Saturday, 27 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

My Brasilian friend and I drove up to Beaufort, South Carolina on Christmas Eve.

It’s about 430 miles away, and it took 8 hours. We stopped every 100 miles to change drivers and stretch our legs.

We’d not breakfasted so we, with some foreboding on my part, went into a International House of Pancakes in the north central town of Starke, FL, for breakfast.

I was pleasantly pleased with the quality of my food – an omelette with fresh fruit as a “side dish”. Our waitress, Emily was an absolute sweetheart, so I tipped her well.

Starke is typical of many small towns in inland Florida. It is an hard scrabble town, with a great deal of poverty. We passed a supermarket – a branch of a chain which I thought had gone out of business years ago the “Piggly Wiggly”. These smaller supermarkets used to be the backbone of rural southern towns, with some also in the north. In many places they are being “done-in” by Wall-Mart.

Beaufort is a small, but quite grand town in the Low Country of South Carolina. It has a number of very fine antebellum mansions.

Our hosts, the Pinkhams live about 20 minutes drive from down-town, in a quite idyllic small “development”. There’s is one of (say) 80 homes on the edge of a tidal marsh. Each house is quite different in style, and there are no MacMansions.

Cdr. Wendy Pinkham USN is the daughter of my dear friends Don and Barbara Hauler. She is married to Charles, a wonderful stay at home father, and they have three of the nicest sons you could hope to meet – Charles Jr (Chip) (4), Chris (12) and Nicholas (10).

Wendy’s brother Mark was with us, together with his wife Marcia and their daughters Lindsay (18/19) and Lesley (16/17).

The senior Hauler’s other son, Gary, with his partner Ed were unable to be with us.

So we were the senior Haulers, the younger Haulers with their daughters, and the Pinkhams with their sons.

My guest and I shared a pop up camper which was surprisingly roomy, with two huge beds, which were very comfortable.

It was altogether a wonderful Christmas with super people. My guest enjoyed every moment - his first time with an American family for Christmas. And they all liked him!

I was too tired for “Midnight Mass”, so I went to St. Helena’s on Christmas Day. There were about 120 in attendance, and we were told that there had been a total of 1,500 people at the three Christmas Eve services.

The Church was “fair to middling” in terms of friendliness, and the singing was unenthusiastic. The Celebrant and Preacher was (retired) Bishop Alden Hathaway, of whom I have known for many years.

He is a hale and hearty kind of man. His 13 minute sermon used many 10 cent words, but said very little.

After Church as I offered tobacco incense in the parking lot, a parishioner approached me. She had seen that I was alone, and offered an invitation to Christmas dinner if I needed one. That was just so gracious and cool!

I had never before visited the Low Country. It is incredibly beautiful with its tidal creeks, rivers and marshes. I gloried in the beauty.

We spent some time in a nature reserve on Hunting Island, walking the beach in warm Christmas Day weather. It is a lovely spot.

I will add some photo’s tomorrow. They will include Low Country scenery, Beaufort and St. Helena’s, and members of the Hauler/Pinkham families.

It was a Merry Christmas!

On our journey home, my good pal Ben called to invite us for dinner. How very wonderful not to have to cook, after another eight hour ride. We chowed down on some pretty decent Chinese takeaway food.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

In earthly peace

I went to St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key for the Tuesday a.m. Eucharist today.

After the Eucharist I went out to the Myakka River State Park.

It is such a beautiful and peace filled place. I sat for more than half an hour in silence (so hard for me!), simply soaking up the quietness and beauty. It was a joy to listen to the sound which the breeze created as it whisked through the long grasses and the trees.

How blessed I am to live so near to such a gorgeous place. We heard human voices from Germany, Russia, Spain and France.

The speakers of these languages had travelled many, many miles to be at Myakka. It is a 25 minute drive for me!

On Christmas Eve I will drive for about 9 hours to be with my friends the Hauler Family, gathering this year in Beaufort, SC. I was with them last year in Pensacola FL.

I am happy that I will be with these friends whom I first met in 1976. The Haulers who met and loved my mother, (and other members of my family) , here in the USA and also in England.

I will drive back here on Boxing Day. So I’ll not be “blogging” until Saturday 27th December.I wish you well for Christmas, and leave you with one of my favourite Christmas poems:

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there'd have been no room for the child.

- Madeleine L'Engle

Monday, 22 December 2008

The economy and a human face.

The economy and a human face.

We are apt to talk about “The Economy” as if it were a living entity, operating beyond human control.

So I must remind us that our current plight has to do with people, not with "the economy"

We say things like “the economy is bad”, when we really mean that politicians, bankers, economists, manufacturers and the like have made bad decisions, and taken foolish risks.

We also forget that some members of this motley crew are crooks.

That crew has made such dreadful decisions since the days of Reagan (USA) and Thatcher (U.K.) that we now in a “not so pretty pickle”.

The Reagan/Thatcher choices for deregulation, the “free market” (whatever that is), and the like, were rooted in an untested ideology.

Now millions of people in many lands are paying the price. And it is a high price.

I have a friend. I’ll call him “Danny” to protect his anonymity. He is of my age.

Just a few years ago Danny was living in a lovely home on Siesta Key - one of the nicest areas of Sarasota. He was making a good living.

Then, partly due to his inattention, his partner cheated him out of mucho dollars, and Danny was forced to sell up, and lose a lot of money.

He moved to my neighbourhood and rented a home two doors away from me. I like him and enjoy his company.

But business went from bad to worse. He has earned next to nothing since March 2008.

I have supported him with money, food and friendship, but none of this has been sufficient for all his needs.

His landlord (understandably) asked him to leave for he has been unable to pay the rent.

Now he will move to another town and will live in one room, in exchange for helping the homeowner, a woman who is dying of cancer.

He has moved from being a homeowner to being a roomer in about three and a half years.

He knows that he will never be able to retire.

He is frequently “micawberish”.

Mostly he is sad.

And from time to time he is angry: lashing out at the people who care for him most.

He left today with his micawberish, sad, angry face, leaving me to think: “it is not the ‘economy’. It is PEOPLE such as my friend ‘Danny’”.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Winter solistice 2008

Today my Brasilian friend and I went down to Crescent Beach on Siesta Key, for the regular Sunday evening "drumming down of the Sun".

The celebration today had an added flavour for today is the winter solistice - the day on which (in the northern hemisphere)winter officially begins, but also (thank goodness), the day from which daytime increases, and night time decreases.

So we were there for the shortest day in the northern hemisphere.

Here are a few photo's which I took on Crescent Beach this evening