Monday, November 30, 2009

Thought for the second week of Advent
A poem by James P. Henry, entitled The Cold Within, tells the moral tale of six persons forced by a snowstorm to shelter in a single spot, where they built a fire for warmth. Presumably they each concealed some wood they had gathered against a contingency. The fire began to die but not one of the six was prepared to put his hoarded wood on it to revive the flames.
Each had a reason. Two of them detesting each other because they were of different colour justified themselves accordingly. It was a similar case with a rich person and a beggar. A man of religion noticed one he considered a heretic and so held his wood back.
Most interesting of all was the excuse of one man who:
Did nought except for gain
Giving only those who gave
Was how he played the game.
In this season one cannot help remembering those shepherds "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." In the hill country of Judaea at that time there would have been bears and lions looking out for sheep to steal. Plainly it required the combined watchfulness of a group of shepherds to guard the sheep. Yet consider their reaction to a strange, a most wonderful happening:
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Luke Chapter 2
There is no mention of thought being taken for the safeguarding of their flock; no indication that they selected a committee to represent the group in going to Bethlehem. On the contrary it would appear that the lot of them went in reckless haste to Bethlehem:
16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
Not content with rushing off pell-mell to Bethlehem, those shepherds took the risk of being laughed at as mad or drunk by telling their story to all and sundry. No thought of gain or loss entered their simple minds
Something similar is indicated in the next two passages:
14 When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course,
15 down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word
Wisdom 18[Jesus Christ] emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 7-8
Here was no thought of doing nothing save for gain; no giving only to those who gave – and gave first, mind you.
As one might expect those six persons in the poem perished:
Their logs held tight in death's still hands
Was proof of human sin,
They did not die of the cold without
They died of the cold within.
But the One who was born on Christmas Day, who died in the most tremendous act of self-giving, rose again, and lives for ever – and raises up all who follow Him to share in that everlasting life.
[The poem quoted was brought to notice in a sermon preached by Father Sebastian Fernandes SJ]

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Thoughts for the first week of Advent
Little Christopher went with his mother on a visit to the Cathedral of All Saints. He was accustomed to the small, simply furnished parish church he had attended during most of his five-year-old life, and the glories of the Cathedral amazed him.
"Mummy, who is that man?" he asked, pointing to a figure in a stained-glass window.
"That's St. Peter, darling", Mother replied.
"And that man?"
"That's St. Paul. Kit, would you like to know them all?"
"Yes please, Mummy."
"Well, here's St. Joseph, and this is Our Lady. Oh Kit, look here – here's your own saint, St. Christopher. Aren't the pictures beautiful?"
"Yes they are."
Next morning Christopher was in school. During Catechism class the teacher said, "Children, next Monday is the first of November, a holiday for the feast of All Saints. Who can tell me the meaning of 'saint'?"
Up shot Christopher's hand, catching Teacher's eye. "You are very eager this morning, Christopher. Tell us."
"Please ma'am, a saint is a beautiful window for the light to come in."
In its earliest use by the followers of Christ, the word 'saints' appears to have denoted the faithful, as in some epistles of St. Paul:
"to all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons" (Philippians 1:1)
"Paul, . . . unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia" (2 Corinthians 1:1)
"But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints" (Romans 15:25)
It would seem, then, that we are all 'saints'. Not canonised Saints, to be sure, for it takes heroic virtue and election by Divine Providence to be special channels of God's miraculous grace in order to be raised to the honours of the altar – and it requires that the saint be first translated out of this life into the next!
No, indeed, although some of us might yet achieve such blessedness, it is not to that state that we need aspire. But to be windows letting in the light – God's light – is not so impossible a dream. Difficult, yes, as difficult as it is to become a successful athlete, or sportsman, or performing artist, or engineer, or doctor. . . . Yet many achieve this and even more aspire to it.
Advent is a good time to review our lives – a bit like cleaning up the home for Christmas – and to clear away those things which prevent us from being windows for the Light to come into this world.
[The outline of the story comes from a sermon preached by Father Sebastian Fernandes SJ]



by Stéphane Mallarmé
À la fenêtre recelant
Le santal vieux qui se dédore
De sa viole étincelant
Jadis avec flûte ou mandore,

Est la Sainte pâle, étalant
Le livre vieux qui se déplie
Du Magnificat ruisselant
Jadis selon vêpre et complie :

