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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

This is a long post/reflection, written for the benefit of myself, my children and anyone else who may be interested, which doesn’t contain any profound insight but is just my personal recollections on the momentous events of twenty years ago.  Thus is the joy of a personal blog.

Diana 1

The death of Diana Princess of Wales, was the Kennedy moment for Generation X and a seminal moment for those of us who growing up in the 1980’s when Diana was our prototype WAG. One of my earliest memories is of my father buying scrapbooks from WH Smiths for my sister and I and encouraging us to cut out and paste various items about her in the newspapers, once her engagement was announced. Ever the dutiful father he believed that he was not only engaging his children in a worthwhile educational activity, (in the days long before educational checklists about improving and stimulating your children’s motor skills) but also that we would be creating a moment of important historical significance. The scrap books probably went the way of all flesh, but I remember sticking in commemorative milk bottle tops and even at the age of 6 being aware that the whole world was fascinated with the woman, but believing that the interest was entirely legitimate, after all she was going to be our Queen.

Feeling oh so grown-up, my sister and I were allowed to have our first proper grown-up ‘Lady Di’ style haircuts in our local village hairdressers and for years, those blouses with the pie crust collars, (sticking up of course) teamed with pinafores and cardigans from Laura Ashley, were deemed to be just the thing!

My family bought hook line and sinker into the Diana craze. We had tea towels, commemorative biscuit barrels, coins from the Royal Mint, engraved crystal glasses, the full glut of Charles and Di wedding kitsch partly because my parents got caught up in the sense that this was an important historic event, and partly, because they hoped that in the future some of the more expensive limited editions, might well be worth a bob or two. By comparison when it came to Andrew and Fergie a few years later, they simply weren’t fussed. Probably because my mother never really liked Fergie very much, she appeared to be ‘too full of herself’.

Come the wedding day, we all sat down and watched the entire thing, from start to finish, my mother all misty-eyed, catching every last detail, from the dress (so terribly creased, what a pity), to the kiss (how wonderful), to the going-away outfit. At school we were issued with commemorative Ladybird books about Prince Charles which today would cause howls of protest about inequality and  the patriarchy from the feminists and like everyone else in the country we bought the purple hard-backed Ladybird containing photographs of the glorious event. My husband still has his copy. Later on, we waited agog, to learn what the names of the children were going to be “William, not to be shortened to Willy” and “Henry”, which was announced via ticker tape across an episode of Jim’ll Fix It, one Saturday afternoon. I didn’t like it very much, but my father thought it was ‘super’! We had the press cutting of Diana emerging from the hospital clutching him pinned up in our Year 6 classroom.

Untitled-6.jpgPurple ladybird book

A few days ago amidst all the anniversary hype, I asked my thirteen year old daughter what she knew about Princess Diana, keen to get an impression from someone for whom Diana is purely a historical figure, to see what, if any narrative she had picked up about this most enigmatic of women. The response was fascinating in that it was purely factual. “She was Prince William and Harry’s mother, she was married to Charles, but divorced him and died in a car crash in Paris”, was the extent of her knowledge. Which was reassuringly detached, with no emotional bias about Diana’s good and bad qualities and no blame attaching to anyone about her demise. I chose not to disabuse her or infuse her with my own perspective.

I did however ask her to think of the most famous person or celebrity in the whole world. Having pondered on the issue for some time, (my daughter isn’t particularly media savvy or into celebrity culture), she came up with Kim Kardashian, on the basis that everyone at school is always talking about her.

Okay, I said, well take someone as famous as Kim Kardashian and multiply that fame by millions. That’s what we are talking about with Princess Diana. In the age before the internet, almost everybody in the world knew who she was, and her being on the front page of a newspaper, would mean that it would immediately sell significantly more copies. My daughter gasped and was clearly struggling to get her head around the concept. When I described the public grief in the aftermath of her death, all my daughter could say, was that it was  William and Harry who she felt most sorry  for and who surely would have experienced the most pain.

It’s interesting to ponder whether or not Diana’s fame would have lasted and whether or not she would have had quite the same impact in the world of social media, but I tend to think she would probably have been an avid user of Twitter and Instagram. In many ways they would have been her ideal medium – she could tease and tantalise the general public with snippets of information about her, various thoughts, photos from the most flattering angle, and all on her terms. Would that have affected her global fame in any way – probably not, it would have enhanced it and I imagine she would have more followers than anyone; POTUS and pontifex included. Though I also suspect that she would have had a tendency to wash some of that dirty laundry in public and perhaps divulge too much information, though she would never have been one to post photographs of her dinner or vulgar displays of wealth. She would however, have been the queen of passive-aggressive subtweets and enigmatic statements.

Diana certainly created and fed the general public’s hunger to devour all the details about her life and due to social media, reality TV (remembering that the very first episode of Big Brother began 3 years after her death) and an embarrassment of aspiring celebrities willing to share every detail of their lives with you, there hasn’t ever been her celebrity equal. Perhaps its because everyone else lacks the Royal family connection, or simply that Diana had that undefinable je ne sais crois, wow-factor that simply cannot be manufactured.

Which brings me on to the unprecedented outpouring of sentimentality surrounding her death and my own memories and perspective on what I deem the great week of madness.

My Kennedy Moment

 

airtours 757

My day from hell



The day it happened, Saturday 30th August, I was working for a UK charter airline and had been scheduled on a four day trip to Orlando, which I was looking forward to. It was going to be a few days break following a week of packed short-haul holiday flights in the middle of peak Summer Holiday season.

On the way to the airport the steering on my sporty Ford Escort Si (you can take the girl out of Essex), suddenly went all over the place, and pulling into Clacket Lane services just off the entrance to the M23, I discovered that I had not one, but two wretched flat tyres. Dismayed, I rang first the recovery services and then crewing to inform them that I probably would not be able to make the flight and that they would need to call someone off standby. Crewing asked me to make my way to the airport as soon as it was fixed, in order that they could then put me onto a different flight.

Instead of going to Orlando, I ended up supervising a flight which ought to have taken off at 6am from Stansted, but had gone tech – the passengers had been bused to Gatwick and the flight eventually took off at 6pm. It was free drinks and headsets all round but although they were irritated by the delay, the passengers did at least have the consolation of knowing that at last they were going. It also helped that the plane which had gone tech was an Airbus A320, the replacement was a Boeing 757, meaning that instead of being crammed in like sardines they were better able to spread out.

So far so good. The return leg was not so easy. We’d flown to Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, a 4 and half hour hop each way and had to ensure that the flight departed before midnight, when the airport closed. Having landed at around 10.30, it was therefore a pretty tight turnaround to get everyone disembarked, the aircraft cleaned and security checked and everyone back on, before departing.

The passengers weren’t happy. They’d been sat around in the departure lounge for over 12 hours, apparently with no food or drink and due to some juggling by crewing who had amalgamated some flights, were flying back to Gatwick instead of Manchester or Stansted. I remember one man getting particularly animated as he pointed out to me that the plane had to fly x thousand miles and how could he be sure that the captain had done all the safety checks, with such a quick turnaround. Perfecting my gallic shrug, (not regaling him with the fact I too had been up since crack of dawn and had a crap day), I informed him that the captain and crew were as keen not to die as he was and would be extremely thorough in their checks. What we didn’t know until Ops radioed us mid-flight, was that thanks to the quick turnaround, nobody’s luggage had been loaded in the hold. We then had to announce this upon landing and there was uproar. One man had left his house keys and his medication in his luggage and wanted to know precisely what I was going to do about it.

