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Bed-sit Entertaining

Saturday, June 29, 2013
This is an appendix to yesterday's post on "How to Have a Dinner Party."  And I must also add that that was just a template. There are all kinds of ways to have dinner parties, and you can add or subtract courses depending on your tastes and budgets. But I maintain that an adult dinner party by definition excludes children. A dinner party is not only a pleasant gathering of adults, it is a chance for adults to exhibit or practice their adult social skills, or skillz, as Napoleon Dynamite would say.  Number one is setting a guest at ease.

One 20th century British definition of a lady was a woman who could set a guest at ease even if he had just walked in upon her when she was naked in the bath. I had good cause to ponder this one memorable day when B.A. forgot to tell me an electrician was coming to check our wiring, and the electrician was let into the Historical House by a conservator when I was in the shower. I got out of the shower to hear a sound rather like a rabid bear moving about, and was quite terrified. I rushed, dripping, in a very inadequate towel, to the kitchen phone, to call up B.A. and inform him that I was soon to be murdered.

B.A. explained why I was unlikely to be murdered, at which point I explained why B.A. was now likely to be murdered himself, and I supplemented my towel with aprons before risking the journey to my bedroom, source of clothes. But alas! There at once was the electrician in the hallway.

"Oh, hello!" I said, brightly.

"Hiya," said the electrician, obviously trying not to laugh.

We exchanged stilted remarks, and I think I asked him if he would like a cup of tea, which he politely refused, and then I rushed off, snickering, to my room.

That, incidentally, is what it is like living in a museum: excellent security system, except for the electricians, carpenters, conservationists, art historians, tourists and bat rights activists who might wander upstairs. (N.B. A really good dressing-gown would make an excellent Christmas gift.)

As I live in a museum, I understand what it is to live in unusual places. And I have lived in two minuscule bedsits, so I know what it is like when your bedroom is your only room. And the way to have a dinner party in your bedroom, is to completely de-bedroom it and turn it into a dining room.

This was always easy for me because when I lived in bedsits, I had a big futon which folded nicely into a sofa, and during the day I emphasized its sofa-ness with cushions. I also always had a wardrobe into which all my clothes and, if necessary, bedding or any girl stuff could disappear. A room is a room; it's only a bedroom if you say it is. It could just as easily be an office, a sewing-room or a dining-room. (I'm writing to you from what was once a 19th century linen closet.)  The absence of an obvious bed and the presence of a big trestle table down the room announces, "I am now a dining-room."

If you have a single bed, you can disguise it as a couch by turning the pillows into cushions, hiding your woolly toys (stuffed animals), and masking anything lacy with a hearty striped blanket.

If you have a desperately girly bathroom, you can make it more resemble a B&B bathroom by throwing anything terribly personal into the laundry hamper and putting a towel on top.

In my bed-sit days, I had a large round table around which I could sit four or five. It sat in a big bay window--in both bed-sits, as I always chose my bed-sit for its bay window. For a larger dinner party, I would have borrowed a trestle table from the church hall, which would have necessitated getting a friend to help me carry it through the back streets, but such is life. I suppose I would also have had to borrow chairs from the church hall or have had to ask guests to bring their own chairs. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Finally, if you still feel weirded out by entertaining male guests in your "bedroom", then just make sure there is always a female guest with you in it and that the last guest to leave is not the socially clueless male one perched on the edge of your bed sofa saying, "I don't feel at all tired."

Another note on nicotine: The reason why a smoker has to ask a hostess if he may smoke is not merely that she might hate the smell of stale tobacco smoke in her curtains. (A good hostess pretends not to care about her curtains.) It is because she is responsible for the comfort of all her guests and is best able to judge if any of them have--or she has--asthma or other serious respiratory problems or are trying desperately to quit smoking themselves. (A good guest considers how his actions may affect his hostess and fellow guests.) A hostess must not treat her smoking guest as an enemy of society but as someone who enjoys nicotine the way others enjoy a glass of wine. She sympathizes with his need to quell his nic fit and suggests the most convenient and comfortable way for him to do so without discommoding or discomfiting anyone else.

This may mean showing the smoker the quickest route to the fire escape, or it may mean offering him a cigarillo from her own portable humidor. It all depends on the other guests, and their tolerance or enjoyment of tobacco. Personally, I loathe cheap cigarette smoke, but do not mind smelling good tobacco, used in moderate amounts. Were it not forbidden to strike a match in the Historical House, I would permit smoking in the dining-room after dinner, but not of hideous, cheap cigarettes. And I would cart the ladies away to the sitting-room either at once or the moment the air grew blue.  

Incidentally, you are responsible to making sure your guests don't drink and drive. If they are foolish enough to want to do so, tell them they can't and call them a cab. In the UK, you can head off such unpleasant end-of-evening altercations but saying things like "As you're driving, Scooter, I won't offer you any dessert wine."

How to Have a Dinner Party

Friday, June 28, 2013
The dinner party is one of the great joys of adult life, combining food, wine, conversation, interior decoration, table manners and ritual. Unlike other parties, it has a clear beginning, a middle and an end, and many rules to keep it civilized. Nobody's house was ever totaled by a flash mob during a dinner party. A sit-down dinner is very much invitation-only and mentioned on Facebook only after the fact.

Permissions

I had my first dinner parties while living in my parents' house alongside four siblings. I was an undergraduate, and I managed these parties with the permission and collusion of my parents, of course. The trick is to always, from the time you first wield a pot and spoon, leave the kitchen cleaner than you found it. And the other trick is to arrange with your mother that the rest of the family will eat their dinner two hours before you and your guests eat yours and then vanish to other parts of the house or to the movies.

You know your household politics best. In my case, as my mother owned all the china, crystal, silver and linen, I asked her permission regarding anything actually valuable and practically irreplaceable. I also, I should hasten to add, only invited such guests as I thought would have table manners up to the preservation of the china, crystal, silver and linen. If that sounds uncomfortably urban and snobby to you, then I suggest that instead of having a formal dinner party you have a barbeque or picnic instead.

I seem to recall that my mother funded these dinner parties, buying my ingredients along with the family shopping. That was quite generous, but she might have thought of it as a sort of educational cost, like those involved in piano lessons.

If you do not live with your parents, you must consult your flatmates, if you have any, about your dinner parties, and if your flatmates are friends, invite them at once.

