Wednesday, 31 December 2008


I rate Radio 4's Sunday program quite highly, as a round up of the week's religious/ethical/spiritual news.

I just wanted to reccomend this weeks's special on children in the UK. I'm not sure whether it's on both iPlayer and the podcast, but I found it very interesting.

That is all.

Monday, 29 December 2008


One of my favourites from a little book Mum and Dad got me for Christmas:
The England spinner [Ashley Giles] had just played the best Test series of his career and helped England to beat the West Indies and, as a result, he got the nickname 'King of Spin'. [H]is county Warwickshire decided to put the legend on commemorative mugs that they ordered for his testimonial year ... only for them to arrive with the word 'King of Spain'. He rapidly became known as 'El Gilo' and crowds have been known to sing 'Y Viva Espana' when he came on to bowl.
- A Steroid Hit The Earth: A Celebration of Misprints, Typos and Other Howlers, Martin Toseland.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

sia santificato il tuo nome, #2


'santificare' is a verb from the Latin 'sanctus', meaning 'holy'. We get the word 'saint' from there too. In Italian 'santo' means holy and 'il santo' means 'the holy person' - that is, saint. Because, as far as I know, 'santificare' is a regular verb (and not because you'll find a lot of use for it in everyday life) I'll give you the conjugation:

santificare(to) sanctify, sanctifying
santificoI sanctify
santifichiyou sanctify
santificahe/she/it sanctifies (+ you sanctify)
santifichiamowe sanctify
santificateyou (plural) sanctify
santificanothey sanctify

The regular endings are clearly in bold, but you may have noticed that I added an 'h' in before the endings that start with 'i'. That's because, in Italian 'ci' and 'ce' are both pronounced with the soft 'c' of 'cherry', but we want the pronunciation of the 'c' to stay the same. 'chi' and 'che' are pronounced with the hard 'c' of 'car', so we fix it with an 'h'.

From 'santificare' you get the word 'santificato' which means 'sanctified'. As in English, you can consider this in a couple of ways:

1. Adjective

il nome santificato - the sanctified name
i nomi santificati - the sanctified names

la volontà santificata - the sanctified will
le volontà santificate - the sanctified wills

Again, the adjective form has to agree with the noun, as above.

2. Past Participle

That is to say the form of the verb that you use for forming the perfect (past) tense, as follows:

ho santificato il tuo nome - I have sanctified your name

It's pretty close to the English for most verbs, in that Italian uses the verb '(to) have' for forming the past though it also means '(to) possess' and '(to) own'

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Finished uploading my music.

I've just finished making all the MP3s I intend to available for download:

Just to re-iterate - if anyone at 8 Gordon Road actually does want this web-space, I'll get off it, just let me know. In the meantime - waste not want not. Or possibly the other way round.


Monday, 22 December 2008

More Music

I've just put more music to download on the page. Again, it's here:

sia santificato il tuo nome,

Line 2!



Hmm. Well, this is 'essere' in a subjunctive form. Let's skip to the end and say that it can be translated "(may it) be".

I think that it warrants perhaps a little more explanation, because the subjunctive is used a few times in the prayer, but I suppose you can skip ahead if you're not interested, because it's not really everyday language. The subjunctive just about survives in English. Have a look at these:
Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he 'live, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
If I were you...

He be? I were?

Normally, of course, 'he is', and 'I was', but these are subjunctive forms. In Italian, as in English, the subjunctive is used to express wishes, thoughts and beliefs. The giant says 'be he' because he's supposing, first, the situation that Jack's alive, second, that he's dead, but he doesn't know in either case. The giant has remarkably correct grammar. He could have said "whether he's alive or dead" but that would have ruined the scansion, so it seems that we're dealing with a rather poetic giant. "If I were you" is another conjecture. In fact, the Italians say much the same thing using the subjunctive, "If I were in you", which I suppose means "in your shoes", "in your place".

The normal form of verbs, past present and future, is called the indicative because it indicates. So if I were were to re-write the second line of the Our Father, using the indicative, it would indicate a fact, rather than express a desire. Thus:

'your will is done' - indicative
'your will be done', 'may your will be done' - subjunctive

Saturday, 20 December 2008

My Music

Well, I've finished converting my music to mp3. Now all that's left is a bit of administration really, to let you listen to it. I've decided to put a few tracks on now, and I'll add the rest later. It's here:

If anyone's put out by the fact that I'm using webspace that I'm not paying for, do let me know, but I'd appreciate a bit of time to allow people to download my stuff. I mean, as it's there, and no-one was using it...

Friday, 19 December 2008


I dreamt you were going out with Juliette Lewis. Who's Juliette Lewis?
As it happens, I didn't know who she was either.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

I've lost faith in train station information screens

 I was somewhat worried about the flooding last Saturday, because I was travelling by rail, after a worrying wait at Bristol, I eventually got to Bath, only an hour later than expected.
However getting back home was quite an ordeal, I had been directed to change at Westbury, but for some reason my train (20:30 to Exeter) wasn't listed on the departure screen, although trains before and after were listed. I asked the customer service guy, and he told me to just catch the next train to Exeter. I went to the correct platform, checked the platform's information screen and got on the train. Despite these precautions I ended up travelling towards London and only discovered I was going the wrong way when I was nearly at Reading. I asked the guard what to do, I was directed to the Station Supervisor's Office at Reading (which wasn't labelled as such, took ages to find it) to find out how to get home. Because it was getting quite late, the only train heading in the right direction was a train to Bristol, so I took that train (23:00) and arrived in Bristol at 00:30. There were no further trains leaving Bristol that night, and I assumed no buses either, so I went to the nearest hotel to get a room for the night.

I woke up fairly late (for me at least) had breakfast and explained the situation to the woman at the ticket office, and so didn't have to buy another ticket to get home, however I must have just missed a train to Exeter, because I had to wait another hour before the train arrived. I took a taxi home from the station and got home about noon.

On a more postive note, the Christmas meals with both my Asperger support group and the Devon Wildlife Trust (who I've been doing volunteer work for) were both very enjoyable.

Padre nostro, che sei nei cieli, #3

Should be able to finish off the first line with this one:


'sei' is a part of the verb 'essere', which looks like this in conjugation:

essere(to) be, being
(io) sonoI am
(tu) seiyou are
(lui/lei/Lei) èhe/she/it is (+ you are)
(noi) siamowe are
(voi) sieteyou are (plural)
(loro) sonothey are

The rather odd configuration of line 3 is because Italian has a polite form of address, for people you don't know, the elderly, your boss etc. Basically, to be polite you use the third person, which takes a little getting used to. Here 'lui' means 'he', 'lei' means 'her' and 'Lei' is the polite form for 'you'. In fact, 'lei' without a capital letter can mean the polite form too, as if it wasn't already confusing enough. Incidentally, Mussolini apparently wanted people to stop using the word 'Lei' in this way, because he thought it sounded effeminate, which didn't tie in too well with the whole fascist ethos.

You can see that for 'I am' and 'they are' the same word, 'sono', is used. You probably think that's fine because you've got the words 'io' and 'loro' to distinguish between them, but in fact the words in brackets (subject pronouns if you're interested) aren't used the same way as in English - they're mostly not used. You do use them for emphasis, for example, but you don't actually come across them too often. So with 'sono' you have to work the meaning out from the context.

Ok, so we've got the word 'sei' and you can see that it means 'you are', which could potentially make you scratch your head, seeing as that means that so far we have something like "Our Father, who you are [in heaven]" and that is a funny sort of a translation. It might comfort you to know that it actually corresponds quite well with the more traditional version of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father, who art in heaven", 'thou art' being the old familiar form, which you can see used sometimes in insults*. The more modern translation "Our Father in heaven", I imagine, is a workaround for the fact that "who are in heaven" sounds pretty odd, even though it makes sense linguistically speaking because it's the Father who's addressed. Incidentally, I hope you noticed that we don't use the polite form for God, who's our Father (or Dad, or Abba). We also don't use it for Mary, our mother, or the saints, our brothers.


