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Uncle Phil's Anecdotes

Lot 33: Scripture for his purpose

With a sudden rush of you-know-what to the heart the appalling realisation hit me that I could no longer remember what came after “Thy Will be Done.....”
I was up to speed OK on the Kaddish. [the Jewish prayer for the dead.] In either English or Hebrew, take your pick, Your Almightyship. But the business end of the Lord’s Prayer had gone to ground in that dusty archive-only directory in my mental hard disc where reside such esoteric and rarely-called-upon trivia as the thirteen-times-table, the date of the Diet of Worms, the name of the current Minister for the Arts, the exact significance of Schroedinger’s Cat, and French. They’re all still rattling around in there somewhere - the problem seems to be an anno-domini induced malfunction in the search and recall module. I hope I haven’t got that disease. The one where wrinklies begin to forget things. Named after some Kraut. Begins with an ‘A’ - can’t bring it to mind for the moment. Nah. It’s probably just synapse fatigue. Or more likely the booze has finally done my brain in.
I’m a firm believer in keeping all my spiritual options open. One never knows which of his myriad theological hats the Supreme Being will be wearing. Who’s the Deity-of-the-Day? That’s the nub. For my immediate purposes, the basic Old Testament white-bearded ill-tempered-but-fair Jehovah model would have done nicely. Or the all-embracing C-of-E Good Shepherd bloke with tweed jacket, pipe and plummy voice, and preferably in one of his trendy moods where my liturgical memory lapse would have gone unnoticed amongst the extruded plastic heartiness, the wannabee Hot Gospel groups and the ever-so-slightly-out-of-tune bass guitar. But if luck was against me, and on this particular morning He was in one of His dreamy laid-back Buddhist incarnations, or had woken up with a scratchy case of Calvinism or a debilitating attack of the Shiites, this miserable sinner was in some danger of ending up nostril-deep in the warm wet stuff. Let us pray.
I don’t often hit the sacred panic button. I’d long since cut a deal with my Maker in which it was expressly stipulated that the party of the second part (me) would refrain at all times from troubling the party of the first part (Him) on the strict understanding that He didn’t ever bother me, either. We’ve rubbed along for years within this comfortable and mutually beneficent arrangement, leaving me free to scratch a precarious living and to cultivate grey hair and impacted vertebrae, and Him to worry his head about such tricky stuff as The Balkans, the wackier or more Mammon-orientated outbreaks of American evangelism, the implications for the finances of the Church of Rome of affordable mass contraception, the physics involved in fitting innumerable angels onto the heads of pins, whether the Popemobile will pass its MOT, and the Reverend Ian Paisley. These examples not necessarily in strict order of Divine hassle-quotient.
But events had suddenly turned extracurricular. I desperately needed some aid and assistance. Mayday, O Wise and Omnipotent One, bloody Mayday already, and sod the small print. Do you copy, Godhead Base? Are you listening up there? It’s OK for you, sitting on your comfy cumulo-nimbus blithely organising the universe to the sound of harps and heavenly choirs, but you should try a stint at the sharp end sometime. It can get a bit hairy down here, let me tell you. Even I occasionally need the services of your celestial Search-and-Rescue. Although at that moment I’d have probably settled for International Rescue. For heaven’s sake - at that moment I was so deep in the poo I’d have settled for Dyno-Rod.
But, you must be wondering, what’s he talking about?
I was, as I often am these days, ensconced in the passenger seat of Barbara’s car, with the lady herself committing grievous bodily driving on my nervous system. In the world of the Spiritualists I think it’s called “a near-death-experience”. Although I was too busy trying to keep control of my sphincter that morning to get involved in matters metaphysical. One problem at a time. Be still, my fibrillating heart!
It’s not that Barbara is actually such a bad driver. Admittedly, she has some minor shortcomings. Confined spaces, such as multi-storey car parks, particularly the spiral ramps leading thereto and any such pillars as might be erected therein, any roadside parking space that she can’t drive into frontways, and the physical limitations of her own garage all tend to confuse her a bit [as with most women, who I’ve noticed don’t seem to enjoy that inbuilt spatial awareness that us chaps are blessed with]. The need to follow a series of road signs concurrently with driving the car can also throw her off track; in fact the consequent mental athletics tend to result in a System Overload message, and re-booting the whole organism is usually the only solution.
Again, some of the more arcane mysteries of reversing the car seem to have passed her by, notably the techniques involved in steering the beast arse end first, and the function and use of the door mirrors. And she’ll admit herself that overtaking isn’t exactly her strong point, although this doesn’t normally matter at the time of day we start out. Going home is another thing; there’s other traffic about by that time, but by then I’m usually either too tired or too merry to care.
But these are really only minor lacunae in an otherwise blindingly average set of driving skills, so let’s not nitpick. De minimis non curat antiquarius. Take a broad view, PJ. As long as she’s proceeding along an empty eight-lane superhighway in the general direction of forwards, Barb appears to be a fairly competent driver, if perhaps a touch over-enthusiastic in the wellie department. That, I can live with. However.....
