Friday 30 July 2021

How to make your home larger for free

Currently when I am pedalling away on stationary bike, I watch videos about Tiny Houses. After every workout, I notice that my kitchen (where the bike lives) is much bigger than I thought. Then I go into the sitting-room and notice that it is bigger than I thought, too. Kitchen plus living room have a larger floor space than most Tiny Homes I've seen. And there's more! Across the hall, there's an enormous front bedroom, which is our dining-room/office/guest room, and a back bedroom with a closet bigger than any closet I've ever seen in a Tiny House. And tucked away by the front door, a wall apart from the kitchen, is a bathroom with an actual bath and a big cupboard for towels, sheets and demijohns of fermenting apple cider. 

Thus, after ever workout, I feel incredibly rich and simply luxuriate in all the space. I also think that if we wanted to, we could sell our flat and most of our possessions, build a Tiny House somewhere, and bank 90% of our profit. 

Therefore, if you are feeling sad and cramped about your modest house or flat, do have a look on YouTube at how the Tiny House class live. They're so cheery about it, too. 

Thursday 29 July 2021

Talent = Deliberate Practice + Love

"From Mulieris Dignitatem to Przygoda Słonia," said Benedict Ambrose as he walked into the sitting-room this morning. 

"It's all the all the same to me," I said, looking up from the bright green picture book that tells the story of The Elephant's Adventure.

This is not exactly true, for I have to look up a lot more words in the Polish translation (or original, let's face it) of Mulieris Dignatem than I do for Przygoda Słonia. But what is true is that reading Polish is reading Polish,  and picking up The Elephant's Adventure is a lot less daunting than the thought of another chapter of MD or St. Augustine's Wyznania.

Yesterday I met a Polish stranger in a sunny park for a "language exchange," and she told me (in Polish) that her dream was one day to speak English as fluently as she speaks Polish. I felt then that I had met a kindred spirit because of course I would love to speak both Italian and Polish (and a whole list of other languages) as fluently as I speak English. 

Since both my new acquaintance (perhaps a future friend!) and I are well over 14, fluency is going to be a lifelong project, and it is unlikely that we will ever speak our foreign-to-us languages without strong accents. However, this doesn't really matter as anglophones find accented English charming (or, if not charming, normal), and Poles find accented Polish miraculous. (I don't know what Italians think because, bizarre as this sounds, I don't have any born-in-Italy Italian friends, and have had the same Italian tutor for years.) 

What will get my znajoma and I to our linguistic goals is deliberate practice and love of our chosen languages. I doubt we have talent for languages because I less and less believe in talent and more and more believe in the power of deliberate, obsessive practise at something that a practitioner loves, especially if this practise is done before the age of 20. 

I now realise that my easy ability to put down words in a sonorous order is thanks to keeping a diary as a child. Being read to, and obsessively reading books, and listening to my parents discuss books also has something to do with it, but I am sure I put in my 10,000 hours of writing by the time I was 20. My brother Nulli undoubtedly had put in 10,000 hours of piano practise by the time he was 20.  I wrote and he played because I loved writing and he loved playing. 

I'm not sure how deliberate our practise was, though.   I am sure at least half of his must have been painstaking challenge, and I probably looked up words in the dictionary. My brother had good teachers, and I had good models: P.G. Wodehouse comes to mind. 

The more I think about it, the more gleefully I dance on Divine Talent's grave and read books like Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed. Realising that you can excel at something that you really love as long as you put the right kind of practice in is very exciting. The trick is that you really have to love doing it because otherwise you would need superhuman discipline. 

Update: Very cool eco devotees here and especially here. They seem very rooted in reality.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

The Condition of Servitude

The problem with growing up with books written before 1950 is that most of them were written by authors with the privileged leisure to write books. I generalise, but as far as I could make out, the gentlemen had gentlemanly job titles (if any) like Professor and the ladies either lived by their pen, or on the family fortune, or on their husband's income. If asked how L. Frank Baum or Lucy Maud Montgomery had fed, housed and clothed themselves, I would have assumed they received an income from the sale of their books. Perhaps they did, but what I did not know about was that there was a vast ocean of authors who never achieved anything like Baum's or Montgomery's publishing success. 

My inner script, therefore, said that--since I got A+ in Creative Writing--I was sure to make a living as an author. By the time I was 19, however, I had divined that this was easier to dream than to do, so I vaguely set my sights on an academic career. Sadly, I still laboured under the mistaken belief that if something is hard, you lack talent, and should find something to study that you are talented at, i.e. find easy. How disappointed I was to discover that Ancient Greek is really hard. I thought this meant I had no talent in it.  Needless to say, I swam in a lot of self-hatred and anxiety until I switched my major to English Literature. The A's and even A+'s came back---because of My One Talent, I thought.  

