Monday, 31 March 2014

Laetare Sterilis

It is Monday after the Laetare Sunday before, and oh but do I have a lot of dishes still to wash! But it was a lovely day, from the glorious rose vestments to the rose-coloured icing on the cakes. And right there in the readings was a command that childless women should rejoice:

Galatians 4:27 Scriptum est enim laetare sterilis quae non paris erumpe et exclama quae non parturis quia multi filii desertae magis quam eius quae habet virum. (For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.")

Well, I have a husband, and this all probably applies more to nuns, and St. Paul probably meant it figuratively anyway, but I'll take it!

At lunch a young Polish guest, in Edinburgh just for the weekend, surveyed the rest of the dozen people around the pink tablecloth and remarked that none of us had children. And, indeed, I can see that this would look strange to Polish eyes, for Poland is a country that really loves children, and most Polish adults prefer to have them. We were of all ages ranging from 25 to 69.

I explained that everyone except BA and I were unmarried and BA and I had married too late for children. And I went on at great length about my parish friend currently away in Asia, who is married and had two children while attending our EF Mass. This was in part to prove that some people in our EF community actually do have babies. (And there are others, of course.) But I had to admit that this friend never comes to Sunday Lunch, and indeed socially the community is roughly divided between those who have children and those who don't. However, this is partly because families with children don't really have the time or the inclination to come to Sunday Lunch.

Here is where I should write something clever and poignant about the message of the Gospel being partly about the inclusion of those left without children or husbands or family ties into society, but poppets I am wiped. Lunch for 14 means a lot of work, and BA always snores after parties.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Laetare Sunday Thoughts

Mothering Sunday is also Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, which is marked with rose vestments and a general lightening of the Lenten load, should you be carrying one. It is a big holiday in the minds of the Men's Schola and its unofficial Ladies' Auziliary, and we all wear pink (or rose) shirts or skirts and eat a lot of pink (or rose) coloured food and drink at Sunday Lunch.

This year the Knights of Malta Edinburgh Ball takes place on the Vigil of Laetare Sunday, so we anticipate a lot of hung-over tweedy types from London appearing in the Schola and in the pews. The oldies will probably go to the New Club for Sunday Lunch, but the youngies will probably come to the Historical House, for it is Our Turn.

This means that we are preparing Sunday Lunch (with much pink drink and foodstuffs) for fourteen-to-sixteen people, which is why this post is going to be so short.

I am reminded of Calvinist Cath's descriptions of Free Presbyterian Communion Sundays, when Free Presbyterians swell the toon and stay at all the other Free Ps' houses, and there is much feasting, especially upon traybakes. (I have a theory that sugar is an important part of cultural Presbyterianism.) I suppose all super-trad (and therefore small) communities (or branches, as naturally our super-trad set is in communion with Rome, unlike, er, Cath's) are like that: sudden squashings of long-missed people into too-small rooms and great ado to feed them all.

And now I must rush off. Food shop. Confession. Pint with Andrew Cusack. Food shop. Home to let in wandering Poles going to the Knights of Malta Ball and sleeping in our dining-room and library.

Update: Home with brown herringbone wool-mix Laura Ashley trousers which cost only one pound sterling. I don't usually wear trousers but I clearly need something for country walks, as my nice brown wool skirt was sadly snagged when I fell down a river bank two weeks ago.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Mothering Sunday Thoughts

I have to think about Mother's Day twice a year because British Mothering Sunday is on the fourth Sunday of Lent and North American Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May. Mothering Sunday seems more low-key than North American Mother's Day, and in fact its historical roots do not wind around mothers but the practice of visiting one's "mother church" or Cathedral that day. Visiting ol' Mum and bringing her a nice treat (like a simnel cake) sprang up around that, and was revived in the 1920s.

I do not know if parish priests in the UK ever pull the "All mothers stand and be applauded" nonsense because I am always at the FSSP Mass on Laetare Sunday, and homey don't play that. I hope ordinary parish priests don't either. But if they do, I hope one day all British Catholic women over 25 get so sick of it that they ALL stand. John Paul II wrote that all women are called to be mothers, physical or spiritual, and so, really, clerics should not be making such a obvious distinction between biological mothers and all other women. Incidentally, I wonder how the bereaved mothers feel when the priest cheerfully "invites" them to stand. Or mothers with children in JAIL. Or mothers whose children have been taken from them by the courts or runaway husbands. Or women who have had miscarriages. Or women who are grieving ab*rti*ns. Mother's Day must be hard enough for them without tacked on cheer and clap-clap-clap.

Have I mentioned how much I hate it when pastorallytone-deaf silly people add all this made-up stuff to the liturgy? I have?!?!

I wouldn't mind a prayer for mothers at the end of Laetare Sunday Mass, if said over the entire kneeling congregation, especially if it mentioned all the horrors that attend maternity--the physical pains, the emotional pains, the social difficulties, the dread of what the world might do to their darlings, the anger at what the world has already done to their darlings, etc. No, what I principally object to is the mothers being invited to stand while the childless sit dumbly and are forced to applaud with everyone else their fecund (or richer, adoptive) sisters' gift of children. I do not at all blame these mothers. I blame the priests.

Poor old priests. I probably tell this story every year, but back in Toronto around 1997 or so, a priest gave a Mother's Day homily on the wonder of MOTHER. Ah, our Mothers, our sainted Mothers, ah to be sure, too-rah-loo-rah-loo-rah. After Mass, as he was talking to a male classmate of mine, a furious woman stormed up with tears in her eyes and told him that he didn't know anything about mothers and his homily was insultingly sentimental nonsense. On she raged, and the priest and my pal were petrified before her inexplicable female anger and I HOPE, although I don't know, that the priest said, "I am so sorry you are upset. Please come and talk to me in my office."

"My goodness," said my friend, who thought I would join him in marveling over this "crazy" woman, "if you can't preach a sermon on mothers, what CAN you preach about?"

Listen, chaps. Not only are women sensitive about whether or not we are mothers, we are also sensitive about our experience in being mothered. And an overfed priest rabbiting on about how proud his mother was the day he got ordained is not going to go down well with the generations of women who grew up playing second-fiddle to their brothers, or who found themselves horribly thrust in the position of rival for their father's/stepfather's attention. There are even mothers who will sacrifice their children--who will turn a blind eye to their daughters'/granddaughters' sexual abuse--for their own sex lives. Homilies on that would be great. Heavens! And wouldn't I love to hear an [X]-Canadian priest demand of [X]-Canadian women (for example) if they work their daughters too hard and pamper their sons too much. (Fill in the [X] however you like.)

Anyway. Mothering Sunday. When I don't think about it in detail, I feel more tranquil now about being childless that I have been since I married. The answer to "But does the pain of being childless ever go away?" is YES--at least in my case. Since the bitter heartbreak of the Insensitive Doctor's Phone Call, I have been feeling a lot better. The worst--and that was the worst--is over, and I can get on with my life. I am answering the question, "What would you do if you were reasonably sure you could never have children?" by praying, "God, You know I want children. Send me whichever children You think I should mother."

And lo! In the post yesterday, Mothering Sunday greetings from Seminarian Pretend Son to his "Canadian Pretend Mother"! Yay! My first authentic Pretend Mother's Day card! Such a good boy. He's in the seminary, you know.

So that is my advice to women, single or married, who terribly want children, but don't have them. Pray hard, not for children, but for whichever children God wants you to have. These could be natural children of the body, or they could be children of the spirit. They could be foster children, or they could be foreign students. They could be your own elementary school pupils. They could be, if you become a nun, your novices. (And what a shame so many orders have dropped the title of "Mother" from older nuns!) When it comes to motherhood, we need to think outside the box. If all women are called to be mothers, then motherhood is not just a biological reality, and motherhood is something more than giving birth. It is a many-splendoured gift from God to us all.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Regret for Typos/Coming Appearances

Cherubs! Click once again to IP Novels to read my latest thoughts on writing. Oh dear. I wish I had known all that stuff when I was a child. But when I was a child, there was no Auntie Seraphic to pass along such helpful hints.

Oh, poppets. The horrors of growing up and negotiating the dating world without an Auntie Seraphic. This is why I AM Auntie Seraphic: so that no NCG (or Other Single of Good Will) has to go through what I went through without an Auntie Seraphic ever again. (Lest that sound just too self-absorbed, I point out that there are lots of budding Auntie Seraphics in the world, including those wise Byzantine ladies at Orthogals.)

In my fondest dreams, I set up a gypsya Romany an Irish Traveller caravan (the old kind, of painted wood) in the fields behind the Historical House and give advice to young ladies who cross my palm with silver or, rather, pound notes.

I wonder if this is something I could do in my old age: wander through Poland and Lithuania with a strong pony in my caravan, a lonesome gypsy cyganka wild. I hope this would not affront the Polish and Lithuanian sense of modernity and industrialization: I have with my own eyes seen from the train from Warsaw to Kraków a handsome farmer plowing his fields with a horse. Farmer-plow-horse. Utterly charming!

***

BY THE WAY! Fiorella de Maria, author of Poor Banished Children and Do No Harm and I are having a joint BOOK EVENT in London, England this Saturday June 7 at St Paul's Bookshop, right beside Westminster Cathedral. It is from 4 to 6, and then we shall go to the Albert or some other nearby pub to drink with any readers still around. So if you live in or near London, mark it on your calendars!

Meanwhile, I will be participating in a women's retreat in Kraków this May 2-4. The retreat will be in Polish, and my four talks will be in English, simultaneously translated into Polish. One year I will give my talks in Polish, but this is not that year. Czytam i piszam po polsku, ale nie mowię dobrze. Nigdy nie pamiętam słów, i mój aksent jest komiczny.

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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pigs

(Second post today.)

Last night I watched "Never Let Me Go", which disturbed me so much, I considered becoming vegetarian. Or partially vegetarian. Like many British people, B.A. and I are so disgusted by factory farming, that we do not eat battery hens or buy battery eggs. We won't eat anything we are reasonable sure had a horrible existence. But I am feeling a bit queasy about potential sentience.

