Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #6: Favourite English Churches

I am an inveterate Church visitor. Even Tevye has come to appreciate exploring Churches we come across in our travels - or at least, to enjoy the peace and quiet while I explore. Here are some Churches I love - some for the their beauty and historical value, others because they have spiritual significance for me.

1. St.Michael and All Angels, Stewkley, Buckinghamshire. My father's family are from this village, with branches going back centuries. It gives me shivers to realise that my ancestors would have worshipped here in pre-Reformation days. The Church itself is an unusually fine example of a Norman Church, with very few later alterations. This is for the prosaic reason that after the 12th century there was no rich land owner to make any!

2. St.Gregory's Minster, Kirkdale, Yorkshire. This tiny Church is even older, originating as a Saxon minster; parts of the building are over a thousand years old. My mother was baptised here, and many of her forebears are buried in the graveyard.

3. Our Lady of Grace and St.Teresa of Avila, Chingford, London. The Church in which I was received into the Catholic Church.

4. The Slipper Chapel, Walsingham, Norfolk. After the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was destroyed by King Henry VIII the little Slipper Chapel (where pilgrims removed their shoes to walk the last Holy Mile) survived, used as a barn. In the late 19th century it was rescued and returned to the Catholic Church, and is now the national shrine to Our Lady. I first visited as a non-Catholic child of six or seven staying with relatives nearby, and fell in love with the place.

5. Westminster Cathedral, London. The premier Catholic cathedral in England. Byzantine in style, it was intended to have a complete mosaic ceiling but it remains unfinished. I love that it has a busy, prayerful atmosphere - by busy, I mean many people making purposeful visits, to light candles, attend Mass, go to Confession and so on, in contrast to Westminster Abbey and St.Paul's Cathedrals (both Anglican) which are so swamped by tourists as to make prayer difficult if not impossible.

6. St.Mary's Chapel, Lulworth Castle, Dorset. This private chapel was the first new Catholic Church to be built in England after the Reformation, and is still in use.

7. Lincoln Cathedral, Lincolnshire. I decided to limit myself to just one of the great medieval Anglican cathedrals, which meant a tough choice. Salisbury, Winchester, York Minster, Durham and Gloucester are all favourites, but Lincoln won on points for its beautiful Angel Choir. (It also loses points for allowing filming of The Da Vinci Code to take place there.)

8. Church of St. Julian, Norwich, Norfolk. The home of the anchorite, Dame Julian of Norwich, where her cell can still be visited. Or rather, a recreation of her cell - the Church was largely destroyed by bombing during World War II and subsequently rebuilt.

9. Chapel of St.John the Evangelist, Tower of London. This is the oldest of the chapels in the Tower, at the heart of the White Tower built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. Tiny and thick walled, it resonates with history.

10. All Saints, Hillesden, Buckinghamshire. I could have picked any number of country churches, but chose this for its sheer unlikeliness. Known as the Cathedral of the Fields, this late medieval church in the perpendicular style dwarves the tiny village surrounding it. It also boasts bullet holes in the door dating from the English Civil War in the 17th century.

11. The Round Church, Cambridge. Because it is ... well ... round. And old, built around 1130.

12. Magdelen College Chapel, Oxford. C.S.Lewis worshipped here regularly during his years at the College, and it is a great example of the many college chapels at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

13. Oxford Oratory Church of St.Aloysius Gonzaga. A Victorian Gothic gem tucked away at the edge of central Oxford. Run by the Oratorians, it has beautiful liturgy to match.

Computer problems

I am still fighting a battle with electronic gremlins

  • The DVD drive on my new laptop is faulty. This means I should be able to return it under the warranty, but first I need to find a Mac friendly home finance programme so that we can abandon Windows for good (all our money stuff is currently on MS Money).
  • Our wireless router is dead; the spare one we were loaned is faulty. I have a wired internet connection thanks to a modem scrounged from my Mum, but we can't use the laptop on line. (No DVD drive and no internet connection renders it almost entirely useless - though it can still run MS Money!)
  • My email is playing up. Some mail sent to me is bouncing, but not all. A friend who uses the same ISP said that some of her sent mail is not going through and the ISP say there is a fault they are "working on". I have a suspicion that the same thing may be happening here ... so if you are trying to contact me or don't get mail from me, the great black hole of cyberspace may be swallowing it. (Catherine, I did get your note; Karen, I didn't get the email you were trying to sent me. Ugh!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean

We saw it ... myself, Angel and Star, and Next Door, as our neighbours are generically known here (all five of them - two adults, three children). We took advantage of it being Orange Wednesday - our mobile phone service provider has a "buy one, get one free" deal for cinema tickets on Wednesdays.

