Noah – My problem with the film (and it’s not the rock-monsters)


, ,

(Probably best read after seeing the film, due to spoilerishness)

I’m later than many, but finally got on board this new Noah film, in which Russell Crowe plays a crow-rustler (and rustler of every other animal). Overall I thought it was a bit wet with a strong narrative ark.

Much has been made of the rock-monsters. And while no Bible mentions the word ‘rock-monsters’, fair enough it does in one verse hint at a race of large descendents of angels. So all Darrenarren Aronofsky has done is interpret them as pebble-dashed Transformers.

Weirdly I had far less of a problem with that than with what happens on the ark itself. The biblical Noahic account is just under 100 verses long. Barely enough for a short film. So they had to add stuff. So why did they take stuff away? Genesis 7:6 speaks of Noah taking his sons’ wives on board. So (SPOILERS!) why did Russell Croah only take on one son’s missus? In fact he goes out of his way to make sure his middle son doesn’t take a wife on board. Now I understand that the film I saw needn’t be a word-for-word retelling of the Bible story (my recent publication ‘Genesis: The Bibluffer’s Guide’ certainly doesn’t – have I mentioned that book? I have but you’ve yet to buy a copy? Well it’s here then: It’s an interpretation. But I see no benefit to re-interpreting it so that Noah practically kills off his future daughter-in-law, when all versions till now have had him bringing on-board enough spouses for all his chiddlers. It just causes that giant question-mark at the end of the film: Is the human race going to develop entirely from Hermione Grainger?

Speaking of whom, the whole dramatic crux of the film (although crux is really a New Testament concept) is (MORE SPOILERS!) Russell Crowe being convinced that his job is to ensure no future humanity survives. So he chases after Emma Watson and her newborns. I should have been moved by this. I was utterly devoid of worry though, as we all know he won’t do it. And in today’s day and age, given the international reach of cinema, I find it worrying that the film purveys the attitude that male babies should live while female babies should be instantly killed. There are cultures today that still practise or preach this – it is a centuries-old attitude that is far from being extinct on this planet. How utterly unhelpful to add this to the Noah narrative, when it doesn’t feature at all in the Genesis account. Portray what’s in the book by all means, add extra plotlines, dialogue and characters – even mad old King Tubalcain – by all means. But to fabricating something like this that adds nothing, yet only creates possible harm in the world? Personally I found the ‘female babies to be scrapped’ plotline at best unhelpful and at worst potentially damaging. I never thought I’d be glad that the film was banned in Qatar, UAE and Egypt, but given that these are some of the scarier countries when it comes to gender difference, I found myself glad of it.

On a lighter note, the effects were good. And the whole ‘creation retold by Noah’ was excellent I thought. It showed how evolution and the biblical creation narrative can co-exist, and also how Cain & Abel’s tale can be seen as an allegory for all human violence, rather than just about two rowing siblings.

All in all, a miss, but I’m glad they’ve done it. It’s good to see a bit of Bible on-screen, and it helps visualise it a little. But to those who’ve not read the book of the film: the Noah I’ve glimpsed in those 99 verses is a little less child-killy. And Mrs Ham seems to come out of it a little better…

As for what Ridley Scott and Christian Bale will make of Exodus, we’ll find out this December.


Darren Aronofsky’s vs my Noah

So there’s a new Noah film in cineplexes, directed by Darren Aron, of Sky. Sorry, ‘Darren Aronofsky’. It stars Javert Gladiator as Noah, and features Hermione Billionaire as Noah’s daughter-in-law and Sir Odin Lecter as Noah’s granddad, and DI Beowulf Sexy-Beast as Noah’s ark-enemy.

I’ve not seen it yet, as you can probably tell from the above paragraph, all of which I’ve gleaned from the trailer. All I know is that it’s taken Hollywood by, well, it seems wrong to say ‘storm’, but it’s taken millions, largely thanks to its star names and properly epic nature. The Bible TV series shown on Channel 5 over here last year promised some of this, but its biggest star-draw was that Samuel was played by the head evil Nazi from Raiders of the Last Ark. And its budget, though big, just wasn’t big enough. As ‘Noah’ has shown, if you want to top the box office, you need to throw every last penny at it, making it something you just have to see at the cinema.

