• upcoming trips

    No trips scheduled at the moment. Plus, owing to the covid 19 restrictions, my 99th birthday has been postponed until further notice. Jo is waiting for a knee proceedure and she and Tony will not be visiting me in New York in August. Early next year, covid willing!
  • Theatre and Concerts

    Unfortunately all theatres and concert halls are closed for the duration! I miss them more than ever, now, but my collection of CD's and DVD's make up for some of the loss.
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‘Cold Spring’ with Barbara and Stu

On Sunday, we decided with Barbara and Stu to give lockdown a rest and drive to Cold Spring.

It was a glorious day for a drive; one of the bright, but less humid, days of the heatwave summer–The grass was green and the trees bursting with energy. Christine’s route took us over the George Washington bridge, onto the Palisades Parkway and up to the Bear Mountain bridge. From there we took the 9D to hug the river and take us directly into Cold Spring. We filled up at 39 cents per gallon less than the New York price in the New Jersey filling station just at the beginning of the Parkway.

Two surprises en route; when we dropped off at the State Line overlook, where we hoped to photograph the nesting Buzzards, the car park was completely full and the line of waiting cars stretched all the way to the overlook entrance! We decided to turn around and give the buzzards a rain check. Everybody in the city, it seemed, had decided to escape as we had! And, when we arrived at the Bear Mountain ramp, the road was blocked so that we had to find our way to the  bridge by the side roads.

In Cold Spring it was much the same story; cars filled every official space and we had to park  on the street a block away from the Depot Restaurant where we intended to have an early lunch. However, visitors were all masked and social distancing like proper New Yorkers.

Cold Spring is still a pretty town with its quaint old railway station doubling as a restaurant, and we were all very happy with our choice of destination for the day’s outing:

Lunchtime . . .

 

I’m trying a Guinness for a change . . .

 

Our waitress

 

Socially distant drinkers . . .

 

Restaurant entrance . . .

 

Cold Spring Hotel . .

 

. . . .

 

Riverfront view

 

Watch out over there!

 

Young couple engrossed in their Cold Spring selfies!

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

The Emperor’s New Shirt (and hat)

Out of the blue, our dear friend Nerieda presented me with a new hot-weather shirt and a colorful cap to match.  Here I am on the balcony modeling for her with a glass of wine  (also provided by her):

A perfect match for my aging locks!

THE END

 

Another old friend leaves this mortal coil

On Friday last, Helena, daughter of Eddie Staine, called to tell me that her sister had called to say that he had died and had stipulated his two close friends and colleagues (myself and Ronnie Francis)  should be among the first to be told. Eddie and I were kindred spirits and had so many interests in common. I will never forget his human inclusiveness when he once pronounced that he thought me the most Christian atheist he had ever met! I felt utterly humbled.

Eddie: Organist, Choral Master and Conductor;  ‘Eddie’ was not his baptismal name, his initials are C.E.S, but he first introduced himself as ‘Eddie’ and we knew no other. However, on his CD he his listed  as “Edison Staine” . . . . .

 

Two of my fondest memories of him: Just after he joined us at the United Nations, he invited Dorothy (My late wife) and me to his home town in Belize to meet his family. His brother was The Chief Justice of Belize and many of his friends and relatives held posts in the Belize Government. He arranged for them to take us all over Belize to see the Mayan temples and antique sites scattered throughout the country and even into Guatemala where I bought a pair of sandals made from discarded car tires; We feasted on tropical fruit and partied all night on local rum and seafood.

Many years later, Eddie and I were taking a short vacation together during which, he persuaded a friend of his to sail us out to a deserted caye three or four miles off the coast for a picnic. The island was bare except for an abandoned lighthouse and a few wind swept coconut palms. It was a perfect day, the sea was sparkling and the gentle breeze bent the palms to a graceful arc. The island was used by conch fishermen over the years to pry the delectable morsels from their ivory and pink shells. All round the coast there were piles of these shells–a kid’s paradise–and I took a picture of Eddie sitting on one with his feet in the wavelets. I entered the picture in the United Nations’ Photographic Society’s exhibition that year and it was a great success.

NB. An irony of life is that change (progress?) often leads to hopeless disappointment.  Our deserted island was bought by NCL, renamed Harvest Kaye and fitted out with an artificial wetland surrounded by 10,000 imported Mangrove trees, a large shopping complex, swimming pool, Zip-line, umbrellas and chairs. But, there is more! Harvest Kaye and Stirrup Kaye (NCL’s other island in the Caribbean, together with two of their cruise ships have been put up as collateral for a 700 plus million loan that the Company needs to see it through the Corvid 19 crisis!

 

The inside cover of Eddie’s CD. His first love was music!

THE END

 

 

Another Covid-19 Birthday Celebration!

This time it was for our friend and near neighbour, Nereida. She lives in a building just two blocks up 2nd Avenue from me–it took only a few minutes for her to find Christine and me waiting, masked and toast-ready, in the Waterford garden with balloons and wine for her, and a beer for me:

 

Pictures were taken by our friend, Rubin, who happened to be on the Door at the time–just as well, because my arthritis wouldn’t allow me to open the ladies screw-top bottles and he obliged! Sadly, he is still grieving for his dear mum–lost to the virus a little over a week ago.

