December 2008


Cold gloaming: the moon,
A stark, silvery eyelash,
Flicked into the sky.

Soaking up dusk’s ink,
The trees’ bare branches stiffen
Into crisp, black lace.

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There never was a birth like this:giotto_nat_det1
Hodie Christus natus est
A maid, a manger and a kiss.
Salvator apparuit.

Never would death so seal birth’s joy
Hodie Christus natus est
As when it crowned the Virgin’s boy.
Salvator apparuit.

O sweetest fruit—of womb, of tree—
Hodie Christus natus est
To eat thy flesh is to be free.
Salvator apparuit.

Of banquets and of babes the best:
Et Verbum caro factum est.

Steeple—a grateful

Half-sucked gothic lollipop,

Surprised by noon’s warmth.

Sorry, that title shows the influence of a WWI novel my darling fiancee gave me to pass on to a mutual friend, and which in his absence I’ve been gorging on myself.  What I mean is that I’m back from a most happy two weeks in Seraphaville (and Nulliville) and am digging in and making all necessary preparations for the Spring assault on… [digs self in ribs] er, my wedding to the Dear Creature in (what we hope will turn out to be) early May.  This long Lent of the heart will, please God, be punctuated and fructified with a long visit from the DC to the Borgo Ben’Ambrosiano in late February—and should this prove to be the case, these 8-ish weeks will be the longest we will ever need to be apart.  Ever.  Amen. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, innit.

 Anyhoo, after the bliss of my extended but all-too short stay with my affianced and her friends and family, I was not looking forward even a wee bittie to the long journey back to what is my and will be our home.  Transatlantic travel is seldom recommended as a rest-cure by even the most eccentric of physicians—add to this quotidian trauma the wrench of leaving my bride-to-be in another continent and you can perhaps imagine my state of mind upon embarkation.  I was kindly dropped off at the aerodrome by Mr and Mrs S, even although they had not long before that day picked up their youngest son from that very same same spot.  After a fond but brief valediction discouraging (rather than forbidding) mourning (Readers, I was less brave than I appeared), I made my heavy way to the check-in point. 

 I was approached during the long wait in the queue by a chillily polite representative of my chosen airline who offered me an immediate upgrade to the “lounge” class in airport and aboard ship—and for what was admittedly a perfectly paltry sum.  Alas, even this small consideration, so potentially transformative of my “travel experience” was beyond my currently cash-blocked means.  I scraped together all my readies into one disappointingly small heap, tormented by their closeness to the sum required to alchemise me from steerage dross to jet-set gold.  My tormentress (almost) imperceptibly suppressed a sneer as she passed on to the next candidate for promotion.

 Once on the plane, however, I thought I had cheated her of  victory.  With but a minute to go to the scheduled departure time, not only was the seat next to mine free, but the one next to that was also: elbow-room for me, my baggage and my expansive consciousness.  Thus it was that, as I grinned smugly to myself at the prospect of a soul-roomy journey, I found myself joined at the last possible moment by a late arrival—a Dutch-sounding, bluff and cheerful man who immediately betrayed all of his restlessly bulky stature by flinging himself about in the seat next-but-one to mine.  “There’sss supoast to be anithor guy sittin’ here but we’ll see, eh?” he jollied to me, pointing to the seat between us.  I was on  no mood for small-, medium- or large-talk and so just smiled and grunted.  The smile, forced anyway, slipped right off my face as I saw the “ithor” guy approach within a second or two.  The Dutchman slipped straight over to me and let the large new arrival sit on the aisle seat. 

I forestalled several attempts at friendly banter from my Netherlandish companion, politely but definitively.  I said so little in response to his conversational ovetures that I was quite prepared for his judgement that I was an imbecile.  It was a seven hour flight we had ahead of us, and if he had turned out to be a manic bletherer I would have had to feign sleep for almost the whole of that time.  As it was, I seemed to have succeeded in conveying my non-communicative message within ten minutes or so, since after that he seldom thereafter addressed me in a way requiring a response.  I felt, it must be said, like a bit of a heel and a grouch—but bitter experience of early conviviality in such circumstances had taught me not to encourage too much banter at the beginning.  And besides which, I knew pefectly well that my rawly lovelorn mood would scarcely sustain a civilised conversation for long.  I was on several occasions awoken from my genuine attempts at slumber by his fidgety sighings and wrigglings.

I was all the more penitent at the end of the journey then when I at last relented and entered into a bit of pre-landing chat with him.  He turned out to be a Canadian Dutch ex-pat of some thirty years’ standing, on his way to his mother’s funeral back in Holland.  He had two grown-up children, one of whom had stood just six feet away from our Sovereign Pontiff gloriously reigning at the Sydney World Youth Day and was now engaged in work in the Catholic mission field. 

My next travel-trauma was the realisation that I had vastly underestimated the length of my stopover in Amsterdam—by about five hours.  Instead of a comfortable transfer time of 120 minutes or so, I was in for a seven-and-a-bit hour stretch in the corridors of Schiphol. 

