Over the pond and far away..Day 8

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Bar Harbour…. landfall into the U.S of A

During the night, we left Canadian waters and were now heaved-to close to American territory. Instead of going through all the customs rigmarole in a reception centre, the US Customs officials had come on board. We had been given the famous Green Card to fill out the night before and were advised to have it, and passport, with us, as we would be called to the ship’s Library in order.

Unfortunately we were only told an approximate time, so went to have breakfast, and had just time for cereal before the appropriate announcement came, and along we went. Everyone was courteous (well you don’t argue with a US Customs Officer, do you?) and we were able to return to our brekkies, secure in the knowledge that the U.S of A felt that we were honourable people and worthy of being let loose on their shores!

We waited until it was ‘open-tendering’ which meant that we could go just when we were ready. Getting from the ship to the tender was no problem when we were in dock, or securely anchored near to land, but it might have been somewhat hairy were we at sea with the ship and tender walloping about in heavy seas! But no such problems occurred. It is actually quite comfortable, and because the tender was almost empty, I was able to get some nice shots of the ship.

The first thing we noticed about Bar Harbour was the announcement about what it does pretty well…..catch lobsters, before we set-off for our internet-seeking.

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We were advised to take our internet-requirements to the local Jesup Memorial Library where we were met by smiling librarians who made us welcome, even offered their computers if necessary, and there was coffee available free if wanted. Classic dark wood panelling and a bust of (presumably) Mr Jesup, was well in keeping with the 1911 when it was founded. You have only to read its Facebook page and website to see the important contribution it makes to the locale.

Coming out again into the charming Village Green we saw what we had been hoping to see by coming to this area…..the changing of the leaves as autumn made its presence evident, even if only on a single tree!. So the journey had been worthwhile…to an extent.

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We are very fortunate in living near Argyll and Perthshire, Scotland where the amount of managed forestry acreage is vast and the chance of seeing beautiful colour change is very good. However our unpredictable and rather damp climate prevent us having the purples and strong reds that we hoped to see.

Close-by the Village Green and ‘the’ tree, was another St George’s Anglican Church. Unlike the previous one in Sydney, this had music playing, and extremely-well I must say! I was happy to listen to a master at the keyboard, and we had a very-pleasant chat about choirs and choral music. Hopefully we can keep in touch.

….But there were still some lovely sights to look-at and record….

And so back to the ship, packing to do (BOO HOO!), get dressed (PRETTY) and get to the Pinnacle Grill (HOORAY) for our final dinner of the cruise. I must say that it is nice to get dressed-up and have a meal alone with the lovely lady  who has been around with me for over 50 years…..and who still looks great….

Nouvelle cuisine was the order of the day, and I normally don’t find it very satisfying, but having dined sufficiently for a week, it was probably right and proper that we should stifle our demand for another over-indulgence in food. We needn’t have worried! What there was, proved very tasty and flavoursome, but I was never going to have to let my belt out a notch after this. However, the company was GREAT!

We spent the rest of the evening at the theatre with a wonderful comedian, but we came down with a crash to the realities of life when we had to put our cases outside, because tomorrow we would be leaving the ship for the next stage of our holiday…..

Over the pond and far away..Day 6

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Sydney ?…….. where’s that?

I think it was true to say that both of us were getting slightly concerned that, yet again, we were eating slightly more than our bodies required, so decided that a light breakfast of cereal and yogurt would suffice. We had made , however, a major tactical error…..we were sitting within smelling distance of the waffle-making department. Many things I can resist but not waffles, especially with fruit, and so I have no excuse. Lady of the House can make her own excuses. But I not going to lose any sleep over it……in any case it was a rather miserable grey, cloudy morning and we needed a bit of colour in our lives.

When I originally looked-up Sydney in my little Berlitz book of Canada, it got no mention, and a brief look on Google only told me about a very large violin situated at the port, (Spirit of the Fiddle) which you see pictured above. OK, at least that was something…..but what else? We could have gone on a tour about coal-mining or re-lived history at the Fortress of Louisbourg, but neither appealed…

However, after a fairly-long tender journey we landed in light rain, to a neat harbour, including a pleasant-looking restaurant, and a memorial to those immigrants who came to settle in the area….maybe an example to us all to recognise the part that immigrants can play in the development of a country.

It seemed a pleasant area, and impressed as we were with the architecture, and the lovely gardens, we decided that a perambulation through the houses were about as much as we could expect from this little town.

……Loved the little seat inviting passers-by to take a rest, and I never discovered who the chap in the red coat and tricorn hat is….maybe a ghost from years gone by?

It was then that we came upon the oldest building in Sydney. Built in 1785, St George’s Anglican Church was open with lights on…so in we went. My eyes lit on the little organ, and it did not take much prompting from anyone to get me to have a little play. Whilst experimenting with the stops, and trying out some hymns, a number of people started to come in from outside (maybe they were just coming out of the rain!), and it was suggested that I could come back in to give a recital and attract more people in! Then a gentleman came up and handed me a handful of Canadian dollars…..he may have thought I was the organist! Oh well, more for the church funds! They were very loyal to the Crown, and the Queen Mother had visited some long time ago.

As if that wasn’t interesting enough, we came upon a Hearing Aid Centre (which was my profession!), so we went in and chatted with the Audiologist. Enquiring as to which manufacturer she uses most and it turned out that it was the company for which I was UK Sales Manager for nearly 10 years!

….and finally, we sat on the Tender back to the ship, with a woman who turned-out to be a speech pathologist, and many professional comments were exchanged. So, after all, a day which we thought might have been unexciting, turned out memorable, and the rest of the day on the ship paled into insignificance……. so the lesson is…… CARPE DIEM

Maybe I should retire here!