Ok, this is getting a little long, but I don't want to do another instalment on the first line, so here goes:

a - to
da - from
in - in

On the left, all the Italian prepositions in the Padre Nostro, on the right a simple translation. No need to explain what a preposition actually is I think. I should point out though that the translations are a gross over-simplification because prepositions are one of the most bewilderingly unpredictable parts of most languages. You have only to think of the phrase "What's on telly?" to grasp this.

Not done though. Have a look at this:

+ il+ i+ la+ le

You can see what's going on - if, in Italian, you have an 'in', next to an 'i', you get 'nei', so 'nei cieli' means "in the heavens". It's not really that difficult once you get used to it, although if you saw the list of how all the articles combine with all the relevant prepositions, you might panic.

Lest I forget, I should point out that Italians use the definite article in different places to us, though I don't think it's worth going into detail. Also, as in the Greek original, in Italian, the word for 'sky' and 'heaven' is the same.

* "Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter!" - King Lear, "Come and get one in the yarbles, If you have any yarbles, You eunuch jelly thou." - A Clockwork Orange

Monday, 15 December 2008

Padre nostro, che sei nei cieli, #2


Have a look at this:

youril tuo regnoi tuoi regnila tua volontàle tue volontà
ouril nostro panei nostri panila nostra terrale nostre terre

You should recognise the nouns and articles from last time. What we have here is the form in which you'd usually find 'you' and 'our' added in. They're the only two possessive forms in the Padre Nostro - no 'my', 'his', 'her', 'its' or 'their' to worry about.

You can see that the forms "agree" with the nouns, that is the forms vary from masculine to feminine, and singular to plural, but it's not really so hard for the main part. On the other hand, this can get confusing for English speakers. Take the following, for example:

1. il suo nome
2. la sua volontà

1 can mean "his name" as well as "her name", depending on the context. 2 can mean "his will" and "her will", depending on the context. What it is tempting to do is think that 'suo' means 'his', and 'sua' means 'her', but both can mean either. It's the noun that it agrees with, not the person.

Again, 'volontà' hasn't changed in the plural, but from 'le tue' you can see it's feminine plural.

You probably noticed though, that the Padre Nostro doesn't start "Il nostro Padre", as you might expect from the table above. I don't suppose you'll lose any sleep over it, but I'll try and explain anyway. Relations are a special case; generally speaking you ditch the article (mamma mia!), except when it's in the plural (i nostri padri). I don't have a particular explanation for why 'nostro' is after 'Padre' here, but I don't intend to worry too much about it. Most adjectives, in fact, come after the noun in Italian, but let's burn that bridge when we come to it.


'che' basically means 'that' or 'which'. However, it also means 'who' as it does here. There is an Italian word for 'who', but it's out of place here, because this 'who' elaborates on who the Father is. In Italian therefore 'che.'

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Padre nostro, che sei nei cieli,


I read somewhere that a good way to learn a language is to teach it. So I thought I'd walk you through the Lord's Prayer, for the sake of doing something a bit different.

Instead of a guide on pronunciation, have an mp3.


If I err not, these are all the masculine nouns in the Padre Nostro:
il padrei padrithe father(s)
il cieloi cielithe heavens(s)celestial
il nomei nomithe name(s)nominate
il regnoi regnithe kingdom(s)reign
il panei panithe bread(s)
il debitoi debitithe debt(s)debit
il debitorei debitorithe debtor(s)
il malei malithe evil(s)malicious

Ok. Because of the Norman conquest, there're quite a few that you could probably guess the meaning of without me telling you. They come in two main flavours (there are more, but not in the Lord's Prayer), masculine nouns that end with 'o' and masculine nouns that end in 'e'.

To get the plural of both of them you change it into an 'i'.

All these masculine nouns start with a consonant and therefore the definite article ('the') is 'il' in the singular and 'i' in the plural ('il' and 'i' aren't in fact the only definite articles for masculine nouns that start with a consonant, but we don't need to worry about that here).

These are all the feminine nouns:

la tentazionele tentazionithe temptation(s)
la volontàle volontàthe will(s)voluntary
la terrale terrethe earth(s)terrestrial

Again, none of them start with a vowel, which simplifies things. 'terra', which handily ends in an 'a' is easy to spot as a feminine noun, whereas you can see from 'tentazione' that there are feminine nouns that end in 'e' as well as masculine ones. When you learn nouns that end in 'e', you also have to learn whether they're masculine or feminine. What is worth remembering though, is that nouns that end in '-zione', which correpsonds to '-tion' in English, are usually feminine.

The feminine nouns that end in 'a' change to 'e' in the plural, but the nouns that end in 'e' in the singular form become 'i' again. 'volontà' is a bit of a funny one. The nouns that end in 'à' (the accent means that the stress falls on that syllable) don't change their form in the plural.

The definite article for all of these feminine nouns, because they don't start with a vowel again, is 'la' in the singular and 'le' in the plural.

I should think that's probably enough to start with.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Nativity Scene

Have a recursive link (it's recursive because it's a link to facebook, and my blog posts get sent to facebook automatically you see):

Nativity Scene

It's how we put our nativity scene together here, because I like the Italian way of doing it. Very hands on. It'd be a good thing for churches to do I think.

(I'm hoping by posting it I'll get James and Ella to do a really cool one and then I'll get to see it. Shh!)

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Married Priests Again

Okay. Let's try this again.

I said that the married priest seemed to think that those who don't want to abandon the discipline of celibacy for priests think that "familial love [is] incompatible with the vocation of a priest". I (reduntantly) pointed out that obviously the Vatican doesn't think so, or he wouldn't be in circulation.

Trouble is, I think that even if he was talking about incompatability (he may have actually used those words, but I'm not sure) it certainly can't have been what he meant. I imagine (it was a while ago now) that he was thinking more in terms of conflict, or tension. The interviewer asked a question which was something to do with whether married priests were considered second-class priests.

So, like I said last time, first thing I'd look at would be St. Paul:
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. - 1 Cor 7:32-35
I think in fact that this priest has probably over-spiritualised the issue. He was saying that his love for his wife and for his children does not restrict his capacity to love and serve God as a priest, and this is of course true. The way I see it. however, is that it's hardly even a theological question (except in the sense that reality is a matter of theological interest): it's a practical question. Everybody knows that both being a husband and being a father entail everyday duties, concerns and responsibilities that someone who is not a husband, and not a father, does not have. We don't criticise fathers for spending time with their wives and children - we expect it, and so we expect it of married priests too. A priest accepts the task of being a spiritual father to every person in his parish as God is the Father of all mankind. By having a wife and children, I think the parity of the relationship is somewhat obscured. I don't think that married priests are second-class priests, only that for them a particular tension exists that doesn't exist for celibate priests.

Friday, 28 November 2008

A relatively diverting Friday


My wife is making focaccia in the kitchen. I, on the other hand, am blogging because we actually did a bit of stuff today.

We had a couple of things to do when we set out this morning. One was to go to Globo and spend £20 that we earned by spending about £100 (there doesn't seem to be a euro button on this Italian laptop, consequently I am pretending that the one means the other!). The other was to go and register me at the Italian equivalent of the Jobcentre.

I had my own personal mission as well, which was to buy a 3.5mm male-to-male audio cable, and we found one for a couple of quid (in addition to using pound signs for euros, I decided early on that I didn't want to lose the word "quid", so I'm using that for euros too) so I'm happy now. You may think that having an audio cable is a pretty lame thing to be pleased about, even for a man, but it means that I can connect my Minidisc player to my laptop, which means that I should finally be able to convert my music, that I made throughout my adolescence, into MP3s, as well as the cover versions that I romantically recorded for Monica, which means she has a little reason to be pleased too. I rather like listening back to my music, so it'll be nice to have it in a more well-supported format. If anyone's at all interested in having a copy, do let me know and I'll try and think of a sensible way to distribute it.

