Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Ex-Cardiff City Player to Become Catholic Priest? A Match Made in Heaven

Possibly Cardiff City's first player-priest?
The superb Welsh blogger "A Reluctant Sinner" - who made it into the top 10 most influential Catholics in the Catholic Herald's recent list - has posted about the story of a footballer who has decided to try his hand at becoming a priest (see story here).

A Reluctant Sinner reports that Belfast-born Philip Mulryne used to play for Norwich (team of famous Catholic chef Delia Smith) and Manchester United, who are supported by my big brother.

On reading his name I thought.... that rings a bell, and sure enough the Irishman used to play for Cardiff City!

So if he becomes a priest, who knows... perhaps an ex-Cardiff player at the seminary might already mean "we" stand a chance against Liverpool in the League Cup final? Maybe even promotion?

The other day our local priest reminded us that he was a Manchester United fan. I recalled the first time I found this out. What  a shock. Is this the creeping liberalism of Vatican 2?

Now far be it from me to cast aspersions about a team that started off (like Liverpool and Celtic) as a Catholic team, but I must check through some more encyclicals to see what the Popes say about those who do not support Cardiff City.

I think like smoking it won't stop someone from becoming a Saint, but it will be a little black mark in their copy book.

So who knows, if he becomes Fr Philip Mulryne the very fact that he played for Cardiff City may mean he is marked for great things. In memory of his Irish roots and his time in Wales he may even choose the name of the great Welsh Saint, Patrick, if he makes it as far as the Seat of St Peter.

But it's early days yet. Let's just pray and hope that the seminarian becomes a priest, and that Cardiff City win a few more games than they lose.

Daily Mail on Philip Mulryne

Do They Need Brains Beer in Namibia?

This sign was pictured in Namibia, the former German colony in South West Africa.

I don't know the setting, but isn't it reassuring to know that "kein pinkeln" is an instruction I think most of us could follow...

I suppose rather than guidelines or a request, it could also be a sign next to barrels of Carling just to reassure the punters. if so, it could be our humanitarian duty to export some Brains Beer to Namibia asap.

It might help their rugby supporters (if not their team) in the morale stakes.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cardiff City Victory & Welsh Invasion to Retake Llundain

Feb 25th and 26th: A Welsh invasion is on the cards
Being a Cardiff fan I am so used to losing, it has surely  been a source of time-off Purgatory for time-served?

Have times changed? Judging from yesterday they may well have. What can I say about last night's Carling Cup semi-final football? Very, very exciting.

When Miller missed the first penalty for Cardiff my pessimistic thoughts were "oh no... here we go again." After hitting the woodwork three times in total... it looked bad.

Yet thanks to some superb penalty saves from City's keeper Heaton, Cardiff are through to the final.

The match was so exciting, I was glued all evening. It may even have finished some of the more elderly members of the extended Hurley family. We may have to do a head count of all my uncles.

This morning I made my way into the kitchen to put some bread in the toaster with a wide smile on my face and a spring in my step. On informing the youngest about the glory that is Cardiff City (last time I checked, to my horror, she supported Liverpool), I was told that they had seen the goals already on the morning news.

Then Mrs H chipped in with "see, why did you watch it last night? We've seen all the goals this morning."

I was gobsmacked. Whatever else? Celebrate Christmas on Boxing Day? Or Good Friday on Low Sunday? St David's Day in April? Watch the Six Nations in the Summer?

Needless to say I did some brisk tut tutting as I buttered my toast, and in polite, refined society (which I have shoehorned myself into despite the protests) that is quite a rebuttal let me tell you!

Could it be more exciting? Yes! Cardiff will be in Wembley on the 26th Feb. The day before (yes, that's the 25th, thank you professor) Wales play England at Twickenham. Ohhhh... can Y Cymry reclaim Llundain for the weekend? Two victories would be fantastic, and so much more cultured than the behaviour of Queen Boudicca of the Celtic Iceni tribe when she last visited London.

