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"Generous deed should not be checked by cold counsel." (Tolkien's Return of the King)

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Location: United States

14 January 2009


At times, another pen will say better what you can only try to write.
An English aid worker's diary of working in Gaza these past 13 days.


13 November 2008

Stop and stare

Basically, this post is to say... it is completely rude to stare at people.  

Obviously this happened to me today.  As in today, about five minutes ago, in Mullen of all places.  Not like the library is a place to people-watch as you sip on a mocha.  Hello, you're all supposed to be working.  Anyway, I had to laugh at myself because I was waiting for the elevator to go to the congenial and quiet atmosphere of the 3rd floor, when I felt a stare.    As I turned round, I caught sight of a group of three, sitting in the couches (that's already a sign: who 'studies' on a couch? Not I, said the studious cat), apparently just sitting there and staring in my direction.  But the most hilarious factor of the scenario is that when I looked straight at them, they continued to just sit there and stare.  

There are such things as manners, and such a thing as being rude.  Usually you can misplace your manners without being outright rude, but in this case... Interesting episode of 'the clueless frosh.'   (I'm assuming they're freshers because anyone older may have more common sense?). 

Still smiling to myself as I sit happily in the 3rd floor where no one would dream of breaching manners. 

05 November 2008

Remember, remember the Fifth of November

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot...

Guy Fawkes Day. The Gunpowder Plot.  Nearly four hundred years ago but still 'remembered' in England... or is it?  Seems like people remember it's today but not what it's about.  Who the bloody hey was Fawkes anyway?  Ah, well.

TIME article on John Gerard, the Jesuit priest who wrote his incredible life story in Autobiography of a Hunted Priest
Catholic.com summary:
BBC coverage: 

17 October 2008

Et in Arcadia Ego

I know I posted another longish passage below somewhere (May 2006), in an earlier Brideshead-mood.  But with the advent of the new film, I believe it necessary to return to the roots.  Waugh's Brideshead, and his alone holds the real story.  As they say, always go back to your roots.  And flourish from there.

“Hooper was no romantic He had not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the campfires at Xanthus-side (…) Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry’s speech on St. Crispin’s Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon—these, and the Battle of the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper.

“What’s this place called?"

He told me and, on the instant, it was though someone had switched off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly, fatuously, for days beyond number, had been suddenly cut short; an immense silence followed, empty at first, but gradually, as my outraged sense regained authority, full of a multitude of sweet and natural and long-forgotten sounds—for he had spoken a name that was so familiar to me, a conjuror’s name of such ancient power, that, at its mere sound, the phantom of those haunted late years began to take flight.

“I have been her before,” I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June when the ditches were 
white with fools-parsley and meadow-sweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour such as our climate affords once or twice a year, when leaf and flower and bird and sun-lit stone and shadow seem all to proclaim the glory of God.  And though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned to this my latest.
~ Evelyn Waugh, Prologue, Brideshead Revisited

One name can light the memory's dark chambers to a sunlit secret place "through that low door in the garden."  Those mysterious workings of grace within one person, within an entire world.



06 September 2008


(Poem by William Blake.  Set to music at some point.  Featured in Chariots of Fire)

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God 
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did that countenance divine 
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among our dark, satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold,
Bring me my arrows of desire,
Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
'Til we have built Jerusalem 
In England's green and pleasant land!

(Photo from Chariots of Fire. No copyright infringement intended.)

The play's the thing

The play's the thing 
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
~ Hamlet II, II

How many times have we been moved by a play, or more often, by a film?  What is it about movies that catches us off guard at times?  We react. We have an opinion.  Something we've seen and heard rings true within.  

Films are not merely entertainment.  They are not simply 'art.'  They call out to any audience, now and in twenty years or a hundred, and carry something of one generation to another.  Books are first: the pen is mightier than the sword.  Yet films strike another chord of human experience that may be culturally wider, for better or worse.   They reach a greater number of people, and a more varied audience.  That in itself is a type of power; often an unconscious power over large numbers of unsuspecting people.  The wielders themselves may not even realize this.   Like all power, there's the danger of abuse.   As Pieper wrote, "abuse of language, abuse of power."   The world of film is both word-play and a play with power.   

