Monday 10 August

On this day in 1968 (or thereabouts) my parents moved house from Long Walk in New Malden to 12 Neville Road in Norbiton. Local snobs preferred to describe the area as Kingston-upon-Thames but there you go. As my grandfather used to say “There’s nowt so strange as folk!”

I have a few memories of this first house. I can recall hiding under the table when it became clear that a burglar was walking down the gap between our house and the neighbour’s. I can recall that we had an air-raid shelter in the backgarden and a rockery on which we brothers tried to imitate the Beatles. Ours was the only house which was owned. all the others were rented from the Council.

So my parents decided to move and after some deliberation the rest of us children followed.

Neville Road remained the family seat for many years. I remember the seismic ripples when a coloured family moved in next door. Wonderful aromas of what we were later to identify as curry pervaded the atmosphere. It was a new world. When decades later we moved again we ended up selling the house to Muslims. One neighbour enquiring about some strange-looking people who had visited the house looking to purchase was aghast when she learned that they were Muslims!

So today it’s just turned 4pm and the thunder and accompanying lightning and rain have arrived as they usually do during August in Florida. It’s been a wonderful day in which I have weeded both front and back gardens.

On Saturday evening at the 4pm Vigil Mass no sooner had the bells tolled 4pm than the heavens opened with an almighty lightning storm which persisted throughout the entire Mass unabated. The ferocity was astounding but the timing was normal.

Yesterday at church after the first morning Mass I discovered a small package left on the piano. Wrapped in tissue paper was a Covid mask with musical decorations. Later, after the midday Mass one of the choir came up and presented me with 2 t-shirts, a bowl of ceviche and a hand-written recipe for the same. There are so many lovely people here. They make up for the comments from another guy before the 10am Mass. During that Mass I heard in the prayers that his mother had died and privately forgave him!

During last week I finished working on an arrangement of ‘Silent Night’ for voice, SATB Choir, two solo instruments and piano (with organ in the background!). Any folk who might remember me from St Marie’s Cathedral might also recall the piano arrangement I improvised each Christmas for this carol. It must have been noteworthy as last Christmas one of those cathedral parishioners visited Tampa and wrote to me especially wanting me to play Silent Night at the midnight Mass. So now, 7 months later, I completed the arrangement and sent it to a respected musician for his critical observations. I’m hoping there won’t be too many changes as there is only so much of Silent Night that you can endure in balmy August.

My friend John Bell is enjoying his usual few weeks visit to Amsterdam where he covers for the priest in the English Reformed Church there. In return he has to walk the dog twice a day. This is not a preferred experience for John so you can imagine his delight when he learned that this year his hosts were taking the dog with them. To ease his remorse I sent him a picture of the most scary dog I could find. In reply John registered his fright at both pictures, the other being my headshot on the signature line of the message. Bloody cheek!

We have a new Communications Director at St Lawrence and she has enabled me to access my parts of the website so I’m busying myself with updating stuff since another member of staff, thankfully now employed elsewhere, used to be such a control freak that seeking to update the website was like asking for a massive payrise!

Airbnb has restarted in part. there have been a few cancellations due to Covid and quarantine restrictions but a group arrives tomorrow for 3 nights. The house is looking quite tidy as a result!

It’s now past 5pm and the rain has stopped so maybe this calls for a quick dip in the pool and a trip down the road to what my father used to euphemistically call the ‘Post Office’!


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