Blog admin post January 2020

This blog admin post in January 2020 is not intended for public consumption but to check everything still functions on this old blog, inactive since 2015.  The blog replaced this blog five years ago.

If you are still receiving posts by email from this blog and are not signed up to email posts from please do so.  Happy New Year from the donkeys and from me!  Rubi Donkey Reviews the Decade.


Morris, Matilde, Aitana, Rubí and me (Christmas 2019 at El Parral.)



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Last post

Brother Lapin’s Pilgrimage ends here, on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, Saturday 15th August 2015.

The new blog Equus Asinus can be found at and I hope all regular readers will join me there: same donkeys and same host as usual, but a new and different format. Comments are now closed on this blog but it will remain intact at this address for the foreseeable future.

EquusAsinus blog 1st day

Rubi Morris Aitana & Matilde

Rubi Morris Matilde & Aitana

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Brother Lapin’s Pilgrimage

Brother Lapin’s Pilgrimage ceased operating at the domain name in July 2015.  Do not panic, faithful readers of the donkey blog: it continues on the new Equus Asinus blog:


Brother Lapin’s pilgrimage ran for five years. It began as a journey but has been, for a while now, about a settled life with donkeys.  The new blog which has the name “Equus Asinus” will reflect that and simply continue to celebrate the life with donkeys.  It will contain many old archived pages from here, so you can see old pics of the foals, videos etc, as available here.

Gareth Thomas

New Year 2014 Blog Awards

New Year 2014

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La Vida es Bella: life with donkeys

At the end of the first full week of the holidays, I can say with great confidence as I look around my house and the donkey field, I have completed absolutely none of the things on my list of Things to Do.  It is in fact the least completed list of Things to Do in the whole history of lists of Things to Do.  The donkeys have mostly accomplished very little either.

Matilde considering her list of Things to Do

Matilde considering her list of Things to Eat


Morris of Arabia

Morris has been going around dressed as Morris of Arabia for the past week, in tribute to the actor Omar Sharif who died recently, so the only thing on his list of Things to Do is cross the desert and take Aqaba from the Turks in a surprise attack. But this is all in his head. Rubí only thinks about lists of Things to Do on Tuesdays, so I haven’t asked her what her plans are today because it is Monday.

I don't do thinking on Mondays

I don’t do thinking on Mondays

Aitana has accomplished her list of Things to Do

Aitana has accomplished her list of Things to Do

The really busy donk is Aitana, who has not only drawn up a rather ambitious list of Things to Do, but she has done everything on the list already: 1. Tip up the wheelbarrow; 2. eat the broom handle; 3. kick the plastic watering can till it splits; 4. break two panels in the stable wall; 5. chew the garden hose in half; 6. break the new headcollar; 7. kick the farrier; 8. roll over in a pool of wee and end up muddy and stinking. All accomplished in record time. Well done, Aitana.

There were a few other things I was going to mention here…  the farrier’s visit, stable extension work, diet changes, etc. But no.  No more lists. Here’s the video.  Scenes from everyday life with donkeys. The start of the summer holidays 2015.  A love affair with equines.  They are so beautiful.  Finally I can stop “doing”, and just “be”, for a few weeks… Gracias a Dios.

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Pope Francis visits the donkey field, nearly

It was very nice on the first Monday of the holidays not to have to go to work. That was good enough, but it got much better when we found that the Pope was going to pay a visit. Somebody posted the Flight Radar tracking details for flight AZA4001 carrying Pope Francis back from his trip to South America. It was clear he was on a direct flight path towards Benidorm!

Pope plane 1

Naturally the donkeys were very excited about this and I had intended grooming them later in the day, so I quickly got all the brushes out and smartened them up. Matilde was particularly excited because she is the tallest of the four, so would have the best view. She was getting so excited that she bit my shoulder.

Matilde looks up towards the south west to see the Pope

Matilde looks up towards the south west to see the Pope

Unfortunately, just as I was sending out our exciting news of the visit by Pope Francis via Twitter, the plane changed course by a few degrees and headed out to sea somewhere around Alicante.

Pope plane 2

Bruvver Eccles was slightly premature, tweeting what the Pope might have said to journalists as they flew over the donkey field.


But what the Pope actually said at that moment was recorded by journalists.

Pope explains

Obviously, it is not every day that we get a visit from the Pope. Or indeed at all.  But life goes on under the fig tree, whatever.

