As a man of the cloth I am used to public speaking. Every week I offer my Sunday Sermon to those
prepared to listen to God’s words. I am also readily available for functions, weddings and funerals. The
only reward I ask is a little gratitude, and perhaps something extra in the collection plate when it’s
passed round come Sunday morning.
But once a year we try to book a celebrity to kick off our Harvest Festival Fete and help with the fundraising. Our ministry has financial priorities, including a new church roof to replace the one lost to the local chavs’ fascination with lead, so we tend to book those who work for free or minimal cost. Last year we managed to secure the services of David Van Day of Dollar to judge the cake competition and run the tombola. He was most amenable, although his interest in some of the younger members of our choir was a tad worrying. But David gave up his time free of charge, so we agreed not to press charges.
With Christmas nearly upon us, my parish has decided to cast God’s net further afield in our search for a celebrity to open the 2007 Harvest event. Our first port of call was an agency specializing in the good and great who might share their witty observational skills as guest speakers. This list provided a useful insight into the value of wisdom from those paid to entertain us with their witticisms.
Sir Bob Geldof
One will notice that poverty, or rather the fight against it, brings in the most spondoolies. I have no doubt that Sir Bob gives all of this hefty fee to charity, but I wonder how many of his listeners share in his convictions. Just the surplus food at whichever banquet was employing him could no doubt feed a family of Albanian peasants for several months.
£20,000 to £50,000
Jerry Hall, Graham Norton, Max Bygraves, Cherie Blair and Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings (full ensemble)
The next batch are a curious mix of old-time celebs eking out a living (and a very lucrative one at that), and long-lost rock stars who really should leave the younger women alone. Cherie appears to be riding on the shirt-tails of her old man - that’s the one who’ll say anything to stay in power, as opposed to the other one who’ll say anything for a couple of quid and a few drinks.
£15,000 to £20,000
Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings (reduced ensemble), F W de Klerk.
£10,000 to £15,000
John Simpson CBE, Kelly Holmes DBE, John Humphrys, Lynne Franks, Dr Jane Goodall DBE, Ruby Wax, Jo Brand, Alan Hansen, Bill Wyman’s mother.
Would you really pay the cost of a family car to hear the likes of these? I think not, so let’s move down the social ladder and find a speaker who can provide humour as well as some change from twenty grand...
£7,500 to £10,000
Sue Lawley OBE, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, Bill Wyman.
So ten grand gets you Sue Lawley? I thought she was dead. It might be worth the investment just to have a look. Oh, hang on, that’s the other Sue.
£5,000 to £7,500
Steve Ovett OBE, Daley Thompson CBE, John Sergeant, George Alagiah, Martin Bell OBE, Kriss Akabusi, Will Carling, Roger Black, Duncan Goodhew, Sir Chris Bonnington, Joan Bakewell CBE, Bill Wyman’s butcher.
£3,000 to £5,000
Brian Hanrahan, Monty Halls.
This is where the sports people and TV journalists collect their meal ticket. Once you’ve had a big story, done your autobiography and jumped higher than most in the 1972 decathlon, you’ll be able to cling onto the lower rungs of the celebrity ladder. For three grand you can even have Monty Halls, although I doubt you’d get that from his family if you held him for ransom.
Then we get to the affordable end, names you can almost remember, but need to Google to confirm your worst fears about their dubious talents.
Alan Dedicoat, Geoff Cotton, David Vickery, Sarah Jackson, Tommy Doherty, Hal Cruttenden, Rav Wilding, Wilf McGuinness, Nobby Stiles, Neville Southall, Dave Watson, Michael Fish and Bill Wyman (off-peak).
So, who did we take the plunge on?
Yes, you guessed it - Bill Wyman. Our Women’s Institute is overjoyed at the prospect, and have already
planned a calendar featuring a naked Bill with women more his own age (Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench,
Margaret Thatcher). It was a tough choice, but Bill works for food these days, and we have advised his
agent that Mr. Wyman can have as many loaves of bread and fishes as he can eat. In response, Bill
apparently yelled: “Bonus!”
HOW I SPEND MY DAYS
with The Reverend Harry Figgis
Home Defence UK
A Symptom of a Greater Malaise
This month, in the true festive holiday spirit, I’m thinking of others. About putting
them first and doing the right thing, as an example of how the Lord wants us to
conduct ourselves. Christmas is a time for celebration, for giving and receiving. I am reminded of an observation
by Geoffrey Bernard; “Saw a Blackbird today… with Thrush”. This brings me to the point of my sermon.
I often think of those who will wake up this fair and frosty Christmas morning with more than presents under the tree or bush, and something quite nasty beneath the mistletoe. My travels to the sick and needy have taken me to many a strange place, but none more so than a recent visit to the local G.U.M (Genito-Urinary Medicine) department of a south coast NHS refugee camp. Sorry, I meant hospital. We have all seen productions on Christmas morning TV from a children’s ward somewhere far away, full of sick, cancerous children, dire cancerous presenters looking to gain favour with the masses, and unscrupulous cancerous TV producers, angling for one’s heart strings and reminding us how lucky we are (and how fortunate they are not to be in prison). How come the powers that be don’t do a Xmas morning feature on the GUM? It could be a hoot.
