Friday, 28 April 2017

Holy Communion snacks

I dreamed last night that  woman from St. Boniface (her name is Dana and I like her a lot) was  ministering the bread at Holy Communion.

I received it in my hand, but when I looked down my right  hand was filled with Chex Mix snacks.

The wine was on its way and I was wondering if it would be O.K. if I took a mouthful of wine, and then swished it around before swallow the wine infused Chex.

The dream then ended, so I will never know what I did.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Laestadian Lutherans (and a tender novel)

Many American Christians have some knowledge of the various Lutheran denominations in our country.

The largest is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America The word "Evangelical" in this denomination is, I think, from Germany where in Lutheranism it is more or less synonymous with Protestant rather than with the usual English speaking world's usage meaning "born again" Christians.

The ELCA is a mainstream protestant denomination like the Episcopal Church.- indeed our ordained ministries are interchangeable. (Friends of mine attend an Episcopal Church in Wolfborough N.H.,which has a Lutheran Pastor).

Then there is the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod -  very strict, and theologically conservative.

Next comes the Wisconsin Synod, even more exclusive than Missouri.

(ELCA members are not allowed to receive Communion in these two latter denominations, nor would LCMS welcome Wisconsin Synod members at the Lord's Table and vice versa. (It's important to keep the Church pure!).

I know that there is an Alphabet Soup of smaller Lutheran Churches  (each convinced that it has a monopoly on the truth), but until this week ** see below I had never heard of Laestadian Lutherans.  They are of Swedish/Finnish origin, and came into being because of the remarkable ministry amongst the Lapps of one Lars Levi Laestadius  (1800-1861).

Of course this form of Lutheranism came to the United States, where it proved to be entirely fissiparous.   See this (from Wikipedia).


171 000 laestadians in total in world. 26 000 laestadians in total in America.
  • 1. Firstborn laestadianism ("Esikoinens") 10 000 people in U.S.A. (Old Apostolic Lutheran Church)
  • 2. Little firstborn group (Rauhan Sana group) (Federation) ("Mickelsons" 6 000 people (in U.S.A.(Apostolic Lutheran Church of America), Canada(ALC) and Guatemala)
  • 3. Conservative laestadianism ("Heidemans") 5 000 people (in U.S.A.(Laestadian Lutheran Church), Canada(LLC) and Ecuador)
  • 4. Torola group 4 000 people in U.S.A. (First Apostolic Lutheran Church)
  • 5. Reedites (pollarites) 3,500 people in U.S.A (Independent Apostolic Lutheran Church)
  • 6. Aunesites 550 people in U.S.A. (The Apostolic Lutheran Church)
  • 7. Andersonites about 200 people in U.S.A. in South Carolina (Grace Apostolic Lutheran Church)
  • 8. Davidites 40 people in U.S.A.
  • 9. Melvinites 20 people in U.S.A.

Jesus wept, or something like that.


I heard of these fringe Lutherans by reading a most tender, honest and tragic novel by Hanna Pylvainen who was raised in this group.  It is called "We Sinners" and was published by Henry Holt and Company in 2012.

It creates a tale about  the Rovaniemi family, and is set in  contemporary America's mid-west. They are poor. 

The Rovaniemi's have nine children.  The chapters are written from the vantage of each of the children, with no regard for chronology.

As the dust jacket puts it   "... each chapter is told from the distinctive point of view of a different Rovaniemi as they grapple in some way with their relationships to their faith, to one another, and to the outside world, both embracing the security of their community and chafing against its restrictions.................What emerges is a haunting depiction not of strangers from a strange faith but of ordinary people making their way through the world as best they can".

I like this novel, partly because I am one of nine children who were raised in a somewhat esoteric and fundamentalist British and Irish denomination -  the "Plymouth Brethren". We too were poor.  The Brethren afforded us  a place of secure faith which was good for the while.  But none of the Povey nine are today connected with this denomination. 


My copy of "We Sinners" will be returned to the Sarasota County Public Library system on April 28th 2017.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A more quiet jmp

Hallo good readers,

I haven't had much to say on this blog or on Facebook for a few days because I haven't had much to say.

That did not deter me in former years!



Monday, 24 April 2017

Such uplifting skill - so good for my soul

I took myself to St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key last evening for the season finale of our our annual Concert Series.

The Church was all but filled for a splendid concert given by the Sarasota Opera Youth Chorus.

I wish that I could tell you more about the youth programme at the Sarasota Opera, but the various websites are inaccessible tonight.

Save to say that Sarasota Opera is a local treasure.

And that the youth programmes are great (based on what I saw and heard last evening):-  here were sixty or more young people who sang with discipline, great skill, enthusiasm and conviction.  They sang in Italian, German, French and English with never a score in sight! They created beauty!

