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James Clelland

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Easter and other Passions

How many types of passions are there? I found seven highly varied meanings of the word, perhaps the widest range of any word in English,I’m not sure, but they sweep all the way from a passion for stamp collecting or Manchester United (both idiotic to me) through sexual passion (not idiotic) and ending appropriately at the topical Passion of Christ (no comment).

I have many passions, from the lady in my life, to writing, reading, fairness, peace, ag, the list could go on. A relatively trivial one is a passion for being on time for meetings, and if I know I’m going to be late, I sweat, feel a huge increase in blood pressure and generally panic. There must be a name for this condition, ontimeitis or something but for me it is physically painful. As an example, last week I sat in the British Consulate Passport Section, waiting. At the gate I’d been given the number 2. Oh, I thought, second in the queue. I’ll be in and out of here quicker than a cop snatches a bribe. Inside there were eight people in front of me in the queue, which fortunately was not a shifting-chairs comedy turn. We sat spread out, like, well, typical Brits, the best queuers in the world, in fact the only patient queuers I know. I watched as number 95 was called, and took twenty minutes at the only operating desk, followed by 96 who took only five minutes. I did a quick calculation and reckoned I’d be out of there with half an hour to spare before my next appointment. Ha, some chance. The remaining people in the queue had that other very annoying British habit of chatting. They stood before the only lady working that morning and asked where the rest of the staff were and, of course,complained about the weather – terrible for this time of year, isn’t it dear? And meanwhile I watched my time being eaten up. Sure enough, the signs of this dreadful affliction started up and despite the many warning notices, I switched on my cell phone – expecting to be arrested for a terrorist offence when it gave that damned merry hello tinkle – and sent my next appointment a text message saying sorry, I’ll be late.

It isn’t easy to leave a queue when you’ve invested an hour in it and are close to the front but all the signs of ontimeitis made me an irritable mess by the time I finally reached the working lady. In all of four minutes I’d been processed and made my next appointment only five minutes late. And a full forty minutes before my appointee, who thought she’d all the time in the world after my text message.

Other passions that can be mentioned in public are crying at Madame Butterfly. I always warn her that Pinkerton is a rat and can’t be trusted, but she never listens. Or cricket, my only sporting passion, thankfully. Rugby is for modern day gladiators who want the freedom to hurt each other, while football is for spoiled little boys who like to whine.

But these are harmless passions, unlike the one that happened in Ficksburg recently, when a passion for his community and for fairness in the provision of services resulted in Andries Tatane being killed by a group of those supposed to protect us from evil, the police. Some have perished for their passions and always will but this poor man was only exercising his right to protest and he paid the ultimate price for it, a shameful thing in a country calling itself democratic.

And as I am a dual national, let me tell you a story of passions in my previous abode of Glasgow. There, for those unaware, passions run deeply across religions, in the guise of two football teams. Celtic play in green and are supported by Catholics while Rangers play in royal blue and are supported by Protestants. Last week the manager of Celtic and two other people associated with the club were sent letter bombs, fortunately all detected and stopped by the post office. (A little aside, can you see that happening here, unless the letter felt like it contained a credit card?) The assumption is that someone supporting Rangers sent the letters, intending to maim or kill, all in the name of a passion bordering on fanaticism for a football team.

Passion is dangerous, it seems, in both of my nations.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    April 26th, 2011 @13:23 #

    I remember listening to the BBC radio (2?) shortly after the thwarted terrorist attempt at the Glasgow airport. The comedian said something like, 'What the terrorists failed to take into account is that Glasgow airport is full of Glaswegians.'

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    April 26th, 2011 @15:55 #

    I was intrigued as a child by the notion of the Passion of Christ. To my Catholic mind, it meant that passion was a synonym for great suffering. Which no doubt explains a lot.


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