Friday, 9 December 2016

The path to sainthood.

A post by Piers Paul Reid in the Catholic Herald has I think got to the root of the issues surrounding the fallout around that weighty and worrisome document Amoris Laetitia. However, I thoroughly disagree with his line of argument and with his tentative conclusion. You can read the whole post here. I am going to attack it here from the quiet seclusion of my blog. My attack will somewhat oblique and what is written below will stand up for itself and doesn't need the background of the article in the Herald.

Here goes:

The spiritual life has often been considered as a long ascent towards God.  As I see it, there are stages in this ascent.  At the base is a garish seaside town with many distractions, you have to climb up a cliff to break free from them.  The path is well trod and it is fairly obvious where you ought to stick your feet.  The path meanders away from the town and as you climb you realise that at the base of the cliff is a surging sea and unpleasant looking rocks.  This path can go on for what seems like an age.  It is easy to double back and return to the town, the path is boring and doesn't seem to be going anywhere.  Whilst the rocks look unpleasant, you feel fairly sure the path is sturdy and you won't be falling back anytime soon, what does it matter if you go back?  It only matters in the fact that the next time you try to climb, it will provide you with fresh challenges and you will have less and less resources to deal with them.  Sin weakens your ability to see the path clearly and sin makes what you do away from your spiritual life seem justifiably OK.  Each time you attempt the climb you will make less progress. Worldliness will give you blisters and discomfort.

However I am sure saints have been made who have hardly begun the ascent: their constant battle to even begin the climb has been a struggle of heroic virtue for them. They have been truly full of contrition in the confessional and been frequently, they have made good use of the sacraments and they have a holy fear of offending God. These are the souls who often die shortly after overcoming some sin that they have been going to the confessional for years with.

For those who see nothing of interest in the town and climb because they don't know what else they should be doing, the gradual distance from the town and from the rocks below the path are a comfort of sorts and they plod on.  Falls can be painful, the path becomes ever more treacherous and the climber knows they are ever more reliant on God.  And the souls here learn the praise of God and learn to sing it all the more frequently. There are saints who have never got further than this.  It is the spiritual enemies they have had to overcome to get this far that have brought them into the arms of their loving God. A less good hearted person on this stage who dies before reaching the end of it will most certainly make purgatory.

If you get to the top of the cliffs, what lies beyond is terrible.  It is a flat plateau and in the distance rise some magnificent mountains.  Overhead eagles circle. The plateau is boggy, there is no clear path to the mountains.  In this stage lies isolation.  There is silence.  In this spiritual place you are alone with God, and often simply alone.  Yet in the real world, you will be surrounded by souls who need your assistance, who look to you for advice, who consider you to be a good and holy sort of person.  You don't believe a word of it.  You have lost your moral compass, you no longer have any sense of anything other than trust in God. Moral arguments and virtue stop meaning anything, but it is the abhorrence of sin and the holy fear of offending God that keep you able to sing His praise in this wilderness.  Spiritual death can happen here usually at the hands of despair  as you deliberately fall headlong into the bog rather than trusting God to lead you along the path you can't see towards the mountains that aren't getting any closer. And the devil will be bellowing in your ear that it is pointless, that you are wasting your time, that nothing is worthwhile, that there is no happiness to be found in what you are doing, that what you are doing must be wrong because it brings no reward. And the devil attaches weights to your arms and legs and you plod on.

You see, there is no predestination.  God wants us all to be saints and that is our calling.  We can become saints at any stage along the way provided we trust in God and humbly know we are incapable of anything without Him.  We can end up in hell from any stage through trusting in ourselves and through allowing worldly distractions to take over.  The way to hell  feels a lot pleasanter than the road away from hell until it is nearly too late to escape from it.

You see, we all need the sacraments.  We all need the grace of God.  We all need to cast off the old Adam and let our souls flourish as we learn to love God more and more.

But the sacraments aren't a right.  Nobody has a right to receive.  Nobody is worthy of receiving the Eucharist. If the sacraments are the food on the journey, then like ordinary food they need to be digested properly, but there can be a thousand and one things wrong with the gut. It is wrong to say that frequent reception of the sacraments will be a sure fire way to make progress, in the same way it is wrong to say that eating is always a good thing.  It is wrong to say they in some way they are a nutritious tonic that can only do good. That turns them into magic and magic they are not. The sacraments are more the resting places along the way than the food taken on the way.  They are the holy rest in the arms of God. So if the sacraments are taken in order to be busy, like a nutrition bar to help you climb, you will sooner or later slip up again and everything will become so much harder.  The sacraments aren't about you.  They are about God. And God will provide you with all you need for the journey, provided you humbly rest with Him along the way.

My point being that the sacraments are not a panacea and should not be treated as such. They won't always do you good. Especially if you are presumptuous enough to believe you have a right to them.  Surely there is a great sin in encouraging souls to approach the sacraments as a never failing, sweet tasting medicine that will cure you as if by magic in isolation to everything else. The real cure lies in a change of lifestyle, a clearer determination to follow the path, receiving the sacraments worthily and giving yourself over totally in loving submission to the will of the Divine Physician.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

sine dolore .....

sine dolore non vivitur in amore....

To me this is the reality of love, and there can be no amoris laetitia without this sorrow.  Sorrow is not part of sin, sorrow is the healing and moving away from sin and the love in sorrow goes something like this, (let George Tyrell explain):

It means the perfecting of our instinctive affections; recognising in them the impulse of the Divine will drawing men first to one another, and through one another to Itself, as the Supreme Lover, and centre of all attraction.  It means restraint and sacrifice and the sword of separation shrinks from no present pain for the sake of after bliss ..... And it will show itself in ceaseless toil and labour for the beloved; in endless endeavour to communicate with him what we see and to love what we love; to break down every wall of separation or unsympathy that stands between soul and soul; to find ever richer treasures ourselves that we may have more to share, more costly and precious fuel to feed love's flame; to learn new arts and sciences that we may impart them to the beloved; to wean our hearts from all that is spurious, untrue, lest we hurt so much as a hair of his head ..... ; to find God alone that pearl of great price, that common Friend who is the bond of all friendship, in whom all other pure and noble sympathies are united.

So sorrowful love isn't crushingly unpleasant, but it is the reality of love, the love that comes from our Faith, it is how Christ loves us.  This love is the love that should exist between a man and a woman, but it is a love that makes no distinctions, it is also the love that can and should exist between members of the same sex in true, close friendship.

And this is why I find Amoris Laetita such a disappointing document. It is a pastoral document to deal with love which has fallen short of this sorrowful ideal.  Yet the pastoral approach has already been  made, and made somewhat reluctantly by St Paul when he says in 1Cor 7:

 But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.  Let the husband render the debt to the wife and wife also in like manner to the husband... Defraud not one another except, perhaps by consent, for a time, that you may give yourself to prayer, and return together, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.  But I speak this by indulgence not by commandment.

Surely 'the debt' that is to be rendered is our affection, our constancy and trustworthyness?  It is not enforced sex 'for fear of fornication'.  I have a cd at home of a talk given by a sincere, well meaning but utterly stupid priest of the 'traditional' persuasion that at one point blames women for not having sex with their husbands, if the husband goes on to masturbate or have an extra-marital.  Whatever happened to being responsible for your own sins?  And I am reminded of a sweet old lady, long dead who sighed when we started talking about sex, how she found it so utterly unpleasant, but how 'he needed his comfort', like jam sponge and custard and warm slippers, it was just something else she provided to see to her husband's 'needs'.  In this case, the man is hardly living up to an ideal of masculinity and the wife is not helping him to.

