Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday March 20th


To central London to meet a small niece from school... We always hugely enjoy time with nieces and nephews, all of whom have given and continue to give endless pleasure. When they are small, Jamie spends a lot of the time swinging them around upside-down and throwing them up in the air...

Current Catholic Herald has a front-page report on the Pope's recent speech about the future of Europe which is very, very interesting and worrylingly to the point. It echoes something he said a few years ago as Cardinal Ratzinger, in an interview with a German journalist:"When any society turns away from fellowship with the liiving God, it cuts the inner roots of its social organism."

Latest issue of AD2000 arrived from Australia this morning - always a good read. Review of Aidan Nicholls' book on "Catholic Thought since the Enlightenment", and a good feature on Christian-Moslem dialgue. There is also a heart-rending letter about the plight of inmates in some of Africa's prisons, with an address to contact through which some help could be given (click on the link and find out more).

We have friends in Australia who are involved in all the exciting preparations for World Youth Day, which tales place in Sydney in 2008....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday March 29th

Jamie and I are off to Austria in a couple of weeks, to speak at a conference at Sonntagberg, where a large pilgrimage centre is run by friends of ours. It is always glorious to go there - mountains, friends, wonderful walks, a quite fabulous baroque basilica, and a sense of largeness and hence of life's boundless possibilities. My only worry is that the conference will mostly be in German, and I certainly can't make an adequate speech in that language. I have asked if I can do mine mostly in English, and have a translator on hand. I can do an introductory bit in German, but will then have to ask permission to relapse into my native tongue...when I am speaking German, I can hear not only my strong English accent but also a childlike use of wrong verbal tenses, which makes people smile and when I apologise for the poor grammar, they laugh and say not to worry, they are hugely enjoying it...


Yesterday, Christiana von Habsburg, whom we met at a recent conference in Rome, came to London and we had a get-together of some like-minded women to learn about the study centre in Rome with which she has become involved.It's the Institute for Studies on Women and is exploring the "new feminism"...there are talks and lectures, and one can even do a full-time study course and get a degree... I got interested in all this some years ago I attended the United Nations conference at Copenhagen which was looking at international development, and where there were concerted attempts by well-financed American and European lobby groups to highjack the thing for an agenda promoting abortion which was not what the poorer nations of the world thought the whole event was meant to be about... I was impressed at the time by the (elegant, and multi-lingual) women representing the Holy See, who gave a good press conference, smoothly run and with intelligent and perceptive contributions to the issues being raised.(It was also great fun meeting people from the wide range of independent groups representing various pro-life and pro-family causes, and the days that we spent together working and lobbying remain in my mind as exciting, exhausting, and with a wonderful sense of teamwork).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday March 27th


Tony Blair - remember all those reports that he's about to become a Catholic? - says he gave a skip of joy at seeing Britain's first gay-marriage style Civil Union. And he's given unqualified backing to the militant homosexualist lobby group Stonewall which will now be able to start lots of work in schools following the Govt's new Sexual Orientation Regulations which ban Catholic schools from putting the Church's teachings in this area. See the speech that Blair gave last night at a big Stonewall celebration.


In a (rather profound and moving) exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict, summing up the recent Bishops' Synod on the subject recalls their emphasis on "Eucharistic Consistency". He goes on to explain what this means:

"Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptised, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children, and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist(1.Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them." (emphasis mine)

Anyone written to Ruth Kelly yet? (I genuinely want to know. I think the woman's in a bind about this).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday Jan 26th 07


Meeting in London to plan the Martyrs' Walk, organised by members of Miles Jesu. The date is June 23rd, and everyone will meet at 11 am at Tower Hill, where Saints John Fisher and Thomas More gave their lives for the Faith. We'll be walking to Tyburn, via stops at Greyfriars and at St Patrick's Church, Soho Square, where there will be talks, and Benediction....

The week before, on Friday June 15th, I'll be giving a talk at Westminster Cathedral (the Hinsley Room, just alongside the Cathedral) about the history of the Church in England, from Augistine's landing in Kent through the centuries to the present day and its opportunities.

For more information on all of this, contact Miles Jesu at 0208 764 0341.
Monday March 26th


Saturday afternoon saw us at an adventure area in Kent, with three young nieces and their parents, plus 17 other children, all energetically doing an assault course, firing vegetable-paints at targets, running a complicated tyre-carrying relay race and making rafts out of crates and plastic barrels and floating them perilously across a pond with team members on board. Don't bother to ask if Auntie Joanna fell in - of course she did, but this didn't stop me, or the others who got similarly soaked and muddied, from enjoying a hearty tea...however, once back at the house with a glass of wine and a log fire and a change of clothes, I found that cosy exhaustion was gradually overwhelming me...