Fortunately the aircraft was met by a bevy of customer service agents and so it was I wearily trudged through security, in the small hours of the morning, gloomily anticipating the long drive home after a day from hell.

Somebody in dispatch asked me if I’d heard the news. Diana had been in a car accident she was okay, she’d broken her arm, but her new boyfriend had died.

Normally, I wouldn’t really have been interested, but there had been a frenzy of tabloid media coverage recently and so I both felt sorry for her and imagined all the various lurid headlines that we would inevitably see. I was living with my parents who have had a fifty year habit of buying two tabloids and two broadsheets on a daily basis, so had become something of a news junkie.

Probably because she had recently been pictured at the funeral of her friend Gianni Versace, I imagined the inevitable paps of her wearing darkened glasses and looking extremely sombre. I also felt quite sorry and sad for her. She had appeared to be quite smitten with this chap, even if he was son of an Egyptian Grocer and not really in her league.

I don’t know what compelled me to do so, but I rang my mother (on my swish new Orange Motorola phone) who usually checked Ceefax to keep an eye on what time my flights were landing and asked her if she’d heard. Irritated to be woken up, she said yes, she already knew, so what?!

Anxious for some banter and music to keep me awake on the drive home, I kept fiddling with the radio unable to find a single station with a presenter, which was unusual. It was all back-to-back music. Finally, as I pulled into Danbury, the village next to mine and my car climbed up the hill of the main road, the 4am news bulletin came on.

This won’t mean anything to anyone who isn’t a resident, but it was right as I reached the summit, with the Griffin pub on the left, and Danbury church on the right, which local legend has as being the highest point in Essex, that the shocking headline that Diana Princess of Wales has been killed in a car accident, blared through the car speakers. The hairs on my arm immediately stood up as a chill shot through me. I tried not to equate the significance of where I was (Danbury Church is purported to have strong links with the occult and satanic community) with what I was hearing, but I’ll never forget that inexplicable sense of dread.

I drove the last mile and half home, in a state of shock, pulled into our drive, only to be met by mother standing at the front door with a grim look on her face, shaking and crying that “she’s dead you, know”.

We sat there, watching SkyNews, trying to take it all in and get the latest headlines, from the fact that the princes had been woken and informed, all in a state of shock. Surely this couldn’t have happened?

Eventually, I turned into bed having been up for almost 24 hours, at 8am and woke up at midday, when my mum was serving lunch and my dad had come back from playing the organ at the morning service and my dad opened a bottle of champagne and raised a glass and made a little toast to her. I can’t remember precisely what he said, something about how she had a sad life and how he hoped she now rests in peace, which made us all cry, because my dad is not really given to effusive displays of emotion or sentimentality.

After lunch, I rang my friend Phil, again someone else who wasn’t prone to hysteria and he told me that he’d spent the morning cycling around London doing ‘the Diana tour’, going past all the palaces. Why? I asked him. He had a sense that something momentous was unfolding and wanted to be a part of it, viewing history as it happened. He didn’t wish to lay flowers or grieve, his desire was was about wanting to participate, albeit in a passive way, as an observer.

Later on, I sloped off down the local pub, the nucleus of my local community, to catch up with my friends, on this momentous day. It really was a different era,  I was one of the few people who had a mobile phone (which was only used for when crewing might need to contact me on stand-by) and you could drop by the pub at any given time, knowing that at least one of your mates would be there, without needing to first send a text. Texting as a practice, hadn’t as yet, taken off.

The newly installed TV was switched to the news and having gasped at the sight of Diana’s coffin landing back into RAF Northolt and thrown peanuts at Tony Blair’s saccharin ‘people’s princess’ cliche being played on repeated loop, realising that the next week would consist of regurgitated footage, the conversation moved on and the gallows humour began to kick in.

The week of madness

One one flight, in the run-up to the funeral, the pilot actually pointed out the carpet of flowers, visible from the air, which you could see on the approach into Heathrow airport. It seemed incredible.

FILE PHOTO: 15 Years Since The Death Of Princess Diana Floral Tributes For Diana

Like my friend Phil, on my next days off, I felt compelled to go into central London, just to witness everything first hand for myself. I didn’t want to sign any books of condolence, or leave any flowers, that felt pointless but I also had this sense that I wanted to be a part of history.

So I went and marvelled at the fact that there appeared to be no flowers left outside any newsagents or supermarkets or garages. That people were sat with gloomy faces on the tube, clutching cellophane-wrapped bouquets. It felt like such a waste.

Walking up the Mall, was surreal. Was this really happening, I asked myself, who were these people who were compelled to spend money on bouquets of flowers which would be wasted, for a woman whom they never really knew or loved in any meaningful sense? What was the point of it? Was there absolutely no self-awareness in some of the childish scrawl or slogans displayed on make-shift home-made banners. Diana and Dodi united for ever in heaven. How could they be so sure? How did they know that this relationship was either going to be permanent, or that they had indeed gone to heaven? What insight did they have that I didn’t. Did they not see how tacky the various heart cushions, tea-lights and spontaneous memorials were. Couldn’t they tell what a waste of time and effort this all was? What was the point? What was being achieved? Were these people who appeared to be crying as they made their way to touch the gates of Kensington Palace or Buckingham Palace, really genuine, or was this put on for the multitude of global camera crews who were filming the event?

On the day of the funeral, my sister who lived in Northampton, in the next door village to Althorpe, said that there wasn’t a bouquet of flowers to be had anywhere. She too, had wanted to line the route of the courtege.

She Pondered all these things

I guess I’d like to say that I was above all of the melodrama, but as my initial reaction to her death demonstrated and my desire to go and gawp at the mourners demonstrates, clearly I too was affected on some level.

What happened to the British psyche twenty years ago? I think Peter Hitchens is correct and the nation was swept up in a mass hysteria, thanks to the steady demise of Christianity in the latter half of the twentieth century. People had no death rituals upon which to fall back and no sense of eternal consolation.

My desire to go and witness and thus feel as though I was participating in something historic speaks to a lack of faith or knowledge of the metaphysical. I think many of those who turned up were not doing so because they felt a genuine profound sense of loss (aside from the woman who would no longer be filling the column inches, influencing their fashion choices and adding a splash of colour distracting them away from their own dull grey lives) but because by participating in this mass movement or outpouring of national grief, they felt that they too were becoming part of and fixing their marker on history: they were linking themselves to Diana and somehow securing their own immortality.  As for the rage felt over the refusal to fly the flag at half-mast – that was politically and media driven and simple scapegoating, ironic coming from an industry that bore much of the blame.

There was a sense of dismay as the realisation hit, that being rich, famous, and feted all over the world for her beauty and humanitarian qualities, didn’t save Diana from a brutal, messy, grim, grisly senseless, unnecessary and premature death in a squalid underpass. If it happened to her, then it could happen to us and death is something that we all must face.

The carpets of flowers, were not, as Cardinal Nichols claims, a rejection of the reformation and a harking back to a time of veneration of the saints, but the primal scream of a grief rooted in nihilistic fear.

I have my pet theory about whether or not Diana is truly buried on that lonely island in the middle of Althorpe, but like everyone reading this blog, won’t be around long enough to discover whether or not I am right. I find it really hard to believe that her wishes, not to be buried next to her father in the family chapel at Althorn would not be respected, and the part of me which is susceptible to conspiracy theories, is suspicious (not so much by the convenient ban on flights over the airspace on the day of the funeral), but by how on earth a lead-lined coffin, which was so heavy it took 6 burley guardsmen to carry, could be easily transported across a small lake, usually accessed by rowing boats. Also interesting to note that the family chapel, which was not required for the burial service, was also closed for a few weeks either side of the funeral.

