Mormon Your Own Again. Or, Religions and Bums: Part 3.

When I click the ‘publish’ button on this website, it automatically sends a Tweet on, er, Twitter.  The last couple of posts here have ‘attracted’ a Jehovah’s Witness or two, apoplectic about my apparent misrepresentation of their joyless religion.  That I don’t have my facts straight, how I could have learned the truth had I paid more attention to the Watchtower magazines that I mainly looked at the pictures of and so on.

I’ll say now, with little fear of reprisal that I have very little knowledge of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the same way that I have very little knowledge about what it feels like if you  chop your own genitalia off, which is to say that I’ve never felt the need to explore either of them personally because when I’ve paid attention to people who have engaged in either activity, it doesn’t look like something I’d enjoy participating in.

As much as I’d love to draw in more Jehovah’s Witnesses who could do their best to illustrate their joylessness by demonstrating that they have no perspective whatsoever in relation to their presentation of themselves in terms of having absolutely nothing to say about anything other than their adherence to a set of man-made and arbitrary rules that they choose to follow or ignore equally arbitrarily, based on what other human beings tell them, I just don’t have anything else to say about them.  I’ve written my experiences with them down and there aren’t any more.  Nor will there be any more because I can’t be arsed with them.

The same thing almost goes for adherents to the Jesus Christ Church Of Latter Day Saints except I’ve not written about them yet.  Rest assured though, once I’ve written this post, there won’t be any further entries about Mormons either because I’m not interested in listening to anything else they have to say.  Not about being Mormons anyway.

There’s a Mormon church not far from where I live and it looks like a Barratt house.  The Kingdom Hall near me looks like a Brutalist Wendy House that appears only at dusk.  Only in the gloaming.  It’s a bit like The Selfish Giant’s Garden in the Oscar Wilde short story: always winter.  Ironically, given its Christian message.

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Kingdom Hall, Hull.  I think ‘Wendy House’ was being generous.

Also unlike the at Brutalist Kingdom Hall, the Mormons – most of them – seemed friendly, pleasant and capable of gleaning a bit of perspective about their stupid religion.

That last paragraph implies that I’ve set foot in Kingdom Hall but I haven’t.  Barratt House churches are one thing, Brutalist Wendy Houses in the land-of-always-winter are something else entirely.  Also, I was invited to visit the Mormon church and I wasn’t invited to Kingdom Hall, but that comes later…

This story mainly takes place down Marlborough Avenue on a place known as The Avenues in Hull.  The Avenues is a pretty middle class enclave slap bang in the middle of a distinctly non-middle class area in Hull.  If you were to stand at the top end of Marlborough Avenue and look to your right up Princes Avenue, you would be looking in the direction of The Dukeries, a collection of streets that holds terraced two-up-two-down house.  Looking to your left, towards Newland Avenue, you wouldn’t quite be able to see Ella Street, the residents of which have a chip on their shoulder because, while many of the houses are just as grand as the ones on The Avenues, it’s not part of The Avenues.

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The Avenues: this is on Westbourne Avenue.  I lived there years later, about twenty yards to the right of this roundabout.  It honked in summer, let me tell you.  Victorian drains.

Since the 1970s, and a bit before probably, many of the houses on The Avenues have been broken down into flats because those houses are enormous Victorian dwellings in which the richest, fanciest people would live.  In fairness, Newland Park, near Hull University, is even fancier, although the location is even worse, being on the fringes of north Hull which, in places, resembles nothing so much as Poland in about 1975.

I was sharing a flat with the drummer at that point.  I say ‘sharing a flat’, actually, my room was an extension at the back of the ground floor which was freezing.  I didn’t even have a bed in there for the first month.  Instead, I slept on a settee that was crammed in a hallway.  The hallway was so narrow that the settee couldn’t actually fit there: it was at about a 45 degree angle which, I have to say, provided me with a far better night’s sleep than many beds before or since have managed.

At that point, I was in several bands, a couple of which were with the drummer, a couple more which were not.  One night, while practising with a band that didn’t feature the drummer, he had a couple of visitors.  He told me that Mormons had called round and, while he wasn’t overly interested, he told them that I – as the resident lunatic who enjoyed wasting everyone’s time – probably would be so he invited them round the next evening.

