BBC 4 on Monday had a documentary called Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa. Having complained two days ago
about bloated TV programmes, this was 90 minutes long and compelling
throughout. The main story concerned a priest who abused boys at
a USA school for the deaf over decades and the local hierarchy's abject
failures to deal with what they knew about. The role of the
Vatican was also examined and not least that of popes and in particular
Cardinal Ratzinger as pope and before his elevation. Review of the film.
29 June 2013 ~ AOL - America Off Line
I was not surpised to find after a little Googling that AOL has a poor reputation. A Which?
survey in 2012 found that 58% of its customers had experienced a
problem in the last year, making it joint-bottom with Orange. The
comments under the link provided suggest a number of AOL customers are
Further concerns are voiced in another article
posted 14 June 2013, including, "Millions of people use AOL email
services but many times AOL fans find themselves in between a rock and
a hard place when the mails do not reach the recipient, and the
received mails severely lack readability."
There is even a Wikipedia section called Criticism of AOL.
emails I have sent to AOL addresses have bounced
back. More than once this has inconvenienced the recipient as well as
me. It appears from the correspondence below that AOL are either
unwilling or lack the know-how to allow a genuine URL to escape their
The most recent message notifying of such failure to deliver included; Remote host said: 521 5.2.1 : (HVU:B2) http://postmaster.info.aol.com/errors/554hvub2.html
web page linked to says that HVU:B2 means, "There is at least one URL
or domain in your e-mail that is generating substantial complaints from
AOL members. Resolution will require opening a support request."
I submitted via an AOL web page a request for support, explaining that the URLs used as part of my signoff are genuine.
This message was acknowledged by an auto-email on 26 June. Then the following correspondence:
From: Deepti Sent: 28 June 2013 07:11
To: Paul Burns
Subject: AOL Postmaster Support Request #249109 Update
I am contacting you regarding the mail delivery issue
concerning a URL listed in your email. The domain (site50.net) listed in the
email is blocked for high complaints. If you are not the domain owner, either
remove the domain from your email or contact the domain owner and ask them to
Thank You, Deepti, AOL Postmaster
From: Paul Burns Sent: 28 June 2013 08:33 To: 'email@example.com'
Subject: RE: AOL Postmaster Support Request #249109 Update
Dear Deepti, Thanks for your reply. I understand you wish to protect your users from sites that pose a threat.
But AOL is using a sledge hammer where some finesse is called for.
site is not (site50.net), but (paulburns.site50.net/) It is quite
feasible for AOL to program its filters to allow my url to pass
unimpeded, as it does through other ISPs.
At the very least, AOL users should have the option of allowing through my emails.
AOL chooses not to provide a more suitable remedy, it seems my only
recourse is to use my influence, blog and websites to advise people
against using AOL.
From: Deepti Sent: 28 June 2013 08:43
To: Paul Burns
Subject: Re: FWAOL Postmaster Support Request #249109 Update
Hi Paul, I understand your domain is paulburns.site50.net
But the domain which is blocked is the sub domain
site50.net. Please have the domain owner contact us so we can look into it.
From: Paul Burns Sent: 28 June 2013 09:21 To: 'Deepti'
Subject: RE: FW AOL Postmaster Support Request #249109 Update
Hi Deepti, The website is provided free of charge. The
provider does not provide other services, such as the contact that you suggest.
Please provide an alternative route to being able to use
the Internet freely.
From: Deepti Sent: 28 June 2013 11:12 To: Paul Burns
Subject: Re: FW AOL Postmaster Support Request #249109 Update
Hi Paul, We have seen very high spam complaints from the domain
site50.net which is why the block. We will evaluate the situation and see what
best can be done.
As you might surmise from this piece, I don't hold out much hope.
28 June 2013 ~ Life and Death - Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum
loved this exhibition apart from the crowding that happened despite
apparent attempts to limit the numbers at any one time. The crush meant
frequently waiting a turn to see an item or read the accompanying text.
