Thursday 30 August 2018

Favourite Apple Crisp/Crumble

After some wistful petitions from the spear side of the household, I bought flour, sugar, and unsalted butter along with the carrots I would make into soup. The flour, sugar and butter were for apple crisp (or crumble, as we say in the UK), of which B.A. is fond.

We have had heated debates concerning crumble topping. My mother puts oatmeal in hers, so naturally I put oatmeal in mine. But B.A. thinks it is better just to use flour. Hitherto, I have not agreed, but yesterday I could not find the oatmeal, so for once the crumble was oats-free.

B.A. was delighted with the result, saying it was the best apple crumble ever. I think it was a little too sweet; it is definitely too sweet for Poles*

St. Benedict Over the Apple Tree Crumble

1. Send your husband (if applicable) to the apple tree for a pound of ripe apples.

2. Peel, core and slice apples. (B.A. had to peel, as my hands hurt too much from typing.)

3. Put sliced apples on the bottom of a ceramic baking dish, pour in 3 Tbsp water, put some (you decide how much) granulated sugar on them and stir gently.

4. Shake some cinnamon on the apples.

5. In a bowl or spare pot, cut about half a cup of butter into 6 oz of flour and about 4 oz of granulated sugar. The idea is to cut the butter into the size of small croutons.

6. Spread flour-butter-sugar over apples. It will be more crumbly than doughy.

7. Stick dish in pre-heated hot oven (about 350 degrees--our oven's numbers have worn off, so we're not completely sure).

8. Bake for 40 minutes.

9. Serve hot (first day) or room-temperature (second day) with vanilla ice-cream.

Serves 4 once or a loving couple twice.

*If you are new to my blogs, you may wonder what Poles have to do with apple crumble. In time, however, you will discover that Poles, Polish and Poland feature in our lives in various ways, thanks to a serendipitous conflation of events in 2010.

Snatches of Packing, Gardening and Pondering Sin

I have been writing about fall-out from the Cardinals McCarrick and Wuerl scandals, and my hands ache so much at the end of the day that it is hard for me to write anything else.

In the mornings before work, I have been going to the Historical House to pack up books. Small cardboard boxes, especially vodka boxes, are best for this task.  Four more hours should get the job done. 

One evening this week before dinner I rushed out to continue pulling up the dandelions in the lawn, and this morning I managed to get outside again to empty the veg scraps bin on what is still just a compost heap. No compost bin as yet. 

I have watched one television show--"Celebrity Masterchef"---and after so long away from TV, I was surprised by how very boring and mindless it was and wondered why anyone would watch "Celebrity Masterchef" instead of reading a book. There are so many good books, and so few great TV shows. We recognised the face of only one celebrity and the name of the 80s band of another, the mood music was stupid, and the dishes the chefs made looked thoroughly unappetising.  It was a complete waste of an hour, and it frightens me to think that there are people who spend a third of their time--or more--watching television. This is surely not something worthy of human beings. 

Another thing that has been bothering me is artificial snacks. Because so much of the McCarrick/Wuerl scandals involve sins and networks that don't tempt me, I decided it would be a good idea to look at my own inclinations and see if I do anything that could be considered disordered in itself.  And it occurred to me at once that--even if this is "small matter", as B.A. says--there is something  inherently wrong with eating food that has little nutritional value, like potato chips (or crisps, as they are called in Britain), when one has access to highly nutritional food. 

Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and chowing down on something just because it has a pleasurable balance of salt, fat and crunchiness strikes me as a kind of gluttony. Fortunately for this point of view, the apples in the back garden are now ripe, and if I suddenly long to eat something, I can eat one of them. However, stress-eating may also be a form of gluttony. At any rate, we are supposed to ponder our own sins instead of other people's, so I am trying to do that to balance out what I write about all day these days.

Well, back to work.  

Sunday 26 August 2018

Re: What Viganò Said

Nobody panic. You don't panic when you see how dirty your oven is.

