Saturday 25 June 2022


Yesterday I went to a new physiotherapist on my way to a morning session at the gym. However, when the physiotherapist was done with me, I didn't want to go to the gym anymore. He had said I should probably not do a lower body workout. As a matter of fact, my lower body barely dragged my upper body home. 

And then it was afternoon, and I was sitting at my desk with a big pain just over the tuchus, and a rumour hit my screen that SCOTUS was going to drop the R v W decision. We had two reporters at the Capitol, and one ready to write the story, and an editor ready to publish the story, so I just serenely worked away on whatever we weren't going to think about when the R v W announcement dropped. 

And then it did drop, and suddenly I discovered that I was the most senior editor in our virtual newsroom, and I realised should probably start assigning stories and generally bossing journalists about. But I didn't do that until after  B.A. and I had prayed a Te Deum together, I had written to old pals from 30 years ago, when we were all teenage pro-life activists, and called up an American friend back home who was actually unhappy, for she thought this will mean the Second Civil War. What I did not do was celebrate on Facebook and Twitter because I have friends on the other side, and I can imagine how they felt. Also, it was clear from what the other side was saying that inculcating a truly pro-life mentality--in which abortion is unthinkable--in the USA (let alone Canada or the UK) is going to take genius. 

That said, I didn't think R v W would be overturned in my lifetime, and it wasn't--in fact--in the lifetime of at least two of my brothers-in-arms, who died before they turned 30. I thought about them a lot yesterday, and also about those in our little band of sidewalk protestors who did not keep in touch. It was not easy to be a teenage pro-life activist in Toronto in the 1980s and 1990s; I'm not sure if feeling like a social pariah at that age is a healthy preparation for adult life. It certainly left me longing to "get out of the Catholic ghetto," and it was many years before I read The Benedict Option and realised that the (or, rather, a) Catholic ghetto is one of the best, sanest places to be. 

Celebrations at work were likewise muted, for we were working. The journalists worked feverishly, and I edited like mad, made mistakes, published, discovered the mistakes, corrected them, and republished. I worked harder and later than I remember having done since I stopped full-time reporting. It was one of those days--like the day Alfie Evans died--that is simply extraordinary and carries an "all hands on deck" quality. 

I was watching work's video from the Capitol--Operation Rescue's Randall Terry (whom I first saw in person 32 years ago) was actually crying--when my oldest pro-life buddy, with whom I went to my prom (or, as we called it then, graduation formal), called in answer to my earlier texts. He said that, apart from his girlfriend, I was the only person--in the movement, I think he meant--who had reached out to him that day. He sounded muted, too. No triumphalism from that quarter, either. It's probably because he knows too much, including the fact that the overthrow of R v W is not the end of the war. It's just one battle. It might even be the first battle. And it was an American battle, to boot. 

Friday 17 June 2022


Dead posh

Today I looked at our index funds and screamed. Then I looked at "WallStreetBets" on Reddit and laughed. Eventually I went outside to look at the veggie trug. The runner beans have begun to sprout. Hooray! 

I was going to write "happiness is boring," but I'm not sure that is true. I'm not even sure that it is true that happiness is boring to other people. For example, I enjoy Facebook posts by former classmate who regularly posts photos of her horses and most recently of her holiday with her husband at a famous Ontario inn and spa. It might be, however, because my most vivid memory of her in high school involves her crying. She was a very nice girl, and someone treated her very badly----and today she has horses, a husband, children and enough money for this snazzy inn and spa besides. Excellent story arc. 

Meanwhile, our clean closet is still clean, I've been reading Stuffocation (which, at £3.33, cost less than a round-trip bus journey to the library), and we bought a new lawnmower with our downstairs neighbour. That is all our news. 

Well, if you are interested in the minutiae of cheeseparing life in Scotland, I will explain that instead finding someone to sharpen the blades on our cranky old push mower, Benedict Ambrose conceived the plan of offering to mow our downstairs neighbour's lawn in exchange for the loan of her electric mower. She agreed to this plan, but on B.A.'s second or third session with her mower, it died. It was, after all, 10 years old. 

So that very day, B.A. clambered into our neighbour's car and they drove together to B&Q to buy a new lawnmower. ("Buy some compost while you're there!" I shouted.) The neighbour chipped in £20 and her discount card (not to mention the ride), and B.A. returned with a spandy new Bosch lawnmower and a bag of compost. Everybody was happy, for B.A. will still mow the neighbour's lawn, and the two households own the mower in common, and (now that I think of it) it gets plugged into her electrical system, not ours. 

Occasionally I dream about living elsewhere, but who is to say we will get along so well with our neighbours? And I must say that in this age of internet relationships and rarified communities, it is a joy to be part of the geographical community made up of four flats and, to a more limited extent, the flats beyond. 

