When we returned from Tenerife a week ago, we both wrote lists of jobs we had to get through over the next couple of weeks. We have both being addressing them assiduously and I have only 2 remaining out of 10. One of those two jobs is to write my Xmas Newsletter.
You will know that I hate Xmas at the best of times and I am incapable of writing Xmas cards. I have a problem using a pen at all after years of keyboard communication and the last time I started to write Xmas cards, I carefully inscribed:
From John & Pauline Sanders
Pauline caught me after about 20 or so and immediately shredded them. She explained that it was too formal. My counter argument was that we often receive cards from Jane & David and I don’t know which of the 3 couples we know with those names it has come from. My argument didn’t seem to succeed.
Actually, we were told last year that Ruth & Kevan were no longer sending Xmas cards and this year Jane & David have followed suit. It is a difficult debate that we’ve been having for a while but have not yet resolved. Actually, we have a number of contacts who still don’t have access to computers and email.
Dave Beasley, my old scoutmaster from Repton who is in his late 70s has never mastered computers and my friend Caroline from Oldham who is about the same age still sends me postcards from all round the world because she doesn’t use email. There are people who we like the annual contact with who we never see or hear from otherwise and don’t know if they have emails either.
For now, we will continue to send Xmas cards although I am only going to send my Newsletter in printed form to those who can’t be reached with an email attachment. I will still be obsessing on robins which symbolise for me wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are popularly used as symbols of bright, friendliness in starkly cold scenery whereas, in reality, they are successful, vicious fighters in a harsh world.
Monday, 9th December, 2019
Lovely day – cold but bright. We’ve begun receiving Christmas cards and will have to write ours in the next few days. For those who can’t wait, this is what you are likely to see.
Thank you to Richard for indulging my robin-infatuation by especially cutting out a robin and sticking it in to his card this year. That shows true respect!
Our village always does its bit to celebrate the festival. The pollarded trees in the square are illuminated and a Christmas Tree is erected. They held their annual Christmas Fayre last week and carols were sung.
We have done our regular Health Club exercise regime. Outdoor swimming was exhilarating but quite cool as a strong breeze blew across our backs as we swam. The sun was going down quite rapidly which saw the temperature drop quickly. We came home and griddled tuna steaks outside where I had mowed the lawns earlier today. For mid-December, it is pretty good going.
Tuesday, 10th December, 2019
Out early this morning into heavy traffic around our area. Pauline was going to a DPD drop-off site to collect a parcel. She was collecting an order of 3 new pairs of Sketchers trainers. It was a 3-for-2 offer that she couldn’t resist. She’s obviously committed to long term activity.
We also called in to our Doctors’ surgery to collect repeat prescriptions and take them to the attached pharmacy. The surgery had a notice up informing us that this system would soon change and that the paper prescription would soon be withdrawn nationally in favour of electronic requests direct to a named pharmacy. This should have been obligatory a long time ago but one can clearly see the need for in our Clinical Practice where long waits for printed prescriptions are accompanied by regular mistakes – Today our prescriptions were handed to us with someone else’s clipped to them. – and regular waits for them to be signed by a doctor.
Exactly 9 years ago, we were making our last visit to view the building progress of our duplex apartment in Surrey and to sign the final purchase documents. This is what we say:
Today we have once again done our full Health Club regime although outdoor swimming outside was chilly in the air. Actually, we felt wonderful after it and particularly after a few minutes in the sauna and a few more in the jacuzzi.
Happy December 2019 to everyone. It’s quite chilly outside but we’re still wearing shorts. We’re going to go down fighting ….. and shopping.
We were out early to Hobbycraft of all places. It is somewhere I am unaccustomed to but, obviously, many people are. When we parked up, there was a queue waiting outside for doors to open. Pauline has hit the floor running and, since the aircraft hit the tarmac, Christmas planning has been full throttle ahead. Cake bases and transporters were the order of the morning. Pauline is in her element in this environment.
I’ve been given the task of sourcing long sliced smoke salmon as Pauline plans fish starters. We bought a couple of 250g packs of smoked salmon from Sainsburys yesterday and it is delicious but cut in small, flimsy pieces. They are not good for wrapping a terrine of other fishes. Strangely, it is not so easy to find. I love smoked salmon and have been considering investing in an outdoor smoker to do my own but not in time for Christmas Dinner. It looks like I may have to order a side of smoked salmon finely sliced for home delivery.
I have found a family firm from Grimsby who will deliver a finely sliced kilogram side of smoked fish for under £30.00 which looks like a good prospect.
Pauline may be busy but certainly doesn’t have a job list as long as mine. As well as a Formula 1 race plus two football matches to watch, I have holidays to research and book, financial investments to reassess, a Xmas Newsletter to write and design, and computer software to renew. Actually, one of my first jobs today will be to find a good price for and renew our Norton 360 Premium – including antivirus, Secure VPN and Password Manager for 10 devices (Computer/Laptop, iPad and smartphone).
Monday, 2nd December, 2019
I know I say it every year but I cannot stand Christmas. It seems so meaningless and unnecessary. It disrupts normal life and encourages one to break routines. I particularly can’t stand recent trends which encourage the desire to decorate houses with lights. Our neighbours are fairly prosperous, middleclass folk who hold moderate views on life and politics but so many of them feel the need to display their new homes in full illumination at this time.
