Sunday, 31 May 2015

Ecclesiastical solipsism...

In his book The Heresy of Formlessness Martin Mosebach writes affectionately of his childhood experience of the LORD's Day. His Catholic mother would listen out for the church bells summoning the people to Mass; she would then wait a while, listen out for another bell, wait again, and then set off so as to successfully avoid hearing the sermon. Meanwhile his Lutheran father, comfortable in his own priesthood, would retrieve a handsomely bound German Bible and concordance and read the appointed passages for the day which were, for the most part, identical with the cycle then used by the Roman church. I think I have settled for this latter kind of Christian faith. I don't like being outside and I certainly resent having to travel over twenty miles into London (Babylon the Great) every Sunday to an overcrowded church full of ethnic Slavs. The men look like orcs! And to what purpose? Is my commute a kind of personal via dolorosa? Do I gain merit with the Most High by choosing Sourozh over ROCOR? I have often accused Roman Catholic traditionalists of a kind of spiritual triumphalism in many of their beliefs and practices but for someone like me there is really no moral difference between that kind of triumphalism and the personal via dolorosa I have just mentioned. To feel any kind of satisfaction on Sundays for having attended a particular kind of service at a particular kind of church must surely be a sin.

I wish I could say I was an old fashioned Anglican.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Thou shalt renew...

"Riding one day in the forests of the Westlands he saw a woman, whose dark hair flowed in the wind, and about her was a green cloak clasped at the throat with a bright jewel; and he took her for one of the Eldar, who came at times to those parts of the Island. But she approached, and he knew her for Erendis, and saw that the jewel was the one that he had given her; then suddenly he knew in himself the love that he bore her, and he felt the emptiness of his days." Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, part II, chapter II.

Tolkien's legendarium is essentially the story of decline. As the ages pass, so too does the wonder, and knowledge of God among men. To put it another way, with time comes the declension of myth to mere history, from the divine music of Creation and the echo thereof to stale oblivion and the humdrum of modern life. Remember what the Ainulindalë says about the music of water and the sons of Men; that they listen unsated by the shores of the sea and yet know not for what they listen. Or the words of Legolas when the Fellowship entered Hollin in the winter of the year, that the very stones had forgotten the Gnomes who dwelt and laboured there of old. The Quenya name for Gondolin, Ondolindë, meant the "rock of the music of water." It was a city, the fairest of song, built in honour of the Music of the Ainur and a memorial of antient Tirion. Its destruction can therefore be seen as not the mere display of power and triumph but as symbolic of the everlasting strife of the Diabolos with Creation, with the Music, with the Logos (or the "Flame Imperishable"). Except where, in such places as the monastic House of Elrond, antient days, deeds of valour and the truth are recalled in song and reverent memory, elsewhither men are indifferent and ignorant, even hostile to that memory and it is therefore gone from the land. Yet, "when thou lettest thy breath go forth, they shall be made; and thou shalt renew the face of the earth," (Psalms 104:30).

The renewal does not come to pass with the fall of Sauron. The field of Cormallen was not Pentecost! In fact Elessar, the last of the true Númenóreans, had to be corrected by Treebeard when he said that the deeds of the Ents would never be forgotten in Minas Tirith or in Edoras. "Not while your kingdoms last, you mean," he said. And indeed, with the new age came the departure of the ring bearers, the sailing of the white ship and the passing of the burden of knowledge, of guardianship to the Kings of Men. Lothlórien was no more; the madrigals were no more sung in the fair valley of Rivendell; the high elves were no longer seen passing through the woods of the Shire. And, taking Treebeard's ominous words and Tolkien's unfinished "sequel" The New Shadow to heart, one can reasonably suppose that within a few generations the lore of the West begun a slow decline again, passing out of living memory and therefore ceasing to be relevant even under the kingship. No, the true renewal of Middle-earth is alluded to in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, which is a story of the First Age as told in The History of Middle-earth. Andreth, a wise woman, told Finrod, a lord of the Gnomes, about a prophecy among Men which was that the only remedy for the evil of Morgoth was with God himself and that he would himself enter into Arda at some point to renew the earth to the end that what was said of the divine music before the world, that "it was blended with an immeasurable sorrow from which its beauty chiefly came," would be realised. O felix culpa indeed.

If this is incomprehensible, my apologies. These are ideas that go round my head as I do routine things like wash the dishes. In fact, this post grew in the telling. I had initially planned on just leaving the quote from Aldarion and Erendis as it is, since it is, for me, the most beautiful moment of that story. I suppose the significance of that is that it represents decline. I have always imagined it to have been in the fall of the year, the leaves falling and blowing on the wind. It was certainly a story of when Númenor was young because the Eldar did not go to the island under the Shadow. Anyway, just a few thoughts for Whitsun.

Art: Ted Nasmith. "It reminds me of Númenor."

Friday, 29 May 2015

Oak Apple Day...

The trouble with anniversaries (and we all...well most of us like them) is that nobody gets them right. To-day, if you look at the pew sheets at Westminster Abbey, is Oak Apple Day, the birthday of Charles II and the Restoration of the Monarchy. Only it isn't. In 1660, Catholic England (rather than Papist pedantry, please) followed the venerable Julian Kalendar. Very few remember the significance of the Restoration, or even care about it, but fewer still care to remember that in those palmy days of substance and conviction (I say that because we look back from the dark days of political correctness) we followed a different kalendar altogether. Still, I doubt I'll remember to post something in two weeks so I'll let John Evelyn do the talking:

"This day came in His Majesty to London, after a sad and long exile and calamitous suffering both of The King and Church, being seventeen years. This was also his birthday, and with a triumph of above twenty-thousand horse and foot, brandishing their swords, and shouting with inexpressible joy; the ways strewn with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung with tapestry, fountains running with wine; the Mayor, Aldermen, and all the companies in their liveries, chains of gold, and banners, Lords and Nobles, clad in cloth of silver, and gold, and velvet; the windows and balconies, all set with ladies, trumpets, music, and myriads of people flocking, even so far as from Rochester, so as they were seven hours in passing the City, even from two in the afternoon till nine at night.