 

Things to do in Schiphol when you’re Dead-beat and Lovelorn 

  •  Wander around dazedly looking for somewhere you can e-mail your ferne geliebte with cash rather than a credit card (which I do not own).
  • Find some cheap, palatable grub to keep your blood-sugar level from reaching “ready-to-cry-on-the-nearest-shoulder” level.
  • Find “meditation room” to pray rosary in.  Use muslim prayer mat (suitably folded) as kneeler whilst gazing at table with flowers opposite Mecca-oriented corner.  Avoid beheading by potential mad mullah potentially outraged at such origamic sacrilege.
  • Check wilder islamophobic worries in at end of session.
  • Prowl vulture-like around quiet lounge area, waiting for napsters to vacate their reclinable couches.
  • Scowl at those keeping their couches for others long-absent, whilst chatting to neighbours.
  • “Get some repose in the form of a doze, with hot eyeballs and head ever aching,” whilst avoiding falling so deeply asleep as to miss one’s flight altogether.  Listen to sporadic snoring of fellow napsters, drifting like bullfrog-song across marshy plains.
  • Stand immediately at gate when boarding call is first announced, impervious to entreaties from flight-staff to sit back down again because boarding is prologedly delayed.

 Well, it kept me occupied for seven hours anyway. 

When we finally disembarked at Embra, I had one final ordeal to undergo.  A fellow Scot loudly, grandstandingly and rather bewilderingly complained to his toping companions at the length of the passport-inspection queue: “Is this what we fought the bloody war for, eh?”  He was rather red-faced, not with shame but with booze, and couldn’t have been a day over fifty. 

 Welcome back to Scotland!  And more from me anon.

Putting my stylishly brogued boot to my tender Scots behind, I am blogging just a wee bittie this morning to keep my sporadic dairy from becoming utterly moribund.  Being about the happy business of transforming a gladmaking engagement into someting altogether more glorious is, as it turns out, is rather distracting, innit.  Those wishing for the journalistic delights of hearing this story told in style know where they can go…

Yesterday, the Ring-bearer and I added to our golden brood by purchasing wedding bands—one each seemed sufficient, although we read in the Seraphaville Times that a seasonal five of the blighters would this year retail at the incredibly low price of $475 Canadian.  This was hogwash, alas.  Still, fine gold rings were to be had at a still very reasonable and more reassuring price in the old-fashioned jewellers we patronised.  The proprietor has an old-world way with the flannel too.  When trying on the chaps’ bands, I joked that Mrs B.A.-to-be liked the broadest ones best since they would most clearly announce to all the women in a five block radius my married status.  “Ah,” he replied with a charming grin, “Quite right—I don’t blame her…”  Reader, he got our custom.

Yesterday was also completely priest-ridden.  More priests than I could have shaken a stick at—which is just as well since I’m sure Canon Law is pretty down on threatening clerics.  And besides, none of them really deserved a beating.  Priest shortage?   What priest shortage?  And now we are off to sample the Gallic delights of Montreal, where more of the DC’s fine family is to be found.  To that end, I finish this post with an ‘eartfelt au revoir!

Encore plus tarde. [Er, I promised the DC I’d try to get all my cod French out of my system before setting foot where it may be found offensively lame…]

Sunny side upI am positively goaded  into blogging today.  First by my dear fiancee and hostess Seraphic, whose loyal determination to get other people reading what I keep reminding her started out “a sporadic diary” has shamed me into action, and also by a particularly pleasant gathering (somewhat in my honour, I suppose) which it would in any case be most remiss to leave unmarked.

Amongst the many social joys to which my pleasantly travel-dizzied and love-rotted mind has been subjected in the last few days (actually, it’s only been two, now I think of it.  Wow.) was a very hobbity second brunch today. 

First there was a charming pre-Mass family brunch at a local deli—a necessary bulwark against the Canadian chill sweeping through the windy grid of streets.  Thus suitably fortified by generous portions of grub, the Dear Creature and I trotted off to Mass at the church we devoutly hope to be spliced in.  Thus suitably fortified with the Bread of Angels, we trotted off to another local eatery—this time for me to undergo a trial by social ordeal.  Well, that’s a bit of a cheeky misstatement of the facts, as what transpired was nothing resembling an ordeal at all—at least not for me.  Dear Seraphic had inveigled a generous bunch of her lovely chums to come and “check me oot”—the same chums, in fact, to whom she had promised the right of veto over her decision to marry me.  Yeah right.  Sorry about that. 

Anyhoo, a merry dozen-and-a-bit of us assembled, ate, drank and were very merry together.  It turns out that not only will I be marrying into a most splendid, witty and welcoming  Catholic family (rather good news on its own) but the DC’s chums are pretty salt-of-the-eathy too.  If they were alarmed and dismayed by her choice of husband they hid it pretty dedently and convincingly.  A less modest chap might even venture the opinion that they actually quite liked him.  At any rate, I most definitely took to them and am bowled over by the welcome and profligately shared joy all here have manifested towards us.  Alright, I grant you that I am probably even less capable of sensible objective judgement than usual, being in such a grinny, loved-up state, but frankly I defy any man of goodwill not to have thought these chaps rather marvellous.  Lucky Seraphic, lucky me, and poor loyal readers for having to plough through such a random piece of ragged nonsense.

Anyway, if you can bear it, you can check back here again later in the week for more such tremendous trifles (sticky, sweet, and utterly sloppy)—entirely at your own literary risk, mind.