Showing posts from May, 2015

The great delight that is afternoon tea

My American friends have asked me over the years if we still go in for afternoon tea in London. Oh, yes we do, with gusto! 

During May I was invited to afternoon tea in the Royal Overseas Club and it was scrumptious. In winter, afternoon tea is best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire. In summer, it is optimum when sitting on a balcony, overlooking Green Park with a summer breeze cooling the Earl Grey tea. The egg sandwiches were prepared with granary brown bread, and the cucumber sandwich was made with very finely sliced cucumber layered on top of each other with lashings of butter on the bread. Resist judgement of this noble sandwich if you have not tasted it. The cakes did not have icing or frosting - those swirly toppings on the cakes that you see is in fact zesty, fruity mousse! The lemon variety being topped with a blueberry. 

I drank three pots of tea, and enjoyed a very edifying conversation on many things, including the life and times of Zélie Martin, the recent referendum on ga…

Did St Philip Neri play a practical joke on me?

For St Philip Neri's feast day, which was celebrated on May 26th,I did a postfor the Herald on the witty, quirky Italian saint. 
I've known people who pray to St Philip who say that when he answers your prayers, he arranges for a practical joke to happen at the same time that the prayer is answered. 
I wonder did St Philip Neri play a practical joke on me. Tuesday, May 26th was a very busy day for me, so I was up at 6 am with the plan of writing the post on St Philip Neri, filing it early and turning my full attention to a book that I'm editing for an American author. I thoroughly enjoy working during peaceful early morning, hearing bird song and drinking several pots of strong English breakfast tea.
That morning I was researching the jokes that St Philip Neri played on the extremely earnest Cesare Baronius. St Philip Neri sent him to the wine shop with the strict instruction to taste all the wine and make sure he found the best one, after Baronius had wetted his palate with …

The Irish have chosen secularism over faith and have not just abandoned Catholicism but religion altogether

At this time of writing, I don't think that I've written a piece that has attracted so much debate.  On this sparklingly clear morning in West London,  there are now nearly 900 comments left on The Catholic Herald article that I wrote on Catholic Ireland becoming the post-religious country where same sex marriage has been enshrined in law by the will of the majority of the people. 

Other journalists have been busy analysing why 'Ireland said yes to gay marriage and no to Catholicism', which was the title for Tim Stanley's article that admirably captures the mood of post-Catholic Ireland.  I would go deeper still and say that Ireland said 'no' to Christian tradition.  A point that scarcely gets made is that when tens of thousands of Irish stopped practising as Catholics, they did not en masse turn to any other Christian denomination, or even ad hoc Christian worship, and the influence of the Gospels waned in Irish life. The passing of gay marriage into Irish …

One of Charles Moore's best columns is more relevant than ever in the wake of Ireland legalising gay marriage by popular vote

Some lines from Charles Moore's column of March 21st were re-playing over and over on the monitor of my mind during the past week when the polls were proven right and Ireland passed same sex marriage into legislation by a two to one majority. 

Regarding the freedom to articulate the age-old view that children do better with a mother and a father (as the fashion designer Dolce did - and was swiftly castigated) Moore wrote that:

"Yet now you can barely say this. I am sure I would be barred from working in the public services if I said it at a job interview. I could not become a Labour parliamentary candidate, and probably not even a Conservative one. If I were 28 rather than 58, I doubt if I would dare say it in print if I wanted a successful career in media. Socially conservative moral views are now teetering on the edge of criminality, and are over the edge of disapproval by those who run modern Britain."
The reason that it was on my mind was that I know a number of people …

There is nothing woolly about Pope Francis' advice to parents

On The Catholic Herald website, I have a piece on Pope Francis' no-nonsense advice to parents

It was largely inspired by the video of the Pontiff reminiscing about a time when he was in the 4th grade and he said a bad word to his teacher...

...and by the Pope's tweet exhorting parents to forgive from their hearts.

