Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Also, the spot where on April 13, 1534 after refusing to swear to Henry VIII's new Act of Succession and Act of Supremacy, Saint Thomas More was carted away by the authorites and locked up in the Tower of London until his execution for treason on July 6, 1535.
[Thomas] More lived, as we live today, in a time of rapid social and cultural unraveling. The meaning of his life, at least for us, is not so much his worldly success and religious piety, extraordinary as both of these were, but rather the courage and consistency with which he opposed the forces of disintegration.
The culture war of the early sixteenth century was fought over the breaking apart of Christianity, its loss of central authority, and the consequent fragmentation of European civilization. Our war rages about the collapse of traditional virtues across all of the West and the rise of moral indifference and cheerful nihilism. Many parallels between the two eras could be drawn, but a crucial similarity lies in the central role played by law in each. Though More was a profoundly religious man, it should not be forgotten that he was also a preeminent lawyer and judge. The law, quite as much as Catholicism, is crucial to an understanding of the man and the martyr. Law and its institutions were, of course, major forces of cohesion in More’s age, and are perhaps the primary symbols in ours of stability and continuity as well as justice. When moral consensus fades, as it did in More’s time and does in ours, we turn to law; when law falters, as it must when morality is no longer widely shared, society and culture teeter on the brink of chaos.
That is another way of saying that law cannot be divorced from morality — and, there is reason to think, morality, at least in the long run, cannot be divorced from religion. Law and religion are alike, therefore, as reinforcements of social order. It is a subject for speculation at least, whether either can long remain healthy and self-confident without the other. Each imposes obligations, but each is subject to the therapeutic heresy, softening those obligations to accommodate individual desires. It is a sign of our distemper that Thomas More is today so often regarded as a hero of civil disobedience, a man who refused to obey law with which he was in profound moral disagreement. That is a considerable distortion of the truth, and it was not More’s understanding of his motives. For him, in a very real sense, law was morality. It is equally true that for More morality was superior to law and was the standard by which law must be judged. If that seems a paradox, I do not think it truly is one. -Judge Bork
Waugh’s friend Ronald Knox did not much care for Brideshead Revisited, but he did like the ending. He admitted to Waugh what he had said to himself: “I wish Evelyn would write about characters whom one would like to meet in life."
Brideshead Revisited : A Twitch Upon The Thread
Basil, suddenly reduced to unimportance, stood by and watched the preparations, a solitary figure in his white Sakuyu robes leaning over his rifle like a sentinel.
Prudence joined him and they walked together to the edge of the compound, out of sight behind some rhododendrons. She was wearing a red beret jauntily set on one side of her head.
"Basil, give up this absurd Emperor, darling, and come with us."
"Can't do that."
"No, Prudence, everything's going to be alright. Don't you worry. We'll meet again somewhere."
Rain clouds on the horizon grew and spread across the bright sky.
"It seems so much more going away when it's in an aeroplane, if you see what I mean."
"I see what you mean."
"Prudence, Prudence," from Lady Courteney beyond the rododendrons." "You really can't take so many boxes."
In Basil's arms Prudence said, "But the clothes smell odd."
"I got them second-hand from a Sakuyu. He'd just stolen an evening suit from an Indian."
Next day they carried the body of the Emperor to Moshu. Basil rode at the head of the procession. The others followed on foot. The body sewn in skins, was strapped to a pole and carried on the shoulders of two guardsmen. Twice during the journey they slipped and their burden fell in the soft mud of the jungle path. Basil sent on a runner to the Chief saying : "Assemble your people, kill your best meat and prepare a feast in the manner of your people. I am bringing a great chief among you."
The chiefs gave a sign for the feast to begin.
The company split up into groups, each around a cok pot. Basil and Joab sat with the chiefs. They ate flat bread and meat, stewed to a pulp among peppers and aromatic roots. Each dipped into the pot in rotation, plunging with his hands for the best scraps.
