Tuesday, March 31, 2009


How odd that, as spring breaks upon us, I am experiencing a slow, yet progressive bereavement. An old friend, with me since September 2001, is now dying, and will no longer be. I could opt for extremely expensive transplant surgery, but it would be only a respite of a few years. It is time to face the ultimate truth, and let her go.

The heart, the gas-guzzling 8-cylinder engine of my infamous Dodge Durango, is about to give up the ghost. Too many miles. Too many off road climbs. Far too many "let's see if we can make this trail" experiences. (And we always did.) But the other side of the coin reads: So many memories, and road trips, and people carried to volleyball and basketball and softball. Journeys to the Cape. Dogs to the beach. Breaking down (snapped suspension-bars) in Melville. Towing people out of their snow-covered driveways, and being the only person on Main Street, Bridgehampton, after the Presidents' Day snow storm of 2003, and Starbucks first customer that deep (22 inches) snow morning!

The truck has recently been turning heads on Main Street for all the wrong reasons. People are simply curious to know where the damn noise is coming from! So it's time to go.

In a day or two I will say goodbye to my old and noisy truck, and drive away in a new Toyota Highlander. Quiet, comfortable, and sophisticated - qualities which have escaped me of late. I must get used to them, or they to my driving. I will dearly miss my old friend. May she rust in peace.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


After the ecclesiastical euphoria of the last few days it is time to return to a more settled existance and concentrate on things nearer and of equal importance. And here's one of them: The woodchuck is back!

I'd better explain. There is a small wood and embankment just north of the Montauk Highway in Sagaponack (actually land owned by the Wolffer Vineyard) where last fall an adult woodchuck was frequently seen rooting around or sunning himself (not that I want to be gender-specific though.) Then came the winter months and the creature naturally went to ground. Yesterday he was sighted again, and we are all thankful that he survived the harsh cold season.

Woodchucks are deep hibernators and can dig burrows with tunnels many feet long. But my theory is that this special individual is a Hamptons Woodchuck, and therefore has a second, winter burrow in West Palm Beach. Of course he has!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


And in more ways than one, for on a personal note - I have never attended and participated in the election of a bishop before now.  (Remember that other parts of the Anglican Communion do it differently, if at all!)  I had grumbled at the crack of dawn start and the early drive on a Saturday, but gathering with some five hundred delegates and visitors, not to mention the press and general media, in the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City was an unforgettable experience.  It was not just the gathering and the music and the electricity in the air, it was the tangible fact that we were making history in what has been a fractured diocese, and doing so as a people craving a sense of direction and unity.  Plus, doing it in the most gorgeous neo-gothic cathedral in the United States may have added to the sense of occasion !

Elected? The Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano from Massachusetts.  And on only the second ballot.  An overwhelming acclamation from both clergy and lay delegates.  A vote for something, and something new.

That's it. I'm exhausted.  A great day over, and not only a sermon still to finish, but today's Bishop-Electing Gossip to catch up with on Facebook!  (And come to think of it - with a name like Provenzano, I bet he likes excellent Italian food!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009


It was quite a revelation early this morning when, listening to my family discuss the remaining math homework problem, I realized that I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying.  Yes I was awake, was sipping strong coffee, and everything else seemed to make sense. Quite honestly they could have been conversing in Serbo-Croat for all I was able to grasp the subject.

Numerically useless parent that I am, my thoughts drifted back to my own middle school days, and the times when my eyes and brain would glaze over when the square on the hypothenuse was mentioned.  I would sit in mathematics class willing the minutes to pass quickly, and anticipate  the next classics lesson. Then I would be able to march with Julius Caesar into Gaul, listen to the Oracle at Delphi, read Cicero in translation and simply wonder at the glories of ancient Greece and Rome.  Clearly I was born in the wrong era, as my mind still does the same today.  As George Gissing wrote:

Every man has his intellectual desire; mine is to escape life as I know it and dream myself into that old world which was the imaginative delight of my boyhood. (By the Ionian Sea. 1901.)

In other words - never grow up!  The only problem is:  They had math back then also!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The snow has now melted, except for a few small piles left over from the plows. The temperatures are in the high 40s. All ponds and creeks are now ice-free, and my kayaks are ready to go! Although the geese are still patiently waiting for nature's mysterious signal, smaller birds are so much more active, and the demands on our feeders are great.

There are other, more unnatural sounds and signs that welcome this season. I realized this driving away from Kate's school this morning. The iconic Hampton landscaper combo (large truck with cutting equipment trailer in tow) moving at high speed, and cutting in on existing traffic, praying that police are not there to either fine them for various misdemeanors, or check their legal status as workers. Yo no hablo Inglés señor. Yeah. Really.

