Wednesday 30 August 2023


I suspect there comes a time in life when you set down roots like a dandelion and just do not want to pull them up. If so, I think I have got there. 

It was humbling to discover that when, during the COVID years, I began to bake bread and grow vegetables, so did hundreds of thousands of other women. It was mortifying to discover that I might not be a totally autonomous being, or that under certain circumstances I just do what most other women do. 

And let's face it, when the BBC first reported on COVID as if we were all going to die, I was as terrified as almost everyone else. I even once wiped down our groceries. Indeed, if I hadn't been assigned to watch the Yellow Card (i.e. British reports of vaccine injuries) scheme, I might even have got the jab. 

What brings on this bout of introspection? It was Benedict Ambrose suggesting, last week, that we go look at a property he had seen on RightMove. (RightMove is a real estate website, online crack for middle-aged Britons.) This house is in our price range, it is in a neighbourhood of beautiful houses, it has a conservatory. It is also an ugly, semi-detached, tan pebbledash squab of a thing, a poor relation of the gracious stone houses around it. 

Okay, it's not that bad, and I acknowledge the wisdom of "the cheapest possible house on the best possible street." However, the mere suggestion that we see this property brought me to the edge of depression. 

This was obviously an over-reaction, so I examined my problems with the place. Was it the colour? (I grew up in a pretty white pebbledash house, so it wasn't the texture per se.) Was it the location across town? Was it the distance from Tesco? Was it the absence of trees across the street? Was it the complication of getting a higher mortgage than the mortgage we already have?

And then it hit me that what I was feeling was the primal fear of losing my home. For, as small and humble and 1930s-factory-worker our flat is, it is home. It also gets a lot of sun, it has beautiful views, and  it has an apple tree. The street is not particularly crime-ridden but also not so respectable that neighbours called the police on each other for COVID infractions. In my opinion, there is really nothing wrong with our flat that some clever DIY wouldn't fix. 

I began by giving the place a thorough hoovering, weeding the veggie trug, sending away our most battered chairs, buying a guest bed, and researching door paint. In the evenings, I look at online advice for redecorating narrow hallways. 

What happened to the woman who got married and moved over 3,000 miles to be with B.A.? Now I won't even move across town. I must be getting old--but I don't care. I'm not budging. I've grown a taproot, and if someone tries to pull me out, I'll break up the concrete. 

Thursday 24 August 2023

Stand by your man

I had a bit of a shock from Facebook today: it presented me with some "memories" from 2017.

Here is something I wrote on August 24,  2017:  

Once again,[Benedict Ambrose] passed all the little tests they give to make sure a hospital won't have to find a bed for him. None of these doctors seem particularly concerned that he now weighs 97.5 lbs.

And here is something I added:  

A doctor explained to me that although [B.A.] is underweight, he is not dangerously underweight, so he doesn't have to be in a hospital. I'm sorry for having frightened people. I was quite frightened myself.

Happily, concerned friends chimed in to ask for more information. Here's one of my responses.  

This particular doctor didn't see [B.A.] at all. He was the on-call emergency doctor at the clinic, and he was the one who phoned back when I called to ask why nobody had given [B.A.] a recommendation to the hospital. (There is a strict hierarchy here or who gets what service when, and you have to go through the right channels--unless you can get a string pulled.) He took my word for it that [B.A.] weighs 97 lbs (which he called 50 kg), and noted that according to the records Mark weighed 60 kg in 2011.

And then a very helpful friend said:   

In oncology there is something called cancer associated cachexia (CAC). Notwithstanding that cancer is not B.A.'s diagnosis,* CAC is often defined as 5% loss of baseline body weight. [B.A.] has lost over 15% (60 to 50 kg), as an underestimate. I would be concerned. They can insert a nasogastric feeding tube, or a G-tube (surgically implanted right to the stomach), if nothing else. I don't know the case, but I would be pushing for more testing and/ or intervention. Who cares if you are Nightmare Wife. Its your role as [B.A.'s] advocate in the health care system. +

[*B.A. actually did have cancer, but nobody admitted this until after his final brain surgery, when the surgeon snapped, "It's all cancer." We had been allowed to think that non-malignant tumours weren't actually cancer. I suspect there are studies arguing that the fastest way to kill someone with brain cancer is to tell him he has brain cancer, which is why everyone left us in the dark. But on with my story. ]

The next day, the one family member who is a medical doctor sent me, by email, a letter to take to the hospital. I carefully bundled B.A. into a taxicab and took him there. Thanks to this letter, he was admitted. And thanks to my family member's qualifications, B.A.'s surgeon returned her telephone call.  

It is very possible that had this person not married into my family, Benedict Ambrose would have died. This is called class privilege or social capital. And believe me, I was using every scrap I had. 

Naturally, history has moved on, with new shocks and alarms.  Here is something I wrote on Facebook on August 24, 2021:  

People complained about 2020, but in 2020 I travelled to Poland twice and lived in Italy for a month without invasive tests, inoculations or quarantines--until our return to Scotland, when we did quarantine, not a hardship as we work from home. Now it's 2021 and the world has gone completely insane. 