 

. . .  . . 

 

It wasn’t my birthday, but, such is the New Yorkers’ “Lockdown” spirit that Nereida and Paula each replenished my store of Lagunitas IPA by a six pack. I am very grateful to them both for their generosity and, as I am savouring a glass or two isolated on my balcony, I shall  contemplate  more kindly upon our society!

THE END

Lockdown Birthday

To paraphrase a late compatriot of mine: “Never! in the history of human kindness have so few (one) owed so much to so many!”–Greetings and good wishes from family, family friends, friends, and friends of friends have poured in by telephone, e-mail and Facebook. I shall never be able to thank everybody individually but in this post I hope to let all of you know that I am extremely moved by your thoughts and that I am honoured our lives have crossed in various ways and so enriched my own–In spite of the restrictions of distance and to close expressions of affection caused by Covid-19, I spent a  memorable birthday and I enjoyed every minute of it!

 

The Birthday breakfast. Scotch Salmon and wine provided by two of the people I hold most dear; Julia and Roger . . . . .

 

Since we are in lockdown together, dear Christine delighted in getting a proper birthday setting for me–taking  unfair advantage in that I couldn’t escape anyway! Here she presiding over the breakfast table. She added bagels and cream cheese and pickled herrings with lots of onions for my delight!. She also bought the chocolate cake and put the two LED lit 9’s on it–Impossible to blow out–I tried!

 

While we were eating breakfast, I was chatting with my two guardian angels on Skype– Susan in York, P.A. and Kim in Scotland. Originally, Susan had begun to arrange a star-studded reunion in the Party Room of my building, catered by Delizia, our favourite restaurant on the corner of 92nd Street, but covid-19 put a stop to all that. In lieu, she sent me two massive boxes filled with British gourmet foods and Cadbury’s chocolate, including a coconut and raspberry short-cake. All preserved in dry ice.                                   The remarkable picture of people thousands of miles apart was shot by the camera on my computer . . . . .

 

Susan sent me this screen shot of all four of us on Skype . . . .

 

After we had slept off the gourmet  breakfast and wine, we went meet up with our dear friends Barbara and Stu. They have an apartment in the building across the road from mine. Theirs, though, has an added advantage; a gated garden with waterfall. We arranged to socially-distance them there for a glass of wine and cheeses.

Here we are dressed both for birthday and covid-19 . . . For Cristine and I, Barbara added  little bottles of Courvoisier to the luncheon mix–after which, the social-distancing became a little lax I’m afraid . . . .

 

. . . .

Surprise, Surprise! While we  were talking I received a phone call From Kiowa  during which, I gathered, in the mists of the Courvoisier, that he said “Turn round”. Lo! and behold! There he was with Christie and Kelsey at the gate bearing gifts and balloons and Stu was letting them in with his key! Kiowa and Christie recorded the joyful meeting and you can see the pictures on his Facebook page. I will end this post with a shot of me holding the  balloons and their gifts. Thank you all so very much. Love, Ben.

. . .

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Jorge

GOODBYE JORGE!

No more will we encounter each other in the laundry room or in the garden when you were watering the plants, or even on the garbage run—I will sorely miss your spontaneous greetings and the infectious smile which not only lit up my days but did much to restore my faith in human nature. I will treasure the memories until I, myself, leave this mortal coil.
As the years passed, you helped me with the maintenance tasks I could no longer manage. The enthusiasm and joy with which you set about helping me and others in our building made me proud to be included among your friends. I regret that we only met each other within the confines of The Waterford—I never met your family. They must be devastated and I feel for their great loss.
Spring is here and, while sitting on my balcony having an IPA, I raised my glass to the sky and thought of you watering the gardens up there, illuminating the blossoms with your smile!

Jorge

Note: Jorge Munez, whom I first met when he joined The Waterford staff twelve years ago, succumbed to Covid-19 on Sunday, 19th April. Ben Thompson.

 

Pumpkin Flotilla and the Marathon

During Susan and Craig’s visit, we went to Central Park to see the launch of the Pumpkin Flotilla which has become an annual event. People carve their favourite pumpkins and take them to the Harlem Meer in the hope that their entry will be included.  But, alas, many of them are too top-heavy and are disbarred! Each entry is tested  in the Meer for floatability before the Launch.

While the Launch was being set up, costumed  revelers enjoyed the admiration of the crowds or watched professional  pumpkin-carvers at work. At dusk, the flotilla of candle-lit pumpkins, powered by a  man in a canoe, started its impressive way around the lake. There was one casualty but the audience hardly noticed it and the “WOW!s” continued without break.  I am only sorry that we were not in a good position to get a close-up picture. All the pictures were taken with mobile phones:

Professional carving . . .

 

Happy family and otherwise-occupied neighbour . . .

 

The backdrop for the Flotilla event . . . .

 

. . . . ready for the Launch . . .

 

. . . . cute little reveller . . . .

 

The launch area from across the Meer . . . .

 

Abandoned glee!

 

Appropriately dressed for the occasion . . .