If you move into a place with an oven (or you get a new oven delivered) you are probably aggrieved if you find it dirty, but you don't forswear baking just because someone screwed up. Indeed, you are lucky if you checked inside the oven before the house filled with the smell of baking grease. However, since you ignored those who said to check and the house is now full of smoke, the thing to do is open the windows, get a bucket, scouring powder, newspapers and a strong brush, and get to work cleaning.

Is this a sad and bad situation? Yes. Did it wink into existence simply because we found out? No. It's been going on for years. But now we know the small t-truth and hopefully knowing will set us free.

Saturday 25 August 2018

Why Keep Books?

Today I went to the Historical House and filled boxes with books.  When I first started this gargantuan task, I decided to start with books I didn't want anymore. The problem, as I may have mentioned, is that I don't feel comfortable getting rid of B.A.'s books. And I definitely do not want the vast majority of B.A.'s books. Did he really read Justine? Will he ever read Justine? I have my doubts.

However, the very thought of choosing between his books made my poor, radiated husband feel very tired, and he shouted "What?!" when I said I didn't think I needed the Latin-language version of the Summa Theologica anymore.

The problem with books--and we have hundreds--is that too many are relics of one's one past and very often represent destroyed dreams. For example, I have dozens of theological textbooks which I bought and kept because I sincerely believed that I was going to be a professor of theology and would need them. That is why I have, for example, most of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, not to mention the Summa in both English and its original Latin. I even have Mary Daly's Beyond God the Father--or had, as I have binned it.

I also have quite a few books I have never read and may never read and many, many books I have read but may never read again. Therefore, it seems mad to keep them around.

Poor B.A. countered that he has books because he likes to sit in a room surrounded by good books into which he can dip when the mood strikes him.

I did not point out that he has not sat in such a room for over six months and, like me, does most of his reading on the internet and, because computers impede sleep, goes to bed with the Spectator. I even stopped nagging him about discarding books. He was sitting on the edge of the soon-to-be-abandoned sofa bed in what used to be our library, half the back of his head shaved or simply bald. He looked as weak as a kitten.

So I spent the day putting books in boxes without making judgements and taped the boxes shut. However, I know perfectly well that it may be a very long time before those boxes are every opened again. Therefore I began to fill a big red wheeled suitcase with books I need and read often. And because I am a nice wife, really, I made sure I brought some books B.A. highly values, has read recently and will probably read again.

So here are the books that have actually made it to St. Benedict Over the Apple Tree. Most of them came with me today, dragged half a mile in a suitcase or carried on my back:

Churchy, Liturgical & Theological (mostly B.A.'s)
The Holy Bible (NRSV, Catholic)
Biblia (the Bible in Polish and therefore not B.A.'s)
Chwalmy Pana (Polish prayers & liturgy book)
The Monastic Diurnal
The Penny Catechism 

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (in English)
Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi
CCCB, Statement on the Formation of the Conscience (aka Winnipeg Statement)
Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy
Alice Thomas Ellis, Serpent on the Rock 
Adrian Fortescue et al, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described
Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Holy Mass
St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 
Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, Gardening the Soul
Joseph Kramp, S.J., Live the Mass (1925)
Peter Kwasniewski, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness
Father Lasance, The New Roman Missal (1945)
Robert Llewelyn, A Doorway to Silence (super-High Anglican guide to the Rosary)
Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy and the Splendor of Truth

Aidan Nichols, O.P., Critising the Critics
Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Holy Eucharist
Aidan Nichols, O.P., Holy Order
Aidan Nichols, O.P., Lovely Like Jerusalem
Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Realm
Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Shape of Catholic Theology*

Pius X. Catechism św. Piusza. Vademecum katolika (I'm going to memorise it. That's the plan.)
Fr. Jacques Phillipe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace 

Card. Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy
Card. Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World

Henry Sire, Phoenix from the Ashes 
Aelred Squire, Asking the Fathers
Ks. Józef Tischner, Krótki przewodnik po życiu

Thomas Ahnert, The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment, 1690-1805
William Zachs, Without Regard to Good Manners

Associated Press, Guide to News Writing
Emma Lee-Potter, Interviewing for Journalists
Strunk & White, Elements of Style 