...and on Sunday morning we had to get up early to get to Mass (in quite the most hideous church I've ever visited, which is saying a good deal. It was built c. 1977, had a messy, "cardboard" feel, the tabernacle placed weirdly and bleakly to the rear, an entrance area littered with notices and posters of the type that look busy but which remain largely unread,and a general air of fussy incoherence).

Then on to a point-to-point, something which I haven't attended for years. I hadn't realised that despite the official anti-hunting laws, and the general aboliton of the traditional farming-based rural way of living, there is still a sense of life in country activities. Lots of commercial support: tents selling (expensive) smart clothing, wellies, barbour jackets etc; stalls offering everything from game pie and Pimms to burgers-n-chips; a roundabout and bouncy castle or two; arts-and-crafts tents with v. expensive furniture and rocking-horses....and at the heart of it the horses and the races and the huntsmen in traditional ultra-elegance. I don't want to get into the pro-and anti-hunting debate (I'm a townie, brought up in suburbia)so won't be publishing any comments on the subject (endless debates elsewhere). I merely note what I saw at the point-to-point and must add that after a traditional picnic, wandering round the displays and stalls, watching the races, and lots of chat with family-and-friends, I eventually succumed to slumber in a comfortable picnic chair, wearing two waterproof jackets and a pair of thick socks (it was a pleasant day, but cold).

Saturday, March 24, 2007



Yesterday evening to the Bloomsbury Theatre: excellent production of Mendelsohn's opera Camacho's Wedding in which nephew G. was singing. It was a delight: we arrived tired at the end of an unusually hectic and demanding week, but the music and the energy of this spirited production energised us, and we hugely enjoyed ourselves. It's good to be part of a city where a University theatre can put on a production of this quality and style. The chorus was strong and effective, the plot suitably convoluted (young lovers must separate as bride's father has decided she must murry a rich man instead, friends help to try to ensure all ends well, after innumerable muddles they finally do....)and the music glorious. Mendelsohn wrote it when only 14!!


On Wednesday evening I was in Brighton, speaking at St Joseph's Church as part of a series of talks on "Catholicism for the Curious". As I drew up to the church, memorioes rushed back: I was last there 17 years ago, to gather support for the 1990 International Congress for the Family, a massive event of which Jamie was the organiser. On that occasion, I was asking local families if they would consider hosting some visitors for the Congress - specifically, visitors from eastern Europe who were unable to afford hotel fees...As I recounted this memory at the start of my talk, a hand shot up from among the audience and an elderly lady called out "Yes! And we are still in touch with our two Hungarians! They've become close family friends and have been back to visit several times!" Everyone broke into applause and it made a wonderful beginning to the evening.

The church is a large and rather splendid one, numbers attending were rather good for a (cold) weekday evening, and the atmosphere excellent. The nice parish priest was extremely welcoming: he was in the church quietly praying when I arrived, and when he finished he welcomed me with a warm smile, and took me off for a mug of tea and made me feel very much at home. There is a small group of young people living as a Benedictine community in a house near the church, and they were the initiative behind the series of talks. A large number of people from the parish go every year to "Celebrate!" the big family gathering organised by the Catholic Charismatic movement - where I have also been a speaker several times, and so that brought another wave of renewal of contacts.

Part of my talk centred on the Calendar - how the Church's feasts and seasons tell the story of our salvation, and how it all fits together. People always enjoy discovering - or rediscovering - the traditions associated with the Faith, and I always learn more as people add information or we tackle some new aspect via questions. This time, there was one young enthusiast who had written to HM the Queen suggesting that she revive the authentic custom of washing the feet of twelve poor men on Maundy Thursday, rather than just distributing Maundy nmoney...All in all a most cheery and agreeable evening. Home late as a train sped up to London, and I caught another back to the suburbs and cycled home from Wimbledon through silent and chilly streets.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday March 23rd


Hectic week, little time for blogging.... due to a major speaking engagement on the South Coast, I had to miss the torchlit vigil on Wednesday night at which a great crowd, led by Evangelical Christians, stood in opposition to the loathsome Sexual Orientation Regulations which were whisked through Parliament. This week's Catholic Herald has a front-page headline in which Cardinal Cormac rightly denounces the lack of any real opportunity for full Parliamentary debate on this issue.

