The Centralian advocate Tue 11 Dec 2018
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Alice Springs; Tennant Creek (N.T.) -- Newspapers; Alice Springs (N.T.) -- Newspapers.; Australia, Central -- Newspapers
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Nationwide News Pty. Limited
12 LIFESTYLE TUESDAY DECEMBER 11 2018 CAVE01Z01MA - V1 YOU may think Central Australia does not produce many holy men. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. These usually blazing skies and blistering deserts have nurtured an admirable quota of lunatics, ratbags, derelicts and deviates and probably few of them were in any way religious or moved by Biblical inspirations. That is, until Paddy OOddly (not his real name) arrived in Alice Springs. Tall, gangling, undernourished, with a childishly smiling face, Paddy was a born again Christian who had abandoned Catholicism in favour of a life dedicated to The Good Lord and saving humanity from itself. My heart is with Jesus, he announced, and Jesus is within my heart - hallelujah, brother! Paddys hallelujahs erupted with a frequency that he was inevitably nicknamed The Hallelujah Man. Like Jesus, Paddy was an occasional carpenter and general handyman. Spluttering around Alice Springs in his decrepit Toyota, all tools and other paraphernalia of his labours were thrown higgledy-piggledy in a disorganised heap on the trayback in unintentional defiance of the Keep-Australia-Beautiful campaign. Paddy, in his wanderings, befriended an amazing variety of people and animals. Nuns, stray dogs and old ladies instinctively befriended him. Aborigines, sensing his gullibility, preyed upon him daily for food and money. The males of Alice Springs viewed him one way or the other; as a slightly (or largely) offbeat character to be tolerated or patronised, or as a stark raving bloody ratbag not to be taken seriously under any circumstances. Dogs of any origin or ownership loved him without reservation, rubbing against his scrawny leg while eyeing him with unabashed admiration. He was often seen sharing his lunch with a vagrant mutt or two. Of course, it quickly became common knowledge that Paddy was a Soft Touch. One only had to profess to be a Christian, or to join the carpenter in a quick prayer, When asked for his reason, Paddy told the officer he had been communicating with the Lord and therefore his concentration was not entirely focused on the everyday worldly matters of Alice Springs. The policeman didnt fine me, said Paddy. He let me go straight away and I told him God would certainly bless him for his kindness. On another occasion, in a laundromat, after loading his weeks wash into a machine, he realised he had forgotten to buy soap powder. I started to pray when I noticed someone had left behind half a packet of powder on the washer next to me. So you see, he rationalised, the Lord is watching over me all the time, brother - hallelujah! As blessed as his life appeared to be, in his 35th year Paddy was still without a soulmate. His ways were a bit too eccentric and old-fashioned, too extreme for the average modern girl. However, when Hetty arrived in Alice Springs from the Philippines, the carpenter fell deeply in love with her, even though she was a divorcee. With fuzzy hair and three fatherless children, Hetty was charged with boundless energy as she sought to rescue souls around the various Aboriginal camps. One night after church services were finished, Paddy suddenly stammered: H-Hetty, the L-Lord has told me I sshould kiss, kiss you on the llips. Not one to disallow the dictates of her Saviour, she allowed the intimacy to occur and both were astounded at the spontaneous melting of their spirits. Very soon afterwards, church members were surprised to hear that Paddy and Hetty were getting married. She told lady committee members that her fiance had saintly qualities beyond those of ordinary men and his moral level could not be measured in ordinary earthly terms. The good Lord has orga nised us to be together, she sighed. She added, softly, almost to herself: When I marry an Australian man, I will be allowed to stay in this country, and also to bring my kids over here, too. The wedding ceremony, with the mother-of-three dressed as a bride, the union was duly celebrated. Renting a house, the newly weds immediately applied to the Immigration Department for the permanent residency of Hetty and her three offspring. Then Hetty announced she was returning to the Philippines to collect her children. My little princess is going away, Paddy moaned. How can I sleep without her? But, darling, she soothed him, while Im away you can ask some of your friends to move into the house. They can help you with the rent ... Paddy approached some Aboriginal friends and invited them to stay in his home with its many comforts. The same day an elderly Aboriginal couple duly installed