It fell short of the other two - half the time I couldn't fathom out who was trying to do what and why, and at nearly three hours it was over long - but hey! it had pirates, special effects and Jack Sparrow, so we all enjoyed it, despite A-next-door managing to get her foot wedged in the seat and limping out of the cinema, and Angel blundering around in the dark for five minutes after the film finished trying to find one of her shoes. You remember how in the old days pen knifes had assorted unexpected but useful blades? It seems mobile phones are the modern equivalent. Angel's has a built in torch. Who knew?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cottage Economy

I have no idea where I got this book, but must have picked it up because I am intrigued by the author, William Cobbett. He was the subject of much admiration by G.K.Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, and the inspiration behind distributism, the economic system they championed. Chesterton wrote a biography of Cobbett, which I half-read a while ago. His Rural Rides is considered a classic and back in the olden days of the 60s and 70s appeared on lists of set texts for public examinations. I remember seeing piles of the book in the literature section of our school stockroom, though I never read it. (I had an intimate acquaintance with the stockroom due to ... ahem ... repeated punishment duty sorting and mending books).

Oh boy, was Cobbett opinionated! Cottage Economy is his attempt to educate cottagers and labourers in how to use a small amount of land to increase their standard of living. He can't resist digressing into purple passages on his pet hates and loves. Tea, potatoes, and Methodist preachers are out; home-brewed beer, home-baked bread and fat bacon are in - beer, because of its significant nutritional value, not its alcoholic content!

For your delectation and delight, a touch of Cobbett on tea ...

It is notorious that tea has no useful strength in it; that it contains nothing nutritious; that it, besides being good for nothing, has badness in it, because it is well known to produce want of sleep in many cases, and in all cases, to shake and weaken the nerves.

... It must be evident to every one, that the practice of tea drinking must render the frame feeble and unfit to encounter hard labour or severe weather.

... The tea drinking fills the public-house, makes the frequenting of it habitual, corrupts boys as soon as they are able to move from home, and does little less for the girls, to whom the gossip of the tea-table is no bad preparatory school for the brothel. At the very least it teaches them idleness.

... The girl that has been brought up merely to boil the tea-kettle, and to assist in the gossip inseparable from the practice, is a mere consumer of food, a pest to her employer, and a curse to her husband, if any man be so unfortunate as to fix his affections upon her.
Perhaps I had better stick to coffee. Or then again, I suspect Cobbett might have been able to find a fair few things to say on that subject, too!

Monday, May 28, 2007

What are you reading right now?

I promised Faith I would do this meme when I got home. I'll cheat a little and include my holiday reading as well as my current reads.

I rarely read fiction these days. I remember a friend saying that as she got older she read less fiction and more non-fiction. The same has definitely happened to me. I did however read one fiction book while I was away: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, which had been sitting on my shelf for months (or maybe years?). A teenager with Asperger's syndrome finds a neighbour's dog killed and decides to solve the mystery. As a result he discovers more than he bargained for. This book won a number of literary prizes for the way it uses the first person to show how the boy sees and interacts with the world. Well written, but I'm not sure I liked it.

Two holiday reads: Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson, and Give Me Ten Seconds, by John Sargeant. I enjoy Bill Bryson, and this collection of articles originally written for a newspaper magazine made good light holiday reading. The second book was a biography of a former BBC Chief Political Correspondent, borrowed from Tevye's holiday pile. One of those books I finished more or less in spite of myself. Too much about the internal workings of the BBC, and not as many insights into journalism and politics as I expected. Tevye felt the same, so why I bothered to start the book in the first place I'm not sure!

Today I started reading Cottage Economy by William Cobbett, with a foreword by G.K.Chesterton. This is a gem! Written in 1821 it combines instructions for labourers wishing to improve their standard of living with commentary on contemporary life and politics. Want to know how to make beer, 36 gallons at a time? Or rush lights? Or how to fatten a pig? All there! His comments on the virtues of beer and the evils of tea are priceless. Quotes to follow.

Kathryn needs ...

I couldn't resist trying this one. Type "(Your name) needs" into Google and see what you get. Ignoring the less savoury results ...