If it were to be the case that Diana was secretly buried at Althorpe, that would of course mean that she had achieved in death, what she could not in life. She would have pulled off her greatest deception of all and be interred in peace, in a publicly accessible place, having finally got one over on the press.

And as long as people are alive who remember her, the speculation, the mythologising and the reminiscing about this remarkable woman will go on. I also think she would have made a spectacular convert to Catholicism. She’d have been a robust and natural ally of the pro-life movement (it’s hard to imagine Diana being anything other than repulsed by abortion, though she would have enormous sympathy and affinity with pregnant women in difficult situations) and there are plenty of saints with whom she would have found common cause. I can also see her as a mantilla-wearing devotee of the Old Rite, being attracted by the antiquity, the tradition and the calm. May she rest in peace.

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Repercussions

Admittedly I’m feeling incredibly vulnerable following yesterday’s post, being ‘outed’ is an uncomfortable experience, but God willing, it could turn out to be something of a blessing.

Firstly I am beginning to feel a little more comfortable in terms of referencing my own very personal experience, which is not atypical of women who have been through an abortion.

 It could also turn out to be an opportunity for apologetics.

Those who made the accusation have continued to taunt and abuse, openly discussing my  blogpost (which is fine in many ways, if you blog about a personal situation you are putting that information into the public domain) and mooting whether or not I am excommunicated from the Church, whether or not our children are illegitimate (who cares) and indulged in the usual sixth-form pop psychology antics about the amount of guilt that I must be carrying around. How unfortunate, they say, that rules which she tries to impose upon others have got her into such a mess, whereas the irony is that had I been aware of the rules I wouldn’t have got into such a state in the first place! And of course living by those rules has brought me greater peace, contentment, joy and bliss and fulfilment than I ever gained previously, which is why I passionately promulgate them.

One of the reasons that I believe that those who promote an authentic pro-life vision come under so much attack is because time and time again, it’s thanks to that particular Catholic doctrine that attracts so many converts, whether it be through investigating what the Church teaches about marriage, about contraception, family-life or abortion.

 My experience of abortion was definitely an enormous part of my journey home as for the first time I truly understood what was meant about God’s most severe mercy. A generic faith in God had never deserted me and bitter experience taught me that Christ’s commandments were not designed by an arbitrary capricious vengeful god, but are there to keep us from harm. I wondered that if the Catholic church was in fact right about abortion, then what else were they right about and why?

It wasn’t the great Damascene conversion, but a gradual process of looking back at my life and seeing those moments, where in retrospect, God was definitely present and planting seeds of grace.

To answer some of the ridiculous assertions, firstly I am not excommunicated from the church. Abortion does carry an  latae sententia sentence of excommunication, meaning that one automatically excommunicates oneself from the church upon having an abortion, however one has to be over the age of 16 and aware that it is an excommunicable offence.  In addition if you are are forced into it, acted out of grave fear, lacked the use of reason (unless culpably via drink or drugs) then excommunication wouldn’t apply.

 It needs to be remembered that excommunication is a medicinal measure, the deprivation of the sacraments is designed to make people bring their lives back into conformity with the church, not cast them out eternally. Regardless of whether or not one was excommunicated for abortion, this is always lifted upon receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, although there are certain reserved sins that a priest needs to apply for permission from the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome or his Ordinary, in order to absolve you from. Abortion is technically one of those sins which not every priest has faculties to forgive, however in the UK and other countries such as the US there is a blanket permission given to clergy to issue absolution for on the unfortunate basis that it is so common.

Are my children illegitimate? The answer is no, and I doubt anyone really cares. Illegitimacy is historically bound up with inheritance rights and though the church might recognise that a marriage never sacramentally existed, it does recognise that it had civil validity and thus any children are not deemed illegitimate. So neither my eldest child, nor my subsequent children are illegitimate as they were all born as a result of civilly legal marriages.

The Church does not care whether or not children were born within or outside wedlock, every single person is of equal dignity and worth, circumstances of birth are beyond all of our control and no decent person would wish to attack anyone’s children on this basis. Pope Francis has repeatedly called upon priests to ensure that they baptise the children of unmarried mothers and in a personal phone call offered to baptise the baby of a woman who wrote to him in great distress after discovering that she had fallen pregnant by her already married lover. It takes great bravery to decide to keep a baby in a society that looks upon abortion as a desirable solution for unplanned pregnancies.

But here’s the best thing of all, and that is that once you have confessed to having sinned, no matter how terrible or dreadful the crime, (provided that you make adequate reparation through penance and resolve not to re-offend) then you are forgiven. I don’t carry about a hulking great chunk of guilt, because I laid it at the foot of the cross and trusted that it was forgiven. Regret remains, but all of this is a manifestation of Romans 8, 28. The abortion can never be justified, God neither wanted or willed it to happen, He allowed me to make my own choice, however now He has caused good things to come out of a terrible evil and sadness.

 It is true that having confessed I felt liberated, I made my confession in Oxford and remember almost floating down St Aldates on a cloud of air, but actually confession is not about how it makes us feel. Sometimes you can go and for whatever reason, not feel wholly forgiven or that perhaps the priest didn’t really take your sins seriously but the whole thing is an exercise in faith and trust. A little like having been forced to make a public confession in fact.

There is a large part of me which feels that having admitted to such a terrible thing, I can never show my face in public again, a feeling which is exacerbated when I see Catholics quibbling over whether or not I incurred an latae sententia, together with their friends who outed the information in the first place, stating that I only confessed for ‘attention’ and I may now regret it as everyone will know that I am excommunicated and my children are illegitimate. It is hoped that I will now face great shame and disgrace.

But my faith tells me that I am a walking lesson in the power of redemption and how Catholics apply the principle of hating the sin but loving the sinner. What I did was undoubtedly wrong, but in common with most post-abortive women, there were several mitigating circumstances. Abortion is murder, however that does not make post-abortive women murderers and I have always been extremely judicious in my choice of language. A murderer, especially if one adheres to the legal definition, is someone who possesses intent. Most women who have an abortion do not have the intent to take the life of a human being, rather they do not see the baby as a life, and tie themselves into Gordian knots of illogicality, aided and abetted by contemporary attitudes and abortion providers. There is a silent unspoken conspiracy between the woman seeking the abortion and those who participate in the act, to obscure the nature of what is happening.

Of course I was misguided hoping that people might now leave me alone, my existence is naturally going to be jarring and dissonant to those who disparage the Catholic church, those who have been laughing about the bones of St Peter and transubstantiation as being sick and hocus pocus.

What self-identifying ‘liberals’ (who are in reality anything but) hate most is grace, repentance and transformation because it assaults them to the core of their being. It tells them that they can change, sin can be forgiven and that God is calling them to repent. Which means that they have to accept that they might be doing something wrong in the first place, a concept which the narcissist cannot cope with. Why does it matter if I consider certain actions to be sinful, i.e. separating from you from God?

I have to be attacked for having once been in a similar state of mortal sin, because to do anything else accepts that their position is not immutable. Admitting that something could be wrong is an anathema. They have to scream hypocrisy because the alternative to is run screaming for God’s mercy.

There’s a certain provenance that all this has occurred on the occasion of the end of the year of faith. Reflecting upon yesterday’s readings, Pope Francis said this in his homily;

Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it.

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St Augustine of Hippo, arguably one of the greatest doctors of the Church, is one of my favourite saints, not only for his blinding theology, but also because of his brutal honesty when describing his previously rackety and louche lifestyle before being converted to Christianity by the grace of God.