"I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and blessed God.

"And all this was done without one drop of blood shed, and by that very army which had rebelled against him. But it was the Lord's doing, for such a restoration was never mentioned in any history, ancient or modern, since the return of the Jews from their Babylonish captivity; nor so joyful a day and so bright ever seen in this nation." (From the Diary of John Evelyn, 29th May 1660).

I trust our friends in the Ordinariate added a collect for The Queen to their masses this morning?

God save The Queen!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The sack...

Well, what I'd foreseen months ago has finally come to pass. I've been sacked. Reasons include the usual euphemistic stuff about ability, reasonable readjustment and not being proactive enough. The manager was magnanimous in saying, as we parted, that she was quite sure I'd find something at which I would excel before long. I laughed but could think of nothing witty to say. I've always secretly wanted to experience dismissal. I suppose this secret longing is due to my constant need to complain about something, an almost certain element of debauchery. Then there is the need to obviate the kind of personal failure I feel in myself, a way of saying: "I am unemployed because they sacked me." At Morrisons I was tolerated because I was an embarrassing part of the furniture. At the bank I had no such security. And to be frank, after eight months sickness I could do nothing but profess carelessness about my responsibilities to my employer anyway. I stopped fulfilling my part of the arrangement (updating sick notes, going every week to my local branch to look for internal vacancies, &c) weeks ago. They were eager to get rid of me and I was more than happy to go.

Now comes the difficult part: successfully deceiving a new employer into thinking I am competent enough to be given a new job, at which I will struggle to do even badly before he comes to his senses and I am in this position again. The only difference, when the cycle repeats itself, is that I shall be older, more bitter, and less likely to be given another job than I was this time round. I think in my defence to-day I said something like I was so much more than a grunt in a warehouse moving pallets and cases about...but I'm beginning to wonder.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Balrog...

I met a friend and valued reader at Westminster Abbey yestereven. The music was good, Strogers' Short Service, plainsong psalmody and a Byrd anthem (Non vos relinquam orphanos). The Indian verger who knows me wasn't there so I had to specifically request to sit in quire so my friend and I were placed at the most ignominious end by a portly woman in a verger's gown who went about telling people to turn their mobile 'phones off. We saw her afterwards in the Dean's Yard going home in a modestly black mini skirt. And they won't give me a job!

Anyway, over supper my friend and I were discussing all manner of things, from the history of the English Monarchy (a good two hours going!) to Tolkien himself. I hadn't seen the Peter Jackson adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring since I first saw it at the cinema (I've just checked the date of its release, and that makes it fourteen years!), but at my friend's suggestion I've just re-watched the scene with the Balrog as it appears on YouTube. In some respects, it's more faithful to the text than other parts of the adaptation but where it isn't, it's just bad. In the book Gandalf alone perceives the arrival of whom or what he assumed to have been the beater of the drums. He was standing alone and keeping vigil at the top of a flight of stairs by the closed door to the Chamber of Mazarbul. The orcs went quiet as the Balrog entered the chamber (an indication that the Balrog was not, as the film portrayed him, gigantic and bestial), and it seized the door handle, and proceeded to open the door. There was then a contest of wills between Gandalf and the still-innominate creature, and the door was shattered. On the other side Gandalf saw nothing but darkness. He was then beaten back and fell into the midst of the fellowship who were waiting for him at a distance. Legolas identified the Balrog only later and Gimli made the connexion with "Durin's Bane," to which Gandalf said "now I understand," and bemoaned their ill fortune. To that point there was no feeling of immediate pursuit, still less the knowledge of being stalked by a fiery demon; just the ominous drumming in the deep places and the menace of the dark.

In the film, the narrative is flattened somewhat. The Balrog breaks his silence by roaring in a far-off cavern and makes his presence immediately known by the red light that steadily spreads throughout the hall. The orcs then flee by climbing up the walls like ants (!) and Gandalf himself names the Balrog and tells the fellowship to run, after which, to maintain the attention of the kiddies who have by this point been watching for almost two hours, there follows a dramatized scene of orc arrows and crumbling stairs before the Balrog descends upon Gandalf in impetuous fire and roars in his face. On that point I refer readers to letter 210 of The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, paragraph 20, in which Tolkien writes: "The Balrog never speaks or makes any vocal sound at all." This letter is particularly apposite in being Tolkien's personal treatment of an early film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Then follows the battle of the bridge, which is more or less faithful to the book with the obvious exception of the "kingly" Aragorn and chivalric Boromir who just watched from a safe distance. Peter Jackson seems to have been very talented indeed at killing the moral uprightness and lofty standing of some of the central characters. I thought Viggo Mortensen was pretty awful and an abysmal choice for Aragorn.

I take it as axiomatic that the book is always better than the film, and I don't just mean The Lord of the Rings. Read the book!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Christian Collins...

The trouble with being queer, even (or especially) for a celibate one like me, is that we fear, idolize and sentimentalize young men. I've been subscribed on YouTube to "WeeklyChris" for about two years now. He is 19 years old, not terribly bright (his vocabulary seems limited to "awesome" and "dude," but, let's be honest, when you look that good, you don't need to know anything), but he seems to be a genuinely good person. In other words, he is my complete opposite. Whereas I am puritanical, hateful and publicly shy, I am overwhelmed by his liberality and confidence. But my attraction belies everything I have said against the modern world. He has his ears pierced, his teeth are as white as snow, he styles his hair and evidently exceeds the traditionally masculine limits of grooming and albeit I have said heretofore that beauty is a complete waste of time, he is beautiful. I cannot see, however, that he has the least physical individuality that would make him desirable, or even interesting. Do you see the difficulty? I have become enamoured in spite of myself and other than the obvious problem of our common masculinity the attraction exemplifies the fundamental hypocrisy of puritanism, at least that of my own fashioning. I continue to subscribe to his channel despite the fact that I haven't the least interest in what he has to say, but I enjoy hearing it. This is perhaps because I inhabit a world of make-believe. An older queen said to me recently, after I had concluded a cynical diatribe against homosexuality: "you need a man." Well, probably. If that would preserve me in godliness, but that begs the question. Is dreaming of what might be, or might have been, worse than living in sin? To some they are the same thing.