The headman of Moshu sat where they had dined, nursing a bowl of toddy. He wore an Azanian white robe, splashed with gravy and spirit. His scalp was closely shaven; he nodded it down to the lip of the bowl and drank. Then he clumsily offered it to Basil. Basil refused; he gaped and offered it again. Then took another draught himself. Then he nodded again and drew something from his bosom and put it on his head. "Look," he said. "Pretty."
It was a beret of pillar-box red. Through the stupor that was slowly mounting and encompassing his mind Basil recognized it. Prudence had worn it jauntily on the side of her head, running across the Legation lawn with the Panorama of Life under her arm. He shook the old fellow roughly by the shoulder.
"Where did you get that?"
"Where did you get it?"
"Pretty hat. It came in the great white bird. The white woman wore it. On her head like this." He giggled weakly and pulled it askew over his glistening pate.
"But the white woman. Where is she?"
But the headman was lapsing into coma. He said "Pretty" again and turned up sightless eyes.
Basil shook him violently. "Speak, you old fool. Where is the white woman.?"
The headman grunted and stirred; then a flicker of consciousness revived in him. He raised his head. "The white woman?" Why, here," he patted his distended paunch. "You and I and the big chiefs - we have just eaten her."
When the telephone rang Alastair said: "You answer it. I don't think I can stand up," so Sonia crossed to the window where it stood and said: "Yes, who is it?...Basil...well, who'd thought of that? Where can you be?"
"I'm at Barbara's. I thought of coming round to see you and Alastair."
"Darling, do...how did you know where we lived?"
"It was in the telephone book. Is it nice?"
"Lousy. You'll see when you come. Alastair thought it would be cheaper, but it isn't really. You'll never find the door. It's painted red and it's next to a pretty shady sort of chemist."
"I'll be along."
Ten minutes later he was there. Sonia opened up the door. "We haven't any servants. We got very poor suddenly. How long have you been back?"
"Landed last night. What's been happening?"
"Almost nothing. Every one's got very poor and it makes them duller. It's more than a year since we saw you. How are things at Barbara's?"
"Well, Freddy doesn't know I'm here yet. That's why I'm dining out. Barbara's going to tell him gently. I gather my mamma is sore with me about something. How's Angela?"
"Just the same. She's the only one who doesn't seem to have lost money. Margot's shut up her house and is spending the winter in America. There was a general election crisis - something about the gold standard."
"I know. It's amusing to be back."
"We've missed you. As I say, people have gone serious lately, while you've just been loafing about the tropics. Alastair found something about Azania in the papers once. I forget what. Some revolution and a minister's daughter who disappeared. I suppose you were in on all that."
"Can't think what you see in revolutions. They said there was going to be one here, only nothing came of it. I suppose you ran the whole country."
"As a matter of fact, I did."
"And fell madly in love."
"And intrigued and had a court's official throat cut."
"And went to a cannibal banquet. Darling, I just don't want to hear about it, d'you mind? I'm sure it's all very fine and grand but it doesn't make much sense to a stay-at-home like me."
"That's the way to deal with him," said Alastair from his arm chair. "Keep a stopper on the far-flung stuff."
"Or write a book about it, sweety. Then we can buy it and leave it about where you'll see and then you'll think we know....What are you going to do now you're back?"
"No plans. I think I've had enough of barbarism for a bit. I might like to stay in London or Berlin or somewhere like that."
"That'll be nice. Make it London. We'll have some parties like the old ones."
"D'you know I'm not sure I shouldn't find them a bit flat after the real thing. I went to a party at a place called Moshu..."
"Basil. Once and for all, we don't want to hear travel experiences. Do try and remember."
Put Out More Flags, 1932
Patum Peperium will be shuttered for a 2 week mid-winter break at the end of the business day Friday, February 15, 2008. We will re-open Tuesday March 4, 2008.
"Very few male novelists can draw women well; Waugh is a towering exception."
