Friday 23 August 2013

Off on holiday

Well, that's it. All the kids' summer jobs are over, I have a clear week, and we are off to some remote cottage Mrs T has found, with no electricity, wi-fi or anything else.

Apparently the idea is that we enjoy each others' company for a week, without any distractions.  Music, games, jigsaws, wetsuits, waterproofs, sun tan lotion and walking boots are all being packed.

Sounds good to me.

So we are off tomorrow morning, and back at the end of next weekend. Expect nothing from me in the meantime.

Thursday 22 August 2013

A Lifestyle Choice

I don't often read Peter Hitchens (or indeed anything in the Mail or Mail on Sunday, you will be shocked to learn) but somebody pointed me at this column and it set me thinking.

I am not sure precisely what the Chancellor meant in calling full-time motherhood 'a lifestyle choice'; but then I suspect that he wasn't sure either, so that's OK.  It sounded, at least, somewhat disapproving.

Antonia was born some 22 years ago, and we were younger and (a little) more in tune with the spirit of the age. Anna (Mrs T.) was a successful professional: a Finance Director at the age of 30. She earned about the same (on a regular basis) as I earned erratically from my freelance work.  So it seemed sensible for her to keep working (she enjoyed her work) and arrange for childcare for Ant.  We did that: it was a bit stressful taking her to a nursery which she clearly enjoyed less than our company, and it was hard for Anna, who felt guilty when at work, thinking about her baby, and guilty when at home, thinking about her work...

Then Bernadette arrived, a couple of years later.  Anna decided to go part-time, and we got a nanny for the girls.

It didn't work. Her employer was very supportive, but nonetheless, Anna was expected to do exactly the same in part-time hours as she had been doing in full-time hours, for rather less pay.  The nanny, though a delightful girl, was not as intelligent or as stimulating, or as fun for the girls to be with, and certainly was not passing on the kinds of values and lifestyle (there's that word again) that we wished. A simple example was that she rarely read them any stories...

So Anna quit, and has been a full-time mother (more or less) ever since.  I say more or less, as she has done some part-time short-term jobs, and also a significant amount of voluntary work, once all the kids were at school - but nearly all during school hours.

The benefits have been significant: her relationship with all of the children is excellent; they have all grown up happy, healthy, confident and secure.  They all practice their Faith.

But of course there has been a cost. Whilst we are not impoverished, we have an income of about 50% of that which we would have had if she had stayed in employment, and with no security attached to it either (and indeed it has fluctuated fairly dramatically over the years: it can be feast or famine here...) She has no pension of course (and as the one I have paid into for three decades is worth almost nothing, that is significant).

As a result, we tend to go easy on things like holidays: for many years, camping in Scotland was the family holiday. Last year and this, we have pushed the boat out and hired a cottage for a week. But it is a long time - more than a decade - since we had a holiday abroad as a family.

That, I think, is a lifestyle choice; though in fact we see it more as living our vocation. It is a choice we made about how we thought we should live our lives. It was not without costs, including a certain amount of social disapprobation,  but it is one we are both happy with; and we appreciate that it is a choice that we were lucky to be able to make.

But why the Chancellor should look down his nose at it, which seems to be the drift of his remarks, is a mystery to me.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

An Enjoyable Day Out

On Saturday, we made our way up the A6 to Brougham and Clifton.

The A6 is a very small major road, as it goes from Kendal over the fells to Shap, then up over the tiny Eamont Bridge to Penrith. It is extraordinary to reflect that it was the main road to Scotland on the West of the country until the M6 was built.

Clifton lies between Shap and Penrith, and is the site of the last battle fought on English soil: the Battle of Clifton Moor in 1745. This was fought by the retreating Jacobites, under Lord George Murray, and the pursuing English, led by the Duke of Cumberland. Bonnie Prince Charlie was already safely over the River Lowther, and lodged in Penrith. It was a fairly low-key affair, fought in the late evening, with about a dozen casualties on each side.

(I see Wikipedia refers to it as a skirmish, but the local signs, understandably, all cite it as a battle. With thousands on each side, it sounds reasonably significant to me.  Wikipedia also disputes its claim to be the last battle on English soil, citing the 'Battle' of Graveney Marsh: which involved four Germans who had been forced to crash land their aircraft in the Second World War. Why the capture of four German airman is a battle but the engagement of two significant forces is a skirmish is opaque to me...)

There is not much to see at Clifton, to be honest. The George and Dragon pub has a very good reputation, but advance booking is essential to eat there, so we didn't try.

Brougham, however, has a lot more to offer.

