Sunday, April 13, 2014

Advice on a Sunday Afternoon

From Professor Wilson, late of the University of South Carolina:

Those who are still addicted to the useless and indeed pernicious vice of following U.S. politics—let me urge you to go into recovery now. The habit of abstinence must be well-established soon  or you will be tempted by the hoopla of the 2016 Presidential sweepstakes. The primaries are only two years away and the uproar will start long before that. Without a determined recovery you will have to endure an endless carnival  of water temperature testing, trial balloon floating, absurd and short-lived ambitions and enthusiasms, and arrant speculation. It will all be pointless and ephemeral and have absolutely no relevance to any genuine process for selecting the next “Leader of the Free World” and Great Decider.

There is no hope  that any statesmanship or even real leadership can emerge from the carnival. The American political system, and alas probably also the American people,  left behind any such possibility long ago. What we will see is a contest of superficial celebrity backed by special-interest pandering that can have no meaning for any serious lover of his country. In case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. is now a glorified banana republic culturally and politically, if not quite yet economically and militarily.

There is more here but you have just read what you need to take away with  you.


Some Piping for the Weekend

Some outstanding uilleann piping this week.  Here Tommy Martin plays a knockout rendition of what The Fox Chase.  Listen for the dogs, the fox, and the hunting horn.  The couple of tunes whose names I knew were The Foxhunt and An Maidrín Rúa. There are more.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Mozilla, etc.

The very best commentary on the Mozilla/Eich kerfuffle can be found here:  The Eich Affair: Why Conservatives are Wrong

That's the first post.  There are two more (so far) following here and here.   They're longish, but well-worth your time.

In summary:  conservatives continue to play by the liberal rules and with liberal principles assumed.  Catholics should do better.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Brief History of April Fool's Day

The "Brief History" itself is here.

You probably know a good deal of it already.  But I did want to post something about the day in order to segue into a warning about Damian Thompson's blogpost on the day.  Really.  Don't go there.  It could cause a seizure.  Particularly if you don't know the meaning of Aprilis Stulte Dies.  Or if, like I did, you sort of breeze by it without paying any attention to the meaning but just sort of getting distracted by the odd grammar.

I'm only calming down now.

Monday, March 31, 2014

First Cousins

Which came first?


or Star of the County Down:

In case you were wondering, they "both" fit the pipe scale rather well.  Actually, it's hard to keep Kingsfold from turning into The Star of the County Down;  all the solemnity fades away at some  point.  And why does nobody ever sing the  most delightful of all the verses:

I'd a heart to let 
and no tenant yet
Did I meet with in shawl or gown,
But in she went 
and I asked no rent
From the Star of the County Down.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Some Piping for the Weekend

The opening of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo from 2013.

And speaking of "Suppressio Veri" . . .

 . . . this pretty much hits the nail on the head.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Suppressio Veri, Suggestio Falsi Department (from which title the author wanders at length)

From Fr Z's blog:

I want everyone to know about this.
This was posted at the blog Protect The Pope, which was run by Deacon Nick Donnelly.
Diocese of Lancaster’s statement about Deacon Nick Donnelly
The Bishop’s office of the Diocese of Lancaster has kindly sent Nick the statement they issued to the press about him and Protect the Pope which is copied below.
“After learning that a notice had been placed upon the Protect the Pope website on 7 March saying: ‘Deacon Nick stands down from Protect the Pope for a period of prayer and reflection’ the Bishop’s Office at the Diocese of Lancaster was able to confirm that Bishop Campbell had recently requested Deacon Nick Donnelly to voluntarily pause from placing new posts on the Protect the Pope site.
Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that the Bishop asked Deacon Nick to use this pause to enter into a period of prayer and reflection on the duties involved for ordained bloggers/website administrators to truth, charity and unity in the Church.
Deacon Nick has agreed to the Bishop’s request at this time”.
I, for one, can imagine that a lot of pressure was exerted on the Bishop of Lancaster to have gone to such an extreme as to command a cleric under his charge not to think aloud in public.
I see now, however, that “M Donnelly” is posting at the blog. I take it that this is Missus Deacon. Good for her.

