Saturday, 31 May 2008

50 is a great number.

We hear so much about the failure of marriage, and of marriages. But it’s not the whole story.

My cousin-by-marriage Kippy, and her husband Marty will celebrate their 50th this year.

So will my dear friends Don and Barbara Hauler.

50 years of marriage! These couples got wed when I was 14 years old, and my favourite brother Martyn was but 4. Next year he and his beloved Wendy will celebrate their 30th.

Back in Pittsfield I greatly admired Ralph and Marjorie Zupanec. They had been married for 62+ years when Marjorie died. And I’d get quite misty eyed when they walked to Church, still holding hands after all those years.

Three of the gay/lesbian couples I know here in SRQ have been together for 50+ years.

Let’s hear it for commitment and fidelity. Those virtues (in the broadest possible sense) make Churches, Communities, and Nations strong.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Loving your neghbour

Yesterday, Thursday May 29th I was at the home of Ron and Charlotte Thompson in south Sarasota for another celebration of my birthday. Wowee!

Ron and Charlotte are new friends, I met them two years ago via an introduction from my St. James’s, Cambridge Secretary and friend, Judy Beers.

They asked me to bring Ben which I was glad to do, and they were cool when I asked if I could also bring my neighbour Dave.

What a wonderful evening. We enjoyed good food - very good food - and we talked and laughed until we were silly.

Just a few minutes ago today (Friday May 30th), I stepped out to enjoy the lovely evening warmth.

There was Syd. She is a neighbour, and an utter inspiration. She has A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and “should be dead by now”. She comes out in her electric wheelchair, with her dog “Sparky”, and to see her is to glimpse hope. To talk with her is to see hope incarnate.

“Little Betty” came wandering down with her dog “Cocoa”. (We call her “Little Betty” to distinguish her from another Betty who lives opposite me). Little Betty is the most genuine and un-complicated of my neighbours. She “got my number”, by intuition. We chatted a few weeks ago, and it was only then that I discovered that she is a regular volunteer at the local Food Bank.

Sometimes it is easier to love my neighbours more than I love myself. What a blessing!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

In deep shit

We are in deep trouble in the United States. The extremists of the right who have called the shots under the Village Idiot from Texas, are bringing us to our knees in the name of neo-con ideology.

The Constitution has been shredded; we are loathed and scorned throughout the world; Islamaphobia rules our foreign policy and the recession is not imaginary - it is real.

Today, I called the Landscaper who takes care of the Glen Oaks Condominium Association properties, to ask that his firm would pull out the roots of some old shrubs which I am replacing.

Before I could get to that, he began his tale of woe. He is about to lose his home and his life savings because of a business opportunity which has gone sour. He was crying on the ‘phone.

I have a neighbour who is a Realtor. Life is tough and grim for him, and he is earning next to no money. He is hanging in there in hope, but is happy if I purchase a few extra groceries and take them to his home.

B is a great guy who works part time at Resurrection House. We are his only source of income. He’s just had major surgery (the hospital will have to absorb these costs - which is one of the reasons why Health Insurance is so expensive in this country - we who have Insurance are helping to cover the costs of those with none.

B lives alone in one room in a rooming house. He’ll not be able to return to work for at least two months. Many of we volunteers are already pulling together to make sure that his rent is covered, and that he is supplied with food.

These three stories could be duplicated a million times each in these United States. We are in deep economic trouble, and the Administration doesn’t “get it:, nor does it give a hoot.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Isaiah) and John McCain has no vision, except to continue the utterly disastrous policies of the present regime.

Hillary Clinton’s vision is murky, but she would be more than the lesser of two evils in a McCain/Clinton Presidential contest.

Barack Obama indeed brings a message of hope. I believe that he knows what it will take to dig us out of this morass.

For what we need is not a Messianic Super President. We need a leader who knows that we must work TOGETHER: one who encourages coalitions of hope and action which do not favour special interests.

Whomever becomes President, I long that she/he will renew the republican vision of Abraham Lincoln: that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

In that sentiment alone is our hope.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Clinton and Obama

Click on the title above (Clinton and Obama) to read an article
from Sister Joan Chittister (in the National Catholic Reporter Cafe)

Worth pondering!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

This and that again

I often fly our national flag outside my home. It’s a good flag, and I refuse to allow it to be seen as the possession of the Repuglican Right.

Memorial Day, yesterday, was a good day to hang out the flag. My good neighbour Betty stopped me today. She said how much she had appreciated seeing the flag, for as she explained, one of her sons was a 27 year Army Veteran who died just six months after retiring from the U.S. Army. She has a “hard time” on Memorial Day, and was heartened when she saw the flag outside my home.

