Choir interlude

by

Half the choir is on holiday, at conferences, visiting family abroad — Choirmistress for one, and also A who directs when Choirmistress isn’t there, and Regular Bass, and Trainee Tenor’s alto wife.

But we have E, who is here for six months as an exchange student from Belgium (an alto), and J, a bass, who is finding out if singing in the choir is for him, and Trainee Tenor himself (another J so I’ll abbreviate him as TT), and me. And it was me that organising choir practice fell to.

E and J can’t be in the service on Sunday, but I wanted to do all the changeable parts anyway, if only to give an idea how it goes (and for me and TT, of course, because we will be in the service). So we sang the troparia and kontakia in several different tones — TT knows the tenor part of the first tone, even the little variations from the plain third-above that tenors do and sopranos don’t; E sang the alto part because we haven’t trained her to sing the melody part by default yet, and I told J to sing bass if he knew a part or could make a good enough guess at it, and otherwise sing along with the melody.

This worked. And then we got to the Theotokion, “Protection of Christians”, in the sixth tone, stichera melody. And that we studied. The sixth-tone stichera melody is everywhere, and once choir singers know it they have a powerful tool in their toolkit. It’s one of those “simple but not easy” things, but fortunately all the parts were written out. I asked E to sing melody while I helped J with the bass part, and left TT to fend for himself with the third-above. Then, when J was halfway confident, I took the melody part myself and let E sing alto.

We were singing the sixth tone stichera in four parts!

Not perfectly at once, of course, but it was almost there, everybody knew what they were supposed to do and whenever there were lapses they were fixable.

This made me very confident, and we went on to the prokeimena, which TT described as “as soon as I know what I’m doing it’s over!”

We had the first and seventh tone for the prokeimenon, and the first and second tone for the Alleluia (which is, after all, merely another prokeimenon with the text “Alleluia”; the prokeimenon before the Epistle, and the Alleluia before the Gospel). I find the first tone easy, because I sang it for years and years on Good Friday thinking it was an idiomelon for that service, and I was thrilled to learn that it was just the ordinary znamenny first tone! But E said she had much less trouble with the second tone than with the first, so we practiced the first tone, and again, and again, until we could sing that, too, in four parts with some confidence. And the second tone. And the first tone again. The seventh tone sort of fell by the wayside, but I know TT can do it if someone strong-voiced sings the melody (er, me, I suppose. It’s my turn to read, but I’ll read the verses from the choir if necessary).

“Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” was somehow harder than a full psalm verse. Perhaps because it’s not so obvious from the words where the changes in the tune are, though I could point out to J that both of his significant jumps fell on the “lu” syllable.

Then I showed them the two other things we sing to the prokeimenon tune: “Let every breath praise the Lord” before the Gospel, and the Sunday exapostilarion, “Holy is the Lord our God”, both in Matins. We tried those in the first and second tones too, and I promised more of the second tone next week (though A will probably be back, so there goes my program).

E thanked me when we were going home. And yes, I think I did well. I still have a sore-ish throat from my voice going all over the place, I don’t have the kind of range I was trying to deploy, but that’ll probably be all right in the Vigil tomorrow night.


Out of Left Field

by

Ellen Klages, Out of Left Field

Cover of Out Of Left Field

We read Passing Strange and wanted more Ellen Klages, so I picked up Wicked Wonders and Out of Left Field because they looked the most appealing out of the list that Kobo provided. I didn’t see soon enough that Out of Left Field was burdened with DRM or I wouldn’t have bought it from Kobo (dear publishers: DRM does not prevent piracy; it only prevents legitimate buyers owning the books they buy. Please stop). What I usually do when faced with DRM is to try to buy directly from the author — with one author I have an arrangement: they send me the book for free and I donate the full price I’d otherwise have paid to a worthy cause (last time I sent it to a trans acquaintance to buy stuff for her skin and hair). If that’s impossible, I tend to buy the dead-tree book and see if I can find an illegal copy to read on my ereader, because I do want the author to have my money, but I also want to own, not rent, my files.

But enough digression. Wicked Wonders is a collection of short stories — I’m not much of  a short-story reader, and this collection is a mixed bag like all collections, from “okayish” to “oh wow!” (Most other short-story collections I’ve read have a much less positive average, so there’s that.)

