a security man. She must have pressed some hidden panic button, I suppose.

“What’s the matter?” he asked her.

“Mr Thornicroft … this customer is making suggestive innuendos by winking at me!” she complained.

“Is this true sir?” he asked, “we take exception to improper behavior by our customers towards our employees!”

“I assure you that I did not do or imply anything improper” I replied as I winked at him twice.

“Sir … you are quite out of order” he said sternly as he saw me wink, “I’ll have to ask you to leave these premises or we will call the police!”
As I tried to explain my innocence he noticed a plume of smoke rising from my right shoulder.

“Sir … have you been smoking? It is a criminal offence to smoke in public places and I may have to detain you until the police arrives” interrupted Mr Thornicroft as he motioned to the security guard to do his business.

A crowd soon gathered by the check-out as other shoppers became interested in my dilemma. Why can’t people just mind their own business and continue shopping?

“I assure you I don’t smoke …” I protested as the security guard attempted to put his hand on my right shoulder then thought it better not to.

“I don’t smoke … but my shoulder clearly does!” I said trying to make light of the situation.

And that’s exactly what happened next. The right shoulder did light up in green flames and acrid black smoke.

The manager quickly picked up a two-liter bottle of beer and emptied it on my head whilst the security guard got hold of a foam emitting fire extinguisher and covered me in foam from head to toe.

I can announce that beer and foam don’t mix. Some got into my mouth with dire results.

As I was led out of the store coughing and spluttering I heard a customer explain to another “Instant combustion … it happens a lot you know. It’s more common than you think!”

I cleaned the foam as best I could and walked back home never to return to that shop again … and never to trust an inventive friend.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

One casket or two?

Why is it that the phone always rings at home at the most inappropriate time when I’m doing something else more important?

And why is it that it always rings for someone else and I end up answering it and either taking messages or calling the person for whom the call is intended.

Yes … we do have an answering machine, but we only use it when we’re out. When we’re in I’m the alternative human answering machine!

That said; the worst calls of all are from a variety of sales people trying to sell you something or other. A new credit card, an insurance policy, new double glazing to keep the house warm, and every other imaginable service or product which I most definitely don’t want, has been offered to me on the phone by people I don’t know, nor wish to know. And they have the impertinence to address me by my first name too, as if we’re long standing pals.

“Hello Victor!” one said, “are you well today?”

“No, not really …” I replied, having guessed it was yet another sales person, “I’ve just swallowed a fly.” 

Well, that certainly stopped her in her tracks. She sympathized and then proceeded to expound on the benefits of her Company’s products.

The most bizarre phone call however took place last week and it went something like this.

“Good morning Victor! (First name terms straight away). I am Gilbert D Funct and I represent Pets In Peace, a new service provider just established in your town, and our aim is to share and ease your pain when your beloved pet departs this vale of tears.”

“Hein?” said I.

“PIP … that’s our initials, will be there to provide you with a casket in which to place the remains of your dear departed pet. We have caskets in all sizes for goldfish, budgies, hamsters, rabbits, cats, dogs and any other animal or insect which may share your home as a member of your family. All caskets are made to the highest standard of professional workmanship in mahogany, oak, elm, cedar wood and pine. And they are lined in satin or silk in a variety of colors such as white, black, and velvet being the most popular.”

“I see …” I said, and before I could tell him I’m not interested Gilbert D Funct went on.

“Furthermore, Victor, as part of our service we would conduct a solemn ceremony of whatever religious belief you desire, and then we would bury the casket containing the remains of your family pet on your property so you can visit him whenever you wish …”

“I live in an apartment!” I interrupted. “Will you bury the pet under the carpet?”

That certainly stopped him.

“Oh …” he said, “do you not have access to a piece of ground?”

“We have a few herb pots in the kitchen … you know … fresh mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary and such like. But the pots are too small to bury a casket in …”

“Yes quite …” he hesitated. So I took the initiative and went on.