Peter C. Brown et al. Make it Stick
Gabriel Wyner, Fluent Forever

Larousse French-English, Anglais-Francais New College Dictionary

JACT, Reading Greek
Langenscheidt, Pocket Greek Dictionary
Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon
Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek

Collins Concise Italian-English, English-Italian Dictionary
MOIT, Il Mio Primo Dizionario
Oxford, Mini Italian Dictionary
Esplora Firenze con Dante e i suoi amici
Un Giorno in Italia 2

Langensheidt, Premium Slownik polsko-angielski/angielsko-polsku (cut in 2 halves, a sign of love)
Langensheidt, Slownik uniwersalny, Angielski
Oxford & PWN, English-Polish Dictionary
Assimil, Le Polonais
Klara Janecki, 301 Polish Verbs 
Iwona Sadowska, Polish: A Comprehensive Grammar 
Oscar E. Swan, Polish Verbs & Essentials of Grammar 

C. Alan Ames, Through the Eyes of Jesus (gift of pious neighbour)
Martin Amis, The Information (accident)
Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
Alice Thomas Ellis, The Summerhouse Trilogy
George MacDonald Fraser, The Complete McAuslan

C.S. Lewis, Książe Kaspian
C.S. Lewis, Podróż Wędrowca do świtu (Polish trans. of below)
C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate
Bolesław Prus, Lalka
Bolesław Prus, The Doll (English trans. of above)

& two poetry books belonging to tutor which I mean to give back soon

Eyewitness Guides, Poland
Victoria Harrison, Happy by Design
Jack Monroe, A Girl Called Jack: 100 Delicious Budget Recipes 
Cal Newport, Deep Work
Matthew Rice, Rice's Architectural Primer 
Simon Sinek, Start With Why
Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog
Kate Watson-Smith, Mad About the House
Lexie Williamson, The Stretching Bible

That appears to be 77 or so. Dear me. And that is the smallest drop in the library bucket.

Why I brought all the Classical Greek books when I am unlikely to be called upon to teach it ever again is a mystery. Lest I appear more high-brow than I actually am, I bring your attention to my must-have English novels. Well, Brookner is eminently respectable (I do think Hotel du Lac is a masterpiece). The others are for comfort (or Polish studies).

I think I have at last answered my question. Some books you need as tools, but others are simply for comfort: mind snacks.

*B.A. really loves the work of Aidan Nichols. He once got me to take at least some of these books to a conference where Nichols was speaking for the learned priest to sign. The great man kindly did so although he seemed a little surprised by the number.

Friday 24 August 2018

Weeding is Good for the Soul

Poor Benedict Ambrose has taken the week off work and has been slowly wrapping up glasses and plates at the Historical House. He took apart the leather-top table and then, having read my splenic post, decided not to bring it home. Still weak from radiation therapy, he's done only a quarter of the packing he hoped to do.  We are still not sure how we are going to get everything down three flights of stairs.

I worked off my vague fury by digging dandelions out of the lawn, before or after work. It is good to be outside and smell the earth. The harling on the walls reminds me of my childhood home, even thought that was white, and these row houses are brown and ochre.

The fury is partly frustration with the circumstances of our move, but partly the content of my articles. The news is by turns sad and infuriating. Pondering the meaning of Single Life between examining dating strategies was a lot more fun, it must be said. Thus, it is great to get out into the garden where life is much simpler and the battle lines are more clearly drawn: woman vs. dandelions.

When the weather is dry and even slightly sunny, I wash and hang out the laundry. This is also refreshing--especially after nine years of hanging laundry indoors.

Last night BA and I went to see Suzanne Vega at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall. BA first heard SV when he was a teenager, obediently making a tape of her songs at the behest of a friend. So among BA's hundreds of classical CDs, there are a few Suzanne Vega albums.

