An Irishman's Diary

 

After leafing through the competing brochures from different countries, God chose the land of Palestine to start His new business called Religion. After his first venture, Angels, with its boardroom bust-up, and half the shareholders storming off with their equity to start a rival operation, he'd learned his lesson.

This time, no senior partners, just Him in charge, with all the raw materials for any decent up-and-coming religion to call on - olives, grapes, deserts, locusts and harlots.

Now, in 1999, He was glad He had resisted the package of incentives from the Irish Film Board to use Ireland as a base - tax breaks and great locations in the home of Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, etc! Below him, Ireland was invisible in the rain. What would have become of any religion that He had started in that boggy, cloud-covered and seasonless isle? Mars would have been a better bet. And with that thought, the Lord God fell asleep. . .

"In the beginning God said, Let there be two lights, one for the evening and the other for the morning, and both shall be grey. And God saw that it was grim, and it did please him enormously. And then He divided the year into four seasons, with grey weather in all four, filling the grey days and the grey nights.

Let there be bogs

"And then He said, Let there be bogs, and there were bogs, which filled the earth; and the bogs were cold and bleak, and the skies above them were bleak and cold, and as wet as the bogs beneath them, and the Lord said: This is good. And the Lord God formed man from the stuff of the bogs, and breathed into His nostrils the cold damp of life, and man became a living soul, sort of, and was called Patrick. And the Lord God planted a garden, eastward, in Edenderry.

"And in this garden grew all manner of things, including potatoes which could not be harvested because of the boggy ground, and there was mildew and decay and damp abounding, and there was peat and moss galore, and God said to Patrick, This is your kingdom, and Patrick said, Jesus Mary and Joseph, what have I done to deserve this?

"And the Lord said, it is not well that man should be without companionship. I will give him a mate of his own kind. So while Patrick slept he took a rib from him and turned it into woman, who was called not Eve but Morn, because all she did was to mourn the differences between the sexes. And even as Patrick slept she started equality workshops and consciousness-raising sessions, and Patrick woke to a series of minimum demands.

"And Patrick went to the Lord, and said, Show me the serpent that is more subtil than any beast in the field, that he may tempt Morn to eat the fruit from the Tree of Life in the centre of the garden, and she then tempt me, that I might be banished from this infernal bog where it raineth every bleeding day.

"But the Lord replied, This is Ireland and in this garden east of Edenderry there is no serpent to tempt you. That's it, mate. You're staying here, no escape. What you see is what you'll get.

Old Testament

"And Patrick sank to his knees, and said, What about the Old Testament? How can you have Noah and Exodus and Moses and Joseph and his Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Evita and Cats and so on if we stay in this Bord na Mona hellhole east of Edenderry?

"And the Lord said, Listen squire, there's no point in bringing Noah into this, he'd drown in this weather east of Edenderry. As for Exodus, don't make me laugh. Bushes burning with strange fire, a land flowing with milk and honey? You couldn't get them bushes to burn even with napalm, flipping sodden they are, and as for the land, it's flowing all right, with mud and slurry. Oh, will you look at that rain now, sure it's worse it's getting.

"And Patrick said, somewhat bitterly, Are you pulling my leg God, or what? Is this some practical bloody joke with poor bloody Paddy the butt of it, as always? What about Jacob and Esau and Jershurun waxing fat, and Job and his boils, and only they that are shircumshished entering the kingdom of heaven that Ian Paisley's always hammering on about?

"Sorry, that's what comes of religion in a land of mud without serpents. It stays there. For ever, east of Edenderry, in a seasonless hell of weeping skies and vast expanses of a grey and all-consuming mire.

"And Patrick scoffed, Excuse me chum, are you trying to sell this here religion to the plain punters of the world? . . ."

God woke with a scream. Could it be true? Could he really have tried to start religion in that rain-soaked and unpropitious bog called Ireland, where all seasons are the same? He peered over the rim of heaven, and found it was not true, that he had set religion in Palestine, and it prospered while he rejoiced, as down below, the sons and daughters of Patrick and Morn stood in the rain, wetly and bitterly discussing how many hues of grey there were.

For there were many.