So come on Welsh rugby players and Cardiff football players! Let's go for the double whammy. 

Some people think sports is boring or over-emphasised. I would certainly agree that too many sportsmen (especially footballers) are primadonnas, cheats and are well overpaid, but that aside (and I am not averse to returning sports to the grass roots in some way), as the old saying, attributed to Winston Churchill, goes:

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

Or in this case, kicking a ball is better than shooting a gun. And I would far rather, as a patriot, see Wales assert herself on the sports field than on the battlefield, win or lose.

So yes, sport is just sport, but for those of us who see our love of hometown and love of country played out on the pitches of Wales and England, what a great way to celebrate what we are and where we are from - which doesn't harm our neighbours or anyone else.

So in closing and before I forget, a Happy St Dwynwen's Day to one and all and especially Mrs H.

Love is in the air! After being a 'football widow' last night she has my undivided attention tonight... maybe there's a shelf she wants me to put up? ;-) I will make her a nice cup of Glengettie. Who said I know nothing about romance?

And here, for Old Ma Hurley, is friend-of-the-family Charlotte Church singing Men of Harlech just to get everyone in the mood for Wales and Cardiff winning:

And here, for Old Pa Hurley, is his old friend, a pint of Brains. Just to get him in a patriotic mood! I did tweet a Brains employee to ask if he could get some recognition for all the hard (and patriotic) work he's done over the years. She wrote back that a specially struck medal might be the order of the day... Well, you never know.

And for my in-laws north of the border, in the Norse Orcadian lands and their vicinity, a very happy Burns Night (even though I read somewhere he was a wee bit dodgy, a Freemason no less). Yes, we can all say "Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie" in our best mock-jock accents tonight!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Barry Train Station and a WW2 Blackout Death

I waffled on yesterday about Barry Island and some of my memories of the place. In doing so I forgot, mea culpa, a major event in my family history. I had intended on mentioning it, but in all the excitement of remembering rides at the fun fair and the freeeeeeezing cold water at Cold Knap pool, I erm... what was I going to say? Well, um, this is embarrassing. Oh yes -- I forgot.

Those 'senior moments' happen more often, their proximity getting closer and closer.

Many moons ago my mum told me of a relative (from her Huzzey side of the family) who died at Barry station, during WW2 at the height of the blackout. I think it was her auntie - but I'll no doubt get the details through very soon.

It's strange really because when we think of WW2 we often think of those men who died on the front line, the brave souls like my own uncle Daniel 'Roddy' Hurley who died the day after D Day with the Paras at or near Merville. Or perhaps we think of those killed in the bombing raids.

A London Transport safety poster
But whoever thinks of those killed in accidents due to the blackout? We take lights for granted of course, whether street lights, car headlights, lights on buildings... and despite what the (media-omnipresent) Prof Brian Cox might tell us, we do need lights at night for safety, especially with cars, trains, motorbikes, buses and much else whizzing around.

I'm sure my relative who died at Barry station (not the only relative to have an accident with a train - I'll try and write something about my paternal grandfather another day) was far from the only victim of a blackout accident.

Who knows... this may be something I return to later.

Monday, 23 January 2012

I Likes Barry Island - You Gorru Cos It's Tidy

Only a little before my time...
Ah memories! Watching Derek Brockway's Weatherman Walking on BBC1 tonight was full of memories as he made his way from Barry to Rhoose.

From Bank Holiday Mondays on Barry Island, to going to the fun fair as a teenager (where my friend Stephen Coles was sick after going on the waltzers, on my fifteenth birthday if I remember right).

I found out something new too, that Barry (like so much else in Wales) is named after a local Saint, the hermit St Barruc where his shrine was located and where there used to be a Holy well, before the water was diverted (boo).

There was Barry Docks and I can remember going there with my brother-in-law as he worked on the tugs. The pool at Cold Knap, where you had to have nerves of steel to jump in it (even in mid Summer). I think a wet suit would have been in order!

