Friday, 29 August 2008

New research links cycle helmets with abortion

In an astonishing new study, it has been suggested that women who wore cycle helmets when girls are more likely to have abortions than those who did not.

Apparently, the theory is that those who wear cycle helmets are more likely to have been raised in a prevailing ethos of fear.

That has long term consequences. Fear of losing a boyfriend may make girls scared to say no to a boy’s demands for intimacy. Also, the notion that with the right protective gear you are safer may lead such girls to think that condoms provide a secure protection against pregnancy (when all the data proves they don’t - particularly for young users).

Further, the girl whose world view is one of fearing the future is exactly the one whom the abortionists can most readily seduce into their mills.

Girls whose fathers are sufficiently counter-cultural to laugh at cycle helmets, and who view life as an adventure to be engaged on courageously and prudently, seem to grow into more secure and robust teenagers and adults, able to tell boys where to get off, or even cope with an unplanned pregnancy in a positive and life affirming way.

The research was conducted in a novel fashion: by arguing from first principles. It is not peer reviewed and has no scientific validity. In fact it is pretty fraudulent (aka a joke). But I hope it made you think!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Tradition in Ireland

I've had a note from the Convenor of St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association asking me to link to their new blog.

In general I've avoided a long blogroll of all the usual suspects, but I thought this was a bit more off beat and definitely worth a look, so I've added it to the sidebar.

He also asks me to mention that there will be a Traditional Latin Mass for the Holy Year of St. Paul in St. Paul’s Church, Emo, Co. Laois, Ireland, on Saturday, 30th August, 2008, for which the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin has granted, under the usual conditions, the Plenary Indulgence for the Pauline Holy Year.

Another post that might be of interest is a report of their recent walking pilgrimage for vocations:

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Helmets and risk

I mentioned I don't wear a helmet when cycling and don't encourage my kids to either. There are various reasons for this. One is probably sheer cussedness (aka pride). But there is more to it than that.

I think that there are a number of cultural agendas at work which I choose to counter.

One is the preference of the authorities to keep us living in fear. The populace is much more malleable and prepared to accept much more dictatorial government when it is scared. So to convince us that everything (even cycling!) is a high risk activity increases the power of the politicos.

The press collude with this. Their love is drama - that's what sells papers and news bulletins. So dramatic accidents are great for them - which is one of the reasons why most people in this country have a much greater fear of accidents than the statistics warrant. (the same is true of crime, particularly violent crime).

Then of course we have the commercial interests. Cycle helmet manufacturers would sell far fewer of their products if we weren't all indoctrinated to believe that cycling without a helmet is the equivalent of ordering a pint of hemlock at your local.

Finally there is the general consumer mentality: no longer can you tuck your trouser leg into your sock and hop on your bike. You have to put on your lycra cycling shorts and top, your special cycling shoes, your helmet and so on. (Have you noticed how all casual activities have now been deemed to require huge amounts of specialist clothing and kit?)

So I eschew all that.

We do assess and mitigate risk. But I think the risk of my kids being scared of life and unable to cope with a few knocks is far greater than the risk of their getting brain damage by not wearing a cycle helmet.

And experience suggests I'm right. The kids are always falling out of trees, off bikes, from swings and so on. They have far more petty injuries than their peers. They are also braver and tougher (in the sense of putting up with a scratch or a scrape) and most significantly have far fewer serious injuries: they learn (the hard way) to take reasonable care.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Enjoying cycling...

We were out cycling the other day in the local hills - off road, but on a decent lane. As usual, we were in t-shirts shorts and sandals, and we passed numerous other cyclists, al lycra-clad, with helmets, often sunglasses and occasionally knee and elbow pads. Their bikes, of course, all had disk brakes, independent front and rear suspension and more gears than I've had hot dinners.

My first thought was that we were almost certainly having more fun than they were. I like the wind in my hair - I hate having a helmet on. But on second thoughts, I think they were having a different type of pleasure to us. Their pleasure, I imagine, at least in part, consists in having all the right gear - almost ostentatious consumption.

I still prefer our way of course.

A cry of horror went up on the Catholic Dads blog when I revealed we cycled without helmets. I will address this business of risk and fear in another post.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

A Typical Walk...

We went for a walk today, and Charlie and I were half way across a stream when the others declared they were stopping for a chocolate break before crossing. SO I continued and Charlie tried to turn. The result was that he fell full in the stream and was soaked. This was some miles form where we'd left the car, of course. So he had to strip off and wear Bernie's shorts. She wore her sweatshirt round her middle like a skirt. Charlie then decided to throw his boots over the stream so that if he fell in again they wouldn't get wet. One of them made it over, the other bounced back into the water. So he and Bernie shared her sandals for the remainder of the walk.

