Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Being blessed at Mass. Or not.

The religiously oriented may be aware that this is the season of Lent.  I think I said in a recent post that I tried to give up profanity for this season. You may guess how long I lasted.  So instead I'm taking advantage of my proximity to churches at work and at my digs and instead going to Mass three times a week, and making a particular effort to absorb the readings and draw meaning from them.

It's been some time since I've received communion at Mass.  I'm civilly divorced.  However, I've never been shown any reason why the Church's teaching on marriage is unsound:
The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.  Between the baptized, "a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death." [Catechism, para. 2382]
Ergo, whatever the court had to say on the matter, the marriage between the ex and I remains on foot.  So what happens if I were to remarry?  Well, such a marriage is "an objectively adulterous union that prevents [a person] from honestly repenting, receiving absolution for their sins, and receiving Holy Communion".  Now, I haven't fallen foul of that rule.  What I can't do, though, is say confidently that I'll never remarry (or indeed, repartner).  Certainly the idea has crossed my mind a few times in one context and another.  I'm not over-scrupulous (trust me), but it seems to me that if you're open to repartnering, then the only thing that stops you from falling into adultery is lack of opportunity.  A legalist might say that this still allows one to receive absolution and communion it still smells like a cheat.

(I'm consciously not going to discuss the sacramental bun-fight surrounding Amoris Laetitia; save to note that while the Holy Father might allow some scope for individual circumstances, I don't feel it would be "right for me" to take advantage of this).
Image result for communion line catholic
Harsh but funny! (Image from here)
Since I don't think I can decently take communion, what I've been doing is lining up, crossing my arms across my chest, and receiving blessing.  However, this seems to be in doubt as well.  The Vatican's "Congregation for Divine Worship" leans hard against the practice in paragraphs 4 and 5 of this letter on the reasonable grounds that -
... there are some who should neither approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those mentioned in canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, such as those under the penalty of excommunication and those persisting in manifest grave sin. Giving a blessing to these persons might give the impression that they are in full communion with the Church or have returned to good standing.
On the other hand, the website www.catholic.com (hardly a hotbed of liberalism) considers the matter a local one, observing that
... Pope St. John Paul II gave a child a blessing after giving the child's mother Communion during a televised Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on October 19, 2003. And there is no Church norm prohibiting a priest or deacon from similar blessings.
On balance, I think I'll be staying in the pew during communion from this point.  Not doing so seems like the dodging of rules that I was trying to avoid in the first place.

Now, I haven't posted this to attract pity, or to be reasoned out of the position I've reasoned myself into.  Certainly I think I'm on good ground.  Supremely this seems like a matter of personal (or at any rate local) discernment.  But I'm throwing it to you to ask: what do you think is right and rational in such a case?

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Barre, daughters ... and Frogger?

My first full day in the new place has not been uneventful.

I started the day about 0800, rousting myself out of bead and downing a little cereal.  The first item on the agenda was a barre cardio class I'd booked at the Barre Body studio in Fitzroy.  Regular readers will remember that I was pretty impressed with this as a mode of exercise when I tried it the other week.  When spliced with a cardio workout, it becomes something quite remarkable.  Actually, "remarkable" isn't the right adjective.  "Ferocious" gets closer to the sense.

The studio is at Fitzroy, on the third floor of a building.  The floor in question seems to have been residential, or perhaps an office, at one stage in its life: there's a fireplace in situ. The floor is timber and the roof trusses are exposed.  In short, it's a pretty stunning space to train in.

Barre Body studio at 175 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (Image from here)

Fairly predictably, I was the only man in the class.  This wasn't a concern for me or the other attendees, because once the class got underway, ogling was the last thing on my mind.  Or if it was on my mind, it was way down the list behind not falling over, not throwing up from exertion, trying to fit a swig of water in, and wiping off the Mississippi-worth of perspiration pouring out of me.  Am I exaggerating?  No.  This class was at the very outside of my physical endurance, and I flatter myself that I'm in pretty good shape.

The class started off with vigorously flexing and lifting a light exercise ball, and then repeated the same movements with a pair of two kilo dumbbells.  Each section of the workout was interspersed with "mountain climbing" type steps in the plank position.  We moved on to working legs and arms against the resistance band, in a way that challenged both one's endurance and balance.  When I say that i was striving not to throw up, I'm not speaking figuratively: the exertion involved really did have me looking at the open window in case disaster struck!  When the workout moved into the "cool down" phase of gentle yoga poses my hair was drenched with sweat and my water bottle was empty.  I left the studio feeling like I'd been the subject of a savage beating.

