Monday, 14 May 2018

The C word

Benedict Ambrose's tumour has decided it loves us so much, it would start growing back. We are not pleased.

"Is it cancerous?" I asked the neurosurgeon. I meant "malignant," but "cancerous" is what I said.

The neurosurgeon, who was cross at the tumour, snapped, "It's all cancer."

It was the first time anyone had admitted it was "cancer," by the way. B.A. and I told people for months it wasn't cancer because we thought it wasn't cancer. We thought it was like an extra toenail.

"Cancer is a layman's term," huffed Mr Neurosurgeon.

"We are laymen," I thought but remained meekly silent. Mr Neurosurgeon was clearly taking this personally. His self-esteem clearly relies on conquering tumours, and we love him for it.

I'm telling you all this because I think I'm going to shut down my blog again. I may start some other blog, one heavy on the kittens and puppies, so I'm just letting you know why "The Historical House" and I will disappear from this location of the blogosphere.

The tumour is small, and oncologists will shoot it dead with ray-guns. That is all we know for now.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Nine Years of Beraphic

Beraphic, in case you are wondering, is a relationship name, composed according to television fans' relatively recent "shipping" conventions. Since Benedict Ambrose and I took refuge in a holiday flat with Netflix, I have become hip to the kids and all their crazy entertainment crazes. Currently it is making portmanteaux of fictional characters' names in homage to their romances, e.g. "Riverdale's" Jughead + Betty= Bughead.

I remember "shipping" Mulder and Scully from "The X-Files" decades ago, but nobody called them Sculder or even Mully, thank heavens. However, I seem to recall the names of canoodling film stars being squished together in this way, like Bennifer and Tomkat. Ick to Tomkat.

Anyway, it is Beraphic's ninth wedding anniversary, so feel free to send us pottery, if you like. We have just returned from a boozy lunch, so B.A. is taking a nice nap and I am sobering up with coffee before delving once more into the latest correspondence from the front-lines of the war against the Culture of Death.

This morning we went together to my weekly Polish tutorial for a fun activity called "translate for B.A." Language tasks are not immediately transferable, so if you expect to speak a foreign language abroad when travelling with a monolingual spouse, you must practise thinking in the foreign language while your spouse is interrupting you monolinguistically.

We told my young Polish tutor that today was our anniversary, and she was quite interested in the longevity of our marriage and wanted to know our recipe for success. B.A. said it is going along to Polish lessons to make sure the Polish tutor really is a woman, and now that he has seen her three times, he is sure she is a woman and he doesn't have to come anymore. Ha ha ha.

I had to translate that all into Polish, by the way.

Then B.A. got  philosophical and said that the recipe for a successful marriage was five parts patience mixed with a sense of humour about oneself and one's spouse. Also, shared first principles. And also love because without love it's nothing, which is easier to say in Polish than "five parts patience."

At a certain point I just free-styled and explained in what seemed to be recognisably Polish that unlike most of our generation in either Canada or Scotland, we are both fervent Catholics, which was our shared first principle. It would have taken a lot more vocabulary to theorise that anyone whose first principle is vegetarianism should marry a vegetarian, or anyone who is a fanatical nationalist ought to marry someone from his or her nation.

Catholicism in itself is more consciously pro-marriage than, say, vegetarianism or nationalism, but I remember being confronted with a classroom of little Catholic girls all deeply anxious to know how one goes about getting an annulment. That said, Catholicism smiles upon those things that help sustain a marriage--like patience, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice--and frowns upon those things that stick pins in it, like resentment, spendthrift, and infidelity. I'm not sure vegetarianism is that conscious of relationship-building, and nationalism could theoretically lead a woman to leave her alpha male husband for an alpha-plus national chieftain, or a man to leave his ageing wife for a fertile young thing, all for the sake of the Fatherland.

But in general I am all for people figuring out their own first principles and choosing their spouses  accordingly.

Less edifying factors that lead to long marriages include financial interdependence, with certain ruin to both, should one spouse desert the other; family pressure, with the likely disapproval of many suddenly scary family members, should one spouse desert the other; and a fair amount of unpleasantness in the world outside the home, so that home is a real refuge, no matter who else is living in it. For example, I might be flakey and crabby and prone to singing the same Polish pop song over and over again, but I am still more soothing to the nerves than, say, a Scottish vs English punch-up in the Historical House car park.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Adventures with my Hat

Pretty hat or mark of Cain?
As dedicated readers know, I bought a splendid hat for Polish Pretend Son's June wedding. But as dedicated readers also know, I try to justify what I spent by wearing it to church on sunny Sundays.

This endeavour is fraught with danger because women in Scotland wear fancy hats only to weddings and the races lest we be accused of class treason. If you're invited to the Queen's garden party at Holyrood Palace, better go by taxicab, that's what I say.

Anyway, today is a delightfully sunny Sunday, and so I wore my splendid hat to church. My husband thought it would be nice to take the bus all the way to Roseburn Terrace and then walk to Mass via the path along the Water of Leith. I agreed to this plan and felt only the faintest of alarms when I saw Glasgow Celtic fans in the west Edinburgh streets. Prawdę mowiąc, I initially felt more amusement than alarm. for the first Celtic fan I saw in the famous green-and-white-hoops shirt had an enormously round belly, which the hoops only accentuated. 

