Wednesday, 1 May 2013


I went to a Roman Catholic christening, oh, fifteen, sixteen years ago;  it was the grand-daughter of a friend, being christened, and her father - my friend's son  - had been an altar boy,  you'd think he'd know the form,  the son -  and my friend, the grandfather,  the nephew of countless nuns and priests - would know that this was a solemn occasion and if you're not going to do it solemnly, you shouldn't fucking do it at all  But no, it was a lovely day and all the young women were half-naked and bare-headed, and the adults not much better, Mrs Ishmael, alone, had a shawl around her head and shoulders - everybody was there to BeThere4 the young parents and the christenee and then to go and get pissed.

There was a new priest, however, a mean-looking little black guy, just in from Africa, and he was having none of this BeThere4U shit.  He'd obviously cast his eye over the congregation and decided, as I had, that this was a bunch of GodlessHeathenBastards, that, effectively, they were wasting his fucking time.  He launched into one, fired a round of fucks into the putative Godparents and the parents.  Have you got the first idea of what it means  to be a Godparent, he thundered?  No, you don't, it's obvious, you need to choose people who will aid the child's path to God, who will, lifelong, stand-up for the child, guide her and support her in the ways of the Lord; these, he said, gesturing at the BeThere4Us, these are just people you met in a nightclub. You can't make Godparents of people you meet in a nightclub.  But, bless him, the wee black priest, he finished the service and everyone got into a hotel down the Hagley Road as quick as possible  and got blootered, in a very real BeingThere4U sense..

And so it came to pass, within only a handful of years, that  young mother and father put themselves asunder and nary a one of the BeThere4Uers, did any BeingThere4Anybastard. The wee priest was right, we had all been, all of us, non-believers like me, partial-believers and washed in the blood of Christ, cast-iron believers had all been mocking God, taking the piss.  Oh,  the wee girl still sees her Dad, who is on his second or third partner, whilst living with her mother, who is - tu-tut - on her sixth.

And it came to pass, further, that grandfather died and on the morning of his funeral, I was in a Black Country hotel, reading the Filth-O-Graph on my laptop, biding my time until the service. There was an Archbishop, it reported,  ranting in Australia.  Next time any of you sonsafuckingbitches wanna get your arses buried by my guys, there's gonna be none of that MyWay shit.  I am up to my ecclesiastical  arse in all this pop music at fucking weddings and christenings and burials.  Now that I'm archfuckingbishop, cobbers, it'll be hymns or you can plant the bastard's your fucking selves, no more of this sorryassshit blaring out from  loudspeakers, yuz can sing or yuz can fuck off.

I feared the worst at that morning's funeral and I wasn't disappointed.  At the church service it was a crackly, weedy tape of Keep Right On To The End of the Road by Harry Lauder, this, by all accounts, was a favourite at Birmingham City Football Club.  So that's alright, then.  At the cremation the music was some growly, macho drivel, sung by Bruce Springsteen,  the Roy Rogers de nos jours.  You'n'me pardner, when they made you, they broke the mould. My friend's remains hymned-away, not by us, his friends, joining our voices, but by some dreadfully immature, gyrating popstar.  I didn't make a fifteen hundred mile journey to hear a fucking CD.

Although not  uncultured my friend didn't know a line of Shakespeare or a bar of Bach - time that I spent doing that stuff , he spent following Birmingham City, like a hopeless groupie - and I wasn't expecting a string-quartet.  But I'm sure that everybody participating in, for instance, The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended would have been infinitely more compassionate than was everybody listening to some guff which  they could, anyway,  play in their car.  Down by the River, maybe.  With their Baby.

And so, for the last couple of days, I've been wondering who to blame for this shit, here.

These two are going into the trial of the man accused of kidnapping and killing and LordKnowsWhatElseing their daughter.  And they look as though they're going down the pub.  Maybe, like mr mongoose, I have lived so long that I do not understand what I see but I am appalled, speechless, really, when I see this stuff.  The courts,  the regiments of Mr Justice Slaggs, of nincompoop home and justice seckatries, of Chief Superintendent Gobs and all the filthy lawyers, stooging about, moneygrubbing, the courts are home to all these filthy and wretched parasites.  But they are also places of final deliberation, of guilt, innocence, mercy and punishment. You could at least put a fucking tie on.

And these two grubby bloaters are the relatives of the victims of the Prestatyn arson murders, outside court, blethering-on about justice for their toasted angels, whilst matey cares so much that he can't even be bothered to shave.

  These grim portraits, above  are a long way from Grey's "short and simple annals of the poor,"  these people are not scruffy and ill-kempt as a result of penurious hard work, they appear thus out  of indifference and sheer, pig-ignorant bad manners.  Even if they lack the funds, themselves, there must be a dozen victims' charities which would furnish   those bereaved parents with a formal suit of clothes for this, the most formal event of their now forever wretched lives.

