I haven't climbed a tree since I was about ten, I suppose. The thought of attempting to do so now is, I have to say, not altogether tempting. Particularly a broad-leafed, sturdily mature sycamore which might require a bit of determination to haul one's carcase to a sufficiently favourable vantage point. All this, of course, is because I sometimes imagine myself to be a kind of professional Zacchaeus. Not in the vertically challenged sense, of course, but in the sense of one who tends these days to keep a dignified distance from hullabaloo and crowdly hilarity. Which, I suppose, brings me nicely to what I want to say. If the Son of God had shouted up at me, peeping down like a wood-nymph, and invited himself round for a spot of lunch, I think my first response might have been to direct Him to the nearest Marriott where He might find adequate and nutritious refreshment.
Because He certainly would not have found it chez moi at the moment.
Let me explain. A fortnight ago, I fetched up on the shores of the Land like a somewhat bedraggled Crusader with considerable baggage excess and was directed to present myself at a Hostel. I am not altogether familiar with such establishments but at close to one in the morning, I'd've shared a stable with a cow. Upon entering the premises, I looked around. There seemed to be an abundance of young persons, clearly intent on festivity, but - no bellhop, sadly. I checked in. My room was on the third floor and it appeared that one was expected to drag whatever one was burdened with oneself. I looked around my room, rather hoping for access to room service and cable TV, but both were conspicuous by their absence. The word 'hostel', then, appeared to evoke a passing resemblance to 'hotel', minus the 's', for service. English hostelries are characterised by merry laughter, horse-brasses over the bar and tweedy locals drinking pints of warm, foaming ale from pewter tankards, served by buxom young women, thus I had clearly been misled. Instead, there was an empty glass on the first floor bar with a paper label on it saying 'Jesus would have tipped'.
At this point, I should make it clear that the mournful little blue donkey, my alter ego, was completely vindicated by his new surroundings and it took him a day or two to adjust. Just as I began to feel, if not exactly at home, a bit less like a refugee, I was tossed out on my ear because the place was full and I had to find alternative accommodation while my new apartment which had been closely negotiated over a period of several days was being 'finished off'.
Some days passed. I received a call informing me that all was ready. Leaping into a taxi and tipping the driver extravagantly, I fetched up at my brand spanking new apartment, an exuberant and optimistic tortoise carrying all his worldly goods on his back, expecting to find all the comforts of home packaged tastefully in a sixth floor penthouse. There was a fridge, a single bed, a rickety chair and an alarmingly asymmetric gap under the front door. The elevator didn't work and the electrical wiring was experimental to the point of presenting a clear and present danger of summary electrocution. A vast expanse of wooden flooring and not much else met my appalled and outraged gaze. In short, the workmen had not so much failed to finish off, they hadn't quite got around to starting. Quite a number of people of varying degrees of seniority came, commiserated and went and after a short period of weeping and gnashing of teeth I am cautiously hopeful that the place might actually be habitable in the foreseeable future. Currently, there is a sort of space where the cooker thingy is supposed to go and inviting people round for dinner would seem not to be on my immediate agenda, consequently if the Son of God had invited himself round, he'd've had to be OK with a cheese sandwich and a glass of water.