Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A joyful song for the New Year


It's been good to receive so many lovely cards and letters for Christmas-tide.  I return your greetings with a song for the New Year.

It's the fabulous "One more step along the road I go", by Sidney Carter.  The song has been on my mind all day.  We used to sing this at St. James's, Cambridge, MA at this time of year.  It's too bad that in many places it has been designated as a song for children.  It's for all of us!

The video is from the B.B.C. and features two schools, the Edinburgh Academy in Scotland -  doing Carter's song proud, and the Ysgol Pen Barras in Ruthun, Wales  - with a great rendition of "Sing Hosanna"

The music comes in at about 2:36  (the intro itself is fascinating)


 
 
 
 
 
 
One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:
Refrain:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.


Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me: Refrain

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know: Refrain

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Hoppin' John, (and when my mother fractured my leg).

I am getting ready to make "Hoppin' John" for  1st January 2015.

(I'll be using ham hocks).

Some readers (especially those outside the U.S.A.) may be asking "what is "Hoppin' John".  (Other readers will merely yawn!).

Here is an article from Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoppin'_John

But be warned, there are as many theories about the origin of Hoppin' John as there will be black eyed peas in my dish.

My guess is that it was no more than a mid-winter dish for poor people in the southern United States, with dried peas and smoked ham hock being more or less available.

There are scores and scores of on-line recipes for Hoppin' John.

Here is the one which I will (more or less) use:


http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/hoppin_john/

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My full name is John Michael Povey.  I am known to my family as John (or Uncle John). Others know me as Michael.  I like both names.

When I was six or seven I was walking with my Mum alongside the old Brooks  Laundry in the St, Werburgh's area of Bristol.

Mum tripped on an uneven pavement (sidewalk) and knocked me to the ground, as a result of which I suffered a leg fracture.

I do not remember any pain, or the ambulance ride to the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

I cannot remember if it was my left leg, or my right leg  (it was one of the two).

I do remember having  a huge and heavy "plaster of paris"  cast.  I also remember that our Milkman (Pete Bedford) used to call me "peg-leg", which annoyed me greatly.

Mum could not take me to the B.R.I. the day the cast was to be  removed, so my dear Nanny Povey took my by 'bus.  As we left the hospital, the cast having been removed, I limped a bit.

Nanny said  "now don't you limp or you'll do it for the rest of your life".

Was I the original hoppin' John?



WORDS

Fracquaintance  (n)   a person you see often enough that she/he is more than an acquaintance, but not  often enough to be called a friend.

Frintimate  (n)   (alternate sp. frientimate)  a person with whom you share your greatest joys, deepest sorrows, and darkest secrets.  (Never used for family members, counselors, pastors etc.)

Frolerate (v)  Passive behavior in the presence of a person you do not like who is a friend of one of your friends.


SOURCE   jmp Dec 2014

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Captain Jack: Two great vocations.

One of the good pleasures in retirement is that of making new friends.
 
This has been part of the joy of my retirement (to a new City).  High on the list of such new friends are Jack and Donna Chrisman.  I met them at St. Boniface Church in SRQ.  They have become very dear to me, and to my brother Martyn from Bristol U.K.,  who has met them on two visits to SRQ.
 
Jack, from Charlotte N.C. has enjoyed two wonderful careers.
 
He was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.  His service in the Navy led him to the rank of Captain.  He commanded three naval ships.
 
When posted to Athens, Greece  as the Naval Attaché  (I think) at the U.S. Embassy.
 
Whilst in Athens,  Jack, raised a Presbyterian, became an Anglican  because of the ministry of the Church of England congregation in that City.  That experience of Anglican life led Jack to a second career, as an Anglican Priest.
 
Under the tutelage of the Bishop of the C of E's Diocese in Europe Jack trained for Holy Orders at Westcott House, Cambridge, U.K., and was ordained at Ely Cathedral in the County of Cambridge.
 
He served in rural Cambridgeshire parishes, and then (get this) he was appointed to be the Assistant Chaplain at the U.K. Embassy in Oslo. (Must be the first time ever that a U.S. Citizen and retired U.S. Navy Captain served as a Chaplain at a U.K. Embassy!)
 
Whilst in Norway Jack also served C of  E congregations in Oslo and Bergen.
 
When Jack and Donna returned to the U.S.A.  he became the Rector of an Episcopal Church Parish in Newport, R.I. (and also for ten years the Chaplain to the Newport Fire Department). 
 
In due course they moved to Sarasota, FL and became involved in the life of St. Boniface Church.
 
Jack and I are "Priest Associates" at St. B's (where we met)  -  to my unmitigated blessing. This old gay bachelor Minister has been a frequent guest in their home - thanks be to God.
 
My beloved Jack (at age 81) decided that the time had come for him to make a final retirement from Church ministry.  Indefatigable as he is, he has decided that from now on his best place is in a pew alongside his love and dearest friend Donna.
 