‘Noah’ has upset some by taking the odd biblical liberty, but as I see it, good on it. If you took the entire Noah story from Genesis – all 97 verses of it – you’d have a film short. By even casting Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone, the producers are instantly taking a slant on the original legend, by saying that they’re going to interpret it as some kind of action thriller. I’m all for words added, subplots altered… whatever it takes to tell a compelling story. Maybe it’ll even make some people look at what’s in the original.

Certain parts of the world have had major problems with Noah even being depicted at all. We all knew that pictorial depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is a no-go for Muslims, but who knew that Noah’s face is also banned from being put out there? Plus other prophets who crop up in Islam as well as Judeo-Christianity. It means that any poster for Lloyd Webber’s ‘Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ has all this time been problematic for Islam. Chartlon Heston as Moses falls foul of this too (as will Christian Bale in Ridley Scott’s new version out this Christmas). Michelangelo’s David breaks this rule too, as do any depictions of Adam, and of course any facial detailing of Jesus. Whether a school nativity, a stained-glass window or a Christmas card – they all fall foul of this rule. Oddly Monty Python’s Life of Brian, by deliberately not featuring Jesus in it, passes this test while King of Kings doesn’t. I’m curious to know which of those films is banned in Qatar.

I was invited on to Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ programme to give my tuppenceworth about how Hollywood could make an inoffensive Bible blockbuster, and you can hear it here (16mins in): I think it’ll disappear by 12/04/14 though.

Darren Aron of Sky’s version of Noah is just one way you can interpret and retell that story. I’ve tried doing mine recently, which has involved an Ikea parody and one of Noah’s sons speed-dating… and you can get the rest of the story here: 





The Missing Page 10



My new book Genesis is now officially… out. If you’ve bought one, thanks. Please do leave the kindest review you can muster on Amazon, or indeed just tell folks if you liked it. If you haven’t bought one, well don’t worry, you’ve been busy.

A few folks read some advance bits – a crack team of brilliant proof-reading friends. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their time dotting ‘t’s and crossing ‘i’s. No one read all of it, just bits, not to safeguard or anything (we’re not in JK Rowling territory here, and any plot secrets are already out there. Sorry to break it to you folks, but Cain kills Abel, Noah gets a bit rained on, and Abe doesn’t sacrifice his son – SPOILER ALERT), but so as not to bombard anyone with too much proofing to do.

Unfortunately I didn’t send the Foreward to anyone to proof-read (even though it opens the book, part of your brain is saying, “It’s only the Foreward.”) – a mistake, it now seems. Somewhere between me submitting the original manuscript to the publishers and the big book factory clicking print on several thousand copies, a whole page of the Foreward sort of… vanished. Looking back, every draft the publisher had send back to me for checking had it absent. A page had vanished, and I hadn’t even noticed. It’s my fault, and in my defence, the baby’s been waking all hours. But rest assured the rest of the book is thoroughly checked, proofed and accurate (except at the top of page 33 it says ‘Cain’ when it should say ‘Abel’ – oh I might as well start again…).

We all know Forewards just get in the way of the actual book in any case. Perhaps this was the Good Lord’s way of saying, “Paul, you don’t need that bit. You should have asked Me to edit your book.” (NB: Not sure if God would capitalise Himself as ‘Me’ – must ask a proof-reader) So on the upside, the actual book kicks off a little more quickly than it otherwise would have. But alas it means the thankyous are lost, unless I handwrite them in each book (which is what a truly thankful person would do, but unfortunately I can’t find a pen).

So to the proof-readers, I apologise. I’ll make it up to you in the next book, if there is a next book. Know that I did write a big ol’ thankyou, and should anyone want to read it, here it is below. It does of course follow on from the first page of the Foreward, so, you know, if you’ve got a book already, maybe print this bit out and glue it in on page 10. It begins with my explanatory notes on what I was trying to undertake…

I’ve left very little out, and goodness knows I’ve thrown a few bits in. Trust me, Genesis has no reference to Adam & Eve sharing a flat, or God calling a technical support helpline before The Flood. There was never a Sodom & Gomorrah edition of Come Dine With Me, and as far as I’m aware Joseph never appeared on The Apprentice. Throughout I draw on various translations and commentaries, and I’ve even gone back to the ancient Hebrew, who said, ‘Oy gevalt, who you calling ancient, you shmendrik!’