“We had planned to flush the goldfish down the toilet … you know … naval burial and all that. Are your caskets water soluble?”
“Er … no … I don’t believe so …” mumbled Gilbert, obviously unaware of my sarcasm.

“And then there’s the cat …” I continued, having gained the upper-hand in this sales pitch, “he’d be too big to flush down the toilet … I’ve often wondered how we’d dispose of him after he’s used up his nine lives …”

“Are you familiar with cremation?” asked Gilbert gaining an advantage point.

“My wife is expert at that … judging from her many Sunday roasts! Perhaps she could do the same to the cat!”

At this point, as luck would have it, she came in the house from one of her shopping trips.

“This is for you …” I said handing her the phone, “someone researching roast recipes for a cookery book he’s writing …” and I quickly rushed to the pub.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Of church mice and church men.

I visited an old church in the countryside the other evening.

There was this historian giving a talk entitled “The influence of the Church in England from Chaucer to Henry the Eighth and Beyond”.

Given a choice between listening to that lecture and watching an important football match on TV I would choose the lecture every time. You know me, always willing to oblige and to please … Why is it that old fashioned marriage vows included the words “to love and obey”? Was there not a clause about football games in those vows? There should have been!

Anyway, the old historian did not disappoint. He lived up to my every expectation and went on and on giving us every minute detail about this most fascinating subject. He reminded me of one of the priests who visited our church recently; Father Ontoo Long!

He too went on ad infinitum reading his sermon from notes he must have typed on an old type-writer and stopping at every punctuation mark to add boredom to everlasting tedium.

I wondered as I sat there on those hard wooden pews which very soon numb the lower parts of your body … I wondered, if this historian stood side by side with Father Ontoo Long and they talked in unison would they put us to sleep in stereo?

My boredom was soon to be relieved by an unexpected distraction.

I noticed a few feet away just by the radiator standing against the wall a mouse crawling slowly towards me. He’d probably been disturbed by the historian’s monotonous voice, I thought.

The mouse stopped suddenly then ran back towards the wall. No one noticed him except me.

He then walked ever so slowly close to the wall towards the left of the radiator. Then he stopped again. Moments later he was joined by another mouse following a few feet behind. He too stopped and then the first mouse turned round facing the second mouse. They faced each other for a few seconds then the second mouse ran back towards the radiator followed by the first!

I bet those mice are married, I thought. Probably having an argument I shouldn’t wonder. Something like this:

Mr Mouse: Oh … why do we have to go to church every Sunday? That priest is so boring!

Mrs Mouse: We don’t go to church to see the priest. We go to meet God and to pray.

Mr Mouse: But God is everywhere. Why can’t we meet Him at home? I bet He’d love to watch the football match on TV!

At that point a sharp elbow dug deeply into my side and a harsh voice whispered “Stop snoring!”

Oh well … back to Chaucer and Henry the Eighth I suppose. Did they have church mice then?

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Elegy on a carpet

I’ll admit I’m not the best man at do-it-yourself type work at home. Be it woodworking, painting, plumbing or electrical work. I always seem to get it wrong and more often than not I hurt myself.

For example when I hammered hard on my finger, missing the nail altogether, as I did this morning, my first instinct was not to say calmly and in a quiet voice “Jolly gosh, this was a tad uncomfortable for me!!!”

I threw the hammer in the air in pain followed by a string of un-repeatables unworthy of your tender ears, or eyes … dear readers.

The hammer struck the beautiful crystal vase of flowers which we’d treasured for years as a special present from the in-laws. The vase shattered into a million pieces pouring water everywhere which caused an electrical short circuit which blew the TV into a loud bang and sparks.

And my finger still hurt.

Instead of sympathy I got earache!!!

“That was a wedding present from …”

“I know … I know …” I thought silently, “… I never liked the thing anyway, but I’d better say nothing and pretend I’m more hurt than I really am”.

No use. The deceased vase got more sympathy than me.

