Wednesday, 30 July 2014

August 1--Day of Prayer for Christians of the Middle East

Don't forget that August 1 is the Day of Penance and Prayer for Christians in Iraq for everyone served by the FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter) apostolate. If you have never been to Mass in the Extraordinary Form and there is an FSSP church or chapel near you, this might be a good opportunity to attend one. You don't really need a missal--although if you don't have one, I do recommend reading ahead so you don't feel lost and helpless--you can go there and just prayerfully be.

The one in Edinburgh will be at 6:15 PM in St. Cuthbert's Chapel. St. Cuthbert's Chapel is tiny; on some occasions, worshippers spill out into the hall.

This Australian blogpost has some ideas for what you can do to help the Christians of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. (WARNING: photos of crucified men.) I like them all. But I have another idea about the "N" sign; I think we should wear buttons, too. That way our support for the Middle Eastern Christians would be visible to complete strangers, not just our Facebook friends. If you think that is too "in your face" and scary, reflect that you are probably wearing a cross or crucifix around your neck right now. (I wear a cross myself; I chose it years ago in a fit of anti-triumphalist ecumenism.) But, um, does anyone one know where you go to have buttons made?

Meanwhile, please pray, offer a Mass, fast, and--perhaps most painful of all for cash-strapped single girls and housewives--donate money on behalf of the Christians driven from Mosul (i.e. Nineveh). Apparently what they need most right now is money because when they were forced to leave behind all their property, they were also forced to leave their jobs and businesses (naturally). If you fast all day--drink water and I recommend tea and coffee to keep you going--it would be extra-meaningful if you donate the money saved. If you make the buttons, you could sell them for a dollar/pound/Euro and give the money to a charity directly helping the Mosul Christians.

Another thing you can do, of course, is get online and blog about the crisis. Comment on newspaper columns about Christians in the Middle East , and if you have the time and patience, feel free to get into arguments. The more comments a column generates, the more attention editors are likely to pay. If you are that kind of person, call up newspaper editors and say thanks for the coverage or demand "Where is the coverage?"
Western Christian Problem Update: None of our guests found my lost emerald in the soup, thank heavens, nor do they think they have swallowed it. I am still hoping it is in the new vacuum cleaner. However, I am not looking forward to sifting through the dust and dead moth bits to see.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Ringzilla Loses An Eye

Oh, sorrow. Today's piece of advice is to never do heavy housework while wearing your engagement ring, if you have one or if you get one. It turns out that there is no particular blessing protecting engagement rings--at least not Ringzilla. This morning Ringzilla twinkled at me with seven eyes (four green), and late this afternoon when I cast aside my cleaning clothes and reached for the sunscreen, he glared at me with six (three green).

I do hope I find the emerald in the vacuum bag and that it has not fallen in the soup. Unfortunately it is the same size as a diced bit of cucumber and the soup is made with yogurt. Everyone pray to St. Anthony and St. Martha (whose feast day it is by the old calendar) that it has not fallen in the soup and will not be swallowed by any of the evening's guests, especially not the priest.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Housewifery sleepy...zzzzz

Today's plan was to finish the Monday chores by noon, and then sit down to work very hard at writing. Why then does the left-hand bottom corner of my computer screen read 18:21?

I am sure the novelty well wear off, but today I tidied the bedroom and the library, vacuumed them, put jackets back on books, put books back on shelves, vacuumed stuffed chairs, sorted through a bag of rubbish, squashed three moth with my bare fingers and organized the memory box, i.e. sorted all the paper souvenirs and greeting cards for the past six years, e.g. all cards from Fr B, all cards and letters from Berenike, all cards and letters from Der Guter.

Zzzzz. Meanwhile I washed four loads of laundry, and the washing-machine is three floors down, in what used to be Servants' Hall.

Zzzzz. And I went to Tesco (about a mile away) with my shopping trolley, in gym clothes. Actual gym clothes. But not sweatpants.

Zzzz. And then I came home and put all the groceries away, made an ornate potato salad for dinner and washed the dishes.

And now it is 18:29 and I am feeling pretty tired. I think I will put my feet up and have a glass of zubrowka.

At any rate I hope to work very hard on my writing tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Custody of the Eyes

I don't know if I am being terrible romantic about my youth, but I don't remember being particularly attracted to men just because they had no shirts on. For one thing, men didn't go around without shirts a lot, except at the beach or by the swimming pool, or when mowing their lawns, and no-one looks his best mowing a lawn. Equally, I thought young women who squealed, "Look at his a**!", were not merely crude but weird. I mean, what is the symbolic value of buttocks for young women? Honestly. For older women, I suppose they might be an indicator of virile youth versus flat or saggy old age. As a young women, I personally was all about clothes and animated faces. [Long and embarrassing reminiscence edited.] Where was I?

Oh yes. Shirtlessness. So the other day I was walking along the beach with my friend and her new baby. It was a warm, windy day, one of those rare warm Edinburgh days when the beach is crowded with families and naked white babies and fourteen year olds in bikinis and gangs of youths. Almost nobody ventures into the actual Forth to swim because no matter how warm the sand is, the Forth is COLD. And often dirty. So I was surprised to see a gang of shirtless youths in bathing trunks swaggering towards us. Were they perhaps going to the swimming baths?

And then a funny thing happened. The swaggering youths no longer had heads. They were all naked chests. A vast magnetic smorgasbord of naked human torsos, without personality. In a panic, I forced my eyes away, and the torsos sauntered by. I looked back and they had their heads again. Goodness knows how old they were. Nineteen? I hope nineteen. They were pretty hairless.

It was a bit unnerving, but I put it out of my head until the next day when I was on the Rough Bus and teenage girls in incredibly skimpy clothing got on at the suburban shopping mall. The coltish girl in front was wearing a tiny halter shop and short snorts and actually looked very good in her outfit, if also seriously unsupervised, unlike her chubbier (but not actually fat) friends. I gloomy composed the aphorism "If you look great in a bikini, you're probably too young to wear it."

Then it occurred to me that the contrast of my reaction to mostly naked boy teengers was completely different from my reaction to these mostly naked girl teenagers: grudging admiration and pity for the later, and I don't know WHAT for the former. Feeling attracted, completely against my will, to multiple bare chested swaggering guys who could have been anybody felt super-creepy, and I didn't like it. So I told B.A. all about it.

B.A. was sitting under the portico of the Historical House with a beer and the Times Literary Supplement. He was wearing a shirt.

"Yes, well, now you know what men go through," said B.A. cheerfully. "We get used to it."

"UGH!" I said. "BLAH! I don't like it. Maybe it's because I'm growing old. Testosterone is kicking in! WAAAAHHHH!"

