Sunday 29 January 2023

"Afford anything" (like Michelin star cooking)

All I know about this finance blogger is her tag line "Afford anything... But not everything. What's it gonna be?" It's a great slogan. It makes me imagine a car fanatic who works out that if he saves almost everything he makes, paying the lowest imaginable rent (as the 4th flatmate, for example) and living on rice and beans, he can buy a Porsche (used). A Porsche is not my idea of a pearl of great price, but I don't even have a license, so who am I to judge?

There are endless possibilities. There may be women in--well, not Edinburgh--Liverpool or London who sleep in box rooms, live on baked beans, and go to work in Dior. Conversely, there may be men paying £600 a week to live in Edinburgh's Moray Place, carefully conserving charity shop finds and dumpster diving behind Waitrose (supermarket). Then again, there may be men and women who live in dank cellars in Leith and emerge, blinking, into the sun to eat Martin Wishart's Tasting Menu with matching wines once a month. 

This last, though expensive, is less expensive than a used Porsche, a New Town rent or (let me check) an asymmetric mid-length skirt from Dior. And as my favourite thing is eating a really good meal with someone/people I love and/or admire, the stellar restaurant would be my choice--but the set lunch instead of the Tasting Menu and only once a year.  (We might stretch to twice this year.)

And indeed once again I chose to go to such a restaurant for my birthday, bringing along Benedict Ambrose to have someone nice to look at. We were at the restaurant at the crack of noon--in fact, we got there before noon and found the doors locked. We were the first patrons of the day, and were led into a not-very-large room decorated in pale colours with pale wooden walls, which made me think of the 1970s, but B.A. said it was more 1930s. We got a table by a window, which was marvellous for looking at the people walking along the Firth of Forth with their maps or their dogs. B.A. sat facing the door, so he also had the fun of observing the other guests arrive and telling me what they were wearing. (More on this anon.)

We ordered the tortellini with roe deer and mushrooms; the braised pork cheeks with Puy lentils, glazed apples and chestnuts and Calvados sauce; and the chocolate tart with ice-cream and salted caramel. We also opted to have the sommelier choose our glasses of wine for the first two courses. 

Naturally we awaited the arrival of the amuse-bouches with great curiosity. We were rewarded with a cube of fried meaty deliciousness, a savoury beetroot meringue stuffed with horseradish sauce, a crispy shell of scallop tartar and a little bowl of pumpkin foam.   

We ate the above and, when we were again able to speak, talked about how good they were. Then the tortellini arrived and we really had nothing to say except how amazing they were. It was like eating the Spirit of the Woods: the soft savoury dear, the tiny mushrooms, the tortellini made as if by an Umbrian grandmother....

It was rather the same with the braised pork cheeks. We ate, saying nothing, and then began to make remarks like "Oh my goodness, this pork!" and "Oh my goodness, this apple!" The apples had clearly been marinated in, or cooked in, sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg, and really, they were better than candy and finding a £10 note on the pavement. The chestnuts were the best chestnuts ever. We will be talking about them on and off for a year. 

The chocolate tart was the best chocolate-caramel dessert we had ever eaten in our lives, and that is all I really have to say about that. Once again, we veered from wordlessness and superlatives. 

In between courses we drank our wine and evaluated our fellow diners who, for the most part, were a dowdy lot because--and it pains me greatly to say this and I wish it weren't true--well-heeled, cultured Edinburghers who eat at Michelin-starred restaurants and, for example, go to the opera and the concert hall do not dress well. There are flocks of elderly ladies who live in Morningside and Bruntsfield and the Braid who wear black slacks and cardigans wherever they go, including Chopin concerts at the French Consul's residence. This drives me mad, but B.A. looked knowing at me.

"It's a Code," he said loftily. 

"A code for what?" I asked. "Is this like Cranford where everyone who counts serves only bread-and-butter at their tea-parties and then despises that poor lady who serves cake?"

