Friday 28 December

December has been a most unusual month. I decided to refrain from alcohol until Christmas. In the event it was not too difficult. This was made easier by the humdinger of a hangover I experienced on 1 December!

The weather has been pretty miserable by Tampa standards. There has been a chill in the air which only now is lifting.

On Tuesday 4 December I had new ‘hurricane force’ windows installed to the front and back bays. They replaced original single pane windows from when the house was built in 1979. The rest of the house had already received an upgrade in the windows department.

While we are discussing upgrades readers will appreciate that I have been experiencing considerable difficulties with my contractor. Having submitted his final bill after almost a year of procrastination I responded with a letter which declared my dissatisfaction. He immediately responded with legal threats and an intention to place a lien on my house. I demanded a face-to-face with him which took place on Thursday 6 December. Since it was my meeting I seized the agenda and found him surprisingly conciliatory. It appeared that he had responded before reading my letter properly. I left the meeting feeling positive that he would contact the insurers stating why he had had to do additional work. I hope the insurance will then send additional monies to cover the difference.

Saturday 8 December was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which meant that the day started early with a Mass followed by two funerals, a Vigil Mass for Sunday and then the wedding of two colleagues Danah and Tsai in a Chinese Restaurant. It was a great affair and the 9-course dinner was stunning. I came away with a tub of fish in a ginger sauce!

On Tuesday 11 December I visited the dentist to have three crowns fitted. Fortunately I managed to get these completed before the year end insurance elapsed but it still cost over $1000 (and the dentist did one for free!).

On 12 December I was invited to speak at the Advent Gathering of youth and adult formators in the Diocese. I chose to speak about prophetic witness/action to which we are all called by our baptism and also suggested some songs which might support some areas of action. This was the first time I had been engaged in Florida to do the kind of thing I enjoyed doing so much of in UK. It was very well received and then we adjourned for Mass with the Bishop. Most of my working life has been close to bishops but this has not been the case in Florida. I am quite content with this change as I have done the cathedral, diocese and bishop things to death! After the Mass on the Feast of  Our Lady of Guadalupe the bishop commented to me that it would have been nice to have celebrated the feast with some Marian music. I responded by asking him whether the singing of the Magnificat during the offertory was not enough for him. He had clearly missed this but bishops really need to be careful when they make comments. The power they wield has been diminished by the terrible clergy abuse cases for which many will have to share some responsibility. But even ill-conceived comments can be abusive. They must, like the rest of us, think before they speak or act and if they are wrong they must be prepared to admit to it. This one found this final bit rather too difficult! … and that on the day when the oversights of the bishop in the case of Juan Diego of Guadalupe are also remembered.

For three evenings 17-19 December Fr Paul Deutsch of the Jesuits nextdoor gave a parish mission. It was well attended and received. It is so good to have such giving priests so close to St Lawrence.

On 21 December we celebrated a Christmas dinner with the staffs of school and parish. It was held at an Italian restaurant. Whilst being grateful indeed I do prefer the celebrations with the parish staff only. We have so few opportunities to get together and most parish staff might know only a handful of school staff.

The Christmas marathon started the Advent 4 weekend and moved straight into the Christmas Eve celebrations on Monday and Christmas itself the following day. This year I had been able to hire in a local musician to cover one of the Vigil Masses and the first Mass of Christmas Day which meant that I could get more sleep after Midnight Mass.

The choir sang wonderfully at the Midnight and then presented me with a hamper of Christmas goodies.

During the afternoon I visited friends from the local bar and enjoyed some prime rib cooked in their Green Egg! I had arrived with 2 bottles of red and two bottles of single malt. We finished the red and kicked a hole in the whisky!

Boxing Day was a day off but Wednesday began with a funeral and then continued with shopping and popping into my old bar in Town & Country.

During the month of non-drinking I had set about tidying the house with a vengeance. In my bedroom I had added a fine tall armoire which I had bought for $200 from Goodwill. Soon after I’d also found a headboard which matched!

The tidying of my office is ongoing (!) but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Downstairs I needed to create space for the imminent arrival of an Allen AP4 organ. I found a rug which matched the footprint size of the organ and put this in place. This necessitated the tweaking of some furniture and a large rugs. Friends came round to assist with this and as soon as they left I realised I was unhappy with the results and tweaked it further myself! A bookshelf then found a new home upstairs in the office which has freed up the carpet as a filing area!

Outside there is work in progress. I so rarely sit down with people on the patio that I decided to move the table and chairs to a different ‘dead area’ location in the backyard (garden). The space was then filled with a fire pit. I’ve only enjoyed it once so far but it was a great alternative to watching TV!