The castle is very fine, dating back to the thirteenth century, and the walls of the keep still stand, including the (repaired) spiral stairs, so you can go to the top and walk around the perimeter at the highest level. That includes a tiny family chapel, with recognisable decorated stone.

Around the keep are, variously, the later gatehouse (largely still standing) and the ruins of many later buildings: a large hall, lots of additional accommodation, and so forth.

The setting is lovely, too, at the confluence of the rivers Eamont and Lowther: the Romans had seen the potential of the site and built a fort here, too.

In fact Brougham stands on the old Roman Road, now known as High Street, which continues over the fells (including the summit also called High Street) and down to Ambleside, and thence to the most remarkable Roman fort at Hardknott Pass. This was of particular interest to us, as we have previously walked over High Street summit, and also visited the fort at Hardknott.

The other place to visit in Brougham is the Hall. There is a huge amount of restoration work to be done here: the perimeter wall survives, as do some of the buildings around the edges, whilst others have been restored. These now house various studios for photographers, potters and alternative therapists (!).

But the part that caught my attention was the derelict (but being restored) Chancellor's Den. It was here, apparently, that Lord Brougham, who was Lord Chancellor 1830-34 drafted the 1832 Great Reform Act and the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act.

All in all a great day out: plenty for the kids to do (they are not above playing sardines in a ruined castle in the rain) and lots for Anna and me to enjoy as well.

Tuesday 20 August 2013


In honour of St Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast is celebrated today, here is the Memorare, which is often attributed to him.

Memorare, O piissima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia, tua implorantem auxilia, tua petentem suffragia, esse derelictum.
Ego tali animatus confidentia, ad te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro, ad te venio, coram te gemens peccator assisto.
Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere; sed audi propitia et exaudi.

Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that it is a thing unheard of, that anyone ever had recourse to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession and was left forsaken. 

Filled therefore with confidence in your goodness I fly to you, O Mother, Virgin of virgins. To you I come, before you I stand, a sorrowful sinner. 

Despise not my poor words, O Mother of the Word of God, but graciously hear and grant my prayer.


Thursday 15 August 2013

Happy Feast Day

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

At the end of her mortal life, by the grace of the merits of her Divine Son and her own unfailing cooperation with the will of the Father, Our Blessed Lady was taken, body and soul, into Heaven, where she reigns as Queen and intercedes for those who have recourse to her.

Sub tuum praesidium
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta

Wednesday 14 August 2013

A Great Day Out

Anna and I (and Goldie) had a wonderful day at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.  There is not much to add to what I wrote about the site on the occasion of our last visit, last year.

However, it was even more enjoyable this year, as it was sunny rather than raining. Also, I tried the acoustics in the Cellarium. The stone-vaulted ceiling is made for chant, and I filled it with sound without singing very loudly - till Mrs T bade me desist.

It was fascinating to stop and chat with the archaeologists who are digging a trench to try to discover the whereabouts (and any remains) of the Studley Royal bath house.  There are pictorial records of this feature, and it is shown (in different positions) on some Victorian maps. So far, they have found some old plaster and rubble, and half a brick: but they were very optimistic and enthusiastic.

In the meantime, Charlie and Dominique had a wonderful day at Lightwater Valley: rather them than me.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

It's all happening...

So tonight, for the first time for ages, we will have everyone under one roof.

Ant is just back from a road trip in the USA with some university friends; Bernie has been down in London and parts south (Kent? does that ring a bell?) visiting friends and seeing the sights; Dominique is just back from a whistlestop tour of Italy, taking in Rome, Pompeii, Florence, Pisa, Garda, Venice and who knows where else in 10 days. Charlie has been at home, but we managed a trip to the Media Museum with him as he's interested in film.

But tonight all are home (or will be: Ant is out playing frisbee somewhere, and Bernie is working till midnight).

Tomorrow the big two are both working, and Charlie and Dominique are off to Lightwater Valley Theme Park for the day; so Anna and I (and Goldie) will go to Fountains Abbey for an outing of our own: always a fantastic place to visit.

Thursday, of course, is the Feast of the Assumption - and also the day Charlie gets his AS results.  So it would be kind of you to say a prayer for him. He is not that confident they will meet his mother's expectations...

In which Ben's genius lets him down...

Yesterday, Anna, the redoubtable Mrs T, initiated her plan to re-paint our bedroom. So I heaved (or possibly hove) furniture about, got dustsheets in from the shed and so on, and left her to it, as she had made clear this was to be her project.

Towards the end of the day, having done various bits of cleaning and preparation, she discovered we had no paint.

