A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Email To The New Pope - Again

Originally published: 20 July 2005

Happily browsing the news yesterday a headline grabbed my eye, held my gaze then zoomed in large - it read as follows:

"Pope hails vacations as escape from frenetic life"

I shit you not. I can tell you're as staggered as I am. Don't try pretend you're not.

I clicked the link and found myself reading a hearty piece about how the new Pope Benedict emerged the other day from his holiday retreat in the Alps to address a crowd that had gathered - as crowds do - and how he told them all that they should have more holidays. Like him.

He blessed them all and stuff before giving thanks for his own holiday, which came "after the first months of demanding pastoral service".

Then he pissed off back to his luxury chalet in a swathe of monkcloth and perfumery, leaving his adoring fans freezing their asses off in the snow.

I trust you'll understand why another email was necessary - he obviously didn't take much notice of my previous one.

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Dear Ben

I don't mean to be overly familiar or anything - it's just that we've corresponded before and I felt we could cut all the titles and crap, leave off the kissing of your ring and just get down to brass tacks, so to speak, with as little fawning and subjugation and as few status headgames as possible.

Here's my concern, dude - I work my fat ass off every six days out of seven, 18 hours per, and I get one lousy three-week break over December.

The furthest my budget will allow me on that holiday is to the Corner Portuguese for a half-loaf of white and some slaptjips - maybe one of those dusted marshmallow mice the oke keeps in a jar on the counter as well, if I've got spare change.

I work like a bitch and believe me when I tell you three weeks doesn't begin to cover the multitude of evils you suffer over six days out of seven, 18 hours a bladdy day.

But you spend two days on the job and you're already swanning off to the Alps to some luxury, private retreat far away from it all - and as far as I can make out the most you've done in those two days is wave condescendingly at a crowd or two and read Harry Potter.

It's too much, man.

Then you come outside - fresh from full body massages, steam rooms, sumptuous tables groaning under the weight of culinary wonders and fine wines, fluffy pillows, central heating and no doubt the odd bit of nipple torture - and tell the madding throng they really need to go on holiday, man.

It's insane, dude. You've become mad with power in a couple of days.

Next thing you'll have a toga and fiddle and be drinking aqueduct water and going stark raving nuts, while your acolytes lie all over the place stuffing their faces until they're so full they can't eat anymore - before tying pig's fat to a piece of string, swallowing, pulling the fat back up via the string, retching into a convenient bucket and starting all over again.

All night long. While having sex with obese, weird, freaky people. And midgets.

It's just wrong, Ben, is all I'm saying. That shit ain't right, man.

Please don't misunderstand me - I'm not saying that because I work hard and don't get holidays you shouldn't get to do Sweet Fanny Adams and go jetting all over Europe every couple of days to "get away from it all".

By all means go on holiday as often as you like. But don't be walking out there like The Grand Poobah of Somewhere, flash your face-packed mug about, offer one or two rings to be kissed and tell the good, honest, hardworking citizens of ... um ... the Alps that they need to get out more.

It's just cruel, dude, and a grave misappropriation of your position as Most Religious Oke In The World.

Here's the thing, guy: most of us would gladly saw off our left knee with a rusty steak knife to be able to pop off to the Alps whenever we feel like it. Hell - I'd not only saw my knee off but I'd eat it as well if I could just get away for a grey afternoon or two in Springs in the middle of winter.

Seriously - it's not that we don't want to get away. It's that we can't.

Life for most folks isn't all about having to make speeches once or twice a fortnight and perhaps conjuring up a sermon or two with the help of some sermon-writers (hey - politicians can have speech writers, so why shouldn't a famous oke like yourself have his own sermon-writer or two, stashed away in the rectory?).

Most of us work long hours in city offices for the tiniest, most infinitesimal fraction of a percentage of what you earn, especially when you take all those gold ingots and ruby-inlaid sceptres and other priceless shit you okes have lying around in the Vatican catacombs into account.

Heh - you're a prime candidate for Cash Converters, dude. You'd better hope (well, I suppose you could pray, since that's the sort of thing you're into) that you never meet hard times - you'll discover a whole new world of pain you were never aware existed the day you cart some of that stuff off to Cash Converters.

