With the spring equinox past, and the glorious sunshine of our Lord’s warmth here at last, we enter the summer months with optimism and growing expectation. This year is almost halfway passed, and now we hope for warm and pleasant evenings outside on a Barbie. As a respected member of the congregation, I am often asked to participate in social gatherings and events at this time of year. Imagine my joy then, when I was nominated, nay begged, to judge our local beauty pageant, a task that causes a good deal of unusual stiffness, particularly for your humble pastor. Must be the sitting down on hard chairs that does it. The venue for this display was a local church fallen on hard times. It had been sold to a man who subsequently turned it into a night-time venue for Abba tribute acts and unheard of comedians. Obviously, as a man of the cloth, I am more than comfortable in God’s houses both past and present, whatever the sign says above the door. But to house a bar in the cloisters was a little unusual, not to mention the pulpit’s unholy transmogrification into a DJ box.
Duly arriving at 5pm, I was greeted by the organiser, a plumpish middle-aged harridan who had clearly been
round the block a few times and wasn't taking any prisoners. Miss Hudd she was called, and God help the
man charged with bringing this beast to heel. She directed me to the appointed place at the judges’ table
where I was introduced to my fellow adjudicators; a Turkish gentleman famed locally for his kebab meat,
an effeminate hairdresser called ‘Dan’, and last year’s winner, a young lady who, since her triumph, had
carved out a career advertising beauty products and lounging around on motorcycles or fast cars for something
called ‘Max Power’. We were instructed on protocol and how to make our collective decision, then left to
our own devices.
By seven the church doors had opened and visitors comprising the normal mix of well-wishers, ageing perverts and contestants’ friends were wandering in. By eight we had a small crowd and the show started. Miss Hudd, the seasoned professional, the compere
of this event, was clad in a large cake-like frock that gave the impression of being controlled from offstage by some manner of remote device. Not once did I see her legs or feet, our compere seemed to glide from point to point, uttering grand cliches about how wonderful this event was. Beauty pageants are nothing special, they happen all over the world, and yet there was much to admire in her contrived enthusiasm for this thankless and shallow task. Perhaps she was a seasoned entertainer with many decades experience of the big-time behind her. Now all she could get towards the fag end of her stage career was this. So on she battled, like the true entertainer she obviously was.
Then the music commenced, and we were asked to welcome the girls with rapturous applause. Up until this
point, I had believed a prerequisite for entering beauty contests was some aesthetically pleasing feature, or
at least a coquettish sense of inner warmth, an aspect just waiting to break through during the interviews (“I
like animals, shoes, and world peace. If the judges vote for me I would become a glamour model.”) But these
candidates walked onstage like a herd of roaming elephants about to perform at a circus missing its
ringmaster. All of a sudden I saw Miss Hudd as the clownlike entertainment, yet my fellow judges remained
serious, and I began to envisage the Emperor’s clothes while also looking round for the exit.
By the time the introductions ended I was ready to drift off to sleep, but worse was to come. The swimwear section had been updated with an evening presentation in which the girls dressed as if they were attending these premises for their more regular purpose. Their choice of clothing was more akin to how one would attract a wild bear in mating season than the drifting attention of the opposite sex in some seedy discotheque. They paraded in line then, dancing freestyle, which was an absolute
delight. Never before had I seen so many eager girls hell-bent on becoming sexual targets. All I needed was a gun to complete the turkey shoot. Tears of laughter rolled down my cheeks, but then I noticed the audience. Mothers, sisters, aunties and friends all joining in with the slutty display to make this disturbing spectacle complete. The place resembled an asylum on a May day junket, what on earth could come next? Before long I was rewarded with an answer to this question, if not my prayers; the final event. Evening wear is something personal; smart but not ostentatious, an opportunity to appear both stylish and glamorous, desirable yet urbane. This lot had no concept of such elegance, the place looked like a Spice Girl’s hen party. The dreaded speeches were next, and I prepared myself for the worst, but after the twelfth or thirteenth extrapolation of a desire to save the planet, coupled with pornographic pleas for attention, I was wishing one would say their hobbies included rimming and fisting and they were in favour of seal culling. But no, more of the same unedifying platitudes for the crowd to lap up. Miss Hudd meanwhile gliding from spot to spot unaided by legs, demanding applause like an Auschwitz guard as the show approached its zenith.
The debacle ended and we retired to judge. “Give it to the fat one!” they cried (although with slightly more words). I protested, but was outvoted. The winner, a nineteen year old, wept noisily while her family joined in the bawling. The press stepped in, flashes exposed, and relations joined them for that final picture. I looked heavenward for guidance, but all I could see was a sign advertising two for one cocktails every Wednesday next to a balloon from the New Year’s Eve celebrations attempting its fruitless escape skywards. At that moment I realised how much I felt like that balloon, so I made my excuses and left for the
sanctity of my vestry.
The moral to this tale is that God moves in mysterious ways, but not as mysterious as Miss Hudd. Next
time I’m asked to judge such a debacle I shall decline. After all, what was it all for? What did the winner
even get? A years supply of kebabs, and the golden opportunity to model semi-clad on motorcycles
or fast cars.