Friday, 25 July 2014

Love is Kind

I must preface this by saying this is most probably not a good analogy, but I hope I get my point across anyway.


If I were to die in the next few months, my friend Calvinist Cath would not come to my funeral Mass. Maybe she would take the train north to Haymarket Station, walk to the church and stand outside the door. For some reason, in the image I have in my mind, it is pouring rain. I hope Mr Cath is there, too. So a big old black umbrella for Mr and Mrs Cath, patiently standing outside the door in the pouring rain. Bless them. Out comes my coffin--sniff, sniff--and off we all go to Portobello Cemetery when I am laid down for my very long nap in the kind Scottish earth and everyone else, including the Caths, chucks some dirt in and zips off for a cup of tea gin and tonic and sandwiches.

Nothing would make Mr and Mrs Cath come into the church while Mass was going on because as yet--(I have to put in the as yet, dear Cath, to be consistently Catholic)--Cath has not been convinced the Mass is not a wicked blasphemy.

Now I love the Mass. I am extremely unhappy if, when travelling or when ill, I cannot get to one. And going to the Extraordinary Form has made me fonder than I was of the Ordinary Form, believe it or not. If it is consistent with Cath's conscience, I hope she has a look at an EF over youtube. But I guess she'd have to steel herself against the visual representations of Christ, for her ecclesial community thinks they are idolatrous. Naturally, I don't.

Off I toddle to Mass every Sunday, with an ex-Protestant, mind you, taking the bus, which means I am complicit in someone else's Sunday labour, which Cath doesn't like either. In fact, I guess I do a lot of stuff she doesn't like, and incidentally she condemns Christmas once a year and had some sharp remarks to make about Pope Benedict's visit, which I think was the one time we came close to quarreling.

And I think she is fantastic. I love her to death. She reminds me of my grandmother stubbornly not setting foot in church, not even for any of our baptisms, but otherwise not saying anything about it at all. Cath belongs, and my grandmother belonged, to a Scottish faith tradition that absolutely despised Catholicism and, in an institutional/cultural way, made the lives of the Scottish Catholic minority difficult up until about 1980. But I don't really care about all that (and to be honest it is now much more difficult to be a Free Presbyterian than a Catholic in urban Scotland). I'm much more worried about the situation of Catholics in Iraq and Egypt, let me tell you. I get that the Free Presbyterians have serious doctrinal issues with Catholics, and I get that they have a tradition of automatic anti-Catholic rhetoric ("the Errors of Rome"), and I do not think they should have to go to Catholic Masses for any reason whatsoever, including their own children's weddings or their friends' funerals. Standing outside the door is respect enough. In fact, I know a wonderful Catholic man who stood outside the door during his daughter's wedding in a Protestant church.

Love is kind. Love does not demand that absolutely everyone else should be forced to bend the knee to one's own loves. Love does not throw a tantrum or engage in mockery because someone has a serious reservation. Love covers up the erotic photography when the priest, the granny, the virgin or the child comes to visit. Love is patient. Love does not boast, which is why there will never ever be a male-female "kiss in" to protest laws and regulations demanding that Christians bow the knee to homosexuality.

At my Canadian theology school I discussed the tension between "being inclusive" and "being faithful." At my American theology school, being faithful was chucked out the window the day a certain professor asked my PhD seminar how we could convince the Archbishop of Boston to disobey Rome and bless the adoption of Catholic children by two men or two women living together in an arrangement they called "being a couple", not that he put it in that clunky way. As far as I recall, I think that was the very worst piece of spiritual arm-twisting I ever saw in my short career at BC, and I am ashamed to say that although there were priests and nuns in the room the only person who spoke up against his attitude was me. (That said, we were all in a terribly vulnerable position. NB to all grad students in Catholic theology programs in the USA: keep your mouth shut, trust no-one, do your work, get the degree, get out.)

Being faithful can be HARD, especially when people tell you that by being faithful you are a mean cruel uncaring bigot. And, indeed, when being faithful comes into conflict with being friendly, many of us search our consciences for how we can be inclusive without being unfaithful. We are friendly to people of other religions, including the Religion of Pride, and we see them first of all as human beings, not as cartoons, even if they sometimes present themselves as cartoons, as adherents to the Religion of Pride, by which I do not mean all people with SSA, sometimes do. However, there are some things we cannot do and some things we cannot agree with or tolerate or participate in without being unfaithful. For example, I do not think a faithful Catholic can participate in a public parade involving nudity or lascivious dancing, which means no faithful Catholic, be definition, can participate in the Pride festival.

And I am writing all this today because I am shocked, as many Canadian Catholics are shocked, by the 180 of an influential Catholic journalist on the subject of inclusiveness and fidelity and his vilification of those who disagree with him. As yet it is a mystery as to what exactly he has changed his mind about; it looks more like an unthinking "change of teams" which I would not have believed possible of such an erudite man. It seems that now he is no longer going to say nasty things about people who identify with their SSA (and if that was his habit, it was indeed wrong) but about Catholics--even Catholic friends--who object to homosexual acts. In the journalist's view gays do not often engage in one rather definitive homosexual act, which I think will come as a great surprise to condom manufacturers, and that Catholics are real sickos if we mention it.

To go back to my analogy--and now you can see how flawed it is--it is not loving to vilify people for following their consciences. Indeed, it is loving to love people for following their consciences, even if we think their conscience is to misinformed, when it is quite clear that those consciences are guided by REASON and SCRIPTURE, not by the passions and sensual delights. If I snuff it, and Cath hangs outside the church door, it's because she's faithful to her conscience, and that's great. (And for the record, I don't think it's super-wonderful-aren't-we-great that there was no Catholic objection to me sitting in her wedding service. I would have happily stood outside the door so as to her in her wedding finery because...yeah... bride...dress...) We can love Mass without getting mad that others think its an abomination. We don't need to shout "Bigot! Bigot!" (In fact, this would be extremely wicked.) And why? Because it isn't, and we know it.

Meanwhile, I would be so upset if anyone I knew took part in a Pride Parade, because I really do feel that they are against human dignity. (And incidentally, do see Hilary White's excellent column about the difficulties of getting out of a free love lifestyle.) As I wrote in the Catholic Register, love has never been illegal; interior disposition (e.g. racial hate) has only lately become under legal review. Blessed John Henry Newman deeply loved his best friend Father Ambrose St. John, and insisted on being buried beside him. But Blessed John Henry Newman would never have sinned against Father St. John's dignity or purity, whatever the provocation, not only because he loved him, but because he loved Christ and His Church. Deep male and deep female friendships are one thing--a very good and great thing--perhaps even a rare thing!--but sexual acts and redefining marriage and parenthood and legally bludgeoning those who disagree something else entirely.

