Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dec 30th

Glorious Christmastide. Thick mist over Exmoor creating a curious stillness when we walked. Christmas morning Mass with the Credo sung in Latin. Presents under the tree and a big roast turkey. The Queen saying the same sorts of things she has always said, but somehow it seems more poignant now, especially when she referred to Christmas as celebrating "the birth of our Saviour", a most beautiful and solid phrase and one that is absolutely true and, these days, somehow striking because so gloriously absolute and old-fashioned, and faintly politically-incorrect.... Keep going, your Majesty, and keep talking in the language we all understand.

On Boxing Day the Meet took place as usual, though we didn't see it, as we were busy with family activities, and then went for a walk along the salt-marshes. There is something about looking back towards a village at a winter tea-time from the sea-shore, when the lights are glittering in the windows - warmth and light and human companionship against the darkening evening....

We made a round of family visits. One of the best evenings - with relatives in Kent - was filled with games (everyone writes 10-15 famous names on bits of paper, these get mixed up in a bowl, thjen you draw them out and have to describe the person on it, without sayin g his or her name. Your team get 30 seconds to guess as many names correctly as they can manage....)

Now back at home, and trying to reply to the mountain of Christmas cards.....and enjoying ginger wine and other goodies......

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Dec 23rd
A happy hectic week.

Wonderful meeting of the Catholic Cultural Group on Wednesday: Maggie Fergusson gave us a talk about her biography of Scottish poet George Mackay Brown. What a fascinating subject, any why hadn't we heard of this poet before? His work is superb, evocative of the Orkneys where he spent all his life, tender in exploring the great mystery and reality of the Faith. Maggie's book is a must-read.

We also had a quiz, produced for us by Amanda Hill, a former finalist for Mastermind. (We have TWO former Mastermind finalists in the CCG - the other was our Chantal Thompson, at whose flat we were meeting.) Over delicious mulled wine and mince pies and other goodies - Chantal an excellent hostess - we called out the answers to questions about Christmas traditions, London history, saints, quirky bits of Catholic heritage, and more....

Two members of Miles Jesu (excellent new Catholic movement, involved in many good ventures in London) were there to tell us about their fund-raising CONCERT at Westminster Cathedral Hall on Jan 14th: Mozart, Debussy, Saint-Saens, and them at I shall certainly be there.

Thursday saw a biggish group carol-singing again, this time at Waterloo station. The core of the group is Yvonne Windsor, with people from her local parish of St Simon in Putney, with various other friends raised will go to LIFE (helping mothers and babies) and to the St Vincent de Paul Society. We sang and sang, and it was deeply enjoyable....people especially like "Ding Dong merrily...." and "Deck the halls with bows of holly....." Gentler, "lullaby" carols such as "Little Donkey" or "The Little Drummer Boy" just don't work on railway stations - the things to sing are the very well-known ones that can raise the roof.....

Last night J. had arranged for us to meet a young Australian friend, currently studying in Rome, who was flying to London for Christmas....but alas, very few people were flying to London yesterday and he, like lots of others, got stuck in the ghastly muddle caused by the fog at Heathrow. So J. and I ended up having a quick Chinese meal together and hurrying home through a Christmassy London, and caught the train home from Waterloo. As part of the treat, we bought some blueberries and chocolate-covered strawberries at the station, with the plan that we'd eat them on the train. I had brought Charles Kingsley's "Hereward the Wake" to read (it's not terribly good, but has a fascinating prologue with lots of information on all the kings in the period immediately before the Norman Conquest...something that I started to research when I had to write something about Edward the Confessor for the Catholic Times a while back.....). Cosy train, interesting reading material, dark night outside....all v. agreeable. I passed J. a delicious choc-strawberry, and ate one myself. Rather posh lady sitting next to me exuded very strong air of disapproval. I could feel it postively in almost electric waves. I popped in another strawberry. More disapproval. The lady and her daughter had a v. Wimbldon-ish look, so I knew they get out there. Almost tangible sense of relief when they did. OK, OK, I know it's horrid to eat on a train....but just the odd choccy? Perhaps I should have offered her one.

This morning, the delight of a long chatty phone call from my sister in New ealand....made
Christmas suddenly come alive....

And now we're about to pack the car and head for J's family in the country. "Hurry!" he's shouting....picnic packed, with hot soup. Presents in a lovely big bag just sent from Australia. Spare bed linen. Bag of Christmas goodies including cherry-topped cake bough last night at Waterloo.....