Confessions, his apologia which is a spiritual classic, does not hold back when it comes to describing some of his past sins. He writes about taking pleasure in stealing, how he revelled in a self-indulgent lifestyle, enjoying chariot-racing, gambling, the pleasures of the theatre, played rude and unkind tricks on people and his sex-life was legendary. Augustine recounts how he spent thirty years of his life lost from God and Confessions reflects upon this time and how he believed that God had used this period to save him, but far from being a navel-gazing autobiography, Confessions is a work that seeks to praise God.

Some scholars believe that one of the reasons that St Augustine wrote this defining work, was because he was attempting to give an answer for Catholics in response to the Donatists who had a legalistic approach and did not forgive sin very easily. Augustine had been building a solid reputation as a faithful convert, he’d been baptised ten years previously, but at time of writing his Confessions had only been a bishop a few years and therefore was encountering much jeering from the Donatists who did not afford him much credibility because his reputation as a past sinner preceded him.

I could never hope to attain the intellectual brilliance of Saint Augustine although I aspire to his holiness and have great sympathy with him, not least because like him I have a ‘past’.

Today, on Twitter, once again the same group of people comprised of a hotchpotch of gay activists and disaffected Catholics, launched one of their attacks and did so very publicly and very specifically, using my name and hurtful events in my past as a means to attack. The accusation being that due to having behaved in a less than holy way in the past, I am now a terrible example and appalling representative of my faith.

I don’t claim to be a plaster-cast saint and like Saint Augustine I have made some disastrous mistakes in my past. I told a few people about this in confidence, and on one occasion briefly went public on this for about 2 minutes, before deleting a post, as I was advised that I was opening myself up to a lot of personal attack and would need to ensure that I had the necessary emotional strength to cope with it.

Those who scan my feed with gimlet eyes 24/7 obviously saw it and/or they were informed by the former friend whom I once told and now toss this about with impunity, believing that it validates their contention about the state of my soul. When I did an interview for Vicky Beeching’s faith in feminism site, within 5 minutes, a commentator steamed in with a comment containing personal information, then complained bitterly when upon my request Vicky kindly deleted it, appreciating the inappropriate nature of the remark. She later related how she was repeatedly emailed and told about my past, the claim being that I was a secret pro-choice advocate!

So here are the three accusations. I have screenshots of the vile tweets, but I won’t use them here because I don’t want to make this about personalities.

Divorce

1) I have divorced and re-married. That’s not very ‘Catholic’ is it and in reality I’m still married to another man and committing adultery. Yes really, that’s what a fake account set up using the name @realfarrow and my photographs said. As did another fake account @stain_of_sin which tweeted bible verses from Revelation about the ‘hating the whore’ and ‘her flesh burning’. Really. The latter account still exists at time of writing. It made a list called ‘mummy’s friends’ and made threats that they should all be told the truth unless I got off Twitter.

I’ve written about this before. I was never validly married in the eyes of the Church and for reasons I’m not going to go into, there are doubts surrounding the civil legality of my former marriage.

I’m not going to get overly defensive about the affair because I turned it over to a Church marriage tribunal who ruled that no marriage ever previously existed. I have to bear some blame because I did not understand the nature of the sacrament of marriage, that it entailed being open to children, was life-long and unbreakable. Neither did my former partner who still believes that marriage should have nothing to do with children.

The lesson I have learned from that is to ensure that my children fully understand what marriage is all about and take real care in discerning whether or not it is for them as well as in discerning a potential spouse. Like many people of my generation I suspect, I walked into something, without thinking about what came beyond ‘the big day’, because I was cohabiting and it was believed to be the ‘next step’ and because I felt under pressure from family that it was the right thing to do. I also liked the idea of respectability that being married and having a nice flashy ring afforded. Yes, I was that shallow.

Relationship breakdown is always a painful experience, especially when children are involved and mine was no different. Had the pair of us been more honest with each other about desires for children, then a lot of heartbreak would have been avoided on all sides.

Dodgy Bar job

2) I once worked in a bar called Hooters in another country. At least three different people have made specific reference to this, it stems from something I told a former friend a few years ago, not being public information. The reference is used frequently in an attempt to shame and humiliate me, because those familiar with said establishment will know that their gimmick is to employ attractive women who wear a relatively sexy uniform.

Hooters is billed as family restaurant. Kids eat free there. So basically I served beer and food at the age of 18, whilst wearing short shorts and a vest top. Big woo!

Abortion

3) Most seriously, and there is a whole other post in this, when I feel emotionally ready and strong enough, as this group frequently  tells people privately and now publicly, I had an abortion in 1997. I am one of those ‘baby-killers’ who I allegedly judge and despise. Except I don’t because I’ve been there.

Some of the factors that influenced my decision was that the baby was the result of a non-consenual encounter and it was clear I would be bringing up a child alone. I was on a six-month temporary contract at work and would undoubtedly lose my job. I was scared of the stigma of being a single mum on benefits as well as the reaction of my family and my reputation. I knew one day I wanted to get married and had been told that “no decent man will look at you twice”. There is something of an irony in that I eventually went on to marry someone who was delighted that I had a beautiful daughter and couldn’t care less that I was a single mother.

Adoption was dismissed as “you don’t want someone knocking on your door in 18 years time” and thus I found myself at  the door of the Marie Stopes clinic Whitmore Street in July 1997.

I had been warned to expect protestors or demonstrators by the clinic and was almost disappointed that there was no-one there. There was a part of me that wanted to be confronted or challenged, I don’t know what the result of that encounter would have been, but my feeling is that I would now have a 17 year old child who was alive.

What bothered me was not the circumstances of conception, but the idea of coping alone with a baby along with the accompanying shame and stigma.

I used biological sophistry to defend my decision, despite knowing inherently that this was a human life who deserved the same protection as everyone else. The ‘counselling’ in Marie Stopes consisted of a woman telling me that ‘there is no other choice, it’s clear-cut, you’re obviously in no position to be able to look after a baby’.

There’s a lot more for another time about the horrors of the procedure itself, the way that Marie Stopes treated me like a contemptible stupid piece of meat, from the monosyllabic person who carried out the scan, to the aggressive woman on reception who shouted at me the morning of the procedure, for not having brought the right piece of paperwork, one which she subsequently found she had all along. As I burst into tears, she then looked at me with a hint of remorse and said “are you sure you’ve made the right decision”? It was too late, I’d already taken the tablets to poison the baby and cause the foetal sac to detach from the placenta the day previously. One memory that stays with me is of the slightly chubby West Indian girl, listing like a beached whale, stretched out flat on the bench to entrance, vomiting profusely into a kidney dish and crying, all alone, whilst everyone looked on rather nervously. I wanted to reach out and touch her hand, but I didn’t.

Despite the fact that I thought abortion was the ‘right’ decision for me, that I didn’t believe that the baby could feel any pain and walked out of the clinic, physically traumatised, but too exhausted really to think or absorb what had just happened, it hit me the next day.

I was at home, sitting watching Coronation Street with the family, when all of a sudden the after-pains kicked in and I experienced stomach-wrenching contractions, which caused me to writhe in pain. It hit me. What the hell was I doing watching Coronation Street, pretending everything was alright when really my baby was dead? I ran to my bedroom lay on my bed and howled pitifully, like a wolf at the moon. There was a palpable, visceral sense of emptiness and loss, which no-one had warned me about and which I didn’t expect.

My baby was dead and gone, would never come back and I had killed him or her. I would have given anything to turn the clock back 72 hours just to have my baby back, to hold them in my arms, to see them, but it was too late. I couldn’t actually believe what I had done. The best analogy is that of the character of John Coffey in the Green Mile, when he discovers the bodies of the dead children and desperately cradles them and attempts to use his supernatural power to save them.

