As I sit reclining in my solid, oak backed chair in my conservatory-cum-nook I can’t help but think of the impact our Lord Jesus Christ has had on the humble Brussels sprout. The poor, rather rotunded vegetable, is conspicuous only by its absence from our dinner tables for 364 days a year. And yet, on the day of the birth of our Lord and Saviour, the humble brassica is presented to kith and kin all smothered in butter, often arm in arm with some nutty chestnuts in a veritable vegetable feast for the eyes. I often wonder the damnation we would all be suffering if Herod and his evil flying bats had managed to extinguish the life of our Lord and Saviour before he had even managed to get into a pair of short trousers. Perhaps the diminutive sprout would never have been invented, perish the thought. Our festivities would be ruined although, as my friend and colleague the Very Reverend Malcolm Powder pointed out, there would be no festivities to be ruined had Herod’s hordes managed to snuff out the infant Lord Jesus before he had even done his first standing up wee.
As I began to prepare my evensong lecture on that very same subject my vegetable musings were rudely interrupted by what can only be described as a high pitch shriek emanating from the garden outside. Gumpert, my lithe South American live-in help had rather uncharacteristically offered to tidy up the garden log pile that morning which had rested lazily against Mrs Arbuthnot’s side of the fence for many years. So long had the logs lied undisturbed I would often joke with my guinea-pig eating live-in help that perhaps it had become some sort of portal to a lost miniature world inhabited by tiny dinosaurs. I was, of course, trying to interest the tanned domestic in garden invertebrates and hoped that my Jurassic jokings would encourage him to investigate further and become amazed by the woodlice and molluscs that he would surely find within.
My ploy was to divert his interest away from his late night carpentry hobby about which I was starting to receive complaints from my normally insouciant neighbours, dear Mrs Arbuthnot and the rather wild Comely-Smythes. I say late night carpentry hobby as I must confess I have yet to see the results of Gumpert’s nocturnal banging and scrapings which are beginning to irk my dear neighbourly friends. He certainly spends many a sweaty night in his room with a couple of builders from the village, so one can only assume that getting wood to join is the object of their perspiratory endeavours.
That notwithstanding, Gumpert’s clear shriek had jolted me from my thoughts and, deciding that my giraffe fur lined slippers were not the best mode of propulsion across the muddied garden, I reached for my pair of Indonesian rubber gumboots which I keep by my conservatory-cum-nook door in case of emergency. The boots, I should explain, where a gift from one of my parishioners, Huxley Stout, who had fetched the rubber for the boots himself during a guided BMX tour of the Indonesian uplands. Huxley was delighted to be able to present the boots to me after worship one Sunday and had even tied a purple ribbon around each one. To match, he gleefully informed me, my ecclesiastical gown. Huxley was quite the adventurer and as he handed me over the ribbon entwined footwear he enthusiastically explained that there would be a gap on my pews next Sunday as he was off to Lima that next weekend. All he asked in return for the thoughtful gift was the chance to pump Gumpert for information about the sprawling dense continent Gumpert called home. My taut domestic was only too pleased to help and judging by the banging and thumping coming from his quarters the pair had a lively debate about how best to explore dark jungle recesses.
Reaching the garden I saw that Gumpert had now decided to slump against Mrs Arbuthnot’s fence and was squeezing and pawing at his right index finger. His pain had not prevented him from lighting one of his foul smelling cigarillos, which, I noticed, was smouldering dangerously close to his right flip flop. With a face as red as beetroot, Gumpert motioned to his swollen digit and I could clearly see a large splinter from the casually slumped log pile had clearly embedded itself deep into his flesh. With the blood draining from my face I immediately began to prepare my journey to hospital which, given recent NHS cuts, was now located in a shed off the A458 near Whump. Suddenly a strange beam of ethereal light bathed a slightly opened drawer in the kitchenette. There, glinting in the glorious divine light was a pair of tweezers. My path became clear. Why, just utilising the small cosmetic device to pluck the splinter from Gumpert’s dainty finger would save me from hours of highly stressed shed-based medicinal care. Verily the Lord doth move in Mysterious Ways!
The Very Reverend Dr Robert Carolgees will be officiating at the Cum-on-Wye Women’s Institute Otter Hunt next Thursday. Please bring 50p for the Hawiian Luau and a bag of mints for the fish. Asthmatics are asked to book in advance.