One of the most horrible aspects of this tragic piece of legislation is that Ruth Kelly, who has always publicly affirmed her Catholicism, spearheaded the drive to get these unjust regulations passed into law. Under her driving-power, Catholic schools could now be legally forced to teach the acceptability of lesbian and homosexual activity, Catholic organisations banned from publicly proclaiming the Catholic treachings in this area.

I invite readers of this blog to join me in writing to:

Mrs Ruth Kelly MP
House of Commons
London SW1

to ask her specifically why she believes Catholics and other Christians should be restricted in this way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007



PLEASE , dear correspondents to this blog - understand that I cannot reply to you unless you send me an email address! A nice lady has written saying she wants to get in touch about a speaking engagement. I'm delighted to accept such an engagement: but I CAN'T GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU UNLESS YOU GIVE ME AN ADDRESS!!!!


Rushing about my bike....speaking at a school in Kent, re Tamezin magazine....I give a talk on journalism, we have a mock press conference (today I was, by turns, a mother whose baby had just been rescued in a fire, and then the rescuer....)and also learn to write headlines, think about follow-up features, etc etc. It is great fun. The idea is to encourage young writers. Tamezin runs a Young Journalists' Award which involves a competition: this year's theme is "inspirational interviews".....Tamezin is a real alternative to other teenage magazines and is beginning to be v. popular with young readers....

Very cold weather today, but I prefer it to great heat.I relish cups of coffee at railway stations - a vast improvement on the revolting stewed tea and dreary sandwiches available there in my youth......


I'm still waiting for some response from our Bishops - or some of them, or one of them - in response to the magnificent new document out from Rome about the Eucharist. It says so many important things about the Mass, about the need for beauty in the liturgy, about correcting abuses, about parish music, about Latin, about things that affect every parish gathering for worship every Sunday across Britain.....


Anyone there?

Monday, March 19, 2007

I arrived in Manchester late on Saturday night, and the city centre was lively with shrieking, shouting young people, many drunk, a few vomiting or slumped in pub doorways. With intermittent blasts of driving rain, it was a vivid but depressing scene. Several thumped on the doors of my taxi as it took me to what was once the Free Trade Hall, the facade now fronting a vast modern and very comfortable hotel all thick glass doors and shiny steel and gleaming dark wood. The taxi-driver said the crowds were celebrating St Patrick's Day, but that most Saturdays were a bit like this. I stepped over a fat drunken girl in the doorway as her friends mumbled awkwardly and a couple of lads started to argue with my taxi-driver.

My room was immensely comfortable and I slept well. Off at an early hour to the TV studios for the "Heaven and Earth Show", broadcast live. As one of three panel members I ddiscussed whether or not Christians are experiencing discrimination in Britain....lively talk. Mentioned obviously, that we shouldn't whinge too much....Christians in Pakistan have had their churches torched and homes destroyed, Christians in China get beaten up or mysteriously disappear to be listed among prisoners three or four years later..... But yes, things are likely to get difficult here...unjust new law about to be passed forcing Catholic schools to teach that homosexual and lesbian activity is an acceptable lifestyle...obviously for some years now Christian doctors haven't been able to work in senior posts in obstetrics unless they abandon their beliefs and perform abortions...etc. Another panel member said it was all the Christians' fault for having too many privileges in the first place, eg having Anglican Bishops in the House of Lords, and being allowed to have Christian schools funded by the taxpayer. I pointed out that for centuries all schools in Britain, and health services too, were run by the Church (and run rather well - the State has been a newcomer, and I'm not sure has yet proved itself as the best provider of either education or health care) so any funding now being produced from the public purse is an extra to what we provided first and purely from a spirit of Christian service.....oh, but debates like this get nowehere really....

Home, just settling to letters etc when phone call from BBC World Service at Bush House in the Strand...would I come and do a News Hour interview re same topic? Looked at kitchen clock. Could just manage it with Mass first. Cycled to Mass - our Sunday evening one is always packed, especially with young people as the parish youth club meets afterwards. Squeezed in to corner of pew. Cycled home. Jamie back from weekend in Yorkshire.Had about five mins with him then taxi came. To BBC, did interview. Staff at Bush House v. anxious about BBC reporter, one of their team, kidnapped apparently by Palestinian group in Gaza. This was subsequently all over the news bulletins. His BBC colleagues all say he is a v. decent and friendly chap, keen to be a fair reporter.
Monday March 19th St Joseph's Day


A hectic weekend. On Saturday Mother and I went to an excellent local production of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" put on by the Sutton Amateur Dramatic Com,pany at Carshalton Theratre. The Sutton group is the oldest amateur dramatic society in the world, and very proud of the fact: among its members there have been several who have gone on to become well-known actors, eg Leslie Howard ("Ashley" in Gone with the Wind....). We hugely enjoyed the play, which was M.'s treat for Mothering Sunday, and was preceded by lunch at The Woodman, where they were offering special dishes for St Patrick's Day (bacon and white sauce, and very good).

