Friday, February 28, 2014

Just doing a little reading

Following the ... err... interesting news coming out of the Vatican in the last few days.

You might want to have this handy. I've found it helps.

The talk from Cardinal Kasper (he's baaaaa-aaaack!) to the cardinals at the weekend's consistory, the one that wasn't going to be published has been "obtained", as they say, by (surprise faces ready) our old pal Cindy Wooden at CNS.

Jesus' teaching on the indissolubility of sacramental marriage is clear, the retired German cardinal said, and it would harm individuals and the church to pretend otherwise. However, "after the shipwreck of sin, the shipwrecked person should not have a second boat at his or her disposal, but rather a life raft" in the form of the sacrament of Communion, he said.

Which my Baltic friend summed up as, "But how come I can't have the cookie? Everyone else gets the cookie!"

And Bishop Bergoglio has helped during another one of his helpful off-the-cuff homilies at D. S. Martha, with:
"As the Father had married the People of Israel, Christ married His people. This is the love story, this is the history of the masterpiece of Creation – and before this path of love, this icon, casuistry falls and becomes sorrowful. When, however, this leaving one’s father and mother, and joining oneself to a woman, and going forward... when this love fails – because many times it fails – we have to feel the pain of the failure, [we must] accompany those people who have had this failure in their love. Do not condemn. Walk with them – and don’t practice casuistry on their situation.”

Whhh...I don't.. I don't even...

Then we have the helpful water-carriers here, helpfully saying how "hopeful" it all is... though what, precisely, it is we are to be helpfully hoping for I'm not sure about.

And then the other people, the difficult people, saying, "But wait... Matthew 5... he who eats unworthily...eternal flames... gnashing... "

And all I can do is keep clicking that big red button, which is getting to be my last comfort.


Book bleg bump-up

So, my friend and I are enjoying our monastic karaoke experiments, but we've got a problem.

The kindly nuns at Rosano gave me a nice old copy of the Monastic Diurnal they weren't using, and it just happens to be exactly the book the monks at Norcia recommend for use by oblates. It's the 1962 edition translated by the monks at Collegeville (the translations into English are terrible. I mean REALLY bad, occasionally entirely changing the sense of the original Latin... but it just serves to keep us on our toes.)

Br. Anthony, the oblate director at Norcia, told us that it does pretty much exactly reproduce their own Divine Office.

Trouble is, it's a little awkward only having one book between the two of us, and I've checked around and the things are rare as hen's teeth, and considerably more expensive. Yowch! I thought that Baronius does them, but it turns out not. They do a three-volume M. Breviary, but not the single-volume Diurnal.

I am therefore making a little book-bleg.

If anyone has a spare Farnborough Monastic Diurnal lying around they're not using, we can guarantee it will be given a good home and be put to good use.

Drop a note if so...

(btw: I'm getting more and more confused about books. I just found the St. Michael's Abbey Press shop, where they purport to sell a thing called the Monastic Diurnal, that has the right hours in L. and Eng. But from the pic, it looks about twice the size of mine. Any of you liturgy nerds out there know why this would be? Is there maybe music in that one? Any other differences?)


Monastic Karaoke

Here's a bit of fun you can have with the internet and any decent edition of the Monastic Divine Office in Latin.

Every day, the good and holy monks of St. Benedict's monastery in Norcia post their Lauds and Vespers on their blog.

Go to today's spot in your Monastic Diurnal, Liber or D. Office, or whatever you're using, and click play.

Sing along with the monks!

Hours of monastic fun!

(Try the archives.... which don't work in Chrome for some reason, where you will find Compline. Compline is a good one to start with since it is the same every day.)


Canticum Novum

Cantate Domino canticum novum
cantate Domino ominis terra ...

Or, Canticum Vetum, as the case may be.

Something to brighten up your Septuagesima Friday.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inclina aurem cordis tui - book bleg

So, my friend and I are enjoying our monastic karaoke experiments, but we've got a problem.

The kindly nuns at Rosano gave me a nice old copy of the Monastic Diurnal they weren't using, and it just happens to be exactly the book the monks at Norcia recommend for use by oblates. It's the 1962 edition translated by the monks at Collegeville (the translations into English are terrible. I mean REALLY bad, occasionally entirely changing the sense of the original Latin... but it just serves to keep us on our toes.)

Br. Anthony, the oblate director at Norcia, told us that it does pretty much exactly reproduce their own Divine Office.

Trouble is, it's a little awkward only having one book between the two of us, and I've checked around and the things are rare as hen's teeth, and considerably more expensive. Yowch! I thought that Baronius does them, but it turns out not. They do a three-volume M. Breviary, but not the single-volume Diurnal.

I am therefore making a little book-bleg.

