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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Whither Jerusalem?

There is in England a well known tune called Jerusalem, most often sung in Anglican churches.  The melody isn't nearly as well known in America, but it should be, as it is hauntingly beautiful.  The problem for English Catholics is the words aren't particularly good for Mass -- i.e. the lyrics used are from William Blake's poem, which refers to England's "Dark Satanic mills."  So most times when it's requested for a Catholic Mass, it gets turned down.  HOWEVER, I think there is a remedy to this.

At Ronald Reagan's funeral, the tune of Jerusalem was used, but the words used were not Blake's but the newer words to "Oh, Love of God, How Strong and True" which uses the same melody as Jerusalem.  This song would be quite appropriate for a Catholic Mass.    I wish this song were better known in US Catholic Circles.  The video is of the National Cathedral Choir singing "Oh Love of God, so Strong and True" -- US Catholic churches incorporating this song into their Easter cycle would benefit, and also English Catholic could enjoy their beloved melody without singing about "dark Satanic mills."

"O love of God, how strong and true!
Eternal, and yet ever new;
Uncomprehended and unbought,
Beyond all knowledge and all thought.

O love of God, how deep and great!
Far deeper than man’s deepest hate;
Self fed, self kindled, like the light,
Changeless, eternal, infinite.

O heavenly love, how precious still,
In days of weariness and ill,
In nights of pain and helplessness,
To heal, to comfort, and to bless!

O wide embracing, wondrous love!
We read thee in the sky above,
We read thee in the earth below,
In seas that swell, and streams that flow.

We read thee best in Him who came
To bear for us the cross of shame;
Sent by the Father from on high,
Our life to live, our death to die.

We read thy power to bless and save,
E’en in the darkness of the grave;
Still more in resurrection light,
We read the fullness of thy might.

O love of God, our shield and stay
Through all the perils of our way!
Eternal love, in thee we rest
Forever safe, forever blest.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK remembered, 50 years on

Jack with best friend Lem Billings
Jack (left) with best friend Lem Billings in France, 1937
It's not very often you remember EXACTLY what you were doing almost to the moment 50 years ago when something happened. For those of us old enough to remember, November 22, 1963 was such a time. I have always marked the assassination date of JFK as the end of my early childhood. I was 7 and 2 months when it happened. And yes, I remember that "like it was yesterday." Although I do have a definite memory from 1958 of my mother telling me the evening of the Chicago parochial school fire, to pray for nearly 100 teachers and school children who died, I was kept away from graphic images, just after the event. But nothing was shielded from us in '63 when I was in 2nd grade.

We were in the middle of a lesson in the early afternoon at St. Francis School, in Allentown, Pa. Our nun, Sister Angelita, was called out into the hall, something very unusual, and sister came back in and informed us, rather excitedly, that "Father Walters was listening to the radio in the rectory, and heard that the president was shot in Dallas, we don't know how bad it is yet, let's pray." I can remember thinking: What the heck is he doing in Dallas? So we all did pray, and shortly thereafter we were given our customary bathroom break. We marched in silence upstairs to the 2nd floor to "do our business" and we were each lost in our own thoughts on the way back down to our classroom too. Even at a time like that normal decorum was held. I don't remember anyone crying at that time, we got the news. We were all pretty much in shock that such a thing like that could happen. If there were tears, there certainly no wailing and moaning. Everyone absorbed it best they could.

Shortly thereafter, we were assembled in the school chapel (which had until the year before served as the parish church) and told of Kennedy's death. We said more prayers, and were released home. We were told that priests had gone to Parkland Hospital and the President had been given last rites, which to us Catholic children was a comfort. One of the Dallas priests had released the news of his death to the news media, and naturally other official announcements had taken place. We were released close to our normal time of day, as after the assembly it made no sense to go back to class. Again, we pretty much were walked in silence down to the corner as usual where we were released, each with our own thoughts, either to walk home by ourselves, or with mom, if our mothers if they were there to pick us up.

I remember asking my mother at home: Do we have a president now? And she thought a moment and told me Johnson was now president. I do remember that night as I was lying down to bed thinking of poor Caroline and John, Jr. I felt terrible they didn't have a dad anymore. All that weekend, apart from me going to church on Saturday to light a candle, and Sunday to Mass, we were GLUED to the TV. I DO remember seeing Oswald get shot on TV, I called out to my mom "Oswald's been shot." Frankly, I can't say I was glad he was shot, but I was quite relieved he was. Let's say at age 7, I was not "nuanced."

