Sunday 20 September

Today marks 6 years since I left UK for a new life in Tampa, Florida USA. A few days ago was the third anniversary of me ‘buying’ a house here (8 September) and of hurricane Irma sending a tree limb into my roof (10 September).

A wise woman told me many years ago that we should ‘grow where we are planted’. I remain wholly British but now capable of misspelling words much to the approval of the local tribe. I heard a few days ago that Americans hold their freedom very dear. I’m sure we all do, and some in the world don’t even have a sense of it! Whatever our freedoms are they must be tempered by common sense. However, as one of my Airbnb guests said, having destroyed a sunlounger by placing her voluminous, body directly onto the bands without adding the cushions, “common sense? …. It ain’t that common”.

So my neighbor in conversation with me recently was quite happy to spend time in close conversation, even occasionally fisting my arm in that strangely masculine way of showing bonhommie, before informing me that his family had been tested positive for Covid! I didn’t subsequently become infected so I’m presuming it must have been more than 14 days ago.

A drinking friend was with me at a party one Saturday night and left to join more of my friends at another party. She had to sleep over because she was drunk but the following afternoon was back getting very drunk in the Irish bar I frequent, swearing rather too loudly at a TV screen on which occasionally appeared Tom Brady, the latest, outrageously expensive purchase of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Friends, seeing her leaving, stopped her from heading to her car for quite a long drive home. She needed to visit the toilet but instead diverted to her car. With much relief I learned the next day that she had arrived home safely realizing how dumb she had been. Common sense ain’t that common.

A few days ago, I had a Frontier internet/cable engineer visit the house to get me back online. In the 5 hours of his work here he changed every unit that had not been changed for a while but was still scratching his head. In the last 10 minutes he discovered a cable was twisted and having replaced this minor item finally got the job done. Common sense ain’t that common.

Amid all this lack of common sense we have an election for one of the most powerful positions in the world. People here are so entrenched in their voting habits that it would seem that nothing will shift their allegiance to varying degrees of incompetence. Yesterday I spoke with a man who shared with me that this was not his habit, that his vote would be cast on how one party or the other might affect his own socioeconomic condition. There was nothing about the common good in his thinking … just ‘what’s in it for me’.

You can imagine my delight when a catholic media group, Faith in Public Life, offered a rallying call that expressed that the Church is not into single issue politics, that pro-life concerns, however valid, are not the sole concern of the Catholic Church. It bluntly described Trump as ‘a threat to Catholic values’ a contrary position to that Trump was seeking by aligning himself with pro-life.

Readers outside USA will want to know about the weather. This is the hurricane season here which lasts until November but we’re now in the middle of it. There are a few storms brewing but so far we have been lucky in Tampa. Earlier this week a hurricane changed course in the Bay and hit the northern parts of Florida bringing torrential rain bands to Tampa. At this time of year you expect regular daily downpours at 4pm then the temperatures are at their highest but these have been more erratic of late.

Musically, I have tried to discipline myself to composing a psalm setting each week. Without thinking this had led me to write in different styles to my norm. I still doubt that anything will ever get published as publishing psalms can be an expensive business. Today’s psalm had a smoky blues bar feel which went down well with my smoky blues congregation! We also did Michael Joncas’ ‘Shelter me’ for the first time. There were several people struggling to hold back the tears. It’s a wonderful setting of a text that is just the perfect prayer for these times of Covid19.

In 2016 I bought a brand new 2015 Nissan Rogue. Months later they updated the model in everyway imaginable and I regretted not waiting a little longer ever since. Two weeks ago I visited a dealer and managed to achieve a trade in price that was twice the value first offered me and went ahead with the purchase of an almost new 2019 Nissan Rogue SV. It was first registered in June 2020 and returned to the dealer 2 months later with 5k on the clock. Among the many gadgets is an intelligent driving assistant which I have now switched off. Quite unexpectedly it will take over the steering or the brakes whenever it feels under threat. There is so much I have yet to learn about this car which might be delivered by reading the 580-page manual! That is not going to happen easily!

 I had two great conversations this week with good friends. One was with Helen as a result of her posting on facebook. You would have to know that after over 50 years on this planet this was her first post. You would also have enjoyed the expression of surprise on her face when I FaceTimed her. When she had recovered her composure,  I took her on a brief tour of my place here and she kindly commented on the state of the kitchen. I had earlier begun tidying up the ground floor but had not got beyond the guest lounge. So later that evening I bombarded her facebook site with a sequence of photos of those areas I’d managed to clean. It was days before photos of the kitchen followed!

The second conversation was with Peter, a friend from the Iona Community. He had recently received a cancer diagnosis and when the consultant rang somewhat sooner than expected to relay the bad news he commented on how well Peter was taking it and wished all his patients had a similarly relaxed attitude. What Peter did not tell the consultant was that he had been enjoying several pieces of flapjack laced with narcotic substances!

Today is the last day of summer and the leaves have already started falling into my pool. The next few months will be spent getting the leaves out again! What a joy!


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