Saturday, 16 June 2018

i used to be a neatness freak, yeah even house-proud.

When I was first on my own, living in Fitchburg, Chicopee and Pittsfield MA. I was fussiness incarnate around the home.

Don't spread this around, but in those days I would iron my sheets and my underwear (as well as those items which needed to be ironed).

On one of her visits my Mum saw me use a hand held to gather up bread crumbs from the dining room table.

She said that she had never before seen a dining table being vacuum cleaned!

Now in retirement (twelve years now) I have become utterly lax about cleaning, tidying etc.

I place "stuff" on my hall table, on my desk, on a card table in my bedroom, and on my dining room table  -  stuff which sits and gathers dust.

I look at the mess and say to  myself "I'll deal with that tomorrow".

In retirement "tomorrow" is a long way off!

But I attacked it with a vengeance today.

Here is a massive bunch of paper stuff that will be recycled next Thursday.

And in my utility room there is a plastic box labeled "Financial Stuff" .

I have not looked inside for more than twelve years!   It too must go.

After all, will my heirs and my executor  be truly pleased to review (for example) my J.C. Penney card records  from more than twenty years ago!


Friday, 15 June 2018

Egg/Uovo and Sienna. Italy

Way back when (maybe 1986) I took a trip to Italy with my good Chicopee MA friend Joe R and his pal John F.

Joe and John were already in London and met me at Heathrow Airport.  We set off for a fine driving holiday in France, Switzerland, Italy and Holland.

Just before I left the U.S.A.  Joe's mother (the wonderful and beloved Irene R)  gave me some money with the instruction that I should use it for a fine meal some place or other.

We got to Sienna and the wonderful Campo.  There I decided that "this is the place".  We went to a restaurant somewhere in the above pic. John F ordered a hamburger, much to our merriment (a hamburger in Italy?!).

I forget what Joe R ordered. But I recognised the Italian word "Uovo" and assured the guys that this was most certainly a fine Italian dish.

The joke was on me.  What I got was no more nor less than one egg, served in the cast iron skillet in which it had been cooked.

My pretentious bubble was burst, as was meet and right!

When I returned to Pittsfield, MA I visited one of my favourite parishioners one Rina DiOrio.

Rina had been born in one of Tuscany's most lovely small cities, San Gimignano.

With a twinkle in my eye I told her about the "exotic" fried egg meal I'd eaten in Sienna.

"Oh yes', she said. "When I was growing up there in the 1920's and times were tough my mother would fry me one egg in a skillet as a rare treat".

Oh the fabulous life that I  (jmp) have lived, with memories from five continents.

And today I bought my own one egg frying pan at "Target".  It's not cast iron,  but it will be perfect when all I need to cook is one fried egg.

Cost $5.99.

So many fried egg and avocado breakfast sandwiches in my future!

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The retail mystery

When I moved to Fitchburg, MA in 1976 there were a few options for men's clothing.

There was still a bespoke tailor business on Main St.  I think that it was called Kennedy's, (or maybe that was the last name of the super cute man who attended to me!)

There was a K-Mart at what we called  (hold your breath!) the K-Mart plaza.   It was a bright, well lit store which was totally reliable for slacks, shirts, underwear, socks etc.  K-Mart was at the upper end of the discounts.

Meanwhile just down the road in Leominster there was a Sears store in the imaginatively named "Searstown"!

I moved to Chicopee. The "Fairfield Mall" on route 33 was a bit of a dud, but just a few miles away was the Holyoke Mall with anchor Departmental stores  such as Sears and J.C. Penney. It was 1980.  Sears and Penney's were the epitome of good service, fair prices, and a deep inventory.

Off to Pittsfield in 1984  to encounter the locally owned England Brothers Departmental Stores  (already on the ropes); and  we had  regional discounters such as Zayre (low end) Bradlees (a bit better).

The Pyramid Company wanted to build a Mall in downtown Pittsfield.  The then Mayor, Charlie Smith vetoed it and he was greatly vilified. Prescient or not, he was right.  The Mall was eventually built in Lanesborough MA  -   and it is on the ropes.

Retail has changed so much.  The days when Sears and Penneys were our default choice have gone.

Outliers such as Marshall's and T.J. Maxx ( T.K. Maxx in the U.K.) and our Florida based Bealls have their niche, but shopping there is a bit like attending a Church pot luck supper.  

Perhaps you will have a feast with a wide range of dishes, or perhaps (as once happened in one of the parishes I served) everyone will have brought a pasta dish. You never know what you might find at Marshall's etc. It will be of good quality, but you'll have to hunt and peck to find it in your style and size.

SIZE  I have to buy shoes sized 81/2  (USA size)  and wide.  My feet are not exceptionally wide but I choose a wide size to protect my bunions.