As I sit reclining in my solid oak-backed chair so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, my thoughts whirl around me like a big earthworm might coil and buckle in pain after it has been sliced in two by the sharp metallic blade of a heavy spade. Coming somewhere from next door’s garden, the sharp barking cough of Arbuthnot rudely jolted me from my creative daydreaming. Arbuthnot I should explain had been hired not two weeks hence by our good neighbours, Hector and Agnetha Flump, to tend their garden and carry out general household chores while they were away visiting their son Grifter in Southern Florida.
I have to confess I was full of admiration for the Flumps when they decided to press Arbuthnot close to their bosom and entrust him with looking after their 18th century sprawling manor. Arbuthnot hadn’t been shy in regaling me with tales of his rather murky past as way of introducing himself to our little community when I bumped into him outside the newly opened Budgens in Moistbury. A former merchant seaman, Arbuthnot had spent many a day and night cramped in a tiny cabin pressed up against his fellow rugged shipmates. I recall Gumpert, my lithe live-in help, had been particularly interested in the on-board conditions Arbuthnot had so vividly described on that blowy autumnal day. So enthralled was Gumpert with Arbuthnot’s tales of tossing on the high seas that he immediately invited the salty former sea dog up to his room to help him fill in his oft thumbed maritime scrapbook which I had acquired for him as a treat from a local bric-a-brac store.
Arbuthnot’s life experiences were certainly rich and varied and I thought poor Gumpert’s eyes would fair pop out of his head when the burly handy man had shared stories of his time spent at her majesty’s pleasure. Apparently, Arbuthnot had been wrongly accused of stealing a kestrel from the local manor house and had had to endure nearly five years of imprisonment among all manner of ne’er do wells. Bunk sharing in order to keep warm at the height of the winter’s frost was not uncommon by all accounts, and poor Arbuthnot told us he often had to spend long evenings in the embrace of his sweaty cell mate just to keep the nip at bay. I could see Gumpert’s eyes widen at the horror of it all.
While I was naturally delighted that Gumpert had a new playmate and, I hoped, someone who could perhaps offer some much needed paternal guidance – my ecclesiastical affairs unfortunately precluded me from playing such a role – Arbuthnot’s rather gruff past life did fill me with trepidation. However, buoyed by the Flumps’ Christian confidence and trust in the man, I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and allowed Gumpert to spend as much time with the muscled gardener-cum-help as he liked. They would often chat for hours up in Gumpert’s room, and I was particularly pleased when Arbuthnot helped my South American assistant recreate the Saucy Calculator, Arbuthnot’s last vessel, up in his room using his bed as the poop deck and pillows for sails. At least, given the banging and moaning emanating from Gumpert’s quarters, that is what I presumed they were doing.
Arbuthnot’s coughing from next door’s garden reminded me that I had some errands to run, including, rather pertinently, the purchasing of some cough drops for Mrs Dropkick’s spaniel, Tony. At Sunday’s Evensong, Mrs Dropkick, who is not as mobile as once she was, came to me in the vestry in tears, claiming poor Tony’s hacking cough and heavy throat was keeping her up at night. As part of my pastoral duties I felt it only right that I should offer to pick up Tony’s drops from the veterinarians in Cleft High Street. It was a fine sunny day so a trip on the bicycle seemed a splendid way to reconcile Mrs Dropkick’s teary request.
Gumpert had moodily taken himself off to his bedroom that morning complaining of a pain in his thighs so I felt it best not to enquire if he wished to join me in my trip. I picked up my helmet from the rather splendid mahogany table in the back passage, so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, and stepped out into the bright sunshine to retrieve my trusty two- wheeled steed. Unfortunately I immediately noticed that the tyres were both flat and sagging heavily. Instinctively I went to call out to Gumpert to assist me, but remembering the great delight he had taken in showing me his purple and blackened inner thighs earlier that morning, I imagined that my beckoning of him would be met with even more of a duller mood than he was in currently.
Suddenly a beam of ethereal light bathed the table on the open shed door. I could just see that this divine light was glinting off a dusty tool resting against some old copies of Hymn and Hers magazine. Squinting against the light I could see that the object was indeed a bicycle pump. Suddenly my path became clear. Why, by just simply pumping the tyres I could resurrect the pneumatics from their slumped torpor and fetch Tony the spaniel’s cough drops as planned. What would have taken hours of panicked bicycle repair man searching had been cured with a few sharp pumps. Verily the Lord doth move in mysterious ways!
