As I type title of one of Churchill’s Second World War books, the Gathering Storm, comes to mind. Here in Tampa the storm is most certainly with us. We have had heavy rain for the last few days but this morning the skies never brightened. I live on the top 3rd floor of an apartment building. Between my balcony and the bay there is nothing save a nature preserve which means that ordinarily I have the most spectacular views. It also means that I can see the weather coming. Right now I can see nothing. It is as though the clouds have descended to this level. 10 yards from my window I can see a tree flexing in the wind but nothing beyond that. There is lightning and thunder but the battering rain is oppressive. Before the storm arrived in all its fury I went onto the balcony and could appreciate the warm temperatures which accompanied the growing wind. Florida may be the sunshine state but Tampa is the lightning city and right now there is less than a second between flash and thunder. As I continue to type I notice that the trees are now undisturbed and the wind must have dropped completely after that last thunder and lightning assault and more trees begin to show themselves in a heavy mist. It all happens so quickly here. Weather is spectacular.
There are political storms throughout the world and I am particularly aware of those in UK on this eve of the General Election. The Tories are beginning to flap as planet Corbyn is in the ascendancy. The PM looks as though she is suffering from an enormous hangover on each appearance. Myself, although I voted to have parliament painted red I would prefer a hung parliament which in these times of change may engender more considered and balanced views. I hope my postal vote gets to UK in time. Although I have voted remotely since I have been here I have no idea whether my vote was counted. It seems to take about 2 weeks for post to get to UK from here and vice versa.
I was deeply impressed by Bernie Sanders who appeared on BBC Hardtalk and was completely on top of every question even before the interviewer had finished each sentence. His presence, intelligence and feeling for the common good may serve to encourage the USA electorate to regret the choices made recently.
Political commentary is becoming as caustic as ever no matter which side of the pond one sits. Whatever one feels about Diane Abbott she was mercilessly taunted in one interview I saw. I awake this morning to discover that she is no longer shadow Home Secretary. On a human level I hope she is not suffering. It does seem that the media brought her into prominence prematurely as the outspoken buffoon. But maybe this is the age of such buffoonery? What was Trump thinking when he tweeted against Sadiq Khan?
As much as I detest violence and political extremism entirely it uninvited shows in great and contrasting relief the nobler human virtues. My heart was warmed after the Manchester incident to hear that taxi drivers of every cultural complexion offered to take concertgoers home without charge. Similarly I was impressed, after the London attacks, by a Richard Angel who, caught up in the evacuation of Borough Market restaurants and bars, commented that he would have to return to the restaurant to pay his bill and tip the waiting staff. He went on to urge Londoners to continue living as they would have done before and added that such terrorism should not prevent us from continuing to embrace people of all faiths and none into the community that is London. This coming together of people of difference enables neighbourliness, respect and friendship. It is more unlikely that strife will prosper between people that know eachother. The problem with some parts of America is that opinions which in UK would consider inflammatory here are common place and founded on ignorance. Very few people seem to have any relationship with people of Islam, for instance. Such opinions receive oxygen from the permission Trump obtains for his own outlandish statements. Indeed I was interested that one BBC reporter advanced that they should refrain from referring to his use of technology as ‘tweets’ and instead refer to them as Presidential Statements, which is what they are , however ill-founded.
So what is happening in my life here? As you know I am looking to buy a house here but am currently hampered by two main concerns. The Green Card immigration status would enable me to access more favourable interest rates and loans. I applied for this in September 2016 but my case was only considered in May 2017. Fortunately the first stage (I-360) was approved also in May. Immediately I sent off $1300 and several forms for the next stage. The process is slow and I cannot close on a loan until this is in place. I also have to grapple with the fact that I do not yet have the required 2-year credit history. This means that I cannot close on a loan before August 17th!
I have had a return of the neck pain which arose after whiplash car injuries in May 2015 and February 2016. I went to a chiropractor last Friday and indeed she managed to ease the pain considerably. Unfortunately while I was there a gift card disappeared from my wallet. The doctor had asked me to leave my things on the adjacent bed and having fixed various tools to my neck he pulled the curtain around my bed and left me for ten minutes in the darkness.
Last week I played for 2 funerals. One was attended by a ‘red neck’ family and was not without curiosity as long beards were accompanied by such statements as weddings and funerals are much the same. You get drunk at both! This also brings to mind a conversation in my local bar with a delightful woman from Tennessee. At one point she disclosed “Well, I’ve been married before but we could have no children. Hell, he was my cousin!” She was joking, of course, in a play on stereotypes.
The last week has been one of ‘end times’. The choir will continue to gather on Sundays but we will not meet for rehearsals until September. Similarly the school closed on Friday so I will not have to lead liturgical music practice, provide the music for Mass or publish song sheets for while. The choir had a great party at the house of one of our members last Friday and will meet again tonight as the Parish holds an appreciation party for them at which I will also lead a ‘wee sing’. This gratitude is in stark contrast to the inhuman behavior of Fr Chris in Sheffield who seemed unable to say thank you to anyone! Sunday the Feast of Pentecost was a high point for the choir. During a con-celebrated Mass in which one Franciscan Irish priest was celebrating his 90th birthday we sang Antoine Oomen’s ‘I shall be living’ and finished with Handel’s Hallelujah! We then bade farewell to Bob who after singing bass with us during the last year had found work in Chicago. With the best of intentions we also hoped never to see him again!
Monday brought the news that the liturgical composer and text writer MD Ridge had died. Only the previous week she had been diagnosed with acute liver cancer. I had used some of her music in UK but it was only at a meeting of the Liturgical Composers Forum in January in St Louis that I met her in person. She was an indomitable woman with strong opinions veiled in the most beautifully articulate and ornate language. May she rest in peace, rise in glory and enjoy the company of heaven.
The media have just issued another storm alert so I will complete this installment before lightning causes me to lose all I have typed. But before this I must recount my delight that my brother Chris, his wife Sue and my niece Bethan will visit me at the end of July. They will fly into Tampa before driving to Nashville Tennessee on their musical mystery tour. I am also delighted that my friend John Bell will be visiting Florida next year. I may be able to entice him to do some work in Tampa as well as relax a bit.
Batten down the hatches … here it comes again!