Thursday, March 18, 2010


Driving around with the car window down.... Eating lunch and reading on the deck ... An hour's work getting the "farm" ready for the big reorganization... A chance to get a kayak in the water on Saturday. Can it be? Is spring really here?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A photo entry: Pictures of the tree that was brought down in the storm on Saturday night and which trapped me in my driveway on Sunday Morning. My rotary saw eventually cut away the top branches, enabling an escape after forty minutes or so, and Alcides arrived with his chain saw mid-morning to cut up the rest of the tree. Needless to say the 8.00 a.m. Eucharist was cancelled that day!

Friday, March 12, 2010

... of the cloth

Today marked an important milestone in my twenty four years in holy orders, twenty three of them as a priest. I ordered a new cassock.

That is no interest whatsoever to most normal people, but to those whom I know in the clericus, and the priests who read these rambling columns, that may come as a bit of a surprise! Wear the same cassock for nearly a quarter of a century? Well, yes. And not only does the cassock in which I was ordained (under those awe-inspiring arches in Wells cathedral with soaring music and.... sorry.) still fit me, just, but it is also slowly deteriorating in condition and shape. It's just... well, those wax stains on both cuffs are stubborn, and the hem of the skirt is a little shabby, and the whole thing is now a little tight under the arms...

I will wear this, my old Venheems cassock tomorrow morning as I bury my old friend Stuyvesant Wainwright, but it might be its last outing. Who knows? It begs the question: How does one retire a cassock?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And yes, it's still Wednesday, and I am still... well, you know that already.

(Written in Borders, Riverhead, with a cappuccino, and in a comfortable armchair.) I am armed with a Shop 'n Shop grocery list longer than my arm, for I am not only shopping for the rest of the week but also getting in the ingredients to bake Simnel cakes this weekend. An English medieval custom, I have successfully introduced it into the parish. It is a break from the Lenten fast on Laetare Sunday, and as one who has given up cake, cookies, chocolate and all things sweet, I will appreciate it more than some.

I had a delightful surprise visit this morning when Christina Rees walked through my office door. Christina is the chairwoman of WATCH, an influential women's ministry lobby group in the English church. She has been in NYC attending an United Nations conference on the rights of women , and thankfully found time to come "out east" to visit her sister in Watermill, and pop in to see me for a chat. Christina is married to Chris, also a dear friend, a retired (and actually quite well known, as I don't like to use the word 'famous') BBC radio producer, now freelance. They live in a delightful English village, with a perfect old parish church, and it was so great to see her after some six months since our last chat, and catch up on news and gossip.

We somehow got on to the subject of talks and presentations that we had given, and I was reminded (and told Christina) of the first ever "quiet day" that, having been ordained a matter of weeks, I conducted with a group of some two dozen elderly ladies in rural Somerset (south west England.)

Two sides of the large lecture room had floor to ceiling glass panels and sliding doors which looked out over a field where cows and sheep gently grazed. A perfect pastoral scene, as I delivered my naive words to the assembled group. Perfect, that is, until the bull appeared in the scene, and at the zenith of my spiritual comments proceeded to mount the nearest cow. It was both audible and visual, and I abandoned any attempt to restore gravitas to the room. I suggested that we adjourn to the coffee room - yet some remained!

It's still Wednesday ...

... and I've had an unexpected phone call, about which I am not allowed to talk at the moment. Oh well, a house call to make and then on, via school, to Riverhead. Again.

It's Wednesday ...

... Leo is back in his barbershop.
... Georgica Pond is looking very tempting in the spring sunshine.
... There are daffodil shoots growing by the side of my driveway, and

... I have to go to Riverhead for the third day in a row!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Well? What do you do in Riverhead while your car is being serviced?

The answer is simple. You leave the Toyota dealership and cross the road, taking your life in your hands as this involves five lanes of aggressive and uneducated traffic (well, it is Riverhead,) vainly pressing the buttons on crossing signals. Then if you reach the far side without being mown down by a 1989 something-or-other (and there are a lot of those in Riverhead,) you have to clamber up a grass bank, cross two hundred feet of parking lot (you may now gather that in this part of Riverhead the pedestrian is not really catered for) and eventually reach the safe haven that is Borders. There, saying a brief prayer to the patron saint(s) of books and good coffee, you order a large cappuccino, find that table by the window, and think.