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gaudete Sunday
Rose-coloured vestments at Mass, three candles, including the pink one, lit on the Advent wreath.We were reminded to go to confession during this last week of Advent, as the best and most important preparation for Christmas.

I love the sense of a build-up to Christmas: Advent is definitely my favourite season in the Church's year. The Church offers us a lot and it's a pity we don't make more of it: the family in front of me had a small boy who had been given paper and biros with which to scribble and do drawings, so he turned his back on the altar and simply drew pictures, and whispered to his mother, and got hugs and giggles and little chats, all through Mass. Not particularly noisy or distracting - but what a pity: there was so much going on at the altar that would have interested him, had it been drawn to his attention. The sung parts of the Mass were in Latin, and children can enjoy that, and there was a good deal of incensing, and that sense of solemn activity blended with music and the ringing of bells....he could have felt himself a little part of that, had he been helped to do so.

This evening we are going round to some friends to mark Gaudete Sunday: their eldest boy is my godson and I have a parcel for him and smaller presents for his brother and sisters. At Blackfen last week, Fr Tim gave me some of the apples that he'd been given at Parkminster (Carthusian monastery in Sussex) and I am making them into a big pie for tonight. They are some of the swetest apples I've ever tasted.

Problems with my blog: a reproachful correspondent says I have published his/her email address in the "comment" section....I have spent the past half-hour going through every single comment for the past two months and can't find a single one that includes a private email address. I have specifically rejected several comments because they included private information or addresses which I felt the writers wouldn't really want on the Internet.....can this lady or gentleman please contact me again (I WILL NOT PUBLISH WHAT YOU SEND TO ME) so that I can sort this out??

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday Dec 15th

Jamie had stayed overnight at his club after a party, so we had a late lunch together and then dealt with computer problems (aaaargh!! yes, still problems....yesterday's blog was written at Sutton Library!) and then, once we'd managed to get in contact with the Internet (HURRAH FOR WONDERFUL NEPHEW!!!!!) we found out that the new film "The Nativity" was playing at just one cinema in London at 6.30pm so we hurried there by Tube.

It's good. At first I was a bit put off because there are a lot of Middle East scenes with people talking in accented English and wearing homepsun and grinding corn and things, which makes the whole unfolding story seem very far-away-and-long ago. But the actual Nativity itself - Star, baby, Wise Men, angel appearing to shepherds, beam of light over mucky stable - was suddenly powerful and one thought "Golly, it really did happen. God was born as a baby. One of us. Gosh."

We thought St Joseph was much too young - I am sure his relationship with Mary was sort of patriarchal, whereas here he was something between a brother and a terribly decent fiance - but I liked the Wise Men, and Herod was suitably horrible and plausibly so.

Afterwards we went to have something to eat - the scene where Herod gives the Wise Men a meal had made me terribly hungry - so in lieu of something Middle Eastern we popped into a Greek restuarant very near the cinema and had a tasty meal with some exceptionally nice feta cheese. J said the waitress sounded Polish and I agreed she had that sense of innate dignity that so many Poles have and which most modern Bris absolutely seem to lack. Afterwards we went to Notting Hill Tube station and there I suddenly realised I had left my specs at the restaurant - went back, and the nice waitress had them waiting for me. I said thank-you in Polish, and Jamie's hunch was right - she was Polish. Most satistfying.

Jamie says that some people claim - and people have claimed over hundreds of years, so it's worth taking seriously - that Our Lady didn't suffer the normal pains of childbirth. But in this film she does. We discussed. Surely she must have suffered pain, since Our Lord did on Calvary? And we know she suffered with him there, and stood at the foot of the Cross.....

I added that women down the centuries have taken comfort from the thought that Mary endured the same pains of childbirth that they had to endure, but J. said that wasn't neccessarily evidence.

A more complicated point, but to me a relevant one, is that one couldn't specifically eliminate childbirth pain without eliminating other pains, too - I mean, if Mary had, say, jabbed her hand accidentally on rock in the cave, would she have felt pain? Of course. Tiredness on the long journey? Naturally. Exacerbated by being with child? Of course. But then that latter part is all part of the childbirth experience - when could you say that discomfort ends and pain begins, and why would one be seen as part of Mary's ordeal but not the other?

