One of the benefits with pomology is that it is the study of something that is of interest to most people, not like the study of wingless insects, for example. As an acclaimed expert in the field, and a peerless grower of citrus fruit, I found myself invited to most of the best dinner parties in town. Even the man from Del Monte called me ‘sir’.
It was at these functions that I met the two others who were to become my business associates in a scheme which rocked the world for a season and made us very rich.
Hypnerotomachia Papadopoulos was an emerging modern abstract artist who was nuts about fruit, and with whom I collaborated later on many projects. Papadopoulos was enough of a mouthful, but being saddled with the first name Hypnerotomachia made it hard to fit his signature onto his smaller works. He tried HP but it stank too much of the sauce, so he settled for Hypno which, although it sounded like some sort of trance-inducing dance music, he was happy with.
The third player on our team, and our financial font, was Alfie Cartwright, who had made it big, and I mean big, in sewage disposal. It was his colossal girth that gave rise to the rumour that when he started out he actually used to suck up the waste himself through a huge tube. He now had a fleet of lorries dedicated to the emptying of septic tanks, inscribed with his slogan – The Way To Suck Cess. Effluent made him affluent. Our partnership began with my idea to use human excrement as a fertiliser. This experiment resulted in the best fruit that I had ever produced, but we kept it secret. The last thing you want to know as you’re enjoying the succulent sweetness of one of my oranges, is that it was grown using the waste of that lard-arsed bastard who lives next door.
We made an unlikely pair – especially as there were three of us – and could often be found conferring together over after-dinner drinks on the verandas of the most socially-acceptable hosts on the circuit. Brandy and coke fuelled our most notorious collaboration.
It concerned religion which is a touchy subject, but we were always trying to wangle ways to gain the maximum publicity – that was our incentive really – and we reckoned that we’d struck upon it. The trouble with religion in the western world, we reasoned, was that there was too much emphasis on God. It put a lot of people off. Only old ladies go to church now; and children who haven’t yet plucked up the courage to say no. There was no pizzazz, and the event timing was all wrong. Who wants to get up early on a Sunday morning? We aimed to change all that.
On my land outside town among the many acres of orange groves, we had an enormous building constructed, modelled on the magnificent cathedral in Sevilla, but twice as big. Opposite the huge doorway, in the place where the altar would have been if we were holding religious services, hung a cryptic triptych of Hypno’s called ‘The Creation of Man and The Modern World’. It looked like a lot of orange splodges on a blue background to me, but I didn’t have his artistic vision. He tried to explain the relationships of the splodges to me one night, but I fell asleep after the “…shapes and colours falling into a new juxtaposition creating empathy on the one hand and antipathy on the other.”
We called our building ‘The Church of Modern Man’ and equipped it with everything that we felt was lacking in the traditional church, and keeping people away. There was the Garden of Eden Bar and Grill, filled with lush tropical plants and ornamental water features. All About Eve was a beauty salon/fashion boutique. There was a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a juice bar, discotheque, pool tables, casino, five-screen cinema, strip shows, ethnic food stalls…..etc. In short, everything that a normal church lacked. And we were open 24/7. As a gesture, on Sunday mornings between 9 and midday, comfortable armchairs were arranged in the open space before Hypno’s masterpiece and ambient music was piped for those seeking a bit of chilling time and reflection.
State of the art toilet facilities abounded, with the waste treated on site and pumped directly to the orange groves. Alfie calculated that we were saving thousands a day on transport costs alone. That was another oversight of the traditional church, we thought. They built that glorious cathedral in Sevilla to house thousands of worshippers, but what if you needed a dump?
So we single-handedly – well, three of us – increased church attendance a hundredfold within a few weeks. No-one could dispute that, until that clever Bishop Latimer pointed out that what we had built was not a church but a leisure complex. It wasn’t news to us.
The sad truth is that church attendance was actually down, especially after we introduced our Sunday morning Bingo, which just goes to show that even the old ladies only went because they had nothing better to do.