I read in the paper today that the Archbishop of Yorkâ€™s press officer is himself being ordained as a priest. He has taken this step because, apparently, he â€œwants to be more like Jesus Christâ€. If we accept his belief system for a moment, what he is saying is that he wants to be more like God. Such overweening ambition is usually a worrying sign, and almost always delusional, and people who say things like that are likely to get locked up, or at least be given an Asbo. When his careers officer asked the teenage future press person what he wanted to be, did he answer â€œGod!”, with a demented gleam in his eyes? His name, by the way, is Arun Arora, rather than Caligula, but you know the type.
Some may say thereâ€™s nothing wrong with setting your sights high, but if youâ€™re going to become a god, Jesus Christ seems a poor choice. If it were me, Iâ€™d go for one of the more belligerent Aztec or Ancient Egyptian gods, or perhaps something epic and Nordic, like Odin, although I suppose the heavy metal associations would become something of an embarrassment. In the end, I think Iâ€™d plump for the hideous bat-god Fatso. There would be none of that nonsense with loaves and fishes, or getting crucified, but lots and lots of cakes and pastries.
All of which is an excuse to republish another item from the Archive, a piece entitled Cake And Pastry Person. It originally appeared in July 2006.
Many, many years ago, so long ago that you were probably not yet born, there was a cake and pastry person who drove a van around Pang Hill and Blister Lane, tooting a horn in the summer afternoons, for it seemed the sun was always shining in those far away days. Those were times when children still bought cakes and pastries from a van, a big pantechnicon painted yellow and red and pink and mauve and black.
It was also, of course, the time when people worshipped the hideous bat-god Fatso, and walked the earth in fear of his flapping wings and his shrill squeaking that churned up the innards and pierced the soul. Where, in other lands, the roads would be lined by milestones telling the distance to an important town or port, here there were hundreds and hundreds of huge stone carvings of Fatso, the visible reminder of his terrible, and terribly haphazard, power. Children were protected from the worst of his wrath, for Fatso the bat-god did not fully reveal himself until a person reached adulthood. For tinies, the stone statues were simply part of the landscape, like trees or kiosks or pneumatic power towers.
Although the bat-god is forgotten today, everyone remembers the resin hoops that were the favourite plaything of young and old alike. I am sure you know the words to the old song. “We skip and frolic and loop the loops / Along Pang Hill with our resin hoops / We skip and frolic on
These were the roads up and down which the cake and pastry person’s van would trundle, slowing to a halt whenever a little crowd of tinies gathered, each child clutching a cake and pastry token. In an excited gaggle, the children would exchange their tokens for cakes and pastries, and the cake and pastry person would collect the tokens in his token tin, which rattled when he shook it, and shake it he did, to hear that pleasing rattle. He beamed at the children as he handed out his cakes and pastries and took their tokens and rattled his token tin, but an acute observer might see that the beam was a false, rictus grin, for the cake and pastry person was plunged in melancholy. He remembered the innocent times when he, too, had been able to eat cakes and pastries without a care. Now, like every adult in the land, his days were consumed by a desperate need to placate Fatso the hideous bat-god. It seemed that Fatso needed more and more tokens every day, and the cake and pastry person was seldom satisfied until his tin was so crammed with tokens that it no longer rattled. Only then could he cease driving his pantechnicon round and round the roads, and park by the perimeter fence of the swan sanctuary, and take his tin, on foot, along the lane to Fatso’s cave, and wait, with all the other supplicants, for night to fall and for the bat-god’s lieutenants to shimmer into view. When at last his turn came, he would empty the tin into the outstretched paws of a greedy and grasping lieutenant, and plead for benediction, but benediction rarely came. Tomorrow, a bigger tin, more tokens. Thus was he commanded, in the horrible high-pitched squeals of Fatso’s inhuman myrmidons. One by one, then, they would flit away with their booty into the deepest, darkest recesses of the cave, and the cake and pastry person and all the other hunched and sorry believers would traipse away, back to their huts and shacks and cabins, and try to snatch a few brief hours of sleep before dawn broke and they faced a new day with redoubled effort. As they slept, the resin hoops rotted on the statues of their bat-god, poisonous weeds crept and curled along the ground, and in the nurseries, under cover of the night, tiny children giggled with delight, happy that they had bolstered Fatso’s power for another day, sure in the knowledge that tomorrow would bring more looping the loop with their resin hoops, more sunshine, and more cakes and pastries from the cake and pastry person’s yellow and red and pink and mauve and black cake and pastry van.