The Very Reverend Dr Robert Carolgees will be hosting ‘An evening with Gary Glitter’ at Cleft Village Hall next Thursday. Please bring a change of shoes and a bag of toffees for the llamas. Asthmatics are asked to book in advance.
As I sit here reclining in my solid oak-backed chair, so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, I can’t help but recall one of the most memorable nativity plays that I very nearly saw. As you may know my work as an Archbishop has taken me across the globe, indeed many of my travels are documented rather lusciously in my book; Bathtime With the Angels, available now from chains of Glossop’s Books ‘n’ Fags in Fudgebury, Cleft, Moistbury and many other leading Biffordshire settlements. That notwithstanding this particular moist-eyed trip down Alzheimer’s lane finds me ensconced in the front row of the aforementioned nativity play back in the mid-1980s. It had been a bitterly cold morning if my memory serves me well, and my Madonna inspired lacette gloves had done little to wear off the biting December wind. Blessedly, this particular nativity had been arranged for charity and some days before I had managed to cajole the organisers to direct all the proceeds from ticket sales and the rather odd mulled ginger beer to a cause close to my heart – the fallen women sanctuary I had set up a few months before.
Being of limited funds, I had to cram the poor destitute women of Biffordshire who came to me seeking refuge, into the shed at the foot of the garden. They were well appointed, despite the rather horticultural surroundings. I discovered that by moving the lawn mower a few metres towards the back of the shed I could fit in three more wretched souls. Hoisting my tandem so that it was suspended from the beams by some sturdy rope facilitated enough room for my latest arrivals, Honey Potwell from Clunge and Mary Quitecontrary who had fallen out with her husband following a rather nasty incident with a frying pan and some edible glitter. Despite my ergonomic re-arrangings, it was clear that if my women’s sanctuary was to succeed then further fiscal benevolence was required. The girls were getting restless and there was only so many times they could watch Poldark on a rather warped VHS on the portable TV I had secured from my parishioners by way of entertainment.
Therefore I had high hopes that the charity nativity play would provide such funds for me to open a rehoming wing and my plan was to offer these poor fallen souls up for adoption to members of the general public. However, just as the play was about to begin a stage light had crashed from the roof and had landed squarely on both the Krankees, who had driven down from Falkirk the night before to take part. Ever the professional, Fred Dinnage, who was due to play the Archangel Gabriel, was determined that the show should go on, particularly I suspect, as his mum had been up all night making wings out of a pair of her old tights. But my spirit to continue had been crushed along with the poor Krankees and despite Fred’s and Fern Britton’s enthusiasm to put the show on, I took the difficult but necessary decision to call the event off. It was a heart-breaking drive back to my parochial quarters although Jimmy Cricket’s anecdotes certainly made the journey go quicker. I was pleased I offered him a lift home, even though he insisted on wearing his back end of a donkey costume which he had been so looking forward to performing in.
My misty eyed reminiscences were unfortunately then interrupted by Gumpert, my live in help. Regular readers of this column will be only too aware of the lithe South American’s firebrand nature and his irritation this afternoon, the eve before Christmas, was as tumescent as I could remember. He had chosen to wear the new Christmas jumper his mother had sent over from South America for him as a present although the image of a guinea pig being roasted over a spit which adorned the front of it, was, to European eyes at least, not particularly festive. I had thought to myself earlier that morning that he may be a little jaded as I had heard him late into the night playing what I imagined to be Twister with his special friend from the village. I can only surmise the boys had been playing for some high stakes as there was certainly some enthusiastic shouting and grunting coming from Gumpert’s quarters until the small hours. Given that it was Christmas I decided to treat the pair of them to some late evening hot chocolate, but despite knocking on Gumpert’s door for a good five minutes it went answered. Pushing the door ajar I left the steaming mugs of cocoa on the chest of drawers. I could see that it was indeed Twister they were playing as Gumpert had managed to take a dominant position with both his feet straddled behind his kneeling friend. As they had both removed their tops I made a mental note to turn the heating down a notch or two, the poor fellows must have been boiling!