Naturally, we do wish the Council would be rather quicker about picking up the mattresses, fridges and other discarded items that appear in the alley, lowering the tone. However, since I spend my work life messaging people no closer than Glasgow and my social life mostly depends on a small group of busy people who love the Traditional Latin Mass (and is largely restricted to Sundays), I am grateful that our nearest neighbours are not the kind who "keep themselves to themselves."  

Actually, one last piece of news. Canada has decided to stop violating the Charter right of some of its citizens to leave the country, so I am contemplating going back for a visit. Unfortunately, I have organized my summer in such a way that it wouldn't make sense to do this until late October, and by then it will be flu season. Therefore, I shall wait and see. We'd love to come for Christmas, but I doubt that will be possible. Meanwhile, I must find out how I can go about voting from abroad. I wonder if the cheesed-off expat vote could make a difference. 


Saturday 11 June 2022



Work produced two videos on preparing for social disaster yesterday; I have watched one, and I must get around to the other. I liked the flour in food-grade bins and the chickens; the handguns--not so much.  That said, if I lived in certain parts of the USA, I would probably get one, too. I was trained on one over 25
years ago, as a matter of fact, and that was in Canada.  

By the way, the worst thing I saw last week was the pools and rivers of blood on the floor of St. Francis' Catholic Church, Owo, Nigeria. The footage really shook me up, and I was on edge for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, I laboured away at cleaning out the worst of our closets. For inspiration, I thought about Marie Kondo and Rob Greenfield, he of the 44 things. There are now several bags of good-enough stuff sitting in the hallway, and a number of doomed electronics awaiting their fate. 

Benedict Ambrose has already retrieved two objets d'art from the hall and set them up in the living room. He is fonder than material objects than I am, and that is almost always a good thing: it means that his clothes last for decades, his books remain pristine, and he planted the pot-bound pear tree yesterday. He also trimmed the dead branches from Horace the Parlour Palm. Naturally, he was the one to give the plant a name.

Freeing one's household from useless possessions is definitely a ten year project. One tip for beginners is to box up everything and then retrieve things as you need them. After a year, give or sell or throw the rest away. Of course, you need somewhere to put these boxes. 

For almost three years now, most of our books have been stashed in a friendly family's storage room, and at times I definitely have regretted not having them to hand. (Maybe I should make another attempt at finding a carpenter.) My ideal may be to have no more than a shelf of permanent books (with a shelf underneath for library loans), but this is not feasible as yet. For one thing, Benedict Ambrose is wedded to the idea of living in a library, and for another, I can't seem to make myself give up anything in the language section. 

UPDATE: We took my Getting By in Polish (BBC) and Colloquial Polish (BoĊ‚eslaw D. Mazur) to the charity shop on the grounds that I have had them for 10 years and don't need them anymore. I hope whoever buys them learns as much from them as I did.  

One day I will have all my flashcards memorised and then I will have a massive conflagration in the garden. 

Monday 6 June 2022

The Closet's (Not) All Mine

I have been told I need to write about things more interesting than the household finances (!), and so I shall write today about cleaning out our principal closet this weekend. Sadly, it is still a work in progress because that closet is a horror of correspondence from Revenue Canada, hospitals, and other unpleasant places I'd rather not think about. There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of handmade Polish and Italian flashcards, and a large number of books because we still haven't convinced a carpenter to come and build us a bookcase. (No, we do not want to buy a bookcase from IKEA.) 

I spent six hours or so sorting through papers, mementos, and scraps of gift wrap, for we have three large plastic containers dedicated to Important Papers, Memories, and Stationary (including Gift wrapping). The Important Papers go back to 1995, the Memories to the mid-1970s, and from the looks of things, the Stationary goes back to 2009--but who knows how old random pens can be?

As I sifted, sorted, and threw away, I thought about the famous environmentalist/minimalist Rob Greenfield, who owns almost nothing and is happy, to paraphrase the fanciful World Economic Forum prediction for 203. In 2021, Greenfield owned 44 things, including a Mahatma Gandhi bookmark and $3,000 US or so in cash. (The cash counted as one thing.) I wondered how Rob had the guts to throw away Inland Revenue correspondence and the heart to throw away grandma stuff. In the Memories box I found a First Communion card from my German-American convert grandmother (1904-1992).

I also found a letter to myself at 30 from myself as a teenager. I first found it when I was over 40, and my heart beat like a European ambulance siren. I was terrified by how I would appear to my teenage self--not the reaction I expected when I was a teenager. (To tell you the truth, I don't know what I expected.) Unlike the simple "God bless you" of my grandmother, the letter from myself suggested something akin to the Proximate Judgement. Like many of my bad ideas, the letter was originally the idea of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and now that I think about it, the heroine felt rather sad when she read hers. Me, I felt relieved that it was not as starry-eyed as I imagined and that I had fulfilled at least two of the stated goals. 