I enjoy mining my mistakes to help other people, especially young women, not make them. To recap, the first mistake I explode in this post is that any but a minority of book authors make a living at writing books. The second is that your brain is made of concrete that has hardened in a certain shape and that you are incapable of learning things you find difficult so well that they become easy tak jak język polski. 

Unfortunately, both mistakes carry a heretical theological idea, which is "God must love those more/differently talented people more than me, or He would have set the concrete of my brain differently/sent me the requisite successful ideas/stamina for a bestseller." 

But I seem to have gone off-course, for what I really wanted to talk about was Jacob Lund Fisker's idea that most of us are born in wage-slavery, and it is our job to dig ourselves out. I have actually bought the book version of "Early Retirement Extreme," not because I want to retire extremely early (too late!) but because I don't want B.A. and I to have an impoverished old age. 

The time to begin preventing your impoverished old age is really when you are a teenager and earn your first paycheque. I read recently that if you manage to save $15,000 by 25 and then invest it in a tax-sheltered vehicle at 10%, you will discover when you are 65 that it has turned into $1,000,000. Of course, one problem--when you are a teenager or even 25--is that you cannot imagine being 65. Another problem is earning as much as $15,000 by age 25 although I bet if you added up all the money you have earned after taxes so far, you would faint dead away. I don't dare think about all the money I made and squandered as a teenager.

At any rate, were I speaking kindly to my teenage self today--a very good imaginary exercise, by the way, as it cheers up the teenager still residing within--I would tell myself to save 50% of everything I make for the rest of my life. One thinks of the charming child in The Pursuit of Love who hoarded all pocket money so that she could run away one day.  Perhaps the secret is giving children a goal. 

"Dear Nephews! Dear Nieces! If you save up 50% of all pocket money, all cash gifts, all summer jobs, you will be well on your way to wealth and can do anything you like when you are 40."

"Dear Auntie! We cannot even imagine being 40, so wouldn't it be better for us to buy wonderful clothes and delicious hamburgers when we out with our friends, and just trust to getting a good job that will let us do anything we like when we are 40? Also, dear Auntie, you are very old, so will you not just leave us your money?"

"Dear Nephews! Dear Nieces! First of all, I am planning to live to 102, when you yourselves will be rather long in tooth. Second, if you plan carefully, you can inveigle your parents into buying you wonderful clothes that will last the most crucial decade of saving up. (Wait until you have finished growing.) Third, you should take the lead in social plans and suggest a teenage supper club, in which you take turns entertaining at home (having banished your parents to the movies) or order the cheapest thing on the menu. Fourth, if you already know exactly what paid work you want to do and know infallibly how to get it, you are certainly an improvement on the 1970s model. Fifth, practising always saving 50% now will make it so much easier for you to do so when you are given your first paycheque for full-time work."

The most likely answer to this is loud guffaws and "Oh Auntie, you're so funny!" but perhaps it would plant seeds in their young, pliable, definitely-not-concrete minds.  

To go back to this "born a slave, must dig yourself out" analogy, one of the biggest shocks in Crean & Fimister's Integralism was the idea that being an employee is undignified. 

"Strictly speaking, whenever a person is employed by another for payment, he is in some sense that person's servant or slave," write the priest and the professor. 

 "[...] Even in the commonplace of paid employment, slavery is undesirable, for the paradigmatic form of ownership is where the labourer owns his own means of production. This is more attuned to the nature of man, whom 'God has left into the hands of his own counsel' [Sirach 15:14]," they continue.

"[...] It is in view of self-sufficiency and emancipation that the servant, that is, the man labouring for another in exchange for renumeration, labours. The condition of servitude is therefore of its very nature infantilising."

If we are to take this seriously (and your mileage may vary), it is therefore incumbent upon us to save up our money and invest it where it will work for us, sparing us the indignity of servitude. Naturally, human beings actually LIKE and NEED to work; the problem (if I understand it) is needing the paycheque. So a good compromise is to work at something you love to do and would do even if you were not paid for it. However, you must support yourself and your family, and the most lovesome work is not always the most remunerative work. The solution therefore is to slave and save until you have an "independent income." Sadly, the most effective time to do that is when you are young and compound interest works so dramatically in your favour.

Monday 26 July 2021

A Weekend of Gardens

We had a beautiful weekend, with the sunny weather actually typical of east coast Scotland in the summer although everyone forgets this as soon as it rains.

On Saturday Benedict Ambrose and I took advantage of the combination of sun and my day off work to go to a National Trust for Scotland property featuring a huge, tiered garden with a pond, fields, and a curious horse hanging his head over a stone wall. Dogs are not permitted off the lead, and so dog-walkers don't seem to go there very often which is---I am sorry to say, for I like dogs--a blessing. It is thus a quiet place; an almost secret paradise. 