But Out of Left Field. It’s a middle-grade book, and I wish I had a ten-year-old with English reading skills around (my daughters would have qualified but they’re more than twice that age now, and my youngest godchild is 12 but doesn’t read English) so I could give them their own copy and get their opinion, because, well, oh wow!

I don’t care about baseball, but Katy Gordon made me care.

It was hard to put the book down. I had the ereader at my elbow while I was doing other things, picking it up again and again. Wow, this kid. I have been the kid with short hair and jeans and an ambiguous name (my birth name wasn’t actually ambiguous, but easily misunderstood as a common boy’s name) not allowed to play (street soccer, in my case) any more when outed as a girl. I wasn’t by far as driven as Casey/Katy, though.

In 1957 I was a fetus so I can’t know from experience, but the writing seems to be very true to its time. I’ve read plenty of books from the nineteen-fifties, and this almost read like one of those books (but with the sexism and racism less implicit as a fact of life, and more explicit as something that’s not right with the world but is hard to fight, as a plot point). Katy’s mother smokes all the time! Which is, to say the least, unusual for a children’s book published in 2018, even if it’s normal for a kid’s mother of that time. My mother did, even with fetus-me inside her.

Also unusual for a children’s book: adults aren’t all absent or evil or incompetent. Some are antagonists, like the Little League letter-writer, some are nice but powerless or misguided, like the coach; some are just plain okay or more than that, like several teachers and librarians and Katy’s Aunt Babs. But they’re there: the author acknowledges that the world is full of adults, sometimes they’re in the way, and sometimes you really need them.

I was all set for Katy’s mother to tell her to suck it up, but instead she encouraged her to take a day off from school so they could make a battle plan together. “Girls in this family don’t go down without a fight.” Darn sure– that Katy’s parents are divorced, we learn later, is because of a political conflict.

Another good thing: all the women baseball players that Katy researches are real people, and there are little capsule biographies of each one at the end of the book.

I’ll probably reread it Real Soon Now, but I got distracted by the Young Wizards.

Baghali Polo ba Machiche

by

That is, Iranian lamb stew. Adapted from a recipe in the NRC (one of the few serious Dutch newspapers) by Abdelkader Benali and Saïda Nadi-Benali.

The only lamb in the supermarket (it was too warm to cycle 15 minutes to the Turkish butcher and back) was frozen New Zealand leg slices, so I used that and it was excellent for the purpose. I’m afraid our lamb was a hogget, but so would lamb from the Turkish butcher have been, and anyway really young lamb doesn’t have enough flavour for this.

I was rather generous with the spices, used mace instead of nutmeg because nutmeg makes me annoyingly dizzy while mace doesn’t, and put in twice the saffron and garlic. I added the sugar to the meat rub instead of with the fruit, and put off the rose water until the end instead of adding it in the middle and boiling all the aroma away. Also, I noticed while cooking that the amount of water was far too much — the stew was soupy and I had to fish out the solids, not a bad thing on hindsight because I could take the meat off the bone, and reduce the liquid to about a quarter — so I’m changing that in the writeup. (Note that the amounts in the recipe below are already mine; if you want the original you can easily reverse-engineer or if you can read Dutch look it up on the newspaper site.)

This is what worked for me. Something else may work for you.

Not counting marinating time, this takes at least 3 hours, possibly longer if your meat is on the tough side, but most of it is just simmering so you can go away and do something else.

According to the Benalis, if you don’t want meat you can replace it by okra or broad beans. I don’t think either will make a good replacement for technical reasons — the long stewing does something with the overall taste, not just with the meat — but I do want to try broad beans with this seasoning. And if I can ever get goat meat again, I’ll try this recipe on that as well.

Stage 1

about 750g lamb (or goat), pretty much any cut will do but preferably with bones in
1 heaped tsp ground cardamom
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp mace or nutmeg
1 tsp cane sugar

Mix all the spices and the sugar and rub the meat with it all over. Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight but otherwise as early as possible. Some meat juice will leak out; don’t throw it away.

