Saturday, 19 May 2018

Good wine and great memories

A glass of good Bordeaux the other day brought back some lovely memories.

They were of my friends Jean-Paul and Lizzie Chausatt who live in Bordeaux.  I have visited them three times.

Lizzie's parents lived in Pittsfield, MA, where I was their Rector.  She would visit them every year and that's how I got to know her.

Lizzie had studied in Paris and was returning to the U.S.A on the liner "France".  Jean-Paul was on that liner, he was coming to the States to teach.  They romanced on the ship and in due course were married in the Chapel at St. Stephen's Parish, Pittsfield with the then Rector Malcolm Ekcel as Officiant.

The second time Lizzie was in Pittsfield she came to the 8:00 service.  After which I said "Lizzie, it's so good to see you".  She was shocked that I remembered her name from the year before  (and so was I).

That gentle encounter led to an invitation to visit the Chausatt's in Bordeaux (sister City to my home City of Bristol U.K. since 1947).

I accepted the invitation and drove from Paris.  They were tickled pink that I drew up at their home on the day and time we had agreed.  My two later trips were by T.G.V. from Paris.

Between 2000 and 2006 (my Cambridge years)  Lizzie and Jean Paul came together to visit her family.   On at least three of those visits I was able to meet them at Boston's Logan airport and drive them to Lizzie's cousin in Needham, MA, and then at the end of their visit to meet them in Newburyport, MA (home of Lizzie's Aunt and Uncle) and drive them back to Logan.

On one such trip I gave them a grand tour, taking them to the house in Cambridge where Lizzie once lived, and also to temples of higher learning  (Jean-Paul was an educator) such as Harvard, M.I.T, Boston College  and Boston University.

Jean-Paul teared up in Harvard Yard.  He explained that he had always venerated Harvard, but had never believed that he would visit the Yard.

As for my visits to the fine City of Bordeaux -  well I can only give you a sample.

A. Seeing the monument to the ill-fated Girondists.

When I was there at Fair time we took a ride on the Big Wheel.  It stalled when we were at the very top, and I panicked!

B.  Taking a trip to the pretty town of Verdelais, there to see Toulouse-Lautrec's grave,

C. and so many more

Walking along the banks of the Gironde and stopping for a tipple at a riverside tavern.  There we drank Port (why the heck were we drinking Port in Aquitaine?!) and being assailed by a million and one flies in a rather dirty bar.

Driving out to the Vineyards and admiring the Vineyard Châteaux.

Twice within three years visiting their dear friends Jean and Claude (Jean is the husband, Claude is the wife) at their country cabin.  Each time Claude served Duck breast cooked over the glowing embers of a wood fire, with Cept mushrooms from the woods. A bit later she confessed to Lizzie her embarrassment at serving the same meal each time.  I asked Lizzie to assure her that Duck breast twice in three years was a wonderful treat.

Walking to the local bakery with Lizzie each morning to get a freshly baked baguette  for our breakfast meal.

On a day when Jean-Paul and Lizzie were to be busy I took  the train from Bordeaux to Lourdes and back, via Narbonne, using my Eu Rail pass. I surprised my Protestant self by being deeply moved at Bernadette's Grotto.

A glass of wine brought all these (and many other) memories to mind.  So I called Lizzie today.  It was such a delight to chat.  Jean-Paul is frail with Parkinson's Disease,  she bears a heavy burden, and was glad to hear from me.

I have been so blessed to be able to travel and to enjoy international friendships. 

The Chausatt's gave me this laminated map of the Bordelais Vineyards.  It's been attached to my fridges in Pittsfield, Cambridge and Sarasota for many years.

They also gave me two bumper stickers of Region Aquitaine.  I had one on a car which I no longer own.  The other has been on my kitchen window for 11+ years. Not one guest has ever asked my about it!


1.  Lizzie's father was the long term Curator of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA.  I think that his first name was Stuart, but I can't for the life of me remember his last name.  Thom Smith of Dalton, MA will be able to remind me.

2. When Lizzie returned to Bordeaux as Jean-Paul's wife he said that he would only speak French to her.  She said that she cried incessantly, but that it was in truth a great gift, enabling her to be super-fluent in the French language, so much so that I sometimes forget that English is her native tongue.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Cactus Bloom

Just down the street from my home.  Blossoms during the night.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Let it be greasy!

Don't tell my heart doctor that I had a burger today. (It's O.K. Dr. Y, this dietary sin was an aberration on my part).

I was with my friend Ashley L, the daughter of my good pals Jack and Donna C.

We went, at my suggestion to CULVERS, a Wisconsin based chain which has recently expanded to America's Cholesterol Capital (Florida).

I chose a Sourdough Melt

Oh my goodness, it was so delicious.  Cheese notwithstanding the burger meat itself was greasy to the point of bliss. Such good flavour.

The best burgers cannot be made with lean ground meat. It's the fat which makes them so tasty!

O.K. so my "side" was not fries or cheese fries.  I chose coleslaw to offset the fat.  (Coleslaw made with Mayo which itself  is all too fatty!).

Dietary wisdom apart it was so good to relax,  and chat with Ashley. She is a good soul.

