Monday, 16 October 2017

Tired

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.

So far so good ...

My husband is in intensive care, and I am shortly leaving the house to see him again. Yesterday was a bit rocky from a nursing perspective, as B.A. was totally delirious and tried to take out his breathing and feeding tubes. When he got so agitated that the surgeon gave permission for the nurses to take out his breathing tube a little early, he started yelling.

 In a way this was great, for it showed the operation hadn't left him with a speech impediment. In fact, despite all the solemn faces and list of potential horrors B.A. had to sign off on, yesterday he didn't seem to have any nerve damage at all. No strokes, no paralysed face, no motor problems, no death. 

I was so relieved when I saw him conscious and mouthing "I love you" to me, I had to stop myself from weeping. My big dread (for myself) was that he wouldn't recognise me or that he would have a big personality change in which he didn't love me anymore. 

I couldn't make out what else he was trying to say, which was fine, as he sure let me know when they took out his breathing tube. It probably isn't fair or kind to publish one's husband's delirious rantings, so I won't go into detail. The poor man was very, very frightened much of the time. But the edifying thing about B.A.'s rantings was that, instead of cursing like a sailor, as apparently people usually do when they recover from such surgery, he told me over and over again that Our Lady's "Immaculate Heart will triumph." 

It was the 100th anniversary of the last apparition at Fatima, of course, and I think I told him that when I arrived. In fact, on the way to the hospital, I prayed the traditional 15 decades and asked Our Lady not to mark the day with terrors but with a gift, a special gift for me that B.A. would be made totally well. 

So far--God willing--it looks like this may actually happen, at least for now. And Benedict Ambrose, totally addled from surgery and anaesthetics and heaven knows what else, informed me dozens of times that "her Immaculate Heart will triumph." 

I feel weirdly proud that my husband was/is the Terror of the ICU. It's both sad and funny, laugh or cry. It's just so unlike him to disturb people, and it was awful that he was scared. But it was good for me in that the nurses decided that I should be allowed to sit with him all day to keep him relatively calm--and his feeding tube where it belonged. Every time they sent me out so they could do something important, they had to fetch me back to stop B.A. from shouting down the ceiling. 

Meanwhile, in a hospital where a nurse had asked me what she should do with Mark's "necklace", meaning his rosary, it was quite something to have him yell that I must call Father AT ONCE to have a Mass said for him and HER IMMACULATE HEART WILL TRIUMPH!!!!

About 16 more hours, and I'll feel ready to order the Te Deums! Keep praying, and thank you!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

He Has Survived the Operation

The surgeon called. The operation is over, and B.A. has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit. He isn't expected to wake up/he'll be woken up tomorrow morning. And I will be there! 

There was a lot of poking, pushing and pulling at his poor dear brain, so the surgeons won't know what state it is in until tomorrow morning--and even then they won't know for sure for 48 hours what lies ahead. 

But for now I am very, very relieved and happy, and thankful to everyone for their prayers. 

Despite my pilgrimage blisters, Venerable Margaret Sinclair did not convince (or was not able to convince) Our Lord to make the tumour just disappear. I'm not resentful--I'm just throwing that out as data. 


This is the Big One

Benedict Ambrose has been losing consciousness, and his tumour has to go. Today. So I am writing this for more prayers.

It will be a dangerous operation, which is why the surgeons never wanted to remove the tumour. It is sitting near some very important stuff, even as it increasingly presses against even more important stuff.

Yes, "increasingly". We were told in March it wasn't growing or was "very slow growing",  but a fall in the rehab centre early on Monday morning led to an MRI in the emergency ward and then back to the neuroscience department.

He has had the Last Rites--again.

B.A. is very hard to understand right now, but it was profoundly moving how badly he wanted to see our priest. He got quite anxious about him and worried that he would be moved before the priest came, or the the priest would be stopped from coming in. When he saw Father come in, tall in his grey overcoat, B.A's blue eyes widened and he struggled to sit up, while beating his bony breast.

"Don't get so excited, darling," I said.

But now I realise that it wasn't Father he was so excited about. When Polish Pretend Daughter and French Pretend Son-in-Law arrived at the hospital, I asked B.A. to tell them who had visited him that day.

"Our Lord in the Holy Sacrament," said B.A.

He saw his mother, and his mates in our parish Schola, too, and I feel badly that I didn't summon two of his uni pals and his best friend at work, but I thought any more than seven solely human visitors (including myself) would be too many for him.

At any rate, I don't know when I will be writing again, or what I will remember of all this. However, I want to note down while his reason is slipping, B.A.'s faith in the Blessed Sacrament--in all the Sacraments, actually--has stood firm. He loves me, he loves his mother, he loves the Blessed Sacrament and he involuntarily murmured "Yum yum" as I fed him custard.

And now I'm going back to the hospital. It feels like hurrying to Golgotha.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Lessons Learned by Formerly Long-Term Singles

The flock is greatly scattered, but some of my long-term readers have been reading for up to ten years. Many long-term Singles have been married for a few years. Some have had babies. Some have had major struggles: getting the doctorate finished, fertility issues, unemployment, illness, children's illness, husband's illness....

Any residual sadness about being Single has disappeared, but only to be replaced by other kinds of sadness! And this leads me to an open question: what do my now-married, formerly long-term Single readers wish they could have told their long-term Single selves? 

This is not at all to denigrate the sadness and feelings of anxiety felt by long-term Singles who want to marry, or become sisters/nuns/brothers/monks/priests, or at very least settle their what-is-my-vocation anxiety once and for all. That is--and was--very real. 

It is merely to prepare the Single for what could lie ahead. 

For me, my number one lesson would be "Don't assume you can get the same medical help (for fertility issues or anything else) in Scotland that you would get in Toronto." 

I couldn't begin to express how easier life would be for me, if not B.A., if we lived in Toronto right now. However, I don't want to dwell too much on that, or I will get extremely depressed. When I ask myself how I get up in the morning, my answer is "Coffee." If I weren't addicted to coffee, I would still be in bed. 

Okay, time to work. 


Monday, 2 October 2017

The Fruit of Not Quitting

I did a Polish interview via email and translated the results. Here it is. 

This is the result of six years of work (and two dictionaries) although I didn't work THAT hard in the first years. I have no innate talent in foreign languages, so this translation is a testament to the power of work and not-quitting. 

Today I put in a good day's work before rushing out to visit B.A. at the hospital during the late visiting hours. Polish Pretend Daughter and French Pretend Son-in-Law have returned from abroad, so they are back with me. This is great because I find the walk from the bus stop through the dark woods less scary when PPD and FPSIL are in the House. I phone them up on my mobile and natter until I am safely at the door. 

B.A. and I received a wonderful card from long-time reader Emma, who sews habits for Dominicans. (Perhaps other long-time readers will remember Emma.) Actually, it was three cards and two prayer cards, and we were very touched and edified! 

Friday, 29 September 2017

Darkness and Stefan

This morning I woke up at 5 AM, following a bad dream about Pope Francis. I searched my mind for compelling reasons to get up, and I didn't find any, so I stayed put until 7:30 AM.

Staying in bed until 7:30 is not really a good idea because I don't have a lot of time for goofing off. My husband is in a hospital clear across town, and travel time is, there and back, about three hours. I visit him for two hours every day. By the time I get home, I am very tired. Therefore, my best writing time is, as usual, first thing in the morning.

Usually I visit B.A. after 6:30 PM, but I hate walking through the woods to an empty house after dark, so this week I went to the earlier visiting session. I felt guilty and cowardly about being so scared of the woods until B.A. got moved to Stefan's room.

I first saw Stefan (not his real name) a couple of weeks ago. He was an arresting sight as he walked down the hall, even for the Neuro ward. He had two black eyes and a bloody broken nose, and I'd never seen anyone who looked that bad on his own two feet. I thought he must be a car crash victim.

When B.A. got moved to Stefan's room a week or so later, I quickly glanced at the whiteboard over Stefan's battered head and ascertained that he was a Pole. This was unusual for the ward, actually, which is full of Scots patients. The nurses are a little less homogenous, and the doctors are definitely a mix of nationalities, but so far all patients I've seen, except Stefan, have been Scots.

One thing I noticed about Stefan, besides his shaved head, black eyes, broken nose and Polish name, was that nobody ever came to visit him. I felt badly about that and considered going over and trying to have a conversation, but I felt rather shy. Speaking Polish when you're not Polish and, incidentally, living in Scotland is a bit like being a giraffe with five legs--or, worse, Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles.


So when Polish Pretend Daughter appeared one day last week to go home with me after the late visiting hour, I sent her to speak to Stefan, who had gone to the TV room, possibly to escape the sight and sound of poor B.A. throwing up. When I fetched PPD, Stefan was smiling cheerfully, and PPD held the answer to the mystery of what had happened to Stefan.

In short Stefan, who lives in Fife, was walking home alone one Saturday night after drinking, and he was attacked by a group of men who had also been drinking. They kicked his head in, and Stefan ended up in the Neuro ward.

PPD did not ask if men were Poles or Scots. This  would make a difference to the headlines, if not to poor battered Stefan. If the men were also Poles, there would be no real news story. If the men were Scots, however, there might be a "hate crime" angle, which would be very interesting to the newspapers indeed. I have tried to find a report about it online, without success. Any number of men get their heads kicked in on Saturday nights in Fife.