Stage 2

a good pinch of saffron
1 lime, organic or at least well-scrubbed
1 orange, ditto
150ml hot water

The original recipe says “fill a large glass with 150ml hot water” but of course a large glass would be only half full then; I’ve taken it to mean “don’t put the water in too small a vessel because the lime and orange juice need to fit in too” and used my glass 1/2 litre measuring jug. I have a nice hoard of Spanish saffron but if you can only get it in those ridiculously tiny paper packets you need two of them.

Soak the saffron in the hot water, add the zest and juice of the lime and orange (the easiest way is to grate the zest off the fruit right into the jug with a small hand grater and then squeeze the fruit). Stir, and let it stand while you do the next stage.

Stage 3

the marinated meat
olive oil
1 medium to large onion, cut fairly small
3-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
12 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt

Cover the bottom of a wide, thick-bottomed pan with olive oil and let it get properly hot. Brown each piece of meat separately and put it back into the marinating bowl. Then fry the onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme in the same fat until the onion begins to colour. Put all the meat back in and sprinkle with salt.

Stage 4

about 450ml tepid water

Add the saffron/juice mixture to the pan. Swish tepid water in the marinating bowl (hot water would make the protein in the leaked-out meat juice congeal immediately, cold water would impede the initial stewing) and add to the pan as well. The liquid should barely cover the meat. Add some more water if you’re concerned, you can always reduce it later. Bring to a tentative boil, reduce the heat to very low and forget the whole thing for an hour or so. If you happen to pass the stove, you can turn the meat and put the bottom pieces on top.

Stage 5

a small handful of raisins
6-8 prunes

Wash the raisins, cut the prunes up coarsely. Add to the pan and stir in. Leave it on very low heat for another hour or more, turning the meat occasionally. It’s ready when the meat falls off the bones.

Stage 6

1 tbsp rose water

Take the pan off the heat. Fish the solids out with a slotted spoon. If there’s a lot of liquid left and/or it’s very thin, reduce it on high heat until it starts to thicken.

Sort the solids into edible (meat, fruit) and inedible (bones, spent bay leaves and thyme, fatty bits you don’t want to eat) and put the edible parts back into the (possibly reduced) sauce.

At this point you can abandon it until you’re almost ready to eat, and cook fragrant rice (either pandan rice or ordinary rice steamed with a stick of cinnamon and a couple of cardamom pods) and any vegetables you like.

Reheat the stew if necessary. Taste to determine whether it needs more salt or sugar or lime juice, and add rose water just before serving.

 

Voostenwalbert

by

Part 2 of the Hans Brinker repost, with the names deconstruction.

If you’re actually using this page as a resource –I decided to split the blog post in two when I suddenly realised that some people might want to do that– please comment or mail to tell me if you’d prefer the names to be ordered thematically or alphabetically instead.

Here they are in order of appearance, place names as well as personal names, but skipping quoted bits of Dutch which also need copy-editing, because my command of nineteenth-century Dutch isn’t up to scratch:

Mynheer von Stoppelnoze –  “Mynheer” is probably the usual 1865 spelling, so I’ll let that pass. But “Von Stoppelnoze”? “Von” is German, as are many of the names Dodge presents as Dutch, and I can only find Stoppelnoze as a German name too.

Hans Brinker –  “Brinker” is okay, “Hans” is probably okay (slightly German-flavoured) though if he’s a peasant boy the usual form would have been Hannes.

Gretel –  Someone told the editor that this was a German name (like Ludwig and Carl) and Dodge added a note: “Ludwig, Gretel and Carl were named after German friends. The Dutch form would be Lodewyk, Grietje and Karel”. Greetje would perhaps be even more common than Grietje, but Hansel and Gretel are called “Hans en Grietje” in Dutch and that might have some influence. Because she’s a main character, the name Gretel quickly becomes annoying. The first Dutch translation called her “Griete”, a more modern one “Greetje”.

Dame Brinker –  I don’t know the 1865 meaning of “dame”, but none of the modern ones seem to fit (“the female equivalent to a knight”? “slightly derogatory way of referring to a woman?”) I think “vrouw Brinker” or “jufvrouw Brinker” would have been better. “Dame” means “lady” in modern Dutch; as a vocative it’s distinctly lower-class now.