I think his response was interrupted by the arrival of another delicious course, for I don't remember what it was. At any rate, I did see one youngish lady in a nice dress, but she was clearly the guest of an older lady who was wearing black slacks and a chunky necklace and ordered the Tasting Menu for two. B.A. spotted a man wearing what looked like a good Italian suit, and he also watched a very elderly man in a tracksuit clatter in with a walker. I didn't see him myself, but my guess is that he has a gold-plated pension, not that he lives in a cellar and scrimps and saves for a once-a-month Michelin meal.

After coffee and bonbons (the nostalgic tears are springing to my eyes now), we paid up and went for a walk, and I constructed an imaginary life in a very snazzy flat for the man with a walker, including his conversation on the phone with the taxi company that delivers him (perhaps once a week) to the restaurant. Having decades ago gotten past the grief, envy and despair of no longer being a Captain of Industry, he now lives entirely for comfort, and shouts at everyone (including the Maitre D') not only because he is deaf but because he enjoys it. 

Tuesday 24 January 2023

The Preservation of Fire

A decade ago or so, a visitor from Ireland summed up our TLM community with a dismissive "not a young parish." On the contrary, we had a goodly collection of university students by then. Of course, it was true that we did not have many children or young couples. The tea table was presided over by elderly ladies, two of whom now feature in my prayers for the dead and one of whom is now confined to a wheelchair. The oldest woman in the parish, who was 90 or so, would signal that she was done drinking her tea by taking a linen cloth from her handbag to help with the washing up. She, too, now features in my prayers. 

The tea, incidentally, was strong enough to leap out of the pot and throttle you, and the coffee was the ashy mud for which Britain was once so famous. The biscuits sat on plates, and sometimes they had exciting names like Bourbon or Jammy Dodger or Jaffa cake, and sometimes they were plain, but I never took more than two--at least, at first. Possibly I would sneak back after drinking my tea or coffee and see what was left. Crucially--it seemed--there was always a tea lady to pour the tea or the hot water into the cups of ash. Pouring your own tea was Not Done. 

In fact, the Tea and Coffee of Peace was a sedate affair, and I took the ministrations of the Tea Ladies for granted. It was generally (but not universally) held by the Gin and Tonic Set (to which B.A. and I and Polish Pretend Son belonged) that setting it up and cleaning up afterwards was the privilege of the elderly. Week after week we sauntered off for our gin, shouting thanks to the Tea Ladies over our shoulders as we passed the minute kitchen on the way out. 

One of the Gin and Tonic set was unusually kindly for us, and she began to help the Tea Ladies and, in fact, became the Tea Lady when the others died or became too infirm. Unfortunately, our friend herself was losing her sight, and when an unkind--but probably insane--woman from the NO Mass found this out, there was an unholy fuss. It was, in the Catholic sense of the word, a scandal, and our friend, a recent convert, never returned. 

So, despite being well under 60, I became the Tea Lady and began to duck out of Mass at the first moment B.A. and I deemed allowable ("Chalice veils") to set up the tea. By then our numbers had increased, and as the Francis pontificate gathered steam, they increased even more. The church thronged with young families, which themselves grew and grow, and more and more young people filled the choir pews in the back. 

This expansion brought minor revolutions. For the first time I can recall, someone under 18 was allowed to serve at the altar. Women even younger than I volunteered to make the tea and wash the cups. Parents brought children's birthday or First Communion cakes to share. Men hoovered the parish hall floor. There was even a rebellion within the Tea Lady ranks against the instant coffee of our ancestors and we began to brew real coffee with a machine. We also took to moving the tea table across the doorway to the kitchen, both to create a better crowd flow and to stop children from crashing into us when we returned with hot refilled pots. 

Then our new priest arrived and our old priest retired to the background. I discovered that the former says Mass faster than the latter, which means that to get everything on the table in time, I really have to keep a weather eye on the chalice veils. 