And if the birth wasn't a normal one, but just a sort of sudden miraculous arrival with no normal birth procedure, why does the Gospel go into such specific detail about all the other homely bits - Joseph's worry about Mary's reputation, the practical arrangements such as bringing the swaddling-cloths and using the manger as a cradle? At which point does all the normal sense of a truthful account - which is partly what makes the Gospel so compellingly convincing - disappear? If the Son of God was not born of a woman in the normal way, but just arrived suddenly and painlessly into her arms, surely the Gospel would say so?

Anyway, this took us into v. deep discussion and we wanted to continue it on the Tube but didn't because of people listening, so I just went on thinking about Christmas and God coming into human history. At the cinema, a couple of nice (black, and I am sure Christian) girls said "Makes Christmas seem, like, real, doesn't it?" Yes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Dec 15th
Yesterday I spent two hours singing carols at Victoria station. We're going to do it again next week, at Waterloo. I absolutely love it - it's one of the best parts of Christmas.

You get crowds and crowds of people pouring through both these stations in the Rush Hour, and by singing traditional carols with great enthusiasm a number of useful things can be achieved:
- you can cheer people up
- you can convey some glorious Christian doctrine ("veiled in flesh the Godhead see - Hail the incarnate Deity" is my personal favourite - it comes in "Hark the Herald angels")
- you can collect a lot - and I mean a LOT - of money for charity
- you can sing at the top of your voice, and the accoustics are even better than when you sing in the bath
- you can be part of what Christmas is really all about.

I owe my real enjoyment of this to a complete stranger. Some years ago, a smallish group of us gathered to sing at a railway station. We didn't know that permission was needed, and we didn't have any carol sheets, and we weren't very good at singing. We struggled along, about 6-10 of us, and it was all a bit feeble. Then a chap turned up who was very slightly - but only slightly, merry after what must have been a rather good office party.

"Here - you're getting this all wrong!" he announced breezily in a strong, carrying voice. "This is the way to do it. Stand properly, in line but close, shoulders overlapping. Like a proper choir......That's right. Now, sing - and throw your chests out, and make the sound reach the ceiling. " We looked up. The ceiling at Victoria station is a long, long way up. "Now sing!" and he started :"Once in Royal David's city...." He had a superb voice. We sang. "Get those chests out!" he boomed. And sing out!" We sang louder. It sounded glorious! We got confident. Sang louder still. People started to stop and watch. People gave us money. We went on singing. As we finished one carol, he'd start another. By now we were up and away. Suddenly, we knew we were starting to get it right. We belted out all the well-known carols, mostly just the first verse or two of each as we didn't have the full words. We were exhiliarated.

In our brief pauses, the clipped tones of the railway announcer could occasionally be heard "The-train-now-standfing-at-platform-fourteen-is-calling-at....." and then the lists of various surburban stations. At one of these announcements, our hero-helper suddenly said "Bromley South!" and headed without more ado for the barrier. My group went on singing, but I had the presence of mind to hurry after him, and was just able to pant out :"Who are you?" as he leapt forward to catch the train. For a split second he was there in the doorway, and answered "I run the choir at the Ministry of Defence!" before the doors closed, and the train moved off and he was out of my life for ever.

And ever since then, I've passed on his tips. Stand together. Bunch close, shoulders overlapping. Sing out. Make the sound hit the ceiling. Yesterday at Victoria we were a motley crew: a couple of dear nuns, a lady with a violin (who was excellent), Yvonne the organiser with wicker baskets full of sustaining flasks of tea, her husband - immaculate in formal City suit - and sundry other people including me in elegant but rather painful new ankle-boots (bought half-an-hour earlier in Victoria Street at that rather goodshoe-shop just by the Cathedral which was doing a half-price sale). I conducted. You need some one to conduct and it can't be done in a half-hearted way. You have to fill the entire railway station with singing. The object of carol singing is to make a glorious sound. This takes energy and commitment. We had carol sheets. We had enthusiasm. We sang out hearts out and honestly, we were good. Not just my opinion - lots of people told us so, and we made vast sums of money, as people put in loads of cash and even £5 notes.......

We had official permission to sing: Yvonne organised this, and was issued with passes, and I had to wear a sort of jerkin with the name of the church through which the thing was formally arranged (her local parish in Putney). I think it probably looked a bit odd as I waved my arms about, but it didn't inhibit movement. And just as we were getting organised, and Yvonne was sorting things out, two men with official faces and railway-official uniforms came up and asked me if we had our fire extingusiher. "Fire extinguisher?" I gulped. Apparently we had to have one. Regulations. I put on a strong, confident face and said that I was certain that our Official Organiser had arranged for a fire extinguisher. When Yvonne came up, I whispered to her urgently about it, and she said not to worry, all organised. And in a moment two chaps turned up with a massive trolley, and on it a sort of box, very large, and they set it down importantly and there it was, and it was the Fire Extinguisher.

