Spiritual Matters

Lockdown restrictions will continue to be eased this week. Of particular interest to me is the resumption of public worship in our churches and the re-opening of pubs – both of which will happen on 4th July.

Reopening of Churches
The Diocese of Westminster has not yet, as far as I am aware, issued any guidelines regarding measures to keep priest and congregation as safe as possible. I imagine, though, it will look something like the Diocese of Portsmouth’s:

(I nabbed this from my friend Stuart on Twitter, so thank you to him!)

Portsmouth’s guidelines mention that there will be limited numbers at Mass ‘based on capacity with 1m between seats’. They also say that the church should be cleaned between Masses.

My parish church can seat several hundred people. It isn’t a huge church but cleaning it between each Mass might take a fair bit of time (depending, of course, on volunteer numbers). If we currently have four Masses on Sunday, I wonder if the Parish Priest will reduce it to, say, two to allow time for cleaning to take place. I could only see four Masses happening if there were two in the morning and two in the afternoon, and I am not sure there will be the volunteer numbers for that. Any reduction in the number of Masses, and the more limited numbers allowed to attend, as required by the one metre spacing rule, could make attending at all difficult. What to do?

Our cardinal offers an answer in this video.

He says that the obligation to hear Mass on Sunday remains suspended, and suggests going during the week. I think that is what I might do. Although I live very close to my parish church so could probably guarantee getting a seat every week, I like the idea of combining Mass attendance with exercise and walking to the cathedral. It would be a three hour plus round trip.

Happily, the cardinal also says that confessions will resume. This is very good news. I last went to confession in February so am in good need of a spiritual scrub.

The Reopening of Pubs
Like any other sane Englishman, I like visiting the pub (!). I doubt very much, though, that I will visit one after they reopen. Not for a while, anyway. For privacy’s sake, I am not enthusiastic about passing my contact details to the bar staff. The pubs will be very clean and tidy in order to ensure that they are safe places to be. I respect that but the thought of drinking beer in such a sterile environment does not appeal to me. In time, I might become reconciled to the thought of doing so. In the meantime, I think I will stay at home and stick to sipping a little wine in the manner of St. Paul (1 Tim 5:23) even if my stomach is in better shape than Timothy’s.

Bringing The Two Together
In the past, I have often celebrated being absolved of my sins after going to confession by going to the pub for lunch and a glass of wine. I don’t think I will be doing that next time but I wouldn’t bet against it! Being in a sate of grace is a rather marvellous state to be in and well worth celebrating.

It’s Lights Out…

On-Line Gaming
As I have probably mentioned before, I love watching people play video games online. My current favourite is Codemasters’ F1 2019 – soon to be replaced by this year’s iteration of the game. The lock down period has been a blessing for discovering Formula 1 Twitch live streamers.

As I write these words, however, I am listening to an LMP 1 car race around LeMans in a virtual 24 Hours of LeMans live stream. Each team has four drivers, each of whom drives for a certain number of hours before handing over the to the next person. I don’t know who organised this race but it must have taken a lot of work. I imagine the stamina required to race is also pretty high!

The Last of Us Part 2
I discovered Twitch in 2014 when I started watching The JHN Files play the original Last of Us game. I was captivated by both game and the live broadcast. The Last of Us Part 2 finally came out on Friday, and I can’t wait to play it.

The game was originally meant to be released at the end of May but earlier that month was suddenly and indefinitely delayed. A specific reason wasn’t given for this, which led me to wonder if it was because the game – in which your character has to survive in a world that has been ravaged by a pandemic – might not sell so well in a world currently being ravaged by, well, a pandemic.

Fast forward a few weeks and all of a sudden, Naughty Dog, the company behind the game, announced that it would come out on 19th June. Why? Probably because an irate developer who had left the company/been sacked published spoilers about the game online. Thankfully, I managed to avoid those so can still look forward to diving into the game as soon as I have a chance.

The Path to Rome
Today is 21st June. In 1901, Hilaire Belloc is eight days away from Rome. I have written my tweets (@PathtoRome1901) covering his journey up to the 25th. Today, I hope to write the last four days worth. Then, I will be able to relax and think about ‘what next’? I want to read more Belloc. Do I have the time? If I do, what should I read?

Protests
The protests that started out as a reaction to the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis (USA) are now in some places morphing into a wider campaign against statues of people from various periods and backgrounds.

Predictably, statues of slave owners have been pulled down – here in the U.K. a statue of Edward Colston was dropped into Bristol Harbour by protesters.

Less predictably, I have seen photos/footage of a statue of Union General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant being pulled down; the same treatment has been meted out to a statue of George Washington and St. Junipero Serra. A bust of the novelist Cervantes has also been defaced. All these have happened in America.

What’s going on? I have read that Grant only ever owned one slave, who he inherited, and who he set free as soon as he was able. Cervantes was not a slave owner but rather, held as a slave for several years. Maybe these details are incorrect. But if they are right, they provide proof that for some people, what started out as a Black Lives Matter protest is dissipating into a campaign against anyone they happen to dislike. If that is the case, their campaign, lacking any solid foundation will surely collapse in due course.

