Yesterday, whilst I was continuing my four-day stay in the country, my host (an elderly relative) suddenly announced that he had decided to attend a service at his local church – thereby resuming his regular Sunday routine after a gap of about four months.
Long ago he stopped going to the Matins service, switching instead to the earlier 0800 hours equivalent, which doesn’t involve a sermon, simply because he hates having to listen to them. I am not quite sure whether this is because he hates all sermons on principle (though I think this is quite likely) or whether he is simply seeking to avoid long and/or boring ones in particular.
Yesterday, however, he announced that he was going to attend the nearest thing on the schedule to a Matins, i.e. the annual local harvest festival celebration at 1100 hours. He returned to the house about seventy-five minutes later and immediately demanded a large gin and tonic, still seething about the length (and possibly content) of the sermon to which he had just been subjected.
I asked about the nature of the harvest festival presentation at the service.
“Well, let’s put it this way: most of the aisles and window ledges were covered in apples …” came the reply.
By then, as it happened, already enjoying the warm sunshine and a large pink gin upon our terrace was a local personality who had dropped by to ask after my relative’s health.
Said gent has a reputation for generating gossip and waspish comments which (despite their occasional offensiveness) tend to be both insightful and amusing. He is in the happy position of ‘getting away with it’ because – since he exudes charm, doesn’t mind who he upsets and is no hypocrite – everyone, well almost everyone, makes an allowance for him (“It’s just Peter being Peter …”).
Yesterday in passing the name of a somewhat starchy elderly couple came up in our chat, the lady of which has suffered from alopecia (hair loss) for decades. As long as I have known her, to disguise her totally-bald condition, she has always worn a large ‘Gor Blimey’-type cap when out in public.
Peter mentioned that he very much enjoyed their company and told of how ‘the ice had first been broken’ between them at a particular drinks party about two decades previously. Said lady had torn into him over some idle insult or another he had dropped into their conversation, to which he had replied in the heat of the moment “Keep your hair on and lighten up, you silly old trout!” … at which interjection they had both collapsed into hysterical laughter and had become instant bosom buddies.
Earlier, before my relative had returned from his harvest festival sermon ordeal, Peter had mentioned that he no longer attended services at the local church because – as a member of its ‘roof and general maintenance’ committee – he had objected on principle to the vicar’s wife’s forced-through decision one year to spend their accumulated budget on sending aid to some Romanian disaster appeal or another, i.e. instead of on items within its stated remit.
Instead he now attended services at a different local church about five miles further away – firstly, because the vicar there didn’t do sermons; and secondly, because they didn’t habitually send their ‘collections’ or repair budgets to Romania.
“Anyway …” he pronounced, “… in my experience, the overwhelming majority of the people who attend Church of England church services are [in terms of outlook upon life and behaviour, not least in how they treat others] amongst the least Christian people it is possible to come across!”
I found considerable food for thought in that comment.