Thursday 13 April 2023

The last month has been significant in that I sold my house in UK on 13 March, celebrated Easter and enjoyed 4 days off!

But my last blog was 28 January so something else must have happened. You will recall that in mid January I was visited by two of my brothers, Chris and Pete. I neglected to tell you that we shared a ‘near death’ experience! Driving down towards Anna Maria Island you have to take the Skyway Bridge. This is an amazing engineering achievement spanning a wide expanse of water. On this occasion there were warnings of high winds as we ventured onto the bridge. Just as we reached the highest point a truck sped past us with a trailer carrying what appeared to be an open tunnel-like structure probably destined for the Carnival festivities in the south. It was immediately caught by the wind and jack-knifed into a SUV in front of us. Fortunately I was able to slow down in time but the SUV was totalled. Drivers seemed to be OK and were able to call for help so feeling that the top of the Skyway was not the safest place to remain we drove on to the other side!

Two months ago I took delivery of an L-shaped desk. A few years ago I had decided to free up one of my spare bedrooms and relocate my ‘office’ to part of my bedroom. My bedroom is in fact two bedrooms knocked through to one so it is not as though I would miss some of the space there. As you might guess, assembly of the desk was not easy. At stage one of assembly I realized that some parts were missing but over the next few days they duly arrived on request. I had done my measurements correctly but even I was amazed at the way everything turned out. There then began the daunting task of filing away papers that had been building up elsewhere. Even as I type this task is not complete!

Almost 30 years ago I received a new and prolonged treatment for keloid scarring but after 9 months of this treatment I had received the maximum exposure. The consultant advised that I ensure that I holiday in a hot place every year. This began my love affair with Goa, India which I visited for one month every year for twenty years. In 2014 when I left UK I knew that it would be too long a journey to India and that I would not receive enough vacation days to make the trip worthwhile, but the hand of God was in my migration to Florida where every day I could receive the sun exposure I needed to suppress the pain from the keloids as they grew. I’m mentioning all this because with all the sun exposure I was expecting to get some skin damage and was afraid of melanoma. I went to a specialist and received a clean bill of health. Weeks later a colonoscopy revealed no cancers and a clean bill of health with no return appointment for 10 years. I was a little annoyed to find that my labs had revealed a spike for no apparent reason. My doctor advised giving up alcohol temporarily so I did this for a month and the situation improved. Yes!

Last May I visited UK to spend time with my mum and to prepare for the sale of my house to the tenant of the last 8 years.We agreed a sale price and hoped to finalise things in a few weeks. Unfortunately my tenant hit problems with obtaining a mortgage and was subjected to extremely enhanced financial scrutiny. At the start of March the investigations seemed to be coming to a close and I was delighted to sell the property on 13 March. The exchange rate was in my favour so I began the process of moving the proceeds. this took a while as one can only move 25k per day. Immediately I began paying off debts which accrued interest: Wyndham time share, solar panels and finally the mortgage on my Tampa residence. Being debt-free feels great! I even bought a Nissan Rogue 2023! Now I just have to sort the Capital Gains Tax!

In the 6-week run up to Easter I got ahead with composing more psalms to the Abbey texts. I was delighted that my setting of the Alleluia Psalm for Easter Vigil was easily adaptable to the Psalm for Easter Sunday. This meant less work for me but also less work for my wonderful army of Cantors. Triduum is a challenging time but each year I have set a target to get all the preparation work done well in advance. I planned a choir ‘boot camp’ for the Saturday immediately before Palm Sunday in which I was able to introduce all the music for Holy Week and this went very well indeed. The pizza helped!

Holy Week was a triumph on many counts but I was exhausted. I’d found a hotel on the east coast where I hoped to rest for 4 days. It was such a deal at $58 per night and it was a Wyndham hotel so all augured well! as soon as I played the last notes of Langlais’ Incantation on Easter Sunday I hit the road. As soon as I reached the hotel I became concerned that several of the advertised amenities were not available. There was not even a promised restaurant so I adjourned to a Beef O’Brady’s to consider my next move. I read some more recent reviews and decided that I would not sleep there. I complained to the online agency and was amazed to receive a full reimbursement plus 10%. I was able to eat and quaff a couple of beers before checking out and into another Wyndham down the road. This was much better but there were news reports that the beaches had been closed due to the high winds so I knew I would stay for one night only. I decided to open a bottle of wine to drown my sorrows. The pen-knife corkscrew I had brought with me ruined the cork so reception found me a screwdriver and I was able to push in the cork and spill only a little over my shirt! Back in my room I watched NASCAR and quaffed until sleep came upon me.

By 9am on the Monday morning I was back home in Tampa enjoying the better weather. Wednesday was pretty miserable but in Florida it rarely remains so for long. Back to work and more weddings on Friday!


Saturday 28 January 2023

As Advent began so my street was invaded by Christmas illuminations. I was a slow learner so the wreath and a short string of lights only appeared on Christmas Day. It was amazing that I achieved this after a tiring Christmas of eight Masses.

Christmas at Sacred Heart went well except that after the Night Mass one dear parishioner came to the organ to complain about the prelude to the Mass. In fact I had offered this prelude the previous year and it had been so well received that the Liturgy Committee requested a repeat. Using texts from John Bell it was typically challenging for those who deny the humanity of Jesus even in the form of a baby. Clearly the complaint was from someone so conservative that he probably also believes that the baby Jesus never cried nor soiled his nappies! But they pick their moments to complain, don’t they? So I returned home rather angry. The same guy had spoken at me two weeks earlier. He had objected to my setting of a psalm. He claimed that it reminded him of the retreat of Napoleon from Leningrad. (He didn’t seem that old). I responded to that with a surprise … “How did you know that this was precisely what I had in mind when I composed it?” On the occasion of Christmas Night I was more curt, suggesting that he had a problem of which I did not wish to be a part!

That aside Christmas was wonderful. Choir and Cantors did great things although it was worrying but understandable that many had to leave Tampa to fulfill family commitments.

Back home after Christmas duties I invited a couple of friends around for a Christmas meal of spiral ham and an assortment of holiday sides supplied by guests. There was a request to play the piano so I launched into Elton John for a while until fatigue and wine got the better of me!

