Tuesday 14 August 2018

Apples and Roses

Here B.A. and I are in our new home, and with a new home comes a new blog. No doubt the appearance needs quite a lot of tinkering, but here it is.

Sunday 12 August 2018

B.A. has the keys

On Friday, Benedict Ambrose went to a shabby office in Leith and got the keys to our new home. I was (and am) in the USA for work, but thanks to the magic of Skype, I was able to see B.A. in the new flat (or townhouse, as we would call it in Canada).

After getting the keys, B.A. went back to our rented room in the New Town and packed up our suitcase existence. Fortunately our landlord and a strong Boy Scout were on hand to help him carry it all to a taxi cab. At some point in his day, B.A. also managed to pick up a Z-frame bed and the router from the Historical House, a pizza and a bottle of wine. Thus, when I spoke to him, he was beaming with joy, having everything a man really needs: his own roof, a bed, a pizza, wine, and the internet.

The apple tree, he said, was covered with red-and-green apples. He's not sure that they are ready to be eaten yet, however, as it's only August. There's a push lawnmower in the shed and some gardening tools. B.A. had spoken to the neighbour in the lower villa (townhouse), so that she wouldn't be alarmed to hear someone moving overhead.

One or two of my co-workers said it was a shame that I wasn't there when we finally got the place, but I was much happier hearing about it from B.A. than I would have been to be there. When our solicitor told me last Sunday in the church carpark that he thought he could get us the keys by Friday, I felt all the energy drain from my body.

During Mass I had been worrying and praying over what we were going to do when our friends put their beautiful, highly desirable flat on the rental market. We do own a tent, but I wasn't sure B.A. could take the rigors of life under canvas. There are no cheap rentals in Edinburgh in August, thanks to the Edinburgh Festival. We have no family within a decent commute of B.A.'s work, and any friends with spare rooms have boisterous babies or health woes of their own.  We have been living out of suitcases since mid-February.

Thus, when our solicitor told me that he thought he could conclude the business this week, all the planning and fight spilled out of me--through the backs of my knees apparently, and instead of jumping for joy and sharing the good news with fellow trads, I wanted to crawl away and hide. And on Tuesday, after signing the mortgage fifteen minutes before conducting a very important interview, and then conducting the interview, I cried. Cried? Heck, I wailed.

So all in all,  I am happy that B.A. got the keys and took possession himself and that I will have had a whole weekend to get used to the idea before I arrive in our new home. Home, of course, is where B.A. is, and I seem to remember telling him, during some earlier threat to our tenancy in the Historical House, that I would be fine living with him in a tent in the Historical House's back field, if it came to that.

But it hasn't come to that, and I am sure B.A.'s happy grin was inspired, in part, by the thought that we have escaped The Rent Trap. At one point, I was all for telling the seller's solicitor--whose rude emails were passed onto me--to jump in the Firth of Forth, withdrawing our offer, finding a cheap lease near B.A.'s work and starting the house-buying process again later.  However, I knew B.A. wouldn't hear of it because---The Rent Trap! (And also our friends of the beautiful New Town flat, no strangers to the silent-auction agonies of house buying in Scotland, strongly advised me not to do this.)

So tomorrow I will have a new home, and this means yet another NEW BLOG! If I were giving advice to an aspiring blogger who wants to build a large audience, my principal advice would be "Never move to a new blog!" However, I think of blogs as books: once one is clearly done, wind it up and move to another. And now that B.A. and I have been married for nine years, I feel that I actually know something about marriage now, and can start writing, in an intentional way, about it. Also, I am developing an interest in sustainable living, both in terms of finances and the environment*, so I'd like to write about those things, too.

As they say, watch this space.

