Beam Me Up

If you’re reading this it means you weren’t beamed up on May 21st like some helium-injected sex doll in the sky. Neither was I. There are several reasons why this could be, the most obvious being ‘No one was ever going to be sucked up into the clouds to meet the Lord because that is clearly impossible what with all the obese Baconaisse fans, the unyielding bastard that is Gravity, plus also the improbability of God’s existence.’ It’s a good reason – probably the best – but as a couple of optimistic survivors explained in the disappointing Rapture-free days afterwards: Jesus came, few noticed. Millions were saved, we heathens just didn’t see them go.

I for one wasn’t expecting to go, for I was but eight years old when I was exiled from the warm embrace of Our Lord Jesus H. Christ. With staunch religious grandparents in our midst I was dutifully sent off to the Catholic school up the hill, where the Sacred Heart church – like all proper churches – sat at the utmost peak and loomed for miles and miles. It was a private school funded by fees, and with a diminishing student body many of the jobs fell to the parish Priest who would otherwise be (one imagines) putting his feet up or polishing some already blindingly shiny religious wossname like those relics in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (twelve years of Catholic school and that is a thing I just said). I do not know what actual priests do because the only priest I have to go on was seen jumping up and down in the skip every morning trying to flatten the rubbish.

He ran the Reconciliation classes once a week, every Tuesday after school – 45 minutes of sheer mind-numbing boredom (resulting in missed episodes of Degrassi Junior High and a grudge still held twenty years on) so that one day I would be able to go through another round of complexly torturous classes so that finally I would be able to drink cheap watered-down church wine and eat ice cream wafers in lieu of the patronising pat on the head they reserved for the as yet uninitiated. I am not even remotely religious and as an adult my sole church attendance is pretty much on a funerals-only basis – but if I did go, I would still be getting that patronising baff on the bonce, because I – like my daffy Golden Labrador, Monty Campbell – never made it through the obedience class. I was at least spared the indignity of being awarded a Certificate of Participation unlike my poor pup, who licked the ghosts of his balls throughout the entire doggy graduation ceremony.

Part of my willing endurance of these classes was the exceptional afternoon tea spread, which consisted not only of hot chocolate but also (and more impressively) an entire tray of Arnott’s Assorted Creams which were the sort of thing your Mum only got if you were having important people round at home and even then you were only allowed a ration of two (2). My worksheets were tinged brownly and my verbal answers about Bible stories were delivered through the masticated components of a Monte Carlo cream.

One fateful lunchtime, the jig was up. Having hiked up his clerical garb and shaken errant banana peels from his boots, Father Power (for that was his excellent name) vacated the bin and marched down the hill to bang on our door. A visit from the priest was a rare thing, so naturally fears were grave. Tea was made, the nibbles were placed on the crocheted doily, and when everyone was sitting awkwardly he revealed the nature of his visit: young Hayley Campbell was no longer welcome in his priestly classes. My mother was horrified. I don’t know what my Dad thought in the early moments but when the reason for my expulsion came to light I like to imagine he was proud.

“Because she’s only in it for the biscuits,” said the priest.

On May 21st I sat in an old Victorian cemetery drinking beer and eating crisps with the dead people. I would have eaten some biscuits but I’m an adult now and can have biscuits any time I want (most recently I had six Rocky bars for dinner and I do not regret a one of them). I’ll do it on October 21st, the revised date of the Rapture, because Harold Camping got his maths wrong and forgot to carry the one. Maybe he got kicked out of class too.

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