My mission there was two fold. Firstly, owing to my work for Radio Hospital Bedside giving
ecumenical sermons, I occasionally get to meet young, supple and fit angels of mercy who tend the
weak and sick with their compassion, work long hours, are paid terrible wages, but still drink like
troopers, possessing as they do the collective morality of a sack of alley cats. Through all this there
is one element which remains very much at the forefront of their minds, and that is sexual health. I
was told as much by a fit and nubile Florence (if she were a magic roundabout I’d be Mr Rusty and
she’d be getting some serious Dougal). This nurse advised me of a service available to all, a free
sexual M.O.T. on the NHS. Now our National Health Service is a strange collective, but if it can provide a costless way of checking one’s todger, thus discovering if that burning feeling is too much physical attention or a tingle of anticipation for Barrymore’s next birthday bash (bring a towel and expect to get thrown in the pool), then I am all in favour.
And so I decided to take her advice, kill two birds with one stone, and get a ‘kwik-fit’ service. Although this wasn’t necessary for a man of the cloth, I could at least offer some comfort to those less fortunate than myself (no touching) in the GUM waiting room.
Finding their number on the net, I telephoned the relevant department, getting an automated message with opening times for the walk-in clinic. I picked my day and arrived early, yet I was still turned away due to the high numbers there for the “it’s just a rash and the warty bits were there before, honest” award. So I booked an appointment to be seen within 48 hours, explaining to the receptionist that I wasn’t a patient and wanted the express route – just let me piss in a pot, then I’ll be on me way. She smiled and said “make sure you come with a full bladder”, I responded with; “you’re taking the piss”, she replied “no, the doctor does that”. Game set and match to the crone in a crap job dealing with idiots all day.
And so, on the Friday before Christ’s birth, I attended my appointment, gave my prepared explanation to the
receptionist once more (loudly, so the other inmates could hear), and took my seat. I’ve been called by God
many times, but waiting to be called by a respectable gentleman from Pakistan who has spent his career
inspecting dicks was something novel, even for me. One glance round the others after a tool inspection
confirmed my worst fears. This place was as busy as a January sale, but the only bargain on offer was a
course of antibiotics, sage advice, and the sad knowledge anyone could be a victim. For a clap clinic, these
poor suckers were in dire need of a round of applause. Solemn does not prepare you for this experience, it was
waiting for Godot, not God. I decided against the magazines they had on offer (you can’t tell when the previous
readers last washed their hands), and opted to observe my fellow inmates anticipating the hand of God, a
swab, then two weeks wait for a texted reply.
I expected an array of perverts, sexual deviants and tossers, yet what I saw was a true revelation. These were ordinary blokes, waiting as if for a bus. Their only crime; to have porked the infected with their sword, an action resulting in blades of fire running through their bell-ends as punishment. If this were an exemplar, imagine twelve per session, two sessions a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, then double that to take into account the women’s clinic, then treble that for those that don’t come in. This totalled over thirty-seven thousand cases of love disease, rampant and contagious. In a town of just one hundred and fifty thousand, those were some scary odds. The next time you‘re in a club and some young strumpet or beefcake catches your eye, just remember the figures, and know they could be increasing because of you.
I waited my turn, and was eventually shown to a room where a pleasant gentlemen from the colonies requested I take down my trousers. No foreplay, no cup of coffee or light chat, just down to work as quickly as a Thai hooker. He inspected my love trumpet and supporting rhythm section while I felt some unease at having another bloke fondle my manhood. Yet this is the natural response, unless you are poolside waiting your turn. A swab, some rough handling, and a few simple questions did the trick. It was all over in a few minutes. “There is no obvious sign of infection, but you can telephone reception in two weeks and get the results” was his passing shot as I left the room.
Walking among the other detainees on my way out, I wondered how many of those concerned faces would be
getting a nasty Christmas surprise, and I thanked the Lord that my Church-enforced celibacy had done the trick.
The prognosis from this vice-fingered M.D. had enlightened me, I saw now that one momentary lapse could reap
the dubious benefit at a later date. Some STDs linger on without manifestation, only to pop up later on in life and
spoil one’s day.
I had understood so much in one afternoon, and was thankful I hadn’t learned it the hard way. Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, so make sure you don’t give more than you expected. Use wrapping paper for all your presents, and don’t be afraid to go for a full sexual MOT. Treat it like going to the dentist and don’t be ashamed. A couple of weeks carnal deprivation could be the least of your worries compared with having to explain that something extra under the tree to a loved one. I eagerly await my results in the knowledge I am free from infection. How could I have anything? But the point is, unless you’re like me or Cliff Richard, you won’t know until it’s too late.
Merry Christmas Everyone – Amen!
Binding the Not!