Boy, howdy.  The Church of Nice gets more open and inclusive by the minute.

But The Inn should still be safe.  Relatively safe.  We are, after all, not a cleric and very unlikely to be on any episcopal radar screens.  And, of course,  nobody else in or out of holy orders knows The Inn is here anyway.  That might be remedied if I ever got round to posting something on any sort of regular basis.  But I haven't, so it hasn't been, and so most of the traffic comes from occasional visitors who googled drawings from old missals or biographies of saints posted in 2005.

 I suppose if I actually wrote as obstreperously as I think, perhaps I would annoy  more people.  And at one time I probably did.  When The Inn first showed up, weblogs with a Catholic point of view were still pretty thin on the ground.  And ones with a traditional focus even more so.  But that was a dozen years ago.  There's a lot more out there now and weblogs are doing a lot more things than I ever could and doing it a lot better than I could ever attempt.  When you have blogs like Rorate Cæli, Creative Minority Report, and Orwell's Picnic  (to name just my favourites) you don't really need The Inn to chime in on a regular basis to say "Me, too!"  Oh, and The Remnant has been expanding its web presence making it a regular stop.

And so you get a lot of piping and some Scottish dancing.  And tea.  And . . . hmmm . . .where was I?  Oh, yes.  Deacon Nick's blog was suppressed  the other day by his bishop.  (Yeah, yeah, I know: he abstained for a period of reflection.  Right.)  Read the rest at Fr Z's site, which also links to Deacon Nick's site.

(Some day I'm going to wander so far off the topic I'll never find my way back.  Contrary to all appearances my muse is not Laurence Sterne and The Inn is not a sort of updated Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy.)

Found While Looking for Something Else

The medieval shrine of Our Lady of Caversham:  ever hear of it?

Me neither. 

But it existed up until Henry VIII, who had no Cardinal Kasper to console him in his marital difficulties, and so took alternate measures resulting in the shrine's destruction and his majesty's enrichment.

And now it exists again.  You can read the story here.  I found the first reference to it here.  So if you're in the neighbourhood, i.e., England, you can attend a Latin Mass Society pilgrimage this Saturday.

I, alas, am an ocean and a continent away.


Friday the 13th . . .

. . . comes on a Thursday this month.

All the usual precautions remain in force.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Swiped, uh, I mean Quoted from CMReport's Twitter Feed

It is clear to  me that the world has collectively decided that hand-baskets are too slow a method of travel.


(There's a website, too.  It's here.  But I don't know how to link to a Twitter feed.  If you're good at rummaging around the web you can probably find it.  Otherwise, you'll just have to trust me.)


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On Silence in the Liturgy

You may have seen this already on Rorate Cæli.  If not, here it is again.  The talk is based upon one of a series  of position papers on the traditional Roman Rite that the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has put together.  Click the link above which will take you to the - practically indispensable these days - Rorate Cæli site which has all the appropriate links for the Latin Mass Society and the original position papers.

Friday, February 21, 2014

As if worrying about reeds wasn't enough . . .

I was handed this little piece of business yesterday when driving into the local cemetery where  I play pipes on occasion.  It seems there was a coyote loitering on the premises a few weeks ago who tried to drag a visiting 3 or 4 year old into the nearby brush for an early lunch. (Or  was it a cougar?  The memory fades.  I suppose if you really want to know you could look it up.  Google knows everything, so they say.)  The mother was nearby and apparently gave the critter a good bash with a handbag or something and rescued the child.  But we have now all been duly warned.  I was used to the warnings on the signs about locking the car doors and not leaving valuables in plain sight.  I suppose there's  nothing for it now but to sharpen up the sgian dubh and try not to forget it when next I'm called for a funeral.

