Saturday, 4 December 2010

Punt a gorda

I am off to Punt a Gorda on Sunday December 5th 2010.  

Whoops: -  “Punt a Gorda” sounds like a sport on a river in Oxford or Cambridge, U.K.

In truth I will be driving sixty or so miles south of my home, to the City of Punta Gorda in Charlotte County, FL.  There I will be at the (Episcopal) Church of the Good Shepherd.

It will be my pleasure to preach, and to lead the congregations in celebrations of Holy Communion at 8:00 and 10:00 a.m.

Four and a half years into retirement I find it more difficult than ever to prepare sermons.  I suspect that when I was a Rector I “knew the people”, and could bring that understanding to my sermon prep.  It’s much harder when I have to write a sermon which will be addressed to strangers.

But “I have written what I have written”.  I trust that what I say will be faithful to the Gospel, and will “speak” to God’s people at Good Shepherd.

Here’s a bit about Punta Gorda itself.

After the services I will have lunch with Lisa and Chris Kelly who live in Ft. Myers, (about 15 miles south of Punta Gorda).  I officiated at their wedding some 15 years ago, in Pittsfield, MA.  They are a delightful couple and it will be a joy to see them after all these years.

I’ll be leaving my home on Sunday at about 6:30 a.m., and will not get back again until mid-afternoon.  So Penne is with her dog sitters Ron and Lee for the night.  When I left her there, at about 5:00 p.m. today, she tried to leave with me.  I had that “leaving my child in school for the first day” feeling!

But I know that Penne will be just fine overnight.  She has previously stayed with Ron and Lee and once I am out of sight and smell she settles down beautifully.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Vegetable and fruit bliss

Retirement has brought for me a rediscovery of fruits and vegetables.  I am not, and probably will never totally eschew meat (it’s hard to eschew something I love to chew!).   

But I am eating far more fruits and vegetables than ever I did whilst working.

Yesterday I took myself to Yoder’s produce market on Bahia Vista Street.

I bought:

A green cabbage, weighing almost 2lbs, for 96 cents
A head of celery for $1.29
2lbs of carrots for $1.39
1lb of parsnips for $1.79
A pound and a half of honey crisp apples for $2.24
A pound and a half of bartlett pears for $2.10
A pound and a third of beets for $1.37
A pound and three quarters of sweet onions for $2.27
Just over a pound of tomatoes for $1.51
Two large guavas for $2.21
Two small guavas for 52 cents
Two green peppers for $1.30

Total cost = $18.95.   These fruits and veggies will serve me for at least 7 days, as I eat them. 

Fruits for breakfast.
Veggies for lunch.
And some of the veggies with dinner.  

What a bargain!  With such healthy foodstuffs!

Thursday, 2 December 2010


A couple of days ago I was in our local “Publix” supermarket to pick up three or four necessities.

The cashier (assistant in the U.K.) was a young woman in her late teens or early twenties.  So was the “bagger”.

This cashier, seemingly oblivious to me presence, chatted with the bagger as she scanned my purchases.  Clearly they were both part-time employees at "Publix", and  part-time students at a local Collge.

I heard the cashier say something about her professor (teacher or instructor in the U.K.).  He had given her some instructions.  Her tone of voice expressed scepticism about what he had said.

The bagger responded with “he said the same thing to me”.  Then she added “whatever”.  The cashier echoed this and she also said “whatever”.

This was my time to enter the conversation. “That’s amazing”, I ventured, using a strong but gentle voice.

Both young women looked directly at me.  They heard me say:

“Whatever” “That’s exactly what my parents said when I was born”.

After a few seconds the two young women began to laugh.   So did I.

They had caught on to my zany sense of humour, so the three of us were able to smile, giggle and laugh together.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010


I often think that had I married and been blessed with children, I would have been a dreadful parent.

I suspect that I would have attempted to “remake my children in my own image” – and thereby would have been a dominating and controlling father.  But I probably would also have been blessed with a wise wife – a woman who would work with me to curb all my worst instincts; and to develop and hone my better nature.

Such things were not to be, for clear and obvious reasons.

But here is my take on my three charges - the cats, Ada and Adelaide, and the dog, Penne.

Junior cat Adelaide is the demanding, “in your face” child.  She knows what she wants, and is far from shy in making those wants known.  “Feed me” she demands.  “I want to go outside” she insists (I reply “no my darling, it is far too dangerous out there.  There are hawks, foxes, possums and my mean next door neighbour out there”).  Adelaide comes near me seeking attention, but as soon as I reach out to smooth her she runs away.  But when I finally entice her to jump up onto my lap, she relaxes and purrs with glee as I stroke her.

Senior cat Ada is the relaxed and compliant child.  She sleeps and rests.  She loved to be caressed. When I put out her food she lets out a semi-pathetic yowl – saying “thank you so very much for feeding me”. She is not very lively, but every once in a while she gets weary of Adelaide’s demands for affection.  Then she “bats” her younger “sister” and chases her around the house.  (The placid ones are quite aware of their authority!)

Penne the dog is the insecure and anxious one.  She needs frequent and constant reminders that she is a wonderful dog and that I love her deeply. She forever checks up on me wherever I am in our home – anxious lest I should forget her.  She sings with anxious delight when I get back home, even if I have been away for no more than ten minutes. 

Her anxiety and insecurity manifests her as a people pleaser.  When we walk out she likes nothing more than to be greeted and caressed by other walkers.

