With more than a hefty nod and a wink towards Monty Python, here’s a piece without a lot of meaning, but hopefully might bring a smile, imagine if Moses had started writing Genesis as a spectator sport:
Welcome to this week’s edition of The Good Book Programme, and this week you find us out in the Egyptian desert where we hope to witness first time author Moses start his new book Genesis. There’s a good crowd here today, to see the start of what is rumoured to be the first in a series of five books. Global bestsellers, perhaps. We have a large crowd here today to witness the event, and yes, here he is now, Moses, looking cool and casual, rolling up his sleeves as he strides towards his desk, out here under a palm tree. The crowd applaud, there’s a buzz in the air, Moses gives a little bow, to the right, then the left, blushing a little as he does so, he’s a shy fellow. This eager expectant crowd are hoping for some exciting literary action here today. Something that will perhaps go down in history. Tickets sold out overnight. Not an empty seat in the terraces. Now, a hush settles over the place, Moses takes a seat, waggles his shoulders, purses his lips, settles himself and lifts his quill. Looks as if he’s going to begin straight away, out of the blocks immediately, no hanging about. And he’s off… there he goes, he’s approaching the first line, and… oh! But no – he’s merely sharpening his quill with his pen knife. The crowd murmurs, there is a little nervous laughter, he had them fooled for a moment. He waits for them to settle back down again. Lifts the quill, narrows his eyes, and… yes! Yes! He’s done it! He’s started! He’s off! And the first word is… ‘In’ it’s ‘In’ – it’s a preposition – and yes, straight away, he’s on to the second it’s – ‘The’ – ‘In the…’ Well Quentin, that’s very exciting, what do you make of that?
It’s a promising start, Methuselah, no surprises really, but we wait to see if it really goes anywhere. Aristotle attempted a similar beginning but it never really got legs. Tutankhamen had a go but ended up with a limerick. Those two words have been languishing in literary history for a while. Nice to see them being brought out, dusted down and employed at long last.
Let me interrupt you there, Quentin, because he’s now added his third word – it looks like… ‘Be’… ‘Be’… ‘In the be’ – can’t be right, the ref won’t accept that, surely, it’s grammatically off side. No, he’s adding more it’s actually ‘Beee…troot’ – ‘In the beetroot!’ Well, an odd beginning I’d say. Oh no, he’s crossed it all out. Oh dear, he’s getting up and pacing. The crowd is growing restless, they didn’t come here today to see a man go for a walk! If they wanted that they’d be at the golf. Wait a moment, he’s sitting down again, reaching for his quill again, oh dear, he’s put it behind his ear, not a good sign. Let’s hope it’s not writer’s block so soon in the day. Now he’s taking hold of the first page and he’s… oh he’s ripped it up! Now he’s leaning back in his chair, a bead of sweat on his brow. The concentration is palpable. He’s taking his quill from behind his ear… and balancing it on his chin. This’ll never do! One or two in the crowd seem rather impressed by this, but it won’t get the book done. And… yes… yes… he’s preparing to write again, the quill hovers in his fingers, forms a word. It’s ‘In’ again. And he’s adding ‘The’ this is old territory now… But he’s changed it to ‘On’… ‘On…’ On what? Oh he’s reaching for the Tipp-ex, never a good sign. The top is gummed up, he’s having trouble, the ref’s moving in and oh dear. He’s spilt it all over his robe. One or two of the crowd are staring to boo! Someone’s thrown on a copy of the Oxford Egyptian Hieroglyphics. But he’s off, he’s pushed the ref away and he’s writing again. Oh he’s gone back to ‘In’ for a third time… and added ‘The’ again! He’s back to ‘In the…’ In the what though? He’s writing again, the crowd is hushed, there is only the sound of the quill, this is clearly a big word, a deft manoeuvre. It’s longer than ‘beetroot’. ‘Beginning!’ It’s ‘Beginning’! Yes! He’s done it! A third word. At last. Just when the game seemed lost. ‘In the beginning.’ Certainly sounds like a start then Quentin.
Yes, he could have gone for that old chestnut ‘Once upon a time’ or the classic ‘I dreamt last night I was back at Mandalay’ or even ‘In a galaxy far, far away’ but no, this is powerful. This is a statement, ‘In the beginning’ says it all, cuts to the chase, and so much better than ‘In the beetroot’, or even ‘In the bedsocks’ I was worried we might be heading there for a moment or two. There’s clearly no stopping him now.
Yes exactly and… oh – he’s stopped. He’s got his head in his hands, now he’s looking at the crowd, now he’s staring into the sky for inspiration. It’s all going horribly wrong. Oh wait! He’s taken up the quill again… oh no! He’s sharpening it a second time! Oh dear, it’s like The Iliad all over again. But no, he’s off again. And he’s on a roll! ‘In the beginning… God… created… the… heavens… and… the…’ Oh and that’s the ref’s whistle. We’re right out of time. Would you believe it, just as he was getting going. And now the crowd are starting to invade the pitch. Next week we’ll be coming to you live from a Corinthian tent where a young man called Paul will be composing his latest works, a couple of rather dense letters. But for now, it’s goodbye from myself and Quentin in Egypt, and over to Harold Hoover for the latest in the World Snail Racing championships, this year from Mesopotamia. Good night.