Surely it is the striving for chaste love within a marriage that is the goal? Surely chaste sex is a reality?  Indeed it is precisely because sex at its most beautiful is meant to be a chaste experience, it is precisely because its end is a sharing in the creative forces of God's love that no further concessions other than the one St Paul speaks of (to defraud each other occasionally- ie. consentual lust within the bond of marriage) are necessary.  Sex per se is not a good.

At this time we should be looking no further than towards the parents of the  Blessed Virgin as we approach the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Let us not forget their role in the Immaculate Conception.  They were not hapless, unwitting 'vehicles' for God's will, no, God loves us all too much for that.  Ss Joachim and Anne would surely agree with Tyrell's description of love if the stories of their love are true as I believe them to be.  Indeed in the Immaculate Conception, there has never been such an act of chaste love between two married people, and in language that I may have borrowed from Douglas Adams; that was "the best bang since the big one". Good sex is that important, that precious, that capable of bringing forth all that is good, beautiful and true.

So let us not kvetch over unanswered and possibly unanswerable dubia (the nature of the document may make the dubia unanswerable).  Whatever state we find ourselves in, can we not strive to be ambassadors for Christ in our chaste, wholesome and sorrowfully joyful love for each other.  The document ceases to have any relevance at all if only we embark on this journey, and that has to be a good thing.

Jam sponge and custard


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Saint Sernin

Toulouse is the only city in France I've ever really got to know.  Indeed the more I got to know it, the less "french" it seemed.  Maybe "french" only exists in the imagination, maybe once you get to know anywhere in France it is just like anywhere else and all that near mythical "frenchness" vanishes. There is something about the French and France that is in love with itself and apart from the Russians (whom they seem to get on very well with) I have never met people with such belief in themselves.  It is a type of pride I quite like, but simply don't ask me to buy into the reality of their superiority in cuisine, culture, language and sex. I could never shake it off in Paris, and I found Paris claustrophobic, self-obsessed, rude, arrogant and empty as a result.  Toulouse isn't charged like that, it just gets on with being an important regional city and its food and culture are nothing to write home about.  It is a city, and it gets on with being one without any mystique.

Today is the feast of St Saturnius, the martyred first Bishop of Toulouse, (+257AD).  The last time I was at the basilica dedicated to him, I was sat outside with a good friend downing a diet coke, it was a few years ago. She is a religious sister from Pondicherry, outwardly gloriously un-pious and this being France, I looked more like a professed religious sister than she did.  I can look dour and drab and always wear a cross. She was in a brightly coloured shalwar kameez. We were trying to work out what it was that God wanted from us.  Why had she become a religious sister in Pondicherry to find herself in France getting shouted at by elderly French sisters for never doing anything right? Why was God agreeing with the wishes of my dying husband that I should re-marry when I'm hardly a prize catch?  Yet that is the calling I have had and the approach God desired I take to become a wife again involved such passivity, chastity and modesty, 'modern man' would pull away from any sense that we may actually be soul mates because I didn't respond in a modern way to his advances. He'd chase something easier. I puzzled him too much, there was no manual to explain me. Besides why would 'modern man' want a skinny bint, past her prime with poor health and too many brains? That day in late summer in Toulouse was full of questions with no answers.  Perhaps I was just in training and had not yet found the match God wanted for me.  Perhaps my friend was destined for something better, once she learnt to curb her mobile phone use and her daydreaming.  We were both well aware of our own faults.

God's ways and desires were puzzling us greatly. We hadn't got our wires crossed, we were trying to follow our vocations, there was a gradual getting closer to God and a growing sense of peace in the process. Our paths were real and right.  But they were also frustrating.

Nothing changes.

Dear Saint Sernin does seem to have a message for me today.  He never envisaged being tied to a bull that had been meant for pagan sacrifice and dragged through the streets of Toulouse till his brains and blood were spattered all point of the compass.

But isn't that the way of the Christian, at least metaphorically, if not literally? We get tied to the raging bull of the world and it will destroy us, but in the process little bits of us will be left here and there, like blessings, working who knows what miracles. bringing who knows what lights into the lives of others? Well, that is how we ought to see ourselves, n'est-ce pas?

St Saturnius pray for us.

Friday, 25 November 2016

dubia problem solved

The most recent colleague to join the science department is a Bearded Dragon, he joins a lively department of weary but good natured humans, rats, stick insects, fish, snails and a Leopard Gecko. Indeed the rats even took an excellent Physics lesson the other week on the difference between scalars and vectors for which I take no credit whatsoever.

In finding out about my new nearest neighbour, I came across references to their favourite food. I'm just wondering if the Cardinals know that their dubia could have been eaten by any number of hungry lizards and amphibians. It would certainly explain the Holy Father's current inability to address the critters.

More than 5 dubia roaches

Image result for dubia roaches

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The elephant in the room

Does voting for any political party, voting in any referendum, indeed voting for anything actually build up the Kingdom of God.  In other words is voting a human act whose outcome ever has merit?  Because, if we are going to get all Catholic about this, and we ought to be getting all Catholic about this (if that is who we are), then the only merit there is, the only rewards of our acts that have any meaning at all are those which brick by brick build up the Kingdom of God.

Here are some possible tests of the intrinsic worthyness of our vote:

(1) It must be done to please God. We can vote, or not vote (which is still a type of voting) based on this consideration.  Though in any day, most of our acts will be far more pleasing to God that this occasional act.  God's unfathomable love for us probably doesn't register elections and voting as more meritorious or delightful than a gentle smile to a disaffected youth at the supermarket checkout, or remaining civil whilst speaking to persons in distant call centres.

(2) Voting must be disinterested.  It must be done without a wiff of self-interest.  It must be done in charity, thinking entirely about "the other"; ie thinking of God and neighbour. I'd say we can vote in this manner, but it is not easy.

(3) If our acts are to be meritorious then they must be morally good (as opposed to bad or indifferent). I personally think voting is morally indifferent. It is something that happens and it affects us all.  You can be involved to a greater or lesser extent. It is part of the fabric of society, but the act of sticking a cross on a ballot paper is morally indifferent. That the choice of vote may cover some morally troubling issues, some gravely so, doesn't lessen this fact.  Choosing the "lesser of two evils" is still choosing evil.  We cannot do this.  Therefore our participation in the voting procedure has to be amoral. Morality is not the be-all and end-all of everything.  Charity "trumps" morality.

(4) A necessary outcome of any meritorious act in ourselves ought to be greater humility.  It is only in our humility that we can serve God. So when "our party" wins, so when a referendum goes "our way", there ought to be no smugness, no dancing on the tables, no elation.  We ought to act like the losers we are and see the faults in our arguments, see the goodness in the opposition (and there is some) and get on with getting the message of the Gospel out in whatever subversive manner we are called to do so.

Far more important than any media-hyped vote is to be a voice for God in the tragically secular world; standing up for His rights, His laws and our dignity as His creation.  And what happens on election day is trivial compared to what we ought to be doing the rest of the time.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Through the window.....

The news that Rome is thinking of accepting the nomination of Bishops put forward by the Chinese Government should have sent me into a seething rage.  But I cannot summon up an emotional response. It isn't that I don't care.  I care deeply.  I have and always will support the Underground Church in China.  I do not think it is wise of Rome to do what it is thinking of doing.  But I've got beyond feeling pain now about anything that happens in the Church.

I feel like Michal, King David's first wife watching him through a window as he cavorts near naked before the Ark of the Covenant, impressing the slave girls but not impressing her much.  She thinks his behaviour is inappropriate, she thinks it doesn't honour God as God ought to be honoured, but he does.  Many years ago, Michal had loved David, loved him so much that she risked her life to save him.  She helped him escape from the murderous intent of her father, Saul, sacrificing any future happiness they may have had together to save his life.  Saul then married her off to another man, and now Saul is dead, David has reclaimed her (more to make a legal point than out of love), leaving her poor husband heartbroke.

