Saturday, 19 July 2008

Priests, spies and so on


I have complained before that this collection of ramblings has mostly focused on grumbly subjects – the sort of things that would once have left me curled up in a corner, blinking lopsidedly and cackling, but which now, thanks to the internet (thank you, internet!), can be safely exposed online. I wonder if the Roman Catholics have tried doing confession this way? It would be safer, easier, and would save priests' valuable time, so they could concentrate on doing whatever it is that priests do when they're not sitting in a tiny box listening to somebody's petty jealousies. Presumably reading Father Brown stories and taking notes ('Step one: buy umbrella. Step two: solve mystery. Step three: become witty and reasonable face of religious belief in an increasingly atheistic modernity), or watching Father Ted rather like civil servants do Yes Minister – with a combination of recognition and guilt.


Do you think priests have relief-boredom - that evil bit of sadness you feel when everything turns out okay? Haven't you ever had a tiny, guilty wish that the fire alarm had been real, because you've always wanted to use the foamy extinguisher; the shifty alley really did have a nutter in it, because you've been looking for a way to practise your 400m; or that the lift did break down so you could climb through a little hatch in the roof of the car, scale the shaft then crawl through some ventilation ducts? I hope you have, otherwise I'm going to start feeling really weird. So I imagine that inside every otherwise-benevolent priest is a little impish wish that instead of another 'I said a naughty word,' or 'I bought a pirate DVD', they get some heavy-breathing reprobate saying '... and they're buried under the apple tree.' It's probably not a very serious desire, but I think it's only natural that every so often, until rationality comes back from making tea, we want our lives to be slightly less Heartbeat and slightly more Rebus. Messiah's probably going too far.


This is partly why bonkers entertainment is utterly healthy, maybe even including those massively disturbing and worryingly popular horror/torture films. They remind us that our odder sprees of imagination are extremely unlikely to be real. As it is, I can let the plumber in with only a brief thought of 'what if he's actually a terrorist imposter trying to destroy our nation's morale by stopping us having hot showers?' Without Jason Bourne to remind me how silly, vastly entertaining and rather horrifying that sort of life is, I'd have had no choice but to grab said plumber by the collar, pin him against the wall and demand to know where they're hiding the secret documents, what they did with Shergar, and why bread is so expensive these days.


The superheroes-without-powers don't just remind us how unlikely their lives are – they also remind us how rubbish it would be to actually live like James Bond or his chums. Despite his rather diverting lifestyle, this is the sort of fellow who doesn't just worry about cyclists running red lights when he crosses the road, but worries about them having machine guns in their panniers. Film stars worry about going into restaurants in case they're spotted by camera-wielding gossip artists. Adam from Spooks* worries in case the waiter is a foreign agent who'll slip strychnine into his I'm-sure-that's-an-abuse-of-expenses starter.


Thinking about that, I become glad I can say hello to the postie without having to frisk him for weapons, and I generally rejoice in not being part of a network premiere with strong language and violence right from the start.


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* That just doesn't sound right, does it? I love Spooks, but they can't do names. Of their two leading chaps, I can't remember either of their names. I know they're British and so don't like to draw attention to themselves, but 'Tom' and 'Adam' sound more like people you vaguely remember from school geography classes than the sort who gallivant around the world keeping us safe from bad people with inappropriate facial hair. The BBC needs to invest in a dramatic surname research department. I'm sure it wouldn't be that expensive – like most research departments (except the one mucking about with hadrons in Geneva, one hopes), it could just be a work experience minion with a direct psychic link to Google.

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