Sunday, 11 December 2016

A Sherry for the Saviour

     Now that Christmas is coming up, we might take a glimpse at its celebration in India in the 1920s. One person who went there at the age of eight described his experiences in The Colonel's Son (1962) under the pseudonym of Nigel Eldridge. It turns out that the highlight of the pre-Christmas season was his being cast as the chief angel in the nativity play put on by the twenty-eight pupil Regimental School, written and produced by the music mistress, Miss Trouvel, and staged in the school gymnasium. I know this might sound extraordinary to some of my American readers, but I assure you that, in realms where the fatwas of SCOTUS do not run, such things are regarded as unexceptional - as, I am sure, they also were in the U.S. in those days. But let Mr Eldridge tell the story:
     A lady missionary, who had come to watch [the rehearsal], asked if I could be introduced to her. To my disgust, she stroked my hair, called me "an adorable little fellow" and then started asking questions about my religious feelings.
     "Now tell me," she said, "what would you do if one day when you were at home by yourself, Our Lord suddenly walked in?"
     After a few moments of puzzled silence, I answered, "I'd ask him if he'd like a glass of sherry and I'd send a chit [note] to the Padre to come along jaldi [at once]." I paused, then added, "Oh yes, and I'd also send a chit along to the Orderly Officer in case Jesus wanted to inspect Main Guard in bull order."
     The missionary was so shocked that she immediately expressed the view that I was quite unsuited to take part in any Nativity play, but Miss Trouvel threatened to resign if she lost one of her stars.
      I can't understand her objections. It sounds like a perfectly reasonable answer to me. In the unlikely event of Jesus turning up at the door in the flesh, it is likely he might want to talk to the Padre and inspect the guard. And I'm sure he would have appreciated a sherry. It would have been a welcome change from the cheap Palestinian plonk he was used to. In fact, it would probably be the best he had had since the wedding at Cana.
    As for our house, on the rare occasions we have wine, it is invariably of the white variety, which would appear anaemic to anyone raised in the ancient Middle East - especially if he continued the then custom of diluting it three or four times with water. And as for our regular tea and coffee, these were not adopted until well into the Christian era, and one must accept that they are an acquired taste.  

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