But maybe they know perfectly well what they are doing and these acts of destruction are part of a deliberate campaign to destroy public remembrances of the past. Is this a good thing? No. Individuals or unauthorised groups who destroy statues are declaring that they have the authority to shape how society remembers the past. But this authority belongs only to the people as a whole (through the government) or the private organisation that owns the statue. Individuals who destroy statues or any public remembrance make themselves petty tyrants.

If the government or private organisation takes down the statue without considering first the pros and cons of doing so also acts in a tyrannical fashion. Once a statue goes up, it should only come down after the matter has been given full consideration. Nothing else will do.

When we ask ‘what is going on’, there is, of course, another option that we should be alert to: that agent provocateurs are acting in order to discredit their rivals.

Football Returns
The Premier League returned last Wednesday. Sky Television is broadcasting its games on two channels – one with fake crowd noise and one without. Neither are satisfactory. Hearing the fake crowd noise and seeing the empty stands is too distracting to be acceptable. Watching a game without any crowd sound at all takes away any sense of urgency and almost all the excitement. With that said, I prefer watching the games with no sound as at least its more honest.

I am not fond of the fact that all the players take the knee/have the Black Lives Matter wording on their shirts. I dislike particular causes getting so much publicity when there are so many others out there that are extremely important and necessary yet get little or no publicity at all.

Sainsbury’s
Up till last Friday, the queue for Sainsbury’s was getting shorter and shorter every week. On Friday, though, it was a rather longer. A sign of things to come? Probably not. I think I just arrived at the wrong moment. For example, a week or two ago, I arrived at the store when there was virtually no queue and left when it was as long as this week’s.

Also, per Government guidelines, I have started wearing a face mask when in store. Strangely, though, most people are now not doing so! The other week, one of the Sainsbury’s staff very kindly showed me how to wear it in a way that reduces the amount of fogging over on my glasses. Very useful! (I’m probably the last person in the world to realise this but in case you don’t know, you just bend the metal strip so that it follows the contour of your nose).

The Camino
I have heard that the Camino is opening again in July, which is great news. It won’t be like before, though: face masks must be worn in albergues, and I think there will be a reduced number of beds available. Next year is a Holy Year for Santiago. This should mean that pilgrim numbers go up, up, up. It will be interesting to see what happens if the coronavirus remains an issue (as will likely be the case bar the discovery of a vaccine). I would like to walk the Francés again next year. In the current climate, I really don’t know if that will happen.

An Unexpected Letter
This week, I received a letter from HMRC saying that I had paid too much tax over the last year. The reimbursement will be very gratefully received. This week, I found an old USB stick and on it was a document with my Government Gateway number on it. This means I can finally sort out my tax status for my current job, which is a great relief.

Out of This World

Hey, here’s me checking in. How are you?

As I write these words, the clock reads 6:46am so I have beaten my previous early post record by a clean twelve minutes. In these days of lock down we get our pleasures where we can.

Who am I kidding – I would have mentioned this anyway; it’s an easy way to get into the post, after all (blogging-wise, there’s nothing worse than knowing that you want to write something but don’t know how to start).

***

So, how are things here? Well, my parents and I remain well, for which I give thanks. Overnight, one of my fillings fell out. I wasn’t surprised – the same filling has come out several times before. The shape and, I think, shallowness, of the filling has made it an impossible one to stay in. My tooth doesn’t hurt so I might just leave it be until my next scheduled dentist’s appointment.

***

Last Sunday was the first anniversary of my arrival at Santiago cathedral at the end of my first Camino. As soon as I am able, I will write a post about this. I know part of what I want to say so just have to work out the rest before I put finger to keyboard. Next Sunday is the first anniversary of my return home so I shall try to do it by then. If you want to know how I felt last Sunday, though, well, I teared up when I listened to ‘Santiago de Compostela’ on The Way soundtrack. This music covers the arrival of Martin Sheen et al at the cathedral and the swinging of the Botafumeiro, which always moves me deeply when I watch the film. Here is the music:

I feel so much for people who intended to walk the Camino this year but whose plans were scuppered by the coronavirus. I hope all of them are able to reschedule to next year or the year after.

***

Yesterday, 19th May was the 85th anniversary of T. E. Lawrence’s death following a road accident: he was riding his motorbike home down a country road when he turned a corner and was forced to swerve to avoid two boys on bicycles. Lawrence was launched from his bike and suffered head injuries that would prove to be fatal.

Unsurprisingly, there is a conspiracy theory regarding his death as a car was seen driving away from the scene of the accident, but I don’t think it has gained any traction among Lawrence scholars. At least, not among the few that I have read. A new film about Lawrence is due out soon – Lawrence After Arabia; judging by its IMDB synopsis, it will take a deep dive into the conspiracy theory:

Retiring to his cottage in Dorset Lawrence hopes to forget his past fighting in Arabia but soon he is drawn into political intrigue and his many enemies begin to plot against him. Was a motorcycle crash an accident or attempt at assassination by the British Secret Service? 

