I’m not an expert in Aramaic, my Hebrew is a bit rusty and I was never that good at Ancient Greek, so I can’t tell you whether Pope Francis is correct to suggest that one of the lines in the Lord’s Prayer is a poor translation.
The pontiff doesn’t like the wording of the sixth petition: “lead us not into temptation” – which he points out is the devil’s work and not God’s way of doing things at all. He’s therefore approved an alternative line: “do not let us fall into temptation”.
He’s not the first to have a go at altering the words. The Sheffield pop group Heaven 17 gave us “keep us from temptation” – a line which was repeated over and over until the climactic end of their song, written about sex, which very nearly topped the charts in 1983. And then five years later, in 1988, the snappily titled Ecumenical English Language Liturgical Consultation proffered: “Save us from the time of trial”, which just doesn’t have the same lyrical appeal.
I like the original words of the prayer, which seem appropriate to me as I walk my gods (I mean dogs…) up the hill behind my house. “Lead us not into temptation,” I hear them think, their eyes bulging as they strain at the leash, looking for rabbits and scenting hares. I could let them go, but they’d quickly disappear across the moor, the consequences of which could be serious. Although not interested in sheep, they wouldn’t hesitate to run straight through the middle of a flock of ewes and lambs, which would doubtless upset the neighbouring shepherd – who may or may not own a shotgun.
And today when I walk up to the moor, the meaning of the words double down with intensity. For it is Common Riding week in Hawick and the festivities, which start early every morning with rum and milk, stretch long into the weekend. There’ll be drinking and chatter and drinking and cheering, more drinking and flapping racing up on the moor (or ‘mair’ as I’d call it, if it didn’t sound so silly in my ridiculous English accent).
The trick, to enjoying the races, is to have just the one drink. But, as Oscar Wilde wrote, I can resist everything except temptation. Somehow resistance to the second drink is weakened by the first and pretty soon you realise, as you wander from picnic to picnic, that you won’t be driving anywhere later in the day. Probably not anywhere until Sunday…
The Common Riding race-meetings, taking place at Hawick on Friday and Saturday, are among the best attended fixtures in Scotland. Neither the horses, nor the jockeys, are recognised by the British Horseracing Authority, so you won’t find the runners and riders in your newspaper. But don’t let that deter you for making a visit – Hawick deserves to sit alongside the Derby, the Grand National, Laytown Races and Cartmel as one of those quirky racing adventures that everyone should experience at least once.
As for the televised races this weekend, it’ll be a treat to see Beverley make a rare appearance on ITV. I’m tempted to tip Moon of Love in the 2.00pm.