You’d have thought people at church would be a tiny bit understanding about the period of Lent. Apparently not.
During coffee after church this morning I found myself speaking to a parishioner who is usually smartly turned out with a neatly trimmed moustache, but for the last two sundays has turned up looking like a tramp and is growing an increasingly unkempt beard.
“Have you given up shaving for Lent?” I asked him, because this was a more polite question than “have you been made redundant?” To which he responded that, yes, he has given up shaving for Lent, because he is appearing in a play and has been instructed to grow a beard.
“I suppose it’s a bit of a cheat,” he added.
“Yes,” I agreed, adopting a look of righteous suffering and adding “I’ve given up drinking for Lent”.
“You’re drinking now,” he said, gesturing to my coffee.
I chuckled politely. “I mean I’ve given up alcohol for Lent.”
“Yes,” he replied. “There’s alcohol in that.”
After wednesday’s incident I’ve been in a state of near-manic paranoia about anything alcoholic coming near to me, so I was aghast at the suggestion that somebody was slipping alcohol into the church coffee. It didn’t strike me as the least bit unlikely in an institution where probably over half the members do slip a little something extra into their coffee on a regular basis, but nevertheless it seemed extremely foolhardy. “You mean…who…what…” I stuttered in horror, as my shaggy bearded persecuter watched my reaction with enjoyment.
“There’s alcohol in everything,” he smugly explained. “Minute traces.”
It was several minutes before my palpatations died down. Minute traces, indeed.
My torment continued a little later when I joined the other young adults of St Mark’s for our weekly sunday lunch. I had just finished off a sizeable plate of extremely nice spag bol made by somebody called Kristen and was enquiring what had gone into it. “It involves a lot of chopping,” Kristen said. “Tomatos, carrot, celery, garlic…wine…”
“What?” I exploded, palpatating again, and wondering what medieval rules about Lent have to say about tactical vomiting. An unsympathetic ripple of laughter went round the table.
Kristen’s husband Jason began to tell me that Sundays didn’t count, but I told him I was having none of that one-day-off-a-week nonsense. “I know,” he said, “I read it on your blog.”
“Actually,” Kristen went on, “he was reading that bit of your blog when I was making the bolognaise, and I couldn’t help laughing when I poured the wine in.”
Suddenly I was confronted with a mental image of Kristen cackling to herself as she poured a bottle of wine into the bolognaise sauce she knew I would be eating, and what had at first appeared to be a careless oversight took on a new and horrible reality as a deliberate act of SABOTAGE.
I suppose I shall have to forgive her, because 1. it was very good bolognaise, 2. no doubt her husband will read this out to her as she prepares a sherry trifle or something to tempt me with, and 3. Jason, who is in fact yet another trainee Priest, did absolve me on account of it being Sunday.
It’s like the trainee Priests are lining up to make my struggle easier for me. And if his theological credentials are not enough, somebody who blogs about food this much must surely know what he’s talking about.