12 Jun 2013

Holy Shit

One of the main reasons we moved away from London was to live in a town where all the schools are 'good' or even better 'outstanding', or at worst 'satisfactory'.  Not words you might think to describe a school by unless of course you have children and you have done your homework and studied the OFSTED reports of every school for 15 miles around you.
Before children you might describe a school as 'convenient' or 'brick built' or 'cute' even, but as soon as your first child has squeezed out of your lady flaps, the Secret Club start discussing OFSTED reports.  It turns out that the £272,000 you paid for your darling little London terrace, 10 minutes walk from a zone 3 tube station is now as appealing as pair of skid marked pants.  Your house is slap bang in the WRONG catchment area.  Not only does your local prospective London school have CCTV and 24 hours police surveillance, but the OFSTED report says it's 'under special measures', which basically means it's shit and that by the time your child starts in the school nursery at age 3 and half, she is going to enter a war zone.  You are left with two choices, either enroll her in a tots self defense class in early preparation, or move.

Then it dawns on you, THAT'S why all the house prices were so inflated elsewhere: it's because they're near to the only highly sought after, (and indeed fought after) decent school within a 20 mile radius.  So 'moving' actually entails leaving London for the quaint and quiet burbs, but at least you'll be able to leave your child at the local school gates, knowing that not only will they receive a decent education that day but they won't be stabbed in the eye.

The trouble is, most the schools in my little town are 'good', but one is 'outstanding' so where does every parent (read mother) fight tooth and nail to get their child into?  The 'outstanding' school of course.  A peculiar survival instinct takes over your brain and smothers every logical or carefree thought, your heart is telling you that your child MUST go to the best school in town, they must be given the best chances in life.  NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES You simply can't let the other people's kids get further ahead than your child in life.  Except it turns out that your closest school, which happens to be the 'outstanding' one is also a CHURCH SCHOOL.  By Jesus's Holy Mother of Fucking Christ, you're going to have to start going to church.  Are you actually prepared to do this for the sake of your child's education?  Yes, people.  I am ashamed to say I answered yes to that question and I am now a secret church goer.  I'm a fake Christian.  Or a fakestian.  Better known (in the hushed voices of the coffee shop) as a pew jumper.

This is how I found myself one Sunday morning (when I should have been eating bacon sandwiches, nuzzled next to my children in our king sized bed as we all watch CBeebies together) standing in a draughty church, mumbling along to a hymn.  Me!  Tess Harrison.  Who's only religion to date has been to worship at the altar of the Debenhams Blue Cross Sale.

Ben made his thoughts on the subject very clear.  He was not even going to pretend to like God, he wouldn't even nod politely if he spotted God across the street waving frantically.  He wouldn't step foot near the church and plumped for the weekly Tesco shop instead.  So it was all down to me to take on the challenge of Jesus loving.  I thought I would try it for a week to see how I got on.  The kids shuffled off into Sunday School in the hall next door to the church with a sweet old lady called Margaret to do colouring and eat biscuits whilst I stayed behind, under the watchful eye of GOD.  As it happened I enjoyed almost a whole hour of complete peace and quiet.  OK, so I had to stand up, sit down, find the page, murmur some words prayers, but most of the time I was able to zone out and relax.  Occasionally my eyes wandered around the congregation and I would spot another highly likely pew jumper.  Proper pew jumpers play the game very well.  There are unspoken rules:

1.  You don't talk about fight club pew jumping.  You NEVER talk about pew jumping, even to your cousin's best friend's dog who lives in the Outer Hebrides.  You certainly can't blab about your deceitful worshiping to the next person who asks you how you are, which as you can imagine is on on-going concern for me.  You definitely certainly can't blog and tweet about it. (Oh...!) Proper pew jumpers will take their secret to the grave (buried in the church yard if you're that good).

2.  In order to look genuine, you must volunteer for everything like a good Christian would.  This may involve cooking sausages at the church BBQ, attending church walks, hoovering the church halls from time to time,  taking the occasional Sunday School class, hosting meetings at your house, delivering prayer cards around the town.  Endless... the work involved in running a church is endless.  And you must volunteer to do it ALL.  The irony is that you may end up more involved in the church than a regular Christian person.  Guilt will kick in and you will end up over compensating for your lack of religious belief.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Vicar herself started off as a pew jumper and got so involved a cakes sales and hosting Bible meetings that she's actually roped herself into being Top Dog!  I bet she doesn't believe in God.

3.  Longevity.  A transparent pew jumper will go to church for approximately 6 months.  As soon as the Vicar has presented the letter of recommendation that your child is churchy enough to attend the 'outstanding' school, then the obvious fakestian disappears never to be seen again.  This is actually harder than you might think because you will have a diary full of cake sales, church fetes and meetings that you've signed up to.  Christians are savvy little souls and know exactly how to ensure 'bums on seats'.  A clean break is a very tricky manoeuvre to pull off.  Indeed, I would say impossible.  Unless you fake your own death, or move town.  I have sniffed out many an inferior pew jumper who has tried to slope off out the backdoor from god's party, but they always end up 'showing their face' a couple of months later for the nativity play, or the church anniversary lunch.  I have now been going to church (as seldom as I dare) for FIVE YEARS! I haven't held a job for as long as that.

4.  Your church attendance will become stressful because you must hide your dirty secret from all your non-church going friends and work colleagues.  I imagine it's like having a love affair.  You can't let on to anyone what you've been up to, you must hide all traces of evidence, always look over your shoulder to see if anyone has spotted you going into the hotel church. You must get very adept at making up excuses for what you did at the weekend.  Here are some suggestions you are free to use:
  • I buried the family dog (If you have a dog you must remember never to mention it again, if you don't then you need to quickly invent a name, breed and personality for it).
  • I was bed ridden with genital herpes (this should stop any conversation right there and then)
  • I prancercised
  • I'm having an affair (preferable to the truth)
  • I most certainly did NOT go to church.  Why would I?

Now if there's anyone reading this that genuinely does love Jesus, then good for you.  Seriously, I am very much of the belief of live and let live.  I respect all religions and I am even quite envious of people who follow a religious belief.  I'd love to have faith.  I'd love to know where I was going when I carc it, at least I'd get back to sleep at 3am when I'm awake in bed wondering what the hell it's all about.  I think some religions have some very sensible rules like 'Don't kill your neighbour's cat' and 'Respect your elders' and 'Don't eat pork if it's been sitting around in the hot sun in a smelly Moroccan market for hours on end'.  Hell, I married a (technically) Jewish boy and I even ended up staying in a Buddhist monastery for a week:

Reader:  "Fascinating stuff Tess, were you travelling round the world at the time?  Nepal?"
Tess:       "Hemel Hempstead" (Junction 8 of the M1)