Thirty times, sixty times, one hundred times…
This morning we attended the school’s annual harvest festival. To be honest, I was surprised schools still did harvest festivals. I remember taking part in some when I was a puppy but I thought, with multiculturalism, pluralism, society becoming more multifaith etc, harvest festivals went out with the ark but, would you Adam and Eve it, there they still are. Like Everton in the Premier League. Always there, never exciting, not going anywhere.
I guess it’s a reminder of the fact that this is still a Christian country and the Church of England still has some sway.
Harvest festivals that is, not Everton being in the Premier League, but I digress.
The children all walked into the hall and took their places on the stage. I was going to tweet the whole thing but it didn’t seem right tweeting in church. I sent out a tweet saying so.
We were going to be treated to some form of display involving children wearing crowns with vegetables on the front and singing. Lots of singing.
The vicar, a camp sounding fellow who made me wonder if he was a friend of Mary’s, told us what was going on. A festival. For harvest. Ish. Basically harvest festival is like a big up to God for giving us the Tesco Express down the road. He didn’t say that. I thunked it. The vicar said we could take photos but not to be daft and stand up, or obscure others views, which was a bugger as I’d borrowed a ladder and lenses from Dazza the paparazzi for some close-ups. Now I just looked like a bloke on a ladder, which was awkward. He also asked us not to post pictures on Facebook, which is fair enough as he was ugly.
The piano plonky plinked into life and the children started singing.
I’m a sap with the best of them, I cry at The Waltons and always go awww when I see a cute kitten. Look…
…but something about 5 and 6 year olds singing puts my spine on edge. It’s not actually a very nice sound is it? Quite literally the sound only a mother (or father) could love. I can make out a tune but the words aren’t all there and there’s not so much a smile on my face as a grimace. I’m usually singing something else inside my own head. Probably Fancy by Iggy.
Singing. Singing. More singing. Why is it that teachers always insist on their classes singing in rounds? One side starting off and then a few seconds later the other side starting off. It’s like a norked up stereo. Why is this musical motif only ever brought out at school assemblies or harvest festivals? You never hear it in anything else? Lennon and McCartney never used the round on Sergeant Peppers? The Stone Roses didn’t use it on I Am The Resurrection, which is, incidentally a song sadly omitted from Easter assemblies and someone really should take a look into this but again, I digress.
My girlfriend’s daughter was taking part. Yesterday she was going to be a pea but the strain of the role got too much for little Sydney and she passed it onto someone else, which was good as we couldn’t find any green clothing for her to wear while she was a pea. Or as my girlfriend innocently put it to the teacher and the teaching assistant yesterday she “couldn’t find any clothes to represent her pea-ness.”
Once she realised what she’d said, she went a rather fetching shade of red. I’ve never seen her blush so much. I’ve never seen ANYONE blush so much.
There was a section in the harvest festival where the children reminded us of the fact that we should feel fortunate to have the food we have. This is true. It’s unsettling how in this country we still have so many people in poverty. I remember taking stuff to harvest festival when I was a boy and my gran used to give me a carrier bag from M&S full of items to donate. Now I guess the food goes to food banks, and I wondered how many kids in the hall would be fed from one. How many parents use food banks. How many would ever tell anyone they do.
The vicar then asked us to be thankful and give praise to a bountiful God. God might be bountiful but the money that hath bespendeth on his fruits must be plentiful. I can’t do the praying stuff. I won’t do the praying stuff. Try explaining an African famine to a 6-year-old after a religious harvest festival.
A little boy wandered into our aisle. He took his dummy out and asked where his nan was. She was behind us.
He then decided he was too hot and wanted to take his clothes off.
There’s always one I thought. Thank God it wasn’t me this time.
I thought on. I guess being in a church allows for reflection and thought after all, so I was in the right place, even though the children were making a right old racket with that terrible singing. I thought about my own upbringing and faith, and how that slipped away when I questioned more as I grew up, dissonant was the message of harvest festival and news items like famines in Ethiopia, how God was wise and good and yet children died, children who had done nothing wrong to anyone, how none of this added up. It simply didn’t make sense. I thought about other religions and what I knew of those. I thought about intolerance and hatred and war, stemming from religious differences or ingrained thought and contra to a message of love and peace and harmony. I thought about…
I paused for a moment. A cold sweat came over me.
That tweet I sent earlier.
From a pew.
In a church.
In God’s house.
Well, one of them anyhow.
I thought “I’m going to hell aren’t I?”
Thanks for reading.
PS: I wasn’t really on a ladder, I thought the image might tickle you.
PPS: Yes. She really said ‘pea-ness’
PPSS: That’s Harry the cat, who will be joining us with his mummy in a couple of weeks. Altogether now… Awwwwwwwww!