Evelyn Waugh : The Height of His Powers
But not Julia, oh, not Lady Julia. She is one thing only, Renaissance tragedy. You know what she looks like. Who could help it? Her photograph appears as regularly in the illustrated papers as the advertisements for Beecham's Pills. A face of flawless Florentine Quattrocento beauty; almost anyone else with those looks would have been tempted to become artistic; not Lady Julia; she's as smart as -- well, as smart as Stefanie. Nothing greenery-yallery about her. So gay, so correct, so unaffected. Dogs and children love her, other girls love her -- my dear, she's a fiend -- a passionless, acquisitive, intriguing, ruthless filler. I wonder if she's incestuous. I doubt it; all she wants is power. There ought to be an Inquisition especially set up to burn her.
He found Malt House without difficulty. It had been a brew house in the seventeenth century and later was converted to a private house. It had a large, regular front of dressed stone, facing the village green. The curtains and the china in the window proclaimed that it was in "good hands." Basil noted the china with approval - large, black Wedgewood urns - valuable and vulnerable and no doubt well-loved. When the door opened it disclosed a view straight through the house to a white lawn and a cedar tree laden with snow.''
The door was opened by a large and lovely girl. She had fair curly hair and a fair skin, huge, pale blue eyes, a large, shy mouth. She was dressed in a tweed suit and woolen jumper as though for country exercise, but the soft, fur-boots showed she was spending the morning at home. Everything about this girl was large and soft and round and ample. A dress shop might not have chosen her as a mannequin but she was not a fat girl; a more civilized age would have found her admirably proportioned; Boucher would have painted her half-clothed in a flutter of blue and pink draperies, a butterfly hovering over a breast of white and rose.
"No. Please don't say you've come to sell something. It's terribly cold standing here and if I ask you in I shall have to buy it."
"I want to see Mr. and Mrs. Prettyman-Partridge."
"They're dead. At least one is; the other sold us the house last summer. Is that all, please? I don't want to be rude but I must shut the door or freeze."
So that was what Barbara had heard about the Malt House. "May I come in?"
"Oh dear, said this splendid girl, leading him into the room with the Wedgeroom urns. "Is it something to buy or forms to fill in or just a subscription? If it's the first two I can't help because my husband's away with the yeomanry; if it's a subscription I've got some money upstairs. I've been told to give the same as Mrs. Andrews, the doctor's wife. If you haven't been to her yet, come back when you find what she's good for.
Everything in the room was new; that to say the paint was new and the carpets and the curtains, and the furniture had been newly put in position. There was a very large settee in front of the fireplace whose cushions, upholstered in toile-de-Jouy, still bore the impress of that fine young woman; she had been lying there when Basil rang the bell. He knew that if he put his hand in the round cavity where her hip had rested, it would still be warm; and that further cushion had been tucked under her arm. The book she had been reading was on the lambskin hearth-rug. Basil could reconstruct the position, exactly, where she had been sprawling with the langour of extreme youth.
-Put Out More Flags
Patum Peperium will be shuttered for a 2 week mid-winter break at the end of the business day Friday, February 15, 2008. We will re-open Tuesday March 4, 2008.
"There's a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some other aspects of religious law." - Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, February 7, 2008.
Phoebe Fullerton looked at her surroundings. "My god, the hungry really are dreadful." she thought, quietly content that she did not require as much food as the rest of the eating classes. Her eyes, in need of refreshment, gazed acrosss the table to feed on what could be described, in Phoebe's mind only, as perfection, Emma Jane. Emma Jane was Phoebe's 10 year-old daughter and the consolation gift of the greatest mistake of Phoebe's life : Her marriage to Cameron Fullerton. Phoebe sat back in her seat, assuming a philosophical air to sip her non-fat white chocolate mocha latte. She pondered the old saying, ""To make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs." Surely the good prophet, whoever he was, had to be speaking of Emma Jane. All of Phoebe's friends routinely agreed that Cameron had broken all of Phoebe's eggs, not just the one it took to make Emma Jane. But rising out of those shell fragments, like the proverbial pheonix from the ash heap, was the great omelet known as Emma Jane.