So there she is looking at the man she loved so much and wondering what he has become.  She is coldly repulsed by him. There will never be conjugal relations between them, though the marriage remains.

And this is the point;  neither David or Michal have broken the First Commandment, there is no lack of love of God from either of them.  But there is unbridgeable gap between them as to how to go about loving God.  They literally can no longer 'make love' together.  Neither is wrong.

So how does the story unfold?  David is blessed by God and promised unfathomable greatness in his descendants, Christ will be born of his line. Michal fades into obscurity, probably helping to look after David's many offspring from his other wives and concubines.  David will go on to commit two great sins.  One, a sin of middle age, staying at home and not fighting; becoming lazy and lustful and going after Bathsheba and having her husband murdered.  One a sin of old age; surveying what he considers to be his prosperity and taking a census rather than properly attributing it all to God and belonging to God.

Michal's life may very well be the more blameless of the two.  Only God knows which of them loved Him the most, but I suspect it was David.  The love of God of a repentant sinner is a work of the utmost glory.

God has a place for both of them in His heart.  And it is the spiritual fecundity that comes from our love of God that matters not the estrangements in our human relationships.  It is much of the human manifestation of the Church that I feel estranged from not its supernatural nature, and I have to keep reminding myself of this fact and somehow keep 'loving my neighbour'.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

life in Sleepy Hollow

My enforced absence from the interwebs here in Sleepy Hollow, deepest Wessex, came to an end last Thursday.  The only real casualty being Ollie Bear who has lost his Blogger Account and is livid.  I have a new internet service provider, a much reduced monthly direct debit and should I require assistance, I am put through to some cheery souls in Northern Ireland who seem to know what they are talking about.  Our conversations have had a background noise of police sirens and I've found this strangely reassuring.

Whilst I was without, life was frustrating.  I'd have to go into work at weekends to use my computer there just to do the day to day things of keeping in touch with distant friends, preparing teaching materials, banking, property management AND chatting on-line with the ever so polite young ladies in India that BT employ to keep their customers at a distance and in the dark.  Work is 25 miles away. This was all extremely irritating.

So what happens when I am reconnected?  Is life suddenly richer, more productive and enjoyable? Hmm, I just seem to be wasting hours in the evenings with music videos on You Tube!

Well it beats thinking about the state of the Church.  It beats trawling round the Catholic blogs and the apocalyptic tone a lot of them are taking.  We've been living in the End Times for 2000 years GET OVER IT!  Get on with loving God and neighbour, delight in the creatures that are in your care (and every person you meet is in your care to some extent, that is the responsibility we have as Catholics).

Back to the videos, I am on holiday, afterall.
Song of the moment to be found here Take it away, dear Ofra (R.I.P)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Critical Dumplings

I've just had a conversation with an A'level student where she wished to discuss, light, heavy and critical dumplings.  I asked her if she meant light, heavy and critical damping and she remained adamant that she wished to discuss dumplings not damping. I felt like I was going pleasantly insane,

But it was damping that she meant, she just couldn't see the word as it was written.  And there I was just about to launch into a talk about how heavy Czech dumplings are, how to make a good suet dumpling and the difficulty of trying to get hold of good Chinese dumplings in Blighty.

The world is full of misread words.... and blogger is the place for them to congregate.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Church of the boy-zone mind

I was recently reminded about returning to school one September back in the early 80s, it was an unpleasant experience because, over the summer holidays my peers had decided they were going to re-invent themselves and become tribal teenagers.  I was just terribly un-cool.  The girls would ascertain which tribe we belonged to by asking as series of probing questions.  Firstly: are you a Durannie or a Culture Clubbie? Secondly: which one is the fittest?  This second question would be posed with the centrefold of a recent Smash Hits open on some pop group or other, and I think the unwritten rule was ‘don’t pick the drummer’.

What a strange time the 80s were! 

I failed miserably with the questions.  Firstly, apparently you HAD to like either Duran Duran or Culture Club, liking neither was not an option.  But I knew more about sackbuts, crumhorns and Stravinsky that I did about Simon le Bon and Boy George so the question was illogical.  As for fancying pop stars, I simply didn’t get that, so by sheer random fluke, I picked the drummer and they laughed nervously.

Igor- never knowingly a Smash Hits centrefold

The girls were then in a bit of a dilemma about which tribe to stick me in. I was neither a Durannie nor a Culture Clubbie and I obviously didn’t understand the rules about what constituted a ‘fanciable male’ so therefore I was a puzzle.  Some girls got away with being different.  Charlie got away with not fitting-in because she was more experienced with boys than most of us and she was into Heavy Metal which nobody argued with.  As for myself, they decided, that I’d simply have to be re-invented by them.  I wouldn’t do as I was, I was too weird.

Two ‘Durannies’ took me into their care, they lived near me, we caught the same bus home.  They painstakingly tried to ‘improve’ my wardrobe with trips into town to visit Chelsea Girl and Top Shop and they encouraged me to listen to the trendy DJ on the local radio station.  I found most of the music and the banter boring and I soon retuned and found John Peel on Radio 1 and was mesmerised by Jamaican dub and post-punk weirdness, and if Peel was playing some tripe, there was always classical music on Radio 3. Luckily, they soon gave up trying to make me look the part too.  Their little bit of social engineering had failed and I made my own stubbornly independent way through the teenage maze.

There is no direct analogy here to how I find myself in the Church.  Though I’m definitely someone much more at home in the older rites than the novus ordo, this is very different from expressing a preference for a certain pop group.  I do not want ever to think that I have been sorted into a tribe because my tastes in liturgy are one way and my theology is definitely not nouvelle.  I do not ever what to be called a ‘trad’.   However, there are those who have a tendency to sort the church into ‘Conciliar’ and ‘Trad’ and in all honesty it is little more than what my peers were doing all those years ago. There is only one Body.  The Church is One because Christ is One.  We are part of the same Body as anyone else who receives the Eucharist and the only way to make that body more Christ-like is to clear out all the crap from our own selves that doesn’t conform to Christ.  Everything else flows from that, and we can only strive for this end if we let Him transform us.

We cannot afford to become insular, navel gazing, smug and filled with 'victimhood', though this is certainly how I find many who would define themselves as 'trad'.  Nor can we attempt to re-design others who are not like us. Souls will be drawn to Christ if we are holy, gentle, generous, kind and good natured, yet also authoritative and uncompromisingly truthful. Souls will not be truly drawn to the Church if they are primarily drawn to a ‘movement’ within the Church.  Beauty, goodness and truth are part of the unity and do not reside in any one subset of the body.  We are creating unnecessary divisions. The real divisions, those which create the biggest battles, are the ones we have within ourselves, the ones linked to pride in our own achievements, our own righteousness, our own sense of self importance, and our own understanding of God. The false understanding that boxes Him in, makes Him into an idol of our own ego; there to do our bidding because we are right, and 'they' are wrong.

(ps: my epic battle with BT  is now in its 4th week).

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Schrödinger’s Chat

 This post may go some way towards explaining my recent absence from the interwebs.  I know my legion of fans are missing me, I can only apologise that the explanation I am about to give does demand some basic familiarity with Quantum Mechanics.

The purpose of having a telephone line is really quite simple.  It is there so that we can communicate instantly with the outside world.  Our landlines may one day become obsolete, but whilst I can, I use my mobile rarely (I’m still using an aged Nokia housebrick and am highly amused by its cult status and the amount of ‘street cred’ it has). I loathe telephones. The broadband connection resides in the same network and is part of the same infrastructure.