So today I have been painting our bedroom, while she is out doing variously parish (am) and pro-life (pm) work.

I thought it would be nice to have some company, but the kids were all occupied or pre-occupied or both, so I thought music would have to do.

Being indecisive by temperament, I thought I would allow the Genius app to choose some songs.  All I had to do was to pick the first and it would choose others from my extensive collection. And this is where it gets interesting (well, perhaps that's over-stating it, but it was what prompted me to write this post, so it must have caught my interest).

I selected as the first song about which the Genius playlist was to be constructed, All My Loving: a light early Beatles number that suited my mood (and began with A so I didn't have to look too far...).

And what did Genius think would be in the same style or mood as that?

The very next track was Pink Floyd's Brain Damage.

That was followed by:
The Clash (Train in Vain)
The Ramones (Sheena is a Punk Rocker),
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils (Jackie Blue),
Thin Lizzy (Cowboy Song),
Plain White Ts (Come Back to Me),

Queen, Deep Purple, another Beatles song (With a Little Help From My Friends), Led Zeppelin, another Floyd (Have a Cigar), another Clash (I Fought the Law), The Buzzcocks, The Who, another Plain White T's (Hey There Delilah), Jimmy Eat World....

Is there any sense in which these are related to the initial selection? I know the Beatles were the most influential and inspirational band ever, but was All My Loving really behind this eclectic selection?

Anyone know how this Genius thing selects songs?  Or is it really random, and just pretending?

Still I have got a lick of paint on the ceiling and all walls, so thought I'd blog this while waiting for it to dry sufficiently to put a second coat on. Then there's the tea to make, dog to walk, children to entertain and hamster to clean out before Mrs T gets back...

Sunday 11 August 2013

Prayers for Baby Eddie

I have been asked by @londonistar to write a post about Baby Eddie, and am delighted to do so.

To be honest, until I was asked, I hadn't followed the story at all. I had seen the occasional tweet from @londonistar asking for prayers for Baby Eddie, said an Ave, and carried on.

However, having looked at the facebook page, I was profoundly moved by this story.  Eddie was nearly drowned in a terrible accident in June, and has been in a coma ever since.

The facebook page charts his journey - and his parents' - from then to now, and very moving it is.

I was particularly touched, as a friend of ours was in a car accident a while back, and in a coma for several months, but is now recovering and astonishing her doctors at every turn.  I hope and pray for the same happy outcome for Eddie. And ask you to pray for him too.

Saturday 10 August 2013

A short course in logic

As a service to my delightful and discerning readership (one of whom recently commented that he read one of my posts with all due contempt, which I have to say is precisely the correct amount of contempt with which to read my outpourings) I have decided to offer a short course in logic.

It seems to me that not all are as well-acquainted with the formal processes of logical thinking as one might wish.

We will start with the syllogism, which is a valuable tool in analysing the formal validity or otherwise of an argument.

The syllogism is a three part structure.  Consider this proposition: a tomato is a fruit: therefore it is appropriate to put it in a fruit salad.

The fallacy here can be easily analysed by employing the structure of the syllogism to tease out the implicit missing middle step.

A: the first premise: A tomato is a fruit

B: the second premise: A fruit salad is made of fruit

C: the conclusion: Therefore it is appropriate to put tomatoes in a fruit salad.

Whilst both A and B are true, it is clear that C does not follow from A and B, and therefore the conclusion is (logically) false.  A closer analysis reveals that the faulty thinking lies in a misunderstanding at step B. To reach C, B would have to be: ‘It is appropriate to put any fruit in a fruit salad.’ 

So pay attention to the formal structure of the argument as implied by the way it is presented: that is, are the premises true? And does the conclusion follow from those premises?

To analyse that, you may need to extrapolate the implicit premises, and will certainly need to be quite clear about the meaning of all terms (words and phrases) employed.

Using that analytical approach, I invite you to find the flaws in the following (entirely hypothetical, you understand) illogical thought processes.

Lest anyone think that this post is aimed solely at him, I can assure such a delusional person that it is not. The examples have been drawn from a number of experiences over several years, and include thoughts I have caught myself developing and having to interrogate.  

However, if your collar is feeling unexpectedly hot, you may want to consider if you have, in fact, committed any of these howlers. Even if you have, it would of course be a logical fallacy to conclude either that you are the only person reading this to have done so, or that this post is all about you. 

(That example is drawn from something similar to something I have said. Therefore Ben is lying and this whole post is about me. And what’s more, I never even said many of these things, which proves Ben is lying, again! - Discuss.)