A vegetarian reader took issue with my characterization of meat as a harmless pleasure that one can give up in Lent. I remembered several Biblical verses that not only assume but command meat-eating. Indeed, Saint Peter was offered in a vision all kinds of animals that Jews of his day did not eat and told to kill and eat them (Acts 10:28). He was not, of course, told to practice factory farming. I am sure that Saint Peter would have been just as astonished by what farming has become today as he was by God's directive to give up his Jewish dietary practices.

One argument carnivores give vegetarians is that we are the only people who can improve the living conditions of livestock. As vegetarians don't usually buy meat, the livestock industry don't give a damn what they think. But when British carnivore Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall cried over his dead experimental battery chicks, there was a British carnivore revolution on behalf of chickens.

But chickens are not very smart. Sheep are pretty smart, though, as are pigs. I very much like pigs to look at. They look friendly and apparently "a middle-aged pig can be as smart as a three-year-old [human] child." I am fond of pigs, but I also like to eat pigs. Pigs are yummy.

All the same, I am troubled. Would it be better for humans to keep eating pigs, which means that pigs will continue to thrive in large numbers, or to stop eating pigs, as a recognition that sentient beings should not be subordinate to other sentient beings' desires, even if this means there would no longer be domestic pigs at all. Is eating only well-raised pigs a satisfactory ethical choice, a recognition that pigs should at least be comfortable before I eat them?

Readers are invited to make rational, well-tempered arguments for and against the eating of pigs. RATIONAL and WELL-TEMPERED. This is a serious ethical question, and there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest human beings should not eat the meat of fish, birds and beasts. The taboos of the Old Testament suggest that pigs, etc., are somehow ontologically unclean, but I do not believe pigs are unclean--I believe they are delightful. I also believe you can both hunt, kill, eat and respect non-human animals all at once; in Canada we are frequently told it was the practice of First Nations people to pray to the spirits of the animals they killed.

I think I will put up a poll. Incidentally none of this is binding on poor B.A., who can make up his own mind on what is okay to eat. We have long since decided that it is not okay to use human beings for selfish or health reasons, except where the humans--adult humans--have freely, without economic pressure, donated parts of themselves, like blood.

The Prince, the Fogeys and the Sartorial Police

I have met only one prince in my life, and he was wearing stained jeans and a button-down shirt undone to the third button. To Mass. He wandered into the tea-room after a post-Mass restorative cigarette.

What was very funny about this scene was that the prince was surrounded by much plumper, much shorter young men all turned out like Evelyn Waugh: loud tweeds, red cords, shiny shoes. It was not a Young Fogey hour of glory. Compared to the prince, they looked like they were trying too hard. The word middle-class comes to mind, spoken like an insult (B.A. will cringe at reading this, head disappearing into shoulders) and I am middle-class---that is, I acknowledge that this is where I fit on the British class system chart, which vaguely reminds me of apartheid-era South Africa.

It is considered very rude and outré and possibly middle-class-as-a-bad-thing to ponder the British class system when one lives in Britain, and of course it has changed very much although I know elderly semi-aristos and public school men who still think they can get away with being simply disgustingly rude (they can't), and I encounter chip-on-the-shoulder working-class types from time to time. Once when B.A. went to the front of a loosely organized bus queue to peer at the bus schedule, a rheumy-eyed old man, slightly the worse for drink, angrily demanded that he get back: "those days are over." The implication was that tweed-coat wearing B.A. was the upper class oppressor, thrusting himself before the Honest Working Man.

Have I mentioned it is actually dangerous for me to wear any hat more ornate than a beret on the Rough Bus? I love hats, especially cute vintage ones with eye-veils, but I can't wear them on the bus or while alone on the public street. The one exception may be when I look as though I were going to a wedding. The sartorial police would probably then give me a pass.

"Oh I know," said a Scottish lady I know, who is always beautifully turned out at parties. "On the bus I wear a hoody and pull the hood over my head, willing myself to be invisible."

This may put the Young Fogeys' choice of clothing into perspective. It is actually brave to dress according to an older idiom in Edinburgh, especially if you leave the pretty Georgian parts for the grimier neighbourhoods, and the Historical House lies between two grimier neighbourhoods. If ever I am killed by a rock flying through the window of the Rough Bus, you may all consider me a Scottish Architectural Heritage martyr. The papers got all excited because boys from the right-hand grimy neighbourhood threw rocks at a Pole. Racist hate crime, shrieked the papers. But I snorted because those boys throw rocks at anything that moves.

I do hate the fact that actual fear of attack, whether verbal or physical, governs my sartorial choices. Of course, it is not as bad as it is in Egypt or Afghanistan. But, honestly, given where I live, I think I could be forgiven if I left the house only in long T-shirts, leggings and trainers (running shoes). I have never in my life--even as a middle-aged lady--managed to be invisible, but the T-shirt, legging and trainer combo would offend no-one as I tramped around the down-at-heels town to the left.

Edinburgh University, which is in a nice part of Edinburgh, is a different story, and my Polish Temporary Pretend Daughter mentioned yesterday that she gets more male attention when she wears a skirt than when she wears jeans. PTPD is a cute wee thing in her early 20s, but wearing a shortish skirt and a Nordic pullover makes her super-cute, and thus all the masculine attention and "Oh, you look very pretty today".

What I draw from this is that "pretty" is okay and indeed good in the area around Edinburgh University, at least for women under thirty. However, I suspect eccentricity is not okay there either, especially when eccentricity looks like a "middle-class" person trying to look "upper class". (In the narrow minds of the "socially excluded" people on the Rough Bus--no-one on Council having thought to do anything about the stultifying mental poverty the "socially excluded" are forced into--anyone on a bus cannot be authentically posh.) The poor of Edinburgh grudgingly respect poshness in the obviously rich, but loathe it in the possibly poor, in the "Who does she think she is?" spirit their more adventurous great-uncles and great-aunts took with them to Canada.

It strikes me as absolutely pathetic that I have to worry about looking like I am "putting on airs", and I suspect this is a problem that plagues young black women in American ghettos. "Acting posh" is the British equivalent of "acting white", and it is really very sad. Indeed, I am factoring it in as I decided whether or not to buy that absolutely beautiful tweed jacket for sale at Walker Slater.

So although they occasionally look silly, I must say that I admire the Young Fogeys of Britain for their counter-cultural stand. Compared to a Young Fogey, punk rockers are boringly conventional and cowardly sheep. And, now that I think about it, I admire even more the non-Fogeys who go to Mass with us Fogeys and Fogettes, and treat us like normal human beings instead of real-life versions of the most hated fictional character in Britain, Hyacinth Bucket. That is real Christian charity.

Update: As a Canadian of British descent, I am trying to understand how a real British person would read this. Am I like a Central European trundling up to a white American and saying, "Is it true that you are frightened of black people?" or to a black American and saying, "Are white people really that awful to you?" On the other hand, I live in this uniquely British class mess, so I think I have the right to complain and work to change it, insofar as that is humanly possible.

Update 2: At a party last weekend, I met someone who teaches Social... er. Actually, it was such an Orwellian phrase, I can't remember it. Basically she works in a "socially excluded", welfare-dependency neighbourhood in Glasgow, and has to teach teenagers social skills. "Like filling out tax forms?" I asked brightly. "Nothing so complicated," she said. She seemed a bit gloomy. "Like how to eat in a restaurant?" I suggested. (In Germany, applicants for Top Jobs are still taken to restaurants so that the interviewers can assess the interviewee's table manners.) But no. It seems it is mostly about staying off drugs.

Update Three: Actually, though, when I was an undergrad it was de rigeur at the University of Toronto for students to despise "the petits bourgeois", which quite often meant their own middle-class parents. Actually, now that I have finally looked up the term, I see that the petits bourgeois includs hard-working shopkeepers. So how dared they?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

What Is It About Bad Boys?

I had a response from PPS about the long trail of comments following his pronouncement on What NCGs Should Know About NCBs:

It seems I should start blogging: two sentences written by me, and you have the most popular blogpost in months! Too bad I cannot be bothered.

By the way, is not this "clothes don't matter; what's inside matters" nonsense of many of your readers terrible? So much of your preaching to no effect. And they do not even realise that such an attitude at they present is a fruit of rotten modernism.


Of course, I may be in trouble now for having shared that snippet, but hopefully PPS cannot be bothered to get mad. I think it would be great fun if he did a guest post, for the same reason we cannot resist sneaking a peek at whatever terrifying film everyone is currently talking about. Pastorally, though, it might not be a good idea, for a certain percentage of young women cannot resist young men who say jaw-droppingly shocking things. If you don't conceive an implacable hatred for them on the spot, you run the risk of becoming addicted to the drama of unsayable said, like people addicted to roller-coasters. Possibly the same chemicals--dopamine and adrenaline--start coursing through our veins. A common complain from letter-writers is that NCBs are boring. NCBs may seem less boring to non-Catholic girls who are beyond startled that the NCB is saving himself for marriage, or opens doors, or believes in God, or loathes ab*rti*n. For many an NCG, this is just NCB as usual, ho hum... Look! Motorcycle!

Incidentally, one of the signs of spring in my high school days was the roar of an IROC (muscle car) pulling up outside the convent/school to its own stereo soundtrack. BLACK CARS. (BLACK CARS!) LOOK BEDDER IN THE. DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO...!

"Girls!" the teachers would shriek. "Get away from that window. Sit down!"

"Ginos," muttered the more conservative of the Italian girls, having known such boys all their lives. (Classmate to me, wailing, "You're so lucky you don't have to marry one!")

But for us others, there was much speculation and conjecture. Who were these boys? And who among us were their girlfriends? Or if not the girlfriends, the female friends? Only now, almost twenty-five years later, does it occur to me that the IROC drivers might have been picking up their sisters. This may be because the appearance of flashy cars rudely pouring music into the outraged nouveau genteel neighbourhood was rather more macho than brotherly.

"Girls!" wailed Mr McK, my Grade Thirteen religion teacher. "When I see you in those sleeveless prom dresses, I want to clothe you in suits of armour!"

Mr McK did not have a high opinion of teenage male sexuality. "Men are BEASTS, girls! BEASTS! The homework is question 2 on page 45."

