Monday, 20 February 2017

Eight Weeks Until Easter

Eight weeks until Easter Monday, to be exact, but I started The 8-week Blood Sugar Diet on Friday and Spring Cleaning on Saturday, so my eight weeks have begun already. 

Incidentally, I was asked yesterday if it was not a bit weird that everyone who reads my blog knows so much about me, and I thought, yes, but just try to stop me from blogging anyway. Not-blogging would be incredibly hard now that I am on a 800 calorie diet, as naturally I feel a compulsion to write about food. 

Food, food, wonderful food.

The 8-week Blood Sugar Diet is supposedly based on the Mediterranean diet, but I have been to the Mediterranean a lot in the past seven years, and wheat flour features highly in the daily diet. In Italy, for example, one has a croissant with one's cappuccino and a small dish of pasta before one's lunchtime main and a slice of pizza for supper. The waiters bring bread and you have to pay for it whether you eat it or not. Admittedly, it is not great bread. For great bread, go to Germany or Poland.

Bread, bread, wonderful  bread. 

I can last eight weeks without bread if it means I will fit into my pale blue Hobbs dress again. A bigger temptation is croissants, but to get a croissant even resembling a good Canadian croissant, let alone a French one, I would have to go to London. 

As a responsible citizen, I should point out that yo-yo dieting is a bad thing and that nobody underweight, under 18 or under the tyranny of an eating disorder should be on the 8-week Blood Sugar Diet. Also, if you wish to retain the results of the Blood Sugar Diet when your 8 weeks are up, you still have to avoid bread, potatoes, rice, and sugar. Blah.

The average weight loss of an adherent to the 8-week Blood Sugar Diet, claims my Recipe Book, is 14 kilograms, which is 30.8 pounds. I do not need to lose that much, but on the other hand, I do not need to weigh much more than 100 pounds, being rather short. And I do not believe I will actually lose 14 kilos, as it seems to me from much reading that it is the obese who have these massive losses, not the post-Christmas flabsters.

Much less compelling in my thoughts is Spring Cleaning, which I will complete over this generous 8 week period. That's a week per room plus closets. The kitchen sadly, will really need a week, but it has had two days already, and the prognosis is good. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Another Love Letter

Saint Ignatius taught that we should not crave honour more than dishonour, but all the same it used to bother me that so few letters to the Catholic Register mentioned my articles. Now I am used to it and so am vastly surprised when I find out someone has written in. Here's the latest:

We don't need the Pope or the Bishops. Why? because we have Ms. Theologian herself Dorothy Cummings McLean. 

We already know from Dorothy Cummings McLean that those of us who think Vatican II was a good thing and do not go to a Latin Mass with music from the middle ages are probably going to be kept out of Heaven.

We now that the Bishops are peddling sin. Perhaps Pope Francis will read the article and excommunicate the Bishops.


I must say I am flattered that someone out there considers me a theologian with a capital T, which is far from the case. Of course, any Catholic who seeks to understand what it is we believe is a theologian in that he or she is doing theology. I learned that on Day 1 of "Intro to Theology" (or whatever that class was called). However, I do think we need the Pope and the Bishops because all that administrative work would  kill me. My role is strictly auxiliary.

The second paragraph confuses me. I cannot recall slagging off Vatican II in the Catholic Register or anywhere else.When I quote the documents of Vatican II, it is to point out that they have not been followed. That said, today I would like to know exactly how much influence Gregory Baum actually had at Vatican II, and if anyone would like to reveal surprising new insights into John Courtney Murray (secret Buddhist?) that would be nice, too.

Meanwhile, I occasionally opt for the Novus Ordo without fear of loss of heaven. All the Catholics in my family, with the exception of my husband and me, go to the Novus Ordo. Meanwhile, the music from the Middle Ages is kept to a minimum at my local TLM. When we sing the Missa de Angelis--the oldest bit being the 12th century Sanctus--it is a sign that the Schola is on holiday and it is up to miserable us to keep the musical banners flying. The greater part of the music on any typical Sunday is from the Renaissance, the 19th century, or the organist's dining-room table, composed some time between breakfast and ten years ago.

I note that my admirer couldn't bring himself to write the word "hell". Do I think people go to hell for attending the Novus Ordo? No. Do I think people are in danger of hell when they commit mortal sins? Yes. Remind me what Our Lord Jesus Christ came to save us from. Valhalla?

Yes, various Bishops have indeed been peddling sin. Men picked for their administrative skills should stop listening to right-on professors at notoriously dodgy theology schools like the Atlantic School of Theology and stick with the saints. Some should give up the boyfriends (or girlfriends), the cover-ups and the child p*rn. However, I highly doubt that Pope Francis will read my article, and I doubt even more that he will excommunicate the Maltese bishops for their staggeringly craven take on Amoris Laetitia.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Bad Language in Britain

I've been thinking about this ever since I had to admit to never having watched Trainspotting from beginning to end.