This has happened every year that we’ve been here and I’m shocked to find that I’ve grown to just accept it.
It’s been an absolutely gorgeous day of blue sky and strong sunshine. Not warm but not too cold either – around 9C/48F. We drove to Rustington for Pauline to have her haircut and then set off to Surrey to visit C&P. P is still not well after a couple of spells in hospital. We stayed and chatted for a couple of hours and the drove home – taking my Tenerife trees which they had been tending for me while we were away with us. After just 2 hours driving, I was quite tired this evening. I must be out of practice.
Tuesday, 3rd December, 2019
Yesterday it was Hairdressers and today it is Beauticians – both for Pauline and both necessitating driving to Rustington. It makes her happy so it makes me happy. We were out by 8.30 am and home by 11.00 am.. I just enjoy driving anyway so not a problem. It is quite a chilly morning and the car is so stuffed full of technology that, after a month away, I am having to learn it all over again.
We park in our garage but we have a number of heated aids which make driving more enjoyable. For a number of years we have had heated seats. This new model has regulated heat on the seats with 3 separate settings. It also has heated wing mirrors in case of icing up which doesn’t really apply in the garage. Thirdly, it has a heated steering wheel which is absolutely lovely on a cold morning.
The other side of the wheel has multiple choice buttons for telephone, sat. nav., radio, etc.. and then there are the controls for heated seats, climate control, etc.. It is a lot to absorb and familiarise oneself with and, having just got to grips with it all, a month away seems to have set us back a little.
We returned to exercise at the health Club this afternoon with a full gym workout followed by a lovely swim outside under a low, winter sun that was falling behind the yew hedge line.Back home, Pauline griddled swordfish steaks out in the garden which we ate with mixed bean and tomato salads. Lovely end to the afternoon.
Wednesday, 4th December, 2019
A gorgeous, gorgeous day although cool. It didn’t get above 9C/48F throughout the day although it felt warmer in the strong sunshine. W drove down to the fish trawlers to buy some fish, walk in the sunshine and take some photographs. Behind the fishermen’s hut, a cormorant was enjoying himself, diving, disappearing below the sea and reappearing with a bill stuffed with silver fish, flashing iridescent in the sunshine.
We drove back via the Garden Centre because our large Bay Tree blew over while we were abroad and cracked its pot. We had to source a new one. That done, we went home and prepared for the Health Club. We did a full workout. The pool outside was delightful. Pauline cooked duck salad and then prepared to meet women neighbours who had agreed to walk down to the village Christmas fayre together. I could not imagine anything worse than that.
Thursday, 5th December, 2019
It’s been an enjoyable day with plenty of sunshine and getting increasingly warmer. After a cold start, we reached 10C/50F which made swimming outside even more comfortable as the pool steamed in the sunlight.
My job today has been starting to plan our forthcoming travel in 2020. I have been doing this tentatively for months and particularly looking at a Summer trip to the Spanish coast of Murcia. I have gravitated a little further up that coastline to Tarragona and Salou and am now looking for villa rentals in that area for around two months in May/June/July.
We will drive down to Portsmouth and then take the ferry to Bilbao/Santander which takes about 24 hrs rather like the Italian/Greek ferry we took from Ancona down the Adriatic to Patras. It will cost around £700.00/€830.00 return which is a little cheaper than the Adriatic ferry.I hope to have this trip tied up by early New Year so I’ve got to get on with it. Looks exciting though.
Friday, 6th December, 2019
Yesterday, the temperature peaked at 10C/50F. This morning at 7.00 am, we have started at 11C/52F although it has rained over night.
We received a parcel yesterday although it was taken in by our neighbours because we were at the gym. It was addressed to someone called Derek but at our address. I began to think my wife had taken a secret lover and was keeping him in the back bedroom. She denies it and we put out a message on our Development’s Facebook page advertising this parcel and searching for a Derek who lives at our house. Within a couple of minutes, we were told where he really lives and, within a couple of hours, 145 people had viewed and commented on our post. The embarrassing thing is that Derek lives immediately behind our house and we didn’t know. This morning, Derek’s wife, who we recognised as someone who has been seen in the garden behind our house, came round to collect the parcel.
Before we went to Tenerife, I made a major purchase. One of my bugbears when cleaning the car is to deal with the uncomfortable sloping inside of the windscreen. I also usually hoover the mats, treat the leather seats and then turn my attention to the dashboard and inside windscreen. In this order, I end up dirtying the carpets and having to redo them. I’m not a natural cleaner. In October, I laid out £4.50/€5.21 with free delivery to order a tool for this job from Amazon.
It was supposed to arrive within days but I was eventually told delivery would be delayed. We went away for a month and, on return, had a card saying the Post Office had tried to deliver unsuccessfully 3 times. It was back at the depot waiting for us ….. except that it wasn’t. When we got there, it had been returned to sender 2 days previously. ‘Sender’ turned out to be China. No wonder it took so long to arrive. I must stop going automatically to Amazon. I’ve found and ordered the one above on the right from Halfords for just £6.00/€6.95.
Saturday, 7th December, 2019
A grey morning which doesn’t look too inviting outside. Fortunately, we don’t need to go there other than a trip to the gym. Today is not a day to be on the roads. Stressed workers getting increasingly frenzied over Christmas purchases are driving everywhere. People are to be avoided.