As a teenager of the 1980s, I knew "Luka", of course, and hearing it live was my second shock of the evening. My first shock was seeing the 20-something Suzanne Vega of the "Luka" video instantly age 30 years when she appeared onstage. She is still waif-like, however. The first set was the entire Solitude Standing album, of which "Luka" is the second song. Hearing it live was like being jolted, for a few moments, back into 1988.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. On the one hand it would be splendid to be a teenager and have all that opportunity before you, but on the other hand I acutely remember groping around blindly for all this supposed opportunity. I enjoyed writing stories, but there were no obvious clubs and programs around for girls who enjoyed writing stories. But above all I was helpless and terrified before the sheer cliffs of Math class and Chemistry class, partly because I didn't understand how work could substitute for talent.

For that reason, it would be a terrible thing to find myself once again a teenager in 1988. Naturally it would be great to go back knowing what I know now, even if I didn't remember to buy shares in Microsoft. As that is quite impossible, it is comforting to know that I am better off now--with an "upper villa" of my own,  a good-natured husband and the knowledge that most human beings can do or learn almost ANYTHING we put our minds to, as long as we work at it as assiduously and as long enough as it takes. As the framed Polish poster on the kitchen wall reads, "Naprzód (forward)!"

Tuesday 21 August 2018

The Historical Sepulchre

Today I went to the Historical House with my trusty backpack and a lot of boxes.  Ugh!

It almost astonishes me that I now dislike so much a place I loved so much. But in the wake of the flood, our exile, the moth infestation, and our ultimate eviction, I really hate going up the stairs to the Historical Attic, smelling the curiously sour air, looking at the dusty wreckage of our former home and shuddering as I squash yet another brown insect between my fingers.

Our life as we knew it ended when the overhead pipe in the bathroom blew up. Naturally B.A.'s brain tumour and subsequent illnesses had already blighted our social lives, but the Deluge put a definitive end to all our jolly dinner parties, Sunday Lunches, and hopes that we'd be entertaining friends at the Historical House for many years to come.

Now, of course, I look forward to picking up the threads of our relationships and welcoming our friends to our new home. It's smaller and has no romantic antecedents--indeed, the neighbourhood has fallen on good times since it was first built for the proletariate--but the ceilings are higher and the garden is our very own.  But I am desperate to keep all the junk and useless belongings that proliferated in the Historical Attic out of the new space.

Two of the worst chores in the old place were vacuuming and dusting. Both were absolutely necessary to keep the moths at bay, but unfortunately we own a lot of little tables and chairs and ornate little bookcases and other hard-to-dust objects. Eventually I discovered that the only effective way to hoover the sitting-room was to take everything except the sofa and a bookcase out of it, vacuum and then heave all the furniture back in.

This is one reason why I am not at all looking forward to transferring the old furniture here, and I am praying that the used furniture dealer we called will take most of it away.

But, oddly, my greatest dread is that all the books will end up lining the new place. It DOES astonish me that I could hate books--before I married I kept all my books in perfect order and afterwards I lobbied my parents to send them over the sea---but now I just think of how rarely we seem pick them up. Of course, we must have picked them up sometimes--at least twice a year I would have to give the library a thorough reordering--but we do most of our reading on the internet, and most of the books I read now come from public libraries.  Most of our old books, therefore, are simply redundant--as well as dust traps and hiding places for insects.

And so going up to the Attic and looking at all the things we still have to pack and somehow cart to the new flat seriously depresses me. Naturally I am terrified of the moths tagging along, too.

After all my good intentions, when I loaded up my knapsack it was with one shoebox of wine glasses,  my winter church dress, a cookbook, the photocopy of my 2017 tax return, and two cardigans. But I also carried away an occasional table. My fingers are crossed that we will keep only the nesting three.  If the rickety leather-top table falls apart one more time when I move it to vacuum, I will kick it to pieces.

Here are some soothing minimalist and Japanese interiors to calm us all down.

Monday 20 August 2018

Gardening Tools

Happy birthday, honey!
I am fascinated by "Early Retirement" blogs although it really is too late for me to retire by 40, let alone 30. Why people are writing about this only now (or, to be honest, from around ten years ago--I am always late to trends) is beyond me. I seem to recall pondering how much money people make in their lifetime but not that they could SAVE most of it.

