Jordi Pujol: my part in his downfall

The autonomous Catalan parliament heads for a constitutional confrontation with Madrid over its illegal referendum on November 9th, declared by its president Artur Mas yesterday. It was only the day before this, in the Catalan parliament, that Jordi Pujol – the political “godfather” of Artur Mas – was questioned about corruption charges and left the building to shouts of “Ladron!” “Thief!”


In 1991 as the Catalan politicians of Barcelona prepared for the Olympics the following year, they decided that their English needed improving. Jordi Pujol had the great idea of employing a team of English teachers to give himself and his immediate circle some weekend “intensive” English courses to bring them up to speed. As English teachers, it was the best money any of us had ever earned. Even better, we didn’t have to do any teaching. We just sat in a bar in Pujol’s home town of Olot while the old schemer rabbited away in Catalan with a cabal of his political cronies, safely hidden away for the weekend from the scrutiny of Barcelona opposition.

Jordi Pujol quite often depicted as Yoda Pujol because Yoda apparently his millions of Euros in another galaxy.

Jordi Pujol quite often depicted as Yoda Pujol because Yoda apparently stashed millions of Euros in another galaxy.

So, I must admit, with great embarrassment, that I too therefore profited from the corruption of Catalan politics. Hey ho, I can live with that.





flag ministerIt will be very interesting to see how the “illegal” referendum is tackled by Madrid, using constitutional law. Meanwhile, deputy prime minister Sáenz de Santamaría has been appointed “…flag and national symbols manager…”


morris roodness

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Reflections on a mad world

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 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!


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Return of Brother Lapin’s donkey blog

Thanks to Scary Goat and Dilly for responding to my SOS emails to send in a comment explaining my silence. I have been locked out of my blog for two weeks.

Since my phone handset was replaced following firework damage (yes, what a mad life I lead) the two-step authentication used to prevent my blog being hacked failed to work. WordPress did not accept the code numbers generated by Google Authenticator on the phone. To make matters even more complicated, WordPress support disappeared for these two weeks! They posted a notice to the effect that the company was involved in some arcane team-building group hug, so whatever problems we bloggers might have would just have to wait until they returned. Great! Not exactly what I pay my annual fee for, in order to have a address.

Anyhow, it has all been sorted out this evening and the blog is back in action. I can also access my other blog which I use for teaching, and deprivation of that site has been more frustrating, as it is regularly updated with homework materials and case studies current to the exam classes I am teaching.

Since it is Monday evening and I have a full week’s work ahead of me, the school blog must take priority. Apologies to readers for the silence these past weeks. Donkey news will follow shortly, but here is a picture of Morris pulling me and the cart yesterday during his latest driving lesson.

Morris minor driving slowly uphill

Morris minor driving slowly uphill

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Honest blog stats

On a good day this donkey blog gets 2, 229 hits.  As a random example, here is August 11th 2014 when I posted something controversial about Israeli propaganda and donkeys.

Blog stats August 11 2014

Blog stats August 11 2014


 Happily, the average is settling down at about three hits per day, and most of these three visitors are sensible, non-hysterical people who simply like donkeys.


 Gardeners Question Time

I have been trying to grow a small Christian community in very dry territory in Iraq, which was subject to the well-known Tony Blair Blight.  After flowering for hundreds of years this precious flower has been decimated by Islamist weeds growing up in response to Blair Blight. Can your Gardeners Question Time panel tell me when the waffle will stop and some serious action begin?

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Blogging into oblivion

How much time do I waste online?

There must be moments for all of us when we need to pause and consider our use of time online, and I have in the past sometimes concluded that my own keen commitment to blog discussion, Twitter etc. was getting unhealthily obsessive. A number of things have all come together now to indicate to me that I need to make a proper audit and assess the way my online activity affects: 1. the philosophical, political and religious issues I care about; 2. the social, cultural and community values I support at a local and wider level; and 3. my own self-care, i.e. my psychological and spiritual welfare as a result of engaging with others online, or simply on a more mundane level, could I get out in the daylight more and lose nothing by turning off the computer or smart phone?  Indeed, is the phone that smart?

1. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that any online activity engages people sufficiently to make them consider other people’s ideas: the medium is entirely ephemeral and discussion is instantly forgettable.

2. In a limited way, the internet can be useful to further local issues because online discussion can be followed up in a practical way by face-to-face meetings and realistic plans. For example, a neighbourhood watch scheme liaising with the local authority and people in touch on the internet has been one of the positive surprises of this summer.

3, I have found the hazards of engaging with others online, during the past several years, far outweight the benefits or pleasant encounters. There have been times when my professional life has been threatened and my psychological well being has been undermined by people obsessively attempting to pursue me across blogs and other media, simply to destroy my reputation because they disagree with something I said.

On balance then, I have concluded the following:

I should restrict mu activities to blogging on matters that give me pleasure because I can see some result. Therefore this blog continues because it is practical, fun, amuses others and sometimes provides useful information to help my animals.

I should be very wary of engaging too much with news sites, Twitter, any kind of newspaper bloggers, and in particular Catholic traditionalist blogs: a very real waste of time from my point of view, as there are so many of them and they quite often tend to regurgitate the very same issues in more or less the same way, on a three weekly rotation.

