I came to “Elca Seriu” four years ago and began a life with donkeys. Some of you who remember – and there are many of you – know that I was in formation for the Catholic priesthood in Rome from 2008-2009 and then reluctantly found myself back in Canterbury, where the CRB decided to mess up my return to teaching by mixing up my computer records with those of a criminal. After months of stress, social ostracisation and eventually financial ruin, the British state machine gave me a cheque for a few hundred quid and an apology. I saved that money to buy my first donkey.
“Platero nibbles the thin grass on the shady roadside, the dusty blooms of the mallows, the yellow vinegar flowers. He spends more time standing than walking. I let him…” (Jiménez, Platero y Yo, 1914.)
I set up this blog in 2010, as a chance by-product of the efforts of a small group of us who set up catholicismpure.wordpress.com which came out of the Daily Telegraph Damian Thompson blog, as it became problematic and less Catholic. (Damian Thompson is now at the Spectator and seems to have recovered a voice more attuned to traditional Catholic sensibilities.) After learning the WordPress system for the Catholicismpure blog, I tentatively set up my own blog, and then recorded my journey out of England – to which I have never returned – and the start of my life with donkeys.
I came here via France where I recovered by spending a month with my friend Barbara and her donkeys, near Poitiers. While there I applied for and obtained a teaching job in Spain, and the Lord our Provider gave me a direct bus from Poitiers to Benidorm.
“But our journey is short. It is like a sweet defenseless day in the midst of multiple life. Not the apotheosis of the day, nor the sea to which the river goes; not even the tragedy of the flames.” (Jiménez)
The CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) sent me five hundred pounds in October 2010, as compensation for ruining my career, reputation, health, and savings. I received this after I had found this rented farm house to set up my small project to live with donkeys, as I did not much want to live with people any longer.
“Platero sinks his mouth in the dark water and sips greedily here and there in the cleanest spots.”
So that is where I was four years ago. The rest of the story can be followed on the history of this blog, from the first donkeys to the birth of the two foals, and my gradual development of a more permanent teaching career here to support them and me, with school and donkey activities now sometimes working together.
It has been a wonderful four years. I can honestly say that life with the donkeys as a balance to the busy school schedule has shown me how manual work and professional life can create a healthy contrast. When I look back through the blog I am amazed at the variety of experience within a closely confined geographical space and a routine that hardly seems to change.
This summer has been a real challenge, in so many ways. We have drought here in Alicante and the countryside is suffering. The awful news from the wider world has been upsetting and – for one who lives mostly alone during the long summer holiday time – a dark influence upon the reflections of the day. The horrors of the Muslim “Satanic State” in Iraq and Syria; the butchery of innocent MH17 air passengers by vodka-soaked Russian goons in Ukraine; human misery in Palestine caused by fanatical extremists goading Israel; and various other nasty conflicts with their many tortured innocents are inescapable, unless I should bury my head in the dust of the Alicante drought, in which this year’s crops are all dried up and dead.
No, it has been an unpleasant year. And then the Catholic Church comes along with its contribution to the confusion, and I am a struggling but determined member of its faithful. Traditional Catholic voices like Nick Donnelly are silenced for speaking orthodoxy; the Franciscans of the Immaculate are persecuted for their astonishing renewal of religious life in the Church; a priest who builds up a love for the traditional Latin Mass in his Southwark parish is deliberately replaced by a wrecker; and the confusing statements of the Pope continue to employ a whole team of Vatican semiologists to fend off a curious press. Weird times indeed, but I at least am one pastoral worker who has the smell of the donkeys upon me.
I had been busy on the social media, and as some may know, decided to give it a rest a few weeks ago. Twitter at times seems like placing yourself inside a global cage of gibbons. It is fun to watch and sometimes to swing around myself, but when you get hit by a blundering mindless chunk of brown fur and muscle and jaws flying down at you, out of control, it can seem like time to get out of the cage.
I did get out, for a while at least. However, some of us never learn. When the Spanish Popular Party government decides to renege on its promises about abortion reform, as happened today, it is time to speak out. When the work of a good priest over several years is trashed by his incompetent archdiocese, it is time to speak out. When the Satanic State forces three million people of all religions to flee their homes, it is time to speak out.
Is anyone listening? There is some small suggestion that a certain British prime minister sunning himself on a beach in Portugal was forced to return and address a problem of several thousand refugees on a mountain. Maybe our voices are not entirely unheeded. So let’s do our best. And I here restore the Vatican flag I took down when Deacon Nick was forced to close his blog. (By his own bishop…)
Correction: I will restore the flag when I can remember how to work the widget!