Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Guess What I'm Giving Up for Lent?

I will drop by the blog to post saints' thoughts on Lent, however.  I can't give up the internet entirely because of work, but there is no question that of all the earthly things (not people) to which I am deeply attached, the internet is king.

The Significance of Pancake Tuesday

When one is already on a punitive diet, it is a challenge thinking up an appropriate Lenten penance. Is it still a Lenten penance if your original goal was not personal holiness but fitting into that dress you bought at Phase 8 last summer? My guess is "No" although it is still training in self-denial.

It is Pancake Tuesday, the Anglo-Saxon world's modest and humble Carnival. No wild partying in the streets for us! When it comes to pre-Lenten binges, the Polish Fat Thursday custom of eating as many doughnuts as possible makes more sense than eating the relatively humble pancake. However, as we are frequently told, pancakes were (allegedly) a way of using up the last eggs, milk and fat in the house before Lent began. 

I am frankly astonished that members of the Latin-speaking wing of the Church ever gave up eggs and milk for Lent. Fat I can understand, but hens lay eggs and cows need milking in and out of season.* I suppose, though, that one never HAD to drink the milk: it could be made into butter and cheese instead. I wonder what happened to the eggs. 

Anyway, I like the practical, pantry-cleaning aspect of Pancake Tuesday.  I was going to buy ricotta cheese for ours, but I have suddenly decided that I will make normal carby pancakes for B.A. while making almond flour ones for myself, a la Blood Sugar Diet Recipe Book. Naturally there will be bacon.

(By the way, I hope I am not getting terribly boring on the subject of the BSD. Food, grocery shopping and cooking are suddenly fascinating. For seven years I have allowed B.A. to burble about in the kitchen after work, making very masculine, high-carb suppers, and now he sits in the warmest corner of the sitting-room reading online Catholic news while I wield the Thai fish sauce bottle.) 

Here's a cheerful post by an Evangelical at Patheos about what Christian fasting used to look like. Meanwhile, since B.A. and I have already severely cut the calories and gone teetotal at home (madness!), we will have to come up with another penitential plan. Ironically enough, it may involve cutting back on Church news. 

*Update: Or not! See Clio's scholarly comment below. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Shackin' Up Magically Okay Now

It's amusing how quickly Trad Catholics get married once we are engaged. If we didn't live in such vulgar times, we could compose funny songs about this.

It's less amusing how long some other Catholic engagements are.

But what is least amusing at all is this post by Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ.

Update: I came across a comment that identifies the photo used in Fr Spadaro's article as that of an engaged couple taken three years ago.  

Food Without Nutrition: Are We Insane?

There's nothing like a carefully controlled 800 calorie a day diet to sharpen up your attitude towards nutrition. You want every calorie to count. Therefore, I am very glad I am using both the recipes from The Blood Sugar Diet Recipe Book and the menu plans in the back of the book.

By the way, yesterday I read a grieving mother's account of the slow death of her daughter from anorexia nervosa, so I feel guilty for writing about this. However, all around me Britons are dying a slow death from obesity, diabetes, etc. The crucial thing, for me, is when you get to your "target weight", you stop fasting and start eating for maintenance. Wondering "Oh hey, how low can I go?" and trying to find out is simply not allowed.

The first week of the BSD went pleasantly enough. Benedict Ambrose has graciously ceded his place in the kitchen to me, and I have enjoyed cooking up to three times a day as I follow the menu plans. The dishes really are tasty--and no, I am not being paid to advertise--and they solve the hunger problem for at least an hour each. There is no problem fulfilling the "Eat 5 a day" vegetable and fruit advice. Thank heavens for sparkling water and coffee.

On Saturday I prepared for a bride's "Hen Night" (shower/bachelorette) by eating the suggested breakfast (avocado and tomatoes) and then not eating lunch in order to partake of the Four O'Clock Tea goodies without guilt. This provided to be a mistake. I am not given to fainting, but I felt distinctly woozy when I emerged from the railway station, and a delay in my travels led directly to a café for a cappuccino. The smallest available jug of milk would have been more cost-effective, but I couldn't face the prospect of drinking a whole pint of milk in public on a cold day.

But the real challenge was facing the traditional tiers of the tea-room sandwich-scones-cakes offerings and realizing that very little of it had any nutritional value.  When it was not mostly sugar and white flour, it was mostly white flower and sugar. The tea-room did not stint on little cakes, but it definitely held back when it came to sandwich fillings. When I discretely pulled off the top pieces of bread, there wasn't much left. Interesting how British womanhood is conned into paying £17 for a pot of tea, half a bag of flour and a cup of sugar. Well, at least there is the cream.  I slathered the two mini-scones with cream sans jam and tucked in.

I also ate a pistachio-green macaroon, but it seemed innocent of any trace of pistachio. It tasted not of pistachio but of sugary death. The square of carrot cake was better, but after that I let well enough alone.