À ce vitrage d’ostensoir
Que frôle une harpe par l’Ange
Formée avec son vol du soir
Pour la délicate phalange

Du doigt que, sans le vieux santal
Ni le vieux livre, elle balance
Sur le plumage instrumental,
Musicienne du silence.
(A difficult poem to translate into English. Attempted paraphrase for the next time!)
Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


There have, from time to time, been entries about Rafael Sabatini in this blog. Any reader who wishes to explore the subject further could do no better than to visit -
and meet fellow seekers of Sabatini at -
The next entry is about the one and only - now alas! the late - initiator and kindly genius of both sites.

scribendi cacoethes


for DM

"A Web?" she scoffed, "To entrap me?"
"And a Net? More entanglement!"
But it was unavoidable,
That net with its world wide web.
Natheless with extreme caution
She tapped out her inquiry
For Sabatini, hight Rafael.
So commenced an adventure
She might well spin a tale from,
For the first place that she tried,
("website", they corrected her)
Was the best she could have found.
Enthralled, she explored it,
found a link to more enchantment –
It was called Project Gutenberg,
Open Sesame she named it.
And in it so much treasure
Unimagined, scarcely hoped for,
Novels she'd not yet read
By the loved Rafael.
But now she must know the master
Of cave and Sabatini lore;
The wizard who ruled a website
Brimful with such magic.
One Jesse he was, surnamed Knight,
(A name of promise, she thought),
And to him she did indite
An oldfashioned formal missive,
("email", they said, tut-tutting).
She began it with "Dear Sir";
Closed it with "Yours sincerely".
If he laughed, there was no sign of it,
His answer was kind, - yes, sincere,
And thus an ethereal friendship
Grew through a brief five years.
As a rocket that lights up a dark night,
So the knight lit a time of great trial.
As a rocket descends in a shower
Of jewel-like fiery sparks,
The lore-master suddenly vanished;
His legacy, opals of fire.
In them burns the flame of his goodness,
To light up the nights we must live through.

©2012 by Ruth Heredia

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

scribendi cacoethes


He hath a daily beauty in his life
That makes me ugly; (
Othello, Act 5, Scene 1)

Like the Minotaur it lurked,
His feeling.  Unacknowledged,
Shoved away, in the deepest dark recesses
Of his labyrinthine mind.
Champing and stamping when starved of its vile meat,
The beast sent tremors rising –
One could sense th'effect this had
By his louring countenance and ice-capped-crater mood.
Then down the twisting tunnel
Would he cast a bleeding morsel
That bought a short reprieve.
Short – yes, and growing shorter,
As the live victim knew too well,
Seeing how little remained
Of flesh on its bones to feed
That unappeasable monster
Whose horns were named 'Envy' and 'Hate'.

©2008 by Ruth Heredia

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Thoughts on Anthony Trollope's Barchester novels, especially The Last Chronicle of Barset
The dearest person in all the six Barchester novels is Mr Septimus Harding, once Warden of Hiram's Hospital. He is far from being the cleverest or the most active, or the most effective. He figures a great deal in the first two books, The Warden, and Barchester Towers, but only appears again as a very minor character, and dies in the last novel, yet this is what Hugh Walpole had to say about him:
"Mr Harding holds the Barchester novels together ... When the final page of the Last Chronicle is turned and the reader looks back over that marvellous expanse of country, it is the gentle 'cello-playing, courageous, slightly ironical, tender creation of Mr. Harding that hovers as a kind of symbol of that manifested world, over the scene. ... He is Trollope's grandest gentleman."
And Trollope himself ended Barchester Towers with these lines:
One word of Mr Harding, and we have done.
He is still Precentor of Barchester, and still pastor of the little church of St Cuthbert's. In spite of what he has so often said himself, he is not even yet an old man. He does such duties as fall to his lot well and conscientiously, and is thankful that he has never been tempted to assume others for which he might be less fitted.
The Author now leaves him in the hands of his readers; not as a hero, not as a man to be admired and talked of, not as a man who should be toasted at public dinners and spoken of with conventional absurdity as a perfect divine, but as a good man without guile, believing humbly in the religion which he strives to teach, and guided by the precepts which he has striven to learn.