If anyone has a spare Farnborough Monastic Diurnal lying around they're not using, we can guarantee it will be given a good home and be put to good use.

Drop a note if so...

(btw: I'm getting more and more confused about books. I just found the St. Michael's Abbey Press shop, where they purport to sell a thing called the Monastic Diurnal, that has the right hours in L. and Eng. But from the pic, it looks about twice the size of mine. Any of you liturgy nerds out there know why this would be? Is there maybe music in that one? Any other differences?)


Too much going on

It's not that I've got nothing to say. It's that there's so much going on that I don't know where to begin.

First, the news:

"But then, Russia has always been a little bit itchy in those border regions. Sort of rolling over the border and scratching now and then. We're sort of used to it."
- A friend from the Baltic world comments...

The Guardian reports about three hours ago from my mark...
Armed men seize Crimea parliament and hoist Russian flag

Ukraine crisis escalates after Tatar leader says Crimea’s parliament building has been occupied by gunmen.

Reports earlier today said that tanks were converging on the Crimea, but were turned back. It's important because that is where the port of Sevastopol remains the moorage for most of the Russian navy's Black Sea fleet.


And Putin has put 150,000 troops on military alert.

We seem to be revisiting those ancient quarrels. How long has this part of the world been disputed? I don't know, but I know that for a goodly number of my ancestors the names of Crimea and Sebastopol were prominent in their daily thoughts.

~ * ~

And, closer to home, I think the expression "Janus Papacy" is going to come into wider use...

The latest instalment of the Chris n' Mike Show...

This weekend's consistory has catalysed the discussion. It's not just Trads anymore who are looking at the weird spectacle and asking, "Errr... hey, hang on, have we actually got two popes?"

And more to the point, have we got two popes who are "looking in opposite directions"?

Oh, and nice to know the secular media is getting tired of the Humble Pope joke. It was pretty tired for the rest of us by the end of the first day.

- * ~

And even closer to home, I'll just say that our trip last weekend to Norcia to visit those monks was wonderful. And there has been general agreement on all sides that I can become an oblate there. So, it's back to working on a personal project of the daily schedule, organising the day around the cycle of the Divine Office.

We got to Norcia exactly at their biggest annual local festa, the Nero Norcia festival that started (in the pouring rain) last weekend and goes all week and ends on Sunday.

What's "Nero Norcia," you ask?

Truffles, baby, truffles.

All week, the shop keepers, truffle hunters, pig-product vendors and salami-makers, as well as wine merchants and apple product and cheese manufacturers, all local, all small, home-based and family oriented, set up stalls along the streets of the ancient town, and hand food to you as you walk past admiring, chatting, smiling and taking pictures. Seriously. It's like a dream.

Pics to come.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Liturgical tip of the day

Never consecrate anything bigger than your head.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Away for the rest of the weekend

Don't everybody freak out at once.

I leave the interwebs in your capable hands.


That's 'Domine,' to you!

Sometimes my job leaves me helpless with laughter. Grim, humourless and horrified, but laughter nonetheless...

I just had cause to use Google to ask, "What's the gramatically correct plural for 'dominatrix'?"

Maybe it's too early to be working. I still haven't had my tea and it seems to be making me a bit strange.

UPDATE Well, I'm happy to be informed that the "industry standard" plural is "dominatrices".

And I rejoice that they are using correct Latin.

I hope we also are using the correct form for the vocative: s. domin-e, pl. domin-i,


It's the oldest known film of a pope, taken in 1896. It was a year before my grandfather was born in Portsmouth. The audio is his voice, recorded in 1903, the year my grandma was born in Plymouth, and also the oldest known recording of a pope.

Leo XIII was known as the Rosary Pope, for the many encyclicals he wrote on the Rosary and its merits.

It's a funny feeling, isn't it? Even though we newfangled people are all smarty-smart and sophisticated nowadays and we all know Science and stuff, seeing something like this still gives us a strange little primordial twinge of The Spooky. It's like looking into a window on the past, something our ancestors couldn't have ever done.

And yet, despite all this evidence about it, the past is perhaps more closed to people of our time than it was to anyone who lived there with their clunky, old-fashioned "books" and mass illiteracy. We smarty-smart moderns are a deracinated people who have forgotten who we are, even as we continue to load our past onto the 'net.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Recreational organs

Just chatting with a young fellow who is doing the GAP right now and who is meeting and talking with students on a university campus somewhere:
"Many of them have separated sex and reproduction to the point where they actually see them as independent from each other, thus the language of getting 'accidentally pregnant' (did you trip and fall?) and 'I don't know how that happened.' I often have to remind them when they talk about 'recreational sex' that they have reproductive organs, not recreational organs. The level of ignorance is mind-boggling."

Hmmm... what does it remind me of?

I can't quite...