Excuses

You can have a dinner party for any reason you like, but if it is really so that you can invite handsome men, you must come up with an alternative plausible explanation, like your birthday or the feast day of a favourite saint. When you are well advanced in dinner party having, you can have a dinner party simply to introduce a new person to your social circle.

Guests

As exciting and amusing as it would be to invite only male guests, this amusing excitement is not allowed to unmarried women. Traditionally the hostess puzzles over a guest list with great thought and with an eye to having equal numbers of men and women, if possible. And because the very essence of the dinner party is adulthood, children are not allowed. If there are children in your social set, they should be fed at six and packed off to bed or to granny's. Otherwise, you do not have a dinner party but a Family Supper, which is an entirely different beast altogether.

Only when you are no longer economically dependent on your parents, may you invite your parents to your dinner party. Let there be no confusion here: the hostess must be--in the most charming and gracious way--the boss.

Invite only as many guests as you can fit around your table. If you don't have a dining-room, consider setting up a table in your sitting-room. I can fit fifteen people in my sitting-room, but it is a bit of a squash. The traditional number of dinner party guests seems to be eight. Our dining-room can accommodate eight, but we have twice squashed in eleven.

Invitations

For this I recommend the phone. Yes, you can send printed invitations, but you will still want to confirm by phone. I seem to recall loving the whole invitation thing when I was 21, but now I think they are a bit naff and really the sophisticated thing to do is call people up or have a word with them after Mass or send them a text.

The essentials to the invitation are where and when and theme, if there is one.  If you want your male guests to wear jackets and ties, say so briefly. In Edinburgh, people state when they want people to start drifting in and when they must be there. This is generally phrased as "Seven-thirty for eight," which means nobody should arrive before seven-thirty or after eight.

That said, arriving late is vastly superior than not arriving at all. It is a terrible social crime to accept a dinner party invitation and not then not go, unless you have ended up in hospital or died.

Food and Drink

When B.A. and I go shopping for a dinner party, we chant down the order of the meal while staring down into the depths of our trolley to see if we have everything.

First, there is "cocktails", which just means what our guests eat and drink before dinner is served. This could mean hors d'oeuvres, but in our case it usually just means crisps (chips), plus whatever cocktail we can afford. That could be gin-and-tonic.That could be rum punch. Currently it's just cava (a sort of fake champagne).

Second, there is the first course. This is often soup with good bread or biscuits (crackers). But it could also be salmon mousse or páté or guacamole or prawn cocktail or mussels or a particularly luxurious and exciting salad, like B.A.'s tomato-avocado-prawn-lime juice concoction. This goes with sherry or white wine.

Third, there is the main course. This is fish, game, fowl or meat with potatoes or rice and two vegetables, at least one of which will be green. On Fridays or on behalf of vegetarians, you could do something exciting with aubergines (eggplants), mozzarella and pasta. The main course goes with either white wine or red wine, depending on what it is.

Fourth, there is pudding. "Pudding" is just one of the British words for "dessert." Incidentally, the UK's outrageous and complicated class system still lingers on in what people call meals and foods and courses and rooms and whatnot. The best course of action is just to muddle them up and not  care--unless, of course, you have the misfortune to fall into conversation with a disgruntled Scots class warrior, in which case you have to cudgel your memory for words used by factory hands. Pudding goes with sweet wine.

Fifth, there is coffee. Even at 10 or 11 PM, guests may want coffee. Give it to them with chocolates. It is polite to ask if anyone would prefer tea.

Sixth, there is savoury or simply what B.A. and I call "cheese." Cheese is served with port, and it is at this moment that--depending largely on the politics of the company present--I get up in my Downton Abbey way and swoop all the women away to the sitting-room, leaving B.A. in charge of the men.

I don't think you can do this  disappearing act if you are Single, unless you have a brother there who is willing to play host to the men. And I am not sure you can get away with this in any country but the UK at all.

Meanwhile even British Marxists find it very odd, so I do this only when Young Fogeys, who love it, vastly outnumber the Socialists. The most important thing, when you are a hostess, is making your guests feel comfortable and cared for.

In addition to all this food and drink, we provide water and try desperately to remember to make ice cubes.

Allergies/Vegetarians

Most of our friends are allergic or adverse to something, and we plan accordingly. If you invite a vegetarian, you can make everyone go veg--most acceptable on a Friday--or you can simply make them something different. Roasted portobello mushrooms are quick, easy and delicious.

Nicotine

I know, how shocking. To get the subject over with, smokers may not smoke until after pudding. And they may smoke indoors only with permission of the hostess. And they may go outside to smoke only with permission of the hostess. If they can manage not to smoke or run away to smoke until the port comes out, that would be fantastic.

A good hostess always gives a smoker permission to step outside for a smoke. I suppose she might ask him or her to delay this disappearance for some very good reason, like an imminent toast.

Where to Put Guests

When your guests arrive, you greet them, ask if you may take their coats and invite them into the sitting-room. Introduce them around, and ask them if they would like wine, your chosen cocktail du jour or water. Put their coat in the appointed cloakroom and get their drink. Hopefully the hors d'oeuvres or crisps are already in the sitting-room.

If the dining table is not in the sitting-room, lead guests to the dining room when most of them have finished their drink and the first course is ready. Their cocktail glasses may double as water glasses.

There is a tremendous social science to placement, but here are only some basic rules:

1. The male guest of honour goes to the right of the hostess and the female guest of honour goes to the right of the host (if there is one). Unless there is an official guest of honour or a priest present, the guests of honour are the eldest people present and should be served first. If you are all about the same age, the hostess may ask the best-looking men to sit on either side of her. She shouldn't say it like that, though, or pull this trick at every dinner party.

2. Try to sit every man between two women and (obviously) vice versa. At big dinner parties, people are expected to alternate between speaking to their left-hand neighbour and their right-hand neighbour.

3. Married couples may not sit next to each other after their first wedding anniversary. After a year, they really do want a socially-enforced excuse to talk to other members of the opposite sex at dinner. But before that, it's slightly cruel to separate them. It is also cruel to separate engaged people, so don't do that either.

If you whisk the ladies away to the sitting-room when the port comes out, the men are expected to rejoin you. Sometimes the men show a terrible reluctance to do this. Actually, I suggest you skip this Downton Abbey stuff until you have had many dinner parties and are an old dinner party hand.