I am quite sure my interest in history was kindled with his assassination. His biographies were among the first I read. And frankly, I had smelled a rat regards the hagiography that had been painted about him by the time I was age 13. What exactly did he mean when he was quoted as saying in "The Making of the President" about being glad the republicans had made a "tactical mistake by releasing their vote counts too soon" downstate in Illinois. I remember thinking "if everything's on the up and up, why would that matter when the votes from various precincts came in if they were all going to be counted in the end?" I knew there were gaps and cover ups and inconsistencies re: the timeline of his early years. They'd concealed he'd ALWAYS been prone to being a sickly child, and frankly he'd had a bad back from early childhood, and there was the lie re: him spending a year in England going to the London School of Economics. In later years the book "The Search for JFK" came out by a brother/sister pair, the Blairs, and they did extensive research and brought the truth to light where the Kennedy family had painted the myths about Jack and the adoring media just didn't look too closely at the inconsistencies. The press had long known of JFK's womanizing, and the Judith Exner story came out about that same time in the early 70s, then EVERYONE had to admit what had once been a "gentleman's agreement" couldn't be covered up anymore. And the "Camelot myth" was passed on by the liberal press. NOT his fault, OR Jackie Kennedy's for that matter. He didn't ask to be made a tin hero. The administration was never called "Camelot" when it was happening. That business was promulgated when shortly after his death she'd given an interview with a newsman she'd trusted. She mentioned in passing that before they went to bed, her husband often liked to listen to musical theatre records, and that Camelot, then playing on Broadway was a favorite. So the media from ever there on beat the "Camelot" myth to death.

But for all his flaws, he also had strengths. Basic Optimism. The space program. Love of Country. Anti-communism. A great sense of humor. NONE of those qualities shared by the present occupant in the White House, in my opinion.

I've since confirmed with many people that for them too, who were old enough, they also demarcated time between pre and post assassination. So it wasn't just my imagination. I always sigh a bit when I watch episodes of MAD MEN. They caught the period so well. I get a bit frustrated that people say "Oh, things would be so different had he lived." I highly doubt that, other than, of course, for the Kennedy family. Some things, no doubt would likely be different. I question whether or not Bobby would have been shot, for instance, and certainly Mary Jo Kopechne would have lived too, because Ted wouldn't have been driving her around over a bridge, as the "reunion" had been held for the office girls who worked Bobby's campaign a year after he was shot. But as far as the larger world stage and events that transpired, I don't see that things would have been radically different in the long scheme of things. I'm glad I've never found out if he would have championed abortion on demand as did Ted. I'm glad I never saw that day.

The Vietnam War was just starting to heat up under Kennedy. He'd have continued it, I'm quite sure, given he was strongly anti-Communist and didn't want them taking over eastern Asia like they had eastern Europe. JFK was very much a cold warrior. Had he won re-election, the crowds would have likely yelled "hey, hey, JFK, how many kids did you kill today?" The birth control pill, and the loose sexual mores and shocking rise in unwed motherhood and later abortion on demand still would have likely happened. Johnson's so-called "War on Poverty" although well meant at the time I'm sure, had the unintended effect of making dad in the home not a necessity in too many minds, as single motherhood was relatively monetarily rewarded, which combined with sexual revolution and the pill made dear old dad superfluous. The war on teachers being able to mention God or morals in public schools had already started in '62 when the Supreme Court said you couldn't have prayer in public school. The drug culture would have happened. Just a few short months after the assassination, the Beatles radically did change to course of popular music headlong into Rock and Roll. Although rock started in '55 with Bill Haley and the Comets, the Beatles really supplanted any chance of the other genres like "standards" being the most popular music. Drugs and hippies came in big time after that, and popular culture became rather more crude and crass. Being a "drama queen" became tolerated behavior in public mores. And if you tried to hold to an older standard of grace and courtesy, you just weren't hip and "cool." Nat King Cole would have been embarrassed by the gang banger culture perpetrated by some "artists" today. I can't imagine Arlene Francis doing "Survivor" any more than I could have imagined Jackie Kennedy going out in ratty jeans.