Anyway, back to the tension between fidelity and inclusivity, and my funeral. I suppose Mr and Mrs Cath might feel awkward standing out there in the rain. Their feet are likely to get wet, and they don't pray for the dead anyway, so keeping their minds occupied may be a struggle, and people might shoot them weird looks, and some older, crankier Catholics might loudly sniff on their way in, and for all they know (God forbid) Catholics by definition don't go to heaven, so (God forbid) I am soul toast. But I can tell you one thing--my loved ones would love them for being there, in accordance with their consciences, and identify with them risking looking "judgemental" and foolish and old-fashioned in their desire to put God first.

Update: I realize that this is a Canadian, indeed a Toronto, Church squabble, but I thought I would just say that one of the facets of the scandal to which I allude is that it is still unclear as to what exactly the Catholic journalist is apologizing for. He has written at least two bestselling apologetic works, so his writing "I was wrong" and that his views "are evolving", has shocked and saddened many Catholics who looked up to him as a talented, courageous apologist well respected (and well read) outside the Catholic ghetto. So what happens when your apologist apologizes for....what? His apologetics? Explaining what "disordered" means? Unfortunately, he has indeed written that he won't use the word "disordered" anymore, which seems to me a linguistic capitulation to people who don't understand the word or don't want to.

"Disordered" has never meant "freakish"; my overuse of the internet is very likely disordered. Eating chocolate cake until you throw up is disordered; drinking until you pass out is disordered. And really this fight is not about people who define themselves by their SSA at all: it is the journalist vs fellow Catholics over what a Catholic can say about sin and creation and still be considered (A) a Catholic apologist or (B) a decent, loving human being.

And now I'm going to bed, so the combox moderation is going on.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Reminder

"Welcome to Seraphic Singles, a blog for Catholic Single women and other Single women of Good Will! Completely anonymous comments may be deleted and abusive comments will certainly be deleted.

The internet is an angry, crazy place. Seraphic Singles is meant to be an oasis of good chat and good manners, so that Single women of all nationalities and religions can feel comfortable here. Keep that in mind as you speak your mind."

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The War on Christians

B.A. and I watched the BBC News channel at 11 PM to see the latest updates on the genocidal Islamist persecution of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria. We watched in vain. Not a mention.

When I was a child I wondered what had happened to the first Churches--you know, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Colossians. The only ancient churches we ever heard about outside St. Paul's and St. Peter's Letters were Rome and Jerusalem, and Jerusalem (confusingly) was very rarely mentioned by the media as a city of Christians. A kindly adult--probably my mother--kindly informed me that they had been destroyed by Muslim invaders. Many of those countries we think of as Muslim or Islamic were once Christian. Within living memory, Syria and Lebanon were Christian countries. The indigenous people of Egypt, the descendants of those who worshipped pharaohs, are the Coptic Christians.

And so today. The Church of Mosul has been destroyed. Our churches are burning. Our brothers and sisters have been told by a raggle-taggle band of Islamist marauders to convert, pay a punitive tax or die. Monks are being driven from ancient monasteries; Christians girls and women are being gang-raped. And this means Christ is being driven from His home; Christ is being raped. Christ is being told to convert to a false religion. Christ is being told to cough up money He doesn't have. Christ is being murdered.

I know we have clicked our tongues and shaken our heads over the horrors of the modern world, and felt awful for Hindu girls gang-raped by other Hindus, and for African Muslim (or African Traditional Religion) girls mutilated by African Muslim (or ATR) women. We have been justly furious at those soi-disant Christians in former Yugoslavia who raped other Christian and Muslim women and had the nerve to ask why the Christian West did not take their side. We wring our hands over Israel, and are shocked by the virulent ant-Jewish hatred of what is now called "the Muslim world". We have been told many horrors, but rarely advised what we can actually do about them. So helpless we have been made to feel that it may come as a surprise that British activists actually drove to former Yugoslavia during its civil wars to personally pick up refugees and bring them to safety.

I wish I could drive to Syria. Indeed, I wish I could drive! Because this time it's not about "them"--foreigners, even if foreigners for whom we feel deep sympathy, as Canadians and Europeans felt for Americans on 9/11. It's about us Christians, us Catholics, even. The Chaldean Christians of Iraq are in communion with Rome; they are ours; they are us. So what are we going to do?

I will tell you what I have done so far, not to toot my own horn (which would be disgusting under these circumstances) but to help inspire you to do something yourselves.

So far I have contacted a friend in the media office of the (self-defined as Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, and an acquaintance in media office of the Catholic Church in Scotland. I have written to a Canadian Catholic journalist who has reported on the sufferings of Middle Eastern Christians, and himself been to Syria to speak with Christian refugees, for advice as to what Christians might do in the UK. I have sent a note to my fellow novelist, Fiorella de Maria, who has connections with refugee aid in the UK. I have sent comments of support to Tim Stanley for his excellent op ed in the UK Telegraph. I have changed my Facebook photo to the "Nazarene" symbol being spray-painted on the houses of Christians in Iraq. And I have spread news of a rally to be held in London, England, outside the Parliament buildings, this Saturday.

All that without leaving the house.

Today I will leave the house to meet with a Scottish journalist whose politics are normally the exact opposite of mine. Although he is not a church-attending Christian, he has great sympathy for the Christians of the Middle East, perhaps because he is a true liberal, and objects to any minority being destroyed by religious fanatics--even if that minority is Christian and even if those religious fanatics are a branch of Islam*.

So if this agnostic, left-wing journalist is willing to do something for our brothers and sisters, i.e. us, then what are you willing to do? What can you do?

If you really cannot do anything else, you could go to Mass on August 1. But please thing of something else as well. Talk to your friends. Organize a protest. Write emails to journalists and newspapers. Ask an expert to come to a public meeting in your church hall and then paper the neighbourhood with flyers.

*It appears that what is or is not Islamic is purely subjective and depends entirely upon the person claiming to speak for Islam. And thus there are very nice Muslims who don't see much of a difference between just being a good neighbour and being Muslim, just as there are very nice Christians who also don't see much of a difference between just being a good neighbour and being Christian.

Only if millions of Christians outside the Middle East come together and scream and work on behalf of those of us being persecuted in the Middle East will anything be done. The BBC is too fixated on Palestine, Putin and pedophilia to pay attention to anything else. To get the attention of the non-Christian establishment, we will have to shout together.