Two extreme reactions to this: completely ignore it or completely grab it.   Like all extremes which ignore Aristotle's golden mean, they miss the point.   Whatever is good, is good no matter where it came from, who said it (as Thomas pointed out), or when it was made.  Some parents, admirable in many ways, opt for the 'ignore' route.   One version is to avoid any movie within a certain genre or time period.  While that's undeniably 'safe', we're not called to be safe but to be human.   And to be human, we have to love this world of ours and all the good we can find here.   We're called to think, to reason, to discern, to exercise this mind we've been given.  And an array of virtues comes into play with films: being savvy with what films to watch/prudence or right judgment, fortitude and hard work in making films that are really well done, from the artistic, technical, and substantial point of view...  

To be continued... 

(Photo: Image owned by Kenneth Branagh, Ltd. No copyright infringement intended.)

19 January 2007

That still center...at the heart of rest

" Here then, at home, by no more storms distrest,
folding laborious hands we sit, wings furled...
to that still center, where the spinning world
sleeps on its axis, at the heart of rest.
~Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night 1939

As Keats wrote, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
And there, truth be told, je suis heureux.

Bells ring wild yet e'er serene there,
Thought dispels the dark and sloth
For within that tower'd heaven,
Minds weave Wisdom's ancient cloth.
(excerpt from Ode to Oxford, JMD)

11 January 2007

dappled things

"Glory be to God for dappled things"
These (dare I say it) immortal words by Gerard Manley Hopkins have taken on a new technological existence. Someone was kind enough to send me this link and it's been a breath of fresh cyber air: www.dappledthings.org It's a journal (on-line for now, hopefully soon to be launched on good old ink and paper) on anything and everything having to do with faith, culture, ideas... Most of the commentators are young Catholics with literary flair (by profession if not by other interest).
In another sense then, I think we can say Glory be to God for Dappled Things.

07 January 2007

The Authentic Pleasures

C.S. Lewis and the authentic pleasures... link here and happy reading: http://www.mappagoweb.com/nuovoicu.it/univ_07/cultura/xz06204eng%20The%20authentic%20pleasures.pdf
Photo © M. Datiles 2005-2010.

24 December 2006

Christmas 2006

Star of His morning, that unfallen star,
in that strange, starry over-turn of space,
when earth and sky changed places for an hour,
and Heaven looked upwards with an Human Face.

~ G.K. Chesterton
(Photo of Shepherds Field in Bethlehem)

22 August 2006

One thing too great

"There was one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes faniced that it was His mirth."

"The world has to be crossed. But there are no roads made for you. You yourselves will make the way through the mountains, beating it out with your own footsteps." (The Way, 928)

Photo of Addison's Walk at Oxford

01 August 2006

Literature: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Summer's here and the general feeling of light-heartedness pervades the air... so much so that many a child out there is painstakingly choosing from their (sometimes mandatory) summer reading list. Ah, well, youth and the leisure to read, right? To the contrary, what began in youth by choice can be perfected into habit...

"Reading maketh a full man,
Conference a ready man,
Writing an exact man."
(Francis Bacon)

Here's to the classic works of literature that never seem to fade away....

For starters...

  • Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  • The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Literary Converts, Joseph Pearce
  • Lord Peter: Collection of short stories, Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Jeeves in the Morning, P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Weight of Glory: Essays, C.S. Lewis
  • Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkein
  • Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
  • Is Paris Burning?, Larry Collins & Dominique LaPierre
  • A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken
  • The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Lion: Winston S. Churchill (3 volumes), William Manchester
  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Murder in the Cathedral, T.S. Eliot
  • Once and a Future King, T.H. White
  • Emma and Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (of course!!)
  • Strong Poison; Have His Carcass; Gaudy Night (3 books), Dorothy Sayers
  • Without Roots, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and Marcelo Pera
  • .........