IMDB

According to IMDB, Lawrence After Arabia is due out on 16th October this year so going to see it might just make a nice early birthday present for me.

***

Apollo 13 (9/10)
I have wanted to watch this film for ages but couldn’t find it streaming anywhere. While I was looking through our DVD shelf the other day, I found that we owned a copy of it. A very nice surprise! The film is as good as its reputation. Tom Hanks leads the way as Jim Lovell, captain of the ill fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon. The acting, script, special effects, music… everything about this film is pretty much spot on.

The American (8/10)
Okay, the facts:
Stars: George Clooney and the Italian countryside.
Directed by Anton Corbijn.

The American is about an assassin named Jack who is ambushed by unknown assassins outside his Arctic hideaway. He manages to kill them but is forced to kill his lover: she didn’t know his profession and there can be no loose ends.

Jack heads south to Rome where his handler tells him to go a small Italian town and await further orders. Not long later, Jack is given another job: to make a rifle for another assassin. He does so, but realises that it is to be used on him. In the denouement of the film we see what he does to get out of this very unpromising situation.

Anton Corbijn is a photographer so The American looks very good. I mean, George Clooney is in it. It is set in Italy so of course it was going to look good but under Corbijn’s directorship it looks even better. The story is told very tightly. Music is used only sparingly. This means we really focus on Jack – despite knowing so little about him – and become much more unsettled than we would if we were watching a Bond or Jason Bourne film.

I found the denouement of the film quite confusing. One or two parts of it still are. On the whole, though, I enjoyed the picture. It was very different to standard Hollywood fare, and while I like that, too, I appreciated this.

***

Finally, Monday just one (18th May) was the one hundredth anniversary of Karol Józef Wojtyła, more well known as Pope St. John Paul II. Fifteen years on from his death (15 years already!) I still miss him. He was pope when I became a Catholic so will always be special to me – even though nowadays I am not as right on in my Catholic views as I used to be. I think in the end it will be people like him (rather than many living clerics – and laymen for that matter) who keep me in the Church. Pope John Paul: Ora Pro Nobis!

As You Write It

I am writing this post at 6:58am. I usually try to do a little creative work early in the morning but thought I would turn to the blog today as I need to catch-up again.

Well, a few things have happened since my last post on 3rd May.

Last week, one of my aunts died. She had been suffering from dementia and latterly had moved to a care home. I don’t know the cause of her death although in the current context one might hazard a guess. I wasn’t close to her – I hadn’t met her since the 90s – but one of her sons is an occasional visitor to our house and I keep up with his and some of his family’s life on Facebook so I feel for them.

A few days ago, my brother’s mother-in-law died – I believe of natural causes; she had been very ill for sometime. I never met her at all but I am sad for my brother’s wife.

A couple of days ago, I was just about to start my daily exercise when an e-mail notification flashed up on my screen: my parish had started livestreaming a Mass. Very unusual as it was 2:22pm. Afternoon Masses are not usually until much later, and then at the top of the hour.

I read the text accompanying the notificaiton: RIP Derek Vitali. This cut me to the quick. Derek and his wife were regular attendees to the 8am Sunday Mass – the one at which I altar serve. Derek himself was a reader. He had an amazing voice – deep, clear, and authoritative. It was always a pleasure listening to him. We often spoke ‘back stage’ before or after the Mass as well. He was a very kind and happy person; full of good humour. As with my aunt, I don’t know the circumstances of his death but I will miss him very much.

Requiescant in Pace.

My parents and I remain well. I continue my social media work, exercise, reading and preparation for creative writing.

Howards End (9/10)
After watching The Martian, I turned to this Merchant Ivory classic. Leonard Bast’s death remains incredibly sad and frustrating. If only the Wilcox family had had an ounce of compassion it need never have happened. It’s worse because I can identify with Bast – I am not as poor as he is but without the help of others I probably would be. I appreciate his love of literature and nature, his day dreaminess as well. I try not to think about how it is not just the Wilcox’s but society itself that brings him down because then I might have to ask questions about my own society – not so much or only in connection with me but in regards all of us.

K-19: The Widowmaker (8/10)
My second Russian submarine disaster film. This one is set in the early 60s. The K-19 is the USSR’s latest super-sub. It has also been badly constructed. It should remain in port but the Soviet Navy chiefs want it at sea to conduct missile tests so off it goes. Predictably, disaster follows: Piping in the nuclear reactor breaks. Water coolant can no longer get through to the reactor itself. As a result, its temperature rises to catastrophic levels. The crew undertake a race against time to repair the piping before the high temperatures cause a nuclear explosion that could in turn lead to nuclear war – rather unhelpfully, the sub’ is close by an American spy station.

K-19 is a solid action-drama. Harrison Ford acts against type as Captain Alexei Vostrikov who seems to care more about the Party than his crew. Liam Neeson’s Mikhail Polenin is the noble submarine commander who does his best to defend his crew’s interests against the captain.