It was strange to be sitting in that small theatre - because it used to be Carshalton village hall, and the memories came flooding back.....Back in the 1970s, I made political history - well, for a while - at Carshalton Hall by becoming London's youngest borough counciollor, when I was elected there for the Beddington South ward of the London Borough of Sutton. The votes were counted in Carshalton Hall, and I remember the breathless, pounding excitement as they stacked up and up...a picture of me cavorting with glee later graced the front page of the local newspaper, and more formal portraits some of the national press....

I was a councillor for eight years and loved it. Only ceased when I met Jamie and so decided not to stand for re-electionm but to go on to the next chapter....

And now here I am, and it's 2007, and I am a great-aunt and write books and have been married for over a quarter of a century and have a blog on a computer.

The play was well done, and we really felt convinced we were in a great house in Dartmoor, with the mist swirling and the haunting cry of some terrible beast... "Mr Holmes, it was the footprints of a gigantic hound...". (Oh, if you haven't read the story, go and get it, still available in paperback at any halfway-good bookshop....). It felt quite strange to emerge into pleasant sunlight and Mother caught the 157 buis back home while I cycled on to the sttation and caught the train to town.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sat March 17th


The gross Sexual Orientation Regulations have been rushed through, without a proper Parliamentary debate, in a hurried committee meeting at Westminster at 8.55 am yesterday. These unjust and ill-considered new regulations present massive problems and could mean - among many other injustices - that Catholic schools will be forced to teach thre acceptability of homosexual unions, contrary to Christian teaching.

There is to be a torchlit prayer vigil this coming Wednesday, March 21st, outside Parliament, starting at 7pm.

Christian groups are asking people to contact their MPs and members of the House of Lords over the weekend to get emergency debates etc on Monday.


Reading the Holy Father's superb new document on the Eucharist is a joy. Now - how to get it implemented?

Er....our Bishops don't seem to have commented on it yet.

I predict there will be an attempt to suggest that it's a hard-to-read (it isn't) complicated (not a bit, it's straightforward, powerfully straightforward, and beautifully written) and not relevant to Britain (it speaks directly, almost pointedly, at the liturgical realities of most of our suburban parishes).


Hurtling about in bright spring sunshine. Yesterday evening the final day of our parish mission - spoke on "Catholic for a reason". I was very nervous about giving a talk in my own parish, but it turned out to be a happy evening. We are very, very fortunate in our parish clergy here and our parish priest has done wonderful job with this mission for which we are all grateful. Great atmosphere in the church, sense that the mission has achieved something, good to have been part of it.....

On Thursday evening I spoke to the Confirmation class. They invite me in every year to talk about saints and the calendar etc. I find the prospect of a teenage audience a bit scary but the reality is always fine! It's a good-sized parish: we have 40 young people being confirmed every year. They were receptive and listening - you could have heard a pin drop when I explained that they were to be anointed with sacred oil, as monarchs and priests are anointed, as our Sovreigns have been anointed for over a thousand years....they were interested to learn about the calendar, watched as I explained how the whole round of our seasons is intimately bound up with the Incarnation and Lady Day and Christmas, Lent and Easter and the Passover now made new and universal.....

(and yes, before anyone writes in with criticisms, of course I explained the full reality of Confirmation and that it is no mere symbol like the Queen's Coronation etc).

The idea was also to help them choose a Confirmation name. I explained about names being v. important in the Scriptures...Abram's name changed to Abraham, Simon's to Peter, etc etc....we went through some stories of saints especially heroic ones like Maximillian Kolbe, Edmund Campion, Mother Teresa.

Of to lunch with Mother (Mothering Sunday tomorrow, and today we were going to a matinee as part of the treat). To Manchester overnight to do a TV programme "Heaven and eartbn show" - more on that later.....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday Jan 15th
A packed memorial Mass yesterday evening at St Etheldreda's, Ely Place, the beautiful pre-Reformation church near London's Holborn Circus, for Peter Bearcroft, a leading Catholic layman who did a good deal for the cause of Christian unity. It was Peter who arranged for a plaque to be placed in the Tower of London commemorating St John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, who died there in 1534 - Peter brought together Anglicans and Catholics in this, and the plaque was blessed and dedicated by the Anglican Bishop of London and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, a moment of history.....

