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an extract from my forthcoming book, 'The Cats of the River Darro'

Dead? Dead at fifty? I can't believe it. It's not fair!

Why's it not fair then? Fifty's a good innings. It's more than I give most people.

Yes, but, I was just getting into my stride. I've got an exhibition next week too. Well, I had one.

It'll go ahead without you. They'll do one of those soppy posthumous things. You'll be well received so I wouldn't worry about it. Your abstracts seem to be very popular. It's not my bag to be honest but if the punters like them who am I to argue?

Er, well you're God aren't you? At least I kind of assume that's who you are?

Yes, yes, God, that's me. And you're Derek aren't you? I know all about you. Been following you for fifty years. Most interesting. Suppose you tell me how it was from your side of the fence.

Erm, well, I don't know where to begin. Uhm, I was born in erm, Liverpool and I …

No, no, boring, boring. I know all that. It's in your file somewhere. I mean today. What happened today?

Well, I died didn't I?

Yes but you didn't wake up dead this morning did you? So what happened?

I'm not sure I really know to be honest. I was just going out for breakfast, at my usual cafe, you know at 'Isabel's Ham Friends', and I suppose my mind was wandering a bit.

Yes, and why was that then?

I couldn't get onto the bridge.

Ah yes, Santiago Calatrava's bridge. It's rather a splendid thing isn't it?

Yes, I always enjoy walking over it, er always enjoyed walking over it. Well, anyway, it was cordoned off this morning. Apparently someone had tried to top themselves by jumping off it.

Yes, dreadful business. I put a stop to it. Sent one of our chaps down at the last minute. Do go on.

Well I saw the guy, the suicider, and it freaked me out a bit. He was standing there with the guardia policia. He was an English looking bloke and he was wearing a hat that made his head look a funny shape. We kind of made eye contact, just for a few seconds and it was really weird.

Why was it weird then?

I dunno really. It was like we both knew one another. But I mean it's impossible. He was familiar but I'm sure I've never seen him before in my life. It's hard to explain. It just freaked me, that's all. And there was another bloke standing there with him. He had dreadlocks.

Ah yes, Norman.


Yeah. Our man. Like I said, I sent him down at the last minute. It would've have caused a huge administrative foul up if the guy had jumped you see. It wasn't his time.

Oh I see.

Well, after that, I suppose I wasn't really concentrating much on anything.

No, I suppose not.

All I remember from then on is that I was crossing the road and suddenly, out the corner of my eye, saw this huge thing looming towards me at a rate of knots. Someone screamed, the whole world was spinning, and well, here I am. And come to think of it, where the Hell am I exactly? Is this Heaven?

No it's not Heaven but we'll come to that. You've got to get through immigration first. So, you were run over then?

Well I'm sure you know. I mean, you're God.

Yes, of course I know. I also realise all this is a bit tiresome but it's just for the books. We have to go through the formalities you see.

Okay, well I think I was hit by a truck because I wasn't looking where I was going because I was freaked out by some selfish suicidal idiot I saw on a bridge who was talked out of jumping by a dreadlocked man named Norman who, apparently, was one of your guys, whatever that means.

Hang on, hang on. Let me just write that down. Okay, yes, well it's almost right. It wasn't a truck. It was a segway. An only lady, ironically on her way to the same cafe as your good self. She hit you full on. She was very upset. Segway's a complete write off.

A segway? I'll be a laughing stock.

Yes, you will unfortunately. I can't do much about that. You have to admit it is quite funny. In fairness it wasn't entirely your fault. The old girl got distracted. She was looking off road at a couple of nuns eating ice-cream. Quite disgraceful I know, but taking holy orders doesn't seem to be what it used to be. Some of them have got iPods you know. Anyway, enough of all that. I need you to tell me your impressions, you know, of life. What did you think it was all about then? What did you make of it?

Well I don't really know. It's all devilishly complicated isn't it? Now that I'm here I'm looking forward to finding a few things out. I'm amazed that there's a Heaven for starters. It's great news.

Yes, well don't get ahead of yourself. There is indeed an after life and a Heaven but there's also, ahem, 'that other place' you've read about, down there, you know that place we don't like to talk about. You're in a holding area right now so I can assess you. I don't want to worry you, Heaven knows you've enough on your plate at this difficult time, but it could go either way.

I see. So this is my 'judgement' time?

Yes it is. And I always like to begin by asking newcomers to give me their thoughts on everything. Just now you said you found life 'devilishly complicated'. What did you mean by that?

Well, if I'm being honest …

Yes, I would be if I were you.

Quite. Well, it just seems to me it's so hard to understand everything. Why isn't it all simpler? You know this whole 'does God, er that is, do you exist or don't you' malarkey. And why can't there just be simple rules, a list of dos and don'ts that we can all follow? We'd all know where we stood then.

Ha, you mean like the Ten Commandments? I tried that didn't I but you lot couldn't hack it. Ten simple rules, written in stone no less, given to Moses clear as you like, but they were too hard for you. I must have used too many big words.

What? Well, some of them were okay, the ones about murder and adultery and that but some of the others, well they were a bit iffy weren't they?

Iffy? Whaddya mean, iffy?

Those ones about not coveting your neighbour's possessions or having false icons and telling lies and things.

What's wrong with them?

Well nothing, but well they're a bit hard to stick to aren't they?

Ha, so rules are okay as long as they're easy ones then. Is that what you're telling me?

No, that's not what I mean. I er ...

Yes it is. You can all do the big stuff – well most of you humans can most of the time – but you can't do the little things, the fiddly bits.

The fiddly bits?

Yes, yes, yes, the fiddly bits. That's why I had to do away with them, wipe the slate clean and start again.