Update: I'm reliably informed that the Jesuit Refugee Service makes very good use of donations, and has tons of expertise in helping refugees.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

War on Procrastination

To continue the housekeeping theme, I will report that I have done 2.75 hours of housework today, albeit without a hoover. I broke the hoover on Thursday. Fortunately B.A. was sanguine about this loss, as he had got the device free and second-hand years ago. And we have ordered a new one, a 3-in-1 gadget from VAX, which not only hoovers things, it washes carpets. Yes, this is what married life reduces you to: the same excitement one used to have for a new dress, one now has for a new vacuum cleaner. And to think that I am actually looking forward to washing the carpets. Have I been brainwashed by aliens?

But it turns out that I do not hate housework; I just hated the thought of housework. It's the same with everything difficult, actually: I hate the thought of effort, so I procrastinate like mad, and then when I do it either it's not so bad, or I really enjoy it. I suppose the big exception would be cleaning the cat's litter box, but we don't have a cat, so I'm spared that.

To make myself do necessary tasks that take effort, I need a personal system of bribes and punishments. I also need to get up around 7 or so. And then, because morning is my brainiest time and it seems like a shame to spend the whole thing on housework, I make my coffee and study Polish for an hour. (Lately, though, I have been terribly distracted by the internet, so that hour goes on for quite a long time.) And then, having finished the exercises at the end of the chapter, I get up with relief and a sense of accomplishment and put on my cleaning clothes to tackle the Room of the Day. And only then do I allow myself to set fingers to keyboard, or open a literary work--although sometimes doing even these things involve self-bribery. For one thing, now that I get paid to read books, I should stop feeling so guilty about reading books.

When I ponder my reluctance to do serious housework, right down to the nap of the carpet cleaning, for example, I see not just laziness and procrastination but shame. At some point in the twentieth century, it became shameful for women to do a lot of housework. The idea was that women who stayed at home doing housework were pretty useless (for how long could it take, with all our new labour-saving devices?) and very boring compared to Career Women or, to describe the reality of the work world for the majority, women with jobs. This was a total reversal of my Canadian grandmother's way of life. Her primary profession was housewife, and she had a little part-time job behind the counter of a local store: Charlie's Smoke Shop, I believe. But by the time I was growing up, people (women, mostly) were so nasty about housewives and women so meek about being "just a housewife" that I honestly began to think that there was something seriously wrong with women doing their own housework and it was best left to paid professionals like Hannah Gruen, who ruled the kitchen in Nancy Drew's house. It was not until recently that I realized how much many working mothers long to stay at home and housewife all week instead of just on the weekends. All of a sudden, it's okay, even posh, for middle-class women to stay at home again.

Another situation that changed my attitude towards getting on my hands and knees to scrub is the phenomenon of Polish university students in the UK getting jobs scrubbing floors to pay their living expenses. My mother, who encouraged her children in their part-time jobs behind counters, would never have allowed me to scrub my way through uni. Yet the beauty of the parish gamely scrubbed the stairwells of Edinburgh for 12 pounds an hour, or whatever it was. (To put this into perspective, the pound has roughly the same buying power in the UK as a dollar has in Canada. The UK is hellishly expensive.) That impressed me a lot.

I am not sure what this all has to do with Single life, although naturally we all have an aversion to living in dirt. When I lived alone, I was quite good at keeping on top of housework, in part because I lived either in a bachelor (bedsitter), a one-bedroom flat or a room in a convent. When it is quite obvious that the only person who is going to clean and tidy is you, you just do it. When you have roommates or a husband, then letting things slide is a lot more tempting. But inevitably there will be drama. The preparing for marriage hint I will pass on is that expecting a man to do 50% of the housework is insane, even if you do work the same number of paid hours he does. To say that it is unfair for men to do less housework is like saying gravity is unfair. There seems to be some culture-based masculine enjoyment/toleration/shouldering of outdoor work, especially in the UK where men garden like mad, but honestly I think any indoor housework a man does is a nice bonus, unless it involves hammers.

Monday, 21 July 2014

War on Moths

If you should ever look for a new post on Seraphic Singles and be disappointed, you may safely reflect that I have not written as I am up to my eyebrows in housework. This year the Historical House has been infested with moths, and having engaged in a desultory and mostly defensive battle with them (most nice things having been put for safety into a large insecticidal closet), I am now on the offensive.

Sadly, though, I must report a lost battle. The wretched beasties got B.A.'s pure wool purple pullover, the one I bought him myself. It was kept on the bedroom shelf, which is near enough the bed to rule out the use of insecticide, and when I pulled everything down in today's "Special Cleaning Project", there a horrible moth was, bold as brass, perched on B.A's sweater. Naturally I squashed the horrid thing between my fingers, but when I checked for damage, there it was: nasty telltale little holes.

So now the handsome pullover has been stuffed into a plastic bag sealed shut with cellotape and is sitting by the kitchen rubbish can. But on the plus side, the shelf is tidy and there is one less moth in the world.

Meanwhile, I have hauled from the insecticidal closet 20 years worth of B.A.'s shirts (he throws nothing out) and told him I was taking them to the used clothing store. So he has removed half of them, which he will keep, unworn, for another five years, and then I will smuggle them out of the house. Five years is long enough for wifely piety around the sacrosanctity of a husband's old stuff, imagine ten.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

War on Kitchen

It took me three hours to clean the kitchen today, and that's with only two "special projects." The special projects were cleaning the spice shelf and cleaning one of the cupboards. I found a bunch of lost recipes from home in the cupboard. My mop broke again.

The long-term plan is that one day, the kitchen will be entirely clean, cupboards and all, with no junk anywhere.

As you can see, I am still preoccupied by housework.

Friday, 18 July 2014

War on Dust Mites

I have a new cleaning schedule. It makes so much sense, I don't know why I didn't think of this five years ago. In short, I tidy, dust, sweep or hoover and scrub (if applicable) one room of the flat a day, except Sundays. We have eight rooms (arguably nine, but currently we use the smallest as a closet), so two get done on either Saturday or Monday.

My sudden enthusiasm for cleaning is down to Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. I opened the neglected volume for stain removal advice, and got sucked into the section on dusting. What I read about dust mites frightened me so much, I seized the hoover at once and hoovered the dickens out of the bedroom carpet even though it was Sunday.

We have sand-coloured wall to wall carpeting throughout the flat, which I hate on principle, but it was here before us, and here it will be when we go. Having been roused to unprecedented levels of cleaning activity, I shall sail out this weekend to buy a carpet cleaner.

Now the flat is entirely tidy and dusted, though the recycling has silted up in the kitchen again. Saturday mornings are dedicated to cleaning the kitchen. Incidentally, I have taken to hand cream. Last night I went to bed wearing cheap wool gloves, hands covered in shea butter. My fingernails are a wreck. I am a homemaking martyr.