I realise I am a fool for publishing this but this is the way that I am. I wouldn't want you to think that I was ashamed.

UPDATE: Subscription removed on the afternoon of the 28th May.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Music and Mind...

Music is phenomenally powerful at moulding people's perceptions, beliefs and moral disposition. Martin Luther realised this when he composed hymns to spread his doctrine. Catchy, repetitive, no more than three to four minutes long; rather like modern pop music. Now, it cannot be argued that the Beatles, for example, are responsible for the moral and educational disintegration of society but I would say that they made it a lot easier by writing catchy songs in which a revolution is enshrined. Whereas Dunstable, Tallis, Byrd, Purcell et al composed music in the service of Church and King (or Queen), and in which Christian doctrine is a given, since the 1950's we've been at mercy of the catchy tune of fornication, "free love," adultery, immodesty, and so many other deplorable things. Modern people prefer these catchy tunes because they are the very oracles of revolution. Play an English madrigal by Byrd or Gibbons and watch them run for the hills. The reason they despise it is because they have become accustomed to the vain, loud and endlessly repeated tunes of this godless age from the cradle (to the ruin of their taste), and which tunes are designed to render the Christian past irrelevant.

Do play the video. It's one of my favourite madrigals, by Thomas Weelkes. Hark, all ye lovely saints.

Friday, 22 May 2015

"My Irish life..."


That is how C.S "patrimony" Lewis described his fondness for the Emerald Isle. In the last few days, inspired by Prince Charles' visit to Ireland, I've been re-watching old documentaries on "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland and re-reading chapters from some books in my collection on the Partition of Ulster, Lord Carson, the Solemn League and Covenant (1912), Orangeism, some Yeats (I have the Everyman's edition), and so on. My Irish family are from the troubled North, on both sides of the conflict. I have family in Inishowen (in the Republic), Londonderry, Eglinton, Strabane, Coleraine and further south in Naas and Dublin. We have had our "fair share," if you like, of the Troubles. In the days before most people owned televisions or telephones, my great grandmother was terrified of using the phone box in case it was bombed. My mother and her brother Russell were both arrested in Tyrone in 1983 on the way to her funeral on suspicion of being involved in some sectarian murder. They missed her funeral as a result of the false charge. I myself was in Limavady on the day of the Omagh bombing and remember the shock and fear, confusion and incomprehension. I have been through Antrim and Lisburn and seen the painted curbs, the tricolour flags from one lamppost and the Union Jack on the next. Now, I beg indulgence for what follows which is the train of my thought committed immediately to writing for want of consistency and narrative.

No Surrender! Ulster says NO!!!

Irish history is a depressingly sad story because Ireland is a used country. From the ignorant past to the ignoble present it is a continuous narrative of national failure, subjection and the quaint cultural forms like Donegal tweed, Irish dance and folk songs which are the usual tokens of a subject people. Compare the Welsh choirs or that pedestrian poet Burns. Irish distinction and contribution has been almost entirely the province of the aforetime Anglican Church Established and the Pale. Jonathan Swift, James Ussher, Arthur Wellesley, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (I had to mention him!), Oscar Wilde, Dame Ninette de Valois and C.S Lewis are some of the names whose contribution to art, science, music, literature, theology and the worldwide renown of Great Britain has been invaluable. But for Ireland? I agree entirely with Iris Murdoch when she said, "I feel unsentimental about Ireland to the point of hatred." People who are not Hibernians don't always appreciate this. They sometimes make the comparison with the self-hating Jew. Now, I was a champion Irish dancer. I consider my victory in Ennis in 1998 (the year David Trimble sold out) to be one of the chief events of my life to date. My father, usually unsympathetic to my having been a dancer, said he was so proud his heart could have burst. It was a victory. According to the adjudicators I was the best male Irish dancer in the world under eleven at the end of the 20th century. But how significant is that? Is my distinction to be embellished because I excelled in a quaint cultural form, the token of a subject people? I heartily detest Michael Flatley!

And now we come to the Six troubled Counties, to "Northern Ireland." There was a woman called Kathleen who made the tea at the Irish Centre in Catford when I was a student at the dance academy there, circa 1996. She was from Wicklow (a pretty county), and I remember at a garden party she remarked that people from Ulster weren't really Irish but nasty Scottish protestants, and in token of this she spat upon the floor. My mother then said, "I'm from Ulster." To which Kathleen said: "well, you know I'm only joking, don't you." I don't know how endemic this attitude is throughout the Republic but in Buncrana and Letterkenny, towns in Donegal with which I am very familiar, the Catholics and Protestants get along just fine. Just drive twenty miles past the border and it's quite different. But Kathleen's attitude is indicative of the many inconsistencies and the profound ignorance in the competing ideologies of religion, politics and culture in Ireland and the somewhat delusional conviction with which the people defend them.

This is a demographic map of Northern Ireland. Red areas, such as Carrickfergus (where Dutch Billy landed in 1690 on his way to Drogheda), are mostly Protestant; blue areas have a Catholic majority.