It was a nice hen party, incidentally, if quiet for a Saturday night Edinburgh Hen. I suggested we all run off last minute to Ibiza, but no-one fell in with this excellent plan. Instead most of us went to a cocktail bar, where I chose red wine from the list of sugars available. Half a glass left me overly loquacious on the subject of my diet and other shallow feminine topics. Another glass of red, drunk in the quieter precincts of The Scotsman hotel, left me in need of a taxi home. Socially, it was a very nice evening, but in terms of nutrition it was a wash-out.

Reflecting on this gave me a business idea: the nutritious tea. How viable this idea is, given that flour and sugar are much, much cheaper than vegetables, fruit, fish, cheese and meat, is a good question. However, it would be a nice option for high class hotels and for old-fashioned hostesses who invite friends around for tea. Meanwhile, as the UK has a "Dry January" to encourage everyone to stop drinking booze for at least a month, perhaps it should have a "Cakeless March" to get us all to  eschew the nutritionally empty, calorie-dense comestibles to which we are addicted. Incidentally, offices should ban homemade baked goods from employee lunchrooms. It's nice that British women love to share sweeties with their colleagues, but eventually someone will die from this, if they haven't already. (One also wonders if this is not generosity as much as an excuse to eat cake oneself or even an evil plan to make others as fat as one is oneself.)

Having a nutritional yet recognizably traditional tea would involve substitutions. Instead of sandwiches, one could have sandwich fillings tightly wrapped in lettuce. Scones are trickier, but I imagine something could be done with ground almonds or low-gluten flours. Jam is easily replaced by briefly cooked, mashed berries. The cakes and pastries could be replaced by strawberries dipped in chocolate, stuffed dates, nuts and clever cake-like concoctions made from eggs, nuts and dark chocolate or fruit.  And if this sounds ridiculous, what does that say about our sanity  that we would rather consume food with FEWER nutrients?

Come to think of it, I automatically put out bowls of crisps (potato chips) to go with cocktails everytime we have a dinner party. Why is it that, in English-speaking countries, so many of our party foods verge on the poisonous? Why Cheetos, not pistachios? Why cake, not exotic fruit with dark chocolate and whipped cream? Not to get all puritanical here--for I dearly love a good birthday cake--but what gives?

Friday, 24 February 2017


Well, I didn't go to Polish class after all because I had another low-carb diet side effect which I will now call the "7000 Calorie Deficit Temper Tantrum."  In short, I worked on cleaning the kitchen too long, and I was in danger of missing my train, and my husband couldn't print off the homework assignment I was going to do at the last minute, and I couldn't find my Polish graphic novel, which I thought I needed for class. Result: overturned bookcase, Polish books all over the floor and telephoned rant sounding something like:

"I've wasted five years and thousands of pounds on a language nobody asked me to learn and I have almost no opportunity to use and I can't learn anyway because I don't have the right kind of brain and am utterly rubbish at languages and it's totally unfair when my brothers and sister can learn languages easier than I can and it all ended up with me half-blind in the emergency ward of a Warsaw hospital!!!!"

To which Benedict Ambrose on the other end of the line said such soothing things as "You're not rubbish at languages" and "But your Polish is very good" and "If you like, you can take French with me."

"But I hate French," I sobbed.

Actually, I don't hate French. I just hate being bad at French and what being bad at French means for Canadians, e.g. that other Canadians had better elementary school educations than us and also have better job opportunities. Therefore I will probably go to French class with B.A. and do my very best to approximate the Parisian accent that eludes 99.99% of the French Canadian population, never mind the maudits anglais.

In the meantime, I got a big cardboard box and filled it with as much of my Polish library that would fit and shoved it in the hall closet.

But the very act of banishing all those Polish books cheered me up enough to banish my resolve to quit. After supper I checked the emails my teacher sent during my Canadian absence and wrote down all the homework I should have been doing. This morning I got up early and worked with my new Assimil: Polonais sans Peine CD kit  for an hour. (Assimil doesn't teach Polish in English.)

Thus, despite my deficiencies, I have reason to hope: every time I want to quit Polish (and those last fatal days in Warsaw were thoroughly demoralizing), I don't. If magically not quitting means that one day I will be able to speak Polish elegantly, then maybe this day will come.

Off-Topic Update: Here's a beautiful little essay by an American chap in the Catholic Herald about coming back to the Faith.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

It's Tłusty Czwartek!

If my Polish professor brings us pączki tonight, I will take mine home and share it with my husband after supper.

But for all of you who are not on ridiculously low carb diets, feel free to eat an entire doughnut or three in celebration of the Polish carnival!

Incidentally, my spring dresses fit better already. Hooray, 6000 calorie deficit!

Trads and Matrimonial Advertisements.

