Monday, October 6, 2008

Jeebus comes to Georgetown - Adventures in Tasmanian 80s Religion

The Salamanca Asians appear to have left, at least for the time being, replaced by cheaper sockier vendors and a girl with the uphill task of selling big aqua containers of water to passers by. My work mate spent the entire day trying to tell me some gossip about why another girl we worked with never got married when she was supposed to, but I'm not into gossip at the moment. She looked a bit deflated that I didn't take on board the conversational path and try and join in with some trash talk. I ended up in the despairing pit of hopelessness that is Rosny library - there's not the mini soap opera around the Internet usage, or the flirtacious single mothers using slightly out of date words like "radical" and "dude" to roll back the years as they flirt with the terminally hopeless and unemployable (oh, 1999, where did the time go?) - instead there's a group of seemingly dis-satisfied and slightly irritable old men who seem to do nothing but print bits of papers and forever fail to work their e-mails. The library in my home town in Scotland, it was always partially shut down for seniors Thursday, with the old folks approaching a computer as cavemen must have once discovered fire. I must admit, it is greatly bewildering to me I've used computers my whole life - right from the glory days of being able to loan the BBC Micro from Penguin Primary (represent y'all) and once putting in as my high score on a game of Grannys Garden "Sick Bastard!" and getting told off by my Mum. She actually played the game until she had got enough high scores to wipe Sick Bastard from the record books, and suddenly computers seemed incredibly lame. Given the rivalry between me and the Aborigine in Kingston library back in the old days, the rivalry to get any spare computer, we would usually hover around the pensioners, knowing that any moment, they would give up trying to find the "C" key and go and do something productive involving a poker machine, and we would be free to pounce...such is the horrible state of mind you get into when you have nothing to do, so gripped with madness, that you think the 10 minutes you don't spend reading your e-mails might be when you miss something amazing...usually you just missed the Nigerian royal family asking for a bank account.

I found something really interesting in one of my old 1983 North West Coast football records. Something I really didn't expect to see - an invitation to go and learn and study the Ba'hai Faith...in Zeehan. Now, the reason I find this amazing is because it takes some pretty big stones to have thought in 1983 Tasmania that a completely different religious and philosophical lifestyle (to the only two religions I ever knew growing up in Penguin, "I believe in Jesus" and "who can be arsed") could be taught to the people of Zeehan. Without wanting to generalise, these are people who are still getting over the loss of Mello Yello, never mind attempting to find the answers to lifes big questions. This might just be a generalisation. When I was in primary school, we had this kid at school called Paul, nice kid, but definitely not the brightest. Religious studies on the NW Coast were all pretty basic - we didn't have to question too many of lifes major questions like where are we heading and why are we here, if you could pick Jesus out of a line up and spell Mary, you were pretty OK. One day in religion, we were doing something pretty different (I went to a pretty different school, they encouraged emotional connections and crying if you felt like it, which went over really well in Scotland) like, I don't know, carving an incense candle or something, when Paul tapped one of our classmates on the shoulder. He looked genuinely upset, and it wasn't just because his candle looked all wrong (I don't think candles are square and have a fifteen foot wick, that'd be a bomb surely?) - he looked at his text, looked at the candle then out the window. "I just found out something" - we feared the worst, Pauls mother had been poorly, or drunk, not quite sure, but as he clutched us to his confidence, he said softly..."Jesus...Jesus is dead?" - the solemnity in his voice was definite, and since I was 9 I hadn't even got to questioning the fundamental philosophical imperative in his question, and since Paul was a man to call a Jesus a Jesus, we dealt in the strictly literal. Yes, Jesus is dead, we said, and left him to his freaky ACME quality candle...until he tapped another classmate on the shoulder and said "...and the donkey too?"