Oh yeah!

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control.

Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.

Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires,

no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

But of course, the thing we have to remember is that contraception has nothing what. so. ever. to do with abortion.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Aubergine egg sandwiches

In my endless search for a viable replacement for the English Fry-up, I have been experimenting with ingredients readily available in Italian supermarkets. Today we have a winner!

It's like a little fried mushroom, bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, only with slices of aubergine instead of bread.

Stay with me, it's teh. awesome! (Fully tested in the Orwell's Picnic test kitchens.)


about 1 oz of bacon chopped into small bits (sold in Ita. as "pancetta affumicato")
about 5 sliced mushrooms
four slices of prepared aubergine (you can buy them already sliced, pressed and grilled in bags in the freezer section)
25g butter
2 eggs
1 oz grated cheese (Leerdamer is very popular here)

You will need a skillet with a tightly fitting lid.

Cook the mushrooms and bacon together in a pan over a medium heat until the mushrooms are nicely cooked in the bacon fat. Remove and set aside. Lower the heat and scrape the pan carefully and add the butter. Lay in two large slices of aubergine.

Then ever so carefully, pile on the mushrooms and bacon bits in a heap on each one, then make a little well in the middle so there's a little bacon/mushroom fortress surrounding a little space. Crack the eggs into the well. (Don't worry if the egg white oozes out a little.) Lay on top the other two slices of eggplant to form a lid. Top with the grated leerdamer. Add about 2 tbsps of water to the pan, and clap on the tight-fitting lid. Allow it all to cook, keeping the heat down, for about 10 minutes or until all the cheese is melted and the egg is cooked inside.

Dress on the side with a tablespoon or so of Mexican salsa and another of sour cream (Very difficult to find, but shows up occasionally, other wise plain Greek yogurt makes a good s. cream substitute.)


You won't be sorry.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

So nice to know one has made a difference

So often, I can fall into a funk, thinking I'm mostly talking to myself and the Cat. So, now and then it's nice to know that I'm actually having an effect out there.

Just found this in an old commbox on a thing I wrote on the Commbox rules after a blogging break a few years ago:

I'm glad you're back. And I wanted to let you know you inspired my 18yo daughter to create a T-shirt with the words "Don't make me smite you!" on the front. It is the one exception I make to my "no shirts with words on them are to be worn in public" rule.

Ah, that's the stuff.

I love my readers.


"Shut up," he pastoralized

Or, "Beatings will continue until morale improves..."

The regime of peace, joy, tolerance and understanding takes another scalp.

As our friend at Creative Minority Report put it:

"Historian Roberto de Mattei has been fired from his broadcast at Radio Maria for being critical of aspects of this pontificate.

This follows on the heels of Radio Maria firing two long time hosts, Mario Palmaro and Alessandro Gnocchi, for a similar infraction after a critical article at the height of the papal interview parade last fall.

So this is how it is to be now. The Pope commands us to shake up the Church. Shake it up, but don't step out of line.

Well, actually, you can step out of line as long as you step to the left. An entire Episcopal conference can be in open rebellion and that is tolerated because they are stepping away from long held Church teaching. You can openly ridicule the head of the CDF and you will be tolerated.

If you step the other direction, you will be squashed. Just ask Mario Palmaro, Alessandro Gnocchi, the Franciscans of the Immaculate, and now Roberto de Mattei.

Welcome to the open Church where nobody judges anymore.

Welcome to NuChurch, indeed,

and have a nice day...

(or else!)


Women, Art and The Real

The Independent is having a hissy-fit over someone telling the blunt truth about the absurdities of the contemporary art world. But he should have been a little broader with that brush. Women do make up the majority of students in contemporary art schools, but what are they being taught?

Because it's mostly females entering the "contemporary art scene," and therefore producing the crap that contemporary art is, it does not follow that the women-artists are producing crappy art because they're women. It might have something to do with the crappy teaching, and the valuing of crap that is the singular earmark of the contemporary art world.

The Indie's Nick Clarke whines that he has "has dismissed centuries of female artists at a stroke – from Artemisia Gentileschi and Frida Kahlo to Bridget Riley and Paula Rego..."

Mmmm... let's take a look, shall we?

"Judith" Artemisia Gentileschi

"Frida Kahlo" Frida Kahlo (whom Wikipedia described as "self-portrait artist and feminist icon...)

Bridget Riley (I think I see where we're going here...)

Paula Rego (definitely getting the pattern...)

I'm gonna take a wild stab in the dark and say that when he talks about women artists not passing "the market test, the value test”, that he isn't thinking of Gentileschi, but more the likes of Tracey Emin who once admitted that some of her "best" drawings were done while she was blind drunk.

Ah, yeah honey, we could tell.

But that is what the "contemporary art world" wants. Crap.

