Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (gay Irishman).

It mostly happens with authors of non-fiction of course. I want to start talking to them. 

I can still remember reading the delightful Bill Bryson’s account of driving an ocean road and trying to remember the words to Waltzing Matilda. I so wish I could’ve done that trip of Australia with him, explaining as we went, including the fact that we enjoy making up alternate words for our songs, so rather than correct him, I would’ve wound down my window also and sung loud and crude. 

I mean, it’s a song about a suicidal thief anyways, it’s not quite a ballad of king and country. 

This impulse is worse when I listen to the author read his work. My audible addiction is mostly to biography, I particularly enjoy comedian’s accounts of themselves, but of course, Bryson’s works are just as fun and fascinating. 

Through biography, almost more than simple ‘objective’ historical narrative, you can understand and gain insight into what being middle class in England in the sixties actually meant. I grow to understand more cultural references on current television, by hearing authors explain what their favourite childhood television shows involved. 

And when you stumble on a good one, a thinker, someone taking a broad sweep, not just narrating their individual experiences, it is FASCINATING. 

Recently I finished listening to Graham Norton read his The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir and therefore gained a great deal of insight into Norton, of course, but also, through his eyes, growing up Protestant in the very Catholic south of Ireland, the impact of AIDS on the gay community in the 80s and 90s, and the change Ireland has undergone in the second half of the twentieth century. SO INTERESTING!

And it makes me want to talk to him. I feel friendly now. Half the problem of celebrity I suppose, people feel like they know you! 

I want to say, “I admire your work ethic. I feel like that’s a large part of what’s kept you grounded all these years, through the celebrity, and means you very much still understand the lives of non-celebs as well.” AND I want to say, after viewing a recent Ep of his show, “what was with the beard Graham?!” It’s not that I don’t like beards, far from it, but it was such an unexpected place to see one! 

My dad has been clean shaven all the time I’ve known him, so it’s just how I see him, and how his face should look to me. So much so, that for years, whenever I’d opened the family albums, I’d seen a photo of him with a bunch of people at his little brothers wedding and never realised it was him! For about 25 years! He had a great big bushy beard and I’d never picked it as him. 

So it was a surprise to see Graham up in the audience he loves, sporting a grizzly, grey fuzz, well manicured of course, but surprising. 

I’d also want to ask him if he’d seen the film Calvary, and if so, what’d he thought?
I love the movie, am overwhelmed and shocked and provoked by it every time I watch it. And inspired. Saddened. Given hope. 

It’s an appropriately named film. 

But I want to know what Graham would think. He’s Irish, has felt the change increased travel and technology has brought to his culture, and yet, would recognise the occasionally suffocating atmosphere of small community. 

What would he think of this encounter with a good priest, who receives all the hatred, vitriol and punishment meant for the bad ones. 

Would he see how far the condemnation of abuse of has changed things, but for the worse as well as the good…?  

I think Graham’s insights would be very interesting, and particularly open up the Irishness of the film to me properly. I watch it as an outsider, and, as Graham would point out, he does too, being brought up Protestant. But he knows, and sees, and feels the response of his countrymen in a way I never can. 

The story isn’t just Irish though. It’s a story for everywhere, and for everyone. It represents and reenacts and reflects on the greatest swap there’s ever been in history. All the injustice and hope of it. 

Graham explains several times that he doesn’t believe in God, and, as is so often the case, I don’t believe in the God he doesn’t believe in either. 

Partly Graham’s unbelief (disbelief?) is down to a familiarity with, not just a comprehension of, the suffering that plagues human life. You can tell he loves his family and friends, and extends to others the same compassionate recognition, and so, in seeing people “senselessly” suffer, he recognises there’s a problem. 

He just makes the mistake most do of assigning the problem to the wrong origin, and the wrong rectifier. He is like the dad in the movie, who, having lost his little girl, sees her walking down the road with a priest – egad! And flings hate at him while ‘rescuing’ his daughter from this terrible situation. 

By this point, the viewer knows James, the priest, very well. Most would observe that he thoughtfully remains on the opposite side of the lane to her, hands in his pockets. And that his questions to her reflect the fact that he’s concerned for her welfare, without in the least alarming her. He doesn’t recognise the child, and it’s therefore strange to find her wandering the lanes alone. He’s probably going to find out where she’s wandered from, where she should be, and return her to the best place for her. But his actions are mistook, misread, because of the vile mess we make and are victims of. And so the offer of help is rejected. 

I’d like to hear what Graham thinks of the movie, because I’d love to see if it expose his own misconceptions to him, just a little, and what he wants to do with that. 

I’d like to hear the next chapter. 

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

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