At any rate, I no longer felt quite so badly about going to the hospital during "work hours" because Stefan's bruises and stitches were a daily reminder that Central Belt Scotland is a dangerous place for those who walk alone at night.

I have been feeling incredibly stressed out from trying to do my job adequately between daily trips to the hospital. This morning I made myself phone up an interview subject in Poland, but I forgot to  check the information I received that he was fluent in English. When the subject indicated that he would rather I interviewed him in Polish, six years of memory work simply vanished from my head. Reduced to a gibbering wreck, I took down the subject's email address. It was only after I hung up that I realised that

A) I had never before spoken Polish on the phone and
B) the subject may be "fluent" but some of my fluent-in-English friends absolutely hate speaking English on the phone.

If I still had any kind of ego around my language-learning skills, it would have been thoroughly bruised. However, I know using the telephone in a foreign language is a massive challenge for most language-learners. And three hours later I managed to cover myself in glory at the hospital when a nurse gave up trying to explain to Stefan that he couldn't have all his stuff back.

"The police need it for evidence," the nurse had been saying from behind a curtain. B.A., who has hearing like a bat, had motioned for me to be quiet and was listening intently to the drama. When the nurse hurried past us, muttering that she couldn't speak Polish, B.A. volunteered that I could.

She was very glad to hear it.

So off I went behind the curtain to introduce myself formally to Stefan and explain to him that he couldn't take all his stuff because the police needed it. Stefan said he understood, and off I went back to my habitual seat beside B.A.'s bed to ponder what "evidence" was in Polish (świadczenie, among other words). And I was highly gratified when Stefan, stymied by the more thickly Scottish accent of the next nurse, came in search of me to translate again.

Fortunately for him, I was just a stop gap. There is at least one Polish nurse at the hospital, and she appeared twice, first to convince Stefan that it was time to go home and then to take him out to a cab. The gentle patter behind the curtain, was quite a contrast to my lurching, tortured explanations all in the super-correct Second Person Formal. ("Sir cannot have Sir's things because the police need Sir's things for the court.")

Benedict Ambrose will be in hospital for at least another six weeks,

*I wonder if there are Anglo-Saxon analogues to Long Duk Dong in foreign films.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Pilgrimage to Ven. Margaret Sinclair

My husband has been praying for the intercession of Edinburgh's 20th century saint, the Venerable Margaret Sinclair, for the miraculous disappearance of his tumour.

As you can see from her honorific,  Margaret is only on the second rung of the ladder to full-fledged canonisation. If she is indeed in heaven, and she wants her admirers in Scotland and abroad to know it, then here is an opportunity for her to "do a miracle" in the good old-fashioned way.

To participate more fully in Benedict Ambrose's petition, I am going to go on a walking pilgrimage from our house to Venerable Margaret's shrine at St. Patrick's Church in the Cowgate, which is about a five mile distance. When I get there, I'll go to confession, if I'm there in time for confession.  My friend and I will leave here at 9:30 AM BST, so if you're awake, please pray for us and, especially, for my husband.

Here is an account of the life of Venerable Margaret Sinclair--and a miracle she may have already worked.

(To the non-Catholic reader: we don't believe that saints themselves do miracles. Rather, we petition saints to intercede for us with God, in the same way you might have asked the baby of the family to ask your parents for some particular treat. Naturally it is God who grants the favour, thanks to the intercession of the saint. Suddenly I remember--once again--that time I was naughty at nursery school and the teachers took my cookies away. Seeing I had no cookies, my little brother shared his with me, Yes, I remember.)

Meanwhile, PPS has convinced that Beautiful Young Lady to marry him. I'm so glad she said yes (or, presumably, tak), not only because PPS seems rather fond of her---and I like her---but because he bought the ring before he asked. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Good Nurses

I like the nurses at the hospital. They are professional, attentive and take the obstreperousness of the bantering men in their stride. They bring my husband three meals a day and note down how much he eats. They weigh him. They check his blood pressure several times a day and write that down. They remind him to drink more water.  They remind him that if he doesn't drink, he'll  have to have the fluid tube, and if he doesn't eat, there's a tube for that, too, and it isn't very nice. They also check him for bedsores.

B.A. does what the nurses tell them.

Respect.

The physio hasn't been by, but B.A. had a second operation this week, so physio has been abandoned for now. I don't even ask about that. I just turn up every day, sit by B.A.'s bed, observe the latest embroidery on his scalp,and which tubes are in or out, watch the nurses, relate the news.

The latest London Tube bombing was a "good news" story, believe it or not, as the bomb didn't go off properly and "just" singed a few people.

My visits are a ward fixture. I'm on first name basis with all the men who were in the room when B.A. was settled into it, and if he's stays, I'll be on first name basis with the young man who came in the day before yesterday. I provide a little supplementary nursing, too, just because I'm there. The other day, I handed a cardboard "bucket" to another man on the ward to throw up in.

Meanwhile Polish Pretend Daughter and her husband have come to stay with me.

This is, of course, only a very brief sketch.

Monday, 11 September 2017

A Much Better Day

Since I have harrowed up your souls with this morning's post,  I must in justice tell you that B.A. is doing so much better now that he has been operated on. He is so much more like his old self.

When I turned up today, I found out that he has got a proper physiotherapist at last. She taught him how to use a contraption he refuses to call a Zimmer frame, and he pushed it down the hall to the Patient Waiting Room where we had a good chat. He is very cheerful and getting along well with his three roommates. They all banter madly together and with the nurses in that inimitable Scottish way.

There is also a chart at the end of his bed monitoring how much food he has eaten. Also, I am delighted to say, he ate three square meals today. My goal now is to make sure he stays in the hospital long enough to gain weight and be able to walk without a prop.

But I am utterly exhausted, so that's it from me for now. When I was on my way for a sandwich from the nearby Waitrose between the two "visiting hours" periods, I got completely lost and spent my whole "dinner hour" taking buses back to the hospital.  I'm chalking that up as one more symptom of "tired brain."

Update (Wednesday): AND I forgot a bag of laundry on one of the busses on  the way home. However, I found it today at the Lost Articles office, so now the clothes are washed and drying on the line.

Astonishing Recollection of a Terrible Week

One day I will return to these posts about my husband's illness and be simply astounded that we went through all this. That's the hope anyway. Occasionally I wonder what I would have done had we had children, but that's simple: they would have been packed off to Canada months ago. It would have been very good for their French, and I suspect my brother would have signed them up at once for karate.

Last week was one of new horrors, and I was furious with myself for having cravenly whisked Benedict Ambrose away from the hospital when he could have been there at least an extra day and  seen a dietician. That said, his mobility was deteriorating there. I didn't cajole him outside for a walk for a few days--the trip home was exhausting enough, and the next day he threw up--but when I did get him outside, he could manage only one circuit of the front quadrangle. He didn't get physiotherapy at the hospital; clearly the physiotherapist saw him only to tick the boxes that said he legally could be sent home. 

Both the hospitals we frequent in Edinburgh have big posters insisting that patients should change out of their nightwear and to get out of bed and walk. A week in bed ages the muscles by ten years, claim the posters. Thus I made myself argue with B.A. to get him out of bed, to put his slippers on, to go outside, to walk the circuit, to walk the next circuit. 

"I can't," said B.A. 

"You CAN," I said. 

But the story doesn't end with B.A. doing a ten mile race alongside cheering crowds. No. Not so far anyway. What happened were two terrible falls, a call to the local surgery, being snapped at by the duty doctor, two paramedics and an ambulance. Because it was true. He couldn't, and he can't. 

That was Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday night, I decided to sleep in the guest room across from the bathroom, so I didn't keep B.A. awake, and he wouldn't wake me up with all his frequent wakings and muttered complaints. At 1 AM, I was awoken anyway by the sound of B.A. going to the loo.  I got up, opened my door and saw him weaving in the bathroom doorway.

"Alright?" I asked.

"I'm alright, darling," said B.A. or something like that. I was back in bed before I wondered if I should have taken B.A.'s arm and escorted him back to bed and then---CRASH!

I was out of bed in a shot, and poor B.A. was on the floor moaning "My neck, my neck." And because I had absolutely no idea what to do and because my experience of the NHS is people doing as little as possible, I didn't call an ambulance. I know now that if someone falls and says "My neck hurts," you call an ambulance.

Fortunately, B.A. had not broken his neck, and wasn't concussed (which was all I could think of; neck-breaking never occurred to me), and so I led him back to bed and got in with him, intending to wake him up every hour like the woman on the phone said to do the first time he fell and hit his poor head, months ago.  Instead I slept like the dead. 

B.A. fell again that evening sometime between 6 PM and 7 PM, and that was my lowest moment ever. I had worked all day* on my journalism and reluctantly got up to A) make dinner and B) take B.A. out for some exercise. 

B.A., as usual, complained and told me he couldn't do it and he was tired, etc. I begged him, ordered him, reminded him of the posters, told him his not being able to walk was because he had chosen to lie in bed all day, and shouted before stomping off to make dinner. Not very nice.  And when I returned, B.A. slowly got out of bed, almost stood, and then crashed to the floor, hitting his head on the wall, and then on the floor, grazing his forehead and his nose. 

And I collapsed on the floor myself, wailing and then banging the floor with my fists and screaming  "I don't know what to do. I simply don't know what to do. And I am all alone. There's nobody else. And I am simply not qualified. I have no idea what to do."

Poor B.A. was very dazed. I think I must have helped him into a chair. Blood was seeping from the grazes. 

"The room is spinning around," he said. 