Zélie Martin, Mother of St Thérèse of Lisieux’s parents would make a great role model for women, but won't be adopted as a feminist icon any time soon

Over at the Herald, I have a piece on Zélie Martin, the French lace-maker who was the mother of St Thérèse. Do pop over to the Herald for the full piece.  Zélie was born in 19th Century France, and married her true-love, Louis who was a watchmaker. It seems obvious to point out that Zélie and Louis were raising a family long before the advent of widely available contraception but Zélie still showed remarkable openness to life, bearing 9 children and bearing sorrow when four died in infancy. Five daughters survived, the youngest of which became the Little Flower.  Zélie was a diligent businesswoman, a team of lace-makers were under her supervision and simultaneously she was a loving mother. 

I think the part of the article that will get some people hot under the collar is where I argue that Zélie should be applauded for persevering to have children. Had she not been so open to life, she may not have had a fifth daughter, St Thérèse, who millions all over the world call on in their hour …

Dog of the Week

'In some ways, my Tibetan Spaniels are more like cats than dogs. You can leave them at home and they are okay being alone for a few hours,' said the owner of the two furry blonde dogs. A little more independent than the average pooch, but very devoted to their master or mistress. They can be a little strange with strangers, evinced by the way that I'm petting one of them, but she keeps her gaze on her owner. 

They are small lap-dogs, but are very alert with beady eyes. They like to keep watch over their owner by going to high perches in the house, so they can keep an eye on everything. 

The breed does hail from the mountains of Tibet, but they are plentiful in London, walking in clusters, their tails like big plumes of fur. 

For years, I've been meaning to get a photo of the edges of Hyde Park during May. Finally, I got around to it...

How to start a movement

TedTalks videos are not everyone's glass of ale.  If you watch Derek Siver's video below, you may not want to jump up and copy the dance moves of the people dancing on the grass in their bathing suits. Come to think of it, I have Traddie Catholic and non-Traddie friends who think wearing bathing suits in public should be made illegal. Traddie friends worry about sinful immodesty in the young flaunting their flesh. Non-Traddie friends say when the old flaunt flesh they look like they need ironing. 

There is, however, a very good message at the heart of Siver's talk. The most important line being that leaders must nurture 'followers as equals'.  I think it is a key message for many Catholics who are trying to attract new people to their movements, or even who want more readers to come to their blogs. In a very ameteur and tiny way, I've tried to treat people who follow and comment on this blog as my equal.  For one post on the Corapi saga, I got the response from …

The number 13 belongs to Our Lady

Pope Francis may visit Fatima to celebrate the centenary in 2017.
98 years ago today, Our Lady appeared to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. It's not a random event that she did so on May 13th 1917.   Nor is it an arbitrary coincidence that the Miracle of the Sun happened on October 13th, during the month that is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary.  Our Lady gave St Dominic the Rosary in the 13th century. 

A fact is that the letter 'm' is the 13th letter of the alphabet.  This just might be by chance, or it could owe to England's Catholic days when the letter 'm' for Mary was placed at number 13 in the series of letters because it honoured Our Lady, the 13th witness to the descent of the Holy Spirit. 

Over at the Herald,  I have a post on Our Lady's method of marking her presence on our earthly calendars.  It's a system that uses a certain number and one day a month. The number is 13 and the date is the 13th of every month. 

A great night out at the launch of Stephen Bullivant's new book

Last night at St Mary's University, there was a big gathering for the launch of Stephen Bullivant's new book, The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic.  It's a great pleasure to tell people that Stephen's book is a very enjoyable and enlightening read which can entertain and educate people like me who are poorly self-taught theologians. The reviews on the Amazon page for Stephen's book volumes. According to Matthew Levering, How Not to be a Heretic is: 

"Brilliantly clear, succinct, readable, informed. Here is winsome erudition that teaches us not only who it is that Christians worship, but also the sheer joy, vitality, and graced intelligence that pertain to worshiping this God. Stephen Bullivant is a breath of fresh air for Christian intellectual life. --Matthew Levering"
Here is the author in full flight. 