"Are those nuns?" Emma Jane asked with a mouth full of Big Mac.
"Em, just because you are eating here doesn't mean you behave as if you eat here." Then she saw what Emma Jane had mistaken for nuns. Two Muslim women in the traditional long black jilbabs, wearing hijabs to cover their hair, surrounded by a sea of children. "My god there are days when you would think we were were in Abu-Dhabi," Phoebe thought, evincing a shudder. She cleared her throat and spoke, "No darling, they are not nuns. But they are very religious women."
She suddenly felt, she could not conceal it from herself, a slight frisson of panic. What on earth was she going to tell Emma Jane if the child asked her what "religious" meant?
"Oh." said Emma Jane happily turning her attention to her french fries. Phoebe relaxed again, her mind rocking neatly back into its accustomed groove.
Just then, the older of the two women, starting yelling like a falafel monger's wife at a boy who looked about six years old. The boy, acting like a falafel monger's son, yelled back at her. Phoebe watched as the woman raised her right hand and released it with a force that Phoebe had only seen once before: The day she and Cameron had been in the stands at Wimbledon watching Andre Agassi win his Grand Slam. How happy she was then. But now? Before the back of the woman's hand met its intended target, Phoebe looked down. What she saw reminded her how, to commemorate Andre's Grand Slam and his love for his bride-to-be, Cameron had whisked her off to the nearest jewelry bin. Sun caught the many small faces of dozens of diamonds. The light moved across her tennis bracelet the way she had heard "the wave" moved across the stands at football games. "That's the true beauty of diamonds," she thought, "they can't feel a thing. They always exist, beautifully, no matter what." Phoebe looked up to see the boy standing, with his feet apart, about 3 feet back from where he had been standing before the blow to his cheek. He was not crying. The only evidence of the hit was a large red mark on his cheek. The rest of him remained unmoved, just staring at the woman.
Emma Jane looked at her mother and said "Mom, she's not allowed to do that. You need to do something. Call child welfare services."
Phoebe looked around her. The rest of the diners were calmly eating their meals. She watched the other woman in the hijab, who seemed to be the boy's mother, confer with the other older one. Then, leaving the older one in charge of the children, the woman went up to order their meals.
Phoebe turned to look at her daughter. Emma Jane's eyes were open with a big questioning look. This must be what Phoebe's friends so effusively described as a "teachable moment". She decided to rise to the occasion,
"No darling, I don't need to do a thing. That's just part of their culture."
In Salt of the Earth, then Cardinal Ratzinger declared he was never interested in creating his own theology but rather in thinking in a continuum with the Church’s great minds. Issued this past November, Spe Salvi is more evidence—if any was needed—that as Benedict XVI he has not changed this sound approach.
In an age besotted with the concept of creativity as iconoclasm, Benedict draws on the full storehouse of the Church’s accumulated wisdom to speak frankly about hope: what it is, what it isn't, how we should use it, what flows from it’s proper use. I admit that I’ve embarked on several encyclicals (John Paul’s Veritatis Splendor or Benedict’s Deus Caritas Est, to name but two) only to find, months later, the copy I printed off the Vatican website lodged in a drawer, half-read. But Spe Salvi is different, probably because, like John Paul’s Fides et Ratio, it has come out at a time when I am intensely interested in the subject it addresses.
Back in 1998 John Paul tackled my central concern as an Protestant: Was faith rational, or was it the wishful thinking of a child who fears the monsters in the closet? Now, as spiritual and financial head of a household, a father of two children I want to see into full communion with the Church, and a worker in a town where work is rare, Benedict asks the questions I am asking myself:
…can our encounter with the God who in Christ has shown us his face and opened his heart be for us too not just “informative” but “performative”—that is to say, can it change our lives, so that we know we are redeemed through the hope that it expresses?
This is only part of his answer, of course, but one of the more memorable parts:
…a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love.