Other good news is that Monica found some jeans and a bobble hat in Globo! I know, I know - too excitment for one blog post, right? Seriously though, Monica has a hard time finding jeans she likes, because skinny jeans are in now, so it's pretty hard trying to find anything else. When we went to Globo last time we were looking for jeans for her and came back with nothing, so it is a result. The bobble hat is just nice, and it keeps my wife's head warm, which is something I approve of.

When we went to register at the jobcentre, we were perplexed to find that I didn't have my passport (I could use my driving license to register though) which was quite troubling. I kept my cool, but Monica was understandably a bit agitated. She phoned home and got her Mum to go on a passport search, which was fruitless, or rather, passportless I suppose. But a lady from the Jobcentre called while we were in the office saying that she'd found my passport, which she was only able to do because I had just given the jobcentre my phone number! Rather handy that.

Today the Blessed Sacrament has been exposed in the little chapel in S. Tommaso Apostolo, so Monica and I went to spend some time with Him, and apparently there's going to be confession later too, so I'll hopefully be able to make the most of that.

Monica wanted to try out using Skype to phone England, so we've bought some Skype credit and will give it a go. At the moment we get calls to England free, but only because Monica's parents pay (and were paying while Monica was in England) a fixed amount per month. If we use Skype instead, we can decrease their phone bill without them worrying that I'm never going to speak to my parents.

If you look here you'll see the comments section of one of James' blog entries where someone fairly randomly asked James and Ella if they did translations, because they had an old framed picture or Pius X with something written on it that they didn't understand. I'm not quite sure what James would have said to that, but I had a look, and instead of it being the impenetrable Latin that I was expecting, it was Italian! And I could translate it all without recourse to a dictionary! So I was quite pleased with myself. Which was nice.

It was quite a pleasant Friday, and it's not even finished yet.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Married Priests

The subject's come up a couple of times for me recently. The other day Lorenzo was talking about it (I'm not sure why it came up) and said, if I understood correctly, that Jesus never said that priests had to be celibate, that it was a decision of the Church.

Then, getting my weekly fix of religious news from Sunday, I heard an interview with a couple of priests both of whom had a fairly positive attitude towards the idea (one a married ex-Anglican), though they didn't claim that it would solve the priest shortage and on the whole seemed quite moderate and sensible. The ex-Anglican one said that it was a distortion to claim that familial love was incompatible with the vocation to priesthood.

So I just thought I'd give my thoughts on those two things. I suppose everyone already knows that a celibate priesthood is not an unalterable teaching, but a matter of discipline? If you don't you do now.

With regard to Jesus' lack of definitive teaching on the matter, the first thing to note is that St. Paul does clearly have an opinion on the matter. And though he is certainly not Jesus, it doesn't do to ignore the Apostle to the gentiles.
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. - 1 Cor 7:32-35
There are some very obvious things to say about this verse being less than dogmatic, so please don't.

And then there's the precedent set by the first priests of all, the Apostles.
Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. [...] And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." - Luke 22
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! - Mt 19:27
Also, Jesus does have an explicit teaching which may be interpreted in different ways, but which is far from irrelevant.
The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." - Mt 19:10-12

N.B. Having just written the following, I already want to change it, because I didn't say what I orginally intended to say, and I think I've probably mis-represented the priest in fact. So, if you could just bear that in mind in the meantime. I may update it later.

With regard to the priest who thought that it was a mistake to think that familial love was incompatible with the vocation of a priest, the simplest thing I think is just to say with St. Paul what he says above. But though I don't think that we should remove the celibacy requirement, I personally don't think for a moment that marriage is incompatiable with the priesthood. The priest, as I say, seemed like a nice guy, and it makes a nice change to hear someone express their opinion without resorting to polemics, but I do think it was a bit of a straw-man argument. If the Church really thought that marriage was incompatible with priesthood he wouldn't be a priest. I suppose there might be some schismatic types who would claim that he isn't really a priest, but I don't see how an orthodox Catholic who isn't sold on the whole married priests deal could think what he thinks they think - if you follow me. (that doesn't mean that I don't think he's an orthodox Catholic b.t.w.)

And that's what I think about that.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Just reading in the Italian papers about the UK government's plans to sterilise teenagers. Obviously, being a Catholic who listens to what the Church says, I'm predictably not going to be in favour. But let's leave that aside for the moment.

The last time that politicians were talking about mass sterilisations as the solution, I seem to recall that we ended up with Nazism. Obviously, nothing bad could come of this, because they were evil pricks, whereas we mean well.

Also, why are these sorts of measures always meant to occur without parental consent? Very kind of the state to relieve us of the burden of making decisions about the lives of our children. Nothing remotely totalitarian about that.

Back to the Catholic stuff:

James started a sort of campaign to promote Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical which re-stated the Church's historic teaching on contraception (it might seem like a good idea, but it's actually a shit idea) contrary to the prevailing mood, and this is a good excuse to quote from it:

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Of course, the Church being old-fashioned and wrong, none of those things happened after '68. Tush.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Harry Potter

Here's a thing worth mentioning: some time ago, I finished reading Harry Potter e il Calice di Fuoco. I'm now reading Harry Potter e l'Ordine della Fenice.

That's not bad is it?

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Wedding Photos

He does some wicked photos does John, and he's just finished doing our wedding photos it would appear.

We get a CD in a little while, and the world at large gets these.

Anyone who's my friend on facebook will have seen quite a few of these before, albeit at the wrong angle and without that professional touch, but there's quite a few unique ones.

Go John, I say.

Also, for what it's worth, the wedding photos of our friends Ben and Hannah are up there too...



It's been a long time since I blogged properly, I know. Obviously that's had a lot to do with the fact that we haven't had a computer to hand, but then it's just the weight of unreported events and the fact that it's harder these days to get a sufficiently long period of uninterrupted time to blog.


Let's start by saying that, as some of you may not yet know, we managed to get all of our data back, including photos. I thought of commenting on James' post about data backups, but I thought it might undercut the very sensible advice if I said it all turned out fine.

Also, now we have a computer of our own again – install Skype! Skype will let you talk to me for free through the internet, with futuristic-type webcam support, and I understand it's a relatively economical way of making international calls too, though that's a little more effort. Add monica_zagaglia as a contact.

Monday to Friday I have Italian lessons in the afternoons. It's not really the right level for me, but I tried the next one up, and that seemed too much. Still, it's all good practise, and learning Italian in Italian is mor of a challenge in itself. I'm getting closer to finishing the basic vocabulary in Mastering Italian Vocabulary, but it's definitely a bit of a slog. Monica's helping me now, by putting the words in Memorylifter for me. I'm not used to having a limited vocabulary.

Monica and I have been registering with Italian temping agencies. Quite a lot of them are international, so they all have the same names...

(Speaking of things that are the same here – they have Ready Steady Cook! It's a little bit odd. It was definitely ours first though. I checked on the credits and they got the rights from the BBC)

...Monica's had a few interviews, I haven't had any yet. Good old international financial crisis. The thing is, I suspect it wouldn't be particularly better if we headed back to England, job-wise. On the other hand, in England, Monica would be more employable. In Italy, employers are given tax breaks, or something like that, for employing the young, which is a lovely sentiment except that it results in discrimination against those over a certain age. Also, though Italian does have equal opportunity legislation, legislation doesn't count for much round here. Nothing is the way it should be, and there's a general attitude of discontented resignation. At quite a number of the job agencies we went to, they ask about your marital status and number of children. Monica, as a newlywed with no children, is a liability. Certain things really suck here.

I say that there's a general attitude of resignation here, but on the other hand, I've seen about as many strikes here since July as I remember seeing in England for my whole life. Italians love striking and demonstrating, it would appear, but I'm very sceptical about it here, whereas I do see the point in England. I imagine it's because the political system here is very messy – no wonder the mafia can p*ss about with it. Compared with the UK, there a more political parties than you can shake a stick at, and they all disagree with each other. It seems they're incapable of working together towards any kind of general consensus. I tried to ask the other day about pressure groups and lobbies, but I gather they don't really have them here. They have victims groups though. Practically every day there are stories of young people being run over by drunk and drugged drivers, but it's not enough to make a difference.

