Saturday, 3 March 2018


We will begin our "ministry" in the Memory Unit at Anchin Pavilion, North Honore Rd, Sarasota on Friday 9th March.

I get dewy eyes at his beauty and his tender and gentle spirit

Friday, 2 March 2018

Ben's Bar 2nd March

Ben's Bar is a weekly gathering of older gay men in the Glen Oaks Manor and Glen Oaks Ridge development in Sarasota FL.

We take it in turns to host.

It was my turn today.

I wanted to make sure that my guests felt welcomed, so I left this sign on my front door.

I had advised my guest in advance that we would continue our deeply intellectual conversations (HAH!) and that this week we would concentrate on some of the great philosophers of the western world.

I printed some quotations to stimulate our conversation.


And this:

Good night all!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Heavy snow in UK

Heavy snow in many parts of the U.K. today.

At least 10" of sunshine in Sarasota today.

Pictured above:  Siesta Beach's famous "sugar sand".

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Mulch, Cod and Dog

The soil in this part of Florida is not good.  Dig for about two inches and then there is sand.

So it's not fertile soil for annuals or for flowering perennials.  I plant various shrubs, especially drought resistant Jatrophas or Mexican Fire Bushes.


Mexican Firebush

Mulch is important to prevent weeds and to retain moisture.

I hired F from Mexico (the Man Friday for my neighbours J and J for more than fifteen years) to spread some mulch for me todayIt's back breaking work.

Mulch (with my shadow)

Darn, he is such a hard worker. He did what I did not want to do.

Thank goodness for immigrants. They  add more to our common good than they take away!


I was off to Sarasota's Fruitville Library today to borrow a book

Here is a spiel about it

The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious that gold. This book spans 1,000 years and four continents. From the Vikings to Clarence Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs and fisherman, whose lives have been interwoven with this prolific fish. He chronicles the cod wars of the 16th and 20th centuries. He blends in recipes and lore from the Middle Ages to the present. In a story that brings world history and human passions into captivating focus, he shows how the most profitable fish in history is today faced with extinction.

I could not find it in the stacks so a wonderful Librarian helped me.  As we walked back to the check-out I said "I will take this book about Cod home, and then fry it."

Oh did she chuckle!


On our final long walk for the day Zion stepped out with vigour.

He had seen his wee friend Pingo.

What a charming encounter


Tuesday, 27 February 2018


Traditional southerners in the US.A. are often good at knowing all their cousins, however distant.  There is often a Matriarch (and sometimes a Patriarch) who at a family reunion can say "Well she's your third cousin twice removed on your fathers side" or something to that effect.

I have no cousins on my father's side.  He was an only child.

My mother was one of eight.  Her older sister Kate died of what was then called "lockjaw" (in the 1920's/30's?)

Her youngest brother Albert was killed in Normandy is August 1944. (We took my mother to see his grave in Bayeux, Normandy in September 1994.  It was a solemn moment.)

Her brother Reg and his wife Dorothy did not have children.

That leaves her brother Harold and his wife Doll.  They had two children, my cousins Sheila and John. I think that I met John many years ago.  I do not know if he is still alive.  Cousin Sheila became a frequent visitor to our home after a divorce, and we loved her and enjoyed her until she died of cancer (in her fifties or sixties?, I do not remember),

Mum's brother Fred and his wife had one daughter, my cousin Rosemary.  She was an utterly beautiful young woman who tragically succumbed to what was then called Hodgkin's Disease when she was in her early twenties.

Rosemary is the only person in my life who was laid out in her coffin in her parents' front parlour from the time of her death until her burial.  Family members kept vigil 24/7.  People used to do that, and I think that it was a healthy way to acknowledge death and grief.

Mum's brother Wally and his wife my dear Aunt Irene had four children, Alan who succumbed to cancer (in his 50's?), Janet, Kate and Chris.  I am in good and regular contact with my cousins Janet and Kate.  We visited together in Bristol last year, and we saw their mother my Aunt Irene in the peaceful memory unit where she now lives.

Which leaves Mum's oldest brother John and his wife Elsie. I think that I only met them once - they moved from Bristol to Southend on Sea, Essex - which in those pre-car days might as well have been to the other side of the moon.

(The one time I met them is when Mum decided to host a family reunion for her brothers and their wives).

I knew that Uncle John and Auntie Elsie had a daughter named Margaret, but I can't for the life of me remember if we ever met.

My oldest sister Maureen remembers her cousin well from the days before she and her parents decamped to Southend.

BUT  lo and behold my good cousin Janet has made contact with our first cousin Margaret via Face Book. I cannot post Margaret's photo' because I do not have permission to do so.

But it is fun to know that I have an older first cousin who is live and well.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Billy Graham, for good or ill

I heard Billy Graham in London, 1965.

My denomination did not approve of him. They were peeved because his organisation did not refer converts to "Bible believing Chuches".  One woman in my local Church did not like him because she said  "he has very cold eyes" (based on a photograph!)

Nevertheless some of we younger folks went up to London to see and hear him.  Here is where memory is tricky. The 1965 Crusade was held at the Earl's Court Exhibition hall, but my memory is of being at the (old) Wembley Stadium.  Maybe we were there for the final night which was at Wembley.

I was distinctly unimpressed with his sermon.  It was long, rambling and boring.

But at the end, when we all sang "Just as I am" hundreds streamed forward to "accept Christ".  We have no idea of what percentage were "off the street" unbelievers, and what percentage were existing Church goers.  We do know that the Graham Organization were past-masters at marketing the Gospel, and at persuading hundreds of local Churches to send bus loads of members to the Crusades.