It is well-known now that the parents of Benedict XVI met in the matrimonial ads.  His parents kept it a secret from him and siblings, but naturally after Joseph Junior became pope, a German reporter sniffed it out. Here it is: 

“Middle-ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43, immaculate past, from the country, is looking for a good Catholic, pure girl who can cook well, tackle all household chores, with a talent for sewing and homemaking with a view to marriage as soon as possible. Fortune desirable but not a precondition.” 

The future Frau Ratzinger  was 36 and a trained cook, and despite being over 35 she bore three children, both sons becoming priests. It's a happy story. I love how Joseph Senior underscored that he had an "immaculate past" before stating he was looking for a "pure" girl. Yes, unless you have an immaculate past yourself, chaps, don't get your heart set on a "pure" girl. A smartened up, currently chaste girl is good enough for you. 

The ad was placed in a Bavarian Catholic paper in July 1920 (when both Church and society encouraged single men to be immaculate and single women to be pure, so it was weird and generally shocking if you weren't), so it makes complete sense that Joseph Senior would immediate flag his ability to provide and signal his interest in women who would make a good homemaker. The fortune bit is quite funny, since surely Bavarian women of fortune could do better socially than a middle-ranking civil servant, but hey, money comes in handy. 

There are dating websites for Traditional Singles, and so small is the Traditional Catholic community that I immediately recognized TWO of the local Trads on this website.*They both go to Mass regularly and have proper careers, but I don't know them well to gave a précis of their personalities, so you would have to investigate yourselves. Yes, it's Catholic Match, but I am being magnanimous. Besides, one of the local Trad women (none of whom I recognized, by the way) foolishly didn't add a photo and started her ad "It's been a tough few years" so now I have the opportunity to STRONGLY encourage you not to do this. ALWAYS have a photo. NEVER mention unhappy stuff. Men are visual. Men prefer happy. Dear Lord. This should be taught in high school. 

There are also Traditional Catholic Singles and Latin Mass Dating, about which I know nothing, and there is even SSPX Singles, which you may wish to consider even if you do not frequent SSPX chapels.  How interested SSPX fans will be in the merely Extraordinary Form and Traditional Doctrine Positive is a question, however. Of course, a sudden infusion of new blood in the SSPX courtship scene might provoke interest. Again, it's a relatively small community, except in France. 

Normally I despise dating websites because they are much too much like shopping for people, and indeed I anticipated them in 1987 or so when I wrote a series of stories called "Man Shortage", "Man Shortage II", etc. My heroine drunkenly wished for a catalogue of Single men that she could choose from in her search for a date. At least one of these stories was published in the school newspaper, and I got a talking to from an RE teacher because my heroine (unlike myself, incidentally) preferred blue-eyed blonds, which he thought rather neo-Nazi. However, when it comes to Traditionalist Catholic communities, internet dating is less like shopping and more like finding a plank to cling onto as the ship goes down. 

It doesn't strike me as traditional for tradition-minded Catholic women to place their own ads, but I suppose they have to, to answer the ads of traditional Catholic men. Really the most important thing in a woman's profile, in my humble opinion, is the photograph. Sad from a female perspective, but true. Men are who they are and not who we want them to be. No bikini shots, naturally. Marital status first or career? Hmm. If you don't have a career, you could put your dad's career. How old-fashioned is that?

Doctor's daughter, 32, single, university-educated (Aberdeen), obedient to Church teachings, from Stonehaven, enjoys cooking, baking, child care, is looking for a traditional Catholic man, age 30-45, with a professional career, with a view to marriage. 

"As soon as possible" doesn't sound as nice coming from a woman, does it? Meanwhile, you may have a job working at the pet shop, but honestly, who cares? If a guy cares about marrying within his class, "doctor's daughter" covers that; if he cares about education, you mentioned uni; if he's worried about chastity, that's covered as much as you want it to be; if he's looking for feminine (and they all are), cooking, baking and children covers that....and now you make your demands. Trad Catholic. Your age group. Professional and money-making. Marriage. All that walking on the beach stuff is stupid. Be practical, taciturn and look nice in your photo. Smile. 

If you do have a career, however, mention that at the beginning, for the sake of men terrified of the potentially crushing financial burdens that come along with dependents, aka housewife and kids. 

Secondary school teacher, 35, widowed, one child, obedient to Church teachings, from Glasgow, athletic, enjoys homemaking, is looking for a traditional Catholic man, age 35-45, employed in trade or profession, with a view to marriage. 

My fictional Glaswegian secondary school teacher is either less fussed about class than the fictional doctor's daughter or from a blue-collar family. She lives for marathons, but it's better to preserve the mystery by just saying "athletic". 

As for the trad guy, I think Joseph Ratzinger Senior's ad is a good template, except for the emphasis on sexual purity. Too much of an emphasis on purity today may scare the purest of virgins because of the creepiness of contemporary virgin-hunters. Start with the career. 

Museum curator, widower, trad Catholic, 47, no children, from Dundee, is looking for a trad Catholic woman, never married or widow, 30-50, who has a professional career she enjoys with a view to marriage as soon as possible. Natural red-heads preferred.  

