Be careful what you might find

This evening, after dinner, I was looking for something completely different – isn’t that always the way – when I looked at a Puma shoebox and wondered if there was actually anything inside it, or whether it was just sitting there in this bookcase taking up valuable biblio-real estate. That that question was even viable might tell you more than I’d be comfortable with about how organised my flat is (hint: really not very).

It wasn’t empty. At some point in the past I evidently had a flash of inspiration, collected up a bunch of letters and other paraphernalia, and stored them away in this red shoebox.

I lost perhaps a good half hour looking through these papers; letters, holy cards, paperwork from the Inland Revenue (!), and last but not least, photos. Let’s just say that my aversion to my photo being taken is not by any means a recent phenomenon, and past me had little problem in showing that in facial expressions!

But it’s a joy to be reminded of times past, and even more so to be able to do so having let go of an awful amount of pain and unhappiness. God is faithful, and time heals much.


The Centenary

There will never not be war in this world.

The previous sentence would be mocked by so many I know. Yet more would agree, but perhaps not see the real reason why.

Striving for no war is pointless and futile; what must be striven for is the elimination of unjust war. There will be enough just war to satisfy any bloodlust. But it seems to me that the very notion of a just war implies that there be a Right Side™ and a Wrong Side™ (without necessarily drawing conclusions on any particular individual involved), and that is just too ‘judgemental’ for many Westerners who then harp on and on ad nauseam about mediation and aid efforts for the local  and whatever.

But in Life there is a Right Side™ and a Wrong Side™. One is either one or the other, and in this war is of course no different to the rest of the human condition. Only without submitting to Christ and His Church, there is no likelihood of choosing the Right Side™. Which is telling, really.




July has been the month of the end of the World Cup (go Germany!), Days of Warmth™, and MH17. That’s before we even start on the rest of the world also joining in the Handbasket Hellbent Express.

Oranje didn’t win the World Cup. I know I should be linguistically consistent and say that Orange didn’t win the World Cup, but this is my blog en ik ga talen door elkaar mengen als ik dat wil, dank u. Besides, Orange is a village in France, orange is too messy to eat, so there’s only Oranje left over to be able to say that Louis (his first name is Aloysius) van Gaal is our countryman. Booya.

Being a resident of the fair North-West European Marshes was (is!) enough to support Oranje. Being of the noble Britannia, however, provides so much weight in terms of anti-Argentinaism that during the semi-final I almost forgot I was wearing an orange top.

But could anything have really measured up against the almighty visceration that Germany had dealt out to Brazil the night before? My Mate Mulier and I had established a worthy tradition (give it two hundred years and I expect the rubrics to be taken up in a Rituale) of Skyping during football matches. In Dutchieland I am spoilt with NOS (like the BBC, but better, not least because a mate of mine makes sure that their online streams work, and she is excellent at what she does) and their enlightened approach to streaming stuff live, so every now and then my part in the conversation would abruptly stop, my eyes would widen, and Mulier would say something like, “You’re not telling me Germany have scored again…..”

Those poor Brazilians. Ha ha ha.

And then Argentina *spit* beat the Oranje lions, and then Brazil lost to us for third place.

I’m torn between a patriotic disdain of South America and simple pity.


I am typing this on a train zooming diagonally across this fair sceptered isle. The rain has just started. I feel completely at home.

En ja in het Engels zeg je dat je op een trein bent, en niet in een trein zit, en nee dat betekent niet dat je letterlijk op het dak zit. Het is niet dat we het opzettelijk “niet letterlijk waar, dus wellicht en eventueel verwarrend” maken…maar leg mij nou eens uit waarom ik keer op keer op sodemieter keer naar uw geklaag erover moet luisteren en mijn eigen taal moet verdedigen, terwijl ik juist (waarschijnlijk) veel meer van uw eigen taal – inclusief vergelijkbare rare-ig-heden – af weet dan u zelf.

Dat moest ik maar even kwijt.


It was a month of the most debilitating heat I could imagine. Those in the know have informed me that 30C is perfectly survivable when your humidity is low. The problem was that our humidity wasn’t low. Unless you use the word “low” to mean what the rest of us mean when we say “blisteringly, suffocatingly high”, in which case you are a numpty with a poor grasp of the English language.