Yesterday evening's Mass included some glorious hymns, notably Newman's "Praise to the Holiest in the height" and Faber's "Faith of our Fathers" (original version), which we sang with all our hearts. Afterwards a crowded gathering in the crypt. Peter was a Papal Knight, and there were Knights of St Gregory and of the Holy Sepuklchre, in their robes and uniforms. He was also a member of the Catholic Union (of which Jamie is chairman), the organisation which speaks for Catholics in public life....


St Etheldreda's was for many years the Guild Church of The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild, and it was good to be back there again. Back in the early 1980s we met in the dining-room, genial Father Kit Cunningham, our Chaplain, presiding. Then as numbers grew , with people crammed round the door and into the hall, we moved to the crypt. Memorable speakers included Charles Moore of the Daily Telegraph on "Why I am not a Catholic" - it was clear from his talk that he was in fact well on the way and a few weeks later he announced his conversion in a massive full-page feature in the newspaper.

The Guild moved from St E's last year when Fr Kit retired as our chaplain, and we now meet at St Mary Moorfields, with Fr Peter Newby. My Blog in recent days has been crammed with many things, so I didn't have a moment to mention that last Wednesday saw a superb Guild meeting with Professor Jack Scarisbrick on "The Gunpowder Plot", dispelling many myths about that tragic chapter of English history and holding the meeting spellbound.


An enquiry to this Blog asks about the Catholic Cultural Group. This is an informal group, meeting in London each month - we have speakers on topics of interest, sometimes arrange visits to places connected with Catholic history etc. If you are London-based, and send me a note of your full name and address, and are genuinely interested, I'll send more information about some of our forthcoming events.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wed Jan 14th


Superb new document on the Eucharist just out from Rome. You simply must read Damian Thompson's comments on this, on the Daily Telegraph website

That link didn't work at first, but I have chcked it now (lateish on Friday night) and it's fine.Do read it.

The press here in Britain seems largely to have ignored this important new document....let's make sure it doesn't get buried.....


My feet hardly seem to have touched the ground we returned from Rome, and this hasty note is to keep faith with my readers.....Sunday was a very happy day, spent looking after a family of lively and delightful children. We had long promised the A.-G. family that we'd give them some babysitting time, and on Sunday the parents had to go out for the day, so I went to take over, doing lunch and spending a wonderful afternoon in the garden in the sunshine....the children were building a treehouse, and we also played "statues" (you whirl them round, then let go - they then "freeze" in whatever position they are in, and you look at them and decide what each one is - a swimmer who has just staggered out after a cross-Channel attempt, a murder victim writhing on the ground, a pop singer swaggering with a microphone,etc etc.... then at a given signal they must all start to act out these roles, to everyone's noisy enjoyment, and on another signal stop and freeze again. First to move is out, last one in swings everyone else round and the game starts again.....). We ate roast chicken, and were settled with a lively game of "Monopoly" when the parents returned and the day finished when Jamie came to join in and we all had pancakes.....Jamie always throws children around, turns them upside down etc, while they shriek and plead for more. Fortunately the roast chicken, pancakes etc stayed inside....

Monday saw Tea at the House of Lords, with David Alton as host.....two American visitors, Robert Royal, author of excellent book "Martyrs of the 20th century", Prof John O'Callaghan of Notre Dame University.....lots of good conversation. David had just come from the debate about the future of the Lords, and returned there as we finished tea....

In the evening, a most interesting talk at the Catholic Cultural Group by Philip Goddard, on the origins of the Holy Week ceremonies. It was fascinating to learn about how Christians of the early centuries in Jerusalem marked Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday....interesting to note that some things, such as the Mandatum with its washing of feet, are actually later arrivals (it seems to have started in monasteries where the care of guests was seen as linked with Christ's washing of the Apostles' feet....) . Of course there are all sorts of differences between those early times and now, but what seemed to me remarkable was how much is the same, especially in the celebration of Easter, and baptism - the very words of renouncing Satan and all his works, the donning of a white garment, and so on. And the reading of Christ's Passion, and waving of plams in procession on Palm Sunday....well, it could be a description of any and every parish in which I have ever marked that day.

