Belfast Telegraph

Parish gossips win the day

By Gail Walker

It really is a no-win situation once you've become the target of rumour and innuendo.

It really is a no-win situation once you've become the target of rumour and innuendo.

If you deny everything, it's only what is expected from someone who is guilty. If you ignore it, you are deemed to be running scared.

Even if you do what the Rev Alistair Warke has done - resign in disgust at his own gossipy flock - such a radical solution only fuels the belief that he simply had to get out.

Mr Warke was minister at Killyman Church of Ireland, in Tyrone, since 1995. But in April this year, village rumour-mongers began to link the married father of three with Sunday School teacher Ruth Simpson.

Both Mr Warke and Ms Simpson vehemently deny any illicit liaison.

But the fact is they might as well have been caught kerfuffling in the vestry anyway, for all the effect their protestations of innocence have had.

With gossip, the problem isn't really whether or not you are guilty. It's whether or not someone has a score to settle or a grudge to bear against you.

Of course, none of the finger-pointers in Killyman have found the moral courage to step forward into the limelight and put their name to their seedy allegations.

Oh no. They prefer to deepthroat to the Sunday papers instead, thereby getting their scalp and their anonymity guaranteed.

Of course, there is more to all this than meets the eye.

If indeed Mr Warke is innocent, then some individual or group in pleasant Killyman has some other motive for the vendetta.

Ms Simpson blames a former boyfriend for spreading the rumours.

Be that as it may, we have all come across internal church politics often enough before in Ulster to be able to work out other plausible scenarios which might really lie at the heart of this matter.

Whatever the truth, Mr Warke has clearly decided he is fed up second-guessing the malicious members of his own congregation and has simply packed it in.

Who could blame him?

The Church, of course, will just find a (no doubt reluctant) replacement and pretend that nothing is wrong in the parish.

The ex-minister is shortly to start work in a factory in Dungannon.

Good on you, Mr Warke! Not only are you likely to raise your income substantially but you will most likely enjoy the novelty of work colleagues who actually listen to what you say, as opposed to the usual nodders-off in the pews of a Sunday. With his wife standing by him, there is every reason to think he will successfully rebuild his life.

After all, as "scandals" go, this was pretty tame stuff.

For starters, it was thoroughly orthodox - I mean, come on, the vicar and the Sunday School teacher?

It wasn't as if it was the vicar caught in a lusty clinch in the garden shed with the hairy groundsman.

Mind you, in that case, the Anglican Church would have had no difficulty marrying the two of them and fast-tracking the vicar to a bishopric.

... and poison pens vent their spleen on a star

It's open season on Britney Spears at the moment. As in the title of her No 1 hit, recent Press comment on the star has been Toxic.

Pictures of her at the weekend, with a mild case of acne and the slightest of double chins, prompted a welter of criticism.

"Spot's happened to Britney?" screamed one headline. "What is zit, Brit?" went another.

One rag even went so far as to claim that Britters had aged 20 years in two years, lining up a panel of experts to assess the crisis.

"Spots around the chin are a sign someone has a problems with their small intestine," declared one.

Of course, this sort of sniping has been going on at Britney for months now.

There's been snidery about her "chunky" legs, her alleged cellulite and apparent outrage that while she executed demanding dance routines she didn't always sing live.

That's like asking one of the Williams' sisters to talk us through their serve as they slam the ball over the net.

And then there's the old snob factor, too.

Commentators are fond of using the words "white trash" and "Britney" in the same sentence. They don't like her new boyfriend and, though they don't spell it out precisely, it's really because they think he's a nobody.

They'd rather she'd husband hunted a celeb catch like Zeta Jones, Paltrow or Aniston.

Ah, but Britney doesn't need to.

It's all hilarious, of course.

What the carpers really want is a morality tale about the tragedy of too much fame too young, blah blah blah.

But they've written off Britney too soon.

Spears is a top star who'd still be in the middle of a gruelling world tour had she not suffered a knee injury.

She's taken a few weeks off, snaffled a few bags of crisps and had the odd drink.

It's also known as having a life, something which is altogether more reassuring than the hyped-up cause for concern.

Britney isn't going bonkers. She's normal. The zits were tiny, the double chin probably just a bad camera angle.

Alas, the snipers just can't stand the fact that Britney, still only 22, is sexy, rich and very, very successful.

Plus, she's young enough to turn herself round in less than a week and be back cavorting on the beach in some cobwebby bikini thing.

And that's what they hate most of all.


From Belfast Telegraph