Who would want the job of being God? I found myself asking that question more than once as we sat on the tow path being entertained by one of his slightly more demanding, not to say eccentric disciples. Let me set the scene.
An old friend of mine, we’ll call him John, because that’s his name, had phoned out of the blue and asked where we were and we had made arrangements to meet him at our next stopping place. Along with Bob and Marie, our boating, and now travelling companions, we were all enjoying the sunshine and whiling away a pleasant afternoon sitting on the tow path, drinking tea and generally getting in the way of the many locals trying to enjoy a relaxing walk. One such local smiled and said hello in a pleasant enough way as she strolled past. She cut a striking figure dressed all in figure hugging black and sporting white crew cut hair and bright red lipstick. She was easily recognisable as she returned about ten minutes later and this time she decided we were beyond a casual greeting, she was ready to talk. And boy, could she talk.
Delighted to have found a captive audience of five with no obvious means of escape she launched into the story of her husband’s lost mobile phone and God’s part in it’s return without wasting any time on introductions or small talk. She seemed to possess a rare ability to talk for long periods without pausing for breath but with the unfortunate side effect of producing a continuous fine spray of spittle which cascaded down onto poor Marie who happened to be in the line of fire. Eventually, after going off on many complex tangential narratives we arrived at the explanation of how the mobile phone was found and handed in to a local shop and subsequently returned to her husband. The kind person that had found it had left a message explaining that they had no means of contacting it’s owner but sincerely hoped it would find it’s way back to them via the shop. This, apparently, was all God’s work and he was rewarded with twenty quid on the following Sunday for his efforts. She went on to tell us other reasons why she had had cause to slip God a twenty now and again and of the many, many times she had called on her long suffering deity for his help.
By now we were all crying helplessly with laughter and wiping tears from our eyes as poor Marie mopped herself down and assured our excited story teller that she was just enjoying being lucky enough to be in the front seat for the performance. Over the next half hour we learned in some detail about the domestic disputes that regularly occurred between our new friend and her husband who was, apparently, waiting for her back at the car “because his legs weren’t too good and he couldn’t walk very far”. I am ashamed to say that the thought crossed my mind that he probably had the legs of a long distance runner but had carefully cultured the story of his worsening legs over the years as a means of escape. These disputes, she told us, led to long periods where she refused to speak to him. It must have been torture for her and a brief but blissful interlude for him. There were many other stories involving loss and bribery of the Almighty but she finally ran out of steam, and bodily fluids, while I was in the boat taking a much needed natural break. When I came back out she had gone, returning to her patient husband who was, no doubt, hoping for a fresh falling out. We never learned about his religious standing but if he did believe in God I strongly suspect that he may have been quietly praying, telling God that there was a hundred pounds in it for him for the unsafe return of his wife.
If, in the extremely unlikely event that the star of this story should ever read this, I would like to emphasise that we all thought you were absolutely wonderful and if there is a God in heaven we have no doubt that he is keenly anticipating your eventual arrival at his side.