The Mormons who knocked on our front door the next night were the healthiest looking pair of bastards I’ve ever set eyes on.

When the Jehovah’s Witnesses had called at Dave and Gill’s flat, I’d been quite impressed by Dave’s opening gambit, which was to tell them that, essentially, he was wasting their time and if they didn’t want to bother, that would be fine, so I told them the same thing.  The healthy bastards said it was fine and the look they shared with each other was the look of grifters greasing rubes.

The ‘lessons’, as the Healthy Looking Bastards whose names I’ve long forgotten called them, took place weekly in the drummer’s front room.  We’d read through the Book of Mormon together and discuss it.  Even as a man who had grown up trying to avoid as much of the ever expanding Osmond family as possible, I knew that tea was a no-no.  I have a vague recollection of Marie Osmond and her mother weeping at a press conference, denying rumours that Marie was a secret tea drinker, although I was beginning to think that I may have imagined that as I found no evidence of it later in life on the inter web – and I took to keeping a bottle of Shloer in the fridge for when the Mormons turned up.  They were nice kids.

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Shloer: big in Utah.  So I hear.

They were such a lovely pair of kids that I could barely bring myself to take the piss.  Pissing on people’s bonfires, especially the sanctimoniously stupid, was a cheap thrill but better that than no thrill at all, eh?   It had been hard work and I could only just manage it, but a sample had been taken, albeit gently and relatively politely, and metaphorically chilled next to the Shloer in the fridge.

Worse, the Healthy Looking Bastards seemed to be all too aware of the lunacy that they had, at one point, accepted as readily as being told that fire burns:  the posthumous baptising of deceased relatives; the handing back of golden tablets of hieroglyphics to an angel when their existence would have been irrefutable evidence for their religion’s tenements; the translation of the same by a man with no language abilities and so on.

That’s where the faith comes in Middlerabbit,” was all they had to say with their apologetically symmetrical, gleaming and slightly Germanic teeth and faces.

I guessed that they didn’t really dwell on the stupid elements of their religion because what would be the point?  They’d been born into it; they’d been sent to England to knock on doors and be told to fuck off by 99% of the people they spoke to; they’d marry another Mormon and, provided nobody brought up any of the wacko crap for rational discussion, everybody would be happy.  The drummer and I, after several weeks’ visits, were invited to their church the following Sunday.  Surprisingly, the drummer was into it, too, but not to the extent that he was prepared to get out of his actual bed on a Sunday.  Prizing me from my precariously wedged settee wasn’t such a wrench, I suppose..

My visit began strangely, taken a downward turn shortly after that, before ending badly.

On arriving, two hours late – I was told that the first two hours of the services, which involved segregating the men and women, was over and, anyway, I hadn’t been invited to that, so it was a good job I’d only just arrived – I was shown to a seat in a modern assembly hall which, though, modern had somehow managed to transport a gloomy murk from a time before Mormonism gave Barratt homes an inauspicious foot up the ladder to the big time.

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Mormon church, Hull: Barratt Houses’ entry to churches.  To be fair, all but one of the Mormons I’ve ever met have been lovely.  Couldn’t do enough for you.  Contrast with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Around me were maybe a hundred adults and perhaps twice as many children, most of whom were running rapturous rings around the seated adults.  The men all looked either distant or were involved in murmured conversations that appeared to involve both participants staring at a spot on the floor directly in front of their muttering Mormon mate.  The women absently tended to howling infants in pushchairs whilst maintaining approximations of sympathy towards their chattering co-worhippers.  They were the most tired looking group of people – the women – I had ever set eyes on.  Some spiders’ offspring’s first meal is their mother who, I couldn’t help but consider, probably suffered to a lesser degree than these wrung out, raggedy wrecks.

Despite their inclination to cadaverousness, they were also obviously the ones wearing the trousers.  Not literally, for whilst their devotion to whatever ludicrous nonsense it was that they believed in was surely devout, it had so far not spread itself as far as Katharine Hepburn’s gender neutral trailblazing concept of actually wearing trousers.  All of them wore dresses or skirts.  Metaphorically though, those sisters were vociferously at the vanguard of the pant wearing matriarchy.  Pusillanimously, the men whispered.  Like wounded lionesses holding off jackals with nothing more than the suspicion of power; the women spoke.

