Friday, 31 August 2007
Thursday, 30 August 2007
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
"Both sets of parents are divorced and remarried, and all four sets are contributing to the cost of the wedding. How do we phrase the invitation?"
"I haven't spoken to my father for several years and now he wants to come to my wedding. How do I tell him I've asked my stepfather to walk me down the aisle?"
"We don't want children at the wedding - except for our own. How do we tell people without causing offence?"
It makes me realise how lucky New Man and I are. We're both Catholic, both getting married for the first time, both believe that marriage is for life, both have parents who have been married to each other for over 40 years, both get on well with all our families, and both have some fantastic friends who are delighted to share our excitement at planning a wedding and a life together.
I know there will be some hiccups along the way - in fact, there already have been a couple of misunderstandings involving other members of the family (all now resolved). With two Irish Catholic extended families to contend with and the need to book a venue for the reception as soon as possible, we're having a bit of a headache over the guest list.
But whatever problems we have in planning the wedding, and however fed up we might get with the wedding plans, two things stand out in our minds.
The first is that both of us recognise the nuptial Mass as the most important part of the day. Some of our friends will be invited to the Mass and not the reception, and we look forward to declaring our love and commitment to each other and making our solemn vows in front of God, with all the people we're closest to as witnesses.
Secondly, we know that all the detail we're worrying about is just that - the detail of a single day. And how can any couple get upset at having too many people in their lives who love them and would like to share their special day?
There may be times when we get fed up with juggling our guest list to try to keep people happy, or delicately explaining to offended mothers of small girls that there's a limit to the number of bridesmaids any one bride can have.* But hopefully we'll never forget to look forward with joyful anticipation to the years of marriage that (God willing) will follow that one day.
*Note for US readers - here in the UK, it's traditional to have small children as bridesmaids, often with only one adult as maid of honour (if she's unmarried) or matron of honour (if she's married). Apart from my matron of honour, all my bridesmaids will be aged 8 or under.
Here's what it's all about:
“This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please pass on to seven others whom you feel are deserving of this award”.I'm delighted that someone as lovely as Esther, who is one of the nicest bloggers I know, thought I was deserving of this - thank you, Esther.
Now the hard part - to choose only seven people to pass this on to. Well, a couple of my favourite bloggers (Mac and Leticia) have already been nominated by others. Here are seven more of my favourite bloggers, who have lovely blogs which always inspire good feelings in me:
1. Beth at Beautiful Day
2. FloridaWife at Waiting for the Gift of Children (and I hope and pray that the title of that blog will change soon)
3. Red Cardigan at And Sometimes Tea
4. Christine at Domestic Vocation
5. Diana at St Fiacre's Garden
6. Jennie C at Far Beyond Pearls
7. Amy Caroline at Knit Together in Love
Thursday, 23 August 2007
H/T to Jen Ambrose.
"Hey Pepe, do you smell what I smell? Ees bacon, I am sure of eet."
"Si, Luis, eet smells like bacon to me too."
So, with renewed strength, they struggle off up the next sand dune, and there, in the distance, is a tree, just loaded with bacon. There's raw bacon, dripping with moisture, there's fried bacon, back bacon, crispy bacon, double smoked bacon - every imaginable kind of bacon!!
"Pepe, Pepe, we are saved! Eees a bacon tree."
"Luis, are you sure ees not a meerage? We are in da desert, don't forget."
"Pepe, when deed you ever hear of a meerage that smell like bacon? Ees no meerage, ees a bacon tree."
And with that, Luis races towards the tree. He gets to within 5 yards, Pepe following closely behind, when all of a sudden, a machine gun opens up, and Luis is cut down in his tracks. It is clear he is mortally wounded but, true friend that he is, he manages to warn Pepe with his dying breath:
"Pepe...go back man, you was right, ees not a bacon tree."
"Luis, Luis mi amigo...what ees eet?"
"Pepe...ees not a bacon tree.... Ees......... Ees..... a Ham Bush."
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
I once read that sociological research had shown that, no matter what a person's income level, if asked to name the amount of income which would be 'enough' for them, they would consistently respond with a figure which equated to their current income plus 10%.
For me, today is that magic date where suddenly the amount of month left seems an awful lot in relation to the amount of spending money left in my account. And yet 10 years ago, I could never have imagined having as much disposable income or as comfortable a life as I do now.
The trouble is that our expectations shift as our income rises.
Ten years ago, I knew I was a long way off being able to afford a car, so I didn't even think of having one. Now, I could probably list my car as a dependant and start claiming some sort of tax credit for the expense of looking after it.
Ten years ago, I was a student with three part-time jobs, and worked every evening, so I never had much time to notice that I couldn't afford to go out for meals in the evening. Now, New Man and I eat out at a restaurant at least once a week.
Ten years ago, I borrowed books from the library. Now, I buy them. And then have to buy new bookshelves to put them on.
Ten years ago, I couldn't afford to throw big parties, and it was easy enough to wash the dishes by hand after a simple meal for one, two or three. This weekend, I was hugely grateful for my new dishwasher, which made child's play of clearing up after a drinks party for 19 followed by a Sunday roast with all the trimmings for 8.
Ten years ago, I cycled everywhere, so my journey to work was free. Now, I live 30 miles from work and my train journey to and from work costs me £11 a day.