I was in work the next day to prepare for the following Sunday and various weddings during the week. Our winter, normally just a couple of days had extended considerably this year it was easier to be in the office than by the pool. The following Sunday, 1 January, was another opportunity to play the Orgelbuchlein prelude Das Alte Jaht vergangen ist something I had played for almost 50 years on New Years Day. Epiphany was also celebrated on a Sunday so I added an afternoon event, SING OUT EPIPHANY to the usual cocktail of Masses. About forty folk gathered to sing favourite carols including some that never made it into the Masses. We even managed a bit of ‘bible study’ with another John Bell carol text which begged all manner of questions and prompted much discussion. Towards the end I asked someone to draw the raffle. The successful winner was invited forward. I shook her hand and proclaimed “You won the raffle” and then moved on to the final carol. She appeared a little baffled, as were many, and one choir member overcome with sympathy reached to give her a potted poinsettia. Most laughed eventually. When I was living in North London years ago I used to frequent the Red Rose Comedy Club in Finsbury Park. During the interval the compere Ivor Dembina, used to do the same raffle routine. Initially I thought it a bit odd that he had to draw several times before the ticket drawn matched that of someone who had never seen this before. Often visitors from America were left dumbstruck by this comedic action.

On Wednesday 11 January I drove to the airport to collect my two brothers Chris and Pete who would be staying with me for six days. Chris had visited me five years earlier with his family but this time he was always coming alone. It was a great surprise one day a few months ago when my brother Pete asked if he could tag along. These days together were going to be special. Driving home we stopped to collect a pizza and then relaxed over a few bottles of wine until bed beckoned.

Thursday began with a traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs before driving across the bay to St Petersburg. It was a warm sunny day in which we realised that nothing was open until 10am. At Cassis we had a further snack and coffee before stumbling around the vicinity. St Pete is not somewhere I am overly familiar with so it was an interesting trip for me too. The quality of service was immediately impressive everywhere we stopped. We did a fair bit of walking even though Chris struggled at times. OK we did have to pause at a tavern where the barman was an anglophile soccer fan! Our next stop was a shrimp bar where we sat outside to enjoy a seafood meal. We then uber-ed back to where the car was parked but, of course, had to fit in a further bar visit where, unable to drink (and drive) I was particularly impressed by the designer toilets.

Back in Tampa we took an uber to O’Briens where we quaffed too much as I introduced Chris and Pete to folk who have become my good friends. It was a bit late to eat out so we decided to try to order a food delivery. After an hour of searching we realised that Tampa food availability was nbot the same as in London.

We started the following day with a search for Cuban food but after visiting a recommended Cuban restaurant we had only managed bacon and eggs again (although Chris had fried whites of an egg only). The only things Cuban was the bread and the staff! We dropped into Downtown Tampa for a look around Sacred Heart Church and to meet work colleagues that happened to be in the office. I played a wedding and then met up with my brothers in Ybor City, the home of the Cuban cigar industry, which had now become a celebrated drinking and eating area. After a beer at the Tap House we finally were able to sample a Cuiban sandwich at Gaspar’s Grotto! My brothers were taken aback by the number of chickens wandering free in the streets but I was amazed, as we awaited the streetcar back to my car, to see the number of chickens roosting in the trees above our stop. It had been a long day and both brothers feel asleep on the sofa!

On Saturday we drove to Anna Maria Island which I had visited with Chris’ family on his first trip. As we passed the summit of the Skyway Bridge a truck with trailer carrying what appeared to be a tunnel went passed us at high speed. There had been warnings of high winds all along the bridge road but it was a great surprise when the truck and its load jack-knifed just beyond us, hitting the SUV in front of us and breaking its axle in the process. Once we were sure that the occupants were safe we drove on. Even though it was cooler than we might have hoped Anna Maria Island and the Sandbar Restaurant did not disappoint. We spent a casual few hours enjoying seafood, fine beers and a classic Florida view of the sea and white sands. After the meal we visited the Rod and Reel, a tiny bar at the end of a small pier. We then pointed the car towards Sarasota and visited the world famous beach of Siesta Key for a few minutes before driving on to Bradenton where we dropped into a marina bar where we were disappointed by the draughty mediocre environment. Back home we relaxed with a variety of cocktails, campari and gin being the popular starter.

We awoke a bit late on the Sunday and after breakfast we prepared for the arrival of friends for a bbq. While I took steaks and a pork loin from the fridge, Pete set about decorating the backyard with a flagstaff and union jack! An hour before the first arrival we brothers were relaxing outside with several glasses of white wine. Dan, the first arrival, arrived with wings (not a mode of transport but delightful morsels). Before long the place was full of food and drink and good company. It was particularly good to welcome Matt whom many had not see since his recent heart bypass operation. At 5.50pm one of my friends reminded us that there was a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral 140 miles away. We trooped into the park via my back gate and we’re amazed to see the glow of the rocket in the setting sun. We also saw the moment when it separated from the lower sections.

As dusk and the cold increased we moved a table near the fire pit and played ‘left-right-center’ a game this group of friends regularly enjoys.

Later on the Monday evening I would be driving Chris and Pete to the airport but much of the day remained so we drove to Dunedin a town famous for its restaurants and craft beer outlets. We stopped to eat at a marina restaurant which appeared to be popular. However we were not impressed and after a brief walk we found Bon Appetit a superior restaurant. This was a good way to spend the last hours. Later we ventured to Dunedin Causeway where we visited a tiki bar on the beach. Then we returned home and after collecting bags we headed for the airport. As soon as I got into the car I became overcome with tears. We Jakobs are emotional cripples at the least stimulus but these days together had been special. I have two other brothers and if I had been driving them to the airport it would have been the same. I only get the chance to be with my family once a year at best and Covid had made my return in May 2022 the first after a hiatus of a couple of years. Chris and Pete had been terrifically generous towards me throughout the duration of the trip and we had created many happy memories together.

The next day I was back at work, with a wedding on the Saturday and the usual stuff on the Sunday.

At 6am on the Monday I was back at the airport for a direct flight to St Louis for the 25th anniversary meeting of the Liturgical Composers Forum. On arrival at the LCF meeting point I had to ring Paul Hasser for assistance. “Look out for a beautiful young black woman”, he said. I was on speakerphone and a yelp of laughter alerted me to Bernadette standing behind me. It was not long before 4 others joined me and we headed for the transport. Unfortunately there was not space for all of us so I played the martyr and waited for Paul Inwood to arrive. It was a little before midday when we arrived and a light lunch was provided. The opening of the Forum would be at 5pm so I worked on my psalms until then. It was great to meet up with everyone once again. I had seen some of them at the NPM gathering in Louisville in July but this was going to be four complete days with colleagues who had become friends.In the course of those days we worshipped, reviewed each others compositions, ate and drank together. Our main speakers were ValLimar Jansen and Rawn Harbor. ValLimar is known to all of us as a Forum member but Rawn was new to us. Over the course of the next few days both delighted and challenged us with their introduction to African American culture and music. ValLimar was on fire but Rawn was amazing in the most understated way. Every time he approached the piano we knew we were in for something special as his technique drew magic effects from so familiar and instrument. Memorable moments were his unique and inspirational rendering of Dan Schutte’s ‘You are near’ and his accompaniment to ValLimar’s ‘Motherless child’ during Janet Sullivan Whitaker’s extended time of Lament on the Tuesday evening. On several occasions whether in the auditorium or the chapel the whole room was moved to tears. What is it that brings this phenomenon about? Certainly the simple answer would be to say that the Holy Spirit was blowing where she chooses. We were being offered an experience of the numinous. We were getting a glimpse of God. For wherever there is real beauty, there is God. During the Thursday night concert Liz Owen, a new associate member of the Forum, stepped forward to be the solo singer for Rawn’s setting of Psalm 63: another profound moment.