Raff Brinker –  Raff is not even a German name; it’s probably a faux-Dutch abbreviation of Rafael.

the Veermyk sluice –  Probably a misreading for Veerwijk or even Vreeswijk.

Hilda van Gleck –  At least she’s Van and not Von, but Gleck is pure German. Also, Hilde is more plausible than Hilda, but as she’s rich Hilda isn’t outrageous.

Annie Bouman –  Nothing whatsoever wrong with it.

Rychie Korbes –  Her father is Mynheer van Korbes, which would make her “van Korbes” too. And “Rychie”? Probably Rietje (pronounced almost “reechie”), or Riekje, or Riekie. Perhaps “ie” was too daunting for American readers.

Carl Schummel –  “Carl” has already been covered. “Schummel” is probably “Schimmel”.

Peter van Holp –  Nothing wrong with that, though “van Holp” is a very uncommon name.

Ludwig van Holp –  Already been covered. He ought to be Lodewijk, possibly spelt with y.

Jacob Poot –  Nothing wrong with it.

Voostenwalbert Schimmelpenninck –  Er, yes. Called “Voost” by his friends. I’d have suggested “Joost-Albert” if I’d arrived on Dodge’s doorstep by time machine.

Katrinka Flack –  She’s a flighty kind of character, so it’s fitting for her to have a gypsy-like name, but it still doesn’t ring quite true. And the surname is either German or English/American (Roberta Flack!), though there may be some in the Netherlands.

Meitje Klenck –  Dame Brinker’s maiden name. “Meitje” will do, though “Mietje” would be more believable. “Klenck”, again, has German spelling and is unlikely to have been a normal Dutch name at the time.

Harengracht –  Misspelling of “Herengracht”. It’s spelt right later on.

Mevrouw van Stoop –  Normal, though plain “Stoop” would have been even more normal.

Dr. Boekman –  Normal.

Laurens Boekman –  Completely normal.

Ben(jamin) Dobbs –  Jacob’s English cousin, with an ordinary English name. Also, his brother Robby and sister Jenny.

Jan van Gorp –  Johannes Goropius Becanus, spelt right and quoted right.

Karel van Gleck –  Karel is indeed the proper form.

Kathrine –  Uncommon but not unheard-of form (see Katrina below).

Hendrick –  May have been an obsolete spelling even in the 1840s (when the book is set): usually “Hendrik”.

Broom –  May be a misspelling of “Bram” (from Abraham).

Katy –  English spelling; Dutch would be “Kaatje”.

Huygens –  Patronymic surname; “Huygen” or “Huigen” are Dutch forms of “Hugo”, but Hugo itself would also be plausible.

Lucretia –  Evidently named after an Italian business associate’s wife!

Wolfert –  Uncommon but okay.

Diedrich –  German name; Dutch is “Diederik” or “Dirk”.

Mayken –  Obsolete spelling, even for the time. “Maaike” is perhaps too modern, but I can’t think of an intermediate form.

Voost –  This is probably not Voostenwalbert himself. May be a misspelling of Joost.

Katrina –  Uncommon but not unheard-of form. Catharina (or with K) is more usual.

Jakob Cats –  Only ever -c- in “Jacob”.

Lambert van Mounen –  “Lambert” is completely okay; “van Mounen” is unique to this book though it looks normal enough. “Van Manen”, for instance, is a perfectly ordinary Dutch name.

Van Tromp –  Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp would have been surprised to see “van” in his name!

Gerard Douw –  did spell his name with -w occasionally (and even as “Dow”), though I’d only seen “Dou” until now.

Paul Potter –  Usually “Paulus”.

Kanau (Poot) –  Misspelling of “Kenau” (see below under Kanau Hesselaer), and a very uncommon name in the nineteenth century.

William Beukles –  Bad misspelling of “Willem Beukelszoon” (van Biervliet), who invented the process of haringkaken, gibbing (thank you, Wikipedia as a translation engine!), a way to clean fresh-caught herring that makes it easier to cure.

Breedstraat –  Yes, okay, but I happen to know that it’s been called Breestraat since time immemorial.

Rood Leeuw –  Ought to be “Roode”.