As the sun poured down, we switched from bench to bench to suit our comfort as we read our books. Around noon we moved to a large, sheltering gazebo. An hour later I volunteered to go to the nearest grocery store for lunch and came back with pork pies, a sandwich, water and crisps. B.A. continued reading David M. Levy's Scrolling Forward, and I continued Maryanne Wolf's Proust and the Squid. The latter is about the invention and implications of reading.  This reminded me of language acquisition in general, and I texted Polish Pretend Son to find out what words my year-and-a-half-old godling uses. It's clearly as summery in Poland as here, for her small store includes the first syllables of "mosquito" and "housefly."

One of the joys of Scotland is that we don't have mosquitos and, thank heavens, midges don't usually thrive this far south. The Highlands must be alive with midgies, though,  and this is why I never go there from May to October. They bite hard.

We stayed in this beautiful garden until 5 PM or so, went to the grocery store together, and came home. B.A. set up chairs under our apple tree, which abounds in small "cider babies," as B.A. calls them, with copies of the Spectator. Our next-door-downstairs neighbour came padding into our garden barefoot with a half-bottle of white wine he though we might like, and talked tipsily of apple cider making and illegal stills he has known. 

On Sunday after Mass--and our TLM still thrives, thank heavens--B.A. and I went to a birthday party held in one of Edinburgh's many private gardens. These gated gardens appear in the middle of Georgian or Victorian streets or squares and are the collective property of the residents who subscribe to their upkeep. If we ever live in the West End or the New Town, we will certainly pay the subscription and become happy key holders ourselves. (Perhaps I could keep my veggie trug on the roof.)

The gated garden in which we sat and ate Coronation Chicken sandwiches and raspberry Bakewell tart and drank sparking wine is at least a city-block long and lined with shrubs and trees. It has weathered grey curved wooden benches here and there. It is large enough to have several (music free) parties without them impinging on others. We watched with amusement as a party of small children whacked away at a piñata, and two small children turned and stared as B.A. and another birthday guest broke into a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song. 

This time the benches moved with us as we sought partial shade from the overly generous sun. B.A. and I sat and chatted (and B.A. occasionally sang) in this park from about 2 PM until 9:30 PM. Thus, it was very much an open air day and a very good use of the (east coast) Scottish summer weather 

One of our conversation threads wove around the recent Motu Proprio and the allegations launched at people who love the Traditional Latin Mass. Our host, who stands at the church door on Sundays with a clipboard in obedience to the archdiocesan COVID-19 procedures, revealed that not just cradle Catholics and convert Catholics but potential future Catholics come to our Mass. Because of B.A.'s illness and other difficulties of the past four years (e.g. COVID-19), I haven't been much of a parish social butterfly, but I dimly recalled hearing reports that some of the students who appear at Mass aren't Catholics or even yet Christians. Some of them have been baptised, and others haven't yet been received. I believer these converts and inquirers first come because enthusiastic Catholic university students bring them.   

As we trundled down Princes Street on the bus, I noticed crowds of people outside fancy bistros and bars. It seemed busy for a Sunday night--or perhaps it only seemed that way after a year and a half of lockdowns. 

Friday 23 July 2021

Catholic Clothing, again

If I lived in an climate-controlled iron box with an internet connection, I would know it was summer from this article in Catholic World Report. I skimmed the article on Catholic clothing (I confess) and then went to the comments to see the usual complaints from women about the focus on female modesty, the usual rejoinder about hot pants, and the sneers at the very well-dressed men, who are accused here of trying to "out-dapper" one another. 

I particularly enjoyed the remark about people looking as if it were 1962, because I have a pet theory that 1963 was the Annus horribilis on which the good ship Western Civilisation foundered. But of course no woman dresses exactly as her grandmother or mother did in 1962 for women's underclothing in 1962 was atrociously uncomfortable. Also, the only trad Catholic woman I know eccentric enough to wear gloves to Mass is me, and only very rarely: to Polish Pretend Son's wedding, for example, and when extra-paranoid about the Vile Germ. 

As it is summer, I usually wear to Mass the blue maxi dress I bought for wear to the Vatican Press Office with sturdy blue shoes (alas) or blue sandals. I object to the idea one cannot wear sandals to Mass, for monks and nuns certainly do. Also, my feet are aging faster than the rest of me, and apparently I can't wear ballet flats. Indeed, even my dowdy comfort shoes did not pass muster with my physiotherapist, who bent them in her hands to show how inadequate they are. 

Naturally I wear a blue denim maxi-skirt of indestructible traddery almost every day now. I'm happy to say I have three: one suitable for wearing in town, one only for the house, and one for gardening and painting. With this I pair a clean T-shirt and, in necessary, a cardigan. 