I'm of two minds about the "On This Day" feature. On the one hand, it's good to remember that doctors don't know everything, that you owe a family member a huge debt of gratitude, and that the world went completely insane in 2021. On the other hand, what an exhausting start to the day.  

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Women's Sports and Life Insurance

These are not necessarily related! It just happens that this week I have fielded both concerns about women in sports and questions about life insurance. 

First, just as women have always worked, women have always taken part in games of one kind or another. In the Middle Ages of Britain, I have discovered, women of all classes played ball games--throwing the ball, batting the ball, kicking the ball. I was amused to read that in Scotland sides of single women would take on married woman at football (soccer). I am in no doubt that women would have running races against each other at village fairs; they were certainly doing so in Britain by the 18th century. Wealthier women rode horses, participated in archery, hunted with dogs and/or falcons. They played tennis and an early form of golf. 

Of course, what activities women were permitted to do by their parents or brothers or husbands were very constrained by custom and whichever ideas about women's roles, deportment and health were current. The first woman to participate in a public horserace in England appears to have been Alicia Thornton in 1804. She had challenged her brother-in-law, and her husband placed a bet on her. Sadly, Thornton lost the 4 mile race but--dear heavens--she was riding side-saddle. The modern-day Olympics first allowed women to compete in 1900, but then they were permitted in only a handful of sports: croquet, equestrianism, golf, sailing, and tennis. The first woman to win in the Olympics was sailor Countess Helene de Pourtales (pictured above). 

Incidentally, some women boxed alongside their husbands in mixed-sex competitions in England in the 1720s. That's not really to my taste, I have to admit. I'd rather go lolloping after a rolling cheese or play football against the maidens of the parish.*    

Local women lolloping

Regarding life insurance, I still don't have it and Benedict Ambrose still doesn't have it, but we have no dependents and our mortgage is small. We are both employed, and one could still pay the bills if the other shuffled off this mortal coil.

Our situation is different from that of the happy young couple looking forward to raising a family of children, let alone that of the masterful man who has intentionally married a featherbrained beauty whose total lack of marketable skills renders her completely dependent on him. In both these cases, I think the main breadwinner (who is almost always going to be the man here) should take out term life insurance renewable every 5 years or so. (I am no expert, so here is what looks like sound advice for the UK.) 

Naturally, the breadwinners should be socking money away towards their eventual liberation from wage slavery. Depending on the style to which their families have become accustomed, they can stop paying insurance (and working) after they have amassed enough of a fortune to support their dependents' annual expenses. (Check local laws--especially tax regulations--about who gets the lolly when the breadwinner dies.) If a breadwinner's bread baker is itching to get back into the workforce after all dependent children have grown up, then the breadwinner can stop paying insurance premiums. If, however, the last child isn't out the door until the bread baker is 50 or more (or  unemployable), then I think the breadwinner should keep on buying life insurance--if, of course, he hasn't got a fine fortune to alleviate his bread baker's savage old age. 

I am conscious that I talk about the breadwinners' salaries as if they belonged to them/us. They don't, of course. The salaries belong to them, their spouses, and their dependent children. All my worldly goods I thee endow. When I get a raise, Benedict Ambrose gets that raise. 

When B.A.'s payday came around during my years of underemployment, he always said, "We got paid today." I appreciated that very much, for it saved my dignity in this money-conscious world. It was also in the good old Scottish (and Scottish-Canadian) working-class tradition of handing one's wife an unbroken pay packet. (The good Scottish [and Scottish-Canadian] working-class wife extracted some bills for her husband's personal use, and then bought the groceries, paid the bills, and banked whatever was left.)

Anyway, that's my thought for today. If, God forbid, B.A.'s adventures with cancer become so absorbing he can no longer work, then I we will take out term insurance on my hardworking yet mortal self. But right now, I think we're okay as we are.

*Actually, I think we could get a pretty good Matrons vs. Maidens game of 5-a-side going. How amusing--and traditional--that would be! I'm picturing it in the green sward behind the church, and the (English) parish priest looking on astonished. 

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Traditional (Latin Mass) Catholic Life

Traditional Catholic Life is not lived on the internet, let alone the-platform-formerly-known-as-Twitter. 

In fact, Traditional Catholic Life is too enormous a subject for any mere blogpost, so I will talk only about Catholics whose lives revolve around the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Happy Feast Day, by the way. Today is the Feast of the Assumption, which is a holy day of obligation in Scotland (as in the USA), so to Mass I will shortly go. But I will not be going to the TLM because I work afternoons and evenings, and thus cannot get to the Edinburgh TLMs today. 

And this illustrates two things about TLM Catholic Life as it is not lived on Twitter: some (many/most) TLM Catholics go to the N.O. at least occasionally out of necessity, and some (many/most) married TLM Catholic women have jobs-outside-the-home. 