But it's not Real.

There still are real artists, and plenty of them are women.

Only the Real counts. And it always wins.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Outnerd your nerdy friends

Learn to sing in Quenya.

Then send a note to that guy who wrote that thing on that blog...

(Here's a version with the lyrics so you can start singing it the next time someone disses Tolkien in your presence.)


Thursday, February 13, 2014

I knew liked her

Gretchen Wilson says, enough with the "animal rights" stuff. Why don't you go protect the humans for a change, hippies!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Going into a coma... must hold on... losing ... consciousness...

When I started in this biz, it was doing legislative analysis. I used to pick apart bills and consult experts and write looooong treatises about exactly, and in minute detail, what was wrong with them. I loved it. I would do it for hours and hours, and hate to be interrupted. I would shift my hours around to come into the office in the afternoons and stay late into the night so I didn't have to be distracted by other people. It was meticulous and painstaking and I couldn't get enough of it.

Well, I'm doing it now again today, and ...

kill me...




Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Conversation with a well-known American Catholic reporter on Vatican press accreditation:

"For the Parousia? I think you don't need a press pass for that one. I think you can just show up."


Quo vadis?

I was in the crowd that day. It was Benedict's last Angelus. Everyone was in tears, young and old.

It seemed that, in slow motion before me, an assistant television cameraman put his hand to his mouth in a cartoon-like gesture of astonishment, the monsignor sitting next to me started to sob quietly, Archbishop Gänswein’s shoulders seemed to drop. The cardinals leaned forward to make sure they understood precisely what was being said and I found myself checking that my jaw wasn’t dropping open. Then there was silence.


Obscure English saint of the week

St. Gilbert of Sempringham
(All from the Anglican Breviary)

For the legend:
This Gilbert was born the son of a Norman nobleman and his Saxon wife, in the castle of Sempringham, about the year 1098, and grew up a sickly, ill-favoured lad, little beloved of his father or the soldiers of the castle. But his mother strove to turn his thoughts to the love and sufferings of Christ; and at last, because he could not be a soldier, he decided to become a scholar, and went to Paris to study; where he applied himself to such good effect that he returned home with a well-deserved name for Christian hardihood, learning and goodness, and so straightway won the hearts of all.

Thereupon he started a free school for boys and girls, making no discrimination as to race or rank. Which thing was marvellous in the days after the Norman Conquest, when hatred still reigned between the Saxons and their conquerers. Whereafter the Bishop of Lincoln took him into the episcopal household for training, and ordained him priest against his own expressed wish.

But Gilbert refused certain proffered dignities, and returned to Sempringham as parish priest, where he used the revenues of the parish largely for the poor, himself content with bare necessities. And he was so successful in stirring up his parishioners to sanctity that many began to seek a life of special dedication.

In those days houses of religion were few and far between in England, and the mad excesses of a war of conquest had led to a decline in manners, morals and learning and in particular had brought about a lowered respect for women. Wherefore Gilbert set himself to do something in remedy of all these matters. To which end he founded a house of nuns, strictly enclosed, hard by his parish Church of St. Andrew in Sempringham; and afterwards a house of canons, whose purpose was to provide both spiritual and earthly sustenance for these women. The nuns followed the Benedictine rule and the canons the Augustinian but to both Gilbert gave, with the help of his friend St. Bernard of Clairvaux, special constitutions in protection of the peculiar vocation of his order.

Which same was the only order of purely English origin founded before the dissolution of the monasteries, and was, even in the founder's lifetime, greatly blessed and extended.

The farming of the lay brethren did much to develop English agriculture, and their growing of sheep and weaving of wool laid the foundation for England's great cloth industry; whereas the priories became schools of holiness and Christian culture for the whole nation

Gilbert himself lived a life of prodigious fasting and self-inflicted hardship; besides which he suffered many calumnies from a revolt of some lay brethren against the order's austerities; and he had to endure imprisonment as a result of his friendship with Saint Thomas [Becket].

But nevertheless, he lived in the exile of this world for over an hundred years, before God took him home to heaven in 1190, on February 4th. At which time his order counted seven hundred men and sixteen hundred women. He was buried in the Sempringham Priory church, and canonised in 1202; but no man knoweth whither his relicks were taken when the priory was destroyed at the dissolution of the monasteries.

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications which we [slightly belatedly] make before Thee on the feast of blessed Gilbert, thy holy Confessor; that we who put not our trust in our own righteousness, may be succoured by the prayers of him that found favour in thy sight.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Well, as long as it's said "reverently"...

Ah, no.

I went to visit those nuns at Rosano last week and had a lovely time, but one of the conversations depressed me and I remained depressed until I got home and had cuddled the cat. I had cautiously broached the liturgical subject, asking the sisters if they had ever considered returning to the "Forma Straordinaria". They said that first, of course, the "forma straordinaria" for nearly 2000 years, was simply the "forma". Nothing "straordinaria" about it. Which was good.