As a fully fledged Pastor (no, really I am, thanks to the U.S. New Horizon Ministry) I am used to wedding
ceremonies and their ecumenical consequences. I do enjoy a good set of nuptials, especially when two of
my congregation tie the knot in God’s house. You may think this is just another of my workaday tasks,
and that Harry Figgis has seen so many couplings he must be a tad jaded, but every now and then I take
off the collar and attend as a member of the public, a busman’s holiday so to speak. This weekend was
one of those special moments, a time when I got to see a not-so-young couple tie their knot from the other
side of the fence.
Unfortunately you instinctively know when something is not meant to be. When all the signs scream: “No, no, for Christ’s sake – NO!” This was one of those. The wedding ceremony was held in a local church, and although I might sound like a Christian snob, this place is renowned for offering services no other church will accept. By that I mean; marrying divorcees, the excommunicated and the terminally inane. There’s nothing wrong with this. Someone has to do it, and if you come from out of town and have never otherwise been to church, then you probably just want to use God’s house as a platform to launch your life together. Such couples possess fuck all regard for the reasons true Christians marry in church. They just want a gothic backdrop for their firing squad-style photos. For these people then, this was the perfect place.
Our Pastor was a Nigerian gentleman, and whilst I admire the growth of God’s work in our colonies, and think of Desmond 2nd-Class-Degree as a wonderful orator, this particular member of the cloth had an unusual and bizarre manner of interpreting spoken English, namely his pronunciation of the bride and groom’s names. The congregation tittered at first, but by the seventh or eighth cocked-up muttering, we all knew we were in for something special. This was the first time I’d ever seen the honoured couple having to direct the service themselves, correcting their Pastor mid-stroke to get the proceedings back on track. A wedding service will last an hour at most, this went on for nearly two. I prayed my phone would ring, if only to escape the debacle.
I was not a friend of the bride, more a gatecrasher, but I had met her before, and back then I’d become
convinced she was the result of a tragic transsexual operation which had gotten out of hand. The word ‘Man
Beast’ was on my lips when we bumped into each other again, and I had wondered then how someone with
gigantism would ever find a mate. Today I saw that mate, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears; tears
of pure mirth. They looked odd to start with; he was an ex-army Captain from some forgotten regiment who
probably lost his balls up the Khyber Pass and today resembled a naughty child next to his near seven-foot
mate. I’d wanted to see who was daft enough to climb on this beast and try to bring her to heel. Here he was,
as large as life, but only half the size of her.
So here the pair stood, going through the machinations of a service in a language no one could understand, ad libbing when it all went wrong, but still keeping their manner serious in the face of obvious calamity. I thought to myself; this can only get better. Boy, was I wrong.
When the service finally concluded the array of invited guests left in dribs and drabs, relocating to a swanky hotel with wonderful views of the harbour. I wandered with them, uninvited but what the hell, it had been hilarious so far and could only get funnier.
Hitching a lift with an amusing couple from Guildford, I told them that Pastor Desmond was a trainee, and I his spiritual mentor (the collar was back on, rendering me untouchable once more). On arrival at reception my presence was easy to blag. The bride’s friends learned I was an Army Pastor who had served with the Khyber Pass Regiment, while the groom’s side were led to believe me the bride’s religious advisor, there to take confessional should the need arise.
I managed to find a seat on the singles table, next to an action man who had met the bride in a London cocktail bar. When I say action man - yes he was rugged and handsome, but I was soon looking for the off switch on his neck. This was the most boringly self-referential knob I had ever met, so I chose to hit the free drink instead. I soon met another young man who, strangely enough, had met the bride in a London cocktail bar (a pattern was forming here). The next couple I met knew the bride because the husband had once dated her long ago, back when she was only six foot. It soon became apparent that every table had an individual who had either dated the bride, met her in a London cocktail bar, or both.
After a long wait for a sit down starter, I was forced to join the dole queue begging for a handout of beef or turkey with no gravy, just a Waldorf salad (and I hate Waldorfs). The lack of dessert finally clinched this as the worst wedding experience in history, that and the first dance tradition, which ought to be included as an interrogation technique at Guantanamo. To say it was painful would be an understatement - next time just pull my fingernails out with pliers. Then the Discotheque warmed up, and I was soon chilling out in an external bar, whereupon I encountered several men who had met the bride in a London cocktail bar. By 11pm I was bored and heading into town to find a refuge for prayer. From now on I shall keep to my own side of the ecumenical fence. It turned out the bride and groom were married last February anyway, and all this was just for show. My advice to the groom;
save your money son and invest in a good solicitor. Or a high class cocktail bar. To the bride; well done love,
you’ve had to kiss a few frogs on the way to finding Prince Charming, but inviting said amphibians to your big day
was a tad perverse, to say the least.
Yet for all that it was an interesting event and, for the groom, no doubt an interesting night. T.E, Lawrence’s ‘Seven
Pillocks of Wisdom’ springs to mind. As for the Man-beast, he/she looked lovely in his/her frock. But don’t spend
the honeymoon in Bangkok kids. There’s too much competition, and at least the ladyboys look convincing.