THE Daily Mail attained some kind of apogee this week with an article explaining how to read the personality of members of the royal family from their feet. “There’s a growing belief that our toes and soles give a glimpse into our character and motivations, much like palm-reading. . . In fact, there’s a respected whole branch of foot-reading (or ‘solestry’, as it’s known) based on the ancient Chinese idea that different points on the foot relate to different aspects of our brain.”
This was illustrated with various pictures of feet captioned with personality traits “loves to delegate”, “adores comfort”, and other things that you could never otherwise deduce about women who are among the richest and most famous in the world. It’s hard to pick from the insights on offer, but I think I’ll settle for “‘While Princess Eugenie’s upturned big toe shows someone highly visual, she hasn’t got the creative flair of Kate and Meghan,’ says Jane” (the expert, who has given 20 years of her life to the study of famous toes).
It turns out that this is her second appearance in the Mail: five years ago, they sent a writer along to get her sole examined, who got some more personal details from her: “I don’t mind cynicism when it’s coupled with curiosity, but sometimes I just tell [people] I’m an author instead (she’s written three books about, you guessed it, foot reading). Feet do fascinate me, but sometimes I want to talk about something else.”
I once knew a man who had spent 30 years studying the vagina of a tiny hermaphrodite worm, but he won a Nobel Prize for what he found there. He, too, liked to talk about other things than his work.
TWO headlines from the Roman Catholic press — “Cardinal Burke: there are times when a Pope must be disobeyed”, and “Order of Malta members warned not to insult the Pope online” — so, business as usual there.
But the kicker is that the headlines have, so to say, swapped allegiance, so that the one about Cardinal Burke comes from The Tablet, and the news that the Knights of Malta have had to be warned not to mount online campaigns against the Pope comes from The Catholic Herald. Back in the dear sweet innocent days of the Iraq War, we used to joke about “keyboard warriors”: those bloggers eager to water the desert with other people’s blood. Now there is a whole military order taking to cyberspace, only to be slapped down by the Vatican.
THEN there was the press release from Church House about marriage, which was a really spectacular example of whistling past the graveyard.
Ask a thousand people under 35 whether they plan to get married, and 40 per cent reply: “No, never.” Of the remainder, who “said they would like to marry at some point”, more were in favour of getting married in church than in a registry office or town hall, although only by 47 per cent to 34 per cent.
But it is absolutely clear that this was an architectural preference rather than a spiritual one. “Marrying before God, or receiving a blessing” came seventh in the list of reasons that people might give for marrying in church; and 83 per cent reported that faith or religion had had no influence on their wedding ideas.
The official comment from “The Church of England’s Head of Life Events”, Canon Sandra Millar, teetered on the verge of self-parody: “It’s encouraging to see that young people are still thinking and planning for a wedding.”
But this is, in its way, a clear example of the reasons why the conservative campaign against gay marriage failed completely: young people simply do not see weddings as religious ceremonies at all; so they don’t see why the Churches should have any valid or interesting views on marriage.
TIME for something different. The French RC online news magazine La Croix, which is descended from an attempt by The Boston Globe to mount a global religion site, had an article about the part played by religion in Burundi, where the President, Pierre Nkurunziza, is married to Denise, a pastor in a Pentecostal church. “With the approach of the May 17 referendum on changes to the Constitution, meant to eliminate the limits to the presidential term, Denise Nkurunziza has repeatedly preached the good political word in the media.
“‘She hits out at those “who pray badly” and, at the same time, those who might be tempted to manifest their opposition to the referendum,’ said [an understandably anonymous] Catholic priest. ‘She reminds them that God chose the president and if someone wants him to go away, he has to ask God and not demonstrate in the street at the risk of dying like the others.’”
Neither is the President backwards in his piety: he prays in public “during political, sporting or cultural events, a passion he demonstrates in all dimensions of his life, even his football club, Alléluia FC, where he plays centre-forward.” The article does not spell this out, but it is likely that God answers many of his prayers on the football field, at least when he is playing domestic opponents.