Fortunately for my state of mind, I had just finished writing an article about Trump's announcement of the use of the malaria remedy hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19. I was feeling hopeful and even took Benedict Ambrose's announcement that the 17:20 train had been cancelled in stride.
"Call a taxi," I said and arrayed myself in, more or less, the blue outfit I wore to Polish Pretend Son's 2018 wedding. Not the hat. It was too cold for a straw hat. Instead I wore my "Russian" bearskin (teddy bearskin, really) hat, the one that makes me five inches taller. And I also wore my late friend Angela's pearls. I'm so glad Angela was not sick in the time of coronavirus.
I dabbed on rose perfume, put on my "outdoor" gloves and got into the taxicab before B.A. The driver, who had been at home with his wife all day, was garrulous. The taxicab smelled of bleach. Business is terrible, we were assured, which is why our driver had been at home, waiting to be called out instead of looking for fares that simply aren't there. He had just bought his taxicab, so this is a bit of a worry, but he was more grateful than worried, having bought the least expensive car he could. He told an amusing story against Uber: apparently a young lady was recently kicked out of an Uber car after she sneezed and had to take a proper cab after all.
The fare was £25, which is a lot for poor Mr. and Mrs. B.A., but we enjoyed the seeing the sun set over the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One and also, as B.A. pointed out, its Neon announcement that "Everything is going to be alright." Then we kept a metre's distance from our fellow TLM devotees as we exchanged remarks about the pandemic going into the church.
Well, what can I say about Mass? It was the Feast of St. Joseph, our priest wore white and gold. There were three young-man servers as well as John the Middle-Aged M.C. Silent Stuart, who is always the thurifer, was thurifer to the bitter end. There were Euan and Sam. They came out of the sacristy, processed down the Epistle side of the church and then up the central aisle. Mark (the Other Mark) sang the choir parts, and at one point his wife Annabel (a brilliant soprano) added assistance.
There were none of the missals (left to us in Fra Freddie's will) or a Whyte Sheete for St. Joseph's Day, so if we didn't have our missals (I think I left mine in Father's house chapel) we had to rely on our Latin. My Latin is generally good enough for the Gospel, if not the Epistle. There were between 35 (my count) and 38 (Mark's count) of us altogether. Only eight of us were women; we seemed to be mostly young men--and a hitherto unknown dog. The dog sat by the back doors and occasionally complained.
In his homily, Father struck a cheerful note, assuring us that he would continue to say Mass and that he would pray for us as always. We could be confident that we would still receive all the graces that we would have had, had we continued going to Mass. However, I still though longingly of the 18th century, when at least the laity could have sneaked out into the countryside and found Mass awaiting us in the heather. (Possibly some delightfully fanatical Polish priest will row up the Firth of Forth and there will again be Mass in the heather.)
After Mass, we all prayed the "Prayer in Times of Epidemics" from a new Whyte Sheete Father asked us to take home. Then Other Mark began to sing a hymn to St. Joseph, which he (and at least one other young man) read from his smartphone. The chorus, which eventually we all learned to sing, is as follows:
Dear St. Joseph, spouse of Mary
blest above all saints on high,
When the death shades round us gather,
teach, O teach us how to die,
teach, O teach us how to die.
Apropos, no? I felt a bit sad again and had to remind myself of splendid hydroxychloroquine, second cousin, surely, to the good old Gin & Tonic. Also, the way to die, if you can manage it, is probably cheerfully, giving as little trouble to those around you as you can: very C.S. Lewis/G.K. Chesterton/the Queen. Or so I said to B.A. as we walked towards the dreaded bus stop in the gloom.
Some outraged local readers may wonder why they didn't know there was a 18:15 TLM for St. Joseph at the church yesterday. One answer is that I found out through Facebook from Other Mark, so if you don't use Facebook you were out of luck. I was so burdened with cares that when I was thinking of people who ought to know, I thought only of an Austrian physicist--possibly because I knew he could walk there and would not be tempted to take a germy bus. UPDATE: Another answer is that it was on the FSSP website, which too few of us read.)
I am now fanatically anti-bus and got on a double-decker one last night only because, like B.A., I couldn't bear the thought of another £25 taxicab ride. A man four rows down coughed shallowly into his coat at intervals. For awhile I thought it was the young Pole beside his wife/girlfriend three rows back and looked with horror at his reflection in the window as he greeted an equally Polish pal, shook his hand, and the pal immediately put his shaken hand on a bus pole. Teach, O teach us how to die. But it was the chap behind him, after all.
"Trzymaj się," the maligned Pole said to his friend when latter went downstairs to alight in Portobello. Take care.
Take care, everyone. My gloves, as per my sister-in-law's instructions, are going back into a 9:1 water-bleach solution.