Matilde under the fig tree

Update 21.00 13th July

Let us thank God for the safe return of Pope Francis from his 24,000 kilometre journey, which has been his ninth international voyage.

The encyclical Laudato Si presents some very clear arguments about carbon reduction. I hope we are all on message

The encyclical Laudato Si presents some very clear arguments about carbon reduction. I hope we are all on message

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Morris of Arabia

Actor Omar Sharif, best known for his roles in classic films Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, has died aged 83. Morris pays tribute.


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Brother Lapin blog is five years old

Due to the recent fifth birthday celebrations of a quite different sort of blog last weekend, I was reminded that this blog began five years ago this week. I wasn’t sure whether I particularly wanted to mark the occasion because the blog has become quite a different sort of place than it was at the beginning, when it was simply a blog about a journey, or a “piligriminage” as I called it on the first post. The blog was also about leaving England on a bicycle and the reasons for leaving. It was journal-keeping at a very difficult time.

Leaving Canterbury

Leaving Canterbury “Simply Inspirational” (?) in July 2010, with an overladen folding velocipede, heading for France

Three years earlier I had left my teaching post at the Archbishop’s CofE School in Canterbury to join the OFM Franciscan formation process, in an attempt to recover a religious vocation that had been dropped fifteen years earlier. Then I was in a seminary in Rome for a year. Then not in a seminary in Rome and attempting to get my teaching job back in Canterbury in 2010. At this point, in came [Enter stage left with a drumroll] the incompetent Big Brother British state with a CRB check that confused my computer records with someone born three days earlier, in Leigh-on-Sea instead of Westcliff-on-Sea, with exactly the same name and a drug smuggling conviction. Three months of misery and ruin followed while the muddle was slowly sorted out.

Perhaps I was not really ready to revisit all that stuff from five years ago?  I hesitated before marking the fifth birthday of this blog.  Then a mosquito sent by God woke me up at three o’clock this morning. After killing the Lord’s messenger, I made a cup of tea, then cautiously looked at the old blog posts from five years ago and I found that I was remarkably at peace with the chaos and pain of that time.  In fact I quite enjoyed reading the posts. So I decided to mark the fifth anniversary of my flight from England on the velocipede, and with it the fifth birthday of this blog.

Taize cross in Chateaudun

Taizé cross in Chateaudun on my “piligriminage”

It was a journey that led very quickly to a therapeutic encounter with Dalie the donkey in France, who sadly died earlier this year. Also it was a journey which started with despair but in a very short time led to redemption. A job offer in Spain took me into a totally different life than the one I had expected when I cast caution to the wind and left a good job in 2007 to place myself completely at the mercy of the Catholic vocations people, thus beginning a perilous three years that turned my life upside down. From my bleak experiences with the OFM Franciscans in Chilworth Friary and the crushingly oppressive power games of the Southwark Archdiocese and the Beda seminary in Rome, then the final stab in the back from the incompetent mechanisms of the computer state, I made my way to Eeyore’s Gloomy Place. I can’t remember where I saw it now, but somebody once quipped: I used to think a donkey was just a sad horse, then I was told it’s a totally different species.  When you’ve spent time with donkeys, there’s something very funny and very true about that, and the world of donkeys is sadly quite good fun.

phonetrs9jan 101

Rubí, Matilde, Morris and Aitana: I did in the end discover an unintended late vocation

So this has now become a blog about a life with donkeys in Spain. From time to time, I tend to “go off on one”, as with my recent posts about Pope Francis and climate change, or other themes that remind me the barbarians are no longer just battering at the gate, but running our civilisation (thanks to Patrick Reyntiens for introducing me to Alastair McIntyre); but whether this blog remains – or ever was – a Catholic blog, who am I to judge? Certainly it’s not intended to be pure and simple like some other Catholic blogs. The more “successful” posts on this blog in terms of numbers of visitors have been when I ventured off my usual territory, blogging on the daily routine of life with donkeys here, and entered more controversial topical arguments, such as the incidents when other bloggers have been bullied by authorities trying to shut them down or use their influence to stifle free speech.  In the case of Deacon Nick Donnelly in the diocese of Lancaster and more recently David Domet in Canada, bloggers have been disgracefully treated by bishops and priests, and I protested by removing the Vatican flag that I once displayed on this blog. But popularity measured in a few thousand hits over a couple of days, due to venturing off the normal territory of the donkey blog, always leaves me wondering what my small group of regular visitors make of it all.  The more “successful” posts in terms of visitors’ appreciative comments tend to be about the donkeys, and a life of dedication to the donkeys which they are inspired by and want to share in some way.