In the end, Vostrikov comes good: he puts the men first. If I have one criticism of the film it is that it didn’t develop Vostrikov’s character enough. We know that despite his party loyalty he has a suspect background but in the film he goes from being cruel to kind in fairly short order.

John Wick 3: Parabellum (8.5/10)
I finished watching this yesterday. John Wick 3 is very stylish, and violent. It has a very interesting internal mythology that raises the film above being just about the violence though I don’t know by how much. I think I need to watch the first two films in the series.

Happy Birthday Formula 1!
Formula 1 turned seventy years old, yesterday (13th May). The first ever F1 Grand Prix took place at Silverstone in the presence of King George VI. There was big news to go with the birthday, of course, with the announcement from Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel that he would be leaving the team at the end of the year. Let’s hope we can go racing and he can get a win (after Hamilton has won his seventh title, preferably) before the year’s end.

Part One of The Darling Blogs of May

I have fallen behind again so here is another catch-up.

Do you notice anything different about this blog? No adverts! I finally had the money to upgrade the blog. There’s more besides – welcome to sehnsuchtandwine.com. My own domain name <3.

All remains well in the family house. From one day to the next we just go about our daily business. For me, that means work and exercise, Duolingo, reading and creative work (I am still inching forward with that). Some days are more productive than others. It’s hard to write about it here as I have done so before and I would only be repeating myself.

Thankfully, I have not been scammed again.

In the twelve days since my last blog post I have watched some more films during my exercise:

The Sting 9/10
In my post of 18th April (here) I mentioned that I was watching this Robert Redford – Paul Newman classic but then forgot to review and rate it in my post of the 21st (here). I first saw The Sting back in the 90s and remembered it very fondly. Sometimes, films that we saw years ago don’t live up to our memory of them when we watch them again but I would say that The Sting more or less did. I say ‘more or less’ because while the film overall is extremely well written and acted, the actual sting at the heart of the picture is over far too quickly. After two hours of build up, it’s over and done with in ten minutes. Nowadays, the sting itself would take up half an hour of screen time, if not more. Perhaps that is my problem – I am not looking at that scene in terms of how it fits into the picture as is but as a contemporary film lover.

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows 8/10
After watching Sherlock Holmes, I moved straight on to its sequel. Game of Shadows is very much more of the same but the film never gets boring thanks to a witty script, Robert Downey Jr, and a strong support cast, most notably Jude Law as Watson and Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty.

Sense and Sensibility 9/10
W
e have been blessed by some great Jane Austen adaptations over the years – the BBC Pride & Prejudice, the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma and this version of Sense & Sensibility, directed by Ang Lee and starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. It is almost the perfect film. Seriously, I can’t think of anything greatly wrong about it: the script, the casting, the performances, the music… it all just slips into place perfectly.

The Martian 9/10
Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, a botanist and astronaut who is part of a manned mission to Mars. The expedition is prematurely ended, however, when a violent storm threatens to destroy the astronauts’ martian lander. The other astronauts are able to get into the lander but Watney is left behind after being seemingly killed by a boulder. Unbeknownst to anyone, though, he survives. Making his way back to the ‘hab’ – the astronauts’ habitation unit – Watney uses his botanical skills to make enough food to survive on. At first, he has nothing to survive for as no one knows he is alive. Thanks to satellites, however, NASA eventually realises the truth and tries to launch a rescue mission. It fails. Thanks to China and a soupçon of mutiny among Watney’s fellow astronauts, a new plan is hatched. The Martian is a terrific action film. A great script, characters, and actors. You are really there with them. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I finished Clare Lydon‘s Nothing to Lose this week. It is not by any means her best book but still a good read. 7.5/10
Nothing to Lose is about a woman named Scarlet who is made homeless after a flood destroys her home. She goes to live with Joy, town mayor, while her flat is cleaned up and the two fall in love. Nothing to Lose is at its strongest in the portrayal of Scarlet and Joy’s budding love for one another. It is at its weakest when Lydon has her characters use popular LGBTQ slogans and ideas. This moves them from being ‘real’ people to no more than fronts for ideas that Lydon wants to insert into her story. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a character who believes that ‘love is love’ or that ‘love wins’ but having them use or refer to real life slogans/ideas should definitely be avoided unless absolutely necessary. I also didn’t like how Scarlet pushes Joy to be out but that is a personal thing; if I was her editor, I wouldn’t have suggested she remove that element of the story.

I have started using Zoom. Welcome to the world, MJM! I had a work Zoom meeting last week, which went well; I zoomed with the family the other day and before both those occasions had a wonderful evening doing a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with friends and friends-of-friends, all over Zoom. Thank you, Liz!

So, it’s now May. I feel okay. My left ear is blocked. I am hoping olive oil drops will soften the ear wax so that I can get it out. If I can’t, I wonder if I will be able to go to my surgery. I may have to wait until it reopens properly (at the moment, doctor’s appointments are by phone only).

