Painting in Burford Church Hall.
And he came to himself… The father could only wait and pray until that moment.
Artist- Charlie Mackesy
American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis, comfort eating, Fatted Calf, fulmar oil, gannets, Gap year, Generation Wuss, Golden Calf, gugas, i-pads, manger, minas pims bekahs, overdraft, party animal, Prodigal Son, puffin, separation anxiety, silk purse, sow's ear, St Kilda, swineherd, The Bank Of Dad, trust fund kid, Vanity Fair, workers in the vineyard
‘Generation Wuss? What’s all that about? Brassie asked me as she tried
to decipher what I was studying in a newspaper borrowed from the rack
in Costamuchamoulah cafe’s complimentary reading material.
Oh, it’s just that American Psycho guy- you know, the writer Bret Easton
Ellis, sounding off in ‘Vanity Fair’ about those born post-1989. He calls them
self-obsessed, narcissistic, over-sensitive…
That’s a bit harsh, surely?
Well, he does admit that he has expressed ‘huge generalities’ but he
thinks many are unable to accept constructive criticism and buy into a
currency of popularity, dealing mainly in brands, profiles and merely
rating social media presence.
Kids have always been slammed by previous generations, Brassie
remarked. There has always been a divide between shiftless
layabouts and those with a developed work ethic.
Like the Prodigal Son, I declared. But The Elder Brother wasn’t
congratulated on his mean attitude. The workers in the vineyard
who turned up late, but did some work, were given the same
wages. And the people of St Kilda received the same ration of gugas
and gannets, whatever they did.
However, I expect that if they had overslept on their straw mattresses
and plugged themselves into their i-pads, or whatever, when there was
a gannet gathering expedition taking place, their mums would soon have
emptied a cruse of fulmar oil over their heads, or slapped them with a
I have been known to precipitate action myself, but I only use water,
If the Prodigal Son’s father hadn’t agreed to giving him his inheritance
so soon, perhaps his wastrel son wouldn’t have expended it all on
riotous living. Maybe his father wanted him to make his own choices.
Yes, said Brassie, it’s always dangerous to let people make their own
mistakes and it does impinge on other people. It’s hard to strike the
A typical dilemma of Biblical proportions, I agreed. What do you think
of this topical poem I scribbled at five thirty this morning?
Let’s have a look, she sighed.
KILLED BY KINDNESS
The Fatted Calf speaks:
No, the Golden Calf was a relation,
but nobody bows down, or worships me.
I’ve been a long time in the fattening,
unlike those who claim, I don’t eat that much,
but who keep piling on pound after pound-
or should I say minas, pims and bekahs?
I’ve been stuffed to the gunnels and force-fed
over a fairly lengthy period:
I’d say since about the time the boy left.
Every day his father filled my manger;
he’d talk to me while tears streamed down his cheeks.
The elder son, the one who was jealous,
thought he’d sink his teeth into me one day-
maybe as the main course at his wedding,
but none of the girls like his attitude.
He still has a mother to care for him,
though she keeps comfort eating all day long.
But my mater was sold off long ago
and my younger brother was sacrificed.
I’ve felt separation anxiety!
Apparently, he was living it up
on some all-expenses paid gap year.
Now his mamma regrets ever nagging:
Tidy your room. It looks like a pig sty!
The gossip is he’s had to take a job:
Trust Fund Kid is working as a swineherd.
The Bank of Dad is into overdraft.
He’s discovered he can’t make a silk purse
out of a sow’s ear. Enough is a trough.
He’s never going to bring home the bacon.
But at least his porcine companions
don’t wallow like humans in self-pity.
In our own ways, we’re confined to our stalls-
unless he swallows his pride and comes home.
Meanwhile I’m feeling about to explode.
The elder son is imprisoned too.
His father confines himself to the farm,
not going out in case his son should call.
You could say I’m being killed by kindness
and maybe the boy feels that he was too.
Lord knows, he was a party animal,
but we could all do with cheering up now.
Argos Catalogue, Bethlehem well, boa constrictor, Consuelo, Hot Cross Buns, King David, Little Prince, Living Water, Midnight Mass, nard, Oliver Sacks, Parable of Vineyard, Prodigal Son, rag doll, Saint-Exupery, Samaritan woman, Wells for Africa
No, on a strict diet until Lent is over, Brassie said firmly, rejecting the proffered
Mocha. I’ll just have a Suttonford Spring Water. I’m parched actually. All
that weeding at the weekend. I was pruning some jagged rose bushes.
You sound like the aviator in The Little Prince, I commented. Do you
remember when he said: This sweetness was born of the walk under the
stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the
heart, like a present?
Not specially, Brassie said. What was that about a pulley?