That's for B.A., in case I should snuff it and he doesn't go into a monastery after all. He loves to cook, but he doesn't like housework, so my professional lady replacement should hire a daily instead of preaching about equality in household tasks. B.A. is an example of a trad Catholic man who does appreciate a financial contribution to ye olde household accounts. The Scottish heritage industry is not a field in which a man gets rich--unless he owns tartan tat shops. By the way,  B.A. might consider a 17 year age gap a bit big, but I don't--not for men over 40 anyway.

The photo is a bit trickier for men, but in general, just look like yourself on a work day, only happy.

*I find it odd, however, that I don't recognize more of the Edinburgh ones. If they aren't going to the one FSSP Sunday Missa Cantata in town, why are they described as "traditional"? They could be at the SSPX's Sunday Low Mass, but if they aren't, I'm puzzled.

Update: In case anyone is disturbed by my posthumous plans, I'm not dying; I just like using B.A. as an example.

Update 2: I wonder if women-over-30 specifying age is a limiting move? I can WELL understand women under 30 being firm about no-one over 40 or even 35, but after a woman turns 30, older men are often more attractive than they were before she turned 30. My only concern (were I a 35 year old widow) would be an elderly man hoping to find himself free nursing help. Well, then there's the bullying factor. Sometimes I am quite astonished at things men of my parents' generation say. Others are wonderfully charming, however. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Eight Week Plan Side Effects

Starting spring cleaning without dish-washing gloves was a bad idea. The skin around my fingernails is red and sore, weep weep. This morning before I touch another dish or counter I will hie me away to Tesco to buy some Marigolds.

Meanwhile, I am surviving my 800 calorie a day diet. Besides falling asleep thinking about cake, the only symptoms are hunger, pimples and wanting to look at fashion magazines. Being well past adolescence, I don't get pimples. But, lo, there has been one on my forehead since Monday and now there is one on my nose. A quick check of the internet suggests a diet high in dairy, gluten, caffeine, alcohol and peanuts can lead to adult acne, but apart from Greek yogurt I haven't had much dairy and I certainly haven't had any gluten, alcohol or peanuts. Maybe it's the increase in coffee.

Poor B.A. came home last night exhausted and cranky and immediately began to rummage about for for a bag of crisps. Of course there were no crisps. I suggested he have an apple. 

"I need carbohydrates," he snarled. 

"Apples are high in carbohydrates," I observed. 

"I need something crunchy!"

Apples are also crunchy, but I saw I was on dangerous ground so I stopped everything I was doing and made dinner around B.A.  Not having found anything flat and crunchy, he was boiling a pot of white, glutenous pasta. He cheered up after dinner, which I understand is normal for good husbands who have just had a trying day. To paraphrase the co-dependent movement, never let your husband become too thirsty, hungry or tired. There was even a Picnic bar (a kind of British candy bar) in the cupboard when he asked plaintively if there was one, so the evening vastly improved. 

The maddening thing about B.A. is that he is thinner than ever, having stopped drinking wine. His family runs to thin, but then Scotsmen seem to be thin. Outside Toronto's Pearson Airport, I saw a short and fat young lady with a tall thin young man, and I pronounced, "They're Scottish." Sure enough, they queued up for the Glasgow flight. Whatever it is in the British air that contrives to make all women fat, it does not affect the as many men. 

Well, let's be honest. It's not the air; it's white wine and cake. 

Update: The National Health Service does not like Very Low Calorie Diets, by the way. I promise to end it on Holy Saturday. Also, I will be eating half a pączek on Thursday and very likely a scone with whipped cream on Saturday, followed by a glass of red wine.  (Hen party [i.e. bachelorette].) 

Cows, Career, Culture

Anastasia Northrop on "Why Are We Still Single (or Single Again)" ? Yes, it's Catholic Match--(I object to their adverts)--but Anastasia is a good cookie.

She is much gentler than I. For example, she doesn't stand on top of a 17th century house yelling, "Half of you Single men are spiritually DEAD!"

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Casualties of War

I had coffee with one of my American blog-readers today, and she brought my "casualties of war" metaphor. In short, the answer to "Where are all the Single Good Catholic Men?"is "Most are casualties of the culture war."

The First World War wiped out almost a generation of British men, and thus there was a generation of British women, often young war widows, who found themselves without a man to marry because there were no men to marry (i.e. in their own social class). Muriel Spark mentions such long-time Singles in her The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Indeed Miss Brodie is one of them, her lost love Hugh buried in some far-off battlefield.

Spiritually, Catholic women are in a similar situation, for Catholic culture as our parents (or grandparents) might have known it was destroyed after 1963. It lingered in some places (and still exists to some extent in Poland), but the culture has been blown up even in such tribal enclaves as Glasgow. Saving himself for marriage, steering clear of mortal sin, finding a nice girl to get married to and having lots of kids...?   Are there still men like that in Glasgow? Outside SSPX circles, I mean.