Now that I think about it there's a cemetery out in the valley -- the one where both Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are buried --  that has signs  posted at regular intervals informing visitors that it is "rattlesnake season" and to be careful where you tread.  (I'm not actually certain what season rattlesnake season is since the signs seem to be permanent.)  I don't think I ever take my eyes off the ground when I play there.

Some Piping for the Weekend . . .

Fin Moore and Andrea Beaton on border pipes and fiddle.


Monday, February 17, 2014

17 February -- St Finan of Lindisfarne: Traditionalist

From Mrs D'Arcy's The Saints of Ireland:

Finan succeeded Aidan at Lindisfarne, the Irish mission based on the northeast coat of England.  Seventeen years earlier the Anglo-Saxon King Oswald had requested Irish missionaries from  Iona to teach Christianity to his people and Aidan had gathered all of Northumbria to the faith.  Beginning in 651, Bishop Finan carried forward into the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.  The English historian Bede tells that the people flocked joyfully to hear the Word, that "the English great and small were by their Irish masters instructed in the rules and observances of regular discipline."

There are a few paragraphs on St Finan on the Catholic Online website here.  Even though he was principally responsible for the conversion of the English midlands, he is probably best known for his stance in the controversy over the dating of Easter and other practices of the Irish church.  Finan held fast to his tradition, learnt from St Colmcille.  In the words of Mrs D'Arcy:

And although an Irish priest, Ronan, is on record as having tried strenuously to persuade Finan to change over to the universal date, even as the rest of Ireland had done, nothing could move Finan from the traditions of Colmcille.  Commendable in every way, blameful in none, Finan died as he had lived, true in every smallest way to the traditions of Iona and the holy men from whom he proceeded.  Aidan's regime won all of Northumbria. Under Finan, Celtic jurisdiction reached the Thames and the diocese of London where the Canterbury mission had failed.


An Unsolicited. . . .

. . . and, alas, uncompensated endorsement.

I.e., this stuff:

A decaffeinated tea that's actually worth drinking.  This is the only  decaf tea I've ever tried that wasn't equivalent to hot, coloured water.  Even the Irish, who have wonderful, strong blends of tea, can't do decaf.  But Typhoo decaf really is worth buying.  It tastes like tea.  Good tea.


Sunday, February 16, 2014


It's Septuagesima Sunday and Lent is just around the corner.  The Roman Rite and the Ordinariate liturgies do Septuagesima but the poor old Pauline Rite is still wandering about in Common or Garden Variety Time.

We went on at length a few years ago about Septuagesima and the liturgical farewell to Alleluia.  You can find it here.  (Judging from the introduction, Epiphanytide must have been rather short in 2005.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Another of the Mysteries of Life

At least in the English-speaking part of what's left of western civilization, there are two saints left in the popular imagination whose days are acknowledged: St Valentine and St Patrick.  So  for reasons known only to himself and God, Bugs and company demoted St Valentine and erased his feast day from their brand new liturgy.

But St Valentine is still around and his relics and shrine are in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin should you choose to make a visit.  You can read a bit about it here and here.  You can even attend a Mass celebrated in his honour today,  should you be among the fortunate few near a church which still celebrates in the traditional Roman Rite on a weekday.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bl Archangela Girlani, O. Carm.

It is her feast day again in the old Discalced Carmelite calendar.

A few years ago we put down all we know about her here.  And we can add a collect now:

O God, who hast specially favoured the virgin, blessed Archangela, from her youth in preparation for thy gift of heroic virtue: grant through her intercession, that having been protected by the gift of thy grace upon earth we  may deserve  to join the choirs of the blessed in heaven: through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Careful: Friday the 13th . . .

 . . . comes on a Thursday this  month, even today. 

