Tuesday 19 December

I got back from my 10-day trip to UK at the end of November and was delighted to find a cheque for $15k waiting for me. This was the initial payment from the insurance company to rectify the damage caused by hurricane Irma. They calculated the actual cost to be $25k but I have to pay an excess of $4700 and will receive a further cheque for $5k when the work is completed. I have selected a contractor who does much of the work at the church where I work but have to wait until the end of January for the work to start. He has to renovate the Bishop’s house and apparently he takes priority! I hope to have a new roof, the ground floor re-covered using porcelain tile in the kitchen, hall and living areas and using wood in the lounge and dining rooms. One pair of french doors will also be replaced.

They have started a pub quiz and The Local (my local) and for the first two weeks a won pocketing $40 in total. The pressure was on one week when there was only one other team playing!

A friend from my choir came round one day offering to re-design my garden. Two days later we filled our cars with plants from her gardens and set about planting. She was there for 3 days and for two of these I had to go to work … less strain on the back! The results are fabulous already and in a year or so there should be quite a display!

My pool has been driving me mad. It turned a nasty green colour and after two weeks of treatment I managed to get the phosphates down to a reasonable level and thus deprived the algae of food. After the drastic treatment it looks as good as it ever has. Unfortunately the weather changed and the comparative chill was not so conducive to swimming. Cold snaps don’t last long here so by 18 December the temperatures were back up to 80F.

My UK friends Helen and Gary got married on the unlikely feast of the Immaculate Conception. This was a great surprise as I never thought she was into such orthodoxy! On the same day I was playing for three Masses despite suffering from what seemed to be flu. I was delighted to learn that while I braved it to get in for the evening Mass the priest did not show. The entire congregation had to decamp to the Hall where a Spanish Mass was about to begin. I, however, went home.

The following day I played for a wedding. There’s nothing remarkable about that except that I knew nothing about it until the week before and only met the bride to be to discuss the music 3 days before. She’d requested music I didn’t have … like a movement from the 4 Seasons by Vivaldi.  Thankfully she capitulated. At the end of the wedding I was given a card enclosing payment. I was amazed to find only $50 when the standard fee is $200. I managed to sort the mistake and get the appropriate payment. When I posted this on facebook some seemed astonished at what they considered to be a high fee. In fact it is only a few dollars more than I used to get in Sheffield.

Last week I made a few purchases and none were from Goodwill but all were ‘bargains’. First I bought a set of patio furniture comprising a table and four chairs, a rocking chair and footstool and lounger. It was all high end stuff with an original rice tag of $5k but I bought the lot for $500. I’d seen it advertised on a local website so I didn’t have to go far to collect it. On the same site I saw that there was a garage sale around the corner from me. There was not much for me but I dropped by later in the day and discovered that an outside bar with four high chairs had not been sold. So I bought that for $100 thinking that it would be fun for my house-warming once the repairs had been done. Finally I bought a BBQ grill (Weber Genesis 310). I had done my research and eventually went to a local Home Depot store to look at one. In the event they did not have this model but inside a smaller grill until I found the price tag for the one I was after. The assistant helped me to track one down at another store, where, after some arm twisting of the manager, I bought the grill for the tag price $449. The original price had been $899 and this had later been reduced to $699 so I felt I had a real bargain.

With Christmas falling the day after the 4th Sunday of Advent I am in for an horrendous two days at the end of this week with 12 Masses in 36 hours. So yesterday apart from playing for a Spanish funeral I had the day off. Today I took a further day off and will go in for the school Mass tomorrow and choir practice. Apart from that I am hoping to rest as much as I can.

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