Monday 8 June

This blog might appropriately be titled ‘thrown under the bus’.

as I write USA is in turmoil. The number of deaths from coronavirus has passed 100, 000 and even in the relatively small country of Great Britain the incidence of coronavirus and death is very high. There is a lot of finger-pointing but now is not the time for this.

USA is also in turmoil over the murder of George Floyd. I watched on TV today as senators struggled to ‘take the knee’ for the almost nine minutes that the police officer knelt on George’s neck. There seems to be a will to look at reform of the American Police forces and this is indeed good. Movies have focussed on the corruption that can exist in the Police but you really can’t throw all of them under the bus because there are some and even many perhaps who are good people. I am certainly not denying institutional racism but nor do I agree with tarring everyone with the same brush.

There have been protests about George’s death in many American cities including my own. Protest has travelled across the world like the pandemic which so many protesters seemed to temporarily ignore. I agree with protest: the psalms are full of it and the prophetic witness to which we are encouraged by our baptism may also encompass protest. Violence and looting are something else. These are wrong. There may be those who point to opportunism and poverty being the factors but violence and looting are wrong and it would be equally wrong to thrown under the bus all protesters.

I recall the reaction of the media when the news broke of sexual abuse of minors by catholic priests. I recall priests removing their collars in fear of being assaulted. It would be and was wrong to throw under the bus all catholic priests when there are many good priests who share nothing with the evil minority.

I was thrown under the bus this last weekend. I received a request from ‘Alina’ to accommodate 3 guests via Airbnb. It was the first request in months as I’m sure you will understand. It was a last minute booking and the guests would arrive after midnight so I went to bed having given them the entry codes. At 3am on Saturday morning I was awoken by noise in the house. I donned a dressing gown and went to meet my guests. On the way I passed the bathroom, the door of which was wide open, and noticed a woman tying her shoelaces. I continued downstairs to where the noise was emanating and in the lounge was surprised to find it full of at least six persons. They showed an equal unease and a couple went upstairs to where they said ‘Alina’ was. I followed them soon after and in that short time they had concocted a complete fabrication that I had been ogling the woman in the bathroom whom they said was in the shower.

Ironically this week I finished reading a book entitled ‘Truth – A brief history of total bullshit’ by Tom Phillips. To those who believe that falsehood and fake news originated with the current US administration it seeks to show that falsehood and lies have been around for centuries.

There was no truth in the allegation but I was pleased that they all decided they would not stay. When they left I could hear them telephoning Airbnb and then the Police. So I rang Airbnb to lodge a report and the agent mentioned that a report had already be given by Alina and she dropped the phone on me. I then rang the Police for my first time in USA because I felt unsafe in my own house particularly because the ‘guests’ had my entry and alarm codes.

Four of the guests were still in one car when the Police arrived. Two cars had already left. The Police woman was very understanding but it was my word against Alina and she did not want to be the judge. I was very relieved that I was not arrested on the basis of whatever report had been given by them!

Later that morning I had to work but kept a keen eye on my phone app for the alarm system which also allows me to see if the front door is opened while I am away. Fortunately there was no issue.

I received a message from Airbnb that they had cancelled the booking and any payments to me and mentioned that an investigation was proceeding and that i could lose my membership of Airbnb. It felt as though I was being thrown under the bus. I could understand that if a serious or even mild allegation had been made then they had to take it seriously. How do you prove innocence when it was my word against the dishonesty of the guests?

I spent a long time on the phone with the ‘investigator’ on Sunday evening and nothing much had changed to ease my mind at all. So this morning I contacted Airbnb and again denied the allegations that I had heard them making as they phoned Airbnb outside my house. Furthermore I asserted that I was willing to make a statement to that effect under oath. A few hours later I received a note indicating that if I confirmed that I had read the safety rules they had sent me that no further action would be taken. It did not sound as though I was exonerated and I was still concerned about what Alina might write when she was asked for a review. If it was to be as false as the verbal allegations then I would not be happy since as they say, ‘mud sticks’.

It was with some trepidation that, having written my honest and full review of hosting Alina including a warning to potential hosts, I awaited her review of me. Fortunately her review written before mine amounted to a single word – ‘Honestly’ and accompanied it with a tight-lipped meme! I was relieved and replied “I don’t think Alina know the meaning of the word”.

I am fortunate that over the weekend I was able to seek the company of good friends and a game of dominoes over a few drinks.

There were other much more positive moments during the last week. On Tuesday I received a request from one of my Iona friends, Alison Adam, to provide a tidied up version of the scrawled manuscript of a new chant by John Bell. Moments later the pristine version was with Alison and John in UK.

Then came a further request to record the accompaniment with me singing the melody. The first attempt had too much of me and not enough accompaniment so a second attempt followed on Wednesday. It was to be used in a virtual gathering of the Iona Community and its supporters as we bade farewell to Christine and Kathy the Leaders and welcomed Ruth and Caro as new Leader and transition executive. We also welcomed New Members. I’d have to say that despite moments of clunkiness it was very emotional and typically direct in its focus. It was good also to receive plaudits from dear friends who were communally part of the experience.

Back home in England my mother is a cause of much concern but I am really pleased that I have brothers who live quite close and have been able to step in to the breach when necessary. I would love to have made a reurn visit but this looks problematic even if I can find a plane to take me: I would have to be quarantined for 2 weeks in UK before visiting mum and then on my return would likely be quarantined again. I am pleased that there are positive signs and that because of a recent ‘walkabout’ mum’s condition is being taken more seriously by the medical and social professions.

The other high point of the week was receiving a letter from Donald Trump. The letter accompanied a cheque for $1200 which all Americans and legal residents aliens have received as a hardship payment in times of Coronavirus (which by the way, one of my brothers insists on calling ‘Miley Cyrus’).

I have experienced some hardship but I still have a job which pays well when many have lost even low-paying employment. Strangely my main income loss can be put down to the temporary cessation in Airbnb hosting! But I have also lost out due to there being no funerals or weddings at St Lawrence and I have been unable to maintain my regular organ lessons for scholarship students at Jesuit High School. I really can’t complain as the temporary closure of bars and restaurants has reduced some expenditure.

We’ve had a few storms here but are expecting many more. I should have been on vacation last week for a few days in Key West in the south of Florida. Covid19 put a stop to that as nothing would have been open even if I had been able to get there. I was due to travel with another Iona friend, Dawn Young from Texas. Unfortunately she found a suspicious growth on her nose which had to be removed so she wouldn’t have been able to travel in any case. Spare a prayer for her and many others who are sick but prevented from getting the support of friends due to the virus restrictions.

Tomorrow is another day … and there are very few buses in Florida!

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