It was a Concert which lifted my spirits.  Here is a set piece photo' from last evening which I lifted from the web.

I needed this reminder that life is not all about politics (Trump/May/Erdogan/Le Pen/Maduro etc). despite what the media (print, visual, audible and virtual) lead  us to believe.

Even the "storied and supposedly venerable"  National Public Radio is not much more than an intellectual hotbed of news, commentary, political talk shows and the like..   I am about to give up on our local and terminally boring NPR Station WUSF.    It is in no way as good as it could be, and that it claims to be,.

I can only take about twenty minutes worth of news and commentary each day.  WUSF offers more than fifteen hours of various news programmes and gab-fests, except on weekends when "nothing happens"!

 I need many more hours of beauty.  They are hard to find!  I did so last evening (Sunday 23rd)  at the Sarasota Opera Youth Chorus Concert.

Thank you St. B's and Sarasota Opera.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Kicking my heels this afternoon - A new market, some jaundiced opinions, and a joyful happenstance

With time to spare and no urgent care  I took myself  to snoop at  "Sprouts" the newly opened "up-scale" market in south Sarasota.  The place was mobbed (and I was part of the mob!)

Despite the claim that it is a  Farmers Market  (see photo' above) it was hard for me to  see it as anything more than a rival or alternative to Whole Foods or Fresh Market.

That's fine and dandy if you like that sort of thing.  (In the interests of full disclosure I use Whole Foods and/or Fresh Market every now and then.  But I could not possibly afford their prices for my regular grocery  shopping.  Be aware that I am not sure if my ethic is based on price, or on principle).  

I thought that the prices at "Sprouts" were on the high side.  Not to worry!  I'll never have an urgent need to shop there, especially as the Store in nearly nine miles from my home.

But I think that it will be a good place for comfortably off residents of south Sarasota  (and they are legion) who will no longer have to trek north on the over-crowded Route 41 all the way to downtown SRQ to get their upscale fix at Whole Foods.

It's all very well just so long as these fancy/dancy Markets do not become the matrix from which we assess what is good in the food biz.

What is good in the food biz may not be so good for those good, loyal and hard working Americans who are unemployed or under-employed  and who struggle to get ahead.   In SRQ many of them live in an area called Newtown.   It's an area  which even the utterly downscale supermarket chain  (Winn-Dixie) abandoned leaving behind a food desert.

Guess who created a pretty good food oasis in Newtown's food desert when Winn-Dixie bailed?

Whole Foods?  WRONG

Fresh Market?  WRONG

Sprouts?   WRONG

A hint!  It's that evil and dreadful chain based in Bentonville AR (which does business in the UK as "ASDA").

Pause for thought by we anti Walmart snobs?


But I have digressed.   For lo and behold I met two of my favourite people at Sprouts.  They were Ashley H.B and her son Grant.    I haven't seen them in about  three or four years.  Their family used to attend St. Boniface Church.  They transfered out to Sarasota's First Congregational Church (U.C.C.) some give or six years ago,   This was not for any negative feelings about St. B's.  It was that in their minds and hearts they preferred the United Church of Christ and the retirement of St. B's long term Rector  (they adored him) gave them a gracious way to follow their hearts.

I have always had a warm place in my heart for Grant, ever since the Sunday  (when he was aged about three or four) I saw him almost dance up to the Altar for the sheer joy or receiving Communion.  It was a wonderful sight!

Grant has had a growth spurt and her is now a student at Sarasota's Pine View School  (middle school I think).

The three of us had a happy reunion in the aisles of Sprouts.   It was so good to see them.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bestial dentistry:

I had not thought about this until this morning -  even horses need Dentists.

This truck was just ahead of me at a traffic light as I wad driving north from Proctor Ave, on "The Trail" in SRQ

Many of the Dentists I know are more used to dealing with Horse's Asses than with the entire beast.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Back to school for jmp

Our local (and "pretty good")  Suncoast Technical College .....

.......   is just the place to attend for those who wish to have careers in Criminal Justice . Firefighting, Health Care, Catering  (cooks and chefs), Early Childhood Education;  or as Plumbers, Electricians and Paramedics  -  and so many other fields.

I am grateful that Sarasota County  (FL)  (via its Schools Department) has decided that public education  does not end at 12th Grade in High School; and that Technical and Community Colleges are (in the broad scheme of things) as important and essential to our common life as are our vaunted and valued so-called "Ivy League" Colleges.

I am also grateful that S.T.C  has not forgotten folks such as I  (old and retired) via an ADULT COMMUNITY ENRICHMENT  Division.

Thus it will be that in May 2017  I plan to take a four week course named "The Amish and their Customs and Traditions".

"Why this course?"  you ask (or I ask for you!!!).

Chiefly because Sarasota, the home of the rich and famous (Stephen King and Jerry Springer anyone?) is also a winter home for many Amish retirees from "up North" .

