Sunday, 28 December 2014
Old Year's Retrospective
January: Annual visit to wee mother-in-law. She looks just like B.A. only smaller, prettier and beardless. A friend's elderly father died (not a highlight, of course, but important), and first we went to his Communist funeral and then we went to his Requiem Mass. Fun fact: Scottish Communists of the old school were very often Catholics of Irish extraction. Began 5/2 Diet.
February: Annual trip to Canada. Super-amazing book parties in Toronto for Ceremony of Innocence.
March: Swore to become better at housework. Started Pilates classes. Calvinist Cath's bridal shower. Seminarian Pretend Son stayed for a weekend. Suddenly Homeless Student Pole came to stay for a few weeks. Polish friends came north for the Knights of Malta Ball and to stay for a weekend. Their photo appeared soon after in Tatler magazine. Words cannot express my
April: Cath's Wedding: psalm singing and a super-Scottish Presbyterian minister. Very romantic. Aelianus and the Future Mrs Aelianus stayed for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Easter. Trip to Kraków. CANONIZATION OF JAN PAWEL II!!! And the OTHER GUY!!! Trip to Wrocław and environs with Polish Pretend Son. We went to see Saint Edith Stein's house. It was very moving. A monolingual guide asked Polish Pretend Son if we were related. "Powiedzieć", said PPS cryptically. PPS's real mother gave me a woolly (soft toy) sheep which I clutched, having been driven to see her at 290 km/hr.
May: Back to Kraków for "Dzielne Niewiasty" (Brave Women) retreat. I gave four lectures and RASHLY promised to translate one or two into Polish. Fifth Wedding Anniversary, for which I am slim, thanks to 5/2 Diet and Pilates. PPS came to stay for the weekend and shout at B.A. for not coming to Poland and shout at me for using "THE MACHINE" to translate my lecture into Polish. I exaggerate a bit. But there was a lot of shouting when PPS said he wouldn't check my Polish translation of my lecture if I continued using The Machine. Shouting, wailing, gnashing of teeth, banging of own head on table--and that was just B.A. and I, arguing over whether or not I should be imposing on PPS at all in the first place. PPS watched us with great interest.
June: Went to London to meet Fiorella Di Maria and sell books with her. London is extremely cool and utterly expensive. As usual what I liked best was eating food with friends. I cannot decide which was better: eating Haute Polski Cuisine at "Ognisko" with B.A. or eating Haute School Food with B.A., Seminarian Pretend Son and Polish Pretend Son at Seminarian Pretend Son's club. Both were splendid events and something to think about when things are kicking off on the Rough Bus. Mum arrived from Canada, and so we decamped to Falkland Palace.
July: Unthinkable horrors unleashed on the Chaldean Christians.
August: Masses for them said throughout the world, including Edinburgh. I read from Ceremony of Innocence at Blackwell's Bookshop during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I met Reader Kate on holiday in Edinburgh. Seminarian Pretend Son stayed a weekend. Closed "Seraphic Singles".
September: Polish Pretend Son stayed a weekend. B.A. and I went to Rome for a week. I voted "No" in the Scottish Referendum, and was very impressed by the lack of violence and bad feeling in Scotland during and after the Referendum. I started to drag my feet to swing dancing.
October: B.A. went to Aelianus' stag weekend and shot real guns. Dawid Ogrodnik--what? Oh, I saw "Ida" which was good except for the part near the end which would make any devout Catholic woman roll her eyes, suddenly realize the story was written by men and reflect that men just don't get devout Catholic women. Funeral of one of B.A's elderly colleagues--a real adventurer. It was an honour to know him. Unfortunately I was squeezed out of the now-overcrowded Pilates class. I fell off the 5/2 bandwagon, too. Worse and worse. Aelianus got married in real life. Sigh sigh sigh.
November: B.A. and I go ancestor-hunting in the graveyard with limited success. Polish Pretend Son for a weekend. "Bus incident"--uh oh. I wonder what that was. Oh! I was Pole-baited by two bad little boys. Polish Class supper--much vodka and hilarity.
December: A snazzy 40th birthday party in a local bar for B.A.'s uni pal. Archbishop's media party. "La Double Vie de Veronique." Quadrophonic arrives for Christmas, then Mum, then Dad. Wigilia. Christmas. Św. Stefana. Cocktails with Expatriate Housewife, home for Christmas.
So that was a rather good year, I think. Full of food, friends and travel. And I really did become better at housework. If I have time tomorrow morning (doubtful), I will entertain you with my New Year's Resolutions. If not--all the best in the new year!
Saturday, 27 December 2014
Belated Boxing Day Pledge
No more sugar.
More resolutions anon.
Thursday, 25 December 2014
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Our Christmas May Begin. After My Nap.
Now I shall nap.
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Our Tree for 10 P
As last year the tree man tried to give us a tree for free, I have concluded that the twenty-third is considered ridiculously late for tree-buying. Oh, those crazy (post-) Presbyterian Scots. After four hundred years of condemning Christmas as Catholic, they have taken to trees and tinsel with a vengeance, beginning their celebrations around December 1. Well, at least they keep on celebrating until January 1, when they spend the day in bed, muttering something about never drinking again.