If our parents and grandparents bothered to fight the culture war against Catholic marriage and family, they lost. Losing wars has severe consequences. Generations not even born during the war can suffer from it. This is why it is important for our generations of Catholics to keep on fighting for marriage and the family. Otherwise one day a telephone call from a concerned teacher will land your imaginative child or grandchild in sex reassignment therapy. You laugh? I almost laughed, back in 1991, when a pro-life speaker predicted men would marry men one day. I think he mentioned legal euthanasia, too. What a loon, eh?

Meanwhile, there are Single Catholic men out there of two kinds: (1) the spiritually dead, in a state of mortal sin, and definitely CINO, if they even admit to their baptism, and (2) the wary.  The spiritually dead you cannot do anything about. They're dead. With the grace of God they will come to life again, but you're not the grace of God, are you? They may have live-in girlfriends, or they may be serial womanizers, or they may have internet porn addictions. They are easy to spot by the third date. By the third date, sex is in the air, so you mention that you believe sex should be reserved for marriage, and he disappears. Behold!

The wary are the ones that interest me and should be the ones that interest you. Unlike many married friends, I do know some great Single Catholic men. They go to Mass. They read Catholic blogs (like this one). They strive to live their faith. But they're wary because there are such things as no-fault divorce and as the economy. Some may prefer traditionally feminine girls, but there don't seem to be many traditionally feminine girls around, or no  traditionally feminine girls who are  interesting as well as traditional. The men I know don't seem to fall in love with pretty empty-headed nincompoops. I am not sure why, as these seemed to have been the women men preferred back in the day.

Incidentally, I know of a young woman who told a young man I know that he was the first guy she had ever met who was smarter than her. If I ever meet her, I will shake her hand because that is the most brilliant, worldly and cynical chat-up line I have ever encountered in my entire life.

The greatest gift you can give to a man who has a crush on you (and upon whom you have a crush) is freedom from the fear--often mentioned on the manosphere--that you will divorce him out of boredom, take all his money and poison his children against him.  How you can communicate this assurance is a mystery although I suppose it might come up naturally in one of those talk-until-3 AM sessions people on the brink of falling in love seem to have.

Another good gift is the ability and willingness to work at least part-time even once you are married and even when you have children. No, you may not really want to do that and maybe you won't have to, but I'm afraid poor old Joe Generation Y is not Saint Joseph and most of the time he will not be able to support an entire family on his sad Generation Y salary right now.

Meanwhile, I cannot say it enough: although the internet has helped kill off your generation with porn, it does have the ability to form links between likeminded Catholics, male and female, all over the world. Read the blogs, chat on the blogs, flirt on the blogs.

I shall now clean out another set of kitchen cupboards, for lo I am a married woman, and cleaning out kitchen cupboards more than once a decade is part of the job.

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. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Hipsterville, Dojo, Party & Premiere Moisson

Nulli told me of a wonderful town near him that had an artisanal chocolate shop, an artisanal bakery and a hipster café. I was very excited, so when given the choice between going to see La La Land and visiting Hipsterville--as I called it--I picked Hipsterville. 

I didn't stop to consider whether urbanites with tattoo sleeves and beards would REALLY set up shop in a country town in South-eastern Quebec. But I knew there was something wrong when my brother parked and led me to the café. The markings on the windows bragged of having juices and sandwiches and other not-very-hipster-café stuff. Worst of all, there was not a beard in sight. 

"I'm sorry, D," said Nulli, crestfallen. 

The coffee was all-you-can-drink, as it is in no hipster café in the universe, and one cup was all I could drink because .... Still, it was a nice place to look at, and obviously both anglos and francos were welcome. (There are some mighty sketchy and tribal joints in the Eastern Townships.) The town is prospering because of the ski hills and the tourists. 

"Who runs the artisanal chocolate shop?" I asked suspiciously.

"South Americans," said Nulli.

"Are they young? Do they have beards?"

Nulli didn't think they were young or had beards, and the artisanal bakery had closed, so that was it for Hipsterville--except for the amazing craft brewery. The presence of the brewery suggests that there are hipsters in town, but heaven only knows where they get their coffee. 

We were home before the school bus arrived; this is THE deadline of my work-from-home brother's life. 

This morning we dropped Popcorn off at a friend's house and took Peanut to a dojo at a nearby village. Both Nulli and Peanut were already in their white gi--karate outfits, which in Quebec French are called kimono, for some mysterious reason. The high school in which the dojo resides has 1,000 francophone students and 500 anglophone students, and they are not allowed to eat together. 

Apparently this high school used to be fully bilingual, but the provincial government put a stop to that, divided the students by mother tongue, and cut funding to the English section. If that sounds like apartheid, welcome to Quebec! Fortunately, most of the people in my brother's village do not share the prejudices of the provincial government. But the grinding poverty and hopelessness of the unilingual English-speaking minority in the Eastern Townships are just awful. The drug of choice is heroin.  