This Sunday, in fact, hosting as organized and sedate an After-Mass Tea as my predecessors was simply impossible. First of all, my trusty second-in-command was absent. Secondly, for some reason, a spirit of chaos reigned. The crowd of children gave up all restraint and made such frequent raids on the biscuits that a 700 gram Tesco Variety Pack was gone in minutes. I put out more biscuits, only to see an empty plate when I emerged from the kitchen with a pot of coffee or a refilled jug of milk, or whatever it was. I put out more cookies although I feared someone would eventually throw up. Sadly, there were no longer any plain ones, and our poor new priest--who always comes late to the table--had to make do with a custard cream. Graduate students were helping themselves to the tea and coffee (anarchy!) and then a blond giant invaded the kitchen to demand to know why I had not told him I was going to Vienna. 

As a matter of fact, I had informed the blond giant by Facebook message, which he had not read, and answered further questioning by saying that I was going to a Conference-and-Ball, although not the Ball.

"Warum nicht?" demanded the blond giant. 

"Because I can't waltz," I said, or words to that effect. 

Then--I'm not sure exactly how this happened--I received an impromptu lesson in the basic waltz step in the hall, and afterwards was dancing in circles in the carpark. I cannot remember a single occasion in which any of my predecessors abandoned their duties to waltz outdoors in the cold. 

But then I had a revelation that although I am a Tea Lady I am not actually ancient, and the social rules for the over-40 set in 1818 do not apply in 2023 anyway, and there is nothing wrong in accepting invitations to waltz in the carpark, or even in Vienna. Also, parishioners may certainly help themselves to tea and coffee, and the children are welcome to eat as many biscuits as their parents allow. For after all, we have become a young parish, and the spirit of youth is upon us. 

(I will, however, keep a stash of plain biscuits back for the priest.)

Saturday 21 January 2023

A Bicycle Built for Two

Today is the birthday of my late grandmother, Gladys. There are two days in which I think about her most particularly--Christmas Eve and January 21. And when Benedict Ambrose catches me using some long-obsolete Scottish word, I am delighted, for it probably came from my Edinburgh great-grandmother, via Grandma. 

I forget which antique Scotticism I used the last time B.A. noticed, but the one that I remember best (for obvious reasons) is the word "skelp," which is Scots for "to beat." My grandmother never did skelp us, but she threatened to do so on this one memorable occasion. 

I was flummoxed as I had never heard the word and thought at first she had said "scalp." It created in my infant mind a legend that my grandmother, who was born in Saskatchewan--as remote a part of the British Empire you could have a baby on the quiet--was in fact a Native Canadian. At the time, we children all believed the official story that she had been adopted, so it was not as farfetched as you might think. It also indicates that I still got most of my information about First Nations people from westerns on TVO's "Magic Shadows." 

Threatening to scalp (or skelp) us was unusually harsh for my grandmother, who was more likely to dodge requests to babysit because of her Nerves. She loved her grandchildren and she came to visit almost every Sunday, so I think it was the responsibility of returning us alive and unharmed to my parents that danced a hornpipe on her delicate Nerves. She had had only one child herself, so the duty of watching five must have really been a challenge.

Along with the word "skelp," my grandmother taught me the refrain to "Daisy Bell," which was 20 years out of date when she was born. But I am certain I have written about that before.

Friday 20 January 2023

The Overwhelming Temptations of Travel

Before COVID-19 hit the headlines, an Austrian friend declared that he wanted to organize a pilgrimage to Vienna's ball season. His idea was to train up sympathetic friends and acquaintances in the mysteries of the waltz and then herd us and our formalwear onto a plane. Vienna is about 2.5 hours away from Edinburgh by air, so the scheme was doable. 

But that was three years ago or more, the COVID-19 restrictions having wrecked the scheme, and the Vienna ball season has returned only now. For some reason--and I really don't know why, since I don't waltz--I asked an Austrian colleague at work when a particular Catholic institute in Vienna was having their ball this year.

"I think I sent you the save-the-date," said my colleague and sent me a link to the registration page. 

The link led to information that there was an interesting conference attached to the ball, and so I inwardly committed to going---but with some hesitation. I am neither the kind of woman who makes friends easily in a new place nor one who is supremely confident that she will be asked to dance. Going to a formal ball struck me as something I always think I should enjoy, not something that I really do enjoy.

