Friday 30 August

Wow! Another blog only 4 days after the last. Something must be afoot? And it is!

You’ve probably already heard that hurricane Dorian is gathering pace and intensity and heading for my house. To be fair it will affect the whole state of Florida and more besides.

It is unlikely that I’ll be evacuated. During Irma I was evacuated from my apartment close to the sea only to reach the house I had bought two days earlier with a chair, a plastic sun lounger for sleeping, a radio and 4 bottles of wine. As readers will recall Irma sent a tree into my roof and I have only recently completed the repairs.

Since Irma I have a new roof, new tiled ground floor, new patio doors, hurricane proof windows (!) and have regretfully had to remove most of the trees from the property as they were becoming dangerous. I still have the mighty oak in the front garden but a limb fell from that on Monday!

Yesterday I visited the local supermarket and there was madness. Shelves were emptying and water was being rationed. I only needed a few bottles of water. I normally drink from the tap but water can become impure during these situations. They would only allow me to take a case of 24 bottles and then insisted I take another because it was BOGO! Ridiculous eh?

I have a bbq as everyone does over here so if I need to cook I’ll be able to. In fact I have a joint of pork grilling away now even though there is torrential rain right now.

On Tuesday I collected Rose from Tampa Greyhound Station. I had met Rose 5 years ago at a Society of St Gregory Summer School at Worth Abbey. I was one of the speakers. She must have remembered me and having moved from the Columban Mission in Birmingham was now serving as a lay missionary in El Paso. Much of her work centred on immigration from Mexico and beyond to USA.  I’ve always tried to be hospitable in the past so her request to stay for a couple of days in between visiting relatives in N Florida and a retreat with the Benedictines at St Leo Abbey was accepted. I had promised to take her kayaking but I only managed to get a few yards down the road when the trailer fell off the hitch which would not engage. I beat an undignified return and instead we did some gardening in between bottles of Prosecco! In the evening we went out for meal and returned for more wine and a game of Monopoly which, note my family, I won of course!

On Thursday morning I dropped Rose at the retreat house at St Leo Abbey and since it was gloriously sunny I headed for the beach as any wise Floridian would!

Later that evening I found myself in the neighbourhood bar. One of the locals walked in and immediately caused some concern. He seemed disorientated and was just skin and bones. I don’t think he been eating. The bar did not serve food but they found some nuts and a sweet drink before allowing him to proceed to beer. Since I had earlier dispensed some Ibuprophen to a gent who had terrible back ache I was feeling rather like a medical practitioner! For my own part I dispensed a few vodkas with water.

Yesterday I received an email from a senior member of staff of our school requesting that I include some of the older girls’ favourites in the music list for September. This is just symptomatic of  a prevailing attitude which determines that ‘they must have what they want because they are paying fees and we must keep them happy’. Poppycock. And I would not mind but the request came with several misspelt words. I would have expected that an educational establishment knew the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’!

Well the usual August afternoon storm has passed for the time being and the joint of pork is cooked so I’ll nip out soon and rescue it.

Tuesday is the day when I’ll be asking for prayers. The hurricane is forecast to strike the east coast sometime during the early morning and will affect Tampa later in the day.  Forecasts can always be wrong but there is a science to this and all the models show it affecting Tampa. When it turns will determine how deep I ‘hunker down’. I have a collection of candles, torches, batteries and radio all ready to be engaged and a good book about how the concerns of the multinationals have dominated American politics for years. That should take my mind off things.

See you the other side of what Trump calls ‘a monster’.


Monday 26 August

Since my last post the weather really picked up with temperatures in the mid 90sF. Accompanying this were some pretty spectacular storms but this is all good for the garden which, I have to admit, is looking quite healthy. It’s August and you can expect a lot of rain.

On Wednesday 21st I went in and played for the school Mass and did some more admin before leaving the office around midday to get the second of two immunizations for shingles. The first produced a bad reaction and I was fearful of the same. I got a slight fever and joints ached but I’d already decided to take the day off and get through the time by watching Netflix. In the event Frontier’s internet provision went down for 36 hours and I was unable to use this as a distraction!

On Sunday 25 August I arrived at church for the first Mass at which I also had to serve as Cantor. At the end of Mass Lei Ray Yu came up to me. I had met her and her husband Brandon during an NPM at an Italian restaurant in Cincinatti at the invitation of Paul Inwood. A few months ago I learned that Brandon had accepted the music job at nearby St Ignatius, Tarpon Springs.  I had reached out to his wife to cover an absence from St Lawrence in October and she had come along to hear how our Masses went. It was a delight to have her company for 3 Masses and I look forward to future encounters.