Now stood there in my conservatory cum nook, Gumpert imparted the cause of his ire and beckoned me downstairs. As I followed him into the kitchenette his discomforts soon became plain. There, wedged twixt the oven doors was our Christmas goose, so kindly provided to me by my parishioners. Gumpert explained in between drags of one of his foul smelling cigarillos that despite his best efforts the goose would simply not fit into the oven. He had, he explained, been whacking it with a rolling pin for the past ten minutes in order to reduce its size sufficiently for it to squeeze into the oven, so kindly provided to me by Witches Ovens of Clump. Our Christmas meal, it would appear, was doomed to failure before it had even started.
As I mulled over our Christmas conundrum, a sudden beam of light shone through the window before resting on my neighbour, Mrs Arbuthnot’s back door. I do believe the Lord spoke to me at that very moment. Suddenly my path become clear. Why, Mrs Arbuthnot’s huge AGA would offer plenty of room in which to roast our meagre bird. With a cheery hello Mrs Arbuthnot was only too glad to welcome us both in, particularly as I suggested doing so would merit her a mention in volume two of my upcoming autobiography. Mrs Arbuthnot and I spent a most joyous afternoon preparing the Christmas goose and sipping dry sherry, while Gumpert and Mrs Arbuthnot’s nephew, Clarence, busied themselves playing Twister in the front bedroom. What would have taken many hours of sweaty goose carcass machinations had, in fact, only taken an hour and a half on a high setting. Verily the Lord doth move in mysterious ways!
Volume two of Dr Robert Carolgee’s autobiography The Angels offer me Nutella will be available on pre-order next Wednesday and he will be signing copies at Glossop’s Books ‘n’ Fags from Thursday. Asthmatics are asked to book in advance.
As I sit reclining in my solid oak chair with its upholstery stuffed with the fur of a now deceased troop of lowland Gorillas, I am reminded of the time when the church was regarded by the common sod as the great provider of not only spiritual, but also political guidance. That year was 1981 and I was but a youngish man who spent his time catching butterflies in a shrimping net, drinking cherry pop and bopping along to the latest record from that Sunday night’s hit parade countdown, possibly hosted by Bruno Brookes, although Bruno’s rise to become the go-to DJ at Radio One may have come much later, I don’t really recall.
The haze my father’s bi-annual garden clear-up bonfire created back in those days may also have clouded my current musings on Bruno’s rise to fame. What is certain is that the bonfire used to cause our neighbours at the time, the Fortiscue-Cummers, all manner of issues. Strictly speaking, Mr Fortiscue-Cummers was a Major, a title afforded to him during his time serving as a Chaplain in the Korean War, where he scattered pastoral comfort to the men of the Royal Artillery like a buck-toothed farmer spreads his seed.
Mr Fortiscue-Cummers and his good lady wife, Davina, took every opportunity the daylight hours offered them to praise and worship our Lord. So devout were they that they often eschewed clothing in order to be ‘close to Adam’ and ‘close to Eve’. Mr Fortiscue-Cummers would often lean over the garden fence, dressed only in a Tyrolean felt hat and a swirl of Old Virginia pipe tobacco smoke, to offer my father good-natured instruction as he bent and stooped to gather the garden detritus ready for the autumnal blaze we all so enjoyed. Given I was but a lad, the hole in the fence created when a knot of wood fell from it during a winter storm was at a rather disadvantageous height and, had I dared to peek through, it would have no doubt revealed a lot more than Mr Fortiscue-Cummers’ stance on the teachings to be found in Deuteronomy.
Sometimes on a Saturday afternoon, Mr Fortiscue Cummers would order Davina to prepare hot crumpets and tea and would invite me around next door for a bible reading. In fact my first ever bible still resides with me today in my parochial lodgings so beautifully furnished for me by my parishioners. It rests on the book shelf above the tank holding Moses, my pet Amazonian Catfish which was a gift to me from the diminutive and quite aggressive South American tribes people I spent time with during my years in the missionary position in their village. By the time I left their rare and exotic homeland they had had fibre optic broadband installed so I felt proud that my time there had helped them to progress spiritually. Being there and assisting them on their journey to find the Lord had really been all the thanks I needed, but the gift of Moses was a pleasant if slightly awkward token of their thanks to me. He is looking quite sad these days, and Gumpert, my live-in helper, has clearly decided that caring for Moses is no longer his responsibility judging by the green dankness sliding down the poor part-amphibian’s glass tank walls.