I must admit to having an ambivalent relationship with humankind. I love people but on my terms. I find people endlessly fascinating but much in the way an observer, a writer does. I like to sit at roadside café tables watching the world go by rather than intervening in the world. If I meet someone new, I want to find everything out about them, their biography, and I do. People are happy to talk about themselves and I am happy to listen but I don’t want to develop a relationship with them. I never want to get that close. I prefer my position as an outsider
I realise now that I have always been like that. Do you hate parties? I do. I will go to great lengths to avoid them. I haven’t gone as far as to break a leg but I have considered it. Looking back, even as a young man I always sat on the outside edge of gatherings looking in not joining in. It is my nature. Any connections I make are on my own terms. For example, I hate having visitors to my house although I don’t mind visiting others’ houses in the knowledge I can leave at any time. I don’t want my own space invading. Does that make me weird? Maybe but I’m old enough now not to care.
Wonderful day of strong sunshine with 26C/79F but interspersed with cloud cover. It is really lovely to get some cloud to graduate the sky. We walked to photograph my favourite garden. We have both turned from elaborate house decoration and fully planted gardens to far more minimalist everywhere. The white, simplicity of Cycladic style is ingrained on our imaginations. Our new house is white, bare walls and our garden is grass with just some utilitarian pots of plants on the patio.
The lack of rain leaves gardeners here planting for largely arid conditions and mulching everywhere with dark, volcanic pebbles which set off the plants beautifully. Palms and cactus abound. I particularly love these ball cactuses.
Sunday, of course, the day of packed supermarkets and empty churches and, in this Catholic community, so it is here. Good to see they are getting their priorities right. I am trying to. I’ve done my sunbathing, swimming and my walking and now I will eat fish & salad before watching a difficult match for Man.Utd. against Sheffield Utd. Looks an enjoyable watch.
Monday, 25th November, 2019
Can you believe that we are in the last week of November already. Schools have about 4 weeks left of this term. Whoever thought teaching was arduous? You’ve no sooner started than you’re breaking up. What are these teachers moaning about? Some of us have to cope with resting in the sunshine.
In Tenerife, the temperature may be a sunny 25C/77F but commerce must go on. After Black Friday – whatever that means – the shops are now decorated out as if the temperature is cold enough for maintaining snow. The Christmas tree has gone up and is illuminated by the sun. It wouldn’t get me in the mood but that’s quite difficult nowadays anyway.
Actually, I did get carried away on seasonal euphoria and bought Pauline a present. She spotted it in an outdoor shop:
I know she’s always wanted a peg bag even though she doesn’t even have a washing line and nothing ever gets pegged out. It’s the thought that counts and the €9.90/£8.45 I paid out.
We are going mad tonight and cooking fillet steak. I will take some time to get over that but it is a rare aberration so I will try to be kind to myself.
Tuesday, 26th November, 2019
As the sun rose outside and, after I had downloaded my newspaper and reviewed my Twitter-feed, I checked the bank account. Nothing much changes apart from standing orders going out because we always pay for time abroad in local currency to avoid additional exchange rate costs. Over the year, as the £/€ rate fluctuates, I buy thousands of pounds worth of euros for future use. I have apps on computer/iPad and smartphone and check the rate many times each day. It has become an addiction I picked up when we were buying for our Greek house and especially when we were selling it. Picking the right rate/time made £1000.00s difference.
Brexit machinations have meant a fluctuating rate which, although I’m not dealing in hundreds of thousands now, still makes a small difference and makes me feel better. What it means is that I am forward-buying all travel expenses which makes it less painful at the time. Today, however, I was shocked to find 2 x £100.00 deposited in our account until I suddenly realised it was the Winter Fuel Allowance for old people.
It does feel rather wrong of me to be receiving help with my heating while sunning myself in the warmth of Tenerife. I absolutely agree that fuel poverty must be alleviated but we really don’t need it. Having said that, we know that means testing leads to many not claiming what is rightfully there’s.
Wednesday, 27th November, 2019
My radio alarm goes off in UK at 5.55 am. It opens on Radio 4 weather forecast and Tweet of the Day followed the Today programme. It has been like that for more than 40 years which means that I don’t actually need the radio to wake me up on time. Here in Tenerife, I have my phone alarm set to 5.55am and my iPad at my bedside to stream radio.
Actually, I didn’t need any of this to wake me this morning because my cousin, Sue Wilson deep in the Dordogne, rather pre-empted my routine by blasting my phone at 5.46 am with a Messenger conversation. She wanted to know who to vote for in her ‘home constituency’ of Market Harborough so she’s either got a postal or a proxy vote. Unfortunately, This middle England constituency is and always has been solidly Tory. The prediction is that Tories will take 55% of the vote with Labour getting 25% and Lib Dem’s on 18%. To reduce the Tory majority, she needs to vote Labour.
Thursday, 28th November, 2019
We leave this place tomorrow after 28 wonderful days. We have really enjoyed it. The weather has been absolutely outstanding – the best of all the 4 November stays we’ve had. The property we’ve rented has been the best and the area has been by far the most enjoyable. We have loved walking around the area in spite of the hills and we have completed 56 hours of walking and I have covered 160 miles over the stay. I have done 2 x 30 mins swimming each day. I really do feel that 28 hours of swimming have made me fitter.
