“I’m not Jesus. I’m just a fella.”
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 And then we took a short walk together to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital where she was taken in and my services superseded by those more qualified than I. Because I’m not Jesus: I’m just a fella.
A black moth shot out of my underpants as I was getting dressed this morning. Not in itself an event of seismic import, but a salient reminder of the passing of thrusting alpha-manhood nonetheless. It must have been rather ancient, as presumably younger moths would frequent the undergarments of more potent individuals, those who would favour Abercrombie & Fitch and the like over the Heath Robinson-esque monstrosities I squeeze myself into every day. And this ageing lepidoptera, exhausted from a lifetime of headbutting lightbulbs, would have given thanks to whatever God it believed in for this sedentary resting place, secure in the knowledge that it would remain undisturbed until its final day came. But sadly, it was not to be.
The symbolism of the moment was not lost on me: The moth, as any fule kno, is a portent of death. That, and that you don’t do dry-cleaning enough. I was understandably perturbed (the very thought of having to waste a Saturday morning bagging up laundry was too appalling to contemplate), but dealt with the issue in a manner fitting to anyone of a certain age familiar with micro-managing problems on a day-to-day basis: I forgot about it. But there is only so much evasion one can muster before the full weight of the inevitable crushes down hard upon the souls of the very simple: That moth was telling me something, and that something I really didn’t want to know.
I leapt onto Facebook for some light relief, as is my wont in times of distress. And up there at the top of my feed was one of those irritating Suggested Posts, this one from from the London Psychiatry Centre, suggesting I should do their wretched quiz to see if I was a one-in-four social pariah who drinks more than they recommend. Of course I was (the alternatives were patently absurd), and next thing I knew I was getting a personal pledge from Dr Christos Kouimtsidis to help me on my journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
Now, I have never met Dr Kouimtsidis and, to be perfectly honest, am unlikely to anytime soon. So it is doubtful I will get the opportunity to explain to him (through whichever slurred words he can understand), that the reason I am right up there on his critical list is because a moth has been residing in my pants for God knows how long, that my days left on Earth are clearly numbered and, this being the case, that perhaps I might choose to spend them cradling a bottle of something half decent rather than being bored witless in a Harley Street waiting room. At prices that would secure the former by the pallet load. Death, in whichever wondrous shape and form it has in mind for me, will bloody well come when I so choose, Dr K. And now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to the laundrette.