So much blather in the world, don't you agree? I've seen it on Twitter, on the news, and at the last on Facebook, but the original telly viewing was where it counted. And I'm not talking 4OD or iPlayer or ITV Player or Demand Five or any of that shit. No, this was viewed as God intended, when it was scheduled to be broadcast, and I was sitting in a chair with toast when I watched it. I felt positively vintage.
What I watched was part of a strand, as I believe the TV pros call it, on the history of the Bible. Perfect Sunday evening viewing, because it fits in with those Natural World type docs and Lost Kingdoms of Africa - you know the shit I'm talking about - and I had certain expectations of such a programme. Howard Jacobson has been heavily trailed as part of it, and I have always liked his style - erudite and impassioned - with a sense of humour to boot. I had not really seen any, planning as I was to catch up at some point, and was rather disappointed to find that the Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe MP was fronting (and that, dear readers, is very much the cromulent word here) the episode I was due to watch, which was to be on the theme of the Ten Commandments.
After a minute or two, I realised that I have met people like Ms Widdecombe in my life. Presented with an argument she doesn't like and/or cannot respond to, she chooses to ignore it and carry on regardless, and such was the case in this hardly exhaustive and utterly pointless quest to discover the origins and lasting appeal of the Mosaic Law. Seeking to find out more about this Moses character, she pushed her enormous (presumably) un-sucked knockers up the steps of a university somewhere so that she could pick the large brain of a rather foxy professor and find out a little more. Oh, and find out more she did; to the effect that most Biblical scholars these days do not think that the great man ever existed, largely because there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever to substantiate any of the stuff probably written several hundred years after the event by a number of chiselers in order to make capital on it. The numbers in the Bible, we were told by the foxy (Mediterranean looking, as it happens) prof, would certainly have left some mark on the land, as we would expect several million people to have been involved. There was no proof of Moses' existence. Ann was having none of this. She became very frosty very quickly, and her tone grew brusque - almost peremptory.
"But you cannot prove he didn't exist!" she said at last, with a tone of empty triumph in her voice, before heaving her vast (never milked) mammaries towards an unsuspecting Rabbi, who (with his wife present, of course) showed Ann the two of everything (sink, cooker, fridge - you name it) he had in his kitchen. He had only one wife, but he followed some 613 religious laws.
She then went on to canvas various other interested parties, all the while extolling the virtues of some kind of puritanical golden age, exemplified by a pastor in the South West of England in the 17th Century who saved the sinners with his strict adherence to the Ten Commandments, postulating that somehow by following these edicts today, we would be able to eliminate the hoody threat and turn around the awful broken families/rampant alcoholism/nihilism which blights our great country today. None of this - needless to say - took into account any historical considerations around poverty, disease, abuse and inequality which were even worse back then, although you could get a bottle of gin for a ha'penny, so it can't have been all bad.
Her humongous diddies at last came up against Christopher Hitchens, looking splendidly dissolute, and a slightly rabid Stephen Fry (and this is where the blather comes in. Twitter was almost as excited as it was about the Paperchase scandal) who flecked her with his spittle at an Intelligence Squared debate on the virtues or otherwise of Catholicism. Vociferous was, I think, the correct term to describe Stephen, and I was (and am) wholeheartedly behind him - oo-er Missus. Ann's response, in the best Parliamentary tradition, was (effectively) to tell him to stop shouting.