Since, to my lasting horror, I keep being forced into the position of defending religion by dint of simply being a cussedly reasonably human being, I thought I would redress the balance by having a go at the Mormons. I mean, after all, there is a limit.

Some years ago, when I was a little spod whose greatest desire was to go to Oxnod and study histebod, I traced my family history. It may be fashionable now (to a given definition of fashionable) but before the televisual facelift, record offices were in every sense like tombs. There were no pretty copperplate volumes lying ready and waiting on sponge cushions for Tony Robinson to enthuse over, there were no long ranges of oak bookshelves kindly dispensing wisdom via the medium of Stephen Fry, and there were no magic answers. There were metal filing cabinets, evil-smelling choleric dust, resentful silence, and the chill of wasted time (you have to remember I was an extremely troubled adolescent).

Joseph Smith’s troubled adolescence occurred in the 1810s and his outlet was actually far more fashionable than mine – he had religious visions in an age of evangelical revival. All well and good, until one of these visions sought to address the inconceivable fact that none of the events recounted in the Bible had taken place in Amurrica. An angel called Moroni (apparently a coincidence – “moron” derives from the Greek “moros” meaning foolish, but seemingly was not in use as an insult until the twentieth century) appeared to Joseph and told him the whereabouts of certain gold tablets on which were inscribed the narrative of a flight from Israel to America and God’s contact with them there. He published this “lost” book of the Bible (you can read it for free on t’internet) and devoted the rest of his life to preaching and converting, and by the time he was killed by a mob in his late thirties, his Mormon religion had 26,000 followers.

This is an impressive haul for a delusional egotist by the standards of any age (more impressive than Jesus, for a start), but still dwarfed by the 190,000-odd Mormons (or Latter Day Saints) living in the UK today. Like absolutely every reformed church in the history of everywhere, they think they are the ones returning the church to the pure state Christ originally intended. Their beliefs are expressed with touchy-feely care: polygamy was officially discontinued over a century ago (oh, that’s all right then); they are apparently noted for their tolerance towards other faiths; there is emphasis on the importance of family and there is also a belief that earthly life is a middle phase in the soul’s existence. So not only is there life after death, but before birth as well, and families can actually be reunited post the earthly life if the appropriate sacred covenant is made in a Mormon temple on earth.

The reason I mention all this is that the Mormons have a project. Actually, two projects. One is Mitt Romney, the alarmingly Ken-like (doll, not mayor) Mormon who has just taken his second state in the still wide-open Republican contest. The other is the collation of massive databanks full of dead Christians from everywhere on earth, so that Mormons can trace their family history and – you may wish to sit down for this - make Mormon covenants on behalf of all their ancestors so that they can all be one big happy multi-generational, a-nuclear family in the afterlife. Imagine being a sixteenth-century Lincolnshire swineherd and waking up in the Great Beyond to discover that your genes have given rise to Utah’s finest and then having to have Sunday dinner with them for all eternity.

This gathering in of the unwittingly faithful has been going on quietly for about thirty years, incorporating literally millions of baptism and marriage and census records from all over the UK. It has had the effect of revolutionising genealogy. No-one tracing their ancestors can do anything without the efforts of the Mormons. Any names found in these databanks have at some point been mass-covenanted in Salt Lake City in the course of a morning. Now, I quite obviously couldn’t give a toss that my ancestors have a spiritual option on Mormonism, but I venture to guess that some of them would have objected. Even been terrified out of their wits at the very idea. Certainly the Catholics.

The casual mass production values involved are chilling when you consider what it’s all based on. They may look deceptively normal alongside scientologists, and disquiet in the British media has been more focussed on Mike Huckabee of late, largely because he has come from nowhere to take on the Mormon challenger for the evangelical vote. But  Mormons still believe that a teenager copied the word of God from miraculous gold tablets in the same period as the invention of the locomotive engine, they believe that there was an Israelite exodus to America in ancient times and they think they know better than the silent majority itself. And one way or another, they’re on the up.

The 26 October 1914 was not a good day for the 2nd battalion of the Cameronians’ rifle regiment. Two months’ bivouacking backwards and forwards in a state of chronic under-equipment around the Ypres hinterland had already caused them to sustain heavy losses, and it can never be easy to have a good day while wearing tartan trousers in any case. On that day they were bedding in around a little hamlet called Le Cateau, and in so doing, had they but known it, they were sowing the nightmarish seeds of four years’ entrenchment. One officer and thirteen men were picked off by snipers in the course of the day, and one of the men was a private soldier called Percy Mortimer.