I felt confirmed in my uniform--which involves, as you see, weekday clothes and a Sunday dress---by reading about the late Latinist Fr. Reggie Foster, OCD. Fr. Foster was known for wearing a strange habit of his own design: a light blue jacket, a turtleneck and denim overalls. He looked like a janitor and was treated like a janitor by those who didn't recognise him and look down on janitors. Although I prefer priests to look like priests, I am still moved by his humility. 

Personally, I'm a bit worried of being treated as though I were insane. As far as I know, this hasn't happened yet. In my usual weekday outfit, while climbing up Fleshmarket Close, I looked warily at a man in a bizarre costume that was half-football fan, half-Viking. He was loud, with a friend, coming down Close and nobody else was around. 

"God bless your day, Sister," he shouted.

Maybe I should go back to wearing lipstick. But if we all stopped wearing lipstick, think of how much money and plastic we would save!

Thursday 22 July 2021

Lovely Young People

I was cheered, yesterday evening, by a little video showing lovely young people from Europe and beyond asking Pope Francis and the bishops not to suppress the Traditional Latin Mass. As Pope Francis doesn't understand English wonderfully well (as I noted on a BBC documentary), I told Benedict Ambrose it was a pity they didn't speak Spanish instead. 

"English is the universal language of the world," harrumphed B.A. or words that he will tell me later today he actually said.  

If some enterprising filmmaker really wants to wring hearts, they should do a similar project with young married people and their tiny children. Every time I see a new big young family at Mass, I am utterly delighted. 

Tuesday 20 July 2021

I'm a blogger not a leader

My arms hurt too much for casual writing, so I'm asking BA to write this. One mistake people are making in the motu proprio firestorm is to confuse traditionalist Catholic bloggers with traditionalist Catholic communities and, worse, traditionalist Catholic leaders. If you really want to know what a given traditionalist community is like, you have to go to a TLM and then speak to members of the congregation afterwards. Your success in doing that will change from country to country. It's probably a good bet in gregarious Glasgow or the friendly USA, but in some British communities, you'll have to hang around a bit. The utility of a trad blogger like me is that you can come to the Edinburgh FSSP TLM and have someone to say hi to. (Don't be shy--I'm Canadian.) 

The problem, or a problem, with the internet is that people treat it like a diary at worst or a soap-box at best, shouting to the crowds in Hyde Park, hoping to get a following. But the witty chap on the soap-box yelling for veganism isn't exactly Linda McCartney.

My heart aches for the young Catholic parents who just want to bring their children up in the faith their parents or grandparents handed on to them. In many places, public Catholic education is a joke or, worse, a scandal. Children brought up by bad Catholics are a danger to believing Catholic children and even to their believing Catholic teachers. Many semi-pagan Catholics imagine that Our Lord is a cross between the Dude in The Big Lebowski and their soft-touch grandmother. Obviously to the orthodox Catholic this is ludicrous. However, so many soi-disant Catholics believe this,  the worldwide TLM community is the only Latin Catholic refuge, like a monastery when the Vandals were pillaging and sacking.

When my brother Nulli and I were children in the 1970s, we were asked to draw God by our Catholic kindergarten teacher. My picture of God included glasses. After questioning me on this, my parents realised I thought the priest was God. On the one hand, I had possibly discerned the priest in persona Christi. On the other, it shows the centrality of the priest's face and personality in Catholic worship according to the 1970s rites. (Tellingly, Nulli thought the cantor was God.) It would be interesting to test traditionalist children in this fashion. Lex orandi, lex credendi, indeed.

That's all I have to say today. Please, just don't judge either the beautiful TLM or the worldwide TLM community by me, or Steve Skojek, or any of us keyboard warriors. We are a dozen, maybe a few dozen, English-speaking windbags, really. The real trad is the brewmaster monk, or the tired mother of eight, or the head of the FSSP. I'll stretch a point and suggest that Dr Joseph Shaw is a credible spokesman for the traditional movement in the United Kingdom. Dr Peter Kwaniewski is a fine scholar of the liturgy, too. He's not a leader, but he's a darn good resource.

Sunday 18 July 2021

The Day After

Yesterday morning I had a Polish lesson. My tutor and I discussed the motu proprio in Polish. I'm sure it won't astonish my own readers, but some people do not seem to understand that human beings are capable--even in adult life--of learning European languages they don't speak in the home, like Latin.

After my lesson, I took the train to Edinburgh's West End to meet my luncheon party: the three eldest children of a TLM-attending family, two of whom are my writing students, and the young PhD candidate who is their maths teacher. I'm sure it won't astonish my own readers, but some people might not realise how pleasant homeschooled children are to be around. Spared the brain-destroying effects of smartphones and a poor diet of pop culture, they enjoy speaking to adults about their actually interesting interests. 