Then they said that the form we have now, the NO, was ordered by the Council Fathers (I was hard put not to correct her on this error) and that as it had also been approved by the popes since then, they felt they had to adhere to it. But then in my conversation with the Cardinal, he built on this, saying that the purpose behind the monastery retaining the New Mass was to try to demonstrate that it too could be reverent and Catholic, and did not have to fall into the trap of the experimentation that had become rampant.

I left it at that, saying that I had found his celebration of the Mass for the Purification very edifying. And I had. But I had also noted that in following along in my EF missal, that this was one of those rare points of convergence where the readings and propers for the feast matched in the old and the new. There was very little divergence, so I was able to genuinely tell the sisters that the Mass, especially with their use of Gregorian for the propers in, was indeed very beautiful, and a liturgical model that others ought to emulate... which pleased them very much.

But the fact is that the NO is irreformable, so deformed is it from its original source. Frankly, the "reform of the reform" is a dead letter, not because there is a new pontificate, a new pope with... shall we say other priorities... but because it was not a very good idea. It was optimistic and founded in good intentions, but that's as much as can be said for it. It was also naive and failed to take into account the realities of how much damage was done to the ancient rites by those whose singular determination was to eradicate the theology that supported it. And now we have seen how much damage this liturgical revolution has done to the Faith, and to the faithful.

"...the complete overhaul of the propers of the Mass;10 the replacement of the Offertory prayers with modern compositions; the abandonment of the very ancient annual Roman cycle of Sunday Epistles and Gospels; the radical recasting of the calendar of saints; the abolition of the ancient Octave of Pentecost, the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima and the Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost; the dissolution of the centuries-old structure of the Hours; and so much more.

"To draw the older and newer forms of the liturgy closer to each other would require much more movement on the part of the latter form, so much so that it seems more honest to speak of a gradual reversal of the reform..."

It's good to see that even in our times the Real is breaking through, even in places that had been dedicated to this wishful modernist Fantasy.



Remember my dream job? This is Skomer Island. And these are the puffins.

(At 2:04 minutes... puffin kissy-face! I'm gonna die!)



Next time someone tells you that their proposed legislation on euthanasia, IVF, cloning, abortion or any of the other death-cult favourites has been "fully approved by ethicists" you can show them this.

As someone once said, "Bioethics: we call it that because "the-science-of-figuring-out-who-we-can-kill"

is too long.
The two are quick to note that they prefer the term “after-birth abortion“ as opposed to ”infanticide.” Why? Because it “[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.”

The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated.

Ah yes, good old Monash University. We know it well.


Friday, February 07, 2014

Awesome 350 calorie lunch for your low cal Friday:

A friend has recommended this 5-2 thing. I think the hopes of me actually getting thinner are extremely... errr, thin. Most of the process of weight loss/gain has to do with hormones, and after All That, and particularly (h-word) my endocrine system is completely buggered up, even with the HRT drugs. But even without thinking about weight-loss, lowering caloric intake is a good idea, or so all the latest research shows.

Even if we're not eating badly, even if we're buying fresh from Whole Foods or the local farmers, eating too much is still pretty bad for us. That and sitting around. (My sedentary habits are really making me worry.) The idea that everyone needs 2000 cal/day is outdated, and is even possibly dangerous.

So, lately when I'm at home, I'm more or less just eating fish, poultry, fresh fruit and veg, nuts, cheese and yogurt, with lots of tea. Mostly one main meal a day and a little grazing for the rest. On Wed's and Fri's I drop down a bunch of calories. Doesn't seem to be hurting at all...

Prep time about 20 mins:

1 swordfish steak
1 cup oyster mushrooms
1 clove garlic
20g butter
pinch of salt

1 cup broccoletti, chopped
tsp chicken stock powder

Wash the broccoletti, pull off any yucky bits, chop off the tough ends of the stems, then chop into little bits, about an inch long. Into the pan with a cup or so water, tsp chicken stock powder. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let it simmer/steam over a lowish heat. (I did this the other day, but failed to wash the greens first, and got lovely crunchy grit in my teeth. So do the washing.)

Melt the butter in another pan and break up the mushrooms into bite size bits, toss on the warm butter and saute with the minced garlic over a low heat. When the mushrooms are starting to release their juice, throw in the fish, sprinkle with a wee bit of salt and cover the pan. Let it all cook for 10 mins.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan (don't over cook) and flip the fish and let it brown a bit for a minute or two. When the fish is done, take some of the chicken/broccoletti stock from the other pan and deglaze the fish and mushroom stuff.

