Sunday 12 March

Feeling a little better after my surgery I returned to work on the Wednesday 22nd and stupidly overdid it with a full day and choir practice. It was so difficult to sing … I hadn’t used my jaws for a while so this was a bit of a surprise but the choir were understanding and we ended early.

The following day was similarly exhausting due mainly to the visit of the piano tuner and his assessment that one piano should be scrapped and that two others should be switched so that the better of the two served the more frequent use.

Friday 24 February was my mum’s 83rd birthday so I skyped her and found her well. The weekend was fairly normal except that the organ played up. We had had a new amplifier installed during the week so I was astonished that strange noises from the bass section meant only the antiphonal speakers could be used.

On Sunday 26 February I was visited in the evening by two friends from Scotland. They had hoped to welcome me to Orlando soon after their arrival last week but I was suffering after surgery and they had become ill having caught something on the plane. We had a few drinks at Charann’s Bar where they were well remembered from last year then we returned to my place for a few more but nothing compared to last year (thank God).

Monday was a day off so after a bit of a lie in we all went for breakfast at Publix and then on to Dunedin Causeway where I had hoped we might kayak over to Caladesi Island but in the event it was too windy and so we decided on driving a bit further to Honeymoon Island where we dealt with our slight heads on the beach. It was brilliant sunshine so my two Scottish friends had to take precautions! Later in the afternoon we went for a meal at an Italian restaurant and then parted. I took an uber home and they drove on to Orlando.

The rest of the week seemed to be spent hosting engineers who came to tend to the organ. In the end in addition to a new amplifier we ended up getting two bass speakers replaced. Then on the Monday 6 March we had the whole organ ‘re-voiced’. It is sounding really good now. This day would normally be my day off but it seemed sensible to work it since I had a funeral in the morning, the voicer visit in the afternoon and a translation of the concert programme notes into Spanish to be completed at various moments in between!

On Tuesday 7 March I had my usual task to complete with the school and then soon after midday I met with Joe Cosas a musician from a neighbouring parish. I had met his brother Christian at the composers’ forum in St Louis and his parents attended the Concert there so it was good to meet them again in Tampa.

Wednesday began with School Mass which went very well and then I retired to do some admin until Stephen Hicks arrived for the pre-concert around 1pm. It was great to see Stephen who had taught me more than 10 years from the age of 13. He is an acclaimed virtuoso the world over and it was something of an emotional experience for me to meet him again and hear him play. After 2 hours work we visited a bank to process his cheque but unfortunately he did not have his ID so this could not be achieved. Instead I paid with my own money and billed the parish accordingly! Stephen did not really need to practise the notes at all … all the preparation time was taken up finding the correct registrations to bring off his programme. I could see people arriving outside for refreshments and we were still working!

After the Pastor’s opening remarks I welcomed people in Spanish and English. His playing was as electric as ever and the 110 audience responded with adulation after each piece. After the concert I agreed to meet Stephen and his family the following day in Orlando.

My kayak was still fixed to my roof when I set off for Orlando averaging 80mph. I soon realised that this was not such a good idea as other drivers indicated  there were problems with the kayak. It had moved on its housing as a sail moves in the wind and might easily have taken the roof rack off the car with it! I slowed down to 60mph arriving at my destination around 11am. We had a glass or two of wine and generally nattered over old times. Georgina his wife was with him and it was great to see her and catch up. We did a trip around the grounds ending up in a bar and then returned in time to meet their daughters Charlotte and Emma. I learned that rather than listen to their father practising the previous day they had decided to sunbathe in the church grounds a few hours. I am still waiting for complaints from the parishioners who at the same time may have been enjoying a pilgrimage around the holy statues!

They had invited me to stay over that night and so later that evening we decided on getting an Indian take away. This was not so easy as the restaurant from whose menu we selected turned out to be not yet built! We ventured further and found one that could deliver what we wanted but had to wait. Meanwhile Stephen and I walked to Walmart where I bought some beers. The lack of food and known amounts of alcohol imbibed must have worried Stephen somewhat who turned out not to be my calmest passenger! Back at their apartment we ate and bed followed soon after.

The following day we awoke early as Stephen and Georgina had to attend a timeshare presentation at 7.45am. I went with them for a bit to witness their ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine but then left them to fend for themselves. I understand that they had no problem as they simply quitted as soon as the prescribed 90 minutes were up. I headed for the coast to check out Titusville where I had been hoping to holiday in May. I visited the immediate areas of several Airbnb places and more or less decided my choice. Then after checking out a coffee bar I visited the beach where I spent the rest of the day. I left around 4.30pm and drove back to Orlando. Traffic was heavy and I was choosing to drive no faster than 60 mph but still had to stop twice to adjust the kayak. I reach the apartment at around 6.30pm and the five of us then went out to a Boston Seafood restaurant for a meal of lobsters, oysters and all manner of seafood. After the meal Charlotte and Emma left the main party for a night of hedonism and we drove back to the apartment. After fond farewells I drove back to Tampa arriving sometime after 11.30pm.

Saturday started with a wedding meeting, was followed by some admin time but I also tried to confirm my next holiday. My line manager agreed dates and then I set about confirming a place on Airbnb which I had seen the previous day. Then followed the Vigil Mass at 4pm. Unfortunately there was a short from the new amplifier and the organ could not be used. At 6pm there was a wedding and miraculously the short had cured itself!

The organ was no better during Sunday morning but did manage to provide during the 7pm Mass. I adjourned to Charann’s after an eventful week.

Monday was a day off and I had a dental appointment at 1130am to have a tooth crowned. Immediately after that I got a haircut and settled back home to watch Chelsea play Man Utd live in the FA Cup.



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