The psychological boost I get after finishing a room, especially if I get it done by noon, is really amazing. I am hoping it is addictive. So is B.A. Usually he cleans the bathroom out of sheer desperation, poor man, and in five years he complained only once.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

My Favourite Bookshop in Glasgow

I have discovered that St. Mungo's Bookshop in Glasgow carries both my books, Seraphic Singles and Ceremony of Innocence! Naturally I must now promote this excellent and enlightened, faithful Catholic business. So if you are in or near Glasgow and feel like visiting a Catholic bookshop, then off you must go to St. Mungo's, St. Mungo's Retreat, 52 Parson Street, Glasgow, G4 0RX.

Tell Thomas that Seraphic sent you.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Love Migrant

A young lady once said she admired me because I had given up everything, including my own country, to marry the man I love. I felt a spiritually maternal pang of worry although naturally there is a big difference between "giving it all up for love" when love doesn't come with serious and binding commitment and merely moving across the Atlantic to live with one's husband in his country. And I also felt a tad guilty, for it is not like I gave up a major career in Canada to come to Scotland. I wrote for both love and money then, and I write for both love and money now.

Still, moving three thousand miles away from home can do funny things to your brain, even if you are the most privileged kind of migrant, i.e. the love migrant who has simply married into the new society. Yesterday I was reading a published paper about the phenomenon of Polish grocery stores in the UK (unprecedentedly rapid within a four year period), and the behaviour of the Polish migrants seemed very familiar.

For example, in 2004, when Poles were allowed to come and work in the UK as if they were British (and British allowed to go work in Poland as if they were Poles), Polish migrants stocked up on Polish foodstuffs before coming to the UK, greatly hampered by Ryanair's 15 kg limit. After the rapid spread of Polish shops and the availability of Polish foodstuffs, they stopped using up their precious 15 kg allowance on cheese and juice and packed dishes made by their mothers instead. And, indeed, I do know a young lady who brought me a big chunk of meat cured by her own mother as a present.

"How very amusing," I thought, and suddenly remembered that I have a row of thirteen Tim Horton's coffee tins on top of my kitchen cabinets. And that both my mother and father brought me bags of Tim Horton's coffee the last time they were here, plus a box of Crisco and a tin of cookies made by my mother from her latest recipes. And when I saw the first coffee bag, I felt a split second of loss for the old familiar tin before reason kicked in and admired how this innovation makes Tim Horton's coffee so much more packable.

Food, says this article ("The Material Worlds of Recent Polish Migrants: Transnationalism, Food, Shops and Home" by Marta Rabikowska and Kathy Burrell, 2009", is one way migrants "practise home" in the face of a confrontation with "nonhome": To recognize home, one needs to first encounter a ‘nonhome’—a place and condition which contrasts with what was familiar before immigration. The home which is missed by immigrants exists only under the condition of exile and needs constant confrontation with a ‘nonhome’ over which they have little control. Practising home through consuming original food enables them to regain some stability and orientation in a host culture, or…it can be a means of affirming resistance to outside influences.

Personally I would argue that Tim Horton's coffee just tastes really good, but taste wouldn't explain why I keep the tins as fetish objects (in the original meaning of that word, people) on top of our kitchen cupboards.

Meanwhile, I visit the local polski sklep pretty often, although most often before Christmas and Easter, just like the Poles in the UK, apparently. And apparently Polish shopkeepers in the UK are particularly pleased when the native British visit their shops, so (if I pass for British among Poles) I am glad to be adding sunshine to my polski sklep shopkeepers' day. But as yet there is no study as to why a Canadian might take up Polish cooking as a reaction to migration to Scotland, although I would guess that it is because there are so few ways to express Canadianness in Scotland, and so few visible Canadians, that it is just easier to "go Polish".*

I shall never forget that moment of northern solidarity when I stood on a frozen pavement in Edinburgh with a Pole and we both gaped at the attempts of a Californian and an Englishman to get the latter's car de-iced and on its way. I don't even drive and I was appalled. Similarly, I sense in church-going Poles at dinner parties a similar sense of confusion about the attractions and politics of Anglo-Catholicism, i.e. Anglicanism/Scottish Episcopalianism. Like them I take Roman Catholicism for granted, and thus do not get all excited by orphreys or whatever. If a priest does his job, is orthodox and doesn't give scandal, then he can wear a burlap sack, for all I care. And fussing about the number of candles on the altar is just too, too Oxford Movement.

So I guess it could be a form of resistance, and as much as I love Edinburgh (I really do; see below) there are aspects of British culture that need resistance, especially if you are young and vulnerable. The benighted sexual culture is one of them, as is the widespread breakdown of the family, family coming all too often second to Great God Sex Life, and open drunkenness among all age groups (though not, of course, all or most Britons). The driving with two inches of snow on the roof of one's car and as if the roads were dry and ice-free when they actually resemble Montreal's rue St. Denis in January is also pretty bad, as is the lack of Bobcats to clear the roads overnight. I do my bit by refusing ever to call my husband my "partner", paint myself orange (except for Halloween), dye my hair, wear cougar gear or get drunk in pubs. I gave the Californian a combination ice-scraper/snow brush one Christmas.

But of course Edinburgh culture has serious advantages over Toronto culture (as I must say, or Hilary White will remind me that Toronto is not Canada). one of which being that Edinburgh has preserved and continues to preserve its architectural heritage. Also, it is still a Scottish city, with a Scottish soul, not a locus for mass immigration and state-encouraged multi-multiculturalism/multilingualism. In Edinburgh the vast (I estimate 98%) majority of residents speak English, Polish or Italian, and as I have those reasonably covered. I never get that sense of confused alienation I so often suffer on my Toronto neighbourhood bus. (If I hear Spanish, French or Russian, I can safely assume these are happy tourists, not homesick migrants.) And Edinburgh cares so much about its art collections, that its principal museums and galleries have free admittance. Edinburgh is thus a fantastic city--better than Toronto--for lovers of visual art. (For world-class opera, Toronto has the edge, though.)

I see that I have put a comma before "that" in the above paragraph--one of the amusing side-effects of studying and writing in Polish. A young Polish man once voiced his worry that B.A. might resent my interest in Polish stuff, as this must have been the last thing B.A. expected when he brought a Canadian wife home to Scotland. However, I think B.A. is relieved (if he ever thought about it) that I get along as well as I do in Britain and consider myself British anyway, being an anglophone Vimy Ridge Canadian. Not English (though I admire England) and obviously not Scottish (though I live here and my mother's grandparents were born here), but British. If I wasn't sure Alec Salmond's separatiste vanity project was doomed to failure, I'd be applying for British citizenship pronto.