I hadn’t had time to ask what the deal was with the gender divided services, but I’d assumed it had been indicative of male dominance.  Shuffling my scrawny arse on the faded, splitting vinyl cushioned chair, I wondered whether this was something that had blown up in the men’s faces.  It was probably the polygamy thing that did it.  I had asked about it, obviously.  The Healthy Looking Bastards said that it didn’t happen anymore and I didn’t pursue it.  I had inadvertently been involved in polygynous and polyandrous relations in the past which had all turned out very badly.

At the front of the room was a stage, elevated about four feet from the ground.  To its left, angled inwards, stood an incongruously aged dark wooden desk behind which sat four men, the youngest of whom looked an old hundred.  They muttered to each other continually.  Occasionally, one would ignore the others’ jowl wobbling and look at the congregation like a plantation owner looks at a dying slave, write something down, look back up at the object of their scribblings, then shake their liver spotted throats in disgust and turn back to the others.

On the right of the stage was a trestle table with three people sat behind it: a young girl, a middle aged man and a very old woman.  One of the old men – ‘Elders?’ I wondered, called for quiet, which grudgingly fell, except for the children, who commenced their fortieth lap of the chairs, their squealing now becoming hoarse.  The Elder went on to say that the three people on the right of the stage were going to testify.  None of the three people looked like they so much as owned an Otis Redding record, let alone appeared the sort to throw themselves down on their knees and plead in harmony with the congregation.  I had a grudging admiration for Crazy Horses by The Osmonds but on the whole, Mormon music hadn’t grabbed him so far.  Perhaps today would be the day I discovered Salt Lake City funk.

Today would not be that day.  Today would be the day I learned that testifying here meant telling a roomful of people who weren’t listening why you became a Mormon.

First up was the young girl.  She was seventeen years old and she very sweetly told the story of how her parents were Mormons and she pretty much just went along with it and accepted it as being normal.  Then, when she was a bit older, she started to question whether she actually wanted to be a Mormon and then she decided that she did.  That was about it.

It was alright, I thought.  In that sort of way that some girls, when their parents have told them that they’re grown up now and they can make their own decisions, as long as they’re the decisions that their parents want them to make.  The point where their mothers make them dress as younger and, in this case, less tired versions of themselves.  This girl seemed okay but really, what chance did she have?  Being raised to think that all that batshit was normal and everyone who doesn’t think that is going to Hell?

That, I realised, was the last time I had given any consideration to my lack of exposure to religion by my parents, and I’d been glad.  Oh yes, I thought, thank God I wasn’t brainwashed.  Yes indeed.

As the girl sat down, I noticed that everyone, including the table of geriatric miseries, had paid precisely no attention to anything the girl had said.  Everyone had merely lowered the volume to a whispering murmur and their staring and their wincing impersonations of sympathy resumed.

The man stood up.  Nobody looked and nobody listened except me and I did my best to ignore the now radically slowed down whine of rotating pre-pubescent tiredness that echoed off the walls and carefully selected the most irritating frequencies for my own personal delight.

Unlike the young girl, who was just going along with because that’s what you did, and was doing her best to avoid getting involved in things she didn’t particularly like doing – speaking in public – this man had notes in front of him.  Here was a man who had thought long and hard about what he was going to say and how he was going to say it.  Here was a man who, metaphorically, had decided that he had nice legs and he was going to wear that tiny skirt, but now that the time had come for the world to see, was a bit worried that too much was on show and spent the rest of the night tugging the hem down like it made any difference.  As if to illustrate that metaphor, the man shyly pulled down on his jumper.

Amen brother.” I thought.

The man was in his late forties.  He began mumbling, but soon found his stride.

The first Mormon event I attended was a youth club.  Myself and a few friends lived in an area where there wasn’t much for youngsters to do of an evening, so it was slightly appealing anyway but the real reason I decided to go was because of this girl who I thought was gorgeous; who regularly attended it.

