A ray of light in the Baden-Württemberg Bildungsplan scandal:

While parts of the Baden-Württemberg Christian Democrats have joined the massa … the majority of society, there are now some sensible voices to be heard.

The minority leader in Baden-Württemberg parliament, Peter Hauk (CDU), has said something sensible, at last, in the public debate. According to [my translation], he said in an important speech at the Landtag, that the Green politicians ‘have shown themselves quite deficient in tolerance regarding the topic of tolerance. […] Their dealing with critical voices is actually embarrassing, intolerant according to their own criteria, probably discriminating as well. […] Everyone has the right to address the German legislative with a petition, everyone. As politicians, we have no right to judge this elementary civic right in its application or, even worse, as you did it, to condemn it.’

Hauk, who studied Forestry, was Minister of Agriculture in Baden-Württemberg, at a time when this made him my oberster Dienstherr. During this time, I heard him at a number of official events, where he distinguished himself by frequently actually saying something, even criticising current policy, and, very admirably: actually being truly knowledgable regarding the agricultural matters under discussion.

The causes of sadness in this fallen world are manifold.

For me, one of them, a quiet, lingering one has been, for quite a while, the introduction of a new “Gotteslob”, a new Catholic Hymn and Prayer Book, in the German-speaking dioceses, scheduled m Advent 2013.

Of cause, even the old “Gotteslob”, introduced in 1975, had its weaknesses, as well as its strengths. Towards the former, one should count the disproportionately large share of 1930s and 1970s hymns (especially those of the Thurmair couple) and the exclusion of a number of highly popular traditional Catholic hymns, e.g. “Rosenkranzkönigin”, or “Jesus, Dir leb ich, Jesus, Dir sterb ich”, towards the latter, the retention of quite a number of good old (and a few good new) Catholic hymns, as well as prayers, litanies, devotions, and catechesis.

One aspect that particularly roused my adversity towards the new “Gotteslob” was that it was to be introduced before the revision of the German translation of the order of Mass. It appears to me, based on my researches, that the German bishops’ conference has been delaying this revision for quite a while, with no end in view. And now, a new Hymn and Prayer Book, including the order of Mass, with the old text. Now the mistranslations from the Latin had never been as bad as in the old ICEL, but one really critical point, in the German as in the English version, was the pro multis. I have actually attended a number of Masses where the priests have changed “all” for “the many”, without any official directive – but the new “Gotteslob” would have the old and still valid translation, and progress would be effectively blocked.

Well, it’s no use crying over spilt milk, so I decided to buy the new “Gotteslob” nevertheless, only to find out that it was sold out until end of January. Humph. Accordingly, due to other delays, I first held the ne “Gotteslob” in my hands at Mass on 1 January (indeed one of the other few singularly German Holy Days of Obligation – just because it is a state holiday: hardly ever  a reference to the motherhood of Our Lady is made).

Given it was at Mass, I did not really have time to thoroughly check the contents. However, this is what I found: Some new ‘modern’ hymns have been added. But some new old hymns have been added as well! In the Advent and Christmas time section, I did not miss any really good hymns, nor were there too many insipid new ones. Indeed, there was the addition of the LATIN text of Adeste Fideles. What a marvel!

And guess what:I looked at the order of the Mass. It seems all the texts envisioned to be said in Latin in the New Rite are set down in proper two-column bilingual! And, believe it or not: It says “für Viele” in the Consecration.

Is the end of the world still not come, after all?

So next Friday, work takes me off to the antipodes, to be poisoned either by spiders that lurk in shady corners even in cities (!) or by evil jellyfish that either (i) are small enough to swim through protective nets at beaches, or (ii) reach through protective nets with meters-long tentacles (all according to my travel guide that tries to get people to go there!) And my colleagues have been quite horrified that I am leaving on Friday the 13th. Is there quite as noxious a superstition about this in Britain as there is here? Anyway, after pooh-poohing this notion, tonight I was checking the liturgical calendar (NO) for the time I would be away. So whose commemorations are on (Friday) 13 September? My very own pseudonymous patron saint, St. Notburga (yes, I am very bad about remembering saints’ days), and: St. Tobit and St. Tobias. Well…

*there were meant to be ten, but I miscounted

During my recent trip to Italy, I made the extremely spontaneous decision of, in the 11 hours between the end of my business and my train back, to make a quick dash for Venice. I spent a full 7 h there, so here are my insider tips for visiting this place –  which is definitely worth it, no matter how short the time.