Ending the Party

If you live with your parents or housemates, this is easily done. Your parents or housemates will have told you "Eleven" or "Twelve" and at ten to eleven or at ten to twelve, you will inform your guests of this sad (but secretly useful) limit.

In the USA, I believe, dinner parties end shortly after coffee. Indeed, some hostesses delay serving coffee until they want to hint to their guests that it is time to go. However, in my UK circle, coffee is merely a necessary drug to perk guests up enough to enjoy their cheese and port. Thus, the only real arbiter of leave-taking is The Last Bus.

I'd love to say that another arbiter was sleepiness, but occasionally one or two of my dinner guests just fall asleep in their postprandial armchairs and then, upon waking, have another drink. But I cannot throw stones, for I fell asleep at someone's dinner party on Tuesday, and very funny I must have looked, too.

Washing Up

If you live with your parents, you must finish it before you go to bed. Alas. The kitchen and dining- room and sitting-room must be spotless, woe.

Otherwise, I recommend at least rinsing everything under the tap as you go, and stacking it neatly for the next morning, or put it in the dishwasher, if you have one.

At formal dinner parties, your guests should really not be expected or encouraged to help you wash the dishes, unless it is the only way you can think of to rescue one guest from the unwanted attentions of another or some similar social emergency.

Thank you notes

Guests are supposed to call, email or send you a note by post to thank you for your dinner party, but they rarely do unless/until they have a dinner party and discover that their friends do. If you are an influential married lady, you can advise young men to send thanks, but before you are, you really can't. The most you can do is send thank you notes yourself. I do because one of my friends is absolutely punctilious about this and so set a fashion.

And with that, I must now go and write two.

Update: It just occurred to me that that is a lot of alcohol. You do not have to serve alcohol at every or at any course although I cannot imagine a dinner party in the UK that did not feature any alcohol. Just because it is there doesn't mean you have to drink it. Part of social life is managing your alcohol intake, and of course how much you can drink and still be a pleasant, reasonable, witty person changes from person to person.

A Bold Colourful Mediterranean Inspiration

Thursday, June 27, 2013












Patience is a virtue and I have lots of it thank goodness.

My family might disagree with me when I cannot find things as this is my pet hate and my patience usually goes flying out the window at a very fast rate if I cannot find something, I hold my hands up, it is a red flag to a bull!

However I love nothing better and more therapeutic than designing and planning our weddings and events, quietly watching fashion trends and bringing new and fresh styles to my business.  I love a challenge and could not bear to be turning out the same well versed styles time and time again.

I approach each wedding as a new challenging, creative project and love playing around with ideas and thinking out of the box styling for our weddings with suggestions our clients have not thought about.  I prefer to be a leader rather than led and always have which is why I have worked in the design industry now for nearly 30 years, quite an achievement :)

I was thrilled last week, having finally managed to hit the shops, how the Ikat tribal prints were everywhere.  

Having foreseen this way back and blogged that this was a new fashion and we would see this in the 2013 and 2014 wedding trends, it was lovely to see that my predictions were spot on and tribal fabrics, bright colours and the ethnic style is now everywhere in the fashion industry which will of course filter into the interior and wedding trends.  

Now back to patience, I am patiently waiting for our summer to heat up, we have had a strange year with an unusually chilly May and June and strong winds, not my favourite weather. 

I am also now waiting patiently to see images of our fabulous weddings we have created over the past month to share with you. 

Patience required again as we are re-branding the business to move it forward, we have reshuffled and I have some fabulous designers now working with me along with enthusiastic fresh talent in the events industry, if I could wave my famous magic wand faster I would but all good things come to those that wait!

So in the meantime as I design and create and inspire myself I thought it would be lovely to share these warm Mediterranean colours with you of a shoot featured on Elizabeth Anne Designs.

We love the warm sunshine colours, the gorgeous tropical florals and the Spanish influences from the use of the crockery to the cute door knobs, which I seem to buy in abundance here from Zara home. I have a drawer full of pretty door knobs and handles, perhaps my other obsession as well as cushions and candles :)!

To see more of this fabulous Mediterranean photo shoot and the talented vendors involved do pop over to Elizabeth Anne Designs.

Sorry for the Late Post

Hello, hello! I am trying to spend less time on the computer, which is why this post is so late. I mean to write something soon about having dinner parties.

Here at Seraphic Singles, we are against women asking men out on dates but we are all for women inviting men to their parties, especially dinner parties. For parties, you can spend as much money as you like, dress to kill, cook up a storm, bake cookies, urge a man to have another drink and generally dote on a chap--as long as you are urging and doting on your other guests, too.

Solicitous, attentive behaviour that might scare the living daylights out of a man on a date is completely acceptable in a hostess.  You can and should say things like "May I take your coat? What a handsome coat! Can I get you a drink? Please come through to the sitting-room and be introduced!"

Personally, I love to run away with a handsome man's coat. I mean, I did. Before I was married, etc. Ahem.

More on parties tomorrow, I hope.

What Marriage Is, Was and Ever Shall Be

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Marriage is that individual union through which man and woman by their reciprocal rights form one principle of generation. It is effected by their mutual consent to give and accept each other for the purpose of propagating the human race, of educating their offspring, of sharing life in common, of supporting each other in undivided conjugal affection by a lasting union.

Marriage is a contract and is by its very nature above human law. It was instituted by God, is subject to the  Divine law, and cannot for that reason be rescinded by human law. Those who contract marriage do so indeed by their own free wills, but they must assume the contract and its obligations unconditionally. Marriage is natural in purpose, but Divine in origin. It is sacred, being intended primarily by the Author of life to perpetuate His creative act and to beget children of God; its secondary ends are mutual society and help, and a lawful remedy for concupiscenceHuman law certainly takes cognizance of marriage, but marriage not having been established by man, its essential properties cannot be annulled by such lawMarriage is monogamic and indissoluble; death alone dissolves the union when consummated.

---Catholic Encyclopedia, when the biggest controversy around marriage was divorce.

"... Herod had arrested John, bound him and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been telling him, "It is not lawful for you to have her."

--Matthew 14.4  (NRSV)


"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world--therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you. 'Servants are not great than their master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also." 