Naturally there were various letters and forms full of Latin and Greek looking words about Benedict Ambrose's adventures in cancer. There were also notes in my handwriting of things to ask B.A.'s doctors and things to ask him. These were instruction from Ma Belle Soeur, who is a paediatrician, and it is not the least of God's mercies that B.A.'s cancer was paediatric in nature. There was also an information pamphlet about Power of Attorney. I stuffed all those things in an envelope and kept them. Since his recovery, B.A. has become an archivist, and if anything deserved archiving, it's that stuff.

Meanwhile, I will never tire of telling young Catholic ladies in the Traditionalist movement that husbands get sick and die, so they had better have something to fall back on if theirs get sick and die sooner rather than later. This something could be a nest-egg, an education, or a trade. I think the most logical thing for Trad Cath Girl to do as soon as she has determined she does not have a vocation to religious life is to get a diploma or a degree in something that leads to a solid job and then to live at home and save as much money as possible before she gets married. The longer before she gets married, the richer she will be. How I wish I had thought up this advice before I married, alas, alas. Fortunately for me, my husband did not actually die, and English Lit and theology degrees plus 15 years of freelance writing can actually get you a job. 

Sunday afternoon's bout of closet cleaning was easier, for it mostly consisted of dragging things out of the closet, shaking off the dirt or dust, and putting them in piles. It is still not done, and I am not sure what to do with the old computers. I suppose there must be a way of downloading everything onto a stick, wiping the hard drives, and selling them to a shop in Edinburgh. It sounds incredibly boring and difficult--an even worse form of closet-cleaning--but at least then the electronics will finally be gone, and the closet will be all ours. 

Thursday 2 June 2022

Town, Gown and the Rolling Hills

I have had a request to write more about our adventures in May, and so I shall travel back in time to the Order of Malta Ball, before which (as I have written below) we bought Gin-and-Tonics. 

We drank these Gin-and-Tonics in Edinburgh's New Club, to which we had been invited, and the bar was filled with beautiful young things in their gorgeous dresses, or their tailcoats, or their dinner jackets, or their Prince Charlie jackets and sporrans. The Ball was White Tie Optional, I had been given to understand, so I wore white gloves to go with my white gown and my rhinestone headband-tiara. Sadly, I was the only woman in gloves, and friends who saw the photos on Facebook said I looked like the Queen. The Queen is 96, but that's not what they meant. (I hope.)

Our host and hostess arranged for cabs to come to the New Club and whisk us away to the Sheraton Hotel, site of the Malta Ball, but Benedict Ambrose and I had already paid £25 or more to a cabbie to avoid the Rough Bus, so we legged it down Rose Street instead. B.A. was in full Highland rig-out, which met the approval of a tipsy member of the clan drinking on a patio. 

"Up the MacLeans!" he cried. 

Now that I think about it, I too was in full Highland rig-out, as the "national" Highland dancing costume is a white dress, and I was wearing a MacLean sash to go with B.A.'s kilt. At any rate, we were not out of place at the Ball, for many men opted for kilts or tartan trews instead of black trousers and a few women wore tartan sashes. 

The event began with trays of champagne and standing around talking and looking at other peoples' clothes. The Archbishop may have been wearing a ferraiolone--whatever it was, it looked more on the red than the purple side of shades--but I didn't want to stare. Instead I concentrated on not looking as drunk as I felt, our New Club Gin-and-Tonics having been so swiftly followed by Sheraton Hotel champagne. 

Happily for us, we knew a lot of people there, and we were introduced to some of the Bright Young Things who came up from London for the event, although not to the one that bid thousands of pounds on a week's holiday at a lavish beach house in Gozo. I would have liked to have met the BYT in the smart green dress that covered her from neck to toes from the front but exposed the long rectangle of her back. She was very stylish.

Yes, so the Archbishop made a short speech (I think he was the one who spoke about Lebanon, which was one of the beneficiaries of this Ball) and said grace, and then we ate a three course meal, which was good for a hotel banquet, I thought, and during the meal there was the silent auction. I enjoyed this because it involved electronic tablets and large screens on which people's names popped up when they bid on something. I bid on the case of wine our lawyer had donated but lost in the end to someone who is now £190 poorer than he might have been. 

The live auction, which involved week's holidays at this or that dream location (Skye, London, Rome, Gozo), was much too rich for my blood.

After dinner and the auctions there was dancing, but as I had no time to go to the dancing workshop laid on that morning, I preferred to sit at the table and look at the young folk enjoying themselves, like the women over 30 in Georgette Heyer novels. Benedict Ambrose did dance, though, including with pretty BYT up from London. The dancing was mostly of the Scottish variety, but the band also played jazz, which was nice for the swing-dancers. 