It would have helped if more of the texts were on larger cards and
mounted above head height. When people are asked to pay up to £15 to
enter, more thought about the flow of through the exhibition
The items displayed were touching, informative
and often amusing. Whereas Victorians kept ancient earthy items in
locked cupboards for a few scholars, today's public are trusted not to
faint or to be otherwise too shocked. Thus several hugely disportionate
phalluses are included and a statue
of Pan caught in the act with a nanny goat. There was also a
mention of how Romans might make love in the presence of slaves or
require the slaves to join in.
In Pan's defence, he had
cloven hoofs, fleece-covered legs and horns. Moreover, classical
deities often took the forms of animals for sexual purposes. Zeus, for
example, became a bull and a swan.
I find it
interesting that several modern countries, including GB, have used
Greece and Rome as models for and to justify empires. But the view
projected left out features of ancient empires that were less
acceptable to later sensibilities. The sheer brutality required to
dominate others was often glossed over.
21 June 2013 ~ Three Exhibitions on the Euston Road
This morning we started at an exhibition at the Welcome Trust, Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan.
We did not stop long as neither of us cared much for most of the items
on display. My feeling is, if a gallery wants to
exhibit self-taught artists and question the validity of the the
distinction between self-taught and those who have studied art, why not
use local artists? That way the viewers have more chance of
understanding social factors and could hear or what the artists have to
say without a translator.
I also would have preferred to
have seen an exhibition of the outstanding art produced by secondary
school students from London or the UK. Adolescents are also outsiders
when it comes to the art establishment and their skills can be
unrefined. However, almost every school has a number of students with
great talent. I am still delighted by two works I bought at an
exhibition twenty years ago by two secondary school students.
the end of 2011 Unison moved its headquarters to a complex on Euston
Road that consists of a pleasant enough ten-storey office block, the
former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and what a high-roofed
atrium between the two buildings. Part of the ground floor of the
hospital is now the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery,
a space that commemorates the founder of the hospital. The conservation
work of the space is to a high standard and the small exhibition
about the pioneer doctor and her achievements interesting.
Propaganda: Power and Persuasion
is at the British Library. Unfortunately it is in their “black hole”
gallery, which has no natural light and often low levels of
illumination. On a number of occasions I waited my turn to examine the
contents of glass case only to find the result spoiled by dimness. If
this is necessary for conservation reasons, then why not place above
the case a back-lit image of the contents, which could also be enlarged?
exhibition was very wide ranging, which of course limits depth. One of
my favourite items was a plasma screen featuring a silent movie from
the early 1930s, I think, extolling at a snail’s pace the joys of
Australian Wine. Not quite as funny as Monty Python’s take on the subject, but fascinating to see how people were experimenting with a new medium for advertising.
spent a few minutes browsing in the shop just outside the exhibition.
How pleasant it was to see books with posters and other illustrations
under ample lighting.
15 June 2013 ~ Soldaten: On fighting, killing and dying & David Larder’s Letter
Larder wrote to The Guardian on Monday 10 June with an account of his
experience 60 years ago as a 19 year-old officer in the British in
Kenya. His letter includes.
am delighted that the government has given some token compensation for
Kenyans who suffered torture). I still suffer from memories of the
British apartheid system there and numerous instances of arbitrary
killing and brutality by British forces, Kenya police and Kenyan
African Rifles. In reality we protected land-grabbing British farmers
and enriched UK companies.
He goes on to report atrocities he took part in until sickened by the brutality he left the army.