Now you’re talking,” I thought, pleased to be listening to someone with whom I could identify, apart from his misuse of reflexive pronouns which irritated me.  No noble entrance for you, eh?  The honey pot drew you in and here you still are, stuck to the side of it, wriggling with delight and fear, like Jane Fonda in Duran Duran’s orgasmatron.  The congregation, otherwise engaged, ignored him as he continued to pull down on his jumper and spill his heart out.

So, myself and my friends started going to this youth club and the religious part was hardly there,” he hastened to add as if he’d forgotten who his audience were, and that they weren’t listening anyway.  “We drank lemonade and played pool and table football.   It was lovely.  It was beautiful.”

The man was hitting his stride now.  Having cottoned on that nobody was listening, he began to wax lyrical about watching Top of The Pops in the Mormon youth club and how it was the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to him.  It was one of the most beautiful things that happened to him because the girl who’d drawn him in sat next to him and they watched it together.  In a room with about fifty other people.  Their elbows occasionally touched, and the electricity they felt in those moments was more significant than many married couples can dream of experience in a lifetime’s loving.

And then she just stopped going.”  It turned out that she wasn’t a Mormon child and she got fed up of having to spend ten minutes talking about what a groovy dude Jesus was and how caffeine was bad and maybe they should try Shloer instead and she moved on to White Lightning and Players No. 6 at the bus stop with some older kids.

I’d started to enjoy the religious part though, and myself and my friends started attending church on Sundays, until I was the only one of my gang left.  I met a girl, and she became my wife and we’ve had children and they’ve had children and all of us are part of the Church.  I went to Africa and spread the word there, converting hundreds of people.  They had children and those children had children.  My own children have been to America, Germany, France and Denmark on missions and all those people…

He had started to weep and by now all thoughts of covering up and modesty were distant memories of vague ideas that had emanated from completely forgotten concepts as he pulled his jumper up and wiped his leaking eyes on the part that he had previously tried to use to cover his groin.

And,” he went on, now openly sobbing and gasping like a man saved from drowning who had suddenly realised the dramatic extent of his brush with mortality, “I wonder if that girl, that girl who was my introduction to the Mormon church, ever thinks about how many people’s lives she has changed.

All of my family, our children, our grandchildren, the thousands and thousands of people who we have shown the way and who have joined our church; all due to this one girl who didn’t even become a Mormon and she’s the spark that caused all of these thousands of people to become Mormons and I bet she doesn’t even know.

The man stood, his jumper which could now have done with being pulled down, having been used as both a loincloth and a handkerchief in the space of ten minutes, gave him the appearance of a well-intentioned-but-ultimately-destined-for-landfill, charitably donated sack of deflated knitwear and barely concealed panic.  He stood and he looked at the congregation, who hadn’t noticed.

I quite enjoyed it, despite it clearly being borne of fear of missing out, rolling towards the early stages of a mid-life crisis.  The man had a nerve, I had to admit: standing up and announcing that what he spent his time thinking about these days was a girl whose erotic elbows and encyclopaedic knowledge of Leo Sayer’s likes (Mexican food; the sun setting over Paris) and dislikes (negative people; reading) from 1977 still kept him awake at night.  A girl who had succeeded in suckering him in and who had passed on puckering up for him over twenty years before.  A girl who had spent the last twenty odd years hypothetically maturing in the man’s imagination until she became his ultimate symbol of freedom and missed opportunity, as opposed to a cuckold who bought him jumpers that he couldn’t hide his entire body behind.  The man obviously had some idea; he knew nobody would be listening, he knew he could get it off his chest semi-publicly and there was minimal risk.  I almost regretted that I wouldn’t be here on a weekly basis to monitor the progress of the man’s burgeoning mid-life crisis through schadenfreude.

The man sat down, wrung out and presumably thinking of motorbikes and leather trousers.  Or, possibly, miniskirts.  And sexy elbows.

The hubbub went on.  The outer perimeter of the chairs was by now strewn with the weeping, exhausted bodies of children who were periodically stepped upon by those with more stamina and the adults’ mumbling and chattering continued.  The ancient specimens at the desk on the left still muttered spitefully at each other and glared at members of the congregation for respite.

Finally, the old woman stood.  She was attired in well kept cheap looking old clothes and her hair was neatly pinned in place above her plastic pearls.  She looked out, unconcerned, and began to speak.