Just as I made a mental note to speak to Gumpert about Moses’ dishevelled quarters, he burst into my conservatory-cum-nook looking beetroot red with agitation. With his hair looking lank and with rather large dark circles under his eyes, Gumpert appeared to be in no better state than poor Moses, who just at that moment had glooped lazily to the surface of his slime tank to grasp what turned out to be an imaginary morsel of food. I could only think my sinewy companion was exhausted from his endeavours the day before. It had been another wet day across Biffordshire and Gumpert had plumped to spend it in his room choosing a new wallpaper and duvet set with the man from the Haberdashers in the village. They certainly had been hard at it given the thumping and banging which emanated from his quarters for the best part of the day.
My lithe South American domestic took no notice of poor Moses’ mucoid mouthings and proceeded with very little ado to explain the cause of his ire. As he did so he gesticulated that I should follow him pass the oak landing tablette, so generously provided to me by my parishioners, over the Persian carpeted stairs, past the mahogany style portmanteau at the foot of the stairs and into the living room, which was now bathed in the most glorious mid-afternoon light. Gumpert, who had managed to multi-task by walking down the stairs while rolling one of his foul smelling Moroccan cigarillos, had slumped into an arm chair and simply nodded towards the cause of his irritation. Following his gaze I could see that a small bird, a tit, if my ornithological senses were correct, had managed to somehow secure access to the house and was now sitting atop the oak Grandfather clock so kindly provided to me by my parishioners. Wisely Gumpert had already opened the large bay window, through which such excellent views of the Biffordshire Downs are afforded. Despite Gumpert’s best efforts to coax the flighty creature from its perch using a towel and an overripe avocado, a gift to the bird he later explained, it had refused to budge.
Suddenly a beam of ethereal light shone in through the open bay window and struck the face of the Grandfather clock, before it slowly moved down to reflect gloriously from the clock’s chiming mechanism. My path suddenly became clear. Why, just waiting for the venerable and well varnished time piece to strike would surely be enough to encourage the tit to accept the chance of freedom so graciously provided to it by Gumpert. As I looked at Gumpert, my heart fair burst with pride at his empathetic stance towards our unheralded visitor, particularly as small, feathery birds are quite the delicacy in his home village. Within moments, the clanging chime of the clock struck and the tit raced through the open window and into the bright afternoon sky. Verily, the Lord doth move in mysterious ways!
- The Very Reverend Archbishop Dr Robert Carolgees will be signing copies of his new book Bath time with the Angels at the Clump Cineplex, Bowling and Tiddlywink Alley next Friday. Asthmatics are asked to book in advance.
As I recline in my high backed leather chair overlooking the emerald humps of the distant Biffordshire Downs, I realise what a lucky Archbishop I am. Regular readers of this column, in fact both of you, will no doubt recall the time I spent in the missionary position at the Kwicky Fitty Women’s refuge in darkest Africa.
As the only male in the refuge it was very much my responsibility to ensure a shoulder for the women to cry on and to rest their brow beaten, erm brows, was provided. It was important to me to spread the message of our Lord to these people and to welcome them in to my bosom. I worked tirelessly to offer them succour and to instil in them the Christian way, as I knew it would clean their souls and give them some direction as to how they could improve their lot. In fact, the hour I spent there will forever be etched into my memory. Very much like a brass rubbing, or an etch-a-sketch drawing, I often return to the memory to remind me of how much better off I am than them, those poor fallen ladies of Kwitty Fitty.
Memories are very much like a favourite hanky, I’m sure you’ll agree. They are brought out and fondled at times of hardship and difficulty to help dab away the stresses and strains of everyday life. Why, just the other day I reached for my memory hanky when Gumpert, my live-in South American Houseboy, informed me that he had eaten the very last of the Frosted Shreddies. Nothing can beat me with the Lord in my heart and my memory hanky in my pocket!
Regular readers will by now no doubt be waiting for the aforementioned Gumpert to try and force his way into my intimate space, or conservatory as I prefer to call it. Right on cue my willowy man servant burst his way into my reminiscing with a look of pure agitated fury on his face. It had been raining and I noticed, as Gumpert thrashed his limbs around on my Persian rug, so kindly provided to me by my parishioners, that his short singlet was clinging tightly against his heaving chest. Gumpert had plumped for jogging shorts to complete his look for the day, which surprised me given that rain and heavy winds had been predicted to hit Biffordshire that morning. I couldn’t help but notice too that the clothes he was wearing had been the same outfit he had had on late last night when he had broken off his meeting with his friend from the village to grumpily bring me my steaming cup of Horlicks in bed.