As it happened, I was part way through Soldaten by
the time I read Larder’s letter. This book is based on secret
recordings of German POWs during World War II. A treasure trove of
transcripts was discovered in 2001 by Sönke Neitzel, a German
historian. What makes the book far more interesting is that Neitzel
co-authored it with Harald Welzer, a sociologist and social
psychologist. Much of the work seeks to understand how the servicemen
interpreted the world and events they found themselves in. And without
trying to minimize in any way the horrors committed by Nazi and
non-Nazi Germans, the authors reflect on wider events including the
Vietnam War and the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
is not mentioned, but it often came to mind. How could troops who ten
years earlier had learned of the holocaust and celebrated the execution
of Germans for war crimes engage in their own bestial campaign of
provides some of the answers. It is a difficult book to read in terms
of the frequency with which nightmarish events appear and the way
descriptions of them seem to slip off the tongues of the POWs as if
they were discussing football. But the work is well written and deserves to
become a classic along with such books as If This is Man and Eichmann in Jerusalem.
13 June 2013 ~ Catholic Clergy and Sexual Abuse in New Zealand
of the documentary's many interesting reports was of anger among the Irish bishops
after the Vatican blamed their lack of leadership for the many scandals
when in fact they were following the prescriptions of Rome regarding the handling of sexual abuse to the
letter. Two former US priests appeared who were highly critical of the church. Richard Sipe
has studied sexuality among the clergy and long ago had tried to warn and
prepare the church to tackle sexual abuse of children by its clergy. A report
written by Sipes states, "...by 1976 Dr. Bartemeier and I were
able to estimate that 6% of all Catholic priests and religious involved
themselves with minors. If we could know, I believe the bishops knew as
Patrick J. Wall
spoke of working as a sexual abuse "fixer" for a diocese, but gave up
when he realized the church was not interested in protecting
Father Thomas Doyle,
who warned the Catholic hierarchy of the seriousness of sexual abuse
within the church 30 years ago, spoke of regularly appearing as an
expert witness to help abuse survivors. He regards such work as helping
the church because the people and not the ordained are the church.
and I had recorded the programme and watched
it last night. It made me curious about sexual abuse by the clergy in
New Zealand and in particular by the Marist order. I have long been
aware of the stories of sexual abuse by the clergy in the UK,
Ireland, the USA and Australia, but what about where I went to
school between the ages of 10 and 17?
I attended a school
run by the Society of Mary (Marist) Brothers (clergy who are not
ordained) in Thorndon, a part of central Wellington, after my
arrived in New Zealand in 1960. Fortunately, I was only there for a few
weeks before we moved to a suburb. The school frightened me. It bore no
resemblance to the Catholic primary that I had attended in
England, which was well resourced, in a modern building and had a sense
of order that boosted my learning. The brother teaching my class had
little control other
than through much use of corporal punishment and the boys seemed to
pick up and replicate the violence more than learning. The school
I then went to, Petone Convent, was strict, but far from chaotic.
I did well in the two years spent there thanks to its nuns.
the sisters taught a little too well. It was my misfortune to win a
scholarship to New Zealand's oldest Catholic secondary school, St
Patrick's College in Wellington, rather than following my older brother
to the local state secondary. (My younger two brothers also went
to state secondary schools.) I have few good memories of St Pat's. Bullying
was commonplace and many of the teachers unqualified if not unsuited to
teaching. Few had attended a teacher training college. I was taught by two of the three lay teachers and found them
competent. The other teachers were Marist priests. One, a maths teacher
was exceptionally well qualified and enthusiastic. But a number
of the teachers had gone from school to seminary to teaching.
Despite a daily class in Christian Doctrine, I was
an atheist by the time I left after four years. Rather than continue in
the upper-sixth to get funding for university study, I worked for two
years to put myself through university.
Among the St Pat's staff while I attended between 1963 and 1966 was Father Fred Bliss.
St Pat's had been a
boarding school. Long before I arrived the boarding part became a
separate school twenty miles away, called St Patrick's Silverstream
after the suburb of that name. Most
of the Silverstream staff were Marist priests during the 1960s and 1970s.