Over lunch in a pizzeria, for example, we talked about sabre-fighting in German-language university fraternities: the duels, the slashes, the scars, the casualties, and the scope for excommunication. There was also an interesting anecdote about a young Austrian who decided to walk to Rome with a donkey and present it to the Pope. We also discussed very long-lived animals and the amazing regeneration of a certain kind of jellyfish. The children watch a lot of science videos and are very well informed. 

We did not talk much about the motu proprio, for we did not want to distress the children and my young colleague did not want to get angry again. Alas, it was I who told him about the motu proprio when it came out, and he had spent the rest of the day on the internet like, I imagine, most of the rest of the adult members of our community. 

(As a thought experiment, I'm trying to imagine the bishops making an obvious effort to stamp out the Polish-language Mass in Scotland. Ha! Not going to happen--and it shouldn't. It would be a very cruel thing to do, I must say, even if it means various Polish Catholics never rouse themselves to interact with Scottish Catholics, support Hibs or Celtic, have a drink on St. Patrick's Day, vote for the SNP, etc.) 

After lunch we bundled into a taxi and went to "the Botanics", which means the Royal Botanical Gardens, as the children voted for it over the Art Gallery, and no wonder, as it was an absolutely splendid day. The weather was almost Roman. It was warm without being actually hot--except in the taxi, so we rolled down the windows.   

At the Botanics, I covered myself with glory (to myself at least) by correctly identifying a monkey puzzle tree as such. We all took a desultory interest in the alpine plant collection, but not much in the Queen Mother's Memorial Gardens. The gentlemen of the party admired a pond, and the ladies--keen amateurs--exclaimed over the vegetable gardens. The sun poured down, and I would have enjoyed a little snooze under a tree, but alas, we had only enough time to buy seeds in the gift shop before we had to rush for the children's bus.

In the end, my young colleague called an Uber. It arrived with only 5 seats, so I waved everyone goodbye, took out my phone and summoned Benedict Ambrose to my side. I was in Stockbridge, and B.A. was--I believe--reading the Spectator in the furniture section of the John Lewis department store, enjoying the view and telling helpful salespeople that he was waiting for his wife. 

When B.A. turned up in Stockbridge, burned red-brown from the sun, we bought a bag of ice and went to my colleague's West End flat for a Gin-and-Tonic. We sat in one of Edinburgh's delightful private gardens with our G&Ts and a jug of ice-water and finally hashed out the motu proprio and what was likely to happen to us. 

(Once again I ponder what the Polish community in Scotland would do if, through some idea of "unity", the Bishops told them--and not, say, the small francophone community--that they must go to Mass in English from now on and not sing their doleful hymns--or even their Christmas carols--because they mention sin too often and nobody else can understand them.)

Eventually the sun was lower in the sky, and the breeze picked up, and the ice had melted long since. B.A. regretfully decided that we would not stay for dinner, for he had to bottle 10 litres of elderflower champagne and proofread his diploma assignment. (The COVID-19 lockdowns gutted B.A.'s industry and eliminated his job, so he is now retraining and I am counting every penny.) However, when we got home, we ate separate suppers of leftovers (Friday's vegetarian spaghetti for B.A. and leftover pizzuolo for me) in front of our laptops, reading more online commentary on the motu proprio

At a certain point, I felt we both had had enough, so I shut my computer with a snap and offered to help B.A. bottle his champagne and proofread his assignment, so we could go to sleep with clear consciences. We followed this plan and slept like the dead. 

This morning I got up shortly after six, made a cherry Bakewell tart and said my prayers before checking the most recent online commentary on the motu proprio. A number of bishops have given permission for the TLM (for I suppose we won't be even pretending to call it the Extraordinary Form anymore--more on this below) to continue as usual, and may their days be long and happy. 

Short reflection on Summorum pontificum for those with reading stamina

The reality of Summorum pontificum, which I have lived intimately for almost 13 years, is that it created a tolerant code of behaviour for people who love the Traditional Latin Mass and encouraged large numbers of people not embittered by decades of marginalisation and pain to join our ranks and cheer everyone up. 

The tolerance was in the phrase "Extraordinary Form", which not all trads used, but when we used it, we were at least politely recognising the "Ordinary Form" so cherished by the millions of our co-religionists who still bother to go to church. There was also a lot of tolerance among the young families who soon outnumbered the kind of old-and-cranky who sigh and tut at the slightest infant noise. And being able to celebrate the TLM in our parish churches meant rubbing shoulders with parishioners who preferred the Ordinary Form--although, sadly, some tensions arose, too. I could tell you stories, but I would prefer to save them for work, so they can be read by hundreds of thousands of people. 