Why? No one religio-political position in Ireland is 100% valid. The demographics are known to all. Most Northern Ireland Protestants are Unionist/Loyalist; there is a greater spectrum within Irish Anglicanism, ranging from moderate unionism to moderate nationalism. The Presbyterians are nearly all hard line Loyalists and tend to vote DUP. On the other side, most Roman Catholics in Ulster are Nationalist/Republican and tend to vote for Sinn Féin (albeit some in Antrim, though I doubt they'd own up to this, would vote for the late Dr Ian Paisley in the European elections). Prods and Taigs together. Let's start with Sinn Féin. My paternal great grandfather was a founding member of Sinn Féin. My father told me there was some incident in Strabane at his funeral in 1971. Martin McGuinness turned up uninvited and my great grandmother, a Pioneer of quiet modesty, turned pale and ordered "that troublemaker" off before she beat him off herself. (I was in two minds about whether or not to include that story. I should disclaim that my father's side of the family has absolutely no connexion to Mr McGuinness or to the Provisional IRA). Now, the name sinn féin is surprisingly apposite for a movement bethought of a number of unpleasant ideologies by idealistic peasants. It means "we ourselves" in Irish and enshrines Irish separatism and self-determination, with some cultural and religious layers. It's apposite because the Irish people have been historically maligned, used, segregated and systematically suppressed by the Protestant establishment, and not only in Ulster. Now, I am one of those people that thinks that the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland was good for the Irish. All they needed to do was abandon Romanism, the price of their poverty and ignorance, and they would be free. But no. Even through the Potato Famine they stupidly clung to a church that was ashamed of them (Mgr Rinuccini, papal nuncio to Ireland during the Irish Confederate Wars, sneeringly but truthfully called the natives "less than civilised"). The Papacy has never endorsed Irish nationalism or culture, in part because its 18th century proponents were liberal Protestants and partly because, being mercenary and considering the Irish people as fodder, the Roman church has always supported the established Pale; benefactors of places like Maynooth and University College Dublin. It was the Church of Ireland that first translated the Scriptures into Irish. It was Henry Grattan, an Anglican parliamentarian, who pushed for Irish self-determination after the Act of Union of 1801. The simple Irish, "as a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly" (Proverbs 26:11), have instead remained largely Roman Catholic. And to demonstrate the abiding love of the Roman communion for the Irish, Mother Teresa herself, that charlatan rightly exposed by Christopher Hitchens, flew all the way from Calcutta to Dublin in 1996 to campaign for a "no" vote in the Irish referendum on divorce while simultaneously telling an interviewer that her "friend" Lady Diana Spencer (what trash she was) really ought to get out of an obviously loveless marriage. One rule for the elite, is it? And John Paul II, now a "saint" in a botched ceremony that trumps even Rome's accustomed arbitrariness, exploited the Irish fidelity to Rome to get a few cheers at Phoenix Park in 1979. Like I said, "so a fool returneth to his folly."

This is a photograph (of a photograph) of a family trip to the Giant's Causeway in heavily Protestant Antrim when I was about 13 (I started wearing glasses when I was 13 and they seem to be my first pair). From left to right are my brother, sister and me.

And I have said nothing about the hearty endorsement of the Papacy for the Norman Invasion of Ireland in 1170. This reminds me of that scene from Angela's Ashes. Do you remember the classroom in which the teacher said the English deserved shabby treatment "after what they did to the Irish for eight hundred years." The same teacher would have trundled off to a lovely Latin Mass on Sundays without much thought. But to come back to Sinn Féin, they are more right, in the historic balance, than their loyalist foes. The Partition of Ireland was arguably the worst crime committed against the Irish people in the 20th century. The sectarian, gerrymandered border that covers most of Ulster but for the three counties of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan was bound to erupt in violence at some point. Lord Carson himself foresaw this, but Protestant bigots like James Craig, who boasted of a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people and actually asked Mr Churchill to invade Eire during the Second World War, took no notice and triumphantly treated the Catholic minority like so many rats, denying them voting and housing rights; a system of discrimination upheld by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. My father had his bicycle stolen in Strabane when he was little. He said of the time, "you didn't go to the RUC with your problems because they wouldn't help; you went instead to the Sinn Féin office." And he did. He got his bicycle back but what became of the thief remains a mystery. As a result of this (not my father's bicycle but the means whereby he got it back), the civil rights movement was launched. It was a legitimate movement but it was portrayed (probably rightly) by the Loyalists as a front for the IRA and a united Ireland by the back door. I suppose to summarise the Sinn Féin position, their view is to be acknowledged. Desire for a united Ireland is a praiseworthy desire. But it's also a load of rubbish. As Lord Brookeborough said, the fundamental question posed by Irish nationalism, "who owns Ireland," is an invalid one, akin to asking who owns India (the Persians, the Moguls, &c). A united Ireland was never an historic reality, even before the Normans. The idea is an 18th century invention latterly smothered with Enlightenment revolutionary and sectarian identity politics. The fact that republicans are mostly Papists is an historic curiosity. But I really do think that if a united Ireland is to work then the people should abandon their Roman religion. Drive out the bloody priests! I mean the Roman church has never been a force for good in Ireland; the Magdalene laundries, the child sex abuse scandal and the brutality of the Christian Brothers are evidence enough of that! And they've never been on the side of the Irish anyway! Why bother maintaining that false religion?

The pope blessing William III's landing in Ulster. The irony...