“I tried to take it back, but I couldn’t”.

I vowed then, that I never ever wanted any woman to suffer either physically or emotionally in the same way that I had, and it’s one of the reasons that I am so passionately and vehemently pro-life.

I am ashamed that I did such a dreadful thing, but equally I brought this all to the Lord in the sacrament of confession many many years ago. The thought of confessing to having killed my unborn child was terrifying and deterred me from going to confession for years, but once I had done so, it was the most beautiful, liberating and healing experience of my life. I walked out feeling 10 stone lighter, knowing and trusting that I had been forgiven.

I am as healed as one can ever be from such an experience, although there is always a sense that one (now two) of my children are missing, I should also have a seventeen year old who isn’t here. I know one day I will have to look that child in the face and apologise for the fact that I deprived them of the chance of life, and I cannot justify my decision. There may have been mitigating circumstances but it was the wrong thing to do nonetheless and I accept that, which is why so many women struggle with the healing process. It’s a delicate balance of accepting that one has lost a baby, accepting your personal responsibility in that, but at the same time being gentle with yourself.  Looking at teenage mothers who had the courage to continue with their pregnancy fills me with a sense of awe, inspiration and shame.

Going through the recent experience of a managed miscarriage, which had many similarities to the abortion, has thrown it all into sharp and painful relief – the contrast of giving birth to a deceased child, instead of one that you had caused to die, along with according him or her the respect and dignity that they were due as a human being, rather than allowing them to be discarded as a piece of clinical waste in the incinerator.

Conclusion

I’m coming clean as this has been repeatedly used to attack me over the past few months in an attempt to shame and hound me off public forums.

I made some hideous and reckless decisions when I was young, which inflicted some lasting damage. Like all of us I am wounded, but it’s Christ who heals our wounds and like his they can be transformed and glorified. One of the reasons I deviated so far from the path of God, was not just my own sinful nature, but because I hadn’t been brought up with strong faith foundations and didn’t understand the teaching of the Church or have any vision to aspire to.

I look at certain members of Catholic youth with a certain enviousness; armed with similar grace, faith, trust and certainty at that age, I could have prevented a lot of heartbreak and unnecessary mess.

And funnily enough, the only people who wish to berate me for my past are those who are outside the Church in one way or another, who are living irregular lifestyles. From those so-called orthodox, traditional Catholics, I’ve had nothing but acceptance and love. It isn’t Catholics doing the ‘judging’.

Like St Augustine I learnt that our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord. And if my painful experience deters just one person from entering through the abortion clinic doors, if my witness inspires others to learn why it is I am so passionate about our faith, or to make people approach the faith with an open-mind or concede that my ideas are based on reason and truth, then the psychological cyber-bullying is worth it and will no doubt continue.

But yes, I made a mess of my life, including an attempted marriage and an abortion. But I am secure in the knowledge that I’ve made amends, conformed my life to God and that His love for has not diminished. And if there’s hope for me, then there’s hope for everyone.

Pray for me.

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Raphael (and Tobit)

Robin and I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and Mass intentions over the course of the past few weeks. Our baby (Raphael) was delivered on Wednesday evening and a small private funeral will take place this week or next.

Raphael was chosen as Wednesday was the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels and as we did not know the sex of our baby, it seemed appropriate to give the name of an angel who being pure spirit, is neither male nor female. But it is important to give the baby a name by which they may be remembered and individually prayed for nonetheless.

Furthermore as Catholics will be aware, the archangel Raphael is associated with God’s healing ministry, appearing in the book of Tobit, an extract of which we had as a reading at our wedding. Raphael is sent from God to heal and protect Tobit and his son and daughter-in-law, Tobias and Sarah. All three were beset by trials and difficulties  but remained steadfast in their faith and eventually enjoyed God’s blessings and mercy.*

One of my favourite lines of Scripture is Romans 8:28  “And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints”.

Even though terrible things may happen, while he has not willed them, God will still work to bring about good consequences for his people, from even the greatest of suffering.

I can already see several graces occurring from the experience of discovering your unborn child has died in utero, but that doesn’t make the grief any the less raw. Life seems a little less rich, a little more bleak, from the moment you discover a positive line on a pregnancy test, it becomes impossible to detach from the fact that there is a little life growing inside you and so for the last few months we have been adjusting to the fact that a new baby is on the way as well as looking forward to their arrival. An event that will not now happen. Our precious baby has died and can never be replaced.

But we named the baby Raphael in the expectation of divine healing and my hope is that in time, our experience may be of benefit and consolation to others.

*The Apocrypha is sadly all too often overlooked by RE syllabi, while I’d encountered the term in other literature as a schoolchild, it was never mentioned, not even in passing, as being an important part of Catholic cultural heritage. The book of Tobit is particularly rich and pertinent to Catholic spirituality as it emphasises the sanctity of marriage, Angelic intercession and the importance of prayer in daily life, as well as fasting and almsgiving as atonement for sin.

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The 40 Days of Choice group, set up to counter 40 days for Life, have gone into propaganda overdrive, tweeting a link to a report that women diagnosed with foetal abnormality are ‘denied surgical abortions’. Yet again, the Guardian proves its reputation as being the the soft advertiser on behalf of the abortion industry, the conference referred to was one organised and funded by BPAS and the pro-choice group ARC (ante-natal results and choices).

A woman who has never actually had to give birth to her deceased child vocalised her horror at the prospect and described how she had needed to borrow £1,000 in order to have a surgical abortion performed swiftly, instead of having to wait two weeks to see a consultant and being told that she would need to give birth naturally.

With lots of accompanying rhetoric about the politicisation of abortion and how foetal abnormality ‘forces’ women to abort, the usual frame of choice shifts from the concept of abortion, to the actual method itself. Nobody seems to be asking the question as to why these women are somehow forced, why does foetal abnormality or disability take away a woman’s agency?

The stat that less than 1% of all pregnancies are ended due to foetal abnormality is also presented, in order to convey sympathy, this is such a rare occasion, (which should tell us something about the obscene amount of abortions that are performed in the UK) surely women in this unusual situation ought to be allowed to choose, as well as take their time?

Jane Fisher of Antenatal Results and Choices points to the research that this is such a distressing time for women that they need to be able to take their time and space to chose on the abortion method that is right for them. Not that they need time and space to choose whether or not to abort, rather to choose the method.

Sadly I understand this all too well. We had an appointment at the hospital today in order to discuss the options in terms of delivering our own deceased child. The nurse could not have been more sympathetic, she checked that I understood why we were there and took her time explaining the different options to us. She also stressed that there was absolutely no hurry to make any sort of decision, we could go home, we could choose whatever option we wanted, we could change our mind at the last minute, no-one was going to pressure us at all.

I can more than understand why some women in my situation would choose surgery, it’s over very quickly, you are unconscious, you do not have to see any foetal remains and neither do you have the interminable wait to see if nature might take it course, something that could take weeks. I would not admonish any woman who chose the surgical option, however, I don’t think it’s for me, for a number of reasons, one being that there are often no remains left to bury.

But the difference for women in my situation is that tragically, our babies are already dead. I more than empathise with women having to give birth to a dead child, it’s what I am going to face over the next few weeks, but there is some comfort in knowing that there is nothing I could have done. All I can do now is see to it that he or she is given a decent burial.

For those women who are faced with the terrible situation of feeling forced into aborting a profoundly disabled child, there is for many, some form of closure in being able to hold a funeral, or bury the remains and say goodbye to their child, even if there is also a sense of dissonance.

