Thursday 3 May

It’s been busy this last month and only now do I have the opportunity to keep you up to date!

The principal themes have been house repairs, vacation, work, John Bell and Ross Loveridge, the combination of which is enough to drive anyone to distraction.

18 months ago I answered a call offering me a cheap taster cruise to the Bahamas. Then they offered me the chance to stay on the island. Before I knew it I’d spent quite a lot of money which might have been more economic had I taken someone with me.

The week before the vacation, as always, was a week from hell in that I did too much work in order to cover my absence. In addition there were more funerals coming in at the last minute. Once my work was done at 8.30pm on Sunday 15 April I was in holiday mood. So having packed a few things and slept a few hours I set off at 4am intent on reaching Fort Lauderdale on the East coast where I had to register my arrival at a crappy hotel before being sent to another very good hotel.

I decided instead to take advantage of the sunny day and hit the beach. It was not until 7pm that I checked in. Earlier I had been given vouchers which discounted meals for two. Had I been a couple and been lodged at the crappy hotel the discounts might have covered the meal costs. In the event the better hotel offered great food and comfort so I threw caution to the wind and went for it. The staff were great and recognising the issue discounted the meals as if I were two!

There was a conference going on and the delegates were all experts in candle-making or related retail. I have always thought that I could talk the hind legs off a donkey on any subject but this was a bit of a challenge. One of my Iona friends remarked in a facebook post ‘but I thought you were catholic?’ but I’m not that type of catholic I mused. On my father’s side I am related to a long line of candle makers in Wurxburg but I chose not to share this. Instead I found myself trying to explain the Four candles/fork handles joke only to realise that american humour is different and these guys were seriously into candles. Bed became very attractive.

The following morning I had a two hour timeshare interview which I had not anticipated and which ended up at 4 hours. It started with a plenary presentation which started 50 minutes late and was preceded by having to watch my host eat her breakfast. After this ordeal I sped for the beach which was 30 mins away. I stayed late to avoid traffic and returned to quaff wine and enjoy a meal at the hotel.

The following morning I checked out early and drove towards West Palm Beach from where the ship would sail at 5pm. I had done my research and found another beach in a State Park only 10 mins from the port. I stayed until 3.30pm and then checked my car into valet parking and, having caused some consternation by my combination of UK passport and Green Card, I boarded.

The ship was tired but not as tired as the entertainment and food. My cabin was OK but only had a tiny porthole from which to espy the seas. The whole experience was a ‘nickel and dime’ one. I had a bucket of beers, chose to eat in the posh restaurant where I was seated with a delightful family of four who had not expected to share a table. The waiter came and took their orders. After a while I asked why he did not take my order. He told me that they like to serve the children first. My explanation that these delightful children were not mine only served to confuse him so I went with the flow and the family were amused. They were having the same experience as I was in terms of feeling sucked into the whole thing.

Grand Bahama Island is only 70 miles off the coast of Florida. The journey could have been achieved in under three hours but this would not have enabled the company to extract enough money from innocent punters so the journey lasted 15 hours!

On board I had arranged transport to the hotel and a genial native filled the 50 minute drive with amusing information. about the island’s trees, history, sex drive and the Brits. On arrival at the ‘all inclusive’ hotel we joined one of three long queues to register. It was 10am and the rooms would only be available at 3.30pm. My queue was served by a novice who had to keep seeking advice of her supervisor. Eventually I reach the point at which I was being served. They knew nothing about me and had no documents for me. She then disappeared to the main office and was gone for a while . The queue behind me was getting agitated so, in the way I can, I summoned the supervisor, who confirmed her high office but refused to serve the folk behind me.

Eventually I was given some paperwork so that I could return later to access my room. In fear of more queues I decided to leave my bags and walk the beach access the room much later. It turned out to be a garden view whereas I had been promised an ocean view. It didn’t worry me too much but there are principles!

The meals were all buffet style and three were available each day. I opted for two. My choice to drink only after 6pm was not one shared by others. When I returned from the beach on that first evening the hotel was littered with folk who had drunk too much in the sun and were now sleeping the sleep of Odin!

I met a delightful Swiss couple and having overheard them speaking French I ventured some French myself. The wife, who spoke English very well, was delighted since her husband only spoke French and had only his wife to speak to! I mused that this is why God invented work … to keep couples separate for some hours each day and thus give the marriage a better chance of survival! I met them several times over the time I was there and it was a joy to share their interesting and cultured conversation. I met some other folk who marriages seemed destined for the rocks unless the husband refrained from starting his drinking at 10am.