This coming week I have taken time off work in order to host a Columban Lay Missionary from El Paso. El Paso has joined a growing number of places which have become associated with a mass shooting. Unfortunately the weather looks as though it will change for the worse: more rain I suspect and thunderstorms. This could rule out the planned kayak excursion.

Friday 16 August

My last blog ended with me going out to The Local to take advantage of the double bogo. I dropped into the Cornerstone for a couple before visiting the local where a friend bought me a double G&T then I did the same with my double BOGO and then returned with friends to the Cornerstone. Thankfully one of the friends offered me a lift home!

In the last blog I also mentioned having acquired (for free) a 2-drawer filing cabinet. The saga continues because I heard that the parish school was disposing of various items including a 5-drawer lateral filing cabinet. Such items cost more that $1000 so it hurt that the school had considered dumping it. I put my name on it and returned to the office to consider what would have to go. I chose a shelving unit which although of good quality was not really serving my purposes. As I trundled out into the corridor it struck me that the closest place to repatriate it would be the staff kitchen. Having removed an old piece of junk furniture there was room there. Then the Kitchen Action Group of Audrey and myself swung into action. 3 hours later we had transformed the kitchen and there were three boxes of useless pot lids etc destined for the charity shops. A few days later I bought a set of dinner plates (from Goodwill) for the staff kitchen.

In the last blog I also mentioned how I often found all manner of alternative activity rather than tidy the office in my house. Well, I have just installed some signal boosters and am now able to get on the internet with greater ease. Previously the signal was being blocked by 2 air conditioning units! Tidying the office will be the next step after completing this edition of the blog!

Yesterday at Goodwill I found a carton with a self-assembly shelving unit. I bought it and spent an hour putting it together. This was not as easy as it could have been since the only thing missing from the box was the instruction booklet. A quick phone call to the manufacturer had them sent to my email. Now I have somewhere to showcase my cookbooks and my electric martini maker.

About two weeks ago I got an insect bit on my right knee cap. These things normally disappear but it didn’t and I was getting some stiffening of the leg muscles. This morning I visited the doctor who diagnosed it by sight as a fungal infection. I felt a bit of a wimp but he assured me I had done the right thing. Florida is almost tropical and hosts any number of dodgy critters. I should know in 3 weeks if his diagnosis and remedy were correct.

Since I had to collect the medicine from the pharmacy I also agreed to have a flu jab while I was there. My insurance would cover this and for the trouble the pharmacy gave me a $10 voucher which I then spent on a BOGO bacon pack. While we are on the subject of jabs, about 5 months ago I got immunised for shingles. I suffered a terrible reaction the following day which was a Sunday. I didn’t even make it through the first Mass before I went home to bed. The shingles treatment is in two stages and I have booked stage 2 for tomorrow Saturday. We will see if I get the same reaction.

During the last week I had two major church events. The first was the patronal feast of St Lawrence. I had already written a hymn to open all the English speaking Masses and translated it for use at the Spanish Mass. Then I published an article in our bulletin and replicated it on the parish website along with the music and a recording. I was very pleased to discover that so many had listened to it prior to the Mass. The 11am Mass was a bilingual one and was followed by a parish barbecue for over 1000 people! I didn’t get to it until after the next Mass and the food had cooled down somewhat. I also prepared an updated version of the psalm for St Lawrence feast day in both bilingual and English editions.

This weekend had a moment of sadness as one of my most dedicated Cantors sang with us for the last time. He had chosen to explore life with the Franciscans and to see whether there was a future for him as a lay brother.

A few days later we had the second major event: the Assumption with another bilingual Mass and the creation of another bilingual psalm as well as a Grail text edition of the English psalm.

I found myself remembering my dad this week as I combed my hair one morning. He always used brylcream to keep everything in place and a well-meaning fellow drinker had offered me advice to try something similar. So now each morning I apply a bit of gel and think of my dad. This morning I ventured into a different hairdressers. The owner, also a fellow drinker at the Cornerstone pub nextdoor, greeted me at the door and immediately set about doing what hairdressers do best. 15 minutes later I was out and feeling much neater.

Have a great weekend. It’s the double BOGO challenge at The Local again tonight so I know where I’ll be. Now I have a few hours to tidy my office!


Friday 26 July

Today is important for two reasons: it is the anniversary of my brother Chris’ marriage to Sue and it’s a day off! However this being the summer Florida expects high temps and loads of rain. In fact for the last few days it seems to have done little except rain constantly.

Since my last blog 2 weeks ago I have done a few funerals and weddings as you might expet. Somewhat surprising was a double funeral for an elderly couple, married 63 years and who died within 8 days of each other.

