jesus bus

Now there’s a thought….What would be your opinion on” NIMBYS”? You know those guys who are ostensibly liberal about all sorts of things until they are confronted with a hard reality right at their door, or in the sanctity of their home. Every man’s home is his personal space and some might say it is his very castle.An immutable place of sanctuary from the wiles and ill-winds of the outside world ; a place where you can lay your head at peace; the place you long to crawl into bed in …even at the end of a long and glorious sunshine holiday.
NIMBYS used to feature in the newspapers some years ago “.Not In My Back Yard…thank you very much!”…they’d cry.
Your liberalism might be tried in many instances.For example there were times when the “Travelling People ” would pull up at the side of any availabe verge and camp -out on the roadside .From there they’d ply their trade for a short while before moving on. Old ladies in shawls would go from door to door selling clothes-pegs and possibly laying an ancient curse on the householder who refused their wares. People can still be ,surprisingly , very superstitious about that kind of thing even in today’s enlightened times. The travellers might have stayed for a while and then moved on to pastures new , usually leaving a few bits and pieces fluttering in the hedgerows.I can still remember that kind of thing when I was a child, but times change .
In modern times, the world is a much smaller place , of course and like migrating deer in Yellowstone Park, who’ll inevitably stray onto a newly man-made golf course or a new supermarket complex ,soon the travellers will be forced to set up camp right there among the residents they’ll wish to sell their wares to. Maybe it’s not clothes -pegs anymor; they might want to flog some nice carpets. After all you can buy clothes-pegs in the nearest “Pound Shop” for a few pence now. Travellers might still travel though, and now they have designated areas to rest their heads in transit with various amenities provided and a modicum of sanitary arrangements. They probably might travel less these days anyway. I don’t really know but a lot of people don’t really want them setting up home too close to themselves. They think that it would add instability to the local community.
These thoughts occurred to me over this past few days.What would you do, or what would be your reaction if several families decided to set up camp just outside your garden fence on that neatly- mown stretch of common -land? What if they were refugees from some awful warzone? That might make a difference, might it not?
I live in a small cul-de-sac of fourteen houses, which a group of us similarly- minded crazy people , built by ourselves from scratch, right out of the ground of that bare field, some thirty years ago ; a crazy thing to do , right? We did it anyway. We’ve raised our families ,some people have moved on since… and now most of the residents are retired or nearly at that stage of their lives , with families grown up and gone on to tussle with their own lives . There are no children left so it is now a quiet cul-de-sac. As they say , we’ve had all that , done that and it is now past . Footballs have ceased to bang against gable -walls, gardens no longer feel the footfall or the destruction of scrambling youngsters and young courting couples no longer sneak into the corner in the shadow of that hedge for a final late -night amorous tussle .
Every summer , for years, a Christian Gospel Bible group, with no apparent , specific affiliation, would stage play-evenings on the green common-land outside our homes, for an hour each evening for a week, and encourage the children to play. Ostensibly this was probably to encourage them to join in with their particular branch of Christianity. They ‘d put up a few signs and post leaflets through our letterboxes announcing these events. They’d encourage the children with sweets and of course all the children would gravitate towards any freebies on offer, perhaps cynically in many respects , because my own children were by no means in thrall to religious persuasion.In some respects that kind of thing seems harmless enough….or you might also have visions of incipient group paedophilia, or the devious “Child Catcher” from Roald Dahl’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It’s all in the perception really .
I, personally found the whole thing innocuous; a harmless exercise by religious cultists with gleaming , snow-white innocence as their driver. I thought of them much as I ‘d consider the Hare Krisna groups who used to chant in the streets in their bright saffron robes. They’re not really hurting anyone, I’d think, and they might just be the focus needed for someone having a problem getting their life in check or their personal, muddled ducks-in-a-row.Some people obviously need a religious direction or a signpost to follow. Whether it makes much sense , if any , seems not to matter at all, just as long as the mind has something to concentrate on.