However, the girl’s main problem is that she’s easily distracted. She even manages to distract herself if there’s nothing or nobody to do it for her. For starters, she habitually engenders more bunny than Watership Down on fertility pills. Even at four in the morning, our Barb can rabbit away, nineteen to the dozen. Whereas before I’ve taken breakfast on board I refuse to get involved in anything but the most basic social intercourse, and even that in grunt mode only. So I tune out the conversational white noise and interject the occasional statutory “Yes Dear” when (if?) she stops for breath, or sling in an interrogatory “Really?” if the tone of her voice seems to warrant it. She doesn’t mind - it’s not supposed to be a conversation, just a Barbara bunny-session.
But the trouble is that she gets so lost in the convoluted byways of her interminable sagas and becomes so hypnotised by her own rhetoric that she tends to forget that she’s in sole charge of a couple of tons of travelling metalwork, with the general intention of relocating it, and us, to specific co-ordinates within the Green and Pleasant, and preferably in one piece.
We’d had a brilliant antique fair the day before, taken fortunes, and so on this particular morning were off on a buying trip to spend our ill-gottens on some more stock. This involves driving around the wilds of East Anglia, (which is most of it,) viewing a few auctions, leaving a load of bids, checking out any antique fairs, car boots, flea markets, garage sales and such like that happen to be on the agenda, and calling into every dealer, antique centre, charity shop (I’m not proud - I’ll make a profit out of anybody.), junk emporium and any other potential source of cheap goodies that we might come across during our peregrinations.
Mind you - all this commercial enterprise, though admirable, is only part of the deal. It should be noted at this point that both Barb and I miserably failed our ‘O’-levels in slimming. We’re both far too fond of our scoff. We both agree that we ought to do something about our burgeoning avoirdupois, but somehow neither of us can face the necessary privations, especially on an empty stomach. So it’s a quick stop early on for some breakfast, which can vary from a bacon buttie apiece to the full monty, depending on the time we started out and on when and where we reach a natural hiatus in the stock hunt. Then it’s back to the grindstone for a couple of hours, with the delightful prospect of the main event, a substantial pub lunch, growing ever nearer. Then a bit more work, until thoughts of tea and cakes intrude on our commercial ambitions. And so on, till suppertime, or until I feel like a pint, whichever is the sooner. But I’m wandering, as per. I’m in dire peril. No time for a hymn to gastronomy.
We’d only been driving about an hour, and hadn’t got as far as breakfast. And the way things were going I was developing a fatalistic suspicion that we never would. I don’t know what was the matter with Barbara that morning. Maybe her hormones were acting up. I hadn’t realised till then that PMT stood for Phil in Mortal Terror. Maybe she had a hangover - although this is unlikely - the bunny mechanism was as ever at full revs. Maybe she’d picked up her old man’s glasses in error. Maybe she’d left her brain in her other handbag. I dunno.
Whatever the reason, she’d put me through sixty long minutes of the most - er - unorthodox driving techniques I’ve ever experienced. Including the time, years ago, when I’d rashly agreed to teach my wife to drive. [Another story for another day.] She (Barbie, not my ex, Dolly Dither the Girl Racer) was all over the place. Figuratively and literally. Bombing along on the wrong side of narrow country roads without a care in the world or a thought for the sanitary of oncoming drivers. Showing no apparent ambition toward the safe negotiation of 180 degree bends until her offside headlight was within inches of an approaching hedgerow, and then heaving the car round in a screech of tortured brakes (hers), a display of knuckles white enough for a Persil ad (mine), and a torrent of quaint Anglo-Saxon exclamations (the entire company). Then a deep breath to recharge the bunny generator, and off she’d go again until the next natural hazard jumped out of the landscape and threatened us.
And God forbid we should take notice of any aids to navigation supplied in their wisdom and for our edification by those helpful chaps in Her Majesty’s Highways Department. Following the sodding signposts was far too easy an option for dear Barbara. She likes a challenge. Carrying gaily on at full rabbit until I realised that she’d missed a sign and was forced to remind her in strangulated tones that we needed to chuck an immediate right or whatever, and then doing a last-second handbrake turn into our required route, that seemed much more like fun. For her, anyway. Me, I was reduced to trying urgently to reach my Creator on his mobile to get him to bail me out of trouble, which is why I panicked when I couldn’t remember the number.
However a broad-based theological education came to my aid, gleaned, inter alia, from such unlikely sources as Cup Final broadcasts. I suddenly recalled the first few verses of “Abide with me”, a catchy number, and highly apposite to my situation. Who said that watching footie was a useless waste of time, fit only for the brain-dead?
It was me, actually, but I must nevertheless have done a fair amount of it over the years, because with hindsight I realised that I could have probably managed most of “You’ll never walk alone” as well, had it occurred to me and if I thought it might’ve done any good. Anyway, I added a couple of choruses of “For those in peril on the sea” for good measure, closed my eyes, and put my trust in the Lord. And He must have heard me, because somehow we got through the day without mishap, albeit I found myself off my food, somehow, and I’m still here to tell the tale. So far. But we’re off out again tomorrow, Barbie and I. It’s a far, far better thing I do........
The point is, I need to take out some more insurance. Can anybody lend me a Greek Orthodox prayer book or a Shinto instruction manual? Is there a Welsh Bible handy? A translation of the Koran? The Book of Mormon? The latest issue of War Cry? A Jehovah’s Witnesses pamphlet? A Sally Army tambourine.........?

Further Anecdotes

A Cynic's Philosophy
Scripture for His Purpose
All Greek to Me
Beef and Mustard
The Day the Music Died
Unconsidered Trifles
For Such is the Kingom of Heaven
Laid on with a Trowel
De minimis curat lex.


©Uncle Phil's Books 2004