The large number of people included young converts who, having become interested in Catholicism through books written before 1970 or saints born before 1900, were bewildered by the Catholicism on offer at their nearest parish churches and went looking for what their books and heroes described. They also included people who were fed up to their back teeth by what was going on in their parish communities--usually involving gross irreverence for the Blessed Sacrament. 

Summorum Pontificum worked--and I say this with all due respect for the SSPX--to keep Catholics who believe all the hard teachings at the heart of the Church, and not in the distant suburbs where the SSPX have their churches. In fact, it really did work towards unity. I will end--as the morning is getting on--by saying that SP also gave young priests something good and solid to help them carry the very heavy cross they chose, something that strengthens their steps and prevents them from stumbling. 

Saturday 17 July 2021

Under the Greenwood Tree

Yesterday the frantic reading, interviewing, and typing. Today the reflection. 

As more than one Catholic pundit stated, Pope Francis has dropped the Bomb on tradition-loving Catholics. Benedict Ambrose and I are tradition-loving Catholics, so it felt as though the roof had fallen in. The windows blew out. The floor buckled. 

Remembering the morning I woke poor B.A. up to tell him that Pope Benedict had--not died, nobody had died--resigned, I telephoned him to tell him what Pope Benedict's successor had done. B.A. was in a lovely historical garden, praying the rosary. He came home and spent the day on his computer while across the hall I interviewed liturgical experts. Kwasniewski sounded stunned. Di Pippo wouldn't talk to me until he had calmed down. 

I've met both of them in person, of course. Dr Shaw, too. Catholic Tradition in this anti-tradition world is a golden thread that connects Catholics all over the world. Catholic Tradition is our life. Catholic Tradition is our community. Almost all the Catholics I know in Scotland are Traditionalists: the children, their parents, their grandparents, their priests. And then there's Rome. Yesterday's bomb didn't just shake our home in Scotland, it shook our community in Rome. Our home, as it were, in Rome, for all our travel decisions revolve around easy access to the Traditional Latin Mass. And then there's Toronto, and my parent-denying Sunday morning journeys to the notorious slum in which the Oratorians' resurrected church shines like a jewel. The only one of my university-era writing friends to convert to Catholicism goes there. 

Then there's Poland although Polish Pretend Son jumped ship to the SSPX years ago. I remember being wedged into an underground SPPX chapel like a decorated shoebox and feeling distinctly unhappy about it. The Mass should not be a hole-and-corner affair, least of all in Poland. The Mass should carry on being celebrated in the great, airy, beautifully-lit Gothic and Baroque churches built for its celebration. They abound in Poland, and I have assisted at the TLM in Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw and Poznan. 

Dropping the Bomb on the Traditional Latin Mass and the Catholics who love it and have rooted their lives in it would be brutal and cruel under any circumstances but after a year and a half of a pandemic? When churches were allowed to open again, there was concern many Catholics would just stop going. They could watch Mass over their computers, so why bother going in person? But I can tell you that our people flocked back to Mass, and new faces appeared. Some Catholics were so shocked that their right to receive the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue had been violated out of fear of man or bodily illness that they left their beloved parish communities to seek out ours. 

Our community: a dwindling number of the elderly old guard, middle-aged couples with adult children or none, middle-aged men with absent Protestant wives, young married couples,  young married couples with a few children, slightly older married couples with many children, university students at various stages of study, the children themselves, the babies. And, of course, our dead: those who were central to the community when I first arrived and who have now been buried--I think. One of our oldest parishioners was blessed with a good death just before the pandemic, and his family's plans to give him a grand Novus Ordo funeral in a church big enough to hold his friends and fans were foiled by the lockdown. I certainly hope he's been buried by now, but who knows? The important thing, I've always thought, was that he was spared a lonely death and was not deprived of the Last Sacrament. 

Our larger community extends across Scotland, of course, and--as I said above--the Western World, from Warsaw to Toronto and beyond. 

Last week Benedict Ambrose ordered the Ordinariate's new breviary, and this reminds me that the tiny Ordinariate congregation was given the red carpet treatment in Edinburgh whereas the 90 or so trads felt merely tolerated until the happy day a young diocesan priest suddenly appeared and said "our" Mass. And this is so unfair because we are simply Catholics who actually believe Catholicism is true and that the saints--most of whom did not know the New Mass or even (Padre Pio) refused to say it--are worth emulating. Traditional Catholics put money in the collection basket (or not) like everybody else, and if you count the children, you'll realise that our young parents make enormous sacrifices out of love for God and the doctrine of the family. Enormous.