As a regular watcher of daytime television, I had heard some tragic life stories in my time, but this woman’s story took the biscuit.

Her story began with her and her husband-to-be deciding together that Mormonism was the religion of the future and that they would become Mormons together, which they did.  Everything was wonderful, the happiest couple in Mormondom until, after three years of marriage, her husband perished in a road accident whilst taking Mormon children on a minibus to the seaside.  One of her own children suffered major brain damage in the same crash, although everyone else on board escaped with minor cuts and bruises.

For that, I thanked the Lord,” the old woman sighed.

Left to raise three children, one of whom was now severely disabled, alone, the old woman had sought and found respite in the arms of the church.  She met and married her second husband in the grounds of the church in which we stood.  He died eight months later, in a fire at that same church, helping pull people from the old building which the faulty boiler had set alight.  At the time of his death, she was seven months pregnant with his first child and her fourth.

Husband number three – a widower – died when husband number two’s offspring was six months old, in a building accident whilst constructing the replacement church, falling from the roof.  His son from his previous marriage killed himself the day after his father’s funeral.  Her own house burned down shortly after that and the only thing that survived was some sort of wooden multiple boiled egg holder, which she proudly brandished at the disinterested congregation as her most treasured possession.

Husband number four lasted for six years, before succumbing to a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia, leaving her with two more children, one of whom went blind shortly after birth due to an excess of oxygen in his incubator.

Husband number five was still with us, albeit now two hundred miles away in a vegetative state, in a private hospital where he had been cared for by Mormon doctors and nurses for the past eighteen months.  He left her two further daughters, both of whom were born with spina bifida.

Five husbands: four dead, one in a permanent coma.  Eight children: one with major brain damage, one blind from a maternity hospital mistake, two with spina bifida.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the four relatively healthy children had all chosen to leave the loving embrace of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints.

The old woman didn’t seem bitter, quite the opposite in fact. She viewed herself as a modern day Abraham – but happier to sacrifice members of her immediate family in order to test her devotion. I assumed that, for her, every day was not necessarily a bonus.

Three testimonies: one brainwashed youth; one male in the throes of a midlife crisis and the least fortunate woman in the world.   Every last one of them with every reason to jump the good ship Mormon into a far less cruel life where nobody made you believe stupid things: a life in which good looking, exciting women drink cheap cider and go further than inadvertent elbow brushing in Church youth clubs; a life in which you can have a husband who is more than technically alive and perhaps your children have a greater than 50% likelihood of of being able-bodied and in which the other half of your brood hasn’t abandoned you because you are the least lucky woman for one million miles in any direction, and it appears to be contagious.

If that’s what you need to do to get to Heaven, you’re welcome to it,” I thought, improvidently.

One of the geriatrics from the other table turned and gave the testifiers a filthy look and announced that the service was over.  People stood up and dragged the carcasses of their children from under other children and began to file out.  I stood up and saw almost identical formidable middle aged women of about 40 to gather the inevitable mountain of crap you need when you take babies anywhere at either side of him.  I sat down again.  The Healthy Looking Bastards approached me from the clear row behind me.  I realised at that moment that their healthy looks were either the American MkII versions of Mormonism or they hadn’t had their spirits broken yet.

Hey Middlerabbit!  Great to see you!  Glad you could make it!” they babbled over each other.  It was a bit like The Brady Bunch’s more excitable moments.  I couldn’t remember what The Brady Bunch’s religion was but decided that if it wasn’t Mormonism, it might as well have been.

Oh, hello,” I said, turning round and standing up again.  “Thank you for inviting me, I thought it was, er, nice.

They seemed genuinely pleased to see me and wanted me to meet the Big Cheese, as they called the head of their church.  I had been told what his title was, but I couldn’t remember what it was.  It wasn’t ‘Bishop’, I knew that, but other than that, I had no idea.

Well, I don’t want anyone to go to any trouble.  I don’t want a fuss.”  I protested.

No,” they chorused, “You gotta!”.

Appreciating that getting out of it would be more bother than just going through the motions, I nodded and scissored my legs neatly over the back of my chair, landing smoothly with a hand on either Healthy Looking Bastard’s shoulders.