I can only assume Gumpert’s agitation had stayed with him throughout the night as I was woken on many occasions by some loud banging and grunting emanating from Gumpert’s quarters. I knew he and his friend were planning to host a roller disco in the village hall in order to raise funds to replace Mrs Marshwhip’s Border Collie puppy, which had got itself entangled in a hot air balloon which visited the village last week. The boys’ willingness to help Mrs Marshwhip fair broke my heart and I overlooked the sounds coming from his room in order to offer my assistance to their efforts. I could only imagine that the two lads had climbed up onto Gumpert’s bed to perform a dry run of the roller disco itself, such was the squeaking and the creaking coming from my live-in help’s double divan.
They had clearly given their all to poor Mrs Marshwhip’s cause throughout the night as I noticed Gumpert’s friend leave in the morning looking very much the worse for wear. I offered him some thick white toast and a reviving beverage but so sheepish was he that he barely acknowledged me.
A few hours later and here was Gumpert wildly frothing at the mouth about some sort of domestic disturbance the root cause of which I was still to uncover. Gumpert had, by now, rather flounced out of the conservatory and had begun to roll one of his foul-smelling Moroccan cigarillos. I noticed how his eyes lit up on his first drag on the rancid stick and admired the way the smoke wafted and seemed to embrace the dark curls of his hair which flopped lazily over his brow. His shorts had ridden up around his thighs with the fury of whatever ailed him and his rancour had certainly brought him out in a light sweat.
As if reading my mind, Gumpert quickly adjusted himself and stood up to point towards the garden lawn while uttering some evil-sounding Spanish oaths under this breath. I had heard him earlier that morning hard at work in the garden and I had peaked out of my bedroom window to see him double bent and straining to rake up the leaves which had scattered themselves across the grass, doubtlessly encouraged by that morning’s strong winds and inclement rain. The neat pile of leaves Gumpert had so carefully created were now blown to all parts, and were clearly taunting my up-tight South American home help with their new found freedom.
As I peered out into the garden to ponder how we might resolve the chlorophyll-centred conundrum, a sudden beam of ethereal light caught my eye. As the light from above shone down it caught the handle of the kitchen drawer behind me. I turned to investigate further and after a few robust tugs on the handle discovered a rolled up bunch of bin liners nestled in the very heart of the drawer. My path become clear.
Taking the bin liners I marched through the drawing room and out through the patio doors, my Christian values preventing me from shooting the triumphant glance towards Gumpert that my darker inner soul was begging me to do. Not that Gumpert cared; he was now engaged on the telephone arranging another fundraising evening with his friend. They were meeting, by all accounts, in the Lamb and Duvet Pub before thrashing out further wheeled musical entertainments back in Gumpert’s room after closing time.
Not to be swayed by Gumpert’s social diary arrangements, I opened two bin liners and succeeded in stuffing the errant leaves into them, using a couple of boards which had miraculously appeared on the patio a few minutes before, to coax them into their plastic prisons. What would have taken many hours of sweaty leaf retrieval effort had been resolved in a matter of minutes. Verily, the Lord doth move in mysterious ways!
Archbishop Dr Robert Carolgees will be officiating at Biffordshire Speedway next Saturday. He’ll be blessing the Biffordshire Bandits’ bikes ahead of their crunch meeting with the Owlford Owls, and praying for a Bandit victory. Come along and touch the hem of his ecclesiastical garment and be cured! £5 for haemophiliacs, £10 per leper, £15 for gluten intolerants. Asthmatics are asked to book in advance.
As I sit reclining in my solid oak, high-backed leather chair in my study-cum-nook overlooking the majestic Biffordshire Downs in the distance, which are just lightly tipped with a sprig of early spring cloud, I can’t help but think of the hit ITV show This Morning. Hosted by the evergreen Philip Schofield and the impressively margined Holly Willoughby, This Morning offers Christians across the globe a moment to reflect and meditate on some of the deeper meanings of scripture.
Why, only the other morning on This Morning, they featured a fascinating ‘magazine style’ interview with a poor down-trodden lady who recently lost her husband. He died, tragically, while reaching for a tub of Vaseline which for years had been stacked behind various dental equipment in the couples’ delightfully appointed mock Tudor home.