A thousand thankyous to my patient wife and kids during this undertaking, and to my folks and in-laws for extended periods of childcare. As for the proofreaders, their worth they’re wait in gold. So thanks Mark Woodward, Jon Holloway and James & Tabitha Smith. And thanks to Helen & Robin Bateman, whose names I left out of the foreward for my previous book (which is, of course, still available). Thanks too to David Moloney and all on the DLT ark, and Nick Ranceford-Hadley and the tribe of Noel Gay.

…And yes I appreciate the irony that this included a thankyou to two people who I forgot to thank in the first book. So their thankyou for book 1 will now appear in book 3.

So that’s what happened to the missing page 10. As for the other 127 pages, you’ll have to buy one…


New book, review-begging + guest bits & pieces



So my new book ‘Genesis: The Bibluffer’s Guide’ is out this week. It’s my 2nd book, and hopefully not the last, but that just depends on whether people buy it. So if you’d like to help this noble pursuit, then, well, you know… And nice reviews welcome on the Amazon site of course!

(On which, if you’ve read, liked and not reviewed my first book ‘So A Comedian Walks Into A Church’, please consider this a humble begging for one… A quick and nice review would go a long way, thanks!)

And there are further deets, chapter samples etc of the new book here: If you think of anyone who might like it, I’d love it if you’d forward the link to them – or even buy them a copy! Simply put, if it sells enough, the publisher will seek future books, and if it doesn’t, I’ll go and work down a coalmine, and there aren’t many of those left.

Slightly accidentally as a result of all this Christianity/comedy crossover, I’ve been invited to contribute to a number of things in the Godosphere, so should you require more religious programming featuring yours truly, you’ll find me on the following in the next week:

– Co-hosting BBC Surrey’s Sunday morning radio show, this Sunday, 6am-9am –

– On Radio 2 from next Friday 28th March with a Pause For Thought, at about 1:30am (repeated 3:30am, or on iPlayer!), and for the next eight Fridays.

– A contribution to the project, appearing one day in your inbox this Lent if you sign up (different daily articles/challenges on generosity)

– An audio interview on the Methodist Podcast –

– A written interview with Christian Aid magazine –

That’ll do for now. Looking a bit too omnipresent, and that’s Someone Else’s job.

An atypical week


, , , , ,

I’m sometimes asked what’s a typical week for me. There is no such thing. Last week for example, an atypical week…



A charity gig for The Gravel Road Trust. It’s a small and noble cause that does great things, helping people through the toughest times. It’s the brainchild of Nick Battle, recording industry supremo and thoroughly nice chap, so he compered and sang some songs, including a beautiful country-style song: ‘She’s A Better Man Than Me’. Also on hand: Kipper, who records with Sting, and David Grant, from off of Fame Academy and CBeebies’ Popbox. I was the only comedian. So I chose, instead, to sing a song. Cos I like a challenge.


To Leicester, for BBC1’s The Big Questions. It’s Question Time for a Sunday morning religious programming slot. It’s Nicky Campbell with aggressive questioning for nuns. It’s quite a melting-pot: so our show, as well as tackling humour about religion, also threw together some Catholic journalists with some believing there was more to be exposed from the abuse scandal, plus some fervent anti-hunting campaigners were put head-to-head with the man who runs The Hunting Channel. He was incredibly rah, and I think most people fancied letting him loose on a game reserve, while the rest of us stalked him with a spudgun. It was fun. I wasn’t going to do any jokes on it, but comic Jeff Mirza was on and told a few. So I couldn’t be the only comedian not to tell jokes… It probably came across like laughter-hungry comedians, but then that’s us.

I sought a church that evening for a Sunday service, and by chance was flyered on the way on… with a picture of my own face. Turns out I’m doing a gig there in a month’s time. Didn’t even realise. They thought I was a month early. I was confused, they were confused.



