Thursday 25 April 2019

Joy of Easter

Exercise class this morning. What a joy! 

Also joyful: Easter. Yesterday I had the chance to go to Easter Wednesday Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and it was really very beautiful. Next year I think I will do my best to get to every Easter Week Mass I can. 

Now that Lent is over, I feel more comfortable revealing that neither Benedict Ambrose nor I ate a scrap of meat--nor drank much alcohol--after Shrove Tuesday. This was a bigger deal for B.A. than for me, and I am really impressed by him. That said, we both have the thought of the Greek Orthodox Lent to keep us humble. 

We broke our fast with the traditional Polish Easter soup called żurek, which contains white sausage, hard-boiled eggs and fermented rye juice. Then, after Mass, we went with friends to their home in the countryside where we ate a wonderful feast, including roast lamb, and drank really quite a lot. 

I baked a babka (bundt cake) and a mazurek for the feast. Behold the mazurek:

The next day B.A. both felt very rocky, and I felt awful when I woke up yesterday at 3 AM, for B.A. and I celebrated Easter Tuesday by going out for steaks and Malbec wine.  Apparently when you go without meat and wine for weeks, you should ease yourself into both gradually. 

Easter Week has been solemn, too, because of the Sri Lankan martyrs and confessors. We can hope the martyrs went directly to heaven; the little children certainly did, and the adults must have known there was a chance this could happen but went to church anyway. Now my prayers are for the maimed, injured and bereaved.   
By the way, if anyone has the brass to tell you that Christianity is in Asia only because of  colonialism, be sure to tell them A) that Christianity began in Western Asia, and B) that St. Thomas got to India long before St. Francis Xavier did. Naturally, your interlocutor will be confused, for he will be under the impression that there were no Christians in Asia until Donald Trump landed there with the PTL Club some time in the 1990s.  

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Notre Dame de Paris

Watching Notre Dame de Paris burn down over my computer was not at all like watching the Twin Towers fall across library television screens on 9/11.

I was saddened rather than horrified. Nobody died in the Notre Dame conflagration whereas while the Twin Towers fell viewers thought over ten thousand people were in them.  9/11 was the Hindenburg disaster x 1000 + terrorists.

Of course, the Twin Towers themselves were just modernist monstrosities, even if symbolic of the growing wealth of nations, whereas Notre Dame de Paris is a, if not the, symbol of Western Civilisation itself.

I have been to Notre Dame de Paris twice: once in 1999--and I don't remember much about that--and once three years ago or so, when I went on the Chartres Pilgrimage. I lost the Scottish pilgrim group outside the great cathedral, and so I wiggled in through the doors to find them. Once I was in, I soon gave up and just knelt by a group of French Girl Guides. The stone was cold and grey, Mass was very long, and the homily and speeches a reproof to my ill-maintained Canadian high school French. I had arrived late at night,  had had very little sleep, and had made myself a terrible breakfast in my hotel room.

It turns out my group wasn't in the Cathedral at all. There were so many Chartres pilgrims that thousands of them had to hear the Mass outside. The Scots had been, instead, allocated space in Chartres Cathedral at the end of the pilgrimage. Naturally I now think that was a very fortunate mistake on my part. Although my abiding memory of Notre Dame was discomfort, at least I worshipped there when it was whole.

It astonishes me that Notre Dame de Paris has lasted this long. But it is also amazing that it survived 1944 and not 2015. Watching Notre Dame burn, I kept thinking "410: the Burning and Sacking of Rome."  (This was a mantra I invented as a teenager to remember my parents' license plate number; after the trauma of Grade 10 Math I became next-door to numerically illiterate.)

The Burning and Sacking of Rome was worse than Notre Dame burning down, as horrible things happened to the Romans, not just the buildings. However, it ushered in the era in which Western Civilisation came its closest to collapsing, and watching Notre Dame burn was like seeing the physical manifestation of cultural trends I read and write about all day.

However, Rod Dreher's ultimates thoughts on the topic are more hopeful and happy than mine, so off you go to American Conservative to read them. Meanwhile, the only foolproof way to preserve Western Civilisation, which is to say Christendom in its Sunday best, is not in fragile buildings but in ourselves and our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, pupils and students.

Update: Here, also, is Michael Brendan Dougherty writing about the Repair Notre Dame fundraising campaign in 2017.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Cult Status

What struck me most, when reading about the Allison Mack story, was that she founded what was called a "female empowerment" group. 

So I wrote this. (Someone else provided the headline.) 

One of the most embarrassing aspect of being a woman, these days, is that so many women (myself included) want a big strong man to look up to, make us feel special, and solve all our problems.

This may not have been so embarrassing before 1968. In that respect, women were definitely allowed to be women. In previous centuries, you were considered a bit strange if your erotic imagination did not involve the Big Strong Man. Strange or an excellent candidate for religious life.  