--John 15.8 (NRSV)

Chic Occasions Bridal Show 2013


If you want to meet top vendors in the Atlanta wedding industry and be entered to win a four-day/three-night honeymoon to St. Thomas, then head on over to The Fox Theatre this Sunday, June 30th for the Chic Occasions Bridal Show from noon until 4pm. Be sure to get your tickets in advance and don't miss this amazing event!!

You'll get another chance to meet some of Atlanta's top wedding professionals at the Chic Occasions Bridal Show at the exquisite Chateau Elan on August 18th in Braselton, GA. Get your tickets in advance and don't miss the opportunity to attend this fantastic event!! For more info and deets, call 770.257.9007 or visit www.chicoccasions.com.

Chic Occasions Bridal Show
The Fox Theatre
Atlanta, GA
June 30th, 2013
12pm until 4pm
www.chicoccasions.com

Chic Occasions Bridal Show
Chateau Elan
Braselton, GA
August 18th, 2013
12pm until 4pm
www.chicoccasions.com


Summer Social at StudioWed Nashville


Join StudioWed Nashville and Weddings Unveiled for a summer social in Music City this Thursday, June 27th.  To RSVP (ASAP) for this fantastic soiree, send an email to the email address listed below.

StudioWed is an exclusive collection of wedding vendors that are brought together under one roof for your complimentary wedding-planning use. Meet one of their preferred photographers for coffee in the morning, and one of their floral designers for a glass of wine in the evening. This concept puts the area's best at your wedding-planning fingertips.

StudioWed Nashville
1200 Villa Place, Suite 402
Nashville, TN
elizabeth@studiowed.net
www.studiowed.net

Laughter from the East

 Go check out Orthogals while I rest my poor arm.

Getting Hanson back

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Just like the rest of us the Hanson brothers grew up...
and so did their music!  I was shocked! This isn't Mmm Bop, but it's still fun! 
 Plus all of the cameos in this video cracked me up!

Not bad Hanson. Not bad.
Can we also take a moment to mention the fact that awkward Issac turned out to look pretty good!  OH! and that Taylor Handon has five kids.  FIVE!  What in the world?! He is only 29. 
I don't even want to know.
 
Happy Tuesday!  We CAN make it through this week!...I keep having to remind myslef.

Yulia Seen on CCTV in Glasgow

News of a sort. CCTV footage shows Yulia Solodyankina walking in Edinburgh on the afternoon of Friday, 7 June and a couple of hours later in Buchanan bus station in Glasgow. It looks as if she went to Glasgow of her own free will. The question is now where she went after she left Buchanan bus station.

She might still be in Glasgow, she might be in the Highlands, she might be elsewhere in the UK. She may have been smuggled out of the country. As yet, nobody in the "Find Yulia" group (movement?) knows.

As it is already the 25th of June, I am awed by how much work it must take to scroll through hours and hours of CCTV footage. I'm impressed that the police have found these images, and I hope they keep on looking. And I hope as much interest in the case can be raised in Glasgow and other parts of the UK as has been raised in Edinburgh by the hard work of Yulia's friends and a sympathetic public.

We hear so often of girls who have gone missing, but that is no excuse for apathy. There are only about five million people in Scotland: surely we can care enough to look out for a young Russian girl lost among us and turn her loss into a cause celebre.

The photo above doesn't show them, but the CCTV footage includes distinctively patterned shoes. Someone might remember those shoes, even if they don't remember her.

Bizarre Behaviour of Men Explained

I apologize at once if the title of today's post gave you a huge burst of excited optimism, for now I must disappoint you. This is not the Post of Posts, the post that will explain all the bizarre behaviour of all men in general. It is merely a call for your stories of bizarre behaviour that the bizarrely behaving men themselves explained.

As I frequently observe, men are not women, and although they can reason as well as we can--they can do math and learn to read and grapple with philosophy and all those other intellectual things women can do--in some ways their thought processes, especially their emotional thought processes, are quite different. For one thing, most of them cannot read minds.

I find it very odd that most men cannot read minds, and I suppose I should explain that when I say "reading minds" I mean that most men are not as good as most women at interpreting silences and shades of tone of voice and reading micro-expressions. With most men, you cannot just think "I am angry at you" while smiling sarcastically, you have to frown. You have to actually pull your eyebrows down to the bridge of your nose and let the corners of your lips droop and either fold your arms or start waving them around. Otherwise, such men will not understand that you are angry. Sometimes you even have to say, "I feel angry now," like ladies who have been injected with Botox apparently have to do.

Because we so often talk to men as though they were women, with subtlety, meaningful silences, and micro-expressions, we often confuse them. But they often confuse us, too, sometimes by behaving in over-exaggerated ways. There is the man who, for example, drops into conversation the news that he has a girlfriend so many times that you wonder if he is under the impression you are about to grope him. There is the man who introduces you to all his friends, family and colleagues as "[Your Name], She's Just a Friend." There is the man who talks to you for hours and asks for your phone number and then never calls you. There is the man with whom you were always friendly who starts cutting you dead and leaving rooms as soon as you enter them.

Very often, you will assume a man's bizarre behaviour is your fault. I'm not sure that men assume that our confusing behaviour is their fault. I suspect that women are still more given to immediate self-blame than men are. But happy the woman who has the guts to ask a man why he has behaved in a bizarre fashion and gets an honest answer.

With young men, "I don't know" very often counts as an honest answer. At forty, a man should  know how he feels about something and why he does what he does. At twenty, he really might not.

I was going to ask for amusing tales of bizarre male behaviour but that would not be in the man-loving spirit of this blog. So instead I encourage readers to write in the combox of painful confusions that were resolved when the man was asked for an explanation.

Auntie Seraphic & Lone Catholic Girl

Monday, June 24, 2013
Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I am a Catholic Single and am 30 years old, living in [East Asia].

It is a blessing to find your book when I was studying Theology in [the West] and that I finally found some comforting words from a Catholic point of view.

Ever since I have decided to have a devoted Catholic husband in my early 20s, I felt like I am so much less attractive to boys. Until now, I have never been in any relationship. 

It is not like I'm not involving in any activities, though I must admit both my working environment and friends are mostly female as I studied in Convent School. And after my 2 years in [the West], my church groups had long gone since most members are married. 

It is hard for me to join in any new groups as there are old couple group, young couple group and teenage group, but just no single group for those "who should have already married".