Rubí and Puig Campana

Rubí and Puig Campana

I’d like to thank everyone who has read and supported this blog during the past five years. All posts from 2010 can be seen in the archive in the sidebar. There will probably be much more straight focus on the donkeys and life in Finestrat from now on, and fewer flights of fancy into other areas of interest. Why?  Because all that stuff is going on a different blog (and no, not my geography blog either), so look out Bruvver Eccles for Climatology Pure & Simple, coming soon.*

*It won’t actually be called that, but inspired by Laudato Si’, it will celebrate the new  focus on the environment from an eco-liberationist Catholic Gramscian anti-globalist communitarian low carbon perspective.

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Pope Francesco’s Amazing Climate Theatre

Rubi TuesdayRubí donkey always does thinking on Tuesdays and she was pleased to receive an unofficial copy of the new recyclical by Pope Francis, which is embargoed and due for release on Thursday.  Obviously that would have been too late for Rubi’s thinking day and it would have meant waiting till next Tuesday to think about it, so a rather kind soul in Rome, Sandro Magister, managed to smuggle a copy out of the Vatican via Rorate Caeli just for Rubí to read on a Tuesday. 

morrisThe main obstacle was that Rubí doesn’t read Italian, so she had to rely on Morris to translate it for her.  Morris doesn’t do thinking on Tuesdays (or any days), so he took a little while to settle into the project, but after several hours, Rubí and her foal Morris have managed to review this long-inflated recyclical and save you the trouble of thinking about it yourself this Tuesday. 

Climate Theatre

It is a long while since I spent Tuesday doing thinking on climate change mysteries. I meant to spend this Tuesday doing thinking about the mysteries of straw; but since Signore Magister has smuggled a copy of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ out of the Vatican specially for me, I shall give it a go. Morris has addled his brain translating it from Italian into Spanish.  I am of course writing in English but I do my Tuesday thinking in Spanish unless there are too many flies, and then I just get fed up and I don’t do any thinking at all.  Until the following Tuesday.

Morris tells me the recyclical Laudato Si’ is subtitled: “Pope Francesco’s Amazing Climate Theatre,” and how appropriate this is. The recyclical provides fun for all the family: there’s something in the show for everyone: global warming enthusiasts, liberals, Buddhists, atheists, New Age hippies, greens, and everyone who enjoys those lovely pictures of Saint Francis surrounded by corgis, hummingbirds and My Little Pony, without asking awkward questions like, “What did Francis say about sin ?”

with seal

A typical example of the flourishing religious art inspired by the way Saint Francis conformed his heart to the Incarnation and professed his love for the Tradition of the Catholic Church and the Magisterium

At the heart of this recyclical is the popular image of Saint Francis surrounded by cuddly animals, and this is where we find the real theological and philosophical challenge of Laudato Si’. Indeed how much of this can any of us really take?



“I believe that Francis is the example for excellence of care for what is weak and an integral ecology, lived with joy and authenticity. It is the patron saint of all those who study and work in the field of ecology, loved by many who are not Christians.” [Laudato Si’, 10]

This seems a rather curious way for a pope to introduce Saint Francis. Yes, despite the unfortunate fact that many Catholics venerate Saint Francis and are inspired by his teachings on conformity to Jesus, papal authority, sin, fasting, and abstinence, that hasn’t totally damaged the image of the saint for non-Christians. His traditional Catholic spirituality can be easily ignored because there is a fun side to him!  The alternative-lifestyle Francis, the New Age Francis, the ashram Francis, the eco-warrior Francis: in fact there is whatever Francis you want. There is even the poor Pope Francis, smelling of the sheep and bravely riding along on a wounded institution, the poor Church, which can redeem itself in the world’s eyes by rebranding as a reformed and useful NGO.

1391653353-artist-portrays-pope-francis-leading-a-badly-damaged-church_3852205According to Pope Francis, global warming is caused by humanity. People like you reading this. People who should care more about shiny eyed animals.  “It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanism, and the variations of the orbit of the Earth, the solar cycle), but numerous scientific studies indicate that most of the global warming of recent decades is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others) issuing mainly from human activity.” [Laudato Si’, 23]

Mainly from human activity. There you have it: the clearest statement you could expect a pope to give, and entirely in conformity with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of whose members will be part of the official release ceremony for the recyclical on Thursday in Rome.  I am relieved to see that the recyclical stops short of mentioning the plight of polar bears (who are actually a flourishing species, if you trouble to read polar bear experts), but it nevertheless falls into the trap of trumpeting the “global warming” alarms with more evangelical zeal than even the IPCC dare. These days they have been much more cautious in the wording of their reports.