Then onto Porthkerry Park where we used to go in the Summer Holidays back in the 80s, all the Hurley family and some friends, to play football or cricket (there's a photo somewhere of a young Gareth Hurley with a big tear in the backside of his trousers as we played some game or other) and stay for the whole day eating and playing on the grass, at the beach and in the forest.

The caravan park at Porthkerry... more holiday memories, then there's Rhoose airport, the site of many holiday departures over the years.

A fantastic episode of Weatherman Walking. Fab'lus!

St Barruc:
History Site

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Iron Lady, a Life, Bereavement and Dementia

Your humble wordsmith was very excited today - excited enough to refer to himself in the third person!

Yes, for the first time in many moons yours truly and Mrs H went off on our own to the cinema. We left the eldest in charge of "babysitting"  and headed off to see The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep.

I had heard the review of Mark Kermode on his 'wittertainment' podcast, and the opinions of many others, and I have to say I enjoyed the film a great deal. Dr Kermode (old Trotskyist that he is) made some political comments of this not being right, and that being skipped over, but I think he misses the point. The film isn't so much about the history of politics, but rather the history of a person who just happens to have been political.

It is a personal story of fighting to achieve, family versus work, climbing the social ladder and finally "betrayal," bereavement, loneliness and dementia. Love or hate Maggie Thatcher (the Marmite politician), you cannot help but feel some empathy for her as an individual by the end of the film. Of course she is a person who polarises opinions, whether on the Unions, the Falklands, the Poll Tax, the Miners' Strike, Northern Ireland (all of which is touched on in the film); but to my mind we are the poorer without figures like that (and I do not agree with all she did by any stretch of the imagination).

As she says in the film, it is the difference between presentation or "feelings" and ideology or "thoughts" and since Tony Blair (though he too polarised opinions), and the advent of spin for spin's sake, the days of heavy ideology have taken a back seat to the flim-flam of the politics of focus groups.

So if you haven't had the chance to see this film you should do so. The nostalgia (if that's the right word!) of the Winter of Discontent, the Falklands, IRA bombs and Poll Tax riots are the backdrop to the personal story of a grocer's daughter who "climbed the greasy pole" with her husband, her constant companion, in the background - and even her constant companion after his death as she battles dementia.

No silly 3D glasses, no bimbos or six-packs, no sports cars or stuntmen, no cheesy plotlines or clunky dialogue-  just superb acting that encapsulated quite a chunk of British history, Westminster politics, and moreover the story of life, from working in a family business to coming to terms with the death of a husband and a life alone.

Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent and Olivia Colman deserve all the plaudits they should get for a thoughtful film that had me engrossed from start to finish. Bravo!

P.S. Just to let you know we stopped off for sausage and chips for the little ones on the way home.

P.P.S. Cardiff City even sneaked in a last minute goal to win 3-2 against Portsmouth. Little wonder I've been singing Lou Reed's Perfect Day...

Monday, 16 January 2012

Lasagne, Wales and Y Ddraig Goch

Nice tea tonight. Lasagne. Mmmm. The Romans gave us so much! Great food. Roads. Catholicism. Central heating. Rugby. OK I made the last one up, but those jolly Romans gave us so much.

Even Wales. Yes, Wales.

You see the Celtic Britons in modern day Wales were so fierce the Romans let them have their own armed forces. Therefore when the Saxons came, first as mercenaries, they weren't needed here. Then when the Saxons invaded they only got as far as... Well you know the rest.

Some say the Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) of Wales was the symbol of the Celtic (Welsh) Roman Legion based in Wales.

Also the word Welsh comes from the Germanic word for foreigner or Roman and was used against the Welsh, Belgians (Walloons), Romanians/Dacians (Wallachia) and even the Italians themselves - all considered frontiers of the Roman Empire to the Germanic tribes.