Now we come to the Loyalists; "spongers," as Harold Wilson rightly called them when their collective actions brought the cross-border Irish council to the ground. I find it risible that anyone would sincerely advocate the complete separation of the sectarian North from the republican South; that Dublin can have absolutely no say or influence in even the smallest matter past the border. In the words of Dr Paisley, godfather of the Loyalist resistance: "we are opposed to a united Ireland and we will not have a united Ireland." Those were his words when Mrs Thatcher and the Irish Taoiseach signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. Now, Dr Paisley (or Lord Bannside), often thought of himself as a successor to Lord Carson, founder of the Ulster Volunteers, and often flirted with loyalist paramilitaries, always careful to keep a safe distance from their atrocities. He was present at Bill Craig's infamous speech at Stormont when he called for the "liquidation of the enemy," by which he meant Irish Catholics who favoured the Sunningdale Agreement. But the collective behaviour of the Loyalists, from the Shankill Butchers in Belfast to Billy Wright's demagogic threats, has been totally disgraceful and their own atrocities go largely unnoticed because their paramilitaries never bombed that hotel in Brighton. Instead they opposed all efforts to negotiate peace from the 1970's onward and continued marching through Catholic areas on the "glorious" 12th, taunting the locals along the "traditional route" with insults and abuse. Did they not realise, or were they too proud to admit, that their own sectarianism would foster a counter sectarianism? But it was all to preserve the Union and the Protestant parliament for a Protestant people. Their position is just as ridiculous as Sinn Féin, the result only of Partition. It is only more praiseworthy in that they have kept a semblance of loyalty to the Crown. But, as Presbyterians with painted murals of Oliver Cromwell (may he rot in Hell) on the Shankill Road, why profess loyalty to a Sovereign? Surely Kings and Queens are relics of the Romish past? But then we come to the Orange Order, established to preserve the memory of the so-called "Glorious Revolution," and the triumph of Whiggery. Do these people not realise that William III was funded by pope Innocent XI for his conquest in Ireland? Do the Catholics realise that? Do they realise that, upon hearing the outcome of the Battle of the Boyne, the pope ordered Te Deums all over the Papal State? A Williamite victory served the interests of the Papacy far more than a Jacobite one. So much for the principled, Calvinist Billy, and for that matter, so much for the pope's concern for Irish Catholics. And the Orange marches are now thoroughly sectarian in character; expressions of triumphalism over the Irish and an occasion for rioting. My mother said that when she was little, my grandmother took her and her brothers to the 12th July parade in Londonderry because it was "a grand day out;" I suppose it was before all the stoning and police intervention, and certainly long before the Drumcree incident. I've never been to an Orange parade because they became so dangerous. But never mind the republican murals in "free Derry," have you seen the Protestant stuff? In some respects, it's more frightening; littered with cultish, masonic symbolism. I do not share the Protestant disdain for the Irish language. I asked my maternal grandmother (she of the 12th July marches) whether she knew any Irish once, and she said "No!" In such a way that to press the point would be a bad idea. Rhonda Paisley is said to have described the Irish tongue as "dripping with the saliva of their bloodthirsty thoughts." I wouldn't go that far, even if Mr Adams makes a fuss about speaking to cameras in Irish first and then in English; but I do share Tolkien's disdain for it. Would you be surprised to learn that the Irish word for "ring" is nasc?

My RE teacher at school, in a moment of temporary clarity, said that the Troubles in Northern Ireland were the last remnant of the 17th century Wars of Religion. That's a bit romantic for me. I would have said that they illustrate rather the incompetence and apathy of the British government, the danger of ideologies/identity politics and that Irish nationalism is too fraught with Enlightenment ideals to be a worthy cause. In other words, I pray for a United Ireland and say with absolute sincerity God save The Queen. What other way can there be? As for the future, a 32-county Irish Republic is a political inevitability. The Good Friday Agreement sealed that, but it would have come about by some other means anyway; pressure from Europe, the disintegration of the Union by Scotland, changing demographics with increasing numbers of Roman Catholics (and immigration), and increasing secularisation. Nobody can predict the future or correct the mistakes of the past but I hope that whatever is good in Ulster can be preserved for the future and that the Irish people can find some alternative to both Roman Catholicism and secularism.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Updates, &c...

Tolkien wrote some of his finest literature under shell fire or in hospital during the Great War so my own excuses of writer's block and an atmosphere of tension unconducive to my way of thinking seem a bit spurious. Having said that, I am having some difficulty because I have written, so far, to three academics beseeching their help in compiling a bibliography for my project and not one of them has replied. Who knows, maybe they are indeed rather busy but it seems more likely that they dislike me personally and would see my little project run like a trickle of water into the sand. I have long been resolved to say something eternal about Tolkien because his work is the only subject on which I can pronounce authoritatively and it would be a terrible waste if the project were abandoned because certain people with their high policies thought so little of me.

That is, in a nutcase, the only real reason you have heard almost nothing from me recently.

In other news, His Royal Highness Prince Charles and his wife have been in Ireland this week. Shaking hands with Mr Adams, diplomatically referring to "these Islands" in a speech at the National University of Ireland, and other conciliatory gestures. I don't know; I despise Irish politics. Maybe that's because my family come from Ulster. See the map? My Irish family come from the county with the sectarian name.

UPDATE: More comments can be read here.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Palindromic music...

I'm trying to summon my muse. Not since university have I found both writing and the willingness to undertake to the same so bloody difficult. To that end I have been revisiting some old themes from video games I played as a child (as a distraction, of course). This one is from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, which was released by Nintendo when I was 12 years old. It's from the "Stone Tower Temple," after it is inverted. It sounds palindromic to me. What do you think?

Monday, 11 May 2015


I really need to make the effort to at least try and do something constructive. About a week or so ago I conceived a worthwhile project but, apart from some preliminary sketches, I have done nothing and time is waning fast. I'll be fifty to-morrow...not really but I don't want to get to fifty and realise I didn't do a blessed thing with my life. I've always wanted to influence people in a unique way. The trouble is, while I have the airs and graces of a genius, I have no talent and seem apt simply to lie on my bed in a drunken stupor while the books I had meant to read, the knitting needles, the sewing machine and the keyboard all gather dust and I slowly put on weight. Who knows, maybe I will in fact win my bet with the future and fall off the roof or something. Until that day, I am resolved to do something other than eat, drink and sleep. To that end, I am conscious that two messages to friends asking their advice in this matter have been studiously ignored so it seems that I am on my own. That is always a bad sign as I have always needed the coercion and pace set by others to produce the best work. Working at my own pace is not work, it is indolence.

Pray for me!

The photo needs some explanation. Someone said of me recently that I'm a misogynist. That is not true. In my room there are three posters of Audrey Hepburn, a lady I hold almost as much in awe as the Blessed Virgin herself. Maybe it's just hideous, domineering women I dislike? Some cynical readers might point to my being queer as the reason for my conflicted relationship with the fairer sex. After all, I can't think of anything more disgusting than certain aspects of a woman's body. But my attitude is not shallow. I am not a materialist, insofar as that is possible for a human being, and try to look beyond appearances. Audrey had a beautifully slender body, a face (a funny face!) dearer than wine and a voice as melodious and sweet as a spring in the hills. But she was also kind, loving, gentle, without guile, extraordinarily accomplished and genuinely wise. A much better person, and better Christian (she was a lifelong Calvinist...sorry Sister Luke!), than I could ever hope to be.