There are also no decent meet-up events [here]. Finding someone via internet is also a pretty risky thing to do here as there are tons of dangerous news about girls being raped or sexual harassed related with internet dating.

There were a few guy friends once told me that they found I'm too seraphic to approach, that being with me made them think they are evil. My girl friends also told me they found it hard to introduce guys for me as I am "too good for them". But  what they said about being too seraphic is only I went to mass every Sunday, tried to have confession once a month and pray everyday. Nothing more.

Families and friends began to nag me that my standard ( a devoted Catholic, or simply Catholic) is too high. They said I should have accept who are decent and my action might transform them to Catholic someday. Once in a while, there are nice protestant (yeah, the majority population in my age are mostly protestant ) guy approach me, they might said something like they do not mind I am Catholic, but I do mind he's a protestant. Though all of them tired of pursuing me already. But my sister always nagged me that I let my good chance slipped, I can't help to feel a bit hopeless. 

Am I really setting my standard too high? It didn't worry me much when I was in my 20s, but the thinking of never getting married is growing stronger when friends around me are all getting married when I am still single for nearly 9 years.

I read about your previous blog about men are all fear of asking girl to have coffee. Here [in my country], guys just never ask girl to have coffee. It sounds too bold for them and if they did that, most girls will just thought they are probably bad guy. So if you do not have a secure relationship while you are in University or in your working area, it sounds like it is the end for you.

I always have faith in God, but I am worried that it is myself who should have blamed on this issue.

God bless to you and your family tremendously.

Sincerely
Lone Catholic Girl


Dear Lone Catholic Girl,

Thank you for your email.  I am glad that you enjoyed my book.

Although you may not have experienced a "romantic" relationship, you do indeed have relationships with many people. A "romantic" relationship is just one kind of relationship, and it usually grows out of friendships. The more friends you make, the greater your chances of finding a man with whom you would like to share your life, and who would like to share his life with you. 

There are seven million people in [your city], so I have much hope that you will make many new acquaintances and friends soon. One very good way to meet new people is to go to social dancing lessons and events. In Scotland, where only 3.6% population is made up of Mass-attending Catholics, many Catholics meet through partner dancing events. At partner dancing events, like tango and salsa, the men want most of all to dance, and so they will try to create a good impression and not be rude or forward, for fear that other women will find out about it, and not dance with them. 

From what I read in your letter, you are not at fault in any way. It is natural for a Catholic women who goes to Mass and to confession and who prays every day to want to marry a Catholic man. What I encourage you to do is to meet new people at a social event that is not primarily concerned with religion or dating. That could be a group that meets for any activity the members all enjoy, but I particularly recommend trying out the dancing scene. 

I do not know anyone who dances in [your city], but here is a calendar for its tango events. [Excised.]

The most important thing, however, is that you find an social, public activity that you really enjoy, for not only will this make you happy, your happiness will make you attractive to others, and their happiness in the activity will make them attractive to you.

Grace and peace,
Seraphic
 

Unsolicited Advice

Saturday, June 22, 2013
In my extreme youth I was courted by a fellow in my neighbourhood who had a summer job at the same amusement park where I had one.  He was not an NCB, and he bragged that he had once dropped LSD. Being ill-disposed towards recreational use of hallucinogens, I decided that I did not want this guy to be my boyfriend.

His courtship was a tad strange, anyway. He would come to see me at my work station and walk me home from the bus stop--there was a lot of lurking and walking going on there. But the most memorable thing he ever said, which I enjoyed repeating to my friends in an imitation of his nasal drawl, was "If you did something about your hair--and your clothes--you could really be quite attractive."

Dear me, that still makes me laugh. Now I laugh harder, though, because I have learned one of the secrets of life and it is that you do not have to look conventionally beautiful to be attractive. You can be attractive "in a strange way" as a near-stranger said of me behind my back to my pal Lily. And this is a matter of personality and probably some derring-do in the fashion-and-make-up department.

Ladies with powerful personalities sometimes focus the power of those personalities on women we like, particularly younger women, and give you a lot of hearty advice. And having grown up in societies which now devalue older women and our wisdom, experience, etc, younger you very often reject this advice and even resent it. And no wonder. It is not pleasant when someone remarks upon your Single state and says, between the lines, you're Single because you're not attractive enough to men. Oh, thanks. Thanks very much, bossy older lady.

However sometimes--not always, maybe not even often, but sometimes--the bossy older lady may know what she's talking about. That is worth taking into consideration. It is also worth taking into the consideration the motives of this bossy older lady.  I once met a charming if bossy older lady who told me how beautiful I was and how I really ought to "get my colours done." She would do it herself, and here was her card. So she did my colours, gave me a make-over, sold me a ton of make-up and---eventually tried to sign me up to her pyramid scheme.

But another older lady, a very sweet older lady, once told me that my problem with men was that I talked too much. It practically killed her to say it; in fact, she blurted it out just before I went on a date. And although my feelings were hurt, I absolutely knew that this lady liked me very much and just wanted me to find a nice man and get married and have babies before it was too late for babies. It was, however, some years before I realized that she had been right. I talked too much--not as a woman in a world run by men who prefer to do all the talking, but as a person. And if I didn't watch it, I would still talk too much. (Look at how much I blog.)

Other older people have told me that I sometimes frighten people, and I am always taken so aback by this, that I always always always forget to ask that so-important question, "Why?"

And "Why?" is a question you might want to have near to hand when bossy older ladies give you advice about men. It should be a sympathetic, curious "why?", your tone indicating that you really want to know. An older woman of experience is giving you advice for free--make the most charitable assumption that she is not insulting you, and that this is not one more incident of oppression in your unlucky life, but that she might be on to something. And if you ask her "Why?", you will be better able to judge if she is or if she just enjoys the sound of her own voice.

Older Bossy Lady: You have such pretty eyes. You should use make-up to make them more visible.

You: Why?

Older Bossy Lady: Because eyes are the first part of the human face other humans look at. Also, men seem to find large eyes more attractive. There are two theories about this: one is that large eyes are a sign of estrogen production and the other is that large eyes are a neotenous feature.

You:  A neo-what?

Older Bossy Lady: It's a feature that makes you look younger than you really are. It's linked to our love for babies, even baby animals.

You: Oh, er...

Older Bossy Lady: Rust-orange eyeshadow is fantastic for blue eyes. It makes them really pop!