On a personal note it was good for me to meet with OCP and share the psalm project I had been working on for 3 years. It would not be possible to submit any of the psalms to the publisher until the matter of the psalm responses had been resolved but I did welcome the positive acceptance of the lyric settings I had been gradually amassing.

On Thursday afternoon we had a zoom meeting with Fr Andrew Menke of USCCB. This would be our first encounter with him and it needed to go well. In the event we discovered someone who spoke openly about his work and about matters that interested us in particular. I was able to ask about the Abbey Psalter and about the psalm responses. It was clear that little work had been done on the responses to date and therefore it might be good to be proactive at a later date. Andrew shocked some of us with the Bishops’ request that the liturgical song between the Glorias of Triduum should be unaccompanied. This would be a head-scratcher for many of us unless our local bishop was more understanding and over-ruled it.

Forum nights are often late and wine-fuelled. The Thursday night after the Concert was no exception. Chris Walker and I even managed to provide a couple of stories for Craig Colson’s amusing podcasts. I hope our speech was not impaired! At 2pm we sipped our last wine and hugged good friends for the last time. I would be leaving the Mercy Center before breakfast.

After barely four hours sleep I took my bags downstairs and left them outside the front door which promptly closed behind me, leaving me freezing for five minutes as I had forgotten the entry code. Fortunately it was not long before Remi Fonseca Bauer and driver Paul Hasser joined me. At then airport I shared a bagel breakfast with Remi and boarded the plane. The return flight passed without event … I was asleep. A great Forum reunion was over.

Today, Saturday, my church was closed due to a pirate invasion of Downtown Tampa on what has become known as Gasparilla Festival. This presented me with the opportunity to complete this blog installment. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Wednesday 30 November 2022

If it were not for a neighbourly friend lending me a lawn strimmer the grass in my backyard would have got totally out of hand. 4 months ago the strimmer I had bought from a charity store for a few dollars refused to accept new string. After a few phone calls the manufacturer gave me a ‘once only’ warranty to get the repair done in Tampa. Unfortunately this company took so long to complete the job but now I have it back and am able to strim away quite happily once again. To my arsenal of garden tools I have also added a mini chainsaw which has allowed me to stem the growth of larger plants. I’m sure you really wanted to know this!

My friend Bert has returned from his annual 5-month sojourn to the Pokenose where he has a house. One of his friends there journeyed south and has a good reputation as a handyman. I hired him to pressure wash my driveway and clean up the pool area. Later he will paint the back of the house hopefully before my brothers arrive in January.

During a recent doctor’s visit it was determined that I have an abdominal hernia. Unfortunately it is quite high up and close to the long scar from my gall bladder removal op. The muscle in this area will already have been weakened 30 years ago so the hernia is not going to be easy to deal with. Over the next few months I need to lose some weight so that the pressure on any further operation scar can be reduced. I’m not in any pain at the moment so there is no need to rush things.

In November 2019 my house in Sheffield was in the epi-centre of a biblical storm which affected much of England. Covid meant that I could not visit the house to assess the damage until May 2022. Then I learned that Endsleigh insurance company had sent in a restoration company to dry out the cellars which had been flooded by 3 feet of rising water. I had stored many of my possessions in the cellars so this was a concern. I also learned that the restoration company had removed several items from the house however years later the inventory of what was removed could not be located. To add to the complications Endsleigh Insurance had sold the landlord insurance aspect to Zurich Insurance. Zurich accepted responsibility and paid out about 7000 pounds.

The long saga of my UK house sale continues but my tenant, who is the purchaser, now has secured a mortgage and so I am just waiting for a completion date. To avoid interest payments I have had to pay off some outstanding accounts which has left me appearing financially short but I’m hoping it will not be long before the sale goes through. The pound seems to be gaining strength against the dollar following the political changes in UK so this will be good when I move money over to USA.

Last week a technician visited the house to install a digital doorlock. He took 6 hours to do a 90-minute job and left the lock crooked on the door and without a connection to the wifi! A second technician arrived on Saturday to straighten the lock but could not get it to connect to the wifi. He might have managed it eventually but I had to leave to go to work. When I got to the office I found the door to my office closed and impossible to open. This was just too much! This matter was resolved easily. On Monday a third technician will arrive with his manager to try to sort things. Hope springs eternal.

Hurricane Nicole visited Florida all too soon after Hurricane Ian.It was a weaker event than Ian, thank God, but was still a concern. I had some damage to my new vinyl fencing but this was easily rectified. Today is officially the last day of the hurricane season and mysteriously the weather is set to change. The last weeks have been much cooler and cloudier but things will become sunnier and warmer from today. Without doubt climate change is a reality here as elsewhere and we have experienced an unusually hot summer but the end of November still marks a meteorological change.

A few weeks ago friends gathered at Joe & Beth’s house to bid them farewell before they moved south to Bradenton. I was the last to arrive because I’d been working. Everything was packed up already and not even a corkscrew was available! Joe had busied himself by carefully labelling all the boxes of possessions. I persuaded some of the gang to re-label several boxes in a way that might be somewhat embarrassing. Hours later there was a loud yelp of laughter as Beth spotted what we’d done. Apparently when the movers arrived days later they too were amused!

Wednesday 19 October

We’re definitely back in the wedding season now. Immediately after the last blog and with the summer humidity and heat receding I found my self with three weddings (and a Vigil Mass) on one Saturday.

This is not too unusual in itself except I started at 9 by setting up the sound for visiting musicians who did everything apart from the processionals. This first wedding in the Syrian Orthodox Rite for a South Indian couple and their 300 guests who apart from 10 mins of homily stood for for the entire 2 hrs and 15 mins. It was a Rite full of symbolism and constant chanting. The second at 2:30pm was uneventful and mostly Hispanic although the presiding deacon spoke none and couldn’t even get the pronunciation of the couple’s names right! Then I had to cantor and play the vigil mass. The final wedding at 7:30pm was a quickie! A drink before bed was a welcome friend.