Leicester Comedy Festival sits first in the Comedy Festival calendar. Resultantly, whether they know it or not, they generally get comedians’ first attempts at knocking a show together. The shows then develop and go on to other festivals, culminating in Edinburgh in August, before maybe a tour for the lucky few. My show this year was different: I had no plans for it after Leicester. That meant this hour of work-in-progress was in fact work-that-had-entirely-progressed. That said, I’ll put it in the back pocket for a future year. The show went nicely so my Leicester 2014 show may yet live on.



I’m doing a charity gig in the summer for Gatwick Detainees’ Welfare Group: an organisation who visit detainees being held in what’s basically a prison on a parking lot backing onto Gatwick runway. It’s for, in theory, illegal immigrants, which sounds great in the papers, but in reality is anyone ranging from asylum seekers running away from war and torture, to those applying for Visas but whose time ran out before the paperwork could get filed. This was the case for the guy I visited, a beaming twentysomething Nepalese student called Bishal. Charming yet bewildered fellow, he was. He’s behind bars because he paid the wrong lawyer to file his Visa application, and the lawyer ran off with his money instead of filing the paperwork. The Home Office don’t allow leeway though, so the poor lad’s unable to study until the legal process has gone through, which could take… Well, the only difference between real prison and this detention centre is that actual prisoners know roughly how long they’re in for. Some of these detainees at Gatwick have been there for years. Still, looks good in the rightwing papers, doesn’t it Cameron? Spare a thought for them.



Not Going Out returns for its last series, so we’re busy writing and rewriting it over the next few months. This was a day doing just that. My role is relatively little: the script’s written up by the time I get it, just ready for some gags and alternate lines to be thrown at it.



I’m working on a radio sitcom pitch, a TV sitcom pitch, a third book, a fourth book and a fifth book. This was a day spent writing on all five of those, which is why all five are progressing incredibly slowly. Especially since you can add ‘Words With Friends’ to this mix too.



Some days I wake up and I’m a writer. Other days I wake up and I’m a comedian. Today? Both. Proofreading my forthcoming second book by day (a collection of lighthearted retellings of the book of Genesis, available for preorder, of course, on Amazon and elsewhere), and a gig by night. The gig was the first night of a new club near Andover. A few people in, but it was Valentine’s night, so they were all couples, so they all don’t laugh as much as big groups do. A great chance to work with lively master of ceremonies Simon Feilder and a US comic who’s appeared on Letterman and the like, Al Lubel. A scary drive home dodging the UK’s biggest storm for 20 years, reminiscent of scenes from 1995’s Helen Hunt movie Twister, and then home. Ready to start another, probably equally unusual week.

“I paid who?!” A true tale of the perils of online banking



Domestic transactions: made ever easier with online banking, but with risks…

My wife is a full-time mum, which we all know is harder work than many jobs (certainly harder than mine), yet in terms of direct pay… well the kids don’t cough up much. Plus no bank would except what they do cough up.

So I put some hard-earned pennies over to my missus’ bank account every so often, and did one such transaction a few weeks back. M’wife gave me details of which account to send it to, and apparently it was the everyday account (with the bank with the free pens), rather than the rainy day account (with the bank who give you extra, but no free pens) that she jokingly calls the ‘Starting Anew’ account. I can’t say I like the name.

Two weeks later, she asked if I definitely sent that money over. It had never arrived. Hmm. Mustn’t have clicked ‘Confirm’, I thought, so checked, and sure enough it was confirmed as sent, although the statement only shows the account name I entered, rather than the account details. I phoned my bank (with the free pens). “Just because it says her name,” they said, “It doesn’t stop it going to someone else of a different name if you got a digit wrong.” Huh? Some safeguard that is. “Well, people spell names different ways sometimes. We can’t expect them to get it exactly right.” Oh but you can. You can if the upshot is my money goes to a complete stranger.