So did the Romans give us our flag, our name (in English), our current national borders, and our historic Faith?

And Lasagne! Yum yum.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Ian Rush - It's Just Not Cricket

Ian Rush said "Who's Mrs H?"
Just tonight I was telling Mrs H what a legend Ian Rush was. OK, he didn't play for Cardiff City, but he did ply his trade for Wales and was a bit of an 80s hero.

Mrs H asked, with a puzzled look on her visage, "who's Ian Rush - did he play cricket?"

What cheek. Fancy pretending not to know such an essential fact.

Next she'll claim to not know who Mark Hughes is. What a scamp!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Salad Bar Tower of Babel - Sorry I am an Amateur

It's been many moons since I've set foot in Pizza Hut. Most of 2010 I couldn't eat anything because of major surgery. Funnily enough the last meal out before I was rushed into hospital was a parish St Patrick's Day do. Since then, plus I suppose the mindset of the 'credit crunch,' I've been a little more choosy where I eat out, not that we do that often because of family commitments etc. etc. Anyway, the upshot is I haven't seen the inside of a Pizza Hut for at least two years, despite the special offer emails they send me quite regularly.

When the children were younger they used to enjoy going to Pizza Hut, and there was one bit that used to make their faces light-up. Back then you could only get one bowl of salad (I think it's unlimited now). SO I used to have a system of placing cucumber slices along the edge of the bowl, to make the sides higher, then I would used tomato slices, lettuce leaves and similar to build up the sides as I filled the bowl. It generally meant that I could fill three-times the usual amount of salad in one bowl. Mmmmm. Lots of sweetcorn, bacon bits and other goodies.

The children would smile and clap as I moved seamlessly back to the table and carefully placed my leaning tower of salad down! I thought it was quite a feat! I could imagine Old Pa "10p Bag of Doughnuts" Hurley getting a strange feeling of well being, an out-of-the-blue flush of satisfaction at that precise moment.

Oh at one time I may well have thought I was the king of the salad bar, but there are some shameless experts out there that put my puny efforts in the shade:

Look at that graphic imagery! Can it be real? It's a veritable Tower of Babel compared to my puny efforts. I just wonder now how the newspapers found out about this "Beat the Buffet" salad tower. Is Old Pa Hurley letting his trade secrets slip?

In the meantime, I can't see me going back to a Pizza Hut in any great rush, but should I do so, I don't think even I would have the brass neck to try and pull off the Tower of Babel trick.

I know, I know... Oh Old Pa Hurley! I... [tears are welling up] I've let you down so badly. That I should be so profligate. Oh the shame. Treachery in our midst.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Food of Love

Look at this love(ly) potato. Altogether: "ahhh."

Where is Esther Rantzen when you need her?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Sorry Frank Skinner - It's Catholicism and Cardiff City (Not West Brom)

Catholic Good. West Brom Bad?
Many moons ago I used to listen to the podcast of Terry Wogan who, with his whimsical way and Irish brogue, and twisted humour (often supplied by his listeners) would have me giggling. Although Wogan had rejected the Faith of his youth, he would often talk of Ireland and so on, and there was something comforting in that. Oh he'd be on the radio in the morning's too, but as any working parent with school-age children will attest, mornings are akin to organised chaos, when a number of whirlwinds pass through the house leaving clothes, food, schoolbooks and much else scattered anywhere and everywhere.

So it was via his podcast I would catch up with his wittering, jokes, observations and so on. There was an added bonus too: you didn't have to hear some of the awful music on the radio playlists. When he stepped down and his breakfast slot was taken over by Chris Evans, it was like losing an old friend. There is something about the 'in your face' shouty-cheeriness of Evans that just doesn't sit well with me. Being cheery every day just seems false.