1. Kathryn needs help. (You bet she does!)
2. Kathryn needs to execute her plan to stop the train very precisely. (Oops! Really shouldn't have clicked on that link, but it did look intriguing.)
3. Kathryn needs to be self-motivated, organised and able to get on with a wide range of people of different ages. (Well, yes ... that would apply to most homeschooling mothers. Or most mothers, come to that.)
4. Kathryn needs pieces of cheese. (And chocolate)
5. Kathryn needs time in the sun. (Which is why I feel so much better for that holiday.)
. Kathryn needs to go down for her first nap three hours after wakening. (I wish!)
7. Kathryn needs an earlier bedtime. (That would explain number six then.)
8. Kathryn needs to stop thinking of herself as only a mother and wife. (Why?)
9. Kathryn needs to lose about fifteen more pounds to get to a healthy weight. (OK. Though if I'm honest twenty five would be better.)
10. Kathryn needs one more ticket for Friday. (Not for Friday, but I do need to get tickets for Wednesday and Saturday - Pirates of the Caribbean III and Angel's band concert, in that order.)

HT: Elizabeth at Frabjous Days

We are back

Back in the land of good plumbing and bad weather! And yes, we had a lovely break. Very lazy, with a shamefully large amount of time just spent at the pool.

I tried to take photos, really I did ... but someone who shall remain nameless (but is older than one and younger than ten) launched a snatch-and-grab "let me see!" raid on the camera, managed to flip open the battery compartment, cut the power, upset the memory card and rendered it unreadable. As I am a very erratic photographer who forgets the camera half the time, and then forgets to take photos for half the remainder, this was not a disaster of any magnitude. I did manage a bit of last minute catching up ...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gone away!

Back in two weeks, when I will catch up with the "What are you reading right now?" meme for which Faith has tagged me.

Picture by Mafleen, from Flickr

Thursday Thirteen #5: Random facts about Greece

Tomorrow we leave for two weeks of sea, sun and sand on the Greek island of Corfu, so this week's theme had to be Greek. Here are thirteen random facts ...

1. The Greek name for Greece is Ellas or Ellada (pronounced Ell-ah-tha)

2. The Greek prime minister is Konstantinos Karamanlis, leader of the Nea Demokratia (New Democracy) party.

3. Greek soldiers can wear skirts and pom-poms on their feet and still manage to look military.

4. The Greek sewage system cannot handle toilet paper :(.

5. Do not dither when waiting to disembark from a Greek ferry. You might find yourself being carried off to the next destination.

6. In 2002 the Euro became the Greek currency, after 3000 years of using the drachma.

7. Greece is the only place I have stood inside the crater of a volcano. To be honest, it is the only place I have ever seen a volcano.

8. Never, ever, go to Athens in August. The Athenians don't - they migrate somewhere cooler and less polluted.

9. The tallest mountain in Greece is Mount Olympus. Yes, it is real.

10. In the Greek Orthodox Church the sign of the Cross is made in the opposite direction to the practice in the Roman Catholic Church (touching the right shoulder before the left, instead of left, then right).

11. The population of Greece is just over 11 million. Over a quarter of the population lives in Athens.

12. Corfu is said to have over 3 million olive trees.

13. The Greek for "Good morning" (kalimera) sounds rather like the Greek for a certain marine animal (kalamari). Greeks are very polite, so when accosted by tourists with a cheery greeting of "squid!" they will smile sweetly and not point out the error.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Knit the Classics

For some reason Brideshead made me think of hats and Catholicism of course, but not being Catholic I was unsure how to go about knitting a rosary. So I knit a hat instead.
If you like books and knitting you have to check out this unique blog: Knit the Classics. As in knit Brideshead Revisted or Dante's Inferno, not "knit this classic sweater". Fancy knitting Charles' Beret, or a Lilliputian Sweater?

Oh, this is just ... classic!

My ecological footprint

I am reading a book about living in an ecologically and ethically responsible way (the title escapes my foggy brain) and was inspired to check out my "ecological footprint". Apparently it takes 3.6 hectares of land to keep me in the style to which I am accustomed. Not bad compared to the average for someone living in the UK of 5.3 hectares, but not good considering that there are only 1.8 hectares of productive land per person when the earth is divided between its entire population. I suspect the plus points in my favour are that there are five of us living in one house, I rarely drive alone, and I also walk quite a bit. On the other hand we eat a fair amount of meat, and are not very energy efficient.

Being the curious person I am, I input exactly the same answers but pretended I lived in the USA, somewhere with the similar weather to New York. Converting the European hectares (hectares? what are hectares?) to imperial acres, here is a breakdown of the two results.

Average footprint 13.2 acres
My footprint
- food 3.7
- mobility 0.7
- housing 2.2
- goods / services 2.2
giving a total of 8.8 acres

Average footprint 24 acres
My footprint
- food 4.9
- mobility 0.7
- housing 6.7
- goods / services 6.7
giving a total of 19 acres

If everyone lived like the real, British me, we would need 2 planets; if everyone lived like the imaginary, American me, we would need 4.3.

Take the Earth Day Ecological Footprint quiz here.