About 6 months ago I trod on something at the beach which punctured my foot. At the time I was in agony and as I limped into the dentist for an appointment my pain was noticed. The dentist proceeded to take a look at it and cleaned the deep wound. After a while I forgot about it but a recent visit to the doctor prompted me to seek advice. She sent me to a specialist who advised that I get an MRI done. But this would be expensive and achieve nothing except confirm what I knew, that there was something in my foot. I decided to wait until it bothered me more.

In June my health insurance changed so that dental and optical work would be covered by a different insurance. The dental insurance covered implants so this is my next project. I had one a few years ago but following an extraction two years ago I decided against an implant because the cost of $6k was to great. Now that the implant might be covered by insurance the negotiated cost in nearer $4k and $2k might be covered by the insurance. I’ll just have to wait to see what their decision is.

I had two real bargains recently. I collected a filing cabinet for use in my work office. It cost nothing but the donor said there were no keys. I found them inside a drawer! The other was a gift from a neighbor of 4 patio sling chairs but these came without the slings (the fabric stretched tight over the frame on which you sit). On Monday 22 July I set off on a mission. I visited an upmarket patio furniture store where they confirmed that the chairs would be worth investing in but gave me the contact details of a company who could do it more cheaply. So between Tuesday and Thursday I delivered the chairs and by Friday I had all four back and looking wonderful.

Last week I found myself at something of a loose end and didn’t want to set about tidying my office so instead I did what anyone would do and decided to use the time in composing the music for a patronal hymn to St Lawrence. I had discovered a text last year but time did not allow me to produce anything then. This year would be different. By the end of the day I had a version in English and another draft in Spanish. The following day I came back to it afresh and made some changes which though obvious had not dawned on me the previous day. I guess the same happens with crosswords puzzles when you return to a ‘sticking point’ after a break.

I did get around to tidying my office on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. On the surface there did not appear to be much change but all is better organized in the filing cabinets! I hope it continues thus.

I followed the UK prime minister ‘battle’ quite closely although there never seemed to be much of a contest. On the very day that Boris visited the Queen and May resigned over here amid equal media attention Robert Mueller was being grilled about his report into the Russian interventions into the election of Trump. Later that evening I watched a documentary about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and how much info they have on all of us because of careless words on the internet. These are interesting times and the internet is now becoming known to be the dangerous place may considered it to be years ago.

Every day in Trumpton reveals some new development which staggers me. Today I heard that Trump had agreed to serve as an intermediary between India and Pakistan. How he ever thought this request might be genuine is beyond me. But this is what happens when you elect a non-politician who has no real contact with world affairs.

I’m hoping that the weather will improve next week so that we might enjoy a return to temperatures which those in UK and Europe have enjoyed recently. I could do with a break but it is difficult to find a good time for one. I’ll be returning to England in early October so, friends and family, expect a call!

There is a bar called The Local which I patronised for over a year but which, because it is so expensive, I only now visit on Tuesdays and Fridays when they offer a BOGO on the first drink. Last Tuesday I discovered that if you visit the bar at 7pm, have two drinks (BOGO) before the shift change at 7.30pm you can have another BOGO in the following shift. That is where I am going now to raise my glass to Chris and Sue!


Friday 12 July

On June 10 I joined the group at the local bar who bet on Nascar. On this the first time I managed to win $165 with a $20 stake. Some people have since accused me of becoming a redneck!

On June 14 I hosted the choir party at my place. Some 35 people attended and it was wonderful. During the proceedings we recorded a version of Happy Birthday for my brother Chris whose 60th was that very day. He was pleasantly surprised to receive it. Unfortunately the bottle I had ordered as a gift for him did not arrive and now one month later I am still waiting for Amazon to find a supplier. Why did they advertise something which was not in stock? A month later I am still waiting!

The end of June would mark the departure of our 4-year old assistant priest Fr Chuck. He would start work as Director of Vocations in July. I later mused that I felt that the Holy Spirit was the Director of Vocations! The departure was so prolonged that it seemed like a lingering death! On 23 June, the Feast of Corpus Christi the 11am Mass was a bilingual celebration to celebrate with Fr Chuck his departure. The parish had been very generous to him. In addition to making a gift of his woodworking shed a few clubbed together to buy him a new paten and chalice which he used for the first time at his farewell Mass. After the Mass there was a party in Higgins Hall with the opportunity for individual goodbyes if you wanted to join the long line to do so.

I had adapted an earlier setting in English of Psalm 109 to make a bilingual setting. I posted this on Facebook and it attracted attention in UK and USA. A further setting in Spanish was sent to a few interested people.