2018 has been a wonderful year. The main focus has been getting my house in shape after Hurricane Irma put a tree through my roof. In the course of the year I have had installed a new roof, new tiled floor and skirting boards/architraves to ground floor, a replacement set of patio doors, 2 ac units, 5 trees removed and hurricane force windows installed. I have had two friends come to stay: John Bell and Ross Loveridge and it is always good to be able to offer hospitality. So if any readers fancy time in Florida please get in contact.

2018 also brought a change in Pastor at St Lawrence. Exciting times lie ahead but there are underlying financial concerns in the parish which my new boss is intent on easing. There is some uncertainty in the air so please hold us in prayer.

2019 will bring the arrival of an Allen organ for home practice and a return visit to the Composers Forum in St Louis, Missouri. My friend Bernadette Farrell will lead the week and I shall be presenting a piece about which I will tell you after the week.

See you next year!


Saturday 1 December

On Wednesday 21 November I had to play for the Thanksgiving Vigil Mass and another Mass at 8.30am the following day which was Thanksgiving itself. I had been invited out for a celebration lunch but in the end was so tired that I choose to eat at home … a beef curry!

On the evening of Friday 23 I had a wedding service. Thankfully it was very short. On the Saturday I spent most of the day preparing an address I would give for the Diocese later in December. Before leaving for vacation I had already sent the Morning Prayer and Mass programs. It was good to be welcomed back at church but the weekend was tiring.

During the Sunday morning I had sent a letter to my contractor. It did not go down well with the recipient who replied with legal threats etc. So on Monday I decided to drop in on his office and ask why he considered my letter so unreasonable. Unfortunately he was not around but I got a good listening from his secretary. Earlier in the day I had visited the dentist to have 3 crowns prepared. The dentist spent about 2 hours inside my mouth mostly trying to hold my tongue from getting in the way. As the anaesthetic wore off I began to realize just how much pressure had been applied. Later that evening I visited the bar and drank several low alcohol beers.

On Tuesday I was back at work again with a bruised tongue which would pain me for days.

On Wednesday I had one of the most surreal meetings I have experienced for years. I’d love to share more but you never know who is watching.

I visited the doc for a check up on Thursday morning and then did a funeral in Spanish. Later in the day I visited Jesuit High School to give two students organ lessons.

Friday was a day off and I slept in until 1030am. I had decided to give up drinking the following day so Friday night I decided to drink enough to provide adequate incentive to never touch a drop again. The discovery of the night was a fine Kentucky Whiskey called Angel’s Envy.

Saturday was a difficult day because Friday had been such a delight! I still managed to work the day but my energy was nil and the most active part of me was my insides! Enough said, I think.

Holiday in UK 8-20 November

I played for a funeral at 11am and then returned home to pack and make my way towards the airport. Fortunately one of the choir allowed me to leave my car at her place and then drove me to the airport. My flight was not until 7.30pm but time soon passed with security etc. Once airside I was able to settle down to a few pints before boarding. The airport was full of Brits!

The flight was full but uneventful. Once through UK customs I located my rental car, a Peugeot 308 and drove off to mum’s. I was able to get to her by 11am but by 1pm I was in bed for a few hours catch up.

At 7pm Chris popped round but I spent the rest of the evening chatting happily with mum. On Saturday I drove mum to see Richard and Camille in Guildford. We went out for a pub meal (steak and kidney pud for me) and a real beer! Then on our way back we stopped off at their Belgian friends so that Camille could sort a computer issue for them. They were a fascinating elderly couple with a clear passion for music. In the hallway was a spinet. In the music room there was a 2-manual harpsichord, a square piano and a synthesizer along with a consort of crumhorns and baroque flutes.

The return journey to mum’s was difficult in the rain and poor visibility. Later that evening I joined Chris at a local pub where we shared pizza and rather too many spirits! I remember getting back around midnight.

Somehow I was able to set off the next day heading for the north. Over the next few days I was able to visit friends and play the restored organ in the cathedral. This time In Sheffield I managed to meet up with Kieran Fallon, Sheila Verity, Clare & Brian Campbell, Fr Kevin Thornton and Maria Neal. On Tuesday I headed off to Knaresbrough where I would meet Alison and Pippa for lunch at the Lavender Tea House. Then we went on safari exploring the charity shops. I managed to buy some sheet music! Then I drove on to Malton where I met Fr Tim Bywater. He had been quite lethargic when I had last seen him but the docs had changed his drugs and giving him some breathing exercises which meant that he was really alert and lively. He had taken on the parish of Pickering and had a meeting there that evening so I chose to drive on a find a B&B outside Thirsk. I ate a pretty unexciting fish’n’chips and then checked in to my room. It did not take long for sleep to take over.