Here, for transportation ,  they use the Tricycle rather than their  better known Horse and Buggies.

Amish in the Pinecraft area of Sarasota./
 After my four week course next month at S.T.C. I will (necessarily) be your Face Book  expert on "All Things Amish".

I bet that you cannot wait!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Pastoral Care can be exhausting.

Ben was all tuckered out after making three pastoral visits on Easter Day.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Day on the Key and in other places.

Saint Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL.  High Altar and Stained Glass window, Easter Day 2017 Photo' via Barbara F-C

I was at the "early"  (7:45 a,.m.) celebration of Easter at St. B's this morning, together with about fifty other sisters and brothers.

Anglican/Episcopalian early morning services are never very exciting or energetic.  They are designed that way for those of us who are morning people.

So today's service at 7:45 a.m. did not (and could not) convey the exuberance which is palpable at later morning Eucharists with their bells, brass instruments, superb organ music and glorious choral music.

That's perfectly fine. For at "early services" the Gospel is heard, and the Bread and Wine are shared, and God's people are fed.

To put it another way -  the early service is like a simple breakfast with cereal, toast, and tea or coffee.  The later service  (especially on great festival days) is more like a "full English" breakfast.

The menu is not crucial just so long as the meal is nutritious.

So I had my "tea and toast" at 7:45 this morning, and then spent the rest of the morning sharing Holy Communion with St. B's folks who are unable to get to Church.

There was B.L. in the memory unit of an retirement community in Bradenton; B and G in their home at Palm Aire. G is recovering from major foot surgery. C  in a rehab and long term care facility near our "new" Mall.

If the folks cannot get to Church, then the Church gets to them!

Even better in my case,  Ben comes along on these pastoral calls.   The presence of this handsome dog brings great pleasure  to other residents who are in "care".  Most wonderfully, those with varying degrees of memory problems seem to come alive in a good way when they see my dog.

The dog is more important than my "dog collar"!  (And why not?)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

STILL LIFE - with long legs


His Regalness "The Ben" in a still life pose on our Lanai.

My legs are short, but I will have a "still life' break from 'POVEY PRATTLE'   and FACE BOOK postings until Easter Day 2017.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Cairo, Egypt - Sarasota, FL A study in contrasts - Martyrdom and Marketing.

This young boy was brutally killed (martyred)  whilst at Church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, simply because he was a Christian.

Daesh claimed irresponsibility.


Meanwhile in Sarasota FL

The Harvest Church  (Beneva and 17th) advertises a massive Easter Egg hunt on Holy Saturday, with 30,000 eggs to be find.  You got it, that's thirty thousand.
Regret the picture isn't clearer.  I could get nearer because of an  FPL truck which blocked  one lane of Beneva.

And the Tabernacle Church on DeSoto has its own way of marketing the Feast of the Resurrection.

 (Very American, nothing to do with the Gospel).

Sunday, 9 April 2017

My sharp witted brother Martyn.

It was my beloved brother  Martyn and his fabulous wife Wendy who introduced me to the joy and blessing of Greyhounds,  via their unforgettable and beloved Greyhound  rescue  "Misty".

I grew to like and love her as a result of a couple of visits to my native Bristol.

One day someone asked Martyn "is she a retired Greyhound?"

Martyn replied:  "No, she is still a Greyhound, but she is a retired Racing Dog".

I still giggle at Martyn's wit.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A peaceful Oasis in the heart of a City.

Come June I will have lived in Sarasota FL for eleven years, (I still find it hard to believe that I retired to Florida of all places!)

In these almost eleven years I had often read about Arlington Park but had never visited it. Until now.
It's a gorgeous oasis in the heart of the City of Sarasota, (but it is owned an maintained by Sarasota County).  (Yes, we have both City and County Government here).

The entrance of Ben into my life caused me to seek out and visit Arlington Park.  (Did I tell you that I have adopted a Greyhound named Ben. Maybe I forgot to tell you!!)

Tongue in cheek aside,  I have discovered Arlington Park  -  it's a wonderful semi-rural enclave  in the heart of a busy City.   Best of all, it is utterly available to one and all.

Arlington Park has a nice half mile walking trail.  Our Bayfront Park has the same, but Arlington has super shady areas, just the place to walk with my dog on hot summer days.

The pond, with Turtles soaking up the sun, and a Great Blue 

Shady area 1

Shady areas (2) and Ben's head

A pretty pond

New sniffing areas for Ben

There are also two fenced-in dog areas, one for small dogs, the other for the big boys and girls/. 

Having checked with the Racing Dog Rescue People I learned that it was O.K. to unleash my rescue in such areas.

I did so today.  

Five other dogs were there (with three owners) .   The five inspected Ben/  He inspected them. Then the five went back to their rumbustious play. Ben declined to join them/.