Days later Hurricane Ian arrived on the scene and the predictable emptying of supermarket shelves soon followed. I still had my bottles of water left over from the last event 3 years before. Friends had advised me not to drink it for fear of plastics in the water … I, who am made of stronger stuff and normally am quite content with tap water, stuck to my guns and made do with what I had. Turning to my hurricane kit I discovered that my trusty radio, not used since Irma in 2017 had given up the ghost. I had enough wine in the house to sink a battleship so I felt prepared. We had already been given permission to stay away from work. Weddings were cancelled or postponed and a GOD’S GOOD EARTH liturgy I had been working on was also cancelled.

The course of Ian was set to arrive directly over Tampa so there was much anxiety in the air. Fortunately for us Ian hit land much further south near Fort Myers but we still got some scary high winds and rain. I never lost power so I was able to see the devastation further south. My local bar was closed for one day (which rarely happens!) and after this it was business as usual. We still have tree debris out on the road awaiting collection and some folk are complaining that 3 weeks later this remains uncollected. How unreasonable is that when they must know that all the equipment has been diverted further south to deal with massive challenges. A friends mother was uncontactable after Ian so they went down to look for her. She had no power, no phone and her fridge freezer was full of stuff which needed to be discarded and there was little infrastructure around her to support life. So they brought her up from Fort Myers to Tampa. She desperately wanted to return but reason prevailed. This kind of story was heard so often over the following days.

Back at work after the hurricane break I kicked off with another wedding and the ‘normal’ weekend stuff. The following week included St Francis Feast Day with the ‘Transitus’ being celebrated on the vigil and a Feast Day Mass the following day, marking the end of the Season of Creation. Later that week at the Franciscan Center in Tampa I teamed up with ex-diocesan collegue and now Center Director, Brian Lemoi to deliver GOD’S GOOD EARTH as part of their celebrations. After the liturgy we blessed a new spirituality room and blessed the animals. Some of the City’s police horses ventured out for a blessing. I was happy to be sat with Sean who had been my predecessor at Sacred Heart. Mayor Jane Castor spoke beautifully about the contribution of the Center to the City and particularly of its RESTORE program which saved so many traumatized first responders.

Yesterday my brother Richard sent a video of his 2 year old helping my mum to put on her slippers. He was a bit puzzled by my mum’s confusion but it was a joy to see the willingness to help so apparent at such an early age.

My house in Sheffield is still not sold but I’m told it is progressing. Soon I will be having to pay interest on ‘interest free deals’ which I never expected to have to pay as I was hoping for a quicker settlement to the house.

This coming weekend I will have a liturgy committee meeting, three weddings and a Vigil Mass all on one Saturday. For one of the weddings the couple had booked two string players and a Cantor from the contemporary evening Mass. They had asked me to do some string arrangements but when it came to payment for this extra work they were not so agreeable! They won’t be getting the arrangements! Most couples are genuinely grateful for the service we provide at Sacred Heart but then there are always others who make may demands at the last minute and try to ‘nickel and dime’ you yet at the same time spend a fortune on the rest of the day. Grrr!

After an evening zoom meeting with my composers forum friends a couple of days ago I was surprised to find a small gathering chatting away in one of the rooms downstairs. I joined the conversation which was wide. One topic was about how to take a different path with the Open Doors outreach to the LGBT+ community. We are the only catholic parish in the diocese which welcomes such folk. I suggested that they be invited to provide a liturgy for consideration of Ukraine for instance. Something which would not focus on their sexuality but which enabled folk to thank them for the contribution to parish life. We’ll see how that develops.

This morning I awoke at 7am to greet my cleaner. It was 55F. Now this is chilly for Florida. So rather than go outside to install a security camera I decided to type this blog instead. I may even return to bed once the cleaner has gone!

Wednesday 21 September

My last blog ended with me expressing my delight that my brother Chris would be visiting me in January for a few days. You can only imagine how I felt when my brother Pete inquired of me whether it would be OK for both of them to visit! Well, knock me over with a feather!

Of course the last two weeks have been dominated by change in UK. First of all I heard that Liz Truss had been elected (by the Tory membership) as Prime Minister and was seen greeting the Queen soon after Boris Johnson had tendered to her his resignation. The Press had spotted blue marking on the Queen’s hand and were expressing concern. Two days later the Queen was dead. I recall waking at 7.20am on Thursday 8 September to hear news that the Queen’s doctors had made a statement that they were concerned about her health. Some members of the Royal family had already spent a few days with her in Balmoral and others were rushing to her bedside. Hours later came the sombre statement that the Queen had died. Even from this distance I felt a mood swing as BBC seemed to cover nothing but the arrangements leading up to the funeral on 19 September. The nation’s heart and perhaps that of the entire world was captured by her passing. Here folk approached me saying “Sorry for your loss”, something that no one would have said in UK because there the whole nation felt the loss. Yes it was an unexpected blessing that the Queen died in Scotland because this meant that that nation’s people could be so much a part of the first events expressing grief. As the week went on there were scenes of genuine public support as the coffin passed from Balmoral to Edinburgh where it lay in state and was visited by many. Then the coffin was flown down to London and passed to Westminster Hall where 4 days of lying in state continued.

My mother is being cared for by my brother Richard and his family. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the family had discovered that wheelchair users and the infirm could obtain special access to Westminster Hall without having to join the queue. So later that day I received a photo of my mum saying her farewells to the Queen.

Thousands of people filed past the coffin during those 4 days, some having had to spend about 20 hours in the queue. Thousands more lined the streets as the coffin was slow marched to the funeral at Westminster Abbey. I reckon the royal family will have walked 5 miles that day, from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey and back and then later along the Mile at Windsor. I admire their stamina!

At the end of August I took a mini vacation to Clearwater, a beach town which attracts so many tourists but which I had avoided for fear of encountering the ‘Brit abroad’. I stayed at the Holiday Inn close to the Sand Key end of the beach. I could see why folk were attracted there: the beach had wonderful white sand but all along their were cabins spoiling the view. Instead I chose to go kayaking off Dunedin Causeway during the day, returning by night to enjoy a meal in the hotel. The sunsets were spectacular with all manner of craft venturing onto the water to enjoy them. One of the barmen from O’Brien’s lives in Dunedin so he let me park my kayak in a parking space at his condo which saved me the hotel cost of an extra parking space – $80 for 3 nights!