The next day I went to Northallerton and then Bishop Auckland where my twin brother lives. Having parked the car outside his place I walked into town. I came upon a bookshop with a difference. Any customer was allowed to choose 5 books in one day and take them away for free! It was amazing but I took only one book – the combined Delia Smith How to Cook. At the other end of town there was considerable development around the town square. There was a new Mining Art Centre, a viewing tower and a Spanish Art Gallery and Faith Museum would open next year. Also in the square was a Wetherspoons where I waited for Andy my twin with a pint of Old Rosie. We had a further pint together before wending our way through several more bars down to a Tapas bar where we ate dinner. After that we retired to Andy’s house and I was finally able to admire the building work he’d had done to his kitchen area.

The next day I returned to Sheffield to meet up with the agents renting my house. Then I had fish’n’chips with my friend Kevin before driving south again to visit a friend in Leicester and another in Englefield Green.

The rest of the time was spent with mum in Surrey. On Saturday I went into London to buy Jon Baxendale’s new edition of the Couperin Masses. I also visited Westminster Abbey for the national celebration of Oscar Romero’s canonization. A great surprise was meeting my old bishop, John Rawsthorne. We were able to catch a few moments after the service as well. There was some great singing by the choir including a wonderful piece by James MacMillan using Romero texts. I had thought of going to the Cathedral for Mass but in the end I elected to visit the Augustinian Church where my friend John is Music Director. Unfortunately he doesn’t play for the vigil Mass. The celebrant was the retired bishop of Lancaster whom I knew via the Augustinians for whose chapter meetings I was a frequent liturgical musician.

ON the Sunday I drove with mum down to Southampton where we had a wonderful traditional Sunday lunch with my brother Pete and his family. They are having a lot of work done in the garden so it was great to hear of their plans.

The following day I spent the morning the phone sorting out my pensions! That evening we went round to eat with Chris and Sue and quite a bit of supping was also enjoyed.

My return flight was at 1230 so there wasn’t much else to do save return the rental car and wait at the airport. I enjoyed a fine breakfast and a few pints before boarding. My seat was broken but not uncomfortable. However the gentleman behind me felt very inconvenienced and got upgraded out of the zone.

I collected my car from Mary and drove to the Local for a couple of pints before heading home for sleep.

Tuesday 30 October

As I gaze through the window of my ‘office’ I can see workmen rushing around putting the finishing touches to the play area where they have installed a splash pad for the local kids. The ribbon cutting will be this afternoon but I’ll be at a liturgy meeting!

The park is a great amenity for me and since it is just over my back yard fence I can wonder through a gate and do several circuits of the half mile circular walk. Unfortunately I don’t get much time to do this as often it is either too hot or dark when I am home. The temperatures have dropped this last week so maybe this is the moment?

On the evening of my last blog (12 October) there was a concert in the park. It was attended by only about 20 folk but I caught the end of it.

The following weekend the neighbourhood held its annual community garage sale with many driveways transformed into sales areas. After a few minutes I decided to put my treasures out on the roadside marked ‘free’ and everything was gone as quick as a flash. In preparation for this sale I opened an airline carry-on wine kit … yes they did exist way back … and discovered a 2010 bottle of portuguese reserve red. It was a great way to finish the day!

October 18 will stick in my memory for a while. This was the day that my troublesome contractor ‘completed’ the job and left the premises. It took him 10 months to complete the work. The last stage was the installation of new french doors and sidelights. I am not convinced that he has put the sidelights in the correct way around but at least it is better than the boarding he left me with after trying to install a month ago doors that were the wrong size! Isn’t it remarkable that contractors drag their feet to complete work but are able to issue an invoice almost immediately? I sense another dispute over the bill since it includes a tidy sum for work that was not authorised by the insurance. Later that evening I popped in the Local to celebrate life without builders and discovered that Stella were doing a promotion which meant free beer for the night!

Mid-term elections are upon us and people become vociferous over them. One guy at the Local, having attended a rally with Joe Biden earlier that day, was at full tilt but unable to listen to differing views.  In the event I asked him to speak more quietly and, somewhat taken aback, he left feeling insulted.

Over the last two weeks I’ve been working on a new composition, a setting of a text written by Revd Jan Berry which reflects the scandal of sexual abuse whether it be clergy or family related. I had met Jan through various previous ecumenical engagements with CTBI and Hallam University but the discovery of the text came from a number of resources sent me by Kathy Galloway of the Iona Community. I have since been able to establish contact with Jan directly and have received her permission to proceed. The melody came very quickly indeed and the harmony followed when I had time for it. Being a member of the Liturgical Composers Forum I was able to share it with a couple of comrades whose generous comments were both supportive and insightful. It’s now almost complete, I think, although I have yet to add a french horn part to the final verse. I’ll be submitting it to the scrutiny of fellow members when we meet in January in St Louis.