Instead he walked as far away from me as he could - simply to poop. As I got nearer to the poop scene (in order to pick up the mess0 Ben had a energetic run. Good for him!
Then he submitted to his leash and we resumed our walk.

You bet that we will go back to the Arlington Park dog area so that Ben can run to his heart's content.

With or without a dog do enjoy the sylvan glades at  Arlington Park.[take Waldemere (west)  off  South Tuttle Ave for the parking lot].  It is indeed a peaceful Oasis in the heart of a City.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Ben went on the lam. Hue and cry in neighbourhood.

It took less than thirty seconds.  I had rinsed a can and decided to take it out to my re-cycling bin which was already curbside on collection day.

I neglected to shut the front door before I opened the porch door, and in about the time it takes to say aluminum or aluminum Ben had made a break for it.

He paused at the end of the car port..I called his name.  He looked at me, gave me the finger,  and trotted off west.

I called him again, He looked again, gave me the finger again, and ;proceeded further west then went into the car port at Bernadette and John's home.    John saw Ben, called him over and petted him (it did not occur to John that it was odd for Ben to be out alone - I understand). 

I cried out "grab his collar" but it was too late.  Ben gave me another withering look and went to explore Nancy's car port.

Now Nancy's dogs spend a lot of time on her porch, behind a locked screen door. Ben's visit caused them to bark enthusiastically. This alerted Nancy who came outside, as did her immediate neighbour Ed.

My last call to Ben was a failure.

He took off and sprinted south for about 150 yards through a grassy area. His strength and energy were awesome. Although I was worrying about where he would go and how far away he would go, I was yet in awe at the beauty and grace of his sprint.   He ran like a (well yes) Greyhound!

Neighbour John and I took to our cars. in search of my handsome Ben.   In the end Ben did very little other than to explore other car ports.  John spotted Ben first, and the  dog who had given me the finger came running with joy towards my next door neighbour, who then opened the rear door of his car, whereupon Ben jumped in (!) and was driven in style back to my home.


With gratitude to my neighbours  (who eventually numbered eight) for their concern for Ben and me,

With wonder at the sight of Ben's awesome sprint.

This is not Ben.  It is Monty, a Greyhound Rescue who lives in Cumbria U.K. His markings are a bit like Ben's, but the chief reason I posted this is to illustrate the joy, beauty and exuberance of a Greyhound sprint.

P.S.  When Ben and I got back into our home I did not scold him.   That would have been pointless since his "escape" was not a matter of his naughtiness, but of my carelessness. Instead I gave him a treat to celebrate his return home.

And today I bought him a "Big Boy" feeding station to make his life here more enjoyable.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Palm Sundays I have known

Image via the "Mirror" Newspaper.  Place not identified  but most likely in Latin America or Spain.  Makes our Palm Sunday processions look very wimpy!

Uh Oh, we are getting close to Palm Sunday. Ministers and Priests throughout western Protestant Christendom are frantically ( even obsessively) planning to make sure that the details of the blessing of the Palms and the processions with Palms are just right, and that no one steps out of line.

Many of them are looking for an exquisite procession  (whether indoors or outside) in which the Crucifer(s). Acolytes, Choristers, Clerics and other sundry Ministers GLIDE  (not walk!) with perfect synchronicity;  and the congregation sings the (terminally boring) "All Glory Laud and Honour" in perfect time, and with perfect pitch, not missing a beat.

My dearly beloved sister and brother Ministers have a insistent inner voice which says  "You must plan  so meticulously that Palm Sunday will be as perfect as a U.K. Royal Wedding, or a State Funeral at the National Cathedral".

I know -   been there, tried that, and failed !

There was the Sunday on which the Sexton when setting up the Hymn Boards had us read that it was PSALM Sunday",   We let it stay.

With many of you I have planned outdoor processions in which we have sung the afore mentioned semi-dirge hymn.  You know what happens, the choir gets back into the building and reaches the High Altar as they begin verse three of the hymn.  Meanwhile the stragglers at the end of the line have just about reached the refrain at the end of verse one.  Might we call it "punk polyphony"?

There was the Sunday on which we had planned a graceful "figure of eight" procession for Acolytes, Choir and Clergy alone, except that we had not told one of our good retired Clerics the details.  As we walked in procession from the Altar he beckoned to folks in the front pews that they too should join the procession.

They did, then the second row row, then the third and so on.

We had a big choir, and a large congregation.  In due course, half way through the figure of eight,the head of the procession met the tail of the procession.  Gridlock ensued. Every route was blocked.
There was only one solution.  We all collapsed into laughter and found our seats ASAP.

There was the dreadful Palm Sunday on which I scolded the congregation for not following  the instructions I had carefully placed in the bulletin.    I lost my cool.  I lost the respect of members of the congregation.   And we lost a parish family.