Headed-up recently into Argyll…yet again! A previous post was about a long weekend break when we could explore the side roads. However this time it was a quick day trip along roads familiar to tourists wanting to see the wonderful scenery. We used the A828 road between Glencoe (of massacre fame) and the Connel Bridge. A few miles south-west of Ballachulish there is a little hamlet called Duror which features in the history of the Stewarts of Appin.

 If you want to know more about the area, I am assured that the book ‘Kidnapped’ by Robert Louis Stevenson gives all the lowdown on the bloodthirsty history.

But this wasn’t the reason for our visit. It was to visit a little Anglican Church, which is so small that it could be missed behind the trees on the road. If you Google Street the phrase ‘Duror Argyll’ you will be right at the spot where the church is.

It has a delightful organ which was made in Germany (it is believed) in approximately 1683. If so, it is probably the oldest church in regular use in Scotland!  There is also a belief that perhaps George Frederick Handel had played it, but it is probably impossible to verify it at this distance in time. The present organist, Kerr Jamieson, temptingly suggests that the connection may have more to do with the fact that there is still a working handle to pump the air for the bellows!

They have a Community Choir, and with such beautiful countryside no doubt photography and rambling are all part of the life up here. It gets more enticing every day……maybe another long weekend is called-for!

How small is a congregation?

 

Part of our choir, Angelus, went to the little Episcopal church of St Fillan’s, in the Perthshire village of Killin. last Sunday. For those of you who do not follow my blog, we go to areas where they have no Church choir, and perhaps not even an organist, and sing the Service of Evensong.

It is sometimes known as the ‘English Church’ , or the ‘tin church’ due to the external construction which is corrugated iron. However, inside it quite standard wood, and is warm and cosy.

We were lucky on this occasion to have the services of a wonderful organist who brought notes from an instrument which you would not know existed…..many thanks….’keyboard expert’!

Killin has only a small population outwith the holiday season, so the congregation of St Fillan’s is also relatively-small. When it was arranged, I did not realise that Evensong had not been held there since 1984! So it was really wonderful that members from all the other Churches, as well as visitors from the local caravan site were represented.

Following our choir practice in another local church, we were treated to the usual ‘feed’. You have to be very careful not to eat TOO much, inviting tho’ it may be! It was all so tempting that it was difficult to resist….even knowing that we would be spending some time standing up and sitting down….and you can’t exactly dash out to the loo in the middle of a hymn!

What had started as a dry, if cloudy, day turned into a rather soggy return journey, but nevertheless I hope that the 21 good people of Killin found it as inspiring as we did.

Singing in the Highlands..again

Sunday evening saw our little Choir, Angelus, singing again in the lovely Highland spa town of Pitlochry. We had been invited to return to Holy Trinity Church, (which is just beside the local distillery) this time to take part in a Sung Eucharist Service

Believe it or not, this change was because the Morning Service had to be postponed because of a cycling road race which would be running (or should I say, pedalling?) a matter of feet from the church! The resulting closed-off roads and sheer noise and activity would have precluded the possibility of them having any kind of normal service, and it was put back to the evening.

This meant different music to be prepared and learned, and with two of our members off, one having just had a successful heart operation, and his wife obviously with him, we were somewhat depleted, but with some of the local choir we did well. The church was packed with members from the local Church of Scotland and Basptist churches, and all sang lustily. Great to see such unanimity amongst the community. Of course the great reputation which Holy Trinity has for hospitality also helped! (only joking!).

It is always a pleasure to come to Pitlochry as it carries an air of ‘distinction’. One would not dare criticise it! There are a goodly number of fine shops and hotels, and the Theatre has a high reputation.

In summer it can be very busy, but the best time to see it is, well, any time. Go in the spring and see the ferns and heather on the hills; in the Summer, the gardens of the houses and hotels are at their best and the heather on the hills can be marvellous; in Autumn the bracken, and the colours of the trees can compete with ANYWHERE in the world; and of course when the snow is on the hills in winter, and you can get through the snow-gates, you must have your camera!  DO I SOUND LIKE A TOURIST GUIDE?

The marvellous grey stone which is extensively used here, gives it a very clean appearance and it always looks fresh. The Fish Ladder and the Theatre in its own gardens, are both worth diverting off the A9 to Inverness, to see. Most highland coach trips will do so and you will find many languages on the streets and in the shops.

Unfortunately, with our busy day, we did not have time for a wander round but we invite every-one, especially those from south of the Border to come and see it.

We will be back at Pitlochry if invited!…..some photos will follow….

What a guy!

I’m not a great TV buff, but I was intrigued with the programme last night, charting the efforts of a 16-year-old Eton boy called Alex. He suffers from Cystic fibrosis, which is normally a debilitating condition. But from somewhere, this highly-gifted lad (he is a brilliant organist) was able to carry out his ambition to conduct the College choir and orchestra.

He endured the routine of pills (over 50 a day), injections and physio with fortitude and achieved his ambition, to the acclaim of his Master, family and friends. I hope we hear more of this lad. he seemed to prove that an illness does not have to mean a disability.

Anyone who, having seen this programme, complains of a cold or a headache, should be ashamed of themselves!

Help me get ORGANised….

I am trying to find a copy of a piece of music for organ which we had at the end of our wedding some  ?????? years ago.

It was a brilliant march called ‘Passpied’ by Felix Borowski (who, despite his name, spent much of his life in England). I understand it is out of print. So if you have or know someone who might have it, please contact me.