themselves and their possessions in the OOddly premises. Having recently been evacuated from the dry bed of the Todd River by the police, the senior citizens appreciated Paddys kindness and asked if they might bring in other family members who were homeless. On the phone, Paddy told his wife: There are six people sharing the house with me, darling, so I wont have to pay much rent at all. When his Aboriginal friends failed to pay their share of the rent, Paddy paid it. When their food supply was depleted, Paddy replenished it. When they neglected to look after the property, he tried to do it himself at weekends. When at last Paddy confessed to Hetty over the phone that the rent was in arrears, etc., she went quiet, then asked: Is that old Aboriginal man there now? Put him on the phone. After some moments of listening and nodding, the old man put down the phone, gathered his blankets, retrieved his flagon of wine from the fridge, then informed the other residents that they would be leaving the house forthwith, at once, immediately That missus coming back. We will have to let Paddy look after himself. With Hettys return to Alice Springs, the OOddly household had a strangely frigid atmosphere. Church members noticed a peculiar lack of affection between the newlyweds that sometimes erupted into open warfare. Confused, Paddy mumbled: Shes a bit grumpy. God will bring her back to me with love in her heart. Love? she spat. What do you know about love? You live in a dream world. While I was away, you didnt care about me. You didnt send any money. You had all those people living here and they werent paying rent. You bought all the food. They stole my blankets and sheets. The whole place stunk like a rubbish dump. The garden was dead. Someone pissed in the bedroom. We owe hundreds of dollars in rent ... But, princess, Paddy protested meekly. God told me I was doing the right thing. Well, my God told me something different, she retorted angrily, her dark eyes flashing dangerously. He told me you are still a silly kid who hasnt grown up and hasnt got any guts. He told me you were weak, that you let yourself get used up by wasters and drunks and sluts. He told me I have dark skin, too, and that I have to earn my money, not just sit there and expect everything for nothing. He told me ... So it continued, an uncontrolled tirade of bitterness and resentment, with Hettys raw truths dissolving all the dreams and hopes and expectations in Paddys simple heart, and dumping his spirit down into that cruel pit of reality where all common men dwell. Hallelujah, brother! Paddys heart was always with Jesus and Paddy was putty in their hands; they could exploit him without mercy, or rob him blind. As one of Gods children, you were beyond reproach in Paddys estimation, no matter what sort of a scumbag you might be in the opinion of rational mortals, much less the judgments of the police, courts, or other moralists. If your heart was with Jesus, you could do no wrong. Consequently, the carpenter was used and abused by many of his fellow citizens. For example, another tradesman employed Paddy to help him roof a new house with galvanised sheeting. While the boss has business to attend to elsewhere, Paddy struggled unassisted up a ladder in high winds carrying the awkward sheets and screwing them down. At the end of a long day, his hands cuts and bleeding, the carpenter welcomed back his friend and declined to accept any monies for his labour. I cant charge you anything, brother, he said. Join me in a prayer and well thank God for the work he has provided. So the two men expressed thanks together for the unrewarded work Paddy had completed for his hypocritical offsider. A church stalwart, Gregory Goodie, conceived the idea of forming a Christian-based construction company and graciously installed Paddy as a full working partner. Goodie costed the jobs, shuffled papers on his desk and sat around an airconditioned office all day while Paddy sweated under the sun. Although he was obviously being exploited, the bedraggled carpenter was heard to say: Greg has the Lord in his heart. I pray with him every morning before we start work. While Mr Goodie acquired a lavishly furnished house and a new car, travelling each year to overseas haunts, Patrick OOddly satisfied himself with a rented caravan and a geriatric truck that coughed its way from job to job and only maintained its existence by the grace of God and its owners absolute faith. Paddy firmly believed that every aspect of his life was personally controlled by his God in heaven. God talks to me every day, he said. I tell him my problems and he always solves them for me. One day he was detained by a policeman for driving through a red light at an intersection. He was preyed upon daily for food and money B R YA N C L A R K O N P A D D Y O O D D L Y CENTRALIAN TALES WITH BRYAN CLARK