Since the beginning of September I have been subjected to something resembling Quantum weirdness in my dealings with the telecommunications giant that manages the infrastructure in the UK (BT), indeed I am left wondering if at some level, Quantum events can take place in the macroscopic world, provided that world is suitably illogical.

One of my neighbours moved out and their phone line and broadband use stopped.  My line was also cut, it had been playing up and was far from stable but now it died.  Apparently other villagers have noticed that if something happens with the line at one house, some other house, not necessarily the nearest, is also affected. Non-locality and ‘spookey action at a distance’ or what?  The wavefunction collapses at one dwelling and another is also affected! (hmmm)

A day or so later, I managed to get through to BT and they said all would be resolved in 24 hours.  I checked on the internet at work to reveal the status of the fault and it was reading both ‘resolved’ and ‘in-progress’ on the same page.  Both quantum states were obviously equally likely and it would take an observation of my router to ascertain what was actually going on.  Working 25 miles from home has some disadvantages.  Anyway, when I got home and observed the router, the wavefunction had definitely collapsed in the ‘not fixed’ state.  The following day I checked the status on-line again and the page still read ‘resolved’ and ‘in-progress’.  I decided to contact customer services using the online chat mechanism. We ‘chatted’ and they assured me it was fixed, I assured them that it wasn’t.  They then decided it wasn’t a broadband problem and it was a problem with the landline which may be causing a secondary issue with the broadband.

A landline engineer was duly summoned and fixed what was wrong with the landline.  I then had to book an engineer to get the broadband working again. I had 24 hours of functioning landline and then in an act so random it lies beyond the realms of quantum physics, engineers working at the exchange made an error and cut off the whole village.  This was a fault that they then did not rectify and it took us all a while to realise that what we were supposed to do was register each fault individually so that they could get fixed individually.  However, unless we are in possession of boring 3G or 4G enabled mobile phones (not uber-cool aged Nokia housebricks), this is equivalent of getting the cadavers to complain about the skill of the executioner.

And in some parallel universe I’ve had broadband all month, because I’ve just received an e-mail telling me that I was close to my 12Gb download limit for September. Parallel me also doesn’t pay her phone bills, I’ve been mistakenly accused on non-payment this week.

And now the fabric of space and time is unravelling and the end is nigh because I have categorically shown that the multiverse exists and indeed communication with other universes is inevitable if you are a BT customer.

I wonder if parallel me is in good health, happy in her work, free from technical incompetence and living out the vocation to which she has been called…? 

ps: still no interwebs at home.....

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The school of love

Life is school.  This bothers me, I don't like school, but life is a school; a school of love.  We are here to learn how to love and we finish our training with death.  There are no repeats if we don't get it right first time, if we don't do as well as we ought to have done. At the moment of death, the stark reality of the depth of our love will be made known, and that is the 'grade' we will have for eternity.  There is no increasing this grade after our bodies have been separated from our souls.

This school throws challenges our way and all we are asked to do is respond with love and in responding with love, learn even more about love and how to love.  Some challenges are part of everyone's curriculum and discipline; the boring everyday work of growing in virtue, the discipline of regular prayer, the 'duties of state' we must undertake and do well and do with goodness in our hearts.

Some challenges are more random and we may wish never to experience them, but they will happen.  Sometimes they are life changing 'accidents', like being caught up in earthquakes, floods or severe illness.  God doesn't coldly sit on His heavenly throne and say: hmm today I'll send an earthquake and see how my little ones react.  Earthquakes happen, floods happen, illness happens.  The fabric of the universe is broken and the cause of that brokenness is our first disobedience and every sin, even minor ones are capable of ripping that interconnected, beautifully weaved, delicate beyond measure fabric to shreds.  It is only God's mercy that prevents this from happening.  But the earthquakes and floods don't mean God as stopped being merciful or somehow forgot to be merciful to prevent them happening. They are part of our school of love.

Most things we learn at school aren't the things on the curriculum or things carefully incorporated into the timetable.  And this is how it is in the school of love.  Random things come our way and the challenge is to respond by putting God first and responding with love.  We cannot plan for them.

Some challenges are part of our vocation.  A vocation is a known path to the Kingdom of God, and there are really only three; priesthood, consecrated religious life and marriage.  God gives us a path to follow, and that path becomes our means of sanctification and everything that happens subsequently is part of that vocation.  Many of the 'lessons' on this course are interior struggles.  Many of the 'lessons' seem nearly cruel, of would be cruel if you didn't respond to them with love. For some, the vocation never gets off the ground, it is never 'consummated' on earth, but the rebellion against it and the battling with the enemy who hates it are what brings us to God.

I was married to a man who should have been a priest, though he never made it through seminary.  But the priesthood was his vocation, God doesn't make mistakes [that men enter the priesthood who shouldn't is not of His doing].  It doesn't mean our marriage was invalid, it doesn't lessen the vocation of marriage, it doesn't mean our marriage wasn't fruitful in love and loving witness to God (even if it was childless).  But as we grew in our faith (returning to the older rite of Mass had a massive impact), he remembered his vocation and he became more and more wounded.  He saw how the enemy had constantly put horrendous things in his way (most of which he submitted to, including sexual abuse in seminary) so that his vocation eventually became an impossibility (before he met me he'd procured an abortion for someone and that is automatic disqualification from the priesthood). But the vocation was still there, and the longing in his heart grew, and he just handed it over to God as the strain on his body became too much.  My husband had taken on probably the most difficult classes in the school; the class of failure and disappointment.  This class leads to God, it cannot fail but lead to God, if you respond with love. He died beautifully.

I'm not sure whether I too am on that path of failure and disappointment. I'm not sure where I am, or why things are as they are for me. I don't even know what my classes are in the school of love though I do feel like many of the classes I am attending are not ones I should be at. I don't think I'll ever be more than a mediocre pupil in this school but I am a fighter and there are some things that I know I must fight for even if I lose.

Friday, 19 August 2016

What I'm really thinking....

Public examination results for the UK's senior school age pupils are out this week and next.  For various reasons, professional and personal, I get to hear about a lot of the results.  I think I'm supposed to rejoice with the happy and commiserate with the not-so-happy.  I find it all so difficult and do my best to hide from having to act in this way.

My big problem is that to me it has such a hollow ring to it and I'm reminded in particular of three deaths.

Two pupils I have taught (separated by years and location) who were recognised nationally for their intelligence and aptitude were dead within a year of their results (misadventure and natural causes) and a third who'd never been recognised for much but who was a gentle, sensitive soul committed suicide at this time, fearful of what lay beyond the safe envrionment of school.

So excuse me, my dears, if the smile on my face as you tell me how well you have done looks a little fake; it is.  I want, like St Philip Neri, to question you as you tell me your plans, I want to say like him: and then what.......? and I want to repeat it and repeat it until you see that something is missing.

You see, my dears, you are living a lie and one I (as a teacher) am partly responsible for propagating.  The lie is self-betterment, self-determination, achievement and progress.  The lie is that you are climbing a ladder, one rung at a time and you have it in you to reach all the way to the top, and that reaching the top of that ladder is somehow important. The lie is to believe in your results, that they are part of who you are, that they help you become more of who you are. Don't most school assemblies echo this sentiment?  And even if you happen to be religious, there is a danger you are turning God into your own little "genie in Cath Kidston bag", something to charm you up the ladder and see to your needs and your goals.

And, my dears, life is so much better than this, the only progress we are celebrating with your results is the fact that you are becoming more likely to end up an overworked apparatchik of the God-less state.

So instead, tell me about your creativity; tell me that you still paint or sew, write poetry or play in a band.  Tell me about the work you do with your hands; the things you have made, the creatures you have nurtured.  Tell me you see enchantment in the world.  Tell me you love life and the more you live it the more you love, even amongst illness and death and difficult things. Tell me you love learning for its own sake, not for qualifications.Tell me you love doing nothing; tell me you can rest and be content. And then perhaps you are finding the God who loves you so much.