What I found on line last night was that a priest called Alan Woodcock, ordained
in 1972, had abused students at Silverstream and been allowed to
continue teaching there by Father Bliss. I have summarised the details
below based mostly on on Source A Source B Source C
Source D Source E Source F and Source G.
many of the newspaper accounts relevant to Woodcock that are no longer
available from publishers have been posted on line by the Peter Ellis website, which I recommend to anyone seeking information about sexual abuse of children in NZ.
avoid any misunderstanding, let me make clear here that my issues with
Woodcock have nothing to do with him being gay. The issues that concern
me are paedophilia, abuse of positions of trust and the
mishandling of Woodcock as a sexual abuser by clergy in positions of leadership.
Woodcock was ordained as a Marist priest in 1972. His first known act of
sexual abuse occurred in 1978. The boy was in the fourth form
(age c. 15) at St John's College, Hastings, which was a Marist Father's school at the time. Woodcock enticed the boy
to come with him in his car to choose a location for a school trip. The priest removed the belt from the boy's pants and pulled
them down. However, the boy complained, telling him to stop. The boy
never said a word about the incident at the time, and Woodcock continued to be a
teacher, albeit a mediocre one.
A 1979 report by another
priest described Woodcock's teaching ability at St John's as
"rather undistinguished ..."The opinion of the staff was that he had
much to give but lacked in confidence and the ability to organise
himself." Despite his ability as a musician and composer, "even
in this area he was disappointing".
help Woodcock improve his skills, he was posted to Christchurch in 1979
and enrolled at university to study music.
One might well ask why the
university rather than teacher training as he already had expertise in
music and was a lousy teacher?
then aged 31, picked up a
17-year-old youth in Cathedral Square and offered him a ride home.
Instead, he took him to Canterbury University's chaplaincy's
residence and indecently assaulted him. The police became
involved. Woodcock was convicted
and given a suspended sentence. Woodcock's
counsel told the court there was a psychiatric background to the
offence and succeeded in getting the court to suppress his client's
name, but not his occupation.
show the church knew of Woodcock's court case. The Society of Mary's then
Provincial (leader in NZ), Father Delaney, wrote to the
court offering church support for Woodcock.
years later, by which time Woodcock's history of abuse as a paedophile
as a Marist teacher was long established, a lawyer for the victim
of the assault said, "We would have thought that addressing the needs
of the victim ... would be a priority but ... our dealings with the
society (the Marists) seem to be treated as an annoyance... We
find it unacceptable ... for a victim to have to wait two years and for
the victim to have to... continually push the issue."
year after the sexual assault, 1980, Woodcock was moved to Wellington, where he was appointed to
a parish church and attended university to complete his music
At the end of 1981, he was appointed to St Patrick's College in
Silverstream. While there, he abused several boys, enticing them to his
bedroom with cigarettes, pretending friendship and concern. Reports refer to oral sex, masturbation, fondling and groping. Students called him Penis Radiata.
assume this is a pun derived from Woodcock's surname and pinus radiata,
one the most common trees in NZ. Latin was taught at the school and the
boys would have known that in this language pinus is pronounced
However, boys at the school also ostracised those they though had been molested by Woodcock. Karl du Fresne,
a journalist and St Pat's Silverstream old boy, who spoke highly of
the school in general described the climate he thinks assisted
St Pat's had a fatal flaw, it was that it could be cruel and
unsympathetic to loners and outsiders. Any boy suspected of homosexual
inclinations, for instance, was likely to be subjected to merciless
taunting. In such an environment, it's easy to see how someone like
Woodcock could identify potential victims. Lonely and vulnerable
juveniles naturally attract the attention of paedophiles. Not only are
they are likely to be grateful for any friendly interest shown in them,
but they are less inclined to seek help when things turn nasty. To
complain to someone else would deprive them of the one source of
apparent kindness in their lives. To dob in the abuser would also risk
even greater alienation from their fellow pupils, especially in an
environment fiercely intolerant of homosexuality."
of his victims complained in 1982 to then college rector, Father
Curtain. Reports in 2004 suggest there were several complaints to the
college. A report in 2002 speaks of "three complaints". Another
says, "When some of the victims did complain, the school head, Father
... Curtain, said he would investigate, but they [students] were instead
confronted by Woodcock."