I suspect that the parents who read this blog will know that their children share many of the personality traits of my pets.

I know that of the three, I am most like Penne.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The United States at its best!

Bayfront Park is on wee peninsula which stretches itself out from downtown Sarasota into Sarasota Bay.

It’s a gorgeous little park. There is a fabulous play area for children; some neat sculptures; a small restaurant and Tiki Bar, and lots of benches where folks can sit and chat, or read, or admire the views.

The perimeter walkway of the park is marked with 1/10th mile signs, indicating that one peregrination equals a half mile walk.

I took myself there yesterday afternoon to get a breath of sea air, and to “people watch”.

Indeed there were people! In my half mile walk I saw all that is wonderful in multi-ethnic and multi-generational America.

There were folks of Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and Caucasian heritage.

There were babies in “strollers”, and toddlers, and three to four year olds who raced around and chased each other. 

There were loners, sitting under a tree or on a bench, lost to the world in a book. 

There were “courting couples” (now there’s an old fashioned concept for you!). 

There were older couples, walking at their own pace, and holding hands.

There were dogs. Indeed there were at least 75 dogs. Each was leashed, and most of them seemed entirely pleased to be out and about in order to visit their canine friends and acquaintances. (Sadly – I could not take Penne. She “loves” people but is utterly afraid of other dogs).

I looked at the “big-ass” boats which were docked in the Marina.

I watched the more modest sailboats as they bobbed at anchor in the Bay itself.

Best of all, I overheard various conversations during my stroll.

1. An older couple. She: “I have not heard a word from them”. He: “Should we presume that they will be here tomorrow?” She: “That’s what I am presuming”.

2. A middle aged couple seated on a bench.  He: “I think that is a wonderful idea”. His tone of voice betrayed resignation rather than enthusiasm!

3. A woman on her mobile ‘phone: “I want them back between 5:00 and 6:00. Do you hear me? Between 5:00 and 6:00”.

4. Voice one: “They look so alike”. Voice two: “But he has more wrinkles”.

(The conversation was about two Pugs who were meeting for the first time).

Of such snippets are great novels or plays created!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Dressing up

I know a fabulous woman from Oldham, Lancashire.  Her name is Muriel.  She is a member of St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key FL, which is also my parish.

Muriel always dresses up for Church.  She wears the most fabulous suits or dresses, and always looks like a million dollars.  Above all else (literally and metaphorically), when Muriel comes to Church she is always adorned with a most gorgeous hat.  Those hats are the crowning glory of her beautiful outfits.

Muriel is not making a fashion statement.  Rather, she “dresses up” in honour of the occasion.  She knows that to dress well is to honour her host/s.  I like that.

With that in mind I dressed up a bit for last Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner which was hosted by my friends Elliott, Janet, Jesse and Maggie.

I had noticed that on such “semi-formal” occasions the women guests would often wear their finery, whilst the men might opt for a Hawaiian shirt, and shorts. 

In my wish to honour my hosts and the other guests, I dressed up a bit.  (Best shoes, dress pants (trousers), long sleeved shirt and a tie to match – [the weather having spoken against a sports jacket or blazer]).

Damn -  I felt good!  I was glad to be neither too casual nor too formal in my attire.

I dressed up again this morning.  I was the Presider at St. Boniface’s 9:00 a.m. Eucharist.
Since it was Advent Sunday I wore a cope.  I had not so done since 2000 when I left St. Stephen’s Pittsfield MA.  (St. James’s in Cambridge MA did not own any copes)

A cope.  This one is worn at an Episcopal Church in Louisiana at Mardi Gras.

A cope is nothing more than a cape.   It can be worn by ordained or lay ministers. It has no theological meaning.  It is usually worn in Church processions in order to emphasise the dignity of the occasion, thus its meaning is anthropological. 

Just before the Eucharist, outside in the courtyard, the “naughty boy” in me led me to swoop towards a nine or ten year old boy crying out “I am Bat-Priest”. He giggled.

Then it was my turn to giggle when I heard another child ask his Mum “who is that purple man?”

But once we entered the Church itself my attire dictated my behaviour.  I drew myself up to all of my 5’8” and walked in procession with all the dignity I could muster.

That dignity is inherent. It is rooted in my creation in the image and likeness of God.

It is also acquired.  It is a dignity bestowed upon me through the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Finally it is representative.  A be-Coped Priest is a sign to all of God’s people of their dignity in the sight of God, and in their fellowship with each other in Christ.
I wore the Cope to honour the host – the Lord Jesus Christ.
I wore the Cope to honour the guests -  God’s people at St. Boniface.
This  “wearing of the Cope” reminded me of the awesome words of the 1662 English  Book of Common Prayer liturgy for Ordinations -  the one which was used when I was ordained as a Priest at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Fitchburg, MA in 1976.  The Bishop addressed me thus:

And now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye have in remembrance, into how high a Dignity, and to how weighty an Office and Charge ye are called: that is to say, to be Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.”

In her 1996 book “Queen Victoria’s Secrets” (Columbia University Press) the author Adrienne Munich says this of the British Queen and Empress of India.  “Victoria........blended into her age while standing apart from it”.

That’s also the role of a Priest as I experienced it this morning.
I “blended with my age” as I had those wonderfully silly moments with two young children before the service.

I “stood apart from it” as I presided at the Holy Eucharist in the dignity of the office to which I was called when I was ordained.