Frank Skinner the famous comedian has a bi-weekly podcast, which I was overjoyed to discover earlier this year. It has been more than a replacement for Wogan's in that Skinner is just as laid-back, whimsical and jocular but he's a practising Catholic too, and isn't afraid to mention it when religion pops up in subjects. If you enjoy dry wit and observational humour, I can highly recommend his podcast.

The other thing he regularly mentions on his radio show (which the podcast is the highlights of) is his support for West Bromwich Albion, the Black Country football team. Another famous supporter of theirs is the part-Croatian Catholic ITV sports pundit and presenter Adrian Chiles, though I don't know if he's a practising or cultural Catholic. Both he and Skinner were mentioned in a Top 100 list of UK lay Catholics, As is the Norwich City boss and celebrity TV chef Delia Smith, who has mentioned that the Latin Mass means so much to her (a close friend of hers is Sister Wendy the TV art critic).

Whitby Cathedral Synod 596 - Easter Victory
Anyhow, today West Brom are playing host to the world famous Cardiff City FC in the third round of the FA Cup, and they are supported by yours truly and the author of the Ecumenical Diablog, not to forget my uncle Billy, Old Pa Hurley and many other Hurleys.

I would approach the Church to settle this matter but Cardiff is an Archdiocese and Birmingham is an Archdiocese too. It could be as problematic as the argument over the timing of Easter at the Synod of Whitby, which resulted in the final victory of Cardiff City, erm sorry - I mean Roman Catholicism

So, I'm sorry Frank Skinner, but I must give the whole of my sporting loyalty to Cardiff City. But if West Brom do win I won't hold it against you... too much!

May the best team win. So that's Cardiff then (famous last words, I can view humble pie approaching...)

Update 1: Reading my tweets it's almost half-time and it's 2-1 to West Brom.
Update 2: Few minutes into 2nd half: It's all square at 2:2. St David catches up with St George!
Update 3: It's full time. Oh boo hoo.  4:2. We'll have to to do a post-Iraq Tony Blair and "draw a line under it." I need a cup of Glengettie! ;-)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Can the Perfect Cuppa Bring More People to Our Lady of Walsingham?

Before I go any further I should say that it is well known I like a pint of Brains and the occasional wee tot of whisky. Just in case anyone thinks I am a teetotal joyless Presbyterian or "drink from the wrong tap" if you get my meaning.

Now that my credentials are established, I can safely say I like a nice cup of tea. Not as much as some Northerners (Lancastrians and Yorkshiremen) I know, who could drink tea as an Olympic sport. But you know what it's like: you get in from a windswept walk with an excitable Patch the dog, a hectic shopping expedition (telling Mrs H "we/you/I don't need that/those/them" or "what do we/you/I need those/them/that for?"- so she doesn't take me too often), from mind numbing queueing in banks etc. etc. and the first thing Mrs H says is "I'll put the kettle on" or "let's have a nice cup of tea."

It's all so very civilised. I think only Shane McGowan would get in from the shops or a walk on the beach (if he does anything so normal) and pour a whisky. For the rest of us a cuppa will suffice.

We all of us have to discover certain things in life. Of course there are the absolutes that so many search for, and sadly because of the wet-flannel nature of too many Bishops and the kum-by-ya-ification of the Church since the 60s too many people flirt with New Age beliefs, Buddhism, the Kabbalah, Islam and a veritable Heinz 57 varieties of spirituality, when we all know that Jesus Christ established His 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church' on the rock of St Peter as the first Pope.

But once you have that sorted (and you better had!) we can all worry about other things. Brains for beer. Clarks for pies. M&S for bundies. Cardiff for football. Oh you know how it goes.

So as life goes along we gather to ourselves our favourite things. Most of us need comforts in this "vale of tears" (which is why family is so important) and there can be little more that provides so much of a prop as a "nice cup of tea" as any writer of modern drama would tell you.