The Palm Sunday Liturgy itself is clunky.   We have about ten minutes to think about the deep significance of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (**see below), and then we are plunged into  one of the gospel accounts of Jesus' passion.

Of course that gives unimaginative preachers the opportunity to muse on "Triumph to Tragedy", but that's not what it is about.

** That's not what it's all about if we see Jesus' action as deliberate and calculated.   Is it not a "throwing down of the gauntlet" by which the Son of Man challenges the ruling powers in Jerusalem, the Roman occupiers and the Temple hierarchs.

Those ruling powers had struck a cozy bargain: a political accommodation to "keep the peace at all price". ****

That price was paid not by the bargain makers, but by the poor.

Jesus enters deeply into the teachings of his Jewish faith, especially the words of the Prophets: - those who were always on the side of the poor and oppressed, and ever reminding  the oligarchs of God's judgment. 

Jesus chose to upset the apple cart on that "Palm Sunday".   It was a very messy entrance into the seats of power.

That being the case, let's have a few Hosannas in favour of messy and confusing Palm Sunday processions.


Food for thought

Think of the current political/religious  "accommodations".e.g. in Russia where the Orthodox Church is in bed with the Putin regime and religious minorities are branded as subversive enemies of the State.  The Jehovah's Witness faith was officially banned this week in Russia, for just that reason OR In the United States where the Religious Right has cozied up to Trump and the other White House Oligarchs so that they  (the religionists) will be afforded special protections and privileges under the law.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Shamelessly stealing the titles of Bonhoeffer's books.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Most Tuesday mornings I hang out with a bunch of Clerics; some retired, some still parish ministers,

It's much better that you imagine!   In truth it is almost essential for our spiritual health.

We take a gander at the Scriptures for the following Sunday and to share thoughts as to "how to preach it".

Sometimes we get to be very silly.  Oft-times we are gently serious.

It's a group in which grand-standing and/or professional rivalry are notoriously absent.

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday.  We ignored the Palm Sunday lesson, the First lesson and the Passion Gospel.

Instead we focused on the Epistle, Philippians 2:1-11.  Who would not, with that marvelous and poetic early Christian statement of faith contained in verses 6-11?

Philippians 2:1-11 NRSV

2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus, 
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited, 
7 but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, 
8   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross. 

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
   and gave him the name
   that is above every name, 
10 so that at the name of Jesus
   every knee should bend,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
11 and every tongue should confess
   that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father. 

But, even as we talked about verses 6-11 we reminded ourselves that these verses are not "stand alone".  They are set in stone in the context of the ways in which Christians live together in the Body of Christ not as an abstract concept, but in the rough and tumble of life in a local congregation.

Life in the congregation is tough, and it's meant to be that way.  All that we say about the love of God as definitively shown forth in the Cross ..... (and I think that we preachers say too much about the love of God, and not enough about our love for each other and for God's world) .... all that we say about the love of God leads to spiritual narcissism and self centredness unless it also calls us to "life together", and "the cost of discipleship".

There's food for thought in Holy Week.


Monday, 3 April 2017

The Book of Isaias

I once asked my Mum why Welsh people were unpopular in Bristol, U.K.  She told me that it was because in the Depression many Welsh people immigrated to Bristol, and took the best jobs.

Mind you, Wales was about thirty miles away, and the Welsh were also subjects of the United Kingdom.

It's the same dreary story throughout the world. "Immigrants"  (yes all of them!)  are dirty, lazy, unwilling to work and eager for government handouts. Although they are lazy, they take the jobs which rightly belong to citizens.

Name any country throughout the world which has received immigrants (documented or undocumented) and in that country you will hear the same old saw.

Thus it has been in the United States for Italians, for Irish, for Catholics, for Jews,  ever since the mass migration from Europe to America began.  The same vile things were said about them as are now being said about political and economic refugees who come here seeking for some kind of opportunity and freedom.

What is never said is that these successive groups of immigrants have enriched our American lives beyond imagination.

It is with this in mind that I heartily recommend "The Book of Isaias.  A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America", Daniel Connolly, St. Martin's Press, 2016.

It's a tender, sad, and sometimes hopeful true account of  the brilliant young Isaias (and others) who are at Kingsbury, a  failing High School in Memphis, TN.

Author Daniel Connolly spent three remarkable  years at Kingsbury High, three years which enabled him to write this marvelous book of hope and despair. In a remarkably objective way he identifies the cultural, sociological, political, educational and economic ways in  which Hispanic immigrants ("legal" or "illegal");  poor African-Americans, and poor White-Americans are ill served by the educational and economic policies which are dictated from Washington (whether the President be Clinton, Bush, Obama or Trump).

1. Do read this book before you sound-off against immigrants with a "one size fits all" formula.

2. Remember that the most recent comprehensive immigration policy in the U.S.A  was under (of all people) President Ronald Reagan.

