I am sure that many of you, like me, have looked at some of the avatars on various forums and wondered about their origins.
Sometimes if the person has a particular interest or likes a particular celebrity or even animal their choice of avatar is fairly obvious, but that is not always the case so I thought I would tell you about mine and if others feel inclined they could follow suit.
Despite what certain people have suggested my avatar is not a self-portrait but reflects back to the time I spent in cloistered surroundings.
It's a time I remember well, albeit with mixed feelings.
We were a relatively small order, in fact I was only one of two who were over five foot six, we mainly passed our time in prayer and meditation and study, as well of course of doing the many chores required to keep the place going, growing and preparing our own food for instance.
I was a prolific reader in those days and I very soon exhausted our own library, fortunately the Abbot gave me a special dispensation to go into the local town every couple of weeks to use the public library.
He considered me to be quite studious but it wasn't strictly true. In one of our unused storerooms I had found a big old copy of a commentary on the bible, you know the sort of thing, leather cover and a clasp to prevent it coming open. I cleaned it up and carried it everywhere but what he didn't know was that I had hollowed it out and used to use it for storing books by authors like Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, and D.H. Lawrence, none of whom were on the order's list of required reading.
My visits to the public library carried on for some time but they sadly came to an end when I took out this young librarian. Unfortunately we were seen by Big Brother, he was the Abbot's 'enforcer', six foot six and nearly as wide.
Nobody ever talked about their lives before entering the order but there was a rumour going round that he used to be a bouncer for Mothercare and got put off for frightening the customers. It might well have been true, just by looking at some of the younger novices he could cause them to have a 'natural disaster'.
The Abbot went mad, I tried to tell him that it was only a temporary lapse, after all she had to be returned in a fortnight, if she had been 'overdue' that would have caused even more trouble. But he wasn't having any of it.
There were a number of forms of punishment, one of the worst was working in the laundry, they had these big vats with fires underneath and you had to stir the contents with long sticks to get them clean, the contents that is not the sticks.
It might not have been too bad if you were overweight as you lost several pounds a day. It was really hard work, I tell you for people who preached righteousness they had some really filthy habits between them.
He decided in my case that wasn't suitable, I was already quite thin, so he put me in the kitchen where I had to shave the hairs off of last years gooseberries, he must have thought I was some sort of fool, but I wasn't going to be trifled with.
We lived a fairly reclusive life most of the time, on rare occasions we used to have exchange visits with the local convent a few miles up the road, co-ed they called it but there was too much ed and not enough co for my liking.
The Mother Superior was a right tartar, Attila the Nun we used to call her.
It wasn't too bad a life although it could be hard at times especially in the winter, going out to break the ice on the cattle trough to have a bath got to be a bit much after a time.
In the end I decided to leave, I think I'd reached my cell-by date. I think the Abbot was sorry to see me go as he accompanied me to the door and I still have the impression of his sandle on the seat of the trousers I was wearing where he helped me on my way.
This is another extract from Pilgrim: A Brief Hystery.