If anyone persists in thinking that this post is particularly about him, I refer him here.

(Ben has a rubbish taste in music. Therefore Ben is an idiot. Discuss...)

By the same token, I have used the name Ben throughout, though most of these howlers have been committed vis-a-vis others, and some of them by me.  So why have I done that? Because it amuses me to do so. (Ben has a rubbish sense of humour. Therefore Ben is an idiot. Discuss...)


There are sock puppets on Twitter who appear on your timeline and disagree with you. Ben has appeared in my timeline and disagreed with me. Therefore Ben is a sock puppet.

That alleged sock puppet was proved not to be a sock puppet.  Therefore all this talk of sock puppets is deluded.

Someone Ben follows has said something outrageous on Twitter.  Ben has remained silent. Therefore Ben approves.

Ben blogs and tweets pseudonymously. Therefore Ben is a coward.

Ben treats the accusations against him lightly. Therefore Ben treats the bullying of others lightly.

Online bullying is very damaging. Therefore everyone should agree with my approach to dealing with it.

Ben has done X in the past. Therefore Ben is clearly guilty of all Xs in the future.

Ben spends time on twitter and blogging. Therefore Ben is neglecting his wife and children

St Thomas More said: 'The Devil, that proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked.’ Therefore when Ben gets upset at being teased, it proves he is under demonic influence.

Ben supports the Church’s teaching on {X}. Therefore Ben is a bigot.


Ben likes and promotes the EF Mass. He must be a nutter like those Rorate types.

Ben has criticised Catholic Voices. He must be an evil extremist.

Praying online is vain grandstanding. Twitterangelus is just showing off.

Ben has reason to believe that {X} is true. Therefore {X} is true.

Ben has blogged or tweeted something horrid about something I have said. Therefore Ben hates me.

Ben claims to be a Catholic, but is not perfect.  Ben is a hypocrite.

Ben has been the victim of bullying. Therefore to refer to anything he may have ever done wrong is victim-blaming.

Ben is on my side. Therefore he has done no wrong.

Ben’s {friend/enemy} is my {enemy/friend}

Ben’s failure to condemn bad behaviour in his friends, publicly, is to collude with it.

Ben has the right to ask AnyBen Else to justify anything. AnyBen who fails to comply is guilty or has something to hide (except for me and my monkey)*.

Ben has argued {X}. So has someone else. Therefore it’s a conspiracy.

Ben was talking to some pro-choice friends who were picketing a pro-life vigil.  Therefore Ben was betraying the pro-life cause.


Calling on your gang to join in your fight is a bullying tactic. Except when Ben does it.

Picking fights online is bullying. Except when Ben does it.

When you get something wrong, it is good to apologise and retract. Except for Ben.

Ben has expressed himself in intemperate terms. That proves it.

All who ask for RTs are indulging in vanity.

Ben has not seen X happen. Therefore Ben is to be castigated for not knowing about it.

Ben has behaved outrageously and wickedly on Twitter. Therefore it is {OK/my moral duty} to behave extremely badly towards him.


It should also be noted that (almost) any of these conclusions may be correct; my point is that, logically, they should not be arrived at by the arguments illustrated. 

Part of the problem is, of course, that Twitter limits one to 140 characters. But that is only part of the problem...  


*Lest anyone go apoplectic about this, it’s a reference to a popular band of my youth**. #WhoaretheBeatles?...


It has been kindly pointed out by my friend, the Part Time Pilgrim (@PartTimePilgrim), that where I wrote 'youth', I should have written 'infancy'. I apologise for the error and am happy to correct it. 

Sunday 4 August 2013

Still not taking it seriously...

Further to yesterday's post...

With the passage of time, I have learned a little more.

The dreadful comments on Eccles' blog were apparently deleted by Eccles the very day that they were posted.  Their circulation now is thanks to those who decided to screenshot and circulate them, doubtless with the best of intentions.

Bernard Manning, whom Eccles was compared to, was an unfamiliar name to me.  As my regular reader knows, I was bought up without a TV, and subject my kids to the same cruel and degrading regime. However, Wikipedia has cast some light on this, and I am struggling to see, from that description, why Eccles is said to be like him.

Both Mulier Fortis and Eccles himself have blogged on this, and both are worth reading.