While thinking about what careers would best fund a writer, it never occurred to me to work like a slave for 10 years, save at least 65% of the money and shove it all into index funds that eventually make me $20,000 a year. Then I could quit and write all day long. 

If I wrote advice for teenagers, that would be my advice. Get trained in something highly valuable, work like a slave for 10 years while saving as much as possible, and only THEN go to Paris to sit around writing/painting about Le Beau Homme Sans Merci or whomever.  

This rather flies in the face of my advice to have children as soon as you graduate from university, so either marry a young man who is eager to retire in ten years, and do the hard graft of scrimping and saving from the distaff side, or start work at 16, doing your pre-university courses at night school. 

Dear heavens, I have just looked up the UK wages for apprentices. Never mind starting work at 16. Finish high school, do a 3 to 4 year uni course in something useful, work like a slave for a decade/get married to willing-worker-like-slave (if can find), have babies (if applic.), then work part-time for fun when can. Do not read Vogue, Elle or Marie Claire.

I do not know about you, but I think if I were a man I would find it very thrilling if I took a woman out to dinner and she told me her life goal was to be financially independent by 32 so she could retire and have babies and fun forever more. I imagine this person having one tube of lipstick--a Christmas present from her mother--and one date dress--ditto--carefully preserved in a cloth garment bag when not in service.  

I have wandered far from my chosen topic, which purports to be garden tools. Well, the one extravagance allowed by my Early Retirement gurus is high-end tools, possibly because they are men and really like high-end tools, but also because such things retain their resale value and last decades. Now that B.A. and I have a garden, and we need tools, I did some research to determine which garden tools count as high-end and went out this morning to buy some. 

It is a bit odd, after buying supermarket own-brand pizza on the grounds that it is £1 cheaper than our favourite, to spend £132.95 on garden tools, but that is what I have done. The big expense was the Fiskars hedge shears, which cost so much that they will live indoors, not in the tool shed. 

"Happy birthday," said I to Benedict Ambrose upon mentioning the price of these hedge shears. 

For I correctly intuited that BA would enjoy the thought of cutting the hedge with such a righteous piece of kit, and the pruning shears alone inspired him at once to cut up the embarrassing sapling sprouting over our rose bushes towards the neighbour's garden. 

Mr Money Moustache says that when you go shopping you should have a hot shower afterwards to wash off the shopping juice. I am both horrified that I have spent £132.95 all at once and deeply desirous of adding grass shears and secateurs to my arsenal in the tool shed (and spare room).  

Over supper I casually mentioned to B.A. that I might dig up part of the lawn to make a vegetable bed, and he thought this a good idea as long as I pick a spot not under the clothes lines.  I am pleased by this although, speaking as a North American, it seems slightly heretical to dig up part of the lawn. I mean, the  LAWN! 

Sunday 19 August 2018


Water, water everywhere...

Last night B.A. and I were congratulating each other on our first weekend as homeowners. We celebrated with pizza and wine. Afterwards we noticed that the hall carpet was a bit wet. The radiator didn't seem to be leaking, so we assumed the water had come from the food-scraps pail, which I had rinsed outside with rain water.

This morning the hall carpet was sodden, and we realised it HAD to be the radiator. To add insult to injury, water was coming in through the roof into the crawlspace in the spare room, thanks to hours of rain.

A phone call to the roofer who had given the seller's solicitor an estimate back in July revealed that he was booked up until October.

Fortunately, a phone call to the plumber who fixed our boiler last week brought him by 3 PM, so that's the damp carpet sorted. So far we have the red plastic basin under the leak in the roof.

I am adding "Home Repairs" as an item in the monthly household accounts. Home repairs counts as an investment, not as consumer spending---or so goes my soothing mantra.

Composting tip. B.A. looked it up: coconut oil can summon rats. No coconut oil is going in the compost heap.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Useful and/or Beautiful

Household essential: the guggle jug.
I was an undergraduate when I first heard of William Morris and his dictum "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

This sounds wonderfully simple until you attempt to rid your home of useless and ugly stuff. The very fact that you own it makes you reluctant to throw it out. And then of course you have to come to an agreement with those you live with about what can go and what must stay. 