And if I see a glimmer of genuine happiness in you, then I too will be happy and the sad stares of those who have died will not haunt me as much as they do.

Saturday, 13 August 2016


Today is the 395th anniversary of the natale of my one of my patrons, St John Berchmans and the 48th anniversary of my conception.  I celebrate his sainthood, it would be a bit odd to celebrate one's conception as well as one's birthday, and as one gets older, birthday celebrations get more and more muted. I got 3 birthday cards this year (4 if you count an e-card from Sergio Aguero and everyone at MCFC). However, Saint John came to find me a few years ago (I did not pick him, he found me) and guided me through some difficult times. It was only more recently when I discovered the coincidence in the dates, that I have got to wondering if our conceptions aren't somehow celebrated in heaven.

I never paid any attention to my conception until one night when a teenager, I'd come home from some grotty Manchester music venue on the last train to find my parents still up and somewhat merry on fermented grape juice. (I've never understood the fascination with wine).  Mum, disgusted as I 'fragranced' the kitchen with the stench of beer, sweat (I was a mean if somewhat unorthodox regular on the dancefloors) and cigarette smoke, blurted out "anyway you were a burst condom and it was your father's fault".  She then proceeded with an unrepeatable tale involving a hairdryer, clothespegs and the scarcity of prophylactics in Ireland.

This tale had a strange effect on me. I found God. I mean, if my parents hadn't been planning me, but I came into their lives, I was still planned, I was still wanted and it was God who wanted me to be conceived at that time, on that day, with those parents (whom He must love greatly in giving them to me).... for His good purpose.

He shoots, He scores.
So, what exactly is God's good purpose for me? He's not for saying, but He is leading me on. Where to? I don't know, but He is in charge.  I think I might know, but it is best not to say.

St John Berchmans, who by the grace of God, found holiness in the ordinary 'duties of state' done with love, pray for me.

Friday, 5 August 2016


This started off as a much needed clear out of my late husband's stuff.  Stuff had to be burned.  Much of his research work involved interviewing category C prisoners, this was stuff that needed obliterating.  I'd successfully seen to all the digital material some years ago.  The volumes of paper needed tackling. Today seemed like a good day.  The farmers were doing something similar in the nearby fields.  A bit more smoke wouldn't be noticed.

Paper doesn't burn very well. There is an art to keeping the incinerator going and stopping it smoking.

I like the irreversibility of burning.  Stuff just goes.

It was just a bit more difficult letting go of my own stuff.  Several weeks back the cottage had a serious attack of mildew.  It was virtually overnight.  I told one of the men in black and he raised a thoughtful eyebrow and suggested I get the place reblessed.  He may be onto something, he may not.  One has to be careful who one prays for, there can be consequences, but if the worst the enemy can do is make a mess of my furniture and stain a wall, then so be it. Praising God, liberal doses of Old Rite Holy Water and a dehumidifier work wonders. The alternative theory for the mildew was a man-made change in the microclimate around the north facing wall which is made of very porous chalk lumps. The sad thing was that the sum total of all my academic work in Physics was left a soggy, stinky mess; from A'level to the completion of my Thesis the whole lot, gone.  It wasn't in a great state before this, it had been stored in various unsuitable places over the years. Digitally, there was nothing apart from some 3 and 1/2 inch floppy discs (showing my age). My achievements were all on paper.

It was the burning of the rotten lab books that really hurt.  Damn, I was good! I was neat, I was thorough and the work was cool.  I have just one academic paper to my name.  There should have been more.  Those lab books mostly contained work I was doing for greater beings, higher up the food chain than I. One never gets any credit for doing this type of work.

I now have nothing to show for my life in my late teens and well into my twenties.  It has all gone.  Perhaps one day this will feel liberating.  Right now it hurts, oh the vanity, oh the pride!  Though the irony of my main love in Physics being the Second Law of Thermodynamics, irreversibility and Entropy has not been lost on me.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Family (3)

Last year I went to my father's birthplace, the reason for going had little to do with family but it ended up being an important trip to 'lay some ghosts to rest'.  My visit coincided with the Chinese festival of the Hungry Ghosts and there were constant reminders of the dead and remembrances of the dead. The Taoist devotions are colourful (I love Chinese Opera), but to me their underworld is a very real hell.  It has overlords and material goods are constantly needed for the happiness of the dead and the overlords need keeping 'sweet'. I have no living family left in that part of the world and I felt like I was walking with the dead as I travelled through the back streets away from the tourist routes, retracing my grandfather's trips to work and visiting the cafes my grandparents had frequented since before the Japanese Occupation.  I went to the churches where they heard Mass, were married, acted as godparents to a significant part of the area's Catholic population. Praying before the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor that my grandfather had prayed infront of every day of his working life, I felt like I was stepping back into his past and offering prayers for his intentions, and there was peace in praying for those.  I was praying for those who went missing during the war, praying for the victims of the war and the Communist insurrection that followed and I prayed for my blood family, Taoist and Catholic, the figures in the shadows, those hardly talked about, the fugitives from China, the murderer, the abused, the good, the heroic and the wicked.

This year, there is a calling to do the same in my mother's birthplace, Dublin.  There is even less of a narrative for me to go off here.  My grandmother disowned her own family except for one aunt who came over to England and was living on the Wirral. My mother is an only child and the narrative she tells is never consistent.  Grandfather was an engineer and a gentle man and grandmother a fiercely independent and head-strong, self-made woman who ran her own fashion house, I remember them well but we never discussed our history. I simply don't know what pain there was in my family's past in Ireland, just that everybody seemed to be running away from something and I just want to go and stare it in the face.

 And that seems to be the point, I know there are some deep wounds, but the story behind them has got lost and indeed is not important because the telling of any tale distorts the truth and it becomes legend. Place is important and walking streets and visiting places of significance can do much to heal wounds if approached prayerfully (it certainly worked in Penang). 

Dublin is also the place of my own birth.  I feel the need to connect to that too, there is something restless in my own soul, some connection with place that needs to be reestablished.  I need to visit places important in my own history: it is almost as if I'm being told to 'go home' one last time, pick something up that I carelessly left behind and have forgotten about but will recognise when I see it and wonder how I ever survived without it..... Or perhaps I simply have too much time to think.....
The Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin, where my journey of bewilderment and 'wrong turns' started over 47 years ago.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Bad Sex

The increased activity on this little blog is mainly due to the fact I am still orbiting planet Gove.  It is amazing how the mind wishes to take you down other paths and away from what you ought to be doing when what you are doing is tedious and involves long periods of silence and monotony. In space no one can hear you scream.

 My holiday is still being spent developing the Physics courses for next year at school following on from Gove's reforms.   It is dull work, though it will be worth it in the long run.  I'd be tarred and feathered by my colleagues if I actually admitted to them that what he set in motion is actually good.  However, I tend to see all educational reforms as 'opportunities', and this opportunity is actually worth taking seriously.  It is not all work, I'm taking days off and those days I am working, I spend a few hours where I morph into Mrs Tiggywinkle and immerse myself in clerical laundry and mending.

I'm rambling. This post is about bad sex and I'll now get to the point.

It is school related in that whilst I'm deliberately kept away from having any input into the pupils' personal health and social development programme (being a Catholic seems to prohibit me from having any sense in the matter), there are many things that I've had to speak up about.... I don't ever take a moral view with the pupils... it doesn't work... and essentially the only way to avoid moral relativism (mine against theirs) is to avoid morals altogether.

