A Retirement Monday

Grandson David had the day off, and we decided to have a short day trip after the car was serviced. Being in Asheville would give us a quick start. The car place didn’t take long, but as we drove away, David was called into work. We knew that might happen. Rain was in the forecast, anyway, so we drove home. It was a lovely drive to nowhere.

John thought perhaps we might do a little gardening, and that’s exactly what I did. He took the garbage to the trash center, while I clipped some over-zealous tendrils that were trying to invade the garage. A light drizzle fell, gradually wetting my back. This was perfect for my first day in the garden this year. Twenty minutes was enough to make me feel quite virtuous. Doing the garbage run took him longer. I enjoyed a fresh cup of mocha coffee on the porch as the drizzle turned into a downpour.

This was as good a day as any to make a Christmas pie. I promised John a Cranberry Mince Pie last December and never made it. Surely this is not as theologically askew as you might think. We wouldn’t have Easter without Christmas, and Christmas would not be celebrated without Easter. John won’t quibble, and David won’t either. Besides, it will all be gone before Palm Sunday.

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In case you are wondering, I will not tag grandson Nathaniel on this. Even for a family-only dish, he would strive for perfection. I should not have dumped all the filling in the shell, because I suspected it would overflow. It did, but the cookie sheet caught it. There wasn’t enough dough to make a proper lattice crust. Nathaniel would have made another batch. I didn’t and went from batch to botch. I won’t bitch about the botch, because almost any Butch would eat it.

Walking John

Neighbor Nancy waved at me from her porch at the bottom of the steep hill. I stopped to chat and waved my phone in the air. I said, “I’m walking John this morning. He’s in Tennessee at the train club, and we’re texting.”

Nancy is both dreading and looking forward to her husband’s retirement in a few weeks. She said, “I cook breakfast only on Sunday and Monday right now. When he is retired, he’s going to want eggs for breakfast every day.”

The landscaper has adorned his burn pile with bottles hanging from a long branch, a small red ball, and an American flag. I didn’t realize it was a work in progress until I saw the additions today.

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Spring is coming to the mountains. The creeping thrift is beginning its annual show. I suspect we would appreciate this more if we had seen the snow while we were away. The neighbors didn’t talk about it, but we heard a weather report that said it was snowing in the Carolina mountains.

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Singular Sillies

A crowd is not necessary for sillies to erupt. Grandson David and I were finishing a very flaky pastry John bought for us on Long Island. It was thick, and one needed a giant’s mouth to bite it properly. I paid no attention as David brought it toward his face. I heard a soft uumm sound. Without knowing the cause, my hand reached for the camera. In our house, you freeze when you know something silly is happening, and the uumm is as good as a trumpet fanfare. He held the pose a few seconds, knowing he couldn’t recreate it. The pastry looked like big-bunny buck teeth* sticking out of his mouth. As soon as I said, “Got it!”, he began to chew as we both laughed.

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*Grammar Cop Ellie (https://crossedeyesanddottedtees.wordpress.com), where do hyphens belong?


Even though John did all the driving to New York and back, I was tired. I unpacked, put a meal on the table, took a nap, and thought I would make it to bedtime. In the evening grandson David tried to explain something to me. I told him to try again the next day, because I couldn’t think well.

He laughed when I said, “I haven’t lost my marbles, but they have shrunk. They are now the size of BBs.”

I had enough brain power left to be thankful we spent quality time with relatives and friends and heard heavenly music. We were in the car about 30 hours, playing CDs almost constantly. John said we listened to a great majority of our music for Lent. There is no telling how long it would take to hear the recordings for Holy Week and Easter.

Kings Concert

Morning and afternoon were free, so we went to one of our favorite eateries, Hauppauge (pronounced hop-hog) Palace Diner. Long Island is chock full of good diners – the kind with a huge menu, bottomless coffee cups, efficient service, breakfast all day, and dessert choices that no bakery would be ashamed of. Grandson David’s former college roommate, Justin, met us there. It was great to see him again. The young men went their way, and I sneaked in a quick nap.

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We stopped by the harbor when we saw the tide was low. I used to love listening to the Singing Stones, a row of rocks across the stream. When the tide is out, the water makes a lovely sound rushing through the rocks. It was great to hear it again.

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We picked up friend Ruth and went to Manhattan for the concert by the choir of Kings College, Cambridge. John had it timed perfectly. We reached 5th Avenue about five minutes before it would be legal to park on the street. John and David read all the signs carefully before buying time from the meter. We could see St. Thomas and the people standing on the steps, waiting for the doors to open for the concert. We stayed in the warm car until that queue of people disappeared.  This had to have been the best parking spot in the city for that concert.