 

The day after, our friend Nereida of The Roadrunner’s Club, took Susan and Christine to a celebration in the NY City Marathon Pavilion, set up for the NY marathon which was to be run the following day.

 

 

The winner, this year, was Christine Reiner who finished the grueling course 24 hours before the race started!

THE END

 

 

UN Day Concert

I tend to believe that I have never won a lottery in my life! But, this time, having entered the AFICS’ (UN retirees association) lottery for UN Day tickets, my luck turned and I was overjoyed to be congratulated for having won two tickets for the concert in the General Assembly Hall on 24th October.

It was such an occasion that Christine and I decided to treat ourselves to a lunch in the Delegates’ Dining Room before the celebration began. After years of displacement, resulting from the reconditioning of the UN buildings, the dining Room is back in its old place on the fourth floor with its  marvelous view over the East River. But not, sadly, with its old elegance yet. However, the Australian lamb chops were delicious and the service impeccable. Click on the pictures for the best detail:

Christine in the General Assembly

After the welcoming speech from Ms. Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, the United Nations Secretary General, H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres gave an address which was cautious, but generally optimistic about the world’s future:

H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres addresses the concertgoers . . . . .

 

Studying the programme . .

 

View of the audience beginning to take their seats . . .

The concert was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar and featured the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Eimear Noone, the West Village Chorale and Qatari soloists. All but one of the nine pieces presented were composed by Dana Al Farden. Here, the composer is being introduced:

 

Dana Al Farden is on the right . . . . .

 

. . . . . in this close-up, she has a remarkable likeness to pictures of Donald Trump’s daughter?

 

Conducter, Eimear Noone, acknowledges the standing ovation . . .

 

The three drummers . . .

 

Solo tenor

 

Solo violinist– Notice the gadget attached to the instrument which helped add sounds beyond its normal range!

 

Duet . . .

 

Solo drummer . . .

 

Supporting drums

 

Tenor and chorus

Before the concert  I showed Christine some of the great artwork collection scattered around the UN. I knew that Piccaso’s “Guernica” had been returned to Spain  some years ago but I didn’t know that the spectacular Chinese panorama in ivory had been removed from public view because the elephant has become an endangered specie! However we did have a  quick look at some new acquisitions before we ate.

Work after the style of Chuck close . . .

 

. . .detail . . .

 

Lunch is served!

 

Picture from Christine’s phone . . .

 

The lamb chops . . . .

 

. . . the view.

THE END

The Ghost of July Garland

Last Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, Christine and I went to The Producers Club on West 44th to experience the incomparable Peter Mac as Judy Garland! He introduces himself as Liza Minelli’s mother and he sings, and dresses, in the style of Judy in her vulnerable years. His monologue is sprinkled with funny (if somewhat Rabelaisian) one-liners, but the pathos is ever-present below the surface. It is most touching when he sings “Somewhere over The rainbow”.

Peter Mac as Judy Garland. (Picture taken by Christine on her mobile phone)

I was anxious to tell Peter how much we appreciated his talent and, to let him know that Judy Garland, at the age of sixteen and dressed in young girls’ frilly clothes, was the heart-throb of the whole British Army, (including me), some seventy-five years earlier! And, that his performance brought back powerfully nostalgic memories of a wonderful child actress. He keeps, on stage, a pair of the red shoes used by Judy to skip down ‘The Yellow  Brick Road’. I was surprised to hear from him that Judy Garland died fifty years ago!

 

Peter invited us to  have a picture taken with him. Dr. John (His spouse of ten years) kindly took this one with Christine’s phone. A must-see performance!

END OF POST

 

 

 

Happy, Crowded, Holidays

A few days before Christmas, Susan sent me a picture of a surprise she had in the oven:

Its an enormous hand-crafted mince pie!

She made it especially for the, now-traditional, Champagne breakfast we had together with Craig on Christmas Day. She also obtained from the internet, a box of Christmas crackers and packets of English/Irish bacon. For those inadequately nourished on American bacon, this is what real bacon looks like:

English bacon ready for the pan

Christmas morning: Menu: Eggs and English bacon, grilled tomatoes, cranberry bread, seedless grapes, strawberries and Champagne followed by mince pie and custard with Grand Marnier.

Christmas Afternoon: Off to the Big Apple Circus in Lincoln Center. I get a great kick out of the fact that I can still take my daughter to the circus for Christmas and we both still enjoy it immensely!

. . . . .

 

New young clown in the making!

 

One of the circus costumes . . . .

Boxing Day: Susan and Craig’s brunch for their children and grandchildren – See “Home Page” for picture.

December 30th: Nereida’s party:

I borrowed Nereida’s phone to take this  joyful group

 

Nereida’s daughter preparing the next round of drinks . . . .

 

Nereida’s shot of the Christmas moon over the Triborough Bridge as seen from her apartment.

New Year’s Eve: “H.M.S. Pinafore”  at the Kaye theatre – See side-bar on “Home Page”

 New Year’s Day: Paid NYC real estate tax!

 January 2: “Merry Widow” at the Met Opera – See side-bar on “Home Page”

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!!!