Of course, I hold other women in esteem too. Dame Ninette de Valois, for example, or, less famously but personally significant, Mrs Granden my Latin teacher; my Irish grandmother. And, unlike Mr McCririck, I wouldn't insist that any of them travel second class. Does that make me a misogynist, I wonder?

Friday, 8 May 2015

Groundhog day, and belated congratulations...

First of all, it was a pleasant reminder amidst a very unpleasant, unlooked for election result to see this in the window of Nick's cafe in my home town. I should have done so sooner but I rejoice with the Royal Family and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and all the Commonwealth at the birth of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and wish her every temporal and spiritual blessing in the LORD for a long life in blessedness and service to the nation. Sincerest congratulations indeed to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on a successful delivery of a beautiful baby girl. I went to Marks & Spencers and bought a commemorative tin of shortbread too, which I am delighted to see was on sale (have Tescos done anything, do you think?). I have no doubt the tin will come in handy for storage of the various mathoms I cannot bear to be without.

As for the election, Mr Hitchens has written a very apposite summation here. I have to say I was astounded at the result. I was expecting the Liberal Democrats to do badly, and I daresay I am not sorry to see some of them go (Vince Cable, for example), but the success of the Scottish National Party at the expense of Labour and the fact that the Conservatives have now scraped a majority in the House of Commons is a very unfortunate turn of events. Like Mr Hitchens, I was expecting and indeed hoping for a broader political spectrum than what we now have on the basis of which a truly politically conservative party or movement might take shape and bring about change for the better. We were both wrong. Of course, now that the Lib Dems are no longer in coalition with the Tories there is no scapegoat for that awful fake Mr Cameron on which he can heap the opprobrium for his relentless pursuit of liberal, politically correct ideals. Perhaps that's a good thing? And the electorate, a constitutional necessity, think that the Conservatives represent political conservatism! The fact is, none of them care what you think. As Mr Hitchens says:

"The truth is that both major parties are now just commercial organisations, who raise money wherever they can get it to buy their way into office through unscrupulous election campaigns. They then presumably reward their donors once they are in office. The electorate are a constitutional necessity for this process, but otherwise their fears, hopes and desires are largely irrelevant. They are to be fooled and distracted with scares ('The other lot will privatise the NHS!' 'The other lot will nationalise your children’s toys and then wreck the economy!') or with loss-leader cut-rate offers, like supermarkets ('Vote for us and get a cheap mortgage!' 'Vote for us and have your rent frozen!'). Even if these wild pledges are implemented, the customer will pay for them through higher taxes elsewhere, just as with supermarket loss-leaders.

"By playing our part in this ludicrous pantomime, we license it to continue forever.  I have thought for years that the key to ending it was simple and obvious.  We could revenge ourselves on these fakes by refusing to vote for them. The arrival of new parties, UKIP on one side, the Greens on the other, made such a revolt and redemption even easier.

"But I must now admit that the people of this country actually seem to prefer to live the same experience over and over again, and seem astonishingly ready to believe the crudest propaganda."

I couldn't have put it better myself. It is essentially why I don't vote. My mother came home from work to have lunch with my father to-day and watch the news updates. She is of the opinion that voting should be compulsory and seems to think that if it were a radical difference for the better might be realised. Voting is compulsory in North Korea, unless I'm quite mistaken, so that is a mickey mouse argument. It's obvious that the Conservative victory is due to the fear created by their monstrous engines of propaganda of a Labour-SNP coalition and the ramifications for the Union and the stupid electorate fell for it. Well, I want no part of this travesty of government. It's enough to dash all faith in the efficacy and rightness of our system. Let us not forget that democracy comes from the Greek for mob rule. What do we do? Do we retire to monasteries and speak nothing but Latin and Old English? Or do we emigrate?

For those of you who think that Conservative means moral conservatism, watch this video. Inclusion, diversity, and blah, blah. Mr Cameron is a wet brown paper bag of a man. He doesn't believe in anything! And this fake is now our Prime Minister!

Oh well, Her Majesty has asked him to form a government. Let's see what the next few weeks has in store. I have no doubt that we're in for another five years of hollow tedium.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Election day...

As you know, I'm not voting to-day. I couldn't give twopence about the outcome of this election because our time is at an end whatever the outcome. It's almost irrelevant. I believe in Church and State, Monarchy and Aristocracy, Marriage and Monasticism. All of those things are in grave danger of annihilation because we live in an age of post-Christian faithlessness. Not even our pagan ancestors were as low as women in the armed forces and gay marriage. The culture of inclusion, diversity, mass immigration and secularism is propounded by ruthless monsters bent with overwhelming impetuosity on the obliteration of Christ from our our national institutions, our society, even our very memories. He is to be replaced by "equality" (a dead word), a kind of spurious niceness where to have an opinion on anything is a dangerous phobia, a libertine sexuality and a permissive immorality in which you can do whatever you want because your actions have no consequence beyond their immediate effect, and the notion that secular ideas about "rights," about polity, society, religion, education and democracy are fundamentally and intrinsically correct and that any other system is intrinsically wrong and not to be tolerated. Meanwhile, we incur the increasing wrath of the Muslim world which loathes, despises and abominates not only our open alliance with the Israelis but our attempts to impose secular ideals on them in a cultural war on their civilisation. Then come the engines of globalisation which blur all national distinctiveness. Do you think your passport is worth the paper it's written on?!