At heart I am the bossiest older lady under the Scottish sky, but I have learned through much trial and error that bossiness is not an attractive trait. Therefore, I try very, very hard never to give people advice in real life until they come to me and ask. And meanwhile I have my blog. Really, blogging is such a blessing. And if I could figure out how to do it without going back to school, I would be happy to take money from such girls and boys who ask my advice. Maybe I could get a gypsy caravan and a sign: "Madame Seraphic. Your Love Life Assessed.  £40/hr."

The operative assumption of older bossy ladies is that you don't like being Single and very much want a man. If you do like being Single and do not very much want a man, then feel free to tell bossy older ladies so. They might be a bit shocked and, heaven help us, feel judged because they are married and very much wanted a man at your age, so you might preface this with "I have so much respect for married ladies, especially mothers, as motherhood is really the Most Important Vocation, but for myself I enjoy the tranquility of the single state."

But if you are among the man-wanting majority you have at least two options. You can say, "I know you mean well, but this is very hard for me, and I'd rather not discuss it" and burst into older-lady shaming tears. Or you can lean forward and say, "Tell me what you know. May I take notes?" If option 2, ask "Why?" a lot.

The Dragon Lady

Friday, June 21, 2013
Hey there Friday. Nice of you to join us!
 
I have to introduce you guys to someone.  She is the best weimy ball there ever was!
My adopted daughter and my main bitch.
 

Dakota, Dak, Dak Dak, Big Dog.
She answers to them all.
This girl just turned seven years old!  That is forty nine in dog years!
She is no longer a youthful pup, but becoming a ornery old woman.
SamIam picked her cute butt out of a litter of eight the summer before his Junior year of college.  
on the way home!
This was before we were a "we".  Just look at these precious pics I found!
Sam practicing for future ponytails...
She still wears that same tag today.
Her sisters using her as a pillow.
Daddy's Copilot 
Dakota and I bonded immediately when Sam and I first started dating.  
I think it is probably because we are both cuddle whores.  We now share the same side of the bed.  
Yep, I share my side of the bed with 85 pounds of love!
And she worked hard for every single one of those lbs!  Let me tell ya!
                                                             Dakota has an eating disorder.
She binges if not closely watched.
Girl has got some mad problem solving skills though!
Her main problem: How can I get more food?
We make both dogs sit and wait while we put their food in their bowls and then tell them to "go!"
Dak will inhale hers as fast as she can and then go hover by Riley, waiting for him to left his head so she can nudge him out of the way.  Well we caught on to this pretty quickly and started watching them while they ate.  She had finally earned our trust back...until last weekend.
Lately...she has gotten smart.  Too smart.
She almost had us too. 
   
Here's how she does it.
She will gobble her food up as fast as she can.
 Then nonchalantly walk into the living room acting like she is being so well behaved.
Then she will bark like someone is at the front door. 
Guard dog to the rescue!  Here comes Riley to back her up!
While Riley is distracted checking out the front door Dakota will saunter back into the kitchen and finish off his food.  By the time he gets back to his bowl it is completely empty and she is walking away really pleased with herself.
Dinner time is now supervised.
Yeah. That looks like a malnourished dog.



#backthatazzup 
Dog Days Are Over by Florence and The Machine on Grooveshark
In honor of my grey dog,
 I give you Florence to lift your spirits and remind you that the weekend lies ahead!
Tall Tails Link Up
 

First Dates on Reality TV

Benedict Ambrose thought I would love the new British TV show called "First Dates" because it is about Single people. However, Channel 4 and I have different concepts of "Single." Channel 4 defines a "Single" as someone who is not "dating" anyone right now, and I define "Single" as anyone who is not married or, at very least, engaged.  An unmarried woman with a boyfriend who thinks she's in roughly the same situation as a married woman is fooling herself. Psychologically, there is nothing like marriage, which is why divorcing people go at least little nuts at first, as I know firsthand.

On "First Dates," the Singles chosen for the first episode met in a London restaurant for a meal before leaving together for wherever. Interestingly, they were matched for age and claaaaaass, but not for geography. Northern girl got put with Southern guy. Liverpool girl got put with Southern guy. Nineteen year old girl with sweet round face and polished vowels got put with 25 year old Something in the City with equally polished vowels. Sixty-eight year old widower who collects clocks joined sixty-eight year old widow who asked him if he had read Fifty Shades of Grey. Well, I ask you, what a question for a first date.

The idea of dating at 68 led to some discussion between Mr and Mrs McAmbrose, let me tell you. Frowning, B.A. said that at 68 he could not be bothered. Mrs B.A. said that she did not want to date 68 year old men ever, and if widowed at 68, she will hire rent boys. B.A. was shocked by such ladies' locker room talk and said Mrs B.A. so wouldn't. Mrs B.A. said she so would. But she inwardly reflected that this would be taking a big risk with her soul, even though she is banking on living until 86. Maybe she will run a boarding house for University of Edinburgh medical students instead, just like her great-great-grandmama.

Anyway, the 68 year old on the show was not put off by the question about Fifty Shades of Grey. He said he hadn't read it, but the ladies at his knitting group had told him about it. I bet they did, those cheeky knitters. Dear heavens, is that what the over-60 social scene is like? It's almost enough to make me want to play lady-in-waiting to the Order of Malta instead.

The two beautiful children with polished vowels got along quite well, as did the 68 year olds. It did not hurt my very soul to listen to their first date chatter. The soul-hurters were the middle-aged people, including the middle-aged woman of 24. Attention women of Britain: tanning, even fake tanning, AGES you. B.A. and I watched the middle-aged with rapt attention, saying married-people things like, "He can't possibly be younger than me; look at him."

We were desperately afraid for the Liverpudlian fielding sexy remarks from the 35 ("Is he really only 35?") year old DJ. The DJ said he is afraid he will end up being the old man at the end of whichever bar in Ibiza hitting on the young girls. As he has slept with over 250 women, he may already be that guy: he simply could not turn off the smooth. However, the Liverpudlian looked at him with equanimity, as if, although she cannot remember the capitals of European cities, she knows men like she knows her hair products. (I sometimes meet women like this, especially in salons. They never really saw the point of school, or books, but they look fantastic, they own their own homes and men appear when they whistle. There is a terrible lesson in this, which is probably Enjoy knowledge for its own sake.)

