Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Guardian Angel Speaks - Never Trust A Man With Wings, Part II 19/8//15

Dear Padre

You cannot imagine my delight when, out of nowhere, a flashing box popped up on my computer screen telling me that I had missed a message from my guardian angel. How had this happened? Not since I had been informed by a dating agency that “Bill the fireman is down the road and waiting for your call” had I been this excited (he wasn’t, on both counts). 

An angel, no less! What could he/she want with me? I'm not a virgin, I'm too old to bear children, and I don’t need an interpreter for my visions, so why would a winged creature from the celestial heavens be descending upon my weary shoulders?
So, I replied, and you kindly sent me the name of my guardian angel  - Sehaliah, the “45th Kabbalah Angel”, dealing with “Virtues”, and a member of the “Angelical Choir”. You took no time at all in talking with him (I had rightly guessed it was a him, given that I could see the moral lecturing path he appeared to want to take) and I have been fascinated to read the details of your very lengthy chat. 

I can only think that it must have been a slow day for you both, given the volume of your reply, and I am sure my life is about to change for the better as a result of your communications. Quite why Sehaliah couldn’t have come directly to me and cut out the middle man (i.e. you) is anybody’s guess, though I suspect it has something to do with the credit card I will be asked for if I wish to keep asking for angel assistance.
You say that you “strongly” felt the need to see changes in my life. Have we ever met? I don’t think so, but I admire the depth of your commitment following the “celestial confirmation of the problem which worries you right now” (er, which one? There are so many). I specially like your going on to tell me that the changes in my life will occur within the next three weeks.
Now, about my running mate. You inform me that “Sehaliah is the Angel who embodies faithfulness” and the “Angel of pure souls”. Quite why you asked him about Love, Money and Good Luck over the next 30 days only you know, but I like his answers.
I specially like the bit about the windfall that is coming my way, probably on September 9th. Apparently, it’s a “lot of money” that will leave me “speechless” (to be honest, any money at all would leave me speechless these days; times are tough), and it’s going to appear “as if by magic”. Love and success are on their way, too. Great. So far, so good. “But there is one condition . . . ” Oh, dear, here we go. 

I wonder if the Angel Gabriel did the same thing with Mary: “Here’s the good news . . . you’re going to have a baby and you won’t even have to have sex with the destitute carpenter . . . But there’s a condition. There’s no room at the Marriott, your kid is the Son of God, and you’ll have to watch him die on a cross.” Conditions. There are always conditions.
And this, you say, is mine: there is an “adverse karma” that is the source of all my difficulties. It’s built up from all my past lives and I’ve been paying a “Karmic Debt” that is not even of my own making! Yes, that’s right! Other bastards in my other lives have hijacked my brilliance, success and luck, and drained me of all the good things. People can be so mean. 

But now, it seems, I have paid back that debt (tell me about it!) and, as a result, have acquired a “Hyper-Beneficial Angelical Karma” that is about to turn things around.
However, nothing's that easy. It seems I need “The Divine Angelical Ritual of Release from past lives” in order for this to happen. Based on ancient magical rites written down in an old Angelical book of spells, you tell me that you are the only one who can perform it for me, Padre.
Much as I like the idea of being released “once and for all from this negative force” you claim is ruining my life (I want a list of all those past life reprobates; I’ll start targeting their descendants and see how they like their karma being hijacked), I’m suspicious that you are willing to perform it for free, especially when I visit your “Angel Boutique” and see the prices you charge once my initial free consultation is over.   

You’ve also gone a bit scary, to be honest, and I don’t think angels or their accomplices are supposed to be that. You say that if I don’t reply immediately, you will be “forced” to offer the “Archangels’ Seal of Supreme Salvation” to someone else who finds themselves in a difficult situation. How spiteful is that! Can’t I just mull it over for a few days?
It is, therefore, with regret, that owing to the threatening tone of your final paragraphs, I must decline your kind offer to sort out my karmic debt. However, if you or Sehaliah could see your way to paying off my real debt at the bank, I would be extremely grateful. 
In this expectation, I look forward to September 9th, when you will hopefully be sending me a vast sum of money that will sort out and secure my future once and for all. 
Thank you again for the speedy response from you and your feathered friend. 