The account of Mr Harding's extreme old age is very moving and very true:
It was sometimes sad enough to watch him as he sat alone. He would have a book near him, and for a while would keep it in his hands. It would generally be some volume of good old standard theology with which he had been, or supposed himself to have been, conversant from his youth. But the book would soon be laid aside, and gradually he would move himself away from it, and he would stand about in the room, looking now out of a window from which he would fancy that he could not be seen, or gazing up at some print which he had known for years; and then he would sit down for a while in one chair, and for a while in another, while his mind was wandering back into old days, thinking of old troubles and remembering his old joys. And he had a habit, when he was sure that he that he was not watched, of creeping up to a great black wooden case, which always stood in one corner of the sitting-room which he occupied in the deanery. Mr Harding, when he was younger, had been a performer on the violoncello, and in this case there was still the instrument from which he had been wont to extract the sounds which he had so dearly loved. Now in these latter days he never made any attempt to play. Soon after he had come to the deanery there had fallen upon him an illness, and after that he had never again asked for his bow. They who were around him,—his daughter chiefly and her husband,—had given the matter much thought, arguing with themselves whether or no it would be better to invite him to resume the task he so loved; for of all the works of his life this playing on the violoncello had been the sweetest to him; but even before that illness his hand had greatly failed him, and the dean and Mrs Arabin had agreed that it would be better to let the matter pass without a word. He had never asked to be allowed to play. He had expressed no regrets. When he himself would propose that his daughter should "give them a little music,"—and he would make such a proposition on every evening that was suitable,—he would never say a word of those former performances at which he himself had taken a part. But it had become known to Mrs Arabin, through the servants, that he had once dragged the instrument forth from its case when he had thought the house to be nearly deserted; and a wail of sounds had been heard, very low, very short-lived, recurring now and again at fitful intervals. He had at those times attempted to play, as though with a muffled bow,—so that none should know of his vanity and folly. Then there had been further consultations at the deanery, and it had been again agreed that it would be best to say nothing to him of his music.
In these latter days of which I am now speaking he would never draw the instrument out of its case. Indeed he was aware that it was too heavy for him to handle without assistance. But he would open the prison door, and gaze upon the thing that he loved, and he would pass his fingers among the broad strings, and ever and anon he would produce from one of them a low, melancholy, almost unearthly sound. And then he would pause, never daring to produce two such notes in succession,—one close upon the other. And these last sad moans of the old fiddle were now known through the household. They were the ghosts of the melody of days long past. He imagined that his visits to the box were unsuspected,—that none knew of the folly of his old fingers which could not keep themselves from touching the wires; but the voice of the violoncello had been recognised by the servants and by his daughter, and when that low wail was heard through the house,—like the last dying note of a dirge,—they would all know that Mr Harding was visiting his ancient friend.
She found him preparing himself for his visit to the cathedral. Some year or two,—but no more,—before the date of which we are speaking, he had still taken some small part in the service; and while he had done so he had of course worn his surplice. Living so close to the cathedral,—so close that he could almost walk out of the house into the transept,—he had kept his surplice in his own room, and had gone down in his vestment. It had been a bitter day to him when he had first found himself constrained to abandon the white garment which he loved. He had encountered some failure in the performance of the slight clerical task allotted to him, and the dean had tenderly advised him to desist. He did not utter one word of remonstrance. "It will perhaps be better," the dean had said. "Yes,—it will be better," Mr Harding had replied. "Few have had accorded to them the high privilege of serving their master in His house for so many years,—though few more humbly, or with lower gifts." But on the following morning, and for nearly a week afterwards, he had been unable to face the minor canon and the vergers, and the old women who knew him so well, in his ordinary black garments. At last he went down with the dean, and occupied a stall close to the dean's seat,—far away from that in which he had sat for so many years,—and in this seat he had said his prayers ever since that day. And now his surplices were washed and ironed and folded and put away; but there were moments in which he would stealthily visit them, as he also stealthily visited his friend in the black wooden case. This was very melancholy, and the sadness of it was felt by all those who lived with him; but he never alluded himself to any of those bereavements which age brought upon him. Whatever might be his regrets, he kept them ever within his own breast.
As they passed down the stairs and out of the doors she was astonished to find how weak were his footsteps,—how powerless he was against the slightest misadventure. On this very day he would have tripped at the upward step at the cathedral door had she not been with him. "Oh, papa," she said, "indeed, indeed, you should not come here alone." Then he apologised for his little stumble with many words and much shame, assuring her that anybody might trip on an occasion. It was purely an accident; and though it was a comfort to him to have had her arm, he was sure that he would have recovered himself even had he been alone. He always, he said, kept quite close to the wall, so that there might be no mistake,—no possibility of an accident. All this he said volubly, but with confused words, in the covered stone passage leading into the transept. And, as he thus spoke, Mrs Grantly made up her mind that her father should never again go to the cathedral alone. He never did go again to the cathedral—alone.
[When he went next, it was in a coffin.]
"Papa," said Mrs Grantly to him as soon as she had succeeded in getting both Posy and Mrs Baxter out of the room,—against the doing of which, Mr Harding had manoeuvred with all his little impotent skill,—"Papa, you must promise me that you will not go to the cathedral again alone, till Eleanor comes home." When he heard the sentence he looked at her with blank misery in his eyes. He made no attempt at remonstrance. He begged for no respite. The word had gone forth, and he knew that it must be obeyed. Though he would have hidden the signs of his weakness had he been able, he would not condescend to plead that he was strong. "If you think it wrong, my dear, I will not go alone," he said. "Papa, I do; indeed I do. Dear papa, I would not hurt you by saying it if I did not know that I am right." He was sitting with his hand upon the table, and, as she spoke to him, she put her hand upon his, caressing it. "My dear," he said, "you are always right."
She left him again for awhile, having some business out in the city, and he was alone in his room for an hour. What was there left to him now in the world? Old as he was, and in some things almost childish, nevertheless, he thought of this keenly, and some half-realised remembrance of "the lean and slippered pantaloon" flitted across his mind, causing him a pang. What was there left to him now in the world? Posy and cat's-cradle! Then, in the midst of his regrets, as he sat with his back bent in his old easy-chair, with one arm over the shoulder of the chair, and the other hanging loose by his side, on a sudden there came across his face a smile as sweet as ever brightened the face of man or woman. He had been able to tell himself that he had no ground for complaint,—great ground rather for rejoicing and gratitude. Had not the world and all in it been good to him; had he not children who loved him, who had done him honour, who had been to him always a crown of glory, never a mark for reproach; had not his lines fallen to him in very pleasant places; was it not his happy fate to go and leave it all amidst the good words and kind loving cares of devoted friends? Whose latter days had ever been more blessed than his? And for the future—? It was as he thought of this that that smile came across his face,—as though it were already the face of an angel. And then he muttered to himself a word or two. "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace."