Of course, if we had been blessed with children, I might not be working-outside-the-home. That said, Catholic boarding schools in France do not pay for themselves. Or, as one fellow parishioner of unbridled optimism and prestigious education once told us, "Don't discount Eton." (We were living at the time at the Historical House, which fact may have hidden from our friend from the realities of our finances.) Traditional Latin Mass Catholics do not necessarily homeschool; it all depends on what we think is the best option for our children and/or what we can afford. 

Another illustration: the TLM Catholic Life as it is not lived on Twitter is also not always lived in the United States. It is lived in Canada, Scotland, and England, in Poland, Italy,  Germany, and--especially-France. TLM Catholic Life is, in fact, catholic, and I mention only those seven countries simply because that is where I have seen it, or met Traditional Latin Mass Catholics. It never ceases to irk me when one (now former) TLM Catholic (still current) internet personality writes that Americans are the leaders of the TLM world. He might not think so if he could read French. 

But of course there are many TLM Catholics in the USA, of whose 331.9 million population about 25% are at least nominally Catholic. Thanks to my work, I am in contact with at least one or two every day. They seem to have the same concerns TLM Catholics have in Britain: where to go to Mass if they can't get to the TLM,  how to save their local TLM from episcopal machinations, how to educate their children, how to ignore ersatz leaders of TLM Catholicism. 

Offline, TLM Catholic leadership is actually very simple. The official leaders are the Pope (the current one is not ideal) and the local ordinary (every diocese a crapshoot) and then bishops and priests who say the TLM. Practically speaking, our day-to-day leader is a TLM priest, and not--for example--Dr. Taylor Marshall.  

There are, of course, official groups of TLM Catholics who have lay leaders, like England-and-Wales' Latin Mass Society and Una Voce Scotland, but these leaders don't have the standing of clergy. Members of the groups vote for them. They may or may not be household names. Ordered suddenly to name the leading TLM Catholic in Britain, I would probably forget the clergy's superior claims and just stammer out "Dr. Joseph Shaw." 

But certain online Catholic personalities are definitely household names in Scotland. (I suspect they are largely unknown in France.) I have heard Dr. Taylor Marshall and John-Henry Westen mentioned in the parish hall, and I'm pretty sure most adults there have at least heard of Michael Voris. Popular among the prelates are Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, as well as less internationally known tradition-friendly bishops, whose names it would not be politic to record online. 

So it would be wrong to claim that the internet plays no role in TLM Catholic Life. It most definitely does--on the level of info-tainment, education, and the dissemination of news. What I do claim is that Twitter spats, never mind such lame pronouncements that a man having ever changed diapers suggests there is something wrong in the order of his household yadda yadda, have little to do with the daily realities of TLM Catholic life, let alone our religious faith. A presumptuous lady on Twitter/X is just some dame; it is our flesh-and-blood neighbours beside us in the pews who count. 

That said, some unhelpful ideas creep in by way of plausible self-taught theologians, just as not all households are proof against being machine-gunned by Hollywood and its accomplices, the government schools. The ones I am thinking of play to some men's fears about being abandoned, robbed or otherwise mistreated by their wives. Happily, these ideas get short shrift in my house, for my husband learned the excellent philosophy "Anything for a quiet life, laddie" at his grandfather's knee. Meanwhile, he is a peaceable and loveable chap, so I do my best not to disgrace him in public.  

I am now tempted to ask my manager if I can take 4 hours out from work to go to the Feast of the Assumption TLM with my excellent husband, assist at this Mass, and then come home again. Herein lies another reality of TLM Catholic life, which is that TLMs are often far from where we live and it takes a lot of time and planning (and in my case £4 round-trip) to get to them. It is a matter of grief to me that I can't just walk to the very pretty stone church across my neighbourhood and attend morning Mass there. 

Of course, I could, but it will be teeming with the baptized pagan barbarians from the nearest "Catholic" school, and whereas I can resign myself to attending the Novus Ordo with devout Catholic barbarians or baptized pagan gentlefolk, small baptized pagan barbarians all chattering or looking at their phones during Mass are too much for me. So off I go to prepare for the 10 o'clock at the Cathedral--after noting that, yes, there is a certain level of intolerance in my minority-in-a-minority community. We are deeply intolerant of Catholic schools that don't teach the Catholic faith, and we find impious behaviour distasteful in anyone who has attained the age of reason.  

More on the subject of TLM Catholic Life anon.

Saturday 12 August 2023

Theology of the (whole) Body

It comes as no surprise to me that eleven-year-old girls look at the adult female bodies on display in newspapers, magazines, TV, social media, and elsewhere on the internet and say, "That's not me, and I don't want be that." 

Of course they don't. The vast majority of women they see are entertainers, and today's female entertainers, even when they are elderly or enormously fat, wear outfits that would make a 19th century prostitute blush.

