Wednesday 21 September

My last blog ended with me expressing my delight that my brother Chris would be visiting me in January for a few days. You can only imagine how I felt when my brother Pete inquired of me whether it would be OK for both of them to visit! Well, knock me over with a feather!

Of course the last two weeks have been dominated by change in UK. First of all I heard that Liz Truss had been elected (by the Tory membership) as Prime Minister and was seen greeting the Queen soon after Boris Johnson had tendered to her his resignation. The Press had spotted blue marking on the Queen’s hand and were expressing concern. Two days later the Queen was dead. I recall waking at 7.20am on Thursday 8 September to hear news that the Queen’s doctors had made a statement that they were concerned about her health. Some members of the Royal family had already spent a few days with her in Balmoral and others were rushing to her bedside. Hours later came the sombre statement that the Queen had died. Even from this distance I felt a mood swing as BBC seemed to cover nothing but the arrangements leading up to the funeral on 19 September. The nation’s heart and perhaps that of the entire world was captured by her passing. Here folk approached me saying “Sorry for your loss”, something that no one would have said in UK because there the whole nation felt the loss. Yes it was an unexpected blessing that the Queen died in Scotland because this meant that that nation’s people could be so much a part of the first events expressing grief. As the week went on there were scenes of genuine public support as the coffin passed from Balmoral to Edinburgh where it lay in state and was visited by many. Then the coffin was flown down to London and passed to Westminster Hall where 4 days of lying in state continued.

My mother is being cared for by my brother Richard and his family. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the family had discovered that wheelchair users and the infirm could obtain special access to Westminster Hall without having to join the queue. So later that day I received a photo of my mum saying her farewells to the Queen.

Thousands of people filed past the coffin during those 4 days, some having had to spend about 20 hours in the queue. Thousands more lined the streets as the coffin was slow marched to the funeral at Westminster Abbey. I reckon the royal family will have walked 5 miles that day, from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey and back and then later along the Mile at Windsor. I admire their stamina!

At the end of August I took a mini vacation to Clearwater, a beach town which attracts so many tourists but which I had avoided for fear of encountering the ‘Brit abroad’. I stayed at the Holiday Inn close to the Sand Key end of the beach. I could see why folk were attracted there: the beach had wonderful white sand but all along their were cabins spoiling the view. Instead I chose to go kayaking off Dunedin Causeway during the day, returning by night to enjoy a meal in the hotel. The sunsets were spectacular with all manner of craft venturing onto the water to enjoy them. One of the barmen from O’Brien’s lives in Dunedin so he let me park my kayak in a parking space at his condo which saved me the hotel cost of an extra parking space – $80 for 3 nights!

My garden at the house is still becoming overgrown. On July 11 I took my strimmer to a company the warranty had recommended for a repair. It has now been 9 weeks and they still have not returned it. I borrowed one from a neighbor which has made the garden look less of a wilderness and have spent my days off weeding on all fours. Stupid me did not think I needed to wear gloves and the next day I woke to find an outbreak of sores on my hands. It is still managing temperatures in the 90s so there is a limit to how long one can endure weeding. It is easier in the early morning.

My UK House sale is still awaiting completion. My tenant is buying the house but his solicitor is very slow. I am not in any particular rush as the rent is still coming in but the annual due date for insurance is looming and I may have to pay out for a few days cover.

I am also still awaiting settlement of my insurance claim for loss during the floods of November 2019. I had been unable to visit the house to assess damage until May 2022. I had been informed that Zurich insurance had engaged a restoration company who had removed several items from the property. They had apparently made an inventory of all that they had removed but Zurich was unable to find this! I am hoping that they will offer an amount that I cannot refuse to prevent me taking them to court for negligence/theft.

The other saga involves the grand piano I bought in March. On delivery I noticed some damage on the lid. The delivery men took photos and promised to inform the dealer. 2 months later I discovered that they had not informed the dealer. Embarrassed he arranged for the collection of the lid and the repair. I had been seeking status reports as the repair was taking an inordinate amount of time. I mentioned this last week to the dealer who was surprised and made his own enquiries. Moments later I learned from him that they seemed to have mislaid the lid! He gave me a free tuning but how dod you lose a lid which takes at least two men to carry?

At work I have been leading the celebration of the Season of Creation. At the end of this month I will lead GOD’S GOOD EARTH, a liturgy compiled by John Bell and friends from the Iona Community. Every weekend Mass has included music and prayer related to this season. It has been difficult to navigate the path between care for creation and climate change which here is something of a political hot potato. I continue to compose a psalm a week but am delighted that as we approach the start of Year A there would seem to be so many psalms which I have already set to music.

Petrol prices have fallen considerably over the last few weeks but food prices continue to rise. The pound is weak against the dollar so it would not be a good time to convert the proceeds from the house sale (when that ever happens!). Energy prices rises have surprised so many people. I am fortunate in having invested in solar panels here (and in UK) so my energy costs have been constant and not subjected to increase. It will be a different picture in UK and Europe where the effect of the Russian grip on energy is tightening significantly.

I lament that Putin’s special military operation continues still. Ukrainian forces have started to fight back recently, retaking lost towns and regions. But the wounded beast is always dangerous and this morning I learned that Russians are being drafted again. There have been protests and those that can have purchased flights from Russia but these are dangerous times and the threat of nuclear war is being heard from the Kremlin.

Wishing to end this blog on a more positive note I am now the proud owner of a doorbell. There have been so many reports of strangers approaching front doors or checking out houses that I decided now was the time to invest in a camera door bell. I have entered the modern age at last!

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