Of course, my first thought was Benedict Ambrose, who by law (surely?) has to re-learn the waltz and dance it with me. However, he said he was too busy, but that I should go, darling. 

So then I contacted Polish Pretend Son to see if he were going to this conference and ball. Naturally, he knew all about it from a mutual Austrian pal. 

"Are you going?" he messaged back. 

There followed a lot of swithering on my part although I went ahead and registered. In the end I registered for the conference, not the ball, because now I was more interested in the conference and in spending happy hours in Viennese cafes, etc, with friends, and it occurred to me that my time might be more usefully spent babysitting my Polish goddaughter while her dance-mad parents waltzed into the wee hours. I would still like to attend a Viennese ball one day, but preferably with someone who by law (surely?) has to dance with me. 

And, moreover, I purchased flights there and back, even though spending the money caused me great mental pain, pain I could only assuage by plotting out the travel spending for the whole year, and calculating how to do this without creating a cashflow problem or thwarting our short-term financial goals. 

Having become, late in life, a convert to examining how every penny is spent, I have also begun very seriously to ponder how much (and if) I enjoy the things everyone seems to think are inherently enjoyable. (For example, I very much hate going to the hairdresser.) My recent (and relatively expensive) sojourn in Lublin was a mix of good and awful, and it has certainly made me rethink language learning abroad--or how to go about doing it. However, one of life's luxuries that I still believe is definitely worth the money is eating in restaurants abroad with friends. 

These don't have to be fancy restaurants, either. I had two lovely, friendly meals outside a hamburger stand in Wrocław that I remember very fondly. And eating in friends' homes abroad is nice, too--if less of a treat for the hardworking host or hostess. I suppose, therefore, what I really value in travels abroad is "eating with friends" although, yes, it is also nice to explore the historical districts of great cities, and occasionally ride through some countryside on a sturdy donkey. Come to think of it, it is also nice to feel southern sun on my face and to bathe in the Mediterranean. 

So the real temptations of travel (for me) are friends who live abroad and the thrill of having conversations and such mutual experiences as a meal at "Balkan Burger" with them. The exception to this is the Scottish-beach-holiday, where the whole point is to hang out with Benedict Ambrose, swim in the freezing  firth, and eat delicious pastries while reading. 

Friday 13 January 2023

"Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water"

A brief thought about the Traditional Latin Mass this morning, as I made the mistake of looking on Twitter and seeing the calculated and sneering tweets of anti-tradition careerists. 

I've mentioned it before but here is it again: when I was in elementary school, official religious instruction dwindled to art projects and more time was devoted in making stoles for my class's Confirmations (yes, stoles) than to our instruction as to what the Sacrament meant. Having found an old catechetical textbook in the classroom's back cupboard, I divined that there was a lot more to know about Confirmation than what we were being taught. In retrospect, assigning us the task of making ourselves priestly garments was actually advanced theology of the dodgy sort. However, what little was taught seemed shallow, basic, and wholly inadequate.   

I told my mother my concerns, and she brought them up with one of our parish priests. He was apparently impressed with my fourteen year old's sagacity, but he said that as long as I knew the Apostles Creed, I would be fine. 

But the idea that there must be something more stuck with me for my adult life, especially as my religious education continued on lines rather different from those taught to every generation of Catholic schoolchildren previous to my own. Nobody ever talked about the Old Mass, and I really didn't know anything about it except that it was very long and in Latin and, according to Brideshead Revisited, people prayed the Hail Mary aloud at the end. 

Wait--that's not entirely true. Without associating it with the Old Mass, I knew that past generations of great composers had written beautiful liturgical music, and the one place in my city you could hear it  (I thought) was the Cathedral and that was thanks to the Cathedral Choir School, which was founded in the 1930s. I'm barely musical, but I understood that this music was of a much higher order than the hymns we sang from the official hymnbook which were themselves of a higher order than the hymns in "Glory and Praise." (Incidentally, I still like many of the "Glory and Praise" hymns in a nostalgic, sentimental way.)