A confidential memo on August 22 1982 by Father Curtain to Father
Bliss, the Provincial at that time, outlined the actions taken by the church
and school after the complaint.
The memo said that Woodcock had put "the
name, reputation and future of the school in serious jeopardy".
Note that in NZ, August is midway through the school year
and that Bliss has been the rector of Silverstream between 1974 and
Curtain wrote of being placed in an invidious position when
dealing with certain boys. "My hands were tied. Thus, in a recent
stealing inquiry, if I had judged that one boy (who had stolen and
lied) merited expulsion, I could not have done so for fear of the
consequences. One other boy told me that he had already spoken to his
parents about certain alleged indiscretions that had taken place with
Curtain went on to outline "certain
precautions" that Woodcock had to take. These included: leaving the
door to his bedroom open if a boy needed to see him, "unless the visit
is of a confessional nature or a similarly private matter". Before the
rules were imposed, though, Woodcock had dealings with another boy, a
15-year-old sent to him for counselling!
Why he was allowed to
have any boy in his room after the allegations at Silverstream became
known and in the light of his court case has never, as far as I can tell, been explained.
Father Curtain also wrote to the Bliss, "Finally, I suggested that, to cover any possible eventuality, he should make immediate moves to acquire a passport."
an interview with police in 1995, Father Curtain said Woodcock's antics
came to his attention after a complaint from a boy. "I
rang the provincial (Bliss) and said that, true or not, the allegations
meant that Alan Woodcock should be moved. The provincial said that he
would shift him."
But Woodcock was allowed to complete
the 1982 school year at Silverstream.
by the authorities why the complaint was never followed up, Father Curtain
said: "I suppose there were two reasons. There was a different climate
of opinion in those days, (we) didn't expect those things to happen,
and whether the allegations were true or false, action had been taken
by shifting him and giving him the guidelines".
how Curtain was prepared to expel a student for stealing and
lying, but the order were far more lenient with a paedophile priest.
1983, Woodcock was appointed to Highden Novitiate, near Palmerston
North, a Marist-run centre for young men considering the priesthood.
many of the postulants would have come straight from
Woodcock was transferred to protect his name, Father Curtain replied:
"Ahhh . . . yes". The direction to get a passport "would have been the
normal course in those days to take; if we wanted someone to get
counselling or help in this area . . . the places to go for counselling
were overseas," he told police.
a letter advising Woodcock of his new appointment, Father Bliss said he
hoped Woodcock would take the opportunity to seek "that specialist help
in Palmerston North that you need". He then thanked him for the
contribution he had made to Silverstream.
Silverstream school yearbook ran a glowing tribute. "Father Woodcock's
stay at Silverstream has proved all too short... He quickly established
himself as a friend and confidant to those boys with an interest in
music and others who came to recognise and appreciate his availability
and sympathetic approach."
Imagine how the abused boys and the parents who knew of the crimes felt reading that.
Highden, Woodcock continued to offend, revisiting boys he had abused or
met at Silverstream. In 1984, the church moved him to Futuna, a Marist run
retreat centre in Karori.
Futuna offered retreats for a range of
groups. There is no reason to believe Woodcock would never have
encountered young men if not boys there. And as Karori is a suburb of
Wellington, he would have found it easy to travel by public
transport to see at least day students or former day students
At Futuna, Woodcock befriended a teenage
boy and his parents. Woodcock became a regular guest at the family's
home. The boy's parents noticed a dramatic change in their son, and
eventually he disclosed that Woodcock had sexually abused him.
1985, Woodcock was sent back to Highden. The next year, in
February 1986, Woodcock was sent to Sydney for counselling to
help him cope with his homosexuality and associated depression. After
almost 12 months of treatment, he returned to New Zealand in December
of that year and went back to Futuna. There he developed
relationships with two 16-year-old boys who worked as volunteers at the
During the year, the boys' parents approached the
order's new Provincial, Father Connolly, and said Woodcock had
abused their sons.