Picture the scene: the pupils enter your class having just come from some 'lesson' on sexual health, they are carrying goodie bags containing glow-in-the dark sperm shaped key rings, biros with information written on them about where to get free contraception or leaflets about 'growing up' and exploring sexuality. Hey, I'm only employed to teach Physics, but such things cannot go unchallenged, and a 5 minute 'rant' leaves me feeling better and gives them something to think about...

(for pupils aged 16 or over):
What have you got there?  Oh so this school is now educating you in a thousand ways to have bad sex.  How mediocre, how unchallenging, how dull [waving a plastic sperm in the air]. Sex using contraception will always be bad sex.  Condoms?  Nah, like having a bath with your socks on.  Why?  Oh, so this is about 'safe sex' is it?  So sex is inherently dangerous?  Make sure you and your partner are both virgins, stick with that partner for life and you'll never need barrier protection from infection, because you'll never have a sexual infection. Simple, heh. Oh, I see, so it is also about not making babies, is it?  Well, isn't that what sex is for?  Surely the ultimate expression of sexual love is in being open to new life?  When two people are involved in an act of total self-giving, when something is happening that is meant to be happening, then it will be good. Sex with contraception is bad sex. What did you just ask? What about 2 gay people who love each other?  They don't need contraception. Yes, you are right (provided there is no chance of STDs), but nor can they have sex.  What they are doing is not sex. The bits don't fit properly, it is not sex, it is mutual masturbation not sexual intercourse. And this is the point, all sex with contraception is also an act of mutual masturbation, you enter into a contract with the other person to supply you with some pleasure, whilst you give them some pleasure in return.  These acts are essentially selfish and have nothing to do with love and once you have engaged in them it is too late.  Once some spotty youth is humping away on you, oblivious to your needs and you realise that if you suddenly turned into a watermelon he wouldn't notice, it is too late, there is no beauty in the act, and you are worth infinitely more than that.  Protect yourself from vodka fueld fumblings on a trip Newquay, protect yourself from seeking pleasures that are not actually that good.  The day somebody tells me I'm wrong and that their first sexual encounters as teenagers weren't phenomenally disappointing, is the day I will stop ranting. But nobody ever does.......

And why do I mention this?  Partly mulling over a conversation I'd had over the weekend with someone entering the teaching profession.... partly I'm just wondering for how long I'll be able to be let loose on your sons and daughters, I cannot follow instructions and teach them as I'm supposed to....

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


So, each day there are reports of further attacks carried out on innocent people.  Today brings news of an horrific attack on the mentally ill in a hospice in Japan and an attack on worshippers in a church in France resulting in the death of the priest. This worldwide psychosis will not cease, it will only get worse and God will allow it to get worse, He hasn't deserted us.  It is always a sobering thought that God loves all of us so much that He will not interfere with our free will, which is His greatest gift to us.  We can only come to know Him and love Him through our will, the desire for Him starts there. 

That desire rests in the hearts of every man alive, and our three enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil work to smother and corrupt that desire so that we cannot recognise it. The desire pulls one way, the world pulls the other, distracting us with ideologies, fripperies, tastes and an extreme selfishness which masquerades as morality and even virtue.

We convince ourselves that the flesh is only a channel through which our senses operate and this debases any ability we have to respond to anything beyond considering our feelings. This leads to solipsism whereby only our thoughts mean anything; we are the only intelligence and matter is an illusion, we are each little gods with our own self-created universe which only allows us greater knowledge of self. And therein lies madness.

Lastly the devil, lazy bastard that he is, doesn't need to do much to convince us that we are all isolated material beings, loosely connected through ideas and feelings; that there is no deeper communion, that there is no God (who is love) and that our brothers are not all made in the image and likeness of God, to be respected and treated with dignity and love.

It is all there, at work in each and every one of us.  We see the workings of the world and we develop an increased moral outrage and sense of our own righteousness and the evil of others.  This is as much at work in you and me as it is in some nihilistic Daesh fighter.  The material world assaults our flesh and because our communion is broken (our relationship to our Creator), everything becomes brutal, we can no longer see beyond the needs of self, other beings are either useful to us or in opposition to us; disturbing our senses, irrational, sub-human caricatures we'd love to see eliminated as if they were part of a video game. And the devil just sits there pissing himself with laughter saying: see I told you, 'god' doesn't work, nothing works!

This, is the progress that dialectical materialism gives us.  This is the disenchantment of God's creation made possible through rationalism, empiricism and dualism.  Basically, what we are seeing is the psychosis caused by clinging to the ideals of the Enlightenment whilst scraping the bottom of the empty barrell of post-modernism.  The Enlightenment was an experiment (man's endeavour to make progress by himself) and it has failed. It has brought us nothing but insanity, insecurity and lonliness.

Gericault's Raft of the Medusa.. is this painting perhaps an icon of our age?
The jihad is real (but it will not be televised): there is a subsersive 'holy war' to restore the delight of God and the enchantment of His creation, to help make His way manifest. The weapons at our disposal are beauty, goodness and Truth, and the discipline is that of the Beatitudes.  Are you willing to fight, or is fear the only thing that drives you?

Monday, 25 July 2016

Litany for the NHS

For all your hard working staff               we salute you
For the dedication you show
For all your wonderful work for those in trauma
For all your work with the seriously ill
For your honesty

For the fact you are crumbling at the seams    we know it is not your fault
For the fact you are getting worse
For the fact that you are unsustainable
For the way you have treated me

9 years without a concrete diagnosis    I'm tired of this game
Lost test results
Misread test results
Protocol based on cheapness rather than effectiveness 
A diagnosis you gave me because it looked cool to show me off to visiting Romanian consultants
Then the next time I saw you, you told me I had nothing of the sort
I've asked for is my latest test results and you wont give them to me
You haven't given them to my GP either
I've asked to be fitted with a constant glucose monitoring kit and your silence is deafening
I'm managing my own condition with a medication that suggests that what you told the Romanian consultants was true
You still say I don't have that condition
If I have this condition it is operable and I could be well again
But you want me to keep taking this obscure drug
The drug works (hurray!) but I am having to up the dose
For the expensive and invasive procedure that you did so badly that a visiting doctor who witnessed it, told me to request the test be repeated
For agreeing to repeat the test then going back on your promise
For the endless trips to see consultant X
Consultant X says wait to see what consultant Y says
For the endless trips to consultant Y who says better wait on the results from consultant Z
For consultant Z saying I'm not his problem
For postponed appointments
For dithering
For the lack of any plan on your part
For the lack of scientific method in your work that is maddening to me, a scientist
I don't want your sympathy
I really don't want your sympathy
No, seriously, I really don't want your sympathy
What is the point of bothering with you?
You keep telling me there is definitely something wrong with me.
Shall I assume that as I'm not about to drop dead, then it isn't all that serious?
Shall I just get on with my life and forget that we ever tried to work together?
For even more dithering on your part

Oh NHS shall we just end this affair?   we are obviously no good for each other
Oh NHS shall we just call it a day?
Oh NHS, just what have you to show for all the money you have spent on me?

I have good days and not so good days
I have flare ups 
I have a life and I think that my ability to live this life may be best suited if we go our separate ways
I do my own thing: self medication, careful diet
I may get worse, I may not
But you are simply not helping
There seems to be no point in you taking any more of my blood.....
I'll just keep taking the tablets......

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


I have snapped (in all charity) at several people within the Catholic Church when they have tried to say they are Catholic and that they have a preferred sexual orientation.  I maintain that this is simply a nonsense.  There is only one orientation and that is towards the cross is what I say. When we see God face to face, sexual orientation, like any other 'preference' (no matter how deeply held) will be of no consequence.  In matters sexual, it is lust that is the killer and lust is lust is lust irrespective of what it is directed towards.  Indeed, all preferences smack of politics; preferred ways of doing things based on our notions of what is right and comfortable for us (and by extension what we think is right for others). Preferences and politics aren't sin, but they are of the world so they offer the potential for sin.