I haven't walked under any black cats so it's been a fairly lucky day.  Amazon decided to deliver  my copy of "Finding Your Irish Ancestors in New York City" about a week early and I have been duly pouring over it. I've been trying for a good long time to find exactly where in Ireland great grandfather Thomas Cahill comes from. It would be a lot more helpful if I actually lived in New York but even so there are some very good leads for those of us on the other side of the continent. 

A hunting we will go.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Alert from the Jean Arthur TV Movie Alert Service

TODAY MONDAY 10 FEB 2014 1:00 p.m. on TCM: "Mr Deeds Goes to Town".

. . . . . . . . .

The Jean Arthur TV Movie Alert Service is kind of ashamed of itself these days. It has allowed several Jean Arthur movies to go unremarked here in the past few months, including two or three showings of "The More the Merrier" in just the past few weeks.  Why, this isn't even the first showing of Mr Deeds this month.  The Jean Arthur TV Movie Alert Service could kick itself.  A fine way to treat the finest comic actress America ever produced.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

February 1 -- St Brigid of Kildare

Today is the feast of St Brigid of Kildare, the co-patron of Ireland and the first Irish nun.  Mrs Vidal has summary of her life here.  Wikipedia tells her story at some length here.

Chambers Book of Days in its usual chatty, gossipy, and occasionally accurate way has this verbal detour which St Brigid's name seems to have taken in England:

For some cause or other Bridget was a popular saint in England and Scotland, where she was better known by the corrupted or abbreviated name of St. Bride, and under this name a number of churches were dedicated to her. We need only mention St. Bride's Church in Fleet-street, London.

Adjoining to St. Bride's Churchyard, Fleet-street, is an ancient well dedicated to the saint, and commonly called Bride's Well. A palace erected near by took the name of Bridewell. This being given by Edward VI to the city of London as a workhouse for the poor and a house of correction, the name became associated in the popular mind with houses having the same purpose in view. Hence it has arisen that the pure and innocent Bridget—the first of Irish nuns—is now inextricably connected in our ordinary national parlance with a class of beings of the most opposite description.

Bride a "corruption or abbreviation".  Hmmm.  Perhaps instead a more accurate approximation to the original Irish of her name than Brigid?

(Aaaand it's my grandmother's birthday.  If she were alive she would be . . .  135 years old.  May she rest  in peace.)


Friday, January 31, 2014

31 January - the death of Charles III

On this day in 1788, Charles Edward Stuart, by right of birth king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland died in exile in Rome.  He was succeeded by his brother, the Cardinal Duke of York, who became Henry IX.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

30 January -- The Judicial Murder of King Charles I

A year of years ago (that's 365) on this day King Charles I was executed at the behest of the dictator Cromwell.

On the morning of 30th January, 1649 Charles awoke early and told his attendant Thomas Herbert, “this is my second marriage day… for before night I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.” The winter weather was so severe that the Thames had frozen over. The King was concerned that the cold would make him shiver giving the appearance of shaking with fear, so he asked as he was dressed to be provided with an extra shirt for warmth (one of these shirts is kept at Windsor Castle and the other at the Museum of London).
 More here.

"On this day we must remember to pray for all rulers, especially those divinely ordained to rule, that they may come closer to Christ and his Church."
-Fr. B. 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On Having a Side

I've complained before about not having a side.  I miss having a side.  You know, a "side".  As in "Hooray for our side!"  In politics I just don't have a side any more.  When I was a boy I had a side and politics was loads more fun.  Now, it's just Hudge and Gudge, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and . . . who were the two candidates in Pickwick?  I've drawn a blank.  If I remember before I post this, I'll look it up and fill in their names.  If you're actually reading this bit of text, you'll know that the memory remains as fallible as ever.  In any event, I suppose it was always just Hudge and Gudge but I was having too much fun to notice.

In any event, this week's The Wanderer in the "From the Mail" column has a nice piece pointing out why I don't have a side:

An update on the dialectic: The January 16 edition of FTM featured the wisdom of the late Brent Bozell, founding editor of Triumph, on how a truly Christian politics is outside — cannot be part of — the liberal dialectic, that narrow little cell which holds what is acceptable or not to our Republican/ Democrat duopoly.

