As I was leaving the house this morning I discovered why I keep a collection of unwanted umbrellas at the bottom of my coat stand: Mary had had hers destroyed yesterday by a drunk in the library, and as she told me this (on her way to the library today) I was able to offer her two good-as-new ones to replace it. She was delighted. She then asked where I was off to.
"Oh, just to visit one of our old people who is house bound," I said.
"Ah, that's nice," she said. "You do that kind of thing do you? How lovely!"
I confessed Gill did most of it, but as she is on Safari in Uganda...
And the person I was visiting this morning is John Murphy. John was warden when I first came here, and my total hero. In a period where no-one really got what I was about, he supported everything I did and watched my back assiduously. When I see him now, (and he's just a week shy of his 85th birthday) we talk of the church, its life, its people, its glories, its problems, and I confide in him freely. I learned to trust him. He is a good man.
But I was in for a surprise today, which I think would have quite shocked Mary. John and I had nine holes of golf.
On the Wii.
I've never played on a Wii before, so the old man had to take me through it. He loved my incompetence. We had three practice holes first - well, they would have been for real, but somehow at fourteen shots over, I managed to wipe the game... Terribly unfortunate. So we began again. And this time, I said, "I am competitive you know."
John looked at me disdainfully. "You don't say," he replied.
The first hole was still his, a birdie to a bogey. But it was closer. I hit a par at the second - whilst this time he struck a bogey. At the third he had a torrid time and went four over, which put me in the gleeful lead - a position I never thereafter gave up.
"Oh dear," I said, "that was difficult."
"That you best pastoral manner?" he enquired.
And then when he hit the bunker at the sixth I asked, "Have you played golf before?" to the man who has lived half his life walking between greens.
It was a good job I'm half his age.
Pastoral visiting has never been so much fun! But should the pastor beat the parishioners? Oh well, I'll ask Gill when she gets back from those mountain gorillas. She'll know the answer. There's probably a part of her famous Visiting Course - "Wii believe".