For the last few years I haven’t worked in the month of July; it’s one of the few perks when you are employed enslaved in the education system. There is, however, a certain breed of superhero that works in that blistering sun on railways and the like. A couple of years ago I offered to take a crate of beer round to one such site, only to be told that whilst the men would certainly have appreciated the gesture, alcohol isn’t permitted at work.

Poor sods.


I have just been on a day trip (!) to Liverpool. It had to do with passports. I’m sure you understand the predicament and I thank you in advance for your sympathy. But all went well and once back in Cloggieland I shall be legal once again – which is surely a life goal of any self-respecting expat, I’m sure you’ll agree 😉

Liverpudlians are, I was reminded, lovely, charming people! I hadn’t been there in something like fifteen years, and I ought to go back and spend a bit more time in the area.

I have, however, absolutely no good explanation for what happens to my accent whilst talking with a local. I think it probably wobbled between Runcorn and Wakefield. Sorry, Liverpool.


This is the first trip back to Our Lady’s Dowry where I have felt slightly Other™. Perhaps I have been abroad too long.

But how can ten years be too long? Ten years isn’t much, in the larger context. I’m reminded of the psalm which says,

Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong.

And most of those are emptiness and pain….

Now I’m not a psalmist by any stretch, but I can empathise with a sentiment expressed in there.


My train has whizzed through many miles and it’s time to put my sandals back on. Benediction this evening. My GA’s desk is open.

Unholy trinity

Who was the bright spark who looked at the calendar for 2014 and did not co-ordinate the dates of the World Cup, the Cricket, and Wimbledon? It must have been what my snarky side calls a very special person.

And now I will stop using italics in the way St. JP2 did. All other things being equal, the way in which his encyclicals etc. seemed to be peppered with italics grated a bit.

What kind of character imperfection is that?


Oranje are playing Mexico right now (shall we just…not talk about how England fared in Brazil? *snigger*), apparently Eng-er-land got thrashed at the cricket (I’m not even totally sure who they were playing…Sri Lanka?), and apparently Wimbledon started. Somewhere. Sometime. Iono.

This latter in particular is a sign of how so much of what you hold dear as a Brit™ can be whittled away after time as an expat. How could the start of Wimbledon possibly pass me by?!

The Summer is here, bringing with it empty weeks that will be filled with all sorts of constructive and industrious activity (which will also include sleeping in…well, probably). I plan on taking over the world. Probably for Christ. Hopefully for Christ. Or at least for an ice cream.

But really, what is it with England losing at cricket all the time?

Also, our goalie has much too much work to do. Plus it’s about 39ºC out there. This is just nuts.

But we’re going to win! Hup Holland Hup! Etc.


For years I have wondered exactly how badminton (the racquet game, not the horse trials) works, specifically with regards to the shuttlecock. That is…how do you hit the thing?

Tennis is simpler – there’s a ball, which by nature of its ballness, is spherical, and when it hits a surface (like a racquet) it stops in that direction and goes back in the opposite one (spin etc. notwithstanding).

But badminton is different; the shuttlecock is a different beast with fewer symmetries. What happens when you hit it dead-on? If the force of the strike is perfectly evenly distributed, the feathers/skirt perfectly symmetrical, how does that thing turn around for the return? Does it turn inside out? (…but those things are pretty rigid)

I could say that these thoughts were what distracted me in school when I came a miserable 10th out of 11 in a tourney in PE…but I just sucked at PE (wasn’t much better at Physics either*).

However, my schooldays were prior to the Golden Age of YouTube.

The interesting bit (in terms of this question) starts at about 1:00, when we see a series of ‘head-on’ shots. Those at about 1:30 and 1:40 are even clearer. The show the head being pushed back into the body of the shuttlecock, which (I guess because of non-symmetries in the fabric of the skirt?) at a certain point must give in and flip.

But what would happen if the axis of a flawless shuttlecock were exactly normal to the racquet? INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.

Also I probably need help in overcoming some high school demons. Thanks.

* Physics is simply Maths made unnecessarily a) difficult, and b) applied. And because it’s quagmired in this need to describe the universe and stuff, it’s going to inevitably come a poor second to Maths, which is second only to the Queen of Sciences herself (which is Theology if you don’t read Aquinas, shame on you). This is the main reason I would be an outsider nerd even on The Big Bang Threory.