As relatively recent converts to fish, this place is like heaven. It is available, plentiful and incredibly cheap. Although most of the fish is well known to us, there are still many that we don’t know to sample on our next visit.
We’ve also enjoyed sampling the local wines and cheeses particularly one or two lightly smoked, goat’s milk cheeses.
We had a family planning meeting last night. We were planning our travel for next year. Currently, we expect to be quite busy with a week in Bordeaux in May, a trip of about 5 – 6 weeks in June-July in which we will put the car on the Portsmouth – Bilbao/Santander ferry and then a drive across Spain to the coast of Murcia where we will rent a villa. In August-September we will go to Athens as usual. Mid October will see us back in Yorkshire and then we would be happy to return here next November for another month or maybe 5 weeks. All of that will amount to more than 3 months away from home in the next 12 months.
Friday, 29th November, 2019
We brought to an end one of the most enjoyable months of travel we have had in recent times. It was absolutely delightful and it ended in just the same way. The day was hot – 29C/84F – and sunny. We were up early – me to do some exercise and get out of Pauline’s way while she packed our cases for leaving. We stripped the beds, collected the towels for the cleaners to take away. Pauline cleaned the floors and the kitchen just as she would in her own home. I did man’s work outside by tidying the pool area – a lizard had come down to drink over night and had drowned. I tidied up the patio and laundry house.
Darius, our property manager, arrived right on time to take us to the airport where we immediately exercises our EasyJet Plus privilege of dropping our bags off early having already checked-in on line. We quickly went through our fast track security checks and went down to the VIP Lounge – Sala Montana Roja. This provided us with quiet respite from the hubbub outside plus refreshment and excellent wi-fi.
Our EasyJet flightwas an Airbus A321 and we paid a little extra to choose our ‘extra legroom, emergency exit seats months ago. All the extras like early bag drop, accelerated security checks and speedy boarding all came for the modest extra outlay for seat choice.
Currently, we love Easyjet. We use it whenever we can. We caught one of the first ever Easyjet flights from Athens in 1995 but it was not very reliable. We tended to prefer Olympic or British Airways.
We were landing at Gatwick almost before we knew it – actually, the flight out was 4 hrs 20 mins but the return was only 3 hrs 40 mins. Our pre-booked taxi was there to meet us and we were home within an hour. Taxi cost £50.00 each way which is a lot cheaper thgan 4 weeks in the Long Stay carpark. I had switched the central heating and hot water on first thing in the morning via my Hive app and the house was toasty and welcoming after the shock of the cold around Gatwick. The hardest part of the journey back was pushing the door open because of all the post on the mat.
We had the most wonderful month and could have stayed for more quite happily but home coming is so welcoming. It makes going away all the more worthwhile!
Friday, 29th November, 2019
We set out early on a massive shopping round. It was cold but I stuck to my short sleeved tee shirt and shorts. We were at the Post Office Parcel Depot by 8.00 am to be told that the parcel we had missed had been return to China. Next was a frustrating round of shops in Worthing town centre looking for Christmas cards. They seem increasingly hard to source and particularly good ones. I know email, etc., is so much easier but I can’t quite make that leap yet. It seems unfriendly, uncharitable and a little mean spirited. Actually, quite a lot of our older contacts I only know the postal address of and nothing else. It is just a pleasant way of keeping the past alive with a seasonal acknowledgement.
To get to town, we drive down the coast road and you can see how dark and inhospitable it was at that time in the morning. I think we were registering about 6C/43F. The palm trees survive but they’re not happy.
Asda, Waitrose, Wilko, Sainsburys, Tesco – we shopped in them all and didn’t get home before mid day some 4 hrs later. We hadn’t eaten either. Still, time for a bit more self-discipline! Football this afternoon and it was good to see Man City held to a draw and local team, Southampton score a later winner for once. Tomorrow, Pauline is going to trial her Christmas Day starter which will remain very hush-hush until she serves it. We will also start back at the gym after a month away. Could be a hard day!
A quiet day which has started with politics and political interviews as well as reflections on a devastatingly crass interview by a member of our royal family broadcast last night, will be gently played out with newspapers and exercise. There is certainly plenty to read today and, as I write at 11.00 am, I have already completed a 30 mins swim and are preparing for our morning constitutional.
Our pool is exactly right for us. We don’t want some plunge pool to cool off or a playing pool for families with children. We want a swimming pool so we can do ….swimming. This pool is ideal. It is 16m x 2.5m / 52ft x 8ft. Even in the lovely, warm weather here, the water in a pool can feel quite chilly to get in to. Our pool is heated all day/night to a deliciously warm temperature. The owners usually charge for this but gave it to us ‘free’ because we were renting for a month. They have also clearly heard that I stumbled into the pool in the evening darkness at last year’s property because they have automatic lights fitted for all round illumination. Although we don’t need to, we make a practice of covering the pool after every swim in order to cut down the cost of maintaining the temperature.
Been reading an amusing story in a Greek magazine/blog about Sifnos and its police force. We never really had much to do with the police force apart from getting identity documents authorised/stamped (for a fee) prior to receiving building permissions. The one police station is about the size of a public toilet. The force for the entire island is three strong although one is on long term ‘leave’ and they only have one patrol car at their disposal which is an ancient, 4-wheel drive that keeps breaking down. No wonder the islanders feel they should not fear the law because it may turn up late by bus.