It's all very well for Francis to counsel "mercy" for the divorced-and-remarried-and-contracepting, but what about mercy on the young parents of eight who drive or take a bus for miles so their children can be brought up in the reverent Mass their ancestors knew? And I must say, when I look at our expenses, it would be terribly nice if B.A. and I could just walk to our beautiful Arts-and-Crafts parish church instead of paying £7.20 in bus fares every Sunday. But the beautiful Arts-and-Crafts church does not have the beautiful Mass, and when last we were there, B.A. was either the second-youngest or the youngest person in the building. 

This morning I feel like I am holding my breath, waiting for the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh to make his move. And I feel like my whole local community is doing that, too. In Fife, all thoughts are turned, no doubt, to the Bishop of Dunkeld. I don't want to think about Glasgow. I wonder, too, what the tiny regiment of SSPX priests in Scotland are thinking. I'm thinking that their Edinburgh church is much too small to handle another 90 people, let alone 100 more from Glasgow. 

And it's all so unfair because the people Francis is punishing did not go to the SSPX but went to the FSSP and ICK and diocesan priests willing to celebrate (and, if necessary, learn) the Mass of Ages. And given all the babies,  and all our young men converts pursing priestly vocations (usually diocesan ones, by the way), I'd say that we were (are) in ourselves a "new springtime" in the Church. We are the greenwood tree flourishing in the otherwise thinning forest.   

I don't know how to finish this post because there is no finish yet. All we can do is wait. So we wait--and pray, of course. 

Read this, too.  

Friday 16 July 2021

The Motu Proprio

Yes, I'm devastated. More on this later. I have to work, and today that means eating, drinking and breathing reactions to the Motu Proprio. 

Thursday 8 July 2021

The Challenges of Domesticity

 It occurred to me today, as I chopped away at long grass and sticky willy with the garden scissors, that when you are a Searching Single, your principal challenge is changing your Single state, but when you get married, you have a whole new list of challenges. One trap you can fall into is going from weeping over your Single state to weeping over your childless state---unless you do have children, in which case you might weep over never having any time for yourself/not becoming CEO. Weeping seems inevitable, but you can choose not to indulge in it most of the time. 

My principal challenge is doing all the things I want to do as well as all the things I have to do. There are only so many hours in the day and, besides, my arms hurt from overuse syndrome and my ankle hurts from excessive pronation. Also, I want to put another big overpayment on the mortgage but, for the sake of my excessively pronating ankles, I had to buy orthopaedic slippers. (My physio says I can no longer walk about my home in socks.) I wanted to avoid buying slippers made in China, but the "Made in Austria" claim of the snazzy slipper manufacturer actually means "Assembled in China or Vietnam." (The slippers were invented in, and the wool is still grown and made into fabric in, Austria, which the manufacturer thinks counts.)

As usual, my principal challenge can be summed up as Being Rooted in Reality. In related news, this morning I again handwashed my three pairs of Made in England socks, which together cost £45.50. Benedict Ambrose says there is no way they will last, but I am sure that socks of such good pedigree will last if they are treated well. Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme believes one should pay good money for top quality tools and clothing---and nothing else except stocks, really. 

One of Jacob's many axioms that I find particularly helpful is that when you have a problem, you should think about how to solve it without spending any money. For some years, B.A. and I have had the worn-upholstery-on-our-green-and-pink-armchairs problem. Occasionally we discuss having the chairs reupholstered and ponder how we would get them to an upholsterer (could we carry them without attracting a crowd of yobs and urchins?). Meanwhile, the arms get more and more worn, and I took to putting a bed sock on the right arm of my chair to stop my own overused arm from getting prickled by horsehair. So far so good, and no money spent. But as it happened, we invited our priest for dinner, so really, something had to be done. First I thought I would make armchair covers from corduroy bought from a hobby shop. But then we couldn't get to the hobby shop, so I had to come up with another solution. Jacob's axiom sprang to mind, and then I remembered I had green-and-pink dinner napkins somewhere. I dug them out and--Behold! Instant armchair covers. 

Listen, it's not that I'm cheap. It's that I'm 50 and want to pay off the mortgage fast, so we can save for retirement. 

Another domestic challenge is our two out-of-control beech hedges, aka Our Shame. Our Shame impinges on the garden of our downstairs neighbour on the south side and that of her next-door neighbour on the north. We would blot out Our Shame ourselves if B.A.'s illness hadn't wrecked his ability to balance and if I didn't have overuse syndrome. It's annoying, and we feel like old crocks, but in this situation we really do have to get someone to do it. 

"£800," said the first someone (from a large firm) who looked at Our Shame when I got back from paying my physio £50. He then had a look at my face and suggested £700 cash-in-hand. We said we'd think about it.

"£200," said the second someone (from his own firm) who looked at Our Shame.

