I rarely go to church and when I do, it's fairly reluctantly, but when I was a child growing up in Southampton, my mum dragged me along most Sundays. Occasionally, if she asks, I still keep her company at her local church, near to where I live. These days I drag my own children along but it still makes me feel a bit like a kid too. Like last Sunday.
It was a big day for the church. The Archbishop of Canterbury was coming to lead the service. He's a big cheese. Not like 'Britain's Favourite Cheese' Cathedral City. I mean, he's a big wig. And a big hat, to be fair. He's a big noise. A big whisper would be more appropriate in church but it doesn't matter, you know what I mean. If the Archbishop is coming to the local church, it's a big deal. Mum said the vicar hoped it would be full for the occasion and that she'd like it if the family joined her. Fair enough.
By the time we arrived the church was pretty packed. It's not a big church. I hoped to slip in at the back, low key. No such luck. Mum was up on her feet waving. "Yoo hoo!" She'd saved the only seats left - right at the front. Then the vicar, a friendly outgoing man saw us too. "Follow me!" he said cheerfully and then, rather too loudly, "this way please!" and then led me, my wife and the two boys down the centre aisle, right to the front. My teenage daughters had chosen not to join us. They were at home, unusually keen to revise for their GCSEs. Their embarrassment levels would have hit meltdown.
So now all eyes were on us as we were led to our seats by the vicar himself, fully gowned up for the occasion. Like a holy, cross-dressing usherette. I could almost hear the regulars tutting to themselves. "What are they doing here? Is it Christmas again already?" It looked like we'd requested front seats. We hadn't. They were empty because no one else wanted to sit there. Nobody wanted to appear that keen. No-one else wanted to sit so close that they'd be able to see right up the Archbishop's nostrils. Anyway there was nothing I could do about it now. So we sat down and soon enough the service commenced. And there he was. The Archbishop himself, holding his crook, wearing his gown and his pointy hat, just as you'd expect and sure enough, I could see right up his nostrils.
He's a good speaker. But I suppose he should be. He's the principal leader of the Church of England; a line going back more than 1400 years, responsible for leading the third largest group of Christians in the world. He does a lot of speaking. And despite regularly rubbing shoulders with prime ministers and royalty, he still manages to appear relaxed, informal and inclusive. I suppose after all he is just a man, standing in front of a congregation, asking them to love Him.
As you might guess, he wasn't engaging enough for my eight-year-old son. Within minutes, he was on the floor drawing pictures of Club Penguin Puffles - (my son that is, not the Archbishop). Then he started drawing pictures of me, with wild hair and only one or two teeth (it was nice to have hair). By the end, he'd drawn pictures of all the family with wild hair and one or two teeth and a similar one of the Archbishop - who also had what appeared to be horns coming from the top of his head. Interesting.
There was tea and cake afterwards in the church hall and The Archbishop was there, mingling and chatting. Feeling childish heightened the sense of mischief I always get around dignitaries, people in authority and occasionally celebrities. It's not something I'm proud of.
It reminded me when me and my comedy partner Simon Hickson were students in Manchester. We saw Morrissey at the train station. We were jostling for Standard Class seats. Morrissey was heading for First Class. At that time, The Smiths were huge and being lefty students, living in Manchester, we duly worshipped them. Meat is Murder was the big album of the moment and both of us loved it. We knew all the lyrics and everything.
The same sense of mischief overwhelmed me then. And Simon too. As fans you'd think we might have run after him and asked for his autograph or told him how much we appreciated his words and music. But we didn't. Instead we started mooing like cows. Very loudly, following poor Mozza down the platform. Mooing. Like the doomed, brown-eyed creatures he sang about in his vegetarian protest song, Meat is Murder. Moo! Moo!
Why did we do that? Maybe we expected him to be more like a man of the people and sit in Standard Class - so idiots like us could moo at him, all the way from Manchester to London. Sorry Morrissey. I really am a big fan but that I day I chose to show it by mooing at you.
I didn't moo at the Archbishop. He's never released any great records. My wife might have decided to boo him in protest at the Church of England's institutional sexism. But she didn't. On that score, if we had chosen to hold him personally responsible for all the wrong doings of the Church throughout history we could have booed him all day. But we didn't.
Instead I encouraged my son to give him the 'special' drawing he had done. Which he did without hesitation. The Archbishop took the drawing and looked at it - the wild, crazy hair, the lack of teeth, the wonky eyes and the horns on the top of his head. The poor bloke. What was he supposed to say? It was clearly an unflattering drawing even by the limited artistic skills of an eight-year-old and this put him in a slightly awkward position. So he smiled generously. "That's a bit scary" he said and handed it straight back. I left the hall giggling to myself like a naughty kid.
What was the point? None. Why did that amuse me? No idea. Surely this was the most pathetic, half arsed, deluded, non-attempt at undermining authority and challenging the establishment in the history of the world ever. And I encouraged an eight-year-old to do it for me. So cowardly too. Truly pathetic. I beg forgiveness. Pray for me.
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