The recyclical enters the contentious area of energy sources, where the arguments remain confused and the economics uncertain. The emotional brush is broad and the language is simplistic:  “But many signs indicate that these effects may be worse and worse if we continue with current patterns of production and consumption. Therefore it has become urgent and compelling policy development in the coming years so that the emission of carbon dioxide and other heavily polluting gas is reduced drastically, for example, by replacing fossil fuels and developing renewable energy sources. In the world there is a small level of access to clean and renewable energy.” [Laudato Si’, 24]  The simple fact is that technologically deprived developing countries cannot become more advanced by moving directly to renewable energy, for it is entirely out of their economic range!  They could develop faster if they could be helped to use fossil fuels – e.g. gas and oil – instead of wood-fuel.  The carbon punishments of the eco fascists are condemning millions in less developed countries to poverty, poor health, and developmental stagnation.

It is quite surprising that the rather depressing sentiments of the pope regarding electronic communications did not get edited out before this stage. (Maybe they will have gone before the official release of the recyclical on Thursday?) “At the same time, the real relationships with others, with all the challenges that imply, tend to be replaced by a type of communication mediated by the Internet. This allows you to select or delete relations according to your will, and so it often generates a new type of artificial emotions, which have more to do with devices and screens than with people and nature. The current means allow us to communicate among ourselves and we share knowledge and affection. However, sometimes even prevent us from making direct contact with the anguish, with the tremor, with the joy of the other and with the complexity of his personal experience.” [Laudato Si’, 47]  There is an enormous lack of self-knowledge in these remarks, which seem to miss the enormous irony of the way this pontificate uses soundbites and particularly media images of this digital communications world to create the brand of the simple Bishop of Rome.  He tells us he never watches television and yet he is never off the television, to the point where we may be tempted like Father Jack to pick up the whiskey bottle and hurl it at the screen.

Papa Francesco and his donkeys

Papa Francesco and “his” donkeys

The anti-globalist rabble will be delighted that the pope then has a go at “the economic system” and again paints a depressing picture of a banking system out of control. “Meanwhile the economic powers continue to justify the current world system, in which prevail speculation and a search for financial returns that tend to ignore each context and the effects on human dignity and the environment. So clearly it reveals that environmental degradation and human degradation and ethical are intimately connected. “ [Laudato Si’, 56] None of this acknowledges the fact of a rise in living standards for most people in developed countries and a continued use of that wealth to raise the living standards of others through development aid and trade. Fairer trade will come about through the globalised trading blocs which continue adapting to new technologies and newly industrialised countries.

It gets worse, and the pope then echoes the Gramscian voices of southern European far left parties like Syriza and Podemos: “Politics should not submit to the economy, and this should not submit to the dictates and the paradigm of efficiency-technocracy. Today, thinking of the common good, we need so inescapable that politics and the economy, in dialogue, place themselves resolutely to the service of life, especially human life. The bailout of the banks at all costs, by charging the price to the population, without the firm decision to review and reform the entire system, reaffirms an absolute domination of finance that has no future and that can only generate new crisis after a long, expensive and apparent cure.”  [Laudato Si’, 189]  I challenge anyone to spot the difference between this language and that of Spain’s far left Pablo Iglesias writing in the New Left Review shortly before the Spanish local elections this year.  Theologically informed papal teaching here, there is none.

wpid-stfrancis-corgi-pem-newPope Francesco manages to squeeze two more hummingbirds into the kitsch Franciscan collage that is Laudato Si’, by adding environmental prayers at the end. One for use by those who simply believe in a creative force, and one for use by Catholics.  Or as he puts it: “After this prolonged reflection, joyful and dramatic set, I propose two prayers, one that we can share all of us who believe in God the creator and father, and another that we Christians know assume commitments for creation that the Gospel of Jesus offers us .”  [Laudato Si’, 246]  Once again, there is an irony, in that here we have two trite prayers offered by Pope Francis to end a document that has quoted the marvellous and powerful Canticle of Brother Sun by Saint Francis, the first poetry written in Italian.  The weakness of the message and the political dabblings in this recyclical have nothing to do with the message of the Poor Man of Assisi.  This is a poor pope indeed who may smell of the sheep but is not likely to nourish many of them spiritually.

