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Aisles Apart

The window during restoration - a labour of love for glass worker Vetrate di Chiesa

There was much controversy yesterday at the unveiling of the newly restored stained glass panels at Our Lady of the Repulsive Toenails, Alder Hills. The Buildings and Fittings Committee of the venerable parish church - home for 110 years to Tiffany-style 1914 International Art Glass Competition Winner "A garden full of flowers is a garden full of God's blessings” - had, perhaps unwisely, decided to refurb and update the windows, "better to reflect the church's place in our vibrant forward-looking community".

"There was also some water damage to the original - especially to the uppermost panel", the Rev Hugh Snoring explained, "so there was an opportunity to do something bold as well as to make basic repairs". Three cheers then for the good intentions.

The Committee accordingly commisioned local stained-glass artist Vetrate di Chiesa to update the window; a process which took more than 2 years and cost an estimated £700,000. Funding was less of a problem than anticipated thanks to a significant donation from supermarket magnate and University of Afpuddle Chancellor Lord Waitaminute's Catesby Foundation. Lord Waitaminute - a man once described as having "considerably more money than sense"* - had visited the church at the behest of parishioner Sir Ian Gandalf, and had been "persuaded" to support the appeal during a performance in the Church Hall of It Ain't Half Hot Mum by the Alder Hills Amateur Players.

* It would be dificult to imagine him having less [Education Correspondent]

Our Lady of the Repulsive Toenails, Alder Hills. The Church Hall to the right of picture was the scene of the historic meeting from which a large sum of money sprang.

Though unquestionably a work of art of some sort, the newly unveiled nave window is not quite what it was. Most obvious in the before and after comparisons [see below] is the introduction of a human face into the space previously occupied by a cornucopia of English country cottage flowers. This, says artist Vitrate di Chiesa, represents a humanising of what was hitherto an abstract paean to nature in which the ever insistent role of humankind was entirely absent from the otherwise exquisite depiction of God's unfolding plan. Though he remains somewhat coy about the particular individual he has chosen to represent homo sapiens as a species, many believe the image bears a striking - and not wholly inappropriate resemblance - to Professor Brian Thrupiece. Professor Thrupiece, who disappeared some years ago from a Swiss hotel bedroom whilst attending the annual Edna Awards in Geneva, is regarded by some as standing at the very pinnacle of human achievement in fields as diverse as the sciences. arts, sport and human reproductive games. For this reason voices have been raised in support of the depiction, most notably by a small delegation from Great Heaving who happened to be viositing the parish on the day of the unveilinf.

Our Lady of the Repulsive Toenails' Nave window before [LEFT] and after [RIGHT] restoration. Parishioners are uncertain about the level of improvement achieved.

Meanwhile, back to last Sunday's ceremonials: all had been going to plan - even the Reverend Hugh Snoring's interminable sermon "And there came amongst us a great man ... and behold he was very good" had "gone down reasonably well under the circumstances" - when after a brief anthem [Adison Threadbone's [SATB] God Is Gone Up With a Shout] and an even more brief organ voluntary, celebrity communicant Shelley-Lulette Sizemore stepped forward and - wafer/wine barely digested - unveiled the restored nave window. "To say that there was a shocked silence would be to ignore the volcanically eruptive bedlam which greeted the sight of the new window". It would also be to ignore the projectile mess which issued forth from an open-mouthed Ms Sizemore and added "considerable colour" to Mr Chiesa's work. A spokesperson for Ms Sizemore later explained that she was more used to taking her wine and wafers after performing than before. He denied she was over-excited but allowed that "a certain level of shock may have been involved".

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