Written by tjmstroud
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Tags: church, MPs

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Dear Constituents (and Parishioners)

I have had a very hectic week.

I should really have gone along to the Party Conference but, instead, undertook some specialised work experience.

Unless one is pre-booked to perform on the main stage or even one of the side shows, Party Conferences are a useless pathway to career progression especially for a non-comformist so I decided to get away without being noticed and investigate more important matters. The thought that I am a non conformist was what gave me the idea.

I like being in a strong position when it comes to parliamentary debates on unusual subjects, and morality and spirituality seemed a suitable area. This subject doesn't crop up very often as no-one, least of all politicians and religious leaders, has a clear-cut policy position on spirituality anymore and so is it any wonder that everyone flounders in a moral vacuum.

If these subjects ever get debated (perhaps on the back of a scandal in the Vatican) I guarantee a sudden spate of church attendance. Politicians love jumping on passing bandwagons. They'll ride along for a while until a subject dies down again and then, if it's controversial and not fertile ground for advancement, they quietly get off again ready to jump on the next passing bandwagon.

Now I am not one to flounder in a moral vacuum and so decided to check out the state of modern Christianity as I saw a definite gap in the market.

This is why I offered to help out at Krupton parish church whilst others were elbowing each other for attention at the Party Conference.

Assuming the staff only worked Sundays and that one days' work experience would be enough to obtain a reasonable grasp of issues surrounding the Christian Church, I got Anthea (my PA) to order a 44" vicar's uniform.

I have recently discovered that police uniforms are not so easy to come but that I could become a vicar for less than £15.99 + vat. In fact, had I not chosen express delivery, I could have become one for £13.99. We decided against Anthea joining me in fishnet stockings and a miniskirt as it would have added £12.50 or an extortionate £25.00 if we had also added in the bag of bondage equipment.

So £15.99 + vat seemed cheap especially as someone had told me that it normally required a student loan and three years study at a Theological college before you got your uniform and a 'Master of Theology'.

Anthea also managed to print off a certificate just in case I needed to prove my credentials. Such documents are only given a cursory glance for short periods of work experience so I was confident that no-one would have noticed that it actually said "Master of Mythology" which is, anyway, almost the same.

Since working incognito inside Grey Gables Old People's Home I admit I've started to like wearing loose fitting frocks. I feel very exposed underneath but am beginning to understand why women walk the way they do. My mincing footsteps are to stop things moving around inside my frock.

Our research into church uniforms also threw up an idea to change my shape and, with the hassock I borrowed from Krupton Church pushed up my frock I admit I looked more like Friar Tuck than a Parish vicar.

So, suitably dressed and with my certificate tied with a red ribbon, I arrived at the church at 9am on Sunday morning. No-one answered the front door so I went around the back and was welcomed by a cherubic little boy in a pristine red and white frock. The vicar then appeared from behind the curtain and proceeded to welcome me with his collar the wrong way around and whilst still buttoning his uniform.

"Ah, Mr Quinton," Reverend Whicker said (I'd deliberately applied for the job in a fresh name), "Welcome to our parish. Our flock of happy worshippers will arrive quite soon."

This was my first introduction to quaint terminology - such is the value of work experience. I took this particular expression to originate from the old days when shepherds used to leave their sheep outside before venturing in to escape the rain.

Reverend Whicker, as he prefers to be known - I think he knows that he is referred to as Whicker the Vicar at the Red lion - then invited me for a chat and to share a thermos flask of tea while Roger, the choir boy, practiced singing his scales next to the organ. The organ itself was covered in a dust sheet and I asked whether anyone actually played it. The vicar seemed embarrassed.

"Oh, that organ?" he said at last. "No, it needs a service and, anyway, I manage without it. As soon as I beckon to Roger he puts up his middle C and the church is filled with joyous singing."

And so began my morning's work which was to stand by the big front door with a pile of hymn books to hand out to the congregation. We were a little late starting as we waited for any latecomers - but none came. And the job was not arduous. I had only handed out three when Reverend Whicker crept up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "OK, that's enough. Roger looks ready."

Then he began the service.

Fellow parishioners (and constituents) I learned a lot in the few hours I spent on work experience at Krupton Church. Much of what I learned will be referred to in later newsletters.