Mr McK also showed us a probably dodgy film narrated by a priest and called "The Good News About Sex" and having become the most unlikely of the school rebels, I complained vociferously that in pointing out the differences between male and female expectations around sexuality, the film should be called "The Bad News About Sex." In hindsight, it could also have been called "The Not Universally Applicable News about Sex" because most teenage boys I met would have quaked at a sexy prom dress, let alone run off for a can opener to prise off the armour.

PPS is probably wondering, hair standing on end, where I am going with this post. Sorry, PPS. Naturally you are not an IROC driver, except in an intellectual, metaphorical sense.

Anyway, poor old Mr McK was doing his best to keep us safe from contemporary versions of his long-dead teenage self, but in so doing he probably aroused our interest in Bad Boys even more than if he had kept his mouth shut or had emphasized not that Bad Boys are dangerous but that they are so often uncouth or dull. I mean, Gino Vannili. Come on.

A guy who strings you along/humours you for years while flirting with other women is actually very dull; the guy who surprises you with a heart-winning marriage proposal and then bizarre anniversary presents every year is much more exciting. Now that I think about this, this may be because you can comfortably fight with him without worrying that he will immediately leave you for the hideous crimes of raising your voice, bursting into tears and blaming him for the fact that you put too much mustard powder in the Fat Tuesday Skinny Red Beans, not that I ever behave like that myself. (She looks shifty.)

But that does not resolve the problem of Bad Boys who are neither Uncouth nor Dull but merely enjoy making women flutter and shriek like a flock of chickens, keeping a beady eye out for the ones that neither flutter nor shriek but merely fall into a trance before their fox-like charm. I think the only cure is a vixen disguised as an entranced chicken. Fan art, please.

Incidentally, before I met B.A. two of his friends told me he was an incorrigible womanizer who needed saving. Women, they claimed, threw themselves at him, and I thought, "Huh! Well, I hope he does not expect ME to throw myself at him!" and longed more than ever to meet him. Fortunately, B.A.'s friends were wildly exaggerating his popularity with women, not to mention blowing up ordinary unhappy romances with the Misses Wrong to womanizing, so he enjoyed the benefits of being thought a bad boy without my having to suffer the reality.

The hope I am holding out for Nice Catholic Boys with this post is that if so far they have found themselves passed over by Nice Catholic Girls who tell them they just don't feel a spark, they may find success by boldly telling women where they disagree with them. It could be dangerous, of course, but it is certainly one way to separate the ladies from the wimmin. If you are speaking to a woman who derides "the anti-Choice" to you, you should politely tell them that you yourself feel strongly that unborn babies have the right to life. She may gape with horror, but as long as she doesn't denounce you on the spot, there is a chance that the dopamine and adrenaline coursing through her blood at your outrageousness will bind her to you. "Why do I always fall for the bad boys?" she will weep to her friends.

"Does he vote Republican?"

"I don't know," she weeps. "Maybe!"

Update: More comments up at recent posts! Sorry about all the moderation, but it's to keep the ads and crankies away.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Pretend Mommy Blogging

Okay, so I began this morning by taking photos of Seminarian Pretend Son in front of the Historical House. It was very sunny, so the Historical House looked more Italianate than ever! Then I wrote a very long email to Polish Pretend Son, which I finished just as Polish Temporary Pretend Daughter came into the sitting-room to hear me read Polish. And then I had to run like the wind to catch a bus to an appointment.

I had a nice chat with Seminarian Pretend Son today about the advantages of Pretend Children. First of all, you are not stuck with each other. Both parties have a choice. Pretend Children come from the ranks of young people who think older people are cool, not by definition creepy, weird and boring. And Pretend Mothers have to be cool, not creepy, weird or boring, and in tune with this whole "Pretend" fact.

Second, university-age Pretend Children are already grown up, and what you are pretend mothering is the finished, expensive product. I acknowledge that it is very unfair that Pretend Mothers get the advantage of all the Real Mothers' hard work by having the Real Mothers' creations adorn their sitting-rooms and dinner parties, but life is not fair, and would the Real Mothers have willingly missed the first two decades? No.

Third, Pretend Children have good manners and don't hurt the furniture. They may leave their toys on it, of course. But in the Historical House the Pretend Children play with coffee carafes, pipe cleaning tools, smart hats, wool scarves, badger hair shaving brushes, elegant scents, including rose-flavoured shampoo B.A. is tempted to eat, The Chap magazine and exotic liqueurs. (My Polish Temporary Pretend Daughter does not leave anything around anywhere, and from what I can see from the hall her room is as tidy as the day she moved in.)

Fourth, Pretend Children are capable of deeply interesting conversation and often have intriguing hobbies. Seminarian Pretend Son made a very clever (if slightly wicked) joke this morning and if I remembered it, I would tell you. (What was it?) Also, he gave me very good advice regarding a tweed jacket because if you have a question about tweed, SPS is your man.

Fifth, in part because this is all ruled by choice and no-one can take anyone for granted (as in Real Maternal-Filial Relationships), Pretend Children are less likely to be rude and more likely to say "thank you" for things. They beg to wash the dishes, or they bring you vodka from Poland and truffle-infused cheese from Rome. They also tend to do their own laundry, and all the Pretend Mother has to do is show them how to work the washing machine.

Sixth, they are really easy to take care of. You just give them clean sheets and stuff to eat and liquids to drink and plenty of time in the bathroom doing whatever it is to their hair , and they are perfectly happy. Of course sometimes they text at 1 AM asking you to let them in, but you don't mind because whatever they were doing, it was probably interesting and they might even tell you what it was because you are not their Real Mother, who might not survive the shock. (You can have many Pretend Mothers, but only one Pretend Mother after all.)

Sunday, by the way, is Mothering Sunday (or Mother's Day) in the UK, and I wonder if I will get a Pretend Card. (What would a Pretend Card look like? My guess: invisible.) This however does not concern me as much as if I will ever have any Pretend Grandchildren. Oh well, even if I do not, I do have a Real Niece and two Real Nephews, so they may provide them.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Suor Cristina and Soeur Sourire

Yes, I saw the clip from "Voice of Italy". No, I'm not impressed. Nun have been singing for over 1500 years. Many of them, if not most of them, have been fine singers.

What I am is terribly frightened for Suor Cristina. Behind those glasses, she looks very young and pretty. And confident. Too confident.

I do not see why this nun felt inspired to go on television. To show that nuns can sing? Or that they listen to Alicia Keys? What it showed me is that even women in religious life can get sucked into the razzle-dazzle of the entertainment world.

Taking part in the show might seem so innocent right now. She has a gift, and she wants to share it with the world. Maybe she will make a record, and its sales will help her community so much! Never mind that the entertainment industry is...well. Two words: Miley Cyrus.

Two other words: Soeur Sourire. (Yes, I linked to that yesterday. It's such a horrible story, it haunts me.)

One thing I have noticed about many young NGCs. Young NCGs think they are impervious to the big bad sins of the world. How their friends end up sleeping with their boyfriends--- after long girlish conversations about the beauty of chastity--is a mystery to them. And if young NCGs are really shrewd, really clever and really rooted in reality, they recognize evil when they see it and keep out of its way. But not all young NCGs are that shrewd, clever or rooted in reality. Some are easily tricked by shrewd, clever and wicked people.

One thing to add to the end of my "Nun Week" is that although many, many nuns are holy, not all nuns are shrewd, clever or rooted in reality.

Sorry to be a downer, but I admire most those nuns who spend their whole lives anonymously (or pseudonymously) in prayer and work. Listening to cloistered nuns sing is a wonderful privilege that I am willing to travel the length of the UK to hear. But they don't sing pop music. They sing the Office.

A Party

There are some comments I have just allowed today, having been terribly busy yesterday, so have a look at the St. Joseph's Day posts.

Yesterday's task was to cook for an almost entirely gluten-free dinner party. (Those who can eat gluten had bread and melba toast with their soup and their cheese.) All the guests were Single, mostly Serious Singles, which is to say old-fashioned...

Blah! Must go. Lunch party for bride.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Japanese Foundation

It's been Nun Week as far as my other writing has been concerned. First I wrote a defense of a CR editorial decision to publish a photo of a nun in habit ("a stereotype", sneered a consecrated detractor), and second, I finished reading In This House of Brede and wrote up a review for CWR.

I didn't have space in my review to do so, but I want to clarify what I meant about not finding a note of falsity in Rumer Godden's sudden introduction of the Exotic East.

As most of us know, in the late 19th century and then in the 1960s, Westerners were transfixed by our impressions of Asian culture. The Beatles found the Maharishi. Thomas Merton became fascinated with Buddhist monks and similarities between Christian monasticism and other forms of monasticism, almost as if monasticism were the point. Non-Christian meditation became de rigeur just as the majority of western Catholics began to abandon and then forget Christian meditation.

However, Christianity had been blossoming in Asia for some time, and in the fictional house of Brede there had for a long time persisted a dream to found a daughter house in some mission territory. Catholic culture was incredibly confident before I was born, and the Church in the West was happily expanding in the Global South and the Global East, building on the now-reviled efforts of nineteenth century missionaries. So although this happens after the death of Piux XII, the desire of a Japanese businessman to built a Japanese-style Benedictine monastary for women in Japan fits in very nicely with the Brede nuns' long-cherished dream.

Some of the nuns are a bit silly in their ideas of what concessions against their own traditions they ought to allow their new Japanese postulants, but the Mother Abbess is indeed a voice of reason, nixing the proposed kimono-style habit but ensuring that the postulants get rice. In theology school I met a lot of Asian male religious, and one of them assured me that if there had been no rice pot in his new North American home, he would have gone back to Asia. (I would probably be the same way about coffee. Coffee is the one western foodstuff I don't think I could live without. Meat, sure. Eggs, sure. Bread, sure. Booze, sure. Coffee? No.)

So although this Japanese section of the book falls during THE CHANGES, I think it is actually a masterful (on Godden's part) bridging of monasticism before Vatican II and monasticism immediately after Vatican II. St Teresa of Avila, that great monastic, was very interested in missions abroad. And, I will repeat, in 1969 Godden knew that instructions stemming from the Vatican Council (or the ways in which they were received) had thrown religious life in an uproar, but she could not know of the wholesale devaluing of consecrated life in the minds of the Catholic laity, to say nothing of the desertion of convents and monasteries of so many religious. (Here is one sad story.)