Come on then!” I said, momentarily caught up in their boundless enthusiasm for everything.

Smooth move with the chair, my man,” grinned the shorter, dark haired one with the big lips.  “That was nifty!”  This one enjoyed English slang.

It’s my feline balance, I can’t help it, young pill-bean.

What’s a pill-bean?

Pill-bean?” I repeated, “It’s a good man.  A nice lad.”

And you think I’m a pill-bean?

Oh, you are most definitely a pill-bean”, I confirmed uncharitably as they walked towards the light.

The not-Bishop was at the doors, shaking people’s hands and looking like a big shot.  We approached him.

Hey,” began the taller, blonder, pointier-nosed one, “This is Middlerabbit, the guy we been tellin’ y’all about!”

The not-Bishop looked at me and sneered a reptilian smile.

I put his hand out to shake the not-Bishop’s hand and the not-Bishop looked at it like it was a hopelessly inadequate meal at a fancy, reptile friendly restaurant.

Errrrrmmm,” a sound rising from the reptile not-Bishop’s chin and exiting vaporously from his tear ducts.  He proffered a hand to me and shook it, unimpressed.  “And, errrrrrrm, what do you do, errrrrrrm, Middlerabbit”

The word ‘Middlerabbit’ was a squirming slug plucked from a beautiful child’s internal organs and held out in disgust with tweezers for students of revolting shit to observe and learn from.

Oh, I’m not doing anything at the moment,  I’ve just graduated.” I lied, wondering if the appalled reptilian not-Bishop knew exactly what was going on: no new blood here, just a smart arse taking the piss and the pair of greenhorn Yanks couldn’t even see it.  Maybe, maybe not.

Oh?  Where from?”

Er, York.” I replied.

Oh?  What did you read?”

Psychology,” I said, feeling scrutinised.  “What, er, what do you do?”

The question hung in the silence between us, festering.

Oh, I mean, apart from this, er,”  I realised that I was going to have to admit my ignorance of his title, but as long as I avoided ‘Bishop’, it might be alright. “Apart from being the, er, Bishop of Mormons.  I mean is that full-time, or do you do something else as well?”

The Bishop of Mormons.  For fuck’s sake.

Eyeing me unpleasantly, the increasingly appalled reptilian not-Bishop for crying out loud replied slowly, “Hmmmmmm.  I am a businessman.”  He said ‘businessman’ like he was telling me that he was a poly-dimensional psychic ninja-assassin; softly, slowly and slightly louder than silently.

Oh yes?  What’s your business do?”

Looking at me like I’d inquired about the possibility of a look at his circumcision scars whilst standing in a busy children’s home nursery on Christmas day, the poly-dimensional psychic ninja-assassin replied, “I am a local businessman.”

We looked at each other dispassionately.

Well, I’ve had a lovely time,” I smiled, every last trace of Brady Bunch-ness cleansed from myself, “It’s been most illuminating.  Thank you.”

I walked out of the church and into the thin, pale autumn sun and thought myself fortunate because although the two Healthy Looking Bastards had been nothing short of lovely – like most of the Americans I later met would also be like – almost like children in a way.  Slightly precocious children who were not so much friendly as over-familiar, admittedly, with all of the good and less good elements that come with meeting children in general, but lovely nonetheless.

Diversion – Disneyland

My in-laws aren’t all that similar to my blood family.  By that, I mean that, well, I don’t know exactly what I mean, but they’re not like me.  When we visit, it’s a little bit like entering some sort of Enid Blyton book: all slightly forced sounding jollity.  Most of the time I find myself glancing furtively around at everybody else, wondering if I’m the only one who finds it all a bit, erm, phoney, I suppose.  I don’t buy it.  Mind you, I’m Northern and gritty – so I like to think – and they’re not.