Naturally I do not mean the traditionalist Presbyterians, who still disapprove of Christmas, and it is time for Calvinist Cath to nail her anti-Christmas thesis to the Christmas tree, so let's see if it's up yet. It isn't. Oh, boo. [ALERT: Link to Protestant heresy coming up.] Well, let us look at the official media then. Scottish Christmas wouldn't be Scottish Christmas without some Scottish Christians explaining why they think it is all nonsense. Naturally they are wrong, but I admire their guts.
But to move on to my other favourite Europeans, I have already made kompot and kompot juice for tomorrow's modified (i.e. small) Wigilia supper, and the dried mushrooms for barszcz z uszkami and the wheat berries and poppy seeds for kutia are dumbly soaking. I found a bottle of krupnik (honey vodka liqueur) last week, and currently I am drinking some. So I am feeling rather calm--much, much calmer than last year. My mother, though, says she feels a bit fraught. Maybe she needs some more sherry.
"Would you like some more sherry, Mum?"
"Yes I would, thank you. That would be very nice."
|Antidote to Television News|
"Scary wife," said B.A. later, which was a very unwise thing to do.
The BBC, as usual, was describing the plight of the poor Yazidi while ignoring the poor Christians. This time, though, it was describing the "slave markets", with such loving details as how the blue-eyed girls would cost more and how how much virgins would go for. They showed footage of excited young wannabe rapists giggling with excitement about the next day's "slave" sale: inshallah this, inshallah that. The BBC called the Islamic State the "so-called" Islamic State, perhaps so not to offend the Islamics at home.
I'm too downcast to look up "rape and Islam" online. Besides I know perfectly well that this will turn up a thousand repetitions of the Koranic verse about men not being allowed to have sex with anyone but their wives and slaves. Critics of Islam will say Islam is therefore an incredibly rapey religion, and Islamic missionaries will assure the reader that rape is completely forbidden by Islam.
So never mind that for now. How are we supposed to respond to television news? The BBC is happy to give you the gory details but stops at suggesting what you, the viewer, could do to stop the atrocities they are bringing into your cozy den. The presenters are often as handsome as actors. The footage is high production. The message is carefully crafted. For example, these people are Yazidis, completely unlike you or anyone you know; these other people say they are Muslims and occasionally they appeal to Muslims in your country to attack you, but they aren't really Muslims. It's a humanitarian disaster, naturally, like a flood.
This sort of thing slowly drives me crazy. Thinking about what happens to thirteen thousand or so "unwanted" fetuses in Scotland (population 5 million) every year would drive me crazy, so I don't. I don't want to know the details of what is happening to the victims of Islamic State because it kills me that I can't do anything about it. Sending money is all very well but it does not rescue THIS girl or THAT girl from an excruciatingly painful and disgusting ordeal.
I also wonder if the British media isn't loving this story because of the sex elements. Rape sells tabloids. The tabloids love rape. I understand that British journalists show up at war zones yelling "Anyone been raped?" And not only is there a LOT of rape in this story, there are real-life slave markets. Wow-wee!
I won't watch films or televisions with rape, but it's amazingly difficult to avoid them. The other evening we tried out my new computer by watching a film with elderly actress Charlotte Rampling. Well, wouldn't you know. Charlotte gets orally raped, and we see it all. Why do people think such things are at all necessary or appropriate in 90 minutes' worth of entertainment?
B.A. keeps telling me to stop blaming the BBC and that I would be equally angry if they didn't broadcast stories about Islamic State. But I think I am equally angry at television news and what it has become: entertainment. For our entertainment last night, the Scottish media made sure it interviewed as many people as it could about a road accident in Glasgow yesterday, offering sound bites from politicians about their thoughts and prayers. A "bin lorry" (garbage truck) went out of its driver's control and rushed down a busy shopping street, killing six people and injuring eight others. That's very sad, unthinkably awful for up to fourteen families affected, but it was over the top for the reporter to go on about how Glaswegians are resilient and they will come together as a city and come to grips with this horror although naturally Glasgow will never be the same again. That was the entertainment part, and it was disgusting.
I realize that this is not Christmas fare, but I am trying to get it out of my system so I can on with the preparations.
Sunday, 21 December 2014
Spare a Thought, Prayer, Dollar for the Middle Eastern Christians
Have we all been conditioned to think of ourselves as completely helpless before foreign events? Other than giving money to Aid to the Church in Need, I cannot think what to do. But I am pretty sure that if we sit around waiting for anyone else to do something, we will all be waiting a long time.
Aid to the Church in Need.
Saturday, 20 December 2014
A Day Out in Glasgow
So I took my brother to Glasgow, and the morning's stress and grumpiness fell from my shoulders as soon as we sat in our train. After grousing about this and that all the way to Waverley Station, I finally had a positive thought.
"I love trains," I enthused
"I love trains,"my brother caroled in response. "I love every kind of train..."
I don't love every kind of train, but I do love most intercity trains. I love travelling around the UK and Europe by train. My favourite train is the fast train galloping from Kraków to Warsaw. My next favourite train is the Edinburgh to London train, if I travel first class. My least favourite train is the slow train from Mazovian country towns to Kraków, which ambles through endless fields, bumping up and down for hundreds of miles, muttering po-CHONK, po-CHONK, po-CHONK.
The train to Glasgow is reasonably quick, quicker than the bus, and a lady comes by with a trolly laden with coffee, tea and snacks for sale. Looking at the green hills hoping to see sheep while drinking a hot coffee is one of the small joys in life.
