Years ago, I remember sitting on a subway train, directly across from THE TALLEST NUN I HAVE SEEN IN MY LIFE. She was so enormous that full caps are required – she wasn’t fat, not at all, perfectly proportioned as a matter of fact. It’s just, those proportions were rather impressive. The top of her grey-clad head brushed the ceiling. Each of her hands, resting in her lap, was the size of a frying pan. You could uproot trees with hands like that, twist a coconut in half the way you’d do with an apple. There was something so otherworldly about this behemoth woman, this MEGA-NUN. She wore surprisingly delicate, gold-rimmed oval glasses. And little black curls had escaped from her headgear, curling against her cheeks. She looked so meek and quiet, but she also looked like she could lift a car.
Maybe that’s what started my fascination with nuns. It was a very subconscious thing, but as we were fleshing out Maya’s tomboyish character, it took a rather strange form. An idea dropped into my mind, fully formed, of a video-game that she would play obsessively. A game where brawny nuns were punching the bad guys’ lights out while shouting, “Repent your sins!” This game has spawned a famously awful spin-off movie with Chinese fighting choreography. (In my head, that is.) There are T-shirts and character plushies, and Maya has set the game’s theme-tune as her ring-tone. Kung Fu Nuns – part turn-based strategy RPG, part beat-em-up platformer, with a group of Russian Orthodox nuns and priests German supplex-ing their way through the triads of Mainland China. Sometimes, the workings of my brain give even me pause.
But still, I recognise the root of it all, the origin of the idea. The MEGA-NUN of long ago, crammed into a tiny tube-seat, squirming while her fellow passengers tried to hide how hard they were staring. Wherever she is now, whatever she’s doing – I hope she’s doing okay.