There must be something more than this, I continued to think, and thought I had found it in theological studies until I went to Boston College. During that dark period, the greatest solace of my spiritual life was actually the excellent traditional liturgical music of St. Paul's Catholic Church, Harvard. 

I emerged from my BC-caused depression long enough to go on holiday to Scotland where I was taken to the Traditional Latin Mass, which I thought distinctly odd and most definitely confusing. However, in it--and in the whole blessed traditional Catholic ethos--I found the something more. Indeed, I found the romance and the poetry of the faith celebrated by my Catholic literary heroes.

Oh, gosh. Not the sadomasochism of Graham Greene, though, and thank God for that. No, I'm thinking of Waugh at his happiest and Chesterton at his most brilliant. All those lovely Anglican converts! Where would I--where would we--be without them? 

A curious thing: part of the historical (but apparently not Grade I listed) wooden church the FSSP has been permitted to use for the past 15 years or more was recently altered. A piece of wood whose name I can't remember but was over the sanctuary was removed, presumably because it was in Latin and had irked anti-Latinists. It was also part of a prayer from the Old Mass, so presumably someone couldn't see the point of it. It was replaced by a new piece of wood that has the text "Lord  Master, where do you live? Come and see" painted on it. 

BA and other purists tutted and sighed over having a question mark on that particular piece of church furniture. I wasn't too pleased myself and wondered if  "owning the Trads" (even to the point of flirting with the architectural heritage preservations laws) had been the motive. However, over the weeks that Come and see has taken on a significance in my mind for the preservation and propagation of the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Curious about the Traditional Latin Mass? Come and see.

Wondering what spiritually fed the saints up until 1965? Come and see.

Anxious to find the something more? Come and see.  

It will probably take you three tries to fall in love with it--and then you will drink and drink and never get to the bottom of the glass. 

UPDATE: Here's a terrific article by the Latin Mass Society Chairman, Dr. Joseph Shaw. 

Thursday 12 January 2023

Sweatshirts and identity

When I returned to Scotland, I discovered that the top floor of my local gym was really very cold. Not having a sweatshirt, I took to taking my husband's flannel pyjama top with me. However, he objected to this and suggested that I buy a sweatshirt. 

As it happens, I meant to buy a University of Toronto sweatshirt when I was in Canada, but I forgot. And I probably should have just gone to a charity shop and bought any old sweatshirt, but I had bought my sister-in-law a Cambridge University sweatshirt for Christmas and fallen in love with the wide, flat drawstrings in the hood. 

I admit that probably makes no sense. To travel back to 2021, when Benedict Ambrose and I were in Cambridge that October, I bought my brother and his children Cambridge University shirts as Christmas presents. I purchased the deluxe hooded version for Nulli Secondus and standard versions for Peanut and Popcorn, whom I expected to grow out of them. I also wasn't sure if they would actually like them. 

It bothered me not a whit that neither my brother nor his minor children are students or graduates of Cambridge University. Like mine, my brother's 1970s Cambridge education involved a term or two at nursery school while my father deciphered Anglo-Saxon handwriting. But I thought that Cambridge University shirts would be a nostalgic nod to a shared history (brother) and a reminder to reach for the top (his children), which was certainly not lost on clever them. And to my pleased surprise, they all loved their shirts and wear them rather often. On travels to the USA, they're asked if they're British, but there's no harm in that.  

Realizing that I had inadvertently left her out of this Cambridge University appropriation, I ordered the deluxe version for my sister-in-law this year and tried it on when it arrived so I could judge if it were a  reasonable size. Wherever it was made (I suspend my rule for Christmas gifts), it was very good quality and instead of having a shoelace-like string to the hood, it had a broad, flat, double-sided cincture. I was tempted to buy one for myself, but feared public censure. According to BA, it is Not Done here to wear a university shirt if you have not gone to that university. 