In almost 10 days I shall be flying to England. I haven’t begun to think about that as we have a flurry of liturgical feasts over the next few days and then I can start compiling the music for the cover musicians and for those who will deliver it all! It would be easier to remain and do it myself but I do need to see family and friends and to visit my house in Sheffield. I’ll be back in Tampa in time for Thanksgiving!





Friday 12 October

I wish I could report that my house repairs were complete but unfortunately my terrible contractor turned up with a set of doors and side lights which did not fit. Unfortunately also he’d ripped out the old ones so then had to board up the gap where french doors used to be. That was three weeks ago and I rang him today and discovered that he will visit on Tuesday afternoon. Believe me I want him out of my house!

Towards the end of September my eldest niece Bethan returned from her travels in Australia. On 3 October she again appeared at EmFest, an annual music evening organised by family and friends in memory of her older sister Emily who sadly took her life in 2015. Bethan is such a talented song-writer and altogether warm person. I regret that when I return to UK in November she will have left a few days earlier to continue her travels.

Over the last three weeks there has been quite a lot of disturbance to my normal working patterns. This has been caused by having to play for funerals on what might have been my days off. Also when the priests go away for their annual Convocation the day of the School Mass gets changed to when they are back … also a day off for me. One funeral was particularly poignant. Ann Leto was about 93 when she died and had been a member of the choir for almost as long as St Lawrence Church had existed. When I first met her she told me to ‘let her go’ when she could no longer deliver the goods. Of course, I never did. She was part of the choir family and a lively part of it at that! So when the time came for her funeral I was delighted at how many turned up to sing. I’m sure she would have enjoyed hearing her music choices once again. She would also have enjoyed hearing the hearse’s car alarm sounding because her daughter had gone to retrieve some box meals she had left there so that those travelling on to the burial could be fed! The family had asked for donations to the Choir in place of flowers. we’re hoping that there will be sufficient funds to do some regulation work to the recently acquired piano in the music rehearsal room. It will be a suitable memorial to Ann.

When I worked at Hallam Diocese I was fortunate to work most of the time with Bishop John Rawsthorne. He’s now retired but we are still in contact. In fact I wrote to him recently about the canonization of Archbishop Romero on 14 October. He got back to me straightaway. He was on a train returning from a Romero Trust meeting in London. It is wonderful to hear from him that so many catholic cathedrals in England have celebrated the memory of Romero. I learned also that my old stamping ground of St Ignatius, Stamford Hill has recently commissioned and blessed a picture of Rutilio Grande SJ and ++Oscar Romero! Bishop John will be in Rome with Julian Filochowski both of whom have done so much to increase awareness of the holiness of Romero and his preferential option for the poor.

It is strange that in Tampa, closer to El Salvador than UK, the awareness of Romero is diminished. Even clergy seem unaware of his impact or the reason for his canonization. Perhaps it is because they have become so obsessed by the clergy sexual abuse scandal that nothing else seems to matter? Fortunately the worldwide catholic church is more wise. In times when there have been too many examples of evil among the clergy we need to celebrate true holiness in clergy of living memory. So on Sunday Pope Francis will canonize Archbishop Oscar Romero, Pope Paul VI and four others who founded orders and communities of prayer. For my part I have sought to bring to the notice of parishioners the story of Romero, which I have been close to for over 25 years. The Pastor generously allowed me to write the ‘Pastor’s column’ in the church bulletin and to send out e-blasts regarding relevant TV programs about Romero and Paul VI. It has not been without challenges but at least no one can say that they were uninformed! I am hoping this will be welcomed by both the English and the Hispanic speakers of our parish.

I’ve been asked to present the annual Advent Gathering for the Diocese of St Petersburg. I’ll be talking about our duty as baptised to be prophetic and seek to examine the areas in which this might be practised. I’ll be drawing very much on material and experiences of the Iona Community which is barely known in these parts. having said this last week I was introduced to an Associate of the Community who ministers in St Petersburg in the Episcopal Church.

During the day I’ll also use the music and morning prayer from the Community and we’ll celebrate Mass with the bishop before eating a fine lunch at the Diocesan Retreat Center.

Hurricanes are no stranger to Florida but during the last week the whole world will have witness to their power as ‘Michael’, having gained such strength from the warmth of the Gulf of Mexico hit land as a Category 4. Its devastating power decimated townships along the coastline of northern Florida. Fortunately I live further south in Tampa and although there was concern (because they can change direction quickly) we really only suffered heavy rain and some extraordinary wind gusts. My heart goes out to those who are now homeless.

As I type I can look, through the window of my office on the upper floor of my house, into the park just over my garden fence. Workmen have been there for months installing a splash pool for the kids. It has not been the best season to work outdoors with so much rain during the Florida summers but they appear to be nearing completion. There are child-friendly soft floors covered with artificial grass and new play equipment. It will be good to hear the sound of happy voices replacing the sound of tractors and generators.