“We can confirm you got at least one digit wrong. You should have entered a ‘20’ first, but you did ‘30’ so it’s gone somewhere else.” A thousand pounds, this was. Slipped through my fingers because I slipped with my fingers when tapping numbers in. I felt physically sick. I need that money, I said. I need to know where it is, and I needed you Mr Banker to get it back! Holding the phone, it was like I was on a particularly hostile edition of Deal Or No Deal. “Well it’s been two weeks now, sir, and it’s left our bank. Once it’s gone, it’s a) up to the incorrect recipient to return it if they wish, and b) up to you to persuade them.” (I never warm to anyone using ‘a)’ and ‘b)’ in speech, particularly when they’re telling me I’ve lost a thousand pounds.)

I am normally very careful, I insisted, recalling that our pre-schooler and baby were both present and clawing my leg when I was doing that payment. I’d have to dock their pocket money for a few decades to recoup the cash. “We can’t get the money back. But what I’ll do is put a tracking procedure on this, and you’ll get a letter in the next 12 days, detailing exactly who now has your thousand pounds. You can write to them, if you’d like it back.”

Like it back…? My thousand pounds. Now theirs. My heart sank. Times are tough. If I’d slipped up and sent a tenner to the wrong place, I’d be kicking myself, but would probably eventually let it lie, and just take a few extra free pens to make up for it. But a thousand pounds? To some stranger? Whom I had to now convince, with no bank support, to just return it if they wanted to, if they hadn’t already spent it?

I contemplated if I received unexpected money into my bank account. Would I spend it? Alert the bank? I couldn’t say for sure. From now on, I’ll definitely be alerting the bank. (Unless it’s a thousand pounds, in which case I may consider it divine reward for this occasion, and spend it as quickly as I can before anyone comes looking for it.)

Twelve days of sleeplessness ensued while I waited for the recipient’s details to arrive in the post. My wife was as gutted as I was, but didn’t blame me, knowing the chaos and distraction kids tugging at your leg can bring. Privately she probably thought I was an idiot and started packing her Starting Anew bag.

The letter arrived. With kids racing around seemingly non-stop since the whole crisis had begun, I nervously opened it. Wifey looked on. We scanned down to find the name and contact details of this person. Who would I now be begging for our money. Please let them sound nice, I thought. I started stereotyping in my head. I was more likely to get it back from a Rev Dorothy Harting of The Vicarage, Upper Mallow, than from a Rex Wilkins, Cell 204, Reading Prison, so thought my prejudiced brain. I prayed for it to be a Dorothy Harting.

The name and address on that letter shocked me. It was our address, and my wife’s name. The account details made it clear: I had sent it to her rainy day ‘Starting Anew’ account. They apparently give you extra, just not pens or regular bank statements on this account, so we had no idea this savings account for once had a grand’s worth of savings in it.

It was a giant relief that it had reached my wife after all. I instantly knew one thing though: of all the people I could have sent that money to, there was no way I was going to get it back now.

The top 5 biblical movies – and the worst…


, , , ,

The publishers of an excellent forthcoming book retelling stories from Genesis in entertaining style ( asked me to write up my favourite five biblical films, so you can see those here…

…And it reminded me of a blog post I did years ago about what I’m pretty sure is the worst biblical film adaptation ever abominalised:


Noah’s Ark (1999):

Starring Angelina Jolie’s dad as Noah, and Clara Doc’s wife from Back To The Future III as Mrs Noah. Now I don’t mind the odd liberty being taking to dramatise a story like this. And I’m sure not everyone reading this will be familiar with the finer points of the Noah’s Ark story. But I’m sure all of you must know that nowhere in the original text does it even hint that there are pirates

That’s right, NBC suggest that God wiped out everyone on the planet, apart from Noah, his family, all the animals, and, oh, the odd ragtag bunch of angry villagers who cobbled together a few planks to make something that floats. Scenes like this make this look sub-Waterworld, which is saying something.

Furthermore, while the original version has Noah welcome his wife, his sons and their wives onto the ark, in this version, Noah piles on his wife, his sons, and then three random women. It’s only during the course of the ark’s journey that the three sons start getting randy, a bit assaulty, so Noah intervenes and says, “Hey! You’ve got to get married first!”

