Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Blue Moan

One day, when I was about 7 years old, I went round to my best friend's house to see her new pet rabbit. The girl in question was not in the back yard playing with the rabbit, and her weary mother directed me upstairs to her bedroom. There she sat on the floor with a pair of scissors and a face like thunder. She was surrounded by magazine cuttings and posters from the wall. One particular gentleman was being removed from all the posters. Like Stalin removing Trotsky, there she sat, determined to write her version of history. The man in question had a green jersey on, all the rest in her numerous posters and photographs were wearing red. I wondered if the wearing of the green was in some way a good reason to obliterate all memory of this poor unfortunate. She sat there muttering his name, "Paddy Roach, Paddy Roach, Paddy Roach". The green made sense now, of course, he was Irish. I made some innocent inquiry as to why Irish persons were no longer popular on her posters. Apparently his Irishness or otherwise had nothing to do with it. This was all to do with an unforgivable crime he had just committed. She blamed him for making the men in the red jerseys look like idiots. Apparently, he was responsible for humiliating them at the hands of the enemy; Manchester City.

I didn't come from a football following family and this was the first time I had heard those magic words; Manchester City. I decided there and then that any unassuming bunch of people who could be the cause of such irrational sulkyness in my best friend, had to be worth investigating. I've been a fan ever since.

They are pretty rubbish at football. They never win much. They make shocking appointments and their supporters are among the most deluded in the world of football (soccer). Next year we will be great, the next manager will be the best, next year we will be solvent, next year we will learn how to pass the ball, next year we will score lots of goals. Every year takes on tragicomic overtones and ends in disappointment and annoyance.

The City fan is a loaner. I've noticed this travelling on the motorways at weekends. The football fan on his own travelling in what looks to be a reps car is always a City fan. Everyone else travels to games in fun filled cars laden with smiley, happy people (especially Evertonians); but look there is the City fan, on his own, Billy-no-mates.

Yup, folks it's tough being a City fan. The news from the club today seems pretty gloomy.....but that's life, I'll still always support them. We do occasionally beat Manchester United and that makes everything else worthwhile.

ps: Today I write my letter of resignation to my boss. As tempted as I am to say "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits". A short, polite letter will suffice and I look forward to being able to shake the dust from my shoes on my last exit from that most peculiar establishment sometime in July.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


I am copying verbatim the advert that appears in a lot of the Catholic press at this time of the year. I'm sure the Augustinian Recollects in Devon would love to hear from you and I know St Rita will pray unceasingly for your intentions.

in honour of
(Patron of 'helpless' cases)

Commencing on MAY 14th
and ending with

on her Feast Day MAY 22nd

Send petitions to:
Rev Fr Promoter
St Rita's Centre,
Devon EX14 1AP

Blessed rose petals will be sent to those who request them.

Monday, 21 April 2008


A colleague of mine has been going mad that his 15 yr old son is studying Porphyria's Lover by Robert Browning for his GCSE English Literature. I have to admit this has left me a little queasy. You can read it here on Spark' notes, an American revision site, so I presume it is considered good High School material in the US too.

It is a deeply shocking poem and Browning writes pure drama in his poems in what I consider to be a very easy to read, modern English. The question still remains, is it suitable for 15 year old boys? I don't think so. The vast majority of them have little concept of the sexual act beyond the "nudge-nudge wink-wink say no more" Eric Idle type. The vast majority have very confused notions about love and "true love". Many, sadly, have a view of women as either as mothers and/or whores. Why is it then suitable to provide them with this flashy art-house snuff-poetry. There are no higher ideals, there is nothing edifying about it. It fails to deal sensibly or maturely with death or true love. Instead we get sexual tension, sado-eroticism, murder and madness. The boys may miss the madness bit and think that this is somehow an allowable form of fantasy.

The boy concerned attends an all boys school, therefore I have not considered the effect on girls that this poem may have and I shudder to think how they may react.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Church Matters

Thank you so much for your prayers; the gloom is lifting slowly but surely, very positive things have happened this week. I must however give a special thank you to St Anthony, we conversed in the Oxford Oratory last Wednesday, he reminded me it is all about total trust in the Lord...I have come to realise what "total" means. I had a meeting in Oxford and couldn't stay for Mass at the Oratory, but thank God for such a powerful place of prayer!