Better get on with my work. After all, laying a carpet in a room is easy. Take out all the furniture. Well … most of the furniture anyway, why bother with the coffee table, the TV and the … Anyway … Let’s measure from here to there, and from there to over here. Match the measurements to the carpet. Lay the carpet. No … wait … fix that loose floorboard. Hammer the nail in … miss it altogether … hit your finger hard and we’re back to where we started.

An hour or so later I managed to lay the carpet in the room … well, kind of. There were areas where the carpet was somehow bigger than the room. Don’t know why. Maybe the carpet stretched as it was laid down and grew bigger and curled up a little up the wall. Never mind … it’ll be hidden when I put the furniture there and no one will notice.

And in some places the carpet did not quite reach the wall. It was a few inches short. Perhaps it shrunk a little over here whilst it stretched over there. What if I move more furniture over here to hide it?

Now wait a minute. What’s this bump here in the middle of the room? It looks like a small mound a few inches high. It doesn’t move much and it feels as if there’s something under the carpet.

I can’t take the whole carpet off and start again. Dash it all. Where’s that hammer? I’ll bash that mound hard and flatten what’s under there … ah … that should do it!!!
As I finished flattening the carpet with the hammer I heard a young voice from the kitchen ask “Mom … have you seen my hamster? He’s not in his cage!”

“Dear Lord …” What do I do now? Put those flowers from the broken vase where the mound was and say a prayer?

Better say nothing … perhaps they’ll think the hamster went out for a walk. It’s a nice day out there and Dodo will enjoy the sunshine.

Appropriate name … I thought. This particular hamster is now as extinct as his namesake. I hope he doesn’t stink under there as he decomposes away!!!

I shudder away the dark thoughts as I move the furniture back into the room nonchalantly as if nothing happened. If I confess I’ll open up a new can of worms and tears will flow for ever more and I’ll never be forgiven by anyone for eternity for what I have done.

It is sometimes kinder and much more loving to ease away the pain of others by not telling them what they don’t need to know. Better to believe that Dodo has gone for a walk and met a Miss Dodo and they’re living happily ever after in the fields behind our house.

Just as I finished putting the furniture back I heard that young voice say “Mom … I found Dodo. He was under the bed.”

Now then … has anyone seen my brand new cell-phone? I can’t find it anywhere! 

Thursday 3 November 2011

Neighbor Jeremy.

Solemn occasions are meant to be just that … solemn.

Well, at least that is the intention, although at times events conspire to turn things differently.

As happened at Neighbor Jeremy’s funeral.

Jeremy was generally a good neighbor. I liked him well. Always polite, wishing me “Good morning” when we met on our way to work or “Good evening” should we happen to see each other on our way home.

He kept himself to himself and never parked in front of my driveway blocking me from going in or out whenever I wished; unlike some other neighbors of mine! But the least said about them the better. After all, we’re meant to love all our neighbors; are we not?

Every so often Jeremy would borrow some of my garden tools, or other bits and pieces he required, but he always returned them cleaned and in pristine condition.

Anyway, like all funerals, Jeremy’s was certainly a solemn occasion.

Relatives and friends and neighbors gathered in church and then followed him to the graveside. There were tears aplenty as we all remembered him and in our own way knew that we would miss him.

Although I’m no relative of Jeremy, at the graveside I was one of those who stood near the gaping hole as he was lowered down; purely because I had taken with me in my car one of his relatives who had no transport of her own. This elderly lady stood next to me on my left; and on my right was another neighbor, a young lady, who also had no transport and had come with me.

I noticed whilst the priest was saying his final prayers that the young lady on my right was somewhat tearful and had nothing to wipe her eyes with. Being the gentleman whom I am, I put my hand in my right side pocket and pulled out, fortunately for me, a brand new handkerchief which I handed to her.

As I did so … dash it all … my car key had got into one of the folds of the handkerchief and fell to the ground, on the grass, without making a sound, and then … dash it all once again … it rolled into the open grave just as the coffin was being lowered.