3. Resist any national policy which separates mothers from children, or husbands from wives. This is unworthy of a "Christian and family values" nation.

4. Note that many undocumented immigrants in the U.S.A. are from China, India, Ireland and the United Kingdom.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it President T.  

5.  Remember that I am an immigrant.  I love my homeland, but I am glad to be a United States Citizen.  Am I on your mind when you sound off against immigrants, or do you give me a pass because I am a WASP?

6.  Read the book dammit!  Read it.  Shut up about immigrants until you have read "THE BOOK OF ISAIAS"

Here is a Book Review.

Collective Nouns

I tried to find a collective noun for greyhounds.

All I could find was the distinctly dull and unimaginative  "Leash of Greyhounds".

Oh come on, we can do better than that!    

I was at Pet Smart on the South Trail last Saturday for a Racing Dog Rescue Project "Meet and Greet" event.

I was there, Ben was there, about eight other Greyhounds were there.  The beasts were so happy to see each other.

It was a "Gregarity of Greyhounds".

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Couch Potato? PSHAW!

Of course you know that I adopted Ben, a fabulous Greyhound, on March 17th.

What you do not know is that every third person Ben and I encounter on our walks is an utterly reliable expert on Greyhounds and their behaviours.  😖

They parade their unquestionable expertise by saying  "Of course, Greyhounds are such couch potatoes".

To be fair, they are correct about the couch bit - see this

Of course I love my spuds whether fried, baked, or mashed,  I have nothing against spuds.

But I refuse to think of my elegant, grateful, regal and dignified adoptee Ben as nothing more than a couch potato,

He has class.  He should never be called a common tater,

Ben is my .....

........ Couch Creme Brulle!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

I did not earn or deserve this - I was simply fortunate

In a recent week my pharmacist filled three prescriptions for medications ordered by my doctors.

The total  retail price of these "scripts" is $154.

Thanks to my relatively inexpensive supplemental insurance the total cost to me was $8:50

What a deal.   I did not worker harder or longer than (say) a coal miner in Appalachia to "earn"  such a retirement health care benefit -  far from it.

Such a coal miner may well not be covered for prescription insurance, so he may have to choose between buying medications at full price, or buying food.

Nor will he live  in a prosperous area such as Sarasota FL where I live, and where I am surrounded by physicians and surgeons of the highest  caliber  -  a place where I could see my Primary Care Physician; a Vascular Surgeon; and a Cardiologist within the space of five days  yes, five days.

Maybe my miner would have to travel some 50 miles for an appointment with a specialist, in x month's time.

All this is to say that I did not earn the right to first class health insurance.  I have it because my "employer"  (the Episcopal Church) has been utterly prudent and responsible  in its provisions for retirees.

I am so fortunate. I did not earn or deserve such good provisions,

My coal miner friend is not so blessed.  His employer most likely "bailed" on such responsibilities.

His life expectancy surely less than mine.

This must change.  But it will not do so just so long as the U.S.A. is in the grip of  a regressive Trumpian Oligarchy.

How odd it is to have a President who wants to "bring back coal" but who apparently does not have an ounce of care for the health of the coal miners themselves. 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Ben Houdini

I was away from my home for about two and a half hours this morning (Tuesday 28th).  That was long enough for Ben to get out of his crate.

Maybe I had not locked it properly.  Maybe he is an escape artist.  Maybe the cat "sprang him".


And Ben made a mess!

I admonished Ben very gently, reminding him that this was no way to live in the home of an English Gentleman.

Then he and I sang "God Save The Queen".


These things happen - they are petty annoyances.

And there are joys and delights.

The following photo' is of Ben as he slept last night  (Monday/Tuesday).  It's not the same as the "roaching" photo' I posted the other day.

I do not aim for dignity.  I aim for comfort.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Auntie Irene

My always favourite (and only surviving) Aunt -   Irene Parsons Finch.

92 years old today  (March 26th 2017).  

Her family threw a great party in Bristol, U.K. today.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Sleepers and Squatters.

BEN  "If I want to sleep this way I'll  darn  well sleep this way".

ADELAIDE " If Ben abandons his crate I'll be more than glad to make it my squat"

Friday, 24 March 2017

"Blood at the Root": a book which "blew my mind away" - it's a tale of the perennial American tragedy.

One day when I was aged about fourteen or fifteen I was at the home of my good friend Stephen Meyer.   His parents had gotten out of Germany "just in time"  in 1939.

I was browsing through one of their books and came across a picture of z cremation oven in a Concentration Camp.    I could not bear to look at it, and I slammed the book shut.

I was tempted to do the same when coming upon grainy black and white pictures of public lynchings in a book I read last week.