You’d have thought God would be angered by this Noah’s sons’ lusty intentions, but he’s too busy playing with Noah’s head by offering him mirages of dry land, then laughing when Noah realises it’s just an illusion. Ha! The prankster God, so seldom seen in the King James Version. Yet here he’s also the impulsive God: at the end of NBC’s ‘Noah’s Ark: Beyond The Thunderdome’ (it might as well be), God decides that actually he’s going to kill Noah, his family and all the animals after all. Noah begs God, but to no avail. So Noah starts whistling. It is a funny whistle. He even does a little dance with it (in Jon Voight’s most demeaning screen appearance since – no, including Anaconda). God likes the whistle/dance combo, laughs, and lets Noah off. I must have missed that bit in Genesis.

Hang on – if that’s what changes His mind, why has no one else done this since? When Hitler pulled out his gun in his bunker, did he pucker up, do a few bars of Deutschland Deutschland Uber Alles, a little jig, and Bob’s your Onkel?

Oh, and Mrs Noah tries to kill all the animals she doesn’t like. And they all go mad, like in Cast Away. They start chanting and wanting to sacrifice each other, and I wouldn’t put it past them to have conversations with a football called Wilson. Then there’s a peddler man, who, like the pirates, somehow survived the flood. He’s played by James Coburn, and sells useful items, novelties, party tricks… Noah doesn’t buy anything, which must nark the peddler a bit, because I can’t imagine there are many boats around. Unless as well as Noah’s Ark, there’s also Jeff’s Ark, Steve’s Ark, etc, which I wouldn’t put past ’em.

Some countries saw sense. Malaysia banned this film – although not based on quality, but because it bans the depiction of any prophets of Islam, including Noah and “pirate leader” (according to NBC) Lot. For once, Sharia Law and decent film criticism overlap. In America, it unfortunately was a little more viewed: it was NBC’s most-watched movie for the next 5 years. Yeech. It’s scary to think of how many Americans now think of Noah as some kind of stoned pirate fighter with a penchant for whistle-dances.

What churches can learn from comedy clubs (& vice versa)


My word, it’s been a long time since I blogged. That’ll never do. To build up to some sort of regular blogging again, let me post something that I blogged elsewhere a month or two back: A vague look at some things that churches and comedy clubs can learn from each other…

…The website is the publisher of both my 1st book, ‘So A Comedian Walks Into A Church’, which you can find on their site, and my forthcoming 2nd book, ‘Genesis: A Bibluffer’s Guide’, which you can’t buy till March (although pre-orders welcome).

The History of the World via 100 Movies (work in progress)

So for a thing, I’m putting put together a list of ‘The History of the World Told Via 100 Movies.’ I have 90. What am I missing? Or indeed any here that shouldn’t be? I suspect this will turn into 200 Movies very easily…

1. History of the World Part 1
2. 50 Million Years BC
3. The Ten Commandments
4. 300
5. Julius Caesar
6. Cleopatra
7. Gladiator
8. Ben-Hur
9. The Nativity Story
10. The Life of Brian
11. The Passion of the Christ
12. King Arthur
13. Beowulf
14. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
15. The Vikings
16. Macbeth
17. The Lion In Winter
18. The Adventures of Robin Hood
19. Henry V
20. Braveheart
21. Apocalypto
22. A Man For All Seasons
23. Elizabeth
24. Elizabeth: The Golden Age
25. To Kill A King
26. Cromwell
27. Waterloo
28. Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
29. Marie Antoinette
30. The Last of the Mohicans
31. The Crucible
32. Zulu
33. Young Victoria
34. An Ideal Husband
35. The Alamo
36. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
37. Young Guns
38. Mrs Brown
39. Gangs of New York
40. Titanic
41. All Quiet on the Western Front
42. War Horse
43. Chaplin
44. Citizen Kane
45. Michael Collins
46. Chariots of Fire
47. Bonnie & Clyde
48. LA Confidential
49. Singin’ In The Rain
50. The Untouchables
51. To Kill A Mockingbird
52. The Last Emperor
53. The King’s Speech
54. The Sound of Music
55. Casablanca
56. A Bridge Too Far
57. Saving Private Ryan
58. The Pianist
59. Downfall
60. Stand By Me
61. The Right Stuff
62. Walk The Line
63. Good Night, and Good Luck
64. The Motorcycle Diaries
65. Grease
66. Dr Strangelove
67. Apollo 13
68. Thirteen Days
69. JFK
70. Platoon
71. Dirty Dancing
72. Casino
73. The Last Waltz
74. The Ice Storm
75. Almost Famous
76. Dazed & Confused
77. All The President’s Men
78. Munich
79. In The Name of the Father
80. The Killing Fields
81. The Lives of Others
82. The Hunt for Red October
83. The Breakfast Club
84. Wall Street
85. The Devil’s Double
86. Trainspotting
87. Brassed Off
88. United 93
89. Four Lions
90. The Social Network