The Canale Grande. Great to see when you did not expect to until some few hours before you actually do.

1. Everything is expensive in Venice. This includes luggage deposit at the station. It is 5 € for the first 5 hours, plus 70 cent per hour after that.It is also very much worth it.

Venice, it is said, has some 400 bridges. I am not sure whether this can be right, because while I definitely visited only a small part of the main island, and did not retrace my steps to any large extent, I feel rather certain that I have covered close to that number of bridges during my stay. Keeping in mind that most of the roads are close to the water level, while bridges have to ensure that the gondolier can pass under them standing; this means: stairs. So, no fun with trolley suitcases.

2. Everything is expensive in Venice. This includes toilets. Public toilets are 1,50 € (!) in both station and city. The better option is to go to some non-too touristy cafe and have a cafè (or even a cappuccino, you wimp, even if it is already in the afternoon, because even there they will know that tourists will have cappuccino in the afternoon (the barbarians!), and anyway, the coffee or cappuccino will be excellent, and no more than 3.50 €, probably, and given you can use the toilet for free (and refill your water bottle; do not underestimate the price of actually buying drinking water [is the running water there drinking water ?, my Inner German asks, only to be silenced quickly with no adverse after effects])) this is a great bargain. And, at least if you are female, you might try offering 50 cents for using the toilet without bying anything (in the less touristy areas, at least), and the good-looking barkeeper will give you access for free. Chivalry apparently survives in Italy.

3. Probably many friends will have told you how Venice is just not worth visiting, being stinky, decaying, and flooded with tourists. To which I have to say: Visiting in winter or spring may be a good idea, stink- (and probably tourist-) wise, compared to summer. Also: Yes, as soon as you leave the Piazza San Marco and its surroundings, much of the beauty of Venice is a decaying beauty. But then, it is decaying rather charmingly. Thirdly, you have to take the hordes of tourists as a sight in themselves. Of course the narrow alleys of Venice (some not much more than  1 m wide) were not made to channel 30 Mio. of tourists per year. Enjoy the incongruity. Enjoy also the groups of street traders, and if so inclined, make a sociological study of them. When I was there, there was a group of Indian-looking ones, selling rubber spherical objects in the shape of pigs, eggs, strawberries, and other things, which, being thrown down forcefully, dissolved into a puddle, just to re-solidify with a ‘pop’ again. This group changed, after dark, to the sale of propellor-powered, LCD-lighted objects that rise with great velocity to glide gently down. There was also a group of African-looking street traders selling handbags, apparently fake trademark ones, and the same models through the whole of Venice.


Would have loved to make a better photograph of the pig-puddle, but did not dare to show any obvious interest, obviously.


Well, you could not expect me to make a photograph when it was really crowded.

4. Somewhat connected to that: Decide, as you set your foot on Venice soil (or whatever it is you set your foot on there in this amphibious place), that you will not buy anything. I repeat this again for all female readers. There is an awful load of trash sold there (one word: masks), and an awful load of overpriced designer stuff, but in between, there is some rather fine and beautiful Murano glass jewelery, glassware, and the like. However, if you try to find these amongst hoax and trash, you will go mad. Believe me and ignore them, other than as a pleasant visual stimulus in the shop windows.


This is what I mean.

5. Venice is stunning. Walk into any random church, and you will  find, casually displayed,  the relics of some spectacular saint (like St. Roq), and/or frescoes or oil paintings by really famous painters, such as Tintoretto or Bellini. There are some few churches charging as much a 10 € for entry (ptui!), but then, as you will wish to go to Mass anyway, just note down Mass times and go there then. In drastic contrast to my previous experience with Italy, nearly every church has a list of Mass times at their main doors.


Did not go to that church (San Giorgio Maggiore, or so, I think), but probably has impressive relics/paintings/frescoes as well.

