Magazine article The Spectator

Fishy's Story

Magazine article The Spectator

Fishy's Story

Article excerpt

At the last church I joined (charismatic), the gulf between words and deeds was the widest, by a mile, of any church I've ever been to. Before everything fell apart, the strain on the vicar of serving as a high priest of God was so great that he lost about five stone in weight. When, towards the end, he unexpectedly shaved off his Old Testament beard, and we saw that he didn't have a chin either, many of us concluded that he was wasting away.

His assistant pastor, Mr Graham Fish, also suffered a breakdown around this time. It was a tribute to the unity of the church leadership, I suppose, that they both went off their heads together.

Although the vicar's was the most spectacular, it was the assistant pastor's breakdown that upset us the most. Previously a gregarious, popular character, assistant pastor Fish became reclusive and, it was said, misanthropic. He resigned his post and the last I heard he'd turned to Art, and was executing enormous seascapes in an old barn out near the coast.

I went to see old Fishy at his barn last week. It was the first time I'd clapped eyes on him for over five years. He was wrapped in an old tartan blanket and dabbing at this huge, mostly grey, canvas. Rainwater dripped through holes in the roof into puddles on the floor. He didn't look up from his easel immediately, but when he did he just looked at me sadly.

I negotiated the puddles and together we inspected the seascape he was working on. It was about three yards square and provisionally entitled `Tuesday in November'. I wanted to encourage him by making an appropriate comment about his picture, but the only thing I could think of was to ask him whether the tide was coming in or going out. `Going out,' he sighed.

The question I was dying to ask my old pastor, though, was whether he still had Jesus in his heart. And, if he had, then was the kangaroo loose in his paddock a punishment from God? Or was he just being lovingly `refined in the fire'? Before I could steer the conversation around to the metaphysical, though, a very old woman hobbled into his studio and asked old Fishy whether he could come and kill a cockerel for her.

She'd always left any killing to her husband, she explained to me, but he'd been in the ground for over ten years. …

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