At the end of June our Pastor wrote to staff offering  3 days’ vacation to celebrate Independence Day. Having completed a weekend of the usual stuff I spent Monday with my kayak at Fort Desoto. The weather was fantastic so I stayed out all day. When I returned it was low tide so I was unable to land at the same point so I had quite a walk to fetch my car and return to collect the kayak. When I got back to wifi I discovered that a workman had paid an unexpected visit to my house and had tripped the alarm. Neighbors appeared from everywhere and my workman was somewhat embarrassed. Then the police came and, having checked the place out for signs of a felony, they withdrew.

With a few days vacation I decided to drive to the East coast to Titusville where I had booked a cheap Airb&b. I spent three days on the beach with record temperatures. In the evenings I retired to the PlayaLinda Brewery in downtown Titusville where I supped my first beers for 5 months and then returned to my lodgings for some wine and TV.

I returned to Tampa on the evening of July 4. Locals at the bar wished me a happy Independence Day and I, in turn, wished the ungrateful colonials a Happy Traitors Day.

I spent the Friday morning rushing around doing some errands and then making up beds for two visitors. I had originally met Dawn from Louisiana and Maddie from Australia on Iona where they volunteered on several seasons. They had visited me in Sheffield and later when I arrived in USA they invited me to join them as they explored New Orleans and the surrounding area. When they reached me at 2pm they had already been travelling a month so I poured a fine bottle of Prosecco to welcome them. Soon after we headed off on a brewery tour care of uber. We managed four breweries but at the first we met a guy who worked at Disney Orlando and his wife from East Kilbride!

On the Saturday I had to work. I had two weddings as well as a vigil Mass. This was also the first weekend with a new assistant priest. He seemed surprisingly humble! He replaced another of whom the same could not be said. When I returned on the Saturday evening my guests had a salmon dinner prepared. After eating we just chatted (and drank) the evening away.

On the Sunday morning I bade my friends goodbye and went to work. During the week I swopped my day off so that I could manage 2 days off on Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday I had my first meeting with Fr Felipe the new priest. This was a very positive experience and it was clear that we would be able to work well together. His arrival also signalled a diminishing liturgical control for our deacon.

Today Friday 12 July I visited the doctor to review my lab results. To my surprise they still show a positive trend in dealing with the type 2 diabetes diagnosis. I am surprised at this because although I have stopped drinking craft beer (which I love) I have found myself drawn to vodka and water. I have also changed my diet significantly which is also helping things.

I have workmen here again today. They are repairing my back fence which borders the park and which could have put me a risk of litigation if it had fallen on someone. They are also replacing my front double gate so that I can store and move my kayak and trailer more easily. In a couple of weeks they will return to address some issues with the sidings on the exterior of the house and install gutters covers so that the rain can pass through but not the tree debris.

If you are thinking of visiting here you would be welcome. You might wish to know that at this time of the year it can be hot but this in turn causes torrential monsoon-like rainfall. My pool is always overflowing with the rainfall and there are daily storms. Somehow Florida remains a great place to be as long as the hurricanes keep their distance!


Sunday 9 June

It seems that as soon as June arrives heralding the start of hurricane season the weather begins to deteriorate. During the first week of June it actually rained and during the night yesterday we had a terrific lightning storm and a lot of water. The temperatures remain in the 90sF with record highs during May.

Sunday 12 May was Mother’s Day (I was asked whether we celebrate this in UK!). The Pastor insisted in giving out red roses to all the mothers. I’m expecting hammers and beer tankards for the fathers.

On Wednesday 15 May we celebrated School Mass with the 8th Graders for the last time. Two days later we would celebrate a Graduation Mass. This the one occasion on which I pull out the Elgar Pomp & hand the bride rang to inform me that they had hired the Vietnamese choir and its pianist. Circumstance March and grapple with playing it on the organ. The 8th Graders choose the music but hardly sing. Much the same could be said of some of the parents.

I celebrated my birthday on 22 May. I’m 61 and apparently looking younger. This must be the result of the weight loss. I spent the morning playing the last Mass for the school year and visiting the optician for an eye test. I would have to return to meet with the retinologist. They discovered I have retinal folds in one eye. This doesn’t cause me much trouble at the moment but they are keen to monitor the condition. Choir practice was started with a ‘Happy Birthday to me’, don’t you know?

On Friday evening I had a convalidation wedding. It was wonderful … none of the silly processions that we normally get and a real sense of faith. They had been married years ago but could refrain from communion no longer.

The following day I had another wedding (or rather, I didn’t). A week beforehand the bride rang to inform me that they had hired the Vietnamese choir and its pianist and would no longer require my services. Over here there is a policy of a bench fee so even though someone else played they still had to pay me the full fee. All I had to do was set up the microphones and the sound.