  •  Photo © M. Datiles 2005-2010.   Radcliffe Camera which houses the Bodleian Library

20 June 2006

Today.... two years ago

On June 20, 2004, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Rowan Williams) delivered the Commemoration sermon at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, University of Oxford. Among other things, it reminds us of the meaning of any university and the marvelous work that lies ahead of us, work made all the more clearer and richer by reflecting on the university's original purposes.

"A university prepared to train its members for the service of the common good and to entertain the questioning of religious vision and commitment is one that remains worthy of its benefactors - and deserving still of public and private benevolence. Long may that be true for Oxford."

The full text can be found via the link on the UNIV webpage: 

30 May 2006

The English Catholics

Earlier this month, the House of Lords blocked a bill to legalize assisted suicides by a vote of 148-100 after a seven hour debate. "The outcome was seen as a victory for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which in March began one of the largest campaigns in its modern history to prevent the bill from becoming law" (Catholic New York, May 25, 2006, p.13). "Hundreds of people--including terminally ill patients--who opposed the legislation protested outside the House of Lords during the debate. Earlier that day a petition against the bill, signed by 100,000 people, was delivered to the Prime Minister Tony Blair's residence."

Bravo, Brittania.

24 May 2006

Read it and weep

Well, here we are at the second weekend for the box-office to redeem itself after the DVC topped it last week when it opened world-wide. Dropped a bit... why? Well, the New Yorker's Anthony Lane offers some comments... Read it and weep. Weep, as in cry, as in tears coming to your eyes for laughing so hard!


23 May 2006

Like recognizes like

Dominus illuminatio mea ~ University of Oxford
Deus lux mea est ~ Catholic University of America

Photo of Magdalen College quad © M. Datiles 2005-2010.

22 May 2006

The Da Vinci Code...Invading the culture?

Whirlwind from Cannes to LA to Hong Kong. Per-plunking from top o' the box office to just about the same level as Over the Hedge, the notorious (or notoriously cheesy?) Da Vinci Code film dished up for us by Ron and Tom seems to be fading from the lime-light. Well, not too sure about that but only time will tell.

Despite the terribly awful (at times, biting and harsh) reviews from our friends at Cannes, people still obediently stand in line at the local Regal to get their ticket to see a bunch of "hooey" (as Tom Hanks referred to it).

More about the DVC later... Multiple blogs, sites and articles floating around the web are devoted to this scintillating topic. More specifically, the 'dupification' of the American mind. No joke. Here's an excellent site to look the DVC in the face with a light-hearted approach.

20 May 2006

What's in a name...

For he had spoken a name, a name that was so familiar to me, a conjuror's name of such ancient power that at its mere sound, the phantoms of all those haunted late years began to take flight.

-- Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited

13 May 2006

As my whimsy takes me

Lord Peter Wimsey (Peter Death Bredon Wimsey, younger son of the 15th Duke of Denver) is the beloved literary creation of the inimitable Dorothy L. Sayers, one of the first women to receive an Oxford degree.

Wimsey will always be the epitome of pre-war Englishness, if there is such a creature. Polished and kind, possessing that rare blend of natural courtesy, superior self-control, and, as L. Martin described it, "an over-educated intellect." Here we are, then, in the same era as Bertie Wooster, Chariots of Fire... in a word, the "Long Weekend" of the world between the wars. Lord Peter was a man of his times, inextricably so.

(Wimsey Coat of Arms image from www.corkscrew-balloon.com with permission)

01 May 2006

...a prayer, an ancient, newly-learned form of words, and left, turning towards the camp; and as I walked back (...) I thought: The builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend; they made a new house with the stones of the old castle; year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended it; year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing; Quomodo sedet sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And yet... that is not the last word; it is not even an apt word; it is a dead word from ten years back. Something quite remote from anything the builders intended, has come out of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played; something none of us thought about at the time; a small red flame--a beaten-copper lamp of deplorable design relit before the beaten-copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones. (Excerpt from Waugh's Brideshead Revisited)

27 April 2006

Noblesse oblige

"There is a natural aristocracy among men, the grounds of which are talent and virtue." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Noblesse oblige, indeed, is virtue.
It is an interior impulse (bred, not born) of recognizing human dignity, one’s own and that of others. There is something endearing about the true aristocrat, an attractive sense of simplicity, without simple-mindedness. I give in to the delight of describing the virtues of LPW. His is a rare blend of graciousness and cheerfulness with ‘man of the world’ sensibility. He is no fool. And yet he can play that part when good taste or the pursuit of the truth requires it. He is comfortable in any class, any milieu, any setting. With all, he offers his charm and makes the effort to make anyone comfortable in his presence.