Yesterday, Tuesday, involved a good deal of hurrying about: talk on "Celebrating traditional feasts and seasons" at an Anglican Mothers' Union in Coulsdon (lovely church, daffoldils nodding in pretty churchyard, friendly people, and we looked at everything from Hot Cross Buns to how to colour eggs with nettles or onion skins, from the origins of the word "Shrove" to the intricacies of the Julian and Gregorian calendars.....). Then on to London, tea at Newman House in Gower Street, Catholic chaplaincy for University of London. The chaplain, Father Peter, is a friend and joined us at a cheery and talkative tea.... incidentally, their Palm Sunday procession is a real sight to enjoy, as they walk down Gower Street with massive bunches of plams aloft....My most agreeable nephew G. presided at tea with generous platefuls of buns and it was all deeply enjoyable. Home late as mild problems with trains.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday, late


Well, Rome was glorious. I flew home today, then had to get to London in time to give a lecture (I made it!!) then hurried home, got to Mass, and was ready to collapse cosily over a mug of tea but....among my emails was a delightful one from my big sister in NZ, with glorious pix of a family wedding Down Under, and lots of nice chat and "how was Rome? ..." and her pix gave so much pleasure I want to here goes....

A few snapshots really, as I'm still whirling from travel and images and so on....
the trip began with a 4am cycle ride through the dark suburbs to Wimbledon and a train to Gatwick....and on arrival at Ciampino I felt v. proud of myself negotiating safe arrival via buses and the Metro to the conference hotel in the Via Aurelia (only got a taxi for the very last part, from the taxi rank near thr Vatican musuems).....conference a wonderful gathering tackling family policy..... some good speakers including a Polish MEP, and a Spanish journalist (golly, the current Spanish Government sound a ghastly lot!) the early evening we met friends for drinks, hurrying across St Peter's Square in the gloaming, that wonderful dome illuminated.....then a splendid dinner with MUCH lively conversation, in which Jamie used his French and German and I rather tamely stuck to English (did better at lunch the next day)....on Friday morning an enjoyable potter around Rome....cobbled streets, a cappucino and breakfast at a friendly cafe while we wrote postcards...the Vatican Post Office with its own stamps and enjoyably village-Post-Office feel.... in the city,shops crammed with elegant clothes, expensive goods, a sense of prosperity and all v. enjoyable.....but vile pornographic advertisments at Termini railway station, making it embarrassing when you wanted to stare at adjacent train evening visit to the Chiesa Nuova (where Palestrina is buried - did you know that? Nor did I), and pasta and seafood in a restaurant almost opposite, followed by coffee in...oh, what's that Square not far away, with fountains and space that feels like a set from an opera....a friend who was there a few weeks ago said there was a superb children's carnival parade there, with dozens of children dressed (this year's popular outfit, apparently!) as cacti, complete with spikes!!

It was all hugely enjoyable. We didn't waste much time sleeping, which is probably why I'm now feeling blurred, but, goodness, it was fun!

Oh, and I looked up as we crossed St P's square, and all the windows were dark except those where the Pope lives, where lights were bright and glowing, and one imagined him sitting with papers and, one hopes, the odd mug of tea and a favourite snack.....

I loved Rome. Even this morning's hurry to the airport was fun, and I dozed on the plane, then a sudden air of unreality scurrying to the train and hurtling from Gatwick to....Balham, where I was talking to some young engaged couples! I hope that something of the enthusiasm and joy kindled by the conference spilled over to them.

And now I'm going to sleep.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wed March 6th


What is it about the marriage preparatiion talks? So often, they are accompanied by an extraordinary, and rather delightful, encounter. Regular readers of this Blog will remember the time I got lost, and recieved help and an unexpected lift to the church from a dear Moslem man who spoke about it being a priviledge to help a "Christian sister" in good work....last night, it was a Tibetan monk! This is what happened: on the Tube going home from Chelsea (after a most happy and successful evening with some delightful young couples, excellent talk from the praish priest about the marriage covenant, Christ and his Church etc etc....) I found there were huge delays, and passengers were finally jammed together on a lone late train trundling out of Earls Court. I was Not Popular for having a bike on board, but a kind figure in Eastern robes beamed at me as I mumbled apologies for jamming the wheel against his foot. I had a book in my hand, with a small holy pic of the Pope, which I was using as a bookmark. "Pope" he said, and beamed. "Yes" I said. The Tibetan monk beamed: "He is a good man. Very good man. He is the new Pope?" "Yes, the new one.....look, would you like a picture too?" and I dived into my bag and produced one for him. He was thrilled "For me? A gift.....I learn English" He indicated the newspaper he had been trying to read, and shrugged to show he didn't think much of it (indeed not, it was one of those freebie papers, and they have v. little news and often rather horrid features). "Now I study this instead" and he read, with great devotion, the prayer on the back of the card. By now a couple of other people were interested. They obviously enjoyed the sight of a nutty woman with a bicycle handing a picture of the Pope to a Tibetan monk. I enjoyed it too. We parted as warm friends, he held up the card and then tucked it down into some deep pocket within his robes.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tuesday March 6th