We felt awful for the pretty woman (well, I thought she was pretty) sitting across the table from a foul-mouthed ex-soldier. Heavens. Even Flashman usually knew better than to speak to a lady like that. The woman seemed to laugh it off, and even lied like a trouper (or, let's face it, your typical super-polite Englishwoman) to say she enjoyed her date, but it was quite clear she did not. I would have walked out. And if the ex-soldier were my son, I would have cried myself to sleep last night, that's how ashamed I would be. (NB My oldest brother is an ex-soldier and as far as I know he never, ever talks like that.) Of course, the love of the ex-soldier's life, who broke up with him, was a soldier, too, so maybe he thinks all women put up with that kind of talk now.

There were other pairs, but they are beginning to get confused in my memory. Needless to say, there were no religious people  (or religion never came up) or academics or, apart from one Chinese woman whose accent was played for laughs, foreigners, so I didn't feel I had terribly much in common with any of the daters. Most of all, I would never want a first date I was on to end up on telly, unless it involved  a good, sparky, philosophical debate that ended in a draw.

My last first date (as it turned out to be) would have made terrible telly, as it consisted of B.A. telling me all about various age-old Cath Soc scandals at the University of Aberdeen and me trying to keep my jet-lagged eyes open. Zzzzz.

Nie chcę już być singelką/I don't wanna be single no more

Thursday, June 20, 2013
A kind friend sent me a link to a Benedictine retreat in Tyniec, Poland for Polish-speaking Single women who want to stop being Single. Here is the link. I see that the first session starts tomorrow, which is a little late for planning, but there is a repeat in September.

The workshop is being led by two psychiatrists and a Benedictine priest, and that's almost all I can tell you about it. It is about getting married, so it is different in spirit from my Polish workshops, which are all about finding meaning in your Singleness, not how to chuck it ASAP.

The part I find mysterious is that there is just this retreat for women and no retreat for men called "Nie chcę już gotować" (I don't want to cook anymore). Why is the focus on women getting themselves married when traditionally it is men who do the asking? Is the increasing number of Single Poles over 25 the fault of Single women Poles? Could it not have something to do with the Single men Poles? Personally, I have no idea. Well, I have one idea. This idea is born of the fact that in Polish class we do not talk about our classmates' Polish spouses but about their Polish partnerkach

I am very sympathetic to the idea of Single women who want to marry getting married, so if the secret of the late marriage era is actually in this Benedictine abbey, I hope a reader goes to it and reports back everything.

Edinburgh, City of Dancers

As a particular favour to a local NCB, I am putting up his salsa video, so you can all help his group win a prize.



Apparently the Edinburgh salsa people have a rivalry with the Edinburgh tango people. I am so not getting involved in that. Incidentally, you are all due for another post on what a good resource partner dancing societies are for meeting new people.

There Is No Such Thing As Having It All

This week I have spent time with two Single women academics, and they have both invited me to visit them in their different European countries. I would love to visit them in their European countries. I live in Europe already, so it is not that difficult, and I love love love love love love travelling by myself, in silence, straining to understand the European chat of the Europeans around me, and making a million notes in my diary.

I love chatting with Single women academics. I used to be one. Well, I used to be a Single woman graduate student. And I used to get together with women all the time for big chit-chats. So the idea of travelling by myself to other European countries where I can sometimes be silent and take notes and sometimes have a glorious woman-only chit-chat is fantastic.

But it's not that simple. It's not that simple because I am married, and being married involves a daily (sometimes hourly) examination-of-conscience question called "Am I being fair to my spouse?"

Because B.A. likes travel, too, only not in silence and not by himself. And he'd like to travel as much as I do, only he can't because he has to work in one place. And his work pays almost all the bills--including my bills. And I am already travelling for a week without B.A. in July. So it would not be fair for me--I have been thinking about this for hours--to go jetting off to other European countries right now, especially as I have spent all my recent earnings towards our September holiday in Italy.

Fairness to a spouse is not something you have to think about when you are Single. And I know that many Singles would answer, "I would give up absolutely everything, including freedom to travel whenever I want, including career prospects, including my best friends, including seeing my family more than once a year, to marry the love of my life, even if we never have any children." And that's fine. I felt the same way when I met the love of my life. I feel the same way now!

But the thing is, you must remember that marriage involves work (above all, on your own personality) and really, honestly, truly, no word of a lie, marriage sometimes includes not doing stuff you really want to do because it would simply not be fair to your spouse do it.

There is no such thing as "having it all," so embrace what you do have.

Guess where we are featured! In Style Me Pretty Little Black Book

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Many moons ago when I started Reviva Weddings I spent hours scouring the websites for inspiration and fabulous ideas, I fell upon many beautifully created websites sharing love for all things weddings and styling.


One of the first websites, I recall, was the Knot followed closely by Martha Stewart Weddings.   

Snippet and Ink had some beautiful inspiration boards and as I worked on my own business I often browsed the internet looking for the latest wedding trends and fashion.  


I soon recognised some of the Wedding World Web leaders as being Junebug Weddings and Style Me Pretty and never in a million years did I think I would ever achieve being accepted and featured on both these amazing websites as one of their recommended Destination Wedding Planners and Designers.


My love of all things Spain, combined with my professional design and styling skills, I am fortunate to have created an amazing business whilst bringing up my smallest daughter and juggling two teenage daughters, which I am hugely proud of, delivering beautiful weddings to our wonderful clients time and time again.

So after many years of hard work, I am known for burning the midnight oil, I am thrilled to have achieved so much and absolutely love what I do.


Plus I am also known for scoffing wedding cake samples, trying to steal cupcakes, standing on my soapbox about commissions in wedding world, earned the honorary title of the Fairy Godmother of the Costa Del Sol who waves her magic wand hence my magic sparkles on our Blog that follow the cursor, surviving on less sleep than Maggie Thatcher and drinking coffee until it comes out my ears :)

I am now delighted to have Reviva recognised as one of the most creative and innovative Wedding Designers and Planners in Spain.


We are squeaking with excitement to be featured in Style Me Pretty´s family on their Little Black Book as recommended Wedding Planners and Stylists here in Spain.

I would also like to thank our team who have supported me and helped me to get where we are today, including Carla, Isabel, Loraine and Anoulka, an amazing array of hugely talented girls who are all passionate as I am about weddings, along with the fabulous suppliers, venues and photographers we have the pleasure of working with, without whom we could not create our weddings and showcase our hard work.