According to Father Duckworth in 2002
speaking as the then new Provincial, the father of one of the
boys and a friend of the boy's family told Father Connolly they did not
want to see Woodcock again. "The friend of the father said, 'Do you
understand what he means, Father [Connolly]? We want him out of the
country'," said Father Duckworth.
Father Connolly decided
the best place for Woodcock was a psychotherapy
programme in Ireland and he sent him there and told him he would
never again exercise ministry. Woodcock was banned from practicing ministry in 1987 after even more allegations arose.
arrived in Ireland in 1988 and worked with a specialist
priest counsellor. Woodcock lived with fellow Marists to begin with and did voluntary work with drug addicts
Why allow him access to such a vulnerable group!?!
1990, he moved to London and took a job as a crisis intervention
counsellor for passengers and staff at Heathrow Airport.
At the time of his arrest in the UK he was a practice teacher for
1994, a former Silverstream student, Terry Carter laid a
complaint with the NZ
police about Woodcock. The year after that, another old boy of the
college came forward, complaining that Woodcock had abused him in 1982.
Woodcock refused a request by Interpol for an interview about the
complaints and the matter was left till Mr Carter settled a
six-year civil court case with the church. Publicity
surrounding the settlement in 2002 brought forward more Woodcock victims and
police sought to extradite him from London. Woodcock fought extradition and delayed it for almost 18 months.
He told the
High Court in London: "I do not see how I can defend myself against
allegations that are so old. I have little recollection of dates and
times going back that far. I am not even able to recollect some of the
persons referred to . . ."
Woodcock pleaded guilty in Wellington in May 2004 to 21
charges of abusing 11 boys between 1978 and 1987 when he was teaching
at St John's, Silverstream and Highden and while holding a post
The policeman in charge of
the case, Detective Sergeant Murray Porter, said, though many of
Woodcock's victims have come forward, he believed there are many more
who had not. It was unlikely that the full extent of Woodcock's
offending would ever be revealed.
The Society of Mary had settled with 10 or Woodcock's known victims by 2004.
2004, Terry Carter called on the police to pursue anyone who knew about
the offending but did not stop it or report it. Asked in the same year whether anyone
else might be charged, Detective Sergeant Porter said the
authorities would be reviewing the file shortly.
It appears no further action was taken.
Carter went to the media in 1994 the church consulted a senior New Zealand
judge, Peter Trapski who was a Silverstream old boy and trustee. In a 1994 church document, Judge Trapski is
reported to have advised the church to place "confidential material"
about Woodcock into his employment file but within a separate envelope
labeled secret. Trapski told the church he believed it would be
restricted in responding to the media allegations by a 1979 suppression
order on Woodcock's conviction for sexual assault.
Trapski received a papal knighthood from the Vatican in 1995.
Karl du Frense described Trapski's tole thus.
when the church seeks help in its clumsy efforts to minimise the
damage, it screws up. In the case of Woodcock, the church apparently
sought the advice of staunch Catholic layman and former St Pat's pupil
Peter Trapski, a former chief District Court judge and member of the
Waitangi Tribunal. But it seems Mr Trapski's own judgment may have been
sadly clouded by feelings of loyalty to church and school.
main concern, judging by what has been reported, seems to have been to
minimise the harm to the school. A more detached adviser might have
been less inclined to pussyfoot around.
2002, Terry Carter was scathing about the Society of Mary's handling of
his complaints laid several years earlier over abuse that took place
while he was a schoolboy at Silverstream.
