Thursday, 5 July 2007

Sacred and Profane

H.G.Wells once said that he was always a little edgy about driving through France, because if he saw a priest crossing the road in front of him, he didn't know if he would be able to resist running him over. I know what he meant, although, over the past few years, I have met some priests who are wonderful human beings. The latest is our local cura, Santiago, and he is well named, as he is a saint, I think. He handles about four or five parishes, dashing form one to the other Sundays and feast days, and has to work at a garden centre during the week to pay for his keep.

The other Sunday, he asked the communicants to pick the hosts out of the chalice themselves, because his hands were so ingrained with dirt, that he didn't want to handle the sacred objects.

Quite often, at the end of mass, he makes a joke. These are not the sort of savage wit that I appreciate, but you can't have everything. One I recall was a priest saying to the congregation, " I have good news and bad news. The good news is there is enough money to repair the church tower. The bad news is it's still in your pockets." Well, he's a priest, for crissake, not Max Miller.

Max Miller, I suppose I should explain, was one of the last of the music hall comedians in Britain, famed for his double-entendres and known as The Cheeky Chappie. I can only remember one of his jokes and it is so purile and juvenile I will not repeat it here. But I did see him, about 1955, I guess at a theatre in Wimbledon, whose name I forget. He was extremely good. The show also featured nude, motionless, ladies, which was my reason for going, being, then as now, a keen student of art.

It is necessary to explain such things as Max Miller's identity, so ephemeral is fame.

Last week I was walking with a 40 year old lady from Germany, a schoolteacher, and she had never heard of Mickey Rooney, or Judy Garland. Well, she is a German, for crissake.

Should have asked her about Marlene Detrich. She had heard of Hemingway, though, and had tried to read him but couldn't understand him. That struck me as odd. Whatever else he was, Hemingway was at least comprehensible.

Which is more than God is. Pilgrims normally believe in God and are a bit puzzled when someone attends mass religously every Sunday, and yet doesn't believe. Can't blame them really. When they ask why I don't believe, I give them Bertrand Russell's answer, " Not enough evidence."

Well, he was a philosopher, for crissake. (Russell, that is, not God.)

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