Today's commonplace sexual displays are unseemly for adult women, but they are totally inappropriate for 11-year-old girls. Children should not be exposed to adult sexuality; this used to be common knowledge. It is abysmal that, entertainment having become so important in our society, children spend much of their leisure time in the virtual company of hyper sexualized adults. 

What was also common knowledge, when I was a child, was that although girls-in-general have a preference for "girls' stuff" and activities, many girls enjoy "boys' stuff"and activities. As I've mentioned before, when I was a kid traditional boys' stuff and activities were considered innately superior, so it's no wonder my generation of girls at least tried out the magic of Meccano after tiring of Lego and demanded to play street hockey with the boys and whatnot. Girls who said things like "I don't like dolls; I prefer playing with toy cars" obviously thought this rendered them superior to the vast majority of womankind.

Nowadays, unfortunately, honestly preferring Matchbox and Meccano to Barbie and ponies runs girls the risk of being told they're boys trapped in female bodies. This appalling horror is probably also a result of the dumb dualism that divides human beings (but not any other living creature, you'll notice) into minds occupying bodies. As anyone who has lost their temper simply because she was hungry or tired should know, there is no real separation between our minds and our bodies. Our bodies are not spaceships we drive around in (to quote a lady in my Eschatology class 20 years ago); we are our bodies. We are ensouled bodies. 

And the problem with being an ensouled body in the 21st century is that there is a vast overemphasis on our reproductive functions (while, perversely, devaluing actual natural reproduction). Of course, the sexual vulnerability of girls has always been a part of human existence. However, the importance of capturing (instead of discouraging) male sexual attention--or looking like women who could capture male sexual attention--has never been so prominent or exaggerated. No wonder there are 11-year-old girls who would just rather be boys. 

As you could guess, I think I have solutions to this problem. Although my readership may find them problematic, at least they aren't as stupid as bra-burning. (Admittedly, bra-burning might not have been stupid when bras were all padding with wires sticking into you, but it would certainly be stupid now.)

Solution One: Get involved in sports, involve girls in sports, watch women's sports on TV

Yes, I spent my childhood trying to avoid sports, but part of the problem was that nobody ever told me what the rules were. If the girl you're trying to get into sports is a bookworm, give her books about sports, especially helpful books that explain the rules and techniques. If I had known what "offside" was when I started playing hockey, my teammates might not have hated me quite so much. 

I am not sure how much of a problem this is nowadays, but if people tell you (or the girls in your life) that sports are for boys, I suggest telling them that "boys' sports are for boys, and girls' sports are for girls." A girl's sport, incidentally, is any sport that girls--that is, ensouled female bodies--do together. Male and female bodies are so different, the sports themselves--even they have the same name and rules--are at least slightly different.

Naturally there are sports that we associate more with girls, like solo figure skating and rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming. It would be nice, I think, if girls were brought up watching and trying other women's sports as well, like soccer and karate and speed skating. 

Why? Because it would show girls that women are subjects of action, doers of deeds, and not primarily passive objects, there to be looked at, our value determined by how many people admire our looks. Presumably a chap in his 60s might still find 50-something me a cutie; I'd much rather, though, that he admired my newfound ability to waltz.  

Solution Two: Give up artificial beauty

There are women who start dying their roots in university, and I can see that giving that up might be harder than sitting down with a wriggly little girl to watch women's soccer. However, I do not dye my hair, and my husband hasn't yet left me over my grey hairs. I also do not wear makeup, except for lipstick at parties. [Update: A contact lens-wearing reader has very correctly pointed out the unreasonableness of this following remark, which really doesn't apply, as everyone who wants and can have peripheral vision should go right ahead: Oh, and I gave up contact lenses after an infection left me crying and half-blind in an emergency ward in Warsaw. I wear glasses day in and day out, including to parties, and I'm fine]. I'm not suggesting anything I haven't done myself. 

If we all gave up--hear me out here--make-up, wigs, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, and tooth veneers, it would not only save us a lot of money, it would emphasize that what makes women female is not a collection of artificial cosmetic enhancements but our very own unvarnished selves. 

We should by all means strive to become pictures of health through sleep, good nutrition and exercise, of course, and I have no objection to pretty clothes. I would just like to show girls that cosmetics do not make the women; this would be a good lesson for gender-confused males, as well. 

Solution Three: Back to physical exercise 

Competitive sports are no fun if you absolutely dread letting down your teammates, which I so often did. Also, whereas it can be inspiring to watch Simone Biles do astonishing acrobatic feats, girls may need to be reminded that there is a wide and enjoyable middle-ground between couch potatoes and the elite. 

Thus, I would also recommend encouraging girls to do recreational activities like swimming, skating, hiking, folk-dancing, and any other appropriate physical activity that gets the heart pumping, the blood flowing and the endorphins making them feel good to be alive. 

Solution Four: Discourage Prevent your children from using the internet unsupervised

Well, I rarely say this, but do leave a comment if you agree or disagree strenuously with my thoughts.  