We have no idea of the percentage of converts who were recidivists  and "back slid" on their spur of the moment decision to accept Christ.

(It's a bit like A.A. which boasts about the 10% who stay sober as a result of attending meetings, and is mute about the 90% who are not able to maintain sobriety).

Graham was successful in marketing cheap grace, and a total failure in teaching the cost of discipleship.

Shouldn't would be converts be required to first learn about the cost of discipleship, and then and only then to become a Christian by repentance, faith and baptism?

In the interests of truth I confess that I have been a peddler of  cheap grace in my ministry as an Episcopal Church Minister.

Graham sought the approval of every President from Truman to G.W. Bush.  (Did St. Paul seek the approval of the Roman Emperors?!).

Billy Graham was a great fan of Richard Nixon.  I have heard the tape of Nixon's 'phone call to Graham on the former's last night in office.  Nixon was clearly in his cups.

Billy Graham said  "Ruth"  (his wife) "thinks this is all a communist plot". So much for Billy Graham's political naivety. 

Many reliable sources peg Billy Graham's net worth at his time of death at $25 million.  Not bad for a farm boy from North Carolina.

It's not that I want to damn Billy Graham,  but neither will I lionize him.


George Will, a very conservative American columnist, has this to say about the Revd. William F  Graham.    He is "on to something".

Billy Graham was no prophet
How the Rev. Billy Graham became a preacher with a worldwide following
Billy Graham, the evangelist who attracted a worldwide following for more than six decades, was found dead at his home on Feb. 21 at age 99. (The Washington Post)
By George F. Will Opinion writer February 21 Email the author

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some, and there are many “miracles around us today, including television and airplanes.” Graham was no theologian.
Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said “a prophet hath no honor in his own country.” Prophets take adversarial stances toward their times, as did the 20th century’s two greatest religious leaders, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II. Graham did not. Partly for that reason, his country showered him with honors.

So, the subtitle of Grant Wacker’s 2014 book, “America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, ” is inapposite. When America acquired television and a celebrity culture, this culture shaped Graham. 

Wacker, of Duke University’s Divinity School, judges Graham sympathetically as a man of impeccable personal and business probity.

Americans respect quantification, and Graham was a marvel of quantities. He spoke, Wacker says, to more people directly — about 215 million — than any person in history. In 1945, at age 26, he addressed 65,000 at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The 1949 crusade in Los Angeles, promoted by the not notably devout William Randolph Hearst, had a cumulative attendance of 350,000.

In 1957, a May-to-September rally in New York had attendance of 2.4 million, including 100,000 on one night at Yankee Stadium. A five-day meeting in Seoul in 1973 drew 3 million.

Graham’s effects are impossible to quantify. His audiences were exhorted to make a “decision” for Christ, but a moment of volition might be (in theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s phrase) an exercise in “cheap grace.” Graham’s preaching, to large rallies and broadcast audiences, gave comfort to many people and probably improved some.

Regarding race, this North Carolinian was brave, telling a Mississippi audience in 1952that, in Wacker’s words, “there was no room for segregation at the foot of the cross.” In 1953, he personally removed the segregating ropes at a Chattanooga, Tenn., crusade. After the Supreme Court’s 1954 school desegregation ruling, Graham abandoned the practice of respecting local racial practices. Otherwise, he rarely stepped far in advance of the majority. His 1970 Ladies’ Home Journal article “Jesus and the Liberated Woman” was, Wacker says, “a masterpiece of equivocation.”

The first minister with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame for his preaching was an entrepreneurial evangelical Christian who consciously emulated masters of secular communication such as newscasters Drew Pearson, Walter Winchell and H.V. Kaltenborn. 

Wielding the adverbs “nearly” and “only,” Graham, says Wacker, would warn that all is nearly lost and the only hope is Christ’s forgiveness.

Graham frequently vowed to abstain from partisan politics and almost as frequently slipped this self-imposed leash, almost always on behalf of Republicans. Before the 1960 election, Graham, displaying some cognitive dissonance, said that if John F. Kennedy were a true Catholic, he would be a president more loyal to the pope than to the Constitution but that he would fully support him if elected.

Graham’s dealings with presidents mixed vanity and naivete. In 1952, he said he wanted to meet with all the candidates “to give them the moral side of the thing.” He was 33. 

He applied flattery with a trowel, comparing Dwight Eisenhower’s first foreign policy speech to the Sermon on the Mount and calling Richard Nixon “the most able and the best trained man for the job probably in American history.” He told Nixon that God had given him, Nixon, “supernatural wisdom.” 

Graham should have heeded the psalmist’s warning about putting one’s faith in princes.

On Feb. 1, 1972, unaware of Nixon’s Oval Office taping system, when Nixon ranted about how Jews “totally dominated” the media, Graham said, “This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country is going down the drain.” He also told Nixon that Jews are the ones “putting out the pornographic stuff.” 

One can reasonably acquit Graham of anti-Semitism only by 

convicting him of toadying. When Graham read transcripts of

 Nixon conspiring to cover up crimes, Graham said that what 

“shook me most” was Nixon’s vulgar language.

Of the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops, Graham said, “we have all had our My Lais in one way or another, perhaps not with guns, but we have hurt others with a thoughtless word, an arrogant act or a selfish deed.” 

Speaking in the Washington National Cathedral three days after 9/11, he said “it’s so glorious and so wonderful” that the victims were in heaven and would not want to return.

Graham, Wacker concludes, had an attractively sunny personality and was “invincibly extrospective.” This precluded “irony” but also “contemplativeness.”