Yesterday fireworks, tomorrow the aurora borealis
Fable has it that St Peter meets new arrivals at the gates of heaven, and ticks them off in the register.
On Wednesday December 3rd, just before the Emmerdale and Corrie Wednesday night double header, three Malcolm Armstrongs turned up at the pearly gates.
“Can I help you?” asked St Peter (why he ever got the job at passport control is beyond me, because he often messed things up when he was a disciple on earth).
“Yes please…” mumbled the first, sitting in a comfortable armchair in carpet slippers.
But before he could finish the sentence he was interrupted by the second Malcolm Armstrong, who explained to St Peter that his older doppelganger had been in a deteriorating state of dementia for the last two years, and that the entry in St Peter’s register was really of him, the second Malcolm Armstrong, as he was the one with personalised number plates (MJA) and (he added) he would happily donate his electrically operated gates to heaven’s gatekeeper. “That would improve your efficiency, and get you into God’s good books” he added, and for good measure he said “So forget about this mumbling Malcolm in the armchair, because he’s past his sell by date”.
The Saint looked a bit perplexed when up stood a younger looking Malcolm Armstrong in the uniform of the British Army, with 3 stripes on his arm. Peter was knocked out by the shine on his army boots in which he could see the reflection of his own face.
Sergeant Armstrong marched up to him, saluted, and listed his good deeds on earth:
Like rugby tackling a handbag thief on Victoria Station
And ordering a railway carriage load of youngsters on the London – Ramsgate line to stop blaspheming.
He then whispered to the Saint that in his younger days he had really wanted to be a Priest, and that he would have done it, too, if only he had passed his 11 plus.
“Very commendable” replied Peter, and motioned over to the Naughty step where the politicians who voted for the 11 plus in 1945 were busily writing a million lines
“I must not vote for anti-working class education policies”
Then the Saint finished “But in fact, Malcolm Armstrong, all three of you are one and the same, and you’re all welcome to stay here for ever.
The moment was almost surreal as St Peter then added that dinner was about to be served, and that as they’d come a long way they could choose from an a la carte menu, consisting of paella, fish n chips, and Betty’s hotpot.
From nowhere appeared Eileen, Mammy, children Stephanie and James, John Hardcastle, and Sue Sturges.
“Table for seven” boomed the Saint
So now Malcolm’s in heaven, tucking into his first fish and chip supper.
“That’s a good choice” said Peter, “Caught the fish myself”.
“But when you’ve eaten, there’s a little job I’d like you to do.
The management want to upgrade the aurora borealis, and we’ve had our eyes on you some time.
You’re the man to do it.”
Malcolm saluted again.
As I’d left Malcolm at the Canterbury hospice a few days earlier, he’d said to me “Have a safe journey home”.
I replied silently, with a lump in my throat “You too, my love”
He obviously did, but reached his destination with an appetite.
I’m glad he plumped for a fish and chip supper.
Many of us who Malcolm left behind are very sad, but assured , as Eric Clapton sings in the embedded YouTube video, that there’s peace for Malcolm beyond the door, for there’ll be no more tears in heaven.
Those of us who connected with Malcolm will need strength to carry on without him, and those who never could won’t know what they’ve missed out on.