Anyway, apart from being capable of sounding enthusiastic about things which I struggle with, even when I am relatively enthusiastic about something (which isn’t often), they’re also well into theme parks.  I say they’re into theme parks but it’s more than that.  Or possibly less, I don’t know.  Well, one year, a fair while ago, we all went to Florida on holiday to go to Disneyland.  Or ‘world’.  I don’t remember and I can’t be arsed to look it up.  I wasn’t thrilled at the idea but our daughter was about the perfect age to enjoy that sort of thing so I went for it.  I say I went for it, I didn’t really – the current Mrs. Middlerabbit agreed to it in front of me at Alton Towers.  I wasn’t happy at this.  She told me not to worry because they’re always saying, “Oh, we’ll do this,” or “We’ll do that,” and they never do, so don’t worry about it because it won’t happen.

Well, naturally, it did.  We all flew to America and stayed at this house in this gated community.  I fucking hated it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to any of these Disney places but, fundamentally, if you haven’t and you’re about to go, what you’re doing is going on a queueing holiday.  For the best part of a fortnight, we stood in queues, waiting to go on rides that, mainly, I didn’t give a fuck about one way or another.  I don’t mind rides – I’m neither scared nor enthusiastic about them.  Take ’em or leave ’em.

Anyway, while we were wandering around Disney or Universal or wherever it was we were, what I noticed was that, like children and animals, Americans are drawn to me.  I’ve briefly mentioned that, without having made any effort at all in those directions, that’s what life’s like for me: wherever I go, whatever I’m doing, if there are kids around, they’ll be drawn to me like flies ’round shit.  Exactly the same thing goes for animals too.  Cats, dogs, horses, cows, donkeys – not birds so much, thinking about it – but mammals tend to come and clamber up onto the Middlerabbit lap.  I don’t mind it.  To be fair, I quite enjoy it.  Even if it’s only to the extent that it annoys other people who are desperate for children and animals to come and hang around with them.  As I say, I make no effort to encourage any of this attention and I’m sure it must piss off those people who try their hardest to get kids and other mammals to  pay them attention.  Part of me suspects that it’s the total lack of interest I pay in them that encourages it.  Still…

What I learned in America was that the Americans I met were very similar to children in many ways – the enthusiasm, the naivety, things like that.  And, more pertinently, that they’re drawn to me in exactly the same way that children are.  We’d be walking around these theme parks and if we stood around anywhere for more than about ten seconds, there’d be Americans around me, asking me if I’d give them a high five, telling me about their pets, where they live, what they do for hobbies, where their ancestors came from, if I knew certain people, if I knew where things were, if I needed anything.  I don’t really resemble anyone famous, so I doubt it’s that.  At first, my mother-in-law couldn’t really believe it.

Why are do all these people keep talking to Middlerabbit?” she’d ask, not unreasonably because I’m not the most garrulous person you’ll ever meet.  I’m pretty quiet, certainly around my in-laws and I think she found it bizarre that, wherever we were, I’d be surrounded by Americans who wanted to talk to me about God only knows what.  Anything.

Anyway, I’m sure that it’s only a certain sort of American who has whatever it is that children and mammals also have – and I’m almost equally certain that the Americans who do have this child/mammal thing about them mainly hang around theme parks.  Anyway, children and animals.  Yeah…

End of Diversion

The Healthy Looking Bastards had that: the naivety of children.  Or dogs and cats.  But they were American.  The not-Bishop-of-Mormons – for fuck’s sake – didn’t and he put me off a bit.

Even though I took the piss a little bit out of the kids and I would have been far less well behaved had I spent any more time with the not-Bishop-of-Mormons it was never going to happen because he knew what I was playing at.  Even if he didn’t know what I was doing and he was just like that, I thought, “Ah fuck you then, pal.”  He was happy grilling me but he wasn’t prepared to tell me the colour of his piss, basically so I thought, “Knickers to you, pal.”

Like I’d said to the kids when we first met, I was never going to join their stupid religion which, if anything, was even more stupid than the Jehovah’s Witnesses’.  Even though they were all very nice and everything, I wasn’t going to join a set of lunatics like that.  If getting sneered at every week was what I was after, I could get a proper job that I’d at least get paid for, rather than paying for the privilege.

I never saw the Healthy Looking Bastards again and I expect they’re back in Utah now, with wives and millions of Healthy Looking Kids with enormous fucking teeth.  I hope they’re alright, whoever they were because they were genuinely alright: they had a bit of self-awareness and there was a bit of joy in their lives, which is more than you can say for a lot of people.

Fair dos, eh?

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