Charlie Chaplain

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17 years ago today, I was interviewed for the post of full-time Chaplain to the Dumfries Hospitals.

The interview was scheduled for 12 noon, so I set off from Edinburgh (in a hire car – I had flown in from Guernsey the day before) in plenty of time. No need for maps; I knew the route well – aye, that would be the A7 then? Oops! Near Selkirk, I realised that I was heading to Carlisle.

Got to Selkirk – then the lousy track, via St. Mary’s Loch and the Grey Mare’s Tail, and on to Moffat.

The clock was ticking….. and even more so when I found myself somehow on the by-pass, driving away from the Infirmary.

It got worse: after the interview, I drove up Bankend Road, missed the turn for Annan, drove in what was effectively a circle – past Caerlaverock – and back into Dumfries and St.Michael’s Street.

“Funny?” I thought, “didn’t realise Annan was as big as this….”

Back to the interview; arrived with five minutes before I was scheduled to be questioned. Hot, perspiring, crumpled.

The old boardroom at DGRI; probably nine folk round a table asking questions.

“You’ve been just a year in your present Charge; why…..”

I cut him off by making a lame joke about no longer wishing to spend by time drinking tea with old women….of both sexes!

Ha! Ha! How we laughed – not.

The replies to most of the other questions, mostly involving hypothetical situations, were “I don’t know”, “It would depend on circumstances/ situation / patient in question / whether I had a hangover…” (I’ve just made up the last of these)

Finally, after an apparently unproductive hour of inquisition, the last question: “What do you think is your main strength?”

Answer, “I don’t take myself too seriously”

Goodbye.

I got to the car park, and phoned Helen. “Don’t bother packing up – that was grim”

And then the scenic route back – as outlined above.

Back in the Channel Islands, a phone call a couple of days later. I was out at the time. On my return, Helen said that I’d been offered the post.

“Should I take it?”

Her answer was in the affirmative, accompanied by threats that, if I didn’t……well, if you have a vivid imagination, you can perhaps guess how horrendous the consequences for my marital life would be!

On the 11th June 1999 we left on the 1 o’clock ferry from St Peter Port to Poole, and I began what was to be 13 happy and fulfilling years as the Dumfries Healthcare Chaplain on the 14th at 8.30 am.

ps I no longer get lost – thank the good Lord for those clever folk who invented the GPS sat-nav.

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