With the gracious consent of our Rector, John C.N. Hall, Jack presided and preached at the 11:15 a.m. Eucharist today.  (I was privileged to be a lector and to minister a Chalice).
 
Jack preached a fabulous sermon (the best I have heard from his lips) on the powerful words from John's Gospel Chapter 1 "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us".
 
I thank God for Jack and Donna, my new friends in retirement.
 
 
Donna Chrisman
 
Jack Chrisman
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

"Mr. Be Of Good Cheer"

I have been visiting Bill D at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Bill (86) is a former U.S. Navy Captain, and a current parishioner at St. Boniface Church here in SRQ.

He had a fall a couple of weeks ago as a result of which he is in the hospital, because that fall resulted in a broken hip.

Despite this  Bill D is unfailingly cheerful. The word "whine" is not in his vocabulary.

I saw him today (with his utterly fabulous wife Emily D.)  

I told them that I have re-named Bill.

Henceforth I will refer to him as "Mr. Be Of Good Cheer".

Such a powerful example.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Good food (Christmas Day) AND SOME SILLINESS!

CHRISTMAS DAY
 
After eating nothing but toast for seven consecutive meals  (I'd been under the weather and had lost my appetite), I was ready for a good Christmas Feast.
 
My good friends Fred and Diana Emrich invited me to join them for a buffet in the Country Club Ballroom at the Longboat Key Club.  I was careful not to over-eat, but "darn it all", the food was good.
 
I began with oysters on a half-shell, poached salmon, some shrimp, and a token salad.
 
This was followed by small portions of delicious braised chicken,  slices of baked ham and roasted turkey, and a small slice of the best prime rib you could hope to meet.  I was good - so I also had a generous helping of green beans - cooked to perfection.
 
I resisted the rich variety of desserts in favour of some good cheeses and sliced cantaloupe.
 
Fred and Diana had three other guests. Two of them had been stewardesses (as they were then called), and had worked with Diana for Pan Am, and then Delta. It all made for delightful and congenial company.
 
Fred, jmp, Diana


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HUMA
 
I received a lovely Christmas Card from my friends Kate and Kevin Wallace up in New Hampshire.  Kate (she now tells me) had written the cards in haste, late in the evening.
 
 
My card was addressed to   Michae Povey.
 
 
I e-mailed Kate and said  "I get it":   NOEL
 
 
(with love to Noel Bailey)
 
 
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DEPARTMENT OF LAZY JOURNALISM.
 
One of the news websites I visit regularly had this mind-bending headline today.
 
 
"Pope Prays For Peace"
 
 
What a shocker!  Is he the first Pope to have so done?
 
 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
CHRISTMAS CAROLS
 
 
My esteemed Cambridge MA colleague the Revd. J. Mary Luti today posted a thoughtful piece about Christmas carols.
 
 
She mentioned the naughty versions of carols which she and her classmates sang in Catholic Schools many years ago, much to the ire of the Nuns:  viz
 
"While Shepherds washed  their socks by night
All seated round the tub
The Angel of the Lord came down
And gave them all a scrub"  (OR and they began to scrub).
 
AND
 
"We Three Kings of Orient are
Trying to light a rubber cigar.
It was loaded, it exploded
BANG
 
and then "We Two Kings of Orient are" etc,  finally "I one King of Orient" etc.
 
Naughty children in the U.K. also sang this nonsense with glee.
 
I told  Mary of another silly parody which children of my parents' vintage (born in the 1910's) sang.
 
"Hark the herald angels sing,
Beecham's Pills are just the thing.
One for women, two for men,
Half for children under ten"
 
Beecham's Pills were originally marketed as a "cure-all".   They were no such thing, but they did prove to be an effective laxative.
 
The Beecham Company still exists as part of Smith-Kline Beecham. 
 
The pills were at one time marketed in the U.S.A.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve 2014: such a pleasant day


We're busy doin' nothin'
Workin' the whole day through
Tryin' to find lots of things not to do
We're busy goin' nowhere Isn't it just a crime
We'd like to be unhappy,
but We never do have the time
(Sung by Bing Cosby and others in the film "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court)
 
 
Well, not quite busy doing nothing, but I could not be unhappy, for I never did have the time.
 
I cleared the furniture from one half of my 29' long  Lanai (really a screened in porch) so that I could vacuum clean and wet mop the tiles in that area.  I intended to "do" the other half later in the morning.
 
That was not smart, since on this very humid day the tiles had not dried seven hours after my labours.  I'll take care of the other half on Boxing day. In the meantime the "other half" of the Lanai is filled with furniture, much to the confusion of my pets.
 
Penne and I had some good walks.
 
Taking advantage of inexpensive calls via Skype, I called five of my eight siblings in England.  I'll call two more on Christmas Day, leaving  the final call ( to my youngest sister) on Boxing Day -  'cause that's also her birthday.
 