And it is in this sphere of such trivial importance, that I can announce the best cup of tea to be had. We (Mrs H and I) have tried allsorts (no, not liquorice tea!) in our quest for the perfect cuppa. From top notch "English Breakfast Teas" and even the absurd flavours of Earl Grey and green teas, to the cheap end of the value blue stripey 100 for 40p strained dishwater types.

After much deliberation we have got our bestest tea for the bestest cuppa in Hurley Towers: Glengettie!

I dunno why it works so well, why it's better than Typhoo, Yorkshire Tea, Twinings or even Asda Own Brand. But it does, and it is.

So my advice, if you live in a civilised area that doesn't have awful hard water (like London), try Glengettie Tea. I'm having one right now in my Hilaire Belloc mug and it is a very ennobling experience.

Belloc said: “Is there no Latin word for Tea? Upon my soul, if I had known that I would have let the vulgar stuff alone” but then he was always a Francophone. Perhaps it is in reaching out for tea (albeit a Welsh one, and I do use the term advisedly) that we reach out to our Anglican neighbours, especially as many of them are converting to Catholicism via the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

If they learn that Catholics drink more tea than whisky, then they may be happy to convert. When they find out that we may have dogma and infallibility, but we also have tea and biscuits, then they might understand that Catholicism isn't some "foreign thing," but as Welsh (oh OK, and English) as a nice cup of tea.

Oscar Wilde once said that the Catholic Church is for saints and sinners, for everyone else there is Anglicanism. It is widely rumoured that this world renowned sinner converted before his death, and we all know there is "more joy in heaven" over one conversion... but I'm sure there are plenty of Anglican saints and sinners who like a nice cup of tea, and now they know Glengettie is the cuppa to have, now that dilemma is sorted, they can resolve to convert and come back to the barque of Peter where they truly belong.

Not some much as "more tea vicar?" as "another Glengettie Father?"

Monday, 2 January 2012

Orcadian Viking Families and the New Paganism

As you may know my Tulloch in-laws descend from Orkney on the paternal side. In a previous post I showed how they could also trace their family tree back to Scottish royalty.

In the year 2000 I was lucky enough to be able to visit Orkney, with my father-in-law's sister and her husband (the fabled 'Uncle Maynard') and we took the opportunity to visit as many of the Neolithic structures of the Island(s) as we could, plus a few more recent ones.

I do go to Orkney once more with Mrs H and the wee bairns and we were lucky enough to see some of the main sites again

Pictured here you'll see a pic of myself and Auntie Kay near the Tomb of the Eagles, and yes that's the Atlantic Ocean behind us! It was a bit of a bubbling cauldron on the day, which was just "windy." It must look truly awe inspiring on a really stormy day.

So after visiting Maes Howe, the Ring of Brodgar and similar sites, I was thrilled to see 'A History of Ancient Britain Special: Orkney's Stone Age Temple' programme on BBC i player. UK residents can watch it here but I dare say it will be on you tube sooner or later.

One of the abiding memories for me was on visiting Maes Howe to see the graffiti left by tourists in the late Dark - early Middle Ages. If memory serves me right it was all Norse/Viking in origin and much of it was of the kind "Harald gets all the girls" or "Sven is the best sailor in all the oceans" and similar. All very 1970s if you ask me... but I do recall our guide showing us some graffiti which he said was left by the Vikings who had returned from the Crusades.

Right there and then you are forced to recondition your view of history. Of course, it is known that the Norsemen went onto to found the Kiev Rus (the beginnings of modern Russia really) and provided the elite Varangian Guards to the Christian Emperors of Constantinople, not to mention the Norsemen of Normandy who went on to found the Franco-Norman kingdom of England, which led to the Angevin Empire (wherein the Kings of England claimed as much of France as of modern-day Britain, which would lead to countless wars) and the Kingdom of Sicily which went onto control nearly half of modern-day Italy, but these were their more northerly brethren, better known for the raping and pillaging of their forebears; of razing monasteries to the ground, rather than raising monasteries from the ground.