Why did the railway people think we needed a fire extinguisher? Do they think that carol singers have a tendency to burst into flames, or something?

Anyway, we sang away for two hours and it was huge fun, and quite a number of people I know came by (Victoria station serves the suburbs where I grew up. Amazing how many familiar faces pass through it on a typical December evening). And then, when we were finished and had sang every carol a great many times and had truly made a glorious sound, we all set off for home and I plodded along with Yvonne to take the jerkin and thermos flasks and carol-sheets to her car, parked in Hudson's PLace along by the station, and the official railway chaps came and took the Fire Extinguisher away.

I would love to know - I really would love to know - why the railway people insist that carol singers cannot sing without a fire extinguisher.

At home I wrapped presents and wrote letters and dealt with Christmassy things. The Catholic Times has printed my reviews of the excellent new series of children's books produced by the Catholic Truth Society: hard-back, beautifully-illustrated,"The Rosary", "The Stations of the Cross" and more..... Moderately priced and the best children's religious books I have seen for a long while.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wed Dec 13th
OK THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! If you have a daughter/granddaughter/niece/good-daughter who would enjoy a book for Christmas, you have JUST time to order from me a copy of "We didn't mean to start a school". Ideal for a girl aged 9-14....just £5.95p and it's an attractive paperback, an ordinary school-story of the traditional sort but set in the present day. I wrote it as an alternative to some of the gross pornographic junk that passes for girls' fiction in too many shops today. Had rave reviews from young readers. It's NOT preachy or pompous, it's just ordinary girls' fiction. Written under my pen-name Julia Blythe. Send me a cheque now: make the cheque out to J.Bogle and send it to me c/o 34 Barnard Gardens New Malden Surrey KT3 6QG. If you are in America, you can still order as I will race the book to you by airmail, but HURRY. I can accept cheques in American dollars. Add on sufficient to pay for the airmail postage, say $20 in all.

Hectic day. Rushed to Post Office to post gift to dear Auntie Skippie in USA, and to order new passport. Forgot to take money to pay for passport photo. Rushed back home. Out to Post Office again, sat in photo-machine and had pic taken, following instructions in French as I had accidentally pressed the wrong switch for the "what language do you want?" thingummy. Went home to sort out all the neccessary paperwork. Where was my old passport? Hunted high and low. Not on desk where last seen. Not on big table where presents and cards and Advent wreath and Christmas paraphernalia make hunting difficult. Not in kitchen. Tried bathroom. No.Nor bedroom. Nor bicycle basket. Jamie busy on lengthy Christmas letter to Australian rellies, wanted information "What have we done all this year?" Shouted out info about Silver Wedding party, arrival of new great-nephew, publication of latest book, trips to USA and Austria etc as I hunted for passport. Gulp. Nowehere to be found. Stolen? J. finished letter and I hurriedly approved it. Decided passport must havbe been left at Post Office. Set out there again. Am rather tired of that stretch of road. Arrived at Post Office, made enquiries. Yes: pleasant lady behind the counter found it waiting in a box of sundry items. Completed forms, posted everything to Passport Office. Caught train to London where am photocopying Aussie rellies' letter.

I note a comment from Big Sister in the "comments" box. OK, OK, I know I often look a mess, but honestly, I'm often in such a dreadful rush! Hair looks OK from the pic on Fr Tim Finegan's blog, no? Need advice on appearance generally: everyone commented approvingly when my sister arrived from New Zealand a couple of years ago and took me firmly off shopping and kitted me out.....but alas I've probably slipped back into normal scruff-mode since then tho' I do (honestly!!!) dress up properly when I got the chance and I looked OK for recent TV/House of Lords/etc things.....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday Dec 12th
Finally, I am at home and working on my own computer, albeit with a somewhat worried air, as if the thing might go on strike again, and my internet connection - gloriously restored by my wonderful nephew - might snap off and leave me once again staring at a screen with an irritating bland message on it telling me nothing is available....