6. St. Mark’s Cathedral, can we praise it too much, does not charge you for entry. You are not allowed to take backpacks and luggage, but there is a nearby place, both advertised by placards at the queuing site, and yet extremely obscure in real life, and: for free (!!), that takes your luggage for one hour (I took a wee bit longer on account of meeting a North American group having a very correct though swift Mass in English there, and no-one said anything to me.) But: If you really want to get as close as possible to St. Mark, you have to pay (only 2 €, so no big deal). However, this is not for seeing the sarcophagus of St. Mark, but for seeing the Pala d’Oro. All right with me, in a way, but if not a good friend (Magdalena, who occasionally honours us with her comments here at Laodicea) had pointed this out for me, I would never have found St. Mark. His body is under the high altar (obviously, in a way, but then again so inconspicuously that one might very well miss him.) Now this is really impressive, isn’t it?

7. The Piazza San Marco, World Heritage Site. On first entering, I thought: Well, there it is. ‘s quite all right.
It took me a while to get my mind into the frame of looking at it as what it is, and not at the thing seen  innumerable times in photographs and films. Again, it was not made as a World Heritage Site. It was built, in the way it is now, in the 16th cent., and as far as the proclamation of ‘We have power, we have wealth, and we have good taste, too’ goes, it is probably the most impressive thing I have met yet. Yes, there are these Baroque and Rococco castles, but they seem to imply decadence as well as power and wealth. The Procuratie Vecchie, on the other hand, seems to imply ruthless efficiency. Looking at the Piazza and the pillars at the landing site, I still felt the slight terror of someone of a lesser power, or of lesser importance, landing in 16th cent. Venice and just hoping to get back again without any grievous damages.

8. Even today, the Italian Navy seems to be stationed in Venice. There were handsome young Italian Navy officers in dark blue coats leaving the area of the Venetian Arsenal. This was quite striking for a current reader of Hornblower (I feel a blog post on that coming up, for sure).


The Venice Arsenal. Really impressive when you think of the seapower once behind it. I did not get a good photograph of the good-looking young navy officers, though.

9.  Thanks to Magdalena, I had the information that a very short distance from the main tourist attractions might take you to another world. Now, my uninformed spontaneous ambition was to go to the Isola St Pietro. I promptly got lost after the Pizza San Marco (Look at Google Maps and decide if you wouldn’t have been so, too). And I found myself in places of even more charming decay, and washing drying on lines spanning the narrow lanes, and not seeing a living, breathing human being for minutes on end, just some 10 minutes from St. Mark’s. Now these places are extremely picturesque and romantic and they probably do not set out to rip of tourists as they do elsewhere (in fact here is where handsome young Italian barkeepers let you use toilets for free), but still everything is rather expensive here. And yet, curiously real, not at all Disneyfied, from the man going walkies with his dog [insert here peculiarities connected with walking your dog in an amphibious lagoon city], to what our British friends would call working class people going shopping with bags and little trolleys (no cars there, remember) in the more remote parts of Old Town Venice.

Decaying – but charmingly!


Papal Court – well…


A building site. No cars.

10.  Unless you are awfully acutely in love with someone (I wonder: would this be a sufficient excuse?) – do not go by gondola. Smile charitably at the gondoliere, and take a bus. Or whatever they call it there. I did not do it, but given that public transport is on the water, in cannot be ruinously expensive, and this would be what I’d do most certainly do the next time I was in Venice.


A ‘bus’ (or whatever) stop.

11. You might think, with your night train leaving at  10 pm, and your cunning (see points 2, 4, 9 and 10)  having you saved quite some money, you might have a beer before taking your train. Well, what do you think prices are for a beer (0.3 l) drunk at a table in the vicinity of ~10 min walk of the station? You say 8 €? Congratulation, you have won full points.

If you do not like this, you might wish to try an entirely new experience: drinking (non-too bad Dutch) beer from  a tin (only 3 €) on the stairs in front of the railway station. Although it being Venice St. Louis Railway Station, with a view on the Grand Canale, might rob it of some of its sordidity.

Is br Paul Coleman. He hath a blog. See that Eucharistic flash mob? That was him, that was.