The lady, fighting back tears told Philip, now leaning in to his interviewee so that the audience were made fully aware of his almost unnatural concern for the poor woman, that the tragic circumstances of her husband’s death occurred early one morning. And it was at that time when she felt his loss the keenest. In essence, she was mourning during the morning on This Morning. The poignancy of the whole tale was not lost on me, but before I could reach for a man-size tissue from the top of my solid oak cabinet, so graciously provided to me by my parishioners, to dab away the emotions which were swelling within me, I was interrupted by an all mighty crash emanating from the downstairs toilette.
Just a few seconds later, I heard the familiar stomp of slippered feet banging their way up the stairs towards my study-cum-nook. By now the owner of the feet had appeared in my doorway and the apparition which stood before me was bathed in sweat from his shoulders down to his ‘just there’ jogging shorts. I have lived with Gumpert, my lithe South American handy man, for many years and his daily battles with even the simplest of domesticated tasks has become part of my waking routine. Never before, however, have I seen him in such a state of unrest as he stood there grunting various Spanish phrases at me in an almost bestial low growl. It wasn’t his sweaty state; no doubt an over-reaction to a particularly spicy goat curry he had prepared for us the previous evening, or the fact that he had chosen to wear the briefest of his jogging shorts that morning which travailed me however. For in his hand he was holding a dripping and quite threadbare toilet brush.
I realised then and there that morning’s perplexing seven down in The Guardian would have to trouble me for a few hours yet as I followed Gumpert down the stairs to examine the cause of his agitated ire. My path from the last step on the stairs was blocked by general tradesmen’s tools dumped there, no doubt, by the builders who had been patching up the wall of the garden shed after Gumpert had, quite innocently, crashed through it after one of his many late evening ‘boy’s nights’ with some of the chaps from the Lamb and Duvet pub in the village.
The builders had been there for many days, and while, as a Christian, I am always keen to promote local trades, their seeming reluctance to finish the job had begun to sting my patience. Instead they seemed more interested in discussing blueprints and technical aspects of the build with Gumpert in his room often into the very small hours. I can only imagine they were creating architectural models of the plans for the shed, given the banging and groaning which had been emanating from Gumpert’s quarters.
In the spirit of my Christian values, I had given the builders full permission to use the downstairs toilette as they went about their construction duties, and I was wondering whether this may have caused Gumpert the stress he was only too happy to display as he waved the toilet brush in the general direction of the aforementioned convenience. My desire to discover the bone of his contention was set against the ungodly waft of thick pungent air which hit me full in the face as I approached the toilette. Undeterred, I pressed on and peered into the bowl of the toilet which Gumpert had been gesturing towards just seconds before.
All my days as a clergyman, even that time I took a missionary position in a women’s’ enclave in Nigeria could not prepare me for the horrible sight which befell me. The entire rim and seat of the toilette was encased in a foul smelling thick fudge like morass of some other worldly substance, the origin of which escaped me. The stench was enough for me to mutter a Hail Mary under my breath and as I recoiled in the horror of it all, I noticed one edge of the sludge, which to my further horror appeared to have a peanut submerged in its brown embrace, had slopped and glooped off into the murky waters below. Gumpert’s sweaty exertions with the toilet brush had clearly not disturbed the ungodly toxic goo which was clinging joyfully to the toilette bowl in clear breach of my instructions to the builders not to pass solids into its pristine porcelain delicateness.
As I took a step back to consider our predicament a beam of ethereal light suddenly shone on a lead coming from the lawn near the now decrepit garden shed. I do believe the Lord spoke to me at that very moment. As the light moved along the hose I followed it with my gaze and realised it led to an old power washer which had lain dormant in the back of the shed for many years. My path suddenly became clear. Within minutes I was hosing away the builder’s fudgey sins of the flesh and turning the downstairs toilette back to its beautiful and untouched condition. Begone foul half-chewed Snickers bar!
Verily, the Lord doth move in mysterious ways, as do builders, it would seem!
- The very Reverend Archbishop Dr Robert Carolgees will be signing copies of his new autobiography The Missionary Positions I have Taken at Unks the Tobacconists on Cleo Lane, Marshwhip, Biffordshire, a fortnight on Saturday. Dogs welcome; but no Guide Dogs please.
Thought of the week
With the extremely and hugely reverend Archbishop of Toad-in-the-Wold, Dr Robert Carolgees…
“As I sit here reclining on my solid oak desk in my conservatory-cum-nook on the top floor of my parochial house, so kindly provided for me by my parishioners, I cannot help but think of the church’s stance on civil marriage ceremonies.
