Friday 26 February 2016

Getting to Heaven

The latest success story from the land of Eeuuw is that the immigration system is set to collapse in ten days. Wait, that’s just nine days now. Having spent the last twenty years being told that the NHS has a mere six days in which to be saved (did we save it, by the way?) I’ll savour that delicious piece of schadenfreude with a pinch of salt. But it’s serious, isn’t it? All over Europe borders are being closed and the shutters nailed up tight with good reason; in Calais the response to the approved demolition of The Jungle was a 1000-strong advance on The Chunnel.

But why, you have to ask, do any of them want to come to Britain? It’s a draughty, dark, cold, crowded place and the natives can hardly be said to be friendly. You can live on a British street for a decade and still not know the names of your neighbours and woe betide a stranger who doesn’t understand our complex and subtle social mores. If somebody asks how you are you must never, on pain of being ostracised for life, tell them how you are. And don’t you dare cut into a queue unless you are prepared to brave the ritual tutting and the white-lipped, teeth-clenched, barely audible repetitions of “They come over ‘ere...”

Heaven it ain’t, but it does remind me of the story of the Sunday School teacher, asking her charges if they understood the true concept of heaven and how to get there. On a beautiful, sunny day in early spring he asked them: “If I sold my house and my car, had a big jumble sale and gave all my money I made to the church, would that get me into heaven?” The children chorused, as one “NO!” This she took as a good sign they were getting the message.

“So, what if I cleaned the vestry every day, mowed the vicarage garden, weeded the flowerbeds, arranged flowers in the church and kept everything nice and tidy, would that get me into heaven?” Once again the kids saw through this blatant attempt to reduce entry to heaven to a simple quid pro quo and of course the answer was a unanimous no. These were good little children who could not be bribed by material things but held to higher standards. What good little Europeans they would grow up to become.

She smiled and tried again. “But if I was kind to animals and gave sweeties to all the children, and gave all my spare cash to charity, would that get me into heaven?” The chorus of negatives pleased her greatly; she had taught them well and she was just bursting with pride. “So, children” she finally asked “what do I have to do to get into heaven?” Into the silence, while the other kids were concentrating on framing their answers, boomed the voice of a six year old boy, "You’ve got to be fucking dead, miss!”

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