Saturday, 7 November 2015

More fun today - Toot, toot toot goes the whistle

I had a surprise for Maureen, Bern, Jean and John today. I had refused to tell them what we were doing.

 I drove them up to Parrish, FL for a visit to the Florida Rail Road Museum see  - this was the surprise.

Bern is a train buff!

We had a train ride, and  trundled along on a twelve mile section of track through rural Florida, seeing woods, marshes, vegetable fields and orange groves (and scarcely a building of any sort).

At the end of the ride the yard engine which was pulling us was decoupled, and then moved to the back of the train to pull us home to Parrish.

On the way out we sat in a "Gondola Car"  (a converted cattle car!).  On the way back we sat in air-conditioned comfort in a former privately owned carriage.

It all made for a pleasant little excursion - a nice way to relax, to see some undeveloped Florida, and while away a few hours on an unseasonably  hot November day in South West Florida.

(And of course, in utterly English tradition, I took a flask of good hot tea!)

Jean, John, Maureen, Bern

Bern and Maureen in the Gondola Car

Jean and John in the Gondola Car

Richard, Nick, Louise, Emma, Anne -  YOUR MOTHERS IN SHORTS!!!

Gondola Car  (not my photo')

Yard Engine (not my photo')

Phew! (and then some good family stuff)

I had eaten so well yesterday that I decided that a heated bread roll with butter would suffice for breakfast this  morning.

Bad choice!

As I bit into the roll my "partial" denture broke into two pieces.  Oh no!

"Oh no" because

(a) my Dentist's Office  is not open on Fridays.

(b)  I did not want to subsist on soup until Monday.

(c)  I will be giving a public performance in on Sunday.

I went on line and found that a "chain" Dental practice (Aspen Dental) offered in house denture repairs.  I drive to their nearby establishment and arrived soon after the 8:00 a.m. opening time.

The front desk staff advised me that

 (a)  I would have to register with them as a new patient before they would help, and

(b) that I would have to make an appointment, and

(c) their  dental prosthetic technician would not even take a look at the broken partial (to ascertain if it was repairable)  until I had become one of their registered patients.

WOW  (1) such incredible bureaucracy in the corporate  sector and (2) such a missed opportunity for goodwill.


Back at home, in demi-semi desperation I called my own Dentist, thankfully to discover that he has an emergency number,  I left a message which explained my predicament

Within half an hour I had a call back telling me that they had made arrangements so I could take the broken partial to a "dental prosthetic"  business (situated less than three miles from my home), and that the repairs would be made almost immediately.

Of course I drove there in haste  (and discovered that the business was run by a delightful husband and wife, he from Basildon, Essex, U.K. and she from the lovely town of Tintern in the Wye Valley -  not far from Bristol, my home town),

By 1:00 p.m. the repair had been effected, and I was able to face the world with a big smile.

I have such gratitude for these immediate responses from small business owners in the non-corporate sector.

I am deeply aware that although I am not  a part of the 1% super-wealthy class,  I am high up in that very small segment of the world's population which has immediate access to vital emergency services. For that I am grateful


In the meantime my family members had a relaxed and lazy morning at their Condo on Crescent Beach. Good for them!  To be relaxed and lazy is at the heart of vacationing/holiday making.

We hooked up for a late lunch at a Sarasota institution, viz

I think of Yoder's as a place for white folks' soul food.

I had liver and onions, with mashed sweet potatoes and fried okra as "sides".

My two brothers in law chose fried chicken - huge amounts of fried chicken!

One sister had meat-loaf. The other had a healthy chicken cutlet with mashed spuds.

It's mostly unhealthy, cholesterol laden, but  entirely tasty food - good for  a "once a year binge",

Yoder's may be O.K. but for excellent food and value for money I prefer my local Alma's


After lunch  I took the folks to "Goodwill" on Honore Ave, Sarasota.  British folks would think of it as a one stop  multi-departmental charity shop.  It was an eye-opener for my family members. I often shop there.

John bought some books, Bern bought two pairs of good walking shorts, Jean and Maureen each also bought shorts, all at bargain prices.

Here's a bit about the Goodwill organisation

Lastly we drove to "The Mall at University Town Center".  This is a decidedly upscale place -  it opened just over a year ago.

I have never been in the Mall -  it is simply "not my kind of place"!   Even yesterday I did not go inside.  We were in two cars, ( I was simply "leading the way") so I buggered out of the parking lot as soon as I could.

So why were we there?   Dear Bern had left the power cord for his I-Pad back at his home.  This bothered him a bit.  So, for a moment I was  delighted that we have this upscale Mall  -  for within it is an APPLE STORE.

I knew that Bern would be able to get a cord there.  He did,  And he is delighted.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Another great day for my folks

My sisters and their husbands went out to the Myakka River State Park today.

They rejoiced in the flora and fauna (who wouldn't?)

Sadly they arrived there too late for an Air-boat ride.  But they enjoyed the Park so much that they plan to return there next Monday so that they will be able to cruise the Lake in an Air-boat and blow kisses to the alligators.