But the most important thing is that by giving women time to make their decision, something that I would always advocate, the surgical option becomes less and less safe. So today, when we were discussing my options, it was very clear that while not being forced, I was being strongly steered towards a medical management, i.e. when pills are administered to force contractions. Surgery would not have been denied, but it was clear the consultant preferred to recommend a medical management because it was safer for me with a relatively late, missed miscarriage, which is larger than usual.

I was explicitly informed, both verbally and in writing, that surgery carries an increased risk of infection, scarring and perforation of the uterus. If I opted for a medical management, I would be given a private room with ensuite bathroom, a cannula inserted in case fluids or a blood transfusion is needed and given as much pain relief as possible. They would also issue me with the paperwork to bury or cremate the remains. A far cry from the medical abortion procedure that takes place in abortion clinics, who have been campaigning for women to be able to miscarry at home. The NHS pulled no punches, this will be emotionally and physically difficult, but they would support me through it, rather than leave me to suffer at home alone. Unlike at the clinics, Robin will be allowed accompany me the whole way through the procedure. It isn’t the narrative of period pains or slight cramping that the abortion clinics try to soft-soap women with. Former clinic worker Abby Johnson who had a medical abortion tells it like it is.

I get it, I truly understand what an ordeal it is to have to deliver a dead child, at any stage of gestation, but if surgery is the riskier option for me with a child at 10 + 5 gestation, 12 weeks into pregnancy, the risk will increase for women at a later stage – typically, abnormalities are not picked up until around 12 weeks and in many cases, not until 20, when one doesn’t have a choice in terms of abortion, you have to deliver.

It’s terrible when your 12 week scan delivers devastating news, we have been totally blindsided by what’s happened, though we’ll get through it, life seems that bit more grey, bleak, colourless. Our future does not seem quite so rosy, our precious little baby has been taken away. My body has not yet caught onto the situation as is common in this situation, and so I’m still experiencing full-blown pregnancy symptoms in a cruel twist of nature. The mind and body are at odds with each other, while I know the baby has passed away, my body is trying to fool me into thinking otherwise. I’m sick, have the erratic familiar food aversions, am growing bigger as the hormones increase the size of the sac and yet know there will be no baby at the end of the process.

I have no doubt that a diagnosis of foetal anomaly has a similar effect and my heart goes out to anyone faced with this. But where there is life there is always hope, why aren’t we asking why women in this situation are feeling forced, but instead blindly accepting the inevitability of abortion for disabled children?

As for the choice of method of termination, surely that should be wholly down to clinical factors, and what is in the best interests of a woman’s overall health, not politicised in order to do homage to the false notion that we have bodily agency?

If one were inclined to shout empty slogans, the following seems applicable:

Pro-“choice”? That’s a lie, you don’t care if women die.

As the Good Counsel Network have just pointed out the reason why 40 Days for Choice find women having to give birth to their dead child ‘disgusting’ is because that word sums up the tragic reality of abortion.

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Time Out and trolling

trollers

I’m taking a break from the Internet for a while, which means I shan’t be regularly checking my email or Twitter or Facebook for some time.

At the present time the Internet is something of an unhealthy and unhelpful place for me.

Due to a bit of Internet sleuthing (and a slip-up on behalf of the offender) the identity of a persistent troll on the Catholic blogosphere has been discovered. Whilst she’s done nothing illegal, she is responsible for comments such as these made by Dylan Morgan here,  and here  Alidyl73 here and AliDylan73 here. There are plenty more examples, but I think we have the gist.

In addition she has left many unpleasant and calumnious comments, not only on my blog (sometimes using these alias in her email), but on that of James Preece, Paul Priest and I think, Ttony of the Muniment Room.

Whilst what has happened is not in any way illegal, it has caused an immense amount of bad feeling and hurt on the Catholic blogosphere, with myself being publicly and repeatedly accused of being the perpetrator.

Normally with trolls, I take Mulier Fortis’ sage advice, namely delete and say an Ave, but what has made this situation quite so trying is that other people have not deleted her comments and they have been attributed to me and held up as proof that I some kind of evil genius. It has caused enormous distress when such a comment is left up on a blog, with various visitors clicking the yay button. Whilst I know that is indicative that I need to work on the sin of pride, it hasn’t done anyone, least of all the cause of evangelisation, any favours.

Worse still, is last year not only did Damian Thompson allude to the ‘sock puppet row brewing in Catholic circles’ and ‘looking forward to an exposure Scooby Doo style’ leading to a barrage of messages warning me to batten down the hatches, meaning that clearly a group of people were already in the know about my alleged ‘trolling’, but this mistaken idea was spread about same-sex marriage and abortion activists, as well as major journalists in an attempt to discredit anything I might attempt to achieve in the public square. I had one extremely well known atheist, skeptic, SEO expert write to me, accusing me of online bullying and specifically using one of these troll comments that referred to me, as ‘evidence’ and telling me I should expect a public exposé very soon. He did not seem to wish to entertain the possibility that I was not the culprit, but to be fair, has not yet produced the long-awaited post, perhaps out of compassion given I was so visibly distressed when pregnant last year and also because I think he came to realise that in order to ‘out’ me, he needed more than someone’s word or opinion.

Already defensive, I didn’t react well and neither have I reacted well to a repeated episode of taunting on Twitter today whereby very spiteful and unpleasant parody accounts have been set up depicting me as, quite literally a fat sow or pig, and shown suckling a litter of piglets, together with a very nasty biography, along with various people (the usual suspects) calling me mentally ill and insinuating that I am not looking after my children properly.  Anyone who has met us in real life, will confirm that nothing could be further from the case. A bit too much time spent on my mobile phone (mostly in the afternoon when they are having a nap) does not equate to child neglect. My children are in no way emotionally or physically neglected, that I’m defensive about this, is indicative that I am giving the opinion of random and certainly un-Christianlike strangers on the internet too much weight. I have tried blocking but this doesn’t seem to work, one man copies and pastes anything I say with alacrity, along with his snide comments and commentary. He simply will not leave me alone and Twitter does not seem keen to act, death threats are illegal, repeated taunting and bullying, being part of the general rough and tumble that constitutes free speech.

I can’t help but wonder about the coincidence of the fake account occurring shortly after I openly hinted that I had the identity of the troll, dropping subtle clues (that would only be known to her) and causing her to delete the account. This seems like the reaction of a person who has been rumbled together with her furious reaction.

In order to address matters scripturally, a friend wrote to her (discovering that the IP on an email she’d sent him matched that of comments left on mine, Paul Priest’s and Clare Mulvany’s blogs), explaining the devastation she’d caused and suggesting that she ought to apologise. To which she responded angrily, accusing me of defamation (something isn’t defamation if its true and besides which I haven’t named her) the IP of her email providing yet more evidence, coinciding with the IPs of a nasty comment received both here and on James Preece’s site, earlier this month by an ‘Alan McNabb’.

It isn’t just the IP that has given the lady away, amongst other things are the language and themes of her comments. Here is an extract from her email which ties in with Alidyl/Alidylan73 and Dylan Morgan above.

… what appears in the name of Catholic Blogging is shameful. The way traditional Catholic Bloggers tear into Archbishop Nichols, Bishop Conry-whom I know-The Bishops Conference, and any Priest or blogger they dislike is in no way Christian like or remotely Catholic.

I think this shows all of us why we need to ensure that we remain charitable at all times even if we feel our criticism is merited, and it is worrying if this the impression people glean of Catholic blogging, but certainly the style of writing and the themes will strike a chord with anyone who has been following this sorry saga. It may give us all some insight as to how we may be perceived or why we could be seen as ‘nasty bloggers’.