My garden at the house is still becoming overgrown. On July 11 I took my strimmer to a company the warranty had recommended for a repair. It has now been 9 weeks and they still have not returned it. I borrowed one from a neighbor which has made the garden look less of a wilderness and have spent my days off weeding on all fours. Stupid me did not think I needed to wear gloves and the next day I woke to find an outbreak of sores on my hands. It is still managing temperatures in the 90s so there is a limit to how long one can endure weeding. It is easier in the early morning.

My UK House sale is still awaiting completion. My tenant is buying the house but his solicitor is very slow. I am not in any particular rush as the rent is still coming in but the annual due date for insurance is looming and I may have to pay out for a few days cover.

I am also still awaiting settlement of my insurance claim for loss during the floods of November 2019. I had been unable to visit the house to assess damage until May 2022. I had been informed that Zurich insurance had engaged a restoration company who had removed several items from the property. They had apparently made an inventory of all that they had removed but Zurich was unable to find this! I am hoping that they will offer an amount that I cannot refuse to prevent me taking them to court for negligence/theft.

The other saga involves the grand piano I bought in March. On delivery I noticed some damage on the lid. The delivery men took photos and promised to inform the dealer. 2 months later I discovered that they had not informed the dealer. Embarrassed he arranged for the collection of the lid and the repair. I had been seeking status reports as the repair was taking an inordinate amount of time. I mentioned this last week to the dealer who was surprised and made his own enquiries. Moments later I learned from him that they seemed to have mislaid the lid! He gave me a free tuning but how dod you lose a lid which takes at least two men to carry?

At work I have been leading the celebration of the Season of Creation. At the end of this month I will lead GOD’S GOOD EARTH, a liturgy compiled by John Bell and friends from the Iona Community. Every weekend Mass has included music and prayer related to this season. It has been difficult to navigate the path between care for creation and climate change which here is something of a political hot potato. I continue to compose a psalm a week but am delighted that as we approach the start of Year A there would seem to be so many psalms which I have already set to music.

Petrol prices have fallen considerably over the last few weeks but food prices continue to rise. The pound is weak against the dollar so it would not be a good time to convert the proceeds from the house sale (when that ever happens!). Energy prices rises have surprised so many people. I am fortunate in having invested in solar panels here (and in UK) so my energy costs have been constant and not subjected to increase. It will be a different picture in UK and Europe where the effect of the Russian grip on energy is tightening significantly.

I lament that Putin’s special military operation continues still. Ukrainian forces have started to fight back recently, retaking lost towns and regions. But the wounded beast is always dangerous and this morning I learned that Russians are being drafted again. There have been protests and those that can have purchased flights from Russia but these are dangerous times and the threat of nuclear war is being heard from the Kremlin.

Wishing to end this blog on a more positive note I am now the proud owner of a doorbell. There have been so many reports of strangers approaching front doors or checking out houses that I decided now was the time to invest in a camera door bell. I have entered the modern age at last!

10 August 2022

My last blog ended with not being sure whether I could travel to UK because of last minute heart surgery. In the event all went as planned. I arrived early at the Pepin Institute where I was immediately wired up to all manner of monitors while I watched inane TV until 1:30pm the time of my operation. The surgeon I was expecting got transferred to deal with an emergency so I was dealt with by another surgeon. This was good because he was versed in modern techniques and was able to access the heart via my wrist rather than groin. The expected recovery time would be short and I would be able to travel whereas the other surgeon though senior could only enter via the groin and this would have meant changing my travel plans. I was awake for the op having being slightly numbed and did not feel a thing. Apparently they enter an artery via the wrist and send a probe to the heart. They confirmed that the RCA was completely blocked but also found that the collateral vessel which had been created over the years was working well and that the blood pressure either side of the blockage was sufficient to serve the heart with adequate blood.

Back in my room I had to wait for hours while being monitored. When they did eventually remove the tubing from my wrist I started bleeding again and thus was delayed another few hours before being released home by taxi. In fact the driver took me to O’Briens to celebrate! I had the next day off to recover and then flew to UK on the Wednesday. I was collected at the airport by my youngest brother Richard and their son, Daniel. In fact Daniel saw me before my brother! Richard and his wife Camille are looking after our mum who is living with Alzheimer’s.

The reason for my trip was two-fold: visiting mum and my house in Sheffield prior to selling to the tenant.

Mum was clearly not well but it was great to spend serious time with her and to experience at first hand the excellent care she is receiving from both professionals and family. I was blessed to be visited by brother Pete and Gill while I was there on my first visit. Mum and I did a few trips out which I will remember even if mum will not. When I first got to Richard’s house in Woking I realised I had not packed my US driving licence. I contacted my lodger who was able to send it over to UK. in the event I had packed my UK driving licence so the car hire could proceed.

I was in Sheffield for about 10 days and during that time I stayed with Kieron, a friend and fellow musician. Each day I visited the house to check which items I needed to dispose of and which I needed to send back to USA. In the event my tenant made life very easy for me. In addition to agreeing on the sale price he also made me an offer I could not refuse for the contents. He still got a bargain out of this but I had less to worry about. I was able to offload a few things to friends and family. I was also able to sell the organ to Wyvern Organs!

My birthday fell during my stay in Sheffield and as luck would have it my brother Chris and his wife Sue would be up north the previous day and my twin had agreed to drive down from Durham so the four of us booked into a Sicilian restaurant for a celebration meal. Andy and I exchanged cards and (of course) even managed to buy each other the same card!

Andy followed me back home and took away a car load of music history books and other equipment.

It was good to be back in Sheffield, to be able to visit old haunts and meet up with friends. Thanks to neighbours Inderjit and Kathy, Andrew and Ruth. I also managed to visit Helen and Gary, Ali and Pippa.

I returned to Woking for a few more days with mum before flying back to UK. I was happy to have seen all my brothers during my time there. Unfortunately somewhere along the route I had damaged the hire car and had to pay extra for the repair.

It was the start of June when I returned to work. I would spend the last week of June in Louisville at the Pastoral Musicians Convention. Normally I am not much impressed by the content of the convention but this time both content and time spent with friends were excellent. The Convention lasted 5 days Monday to Friday. My very early morning flight from Tampa was delayed because the crew’s shuttle from the hotel arrived late! This meant that I lost my connection at Baltimore and had to wait 14 hours for the onward flight. I went out of airside to complain and seek compensation. In addition to a paltry $40 food voucher I got a further $600 travel voucher … result! Time passed and I left Baltimore at 11:30pm reaching the hotel at 1:30am! Fortunately my return flight was direct and uneventful.