The woes of the poorest descendants of local United Empire Loyalists were not on display at the high school, and there is no lack of funding for the dojo, which has a beautifully sprung wooden floor. I watched with great interest as my brother and nephew about 30 other people did their warm-ups and kata routines and fought each other. The fighting struck me as a lot more dangerous than English-style boxing, for it was bare-knuckle. Interestingly, the students all wore shin-guards and pads on their feet, but not hand-wraps or padded gloves. 

After the session, we went to Montréal. Popcorn had chosen to attend a village classmate's party; the rest of us celebrated the birthday of Nulli's friends' four-year-old daughter. This was a bilingual party, most adults and children slipping easily between English and French. As such a cheerful and unselfconscious mixing of les anglos and the francos is of relatively recent date, I have to admit that there has been a vast improvement in one area of Canadian life--or, to be more accurate, Montréal life--since the 1960s. 

My train was late. Cheered by the sight of the queue still waiting in front of the "Toronto" sign, I found the Gare Central's Premiere Moisson ("first harvest") bakery and bought two croissants for the train. One of them is a chocolatine, so I will have to add that to my Sugar List, along with the chocolate cupcake I ate at the party. Sigh.

Friday, 10 February 2017

A Trip to Vermont

Just so you know, I am officially off sugar. No more sugar. By any reckoning, Christmas is over, and since I arrived in Canada I have already consumed the following essentials:

Black Midnight birthday cake made by my mother
Striped shortbread triangles made by my mother
Real Canadian maple syrup on pancakes made by my mother
A Tim Horton's old-fashioned doughnut
A chocolate chip cookie made by my niece and me
One scoop of Vermont's famous Ben & Jerry's ice-cream--in Vermont!

Yesterday my brother and I went to visit Red Mezzo in Vermont. Long-time readers with excellent memories may remember that Red Mezzo is my red-haired opera singer friend who lived in Montreal. Like most of my long-term readers, she has ceased to be Single. She got married to her handsome crush object (who adored Rita Hayworth) and now lives on a dairy farm an hour's drive from my brother. She and her husband now have two beautiful children toddling merrily around their old farmhouse.

After coffee and zucchini bread, Red Mezzo, her daughter and I went upstairs to clean up the daughter's room and play with her toys. I could not resist the Fisher-Price clock, for I used to have one exactly like it, and discovered for the first time that its tune is "Grandfather's Clock" (1876) by Henry Clay Worth. Then I played with the wooden doll with the 100 (literally) magnetic outfits. Finally I seized  the children's version of Anna Karenina which was all about AK's clothes and not at all about trains.

Highly suspicious, I searched the lovely illustrations for a hidden train, but it isn't there. It is a completely unironic child's version of Anna Karenina with direct quotes about AK's clothes. There is an illustration of Vronsky in his lovely white uniform, but no mention of or reference to Karenin. Little girls who love this book--and I reveled in the pretty dresses- are in for a terrible shock when they grow up and read (or see) the whole thing. I still haven't read it, but the Keira Knightley film left me with jitters.

Then we all sat down to lunch which was followed up by Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which may have milk from the very cows in the very barn in it. I had one little scoop because (despite all the treats mentioned above) I am on a low-sugar diet. Red Mezzo's husband felt badly that he was giving me sugar, but I assured him that I considered B&J ice cream the vin de pays of Vermont.

Maybe a good low-sugar diet rule is that one can only eat Ben & Jerry's when one is actually in Vermont.

We returned to my brother's village in Quebec after lunch, so as to greet the returning schoolchildren. After supper, my brother took me along to karate, and I was highly impressed when the sensei asked him to take the children aside and refresh their memories on some kata (or whatever they are). My niece--an orange-belt--was the smallest child there and the most impudent. (Nulli to Popcorn: "I 'm not daddy, I'm sempai !")

I was charmed when Popcorn pulled her two girlfriends there--one much taller and somewhat older than myself--over to my bench to introduce us. This display of good manners was so staggering in a six year old that I can only assume there was an element of "show-and-tell" to it all. (The girls smiled shyly and seemed delighted to be pulled hither and thither by the tiny human tugboat.)  Then I was terribly impressed when my brother taught the children--a mix of francophones, anglophones and hispanophones--in English, French, and whatever necessary Japanese.

But it was -17 C when we got back out to car. Brrrrr! How happy I was to return to my brother's hearth with a book.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Karate in the Village

On Monday I took the train to Montréal. My brother Nulli was waiting, and we went off to get a  late take-out lunch at Schwartz's (me) and Co Co Rico (Nulli). In years past I have had the famous black cherry soda to go with the smoked meat sandwich and fries, but at 46 g of sugar--forget about it. Sadly, the sandwich and fries were not the same without it.