I could go on but it's depressing enough. Suffice it to say that mass immigration will continue without check, ere long Westminster Abbey will become a museum, the Monarchy and House of Lords will be abolished (not in Her Majesty's lifetime), our national sovereignty will be continually compromised by Brussels, twenty-four hour surveillance will be here with the cashless society, all to prevent "terrorism" and "extremism," and Christians will be driven into new catacombs by government legislation and the intimidation of young, black Muslim converts. It doesn't matter who the next Prime Minister is. All he can do is champion this merciless war on our ancestral Christian culture because it is at variance with the brave new world. The question is, will we just quietly slither off like a snake into the grass? Is it virtuous to stand against the erosion of Christian values? Is it worth it?  We're fast becoming irrelevant as it is and one of the principle wounds of Christianity is its fissiparous nature.

The art is deliberately chosen. You may have seen it before, it's The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I live near Shooter's Hill, which is surrounded by woods in which Henry VIII was wont to hunt in times past. Years ago, scaling to the top, one would be able to look out over the city of London and see St Paul's in the distance. I haven't seen St Paul's from Shooter's Hill for many years because the landscape is now dominated by other, much taller buildings like "the Shard," which dwarfs the old protestant church. All monuments to our godless age of power and niceness. When new towers of Babel are build anew in the cities of the world then we will know that Antichrist is come.

Oh well, my parents are off to vote so I'd best see them off.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Liturgical issues...

Roman Catholics are a fundamentally aliturgical people. That is not a malicious observation, it is an observation based on history and personal experience and it is essentially why they have no idea about how to remedy (if that is even possible) their liturgical crisis. If you'd care to read yet more tripe from Professor Kwasniewski you may understand where I'm coming from. Like most traditionalists, he goes on about really ephemeral things, like Latin, or "Gregorian" chant while ignoring the weightier matters such as celebration facing the wrong way, the historic and contemporary neglect of Divine Office and the kalendar reforms. With regard to Latin, I like Latin. I am a Latinist myself, I prefer it to Greek; I enjoy reading mediaeval and liturgical Latin, I enjoy Latin polyphony. But Latin is, lamentably, a dead language. There's no question about that. Furthermore, you cannot argue that Latin is any more or less expressive of divine truths than English, or any vernacular tongue in common use. To do so is not necessarily an Ultramontane tendency but it is prejudicial to the riches of the common tongue. As W.H Auden said, "even a child can be taught what the quick and the dead means;" moreover the Coverdale Psalter has retained the Latin incipits of the Psalms which surely demonstrates both continuity and intelligibility. Unfortunately, the English officially sanctioned for use in the Roman Catholic communion is of a postcard/train timetable quality, utterly pretentious and artificial. The reasons for that are manifold but can be traced ultimately to the decision by the Council of Trent to forbid vernacular worship.

With regard to Gregorian Chant, it can be attractive (particularly in some antiphons) but the bulk of it is a mongrel, syllable-by-syllable monody produced by the monks of Solesmes in the 19th century. I do not question the need for musical integrity and quality in liturgical worship but much of the officially sanctioned chant for use in the Latin rite is early 20th century; Tra le sollecitudini and all that. And blast Mgr Perosi for his attitude toward the Castrati!

And the Kalendar. The Gregorian Kalendar is here to stay. It would be inconceivable for Rome to abandon its use and adopt the venerable Julian Kalendar but the real issue here are the kalendar reforms. There have been countless in the history of the Roman Rite. It is not unlikely that every pope since Trent has left his mark on the universal kalendar. Where do you draw the line? Do we accept kalendar reforms that have passed out of knowledge and living memory, like those of Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius X (if they are at all relevant to most practitioners of the Roman Rite to-day)? Or, for those who use the so-called "extraordinary form," what of the reforms of Pius XII? The beginning of May is an especially relevant time to question those reforms. We have seen how Joseph the Worker supplanted the festival of the holy apostles Philip and James, fixed on May 1st since antient times. On 3rd May was the coeval feast of St John before the Latin Gate, kept in Cranmer's godly order but abolished by Pius XII. What tributaries to "the apostolic truth and constancy of what we celebrate," to borrow that phrase from the NLM article? What is truly a mark of catholicity and of ecumenical significance? Leave out the ARCIC declarations for a moment and the patsy status of the Church of England; if you meet an old-fashioned Anglican on 1st May and you have a conversation about faith, you're already on common ground in celebrating the same feast day. This is how bridges are built! Something substantive and traditional is a predicate. Do not insist upon the latest papal fiat simply because of what Mediator Dei declares about the liturgical authority of the Roman see. That is what leads to estrangement and hatred. Albeit they had disparate views on theology but it heartens me to think that Tolkien and Lewis shared a more or less analogous kalendar of saints days for many years of their remarkable communion.

It seems to me that the remnants (and they are incredibly small and sundered) of Roman liturgy are drowning and Professor Kwasniewski is just describing the water.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Halige Rod...

For those of you who are members of the Henry Bradshaw Society, there is a very good tome in the subsidia series entitled The Liturgy of the Late Anglo-Saxon Church which has an informative chapter on the Sign of the Cross and its relative greatness in Saxon poetry and liturgy. The old English divines and poets were genius to draw on the recurring motifs of blessing in the Old Testament and to apply them to Christ's rood token. Why? Simply because Christ, as λόγος, is ever present in time and typology, the Word is present before and throughout Creation and the promise of salvation in the Old Testament prophecies is fulfilled in Christ's holy cross. Æthelwulf's genealogy, for example, reaches back through the ante-diluvian patriarchs to Adam and concludes, et pater noster est Christus, Amen. Time, centered on the Cross, is seen as both linear and cyclical. Typologically, I refer you to the Dream of the Rood which draws parallels between the Cross and the pillar of fire from Exodus; both being described as "trees of glory." Liturgically, this comparison is also seen in the blessing of the paschal candle in the Winchcombe Sacramentary:

Haec est nox, in qua primum patres nostros filios Israel eduxisti de Eegypto, quos postea rubrum mare sicco vestigio transire fecisti. Haec igitur nox est, quae peccatorum tenebras columne inluminatione purgavit...Haec nox est; in qua destructis vinculis mortis, Christus ab inferis victor ascendit.