 And last but of course the most important, all the beautiful brides and their handsome grooms and lovely families who have trusted us to create their magical days.


I sound like I am standing on the stage for an Oscar, but we are proud of our achievements however will not cry or waffle on about our families!

The images on this post are a sneak peek from a beautiful wedding we planned and styled at the iconic Marbella Club two weeks ago, more to come on this wedding and our thanks to Agata Jensen Photography for a sneak peek of this beautiful wedding :)

Summer 2013 Issue Cover Sneak Peek

We're so excited for you to see the spectacular new Summer 2013 issue of Weddings Unveiled coming soon in July and we couldn't wait to share this preview of the issue's gorgeous cover!!

Visit the Weddings Unveiled Website
Follow Weddings Unveiled on Twitter
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Find Weddings Unveiled on Facebook


Styling and photography: Brooke Thomas. Photographed on location at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens in Leesburg, VA. www.oatlands.org. Hair and makeup: Samantha A. Smith. www.samanthaasmith.com. Fashion assistants: Emily Howard and Sara Wilson. Silk white 4-ply silk crepe illusion neckline seamed sheath and 4-ply silk crepe cape by Monique Lhuillier, $3,400 for gown and $2,750 for cape. www.moniquelhuillier.com. House of Lavande Vintage Robert Sorrell very long diamante earrings, $848. www.houseoflavande.com.


"How to be Single" (Review, Part 2)

How to be Single is the first novel of "Sex and the City" writer Liz Tuccillo, and it reads like a season of "Sex and the City". The ladies are slightly older this time, and they include Julie, a bored PR rep for a publishing company; Gloria, an angry recently abandoned mother of two; Serena, a gentle vegetarian chef; Ruby, a depressive mourning her cat; and Alice, a Legal Aid lawyer who has temporarily abandoned her calling to search for a mate, full-time.

All these women, with the exception of ascetic Serena, are desperate for a boyfriend. Desperate. Go out, hit on any man that moves, get drunk, dance topless on a bar desperate. End up in a hospital emergency room desperate. And it is in an emergency room where narrator Julie overhears elegant Frenchwomen slagging them off, en francais, for being typical American women, with no orgueil, pride.

Julie decides soon after to go around the world to find out how other women are Single. The novel flashes back and forth between Julie's round-the-world adventures and her friends' adventures back in New York City. As in "Sex and the City", there is a certain touristy obsession with France and, of course, sex. Because of the sexual content, in a sex club in France, in Julie's one-afternoon-stand with a near-stranger in Rio, and in various hiding places around Serena's ashram, this book is not suitable for unmarried readers and possibly not for married readers either, depending on the readers' disposition. If you're going to be haunted by explicit images of sweaty encounters with Brazilians who speak very little English, stay away. Oh, and given that both Serena and her swami lover have taken vows of celibacy, if you get crushes on priests and seminarians, most definitely you should not read this book.

PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD

For the most part, the women behave in self-defeating and yet jaw-droppingly selfish ways, which seem to be celebrated by the book and indeed the book has no redeeming messages in the first 200 pages, except the (French) idea of not showing your hurt and disappointment when a man loses interest in you. The book is absolutely obsessed with status, glamour and wealth. If the narrator speaks to a man, there is a good chance he owns an awful lot of real estate, has huge sums of money in his bank account, and is ready to lavish much expensive treats on whichever woman temporarily catches his eye.

It is interesting that the narrator (or author) can see the grasping nature of Chinese playgirls, but not her own obsession with the money and status of people she meets. When Julie's adventures take her to India, it should come to no surprise that the woman who picks her up at the airport is of the Brahman caste. The caste system makes Julie extremely uncomfortable despite the fact that she she has been partying with French, Italian, and Australian millionaire playboys, and her reaction to Balinese people trying to make a living through white tourists was, ultimately, to shout at them. The only poor men in the book, the Brazilians and the Balinese, are portrayed as good only for sex and incapable of fidelity.

However, there are glimmers of insight into how to be Single in ways that ordinary Christian women might recognize. Desperate Ruby turns again to the animal shelter for love, and becomes a volunteer, "The Sister Mary Prejean" of animals, being the last loving fact cats and dogs see before they are put down. In Mumbai, Julie tries to assuage her guilt and pangs of a broken heart though joining two British Indian women in giving beggar children one happy day at a fair. Sadly, these volunteer jobs are short-lived. Much more fruitful are encounters with close-knit families.

It is salutary to see that the sins of the women in the first half of the book are well and truly punished by the second half. Horrible Georgia starts to actually care about her children when her husband very justifiably tries to wrest custody from her angry, neglectful self. Adulterous Julie has a humiliating showdown with her French lover's wife. Ruby's seven thousand dollar experiments with self-insemination brings back flashbacks of her mother's misery as a poor single mother. Failed celibate Serena discovers that her swami lover has been sleeping with a whole lot of other women, women who don't mind sharing him. Alice fakes love for months in her attempts to settle and JUST GET MARRIED. Only by hitting absolute bottom do these women seem to get a grip on the fact that sex and/or selfishness and/or designer babies do not in themselves bring happiness.

But what does bring happiness? The narrator concludes, after all the women meet up for a therapeutic cry in the therapeutic hot springs of Iceland, that happiness can be found by LOVING YOURSELF. She more accurately thinks it can be found by letting go of one's failed dreams and being open to a different future. She might also have said that one should stop looking for happiness in the arms of men, and look for it in one's day-to-day activities, in one's friends and, especially, in one's family--either one's own or in a family one serves. Julie's trip to India, and ringside seat to contemporary Indian arranged marriages (of the highly-educated Brahmin caste), shines a light on how impoverished Americans (and other Westerners) have become by their rejection of the wider, multi-generational family, particularly their new assumption that decisions about sex and marriage have nothing to do with their families.

But completely missing from this book is any acknowledgement whatsoever of the God of Abraham. The only official religion portrayed in the book is Hinduism, I suppose because the author sees it as so sex-positive, except in the American branch to which Serena belongs. You would not know, from this book, that the Incarnation ever happened, or that there is a rich Western philosophy behind courtship, marriage, family and, indeed, Single life, from which we have profited for centuries.