Casting doubt has always one of my stronger suits. If I was a bridge player I’d be bidding a grand slam in doubts every other hand. On the other hand, Doubt, with a capital, has always been the provenance of God. I will give you doubt, He says, so that you may decide for yourselves to believe in Me. Then he gets all upset when half the population buggers off and worships gods that are more tangible, like Apollo and Circe.
I mean, there’s no doubt when you worship the sun, is there? You can see it in the sky and when it vanishes you can cut somebody’s head off and it comes back the next morning to see what all the fuss was about. Actually, thinking about that, it was a proof that Apollo existed because he turned up for work every morning bang on time at dawn, did his job and went home every night when the lights went out.*
Bringing it a bit more to earth, there’s nothing like doubt so set the seeds of ultimate sin. Beryl Saunders down at the chippy was telling me all about her husband’s visit to the pub every Tuesday. All the ladies chat to me: they think I’m gay for some reason and to be Frank (or John, or Roger, or Little Petey) I’m all for the confidences. It’s amazing what you hear about Those Two Women at Number 43.
Harry Saunders hasn’t done a thing wrong, but as Beryl tells me about his darts league and his friend Eric I nod and smile and say: “He said that, did he?” By the end of our conversation the seeds of doubt have been planted and she’s waiting for him to come home with her curlers in and her heaviest saucepan out.
*except for the occasional fag break and scheduled liaison with the moon.
Henry Duke, watchmaker to the Stars.
It was hardly original. Every angel who disguises himself as a mortal takes some stupid job that nobody else would ever do and does it for thirty years without having a day off for his mum’s funeral. It’s like they’re following a rulebook on how to mingle with mortals.
Rule One. Look human. Lose the wings and the celestial fire, wear skin and clothes and don’t lop their heads off when they blaspheme in front of you.
Rule Two: Or fornicate. It’s what mortals do to pass the time. Get used to it.
Rule Three. Don’t try it yourself.
and so on to
Rule Thirty Seven: Think of a traditional mortal name for the area of residence and set up a wholesome business. Book dealer or clockmaker works very well in London.
I remember in the fifties they sent a Power down. That’s one of the really well-heeled angels. He tried to do both at once and ended up a bookmaker. He made a mint and then when they told him off he switched sides. The point is I was looking for Senoy and I found him on a backstreet in Laverstone. He hadn’t gone far. He had a 32” TV in his back room and a collection of single malts that would have made a Scotsman cry. Introduce an angel to the mortal plane and I’ll show you one that’s about to Fall.
It makes my job easy. Watching Harold had become an obsession with him.
I went to the shop and banged on the counter till he came out of the back room. “How’s Southend fifty years ago then?” I said.
He went white as a fridge.
Until the morrow. X