Covering ‘serious’ topics – the sort that make the news and give people cause to mutter disapprovingly – is not an aim of this blog. There are plenty of writers in the world capable of providing appropriate gravitas to those stories without me weighing in with naïve and ill-informed opinions.
Saying that, I hesitate to try and describe what the actual aim of the blog is; mainly because of its apparent determination not to stick to one topic, but also because of the fear of resorting to words like ‘quirky’ and ‘whimsical’. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with those words; I’m just not sure they are correct here.
Indeed, the simplest solution would be to leave you, the reader who has stumbled across this little oasis of ‘whatever’, to make your own mind up.
With all that out of the way, I’m now going to address a topic that is very much of a serious nature. Hopefully, though, in as vague a manner as possible so as to simply recount events and thoughts without sounding like I’m judging myself or anyone else. Or something like that.
Sitting at the bar, waiting to be seated at a local Frankie & Benny’s last weekend, my better half adopted something of a furtive gaze and whispered, “Is that who I think it is over there?” Recognising that my subtlety in these situations has always been pretty poor, I managed to resist the temptation to immediately turn around and shout, “Who?” Under the circumstances, this was a good thing.
With pleasing conspicuousness, I could see at a table in the centre of the restaurant, dining with a couple of other people, the priest who used to serve as chaplain at our secondary school. The fact that I wear my old school scarf during the winter, and had yet to take it off after entering the restaurant, made the subtlety all the more appropriate.
Some years ago, said-former-chaplain-of-our-old-school was reported to be subject of allegations involving a laptop and indecent images of children. More recently, further allegations had come to light involving actual sexual abuse. When figures of local authority claimed to be shocked by the recent allegations, it led me to wonder what became of the original ones. But that is not really the point here – simply, the latest reporting was such that it seemed to possess a certain amount of weight.
And yet here the man was, in a family restaurant, calmly enjoying a meal with his two fellow diners (I assume he was enjoying it. Perhaps ‘consuming’ would be a more accurate word). It was a somewhat bizarre sight, and perhaps slightly unsettling, particularly as I couldn’t help but contrast it with the sort of scenes shown on television where a mob wrongly hounded a man because they were scarily incapable of distinguishing between a paediatrician and a paedophile.
Trying to reconcile these extremes, two thoughts crossed my mind.
The first was how fundamentally sad the situation was, because said-former-chaplain-of-our-old-school is perhaps the only person who has ever come to close to making religion seem genuinely interesting and a subject worth engaging with. On those few occasions throughout the year attending a school mass, he would deliver laugh-out-loud funny sermons, and I’ve yet to come across anyone else capable of similar.
The second thought was the devil on my shoulder making suggestions in my ear; a brief, flickering, ‘what if?’ sort of thought. It involved going round all the tables in the restaurant seating a family and having a quiet word with the parents…