As I wrote in the CR, I considered a vocation to religious life in high school, which is a very trad age for such ponderings. And I considered it again, on-and-off, after my annulment. I was usually turned off the idea by sisters themselves. But sometimes I met sisters who made me ponder the idea again--not that I was any great treasure, believe me. The most beautiful of them all was a Korean Benedictine. Ah! She was a good woman, and she had a soul like a flower. It crossed my mind that if I were ever to enter a convent (or monastery), it would be HER monastery in Korea. There was something very gentle and womanly about her that made me think "Here is the real thing". I don't know if it was because she was a Korean or a Benedictine. At any rate, I wondered if Benedictines in Korea had something the West had lost. That was sheer ignorance, though, because I never visited a honest-to-goodness Benedictine community until last year's visit to Ryde.

Now that I have helped girls find tranquility in Single life and, very indirectly, to marriage and babies, I will be absolutely delighted if I can help other girls find vocations to contemplative life. If I were twenty years younger and not married, I would begin a round of visits to the Sister of St. Cecilia at Ryde. When I was twenty-three, I had my whole life to offer, and I am sure I would have been happier there than at U of T. Sigh, sigh. But I cannot complain because although I did not find (or look very hard for) the best way, late in time God sent me a good way and, let me tell you, B.A. is much more than I deserve!

P.S. Does anyone remember me ever trashing the Novus Ordo in print? There was a letter in this week's CR accusing me of putting down the Novus Ordo, which annoyed me. As far as I recall, when I write about the Novus Ordo, it is usually to beg people to respect it and stop treating it like a canvas for all their dumb ideas or to stop yakking all the way through it. I write about various parishes where priests and people treat the Novus Ordo with great reverence or where the music is great. The very fact that a deacon (!) would accuse me of "putting down" the Novus Ordo without carefully rereading my articles shows how lightly people take the new Mass: if this deacon really understood what a serious accusation he was making against me, he might have thought twice.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A Late Addition

Do you remember how I am always saying you may want to know what guys are thinking, but you may not always like what you learn?

From Central Europe, a belated St. Joseph's Day opinion:

3. WE LIKE WOMEN TO DRESS IN A CIVILISED MANNER (UNLESS WE HAVE BAD TASTE)

Please then contribute to making the world a better, more beautiful place by following this humble advice of mine: no trousers, no trainers [running shoes--SS], no denim in any form; no skirts/dress exposing your rear, and – which I particularly emphasise – no leggings. And give hats a chance.

--PPS
***

I'm assuming what our Continental correspondent means by those rear-exposing skirts and dresses are the ones that cling lovingly to your rump so that its perky outline is showcased to Pippa-like perfection.

(Update: Unless, um, I am totally behind the times and there are now skirts that are only an inch or two long, a horrible possibility that occurred to me only now.)

(Update 2: PPS has indeed informed me that it is such super-short skirts that he meant and actually he is okay with Pippa-dresses. I am now trying to imagine how I would feel if all around me young men wore buttock-exposing shorts with or without skin-tight leggings underneath because they thought they made them look sexy. I think I would stop going outdoors.)

I am suddenly reminded of my wonderful 1970s style black lycra jumpsuit, which is languishing in a drawer back in Toronto, waiting for the day I get back my boxing-era abs. The legs are loose, wide and flared, so it isn't a catsuit, but it is backless and sleeveless, so really one has to be in excellent shape to pull it off...

Where was I? Oh, yes.

It's been a long time since we had a debate on clothing. Let the combox rumpus begin. Again, do try to be respectful. Feel free to describe how men can make the world a better, more beautiful place through their sartorial choices. I will begin: baseball caps may not be worn anywhere outside the Americas. They should be completely banned from Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe.

Update Three: The worst look in Edinburgh used to be black tights with blue denim short-shorts. However, it is now thin shiny black leggings without any shorts or skirt AT ALL. Wear this with messy, randomly gelled bleached platinum hair and what you have is a total mess that for some strange reason Edinburgh girls think is super-sexy.

***
My latest on the IP novels blog.

Further insight to the community of men who loathe denim and trainers.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Welcome, Brothers!

Today is the Feast of Saint Joseph, a flash of cheer in a solemn time and for some perhaps a slight relief from the privations of Lent. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of Canada, as even few Canadians know, but even those Canadians grasp that Saint Joseph belongs to everyone equally. He was the earthly guardian of the Infant Jesus and the Blessed Virgin; what a staggering responsibility for a poor carpenter, no matter what his lineage!

Saint Joseph embodied many masculine virtues: prudence, obedience to God, strength, work, provision, protection of children and of women from harm, fatherhood, silence. In the Gospel narratives, we hear nothing from Saint Joseph after Our Lord is born. It is Our Lady who speaks for Saint Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, to Our Lord after they find Him in the Temple. Joseph's silence does not close him off from others; when we first hear of it, he uses it to shield his apparently disgraced fiancée.

It can be very difficult for some men to be silent. The hallmark of a gentleman, which is to say a man who has perfect command over himself, is that he will fall silent to allow women and children to speak and even to listen seriously to what we and they say. And I am very grateful to those men readers, formerly called Eavesdroppers, who managed to read this blog in respectful silence, acknowledging the comments box as a women-only zone.

Of course, women are often impatient with men's silence, and this is our fault. For many, if not most, women, speech is a balm, a healing oil that soothes the burns, scratches and cuts of life. Our feelings weigh upon our hearts and the most efficient way to relieve our hearts is to ease our feelings out of our mouths with the healing balm of words. Responding to these words with words, the right words, is how women care for one another, create bonds, restore friendships. This is so important to us that we often shy away from women who don't know how to do this, and we forget over and over again that this way is not men's way. What most girls instinctively learn in the schoolyard, most men need three years in the seminary--or thirty years of marriage--to master. Most men show care differently, wordlessly.

There are many reasons why so many of you are Single now, and why I did not remarry (I had an early marriage, divorce and annulment) until I was thirty-eight. Some have to do with historical circumstances, guaranteed. Some may have something to do with character. And some may have to do with the tendency of men and women not to understand each other. And this is why I think it is time to ask for male readers to contribute to our discussions: they have probably learned a lot from us over the past few years, and now we can learn from them. As even cloistered nuns receive letters and visits from men who request advice and prayers, even Serious Single women may profit.

And now without further ado, here are two kind responses to the theme I set yesterday. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

What Single Men Wish Single Women Knew About Them


1. NCBs HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE THINKING

They don’t know if you’rre interested in them. They don’t know if you’re lonely. They’re not sure if you’re happy or sad, and they don’t know how to change your mood. To many NCBs, the emotions of NCGs are a black box. Who knows what should go in, or what will come out?

NCBs and NCGs fail to realize that men and women use words differently.Men use words as a means to an end. They figure out how they feel, and they use their verbal skills (such as they may be) to explain those feelings as clearly and fully as they can. Women use words as part of a journey. Words elicit words from others; feelings are shared; reactions are gauged; and in the end, the speaker arrives at an emotional state that is enmeshed in the broader context of social relationships.

This phenomenon makes no sense to men. All they see is that women say one thing and mean another. They cannot fathom the process. A man says “I don’t want to get married soon” and a woman scrutinizes the statement as though it were the latest revelation from the Dead Sea Scrolls. A woman says “It’s okay – I don’t need an anniversary present this year,” and a man thinks, “well – okay then!” And he cannot understand why you’re angry at him forbelieving you .NCBs will take you too literally. You won’t take them literally enough.

--L [whose Seraphic Singles combox name shall now be Leo--SS]

2. WE ARE ALLIES

The first thing Single ladies must know about Single Gentlemen is that we are fundamentally allies in striving for goodness and wholesome living and good taste. The World (as it is called in St. John's Gospel) hates manly virtue in men as much as it hates womanly virtue in women. You can tell a true gentleman by that he will never seek to compromise you. A Gentleman delights in Lady.

The second thing that Single ladies must know about Single gentlemen is that we're all different. Some of us are tall, dark, and handsome; some are shorter and stouter. Some are engineers and some farmers and some are academics. Some of us have long hair. (Think Captain Jack Aubrey on The Far Side of the World.)

And lastly, one owes a Single gentleman as-such nothing beyond charity (ordinary, philosophic, Christian charity): if a Single gentleman seems to be after your heart, you are perfectly within your rights to insist he win it, or send him marching home. A true Gentleman rejoices in a challenge to rise against! (and he will in time recover should fate conspire against his present hopes).

--Belfry Bat

The combox is open. Everyone may ask everyone respectful questions. All answers must also be respectful.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Welcoming the Boys Back

Tomorrow is Saint Joseph's Day, and to celebrate we are having Gentlemen's Day on Seraphic Singles. Thus, I invite all Eavesdroppers (who tomorrow shall become Readers) to send me short opinion pieces via email for me to post. By short I mean no more than 250 words.

It will be very amusing if no-one sends me any opinion pieces, but only for a bit. Then it will be dull. So here is the THEME: "What we Single gentlemen wish you Single ladies knew about us."

Both ladies and gentlemen may respond and converse in the combox. Keep in mind that this is a nice, respectable British Catholic blog, so you should mind your language and keep within the blog's cheerful philosophy. Keep in mind also that the readers come from all over the world, and what is normal for your country might not be normal for another.

NB The handsome Eavesdropper in the photograph is no longer available for dating.

The Gift of Being the Oldest

Today I was on Skype with a faraway friend who has two little children under five, and I thought again about young stay-at-home mothers and how frustrating their lives can be. Even if they live in comfortable material circumstances, there is the difficulty of keeping the home nice long enough for their husbands to see it nice. After all, it takes small children five minutes to undo an hour-long cleaning job that in actual fact takes a mother with demanding infants all day to do. Then the tired and cranky husband comes home, sees the mess and thinks, "What have you been doing all day?"