The Book is "Blood at the Root", by Patrick Phillips  (published by W R Norton and Co in 2016).

"Blood at the Root"is the harrowing take of the ethnic cleansing of Forsyth County, GA, where, in 1912,  all Negroes  (the word of that era)  were slaughtered, or driven out with great violence, often with the blessing of the white Church Pastors.

Despite  Federal Civil Rights legislation,  Forsyth County was proud to be a "Whites Only" County as recently  as 1987.

It's a book that fills me with anger and sadness.

I am sad because professing Christians encouraged and supported this ethnic cleaning back in 1912,  and in the "whites only" policies of the late 1980's;  ...

....and because even in 2017 we have so called White Nationalists closer than close to the centres of power at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.

When any group is singled out for hatred, slaughter, unfair imprisonment, legal or unofficial discrimination it never leads to any good.

Bad things are happening to many ethnic, religious or minority groups in so many countries.  The world is dripping in blood, from Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, through South Sudan, to Myanmar.

We of the western democratic (?) and "Christian heritage" countries like to think that we are better than that.  Of course that is not true. 

The harrowing and horrendous events recorded in "Blood at the Root" make me sick to the stomach. And it could happen again.



A gripping tale of racial cleansing in Forsyth County, Georgia, and a harrowing testament to the deep roots of racial violence in America.
Forsyth County, Georgia, at the turn of the twentieth century was home to a large African American community that included ministers and teachers, farmers and field hands, tradesmen, servants, and children. Many black residents were poor sharecroppers, but others owned their own farms and the land on which they’d founded the county’s thriving black churches.
But then in September of 1912, three young black laborers were accused of raping and murdering a white girl. One man was dragged from a jail cell and lynched on the town square, two teenagers were hung after a one-day trial, and soon bands of white “night riders” launched a coordinated campaign of arson and terror, driving all 1,098 black citizens out of the county. In the wake of the expulsions, whites harvested the crops and took over the livestock of their former neighbors, and quietly laid claim to “abandoned” land. The charred ruins of homes and churches disappeared into the weeds, until the people and places of black Forsyth were forgotten.
National Book Award finalist Patrick Phillips tells Forsyth’s tragic story in vivid detail and traces its long history of racial violence all the way back to antebellum Georgia. Recalling his own childhood in the 1970s and ’80s, Phillips sheds light on the communal crimes of his hometown and the violent means by which locals kept Forsyth “all white” well into the 1990s.
Blood at the Root is a sweeping American tale that spans the Cherokee removals of the 1830s, the hope and promise of Reconstruction, and the crushing injustice of Forsyth’s racial cleansing. With bold storytelling and lyrical prose, Phillips breaks a century-long silence and uncovers a history of racial terrorism that continues to shape America in the twenty-first century.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The wonderful life of friends of mine who live in Beirut. A tender and affectionate essay from Rula Asfour