Today, Sunday, has been a lazy day so far. I have to admit, even though I encourage myself to be lazy on Sundays – because I am busy the rest of the week – I feel a bit unsettled by it. I don’t like the idea of deriving my happiness by the number of things I have done, though, so I shall have to think about that.

This week, I have started watching Fr. Ninian Doohan’s Masses on You Tube. I love his homilies as he speaks about history as well as spirituality. Last week, I learnt a few things about St. Catherine of Siena (she was not actually an enclosed nun) and heard Father took about St. Alcuin.

It was the 26th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s untimely death on Friday – always a very sad time; all the more so since it was not only the great Senna who died that weekend at Imola but new F1 driver, Roland Ratzenberger as well. Requiescant in Pace.

And here I will stop. Thank you for reading this blog post. I hope you are staying safe and feeling well. God bless you and yours.

Catching Up

It’s been a few days since the last post, and all remains well in our household. I have been up and down – second guessing anything that doesn’t feel quite right with my body, always expecting the worst. Otherwise, it’s been a case of writing out a To Do list every day and trying to keep busy by doing as much of it as possible.

I started writing out my To Do list just after I wrote my last blog post and it has been great at enabling me to see very clearly what I am doing right (the things I need to do) and what, day after day, I am not doing at all (my more creative work). Of course, I knew where I was succeeding and failing before but there is nothing like seeing it on the page to really bring the truth home. Now all I need to do is BE CREATIVE (still easier said than done).

I am still exercising. My sales tell me I am losing weight, too, which is great, although I am always suspicious that the scales are not so accurate. I am still watching films. Here are the ones that have carried me across the hour,

In my last post I said I was going to watch Frozen; I did, but only after two other films. The first was Genius (2006). I have wanted to watch this picture for the last three years – it stars Colin Firth as the famous book editor Max Perkins and covers the years of his relationship with an author named Thomas Wolfe. Perkins edited F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway’s books so it was for them as well as Firth that I watched the film. They show up in neat cameos by Guy Pearce and Dominic West respectively. Jude Law absolutely chews the furniture up as the brilliant but selfish man-child Wolfe. By contrast, Firth’s Perkins is about as exciting as the furniture. Despite that, I still rate Firth 11/10. Why wouldn’t, I; he’s Colin Firth. The film, though, while I enjoyed it, was a bit flat so I rate that 7/10.

After Genius, I turned to another literary film – Vita & Virginia (2018). V squared is about the love affair between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. Sackville-West is happily married to diplomat Harold Nicolson (who I spent the whole film confusing with Harold Acton) but her bisexuality and strong sex drive lead her to pursue Virginia Woolf. At first, she has no success: Woolf is distant in her psychological fragility and not interested in Vita’s advances, but eventually, there is a breakthrough. The story of Max Perkin’s relationship (all professional, by the way) with Thomas Wolfe is told with a very straight bat. Vita and Virginia’s, however, with much more energy both in the plot and – especially – in the music. I rate the film 8/10.

After V & V I finally got round to watching Frozen. At first it felt like there were too many songs but I soon got used to them and more into the story. The king and queen of Arendelle are lost at sea. Their eldest daughter Elsa, rules in their stead. On the day of her coronation, a magical condition that she suffers from – the ability to turn things to ice – runs out of control. She flees from the capital city and hides in the mountains where she creates a fabulous ice palace to live in. Realising that the whole of Arendelle is now stuck in a permanent winter, Elsa’s sister, Anna, pleads with her to reverse what she has done. But Elsa can’t. A wise troll tells Anna that only an act of love (not that kind! This is Disney, remember) can heal Elsa and reverse the winter. The story is simple and well told. With its princesses and dashing men it is a very typical Disney tale but there is more to it than that:- Elsa does not see her ice powers as a curse but simply part of who she is (see the lyrics to the song Let It Go). It’s easy to see why she has become an important figure within the LGBT community. And while the men may be dashing, it is Elsa’s sister Anna who searches for her. I rate the film 8/10.

Finally, I watched Spiderman: Far From Home (2019). There were points during this film that I had my doubts about it – it combines super heroics with teen drama and comedy and I felt that the comedy was getting a bit too far ahead but the director (Jon Watts) managed to reign it all in in good time and make a good, fun picture. I think Far From Home came out not long after Avengers: End Game. If so, Marvel did well giving their fans a film to laugh as well as gasp at after the terrible events of the earlier picture. I rate it 8/10.

My current film is The Sting (1973). I first saw this film in the 90s and have been wanting to watch it ever since. When I saw it was on the Sky app, I couldn’t start it quickly enough!

Well, here in the U.K., we will be in lockdown for at least three more weeks. And then, who knows. I haven’t been paid for two months now and my bank account is creeping towards the overdraft limit. I might get away with it for this months bills, but I won’t for May’s, so that is a concern.

I started writing notes again for my Camino story this week, which was a great boon. As I said above, though, I need to be more creative. Not just one day here and there, but every day. I also had a good idea for the twitter stories I want to write. It was a combination of two separate ideas that have come to me previously so the way in which they merged effortlessly into one was very appreciated.