There are many other instances told in the tome; the tree of life, the cross, the blessing of Noah's ark, the rod of Moses, the tree of Nabochodonossor's dream in Daniel. Christ is lifted high on the Cross and reigns therefrom. And so making the sign of the cross in faith we are drawn to Christ as by grace. There's a wonderful inscription under an illustration of the Cross in Ælfwine's Prayerbook which reads: "Haec crux consignet Ælfwinum corpore mente. In qua suspendens traxit Deus omnia secum." This is a wonderful thing to have said. Just as at that dreadful moment when St Mary and St John beheld their LORD crucified, so we, in making the sign of the cross, are drawn back (traxit) to Christ (secum); past, present and future are united in that timeless moment when Christ was uplifted and, as at His birth, was, in humility, shewn forth as the Saviour. This has occurred to me in this very hour of writing but this is essentially the reason Chrsitianity is true. I refer you, as ever, to The Lord of the Rings for that; The Field of Cormallen specifically. The sentiments expressed therein are echoed in Tolkien's letters too.

A lot of Anglo-Saxon stuff was collected and collated by Archbishop Parker, whose principle motive for doing so was to equate the Protestant Elizabethan Church with the Church of our long fathers of old before the Normans brought Popery to these shores and therefore to establish legitimacy for the new Prayer Book order. I don't know how successful he was because I've never read his stuff, but I'd like to. +Parker's view, and my own, is that the Saxons had a concept of royal supremacy in the Church. It wouldn't have been analogous to "supreme head/governor" because the concept of Dieu et mon droit, a Plantagenet thing, hadn't been worked out but it probably indicates Byzantine influence.

On the subject of the Byzantines, when the Emperor Heraclius brought the True Cross from Persia into Constantinople the people rejoiced with great joy but not long afterwards the Arabs poured like lava out of Arabia and captured Jerusalem. As Tolkien would have said, we are doomed to be in retreat. The ravages of heathen men may miserably destroy our churches, our monasteries and our culture but we if look to the Cross and sign ourselves with the mystical token thereof we can turn back the evil tide, if only in our hearts.

Of course, if you follow the traditional, Mass of Ages kalendar to-day has no cruciform significance whatever.

St Helena, pray for us.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Just to impress upon you...

Original post. I feel so strongly about the shabby treatment of the holy apostles Philip and James at the behest of pope Pacelli that a few years ago I had a mediaeval Flemish kalendar leaf for the month of May framed. It now hangs in my room next to the frontispiece of the Bishop's Bible.

^^This is the one.^^

Ardent supporters of Tradition, the Latin Mass Society ordo. They keep going on about their 50th anniversary. Fifty years ago nobody was interested in Joseph the Worker!

Poor old Joseph...

Dismally and meanly hideous...

"Aptissime Summus Pontifex hoc festum celebrari iussit Kalendis Maiis, quem diem operarii coetus sibi asciverunt; hinc enim spes affulget fore, ut dies hic, sancto Ioseph opifici dicatus, deinceps non odia exacuat ac iurgia accendat, sed singulis recurrens annis, omnes invitet ad ea magis magisque perficienda, quae civium paci adhuc desunt, immo etiam reipublicae moderatores exstimulet ad ea sollerter absolvenda quae consortionis humanae rectus expostulat ordo." Taken from one of the lessons of Joseph the Worker, composed, presumably, by Pius XII and subsequently corrected, amended and made safely "infallible" by a team of specialists.

How ironic that this feast is constituted non odia exacuat ac iurgia accendat, that is not to sharpen hatred and to kindle (legal) disputes (think of that what you will) when, ostensibly that is all it has actually achieved. This antient feast of sixty years standing has to be one of the most divisive aspects of the so-called "Extraordinary Form," and undoubtedly one of the most hideous liturgical reforms of the 20th century. And it proves not just that the Papacy itself is a force for evil in the Church, and just as constant and deferential of tradition as the world in which it is set, but that the traditionalists who maintain and support the papal rite are themselves the very enemies of Tradition. The holy apostles Philip and James have been commemorated on 1st May since the sixth century; Joseph the buck-toothed socialist peasant in the dole queue (a latter day Wat Tyler) since 1956. Let's put this in the form of a syllogism: Traditionalism means adherence to Tradition and abhorrence of innovation; 1st May is traditionally the feast of the holy apostles Philip and James, that of Joseph the Worker is an innovation; therefore the feast to be celebrated on 1st of May, according to Tradition, always, everywhere and without exception, is that of the holy apostles Philip and James.

And I have said nothing about the quality of the antiphons or the Mattins (if you can call it that) lessons or the blatant capitulation to socialism inherent to this cheap and grotesque feast. It reminds me of when Leo XIII called upon the French to "rally to the Republic." And now Saint Joseph, one of my patrons, is to be identified with trade unions, industry and the trolley boy with the rash at your local supermarket. All peasants in the same socialist stew, but endued and sanctified with the Christian life upon gathering in St Peter's square to inwardly digest the wise words of good old Pacelli, teacher of all Christians, sweetest of pontiffs and friend of the working man. Joseph the working man is so great that he ranks higher than the feasts of royal saints in the martyology, like Louis IX who built the Sainte Chapelle (the only good fruit of the Fourth Crusade), Margaret of Scotland or Charles the Martyr. But in the modern world of socialist republics and trade onions (that is not a typo), what use are they? Rome must appear relevant to modern times.

Equally, in all seriousness, what use is there celebrating Joseph the Worker? The idea was that Rome would sanctify the workplace and turn it into a model of the Kingdom of God but do any of you think that the corporate minds that are the engines of civil power to-day care one bit about the patronage of their new peasant saint? To celebrate this feast is very much to move with the times and one would have thought that Rocks (tu es petrus...) shouldn't really move anywhere. But to come back to the propriety of the feast, anybody who celebrates the feast of Joseph the Worker is a philistine and heretic, as far as I'm concerned. And if they are traditionalists, as most of them are, then they are disingenuous liars and sycophants who have sacrificed their integrity on the altar of Ultramontanism.