The sun sets a bit later now at 7pm but the day temperatures are still in the high 80s. My garden responding well to the little care I can afford to offer it and the pool continues to be clear. I am glad that my earlier removal of five trees from my property has decreased the likelihood of property damage  and the amount of leaves falling into the pool.

Friday 21 September

Fortunately Hurricane Gordon did not threaten Florida and later Florence went further north and caused massive damage in the Carolinas. We count our blessings and seem to have avoided a repeat of last year’s Irma from which I am still recovering.

My wonderful contractor who now only has to complete the French doors and the associated woodwork surrounds and baseboard (skirting board). He promises to be there but never arrives. Fortunately I have not paid him yet … I haven’t even had an invoice so this seems to be open to negotiation on my part when it does arrive.

In my last blog I reported that following a leak in the air-conditioning units there had been a substantial amount of drying out required. In the event holes were punched into my ceiling to aid the process. I have yet to hear further from the insurance company regarding this claim. With 2 dehumidifiers and 8 fans in my house for 6 days there was an expected hike in my electricity bill which I will add to any claim!

Following the report of clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania Diocese there have been further disclosures in Germany, Benedictine schools in England and the Dalai Lama has been called into investigate similar crimes among his monks. Two Chicago priests were discovered ‘in flagrante’ in a parking lot in Miami and have since been dismissed. One US cardinal had to cancel a speaking engagement as part of the Papal visit to Ireland and another had to remain in USA to oversee the mess.

I sat down with my new Pastor to discuss a proposal I had created for a Time of Prayer. It was really an opportunity for the faithful to express their anger and astonishment at what had been going on for so long and had so rocked the Church. It is as difficult for the laity to accept responsibility for this as it is for the majority of good priests although even some of these will have been aware of curious ‘goings on’ in relationships between fellow seminarians. My liturgical proposal was put on hold as the local bishop had promised to issue something. My fear is that this will use traditional pious models of prayer (rosary and adoration or even Mass) and fail to hit the mark.

For some these abuse disclosures are already old news and even after two weekends of homilies touching on this some folk were fed up. What is clear is that good clergy are keen to distance themselves from this behaviour (and who can blame them) but it sometimes colours the nature of their public response. All the faithful are called to holiness and one sign of this among catholic clergy has been the call to celibacy. This is a tough demand and if it is not one feels a need to ask “Why isn’t it?” Celibacy refers to all manner of sexual relationships and not just to heterosexual activity.

On September 10 I entered my local bar and asked all what the day’s anniversary was. None remembered that on this day a year earlier Hurricane Irma hit Tampa!

On Saturday 15 September our Bishop of St Petersburg visited St Lawrence to formally install our new Pastor. It was a wonderful occasion in which I had amassed the Hispanic and English speaking musicians. Even the Bishop did the Eucharistic Prayer in Spanish! I wasn’t very well during the following day but managed to get through things. After a rest during the afternoon I returned for the evening Mass and was really impressed that musicians had turned up again for this Mass having already contributed so much the previous day.

Monday 17 September was a day off but instead I went in since the piano tuner was visiting. I wanted to discover how he rated the Cable Co piano I got for nothing. I was pleased to hear that he thought it was a great find!

Later that evening I received a phone call indicating that I should have been at a funeral! This was the first time that I had missed a funeral in 46 years of church music ministry. There were communication issues!

Just in case you are wondering about the weather. Temperatures frequently touch the high 90s and this causes some heavy but short downpours in the evening. This is great for the garden which I have enjoyed weeding recently.



Monday 3 September – Labo(u)r Day

On Wednesday 22 August at 4.30pm there was a massive electrical storm overhead. If you’ve never experienced Tampa, the lightning capital of the world, during a storm it is something to behold. Of course the high temperatures and the moisture from the Bay of Mexico are the causes but it is pretty scary. There were over 7000 lightning events last year in Tampa alone. I can understand what monsoons must be like from the sheer quantity of water that falls here in so short a period.

On Thursday 23 I took my first sick day for a long while but had to go to work on the Friday (normally a day off) because there was so much which needed to be done before the weekend. In the afternoon I went to Jesuit to do some practice myself. I took the first movement of Vierne’s 2nd symphony with me and was pleased that so much of it is still in my muscle memory.

On Saturday one of the parishioners was kind enough to share with me some banana bread she had baked that afternoon. This tastes great with ice cream! Later that night as I went upstairs to bed I noticed that the carpet at the top of the stairs was wet. I did not know at the time whether it was from the roof or the air-conditioning handler units.

On Sunday morning after the first Mass I called the insurance company and registered my claim with Cynthia, the same woman with whom I had registered my claim after Hurricane Irma!