But I meant to write about Glasgow. We got to Glasgow and we went at once to the Buchanan metro station to buy an all-inclusive travel pass. We were advised to go to St. Enoch instead, so we trundled down the busy shopping street to St. Enoch. My brother, henceforth Quadrophonic, had remarked upon men in track pants staggering into a pub.
From St. Enoch we took the metro (subway)--the Glasgow subway is just two rings, delightfully simple--back to Buchanan and took a bus towards Glasgow Cathedral, getting instantly lost. But we did find a post office, so I posted Christmas cards, and we took another bus, which did drop us in front of the Cathedral.
At first I thought the Cathedral was very impressive for a Victorian reproduction and I marvelled that Glasgow's immigrant Catholic community had managed to build such a glorious place until we got inside and I couldn't see Archbishop Conti's white-washing improvements anywhere. Only then--alas--did it dawn on me that this was not the Catholic cathedral and I should take out my guide book. And, lo, Glasgow Cathedral is the only mediaeval cathedral to have been allowed to remain standing during the destruction of the Scottish Reformation. Three Presbyterian congregations shared it, and in the 19th century the state took it over. By then the Church of Scotland had begun flirting with Catholic art, and as a result Glasgow Cathedral is decorated in quite a pretty fashion.
Of course it is also terribly cold, and after an hour we were happy to march off to Buchanan Station and go to the West End for lunch. Quadrophonic spied "Hanoi Bike Shop", apparently beloved of pop stars, so we had a delicious, if pricey, Vietnamese meal. Then we went to the Botanical Gardens, for my brother likes plants, and toured the increasingly warm and delightful Victorian greenhouses. These were lit entirely by daylight, so I had a nasty turn when I discovered myself alone in the gloaming with a thousand plants and an Eccentric. My brother had gone on to the chamber of palm trees, so I quickly scuttle there to find him.
From the Botanical Gardens we went to the Hunterian Gallery, where we took advantage of its last half hour of opening to look at the architectural drawings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the collection of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists. Then we were shooed out of the gift shop, so we went to the University Library to look at the map. I asked a bald and beefy security guard with what looked like the Scottish Covenant tattooed all down his arm for directions, and then we went to a hipster café for coffee and to ponder evening plans.
First we went to "Brew Dog" for a drink. Then we had a very good dinner at "Mother India's Café" on Argyle Street. Finally we walked the freezing length of Sauchiehall Street to find its famous bars and hear some live bands. We settled on the Box Bar and drank "Punk IPA" and Red Stripe while listening to baby-faced youngster play their instruments. Baby-faced Band 1 ended on a high by playing "Monster". Baby-faced Band 2 was much better than Baby-faced Band 1.
The place was packed with young men, some of whom had mutilated their ears, and as the stage was beside the door, I got a good view of everyone coming in. Glasgow girls are wearing their hair long and straight, and some of them are very stout. My brother noticed that a lot of the young men were stout, too, and he wondered if this was a result of their drinking careers and if they never played football. I kept a wary eye on the ones who had grommets in their mutilated ears and the ones who wore sweatpants instead of jeans. (Honestly!) After all, it was Glasgow.
"We came here to drink beer and to fight, and we're all outta beer," said Quadrophonic, by way of observation, and decided we should go before Band Three began. So off we went to finish our walk down the length of Sauchiehall, passing a hundred drunken revellers and street musicians.
Naturally I had forgotten all stories about weekend night trains home from Glasgow until some huge guys with shaved heads and beer bottles in their pockets got on. Fortunately the seats across from us had been taken by two Edinburgh women who work in Glasgow and had been at their office Christmas party. One of the women began to talk to her friend about Toronto, and so it transpired that she was from Toronto and that Quadrophonic knew one of her classmates.
Our comfort in conversing was somewhat impeded by a gang of young drunks who insisted on presenting us ladies with cards advertising a strip joint and then noticed the one man with us. This made me rather anxious for my brother, especially when one drunk asked him what his favourite team was, and another asked him if he liked Rangers.
My brother, who knew enough to know that they were testing him, but not enough to know that this is how drunken Glaswegians identify members of the enemy tribe for beatings, told them his team was the Toronto Maple Leafs and that he was not from here. Naturally they asked where from, and happily they felt well-disposed towards Canadians, so all was well. They alighted at Croy.
Behind us a large group sang "Alouette" so long and so badly that I feared they were English-Canadians. However, they then sang "Flower of Scotland", which Canadians do not know, so I ceased to feel embarrassed. Then they sang various Christmas songs at the top of their lungs, one female reveller having an almost inexhaustible memory for the lyrics. She got out, still loudly cheerful and most definitely Scottish, at Haymarket.
We caught the first Night Rough Bus at about 12:15 AM. I did not know the Night Rough Bus began so soon after midnight, so it was one last happy surprise to end the day.
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The Dummies at Dalhousie
|Plato deeply regretting the stupidity of his adolescence|
And so was definitely the case with a dozen or so male undergraduate dentistry students at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who had a "private" Facebook account called Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. On this Facebook account, the soi-disant "Gentlemen" posted crude sexual remarks and a joke about chloroforming a bikini-wearing woman and asked which women students the other members would like to, er, bed--bed being the quite the euphemism.
Someone brought the "private" Facebook account to the attention of the female students, to Dalhousie University and to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is currently notorious for having harboured a star who beat the living daylights out of women unfortunate enough to have gone home with him. Result: official hysteria and grown men weeping. In other news, Taliban.