Load it all onto a plate.



People from the developed world really just eat too damn much food and sit too much and judging from the ever-increasing girth of most of the people you see around you, the 2000/day notion really does seem overly simplistic. Each person is different. With my buggered up system, even with the HRT, I've been getting along just dandy on about 1500/day, and I haven't lost any weight at all.

And I never buy bread or pasta or anything with sugar in it. I eat a little bread about once a week when I join the gang for our post-Mass lunch in the City, but that's only because the waiter brings it to you without you asking.

Having been largely off sugar for a few years now, I think we have seen that sensitivity rises. Judging from the awful reaction I had this week, I can't imagine what the heck was going on with me before I gave it up entirely. I cringe now to think how much sugar I consumed!

"But I get so hungry!" Cut out the carbs. The feeling of hunger is not your stomach being empty or your body craving nutrition. It's a hormonal signal your organs produce based on other hormonal signals. If you're eating too many complex carbs or sugar, it's getting turned into glucose in your blood and your liver and pancreas are working too hard and getting overloaded. Your body produces the "You're hungry!" signal in response to chemical changes in your bloodstream. If you eat too much of the stuff that triggers the system, you're going to get the signal when your body doesn't need food for fuel. So you're eating sugar or carbs that get turned rapidly into glucose, which triggers the hungry-hormone, which makes you eat more, and what you're probably eating more of is the same carbs and sugar stuff that started it, ad infinitum... oh wait, no. Ad obesitum, and diabetes, heart disease and cancer (yes, cancer).

All of which is the nutshell version of why the 1st worlders are fat. We eat nothing but processed food, all of which has sugar added. All. Sugar = hormone imbalance = obesity. And I'll say it again: there's sugar in damn near every single thing we eat that's processed or packaged. That means everything except for fresh food. Don't. Eat. Sugar.

And watch out for boredom eating. This is a big one for me. I work on the computer, so sitting and looking at the screen for long hours prompts me to want to stand up and walk around pretty often to clear my brain. Where do my feet have to go in the flat? Usually to the kitchen. I eat to take my mind off work and my eyes off the screen.

Working on it. Those nice nuns gave me a copy of the Farnborough Monastic Diurnal, so I'm thinking maybe I have somewhere else for my brain to go when it can't stand the screen any more. We'll see how it goes.


...and Canadian

And at the same time, I'm Canadian to my core.

Nearly every morning, I wake up with a song playing in my head. My brain has done this most of my life. It's like I have an iTunes programme in my brain, loaded with every song I've ever heard, set to random shuffle. I guess it's from having woken up every morning to the clock radio playing the CBC morning show.

This morning, it was this one. I hummed it as I fed the cat her breakfast and put the coffee on.

This also makes me cry.

These days, when someone asks where I'm from, I often just start stammering and don't know how to answer.

Stan Rogers, the avatar of Canadianness.


Cheshire drawl

When I listen to this, it's like being briefly transported back to my childhood. 1972 was the year we went back to England. And then when we came back to Canada again, Grandma listened to Coronation Street every day.

(Note, in Grandma's house, we didn't watch, we "listened" to television programmes. The television was often referred to absentmindedly as the "wireless". When people wonder how I ended up being such a temporal anomaly, a walking anachronism one might say, five minutes glimpse into my upbringing would answer all questions. It's often the way with colonials, we tend to live in time-bubbles. While the mother country moved on, Victoria and the Island was stuck in a kind of temporal amber. Sadly, it's since broken free and caught up. There's no going back via that route, unfortunately.)

Accent is still a huge deal in Britain, with the way you speak marking you in both your region and your class. Children with an accent considered "lower class" or from an unfashionable region are still ridiculed and even bullied, and not by other kids, but by teachers! When this happened in the village school to one of my little cousins, who grew up in Blackburn, Lancashire, I was beside myself with rage, and had to be stopped from marching down to the school to tear a strip up one side his teacher and down the other.

With my Canadian accent, no one seemed to know where I fit, and it was rather nice because, being outside the scale, I was accepted by everyone.

In my family, that is to the very bottom of its collective gene pool from Cheshire and Manchester, I was a bit of an oddity. One of my cousins, known for his bluntness and at the age of about ten, I think, said one day, "Well, you're posh." I responded that it might be so, but it wasn't my fault. He graciously agreed.

But when I was little, I sounded pretty much exactly like this kid.

One day, I was riding the train into Rome and a big group of tourists came on and they all spoke with the Manchester accent, and I couldn't resist talking to them. We got on famously.


Love the English!

Just found these. When I was little, I had the same accent as the two dogs, husband and wife, on the sofa. It's Cheshire. I sounded like a child extra from Coronation Street.

