It’s so still, out here …Oddly hushed for Eastertime.Not a bird is making a sound and if not for my near-neigbour’s sawing inside his garage there is not another sound to be heard .As Tom Waits would rumble…”What’s he building in there?” .I suppose he’s putting up shelves or somesuch.There’s redemption in the air of a sort though .Young bright, shiny-beaked thrushes are fussing about like herds of miniature dinosaurs poking about and twitching this way and that on the grass. But , still, it’s very, very quiet.None of them are making a sound.
Easter used to be different.Charlton Heston took over the television screen.Films like “the Robe ” . “The Ten Commandments “or “Ben-Hur” would play all weekend .Mind, there weren’t as many choices then, I suppose ; no internet or multi-channelled television.I imagine the fact that we only had a few TV channels made for more cohesion in society.We all shared the same visual stimulus and talked about it among ourselves on the following day.
It wasn’t all rose-tinted , of course.From school , as boys we were obliged to do Friday night “Meetings” at the cathedral , if I remember rightly , and there was the “the Stations of the Cross”, where you had to shuffle from one image to the next and pray ,as Jesus gradually wove his way to his imminent death. We complied with it all and we attended all the church services and confessions, hoping that the confessing of our sins would not leave the listening priest in such shock that he would tear us from the confessional box and lambast us up and down the aisle.You’d never be sure with some of these clergymen.Some of them could be a volatile lot back then.It was better to chant out a little package of general “sins” to him and get yourself off the hook damned quick. The whole weekend went in like that. There was always that stillness too. Like a long rainy Saturday in childhood.
We all really thought that Jesus had been badly done by, of course . We were all up to speed on that one.He was our quiet hero who’d made the ultimate sacrifice to redeem us all ,after all. Those Romans really were a lousy lot allowing that to happen to him, we thought……and then to come alive again so soon after such a bloody awful death . They really were a bloody , brutal lot , these Romans .Who would think of a thing like scourging a fellow until his back was as raw as beef or sticking a crown of thorns on the poor man’s head ? They really took it a bit too far there. You wouldn’t do it to a dog.You’d have to have “a wee want in you” to come up with stuff like that..Well…we couldn’t help but admire Jesus for that….coming back to life after all that nastiness.Nobody else would want to come back and grace that lot again .Not too many could pull off that trick either , so you had to give him his due. It was a great story though. You couldn’t deny it . We all thought so.
Of course we were all glad to get that Easter holiday too. The weather wasn’t always that great either. I remember …I suppose it was maybe 1962 because I’d have been about ten years of age . Myself and my buddy, Eamon had gathered up enough lemonade bottles to subsidise our weekend revels . You could get threepence ..that’s pre-decimal pence …for every lemonade bottle with the old screw down stopper that you returned to the shop and tuppence for every brown glass Domestos bottle . That was a lot of money when one bottle could buy you a packet of crisps or an ice-cream on a stick. We’d spent days scouring the old dump down in the “Factory Yard” and had come up trumps with enough glassware to fund an elaborate Easter picnic . We planned to take our hard-boiled eggs and roll them in the field .We called it Abbey Park , but it was really a big rough field with some trees where we’d set up our rickety tree-hut , near to where we lived . It was more of a tree-platform, I suppose, because we never got around to putting a roof on it. It’s funny to think how much time we spent in those trees.We would sit up in those branches for ages, talking and plotting.
We bought bottles of “Cream Soda” lemonade and McVitties Digestive biscuits and Mikados….. they were our favourites ….in Mrs Kelly’s wee shop and “Mr Perry” Crisps in Mrs Sherry’s shop.The picnic didn’t last too long , of course , because a chill wind whipped across the top of the hill and our hands were blue with the cold.We also quickly felt a little bilious after the crisps mixed with the Cream Soda and we discovered there were limits as to how many biscuits could be scoffed down with a hard-boiled egg and lemonade.
Later as teenagers, at Easter, a lot of us would pool our meagre resources and hire a van and driver and take off to drink cider in the seaside town of Bray and sleep on the benches along the seafront, at night . On Good Friday we’d be southbound early , buying up all the Merrydown and Triple Vintage Cider we could find.We’d get away out of the North to avoid all that stillness I talked about ,and hope to get lucky with some exciting new girls.
Last night there were no Good Friday films on television…none with any kind of a religious theme anyway ,but I came upon another kind of redemptive film, “The Shawshank Redemption”. It’s maybe not the best film ever made, but it is a very satisfying and a particularly good one. It is one that I can watch over and over again, even though I know practically every scene .It’s another kind of redemption alright. A man’s life destroyed and again redeemed and reborn.The lead character is played by Tim Robbins , who falsely gaoled for murder, eventually escapes after many years of harrowing prison life .It’s also a great human fable based on a short story by Stephen King .I had read it many years before the film was eventually made. It works well as a film but you know how it is , the more familiar with a thing , the more you become aware of the flaws.
The hero escaped his awful fate after many years by gradually tunneling his way to freedom through a wall covered by a large pinup poster which , changing through the decades from Rita Hayworth, through Marilyn Monroe to” the lovely” Raquel Welch ,had covered his hidden handiwork and enabled him to break free through the prison’s sewer system .
In that respect the premise is also similar to the “Man in the Iron Mask”….the triumph of sheer persistence over adversity.
As the end- titles rolled , I began thinking about the few cracks in the plot. I found myself thinking, how had he managed to replace the poster so well, over the hole in the wall behind him, after he made his escape behind it into the gloom of the sewer system and why did he not die while wallowing for half a mile after breaking into the stinking, methane-filled sewage pipe which he had to crawl through. I’m not saying it’s not possible but it is a bit unlikely, given how many men die on a regular basis whilst mixing waste- slurry on farms here in Norneverland.
Still , there’s something about redemption,this film and the holiday season that allows us all to forgive these minor faults and enjoy the beauty of a rattling good yarn.
I fed my honeybees today for the the first time in the season. It’s something of a wake- up call for them.Their own redemption too. The sound of their industry has hollowed out a space in all that stillness.
Perfect for Easter , really.