The sharpness and depth of his mind doesn’t dull his heart, as happens with some. His head and heart are prone to over-sensitivity, which he reigns in with a discipline and self-control learned by choice, perfected by habit.

Simply put, Wimsey is a gentleman: a man’s man. The trio of birth, breeding and brains is not enough. Those three are found in many a proud spirit and cold heart. Here, however, a naturally cheerful and sensitive disposition crowns the three and lends an appealing grace to his whole persona.

Kindness is key. Not merely a Bertie Wooster with brains (an apt but by no means complete description), he is a man who has suffered, grown through that suffering and has allowed virtue to root itself in that heartache, that war-torn imagination and memory, and that pain endured for the sake of justice and society’s good. As he himself confesses to Harriet, "Justice is a terrible thing, but injustice is worse."

His is an uncommon elegance.

Photos © M. Datiles 2005-2010.

31 March 2006


There, eastward, within a stone's throw, stood the twin towers of All Souls, fantastic, unreal as a house of cards, clear-cut in the sunshine, the drenched oval in the quad beneath brilliant as an emerald in the bezel of a ring.Behind them, black and grey, New College frowning like a fortress, with dark wings wheeling about her belfry louvres; and Queen's with her dome of green copper; and, as the eye turned southward, Magdalen, yellow and slender, the tall lily of towers; the Schools and the battlemented front of University; Merton, square-pinnacled, half-hidden behind the shadowed North side and mounting spire of St. Mary's.Westward again, Christ Church, vast between Cathedral spire and Tom Tower; Brasenose close at hand; St. Aldate's and Carfax beyond; spire and tower and quadrangle, all Oxford springing underfoot in living leaf and enduring stone, ringed far off by her bulwark of blue hills. ~Gaudy Night
Photos © M. Datiles 2005-2010.

13 March 2006

Peter and Percy

Peter Wimsey and Percy Blakeney. Their names share the same cadence, why can't their stories share the same theme? Just a few thoughts on their similarities. While Wimsey is known as Lord Peter of "cricket and criminology" fame in the 1920s, Percy is known to his intimates as The Scarlet Pimpernel, who quietly and bravely rescues French aristos from the guillotine in the 1790s. 150 years apart, but exceeding close in spirit.

Aristocrats, more than usually clever. Daring and decisive. Can play multiple roles without a qualm. Well-bred, well-educated. Both have traveled the Continent. Lady once chosen, faithful to the point of their own personal suffering and having to excercise tremendous self-control to win her (win her after five patient years of waiting in Peter's case, win her back after the cooling of the marriage in Percy's case). Naturally cheerful disposition. Lion-hearted, each according to the demands of his own historical period (Percy, the French Revolution, Peter, the crimes of English society in the years between the wars, i.e. "the Long Weekend"). And the list goes on, not to mention both are fair-haired and physically fit for spur-of-the-moment crises.

Photo © 2006 M. Datiles

14 February 2006


But there are others who look just the same to the world (as the decent and correct), who in their hearts are very different; they make no great show, they go on in the same quiet ordinary way as the others, but really they are training themselves to be saints in heaven.

They do all they can to change themselves, to become like God, to obey God, to discipline themselves, to renounce the world but they do it in secret, both because God calls them so to do and because they do not like it to be known (…)
Yet they all look the same, to common eyes, because true religion is a hidden life in the heart; and though it cannot exist without deeds, yet they are for the most part secret deeds, secret charities, secret prayers, secret self-denials, secret struggles, secret victories.