It's this kind of thing that really builds solidarity between the kids: being able to recognise another's need for help and provide it at some cost - and also being able to see that your sister is prepared to do that, and practice the difficult virtue of gratitude...

Saturday, 23 August 2008

A Break in Scotland

The holiday in Scotland was a huge success. We spent the first few nights in formal campsites, but the rest of the time we were wild camping, right by the sea. So we had fantastic views, total privacy, and a real sense of self-sufficiency as a family - which meant mutual interdependence.

The kids loved it -and so did we.

We were without Ant for most of the time, as she had gone off to be Bosun on a tall ship, taking a load of troubled kids form Manchester sailing as some kind of developmental experience.

It was really good for Ant to meet people from a very different background, many of whom were frequently in trouble with the law. And I suspect it was good for them to meet Ant. Apparently they loved her reading them bedtime stories.

Meanwhile, Bernie, Charlie, Dominique, Anna and I (not forgetting Goldie) had a fabulous time, walking, cycling, seal watching, site seeing, swimming and playing in the sand. Also washing up in the stream, washing in the stream, and so on. The kids were great company and we all enjoyed each others' company throughout.

The Mass on Arran was ... well perhaps we'd better draw a veil over that.


We picked up Ant's results on the way to our holiday, and she has done very well - A in A Level Maths, and As in all her AS levels (which are the first half of A levels). So on track for her aspiration to apply to Oxford... But it's still something of a lottery even if you get an interview and get straight As - about a 1 in 5 chance, I think.

While we were away we also got Bernie's results for the GCSE modules she's taken - A*s and As; The full exams are next year (as are Ant's remaining A levels). We were particularly pleased, as Bernie can find the academic stuff harder than Ant, and also Ant is quite a hard act to follow...

Thursday, 14 August 2008

In search of midges

As soon as we've collected Ant's results, we're off to Scotland, camping, We thought that we weren't sufficiently mortified living a life of luxury at home, so we're abandoning Anna's mum (more about her later, doubtless) and going camping on Mull or Arran or one of those islands... Needless to say we haven't booked anywhere.

However we are confident of rain and midges, so doubtless we'll have a fantastic time wherever we go.

Ant and I have spent the last day or two converting our boat road trailer into a bike trailer to carry all six bikes behind the car. Hope they make it to Scotland too!

While we are camping, Ant is going on a voyage on a tall ship, supervising a group of disadvantaged youths who are being taken on holiday and as a character building experience.

We meantime will make the other three do forced marches in the rain, sleep in a wet tent, and eat half-cooked food in midge infested campsites. I can't wait...

I think by the end of the next 10 days we'll all have more character than we know what to do with.


Today Ant, like many teenagers across the country, gets her AS- and (one A-) level results. Naturally she is a bit nervous about these, but whatever they turn out to be will be a cause of thanksgiving. good results for the obvious reasons, bad results: well read the book of Job...

She is bright and has worked hard, so we hope the results are good - not least as she has set her sights on Oxford, and will need straight As in at least three of the four A levels she's sitting. WHile she's only sitting one A level this year, the AS results conribute significantly to the final results, so poor results in them could sabotage her ambitions. But I'm confident that wherever she finally goes to University, she will have a great time and make a great contribution.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A rainy day...

.. so the children painted the bathroom. That is, Anna and I had put a base coat on sea green below the horizon, and sky blue above with a few clouds in the sky. Today the kids added the decorative elements: an octopus, a light house, a ship or two, various fish and birds, and so on.

The sunset on the final wall has yet to be painted...

It looks fabulous: very much like kids' work - bright and cheerful. And the absolute antithesis of the wonderful posh houses you always see in magazines and on TV,

They are enjoying both the process and the result -and it's been a great way to keep all four of them entertained and working as a team on a very wet day.

Rape: a counter-cultural view...

A recent court ruling in the UK has judged that the fact that a woman has been drinking should never be taken into account when awarding state compensation for a rape. Previous rulings have also disallowed the fact that a woman was wearing provocative clothing from being considered.

I think these rulings are wrong-headed and damaging - to women.

Before I go any further, of course I am opposed to rape and would never seek to justify it in any way. It is a violent and degrading crime and men who commit it have no excuse.

However, that does not mean that a woman never has any part in the responsibility for what happens to her.