Once again, I should have called the bloody ambulance. However, I had no idea this was "important" enough to call an ambulance. Because, you know, 999 is so sacred compared to the NHS 24 hotline, and I have called NHS 24 so many times already, and a lady on the phone saying "And can I speak to your husband?" wasn't going to get his grazes attended to. So instead of calling 999, I ran about the flat trying to find antiseptic wipes. We were completely out of antiseptic wipes. 

In the end I called my kindly neighbour, and she and her husband came over with antiseptic wipes. At that moment, my sister-in-law, the doctor, phoned, and we had a long talk in the bathroom about how important it was that B.A. see his neurosurgeon. Ma Belle Soeur was really worried that B.A. had been released from hospital without seeing his, or any, neurosurgeon. She was adamant that he must. I said I would call the neurosurgeon's office in the morning. 

The night passed without incident. And in the morning I called the neurosurgeon's secretary's answering machine twice, and went to see my Italian tutor because A) I hadn't had time to email him and cancel and B) I know firsthand how awful it is to lose an hour's teaching wages. And it was very therapeutic to tell my Italian tutor, in Italian, everything that had been going on and then to think of something else, i.e. what are the most frequent grammatical mistakes made by anglophones learning Italian, for half an hour. 

Upon returning home, I called the local medical centre and asked to speak to the duty doctor. The duty doctor called me back, and after I listed off a catalogue of woes, he ripped into me.  Apparently I had called the emergency line THREE TIMES [in history] and ALWAYS ON A THURSDAY.  He had told me the LAST TIME that I should call FIRST THING in the morning because my calling at noon messed up the schedule and if he sent out a doctor to me that would really inconvenience the people in the waiting room, etc., etc. 

I was utterly dumbfounded. And when a doctor arrived, questioned B.A., said he might have a broken   neck and called an ambulance, I thought about that awful duty doctor and wondered how he would feel if B.A. did have a broken neck.  

As directed, I held B.A.'s head straight, and when the phone rang, the doctor answered it. It was Mister [X], the neurosurgeon.  I held B.A.'s head straight with one hand while holding the phone with my other and being simultaneously grateful and impressed that the neurosurgeon had actually called me because, at this point, it was better than--and just as surprising as--Pope Benedict calling. 

Two massive paramedics appeared in the tiny guest room, and there was some discussion about how to get B.A. and his new neck-brace down 3 flights of  late 17th century stone stairs. In the end B.A. walked down,  a paramedic in front and a paramedic behind. He was carefully strapped onto a bed in the ambulance, I got in, and off we went. Yes, I believe there were tourists in the House at the time.  

Apparently the rest of the  staff was terrified for B.A., but they all kept their distance because they didn't want to get in the way. That was very kind of them, really, and the best decision. 

So for the first time in either of our lives, B.A. and I went to the hospital in an ambulance, and although I remembered my keys and phone, I forgot my wallet. However, I phoned French Pretend Son-in-Law from the waiting room, and he came within half an hour and loaned me £20 so I could get home eventually. 

After two hours, I asked if B.A. was out of the x-rays yet, and was sent along to what is sort of the triage department and found B.A. on a wheeled bed. All told, we were in the Emergency Department from 2 PM until almost 11 PM, and the people there were really kind to us. When I asked a young nurse for a pillow for B.A., he remembered to bring it. And a nurse practitioner remembered us from neurosurgery and smile at us often. One of the paramedics asked me how B.A. was doing. So those were the "people helping" Mr Rogers famously said children should look for in sad times. 

Unprecedentedly, we were told, Neurosurgery had called Emergency before Emergency called them, to say that B.A. should be transferred to Neurosurgery as soon as they had a bed ready, and so B.A. and I went by ambulance to Neurosurgery. 

B.A. asked if I could stay overnight in the Family Room because he was scared of what might happen to me going home late at night, but the nurse was reluctant--the Family Room is really for families who come from Far Away (e.g. John O'Groats)--and so was I,  having spent a very poor night in the Family Room back in March. So I went home by cab and phoned the ward to leave the message that I was fine. 

And then it was Friday.  B.A. fasted all day, waiting for the operation that never came.  A surgeon came to see B.A., explained to us why B.A. needed the operation. He was forced to retract his statement that B.A. would be home a couple of days after his op, when I informed him that B.A. would not come home until he could walk.  

"I'm so glad you were here when he came," said B.A., and this was better than a fur coat and a diamond necklace or any other present I can imagine.

I went home by bus before dark. When it was determined that B.A. wouldn't be operated on that day, he had dinner. 

And then it was Saturday.  Thank God, I broke all the visiting hours rules and arrived at 10 AM because I soon discovered B.A. had had a very bad night. He had been sedated and put in solitary confinement. He was still frightened and disoriented when I got there. At his request, I read him all the prayers and readings for the Trad Mass of the day, including the set prayers for afterwards. 

B.A. fasted all day, waiting for the operation that never came.

And then it was Sunday.  B.A.'s operation--his third--happened on Sunday between 12 and 4: 30 PM. Having ascertained by phone at around 8 AM that he was well-rested, I had carried out my usual Sunday schedule. When I got to the ward at 3 PM., B.A. wasn't in his room. 

I was told that he had gone into surgery at noon. I was rather frightened, as B.A.'s last surgery had lasted only about 2 hours.  But there was nothing I could do, so I sat in the neurosurgery waiting room until someone turned on the television, and then I went to the chapel, where I prayed the rosary until I got the call that B.A. was back on the ward. 

I scurried back upstairs, and there was B.A. under an oxygen mask, his beard trimmed right down but his moustache left bushy, so that he looked like a British soldier who had been ambushed in Afghanistan in the mid-19th century and wandered around the desert for a few days before rescue. 

"My beads,"  said B.A.. "They should be in the pocket of my dressing-gown. Are they there?"

His old green bathrobe was lying on the foot of the bed. I reached into the pocket and found the worn old rosary he bought from a Romany pedlar woman in Poland in 1990.  He loves it so much, I don't usually bring it to the hospital, lest it get lost, but it was the only one I had in my bag on Thursday. So after I showed it to him--and he relaxed--I put another rosary into his hand, and put his Polish rosary back in my bag.

I sat with him from 4:30 PM until 8 PM, ignoring the mid-point chuck-out time, and took various buses as far as I could before calling a taxi because have spent so much on taxis. Actually, a friend called the taxi for me, because although my brain is starting to do very weird things (which does not surprise me, since I keep reading popular science books about the brain and what stress does to it), I had the very good idea to go to the home of friends, out of the rain, dark, and cold, and ask to call from there. 

I had bought what the Scots call a donner-kebab, so I sat at a proper dinner table with proper friends and ate my donner-kebab washed down with proper Strong Drink, which I felt I sorely needed. We had a good chat about Cardinal Burke's Glasgow Mass and other interesting things, and then the taxi was called, and I went home and went to bed. 

And now it is Monday, and I am gathering strength for the next battle, which is to keep B.A. under medical supervision until he can walk properly. He didn't break his neck, but he could have broken his neck, and he's not going to break his neck because he's going to get all the medical treatment he needs from his country, no matter what I have to do or say to get it, no matter whose duty roster is messed up or which NHS targets won't be reached.

*Amongst other things, my memory for all the appointments is patchy. I hadn't worked all day because I had taken B.A. to a different kind of surgeon altogether by wheelchair and cab. The bizarre NHS story there is that the receptionist refused to tell me what the surgeon's name was, on the grounds that she couldn't pronounce it. When I asked her to write it down, she told me to ask a nurse. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Deep Work

This week I wrote 10 articles and visited Benedict Ambrose in hospital everyday. On Friday evening he told me that the doctors had done all the tests they deemed necessary and wanted to send him home. So I asked a nurse to get me a wheelchair, and after a conversation with a doctor, I took B.A. and all his stuff to the taxi rank.

B.A. was sick on Saturday afternoon, and I stared out the window, collecting my thoughts, before stripping B.A. and the bed, redressing B.A. and the bed, and then doing the laundry. B.A. wasn't sick in that way while in the hospital, so obviously there was something wrong with home. It was a very unwelcome thought. 

After an online consultation with Ma Belle Soeur, I decided what was wrong was the bed: if B.A. lies down all the time, it is very bad for him. However, sitting up in bed is apparently very uncomfortable. A hospital bed costs £4,000, so that's out of the question. A domestic reclining bed, though less expensive, is still expensive--especially as we bought a new bed this year. Thus, tomorrow I will go to a special shop for the elderly and chronically ill for a back rest and see what else they have for sale that might be useful. 

On bus rides to the hospital, I read Cal Newport's Deep Work, and while at home, I put its principles into practise.   Deep Work teaches "knowledge workers" how to concentrate hard enough and long enough to get more work done in a shorter amount of time. Controlling how much time you spend on the internet--and how you spend it--is very important. 

Now every morning, I write down all the tasks I have for the day, and I write a bullet-point plan for how I am going to do them, even outlining how I am going to structure complicated articles. This is very helpful later when I am tired. 

I also identify which tasks are "deep work" tasks--tasks that take a lot of hard thinking--and give myself 90 minutes to do them, as 90 minutes is apparently the maximum time you can really concentrate on an intellectual task. After 90 minutes of hard work, I take a break with some "shallow work", like reading emails or finding stories to write about or even research. Research is easy compared to writing pieces.