But my main mistake was in not wearing my suit under my uniform. The chill wind blowing up the middle aisle was quite something and the single cup of tea I'd drunk meant I was desperate for the toilet even before Roger had started on his version of 'All Things Bright and Beautiful'.
The staff toilet was, I think, built by the Normans - hardy individuals who wore far more clothing than us and sometimes chainmail. Inside this basic facility (ten degrees colder than inside the church) I have to admit I had a panic attack.

You see, I could not find my usual bit of equipment that serves two purposes. My fingers were already blue with cold and when I did eventually find something hiding amongst the folds of unfamiliar and loose fitting garments, I had no idea whether it was my bit that I was holding or not - not that there was much to hold anyway.

However, I do not want to go into much more detail of my work experience.

My main aim here is to distil it into a fresh set of basic laws which will form a central theme to the speech I am writing for the Parliamentary debate on spirituality and morality whenever this might happen.

My speech will recommend the introduction of ten new rules of engagement and use quaint but essential words like 'flock' to ensure we retain at least some connection to the Biblical past. I would be very grateful for any feedback on the new rules which will be called the Ten Amendments. Please pay attention and listen unto me.

ONE: I am thy MP for Krupton and it is me who has brought thee to the promised land, that ran the Olympics and will take you out of that undemocratic, money eating bureaucracy that is the European Union.
I am also thy MP who has brought you out of the house of bondage although I apologise for other dubious practices that have recently taken root. These are not my fault but the fault of the last Government.
Thou shalt remember no other MPs before me - or even after me - as I am determined to win the next election.

TWO: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image except possibly a fine, bronze statue in Krupton High Street. Thou shalt not bow down to others - certainly not that upstart of a prospective parliamentary candidate - for I am a jealous MP who will remember any false deeds for several generations and will come back to haunt any that don't vote for me. On the other hand, I will show true mercy unto all who do vote for me and will work hard to ensure enough jobs and affordable homes to go around.

THREE: Thou shalt not take the name of your MP in vain. The many, fine-robed Lords who have risen to the even higher House above will not hold you guiltless if you take my name in vain - and neither will I if you fail to vote for me at the election.

FOUR: Remember the Sabbath (that's Sunday) and keep it a holiday. But uphold the right of small shops to open if they can find the staff to work on minimum wage. But, generally, you must work a 38 hour week and any overtime you can get. Even the Job Centre closes on the Sabbath so it's pointless queuing outside. Sunday (that's the Sabbath) is the day of rest even for your MP although his surgery will still take place from 7pm in the Red Lion as he is a fine and upstanding Member who knows his responsibilities.

FIVE: Honour thy father and thy mother to ensure they are always available to babysit at the weekend or can be tapped as a source of interest free loans at times of famine and other shortages. Always ensure that when the time comes that you honour them by providing the best possible Nursing Home that won't dig too much into any likely inheritances.

SIX: Thou shalt not kill any badgers or farmers who have signed up to the cull, but press the government to introduce a vaccination campaign. Neither shalt thou be tempted to kill off any Bills designed to withdraw us from the EU or put a cap on benefit payments. Neither shalt thou be tempted to kill your sitting MP as he is only doing his best. Thou shalt not feel quite so strongly about the prospective parliamentary candidate.

SEVEN: Thou shalt not commit adultery unless you suspect others of committing same. Even then thou must not brag about it or announce anything on Twitter that you might subsequently live to regret.

EIGHT: Thou shalt not steal. However, I'll turn a blind eye if you can give me the nod about any new tax avoidance schemes as HMRC are the biggest thieves I know.

NINE: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour by which I mean thou shalt not be tempted to tell any porkies about me. As a politician I'm far better at that than you so don't think you can get away with it. On the other hand if you can find any snippets, true or false, about that upstart of a prospective parliamentary candidate I'll see you are taken care of and I might even get you to the top of the housing list.

TEN: Thou shalt not covet (by which I mean you wish you could afford but can't) thy neighbour's house or his new BMW.
Neither shalt thou covet (by which I mean fancy) thy neighbour's wife, his daughter or even thy neighbour's cleaner or gardener - if he can afford one.
Neither shalt thou covet (by which I mean feel an uncanny urge to do something unnatural to) his ox, his ass, his dog that barks in the night or his cat that shits in the flowerbeds.
If you do, indeed, find you are still coveting something and it's really starting to upset you, I'll see what I can do.

If you think I have missed out anything, feel free to contact me. I always like to go one better so I'd really like to increase my Ten Amendments to Eleven.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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