It has been an interesting week, and to think that it is only Tuesday. The news on Sunday that Stuyvesant Wainwright had died came as no great surprise, but nevertheless filled me with much quiet sadness. I have gentle memories of his Wainscott home. Of lengthy conversations on his terrace; the infamous Wednesday luncheon club; quieter lunches art which ancient Bordeaux wines would sneak in; books; politics; baptizing his grand-child in his garden under a willow tree overlooking the creek off Georgica Pond; wondering just how many pairs of Nantucket red pants hung in his closet, and wishing that all Congressmen, serving and retired, could be as gentlemanly as this man. Stuyvesant died a week shy of his 89th birthday. Rest in peace, my friend. I will miss you. I have the honor of burying your remains on Saturday. I promise to be punctual, quick, and true to your wishes - without any unnecessary show of emotion. Well, we'll see.

For most of the weekend we have been preoccupied by a large cardboard triptych, which is a project board. Not to mention the glue, paper, laminating sheets and other stuff. Also enough glass paraphernalia to conduct experiments about the speed of solubility of popular brand-name painkillers. You know, Advil, Aleve, and the others. Yes, it was time again for the annual school Science Fair. We have joked in years past about how well many parents have done in this task, but this year, for the Lewis family, there was no such humor. From the start Kate, through disappointments and successes, produced her own study. Of course we helped her glue some of it together, and I assisted on Sunday afternoon by assuring that the distilled water being used was of a constant temperature ... but doesn't a sous chef do what the chef tells him to do?

Kate's piece de resistance was a power-point display that was all her own creation and design. And I describe this as a proud father, for she took 8th Grade First Place.

It is a sunny late afternoon in Riverhead and, come to think of it, the last time I sat at this table by the window it was a similar day. Except then the leaves were changing color and there was autumn in the air. Time for walkabout, and then hopefully the car will be ready. And if any of you need a supply of painkillers you really need to drop me a line ...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Trust me, and God bless you!

Today I have learned an embarrassing lesson. I spent over an hour with a woman, distressed, yet in control of her disappointment, who had been defrauded by someone using a local, familiar, yet false identity on Craig's List. All to do with renting a house, which actually is for rent, but not but the illegitimate so-and so claiming to be the rightful owner. A deceiver, by the way, who claims to have temporary residency in Scotstoun, Glasgow. For the faint of hearted that is in a non-bonnie part of Scotland, an industrial area in which few live, and even fewer choose to visit. I know. I've been there.

I sat down at length with N, and read through all the paperwork, reams of it, e-mails and the like. It was so sad. Despite all the warnings, a vulnerable woman is persuaded by comforting phrases such as, "We want to trust you with our home," and "God bless you."

The house, which I quietly visited today, is bona fide; the actual rent is reasonable, and if asked I will go into bat for the victim of this scam to perhaps negotiate a slight reduction. After all, the rightful owners are the victim of identity theft, and I also think that I am good at such discussions! In the meantime Southampton Town Police will be informed, and I will write further regarding their response, not to the scam (for that is an individual's responsibility) but to a case of identity theft.

Oh. My embarrassing lesson? Learning that in the world the two leading countries for internet scams are Nigeria, and the United Kingdom,

Monday, March 1, 2010

St David's Day, 2010

- St David's Day, March 1st, is always an important celebration for those of us who belong to the small but proud nation that is called in English, Wales, but in the Welsh language is known as Cymru. But in the turning of the year and of the seasons it is also a huge psychological turning-point. Winter is still with us, and there is the hint of more snow for Long Island this week, but surely spring is around the corner. It is fascinating in that people here still moan about winter weather, yet seem to have forgotten that the brutal night and early morning temperatures of 22 degrees Fahrenheit are now behind us, and that we are above freezing point for most of the time.

Of great importance to me is the fact that the ice on the local ponds and inlets has melted, and as a celebration of this (and a glove-down challenge to spring to arrive early!) I have bolted a pair of kayak "hull-raisers" back on the roof of the Toyota where they belong. If the wind dies down I may be able to get back on the water within the next week or so. It has been too long. Far too long... (Anyone want to come with me..?)

- A good basketball game this afternoon against the girls of Prince of Peace School in Sayville. The "gals" of Our Lady of the Hamptons overwhelmed them, but with sporting restrain claimed a 36-20 victory. On the scoring bench there was great chat and bipartisan humor! No issues or contentions. And I thought to myself, what friendly people! Their coaches, scorer (Kathy,) parents and team. A very pleasurable experience. Worth an hour's drive. And they even served food after the game. Hot dogs, but I missed out on mine. Thanks, Jess!

- I am really struggling with my Lenten discipline of no chocolate, candy, cookies, cake etc. It is now almost two weeks. People were so generous in giving me truffles and more on St. Valentine's Day. They sit there, staring at me...

- Please, Leo, come back from Miami Beach soon. I need a good haircut!