Deep work is by definition cognitively challenging, and I've had a lot of practise thanks to (GUESS!) frequent study of Polish. As I may have mentioned before, my memory has improved really a lot, thanks to hours of memorising Polish grammar, vocabulary and occasionally even poems and songs. Even my memory for numbers has improved. I still find writing "hard news" difficult, but I hope that eventually it will become second-nature. 

This week's challenge will be trying to keep up my work output after having returned to being B.A.'s primary caregiver. 

I am very grateful to the nurses and doctors at the hospital for all the tests they did and all the meals they brought B.A., but I am sorry they didn't provide him with very much physiotherapy or exercise. When I visited, I would take him for a short walk down the hallways, getting a little farther each day, but his mobility was clearly much worse than it was before he was admitted. I also read to him from a  children's chess book, as I am rather worried his poor shunted brain is being under stimulated. Learning to play chess will be good for both of us.

Meanwhile, the National Health Service is not the be-all and end-all of care. You really can't rely on doctors and nurses to do everything for your loved one in the UK: you have to do a lot yourself. You really do. Fortunately for "Central Belt" Scots over 65, many (if not all) local governments supply home nursing help. However, those under 65 seem to be out of luck. If you are chronically ill, under 65 and need help taking a bath, it's a good plan to be married to a relatively young and healthy person. 

Meanwhile,  the fund for Joe Baklinski, to which some of you generously donated, has topped the goal. His brother was hoping to raise $25,000 Canadian so that Joe, his wife and their eight children could see the winter out. (Joe's in construction, and in Canada that means you work hard all summer to make up for the lean winter.) Well, it was $26, 000 a few days ago, and I see that now that the goal is $30,000, there's $29, 096. That's very awesome, and I predict a very happy Christmas for all the kids.

B.A. was very pleased and edified that people donated to Joe's fund because he (B.A.) was sick. He said it meant that something good had come out of his illness. Fortunately for us, his employer has a very generous sick-leave provision, so we have a way to go before we have to start worrying about happy Christmases, etc. 

In other news, I saw Cardinal Burke yesterday. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to speak to him, but tomorrow I will write all about the Mass he celebrated in Glasgow. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

A Good/Good Day

Benedict Ambrose is in hospital and seems much better today than he was yesterday. The hospital has  been filling him up with fluid, and weighing him, and feeding him his dinner so early that in the evening he drinks Ensure Plus of his own volition.

I feel really happy about all that.

Back at the Historical Ranch, I applied some lessons I learned from Cal Newport's Deep Work to get as much work done as possible. It was extremely awesome. I got 1.5 hours of Polish study (deep work) done before breakfast. During breakfast I trawled through the internet looking for leads (shallow work). Then I went back to deep work and wrote a complicated piece before the shallow work of watching a film I'm reviewing. I hit pause when it was time for a meeting (shallow work).

After the meeting, I powered through the late afternoon by writing two articles (deep work), and then I ran out of the house to get to the hospital to see B.A.

When I got home (taxi, so as to get here before dark--£10), I finished watching the film. It's called "Because of Gracia" and I liked it way better than "Bella." Everyone's going to compare it to "Bella," so I might as well be first.

I wonder if I am able to accomplish that much tomorrow. That would be AMAZING.

Meanwhile, I brought B.A. the chess set I bought him after his first operation back in March, and this time we actually opened the box. Well, I opened the box. B.A. grumbled about the social politics of being publicly interested in chess. He seems to think that even a living skeleton can get hassled for being too posh if he's in a NHS hospital. However I refused, as usual, to get sucked into the class war/delusion, and happily read aloud about pawns and pikemen.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Three Good/Bad Days

Wednesday

The GP saw Benedict Ambrose when I wasn't at home. Apparently he told BA he shouldn't lie in bed all day. He examined B.A.'s skeletal frame (but didn't weigh him) and prescribed him Ensure Plus.

I was at Polish class, stuffing my head with useful work-related Polish. When I came home, BA told me he wanted to sleep, so instead of making his breakfast as usual, I got down to my work for the day.

My goal was to get the work done without distractions. To have a good work day.

I think I got B.A. to take some exercise. He tottered down the stairs and got, if it was like other days, up to 8 times around the front lawn. Then I sat him down in front of our big computer monitor and found something on BBC iPlayer for him to watch and started making dinner.

While I was making dinner, BA, who hadn't eaten all day, was violently ill. When I came into the sitting room, I found him with green-brown liquid all over his clothes, and after I ran for the basin, he was sick again.

I took him to the bathroom, and took off his clothes, and generally cleaned him up, and since he was there and I could, I got him to stand on the scales.

I had promised myself that if his weight fell below 100 lbs, I would get him into the hospital.

He was 97.5 lbs.

I called the National Health Service Emergency Hotline, leaving B.A. cranky in the bathroom with no shirt on, until I realised he was cold and helped him into bed. The NHS was not interested in his weight; they wanted to know if he had vomited blood. There was debate between BA and me as to what colour the vomit had been: tea or tea with milk? I had flushed most of the evidence, but some remained, and it looked brown to me.

The NHS said a doctor would be there within 4 hours, and indeed he arrived by half past eleven, remarking in his EU accent that it was really, really dark outside the House. He said B.A. could have thrown up because he hadn't eaten all day.

He didn't say it was my fault. But I knew that was my fault.

The emergency doctor didn't find much wrong with B.A. except that he needed some sugar. B.A. didn't want sugar. B.A. wanted the curried cabbage I had shoved off the heat when he was sick. He got cake instead.

I cancelled the next morning's Italian class.

Good work day; bad wife day.

Thursday

On Thursday I made B.A. a protein shake and watched him drink it. When he said that the bottom was gloopy, I put in more milk and mixed it up.

I told Facebook and other friends about B.A.'s weight, and the response was overwhelming. All Canadians and Americans were absolutely horrified: phrases like "passive euthanasia" and "he's dying" were tossed my way, and I literally collapsed.  I spent an online work meeting facedown on the carpet.

I gave B.A. some curried cabbage for lunch. He threw up. I cleaned up and called the local clinic weeping.  Then, because I thought he could die at any minute, I just got into bed with B.A.  When I thought I was going to be sick too, I went to the bathroom and lay on the floor.

I really need to wash that floor.

A nice doctor called me back, and it was some time before he had a chance to tell me he wasn't our usual GP and had never seen Mr McLean. The GP was on holiday. I apologised and explained that I wanted to know why my dangerously underweight (and vomiting) husband wasn't admitted to hospital. The cover doctor explained that B.A. wasn't dangerously underweight, as he had been 60 kilos and now was 50 kilos--numbers which didn't seem right to me, but I always think in pounds, and B.A. understands only stones, and the doctor sounded so reassuring.

All the same, I ended up not at work but back in a chair at the foot of the bed. To B.A.'s mild surprise, I didn't make him go downstairs and outside for his daily exercise. Not only did I not have any fight left in me, I wasn't sure I could get down the stairs and around the yard myself. That said, I did walk into town to fill the Ensure Plus prescription.

B.A. wanted more curried cabbage for supper, so he had some, and kept it down, and watched more quality programming on BBC iPlayer

I dragged myself back to Facebook to apologise for scaring everyone. And then Ma Belle Soeur, our sister-in-law, asserted her medical knowledge and said, in effect, "He's really, really sick. Push the NHS."

Bad work day; goodish wife day, total collapse notwithstanding.

Friday

Friday was supposed to be a totally normal work day, the day I made up for the very little work I did on Thursday. I was scanning the day's headlines when Ma Belle Soeur appeared on Facebook (where I first collect headlines--its a bit like berry-picking) and started asking me what was wrong with B.A. and telling me how to push the NHS.

When she started, I was thinking, "She doesn't understand Our System, and none of the British doctors think it's worth taking him to the hospital." When she finished, I wrote to work asking for yet another Sick Day, left a message on the answering machine of Mr Frightfully Important Neurosurgeon, and went to sit with B.A.

B.A. had decided that he should sit in a chair, so that was an improvement. He was very happy to have me sit on a stool across from him and read him articles out of the new Spectator. I realised how bored and lonely B.A. had been lying in bed listening to the BBC while I worked in my office across the hall, and reflected on how horrible it was to have to choose, every day, between being a good employee and being a good wife. But I also reflected that just for the day, I was going to act as though it were B.A.'s last.

At some point, I got him back on the scales. The numbers were 6 stone 5... 6 stone...6....6 stone 8... They kept flickering because B.A. wobbled so much.

Ma Belle Soeur, meanwhile, also called Mr Frightfully Important Neurosurgeon, and he called her back in half an hour. What a thing it is to be a doctor. She had also written a letter for me to take to whichever doctor I got B.A. to next. However, when Mr FIN's secretary called me (about three hours after my first call, within an hour of my second), she said we should get a referral to the neurosurgery department by going to the nearest Emergency ward

B.A. was so distressed by the idea of having to sit in Emergency, potentially for hours and hours, that he went back to bed. I phone neighbours for a lift, printed off Ma Belle's Soeur's letter, packed B.A.'s basic emergency kit, and off we went, B.A. in his increasingly grubby white dressing down and red-and-black Woolrich slippers. I think that was about 3 PM.

At about 9 PM, B.A. was in a men's ward at the nearest hospital, having been x-rayed and CAT-scanned, having had vials of blood removed and the hated cannula added, having lain in a chilly hallways for a couple of hours, while I waited worriedly for someone to get me, and then continuing to lie in the hallway, only now with me for entertainment.

"And I didn't even throw up today," he moaned.