I've been a bit "under the weather" since Monday evening, (six of us who were at the same party last Saturday came down with similar symptoms, aching, sweating, dry heaves etc, maybe a 36 hour bug) ) so I have eaten nothing but toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Tuesday and for breakfast and lunch today.  I bought a rib-eye steak as a treat for dinner tonight, but now at 5:45 p.m. December 24th I have next to no appetite.  Toast again?
 
I played Santa and left a dark chocolate "orange" at the front door of my dear friend Betty, and a bottle of good gin at the front door of dear and good Ben.  I know what they like.
 
They know that I know what they like!
 
On Christmas Day I plan to
 
 
1. Attend the 10:00 a.m. Eucharist at St. Boniface Church
 
 
2, Then visit my dear friend Ron T at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital (and also visit a lovely St. B's parishioner Bill D who is recovering from a broken hip)
 
 
3, Join with my friends Fred and Diana E who have invited me to have a Christmas buffet  dinner with them at the Longboat Key Club  see http://www.longboatkeyclub.com/ 
 
That ain't too shabby!  We'll be at the 3:30 sitting.  Pool side, out of doors.  Eat your hearts out northerners!
 
See
Seatings: 1 pm, 3:30 pm and 6 pm Come and spend your Christmas at Longboat Key Club! Indulge in carving and salad stations, delightful entrees, raw bar and an elaborate dessert station for you and your loved ones. !
 
 
Finally I wish you a Merry Christmas.  Here is my Christmas-tide  photo' - in the true spirit of the holiday  (LOL)
 
 
 

 
 
 
 


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The irrational season

My trusted and beloved colleague, the Revd. Andrea S (Andi) Taylor preached a superb sermon last Sunday (Dec 21st 2014) at St. Boniface Church, Sarasota FL
 
As she preached I wondered "does she know the Madeline L'Engle irrational season quote?"
 
Not only did Andi know it,  within a few moments of my wondering she quoted it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
"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"     (Madeline L'Engle).

Monday, 22 December 2014

French Carol - Abolitionist anthem

I post the following just about every year in December.  I am not the author of the following ( jmp)



Stories Behind the Music: "O Holy Night"

"O Holy Night" remains one of the world's most beloved Christmas carols, with uplifting lyrics and melody.

The lyrics were written by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), a resident of Roquemaure, France (located a few miles north of the historic city of Avignon). Cappeau was a wine merchant and mayor of the town, as well as an occasional writer of poetry.

 Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Cappeau when his parish priest, shortly before Cappeau embarked on a business trip, asked him to pen a poem for Christmas mass.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help, when he arrived in Paris.

Adams was an acquaintance of Monsieur and Madame Laurey, who were friends of Cappeau. The son of a well-known classical musician, Adams had studied in the Paris conservatoire. Adams was at the peak of his career, having written his masterpiece, Giselle, only a few years before, in 1841. He was also the composer of over eighty operatic stage works. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world.

Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adams, the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1847, in Roquemaure.

Initially, "Cantique de Noel" was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Catholic Christmas services. However, the song's popularity declined after its initial acceptance, based on the reputations of the lyricist and composer. Late in his life, Cappeau left the church and became an active part of the socialist movement. He was described as a social radical, a freethinker, a socialist, and a non-Christian.

Church leaders also discovered that Adams was a Jew, and the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the Church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it.

Fortunately, more rational perspectives have prevailed. By 1855, the carol had been published in London, and has been translated into many languages. The best known English translation is " O Holy Night" authored by John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893), a Unitarian minister, an American music critic and journalist who made his home at the Transcendentalist community of Brook Farm, Massachusetts

. Dwight felt that this wonderful Christmas song needed to be introduced to America, and he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." The text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South.

Published in his magazine, Journal of Music, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War. By coincidence, Christmas became a legal holiday in Massachusetts the same year as Dwight published his translation.

There is an unsubstantiated (but frequently repeated) story that this carol figured prominently on Christmas Eve, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. The story goes that, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, "Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solennelle ou L'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous," the beginning of "Cantique de Noel." After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, "Vom Himmel noch, da komm' ich her. Ich bring' euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring' ich so viel, Davon ich sing'n und sagen will," the beginning of Martin Luther's robust Christmas hymn, "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come." The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day. Perhaps this story had a part in the French church once again embracing "Cantique de Noel" in holiday services.

Adams had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden, a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, did something long thought impossible.

 Using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.

Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle, hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.

 Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle.

After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, Fessenden read another selection from the book of Luke: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." The Christmas program was picked up as far south as Norfolk, Virginia; when the program was repeated on New Year's Eve, it was heard as far away as the West Indies.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who would later split from the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, and brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior--has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created. The lyrics are reprinted below.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt His worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder beams a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born!
O night divine! O night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here came the wise men from the Orient land

The King of Kings lay in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need
To our weakness no stranger
Behold your King! before the lowly bend!
Behold your King! before Him bend!