I am still reading Antony Beevor’s account of the Second World War. My goodness, it is a sad read: all the violence, violence, violence of the eastern front. After I finish this post, I will be picking it up again and reading about Pearl Harbour.

Outside – shopping trips have gone alright. Most people are respecting the stay-at-home instruction although I have seen a very few people standing around chatting.

A Living Metaphor

I have just finished saying Compline and a Rosary for Boris Johnson who has been moved to intensive care this evening after the symptoms of his illness got worse. Although his condition has deteriorated, the reports are that he is not on a ventilator so we can only hope and pray that he will get better.

When I prayed, I included in my intention all who are ill with the coronavirus at the moment, those who had died, and their loved ones. Boris Johnson is one name among many but because he is the Prime Minister he is more than just himself; he is a representative of this country – second only in importance to the Queen – a living metaphor for its health. To hear about him going into intensive care, therefore, even though his situation could be a lot worse, feels like a blow to the stability of the country, and by extension, to oneself. Whether one likes Johnson or not, we need that stability because it breeds hope.

Right now, I feel mostly okay. Thanks to the Novena I’ve been saying, the last week hasn’t been too bad. I can’t fool myself, though. Hearing about Boris Johnson makes me feel anxious. Every time I cough I wonder is this the start of a persistent cough. Every time my room gets a bit too hot (because the radiator has come on) I wonder if this is the start of a fever. The Novena is helping, but I am in the foothills.

I finished watching Divergent this morning. I rate the film 8/10. A pretty entertaining watch. It’s set in a dystopian future where, following a war, the citizens of Chicago have been divided into factions according to their dominant personality – Erudite, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor. The film follows the adventures of Tris who joins the Dauntless faction but who is actually divergent – she holds all the above mentioned personality traits within herself. This is a problem as the divergent are outcasts because they can’t be controlled. We watch as Tris goes through her Dauntless training before she discovers a plot to usurp supreme power by the leaders of Erudite and Dauntless. The film is by no means a classic but it has a good heart, decent story and acting; well worth a night in to watch. There are three films in the series and subject to their availability I will definitely try and watch the next two to see how the story resolves itself. The new film is Frozen.

The Post is Here

Corona Chronicles IX

Yesterday and today have been pretty okay days. However, Work – Exercise – Relax and not much else so still no creativity. On that point, I downloaded Google Sheets onto my iPad last night. My hope was that I would be able to copy and paste my Excel Camino Story plan onto a G. S. file. If I could do this, I would be able to examine and amend the plan, and think a little more clearly about the story, while relaxing away from my desk.

I was keen to do this because even though I work part time, I am at my desk for a large portion of the day so it would mean a lot to be able to work a little away from it. Happily, the copy and pasting was successful. I need to change the column lengths but once that is done, I’ll be able to get going again with the story.

Over the last two days, I watched The Post while exercising. I rate this film 8/10. In 1971, The New York Times published a secret government report which showed that successive American presidents had lied about their country’s involvement in the Vietnam war. President Nixon successfully applied in court to stop the paper publishing any more documents. The Washington Post, then a failing newspaper, took the case up and published more of the report. The American government took it to court but was defeated. The film is well written and acted – especially by Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the owner of the Post and Tom Hanks as its editor, Ben Bradlee – and directed by Steven Spielberg. I have to say, though, for a while, I wasn’t sure what genre the film was supposed to be. It should have been a thriller but didn’t feel quite suspenseful enough. In a strange way, it felt more like a biopic of the paper at a critical moment in America’s history. The last scene of the film, when a security guard discovers the break-in at the Watergate hotel was a great way to end the film. Tomorrow, I am going to start watching Divergence.

I read another chapter of C. S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms today. In this chapter, he looks at the Old Testament attitude towards death. According to Lewis, the Jewish view was not unlike that of, say, the ancient Greeks: there was nothing after death. As he points out, if you know your New Testament, you will know that by the time of Jesus, Jewish views had diverged. Some did believe there was life after death while others still maintained the opposite.

My father did the house shopping today. Tomorrow afternoon I will pop out for mine. I hope it goes as well as last week with everyone observing the two metre rule. I hope I remember to buy everything that I need.

What will happen after the coronavirus fades away? Is globalisation finished? I don’t think it will – we are all just too connected now – be but we surely have lessons to learn about how we respond to medical emergencies like this. Will we do so? I imagine there will be enquiries but I fear lessons will not be learned. I say this because I don’t think we changed anything after the banking crisis just over a decade ago. Democracy just doesn’t encourage long term thinking. Not that I am advocating authoritarian rule: this pandemic spread in part due to the Chinese government covering up what was happening. All in all it is not very encouraging. We just have to hope.

A Marvel

Corona Chronicles VIII

Home
Last weekend was all about me trying to get on with things in the face of low level anxiety about the coronavirus. There was a moment on Saturday when I lay down on my bed because that was all I could do but I soon got up again and, while the day perhaps wasn’t the most productive one ever, I still got a few things done – Duolingo, physio exercise and one or two other bits and pieces.