Memorial Day on Monday 27 May meant a day off. In addition to this I was able to take Thursday and Friday off because the AC units in my office were being replaced. On each of these days I took to my kayak and to Caladesi Island which is one of my favourite spots. A few days later I decided to fit a pair of eyes to my kayak. This would be easy I thought until I realized that the screws in exactly the place I needed the fixtures held the mechanisms for the rudder! I managed to put it all back together but it was a fiddly job.

During the week I had the organ people (Rodgers) in to fit a new chime device and strip all the gold contacts from the keyboards. The result is that all the notes work now and that folk become quite titillated by the tintinnabulation of the chimes. Some folk are easily pleased. Now we just need to sort the cause of the sympathetic vibrations when ever bass notes are used.

On Saturday 1 June we started a Bilingual Liturgy Training Day for the parish. We began with a bilingual Mass, then coffee, then a talk by the Pastor before we broke into ministry groups for discussion. We ended the morning with lunch together. I remained at church to prepare for the vigil Mass.

One of our resident priests, Fr Keating celebrated his 92nd birthday. This Irishman has a great intelligence and can get away with calling us stupid when others could not. He’s a Franciscan and brings a great deal to the parish.

On Monday we had another convalidation wedding.

On Tuesday I took my car in for a service. This is also a worrying thing as the previous visit produced a long list of things that needed looking at. I managed to get two of these done and this service inexplicably found no problems at all! Later in the morning I met with one of our cantors to rehearse the piece she would sing at her sisters wedding on Friday. I’ve alwys enjoyed playing ‘I shall not want’ by Audrey Assad so this was a delight.

At noon all the staff came together to bid farewell to a member of the Youth Formation team. I had created a farewell liturgy which included scriptural blessings and the chance to remember funny moments. After this I had to disappear to the Jesuit High School to meet the new cohort of Organ Scholars and say farewell to the last.

The car dealer wanted to talk with me about an offer I could not refuse. Well, I did and stepped back into my 3 year old Nissan Rogue rather than a sparkly new one.

On Friday afternoon I had a funeral (first for about 2 months!) and later on the wedding I referred to earlier. Both Bride and Groom were young, known to me and very much part of the parish. The previous pastor came back to celebrate the event and it really was a wonderful affair.

Today is Pentecost and this year this is also the last official choir Sunday. So alleluia … no rehearsals until September! We’ll all meet up on Friday for the Choir Party at my place and every Sunday during the vacation but there will be no midweek rehearsals.

An ongoing scheme to replace the air conditioning units for the staff offices meant that not only were some areas unusable but also that the internet servers were down. It’s a bit like letting air out of a balloon. People can do nothing without internet these days.

During the afternoon I was visited by an appliance guy who convinced me that the repair to my winecooler would cost more than it was worth, that it would be cheaper and easier for me to order a new filter for the fridge and that the toe plate for the dishwasher (which came loose while men were relaying the floor after Irma) was relly needed. This advice cost me $60 but could easily have cost me more.

As I finish typing another blog entry clouds are gathering and the wind picking up and it’s time to return to church for the evening Mass!

Saturday 11 May

Life has been a bit crazy since I last blogged. My furniture has been in the middle of each room as I had the replacement woodwork (damaged by Irma) painted . I also had a laptop collapse on me soon after I had had a screen replaced. Then I had the good fortune to find a bargain in the form of a Hobie mirage Outback kayak together with a trailer for two kayaks. The downside was trying to get it registered when I had no paperwork from the previous owner. It looks as though I’ll be able to get that sorted soon.

My new preoccupation was my weight. Not too long agao I weighed in at 252lb and now I weigh only 208lb. Everybody is saying wonderful things!

Enough of the general, let’s be a bit more systemmatic.

On Monday of Holy Week I awoke to news that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was on fire. I had played there on many occasions and had such fond memories. Indeed the Maitre de Chapelle, Jean Revert, had often said that I knew that organ ‘like the inside of my pocket!’ The city firefighters did a great job in aiming their hoses judiciously so that as little damage as possible would result.

On the morning of Good Friday I attended the doctors for the results of the previous week’s blood tests. All the results came back with massive improvements. The doc was truly staggered.

I was really pleased with the choir and musicians this Triduum. Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil were bilingual celebrations in English and Spanish. This meant that we combined both the English and Spanish choirs to achieve it with each choir singing everything regardless of language. We had done this last year for the first time and all the work done then paid off. It did seem that this Triduum was the easiest I had experienced. There were some changes in that the new Pastor reduced the number f readings from 7 to just three but when it came to baptisms each candidate got three jugs of water poured over them. It was quite a spectacle! I also wrote a Spanish language version of the Exodus Psalm. I had intended that the choir shout ‘Ole!’ at the end but short-term memories affected this! Good Friday was celebrated separately with my choir doing superbly. Unfortunately a storm  threatened and this kept many people away. In Florida you really have reason to be afraid of the elements.