One of the embarrassments of being Canadian in the UK is watching UK television with my visiting Canadian parents. British comics will say almost anything on television, and I thank heaven my mother was not there when Frankie Boyle made his infamous remark about the Queen; do not google this or you will be sorry. There can be full frontal nudity after 9 PM. The reality "medical" show  Embarrassing Bodies must be a voyeur's dream. Silent Witness features the sad dead breasts of murdered corpses. Its stars solemnly lift out livers and saw through skulls. What Canadians and Americans call "bathroom humour" appears in Scotland's beloved comedy show Still Game.

On British television, the F word is king and the S word is crown prince, and the only guardians of good taste are the fears of appearing sexist, racist, cruel to children, cruel to the disabled or Islamophobic. Possibly you can be mean about animals although I don't recall any comedian being snide about them or blurting out "F*** sweet little dogs. F*** them and eat them with a spoon!" This may have been said, of course.

Bad language is so common on British television (especially after 9 PM) and in British films, that it is remarkable that most ordinary people in Scotland do not speak like that on the bus or on the street unless absentmindedly into their mobile phones. Some do speak like that to the pal beside them but not to strangers. Overhearing a live woman drop the F bomb is so rare that I still remember the woman who dropped it while shopping in British Home Stores on Princes Street. I have much more often overheard Polish women drop the Polish equivalent in their bus-time conversations.

Curious. I think the sexes in Scotland strive not to use bad language before the other sex, in general, but I may be wrong about this. At any rate, a Scot considers wrong to use it before strangers unless she/he is drunk, feels offended and is kicking off, in which case she/he probably thinks (EXTREME VIOLENCE BY DRUNKEN WOMAN ALERT) anything goes.

Lest I singlehandedly destroy Edinburgh's tourist economy, I should hasten to say that the linked-to story is the worst drunken-Edinburgher-kicking-off story I have ever heard.

Edinburgh in Safety

I seem to have lost a day. I want to refer to the day I flew back from Canada as yesterday, but apparently it was the day before yesterday.  Well, on February 15, I wandered about my parents' spacious, high-ceilinged, non-attic home moaning, "Two weeks is not enough. I don't want to go back to Scotland. I want to stay with you guys"

"We need you," said my father, "but [Benedict Ambrose] needs you more."

As B.A. had told me of a healthy supper that consisted of pork pies chopped up on a bed of salad leaves, I had to agree. So off I went to Scotland. B.A. met my train from Glasgow and we went straight to the Brew Lab for brunch. The excellence of the cappuccino, plus the merry face of B.A., reconciled me to the end of my holiday. And when I returned to the Historical House, I discovered that the kitchen was tidy, that the endless miles of carpet were hoovered, that there were bright tulips in the sitting-room and that B.A. had got me a very pretty Valentine's Day present. I have to admit that I have a very nice husband.

Someone asked me today about the safety of the area around Edinburgh's Haymarket railway station, and I have to admit that when I think about railway stations in other parts of Europe, Haymarket is a virtual paradise. However, as I have witnessed (if not always experienced) a dozen anti-social acts in Edinburgh, I do have a few safety tips for visitors and newbies.

1. If you are a tourist, stay in the tourist zone. Do not go out into the peripheries (e.g. Newcraighall). If you really want to go to Portobello Beach by bus, take a book so that it is hard for anyone mischievous to catch your eye. Make sure the book is in English. Most Edinburghers are kindly people, equally able to mind their own business as they are exchange pleasant remarks in a witty fashion  and, above all, willing to accept that other people aren't exactly like them. But others are not. The fact that you are in any way different enrages some people, and these people tend to live in the peripheries. Because they hate their circumstances themselves, they assume that you are judging them, which is a capital crime. (N.B. Talking to strangers is a trait of Scots throughout Scotland's Central Belt.)

2. Avoid large groups of noisy (and therefore drunk) people, be they male or female or both, on the street, bus or train. If, however, this is impossible (e.g. on the train), do not betray an ounce of hostility or judgement. Smiling tolerance and witty comebacks is the way to go. Keep your distance, but never ignore the cheerful remark of a drunk Scot on a train. Respond cheerfully. If attacked by children, however, feel free to scold them. In the approved tourist areas, all the adults will be on your side. On the peripheries, most adults will be on your side, even if you are foreign. See #1.