A dear friend of mine brought my attention to the story by posting about it on Facebook, saying that such stories made her struggle not to fear or hate men as a group. And I feel awful for her, for I used to feel the exact same way and it made it very difficult for me to get along with men as a group. I also feel awful for the dental student dummies at Dalhousie who kept the Facebook page because their earthly punishment is likely to be disproportionate to their crime--if it was a crime, not just stupid, imprudent and uncharitable behaviour.* But to be honest, I feel worst for the victims and survivors of the latest Islamist massacre, the one in Pakistan.
I do not know how old the dentistry students are--they were in fourth year, apparently--but presumably they are in their twenties. By their unpleasant remarks and imprudence, I assume that they are (or were) in an extended adolescence, too. And because they are medical students, I assume they are unmarried, and because they are twenty-something unmarried males, I assume they think about sex 1140 time a day.
This is a conservative estimate, given that there are only 1140 minutes in the day.
"How did you cope?" I once asked B.A., who used to be a twenty-something unmarried male.
"You get used to it," said B.A,, and added that men can shove distracting sexual thoughts into the background of their minds to get on with other stuff. Talking about such thoughts with other men, let alone publishing, he said just now, is a very bad idea.
From the wreckage of my Classical Civ degree, I recall Plato repeating something an old man (Cephalus?) had said to Socrates about old age having liberated him from the "mad master" of sexual desire. But it took me a long time to realize that what the old man was talking about was an almost universal male condition because men rarely talk to women about it. Nice guys do not want to frighten and disgust women, prudent guys do not want to get into trouble with women, and resentful guys do not want women to know they think we have that much power over them.
But we don't have that much power over them. We are even more helpless over their adolescent sex drives than they are. And therefore it is really unfair when young men rebel against the Mad Master by talking smack about women. If he hadn't gone to work, leaving me in my bathrobe to a day of ease, art and writing Christmas cards, I would ask B.A. if he used to talk smack about women. But to tell you the truth it is very hard for me to imagine B.A. and his college pals-- now scholars, professionals, family men--talking smack about women. Regarding the clever haikus he sends to and receives from certain pals I prefer not to speculate. (She shuts her eyes in holy horror.)
I remember my brother expressing his disgust with the way the boys at his high school talked about women, and I recall other men expressing their disgust with the way boys at their high schools talked about women, and imprudent uni men of Edinburgh have let slip to me how other uni men of Edinburgh talk about women, and I find it all interesting data. They are deeply uncomfortable with the power sexual attraction has in their life, but I am not deeply uncomfortable with the much weaker power sexual attraction has in my life. As long as it doesn't come to my ears that one or more has been sharing bizarre sexual fantasies about little me, it's no skin off my nose. Sucks to be them.
But it really sucks to a member of the Dalhouse Dental Studies Class of 2015 right now. Adolescent men have a tendency to tell crude jokes (aka Locker Room Talk) to deal with their discomfort with the Mad Master, but they don't have to PUBLISH them. How incredibly stupid and unkind to the women named. It's not that the women's marital prospects were destroyed--the old reason men weren't supposed to bandy women's names about--;it's that the men's crude thoughts about them were forced upon their attention and their sunny, optimistic view of their colleagues as almost-women has been ruined.
It's very hard for women to believe that men think and say a lot of garbage they don't really believe and will forget about in hours. But actually men do think and say a lot of garbage they don't really believe and will forget about in hours. Unless, of course, they put the garbage on Facebook for the CBC to find and publish. They still don't believe it, probably, but now they won't forget it.
If women could see what random men are something thinking when they look at us, we (and they) would probably all die from horror--trains and buses full of corpses--so it's a good thing we can't. It used to annoy me to think that ex-boyfriends et alia were probably inventing horrible sex fantasies about me, but I swiftly realized that there was nothing I could do about it if they were, and now the idea makes me laugh. Okay, I'm sorry they committed (or commit) sin with my image attached, but that's between them and God. I'm just laughing because it's good to be free from a sexual Master that Mad.
But I am sad for my friend who is sad and tempted to hate and fear men as a group because a dozen of them are crude-joke sharing idiots. That is giving their idiocy way more power than it deserves. And even if all men between 17 and 25 talked smack about women, the answer would be simple: don't take seriously anything men between the ages of 17 and 25 say about or to women and pity them for their mental sexual slavery--at a distance, if need be.
In place of fear and hatred for All Men, I suggest compassion combined with a firm assertion that, as uncomfortable as adolescent male sexuality can be for men, they must not blame it on women or punish women for it. And why? Because fear and hatred for All Men is itself another Mad Master and it can seriously blight a woman's life.
Update: Canada's (heck, Nova Scotia's) Frank magazine weighs in using (ALERT!) bad language. But still no clue as to how old these guys were.
*Update 2: I read a suggestion that these men were older than 25. My compassion for them is in inverse proportion to their actual age. The "should have known better" factor for locker room garbage really kicks in after age 25.
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Hope for Christmas Prep
When we returned with all our packages, ready for a good rest and a drink, my mother asked if we had gone to the Christmas Market, and I realized--with great joy--that we had skirted Princes Street (Edinburgh's main street) altogether. This explains why we had such an uncrowded and relatively stress-free time of it. We didn't get cross until we discovered how comparatively hard it is to find maraschino cherries. (Tip: Tesco, among the olives.)