Easter Sunday I was up at 4.45am and playing for the Sunrise Mass at 6am. This was well attended by 400 people so it was worthwhile. I was astonished by how many of the choir returned for the 11am Mass.

There were only four further masses to play and I was free. The new Pastor had cancelled the Sunday evening Mass. The parents of one of our staff had invited me over for a meal so I joined then at about 4pm.

I was off work during the week that followed and spent many days at the beach or at home tidying the place while painters did their best to untidy it!

Saturday 27 April I played for a funeral in the morning and then nipped over to Walmart for something to eat. There was a deal on regarding immunisations so I had a tetanus booster and shingles for free!

Sunday 28 April I awoke feeling terrible. I was certain that it was a bad reaction to the jabs the previous day. I ventured into work to meet the cantor of the first 2 masses to explain how to cope without me. Meanwhile I returned home to sleep. Not even the Chelsea match could keep me awake! By the evening I was bored but felt able to play for the evening mass.

Tuesday 30 April

I had come to know Bertrand Olivier through the Iona Community. He had been Rector of All Hallows by the Tower in London but was now dean of Montreal Cathedral. He was attending a conference in nearby St Petersburg so when he asked to arrive early to spend a couple of days with me I was delighted. I collected Bertrand from airport after a long day followed by organ lessons so I was pleased that the flight was on time and that his passage through security was quick. We went homeward for a bite and a wee drink before tiredness set in.

On Wednesday I played for the school mass then returned home to collect Bertrand and drive with 2 kayaks on the new trailer to Dunedin Causeway from where we kayaked to Caladesi Island. In the evening we dined at Sacred Pepper and returned home for more vino.

Thursday morning we drove to Fort Desoto and spent a while at the beach before dropping Bertrand at his hotel for the start of the conference.

I returned to work and choir practice.

Weekend usual stuff but at the 11am the choir sang Cochereau’s Victimae Paschali Laudes for the first time.We planned to repeat it at the end of every 11am Mass during Eastertime because it would not be heard in Paris this year and maybe fpr several years to come. The 1230 Mass was notable for a massive storm blowing through. Weather is extreme here!

I spent Monday at home and then attended a benefits meeting followed by some admin at work.

Tuesday 7 May I was in early to prep weekend music and send out material to singers/instrumentalists. Later I met with the School Cantors and gave an organ lesson for Kegan and Alex my two Zipoli Scholarship pupils.

A month ago my laptop had failed to power up so I took it back to the retail outlet and left it for repair. I was please to be re-united with it that Tuesday evening.

Wednesday was a long work day … school mass then a team meeting to review triduum. My proposal to celebrate Morning Prayer and Office of Readings for Good Friday and Holy Saturday next year was accepted. I met with one of our singers who gets married next month. It was one of the most delightful wedding planning sessions so far!

During the afternoon I attended Jesuit High School to audition contestants for the Zipoli Organ Scholarship. Two successful candidates would receive $2000 and free lessons from me. Back at work the choir rehearsal was thankfully short!

The long working days enabled me to take two consecutive days off. So on Thursday and Friday I could be found getting used to my new kayak and its new sail around Caladesi Island.

On Saturday 11 May I played for two first communion masses and then the vigil mass. The pastor had decided to give a flower to every mother (it is Mother’s Day over here) but ten minutes before Mass the flowers were nowhere to be seen. They were discovered in good time but I was still able to amuse some folk with an improvised ‘Where have all the flowers gone’!

In the evening benefit event for John in Cornerstone Pub. He had nursed his wife during her final year and had fallen on bad times. The caring community of this local ar came together to celebrate his wife and make his life a little easier.


Monday 1 April

I awoke this morning and saw on the news that the temperature had dropped to 66f. Could this possibly be an April Fool? I was content that I had some errands to make and time to complete this log so the weather did not bother me too much.

On Thursday 21 March I took my kayak out for the first time in a while. Having launched from Dunedin Causeway I managed to get to Caladesi Island and do a bit of a tour. The tide had clearly caught out one boatman who was grounded at 7pm as the sun was setting. He would not be able to get off the sandbank until perhaps 3am if he was lucky!

I enjoyed it so much that I did the same trip the following day.

During the week I had learned that The Lawns in Cottingham, the halls of residence where I spent 4 wonderful years as a student at Hull University was to close. Why? Because the dear students these days want to live on campus in modern accommodation. I despair for the employees of bus companies, for the village which gained so much employment and income from the student presence. But most of all I despair for the students who seem happy to cocoon themselves away from the local community.