But it's me's to blame, me and those like me.  I should have applauded that wee, black priest, he was talking sense, by his lights, in a church filled with nonsense; instead, I just turned my head, embarrassed.

And forty-year friendship or not I should have walked-out at that Bruce Springsteen impertinence.  I should've grabbed Mrs Ishmael and said   We're outta here, Baby, let's just leave these other people where they are, this isn't a funeral, this is Dancing in the Dark.  


Verge said...

God (or Kali, with this shit) help me but when I saw the Prestatyn crew on a news summary I was only half-watching I first thought it was a lottery syndicate, tripping out shiny-eyed to gloat over good fortune.

Autoparanoia made me check this really happened and it did: copy/paste this link and watch for yourselves -

"The angels" are charcoal but cameras are coming, so it's an ill wind, innit?

Callmeishmael said...

I'm sure that the Warholism about fifteen minutes of fame would more accurately be framed as fifteen minutes of infamy - for this gang in Prestatyn, though, as with so many others, mr verge, the two forms of fleeting celebrity are indistinguishable. I watched them with a little more attention but with the same disbelief as yourself.

jgm2 said...

I am 47 this month but God, in his mercy, has spared me from too many funerals. To date, I have been to three. My dad's. My mum's. And my brother's mother-in-law. And only her because it was mid-week and I was worried, on behalf of my brother, that there might be a low turn-out.

In that, mercifully, I have been in control of the hymns for two out of three and my brother for the third. There was none of this 'My Way' CD shit.

No harm at all in choking back the tears and belting out 'The Lord's My Shepherd', 'Abide With Me' or 'Lord of All Hopefulness' one more time.

That said, the times they are a-changing. For the same reason you had some black priest instead of an Irish priest (which is what I had growing up in Birmingham PLUS his two deputies and six masses of a weekend) my brother, who still lives in Birmingstan, like the Copts in Egypt, surrounded on all sides by Islamist interlopers, the parish I grew up in now has one mass a week with a Vietnamese priest.

We have moved on from this superstitious shite. It is fervently to be hoped that Mohammed's little helpers make the same mental leap that I have seen in Birmingham Catholicism in my lifetime.

The sooner the better.

Of course the down-side of that is the old cliche. If you don't believe in something, you'll believe in anything. Which, in the present day, would be 'perpetual growth funded by perpetual borrowing'. What could possibly go wrong.


Anonymous said...

The legends of vampires were warning us about shallow, inhuman parasites. Hence a Bic razor and a tie don't register as an option when you can't see yourself in a mirror. Of course vampires are now cool, sexy anti-heroes instead of blood-soaked stinking corpses animated by the devil. This flipping of the coin helps one realise how many psychopaths must exist within the entertainment industry, and might have something to do with this terrible lack in some people. The chicks cheep as the rooster crows.
NB I lived just off the Lisburn road too, Wellesly Avenue. Orangemen reminded me of the people in Titus Groan, who were allowed to walk the battlements every other full moon as a prize for wood-carving. Mad.

call me ishmael said...

It was the disservice to the rite which annoyed me, at the christening, mr jgm2, and not to the faith. Most of the time I don't believe in any of them but some of the time I see how - particularly in Anglo-Catholocism - the ritual and the theatre of it all do perform a socially beneficial function, a series of punctuation marks, worth putting on a tie for or covering your head. worth some special gesticulation. In Warley, too, the celebrant is now Oriental, an episcopal stone's throw from Northfield and the Bristol Road.

The psalms of King David and others, shouted out or read quietly are, incidentally, since you mention them, in my judgement, the birth of the blues - Yea, (even) though I walk through the shadow of the valley of Death, I will fear no the waters of Babylon, there I sat down, yea, and I wept, when I remembered Zion. I often ask myself, Who will know, let alone sing the psalms (and hymns,) when we are dead and gone?

Shame mr ptb is absent, he was good on this stuff.

Anyway, to mr richard....

DtP said...

Methodists were always the scariest bastards. There's loads round here. Lost count of the denominations. Architecture's shite as well. Have to look close up to check it's not Baptist. Fucking 100's of them. Used to be showbuziness for fire 'n' brimstone preachers - wandered 10 miles and did 4 gigs on Sunday mornings, lovely jubbly! Put the fear of damnation in their souls!

In Todmorden, suicide is always in the cupboard - bastard's preaching to vulnerable folk here, it ain't right!

call me ishmael said...

"Hence a Bic razor and a tie don't register as an option when you can't see yourself in a mirror."

I love that. That's the thing, isn't it, these people don't see themselves, how can they? They wouldn't leave the house if they could see how frightful they looked. There is a sermon, there, or a thesis, or a philosophy.

