Twenty years ago, I was in my teens and doing a good job of being miserable. I was very distant from the Church and heading for some of the darkest episodes in my life.
My mum used to call my friends the “Bisto Kids” because we dressed like the characters from the old adverts. Clothes had to come from second-hand shops and the films we watched had to have sub-titles. Music usually had to be dour and needed immaculate northern, working-class credentials. We were moderately well-off and grammar school educated, and as such far too affluent to be in a band, we could never have any credibility in that department. Instead, we dabbled at writing “fanzines”, interviewing and writing about our musical heroes and sprinkling in musings on politics, poetry and consumerism.
We’d gone to Glasgow one evening and were waiting for the Barrowlands to open, to see some band whose name I’ve since forgotten. A watery-eyed, elderly local singled me out of the crowd and insisted on showing me the large medallion he was wearing round his neck. It was a gold and costly looking medallion of Pope John Paul II. Whilst my friends were sniggering, something strange happened to me. I felt very close to this complete stranger, I can’t remember what we said to each other, I can’t even remember if we could understand each other, but I felt I had so much more in common with him than with those around me.
I am grateful to that man for giving me just a little reminder of where I should have been. Life did get emptier and emptier, but that medallion twinkled away in the back of my mind and somehow I was encouraged to enter churches. Even though I could not yet approach the sanctuary or a priest, I could at least get as far as St Anthony and tell him how lost I was.
Conversation- Louis MacNeice
Ordinary people are peculiar too:
Watch the vagrant in their eyes
Who sneaks away while they are talking with you
Into some black wood behind the skull,
Following un-, or other, realities,
Fishing for shadows in a pool.
But sometimes the vagrant comes the other way
Out of their eye and into yours
Having mistaken you perhaps for yesterday
Or for tomorrow night, a wood in which
He may pick up among the pine-needles and burrs
The lost purse, the dropped stitch.
Vagrancy however is forbidden; ordinary men
Soon come back to normal, look you straight
In the eyes as if to say ‘It will not happen again’,
Put up a barrage of common sense to baulk
Intimacy but by mistake interpolate
Swear-words like roses in their talk.