Huygens Kleef –  Another first-name Huygens. “Kleef” is all right, but there I’d expect a Van.

the Vleit Canal –  it’s “Vliet”, which already means “canal”; cognate to “Fleet” as in Fleet Street.

Bilderdyk –  The -y- is probably nineteenth-century spelling; it’s usually Bilderdijk these days.

Van der Does –  Spelt right. Strangely, though he appears in history as Dousa, the street in Leiden called after him is called Doezastraat. (There’s a Dousastraat in Noordwijk, about 10 kilometers from Leiden.)

Kanau Hesselaer –  Misspelling of “Kenau Hasselaer” (see this women’s history page, in Dutch). Her name has some variant spellings, but Dodge’s -a- in the first syllable probably comes from her source. John Lothrop Motley used the spelling “Kanau Hasselaer” in The Rise of the Dutch Republic in 1856, which she may well have read. It’s clear that Georg Ebers (The Burgomaster’s Wife, 1882) and G.A. Henty (By Pike and Dyke, 1890) read the same book…

Lucas van Leyden, or Hugens –  Thought for a moment that I’d caught a real Huygens (either Constantijn or his son Christiaan) until I looked him up by date. Anyway, neither of the Huygenses were painters. Apparently we don’t know whether Lucas van Leyden’s father was called Jacob or, indeed, Hugen. Lucas van Leyden is spelt right in spite of the -y-.

Harel de Moor –  Either Karel or Carel.

Van Dyck –  According to Wikipedia the name of the painter has many variant spellings, but for once here’s the most common one.

Fortunatas –  From context, probably Fortunatus.

Mevrouw van Gend, Jasper van Gend –  Normal, though “Gent” is more usual.

Quentin Matsys –  lots of variants again: “his first name also recorded as Quinten or Kwinten and his last name as Massys, Metsys, or Matsijs (1466-1530)”. Dodge obviously picked the most familiar-looking one. He painted the Ugly Duchess.

the dockyards of Saardam –  Saardam is the eighteenth-century name for what is now Zaandam.

Maurits Huis –  This is one word, “Mauritshuis”.

Van Speyk –  Again, the less purely-Dutch variant of the name was chosen (Van Speijk is the more Dutch one).

Geraerts (or Gerard) –  Gérard, note acute accent, is actually correct, because he was a Frenchman.

Louisa de Coligny –  The correct spelling is “Louise”, because she was a Frenchwoman.

Van Stoepel –  The name seems to be unique to this book, though it looks very Dutch.

Schlossen Mill –  Looks German to me; can’t find a reference. It could be “slotmolen” or “sluismolen”, that is, “lock mill” or “sluice mill”, referring to a windmill used for draining the polders.

Janzoon Kolp –  “Janzoon” is a patronymic and can’t be used as a stand-alone name. He should have been called “Jan Janzoon Kolp” at the very least. Kolp is a rare, but existing Dutch surname.

Kate Wouters –  “Kate” is the English form; Dutch would be “Kaat” or “Kaatje”. Wouters is perfectly ordinary.

Vollenhoven –  Dutch noble name, usually preceded by “Van”.

Rip Donderdunck –  Absolutely a made-up name, nothing Dutch about it.

Voppelploot –  Ditto.

Von Choppem –  German-style, but obviously made up. “Van Schoppen” comes closest.

Hoogsvliet –  Plausible enough, though usually without -s-.

Jan Kamphuisen –  Ditto, though usually with -z- instead of -s-.

Saint Bavon –  “Bavo” is the usual form. Patron saint of Haarlem.

Gottingen –  Needs an o-umlaut, Göttingen.

Gerard and Lambert Boomphoffen –  The first names are okay; “Boomphoffen” is outrageous. Something like “Boomhoven” would still be strange but much less silly.

And I’m not commenting on all the English names in the penultimate chapter, which seem to have been chosen for quaintness.

 

Hans Brinker

by

Repost from 2008; I promised some people. Will be in 2 parts: this reading notes post with some afterthoughts added that I originally posted later, and a deconstruction of the names. Somewhat edited (for instance the link to the book text now points to Gutenberg; it wasn’t there yet when I first posted it).