Sunday was a much better day in terms of activity. I gave myself a day off physio and exercising (I had gone light on Saturday because my leg was aching a bit) but managed to keep myself busy all day. I watched the live-stream of Mass from my parish church at 8am, wrote two posts for my Alexander the Great blog (this and this one), met my Duolingo target, and did a big load of washing up in the late afternoon. The Alexander blog posts were my big achievement. They take time and patience to write. Because of this, I usually only write one on any given day. On Sunday, however, I was inspired to write both Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

Monday went well. I still felt anxious but I managed make good use of the hours. In the late afternoon, I left a message for my friend C. (she is the saintly person I mentioned in last Thursday’s post. Because she is busy, I try to leave a voice mail message for her every weekend to let her know how the family and I are getting on). She called back and we talked and prayed together. We talked about how I am feeling and she gave me a Novena to say. It’s this one.

Today has been the best day I have had for the last week or so. I haven’t felt anxious at all. For once I have felt physically okay. Who knows how tomorrow will go but right now, I am grateful.

Saturday: I finished watching Hook. I rate it 7.8/10. Robin Williams plays Peter Banning who cares more for his work than he does his family. When Captain Hook kidnaps his children, Peter meets Tinkerbell who tells him that he is Peter Pan. She takes him back to Neverland where she and the Lost Boys successfully make him remember who he used to be. Pan defeats Hook in the showdown and wins the day. I might have rated Hook 8. but I would have preferred it to be set in its original time (Edwardian) time period. I love period dramas. With that said, there is nothing objectionable about its modernisation so don’t take this ‘criticism’ too seriously. Any film with Robin Williams in it is always going to be worth watching.

Saturday/Monday: After finishing Hook, I moved onto Captain Marvel. I did a bit of extra exercise yesterday and so finished the film in two days. I rate it 8/10. I really enjoyed this film. The story was okay to good. Brie Larson plays Vers, a woman from the planet Kree, who comes to earth to stop the Kree’s mortal enemy, the Skrull, from stealing an advanced piece of technology here. Nothing is as it seems, however (SPOILERS AHOY); Vers turns out to be a human woman named Carol Danvers, and it is the Kree who are the enemy not the Skrull. The plot twists were well done but what really made the film for me were the characters. It was great seeing a younger Agent Coulson and Nick Fury as (the film is set in the mid 90s). Most of all, though, I really like how they wrote Carol Danvers. She is very cool, determined and measured. No screaming, no deferring to the male characters (there’s a neat scene where she is talking to an old friend and sends Fury out of the room with the child, a complete reversal of goodness knows how many films when the woman is sent out), no nonsense. I hope Captain Marvel made enough to ensure a direct sequel. I finished the film today just before finishing my exercise so I haven’t decided what film to watch next.

Abroad
Shopping went well on Friday afternoon. The Sainsbury’s that I go to now only admits people a few at a time so we had to queue up but not for so very long. Most people seemed to be respecting the two metre rule. Soon, I was inside and running around so that I could get my shopping done as quickly as possible so that those after me didn’t have to wait to long. On Saturday, I went to the chemist for my parents’ prescriptions. Another queue but this time only two or three people. After the chemist, I popped over to my favourite corner shop, but forgot to buy the one thing I actually went there for. So, as soon as the live stream of mass finished on Sunday, I dashed over again to pick it up.

A.O.B.
I watched Pope Francis’ extraordinary Urbi et Orbi address on Friday afternoon. I didn’t mention it in my last post so I must have finished writing it before he started. The address took place in an empty St. Peter’s Square. Watching this small figure in white advance slowly, with a pronounced limp due to Sciatica, up the long ramp to the lectern amidst the vast expanse of grey stone and under the rain was very striking. This image, of the Pope lifting the Blessed Sacrament up, was also very powerful.

I downloaded this photo yesterday, I think from the Opus Dei website, here. Apologies if it came from somewhere else.

I watched a video today in which our own Cardinal Nichols confirmed that due to the lockdown the obligation of Catholics to go to Mass/Confession at Easter is removed. As you saw in my last post, I have my arguments with (members of) the Catholic Church sometimes, but I really do miss going to Mass, and confession.

I read a little over the weekend but I need to read more. There is also something else I am not doing: being creative. The problem is I am busy all day so that by the time I get to evening, I just want to relax. I need to try harder.

Jacks

Corona Chronicles VII

Home – Thursday
Yesterday, I had to take a medicine that I had been putting off using for two weeks. Why? Because I read the instructions and saw that one of the possible side effects is anaphylactic shock. That pretty much scared the life out of me so I put the medicine away and said I will Only Take It If I Have To. Yesterday, I did. Afterwards, my day came to a halt: I was waiting to see if I would suffer an anaphylactoid reaction.

