Saturday, 3 March 2012

A fishy tale


Last Thursday (March 1st 2012) my pals Bill and Patrick went fishing again in the Gulf of Mexico.

They did well and reeled in a bountiful harvest of Mackerel.

Thing is, they do not like to eat Mackerel.

‘Nother thing is, my pal Ben and I are Mackerelphiles.

So Ben and I, were gifted by Bill and Patrick with about 6lbs (each) of gutted and filleted Mackerel.   Whoopee!


Of course I could not eat 6lbs of fish  in one session.

There was only one thing to do - I had to freeze it.

The other option was too dreadful for words.

After all – who wants “Mackerel Degeneration”

Friday, 2 March 2012

More on Sarasota's St. David's Day Banquet

What a pleasure to be at the Sarasota Welsh Society’s St. David’s Day banquet last evening.

We were at the Heritage Oaks Country Club in east Sarasota.  

The banqueting hall was decorated with Welsh themes, and our waitresses were in Welsh “National Costume”.

After the cocktail hour we had a bit of singing, including the Welsh National Anthem “Hen Wlad Fy Nhada’” (Land of my Fathers ) and “Ar Hy y Nos” (All thorough the night).

The Society’s lay Chaplain (Bob Griffiths – a member of my parish – St. Boniface, Siesta Key FL – led us in prayer.

Then we enjoyed a fabulous meal:

Leek and potato soup.
Green Salad.
Beef and chicken medallions with vegetables and “dauphinese potatoes”
With Vanilla Bean Creme Brule for dessert.

It was a remarkably good meal. That is not always the case at catered banquets, so in this case I say “kudos to Heritage Oaks C.C.”.

I sat at a table for ten – five of us from St. B’s.

The odd thing is that there was only one person at our table with Welsh ancestry, and indeed five of us were born in England!

I got a bit annoyed with the English woman who sat opposite me. When the President of the Society made an announcement in Welsh, this woman said (in a not very quiet voice): “Bloody hell, that’s O.K. for you, but we cannot understand a word”.  

What did she expect  - we were at a Welsh Society Banquet!

On the other hand, I discovered that the man who sat on my right had been educated at “Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital” (QEH) in my home city of Bristol, UK.  QEH is a sort of prep school where the boys wear a uniform which includes ankle length cassocks and yellow socks. When I was a kid my friends and I thought that this uniform was, to say the least, rather odd!

After dinner 

we were graced with some music from Sarasota’s Riverside High School Madrigal Choir.   These young people (aged between 15 and 17) were superb in many ways.

1.     The young women were clad in identical and gorgeous black gowns.  The young men wore black suits with white shirts and bow ties.  I love it when young people “dress up” (and I think that they enjoy it too).
Their singing was good, but not perfect.  And they seemed to be so very supportive of each other -- with smiles when things went well, and grins when they hit some not so perfect patches.
They sang a couple of “comic songs” with a sense of fun – as if they had never sung them before.  (See texts below – “Because you kissed me last night”  and “Guppies”).  Their sense of fun was infectious
  I left the banquet after their performance.  As we walked out into the parking lot these young people began to “goof off”.  They teased each other in a delicious high schoolish way, and squealed and giggled at a Racoon who emerged from some bushes to give us the once over.

5.     In other words, I was delighted to be with teenagers who sang as if they were pros, and then laughed, whooped and hollered because they  are teenagers!

So it was a lovely evening. I am glad that I was an honorary Welshman for a few hours.

Below you will find the texts of the comic songs, and a video link to the wonderful Welsh singer Bryn Terfel as he sings “Land of my Fathers”.


Comic Songs.

(1) Because You Kissed Me Good-Night

I climbed the door
And opened the stairs
I said my pajamas
And put on my prayers
Then turned off my bed
And crawled into the light
All because you kissed me good-night

Next morning, I woke
And scrambled my shoes
Polished my eggs and
Toasted the news
I couldn't tell my left from right
All cause you kissed me good-night.

That evening, at last,
I felt normal again
I called up my mother
and picked up the phone
I spoke to my puppy
And threw my dad a bone

Even at midnight
The sun was still bright
All because you kissed me good-night

(2) The Guppy  (by Ogden Nash)

Whales have calves, 
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.


Bryn Terfel sings  Hen Wlad Fy Nhadou

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Honouring Vera, Wendy and Eric on St. David's Day

Leek soup was the first course at this evening’s Sarasota Welsh Society’s banquet for St. David’s Day.

I “raised” three spoonfuls of soup.

One in memory of the late Vera Dowden Baldwin  -  a favourite Welsh woman for many of my friends and for me. Born in Risca, South Wales, she had a stellar career as an educator, friend and mentor in Worcester, MA.

Another in honour of my dear sister in law Wendy Povey.  Born Wendy Williams she is “half Welsh”.

The third with gratitude for my Episcopal Priest friend and colleague, the Revd. Eric M Williams, who is a Welshman by adoption and grace.

Nos da

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

About a dog (and it is not Penne)

My friends Diana and Fred live out on Longboat Key (and in Maine during the summer). Fred and I were colleagues in Massachusetts and it has been good to renew our friendship.

They recently adopted a dog from the Manatee Humane Society, and named him “Gustie”.
Gustie is the sweetest and most gentle dog. He is in my canine pantheon just below Penne.

A few days after Fred and Diana adopted Gustie, he met a neighbourhood dog.  

It was love at first sight.

Here is Gustie (the smaller one)  looking with adoration at his new pal.