Monday, 18th November, 2019
A lovely hot (warm) and sunny day in which we rather indulged ourselves by relaxing in the sunshine. Of course, we did do our regular hour’s swimming and our minimum 10,000 paces. Actually, we are averaging 12,000 per day while we are here. We did walk down to the shopping mall where Christmas decorations had been put up over the weekend.
Nothing seems appropriate about Christmas here as the sun beats down although villa rental prices significantly increase for the month of December. Pauline cooked the most wonderful meal of pan fried tuna steaks which she served with salads. Pauline’s sister is not well. She has had a hospital procedure which has led to complications and left Pauline concerned. It makes our current destination feel quite remote. P is back in hospital. However, there is nothing to be concerned about yet.
Pizza Express in Woking has suddenly achieved celebrity. I …….. have driven past Pizza Express in Woking and would do no more than that. Woking is bad enough. Pizza Express is a step too far!
Tuesday, 19th November, 2019
This is our 19th day and we have just 10 more left. We are really enjoying it and will definitely book this again. Today has been wall-to-wall hot sunshine out of clear, blue skies. We have exercised, followed political television and relaxed in the sunshine.
It is hard to stress how important the internet is to me, particularly abroad. Here, the internet is my connection with the outside world – television, radio, the web – and control of my house in UK. Last night was a cold one in Sussex and I was able to check the temperature inside our home, switch the heating on and, later, switch it off again via Hive. In this villa, the internet provides us with UK TV via a supply box, it provides our iPads and smartphones with internet connection to download our newspapers, our emails, Twitter, Face-ache, etc.. I just cannot manage without it.
In the last couple of days, our internet provision, which has been fantastic for over two weeks, has suddenly become a little flaky. I have had to reboot the hub a couple of times which is not confidence inspiring.
Today, apart from downloading our newspapers and emails, we have been keeping in touch with Pauline’s sister who has been in hospital again. I have had to report my INR result to Worthing Hospital. Pauline has had to order our repeat prescriptions from our local medical centre. We have monitored lights and temperatures in our house in Sussex. How would we do any of that without the net?
Wednesday, 20th November, 2019
After 20 days here, we have done 20 hours swimming and 40 hours walking. We made a conscious decision not to rent a car although we have a garage for 2 cars here. It is a 10 minute walk down to the supermarket from here but a rather longer walk back because of the very steep hill. We do quite a lot of admiring of the view on the way back. The weather is so wonderful – 24C/75F and gorgeously sunny most days that walking is a pleasure. This November has been the best weather in the past 4 Novembers here.
As regular readers will know, we are incorrigible foodies. One of the true pleasures of travelling and particularly abroad is sourcing and sampling the local foods. We love cheese but don’t eat a lot of it nowadays because of its high calorific content. However, foreign cheeses have to be sampled and on this trip we have become addicted (That might be a bit strong.) to a white, lightly smoked cheese called Quesos Flor Valsequillo. It is not for vegans like my sister, Catherine, because it comprises cows’, goats’ and sheep’s milk. Occasionally, if we are desperate for a snack after all this exercise, we will eat the smoked cheese with some Beetroot remoulade called Ensalada de Remolacha.
Actually, I was so enamoured of the cheese that I searched it out on the net and discovered it had been awarded World Cheese Award this year in Bergamo, Italy. I am not surprised.
Thursday, 21st November, 2019
Scorching hot day after a muggy night. We spent the morning swimming, sunbathing on the patio, watching the Labour Manifesto launch and doing a little shopping. There is nothing of great value that Tenerife can offer other than stark scenery and climate or weather. I don’t know which word is more appropriate.
We have had a couple of days when the temperature reached 28C/83F but most have hovered between 24-25C/75-77F. Night time has ranged between a minimum of 22C/70F – 19C/66F. Every room here has air conditioning but we haven’t felt the need for it either as a cooler or a heater. Imagine that, an environment where little energy is expended on temperature control. It’s a difficult concept for we poor Brits to understand particularly in the middle of November. What I also don’t understand on an island of perpetual sunshine is why solar power is not in more evidence. Look at the roofs on the Mall below. Wouldn’t you expect them to be energy generators?
When we go shopping, we walk down from the seclusion of our villa to Siam Mall which is next to Siam Water Park. It is an easy enough walk down but a killer walk back. It is so steep that it has taken three weeks before we have really got used to it. On days when we do a big shop, we return up the hill by taxi – blowing at least €3.00/£2.60 in the process. As we intended, our life here has settled in to a ‘normal’ process of contentment. Unfortunately, we leave a week tomorrow but we will be back.
Friday, 22nd November, 2019
Our villa is South facing. The sun rises in the morning through the mountains on our left and sets across the sea to our right. You won’t be surprised to read that this morning has been no different. The most gorgeous sun rise at 6.30 am which followed a lovely sunset across the sea last evening.
There was one difference. When we walked out on to the patio this morning we noticed small pools of water on the furniture. Over night it had rained. We didn’t hear it so it can’t have been strong but water there was and the surrounding cactuses had obviously thought it was Christmas come early.