First the oke behind the counter will look at you like you're some kind of freaky pope or something, then he'll check your bag of priceless trinkets, shake his head, whistle quietly to himself in near-despair and tell you that there's no way he would be able to afford that stuff.

You stare at him; he just keeps shaking his head.


Then you'll ask him how much he would give you for the lot and he'll repeat that it would be pointless for him - he could never pay you enough to make it worth your while.

In desperation you will tell him that you really don't need the full value of the damn things - you've just got so many of them lying around you thought you'd just pop them off to CC to get them off your hands. Really - you don't need a lot.

He'll hum and hah, whistle some more, shake his be-mulleted head a few more times, absentmindedly scratch a festering pimple open before surreptitiously wiping his pusfinger on the underside of the counter, and then he'll ask you how much you'd be prepared to sell the lot for.

I know, I know - that's the last question you need. But they do it every time, my brother, so I'm just warning you in advance. You're powerless in this situation dude - and they know it. They know it. All you can do is follow the script.

Which dictates that you then tell him you have no idea how much the stuff is worth or what you want for it, and ask him to suggest something.

He hums and hahs some more and eventually - after dragging it out as long as he can - he'll capitulate, and after sighing deply one more time he'll tell you that he really can't offer you more than, say, a hundred bucks.

You'll be shocked and horrified that he could value things like the Turin Shroud and the Ark of the Covenant so cheaply, but he whipped you long before you even walked in that door, man. There's no shame in it - hand him the stuff, get your bucks and at the very least you'll be in smokes for a couple of days.

It's the harsh realities, Ben.

Much like the harsh reality of the fact that I will never, ever in my life even see the Alps, much less spend time on holiday in them, and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop rubbing it in.

Just a little courtesy, man - that's all I ask.

Finally - I really need to know why you haven't done anything yet. I was expecting sweeping changes and radical dogma and women being freed from the chains of oppression on a daily basis. At the very least sorting out the paedophilia problem that is the curse of your church worldwide.

But noooo - you're reading Harry Potter and munching on Eet-Sum-Mors or Tennis Biscuits, aren't you Ben? Hmm?

I had high hopes for you, my friend and I'm sorry to say my faith in you is already waning. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I just need a break. Maybe - just maybe - I need a holiday.

Anyways - back to the sauna with you, you old goat. And no more mad, nutty stuff, OK?

Best, as always,
Luke Tagg

PS: what do you think of Britney, man? I know it's decidedly uncool to like her but you know what? I like her, guy. I really do.

I watched this E! Entertainment special about her and even though I understand the arguments against her ... well ... let me put it to you this way, dude: I wouldn't be surprised if I was strolling along the streets of Claremont, when who should walk past but Britney Spears. All casual-like, in pink cashmere and shit.

Plenty of hotties like that in Claremont, dude. You gotta see it to believe it.

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I sent off my mail (with an attached pic of Britney, just in case the Pope isn't up to speed on such matters), and this morning I opened my inbox to find the following reply:

Mein Luke!

Hahahaha. LOL. ROFLMAO. Eggsalent, young frient. Wow! I mean - goot! Ja?

I show pic to Cardinal Schniebenschnaber und he go: "LOL! ROFLMAO!! Zis must be Claremont hottie! Ja? Luke send it, no? LOL. Zat guy - he funny guy. ROFLMFAO!"

Anyvays - ve haff yoga zis afternoon und Cardinal Schiebenschnaber beliefs he can eat it vis All-Bran flakes. I say "Nein!" und he say "Ja!" und now ve must go for me am to so proof it, ja?

Goot to hear from you, young frient, und sanks for not askink about condoms. Nott yett, mein Luke. LOL!

Heff nice holiday, ja? Maybe ve see you here in Alps?

His Lovely,
Pope Benedict

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Ah well. Maybe I just need to give him some more time. Let's hope they keep him far away from aqueducts. Come to think of it - they need to get him away from the Internet chatrooms as well.

The geek-speak doesn't suit him.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

Look at me now - all the way from Uitenhage to the bright lights of the big internet.

Find out more using the handy links provided.



Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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