Are we really to believe that venues such as Alton Towers, Legoland and even, dare I say it, Wembley Stadium, are fit and proper arenas for the sacred bonding of two people to take place? Why just the other day I read that Toad-in-the-Wold’s leading tourism attractions, Frank’s Wasp Museum and the Cum-Wisely Biscuit Discount Store, had applied for a licence to hold civil marriages. While I appreciate that the church must move forward or face a nasty withering on the vine of popular culture, I still choke on my crumpets every time some fly-by-night operation decides that it has the necessary gravitas and solemnness to hold what is essentially a declaration of love between two people of different sex. The different sex passage of this last piece of rather nicely constructed prose is key of course.
Frank’s Wasp Museum is a case in point – one can only think that beekeepers who have met and fallen in love, perhaps while bottling a jar of their gloopy, sinewy honey, could even possibly contemplate engaging in wedlock at a building which so glorifies the doubtful virtues of wasps and other flying and stinging invertebrates.
My live-in help Gumpert is a fine example of this, of course. He himself married in haste to a young girl from his village many moons ago now. Just a few short months after their civil ceremony marriage at the San Atorium Moped Factory, Conchita broke his heart and after one row about donkeys too many, Gumpert packed up his meagre belongings and headed off for new adventures. He washed up in Biffordshire and eventually found his way to Toad-in-the-Wold, where he originally earned his keep by polishing the pigs on Mr Crumble’s 70-hectare spread.
As I mused, my thoughts were rudely interrupted by the sound of Gumpert stomping about on the Persian rug outside my conservatory-cum-nook. The rug, a gift from my most generous parishioners, has become worn and tattered by the sheer number of pedestrians which traverse it, often late at night, as they pop downstairs from Gumpert’s room to the kitchen in order to fetch obviously much needed refreshments of diet cola and thick white toast.
Gumpert’s stompings were so heavy and laden with melancholy that I feared he may trip on the rug and perhaps fall down the stairs, breaking the bannisters as he went. My blood froze as I imagined his youthful and slender neck snapped into a 90 degree angle by the portmanteau we keep at the foot of the stairs.
By now Gumpert was sulkily rolling one of his foul smelling Moroccan cigarillos in the drawing room, his low moans and tutting the only clue to his agitated state of mind. So befuddled was he by whatever it was that ailed him, he stoutly refused to enlighten me as to the cause of his clear distress. It was clear that I was not to get an answer from the lithe South American and decided instead to let him stew in his disgruntlement while I went to catch up with the particularly tricky seven across in that morning’s Guardian.
As I moved through the drawing room my eyes were drawn to the small patioed area the other side of the kitchen. Gumpert’s increasingly restless noises were at once drowned out by a great billowing and flapping about as I opened the kitchen door to investigate further.
Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing on the scene of utter chaos which confronted me. Sheets, pillow cases, socks, my ecclesiastical gowns and any number of Gumpert’s Y-Fronts were blowing to and fro across the garden, while my favourite vest, I noticed, had become snagged on the hedge bordering the patioed area. I feared if Gumpert’s Y-Fronts were to make good their wind-assisted escape, Mrs Algebra and her severe angina next door would simply pass away at the very site of them.
But what was to be done about the scene of mass clothing rebellion being played out in front of me on what was a particularly unseasonal windy afternoon?
As I walked back through the kitchen to rouse Gumpert from his internal ramblings, a sudden beam of ethereal light bathed one of the solid oak unit drawers.
I do believe the Lord spoke to me at that very moment. I moved with haste towards the drawer and tugged hard at the handle. Inside was a veritable cornucopia of various clothes pegs, some wooden, some plastic. I also noticed a long forgotten, and by the look of it well-thumbed copy of Hymn and Hers magazine from several years ago.
My path became clear. Why, surely through the use of said clothes pegs I could simply, and without fuss, gather the errant bed linen and under garments and aid their drying by cleverly securing them to the washing line.
What would have taken me many hours, and no doubt many apologies to Mrs Algebra and her immediate family, was achieved in a matter of moments. Gumpert’s Y-Fronts were secure!”
Verily, the Lord doth move in mysterious ways!
More utter ecclesiastical nonsense from everyone’s favourite rural archbishop next time folks!