Sunday 6 November

It’s been two weeks since my last confession and these are my sins:

I went on holiday (or as the Americans would have it ‘vacation’). It must be a sin because Americans seem to be quite happy with so little of it! I have no such scruples and delight in doing very little that is work orientated when I am on holiday. I had planned the previous few days so that all my work was done by Wednesday so I left very early in the morning in order to get to the East Coast of Florida in time for sunrise. In the event I got there much earlier bu it was good to see the bird-life forecast the sunrise long before it occurred.

I had decided to stay in Cocoa beach and had managed to secure through AirBnb a beachside bungalow. It really provided all you needed for one person and little more which was ideal. It promised wifi but did not deliver efficiently and then I had the issue of the lights switched off in the morning being found on when I returned. This was a bit scary but I put it down to the Hurricane Matthew which had passed only 2 weeks earlier. There was quite a bit of destruction evident with many windows boarded up and businesses closed and awaiting repairs. The streets were lined with tree debris awaiting municipal collection. On the beach any wooden walkways were destroyed and washed away as were some of the dunes which they were built to protect from human feet. Thankfully Matthew had struck at low tide or ealse the damage would have been more significant.

It was a wonderful place to appreciate the wonders of nature and I saw my first florida alligators.

In the evening I passed the time in a number of nearby bars/restaurants. The closest was Hogan’s Irish Bar which alongside traditional music also offered good beer and a warm welcome. One night they had a quiz and it seemed that everyone turned up for that. The quiz-master had just returned from rehab so it was a rather unique event as was the following night’s pumpkin carving class! At an English pub I discovered Shepherd’s Pie and the following night a fish & chip special which resembled the UK version. Two pizza restaurants were recommended and they both offered pizzas no smaller than 19inches! In a  nearby town whose name escapes me there was an small Playalinda Brewery Company with excellent beers offered at its only two outlets.

The last day Friday promised to be cloudy so I drove the 2 hours back to Tampa and had a relaxing day by the pool.

I had purchased a new Nissan Rogue in February 2016 and had become disturbed that the mileage was consistently around 19 per gallon. Mysteriously on this trip it was almost 28 and had hovered around 26 ever since. Could be that the car had to be ‘run in’?

The first week back turned out to be a full one with the usual stuff over the weekend but the feasts of All Saints and the Holy Souls falling in mid week. This meant several additional Masses. There had also been an accident at the school involving two best friends. The prank had serious consequences and one of them ended up in intensive care where he still remains. This provoked a series of additional prayer events which I had to serve. The week ended with two funerals: one with only seven attendees, the other with hundreds.

My return from holiday prompted one school staff member to comment that I had ‘an awful lot of holiday’. Well, consistent with so many American workers, I don’t and gave her the opportunity to retract the statement. She didn’t so I complained to her boss and the apology came fairly quickly!

The same day one of my choir who offloaded 15 bottles of beer on a very welcome me. The same person later revealed that she would be operated on for breast cancer in a few days. The choir has become such a close community of prayer and we were able to add several other concerns to the list.

Politically everything is bizarre here. There is genuine frustration among so many at the poor choice they have. One parishioner wrote to me enchanted that Trump had sought to defend the Catholic position. For most here that means anti abortion/pro life. It all reminded me of the temptation of Jesus in the desert … you can have all this if you just vote for me. There is so much demonising going on in the Presidential and State elections. And as Clinton becomes more deeply involved in her own scandals Trump’s seem to be less serious somehow. I was a bit perturbed when one of our clergy closed the Mass by reminding folk to vote according to Catholic teaching. More enlightened was another priest’s comment that God was present last week, would be present this week and in the future whatever the political outcome.

The week ended with two phone conversations. One was to a friend who had left UK to join family in Australia at the same time as I had left for USA. I had spoken with her a few times but this time her environment seemed very different. She had had a breakdown and was now in hospital under treatment. I needed to remind her of the beautiful person she is and in whom she would soon regain confidence.

The other conversation was with Tony Barr, a UK musician who had been in the USA for years. I had known him from a distance as a composer and friend of Bill Tamblyn and particularly of Bernard Huijbers (one-time Jesuit) and the other members of the Amsterdam School. It was a delight to hear of his endeavours and to share a few of mine whilst quaffing a few beers. The only disturbing thing was that the beer was infused with pretzels. What?

Tomorrow, Monday, I will take one of my Thriftstore ‘bargains’ to a repairers to see if they can get it working. It is a top of the range ‘Rotel’ amplifier for a whole house sound system. I managed to beat the Thriftstore down to $200 from $700 … I felt a little cheap about that until I got it home and found it did not work. If a few dollars more can get it going then it will once more be the bargain in which I so often delight!

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