Friday, 28 September 2012
NO WONDER HE WEPT...
I do hate columnists who forever talk about their families... but speaking as a descendant of a sister
of the Virgin Mary I am not convinced that Jesus, my celebrated cousin, was married. All I can say
is, you wouldn't think it the way he goes on about peace and harmony. (Handy hint to wives: My
first wife was assertive so I was obdurate; my current wife is lovable and I am as putty in her
hands. Of course, I always have in mind the recent Norwegian study which has shown that divorce
rates are 50 per cent higher among couples who share the housework than in those where the
woman does the lion's share of the chores.) But to resume...
Frankly we have been a bit worried in The Family about the Exalted Cousin. There was that scandal
about his dad being a Roman soldier...
In the 2nd century, Celsus, a pagan anti-Christian Greek philosopher, wrote that Jesus's father was
a Roman soldier named Panthera. There was a revolt at Sepphoris near Nazareth around the time of
Jesus' birth. The "common legionary name" Panthera could have arisen from a satirical connection
between "Panther" and the Greek word "Parthenos" meaning virgin. It took two hundred years for
Origen to put things right. He nailed it as a fabricated story. He stated that Christ was second to
God, both in power and dignity, justice and wisdom. But as my old mum used to say, "There's no
smoke without fire."
Josephus in his 1st century History of the Jews claimed there were messiahs in every market place,
but went on: "About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.
For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the
truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. "
Josephus also said that Jesus had a brother called James (another uncle for me) so there is no
reason to deny him marriage, though how he managed, as a married man, to get so many words in
beats me. And did he suffer from that great domestic hazard? After a few years husbands become
invisible as wives go husband-deaf.
My bookmaker Willy Birchall maintained till his dying day that a man who married twice didn't
deserve the good luck of getting rid of the first one. Naturally the finding of these marriage "lines"
does throw up some interesting issues. Someone says it justified the claims in Dan Smith's "da Vinci
Code". Actually the idea came from an earlier book "Holy Blood and Holy Grail".
But there are lots of iffy things you hear. That business of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish
feeding the 5,000. Stand on me. No Jewish mother is going to send her kid out for the day without a
picnic lunch of, maybe, a flask of hot chicken soup, matzos bread and perhaps a little gefilte fish on
I have always thought the Exalted Ancestor was very sound as a philosopher but a bit too fond of
conjuring tricks. Though he must have been a riot at the marriage feast at Cana and I wish he had
passed that trick with the wine round the family, the price of gin being what it is.
I have been married twice and the second one has been blissful. Indeed this week she saved me
from being eaten alive. My first wife gave the lie to the belief that Britain never produced a decent
light heavyweight fighter. She once accused me of eating in secret. I didn't mind that she was
forever leaving me. What I didn't like was the way she always came back. I always try to marry
above myself and my future widow, as well as saving my life, knows all about punctuation and
paragraphing which has always baffled me. Wordsworth was the same. He used to get de Quincey to
check his proofs.
DRAWING YOUR ATTENTION
My favourite cartoonist John Jensen has provided the covers of both my novels "Island Fling" and
"The Magnificent Evan" which are coming out as E Books from Bewrite Books. He has also found
time to write and draw his own book which sold out on Amazon within days of publication. Do order
one, it's worth its weight in pleasure. "Figures of Speech" is for anyone who loves the English
language. Unlike most books about language, however, it allows us to see the things we say. Have
you ever wondered what "a passing whim" might look like? Or "a flimsy excuse", or even
“a screaming abdab"? Well here they are - along with ninety-nine others - in a work which brings to
life, through witty and imaginative illustration, the curious idioms and phrases which pass our lips,
without thought, every day. It is a light-hearted look at language but one designed to encourage
readers and writers of all ages to pause for a moment and consider how many of the 'ordinary'
things we say are, when you look again, full of absurd and extraordinary life.
NEVER ASK "HAVE YOU EATEN?" IN THE PRESENCE OF AN ESCALATOR
My life is a constant cartoon. Late on Wednesday afternoon after a substantial lunch of crab cakes
and ravioli, pleasingly partnered by two pink gins and a bottle of something red and not too dry, I
found there was a special on the day's menu: Me. An Escalator tried to eat me.
One moment I was standing on a machine placidly contemplating the brawn on toast planned for
supper. The next the machine had turned into a ravening beast and I was Beowulf battling Grendel.
I could feel its teeth nibbling at my trousers, and having got purchase, it reared up and I was flat on
my back travelling down an escalator - which was quite a trick because the escalator was going up -
and the questing teeth were now nibbling my vertebrae. Worse, every anguished second brought me
nearer its slavering jaws at the foot of the escalator.
I felt a quick stab of sympathy for the crab cake I had thoughtlessly chewed, then I was Bulldog
Drummond, tied to a moving belt as the circular saw loomed ever nearer. I waved my stick in a
menacing manner, but to no avail. I twisted and turned, but the teeth which ran all the way down
its back nibbled inexorably.
Then at the last moment my Ever Loving jumped over me, pressed a red button and the gnashing
teeth subsided into sulky silence. A Head Ferret magically transformed into a Heavenly Deliverer. A
young Polish gentleman lifted me to my feet and helped me up this gourmandising Eiger. To say I
was shaken would be putting it mildly. I felt like Smallweed, the Paralysed Usurer in "Bleak House"
who constantly needs to be fluffed and set upright like a pillow.
An Indian lady bravely stepped on to the escalator and pulled me to safety. And that was not all.
The red button had activated a security camera which flashed a picture to the control room and as I
muttered my thanks for immigrants I was surrounded by Shopping Mall executives and first aid
men. Plainly it wasn't the first time the escalator had gone berserk. There were no cogs in its
innards, just a belly filled to the brim with the remains of luckless shoppers.
By now the executives had parted their ranks for two para-medics, one an Indian, who threw me off
balance by asking me if I knew what day it was and did I know where I was. Although I felt
aggrieved to be burdened with idle chat when I had just escaped ravening jaws I answered as civilly
as I could. As it turned out they were just ensuring I wasn't concussed. I was lucky. That was the
only time I have ever known what day it was without looking at a newspaper. Thank the Lord he
didn't ask me to translate Magna Carta.
BE VERY AFRAID...
Drugs that don't work: a medical scandal.
It's long, detailed, and shocking!