I don’t really know what to do with this information. We know the lady’s name, the area she lives in and even the church she attends. That’s not meant as any kind of threat, I most definitely do not want to ‘out’ her, I do not want to invite the storm on her head that has come my way, but at the same time, I am unable to cope with the repeated allegations that I am some kind of anonymous Internet bully. I also need to stress that all this information has been obtained by entirely legitimate means, all it took was one careless mistake and it became clear that she had a very large Internet footprint. Every time she left a nasty on mine and others’ blogs, it was picked up.

I’m not going to publicly piece together the evidence here, in case it is needed later, this is simply a very public appeal for all of this nastiness to stop, but there are several of us who are party to all of the relevant information, this isn’t a personal whim or fancy. I also know that no amount of evidence will convince those who, for reasons they won’t disclose, are thoroughly convinced as to my inherent wickedness.

Another point of note. One of the accusations was that there was simply one “trolless”. The. Catholic. Internet. Troll. The internet is a very big place and we would be foolish to assume that every single malign comment is from the same person. I was perplexed upon accusations of being a certain “Big Benny” or “Big Bertha”, having no idea what this was all about. Upon googling I discovered that poor Fr Tim Finigan had been the subject of a Tablestista  troll called “Big Benny” on various  posts, to do with the Tablet. I also saw that Father Z had experienced similar from a Big Bertha. As had Fr Ray. I don’t think we can assume that this is the same person that I have identified, the style of writing is different and I note that on Fr Ray’s post, Big Benny claims to be a clinical psychologist. I have no idea what might possess people to believe that I would express those sentiments, particularly in relation to same-sex adoption. It’s totally ludicrous and nonsensical like much of this business. I am sure all priests are wise enough to take this in their stride nonetheless and have no wish to see some sort of witch-hunt carried out on their behalf, the reason I highlight this (though wary of the Streisand Effect) is in the vain hope that sensible people can see that it’s stretching credulity to claim that I am somehow responsible. But all of this has given lots of fuel to those who may wish to attack me for their own agendas and  together with the injustice of it, continues to affect my peace of mind.

I think the answer is really to keep calm and carry on, but genuinely I’m struggling to keep things in proportion. It’s very hard to stay calm when the calumny continues and is spread about by adversaries. I have been advised to call in a legal expert on internet harassment as a result of today’s obsessive Twitter troll and certainly as a result of this  episode of trolling, of which many of us have been victims. I am not sure what remedies are available, although of course not only me, but also my husband would welcome any opportunity to be able to clear my name. I don’t even think that what has happened is even illegal. People do say horrible things on the internet, most of us are not narcissistic enough to feel the need to track down and publicly shame those who have upset us. The only reason that I have been monitoring matters is because this has caused such strife and division amongst a group of people who should be sticking together. My hope is that by exposing this to the disinfectant of light, the process of healing can begin.

Learning how to deal with the dark side of the internet is something that I’m yet to master. Not feeding trolls is so much easier said than done. I’ll be back when I’ve recovered my equilibrium. I’m off on retreat. I may be back anon, quite literally. Now there would be the ultimate irony.

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I was delighted to see that Lazarus had nominated me for a Liebster Award, not only because I really enjoy his blog and find him a voice of common sense and sanity on the blogosphere, but because it gives me an opportunity to unashamedly prattle on about myself. Which probably tells you all you need to know. I also saw I’d been nominated by Rhoslyn Thomas and was tempted to naughtily pick and choose on questions, but Lazarus got there first. I’ll give Rhos a plug anyway because she deserves one. Young, pro-life, Welsh traddie. What’s not to like?

Liebster-Award

The point of the award is to encourage blogs to link to each other and so boost their profiles and traffic.

Here’s what you do:

1) Post the Liebster award graphic on your site. (Google to find it if needed)
2) Thank the blogger who nominated the blog for a Liebster Award and link back to their blog.
3) The blogger then writes 11 facts about themselves so people who discover their blog through the Liebster post will learn more about them.
4) In addition to posting 11 fun facts about themselves, nominated bloggers should also answer the 11 questions from the post of the person who nominated them.
5) The nominated blogger will in turn, nominate 9 other blogs with 200 or less followers (We’re guessing for our nominees) for a Liebster award by posting a comment on their blog and linking back to the Liebster post.
6) The nominated blogger will create 11 questions for their nominated blogs to answer in their Liebster post.

So, done the first two tasks. Here’s the eleven facts about me. (I go on a bit, I didn’t include that brevity or conciseness is not my forte).

  1. One of the most surreal things I’ve ever done is approach Paul O’Grady of Lily Savage fame, in the Telephone Bar in Bangkok and throw water at him. He didn’t mind, it was Thai New Year which is celebrated by sprinkling water over other people as a sign of good luck. In recent times it has degenerated into a giant 3 day city-wide water fight, where gangs of adolescents prowl the city on the backs of jeeps and motorbikes, with industrial water tanks strapped to their backs connected to elaborate water pistols, in order to drench passers-by. Probably something of a mating ritual, but if you ever go to Bangkok around the time of Thai New Year, be sure to wear either a swimming cossie or plastic overalls.
  2. My skills of prophecy are summarised by the occasion I looked at a battered old orange 737 sitting on the tarmac at Gatwick airport in 1997 and opined “No Frills airlines. That’ll never work”
  3. Fr John Glynn of I watch the Sunrise, fame, was the priest in charge of my school. He used to stalk the Alyosius Corridor, singing and smiling and leant his guitar against the altar. I used to confuse him with Ralph McTell.
  4.  My favourite book of the Aeneid is Book VI. It evokes memories of GCSE Latin and moments of Billy Bunter-esque stupidity in class. Virgil describes an eclectic mix of characters including “The hundred armed Gyles Brandreth” and, much to the amusement of privileged Essex boarding school pupils, with terribly middle-class names, a ferryman called “Sharon”.
  5. I’ve always wanted to give Cathy and Heathcliffe a hearty slap.
  6. I can’t touch vodka following an unfortunate incident involving Highlander II, popcorn on an empty stomach, a litre of Blue label Smirnoff, a chincilla and a poodle who resembled Roly in Eastenders.
  7. If I had to chose a final meal it would be infinite oysters, with a dipping sauce made out of shallots and red-wine vinegar, a dash of lemon and tabasco, washed down with Veuve Cliquot served the temperature of liquid nitrogen.
  8.  I have to work a lot harder on the asceticism and Evangelical Poverty thing.
  9.  I will forever harbour an unashamed crush on the young Stiff Pilchard Cliff Richard in his heyday. Cor. 
  10.  I’d like to have the sublime Faure’s Requiem at my funeral and wangle a way of getting in the Cantique de Jean Racine also.
  11.  Compline is my favourite part of the Divine Office. It hands everything over to God at the end of the day.

So here are the questions I had to answer:

What inspired the title of your blog?

My name. Original huh?! Actually, it was originally called asnailinmypocket, which was a favourite phrase of mine back in the day, being an equivalent to Monty Python’s hovercraft full of eels. Very often in my days as a flight attendent, we’d operate domestic European flights for a non-English airline, between cities such as Cologne and Dresden. I once told an unsuspecting German with no command of English, that I had ‘a snail in my pocket and I think I’m about to use my vest’, instead of telling him to stow his hand luggage under the seat in front of him, much to the hilarity of my colleague. He seemed to get the gist. Perhaps it was the hand gestures? Anyway the phrase stuck and it was the first thing that came to mind when setting up the blog and summed me up. Random, surreal and probably quite juvenile.