*Update: That said, what could be more typical of a fourth-generation Torontonian than to become fascinated with someone else's cuisine?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Auntie Seraphic and the Thirteen Year Old Reader

A comment found in my moderation box, to go under 2010's "How to Look Like a Nice Catholic Girl":

I really enjoyed this post with all of its great information!! I am trying to impress a very nice boy at my church so this article was EXTREMELY helpful!! I know I am only 13, but a lot of the topics covered I could very much relate to. Also, any tips for personal style? I love going shopping at thrift stores to find & remake old things into new. Some of my family & friends look at me like I'm crazy when I show off a new creation. Can I still be myself without getting the same crazy looks, or should I play it safe? Thanks, Mia

Dear Mia,

I am thirty years older than you, and I often think about how cool it would be to be thirteen. You see, you have something that most adults over 25 do not have: an almost limitless capacity to learn. And because your body is still growing and developing, you have the opportunity to help it become the healthiest, strongest and most flexible adult body you can have.

As a thirteen year old, you have at least seven years to go before you need to seriously think about impressing boys with your looks and personal style, falling in love and getting married. And, in fact, your entire life may very well be determined by what you do with these seven years. These seven years are very, very important.

I see that you have a creative mind, and that is wonderful. However, there are better things you can do with your creativity than shop for clothes, alter them and show them off to friends and family. The altering part, I admit, is pretty cool, if you mean that you are practicing cutting and sewing--real and useful skills.

Love of being noticed and applauded is the big temptation of teenage girls. It isn't such a problem when teenage girls strive to be noticed and applauded for your deeds, like getting an A in math, learning Italian or scoring the winning point in volleyball. It's a problem when teenage girls strive to get the attention merely by what you look like. At thirteen, as long as you are clean, healthy, happy and and wearing clean, modest clothing appropriate for your age and the weather, it does not matter what you look like.

Now you may feel disappointed and think I am either crazy or boring, but I remember very well what it was like to be thirteen. I even remember sitting on my bedroom floor trying to make "looks" out of my clothing after studying my latest thrilling issue of Seventeen magazine. I also remember the boy I had a crush on; I even remember his birthday.

But I have had thirty years to think about this, and I have come to the conclusion that the most important things you can do when you are thirteen are to learn, especially languages, to master skills, and to find a sport that you can excel in, even if that sport is chess. Instead of shopping, you could be reading. Instead of showing off looks, you could be showing your friends and family stories, poems or essays you have written on the subjects that interest you most. Instead of altering clothes, you could be doing math puzzles or learning new languages.

To be frank, you do not want to be noticed by boys right now. Any time you spend with boys that does not involve learning school subjects or playing games like chess or soccer is wasted time. At your age, boys are tempted to waste a lot of time.

My article about "looking like a Nice Catholic Girl" is one of the most popular posts I have ever written, but it was meant for women who are old enough to think about getting married in the next few years. The idea was to make women who have been unable to attract church-going men think about what messages their hair, make-up clothes might be sending.

When it comes to adult (20+) women befriending men who might make good husbands, having a nice appearance is only the beginning. It's like having a very impressive looking science project: the science project has got to be interesting through-and-through; it can't just LOOK good. People will notice the project because it looks good, but unless it involves excellent research and creative ideas, readers will become disappointed and lose interest. My post assumes that my adult women readers are already "fascinating science projects" underneath--the results of years of their own study, work and development--and just need some tips to be noticed by the people "at the science fair."

A young Catholic man once said to me, "I understand that girls are interested in me, but why do they think I should be interested in them?" He wasn't just talking about what the girls looked like; he was also talking about their interests and accomplishments. At thirteen, you are embarking on your high school career. If you excel at your studies, and if you excel at at least one sport, you may be able to win scholarships to college. This may mean the difference between a boring adult life and an exciting adult life, between meeting boring men who are not interested in creativity, and meeting interesting men who are interested in creativity. Boys and men who are interested only in superficial appearances, like the clothes you wear, are losers.

This is what I wish adults had said to me when I was thirteen--or if they did and I didn't listen, this is advice I wish I had followed at thirteen. I hope you take it seriously and find it helpful. And I hope you share what I have written (here and in the original post) with your mother or another adult who loves you. Please don't automatically trust complete strangers whose advice you find on the internet.

By the way, that guy I had a crush on when I was thirteen? While I was wasting time thinking about him, he was playing sports and studying. Now he is a wealthy accountant, highly respected in the business world of our hometown. Back then, I wished he would notice me. Now I wish I had worked harder to do what he was doing: working on becoming a better athlete and a successful student!

Grace and peace,

Update for Canadian Readers: Sure, we don't really have sports scholarships in Canada--not like they do in the USA, but making a varsity team looks very good on a resume because it shows you can perform, and work with others, in a competitive environment.

Shameless World Cup Tie-In

Join in the German football victory celebrations by purchasing my Ceremony of Innocence, the first Ignatius Press novel to feature German football players! Order today!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Dressing Up

I greatly admire vintage clothing enthusiasts who are so good at dressing up that they look spookily like they have emerged from the past. That level of vintage dressing takes commitment. I wonder if they recreate the mindset of their chosen decade--which may be even more difficult! And it might not even be that scary. If you read books written before 1963, you realize that many people were perfectly rational and fair-minded. Although she did not lead a perfect life, the work of Dorothy L. Sayers illustrates that a Christian Englishwoman of the 1930s and 1940s was not by definition racist or anti-Semitic.

To be brutally frank, I don't have a standard 1940s British frame...or do I? I may have the frame of a 1940s British woman of early middle age, a vintage look few except female impersonators seem to want to try. IN-ter-esting. Time to look up photos of the Mitford sisters... Although I suspect Nancy almost never ate.

This is all a preamble to two photos Kasia took at the Swinging Allies Dance Party last month. One is of me and a friend, and the other of me and a Polish Pretend Airman.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Tearing Up

I still haven't buried the top of the wedding cake. We were going to do it after our fifth anniversary, but we haven't yet. It's still here.

Nature is not on our side, it would seem. But Christians love stories of miraculous births, especially to couples who have basically given up hope because of their age. And Christians tell other Christian couples not to give up hope, maybe because even though it would be easier not to hope, but just to get on with life, there is something good about hope. It's a theological virtue, after all.