Marriage preparation talk tonight in Chelsea, and another in South London on Saturday. Wanting to give the couples something to take away, I thought of Papa Benedict's message to young people for World Youth Day. It's good, and has a special part dedicated to young people who are engaged to be married. Download it and enjoy it - and pass it on. I've typed out the specifically relevant bit and will be handing it out tonight.


Just been sent Sun and Wind a story based on the legend of Joseph of Arimithea, by William Boardman. It looks a good read (Sceptre Books). I've long been interested in the legend, as a regular visitor to Glastonbury....have led pilgrimages there, and once walked up the Tor at night with Jamie (by lamplight, praying the Rosary as we went).... A rather windswept Glastonbury Thorn stands on Weary-All Hill. A sprig from it is still sent to the Queen every Christmas. Intrigued? You should be. It's one of the most fascinating legends associated with Britain's history. The last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey was hanged on the top of the Tor - one of our English Martyrs, Richard Whiting. I shall be reading Bill Boardman's book this evening and report on it later in this blog......

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday Feb 5th


....which I love. It's a weird obsession, but I do enjoy rain. The pleasure of ordinary everyday things, like cups of tea, and getting indoors when one is cold and wet, and interesting books and newspapers, are all enhanced when it is pouring and blustery outside. London looks nicer - much nicer - in the rain than in searing heat. Gardens need drenching with rain regularly. London's red buses look very cheery against a rainy background. Puddles are satisfying to cycle through if not too deep. And so on. the rain to the doctor (problem with foot continues), to photocopying shop for work for ecumenical project (more on this later as it develops), to bank, to supermarket, home to get some work done, and finally to London for pleasant supper with A., close friend of many years standing, visiting from America....long good talk about dozens of things. A. and and her husband J. are both good friends of Jamie and me and we always have great fun as a foursome: tonight with both husbands absent we had a long chatty supper. Home - through still more rain and ferocious winds, against which it was quite difficult to cycle.


Newspapers today announce that David Cameron, leader of the Tory party, is going to announce policies of support for marriage, ie encouraging a taxation system that gives advantages to a married man and woman raising children. Well hurrah - even if they simply stop penalising married people it will be a start!! But could we also please have a commitment to:

- allowing Church-based schools to teach Christian doctrine and morality, including sexual morality, with no restrictions and without fear of legal sanctions against them?

- a ban on giving contraceptive drugs and devices to children under 16 (which is the legal age of consent for sexual activity)?

- a commitment to emphasising marriage as the basis of our community, so that ambiguous words like "partner" will be removed from official documents and be replaced with "spouse" or "husband" and "wife"?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday March 4th


I enjoy cycling in rain - provided one is headed for a warm home and the chance to dry out. To Mass in mild drizzle, home in a satisfying downpour. Actually, I didn't go straight home - partly because of the rain, I stopped half-way at a Costa Coffee shop in the High Street and enjoyed the Catholic Times. You really are missing out if you don't read the Catholic papers. Jamie has a rather good letter in this week's edition!, I do have a couple of features in it too.....

Spent the afternoon writing a couple of book reviews for American publications.

is our destination at the end of next week. Am hugely looking forward to it. We are attending a conference - will report on it in due course. I hope we'll get a little time to potter about, too. One visit is usually to the monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie in St Peter's basilica. Easy to find....if you think of St Peter's as a cricket pitch with the altar, as it were, being the wicket, then the Stuart monument is at the bowling end, on the left-hand fielder's side.

I hope we might catch a glimpse of Papa Benedict (OF WHOM I AM A HUGE FAN!!!) and I want to get some postcards of him, and - if I can find one - a statue or bust for a blind friend, who longs to know what he looks like....

And we want to dip into some of our favourite churches, and trail our hands in the Trevi fountain, and talk with friends over coffee in a place with an agreeable view, and possibly visit the Colliseum at night and see it standing hauntingly there, with those little wild cats and kittens scarmbling about, looking so charming and actually ridden with fleas....

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Some one commented to this Blog that the link to my children's book didn't work. It does now.

Do try it, and think about buying the book....Easter gift for a niece, godchild, daughter, granddaughter?
Saturday March 3rd


That is the plan outlined in the official Committee Report suggesting the way ahead for the new Sexual Orientation Regulations. Published yesterday.

