As a child the whole topic of conversation at this time of the year would be about Lent and what we were prepared to sacrifice. It was generally things like giving up sweets or suffering sugarless tea or stopping the biting of the finger nails – we didn’t have much, so there wasn’t much to ‘give up’.
At some point in my young life, it was suggested that instead of ‘giving up’ we should ‘do something extra’. Now I have to say that many of the following suggestions came from my mother…… wash/dry the dishes without complaining that it ‘wasn’t my turn’, be more obedient, go to the ‘Handy Store’ or ‘The Co-op’ without the ‘long face’, go to Mass every morning – which was a truly positive thing to do – but was not something I would readily volunteer for since I lived a good stretch of the legs away from the church. My mother, however, was very positive about the latter and so we (those of us who had dragged ourselves out of bed at some unearthly hour) would find ourselves trotting after my mother on the long and winding road through the Clyde Alloy Steelworks, over a couple of single track railway lines and under ‘The Cuckoo Bridge’ on the trek from Muirhouse to Craigneuk – without breakfast …….. or even a drink. We then did the journey in reverse, grabbed some breakfast and our schoolbags and if we still attended primary school set out once again on the self same safari. I liked it when I was allowed to stay for a school dinner but that didn’t always happen…..
My P.7 teacher always praised a boy called Patrick Boyle who managed to get to Mass every single day during Lent, unlike me for I wasn’t always ‘obedient’ when told to, ‘Get up!’ I would quietly mutter to God that it wasn’t fair as Patrick lived practically next door to the Church. Patrick was going straight to heaven, according to Miss Docherty. Patrick went to heaven much too soon, for he was killed in a road accident shortly afterwards. Now, God, that wasn’t fair – for he was coming from the library where our teacher had been urging us to go and discover the magical world of books. No counselling available then but I still have an image of the teacher’s stricken face.
So, what are my intentions this year? Am I ‘giving up’ or ‘adding on’ or both?
Well after much soul searching I have decided to give up hoovering, (it will ‘pain me’ to watch The Good Fairy in action!), my other two cars, jogging, my house on St. Lucia and snorkelling. More positively, I am hoping to eat more Peanut Butter M&M’s, ‘go to town’ more often, take my ’empties’ to the bottle bank more frequently(!) and open the door more promptly when the Good Fairy calls with my gourmet meals. I think this is enough pain and suffering for anybody’s Lent.
St Peter was at the Pearly Gates checking in the new arrivals. ‘Who’s next?’ he asked. ‘It is I,’ came the authoritative reply. ‘Dear God,’ he sighed, ‘not another bloody teacher!’