I have also realised a few other shortcomings in the way I use twitter:
I don't follow and unfollow people on a regular basis to show approbation or disapproval. 
I don't block people, other than spam accounts, still less announce it as a badge of honour. 
I don't assume people whom I dislike must be sock puppets. 
I don't think the most effective way to influence someone is to assume bad faith and insult them.
I don't imagine we can guess who is behind some of the nastier blogs/sock puppet accounts with any confidence: particularly after one sock puppet whom we were told was certainly a particular individual turned out to be a sad old woman in Wales whom nobody had previously heard of.
I tweet what I see fit to tweet, and refuse to have that dictated to me by anyone else. 
I continue to see the whole thing as pretty trivial, except for the fact that some people can genuinely get hurt...
Perhaps with time I'll learn to take it more seriously, but I am a slow learner.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Not taking it seriously enough...

Despite my best intentions, I seem to have got enmeshed in another Twitter spat.

This time it was because I linked to a post on the satirical Eccles blog which I found amusing and a propos.

However, apparently to link to that post means that I endorse everything Eccles has ever written, and also everything the loons who inhabit the combox there have ever written.

That is curious, as that is not the normal understanding on Twitter, but there we go.

Moreover, apparently this very post contains insults so subtle and devious that only those who are the target of them can see them, so it was very wrong of me to link to it.

Others joined in the condemnation; and it is fair to point out that I was not the only person being 'called out' for this crime. Some kind people also joined in to support me.

Reflecting on this, and other bits and bobs, I realise that I am not doing this blogging and tweeting stuff properly:

I am not part of a tribe, applauding my own and always seeking to point out the defects of 'them.' 
When I've disagreed with someone, I don't feel the need to insult them and everyone who associates with them.
I do not trawl the posts and tweets of those I dislike, looking for something I can interpret to mean that they are mad or bad, and broadcast it to all and sundry. 
I do not take and keep screenshots of offensive, potentially offensive, or indeed any other Twitter conversations to post later as 'evidence' of something or other. 
I do not even read the posts of bloggers I admire with any great regularity. 
My attitude to many of those I read is that they are sometimes interesting and sometimes not - and in some case sometimes completely nutty (Fr Z would be a case in point: I used to find his Latin translation posts very interesting; but his views on guns are quite beyond me, and his intemperate remarks on homosexuals I have commented on previously as profoundly misguided.) 
I rarely read combox comments, particularly of unmoderated comboxes, as they are normally nuttier than nougat and frequently distinctly unpleasant. 
I don't join in the yells of outrage when someone says something particularly nutty.

In short, I am not taking it seriously enough.  I crave your indulgence.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Safe sex: the truth

After reading my previous post, on the tragic case of Daniel Pelka, and the questions that almost certainly won't be asked about it, Fr Paul Noble, an Anglican, drew this report to my attention.

It is about a piece of research conducted at Oxford University, that postulates that monogamy in primates evolved, and is necessary, to protect the young of the species from infanticide.

Will anyone put the pieces together?

Instead of teaching young women that safe sex is making sure he uses a condom, we should be teaching them that the safest sex is marital love in a lifelong, monogamous marriage.

Why?  Because that is what the evidence proves.

Nuclear damage

The details of the murder of Daniel Pelka have been dreadful beyond description.

Our first response must be one of prayer: for the repose of his soul, of course, but also for the pardon and healing of his murderers.

Beyond that, however, there is always talk of the lessons to be learned.  Yet again, the 'agencies' involved will be castigated for their failures, and perhaps some improvements will be made.

But it seems to me that there is a potential blind spot in the public examination of this and other cases.  I heard on the Today Programme, this morning, for example, the comment that he had been killed by his parents.

That is not true.

As is clear from the more detailed reports, he was killed by his mother, and a man who was not his father who was living with his mother at the time.

Whilst that has been noted in passing, it is not the subject of any comment.  I find that worrying, as I think we should look at such data.  And this is by no means the first case featuring such non-nuclear family relationships.

But the media do not want to do so. Co-habitees are given a free ride.  To see what I mean, imagine if this were the second or third case where the murdering male was a member of the EDL or the BNP or had some other identity of which the media disapproves.  It would certainly not simply be mentioned in passing. Or imagine if it was the second or third time a home-schooling traditional Catholic was guilty, come to that...

But because our societal norm (or at least the one desired by the ever-wonderful BBC and most journalists) is one in which the myth that consensual sexual behaviour, temporary relationships and so on, are healthy and have no adverse consequences, these questions will never be asked:

  • Is there a disproportionate frequency of abuse and murder of women and children by men living with women who have children by previous relationships?
  • If so, is there a causative link between such patterns of relationship and abuse, or is it merely a co-factor of other determinants (eg chaotic life style, educational levels, deprivation, poverty)?

I don't know the definitive answer to these questions, though I have a strong intuition about them...  But what is scary is that they are not even being asked.