Yet in the northerly wilderness of windswept Orkney, there is proof that the Norsemen, the men of the north, went to the Holy Land, fought and died for Christ and His Church. In our living room we still have a framed print of St Magnus' Cathedral, sadly temporarily protestant, of a painting by a local Orcadian. It's a reminder of the Catholic Faith of the Norsemen of Orkney.

It reminds me of another link showing the Christian conversion of the former wild-men of the North. The Coppergate Helmet. To quote from the York Archeology site:

When the work was completed the true splendour of the helmet was revealed. The decorated brass strips, which run across from nape to nose and from ear to ear, bore an inscription which can be translated from the Latin as:
In the name of our Lord Jesus the Holy Spirit God the Father and with all we pray. Amen. OSHERE XPI.
Yes - the Vikings of York, the erstwhile receivers of Danegeld to protect the Christian Anglo-Saxons from the onslaught of the heathen Vikings, now had living with them, the Saxon Oshere, with a Latin inscription-prayer to the Holy Trinity, to protect the wearer. To find such a treasure, of Latin Catholic culture in the home of the Danes in England, is astounding.

We begin to see the process, as with the 'Vikings' of Kiev, how the Vikings of Northern England and Northern Scotland were converted to Christianity, the Faith they had fought against for so long.

But back to Orkney and the Neolithic forebears of the Norsemen who would replace them. Skara Brae was, at the time of my visits, the most intricate and detailed Neolithic settlement. It looks like the new discovery at the Ness of Brodgar is even more exciting, but it seems to be of a ceremonial usage rather than a domestic one.

Whilst the latter may outdo the former for the historians and archaeologists because of the very mystery and insights it gives into the unknown rituals of life circa 5,000 years ago, to me it is the very domesticity of Skara Brae that makes it breath-taking.

We do not know the ceremonies that took place at the Ness of Brodgar. Was there a form of priesthood? Was there a sacrifice? Were there prayers for the dead? Was it closed-off to the outside world like a strict monastic order? Or was it very much a community affair, like a parish church? Or perhaps a mix of the two like a Medieval Cathedral?

But at Skara Brae one sees the homes, the hearths, the settings for the beds, the cupboards for the trinkets, the doorways, the communal passageways. You can imagine the families coming and going, swapping news, visiting each other. You can imagine the hunters/farmers coming in of an evening, or the fishermen bringing in their catch for supper.

The beliefs of our ancient ancestors have fallen by the wayside. Much of what druids, witches etc. give to us today is latterly invented, usually by weirdoes with a taste for Satanism, an unhealthy preoccupation with sexual activity of all kinds, and a sense that dramatisation will fool the weak-willed. e.g. witchcraft as practised today was invented by Gerald Gardner who became an acolyte of the satanist Aleister "the Beast" Crowley. What they tell is us ancient is in fact an absolutely modern concoction.

All these people were really interested in was drugs and sex, so in that sense I guess one might call them ahead of their time in that they lived the 1960s back in the 1930s and 1940s. In regards to our own society and what Benedict XVI warned against when he visited Britain: they are the forces advocating 'moral relativism,' the "do what thou wilt" of Crowley has become the "freedom of choice" that leads so many to drug addiction or the abortion clinic.

Whilst these things may be of interest to academics, and find a home in history books, the paganism of the past fell away for a reason. It was false. It was man-made, yet it was at least born in a pre-Christian age. And it has been replaced by latter-day pagans by something that is false and man-made, created in enmity of Christianity. In time, it too will fade and die, like heresies through the ages, paganism too has been re-invented and come back. As Hilaire Belloc wrote in his masterpiece Survivals and New Arrivals, much of what opposes Christianity is re-hashed through the ages, new themes on old evils re-invented, twisted this way and that to try and undermine Christendom.

