Monday, February 9, 2015

The Lord is Testing Me....

So, 2015 hasn't exactly got off on the right foot for me this year.Things just keep happening. Trying Things. Demoralising Things. Stupid, Why-Is-This-Happening-To-Me Things. And Things you'd rather didn't happen, but are the price of being Human in a Fallen World, and which make all the Other Things seem much more upsetting than they usually would be.

Some of the Things are small, and take care of themselves, such as plumbing problems, which are caused by a neighbour's nearly-frozen pipes, and that cleared themselves up as soon as there was no more near-frozeness to vex them.

Somethings are entirely out of one's hands, and have a slightly adventuresome feel to them,such as work-related crisises. When one works with the General Public, and the General Public happens to include Lunatics and Entitled Itinerants, there is bound to be a fair dose of Drama and Weirdness- often in tandem.

And then there are the Things that make you feel like Tevya on Fiddler on the Roof: "Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there, You say to Yourself, "What kind of mischief can I play on My friend, Maria?" I an I have had rather a lot of those sorts of Things on top of all the Other Things.

Take, for example, the Perpetually Overheating Car:

The Subaru which is my current vehicle has had this trouble since I bought the thing. It is a used car, and the people who owned it before me must have stored it near a dryer, because the radiator was full of lint. I kid you not. My car was overheating because of someone else's linty laundry. So the mechanic power-flushed it, and it ran a champion.....And then, it was overheating again, and the radiator was needing to be replaced - no doubt because of all the stress it had been under from all that lint. Then there was the false-alarms,which was a faulty temperature gauge. It was replaced, and seemed to sort the issue for a while, but then it started doing this cute thing where it the temperature would occasional spike, and immediately drop down again. Not often, just enough to be troubling. The car was still running like a champion.... Until I went out, one day,just before Christmas, and the car wouldn't start at all. It made a dreadful asthmatic coughing, that seemed to tear it apart from the inside. So I had to have it towed, and the Mechanic re-built the engine, and declared that that had sorted the silly monkey, and I'd have no further bother with it. 

And then the car overheated when I tried to take it Off The Hill For Mass.I didn't get very far - maybe 15 minutes into the drive, and the temperature rocketed up into dangerous territory. I pulled over and contemplated for a while. The engine sounded fine, and there was no steam coming from it, and I was not far from home, so I decided to turn around and try again in someone else's vehicle. The car died just short of my home, steaming like a hot-springs, and smelling to high-heaven. So back to the Mechanic it went.

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And then, one of those Other Things happened - to whit, I spilled coffee on my venerable old laptop, and even though I did all the things you are supposed to do to save it from such a calamitous event, including opening it up and checking for interiour damage (of which I saw none) it hath died the death, and I am at present without a computer, and loath to look for one, until I have word from the mechanic as to whether the Subaru is worth investing in any farther....

The Lord is Testing Me

And today's crisis? The Loaner Landy, which the Mechanic bequeathed to me, whilst he struggles to discover what, exactly is the issue with that Dratted Subaru- and which has been in my possession a grand total of 3 days, and driven me a grand total of about 10 miles - that is, to work and back.... it has a flat tire. Totally flat.No air at all. Sitting on the rim. And the valve cap is missing. And it was fine last night! So it wasn't my fault!

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So... that's what's going on here.Perhaps I broke a mirror and don't remember it..... perhaps there is a curse on me. But I sure could use a Nice Thing for a change!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The High Crusade

My aged computer hath given up the ghost. This is a source of some sadness and more difficulty to me. I am no good at gadgety shopping. Quite frankly, I was rather fond of the old laptop and am not like to take to a new one, just at first. But ah well, that is Life for you. If my posting becomes more spotty than usual, you know that I have a good excuse for it.

And now... a book review. The High Crusade by Poul Anderson:

I picked this book up on a whim that had next to nothing to do with that cover, and a good deal to do with the jacket summary:

In the year of grace 1345, as Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville is gathering an army to join King Edward III in the war against France, a most astonishing event occurs: a huge silver ship descends through the sky and lands in a pasture beside the little village of Ansby in northeastern Lincolnshire. The Wersgorix, whose scouting ship it is, are quite expert at taking over planets, and having determined from orbit that this one was suitable, they initiate standard world-conquering procedure. Ah, but this time it's no mere primitives the Wersgorix seek to enslave—they've launched their invasion against free Englishmen! In the end, only one alien is left alive—and Sir Roger's grand vision is born. He intends for the creature to fly the ship first to France to aid his King, then on to the Holy Land to vanquish the infidel. Unfortunately, he has not allowed for the treachery of the alien pilot, who instead takes the craft to his home planet, where, he thinks, these upstart barbarians will have no choice but to surrender. But that knavish alien little understands the indomitable will and clever resourcefulness of Englishmen, no matter how great the odds against them. . . .

I am not sure what I was expecting from the book. I am no great fan of science fiction, and I have been suffering from Tolkien-deprivation since reading Beowulf, which I received for Christmas this year. The High Crusade is definitely not Tolkien, but it does make for good reading. It is a short story, narrated in a curiously tongue-in-cheek, medievally-flavoured English. It is over-the-top, full of flashy battle scenes, led by Sir Roger, mounted upon his horse and crying, "God save the right!" or "For England and St. George!" - paradoxical pageantry splashed against cold, metallic technology. It is light-hearted and good-hearted at the same time. Yet, despite the sheer jollity of the narrative, and the slenderness of the volume, it touches upon serious themes: what constitutes true freedom, and the dangers of a society too much dependent upon the government; the folly of under-estimating the inspired 'little-guy'; the value of commitment, of sacrifice, of duty and nobility. It isn't so much that the book explores the themes, but that the characters simply take a certain outlook for granted, and view Life through the lens of that outlook. It is hearteningly decent and honest - a farcical tale, with truth at its heart.

Furthermore, I was delighted by the treatment of religion in The High Crusade. One of the things I find particularly vexing about fantasy and science fiction, is the tendency to be somewhat slighting, if not down-right hateful, about religion in general, and Christianity in particular. This book is told from the perspective of the monk, Brother Parvus, and everything that happens to the Englishmen is recounted in a simply Christian worldview. There were one or two times, early on in the book, which seemed a trifle flippant about certain practices of the Faith, and it niggled - not because it was particularly offensive, but because the monkish narrator would not have written in such a tone. However, as the story goes on, and the English regularly pray before battle and celebrate Masses of thanksgiving afterwards, I think I was mistaken to read so much into it. I do not believe that Poul Anderson was a Catholic. I'm not even sure he was a practicing Christian, but he had respect for the Faith, and that came out in his storytelling. Moreover, the Epilogue finished up with a brief note on the spread of the Faith throughout alien nations, with a surprisingly orthodox comment about the Papacy, which delighted me to no end.

I short, should any of you be looking to kill an evening with a bit of adventure, I'd recommend The High Crusade unreservedly. Indeed, I intend to read a good deal more by this author in the near future.