(I've been rereading The Summerhouse Trilogy, so Margaret's resistance to marriage is very much on my mind.) 

It's rather an irony then, that Allison Mack, whose life revolved around her male guru, has a same-sex partner. She had boyfriends before, though. Ah me. I'm just not qualified to comment on that. 

But the "DOS" story is a cautionary tale about how women will throw other women under the bus to get what they want from the man in their life. It reminds me that there are two kinds of women: women who use their power to help other women (e.g. good mothers, physical or spiritual) and women who use their power to hurt other women. 

I don't really believe in female "empowerment" unless it involves barbells, martial arts, or weapons training. Women are powerful in many ways, and the important thing is that we not use our power badly, hurting ourselves or others through sheer stupidity or wickedness. 

Was it Ethel Boileau who wrote that a woman's sexuality was "a weapon that can break in her hand"? I think it was. Meanwhile, how Marxist to rabbit on about power. Still, it's unavoidable when considering a "female empowerment group" that was ultimately a power grab. 

Sunday 7 April 2019


Sometimes I cannot forgive the new flat for not being the old flat. It doesn't have enough memories in it. It's cramped and untidy and if/when we win the lottery, we're fleeing to the West End.

At the moment, however, it looks lovely, and not just because of the guggle fish of purple tulips on the coffee table. 

It's because Polish Pretend Daughter and French Pretend Son-in-Law have just been here with their baby. 

PPD is of medium height, slim and beautiful. FPSL is very tall, slim and cheerful. The baby is only a few months old, and very cute and good-natured. Benedict Ambrose and I had not met her yet, and here she was at last. 

We had tea and coffee, cheese-bread and butter, cardamom bread and cheese, and a Victoria sponge (the simplest of British cakes). PDD fed the baby, and FPSL told us about the home renovations. They both told us about the adventure of the baby's birth, and how the nurses were so excited that the baby had black hair. (Apparently Scottish babies arrive bald.)  PDD opted for a natural birth (no drugs), and smugly admitted that she yelled a lot during the worst hour. 

PDD also praised her husband for all the hard work that he does. In the mornings he takes the baby for a walk, so the wife-mother can sleep, and then he goes to work. When he comes home from work, he takes charge of the baby again. PDD is not engaged in paid work right now, so she believes that FPSL works much harder than she does. (N.B. PDD is up several times a night feeding her baby.) 

What a blessing to have a happy young family in our flat and to serve them tea and cake. After their visit, we volunteered to walk them to the bus stop, and as we were all busying ourselves with bags, boots and baby buggy, I chanced to look in the abandoned sitting-room. The coffee table was bedecked with my best china and the whole room looked beautiful. 

Maybe the longer we live here and the more young folk who come and go, leaving happy memories,  the more and more I will like the flat. 

IRONY ALERT: I start an exercise class tomorrow, so I have bought two pairs of leggings. I promise not to wear them in the street, let alone the at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

Saturday 6 April 2019

Methods for Healing Sorrow 5 and 6

Homeschooling! Yay! I'm a biweekly writing skills teacher now. It's great fun, and my pupils are smart.

They live in the countryside, and today the bus didn't stop at the right stop. This was a little disconcerting, especially as I wasn't entirely sure where we were when I noticed--and neither was the driver. However, as I was walking in the rain back to where I thought my stop was, I saw the following sign:


Okay, the Antonine Wall was very long, so that wasn't much of a landmark. However, I'm a big Rosemary Sutcliffe fan, so that sign boosted my spirits.

I soon ceased to be lost, had a delicious lunch and taught the kids.

Benedict Option, y'all!
From a Roman-British point of view, we're very north.

Thursday 4 April 2019

Burning Harry Potter

Dzień dobry! It's a beautiful sunny day, and although work and illness have conspired to keep me away from my beloved Polish studies for weeks, I discovered that I was still able to discuss complex topics with my Polish tutor po polsku in a reasonably fluent fashion.

This makes me very happy. Literally. The endorphins only chatting away in non-English can bring are coursing through my veins.

Polish Tutor brought up the news that some priests in Poland have burned a pile of Harry Potter books and expressed shame that this is being reported throughout the world. My question was why this story was of such interest to the newspapers of the world. It's not like the priests burned the Koran. Teen wizards are not going to rise up and burn down their local Polish embassy.

When a colleague brought my attention to the priests-burn-Potter story a couple of days ago, I didn't  read it because I already know that Polish priests don't like the J.K. Rowlings organon. They also don't like New Age, pentagrams, Odin worship, Halloween and the goodly number of other things they warn about on posters tacked up near Polish church doors.

Poland is a wonderfully different place from Canada and the U.K., and although I sometimes find the differences challenging, I was brought up to respect differences. That includes solemn warnings against and fiery rejections of symbols of the occult.