~ Newman, Pastoral and Parochial Sermons, IV, Sermon 16

Photo of North Yorkshire

01 February 2006

"I'd better push off now. I'll be round in time to face the High Table at dinner. Seven o'clock?" (...)
The removal of the fish plates caused a slight diversion, and the Warden took the opportunity to turn her inquiries upon the situation in Europe. Here the guest was on his own ground. Harriet caught the Dean's eye and smiled. (Gaudy Night, Ch. XVII)

Photo © M. Datiles 2005-2010.


Photos © M. Datiles 2005-2010.

Et in Arcadia Ego

"Listen, Harriet, couldn't we make today a holiday? You've had enough of this blasted business. Come and be bothered with me for a change. It'll be a relief to you--like getting a nice go ofrheumatism in exchange for toothache. Equally damnable, but different. I've got to go to this lunch-party, but it needn't take too long.

How about a punt at 3 o'clock from Magdalen Bridge? (...) Let's go and do our bit of barging along with the happy populace." (Gaudy Night)

Photos © M. Datiles 2005-2010.

Spire and tower and quadrangle, all Oxford springing under foot in living leaf and enduring stone, ringed far off by her bulwark of blue hills.
(Gaudy Night)

Photos © M. Datiles 2005-2010.

Bredon Hall, Duke's Denver, Norfolk

Sayers places Bredon Hall, Duke's Denver in Norfolk.

(courtesy of Harmsworth’s Encyclopædia (1904), public domain)

31 January 2006

110A Piccadilly, London

Perhaps Wimsey's London address is as well-known as Baker Street (of Sherlock Holmes fame)... 110A Piccadilly, London.
Photo © Margaret Datiles 2006

09 January 2006

For the uninitiated, Edward Petherbridge is Lord Peter... anyone who begs to differ may take the other versions with them far far away.
(Photos courtesy of a generous person at talboys.livejournal)

23 December 2005

Christmas thoughts

Star of His Morning, that unfallen star, in that strange, starry overturn of space, when earth and sky changed places for an hour, and Heaven looked upwards with a human Face. ~ G.K. Chesterton (from The Queen of Seven Swords)

17 December 2005

Bertie's stream of consciousness

Bertie babbling on and on about the vices of Roderick Spode....to his face... (bit daft that, if you ask me, unless it just shows the courage spelled out in the Code of the Woosters.)

"It's about time some publicly-spirited person told you where to get off. The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you've succeeded in convincing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting "Hail, Spode!" and you imagine it's the voice of the people. That is where you make your bloomer. What the voice of the people is actually saying is, "Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your life see such a perfect perisher?"

15 November 2005

Your mind's eye...

"God made plants to give him glory with their simplicity, and animals, with their innocence. But man he made to serve him in the tangle of his mind." (R.Bolt's A Man for All Seasons)

25 May 2005

Eliot's Daniel Deronda

Deronda's unconscious fervour had gathered as he went on: he was uttering thoughts which he had used for himself in moments of painful meditation.

'Then tell me what better I can do,' said Gwendolen, insistently. "Many things. Look on other lives besides your own. See what their troubles are, and how they are borne. Try to care about something in this vast world besides the gratification of small selfish desires. Try to care for what is best in thought and action--something that is good apart from the incidents of your own lot.' ... 'You mean that I am selfish and ignorant.' He met her fixed look in silence before he answered firmly-- 'You will not go on being selfish and ignorant.' ... 'Can't you understand that?' 'I think I do--now,' said Gwendolen.

"But you were right--I am selfish. I have never thought much of anyone's feelings, except my mother's. I have not been fond of people. But what can I do?'... You say I am ignorant. But what good is the good of trying to know more, unless life were worth more?'

'This good,' said Deronda, promptly, 'life would be worth more to you: some real knowledge would give you an interest in the world beyond the small drama of personal desires. It is the curse of your life--forgive me--of so many lives, that all passion is spent in that narrow round, for want of ideas and sympathies to make a larger home for it. Is there any single occupation of mind that you care about with passionate delight or even independent interest?' (Excerpt from George Eliot's Daniel Deronda)