SIDELINE NOTE: When I worked in London I often spent my lunch-times visiting various churches. I used to sit there in an empty church and pray and thank God for what I've got. Apart from the famous St Paul's Cathedral there are many churches in the City nearby and it was quite a respite from the busy business life to be there alone for a while.
Back to Northern England. I parked the car and entered the church. It was empty. I sat there for fifteen minutes or so, right at the front. Then people began to come in. In groups of two, or three, or more, and sit here and there everywhere. They were all dressed in black.
I decided to leave my pew at the front and moved to one in the corner on the right side of the church. It was obvious I was attending a funeral. The coffin was brought in and the service started. I decided, out of courtesy, to stay on.
Some people in a pew to my left kept looking at me and whispering. I ignored them. At one point they were consulting their cell-phones, which I thought was an insult to the dead person. Unless they were following the service on their phones, or the dead person had invented some App of some sort. You never know these days.
After the service was over and everyone left, the people on my left approached me.
"You're Don Williams, the American Country singer, aren't you?" said one of them.
"Hein?" I muttered rather confused.
"Yes, you are him," said a young lady, "we tried to look you up on Google. But there's a bad wifi reception in this church. You are Don Williams. You know ... You're My Best Friend ... Lay Down Beside Me ... Love Me Tonight ..."
I had to disabuse them of their misapprehension quickly before this got out of hand. I put on my best London Cockney accent, like Dick Van Dyke in the film Mary Poppins.
"Now look 'ere ma mate," I said, "For beginning, I ain't gonna lay down wi'you and love ya. Me wife would skin me alive, she would. I promise ya straight up, I ain't Don Bleeding Williams, whoever he might be. If I were 'im like, would ay be talkin to ya like that?"
My accent seems to have convinced them, although they insisted in taking photos with me, there in church, and asked me to sign my autograph. I signed Walter Mitty. I wonder if they understood the ironic connection.
After they left I got out of the church. There in the lovely green surrounding the church were many people gathering with lots of animals. I did not know what was going on. The funeral people had gone and the place turned into the second coming of Noah and his famous arc, although there was no boat, yacht or speedboat to be seen.
There were people with dogs, cats, some had sheep, a cow and a donkey, as well as smaller animals like Guinea pigs, hamsters, a tortoise, rabbits and birds like a parrot in a cage and I also remember seeing a canary in a cage.
"What is going on?" I asked a woman holding a fury creature, "why all these animals and why have you got a hamster?"
"It's a gerbil," she said, "we've come here for the annual blessing of animals. The vicar will do it, like St Francis of Assisi used to!"
SECOND SIDELINE NOTE: I don't know the difference between a hamster and a gerbil, nor do I care to find out. I did not know St Francis blessed animals. What did they pay him for this service? A KFC meal, or a bacon sandwich, I wonder?
Back to the blessing. The vicar came out and people lined up one by one for the blessings. I wish I'd brought my alligator with me.
An elderly woman was holding in her hand a little white mouse. As she stepped forward, the mouse jumped out of her hand and ran away in the long grass. They'll never find him if he gets into the bushes, I thought.
THIRD SIDELINE NOTE: How do you think? Do you think in words? Like "they'll never find him if he gets into the bushes"? Or do you think in images? Like visualising the mouse running into the bushes and people searching for him?
Anyway, the mouse ran away. A cat escaped its owner and chased him. Caught him. And then ran up a tree with the mouse in its mouth screaming its life out.
There was shock everywhere, and a hidden smile from me trying to control a guffaw of laughter.
I wonder if the vicar ever blessed an animal within an animal!
On the same day, I attended a funeral of someone I did not know, got mistaken for an American country singer, and saw tragedy masquerading as comedy ... or was it the other way round?