Truly he taught us to love one another 
His law is love and His gospel is peace 
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother 
And in His name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord
Then ever, ever praise we
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Catalan Carol yesterday. French carol today

Back in the day when John Cheney was the music director at St. Stephen's, Pittsfield, he chose the French carol " Il est le petit enfant"  as one of the songs for the choir at "Midnight Mass".  John was wise enough to have it sung in French.
 
It so happened that a young Frenchman (an exchange student) was in the congregation with his host family.  He had never before been in an Episcopal Church.
 
Can you begin to imagine how much he felt "at home" when he heard a French carol sung in his native tongue in an American congregation.  
 
(He said after the service that the pronunciation had been perfect).
 
" Il est  " has had a warm place in my heart ever since that Christmas.
 
Here are two versions, each lovely in different ways.
 
 
 
And here are the lyrics in French and in English.
 
 
,Il est  le divin Enfant
Words: Traditional French Lyrics
Music: Traditional French
Chorus:Il est ne, le divin Enfant,
Jouez, hautbois, resonnez, musettes;
Il est ne, le divin Enfant;
Chantons tous son avenement!
1. Depuis plus de quatre mille ans,
Nous le promettaient les Prophetes;
Depuis plus de quatre mille ans,
Nous attendions cet heureux temps. Chorus
 
2. Ah! qu'il est beau, qu'il est charmant,
Que ses graces sont parfaites!
Ah! qu'il est beau, qu'il est charmant,
Qu'il est doux le divin Enfant! Chorus
 
3. Une etable est son logement,
Un peu de paille, sa couchette,
Une etable est son logement,
Pour un Dieu, quel abaissement! Chorus
 
ENGLISH TRANSLATION (or paraphrase)
 
 
Refrain:
He is born, the holy Child,
Play the oboe and bagpipes merrily!
He is born, the holy Child,
Sing we all of the Savior mild.
1 Through long ages of the past,
Prophets have foretold His coming;
Through long ages of the past,
Now the time has come at last!
2 O how lovely, O how pure
Is this perfect Child of heaven;
O how lovely, O how pure
Gracious gift to humankind!
3 Jesus, Lord of all the world,
Coming as a Child among us,
Jesus, Lord of all the world,
Grant to us Thy heavenly peace.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Catalan Carol

 
I get a bit jaded with all the old traditional carols, those which are trotted out each year, as if there was not a world wide repertoire of Christmas music.
 
So here is a variant for our tired ears   -  it's a Catalan Carol  --- "Fum, Fum, Fum"
 
 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Lunch al fresco in South West Florida, 19th December 2014

Of course I would not create envy, nor would I want to "rub it in" for friends and family members in colder winter climes (ahem!), but I knew that you'd like to know that I enjoyed lunch out of doors today.

I was at the Dry Dock Water Front Grill on the intra-coastal side of Longboat Key, FL  see

http://www.drydockwaterfrontgrill.com/

I ate "Fish and Chips"  (for the first time since I was in the U.K. last May/June).

The fish (haddock?) was entirely delicious, cooked as it was in a light batter.

The coleslaw was no more than "O.K.".  (I find that most restaurant coleslaws have too much mayonnaise, and not enough seasoning. This was the case today. -  I prefer my home-made 'slaw).

The chips  -  well what to say about the chips?

Chips  (french fries) should be crispy and brown on the outside, and fluffy in the middle.  I know that, 'cause my Mum's chips were the best ever. Maybe it was because she deep fried them in lard.

The chips at the Dry Dock looked good, but there was no crunch on the outside, and no fluffy texture inside.   I should not fault the "Dry Dock" alone, for such is the sad case for most restaurant "fries" in the U.S.A. - and even for the chips I had in the U.K. last summer.

Bring back "twice-fried" in lard chips will be my next crusade!

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HOWEVER  (despite my Gordon Ramsey without the F word review of the Dry Dock) I had a lovely time.

This was in part because it was more than wonderful to be able to dine outside in mid-December, with a lovely view of the intracoastal waterway  to boot.

Good as that was, the best part was that I was the guest of my dear friends Fred and Diana. 

Fred and I were colleagues in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts,

I got to know Diana after she wed Fred,  and they bought a winter home on Longboat Key.

They are a delightful couple, and their company is to be cherished.

So much so, that having met them at the Dry Dock at Noon, I was so utterly relaxed that I did not glance at my watch until we left the restaurant.  It was 2:15 p.m.

That's a mark of good friendship:  to sit at a meal table for two and a quarter hours, but to be unaware of the passage of time.

Thanks Fred,

Thanks Diana.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Stupid Inc., (or Stupid Plc). John Michael Povey, C.E.O.

My nonagenarian friend Betty M has not been well for about three weeks.  She's had intense abdominal pain, with an accompanying lack of appetite.  Her primary care physician, (a good, competent, and caring man), has been unable to find the reason for her malady.

With no relief in sight, and at the urging of Betty's neighbour (Linda), Betty went to the E.R. yesterday. 