I don’t know what prompted it [ETA: a daughter trying to keep a beer bottle from squirting by plugging it with her finger], but I read Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates. And couldn’t stop reading it once I was underway, though it’s very dated (that figures; it was published in 1865) and it kept me wishing I had a time machine so I could go and be Mary Mapes Dodge’s copy editor, because she badly needed one. It’s surprisingly gripping.

Note that Hans Brinker is not the name of the boy with his finger in the dike. It’s a story-in-the-story in this book. That story is not, and never has been, something that every Dutch child knows; it’s only known in the Netherlands from translations and retellings of Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates. I shudder to think that whole generations of children in the United States had most of their knowledge of the Netherlands from this book alone. No wonder so many tourists arrive with serious misconceptions.

The style is uneven: pleasantly entertaining narrative with sudden outbreaks of lyricism (but that’s the nineteenth century for you) and expositions of history (ditto, I think) or heavily coloured accounts of Dutch culture. I won’t go into the facts I think she got wrong. Some of those may be things that really were that different in the mid-19th century (but did literally every man smoke a pipe all the time? and did harbour workmen work completely silently?), some may be because her only source for Dutch culture at the time was one old couple who had emigrated to the United States as children. That also explains why she states that there’s ice thick enough to skate on the whole winter: the first decades of the nineteenth century were the tail-end of the Little Ice Age, and the old couple may have remembered that from their own childhood.

She got a whole lot of facts right, too. The middle part of the book, chapters 10-14 and 16-31 (of 48), is a travelogue and history lesson, not really relevant to the plot so most abridged versions cut it. Here it’s obvious that the author did do her research. The Rijksmuseum and the Mauritshuis still exist, and still contain most of the things the characters see there.

It’s the wrong names –some spectacularly wrong– that vex me most, and I’ll have a shot at them. The most striking one is Voostenwalbert Schimmelpenninck: the surname does exist, but nobody except this boy in the book has ever been called Voostenwalbert. Ewoud Sanders wrote in 2007 (NRC, article sadly no longer available online) that Dodge might have read the name of “W. Albert van Oosten” written indistinctly as “v.oosten w.albert”. I’ve put the deconstruction of names in another post because it was getting long, and I thought people might want only the list.

There’s a statue of the boy with his finger in the dike in Spaarndam. According to this rather good article about Hans Brinker (in Dutch), it was placed there for the American tourists, who all wanted to see exactly where the boy had put his finger in the dike. Also, I recommend reading past the pictures of the statue in the first link.

For months after I posted this Hans Brinker kept coming to my attention by a kind of serial serendipity. Jaap de Berg wrote in the language column of  Trouw basically what I wrote above, prompted by a news item in another paper about President Obama: “as if he were a modern-day Hansje Brinker, able to do heroic work with one finger kilometers under water”. (Again, the link has disappeared.)

This made me look up the Wikipedia article, which turns out to be surprisingly accurate and complete. And of course, there’s a non-zero chance that the boy with his finger in the dike –if, which I doubt, he existed at all– was also called Hans, or rather Hannes.

(Also, a student wanted to quote my names deconstruction; recognition at last!)

I’m going to Akademy

by

At A Coruña I did sort of offer to give a ten-minute talk at the next Akademy where I’d find myself, but I haven’t been following the open software world much and my talk would be social rather than technical (“Users Versus Developers”) so I don’t have the grounding. Not that I’d feel any more confident with grounding, but if I tried to get something together I wouldn’t have enough facts to please the nerds, including myself. I might try to make some notes if I think there is really still something to talk about.

But I’m looking forward to it: first a nice long train journey, then a city I’ve never been to before, and seeing lots of lovely people again (and probably a number of lovely new people).

I am down for the training in online fundraising and campaigning on the Thursday, because that’s something I feel I should be able to do but don’t know the first thing about (duh, that’s what training is for, right?). It might be interesting and useful, or it might be miles over my head, or it might be terminally boring like a similar corporate thing I went to years ago and completely forgot the details of the moment I left the room. I hope the first, of course (but fear it will be the second).

Mostly, though, I’m going to Vienna. We’ve got a proper city and museum trip planned around Akademy.

 

Procession!

by

(Disclaimer: I don’t know how long the link will persist and I can’t embed or download the video.)