That same subject was also discussed in a commentary, “ Transcending the Dialectic,” by the late philosopher Frederick Wilhelmsen of the University of Dallas.

“ Close readers of this magazine will have discovered the difficulties of trying to locate the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church in the conventional slots of left, right, and center. The orthodox view of religious authority seems ‘ rightist’; the orthodox limitations on war- making seem to have ‘ leftist’ consequences. The orthodox approach to culture often looks quite ‘ conservative’; the approach to economics and government alarmingly ‘liberal.’ “In politics the orthodox Catholic appears to be a romantic traditionalist one moment and an anarchist the next. Nor is anything more futile than to try to place orthodoxy ‘ in the middle of the road.’ Orthodox Catholics, plainly, don’t fit
anywhere in the philosophical and political dialectic that governs the dying secular order — which is an enormous advantage, of course, since there is no room for them in the conventional coffins in which history is burying the order. . . .

“[ T] he whole meaning of orthodoxy, in the context of the modern world, is that Christianity is
outside the dialectic. . . . The whole political vocation of Christians is consciously and purposively to transcend the dialectic.”


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Some Piping for the Weekend. . .

. . . or the tail end of it anyway.

That's Kitty Hayes on concertina and Peter Laban on the union pipes playing The Fair Young Canavans and Hardiman the Fiddler.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

For in my Faith and Loyalty / I never once shall faulter . . . except the Times shou'd alter.

We learn from Rorate Cæli this morning that the times have indeed altered.  It's not so sunny in Boston any more if one happens to be a traditionalist.  There was this a couple of years ago.  And now there's this.

Rorate Cæli has more here, along with details of Cardinal O'Malley's Methodist baptismal reaffirmation . . . whatever the &%! that is.


That Wasn't Supposed to Happen

But apparently it did.  According to this piece, "Walmart's health plan is better than Obamacare".


"Ah, it's only a wee, humble cottage. . ."

For those with happy memories of "The Quiet Man", this Facebook site may be of interest.  And for those with no use for Facebook, and there seem to be a few, it links and refers people to this site which would like to preserve - and rehabilitate, no doubt - the White 'o Morn cottage that is so prominent in the film.

Friday, January 03, 2014

I Can Think of Worse Places to Celebrate Mass. . . .

. . . .and I can think of better ones, too.  The picture was in this morning's Wall Street Journal.

(And, no, I have no idea how or if this relates to Evangelii Gaudium.)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

1 January 2014

There's a hogmanay dance on this evening, which I am not at.  The Memsahib doesn't want to go.  She has allowed as how I might go on my own,  but I think the reasonable and prudent man would not take advantage of that permission on new year's eve.   Just as well, actually.  The back and the sciatica have been making nuisances of themselves today.  I doubt the three-beat pas de basque would've done them any good.

A happy new year to all this year's visitors to The Inn.

King Charles III

It's the 293d birthday of Charles Edward Louis John Philip Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Charlie, and by right-of-birth, King Charles III of Great Britain, France, and Ireland.

A short re-telling of his unfortunate life can be found here.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Found While Looking for Something Else

Those who live in Dublin and love the traditional Roman Rite have their very own parish providing Sunday and daily Masses in the old Rite.  I've known that since it was established a few years ago, although I've never been there.  (That happens when you're visiting and have to fit in with other people's schedules.)  But I only found this evening that the Latin Mass Chaplaincy, as it it's known, has its own website.  You can find it here.

What a beautiful church they've been given.  It's worth clicking the link just to see the pictures.  (Especially if you live in California where most of the modern ecclesiastical architecture has been inspired by the shoe box.)


Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29 -- St Thomas Becket, Archbishop and Martyr

Ant. This is a  Saint who strove for the truth even unto death, and feared not the words of sinful men, forasmuch as he was founded on a sure foundation, even upon the rock of his Master's precepts.