My first task on Tuesday was to make some final tweaks to ‘A Place we can turn to’. I had written this initially in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Church. I had searched for a text which I thought might sit on the lips of survivors as well as the lips of lay and ordained catholics who were shocked by the scandals. Kathy Galloway had sent me oodles of material months ago and among this I had found a hymn text by Rev Jan Berry. Strangely our paths had crossed as she was Chaplain for Sheffield Hallam University for a while before moving to Manchester. Strangely she had written the text to celebrate joining the community of Holy Rood House in Thirsk where I and many others had started our journey with the Iona Community. Prior to submitting it for scrutiny at the Liturgical Composers’ Forum in January I had shared it with fellow composers Christian Cosas and Bob Moore. After the Forum Marty Haugen, Bernadette Farrell and Paul Inwood gave me further insights and encouragement. I submitted it to publishers and will wait for the rejection letter!

I had my first meeting with my new line manager. He was interested in my weekly tasks. I think he was surprised by the level of preparation of materials so that the various musical forces could come to rehearsals prepared!

After Wednesday’s School Mass I had to rush home as I had a service engineer visiting to check out the air conditioning. I had only had them put in a few months ago so I didn’t expect anything to be wrong. I suspect that they do this ‘free’ visit for 2.5 hours to prove that a regular maintenance contract is desireable. Well it isn’t. There is very little that can go wrong and the $300 is better in my pocket. Thank you!

I returned to work for a 4pm meeting about Holy Week. As predicted we didn’t get as far as the Easter Vigil so I have another lovely meeting some time in the future.

On Thursday I completely overslept. This was probably a good thing as I awoke not feeling 100%. A Day off did the trick and I was able to catch up with work on the Friday.

Saturday 30 March I was in work relatively early as I had to play for a first penance service at 10am. Fortunately this did not last long and I was free to return to the office at 10:20.

I managed to get the folders completed for the 7pm Mass as well as the School Mass menus for April. The site was busy as there was a retreat day for 140 young adults and a retreat for catechumens. I joined the latter for lunch and then returned to my post.

Sunday followed the usual pattern except that during the afternoon I visited the beach before returning for the evening Mass.

Monday 1 April was a day off. I spent the morning sorting out documents for my tax return and then drove off to inspect some mats which I thought might be suitable for the kitchen area. I bought all three and then headed for my second stop where I hoped to solve a problem with a monitor I had bought a week or so ago. It turned out to be the plug which was at fault. My third stop was my tax adviser where I handed over the documents I had gathered earlier and vowed to supply further docs which would allow him to complete the process.

I spent the afternoon setting up the laptop with the docking station and monitor and then lounged in front of the TV where the drama of Brexit was playing out yet again!

I continue to lose weight and am now at 223.8lbs (252 at end of January. However I go to bed with a heavy heart weighed down by Brexit. As Ken Clarke said ‘our politicians need to be more political!’

18 March 2019

Two weeks since my last blog so not a lot needs to be said!

Tuesday was Mardi Gras. How should I celebrate? After a day at the office … at the start of which I was confronted by (and resisted) a table groaning with sugary delights .. I gave two organ lessons and then went to Sacred Pepper, a restaurant around the corner from me. It is posh and a tad expensive but my brother Richard and Camille had bought me a gift card for the place for my 60th so I took the plunge. It was all I expected: fine wine and excellent steak with a service to match. Thanks.

The weekend marked the start of Lent. I have always started my 40 days on the Saturday night and finished them on Holy Thursday. Many people seem to believe that everything starts on Ash Wednesday and misses out the Lenten Sundays. this is stupid! The 4 days before the Saturday are preparation days. I prepared by saying farewell to beer. In fact I’d decided to stop beer a few days earlier as a result of my type 2 diabetes diagnosis. I’d switched to drinking vodka and water which was much lower in sugar. Now that Lent had started I would avoid alcohol altogether as well as cereals, rice, pasta and bread. The weight was coming off steadily so it seemed a good idea.

Tuesday 12 was a stressful day, all self-induced. In doing the final checks for the music for the following weekend I realised that the psalm setting I had selected, whilst popular, did not actually include the verses prescribed for the Second Sunday in Lent Year C. So I decided to write one.