"Done," I said, so happily that the young man seemed surprised. He then suggested that for £230 he could make sure all the leaves and branches were taken away. 

"Done," I said again. 

I did, however, repeat that this was going to be £230, and he agreed. I don't know if he will do as gold-plated a job as the large firm would have done, but being Rooted in Reality here, I'm not paying £700, let alone £800, to have the beech hedges cut down to size. This is not the New Town, pal. This is not Dublin Street. Meanwhile, we had the roof fixed last month, and that was £288.

Homeownership is one long song of expenses, and I will enjoy totting up the figures when the mortgage is paid off to see if it is indeed cheaper than renting, as B.A. swears it is. I'm hoping B.A. wins that particular argument, and indeed I am helping by chucking as much as possible at the mortgage. 

Meanwhile, it's a good day already because I did half an hour of gardening, half an hour of Polish study, an hour of exercise, including most of those prescribed by my physio, and have managed to blog. Now I must go to work, which will not be as difficult as yesterday, for I have already translated two-thirds of an Italian interview with Cardinal Sarah and need only to write my article and move onto the next thing. 


Sunday 4 July 2021

The Scottish Summer

Blogging at last. If I take a long hiatus from this site, the reasons are one or more of the following: I am all written out for the week; I am spending more time on languages; my right arm hurts too much; both my arms hurt too much. 

With that, hello! It is summer in Scotland, which means that we have the occasional day of truly warm weather. The sun beams on us in delight, we bask in garden chairs or on benches in snazzy Stockbridge, we go for walks so long my left ankle aches for days afterwards, my broad beans present us with green pods of deliciousness. There is beauty everywhere, and we do not want to be anywhere else unless the weather turns. On colder grey days, we would rather be in Italy or Poland. 

Since I last blogged, the sitting-room has turned a lovely shade of green. Painting its walls was our first DIY project that wasn't making alcoholic beverages.  It took us the better part of a day (plus the time beforehand washing the walls, putting masking tape around the woodwork and shoving the furniture into the middle of the room), and it cost £166.44 in paint and equipment. We have about 2 litres of paint left over, so we won't trust the how-much-do-I-need? calculations from paint companies again. On the bright side, we now know we won't need more than 5 litres to paint the bedroom. 

Benedict Ambrose, who has hitherto never painted a wall, says he loves to sit in the sitting-room and bask in the green. He doesn't get as much satisfaction out of the thought that we did it ourselves as I do. When tempted just to phone a decorator, I factored in the good memories that were likely to come out of our shared project. Good call.

My parents are very good at DIY and have saved umpteen Canadian dollars by doing all (or almost all) of their own painting, wallpapering, tiling, flooring, and deck-building over the years. My father is 80, but he has not tired of repairing the wooden decking on top of his garage. Really, they are inspirational. It's good to have inspirational parents. At the same time, I now know enough about home ownership to find the thought of caring for a big family house rather daunting. Last month we spent £288 on the roof and rhones (i.e. what Canadians call eavestroughs and Americans gutters), and we live in a wee flat.  

I discovered yesterday that a goodly number of other people in the UK have recently indulged in painting and other forms of home improvement. It's humbling to realise that our actions, which we think are spontaneous, are shared by so many other people. For example, I began our vegetable garden during the pandemic when millions of other women in Britain turned to vegetable gardening for solace. Yesterday, B.A. and I went to a cocktail lounge for the first time in ages, and I suspect many other people in Scotland did, too.  (In England they had football to think about.) The difference may be that I carefully recorded how much we spent in our budget book. 

We went to a place called "Lady Libertine", which I had passed on my way to the bus station and teaching writing to my homeschoolers. I was not anticipating needing a drink after teaching; I just thought it would be nice to have a proper bar date with B.A.  My first choice was the Voodoo Rooms, but they didn't have space.  "Lady Libertine" turns out to have a very 1930s decor and reasonably priced cocktails, so we enjoyed ourselves very much.  

My homeschoolers are done with writing lessons for the summer, but they will continue working on their novel together--a personal project they came up with on their own. I am greatly pleased. To further rub in the realities of the writing life, I will canvass them for short stories to send to the annual children's historical fiction contest, in which they will not place because they don't write like this:

"Life is a vast, screaming disappointment. At first these words appeared in letters shaped by bladderwrack on the stony Scottish beaches, then they appeared in discarded disposable barbecues further up in the sand and sedge. I watch as the bored children dig crumbling pits, their white helplessness burning to red under the fickle, seductive sun."

They prefer exciting plots to  sloshing about artistically in gloomy predictability. My own prediction is that they will one day write cracking novels that turn a real profit and not the sort of beautifully and fashionably wrought  stuff supported by government grants.