No one noticed except the young lady on my right. She took my handkerchief and asked: “What was that?”

“My car key …” I mumbled quietly.

She burst out laughing and then stifled her laughter with the handkerchief, pretending to be emotionally distraught and unable to control herself. Her outer appearance to one and all was one of utter despair and total grief; yet I knew from the shaking of her shoulders that she had great difficulty controlling the hilarity engendered by my predicament.

One or two mourners raised their eyebrows and wondered why this young lady was portraying more grief at his demise than Jeremy’s own wife standing nearby. But let’s not feed suspicious minds when my own is doing backward somersaults trying to figure out what to do next.

Almost instinctively, I placed my arm round the young lady’s shoulders and ushered her away from the graveside. As I did so, I accidentally bumped into the frail old lady on my left and almost knocked her into the grave with Jeremy. Luckily, she fell backwards away from the hole.
The young lady and I walked away from the crowd and stood a distance away by some trees. She continued laughing out of control but mercifully not loud enough to raise any suspicions.

What could I do in this situation? I could hardly let Jeremy borrow my car when I knew sure well that he had no intention of returning it?

If I did nothing, how could I possibly get home, and what would I say to the frail old lady expecting a lift back in my car?

I noticed the grave-diggers sitting some distance away ready to complete their work once everyone had gone.

I left the young lady still laughing away by the trees and walked towards the grave-diggers to explain the situation.

When all the solemnities were over and done, I arranged for someone else to give the two ladies a lift home; and explained that I had some urgent business to deal with at work.

The grave-diggers brought Jeremy back up and retrieved my key; and for once, Jeremy did not get to borrow anything of mine!


One should always have dignity in death.

I attended a clown’s funeral once and he was lying there peacefully in his open coffin with a red nose and a big smile painted on his face. They couldn’t put the lid on because of his big feet! 

Tuesday 18 October 2011

The fox and moon.

It was a lovely summer’s day as I sat on the park bench enjoying the take-away meal I just bought from my favorite burger bar.

I’d just finished my large portion of French fries and I put the empty packet on the bench to dispose of it later. To stop it blowing away I put my cell-phone and keys in the empty fries container to weigh it down, and proceeded to enjoy my burger and cheese bun.

As quick as a flash, a fox came out of the bushes, no doubt attracted by the smell of food, grabbed the empty fries container in its mouth and ran away.

I ran after it frantically and it eventually dropped my cell-phone, but unfortunately it hid in the bushes before I could retrieve my keys. I searched everywhere to no avail. The bushes in that area were quite thick and almost impenetrable.

I walked back to my car intent on phoning for help when I found a park ranger standing next to my vehicle writing in her notepad.

I immediately recognized the lady in question.

I’d seen her several times in church talking in the car park after Mass with friends but I never spoke with her.

She’s a short woman in her late forties well built all over and rotund as can be. She must have a great sense of humor apparently since she’s always laughing loudly outside church with a contagious laugh which makes you want to join in the fun even though you’re not part of the conversation.

Today of course it was different. Dressed in her tight ranger’s uniform she was as severe as befits a person in authority.

“You have parked beyond the stipulated time,” she said sternly, “and I must issue you with a fine to be paid within a week!”

I tried to explain what had just happened and why I was late driving away from the parking space.

“You’re from our church …” she declared, “I recognize your face. Show me where it happened.”

We walked back to the bushes and I showed her where the fox had run away.

“We have had sightings of a vixen and a young family around here,” she said, “the mother is probably trying to feed her cubs!”

She handed me her jacket and continued, “I’ll go in there to look for your keys … I wouldn’t want you to disturb them if they’re in there!”

She got down on her hands and knees and like a dog she slowly and carefully made her way forward into the thick bushes until all I could see was the sole of her shoes.

Eventually she said “I got them …” and started reversing back slowly, on all fours, just as she got in.