Trollope is full of insights in the Last Chronicle, and all of them so painfully true, whether it is the Archdeacon's comment on Mr Harding's failing life ("he was always somewhat old for his age. He will be eighty, if he lives two years longer, I think. But he'll never reach eighty;—never"), or the account of Dr Proudie's sudden collapse under the stress of Mrs Proudie's long tyranny. In the case of the Proudies it is mistreatment of one partner by another, and when Mrs Proudie sees the effect of her behaviour – the cumulative effect – she herself dies of heart failure. That is a neat end to one conflict because so arranged by the novelist. Life, alas, is not so just. No, Life is not just.
It only remains to strive for the patience of Septimus Harding, or, failing that, to pay heed to the lesson taught to Josiah Crawley:
. . . the remainder of the day applied himself to learn the lesson which Hoggett had endeavoured to teach him. But the learning of it was not easy, and hardly became more easy when he had worked the problem out in his own mind, and discovered that the brickmaker's doggedness simply meant self-abnegation;—that a man should force himself to endure anything that might be sent upon him, not only without outward grumbling, but also without grumbling inwardly.

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.

Monday, November 02, 2009

attica-ruth magazine 18

Tree and Leaf

Tahera remembers Christmas at the Heredias'

"Later that evening Mummy, Ayesha and me went to wish the Heredias a merry Christmas. I love their house and am fascinated by that family- they are the most creative people I've ever met. And uncle is so sweet and warm always.
The whole house wears an exquisite and charming air. Ruth Aunty, Berry's aunt has created the most beautiful nativity scene. A church or cathedral made of white thermocol with small exquisite stained glass windows, painted painstakingly by hand, a tiny crib in the doorway- the tiniest I've ever seen, figures of Mary and Joseph, the 3 kings in their full splendour, shepherds, cattle and sheep, angels in silver and white and the gold star- all put together so charmingly.
The Christmas cake was all frosted and snowy, covered in white icing on which was delicately placed a chocolate Yule log perched on which was the tiniest red breasted robin with a spray of holly near its tiny feet.

