Nobody ever turns up on my doorstep to sell me anything, be it carpets, frozen food or tickets for the school raffle. Yet last weekend I was surprised to see a gentleman standing patiently outside my door. He was carefully groomed, and was dressed in a shirt, tie and suit. My visitor was dancing an impromptu Foxtrot in the amusing belief that he could avoid getting his smart black trousers covered in dog hair: Smelly Dog had achieved her usual epic guard dog fail, and was surgically attached to his leg, tail wagging and ball in mouth.
Confused, I looked behind him for the hearse, and then checked his pocket for Agent K’s magic sunglasses and zapper pen. (I’d love to have one of those. Just for one day – I’d start with my bank manager, then move on to the Élysée.)
As I reached for the door handle, my eye fell on the black leather satchel and I reached my final diagnosis: In the same way that Avon rings the doorbell with promises to renovate sagging facades with miracle cosmetics, I was opening the door to a door-to-door salesman of spiritual make-overs. This doorstep-dwelling species offers you salvation -trade in your tarnished, sinner’s soul over the doorstep and get a gleaming new stainless one with 50% extra heaven in return.
His blue eyes locked earnestly on to mine. I recognised with a sinking heart that very peculiar expression – a strange combination of a drug addict crossed with a Rottweiler that has just clapped eyes on a sirloin steak.
Now, MM is one of a long line of champions for getting shot of penance pedlars. My maternal Grandmother had pedigree status: when a bible-brandishing visitor announced that he was Jesus, she welcomed him with a booming “Come in! I’m Pontius Pilate”. So I really can’t help it – when I have a visitor intent on saving my soul, I get an irrepressible urge to grab a bottle of gin in one hand and a packet of Marlboro in the other, then jig up and down on the spot in my underwear singing songs from The Life of Brian. Irreverent and rude? No, not at all – anyone who turns up at my home expecting me to discuss my personal beliefs with a complete stranger must presume that I’ve got a very laid-back attitude to life.
The visitor pushed Smelly Dog away with the tip of a well polished shoe. “Hello! I just happened to be in your neighbourhood”. My eyebrows shot skywards. You have to try very hard to “happen” to be in my neighbourhood (the GPS says “go to the end of the Universe, turn left and left again”). Our building is run down and decrepit; the kind of place a well-meaning soul may mistakenly expect to find an ageing hermit with lots of money in need of company. (And yes, that sentence was deliberately ambiguous.)
The hand slipped down to the satchel and unsheathed its weapon. “I’ve brought you some reading,”he beamed, thrusting it towards me. It was of the pseudo biblical variety, with a good satanic twist to give readers a severe case of the collywobbles. I sighed. If I want to read something full of spelling mistakes and badly researched stories, I just have to buy a copy of the local newspaper.
I considered telling him I couldn’t read, then decided against it in case he had a copy of “Learn to read with Jehovah” tucked in his sock.
“That’s very kind of you, but I’ve got plenty to read”. My interlocutor stared back at me. The enthusiasm had waned. “But I’ve brought you hope!” he spluttered. “Oh, I’ve got bags of that inside too, thanks.”
Silence ensued. I sucked air through my teeth and tried to find that legendary cool that the French mistakenly think we Brits possess. Belief is a bit like your privates: it’s highly personal. So you don’t pull it out in public, even if you are proud of it, and you don’t ask anyone else to show you theirs, because it’s…. well….. private. What works for you may not work for me, even if you have the best intentions. Laughter and peanuts do the trick for me, but may not work for anyone else. So in the same way that I don’t hammer people’s doors down to force them to accept a handful of peanuts and a Peter Kay video and invite them to my next Peanut Addicts Anonymous meeting, I don’t expect them to impose their views on me.
So MM smiled her best “not missing you already” smile. “Well, thanks for your visit. Have a good day,” I said, and started closing the door. “Wait! Wait!” He jiggled up and down as Smelly Dog obligingly dribbled on his shoes. “Does anyone else live here?” His eyes darted along the façade of the building, and spotted a figure pulling his bike out of the garage. “Ah, I see someone. Wonderful! Good bye….” The black shoes crunched their way down the gravel, magazine primed and ready to sell hope to Gargamel. I suspected that the end was nigh.
Disclaimer. MMM (M.M’s Mum) says I should put something here to say that this is just my opinion. I (nearly) always do what my mummy says. So: “This is my opinion, and should be taken as such”. Voilà.