This evening I took myself to the Condo I had rented for them at the Crescent Arms, right on Crescent Beach (woot woot!)

My sisters (Maureen and Jean) prepared  a delicious  supper/dinner of cold roasted chicken (which they had cooked wrapped with bacon (!) and the fixin's. Such gorgeous food.

But just before dinner my brothers-in-law Bern (Maureen's  spouse) , and  John (Jean's husband) and I walked down to Crescent Beach  to enjoy the sunset.  Such gorgeous glory.

Back at dinner the five of us had some serious chat, but then we all got to be silly, very silly.  We got into that helpless laughter which often creates an urgent need to rush to the loo.  Such gorgeous fun.

Maureen and Jean watch us from the condo

Bern and John getting ready to swim to Cuba

Jogger in silhouette as we say au revoir to old Sol.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

My brother in law Bernard

Bernard (Bern) is a man of few words.   So much so that his Pastor once said "Bern, if you were any more laid back you'd be horizontal"!

However, when Bern speaks he is often very funny. (and  always wise).

Take this morning.  I had created and printed driving instructions for the folks to go from Crescent Arms to the Ringling Museum of Art.

I had included tips such as "when you pass Crossroads Methodist Church (on your right), get into the left lane in preparation for turning into Ringling".  (no time for

Brother in law John said that it was helpful, but that Bern would have to read it as they drove, and give him instructions.

"I can't do that", said Bern.  "I have my eyes closed when you are driving".


The folks are now utterly relaxed.   Their joy and delight is to start the day by eating breakfast on a small screened-in porch which looks directly onto Crescent Beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

They are using my SUV, I have a Fiat 500 rental.  But I am the tour organiser and dictator.


This holiday is "Gert Lush" for them and for me   (Bristolians will know what this means).


My folks spent the afternoon at the Ringling Art Museum.   They so much enjoyed the Circus Museum and Ca d'Zan  (not enough time for the Art Museum).

They found their way there from Siesta Key using my written directions.

This was not the case on their way from the Ringling to my home, despite additional  written directions.

For reasons which I cannot explain they missed the turn from the Tamiami Trail onto Fruitville.

They realised that they were lost, and 'phoned when they were near Magnolia St (south of SMH).

I instructed a U turn, told them to go north on the Trail, to bear right at the 41/301 split, and turn right at Fruitville.

They missed Fruitville again.

Using our mobile phones I advised a right turn onto 12th St.  They missed that turn.

"OK" I said, "turn right on to  17th Street, and I'll  talk you through the entire route to my home".

That I did, but despite my best efforts they missed the only turn they needed to make - at Prudence Ave., off 17th Street. (How do you miss a right hand turn onto a clearly marked street at a traffic light?).

So once again I instructed a  U turn, then "talked them onto Prudence Drive, and  onto Glen Oaks Ridge  (my community).  Then stood in the middle of the street with my leashed Penne until they reached my home.

The two men were entirely frustrated.  The two women saw the funny side of their mis-adventure.

One safely inside my home we all enjoyed beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) with my local friends, Ed, Bob and Ben.

(My brother Martyn, his son Sam;  and my niece Beth with her b/f Jordan know Ben and Bob and like them immensely).

Then I took the folks to Alma's Kouzine for dinner (Beth and Jordan loved Alma's and ate there  three times during their recent visit).

Maureen, Bern, Jean, John and I were delighted with the food, and we had a jolly time around the dinner table.

Alma was her usual joyful and welcoming self.

After dinner I sent my family members on their merry way "home", with instructions:  go south on Beneva, and then turn right on Clark, after which it is a clear run to Midnight Pass Rd.

I added, "I will 'phone you in 30 minutes to be sure that you are safe and well in the condo".

Droll Bern said  "you should be on the stage as a comedian"  (inferring that I must have made a joke in thinking that they could get home without getting lost!)

(They got back to the condo in good time!)


My two big sisters and their husbands.

At Alma's, Maureen and Bern

At Alma's, Jean and John

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

I can be petty.

I live in a "community" with 198 units.  It is called Glen Oaks Ridge Condominiums.

I have some splendid neighbours.

But there are others, male and female, who are the fonts of nosiness and gossip.

These are the folks who want to be the first to learn about changes (or apparent changes) in the lives of their neighbours.

These are the folks who delight in passing on information about the lives of their neighbours; whether this information be true, false, slanderous, or silly.

These are the folks who would love to know that I, or another resident had changed the brand of the bathroom tissue/toilet paper of our choice, and who then passed this word around, with a question as to why this might be.

"Hey, did you know that Michael Povey is now using Charmin instead of Cottonelle.  I wonder why?"

One such neighbour brings out my inner irritation, .  To put in bluntly she is damn nosy!

In this example the nosy one  happens to be a "she".    It could well have been a "he".

SO  -  the other day, as I was walking away from my home  (Penne in tow), she was walking toward me.