Friday saw a cheery gathering at the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen....the excellent team from Miles Jesu had been running a "Dowry of Mary" event all week, with talks on different aspects of our country's Catholic heritage with the idea of fostering a sense of renewal and revival. It was a great delight to be part of the event for an evening. Things began with a Holy Hour in church, the Rosary, and Benediction. There was a most beautiful prayer, written by Cardinal Wiseman, which I had not heard before, listing some of the great saints and missionaries who brought the Faith to our country, and spread it among us. Later I gave a short talk, and then afterwards there was a cake, and wine, and a celebration as it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I was given a lift home by Mac, of Mulier Fortis fame.

Very early the next morning I was up and about, packing a knapsack and hurrying to Gatwick Airport, where I caught a flight to Inverness. I was off to Pluscarden Abbey, up in the North of Scotland - and a perfectyly WONDERFUL time I had there, too!! It is glorious: a real Medieval abbey, left in ruins when all the monastries of Britain were ransacked and destroyed, then rebuilt in the second half of the 20th century when the land was given back to the Benedictine order by the family who had owned it for those centuries.....

Pluscarden has a good-sized community of monks: they chant the office at the set hours of the day, beginning in the early hours of the morning (Yes, EARLY - they rise at 4am!), they keep goats and bees, they live out the traditional monastic life and they make visitors very welcome. There is a comfortable guest-house, St Scholastica's, for ladies (men stay in the monastery itself) and it's all in the most glorious countryside, with the stars glittering in a sky untainted by street-lighting, with the wind roaring through the trees, and the sound of the abbey bell fresh and clear without any competition from traffic. Best of all, while I was there, we had a power cut so there was no electricity for quite few hours, until the power-lines were repaired. Mass was by candlelight on Sunday morning, with a December gloom outside and great singing and glittering lights within the great Abbey church. It was absolutely the most wonderful experience and I cannot adequately describe how enjoyable it all was.

Father Abbot was very friendly - I did an interview with him for the National Catholic Register (USA) - and full of laughter and common sense and wisdom. Going to all the chanted offices (well, almost all....I skipped the 4 am effort!) gives the visitor a most reassuring sense of awareness of this great unbroken wave of prayer, going on and on, all the days and weeks of the year..... St Scholastica's was cosy, the other visitors were good companions, and after Compline one had such an agreeable feeling of being safe and protected (the final prayer includes being blessed with a sprinkling of holy water)....and then a lamplit walk down the drive and hot chocolate and a vast range of interesting books for a good read....

I left Inverness in pouring rain to fly back to London on Monday morning, working on a great batch of Christmas cards en route - some recipients will find it odd that Bogle Christmas greetings come with an Inverness Airport postmark. Back to a slightly untidy house in which poor Jamie had been wrestling with computer problems and looked bleak and lacking domestic comforts. I brewed tea and told him my adventures and we talked about Christmas plans.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Dec 8th Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Reproachful comments to this Blog asking me why I am not blogging.....well, it's because the WRETCHED PROBLEMS WITH THE COMPUTER at Bogle Towers still haven't been resolved!

It's infuriating. I am writing this courtesy of a pro-life office in London, but I mustn't abuse their hospitality. Back at internet......

But here goes with some news.... Yesterday I was busy all day (coffee morning in aid of Clinic for Downs Children) and all evening (babysitting delightful small niece, overnight stay). On Wednesday I was at the House of Lords - prizegiving for school pupils who achieved awards in our 2006 Schools Bible Project, an ecumenical venture of which I am chairman. Caroline (Baroness) Cox spoke most beautifully to the young prizewinners, and we had cake, and the Bible prizes were presented with handshakes and photographs.....all most enjoyable. I took the young people round Parliament, explaining its history etc, with other members of my committee....and Richard Benyon MP, (son of Sir William and Lady Benyon who are great supporters of the Project), came and met them all and talked about his work as a Member of Parliament....Richard is an old friend and was at Sandhurst with Jamie.....

All this, and I am off to the parish of BLACKFEN this evening - catching a train as soon as I have finished this - to give a talk, and then flying to Scotland tomorrow to spend a couple of days at Pluscarden Abbey.....

And I've been trying to get things organised for Christmas....we'll be staying in Somerset, with Jamie's brother and his family in their country cottage which is near where the Bogle parents live....

Oh, and I'm busy helping to judge some essays in the big competition organised by a major pro-life group. So when I'm not doing anything else, I'm reading through the most atrocious English ("aborshun is mostly wrong but them people has to have counsilling and it is about making choices.....") and trying to believe that some day, through prayer and work, we will restore a Christian culture to our poor country.......