Fr Hunwicke 7There needs to be a sensible balance, however.  Some sites, like the excellent Fr Hunwicke and the unmissable Fr Finigan provide thoughtful and spiritual input, and the comment boxes are not full of pointless people doing their own thing regardless of the topic.  Brother Eccles remains a positive waste of time and his inimitable humour thankfully doesn’t require getting into pointless combat with commenters, as there are few of them and they are mostly too obscure to be intelligible, apart from the ever lucid Ferdinand Mass-Trousers.

The problem with some blogs is that they get filled up with the outpourings of people who cannot manage to write a successful blog themselves and need to hijack someone else’s blog!  This is becoming quite a feature of a few blogs that are plagued by “enthusiasts” who make up to a dozen comments on a post!


So, it’s time for a significant reduction online. Let’s just try and call it a day. What can I do instead?  I live alone in a Spanish farmhouse and after I put the donkeys to bed (no, not literally) there isn’t a great deal of entertainment. I’ve tried listening to the Archers, but honestly, I really don’t know how to make such a huge adjustment in life. If anyone can explain the point of it, I would be most grateful.

Or there’s the news on Radio 4.  Lovely.  Let’s get the latest details on beheadings in the Middle East. Something else that is best left to go its own way.  Why lay awake at night trying to get the grisly details out of your head? It is no longer news. it is voyeurism.

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Bath time for Matilde

Matilde has a bath

Matilde has a bath

The last weekend of the summer holiday is the time to try and catch up on all the last-minute things there will not be time for, starting tomorrow…

Like a bath for Matilde. She hates getting wet and I hate getting kicked, so bath time is unpleasant for everyone!

Also during this last weekend ofthe summer holidays, the Donkey Sanctuary announced they had put a stop to the use of a donkey in a museum in southern Spain.  I am interested in knowing more about the details.

Mill donkey

Mill donkey in Mijas

The news appeared on Twitter with the picture of the donkey, turning an olive press in the traditional way, and this caption: “Should donkeys be used as entertainment in a mill in Spain? We don’t think so. We’ve stopped demos like this.”  I was interested to know more and asked for further information, and a lady called Sue Cook replied: “I live in Mijas and have seen the mill and I don’t like to see the donkeys being used for this, that’s all.”

Now, I am all for donkey welfare and cutting out abuses, but I think we need to be very careful here. The donkey would have been used to demonstrate earlier agricultural processes, just as we have horses used to demonstrate horse-drawn ploughing techniques etc., and I wonder if this donkey would have been turning the mill for more than a couple of demo sessions, in any case?  I’m simply asking about this, as I have not got the full information, but I do wonder if we may be going too far.

Do we want to see donkeys entirely removed from public view, except gathered in sanctuaries eating and sleeping?  They once had a working role and we should allow that to be credited, and the donkeys’ work remembered, and sometimes demonstrated.  It would be good, as I say, to hear more about the facts of this, and “I don’t like to see donkeys being used for this” may not be a sufficiently good reason for banning a perfectly reasonable demonstration of working practices in former times.  If too many things we “don’t like” are labeled “abuse”, we risk turning animals into mere ornaments.

Update 2/9/14

I have now managed to find the Donkey Sanctuary’s full explanation which was not linked in their earlier Tweet, and you can read it here:

PS  Why bath Matilde?

It occurred to me since Hannah’s comment (see comments) that most readers of this blog will be unaware we have had no significant rain since January: this is a severe drought disaster area. The donks have had no natural rainfall on them for eight months!  Another reason why Matilde needs a bath.

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A very strange summer

It is nearly the end of the summer holidays and – for once – I shall be glad to get back to work.  With the combination of the awful “neighbours” in the house next door - thank goodness they are finally to be evicted by Sunday – and the ghastly news of horrid events around the world, it has not been a very nice summer. It is very difficult to switch off and relax when you have headbangers next door and the world seems in total turmoil.

And yet, life with the donkeys carries on pretty much the same, and that is the saving grace. The daily round of feeding and walks, grooming and messing about with reins and pack saddles, at least made these weeks worthwhile.  The donkeys have to be kept away from the fig tree at present because the wind blows and down fall the ripe figs, then the donks eat them all. The rest is predictable. The field gets very messy and sweeping up becomes quite an unpleasant job.

Donkeys queuing up for figs: only one fig each, or it all gets very messy

Donkeys queuing up for figs: only one fig each, or it all gets very messy

"Correfoc" - the Finestrat fiestas fire run

“Correfoc” – the Finestrat fiestas fire run

The highlight of the Finestrat fiestas was the “Correfoc” – the fire run through the village, where we all take silly risks with fireworks exploding all around us. My mobile phone was destroyed: screen hit by flying sparks and cracked in two places. Luckily, it was insured and Orange agreed to replace it.  Unluckily this is Spain and the 24 hour replacement service was due to be effected on Tuesday. It is now Thursday and I have heard no more about it…

The painting was started but by no means finished, the farrier got a kicking, and in all this hot weather I still have not yet been to the beach. Must do that in these last three days before schoolbegins again on Monday.  Strange summer…

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