I spent Sunday afternoon watching the Papal ceremonies from his visit to Dublin. Earlier that day a retired archbishop Vigano who had been the Vatican’s ambassador to Washington had issued a stinging letter casting aspersions about the last role of the last 3 Popes in this matter. My own feelings were that this man had an axe to grind and it might be better to wait until the dust settled a bit before jumping to any conclusions.

Monday was a day off so after an early visit to the doctor for routine tests I called Home Warranty to get someone out to look at the Air con. He found and stopped the leak but recommended replacement. I had expected to do this when I bought the house as I knew the units were both 18 years old.

Unexpectedly on Monday afternoon a carpenter arrived to measure for the replacement French doors damaged by Irma. Inexplicably these measurements have been taken so many times already but since there has been no progress on the repairs for weeks this suggested that something might be afoot. I’ll believe it when I see it!

During the day I received a number of estimates for replacement and took the last one on Tuesday morning. This last one from Caldeco offered me one unit as a ‘scratch and dent’ . I had never welcomed anyone to my house saying “I suppose you’d like to see my air conditioning equipment?” so I took the deal saving me $3000 and installation occurred the following day. A team of three arrived early in the morning but when I returned around 3.30pm there were eight people trying to get the job completed!

As expected the new units were so much more efficient and having forgotten to set the desired temperature they cooled things down to 60F which in Florida is very chilly.

The other interesting event of Tuesday was a whole staff meeting to reflect on the recent report about the clergy abuse cases in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. It was clear to me that good clergy can often react more strongly in these matters than the laity because they feel understandably ashamed by some of their clan. After the discussion we decided to create some form of liturgy to enable to people’s cry to be heard. We would also explore the notion of the church doing penance for its crimes.

On Thursday I took possession of two bargains. In the morning a Cable Co piano was delivered to St Lawrence for the music rehearsal area. I had been offered the instrument for free and just had to sort collection. It turns out to have been made in 1971. I also got another bargain from Goodwill in the form of 6 dining chairs at $5 each! … the type with even the legs covered with the same cloth. Such modesty!

On Friday I rang the insurance company as I had heard nothing from them. It turned out that my claim had been incorrectly categorized. Within 30 minutes there was a knock at the door and a technician/adjuster got to work attempting to dry out the damage which was greater than I imagined. As we all know water has a habit of getting wherever it wants. In my case the leak on the first floor had damaged the carpet but also tracked into the void between the floors. There was water detected when sensors were applied to the kitchen and bathroom ceilings. I now had to entertain 2 large dehumidifier units and about 8 industrial fans. It sounds as though I am on the tarmac of an airport! I could live with the noise (earplugs) but the cold was something I did not expect. The thermostat reacted to the heat from all this machinery and accordingly lowered the temperatures!

As I type it is Monday and the technician has been back each day since Friday to check the drying process. Tomorrow if there is no improvement he will seek permission from the insurers to put wholes in the ceiling to establish what is slowing the process.

At 2.30pm there was an almighty thunderstorm with the associated deluge. Further south there is a tropical storm ‘Gordon’ which is building strength and this may have been an early warning of what will come. The Gulf Coast will be the likely target of what may become a hurricane as it passes over the Gulf of Mexico after Florida.




Tuesday 21 August

On Friday 10 August we celebrated the Feast of St Lawrence on its actual date with the school celebrating Mass at 8.30am. This was also the first Mass of the school year so there were a lot of new students each of whom according to naval tradition rang a bell to announce their arrival. Later at the end of Mass Fr Mike Muhr our Pastor for the last 3 years would ring the bell again signalling his departure. As soon as Mass was over I went home as this would ordinarily have been my day off. I returned later that evening for a surprise party for Fr Mike. I had planned a little prayer time for Fr Mike with the entire staff sitting in a circle. It was a very participative liturgy in which each staff member shared a memory. There was much laughter and not a little emotion. Continuing the surprise we then adjourned next door where outside caterers had prepared a meal after which we sat down for a film screening.

The following weekend we celebrated the transferred feast of St Lawrence and the departure of Fr Mike. The high point was a multi-lingual celebration with both Hispanic and English choirs and many instrumentalists and percussionists.

The music comprised Ven al banquete/Come to the Feast (Hurd), Bilingual Mass of Creation (Haugen/Alonso), my bilingual setting of Psalm 112, Celtic alleluia with bilingual verses, Every single thing we are (Cortez), Eat this bread (Taize), Bilingual I am the bread of life (Toolan), Amen, el cuerpo de Cristo (Schiavone) and Themba Amen (Iona Community). While I continued with the next Mass at 1230 the crowds who arrived for the 11am Mass tucked into a massive indoor barbecue in honour of St Lawrence (that’s how he was martyred!). Fortunately there was still some remaining when I got there!