I knew Rula Asfour, her husband and two daughters when they were part of the St. James's, Cambridge MA Episcopal Church, and I was the Rector.  It was a sad day for the congregation, but a  great day for the Asfours when they decided to return to the Lebanon.  In about 2003/4 I was privileged to visit them, only to have a most wonderful two weeks during which I met many members of their wonderful extended family (Rula's mother made the best Tabbouleh I have ever eaten), and to visit places such as Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Baalbeck etc, and up into the mountains from which we could see the then peaceful Syria. Lebanon is a small country with a storied history  (Phoenicians, Greeks,Romans, Ottoman Turks, Crusaders, French etc etc) and a bewildering (for European minds) mixture of Christians, Muslims, Druze & c. Most of all I will never forget the enjoyment of the fabled middle eastern hospitality, and  the gorgeous, gracious and good  opportunity to meet many members of Rula's family.  I even made a "pastoral call" on Rula's father who was very ill and in a Beirut Hospital.  Here is Rula's recent essay.
By Rula Asfour
    March 22, 2017 at 16:12
BEIRUT: After thirteen years of living abroad, my husband and I took the decision to move back to Lebanon. Our move coincided with the birth of our third child. We left good posts where we were empowered decision makers, and despite the shortage of career opportunities in Lebanon, we headed back to a place we call home knowing that the salaries in some of the best institutions were one third or even one fourth of what we became accustomed to in the States.
With all its problems, Lebanon, in our minds and in our hearts, is a blessing. The African saying 'It takes a village to raise a child' is absolutely true. In Lebanon, the extended family is that village! For us, the family is the first and foremost reason why we moved back to Lebanon. Strong family ties provide a healthy atmosphere for our children to mature and grow in.
It fills the children with unconditional love and gives them a strong sense of security and self-confidence. It is also gratifying for our parents to be around our children, and to partake in their nurture. Sharing regular meals with the extended family on a regular basis is priceless. Over the summer, when the weather is beautiful in the mountain, we try to meet at the family home, in the remote village of Douma.
Moving to the United States more than 20 years ago, we had to adjust to a do-it-yourself way of life. On a typical day, my husband and I would return home from stressful jobs and have to take care of our children and their needs and activities, as well as cook, clean, do the laundry, complete backyard chores, not to forget snow plowing in the winter. That lifestyle affected us as a couple.
We argued quite a bit, typically on Mondays about whose turn it was to throw the garbage, and had little quality time to spend together as a couple. It was simply overwhelming! In this context, our move to Lebanon was a major upgrade. Not only is family support readily available, but services such as childcare, housekeepers, and concierge are within financial reach providing us with more quality time to spend together as a couple and with our children as a family.
We decided to live in Ras Beirut, when we returned to Lebanon, for its convenience, where we and our children walk to work, university and school. Traffic in Lebanon is an absolute nightmare. However, in Ras Beirut, one rarely needs a car. The proximity of things is unparalleled. Good schools, universities, health care, hospitals, movie theaters, seafront promenades, playing fields, concert halls, and a rich variety of restaurants and cafes are all within a 10 minute walking radius. As if to escape the hardship, the Lebanese have developed a knack for living life to its fullest. Delicious food is abundant at marvelous Mediterranean settings. Travel and Leisure recently named Beirut the Best International City for Food.
This is not to say that life in Lebanon is relaxing and comfortable. Far from it. Tenacious security, a missing state, outrageous traffic and driving, rare career opportunities, noise and air pollution, astronomic real estate rates, daily power outages,inexplicable water shortages, combined with a relatively high cost of living, a garbage crisis and dismal Internet are but a few of the daily challenges we have to deal with.
Yet, I genuinely believe that it is faith that brought us back to Lebanon, our homeland, to a caring and loving extended family, to a wonderful support system, to a haven of good food and to magnificent year-round weather. We saved our marriage and raised our children within the value and safety net that matters to us most, regardless of the hardship that surrounds us, and we constantly thank God for the many blessings including the heartstrings that led us back to Lebanon: our home.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Greycing &c

I grew up about a mile away from Eastville Stadium, deep in the heart of the East  Bristol (UK) working classes.

Eastviille Stadium in the olden days. You can see the dog track

Back then the Stadium was the home of the Bristol Rovers Football (Soccer) Club;  I think too  of Motor Bike "Speedway" racing, and of GREYCING.

South Bristol also had a Greycing Track in the Knowle district.

Newspaaper ad. for Greycing  (In this case, not in Bristol

As a kid I had no idea what "Greycing" meant whether in Eastville or Knowle..  It was a while before I cottoned on to the fact that it was shorthand for Greyhound Racing.

(The Eastville Stadium is now the home of an IKEA store;  the Knowle Stadium  is most likely a site for homes.  Such is the typical  fate for  former places of the cloth-capped working class men in the U.K.).

My newly beloved Greyhound rescue BEN was once a racing dog here in SRQ.

The document I received today reveals that he raced 26 times and that he came in first four times, and second three times.

PSHAW  Ben is no longer a racer  (thank goodness).

He is my best pal!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

No more Church for me

I took myself to Church for the 8:00 a.m. service this morning, leaving Ben in his crate.

In my absence, and due to separation anxiety, he trashed his favourite pillow which I had foolishly left atop his crate.

The solution to this problem is clear.

I simply cannot go to Church again.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

I'll shut up about Ben (my new Greyhound) in a year or two.

Racing Dog Rescue Page "Official" photo/.
This is what I wrote on the Racing Dog Rescue Project's Face Book page.

Petey (now Ben) has settled in so beautifully. You'd think that he had always lived here.

Wherever I am he wants to be! He slept at the foot of my bed last night. He is very responsive to me, and is learning commands such as "stay" - I use this so that after a walk I can be sure to enter my home before he does.

He is the talk of the neighbourhood and is greatly admired. He has been so very good with the many dogs and people he has met.

Ben's favourite activity is riding in the car. That's tough, 'cause I have a car-port not a garage, and every time we walk out and then come back home he wants to get into the car.

Ben and my cat Adelaide are ignoring each other. I suspect that they will become friends (Adelaide adored my previous rescue, a terrier/retriever blend)

I've had to cage Ben just twice, He went willingly into the crate both times, and did not rip his crate bed apart.

I crated him today and when I got home I heard him whimper as I got out of my car.

I dare to believe that his whimpering did not begin until he heard the sound of my car. My previous rescue certainly recognised that sound - and as you know, dogs have finely honed hearing.

Ben will get used to the fact that I am sometimes away, but that I WILL ALWAYS RETURN!.

Ben is eating well,

If this was not a match made in heaven it was certainly a match made in Myakka City.

(And I have discovered that Ben is a toilet bowl drinker, so now I have to leave the lid down)