This morning was beautifully cool, so after my walk I did some raking of the bare patches in the grass at the back of my house, getting the dirt ready to scatter some grass seed. I began to tug on a root, and it went on and on and on. It came out quite easily, being buried no more than 3” under the grass.

My pal Don Novak has his birthday on May 28th, so we had a joint celebration with friends Ben Morse and Jerry Koenke tonight. We ate at the “Lazy Lobster”. It’s hard to eat wisely in restaurants, with so many dishes laden with calorie ridden sauces. So I settled for two “appetizers” as my main course: a spinach salad, and mussels. Lord, the mussels were good! If you are nearby when I am on my death-bed, please feed me mussels!

We chatted politics, which got very boring as we agreed on everything! So I changed the subject to “where we were born, and at what time of day”. But that quickly led to my being asked questions about Winston Churchill (he was Premier of the United Kingdom when I was born). Americans of my generation are obsessed with Churchill, ghastly reactionary that he was.

I explained why Churchill was voted out of Office in 1945, and then told Don, Jerry and Ben much more than they needed to know about the marvellous post World War II Labour Government under Clement Atlee; with a brief excursus into British Constitutional law - all based on precedent. I love this stuff.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Memorial Day 2008. "War is Hell"

I’ve heard the phrase “War is Hell” attributed to General, and later President, Ulysses S Grant.

But most likely it is from Civil War General W.T. Sherman. The following is attributed to a speech he gave to the Michigan Military Academy.

I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.

Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

Sherman is not a hero in the South. His “march through Georgia” etc was cruel and mean. But he knew of what he spoke “War is Hell”.

Out of the American Civil War/War between the States, came Decoration Day - a day in which the survivors of the Confederacy and of the Union united by honouring the Graves of their beloved dead.

Decoration Day later became known as “Memorial Day” - a public holiday on the last Monday in May.

This year (2008) that day also fell on my birthday.

I took myself this morning to Arcadia in DeSoto County, some 35 miles east of SRQ.

There in the Oakridge Cemetery, are the graves of 23 Royal Air Force men, who died during World War II, in the course of their training as Pilots. They are honoured each year on Memorial Day, in a ceremony arranged by the Rotary Club of Arcadia.

It is a moving ceremony.

There was a lovely “twist” today. Arcadia is in “cowboy” country. It is a “right of centre”, and “redneck” town. It used to be a centre of K.K.K. activity.

The Mayor of Arcadia welcomed us today, and led us in the singing of “My country ‘t’is of thee”, and “God save the Queen”.

Here is the twist. The Mayor is African American. In Arcadia!

I was glad to honour the City of Arcadia, and the R.A.F trainee pilots today.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

26th May 1944

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck & Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?



