Through the window into the neat vicarage garden, birds celibate dating amid the fruit trees. And here, in the painted shed in which we are slumped on cushions drinking tea, a wood burner smokes, glimmering, in the corner.
As a pop star turned vicar who inspired the character in ‘Rev’, Richard Coles would be forgiven for wanting to draw a veil over a past of drugs, mendacity and sex in car parks. I was very much healed by the experience of anonymous sex with strangers in lay-bys,” he says. This might stretch my credibility to the point of knicker-elastic twanging, but I really was. There were moments of profound intimacy with people who were dying to be intimate.
Plus, I offer, there must be the wholly welcome breeze. Aside from being the inspiration for Rev, the BBC sitcom, sex is everywhere in his new, deliciously scandalous, quite devastating memoir, Fathomless Riches. Aids crisis, a suicide attempt, and endless free-loving. It is hard not to wonder what his parishioners in Finedon, Northamptonshire, will make of it. One hopes they would at least admire the restraint deployed in resisting the temptation to call it How’s Your Father? Or indeed use “From Dogging to Dog Collar” as a tagline. We’ve all parked in lay-bys, Patrick,” he says, with a sigh that sounds as if he’s blowing on wet nail varnish.
To be fair, many of the racier anecdotes are not his, but his then lead singer’s, Jimmy Somerville. And the nocturnal cruising came later, after rock stardom, after drugs, as he returned here, his home county, converted, before reaching for the cassock. It is a joyful irony that exactly the point where you’d think I’d finally consider myself hors de combat when it came to sex was when I actually started having more than ever,” he continues. But I’d got out of the habit of self-loathing.