This was a daft decision as I would already be under pressure to get ready for the rehearsal the same night and in addition I had a few other meetings and organ lessons which would further take my time. I got in at 7am and the rehearsal as at 7.15pm. Enough time, I thought. I finished at 6.45pm and then rushed to print out the music. I was exhausted by the time I got to choir practice which would not take place in the usual venue owing to a clash with another event. Well, the choir were understanding but I was ratty and felt the usual signs of stress descending and the need for some relaxation. During the rehearsal I discovered that the setting had to be transposed into a lower key if the basses were to consider joining in! That would be a job for the following day!

The school mass went well and I was able to get away soon after it trying to claw back some overtime from the previous week. In the evening I returned to attend the Mission given by a parishioner who really is a prophet in her own country. This was the first time she had spoken in Florida yet had been engaged elsewhere for years!

The following day I got up according to my body clock and loaded the car to take out the kayak. It would be a lovely day so I chose to visit Caladesi Island near Dunedin. In fact it was so relaxing that I returned the next day when I also enjoyed a fine sunset.

Saturday morning was the Community Yard Sale. I had put out the disassembled pieces of a corner desk but nobody was interested so that would need to go to the dump. I visited my neighbours and bought a tent and a treadmill.

Later that evening after the Vigil Mass and an earlier funeral I answered an ad about a laptop. My Lenovo Edge had been damaged at St Louis Airport in February and I needed to find a replacement. I met the guy in a parking lot which seemed a bit shady but it transpired that he and his mates had clubbed together to buy a pallet of returns from various computer retail outlets. They then upgraded the computers and advertised them at very competitive prices. So I bought a Dell series 7 Latitude Ultrabook for $550 when it is usually over $1500. I went back to meet him again on the Monday so that he could upgrade both the running speed and the hard disk.

At Masses over the weekend I introduced my new setting of Psalm 27 which was well taken up by the congregation … a good barometer of success!

Earlier today Monday I had taken delivery of some HC13 speakers for the organ, which had been overlooked when they delivered the organ 3 weeks before. I was also able to visit the doctors to try to sort some problems regarding supplies for my diabetes treatment.

I’ll spend the rest of the evening getting used to the first pair of specially made organ shoes. After all these years of playing I’ve finally succumbed.

Monday 4 March

Sorry it’s been so long since my last blog in the middle of January. The highlight of January was my attendance of the Liturgical Composers Forum in St Louis, MO at the end of the month. I took with me a setting of a text by Jan Berry in a collection sent me by Kathy Galloway. I’d been looking for something which might embrace the feelings of survivors of clerical sexual abuse as well as the congregation stunned by what was happening to their church. Initially I gave the piece the strong title ‘From Hidden Pain to Open Wound’. Now I feel more inclined towards ‘A Place we can turn to’ which is a quote from the text and which might open the piece to wider topical use. I am grateful to friends Bernadette and Marty for their helpful comments. Indeed it was well received by the Forum in general. During the meeting I was also invited to take a Presidential speaking role in a liturgy created by Marty Haugen. It is a rare thing indeed for me to do such a thing as I’m always usually involved in the music but I was graciously encouraged to do more of this.

There was a lot of wine drunk and some of the nights were long … especially the last night when I never went to bed after the concert given by composers to a packed house.

I returned to work for another week and then in mid February I disappeared to the beaches further south. In fact I stayed outside Sarasota (only an hour away) and visited Lido Key and Carpesen Beach close to Venice. On the one cloudy and wet day I visited the many Goodwill stores in the town.

Most evenings I adjourned to the nearby bar for a few beers and some great music from local musicians.

I was still on vacation on Saturday 16 February but made myself available to play a wedding in the new Jesuit Chapel. There was a string quartet and a visiting singer in addition to me. There were flowers everywhere which seemed a little OTT for just one hour in the church. Later I heard that the wedding had cost a total of $500k!

On Saturday 23 February I met a guy who arrived at the church desperate for help. He was born in Cuba and as an alternative to National Service with the army had elected to do a three year stint with a medical mission in Venezuela. His time there was tough and he left after 6 months and gained citizenship in USA. However his father was now dying in Cuba and the government there were refusing him entry to visit him because of his earlier infringement. Some decisions have terrible outcomes later on.

On Monday 25th February I took delivery of an Allen Protege digital organ. I’d bought it ‘blind’ so was delighted to finally see and discover it perfect for my house. However they forgot to collect the speakers so will have to make another trip!

I enjoyed a wonderful evening listening to The Beach Boys live at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday 28 February. I had forgotten how polished they are and were.

The last month has been one of record good weather with temps soaring to the high 80s! I’m looking forward to welcoming friends here once Brexit is sorted (if ever).

More disturbingly I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I have immediately taken radical steps to reduce my sugar levels. I being more careful about what I eat but this is difficult in USA and I’ve decided to avoid beer and now favour vodka. Lent beckons soon so the discipline will probably have significant results.