Saint Augustine, in a homily on the First Letter of John, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. “By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him]”. Augustine refers to Saint Paul, who speaks of himself as straining forward to the things that are to come (cf. Phil 3:13). He then uses a very beautiful image to describe this process of enlargement and preparation of the human heart. “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God's tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” The vessel, that is your heart, must first be enlarged and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste. This requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined. Even if Augustine speaks directly only of our capacity for God, it is nevertheless clear that through this effort by which we are freed from vinegar and the taste of vinegar, not only are we made free for God, but we also become open to others. It is only by becoming children of God, that we can be with our common Father. To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well.
The Eccentric Observer
Old Dominion Tory
As expected, none of the leading candidates won enough delegates to clinch the nomination of their respective parties last night. However, for the Republicans, the end of the race is looming nigh.
Even Mitt Romney’s more ardent supporters probably detected a slight whiff of the valedictory in his speech last night. Yesterday, he had a difficult task before him because of the odd mix of “winner-take-all” and proportional affairs that comprised last night’s contests. Thanks to rule changes engineered in order to boost Rudy Guiliani’s abortive candidacy, three Northeastern states—New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York—were “winner-take-all” primaries. McCain won all three states as well as Arizona handily, taking home 233 delegates without cracking a sweat. In places that Romney won—North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado—he did not pick up enough the delegates to match McCain’s success in these states. In Minnesota, for example, Romney won 33 delegates, in Montana, 25. Although the final delegate count from California remains unknown, McCain’s popular vote victory there represented another blow to Romney’s candidacy. The worst results for the putative “real conservative” candidate, however, were his embarrassing third-place finishes in many southern and border states, home to many of the more conservative and most loyal GOP voters in the country.
Undoubtedly, Mike Huckabee surprised a lot of people with his five wins and very close second in Missouri (he lost to McCain by less than 10,000 voters). Although these victories might give hope to Huckabee’s more ardent supporters, the demographics associated with the rest of nomination contest do not bode well for Huckabee’s chances. So, as you enjoy him for his entertainment value, keep in mind that his is a limited engagement that will last only as long as his ego can sustain him.
Spirits undoubtedly are high this morning on the pirate ship known as the McCain campaign (with the candidate cast as Jack Sparrow). In terms of tabulated votes and delegates won, McCain had a very good night and emerged from Super Tuesday as the definite frontrunner. He has almost half of the delegates required for the nomination—all of them won fair and square—and is certain to continue to enjoy fundraising success. More important, both of his opponents are running out of gas.
In fact, McCain’s only remaining enemy is McCain. His foray into Massachusetts (a state he had no chance of winning) this past weekend seems to have sprung from pure spleen rather than any cogent thought. Instead of tweaking Romney on his home ground, McCain should have been campaigning in places like northern and southern Alabama, western and coastal Georgia as well as eastern and central Tennessee where he might have found the votes to lock up these three states and, in one blow, knock out Romney and Huckabee. In a closer race—like the one he might have in November—such a daft move could have cost him big. As it was, he got lucky in Missouri and, despite his four wins, Huckabee’s campaign is essentially over.
If McCain manages to start the process of mending fences with movement conservatives at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference without belting Ann Coulter (or anyone who looks like her) and wins the “Potomac Primary” next Tuesday, even the irrepressibly cheerful Mitt Romney and the cheerfully irrelevant Mike Huckabee will bow to what will then be the inevitable—and bow out of the race.
Despite the great variety of characters you have created in your novels, it is very noticeable to that you have never given a sympathetic or even a full-scale portrait of a working-class character. Is there any reason for this?
I don't know them, and I'm not interested in them. No writer before the middle of the nineteenth century wrote about the working classes other than as grotesques or pastoral decorations. Then when they were given the vote certain writers started to suck up to them.
What about Pistol...or much later, Moll Flanders, and-
Ah, the criminal classes. That's rather different. They have always had a fascination...