Today has proved the most delightful one with strong sunshine and 25C/77F temperature. We ate our meal of cold meats & cheeses with salads out on the patio under a burning, late afternoon sun. We watched the sun sink beneath the sea and prepared for a quiet evening of reading and watching the political debate. What more could anybody ask?
Saturday, 23rd November, 2019
Start of our final week for this spell. Actually, although the temperature is 22C/70F by 9.00am, the sky has clouded over and the light is dulled. It is no problem. Actually, a break from sunshine after three weeks of it, is a welcome change. We know it will be back soon. Just done my first swim of the morning and the water was deliciously warm – rather like swimming in the bath.
We know that we have a couple of hours of walking and another half hour swimming to build in but today will be Pauline watching Strictly on TV and me watching Spurs v West Ham with Mourinho in charge followed by Man City v Chelsea on my iPad via the VPN.
Well, the day has turned into a blazing hot and sunny one with clear, blue skies and strong sunshine. We have already reached 27C/81F and Pauline has retreated to the pool. Spurs have beaten a poor West Ham and, having done my required walking for the day, I am limbering up for a 30 mins swim myself. Just 5 more hours of swimming before we leave. I’m going to be so clean!
What a wonderful, wonderful but exhausting day. Hot and sunny all day, we walked for miles/kilometres and swam for ever – or so it felt. It is only 7.30 pm and I am struggling to move.
We still did all the normal things like watch the round of political programmes. I watched two, excellent football matches particularly Liverpool easily seeing off Man. City. We followed an hour’s swimming with a long walk up above our villa to the huge volcanic crater which is now cultivated with acres of banana plantations, salad vegetables and prickly pears.
Pauline produced a delicious meal of roast chicken breasts wrapped in Serrano ham with roasted red peppers, onions and garlic mushrooms. There is no luckier man in the world! Pauline’s reward is to watch the results show of Strictly Come Something.
Monday, 11th November, 2019
Another wonderful, wonderful day. Hot, wall to wall sunshine we really had to push ourselves to complete our exercise targets …. but we did. We walked and sweated under a beating sun up to the volcano crater which is incredibly fertile farm land and produces acres of salad vegetable plus even more acres of bananas.
There is really only one booming business here, however, and it is tourism and particularly property development connected to tourism. Homes for retirement and homes for rental are going up everywhere. Of course, the weather is perfect for builders and for sellers. There is really only one reason to come to the Canary Islands and that is the all year round climate.
There is almost unstoppable development moving further and further up the mountains and away from the coast.
Tuesday, 12th November, 2019
The lovely days just go on. Today we had a gentle walk down to the market and bought fresh langoustines and scallops for our meal. The langoustines are incredibly cheap in Spain. We bought a kilo for €7.84/£6.70 whereas a kilo in UK would be £18.00/€21.00. It is disgraceful that our market is so out of kilter with the real cost of healthy ingredients.
Langoustines, of course, generally tend to be shipped from UK fishing fleets to markets in Spain. The small amounts sold in UK are premium priced. Why? It is an absolute joy to shop for fish here.
The Spanish are big on really good, fresh produce. This fruit stall contains Pauline’s Breakfast for a year – lots of huge, ripe Papaya but it also has locally grown bananas which just cannot compare with the South American ones I buy from Asda in Sussex. You may notice a section of Prickly Pears which are cultivated here And you can find growing wild all round Greece. They are the fruit of the cactus and pickers have to fight past dreadfully painful spines in order to harvest them. There also different cactus fruit in the form of the bright pink/red Dragon Fruit which, I must admit, I’ve never tasted. This month could be a first.
Wednesday, 13th November, 2019
Interesting and really enjoyable day. We registered 26C/79F but it was a little more cloud and sun today. We did our 30 mins walk to Adeje. It was delightful as an exercise and we walked along beautiful streets on our trip:
We walked down to the shopping area of Adeje but it was very disappointing. Blackpool on steroids was an over statement. I stood around while Pauline went in to Mango and then this:
We walked back and did our second swim of the day followed by grilled swordfish steaks and salad.
Thursday, 14th November, 2019
Exactly half way through our month away. We have done our 14th hour of swimming and our minimum of 140,000 paces. Actually, we have done much more than that. We had a downbeat day after quite a demanding one yesterday. Even so, we walked down to the sea and back. At the risk of sounding snobbish, this place is not for us. Adeje beach makes one want to run a mile.
The streets are lined with Irish Bars, Curry Houses, Fish & Chip Parlours interspersed with the odd Nail Bar and Tattoo Shop. This is the sort of thing that abounds on the path side.
We slunk off back to our villa and cooked Sea Bass en papillote to eat with green bean salad and tomato salad. It was absolutely wonderful. I don’t know why but I watched a bit of England. I couldn’t really watch it as the score reached 5-0 but it played out in the background.
Friday, 15th November, 2019
A day of fulfilment and enjoyment. We are so lucky to share this experience in our lives. Warm, sunny, relaxed, we have done our full exercise regime and eaten the most wonderful, pan-fried tuna steaks with tomato salad and mixed bean salad.
We had very sad news of the death of our former colleague’s wife of 60 years. Dori Fidler was wife and partner to our colleague and friend, John for 60 years. We have been involved with John for 47 years and are trying to understand what it must be like to lose such a long-term partner.