I've also been making a reply to the latest round of the Clifton Diocese consultation "Seeking the Face of Christ". Far be it for me to publish my views on here before they have gone through the correct channels, but it got me thinking about the Church and how we perceive it operating. Inspired by Adrienne and her Oreo model of the church faithful, I've come up with a few of my own.

The Fig Roll model: Firm, stable support from the biscuit, the Magisterium, surrounding us, the figgy goo. The problem with this is the "us" is a homogeneous lump of fig paste. The faithful resemble a dysfunctional family rather than a homogeneous paste so this model isn't quite right.

How about the mallow biscuit with chocolaty bits? The good, firm, solid base is Holy Mother Church, the mallow is us, the faithful, and the sprinklings are the chattering classes that think they are the church (uber traddies and tired liberals alike). The further they are from the biscuit bit the more likely they are to fall off. They need our support and prayers, but ultimately, they do their own thing, sometimes taking some of the marshmallow with them.

I have read a lot by people who think the people of the Church have to evolve rapidly, with new roles for the laity and a new perspective for the priesthood. This is something I find quite distressing, it smacks of people wanting to build the Church to their own design and ignore its heirarchical nature, the importance of obedience and the sacred nature of the Magisterium. I'm tempted to go with this "Battenburg Model". Firm yet flexible marzipan for the Magisterium, holding us all together. Priests and people as the different coloured sponges, each with their own identity (baked in separate tins but both nearly identical)and each vitally necessary for the Battenburg to look and behave like a Battenburg. Do the Bishops then act like the jam (I know they are also part of the Magisterium), holding the whole lot together yet keeping the roles and functions of the members of the Church strictly separated? Just a thought....

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Not what I had intended for this evening..

When things are getting me down, and they sure are at the moment on the work front, I tend to take refuge in the Psalms. I usually use the Douay Rheims but tonight I thought I'd look in the KJV. Imagine my horror when I found the psalm I was saying has a completely different meaning in the KJV. I thought I'd better go back to the latin to reassure myself that the Douay Rheims was correct and yes, the Clementine Vulgate agreed beautifully. Hang on, thought I, I'd better check the Nova Vulgata, and yikes, it agrees with the KJV! What's a person supposed to do?

The psalm in question is Psalm 143 (144) Benedictus Dominus. In the latin the Clementine Vulgate has the word "eorum" meaning "their", in the Nova Vulgata this is changed to "nostra" meaning "our".

The Douay version is:
Their storehouses full, flowing out of this into that:
Their sheep fruitful in their goings forth:
their oxen fat.
There is no breach of wall, nor crying out in their streets.
They have called the people happy, that hath these things: but
happy is that people whose God is the Lord.

The KJV and for that matter the New Jerusalem, give the passage the following meaning:
That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store, that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets; That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.

Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea happy is that people whose God is the Lord.

There is an ocean of difference in meaning between the two versions, and for someone who is struggling financially and having less than her fair share of what she is owed, I'm sticking with the Douay. The idea that it is the rich, successful persons whom God favours, frankly doesn't hold true.

I'd be grateful if any biblical scholars out there could enlighten me as to where the KJV picked up its different emphasis and how the Nova Vulgata happens to be so different from the Clementine Vulgate. The KJV version seems as alien to me as the "Protestant work ethic". It serves me right for looking.

Still, all this took my mind off some difficult decisions I'm going to have to make. Please keep me in your prayers, these are interesting times.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Physics Humour

I know I shouldn't visit Lol Cats, but this is amusing

So was the comment left on the site by someone else:

This is both funny and un-funny at the same time.

If you think the Church is in a bad way, spare a thought for Physics. According to the TES, 20% of 11-18 schools in the UK now no longer offer Physics at A'Level. People who find the picture funny are a dying breed, you may actually miss them when they are gone.

Thursday, 10 April 2008


After you have read this.

Remember who makes the BEST!

The Hidden Gem

When I was small, we used to go to Mass only when my grandparents were staying with us. If I was very lucky we would go to St Mary's: The Hidden Gem, in Manchester. To a small child this was a magical building, tucked away, squeezed between tall anonymous buildings, this place was about secrets and inner longings. I believed it had only recently been discovered amid the forest of office blocks. That strange, ancient people had kept alive something special within its walls for years, avoiding persecution by keeping very quiet. This is not quite the real story. The church has its own website and you can read all about it and see some beautiful pictures here.

