As some of you may know, I’ve been working in a Catholic church now for quite some time. My remit is to conserve the merchandise, the latest being a huge gilded reredos with exquisitely carved priests gazing up at a floating Lady of Suffering with her attendant cherubs and, a bit further up, God. With a massive beard. And a book.
Every day I arrive an hour or so before the morning Mass. To get to the scaffold, I have to push my bike past an elderly man lying prostrate on the floor in a state of reverie, touching the feet of a plaster cast of Our Lady with six plastic swords piercing her sacred heart. He barely notices me. Next, I nod graciously at the Silver Vixen (who smiles provocatively back) and then head on up to the tower. Usually I bail out for the Mass itself, but sometimes I catch the last of it. A priest in white and purple robes, looking and sounding like Mark E Smith, finishes the proceedings by chanting the beginning of a hymn and then walking off to the sacristy in solemnity, leaving the congregation to wrap up the singing and follow suit. Which, for the most part, they do.
A few weeks ago, however, a straggler got locked in. She’d passed out on one of the pews and fell under the penetrating in-house CCTV radar. When she came to, frightened and coming down off something, her first vision was that of myself, alone, at height and magnificently backlit by powerful halogens. The following exchange went something like this:
Me: Are you okay?
Lady: Who…who are you? Do you want me to sing for you?
Me: Maybe not now. Do you know how to get out?
Lady: Are you Jesus?
Lady: Let me sing for you, Jesus.
Me: I think we’d better…
Lady: LET ME SING FOR YOU, JESUS!!!
Me: Ok. What can you do?
Lady: Tell me what to sing.
Me: Look, I’m really not Jesu…
Lady: WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO SING???
Me: Um…How about Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? Do you know that one?
Lady: Just like you, Jesus. A twinkling star. In Heaven.
Me: Thank you. But I really think you should speak to Father Pat first.
Lady: I wrote you a letter. Did you get my letter?
Me: I don’t think so.
Lady: I gave it to Our Lady. She kept it for you. SHE KEPT IT FOR YOU!!!
Me: I’ll ask her for it later.
Lady: I need to go wee.
Me: Wait a minute. I’ll come down and show you…
Lady: HELP ME GO WEE, JESUS!!! HELP ME GO WEE!!!
So I did. I helped the lady go wee. And then we took a short walk together to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital where she was taken in and my services superseded by those more qualified than I. Because I’m not Jesus: I’m just a fella.