I had only been back in Tampa a few days when one of the friends I spent time with on the last night of the Convention rang me to say that she had tested positive for Covid. Moments later so had I. This meant I had 5 days isolation in the sun … not a bad result. Day 1 was 4 July, a national holiday, and Days 3 and 4 were normal days off. I was still testing positive by the weekend but went in to work masked. It was a week later that I finally tested negative and was able to join friends in the bar.

Over the summer months of July and August carried on working at the church but also managed to prepare my ‘New Wine’ Mass for publication. This should have been a simple process of merging created files into one publication but technology created a few challenges and it took longer than expected. I returned to teaching 3 students at Jesuit High School where I was contracted to serve during the summer break. For the last month all my lawn mowers and strimmers have been at the repairers so the grass has grown considerable in the back yard. The weather has been glorious and I have been able to enjoy days off there. I also managed a few kayak trips but experienced problems which led to me taking the kayak in for repair too.

Two weeks ago I took on a cleaner via an agency. The first visit dealt with the downstairs and as I type the second visit is focussing on the upstairs. From the sound of things she is giving the ensuite a major clean.

My greatest news has been that my brother Chris will visit me in Tampa in January. I can’t wait for this and plan to spend as much time with him as possible. More of that in a future blog.

Sunday 8 May

I haven’t typed a blog since the middle of January. To be honest at about that time I became aware of things going on in my body. One Wednesday I awoke to find by hair soaking wet. This was very unusual and thinking I might have Covid I tested myself but this was negative so I thought nothing of it. The following Saturday I was at work on the computer in my office when I noticed an extreme tightness in my chest. After a while it disappeared and I carried on with my day but determined to consult the doctor. On the Monday the doc assured me that the two events were cardiac-related symptoms. Weeks later, at the organ, my arms and hands went numb. One of the choir had spotted a retired cardiologist in the congregation and he took me aside and stayed with me. I returned home leaving a couple of Masses without organ support.

Then began a multitude of tests, or so it seemed. Blood work, EKGs, and stress tests all of which were inconclusive. Finally I was referred for an angiogram. The results were delivered to the cardiologist’s PA the following day but remained on her desk for more than two weeks. The PA was absent from work because of her child’s illness but nobody had thought to check her mail or computer. So last Wednesday I visited the cardiologist for a planned appointment. The nurse mentioned that my blood pressure was a little high. I replied that I’d been waiting for over an hour so what did she expect? The cardiologist revealed that the angiogram report had been found and had shown a significant chronic blockage to my right coronary artery. The cardiologist was embarrassed and admitted complete responsibility for not informing me sooner but was anxious to sort treatment soon. I had expected to fly to UK the following Wednesday so things became even more urgent. The next day the phones were buzzing and an appointment was made at the Pepin Heart Institute for a pre-op on Friday with the op being set for 1:30pm tomorrow Monday. I still do not know whether to postpone the trip to UK or not. That will all depend on the method chosen by the surgeon. If he chooses to catheterize via the groin then I won’t be able to lift much for 2 weeks and, since part of my purpose for the trip was to clear my house in Sheffield, that would be a problem!

Tampa is one of the world leaders for heart surgery and Pepin Institute is among the best that Tampa can offer. As I type I face the prospect of no alcohol for 24 hours and no food or drink after midnight.

It is good to be able to report all this now because an earlier blog would either have omitted something that was really on my mind or would have been pointless. It seems much better to report what you do know than what you do not.

Of course my activity has not just centred on my health. I’ve continued with the compositional discipline of setting one Sunday psalm per week. I’m now so far through the list of Sunday psalms that some weeks I’m able to adapt an earlier setting of the same psalm with different verses deployed. Today’s psalm was a first. Psalm 100 has the response ‘We are his people, the sheep of his flock’ so I chose to set the text to phrases from Bach’s ‘Sheep may safely graze’. Bach is probably rolling in his grave but it did seem to go down well.

I bought a grand piano! Ive been checking out showrooms in the area and finally settled on Dave’s Pianos in Tampa and surrounding area. I paid three visits to different sites where he had pianos stored. On the third he had prepared a blind tasting of some piano. He had removed or disguised name plates so that I could not be swayed in my selection. No 1 turned out to be a 70k Kawai grand the action of which was exquisite. But I was really surprised that what I placed second was a Chinese piano whereas I had been most interested in Yamaha grands! The Chinese nation buy loads of pianos but are embarrassed by the quality of their own manufacturers. Pearl River bought the advice and expertise of a major european technician/builder who trained the workforce to produce great quality pianos on a mass scale. They now build instruments for Steinway! My 6’1″ instrument came in at $17k and now occupies the space previous occupied by a dining table.

I have also been developing relations with the Music Department of the University of South Florida. Two cellists have given recitals in recent weeks and we also had a visit from the A Capella Group from Duke University who were fabulous.

An anonymous donor from the church offered to provide for a new hymnbook for the church. That was quite a process. I’m hoping the books will arrive sometime in June/July.

Easter was fantastic. The choir which always works hard, increased its commitment and with an extra ‘boot camp’ rehearsal (finishing with pizza!) we managed to provide for a great Triduum. I was exhausted after this so a week later I decided to take a trip to Destin in the Florida Panhandle. I had taken up one of those timeshare type promotions for 3 nights and 4 days. It would be a 6-7 hour drive and I hadn’t driven that far for ages so I left after midnight and took a high speed drive along the interstate. A little after Tallahassee I pulled over for some shut-eye. I awoke 70 minutes later and continued on towards Fort Walton Beach near Destin. The receptionist at The Wyndham Hotel invited me to take up my room 8 hours earlier than check-in so I was delighted. The view from my room was amazing with unbroken view of the Bay to the horizon. I walked the beach for a while and pretty soon it was deserted. There had been signs indicating the presence of a military base and entry to the dunes area was prohibited for the protection of natural species. I spent the first two days on the beach and it was just perfect. The 2 police officers approached me and issued a ticket for ‘trespassing on military property’. They said I was only permitted to be by the waters edge. As you might expect I challenged that there were no signs indicating such a request but this fell on deaf ears. I would have to pay a fine of $55 with an admin charge of $30. One officer mentioned that I would have to wait 30 days for the this ticket to get onto police computers. And I questioned that I was getting such terrible admin for $30 dollars. They laughed but I still got ticketed.

The following day I had to visit a ‘Wyndham vacation presentation’. For the first time, I felt that my circumstances made what they were offering quite attractive and I signed up. I’m sure that some friends will despair at this but the package works for me.