Carter says he was
terrorised and repeatedly caned by one priest at the school and was
sent for counselling to Woodcock. When Carter first approached the
Society of Mary "they flatly denied everything" He took them to
court and spent NZ$20,000 on legal fees. They settled with him by paying
Carter was still bitter in 2002. "They
are the last people that should be organising their own investigation,
because they're the people doing it and covering it up. There's
cover-ups on the cover-ups. They've lied the whole way through the
I can find no evidence on line that those who hid
Woodcock's crimes and provided the paedophile with further
opportunities to use his status as a priest and a teacher to abuse have faced charges or made public apologies as
Woodcock was paroled in 2009.
has been a professor of ecumenical theology since 1992 at the
Angelicum Pontifical University
in Rome, where he also obtained his doctorate. Part of Angelicum's work
is preparing men for the priesthood. As Bliss became a
professor, it appears his career has not suffered as a result of
the way he knowingly exposed boys to the risk of abuse by
Compare the handling of Woodcock with the work of Father Maurice Crocker in Australia. In 1993, Crocker ensured that abuse by fellow clergy was dealt with.
Marist Bothers in Australia have had a similar scandal to that launched by
Woodcock. Brother Kostka, a prolific sexual offender, was allowed
to remain at Marist College in Canberra for six years after the
first complaint to the headmaster in 1986. Source
|Fred Bliss SM |
The image appears in The Marist Messenger March 2013
The Marist Messenger is a "national devotional magazine, published by the New Zealand Province of the Society of Mary".
went last night to hear Claire Tomalin on the relationship between
Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria, a talk given as part of the London Literature Festival
at the Southbank. Tomalin is an excellent writer, but her presenting
skills are not of the same order. Let's say she's an adequate
public speaker. The hour she spent at the lectern and then seated to
answer questions left me wishing I had spent the evening reading
one of her many books. Partly it was the topic. There was not really a
lot to say, as the queen and the author met only once and the rest of
the documentary evidence is slim pickings. Not even the questions
asked produced much excitement.
harvested the first of her 2013 lettuces and served it in a salad
for lunch. Some salad was left over and put to one side. As I was
clearing up I noticed a green caterpillar struggling to climb out of
the salad bowl. The oil in the dressing made climbing harder and
I imagine the vinegar was no more welcome.
In 2002, the Catholic Church in New Zealand acknowledged the following payouts to victims of sexual abuse by priests and brothers. I
reckon we have received in the last four years about fifty letters from
Virgin Media inviting us to subscribe to their services. I returned
several unopened envelopes to sender to begin with; making clear we
were not interested. Then we opted out of Royal Spam, what I call the
Royal Mail's junk mail service. This appears to have made no difference
to the deluge from Virgin. Anything marked Virgin now goes into the bin
unopened. Nor does registering with Mail Preference Service appear to make any difference.
Marist priests - $110,000 in total to five people who alleged they had been abused by three priests.
Marist Brothers - $140,000
to victims of five brothers, including $50,000 to two victims of
Brother Bryan McKay, former principal of Marist Intermediate School in
John of God Brothers - $300,000 paid out to five people who made
allegations against four brothers, none of whom remain active in the
order. One of the brothers, who is retired, strongly denies the
allegations against him. Another, Brother Kevin McGrath, served prison
sentences in New Zealand and Australia for sexual abuse. The other two
a Marist brother was jailed in
New Zealand for sexual offences in the 1970s involving his students at
a boarding school.
11 June 2013 ~ Virgin Media - Junk Mailers Extrordinaire
week one letter from Virgin arrived yesterday and another today. The
envelopes were of a different size and colour and one had our address
while the other was merely addressed to "The Householder".
understand companies wish to market, but Virgin Media are acting
irresponsibly. Not only is the paper wasted excessive, they damage the
We have no interest in adding to the dozens
of TV channels already available for free. In any case, most paid for
packages involve sports and blockbuster movies, neither of which
I recognize that selling TV is a tough
proposition. There are so many channels and when people do watch
programmes with advertising they will often record and skip the ads, a
practice that advertisers must be aware of and take into account when
selecting media and working out costs. I guess one of the attractions
of sport to businesses is that many people prefer to watch it live.
record most programmes that I watch to avoid the flannel that takes up
the first 2 to 4 minutes and skip less interesting parts. Far too many
programmes take twice as long as they need to. Is there a market
for a TV Digest channel? One were the fluff is edited out
to help the viewer make better us of time?