"You should all be at Mass," I crooned facetiously--though very, very quietly, as one does not want to hack off Glaswegian football fans, even if they are fellow Catholics and should, in fact, be at Mass instead of loitering around Roseburn Terrace on Sunday morning. They wouldn't punch me, but they might thump B.A., and he is still recovering from surgery. 

There was a throng of large men wearing green-and-white hooped shirts at the top of the stairs down to the Water of Leith, and a comparable crowd of policemen wearing yellow anti-stab vests remonstrating with them for public drinking. The Celtic fans were listening to this in a high good humour, so I wasn't terribly alarmed as Benedict Ambrose and I squeezed past them. 

At the bottom of the stairs was an even larger throng of male Celtic fans, and I can only imagine all the Edinburgh daughters under 30 were locked up this morning, for suddenly I was attracting more male attention than I have since my double-sided body tape stopped working at Polish Pretend Daughter's party five years ago. 

Goodness gracious. What a banter-rumpus. Wolf-whistles.  Compliments. Hopes that I would enjoy the wedding they assumed I was going to. A few bars of "I'm sexy and I know it" sung in tune. Had I been 27, I would have been furious. But I'm not 27, am I? 

"Thank you-ou-ou-ou," trilled your grizzled correspondent and felt enormously glad to be alive.  However, when he too emerged from the scrum, Benedict Ambrose looked quite cross.

"They were taking the p***," he said uncharitably. 

I pondered this sobering possibility but decided I didn't care. It was very funny, and it sounded good-humoured, and had I been on my own, I would have been tempted to inform them that I was on my way to Mass and that they should be, too. 

After Mass and lunch at the art gallery, we walked back to Roseburn Terrace by way of the Water of Leith. There was a different group of big men--not wearing Hoops but still sounding Glasgow--standing at the bottom of the stairs with several plastic Scot-Mid shopping bags.

"Oh, bother," I said, or some ruder version of that. Two hours is sufficient to turn happy drinking men into surly drinking men and a piece of feminine frippery into some ghastly class war symbol. So now I was alarmed, and behold:

"Here comes the Queen," said one of these new Glaswegians, which is when I stopped listening.

The Queen is 92; we were not amused. 

"Where ARE the police?" I thought crossly and then, oh joy, there they were, three strapping Edinburgh cops, the sight of their yellow anti-stab vests as comforting as that of my parents' reading lamp still alight in their front window. 

"Here comes the Queen's constabulary," said Benedict Ambrose drily, and then we bought a free-range chicken at Tesco and went home.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Life Now

1. Clinging to sleep.
2. Polish.
3. Reading sad news.
4. Writing sad news.
5. Watching Youtube Riverdale "crack" videos.*
6. Sleep.

*Not endorsing Riverdale to children, teens, clergy, nuns, the unmarried, anyone under 40, et alia.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Practising Solo for Polish Wedding(s)

I'm very excited by this. Even better than Jesteś szalona. Take it away, Hamish.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Latin Levity

This one goes out to all my Polish Pretend Children.

Against Anti-NHS Hysteria

I covered the Alfie Evans story for weeks, and I was very disturbed by his death. However, the same system saved my 45 year old husband's life. 

I believe we need to do more to protect the lives of the very young, the very old, and the very disabled. However, the doctors, nurses and other medical staff of the NHS save lives of adults and children every day.

It is  too bad I had to fight so long and so hard to get Benedict Ambrose the medical care he obviously needed, again and again. However, it is a miracle that his chief surgeon was a specialist in paediatric surgery: B.A.'s tumour, though rare, was less rare in children. It is very fortunate we live in Edinburgh and had access to this expert. 

Unlike Alfie, B.A. received excellent care from both an NHS neuroscience department and an NHS intensive care unit. This is not to say there were no mistakes. There were mistakes. No doctor was infallible, and not all nurses kept all the details straight. However, the combined efforts of many NHS-employed professionals saved B.A.'s life. His full recovery, deemed "miraculous" by his surgeon, I attribute to God's mercy. 

Like Alfie, B.A. was on a ventilator (briefly), artificial hydration, and artificial nutrition. But I never had to walk in Tom Evans' shoes. 

As someone who grew up in a system of "socialised medicine", I think the NHS could learn from other such systems. For example, my experience of medical care in Toronto is that it is much more family-centered and much more respectful of patients' religious beliefs. I believe that it is also more accommodating and knowledgable about ethical forms of fertility care, for example. 

Other systems of "socialised medicine", as in Poland, Germany, Italy, may be much more aware that human life has a value quite apart from the "quality" a middle-aged, well-paid professional in robust health might think it should have. 

But that said, both my husband and several of our friends have received satisfactory care from our local NHS.

The only thing left to say is that I know how loveable a family member is even when--or especially--he has serious cognitive impairment. I missed the "old" B.A. while he was gone, but I loved funny, cranky, "sliding-into-a-coma" B.A., too. As permanently brain-damaged as he was, Alfie gave joy to his parents, and as brain-damaged as B.A. temporarily was, he gave joy to me.