MONOLOGUE #1 : THE PRIEST WHO LOVED BOND
Hello! This is the first of a regular series of monologues that I will be posting on my poor neglected website and my dried out husk of a YouTube channel. I’ve been writing these on and off since summer last year and plan to make them my main form of internet presence from now on. I very rarely use social media these days and am feeling happier for it. Rather than try and push myself into everyone’s mentions and timelines, I’d rather cultivate a little corner of the internet where people are very welcome to pop in and out at their leisure.
You might have read or heard this opening monologue before. The script has been on my website for a while and comes from an abandoned one man show about being a lifelong Bond fan and stay-at-home Dad. The first three monologues have been salvaged from this noble failure and will be posted over the next three Mondays. This one is about a priest in the parish where I grew up who was not ashamed to prioritise watching James Bond films over the spiritual needs of his flock. There’s a rough transcript below for all of you read-along types.
It's not so much that Father Keane's sermons were boring, sermons were boring anyway. There's something about the bobbing, melodic quality of an Irish priest's voice in full flow, just warbling on the background, as your thoughts drifted from the promise of eternal salvation to more worldly affairs, until the first line of the Nycene Creed triggered muscle memory and up you sprung to join in, "We believe in one God, the Father, The Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth..." a sure moment of danger for all the adolescent males trying to subdue their 98th tumescence of the day.
There was a real gusto to Father Keane's voice when he launched into the Nycene Creed, a complete contrast to the cough wracked mumble that preceded it. I would resolve to listen to his sermons, probably because he always took me for confession since I was seven years old.
"Have you used any naughty words?"
"Have you had any impure thoughts?"
"No. Especially not during your sermons"
"Have you been lippy with yer Mam and Dad?"
"Yes, I have lied"
I like to think that, somewhere up in the heavens, God was preparing a thunderbolt for me for lying during confession before being forced to retract it after I confessed to lying. I didn't dwell on the paradoxical issue of God being powerful enough to create a law that he wouldn't be able to break.
Father Keane would then tell me that I was a little angel before sending me off with my penance of two hail Marys and one Our Father which was the best score of the day.
And so it was perhaps because of guilt that I would sit there, hair neatly combed. C&A shirt buttoned up tight and hands on my cordroyed knees, ready to listen to the whole of his sermon.
Now, I've been a part of the London poetry scene for over twenty years, so I know what it's like to talk to a room full of people and not have a single one of them listen to you. So I try to see the congregation through Father Keane's eyes; the children thinking about being Superheroes, the teenagers thinking about sex, the mothers thinking about whether the teenagers were thinking about sex, the Fathers thinking about being Superheroes. I wonder if he took in their boredom, savoured it for a second before delivering that line that would ensure their upstanding, pee the bed compliance.
I can only imagine what our faces looked like, on that fateful Sunday evening, when Father Keane uttered these cataclysmic lines,
"I will not be delivering the Sermon tonight because James Bond's on the television."
No doubt there would have been a mixture of barely concealed glee and abject horror, not because anyone listened to his rambling monologues but because he was the external vessel, the one who believed, obeyed and abstained on our behalf. Buddhists had prayer wheels, we had dog collared men from the West Coast of Ireland with fifties haircuts, thick rimmed glasses and a sixty a day smoking habit.
I knew of James Bond films through playground whisperings way before I first watched one. I remember having my own mental image of the gun barrel opening, when Bond, viewed from the swirling interior of a pistol, would fire a bullet of his own, triggering a sudden stream of blood, turning the rest of the screen black as the gun barrel's aperture became a wandering wormhole into the forbidden, fantasy world, or to put it in the playground parlance of the time,
"There's these eyes looking at James Bond and then James Bond shoots the eyes in the eyes and all blood goes down them cos they're dead."
Your first Bond is always the one that you stick to and so, Moore became Bond to me. You can imagine my disappointment when getting home from that fateful Mass to see Bond being played by some tall, dark haired, alpha male imposter. Who the hell was this Sean Connery anyway? Where was the cowbell during his gun barrel sequence? Why didn't he wear safari suits? Where were the hover gondolas and double taking pigeons? When he defused a bomb, why didn't he dress up as a clown?
But Father Keane must have been in a different mindset, finally sacking off the suburbanite gobshites for an evening of high adventure. As vices go, this one would turn out to be the least of the Church's hypocrisies – especially with Father Rafferty being quickly moved on to pastures new after his work in offering shelter and sustenance to rent boys was discovered a few years later.
No-one could begrudge it of him at all, to spend at least one night staring through a gun barrel portal into a world of clear-cut good and evil; where the orchestra strikes up whenever death is evaded; where stray bullets only catch the deserving and outlandish gadgets are always ensured their moment of utility.
Father Keane is almost certainly consigned to the earth by now, but an image of him still plays in my head to this day, not of the vestment clad patriarch of an Irish community on the outskirts of London, the last to enter and the first to leave the Mass before the gossiping and suburban sniping could resume. The image that sticks with me is the sight of him sat alone at the counter of the local chippy, saveloy and chips splayed out on greasy paper, and how his first word of inquiry to me was not about whether I was being good or saying my prayers. No, the first thing he asked after looking up from his single man's supper was, "Are you watching James Bond on the television tonight?"