This makes sense as it is most definitely Not Done to wear the tie of a school of which you are not an alumnus or the club tie of an organization to which you do not belong. Making yourself look posh when you are not is a social solecism that can get you noticed on the Rough Bus, which is something you do not want to happen, believe me. ("Missus, it wisnae me wha' spat in your hair.") As far as I can divine, my neighbours rather like real life aristos and admire the rich but utterly loathe anyone they think pretentious. The very fact that you travel the Rough Bus means that you should not be wearing a charming feathery hat, for example. 

Meanwhile, my gym is a rather rough and ready place, and I would not be at all surprised to discover that I was the only university graduate in the building at any given time. I like it. It is cheap, cheerful, relatively quiet, and owned by a fellow immigrant while abounding in members who speak with the local accent. I may not be the oldest woman on the books, but I usually am the oldest woman present, so I probably stand out a bit. 

I also wear a tunic that covers my butt, which is unusual, and I wear glasses and a brown scapular (which might be like having TAIG written on my back) and no tattoos and naturally if I exchange greetings, I do it in my sadly flat Margaret Atwood accent. Happily, none of this has led to any unpleasantness, and so I think I can risk the boundaries of tolerance with a university sweatshirt.

I am a bit self-conscious, though, for the question of clothing and identity was raised by a bulky man near me one day. Addressing himself to a younger woman who speaks the exact same dialect (ken?), he confessed that he had once gone to a nearby health club but that it "a fashion show." To make a long story short, he felt uncomfortable there among those expensively dressed people, so he fled to the comfortable environment of our gym. 

My mind slipped back to my own health club, which we could afford only because I had an office-hour membership, and how it had amazing showers with luxurious shampoo and conditioner, and how I left when the COVID pandemic hit... Sigh, sigh, sigh. But I digress. 

In the end, BA and I decided that I could reasonably order a sweatshirt from his university, as it would not be at all embarrassing to answer inquiries about my attendance there with "No, but my husband did." 

I flirted with the idea of getting a Large, to give the false impression that it was my husband's and I had just borrowed it, but in the end I ordered a Medium, and now it is here. The amusing thing is that BA couldn't resist putting it on, but it is too small for him, so he is unlikely to borrow it himself. My concession to the bulky man is that I will wear it only upstairs in the frigid cardio room and not in the weights room.

Meanwhile, it was made in the Alexandria Free Zone in Egypt, not in China, so on that front my conscience is relatively clear. 


Tuesday 10 January 2023

"It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."

So said singer Dolly Parton, but this morning I'm thinking about the Duke of Sussex, aka Prince Harry, aka Harold, whose book officially comes out today. Because it was released early in Spain and the British media hired translators, Harold's fellow anglophones have already had days to assimilate its grubby revelations. 

Not having spoken to my neighbours or overheard conversations at the supermarket about it yet, I cannot tell you firsthand what they are thinking. What I am thinking, however, is that Harold inherited millions from his mother, so selling his dignity to Netflix and Penguin Random House for millions more, taking revenge on his father, brother, and sister-in-law thereby, is money for jam. 

The jam, in this case, is supposedly round-the-clock security, which Harold is said to now very much need, thanks for his publishing his estimate of the number of Afghan soldiers he had personally killed from the air. However, I very much suspect that it is also being able to keep his wife in the manner to which she feels she should become accustomed: that of billionaire celebrities. 

I am not sure if I am envious of the (current) Duchess of Sussex, aka Princess Harold. On the one hand, although she first tried for a family at around the same age I did, she managed to have two pretty red-haired babies. On the other hand, she is now deeply despised by approximately 67 million people, some of whom have no compunction in booing her in public. Then again, she has access to millions of dollars. However, it seems unlikely she would be happy living on less. 

I must admit that I too would find it difficult seeking joy as an extreme minimalist, owning nothing but the contents of small knapsack. Nevertheless, I have worked out how much I need to live a happy life independent of employers and how long it will take us to earn it and how we can do it without throwing my husband's family under the bus. Granted, nobody would pay us a penny to do so (Dundee Despair: The McLean Story), so the temptation is less. 