Damn cute I say!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Back to the Opera

Ah yes, the Opera!

My first opera (operetta) was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” at the Hippodrome Theatre in Bristol, U.K.   Mr Syd Richards of Coombe Road Junior School took us to this performance.  I was entranced.

(Mum and Dad had a long conversation about whether or not this was suitable event, because by now they had been linked to the fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren.  Thank goodness they allowed me to attend!).

After that I saw a few operas in various towns, “Carmen” in Oxford UK, “Il Travatore” in London U.K., and “Salome” in Boston.

Retirement in 2006 brought me to Sarasota FL, home to the Sarasota Opera, which has a five opera season each year. I decided to subscribe each year, in a way so that I could extend and grow my musical appreciation.

I shared in an elegant “box” seat for a couple of years, but these days I attend the Sunday matinees and sit in the “stalls” with my friend the Revd. Robert Lewis. 

Ever practical, this allows me to attend Church in the morning, come home for a bit of lunch (and to walk with Penne) - and then enjoy a 1:30 p.m. performance, and be back home in time to walk with Penne again and then to have a nice dinner.

One of my dear friends finds it hard to understand why opera could be so enjoyable.  

He asks “why would you listen to something which is written in a language which you do not understand?”  (I have the same question regarding rap music!)

In the case of opera “understanding” is not the best word. 

[Many operatic plots are convoluted and contrived -  (but the same could also be said about television’s “soap operas” or “sitcoms”)].

But I attend opera not to “understand”, but to enjoy.

I enjoy the sets and the costumes.

I enjoy “dressing up” a bit.

I enjoy the slightly snobbish cachet of saying “I’ll be at the Opera this afternoon”.

I enjoy the orchestra as it sings from the “pit”.  (What would opera be without splendid orchestral music?).

Mostly I enjoy the music: the glorious sounds. 

For instance, last Sunday Bob and I were at a performance of “Lucia di Lammermoor” by the 19th C. Italian composer Donizetti.  

At one point the six principal singers engage in a gorgeous mind numbing and body tingling sextet. In this scene, each singer has a different libretto (text) (sung in Italian) so it is impossible to discern what is being said.

But that does not matter!

What matters is the glorious sound.

It’s bit like the songs of birds.  We cannot understand what they are saying. But we can entirely enjoy the sound itself.

Then there is the utter skill of the singers.  

For instance, at last Sunday’s opera the “lead” role of Lucia was sung by a young woman from South Korea.

‘Twas astonishing.   

Here she was, a Korean woman, singing in Italian, and acting in a most convincing way.  

At one time, in the scene in which Lucia goes mad (having stabbed to death the man she had been forced to marry), this singer wonderfully sang forth whilst lying flat on her back on stage.   

Who could not but be in awe of such fabulous skill?

At the Opera I suspend judgment, and simply relax enough to enjoy the music and the skills of the musicians.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Wanting to write about the Opera, but getting waylaid

Dad spent a lot of time alone (by choice) in the room we called the kitchen.  That’s where we ate; the food was cooked in another room called the scullery).

Most often Dad would be listening to classical music on the old BBC “Third Programme”.  

His preferences were well boundaried.  He did not care for chamber music, opera (1) or ballet (2). 

Dad favoured the great orchestral works: - the music of Handel, Bach, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. 

He also had a special fondness for choral works.


(1)              Except Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas, and some of the orchestral overtures to operas by Rossini, Wagner.

(2)             He shared the British working class prejudice against ballet.


In some ways I breathed in a love of classical music alongside Dad’s tobacco smoke in that old kitchen. 


I was also blessed with school teachers who loved, shared and taught the classical repertoire, such as these:

(Miss Lucy Fenlon (3) at Greenbank Infants School, 

Mr. Sydney Richards (4) at Coombe Road Junior School and 

Mr. W.J. Richards (5) at Fairfield Grammar School) 

(3)  I remember sitting on the wooden floor of the assembly hall under Miss Fenlon’s tutelage to listen to Tchaikovsky’s “Peter and the Wolf”.  It may have been played on those old 12” 78 rpm records, or perhaps it was broadcast from the BBC on the radio service for schools they ran in those days.

(4)  We sang Schubert’s  (*) “The Trout” in an arrangement for children’s voices. “Syd” Richards’ wife accompanied us on piano and I thought that her playing was just the coolest thing ever

( 5)“Dickie” Richards headed a first class choral music programme at Fairfield.  I have the fondest memories of a school concert at Bristol’s “Colston Hall” at which we sang “The Heavens are telling the Glory of God” from Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation”. This was especially sweet since my Jewish friend Stephen could sing a text which was not specifically Christian.   And the FGS choir under W.J. Richards was selected to be part of the double chorus “Come ye daughters share my mourning” when Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was performed by the Bristol Choral Society.  Heady days indeed for a 14 year old!


This blog entry is a bit like many sermons – it started with one thing in mind, but ended with another.  

I had intended to write about my visit to the Sarasota Opera yesterday, but I got waylaid in memory land.  There will be more tomorrow (I hope) about the Opera.


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sic transit gloria mundi again, with good news for my dear brother Martyn.

It will probably mean nothing to you.

Indeed it means very little to me.

Nonetheless, in a U.K. Soccer match today called the “Carling Cup” the Liverpool FC won, defeating the team from Cardiff.

The result will mean everything to my brother Martyn who is a devout Liverpool fan.

“Sic transit gloria mundi” Martyn, but I am happy that “your team” won.