Many English phrasescarry a world on their shoulders.

  • There is perhaps nothing more annoying than the words “PLEASE HOLD – YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US AND WILL BE ATTENDED TO SOON.”
  • There is perhaps nothing more smug or priggish than the response “I TOLD YOU SO.”
  • There is perhaps nothing more tragic than the words “TOO LATE.”

Now I certainly don’t want to come across all superior or smug. In fact, reading the obit of p*rn baron, Paul Raymond (sometimes described as the British Hugh Hefner), on BBC online, just made me incredibly sad: if only he’d listened to Ecclesiastes. For I feel that the Teacher would no doubt have said the last 2 of these phrases (but probably not the first). This is what the obit said:

Raymond, 82, the son of a Liverpool lorry driver, founded a huge pornographic empire which included magazines such as Mayfair and Men Only. He was once dubbed the King of Soho and in 1958 opened the only premises in the UK to stage live striptease shows. Raymond acquired property in London’s West End in the 1970s and was thought to be worth £650m when he died. Born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in November 1925, Raymond left school at 15 to pursue a career in showbusiness and started with a mind-reading act on Clacton Pier. He soon discovered his real talent lay as a producer and went on to exploit not only the public’s fascination with sex and nudity, but also the gradual liberalisation of the 1950s, 60s and 70s…

But this is how it ended

…in later years competition to his porn empire from so-called “lads mags” stifled his fortunes. Raymond called himself a spiv and behaved like one, sporting fur coats, a Rolls Royce, a tiny moustache and a fake tan. But money did not buy him happiness. His marriage broke up acrimoniously after an affair with the model, Fiona Richmond. He was estranged from his son, and his daughter Debbie, who ran his empire for a time, died aged 36 from a drugs overdose in 1992. He ended his life a virtual recluse in a penthouse flat behind the Ritz Hotel.

What a tragic way to go. Not least because of the wisdom of what the Teacher said 3000 years ago (in Ecclesiastes 2). More even than Raymond could the Teacher say he’d been there, done that.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.

And his conclusion:

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything wasmeaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

The Teacher did it all & he DID tell us so. But still people don’t believe him – they think it is still worth it, despite the wind-chasing misery of it all. (Check out Hugh Palmer’s great sermon on this passage from a recent Ecclesiastes series.)

However, as well as the venerable Teacher of old, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a more contemporary prophet, Steve Turner and his brilliant poem.

by Steve Turner

Tonight, we will
fake love together.
You my love possess
all the essential qualities
as listed by Playboy.
You will last me for
as long as two weeks
or until such a time
as your face & figure
go out of fashion.
I will hold you close
to my Hollywood-standard body,
the smell of which
has been approved
by my ten best friends
and a representative
of Lifebuoy.
I will prop my paperback
Kama Sutra
on the dressing table
& like programmed seals
we will perform
& like human beings
we will grow tired
of our artificially sweetened
diluted & ready to drink
love affairs.
Tonight, we will fake love.
Tonight we will be both
quick & silent, our time limited,
measured out in distances
between fingers
& pushbuttons

(from Up To Date, 1993 edition, p20)

And for good measure, it is worth throwing in a U2 song as well. For in this song, Bono & Edge brilliantly point us beyond Hefner’s Playboy mansion (where a welcome is available only to the ‘right’, ‘attractive’, ‘lucky’ kind of people) and offer hints of the hope of the great mansion, (in which there are many rooms prepared in advance for those who are not the beautiful or ‘perfect’ people). No – this is a mansion of grace – open to all who are not worthy but who recognise their unworthiness. And to seek after that is in no sense a seeking after the wind. Now I’ve no idea about Paul Raymond’s last few years – but the wonder of this mansion of grace is that ‘even’ he would be welcome there…

lyrics by Bono & The Edge; music by U2

If coke is a mystery / Michael Jackson…history
If beauty is truth / And surgery the fountain of youth
What am I to do / Have I got the gift to get me through
The gates of that mansion

If oj is more than a drink / And a big mac bigger than you think
If perfume is an obsession / And talk shows, confession
What have we got to lose / Another push and we’ll be through
The gates of that mansion

I never bought a lotto ticket / I never parked in anyones space
The banks feel like cathedrals / I guess casinos took their place
Love, come on down / Don’t wake her, she’ll come around

Chance is a kind of religion / Where you’re damned for plain hard luck
I never did see that movie / I never did read that book
Love, come on down / Let my numbers come around

Don’t know if I can hold on / Don’t know if I’m that strong
Don’t know if I can wait that long / ’til the colours come flashing
And the lights go on

Then will there be no time for sorrow / Then will there be no time for shame
And though I can’t say why / I know I’ve got to believe

We’ll go driving in that pool / It’s who you know that gets you through
The gates of the playboy mansion / But they don’t mention…the pain

Then will there be no time for sorrow
Then will there be no time for shame
Then will there be no time for sorrow
Then will there be no time for shame

(from the too often overlooked 1993 album Pop)

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. kookimebux

    Hello. And Bye. 🙂

  2. Jo

    I am using this blog as a source of inspiration for a creative project about how the more vain effort we exert the more we entrap ourselves within it. It’s going to take alot of vain effort to create! 🙂

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