Moving into a new home, while not having to move all our belongings at once, has been an exciting experiment in minimalism. The previous owner painted all the walls a pale magnolia and the wall-to-wall carpeting, which protects the downstairs neighbours from our noise, is a shade of oatmeal (except in the spare room, where it is blue). Thus the mostly-empty rooms give an impression of both space and light. It's very restful and, just like the design books promised, makes me appreciate the beauty of the few objects we do have. 

The curious thing, though, is what has already made the trip from the Historical House to "Saint Benedict over the Apple Tree" as we have named our new home. B.A. is, as long-term readers know, recovering from radiation therapy, but nevertheless he carried home a small table so that I would have  a computer desk at the right height for my ergonomic chair. That was very kindly.  He has also transferred such useful and life-enhancing objects as a colander and table lamps. 

But what is fascinating to me, and I hope I do not sound like a zoologist commenting on the nest-building habits of voles, is the sudden appearance of KNICKKNACKS. 

Now, I am not a knickknack fan, but I do not mind them either. My parents have a number of knickknacks, and some of them have been in the same place in their Toronto house for over 30 years. Knickknacks are such an expression of personality that it might be unfair to call them by that somewhat dismissive title. Try as I might, I cannot make myself give up a small family of miniature animals I have been given over the years--a jade frog, a clay wombat, some hedgehogs--to say nothing of the parliament of owls. 

That said, they're not here. 

No, the objects that have drifted down to the new place have all been curated by Benedict Ambrose, and it is interesting to see which of our accumulated objects he seems likes best.

The first, of course, were devotional: three crucifixes, two palm crosses, and the ceramic holy water stoup. Next followed three framed photographs: me and a gal pal smoking cigars; Polish Pretend Son and Trad Chaplain looking as if it were 1890; and Polish Pretend Daughter and her husband on their wedding day. Then the ceramic owl salt-and-pepper shakers, a gift from my mother, who volunteers in a hospital gift shop, appeared on the dinner table. After that, more devotional objects: an icon of Madonna and child and a Polish dried flower Assumption bouquet. Now a green guggle fish squats on our hitherto pristine varnished pine sitting-room window ledge. 

The green angel pillow from Krakow, which B.A. hastily sneaked onto Monday's van, goes without mention. 

The choices of the traditional Polish Assumption Day bouquet and the angel pillow were surprises, but when I think about it, over the years my husband has become ever fonder of Polish Stuff and more appreciative of my Polish language habit. 

So far I have been very respectful and not taken anything away except the photographs, as they had been perched around our very narrow hall and there is no really appropriate place to put them yet. Eventually the pictures of our Polish Pretend Children will reappear, but the snap of me smoking a cigar will vanish into a photo album to be giggled at and discarded by our heirs.

CONFESSION: The tin chicken. I forgot to mention the very engaging tweed owl B.A. purchased from Walker Slater as an exile-warming present when we were bumped to the Old Town. We have that. But we also have a brightly painted tin chicken from our refuge in the New Town, as our friends had put it aside for chucking out. He picked it up in the south of France, but she didn't like it, and I have been thinking a lot about chicken-keeping, so now we have it.  So despite my strivings after minimalism, I momentarily crumbled. However, the tin chicken cost 100% less than the tweed owl, so there is that. 

Friday 17 August 2018

Root by Root

Today I buried more vegetable scraps and dug a few more weeds out of our lawn. My plan is to root out a few dandelions every day, and thus one day they will all be gone. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say.

I also called a tax accountant. Tax forms terrify me more any part of ordinary modern life. Lucky me: I now have to pay taxes in TWO countries. The fact that I actually got around to calling the accountant is something to be proud of, but actually I burst into tears afterwards, thinking about the lack of any acknowledgement from Canada that I sent them THEIR tax forms in April. 

This reminds me that my biggest enemy in life has always been procrastination. And thus I try to create unbreakable daily habits to save me from the horrors of the inevitable consequences of inaction. 