I've been musing on the fallout from the Sacra Liturgia conference that was held recently in London. Cardinal Sarah again talked about fostering a greater understanding of the sacred liturgy through the adoption of the ad orientem arrangement of priest and people on the same side of the altar. It has been suggested elsewhere that ad orientem and versus populum are liturgical preferences, and judging by the verbiage flying around the interwebs, it seems to me that the minute we start expressing a liturgical preference we are entering into the murky world of politics, mud slinging and division.

So if I am to be consistent in my logic, I must step aside from my 'preference' and look to approach the matter of liturgical orientation (and it is a serious and worthy matter to consider) from a completely different perspective and look sola scriptura.

Because the Jewish tradition of temple sacrifice massively favours the ad orientem arrangement for the holy sacrifice of the Mass, I decided to ignore this and look instead at references in scripture to the altar in heaven.  Scan the book of Revelation for reference to the altar in heaven, (it is easy enough to do using an online bible) and you will find 7 references: Rev 6.9, 8.3, 8.5, 9.13, 11.1, 14.18 & 16.7.

The souls of the redeemed are said to be under or in the altar. So this is obviously not a 'practical' altar and at first glance seem to be of no help in our understanding of proper orientation at Mass here on earth. Second glance is slightly more revealing. 'Under' is easy enough, the altar should be above the highest point reachable by man. Indeed in heaven, priests will still be priests and people people, but we will all be orientated towards the Lamb that was slain. We will all be under Him.  'In' is also easy enough to understand if we take the insight offered in Hebrews (Heb 13.10) that Christ is the altar.  We will ultimately only find rest in the wound in His side, from whence flowed blood and water. We will, in heaven, in a very real sense be both 'in' and 'under' the altar. It is a good job the rules of geometry won't apply. What is clear is that the orientation is fixed towards Christ and doesn't necessarily stick to the type given in the historical temple in Jerusalem.

The angels of God are before the altar and issue from the altar to undertake the commands of God. This fits with our liturgical notions of the place of the angels in the Mass, Novus or Vetus Ordo.

The relationship between God and altar is as follows: I heard a voice from the four horns of the great altar, which is before the eyes of God. The altar is before God as God the Father will always have the sacrifice of His Son before Him.  The altar of sacrifice is then a bridge between God and Man.  Man and God cannot be on the same side of the altar, man faces the eyes of God from the opposite side of the altar.  Surely, that is ALL men, even those who have been the alter Christus? No man, not even a priest can get between God the Father and God the Son.

It is no good!  Wherever you turn, even towards heaven, there is only one orientation and it is towards the cross.  There are no liturgical preferences, there is only one orientation.

As Fr Faber said so often; we have forgotten that we are creatures.  We must wake up to this fact because it shows the very real mess the Catholic Church is in.  We are bearing heaven away with real violence (Mat 11.12) due to our arrogance and lack of humility in our communal prayer life (and that applies to all of us irrespective of which Rite we attend). No Mass is perfect liturgy, perfect liturgy only exists in heaven.  To God every Mass must look like a clown Mass (certainly a Mass presented by clowns- that's you and me, we're nothing but clowns), but He can read our hearts and that is all that matters. So I think that what I'm trying to say is that (as I see it) there can be no 'reform of the reform' and there can be no more 'rupture' either.  Things are a mess, but most cannot see it.  This is about the conversion of hearts.  Those of us who KNOW what is right have a huge responsibility resting on us to act accordingly, and the internet will probably not be the forum where hearts are changed. Ultimately we can achieve nothing and we will fail.  But if our hearts are orientated correctly then God will do the rest.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Pokemon No!

On Saturday evening I was left dog sitting whilst my house guests (mature adults!) went Pokemon hunting. Dexter (a whippet - black lab cross with limited intelligence and phenomenal speed) looked at me somewhat wearily, neither of us can make any sense of this. Dexter then amused himself 'savaging' his squeaky toy frog and I was left with my thoughts. I'm actually very uncomfortable about this particular craze, especially the idea of Pokemon turning up in churches.  There is to me a brutal and irreversible iconoclasm in projecting something trivial into a sacred space.  Anyway, I'm grateful to a fellow blogger (with a very different take on this to me) for posting the following from someone who is obviously as dismayed by this craze as I am.

It got me thinking of the stupidest things I have lived through.  This is my list.
  • chopper push bikes
  • nylon sheets
  • mullets
  • the SDP
  • the Birdie Song 
  • space dust
  • the NHS internal market
  • squirty cream
  • the Ford Probe
  • the Star Wars franchise
  • visible thongs
  • Rugby League's "Super League" formation
  • selfies 
  • Ugg Boots
So Pokemon Go! can be added to the list. The angels may be doing the angelic equivalent of "facepalming" at our stupidity, but we are loved.

Stupid will always be with us.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Test Match Special

In the darkest days of last term, when my body was failing and I really didn't think I'd get beyond the end of May, when there seemed to be a very strong and unwanted "somebody else's problem field" around me, when no help seemed to be coming my way (though it was, I had many prayers and for that I'm grateful), someone had the audacity to ask me what I wanted.  This question stopped me in my tracks, I've spend so long just surviving, just doing what I'm supposed to do, that the concept of actually wanting something was a little alien to me.  Further to this, experience (or fate) has meant that whenever I have actually wanted something, it has always been snatched away from me and I am left lamenting and weary like a somewhat stoical (rather than a suicidal) Dido.  I've found the only way to survive is not to want "things", well certainly not to want things for myself...

However, this question was left hanging in the air and I had to give an answer.  Simply making it as far as July seemed like an impossible dream so I said: I want to be sat in the garden listening to the Test Match on Long Wave.  [ For my readership outside of the former British Empire - this is the all day radio broadcast of the 5 day long international cricket matches, starting on a Thursday and sometimes making it till the following Monday.]  Admittedly, this was only a small want, but I thought that it might at least be achievable.

Yesterday the Test Cricket got off to a very good start; England v Pakistan at Lords.  I will admit now to being a Pakistan supporter; when they are good there are few more elegant, exciting teams, when they are bad they are dreadful.  Test Match Special (radio cricket) is a thing in its own right, it has its own unwritten rules, it can be delightful, it can be poetry, it can be surreal and it drifts over me and takes my brain to another dimension, it relaxes me like I suppose some people find a long hot bath relaxing.  I find bathing intensely boring, it is TMS that does it for me.

Yes, my desire was accomplished.  I always like the first day's play.  The two teams are still checking each other out, there is a lot of psychology at work, it is not exciting, but it is good.  There are flashes of brilliance, there is patience, there is hard graft, there are moments of carelessness which are dealt with mercilessly, there is quiet aggression and gentlemanly reserve and all the time TMS ambles through endless discourse on cricket trivia, cakes, pigeons, finely dressed men and bizarrely yesterday, umlauts.

Listening on Long Wave is also vital. I like the fuzzyness of the broadcast.  It reminds me of my grandfather in Malaysia listening to the Test Matches of old on the BBC World Service. He'd be in the dark, sat in his reclining chair, outside you could hear the endless motorbikes in the distance, the cicadas and the Allahu Akbar  from the surau next door.  The house would be full of the aroma of night scented shrubs, mosquito coils and old dogs.  He'd listen, we'd be silent, he was not to be disturbed.  He'd reach a certain point then the radio would be switched off, the house would be shuttered up and he'd say his last rosary of the day (in Latin) before retiring to bed.  Listening on Long Wave is also vital for the interruptions for the shipping forecast just before noon and 6pm.  I actually find the shipping forecast a prayer, well I can't listen to it and not pray.