What is your personal favourite post on your blog?

No idea, although I’d like to think that I’ve done some very solid investigative pro-life writing. BPAS are regular readers. *waves* 🙂

What has been the most popular (most viewed) post on your blog?

Oh lawks, not sure we should go there. It was the Babyworld post of DOOM. To cut a long story short, I used to be a member of a Mumsnet type website called Babyworld, which had a ‘Discus, Debate and Deliberate’ forum. In the run up to the Papal Visit, things got extremely heated and being the only practicing Catholic in a forum predominated by liberal mummies was something of a recipe for disaster. They simply didn’t get it and I should have realised that it was always going to be a waste of time.

There were threads upon threads of the usual old cliches and every single time, I tried to bust the myths or engage in any sort of apologetics – KAPOW, they’d all go nutty. I remember one member who indignantly C&Ped huge chucks of the Catechism, in order to heap her scorn and vitriol upon this disgusting religion and its doctrine.

Others just couldn’t work me out. On the one hand I seemed this perfectly nice, reasonable, quite fun woman, who didn’t walk about dressed like a member of the Amish, but there I was espousing hateful bigotry and homophobia. At one point it was suggested that I was brainwashed or had cognitive dissonance “I don’t think Caroline hates gay people, she obviously doesn’t, she seems a nice person, but her attitude is homophobic and that causes her problems, which is why she tries to explain it away”.

Finally, my patience blew during yet another homophobic Catholic church debate (I think people decided to deliberately start inflammatory threads) during which posters posted the most inane and theologically illiterate statements I’d ever seen, which were as hilarious as they were offensive. “Face it, you can’t tell me whether or not Jesus was a breast or a bum man with any certainty”, said one, and in my frustration and amusement, I C&Ped some of the choicest comments onto here for the delectation of my gentle readers, along with the Bad Vicar sketch from Mitchell and Webb. Well, it was funny, a bunch of women screeching about how terrible Catholicism was, how they had spent some time in Rome and decided that I had read too many books and therefore wasn’t ‘spiritual’, reminded me of the classic line about “hastily assembled internet philosophies”.

Anyway, they didn’t like it much, linked the blog to Babyworld and the stats went stratospheric. Much silliness ensued about petitioning WordPress to get the site taken down for breaching copyright (despite the fact I’d done nothing illegal and hadn’t mentioned identities) and a huge amount of cross comments, for taking their comments about Christ’s alleged sexual preferences out of context!

I left shortly afterwards, it all got a bit much and I lost patience with the “oh no, my child’s Christian school is teaching them that God exists and about the crucifixion and Resurrection, how very dare they”, but they still link to here from time to time, bless them.Christian mummies, stay away from mainstream mummy forums, no good can come of it, unless you are married to Giles Fraser.

Which post on your blog has attracted most comments?

This one. About finding out I was pregnant, the week that Robin left the Anglican Church.

What other hobbies or interests (beyond blogging) are you prepared to admit to?

Not that much time, with the children, so it’s mainly reading and playing the piano. Beethoven Sonatas with their crashing chords can be most Cathartic, but tend to wake the children. I also love Bach prelude and fuges as well as Mozart sonatas. I adore ragtime, probably not very PC, but I’d like to be able to play Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk without making any mistakes before I shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s fiendishly difficult.

What’s your favourite song?

Cemetry Gates by The Smiths. Timeless and with puns worthy of Philip Sidney.  Perhaps the wittiest and cleverest pop song there is. It is a deliberate paradox, being the embodiment of the traits that it knocks- pretentious and pseudo-intellectual and reminding us that all writers and fans of literature and the arts are self-conscious, angst-ridden inadvertent plagiarists at heart.

What’s your favourite novel?

I’m going to cheat, because I can’t possibly chose. Three of Maupassant’s short-stories, Boule de Suif, La Parure and En Famille. All tragi-comic, demonstrating his immense ability as an original story-teller, who describes his subjects and their physical and mental flaws with affectionate, painstaking and earthy detail. Maupassant holds up an uncomfortable and discomforting mirror to human nature. Though none of these stories have an aspect of redemption, they demonstrate the nature of sin. When I recently re-read them, the compelling subtext for me, was how they highlighted the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Actually upon re-reading that, I should say, Brideshead Revisited because it sparked my return back to the Catholic Church. When my eldest was born, I spent hours sat nursing her with a book in hand. One of them was Brideshead which I had never previously got around to. As I turned the back cover, tears were streaming down my face and I thought to myself, “well it’s too late for me, but I am going to make darned sure that my daughter is saved” and resolved to have her baptised. I then attended the local baptism course and things progressed from there.

Complete this sentence: ‘I think religion is….’

I’ll go with St Augustine’s definition. I think religion is the thing that binds us to God in voluntary subjugation.

How good a dancer are you?

Dreadful. I don’t do dancing, unless it’s of the Gay Gordons, or the basic ballroom variety that we had to learn at school. I am hopelessly uncoordinated, more embarrassing that your grandad and don’t enjoy it at all. I never know what to ‘do’.

Which do you prefer: tea or coffee?

Tea. Coffee is the devil’s own brew.

Have you ever been a smoker? (Of tobacco…!)

Yes. I used to smoke an unhealthy amount of Marlboro Reds. I still crave a cigarette whenever I have a gin and tonic in my hand, but on those occasions where I’ve grabbed a crafty puff of someone else’s, have wanted to throw up. I gave up in 1998, following the smoking ban on long-haul flights. My smoking habit was never curbed by the cost of cigarettes, seeing as I used to be able to buy them very cheaply in various destinations. At one stage I had a stash of about 2,000 in my room, for personal use, and never had to husband or ration cigarettes due to spiralling costs, unlike British smokers. It was easy-come, easy-go. I figured that if I could manage on a flight to Sidney without a puff, then, it was just a matter of gradually extending the period of time.

So now I have to nominate 9 other blogs with under 200 readers. That’s the hard part. I don’t tend to do compare and contrast on stats, so really I’ve no idea whether that’s readers or subscribers or what? I’d love to ask some of the priests such as Fr Ray Blake, whether or not he used to practice playing and pretending he was celebrating Mass as a little boy, or whether Joseph Shaw is secretly scared of spiders, but I guess that would be disrespectful and they have well over two hundred readers, so my list is a little random. I’m struggling, because most of those whom I would nominate, have already participated

  1. MyBattlementofRubies – my absolute heroine of all time. Clare, Catholic Homeschooling mother of six who has the most fabulous turn of phrase along with buckets of wit and common sense.
  2. Abudance of Rainbows – Lovely, lovely Lucy
  3. Laurence England – who doesn’t need the plug, but has written some outstanding stuff of late, and hasn’t yet participated
  4. James Preece – Oi James, put down your Latin books, forget the gerundives and answer some inane questions. Your public demands it
  5. Five feet above sea level – this is swiftly becoming a must-read, the wonderful and inspirational Katherine Rickards.
  6. A Miscellany of Musings – ‘The Idle Rambler’

And erm, I give up. Feel free to join in by all accounts, if questions inspire.

  1. Do you have a favourite Evangelist?
  2. What are the best and worst aspects of blogging?
  3. If you were able to choose your final meal, or God forbid you were on Death Row, what would it be?
  4. Favourite Saint?
  5. What book do you have on your bedside cabinet?
  6. What has been the most popular post on your blog?
  7. Which blogpost has attracted the most comments?
  8. What did you want to be when you were a small child?
  9. If you had a Harry Potter invisibility cloak for one day, what would you do?
  10. What inspired the title of your blog
  11. Favourite prayer or novena?

And that’s me done.

 

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