Saturday, 31 December 2016

JESSE ROLLINS, One of the finest young men at St. Boniface Episcopal Church ,Sarasota, FL

On Friday 30th December 2016 I was privileged to pray the Invocation and Blessing when Jesse Rollins was elevated to the rank of Eagle Scout.

Jesse, together with his older brother Chris and his super parents Keith and Lisa are beloved members of the Church I attend (St. Boniface Episcopal Church , Sarasota, FL)..

The pathway to the rank of Eagle Scout is far more difficult and demanding than the easy come /easy go journey to Confirmation in the Episcopal//Anglican Church.

Just sayin' .... 


Jesse and jmp

Friday, 30 December 2016

Good fences make good neighbours? Nah!

At the west end of Glen Oaks Ridge, my home in Sarasota, there is a bit of land which is part of our property. The lore is that once upon a time the City of Sarasota had eyed it for an extension to nearby Prudence Drive.  That never happened (thank goodness).  The land is a gentle and pleasant buffer between us and the next door Glen Oaks Manor community.

"Back when" the Glen Oaks Ridge Board decided that the buffer land needed a fence.  It was a fence which made no sense, it kept nobody out or in, 'Twas just a bit of ugly nonsense.

Forty or so years on that fence began to fall apart.  The Board made the good decision:  that it would be cheaper to tear the fence down that to have it repaired or replaced.

Nothing but the fence posts to be removed.

Opening up the land
Of course some of the abutters are already complaining, believing as they do that "Good Fences Make Good Neighbours".

That's of course from a poem by Robert Frost.  It's so well known that a Fence Building Company in Pittsfield used it as an advertising slogan.

The use of Frost's words as a slogan is to take them utterly out of context. In the poem the speaker tells of the cheerful task of repairing those old stone walls which are such a feature of former agricultural land in New England.  For this speaker this annual wall repairing is "just another kind of of outdoor game".

It is his neighbour (a crusty old New Englander?) who asserts, as his father did before him, that "good fences make good neighbours", He'd  like to extend the wall to separate his pine trees from the speaker's apple orchard.

His is  the voice of  a cynic who has never allowed himself the thought that "good actions make good neighbours".

In the aftermath of the  Brexit referendum and the U.S.A. General Election when the promises to make more fences and walls has been a sure vote-getter, it's time to read Frost's poem again.

(The emphases are mine)

Mending Wall - Poem by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing: 
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there. 

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go. 

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" 
We wear our fingers rough with handling them. 

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head: 

"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence. 

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. 

I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours." 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

I did it because I could, and so we all should.

Stock photo'

We have a problem in capitalistic America.

It is a problem which affects the life and financial security of people who work hard, but cannot get ahead.

It's a problem which is rooted in injustice.  It' s problem which cowardly Democrats and smug Republicans alike refuse to address.


When my family members visit me from the U.K. I have to give them some instruction in the matter of tipping, particularly in restaurants.

For you see, the assumption in the U.K. is that wait-staff/servers are paid a decent wage, and that tipping (usually 5%) is a way of  showing generous gratitude for good service.

'Tis not so in the good ole USA. (the land of the free and the home of the poor).

In Florida for instance the minimum wage for restaurant servers is just over $5 per hour. That is not a living wage, even for the very few who work for forty hours each week.

So the generous convention is that servers are tipped at 18% - 20% of the bill.

It's an "under the sheets" way of making sure that these hard working folks are more fully rewarded (bearing in mind that they are often required to pool their tips with ancillary staff, such as greeters, table clearers, sou chefs, and dish washers).

It's important to know that lousy table service may well have nothing to do with the server. It may be the result of "problems in the kitchen".


This  tipping nonsense is not restricted to restaurant staff.

Take for instance those young men and women who offer Valet parking services at Concerts or Theatre Venues; at Hospitals,  at fancy downtown Restaurants;  or at Country Clubs and the like. It's very useful when the parking area is a half a mile or more from the Venue.

I used such a service on Christmas Day when I arrived at the Longboat Key Country Club, there to enjoy a fabulous buffet lunch with my friends Fred and Diana.

I did not need Valet parking, but I did so because I wanted to establish cred with the two young men who were on duty that day.

They told me that that Valet service to which they are indentured (!)  gives them a per diem of $ cover their costs for food and gas/petrol.on  a shift which begins before 11:00 a.m. and ends at 8:30 p.m.

Every other red cent they earn is dependent on the whim of their patrons, some of whom give them no more than loose change.

I chose to honour my commie/liberal/ Christian convictions by tipping each  of them with $10.

It's a lousy system.  Obama has not changed it.  Trump will not change it.

But why should I dine with the finest and richest without a thought for the poorest and most hard working?