Update: Another reader has brought up the issue of body hair. This is a really tough one. In fact, this is a centuries-old tough one. There is no real taboo on not-dyeing and not-wearing-make-up-or-nail-polish. However, there is a massive societal taboo in the West (at very least) on female body hair. And it seems incredibly unfair that female body hair is 100% normal and yet women are now expected to remove it. Hair removal is so common, movie stars make headlines just for not shaving their underarms, a practice that wasn't universal in Europe, by the way, when I was a child. And removing leg hair was not really a thing until hemlines went up. Hair-over-the-lip, though, is something women seem to have always fought, and until this morning (when found an article about it in the Guardian) I thought it was rare in women. 

The point of this post was never to create more burdens on women but to think out loud about how we could, as a sex, make being adult females less scary for pre-teen girls. Body hair is something grown by men and women alike, so it's not a man or woman thing, it's an adult thing. My thinking is that if you want to smash the body hair taboo, and you've got the guts to do it, do it.* If you'd rather not, don't. If your 10-year-old wants to know why that lady has hairy legs, you can do future generations a favour and say, "Almost every lady has hairy legs. Some are brave enough to keep them hairy."  

*Update 2: On second thought, the taboo against female body hair is so strong in the West, I would not recommend trying to smash it yourself, if you can help it. The generations of women who did not shave their legs did not display them publicly either.       

Monday 7 August 2023

A Wedding, a Journey and a Party

During the papacy of Benedict XVI, I thought we were in an ecclesiastical restoration. In fact, I spoke about it with a capital-R: the Restoration. For obvious historical reasons, I stopped talking this way. However, now I am not so doubtful. The cleaning and reconstruction work has not stopped. You can catch a glimpse of the workmen flitting past in the dark of night, and you can wake up before dawn to the sound of hammers. Behind closed doors, women pick out the stitches of torn lining and add new embroidery to old chasubles. 


On Saturday we were at a traditional Catholic wedding in our little wooden church. There was an accident on the highway, and so the bride, bridesmaid, and their father were very late. However, the organist was excellent, and some of us had brought our beads. When I passed my beads to my husband, I read Good Music, Sacred Music, and Silence: Three Gifts of God for Liturgy and for Life by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.  

I also whipped out my handkerchief, for there suddenly appeared with the 20-something MC and Thurifer, who were garbed in black cassocks and white cottas, a tiny altar boy in a red cassock and white surplice. Although one of "our boys" began when he was about 12, I have never seen a small child serving at that particular altar, let alone this particular sprig of a young and growing family. And as the veteran Thurifer gazed down at him, and the hulking  MC pointed at this and that, the blond moppet solemnly placed his wee right hand on his small chest.   

It was unprecedented and delightful and promised future victories. His appearance made social sense, too, for it came to light that two of his sisters (also very small) were flower girls. They, like the bride and the maid of honour, wore white and flowers in their hair. I don't remember if they had sleeves: the bride and MOH, both slim tall girls, had long translucent sleeves. The mother of the bride had a splendid navy blue hat. The father of the bride, like a satisfactory number of the guests (but not the groom, who is English), wore a kilt. 

The choir alternated Gregorian chant with Mozart's Mass in B-flat Major. As most TLM lovers will know, the wedding service itself was short but fiercely solemn, and the Mass itself began afterwards. Of course, the readings and prayers were about matrimony, and there was the traditional long prayer over the bride, but Mass was directed firmly towards Almighty God. Well, so are reverent Novus Ordo Nuptial Masses, as B.A. and I have cause to know. But there is nothing like a TL Nuptial M, which is why so many young Catholics have chosen one, and no doubt why it is being so savagely suppressed.

The bridal party went out to Widor's Toccata in F, so I stayed behind for the last thrilling notes, and emerged to find sunshine (there had been torrents before and during the Mass) and happy guests milling about in the carpark. Rides were found for those who did not yet have rides, and off we went to the countryside. (B.A. and I had packed sandwiches for the journey, a top wedding tip I offer to all of you.)

The bride's parents are the fortunate and hospitable owners of a large house with ample grounds in Fife. Naturally the reception was there, and naturally they had hoped the weather would be fine and not, you know, off-and-on flooding. Happily, they had rented an enormous marquee and had it set up in a paddock. After we squeezed about the house drinking champagne and scarfing savoury pastries, we went out to the great tent to eat our very Scottish supper: mixed seafood-and-salmon platter, deconstructed Chicken Balmoral, and strawberry pavlovas. Delicious. 

Benedict Ambrose and I were surrounded by TLM-loving Catholics from all over Scotland, England, and France. A German diocesan priest shouted witticisms from beside my right hand neighbour, one of Fr. Tim Finegan's flock. (The male-female-male order of our table was thrown into disorder by a car breakdown and lateness of a French couple.) At least twice, I recognized complete strangers when they mentioned the names of their children. I introduced myself to one French family because I know their married daughter. Really, it was like a gathering of the clans or, even, the gathering of one clan, or (dare I say) tribe. And hand on heart, there was not a dress in the tent St. Pio of Pietrelcina would have condemned. 

