Monday, 12 September 2022

Just like ten years ago

Polish Pretend Son has been in Edinburgh with his wife and child, my god-daughter. or córka czestna. as I described her to my summer school teachers. Yesterday was their last day in Scotland, so I made the ultimate trad sacrifice by going to my local parish Saturday Vigil Mass, and spent the morning making Sunday lunch. And hoovering. I hate hoovering. 

Two members of the Men's Schola (besides Benedict Ambrose), which took its talents to the Anglican Ordinariate some time ago, were present as well, so it was a party of seven, including my 2-year-old Godling. She was rightly indignant when she did not (at first) get a starter. 

PPS and family are the opposite of vegans: they eat almost nothing except animal products and fermented foods teeming with lactic acid bacteria. Apparently the infant amuses people with her hungry demands for meat, and I did note her excitement in our local butcher shop. (The senior butcher was charmed; he noted with professional pride that she looked a lot older than two--and indeed, she is usually tall, slim and graceful.) When the carnivores first arrived, B.A and I ate rather more meat than we usually do, and the morning after a blow-out featuring black pudding, lamb chops, hamburger patties, and steak, I was horribly ill. Therefore, for this dinner party we took it easy and served guacamole before the   gammon and a chocolate meringue tart (aka "Poison," to use PPS's expression) afterwards. 

Mrs PPS seemed impressed by my ability to turn out a variety of [poisonous] sugar-laden cakes and bakes,  and rather swiftly, too. When B.A. and I were staying with her last month, she set me to making low-sugar shortbread, which after 13 years in Britain, I could do like winking. Not for nothing did Emma Thompson call the UK "cake-filled." If called upon to describe traditional British culture as still lived today, I would say "Cake, biscuits, scones, trifle, chocolate meringue tart." If called upon to utter a traditional Scottish joke, I would repeat the sally I heard across the table and ask:

"Is that a chocolate tart or a meringue?"

The answer to this is "No, you're right. It's a tart," and the joke only works if you ask the question in a Scottish--indeed, a Morningside--accent.   

We do not go for party games at my house, but there was a higher level of rambunctiousness than usual because of the Godling. This entailed much use of our Lion and Unicorn masks (bought for a Jubilee Party) and there was a tragic-comic moment when a member of the Schola inadvertently pulled the horn off the Unicorn, and the horrified infant burst into tears. 

Reading ghost stories is a more traditional entertainment, and I went digging in boxes and computer files to find a popular favourite. I have an entire manuscript of unpublished, and often rejected, ghost stories. They were written to amuse a very select and old-fashioned audience, so I don't have much hope that they will ever appear in a magazine. However, our guests were that audience, so I found "The Sanctuary Spider of Milan" and one of the guests read it aloud.  

Apparently as I was in the closet with the boxes and Mrs PPS was in the main bedroom putting the infant to sleep , PPS--standing by an open window living-room smoking--said happily that the scene before him was "just like ten years ago." Considering that ten years ago B.A and I were living in the long, many-roomed Georgian attic of the Historical House and we were last night crammed into the sitting-room of a small two-bedroom flat built in 1929, this was a somewhat far-fetched statement. However, I know what he meant. 


It was in tribute to The Old Days that we kept our Sunday Lunch plans despite the death of our Sovereign Lady last week. We covered the table with our Lenten purple cloth, and the guests departed at 11 PM--very early by The Old Days standards. The crown I made to for the Jubilee Lion was already reposing under my black mantilla. 

Like most people in Britain, we were shocked by the Queen's swift death, and I read with interest an article about journalists scrambling to get the news ready without publishing too early. This was exactly my experience. At about noon, the news came out that the Queen was sick and her family was travelling to Balmoral to see her. That sounded rather serious, so I informed work and volunteered to write a short paragraph in case she died. Then I was in an online meeting when a Tweet informed me the the BBC was interrupting its usual programming until 6 PM. At that I excused myself from the meeting and started writing an obituary. It did not mention the 1967 Abortion Act: someone else added that the next day. Instead it focused on her marriage, children, life of service, role as Sovereign and role as the head of the Anglican communion. At the time, I wasn't sure how to mention the AA without looking like were were dancing on Her Majesty's grave. (Edward Pentin hit absolutely the right note, I believe.)

Ten years ago, I could not have imagined I'd be writing the Queen's obituary for LifeSiteNews, and it was certainly a surreal experience. It was all done and ready to be published (in my opinion) when 6 PM came and went  and I popped into the sitting room where B.A. was watching the BBC. Suddenly, the newscaster Huw Edwards appeared on the screen, and B.A. said "Why is he already wearing a black tie?" The answer was that the Queen was dead, and I rushed back to my office to hit "Publish."

I felt very sad--and then very reassured by the ancient formula, which this time is rendered "The Queen is dead. Long live the King." It's totally unlike the death of a pope: there's no uncertainty, no speculation, no worry, no voting, no delay. The history of Britain flows on throw the present into the future.  And the King's face is also very familiar; I have seen it age over the course of my entire life.  


  1. It is so wonderful that the traditions of the British Monarchy continue unabated even today when so few believe. Seems like a contradition.

    1. Well, most people in the United Kingdom still believe in constitutional monarchy, even if they're not believing Christians. It works, and one of the ways it works is that it is a connection with the past and provides a uniting leader--meant to be apolitical--who doesn't change even as governments change. And the family--more or less--is directly descended from George I of Hanover, which is a link to 1660. (Of course, his was a very messy and historical generation, and naturally the Jacobites believed James III/VIII should have been crowned, not this German chap.) And as they are descended from this German chap, it is a reminder that, as far as any actual power is concerned, Parliament is in charge.

  2. You are a fervent briton even though you are there no more than 15 years.
    Goo for you!

    1. Well, it wasn't difficult to fit in because my mother's grandparents were all bon in Britain, and I'm Canadian anyway. Many Canadians of British ancestry (probably still the majority of the English-speakers) feel "British" (and all Canadians were legally British until 1947), so I have almost always felt at home here.