Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Scary Tigers

There has been a terrible rise in Halloween recently. But I'm very happy to say that the only thing I have seen so far has been two young men dressed up as Tigger.

Actually that was quite frightening I have to admit.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Foie Gras - the feeding place


I remember when I was in my last parish, someone had left a brace a pheasants on the door handle for me. You see people quite like shooting them, but then have no real idea what to do with them after that. Well, neither did I, so I did what all self respecting people do when faced with an unknown quantity - I looked it up on the internet.


I soon decided that I was having none of this plucking nonsense, and that I would skin the things.

So there was I, one Sunday morning, before my first Mass, standing at the kitchen sink, with a sharp knife in one hand and the scrawny neck of a pheasant in the other, wearing a cassock and a butcher's apron. I did think at the time, if anyone sees me now!


The first head was chopped off no problem, but the second made me stop and wonder what sort of nonsense was going on. For as the knife went through it's throat, maize and grain came out. Completely undigested. Now I was not expecting this, and was momentarily taken aback. I then thought of gullets and the like.

Birds store food in their crops or craws to digest later. this is what had happened to the pheasant and this is what happens to the geese at the foie gras farm. At the beginning of the week, they are fed I think about 750g of food, by the end it is 2 kg. Of course this is not shoved down their throats into their belly, but put into their craw. Later, during the day, the birds digest it.



The foie gras man said that if the geese were hurt or distressed, then they would not digest it. And yes I know he is the foie gras man and so would say it, but it does make sense. The increase is great over a week and it causes the liver to process food at a rate that it becomes fatty. this is internal and does not cause the goose distress. After all, a hardened drinker is distroying his liver, but does not feel terrible liver pains.

The goose then goes outside for a few more days and is then killed.


Foie Gras Revisited


When I am teaching the GCSE religion syllabus, one of the things they want to know is the rites of welcome at Baptism (these are the current rites of course). This is the 'Greeting at the Door'.

When the school went to the Foie Gras Farm, see here, we too were greeted at the door, by a rather wonderful dog. Our resident dog fancier, Louis, took a great shine to him, and so did the dog.


As said, the geese are kept outdoors most of the time but from hatching day they have to be kept inside to keep them warm.

Little geese

They had all huddled away from us, as the door was opened! They are then, after the suitable time has passed, put outside.

Bigger geese

We asked about the predators of the geese, thinking about foxes mainly, but apparently that is not a problem in this part of France. Their main worry is a kind of bird of prey sea bird (I forget the word in French) which swoops down and puts its beak up the goose's bottom and sucks out its innards. Nice! they do not lose many to the bottom sucking bird, however. 

After a number of weeks outside, then they are brought in and the week long process of feeding takes place.

Buckingham University


The University of Buckingham, link here, where I am at the moment on a residential course for a PGCE, was a new creation, receiving its royal charter in 1983. It developed through Oxford academics who wanted to follow an American model of funding rather than the traditional UK one.

It teaches in a tutorial style, now seldom found outside Oxbridge, and is flexible in many courses, such as my PGCE. This will allow me to teach in the private sector (though not the state sector - eh???!!!). My reasons for this degree are not, of course, obviously professional. I am a priest, and as such do not need a qualification in education, but it is good practice for all those who are educating children to have their practices validated.

His Excellency Monsignor Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton
Also I have another reason, when/if the Bishop of Clifton calls me back to the UK then many of our parishes have schools in them. It's not too bad with primaries, but in secondaries most of our teachers are not Catholic, and any input from the 'Church' is quickly sidelined. We have our place, but that is definitely in the humanities, and then, only in Religion and Philosophy - and by the time you've presented the 'balanced' view, we are only the 'backers', the 'Catholic Ethos', the ones to be humoured.

So now, I will be able to walk in and say 'listen to me, I am a qualified teacher, I know how to deliver a syllabus, I know what it is like to be in a classroom, I was head of a mathematics department (no, not just wooly irrelevant religion)'.

Don't know if it'll make a difference but you might as well try.

So I'm here in Buckingham. Which, by the way, was 21st out of 115 universities in the Times Good University Guide in 2012. Not bad for a new kid on the block.

New Kids on the Block

The First Mass I never said


When we were in seminary all those years ago, we had to 'do' a dry Mass, and we were marked on it.

Thankfully our examiner was a terribly sensible chap and never bothered too much if our hands were held in a traditional manner or in the more expansive manner, which was in vogue for a while.