V. Thou has crowned him with glory and worship, O Lord.
R. And hast made him to have dominion of the works of thy hands.

O God, who for thy Church's sake didst suffer thy Bishop Saint Thomas gloriously to be slain by the swords of wicked men : grant, we beseech thee; that all they who call upon him for succour may be profited by the obtaining of all that they desire.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

An eyewitness account of his martyrdom can be found here.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Some Piping for the Weekend. . .

Fin Moore, Gary West, and Hamish Moore play a set on Scottish smallpipes at the Flowers of Edinburgh concert last May.  When it begins they're already into "Go to Berwick, Johnny" and then break into "Blue Bonnets".  Don't remember the name of the last one.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas on Royal Deeside

Deeside it may be, but there's no piping in the video above.  It's about 4 minutes worth of lovely countryside covered in ice and snow.

Now there's a fairly good chance that you, being able to look out your front window and see your fill of ice and snow, are  not in the least interested in this.  I am sorry.  Really.  But it was in the mid 80's here today, the 27th of December.  And sitting here in cotton dockers and a polo shirt with the ceiling fan going, I found it a delight.


St John's Day

Today is the feast of St John the Apostle and Evangelist.  Yes, the source is the Gospels, but the good old Catholic Encyclopædia will tell you something of St John in more condensed form here.

The Inn has copied this paragraph about St John's wine from the late Msgr Richard Schuler before.  And we do it again now:

St John the Evangelist was honored on December 27. His feast was a general holiday, being kept as the third day of Christmas. Special wine, called St John's Love, was blessed on St John's Day, the formula for the blessing being found in the Rituale Romanum. It was thought that St John had survived the drinking of poisoned wine. Those going on a long journey fortified themselves from harm by drinking St John's wine, and at weddings it was regularly drunk. Often those about to depart this life were given a sip to strengthen them for their departure from this world. In St John's Gospel, Christ is called the Light of the World, and so when lighting the Christmas tree, a child with the name of John is often given the privilege of lighting the tree.

That's from an old number - about 10 years ago - of The Wanderer.  The original link no longer links to the original story and I'm not finding it in the archive (which you'd probably have to subscribe to anyway).  But if you want to have a go  yourself you can start here.

Here's "The Blessing of Wine on the Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist" from the old Roman Ritual:

After the principal Mass on the feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist, after the last gospel, the priest, retaining all vestments except the maniple, blesses wine brought by the people.  This is done in  memory and honor of St John, who without detriment drank the poisoned wine proffered by  his enemies:

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made both heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R.  And with thy spirit.

     Let us pray.

Bless + and consecrate, + O Lord God, this chalice of wine (or any other beverage - et cujuslibet potus)through the merits of St John, Apostle and Evangelist.  Bestow benediction and protection upon all who drink of this cup.  For as the blessed John partook of the poisoned potion without any hurt, so may all who on this day drink of the blessed wine to the honor of St John, by him be freed from poisoning and similar harmful things.  And as they offer themselves soul and body to thee, O Lord God, give them absolution and pardon.  Through Christ our Lord.  R. Amen.

Bless, + O Lord, this draught that it be a helpful medicine to all who drink it; and grant by thy grace that all who taste thereof  may enjoy bodily and spiritual health in calling upon they holy name.  Through Christ our Lord,  R.  Amen.

May the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, + and Holy Ghost come upon this wine and remain constantly.  R.  Amen.