The Art of Fiction
Paris Review, 1963
Hermann the Irascible
by Saki (H. H. Munro)
The Story of the Great Weep
It was in the second decade of the Twentieth Century, after the Great Plague had devastated England, that Hermann the Irascible, nicknamed also the Wise, sat on the British throne. The Mortal Sickness had swept away the entire Royal Family, unto the third and fourth generations, and thus it came to pass that Hermann the Fourteenth of Saxe-Drachsen-Wachtelstein, who had stood thirtieth in the order of succession, found himself one day ruler of the British dominions within and beyond the seas. He was one of the unexpected things that happen in politics, and he happened with great thoroughness. In many ways he was the most progressive monarch who had sat on an important throne; before people knew where they were, they were somewhere else. Even his Ministers, progressive though they were by tradition, found it difficult to keep pace with his legislative suggestions.
"As a matter of fact," admitted the Prime Minister, "we are hampered by these votes-for-women creatures; they disturb our meetings throughout the country, and they try to turn Downing Street into a sort of political picnic-ground."
"They must be dealt with" said Hermann.
"Dealt with," said the Prime Minister; "exactly, just so; but how?"
"I will draft you a Bill," said the King, sitting down at his type-writing machine, "enacting that women shall vote at all future elections. Shall vote, you observe; or, to put it plainer, must. Voting will remain optional, as before, for male electors; but every woman between the ages of twenty-one and seventy will be obliged to vote, not only at elections for Parliament, county councils, district boards, parish-councils, and municipalities, but for coroners, school inspectors, churchwardens, curators of museums, sanitary authorities, police-court interpreters, swimming-bath instructors, contractors, choir-masters, market superintendents, art-school teachers, cathedral vergers, and other local functionaries whose names I will add as they occur to me. All these offices will become elective, and failure to vote at any election falling within her area of residence will involve the female elector in a penalty of 10 pounds. Absence, unsupported by an adequate medical certificate, will not be accepted as an excuse. Pass this Bill through the two Houses of Parliament and bring it to me for signature the day after tomorrow."
From the very outset the Compulsory Female Franchise produced little or no elation even in circles which had been loudest in demanding the vote. The bulk of the women of the country had been indifferent or hostile to the franchise agitation, and the most fanatical Suffragettes began to wonder what they had found so attractive in the prospect of putting ballot-papers into a box. In the country districts the task of carrying out the provisions of the new Act was irksome enough; in the towns and cities it became an incubus. There seemed no end to the elections. Laundresses and seamstresses had to hurry away from their work to vote, often for a candidate whose name they hadn't heard before, and whom they selected at haphazard; female clerks and waitresses got up extra early to get their voting done before starting off to their places of business. Society women found their arrangements impeded and upset by the continual necessity for attending the polling stations, and week-end parties and summer holidays became gradually a masculine luxury. As for Cairo and the Riviera, they were possible only for genuine invalids or people of enormous wealth, for the accumulation of 10 pound fines during a prolonged absence was a contingency that even ordinarily wealthy folk could hardly afford to risk.
It was not wonderful that the female disfranchisement agitation became a formidable movement. The No-Votes-for-Women League numbered its feminine adherents by the million; its colours, citron and old Dutch-madder, were flaunted everywhere, and its battle hymn, "We Don't Want to Vote," became a popular refrain. As the Government showed no signs of being impressed by peaceful persuasion, more violent methods came into vogue. Meetings were disturbed, Ministers were mobbed, policemen were bitten, and ordinary prison fare rejected, and on the eve of the anniversary of Trafalgar women bound themselves in tiers up the entire length of the Nelson column so that its customary floral decoration had to be abandoned. Still the Government obstinately adhered to its conviction that women ought to have the vote.
Then, as a last resort, some woman wit hit upon an expedient which it was strange that no one had thought of before. The Great Weep was organized. Relays of women, ten thousand at a time, wept continuously in the public places of the Metropolis. They wept in railway stations, in tubes and omnibuses, in the National Gallery, at the Army and Navy Stores, in St. James's Park, at ballad concerts, at Prince's and in the Burlington Arcade. The hitherto unbroken success of the brilliant farcical comedy "Henry's Rabbit" was imperilled by the presence of drearily weeping women in stalls and circle and gallery, and one of the brightest divorce cases that had been tried for many years was robbed of much of its sparkle by the lachrymose behaviour of a section of the audience.