It has to be admitted that – mostly through sloth – I do not avail myself as often as I might of the possibility to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I do, however, try to do so at least once during the Octave of Pentecost, the abolition of which in the new calendar I rather resent. By this I feel justified in proclaiming that, whatever, I am still in Eastertide. (N.B.: Our temporal rulers having so far left us Monday after Pentecost as a national holiday, the Catholic Church in Germany is a bit in a quandary anyway, and generally does celebrate the second day of the Octave, though not the rest.)

Hence I went to the Fraternity of St. Peter’s Mass today, and got:

  • Mass said most beautifully by a newly ordained priest (ad Aelianum: He did not even succumb to the tendency to repeat Epistle or Gospel in German, or to have the congregation say ‘Domine non sum dignus…’ in German, as it is mostly done hereabouts!)
  • Pentecostal sequence, Gloria, Creed, lots of Alleluias when the OF would have been back to drab Ordinary Time
  • Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament
  • Absolution after Confession
  • Blessing by the newly ordained priest after Mass
  • Blessing of a statue and an icon of  Our Lady, a cross and a Rosary, some of which had been unblessed in my possession for years  (I tend to be shy to just step up to priests after Mass to have them bless things; moreover, though I mostly go to OF Masses, I always strive to have devotionals etc. blessed “the old way” , sacramentals being not ex opere operatum and all that.) I did not realize that there are separate blessings for cross, rosary and statues/images of Our Lady, nor that the fervour of the newly ordained would induce him to separately bless even the two items that might have been legitimately grouped. This was all the more commendable as it was hot, and the poor priest was sweating so much in his cassock + surplice in the stuffy vestry that drops were actually falling from his face. I stood by in mixed feelings of pity, guilt, amusement and edification.

I felt most elated on my way home, I have to say.

I wish I could get published such an article! Love it! (It is real, and it is quite a prestigious paper, too.)


No, it’s not that Spanish thing with chick peas.

DISH ONE: a clear soup to be served with very thin noodles (home made, if you can be bothered).


A super-cheap bit of beef

Chicken carcase (the bit left once the breast and legs and wings are taken off) (this is the cheap and slim option: the tastier one is a half or whole hen)

Carrots, leek(s), parsnip(s), celeriac

Onion(s), cut in half and blackened (on a dry frying pan or on the middle bit of gas burners)

black pepper (whole), allspice (whole), bay leaf(/ves)

(and noodles, obviously)

Chuck the meat and spices into a pot with some cold water, simmer for an hour or so. Add the veg. Simmer more, until the veg are soft but not soggy.

Done. Freeze what liquid you will not use in the next couple of days.  Cook the noodles separately, and make sure to salt them well, or they will make the soup taste bland. Add chopped fresh parsely or dill if in season.

(dish 1A – soups made on this stock: e.g. chuck in a jar of tomato puree = tomato soup)

DISH TWO: vegetable salad

Take additionally

boiled potatoes

boiled eggs

tinned peas (drained)

pickled mushrooms (optional)

cucumbers in brine (drained)



Cube finely the apples, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and some, if you like, of the celeriac. Mix with the peas and (finely chopped) mushrooms and mayonnaise.

DISH THREE: Omnium Gatherum Cutlet

Take additionally:

Cheddar or some such


Potatoes, cold pasta, anything else needing used up in the fridge (but nothing too watery)


chop up the leek(s), grate the cheese, chop up anything else you want to put in, mix with egg to bind it together, add breadcrumbs if still too wet, coat in breadcrumbs, fry.

DISH FOUR: Pierogi

Take additionally:

Flour, water, onions

Take the meat from the soup, pick it off the bones of the chicken and pick off fat and skin. Put it through the mincer. Chop and fry the onion(s), mix it all up and season. Make up a flour and water dough that you can roll out easily (you can add egg, but don’t use much or the dough will be hard when cooked). Roll it out, cut out circles, roll them out thinner again, put a dollop of the meat mixture in the middle of each on, sealing it up in a semicircle (use water to make the edges stick better). Throw the pierogi into boiling water in batches (let them float to the top, and give them a minute or three there). Serve with butter or dripping, or fry before serving.

The only thing that gets thrown out are the bones and fat from the meat, and the celeriac, or part of it.


