THERE'S nothing like a good moan. The Congress might be called a moan in. The Church isn't doing enough for: women, married couples, widows, the divorced, the young, the old or the middleaged: Everyone had their spokesman. that's the cynic's-eye view, from his barrel. God knows I nag enougn to moan about, the train up was so crowded with delegates in reserved seats that I had to crouch in a bare luggage van. Then I caught a cold.
I thought it was cats at first; they make me sneeze. But no, the cold raged as hot as Lassa fever, and as I blew my nose, the wind blew harder.
It blew the dust from the gutters and the footballs from the children in the street, it blew a Yorkshire Terrier round a lampost on its lead and hats from Latin Mass Society stallholders, It hien so hard down the chimneys that the moans were swallowed up by unutterable groans. But then, the wind blows where it will.
I thought the delegates were supposed to be ordinary people. I didn't see any. it was like a circle in Dante's Hell — full of familiar faces. Apart from all the bishops, there was the Duke of Norfolk (what was it he asked me not to quote him on?), who must be eligible as a delegate from any diocese in which he has a home, hut opted for Westminster.
there were Just and Peaceful Commissioners Fighting over the hotpot. It was like a Buckingham Palace garden party. "Excuse me, madam, are yOU anyone in particular?"
The exhibition was like a bag of assorted nuts. The Catholic Animal Welfare stall had a dear picture of a priest blessing a kangaroo. The formula must be in the Roman Missal somewhere.
It had pictures of horrid tortures for animals and others of the last extremities of kindness. It was hard to distinguish. Were the kittens nestling under a hen's wings a cruel experiment, or brotherly love? (Answers on a postcard.) I was pounced on by a lonely soul at the Apostleship of the Sea stand. "Are you interested in the sea?" she said. Visions of Joseph Conrad, the Apocalypse, I lornblower, Captain Queag, Noah and Cutthroat Jake flitted past. Finding me uncertain, she showed me the window where the burglars got in. they left the 14th century vestments and the Duke of Norfolk's plate untouched. Fences find video machines more disposable.
Liverpool people are hospitable. Where else could thousands find lodgings and nosh? They also rejoice in verbal felicity. OutsideLime Street Station, a round woman moved off across the road in front of a taxi. "It's not a zebra crossing you know," the driver said. "And I'm not a flipping zebra, son."
None of the taxi-drivers koow where anywhere is, probably because slum-clearance has left a waste of trackless space. After a while, mine turned off his meter and asked suprised waifs and queues for the pubs directions. "Don't worry, John," he said, evidently mistaking me for another Herald reporter, "I'll get you to Mass." There's faith for you. Eventually I did get to the 1 ridentine (sorry, I mean the Old Rile with the amendments of 19(i5 and 1967) Mass. Nostalgic and aweinspiring, it made the little boy in the bench in front squirm with boredom. And no one knew when to stand up. It was quite legal though, thrifts to the Papal indult and the Ordinary's permission. Like the Congress opening ceremony it ended with Widor's Toccata (as heard at Princess Anne's wedding). But at St Francis Xavier's, or Exavier as they say in these parts, the organ or organist let rip several blasts from 32' diapasons which were nut in the score.
Mrs Anglican Bishop of Liverpool put up some delegates. So did an Anglican vicar at Speke. At Fleetwood, though, the vicar had recently Poped taking half his congregation with him. No doubt they felt outnumbered.
( atholies have influenced the area strongly. Even Rossall school, it seems, was founded in the 1840s by the apostate Italian proprietor of the North Euston Hotel. He thought a public school nearby would boost trade. Ile specialised in sickly boys, so that if they died, which they frequently did, the fees in advance would remain. After three years, it was found he was a Corsican bandit and he was extradited.