Can I recommend the cardio incarnation of barre?  Absolutely and unequivocally.  I can run any distance you care to name, up to and including marathon.  My physical endurance isn't in issue.  But this workout is as close as I've ever gone to raising the white flag.  Anything that can administer a caning like that will raise your fitness stratospherically.  Me?  I'll be back for sure.

Class times at Fitzroy can be found here.  Casual classes are $25.00 each.

After I left the studio I headed back to my digs.  I'd arranged to facetime with Grace and Rachel this afternoon (my time) before they went to bed (their time).  They were of course as adorable as ever.  A couple of things struck me particularly though.  The first question from Rachel was when I was coming to see them. They seemed really excited that I'd come to see them this year. She said that her best friend Emma is "dying to meet me" and is apparently happier since Rachel told her I'll come visit.  Later in the facetime, I think it was R who was drawing a picture of owls (using a Sharpie on white paper, much to their mother's chagrin!).  When she showed it to me, she explained that the big owl was daddy (i.e. me). The next biggest was mommy. And the small ones were Rachel and Grace. She drew us all together, as a family.   I know they're not unhappy or poorly looked after.  The ex is a great mother - the best - and she's alos a genuinely decent person. But it's as if both Grace and Rachel still want all the pieces of their family together.  That said, they weren't sentimental about winding up our conversation!  The conversation ran roughly like this -
Rachel: "Dad, is it ok if we hang up so we can watch something on the iPad?".
Me: "well, sure if..."
Grace: "thanks Dad love you <click as she hung up>"
Clearly they're going to be strong women who know what they want!  And for that, the ex deserves all the credit.

Skype completed, I made a phone call to the nearest SES Unit to Brunswick and arranged to train with them tomorrow night, so that's another part of my life set in order.  I also set out my meal plan for the week.  This had two advantages.  Firstly, it was reassuring to note that I probably won't need to buy extra food this week.  Secondly, what I have on hand is amply healthy for my purposes.

The next item on the agenda for me was a run.  Five years ago I ran in this area a lot when I lived a few streets away.  The experience hadn't changed: it still felt like playing human Frogger as I dodged pedestrians, cars and obstacles.  I found myself switching back automatically to looking for where the cars would come from, to looking for movement rather than objects, and to running on the road where that was the lesser of two evils.  It was a good way to knock over ten kilometres!

And now?  I've watched an archaeology program on SBS, planned the week ahead and had a shave and shower.  I've written up this post.  Now all that's left is to lay out my suit and whatnot for the morning and look forward to another week of lawyering ahead.  Definitely something to look forward to!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Drunk, and north of the Yarra

Hi everyone,

Here I am again: living in a share house in Brunswick just off of Nicholson Street.  It's been a very big week since I shared my last post.  Heavens to Murgatroyd: it feels like I have a world of details to share.  The pictures may or may not be embeds, by the way: I'm back to using my superannuated laptop which is refusing to accept pictures from my phone.

I'm a personal injuries lawyer again.  I'm working for a firm on Queen Street opposite the old Land Titles Office.  I like it.  The work feels like I was never away and the people seem like good sorts.  The office is barely a block from the place where I was an Articled Clerk.

For the last week I've been staying at Second Oldest Sister's place in the mid-southeastern suburbs of Melbourne.  That was good, of course, but it's always a little curious living as a house guest.  In any case, today was move-in day, so I packed my toothbrush and whatnot and drove over the Yarra into Carlton, Fitzroy and then Brunswick, where I will be living for probably as long as this job lasts.  I appreciate that "as long as this job lasts" is a fairly grim way to measure time.  After the last few years, do you blame me?  The digs themselves are clean and spacious if a little spartan.  The one chair in my room is broken and there is no armchair (there may be a trip to the op shop in my future).  No matter.  This is a place to sleep and store my stuff.  Palatial it need not be.

No automatic alt text available.
I keep my sunhat, safety glasses and hi-vis clear to see. Do not forget who you are.

Image may contain: indoor

Well, I should have mentioned that I did bring one or two books with me.  When you like to read, it's what you do!

No automatic alt text available.
When you're a book geek, this is what you pack!

Longtime readers (as in, from back in the old "Joy of Sandwiches" days) may recall that I lived around here once before and I remembered that Our Lady Help of Christians is a singularly pretty church.  I went to vigil Mass there tonight and Praise God they do the Mass "straight" there.  That is, no electric guitars. No pop songs.  Just the regular service in its simplicity.  You need nothing more.  It's a quick walk away, so I've clearly found my parish for the duration.

