Saturday, 20 December 2008

The gregarious loner

Folk who meet me, encounter a man who is friendly, who smiles a lot, and who as the “Mystery Worshipper” at St. Hilary’s Church (earlier this year) said “is jovial”.

I come across as a very gregarious person.

At heart, I am a loner. More than anything, I like to be alone.

Give me a “stage” and I am that apparently gregarious person. All of life is acting - and I can play that role so well.

It’s fun while it lasts. But I’ve often said that my epitaph should be “He played to a thousand audiences, but never received the accolades he felt that he richly deserved”.

“Off stage” I retreat into that “loner”. (I am happiest alone, but I am NOT lonesome).

I putter around the house. The T.V. and radio are rarely on, for I love the silence.

My cat Ada is the dozer. She spends most each day eating or sleeping.

The other cat, Adelaide, is a prowler. She wanders around the house all day, looking for Lord knows what.

I am an “Adelaide”. I prowl around my home, always restless, and always quite contented.

I am content with my life as a loner, but with one caveat. I frequently remind myself that to be alone is good, but to isolate is dangerous.

So I get out and about, to Resurrection House, to Church and Church events, for meals with friends, and laughter with Ben.

I love to have people in my home, and I entertain quite often.

But oh the blessed joy when they go home, and once again I can be safely alone.

Friday, 19 December 2008

In 1971

Ben tells me that I “remember everything”. There’s more than enough truth in that. I have vivid memories which go back to my childhood. Of course I cannot trust then all, for memory is tricky.

As I walked today I remembered a trip I took in Wales and England many years ago. I had thought it to be from 1968, but a quick check of the facts revealed that it was from 1971 when I was 27 years old.

I would have been working as a Staff Tutor for the National Westminster Bank in that year.

I took off in my car to visit parts of north Wales and also Chester in England. I had never before seen this part of the U.K.

I saw Caernarfon Castle, Conwy Castle, Llandudno (a coastal town in north Wales), “Snowdon” the highest peak in Wales, and Chester. All on my lonesome!

When I reached Chester I was so tired that I decided to stay in the first hotel which I saw. It turned out to be the “Blossoms” Hotel (3 star), and naive as I was, I was in awe of staying in such a “grand place”.

I wondered if there was a standard of “hotel etiquette” of which I did not know.

(Working class boys from Bristol never expected to stay in such places!).

In Chester I enjoyed the old City Wall, the lovely River Dee, the great Cathedral, and “The Rows” (two story shops which date back to the Middle Ages).

I’d love to return to Chester one day. ‘Tis a lovely City.

As for the year? After dinner I saw the Movie “Play Misty for me”, with Clint Eastwood. It was released in 1971, so that pins my excursion to that year.

By 1972 I was on my way to Theological College.

Caernarfron Castle

Conwy Castle

Chester, Cathedral

Chester, River Dee

Chester, "The Rows"

Chester, City Wall

Chester, Blossoms Hotel

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Welcome to Mildred, plus "A long and full day"

What a long and full day.

My friend Betsy has been long awaiting the arrival of Mildred. (Betsy and I agreed on this name). Mildred arrived today. Her photo’ is above.

I awoke at 4:45 a.m. this morning at the “Day’s Inn”, near Miami International Airport.

After a quick shower I drove at high speed to the Airport itself, trusting my GPS/Sat Nav. to get me there – which it did.

10 minutes after my arrival my friend called my mobile ‘phone. He had arrived on time from Brasil, via Chile; breezed through immigration, baggage claim and customs, and ready for me about 35 minutes after his ‘plane had landed.

I “high-tailed” it through the airport, from one concourse to another. Five minutes after his call we met with hugs and great laughter.

Then came the hard part: - a four hour drive back to Sarasota. Luckily for he was so happy to do most of the driving.

Back at home, we chatted and “caught up”, then I persuaded him to rest. (He had been travelling for 24 hours).

We enjoyed a late lunch of ham and eggs. Then after some more rest we drove to Longboat Key.

There I rehearsed with the All Angels’ Church Choir for their Jan 6th concert, whilst my friend enjoyed a good walk on the beach.

On the way home we stopped off at Ben’s home for beverages and snacks.

I made a simple dinner of stir-fried vegetables (onions, red and green peppers, zucchini (courgettes in England), and red chard, together with some broiled fish – in this case it was “Grouper”.

(Stir fried veggies and broiled fish are so simple. One can prepare this nutritious and healthy meal in about 20 minutes).

Yes, it’s been a long and hard day. But it has also been so rich. I will soon rest - very tired but also very contented. I feel like a child - one who goes off to sleep without a worry in the world!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Too much on my mind

Where shall I start! There is too much on my mind.

There are my cats, one of whom is sick.

There is the impending visit of my friend from Brasil. (More about this tomorrow).

I have more to write about Christmas hymns and carols.

Then there is BEN.

Ben is a good friend. I met him via his late partner Bruce - a good friend and colleague of mine since 1976.

Ben has a wonderful background in the Theatre. He has met and worked with all the greats.

He and his first partner Louis were together for 40 years until Louis died.

Then Ben was with Bruce for 15 years until the latter’s death.

Now Ben and I pal around together. As my good brother Martyn said “We are good for each other”.

Ben and I are not lovers, let alone partners. But we see each other most days. We drink coffee together; eat lunch or dinner together; clown around and make horrible puns, or tell hoary jokes. We make each other laugh.

I called Ben this morning and invited him to share lunch with me. Of course he accepted.

I served a “Fray Bentos” Steak and Kidney pie (from a can/tin), with stir fried chard, red peppers and onions.

Ben is the only one of my friends who would enjoy steak and kidney pie. Many Americans pee themselves at the thought of eating kidney, but not so Ben.

(Incidentally, I had four can/tins of steak and kidney pie. Stephanie and Joe Shorge brought then to me from England many years ago. I had been saving them for the Apocalypse, but since that seems to have been delayed I sacrificed one can today!)

The lunch, served with a good Pinot Grigio, was yummy.

After dessert (half an apple and a cookie each) Ben and I drove off to Sam’s Wholesale Club, laughing at every turn.

I wanted to buy Kleenex, Koffee and Kat Fish. But wild caught Grouper was on sale at an excellent price, so I bought that instead of Cat Fish. And the “Sam’s Club” coffee is so good - it is “Fair Trade” to boot.

Ben and I are an odd couple, separated by 20 years.

Ben’s background is Theatre, and he is an atheist.

My background is Church and I am a christian (or more likely “an agnostic in the Christian tradition”.

But as Martyn said, we are good for each other.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


We love our bridges! Great Cities have fine bridges. Here are a few of them.

Sarasotans truly like the Ringling Bridge. It connects downtown Sarasota with the offshore Keys - “Bird”, “St. Armand’s”, “Lido” and “Longboat”

I walked it both ways on Saturday Dec 13th. It took about 40 minutes, and I enjoyed every moment despite the cold wind.

Here are some great bridges.

In order they are

Ringling Bridge at sunset

Ringling Bridge at night

Ringling Bridge daytime

Old Severn Bridge - Bristolto Wales

New Severn Bridge - Bristol to Wales

Incredible viaduct in France

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Tower Bridge, London, England

Longfellow Bridge - Boston to Cambridge, Massachusetts

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

George Washington Bridge - New York to New Jersey, USA

Forth Bridge, Scotland

Clifton Sispension Bridge, Bristol, England