Good news for home educators

The government here has been reviewing the law regarding home education and considering whether to impose new regulations. Given the general trend in Europe - both France and Ireland have already introduced restrictive homeschooling laws - and that the current government has turned over-regulation into an art form, I was pessimistic about the outcome. Consultation documents suggested that various changes would be made, including compulsory registration for home educated children, more intrusive powers of inspection, and possibly the imposition of the National Curriculum on homeschoolers.

The new guidelines were issued today and to say I am pleasantly surprised is an understatement. No change! Everything remains as it was, and better still, the guidelines clarify the limits of the role of education authorities with respect to homeschooling families. This should make it harder for them to overstep their legal bounds. Those of us who form the silent majority of home educators here owe a big debt to those pressure groups who have worked hard to influence these guidelines. Good job!

Read the BBC News report here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Where are you on the political compass?

Hmmm! Very interesting! Recognising that the old distinctions between left and right have blurred and become more complex, The Political Compass claims to make it possible to map your political leanings more accurately by using four points of reference - left, right, authoritarian and libertarian.

I find it increasingly difficult to define myself politically, as I feel uncomfortable with all the main political parties here. I generally vote differently in local and national elections and my vote is largely personal rather than ideological. We are fortunate to have a Member of Parliament who is pro-life and pro-family - a great rarity in British politics - so he gets my vote regardless of party. To be honest, if I had to vote solely along party lines I am not sure I would feel able to vote at all. From my position of political disillusion I was intrigued to see where I would fall on the political compass.

The result? I am mildly left and libertarian. Left? As I was almost exactly in line with Pope Benedict XVI, I will settle for that - though he was authoritarian where I was libertarian, courtesy of a distaste for overbearing government. The political figure closest to my position on the chart was Gandhi, another figure I admire.

So, where on the political compass are you? Take the test and find out.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

New look

My blog has a new look, thanks to a new blog ... Moms Who Blog, where a generous group of experienced bloggers are passing on tips and tricks. They inspired me to move beyond my profound ignorance of html and tackle a new template. I think I am pleased.

They also include advice on finding copyright free photos to use on blogs. I'm afraid I haven't been doing this correctly, though I have been avoiding photos from private sources and sticking to those available on public sites such as the BBC and Wikipedia.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #4: England in May

1. May (hawthorn) blossom

2. Maypoles

3. Ice cream vans

4. Ducks

5. Lambs

6. The Padstow 'Obby 'Oss

7. Picnics

8. Bluebells

9. Cricket

10. May fayres

11. Cow parsley

12. Well dressing

13. The Helston Floral Dance

Slightly late due to technical issues! Glad to report that my internet connection is now fully, wirelessly restored :)

And no, everything in England isn't quaint and rural, but I thought it would be fun to share a few things that are.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A candle for Heather

Like many other homeschoolers, I enjoyed taking part in the recent Homeschool Blog Awards. One of the organisers, Heather, was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour and is undergoing surgery today, May 3rd. Alice at Cottage Blessings suggested "lighting a candle" for Heather, by including this picture in blog entries along with a reminder to pray for Heather and her family. Please join us.

You can also find the code for the "praying for Heather" button in my sidebar here.

I'm wired

... though not yet wireless. Thank you St. Isidore! And also thanks to a nice, helpful young man from the Tiscali helpline in India who gave me advice and even called me back to talk me through setting up a borrowed modem-router on the Mac.

More good computer news ... in a perverse sort of way. Possibly. The DVD drive on my new, much unloved Windows Vista laptop appears not to be working. Could I be looking at a refund on yet another machine? Surely not! But if so, then I will be looking for a used MacBook rather than go through more pain with Windows Vist-grrr! I'm trying not to get too hopeful.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good ... I am managing to do a reasonable number of workouts. I have decided I like the Taebo one much the best - it leaves me feeling fitter and stronger, rather than tired and achy. Every other day seems about right for now.

The bad ... while exercising yesterday, I stopped for a drink and knocked my glass of water over the wireless router. Our wireless connection disappeared.

The ugly ... several wasted hours and much frustration later I can't resurrect the router, or find any way of getting an internet connection on either of our computers. I can like get a connection using my old broadband modem and my neighbours' laptop, but can't load it on to either my iMac or the WindowsVista (grrrr!) laptop.

Who is the patron saint of computers? I need help!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Voices from the past

Karen E posted a link on her blog to an internet poetry archive where you can hear poets reading their own work. It reminded me that a while ago I turned on the radio and caught a snippet of Hilaire Belloc reciting one of his poems, in an old, crackly recording that sent shivers down my spine. I wondered what else might be lurking on the internet. I couldn't find Belloc but here are ...

Any shivers out there?