Huddled over the tinny little speakers of my laptop, I was not expecting to get the full effectof the excellent Westminster cathedral choir on Saturday morning. But I was utterly blown away by whatever it was that was sung at the very beginning of Saturday’s pontifical Mass, a vast, mad, sweeping setting of Tu Es Petrus that must have used and benefitted from the enormous space of the Cathedral and still led perfectly into a boring old plainchant introit.  Only after it was over did I electronically scuttle off in search of the Cathedral’s music list, and find it was by the friendly organist of St Columba’s Glasgow.

For me, in any case, this piece perfectly performed a very difficult task.

There is a fantastic range of textures. The choir and the band are used antiphonally,  preserving a clarity of sound that is lost when the two are mixed. Instrumental passages move from unison brass to vast gothick madness of brass and full organ (is that 32′ bombarde goodness I heard?) with bells and tam-tam: three such passages tie the piece together between three very different choral passges. “Tu es Petrus” reflects the opening fanfare in its glorious declamatory breadth, turning perfectly smoothly, on its second appearance,  into a Palestrina-esque moment at “aedificabo” which does indeed build. “et portes inferni … ” is a jagged unison line over (if my crappy computer speakers do not deceive me) a bass drum rumble”. “et tibi dabo” is a homophonic setting of a beautiful melodic treble line with the tiniest faintest Gaelic lilt – anyone who knows the St Anne Mass will recognise the little risign scotch snap figure – coming to rest, after all that, on a perfectly respectable cadence. The genius (or part of the genius)  of this last part is that the chant introit follows on entirely naturally and suitably. Having woken you up and chased any distractions from your mind, the motet brings you to the beginning of Mass.

I’ve listened to this about twenty times now, and it is only growing on me. Here is a link for your aural thrills. And for those who want to try this at home (and if you can seriously contemplate it, all I can say is – jammy gits), the rental parts are here.

I suppose an advantage Mahler had was that films had not yet been invented; his contemporary audiences  did not find themselves thinking of soundtrack uses as a way of describing parts of his symphonies.  The wonderful ginormousness  of the beginning of this motet would make it a fantastic sound track for some fantasy/sci-fi film.  It would probably make the film, in fact.

Only after it was over did I electronically scuttle off in search of the Cathedral’s music list

Lest the wrath of Aelianus descend upon me, who has given me this task long ago (and nothing but illness could have prevented me to accomplish it earlier), I will regale you with another morsel of diarification.

Indeed, Berenike and me have returned from our secret mission, having survived steep gorges, bare, forbidding mountains, pathless bogs, fierce beasts, and quite exceptional coldness and wetness: having also seen many a stunning and awe-inspiring sight, and experienced great kindliness from strangers: but all that is another story, and will not be told here and now.

After all this danger, excitement and austerity, however, we were most warmly welcomed by no-one less than Cath. We arrived, together with Aelianus, in her absolutely lovely flat, creating Instant Chaos © immediately with our rather impressive collection of huge bags and backpacks, occupying all comfy seats and plunging Cath into deep theological arguments on the spot. Nevertheless, when I tried to apologise for this infestation Cath most convincingly refuted the idea that we were anything like that. Her warm-hearted hospitality is all the more admirable, as she had to divide her attention between cooking us a delicious lamb stew and continuing the discussion on the sacrificial nature of the Mass with Aelianus at the same time. (And it is quite a challenge to cook while arguing with Aelianus, as I know from exasperating experience myself.)

After we all had eaten as much as we could (at least I did), the joys of the evening were still not over. The four of us repaired to a nearby café to meet up with – the McAmbroses. And thus we approach the solution of the mystery: the photograph documents the convention of the authors of no less than five eminent blogs: Cath of Nintysix and Ten (the orange juice in the back), Seraphic of Seraphic Goes to Scotland / Seraphic Singles (the famous gin and tonic), Benedict McAmbrose of the sadly discontinued Tremendous Trifles (the beer glass standing in the foreground – he had to do the photograph as a punishment for not amusing us with his writings anymore), and finally three Laodiceans: Berenike (tea), Aelianus (beer) and your’s truely (beer, too). Many thanks to Cath and the McAmbroses for coming at our mere cry, and once more to Cath for putting up with us in the first place!

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