One last note: You conspiracy people are annoying. Give it up. Face it. ANY president, just by nature of the job probably has a lot of people out there who want him dead. So all this crap about the Mafia, etc. or Oswald being a mere set up patsy really doesn't bear out. Oswald shot Kennedy as his lone assassin. End of. The forensics and science all back it up. So give it up already. Rest in peace, JFK.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Alas, poor Yorick

The other day I was going through things my late husband had.  This picture was taken shortly after his last chemotherapy treatment.  He'd undergone the therapy for a number of weeks on and it was very uncomfortable for him.    In the beginning, the mask, which is custom made for each person to keep their head in place, was too tight and very trying for him, they had to remake and alter a 2nd time, and then another adjustment.   Oftentimes after he'd finished the treatment, marks from the tough plastic mask would remain on his face for a long time, sometimes even an hour later you could see where the mask had been.

He never complained about the cancer, but you could see he was a happy man when that phase of his treatment had ended.  I think he did most of his purgatory on earth.    At any rate, I hope he is happy now, and has met my mom and dad and other relatives.   I'm very sorry that none of my relatives ever got to meet him.  It would have been my mother's 83rd birthday today.  I don't know what dad would have made of Q, but I think my mom would have adored him.  If there is cake in heaven I hope they had some, and thought of me.  It will be the 18th anniversary of her death 4 days from now.  Hard to believe it's been so long  Like Q, my mom had died of cancer.  Going through her death, helped prepare me for his.

There have been a few times where I've almost thrown Q's mask away.  And it puzzled me why I hadn't.  The other day it occurred to me why I hadn't.    Close up, one can see the shape of the face.  It's almost a modern day death mask - no other human had or will ever have those exact features or facial measurements. It's unique. And and a reminder that one day we all come to death's door.  Some sooner than expected.  And you never know what your own fate will be.  No person is ever replaceable.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy 90th, John. And many more.

My father-in-law, John, celebrated his 90th birthday today.  He is quite spry and very lively.  There was a nice party for him this afternoon in the public lounge in the apartment complex where he and my mother-in-law, Lorna, lives.   John is quite a pistol and my husband, Q, inherited a lot of his charm and sense of fun, and sartorial sense.

Q's parents will never be that elderly couple who sit around in sweats - they are always so nicely turned out.  I don't think I've ever seen John without a tie on, for instance.  This afternoon just as we were going down the hallway from their apartment to the reception room, John gave his wife and me a little bit of a startle by taking a few running steps pushing her wheel chair and then letting go on purpose to give his wife a bit of a thrill.  "There you are my dear, now you're free wheeling!"  WHEEEEE!!!!

They are a delightful couple and had about 30 folks besides us at his party.  They had a nice spread of sandwiches and other goodies for their guests along with some cakes. John and Lorna also recently had their 60th wedding anniversary towards the end of December.  Their friends had taken up a generous collection for them to go out and have a really good time.  When asked by a woman if they have any plans for a spree John joked that it would probably run to "fish and chips" and the lady said "well, feel free to have them in Paris!"  I think they would be tempted, as they both were quite adventurous travelers.

When my husband was a very little boy, there was a big department store in Kent who put out a  magazine which featured the cartoon antics of two bears, Claude and Cecil.  Q and his dad often called each other by these pet names.   Whenever Q called his parents he always started off with "Hello, Claude" when his dad answered the phone, and of course, John answered "Hello, Cecil."    I quite miss hearing this exchange between my husband and his dad.  Q had a pair of cuff links which were golden bears wearing top hats, so I presented these to John as a gift today.

John shares a birthday with Lincoln, and it occurs to me that when John was born there were still people alive who would have seen Lincoln in the flesh when they were children!  John served with the Royal Marines during WWII and then had a long career in the Civil Service as an accountant.  He was quite a sport in his day, playing field hockey for the Marines when he was still in the service, and he is really enjoying the English wins in the rugby "6 Nations" tournament which is now on going.  I hope for his sake that England wins.  Happy Birthday, John!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happy Anniversary - or should have been

Today should have been Quentin's and my  2nd Anniversary  - but it was not to be.  I have physically been feeling a lot better.  [Still fighting periods of depression, but it's getting better.]  I wanted to get out today and do something rather than be stuck at home. So I went to Mass this morning, then I hopped the train over to Windsor, and had a nice day out.  The weather was on the crappy side, but just good enough with occasional bursts of sunshine.  Which on a winter weekday makes it a perfect day to go.