Two Popes walk into a restaurant…



Last week, an occurrence rarer than Haley’s Comet, a blue moon and an NHS management resignation occurred…


B:            Your Holiness?

F:            No, Your Holiness…

B:            No, I insist, Your Holiness…

F:            How about ‘Our Holini’? Latin plural.

B:            Love the Latin. Do, sit.

F:            Thanks. I still think a simple white rose in the lapel would have sufficed to help recognise each other.

B:            I don’t know, I like the big hats. And I hope you don’t mind the Pizza Express but it gives us anonymity, while at the same time offering the Italian cuisine befitting two Vaticanisters.

F:            Is that the technical term?

B:            No, but speaking of technical terms, you’ll want the handover details.

F:            Ha! Yes. Be good to know where the bodies are buried… That was a turn of phrase. There are no…

B:            No.

F:            Great.

B:            No, all you need to know is that the bathroom light needs flicking on and off a couple of times – never got round to fixing it, and you just get used to the quirk of it. Oh, and the password for the @pontifex Twitter account is (LEANS IN, WHISPERS) ‘password’.

F:            Cunning.

B:            Some of the cardinals do Dress-Down Fridays, but only under the cassocks. In fact every day is Dress-Down Friday under the cassock, now I think about it.

F:            Brilliant, well I can’t wait to get started.

B:            Me neither. Let’s eat. Waiter! I think he’s ignoring us.

F:            Let’s take the hats off.

B:            If we must. Oh, and these are the keys for the desk drawers. Top drawer there’s a Bible. Second one down, another Bible.

F:            Nice.

B:            Third drawer is just paperclips. You can never have too many paperclips. Fourth drawer’s locked, apparently since the early 1700s, so (SHRUGS). And fifth drawer is more paperclips. Actually you can have too many paperclips.

F:            Great. Well I thank you for your service, and wish you a happy retirement.

B:            Oh I’m not retiring.

F:            You’re not? Why’s there a glint in your eye?

B:            See I was thinking, now there are two Popes, for a limited time only, we can make the most of this. ‘The Pope’ can do twice as many public appearances for a start. I’ll let you have the Popemobile, I’ll have the Pope-segway.

F:            There’s a Pope-segway?

B:            And a Popegostick. It’ll be great – like having a doppelganger! A papalganger!

F:            You and your German words.

B:            Sorry, but hey, if it’s Spanish you’re after, how about… ‘La La La La La La La Bamba!’

F:            Sit down, Your Holiness, please! What are you doing?

B:            Singing! It’s my second idea. You and me, together, on the road. ‘The Vatican Two’!

F:            Like the council in the 1960s? I don’t think people will get the reference.

B:            Album one: ‘Everybody Talk About Pope Music’. Album two: ‘The Vaticancan’. Album three: ‘Old Red Shoes Is Back’. Album four: ‘Preach For The Stars’. Album five…

F:            Stop, stop. I don’t want to sing. I just want to serve the Church.

B:            Fine, fine. This poping, it’s a young man’s game nowadays. How old are you now?

F:            76.

B:            Exactly, whippersnapper. Speaking of which, neither of us are getting any younger – let’s order. Does the waiter even know we’re here?

F:            We should have gone over the road: Frankie & Benny’s. Get it? Frankie & B…

B:            It’s Emeritus now.

F:            Yeah but Frankie & Emeritus doesn’t really work.

B:            You da pope.

F:            No you da pope.

B:            Pope out.

F:            Word.

B:            Logos.

F:            Backatcha.

B:            Waiter!