The Beggars' Banquet
How fortunate we are in our position. Today being the 15th Day of August, it is the Feast of the Assumption, as I’m sure we all knew. Today we celebrate the passing of the Blessed Mother from this earth and her assumption into the Kingdom of Heaven. Now here, in this sun-bleached town, there will be a procession.
You’ve surely seen the films on Holiday ‘87 and so on. Frank Bough and Nestor watching in suburban bemusement as the firecrackers and the statue of Mary, carried shoulder high by handsome young men in white shirts, passes by, and all the while unknown to us, Frank was thinking of cocaine and getting tied up by nubile girls! Beastly Frank and his tank tops.
Anyway I digress. A procession will wind past this most agreeable of oases on its way to the tiny church up the road. It’s one of the biggest days in the year for this little town and like all the best religious feasts, we, along with the population, will feel an honest purity for the couple of hours that the procession and quick Mass will take. But even in our state of grace, we will know in the dark kernel of our mortal hearts, just like Frank, that the feasting will begin soon after, and then all bets are off.
Can you hear the drumbeats? Look there! They are coming round the corner and making their way up the hill towards us.
All eyes have turned in the direction of the saintly clamour. All eyes that is, except for two.
Out on the white desolation of the flagged patio, under a huge golden parasol advertising the holy brew of St Miguel, sits an exiled Irishman reading last night’s results from Limerick.
At specific points on the journey, the statue stops, takes a bow, turns around amid the firecrackers and rockets, and starts up again. It seems to be floating in the crowd on its own. It’s drawing near now, the rhythmic singing and the incence and the foreign faces and the rockets. Native and visitor alike are swaying, being drawn into the ceremonial, on some innate level it’s all making sense.
The moment is only a little spoiled by the bustling arrival of a Scotsman (judging by the tartan scarf and the heather sellotaped to his rucksack.) His feast started at 10:30 this morning.
He is tearfully reading a text message on his infernal cellphone. He is singing: “If you hate the Glasgow Polis, clap your hands…”.