We left shortly before the Ball ended and took a cab to---well, the bank machine nearest our house because the cabbie wouldn't take cards and, as I feared, there were feral youths roaming the streets. However, they didn't get us, and all's well that ends well. 

So much for Town. By Gown I mean Cambridge University, where one of my old college chums is now doing her PhD. She lives in a town a short distance from pricey old Cantabrigia, and it was to her town s where I went by train for an extended Victoria Day weekend. My friend has her thesis to write, and I have my Polish to study, so we chatted at meals and on long walks around her town and around glamorous Cambridge where--as I never stop telling people--I lived for a year as a small child. 

The weather was good, we went to Cambridge for Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption and the English Martyrs (Novus Ordo in Latin, and very startling that was in spots), and we went to "Butch Annie's" for hamburgers.This last strongly reminded us of Toronto. The colleges and chapels and the Fitzwilliam Museum looked roughly the same as they always do--wonderful--although happily last year's reproductions of famous paintings wearing COVID masks are gone. 

What else? We walked dogs, went to restaurants, spoke to her neighbours and went to Anglican Evensong one evening at Ely Cathedral. We talked about the ethics and pitfalls of translation and about her ideal wedding. She lives in a delightful little 18th century semi-detached yellow brick house and plants a profusion of roses in the back garden. The garden backs onto a park and the whole neighbourhood is clamorous with song birds. 

The next weekend, the last weekend in May, B.A. and I went to see friends in Fife. They live in a big 18th farmhouse with 19th century additions and extensive paddocks and gardens and hens and a rooster and pigs. The hills roll all around them; the views are sublime. On Saturday night the entire family and all three of their guests got on their knees and prayed the Rosary together before bed. At all meals, it seemed, the three youngest spoke with great vigour and expertise about liturgical music. Really, it's a sort of Trad Catholic Rivendell, and the next time there is a National Emergency, we will hot foot it there. 

Update: We have bought all our plane tickets for Poland, so B.A. will definitely be spending my last week there with me, and I'm extremely delighted. 

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Home Economics: May Report

The apple tree in May

There's an Anglo-Catholic song that Benedict Ambrose used to sing with his pals in days of yore about "Mary's month of May." May, in my Scottish experience, is usually a lovely month, heralding the true end of winter with a flourish of white and pink blossoms. It is a good time to take a short holiday by the Scottish seaside--well, it's the earliest one can have a reasonable hope of basking in the sun. 

With seaside holidays--with any holidays really--comes a loosening of the grip on the purse strings, and our food spending reached heights not seen since last May. There was also a massive outgoings in the form of pre-paid tuition, room and board for my month's sabbatical in Poland. (Did I mention this? In short, I am going east to work on my fluency issues.) I have bought a flight there, but not back because B.A. has to arrange his own travel dates with work and ... the spending never ends. 

Okay, so let us look at the food spending for May so I can feel appropriately ashamed and at the same time re-live the delicious experiences. 

May 2022: Groceries: £300.42; RBCT (Restaurants, Bars, Cafes, Takeaway): £303.26. Total: £603.68

This was quite a contrast to April and, especially, March. However, we spent even more in May 2021. 

April 2022: Groceries £372.23; RBCT: £74.10. Total: £446.33

March 2022: Groceries £277.72; RBCT: £115.24. Total £392.96

But see 2021:

May 2021: Groceries: £350.34; RCBT £344.45. Total £694.79

This month groceries cost only 42p over what I thought we would spend on them, but our RBCT bills were twice as much. That said, almost everything we ate in that category was intentional and delicious.

1. Sunday cappuccino and cake in Stockbridge

2. Costa coffee (emergency)

3. Seaside town bakery buns

4. Seaside town fish and chips

5. Seaside town bakery buns

6. Seaside snazzy Italian restaurant for wedding anniversary supper

7. Sunday seaside hipster cappuccino and then bakery buns 

8. Seaside bakery buns (We were having these buns for breakfast, by the way.)

9. Seaside ice-cream cones

10. Gin-and-tonics before the Edinburgh Order of Malta Ball 

11. Flapjack at Costa (another emergency)

12. Thai restaurant during my Victoria Day weekend in England

13. Tea and traybake served as B.A.'s consolation in my absence.

14. Turkish restaurant during my Victoria Day weekend in England

15. Beer with pals in his favourite pub was B.A.'s next consolation.

16. Two hot chocolates were consumed after Ascension Day Mass at Edinburgh's R.C. Cathedral

17. One cardamon bun and cappuccino at Swedish bakery chain when early for an appointment. 

This last cost £6.40 ($10.21 Canadian, $8.07 US), which should serve as a warning to visitors from across the pond that eating out in the UK (but especially London and Edinburgh) is expensive. But that said, the food is delicious when you know where to go.  

I look forward to the August Report, as it will be amusing to see how much B.A. spends on food when I am abroad gobbling Polish university meals.