Thy Kingdom Come in Face Masks

THE CITY GRUMP

A little over a weekend ago I was at that traditional gathering of vintage car racing petrolheads known as the Silverstone Classic. As is also traditional, the weather was dire, with the rain and the wind rolling in across the flat Northamptonshire countryside. Just as I was wondering whether to put on yet another layer of clothing in came a text message and photograph from a good friend who resides amongst the affluent burghers of Surrey:

“From my parish magazine” his text announced. And there was a photo of one of his parish magazine pages. Reading it I was instantly reminded of some of those terrific satirical “Beyond the Fringe“ sketches put out by Peter Cook (founder of Private Eye), Alan Bennett and many others. Gosh that’s good, I thought, and passed it to one of my fellow Silverstone sufferers for his amusement. He wasn’t, amused that is, saying you do realise this is serious and not a send up? I checked with my Surrey friend. He was right. It was totally serious. So, without further ado, here it is, reproduced in full:

“A Blessing for Face Masks: Holy One. Bless the mask makers, those who create-From cloth, flannel, elastic, wire, yarn and buttons- the barriers that allow us to be out among others, yet keep them safe from what we might be silently harbouring. Bless the mask wearers that we may see them as a sign of care and concern for others, that we may see Your face beneath each mask. Bless us all that we may see that by covering our noses and mouths we have opened our eyes and our hearts to one another. Amen”.

Hang on, there is more:

“A Prayer as I put on my Mask: Creator. As I prepare to go into the world, help me to see the sacrament in the wearing of this cloth-let it be an outward sign of inner grace-a tangible and visible way of living love for my neighbours as I love myself. Christ. Since my lips will be covered, uncover my heart that people would see my smile in the crinkles around my eyes. Since my voice may be muffled, help me to speak clearly, not only with my words, but with my actions. Holy Spirit, As the elastic touches my ears, remind me to listen carefully-and full of care-to those I meet. May this simple piece of cloth be shield and banner and each breath it holds, be filled with your love. In your name and in that love I pray. Amen and Amen”.

OMG, as my children would say, let us pray the Holy Trinity have a keen sense of humour. Verily I say unto you, the author of these prayers has achieved something unique. He/she, down there in the Surrey Hills, has surely achieved deification of SAGE, Whitty, Vallance and the wonky shopping trolley, officially known as the Prime Minister, for bestowing on us all the sacrament of masks.

Who cares that the cloth, flannel, elastic and wire of those pale blue made in China things have gaps in the yarn that are 1,000 times the size of a Covid particle? Never mind that the venerable Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge found that the only effective mask was the top of the range surgical FFP3one, for blessed are the mask worshippers, they shall have eternal salvation. Where is Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” when you need it?

I am not sure what the Good Lord would make of “may we see Your face beneath each mask”. You wouldn’t want to follow the science too much on that one. And what about “since my lips will be covered, uncover my heart that people would see my smile in the crinkles around my eyes”? Have you identified many smiles in the visible wrinkly bits as you flog round Sainsbury’s in your shield and banner? More likely steamed up glasses and an air of grim resignation methinks.

Actually, casting mirth aside, I find this parish piece deeply frightening. I suggest it demonstrates just how easily it is to turn something intrinsically demeaning at best into a cult and at worst into an accepted way of life. Joseph Goebbels once observed “the essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape it”. Indeed. Thy Kingdom comes… in face masks.

The City Grump has spent some 40 years in the City of London. He started as a stockbroker’s analyst but after some years he decided he was too grumpy to continue with the sell side of things so he moved to the buy side and became a fund manager for the next 20 years, selling his own business in the 1990s. Post the millennium, he found himself in turn chairing a stockbroker, a financial PR company, and an Exchange. He still keeps his hand in, chairing a brace of VCTs and investing personally in startups. The City Grump’s publications are available here.