On our walk this afternoon, we found Tenerife’s answer to the Corinth Canal. The only problem was that it is ‘dry’. Obviously it has seasonal use as floods pour down the mountains to the sea.
It has been a delightful day and we have really enjoyed ourselves but we are carrying round the mortality of our colleagues. It is a heavy feeling which impinges on us and our own mortality. It underlines how important it is to squeeze the most out of our lives.
Saturday, 16th November, 2019
We are half way through the month and half way through our stay here. It is a beautiful day with crisp, bright views. There is something about the Mediterranean colours and vivid clarity of light that appeals to artists and really appeals to me. This view from our property early in the morning sums it up.
After breakfast and a swim, we walked down to the supermarket for our major shop of the week. We believe that living here would cut our regular cost of living by about 50%.
All this wonderful, quality foodstuff is so cheap. I have found the most delicious, fruity red wine for just €2.48/£2.13 per bottle. At the fish counter, I have my smartphone constantly ready to provide translation. Just making the slightest effort is rewarding because the staff immediately respond more positively.
We broke the habits of our recent past by also purchasing some sirloin steak which Pauline used with shiitake mushrooms, green peppers, onions and garlic to produce the most wonderful stir fry. Obviously, there was no noodle content but it wasn’t missed.
My self-discipline is appalling but my addiction to routines overcomes that weakness. We did our 2 x 30 mins swimming plus 10,000+ paces walking routine. Actually, we are recording an average of 12,000 paces per day for the time we’ve been here. I know it has to be done so it is done.
Up early on a beautiful morning. The temperature throughout yesterday stayed a steady 29C/84F and didn’t fall lower than 22C/70F overnight. At least we are missing the strong winds and heavy rain back in UK although, reading our local news on-line, we find a lot of trees blown down in Sussex. Even on our Development people are posting pictures of branches down.
So many properties are on the market round here that we thought we would investigate. We were flabbergasted to find that the property we are renting was recently bought for €900,000.00/£780,000.00. It’s lovely but this can only be for its all year round income.
Monday, 4th November, 2019
Up early to the BBC R4 Today programme on my iPad. We’ve got fantastic and currently reliable wi-fi here. Downloaded our newspapers while Pauline squeezed 2 huge oranges for me and made porridge for herself. I went out to the pool and did a 20 mins swim and then coffee with the ’Sky News’ All Out Politics programme while Pauline had her swim.
Around mid-morning, we set out to walk to Playa de Las Americas. It is a downhill walk and fairly quick and easy. When we got there, we wondered why we’d bothered. It is hard not to adopt a snobbish, superior tone but the place was awful. Big women covered in tattoos, big men struggling to complete word searches, Burger Bars and Irish Pubs intermingled with Tattoo Parlours and Tourist-Tat shops. It is the stuff of Brexit!
We gave the place a chance – honestly – and then took a taxi back to the relative sanity of our villa high up above the hell on earth. We watched the start of the contest for Speaker. They have a small man’s big shoes to fill. At least Bercow has ensured it will be a Labour MP as next Speaker which will be a help.
We did our second swim of the day which meant I had exceeded my DL Health Club routine with well over my steps target and 40 mins swimming on the record. Pauline cooked a wonderful meal of roasted chicken breasts wrapped in Serrano ham and accompanied by roast florets of cauliflower which we ate as the sun went down.
Tuesday, 5th November, 2019
A quiet day ‘at home’ today after our long walk yesterday. We did go down to the supermarket – HiperDino – at Siam Mall and do quite an extensive shop. The fish choice in Spanish supermarkets is incredibly diverse in choice and cheap in price. We bought swordfish steaks, tuna steaks, whole sea bass and a bag of John Dory. This latter is considered the king of fishes in UK and commands a premium price. Here in Spain it is just another fish and very moderately priced.
We bought salad vegetables, grapes, figs and huge oranges for juicing, bottles of cheap wine, Spanish cheeses and lots of other, interesting things besides. It’s just too much fun shopping in foreign supermarkets. By the time we left, we were so overladen that we couldn’t possibly have walked back. We went to the taxi rank and paid the huge sum of €4.00 (Including tip) for a ride home up the incredibly steep hill.
We got up as the sun shone strongly over the sea and enjoyed an hour or so of sunshine on the terrace before doing our first swim of the morning. We did two, strong sessions of swimming amounting to an hour in total. I felt absolutely exhausted after it. Pauline cooked a wonderful meal of swordfish steaks with green bean salad and tomato salad. We ate it as the sun went down over the sea towards La Gomera.
Wedesday, 6th November, 2019
I’m tired today. I think (hope) it’s down to all the swimming I’m doing. I did 50 mins yesterday and have to manage an hour today. At home, we only manage half that each day. Having a heated pool constantly staring us in the face just piles the pressure on. There is no escape. However, we spent the first couple of hours this morning watching the newly launched Tory election bid in melt-down with gaffe piled on gaffe. It is enough to gladden the heart.
This is a comfortable villa. In order to get the facilities, we have had to rent something far too big for our needs. It has this open plan Lounge/Dining/Kitchen room which has the pool out one side and the patio out the other end looking over the ocean.