I've read that it is actually easier to be a mother of four and more than a mother of two because a mother of four and more automatically recruits the elder children to help with childcare. My first word was "diaper" because I had helpfully brought one to my mother when she was changing my first brother. I was two.

Naturally I enjoyed the power that came along with being the eldest and in charge of making sure my brothers and sisters didn't fall down the stairs, or out of trees, or in front of cars. But nowadays I just enjoy the childcare knowledge that came from youthful experience; it means that I can empathize with mothers when they talk about the "terrible twos." My youngest sister, I can say with confidence, did not actually suffer from the "terrible twos." She was a wonderfully cheerful toddler.

What she did suffer from, as do most if not all babies, was waking up in the middle of the night from birth until about the age of two. She did not like this; it made her wail. The nursery was across the hall from my room; my parents' bedroom was downstairs. So I would get up and sing my infant sister back to sleep with the small store of appropriate songs I had learned at school. "Eidelweiss" was very helpful as were "Skye Boat Song" and "Too Rah Loo Rah Loo Rah." "Too Rah Loo Rah" is fake Irish Tin Pan Alley garbage, but it worked.

I thought it was tremendously noble and saintly of me to be the one to get up and rock the baby sister back to sleep although I very much enjoyed doing it. It was extremely good for my soul, too, to be dragged out of my habitual self-absorption to think solely of someone else for an hour. Meanwhile it is probably much easier for a child of thirteen to go without an hour of midnight sleep than a busy woman of thirty-seven anyway. And since it is increasingly unlikely as each day goes by that I shall ever have infant children of my own, I am supremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to care for my mother's in such a special way.

I don't think there can be anything better than rocking your very own children to sleep, but I was reflecting that there can't be anything worse than worrying about your child when she is sick or about to do something stupid or running around with bad friends or gaily going off to an alien religious service. Maternal types without children may not experience the great highs of parenthood, but we don't experience the horrible lows, either. We gets flashes of joy and flashes of fear, the former inspiring gratitude and the latter deep compassion for parents.

Monday, 17 March 2014

RIP Clarissa

Methinks I can just overhear Jennifer wheedling St. Peter to let Clarissa in.

B.A. is terribly upset that we never bumped into her. She was a neighbour, and B.A. planned to invite her over for supper.

In this House of Beauty

Oh, girls. I have been writing about NUNS all day and have only now sent the article in. Oh, I am so behind on the day. I have laundry, soup... Argh!

By the way, if you are still under thirty-five and Single (and not engaged) I implore you on MY KNEES to read Rumor Godden's In This House of Brede. There are still places like Brede. I have friends in one of the models for the Brede enclosure. It is beautiful, beautiful. beautiful. Buy it! Buy it new, secondhand, for Kindle, whatever. Or get it from the library. Just read it because if you haven't read it, you are missing out on who knows how much beauty! Perhaps you will just be edified by a beautiful book. Or perhaps you will be swept into a beautiful life!

(Why do I want to write like Graham Greene when I ought to want to write like Rumor Godden? Absolutely beautiful, truth-telling, non-propagandist Catholic writing!)

Why o why does no-one tell us about how beautiful enclosed life is until it is much too late?


Meanwhile, happy Saint Patrick's Day to the Irish, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Americans and the Canadians. My father is three-quarters Irish-American, so I am wearing green. But there's no point going to the EF today for St. Patrick because I know for the fact the priest mentions St. Patrick in his March 17th Mass only when in Ireland. I once walked all the way from Morningside with a half-Irish-American pal to go to his Mass on March 17, and then not a word breathed to St. Patrick. HOW we glowered afterwards. St. Patrick is not so much of a big deal in Edinburgh. The place to be today is Glasgow. But I don't have time. I must write, launder, cook!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Turning Eavesdroppers into Readers

I forget how long it has been since I gently dissuaded men from reading this blog. In case you were wondering, it had much to do with the fact that some male readers startled other female readers by following them to other blogs and writing to them in an overly familiar way. There was also the "imaginary internet girlfriend" factor, which made me uncomfortable. It is a sad fact that many men are Single because they lack good social judgement and either frighten, alienate or bore women. Sometimes a blameless psychological condition lies behind this. Sometimes it is just youthful inability to understand women. Sometimes sin and cynicism have over time rotted their character and it shows.

I wish I could help the men who suffer from psychological conditions that make it difficult for them to pick up on social cues or interest women. I am just not qualified, and already having devoted my spare time to Single women, I don't have a lot to spend on men whose social problems I have never shared. Generally, I know what to say and when to shut up, but I don't know how to teach that to anyone. My advice to men with such conditions is to go to their doctors or counselors and say, "Where can I learn the skills to befriend women?"

However, this blog may be of help to men who suffer from a youthful inability to understand women, or who are striving to give their characters an overhaul so that they can be found acceptable by the kind of people who used to be called "nice girls." Also, it might be of a help to men whose life experiences have led them to doubt that there are "nice girls" out there. Many women of modest and discriminating habits read my blog; there are a wide variety of such women, and they blow apart cherished stereotypes. Many "nice girls" will, in fact, challenge a guy's ideas about what women "should be" like.

Finally, I know many of my female readers want to read men's opinions on Single life, dating, family life and women. Sometimes you are not made very happy by what men say, but that in itself is educational. Essential to having happy or merely respectful relationships with men is understanding that men are who they are and not necessarily who you want them to be. Of course you deserve to have your views as a woman listened to respectfully, but men deserve to have their views as men listened to respectfully, too.

All this is the lead up to my decision to welcome back men to the Seraphic Singles fold this St. Joseph's Day, i.e. next Wednesday. I will stop calling the Eavesdroppers the Eavesdroppers, and they will just be Readers, too. The blog is still for Single women, mind you, and my best advice to any Single man is always going to be "Talk to a good priest." Most priests ARE Single men, so whatever problem Single men have is a problem a Single priest is likely to have, too, or certainly have thought about. And this will including getting along with women, and coping with bullying women, and coping with crushes, bless them. Everyone gets crushes.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Beautiful Older Ladies

Holy moley. I have just seen a photo of Meg Ryan's poor mutilated face. Something has to be done to stop women who were delightfully pretty or even classically beautiful when they were young from punishing themselves for growing old. I wish they could just enjoy their moment of transcendent and unusual physical beauty and then think back on it fondly. Personally, I looked my absolute classically best at 27, probably, and I scowled the whole time. What a shame. But I'm much happier now, weeny new wrinkles, lined neck, stray grey hairs and all.

We grow, we bloom, we wrinkle up. That's what we do. That's what we are supposed to do. End of story.

Once upon a time, aging stars--our models of cinematic beauty--did not get plastic surgery. If they performed late in life they either played strong elderly women or they used make-up and all kinds of lighting tricks to look like their younger selves. Marlene Dietrich was a master of this.

Would everyone have a look online for a photo of their favourite old time woman actor looking naturally beautiful in her old age and post a link? Old age here means anyone 65+. Of course, it can be difficult to see who has "had work" which did not go horribly wrong. (I was going to mention glamorous Helen Mirren and then suddenly I wondered...)

So far the very beautiful 50-something Kristin Scott Thomas has not mutilated her face. I hope she holds out.



Attraction Does Not = Admiration

Hey, I wrote this incredibly brave and controversial post yesterday, and nobody wrote a comment. And it was a Wednesday. Everyone reads on a Wednesday.

Well, I shall pick out a theme from that post to go on about, and it is the difference between attracting men and inspiring their admiration or affection. One does not necessarily lead to the others.

I think this is the whole problem with teenage or twenty-something girls in immodest dress, particularly in the streets of Britain on weekends after dark, a sight which has to be seen to be believed.

(Incidentally, my new Temporary Pretend Polish Daughter has explained to me why none of my Pretend Sons will take me to "Espionage", an exciting-looking Edinburgh club. Apparently Espionage is THAT bad, with creepy older guys trying to pick up way younger women. Ew. Of course, perhaps their motivation is that they do not want to look like younger guys who have been picked up by a way older woman.)

Naturally Single women who do not want to be Single all your lives long want men to notice you, but there are better ways to be noticed than wearing startlingly immodest clothes or walking down the street on spikes. I can tell you from experience that having long fuzzy red hair is a big attention-getter although the shouts of "Hey, you need a haircut" suggest that having long fuzzy red hair excites as much mirth as it does admiration.

Personally I think there is a lot to be said for wearing an outfit all of the same colour, like red, or dressing exactly (EXACTLY) according to the fashion of 1947 (or 1952) every day, or just wearing pretty gloves wherever you go. But this line of thinking suggests I actually expect or wish strangers to approach you in public and try to strike up an acquaintance. It would be nice, though, if this happened at After-Mass Tea or Theology on Tap or the university library. (There's something so romantic yet respectable about a university library.)

Well, do chime in. How to excite male admiration, not just basic male attraction to female flesh, for your person? If you care, that is.

(I was going to post a photo of the stereotypical "Essex Girl", but I couldn't find one safe for little brothers.)

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Particular

This morning I was very disturbed to read a report that the Ont*rio English C*tholic Te*chers' Association has decided to participate in Toronto's Pr*de Day Parade. Of course, it is an open secret among church-going Catholics in Toronto, at very least, that OEC*A is Catholic in name only. The same can be said for many of the actual English-speaking Cath*lic teachers in Ontario, I am very sorry to say.

I find it a horribly irony that the word that denotes this infamous parade is the first of the Seven Deadly Sins: pride. And the true aims of the parade are quite obviously a celebration of another deadly sin, which is lust. Note the remarks of a man named Danny Glen*right in this LifeSiteNews article.

I think it is particularly horrible to use the agony of little children who fall into the clutches of pedophiles to score points against someone. This is particularly horrible when this is used to justify sexual abuse of other children--in this case, adult men and women parading naked, or in sexually shocking or provocative costumes, where children are.

This may boggle your minds, but in Toronto some parents really do bring their children downtown to watch "the fun"--not just of this parade, but of something I believe is called the "Le*ther Fair." I was once walking with a left-wing pal through "Le*ther Fair" and at a stage where a lesbian comic was warming up for a obscenity-laced show, the comic paused for a moment and told some women with children that her act wasn't really suitable for children. The women said something like, "Ah. It's okay. It will be over their heads anyway."