A post shared by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

On which note, the office is also only a block away from St Francis' so I've been to lunchtime Mass twice this week as an observation for Lent (since my attempt to give up swearing lasted all of 30 minute)

And now?  I'm a little drunk (alert readers will have spotted the wine cask in one of the photos).  While I've been typing this I've been playing rock of the mid-to-late-1990s.  This wasn't one of the easier times in my life, but it was also one of the most promising. For my sins, I didn't know that at the time.

Now here I am, in 2018, with a failed marriage, a lot of jobs and 40 years of life behind me.  As I said in my last post, I'm liberated from "what people will think".  Now anything - perhaps literally anything - is possible.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Hitting the Barre

Hi everyone,

If we're connected on Facebook you may remember that I recently spent a few days down on the Mornington Peninsula.  I'd picked up some work as a landscaper's labourer.  That's the area I grew up in so it felt good to make a visit.  While I was there I pulled the trigger on one of the components of my 2018 reboot: try a barre class.

Yes, I hear what some among you are saying.  Why would a guy take a barre class?  Have you cashed in your Y chromosome?  And are you a little confused about which bathroom to use?  I don't care.  One of the few perks about turning 40 the other day is that I genuinely don't give a damn what people think about me.  Barre is for women.  So what?  After the last few years' experiences I have no reason to doubt my masculinity.

Image from here

The class I went to was "Barre Attack", run by Diana of Allegro Barre & Mat Pilates.  Barre Attack is described by its founder as
... a low impact, high intensity workout combining the best of ... standing pilates work, short cardio intervals, to dance moves in a ballet class. The class is accessible for everybody and all levels of fitness.
This sums it up pretty soundly, save that I also noticed quite a few yoga-inspired moves in there as well.

The class started out with a significant spell of leg work, with a focus on squats and movement rather than holding fixed positions.  It was at this point that I heard the only actual ballet term of the evening: "a wide second", which I was intrigued to note was the same basic posture as the "horse stance" that I remembred from a long-ago interest in Zen Do Kai karate.  The other thing I found myself remembering was the special world of pain involved in wide-legged squats and the furious shaking that sets into your thigh muscles.

This was followed by work with the theraband, repeatedly pumping the arms against resistance.  The theraband, I noted, offers less to fight against than the resistance band I usually use.  I didn't mind this.  I noted afterwards that my shoulders felt remarkably free after a day on the tools.  The workout also took in work on the core including planking and the standing forward fold from yoga.

Final assessment? Highly recommended.  This particular style of workout is ideally suited for men who are focussed on running and cycling.  They'll benefit from the emphasis on stretched, fluid musculature.  If your focus is more on weights, you'll find this a valuable activity for less intense days.  Allegro in particular would be an excellent place to attend: Diana's training style is welcoming and the class runs smoothly and on track. 

Where: 3/2 Torca Terrace, Mornington 3931
What: Casual attendance at a class is a very reasonable $20.00.

Friday, 9 February 2018

The best shows you're not watching

An oddish link popped up in my Facebook feed today, advising that a television series caled House Husbands is to be discontinued.  Apparently this is a Very Bad Thing, because it will be the bellwether for Ausralian TV being submerged beneath a tide of reality TV and American programming.  Or something.

I don't really have an opinion on the premise, or indeed about the program (I've never seen more than five minutes at a stretch and don't think it'd really be my cup of tea).  But I ask myself whether setting that much store by what happens in Televisionland is a good thing. 

Television drama, it seems to me, has the job of creating on your behalf the pictures that ordinarily form in your brain while reading a novel.  Well and good: it follows that both are decent ways to engage in the storytelling that is a decent whack of human behaviour (it also lets me enjoy things like Family Guy guilt free).

Image shamelessly stolen from here
It strikes me, though, that  both are still ways of experiencing something vicariously, and that's still not the best way to live.  Yes, you don't have to dash off to war as a substitute for reading Homage to Catalonia.  But isn't it better to learn culture by going and talking to people?  Doing things?  Or at least build experience by feeling the sun on your back?

Knocked off from here
Nobody needs to go full-Sideshow Bob here.  But, I think that if we lose too much sleep over local content in books or television or anything else, we're worrying about the wrong thing.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Forty years and twenty-five minutes

Hi everyone,

The clock has just ticked over to 0025 on 8 February 2018.

You know what this means?

I got through my entire 40th birthday without a message, greeting or remark.  I have four words to say about that:

Best. Damn. Birthday. Ever!!!

