Friday 28 December

December has been a most unusual month. I decided to refrain from alcohol until Christmas. In the event it was not too difficult. This was made easier by the humdinger of a hangover I experienced on 1 December!

The weather has been pretty miserable by Tampa standards. There has been a chill in the air which only now is lifting.

On Tuesday 4 December I had new ‘hurricane force’ windows installed to the front and back bays. They replaced original single pane windows from when the house was built in 1979. The rest of the house had already received an upgrade in the windows department.

While we are discussing upgrades readers will appreciate that I have been experiencing considerable difficulties with my contractor. Having submitted his final bill after almost a year of procrastination I responded with a letter which declared my dissatisfaction. He immediately responded with legal threats and an intention to place a lien on my house. I demanded a face-to-face with him which took place on Thursday 6 December. Since it was my meeting I seized the agenda and found him surprisingly conciliatory. It appeared that he had responded before reading my letter properly. I left the meeting feeling positive that he would contact the insurers stating why he had had to do additional work. I hope the insurance will then send additional monies to cover the difference.

Saturday 8 December was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which meant that the day started early with a Mass followed by two funerals, a Vigil Mass for Sunday and then the wedding of two colleagues Danah and Tsai in a Chinese Restaurant. It was a great affair and the 9-course dinner was stunning. I came away with a tub of fish in a ginger sauce!

On Tuesday 11 December I visited the dentist to have three crowns fitted. Fortunately I managed to get these completed before the year end insurance elapsed but it still cost over $1000 (and the dentist did one for free!).

On 12 December I was invited to speak at the Advent Gathering of youth and adult formators in the Diocese. I chose to speak about prophetic witness/action to which we are all called by our baptism and also suggested some songs which might support some areas of action. This was the first time I had been engaged in Florida to do the kind of thing I enjoyed doing so much of in UK. It was very well received and then we adjourned for Mass with the Bishop. Most of my working life has been close to bishops but this has not been the case in Florida. I am quite content with this change as I have done the cathedral, diocese and bishop things to death! After the Mass on the Feast of  Our Lady of Guadalupe the bishop commented to me that it would have been nice to have celebrated the feast with some Marian music. I responded by asking him whether the singing of the Magnificat during the offertory was not enough for him. He had clearly missed this but bishops really need to be careful when they make comments. The power they wield has been diminished by the terrible clergy abuse cases for which many will have to share some responsibility. But even ill-conceived comments can be abusive. They must, like the rest of us, think before they speak or act and if they are wrong they must be prepared to admit to it. This one found this final bit rather too difficult! … and that on the day when the oversights of the bishop in the case of Juan Diego of Guadalupe are also remembered.

For three evenings 17-19 December Fr Paul Deutsch of the Jesuits nextdoor gave a parish mission. It was well attended and received. It is so good to have such giving priests so close to St Lawrence.

On 21 December we celebrated a Christmas dinner with the staffs of school and parish. It was held at an Italian restaurant. Whilst being grateful indeed I do prefer the celebrations with the parish staff only. We have so few opportunities to get together and most parish staff might know only a handful of school staff.

The Christmas marathon started the Advent 4 weekend and moved straight into the Christmas Eve celebrations on Monday and Christmas itself the following day. This year I had been able to hire in a local musician to cover one of the Vigil Masses and the first Mass of Christmas Day which meant that I could get more sleep after Midnight Mass.

The choir sang wonderfully at the Midnight and then presented me with a hamper of Christmas goodies.

During the afternoon I visited friends from the local bar and enjoyed some prime rib cooked in their Green Egg! I had arrived with 2 bottles of red and two bottles of single malt. We finished the red and kicked a hole in the whisky!

Boxing Day was a day off but Wednesday began with a funeral and then continued with shopping and popping into my old bar in Town & Country.

During the month of non-drinking I had set about tidying the house with a vengeance. In my bedroom I had added a fine tall armoire which I had bought for $200 from Goodwill. Soon after I’d also found a headboard which matched!

The tidying of my office is ongoing (!) but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Downstairs I needed to create space for the imminent arrival of an Allen AP4 organ. I found a rug which matched the footprint size of the organ and put this in place. This necessitated the tweaking of some furniture and a large rugs. Friends came round to assist with this and as soon as they left I realised I was unhappy with the results and tweaked it further myself! A bookshelf then found a new home upstairs in the office which has freed up the carpet as a filing area!

Outside there is work in progress. I so rarely sit down with people on the patio that I decided to move the table and chairs to a different ‘dead area’ location in the backyard (garden). The space was then filled with a fire pit. I’ve only enjoyed it once so far but it was a great alternative to watching TV!

2018 has been a wonderful year. The main focus has been getting my house in shape after Hurricane Irma put a tree through my roof. In the course of the year I have had installed a new roof, new tiled floor and skirting boards/architraves to ground floor, a replacement set of patio doors, 2 ac units, 5 trees removed and hurricane force windows installed. I have had two friends come to stay: John Bell and Ross Loveridge and it is always good to be able to offer hospitality. So if any readers fancy time in Florida please get in contact.

2018 also brought a change in Pastor at St Lawrence. Exciting times lie ahead but there are underlying financial concerns in the parish which my new boss is intent on easing. There is some uncertainty in the air so please hold us in prayer.

2019 will bring the arrival of an Allen organ for home practice and a return visit to the Composers Forum in St Louis, Missouri. My friend Bernadette Farrell will lead the week and I shall be presenting a piece about which I will tell you after the week.

See you next year!

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