Suddenly, there was a loud ripping sound and her very tight trousers tore from top to bottom at the back revealing what’s on your imagination.

I stood there frozen holding her jacket.

To my amazement and total confusion she suddenly burst out in uncontrollable fits of laughter. She stayed there on all fours for a few seconds laughing herself out of breath.

She then continued reversing ever so slowly, presumably to avoid disturbing any foxes which would no doubt be as confused as myself; and then standing up and still giggling she said, “You can stop ogling me and help cover up my modesty!”

She wrapped her jacket round her waist to cover her rear and said, “I must have given you quite an eye-full there. How are you going to explain that to Father Frederic in Confession?”

Before I had time to reply, she continued, “You’ll have to drive me home to get changed.”

I did drive her home and we became great friends with her and her husband.

Friday 14 October 2011

The Italian Experience.

Father Ignatius spent the early years of his priesthood in Rome, so he was quite fluent in Italian, although he had no opportunity to use his linguistic skills in St Vincent Parish. Until last week that is.

One of his parishioners, a wealthy businessman, invited him to a new Italian restaurant for lunch and to discuss the proposal to refurbish the church hall and Parish house.

It was a nice little restaurant beautifully decorated in Italian style resembling a typical fisherman’s cottage you’d find in Naples. Although the menu was mostly fish, you could still order a nice pizza or your favourite spaghetti or ravioli.

“We’ve refurbished and decorated this place” said the proud businessman as they sat at a table near the window.

“It’s beautiful” said Father Ignatius, “I hope you won’t decorate the church hall in the same style though …”

And so the conversation progressed throughout a lovely meal with the sound of Italian music playing softly in the background through hidden speakers. The priest recognized Domenico Modugno singing Volare and Mario Lanza’s version of Torna Sorriento. It took him back to happy times spent in Rome and Turin.

But that was not the only Italian that reached his ears that day. He noticed that from time to time the efficient waiters spoke to each other in their native language and commented on the customers sitting at table. Sometimes their comments were quite complimentary and pleasant, whereas at times they were quite rude and certainly inappropriate in his presence … if only they knew!

At one point he heard them speak about him.

“That man at table six is a priest,” said a waiter to another, “how can he afford to eat here? I thought priests were meant to be poor …”

“Don’t you recognize who’s with him?” replied the second waiter, “he’s the contractor who decorated this place. I bet he’s paying … you’ll see …”

“Just as well …” said the first waiter, “the priest looks poorer than a church mouse. I bet he hasn’t a penny on him …”

Father Ignatius smiled at himself and said nothing; except continue his conversation with his host.

When the meal was over, and just as they were leaving, Father Ignatius turned to the two waiters and said in Italian, “Grazie molto. Arrivederci.”

Three simple words, uttered in perfect accent, which spoke volumes to those they were addressed to. You should have seen their faces!

Thursday 13 October 2011

In the country.

So there I was, driving round the countryside in one of those big cars which farmers sometime use, and which you see in the movies when they film on safaris or driving through jungles and deserts. You know the kind of car I mean – it drives very well off-road in the most difficult of terrain.

Right now however the car was confused, because I was lost and didn’t know where to go.

After a while driving round in circles I stopped to ask direction from an elderly man on a bicycle.

He must have been about sixty years old or so, and spoke in a very pronounced rural accent. He wore red elastic trouser-braces (trouser suspenders) intended to keep his trousers up; but I noticed that he’d taken them off his shoulders and they were hanging loose by his side, still attached to his trousers of course. It was their bright red color which made me notice his braces hanging loose and, as if to be doubly sure, he also wore a belt round his waist too.

After tuning my ears carefully to his strange pronunciations I thanked him for his directions and set off once again.

As I drove away slowly I saw him in my rear view mirror following me on his bicycle.

I continued driving and a few minutes later I noticed that he was still following me. I thought it strange that such an elderly man could cycle at that pace.

As the narrow country road got a little wider I accelerated a bit more and to my amazement the old man was still keeping up with me, cycling only a few feet behind me.