A friend once told me she was in church one day and heard a voice tell her that if she continued to live the way she was living, she would go to hell. That frightened her very much. 

My biggest earthly fear is that I will become dependent on the state. I once worked in a government office that dealt with people dependent on the state, and although people from multi-generational welfare families didn't mind battling with us, or--if streetpeople--passing the time of day with people who spoke pleasantly to them,  the formerly independent suffered agonies of humiliation.  

My biggest earthly fears for the future are 1. that free, independent peoples will find themselves enslaved by ideological tyrants with no respect for national customs, nature, or common sense; and 2. that future generations will be poisoned by the results of our consumerism. 

I am not actually worried anymore about the implosion of the Roman Catholic Church because, to get political for a moment although I said I wouldn't, the sooner we find out all the bad stuff AND SCRUB IT OUT, the sooner we can rebuild. I'm hoping and praying, not for Vatican III, of course, but for Trent II. 

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Assumption Day

It's the Feast of the Assumption, and we celebrated at home after 6 PM Mass with wine and cake.

Originally I was going to bake this cake, but then I couldn't find an oven thermometer at Tesco. All the markings on our new-to-us oven have worn away, which makes baking cakes unwontedly difficult. Not finding a thermometer, I put the butter, self-raising flour and vanilla back on their shelves. The eggs I retained for future omelettes, and we ate Tesco Luxury Victoria Sponge instead.

As I transform into Crunchy Trad or, more euphoniously, Eco-Trad, I am determined not to waste any food and to save as many applicable kitchen scraps for my new compost heap. Benedict Ambrose is curious about my desire to be both frugal and non-wasting and wonders which characteristic will win.

I am not so certain that frugality and non-wasting are opposed. This morning I was going to go to B&Q to buy a compost bin for £25, but then I bethought me that £25 was a lot of money to spend all at once on a piece of moulded plastic. Presumably my ancestors had compost heaps before the advent of plastic, so I went online to see what they might have done. And lo, they might have made their own compost bin out of stakes and wire mesh.

But not having stakes and wire mesh, I went outside with the kitchen scraps, dug a shallow hole in a corner of the garden, and filled it with scraps. Then I put some dirt over it, and voilà: the beginnings of my compost heap. Tomorrow I will turn it over, throw in today's scraps, and send B.A. to the Historical House to beg some wooden pallets from the Historical Gardener. Then we will make a wooden compost bin, and all for free.

I also enjoyed myself by sweeping up the leaves and bug-chewed windfalls under the apple tree, pulling out a few weeds, and cleaning our recycling box, which a neighbourhood cat had mistaken for its litter tray. That last was not terribly enjoyable, but when the task was over, I could dump the recycling into the box and put it in the garden shed for later.

All Scots with gardens seem to have a garden shed. One of the nicest characteristics of the Scots is their obsession with gardening. I believe they share this mania with the English. Every dwelling in Edinburgh, no matter how poor and mean, seems to have a well-tended garden in front of it, even if that means a vast lawn of pebbles and one cherished rosebush. I have never, ever seen a rusted vehicle on a Scottish front lawn.

I thought that when B.A. got older, he would revert to type and start gardening away like 99.99% of Scotsmen with gardens. What I did not imagine was that after we put a bid on a property with a garden, I would begin to moon over horticultural books and look for advice on the care and feeding of apple trees.

All day I have been wondering if there is a connection between Our Lady and an apple tree. (I do not, by the way, associate the homely apple with Eden. I am sure the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a lot more exotic and fiddly, like a pomegranate.)  But B.A. said just now that there is a Protestant poem called "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree", and I see that it is a carol, too.

From Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs,
compiled by Joshua Smith, New Hampshire, 1784
Tune by Elizabeth Poston, 1905-1987

1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

4. I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

From The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Over the Apple Tree: A New Beginning

Yesterday I went from Edinburgh Airport to the Historical Stable Block to greet my husband, aka Benedict Ambrose (his nom-de-blog of long ago), and get the keys to our new home. I didn't know I was going to rush there at once; I thought I would go to the Historical House and attempt to sleep off jet lag before embarking on our mini-move.