I felt much the same about the sermon I listened to at a recent funeral, thinking that it was probably one of the best-written and well-constructed pieces of prose I’d ever heard performed in a church. …It was right up there with a Bill Clinton speech in terms of theatrical projection.You don’t necessarily have to believe what is being said but you have to appreciate the artistry of the performance…..right?….. Yes , it was a well-wrought “performance” at a very emotional time in many people’s lives , but I was left thinking that the priest ‘s truest vocation would have been performing Shakespearean dramas on a bigger stage. He was that good and he really sold his story well.Whether or not his references to God were true was always going to be open to debate in my mind, but it was true that I would surely have been the minority view in this particular room.There was much talk within his resonant wordplay as to the”mystery of faith”, which I thought was a fair point ,given that much poetry has at its heart an aura of mystery and interpretation. You might think of it as a ” get out “clause…an empirical fudge , but my mind drifted to my own Catholic upbringing, when as a teenager, I’d idly questioned the origin story of Christianity, wondering cooly just what kind of a character a “real” Jesus might have been before the laquer of a two thousand year myth had been applied to his story. What kind of man ,as John Prine might have sung in “Jesus, the Missing Years”…(Those years which no -one has ever written about except maybe for Mr Prine)…. Who would that person be? That man was something of a mystery to me, alright.I wondered as I sat, did none of those neighbouring , rapt faces ever ask themselves, just who they’d based an entire belief-system on.Did they ask themselves any of these questions or was that a step too far? I have no real problem with them doing that , but as someone who believes implicity in “the life”, rather than in another “after- the- life” ,experience that many obviously crave, I am always curious as to how that need might develop in a person . I often wondered what they might say had they met this same Jesus fellow at a bus- stop on the modern streets of their own hometown and he’d told them that he was the “Son of a God” or that he had a “plan” for another life beyond the one we were busily living on a world which may be the most beautiful planet in the universe.What could be better than this?. Would they think he was a little like the charismatic Vincent Van Gogh? A masterly, visionary painter, out of his time, but at base, just a little bit “touched”?
There is a modern consensus that Vincent actually had a “Jesus Complex” in that he was prepared to cut off his entire ear and offer this fleshy token up to local a girl whom he had unrequited feelings for , as a sort of blood- sacrifice. It’s not the sort of grisly love-offering most sane men would offer up to their paramour, but then Vincent was never entirely sane . It may be that in fact the historical Jesus suffered from a similar complex to Vincent and in a sort of time-conundrum, each one’s act echoed the other’s.Jesus appears to have been Vincent ‘s latent inspiration in life. Jesus offered up his entire body, convinced that there was a “Father” to receive him in stead of the world’s woes and in doing so , to wash away the sins of humanity. That’s quite a burden to take on when you think about it.Vincent, on the other hand , was disparagingly , simply suffering from a madness brought on by a personality disorder and a previous religious mania …a religious fervour that was actually his first calling, whose root would surely have been in Jesus’s sacrifice.He failed to make a shape of that calling and his belief in the redemption of art ,came second. He was later diagnosed as a possible modern-day bi-polar sufferer, or a manic -depressive ,with some traits of a personality disorder which brought swings of elation followed by the dread of deep depressive episodes.Earlier in the twentieth century he would have been classified as a schizophrenic .Had he had access to modern medicines, his manic episodes may well have been kept in check by regular medication and he could well have lived to a ripe old age instead of dying as a relatively young man , in his thirties, as Jesus also did .His own particular ” myth “may not have grown at all and songs may not have been sung about him.Ten million people may not have visited the Vincent Van Gogh museum, annually, either, had his story not been told in a specific way…..but they do as I recently witnessed ,first-hand.
As we know , he finally shot himself in the chest with a small pistol and died in the thrall of madness some eighteen months later . His delusions had eventually put an end to his own life.Had this modern -day Jesus at the bus-stop, which I mentioned earlier, also offered to his travelling companions , the knowledge that his own birth-father was indeed not his “father” Joseph , at all and that his mother had simply become pregnant through no volition of her own and was actually still a virgin, the man speaking those words would be offered some odd looks and much puzzled shaking of the head ,as he boarded the number 10 bus.People might ask which assisted -community-house he lived in and that it was such a pity about his obvious derangement. He was such a lovely man , otherwise.The mystery of faith ,is indeed, a very strange thing to fathom….but does it make any sense other than in the realms of madness or at best , delusional thinking? Many do not wish to think those kind of thoughts, but I’m afraid ,I always have.
Anyway…. those kinds of musings were rattling through my mind that afternoon as I returned from the funeral. The ceremony had been a salve to the deceased’s friends and family and it had surely served a benign social function.What I didn’t expect as we turned the car into the narrow entrance of the small estate was the impressive sight of a huge battle-bus such as Willie Nelson or Bob Dylan might use on tours. This bore the startling day-glo legend across the entire side proclaiming ,”JESUS SAVES!”. This was parked on one side of the road, blocking half of the very narrow entrance . Beside it the occupants had installed a colourful bouncy castle on the green near the the bottom of my garden and an ice-cream and chip van were already doing a brisk trade. By the look of things the Jesus Freaks had descended much as Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool- Aid Acid Test Heads and assorted hippies ,had landed their psychedelic bus ,”Furthur”, in some small unassuming American town , back in the 1960’s.