I was now on a main road and doing 45 miles an hour or so; and to my disbelief I saw in my rear view mirror the old man cycling fast behind me and moving frantically from left to right as if trying to decide on which side he was to overtake me.

Is this a joke? I thought. How could such an old man cycle so fast? And he’s trying to overtake me too!

I could see his little legs pedaling round faster and faster as the bicycle bounced with every crevice and un-evenness it met on the road.

This man was sure determined to overtake me.

So I stopped the car to allow him to do so.

Sure enough, he came fast behind me and overtook me at speed. He cycled some hundred yards ahead of me then he turned round and sped fast towards my stationary car.

He came close past my car and continued cycling behind me still at break-neck speed.

I saw him stop in my mirror, turn round and come back cycling towards me again. He overtook my car once again and cycled some fifty yards ahead, and then returned one more time.

He passed my car and cycled some twenty yards behind me and then returned again at speed.

After this going backwards and forwards a few times he stopped abruptly just by my car window.

When I opened the car window he said: “My braces got caught on your rear bumper!”

Monday 10 October 2011


I sat in the car whilst parked on our drive and I turned the ignition on. The engine started running … tat … ratatat … tat … ratatat … It didn’t sound quite right. It wasn’t that smooth running sound you normally get from an engine when all is well. The ratatat bit was new and sounded somewhat off key. Like Luciano Pavarotti singing with one shoe off … you know what I mean. Hobbling with your voice!

“One of the sparkling plugs must be loose!” I said confidently to my wife sitting beside me. I really didn’t know what it meant … I had read it somewhere and I thought it would make me sound intelligent and knowledgeable. It’s good to build up your confidence in the eyes of your spouse … after all, she know you more than most!

“Should we call the Emergency Repair Services?” she said reflecting her confidence in my mechanical abilities.

“Not at all … it’s a simple matter … I’ll soon have it sorted,” I replied getting out of the car and leaving the engine running.

I lifted the bonnet (car hood) up like a professional would. Quickly and smoothly!

Now I should explain that this is an old car … and it has a little metal rod on the side which you have to pull out vertically and hook it under the car hood so that it holds it up. In modern cars the car hood opens up smoothly and stays open by some clever pneumatic device. But my car is old … so old that the Instruction Manual is written in Latin. You have to lift the car hood by hand … then pull out the metal rod … hook it under the hood in a special place and it keeps the hood up whilst you work in the engine. If you’re a wimp that is … If you’re macho like me you just lift the hood up and hold it firmly with your left hand whilst working with your free hand in the engine.

So there I was holding the hood up in my left hand and looking down at the vibrating engine going tat … ratatat … tat … ratatat … There were wires everywhere but no labels or signs telling you which bit of the engine does what. I mean … what does a sparkling plug look like? Is it a light that sparkles on and off?

With my right hand I just pushed and prodded all the cables and wires confidently.

And that’s when I got the most horrific electric shock you could imagine. It went straight up my right arm through my chest and up my left arm holding the hood. It was like those cartoon videos you see when a character touches a live wire and sparkles on and off.

In my agony I let go of the hood which fell with great weight and a single thud on my head knocking me down into the engine.

I could not decide for a moment which hurt the most … the electric shock I’d just received or the clunk of heavy metal at the back of my head.

Neither of these pains soon mattered because the little fan that goes round and round inside the car engine compartment caught my tie and dragged me in further choking me all the time.

The whole scenario looked like a car eating its driver as the hood bounced up and down as I struggled to free myself from the fan’s throttling grasp. I was slowly being eaten up by my own car as my legs were flying in all directions.

At that particular moment my cat decided to come walking by beside me and I must have accidentally kicked it.

Instead of running away … the cat decided to attack my legs by scratching hard at them and shouting “Vengeance is mine!!!”

This attracted our lazy dog who usually lies on the mat in front of the TV watching the Dog Channel.