Image from here

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

[Book Review] Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven (MacMillan: London 2003)

Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven (MacMillan: London 2003)

I get a little nervous when I read a genuinely skillful writer covering the big issues of life.  A talented writer can make almost anything readable, but it takes a lot of mental integrity to make a subject interesting and not use the same talents to put forward an impressively persuasive reflection of one's biases.  George Orwell managed it, and so did Anthony DanielsAndrew Roberts probably missed the mark, and Arthur Bryant didn't even try.  This doubt is what made me read this book with a large pinch of salt.

Image from Amazon
 Krakauer is a formidably readable writer.  Under the Banner of Heaven covers three concurrent themes.  Its first theme is the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from the childhood of Joseph Smith to the late presidency of Brigham Young.  Its second theme is the experience and modern fortunes of the various polygamist Mormon splinter groups, particularly the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.  Its third (and most lurid) theme is the murder of Brenda and Erica Lafferty by their brothers-in-law/uncles Ron and Dan Lafferty.  The thesis is broadly this: the mainstream LDS Church's acceptance of the idea of ongoing Divine revelation is a fatal flaw.  It makes it possible for a church member claiming to have received a revelation to gather a following.  This has lead to the formation of splinter groups which are polygamous and sometimes wildly incesuous (occasionally paedophilic).  At the very far end, it enabled Ron Lafferty to claim that a revelation directed him and his brother to murder two people and plan the deaths of two others.

Ron and Dan Lafferty (Image from here)
The argument is plausible enough, as far as it goes, and Krakauer handles the intersecting narratives persuasively.  The problem is that the book comes to sound like an indictment of a significant whack of Christendom.  I'm reasonably sympathetic to any person who hears their church described in this way, after hearing the reactions of a good number of people to the Catholic Church after the Child Abuse Royal Commission.  One can imagine a Mormon seeing someone reading this book and wanting to tell them "no, no: please, you're getting the wrong picture of us". 


This book, then, is a problem.  The Lafferty murders are indisputably interesting to write about.  They also can't really be understood apart from their religious context.  But as readable as it is, one is left with the strong feeling that a great many good people are being done a disservice.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Giving things up

Hi everyone,

I'll start this post now (about 1415hrs) and cue it to go up later tonight.

I'm not sure where to start.  Well, first things first: I think I said the other day that I'd been let go from Goulburn Valley Signmakers, to my genuine relief if we're being honest.  How genuine was that relief?  I went to the blood bank the next day.  I discovered my heart rate had dropped from the 60ish beats per minute it's been at for months to a more acceptable 45bpm.  Clearly, that work was not for me on health grounds alone.

Regardless, a man must eat.  I sent off a few job applications but was bracing for an extended spell out of work broken only by the hope for a job at the cannery.  I went back to firing off job applications at random without much optimism.  And then last Wednesday I was rung at about 2000hrs and asked to come to an interview with a law firm in Melbourne on Friday last.  I dutifully booked a ticket on the train from Violet Town and headed off.

Violet Town Railway Station
(c) Stephen Tuck

I had a distinct feling that it was a waste of time and so I approached the interview with a distinct "who gives?" feeling.  It must have worked, because a few hours later I was rung and offered the job, at precisely the salary I'd suggested (which was, frankly, rather more than I think I'm actually worth).  I thanked him, asked if I could have the weekend to think it over, and agreed to call him today (Monday).

I spent most of Saturday weighing it up.  I'm sure you can guess what the factors were.  It boiled down simply to (a) not wanting to leave my parents without an extra set of hands versus (b) desperately wanting to be able to support my daughters properly and not limp week to week on on short term jobs and rag-ends of work.  Other details - not much wanting to move back to the city, not wanting to leave my SES and Red Cross units, missing the friends I've made up here - were the price of living.

In the end I decided that the situation with Mum and Dad was manageable enough and the benefits for Grace and Rachel strong enough (being able to pay their school fees, for one) to take the job.  I rang this morning and confirmed acceptance with no enthusiasm at all.  Since then I've arranged accomodation (premises in Brunswick) and looked up the SES Unit nearest to there.  And then I started looking at the fitness options that have appeared there while I've been way, and I'm finding that for the first time I almost feel excited by what lies ahead.  Well, maybe not quite excited.  I feel lonely AF right now.

I don't know if this is going to work out.  I have failed at so much in my life.  I have failed again and again and again and again.  Maybe, just this once, I won't fail.


Hi everyone,

I've decided to add my blog to Bloglovin in the hope of sharing with a broader audience, so if you're able to click the link and Follow my blog with Bloglovin, that'd be really nice of you!