Loud banging rap music was pumping out of some robust speakers and I found myself asking again what any of this had to do with Jesus H. Christ.My wife’s eyes rolled in her head. The first thought I had was what would my some 200,000 very lively honeybees living their happy and sedate lives on the other side of that fence make of any of any of this .Would they take umbrage?They haven’t much patience with anyone cutting the grass in too close proximity and they’ve managed to survive in one form or another for some billion years without the aid of religious instruction or Jesus rap-music at high volume .These visitors had never actually invited themselves into our close domain so I wondered might it be the time to inform them just what several hundred thousand honeybees might do if riled sufficiently from their torpor.As two of the visitors slapped hands in ostentatious “High Fives”, as though at the completion of a successful mission, I decided that talking to them might be a waste of their very important time and instead planned to make a phone call to the local authorities to check out my legal position should such a thing as several youngsters being attacked by irate bees, actually happen.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland was the first call where I had a pleasant and humourous conversation with a young constable as I grilled him as to my rights and possible wrongs. I quickly discovered that the PSNI had actually no powers whatsoever to either comment on the situation, change the course of this particular story arc, or do any damn thing at all, actually . The pleasant (I assumed,”young”) chap suggested that I make contact with the local council offices, which I eventually did, although i was left wondering just exactly the police-service was for .The local council knew nothing about this latest adventure by these religious pilgrims , either and mentioned that there was actually no notice needed to set up a small free-range festival, such as this one ,but that noise-abatement might be the only avenue to proceed on if things got out of hand and their optomism led them to party until the late-hours .Before she put me through to another department to check the veracity of her facts we had another lovely conversation where I mentioned once again that if my”livestock”…ergo my some 200,000 wild honeybees ,were to be put off their “lay”, so- to -speak, or decided arbitrarily ,to take the “law” into their own stings, as they might well have a notion to do,what would be my position.I asked would it not therefore , be simple manners, to ask whether or not the local residents actually wanted bus -loads of children arriving from afar to gambol around their homes, and at the very least , give us residents the opportunity to spell out some hard facts of life and possible dangers. After all, there were no local children to impress or implore to join their great crusade . I also said that if a travelling circus or carnival decided to set up shop at the bottom of my garden, would that also be “legal” or even, in the best possible taste.What if i wanted to stage a rock-festival ,myself ? At no time in any of these absurdist conversations did I once lose my temper, but I knew that the world had indeed truly ended ,as had the doors I had left to knock.There was nowhere else to go. “So what exactly ,are we paying our rates for”? , queried my wife ,as she grimaced and rolled another metaphorical snowball for me to throw.
The lady at the other end of the phone put me through to talk to …..”Trevor”….somewhere….possibly in some small , dusty basement office….. in the depths of the local council. The phone rang …..and rang…..and rang and rang…it could still ringing ,somewhere out there, forever, I’d imagine, like that opening shot in Sergio Leone’s film “Once Upon A Time In America” where the opiated De Niro hears the constant ringing of the telephone…but I set my own receiver down .What I’ve learned is that the police can’t do much about anything …and come to that , neither can the local council.
Thankfully there are other methods beyond our ken and there’s that hanging “mystery -of -faith” too, to consider. Sometime later in the evening , before insanity really took hold, the thunderheads rolled over and the darkening skies opened to an incessant, Hard Rain . It began to flay down and fall in sharp spears…. The visitors finally folded up their bedraggled tents and left , defeated by the inclement elements.
You know I don’t believe in god…I don’t think I ever could…….it’s just not in my make-up……not even one little bit ……..but……those rains were admittedly very, very welcome and perfectly timed….



  1. Perkin Warbeck August 9, 2016 at 6:32 am #

    And as if the rest of your accomplishments were not enough, Protean Pk, you now go and put the tin-hat on things by revealing yourself as a John Prine aficionado.

    The same troubadour about whom Kris Kristofferson once remarked:

    -John Prine writes songs so good we’ll have to break his thumbs.


    Of crafted lyrics J.P. is today’s chief custodian
    And justifies Pk’s being drafted as a Protean
    You can have Ryanair
    Fly me a John Prineair
    And go stick another one on the nickelodeon.

    • paddykool August 9, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

      Ah Mighty Perk …not only are you…alone … the only one in the entire universe to sit down , alone,and waste puissant moments of your precious span, wading through my meandering witterings..and allow me a single response…( Well Jude might have read it too…just in case I’d said something libellous that might put him in chokey)…but you also composed a poem for moi…Wonderment at the pearls that spill from your silvered- tongue will never cease Perk.