I think that's probably enough for now.

Friday, 10 October 2008

That's the imperative don't you know...


Sunday, 7 September 2008

Luna di Miele


We're back from our moon of honey. This may just be a brief note, as I'm on a pretty slow computer trying to kill some time.

I wouldn't expect a lot of blogging from me for a little while. Shortly before we left, Monica's laptop stopped turning on, and we committed it into the hands of Lorenzo's brother (who used to work at a computer repair shop), via Lorenzo, via Vanessa. Basically it's dead. We're going to ask if the computer place can retrieve the data that was on it, but it's not a sure thing. We may have lost a lot of pictures, and the approx. 1500 word Italian vocabulary file that I was typing in dutifully every day. Plus, I now don't really have a way of listening to podcasts, which was my substitute for watching telly in foreignerland. Ho, and furthermore, hum.

On to cheerier matters, Greece was great. We went to an island called Σκιαθος (assuming Blogger allows unicode Greek) , which has nice beaches in plenty and is proper tourist, which was something new to me. We went to the beach, ate in restaurants every day (which was largely lovely) wandered around, and sailed around, visited a monastery, did a little shopping, saw some churches. It was good.

I bought some Greek mountain tea, having heard about it on one of the cruises, and it's nice. We saw lots of icons, and were intrigued to find St. John the Baptist regularly depicted with angel's wings. We would have asked, but the kind of people we thought were likely to know probably wouldn't have spoken English. In any case, wikipedia tells me that I guessed correctly. I said that as "angelos" means "messenger", it most likely refers to his role as the messenger of the Messiah. And so it is, c.f. Mk 1:2 where the word "angelos" is used about St. John. We were driven around on crazy buses by crazy Greeks. All good fun.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Humour as a defense mechanism

Dealing with the Jobcentre recently has been an unanticipated comedy of errors.

As background, before going to Italy for Mark's wedding, I had to temporarily sign off Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) since not being in the UK meant I had to stop JSA since I was not available for, or able to look for job. The stock letter I received read something like, "We are informing you that we will have to cancel your JSA benefit because you have ended your claim." Duh.

On returning home on Sunday after the wedding, I discovered the expected "Your housing and council tax benefits have stopped because the JSA people have told us that you have gone abroad" letters, however there was one letter that was rather puzzling, asking me to send in the occupier details for my flat. Since it was the Sunday before a Bank Holiday, there wasn't much I could do about that or restarting my JSA claim until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, after an job interview at the MET office, I phoned the JobCentre to begin the process of restarting my JSA claim, gave them all the details they asked for and made an appointment to do the paperwork next Monday. Then I phoned the city council to find out why they needed my occupier details again, apparently they were under the impression that I'd left the country for good, (apparently the Jobcentre hadn't been very clear) and they reopened my file.

The next Monday I turned up at the Jobcentre at 8:50am, ready to do the paperwork to reclaim JSA, housing and council tax benefits, explained that I had come for a 'rapid reclaim for JSA' as instructed. I ended up waiting for 3/4 hour to be seen (appointment was supposed to be @ 9am), virtually the first thing I was asked was, "Do you have the completed forms ready?". Somewhat surprised I responded, "No, why would I?", "They were supposed to give you the forms as you came in, didn't you say about the rapid reclaim?". "I did say, that I was here for a rapid reclaim, no one gave me any forms". I had been bored silly (hadn't brought a book since appointment was first thing), when I could have been filling out the forms. I then had to rush through completing the forms because of that mistake.

Eventually a letter arrived from the Jobcentre saying my JSA claim had been approved, and stated that I had good cause for delaying my claim application (Bank Holiday). I'd be disappointed with the Jobcentre, but my expectations of their competence and efficiency have been rather low for some time now, and I found the whole affair amusing, rather than just irritating. I have another appointment at the JobCentre next Monday, I have to try and make a case for them simplifying the reclaim process, even if it means filling out the forms before I leave.

I'm not looking forward to doing this again for the trip to America for Nicholas's wedding, but my family is worth the hassle.

Saturday, 16 August 2008


I was saying to James the other week, re. the Anglican Communion's well-publicised current struggle for unity, that I don't really understand high-Anglicanism - I don't see where they're coming from. For example, I was listening on Radio 4's Sunday program to an Anglican, I think, bishop, who was talking about the dilemna that high Anglicans felt was coming to them. He said that he believed in the authority of the Pope, or words to that effect, but I can't recall precisely how he phrased it, but he clearly wanted to remain within the Anglican Communion.

I don't understand that at all.

So when I learn, from the Midwest Conservative Journal, via Mark Shea that a "delegation of Episcopal priests from Fort Worth paid a visit to Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann earlier this summer, asking for guidance on how their highly conservative diocese might come into "full communion" with the Catholic Church", I took a quick glance and they provide a detailed explanation of their position. Now, clearly this isn't a representative sample (otherwise it wouldn't be news), but as I feel it may be enlightening more generally, I shall post it here so it's easier for me to find, and if you find it enlightening, so much the better.

Update: Actually that doesn't help at all. Still, interesting.


I. We believe the See of Peter is essential not optional

Unity with the Holy See is esse that is, essential for Catholic Christians (not bene esse, merely beneficial.) This is a concept which the Catholic Clergy in the Anglican Tradition have always believed (indeed it is one of the stated purposes of the SSC) but the rapid deterioration of the Anglican Communion makes it even more apparent now. The Prayer for Unity (John 17, that they all may be one) also compels us to pursue the possibility of reunion with Rome.

The very name of the first Pope, Peter, Petrus is the "rock" - and we have seen that it is the Petrine office which is important not the personality of an individual pontiff.

In April 2006 our Diocesan Bishop and several of the clergy made a pilgrimage to Rome. At that time we were blessed to have an informal visit with his Eminence, Bernard Cardinal Law. At that meeting, Cardinal Law indicated that the Catholic Church was aware of the current difficulties faced by Anglo Catholics (and particularly the Anglo Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth) at this time and said, in essence, for us to "make an offer" that is, make a Proposal on how we might respond to the crisis in our branch of Christendom. After this pilgrimage, we began meeting with the full knowledge and support of our Bishop. We came to realize that, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel, it is up to us to make the initiative to return to the rock from whence we were hewn. In essence, that trip crystallized for us the need for perusing unity with the See of Peter now. Since that time we have studied, we have met, we have prayed, and now we come to the Church with our conclusions.

As Anglicans we realize that Henry VIII, the monarch who wrote "Defense of Seven Sacraments" and who was granted the title "Defender of the Faith", never intended to make any substantive or permanent changes in the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Reformation itself was intended to be for a limited time only, "a season", as the book of Ecclesiastes would say.

We believe that it is now time for a new Season. It is perhaps, time for a church of Reformation to die and a new unification among Christ’s people be born: Unification possible only under the Holy Father.

II. We believe a magisterium is needed desperately

"In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25) This describes the day to day ’on the ground" reality in the Anglican Communion. Anglican "comprehensiveness" has no boundaries and no real center. For example, during the Reformation period under Elizabeth I, 1533-1603, there was an attempt to synthesize the Catholic and Protestant factions in the Church of England, resulting in the so-called "Elizabethan Settlement". Concerning the Eucharist, it was held that belief in the Real Presence of Christ was acceptable as well as the belief that the Eucharist was only a memorial or "remembrance" of something long ago. In essence the Anglican faith is what the parish priest says it is, and this varies widely with many contradictions. The Pentecostal/Evangelical/Charismatic expressions are just as valid as the Anglo-Catholic teaching. In most parts of the country, the parish priest is completely on his own.

Formerly, a single prayer book (the 1662 Church of England Prayer Book was the pattern for all national prayer books) provided some glue, but with the proliferation of endless trial liturgies even that has disappeared.

The lack of a teaching office has resulted in communicating un-baptized persons, same-sex unions and liturgical chaos everywhere. There are no boundaries and it is all uncontrollable. This is not theory but day to day reality. Anglican "comprehensiveness" has no boundaries. Previously this absence of a center seemed to work when the various ecclesiastical parties (Low Church/Broad Church/High Church) largely worked within their own circles. Low Church people did not attend High Church parishes and vice versa.

