The Angel of St. Crux
The church of St Crux in York was finally demolished in 1887. What remains of it is a tiny church hall and a yard with a fringe of lawn. It sits at the bottom of the Shambles on Pavement and its sole purpose these days seems to be as a host to charitable organizations which use it as a tearoom and for table-top sales.
I think it was another church using it this morning, well-to-do white-haired ladies trying to guess the going-rate for used lamp-shades, partial jigsaw puzzles and books about rambling along the seashore.
They’d set up tables and chairs in the yard and the sun shone down on it all and there was a small crowd around the brick-a-brack and many of the tables were occupied by middle-aged couples with tea and sultana scones. You could easily have believed there was a god. Some of them obviously did.
I got a coffee and found myself a table next to three guys who looked like they’d been sleeping rough. They’d finished their coffee or tea but didn’t look at all ready to move. The sun must’ve felt particularly good if you’d spent the night on the stones.
‘Aw, fuck,’ the biggest one said to the other two. ‘I’ve got to have it.’ He had a red, boozer’s face, was unshaven and he carried with him an impossible-to-control tremor in his hands, arms, shoulders and neck.
‘You’ll have to be quick,’ said the one with his back to me. White hair and better dressed than the others. Cleaner, too. ‘Things like that, they’re snapped up quick; tourists, dealers. Everybody’ll be after it. What’re they asking?’
‘Thirty pence, but she might take less.’
‘You don’t need it,’ said the third one. He never completely closed his mouth, and he was overweight with a belly like the latter stages of pregnancy. He wore spectacles that favoured the right side of his face.
‘You don’t know what I need, Ron. That’s up to me. I know what I need.’
‘But it’s me you want to stump up the cash,’ Ron said. ‘Well, fuck you, I’m not gonna do it because I don’t believe you need such a thing, and that’s that.’
‘Aw, give him the money, Ron,’ said the one with his back to me. ‘We’ll never hear the end of it.’
‘You give him the money,’ Ron said. ‘I’m giving him nothing. He doesn’t need it.’
‘I can’t give him the money,’ said the one with his back to me. ‘I don’t have a penny piece left. If I had the money, I’d give it to him. But I don’t have it. You have it and you could give it to him if you wanted or if you was a fucking christian.’
‘Well, I’m not and I won’t, so the two of you can go fuck.’
The biggest one pushed himself away from the table and came over to me. ‘You got some change, mate.’
I dug a fifty pence piece out of my pocket and placed it in his hand.
‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘You’re a gentleman.’ He glanced over at Ron and gave him an ironic smile.
He tottered over to the brick-a-brack stall and pushed his way to the front of the bargain-hunters. His feet were bad. When he walked south the toes of his right foot pointed west and the toes of his left foot pointed east.
‘He’s barmy,’ Ron said.
‘You’re barmy some days,’ said the one with his back to me.
When the biggest one returned he was clutching a tiny angel, cast in white resin. He seated himself back at the table and placed it in front of him. It was perhaps 8 centimetres tall. A boy angel with tiny wings and white curls and a long white nightgown, playing a child’s guitar. The new owner smiled down at it and upended a saucer, using it as a plinth for the figure.
‘Where you gonna put it,’ Ron asked. ‘You ain’t got anywhere.’
‘Yes, I have,’ said the big one indignantly. ‘I’ve got a bed; I’ve got a table, three chairs, and a settee.’
‘So where you gonna put it?’ asked the one with his back to me.
‘On the table,’ the big one said.
He lapsed into silence, his tremors momentarily healed, his smiling gaze on the angel, and as I waited for more the smile spread, first to Ron, and then to the one with his back to me. I couldn’t see his face, but it was obvious from the set of his head.