On a table nearby stood a Christmas tree- about 1 ft tall made of green icing, looking all soft and pasty with brightly coloured streamers encircling its smooth body with tiny silver balls and presents and pieces of candy.

Around the chocolate trunk stood small presents made from marzipan and icing and right on top of the Christmas tree stood a tiny angel wings spread out in that warm little house of joy and celebration. Everything was altogether so beautiful that I wondered how they managed to eat it later!



[In normal type, information from an old recipe book; in italics, what was done in making the pie in the photograph.]

Photo by Berenice da Gama-Rose

Keep ready for use boiling hot water, and stock (boiled veal shinbone, onions, dried herbs including tarragon & bay leaf, a few cloves of garlic - as it grows in India - & salt).

Small rindless cubes of pork (from over the ribs) (1 kg, but left too much fat in it – avoid this error).

Salt, ground pepper (a pinch of ground nutmeg, some dried sage, & a little sugar) stirred into the pork just before the pastry is made.
Hot-water crust:
12 oz. flour (16 oz. but next time will use 18)
4 oz. salted butter (6 oz./150gms.)
4 tablespoons milk (6 tbsps)
4 tablespoons boiling water (6 tbsps)
In a very large stainless steel vessel, melted the butter and milk & added the water, then added the sifted flour, stirring QUICKLY with a long-handled spoon, to form a ball of dough. When cool enough to handle, BUT NOT COLD nor even just warm, kneaded on a (glass) cutting board until smooth, adding DROPS of boiling water to achieve this.
Set aside 1/3 of dough for the lid, keeping it warm in a covered pan standing in the remaining hot water.
Shaped the rest of the dough into a round 'cake' & put it into a floured cake mould with removable base. With knuckles shaped dough over the base & up the sides, keeping about ¼ inch thickness. - Work QUICKLY & DON'T prick the base. Make sure there are no cracks in the shaped dough.
Pack the pork in firmly & well. Quickly roll or shape the lid & place it, sealing the edges with cold water. With a sharp knife, quickly & carefully cut out a small flap in the centre of the lid & folded it back lightly – so as not to stick to the lid. Brushed lid with beaten egg yolk, (carefully under the centre flap).
Preheated oven (in Indian gas range) at 190C and baked in the centre for 1 hour. Lowered heat to 180C and continued to bake for 1 1/2 hours.
When the pie was nearly cold, carefully spooned in stock through a funnel.
This pie should be refrigerated until required, but kept standing outside the refrigerator until it is only just cool, (not room temperature in India, or the jelly will melt), before eating it.
Photo by Berenice da Gama-Rose
[It should be possible to use this recipe substituting veal or chicken for pork. But the chicken would have to include some fat or some bacon, and require 2 tablespoons of cold water stirred into it along with the seasoning, because chicken meat tends to be dry. Also, the baking time will be different. Veal and chicken both take less time to cook than pork.]

scribendi cacoethes


"Hello. Who's speaking?"
"Whom do you wish to speak to?"
"Who's that? Is it 1234 5678? Who's there?"
"May I know who you are, please?"
And on occasion even so direct a question fails to put the telephonic exchange on to its proper course which should have gone more like this:
"Hello. May I speak to XYZ/ Is that XYZ? This is/ I am ABC."
"Hello ABC ...&c"
It is quite impossible to understand why persons of at least average intelligence, adults whose lives have not been eremitical, should handle this instrument of communication, which is both simple to use and old in usage, in so senseless a fashion.
At the time of writing it would generally be acknowledged that life is largely stressful for most people. Useful though the telephone is, it makes a decided contribution to the ordinary stresses of daily life merely by ringing – in however mellifluous a tone – at what seem like the wrong moments to the harried recipient of the phone call. Some telephones have a device which at least reveals the caller's identity (up to a limit of 50 listed callers). And then it is possible for the recipient to respond with an assumed cheeriness of tone. But more often there is a technical reason why the caller cannot be identified before the call is taken, and then follows the exasperation of being asked by the unknown caller, "Who's that?" - for all the world as if one had knocked on someone's front door at midnight.
Man is clever enough to devise all sorts of ingenious instruments to perform all manner of useful tasks. But vehicle or telephone, men and women who use these devices will seldom, it seems, learn the correct manner of using them.

Ruth Heredia is the originator and holds the copyright to all material on this blog unless credited to some source. Please do not use it or pass it off as your own work. That is theft. If you wish to link it, quote it, or reprint in whole or in part, please be courteous enough to seek my permission.