‘I always had a wish that it [Catholicism] would “take”. Like vaccination.’
Graham Greene – The End of the Affair
Almost unknowingly, as if led by reflex, I found myself turning off the road and parking in an empty church lot. The church I had pulled into had an open-air stations of the cross on its land. I’d driven past it many times over the last few years and had never once seen a single soul walking the stations, nor had I ever felt any great inclination myself to explore. It was in full view of the road, with neither fence nor wall granting privacy from the passing motorists. And yet, being Holy Week, I found myself leaving the car and walking the trail. In doing so I felt – lapsed and agnostic as I am – somewhat of a trespasser, but I couldn’t help it. There was a hunger in myself to be more serious.
Perhaps the previous day was preying on me. I had attended a meeting that was bizarrely (to me, anyway) held in a room that was in a children’s arcade center that was part of a Mega-Church complex. To start with, I loved the ridiculousness of it and amused myself with the thought of evangelical laser tag and claw machines where you try to win Jesus plushies, but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself depressed by the whole thing; there’s always something sad and wilting about arcades, and the addition of bible quotes onto the wall only serves to deepen that further. I was glad when I was able to leave there.
So, twenty-four hours later – alone, but in full view – I walked the stations. The trail was sun-baked and my shirt was quickly heavy with sweat; this was not the draughty churches of my childhood, nor was it like the setting of Larkin’s Church Going that I kept thinking on as I walked. There was no grass, no weedy pavements, nor brambles, just an idiot under blazing sun.
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
Philip Larkin – Church Going
A visit to Austin earlier this month took my tally of states visited to 29. Having only visited the US for the first time in ’06 I find myself unbecomingly chuffed with that number. According to the briefest of google searches – so probably not that reliable – the average American has visited 10 states. A trip this weekend will push my personal tally even further to 32 states.
Like countless other disorganized spouses, this Thursday involved a panicked trip to the local Hallmarks store.
While looking through the various cards in search of something that wasn’t too sickly sweet (or expensive), I noticed that Hallmarks had brought out numerous Duck Dynasty branded Valentine’s Day cards.
It was, in fairness, hard not to notice them as the cards’ designs, mug shot poses of the Duck Dynasty clan’s scraggly faces, stood out when set against the designs of the other cards on sale – countless images of roses or insufferably cute drawings of puppies and kittens.
A quick look round the rest of the store revealed Hallmarks had a surprisingly large amount of Duck Dynasty merchandise on sale.
And I realized that a large number of red-blooded men in the US – hardcore Duck Dynasty fans who were outraged when the show’s patriarch Phil Robertson was suspended for making homophobic remarks that chime with their own views – would be receiving on Valentine’s Day this year a card saying “I love you” that features a head shot of big, bearded Phil smiling cheekily at them like their very own Folsom Street teddy bear.
The attendant irony would appear to be lost on them.
Still none the wiser as to what a Montana Batman is.
Video: Fraser Davidson