The toad who lives at the bottom of the garden in the pile of bricks beneath the potting table was very happy with his new plunge pool. I made it on a particularly slow afternoon when I had run out of ideas for things to do. It was either make a toad Jacuzzi or darn socks, so naturally Mr Toad lucked out. Before that, I tidied the cellar, going through all the laundry bags full of horse tackle. I sorted and bagged rugs, cleaned and polished bridles, reorganised my ever-burgeoning collection of multicoloured lead ropes, overreach boots and numnahs, and even sorted out all the saddle soaps and boot polishes.
From the back windows of the houses around me drifted the urgent sounds of people working from home, barking instructions such as, ‘Listen, guys, we need to nail this issue!’ into their conference-calling laptops as I fretted over whether to put my first pony’s halter into the bag with the other halters or into my memory box in the attic. Little Fella’s tiny blue headcollar was finally put with the others in case it fits Goldie, the new pony.
With all that sorted, I realised there was only the pile of socks with various toe ends missing between me and the gaping mouth of nothing happening until the builder boyfriend came back from his work on a roof, which might not be until gone 7 p.m. if he went to his smallholding to mend fencing, or later still if he lit a bonfire he could poke with a stick.
So I made a little plunge pool for Toady out of a broken terracotta pot with a dog bowl inside, two rocks and a brick to enable him to climb in and out safely.
And then I sat back on the sunbed with the spaniels and a whole lot of nothing started to happen to me.
Which is when, with a positive genius for knowing just her moment, a good friend of mine who is a Jehovah’s Witness sent me a Zoom conference call invite.
‘You don’t have to do anything, just sit there,’ she said. And before you say, ‘Oh you didn’t, did you?’ let me say, I am a long-time admirer of the JWs and their belief in the coming of Armageddon. It all seems entirely convincing.
I like lots of religions, to be fair. Although I’m Roman Catholic, I am always rather envious of my Jewish friends and when I travelled in India I fell in love with Hinduism. But it’s a bit difficult to join either of those.
The more glamorous belief systems I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole, chiefly because of what happens to those celebrities.
Lisa Marie Presley was a Scientologist and ended up moving to East Sussex and working down the fish and chip van in Rotherfield. Google that if you don’t believe me.
It was life imitating art if you remember the Kirsty MacColl song, ‘There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’. In fact, the girl who worked down the chip van and swore she was Elvis’s daughter — and was — ended up selling her Sussex mansion to go back to LA.
It makes you wonder. That and Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa.
But the Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to have their feet on the ground. To believe that we are comprehensively undoing ourselves and the Almighty is going to have to come and sort us all out is no more nonsensical than believing the government is going to sort everything. I mean, when has that ever happened?
So with his chicken dinner in the oven, I sat down at the kitchen table and entered the Zoom ID of the meeting. When I got in, it had just started and the preacher was already in full flow. The gallery of worshippers at the top showed a lot of very smartly dressed people, including my friend in her Sunday best.
I had on my horsey jeans and T-shirt so I didn’t activate my video. I was quite moved to see the people counter go up from 99 to 100.
It was an interesting sermon, and although I hadn’t thought I would, I stayed for the entire hour, with my microphone muted, not least because it occurred to me that I didn’t want ‘Melissa K has left the meeting’ to pop up on the screen, which seemed rude. Towards the end, I got up and took the roast chicken out and called the BB down to carve it. He stared into the screen and said ‘Huh,’ in a way that suggested he wasn’t at all surprised.
‘They think we are in the end of days,’ I explained. ‘That sounds about right,’ he said, throwing some juicy titbits to the spaniels.
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