WHY DO ANGELS HAVE WINGS? It’s the sort of question my old mate Denis the Menace might ask at Young Farmers’ Club night in Milfield; the kind of mind-blowing philosophical phantasmagoria that would defeat the keenest domino school or delay a cry of ‘Last Orders’.
But Milfield wasn’t where I heard it. This month I am ‘taking the waters’ far from my beloved Godzone, about as far climatically as it is possible to be from the UK’s Big Freeze (I’ve been hearing the horror stories on BBC World Service!) and as far south as one can get without toppling over the equator into a different hemisphere. I write this column perched on a bar stool in Eleanor’s, the eponymous neighbourhood bar/restaurant owned by my son and his wife in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.
Here’s where I seek shelter from average daytime temperatures in the low 30s (and I’m NOT talking Fahrenheit!), wafted by ceiling fans and cocooned in air conditioned comfort, a far cry from my corner stool in the Red Lion. But there is always a Denis. . .
“Why DO angels have wings?” asked the freelance futures trader nicknamed Mister Glenlivet after his favourite tipple. “They don’t fly like fairies, they don’t need to get anywhere in a hurry.” His voice tailed off, his eyes glassed over; the Forex traders at Eleanor’s and the farmers of Milfield have more in common than they, or you, might think.
As with the Milfield Menace, Denis’s West African compatriot will not take ‘don’t know’ for an answer. ‘Angels. Wings. Why?’ I Google on my smartphone to keep him happy, displaying the results to my drinking partner: there’s a song by Westlife, of whom Mr Glenlivet (and quite possibly Denis) knows more than I do; a cake recipe; a flower; and, finally, an inconclusive article which points out that angels, according to to the teachings of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, exist outside the laws of physics and so should not require wings.
Our joint reluctant conclusion: Google is not God and there are no certain answers to anything, not even in this deeply religious country where generations of colonial missionaries have left their mark and a church on every corner. Ghanaian carpenter-undertakers will build and bury you in the carved coffin of your choice: from Jonah’s Whale (popular with the Old-er Testament set) or a giant hot dog bun (probably my favourite) to a shiny, painted Chevrolet (for the nouveau riche).
Strikes me they would make perfect gifts to ship home for my domino pals at the Red Lion: a giant pint pot coffin for Farmer Morebottle, a carved dairy Friesian for the Byreman and a ‘crematortum-lite’ Qualcast with grass box for the Lawnmower Salesman.
After all, we all now where HE’S going: Roast In Peace, Lawnmower!