Monday 20 April

What an ominous day on which to begin my first blog in over a month. A severe storm is due this afternoon, the alligator mating season starts and the stay-at-home order in still in place across Florida.

Also continuing now for 6 weeks is the presence of builders in my backyard extending my pool patio area by 650 sq ft. Unfortunately the norm is that they work 2 hours and call it a day. The fact that I will reduce their payment by $200 per day after Tuesday may spur them on a bit but they didn’t show yesterday!

I am luckier than many since I can be almost in isolation at work in my office and at home. The organ O purchased last year for home practice has really come into its own as I have been able to schedule a different piece for each live-stream Sunday Mass. Sometimes I have to re-order things eg yesterday when I awoke to realize I could not play the chosen piece to my satisfaction and selected an alternative which in fact was more suitable for the readings!

Today is eerie. It is quite dark and the wind is up at 10am. A severe storm is expected after midday. This will keep everyone inside, I’m sure, but the air will clear and become drier than it has in recent days. Every cloud really does have a silver lining.

This week will be the last that our deacon/chief of staff works at St Lawrence as he enters retirement. There will be mixed emotions, I’m sure but life at work will definitely be different. The shock of the week was that the bishop is moving one of our priests who had been here only 10 months. Priests know that this can happen and they buy into it but the people really don’t embrace change so easily. Fortunately in his place we will be getting a priest who has been ordained for 6 years and who comes to us from his post as chaplain at a local university.

My work life continues much as it has always been. I work the same number of hours preparing the music for live-stream and sending out resources to our wonderful couple of cantors who have delivered some wonderful moments. It is much easier now that Holy Week is over so the powers that be have decided to live-stream a Mass for the school community on Wednesday mornings. Unfortunately the school has requested that this fits into their virtual timetable with only a 30-minute slot for Mass with music. The experience will be definitely different from that we normally offer!

You might imagine that the Covid19 restrictions would mean that my house is really tidy but that’s not the case at all. It’s not terrible but it’s unlike a show-house!

Financially I’m sure we are all taking a hit. I am fortunate that my salary is still being paid but the cushion of income from Airbnb, organ lessons at Jesuit and weddings and funerals make for leaner times. And all of this at the same time when I decided to re-finance the house to a shorter term and increased mortgage payments! On the good side there are less places open to spend money. I am however pleased to recount that even though my beloved Goodwill Stores have been closed for weeks I managed to find a great bargain last week. My mother always says that nothing is a bargain unless you really need it. Well I have been looking around for a petrol fuelled fire-pit for almost 2 months. Last week I saw a really hi-end example in a private online sale. The list price for this item is $2100 but they were selling it at less than half price. I expressed interest in knowing when they might drop the price from $900. They dropped it to $700 and I got it for $500 and they even delivered it! The granite was 48in diameter and too wide for my SUV but his BMW SUV was wider!

For the last 6 weeks my builders have been promising two actions which today they have completed. Neither were the normal tasks for builders. They removed 6 very spiky red pineapple plants from the backyard and also applied bondo to a broken pool step. Earlier in the week I’d filled it with expanding filler and had to drop the pool level almost 2ft to achieve this. Like gaffer tape, Bondo is a builder’s friend. It is easy to work with and hardens very quickly. Unfortunately due to a manufacturer error the first batch I’d bought had no hardener in the tube. This caused laughter at the store when I returned it but at least that task is now done and will have hardened before the storm arrives.

This isolation is tough for people. Yesterday we received a phone call that parishioners were planning to invade the live-stream Mass and demand communion. It must be a strange thing for a priest to refuse communion to anyone but in the event it never happened.

I hear that the naturally-tactile French are really missing the opportunity to kiss each other on both cheeks. Such intimacy would never be tolerated in UK. In USA gone are the ‘high fives’ and the hugging being replaced by a nod or an elbow bump.

On Friday the authorities opened a beach in Jacksonville way to the north of the state of Florida. Within hours it was groaning with sunbathers for whom the safe distance between bodies seemed to be a thing of the past. Daft, isn’t it?

Here in Trumpton POTUS still reminds of us of how daft the human race can be with his daily press conferences which offer cynics plenty of scope for ridicule. Fortunately not all state governors obey his every whim and apply more common sense. I recall one of Airbnb guests declaring the common sense “ain’t that common”. How correct she was!

Well it’s 11.15am and the workers seem to be packing up after what has been a comparatively lengthy time at work. The rain has started to fall and so have their tools.

It looks like the storm is imminent as there is an eerie calm right now when all the media are emitting warnings. I’m going to finish this blog before the lightning prevents me from using the computer!

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