You lisp and wear strange suits

Well, a rather touching little interlude in my normal Sunday morning routine today.

My childhood Sundays were blighted in interesting ways by formal, garrison-based moderately high suit-wearing CofE church attendance. What made all the difference around the age of 15-16 was some positive, helpful youth outreach at school. Some grown-ups who had already been there and done that themselves took the time out to show how (a) it can all actually be relevant to life in the modern world, (b) it’s not all about following the list of Do Nots and beating yourself up when you Do, and (c) it can actually be fun. And as I always like to give back, or pay it forward, or whatever, I’ve now been a youth worker with teenagers for so long that any child who had been born during my first meeting can now legally marry.

That’s at the present church. Take it back a bit further to my previous church and any child born during my first meeting there can now vote.

I throttled back a little when I got married – suddenly I could think of other things to do with my spare time – but this summer I formally handed in my notice for good. It’s been great fun and I’ve seen some pretty superior examples of teendom through to adulthood. The earlier examples are now older than I was when I started. But there comes a time when you really feel you’ve done it all, enthusiasm becomes ever harder to muster, and anyway it’s time to get out before my reputation is dragged down by any real failures.

I was forewarned and so expected to be Surprised during the service this morning by some kind of public vote of thanks. They went a bit further than that. Quite apart from the Youth Pastor presenting me with a bottle of bubbly, it turned out a Family Fortunes-type quiz had been arranged on my behalf, with me as the special subject. Apparently, for example, a lot of people decided my favourite book of the Bible would be Leviticus. I guessed Song of Songs. Put it this way – we had a reading from the latter at our wedding. We did not have a reading from Leviticus.

“[Shellfish] shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.”


And what I will most be remembered for, apparently, is the introduction of Shakespearean insults into our meetings.

This was a simple little game devised, if memory serves, to illustrate the principle of forgiveness. The rules are dead easy and require access only to a good source of insults. I forget which one I used but there are plenty of websites out there that will generate Shakespearean insults for you. Accept no forgeries, though: some just use Shakespearean language to make insults up. I hold that if it was good enough for Shakespeare then it’s good enough for us, so only use a website with the real stuff. This one, for example.

Once you have generated a good number, write each one on a card. The game can now begin.

The first player draws a card and insults the victim of his choice from among the other players. The victim throws a pair of dice.

  • Even number: victim forgives the insult. Insulter discards insult. Games moves on clockwise from the insulter.
  • Odd number: victim doesn’t forgive. Insulter gives the insult to the victim, draws a new card and insults someone else (never the same victim twice running, or at all if possible in one go). Keep going until an insult is forgiven.
  • Double: regardless of outcome (even or odd as described above), game moves on clockwise after that insult.

The game continues until all insults have been drawn. The loser is the one with the most unforgiven insults.

The point? (All good church youth activities have one.) It ends much more quickly if the insults are forgiven straight up.

There, I make my bequest to the world. Feel free to adapt or modify in any way you like. And for anyone wondering, the title of this post comes from “As You Like It”.