But once the keys were in my hand, I shouldered my trusty Osprey travelling bag and headed down the stairs, down the street and around the corner to Saint Benedict over the Apple Tree.

That's what we've named our new apartment, in case you were confused.

Saint Benedict over the Apple Tree is an "upper villa", a fancy phrase meaning a flat that has its own front door on the top floor of a two-storey structure. Our building, dating from 1930, contains four "lower villas" and four "upper villas". The lower villas have front doors facing the street, and the upper villas have front doors facing the back gardens and staircases leading down into them. The lower villas have small front gardens, too. We have never had a garden of our own, so a back garden is enough to be getting on with--especially as ours has a wonderful apple tree at the end.

The first thing I did when I got to SBotAT was find a rain-washed windfall apple that wasn't bug-munched or bruised and eat it. It was a little underripe, but it would have made a great cooking apple and boded well for the future.  Munching, I went up the concrete staircase and unlocked the door.

The first thing I saw was that B.A. had pinned up a crucifix and the ceramic holy water stoup we bought in Barcelona. He had stuck palm crosses artistically behind the stoup, too. I noticed also that the narrow hallway has several vanished pine doors and door frames, most dramatically at the end, where the double-cupboard sits.

Although I have reviewed photos of the property several times since we first saw it, I had forgotten all about the hallway, which the realtor hadn't considered photo-worthy. I wondered if all that pine wasn't a bit naff, for there is nothing like it featured on one of my current favourite blogs, Mad about the House.  But fortunately for the family finances, another of my current favourite blogs is Mr Money Moustache, not because I want to retire at 50 but because, when I do retire, I don't want to depend solely on a state pension.

Ourselves at the Historical Stable Block in more glam days
After sitting in the empty living-room and contemplating a large square of green shag carpet (also missing from Mad about the House), I made a cup of coffee and enjoyed the feeling of being a homeowner. Then I went back to the Historical House for a truly alarming session of carting furniture essentials (including a King-sized mattress) down the stairs with a hired man-with-van and my tumour-survivor husband.

But to make an unpleasant story short, here we are with a very minimalist interior---although, not boding well for minimalism, B.A. considered the aspidistra stand and an ornamental cane-backed chair essentials. Today he brought home his favourite X-frame coffee table--on which no-one is allowed to put coffee.  Well, I did say that we can bring only those things that we really love, and B.A. really loves the cane-backed chair (in which no-one can sit), the coffee table (on which no-one can put a coffee), and the aspidistra stand (on which stands no aspidistra).

Besides those beloved objects, we have a blue formica topped table (my love), two matching spindle-backed armchairs (B.A.'s loves), two squashy square green velvet Parker Knoll armchairs (our mutual loves) and our year-old King-sized oak bed (ditto).

Beloved table, doomed green shag rug
Apart from clothes, two more crucifixes, two pots, a pan, some utensils, a few glasses and two pasta bowls, that's about it. We love the feeling of space so much that the old IKEA sofa back in the Historical Attic is doomed. However, we have opted to make the smaller bedroom our own bedroom and the "master bedroom" into a guest bedroom/dining room/office/library, so any furniture we like so much we are willing to wrestle it down three flights of sandstone and up one flight of concrete, will go in there.

The blog is called "Apples and Roses" because we not only have an apple street, we have a row of wild rose bushes, white, pink and red, all along one of the fences. It's also a nod to my patron saint, whose bones--despite the post-conciliar doubts--repose under an altar in Trastevere.

Because I write about the political--especially the Church political--all day, this blog will be as apolitical and as domestic as possible while striving to remain deeply rooted in reality. I will probably occasionally lapse into deep thoughts about the Single Life, and I will definitely opine on the Care and Feeding of Husbands, now that I feel I have been married long enough to say something about that. But I hope to write mostly about minimalism, thrift, zero-wasting, gardening, literature and language learning. Oh, and I will add more photos because I really must learn to take good photographs now that I am a full-time reporter.