Betty called me from the E.R.  to tell me about this, and to let me know that she had been admitted to the hospital.

So, of course, I visited her today.

Today the "Front Desk" people at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital told me at first that that Betty was not in their data base; and then they said that she had had been discharged. This seemed to be very unlikely, so I  'phoned Betty.

She assured me that she had not been discharged, and that she was in Room 413.

I relayed this to the front desk staff member who checked the computer records again, and told me that Betty was indeed in Room 413.

I trudged endless corridors, took a lift (elevator), trudged more corridors and (almost) got to room 413.  Except that 413 is in a section devoted for folks recovering from day surgery.

A staff member on that unit, trying her best to help me, called the admitting folks, only to be told that Betty was not in their data base.

"But she is", I protested, "I talked to her a wee while ago".  The gracious staff member said, "maybe she is in a room near to the E.R.  Some of those rooms have numbers in the 400 range".

I was grateful, so once again I trudged endless corridors, took a lift (elevator), trudged more corridors
until I found the E.R. There  I had to wear a face mask in order to ask a simple question, viz  "are there rooms in the 400 range near here?" There are/were not.

I loped back to the front desk, and asked again where I might  find Betty. The young man on  duty checked the data base, and told me that Betty M was not in their records. I protested and said "but she is here, I talked with her earlier".

He asked "could she be registered under her maiden name?"  I thought this to be unlikely since she had tied the knot some seventy years ago.

He asked if I knew her date of birth - that being another way of checking the data base.

I responded by saying that I would check it by 'phoning Betty.  That I did.

Betty gave me her d.o.b.  and then asked "Michael, are you at S.M.H.?"

Indeed I was.

Betty said "but I am not at S.M.H., I am at Doctors Hospital".

DUH.  The C.E.O. of "Stupid Inc." (one John Michael  Povey)  was in  the wrong hospital,

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He  (I) drove to Doctors Hospital; had a great visit with Betty; and discovered that her pain and distress is real  - she has colitis.

Nevertheless Betty was filled with gratitude, for two reasons.

First that, even though colitis is miserable,   she does not have cancer,

Second, that she does not need surgery.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Episcopal Relief and Development trolled my blog.

Yesterday my blog was critical of E.R.D. and Amnesty International, and grateful for Sarasota's All Faiths Food Bank, and our local Cat Depot.

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Earlier this  year I wrote a blog about  my modest investment account, (sponsored by the Church Pension Fund and administered by  Fidelity Investments).

I stated that  F.I.  had confused me with another investor  (remember Mary Gilligan?), and that F.I. seemed unable to correct their own mistake

You may remember that the Church Pension Fund computer system had trolled my blog entry, (because I had mentioned CPF in the title), and had contacted me by e-mail to offer their assistance in "righting the wrong".

You will also remember that I had mixed feelings about CPF's trolling of my blog.

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Now I have discovered that Episcopal Relief and Development also trolls the internet  to search for items which mention them.  (To be truthful, I mentioned Episcopal Relief and Development in my title to see if this would happen).

Indeed it did.  I received the following today in an e-mail. ( I wondered if I should open the e-mail on account of the exotic and wonderful name of the author - fearing that it might be harmful spam).

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This is what E.R.D. wrote to me today:

Dear Father Povey:
Season’s greetings to you and your loved ones.  I thank you for your previous support of our work in the Middle East.
 Your recent blog post was brought to my attention this morning.  I would like to apologize profusely for this oversight in not keeping your name off of Episcopal Relief & Development’s general mailing list.  I’m currently researching on my end where the breakdown occurred internally.  In the meantime, I have just made sure your record has been removed from our mailing list.
 Your feedback is invaluable to us.  One of our goals is to be as efficient as possible and if there’s any way for us to save money with fundraising costs, then we are all for it.
 Again, I thank you for your past support and greatly appreciate your assistance in making us a better organization.
 Sincerely,
Xerxes
 Xerxes Eclipse
Director, Donor Services
 
 
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On one hand I am grateful for Xerxes Eclipse's prompt and careful reply. 
 
On another hand I get nervous about the trolling abilities of the web.
 
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In the Episcopal Church we often begin our Communion services with a 16th century prayer (with earlier roots) which we call "The Collect for Purity".
 
It starts thus:
 
Almighty God unto whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hid.... 
 
 
I like the idea that no secrets are hidden from God.  It reminds me that I can be utterly honest in the presence of God, knowing that I do not  need to keep any secrets from her/him.
 
 
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Now I live in a world in which "no secrets are hid".  Every e-mail I write, every website I visit, every blog I compose,  is out there in cyberspace for ever.  Nothing can be expunged or deleted. It is all "eternally accessible".
 
Which means that a myriad of  national security agencies (in this and other lands) are able to read my e-mails; to search my blog; to check the sites I have visited, and to access my financial records.
 
That is both amazing and fear-inducing.