Ten years ago, I spent every penny I earned. Now, I put money aside each month and get jittery if my savings account isn't growing as I would like it to.
My lifestyle has expanded to fit my income. In fact, my current lifestyle would fit an income approximately 10% bigger than my current income very nicely. Still, I like to think that if it was all taken away from me, and I returned to the income level of ten years ago, I'd be able to cope as well as I did then.
In the meantime, I try to remember to be grateful for the many blessings that I have been given over the last ten years. And I try to remember that my car, my dishwasher and my fancy meals out are just things, that they're luxuries, and that I'm perfectly capable of living without them. But is there anything wrong with me enjoying them?
Some would say yes. The day I got my first mobile phone, an acquaintance told me I had 'sold out'. What would she think of me now - a chartered accountant, chartered tax adviser, owner of a house in the Home Counties and of more electronic gadgetry than you can shake a stick at, and reader of the Daily Telegraph? Is she right that I've sold out?
Well, I love having a dishwasher because it means I can entertain more easily. I love having a good cooker for the same reason. I love having a car because it means I can visit family and friends more easily. I love having a camera and a computer because it means I can keep in touch with friends and family who are further afield and share memories of special events with them. I love having a bigger house because it means my friends can visit me more easily. I also have a high chair, a cot and other baby equipment so those with babies and toddlers are able to feel comfortable in my home. I love having a big dining table in my kitchen so I can invite people over for meals. I love being able to afford air travel so I can visit my brothers in South Africa and the US and the good friend I'm going to visit in Northern Ireland next weekend.
The things that are important to me - God, the Church, my family, my friends, trying to do what I see to be the right thing - have not changed, and never will. And the pursuit of more money and more stuff will never stop me from making time for those important things. The luxuries I enjoy don't control me - I control them. And as long as that's the case, I'm not going to beat myself up over my good fortune.
Now, I must make a note to talk to my boss tomorrow about that 10% pay rise...
Sunday, 19 August 2007
On this particular Sunday, the priest had preached a rousing homily on the subject of the parable of the Good Samaritan, finishing with a dramatic pause followed by the stirring words, delivered with a flourish, "So I want you to ask God, and ask yourselves, WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?"
Fast forward to the offertory hymn, all of five minutes later, and these are the words we were singing:
"In bread we bring you, Lord,
Our bodies' labour.
In wine we offer you
Our spirit's grief.
We do not ask you, Lord,
Who is my neighbour..."
Ooops! I'm not sure the priest ever really forgave me...
Saturday, 18 August 2007
Friday, 17 August 2007
We walked past a handful of Swiss Guard...
... into the main entrance porch, which had a beautiful carved ceiling.
The crowds were routed down through the crypt. We saw the tomb of Pope John Paul II, where a group of nuns was praying and an officious official (is there any other sort?) was glaring fiercely at anyone who looked as though they might ignore the signs which forbade photography.
There was no such officious official at the tomb of St Peter, though, so I managed to get a quick illegal snap (without flash, so not the best picture ever) of that.
And then we were up in the church itself.
One of the first things we saw, off to our right, was the Pieta.
In all of Rome's churches, and especially in St Peter's, you have to remember to "raise your eyes to the Heavens", because there are so many wonderful ceilings...
... including, of course, the dome itself.
We were told there was a Mass in half an hour in the Cathedra of St Peter, just the other side of the Baldacchino. While we were waiting, I noticed that there were several confessionals off to our right, where priests were hearing confessions in various languages. I lined up outside the English one, who heard my confession before Mass began.
The Mass was a Novus Ordo Latin Mass, concelebrated by 18 priests and five bishops, with beautiful music from the choir.
Tourists who weren't attending Mass weren't allowed into the Cathedra of St Peter. As we left at the end of Mass, though, we were able to take a couple of pictures of the Baldacchino with the papal altar.
Thursday, 16 August 2007
This took us down to the Roman Forum. At this point, the sun really came out, and we wandered through the gardens between the ruins, basking in the sunshine.
The route through the Forum took us out just by the Colosseum.
You had to pay to go inside, and by this time it was not only hot but also fearsomely crowded, so we contented ourselves with peering in through the turnstiles and then walking round the outside.
We walked back up the Via dei Fori Imperiali towards the Wedding Cake ("Hey Fiance, look - do you remember that place? It's where you proposed to me!"). See what I mean about the scaffolding and plastic sheeting? It should look more like this.
By this time it was after 3 o'clock, and man cannot live on champagne alone, so we walked down to the Piazza Navona and had lunch there.
Sitting down made us realise how much walking we'd done and that we could do with a rest, so we headed back to the hotel. New Man's room had a complimentary bottle of champagne (well, fizzy wine) cooling in a bucket when we arrived on Friday, so when we got back on Saturday we took it up to the roof terrace and chilled out, toasting each other's health and happiness, looking at the photos of the day and reading up in the guide book about all the places we'd visited.
We did go out again in the evening, and walked along the Tiber towards the Vatican. The streets were really coming alive with both locals and tourists, and there was a street market running alongside the river.
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
We reached the Spanish Steps before 9:00 in the morning - sadly, the Trinita dei Monti, like many of the other monuments we saw this weekend (including the front of the Wedding Cake), was shrouded in scaffolding and plastic sheeting.
I don't want to make my posts too ridiculously long, so the next instalment follows tomorrow.