"I'm sorry," I told him. "But [Ma Belle Soeur] said."

B.A. agreed that the instructions of Ma Belle Soeur were paramount--heck, the admitting staff of the hospital seemed to think so too. And Mr Frightfully Important Neurosurgeon had actually called her in person and spoken to her on the phone.  It is not surprising, therefore, that B.A. and I would do what she said.

I took a cab home in the pouring rain, prising open the big gates for the driver, and remaining thankfully in my seat as he undid the chain. When drivers don't ask about it, I always wonder what they think of my destination and whether they think I ought to give them a massive tip, living in a house like that.

Very bad work day; very good wife day.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Sweatpants to Freeze the Blood

In the ongoing struggles of Amoris Laetitia, the blood-freezing spectre of your spouse's personality changing in a radical way was introduced by a priest telling the sad story of a Catholic woman whose Catholic husband was badly hurt in a traffic accident. The accident left him miserable, and he became addicted to painkillers, as people in pain frequently do. He became abusive and got involved in crime and eventually ended up in prison. His young wife, the mother of his children, divorced him, hooked up with a new chap, and sat with the new chap in church weeping while her children received their First Communion. They were weeping because they couldn't receive the Blessed Sacrament.

The priest wrote the story in a manner to make us feel really sorry for the irregularly remarried wife and not at all sorry for her awful, abusive, cop-killer husband languishing in prison. It is the first time in my life I have read an article by a Catholic priest tailored to make a human being seem like disposable rubbish--yet another reason to approach Amoris Laetitia with caution.   However skilfully the priest wrote the story  (and however sympathetic the marriage tribunal) there was no getting around the fact that all the misfortunes and personality changes that befell this young Catholic man happened AFTER the wedding. It was a terrible, TERRIBLE situation, but let's face it, it was worse on him, and he was--and is--somebody's husband.

In case you are wondering, Benedict Ambrose has not become addicted to painkillers. Au contraire. I can't get him to take a paracetamol because he thinks it will make him nauseous. But he is having a terrible struggle with his temper, which is a lot more painful for him than for me, poor chap.  I don't know how one makes peace with chronic pain; if a saint has written about it, I will buy the book.

Since moving hurts him, it is a struggle to get him up, washed, dressed, down the stairs and out the door for some exercise. Yesterday after Mass I ran like mad through Edinburgh's Waverley Station to catch the train back home, cutting in front of some youths who shouted "EXCUSE ME!" at my back. Friends were coming to visit B.A., and I had a lot to do beforehand.

I didn't notice what the youths were wearing as I popped in front of them because I was beyond caring. Normally part of social life in Edinburgh is judging books by the covers, which is to stay, looking out for potentially dangerous members of the Socially Excluded class. The Socially Excluded of Edinburgh are probably exclusively white-and-Scottish, so this is not an inter-racial concern unless of course you are a minority person which--come to think of it--I instantly become when a Scot hears my accent. When B.A. and I are confronted by a Socially Excluded person, I keep my mouth shut and B.A. delves into the patois of his working-class roots.

Incidentally "Socially Excluded" is the polite term for chav. The British class system is by no means gone; in fact, in some ways it is worse. Drunkenness and violence among the urban poor (who now have money instead of religion) are as much of a feature as they were in Queen Victoria's day. One learns to spot a chav at 100 yards, and one of the signs is that the chav wears sweatpants in public.

The one and only British person I know socially who wears sweatpants in public is the neighbourhood grump, a former enfant terrible of English letters, who instead of growing into an eminence grise remains an enfant terrible at 70. I assume he wears sweatpants because he can't be bothered not to. Being cornered by him at a party is a horror; when he found out I had no idea what his career had been, he was nastily sarcastic.

I gave B.A. his first pair of sweatpants in 25 years when he started Pilates class. Unfortunately, Pilates class is now completely impractical and the sweatpants have been downgraded to pyjama bottoms. Normally when B.A. goes out in public, I get out his jeans. Since he has lost about 40 lbs since  March, none of his trousers fit, so the jeans stay on only thanks to braces (suspenders). Yesterday, thanks to time constraints, I made a snap decision and reached for his newly washed sweatpants. To make up for them, I added a hand knitted green cable pullover to the ensemble.

Mistake.

I was not around the whole time our guests were talking to B.A.--for awhile I was flying about getting tea, coffee, biscuits--but apparently he was "crotchety." And when I heard this my heart sank to my feet because my formerly good-natured husband never ever ever exhibited irritation  in front of guests. He was truly the most easy-going, most amiable and cheerful chap alive. His company manners were perfection. He would never even describe the Socially Excluded as I have above for fear of hurting someone's feelings. Being judged as "crotchety" was new.

And then the coup-de-grace.

"Maybe he'll turn into [the Neighbourhood Grump]," said a guest cheerfully.

Dear God, let that not be so. Something new to worry about, and how I wish those words had remained unsaid. How my poor B.A. could be likened at all to the Neighbourhood Grump, quite apart from completely understandable pain-induced crotchetiness, can be down to only one thing: those terrible sweatpants.

Update in Defence of Scottish Chavs: Whenever I write about Socially Excluded Scots, I always try to remember that as scary as they can be, the chavs/neds are the victims of history. Not only did the post-war collapse in heavy industry hit Scotland particularly hard, the two hope-filled ideologies of working-class Scots--communism and Christianity--also largely disappeared by 2000. Thanks to the Sexual Revolution, the traditional family was terribly weakened. Then there was the heroin and AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, so accurately depicted in Trainspotting. My Scottish great-grandparents missed all that.  Meanwhile, public drunkenness happens throughout British society. This isn't new. What is new (that is, post-1963) is that British women also get falling down drunk.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

The New Life

I'd forgotten the importance of Saturdays to people with full-time jobs. Of course, not all full-timers have the luxury of Saturdays anymore, which is a doleful thought. However, speaking as a former freelancer, having a Monday to Friday job gives Saturday a golden glow.

Not that Saturdays are work-free. Saturdays are now for housework, but this has become easier since I began the Great Tidy, inspired by Marie Kondo. As usual, I have come late to a cultural sensation. Just as now I have a MacBook Pro and an iPhone, I have read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. That is, I skimmed half of it at the bookstore, and then listened to the audiobook on my new-to-me iPhone.

I am hoping for some life-changing magic, but so far I have only gone through my clothes and books and a fair number of papers. Miscellaneous stuff will be a challenge, but in the meantime, I pick things up and stuff them on the pile by the attic stairs (to go down and out; we live in an attic). Sometimes a kind friend with a car comes by and takes the stuff away to charity shops. This is wonderful, and worth the interruption of my work day, should the kind friend arrive mid-week.

My work day begins at 9, more or less. I had a lovely idea that I was going to work 11 - 7, which would reasonably overlap the editors' Eastern Standard time (a morning person, I drew the line at working 2 PM - 10 PM). I'm an early riser, so I looked forward to spending a few hours in the morning studying languages.

However, thanks to doctors' home visits, plumbers, electricians, medical emergencies, Holy Days of Obligation, and sheer exhaustion, I have finally worked out that it is better to start journalism at 9 AM and aim to finish around 7 PM, except on Wednesdays (Polish class 9 AM) and Thursdays (Italian class 9:30 AM). That way, it doesn't matter so much if there is an extensive mid-day interruption. (Language study has to be stuffed into odd corners of the day.)

"It's too late," said Benedict Ambrose yesterday when, at 7:30 PM, I rousted him out of bed for some exercise. An update on Joe Baklinski reveals that Joe, despite being in great pain, his muscles turned to mincemeat, gets out of bed constantly to see what his family is up to. Benedict Ambrose is the exact opposite. He would lie in bed all day long listening to BBC 4 in the dark if I didn't pop into the room at intervals to open the shutter; bring food; transmit news; bring the post; get him out of bed to exercise, to wash, to greet visitors. He responds to attempts to drag him from bed with complaints, then apologies and finally thanks. It's exhausting.

Exercise is usually walking around and around the front lawn, which is bounded by a big stone wall, a gateway delicately barred by a chain, and some woods. People walk their dogs in the woods and, if badly brought up, gawk at B.A. and me as we make our painful way around the quad. B.A. wears a thick white terrycloth bathrobe with a hood, so he looks rather like a Carthusian monk--to me, that is. I doubt the gawkers could pick a Carthusian monk out of a line-up.

B.A. hates being stared at, so the best time to go for walks is at 5 PM, which is when we know the House will be clear of staff and visitors, but the woods haven't yet filled up with dog-walkers. Naturally it is awful having to leave my desk when I am in the middle of an article I desperately want to finish, but that is the way it is--unless it is too cold. Yesterday afternoon was terribly cold, so after I went to the office in the Historical Stable Block for the post, my conscience allowed me to keep my head down until 7:30 PM, when I filed a piece about Cardinal Burke's proposed correction of Pope Francis, and went to see B.A.

B.A., a living skeleton, was curled up in bed under the duvet.

"It's too late," he protested when I told him it was time to get up.

"It's not too late," I said. "But you don't have to go outside. It's too cold. We are doing something else today."

"Something else" was a few very gentle warm-up exercises and the rowing machine. Complaining mildly and asserting that he couldn't even sit down in the rowing machine, B.A. sat down and, to our mutual amazement, rowed 20 strokes.  It turns out he has some strength in his arms (and back) after all, which is astonishing.