I need a new pair of running/walking shoes - my old ones are battered and bruised. So I set off to one of my local Kohl's stores where I've been known to luck out.

Believe it or not, the first shoes I looked at were the New Balance brand -  sized 81/2  wide.  The fates were with me.

But the pricing was weird

Item price $59.99

Sale price $44.99

Discount for having a Kohl's Charge card $6.75

Final price, including Sales Tax  $40.92


I'll take it!  Kohl's served me well today.


What was the mark up along the way, from the point of manufacture to my purchase today?  Kohl's told me that (apart from Florida Sales Tax) I  "saved" $21.75.

However much I "saved" I know that Kohl's made a profit.  So I have to ask where were the shoes made, and how little were the worker's paid per hour in order that my new shoes could be made, shipped, warehoused, distributed to local stores and sold to me at a "bargain price"?

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Pope who would be King (Oh No No!)

I've just read and enjoyed "The Pope Who Would Be King  - The exile of Pius IX and the emergence of Modern Europe"  David I. Kertzer, Random House, 2018).

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878) was the Pontiff from 1846 until his death.  For much of his papacy he was not only the head of the Roman Catholic Church, but also the Absolute Monarch of the Papal States.

Upon his election he was greeted as a political reformer and was fĂȘtĂ©in the streets of Rome.  For example he instituted  the beginning of representative City Government, and ordered the iron gates of the Jewish Ghetto to be torn down.

But when his civilian Prime Minister was assassinated  and the Roman Citizenry threatened his absolute and ultimately repressive political  authority he fled in exile from Rome.  

The existing powers (Spain, France, Austria) had a dog in this fight and it was through the intervention of French armed forces that Pius IX was restored to Rome and his autocratic rule. 

It was a short lived triumph.  The movement towards a united Italy (Garibaldi etc and all that) led to a united Italy and  the fall of the Papal States and  another kind of Papal exile, not to the secular palace of the Quirinal, but to the religious  enclave of the Vatican.

Pius IX was venerated by devoted Catholics as "the Prisoner of the Vatican".  Indeed no Pope ever ventured outside the Vatican  until the Concordat between Mussolini and the Papacy  which led to the establishment of the Vatican as a City State.

Pius IX became an utterly reactionary Pope. It was under his rule that the "Syllabus of Errors" was promulgated, condemning all things liberal and modern.  And it was during his Papacy that the dubious doctrine of Papal infallibility was promulgated,  at the first Vatican Council.

Thus the Roman Catholic Church turned its back on the world until the Papacy of John XXIII and the second Vatican Council.

In the Italian language Pius IX is rendered as Pio Nono  It's a clever pun  "Pio NO  NO".

I truly like,  admire and recommend  Kertzer's book.  It is not just a story about Pio Nono.  It is more than a biography of a Pope.  It is a primer on the emergence  of representative democracies in Europe. 

In our times, when western ideas of democracy are under fire, and some religious leaders would seek to impose their theological views as the law of the land,  Kertzer's book should give us pause for thought.

Thanks to National Public Radio you can read the transcript of a broadcast when David L Kertzer met Terry Gross on the radio programme "Fresh Air".

Enjoy the transcript (below), but above all read the book. My copy will go back to the Sarasota County Public Library system within a day or two.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Plagiarism, Sources, and False Memes,

This picture, purporting to show the results of Trump/Sessions Immigration policies is not what it seems to be.  See below for details.


I have only once preached the same sermon twice.  I was at St. James's,  Cambridge, MA and when l was searching for inspiration for one particular Sunday I came across (via Google)  a sermon which I had preached three years previously.

I thought that it was "pretty good", so I preached it again.  I began by saying "I preached this three years ago, but I had forgotten it, and so had you!".

One Sunday I re-preached a sermon which had been given by a Cambridge colleague, the Revd. J. Mary Luti.  It was splendid. 

Naturally I sought her permission, and naturally I told the congregation that I was preaching one of Mary's sermons.

One Sunday in a town which I will not name, and at an Episcopal parish which I will not name I heard a mighty fine sermon on stewardship.  I thanked the preacher ( a friend of mine) and with his permission I posted it to this blog.

Two or three years later an eagle eyed reader of my blog pointed out that the sermon had originally been preached by a Presbyterian minister in another City and State. 

The version I had heard had been lifted, and was not original to the mind and pen of the preacher whose sermon  I had liked. It had been 90% plagiarized.

I felt a sense of betrayal.  

Identifying sources is a cardinal rule for journalists.  It should also be so for preachers.  

Indeed the printed and published versions of my own sermons include footnotes which identify the source of any quotations I have used.


Which leads me to those Memes which good hearted people post on Facebook.

I get a lot from left of centre sources.  Indeed I am a lefty, but not all of the Memes can be trusted.