I am always amazed when women my age or older conceive a baby, and I am often tempted to assume the worst, i.e. IVF. After all, I once met an intelligent, devoutly Catholic woman who froze some embryos before giving birth to two and puzzling over what to do with the rest. The doctors had called and asked if she would donate them to science. I am not making this up. I wish I were. However, I was reminded today that a British Prime Minister's wife (and celebrated lawyer in her own right, etc.) conceived a baby "by accident" at the age of 45.

It's not something I think about all the time, which would certainly be unhealthy, and we always thought it was a long shot, as fertility takes a dive after thirty-five, and I married three years after that. But then I see news like this (not safe for little brothers) when I am checking for email, and I think of little else.

The baby boy is cute, and the men are happy and shirtless, and some anonymous woman is merely the provider of necessary genetic material, and the woman outside the photograph has reduced herself to a paid baby machine. I don't imagine there will be any photos of the baby unconsciously and naturally nuzzling for breast milk and crying in unconscious fear and disappointment, do you?

But the line that bothered me most in this article was this one, maybe because it hammered home the playacting and the strangeness of the whole affair more than anything else:

“Every pain that she had, they were crying along with her,” Foster said. “When she’d scream, they’d scream. I wanted to take a picture and hug them at the same time.”

Never in my life have I heard or been asked to imagine a man screaming along with his wife as she gave birth to their child. Nor have I heard of a farmer and vet mooing away as a cow calfed. What on earth was going through that woman's mind as she went through all that, two men screaming away by her bedside?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Breaking Up

Well, we girls have heard enough about rotten, lying, time-wasters of boyfriends who are afraid to take the "next step" because they're waiting for someone better to come along. So here's an example of a woman acting like that.

Sometimes girls write in to tell me that they've never had a boyfriend, and I write back, "That's great! You've had less sexual temptation, and you've never had a break-up! Awesome! High five! Woot!" Well, something along those lines, anyway.

I read a lot of garbage romance novels for teens when I was a kid and a teen, vintage and contemporary (i.e. 1980s), and the message I got was the more boyfriends, the better. These novels weren't advocating for promiscuity; they just suggested that the more boys who wanted you to be their girlfriend, the more fabulous you were. I honestly believed that you were supposed to have an elementary school sweetheart, and then a high school sweetheart, and then a college sweetheart, and onward and upward. It's not like anyone ever, ever, EVER gave us a lecture on the topic--not at school, not at church, not at Girl Guides, nowhere. Oh, wait. In Grade 9, Sister Wilfreda told us never to date someone we wouldn't marry. That was it, and then it was all the "keep your bra on" stuff in chastity lectures. Nobody ever told me boys had real feelings like girls do.

The only girls I knew who were not allowed to "date" when they were teenagers (and teenagers still had "I'll pick you up at 8" style dates back then--how SWEET!) were daughters of Italian migrants, e.g. many of my high school friends. Now, of course, I think their parents were absolutely right. There is no point in dating in high school. Hanging out with boys who are friends who are chaste friends, yes. Dating? No.

My friend Lily argued against this once and said the lessons you learn from dating prepare you for marriage, but I am not so sure. What actually prepared me for marriage was theology school because theology school had a lot of older laymen who occasionally had to be put in their place and a lot of wonderful male religious who could only ever be friends. Having to confront "seekers" having mid-life crises is character forming. Being thrown into the midst of a lot of smart, attractive, deeply faithful men and told "Don't touch" is a great training in prudence, chastity and fidelity. And not all women pass that particular theology school test. <8-O Dating for the sake of having a boyfriend, on the other hand, teaches you that there is indeed such thing as a free lunch. And free dinners. Free, free, free! And it never occurred to me to question this economic disparity because I thought that was what guys were supposed to do; they paid, I smiled. Frankly, the teenage and college-aged me had the EQ of a doughnut. Maybe if I blog every weekday that will seriously reduce my time in Purgatory.

My principal objections to teenage dating are not related to chastity--in the 80s it was very easy to terrify teenage girls into chastity, and I thought Much Ado About Nothing was a documentary anyway. No, my principal objections are that you are more likely to get bored and jaded with the whole thing. And the break-ups are awful. Unless you're think you're ready to marry now, don't hanker after boyfriends.

I remember my first break-up, performed when I was 18. At that point I was quite terrified of Mr Middle Eastern Muslim Boyfriend Who Pretended He Couldn't Understand English When It Was More Convenient. I decided that the best thing to do was break up with him in a public place, and so he got the bad news outside Toronto New City Hall. But, lo! I had forgotten a hat at his house! He suggested that I come back to his house to get this hat. And I really loved that hat. But perhaps my Auntie Seraphic voice came hurtling out of the future to say, "Don't you DARE go back to that house!" So I didn't. And I never saw my hat again. The End.

Break-ups got way worse after that. Way. In fact, I can remember only one relatively easy break-up of the kind where you can shake hands afterwards and laugh over how doomed it all was from the start. Ha ha ha! But even then one of us had second thoughts and brooded and sulked and it was all very uncomfortable.

Really, having boyfriends is totally over-rated, and DON'T PUNCH YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN! When I was 16, I thought having a boyfriend would be an amazing solution to these various problems:

1. boredom
2. loneliness
Three. lack of intimate conversations (see 2)
4. feeling ugly
5. feeling like a lesser woman because I didn't have a boyfriend, which you have to admit is kind of circular.

Having had a chance to think about that for twenty-something years, I have come up with solutions to my then-problems that have nothing to do with boys.

1. Proper after-school (or summer school) math class and language school on Saturdays.
2. Proper after-school math class (or summer school) and language school on Saturdays.
Three. Psychotherapy. Then I could have paid (or, to be honest, my parents) could have paid someone to listen to my teen angst and tell me to concentrate on math, languages and the arts.
4. Psychotherapy and hot irons. Why, oh why, did I not find out about hot irons until I was thirty-two!?!? And Pilates. Pilates would have been cool.
5. Psychotherapist to ask me if I thought my Italian-Canadian friends were lesser women because they didn't have boyfriends either. That would never have occurred to me on my own. Indeed, it only occurred to me just now.

So, if it's not too late, I hope I have convinced you that you are really better off not having a boyfriend. It's much more romantic just to marry the super-cute friend of friends who would make a great lifelong friend if you both didn't want so badly to be more than friends within two weeks of being friends. And you aren't ready to make crazy teenage decisions like that until you are way old like me. Well, maybe not THAT old.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Seven Up

I sat down to do my morning hour of Polish exercises, but somehow I can't quite settle down my mind. Too much football coverage. And somewhere in there Dennis and Catriona are still celebrating Germany's incredible 7-1 triumph over Brazil.

How did that song go, back in 2006? Vier-und-fünfzig....

