Monday, 28 February 2011

Oscar Night

Sunday 27th Feb.

Tonight is Oscar night. Like everyone I am hoping that Colin Firth will bring home the little gold man, and I have my own extra agenda. On the 28th of January, when excitement about the film was gathering pace and everyone seemed strangely cheered up by it, I wrote to him wishing him luck and asking if he would be so kind as to give generously to the St. Michael’s church organ fund – it could be the “Colin Firth Organ,” I suggested what a fine plaque that would be, etc. I also mentioned that we had just had the lead stripped off the church roof too. There is a security system set up but what it needs is someone to sit up there with a pick-axe waiting for the thieves to appear.

I pushed this missive through his black letter box as he lives just up the road from the church. His white gate and front fence have holes and gaps painted over against prying eyes, but the letter box works perfectly normally as far as I can tell.

No word back since then, but he has been very busy. I just hope my chemo drenched synapses didn’t lead me to write Colin Farrell instead of Colin Firth.

Some of my friends have been a bit sceptical about this letter, but in 1983, when I belonged to St Giles Church in Camberwell, we had an appeal for a new heating system. The Church of England itself never seems to give any money to its churches.

I wrote to various local celebrities including Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame. He sent me a cheque for £100 by return.

The vicar of that church was brilliant intellectually, a former maths don at Oxford, but very peevish and suspicious of young women. I took the cheque into the vestry just before the Mass when they were all vesting up. It is a time of reverence and they peered at me uneasily, as if I might start bowling sacred objects about.

The clergy and congregation were used to windows being smashed and large scale theft. Even the bishop’s chair and the heavy eagle shaped lectern got lifted, but a lot of people in Camberwell were also dangerously mad.

The area was dominated by the great Maudsley Mental hospital, bin of bins, and Mrs Thatcher had just introduced her, “care in the community,” policy, emptying inmates of institutions onto the streets, despite the fact that there were no “communities” to receive them.

Shortly after a baby in some local flats had been killed by a mental patient who had been released eight days before, and the day before I entered the vestry a young woman at Saturday morning Mass smashed up the Confessional box with a hammer. I had watched with interest as the young curate grappled her to the floor.

I handed the vicar the cheque in silence and watched as he read it. His irritated expression merged into surprised comprehension but he quickly shooed me out and never said thank you. I had such low self-esteem at the time that I failed to call him a bastard, or throw things about. One of only two vesting-up anecdotes I have.

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