"What are we to do?" asked the Prime Minister, whose cook had wept into all the breakfast dishes and whose nursemaid had gone out, crying quietly and miserably, to take the children for a walk in the Park.
"There is a time for everything," said the King; "there is a time to yield. Pass a measure through the two Houses depriving women of the right to vote, and bring it to me for the Royal assent the day after tomorrow."
As the Minister withdrew, Hermann the Irascible, who was also nicknamed the Wise, gave a profound chuckle.
"There are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with cream," he quoted, "but I'm not sure," he added "that it's not the best way."
Back in the days before children, Mr. P and I led the elegant life. The house was immaculate. The meats, fish, and cheeses were all choice (in some cases even artisanal) and lovingly-prepared. The liquor was top-shelf, the religion was Episcopalian and two weeks each year were spent in a 1.5 million dollar rental property not only on the coast of Maine but on the only natural fjord in North America (that explains the extra .5 million but I digress). Then, the children came, we went Catholic, Michigan slid into an economic death spiral, and we began vacationing once again among family where the blood has been off for more than four hundred years. Ah well, it was very nice while it lasted and at least we haven't had to sell the copper on the roof to pay for school (But there's always next year). Part of the daily ritual in those days of elegance was to rise early, Mr. P would make the coffee and the two of us would settle into our chairs to read for an hour or so before each day began.
At some time during all of this elegance, I went and did something incredibly stupid which, in hindsight, became the turning point away from the life based on elegance and into the life based on reality : I took up reading the Daily Bible. For those of you not in the know, the Daily Bible is 365, hence the description "daily", reads of selections of both the Old and New Testaments, Proverbs, and Palsms. You do not have to begin it on January 1st. You start it on the very calendar day, no matter what that day is, that you purchase it. (I have no clue what happens on leap years so avoid starting it on February 29 unless you enjoy being obstinate and frustrated.) When one begins reading the Old Testament and the New Testaments together on the same day and in the same sitting, something strange occurs : One can begin to see the whole Judeo-Christian thingummy that ecumenical types are so delighted to prattle on about. When one continues reading the Old and New Testaments together over a greater length of time something even stranger happens : One begins to see why some Churches have done and still continue to do the things they do (sacramentally and non-sacramentally) and one begins to be blown away, theologically.
It was early into this theological blown away stage when Mr. P and I had our appointment with our accountants to do our taxes. Their offices are on the other side of town but it was a Saturday and a mid-morning appointment so we had loads of time to read. Since we were going to be on the other side of town, we had planned to make a day of it with lunch followed by shopping. Mr. P made the coffee and while it was percolating, he built a fire. The cats were snug in their sleeping spots, I was snug in my chair reading the Daily Bible in my bathrobe and slippers, and Mr. P was in his chair reading his Civil War history in his bathrobe sans slippers (because he's a tough guy) when it happened : What happened was that the heavens opened and this great question concerning the Episcopal Church came to me like a lightning bolt. It was a real humdinger too, but, unfortunately I've forgotten what it was. So has Mr. P. But neither of us have forgotten what happened next. I asked my resident theologian, Mr. P, to answer the question. However, the question had no easy answer. Mr. P put his book down and one of the longest and most intensive (mind bending-wise) theological discussions between us ensued. After about an hour Mr. P interrupted the discussion with a scream, "Oh my God, what time is it?" It was about 45 minutes to our appointment and we hadn't even showered. We ran upstairs and were showered and dressed and were out of the house in about 15 minutes. Mr. P was so angry with me, he didn't even speak to me during that time. (His anger was a combined one as not only was he mad I had made us late, he was mad he hadn't won the theological argument but, again, I digress.) I was smart enough to understand that the worse thing I could have done at this point was to open my mouth and say something smug like, "Religion is more important than taxes. So what if we're late?" We hopped into the Jeep and drove towards the turnpike in silence. It was as we were going down the turnpike's entrance ramp to merge into the 3 lanes of traffic when Mr. P finally spoke. And he wasn't speaking. He was yelling :
"MRS. PEPERIUM! YOU...AND...YOUR D_ _N THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS! I DRESSED SO QUICKLY I FORGOT TO PUT MY UNDERWEAR ON! NOW I HAVE TO SIT THROUGH OUR TAX APPOINTMENT WITH NO UNDERWEAR!"