Here are all the things we bought today:
Shop 1: Real Foods
For Christmas Eve kompot:
For Christmas Eve kutia:
For immediate snacking:
small package of Balti mix
bottle of wine
Shop 2: Polish grocery
Old Krupnik liqueur (at last!)
Dried Polish forest mushrooms (for Christmas Eve barszcz)
Shop Three: The Yellow Bench Restaurant
Three potato pancakes with sour cream
Shop 4: Valvona & Crolla
One marron glacé (to be shared between us)
Shop 5: [Secret!]
Shop 6: Brew Lab
2 long black coffees with milk on the side
1 almond croissant
(We ate the marron glacé, too.)
Shop 7: Holland & Barrett
Wheat germ (for cookies)
Vegetarian soup cubes (for Christmas Eve barszcz)
Shop 8: Bona Deli
Cherry compote (in case we never found maraschino cherries)
Many Other Shops.
Shop 9: Tesco
Dark soy sauce
Three jars of maraschino cherries.
Victory was ours re: the maraschino cherries, and we went home to the Historical House on the infamous Rough Bus.
The cherry compote purchase was very funny and also in part because I didn't want to disappoint or scandalize the sales clerk, who didn't seem to speak English.
Me: Przepraszam!? I am looking for cherries in syrup,
Pani: Ser? (She rushes to the cheese section.)
Me (alarmed): Ale nie. Szukam czereśnie z syropy.
I have no idea if that is grammatically exact, but understanding dawns in the eyes of the shop assistant.
Pani: Ah, tak. (She rushes to the canned fruit section and triumphantly bears aloft a huge bottle of bleached-looking cherries bobbing around like eyeballs in a jar of blood.)
Me: Ooooo. (I take the bottle with a lying Anglo-Saxon smile.) Dziękuję bardzo!
After such fulsome thanks, I had to buy the cherries, you understand. However I am sure I will find something to make with them. At worst, I will pour them over chocolate cake.
Update: The mental health professionals among you may be wondering why I am making Polish dishes for Christmas Eve when no Polish guests will be partaking. The answer is because I like Polish Christmas Eve dishes, and I have always wanted a proper Christmas Eve supper tradition, like those of French Canada. Sadly there seem to be no ready-made British-Canadian Christmas Eve traditions, unless we count hunting for the Scotch (cello-) tape.
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
A Clever Man
I find this particularly exciting as my stuff has never appeared in a peer-reviewed academic journal, unless you count the one on whose editorial board my baby sister was.....
Well, anyway, congratulations to B.A. on his second foray into academic journals. I am proud of you and deeply thankful I have a man who actually knows what he is talking about when he talks about philosophy, etc., on call.
Hope for All Single Girls
I have since discovered that "Debbie" is an act and not a real eHarmony customer trying to find the love of a good man while showing tremendous lack of judgment. I am both relieved and disappointed. I am disappointed because I rather liked poor Debbie, and I wanted to know if she had, despite being inordinately attached to cats, attracted dozens if not hundreds of men. She's very pretty, and some men are absolutely goofy about airheads--even ones with MBAs from Villanova, I imagine. But I wondered if even the goofiest would immediately contemplate what it would be like to live with such a woman.
By the way, I had a terrible nightmare last night that B.A. and I were trying to buy an apartment in Toronto, but we could not be approved for a mortgage because I do not have a proper job, which was rubbed well into me by one of the current owners of the flat, a guy who had gone through male-to-female "transitioning" and who lived with a woman who was practically his/her twin and their children. Talk about multi-layered anxiety dreams.
Anyway, I was happy believing in Debbie, for Debbie was an illustration that sometimes (NOT always), sometimes, men and women persist in being Single because they have a serious habit or way of engaging the world that bores, antagonizes or frightens people. Of course, some people with terrible habits or antagonistic or scary ways of engaging the world end up shacked-up or married anyway because the rocks in their heads match the holes in others.
Having written primarily for Singles for years, I still think a lot about why so many people are Single for longer than they used to be, but I never voice my opinion on why a particular individual is Single unless I am asked. One of the worst things you can say to a Single is "No wonder you're Single because blah blah blah blah blah." Not only is it deeply insensitive, you might be terribly wrong. The one exception is if it is a male friend at university and you know he is Single because he doesn't wash every day and thinks clean clothes are optional. I think in such a circumstance, it is kinder just to tell him.
An aside: I was on the Rough Bus yesterday, and I mentally redressed everyone in view, gave them better haircuts, and made them sit up straight. Vast improvement, and the most unemployable-looking one was actually quite striking. Clothes do make the man.
There are so many reasons no-one has much control over that has delayed marriage for millions, and they are not all bad. The best one is that fewer people feel that they will be a shame and a disgrace if they are not married by 22. If we were still all treated as virtual adults from the age of 14, as in the Middle Ages, then most of us would be ready for marriage at 22. But we aren't--and someone would be doing the Western world a real kindness if he or she wrote a bestselling book about how to raise children so that they really are adults by the age of 18, not teenagers until age thirty.
But at the same time, it is very sad that self-absorbed adolescence lasts so long for so many, and so many women have to unwillingly wait until their reproductive years are almost over for the right guy to come along or to grow up or for themselves to grow up. And from an aesthetic female point of view, it is sad that fewer men marry when they are still wonderfully good-looking with full heads of hair, etc.
