Who needs socks when you could have eternal life?

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The Independent Online
DISTRESSED by the commercialism of Christmas? Depressed that Marks and Spencer is open today for last-minute socks? What your Christmas needs is a bit more spirituality - and luckily, Morris Cerullo is on hand to provide it. The international evan gelistis offering to supply a miracle a week for seven weeks, although it's not entirely clear whether you get the miracles now or have to wait: Cerullo is holding a seven-hour prayer-Athon (he uses capital letters liberally, even in the middle of words ) in January, when he promises to put in a good word for you. But thanks to all the underlining and exclamatory punctuation, the message couldn't be plainer: Satan has launched an attack against SEVEN separate areas of your life, and there's nothing Morr is Cerullo relishes more than a tussle with Satan. Especially if someone else is paying.

In the first week, you have to send the names of all the unsaved people in your family, with pictures if possible. "You may need to find £77 for the complete and total deliverance of your household!" Morris warns, but the implication is that it will see you through the seven weeks. Unfortunately, by week two he's admitting that since he's £2m in debt, he could do with a further £25. On the plus side, you will stop over-eating.

Week three is my favourite: God promises to give donors to the Morris Cerullo debt fund the strength to leap over walls (something I've always wanted to do). Inevitably, this one is pricey - a whole day's earnings. But worth it. Week four's promise seemed the tiniest bit unbelievable at first: you had to write a cheque to cover all your financial needs - "your credit card debts, your mortgage on your house, your needs for school tuition for your children, the cost of a new car" - and prepar e to receivea "financial anointing." But as Morris puts it, "This is ABSOLUTELY the Most Exciting Thing God has EVER Done". Including, presumably, all that Christmas and Easter stuff with his son. So forget the last-minute socks; I've sent in some pictu res instead, and I'm off to practise my wall-jumping.

THE ALLEGATIONS that the Soviets recruited the Guardian journalist Richard Gott seemed much less interesting than their implications for the KGB, which sounds as though it was full of Inspector Clouseau-types in raincoats speaking bad English and fallingover every time they went out. It won't be possible to read Le Carre with any enthusiasm at all now we know that Soviet spies spent the 1980s plagiarising their own embassy's political reports, changing a few words and getting them to Moscow two weeks before the originals. It's hard to fear an organisation that, to prepare reports on Nato military policy, simply copied chunks out of the publications of Chatham House and the Institute of Strategic Studies. I could be that kind of spy.

The KGB's top man in London was so incredibly keen to recruit Gott because he'd recently, and embarrassingly, turned down an approach from an MI5 officer who was dying to work for the KGB; he didn't seem to appreciate that Gott was scarcely in the same class. And although "Gott's product was pathetic," according to Oleg Gordievsky, his "reputation was so great that instructions were sent to KGB agents in London on top-secret microfilm". The Spectator claims that to overcome the difficulty of passing money to Gott, the Soviet spies hit on the brilliant wheeze of "buying a cheap wallet and filling it full of notes." Clever people, those Russkies. Astonishing their regime ever fell.

WHEN the tabloids weren't trying to expose the lottery winner last week, or insisting on their right to do so even while nobly respecting his privacy (apart, anyway, from camping in his front garden), they were getting themselves in another muddle about Fergie and her Aids tests. The Duchess's admission that she'd had two tests provided shock-horror front page stories for several papers, with the "Daily Mail'' revealing that Buckingham Palace officials were "dismayed by what they described as a Christmas bombshell." Quite apart from the fact that it's impossible to imagine any of the stuffy people who work at the palace using the words "Christmas bombshell" (is it especially tactless to talk about HIV in December?) what exactly were they so dismayed about? It is extremely difficult to avoid Aids tests these days, especially when pregnant. At our local hospital they wouldn't let you near the birthing pool until recently without one, and I spent my first ante-natal appoin tment listening to doctors and nurses obsessively debating the pros and cons of HIV testing, during which they quite forget to tell me about another, new and much more useful test. The Mail also quoted an unnamed Tory MP saying "this does not give a very good impression of the Duchess's loyalty to her husband." They have a funny idea of loyalty, these politicians, if risking giving your husband HIV is supposed to be its epitome.

IT is the season of robins on cards, lights on trees and dreary people on television telling us that Father Christmas is a deception practised on children by those fraudsters of the adult world, parents. A super-serious psychologist popped up on Channel 4 to warn us about the negative psychodynamics involved in pretending that a bloke in red comes down the chimney, though he didn't say what negative psychodynamics were, so I don't know if I've got them. A vicar said that it was Not Good to lie to children, as if parents don't constantly tell children that there's no fun or chocolate after they're in bed. The anti-Santas tell us nothing except that they have little experience of children, who are perfectly capable of distinguishing between a lie told ina spirit of generosity and one designed to thwart. Children give up the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas only with the greatest reluctance, and keep quiet about it for as long as they possibly can.