We drove to Nulli's village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec (Estrie, en français). Village and countryside, thickly populated by tress, were knee-deep in snow. The lake was frozen solid and also covered with snow. Fantastically beautiful--and one reason why I travel to Canada in February!

My brother and his family live in a sprawling 1950s bungalow with a finished basement and an enormous conservatory added in the early 21st century. It has a stone floor, a pine wall and ceiling, ceiling high glass windows, a gas fireplace, my brother's grand piano, some green potted plants, comfy armchairs and sofa.  Never mind the grandest rooms in the Historical House: this is my favourite room in the world.

Nulli and his kids are mad about karate. This morning I was treated to a demonstration of karate moves in the conservatory. Then my brother led me through yesterday's calisthenics workout again. He is disturbed by my Edinburgh tales of altercations on the Rough Bus, the Not Supposed to Be Rough Bus, the Rough Beach and the Polski Sklep and thinks I should learn karate, too. I have pondered this, but the quickest fixes would be (A) putting the old-lady berets in storage (B) taking the bus as infrequently as possible.

We went to the main street yesterday for lunch, and I was impressed at how neighbourly everyone was. (Of course, it is a small town.) I even met the sensei. Interestingly most people can switch from French to English (or from English to French) without too much awkwardness. Conversations between francophones and anglophones are cheerfully bilingual.

Today is a "frozen rain" day (snow is not a problem for anyone out here), so Peanut and Popcorn are home from school. This afternoon I shall teach them the Greek alphabet and then help them make cookies. At the moment they are suspiciously quiet, but apparently they really are just playing nicely.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Dancing Snowflakes

I am just so in love with my native city right now. Yesterday I took the bus early downtown, took another bus and had brunch with my friend Trish in one of the many College-and-Bathurst area brunch spots. As we munched I watched snow swirl around outside. It was so incredibly relaxing. The brunch place was done up to look like a Canadian holiday cottage--vintage hockey posters on the walls, vintage signs--bilingual even. There was a basket of racquets in the loo--I mean, the washroom.

I've been travelling around the city for three days to meet siblings and friends, and it hasn't been the least bit stressful. On Friday after Mass I went to the Catholic Register offices, took a pal there to lunch, and then went to west Queen West to visit Trish in her amazing flat/backyard theatre. I was home in time for dinner, and my youngest sister dropped by to help eat it. 

On Saturday, I visited my other sister's new condo, I did a little toy shopping, I met my youngest brother for lunch on the Danforth, and I zipped across town to see my pal Lily and her little ones. I was home in time for dinner again. 

After Sunday morning brunch with Trish, she drove me to Holy Family on King Street West for the Missa Cantata. After Mass, I greeted friends from high school days and met their ninth child, an adorable infant. I also met a long-time blog reader, and we were on the same bus to Roncesvalles where, for once, I didn't buy Polish stuff: just more toys. I popped by Lily's, but the family is down with the 'flu, so I went home and finished writing an Ancient Greek test for my charges back in Scotland.  My youngest brother came for Sunday supper, and afterwards my dear old prom date dropped by for a cup of tea and a chat. 

The backdrop to all this has been the cold--a refreshing, dry cold--and the beautiful snow. Whenever I see the fat white flakes solemnly descending in utter silence, I am in awe. Then, when the wind whips them up into a swirling dance, my heart fills with joy. I had forgotten just how beautiful snowfall is.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Why Should the Man Propose

I woke up at four and turned in desperation to the computer. The Daily Mail featured some remarks by long-term girlfriends on Whisper about their longing for their boyfriends to propose. Several commentators wondered why the women wait for the men to propose instead of proposing themselves.

The answer to this is that a man proposing is the ultimate proof to his girlfriend that he really loves her and really wants to spend the rest of his life with her.


When I was 15 I thought advice about not calling boys up and not asking them on dates and not asking them to dance was total fuddy-duddyism. Those were modern times, and my mother was totally out of touch with the modern world, etc. I was stung, but not convinced, by being called a brazen hussy. Calling girls brazen hussies is no way to pass on wisdom that completely contradicts everything we read in magazines and hear on TV.

The truth of the matter is that you don't call up boys, or ask them on one-on-one dates, or ask them to dance because if you do, you will never know if he really likes you or is just being polite or is just going along with it all because you are a girl--any girl. You may have begun a journey towards the humiliation that is attempting to assuage the tortures of doubt by asking the man you love if he loves you.

I hated, absolutely hated, my mother's assurances that "the woman doesn't get to ask, the woman gets to say 'Yes' or 'No'"--which, incidentally, is a brutally stripped down version of the call-response philosophy of Saint Edith Stein.  I hated the idea that instead of riding out into the world and winning the man I thought best-looking (etc.), I had to choose from whichever suitors rode up to my door. I was very pessimistic about my own attractions, which may have been humility but may also have been a kind of premature despair. Given a 15 year old daughter of my own, I would counsel her to commit herself to her schoolwork, to sports, to camping, to artistic pursuits and to put dating and dancing right out of her mind until university.