In looking at the disarray in the larger communion it is apparent that the Archbishop of Canterbury is incapable of providing decisive leadership. If there is a future, particularly for Catholic minded Anglicans, it is clear that a magisterium is absolutely essential.

III. We believe the Catholic Faith is True

The Catholic Faith is given - it is true.

The Epistle to the Ephesians reminds us that as Christians we believe in "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism". At the celebration of every Mass and in the recitation of any Daily Office we profess in the Creed "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church". We have come to realize, to an extent even more fully than we had as Catholics in the Anglican Tradition, that our Blessed Lord has indeed founded only one true church: the Catholic Church.

Unlike so many forms of Protestantism, Catholic teaching does not change on a whim to suit the transient issues of the day. In addition, the Catholic Faith is not just one option among many. Anglican comprehensiveness with Catholics, Evangelicals and Liberals, all following their own paths, leads to the disintegration and disunion which we in the Diocese of Fort Worth find ourselves. The Protestant/Low Church teachings, the Liberals experiential teachings are just not true. The Catholic faith, the Catholic practice, the Catholic teaching - is true.

We know, and are living examples of the fact, that Catholic Witness has been present throughout the history of the Anglican Tradition. But it is now becoming weaker because of this idea, Catholic as one option among several. . . except here in Fort Worth, which is in so many ways unique (explored further in section VI).

IV. We believe the Anglican Communion shares the fatal flaws of The Episcopal Church

In our time of discernment, we have concluded that the difficulties we have faced in The Episcopal Church for the past thirty years will not be remedied by the Anglican Communion.

Those making this presentation have been members of The Episcopal Church since childhood. In this church we have been nourished by Catholic faith and practice. However, through the years we have witnessed the deterioration and marginalization of that Catholic faith. We believed that our call was to remain within our church as a remnant which could preserve the faith. Our expectation was that the Anglican Communion, in response to The Episcopal Church’s continuing "innovations", would provide the stability and witness necessary for us to continue. However, it is apparent that the Communion is incapable of providing this stability.

It is our conclusion that the Anglican Communion has the same fatal flaws as The Episcopal Church. Without a magisterium the latest "religion" will continue to replace the historic teachings of our Communion. This erosion of Catholic faith and practice is heightened by the governing polity of the Anglican Communion. Bishops are elected by priests and laity of a Diocese. As the liberalizing culture enters another portion of the world, the Diocese there is deeply affected by it. Those who can be elected are only those who reflect the cultural shift that has occurred in that Diocese. We have seen this in The Episcopal Church and we see it now in the Anglican Communion.

We know what happens in a church which lacks a magisterium and whose polity makes the continuing of a Catholic witness impossible. We have concluded the Anglican Communion provides not safe future for us. Our witness, rather than being honored, has been persecuted.

V. We believe our polity is in error

In the New Testament no congregation votes on its pastor! St. Paul would have been unelectable in all, except maybe Philippi! Without exception pastors are sent by higher authority.

It was not a convention of delegates, but only the remaining apostles that established the criteria for Judas’ replacement. St. John Chrysostom said that Peter had the authority to make the appointment but did not. Drawing lots put the choice in God’s hands.

In the United States, the democratic style of polity in The Episcopal Church, strongly resembling the legislative branch of the U.S. government (House of Bishops and House of Deputies, lay and ordained) has created doctrinal chaos. Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) the first American Episcopal bishop was fearful of having clergy and lay people voting on doctrinal matters. His fears were realized when an early General Convention put the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds up for grabs. The Nicene Creed was voted out, then back in; and then the Athanasian Creed lost the vote.

In regard to the ordination of women, the 1976 General Convention changed the matter of a sacrament, established by Christ himself, simply by voting. Bishop Robert Terwilliger, formerly Suffragan of the Diocese of Dallas called it "voting our collective ignorance"!

Candidates for bishop in the American Episcopal Church shamelessly campaign like the politicians they are. When elected they are indebted to the electors.

We are in desperate need of a polity modeled on the New Testament and the early church.

VI. We believe we are not the only ones

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth came into existence in 1983 when it was decided that the Diocese of Dallas, of which it represents the western 1/3 of that diocese, would divide. We believe the hand of God was present in this decision and that it was the work of the Holy Spirit to bring into existence a diocese where the overwhelming majority of clergy living and working in that part of the old Diocese of Dallas were Catholic minded clergy. We now see as truly profound this action of creating the Diocese of Fort Worth. It set up what has now culminated in a Diocese of the Episcopal Church where its clergy are overwhelmingly Catholic minded.

The Diocese of Fort Worth has been a leader in standing against the apostasy that has been taking place in the Episcopal Church over the last three decades. We have witnessed Episcopal diocese after diocese fall away from a traditional Biblical and Catholic practice of the faith. It has now become impossible for the Catholic minded people to exist and survive in the Episcopal Church. As a result of this, the Diocese of Fort Worth is working toward a realignment of itself into another Province of the Anglican Communion. We have chosen to join the Province of the Southern Cone in South America. We believe this arrangement is temporary. As the Anglican Communion attempts to reform itself, it is becoming more and more evident that this problematic at best.

The overwhelming majority of clergy currently active in the Diocese of Fort Worth are willing to work earnestly for what we consider to be the only solution, and that is full communion with the Holy See. The breakdown of numbers is as follows:

There are currently 60 active clergy
We believe 9 will opt to stay in The Episcopal Church
51 will remain in a temporarily realigned diocese with the Southern Cone
5 are not interested at this time in working for full communion
46 are truly interested. If we add our seminarians currently on the priesthood track and our retired clergy the number becomes 59.

Our best guess is that approximately 59 clergy are willing to pursue an active plan to bring the Diocese of Fort Worth or a significant portion of it into full communion with the Holy See, if this be God’s will.

We believe these numbers are the result of the Holy Spirit actively working among us since the formation of this diocese. We also recognize that it will take time to bring the laity on board with this proposal. While the clergy have come to recognize the truth which it held by the Holy See, we have much work to do with the laity.

This fact needs to be noted and is to be understood as a recognized part of our proposal.

We would also like to point out that of the 59 clergy, 20 are under the age of 40. These young clergy are committed to seeking the truth that the Holy See possesses. They have come to this realization independent of the four clergy who are represented in this presentation. We have noted over the last few years that God has been raising up phenomenal young men in our diocese for priesthood. We now realize and believe the purpose of this explosion of priestly vocations at this time is to further help us understand the direction we must take. They are committed to teaching the truth of the Catholic faith and they have many years of ministry to give to accomplish what God began with us in 1983. We have seen many pieces of a puzzle come together over the years. We believe all of this is truly the work of the Holy Spirit and we continue to pray for guidance, courage and faith.

Finally, the Diocese of Fort Worth is the only diocese in the Episcopal Church that is strong enough to pursue the Proposal outlined below. We have a critical mass of clergy who are willing to bring the laity to support this proposal. There are many Catholics in the Anglican Tradition outside of our Diocese that look to the Diocese of Fort Worth for leadership. We believe the time is ripe for significant history making action on the part of the Holy Spirit. We believe the time is right and this is why we have come forward with this presentation.

VII. We believe Pope Benedict XVI understands our plight

Through his writings and his actions we believe that Pope Benedict XVI is sympathetic to our plight.

It is our belief that Pope Benedict XVI desires to uphold the Catholic faith whenever and wherever he finds it; especially in a world dominated by the super-dogma of relativism. It is this new dogma, this new denomination which motivates those who seek to remove the Catholic witness from The Episcopal Church.

In October, 2003, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and other Episcopalians throughout the United States met in Plano, Texas for a conference titled, "A Place to Stand: A Call to Mission". That conference was called to unite further those who opposed the ordination of a partnered homosexual as a Bishop in The Episcopal Church.