So yesterday, life had a certain "completeness" about it, the past and present were one and the future could wait.  A certain aching emptiness and fatigue is also there, but yesterday it all hung together and there was rest.  Real rest is something akin to heaven, and it is good to experience it occasionally. Occasionally I even fancy that God inspired the English to invent the game of cricket so that when it works (and often it falls short of what it should be) we could have a foretaste of heaven. Old Father Time can retire to the pavilion.

Weather vane at Lords: creative commons image Wikipedia

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

down the pan

It is quite possible that I am now going to be guilty of taking an analogy too far, I certainly mean no disrespect by what I am about to say, so please don't think I am being disparaging....

The Church can be said to be the Bride of Christ or the Body of Christ.  Personally I prefer the Bride of Christ, but in their espousal they are ONE so I don't suppose it matters much.  For the purposes of this post, I'm looking at the Church as Body. If we look at the human body, there are certain organs and systems of organs with specific functions.  We all have different functions within the one Body. St Paul returns to this theme time and time again, though he doesn't ever go as far as saying "you are the hands", or "you are the toe nails".  Indeed such a thing would be silly and wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Now all of us can at times be hands or feet, eyes and ears. If the twofold commandment to love God and neighbour is lived seriously then there are times for watching, times for hearing, and times for doing, we simply don't have one function.  And Christ is our Head, and it is through not resisting grace that we function properly as the ONE body. The body is a UNITY; any division, any pulling in different directions, any opposition, any lack of harmony is not the work of the Head.  The divisions are caused by absorbing and being influenced by things that are of the world.  This holds true for us too; we are victims of fashion and victims of the culture we find ourselves in and more often than not it can have an effect on our health.

What is absorbed by the body is usually taken in by the mouth.  We eat stuff and it passes down the digestive tract where in successive stages it is broken down, absorbed or excreted.  Now, forgive me, but there does seem to be one part of the body that is analogous to the work of the Princes of the Church and one part that the rest of us simply don't have the authority to be.  It seems abundantly clear to me that our Bishops in their capacity for binding and loosing are indeed the body's lower intestine and anal sphincter.  They are the ultimate arbiters of what is rejected and what isn't.  This is a role that the rest of us simply don't have.   Could it be that bishops are at their most bishopy when they are doing just that?  Could it be that that is when we ought to take the most notice of them, because they are doing something that is totally reserved for them alone?

I'll give you a question.  Which of these carry the most weight; a bishop saying "lets look at this, lets absorb this information and work out what it means to us" OR "this is not going to happen because it might upset people" OR the bishops saying "this is part of the Church as revealed through Scripture and Tradition, has handed to us by the Apostles" OR  "this must be rejected because it does not tie in with Scripture and Tradition and the first Apostles".

Surely it is the last two which are the triumph of our lower intestine and the strength of the Church Militant.  Sadly, right now, I'm wondering if we've had a radical colostomy, as such no such unified behaviour seems to be forthcoming.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

apple for teacher

Well skoolz out for summer and the house is full of chocolates and 'thank you' cards and there is a bottle of Cava sat in the kitchen and if it were sentient it would be asking itself what on earth it was doing here.  Indeed the chocolates would be asking themselves that too, if they could think. Due to my illness I can start to feel quite ill after ingesting either if those things. So they are getting ignored and I'm wondering where useful second homes for them might be found....

It is however so very touching when the pupils do say thank you in whatever way they choose.  This year there has been a rich seam of  'confessional' cards and hushed conversations in corridors along the lines of "I'm sorry I have been such an utter pain in the neck for the last 3 years,  thank you for not giving up on me".  Money can't buy that.  I've also been taken aback by the  'you've really inspired a love of Physics in me' cards. OK the number will not cause a gravitational collapse and a black hole to open up in Wessex, but 4 whole cards saying that was 4 more than I would have thought possible.  I've been doing mainly chalk and talk didactic stuff that any inspector would slate because I've been too weak to do much more than prop myself up on a low cupboard next to the board in order to scrawl on it. And whilst every teacher has their own fan-club, it is always a shock when someone you thought did nothing more than sleep through your lessons says thank you.  I got one letter which said 'thank you for ignoring me, thank you for respecting my strong personality'. For my part I think I acted out of cowardice with that pupil, I didn't think I'd win the fight.

The best gift this year is just about my best present ever off anyone.  My sixth formers got me a Stirling engine and it was an emotional moment; wiping back the tears whilst running for the kettle and trying to find a can of machine oil. Simply brilliant! I've got it to work if the temperature gradient is as small as 25 degrees and I'm trying to see if it will go lower.  A few year back some sixth formers got me an abacus from the Early Learning Centre, this was the previous 'best ever' present.  Like a lot of Physicists my arithmetic is appalling, and I enjoyed the joke at my expense.

And then I start to think just how well pupils do get to know teachers.  They will know every little mannerism and be able to mimic these.  They can draw piercingly accurate cartoons of us.  They see us 'perfom' several times a week, on good days as well as bad.  They are uncompromising critics if something we do isn't to their liking.  Our style of dress is scrutinised as is any slight regional variation in our accents.  They will pitch us against their parents with a "but my dad says....", and we have to be so careful because dad is often a high powered academic at some prestigious university. They will pitch one member of staff against another and they know our weaknesses; mine being a strong belief in the inferiority of chemistry. So they will deliberately start up an ideological battle between myself and a willing chemist and stir up rivalry.

OK, so it is lots of fun, but like my Stirling engine, I've ground to a halt, but I'll need a bit more than some machine oil and a hot cup of tea to get going again.

Friday, 1 July 2016

The mysteries of the solar system...

A nifty little space craft called Juno prepares to probe the Jovian atmosphere to help us learn more about its darker secrets and immense power, and teachers up and down the country are busily stuck at their computers trying to make sense of the Govian legacy in education and its phenomenal impact on what and how we will teach next year. Many of us are looking in the rafters to see if we can uncover stores of forgotten O’level papers. The Govian world is not necessarily bad, just different; a bizarre cross-breed of 1983 and 1953 which is already showing problems with its digestive tract and probably won’t have a long life-expectancy.

As I cobble together ‘schemes of work’ I’m also depressingly aware of a further legacy of this government: British Values. We teachers have to sign up to these, we have to memorise them, we have to live them, we may be tested on our knowledge and assimilation into them if we are inspected.

I’m still not sure what British Values have to do with the contents of the Physics courses and their delivery, but never mind. Perhaps I’ll just stick a poster of a stressed Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise over the door to the lab uttering his immortal words: ah cannae change the laws of physics, Captain. Here they are (and apologies for using sarcasm):

Democracy: yes we accept the results of elections that have been carried out fairly, we respect the views of the British people then they cast their votes, no?  

The rule of law: We abide by the rules as set out by our democratically elected government, no? And don’t seek to get them overturned in Brussels, no? We have governments who never bring forward laws that were never mentioned in their manifestos, no? Gay marriage, anyone?
Individual liberty: People are free to vote (or not vote) in whichever way they see fit, they do not have to tow a party line, no?
Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs: We show great tolerance and respect towards the elderly, those on the left and right who made up their own minds when voting in the referendum last Thursday, including those in the North of England who may not be as well educated as ourselves in London and the SE, but who did not vote the way 'we' wanted them to vote, no?

What a joy it is to be British! The British are best summed up as a disparate group of big thinking, big dreaming, but ultimately petty-minded and insular souls, hell-bent on heroic failure and hypocrisy. Three cheers for being British!

 Plucky little spacecraft has close encounter with the Govian atmosphere.