Ok. God. We were unusual among our London friends in that we went to mass. Being a "believer" has no novelty value here at all. My "belief" is a pretty ropy affair of feminist hesitation, personal doubts, general embarrassment and a cultural legacy from my mother. I am a catholic; that is my get out of jail free card. I do not have to talk about God. I hardly have to talk to God. The priests and my mother can do that for me. I have issues with God. I have certainly got issues with the Pope and frankly, I would be much happier if I could have back the childhood, gilded glory of a robed and guardian angel. Did he leave my side? What I thought was a breeze, was that the moment that he left me for another soul to keep? Or, did I just stop believing he was there and "Phut" he was gone? Feathery and glorious. Is that the moment, the loneliness began? I admire sheer conviction but I cannot lose myself in "Jesus". I cannot think myself saved and another damned to fall and burn. I can flirt; I cannot bring myself to surrender. I have tried, watched myself, the thought comes unbidden: "Ye gods." I am facinated though by others' faith, struggling as I do in all my uncertainties.
At the weekend, we had to go to a border town to pick up large numbers of cardboard boxes from the removers. It began to rain and we stumbled into a cafe. I tell a lie we stumbled into a church that was pretending to be a cafe. No not true either we stumbled into a cafe that has a sideline as a shop and which turns into a church on a Sunday. We sat down, all unwitting. My eyes fixed on a photo frame for sale. It said: " "For I know the plans I have for you," declared the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)" I thought: "Golly." I looked around. Sure enough there was stuff like that all over. One thing struck me. How often in the merchandising, the Christian believer or customer asks or expects something of his God. " I have paid £4.99 for this mouse mat, I expect happiness for the rest of my life and my child to get into the university of his choice." I particularly liked a frame with three photographs in it. The first, a bakerlite phone "Ask and it shall be given you"; above and below the pair of binoculars were the words "Seek and ye shall find" while the door knocker was "Knock and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7). My least favorite was a watercolour of a plant in a pot: "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
The merchandising went on and on. A soft and cuddly praying frog who sang "Now I lay me down to sleep..." ; blank paper which they made sure you knew was "compatible with printers and computers" with the heading "God's best to you! Christ's blessings on you! (Philemon 1:3)The Message" and I liked a purple coffee mug emblazoned with "...handle with prayer." I thought: "Who buys this stuff?" Then I thought: "Me." There was a pair of holy novelty socks with a design of the burning bush and two pairs of feet. One of them Moses and the other Joshua. Apparently, there are more than 600 references to feet and walking in the Bible. I never knew that. The packaging instructs you: " "Put off the shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5." The packaging says: "Displaying our faith in a non-threatening and humorous way, our original designs are interesting and amusing and can be conversation stoppers ..." I personally do not think the "non-threatening" bit is true. I would assume, anyone who wore socks like these was a complete lunatic and immediately feel very threatened. Naturally, I bought a pair and plan to wear them tomorrow. I also bought a book about starting a house church, that is to say, people coming together to worship in someone's home rather than feeling they have to attend a "real" church. I am thinking: "New kitchen, coffee, all these people up here who believe in God." I said to my husband: "Look, I could start a church." He said: "Yes. The church of the cappuccino. Your kind of place."