At other Masses I also sang Paul Field’s ‘Go Peaceful’ which seemed the perfect farewell for Fr Mike. I also played Widor’s Toccata (his favourite piece) after one of the Masses.

We had the Solemnity of the Assumption only 2 days later so I decided to take my day off on Thursday instead. When it came to it however I had to give organ lessons to two new scholarship students at Jesuit. This gave me the opportunity to get to grips with the new Phoenix organ there and I was able to resurrect Vierne’s 2nd Symphonie which I had not looked at for years.

The new pastor arrived on Wednesday but has been deep in settling into the new job so we have not seen much of him.

On Friday I headed for the beach which I had not visited for a while.

Over the weekend there was one thing in the mind of many catholics and it was the report (published that week) of the massive abuse by clergy in the Dioceses of Pennsylvania. Mention of 300 clergy being guilty of destroying the lives of over 1000 people is not something that anyone can bear. Nearly all the homilies that weekend focussed on the shame of the Church. The previous week there had been a report into the abuse at Downside and Ampleforth schools and I’m told another report is expected in January which will deal with similar abuse at Ealing Abbey. So many for whom I have held respect in the past seem to be culpable of neglect at best. Many of the abusers are dead but there is a worrying number of cases which emanate from the last decades. Currently in USA there are states which only accept claims of historic abuse from victims under 50 years of age. I campaigned a decade ago that asylum seekers claims of abuse in their country of origin be taken seriously by immigration in UK who were loathed to listen to claims made by seekers which were not backed up by statements made when they first sought entry into UK. The systems can be so uncompromisingly stupid at times. Getting to the stage of declaring abuse takes so much courage and time.

Less depressing was the music-making at the 7pm Mass. Over the last few weeks the numbers involved have really grown. This weekend we gained an excellent guitarist/vocalist and another woman who is a refugee from New York having spent 4 years in a neighbouring parish. She asked to be a cantor. So whereas all other Masses have one cantor for each the 7pm now has three potentially!

On Monday I got through a mountain of ironing before enjoying time by the pool. The removal of trees has made such a difference.

Today I was back in the routine preparation and circulation of materials for next weekend’s Masses. I completed the day with a meeting to prepare the Bishop’s visit on 15 September to install Fr Dan Kayajan as Pastor.

Thursday 9 August

It’s been two weeks since my last report and while UK basks in the hottest summer for years we in Florida have high temps but so much rain. This means that we are treated daily to wonderful lightning displays.

At work we are in the final weeks with Mgr Mike Muhr as our pastor. He took some vacation days so we don’t expect to see much of him during even his final week. Instead we were delighted to welcome our Pastor designate who visited for a few days before taking a vacation himself. When he formally arrives on 15 August he will hit the ground running so he is probably spending most time sorting things in his rectory and office.

On Wednesday August 1 I made an early morning trip to the Tax Office to renew my driving licence. I have had to do this every year since I’ve been here but this year since I have a Green Card now I was in and out in an hour with a licence which does not need to be renewed for eight years.


The following weekend was notable for the Sunday 7pm Mass. An experienced cantor was on vacation so a singer who joined us only a couple of weeks ago served as cantor. In addition we had a new guitarist and another new singer.

On Monday 6 August I awoke with some trepidation as my ‘day off’ was being given up for the parish staff retreat. These have normally been terrible wastes of time with silly games purporting to be aimed at team building. I recognised our speaker instantly as a parishioner. Dr Carmen had recently retired from being a school principal. She has also written several books on spirituality. Her contribution was well prepared and thought-provoking. We ended the day with Mass in the Bethany Center Chapel. I had planned the music but it was great to be joined by two colleagues when it came to the music making.

As soon as the retreat was over I sped off to the office to do final preparations for the evening rehearsal for our bilingual celebration of the patronal feast of St Lawrence. The rehearsal went very well and I let the combined Hispanic and English choirs go early!

On Tuesday 7 August I welcomed to the house 4 workers who would fell 5 trees on my property. I am no tree-hugger but I am usually reluctant to remove trees. In this case one was losing limbs another had lost one through my roof during Irma and all were deemed by inspectors to be well past their maturity and were described as crap trees!.  By the end of Day 1 all the trees in the back yard had had their branches removed. By sheer coincidence my neighbours opposite had also engaged a different company to trim the oak in their front yard. The street was like ‘tree-central’ for two hours! After a while I left for work on Tuesday and finished the day with a visit to the new Jesuit Chapel to give an organ lesson to a student who would be playing for the Dedication Mass later that evening. During Day 2 the remaining trunks and another tree in the front were removed and stumps ground. The grass in the back yard now looks as though it has been the site of a tank battle with treadmarks cutting where the grass used to be but it will recover, I’m sure.  During Day 2 I spent the day at the beach as it was a very sunny day.

