Holy Land (2) - the fun they had!
One very pleasant aspect of Grandpa's narrative is his humour. This post will deal with that! It's rather unexpected, in fact, because of the very religious nature of the accounts. We knew he was a prankster in his own way (my Dad reminded me recently that when his sister Thérèse was visiting him in England a long time ago, Grandpa, without knowing her very well, had suddenly taken a hat and plonked it on her head!) and that he was a great one for jokes. But somehow teasing and humour isn't very compatible with faith: one wonders if the seriousness of the attitude isn't affected, and which is the person one should relate to: the believer, or the prankster? Well, you can make up your mind after you've read!
First there are the ways Monsieur Père refers to himself, and it's often ironical and self-deprecatory. Several times he calls himself the scribe, or the scribbler (p. 44 for example) and once, when he has to leave the group to go to his professional appointment in Tel Aviv, he's the "so-called businessman" (p. 40). Before that, he had commented on one of the first photos of Grandma and himself in these terms: "Our special correspondent was fortunate in securing this photograph of a prosperous western businessman in the only tropical drill suit observed in Jerusalem. He is seen here talking to the leader of the party". Later, probably suffering from the heat, and in contrast with a younger and more resistant Kathleen, he calls himself and Auntie "the elderly goats" (p. 49) and p. 58 "the old crocks":
Another type of humour applies to the people around him, either in his own party or outside. Here are a few examples! They enter Jerusalem on the Wednesday, and Grandpa says the first picture that Kathleen takes is of a camel and -oh - on the picture there also happens to be Veronica!
And just before that, on their arrival in Beirut, he introduces us to Auntie's new acquaintance: "The hotel porter (commissionaire? Maître d'hotel?) was attired - you can't just say dressed - in a fantastic Arab outfit. So we called him the Sheik. Kathleen asked if she could photograph him, and as you see, he had a companion." Here's the pic:
But MP continues after and says, most intriguingly:
"Never mind, I had one too"??! What do you think he meant? Was he talking about Kathleen?
Precisely Kathleen is the other person he lampoons: describing the heavy loads which donkeys carry in Palestine, he writes (p.11-12): "Sometimes a load of brushwood completely hiding the donkey. Sacks of flour, boxes of fruit, and the inevitable Arab driver himself. Mind you, I've never seen an Arab wearing a hat like this, but why not?"
Perhaps also not quite deferential is another of Grandpa's comment of one photo where we can see Auntie in Jericho (p. 20): "Leaving Jericho - Veronica is apparently saying goodbye to one of Jericho's black goats - we went on to the Arab palace of..." Sometimes our Grandpa is downright sarcastic, viz this moment when he recounts his visit to a Samaritan village: "We sere shown their copy of the Pentateuch, which they claim to be thousands of years old, but certainly isn't, and listened to their high-priest speak of the water of life promised by Jesus, and then to ask us for that water of life in the shape of money."
But I've kept the best for the end. In Bethany (p. 17), they are "shown the tomb from which Lazarus was raised (John chapter 11), but when [we] asked when he was buried, our guide said - how truly - that nothing was known. Paris? Marseilles? Constantinople? Anywhere but Jerusalem!" I'm glad he stopped at these three cities, because, I could feel that he was going to mention Shanghaï or Capetown! Okay, well, for those of you which this display of fun hasn't convinced (it's 1966 humour after all), here's MP's arrangement of their "holiday in Galilee":
I said it before, but it's true, Monsieur Père was a jolly good fellow!
Here are a few other unusual pictures:
(apparently she thought herself too small next to the "great man"!)
She actually looks proud!!
Well, it must have been hot and very tiring!!
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