For some reason there are TWO train stations in Windsor, only a few hundred yards apart.  My train from Feltham to Windsor only takes 23 minutes and terminates at Eton & Riverside.  Walk about 150 yards and you could hit the side of the base of the castle with a baseball.  So if your knees are good you can be at the admission entrance within a 5-10 minute walk.

When Q was young he had a Highland Westie.  My favorite dog was a Springer Spaniel.  One of the few pleasures we had together was stopping in Richmond Deer Park on the way either to and from the hospital when he was doing his chemo treatments.  People walk their doggies there and we usually saw either one or the either breed, but quite frequently both.  I once told Quentin jokingly that whereas St. Therese mentioned that when she got to heaven she would send roses as her sign, that I would instead send spaniels.  I've noticed since his death often when I am in a place he enjoyed I DO end up seeing a highland Westie -- so I must say it has me going a bit.  Today was no different.  Just as I was reaching the entrance to the castle, two fellows with dogs met up -- and one of them was -- a WESTIE.  So I wonder if Q has a hand in this!  I kind of hope so.

There were FEW people touring in the afternoon today.  I got some photos where there was NO ONE in some of the long shots that normally would have been crowded with people.  For the 1st time I waltzed right in to Queen Mary's dollhouse - and that can easily be a two hour wait or more in the summer on the weekend.  I got to really look at every little bit of it.  And there were some of the "semi-state room" rooms open that are normally never open except in the winter -- essentially some normally more private rooms in the part of the castle that had been burned in the fire.  In particular a red drawing room done to  George IV's taste that overlooks the back gardens, and a "corner dining room" that looks out either towards Eton or the back gardens.  Victoria loved eating there, and apparently the present queen likes to take her guests there for dinner and breakfasts if she has a weekend house party.  The only drawback is you are not allowed to take photos on the inside of the buildings.  I expect besides a potential security issue it might cut into their guidebook sales.

Here are some more photos of the outside:  1st the Round tower -- the oldest part of the castle, though the top 30 feet was added in the 1800s to make the place look, well, "more castle like" as if it wasn't castlelike enough already!

 Next up is a bit more of the garden which surrounds the Round tower -- it used to be filled with a moat - but now it's a nice private garden.

This is a picture of "the bit" of the castle in the  Upper Ward across from the state rooms.  This is what the queen considers her "real home" as opposed to Buckingham Palace which to her is like working "over the shop."  Every day at 11 they have a changing of the guard here in the quadrangle.

 I stayed for evensong in St. George's, which is in the Castle Grounds.  Very splendid church which I've always loved.  I sat in the stall occupied by Haille Selassie when he was a member of the Order of the Garter.  18 boys and 10 men sang.  The Anglicans, I must say, really know how to do evensong. The boys attend the co-educational St. George's  school which is located at the foot of the Castle hill.   Louise, the queen's youngest grand-daughter currently attends, as had Beatrice and Eugenie back in their day.  I especially missed Q at Mass and at Evensong.   He really loved Windsor.  We did get to drive through it a few times when he was still living, but he wasn't well enough for the long walks by the time we knew he was sick with cancer.  But I highly recommend visiting on a winter's day during the week.  You can really look at everything at length without being crowded or have any wait times.  And DO NOT MISS evensong.  There were 20 of us from the public there this evening, and I expect in the summer you probably wouldn't get to sit in the choir stalls.

This picture was taken from the north terrace of Windsor castle.  At the bottom of the picture is St. George's school - the yellow buildings.  The long red building in the train station (Eton Riverside) and near the top you can make out the Eton College church if you click on the picture you should be able to make it out.

You can't really do Windsor without taking a picture of some Guardsmen, so I did.  You don't see too many guns in England, but this is one of the few places you will.

And this following picture was taken just before I went in to evensong.  Really incredible virtually NO ONE is in this shot.

Last week I'd come over to Windsor to catch a matinee at the Theatre Royal of Sheridan's THE RIVALS where Mrs. Malaprop and Anthony Adverse made their appearances.  Nice to finally actually SEE that play rather than just read about it.  Got a cheap seat for only £11 in the 3rd row.

The day would have even better if my dapper Qbunny could have attended in person if not just in spirit.  But I have to content myself with the thought that he is in a far better place.  Missing him terribly.

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