So it is almost a comfort to realize that sometimes the reason why one persists in being Single is because one is doing something wrong that one could cease doing. Personally I changed many mental habits on the path to meeting B.A., and I decided at the age of thirty-two that it would be good to stop emphasizing all the "guy stuff" I was into (e.g. boxing) and start learning from very feminine and pretty women about "girl stuff." Somewhere along the line I noticed that all the "feminine" stuff second generation feminists hated--make-up, skirts, pretty dresses, impractical shoes, shopping, deep interest in babies, a former deep interest in ponies, attraction to sparkly objects in jewellers' windows--men seemed to like in women--and not because it makes men feel all superior, as various feminist writers wrote again and again.
Men in general are not as good at women in expressing how they feel, but over the years, I collected enough naive male remarks--accompanied by goofy, fatuous facial expressions--about heterosexuality to get a clue as to what marriage-worthy men think is attractive.
But that is enough from me for now. As a married lady who works from home, it is now my duty to do the housework, starting with the dishes. Clean kitchen fanatic B.A. has already put a pork roast in the oven.
Monday, 15 December 2014
Hope for the Sydney Hostages
So horrified I don't know what to say.
I guess I'll start with my old obsession.
When I was in elementary school, teacher banged into our heads a "new and improved" mythology about Canada. In place of the one my mother and her parents grew up with--Canada the dutiful daughter of the proud British Empire, Canada founded by the English, Scots and Irish--we got Canada the land of First Nations People and Immigrants.
Both mythologies were based on unthinking sentiment and the shift reflected a shift in the status quo and in what politicians wanted Canadians to think. The Empire stuff led to Canadian fighting and dying in the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War. The "We are all Immigrants" stuff, which was probably meant to keep born-Canadian kids from beating up immigrant kids, led to a form of cultural relativism and a weird provincialism in which the children of Italian immigrants (for example) were brought up in a sort of mental 1950 twilight zone divorced from the realities of contemporary Europe. It also, of course, dismissed the heritage of one, two or three hundred years of family life in British North American some children were actually growing up in.
People are trying to force "We are all immigrants" on the poor English in England, too, which would be ridiculous if it weren't so sad. Occasionally people say this in Scotland, too, observing that Highlanders "emigrated" to Glasgow in large numbers. Not convinced, but nice try. Have a nice day.
In Canada the dismissal of families' long historical association with British North America (the pre-revolutionary Thirteen Colonies, Upper Canada, Lower Canada and Newfoundland) and the provincialism always stuck in my craw, but it is the cultural relativism that has turned out to be deadly.
At first it was only uncomfortable. In the community college system, I had to deal with an angry Muslim woman with a chip on her shoulder, but a friend of mine had to deal with angry Muslim men who were disgusted that they had a woman instructor. It never occurred to us that this was going to be a problem in Canada from the end of the 20th century.
As a writing teacher, I had the privilege of asking new students for their stories, and they often wrote about the day they arrived in Canada. One African immigrant in a hijab wrote of her surprise that in Canada you could have a boyfriend and not be executed for it. My blood ran cold. What kind of people had she come from? Now I wonder, Had they come with her? Have they arrived since?
I have thought a lot about the anti-racism, pro-tolerance training I got as a child and, despite its flaw, what a pity it is the millions of adult migrants to Canada don't get it, too. I imagine it would be very helpful in Australia also which, since 1976, has fully opened its gates to the Asian world majority its leaders once feared would completely dominate and destroy Anglo-Australian heritage and order. Although they may have been small-minded racist jerks, they also knew how to count.
Thousands of people migrate from Muslim majority countries because most Muslim majority counties are an absolute bloody mess, lacking in the stability, prosperity, social mobility and ethos of Christian or formerly Christian nations. I suspect most are incredibly relieved to have been brought into the Anglo or European order, and their children are horrified when they go "home" to visit family and discover fly-encrusted dogs dying in the street, etc. However, others--it must be said--try to continue their native chaos in their new countries. The bearded weirdie in Sydney appears to be one of them.
And I think every current resident of Australia, Canada, the UK, and anywhere else where Muslims-with-chips-on-their-shoulder have taken guns out of bags to wreak havoc has the right to demand what our governments are going to do about this. Would I have taken a mandatory course on British values? Yes. In fact, to stay here I had to pass an exam on them.
Update: The other big enemy, incidentally, of Anglospheric civilization is the disgusting moral laxity to be found here, epitomized by the moral morons taking selfies at the scene of the hostage crisis. I cannot even begin to imagine what my "The Maple Leaf Forever" singing grandmother would make of such callous and self-absorbed behaviour.
Update 2: I'm so sorry two of the hostages have been killed.
Update Three: Mark Steyn writes about the attack.
Update 4: I am seeing a lot of tender, sensitive, heartfelt stuff on Facebook appealing for people not to judge anyone or be rude or violent towards anyone in the face of this quite obviously Islam- and ISIL inspired terrorist attack on Sydney. As this tender, sensitive, heartfelt stuff is in English, not Farsi, it is quite as if an Aussie had been holding up a café full of Iranians.
By the way three people did not lose their lives. Three people had their lives taken from them, two while protecting others, and at least one at the hands of the jihadist, and the jihadist at the hands of the police after opening fire. These people were KILLED, and they were killed because the religio-political beliefs of the gunman led him to take a café hostage.
