Sunday, February 28, 1982

Jack and Jill

We were up early for Janet's baby's christening. Andrew's friend Jim from Whincliffe was downstairs, having given Andrew a lift back after their night out and it was funny to see his manic stare, glassy eyes and stupid grin: the meeting of two worlds. He just didn't seem to fit.

I got dressed up in jacket, smart trousers, black shirt, purple tie. Andrew was aghast at his suit’s baggy flares and large lapels and protested despairingly, half-seriously wishing he’d never come up. The whole concept of ‘dressing up’ is stupid. Why can’t people wear the things they’d normally put on without being artificially ‘packaged’ into stereotyped suits and ties? It’s just putting up a front. Pointless. “I hate the whole family thing," Andrew said. “Uncle Kenneth will be there, all red-faced and jovial. . . .” I knew just what he meant.

It was sunny as we drove up to Hillworth Methodist Chapel and when we got there we had hanging about to do. Me and Andrew were in a good mood, joking and laughing as the relatives drifted in, old ladies, young married couples. . . . It began to spit with rain.

The service began at 10.30 and we sat at the front. There were about a hundred people there altogether. We had to sit through empty meaningless rhetoric, hymns, and prayers, and I wondered about it all, about how remote it all seems from everyday life. Michael John Carter is now 8½ months old and he was christened, his parents promising to bring him up in a Christian home living a Christian way of life. But really, the emphasis was very much on ‘let him choose’.

Afterwards everyone stood around talking, old ladies casting glances at me and Andrew from a distance (“grand young lads” etc.) Mum and Dad portrayed me as an atheist who's really into politics. Uncle Kenneth said that being a committed atheist is as presumptive as being a ‘believer’. True.

Then we had a ‘reception’ at the Jack and Jill club nearby, a trestle table laden with food, a quiet pub atmosphere, handfuls of people scattered round the perimeter of a large sparsely furnished room. I had three pints of cider and Mum again told people I was a “communist,” and I got into a long discussion about politics with an oldish man. Andrew got talking about his student demo next week, and how pathetic he finds the apathy over grant cut protests, etc. We talked about my grant. I wonder how we seemed . . . ?

After we got back, Andrew was given a lift down to Easterby and Mum and Dad drove round to Janet’s for the evening, leaving me to listen to Athletic beat Ingleborough 3-1 away on the radio, doodle, sleep on the floor, and to gaze at old photos.

My favourite is a sad distant scene, me just 2 weeks old, waving a small fist, Mum looking young, the sun shining down on her and a friend, the long ago sunlit grass, gone forever. The friend looks sad almost as she gazes down at my infant protest, and Mum has half a smile, the sun on her back. There's a little girl nearby, her hair blowing in the wind. She’ll be in her twenties now.

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