* 1264 - Prince Koreyasu, Japanese shogun (d. 1326)
* 1478 - Pope Clement VII (d. 1534)
* 1566 - Mehmed III, Ottoman Emperor (d. 1603)
* 1602 - Philippe de Champaigne, French painter (d. 1674)
* 1650 - John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, British general (d. 1722)
* 1667 - Abraham de Moivre, French mathematician (d. 1754)
* 1669 - Sébastien Vaillant, French botanist (d. 1722)
* 1689 - Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, English writer (d. 1762)
* 1700 - Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf, German religious and social reformer (d. 1760)
* 1764 - Edward Livingston, American jurist and statesman (d. 1836)
* 1799 - Aleksandr Pushkin, Russian author (d. 1837)
* 1822 - Edmond de Goncourt, French writer (d. 1896)
* 1863 - Robert Fitzsimmons, Boxing champion (d. 1917)
* 1865 - Robert W. Chambers, American artist (d. 1933)
* 1867 - Mary of Teck, wife of George V of the United Kingdom (d. 1953)
* 1873 - Olaf Gulbransson, Norwegian artist (d. 1958)
* 1883 - Mamie Smith, American singer (d. 1946)
* 1886 - Al Jolson, American singer (d. 1950)
* 1893 - Norma Talmadge, American actress (d. 1957)
* 1893 - Eugène Aynsley Goossens, English conductor and composer (d. 1962)
* 1895 - Dorothea Lange, American photographer (d. 1965)
* 1895 - Paul Lukas, Hungarian actor (d. 1971)
* 1899 - Antonio Barrette, Quebec politician (d. 1968)
* 1904 - George Formby, English singer and comedian (d. 1961)
* 1904 - Vlado Perlemuter, Polish pianist (d. 2002)
* 1907 - Jean Bernard, French physician (d. 2006)
* 1907 - John Wayne, American actor (d. 1979)
* 1908 - Robert Morley, English actor (d. 1992)
* 1909 - Sir Matt Busby, Scottish footballer and manager (d. 1994)
* 1909 - Nikolay Guryanov, Russian Orthodox Christian mystic and priest (d. 2002)
* 1909 - Adolfo López Mateos, President of Mexico (d. 1969)
* 1911 - Ben Alexander, American actor (d. 1969)
* 1912 - János Kádár, Prime minister of Hungary (d. 1989)
* 1912 - Jay Silverheels, American actor (d. 1980)
* 1913 - Peter Cushing, English actor (d. 1994)
* 1914 - Frankie Manning, American Lindy Hop dancer
* 1915 - Sam Edwards, American actor (d. 2004)
* 1915 - Antonia Forest, British children's author (d. 2003)
* 1916 - Moondog, American composer, musician and poet (d. 1999)
* 1916 - Henriette Roosenburg, Dutch journalist (d. 1972)
* 1917 - Eva Szorenyi, Hungarian actress, freedom activist for Hungary
* 1918 - Anton Christoforidis, Greek boxer (d. 1985)
* 1920 - Peggy Lee, American singer (d. 2002)
* 1923 - James Arness, American actor
* 1923 - Roy Dotrice, British actor
* 1932 - Grigor Vachkov, Bulgarian actor († 1980)
* 1935 - Sheila Steafel, South African-born British actress
* 1938 - William Bolcom, American composer
* 1938 - Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Russian playwright and novelist
* 1938 - Teresa Stratas, Canadian soprano
* 1939 - Merab Kostava, Georgian anti-Soviet leader
* 1939 - Brent Musburger, American sports broadcaster
* 1940 - Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, Quebec politician
* 1940 - Levon Helm, American musician (The Band)
* 1941 - Reg Bundy, British performer (d. 2003)
* 1941 - Cliff Drysdale, South African tennis player
* 1941 - John Kaufman, sculptor
* 1943 - Erica Terpstra, President of the Dutch Olympic Committee
* 1944 - Sam Posey, American race car driver, TV commentator and author
* 1945 - Garry Peterson, Canadian drummer (The Guess Who)
* 1946 - Neshka Robeva, Bulgarian Rhythmic gymnas and coach.
* 1946 - Mick Ronson, English musician (d. 1993)
* 1948 - Stevie Nicks, American songwriter
* 1949 - Ward Cunningham, American inventor
* 1949 - Pam Grier, American actress
* 1949 - Philip Michael Thomas, American actor
* 1949 - Hank Williams Jr., American singer
* 1951 - Sally Ride, American astronaut
* 1951 - Madeleine Taylor-Quinn, Irish politician
* 1952 - David Meece, Christian musician
* 1953 - Michael Portillo, British politician
* 1954 - Alan Hollinghurst, British novelist
* 1954 - Danny Rolling, American murderer (d. 2006)
* 1955 - Masaharu Morimoto, Japanese chef
* 1955 - Wesley Walker, American football player
* 1956 - Frédéric Dutoit, French politician
* 1957 - Margaret Colin, American actress
* 1957 - François Legault, French Canadian politician
* 1957 - Kristina Olsen, American musician
* 1957 - Roberto Ravaglia, Italian racing driver
* 1957 - Pontso S.M. Sekatle, Lesotho academic and politician
* 1959 - Steve Hanley, English musician (The Fall, Tom Hingley and the Lovers)
* 1960 - Masahiro Matsunaga, Japanese racing driver
* 1960 - Rob Murphy, American baseball player
* 1962 - Genie Francis, American actress
* 1962 - Bobcat Goldthwait, American actor
* 1962 - Colin Vearncombe, English singer,(Black)
* 1964 - Caitlín R. Kiernan, Irish-American writer
* 1964 - Lenny Kravitz, American musician
* 1965 - Hazel Irvine, British television presenter
* 1966 - Helena Bonham Carter, English actress
* 1966 - Zola Budd, South African athlete
* 1967 - Phil Doyle, Australian writer
* 1968 - Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark
* 1968 - Pat Kenney, American professional wrestler
* 1968 - Steve Sedgley, English footballer
* 1969 - John Baird, Canadian politician
* 1969 - Musetta Vander, South African actress
* 1970 - Nobuhiro Watsuki, Japanese cartoonist
* 1971 - Matt Stone, American television producer
* 1972 - Patsy Palmer, British actress
* 1974 - Lars Frölander, Swedish swimmer
* 1975 - Travis Lee, American baseball player
* 1976 - Justin Pierre, American singer (Motion City Soundtrack)
* 1977 - Mark Hunter, American musician (Chimaira)
* 1977 - Misaki Ito, Japanese actress
* 1977 - Luca Toni, Italian footballer
* 1978 - Phil Elverum, American singer-songwriter
* 1979 - Elisabeth Harnois, American actress
* 1979 - Mehmet Okur (Memo), Turkish basketball player
* 1979 - Ashley Massaro, American model and professional wrestler
* 1981 - Eda-Ines Etti, Estonian singer
* 1981 - Irini Merkouri, Greek singer
* 1982 - Yoko Matsugane, Japanese model
* 1988 - Joel Selwood, Australian footballer
* 1991 - Julianna Rose Mauriello, American actress