I had something of a religious calling there aged about six, sat next to my granddad, a shaft of warm, spring sunlight enveloping me like a shawl. I had never felt happier or more peaceful in my life...this church is the one place I feel I can call home. I don't like dwelling on how I felt that day, on the further callings I squandered and ignored, on the mess I subsequently made of much of my teens and early twenties.

After my student days I returned to Manchester and living within what I considered to be walking distance of the church, I'd visit quite a lot. I was not happy that the wall behind the rederos was now white and had lost its blue and its golden stars. To a small child that rederos really did point to heaven. I was not best pleased that the beautiful tiled floor was now covered with utilitarian carpet. However I could live with its controversial Stations of the Cross, they lack sentimentality and whilst I personally don't find them particularly prayerful, they haven't lessened the beauty of the church.

If you visit Manchester, pop into this church. The Blessed Sacrament will probably be exposed and you will see a diverse section of the population of Manchester and Salford before the altar, join them in prayer. The Pieta Chapel is beautiful. The statue of Our Lady of Manchester is beautiful. Sitting here at my computer screen, I can feel I am there, just thinking about it. Very few churches, even those I am most familiar with, can come close to that. One is always before the Lord at church, but this church has seen me grow up and been instrumental in that process, that is why it is for me, home.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


Coffee is strange stuff. I'm not even sure I like it. To me it's like chocolate, an addictive smell but often the taste and texture is utterly disappointing. Coffee is always dreadful if drunk alone (unlike tea which is best savoured uninterrupted) and usually tastes better out of a glass!

Anyway, the ever caring Autumn Rose has invited me to share a coffee and this I will do gladly. The best thing about coffee is the company.

To share with the company of some truly excellent English ladies, I would have round my table:
Mrs Pea
La Mamma
The Autumn Rose herself
and the ever watchfull Mom of 10

On one of my trips to the land of my fathers, would the holy bloggers of the IC join me for a plate of Maturbak and a sickly sweet, smooth Kopi Tarek at Hameediyah on Campbell St in Georgetown?
and can we smuggle over an ex-blogger from Singapore (deo-juvante)
and the mighty Archistrategos ?
That's if they wouldn't mind being in the company of a somewhat eccentric, un-cool, middle-aged lady who loves Penang....

Pass it on to 5 people you would like to share a coffee with today :) Here’s a small graphic for your sidebar:

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Tony, poetry and my thoughts.

Before going any further, I will own up to being a Guardian reader. For those not on British soil, this is a shocking pinko newspaper with a highly anti-religious agenda. It reeks of "tolerance", provided you are as liberal as they are (i.e. it is very intolerant). We keep trying to change paper but the Telegraph is too smug, the Independent is boring and anything else would be putting money into the hands of the Murdoch empire.

Occasionally there is a good article. I've been meaning to make a link to this article by Sean O'Brien Read Poetry; It's quite hard for some time.

I have now been stirred into making some comments regarding this article in response to reading Tony Blair's "Cardinal's Lecture" about faith in the modern world. As with most things he utters, there are lots of sound bites, some plausible, some irritating and all in such simple English you nearly and dangerously find yourself getting swept along in the rhetoric. In response to this speech elsewhere Benfan suggests "Anti-Christ", Fr Ray Blake moderates with "anti-Christ". I just wish to bring the following paragraph to your attention:

For religion to be a positive force for good, it must be rescued not simply from extremism –faith as a means of exclusion; but also from irrelevance - an interesting part of our history but not of our future. Too many people see religious faith as represented in stark dogmatism and empty ritualism. Faith is reduced to a system of strange convictions and actions that, to some, can appear far removed from the necessities and anxieties of ordinary life. It is this face that gives militant secularism an easy target. It mocks certain of the practices and traditions of organised religion which they define as ‘faith’. ‘Faith’ is to be found in the cassocks and the gowns and the rituals.

The full text can be found here.

Well, firstly lets look at "stark dogmatism". Stark is beautiful, Tony. I'll quote from the Catechism's own definition of doctrine/dogma. The revealed teachings of Christ which are proclaimed by the fullest extent of the Church's Magisterium. The faithful are obliged to believe the truth or dogmas contained in divine Revelation and defined by the Magisterium.

What about "rescuing" faith from irrelevance? I just don't get it. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Christ is our only relevance, everything else is irrelevant. Faith is relevant it cannot be made relevant to ordinary life. Faith is not about ordinary life, it is about the extraordinary, the miraculous, the mysterious, the inexplainable, the humbling and the eternal. Mr Blair, if ordinary life no-longer sits comfortably with expressions of religious faith, it is the ordinary life that needs tackling root and branch not faith. Should expressions of faith ever be compromised to please the secular humanist?