We (supposedly) have national security.  This means that I have personal insecurity.

 
 
 
 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Episcopal Relief and Development fails (charitable giving)

A few months ago I sent money  to Episcopal Relief and Development (an agency of the American Episcopal Church).  My gift was designated for the rebuilding of the Anglican Hospital in Gaza, Palestine.

I made it clear that this was a one time gift, and that I did not wish to be on ERD's mailing list.

FAT CHANCE    I have since received four mailings from ERD despite the fact that I have requested (in writing and by mail)  to be removed from their list.

A few years ago I joined Amnesty International.  I think that they do good and essential work. 

When I joined I stated  "I do not wish to be on your mailing list.   If you send me multiple mailings I will not renew my membership next year".

Guess what?   They sent me multiple mailings.

Guess what again?   I did not renew my membership the next year.

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Au contraire  - earlier this year  I mailed donations to Sarasota's "ALL FAITHS FOOD BANK", and later on to our "CAT DEPOT":  (in each case in honour of the neighbours who had taken care of my cats whilst I was out of town) .

When I mailed the checks/cheques I stated the reason for my gift, and asked "do not place me on your mailing list"

The Food Bank and the Cat Depot have honoured that request.

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So, as you might guess, I have much warmer feelings about our Food Bank and about our Cat Charity than I have about ERD and about AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL.

I am far more likely to give to the local charities who do not place me on eternal mailings lists, than to the national/international charities which bombard me with request after request for yet another donation.

Blah to ERD and to AMNESTY

Kudos to the Food Bank and to the Cat Depot.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Oh excrement! (Are we 90% poo?)

I am reading an article in the 1st Dec 2014 edition of the New Yorker about the promising research regarding a new  therapy for persons with Crohn's disease.

Odd as it may seem, this can involve the injection of another person's stool into the colon of a Crohn's sufferer, (fecal transplants, or "fecal microbiota transplantation").

You'll probably be able to find the article on line: "The Excrement Experiment" by Emily Eakin.

This passage caught my attention:

"Science writers love to cite the freakish fact that for every one of our cells we are hosts to ten microbial ones, and nowhere are there as many as in our digestive tracts, which house about a hundred billion bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other tiny creatures. (As one gastroenterologist put it to me, (the author) with only mild exaggeration, 'We are ten percent human and ninety percent poo'"

Humbling ain't it!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

(1) Retired/Un-retired/Retired again/Un-retired again. (2) OR to amuse Kim Hardy. (3) OR "My week"

(1) I retired in 2006.  'Twas one of the best decisions of my life.

In 2007 I un-retired, and began to share in ministries at St. David's, Englewood FL; All Angels by the Sea on Longboat Key, FL; and St Boniface on Siesta Key FL.

In 2011 I retired again, feeling weary and dispirited, and ready to kick it all in.

I recovered (!), un-retired,  and came back to engage in some shared ministries at St. Boniface in October 2012.

(2) Kim Hardy should be amused by this, 'cause back in 2011 she wondered how long it would be before I was "back in the saddle".

(3)  My week:  back in the saddle I am!

WEDNESDAY 10th    Prayer Service at Resurrection House, Sarasota's day shelter for homeless people.

THURSDAY 11th  Presided and preached at the St. Boniface Thursday morning Eucharist.

FRIDAY 12th  Visited and prayed with Edythe T at a Nursing Home in South Venice, FL (15 miles away)

SATURDAY 13th  Visited and prayed with Bob H and his partner Frank P at the Blake Hospital in Bradenton  (14 miles away, but always a 40 minute drive due to ever congested roads, and a million and one traffic lights en route). 

You will remember that Bob H is the man who suffered grave head injuries in an industrial accident three week ago.  He was not expected to recover, but he is making a "miraculous" recovery.  He even grinned at one of my corny jokes today. 

Today I was able to pray with him, with Frank, and with Billie Hicks.  She is an old friend of Bob and Frank and she happened to be visiting with them today.

On Tuesday Bob, (who served in the military), will move to the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Tampa, FL for intensive therapy.  That'll be too far away for regular visits, but I will stay in touch with him, and with Frank, by 'phone/

TOMORROW (Sunday 14th)  I'll share communion with Carl,  a St. Boniface Parishioner, Choir member, and Junior Warden in the assisted living community where he lives, in Lakewood Ranch FL. There will be an added bonus - 'cause I'll stay for lunch with Carl.

WHAT A GOOD WEEK!

None of this is because I am a nice person (which I am every now and then, but not always!).

It's for two reasons:

a)  Because my ordination as a Minister in the Christian Church demands that I engage in ministry all the days of my life.

b)  For selfish reasons:  I am a more contented and relaxed person when I "get out from under my feet", and try to do a bit each day for the love of God.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Sunrise, Rice Pudding, and the dog.

On my second walk with Penne this morning I noticed and enjoyed the glorious sunrise, with the fabulous rippled clouds.
 