The launch took place in the beautiful confines of the Waldegrave Drawing Room. The sun was still shining and the room was awash with bright May light.  


Hanging out with Ed, Nigel and the Prime Minister...

well, masks of them at least that are on sale at a fancy dress shop on the Kensington High Street...

Charles Moore: The victorious Prime Minister could, if he chose, turn the Conservatives into English nationalists

The sharpest, most testing and penetrating piece on the Conservatives winning a majority comes from Charles Moore. 

It'll make soul-searching reading for some SNP supporters who may need to reply as to whether or not Nicola Sturgeon's made a 'serious mistake'....

"I hope David Cameron, in his hour of triumph, can find time to write a thank-you letter to Nicola Sturgeon. She won him this election. For all her party’s brilliance in capturing Scotland, she made a serious mistake in her UK campaign. By boasting that she would forge an alliance for “progressive change” with Labour across the United Kingdom, she at last woke the English people from our slumber. Many of us don’t like “progressive change” at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. The idea that Ms Sturgeon’s party should help impose it – and we should pay for it – was just too much."
Presciently, Moore sees a tight as a strait-jacket quandary for unionists who are Eurosceptic and hoping…

Calling by Alfred Hitchcock's old place...

I find it fitting that Alfred Hitchcock lived in an old Victorian house on the Cromwell Road for 13 years, from 1926 to 1939.  His old home is a long, tall, building to the west of the heart of London. The Cromwell Road is a darker place than that of the smarter, brighter sections of central London such as Mayfair and Belgravia. Cromwell is lined with towering terraces that cast ghostly silhouettes. The atmosphere is an elegant eeriness, very much the stuff of a Hitchcock flick. 

I've been reading the latest biography of Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd, which calls Hitchcock's old address, 'one of those anonymous West London venues'. According to Ackroyd, when Hitchcock became wealthier, he rebuffed the allure of moving to Mayfair.  'Hitch' made 24 films in 13 years when 153 Cromwell Road was his base.  13 is a number that reoccurs in Hitchcock's life, he was born on August 13th. 

Here I am outside Hitch's old place, grabbing a photo on a wet, showery day, whe…

A chance to cast your vote, or a selfie moment?

Gosh, I love elections.  Politicians outdoing themselves to win our votes: it's free theatre! Yesterday, running errands, I had to walk through parts of West London, and I saw various polling stations, where people were queueing alongside the Polling Station signs to take selfies of themselves as they were about to vote.  I'm as vain as everyone else, and wanted to take a selfie, but a touch of hayfever had given me the spring time Rudoloph-the-red-nosed-reindeer look. 

With great excitement, I did vote. When I did, there was a queue to take a photo in front of the Polling Station sign, but no one in the queue for the voting booth. Seeing so many people posing for photos,  I wondered if voting was more of a selfie moment: people seemed far more interested in themselves than the politicians they were helping to get elected. 

Princess Charlotte, what a great name for the new Princess!

Just two days after coming into the world on May 2nd, the new Princess has been named Charlotte. It's a very apposite and shrewd choice, this being the feminine version of Charles: the baby girl is being called after her grandfather. It's a traditional name for a royal and it's a saint's name! For one thing, this will put Will and Kate's daughter under the protection of St Charles Borromeo. 

She has three names, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. While there is not a canonised saint Diana, my old friend Matthew Alderman pointed out to me that there is a blessed, Blessed Diana d'Andalo of Bologna, Italy.  That said, a very good friend of mine, an English Catholic will be relieved the Christian name is not Diana because, 'all the drama surrounding Diana was very hard on the Queen'. He prays for the Queen at every opportunity and has encouraged me in this, reminding me of the great welcome Queen Elizabeth gave Pope Benedict.

The new baby girl still has her great-gra…

A call for the new Princess to be called after a saint

Over at The Catholic Herald, I have a piece on why it would be good if the new royal baby were called after a saint... While meaning no disrespect to the baby's grandmother, I also argue that it would not be fair if she were given the Christian name, Diana.  Diana, of course, is not a saint's name: Diana was the goddess of hunting.