PS Is the cheque in the celestial post?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Never Trust A Man With Wings - Part I 18/8/15

Far be it for me to poke fun at anyone else’s ideas or beliefs.

If you are certain that fairies live at the bottom of your garden, ghosts lurk in your closets, UFOs skim our skies, or whatever god you worship runs your life, that’s up to you.

I haven’t got to accept it and I will always demand an empirical argument to support whatever dodgy case I think you are putting forward; but it’s everyone’s right to live in the fantasy world they choose to inhabit.

Personally, I don’t swallow any of it, because every single one of these “beliefs’ (which is all they are, at best) has built into it one single thing: the need to believe in something “other” that services the one basic human fear: we are all going to die. Any inkling that there may be something beyond the grave is what people cling to in that fear: a desperate hope that it might not all have been for nothing.
To be honest, I’m too wrapped up in what’s happening in this life to be worrying about another one. I don’t want to go now, but if I did, it would be in the knowledge that I have lived a better life than most people could ever hope to do. Despite money worries (and who doesn’t have those), I’ve been fairly lucky with my health and am surrounded by the most wonderful family and friends. Every day I try to learn something new – about the world, people, ideas – and every day I count my blessings rather than dwell on the negative. It’s not always easy, but looking for goodness becomes a habit if you work hard enough at it.
I am, nevertheless, fascinated by the idea of beliefs of any sort because they are the offspring of brain function. We use but a tiny part of that mighty organ, as we know, and will never get to know its full potential or capacity in any of our lifetimes. It governs not only our thoughts but every cell in our bodies and is as fragile as it is strong.
In my effort to be fair to people with views other than my own, I am therefore going to explore some things that are totally alien to me. And I’m going to start with angels.
I grew up with angels through Sunday School. They were the humans in my Children’s Bible who dressed in white, had long hair and beards and a pair of wings sprouting from their shoulder blades. They were prone to turn up at the most inopportune moments, invariably telling women that they were going to bear children.

“You’re a virgin? Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m an angel; I can do anything.” And so it came to pass . . . And the rest is history.

My brother was named Nigel because I had wanted a baby brother called Angel, and Nigel was the closest my parents could get. I’m not sure he has ever forgiven me.

Then there was Angel Clare in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. What a wuss he turned out to be, dumping her when he discovered she was not a virgin.
I started writing this blog because I was waiting to hear the name of my angel. I didn’t request to have one at all, but while I was filling in the answers to a quiz (more work avoidance), a flashing advert appeared telling me that I had missed a message from my assigned guardian. 

Angels aren't just for virgins - or Christmas - it seems.

Padre, the “Messenger of the Angels” (grey haired man with beard, no wings), confirmed my e-mail address and told me to keep an eye on my inbox, which I did for half an hour while I awaited the revelation of my angel’s name.
I started to worry about the name. What if my guardian angel was called Bob? I don’t know why, I just didn’t want a Bob. That was the name of someone you go to the pub with, not someone you want flapping their wings around you of an evening when you’re trying to eat your curry and watch Law and Order: SVU.

I quite fancied the idea of having a French angel – I’ve always liked the name CĂ©lange. Yes, that would be a very nice name for an angel.
Finally, it came through: Sehaliah. What? I can’t even pronounce it. He or she is apparently the “45th Kabbalah Angel” . . . Oh, hang on a minute, it’s a recruitment agency for Kabbalah? He/she belongs to “Virtues”, and the Angelical Choir. Oh, yeah. That’s right up my bloody street. Not only will Angel Boy be telling me that I can't drink or have sex (I decided he was definitely a man the way he was already coming down on me on the moral front), he’ll be bringing along his goddamn mates to sing to me about it.
I was also dubious about the red wax seal on the scroll informing me of my new companion. What did the “D” stand for? Devil? Dummy? No, it turned out to be the “D” in the middle of PADRE, the messenger par excellence, who will allegedly, within a few hours, be giving my reading for free, before asking me to sign up to the Angelical Choir with my credit card.
I tell you: those virgins and their feathered friends had it easy.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cilla Black - RIP 2/8/15

I have never been a fan of summer. 