The highpoint of that conference was a letter from then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. It reads as follows:

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Vatican, on behalf of Pope John Paul II

I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond Plano, and even in this City from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ’s Gospel in England. Nor can I fail to recall that barely 120 years later, Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith to my own forebears in Germany.

The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is an unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcends the borders of any nation. With this is mind, I pray in particular that God’s will may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of Christ himself.

With fraternal regards, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ
+Joseph Cardinal Ratszinger

Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Furthermore, in April, 2006 the four priests making this presentation, with our Bishop and two other priests of our Diocese, met with Bernard Cardinal Law at his residence in Rome. At that meeting we discussed our plight with him. Cardinal Law told us two important things. With regard to union with Rome he said, "What was not possible twenty years ago may be possible today." And, with regard to our moving forward he said, "Make us an offer". He told us that it was inappropriate for the Catholic Church to make an offer to another Christian body, such as ours, in distress. Rather, such an offer needed to come from us.

Pondering the words of then Cardinal Ratzinger and those of Cardinal Law, we entered our period of prayer and discernment.

Those making this presentation believe the Holy Spirit has brought us to this moment. It is a time when we who have believed ourselves to be priests of the Catholic faith, seek to become more clearly what we have always been.

VIII. We believe there is a charism which the Anglican ethos has to offer to the Universal Church

The Catholic Faith, as it has been lived in the Anglican Tradition, is a thing of great beauty. Why are we making a plea for it to continue? It is because the Catholic faith and practice, as lived out in the Anglican Tradition, is a unique charism well worth preserving.

Twentieth century Anglo Catholic authors like C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot and earlier Anglican theologians such as William Law ("Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life") and George Herbert ("The Country Parson") have enriched and enlightened countless souls. The religious life, the devotional societies, the guilds, the priestly fraternities (like the Catholic Clerical Union and the SSC) all speak to an expression of Catholic piety which continues to be attractive to people in the twenty-first century and are worthy of preserving for future generations. To take but one (local) example: the large number of young men offering themselves for ordination in this Diocese speaks to this expression’s ability to nurture vocations. Also the Catholic Liturgy in the Anglican Tradition is a thing of great elegance, holiness, of long antiquity and solemn reverence.

The icon presented to his Excellency Bishop Vann, an icon of both St. Gregory and St. Augustine, represents our desire to return hom to Rome our first and true spiritual home.

What is it that we can offer to the greater Church? We believe we can offer a Catholic expression which for too long has been separated from the Universal Church. This is a tradition of inspiring liturgy, devout spirituality, loving pastoral care and a living spirituality. We believe it has a special and unique witness to the Faith, which we humbly offer as a beautiful jewel in the Catholic crown.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Seating Plan

We started on the seating plan today. We did the English first, and that wasn't too bad. Now Monica is going through the Italians. Apparently (as I learn only today) at Italian weddings, the seating must take into account the rigid heirarchy of relations, or you run the risk of being unexpectedly hit in the face with a dead goat. I made that last part up. Anyway, I'm blogging about it, 'cos what do I know?

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


It's humid too. Feeling' sleepy.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Offagna, population .... ?

I must look into that. There's a podcast I listen to called Catholic in a Small Town (somewhere in Georgia, it would seem), and they occasionally mention that the population is 8000. I'd be gratified to verify that I was a Catholic in a smaller village.

Anyway, t'other day I was helping Carlo gather potatoes from what Monica always calls "our orchard", in spite of the fact that it's not technically theirs and it's by no means exclusively an orchard. I just thought I would mention this so that by degrees you might get an erroneous impression of me as a man of the soil and be impressed - wish me luck. Some more of the bounty of the "orchard" is as follows; courgettes (together with their edible flowers, which I have edden a few times now), marrows, melons, apples, peaches, lettuce, tomatoes, onions. It's all very exciting to me; I hope I can learn something about growing vegetables by and by. There are also peppers and chillis at the house.

In other news, I found out that I had to have a dispensation from the bishop to get our marriage paperwork sorted (I think because Fr. Harry didn't request the banns in England). Anyway, it's all fine, but I wanted to mention it, because I think it makes me sound a bit dangerous. Our bisop's name is Edoardo. I'm more used to bishops with names like Chris, Keiran and Kevin, but you have to make the best of these things.

Went to Ancona today to try and buy some things. Partial success. I now have two pairs of flip-flops (ciabatte - ciabatta means slipper, which is something to chew over next time you have the bread), one for the world at large, one for the domestic front. No carpets here - my feet were getting pretty dirty on a daily basis. Monica says her mamma will be pleased that my feet will thus reamin mre stately. At one point the inestimable M was shopping for feminine things, so we went our separate ways. I thought this might be helpful for my Italian. I suppose it might have been a bit. If you go into a shop in Italy, they're more than likely to say hello and try and help you before you have any browsing time, so you have to be prepared to speak a little bit if you go shopping.

Nothing else springs to mind, so that'll do for now.

Monday, 28 July 2008

2, 4, 6, 8, How do verbs conjugate?

It ocurred to me when I was going through verb tables in Italian, that though the only verb conjugations I've ever come across (German, Greek, Italian) are in essentially 6 parts (more if you include polite forms), you could potentially have two forms for "we".

In English our "we" is ambiguous. It may or may not include the second person i.e. the person addressed by the speaker. As in so many cases, it's all about context. This got me to thinking - are there languages that have more than one form of the verb, and don't have this ambiguity? You'll be pleased to know that wikipedia says there are:
In linguistics, clusivity is a distinction between inclusive and exclusive first-person pronouns and verbal morphology, also called inclusive "we" and exclusive "we". Inclusive "we" specifically includes the addressees (that is, one of the words for "we" means "you and I"), while exclusive "we" specifically excludes them (that is, another word for "we" means "he/she and I"), regardless of who else may be involved.
The inclusive-exclusive distinction is nearly universal among the Austronesian languages and the languages of northern Australia, but rare in the Papuan languages in between. (Tok Pisin, an English-Melanesian pidgin, generally has the inclusive-exclusive distinction, but this varies with the speaker's language background.) It is widespread in India (among the Dravidian and Munda languages, as well as in the Indo-European languages of Marathi, Rajasthani, and Gujarati), and the languages of eastern Siberia, such as Evenki. In America it is found in about half the languages, with no clear geographic or genealogical pattern. It is also found in a few languages of the Caucasus and Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Fulani and Nama.

No European language makes this distinction grammatically, but some constructions may be semantically inclusive or exclusive[.]

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Free download madness

If you sign up to, which is rather good in itself, they'll give you a podcast link to free mp3s of bands they think you might like. This is how I stumbled across 'Tree Friend Tree Foe' by Bolt Action Five; genius!
Well I'll bet
That you don't know that gameshow where the player wears
A hel-met
And walks around this maze that isn't really there[.]

Friday, 25 July 2008

A bit of catching up.


Somewhat predictably, the change of scenery hasn't actually inspired me to blog more, or rather, it probably would, except that getting married involves lots of little piecemeal jobs, so it's easy to get distracted from the serious business of posting my every thought for the benefit of mankind.

We've got wedding rings! That's exciting. Monica's been able to daydream about her wedding dress and what shoes she'll be wearing for approximately forever, whereas I only have a hire suit. We got two sacramentals ready to go, ready to signify our love and faithfulness in Christ - s'great. Apart from the material, there's nothing fancy about them, which suits me fine.

Yesterday I went to confession. Now, confession was pretty strange the first few times I celebrated it (though I think I looked forward to it from the beginning, because I could see the practical need for it, and the blessing of it from before my conversion) and then one gets more used to it, but confessing in a foreign language is pretty wei-ord. But it was good; I kind of cheated and wrote it all out on paper first, but I think that's understandable in the circumstances. The priest was Don Luca, a bit odd because he's a friend of Lorenzo, Vane's husband (Vane is Monica's sister - maybe I'll do a diagram so I don't have to keep saying this stuff) but he seemed to me to be a good confessor.