What do you mean you did away with them?

They're too hard for you to stick to. Oh sure, you decided to enshrine a few of them into your earthly laws and so on, fair enough, but I reckoned you needed a better deal, something you could handle. That's why I sent Jesus down.

Yes, I see.

Do you?

Well I understand the basic idea. The New Testament. That was your new improved deal with us. Jesus took on all of our sins and died for us so we didn't, erm have to worry about breaking rules all the time. And uhm ...

Yes, go on …

Well it seems to me, to most of us, that it's a strange deal.

How so?

Well it seems a little unbalanced. Surely it doesn't mean people can go round murdering each other and stuff just because Jesus has taken on all the blame?

Yes and no.


People can if they wish. That's why I give everyone free will. As long as you say sorry afterwards we're sweet.

What! That seems to be a license for everyone doing just whatever they want.

Yes it is. It's not the worst deal in the world is it but loads of you are still not happy with it. There's no pleasing some people. It's not as cushy at it looks though. There are consequences if you decide to do bad things with your free will.

Like what?

Well, we're coming to that. Let's take a look at your rap sheet shall we. I have it here. It's pretty big as you can see.

Ah well from here the writing looks like it's in quite a large font. I'm sure it's not as bad as it looks.

The writing's normal size, and this scroll only covers last Wednesday, last Wednesday evening to be exact.

What? I didn't do anything last Wednesday. Oh, no hang on, yes but everyone else was doing that as well. And I'd had a few drinks. Oh shit.

Yeah, and see that box over there? That's got Tuesday's stuff in it. I haven't had a chance to go through it yet. We've archived off the rest of your life. The IT guys are recovering it from backup now but it'll take a few hours. They've been having trouble with a new database or something. I don't know. They're always spinning me a line. Anyway, that's not important. The thing is there are consequences to be faced. You might have to do a bit of community service.

Community service?

Yep, on a parallel earth somewhere.

You mean there are parallel worlds? Wow, that's amazing. I always thought that idea was a load of bollocks.

Hmm, it's a lot of overheads, I'll grant you that. I'd have done it differently if I'd known the hassles.


Yeah, but never mind. We are where we are as they say.

So what will I have to do?

Oh you know, a bit of this, a bit of that. I might send you down to an interesting earth I've got where Chelsea needs another manager. You like footy don't you?

Yes, but I couldn't be manager of Chelsea. I'd only last a few weeks before they sacked me.

Yeah, well that happens on all of the earths. It's a software bug.

Would that be me done then? I mean, would that count as my community service.

Don't be ridiculous. You'd have to do a bit more time doing other stuff. If you behave yourself we could give you something a bit more comfortable, something up here in the office. We're always looking for IT guys. I see you've got a bit of previous in that field?

Oh God no. Send me straight to Hell now. I'm not doing that stuff again. Anyway, how much is a 'bit more time' exactly?


Infinity! That's ages.

Some infinities are smaller than others. Don't worry, it'll fly by.

And what are the alternatives?

Alternatives? Listen sonny, you're not in Starbucks.

No, I know I'm not. Sorry. Can I ask a question?

Go on.

Is Salvador Dali here? I mean, is he in Heaven or Hell?

That's none of your business is it.

No I suppose not. It's just that, oh nothing.

It's that painting isn't it, the one in the Kelvingrove? You want to know if it had any meaning, if he had any special insights or anything.

Well, I was just curious that's all.

Remember that student who slashed the painting in 1961?

I'm too young to remember but yes, I read about it. You can still see the scar on the canvas.

That was one of my boys, Howard. A good lad. Took an awful lot of stick for that he did. Bashed it with a brick on his community service. Not exactly what I asked him to do, but free will and all that, you know. We looked after him. Got him a nice job in the IT department. He's a shift leader now you know.

But why? Why did you try and destroy it? It's such a beautiful painting.

Oh the painting's marvellous, yes, but it was all that Glasgow palaver that was getting on my wick, that Catholic versus Protestant thing. I wanted to draw attention away from it. Make them all see what was more important. Now I'm told everyone in the city treasures the painting. They nearly lost it you see. Sometimes you have to nearly lose things to realise what you've, erm, nearly lost. We had to send someone else down in the 1980s though cos it was all going pear shaped again.

Oh yes I remember that. He shot it with an air gun didn't he?

Yes. There'd been a particularly niggly run of Old Firm matches. I'd had enough. Things actually got worse for a while after that. Graeme Souness has a lot to answer for when he gets here. And Frank McAvennie. I've got to be seen to be even handed of course.

Okay, but I'm not with you. Are you saying art's more important than religion?

Of course I am. Religion's got nothing to do with anything important. It's just a man made monstrosity. I don't want people shuffling in and out of dank Victorian buildings all week, squabbling over bits of doctrine and wondering what the vicar's wearing under his cassock do I?

No, I don't suppose you do. That painting though, I always knew it had some spiritual significance. There was always a feeling I had, every time I looked at it, that there was some hidden meaning to it.

Well there isn't really. It's just a good painting that's all. Just some paint on a piece of canvas. I've seen better to be frank. Even some of your stuff from a certain angle, with erm, the lights dimmed a bit. No, hang on, that's going too far. Anyway, we're rather getting off the point of all this. This is supposed to be your judgement. Now, what have you got to say for yourself?

Look, I did my best down there. Whatever skills and talents you gave me I used to the best of my ability. I tried to be a good person. I was kind to animals. I tried, I really did.


And I never really stopped believing in you.


I thought I had a bit more time you see, to work things out properly.

Peter. Fetch me my rubber gloves and the pointy stick. It's time for his medical.

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