The bride's father, clearly relinquishing a solid third of what he most dearly prizes in the entire world, gave the best father-of-the-bride I have ever heard. The groom exulted in saying "My WIFE" at least three times in his own speech. The best man, who was French, threatened to give his speech in French (which would have been nice for the many French guests) but sadly stuck to English and told the traditional stories against the groom, who laughed heartily. The bride gave no speech.

(That reminds me that I want to write a post about authentic wifely obedience and how it so flies in the face of everything contemporary women [and men] in the West are brought up to do, say, and think that it is both a problem and a challenge. However, I will need to read and think a lot more.)

After the supper, there was a ceilidh. We moved the tables and chairs to the sides of the marquee as the musicians tuned their musicians and fussed with cables. The Gay Gordon was a massacre, but from what I could see from the outside, the Dashing White Sergeant turned out very well. I was outside because I was looking for the taxicab that would whisk my husband and I to the railway station in time to catch the last train. Unfortunately, it had left already, so our hostess asked one of our people who is also a Pioneer (that is, perpetual abstainer from alcohol) to drive us. With great panache Pat sped up hill and down dale and around sharp corners and through the night until he got us safely to the station. But then, as Benedict Ambrose and I were racing for the opposite platform, Pat called us back: the last train to Edinburgh had been cancelled.


It is no joke to be stranded in the Scottish countryside on a showery August night, let me tell you. Fortunately I had a warm hat and overcoat, but B.A. the cancer patient did not. After some consultation of my phone, B.A. and I decided to take the last train to Dundee and find either transportation or lodging there. So off Pat went back to the wedding, leaving B.A. and I in enough privacy to have a massive row about what train we would take the next morning. 

I felt rather badly about this, as it is unseemly to have a marital spat while the wedding ceilidh you've recently danced at is actually still going on. However, I was very tired and had a dance party to host the next day, and tickets to a dance to sell. Nevertheless, we stopped quarrelling by the train arrived. That was a very good thing, as when we got to Dundee we discovered there was no room in the first inn, and then no room in the second, either. 

Fortunately, we told the second night manager that what we really wanted was to return to Edinburgh, and he pointed to a bus a few metres away that would take us to Edinburgh Airport. Amazed at our luck, we rushed out and got onboard. At Edinburgh Airport, we caught a bus to the city. We arrived at Princes Street five minutes before the night bus to our neighbourhood. Thanks to that, we were in bed at 2:30 AM. 


I got up at 8 AM, drank some coffee, and went to Tesco. I then made 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies because in my philosophy it is deeply shameful to host a private party without home baking. I also made sandwiches for B.A. and me, as Sunday Mass was at noon, the dance party was at 2:30, and it would otherwise be a long time before we saw protein. 

You already know about my dance parties. But to recap, I rent the hall, press invitations upon the Flower of the TLM community (and our childless married couples and mother-chaperones), find the instructors among us, and generally bring the waltz back into fashion. Last Sunday I was too ill to go to Mass, so I gave the invitations to B.A. to give to a trusty dance lieutenant. She did a good job, for 17 people attended and--oh joy!--once again we had almost exact numbers of men and women, which is no assured thing in our male-dominated TLM community.  

The first hour was dedicated to the Viennese Waltz, which is so much more challenging than the official (or English) Waltz that my left knee ached afterwards. Then there was a break for coffee and cookies. The second hour was given over to Scottish country dancing, taught by an authority who dismissed mere ceilidh dancing as something anyone can do. This boded ill for poor us, I thought. However, we succeeded at the Dashing White Sergeant, improved at the Reel of the 51st Division, and very much enjoyed Strip the Willow. Then we put the hall back together, washed the dishes, and removed cookie crumbs from the floor in 10 minutes flat. 

Between dancing and cleaning,  I sold the first ticket to a dance I am organizing for the end of September. It went to a Glaswegian, and I hope this fact shamed all my Edinburgh guests into privately vowing to bring their £20 notes next Sunday. Happily, I have hired four musicians, and so although we can have Strauss, I will ask the musicians to match the tempo to the dancers' abilities. 

And I do think we are going to have to do to basic footwork on the Waltz again---but that is a worry for September's dance party. For now I will delight in the memory of our waltz instructors--a Classics PhD and a Physics PhD--dancing together to illustrate what the Viennese gentleman's and lady's feet are supposed to be doing. As both scholars are solidly masculine men, this could have been rather funny, but naturally we were all too intimidated to take out our phones. 

Friday 4 August 2023

Hockey Skates

Not my actual skates
I woke up this morning to see in the Daily Mail that women who work for the National Health Service in Yorkshire are being discouraged from stating their fears about men--oh, sorry--biological males (men) in their private spaces. And, weirdly, instead of people explicitly demanding women's sex-based right to privacy and safety at those times when we are most vulnerable, "South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has been accused of unlawfully discriminating against employees with gender-critical views."