There are actually two blessings for St John's wine in the Ritual.  The second one is perhaps twice as long so we'll leave that one for next year, along with the Latin text which I'm running out of time to proof at the moment. (And, yes, of course I proof these things.  I even edit them.  Hard to believe I know, but what you see here is, indeed, the improved version.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

St Stephen's Day

St Stephen's Day in Ireland as described in the website "Irish Genealogy Toolkit":

The 26th December is known as St Stephen's Day in Ireland. In Northern Ireland it's also known as Boxing Day. In most homes it is a sociable day, when visitors may call in to share some seasonal foods or liquid (usually alcoholic) refreshments. . . . . St Stephens is also the day when a purely Irish phenomenon can be witnessed: the tradition of Hunting the Wren. This is when the Wren Boys take to the streets in colourful costumes and masks, and noisily parade a dead wren on a decorated pole. It's a strange tradition and its origins are often debated. Some say it originated in Pagan times. Others from the Viking invasion. Most opt for a simplified religious reference: the betrayal by a wren of St Stephen who was hiding from the Romans who subsequently killed him for his Christian beliefs. Wren on tree branch This, then, gave the reason for hunting down the wren, and in olden days a bird was, indeed, captured and killed. The Wren Boys would then carry the dead bird on a pole from house to house and beg for money to bury the 'evil bird'. . . .

Read the rest here.

In one parish in England there was a very different custom attached to St Stephen's Day understandably called Stephening.  Chamber's Book of Days ("A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character") relates the following:

In the parish of Drayton Beauchamp, Bucks, there existed long an ancient custom, called Stephening, from the day on which it took place. On St. Stephen's Day, all the inhabitants used to pay a visit to the rectory, and practically assert their right to partake of as much bread and cheese and ale as they chose at the rector's expense. On one of these occasions, according to local tradition, the then rector, being a penurious old bachelor, determined to put a stop, if possible, to this rather expensive and unceremonious visit from his parishioners. Accordingly, when St. Stephen's Day arrived, he ordered his housekeeper not to open the window-shutters, or unlock the doors of the house, and to remain perfectly silent and motionless whenever any person was heard approaching. At the usual time the parishioners began to cluster about the house. They knocked first at one door, then at the other, then tried to open them, and on finding them fastened, they called aloud for admittance. No voice replied. No movement was heard within. 'Surely the rector and his house-keeper must both be dead!' exclaimed several voices at once, and a general awe pervaded the whole group. Eyes were then applied to the key-holes, and to every crevice in the window-shutters, when the rector was seen beckoning his old terrified housekeeper to sit still and silent. A simultaneous shout convinced him that his design was under-stood. Still he consoled himself with the hope that his larder and his cellar were secure, as the house could not be entered. But his hope was speedily dissipated. Ladders were reared against the roof, tiles were hastily thrown off, half-a-dozen sturdy young men entered, rushed down the stairs, and threw open both the outer-doors. In a trice, a hundred or more unwelcome visitors rushed into the house, and began unceremoniously to help themselves to such fare as the larder and cellar afforded; for no special stores having been provided for the occasion, there was not half enough bread and cheese for such a multitude. To the rector and his housekeeper, that festival was converted into the most rigid fast-day they had ever observed.
After this signal triumph, the parishioners of Drayton regularly exercised their 'privilege of Stephening' till the incumbency of the Rev. Basil Wood, who was presented to the living in 1808. Finding that the custom gave rise to much rioting and drunkenness, he discontinued it, and distributed instead an annual sum of money in proportion to the number of claimants. But as the population of the parish greatly increased, and as he did not consider himself bound to continue the practice, he was induced, about the year 1827, to withhold his annual payments; and so the custom became finally abolished. For some years, however, after its discontinuance, the people used to go to the rectory for the accustomed bounty, but were always refused.

In the year 1834, the commissioners appointed to inquire concerning charities, made an investigation into this custom, and several of the inhabitants of Drayton gave evidence on the occasion, but nothing was elicited to shew its origin or duration, nor was any legal proof advanced showing that the rector was bound to comply with such a demand. Many of the present inhabitants of the parish remember the custom, and some of them have heard their parents say, that it had been observed:
'As long as the sun had shone,
And the waters had run.'