Really? Because one of the most vivid memories of my childhood was a production of Doctor Faustus, in which all the roles were played by men, and a man dressed as Helen of Troy caressed the man playing Doctor Faustus. I had never seen a man dressed as a woman in my little life, nor had I ever heard a man saying, as said Doctor Faustus's servant, that he would use magic to make all the maidens of his parish dance around him naked.

My father, who had taken me to this university production, felt rather badly that he had taken me to see it, but I absolutely loved it. In fact, because of this fun play I hoped to become an actor myself and to join that very same super-glamorous medieval drama club when I grew up. And I DID. And compared to all the glamorous, smart, sophisticated, sexually active people in that club, my Catholic friends suddenly seemed so....boring.

In case you are wondering, the lesbian comic carried on with her child-unfriendly act.

Anyway, I mention Danny Glen*right by name (with * so he doesn't find us while Googling himself) because I scorn to do what he did, which is make cheap shots about a whole class of people. In his case the class was "priests". In my case, the class would be called "gays". However, I don't want to do that because I am not angry or horrified by everyone who calls himself (or, very rarely) herself "gay" but specifically at Danny Glen*right and any other person who thinks lewd behaviour in public is worth breaking the laws of the land for, no matter how many children might be around.

Also, I think sexuality is rather too fluid and complicated to box in with terminology. I do not really believe in "gays" or "straights" at all; I believe there are human beings with different sexual impulses or feelings, who make different sexual choices at different times in their lives, for different reasons. The vast majority of these people, whatever their "preference" are psychologically capable of having ordinary sexual relations that can lead to reproduction. A small minority are not. And like all orthodox Christians, I am not so cool on "pleasure" being the primary reason for anything including sexual behaviour. Pleasure is a nice bonus to, say, staying alive or having children or keeping your marriage alive, but you'll notice that temporarily giving up innocent pleasures, like coffee or meat or sleeping in or married sexual relations, is considered an important spiritual discipline.

I was off-my-head crazy about an older girl when I was 14. I didn't think it was a big deal. Books I read and, later, observations about high school, told me many girls tended to get over-emotional about other girls, and I would probably grow out of it. I grew out of it although, now that I think about it, a younger female friend broke my heart when I was in my early thirties. Dear me, how I cried.

Well, that's love, which is an entirely different beast from sex, no matter what anyone tells you. Love can certainly be mixed in with luv, which is to say, immoderate attachment to another human being, often against reason. I've had that for women, but not sexual desire or lust, which is a lack that got Charlotte of Sex & the City kicked out of her new super-cool, well-connected lesbian friends' club, if you recall that episode. I won't repeat what they said to Charlotte, for it was obscene. Basically it was that she had to do more than smile at everyone.

No, your Auntie only feels sexual desire or lust for men, and tries to keep that under the control of her God-given reason, and hopes to inspire nothing stronger than admiration or affection in the entire male population save your Uncle B.A. Which means that if there was any such thing as a "Straight Pride" parade, with so-called "straights" dancing about naked and, having consumed sufficient quantities of crystal meth, thrusting their hips at children on the pavement, I would be disgusted by that, too.

If it weren't so serious, I would have be terribly amused by the lovestruck, hand-holding, usually male couples (including teenage) presented to our attention by Scottish lawmakers during the g*y marriage debates. The idea presented was that marriage was about luv, when marriage has almost always been about sex, either having it, or presenting a respectable front to society while having it elsewhere, which an astonishing number of homosexu*l male "couples" plan to do. [Link is to an article with shocking language and themes albeit in the New York Times.) But marriage is not about luv, but about sex, familial companionship, joint projects (like parenthood) and doing chores when you don't want to and think the other person should be doing more of them. Sex, however, should be the servant of marriage, not marriage the servant of sex, just as reason should rule the passions, not the passions reason.

If 2% of Torontonians have strong homosexual desires that means there are about 58,000 individual Torontonians to whom Danny Glen*right is speaking. And I hope a goodly number of those 58,000, each having reason and responsibility for his or her own actions, will write to Danny Glen*right and say that they do not approve of adults dancing naked in front of children, and that they do not want them doing it in their name. Fifty-eight thousand people telling Danny Glen*right where he can stuff his attitude would do more to heal divisions in the community than any parade.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Troubadour Concert in Toronto TODAY

If there any Toronto readers who will be near St. Michael's College, University of Toronto at 4 PM Toronto time today, hie yourselves to the Charbonnel Lounge for a concert of mediaeval music by my friend Trish and her merry band. Trish has been studying troubadour music since we were young undergrads together, so authenticity is guaranteed.

No admission fee!

Casting Call for "Ceremony"

Some years ago (2008, in fact), I did a "casting call" for my self-published book The Tragical Tale of Aelianus of England. B.A. suggested Timothy Spall for Aelianus, which was rather naughty of him, but made me laugh, and the rest is history, i.e. the destruction of my career as a Professional Single.

Well, yesterday it occurred to me that it would be fun to ask all those who have read Ceremony of Innocence to cast the major characters, or your favourite characters. Personally I stumped for a German actor to play Dennis as cutie-patootie Daniel Bruehl is too old. I like the idea of Laura Linney as Cat, but she is also too old. Cat is about thirty-three, so we're looking at someone born around 1981--an actress (why do people hate that word?) past her Juliet days, but not really old enough for Lady Capulet. Keira Knightley was born in 1985, but...too gorgeous?

I have a theory that Cat is much better looking than she lets on, though. And Keira Knightley does moody very well. But is there a very young actor out there who is even more handsome than Keira K to play Dennis? The mind boggles.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Cures for Doldrums: Housework, YoungThings, Waist, Rare Treat

So my Lenten project is to become a better housekeeper, to justify my purchase of this wonderful book, Home Comforts. Unfortunately, the book (though excellent) is American, so some of the terminology is strange to me. And it tempts me to desire such expensive but amazing luxuries as this bad boy.

This year Lent coincides with Britain's early spring, so I am doing a leisurely if thorough spring cleaning. So far the guest room is done--a very good thing as there is now a guest in it, reaping the benefits of my afternoon search for lavender scented drawer liners.

What I did not expect from doing more housework is how absorbing it can be and how cheering it is. I have a friend who gets rid of her stress by scrubbing kitchen and bathroom, and gets so absorbed, she is surprised to discover hours have flown by. I am not like this yet--though I wish I were. (I loathe any household task that risks gets my hands wet.) No, what I like to do is empty drawers and cupboards, chucking out useless objects and organizing the survivors after wiping down the surfaces and introducing lavender scented stuff. Now my guest room is really, really pretty, although B.A. drew the line at me reblacking the early 19th century hearth.

The other cure for doldrums is to have a Young Thing in the house. I love having Young Things in the house. Those of you under thirty or so probably do not know this, but you exude a youthful energy, like kittens or puppies or early crocuses, that cheers up all but the crankiest of folks over 40.

There should be a program to match up poor, homeless and Single Young Things with richer, home-owning and Single Middle-Aged or Elderly Ladies, for their mutual comfort and betterment. The Middle-Aged or Elderly Ladies would happily provide the Young Things with a pretty bedroom, clean sheets (and lavender scented drawer liners) and the Young Things could invigorate the Middle-Aged or Elderly Ladies with their amusing Young Thing interests, like veganism and eBay. Should I ever be an elderly widow with a house, I will most definitely become an Edinburgh landlady, like my Edinburgh great-great-grandmother, only better behaved. (She was a young widow though; one must not throw stones.)

Next up: the dining room.

Oh, and a third cure for doldrums is that bad old Western female obsession: slimming. This is only a cure for doldrums if it works, and unsurprisingly the Fast Diet (i.e. only 500 calories on Wednesdays and Fridays) is working for me. (The Fast Diet plus anti-sugarism.) So now I have a proper waist again, which even doctors will agree is a good thing.

The fourth might work only if you eat almost no sugar most of the time. On Thursday I had such a bad day that when I arrived at Edinburgh's Peter Yard to meet with my tutor, I threw anti-sugarism to the wind and ordered a hot chocolate with cardamom and a caramel-almond tartlet. Sugar madness. But I felt SO GOOD afterwards, that it makes no scientific sense. Maybe the cardamom served as an antidote for the badness of the sugar.

Friday, 7 March 2014

St. Edith Stein's Advice for Single Girls

Here's an excellent article about the advice of St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) for Single women. St. Edith (or Teresa) was an adult Single long before she entered Carmel, for reasons beyond her control.

Thank you very much to one of our Readers named Jennifer!

Frisco Single Gals?

I have been reminded of a plea from a new Reader in San Francisco searching for other readers from the San Francisco area. Who have we got? If you are open to meeting up with a fellow reader, chime in the combox or send me an email.

Providential!

Seraphic: Listen, O Lord. I am going a bit squirrelly here. I realize we are approaching Elizabeth-and-Zachariah territory, but I need a young thing in the house. I'm starting to wonder if bats make good pets. That's where I'm at. Do something.

God: Well, this is your lucky day, for it turns out I have another Polish student with a housing cris--.

Seraphic: Awesome! When can she move in?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Grass is Always Greener...

Terribly bad homesickness today after waking up at 9AM. Waking late is never a good sign. My preferred time to awake is 6:45 AM, which is about when my youngest sister gets up to get ready for work, soon followed by the next-youngest sister.

It feels very strange to be in an empty house again. No parents. No siblings No children. And not much sunlight, as our flat in the Historical House is in the attic, and the walls and windows slope. The ceilings are low, and on a day like today I feel that the reason my neck hurts so much is from years of the roof closing in on my head.

I love silence, but I prefer companionable silence, the silence of a sibling in their own room reading or of a parent listening to the television through her headphones or typing on the computer in his basement office. The silence of a cloth-swathed museum is something else entirely. The ghost (if it is a ghost) makes its presence felt very, very rarely, and then it is not particularly companionable, just alarming.

Fortunately, I had a Pilates class today, but I fell into the doldrums again when I discovered I had left the house without my wallet. I cannot imagine leaving my parents' house without my wallet. Of course my leavings there are also a mad scramble, but...