We said "hi", and she asked  (sans context) "is that yours?".

"Is what mine?" I asked.

She replied "the car in your driveway".

"Of course it is" I said.

"Oh" she replied "so are you having some work done?": - meaning "if your car in the driveway and not in the car port, do you have a tradesman working in your home?" . ... "and if that is the case, what are you having done". 

 SUB  TEXT  "so that I will be the first to know, and be the one who passes the word around".)

At that I got snippy.   I wanted to say:   "why does this  matter to you ?"

Instead I spat out, with no grace whatsoever,  "my car is there because I needed to sweep my car-port".  Then I stalked away with unpleasant words in my mind.

Following that, my petty mind has had a field day.

On Sunday morning she (and it could have been a he)  would have seen my 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe in the car port.

Come Sunday afternoon she would have seen the 2016 Chrysler Town and Country which I had rented in order to drive my folks from TPA to their Siesta Key condo.

Today she would have seen the Fiat 500 which I have rented so that my four family members can have the use of my Santa Fe

MY VERY PETTY SELF IS HAVING A BALL as I think about the various speculative thoughts which could be running through her mind.


THIS ALL GOES TO SHOW that I am not a  very nice person.

Monday, 2 November 2015

They are here!

Mys two older sisters, Maureen and Jean, with their respective husbands Bern and John are here.

After long and safe flights from the U.K. they arrived in Tampa late last night.  I had reserved rooms for them at the Marriott, so they could tumble into bed within minutes of retrieving their bags.

(There is a story about the Marriott messing up the reservations, but that can wait for one of my whiny days).

I had advised them not to spend $18 each each for the Marriott buffet breakfast, so I arrived with hard boiled eggs, soft buttered rolls, bananas, and strong "English Breakfast Tea" in a flask.  That went over well -  especially the good tea.

I'd rented a mini-van  (2016  Chrysler Town and Country) so that their ride from TPA - SRQ  would be comfortable.

I'd left SRQ in more than good time -  just as well, 'cause there was bumper-to-bumper traffic  on I-275 North from just before the  Tropicana Field exit,all the way up to the Gandy Blvd. exit.

There had not been an accident.  It was simply a matter of there being too much traffic on a section of I-275 which has far too many exits and entrances.

By 11:30 a.m.  I had them safely ensconced in their rented condo at the Crescent Arms on Midnight Pass Road,

They were delighted with the condo (as well they should have been) - it's beach-front at Crescent Beach!

I left them to unpack (having stocked the condo with essential comestibles for lunch and breakfast).

Then I had a quick visit to my home:  to take Penne for a pee-walk; then to have a ham roll for my lunch; then to return my rental to the airport at SRQ - after which I went to Publix to get some food for supper.

By 5:00 p.m.  I was back at Crescent Arms to drive my folks to my home for a simple supper, and  more importantly to make sure that my U.K. family members met my U.S.A family -  Penne, Ada and Adelaide.

Maureen, Bern, Jean and John enjoyed the food I had prepared.    More importantly they delighted in my pets.  (They have their priorities right!)

Now, at 9:22 p.m.,  I am exhausted, and ready for bed (no time for any naps today).

It is a joyful exhaustion.  I am so happy to have family members in town, ready to share in my life in SRQ.

Laus Deo Semper

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The woman who would not be silenced

Just before the early service at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key FL on this All Saints' Day, one of our English parishioners told me that he had recently visited Lourdes and the shrine of St. Bernadette.

He asked if I had been there.

Indeed I had.

We, with joy, spoke of our mutual appreciation of the shrine, and that we had each been deeply moved, and spiritually blessed to be there.

I told him this story.

Way back when I was visiting my friends Jean-Paul and Lizzie in Bordeaux.  It transpired that they each had one busy day during my visit.

I had a spare day on my Eu-rail pass.  I had a very heavy head cold.

So we worked out that I could take a couple of trains and visit Lourdes and back, whilst they went about their business.

They drove me to Gare S.Jean in Bordeaux.

As I was boarding the train, Jean-Paul - a cynic in the French tradition -  said  "maybe the Vierge will  cure your cold".

So off I went to Lourdes, where this strictly Protestant John Michael Povey was deeply and surprisingly moved and spiritually blessed to be at an ultra Roman Catholic shrine,

When I got back to Bordeaux Jean-Paul and Lizzie were there to meet me at the Railway Station.  Jean-Paul's first words were "well did Bernadette cure your cold?"

I, on a spiritual "cloud nine", so to speak, I was not up for debate.

SO I said  (and I do not know where these words came from):

"I do not believe that Lourdes is about mystical healings.  I think that it is is about a peasant woman who refused to be silenced by a male religious hierarchy".

Dear Jean-Paul.  He immediately confessed that my words gave him pause for thought. 


Whatever the formal Church says, the Holy Spirit of God moves beyond the powerful male leaders to teach us from  powerless women of faith.

Alleluia for Bernadette of Lourdes on All Saints' Day 2015.