Yesterday a presumably sober young Scot addressed B.A. and I on the train while he scooped caramel-chocolate spread onto chocolate chip cookies. He informed us of the greatness of his feast. I said, "A short life but a merry." He made some non-committal reply and that was the end of it. In hindsight, that was a bit judgey, but my banter skills were rusty and it was the first thing that came to mind. I point this out merely to underscore the willingness of Scots to address strangers and their assumption that strangers have the politeness to answer them. Not answering at all is considered aggressive. 

I will never forget how B.A. dealt so beautifully and cleverly with a drunk on the bus. This guy was opening drinking from the neck of a bottle of wine. He also had an audience of chippy class warriors delighted that their drunk acquaintance was ragging a man wearing a tie. (It was a Sunday and we were returning home from church.) B.A. matched him witticism for witticism, deftly introducing working-class Scots vocabulary from his childhood into the conversation. Thus, he won over the crowd and the drunk.

Lord, this city can be exhausting.

3. You know nothing about football (soccer), unless you really are interested in football, in which case your team is never a Scottish one, and you don't care about it THAT much. This is particularly important if you are male between the ages of 6 and 50. One of my more frightening trips by train involved a group of feisty Glasgow boys trying to get up an argument with my youngest--and Scottish-looking--brother about football. When they discovered he was Canadian and knew only about ice-hockey, they decided to leave him alone. 

4. If you think a stranger's behaviour is intolerable, disgusting, a scandal to their innocent children, etc., be sure to tell them that--if you have a black belt in karate. If you don't have a black belt in karate, don't tell them. See #1.

5. Keep your voice down in public. Americans and Canadians are intolerably loud. Really. I used to think it was just Americans, but Canadians also speak uncomfortably loudly in public. It is seriously annoying to British people and me. If you talk too loudly and too long in a non-Scottish accent, you risk some aggravated Scot telling you to shut up. This has happened even to B.A., for he is frequently mistaken for English. 

6. If you are female and you walk into a pub alone, a man will start talking to you. The danger is not that he will magically seduce you. The danger is that he will bore you to death. 

7. Some Scottish accents are really difficult to understand, which is rather a problem when you need to make a quick and witty comeback or just prove that you are a polite, non-hostile individual or understand what your taxi cab driver just said. Therefore, I recommend that you watch Trainspotting (Update: fast-forwarding through the sex scenes*), The Legend of Barney Thomson and any other films featuring unabashedly strong Scottish accents beforehand, so as to educate your ear. These films will scare the heck out of you, of course. See #1.

8. Never take a mini-cab. If you get into a car driven by a stranger, make sure it is a proper black taxi cab that you have called for or found at a taxi rank. (You can't always depend on flagging down a cab on the street. Your best bet is to find a taxi rank.) There is a kind of man to be found throughout the UK who thinks white women, or any women out after dark alone, deserve whatever they get--from insults to rape--especially if these women are drunk. Unfortunately, some of these men become Uber drivers.

One of the most bizarre and uncomfortable British problems nobody "nice" likes to talk about is the "all white women are sluts" libel to be found in certain (but not all) immigrant communities in the UK. This is not a big problem in Edinburgh, where the number one threat to safety is a drunk offended ethnic Scot of either sex, but it is something to keep in the back of your mind, especially when encountering other foreign (especially England-born) tourists and/or students. 

9. Do not be drunk in public alone, especially if you are female. This is good advice for the whole world, actually. 

10. Compared to the rest of Europe, Edinburgh's railway stations are paradise.

Update 1: True confession: I haven't seen all of Trainspotting because I hate violent films. I've read the book.  Reader Juliana says there are sex scenes, and I don't remember sex scenes in the book. The language will indeed be bad. The language of the peripheries is bad. (The language on British TV is bad, too.) Since you are going to avoid the peripheries, maybe you should avoid Trainspotting and find the Inspector Rebus TV series instead. The point is to see Scottish films in which the accent hasn't been watered down for foreign distribution. You want Scottish films to which producers have had to add sub-titles. The drawback is that such films are usually, er, dark. Local Hero is safe for children, but unfortunately the protagonist is American, so it's not the best for ear-training.

Update 2: More on Aggressive Friendliness. One of the most extreme forms of aggressive friendliness is being handed a beer by a group of happy drunks on their way between Glasgow or Motherwell and Edinburgh. Naturally women should not accept drinks from strangers ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE OPEN. Have an excuse ready so you can turn down the drink with grace. In general, Glaswegians are more aggressively friendly than Edinburgher. Thus, Glaswegians often think Edinburghers are stuck-up snobs, and Edinburghers often think Glaswegians are overfamiliar, vulgar or crazy. If you are from New York or Boston, all this Scottish bonhomerie may delight you, of course.