The Report says:"In our view the Regulations should clearly apply to the curriculum, so that homosexual pupils are not subjected to teaching, as part of their religious education or other curriculum, that their sexual oreintation is sinful or morally wrong".

The Report goes on "We welcome the Government's acceptance that [the Regulations] should apply to all schools....without any exemption for particular types of school such as faith schools." It also notes that the Regulations would apply to both publicly-funded schools and independent schools.

Noting that it might be acceptable to note factual information "in a descriptive way as part of a wide-ranging syllabus about different religions" the Committee affirms that the Government should ban "a curriculum which teaches a particular religion's doctrinal beliefs as if they were objectively true" because this might "lead to unjustifiable discrimination."

This means that teachers in Catholic schools would not be allowed to affirm that the Catholic teaching is true or that it should be followed.

This means that Catholic schools cannot function.

What should the Bishops of our country do?

In New York, some while back, Cardinal O'Connor threatened to close down Catholic hospitals and other services which were threatened with similar legislation. The authorities saw there'd be a complete collapse of crucial services, and effectively backed down.

Twenty years later in Britain, it seems likely that the media - and of course all official voices - would easily and swiftly convey the message to parents that it was the Church who was wrecking their schools, and most parents would believe this. Anger would be directed against the Church and not against the Government. And there might be those within the Church who, for all sorts of reasons, would be very gleeful about that and certainly would not rally to the support of Catholic schools or Catholic teachings. Be sure they would gain a prominent place in any media discussions.

Our Bishops are going to need courage and wisdom. A first preliminary statement should affirm categorically the right and duty of Catholic schools to give instruction in Catholic doctrine and morals with the clear intention of passing on the teaching of the Catholic Church, and to state that it is the right of all in the Church - and all people of goodwill - to affirm that right and to oppose Government plans to deny it.



Golden spring day. Ordinary errands a pleasure - to the dry cleaner's, to the shops....even having to get my bike mended (yet another puncture - shard of glass stuck in the tyre, the umpteenth time that's happened).


We've been enjoying DVDs of the TV series Foyle's War - about a detective working in a South Coast town in Britain during World War 11. It's interesting in its depiction of a vanished England - manners, morals, speech, values - and also in its exploration of how the massive power of Government authority, neccessary in wartime, can trap innocent people in a web that causes sorrow and injustice when not intending to do so.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday March 2nd


Well, we've learned a number of specific things from the comments sent to this Blog about homosexuals adopting children..... perhaps the most significant of which is that people who are (or claim to be) employed in adoption agencies will actively seek to ban practising Catholics who uphold the Church's teachings in this area from adopting any children at all. If these people who have written in to me about this had the courage to give their names and the organisations for which they work (and why not? They seem very proud of what they are doing) then their unjust and discriminatory work practices could be at least challenged....any offers? Too cowardly?

"As for me and my house....." There will be no change whatever in adherence by the author of this Blog to traditional Christian teachings on this as explained with clarity and charity in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,. I don't mind publishing rubbish trying to claim that these teachings are wrong/can be altered/should be altered/ I have indicated on previous occasions, I will publish anything so long as it is isn't grossly offensive. But it obviously won't and can't change what is right and true, nor can it change my obligation - and yours - to follow that truth.

It is certainly worrying to observe that by simply affirming the human and Christian understanding of our nature, and of the reality of marriage and the needs of children, Catholics are likely to be penalised over the next years.


Off to a local school - parents' discussion evening re children's books. I have spent much time researching this over the past weeks, talking to families, visiting libraries and bookshops, seeking out good modern fiction, chatting, laughing, enjoying. The theme I've been given for my talk is "Happiness, Children's Fiction, and Choices". I plan to publish material on all this in due course....will give info on this blog.

Bought my children's book yet?
If all those correspondents who disagree with me are as large-minded and tolerant as they claim to be, they'll obtain and read my books just to find out what message I communicate there.


Next week we are off to Rome for a conference, and before that I have a couple of v. busy days and a number of speaking engagements. Later in the month we are off to Austria. Will seek out internet-cafes etc to try to keep this blog up to date when checking on emails for work etc.....

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday March 1st
To St Mary Magdalene church, Willesden Green, to take part in a Marriage Preparation course. Distributed copies of book Engaged to be married, published through the Association of Catholic Women available from Gracewing. Gave talk......was asked "What would you say have been the high points, and the low points, of your marriage?" which gave food for thought. A useful evening.