I'm really pleased to be so close to a church which is basically open the whole day, and I can easily go to daily mass while I'm not working. I might be able to manage it even if I were, as it's at 18:00. That's a big improvement on Sacred Heart, where you had to be retired or unemployed to get to a daily mass. At the moment there's morning prayer every working day, so Monica and I have been going and praying together. Don Luca is very singy, so we're getting to sing the liturgy too, which is great. However, the music group, such as it it, is on holiday, so I can't really get too involved in the music right now.

I was only able to go to confession yesterday because we're in the triduum. "What triduum?" I hear you say (that is, I hear a lone voice potentially say). I'm glad you asked; there's a crucifix in S. Lucia that's been venerated in the village since the 1500s I think. It's been associated with various miracles, I understand (I have no details), and in Offagna it gets not only it's own liturgical day, it gets a whole triduum in preparation. With it's own readings too I think, we had the Passover from Exodus and the Last Supper from one of the gospels yesterday.

The medieval festival is good. It's hard to find a lot to take pictures of, but there are people continually wondering round in medieval garb, trumpeting and drumming and generally making a medival nuisance of themselves. Monica likes the flag waving people a lot, and there's a trio of jugglers who are very good too. They spend most of the time doing jokes though, which is what performance is all about. We saw a fakir yesterday, who burnt himself and trod on broken glass, allegedly. I have a vague idea how all of it that I saw was done. Usually I haven't a clue how magicians do what they do. They had a bit of falconry too, which I enjoyed and which made Monica shrink into her seat. We saw this great performance the other day with period instruments. Unfortunately the loud drumming people were doing a less subtle performance nearby, so much of the nuance was lost. Especially impressive was the percussion - you have to be very skilful to make a tambourine sound good, but they managed it. There's a market in the town as well, and there's a stall were you can buy medieval instruments, and I wanted to buy all of them and give them a good home, but no can do.

The jousting was a bit disappointing - it's basically for the kiddies and is horrendously staged - it's worse than wrestling. Also disappointing is that there's a not inconsiderable number of "fortune-tellers" and tarot people that come for the festival, and they're all set up in the back streets by Monica's house. It's sad.

So I hope that was informative for you. Ta-ta for now.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Medieval Festival Videos


Thursday, 17 July 2008


If you are British, and you want to get married in this area of Italy, they make you you shell out to come to this building in Firenze in person and pay a further 78 euro. They then present you with an A4 sheet of paper that says you can get married - it isn't even particularly good quality paper. We had to travel for 6 hours. I think I would be within my rights to expect it on illuminated manuscript, from parchment hand-fashioned by virgins, exclusively by the light of the moon.

But basically it's a sheet of A4.

So, if you're in Firenze anyway, you'd sure as hell better do the tourist bit, and we did. Check out all it's majesty:
This is the duomo don't you know, and very grand it is too. I don't think travel writing's my thing somehow.

There's lots more photos on facebook. I might put some more here, but then I'd have to think of words to put between them, so it might be a bit of a wait.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Library lunacy

There was an interesting reason for the library's fire alarm getting set off today. Apparently some Aboriginal Australian human remains were being returned to Australia and as part of this return involved an aborigine man (dressed and painted in a ceremonial way) holding a ceremony. The ceremony involved burning something (smelt like cheap charcoal) within the museum-occupied part of the library (while museum is being renovated). Unsurprisingly the smoke detectors were set off and the building had to be evacuated. Those involved in the ceremony made an unsurprisingly exit before the Fire Brigade arrived.

Now to be fair, the library staff only had 10min warning before anyone knew about the ceremony at all, let alone that it involving burning, and had turned off the alarms in that section to prevent such an occurrence. But the general consensus of opinion was that it was a pretty stupid idea to hold the ceremony in the library, I'm expecting to hear about it in the local news.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Fauna (I think)

They have different aminals here; I suppose that's probably obvious. I like the little lizards that you see on the pavements; they're quite good. They have cicadas here, which make a bit of a racket "when it's hot" i.e. almost the whole day at the moment. There's an intimidating looking flying thing that goes among the flowers with the butterflies. It's sort of a cross between a moth, a hummingbird, a slug and an elephant. That is to say, it looks mostly like a moth, but it flies more like a hummingbird, the front part of it's body is grey and has antennae like slug, and it has a long proboscis. This puts me in mind of the thing that disturbed me on a previous occasion while I was relieving myself, which Monica said had a name in dialect meaning something like the-taker-out-of-eyes. Scary stuff. The insects seem to be larger here to; I saw a really massive woodlouse, and there were two centipede-like creatures in my room this morning that were closer in size to a house-spider. On of them nearly fell off the wall onto my head. Fun and games.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Sono arrivato in Italia

Hi there,

We left in England in the small hours on Friday, like a couple of refugees, with two suitcases packed pretty much up to the weight limit, after having abandoned a few more worldly posessions. My suitcase is on loan from Mum and Dad - it was stored up in their loft. It's a bit cheap, as I found out when the wheels bust. We took an ironically-named (especially if you have to change at Reading) sleeper service from St. David's. It's basically a train where the lights are very slightly dimmed and the seats seem to be designed to do something, but it's anybody's guess what that is. Apart from being a bit of a pain, the train journey went very well.

It was fine at the airport too really, but airports are fiddly, and when you're dragging arround as many posessions as possible, you don't want fiddly. Monica flew really well, so I could have a quick final gaze out at England with impunity, and at the Alps when we were over them. I like looking at the Alps from planes when I have the opportunity. Monica's Dad (Carlo) picked us up from the airport (Bologna Forli) which was very good, but it was oppressively hot, so it seemed to take forever to get to Offagna. We were both very tired, or rather, I was very tired and Monica was shattered.

So here we are. We haven't been up to a great deal so far, but we've been planning what to do this coming week, and I've been speaking Italian a fair amount - it's easier than the last time I think. I'm using Memorylifter (great program) to help me with my 'Mastering Italian Vocabulary' book and we went to mass yesterday. We have to go to the British Consulate in Firenze to get wedding paperwork, among other things. Yesterday we caught some of the final of Offagna's inter-district(?) football match between San Bernardino and Sacramento. Monica said she wanted Sacramento to win because S. Bernardino are quite smug ("and the whole village says so"). Her story would appear to check out sartorially at least - they were playing in pale pink strips with golden numbers; they looked pretty poncy.

It's much noisier here than I'm used to, but I was expecting it because I've visited. Monica's house is next to the main road through the village and the youth (perhaps they are disenfranchised - I haven't made a thorough study) drive through it on absurdly loud bikes, or bike equivalents. Shutters are a very good idea.

It probably goes without saying, but I've been enjoying eating here.

I think that's probably enough to be getting on with. I'll type something again in a bit, I shouldn't wonder. I would think that being on foreign parts should provide me with plenty of subject matter.


Sunday, 22 June 2008

Free stuff. Does someone want it?

Because I'm going to Italy soon (and I will be married in two months and a day!) there's a pile of stuff in our front room which I'm clearly not going to want to take to Italy, but perhaps someone else wants it. If this is the case, let me know if you want to drop round and pick it up. It'll only end up in a skip otherwise:
  • 6x black, plastic, stackable in-trays
  • 2x wooden CD cases. Capacity 21 & 42 respectively.
  • Small blue and white rug
  • MIDI keyboard
  • Most of a balloon-modelling kit
  • 2x free-standing CD racks. Capacity 100 each.
  • Big bag o' tea-lights
  • Wrapping paper
Update: Cool. Freecycle seems to work quite well. Push comes to shove, Ella, I could recycle the wrapping paper - but I think Ed wants it.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Sarcasm (and Irony)

There was a little discussion in my house yesterday about sarcasm and its propriety, or lack of, for Christians. This basically seems like a no-brainer to me, so I thought I'd blog about it. We had trouble right off the bat because even in England (where we pride ourselves, ironically, on our understanding of irony, especially in relation to Americans) I never seem to be able to find anyone who knows the difference between sarcasm and irony. Here we go:
–noun, plural -nies. 1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.
2. Literature. a. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.
b. (esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.
3. Socratic irony.
4. dramatic irony.
5. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
6. the incongruity of this.
7. an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing.
8. an objectively or humorously sardonic utterance, disposition, quality, etc.
–noun 1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms.
—Synonyms 1. sardonicism, bitterness, ridicule. See irony1. 2. jeer.
1579, from L.L. sarcasmos, from Gk. sarkasmos "a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery," from sarkazein "to speak bitterly, sneer," lit. "to strip off the flesh," from sarx (gen. sarkos) "flesh," prop. "piece of meat," from PIE base *twerk- "to cut" (cf. Avestan thwares "to cut").
That's pretty clear, right? If not, let me sum up - sarcasm is basically all about being nasty; it tends to involve irony, but not necessarily.