Not this time … there was something more entertaining going on outside! So out he came and decided to jump on me biting me several times …

Luckily my wife switched off the ignition and the engine reluctantly released its grasp on my tie. I was still stuck head down though as I could not loosen the tie enough to slip my head out.

The tie was eventually cut with a sharp knife and I decided to phone the Emergency Repair Services after all.

I told them the tie must have been left in the engine by some careless mechanic at the workshop where I took the car for a maintenance service. That’s probably what caused the odd sound in the engine.

They agreed that this was a distinct possibility although they wondered why I had the remains of a similar coloured tie round my neck.

Friday 7 October 2011

Guess who's in Heaven.

Johnny said to Father Ignatius, “Father, I had a funny dream the other day!”

“I could do with a good laugh,” replied the priest,” “tell me about it.”

“Father, I dreamt I was in Heaven and Graham, my worst enemy, was there too!”

“What’s so funny about that?” asked the priest.

“Father, you don’t understand,” continued Johnny, “Graham is an evil conniving cheat who’d sell his own mother if he could make a fast buck! He’s the last person I’d expect to see in Heaven.”

“Well, let’s assume this is not a dream,” continued Father Ignatius as the two men walked round the church grounds, “Let’s say it’s for real.

“You died and went to Heaven, and there, sitting on a cloud playing the harp is your old nemesis, Graham.

“What do you feel about it?”

“As I said,” protested Johnny, “the man is evil. I’d probably warn St Peter in case Graham cheats him out of his catch of fish!”

Father Ignatius smiled. “Would you think that God made a mistake in letting him in?” he asked.

Johnny hesitated and did not answer.

“Do you remember the parable about the rich man who had a vineyard?” asked the priest. “The rich man hired some people early in the day to work in the field. Then again he hired more people a bit later on. And again in the afternoon, and also one hour before the end of the working day.

“The rich man in this parable represents God and the vineyard is Heaven. God is the only one who decides who is to enter Heaven.

“We have no say in the matter. Although we often pretend to know more than we actually do. You’d be surprised how many people there are ready to serve God in an advisory capacity.

“The different times of the day represent when certain people get to know God and to follow His word.

“Some people do so early in their lives and get to love Him and obey Him throughout their lives. Others get to know God later in their lives; and some only get to know God at the end of their lives just before dying.

“Of course, the temptation is there to ask why should I be good all my life when I can suddenly say sorry and accept God at the end. But there is no guarantee that this will happen is there? And God knows whether a final acceptance and repentance is genuine or not. Or just an insurance policy cashed in at the last minute to avoid the other place.”

“Does it matter?” interrupted Johnny, “Does it matter if the final repentance is genuine and the individual is truly sorry for what he has done, or whether it is a final act of despair to avoid going to hell?”

“Good point,” replied the priest wisely, “but one best left for God to decide since He owns the vineyard and we have no say in the matter.

“The fact remains, that when you see Graham in Heaven you should rejoice that at some stage in his life he found God and was deemed worthy by the Almighty to enter Paradise.

“As for you, who has been called to work in the vineyard early in your life, your job here on earth is to be an example to others so that they may see in you something worth following, worth knowing and worth loving. As a good Christian, you should be the recruitment officer for God and lead others to Him”.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Recorded for posteriority !!!

You know … if you drive non-stop for 23 hours and 55 minutes you’ll be 5 minutes from Tulsa!

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!

Thursday 22 September 2011

An E-Mail from God!

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

The Real Presence.

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

Suicidal Me

I work in an old Victorian house three floors high. My office is in the attic.

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?”

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Mademoiselle Veronique Tombal

We had a visitor from France at work this week. A top executive named Mademoiselle Veronique Tombal came over to negotiate a big contract with our Company. We were all on our best behaviour hoping to impress her about the quality and cost of our products.

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

Running to Church

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

Memories of Matilda.

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!