Let there be grease!  At least once a year.

Sadly to say Culvers issues plastic knives and forks for those who need such implements.  They also offer plastic straws  (ugh!) for their soft drinks.  Thank you very much, but I was well able to drink my iced tea (in a paper cup) without the aid of a straw.  

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Warmed my Massachusetts Heart

I was driving east on Bahia Vista St, ready to take a left turn on to Tuttle Ave.

She, in the V.W.,  was continuing east.  I took the photo' from my car.

Her stickers read "Red Sox Nation" and "Boston Proud".  Her plates read BSTN LDY  (Boston Lady).

A woman after my own heart!

Members of the notorious "Grandma Phyllis Fenno St. Gang"  (private joke) will love this.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Sarsaparilla & c

The summer of 1975 saw me (as an English  seminarian in between my Junior and Senior years) helping to organize Vacation Church Schools in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. (It's a long story, but that summer ministry eventually led to my coming to the U.S.A. in 1976 and serving parishes here since).

Together with seven other students I spent a week of training at the former Camp Bement in Charlton Depot, MA.  At the end of that week the American students took me to a bar in Worcester, MA with the aim of getting  me drunk on Tequila. They failed!

Then a team of four of us began our summer programme, beginning at St. James Church in Greenfield, MA.

Tequila pshaw.  What I lusted for was a Root Beer.  In England I had read about it in the "Peanuts" cartoon, but I had never tasted it.

My trusty companions took me to an A & W roadside stand (remember those!) on Route 2 in Greenfield. 

Not the Greenfield stand, but you get the idea.
There I savoured a Root Beer in a Frosty Mug.  'Twas great!


There are various root based drinks which owe their origins to Africa and to Native America  (Root Beer, Birch Beer, Sarsaparilla).  

There was a time when folks brewed their own root based drinks (my 93 years old friend Betty recalls that her dad used to do so - together with alcoholic beer in prohibition days).

Now the stuff we can buy is mostly made with artificial flavours -  not good.

I thought that Sarsaparilla was a thing of the past until I bought some in our local Mennonite Farm store.

Brewed or concocted in Pennsylvania.

It's OK, but it is not great.  I won't be standing in line to buy more.


I had no idea that the word had that first "R" (Sars).  I thought that the drink was called Sassparilla.  Is it a silent R, or have I been mis-pronouncing the word?

One source said that Sarsaparilla is (or was) popular in the east end of London.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Adventure on the Campus

Friday May 11th  saw me on the campus of New College in Sarasota with Zion my trusty pal and therapy dog.

We were there (with five other therapy dogs) at the College's finals time in order to give students a relaxing "dog fix" at a stressful time.

Jacob (Jake) Taylor is a sophomore at New College. He is a son of our former assistant Rector the Revd Andrea (Andi) Taylor and Jonathan Taylor.  I'd alerted Jake that we would be at his College so he came to see Zion and me. We had a pleasant and fruitful chat.

The therapy part was not a one way street.  For I was able to have good conversations with some of the young men and woman at New College.   They are bright and charming people. It's cool that these 18-22 year olds wanted to shoot the breeze with an aging old fart such as I!  The trick is to ask questions and not to pontificate.

A young woman took some lovely  candids of Zion using the "portrait' feature on her new I-phone.

I gave her my e-mail address, but there was a mistake along the way so her photo's never arrived.


a) The Humane Society of Sarasota County  (my sponsor) has a great relationship with New College  and...

b)  I remembered the first name of this student and ...

c) The students who came for a dog fix had to sign a college waiver and could be identified, even by first name and...

(d) New College has but 900 students

Because of all this the New College staff person who arranges these events was able to track the young woman down, and this good student sent me the photo's today. 

Way to go eh?

Here are some of her photo's of my gorgeous and gracious dog at New College.

His beauty brings tears to my eyes.

What a gorgeous and gentle dog.  I love him to bits.  He brings me such joy and I am glad to share the joy with Nursing Home residents and with College students.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Chomp, chomp

I'd noticed that the small tree next to my car port was defoliating. I put it down to the semi-drought and began to water it well.

To be sure I do not know if it is a shrub or a tree.  It bears lovely variegated leaves.  A few years ago our idiot butchers (landscapers) cut the trunk to the ground, for reasons which even they did not understand.  But this hardy planting propagates itself from the roots.  In place of one trunk it emerged with eight trunklets.

Despite my watering it is now leafless.  I discovered the culprits.

The dark mess on the ground is their droppings.

A neighbour asked if I would buy a spray to destroy the caterpillars. I won't do that on the basis that what is a pest to my tree may well be a feast for birds.

I'll let it be for a while.  There is half a chance that it will re-leaf.

This reminded me of the Gypsy Moth caterpillar invasion of 1981 in New England.  (See NY Times article below)

There were multi-millions of these chompers, so much so that their droppings sounded like rain  -  I kid you not. 

Millions of trees, deciduous and coniferous were defoliated, but the leaves etc returned before the end of summer. However, given two or three consecutive years of Gypsy Moth invasions the trees become desperately weakened.  (I think that the Gypsy moth caterpillars returned in full force to Massachusetts in 2016 and 2017)