Excuse me while I have a Catholic digression:


All this talk of stripping meat and flesh reminds me of a factoid which is problematic for a symbolic understanding of the Eucharist:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. - Jn 6:53-6
Your stock response to the Catholic teaching that you must receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist to have eternal life, as per the above, is to say that Jesus speaks here figuratively. Now the problem with this is as follows (quote nicked from
"The phrase ‘to eat the flesh and drink the blood,’ when used figuratively among the Jews, as among the Arabs of today, meant to inflict upon a person some serious injury, especially by calumny or by false accusation. To interpret the phrase figuratively then would be to make our Lord promise life everlasting to the culprit for slandering and hating him, which would reduce the whole passage to utter nonsense" (Fr. John A. O’Brien, The Faith of Millions, 215).
Therefore, if Jesus was speaking figuratively, it would have been incredibly misleading. It would be a bit like me telling you that a mutual acquaintance of ours had "kicked the bucket", expecting you to understand that I meant that they had finished repairing a leak in their house. Here's a biblical example of the afore-mentioned usage:
And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel!
Is it not for you to know justice?—
you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin from off my people
and their flesh from off their bones,
who eat the flesh of my people,
and flay their skin from off them,
and break their bones in pieces
and chop them up like meat in a pot,
like flesh in a cauldron. - Micah 3:1-3

Hi again.

"Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil. - Mt 5:33-7
This was urged yesterday in support of the position that sarcasm (they meant irony I think) was bad. It was quite legitimately pointed out that this is about oaths, so it would seem that we have no warrant for applying this saying about yes and no universally. This is all well and good, but I certainly wouldn't want to rule it out as a general principle. As our Lord is "the way and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6), and St. Paul call us to be "imitators of God" (Eph 5:1), it seems to follow very naturally. More to the point perhaps, given the actual meaning of sarcasm, is the following:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. - Mt 5:21-2
Looking at the definition of sarcasm, you see words like "derision", "taunt" and "sneering". I appreciate that the word translated here as "fool" is very specific, but derision, taunting and sneering are all ways of insulting a person, and calling them a fool, in a sense. S'not nice.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. - Eph 4:15-32 (my emphasis, naturally)
This is the kind of person we are called to be, and it seems to me that sarcasm is clearly out. Irony would certainly seem to be problematic.

However, to paraphrase St. Anselm of Canterbury (probably), let's not go nuts. It was urged, in defence of sarcasm (irony was definitely what was meant), that when you employ it, there's a message in your tone of voice that indicates that though you are saying one thing, you mean another, so sarcasm (irony) isn't lying. You might say that it's a formal lie, but it isn't lying in intent. I reckon that's fair enough (in the case of irony, not sarcasm), but you wanna be careful with that sort of thing - you wouldn't want to deceive someone unintentionally.

Let's finish with a brace of examples of the Lord God Almighty speaking in less than complete earnestness (i.e. taking the mick):
"If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?[...]" - Ps 50 (in the protestant numbering I think)
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy? - Jb 38:1-7, but it continues in this vein until the end of chapter 41!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Psalm 127

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Amen to that.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Neo-Cat News

Final canonical approval for Neocatechumenal Way

That's interesting. (At least, I find it interesting)

These guys are pretty controversial. They're very enthusiastic about some very important things, for which the Church can be very glad, but I gather that they have an approach to existing Church structures which some find very problematic and divisive. Monica's mate Marghe the nun used to be involved with them, so I figure they can't be all bad - she's gone Benedictine now.

See how it goes I suppose. It's not like things were any simpler with the Franciscans...

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

"Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
This is definitely one for me at the moment.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Think that'll do...

blog readability test

Movie Reviews


Oscar Wilde

I was aware that the above Wilde had some connection to the Catholic church, but had no particular idea of what. So this article was very informative.

"I am not a Catholic," said Oscar Wilde. "I am simply a violent Papist." This statement, like so many of Wilde's outrageous paradoxes, conceals a sober truth beneath its blithe wit. Another example would be his jest that, of all religions, Catholicism is the only one worth dying in. Looking back over his life more than a hundred years later, we can be forgiven for seeing the irony in such statements, for Wilde's fascination with Catholicism, its mysteries and rituals, did set the stage for his death-bed conversion. And we can certainly perceive justice in the fact that the man who cracked such jokes also believed that life imitated art: ultimately, then, the joke was on him.
It comes courtesy of Eve Tushnet, who is, I gather, a gay Catholic. I don't seem to be able to verify this simply - there's no About Me section on her blog that I can see.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Some historical information on Mani and Manichaeism. This was a heresy that Augustine was involved with before becoming Catholic. It demonstrates (to anyone who didn't already know) that syncretism is nothing new.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Victor Lams Podcast

Hey, Victor Lams has a podcast! Now the musical products of his deranged mind can come directly to my iPod. Nice

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Just for the record...

...Catholics don't all think alike. Q.E.D.. I can't remember the last time I respected an opinion less.

Hybrid Embryos

Dave did a blog about hybrid embryos. I assume my comment will show up at some point in the future; Dave moderates them.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


I was talking with, or rather I was listening to - I wasn't in a talkative mood at the time, someone who, though concerned in a general sense about the issue of abortion, was agnostic as to when abortion would be sinful, being sceptical about the Catholic teaching that life should be defended from conception. Naturally this was in reference to the HFE Bill, and those proposing a change to the time limits based on scientific data about the development of an embryo. They opined that conception seemed to be an arbitrary point at which to draw the line.

I don't recall having an opinion about abortion before I had any faith in the teaching authority of the church, but one of the things that I find most strange about the "debate" is the lack of concern about the potential evil. The Church considers abortion as the murder of an innocent human life. I don't see how uncertainty from other parties as to when life really begins makes it acceptable to proceed. This procedure may be murder; how, when it may be murder, could anyone not shrink from it? You really need a watertight case that an embryo is not human before you could contemplate it's termination with a clear conscience. If you were presented with a locked room, in which there may or may not be a man or a woman, and a lever which released poison gas into the room, would you think it was okay to pull the lever? After all, there's no way of knowing whether or not there's a human life in there.

I think it's quite natural to assume that life does begin at conception, though I don't claim to be able to prove it. At conception, you certainly have a genetically distinct individual with 46 chromosomes, neither the mother nor the father. Give them oxygen, give them nutrients, and they will grow to be an adult. Up to what point would it have been acceptable to abort those cells/that person who was to become Jesus of Nazareth? This is obviously a special case, but that does not make it illegitimate. God had a plan for that birth, he had a plan for Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) - are we sufficiently confident as to think that in any given abortion, we are not directly thwarting the will of God? I think the answer to that is obviously no, at least if you are a theist.

People sometimes assume that abortion is a modern phenomenom as well, and that the Church therefore condemns abortion as an innovation. This is simply not true, which is worth pointing out. There are documents contemporary with the New Testament canon which condemn it outright.

I was also thinking, and forgot to blog it, that viability is a more arbitrary marker than conception. Viability as I understand it, is the stage at which it would be possible to preserve a life outside the womb. I'm not really sure what viability has to do with anything. That would be the stage at which medical care could substitute for the protection of the womb. A child needs the care of their mother from conception, although the form of that protection is quite different from that which is required after birth. A baby abandoned at birth will most likely die, but that's no argument for not caring for them.
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