I mention this today on the Feast of Christ the King not because I said my dry Mass on this Feast, but because my practice Mass was a votive Mass of Christ the King. It is funny really how these things stay in your mind.

I remember being quite touched by the 'newness' of the texts, as an added layer on the liturgy of the Church and indeed I still am. Having just offered this Mass, the preface especially stands out.

If only I had my own preface, I could have done anything
I have a bit of a thing about prefaces, and look with an unfeigned lack of expectation at the prospect of new prefaces in the Extra-ordinary Form of Mass. Yes it would be nice for Advent to have its own preface (but I have yet to have met Advent in a bar late at night crying into his fourth sherry opining 'If only I had had my own preface, life would have been so much better') - but it will just be awful.

I know because I say and sing these things in Latin all the time. They don't flow in Latin, they are a jumble, they don't end properly. I get to the end and the organist suddenly has to realise that this isn't a preface that ends with 'et ideo' and the proper chants.

I'd be much happier (and yes I know that the world doesn't revolve around my happiness, because if it did there'd be much more said about polyester) if when they came, the prefaces imitated the preface of Christ the King and had a proper ending which, as Tom Lehrer said, 'the people could huuuum'.

1 min 35 seconds in

Enough already. Happy Christ the King.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Fioe Gras


There can not be many schools in the world who have an outing to a foie gras farm.

Yes, I think I can safely say that. Indeed in schools in the UK nowadays, you would only be going there if you were going to be picketing outside and shaking a jolly goose shaped plackard proclaiming the rights of ducks and the like.


Actually I do not even think that that is right, because that kind of actual participation in the real world has been more or less dissapeared into "write a report as if you were on a picket outside a foie gras farm". Heaven help us if we encouraged the children to protest! (shhhh... they might protest against the deaths of unborn babies... shhhh)


So why did we go to the foie gras farm? It might have been something to do with shock tactics

Roll up, roll up, Chavagnes International College are the kind of chaps who say hang to public opinion and we go to foie gras farms!

Or it might have had something to do with being a part of the culture in which we find ourselves. We are slap bang in the middle of French countryside, and do you know what? They have foie gras farms. Get over it.

Or it might have something to do with being a sign to the world. Two of our boys come from California - place where you can legally own a gun, but not a sliver of foie gras on a piece of toast. What's that all about?


Or it might be about getting all snotty and self righteous about having geese force fed food, so that we can eat them. When was the last time you saw all the chicken roaming around in fields and not in a barn? Or the male calves shot in the back of the head with a bolt? Or some poor cow with huge distended udders so that we can milk her day after day in a horribly travesty of nature?

You see, either get rid of it all, or don't go all holier than thou.

I saw geese in wide open fields, cared for by a professional, on a family farm scale, as part of the countryside and economy. And that is a good lesson for our boys and for us all. Go and see, find out, don't just jump on some band wagon. And I don't even like the stuff.

Report to follow...

Friday, 26 October 2012

De Profundis...

Sad Cat

I think I have another post called this as well, promising to keep this blog up to date. So here's another.

The trem has been so terribly busy, and now that I'm teaching AS and A2 RE as well as Brevet Maths and being a chaplain abroad, you can just imagine how pressing it all is, but that is a rubbish excuse, and so, like the most recalcitrant boy, who you cannot really trust, but yet you want to, I'm going to promise to do better.


Honest, I am.

Coming up...

trip to Buckingham to become a proper teacher.


the school day out at the foie gras farm

Foie Gras

some stupid rock in the middle of a Cathedral


Ooooh, you just can't wait. So stay tuned.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Return of Bubble Gum Smaak


There is surely nothing in this world to warm the cockles of a Chaplain's heart (especially if he happens to be abroad) than the sighting and buying of bubble gum smaak.

I saw some in a supermarket and immediately snaffled it up, because if I do not have any to eat on my birthday I shall be inconsolable, and boys just cannot be relied on - whether that be to get their mathematics homework in on time (grrrrr) or in keeping their chapain in regular bubble gum smaak supplies.

You can see how my bubble gum smaak tastes were first begun here, then continued, and developed. It is an odd thing, bubble gum smaak. You know what the taste is and where you should find it - in bubble gum and not in lurid blue sweets. It comes therefore as something of a surprise when you discover it in an unexpected place. I have the same response to strawberry flavoured lip balm.

Any way I turn even older tomorrow so I will console myself with sweets that only the dangerously young would dare to eat.

Long live Bubble gum smaak.
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