Tuesday, 18 October 2011
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
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
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
“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
“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”.