I was on the Bahamas for 3 days and 2 nights. I enjoyed the beach and some of the company and was ready to board ship again. It was more of the same and I paid for the Adult Comedy Show which I regret since it was more pre-pubescent slapstick.

It was Sunday morning when I reach the mainland and immigration took its usual long while before I was reunited with my car. The weather was turning so I chose to drive straight home and four hours later around 1pm I was home.

While I was away I had arranged for the builders to lay a porcelain tile floor. There was dust everywhere but it was a good job. They had had to removed the baseboards in the process and these would be replaced by new ones. All the furniture was arranged in the middle of each room so I’d hoped this would happen sooner rather than later.

I had Monday off and chose to work Tuesday. I did my usual School Mass and choir practice on Wednesday. During the day it was formally announced that our pastor Fr Mike Muhr would be leaving to take up a new job as a priest for the priests of the diocese. and had We thank God for the three years we have had with him. After the choir practice I had to kill some time before collecting John Bell from the airport at 11pm. One of the choir invited me to pass the time with him at a wine bar so I obliged willingly. At the airport I checked the arrivals and found one that seemed appropriate. John had not told me on which airline he would arrive so I had to guess. I guessed wrong and found myself driving around in circles for an hour until security stopped me. They then paged him and he moved from where he had been waiting. He was disgruntled about this wait but hey ho … I love driving around in circles.

Back at my placed it was about 00.30am and we chatted over several whiskies till about 3.30am. The following morning I took him to visit the venue where he would be giving an evening on Monday and then drove him to the rendezvous where in the manner of prisoner/espionage exchanges I passed him onto the Episcopalians whom he had agreed to entertain for the next few days.

I returned to work the rest of the day and finished the evening at my old bar where I was able to borrow a trolley. I had arranged to buy a washer and a dryer unit from a neighbour and needed something to move them to the house.

On Friday I relaxed by the pool. Later that evening Ross Loveridge arrived from Scotland via Orlando. He would spend a few days with me before leaving to explore the south of Florida on Wednesday. During the day it was further announced that our new pastor would be Fr Dan Kayagan.

I had to work on Saturday so I left Ross to relax and returned in the early evening. We ventured to two bars and then to the Ghenghis Grill for a take away meal. The receptionist had clearly been hitting the alcohol and since these restaurants have become familiar to so many … but not us, found it difficult to explain what to do!

On Sunday I was working as ever but so that I could be hospitable to John Bell who was returning during the afternoon I was able to find a cover musician for the evening Mass. We spent the afternoon by the pool and then christened the bbq and started on the cocktails. I have never made cocktails and took direction from John. the results were unusual and strong.

On Monday after breakfast we went to Honeymoon Island just past Dunedin which is my usual kayak spot. We walked the beach until we found a spot to stop. Later I continued to the end of the beach but got some thorns in my feet in the process! We returned home for a wash and brush up before venturing to the Higgins Hall on my church site where the event would be. It was attended by over 100 people and was in aid of Trinity Cafe which provides 360 hot meals each day to the homeless. I treated my guests to a meal at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and then we returned to my place for a drink or two.

The following day I went into work early and Ross took John to the airport and then pottered about for the day. When he returned I was meeting with a gent about solar panels in which I was interested. This done we powered up the bbq and enjoyed t-bone steaks with broccoli I had purloined from a funeral reception earlier that day.

On Wednesday I did my usual stuff and Ross set off on the next stage of his adventures driving south to explore the Everglades. Once past Miami he would enjoy one of the greatest drives in the world to Key west via the ‘7-mile bridge’.

Happily, because I had completed many hours work already I was able to go into work later. I spoke at length at a pastoral team meeting on matters arising from the visit of John Bell. Then after giving an organ lesson I joined friends at Charann’s Tavern and went home.

I had forgotten about a meeting at the house with someone about pest control but since I had not left already he caught me in time. Florida bugs are a real problem here and since the baseboards are off the ground floor at the moment it seemed a good time to get the place treated. They would also treat the outside for termites and all manner of nasty biting critters. I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the sun with temps in the low 90sF.

At the end of the day with another friend from The Local bar we went ‘on safari’ in search of Darcee who had been barred from The Local some weeks ago. We found her at the second stop and she was really touched that we had taken the trouble to find her. It seemed the perfect end to a brilliant day!

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