I've mentioned before my commitment to my chosen religion, Catholicism, which is only now practiced by Celtic supporters in Scotland, waned one fateful day in about 1987 when a nun told me to shut up during a mass, and then went me outside Star of the Sea. Plus, when I was at Sunday school one day, a wasp stung me, so that's a plague like sign right there. However, I have taken communion. My first communion was a great event for me - I got a big giant kick arse medal, about a hundred backs, and all the Mello Yello a small boy with a poorly constructed spike could drink. However, that's only half the story. My Mum and Dad were really pumped that I was getting communion, and decided that I had to earn my little bit of plasticy tasting wafer and bitterly constructed (like the nun) red wine. So, my spike was scrubbed from history (no bad thing) and replaced by a sensible haircut. If you loved shiny shoes, I was the boy for you, as a small orphan boy was set to work shining them until you could see his withered face. And most of all, I was shoehorned into my first suit, a snappy black number with a red tie that probably spun or shot water or something. In fairness, I looked a treat - the problem was, this was Burnie, and while I wore my suit of few colours, everyone else turned up in tracksuit trousers, ripped jeans or sparkly pink tops. That is, everyone except this girl called Jenny, who's parents were like mine, and had dressed her up in a white gown with a veil and given her a bouquet of flowers to carry and a very fetching silver necklace. So yes, we looked like we were getting married - in fact, one of my friends said something akin to that, and yes, he was told to shut up by the same nun, further hardening my opposition to the rituals and protocol of the Catholic church. As we all gathered for a photo in the rain in the glamorous setting of the Star Of The Sea car park, I remember my Mother having a pop at the Nun and saying she had no class...I was dying to jump in with "your in a miserable habit" joke, but it would have been lost in the drizzle, and I moved on quietly, off with Jenny to our honeymoon in Georgetown...

I didn't have a defining break with the church or anything, just basic questioning of facts and that kind of thing. Aside from a brief prayer when my uncle was ill, the only time I've set foot in a church since that day was in 1993, into a Protestant church in Kilwinning in Scotland no less (dun dun dun) for a christening. I would have no recollection about this, except for THAT woman, as we call her in our family. A woman who got up and began, in the middle of the christening to talk about her charity work in Southern India, and only finished after 2 hours and 10 minutes of non stop talking. No one could shut her up - my auntie was desperate for a cigarette and when a kid started crying she said "throw the kid to me! I need out!". The woman took us through the west, east, south and north corner of her quarters in intimate detail, and then, just when the square was complete and we were as familiar with Ranjeet as his own rice provider, she began talking about how she got to work on the bus, and detailed every bump in the road. At which point the organ player fell asleep. When she stopped talking, the organ player woke up and played "For the Benefit of Mr Kite" in sheer joy. Even the hardcore regular protestants were getting the hump after about an hour, but for some reason, we didn't just leave. When we finally escaped, fleeing like kids let out of school, she was handing out leaflets for a more detailed talk she was giving that night, at which point a man said to her "whit mair can I learn about thae kids? Whits in their shites?" - a fair and succinct point. It's instilled a sort of rabid terror in me, that if I step into a church, I might never get to leave, that another guest speaker is ready to trap me with, I don't know, stories about Ecuador that never seem to end. Whenever I drive home, I go past a massive sign that says "Come and coffee with Jesus!" and as fond as I am of a sign with a ! in it, and coffee, and however tempted I am to go into that coffee session and ask "Is Jesus dead?", I can't bring myself to do it...she might be there, bewildering and confusing a poor hapless organist...

So I keep driving, driving home to my secret stash of Mello Yello...don't tell anyone from Zeehan...

6 comments:

Miladysa said...

LOL

... and the donkey to :-D

Kris said...

Oh Mello Yello, how I miss thee!

One would think that the Mello Yello yo-yo that I still have; generously given to me by the largest breasted member of the Coca-Cola Yo-Yo Radical Cool Right On Man Touring Team™ in 1985 [touring the Coast since ‘83] would be some consolation, but in fact it just makes the agony of our separation ever more unbearable.

Baino said...

Having had my fair dose of religion (married a Catholic) and sending both kids to Catholic schools, I can confirm that Jesus is indeed dead, - well in the physical sense but I can't vouch for the donkey! Perfect way to raise little athiests is to subject them to the 'sacraments' Oddly, after attending Mass every Sunday (as a prerequisite for being a non catholic mother of catholic children) we stopped when they left primary school . . nobody came to ask why? So much for pastoral care!
What on earth is Mello Yello?

squib said...

lol oh that poor kid! I felt a bit like that when I found out about Santa

Did you go to a Steiner school?

Kath Lockett said...

"Come and coffee with Jesus" - boy, they're getting rather raunchy trying to recruit new Christians these days, aren't they?

Miles McClagan said...

I think it's quite sweet that he was worried about the donkey (he didn't care much about Joseph...)

My auntie, I've never told her that Mello Yello isn't around...it would scar her (incidentally the Coca Cola Yo-Yo team came to my school, and one them, "going round the world" conked themselves on the head)

Mello Yello is a drink, it was lemony and delicious...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ShY5TI-zHE

As for Catholicism, I was also put off by confirmation and it's endless tedium, but that's another story...

No, the only Steiners I ever knew were the wrestlers...it was fancy and emotional and it valued painting ability though...mental...

I hadn't thought about that...poor Jeebus must be knackered (from all the...um...coffee)