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


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.


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 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.


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.