Utrecht copies the Black Mass

I’m being provocative.


In the Netherlands, as in some other countries, there’s an Association for Latin Liturgy (Vereniging voor Latijnse Liturgie for those who can read Dutch). It’s mainly focused on the Latin Novus Ordo; for the last few years the Association has had use of a church in the centre of Utrecht (seat of the Dutch Metropolitan See) where the Novus Ordo is offered every day, and a TLM is offered each Sunday evening. A few days ago the Assocation held its annual Members’ Day in the Dutch version of St. Peter’s Basilica in Oudenbosch – at which the Mass was, for the first time, a TLM.

The Association had for several years been characterised by a ‘coolness’ towards the TLM, preferring instead the Novus Ordo offered in Latin. So people were happy that this year’s Mass was a TLM; I wasn’t there as I’d promised to sing at Mass elsewhere. Otherwise you can be sure I’d have busted a few guts to be there. I mean the speaker was Le Barroux’s Fr. Abbot!

St. Willibrord’s Church

The ‘home’ church in Utrecht is that of St. Willibrord, one of the many British missionaries who came to the northern part of the European continent. It itself has a chequered history, having almost been demolished after everyone got jiggy wit it, only to be saved by the tenacity of the near-legendary Fr. Kotte. A few years ago the then-Archbishop-now-Cardinal Eijk re-dedicated the church building, and the Association came to an agreement with the Archdiocese and the building’s owners regarding its regular use. At the time it gave great relief; after years of being in a shadowy no man’s land, the position of the church was clear, and the Association had a national base for its activities.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the inside of St. Willibrord’s, here you go:


Oh but there’s lots of pictures of the place. In short, it’s an example of Dutch neo-Gothic, which can feel like an all-out assault the first time you see it, but after about six and a half minutes you get used to it and just see the beauty and care and time and effort that went into getting these places off the ground once Catholic emancipation was achieved in the Netherlands in the 19th Century.


The Association was never the owner of the building. It’s always also been used for things like concerts. I suppose people aren’t too thrilled about this – I mean it was rededicated as a sacred temple of God – but sometimes you have to be happy with what you have?

And then De Uitvaart started.

‘De Uitvaart’ is Dutch for ‘the Funeral’. Some chap called Dries Verhoeven, who doesn’t know that men should take their hats off when in church,


decided he wanted to be controversial (insert cynical comments about a Dutch stereotype in here), and stage ten ‘Requiems’, one each day, from 15th – 24th May. These Requiems don’t seem to be for people, but for concepts: one being the idea that the Netherlands is the centre of the world (if you laughed at that, you’re not the only one).

Mr. Verhoeven secured the use of St. Willibrord’s church for all ten dates of his theatre project, in which a ‘priest’ along with other ‘ministers’ (including girl ‘altar servers’) offer a ‘requiem’ with a ‘coffin’ and ‘mourners’. And yes, there’s  ‘communion’ too.

Let me be clear – this is scheduled to happen in a consecrated church building, which on weekday mornings has a real Mass. There are two Masses on Sundays; a Novus Ordo in the morning and the TLM in the evening.

So at 5:30pm tomorrow evening there’d be the True Mass of the Ages, and at 7:15pm ‘the public’ will come in with their season tickets (there’s a canon forbidding charging entrance fees to the holy liturgy, just sayin’), and watch this farce.

No more Masses – how can we mock God?

The Association, on hearing about this, asked the owners and organisers to call it off: to no avail (statement on Facebook, in Dutch). As such the Association has decided to cease all its Masses in St. Willibrord’s, a consequence which damages the spiritual lives of people. You know, the real spiritual parts of man’s existence. The part that deals with whether people can give proper worship to God almighty. The God who will not be mocked – yet St. Willibrord’s owners are happy to hire out His sacred temple, presumably in exchange for a decent cut of those profits.

It’s not a Black Mass. But Satanism is not the only way Christ is insulted. If Mr. Verhoeven wants to mock and upset people, then he has succeeded, and perhaps he will be satisfied with himself. But Earthly fame and glory pass away, and the reckoning must come after, for all of us, Catholic or not.

The Association is brave, and in my view has made the right decision. My prayer is that a new location – one that hasn’t been desecrated – will be found for Mass. Real Mass.

(A Dutch-language take on this ‘deconsecration’ can be read here)