* 604 - Augustine of Canterbury, Archbishop of Canterbury
* 818 - Ali ar-Rida, Shia Imam (b. 766)
* 946 - King Edmund I of England (b. 921)
* 1055 - Margrave Adalbert of Austria
* 1421 - Mehmed I, Ottoman Sultan (b. 1389)
* 1512 - Bayezid II, Ottoman Sultan
* 1536 - Francesco Berni, Italian poet
* 1595 - Philip Neri, Italian churchman (b. 1515)
* 1647 - Alse Young, American "witch"
* 1648 - Vincent Voiture, French poet (b. 1597)
* 1653 - Robert Filmer, English writer (b. 1588)
* 1679 - Ferdinand Maria, Elector of Bavaria (b. 1636)
* 1685 - Karl II, Elector Palatine (b. 1651)
* 1703 - Samuel Pepys, English civil servant and diarist (b. 1633)
* 1742 - Pylyp Orlyk, Ukrainian Zaporozhian Cossack starshina, diplomat (b. 1672)
* 1762 - Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, German philosopher (b. 1714)
* 1799 - James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, Scottish judge (b. 1714)
* 1814 - Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, officially named the Guillotine (b. 1789)
* 1824 - Capel Lofft, English writer (b. 1751)
* 1831 - Ciro Menotti, Italian patriot (b. 1798)
* 1840 - Sidney Smith, British admiral (b. 1764)
* 1881 - Jakob Bernays, German philologist (b. 1824)
* 1883 - Abd al-Qadir, Algerian political and military leader (b. 1808)
* 1883 - Edward Sabine, Irish astronomer (b. 1788)
* 1902 - Almon Strowger, American inventor (b. 1839)
* 1904 - Georges Gilles de la Tourette, French neurologist (b. 1857)
* 1907 - Ida McKinley, First Lady of the United States (b. 1847)
* 1908 - Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam (b. 1835)
* 1924 - Victor Herbert, Irish composer (b. 1859)
* 1926 - Simon Petlyura, Ukrainian independence fighter (b. 1879)
* 1933 - Horatio Bottomley, British financier and politician (b. 1860)
* 1933 - Jimmie Rodgers, American singer (b. 1897)
* 1939 - Charles Horace Mayo, American medical practitioner (Mayo Clinic) (b. 1865)
* 1943 - Edsel Ford, American automobile executive (b. 1893)
* 1948 - Theodore Morell, Hitler's personal physician (b. 1886)
* 1951 - Lincoln Ellsworth, American scientist (b. 1880)
* 1954 - Lionel Conacher, Canadian athlete (b. 1900)
* 1955 - Alberto Ascari, Italian race car driver and two-time F1 world champion (b. 1918)
* 1968 - Little Willie John, American singer (b. 1937)
* 1969 - Paul Hawkins, Australian racing driver (b. 1937)
* 1969 - Allan H. Loughead, American aviation pioneer (Lockheed Corporation; b. 1889)
* 1974 - Silvio Moser, Swiss racing driver (b. 1941)
* 1976 - Martin Heidegger, German philosopher (b. 1889)
* 1976 - Juan Maino, Chilean leader of MAPU, "disappeared"
* 1977 - William Powell, American singer (The O'Jays) (b. 1942)
* 1978 - Cybele, Greek actress (b. 1887)
* 1979 - George Brent, British actor (b. 1899)
* 1989 - Don Revie, Former footballer and England and Leeds United Manager (b. 1927)
* 1999 - Paul Sacher, Swiss conductor (b. 1906)
* 1999 - Waldo Semon, American inventor (b. 1898)
* 2001 - Vittorio Brambilla, Italian racing driver (b. 1937)
* 2001 - Anne Haney, American actress (b. 1934)
* 2001 - Moven Enock Mahachi, Defence Minister of Zimbabwe (b. 1952)
* 2002 - Mamo Wolde, Ethiopian runner (b. 1932)
* 2003 - Kathleen Winsor, American writer (b. 1919)
* 2004 - Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh, Russian astronomer (b. 1931)
* 2004 - Dullah Omar, South African lawyer (b. 1934)
* 2005 - Eddie Albert, American actor (b. 1906)
* 2005 - Chico Carrasquel, Venezuelan baseball player (b. 1928)
* 2006 - Édouard Michelin, CEO of Michelin (b. 1963)
* 2006 - Kevin O'Flanagan, Irish athlete and physician (b. 1919)
* 2007 - J Edward Oliver, cartoonist and composer (b. 1942)