If you don't live in the UK, you probably are unaware of how saturated with Royal Family news is the British media. I don't know long it has been this way, but it has been unrelenting since Harold and Maude Princess Harold ran off to Canada. (It now seems amusing that we believed the Harolds were going to stay in Canada, white ewe lamb* of the British Empire Commonwealth, and that we were shocked when they bought a multi-million dollar mansion in Princess Harold's native California instead.) I spend so much virtual time with the Royal Family that I have dreams about them, and I believe this is a very common phenomenon in the British Isles. 

Although there are many unpleasant things I have to dwell on at work (like who said what about the Traditional Latin Mass where), at least I don't have to read or write officially about Harold and Haroldine. However, I check social media for breaking news, so I cannot escape them entirely. And it occurs to me that I, too, could get eyeballs on screen by writing about what their autobiographical industry means for traditional family values. And I would derive some pleasure by pointing out that a family is not just grandmother-man-woman-baby, but also the mothers and fathers of the man and woman, and their brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts and grandfathers and other grandmother and nephews and nieces. In fact, a family is a tribe, big or little, and if you're Scottish, there's a tartan to celebrate yours and a clan chief into the bargain. 

Of course, even conservatives are beguiled by the romance of standing by your spouse against his/her/your wicked family's inability to alleviate their mental health issues and creating a little fortress for  your spouse and children against the whole world (or at least your in-laws)--although I daresay that this is much more of a New World thing. Personally, I love the romance of the extended family to the extent that I include even my married brother's in-laws in my prayers. Indeed, I even ordered my tartan sash directly from my husband's Clan Chief's shop. 

Little wonder, then, that I back the vast and sprawling Team Windsor and not the tiny Team Sussex in my trivial Twitter moments. Incidentally, the image is of the now Prince of Wales (William) knocking the current Duke of Sussex ("Harold") into a dog bowl, a stupid and trifling altercation that the latter saw fit to include in his memoirs to the great amusement of many. In fact, the revelation looks like the honour of the Prince and Princess of Wales was satisfied in advance. No need for pistols at dawn. 

*Lest I meet the fate of Father Rosica, I should mention that this conceit comes from an old Canadian civics textbook of my mother or grandmother, and I believe the black sheep was South Africa. (Could you look for the title, dear Aged P?)

UPDATE: Just saw the latest "revelations." Americans and Canadians, don't try to hug British people on your first introduction to them. Really, just don't. They have their own culture. They have their own ideas about personal space. They have their own ideas about who gets to touch their body with their body when. This goes not only for the Prince of Wales but for everybody.

Monday 9 January 2023

New Year, Old Budget

Happy New Year, dear readers! I have been abstaining from recreational typing, as my ergonomic keyboard broke on its way to Toronto and I inevitably had a flareup of RSI. So now I have an achey arm as well as an achey back; what a thing it is to be over 45. Youth's a stuff will not endure, indeed.

A reader has asked for a blogpost, but my only interest this evening is household finances. It is very strange, but after a day of reading news, including Church news, and catching up on which unlikely person trashed the Traditional Latin Mass in which staggeringly awful website, I turn to the financial sites and feel soothed. There is something so clean and pure about these financially independent Stoics who, despite never having heard of Exodus 90, live within their means and take ice baths. They go for long hikes, remodel their own bathrooms, turn up their noses at designer bags, fast for three days at a time, eat a lot of vegetables and encourage all their readers to invest in index funds and slowly grow rich. 

Sometimes financial bloggers also publish how much they spent that year and how much they gained or lost on the stock market and how inflation is not really affecting them at all. Inspired by this, I totalled up what Benedict Ambrose and I spent on food over the whole year, and I was quite pleasantly surprised. 

2022 Groceries: £3,722.44

2022  Dining Out:  £2,241.21

Total: £5,963.65

I was surprised because I added up the monthly budgets in my head and was hoping the total would not go too much over £6,000. But I see that the average monthly grocery bill was £310 and the monthly dining out bill was £186.77. Of course, some months we spent much more on groceries and much less on dining out. But all in all, it came out to an average of £497/m. This is not terribly more than the UK national average of £206/m per person, and the fact is that Edinburgh is one of the most expensive cities in the UK for dining out.