I'm not sure what to make of this appeal to "belief" except to suspect that the Equality Act no longer protects women's right to single-sex services. This is a serious problem because, as every culture has recognized at all times in history, women and girls are vulnerable to aggressive male sexual interest and violence. Sometimes women have found the lengths their cultures have gone to protect them--e.g. confinement to women's quarters--oppressive in themselves. But in the West men fought themselves and each other in a millennial-long project to make the public streets safe for women and children. (It was originally called Chivalry.) My Orangeman (and therefore anti-Catholic) great-grandfather, already the father of four, took up arms and went back to Europe because of news stories about German soldiers' violence against Belgian nuns. 

It absolutely blows my mind that we're now giving up this culture for a fraction of men--among them very rich men, Helen Joyce documents--who want everyone, especially every woman, to recognize them as women. Well, that's not going to happen. All women are never going to recognize gender-confused men as women because they aren't women and the first thing humans innately notice in all other humans is their sex. 

Ironically, it is easier for old gender-confused men to look like old women because many (or most) old women lose their distinctively feminine features. Our estrogen goes down, leaving androgen to rule the roost. Maybe that's why old women are more quick to wallop men with umbrellas and to stick their elbows in your face in their hurry to be first at the communion rail. However, most men who want to look like women seem to want to look like 30-year-old exotic dancers.  

The first thing I want to say, though, is that I do not "feel like" a woman. I am a woman because I am an ensouled body and my body is female. Everyone around me, perceiving that I have a female body, has responded to me as a girl or as a woman. Having the capacity for self-reflection, I have been in conversation with my female body since I was toilet-trained. Being able to read, I have grasped that female bodies are more vulnerable to male violence than male bodies are and that this has always made an enormous difference to the human race. Having sparred with men (who always pulled their punches) and boys (who once did not) in the relative safety of a supervised boxing gym, I am convinced that the only time a woman should fight either is to escape him. 

Being an ensouled female body, I have gone through the gamut of physical challenges female bodies usually experience, save pregnancy, childbirth, and serious illness. My mother explained menorrhea when I was ten, it happened to me and most girls I knew within three years after that, and this decades-long experience--and the massive cultural baggage it went with--shaped us all. It was a training in keeping a secret, in valuing one's own privacy, in respecting other women's privacy, in living with pain, in being careful, in being compassionate, in being prudent when choosing clothes and, unfortunately, in feeling self-conscious and dirty. 

Beyond the obvious, we also had new kinds of hair growth and taboos around that to deal with. And, since we were not growing up in purdah, we perceived that boys and even (ick!) grown men were looking at and/or speaking to us in new ways. Women did, too, of course, with a directness that could be excruciating, e.g. "You're really filling out." 

Women's lives as ensouled female bodies are deeply rooted in painful and/or culturally embarrassing physical realities, it is little wonder we so often try to escape through our imaginations. However, this is a very bad idea and can lead to serious trouble. Having been handed particular physical challenges (e.g. being significantly weaker and yet attractive to men who might not even like us), girls and young women need to develop their vast capacity for reason. They must grasp the realities of themselves and of the world outside themselves. As they are given a lot misleading advice and false information--particularly from advertisers and pop culture and journalists and irresponsible older relations--this is very much an up-hill battle.  

One of the difficulties of my own generation was being told that everything male-dominated was necessarily better than everything female-dominated. Boys necessarily had the better toys. At 12 I honestly believed that the pinnacle of success would be to become the first female Prime Minister of Canada. (Ha! Kim Campbell became Prime Minister in 1993 when her predecessor resigned, but she is even better known today for a risqué photograph of her holding QC robes in front of her apparently naked body.) 

Never mind a happy marriage with healthy children, standing in the community, enough money for Christmas presents and summer holidays, rewarding work and all the other things that really do bring happiness. No! "First female" this-or-that was the goal The Toronto Star set before my eyes. And this mentality is why, by the way, even though I loathed it (sorry, Aged Ps), I grimly forced myself to play ice hockey for years. I was, most definitely, the First Female Hockey Player in my classroom and possibly my elementary school.  

I don't want to think about what a reproach I was to the noble game of hockey or how my unfortunate sister and I were loathed by our (all female) teammates. Instead I will dwell on the beautiful black skates promised by the title. They were often called "boys' skates" because most girls who learned to skate back then had white skates. White skates were invariably figure skates with a sharp ruffle on the tip of each blade, presumably for spins or whatever else figure skaters got up to. I had such skates before my hockey days, and the ruffles made me trip. Hockey skates were made entirely for support and speed, and I loved them, if not the game.

A preference for hockey skates--like my haircut of despair--made me not a whit less of a girl than other girls, as girls are young ensouled female bodies. It was, however, what is fashionably now called "gender non-conforming," which is why I mention it. Apparently such things now lead girls to believe they are "really boys," just as enjoying dressing Barbie dolls now leads boys into believing they are "really girls." This would be hilarious if it didn't now lead to dangerous experiments with artificial sex hormones and horrific amputations and mutilations. 