Sunday 28 August 2011

Undress In Haste

I needed some new clothes for work so I visited this large Department Store in town and started looking around. Pretty soon I found the perfect pair of trousers in varying colors. What would suit me best do you think? Dark blue? Black? Gray?

I took all three and proceeded to one of those cubicles where you can try your clothes on before you buy them.

The man in charge led me to a cubicle and asked me to press a little button if I needed any help.

I got in and tried the first pair of trousers … too tight. The second pair was too long in the legs. And the third was too tight and too short.

Why can’t they make trousers that fit exactly as the size it says on the label? Admittedly the three pairs of trousers were made by different manufacturers but the labels clearly said the same size on all three. And that is my size. The size I measured myself at home and the size of my current trousers which fit me perfectly well.

I proceeded to take off the last pair of trousers and pressed the little button as instructed.

Immediately, almost instantaneously, the male attendant turned up and I explained the situation to him. He took the items away and promised to get me bigger sizes.

I turned round to get dressed and … disaster!

The silly man had taken away the trousers I was wearing when I came into the shop as well as the other three.

So there I was. Trouser-less in a cubicle, and also minus my wallet and car keys which were in my trouser pockets.

I pressed the little button frantically again. Nothing happened. I pressed and pressed and still nothing happened.

Eventually the man returned empty handed.

“I’m sorry Sir; we don’t have any other sizes!”

I explained what had happened and he went away trying to retrieve my own trousers which he had put away with the other trousers to be sold in the store.

I waited for what must have been an eternity. Trapped in a store with no trousers to my name.

Eventually a female voice was heard to say, “Try these and we’ll see if they’re OK!” and a hand came in through the thick curtain and handed me two dresses. One pink and one light blue!

Almost instinctively, I don’t know why, I took the dresses and for a few seconds stared at them. It then occurred to me to look out of the cubicle and call the female attendant back.

Too late! She too had vanished in the store never to be seen again.

“Dear God … what do I do now?” I muttered under my breath.

Well, I suppose the Good Lord must have been listening because there, standing beside the socks rack, was our Parish priest.

In desperation, I tried to attract his attention without making a scene.

“Pssst … Pssst …” I uttered nervously as if calling a cat.

At this point I should tell you that Father Frederic is somewhat old and hard of hearing. He didn’t move one inch and continued looking at different pairs of socks.

“Psst … Psst …” I went again. No response.

“Father Frederic!!!” I said quietly yet forcefully enough that he might hear.

He stopped what he was doing. Looked around and saw no one calling him. Then he looked up to Heaven and made the Sign of the Cross.

“Over here … Father!” I said more forcefully.

He saw me hiding behind the curtain of my cubicle and approached me tentatively.

“I thought the Good Lord was calling me!” he exclaimed.

“No … it was me,” I replied still holding the two dresses, “I’m in an embarrassing situation Father!”

“Oh dear …” said my priest, “it is embarrassing. I didn’t know you liked to wear women’s clothes!”

“Hein? I DON’T!!!”

“No need to be shy about it my son. You really must resist the temptation … and you must come to Confession too.”

“Father … you don’t understand … These are not my clothes!”

“No of course not,” he interrupted, “they’re women’s clothes and you can rest assured that your secret is safe with me. It’s as if you told me about it in Confession. Come to think of it, this curtain is lovely and thick … we need to change the curtains in our confessionals!”

“Father let me explain … I need a pair of trousers!” I said as calmly yet as firmly as possible.

“What? You came here without trousers? You didn’t wear a dress in public did you? That’s rather foolhardy you know. What if a parishioner saw you … you’d bring the whole congregation into disrepute you know!”

At that point I think Saint Anthony must have stepped in and come to my rescue; even though I’d forgotten to pray to him.

The male attendant returned with my original pair of trousers, and my wallet, and car keys.

A week later at Confession Father Frederic whispered to me through the brand new confessional curtains “Are you sure you have nothing else to confess? Something pink and something blue … and worn by pretty ladies!”