It may be salutary to explain how I won the heart of dear B.A., which was to sit very straight-backed on a couch in an Edinburgh New Town flat wearing a blue silk shift dress and pearls and listen very politely to an elderly Oxford graduate chat about Maurice Bowra, et alia. Also (for the millionth time), I had the very good fortune to resemble B.A.'s favourite singer, the pin-up idol of his university days. If you had told me at 15 that the way to a man's (or, anyway, the right man's) heart was to dress like Jackie Kennedy and not talk, I simply would not have believed you.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Peacock Feathers by Temple Bailey

My parents are avid library patrons, which is why their house is not crammed top to bottom with books. Some of the books that do linger on the shelves were owned by my grandparents, and one of them is Peacock Feathers by Temple Bailey (1924). This was one of my favourite books when I was a teenager. It was good to read it again with the eyes of a forty-something.

The story is about a parson's son from western New York state who is led by his adventurous uncle to believe that he will inherit wide estates in Colorado one day. Although he adores his kindly, idealistic and self-sacrificing father, Jerry pines to be more like his uncle. As a teenager, Jerry travels with Uncle Jerry to Washington D.C., where the latter seeks to put together a lucrative deal. When they are eating in the Senators' restaurant, the boy sees a beautiful auburn-haired girl dining with her grandfather. The grandfather, says Uncle Jerry, is a famous senator and the girl is his niece, Mimi Lebrun.

Jerry has fallen instantly in love with the girl, and when his uncle sends him to Yale University, he befriends a young man there who turns out to be Mimi's cousin. Thus Jerry gets swept along into Mimi's High Society orbit, where his simple background puts him at a considerable disadvantage.

Strangely, this is the only book by Temple Bailey I have read. Why I never thought to look her up in a library card catalogue in those far-off days of my youth, I know not. She reminds me of Lucy Maud Montgomery, only there is a beautiful spareness to her writing. With LMM, I find my eye skipping over passages of descriptions; this is never true for Peacock Feathers. Although she too loves landscapes, Bailey gets the greater impact in the fewer words.

I also love the book for its scenes of pre-war America, which is also conjured up for my by E.B. White. It's a reminder that people thought they were on the cutting edge of modernity in 1912. In Peacock Feathers, Christian Jerry rarely mentions Almighty God to his glittering set because they simply wouldn't understand what he was talking about. Having grown up in Canada, I sometimes get the impression that the world before 1968, or 1939 at earliest, doesn't matter to the zeitgeist. It's gone completely down the memory hole; we have entertaining "historical novels" instead.

True, a white American novelist born in 1869 might have a blinkered, limited view of American society. In Peacock Feathers, the only African Americans are female servants and the only American Indians are farmhands and itinerant sellers of blankets. Jerry finds the Italian immigrants who come to farm New York incredibly exotic. However, if your ancestors include pre-war white Americans, stories drawn from their experiences will surely move you.

Immigrant experience is here, of course. Mimi Lebrun and her high society set are from St. Louis, and identify strongly with the French experience in the USA. Their ancestresses came from France with their ballgowns packed up in boxes, and they danced with Lafayette. Their pride, though, rests in their ancestors having been founders of the American republic, founders of cities. They are most definitely "American first" because, although they did not arrive with the Mayflower, they sprang from "first Americans [of the Republic]."

Today this is a decidedly unfashionable point of view, no doubt because the descendants of "first Americans" are vastly outnumbered by the descendants of New Americans who, unsurprisingly, feel disgruntled and marginalized by being left out. This may be why the sins of the "first Americans" are presented to our view today much more often than their virtues. Stuart Little seemed vastly untroubled by inherited guilt, and it wasn't just because he was--incredibly bizarrely--a mouse.

Friday, 3 February 2017

In the Natal Oikos

Here I am in Canada, safe under my father's roof. How very traditional. If I'm not under my husband's roof, I'm usually under my father's in Toronto or my brother's in Quebec.

Anyway, I am on holiday from Church news, so you will not find any big Church news here, solely local details. I went to my parents' parish church for First Friday Mass (and the Feast of St. Blaise) and was very moved by the old stained glass windows, rescued when the old church was knocked down and replaced. I have loved those windows all my life. The current parish priest is a lovely man, too. There were 40 or so people at the 8:30 AM, and that also was moving.

The natal oikia (house, oikos is a household) is not in the least historical, but it is big and bright and sunlit, with big white tiles in the massive kitchen and the lovely wooden floors that have been replacing the wall-to-wall carpets over the past two decades. The sentimental wallpaper in the bedroom of my youth has been replaced by chic green paint, and the newly wooden floor is a delight.

Lots of sunlight, lots of coffee and a delicious cake. My mother is my superior in the baking of cakes, and I don't care who knows it. She blames British flour for my cakes' deficiencies.

It is very cold outside, but it's a dry cold. It's a beautiful, crisp Ontario cold.