Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rice and Ice-Cream

Southend in 1955 was far more crowded that it is today. Something about the Thames Estuary drew Londoners in their hundreds, and even an overcast one like the second of May brought them flocking from the city to enjoy the sensation of soggy chips and sand in your ice-cream.

Deckchairs littered the beach. Whatever happened to those? There was a time that every beach had a deckchair salesman where you paid sixpence deposit and sixpence a day to sit in gaudy canvas? The only place I’ve seen deckchair rent boys in the last year or two has been in St. Ives. Perhaps you know different.

What did surprise me, though in hindsight it shouldn’t have, was the number of postboxes and sub post offices there were then. Everyone there seemed to be sending letters and postcards back to their friends and families. It was impossible to watch every postbox to see who’d posted this letter, so I gave Devious the job of flitting between them all trying to find out who’d sent it.

He failed, of course. The last post was at five o’clock so that’s when we gave up. I still bought him a cornet for his efforts, though not the ice-cream to go in it.

Have you ever picked up one of those toys with a tiny bible inside? They usually have a magnifying lens on one side so that you can see the words, though more often than not it’s just a prayer and not the complete text you thought you were buying.

One of the punishments in Hell reserved for simoniac popes is to inscribe the bible upon grains of sand. After a few years of trying this – and let me say that no-one has yet succeeded – they are relieved to be returned to their flaming tombs.

We promise them salvation if they manage it; or at least a passage into Purgatory. Pope Clement IV (1265-68) has been the best so far. He spent fourteen years on one grain and managed chapters 1-14 of Genesis before he fluffed it by missing out a begat. It was such a pity. I’d bet on him managing to get to chapter twenty-four.

Every grain they inscribe is exported to a specific temple in India where it’s packaged and sent out amongst millions of grains from the lesser Hells, where they only have to write slogans on them. A man walks many paths, and The pursuit of happiness is like a golden flower. Every grain of rice holds the wisdom of the ages, and every one as meaningless as the next.

I bet you’ve never even noticed, have you? The words blur a bit when it’s boiled but they’re still readable, unless you’re in a Chinese restaurant and eating with a fork.

Until the morrow. X

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