24. Britain’s Got Talent 3.

After Lion has gone, I start talking with a young man who’s dressed in a fairly dramatic clown-type outfit. He’s not well endowed with charisma. Oh, he’s a lovely boy, but he doesn’t give the impression that he’s got an act that, at this stage in the process, would be expected to go through. I wonder if he’s a patsy – one of the acts that they put on to get four  redXs and good TV.  It’s incredibly cruel if so as he’s full of hope and expectancy. ‘I must be good if I’ve got this far,’ he says. I hope that my instinct is wrong.

In theory, yes, he should be good if he got this far. He's got through two previous auditions.  I’m aware that I was bypassed through the first two audition levels so I am almost certainly expected to be good or to be weird. But I’m not sure about this guy...

Finally, comes my turn to be interviewed. And this time (the dregs of the evening when all the posh presenters have finished) it’s an older woman who starts asking me intelligent and sensible questions. They are fairly intense including ‘why did you become a priest?’

I tell her the story of Henry and how the Catholic chaplain told me that he couldn’t go to heaven as he wasn’t a Christian and how I walked up the aisle in church behind his coffin, hearing him damned to hell. I tell her about the spiritual funerals I began to do so that no one else would have to go through that extra trauma after bereavement. There is a tear in her eye. I’m not sure this is the kind of thing that a talent show is looking for. But they wanted me, and this is my story.

We talk too about spirit, about religion – how God doesn’t fit into boxes and doesn’t follow the terms and conditions that we set – we talk about love and Lion and about life the universe and everything. I don’t mention dis-ease because right now I don’t have any, so what would be the point?

The second show is running late and it’s about 9.30 pm when I am taken down to backstage. There are a load of the other acts, waiting to go on. Before that, they want to film me talking with a young comedian in a baseball hat. I’m supposed to comfort him because he got four red Xs. This implies that they might think I’m better than him but I don’t know.  I do my best; tell him to keep honing and practicing and find his niche and tell him that some comedians work better in small, intimate circumstances and that he shouldn’t loose faith.

Then I stand with the Robbie Williams guy who’s thrilled because someone just videoed him on their mobile phone to say happy birthday to the real Robbie Williams (Ant and Dec know him). I’m glad for him. I’m sure he’ll do well.

He gets for red Xs. Apparently he doesn’t sound at all like Robbie Williams. The poor man is totally gutted. Five years of work gone down the drain. If it’s shown on TV he will be doubly humiliated – and it will be shown. He’s done so much filming for them today that they must have had him down for a featured place.

The young man I talked with in the holding room goes on before me. I can’t hear what he’s doing because now it’s my time for my televised ‘before you go on’ talk with Ant and Dec. The sound of another four red Xs however, is unmistakable. My heart bleeds for him.

For some reason, I say ‘bless you both,’ when I’m introduced to Ant and Dec and they are shocked. But they say ‘thank you’ and talk to me about something but I can’t for the life of me remember what.

And just as I am standing in the wings, heart in mouth, and microphone in hand, a researcher comes up and taps me on the shoulder.

‘Simon may ask you to tell him something interesting about you,’ she says. ‘Make sure you tell him about the book you wrote about the Messiah and America’s Got Talent.’

‘Really?’ say I, astounded. I would never have done that without being prompted. But I am directable, remember? And truly, that researcher was an angel.

‘On you go,’ says a member of the crew. It’s one of those ‘remember this for a lifetime’ moments. I say ‘Thy will be done,’ because I am here by God’s will and to be God’s vessel. And I walk out into the lights of the stage.


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