July 2008

Like an obelisk’s
Tendrilled exoskeleton,
The storm-lit pylon.


Bright Supper I & II
(For Seraphic, who only has herself to blame. )

The kitchen window
Fills the closed bowl of my eye
With warm liquid light.

The clouds’ hearts are grey,
But their thirsty skirts soak up
The last dregs of sun.


  • A note on the post-title:

In II Mach., ix, 16, Antiochus promises to adorn with precious gifts (anathemata) the temple he has pillaged; and in Luke, xxi, 5, mention is made of the temple built of precious stones and adorned with rich gifts (anathemata). As odious objects were also exposed to view, e.g. the head of a criminal or of an enemy, or his arms or spoils, the word anathema came to signify a thing hated, or execrable, devoted to public abhorrence or destruction.

J Gignac, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907)

"So, tell me about your Holy Father..."

 “Don’t become a blogger,” they warned me, “it’ll only lead to navel-gazing.”  “Rubbish,” said I to myself said I, “you won’t catch me posting about my holidays, recipes and dreams!”

So, I was seated in the south aisle of a large church, facing west towards an elevated narthex in which the Pope (recognisable as the current occupant of the chair of St Peter, Benedict XVI) was sitting, without attendants, in a throne also placed to the south of the narthex. 

My fellow congregants were also facing towards the Pope in the west, and nearby (immediately behind me, I think) was my friend Samantha (but who had about her a touch of another cronie, Hazel)*.  “Samzel” appeared to be reading out a document, or perhaps a part of Scripture, but was taking a pop at the Church in some sort of way.  Appalled, I turned and upbraided her, rather showily defended the Magisterium (or the person of the Pope, or whatever or whomever was being attacked by “Hazantha”) and made my way in protest up to the Pope’s seat in the narthex, intending to walk out. 

I made a point of paying proper obeisance and expressing my loyalty to His Holiness, kneeling on my right knee (not my left) at the Pope’s throne and, reaching for his right hand, kissing his ring.  The ring itself was, I was disappointed to note, to a modern design: a simple broad gold band pierced with a cross.  His Holiness smiled indulgently and paternally at me, and soon I noticed he had changed out of his pontifical clobber (a simple modern white Mass set with plain white mitre, as it seemed) and was accompanying me through the streets of what might have been Rome or some lesser ancient Italian town. 

HH was now wearing a plain dark-grey chunky woollen pullover over a white shirt with black clerical stock and full Roman collar, very informal but still somehow befitting his dignity.  I specifically remember the woollen jumper because at various stages I felt it under my hand as I escorted le Pierre de nos jours companionably around the old town, up stairs and through courtyards, etc., placing my hand gently on his back or supporting his arm as we went, laughing in a friendly way to one other.  The Pope’s English was flawlessly good, with what I took to be an undisguised Bavarian accent. [That I wouldn’t in waking life know a Bavarian from a Bolivian accent is neither here nor there.]

My overwhelming impression was of his informal, paternal warmth and humour—gentle, twinkly-eyed, intelligent, kind.  A very model of a Holy Father.  I also remember thinking that I must keep alert and try to remember the details of this very exciting and important occasion, but being anxious that this effort (and my being overawed by the whole situation) would distract me from conversing with the Pope in a natural way.

Notes: *Samantha is a feisty feminist friend from my philosophical past; Hazel a milder but still feisty companion and quondam office-mate.

 Conscious influences: 

  • Fr Basset’s light-hearted account of Rome during the first session of the Council (Vat. II, natch), Priest in the Piazza, which I was reading just the night before.  [Light-hearted because he couldn’t have guessed the trouble that would ensue… ]
  • The C of E’s synodical vote on “lady bishops”.
  • Recent blog posts on Benedict XVI (whom Dominus conservet et vivifecet, et beatum faciat in terra, et non tradat in animam inimicorum eius).
  • Gene Robinson’s sermon-heckler.

Unconsious influences

  • Er, how would I know?

 … “trifle”.

As if my poor dinner guests did not have enough to contend with at the old Palazzo Ben’Ambro, I recently concocted a quick, easy and utterly cheaty pud.  It can only by the most athletic stretch of terminology be described as a trifle, but what it lacks in authenticity and sophistication it makes up for on the ease and temporal economy fronts.  If you would know the secret of this dish, you need but read on. 

First, take as many slices of (moderately) stale brioche (you may cut off the crusts if you affect gentility) as you have mouths to feed, and either toast them till light brown or (if you care even less about your cholesterol intake than I do) fry them in a pan with butter till equivalently hued.  Next spread the slices with a thick layer of good fruity jam (I used an excellent Scottish bramble jam, but if you prefer lychee and guava, well… ).  Finally, scoop some pre-softened fine vanilla ice-cream (check for the speckling of vanilla seeds) onto each serving and garnish liberally with ripe soft fruit (brambles and raspberries do the trick nicely).

What else you choose to do in elaboration or adaptation of this simple receipt is your own affair.  I served mine in bowls laid on a table with spoons (and, I confess, forks) provided for ease of conveyance from dish to lip and with a passable Brown Brothers muscat: eating it out of last night’s pizza carton with disposable chopsticks and washing the lot down with Vimto, whilst not entirely lacking in post-Bohemian chic, will win you no style points in my book.

I have foreborne posting a photograph of the dish in question here: Fr E, if he is reading, will know why…


Alright, so I’ve been terribly remiss in my blogging recently, and have fallen behind in my personal correspondence and I have left undone those thinges whiche I ought to have done, and I have done those thinges which I ought not to have done, and there is no health in me (as Anglicans once were wont to say – and given recent events ought perhaps to revert to saying… ).

But this is what I have been doing!  Right, me at the summit of Ben Cruachan, which a crony and I climbed on Saturday.  Below, Mr T (said crony) atop the same.




 Mr T was concerned about how his hair came across in this photie, but with views like this behind him (and the state my loony locks were in) who was looking?

Ben C is part of a long horseshoe ridge which encompasses another Munro (a peak over 3000 ft) — but by the time we’d scaled the 1126 m / 3694 ft of Ben C himself (minus the 80 or so metres-above-sea-level of our starting position), and taking into account the crazy wind-speeds we’d braved whilst attempting lunch on the bealach (well look it up then), Mr T (who does this sort of thing far more often than me and is consequently in far better shape) deemed we’d proved enough for one day.  I for one was just delighted not to have cried out for an iron lung after the first steep ante-slope at the start of the climb and was positively elated at still feeling fit at the summit — so I was not minded to differ!

The final photie is of that shameless old bluffer BA the next day at a much more peaceful luncheon spot, near Inveroran.  Yes, it was every bit as idyllic as it looks, thanks.  We punctuated Sunday’s trek with a cool post-prandial pint in the Inveroran Inn before heading back up-and-over to the horseless carriage.

So there we have it: a weekend of good grub and fine beer, of good walking and fine views, all in the finest of good company (well, there was just Mr T and myself — so I mean his!).  The fact that we had to decamp from our room in the bunkhouse to another at 0030 on Sunday because water was pouring through the ceiling utterly failed to put a damper (pun foreseen but otherwise unintended) on the proceedings. 

Any more of this sort of thing and I’ll be losing my “pale and interesting” credentials altogether!