This house is terribly quiet, and the only living creature in it right now is me unless some spider in some some corner has been allowed to survive. As it is a Historical House, there is a team of specialists to make sure any little beasties who might damage it are slaughtered at once.

So far there are no bats in the very top of the attic, which is actually a mercy, for in Scotland bats have more rights than people, and once a bat is in your Scottish attic, there is no getting him out. That said, I rather like bats. Scottish bats are not scary; the wee ones that zoom about our woods at sunset look like hang-gliding hamsters. I don't think they would make good pets, though they would certainly look out for themselves when we were on holidays.

When I was in Toronto, I was struck by the loneliness of some of my friends. They had different kinds of loneliness. There was Single loneliness. But there was also the loneliness of the consecrated surrounded by the unconsecrated. There was mother-at-home-with-baby loneliness--a particularly poignant kind, hard for the childless--or working husbands--to understand. And there was also the loneliness of those who were far from their families, having chosen love in Toronto over returning home. Loneliness seems to be a fact of life, and there's no escaping it entirely.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Ecumenical Greetings

By the way, it's been some time since I linked to my Orthodox Single blog-daughters, the Orthogals. To get an idea of what they're doing/cooking for Lent, pop on over.

In Fairness to the Bishop of Forth Worth

An excerpt from an email I got today, which I post with a goodly number of personal details about the writer removed for anonymity's sake. Be content that I am content that s/he knows what s/he is talking about:


You probably don't remember me, and I hate to email about Fisher-More as a reintroduction, but this situation is driving me crazy and I can at least try to help somewhere (i.e. your little corner of the blogosphere) in a world gone mad. I was X from Y-Z. I do not want to drudge up all the unpleasant memories, but I would like to stress that the suppression of the EF makes perfect sense in the context of Fisher-More. The liturgy had become a weapon to attack the hierarchy, and a real danger to people's souls. (I write this as a cradle trad who [...]) The Mass as worship of God was eclipsed by the Mass as ideology. Y-Z was a very, very ugly year, and I am happy to have escaped with my Faith intact. For the good of Michael [King's] soul and those of [the] students, they needed the wake-up call that the Church is more than a particular form of the Mass or even a particular rite. In an environment as insular as FM, this was the only way - even if it has led to the bishop being crucified.

***
Thankfully, the bishop has not actually been crucified, which I mention because sometimes cruel people do have the bright idea of crucifying Christians, including at least one Ukrainian protester I read about last month. However, I imagine the Bishop has received nasty mail. In fact, I know he has, for I read one man's boast that he had sent some. I think that is a real shame, and I wish it hadn't happened even though I personally can't understand how suppressing the EF (while not the NO, which can be seriously messed with and too often is) can ever be a good thing. I will just have to take the cradle trad's word that in this unusual situation, it is.

Latin Humility

Today is Ash Wednesday, but thanks to "The Fast Diet" this is going to be the easiest Ash Wednesday Fast of my life. Collations? We don't need no steenking collations! We female Fast Dieters can keep to 500 calories per fasting day!

Plus a lot of tea and occasional leafings through cookbooks.

This is not a very spiritual way of looking at it. However, it turns out that periodic fasting is good for our health. It's humbling to think that all those people who have fasted merely to do penance for their sins and to honour God may have been strengthening their physical health, all unknowing

It is also humbling to realize how much better the Eastern Churches are than the Latin Church at penitential fasting and abstinence. The Greek Orthodox Church, for example, basically goes vegan for Lent. They allow some fish, but not others (no fish with a spine), and they heavily restrict olive oil and wine. Dairy--any products from warm-blooded animals--is right out.

East Orthodox monks fast two days a week, all year around.

I think we'd all be so much healthier, spiritually and physically, if we fasted like the Greeks.

Food and relationship food is so important to religious identity that it was a disaster for Latin Catholics in majority-Protestant countries when the Friday fast was dispensed with. Sadly, people had been SO convinced that a morsel of meat on Friday could land them in hell that they were well and truly scandalized when the Church seemed to say, "Just kidding! Chow down, little people!" If that could change, well, anything could change! And, hey! It's the SIXTIES!

That said, although the birthrate went to hell, Mass attendance in the UK didn't hit the skids until the 1980s.

Just last year, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales finally admitted that ending Friday abstinence was a lousy idea and reimposed it. I'm not sure what the rule is in Scotland. But I don't really care because when John Paul II suggested we take up the Friday abstinence again, my mother took this as an order and imposed it on our house, and so I impose it on mine.

I think the bottom-line rule in Canada is that you're not supposed to eat meat on Fridays in Lent. (Update: Oh, dear. Not even that. No meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is the bare minimum.) And so it creeps me out when other Catholics serve meat on Fridays in Lent. Hello, our Saviour died for us on a Friday. Do you think you might make this teeny tiny sacrifice with the rest of us in His honour? Oh great. Now Maria Papadopoulos is nudging Kyril the Russian Hottie and laughing at us.* Thanks so much. Maybe holding the Catholic Society barbeque in Lent was not such a great idea.

Traditionally the enforcers of religious fasting and abstinence are women because traditionally women prepare the food. And it strikes me that this has always been very important for religions where women are not given a sacerdotal role. People complain at great length about the feminisation of the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, but there is also the danger of hyper-masculinity in traditionalist communities. Thank heavens for the tea ladies in my parish, for without them, women wouldn't be able to express any sort of service on Sundays, save listening or staying at home with wailing children. I am absolutely okay with the sanctuary and the choir being man-only zones, but I am glad women provide the tea after Mass and enforce the domestic laws at home.

Domestic laws is my euphemism for "food and sex," and I get so annoyed when soi-disant trads who demand access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and snipe at the poor oft-abused Ordinary Form, openly flaunt Church disciplines and doctrines around food and sex. Traditional Catholicism is not about getting all the goodies while ignoring the tough stuff.

Naturally it is hard to be chaste in eating, drinking and sexual matters; we are told again and again that this is particularly hard for men. I'm not sure if that is generally true, but at any rate there is an expectation that women are the gatekeepers in such matters and religious men think badly of us if we don't keep the gates shut, no matter what they said five minutes before.

At any rate, gate-keeping takes courage and separates the women, willing to put integrity first, from the girls, who want to be liked. ("Dear God! Please! Let them LIKE ME! If only they would LIKE ME!") I touched a teenager in a group of other teenagers on his shoulder at a Toronto church, smiled and gestured that he should take off his hat. Naturally he may have thought I was an interfering old bat. If so, too bad.

As I said, various Church disciplines and doctrines are very hard to follow. I think this especially true now when we live in a religious culture that says "God doesn't care about such little things"--which rather flies in the face of the Gospel, where forgetting to wear your best to a wedding gets you booted into the outer darkness to wail and gnash your teeth. Before nineteen sixty-three, people hid their sins and confessed them later. Nowadays it is the fashion to sin openly (venially or mortally) while proclaiming the sins not to be sins at all. I am much more sympathetic to the former practice than to the latter. Sure, hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. The tribute, not the vice, is the good part.

Meanwhile, many saints have proclaimed fasting and abstinence weapons in the war against sin, so this Lent, let's all give it a shot. (NB Unless you are pregnant or recovering from eating disorders, that is.)

Incidentally, for those Singles who are tortured year-round by "Will I ever get married?" I think a great Lenten discipline is to stop thinking about it. Give it up. Give up romantic daydreams, give up b*tch sessions about Singleness, give up browsing photos on dating websites. Pretend you're a widow who buried the love of her life ten years ago and is content with his memory. (Here's a name: Norbert. Norbert was perfection except for the ear-splitting snore and the National Geographic collection going back to 1969 that he refused to part with.) Just for Lent.

*The Orthodox spiritual advice to Maria and Kyril is a testy "Keep your eyes on your own plates!" Well, I suppose I should take that to heart, too.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Seven Quick Pancakes

1.

It is Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in Western Christendom. I wonder how much of Christendom actually makes the pancakes, however. In Poland and Polonia the fun day is Tłusty Czwartek, Fat Thursday, which was last Thursday, when Poles have a good excuse to stuff themselves with pączki, i.e. jam-filled Polish doughnuts. This year I was determined to remember to celebrate Tłusty Czwartek, but then Hilary White converted me to Anti-Sugarism. That said, I shall be making blueberry pancakes for B.A. and me tonight and not stinting on the 100% Canadian maple syrup. As Carnival hijinks go, that strikes me as mild.

2.

I was going to make pancakes for breakfast but unfortunately I was in the grip of a terrible dream. In this dream, I had been hired to give Seraphic Singles lectures at a Catholic or Evangelical conference in Cuba or Bahamas or somewhere like that, but instead of giving the lectures, I had an affair. It had absolutely no glamour of evil, either. There was no deep conversation or shared jokes or high-minded speeches or sunsets. It was basically just being in bed with some skinny stranger while cranky conference organizers burst in the room from time to time to find out where I was and go through the trash for evidence of wrongdoing. They found a lot, for when I got home, my mother revealed that they had written to her, and she was not amused.

At this point the dream got even more confused because it seemed to me very unlikely that I would do such a wicked thing, or have the time to go to Cuba or the Bahamas during my Canadian trip. Although I vaguely remembered something like that, I was sure it must have been a dream. How to explain the letter, though? In great agitation of spirits, I checked my passport to see if it had any corroborative stamps. Hélas! My passport was a patchwork of wrong names and advertising!

From time to time I would half-wake up and notice B.A. snoring away beside me and feel sure that the dream was just a dream, but then I would fall back into it. Really, it never seemed to end. I kept rushing hither and thither trying to prove I had not gone to Cuba or the Bahamas. It was a great relief to wake up entirely and find B.A. buttoning up his shirt. However, when I told him of my ghastly dream, he said, "So that's why I got that letter from the Cuban Health Authority."

Hours later I realized that the skinny stranger was the British "Food TV" presenter who wasted an hour of our lives last night wandering around Los Angeles eating street food. Ugh.

Three.