Here, then, is a list of things that do not make a woman more a woman than she already is, or magically transform a man into a woman:

make-up, nail polish, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, wigs, hair dye, hair removal, artificially created breasts, artificially created genitalia, any plastic surgery whatsoever, high heeled shoes or boots, pointed shoes or boots, stockings or tights, leggings, leg warmers, dresses, skirts, blouses, ballgowns, twinsets, lacy or satin lingerie, crinolines, corsets, white skates, handbags, hats, high-pitched voices, mincing walks, mannered hand gestures, playing with toys (e.g. dolls) others associate with girls, playing games (e.g. skipping, Ringette) others associate with girls, tricking an infant into thinking you can breastfeed him with your milk-less chest.

That last, by the way, is such a violation of trust that I don't think it would occur to any woman that a man would ever do that to an infant or, if such a pervert existed, that he wouldn't confine his fantasy to strictest secrecy or at least share it only on the darkest part of the dark web. However, I'm very sorry to say that such a man has been making headlines, and it's all very horrible. 

As an ensouled human body, you're male or female whether you like it or not and no matter what doctors do to you. It is fair to say, though, that a very small percentage of boys are conceived with a total insensitivity to androgen. Their bodies outwardly resemble female bodies, and their parents are (or were) advised to raise them as if they were girls. Innocently and naturally resembling girls, they are treated by the outside world as girls--complete with an automatic F on their birth certificates--and, if the truth is kept from them, they believe they are girls. They worry in the same way girls worry when menorrhea does not come, and they cry in the way a girl would cry if doctors had told her she had to have a "hysterectomy." 

And yes, I do know someone with CAIS, so I can never write about these matters without recalling this.

Thursday 3 August 2023

Bring Back The Schoolroom Miss

The Costa Coffee surgical mutilation scandal broke before I finished reading Helen Joyce's Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, to cite its original title. I have put it down for the time being, feeling overwhelmed by the horrors of what girls and boys have done to themselves and why their parents permit it. It seems that reaching puberty has become even worse than it was in the 1980s, when bullies mocked us for our humiliating new secrets.  

Apparently one online transgender activist is exulting in, rather denying, the concept of "social contagion," stating that this is "how transgender people reproduce." In short, they're coming for your children, to quote the recent Pride Day chant, and it absolutely blows my mind that children whose parents forbid them to travel through seedy districts are allowed to absorb the philosophies and ideologies of simply anybody online. I have always admired friends who forbid their children the internet--and all but the most innocuous televised/filmed entertainment--but now I wonder why more of them don't do the same. 

I do not wonder at thousands of 11-year-olds dreading puberty or shying away from its first claims upon their bodies. It is awful to go from the lightness of childhood through the heaviness of adolescence towards adulthood and death--our parents' deaths, if not our own. To unformed intelligences encouraged in make-believe, it not obvious that the alternatives are worse. 

Children enjoy having their height measured against the doorframe, but puberty means growing out, not up, and it's embarrassing. I was never overweight as a child or a teenager, but by 16 I longed to escape my annoying, achy, leaking, earthbound body. My unruly hated hair I had already vanquished by having three sides of it cut, at intervals, close to my head. 

I was deep into my twenties before I understood that we are our bodies--ensouled bodies--and that the way forward is acceptance, kindness, rational fasting, good nutrition, and intense physical exercise. My poor parents had paid for any number of physical activities--gymnastics, swimming, skating, ice hockey, ballet, Girl Guide hikes--but most of these just hadn't filled me with the joy of life. (Mad props to skating and hikes.) It may have been different if my parents themselves had been sporty; my Polish goddaughter told me that she wants to learn golf so she can golf with her [golf-mad] grandmother. 

Yesterday I confessed on Facebook to having disliked being a girl from the ages of 11 until about 14, and I got all kinds of sympathetic emoticons and praise and whatnot, which was not my goal. My aim was to remind my intended audience that female puberty is often unpleasant but we get through it and enjoy being women. My intended audience was friends with daughters. However, it was the mother of a son (and a teacher of teens) who responded by  saying that girls that age have an awful time and need role models. 

I am not sure who these role models are. (Occasionally I look at "great women role models" books for my niece, but they invariably include Margaret Sanger and are actually thinly disguised left-wing propaganda.) My own belief is that girls aged 11 to 18 need to be removed from our terribly debased pornografied culture until they have come to terms with their changing bodies and developed their characters along rational and virtuous lines. In the past, the most privileged women in society found this protected place in "the schoolroom," that is, the place put aside in their father's (or brother's) house for their education, and then (possibly) in a select seminary for young ladies or (if Catholic) in a convent school. 

But now I must put aside these thoughts to take my husband's computer to the repair shop and shop for a dress to wear to the wedding of a young convent school graduate. 

Update: My concept of "The Schoolroom Miss" is quite different from that of the Regency romance novel. More on this anon.