Since I arrived at Sacred Heart a year ago (May 1 2021) I have not used any of my vacation allowance and was able to bank some national holidays because I was working on those days. So this year I am in the enviable state of having 15 days from 2021 to spend in UK and also retain the allocation of a further 15 days for 2022. I’m thinking of trying out some of the islands off the south coast of America.

I still let rooms in my house to travelling medical professionals. This has worked well but one guy turned out to be a complete fraud and left owing $800. Oh, the stories he had to tell! I learned not to be so trusting.

As I finish this blog I am faced with not knowing whether to pack bags fro UK or not. By this time tomorrow, after the operation, I’ll have all the answers, I’m sure.

Thursday 13 January 2022

It’s Thursday the 13th and I’ve just completed my UK tax return which came to the princely sum of 28 pounds sterling!

I’m still Covid-free but several of my UK family and my Sacred Heart Choir here in Tampa have gone down with it. This new strain does seem to be very contagious. Recently 1.3 million new cases were recorded over one day in USA!

Since I last wrote we have re-started the Parish Choir for the first time since Covid broke. I had delayed the re-start simply because I needed to be convinced that it might be safe to do so. Since Christmas the new strain has caused me some doubt but I am convinced that the choir members are being prudent and staying away when they suspect anything and getting tested before their return. The return of the Choir has made a great impact so far and we all get on well together!

Christmas was busy for all church musicians this year particularly because Christmas fell on a Saturday and was followed by a ‘normal’ Sunday. For me I had 12 Masses scheduled over three days but was fortunate to find cover musicians for 2 Masses on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was more difficult as I had offered to provide an alternative to the Christmas Pageant using only 6 children and some adult voices to produced ‘Michael Mouse’ which I found in a publication of the Iona Community. It all went very well and there was good participation from the congregation in both the singing of carols and whenever the text demanded a reaction. Unfortunately the child who was to play the cat was ill but there was no shortage of costumed cats and other animals in the church! I won’t be doing this again as there are other staff who have stronger links to working with children in the parish and my workload at this time needs to be reduced.

We were all surprised to hear that Fr Stephen, our Pastor, will be leaving after only 18 months to take up a position in St Bonaventure University in New York. Fr Stephen is a gentle, unassuming priest and we will miss his unique biblical insights and sense of joy. In his place will be a priest who is already on the staff and an experienced Pastor.

It was great to welcome one of my Iona friends (and his cousin) to Florida in December. They spent 2 weeks in Orlando during which time I visited them for a couple of days before Ross came and stayed with me for 3 nights before flying back to Glasgow. My memory of what we did is slightly addled by the alcohol consumed but I do remember greeting them with a bourbon tasting event in my backyard. Then we ventured into Ybor City by taxi and I really cannot recall much of that at all! The following day Ross’ cousin left to explore Miami so we passed the day in kayaking in the sun. While they were in USA the UK government changed the restrictions on travel which meant that they had to obtain a negative PCR test a day before flying. I spent the morning dealing with this and then left Ross at my house as I went off to work until late. I returned home to discover that he had spent the afternoon tidying my backyard!

Meanwhile back in the UK my youngest brother Richard, His wife Camille and their new son Daniel were boarding a flight to her homeland Brazil. Richard would spend 2 weeks there over Christmas and Camille would return with Daniel 2 weeks after that. Richard and his family provide the care for my mum so an elaborate plan of substitute care was devised between brothers and professional carers. Christmas must have been a great success for them and now mum is happily back in Woking with Richard.

My solar panels both in UK and Florida are doing their stuff despite quite different weather experiences. Here in Florida the sun is not so high in the sky right now but still I manage to generate enough electricity to ensure that my monthly bill comes to $15 which is in fact the admin charge from the electric company! My finance payments remain constant whereas the cost of electricity has recently risen by almost 20% and such rises do not affect me anymore!

At the end of the year I had not used any of my vacation time (10 days since May) and had also accrued extra days for national holidays on which I had worked. This all means that I shall be able to return to UK for about 3 weeks when it is sensible to do so. During this time I will of course visit my mum whom I have not been able to visit since October 2019. In November 2019 a cataclysmic flood hit Sheffield and 3ft of water filled my basement. There is an insurance claim outstanding from this until I can assess the damage to property stored in that basement. I’ll also be looking to clear the house before hopefully selling to my tenants. Some items I will send to Florida but much will need to be either auctioned or sold off. It will be a busy time!

I continue with my project of composing a psalm a week and am now more than half way into the 3 year cycle. We still await word from the US Bishops as to what the psalm responses might be but hopefully that will just be a tweaking exercise.

I’ve started doing Airbnb again and tomorrow I welcome guests who will stay for a week. Airbnb gives greater financial return but more cleaning. Furnished Finder set up for the medical profession to find accommodation for travel nurses provides guests who stay longer but then again you might find that you don’t get on. I’ve lucky most of the time but I’ve had my moments!

2022 has started with my amazing frozen Margarita machine being called into action again! It remains to be seen whether Boris will still be Prime Minister, whether Prince Andrew will remain as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and whether Joe Biden will be a functioning President of USA. Quite a year ahead!

Thursday 18 November

It’s been over 2 months since I last blogged. Apologies, readers!

During the last 2 months I’ve experienced numbness in my legs and went to the doc about this. On one occasion my legs gave way under me! He advised that the cause could be a brain tumour! Thanks, doc. The x-rays came back inconclusive so I MRIs to brain and spine. I was relieved to learn that my brain was Ok (for a person of my age?!) but that there was a tissue build up on my spine which was pressurizing nerves. I started physiotherapy and for the last week have had no recurrence. Phew!

At about the same time a crown came off a molar tooth. There was so little of the tooth left that extraction was the only avenue. The dentist spent an hour trying to achieve extraction and in the end had to cut it into pieces to get it out. My upper lip was stiff for days!

The weather has been pretty changeable and sunny days have been few. There are times when it has been really cold. I now think I have acclimatised (americans can only acclimate) to Florida. I now feel cold when the temperate plummet below 70F! At the start of November the storms disappeared and cooler temps and reduced humidity became the order of the day. At night I now sleep with two blankets over me.

Work continues to both enthrall me and challenge me. I rarely enjoy what I might call a light week. I continue to compose a new psalm setting each week and the Cantors continue to lead the music in church. In fact they are now a choir of their own for weddings. One couple asked for 8 singers and there are increasingly frequent requests for 3 singers. We sang for the wedding of Pete Alonso a baseball star of the New York Mets. This was the best dressed congregation I have ever experienced. Last weekend I had 4 weddings and this coming weekend I have three. My church really is the wedding capital.