Having rowed, he then sat on the sofa wrapped up in a duvet and watching "Celebrity MasterChef" on BBC iPlayer while I went to the kitchen and made potato pancakes (aka latkes aka placki ziemniaczane). Then, as B.A. was still willing to eat, I made an almond flour cake and custard to pour over it. Finally, I washed the dishes and swept the kitchen floor. 

So yesterday worked out very nicely after all, and I was very moved to discover that more of you donated to the Joe Baklinski fund. I don't know why it is, but I am intensely sentimental about Catholic dads of eight who get hurt on the job. Maybe it's because my dad is a Catholic dad of five. If a wall had fallen on my dad, we kids would have been out of our minds with worry and fear---and he wasn't a self-employed stonemason. Until April, when he finally retired, he was a briefcase-carrying professor backed up by a fire-breathing union. 

Meanwhile, I have already taken out the trash and the recycling, so before I get back to my Saturday cleaning tasks, I will begin to memorise a beautiful list of Polish trees and flowers. Hitherto my tutor has given me useful "Catholic" words and phrases (objawienie, for example, means revelation) useful to my new job. Thus I am curious as to why she has prioritised trees and flowers. Still it's a nice treat, if impractical. 

Update: Although clearly married life has tremendous challenges when something goes terribly wrong--even when it is nobody's fault--it still feels better than being Single-and-unvowed-with-no-one-but-oneself-to-care-for because the point of Christian life is service, and when your spouse is chronically ill, it is almost impossible not to serve. Service is built right-in. 

Meanwhile, being too busy also feels better than not being busy enough. One thing that has fallen by the wayside since B.A.'s diagnosis is my anti-depressant pill. For whatever reason, my brain seems to be churning out serotonin like a luxury chemistry set. Although I occasionally feel lonely, I sleep like a baby. 





Thursday, 17 August 2017

One Thing You Could Do

Hello, readers!

Thank you for your kind comments and the anonymous card that got to me today! It says "This too will pass"--you know who you are, even if I don't! :-D

Blogging will still be light for a while because I am essentially working two full time jobs--journalist and caregiver--and I have no idea how working mothers do it, to tell you the truth, especially if they work from home.

You can follow my writing (or reportage, not really the same thing) at LifeSiteNews for the time being. But also there is something very dear to my heart. We don't really need money, but back home in Ontario there's a Catholic father of eight (EIGHT!) who was hurt badly on the Feast of the Assumption and will be out of work for some time, probably all winter.

So if you would like to do something for Benedict Ambrose and me, for whatever reason, it would be really awesome if you would give to the fund for Joe Baklinski. If you do it, just leave an anonymous (if you like) "Done" in the combox, and then I will report it to B.A., who will be cheered and edified. I will say "Because people are sorry you are sick, they gave to a fund for a sick dad of 8."

As much as we mourn not having kids, at least we don't have to worry about feeding any kids--or providing them with a merry Christmas.

Thank you very much for your prayers and kind thoughts, and now I'm back to translating this interview by Przewodnik Katolicki with Cardinal Paglia.

Incidentally, it's true what that Google Memo guy said: 93% of workplace fatalities in the USA (and probably also Canada) happen to men. I looked it up after hearing about Joe Baklinski.

Monday, 14 August 2017

"What Can We Do?"

Yesterday kind people in my Latin Mass community asked what they could do. Someone asked if he or she could bring food, and I said we had food worked out. Really, the only kindness I have been able to think of is people with cars coming to take away bags of reusables to charity shops and boxes of rubbish to the local tip. Seeing our flat empty of useless stuff is one of my principal joys. I have very little time to clean, so the less there is to trip over, the better.

However, this morning I woke up deeply depressed after nightmares, and I have thought of something else. 

Greeting cards. 

Greeting cards are great because the feeling of being alone is really crushing right now. This is the dark side of moving across the ocean to start a "new life" (at the decidedly ripe old age of 38) in romantic Scotland: isolation. I have no family here, and B.A.'s family is... Well, it's complicated, but hasn't really been a problem until now.

(By the way, I think the day is coming--if it has not already come--when the British are astonished to discover that once upon a time people relied on their families and provided for their families, and it was assumed that family members both recognised and cared for each other materially--if need be--and emotionally instead of merely wishing each other well on their individual journeys towards self-fulfilment among "partners" and drinking buddies. At its very best, that's what the death of the British family looks like.)

Occasionally B.A. gets a greeting card from someone he knows through work, and I read it to him, and I feel that's really quite nice. But I don't know the person, so I don't get the lift that recognising a familiar name brings. 

Yesterday I got a wonderful email from Polish Pretend Daughter. She was in a lather of indignation at all B.A.'s doctors and wanted a list of all his drugs so she (bio-chemist) could check them out. She longs to cross-examine these doctors but feared they wouldn't talk to her because she wasn't family. 

I am so grateful she cares so much---and amused that she thinks British doctors, as a group, are that willing to talk to family.

Last week I got a letter from Polish Pretend Son (no relation to the above), in which he told me he was praying for B.A. every day. That meant so much, too. 

Then there was the email from our sister-in-law, informing us of a cash gift waiting to go into one of our bank accounts. Simply lovely---and repaired the financial damage of all the taxi rides to hospitals. 

The phone is mostly quiet, and I'm glad about that because from Monday to Friday, I am simply overwhelmed by work. But the brilliance of greeting cards from family and friends is that I can open them and read them when I am actually at leisure. 

Greeting cards--and letters--are also marvellous because they ask for nothing, e.g. a response. They are pure gift and a way of saying "Hey, you're not alone. We aren't avoiding you because we think your bad luck might be contagious." 

Now I know what to do when someone I know is long-term sick: send stuff: greeting cards, letters, flowers, whatever.  This will give the receivers (at least the one well enough) a little lift and help them not feel abandoned and alone.

(That said, when I had to be away for work, and therefore wasn't here to cook, it was absolutely fantastic that friends brought food.)

As for other things--like taking B.A. out for an hour--it's complicated because B.A. is in such rough shape that there are few people he actually wants to see: he's embarrassed by the way he looks, and he's in pain so often, he can't make the cheerful conversation he thinks guests deserve. (And grateful thanks here to Polish Pretend Daughter's husband, who is someone B.A. enjoy seeing, for his visits.)

I could hire a private nurse for an hour a day or a week, but B.A. is dead set against that. And actually the hour I take B.A. for slow walks around the front lawn--B.A. complaining bitterly half the time and very ill-bred members of the public staring at us--is incredibly important to me. 

"Thank you for doing this," says B.A. between groans and complaints.

"It's my job," I say, and it is. It really is. Nobody is allowed to take that part away from me. Same goes for the baths, and helping someone chemically stripped of body fat to take a bath is no picnic.

So I am very much the picture of "the dog in the manger" who won't let anyone (or almost anyone) help with B.A. himself while complaining inwardly about lack of help.

But it's not help I need. It's tangible greetings from friends and family I can touch and read and take to B.A.  Children's drawings would be nice, too. I once got a thank-you note from a courtesy nephew--it featured a drawing of a bush baby--and I still have it. It's so cute--rather like the artist!

So to friends wondering what they can do: that's what you can do. Thank you! 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Jestem Znowu Słynna w Polsce

Well. not as famous as Mary Wagner, obviously. But clearly someone in Poland reads LSN.

One nice commentator wants me to get honorary Polish citizenship. That might come in handy. Another commentator says that Poland's cultural strength is due not to Catholicism but to ancient Slavic customs that not even Catholicism could destroy. Yet another says that ...

Well, let's just say there seems to be a great diversity of opinion underneath the Polish report about my report about Poland. It reminds me of the Patriots' rally on Polish Independence Day (November 11), which ranged from ordinary patriotic families to a small number hardcore neo-pagan "white power" fanatics.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Poland and the Culture of Life

It's Friday night, and I am officially done for the week, although I didn't get much done yesterday after B.A.'s hospital visit, so I think I'll be working on a story or two tomorrow.

Here is one of two long pieces I worked on today. This is the Polish-comes-in-handy piece. The second piece (Update: now up) is the Italian-comes-in-handy piece. Toddle over to LSN and keep an eye out for it.

I read something very interesting the other day--an interview with Saint John Paul 2's great friend Cardinal Dziwisz. Cardinal Dziwisz observed that Poles send lots of money to charities helping refugees abroad (i.e. not in Poland), which is not something the Western press has thought fit to mention. Dziwisz was not in favour of Open Borders, which shows that he is sane. As we know, Poland's borders have been pretty vulnerable over the past 250 years.

The reason I didn't get much done after B.A.'s hospital visit is that we were both wiped out from the efforts of getting to the hospital and back again, especially as B.A. can't walk very much or see very well. At the hospital we were told that he wasn't going to lose the sight in his left eye after all. We didn't know his eye had been quite that bad, but apparently five weeks ago the back if it was a terrible mess of inflammation, haemorrhage and general nastiness.

Anyway, I think I was felled by the shock of the opthamologist's after-the-fact plain speaking. When we got home I whipped up a comforting pot of "stovies" (a kind of Scottish stew) made according to B.A.'s mother's recipe and cooked real custard and baked a real cake for a real strawberry trifle I assembled this morning for B.A.s' breakfast.

Marriage can be really hard. Have I mentioned? Marriage can be really hard because life can be really hard. Still, I am hoping we both come out of this brain-tumour misfortune better people.





Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Warsaw Uprising




August 1st marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising (1 August 1944 - 2 October 1944). This was the city-wide one, not the earlier, smaller Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (19 April 1943 - 16 May 1943), of which you may have already heard.

