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Diary

by
25 October 2013

ISTOCK

Dressing up to order

IT HAD probably not been the best idea, I thought, as I scrubbed despondently at my pencilled-in moustache, to have used registrars' indelible ink, even though it had been nearest to hand and had proved effective. To make it worse, I was going to get ready for the annual swearing-in service for battalion officers of the Boys' Brigade and Girls' Association, later that evening. "I'll somehow get it in to the sermon," I thought, with some desperation.

I had just finished another evacuation exercise for my local primary school, playing a Second World War evacuee billeting officer, and having reduced the moustache to a dodgy five-o'clock shadow, changed out of my 1940s suit, and washed out the Brylcreem, I reflected on the odd dressing-up that this job entails.

I am not talking about clerical dress, which is a given. Occasionally, people ask me, with an earnest intensity, why I became a priest; I usually smile sweetly, and blithely reply: "Because I like the dressing-up" - which is not entirely true.

I had thought that when I left my old theological college, St Stephen's House, I would be one of those clerics with a day uniform of sober black and a closet full of multicoloured damask gothic chasubles, cloth-of-gold copes, and amices with bejewelled apparels; but no.

I do indeed possess clerical shirts of only deepest black, but have only one chasuble, of each liturgical colour, plus a couple of others I have been given, and that's about it.

 

On with the motley

I AM thinking about all the rest of the dressing up, over the years, for church events and occasions, assemblies, service presentations, fayres, and fêtes. I have been a butler, a cook, a jack-in-the-box, a barman, a judge, Oliver Hardy, and even the Duke of York (Bertie, that is, rather than Andrew or the Grand Old) - and that's before I think of all the holiday clubs where I have been a ringmaster, a mad professor, a mountaineer, a pirate king, a Jedi warrior, and even - in a rather nifty inflatable suit - a sumo wrestler.

But the costume that left the biggest impression (literally) was a red and orange clown outfit with a big purple sparkly fright wig, which I was inordinately proud of. I wore it for a school assembly, which involved, as I remember, a great deal of running around, shrieking, and firing of water pistols.

Afterwards, I found that the wig had reacted with my skin, leaving multiple glittery purple stripes across my face. After desperate attempts at removal with soap, detergent, and even washing powder, I presented myself at my local chemist's, where I stood in the middle of the shop and the as- sistants and the pharmacist gamely lathered me with make-up- removing creams and lotions. In the end, it took days, and much patient scrubbing.

 

From war to woad

SADLY - returning to my moustache trauma - this was the last outing for my 1940s gear. The Education Minister has in his wisdom decreed that history will be taught chronologically in schools; so for our local primary it will be out with the Second World War and in with the Stone Age. A pity, as we have an Anderson shelter and a "Dig for Victory" garden in the school grounds, not to mention the resource of grans and granddads who remember; but there you go.

Mental note to self: When a teacher from the school phones next year and asks if I can help to teach about Ancient Britain, and how am I set for animal skins and woad, I must practise my answer: "No."

 

Get me Jesus on the line

COLD calls - one of life's little annoyances. You're concentrating on something, and the phone rings. "Hello," a recorded voice says. "Time is running out to claim your PPI refund," or something of that sort. You plonk the phone down with irritation.

Worse, though, are the ones with real people at the other end. "Hello," they say. "Can I speak to Mr [pause as they look up the name] Eldridge?"

"I'm afraid not," I reply. "Fr Eldridge left this post nine years ago. Thank you. Goodbye."

I always try to be calm and polite. Annoying though they might be, they are still real people trying to earn a living by doing a pretty horrid job - even the pushy ones. Sometimes, however, mischief gets the better of me.

"Hello. Can I speak to the owner of the business?" came one rather aggressive voice on the phone the other day.

"Ah," I said, "that would be God."

Pause. "Sorry?"

"This is St Andrew's Church, which means the ultimate owner is God."

The phone was slammed down. I felt guilty afterwards - but not very.

 

The Revd John Wall is Team Rector in the Moulsecoomb Team Ministry in Brighton.

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