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.