Thursday 13 January 2022

It’s Thursday the 13th and I’ve just completed my UK tax return which came to the princely sum of 28 pounds sterling!

I’m still Covid-free but several of my UK family and my Sacred Heart Choir here in Tampa have gone down with it. This new strain does seem to be very contagious. Recently 1.3 million new cases were recorded over one day in USA!

Since I last wrote we have re-started the Parish Choir for the first time since Covid broke. I had delayed the re-start simply because I needed to be convinced that it might be safe to do so. Since Christmas the new strain has caused me some doubt but I am convinced that the choir members are being prudent and staying away when they suspect anything and getting tested before their return. The return of the Choir has made a great impact so far and we all get on well together!

Christmas was busy for all church musicians this year particularly because Christmas fell on a Saturday and was followed by a ‘normal’ Sunday. For me I had 12 Masses scheduled over three days but was fortunate to find cover musicians for 2 Masses on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was more difficult as I had offered to provide an alternative to the Christmas Pageant using only 6 children and some adult voices to produced ‘Michael Mouse’ which I found in a publication of the Iona Community. It all went very well and there was good participation from the congregation in both the singing of carols and whenever the text demanded a reaction. Unfortunately the child who was to play the cat was ill but there was no shortage of costumed cats and other animals in the church! I won’t be doing this again as there are other staff who have stronger links to working with children in the parish and my workload at this time needs to be reduced.

We were all surprised to hear that Fr Stephen, our Pastor, will be leaving after only 18 months to take up a position in St Bonaventure University in New York. Fr Stephen is a gentle, unassuming priest and we will miss his unique biblical insights and sense of joy. In his place will be a priest who is already on the staff and an experienced Pastor.

It was great to welcome one of my Iona friends (and his cousin) to Florida in December. They spent 2 weeks in Orlando during which time I visited them for a couple of days before Ross came and stayed with me for 3 nights before flying back to Glasgow. My memory of what we did is slightly addled by the alcohol consumed but I do remember greeting them with a bourbon tasting event in my backyard. Then we ventured into Ybor City by taxi and I really cannot recall much of that at all! The following day Ross’ cousin left to explore Miami so we passed the day in kayaking in the sun. While they were in USA the UK government changed the restrictions on travel which meant that they had to obtain a negative PCR test a day before flying. I spent the morning dealing with this and then left Ross at my house as I went off to work until late. I returned home to discover that he had spent the afternoon tidying my backyard!

Meanwhile back in the UK my youngest brother Richard, His wife Camille and their new son Daniel were boarding a flight to her homeland Brazil. Richard would spend 2 weeks there over Christmas and Camille would return with Daniel 2 weeks after that. Richard and his family provide the care for my mum so an elaborate plan of substitute care was devised between brothers and professional carers. Christmas must have been a great success for them and now mum is happily back in Woking with Richard.

My solar panels both in UK and Florida are doing their stuff despite quite different weather experiences. Here in Florida the sun is not so high in the sky right now but still I manage to generate enough electricity to ensure that my monthly bill comes to $15 which is in fact the admin charge from the electric company! My finance payments remain constant whereas the cost of electricity has recently risen by almost 20% and such rises do not affect me anymore!

At the end of the year I had not used any of my vacation time (10 days since May) and had also accrued extra days for national holidays on which I had worked. This all means that I shall be able to return to UK for about 3 weeks when it is sensible to do so. During this time I will of course visit my mum whom I have not been able to visit since October 2019. In November 2019 a cataclysmic flood hit Sheffield and 3ft of water filled my basement. There is an insurance claim outstanding from this until I can assess the damage to property stored in that basement. I’ll also be looking to clear the house before hopefully selling to my tenants. Some items I will send to Florida but much will need to be either auctioned or sold off. It will be a busy time!

I continue with my project of composing a psalm a week and am now more than half way into the 3 year cycle. We still await word from the US Bishops as to what the psalm responses might be but hopefully that will just be a tweaking exercise.

I’ve started doing Airbnb again and tomorrow I welcome guests who will stay for a week. Airbnb gives greater financial return but more cleaning. Furnished Finder set up for the medical profession to find accommodation for travel nurses provides guests who stay longer but then again you might find that you don’t get on. I’ve lucky most of the time but I’ve had my moments!

2022 has started with my amazing frozen Margarita machine being called into action again! It remains to be seen whether Boris will still be Prime Minister, whether Prince Andrew will remain as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and whether Joe Biden will be a functioning President of USA. Quite a year ahead!

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