It’s over 6 weeks since my last blog and these are my sins!
I can remember when I was about 15 being asked by mum what I wanted for Christmas. Francois Couperin’s Organ Masses was my reply and come Christmas Day they arrived although mum did confess to finding it difficult to meet my request. Now several decades later I have discovered that a Catholic University Library in Canada which closed in 2018 is now selling off its stock on ebay. For the last few months I have been winning auctions for music which arrives beautifully bound as you might expect from a library. Also, as you might expect, much of what I buy has never been out on loan from the library since the 1990s when it opened! Much of the music I already had but these replacements are in pristine condition and, as I have mentioned, are fully bound and cheap!
I now have the complete organ works of Liszt, Walther, Praetorius, Weckmann, Tunder, Durufle, Lubeck, Messiaen, Mozart, Merulo, Nivers, and many others who are even more obscure and I’m still buying even as I type! As I resume the blog I can report that I was successful in bidding for all the items I wanted!
January was notable in that winter here lasted longer than any expected. Normally we might have a few days that approach freezing and then it bounces back up to the tropical high 70sF. This year has been strange in that it has remained pretty cool. There was a period of a week which happily coincided with my holiday in which temps were over 70F and it was sunny but then it went cool again. Yesterday it was sunny and in the mid 80s and this morning it was 80F at 10am but then the rain came and it has been in the low 60s ever since. I decided to go shopping, it was that bad! It certainly was nothing to compare with the weather in Texas or in parts of UK but it was bad enough that I felt compelled to post the following message on Facebook.
“For those of you “up north” or in UK who think we have it easy in Florida. It was only 62 this morning. And it was drizzling. I had to go find a jacket in the closet. I had to choose between my cashmere wool overcoat and several thick woollies which I’d hardly worn since I arrived in Tampa. By the time I decided which to wear, it had warmed up to 72 degrees and I didn’t even need a jacket! It was stressful, so I headed to a beach bar for a beer. Florida problems…”
My holiday was long coming. I didn’t take a holiday last year because I was keen to save it all for when the pandemic lifted so I went into 2021 with a fully vacation allowance (15 days) carried over from 2020. I spent my January 20-28 vacation in Englewood further south in Florida but only 90 minutes drive from Tampa. I’d booked an apartment which had been priced at $220 a night and which I got for $70! To be honest it wasn’t worth the original price! It was a bit shabby but that is what you come to expect in what is called ‘old Florida’. I arrived at the crack of dawn and had brought my kayak with me so within an hour I was out on the water. After almost 3 hours I had discovered that the wide channel into which I launched from my apartment was a thoroughfare for all the rich kids who delighted in speeding past me, leaving me struggling in their wake. I headed back to the apartment and ditched the kayak altogether. Instead I drove to the nearest park which bordered a beach, Stump Pass Beach. I had to wait a while to be let into the car park as there was only limited space but it was worth the wait. The beach was wonderful and pretty soon I had walked beyond the few who were encamped near the car park with all their beach paraphernalia and passed a few who were seeking shells or shark’s teeth to add to their collection. This peculiar bunch of people never spoke and never lifted their gaze from a few steps in front of them lest they missed a potential trophy! I was such a beautiful space that I returned there each day. In the evenings I either cooked for myself or went out in search of fodder. One night I took a recommendation which led me to a bar in the middle of a marina. Snooks Bar was clearly popular and had some fine craft beers as well as excellent ribeye steaks. Another night I went to a bar on the main drag. This was as close as you can get to ‘bar street’ in New Orleans. I was attracted there by the acoustic music that was being played outside. I remained inside and chatted with a local just in case I might get some local info. Unfortunately this local had been there for hours and rather than continue to drink more beer he had taken advantage of the fact that coffee was available with limitless refills. So there he was with a beer in one hand and a coffee in the other. I left the bar as he was mistakedly pouring cream, intended for the coffee, into his beer!
I returned the following night and the local was nowhere to be seen. I went outside and sat down. It was a while before anyone came to serve me and when she did she rudely complained that I had sat down without waiting to be shown to my seat/table. I should say that apart from the musician, and the young bar woman who had served me the previous night (but was now out with friends and not working) there was no one else present. I asked her who was the woman who, she agreed, had been so rude to me, and she said it was the owner! I drank my drink and left a meagre tip.
Back in Tampa for the last weekend in January I did my usual weekend in Church knowing that I had planned it all before I left for vacation. I was in the office on Monday to hear during the afternoon that our 93 year old Fr Keating had died. It was not unexpected and in fact Fr Keating had been hoping for it sooner! Lazaro who looks after the church was there when he died. The following day Lazaro would celebrate with us a Memorial Mass for his mum. I recall him telling me the date for the Mass before I left for vacation and he hadn’t realised that 2 February was such a big feast. So we adapted the entrance rites with a blessing of candles and then while I sang Chris Walker’s Nunc dimittis the assembly lit their candles and placed them around the ashes. It was a lovely moment.
I had decided to give up drinking at the start of February with a break on February 8 for Superbowl. Tampa was the venue for this year’s Superbowl and they ended up winning the Cup. Tampa teams won four tournaments this year and immediately the cry went out ‘Champa Tampa’. I watched the game with friends in the local Irish Bar. There was so much vodka splashing around that I was grateful for the office closure the following day. I managed to walk home and entered via the backyard gate only to trip in the dark and end up fully clothed in the pool with cuts across 3 fingers of my right hand. I called it a sporting injury!
Since then there have been a sequence of funerals in the Church. On Monday 9th we did a sung Evening Prayer from the Office of the Dead for Fr Keating and the next day we did his Funeral Mass with two bishops in choir. It hasn’t stopped much since then but I have been able to secure my two days off each week.
I had airbnb guests for the last two weekends. The first guests left within minutes as they had failed to read that I would be living in the house. They admitted their oversight but still had to pay me a cancellation fee. The following weekend 3 girls and a guy had booked in. I feared the worst but they were wonderful guests. I hardly heard them even though they spent almost all the time in the house. On Sunday next another guest will arrive for a month. She will be the first from a more professional agency so we’ll see how that works out.