11 January 2009


I knew it was going to be a good day the moment I sat up in bed and saw Sam padding purposefully past my patio

[That's it - alliteration or religion, you're not having both - Ed]

in the direction of the toolshed. There is only one man that Sam tails from the moment his car turns into our approach road half a K away to when he leaves: Kostas our Albanian handiman.

Sam follows him around barking and circling which is dead embarrassing because K has been working here for 3 years and it's time Sam settled down, particularly since his divine Tassia has never invited a single growl.

Everyone else - Mister Burglar, Mister Rapist, Mt Arsonist, Club Bore, the vicar, name the villain - they swan up to not a flicker from Sam. This must irk the heck out of Kostas because he is a tricky cove who 'borrows' tools and forgets he's done so.

I can be in the Seven Sleepers and Sam's barking rouses me and I go straight to the tools and there's Mr K lugging away my chain saw or ladder or best clippers. I make a big show of noting it in my red "Kitty" exercise book with date 'n' all, not one bit to K's liking.

LOL - once (before I arrived) he went up to mother, "What you done with my pickaxe?" This is a whacking great thing that none of the suitors could have wielded, gnarled handle, axe head floating at the end in danger of flying off at any moment. Mum just burst out laughing and asked what on earth did he think she'd do with it?

So I gave Sam a big cuddle and extra brek and praised him in front of Kosta and then went to *my* hefty petit dé- before suiting up for church.

I don't do religion any more after those schools but I drive Mum in and then louche off to have coffee with the boys at the 'Friends' caff. But today was different because our locum, the excellent Canon John Philpott and his quietly observant wife, Margaret, leave next week for the UK and will be sorely missed.

John is a true man of God with natural authority and Grace and THE most hypnotic sonorous voice.

So I enter and sit in a corner by the plaque raised by Count Metaxa to his wife, and enjoy the raised eyebrows at my presence.

Everything goes wrong: John has to point out the altar candles haven't been lit, when it comes the Lessons, once again - like the time before and the time before that - the readers seem to be taken completely by surprise and fumble their way thru the text that they gaze upon as if for the first time which it is probably is.

When mum reads the lesson I type it out after which she insists on a run thru so that I can advise or we can look up pronunciations.

Solidaritily, I attend when She's reading and when we get there, I remind the warden that she is inaudible and has no idea about microphones so if they don't get it right, *I* will interrupt after the 2nd verse, "No good Mama, can't hear a bally word ...", barge forward from the back row and adjust it at my leisure, to the titters of all.

When *I* used to read ... oh boy the rehearsals and the timing and the pregnant pauses ... and I'd gear up my Darth Vader-meets-Larry Olivier voice. At the end, I'd look up and around at all the dropped gazes as I fixed them righteous basilisk glare ... *THIS*, I'd rumble, "is the word of the Lord."

I love showbiz.

So the readers didnt get it right, then it was the central heating which is way up at the ceiling operated by a remote.

Suddenly the rotund P is waddling up and down the aisle, click click click, I can't tell the difference or the need, click click click, it's totally distracting us from the prayers ... click click click. Some are beginning to giggle, Dorothy comes over and offers to help ... no, i can do it ... click click ....

The 'Peace': God bless Canon Philpott for doing away with this most cringe-making aspect - save for this Sunday.

And it's not just me. The clever and literate Quentin Letts (goad goad of Sinbad) nails it in his essay on the appalling Graham Kendrick:

"And yet here are the happy clappies insisting they bang a tambourine, just as they insist that the inner spell of adult supplication be ruptured in their communion services in order to shake hands or kiss neighbours at the 'sign of the peace'."

I am sitting by Margaret and we soberly shake hands - she and John know our feelings about this love-in farce - but everyone is everywhere as usual, breasting thru to slobber and maul me, like cats who make a beeline for the allergic ones who cannot stand them.

Collection: This is taken during the third hymn and the collectors usually start their rounds at the 3rd verse. We reach the verse, no one has moved because they've cocked it up again and failed to agree whose turn it is. A flicker of annoyance in John's impassive expression.

Suddenly, from no one collecting, everyone is doing it, tugging at the two collection bags - mine, no mine, I'll do it, no that's OK I'll do it.

We're eating into the hymn and sure enough, it ends, John is waiting there to receive the bounty and theyre still working the aisles.

I decide this s good cabaret and should come more often.

Service ends and we retire to the library for coffee and chatter. Everyone wants to know how maman is and are shocked that I dont know, 'til i tell them she's in London.

The resident Anorak button holes me and his face is red with rage at what's going on with the USA and Israel. I know why he's picking on me: because of my stay in the US he still thinks I'm American. When the vice consulate had their Xmas party he came over and whispered, "You're a token Brit today, are you?"

He blasts away and I apologise for not being 'up' on the USA congress scene."

Well you should be - it's your country.

I tell him, Nooo, I'm British. He says I thought you were American. I tell him Nooo, can't he tell by my accent? He looks cheated.

There're the usual shymaking speeches and presentation of a rather good book of photos of the isle and more speeches followed by hugs and kisses, on both, which I know they are uncomfortable with.

I warn the wonderful Margaret, with whom I have always been on formal but fond terms:

"Be warned, when I take my parting I will definitely plant a kiss on both cheeks. You, John, I will NOT be smooching, downie tho' you may be."

"Ah, so I needn't turn the other cheek." We laugh. I will miss them so.

There is the ceremony of handing over the keys etc and I say "So the vicar's parking space will be free?" Laughter.

It is a space by the church that is ringed off but that doesn't deter the locals. Once when the previous chaplain was away I was driving with a suitably bearded local of papas mien.

We arrived just as a local was moving the posts to park there himself.

I didnt understand what went on at the time but my pal translated after: "He is the papas?" He is not the papas, he is the visiting bishop and I am his rural dean.

Hurried apologies and he removes himself with many a verbal genuflection to me ('Look holy. I tell him you are the visitor archbishop from Westminster Monastery')

Farewells fared, I take off and it is the most glorious day and I drive with China Forbes crooning and a lightness of heart that does not come often to any of us.


Sibadd said...

Are you telling me, C, there's is a church in Corfu where King James is read and they use the Book of Common Prayer and that you have had a priest who favours the old forms. Can this be? Can it last? S

Busker said...

Ha ha, well yes it did until this Tues when John ends his locum stint and we wait trepidatiously for his replacement (also locum) sometime in Feb. But yes, we glimpsed the promised land.