So, yes, there were two Uprisings, and the second would have worked had the Soviets taken advantage of the situation and come on in. However, they sat outside Warsaw and cooly waited for the Germans to kill all the leaders and raze the place. You can read all about that here. As usual, the Polish experience of the Second World War was even worse than I thought before I learned a little more.  In related news, my new Polish textbook informs me that "feeder of lice" is "karmiciel wszy" in Polish.

When I was in Warsaw last November, I stayed in a priests' residence very near the Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (lit: Museum of the Warsaw Uprising)  and so not only did I visit it, it became one of my landmarks. For once jagged contemporary bunker-like architecture was totally appropriate.

Inside, however, it was incredibly noisy and jarring, in part because my arrival coincided with that of young teenagers on a school trip. I seem to remember panels in English, but as usual I tried to read the Polish first, and felt badly when I couldn't understand them--which was foolish as "The Boy Scouts risked execution by carrying messages through the sewer tunnels" is not everyday conversation. Naturally, everything I read was terribly sad, and I felt like I was intruding on a private sorrow.

There was a cinema section with films; that was a relief as I could sit invisibly in the dark. The films were surviving footage of the Uprising, created to hearten the Varsavians themselves. And there was a small exhibit in honour of a Home Army poet Kristina Krahelska codenamed "Danuta": her "Hey, Boys, fix bayonets" song had been my Polish study club's anthem for a few weeks, so she was a familiar sight in the noisy mechanical wilderness of the Warsaw Uprising Museum.

Don't get me wrong: the Museum is fantastic and an absolute must-see, but possibly not a mentally healthy excursion for the solitary traveller. Go with a guide or a Polish friend and be prepared to say "Gracious, how sad!" or "Goodness, how brave!" every five minutes. No Pole would resent a foreigner being there because one of their national missions is informing foreigners just how awful the Second World War was for all the Poles, not just the Jews.

Here's a little video put out by the Museum to make everyone cry:



The one with the nurse makes me cry, too.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Roger Scruton on the Tyranny of Pop Music


I am sure I should understand this a lot better than I do. Some people can listen to music the way most people can read books. B.A. can. My brothers can. I can't. Alas!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Language By Osmosis

I have a newish toy. Polish Pretend Son was going to sell his iPhone 4 on eBay, but hearing that I was in the market for a new phone, he gave it to me instead. Like all computer devices these days, I have to figure it out "intuitively"--although maybe in this case it's because I don't have the owner's manual.

PPS was a model language learner in that when he heard an English word he didn't understand at a party, he would fish this very phone out of some inner pocket (PPS was invariably dressed in multiple layers)  and look up the word in an electronic dictionary. Then he would snort "Hmph" or merely raise his eyebrows, and the phone would disappear again.

I wished for this magical bilingual phone many times while on trips to Poland, and now I have it, but the dictionary is gone. PPS took the chip out, and Vodaphone gave me another to replace it, so all PPS's telephonic secrets are safe with PPS.

Naturally they include PPS's extensive music collection, which was probably highly tasteful, if eclectic, as twenty-somethings seem to be very knowledgeable about music. Well, some twenty-somethings. When I was a twenty-something, I could listen to Weezer's "Teenage Dirtbag" on repeat for hours.

But I also had eclectic tastes, and having heard an 883 song on my Conkini Italian tour bus in 1998, I hunted down an 883 CD called "Gli Anni", and that became one of my favourite albums. And now that I am trying to take my Italian skills to the next level, I bought the electronic version for my new-to-me phone.

I was very proud of my technological prowess and bragged to my young Italian tutor that my first iTunes album was "Gli Anni." Sadly, instead of feeling patriotic and flattered, my tutor groaned and giggled. I am not sure, but my little show-and-tell was possibly the equivalent of your Korean ESL student proudly exhibiting her Back Street Boys album.  Or maybe it is even worse and 883 is the Italian equivalent of some now very uncool 1960s band. Oh! Oh dear. I hope 883 isn't the equivalent of the Monkees: how embarrassing.

My Italian tutor, by the way, is a young man of scrupulous honesty who never represses a smile when I trot out some linguistic archaism.

"That's from the Nineties," he chortles.

"I'm from the Nineties," I protest.

I forgive my tutor for making me feel old, however, for he is both good-tempered and strict and therefore effective. He quite won my heart by saying he couldn't at first place my accent (in Italian, as I refused to speak to him in English for as long as possible), but thought the vowels sounded Polish.

My second Apple album is, unsurprisingly for long-term readers, Polish Popular Hits 1930-1940, Vol 1.  This is full of what Reader Julia would call "Polish Old People Music," and I know some of the songs already from long study.  Polish Old People think these songs are the epitome of nostalgia  and, sad irony, since I first heard them in happier days, they fill me with nostalgia, too. A few more years of studying Polish, and I will be impulse-canning supermarket fruit and swapping homemade cold remedies with Polish Pretend Daughter.

I also have two songs of the Disco Polo variety, such that if I lost my phone and a young Polish hacker cracked the password, he would assume that I have very bad taste in music, which I probably do. But there's a method in my music madness, and it's trying to learn non-English the way most of the world learns English: hearing pop songs day in and day out.

My walks to the supermarket and the railway station are now enlivened by Max Pezzali telling me (in 1998) that he'll be with me ("Io Ci Saro") and Zula Pogorzelska explaining to a suitor (in 1931) that her material needs are few ("To Wystarczy Mi"). Neither album is quite the thing for my vigorous  rowing-machine sessions,  though, so I shall splash out and get entire albums of bad-taste Polish dance music.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Trip and After

I love summer mornings. If I could sustain the practice, I'd get up every spring or summer morning at 5 AM. Even the sunshine seems quieter at 5 AM.

My trip to DC and Virginia was both pleasant and interesting. I had an hour's stopover in Dublin, which was more interesting than pleasant. The USA has commandeered a chunk of Dublin airport as a de facto "border", so travellers to the USA through Dublin go through a series of technologically complex checks overseen by young American officials.

I found this confusing and unnerving, so hopefully America's enemies find it confusing and unnerving, too. For example, I was asked if that was my checked luggage in front of my interrogator's workstation.  I was bewildered, for surely my checked luggage was, you know, checked in and in transit. My interrogator--a highly professional-sounding Asian-American--kept repeating the same question until I noticed the screen on the front of her podium showing a televised image of my big backpack--or two thirds of it anyway, since it wasn't completely in shot.

Going through the American Sector of Dublin Airport meant that I didn't have to go through customs when I got to Dulles Airport, so all I had to do was wait for my famous checked luggage and the complementary drive to the Hilton.  It was 90 degrees Fahrenheit by the pick-up point.

The big event at the Hilton was the LifeSiteNews 20th Anniversary Gala, and I enjoyed meeting all the other LSN people very much. I speak to many of these people every work day, so it was neat to see them in person. And for the next three days, it was great to see them again at meetings and meals. As usual I had extreme jet lag, so I got up at 5 AM and found a sunny outdoor spot in which to drink coffee and work on Polish grammar exercises.

My mother usually spends July in Scotland, so while I was away, she kept my husband company and opened the door to the parade of friends who brought meals. Despite the warnings of nurses not to do this, B.A. has spent most of his time lying flat in bed for three and a half weeks, getting up to have supper in the dining-room.

Now here is my terrible confession: since I spend eight hours a day wrestling with news stories--contacting people for quotes, trying to use online information without plagiarising online sources--it has been easier just to leave B.A. in bed where he wants to be anyway. How much personal autonomy B.A. actually has is an open question. His vocabulary is fine, and he has no trouble arguing. Doctors speak to him as if he were completely compos mentis, respecting his wishes even to the point of asking him if he minds if I am there while they talk to him. Clearly he is not a 12 year old boy to be ordered around.  If B.A. wants to lie in bed all day hugging a radio, who am I to judge, eh?

And meanwhile--worse confession--if I have spare time before I start work, I want to spend it (preferably in a cafe) with a coffee studying languages, not talking to B.A., whose conversational range is extremely limited right now.

I was home on Monday, horribly jet-lagged. I was up early on Tuesday, putting my mother on the train to Glasgow as she made her way back to Canada. I wrote all Tuesday. Then I was up early on Wednesday: another day of news writing. Then on Thursday all my efforts to work conscientiously from 11 to 7 (or thereabouts) came to a crashing halt when B.A. turned his head on his pillow and I saw he had a bedsore on his ear.

It has been a long time since I cried. I cried. Apparently he started the sore on Thursday, the day I left. It took me three days to see it. THREE DAYS.

"Don't cry, darling," said B.A. "I get them there all the time."

Apparently B.A. has super-sensitive ear lobes that chafe against any old harder pillow, let alone an ergonomic one. But that wasn't much consolation as I pawed through papers looking for his surgeon's phone number. The surgeon is on holiday (the number one obsession of every working person in the UK: holidays), but I did talk to a GP and to my sister-in-law in Canada, who is a medical doctor herself. That was more or less it for my work output that day.

Perhaps it was the shock of my shock that made B.A. less resistant to having a bath. He doesn't like baths because the porcelein tub hurts his bones, and he is afraid that the shower will wash away the dressing on his head wound. This time I put a bath towel down in the tub so he could sit on that, and before he got in, I checked him all over for any other bedsores. Thank heavens, he didn't have any.