Well, he had been asked to draw water from a well in the Sahara Desert
for the Little Prince, just as the Samarian woman was asked to give
Jesus something to quench His thirst.
Oh, yeah. And then He said he could give her water…
..and she’d never thirst again, I supplied.
That was beautiful, Brassie agreed. I remember reading
Saint-Exupery to the twins when they were little. I like the point
about the effort one puts into the gift. It refreshes parts that
other drinks don’t reach.
I think that refers to beer, I countered.
So much for self-denial. She bit into a Hot Cross bun.
It’s good when you eat food appropriate to the season, I stated.
I hate to see Hot Cross buns on shelves at the wrong time of year.
St Exupery even covered the importance of ritual..
Oh, like the regulation of the lectionary? Brassie mused aloud.
Mm, she agreed, nodding with her mouth full. I think Exupery
said something about half the pleasure of gifts is that they should be
given in a meaningful context.
Yes, he wrote that Christmas presents, for example, received after
Midnight Mass, in the bosom of a loving, smiling family were so much
Not like throwing an Argos catalogue at your carping kids out of
guilt, Brassie expanded.
I seem to recall that he gave an example of a merchant who could sell you a
thirst-quenching pill which would save you fifty three minutes a week. The
Little Prince said that he would rather spend those minutes in drinking cool,
All this brings to mind a story that we had at Sunday School when we were
little, Brassie enthused. It was about King David craving a drink of water
from a particular well in Bethlehem. Some of his brave, or reckless
henchmen risked their lives and stormed through the enemy to bring him
I remember that! I interrupted. Didn’t he pour it out on the ground as an
Yeah. He felt it was too valuable to pour down his throat, given what
they’d risked. He returned the element to its source.
But Jesus allowed the woman to pour out the expensive nard perfume all over
His feet, remarked Brassie. He accepted the gift. It seemed excessive, a
waste to some, but he was okay with it.
That’s because He knew His own worth, I commented. Also, the grudging
disciple was more intent on syphoning its value off for the purse he carried,
allegedly on all the disciples’ behalf.
Brassie mulled this over. I might have been annoyed if someone had
poured out my gift after I’d put all that effort into getting it in the first place.
Hmm. But The Little Prince said that it all depends on how you look at
things. Grown-ups couldn’t see that Saint-Exupery’s childish drawing of the
side elevation of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant was not a brimmed
There’s a book about a man who mistook his wife for a hat, she interjected.
Brassie wanders off the point sometimes.
Oh, have you got it? I asked. I would like to borrow it from you. I seem to
recognise the phenomenon. But, no, I drew her back on track. Some people
don’t understand why the workers in the parable who joined the day’s labour
in the vineyard after the work had been largely done in the heat of the sun,
should receive the same wage as those who turned up late.
Yes, that’s never made sense to me, she said emphatically.
Well, no one is worthy. It’s like the Elder Brother syndrome. He felt
overlooked when the Prodigal returned and received a warm welcome.
The Father rightly reminded him that he had had the benefit of his
company, riches and household, all the time the younger brother had
been sharing pig swill.
Someone said that gifts that cost you nothing are not worth giving.
Correct, I replied. That’s why I give all those unwanted Christmas prezzies
to Help the Ancient. But I also have to give meaningfully too and that is more
of a challenge.
You gave me a nice present for my birthday, soothed Brassie. Wasn’t it a
Wells for Africa donation certificate?
It might have been, I answered. I can’t remember.
You didn’t waste your money, she carried on.
No. Exupery said that the time children waste on loving their rag doll is never
– well, wasted. One of the characters says the responsibility the children took
showed that they were lucky.
I hope you don’t see me as some kind of rag doll. I know I didn’t change out of my
gardening trousers today.. Oh, I remember now, Brassie became agitated.
There was something about looking after your rose and watering it and not minding
if you only had one to look after, even if it had thorns.
I think Exupery’s wife, Consuelo, was rather thorny, I explained. I don’t think
she offered him much consolation, in spite of her name. And yet he said thorns
weren’t grown for spite. He suggested that roses were vulnerable, but beautiful.
His rose was so vulnerable that a sheep could have eaten it. Flowers need to believe
that they can protect themselves with their terrible weapons, but we shouldn’t listen
to them, he said. We should just admire them.
Was that his sexist view of women, then? Brassie asked.
I think it was more subtle, I pondered. He said people should think of the
affection behind the strategems and the inconsistencies of our loved ones.
In other words, forgive them..?
..as we ourselves are forgiven!
We flowers are complex creatures, as he said.
Thank goodness someone wastes time on us!
Would you like another bottle of water? I asked.
No, thanks. I feel quite refreshed by our talk. I’ll look out
that book for you tonight.
Oliver Sacks, I remember now. Thanks, Brassie.