Monday 23 July

Today is the first day off in a while so I have a chance to update the blog.

The last weekend of June preceded July 4 which over here is celebrated with some zeal. It’s a celebration of independence from British rule. I always view this (humourously) as Traitors’ Day the day when the ungrateful colonials established themselves. Having said this I don’t buy into the culture that we Brits discovered America (as the 2nd verse of ‘America the beautiful’ would have us believe). I mention this hymn because it was the chosen final song for the weekend’s Masses. Before the 4pm vigil Mass I even asked the congregation how many verses they wished to sing. When it came to it most left before the end of verse 1. The next day I was shown that this first Mass response was not representative as folk sang with great gusto!

The rainy season has well and truly begun. On the positive side the grass will grow and make my garden appear cared for. On the negative side the air around the church organ will be so pungent as to make folk wonder about my personal hygiene. Tampa is basically a drained swamp and when it rains the water level rises and the organ which is located in a pit is lower than anywhere else in the church and whatever has died immediately beneath it gives off a pervasive aroma!

The additional rain also means that I have to drain the swimming pool as its level also rises. I had spent some hours drifting around pool supply and homecare stores looking for a replacement pipe through which to drain the pool. The one I have is punctured at the business end. In the process I was struck by a brainwave and returned home to disconnect the hose and replace it with the other end. Result!

The trees in my garden had already worried me after Irma but when another large limb crashed to the ground between my house and a neighbor’s I had to do something. I have booked a specialist to bring down a few trees which are dangerously leaning towards the house or have already caused damage. Before any work can proceed I have to apply for permits from the local authority. I should know what I can do by the start of August.

Mention of local authority reminds me that Sheffield City Council contacted my letting agents to inform me that I owed them about 400 pounds for unpaid council tax this year. I wrote to them as did my agents and they have agreed that an error has occurred. This is just as well for a week later I received another request for 1700 pounds!

I spent many of my waking hours watching the World Cup. England did rather well to reach the semi finals with such a young team. Many of the matches I had to record so that I could watch them after work. Some friends took great delight in advising me of the score before I got home. Hmmm.

The saga over the house repairs after Irma continues. The skirting boards were eventually completed but not satisfactorily. The contractor visited and agreed with my assessment and asked the carpenter to redo some of the work around the kitchen island. Despite all the promises further delays were experienced. I would be in Baltimore for a week at the meeting of Pastoral Musicians. Perhaps things would have advanced after that?

The NPM Convention was good in parts but poor in others. Tony Alonso and Jaime Cortez both provided separate examples of good practice and further challenges relating to multilingual liturgies. Marty Haugen had created a new Mass setting which, he dreamed, might be sung (both languages simultaneously) in bilingual parishes. It was a great pity that James Martin SJ had had to cancel his plenary because the other plenaries didn’t really get me excited apart from one on the eucharist and another on youth. I had arrived a day early to be part of the panel looking at compositions submitted to the Composers’ Forum. The panel was very positive and there were good vibes among participants. However I attended a seminar on composers’ tool-kits during the final day which seemed barely prepared at all.

I was bowled over by one concert at the cathedral and particularly by the Salve Regina Mass of Yves Castagnet, whom I had worked alongside during my time in Paris years ago.

Socially the NPM was good. I spent much time in the company of Paul Inwood, Kathy Leos, Christopher Walker and John McCarthy who had popped over from UK. Baltimore was a wonderful city for food and famous for its seafood. It was great to meet up with Phil Stackhouse from St John’s Ellicott City with which parish I have had a relationship starting on Iona and maintained since.

I returned from Baltimore anxious to see what advances had taken place with the repairs. The skirting boards had now been completed to my satisfaction and new gutters had been installed for all roof aspects. Now I just had to await the french doors!

On Friday 20 July I was joined by 5 work colleagues as we christened my paella dish with a paella according to Jamie’s recipe. It was a great meal!

The weekend at St Lawrence was notable for working with a new bassist. Once we’d sorted the music for him his talents were plain to hear. It was also good to introduce to the assembly a new singer who led us in Audrey Assad’s ‘I shall not want’.

It’s countdown time before our Pastor Fr (mgr) Mike leaves us on 12 August. He is moving to become the priest-elected ‘priest for the priests’. It’s a new diocesan job and he will be great at this. It really has been a creative time for me working with him. I will miss his homilies but more than that his fully human presence. It is wonderful to meet people who know themselves and are content with what they know! Our new pastor arrives on 15 August so there’s not long to wait.

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