Baum Goes Boom

I'm home from holidays (more in my next post), so I will comment on the latest outrage to hit our poor Church: overly influential Canadian theologian Gregory Baum has admitted to living a double life. And we thought he was just an ex-priest married to an ex-nun.

This does not hurt my faith because I already knew Baum was a dodgy character, and the few times he was mentioned at [Canadian] theology school, I zoned out. A gazillion Baby Boomer Catholics in Canada grasped the "Amoris Laetitia Footnote" of the Winnipeg Statement (regarding Humanae Vitae) with both hands, but my generation--the John Paul II generation--had, well, John Paul II to tell us the difference between family planning right and contraceptive wrong.

It did not bother  admirers of Gregory Baum that he was a disobedient priest who just upped and married without permission. However, it may have bothered them that he had an open marriage and (he now claims) permission from his wife to have affairs with men, so I presume he didn't tell them. If they knew, and still extolled him as Mr Fabulous then...I just don't know what to say---other than that he must think "It's 2017, and so it's okay now to admit to have been sexually active with men while writing about Catholic sexual ethics, even when I was married to a woman, since she was okay with it." Ugh.

Bad Church News can demoralize us all, so I recommend clinging onto the coat tails of your favourite saints, and reading good books by Catholics who are clearly fighting the good fight. If you find real fruit in the works of more innovative (what you might call "progressive") Catholic theologians, then I strongly suggest you pick out married ones who are clearly in love with their spouses and families.

The older I get, the more I see how important chastity is--single chastity, religious chastity, married chastity--in the Christian life. Of course it can be difficult! Therefore living chastely is HEROIC and throwing it out the window is NOT heroic, no matter which tin-pot Byronic hero has done it now.


Update: The Catholic blogosphere is humming with this one. Here's Father Z on the same topic.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Valentine's Day Rule

Long-term readers know that my principal rule for surviving Valentine's Day, be you married or single, is to expect nothing. If you expect nothing, you will be pleasantly surprised if you receive anything. So it was with me, for my father gave me a box of sugar-free chocolates (!) and B.A. made a valentine with the aid of photoshop and sent it as an email attachment.

I spent the day with my best girlfriends. First I went to a married one's house (full of sons) and another dropped by with her baby daughter, and we all had lunch together. Then I had a pedicure and manicure at a shop nearby. Finally I went to the single one's medieval music concert.

This is traditionally what I do on Valentine's Day, feeling in solidarity with those who do not share the day with any kind of sweetheart. Of course, it is different for me having a man at home. However, I like to think that there is something special about spending such a couple-obsessed day with women friends.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Spiritual Power of the Catholic Family

I had a great weekend: I saw my two best friends and every member of my Canadian family except one. Hopefully I see again before I go.

On Saturday I left Nulli, Ma Belle Soeur, Peanut and Popcorn in Quebec and travelled by train back to Toronto, where I found my Mum and Dad.

On Sunday I walked through the beautiful snowfall to my first sister's place--given a lift part of the way by a friendly bus-driver with an empty bus--and went with her, my nephew Pirate and Pirate's friend Joseph downtown for brunch with my dearest Tricia. After traditional Canadian brunch, Trish left to provide music to  a Finnish Lutheran baptismal service and the rest of us drove  to Holy Family Parish, home of the Toronto Sunday Missa Cantata. 

I warned the boys that this was Traditional Mass and that communion was received on the tongue while kneeling and hinted strongly that confession was available all through Mass, but I forgot to remind them that it was in Latin. Fortunately, I commandeered a second row so that they would have a good view of the action in the sanctuary. Although the snow reduced the usual numbers, there were positively flocks of altar servers and Oratorians. There was a priest, deacon and sub-deacon in rich purple as it was Septuagesima. From the distracted gaze of the littlest altar servers, I correctly divined that Pirate was wriggling a little, but however he felt, I was delighted to be at Trad Mass with my sister and nephew. Usually when I am at home my family stubbornly adheres to the local parish, weep weep. 

Afterwards my sister dropped me off near my friend Lily's house, where I had a cup of tea and a chat before taking the metro (as it is never called here) to the iconic Dooney's (now at Ossington and Bloor) to have lunch with the poet Clara Blackwood. 

Tertia and Pirate rejoined us for dinner, as did my youngest sister Quinta, and I was somewhat startled by the sound of six people thundering out Grace Before Meals. I was almost tempted to chime in "And God bless our lord the king" at the end. One can only imagine the noise and force of a large Catholic family praying the Rosary! 

This evening I am going to Tertia and Pirate's karate class. Gradually my family is becoming as enamored of karate as it is of languages. I wonder if B.A. would like karate. Apparently it is a great sport for those who hate sports.