Deventer is officially 1250 years old this year, and one of the things we’re doing to celebrate that –did yesterday, in fact– was  an ecumenical procession. The previous procession with the relics of St Lebuinus (counted as the founder), St Radboud and St Marcellius, decades ago, was a completely Catholic affair, but this time all four churches in the town centre (Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, mainstream Protestant and Mennonite/Remonstrant) did it together. Some of the reliquary carriers were Protestant, and two men from our parish took turns carrying the icon of the three saints. I remember a planning meeting in mid-2017 in which I said “oh, we have that icon, let’s carry it along” — either that was the beginning of it being completely ecumenical, or it was in the air already and it seemed the natural thing to do.

(There’s also a medieval English St Mildred in the reliquary; she’s not one of the “Deventer saints”, but she was along for the ride. Sometimes people come from England to venerate her!)

The Roman Catholic church had provided an auxiliary bishop, who blessed the procession when it started, praying for “a pious and joyful procession”. And it was, both!

What we wanted to achieve was to be visible as churches, as Christians. In the Netherlands, Christianity (any religion in fact) is not repressed so much as ignored. And here we were walking through the town, lots of people in ceremonial robes, singing. In Latin, too! (Also in Dutch but we sang “Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum” a lot because it’s the perfect processional song, after two or three times you know it by heart and you can pick the part that suits you and if you lose it you just jump right back in.)

In the main shopping street I saw a man and a woman come out of a shop, look at the procession a bit bewildered, then join in. Later I heard from other people that they’d seen similar things. We started out with about 100 people and arrived at the church where the reliquary “lives” with at least 300: people were hurriedly fetching extra chairs from storage.It was only about a mile but it took us all afternoon, stopping for prayer and song at several places. As for song, I wrote a troparion for St Lebuinus for the occasion! And now every time the 16th of November is a Sunday — not until 2025 because 2020 is a leap year which makes it a Monday– we can sing it in the Liturgy.

It’s not a thing to do every year — it takes half a year to prepare, for one, and it might become stale when people get used to it. One of the good things about the procession was that it was so fresh, everybody bringing their own tradition and mixing kind of on the fly, nothing set in stone. But it would be great if in fifty years someone says “oh! I carried a torch in that procession when I was thirteen! Can’t we do it again?”

 

The dream engine insists on beef

by

I went to a small restaurant alone where I’d been with Spouse not a week earlier: not hard to find, but hard to get to, down a flight of stairs that were almost a ladder to a rickety landing at the side of a narrow town-centre canal, possibly in Utrecht. I knew that they had a fairly small menu: two beef dishes, one pork dish, one chicken dish, and possibly one each of fish and vegetarian too but I won’t swear to that. If you wanted beef, you had to choose the sauce first of all (from two different ones), even before ordering an aperitif or a starter.

The waiter/proprietor came to ask which sauce I wanted. I said “I don’t want any sauce, I’m going to have either the chicken or the pork”. The chicken was an interesting-looking meatloaf en croute incorporating fruit, the pork a roulade wrapped in bacon (both with pictures in the menu). I sort of tried to ask if the sweeter sauce would go with the pork as he was so insistent that I choose a sauce, but he kept steering me to the beef.

“I don’t want to eat any beef!” I said, but he wouldn’t desist. “If you’ve run out of pork and chicken, tell me! If you don’t want your guests to eat your favourite chicken or pig” (because I’d seen some pigs rooting outside the restaurant), “tell me! If you don’t want to serve anything but beef to single diners, tell me! Just stop trying to influence me without being up front about it. I’ll go and eat pork or chicken somewhere else!” I got up. “And now I’ll never dare come here again, I suppose.”

More convoluted dreams in which I was keeping a large old book safe for my father-in-law in various public transport, and seeing film footage of my father-in-law as a boy of about thirteen with light-coloured curls — it was black and white film but I knew he’d been a golden-haired boy with many older brothers and sisters who were all nasty people (in waking life he has grey previously-dark hair and only one younger brother, a friendly inoffensive man).