Long before I left St Lawrence Church I had agreed to play for the wedding of one of the cantors there. She asked to go out to the Sinfonia from Cantata 29 of Bach arranged by Dupre. It was harder work learning this than I had anticipated but felt good to have mastered it. I had intended to include it as my offering to a diocesan organ recital but had to withdraw as there was another event in my church at the same time.

In October, a week after the feast of St Francis, the Franciscans took the staff out for a luncheon at an Italian in nearby Ybor City. It was wonderful.

Towards the end of September a stranger came up to me after I’d finished the organ piece. He was enquiring about the psalm. Fortunately he loved it and it was one of mine. He is an Englishman from Surrey who works as a heart surgeon in North America but also set up a charity in Tampa from where he occasionally flies to perform operations for the poor of South America.

Last Tuesday I held the first rehearsal of the choir post Covid. We spent quite a lot of the time learning about each other and then learned some pieces for Advent which we will rehearse again next week prior to the start of Advent.

I start a Children’s Choir on Saturday. we’ll have 2 rehearsals before the start of Advent. They will support the singing of the assembly rather than merely delight their parents, I hope.

My solar panels continue to deliver reduced bills. We had a power cut over a week ago and since then I have not been able to monitor the panels on my cell phone but am assured they are working. A few days ago I received a cheque for $4800 from the installer as a thank you! In the process of installation I had to have a large laurel oak removed from the front garden. It was dying and had already shed a few branches so I didn’t feel bad about that and have since replaced it with a crepe myrtle.

The next home improvement will be a water filtration system for the whole house. I’ve gone with a local family run company that have established a fine reputation over the 35 years.

Last Sunday I drove to Tarpon Springs where a friend and music colleague was directing an hour of Funeral Music. The event was held to remember those members of the music ministry who had died. There was a long list of names and the title read something like ‘We remember those members who have passed into God’s glory today’. I knew what was intended but I turned to a lady behind me and asked what she thought of that. She replied that she wouldn’t join that choir since there were too many daily deaths!

An additional reason for going to Tarpon Springs was the appearance of Fr Michael Joncas who had created a skillful commentary around the music. Afterwards we all went for an Italian meal. There I learned from Michael that he too is composing psalm settings weekly. He has lost 75lbs weight since the last time I saw him. Remarkable, eh!

My house got plagued by cockroaches and I tried to keep them as bay myself but in the end had to call in the pest people. Fortunately my house is now pest free apart from a few that venture in and take the bait.

Instances of Covid seems to be falling in Florida which was once the third worst state in USA. Now it is at the bottom of the table. I even got my booster jab done. I read that there is a new variant in Europe which really disturbs me as I am anxious to return to England to visit my mum (and brothers) and also proceed with the sale of my Sheffield house. Mum has now moved into a larger rental property with brother Richard and his wife and child. It’s only been a month but they are all doing well and mum appears to have settled in.

I have managed to save all of my vacation this year (10 days, I think) and have, so far, saved an additional 6 days from what are effectively national holidays. Some friends from Scotland will be visiting Orlando in a couple of weeks and I hope to take some time out to visit them.

Wednesday 8 September

The good news is that my twin brother Andy’s gall bladder operation was indeed successful as was also his legal pursuit of a rogue builder responsible for some inept work on his house. Over here illness is the name of the game the cough which for me began during July still lingers and is probably the result of allergies to the pollen etc in the air. I am taking a double-dose of tablets (recommended in UK and by my doctor here but not medically recommended in USA. This seems to be keeping things at bay. I got tested for Covid and was much relieved to receive a negative result.

I did a funeral recently for a guy whose relationship lasted 51 years. Only yesterday I learned that he had contracted Covid. The new Pastor at my old job has also suffered the same and the schools are full of it. It doesn’t look as though it is going anywhere fast and last weekend which was a long Labor Day weekend will probably see a spike in cases, say the experts. This also means that there will not be an immediate return of choirs to our churches which is frustrating.

Several of my Cantors have suffered from Covid despite being double-vaccinated and there is growing use of the booster.

My car spent a while at the garage during August. I had to get a tow as it wouldn’t start from my driveway. The battery was flat (dead in USA) and there were several other electrical faults. It took a while out of my day each occasion I visited but at least the car is still under warranty.

At work things are heating up as we get closer to the wedding season. Sacred Heart is the wedding capital of Tampa and beyond and each wedding requires a planning meeting with the couple. I hold these meetings at the North Campus where I have two rooms/offices. You will have to imagine my frustration when after all the planning I meet the visiting priest who minutes before the celebration advises me that he refuses to use the current Rite of Marriage preferring to use an obsolete form. When the Pope decrees that there can be only one form of Mass why do some priests feel that they can play fast and loose with the Rite of Marriage. So much for obedience!

During the last month the North Campus site of Sacred Heart has been much improved. Gradually the site is becoming more usable. The 9-acre site now has a metal/brick perimeter fence with code-operated gates. A few days ago the wifi was installed and pretty soon I am hoping they will deal with the water issues. The site used to be a school which was closed ten years ago. There are three substantial buildings: the School on two floors (where I have an office and a rehearsal room), the Convent House (infested with termites) and the auditorium. It is still early days but the school is being widely used and next week the auditorium will be used for a lecture on the Turin Shroud. I am considering moving my Allen Computer Organ from the house to the office. I am currently learning the Dupre arrangement of Bach’s Sinfonia for Cantata 27. It has been requested for a wedding and is causing me much consternation at the moment!

My solar panels are now generating but since we are in the stormy season the production varies from day to day. I am interested to see my next electric bill.

My composing continues apace. I am still managing to complete a psalm setting per week. The liturgical Composers Forum met virtually to review members’ music. I submitted a setting of Psalm 23 but due to the mysteries of Dropbox it never got through. We had used the setting at church recently and although many were delighted by the melody etc a few said that it was rather long. I contacted fellow composer Chris Walker who declared that he liked the piece and suggested an amendment to the refrain and the excision of interludes. This reduced the piece by almost 90 seconds!

August saw very high temperatures rising to almost 100F. This heat and humidity then causes the daily storms to dump torrents of rain on the state. I haven’t been able to take the kayak out much as the storms make this a bit dangerous. It is difficult to imagine how folk coped without air conditioning a few decades ago. I had a taste of that experience when my AC shut down upstairs. Of course this occurred during the holiday weekend and there was little chance of getting anyone out to service it. The wait prompted me to contact the guy who had updated my thermostats and he immediately diagnosed the problem. Water had gathered in the overflow pipe and triggered a sensor which shut down the system. Yesterday I bought a wet/dry vacuum and today I drained the pipe of water and the system rebooted straightaway. The cost of the vac was half of the cost of a service visit!