 Chambers has a bit more to say about St Stephen's Day here.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Henry Higgins, Look to Your Laurels

Courtesy of the New York Times you can take the Harvard Dialect Test which will tell you, and I quote, "the pattern of your dialect".  You can find it here.

I took the thing.  It said I speak like a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, Grand Rapids, Michigan,  and/or Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I speak least like a Bostonian.

Now,  I have only spent about 4 hours in Boston and that was in  Logan Airport last May changing planes on the way back to California.  And that's it.  So they got that right.  Otherwise. . . .

On the way to Calgary, I once spent about 45 minutes changing planes in Salt Lake City (I never saw so may cowboy hats in my life).

I was driven through Milwaukee once when I was eleven or twelve.

I have never been in Grand Rapids, or indeed the state of Michigan,  in my life.

Harvard,  you say?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Really Useful Information Dept.

How to open a bottle of wine when you've forgotten your corkscrew.

(Not as useful for the discalced, alas.)

A New Dictionary of Medieval Latin

58,000 entires in 4,000 pages. . . .and it only took 100 years to put it together.

You can read about it in the Telegraph here.

(I took the quiz that the article links to.   I only got 90%.  Hmmpf.)

What's the old wheeze:  men speak English, women speak French, the Church speaks Latin, and the angels speak Irish?  I think that's how it goes.  And, no, there is no accounting for the path my stream of consciousness takes.

Some Piping for Christmas. . ..

Irish Army pipers (in the new style dress uniforms) playing "The Little Drummer Boy" at this year's annual Defence Forces Christmas Carol Service at the Arbour Hill chapel.  (The compere announces Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" but the piece cuts off before then.)


Friday, December 06, 2013

December 6 -- St Nicholas

Today is the feast of St Nicholas, the patron saint of children, coopers, scholars, boatmen, fisherman, dock workmen, sailors, brewers, travelers, pilgrims. . .and highly unofficially, robbers.  See, he went about at night with bags of money.  True, he was distributing rather than collecting but the robbers didn't want to get side-tracked with details.

As is our custom, herewith the traditional Roman collect for St Nicholas, notable for getting right to the point of the exercize without much in the way of poetic hyperbole:

O God, Who didst adorn Thy blessed bishop, Saint Nicholas, with power to work many and great miracles : grant, we beseech Thee ; that by his prayers and merits we may be delivered from the flames of hell.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

More on St Nicholas can be found here.


St George, Call Your Office

The magazine called  Discover: Science for the Curious is playing the what-if? game this month with an article entitled "The Science Behind Mythical Dragons"

Well, you have to take a look, doncha..  Especially at the bit about the fire-breathing kind.  To wit:

The most dramatic aspect of dragons is arguably the most scientifically plausible. The bombardier beetle (Stenaptinus insignis), for example, produces the toxin benzoquinone and byproduct heat in a kind of internal combustion chamber, and then squirts it at any perceived threat. If the bombardier could evolve so complex a defense, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a dragon with venom glands filled with a gas that could ignite when released with just a bit of friction.

Diethyl ether, an organic solvent, is Gee’s top candidate.

“It’s really easy to make by ‘drying’ ethanol with sulfuric acid,” notes Gee, cautioning that making it is best left to dragons and scientists — don’t try this at home. “It’s so hard to handle without it catching fire spontaneously. A tiny spill and rivers of fire would stream across my lab bench at tremendous speed.”

Gee envisions how a dragon might biologically synthesize diethyl ether.

“Yeasts and other organisms produce ethanol as a waste product, and there are bacteria that excrete sulfuric acid (they’re responsible for corroding concrete). I could imagine a microbial community in which diethyl ether is made as a waste product and exploited by dragons to breathe fire.”

Because it produces copious amounts of vapor, a little diethyl ether yields an impressive amount of flame. As it does not mix with water, ether’s fires are not quick to extinguish and could easily cause the kind of destruction for which Smaug is legendary.

So now you know.

There's more here.  (They might be able to fly, too.)