Ahh the Oxford and Cambridge Club. Nestling gently in the hallows of Pall Mall, close to the Athenaum. Here we are, replete with the reassuring clink of billiard balls and the gentle hum of oh so much clever conversation. Here we are where expensive wine is consumed vastly by vast expensive people. Where deals are struck and feels are snuck. The panels on the walls. The roar of the fire. “I’m sorry sir, you’re not on the list ” “Yes, madam, we have a spare tie for your friend to wear.” “Get this hobo out of here he’s an actor, it’s disgusting.”
I’ve never stepped foot in it in my life. I’m just imagining.
My old friend from school has invited me, somewhat cryptically, asking for “a favour”. I like him. He was the alternative but clever one. He had all sorts of unusual ideas and became a good friend when I was at school. We saw eye to eye. He went to Oxford and now he’s a vicar and this is his club.
I’m just about to go in now. I’ll report back.
Turns out a lot of my guesses were on point. But the fires are gas. Clean air act promoting fracking.
They have menus in there without the price. The “host” knows the cost of everything. The guest knows nothing. I’m experienced enough with menus to go with the set menu rather then get the venison from the à la carte – men of the cloth are not famously well paid. I’m not going to skin him. I still let him get me a half bottle of claret, mind. When in Rome?
He’s not drinking.
“I’ve given up booze for Lent,” he tells me. I look furtive, having not thought about Lent. “I’ve given up class A drugs for Lent,” I attempt, with a winning smile. Worried he won’t get the joke I double down. “And sex. I’ve given up class A drugs and sex. So far it’s going fine!” Jazz hands! … !!!
He’s wearing his dog collar. He’s quite serious.
You have to speak reasonably honestly to that uniform, and you feel bad when you’re glib. It’s like a more extreme version of talking to a policeman. Just a simple rectangle of white, but it’s effective. The older the uniform is the harder it’s wired into our subconscious. I respect the collar. I will be honest to the collar. The collar has no power over me but the collar must be treated well and never ever lied to. What a wonderful place to exist in. But my bad joke doesn’t land.
We talk a while about our respective ministries. I try to put into words how I feel I’m called to heal from within the darkness. “I needed to understand the darkness before I could help people to find light,” I tell him. I talk about my extremely confused but fully functioning catholobuddhist pantheism. We see eye to eye about a surprising amount. It’s just the names.
What did he want? He wants a space. God, don’t we all? It’s the conversation I have the most frequently. A central London location where we can meet once a week and do wonderful things.
I wish I was a property magnate, although I’d be shit at it because all my empty properties would be filled with burlesque dancers or Christians or Buddhist Christian burlesque dancers reading the Bible and tarot… But I would like to find him a space because he bought me dinner and he seems serious. 3 hours from 5pm on a Sunday to effect “the drama of Catholic worship in a contemporary fashion, and more inclusive in terms of gender and sexuality.”
You’ve got an empty theatre on Sunday? How about you get some powerful good vibrations coming into your building? Call me, baby. Call me.