I saw one which alleged that child immigrants to the U.S.A. are being transported in Cattle cars.  BOGUS

I saw another which stated that the Republican majorities in Congress  had utterly abolished the CHIP (Child Health Insurance Programme)  BOGUS

One Meme alleged that the Trump/Sessions anti immigrant policies had confined children into cages.  Turns out that the photo' dated back to Pres. Obama's days.

More recently we have seen a photo' of a child in a cage  (the photo at the head of this page).  It's not what it seems to be. See

Listen dear friends.  I am as lefty/liberal as it is possible to be.  I have nothing but disdain for most of the policies of the Trumpites in the White House and in the Congress.

But the Progressive cause is ill served by false/fake news and memes.

For the sake of justice and truth my progressive friends  make a decent Newspaper (e.g. the Guardian, the Independent, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and many local newspapers) your primary source for news.

Imperfect as they are these papers are more to be trusted than Face book Memes and the like.

Monday, 11 June 2018

From one who lives alone. Musings at the end of the day.

Stock photo'
The old timers referred to "the shades of night", that time when light is evaporating and darkness is enveloping.

Before the advent of first gas and then electric light those shades were all embracing  -   unless there was a bright moon.

The Deist hymn writer Joseph Addison takes up this theme of evening shades and moon light in his hymn "The Spacious Firmament on High" : 

Soon as the evening shades prevail

the moon takes up the wondrous tale,

and nightly to the listening earth

repeats the story of her birth;

 Charles Wesley in his hymn "Christ whose glory fills the skies" thinks of the shades as a kind of spiritual darkness:

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true and only Light,

Sun of righteousness, arise,

triumph o'er the shades of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Oh those shades.   For those of us seniors who are retired and who live alone they bring the hardest time of the day.

Morning will have been filled with useful activity: housework, shopping, walking with the dog, volunteering, attending a lecture, having lunch with a friend etc.

Afternoon will have found its own rhythm: reading a book, preparing an evening meal, taking a nap, visiting a home, hospital  or nursing home bound friend.

Then the evening shades prevail.  What to do?  Who wants to eat-out alone, go to a concert alone, attend the opera alone?

Who wants to watch T.V. alone?  It's much more fun to watch with a spouse, companion or friend,  and to chit-chat, giggle, or criticize the programme as it proceeds.

A kind of melancholy or sadness moves in with the evening shades.  It's not a matter of loneliness, but it has to do with aloneness.

So it is that some of us go to bed early, finding peace in the shades of night, and  to escape from the wistfulness of aloneness.

Before I sleep I have two prayers:

First that I will not die in the night.  It's not that I fear death, but I hate to think that my dear Zion would be left alone and uncared for.

Second from Cardinal Newman

O Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then in your mercy,
grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest,
and peace at the last.


N.B.  this posting does not arise from any immediate crisis.  I am mentally  and spiritually well.  But I hope that these musings will resonate with others who live alone.

And I am well that many partnered people also feel very alone.


Christ whose glory fills the skies.

The Spacious Firmament on High  (A Deist hymn based on Psalm 19).

It's one of my favourites, probably because the Tune "Creation" is stolen from Haydn's wonderful chorus 'The Heaven's are telling the Glory of God".

Here is the Haydn Chorus

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Remembering dear ole Ben

Ben M, a dear friend of many of us in SRQ died in Dec 2016 at aged 92.

We talk about him often, always with fondness.

The gift I received the other day 

reminded me that Ben also gave me a wine bottle stopper

What fun!

One day Ben gave me a gift in this box

I knew that it could not be an engagement ring for we were not that close!

I pondered  "is a a tie clip or some cuff links?"

None of the above.  It was a churchkey.

I keep it my junk drawer in the box.  That way I always be able to find it easily.


Church Key from Wikepedia.

A churchkey initially referred to a simple hand-operated device for prying the cap (called a "crown cork") off a glass bottle; this kind of closure was invented in 1892, although there is no evidence that the opener was called a "church key" at that time.[1] The shape and design of some of these openers did resemble a large simple key.[2]
In 1935, beer cans with flat tops were marketed, and a device to puncture the lids was needed. The same term, "church key", came to be used for this new invention: made from a single piece of pressed metal, with a pointed end used for piercing cans — devised by D.F. Sampson[3][4] for the American Can Company, who depicted operating instructions on the cans,[5] and typically gave away free "quick and easy" openers with their beer cans.[6]
Paint Can Openers include bottle openers.[7]


The term in the beverage-opening sense is apparently not an old one; Merriam-Webster finds written attestation only since the 1950s.[8] Several etymological themes exist. The main one is that the ends of some bottle openers resemble the heads of large keys such as have traditionally been used to lock and unlock church doors.[9] The other is that jocularity helped propel the popular spread of the name, with the joke being that opening a beer is an activity that usually has little to do with pious or ecclesiastical circumstances—historical connections between monasteries and brewing notwithstanding.