I had a gay uncle, Jackie,lived in Wellesley Avenue; although in those days he was just a bachelor. maybe in truth, that's all he was, unmarried, and I misattribute his preferences posthumously. But it was in the Wellington Park Hotel, down, I think, on the Malone Road that in 1965, my Father told me in all seriousness that everybody in show business was a NancyBoy. If he had had my education he might have used the adjectival terms terms degenrate and sexually predatory. I think, nevertheless, that he was probably right.

call me ishmael said...

My childhood molestation - I put it no stronger than that, although that's bad enough - mr dtp, was at the hands of Methodist clergymen so you'll get no argument from me.

Their evangelical highwater mark was in the fifties and sixties with some dreadful old git, Donald Soper, Doctor Donald Soper, gobbing off on the telly and of course they had connections with Old Labour. I may be wrong but isn't Lord Hatterjee of Spit one of that gang.

And yes, the buildings are fucking awful.

Woman on a Raft said...

Say what else you like about vampires but they know how to dress for a funeral. It's sportswear they have the problem with, hence they invented smart/casual and dress-down Friday. They slip in to something less comfortable when they get home.

On the subject of Hatterjee, are you sure? I don't know much about Methodists but the few I've met seemed to be in earnest and he isn't and never was. It transpired last month that he forcibly divorced his ancient wife using the I-divorce-thee process whereby an old lady is abandoned in favour of the new love.

The new love isn't all that new; apparently it has been going on since the 1980s but he kept it quiet. The implication is that the papers knew but since she is a leading literary agent specializing in political memoir i.e. just the person the political hacks want on their side when trying to get a book deal, they decided not to annoy her.

How's that for a vampire; they aren't even reflected in the newsmedia.

Anonymous said...

WOAR, compare (Google image if you wish) Stephen King's "Mr Barlow" to Anne Rice's "Lestat" to show how the original archetype as depicted by King has been transformed into someone that men want to be and women want to - ahem - meet. This is but one example of the Stockholm syndrome which is being engineered by the media, normalising and glamourising shitheads and psychopaths. The gradual result is that the gut instinct which should protect us from psychopaths is being diminished. They are creating a muddy poisonous sea in which they can swim and predate with somewhat more safety than they could do in the past. Good example is the policy that young school children receive explicit sex education - they even want to show them pornography now, as the current system is deemed to be too "mechanical." (On BBC news website yesterday)
If a private citizen took porn onto a school bus to show children he would be swiftly and quite rightly arrested, but the Government can take it to the very classroom. You could argue that this is a form of paedophilia which is hiding in plain sight. If this is so, it proves my point.

Stan said...

W O A R ..."but the few I've met seemed to be in earnest"

Would that be Bevan??

call me ishmael said...

I had heard him, mrs woar. on some of those late-night OU progtammes; he seemed to be pissed and sometimes incoherent, although his sense of self-worth did not slow him for a second.

He was praise-singing his old Mum, bless her heart, who had brought him up to believe in Christian, socialist principles. I thought he had mentioned Methodism.

I traced the story of the Old Wife Blues; sounds just what one would expect from Spitty He and Kinnock being the Ace in Thatcher's pack. Even by comparison with Milliband and Balls, Spitty is, in an unparallelled way, impossibly grotesque.

mongoose said...

Me old mum's parish priest is Vietnamese too! What is going on? Are they the New Irish?

call me ishmael said...

Just as long, mr mongoose, as they don't lace the holy water with Agent Orange. Or any of that other cool shit; dropping altarboys out of helicopters. For democracy.

call me ishmael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My best pal of some 65 years died recently. We met when we were about 6 and stayed firm friends throughout life. In our 20s I was his best man when he married his beautiful childhood sweetheart, also an old friend of mine from way back. In their 30s they agreed to be my son's godparents, a duty they took seriously, so much so that my son considers their house his natural second home. At his funeral, a large number of his friends - all impeccably turned out with the ladies all wearing hats - turned up at the crematorium to bid him farewell. The reading was Psalm 23, followed by a poignant aria beautifully sung by Maria Callas and then a suitable rousing hymn. As his casket began its final journey through the curtains, it was to the strains of his all time favourite tune "Stardust" immaculately played by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. He would have been proud and delighted at his send off. He left a huge hole in my life.

call me ishmael said...

Well, mr anonymous, that hole means he hasn't really gone, doesn't it? He's just not there, in person. That, anyway, is my understanding of loss.

Regulars here will know that the blogdog, Buster, passed away a couple of years back, for fifteen years he, along with some humans, was a huge part of my life and for a while after his death we just couldn't talk about him; now we do, and we laugh, warmly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr I.

I agree with you, time is a great healer, but memories do linger on.