Rationalism a la mode
It takes all sorts. From Fruit 'n' Veg horoscopes to the horror of a mother armed and willing to use the Holy Water... Dr Shirl takes them on...
As a kid, I use to love lying on my back in the handkerchief of grass we were proud to call "the garden", watching aeroplanes glint like they had a cargo full of sun. They would wink, blink, glint and then disappear into the clouds. Dad was (is, in fact) a train driver, so reduced-price travel forced the train-boat route upon my wanderlust. To fly just seemed so exotic, so wonderful to me. When I did eventually fly in early adulthood (yeah, really that late), I thought it was terrific. Just suspended in those clouds, not as angels floating on the wings of God's will, but as human beings, doing it because we could, because we had figured out how to do it. I saw a plane the other day as I waited for a bus in Tottenham Court Road. It was flying not peculiarly low... but low enough. I followed its trajectory, with the strange foreshortening you get when straining your head to the sky. The woman next to me did the same thing. Then, unspoken but palpably there, a wave of fear passed between us. The plane flew close to, then over, the Centre Point Building.
I saw a plane the other day as I lounged around my roof-terrace on a golden, chill autumn morning. It glinted in the sun and I smiled like a kid. I still like planes.
Talking of seeing things, Hallowe'en has just popped past, in all its clairvoyant glory. Thank God (haha) but there does seem to be a healthy attitude developing in the broadsheets towards "those that see things". By healthy, I mean of course, gurning, gurgling mockery. My favourites are the spoof horoscopes, and my favourite spoof horoscope was the one for Aries which went along the lines of "Sorry Aries, but there is nothing planetary happening for you. You are a celestial bore." Fancying a go at this myself, I will now provide you with your very own Fruit 'n' Veg cut-out-and-keep Star Guide (in no particular order):
Leo: Lots of beansprouts sprouting in the fridge. Fun times ahead.
Virgo: The turnips are turning. Tread carefully in the compost of relationships.
Libra: Mmmm. Do your potatoes have eyes? One to watch, Libra
Aries: Ohhhhh. Grapes are just falling into your lap at the moment. Lucky you, Aries.
Scorpio: Ask yourself honestly, does lettuce suit you, particularly on your lapels?
Aquarius: You have been sitting on your passion-fruit for far too long. Get out there, waterboy!
Taurus: Tread carefully upon my okra, for you tread upon my dream allotment.
Pisces: Raspberries are succulent, fishy-face, but strawberries are juicy too.
Cancer: Slice the cucumber and shred the radish. Then garnish with a pumpkin seed. Serve chilled.
Gemini: Butternut squashes do not appreciate being kept in a cold, dark cellar. Let light into their lives.
Sagittarius: Cherry, beefsteak, plum, vine on or off? The choices, the choices.
Capricorn: You mix shitake mushrooms with William pears at your own risk!
Utter gibberish? A waste of space? Well, what did you expect? Rational discourse?
Following hard on the heels of Hallowe'en comes Christmas. And I love Christmas. Friends all happy and huggy. Kids so excited they can hardly scream. Nice warm pubs. Nice hot food. Time away from that slave driver known as Jim Herrick. And lots of Mum-baiting?
What? You cruel, hard beast. How can you bait your mum in the season of goodwill? Well, because and let me state right here and now, I love my mum and anyone who messes with her will have to answer to me but she started it. Catholic supremo that she is, we have been going through the same Christmas morning ritual for several years now. And you guessed it, it's all to do with my neglecting of religious duty. Her latest connivance is to insist that the 'kids' want me to go to mass. Mum, I love you, but you can not fool me. I was a Catholic kid and this is how Christmas works for them. About a month before, you are anxiously figuring out what day the big day is going to fall on. If it is a Sunday bonzo! you've covered the Sunday-morning drag and the Christmas obligation in one fell swoop. And you get an extra day of flopping on the sofa because of the extra bank holiday. If it falls on a Monday bad news. You have to go through the butt-freezing, brain-cremating ritual twice in two days.
The other fun I have with Mum is on the 'holy water' front. Lurking around the hallway are vials of stagnant water, collected from 'holy' places over a number of years. Rather than take sensible precautions for your safety, and Mum bless her is always very concerned with our safety, she thinks the way to go is to douse yourself in the holy stuff before stepping out on the street. So this is what happens. Me (backing away in horror): "But staphylococci... listeria..." Mum (in a voice between plaintive and indignant let's call it 'plaindignive'): "But it's from Lourdes ..."
Whoa! Hold me right there! I have just realised: I am possibly inciting religious hatred and even offending the religious with what my mother would call my brazen tongue. But before you pack me off Brazil style, Mr Blunkett, can I just mutter that I love my family, honestly I do. But my mum, being an Irish Catholic is offended constantly . And I, being a Universalist Humanist, am incited by her frequently. But so far, because, believe it or not, we are both adults, we have managed to live with our differences. Please, I beg you in the name of family tradition, do not spoil our Christmas fun.