Wednesday 16 December

The past week had been tough at work with much planning needing to be completed and with some surprise demands coming at the last minute. Thursday began somewhat cloudy as indeed did my head! I sought refuge in my laptop and continued this blog. The gloom lifted by midday and I visited the beach.

The following day was also a day off. I like to spend Friday on my kayak. It is good exercise and unless the wind picks up is not too scary! I was able to spend much of the day away. Some were amused by hearing me recording the voice parts to various bits the choir is working on at the moment. It is so peaceful out there that it is the perfect place to record! I also find that my well-documented penchant for gadgets is well regarded here. So many people stop to look at my ‘Heath- Robinson’ roof rack made from two water noodles and a pair of ratchet straps. They are also intrigued by the wheels I strap to the underside of the kayak so that I can transport it more easily. Surely neither of these are beyond the wit of the American mind!

Saturday started with a ‘Choir Boot Camp’. this is an opportunity for parishioners to try out the choir for a limited period only. Last year several folk became regular members after this. We had originally booked to rehearse in the church but an error led to a funeral being booked across this. Over here there is often an hour’s visitation of the open coffin before the funeral Mass. Therefore the boot camp was relocated to the new rehearsal room behind the sanctuary space. This is just a bare space at the moment but was ideal for our needs.

The funeral, like so many, was an opportunity to hear about a person whom I wish I had met while alive. The family included one parishioner-lawyer who had assisted me with documentation in my early time here. They were so generous to come and thank me especially the following day.

The weekend Masses proceeded in the usual way except some of the priests wore rose (ugh) while others refused (hooray). rather more unorthodox was a quaint blessing of hay before each Mass. Apparently there is an ‘age-old tradition’ in which the blessed hay is placed under the tablecloth during the Christmas season. I can only reflect that it stank!

Later that evening I was back at Charann’s bar and after replying to various emails I joined a conversation in the bar. It became heated and in summary was another anti-Moslem, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish tirade from an Jewish born atheist. Pope Francis is right to advocate dialogue but this has to be between consenting adults! The listening part of this encounter was sadly lacking from this self-acclaimed intelligent American. He did not want to live forever, decreed that atheism is more moral because there were less atheists in prison … And he held fairly fixed views on evolution as being a god-free zone ! Ugh!

My free day Monday involved a spell on the local beach before returning to watch Chelsea play Leicester live on TV. I enjoyed the fact that I could watch this live but did not enjoy the result. Chelsea lost 2-0. Mourinho was to be sacked three days later. I wouldn’t mind being sacked with a £13-15 million pay off!

I decided to update my TV box by adding a DVR to enable me to watch more football when I wished. This merely meant swopping one box for another. At the same visit I increased the internet speed for an additional cost, of course.

You may recall that last February my old music teacher from St George’s College Weybridge, Paul Reed died and his colleague from St Maur’s, Bill Hayward, was able to drag himself from his sick bed to play for the funeral. Since I was in UK already for my niece Emily’s funeral I was able to attend that of Paul Reed.

This evening I learned that Bill has now died too. In my early years he was so generous towards my musical formation. I particularly thank him for using me as his organist on the many Paris Choir Tours in the 1970-80s. Known to his friends as Sir William Haywire he was a thorough musician. A composition pupil of Howells he can boast a large corpus of compositions and orchestral arrangements. I remember him as choral, opera and orchestral conductor (trained by Sir Adrian Boult), organist, pianist, tuba player, school teacher, voice coach and arranger for Russell Watson and Catherine Jenkins among others, equally at home with Big band and Cabaret!

He had been sick with bronchial problems for over a year. I will miss his jocular presence and his creativity, Now is probably the only time that he will rest in peace!

On Tuesday I had a very fragmented day. In the morning I met with a singer for a final rehearsal before a radio broadcast tomorrow. After lunch with some colleagues I met with a young man who was assisting with the planning for his Ecuadorian parents’ wedding. Apparently it is quite common for folk in Ecuador to find the church costs prohibitive there and therefore they marry and may celebrate with the church in another country. It is ironic that Pope Francis has just issued legislation insisting that there be no financial costs for the annulments process whereas marriage costs in Ecuador are prohibitive!

On my way into work I had dropped into Goodwill and seen again that no one had bought the wine-cooler I had admired for a few weeks. It was priced at $175 which was attractive since the shop cost is $750. I left my telephone number just in case the price might be dropped. They rang me to inform me that the price was now $125. I visited the store in the evening, tested it and found it to be working well but offered to pay $100. The assistant withdrew to consult with a manager who said ‘$75’ would be the lowest price so, somewhat confused, I agreed on that figure. When I got back to the apartment I bumped into a neighbour who had helped me previously and again he came to my rescue as we hauled it to the 3rd floor. There other neighbours helped it into the apartment! Now I just had to fill it with wine! At Charann’s I found myself in a better conversation with the guy who had so annoyed me on Sunday evening. It was prefaced with a veiled admission of regret which I took as an apology.

16 December is the birthday of my dear sister Anne. She died about 10 years ago after living a few years with cancer. I often think of her but today is certainly one of those days in which she comes close.

Wednesday began with the final School Mass of the year. Then I met with a violinist, a Cantor and three other choir members who would be recording a Mass of 23 December at SpiritFM studios that morning. We arrived slightly ahead of the agreed time but the station kept us waiting for over 45 minutes. I had had no breakfast today as I had run out of milk so I was delighted to be offered two cinnamon buns by a studio assistant. The recording was done in one take with a repeat of the final number. The music comprised an opening song  relating to the gospel, To you O Lord I lift my soul (Haugen), O antiphon (text my an ex-Sheffield St Marie’s choir member set by me to ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’ tune). For the offertory we offered ‘He will come’ (set to the welsh tune Suo Gan and arranged by me). Eucharistic Acclamations and Lamb of God were from the ‘Mass of Glory’ by Bob Hurd and Ken Canedo. The Communion song was ‘Peace Child’ (Bernadette Farrell) and we finished with ‘Here I stand at the door’ by John Bell.

I returned home to rest before the evening’s Penitential Service for which I played the opening song before joining the choir for a rehearsal. I was happy to see that the carpet is now down in the rehearsal room so a pleasant surprise awaits the choir on Sunday.

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