‘Twas Christmas Eve in the workhouse … and I’m still busy even as late as this.
I’ve been reading John Carey’s “Down with dons” (PDF) with great enjoyment this evening. Written in 1975, it accurately predicts many of the disasters of the coming decades. I love the way that it depicts the Oxford University establishment. Indeed I shall think of his words every time I get a copy of the dismal university magazine, “Oxford Today”, replete as it is with self-satisfaction and infantile “rebelliousness” from some of the most establishment people in the land. I need to remember to write to him and thank him for making the article available online.
I’ve also been taking a look at Metaphrastes’ (10th c.) Life of Nicholas of Myra — our Santa! — in the Patrologia Graeca edition, PG 116, 317-356. This prints the Latin text of Surius against a Greek text from a manuscript. The Latin is rather harder than the stuff I’ve been translating lately, and I don’t feel like straining my brains on Christmas Eve. It opens with prologue, and, after a paragraph or two about our Nicholas’ upbringing, moves straight into the story of how he provided dowries for three girls otherwise to be forced into prostitution. This fills quite a number of chapters. Somewhat later Nicholas goes to the Holy Land; and then to the Council of Nicaea, where he opposes Arianism. I didn’t see any mention of him thumping Arius, however, and the account is only a single chapter. I found myself wondering … why has nobody translated this into English?
One of the sources for Santa suggested that a lot was borrowed from the 6th century Nicholas of Sion. This Nicholas is mentioned as a contemporary of Nicholas of Myra in Metaphrastes’ Life, I note. I went to look for the English translation of this. Then I swallowed hard; the price was eye-watering! Maybe not yet.
Today Amazon decided suddenly that I had earned a gift card. It was only a few dollars, and only usable at Amazon.com, rather than Amazon.co.uk which I must presently prefer. I found that I had a previous gift card also sitting there, unused. A letter from the library informed me that Berger’s English translation of the Patria – medieval accounts – of Constantinople could not be borrowed by inter-library loan, as it was only published in November this year. I decided, therefore, to use the Amazon.com funds and buy it, and have it shipped to the UK. Doubtless it will arrive sometime next year, if the seas remain calm. No rush.
On the Mithras site, I had my first troll today. A munchkin turned up, informing me that Mithras had pre-Roman roots. He didn’t justify his statement of course, but it was enough to cause me to add a couple of sections to the FAQ, and politely inform him otherwise. His response was to down-vote my reply – imprudent of him – and to post a link to a strange and very ignorant web-page, at Counter-Punch.org, here, entitled “Happy Birthday Mithras!”. He also posted a two-word insult on another page, and earned his blacklisting on Discus in one easy click of the mouse.
The “Counter-punch” page is full of crude mistakes of fact, yet professes to be written by a certain Gary Leupp, “Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion.” But it reads like the production of a student. I feel an obligation to the reputation of the academy, and so I have drafted an email to Dr Leupp, whom I find does exist, if not with that role, querying whether he has been the victim of identity theft. It’s not an easy email to draft, of course; for all I know he may really be the author, six years ago! Not so easy to tell someone that their academic reputation is endorsing a bunch of obscurantist nonsense. Anyway I have tried.
On twitter I have been following the misadventures of Dr Sophia Hay, who has been attempting to travel from Rome to London for the last two days, and hasn’t slept in that time. The flight was diverted last night to Amsterdam, and when she finally arrived at Gatwick airport, the British authorities had conveniently decided not to run any trains or buses from the airport into London, thereby stranding all the passengers in the wilds of Surrey. Doubtless the richly rewarded officials are safe at home, and the job they are paid to do can go hang. “If it feels good, do it” was the slogan of the current generation, and the inevitable selfishness and indifference to others riddles British society. So it will be a profitable night for the taxi firms; but hardly a stress-free one for driver or passengers.
It’s Christmas Eve. I want to translate some more of Severus of Antioch. Maybe I will. But maybe there is something on the television. Although this is less likely, it must be said.
Yesterday British Telecom did a repair to one of my telephone sockets. For reasons best known to himself, he also interfered with the main socket through which my broadband runs. It has been falling out every quarter of an hour since.
Maybe I will hit “post” now, while I am ahead.
It’s Christmas Eve. Let us think of those less fortunate than ourselves. The permissive society has left an awful lot of people sitting alone at home tonight. Some will be sitting there with a bottle, holding back the loneliness. Shortage of money is rife in many households too. These may be divorced, whose loneliness has been contrived by successive pieces of “progressive” legislation, or just the unwed, of whom there seem to be a very large number.
Bookish folks like us can’t do much for these people. But Christian folk can pray for any known to us. If you know someone like that, pray for them now. Pray against the isolation, that they may feel something of the spirit of Christmas; of the Light of the World.
If anyone is reading this, in this situation, here’s a thought. Maybe a local church is running a midnight service? It will probably be on Google, if it is. Maybe it might be fun to go there and get a mince-pie afterwards, even if they don’t know anyone?
Enough. I feel a definite need to swig a diet coke and watch the news for a bit. Maybe I’ll be back later!