*Truth is what is. It could be that Judgement Day falls next week or next year, so the problems of plastic won't matter. However, it could be that Judgement Day won't fall for over a thousand years from now, in which case the problem of plastic is really quite serious. The great Canadian philosopher-theologian Bernard Lonergan, SJ, was not entirely orthodox, but he did have very important things to say about being rooted in reality. I am not interested in slogans like "carbon footprint" and "climate change", but I am interested in what really is and what "stewardship" of the earth looks like from a traditional Catholic point of view.  I suspect thrift, discipline and self-denial are all involved in life-giving ways.

Tuesday 7 August 2018

One-handed typing.

So on top of B.A. having  hair- and hearing-loss thanks to radiotherapy, the flood, the eviction(s), the prolonged home purchase (cracks in roof, moisture in walls, wiggle in property boundaries) and the frightening prospect of moving all our stuff out of the attic down three flights of 17th century stone staircase, I am having a tendonitis flare-up in my right arm.

What to do?

Sunday 5 August 2018

Letter from the Past

I spent yesterday afternoon sorting through notes and mementos in another big clear-out as we prepare to move our things from the Historical House.

To my surprise, I found a fat envelope addressed to me with instructions, in familiar writing, not to open it until 2001.

As it is now 2018, that was quite a shock. My heart sped up, my breathing went funny and my hands shook.

I tore open the envelope and a square of blue tartan wool cloth fell out---which I knew meant I had written this as a teenager. It must have been snipped from the underside hem of my high school uniform kilt.

There followed a green metallic disc with the name of a short-story series I had written stamped on it by some forgotten machine and a crucifix from a broken rosary. Tiny presents to myself from myself well over 20 years ago.

I must have got the idea from Lucy Maud Montgomery's Emily of New Moon. I believe it is Emily who wrote her grown-up self a letter as a teen. When I turned 40, I wondered idly if I hadn't written a letter to myself, as I had a dim memory of doing so. Well, I did, and it didn't seem to occur to mini-me that I might not find it until 2018. I read it wearing bifocals.


The letter was written from the same house my parents live in today. I can see in my mind's eye the room it was written in. Thank heavens, the green shag carpet is now gone, but I imagine I was sitting on it as I wrote, in my teenage handwriting:

Dear Dorothy,

I wonder if you will feel funny at reading this. (Yes.) I find it strange to think of this sheet as all yellowed and fragile torn from my prized Harvard notebook--I used it to write plays in. (It wasn't--no air got to it. It is a little yellowed this morning, though. I wrote plays?)  


Our major difference that I know of is that you are looking backwards on these years and I'm looking forward. You know what I'm like for no doubt you've kept my diaries. (So true, but I haven't read them in entirety.) My biggest worry is tomorrow's Chem exam. Do you remember it? (No.) How interesting it would be if you could stretch out across the years and tell me what's (what was) on it. (If  I could, I would teach you a few memory tricks, you young baggage.)

You know me, but I don't know you. Are you married? (Now, yes.) Do you even have children? (Alas, no.) From where I sit, I can scarcely imagine it. Perhaps you are a nun? ...Dominican, perhaps?  Do you have an exciting Career? (I suspect that capital 'C' is ironic.) Are you still writing? (Yes.) Have you been published (say yes!)?  (Yes.) Have you written any hit plays? (No.) How many years did you spend in university? (Too many.) I have a lot of questions, but, as much as I hate to, I have to get back to chemistry. (Highlighting and rereading your notes will not work. Make flashcards.)

I hope you don't mind being [my age in 2001]. Every age has its ups and downs. [You have no real way of knowing this, but I admit it is true. Being a teenager was no picnic.] I also hope you haven't seen or experienced many sad or terrible things in your life. [Shudder. But not many. Apart from personal disasters, 9-11 does come to mind. And the mid-term relatio of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.]  I especially hope [parents and siblings, by name] are all well and happy. [Yes, thank God, all well.] I wonder if Grandma [Gladys] is still up and about! [In 2001, yes.]

I hope you kept track (and keep track) of who married who! (Whom. And who divorced whom, too.)