The woman who was killed was a successful married working mother of three. There are three Australian children under ten--the youngest is four--who have been robbed of their mother, and their father has been robbed of his hard-working wife.
Update 5 (Tuesday): I'm still furious. I'm particularly furious at the way some Australians cannot accept the fact that sometimes non-Muslims are victims of Islamist colonial oppression and that Anglo-whatevers are not as all-powerful as we prefer to think. Hence the weepy, paternalist "I'll ride with you" tweeting.
It is just perverse to need to believe that Anglo-Australians (et Anglo alia) are omnipotent--either the PROTECTORS of the poor little victim peoples or the PERSECUTORS of the poor little victim peoples but never ever, ever, ever victim peoples ourselves. Hey, remember what happened to Australians taken prisoner by the Turks? No? Remember what happened to Australians taken prisoner by the Japanese? No? Remember the Bali Bombing? No? Seriously? Not even the Bali Bombing?
The only woman who was killed as a result of the Islamist terrorist attack in Sydney was not wearing a headscarf. Ignoring the real victims of the Islamist terrorist attack to worry about imaginary victims of imaginary comments on Australian buses--even while the terrorist attack was still going on--- points to a bizarre racial/cultural superiority complex. On the other hand, such people may have been in shock and so were desperately seeking to reassure themselves that, for good and for evil, their group still has all the power.
But no. There is no super-race, people. Just cultures that promote the human good, and cultures that do not, and the balance of power goes with whoever has the better weapons.
Sunday, 14 December 2014
Hope for Christmas Travellers
Friday, 12 December 2014
Hope for Robustness in Children
Thursday, 11 December 2014
Blessed are the Poor
Update: Thought of something. Could all readers on Facebook link to Artur's post on Facebook? I think it is quite uplifting in itself, though I was horrified to find out someone did that to Artur.
Dancing Queen Young and Sweet Only Hmm
However, my husband refuses to go to dance class or dances because he is sure he would be bored. This disappointed me at first because when I first met B.A. in person he took me to a ceilidh (pron. KAY-lee) at the Assembly Rooms on George Street and gave every impression of a man who loves to dance. He had claimed to love the Dashing White Sergeant more than any other dance as if he was fond of them all. However, I reflected that husbands are famous for giving up dancing, theatre, going out, etc., etc., the minute you put a ring on their finger, so I accepted his surprising lost of interest as a fact of married life.
Meanwhile, it is not like I am a tremendous fan of social dancing after my various hideous forays into salsa classes, tango classes, Irish dance classes, and even belly-dance classes. However, as I always treated these classes as a way to meet new people, I agreed to go to Edinburgh swing classes with a friend so she could meet new people.
"Oh no," I thought during Class 1. "This is soooo embarrassing. And I have to touch strange men. Ugh. And they get to touch me. Bleah. And this one is already sweaty and smelly. And I have absolutely no idea where my feet should be."
But I smiled. The only way to survive social dancing is to smile gaily, apologize for mistakes, and tell your dance partner he was marvellous or that you have it now, thank you so much. Rather like dancing itself, you have to fake it till you make it, "it" being a beeline for the door.
However, I noticed the last time I went to swing class that it wasn't terrible, and that the latest male instructor made dancing look relaxed and fun, and that seeing how popular my youngest protegée was, was a delight to my maternal soul. And then on Sunday, one of the altar servers mentioned that he had also been going to swing, only on the nights I had bunked off, and thought it was fun.
I goggled at this news. If the altar server and I went to class at the same time, one of the men I danced with would be someone I actually know and like. And if he went to the dance, I stood a very good chance of being asked to dance by someone I actually know and like. Meanwhile, my youngest protegée piped up that there as going to be a live swing band, and suddenly I found myself looking forward to swing night.
"Both classes and the social, please" said I to the doorkeeper for the very first time. And although none of my protegées or altar server acquaintances turned up, I enjoyed class tolerably well. And then, despite some clumsiness and daydreaming when I ought to have been paying attention, I enjoyed the next class almost as much. I was glad when it was over, though, and would have skipped the social had the live band not arrived.
"I shall stay until ten," I decided, sitting all alone in my best blue dress, and then my youngest protegée turned up after all. What a relief!
And then, to my surprise, for the altar server never turned up, I was asked to dance. And then I was asked to dance again. I may have been asked to dance as often as my youngest protegée. Naturally, I was terrible, but one nimble-footed fellow actually asked me to dance again, which was incredibly kind of him. I mean that quite literally. But one of the rules of social dancing is that old hands should be kind and ask for dances with, or accept dance invitations from, clumsy newbies, for this is the only way newbies will improve.
It was a good band, and I enjoyed watching the best dancers dance when I myself was not dancing. Sometimes I liked it better. During one of my dances, I was thrown around so much that my perma-grin was hiding the thought "I hate this sooooo much." However, while watching my dance instructor of two weeks ago, I remembered for the first time how much I loved dancing in high school. This dancing was never more sophisticated than the twist, but I really loved it. When I was old enough to get in, I loved dancing at clubs, too.
Then I thought: "Wait! Maybe that is the whole point of all this. The point is to get good enough to recapture the enjoyment I had dancing at high school dances."