7 June 2013 ~ Lettuce Eat Caterpillars
I took the
critter outside and placed him on a foxglove well away from the
lettuce bed. This evening I finished the salad. Sue
declined to have any more of it.
3 June 2013 ~ Claire Tomalin on Chas & Vicky
The most amusing discovery
for me was hearing that Dickens had been in love with the young
Victoria to the point of rolling in the mud outside a palace window. He
wrote about this in a letter at the time. I wonder if he was poking fun
at the public's swooning at the feet of their new monarch, especially
as Tomalin later presented much evidence of his republican sympathiesThis
novel won the Booksellers' Association Independent Booksellers' Book
Prize in 2008. Based on that I took a copy from the library last year.
To what extent was the evening's topic determined by likely ticket sales?
If so, it failed, as the Purcell Room had many empty seats.
My preference would have been to hear Tomalin talk about The Invisible Woman,
Nelly Ternan, who became the mistress of Dickens towards the end of his
life. This is a great book with Tomalin's usual combination of scholarship
and readability and the topic has a lot more to say about Victorian
society than the non-relationship between Chas and Vicky.
Tomalin said last night that The Invisible Woman is coming out shortly as a film. Unfortunately, she added it had been produced as a love story.
1 June 2013 ~ Notes from An Exhibition by Patrick Gale
I gave up on page 3 after encountering a sentence that contained it
four times and which could have been written more elegantly with
fewer words. I felt that if this was the standard of writing in
the first few pages, why invest time in the rest?
others in my book club who had read the novel were keen to discuss, it
was the text for today's meeting. Three people who had read Notes from An Exhibition before
said they were disappointed with it second time around. My guess is
this has more to do with the style of writing than with the plot,
settings, characters or themes; all of which are
strengths. Patrick Gale also has some wonderful figurative
language, such as:
"He was always the same, the unchanging pavement under Rachel's weather."I
see the novel's weakness as the way the third person narrative is used.
There are too many potted character histories where the
sense of immediacy is lost through over-use of telling as opposed
to showing. (If these terms are new to you - see explanation.)
there are several places where the reader has to guess if the point of
view belongs to the narrator or one of the characters.
paperback version I have (Harper Perennial, London 2008) contains
several errors that should have been picked up by editorial staff.
After all, the book's recommended price is £7.99. The
mistakes also make me wonder to what extent Patrick Gale revises what
he has written.
“She washed her face, cleaned her teeth, tugged a brush through her
hair and fastened it back in the clasp she had been wearing so many
years she took it, without even looking at it, from the place she
always left it overnight.” Awkward and not just from over-use of it.
“They had exchanged letters. Garfield wrote to Simeon Sheperd
initially, attaching a photocopy of Rachel's letter, explaining that
Rachel had recently died and that he desired nothing but to meet.” and
following. Unnecessary ambiguity from use of they at start of chapter. Odd use of tenses & use of initially.
P117 “An enormous off-white cat glared from discomfitingly yellow eyes on a blanket covered chair in the corner.” Adverb used as adjective.
“She wore a double rope of plump pearls; her husband was busy to
some purpose. Garfield was a bad judge of age but placed her on the
kinder side of fifty but the other side of motherhood.” Two parts of first sentenced are not linked, as suggested by the semi-colon. Awkward use of two buts in second sentence.
“She was not above simply taking his neighbour’s seat when they left
for the room for a minute and laughing off any objections.” Singular becomes plural.
P238 “It was almost as if Mom needed this one of each thing to make her life complete.” ???
P241 “Joanie had never dated anyone, or not for long enough for it to be serious.” Why use never?
Perhaps the booksellers who awarded the prize were influenced to some extent by the sales figures?