Saturday, 18 November 2017

Coming Up for Air

Does anyone want to read about someone who works all the time?  Hot Fuzz, the famous British comedy about workaholic cop Nicholas Angel, was brilliantly funny. It is one of the few films that has literally made me weep with laughter. But in reality....

Perhaps not that interesting.

Nevertheless, my parents still read my blog, so this is what my weekday looks like:

6:50 AM --Wake up, thinking about work.

7:15 AM -- Check Facebook, thinking about work.

8:00 AM - 11:00 AM -- Language study/get groceries/laundry/housework.

11 AM - 7 (or 8) PM -- Work.

7 PM or 8 PM -- Make dinner and eat it with B.A. Think about work. Take breaks to check work. 

8 PM - 11 PM -- Try not to think about work. 

It's Saturday, and I don't want to think about work. Shortly I will close the computer and look up Polish words instead. One brilliant thing about language study is that it is all-absorbing, which means it prevents me from thinking about work. 
Of course, sometimes I translate something for work, which means I am doing language study and work at the same time. 

While I work, Benedict Ambrose sits in a chair between the radiator and the empty fireplace and convalesces. He is slowly gaining weight, but his eyes are still sunken in his lined face. He reads a lot of Catholic news, so when I ask him at supper what he's done today, the conversation becomes about work. 

The change from writing (tops) an article a week to writing up to three articles a day has been nerve-wracking. It's an entire different discipline. In fact, the first activity isn't really a discipline: it's just fun. Well, maybe not ENTIRELY fun.

When I wrote this article, I spent several hours in my guesthouse room or in a cafe reading and translating (with dictionaries) various Polish news articles. Since I had been at the Warsaw Independence March anyway, out of sheer curiosity, it made sense to write it all up the next day and send it to Catholic World Report. I was a year ahead of my time; the western media took more of an interest THIS year, when I wasn't there.

Not being there made it a bit frustrating to write THIS article, but it was morally necessary to write it because of all the fake news in the English-language press. This time I had to contact people who WERE there and would both talk to me and consent to their names appearing in LSN. And now, of course, I have set deadlines, so I usually need people to talk to (or message) me at once. 

Another frustration is that Poland (not just Polish) is hard for the English-speaking world to understand, and the English-speaking world is hard to explain to Poles who don't speak much English. It's like trying to explain the Second Amendment to the American Constitution to Swedes, and Swedish comfort with nudity to Americans. 

One of the problems papered over by the Agents of Diversity is that people--peoples--actually are really diverse. It's not just their foodstuffs, or their religious traditions, or what women wear. It's also their relationship to the physical environment in which they live, and their attitude towards politicians, and their concepts of manhood or womanhood, and their histories, and their borders. 

Diversity is not changing dresses on a Barbie Doll. Sometimes diversity is almost all people in a given area sharing a multi-generational experience of the same place, language and history. That's not how it is in my hometown Toronto, but as much as I love Toronto, I don't think the world is or should be a giant Toronto. 

With the exception of conquest of the Channel Islands by the Nazis (which is almost never spoken of), Britain hasn't been invaded since 1066. Perhaps that's why the English* allowed their borders--mental, religious, cultural, personal, sexual--to have become so porous, whereas the Poles--whose borders have been erased and redrawn dozens of times in the past thousand years--have firm and distinct borders regarding Poland and Polish life. 

Complicating this, are internal Polish battles over what these are or should be. From a conservative Polish point of view, a left-wing Pole (still absolutely furious that the conservative PiS party won the last election) would sell his grandmother on the streets of Brussels, let alone write a whiny article in the Guardian about how awful Poland is. 

Anyway, so much for my attempt not to think about work on a Saturday. Maybe I will flee the Historical House and take refuge in a hipster cafe.

*Update: Britishness, by the way, is by its very nature multi-national and multi-ethnic. Canada has never had colonies--being made up of former British colonies--but it too has always been dramatically multi-ethnic, starting with three major groups: First Nations peoples, French-speaking Canadians (mostly descended from the French) and English-speaking Canadians (mostly descended from, or born in, Britain). 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Winter's Day

An oldie but goodie from The Clerk of Oxford, reminding us that November 7 was considered the first day of winter by the Anglo-Saxons.

Super-trad Calendar 

I am reminded of Anglo-Saxon class at the University of Toronto long ago, the pleasant melancholy of leaving the old Mediaeval Studies house after an hour or two of group translation of Beowulf. Across the street stretched the wooded Queen's Park in which wicked Grendel might have lurked, lonely and envious of the warmth and companionship of indoors. 

