Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Michael Palin Goes to Church

Michael Palin writes in his diary, Sunday February 28, 1971:

I had been feeling guilty for some weeks that I had made no effort to follow up my decision to have William [his son] christened at St. Martin’s, the local church standing amongst the rubble of the Gospel Oak rebuilding scheme.

And today I took the snap decision to go. I was literally summoned by the bells. It was a strange feeling going into a church I did not know for a service that I did not really believe in, but once inside I couldn’t help a feeling of warmth and security. Outside there were wars and road accidents and murders, striptease clubs and battered babies and frayed tempers and unhappy marriages and people contemplating suicide and bad jokes and The Golden Shot [a British television game show between 1967 and 1975], but once in St. Martin’s there was peace. Surely people go to church not to involve themselves in the world’s problems but to escape from them. And surprisingly also, here in the middle of devastated Kentish Town, was a large unusually designed stone building, with polished pews and shining brass and a vicar and faithful people gathered. Though rationally I would find it difficult to justify my participation, I nevertheless was glad I went. In a funny way, I was really moved by the faith of the fifteen old ladies, four men, a choir (black and white) who were there with me. But seeing the vicar afterwards I felt a fraud.

Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 55-56.

My review of this book can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Geoff Pound

Image: St Martin’s Gospel Oak. The web site says that, “the church has recently been restored. Come and see.”