It is just my hunch, but I think he was a bit peeved by this. He was by birth an Australian of Anglo-Irish descent so it was hardly his war in the first place. He had already done his bit for the Empire - joined up as a young colonial adventurer in the last years of the nineteenth century, fought in the Boer Wars, dived from the tops of masts into the sea, survived Mafeking with the aid of a tea towel and scouted along the North-West frontier on horseback with a turban wound tightly round his head to stop his red hair flaming like a beacon all the way to Lahore (you have to bear in mind a lot of this is family legend). When his tour of duty was over, Percy didn’t go back to Melbourne. He did what we all have to do from time to time and dossed down on a friend’s floor in Finsbury Park, about a mile from where I’m writing now.

When war was declared in August 1914 Percy was within a few days of coming off the reserve list. He had a brushmaking business in Finsbury Park and he had married his friend’s sister. He had a four-year-old son, and he was thirty two. Of course, even if he hadn’t been called up into that funny little ill-starred British Expeditionary Force he would have gone to France sooner or later anyway, and maybe he wouldn’t have survived the war whatever happened. Still, that was how it happened. And it was a bit of a pisser all round.

And it was with these thoughts very much in her mind that, ninety-three years later to the very day, his great-granddaughter, being your current correspondent, alighted from the tube in the very same Finsbury Park dressed as a dead vampire bride, having been viciously mocked all the way from Bounds Green by the Filthy Hun.

My coy plan was to wait for the the kind darkness of Woodstock Road N4 before posying up in the full shebang of bridal-veil-with-dead-crumbling-roses-circlet, so there was no real indication between the black coat, white dress and black boots that I was actually dressed up. I had however done most of the make-up at home, and so it was with ashy countenance and bloodied lips that I plonked myself onto the Piccadilly line opposite two very blonde, very sleek, very nicely dressed young Hildebrunnas who were agen-flagen-eine-kleine-baden-badening away at each other like a pair of diplomat’s daughters.

I get oddly put out when tourists are confident and relaxed on the tube. Is it not crowded and hot and confusing enough down here for you? I’ll have you know this is the most god-awful transport system of any city this important anywhere in the world! The maps are enigmatic hieroglyphs, the platform names perverse and meaningless (having people choose between “Northbound” and “Westbound”. I ask you), the announcements inaudible and the scrolling electronic updates totally redundant unless you are going all the way to Rayner’s Lane and have a short-term memory problem that requires a reminder of this fact to be displayed to you every ten seconds. And there they sit gabbing away in total unconcern as if they were on holiday or something.

But I digress. The kling-mit-schlagklang-klugenfartening stopped abruptly as Mortimer the Great-Granddaughter enters the carriage. I get a couple of odd looks from people who notice the vampire bite on my neck (red nail varnish actually; worked a treat, especially when it started flaking off and looking like a dark clot) but this is nothing to the mocking, balefully flaxen stares of the Hildebrunnas.

They commence to giggle in German at what they clearly believe is my awful make-up. After a while, as an experiment, I take out my mirror and survey my dead bridal face with immense satisfaction. More giggles. I can sort of see what they mean. If you come from a country where there’s no such thing as (a) a Halloween dressing-up tradition or (b) a joke, you might not tumble to what I am about. I am just using ordinary powders and highlighters and whatnot, not actual facepaint, so I probably just look dramatically overdone to the casual, and humourless, and stupid, onlooker.

I start to play little mind-games with them, carefully adding a dab of Sparkling Ice White Eyeglide here, a top-up of dark-Goth-red Lipfinity there, holding the mirror at arm’s length and pouting at myself. It is not difficult to keep their attention. They are actually trying to catch my eye, the better to laugh at me, and I stare unpleasantly at one of them for an eye-wateringly long term before she looks away. Ha, one-up to the People’s Republic! But this is only the beginning.

By the time we pull into Finsbury Park I am almost chalk-white and my mouth and eyes are as red and black as a roulette wheel, and the Hildabrunnas are almost beside themselves with sniggery rudeness.

It is Time! The Mortimers will have their Revenge!

So I glide from my seat and, ignoring their screams of horror, puncture their jugulars and suck all the blood from their veins before alighting to the platform and moving smoothly towards the Wells Terrace exit with a beatific smile playing across my ghastly features. Take that, jerry.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 35 other followers