Currently I am reading C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew in Polish, writing down all the words I couldn't generate myself in conversation on cue cards.  I've budgeted a week per chapter, and such is the magic of the Narnia heptalogy, listening and reading to the same chapter over and over again is not at all dull.  

Friday, 27 October 2017

What's This Strange, Light Feeling?

Benedict Ambrose returned home from the hospital with me yesterday by taxi-cab. I pulled out two enormous IKEA bags of assorted clothing, bedding, Spectator magazines, prayer cards, etc., and paid the driver. After settling B.A. on the sofa and getting him a snack, I got down to some work. 

Later, when B.A. had decided to try for a nap, I answered the hallooing of the property manager. She was at the bottom of the stairs preparing the Historical House for Hallowe'en weekend tours. After fussing with bicycles and such other things that had to be moved, I asked the manager if there was any post. She said there was a book-shaped package for me on B.A.'s desk in the office.  So I got my coat and rushed into the beautifully fine and mild October day and suddenly felt---happy. 

I hadn't felt happy in weeks. I had literally forgotten what happy actually felt like. But there it was: happiness. And of course this was because B.A. was at home, alive and tumour-free, and a book-shaped package was waiting for me at his office! 

Happiness is a great, great feeling, and I can see why it is associated with children. All of a sudden, I didn't have a care in the world and I was getting a present! 

It didn't matter that the present was probably from me to myself. It cost only about £3, it turns out, for it was the Polish translation of The Magician's Nephew I ordered from Amazon. 

And now I am happy that the work week is over and I can spend a delightful chunk of the morning writing out long lists of Polish words I don't yet know. 

I can also write an essay on something other than B.A.'s illness. Both my Polish tutor and my Italian tutor must be emotionally exhausted, having doubled as my emergency psychotherapists for months. (My Italian tutor has had a break, however, as I really couldn't keep our appointments these last three weeks.) Not only could I talk all about B.A.'s late, unlamented brain tumour in three languages, I did.  When I told my soft-hearted Polish tutor about B.A.'s post-op rantings about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart (triumf Niepokalanego Serca), she cried. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Why the American Under-30s Aren't Married

For my day job, I volunteered to read Mark Regnerus' new book Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy for LSN. I read it on the bus to and from the hospital and, when I wasn't staring anxiously at him, at my husband's hospital bed.

I wrote a workmanlike article on it, but I wasn't happy. What I really wanted to do was right a proper blog for Single girls. So the next day I did exactly that and sent it in to the editors.

Here it is.

Cheap Sex is a bit depressing, but it's very well written and absorbing. It doesn't pull its punches, and it will give you a good idea of what on earth is going on in the USA (and probably Canada) today. In short, this is not your fault--unless you're cohabiting with some guy, or travelling around the world sleeping with random men, of course. Then you are indeed part of the problem.

Benedict Ambrose Well Enough to Come Home

Just a quick post of thanksgiving to God and everyone who prayed,  emailed, sent a card or gift, made a donation to the Baklinski fund (which made B.A. feel useful), sponsored a Mass, brought my husband's case to the attention of nuns...  Thank you all very, very much.

Today the surgeon called me to say that B.A. can come home tomorrow. Mr S is very pleased--and surprised--by B.A.'s rapid progress. I never really know how to express this with exact doctrinal correctness (given than God is both immutable and apparently moved by prayers), but I am putting B.A.'s recovery down to God's will, helped along/participated in by everyone who prayed for B.A. and me.

So again thank you!

P.S. Apologies for not answering all the emails. I DID read them, and I was grateful for them, but I didn't always have time to respond. I hope you understand.

Monday, 16 October 2017


If I could, I would spend every moment at the hospital. Leaving is just so awful, especially now that B.A. is more or less in his right mind. He's still confused, though, and he looks so sad--not that I am leaving, but that something awful has happened that he can't quite comprehend.

We should be rejoicing, but B.A. has been traumatised. After all, he literally (if skilfully and kindly) had his skull split open. And I feel figuratively traumatised, which is nowhere near as serious, but still tiring. I'm not sure how much B.A. understood when he signed the consent forms, but I understood them all. I have lost count of the times I have watched my husband sign off on death this year. Five?

My big fear now is that I will fall down the stairs or in front of a bus. If that happens, who will make sure B.A. is okay?

Saturday, 14 October 2017

In the ICU

Man (several uncomfortable tubes inserted in his body): I'm sorry, darling.

Woman: Why are you sorry, darling?

Man: I'm sorry that you're suffering.