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The previous day we were near the front of the church for Evensong, which was a free worship service. This time our assigned seats were about six pews from the back. John estimated there were 1,500 people there. It was gratifying to see the church full of people who shared our interest in religious choral music.

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People absorb a lot of sound, but the acoustics were so good that we could hear the music quite well. We followed the printed words for a more meaningful experience. When John asked what pieces I liked best, I had to think about it. Although the program ended with Vaughn Williams, I wasn’t sure how much I liked it. He is one of my favorite composers, but the words were odd. The text was lifted from Pilgrim’s Progress. I’ll just say the music made up for the words.

The other piece I particularly enjoyed was by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, a great nephew of the Methodist co-founder Charles Wesley. I didn’t think I had heard any of his works before, but I discovered he wrote “Lead Me Lord”, which we have sung many times.

John said the first half of the program was meant for him. That included Monteverdi, Tallis, Palestrina, Byrd, Bach, Lotti, Humffrey, and Purcell. David loved everything and couldn’t pick a favorite.

As I was waking up the day after the concert, John went out for bags of bagels. These were not for our breakfast. They will be our first meal of the day for many Sundays to come. We can get bagels in our local supermarket, but Ingles has a limited variety. Our favorites include whole wheat, onion, egg, and egg everything.

I took the last two photos as we left town. A basket that usually has plants spilling out of it in summer had Easter eggs and flowers for the season. That was tasteful, but the second was downright garish. I don’t know why I like outside Easter decorations. Maybe it’s because we never had them and don’t plan to start now. Hanging eggs from trees is silly enough to appeal to me, as long the result is reasonably artistic. I’m curious. Do you like egg trees and Easter decorations?


If I added something about a blog post, it would truly be a postscript, wouldn’t it?

We were excited when David showed us an Instagram photo and said our picture had gone around the world. He follows Kings College, Cambridge and found a shot taken while we were in St. Thomas church before Evensong began. We were aware that a photographer was working in the chancel area and taking pictures of the directors of the choirs. Looking at it on his phone, we imagined we saw ourselves. When we blew it up, we realized the back of the church was showing. We had been in the 6th pew from the front, so we couldn’t have been in the background. Oh, well. This shot is a good one of Cleobury and Hyde.

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While walking toward the beach in Stony Brook, John noticed the whitecaps in the distance. I zoomed so far that I failed to include the Game Cock Cottage, which should have showed on the right. The temperature was 34 degrees (just above freezing), and the wind was blowing at 19 miles per hour. I walked under similar conditions for 20 years and hardly ever noticed it. When I commented on that, John reminded me that we are five years older now. That never occurred to me!

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Double Choir, Double Pleasure

Our focus for the day was going to Evensong at St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue. However, in the morning we enjoyed going to the church we belonged to for 50 years.  We sang the anthem with the choir and went down to sit in the congregation for the rest of the service.

Friend Ruth left church with us, and we drove to Manhattan from Long Island. As John wove through city streets, he directed daughter Kate uptown via phone as she came from New Jersey. How he could do that is totally beyond me. We pulled into the parking garage closest to St. Thomas, and Kate was right behind us. We hurried to the church, knowing there would be a crowd. The boys and choral scholars of Kings College Cambridge were singing evensong with the St. Thomas choir of men and boys. It was going to be a fantastic worship treat.

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Ruth, Kate, John, and David inside St. Thomas church

The choirs rehearsed an hour before the service began. In the photo below, Daniel Hyde was directing the double choir. He stood out wherever he was, because he is 6’10” tall. Mr. Hyde is the current director of the St. Thomas choir.

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We were interested in seeing Stephen Cleobury, who has directed the English choir since 1982. He is retiring, and Daniel Hyde will be taking his place. I zoomed in on the man as he sat listening to the choirs. Both of the men are world-class musicians, at the highest peak of liturgical church music.

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If you’d like to hear this service, go to www.saintthomaschurch.org. Click on “Calendar”, click March 31, 2019 and scroll down to Festal Evensong. I know you won’t be able to pick out our voices, but we four were singing all the congregational hymns. The bishop who was preaching lost the screen that had his sermon. He controlled his panic and soon has the words in front of him again. David and I listened to the broadcast and found they edited out this painful interlude.

We went to a classic New York diner in Queens for a light meal. John chose it because it was near the best road for Kate to use to go home. After eating, he talked her through the route as he drove in the opposite direction.

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John, Kate, David, and Ruth in the diner