Magazine article The Spectator

Just the Ticket

Magazine article The Spectator

Just the Ticket

Article excerpt

I've got my ticket. I can't quite believe how I managed it -- I keep studying it under a magnifying glass and holding it up to the light to make sure it's real -- but I've got one. And like a lover who has to introduce the subject of the loved one into every conversation, I tell people who aren't remotely interested in Saturday's FA Cup Final all about it.

It's a kind of revenge. Village life consists mainly of people pinning you up against a dry-stone wall and telling you things that neither concern nor interest you. Have you ever driven through a rural area and remarked how village after village appears to be deserted? Friends, they aren't deserted: we're all hiding from the village bores.

A branch of Alpha, the nationwide evangelical Christian outreach programme, meets at our house once a month. The organisers, a mixture of church ladies and chapel women, are all what they would call 'on fire for Jesus'. I have no problem with this. I used to fitfully smoulder for him a bit myself, and then I went out. But what irritates is the assumption, if I should encounter any of them in the kitchen, that I'm still alight myself.

Last week I listened patiently to a very nice Christian lady relating a breathless tale about a recent Alpha convert, to whom God had spoken directly. God had told him to go to west Africa, of all places, which he did, and since his arrival he's been doing 'great things', apparently, with 'the orphans'. Frankly, the only thing I've been interested in this week is whether Dean Ashton is going to be fit to play. I've been dwelling on it morning, noon and night. But I listened politely, as I always do.

But I have grown tired, so very tired, lately, of splashing about in the shallows of other people's preoccupations. I've had enough. If you are seen as a good listener, people just don't stop. When I worked as a cleaner in a mental hospital, and word got round that I was a good listener, patients literally queued up in an orderly fashion.

Well, I'm a listener no longer. From now on I'm going to talk instead of listen. And this Alpha woman was going to be the first to find out. I clenched my fists, shook them at her in triumph and said, 'I've got my ticket!' She looked at me. I've got my ticket?

Was this perhaps a new evangelical Christian catchphrase, current among the young people; a modern equivalent, perhaps, of 'Bound for Glory! …

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