Today I will enjoy doing a bit of a tidy up in the back yard before giving two students their organ lessons at the new chapel of Jesuit. After this I’ll venture into the office to do some final prep for a Spanish funeral tonight and the Mass for the start of another school year tomorrow.


Monday 23 July

Today is the first day off in a while so I have a chance to update the blog.

The last weekend of June preceded July 4 which over here is celebrated with some zeal. It’s a celebration of independence from British rule. I always view this (humourously) as Traitors’ Day the day when the ungrateful colonials established themselves. Having said this I don’t buy into the culture that we Brits discovered America (as the 2nd verse of ‘America the beautiful’ would have us believe). I mention this hymn because it was the chosen final song for the weekend’s Masses. Before the 4pm vigil Mass I even asked the congregation how many verses they wished to sing. When it came to it most left before the end of verse 1. The next day I was shown that this first Mass response was not representative as folk sang with great gusto!

The rainy season has well and truly begun. On the positive side the grass will grow and make my garden appear cared for. On the negative side the air around the church organ will be so pungent as to make folk wonder about my personal hygiene. Tampa is basically a drained swamp and when it rains the water level rises and the organ which is located in a pit is lower than anywhere else in the church and whatever has died immediately beneath it gives off a pervasive aroma!

The additional rain also means that I have to drain the swimming pool as its level also rises. I had spent some hours drifting around pool supply and homecare stores looking for a replacement pipe through which to drain the pool. The one I have is punctured at the business end. In the process I was struck by a brainwave and returned home to disconnect the hose and replace it with the other end. Result!

The trees in my garden had already worried me after Irma but when another large limb crashed to the ground between my house and a neighbor’s I had to do something. I have booked a specialist to bring down a few trees which are dangerously leaning towards the house or have already caused damage. Before any work can proceed I have to apply for permits from the local authority. I should know what I can do by the start of August.

Mention of local authority reminds me that Sheffield City Council contacted my letting agents to inform me that I owed them about 400 pounds for unpaid council tax this year. I wrote to them as did my agents and they have agreed that an error has occurred. This is just as well for a week later I received another request for 1700 pounds!

I spent many of my waking hours watching the World Cup. England did rather well to reach the semi finals with such a young team. Many of the matches I had to record so that I could watch them after work. Some friends took great delight in advising me of the score before I got home. Hmmm.

The saga over the house repairs after Irma continues. The skirting boards were eventually completed but not satisfactorily. The contractor visited and agreed with my assessment and asked the carpenter to redo some of the work around the kitchen island. Despite all the promises further delays were experienced. I would be in Baltimore for a week at the meeting of Pastoral Musicians. Perhaps things would have advanced after that?

The NPM Convention was good in parts but poor in others. Tony Alonso and Jaime Cortez both provided separate examples of good practice and further challenges relating to multilingual liturgies. Marty Haugen had created a new Mass setting which, he dreamed, might be sung (both languages simultaneously) in bilingual parishes. It was a great pity that James Martin SJ had had to cancel his plenary because the other plenaries didn’t really get me excited apart from one on the eucharist and another on youth. I had arrived a day early to be part of the panel looking at compositions submitted to the Composers’ Forum. The panel was very positive and there were good vibes among participants. However I attended a seminar on composers’ tool-kits during the final day which seemed barely prepared at all.

I was bowled over by one concert at the cathedral and particularly by the Salve Regina Mass of Yves Castagnet, whom I had worked alongside during my time in Paris years ago.

Socially the NPM was good. I spent much time in the company of Paul Inwood, Kathy Leos, Christopher Walker and John McCarthy who had popped over from UK. Baltimore was a wonderful city for food and famous for its seafood. It was great to meet up with Phil Stackhouse from St John’s Ellicott City with which parish I have had a relationship starting on Iona and maintained since.

I returned from Baltimore anxious to see what advances had taken place with the repairs. The skirting boards had now been completed to my satisfaction and new gutters had been installed for all roof aspects. Now I just had to await the french doors!

On Friday 20 July I was joined by 5 work colleagues as we christened my paella dish with a paella according to Jamie’s recipe. It was a great meal!

The weekend at St Lawrence was notable for working with a new bassist. Once we’d sorted the music for him his talents were plain to hear. It was also good to introduce to the assembly a new singer who led us in Audrey Assad’s ‘I shall not want’.

It’s countdown time before our Pastor Fr (mgr) Mike leaves us on 12 August. He is moving to become the priest-elected ‘priest for the priests’. It’s a new diocesan job and he will be great at this. It really has been a creative time for me working with him. I will miss his homilies but more than that his fully human presence. It is wonderful to meet people who know themselves and are content with what they know! Our new pastor arrives on 15 August so there’s not long to wait.