I shiver at the idea of burning books because my generation of Canadians had it banged into our heads that the Nazis burned books by Jews because they were written by Jews and next they gassed and burned the Jews. However, I also have a friend--an Oxford grad with a PhD from elsewhere--who burns occult books when he finds them on friends' shelves. I learned from this that there is a very big difference between burning paper because of the ideas printed thereon and burning them because of who wrote them. As long as the Polish priests burn  Harry Potter books because they extol magic and not because they were written by a woman or a Briton, I don't care.

Meanwhile, Canadian author Michael O'Brien famously thinks Harry Potter books corrupt the imagination, so although they are popular and fun, they are not universally loved by people who are not Polish priests.

So my question stands. Why is it that a Harry Potter book-burning party by priests in Poland is considered newsworthy outside of Poland?

Is it because it adds to a narrative that the Poles hate books and learning?

I sincerely hope not, given that this is the narrative the Nazi-led Germans tried to establish in 1939.

Is it because it adds to a narrative that Poland is being "held back" by Catholicism?

Again, I sincerely hope not, since that was the narrative the Communists tried to push during their almost 50 year domination of the country.

Is it because it adds to a narrative that Catholics Poles were somehow complicit with the book-burning Nazis?

I sincerely hope not because that particular lying narrative spits on the bones and ashes of the three million non-Jewish Poles who died alongside the three million Jewish Poles who perished during the Nazi/Soviet occupation of Poland.

Anti-polonism annoys me very much, and although stories about priests burning children's books embarrass some young Polish ex-pats, what they mainly do is play into Polish fears that the world hates Poland and is out to get her. Although standing together against an outside enemy does stop Poles from quarrelling with each other for a few minutes, anti-polonism ultimately isn't good for anyone. It's both a form of lying and an example of virulent xenophobia.

Again, I don't like burning books. That's part of who I am as a Canadian born after the Second World War. It's a bit of a drag, really, as it makes disposing of unwanted books more difficult. Taking a lot of paperbacks to the charity shop is a pain, and just throwing them in the recycling makes me feel guilty. It's superstitious, really. I should burn an unwanted book or two in the garden occasionally on principle. One of my own books, written by me, has been pulped, incidentally: hundreds of copies (weep weep) robbed of their covers, shredded and boiled.

That, of course, was just a prudential decision by my publisher and signified nothing more than his loss of faith in his ability to sell the books. It had nothing to do with the content or me. If someone does want to burn her copy of Seraphic Singles (or Anielskie Single) because she dislikes it, though,  I think this well within her Freedom of Expression.

Tuesday 2 April 2019

How to Dress Like a Lady

I have been amusing myself by Googling that phrase. So far this is my favourite find. I am not sure of Mr Wong's motives, but he certainly has a beautiful collection of photographs.

In my dreams, I wear such a chic and feminine outfit when I leave the house, bound for Italian class perhaps, having lost 20 pounds and having grown five inches taller. In these dreams, I have not been advised by my podiatrist to give up high heels, and I enjoy going to the hairdresser.

That said, today I am wearing a re-introduced Laura Ashley toile print blouse, and I went to Italian class this morning. On the way I stopped at a good French bakery for a cappuccino and a croissant, so you see that my life is not devoid of romance.

To be honest, though, I did wonder if it is ladylike to eat croissants in public, and if it is odd to conceal one's cappuccino from the bus driver by popping it in one's coat pocket.

Thinking more about the Notre Dame Leggings Controversy, I wonder what would make Domer girls cover their butts. The pleading of a Catholic mother of sons only caused the Notre Dame ab*rtion club to launch a rump-waggling protest. Sad to say, I think it would take a raft of fashion magazines putting leggings on their "Don't" lists while appealing to class-snobbery to end the sad fad. However, they may very well do it, as surely it is in their interests for women to wear three items of clothing--T-shirt + leggings + skirt--instead of merely two.

I never thought I would see the day when something worse than the black tights with blue denim shorts combo would hit the streets of Edinburgh, but here we are. And as I always say, it's such a waste, for British department stores carry beautiful, feminine clothing.

Update: Oh! Look at this charming girl. I'm going to ignore that one of her style icons is a burlesque dancer because she doesn't dress like one.

Update 2: Oops. Holly got into trouble with the Politburo, too, and was wrongly accused of suggesting girls who wear other sorts of clothes are "asking" to be sexually attacked. Dear heavens, why do people exaggerate so much? While reading about the Notre Dame Mom (and me), I came across a suggestion that she wants to put Catholic women in burkhas. Say what?

Monday 1 April 2019

Hate Messages

I rarely get hate messages. Today I got one, though, for having defended the Notre Dame Cover-Your-Bum Mum. I was also decried for such unfeminism on Patheos, where the male writer didn't present my argument but did present my face in a photo that makes me look slightly mad. 

Ah, women's clothing. As long as there is an internet and spring, there will always be these passionate battles over women's clothing. I think, though, that the last time anyone bothered hunting me down over social media, they wanted to yell at me for questioning poor Aurelia Brouwers' right to die.