I did not have my camera with me.  But my Facebook and Church friend  Susan R enjoyed the same sunrise -  and this is her picture.
 
Susan R lives in the Gulf Gate SRQ area.
 
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Later today (probably because it's been chilly in SRQ)  I decided to make a rice pudding -  (comfort food). I had memories of the wondrous rice puds my mother used to make.
 
 In those days, before milk was homogenized, the cream of the milk would rise to the surface, and then be baked into a tasty crust. I also remember that she grated some nutmeg into the pudding.
 
I could not find un-homogenized milk (more's the pity) so I used heavy whipping cream instead.  I also used "pre-ground" nutmeg.  Here's my rice pud.  I have eaten a few spoonfuls and it is good  -   but not as good as Mum used to make.
 
 
 
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In the meantime my blessed and glorious dog Penne decided to take a gander at what I was concocting in the kitchen.
 
 
 
 
\Gosh and be-golly  She is a lovely beast
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Cats and politics

My cats have been fighting all day.  Fur has been flying. 
 
Adelaide (l) has been the teaser. Ada (r) has been the aggressor.
 
 
 
 
 
At the end of the day, weary of their fights, they share a pillow on my dining room table.
 
 
Politics?
 
Lord above we are in a mess.  Our Representatives, Senators, and President are sending us down the river with a ghastly Finance bill which panders to the oligarchical "special interests" at the expense of "We The People".
 
 
I did not expect anything better from the Republican Representatives and Senators.
 
 
I have come to understand that the Democratic Senators and Representatives are no more than "Republicans with a smile".
 
And President Obama, instead of being the Great Reconciler has become the Great Compromiser.
 
What has this to do with cats?
 
Not a thing.  But most of my Blog and Facebook followers seem to be more interested in "cute" (damn how I hate that word) dogs and cats than in the perilous state of my beloved Nations: -  The U.K. where I was born and raised, and the U.S.A.  in which I make my home and hold my citizenship.
 
 


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Behind the Senate's torture report


FROM THE BOSTON GLOBE

 

By Andrew J. Bacevich  December 09, 2014

The just-released Senate report on CIA interrogation practices since 9/11 contains nothing that would have surprised the journalist and critic Randolph Bourne. Back in 1918, in an essay left unfinished at the time of his death later that year, Bourne had warned that “war is the health of the state.”

And so it is. War thrusts power into the hands of those who covet it. Only the perpetuation of war, whether under the guise of “keeping us safe” or “spreading freedom,” can satisfy the appetite of those for whom the exercise of power is its own reward. Only war will perpetuate their prerogatives and shield them from accountability.

What prompted Bourne’s pungent observation was US intervention into the disastrous European war that began a century ago this summer. In 1917, Congress had acceded to President Woodrow Wilson’s request to enter that stalemated conflict, Wilson promising a world made safe for democracy and vowing to end war itself.

Bourne foresaw something quite different. War turned things upside down, he believed. It loosened the bonds of moral and legal restraint. It gave sanction to the otherwise impermissible. By opting for war, Bourne predicted, the United States would “adopt all the most obnoxious and coercive techniques of the enemy,” rivaling “in intimidation and ferocity of punishment the worst government systems of the age.”

And so it has come to pass, the United States in our own time having indisputably embraced torture as an allowable practice while disregarding the rule of law and trampling underfoot the values to which the chief representatives of the state routinely profess to adhere.

 

How did this happen? To blame a particular president, a particular administration, or a particular agency simply will not do. The abuses described in the report prepared by the Senate Committee on Intelligence did not come out of nowhere. Rather than new, they merely represent variations on an existing theme.

Since at least 1940, when serious preparations for entry into World War II began, the United States has been more or less continually engaged in actual war or in semi-war, intensively girding itself for the next active engagement, assumed to lie just around the corner. The imperatives of national security, always said to be in peril, have taken precedence over all other considerations. In effect, war and the preparation for war have become perpetual. If doubts existed on that score, the response to 9/11, resulting in the declaration of an ambiguous and open-ended global war on terrorism, ought to have settled them.

The abuses described in the report prepared by the Senate Committee on Intelligence did not come out of nowhere.

The consequence of our engagement in permanent war has been to induce massive distortions, affecting apparatus of government, the nation, and the relationship between the two. The size, scope, and prerogatives accorded to the so-called intelligence community — along with the abuses detailed in the Senate report — provide only one example of the result. But so too is the popular deference accorded to those who claim to know exactly what national security requires, even as they evade responsibility for the last disaster to which expert advice gave rise.

“It is worth remembering the pervasive fear in late 2001 and how immediate the threat felt,” Senator Dianne Feinstein writes in introducing the report prepared under her direction. Yet “pressure, fear, and expectations of future terrorist plots do not justify, temper, or excuse improper actions taken . . . in the name of national security.” Hers is a carefully reasoned judgment. As such, it deserves a respectful hearing. Sadly, however, it falls well short of being adequate.