Again, i should clarify, as politically correct thinking will lead people to jump to conclusions about what I am saying. I do not mean that all, or indeed any, women who are raped have provoked the crime in any way. However, I do think that one cannot exclude that possibility a priori in every case, even to the smallest degree.

Further I think that to fail to teach young women about the risks of drinking excessively and dressing provocatively is lunacy. If any of my daughters were to dress provocatively, drink too much, and then get raped, I would certainly feel that the rapist deserved everything the law could throw at him. But I would also believe that my daughter had some responsibility for putting herself in such a situation; further I would believe that I had failed in her upbringing and I too had some responsibility.

None of which would excuse the rapist; but to fail to acknowledge that women have some responsibility in this arena will lead parents to fail to educate them properly.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Requiem Mass

The other day we had the privilege of singing a Requiem Mass for someone whom we did not know.

He had died, and asked for a traditional requiem - but his home parish refused. His family found a priest prepared to sing the traditional Requiem Mass, but his home parish refused even to allow that.

So he had to be buried from a distant parish, in order to have the send-off he had wanted.

In the circumstances the priest singing the Mass wanted to do the very best for him that he could, so he contacted our choir and asked if we could sing the Chant for the Mass. Fortunately enough of us were able to turn up to make a decent sound: and we all knew most of the music, having sung the Mass for the Dead in November.

There is something truly wonderful about the Chant for the Requiem Mass: partly the music itself, and partly the knowledge of the generations who have been laid to rest to its accompaniment (including my late mother) and the fact that it is certainly what I will be buried to.

The children all sang too - a fantastic part of their heritage!


The summer holidays are always a great time for us as a family. My work dries up in August, so I have a lot of time to spend with the family. We walk a lot, go climbing, swimming and sailing.... This year we are also going camping for a week which we are all looking forward to. That will be our only holiday away from home, as the budget doesn't allow anything more: we prefer to spend on hobbies (like sailing) through the year, rather than save everything for a trip abroad for a fortnight...

The result of that is we spend a lot of relaxed time in each others' company. Long walks are particularly good for this: we tend to walk in pairs and threes, but these are constantly in a state of flux, so that by the end of a day's walking, everyone has had a chance to talk with everyone else - and to be silent with them too.

We find this really allows the kids (and us) to slow down and reconnect with each other. Today we saw a herd of wild red deer on our walk, which made it particularly memorable. The little ones were engrossed in some imaginative game for most of the walk, so scarcely noticed we had made several hundred feet of height gain before reaching the lake that was the turning point. Sometimes it can be more of a struggle than that, but they have realised that they enjoy themselves much more if they enjoy themselves... smart kids!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Too much psychology

I have been listening to a series of talks by WIlliam Coulson.

He was Carl Rogers' right hand man for many years. Rogers introduced the world to client-centred counselling, and championed the spread of psychology for normals. Inter alia he was responsible for the destruction of parts of the Catholic education and religious set-up in the USA, where he helped many nuns to 'liberate themselves.'

Coulson recanted and his talks are an analysis of the failings and dangers of Rogers' approach. He clearly has a huge regard for Rogers, which makes the talks all the more compelling.

Coulson's basic thesis is that the value-free approach advocated by Rogers is profoundly dangerous for kids, whose values are not yet formed and who need guidance; and also for adults who do not have a properly formed conscience. He is particularly wary of teachers who have been introduced to some of these ideas, have a superficial understanding of them, and play amateur psychologist in the class room: values clarification, circle time (as run by some) etc... Too much psychology is his view: try teaching the kids to read write, do sums, and learn the laws of civilised behaviour...

His talks are powerful, passionate and fascinating.

More on this later, probably...

Major upheaval... grandma moves in. She's got to the stage where living alone is increasingly difficult, and the recent death of her (only local) friend did not help.

It won't be easy: Ant loses her bedroom and has to share with Bernadette, which no teenage girls would think a great idea... And Anna's relationship with her mother has never been the easiest, so how they'll get on in one house is anyone's guess.

I have a civil relationship with her, but I was the last person she'd have wanted her daughter to marry. And she'll find the noise, untidiness and dog all very trying.

On the positive side, it will be very good for her to be living with the family: on her own she could often go for days without speaking to a soul: now she will see us and the kids (whom she likes) every day, so get a lot more interaction on a regular basis.

Also it's good for the kids to have her here: she is so different from us, that they wil learn a lot, and more fundamentally, they will learn the importance of the family: how we are there for each other, even when it's not convenient or easy; and in particular that we look after the elderly (I hope they remember this when I'm senile!)