Dad’s Army by Trevor Plumbly
Onward Christian Soldiers!
Temptation’s got more sophisticated since I was a kid. Back then, the fight against it was pretty simple: Sunday school, prayer and moral parables, along with three or four uplifting hymns supposedly insulated you against anything the Devil could chuck at you for the next few days. It wasn’t a perfect system; divine guidance kept the ‘chosen ones’ on the righteous path, but the rest of us had to wrestle Satan on our own, thus we tended to stray and needed correction, a clip round the ears was the standard warning that if we gave temptation free range above or below the belt, life could become bloody painful.
Bring me my arrows of desire
I was what could charitably be described as a ‘street kid’ and once I realised that the ‘all seeing eye’ wasn’t watching me 24/7, I discovered that I could play on the other side without getting zapped from above and that, with a bit of caution, temptation could be fun. Then, of course, temptation was easily identifiable, but it’s really polished its act since I first stumbled. These days there’s so much of it around it’s not even interesting anymore. Historically, it was nail biting stuff: according to the first bit of the good book, the old boy upstairs used to really dish it out, if you crossed him you copped all sorts of nasties, at one stage he turned one bloke’s missus into a pillar of salt for not listening! Which might have been overkill, but it let the other side know who made the rules. In the second book his son discovered mitigation and sin got watered down, lambs losing their way and all that. As a result, the dark side saw the gap, made a come-back and it’s been toe-to-toe ever since. But even old soldiers get battle fatigue and these days it’s pretty much left to the evangelists to do the hard yards. Tub thumpers are tough on backsliders, any of their flock slipping the leash can expect hellfire and damnation, even the ‘goodies’ get taxed a few bob for just turning up and singing on Sundays. In my opinion they’re about the only ones around giving temptation the attention it deserves.
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
The basic concept of right and wrong hung around for ages, but once the fear of pestilence and the fiery furnace got taken out, it became more of a close fight. The gospellers stuck to the populist approach and the menacing ‘Thou Shalt Not!’ got watered down to the rather plaintive, ‘Lead Us Not’, as if transgressions were someone else’s fault; good enough for the times but hardly modern weaponry. Meanwhile, the other side made ground, debauchery became naughtiness and fraud became financial acuity. Once the tabloid press joined in, the public developed a taste and it was almost game over. Try putting Biden’s financial strategy against a tell-all interview with an ex-bonked Trumpite and see who sells the most papers.
I shall not cease from mental strife
Sounded great years ago, but it doesn’t cut it these days. The brutal truth is that temptation’s elbowed itself right into the game courtesy of social media: just log-in and every stark bollocking nutter is waiting to hear from you, ready to discuss anything from your penis size problem to microchips in your Rice Krispies. The beauty of that is you don’t need to get your hands dirty. After getting rid of innocence, they moved on to launder guilt, leaving Dad’s Army to face the dark side with little more than promises and mythical ploughshares.
And study war no more
‘The Holy City’ was the ultimate destination which was OK for the chosen ones who had directions, but for those of us formed from grubbier stuff, temptation was easier and a bit more appealing, though it did demand planning to get the best out of it. There was the inspiration, the act itself and, if caught, the ability to lie your way out of it: it took me ages to perfect an expression of pained innocence. Today’s kids don’t know what it’s all about: instead of having to hang around the netball court hoping for a glimpse of navy blue knickers, they can actually watch people doing ‘it’ on their smartphones with a couple of clicks. Where’s the skill in that I ask? Age has forced me into neutrality, but I still remember the warrior days and the battle hymns. ‘Abide with me’ versus ‘A little bit of what you fancy does you good’, is still not much of a contest as far as I’m concerned, so bugger the medals, pass me the Glenlivet.