Quitting my chocolate treat for Lent

I’m looking at my jar of Organic Chocolate Spread and asking – ‘Can I really give this up for Lent?’

Organic Chocolate Spread, I might explain, is the nearest thing to ambrosia – that Greek notion of the food of the gods – that I have ever tasted in my life.

There was a time when I would have nominated champagne as the greatest of consuming pleasures – my preferred tipple being Veuve Cliquot, or, as they used to call out, in taverns I once frequented: “A bottle of The Widow, please!” (Note: in the 19th-Century widow-women in France were ace at heading up champagne houses.)

A glass of ‘The Widow’ with a soupçon of Cassis made for a delightful Kir Royale.

But Organic Chocolate Spread beats any champagne going. It outdoes champagne drunk to the sound of trumpets – one writer’s description of what Heaven might be like.

I have even managed to enjoy a helping of organic chocolate spread at eleven o’clock each morning while maintaining a diet of losing two pounds a month. The reason for this is that just two spoonfuls of this particular treat are so wholly satisfying that you are not tempted to eat anything else sugary for the day.

As the music hall song used to put it: “A little of what you fancy does you good!”

Actually, because I am now – ahem – a senior citizen, I don’t have to be too penitential for the season of Lent. We are let off quite a few Lenten exercises, because of our ripeness in years: and in any case, I often reflect, we can do plenty of penance just contemplating the sins and errors of our lives.

I contemplate the Organic Chocolate Spread and consider my friend Geoffrey’s Lenten compromise.  He quits alcohol for the duration: but allows himself dispensations for various saints’ days.

And it’s amazing how many saints may adorn the calendar between now and April 20…..!


A reversal of values

I am all for Brendan Behan appearing on an Irish stamp,  because I am all in favour of more human beings being featured on stamps.

With great respect to ornithologists and horticulturalists, I’m bored stiff by the endless series of birds and flowers which represent this country in philately. A stamp is a wonderful opportunity to portray a nation’s history in culture,  biography, and indeed spirituality. Birds and flowers are decorative enough, but they lack human interest, and as postal emblems, are wholly forgettable. 

However, the choice of Brendan Behan as a biographical subject is yet another interesting example of the reversal of all values, which repeatedly occurs: everything that is at one time approved of, is at another, disapproved of, and vice-versa.

Behan was appreciated by some litterateurs during his lifetime, but he caused agonies of mortification to respectable Ireland, who exclaimed, each time he appeared on British television leglessly drunk, “he’s shaming the country!”

Many held to a theory that the British (and the Americans) got Behan inebriated on purpose “just to make an eejit out of him ñ and us all”- ha, ha, ha, there goes the drunken Irishman again. This wasn’t entirely the case, but there was some substance in the suggestion that both Brendan Behan and Dylan Thomas had their lives foreshortened by the amount of drink which was lavished upon them during their successful years.

Behan was a boozing pal of my late brother Carlos, and I first met the bould Brendan when I was about 10, at an event at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

He was loudly intoxicated as he wrote in my autograph book, and his demeanour so upset me that I tore up the autograph. Maybe I was a priggish little suburban schoolgirl at the time, influenced by the adults who deplored Behan’s public behaviour; or maybe Brendan’s fondness for the bottle wasn’t edifying, either for himself or others.


Setting the record straight

Encouraging to see a letter from Sr Margaret Casey, Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Mercy in the Sunday Independent last weekend. Sr Margaret was writing to correct a report in the paper which had claimed that the Sisters of Mercy had “flatly refused” to make additional contributions towards State costs in response to abuse in industrial schools.

On the contrary, she spelt out just what the nuns’ additional contribution was: €117,506,800 – being the addition to a previous sum of over €33 million.

Nuns should write to the newspapers more often. So should all clergy, when inaccurate or unreasonably disparaging articles appear. I know that St Paul said we should “suffer in silence”, but that surely refers to a personal situation, not a collective one.  Clergy often say that they feel depressed by the constant, negative reportage: then they must argue back and set records straight. Like Sr Margaret.