Also the school softball season practices started this afternoon. I've really missed the basketball games, and it was so great to see the same girls, plus many others, get together at Red Creek. I just wish more parents could make it, but realize that I am fortunate in, however one describes it, just being able to be there.

Of course it is St. Patrick's day. A celebration of a Welsh bishop, also a Roman alumnus, who was ordered by the Church to take an unruly people in hand. How popular ignorance reigns! Have I eaten the American-Irish creation of corned beef and cabbage this evening? Certainly not. We enjoyed gnocchi alla bolognese, and the only green on our plates was the salad!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


After three days away, and a period of time that contained so many wonderful people, sights, thoughts, discussions and tastes, it is chillingly frustrating that at present I cannot , because of personal circumstances, comment upon these experiences in these columns. Perhaps later, or even not. It all depends ... Suffice to say, I have returned home to drink fresh-ground, pressed coffee in the morning, sleep soundly on my familiar pillow, and be with my dogs. Not to mention my own parish and people. And, of necessity, King Kullen.

Now, my visit today to King Kullen was my routine, late Sunday morning visit. Family agreement on the dinner menu created the shopping list, and I pick up the ingredients. Simple. As it was today, despite the store not having any leeks. The frustration was at the check-out.

I joined the line behind a woman with a cart packed to the gunwhales, but as Tom was the man at the check-out I knew he would be quick. And he was. And as the huge mountain of packets, produce and cans disappeared past the scanner, I felt hope as I began to place my smaller hill on the belt.

And all of a sudden everything ground to a halt. The large woman with the large (now unloaded) cart in front of me was presenting Tom with a series of dilemmas. Method of payment? Cash. Ah. But she couldn't find that cash. She was sure that it was in one wallet, but it wasn't. So she opted to pay by credit card. I noted that it was a Visa card. And it was refused by the omnipotent banking call center in India. So she persisted in looking for her cash. And, God be praised, she found it in another chasm of her pocket book. Counting out the bills slowly and audibly, she suddenly stopped. She announced that she preferred to pay by American Express. That card was duly swiped, and I began to feel happier. But in her purse- rummaging she then came across a coupon for paper towel, and asked if it could be redeemed. Tom, of course, said yes. And I felt totally ecstatic, yes even in King Kullen, that I could be quickly next, until her next proclamation. This was based on the fact that she had found her cash, and could Tom cancel the Amex transaction? Of course he could, but ...

It was about his moment that I started to lose the will to live.

I swiftly regained that will after Tom had swiped and checked , but behind me I saw many others, city people, pallid of skin and with disorganized manners, lining up to created even more customary incidents. God bless Tom!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Huddington Church. Worcestershire, England

It is an annual event, hosted generously by one family or individual, when members of St Ann's Church who live in New York City meet simply for the sake of enjoying each other's company - something we are very good at doing. Dear friends all, and great, gifted and entertaining people - each in their own way, character and profession. We met this evening at the Fifth Avenue apartment home of Mark and Elizabeth, and talked away for an hour and more.

Of course I wanted to be there, and so caught the 3.00 pm Hampton Jitney from Bridgehampton, which was a pleasant and busy journey. Busy? Yes! Thanks to the marvels of WiFi (Starbucks please take note) I spend the first half of the journey to Manhattan live-chatting with friends in The Ukraine and London, and left messages for others in the UK, Hong Kong, and various parts of the USA. Then I had a lovely conversation with my seat-mate, who was a woman who had visited her five grandchildren in East Hampton and was returning to France via JFK airport.

For reasons with which I shall not bore you, I missed my scheduled return Jitney, and so had an hour's wait for the next coach. Time to strike out (in the British sense of the phrase) and be adventurous. Find a bar. Relax and wait. And that I did. Now the bar in question was not the sort of place I would usually queue up to visit. Or even visit at all. This place at 3rd and 92nd had a certain Mexican name, and boasted six huge TV screens in a line, all showing different sports. Not quite my cup of tea, so I sipped a small libation and concentrated on my PDA for a few minutes.

The woman who had served me returned and asked, "You're British, aren't you?" This alerted me, because most Americans would say "English." (And, of course, to them we're all from London.) I said yes, and in the next few sentences I mentioned that I grew up outside of Worcester, in the Midlands. "Really?" Came her response. And it was clear that she was pursuing the conversation as other customers were waiting. "My mother grew up in a small place called Huddington. Ever heard of it?"