Critics will accuse Feinstein of endangering the nation’s safety, soiling its reputation, hanging out to dry patriotic agents doing what needed doing in our name. This is all nonsense. Her actual failing is far worse. She and her colleagues are doing what the state always does for itself in these situations: administering a little public slap on the hand, after which an ever-so-quiet return to business as usual will ensue.

War is the health of the state. Headline-grabbing scandals involving the national security apparatus come and go. Today’s is just one more in a long series extending back decades. As long as the individuals and entities comprising that apparatus persist in their commitment to permanent war, little of substance will change. Bourne grasped that essential truth. Until Americans come to a similar appreciation, they should expect more of the same.

So few responded, so I post it again

Senator John McCain's noble speech to the U.S. Senate yesterday.
 
(N.B.  McCain was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, and was himself tortured)
 
 
 
“Mr. President, I rise in support of the release – the long-delayed release – of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists. It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.
 
“I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values.
 
“I commend Chairman Feinstein and her staff for their diligence in seeking a truthful accounting of policies I hope we will never resort to again. I thank them for persevering against persistent opposition from many members of the intelligence community, from officials in two administrations, and from some of our colleagues.
 
“The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. It sometimes causes us difficulties at home and abroad. It is sometimes used by our enemies in attempts to hurt us. But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless.
 
“They must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret. They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.
 
“What were the policies? What was their purpose? Did they achieve it? Did they make us safer? Less safe? Or did they make no difference? What did they gain us? What did they cost us? The American people need the answers to these questions. Yes, some things must be kept from public disclosure to protect clandestine operations, sources and methods, but not the answers to these questions.
 
“By providing them, the Committee has empowered the American people to come to their own decisions about whether we should have employed such practices in the past and whether we should consider permitting them in the future. This report strengthens self-government and, ultimately, I believe, America’s security and stature in the world. I thank the Committee for that valuable public service.
 
“I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. Its use was shameful and unnecessary; and, contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee’s report makes clear, it produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities.
 
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.
 
“I know, too, that bad things happen in war. I know in war good people can feel obliged for good reasons to do things they would normally object to and recoil from.
 
“I understand the reasons that governed the decision to resort to these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who used them were dedicated to securing justice for the victims of terrorist attacks and to protecting Americans from further harm. I know their responsibilities were grave and urgent, and the strain of their duty was onerous.
 
“I respect their dedication and appreciate their dilemma. But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.
 
“The knowledge of torture’s dubious efficacy and my moral objections to the abuse of prisoners motivated my sponsorship of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of captured combatants, whether they wear a nation’s uniform or not, and which passed the Senate by a vote of 90-9.
 
“Subsequently, I successfully offered amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which, among other things, prevented the attempt to weaken Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and broadened definitions in the War Crimes Act to make the future use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ punishable as war crimes.
 
“There was considerable misinformation disseminated then about what was and wasn’t achieved using these methods in an effort to discourage support for the legislation. There was a good amount of misinformation used in 2011 to credit the use of these methods with the death of Osama bin Laden. And there is, I fear, misinformation being used today to prevent the release of this report, disputing its findings and warning about the security consequences of their public disclosure.
 
“Will the report’s release cause outrage that leads to violence in some parts of the Muslim world? Yes, I suppose that’s possible, perhaps likely. Sadly, violence needs little incentive in some quarters of the world today. But that doesn’t mean we will be telling the world something it will be shocked to learn. The entire world already knows that we water-boarded prisoners. It knows we subjected prisoners to various other types of degrading treatment. It knows we used black sites, secret prisons. Those practices haven’t been a secret for a decade.
 
“Terrorists might use the report’s re-identification of the practices as an excuse to attack Americans, but they hardly need an excuse for that. That has been their life’s calling for a while now.
 
“What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans, is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise, since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism. And I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure – torture’s ineffectiveness – because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.
 
“Obviously, we need intelligence to defeat our enemies, but we need reliable intelligence. Torture produces more misleading information than actionable intelligence. And what the advocates of harsh and cruel interrogation methods have never established is that we couldn’t have gathered as good or more reliable intelligence from using humane methods.
 
“The most important lead we got in the search for bin Laden came from using conventional interrogation methods. I think it is an insult to the many intelligence officers who have acquired good intelligence without hurting or degrading prisoners to assert we can’t win this war without such methods. Yes, we can and we will.
 
“But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.
 
“We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.
 
“Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.
 
“Now, let us reassert the contrary proposition: that is it essential to our success in this war that we ask those who fight it for us to remember at all times that they are defending a sacred ideal of how nations should be governed and conduct their relations with others – even our enemies.
 
“Those of us who give them this duty are obliged by history, by our nation’s highest ideals and the many terrible sacrifices made to protect them, by our respect for human dignity to make clear we need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war. We need only remember in the worst of times, through the chaos and terror of war, when facing cruelty, suffering and loss, that we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.
 
Thank you.”