I maybe a donkey and Tuesday is my only thinking day, but I think Giotto was better inspired by Saint Francis than the present Bishop of Rome.

Giotto Entry into Jerusalem

Well, that’s done with the recyclical, and for the rest of this Tuesday I will do thinking about straw.

Update at the end of Tuesday

Rubí has finished her thinking for the day (earlier than usual due to the extent of the thinking), but she is quite distraught because Sandro Magister of L’Expresso – the main coffee trade newspaper for Italy – has now been banned from the Vatican Press Office because he released the embargoed encyclical to Rubí.

While Rubí has done her best, other people have also done their thinking on Tuesday and the Reverend Peter Mullen gives us these thoughts on the recyclical, probably on the same lines as Rubí, except he is even clearer about the left wing political motivation of Pope Francis:

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Rood norty donkey Matilde is confined to stable

Matide isolated in the stable by three magic strands of electric wire

Matide isolated in the stable by four strands of electric wire

Today we had the most dangerous incident in five years of donkey walking.  There was some cloud cover this morning, so it looked like a good opportunity to get donkeys out walking. I wanted to explore a new route for them: a four kilometre forest path circuit I had discovered on my mountain bike a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to take Matilde and Rubí and get some photos of them in their new birthday head-collars but sadly there was only time for one photograph.  We were only twenty minutes into the walk when Matilde started going out of control and jumping on Rubí. This has happened before when Rubí was in season, and I have always taken care since to avoid walking them when either of them are in season! As Matilde became increasingly difficult to control (at one point she floored me with a head butt), I turned them round with the intention of getting them home as quickly as possible.

Then a very frightening incident happened. Matilde pulled the lead rope out of my hand, rearing up and flooring Rubí from the side. She put her fullweight on Rubí and the poor donkey went down heavily onto the rough uphill rocky track we were walking on.  Matilde sat down on Rubí with her full weight and I had to beat her with the lead rope to get her on her feet and take the weight off Rubí.

Rubí on the floor after I managed to get Matilde off her

Rubí on the floor after I managed to get Matilde off her

Rubí would not get up and as much as I encouraged her, she stayed down on the ground. There followed a very frightening few minutes as I tried to explore Rubi’s hind legs to see what damage may have been done, while also trying to hold onto an increasingly uncooperative Matilde.  I managed to roll Rubí onto her side and see the right hind leg which was hidden. There was some blood on the leg from a flesh wound as she went down on the stones under Matilde, but I had no idea whether the leg was sound. I was already looking up the emergency number of the vet and identifying my GPS position, when Rubí struggled to her feet.  It was a very worrying moment seeing if she could stand firmly or whether there was a break.  She slowly limped forward.  Thank God!

There followed another kilometre of battles with Matilde who was still trying to jump on Rubí. When I was in sight of home, I manouevred Matilde to a tree (with difficulty, as this intelligent beast realised I was going to tie her to it and fought to stop me getting her close to the tree!  Finally, I got Matilde tied to the tree with two lead ropes (not taking any chances!) and I even wondered whether she might uproot the tree, as it was a dead almond.

Once I had taken Rubí home, I grabbed a carriage whip from the house, to control Matilde,* and returned to fetch her. She had indeed broken the upper part of the tree, but was still firmly held by the other lead rope around the lower trunk.  The walk home was difficult enough, but nextdoor’s dog was also on the loose, just to add further to the theatre, so I had to shout at my neighbour to get his dog out of the road.

DSCN2965 DSCN2966 DSCN2967DSCN2972

Matilde in disgrace, confined to the stable.  Rubí limping around the field (I have now massaged her leg.)  And I’m confined to the Bar Cantonet in Finestrat with a computer and a beer.  Sometimes a simple life in the country with donkeys, just isn’t.

*Following a rather abusive comment from an angry person on this blog, which entirely missed the point of this, a carriage whip can be used to gently guide a misbehaving equine, just by holding it against them as you walk to show who is in charge.  The rather excited comment from this person about “cruelty” displayed a poor understanding of how equines are controlled and a rather silly ignorance of the true love of animals which requires proper control for their own safety as well as yours.  Your unacceptable abuse of me (you know who you are) means you will not be commenting on this blog again.

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Dappled things

Thanks to Cath (see her comment on last post) for suggesting this:

Pied Beauty


Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
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