Sunday 17 May 2020

A Splendid Saturday Walk

(Thoughts on Chapter 5 of Integralism are in the post below.)

Eventually it dawned on me that British temporal authority had given permission to its subjects to take automobiles to the countryside to take their exercise there. We don't own an automobile, so now we pay to get to the countryside by public automobiles trundling along for such essential services.  The Spectator's Melissa Kite, who objects to people taking automobiles to the countryside, would shake a fist at us. However, she doesn't live in our county, so we are spared the sight.

What we did yesterday was take the country bus to a small town well-known to us both and walked to the coronavirus outpost of another local farm shop. This farm shop is much superior to last week's in that it is devoted to organic vegetable, fruits and eggs, and the farm grows a wide variety of produce. It is not attached to aristocratic pleasure grounds, but we didn't care, as the area has its own charms, including a mill and a dovecot.

The mobile shop has also been placed quite near a rural outlet of our favourite North Berwick pastry shop, which was open. Thus, after I sat down at a garden table and filled in an order form for vegetables, and after the loud and friendly Englishwoman running the place went off to pick them for us, Benedict Ambrose and I went to the pastry shop down the road and addressed the be-masked young ladies behind the counter.

Outside the pastry shop little knots of households (mostly young couples or siblings in their 20s) were enjoying their treats while sitting on the long green grass under the bright sun. Inside the pastry shop, B.A. and I ordered our first takeaway cappuccinos since I don't know when. I also ordered a pastry stuffed with frangipani and B.A. asked for a piece of pecan tart. We paid for these delicacies (£11-something all together) by debit card and sat on a bench beside a stone wall, contemplating the fields on the horizon as we munched and slurped.

When we had paid (about £23) by debit card and packed our eggs and produce into our knapsack, we set off on our way home along a river. It is a route we know well. It goes through the small town where we first alighted, under a bridge with the most amazing acoustics, and past a ruined castle once owned by the family of the Historical House. The journey ends at a bus stop in the next town, one very important in Scotland of the Middle Ages and still splendid to look at. The views of the green and yellow fields and of the great chain of hills are stunning at this time of year, and our path was edged by wildflowers of a wide range of hues. When we were good and tired, we sat and ate our packed lunch, half-hidden from the nearest cows.

As I walked along contemplating the awesome beauty of our Scottish county, I experienced what my light reading calls "Maximal Happiness." It was enhanced, rather than diminished, by the thought of dying of the Vile Germ alone in a hospital, an object of fear to doctors and nurses, without the comfort of the Last Rites or the presence of a friend. If ever in danger of such a fate, I will draw upon the memories of recent and historic walks through the Scottish countryside with Benedict Ambrose and feel happier.

It seems to me that we are much more likely to get the nasty virus from Tesco, anyway. Usually we can walk that route without seeing another human soul, but this time there were a number of other people (and their dogs). However, we could all keep a "social distance" on the path (usually by moving towards the river bank or up the hill) in a way we simply can't in the aisles of a supermarket.

While I'm on that subject, there is nothing to stop a priest from saying Mass on the back of a flatbed truck in a large field while behind him Catholics stand in 2 metre square spaces. If we can queue for 40 minutes to get into a supermarket, we can certainly queue that long to wait to take our place in our assigned square for an outside Mass. This field does not have to be in the countryside. It could be the nearest football field, large park, or carpark. Free tickets could be obtained and checked. The Masses could all be said at the same hour to dissuade travel from one parish to the next. It can be done; why isn't it done?

But to return to our splendid Saturday walk, we got to our bus stop in the mediaeval town eight minutes before the bus arrived. We were then whisked at almost incredible speed back to our own high street. There we discovered that the neighbourhood's best chippie was shut, so B.A. went to an untested one even nearer home. He came back with a fish supper and a scampi supper, and we consumed them with white wine and the last two episodes of The Victorian Kitchen Garden.

It was a wonderful day despite the pandemic and my overset plans to be in Poland this weekend.

This morning went very well, too, as my gardens indoors and outdoors are thriving, and Fr. de Malleray had a splendid homily, as usual. I must ask him about the 10,000 people who watch the Warrington Mass on Sunday: does this mean those watching live or does it include people who watch the recording after the fact? How many viewers watch from Britain? How many from abroad? There are not a thousand Trads in Scotland, as far as I know; are there so many in England?

As usual Fr. de Malleray did not avoid controversy, seeming to acknowledge that there are a lot of bad bishops around but we have to defer to their authority anyway.

Apparently the way to increase our chances of having good bishops is to pray for them and to raise them up properly from infancy in the first place. I favour orchestrating fake kidnappings in which they think they are being offered the choice between infidelity and death. If they choose infidelity, they are sent to monasteries for a year to repent, and if they choose death, they are made bishops. I suppose, though, that such fake kidnappings would be wrong for many reasons, all of which are probably enumerated in a chapter of Integralism.

By the way, I would never have spoken so freely about bishops in my twenties, let alone in my childhood. I strongly remember refusing to write a column for a Canadian Catholic newspaper about reasons the Canadian bishops had to apologise. I was in my thirties then and said something pious and noble about never wanting to attack the bishops. Now that I am in my forties, I am simply bewildered about how and what to write. Embarrassingly, I once wrote about how Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, surely wasn't guilty of homosexual misconduct. He publicly confessed shortly afterwards.

After watching Mass from 200+ miles away, I made brunch. We had delicious streaky bacon from the local butcher and omelettes fines herbes made from Scottish free range eggs and herbs grown by the farm shop. One thing that has actually improved during the lockdown is the quality of our food.

Gardening Update: The first flower has appeared on a broad bean: white and black. Six sweet peas have sprouted so far. The second courgette has grown since this morning. I am amazed. Tomorrow I will repot the first courgette, which is really quite tall now, outside. Tomorrow is Victoria Day in both Canada and Edinburgh, and the traditional Toronto day for planting out. That, of course, is irrelevant to Scottish gardens, except that if the danger of frost has passed in Toronto, it assuredly has passed in Edinburgh, too.

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