SO it’s a quiet day up in Heaven and God’s drumming his fingers on his desk and checking Twitter.

It comes to His notice that people are getting married in places other than churches. He raises an eyebrow.

Then He sees that people getting married in places other than churches sometimes like to sing religious songs. Or songs that sound like they might have some religious intent, such as Angels by Robbie Williams or Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin.

“I smite thee,” he tweets. “This will not stand.”

And lo! People who are not getting married in church cannot have any religious music at the ceremony.

Now I like to think The Man Upstairs, unlike the man in the White House, has more important things to be worrying about than tweeting such nonsense.

So it’s down to us mere mortals to come up with ridiculous rules, such as banning two men from loving each other, telling women they can’t wear the burka and that little gem, the Marriage and Registration Act 1856, which declares register offices cannot go anywhere near any form of “religious service”.

I discovered this new rule through my elderly mother, who was telling me that my niece had been summoned before the registrar ahead of her nuptials next year.

Convinced Ma had got the wrong end of the stick (sorry, I know — Mother’s always right), I consulted my niece who informed me it was indeed true.

Well that’s like a red rag to a bull. I am determined to hum at least one verse of All Things Bright And Beautiful under my breath, perhaps while they’re signing the register.

“Please don’t,” texted my niece. “We can’t afford to do it again.”

Which begs the question, what happens if you do accidentally segue into a chorus of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind? Do the police burst in and arrest everyone? Is the marriage declared null? Will you have to postpone your honeymoon in order to make the ensuing court appearance?

A spot of research tells me that until 2005, the rules were even sillier. Pop songs that have any religious connotation were also banned. So no Livin’ On A Prayer as you walk down the aisle (or whatever it’s called in a register office).

Thankfully, someone had a short, sharp attack of common sense and the rules have now been relaxed, so if Heaven is a Place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle is how you want to celebrate the start of married life, society is now cool with that.

Now I’m not actually religious but, as a rule, I don’t like things being banned. What happens if one half of the couple is an atheist and cannot in good conscience marry in church, but the other half is religious? A good compromise would be to keep the vows God-free but perhaps introduce some hymns or a prayer into the civic ceremony. But that would be against the law.

What I find even more puzzling is that funeral services in crematoria often contain hymns, Bible readings and prayers. So God’s invited if you’re dead but not if you’re getting married?

A pal suggested over a cheeky post-work vino that perhaps it’s to do with whether or not the event is taking place on consecrated ground.

“There’s no ban on me singing Jerusalem in the pub right now,” I said, “and I’m pretty sure the Donkey hasn’t been consecrated.”

Also, carol singers get everywhere — hospitals, train stations, public highways and byways... and none of these have been consecrated.

So somebody drunk at Christmas can caterwhaul Away in a Manger in the boozer, but if you’re getting married, you can get your grubby mitts off Christianity. Heaven help us.

Proud to be part of Pride

IT WAS an unusual start to Saturday morning as I sat on my bedroom floor, stared at by the dog, and tried to decide which look I was going for — child who’s plunged her face into a paint pot or ageing drag queen.

A healthy smatter of green glitter later, I set off to meet some similarly besmirched friends for breakfast.

The occasion was, of course, the Pride parade, and it was the first time my Adver chums and I had taken part.

Fortified by breakfast and a glass of fizz and armed with balloons, flags and whistles, we set off for Town Gardens where the parade was gathering ahead of its march around Old Town.

From the off, the atmosphere was fantastic, with people of all ages from toddlers to the, shall we say, rather mature gathering together, chatting and laughing.

As the parade passed around the streets, drivers stopped, smiling and waving while marchers handed flags and balloons to delighted children.

Every year a bunch of naysayers gather on the Adver website to slate Pride and all it stands for.

I would say to those people: next year, go along and take part. You’ll find spreading the love with your fellow humans so much more pleasant than spreading hatred via a computer keyboard.

A degree of help...

SO more students in Swindon could benefit from a scholarship grant programme which offers financial aid to people going to university.

Last year, 42 students were helped by the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s One Degree More scheme.

This year, the foundation is hoping to help more people, and its grand aim is to raise £45,000 to put 10 students through three years of university.

Hats off to these people, who recognise that lack of funds should not prevent our best and brightest getting a decent education.

Personally, I think students should go to university without being saddled with debt for the rest of their lives.

Simply introduce a graduate tax by which those who have received a university education give back to the next generation in the form of a higher rate of income tax ring-fenced for higher education.