It’s stupid, really. Did I really think my doctor is in the business of prescribing me medicines that he thinks will be harmful? Yes, an adverse reaction was possible but surely unlikely as the medicine would hardly be on sale if it was common.

This, though, is logic, and when you are anxious, you do not think logically.

So, there I was, stewing in my fear, when I received an unexpected call from a very dear friend. Actually, she’s more than a friend – she is the person who instructed me when I joined the Catholic Church so is also a kind of spiritual mentor. I think she’s a saint, as well. Talking to her took away the anxiety and afterwards I was, in a manner of speaking, a new man. Deo Gratias.

As for the medicine, it did its job and although I could have continued taking it, I have decided not to unless the problem reoccurs.

Home – Today
Yesterday and today I did my exercise straight after my physiotherapy exercises. I think I might carry on like this as it feels quite good and doesn’t make me particularly tired. During today’s exercise, I finished Bad Boys. Oh my. It’s loud, brash, and silly; but also witty and funny. I rate it 6.5/10. I might have rated it .5 higher but the stupidness of the film is just a tad too strong. With that said, Bad Boys II is on Netflix, sooooo. Actually, I better wait for the brain cells that I destroyed watching this one to repair, though. The new film is Hook (1991): Robin Williams plays Peter Banning who is actually Peter Pan. In this film, Peter has grown up and forgotten who he is (or was). In order to rescue his children from Captain Hook, he has to try and remember.

I’m watching this film for the same reason that I hope to read J. M. Barrie’s book in the days or weeks to come: as I get older and see my parents age, a part of me wishes that I could be young again. I don’t like them getting old. I don’t like the thought of them not being there. Of course, I better get used to it because ageing is inevitable: in me. In them. Watching Hook is a stupid attempt to pretend that it doesn’t have to happen.

Abroad
This afternoon, I went to Sainsbury’s. They were only letting a limited number of people in at a time so we had to queue for a little while outside. Everyone was very good at observing the two or so metre gap. The shop was pretty well stocked, though again, some shelves were empty. Tomorrow, I have to go back to the chemist for my parents.

On the way to Sainsbury’s, I passed some firemen who were trying to break into a pub. They weren’t thirsty – its fire alarm was ringing. I thought to myself that if they have to break in, the landlord will find it hard to replace the glass or door lock afterwards. Fortunately, though, by the time I walked by on my way home, the firemen were gone and the door appeared to be in one piece.

A.O.B.
I subscribe to the New Ways Ministry blog. I don’t like everything that they do because I don’t like the idea of being a dissenter, but I am glad they are there. This week, they quoted the traditionalist Cardinal Burke as implying that LGBT people are to blame for the coronavirus. You can read the article here. This kind of scapegoating makes me intensely angry, and I would very much like to tell him to get fucked but if I said it and meant it I would in my own way make myself no better than him. How should one respond to such an attack? Well, with love, of course. And forgiveness. 7×70. God bless, Cardinal Burke; I disagree with him and will pray for him; I get things wrong, too, so I hope he would pray for me if he read this.

What about the coronavirus? This is my view: it happened because for whatever reason the disease jumped from an animal to a human. God allowed it to do so; not because He is angry with anyone or any group but because He is not in the business of controlling our lives like that. It is part of the free will deal. If God intervened to stop the coronavirus’ ‘jump’ we might ask Him why he did not intervene to stop the movement of any other disease or ailment, and as a matter of fact, why doesn’t He intervene to stop [your issue of choice here]. Very soon, we would hand to God our free will. We may want to do that but He does not. He knows we would find it the most painful thing of all.

That’s my view. I can’t say I have thought deeply about it so if you disagree you will have to forgive me.

Yesterday’s New Ways Ministry blog (here) was about a queer Catholic singer named Gina Chavez. I’ve been waiting to read about someone like her for a long time. I’m glad to say her music is pretty good, too (This is her You Tube channel).

I started reading from my C. S. Lewis shelf yesterday. I read the first chapter of his Reflections on the Psalms, and then an essay based on a talk about him by a lady named Joan Murphy, who was – or is – his grandnephew. I looked her up after reading the talk and found that she was still alive in 2015. If she is alive today she’ll be 94. It was a lovely essay. Unfortunately, C. S. Lewis’ father, Albert, does not come off well in it but Lewis very much does. Murphy writes,

When I began to think about this talk and wrote down things that I wanted to say, I noticed that there were two words that became dominant in my memory, and they kept coming up and coming up again: the first was encouragement and the second was laughter. Those are two things that I remember about Jacks.

(Jacks: Lewis’ given Christian name was Clive but he hated it. While still a boy he announced to his family one day that from now on he would only answer to the name Jacks. In time, that became Jack, and the name stuck).

Encouragement and laughter. What lovely ways to be remembered.

Boris Johnson and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock were both diagnosed as having the coronavirus yesterday. We must pray for them, and indeed, for anyone in a position of authority who falls ill. I have thus far managed to resist the temptation to read comments about Johnson’s and Hancock’s diagnoses on Social Media (beyond the people that I follow) as I know they would be malevolent.