As a child, I felt an inherent sadness in all things associated with that time: the smell of freshly cut grass, the tide going out at the end of a day at the seaside, brushing the last of the sand from between my toes. 

My grandfather died in June, and I recall the visits to the hospital and the starkness of the greenery at Cefn Mably hospital that felt like a mockery of the shadows surrounding his bedside. I remember the darkness of his bedroom at the Old Globe pub he ran with my grandmother in Rogerstone; the sticky ring of a half drunk Lucozade bottle the only small light on his bedside table.
We are now in August, and I am thinking that I spent most of this July in tears. I saw two friends lose their sons in tragic circumstances and I cannot begin to imagine their pain. This morning, I woke to the news that TV legend Cilla Black has died, and I am in tears again.
I know that none of these people are close family members, but as I wrote in my last blog, we have, and should value, our ability to empathise with others. Stripped of all material possessions, we are basically the same: humans with common emotions, the most important being the capacity to love.
I met Cilla when I started out as a TV critic in the mid-Eighties. She was the presenter of Blind Date, and my visit to a recording was the first time I had ever visited a set. I was absurdly excited. Her energy and ability to light up a room were breathtaking. She was funny, smart, and had the audience in the palm of her hand from the outset.
She died in her villa in Marbella, which was where I last saw her. We had a mutual friend in Andy Anderson, an astonishingly talented singer who performed in local bars and who also, sadly, died a few months back. Cilla had gathered a group together, and we sat in her garden, Andy singing on his guitar, drinking Cilla’s champagne from the bar in her living room. She was a very generous host and the evening was, as others had been before, full of laughter.
It nearly wasn’t. She had swallowed one of the larger hors d’ouevres and it had become stuck in her throat. Fortunately, paramedics were not required.
It was impossible to find a taxi by the time the party ended, and Cilla kindly offered to let me stay over in “Cliff’s room” (Cliff Richard was a very close friend). I joked that I would always be able to say that I had slept in Cliff’s bed. She adored him and I know that they spent many great times together. She was also passionately loyal to him during the allegations that surfaced about his private life.
She was loyal to all her friends. She was especially fond of Paul O’Grady, to whom she had become close after he wrote to her following Bobby’s death. Paul is as exhilarating off screen as he is on, and one of the most naturally funny people I have ever met. It’s not hard to see why she would have embraced his company.
On the last night I saw her, we talked for a couple of hours after everyone left, and she was, as always, wonderful company. She was both interesting and interested, and she gave me sound advice about decisions I was trying to make. Her love for her husband, Bobby, who died in 1999, was always central to her life, and she spoke of him often, as she did her children, especially her son Robert, who became her manager.
I confess to feeling completely in awe of the woman whose music I grew up with, and whose shows were (and still are) the best that Saturday night entertainment had to offer. She was the top of her tree in two of the most difficult industries in the world to conquer – especially for women. She set the bar high for everyone who followed, and she was tough and ambitious, as the recent ITV three-parter, Cilla, showed.
Sheridan Smith delivered an extraordinary performance as the young woman from a working class Liverpool background who made it to the top of the charts. I am glad Cilla got to see it.
My friends’ sons were in their late twenties when they died; Cilla was 72 – which, by today’s standards, is still young. Had she been 100, I would still feel sad. She was a part of my history and also of TV history.
I like to think of her knocking on the pearly gates with the words “Surprise, surprise, it’s Cilla ’ere.”