 

The dream engine provides people of affairs

by

I’d inherited a large old house with everything in it, and a lot of money as well (either in the bank/securities/whatever or in chests in the house). With the house came a man of affairs, a spare dark grumpy person who showed me everything from the attics down. When we got to the ground floor, there was another man of affairs, not as spare, dark or grumpy, and the first one had never heard of him (or vice versa). I left them to fight it out together — they did, with words mightier than the sword — while I tried to find a way to the cellar. I had a barrel full of ping-pong balls and/or golf balls: white, that size, not all the same weight, and overturned it so they would roll and find a way down. Which happened. The last two balls rolled round and round a two-inch-square hole and then tumbled in. Obviously I couldn’t get through that hole, but I did know how to get to the cellar now (perhaps I’d also found the stairs) and went down, only to find a woman of affairs who had never heard of the two men but knew everything about the house, including the worth of each and every object in it, and made it clear to me that I was even richer than I’d already thought.

Going to church in Sevilla

by

We went a lot. The evening we arrived we found the nearest church — Basilica de Jesús del Gran Poder — and though the company was congenial with lots of little children, the next church along (with an entrance in the same block), the Iglesia de San Lorenzo, where a very old priest served Mass for a handful of people every weekday morning except Wednesday, fit us better. Gilded baroque angels are a better sight in Easter time than Christ carrying a cross as if it’s Good Friday.

But on both Sundays we got the opportunity to go to our own church: an Orthodox church of our own jurisdiction, the tiny parish of San Serafín de Sarov. I can’t really be coherent about it, only rave in bits and pieces. I’m so glad we found it; I love Roman Catholic services but a steady diet of them doesn’t agree with me, rather like Spanish restaurant food.

There was a very old priest, too old to serve: Archimandrite Pablo, and a younger priest, Padre Victor, who did all the serving. The archimandrite spoke English, and Padre Victor only Spanish, but so clearly that we could understand the sermon, which is more than I can say about any Catholic priest I listened to in Spain.

It felt so like home. One thing that was really different was that there wasn’t a choir so everybody sang, occasionally spurred on by the priest’s cheerful “Todos!” and his singing of the first line, which was uncomfortable for me because though his singing voice sounded deep it was actually high in pitch. The first Sunday there was an alto behind me so I could crib a bit, the second Sunday she was on the other side and I had someone behind me who sang at no discernible pitch at all (but with great conviction). If I lived there, I’d probably try to round up a couple of the better singers and, if not form a choir, at least practice. But perhaps they do that already because there were several people with good voices who knew both the words and the tunes. (I picked up a simple sort-of-first-tone melody for the Beatitudes, and I’d have memorised the first-tone variant used for the Second Antiphon, “Spanish first tone” in my mind, if I hadn’t been distracted by the Beatitudes on the second Sunday.) There were printed booklets, very useful: Spouse said following the service on paper made him much more aware of the structure of the Liturgy — of course I’m used to always having the choir book, but he gets only the linear sequence, and only a small part of it while he’s serving. The second Sunday I was looking up something in the liturgy booklet during the Hours, and the woman reading the Hours promptly came over and gave me an Hours booklet, which (even though she’d jumped to the wrong conclusion) was actually very nice to have because I could read along with the Psalms.

Another thing really different, but I think we, our parish, are the outliers in that: apparently frequent Communion isn’t usual there, so we went to Confession the first Sunday and sort of surprised the old priest the second Sunday when we wanted to go to Communion again. He asked Spouse if he hadn’t hit me in the intervening week, and when Spouse said no, waved us through. (He’d also asked me earlier if everything was all right in our marriage; this man has an obsession. Or bitter experience with his parishioners.)

It’s a very international parish: they have the same habit we have of praying the Lord’s Prayer in all available languages, and we had Romanian, several Slavic languages, one language we not only didn’t understand but didn’t even recognise, and French, as well as Spanish and Church Slavonic. We were asked if we could do it in English the first time, and we said “we can do it in Dutch!” so we did. It was nice to see people smile at that, “a new one!” They also do the forty-times “Lord have mercy” in four languages: three in Spanish, three in Greek, three in Romanian, three in Slavonic, repeat twice, then three in Spanish and one in Greek. I wish we could do that too, but I’ll probably never get Choirmistress to agree.

To catch everything I should perhaps do a Mystery Worshipper-type questionnaire, but let me say only this thing: every part of the service was like being in Heaven.