Saturday 15 June 2024

Losing My Religion


Seeing the light

In case you're wondering, Dear Reader, the Pipistrellos are still alive after seventeen months of No Carbs. After all this time, there remain no interesting tidbits to share viz. recipes and dinner-plate still lifes and whatnots, as an unadorned grilled steak or half a dozen sardines can look a tad uninspiring to those not about to tuck in. So I'm feeling a bit like I've lost my religion. Again.

For there was a time when reading a recipe book was as rewarding and life-affirming as dipping into, say, The Book of Common Prayer*, and watching cooking shows on the telly was as honoured as attending Evensong**. Not to mention the ritual of Restaurant gatherings, and the near-worship of Celebrity Chefs. All gone now, and the vacuum left has been filled with ... well, living. There seems to be more time and space for the Other Stuffs in life that don't require the employment of the contents of our kitchen cupboards. Which is a sort of dilemma of its own—what to do with a lifetime's accumulation of gadgets?

The first time I lost my religion I was about six. The Anglican nun in Scripture, inexplicably, hem hem, told a lurid tale one day of witches in Nepal throwing naughty children off the Himalayan mountains. Next I knew, I was spending Fridays reading in the library lumped in with the No Religion/Other kids from places like Indonesia (ours was a very cosmopolitan school in the embassy zone of Our Nation's Capital), whilst the Roman Catholic and Church of England kids got to enjoy a more colourful Storytime.

There was already form in the Pipistrello Archive for such swift action. My dear Mother, at the tender age of five or so, casually mentioned the daily practice of her Catholic nun who would line the tots up in the corridor before class and smack each in turn, in case they were going to be naughty during the day. Not only was my mother the next day summarily removed from the school, but there was a wholesale abandonment of not just Roman Catholicism but any and all fellow branches of the Church. Just like that. 

In fact, I was shocked to learn, when old enough to hear about this familial volte face, that we actually came from a long line of Catholics***. I had presumed, since we laughed so heartily at Dave Allen at Large's Catholic jokes, that we must surely have come from the Other Side. But it turned out that my brief cherubic encounter with C. of E. Scripture was just an exercise in being allowed to Make Up Your Own Mind.

What finished it for me, however, came a couple or so years later. The mother of neighbourhood playmates thought I needed Saving and I was invited to come along to Sunday School and Church one day. I well-remember both my dear Mother's rolling of the eyes at my imploring to be allowed to go, and being sent back home to change before we set out as I was in a carefree 1970's unisex ensemble rather than a dress. I may have been saved from one shameful social faux pas, but the worst was yet to come.

Sunday School itself was a delight. Not only did I top the class in the comprehension exercises following whatever was the Bible Story of the day and was rewarded with a fistful of little illustrated cards with various biblical characters, there was even time for colouring-in! I already loved school and could see this Sunday School malarky was going to be a doddle. I loved it so, already!

But then, when joining the adults in the church, as I sat with half an ear to the service, daydreaming about trouncing my sleepy competition for title of Dux of Sunday School, who in spite of having years' head start on me in the bible-stories department, really seemed only interested in the colouring-in bit, I dimly heard the vicar utter the blood-chilling words: "And we have a Stranger in our midst today. Stand up Pipistrello!" 

All heads swivelled and all eyes fixed themselves on my crimson-blushed and knee-quivering form. While I may have had ruthless designs on Sunday-scholastic glory, my true nature was utterly mortified by being made the object of attention of a roomful of people, earnest Christians or not. As I stood with my shy eyes fixed to my feet, any vestige of my religion went whoosh! Gone. When back at home, and my curious Mother asked if I was intending to return, I looked away and mumbled something about not caring for it, no questions were asked and she was no doubt satisfied.

It's not to say that I'm not endlessly curious about Religion and fascinated by its history and evolution and would probably have enjoyed studying, say, comparative religion at uni. And despite lapsed-Catholic Mr. P frustrating any questions I might have about doctrine or particularities of Catholicism (he pleads ignorance on the detail on the grounds he was sacked as an altar-boy for ringing the bells at the wrong time, coupled with regular thrashings by the, ahem, Christian Brothers scrambling whatever he knew into a red-hot mess), I'm not that interested to spend too much time on it. Busy busy, and all that. But I did chance upon this handy flowchart, (and who doesn't love a good flowchart!), in case I ran out of things to do one day and wanted to pick a side and go for it. I do hope it helps you too, Dear Reader.

* Never read.

