A view backstage at Beverley Minster

No good wine-ing about it

It’s an unusual thing to claim but Jeremy Clarkson has presented me with a religious dilemma.
It all started when I was on Look North a few weeks back. Reviewing the recording afterwards I thought: “OK Porky. I think you looked a bit lovelier a few years ago when you weren’t your current size.”
While my face is as finely chiselled as ever, it has to be admitted that I need much larger pairs of pants these days.
While I can’t claim this realisation led to a miraculous life-changing conversion a la Saul on his way to Tarsus it did, nonetheless, make me think about doing something about it.
Having read a recent column by the shouty one who drives cars on telly I learned that his new alcohol-free diet was leading to a one pound per week weight reduction. Now I don’t drink anything like as much as the tall Top Gear-ist but I figured cutting out two glasses of wine each night might knock a few ounces off.
Well, every little helps.
Having given up cheese for Lent this year I knew l had a will of iron, so I thought I’d try following the diet plan of the blessed Jeremy and chucking alcohol altogether for the duration. After all, I could always start drinking again if I got thirsty.
This did, however, put me in a quandary when it came to taking communion.
I hope some of you won’t be annoyed if I mention that a Church of England communion involves members of the congregation taking a glug of wine – real wine – because (for anyone who doesn’t know) alcohol at the sacrament is one of the many hugely complicated divisions that separate different Christian churches.
I happen to like the Anglican view – everyone can have a sip from the chalice and savour the contents when remembering the murder of Christ. I have heard of one particular church where this element of the ceremony was so important that they listed the vintage of the wine being served that day.
The Catholics have a different approach . As I understand (and bear in mind I’m only an amateur observer on this so I could be totally wrong), they think that the wine in communion actually BECOMES the blood of Jesus, so it’s therefore too holy for anyone but the priest to drink.
Mind you, that’s only during the service. Afterwards, in my experience, they are generosity itself with the bottles – have you ever seen a nun and a priest in a drunken fight? I have.
Non-conformists have differing views on wine in the communion, heavily influenced by their varying attitudes to ‘The Demon Drink’.
Traumatised by images of gin-soaked specimens from morality tracts in the 18th and 19th centuries some reject wine altogether and serve a sickly blackcurrent or similar fruit-based slop during their services.
It is frequently pointed out to such abstainers that Christ’s first reported miracle was when he turned water into the very finest wine at a wedding.
“Aha!” they reply somewhat desperately. “But it must have been a special non-alcoholic wine.”
Somehow I don’t think so.
Anyway, to cut a long and highly contentious story short, I’ve been off the booze for two weeks and the little voice that invited me to a quick sip at teatime has been very quiet.
But twice a week I am on duty at Beverley Minster when a communion service is underway and, if I want to participate, I should sip from the silver chalice. But this means some of the fruits of Baccanalia will enter the newly purified temple that is my body and, worse, possibly drive me into a frenzy of wine-yearning. What should I do?
I decided to sip the wine, be part of the Anglican communion, and to heck with it.
So far no ill effects – I haven’t had an urge to tear the chalice from the server’s hands and drain it in one and, to be honest, it tastes a little strange now.
And I’ve lost two pounds already. Just 54 to go.

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