I had to make an emergency dash to my grandfather’s house on Monday to rescue the old hunting horn that hung over the stairs from the hands of the house clearance people – not that my grandfather ever hunted or particularly blew the horn except on Christmas morning to annoy my Nan (which is another story for another time). The horn always reminds me of my granddad and always makes me smile. There was no way it was going to be consigned to the black hole of the auctioneer’s warehouse.
The house clearance people had been primed of my imminent arrival and had set the horn aside for me. I imagined that going into the partly eviscerated house would be painful and shocking. And in a way it was. The banging about upstairs by strangers. The boxes being carted outside to the van. The furniture moved and strewn around the sitting room ready for removal. But they had put my granddad’s old radio on and the noise – any noise at all in fact in a house that has been horribly quiet for 6 months – was comforting. And somehow right. It made me feel better about someone new moving in.
But this isn’t why I am writing. The visit was still emotional. Still upsetting. Another acknowledgment in a whole line of unwanted acknowledgements that the time is nearing (is already here in fact at the time of writing) when I will no longer have access to this much loved house. So I was rather mournful as I meandered home again. But having time to myself was what I needed. A bit of head space. A bit of heart space.
As I neared home all I wanted to do was get inside, shut the door and have a quiet moment or two.
However, when I reached the house my way was barred. Wayne, our friendly neighbourhood window cleaner had his ladder propped up over the front door and was cleaning the window above. I briefly thought about walking around the block until he was done – I really didn’t want to talk to anyone – but in the end I decided that I was just being silly. A quick nod and a hello and I’d be in. I could even pay him on the spot and save him having to call round and disturb my evening meal later. So I approached the house.
As I did so Wayne spotted the horn and, quite naturally I guess, asked if I did much hunting. I explained the situation and by way of explaining revealed that my grandfather had died 6 months ago – the last of my grandparents.
Did I believe in God, Wayne asked.
Hmm. I should have picked up on the warning signs here but instead answered truthfully – I was no longer sure.
Over the next 20 minutes, ignoring my obvious distress and desire to get away (how loudly do I have to jangle my front door keys for God’s sake?) Wayne, our window cleaner, did his best to proselytize me into his own personal religio-political worldview.
Did I know that the laws of the West are based on Canonical Law? The Ten Commandments? Did I know that the West was falling? Falling not to Islamic Fundamentalism but to... (and here’s one from the back of the closet) communism? It has been creeping in for decades. The powers that be know about it but are lying to us about it. Because they are not really in control. The true leaders are hidden and secret.
Alarm bells were really ringing now but I could not escape. Even though mentally I was swearing at this man to shut the eff up and go away all I could manage were monosyllabic replies and grunts, still in emotional shock I suppose, desperately trying to inch my way to the front door that was held prisoner beneath his ladder.
And then came the biggy. The national deficit. The global financial collapse. He explained that all this had come about because originally the idea of loaning money at a set and reasonable rate of interest had been laid down in the Old Testament – but all this was now being ignored. The interest rates were now designed to take more and more money from people, designed so that nobody would ever be able to pay it all back again. It was designed to keep us all servile and malleable. And the bankers... the bankers... they were all... Satanists. He looked me in the eye as he said this and nodded sagely. Yep, he said. Satanists. He genuinely believed that.
Great, I thought. A religious nut is coming to my house every month to clean my freaking windows. And he had seemed such a nice guy before all of this.
In the end I made some jokey closing comment that grated upon my own tongue and lunged for the front door. I got the key into the lock and turned it. Phew! I had made it. Wayne, however, was unrepentant (well, he has no need to be I guess) and was still going on and on... I’d be OK, he said. I’d be fine because I was on the right path. The path my grandparents had laid down for me... Blah blah blah.
I shut the door and fumed.
How dare he? He doesn’t know anything about me and certainly knows nothing at all about my grandparents. Both were Christian but neither forced any kind of religion down my or my sisters' throats. Their religion was a very personal thing – as indeed all religion should be.
The whole encounter left a bad taste in my mouth and I am still angry about it. Outraged in fact. Did Wayne really think he was spreading “the good word”, “the good news”? What an awful ragbag of pub lounge paranoia and twisted up personal bigotries. I’d arrived home feeling vulnerable and had been trampled on by someone who’s only interest was to try and recruit me into an ugly, ignorant doctrine of their own making and score some kind of self esteem point.
Far from helping me find my religion again it made me want to turn my back on all of them and keep walking.
What a git.
If eyes are the windows to the soul, I want Wayne nowhere near mine.