So, this red folder has appeared at work, it sits on a display table. The display table changes from week to week and is managed by the equalities officer (this is public sector, by the way). You never know what the display is going to be from one week to the next.
I think this week it was a display about National Inuit Dairy Produce Week. Down here in the sticks we only get the display, up at HQ in that London they get the whole shebang, and we see the emails and the links on the intranet home page. We have a picture of some woman swaddled in polar bear fur sat on a little stool milking an elephant seal, at HQ they’ll have a demonstration. ‘Please feel free to come along to the refectory/theatre at Administratum House on Wednesday afternoon for a demonstration of elephant seal milking and an eskimo ice-cream tasting session, just ask your line manager to release you, it will only take an hour and all are welcome.’ Somehow I doubt some bloke in Coleraine asking to go to London for the day to see the elephant seal milking will get the undying admiration of his line manager.
They live in a different world up in London, they have a subsidised canteen, we in the sticks have a bloke that comes round in a van with some depressing and over priced sandwiches. They have a theatre/auditorium. We’ve got a reception area.
Anyhow, this folder. It contains a printed copy of the department’s equality policy. I hadn’t seen it before the other day, so I wondered over to leaf through it and see what it was. The section about religion and belief was most enlightening. I wasn’t able to read it properly, the lack of elephant seal milking and a line manager who was likely to react well to a request to watch same meant I had work to do. I will have to study the text properly at some point, but as far as I could work out, so concerned are the department about causing even the merest milligram of offence, anything goes.
One thing we do have is a ‘multi-faith prayer and reflection room’. I think I know one member of staff who has used it in the few years we’ve been in the building. It has to be multi-faith, and has to take into account those who have no faith at all. According to the text, lack of faith is just as important as active faith, so I suppose I could go down and have a good reflect once in a while if I wanted. I’ve never been in there, but I understand there is a strategically placed arrow pointing in a certain direction. Set as it is in deepest Kent, well, this ain’t exactly Bradford. Takers are few and far between.
One thing we are absolutely not allowed to do, unsurprisingly, is smoke in the building. Indeed, we’re not even allowed to smoke on site. We have to walk off the property in order to have a gasper. Here the law of unintended consequences comes into play. You see, the building’s car park backs onto the motorway, and tucked away round the back is the bike shed. What with this being rural Kent very few people cycle to work. The bike shed is only used slightly more than the multi-faith yada yada room. The bike shed is under cover, but woe betide the poor sod who tries to have a smoke under there during one of the regular coastal squalls that blows up.
This is an organisation that is obsessed with image. However ‘Leper’s Corner’ is on the pavement out the front, where everyone can see us. There are two box style ashtray/dog end bins attached to the fence, but in a wonderful bit of public sector logic, the cleaners are not contracted to clean off-premises. Accordingly the fag bin is overflowing and dog ends litter the corner like confetti after some kind of bizarre wedding.
In the old days we had a smoking room. People who smoked would go in there, people who didn’t wouldn’t. People who smoked would sit in there doing their work whilst they smoked. Now they go outside and do nothing but make the place look untidy while they smoke.
Where am I going with this?
I had an idea after leafing through the file, I suppose you could call it divine inspiration.
Leg Iron is a proponent of using the rules against those who put them in place, and I feel a hand of victimhood poker coming on.
I think I’m about to develop a devout belief in Baccus. No, not Bacchus. Baccus, his Aboriginal American cousin.
Baccus is the God who created the tobacco plant. He came to me in a dream, and very convincing he was too. You see, hundreds and hundreds of years ago Baccus created the first tobacco seed and then sent his son to Earth to plant, germinate and nurture the seed until it grew into the first tobacco plant. But there was a problem. The land that the tobacco seed was planted in was very poor soil, and in order for the the plant to thrive, Baccus’ son, Germino, had to give his life so his earthly, mortal body could be buried under the plant to feed it. In doing so, his spirit was taken up into the plant. This means today that when we smoke, we celebrate Germino’s sacrifice, releasing his spirit back into our mortal plain as the tobacco burns. Think of it as the Father, Son and Holy Smoke.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Baccus was telling me it is vital when we release his son’s spirit into the world that we focus completely on the action, it must be carried out in warmth and comfort, reflecting the warmth and comfort that his son brings to the world. Conversation is very important as well, the movement of the lips, tongue and larynx improves the circulation of Germino’s spiritual re-emergence. The smoking must be done thus, to smoke stood outside in discomfort is a cause of great sadness to Baccus, it is an abomination.
Therefore it is vital that a room for this observance is provided. The congregation must be seated in comfy armchairs, facing west to the lands of Virginia. The High Priest must be sat in a leather wing-back chair in front of them, dressed in a silk smoking jacket, holding the silver cigarette case of devotion. On either side in front of the High Priest’s chair must be two freestanding dress mirrors, facing away from the congregation so the High Priest’s gaze may also fall west.
There is also a litany:
High Priest: Welcome one and all, we are gathered here in the sight of Baccus for fag time.
Congregation responds: Thank Germino for that, I’m bloody gasping.
High Priest: Please, be seated. (Congregation sits. High Priest pats hits pockets) Which one of you bastards has had me lighter?
Lay member from congregation: Not me, boss. But you can borrow mine.
(At this point, if it is High Church, and the High Priest has a cigar the Lay member should respond: You shouldn’t use a lighter on a cigar, you’ll make it taste of gas.)
High Priest (having checked all pockets): Oh no, bugger me, there it was all the time. Please, spark up. Baccus, we faithful gathered here before you dutifully release your holy son’s spirit in our most devout observance.
Second lay member from congregation: Bollocks, I’ve left mine in the car.
High Priest: (Giving deep sigh and addressing youngest or newest member of the congregation) Please give your brother/sister one of your smokes, or we’ll never hear the bloody end of it.
Youngest member: For crying out loud, why is it always me?
Second lay member: It had better not be a bloody menthol or Silk Cut.
Youngest member: You’ll smoke what you’re given and be thankful. (Tosses cigarette over) And who keeps putting their cellophane in the ashtray? Cut it out won’t you? Why does nobody ever empty these bloody things? The bin’s only over there.
High Priest: Brothers, sisters, please settle down and let us enjoy our smokes in pleasant conversation.
(Smoking commences with general discussion, gossip and character assassination of that twat in IT.)
(Upon cessation.) High Priest: Thank you brothers and sisters. Let us reconvene at the next appointed moment.
Congregation: Yes, see you in a bit. Oh well, back to the bloody grind.
This to be conducted at intervals of no less than once every ninety minutes.
Now, what do you think? If we can sell this as a religion, it’ll probably be illegal under equality laws to deny the observance. Much sport would ensue.
So who’s up for being a Baccunite? Can I get a witness?