Parsnips and me

Farewell  good root vegetable

When I was young I despised the flavour of  parsnips which our Mum included in her famous Saturday lunch-time winter stews, together with turnips, carrots, onions, spuds, and  a bit of stew-beef  or lamb meat.

As I grew older I "adored" the flavour of the parsnips which Mum would par-boil, and then roast (with spuds) alongside Sunday's Roast Beef,

(Do understand young friends that in the olden days the beef we used for roasting included super veins of fat;  fat with which the aforementioned potatoes and parsnips could be basted. 

Lament with me that modern day beef  [as sold in those dens of iniquity known as supermarkets]  has been denuded of the slightest traces of fat).  

Forgive my digression.  I was writing about the joy of roasted parsnips, and or parsnips in general,

A  few years ago when I became concerned at the condition of the skin on my hands, I took myself to a local  Urgent Care Clinic.

The Physician-on-Duty, with the help of Dr. Google, came to an informed guess that, sad as it is, parsnips were the  trigger for that outbreak of dermatitis.

Which I had forgotten until yesterday.  

I peeled four parsnips.

My hands instantly became red, inflamed, and tingly.

Of course I washed, and washed, and washed them. 

That relieved some of the symptoms, but sixteen hours later the tingling remains.

"Gosh darn it Michael" (as my friend Barbara H would say), "do remember to wear kitchen gloves the next time you peel parsnips"

P.S.   I cooked and ate the peeled parsnips.  No signs of inner inflammation except for in my brain and heart as I read the news.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

I did it because I could (a mini rant) - the First Nowell (aargh)

When I was a parish rector I always liked the service on Christmas Day more than those on Christmas Eve.  There was much less to fret about than at the Christmas Eve services in all their glory,

Christmas Day usually brought out the beloved faithful, whilst Christmas Eve brought out the twice a year folks.

I truly liked and valued the twicers and did my best to welcome them as Christ had welcomed me.

The Christmas Day service  had a different dynamic: - more intimate, less "busy".  That suited me well.

Christmas Day worship, (sans choir, trumpeters, and players of the shawm) has its own musical challenges.

I was reminded of this on Christmas 2015 when I was the celebrant and preacher at St. B's on Siesta Key.  I had not chosen the hymns.

The closing song was "The First Nowell" - all six verses. It goes  on, and on, and on.

By the end of the sixth verse I could scarcely give a fig about who had been born!


I was the presider again on Christmas 2016.  Our new and good Priest-in-Charge was the preacher.

Guess what the last hymn was?   Guess how many verses we were supposed to sing?

Please understand that I am a retired priest who has no legal authority in my parish.

Please understand that I am also a part-time curmudgeon.

As we approached the end of the service, just before pronouncing God's blessing,  my curmudgeonly self took over.  With less than a nod at my "boss", (the Priest-in-Charge)  I announced that we would sing only three verses of "The First Nowell".

No-one in the congregation protested.  The Priest in Charge went along happily with my usurpation of his authority.  The Organist was in ecstasies of delight since he did not have to play all six verses of a dreary tune.

P.S.   I think the song is popular because even those who are normally  reluctant to sing in Church can loosen their inhibitions and belt out:

"Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel".

All well and good, but three times are more than enough for me, 

Monday, 26 December 2016

Citrus challenged

I had to take my car this morning  to a local Goodyear Service Station for a leaking  tyre to be fixed.

I was certain that the station was located at 401 North Lime St, here in SRQ.

That was the address I gave to me good pal Rick who had agreed to meet me there, and drive me home.

I got to 401 North Lime Street. I twice  drove the length of the street.  There was no sign of a Goodyear Station.

Rick also got to 401 North Lime Street.   He also  twice  drove the length of the street. He found  no sign of a Goodyear Station.

I called Goodyear.   Oh dear, they are at 401 North Lemon St!

In truth I had my "Citrus is a twist".

Rick and I finally hooked up at the correct address from where he drive me home.

Later this morning Goodyear called me. They reported that they'd found a nail in the leaking tyre, and that all four tyres were in poor shape,

I was not surprised since the most recent report I received from Sarasota's wonderful Sam's Auto stated that they were showing signs of wear.

So here I am at the end of the day with:

Gratitude to Rick for meeting me at Goodyear early this morning,

Gratitude also to my neighbour Eddie Green who drove me to Goodyear when the work was done.

More than a few hundred dollars less in my checking/current account.

Embarrassed about my Citrus confusion,


When I finally arrived at Goodyear this morning I confessed that I had confused Lime and Lemon streets. 

The service agent responded witb  "It's easy.  Limes are green.  Lemons are yellow.  

 DUH, and giggle