Now, when I told her that my father had been the Rector of Huddington with Himbleton (the neighbouring village) through the 1960s she simply gasped. "But my mother used to go to that church now and then." I had to rush for my bus, else I would have stayed for much more talk and exchange of information, and maybe one more drink - but I simply had to leave.

Quite remarkable! My friend Gay Snow, who I meet at least twice a week shopping in King Kullen, described this sort of encounter as "Jewish Geography!" I now believe her. Incredible! And thank you, Jayne, for buying me my drink!

Monday, March 9, 2009


And so was this evening's school Science Fair for this parent, but a good job that it was not an ecology project as it was a two-car evening! My carbon footprint was horrendous, but my grape footprint was very comforting. We dropped Kate off at school at 6.00 p.m. and adjourned to Barristers in Southampton to meet another parent, where I enjoyed some excellent French Pinot Noir. Back to school for 7.15, but I then called Nichols of East Hampton to order the (in my humble opinion) the best gourmet burgers in the area, and drove east to pick them up. Now sipping even more Pinot Noir, this one Californian, and waiting for my family to return home, I can see the attraction of science. And science projects. It's the damn pushy parents I can't stand.

But by my own admission this evening I am such a negligent parent. Or am I?


Yesterday I was given a gentle lesson in humility by my daughter, and to make matters worse it was in the kitchen. Now to me the kitchen is the most important room in the house. I belong there. Some more unkind people might say that I am difficult to work with in a kitchen, but that is not often the case. I admit that on rare bad days I do not suffer culinary fools gladly, and on even rarer worse days I don't take prisoners, but generally I am mellowing out, and do not throw sharp things at people.

Kate had been given a weekend school project - bake two loaves of bread, of which we would keep one and the other donated to the needy. It goes without saying that, on the weekend before the school Science Fair we needed this extra task like a hole in the head. No problem, I thought. I'll do it. No Dad, I'll do it, was the reply. Later on, with flour everywhere I again offered to help, and once more after that. Both times I was firmly put in my place. Dad, get out of the kitchen. I did.

Yet late afternoon we were all tucking in to chunks of some of the best bread I have tasted in a very long time. Thanks Kate! I swallowed mine dipped in olive oil, and also swallowed my pride.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I had to hang around Bridgehampton this afternoon for various reasons, and thought I would get out of the office and enjoy a good (medium size, with extra shot!) cappuccino in the local Starbucks. Now this is a comfortable and very pleasing Starbucks, unlike many other local branches, and a little historical as it grandly occupies the ground floor of the original Bridgehampton National Bank building. (Even the original bank vault door is preserved at a part of the interior decor - and the regular staff are wonderful! )

Whilst sipping my coffee I also wanted to write a blog - live blogging as it were, observing what was around me - as I knew that every North American branch of Starbucks has WiFi. So, at my table I opened my MacBook and attempted to log on to this wonderful network. I then discovered that if I wanted to do so I had to pay either a one-off fee of $3.99 for two hours access, or commit to a monthly fee of $19.99.

C'mon Starbucks! Get with it! Lose ATT or renegotiate the franchise. Most other local WiFi is free. The Hampton Jitney, Panera, Hampton Coffee Company etc.

I like your coffee, but it is now getting cold.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Such a celebration naturally is ignored by most of the world, but for those of us who have our ancient origins in a country called Wales that is a little bigger than Rhode Island, but not much, today is "our day."  A day to commemorate a man, a bishop called David (500-589) who by his life and personal energy invigorated the people of Wales in a way that truly shaped the character of the people.  Those people?  I mean my people.  Even me.  Today.  Upon the foundations of his 6th century monastery and church was built the great cathedral that in the Middle Ages held the unimaginable status of a place of pilgrimage where, if you went there twice, was the equivalent of making a pilgrimage to Rome itself.  David was a very special, and spiritual man.  And unlike Saint Patrick, he has a genuine historical pedigree and message.  (Such a fact really annoys the Irish, but who in the civilized world  likes to celebrate a major saint with green beer, and the faked Irish American menu of corned beef and cabbage?)  

St Davids was also the beautiful cathedral where my father was ordained,  all those years ago. And where I went to pray, as pilgrim and tourist and perhaps more.  

To mark this day we had to eat lamb, slow cooked for six hours with tomatoes, garlic, onions and red wine, with roasted vegetables, including leeks to be true to Shakespeare's Welsh image. But celebrating David, bishop and leader of people, is more than traditional food.  It is about remembering a man who, above all, listened to the people.  

So much religion today seems to be about telling people what they should, must believe. Perhaps that is why we see fewer and fewer people in church.  I really wonder.  Perhaps we should preach less, and listen a great deal more.