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mon Dec 4th
Spoke in the afternoon to a Methodist Women's Fellowship, on "Advent traditions and customs". They were dears, and we sang from a hymn-book with an introduction by John Wesley, which said some very sound things about what a good hymnn should contain (no silly exaggerations or poor rhymes or meaningless woffle....enthusiasts for "Lord of the Dance" and similar horrors should note). Then hurried off by bike through the gathering dark , with just enough time at home to tackle a few mundane tasks and on to catch the train to London....where I was due to take some pix at St Pattrick's, Soho Square, of Jan Woodford, chairman of the Catholic Women of the Year Luncheon, handing over the money raised (£1,700 - which is pretty good, and one of the largest sums we've ever achieved) to Cenacolo, the charity which helps people with drug and alcohol addiction. They are BADLY in need of funds, and will use the cash to provide some basic facilities at the new property they have acquired out in the country where a community isd established....Cenacolo is based at St Patrick's, and its chairman, Philippe von Habsburg, who is a great friend (we work together on another charity, Aid to the Church in Need) was on hand to accept the cheque.....

St Patrick's is an extraordinary place. As we stood there, in the wild and windy but still curiously warm evening (weather still MOST peculiar....newspapers full of stores about no snow on the ski-slopes of the Alps, summer flowers blooming in Britain's suburban gardens), people were pouring in for a carol concert. This is one of the scruffiest but most wonderful and popular churches in London! It is desperately in need of funds for basic repairs and for its wonderful work which includes (in no particular order) a soup run for the homeless, ministry to prostitutes and rent-boys, several prayer-groups, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, talks for those interested in the Faith, regular times for confession, lunch-time Masses on weekdays for busy Londoners, a School of Evangelisation, an SOS Prayer-Line.....if the funds don't arrive, some of the fabric of the church (which survived a near-miss in the raids in WW11 - a plaque commemorates a bomb which lodged in the sanctuary wall) will simply crumble to danger-point. Are there any Americans reading this who might send a donation? This was the church where Archbishop Fulton Sheen did some of his best and most worthwhile work, among some of London's most vulnerable and tragic people....even in the 1950s, Soho was a ghastly area where many lonely frightened young people were prey to vicious pimps......and many have found new hope via the message they found in this church......A donation to St Patrick's, 21 Soho Square London W1, would pay tribute to Sheen's memory and do a LOT to ensure that this wonderful church goes on bringing God to people......the church itself dates back to the days before Catholic Emancipation, so is a real link with a rather heroic past....

After a cycle ride across London - which, as regular readers of this blog will know, is a city I love when it is rainy and lamplit - I arrived at the home of friends who are cheerfully giving me tea, advice, and practiucal help as I email the pic of the cheque handover to the Catholic press....still no email at home (AAAARGH!!!! words inadequate to express frustration at the struggles we are having on that score.....) so I am staying on to tackle emails and write this Blog......

London is glittering in its Christmas lights....great panels of blue and silver across Regent Street lighting up the night sky, and of course shop windows lavishly decorated and with every imaginable luxury cramming the shelves.....Christmas trees are beginning to arrive tho' the big one in Trafalgar Square will, quite rightly, not be present until much nearer the time of the great feast....

At home we have our Advent wreath on the table and I've started to sort and wrap some gifts...I like having them waiting and stacked on the table through Advent, with the little pile growing steadily larger as the days and weeks pass.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

1st Sunday of Advent, Dec 3rd
Yesterday, the first Northern Festival of Catholic Culture, held in the fabulous crypt of Liverpool Cathedral. A school choir sang, Bishop made a speech. Happy atmosphere, lots of wonderful things on sale and display, including some lovely Christmassy things for children from St Paul Publications (books about the Natiovity, Christmas videos, DVDs), a wonderful array from books from various publishers, etc. Attendance was quite good during the morning, but tailed off during the afternoon - they will need more and better publicity in local parishes next year. However, at my stall (Association of Catholic Women, with books from Gracewing) I did pretty well, over £100 worth of books sold, and I made lots of contacts, chatted to fans of EWTN, etc. General feeling was that the day was pretty good for a first effort, and we must get MUCH larger crowds next year. Highlight of the day was a talk given by Fr Paul Watson of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. Later he visited my stall and we had a good chat - Maryvale is doing really well at present, and is giving a great many people the chance to study so much about the Faith......I also attended the talk given by the excellent Father Mark Elvins,whose book on Chivalry has just been published by Gracewing. I bought a copy, and carried it home gleefully to Jamie, who was so thrilled by it that he sat up late reading it even tho' it was after 1 am by the time I put it in his hands.....