This video made me laugh and cry in equal parts, and generated such a pang of homesickness for Cheshire and the Fam that I looked around the flat and started wondering briefly how much it might cost to rent a big van and just drive me and the stuff and Winnie back again.

Me and Uncle Mike, Sept. 2007

The gang in the garden on Sophie's 11th birthday...

We could camp in the van for a bit...Maybe get a flat in Chester...

But then, Council Tax...



Thursday, February 06, 2014


It's paper. Paper head-slinkies.

From an artistic culture that's just got too much damn time on its collective hands.



Wait, what?

It's Thursday?!

Bloody hell!

Sorry I missed a day. I've been trying to concentrate on posting something every day.

I looked at the stats for this site a while ago, and noticed that after hitting a peak of just over 1000 posts in 2008, the year I moved here, the number of posts per year has dwindled down to a rather sad 266 in 2013. I think I know why. In 2008, I started using Facebook for throwing up little bitty things, links to articles, dumb stuff that made me laugh for a second, and stopped doing that here. I'm sure that was the majority of the decline.

But despite this, I have seen that the same c. 500 people still come every day. The number of readers in our little picnic club has remained steady for most of the ten years I've been doing this. This is exactly how I like it. I know how to "boost site stats," and could certainly go around the net crassly promoting the blog by leaving comments and links and pathetically begging for attention, but we both know that's not what this is for.

It's more like a salon, where new people are welcome if they are properly introduced, get the jokes and have enough social skills not to go about insulting the other guests or dropping cake crumbs on the carpet.

A few weeks back, Mike Matt posted a link to something of mine to The Remnant's site, and it got the most single-page hits of any post I've ever posted, 1523 (at today's count). Most of my posts get an average of about 30-40. Rod Dreher linked to a link that our buddy Steve Skojec put up of something I'd written about the two popes and Anne Catherine Emmerich (1065) and every now and then, Kathy Shaidle links her behemoth blog to something I've done, and we have to run around and get the sails down before the storm hits. But on the whole, it's about 30-50, with the really popular ones shooting up to 200.

I'm quite happy with the status quo here. You guys are like a little club, and it's really been fun working out ways to keep y'all entertained over the last decade (Holy moly!!) and I think we're going to try to keep things just the same.

Time keeps going, and things keep changing, but we don't have to pay attention to that here.

But I will try to post more often.

Meanwhile, here's some more Blues Brothers


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

It's Blast-from-the-Past Tuesday here at the Picnic

OK Picnickers, you guys have been so good, I'm gonna play DJ and expand your musical consciousnesses, with an all-80s, all-day festival of your 20s...

Music you thought you'd forgotten all about from the days when your pink jeans were so tight around your ankles you had to have little zippers to get your feet into them; when you wouldn't be caught dead going outside without your pink hair teased and hairsprayed up two feet above your eyebrows...

Bet you still know all the words...

Go ahead, dance. No one's looking...

Did you wear parachute pants?

OK, now we calm down a bit and go out east



Dear Trads,

Please be less crazy.


Mike Matt.

(Also, "air-copulation"!! HAW!!)


Monday, February 03, 2014


When I was very young, the little old ladies still, believe it or not, wore flowered hats and white gloves when they went out to do the shopping and meet their friends in Victoria's tearooms. They were the daughters, often spinsters, of the men who had built the town in the late 19th and early 20th century. Until the 1980s, Victoria really was not only an English colonial town, but an Edwardian English colony.

What is now only a conceit of the tourist industry, with its tawdry "Ye bitte of olde Englande" tourist traps and double-decker buses that take you to the Butchart Gardens, was then simply the cultural reality. Nearly all the kids in my school had parents with native English accents, usually from the southeast. The Home Counties.

Those little old ladies were a town treasure, living, usually alone, in the sprawling Edwardian houses their fathers built, looking after their gardens, keeping watch over the fin de siecle. Everyone deferred to them. As kids, we used to fight over who got to stand up and offer them our seats on the bus.

Between these ladies and my grandma, the ladies in grandma's neighbourhood and some of my friends' grandmas, I grew up thinking very highly of little old ladies and littleoldlady-hood in general.

Then one day, I looked around and noticed something quite different. The LOLs had morphed into something new, and not so admirable. I realised then that I had been taking it for granted that somehow, no matter what sort of person on started out as, one would ultimately mature into one of these treasure-ladies, that this was the natural process of life. But it finally dawned on me, sometime about 1983, that the little old ladies I had known were the products of a particular cultural millieu, one that had died with them. The difference in manner that I started seeing with the next generation was not encouraging.

Then the horrible thought occurred, what kind of old ladies are my mother's generation going to produce? And what about mine?

I think this question is what the Congregation for Religious should be asking themselves right now.

What kind of old lady is the current world producing? Well, the sort that their children aren't going to find too difficult to suggest euthanasia to, is my guess.