But I also put him on the scale, which I hadn't done for at least a week, and was horrified yet again. B.A. now weighs less than the average British 14 year old.  On Friday morning, a GP from the local medical centre arrived and suggested B.A. take only half of the rather aggressive drug he's been taking for a month.

Then there was an Illustrative Incident. After seeing that B.A's bedsore was (as I feared) infected, the doctor began to write a prescription for penicillin.  Worried--since if B.A. loses any more weight he will have to go on a drip--I asked if penicillin wouldn't make B.A. feel too sick to eat. The doctor thought about that and then wrote a prescription for a topical cream instead. So no disrespect meant to our GPs (who are very kindly people), but even they are not infallible, and clearly I have take more responsibility for my husband's recovery myself.

That was it for Friday's journalism day. I spent most of it talking to B.A., cajoling him out of bed, taking him for a walk (more cajoling necessary), settling him in a CHAIR to watch documentaries, and watching him eat his meals.

And that was quite okay with LSN, because-as you might hope in a leading pro-life, pro-family organisation--LSN puts family first.




Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Marriage Advice for the Young Ones

I've been thinking a lot about the ideas in this post. I was going to put them in a letter, and then I thought I'd put them on this blog, but then I decided just to give them to my boss.

B.A. hasn't actually lost all his charm. Okay, maybe other people wouldn't find him charming at the moment, but I have a soft spot for guys who look like a cross between Saint Anthony in the Desert and Bill the Cat.

People keep asking me how B.A. is, clearly expecting me to say "Oh, much better, thanks!" But the best I can say is that he is not worse--and also surprisingly patient and even sometimes verging on cheerful.

He's not worse, and my mother is here, and various people from the TLM community are going to visit them this weekend, so I can go to the LSN Gala in Washington D.C. this Thursday.  I will be home first thing Monday morning.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Polski Piątek Returns!

If I'm blogging for the second day in row, life must be returning to normal. Or no--maybe I have become sufficiently adjusted to the new life to write about it.

The secret to remaining sane, when one suddenly has a husband recovering from a second surgery and a full-time job as a culture warrior, is to wake up early. This morning I woke up at 6:45 AM, made coffee, returned to bed and reached for the Amazon package I hadn't opened yet. 

The cardboard envelope contained Johanna Michalak-Gray's Polish Tutor: Grammar and Vocabulary Workbook. I spent a happy hour with this book before showering, dressing and tidying the kitchen. While putting away the clean dishes and washing the dirty ones, I listened to my Polish in 4 Weeks CD. Then I took out the trash and the recycling in two separate trips to the Historical Stable Block. Finally, I made breakfast. 

Now it is 10 AM and I am at my desk to start the day's culture battle, having already improved my Polish and done the most pressing housework. It's a very good feeling. 

At 1:45 PM I will take a break to row four virtual kilometers on the home rowing machine.

Culture warring is gruelling and rife with new disappointments in humanity. For example, while researching the charges against Cardinal Pell, I discovered that the UK's Daily Telegraph had incorrectly located a particular allegation made against the cardinal at a swimming pool in Melbourne. It wasn't Melbourne where the men allege Pell touched them up: it was the city of Ballarat. Now, I understand how pressing deadlines can tempt one to relax the fact-checking, but the Telegraph is a national, a major, a relatively conservative, British newspaper. I depend on it and other national papers to get my facts right. 

Meanwhile, either Pell did those things (Julia Yost wrote a brilliant piece in First Things on why there is ample room for doubt) or those men are lying for gain or a petty revenge against their Catholic upbringings. Either way, it's awful. 

I have to read and write about such things every day--although asked also to write up examples of the Culture of Life, thank goodness--so it is very important to take time before and after work for beauty. On Wednesday night, I set up a computer and an attached "big screen" on the foot of B.A.'s bed so that we could watch TV together. We watched a splendid BBC documentary on how traditional Japanese craftspeople make kimonos, and then we watched a half hour or so of Don Camillo

Unfortunately yesterday I had no time for TV-watching, so I'm looking forward to setting up the cinema at the foot of B.A.'s bed tonight. Maybe I can convince him that he really will enjoy a Polish film.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Che Gioia!

Thursday mornings are special. My new routine is to leave the Historical House shortly after 8 AM, buy an all-day ticket on the bus to town, alight at the excellent Twelve Triangles for a cappuccino and croissant, and then get on another bus to my Italian tutor's flat.

Today was extra-special because my tutor told me that I was ready to do interviews in Italian. I was incredulous, but he thinks I can do it. We pretended he was a Cardinal, and I interviewed him. As usual, he chided me on my archaisms. Apparently you really can't address an important (or very elderly) person in  the second person plural, even for Cardinals, except maybe in Naples.

In one magical moment, I realised I was nattering away at top speed. It seems miraculous. I suspect I have Polish to thank. It's not that Polish improves my Italian vocabulary, of course. It's that Polish has exercised the relevant parts of my brain. Also, Polish is much harder to speak than Italian, so speaking Italian is like a holiday.

Tomorrow I will use any free time in the morning to work on Polish. But today's Italian work was delightful.

B.A. was better today. I felt I could safely let him have a bath unsupervised (when he was in, not when he was getting in or getting out), and he actually put some clothes on (with help). A generous friend drove us to the hospital and waited with me while B.A. had a routine brain scan. On the way home, B.A. and I fought about the refugee crisis, and both our friend and I thought this was a very good sign.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

While Waiting for the Doctor

Temporarily brain damaged Benedict Ambrose told me this morning that he doesn't have a "bucket list." He just wants his ordinary routine back. This means getting up at 9, showering to the noise of the BBC on the radio, and dashing off to the office to work. He worries too much about when he is going to be able to do this.

I don't have a bucket list either although, when I pondered the question, I thought it would be great to pass some European Union language exams in Italian and Polish. (I think I could at least pass the B2 in both, but I'm not sure. Passing the A1 in either might be an impossible dream.) Unfortunately, my Polish classes are over for the foreseeable future: to keep in sync with the Eastern Seaboard, my work day starts late and stretches into the evening.

The past month has been about loss: B.A.'s loss of short-term memory, B.A.'s loss of balance, B.A.'s loss of his grip on reality and then B.A.'s loss of autonomy from tubes. He has a tube stuck in his brain, snaked down his neck and into his stomach, and that is the way it is going to be.

My losses are pretty inconsiderable next to that. The big one is loss of time. Writing well takes a certain about of staring out the window and puttering about relatively empty-headed. My favourite way to write anything--essays, stories, newspaper articles--is to read and make notes all afternoon, putter about in the evening, read some more, go to bed, wake up early and write the work all at once, tapping away until it is done.  This is not practical for daily news writing, I'm afraid.

Another surprisingly big loss was my column in the CR because it was my umbilical cord to my native city. I loved to chat to my imagined (though real) audience, which had a number of faces: that of an elderly member of my mother's Catholic Women's League, of a Filipina-Canadian university student at Toronto's St. Mike's College, of a forty-something husband and father, of an Oratorian at the breakfast table, of an old, old priest in the archdiocesan priest's retirement home. The cord is snapped, and spiritually I'm alone on the other side of the ocean, une Canadienne errante in more ways than one, it would seem. "Banni des ses foyers sounds about right.

I hope they all read LSN, but it's unlikely. Not everyone has made the jump to the internet, and the LSN is (obviously, given the erasure of my little corner of the CR) not everyone's cup of tea.

Possibly feeling deeply sorry for myself is not helpful , but the normal response to loss is to mourn, so this is me mourning.  The comfort of writing reminds me of the good things that have happened recently, which include of course, the fact that B.A. is still alive and did not die from brain fluid pooling up behind his eyes again. Although I knew something was wrong, I didn't know it was THAT wrong. How horrible it would have been to wake up and discover B.A. had gone totally blind overnight or had even just gone and died beside me.

Then there is the joy of having a new community of friends, a band of brothers (and sisters) in the virtual newsroom. I am even invited to the parties, which is a delightful experience. Freelancing had its lonely moments, and I felt rather wistful when I discovered that full-timers at various media houses had been at a Christmas party or had gone on a cruise.

Making a full-time salary feels surprisingly ho-hum in comparison although it certainly helps toward putting B.A's mind to rest. This may be because I am not particularly interested in buying anything at the moment--not clothes, not food, not travel. In snatched minutes in the evening, I read all about minimalism, and I highly approve of minimalism. Not only is it in line with apostolic poverty, there's less to clean up.

Then there's going to the Italian tutor on Thursday mornings. This is a source of great joy. I natter on in Italian about my high school Italian classes and my various trips to Italy over the years and when afterwards I walk to the bus stop, I simply beam at the world.

Then there was the introduction to Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages by Peter Kwasniewski. I volunteered to review it for LSN but was only halfway through by deadline, so I wrote this first.  NBTH is such a delightful book, and I was so sorry that I had to speed through, that I  ontinued reading it over the weekend.  As a first introduction to the Old Mass and what people think is wrong with the New Mass, NBTH can't be beat. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. Kup teraz, as Polish merchants say. My Amazon review is over on amazon.co.uk. 

The only problems I have with the book are the lack of a glossary (some words one has to look up) and the complicated title. "Why Most People Think Mass is Boring" is snappier and easier to remember.

Well, the doctor hasn't arrived yet, and I have fifteen minutes before I must sit down and read a lot of Italian Church news so I can write all about it myself. How shall I spend them? Oh, the hot water must have heated up by now, so I will spend them washing dishes.