My mother watches a lot of television, but as my parents have a big house, it is quite easy to escape the idiot box. The same is not true of the flat in the Historical House. My mother thinks the flat has the same square footage as her house, but it really does not have all the comfortable nooks and crannies. It also lacks the neighbourliness of several people all looking vaguely like me. The only other person around is B.A., so if I want the comfort of another human presence, I have to go back into the living room where he is watching brainless British telly. "It's not brainless," he is wont to say. "It's a documentary about the coast of Ireland."

4.

Although I can get sucked into "The Great British Bakeoff", I would be perfectly happy if the only channel we got was ITV Three, so I could watch "Poirot", "Endeavour" and "Lewis." Although "UK Border Police" was diverting, watching illegal migrants climb out windows and run like the wind struck me as cruel.

5.

The trad part of the Catholic blogosphere is going nuts because the young, plump bishop of Fort Worth, Texas has tried to solve the problems of a local Catholic college by banning its use of the Extraordinary Form. It is striking that the man was made bishop at age 47, and now he is internationally infamous, too. Nobody gave him the memo that bishops can't ban the Extraordinary Form. Nor did it occur to him (or whoever actually wrote his letter) that suggesting that the Mass of the Ages, which dates long before the Council of Trent, and nourished generations of Christians, including almost all the known saints, is bad for your soul is best left to anti-Catholic tracts.

I have no stake in Fisher-More College, except for any readers there (hello!), but I understand that the bishop's real concern was not about the Extraordinary Form but about the college president's increasingly strident critique of the Second Vatican Council. How happy I will be when we have Trent II, so we have another Council to fight about. All my life people older than me have been banging on about Vatican II like it was Catholic Woodstock. Vatican II was actually quite dull compared to other Councils: the bihops, periti and guests never had to suspend talks and flee because war had broken out, and nobody punched anyone else. My friend Aelianus loves the Council of Florence best; currently I have a soft spot for dear old Trent. At least people obeyed the liturgical reforms of Trent. Very few people seem to have read the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. "Look, giant puppets!" "No, it says Gregorian Chant." "Puppets!" "No, look. Sound it out. G-r-e-g-o-r-i-a-n ch-a-n-t." "Puppets!"

6.

Only once have I walked out of Mass thanks to the musical stylings of the soi-distant ministers of music. That really amazes me when I think back to what I have sat through in my time. Long electric guitar solos in the middle of the Gloria. Outrageously loud amplification in a German seminary chapel. A parish choir singing the atheist "We Rise Again in the Faces of Our Children" during Communion. No, what did it for me was a Filipino folk band in Toronto. The place was packed with stolid-faced white folk, and the only one smiling was the elderly priest, who did a little dance behind the altar as the happy band banged and strummed, tootled and wailed through microphones. I forget if I lasted to the Gloria, or if it was the Kyrie that inspired my retreat. As my heels hurriedly clicked-clicked to the blessed quiet of the street, all eyes to the left and right followed me enviously down the aisle.

7.

I once told a flame that what I liked best in music was the silence between the notes. He was most impressed and said I was ready for jazz, which is the sort of thing flames say. Men love to instruct women on just about anything: shooting pool, shooting baskets, Wittgenstein. Use this knowledge for good.

What I like very much in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is the extraordinary hush it fosters in a congregation. At the 11 o'clock at Holy Family Church in Toronto, you can hear the flutter of the Mass booklets and the gentle thumps of the kneelers going down. Sure, sometimes a baby has to wail a bit. but he is usually taken out if Mass has actually begun.

I am strongly of the opinion that we hear God in the silence between the notes. A world that hates silence is a world afraid to hear God.


***
Update: Mark J. Miller of Catholic World Report differs on the subject of bishops being able to squelch celebration of the EF. Still unanswered, however, is the question of how squelching it would in any way help the college president's or his students' souls.

Update 2: When I say "young, plump" bishop, please don't think I have it in for obese priests. As a matter of fact, I feel terrible for them, as I do for any priest who has an obvious health problem. We have developed an understanding and supports for priests who abuse alcohol, poor souls, but so far I haven't heard anyone address the problem of clerical obesity. My only uncle died at my age, and I am absolutely sure this was related to his weight, his eating habits and his Single state, poor man.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Apart and Together

This is Monday, the beginning of my new writing-and-homemaking work week. There will be some changes to my blogging schedule although naturally I do not want to neglect my loyal readers or the whole knotty subject of Single Life. I am more than ever convinced that Singles need a lot more pastoral attention, by priests and older married laypeople, than they currently get. Yes, of course, children and married people need care, too. But Singles seem to me at such a disadvantage when it comes to modern life.

I recently read a novel, a very well-written novel by a woman I know, called "Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar" It is not a Catholic novel or a good novel for the unmarried to read, and it unwittingly illustrates how Single men and women, especially ones who have strong religious beliefs, are marks for shallow, sex-obsessed thrill-seekers, particularly those titillated by conquering the scruples of Christians. I would have given it four stars for writing on Goodreads, but then removed a star for its creepiness about Christians and younger men, but I know the author, so decided to say nothing on Goodreads at all. Great writing--except for the pornographic bits, which I skipped so can't judge. Scary protagonist, who wails at men's perversions but utterly fails to see her own.

Worries about the luggage scale at the airport meant I had to leave C of a RC at home and explain to my mother why I had it in the first place. Thus the slim volume will not trouble the chaste precincts of the Historical House's ex-linen closet, which is now B.A.'s and my library. I cannot imagine what B.A. would think of C of a RC; perhaps he would condemn it as unfair to men over 40 while being comforted that I had bought it on sale.

To be frank, I was not thinking of B.A. when I bought it, but of the author, whom I remember fondly wrapped in leopard print and leather at various Toronto poetry events. Thus I was delighted to find her novel on sale, although (as mentioned above) later troubled by the creepy hot-young-Christian-men stuff. As I traveled about Toronto visiting friends and having a lot of fun, I did not think about B.A. all that much, except at Mass, or in conversations with married friends about marriage, or when tempted to spend money, or when looking at art. I cancelled my plan to visit the Hamilton Art Gallery because I felt very guilty that I had already seen so much glorious Canadian art that B.A. hadn't. It just seemed unfair.

This is not to say that I felt at all "Single." I certainly did not. When I was Single, I felt a great sense of restlessness and uncertainty about the future and what it held. As a married lady spending four weeks away from my husband, I knew that a plane trip back to Glasgow was in my future, soon to be followed by Laundry Day--unless the plane crashed, which it didn't. And, lo, a load of washing is swishing around in the cellar as I write. Also, of course, I could feel that irreplaceable benevolent masculine presence across the ocean.

Still, coming together after being apart for four weeks is eye-opening because there are marked contrasts between living with a husband and not living with a husband. The first is that in Toronto I almost always travel on public transit alone, especially to Mass, counting out the change for my fare as the bus looms into sight. Although I am usually travelling to meet someone, I live the half-hour to hour (or more) in self-contained silence, making snap judgments about where to sit, etc. But in Edinburgh, I often travel with B.A., who pays for the tickets and tells me where to sit, like so: "You sit there." I find this startling.

The second is that in Toronto my father begins Grace before supper, and we all chime in at "...the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." In Edinburgh my husband is used to saying Grace aloud all by himself, and I wonder how that came about. True, at Catholic dinner parties, Grace is often read from the Collect of the day, but I don't remember when why I decided just to let B.A. say ordinary Grace Before Meals without my contribution. Maybe he was still saying the Scottish Piskie one, which I still don't know, when we met. All the same, curious.

The third is that in Toronto I generally do not bring my family with me to events with friends and so say whatever I want to say without worrying whether my nearest and dearest will cringe. The two big exceptions to this were my book launches, and I gave my sister a present after the first one, although my mum and brother had to lump the second one unrewarded. (The amusing thing about the second one was that I declared that writers must not be afraid but say controversial things no matter what the personal cost, but when Reader Margaret noticed that I had managed to avoid "Seraphic Singles moments" [i.e. blunt remarks about sexuality] I said "I'm not reading that stuff in front of my mum! )

However, in Edinburgh I generally accompany B.A. to events with friends, and when I say whatever I want to say, in a blunt womanly Canadian fashion, he sometimes winces. He winces, and I see the wince, and I get mad, because in Canada husbands don't wince. In Canada when your spouse says something you don't like, you don't cringe: you go glassy-eyed or you gently change the subject. Spouses are never wrong until you both get home, and I don't know what happens then because I have heard my parents quarrel only twice my whole life long, and not since 1992, and not about words. Still, it could be that because of British sensibilities, I would hurt a lot of British feelings and lose some British friends if B.A. didn't try to keep a lid on my Canadian forthrightness. That said, in common with the Poles, I really hate the British tendency towards [censored].

The fourth is that B.A. is very tidy at home--much tidier than I am by nature--and so I strive to become as tidy as he is and try to stop myself in the act of littering the flat with coffee cups.

And there are a few other revelations, too, about bad habits I fall into in Scotland, and bad habits I fall out of in Scotland. The bad habits I fall into are eating too much, drinking too much, complaining too much, staying indoors too much watching too much TV and growing terribly isolated. The bad habits I fall out of in Scotland are, primarily, sins of untidiness and uncharity. I have many many uncharitable thoughts when I am in Toronto, usually because public transit has grown too squashy. I feel like a rat living with too many other rats and am tempted to bite them to death. I don't think B.A. is ever tempted to bite anyone to death; he is too kindhearted.

Ceremony of Innocence update: I got a royalties cheque and sales are mounting up. I am absolutely delighted! Most books do not break a thousand sales, and Ceremony broke the thousand mark in fewer than twelve weeks. Bless all readers who bought copies, whether online or in book form.

Also, I enjoyed this review very much. I noted in the combox the joy of a lady who found Ceremony in her public library. If you want to read Ceremony, but can't find it at your library, I believe libraries take requests. So go ahead and ask a librarian how to ask the library to buy it. I do not at all mind the idea of cash-strapped readers just borrowing Ceremony from the library. If every library in the USA alone carried Ceremony, Ignatius Press and I would be very happy little pumpkins. This reminds me, once again, I really enjoyed Fiorella de Maria's Do No Harm, and although it really is a must-read for British fiction lovers, readers from other countries will love it, too.