Oh well, I'm going now. Have a very happy birthday.


Dorothy at Eighteen.

P.S. I hope you've kept up the old moral standards.  [What a thing to say to an older woman.] Pax vobiscum!  

Included with this spritely missive were a card from a bunch of flowers given to me by my then-boss at the cafe I worked in,  a poem from my then-best friend, and a computer-generated illustration of Pavel Chekov from "Star Trek" from my brother Nulli. It had formed part of an 18th birthday card. Oh, and a program from a play I adapted from Little Women for the school Christmas assembly.

It strikes me that no man alive would write himself a letter to be read over a decade later, and I'm a bit embarrassed admitting to such a stereotypically female behaviour.

But, although I had a little trouble sleeping last night, I don't regret it. What I liked best were the tiny material fragments of my life, especially Nulli's 1980s computer drawing.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Spiritual Luxury

Yesterday I decided to walk to the morning Mass at the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter chapel, and to my surprise, it took me less than half an hour to get there!

I wish I had thought of this earlier in our New Town exile, but my new policy is to think forward instead of regretting the past, so I'm just happy to have the (rare) chance to have the Traditional Latin Mass within walking distance. 

As part of the way is hilly, it's also makes for a good workout, something I sorely need as the combination of stress, sugar and ready-meals has made me rather squab. 


Happy Saint Anne's Day to all the Annes, Anns, Annas, Hannahs, Ancas and Nancys! I can't resist mentioning that Saint Anne, mother of Our Lady (and "Saint Annie, God's Granny" as B.A. keeps repeating) is a patron saint of husband-finding.

That said, I give St. Joseph's intercession the credit for my finding B.A. because B.A. didn't appear on the scene until I went on pilgrimage to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. I went with a similarly husband-hunting friend, and she got married a year after I did. 

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Toothbrush Signalling

I have begun my own little war against plastic. Behold the bamboo toothbrush (model):

I also bought soap nuts. Unfortunately when I opened their cotton bag, I found that they had been double-bagged in plastic! So I will be looking for a different brand next time.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

I Ponder Enlisting in the Eco-Army

Between reporting for LSN and writing to our solicitor about the New Flat, I read a lot of books and articles on four subjects: Minimalism, Escapology, Self-Sufficiency and Zero Waste Living. I have come up with a clever acronym that you can pronounce only if you have some acquaintance with Polish: MESZ.  

To sum them all up: 

Minimalism is about living with as little stuff as you practically can. Escapology is about living as you please, getting by on your clever investments or thanks to a cottage industry, instead of trading at least a third of your time for a salary. Self-Sufficiency is, as far as I can tell, running a very small farm.  Zero Waste Living is about producing almost no trash for the landfill and precious little for the recycling bin. It is minimalism on speed, and it is also deeply rooted in reality. 

I very much like all these ideas. One seems to lead to another although perhaps not in that order. I hasten to say that they are all nigh impossible to put into practise without familial or spousal cooperation. That said, the very non-Minimalist B.A. and I have been living out of a suitcase for four months, and he has not uttered a word of complaint. 

Escapology for me is not about us quitting our jobs but making sure we are not miserably poor when we are old thanks to our jobs (and to highly impractical career choices made along the impecunious way).  Minimalism, budgeting and thrift are key. 

Self-sufficiency seems to involve gardening and tiny houses and other fun things. I do not know very much about it yet although I have a colleague who is pretty amazing at raising food for his family. 

Zero Waste Living is not something you can do all at once. However, it is something to work for once you have forced yourself to confront the reality of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other horrors.
All of these concepts seem to me to be deeply rooted in reality and require the discipline of eyeballing reality, even if that reality is that your family and/or spouse are/is going to take some convincing. Meanwhile I am enjoying the thought of being a jolly environmentalist as well as a liturgical and doctrinal traditionalist: a crunchy trad, if you will. Naturally this would not include vegetarianism--except on fasting days, of course.