While the supposed, imagined or factual rites of the Ness of Brodgar have fallen away, the very domesticity of Skara Brae has flourished through the years, despite the onslaught of the land enclosures and industrialisation, despite the modern onslaught of single-parents and same-sex "partners." Domesticity is the hallmark of a civilisation, because without it, no society can flourish and without it no society can survive, ancient, historic, old or modern.

Even the heathen Vikings when they were pillaging, raping and rampaging their way across Northern Europe and down into the belly of what would become Ukraine, kept a domestic lifestyle in their homelands and in their new settlements (whether Orkney, Kiev, Dublin, Swansea or Brecon).

That is what helped the Norsemen to survive and thrive. The paganism came and went, but the Norsemen thrived, building and helping to build great Christian civilisations in France, England, Russia, Byzantium, Sicily and elsewhere.

Their erstwhile paganism was a culture, a folk-memory, tales of tribes that could be easily discarded, remembered in heroic poems, as we remember the likes of King Arthur. But their home-life, their families, their hearths: without these they could not have survived and without these Christianity may not have found a ready receptacle; the great Christian Norse warriors that would go on the Crusades, that would defend the Emperor in Constantinople, and that would raise wonderful Cathedrals and monasteries throughout England, France and Italy may have been lost to history.

I am sure that the home and the family will survive into the future, but I am equally as sure that it has never faced such an insidious attack as it faces today. How many of London's rioters, I wonder, came from single-parent homes or homes where the 'father figure' is the latest in a long series of "partners?"

In a recent poll, (which I now typically can't find) it was revealed that a tiny minority of UK churches wanted "the right" to perform same-sex marriages. Yet the UK government seems intent on pushing this through. Is this a blip in the history of the family? Or is this yet another step on the path of good intentions that leads you-know-where? Or a headlong rush by the New Pagans intent on reaching certain ends as soon as possible?

Never before in the history of the world, it seems to me, have we had rulers who seem so intent on making it preferential for couples not to marry (tax breaks, housing benefit etc.), for young single mums to expand numerically (free housing, extra income) and now we have the big push to equate sterile homosexual relationships with families that bring about future generations (future tax-payers if you want to look at it materially).

On Orkney all those years ago, the farmers and fishermen, went home to their communities and their families, for generation after generation over many hundreds of years. If we destroy the family over a few decades then we face the danger of doing terrible damage for years to come. The "new family" will be a mockery of the original, a fake that in fact destroys the family and reduces society to a chaos that will make the Neolithic age look positively cultured and settled.

As for the New Paganism, that has ushered in the "right" to murder the unborn, and wishes to bring about the "right" to kill the old, and the "right" for homosexuals to be "married," Belloc put it best in his 1931 essay, the New Paganism:
   The New Paganism, should it ever become universal, or over whatever districts or societies it may become general, will never be what the Old Paganism was. It will be other, because it will be a corruption. The Old Paganism was profoundly traditional; indeed, it had no roots except in tradition. Deep reverence for its own past and for the wisdom of its ancestry and pride therein were the very soul of the Old Paganism; that is why it formed so solid a foundation on which to build the Catholic Church, though that is also why it offered so long and determined a resistance to the growth of the Catholic Church. But the New Paganism has for its very essence contempt for tradition and contempt of ancestry. It respects perhaps nothing, but least of all does it respect the spirit of "Our fathers have told us."
   The Old Paganism worshipped human things, but the noblest human things, particularly reason and the sense of beauty. In these it rose to heights greater than have since been reached, perhaps, and certainly to heights as great as were ever reached by mere reason or in the mere production of beauty during the Christian centuries.
   But the New Paganism despises reason, and boasts that it is attacking beauty. It presents with pride music that is discordant, building that is repellent, pictures that are a mere chaos...
...Men do not live long without gods; but when the gods of the New Paganism come they will not be merely insufficient, as were the gods of Greece, nor merely false; they will be evil.  One might put it in a sentence, and say that the New Paganism, foolishly expecting satisfaction, will fall, before it knows where it is, into Satanism.