My theory has always been that the textbook accuracy and solidarity of the DFB can beat any ordinary workaday team but is no match for creative brilliance as displayed by Italy at its best or, er, Brazil, for example...

Update: Yes, I know. I haven't mentioned German football here in years. It's because I married a non-football person, and watching football with a non-football person made me so irrationally angry, I realized I'd have to give up watching it. I wish the same could be said for all the post-match wife-beaters out there, and meanwhile I am only mentioning this to point out that when and if you marry, you really do have to give up hobbies that create friction between you and spouse. Spouse before football--unless football is your core value, in which case you had better marry another football fan, preferably one who supports the same teams.

Update 2 (over an hour later): Still fatally distracted. "Mit dem Herz in der Hand und der Leidershaft im Bein, werden wir Weltmeister sein!" I expect a very rude email from Polish Pretend Son soon. Well, what can I do? You can't change your team after you pick it. It's football law, and I picked mine in 2006. "Wir haben nicht die höchste Spielkultur. Sind nicht gerade filigran..." Woot, woot!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Totting Up

Many years ago when I was not so much Single as Separated waiting to Divorce, I embarked upon one of the most hardworking and economically responsible periods of my life. I lived in the kind of bachelor (bedsitter) flat for which I longed as an undergrad and saved as much money as I could. I worked a relatively stressful but reasonably paid 9-5 job, and I wrote down every cent I spent. In the evenings, I went to my boxing club and when I returned I studied languages.

It's amazing how far I got. I reviewed all my high school Italian and got very far with college Latin. I did all the Ancient Greek homework I should have done when I took Ancient Greek. I vaguely recall intending to review my French, but that fell by the wayside.

Incidentally I did not have a television set.

Not only did I write down everything I spent that year, I wrote down every calorie I consumed. I was quite pleased to be eating an average of 1300 calories a day although in hindsight that was outrageously low for the amount of exercise I was doing. (In addition to evenings at the boxing club, I went in the mornings to the YMCA.)

I took things too far with saving, too. My major expenses were rent, groceries and eventually psychotherapy. And I enjoyed knocking down my grocery bill a few cents each time. It felt like a victory, and advanced my plan to salt away a lot of money in mutual funds and to save for a ten day holiday in Europe, which I did.

One day I had an epiphany at the cash register of the supermarket as I eagerly awaited to see how low my bill was. It occurred to me that the closer both the grocery bill and my calorie intake got to zero, the more likely I was to develop anorexia and die. This thought totally ruined my enjoyment of the game, but it probably saved my health. One of my co-workers had suffered from anorexia as a teen, and while she was working with me discovered that she had done herself permanent damage. In fact, she had to leave work.

But now that I have decided that I would really like to move out of the Historical House one day, into a house or flat B.A. and I can truly call our own, I have gone back to totting up the numbers. I'm sorry I got out of the habit. For one thing, it's really great fun.

Groceries in the UK, by the way, cost the EARTH! For too long my attitude was "I don't want to know", but now that I (or we, now) have another clear financial goal, I really do want to know. It's another step in remaining rooted in reality, which for me is really a lifetime journey.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Covering Up

I have just written a column against Toronto's G*y Pr*de Week; it will not win me any friends. Well, no. Actually, it may win me friends about people who think of themselves as gay but think Toronto's G*y Pr*de Week is hopelessly vulgar and commercial and that the presence of so many politicians lowers the tone. Were I a gay man, I would be tempted to pinch a few political male bottoms just to hear the forced laughter: "Ha, ha, ha. Naughty, naughty."

Me as G*y Man [the following Saturday]: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I went to the Pr*de Parade and pinched the bottom of the Minister for Transportation.

Priest: Yes...

Me as G*y Man: And I drank too much and took some crystal meth and squabbled with my mother and listened to a few stories I shouldn't have listened to and told a dirty joke and had sexual thoughts about my neighbour and for these and all the sins of my past life which I have forgotten I am truly sorry.

Priest: What was that about the crystal meth?

Me: It was only once.

Being old-fashioned and even increasingly older (every year!), I don't enjoy over displays of sexuality in the public street by anyone except very young Orthodox Jewish newlyweds walking hand-in-hand up Toronto's Bathurst street. They look heartbreaking sweet: proud, happy, bashful. They certainly aren't drawing attention to themselves, and I notice them only because it is so rare to see an Orthodox Jewish couple hand-in-hand, even on Bathurst Street. And I have never seen my Catholic parents hand-in-hand, although my brother says he did once, when they were walking in a university campus. AWWWW.

The AWWW is because my parents were in their sixties and still love each other after forty years of marriage and five children and scrimping and saving and getting the piano tuned, etc. etc. I do not bequeath the AWWWW on all cute 50+ male-female couples; B.A. and I once came across fifty-somethings making out like teenagers in Edinburgh Waverley's station, and our first thought was that they were having an affair. Married people don't make out in public in Edinburgh. We are shy.

While trying to figure out how to squeeze maximum opinion into 800 words, I thought about how childish it is to try to shock and hurt people, or get their attention, by acting out sexually before them. I remember a very confused young chap who both identified as gay and was in love with my friend Mary. I think I was 16 and Mary was 15. I remember we were all on a train, and Mary and I were in our school uniforms and that I knew the guy was gay, which made him the first gay guy I ever met, and he suddenly and very nastily asked me if I had ever seen the shaft of a man's penis.

The word was still taboo in public in Toronto of the mid-1980s, so I couldn't have been more shocked and hurt if he had slapped me, and Mary murmured shocked words of reproof. For the life of me I could not think of what I had said or done to earn such a insult, and it is only now by writing it out that I come to the conclusion that it really had nothing to do with me at all. He was clearly a mess, poor guy, but it has taken me a long time to forgive him.

Then, in 1990, Orientation Week at University of Toronto began against a backdrop of tree featuring grainy photocopies of photos of men-and-men and women-and-women making out, something I had never seen before and also found very shocking. All the Orientation Kits at U of T had condoms in them, only at the Catholic college volunteers had carefully taken them out, and it is a good thing they did, for had I had been handed a condom by my Catholic College on top of seeing those photos on the trees across the street, I would have dropped out. My ideas about sexuality were very tender, involving privacy, tenderness, fidelity and, if possible, having babies. They did not (and do not) include performing tonsil-hockey with my beloved to freak out the squares.

We cover up what we're ashamed of, yes, but we also cover up or shield those things we hold precious....

Well, I am all written out on that for the time being.

My parents, B.A. and I all had a good time at the cottage. B.A., Aged P and I all climbed East Lomond, and B.A. and I attempted to roll down it. This was very amusing but made my head spin.