And then I thought: "This is the first time in my life I have gone to dance class to get better at dancing." I stuck with ballet because of my ballet friends. I signed up for ballroom as a present for a dancing fiancé. I went to swing and salsa and swing again to meet people. I went to belly dance to... Actually, I cannot remember why on earth I went to belly dance. And lately I have been going to swing dance to be company for others.
And now I think, "Is this what singleheartedness is about?"
Singleheartedness, if I have this right, is when you enjoy something for its own sake and not as a means to something else. And now I am determined to enjoy swing for its own sake because it looks like fun and is currently a little fun and will become very fun when I can do it properly.
Which thought leads me back to B.A., for the best way to improve at dancing is to have a lead at your command to practice with. But alas! He is not interested.
That said, he was waiting to fetch me from the bus stop last night, and he had baked a chicken pie.
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
The Double Life of Veronica
Incidentally, I began my writing career with a huge blast of censorship and disapproval. I completely forgot that until I began rereading my high school diaries.
When I think of how brave and "transgressive" young male poets in the 1990s thought they were by reading their hooting fans sexually hostile poems about Margaret Atwood or religion, I have to laugh.
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
Seraphic Goes to the Palace
IMPORTANT UPDATE: My friend says that she and her husband had the prawns, and they never felt ill. So it very well might not have been the prawns. It may most certainly have been my greed.
Monday, 8 December 2014
Hope for a Chilled Out Christmas
As I hope I make clear in my column, this was not at all B.A.'s fault. Poor B.A. Every year he tells me to take it easy, and every year I yell at him for telling me to take it easy, and every year I go nuts and end up weeping somewhere, usually on the kitchen floor.
Well, I am not going to do that this year! This year I will listen to B.A. and take it easy.
It helps, of course, that my mother is coming and therefore will do some of the baking and cooking. Oh, what bliss! She can cook and bake, and I can wash dishes and everything else, and I will not get stressed out.
That reminds me that I have forgotten my nerve pill.
Okay, I have taken it.
Not to be unappreciative of the wonders of Polish culture, but I am seriously glad I am not making the traditional twelve-dish Polish supper this year. I cannot believe I did it two years in a row, and I cannot believe it never occurred to me until too late that Polish women never make all twelve dishes by themselves. Generally all the women in the family (and sometimes some of the men) contribute something.
So although I am very glad I have done it, and it was very interesting and the dishes are quite delicious, I am also glad I am not doing it this year or, indeed, ever again. That said, I think a special Christmas Eve supper is a wonderful idea, especially if one has to stay up so late to go to Midnight Mass anyway. So this year I will have Wigilia soup with Wigilia dumplings, plus the salmon with orange that B.A. does so beautifully, plus kutia, a poppyseed pudding which I think is really delicious, plus kompot, stewed fruit juice, which is also delicious, plus--No. That's it.
Most of all, I am going to stop trying to make Christmas perfect, as perfect as my parents made it every year. If I am ever in prison, or in hospital, or somewhere else unpleasant for a long time, I will think about how wonderful Christmas was when I was a child, and how lucky I was to have parents like that and an increasing number of brothers and sisters to share them with.
Even when I was as old as eighteen, Christmas was bliss. On top of the food and fun traditions, according to my diary, I got everything that I asked for:
two rolls of typewriter ribbon
a year's worth of typing paper
The Riverside Shakespeare
Some Great Reward by Depeche Mode
the soundtrack to Amadeus (from Nulli, incidentally)
In addition I received purple "slouch socks", a perfume atomizer, black nylons, bath stuff, blue pyjamas, a hair clip, a gold-metal belt shaped like a double headed asp, a china goose (from my 10 year old brother) and a handkerchief.
That belt was AWESOME!
Wow, it's kind of amazing now thinking about the energy in a house with nine or ten closely related people, five of them under 19, opening presents in a decorated room with the smell of coffee and baking in the air. So much love and excitement and generosity in one room.
My parents have done many impressive things, but at the moment, what impresses me most is they made up to five children simultaneously supremely happy every year.
Not being called to do that, I will do the next best thing, and concentrate on making B.A. happy, which means having the most chilled out Christmas I can manage.
Sunday, 7 December 2014
The Silly Little Hares on the 26 Bus
And my stomach flipped over because I have never in my life heard anyone say that word aloud. Where I come from, it's understood to be a derogatory term for Germans and Swedes. And in a way it's funny. Poles have been here in large numbers for such a short time, there is no local derogatory term for Poles (that I know of) whereas in Canada and the USA we have one alright.
A bigger problem in Scotland than resentment-of-foreigners is poverty. Poor Scots in Edinburgh are called the "Socially Excluded". The impolite term for young boys from the "Socially Excluded" class is "Neds." It occurred to me that the child beside me was a Ned, or on his way to being one. And I also occurred to me that, unlike the wee Polish child whose ears I was determined to protect, he might not have a father at home, a father who gave him a good example of how to behave in public.
Saturday, 6 December 2014
Hope for Women's Peace with Current Singleness
Well, I definitely wanted to go out with boys like that. My mother seemed to have been so popular with boys, I wondered what was wrong with me. And I definitely thought having a boyfriend would be a solution to something--e.g. feeling so unpopular with boys. N.B. For someone who went to an all-girls' school, I definitely worked hard at meeting boys.
*To be fair, teenage girl culture itself seemed to revolve around Being Found Attractive By Boys. And yet there was another constant theme, which was If You Get Pregnant, Your Life Will Be Over.