At the Festival, everyone seemed to be talking about the H. Father's visit to Turkey, with much relief that it had all gone so well, and some pride in his dignity and composure in such complicated circumstances. Hurrah for Papa Benedict!!!

I seem to have spent much of the weekend travelling - caught the train to Liverpool late on Friday after a brief look-in at a party at Farm Street (Jesuit Church) to mark the launch of the new book about Stonyhurst. The speaker was journalist Paul Johnson, whose writing I much his speech he referred splendidly to the "insolence" of the Govt in attempting to control Church schools "when the whole history of education in this country belongs to the Church". That needed to be said and it was good to hear some one being robust like that. I arrived in Liverpool after a pleasant journey spent catcjhing up on lots and lots of reading, with no interruptions...bliss. Then by half-past midnight, I was with my kind hosts, checking on my emails and, along with them, pouring over news-websites telling of the Holy Father's activities in Turkey......

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Dec 1st

Whenever I have a little time to work on this Blog, practise techniques like linking to websites etc, or simply to write up something in a reasonably well-researched way, my wretched email goes down....

After a brief glorious reconnection yesterday morning (which at least meant I was able to write my Christmas feature for the CATHOLIC TIMES, which includes a quiz - do make sure you buy a copy) we are now out of email and internet contact I am writing this at the local Internet Cafe, where I am by now rather well-known. I have my luggage beside me as I am off to Liverpool tonight, by a late train, to take part in the Northern Festival of Catholic Culture at Liverpool Cathedral tomorrow.

I desperately want to get in touch with some of the kind people who have contacted me via this blog....please understand that this must wait, as working under presure in an email cafe allows for so little time!!!!!!!

The H. Father sems to have done well in Turkey, and - best of all - is now safely on his way home again.

Yesterday evening, after spending the afternoon with a friend I hurried to Westminster Cathedral as I wanted to pick up a copy of the Catholic Herald. It was about 2 minutes to 7 and the Cathedral had just closed.... outside the CTS bookshop a nice chap sudenly asked if I was Joanna Bogle....had seen me on EWTN etc etc....we got chatting and, on observing that staff were still in the shop, he suggested I try pleading with them as copies of the CH were visible on the I made pathetic faces through the glass and the nice chap there grinned and let me in, and for £1 there was the Herald in my hands. Now that's what I call service.

Although it is frustrating working in libraries and email cafes, it does mean I get a scary piece in yesterday's Daily Mail about a (Catholic!) teenager who got totally hooked on computer games, skipped school, barely ate or washed....

If any Catholic blogger spends more than an hour at a time on the computer - I mean on just trawling the Net, blogging etc - he should get a life, and go off and do something else. Help your mum with the hovering, have a bath, go for a run, or something!

Last night, Jamie presided at the AGM of the CATHOLIC UNION (he is Chairman). The CU has done a fine job in fighting euthanasia and the Govt's loathesome Mental Capacity Act (killing off unconscious people by withdrawing water and food) and has stuck up for Catholic rights in education. Today's newspapers have further news on a topic the Union needs to tackle: The Govt is trying to race through horrible legislation which will force all Christian groups and organisations (and yes, this includes Catholic schools, welfare agencies etc) to treat homosexual couples as if they were male/female married couples, eg allowing them to adopt children via Catholic agencies etc. Archbishop Nicholls of Birmingham has spoken out firmly on this, saying the Church will close down its agencies rather than act contrary to Christian principles.....we all need to speak out, to, and demand that Christians are not forced to deny fundamental principles: Catholic schols must be allowed to teach that homosexual activity is wrong, Catholic residential institutions must be alowed to arrange all accomodation on the basis that accomodation for married people means accomodation for male/female marriage only.....Catholic organisations must be allowed to affirm, publicly, their support for the unchanging Christian teaching on this subject.....Catholic parishes must be allowed to deny the use of their halls to homosexual loby short, we must be allowed to live out our historic faith and its moral teachings without some Government-imposed mandate to defer to new sexual obesesions.


Some day, when the history of these times is written, it will be of note that the Church remain firm and true, even though it cost something.