Increasingly, I feel about "the news".

Alain de Botton is one of the few public atheists I've got the time of day for. He seems to be trying very hard to explain the world, particularly the modern world, and answer the same questions religious people ask, in a way that atheists can understand. Lately, he's been having a go at the world of the media.

It feels like there is always an infinite amount of news, so much is happening in the world every day. A newspaper could be 1,000 pages long and hardly scratch the surface. Perhaps if you really cared about the news, you'd read more and more of it?

Yet there's a strange thing that goes on. After a while it becomes clear that the same kinds of events are recurring again and again. The details of the story change, but the core issue is the same.

For me, the news isn't just my living, it's my life.

I've often said that I've spent the last ten to fifteen years writing the same news story over and over. I wonder if that is such a very good thing...


All their wars are merry

and all their songs are sad

A new song for Dublin...


Sunday, February 02, 2014

I'm back. It was... weird...

Me on a massive insulin dose:

So, get home and no one's been here for three days and the house is freezing, dark and damp. Cat's gone insane with loneliness and is hungry and doesn't know whether to claw me in fury for leaving her by herself again or leap into my arms in joy at having company. She circles back and forth, follows me around the house as I put things away and putter aimlessly about, demanding to be picked up again every time I put her down to do something with my left hand. In the end I just decide to carry her around under one arm. She dangles there, purring rather pathetically and squeaking now and then.

It's raining and dark and horrible out and I'm cold, damp, cranky and wildly out of sorts. So, I go to turn the heat on. I stagger out onto the balcony and squint at the digital display, which is flashing double-zeros. It does that when it's not been turned on for a few days. You have to twist the dial thingy under it until the display shows 1.1, then push the button twice.

So, I'm sitting here, now, three hours later wondering why the house is still freezing. Yeah, it's because you have to actually twist the dial thingy and push the button twice, instead of just thinking that you ought to do that and then getting distracted and wandering off to do something else because your brain has stopped working.

Why has my brain stopped working? Because nuns. Nuns, even though you tell them plainly, "I can't eat sugar" seem not to be able to understand what "I" and "can't" and "eat" and "sugar" mean when you put them together into a sentence. Maybe they thought it means "I'm not going to take sugar in my tea today" or "I'll take it easy on the biscuits".

Apparently, what it absolutely doesn't mean is "Sugar makes me violently ill, so please don't guilt me into eating a fancy, expensive and insanely sweet meringue dessert that you bought for us specially because it was a feast day and because there's an important and famous cardinal staying in the guesthouse."

It was a really nice lunch, and the cardinal was very famous and important, but also extremely intelligent, holy and Catholic and friendly, and the dessert - which was a combination of sugar, egg whites, sugar, whipped cream, sugar, chocolate and a bit of sugar on top - of which there were exactly three, one each, was clearly purchased specially for the occasion. I more or less had to eat it because the nun was standing right there looking all "If you don't eat that, our little nunny feelings are going to be hurt".

So I ate it. And then I packed up and got on the train and went home, and by the time I was in Florence looking for a train to Rome, I was in full insulin shock melt-down. It's like being drugged. First you get insanely thirsty, then you realise you can't see or think straight, then the sleepiness hits you like one of those curare-laced darts those guys use in the Amazon to hunt monkeys, and you slide off into a kind of opium-like state of altered consciousness and physical paralysis that you're disinclined to call "sleep" because of all the interesting nightmares.

When this wears off - and the train is pulling into Termini - you swim back up blearily to a state of semi-consciousness and discover you have a headache that feels like the top of your head is being removed by a tiny man inside your skull with a little Lego-sized jackhammer.

Then you are in Termini train station, with its blasting announcements every ten seconds, and huge crowds of jostling travelers, whining gypsies and 50 pushy Bangladeshi umbrella salesmen per square foot, and you just want to start shoving people into oncoming trains. GET. OUT. OF. MY. WAY...

Somehow, you find yourself at the home-track and sitting on the train, but you don't remember how you got there, except that there were crowds involved, and possibly some shouting. The blue flickering light on the train, and the suffocating heat (it's "winter" don't you know!) combine to crank up the crankiness to a fever pitch... oh wait, no, that's just a fever.

When you get off the train, you carry your coat over your arm because you've been sweltering in that damn train car for an hour and a half and the rain and the coolth are like a blessing from a forgiving God.

It's cold. I'm home. The Tiber and the Arno look like they're about to flood.

When I told him at dinner the other night that the thing I fear most for the Church is the return of "the spirit of 1976," the famous and important curial cardinal, who was once on quite a few papabile lists, said, "Yes, that spirit has returned. Please pray for the Church."

So, that too...

Somehow, that retreat didn't quite work out the way I'd hoped.