It was all I could to to not be consumed with laughter and slide into a heap onto the floorboards. Mr.P continued on yelling at me, demanding to know why I had to read the bible, why I had to question everything, why couldn't I just be content with the way things were, etc, etc... You know all the sorts of things that would so warm the heart of Our Lord (not) and the Archbishop of Canterbury (yup) but again, I digress. I just kept my mouth shut because the more he yelled, the more his argument resembled his situation beneath his trousers : Positively ridiculous. We reached the accountants' a tad late but they were, as usual, delighted to see us. This is because whenever Mr. P has to do finance-related thingummys, his nervous energy causes him to be hysterical. However, whenever Mr. P has to do finance-related thingummys commando, the man has no equal. Jack Benny eats Mr. P's dust.
Our meeting with the accountants' went far better than Mr. P had imagined. He walked out of the office on air, looked at me and said "Lunch?" I responded "Yes, but first we need to get you some underwear." In his financial-induced euphoria, Mr. P had forgotten all about his sartorially-challenged state. We drove to the nearest emporium of men's underthings, Kmart. I sat in the car while he went and found what he needed. He strode out into the parking lot, bag of underwear in hand, with the confidence of a young man striding towards the City to make his first million. As he got closer, I could see that he was singing, loudly. Mr. P and Bob Seeger may share a grandmother but Mr. P can't sing. Then he took out his brand new underwear for me to see. My eyes must have gone big because his face assumed that look he gets when he purposely tries to embarass me. He ripped open the package of underwear, tucked one pair under his arm and place the other pair on his head while still singing, loudly. I began entertaining thoughts of how quickly we could make it to the nearest happy tablet academy. He swung open his door and climbed in next to me still singing and still with the underwear on his head. As he turned his head, still with the underwear on it, to look over his shoulder to back the Jeep out of our parking slot, the underwear slide down obstructing his vision. Still singing, he stopped the Jeep and adjuststed the underwear so that the legholes were over his eyes. Then, still singing, he turned and looked at me. The likeness that came to mind was this:
I burst into a convulsion of pent-up laughter. Laughter that had been kept in check since Mr. P had announced he was commando because of my d_ _n theological questions. As we were driving out of the lot, we passed a car with a Dad and a boy of about 10 years of age in it. The look of sheer horror on the Dad's face as he saw Mr. P (who was still singing) caused me to quickly pull my wits together. I advised him to remove his underwear as once we were in traffic we were sure to cause an accident Because Mr. P is a gentleman who never wants to cause offense or pain to others, he removed the underwear. We laughed all the way to the restaurant...
Yesterday, I was reminded of that day my d_ _ n theological questions caused Mr. P to lose his mind (temporarily) and go commando when I read an email from a fellow blogger who is swimming the Tiber this Easter. Robbo was being very kind and giving me far too much credit for his swim. Robbo, I thank you. I also realise there must have been many times over the years that you, like Mr. P, would have liked to drop kicked me to the moon. But, you never lost your temper with me. Or if you did, you never showed it. You bore me and my sincere and heartfelt criticisms and disappointments of the Episcopal Church like a gentleman. I cannot wait to see you when you reach the shores of the Holy Mother Church. (Party at Father M's Club but sshhh, don't say anything to him yet...) Happy Swimming, Mrs. P