This leads me on to the Guardian article I started this rant with. The article is about reading poetry and how the school curriculum is geared towards making sure only literature with relevance to the modern world and the lives of the young people reading it is "on the list". Here is a quote:

The word "relevance" looms - that contemporary fetish, so often brandished to mitigate ignorance and justify a failure of curiosity. I would argue ....many young people ... suffer a loss of liberty when the past is in effect closed down and the present becomes the measure of all things. Such young people have, in effect, no history, and this being so, their own significance is diminished. The problem is not whether Shakespeare or the Bible or TS Eliot is "relevant" to them, but whether they can see themselves as part of a continuum, a community extending across history.

Did you like that? Here's another:

The difficulty that readers face owes much to the fundamentally prosaic and utilitarian view of language which dominates our period: speed, impact and "the facts" are pre-eminent. In fact, the deafening roar of the contemporary is as elaborately rhetorical in its way as any other language-use, but just as readers sometimes mistake literary realism for reality, and find non-realist work intolerable in consequence, so they are encouraged to confuse the banal with the actual. As Marx observed: "All that is solid melts into air" - in this case into noise, the Babel of mass disempowerment.

"Read poetry: it's quite hard," the poet Don Paterson crisply suggested. To do so requires us to claim that imaginative space, and to live with Keats's "uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts", rather than rush to conclude and summarise. Part of what Eliot called "the shock of poetry" lies in the fact that what it offers is often both instinctively recognisable and at the same time resistant to interpretation - a three-dimensional experience for the imagination, not a mere scanning of captions. And just as poetry's subject is life in all its manifestations, so it exacts from the reader an equal attention to the human gift of language - meaning, tone, overtone, music, pattern, memorability, the power to move and delight.

If such richly complicated but freely available pleasures have come to seem forbidding, then we are indeed in trouble.

Now, Mr Blair, apply these Guardian friendly ideas about poetry to the Catholic Faith and you may just find yourself hoisted by your own petard.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

When we were children

When we were children words were coloured
(Harlot and murder were dark purple)
And language was a prism, the light
A coloured inlay on the grass,
Whose rays today are concentrated
And language grown a burning-glass.

When we were children Spring was easy,
Dousing our heads in suds of hawthorn
And scrambling the laburnum tree-
A breakfast for the gluttonous eye;
Whose winds and sweets have now forsaken
Lungs that are black, tongues that are dry.

Now we are older and our talents
Accredited to time and meaning,
To handsel joy requires a new
Shuffle of cards behind the brain
Where meaning shall remarry colour
And flowers be timeless once again.

Louis MacNeice

germander speedwell - a springtime favourite of mine

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Gosh I'm boring!

Mac, Andrew and La Mamma have both tagged me with the following meme, they'll probably wish they hadn't.

What I was doing 10 years ago:
Probably taking a bunch of adorable, fun-loving scallys (youngsters from Liverpool) on a trip somewhere and hoping they wouldn't retaliate to the sneering "Scouse gits" taunts from those whose parents could afford a private education.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
fig rolls, custard cremes, bombay mix, any "snakki" from Finland (they have the deepfried savoury donut filled with what tastes like haggis and its dead good).

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Cease to be a billionaire as quickly as possible and enjoy giving it away, there's also a Scottish island that I think is owned by the Duke of Argyll that I might put in an offer for (not that it's for sale, but it is my desktop wallpaper and I can dream) and do something madly Catholic there (with the necessary approval).

Five jobs that I have had:
Spittoon emptier, toilet cleaner and potato masher at a hostel for the homeless (loved every minute of it).
Researcher in a dark lab who forgot what the sun looked like.
Support work with people released from prison.
Hoop jumper, target meeter, vomit cleaner, tear dryer, whipping boy and scapegoat at various educational emporia in the UK.

Three of my bad habits:
Cynicism x3

Five places I have lived:
Without giving too much away:
A Lancashire mining town famous for its pies, entertainers and a visit by Eric Blair.
A big city in Scotland that isn't half as nice as Glasgow.
Manchester commuterville.
Manchester's interesting and sadly neglected twin on the other side of the R.Irwell.
The place that everyone drives past and never stops at, unless they're Dutch.

And now I tag YOU, the other 5 who read this blog.