** Never attended.

*** Indeed, a Lockdown pastime was a touch of online Genealogy, where I discovered that not only was my paternal line as Catholic as my maternal, but each generation had at least ten kids and no-one, going back hundreds of years, save the obvious Black Sheep who did a bunk to Australia around the time of Federation, has ever left the County of Lancashire! I do wonder how tricky it was to stay Catholic during the times it was outlawed, but that's a personal genealogical investigation for another day.

Image credits: 1: Flying With Hands; 2: via Reddit

Sunday 17 March 2024

Notre Dame - Then & Now


Then: C19th chimera gracing our kitchen wall since, well, forever

In the way of such things, we were only home a few days from our journey to the City of Lights and a stroll past a recovering famous cathedral, when the first of this year's concert subscriptions popped up, appropriately entitled, Notre Dame. Here we were taken on another journey by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir through a choice Baroque selection of the vast quantity of music composed for and performed through the ages within this gothic masterpiece. 

Then, again: Your Correspondent in 2006, 
the last time both Paris & Our Lady was visited

From a song by Hildegard von Bingen to a commissioned work by Australian Hugh Ronzani via court songs and chansons, polyphonic chants and extracts from opéra-ballets and whatnot, by the likes of Charles Tessier, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marin Marais* and Jean Baptiste Lully and plenty more besides, the concert was interwoven with a two-person play about a young engineering graduate who joins the restoration team in Paris to work on the cathedral, is guided through the edifice by the spirit of Victor Hugo and is there at the scene of the 2019 Great Conflagration.

Now: The cathedral in 2024

Projected old film footage and images of the cathedral, then and now, including the fire itself, formed a backdrop of  "cathedral windows", making the whole concert a quite moving experience. Especially as we'd spent time walking around Notre Dame only those few days earlier taking in the progress of this latest restoration to the calamitous and disastrous result of the previous works, the play's subject.

Coming along nicely

Notre Dame is as busy as ever with tourists, there to bear witness to the massive project, and there's even stadium seating in the forecourt, presumably for visitors to sit and watch the reconstruction at leisure. We felt like we had a glimpse into our shared European cultural history, linking hands with the generations before us who would mostly all have lived with or seen a work-in-progress of this kind, for churches and cathedrals and castles and other engineering landmarks took generations to build and seemed constantly to be burned down and rebuilt, only to be burned down and rebuilt yet again.

But a long way to go

Even in a young city like Sydney, in my own lifetime I got to see the finishing spires finally installed on St. Mary's Cathedral, two hundred years after the first foundation stone was laid. Civil engineering's mainstays of roads, bridges, sewage systems and the like might be built in a single generation, but beauteous cultural landmarks seem to have to take forever if they are to last forever. 

Florist nearby with the late winter offerings

Speaking of beauteous, how lovely are these bunches of wattle seen outside this Parisian florist? We took a late afternoon stroll around Île Saint-Louis after our Notre Dame inspection and the cold weather necessitated a hunt for something warming. Which we duly found and can highly recommend!

Also nearby, for a restorative coffee 
and pint or so of hot chocolate :)

And the best Crème Brûlée ever!

* Fun fact: We stayed in the Marais district this visit!

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Monday 22 January 2024

Strange Visitors II

... Or, What Katy Did

Behold, Dear Reader, the strange visitor to our bedroom the other morning. We do seem to get a fair bit of wildlife inside the casa (of the six- and eight-legged variety, mind), but it's the first time a Bush Cricket or Common Garden Katydid (Caedicia simplex) has lobbed in without a by your leave. It may have been attracted by the marquetry foliage on the bedhead, but it's still a feat to have made it up a couple of floors. Of course, it was a long way down again but I expect they're hardy beasts and no harm was done by my deft swipe with a jar and swift dispatch out the window*. 

Uninvited, unwelcome and, I should say, un-housetrained as there was a calling card which also needed dispatching, but I wasn't totally heartless when Mr. P declared upon telephonic consultation that I should just kill it!

Just bad manners, thank you very much

And speaking of more unwanted bugs about the bedroom, we were also subject to dose of Covid. Today I tested negative at last and took my pale and uninteresting self off to ballet to celebrate. A couple of fellow dancers did caution against overdoing it, lest long-Covid might visit as well, but I'm a complete bunhead these days and cancelled six classes while I was incommoded. I've some catching up to do!

* Unless, like the eponymous Katy in What Katy Did, the fall did grave injury to it and it is destined to lie in bed half-paralysed and sulky at the injustice of it all for the rest of its little life. Mind you, I did rather adore this book as a child, and Katy's miraculous recovery of body and spirit is what I should call more of an Improving Read for young girlish minds than the dreary suggestions of Mr. MonadGPT, The Book of Common Prayer and The Art of Dying Well.

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Bats In The Belfry