We have 3 large bedrooms and 3 large bathrooms each with a walk-in shower. Every room has air conditioning and the house has 2 televisions with UK channels. The wi-fi is excellent and relatively quick. The kitchen has oven, ceramic hob and hood plus a dishwasher. As well as the main dining table, there is another on the patio for eating outside. There is another, outdoor settee and armchairs as the photo illustrates plus sun loungers for 6 people. There is a laundry room to the right (but out of shot) of the picture above which contains a washing machine, Dryer, Ironing Board & Iron. In short, there is virtually everything we could need for a month’s stay.
This place is ideal for our purpose which is not to come on holiday. We’ve been ‘on holiday’ permanently for over 10 years. No, this villa is to allow us to move our life, temporarily, to another location for a month where we can continue to live in our shorts, a location where we can continue our routines of exercise, political discourse, current affairs, sourcing, cooking and eating nice food and generally hiding away from the world in our own bubble. It’s what we do!
Thursday, 7th November, 2019
Canarian time is exactly in line with UK time although someone forgot to tell our mobiles which thought we were in España and added an hour. These, in turn, interfaced with our watches and completely fooled us for a while. We are not even in the EU here and I managed to sort it out after a while so we have resumed our usual sleeping/waking/eating pattern. Awake at 6.00 am and up at 7.00, I was swimming by 7.30 am. I am enjoying falling out of bed and into a lovely, warm pool – via a gorgeous glass of freshly squeezed orange juice – for a 30 mins swim.
After newspapers and theAll Out Politics programme on Sky News Channel, we set out for the down mountainside walk to the supermarket. We love shopping for quality ingredients at the best of times but particularly in European supermarkets. Admittedly, it was rather trying on a small, Greek island but we rose to the challenge. Here, so many wonderful things are available in such abundance that the struggle is all about what not to buy.
Today, Pauline is cooking Fish – John Dory – which is expensive to buy in UK even though it is caught in UK waters. A strange looking, but delicious fish a, john dory’s bizarre shape and long fins make it look weird. It has a large mouth which is used to suck in very large prey items such as fish and shrimps. It has a black spot on each side of the body which is said to be the thumb print of St Peter.
I had always thought that the famed fish, John Dory, was named after a person but have learnt today that it is an English corruption of the French description. It is essentially yellow-golden in colour. In French it would be Jaune-d’Or. Hence John Dory. You have to admit, it’s a real looker. Alright, it’s not but it tastes wonderful.
Friday, 8th November, 2019
Gorgeous day here with full, hot sunshine all day which contrasted strongly with reports of flooding back in the UK. We did 30 mins swimming then we walked down to the supermarket and Pauline indulged herself.
We spent a little while ambling through the ‘Mall’ (horrible Americanised term) and then did a reasonably large supermarket shop. With more bags than we would care to carry up a steep climb back to the house, we took a €4.00 taxi ride and got home in about 4 mins..
Back just in time for the Politics programme, we spent the next couple of hours relaxing. Then, we set out on a couple of hours walk up the mountain, past the volcanic crater, the farm shop and the banana plantation. By the time we had walked home and done another 30 mins swim, we were ready for our meal. Actually, we just had a bottle of wine, some cheese, salad and that was it.
Saturday, 9th November, 2019
After freshly squeezed, Valencian orange juice and Yorkshire tea, a 30 mins swim and then Kenyan coffee, we set off to walk to the shops. Saturday is a good day to buy the newest fresh produce all over Europe and the Tenerife market is no exception. Particularly, we were looking for fresh Tuna (Atun) & Swordfish (Espada). In UK, the former is much more expensive than the latter. We have been shocked to find that here the complete reverse pertains. Everything here is almost half the UK price or cheaper. Even so, Tuna is just €9.95/£8.58 – in UK £22.10 per Kilo. Swordfish is €14.90/£12.85 – UK £20.00 per kilo.
The worrying thing for the Brexit-voting, British fishermen is that so much of this fish goes through UK markets en route to Spain and that will be priced out of the market if we leave the EU.
For the last couple of evenings as we are finishing our second half hour of the day in the pool, a little, yellow-breasted chap with a long tail visits us and drinks from the water splashes on the tiled surrounded. It looks and acts like a pied wagtail but the brilliant yellow colour is unusual. I’ve looked it up and it is, indeed, a wagtail known as Motacilla Cindera or Grey Wagtail. It is anything but grey.
A beautiful, sunny day which started off cool but warmed up rapidly. I had to juggle politics with rugby and gardening followed by gym routine and packing to go away for a month.
One of the values of renting a villa rather than a hotel room is that we can wash, dry and iron clothes – well, Pauline can. I haven’t got a clue. It means that we don’t have to carry too much with us. Other than shorts and tee-shirt, I will need little else. One set on and one in the wash would do me although I am told what I must take by my friend.
We have learnt the hard way to scrutinise the villa’s facilities and this one includes a dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, ironing board and iron, Fridge, Hob, Oven, Microwave, Grill, and Coffee maker. We have developed the rule that anything we rent must provide at least as good as we’ve left at home.
We rarely eat out but really enjoy sourcing good quality ingredients and cooking for ourselves. It provides us both with a pleasurable experience. So, a well equipped kitchen is a prerequisite for us. We enjoy producing our own meals so much that Pauline takes one or two of her favourite knives with us to ensure quality preparation.
We will be picked up by taxi and taken to Gatwick because a month of carparking charges is not cost effective. The hour long journey will cost us £50.00/€58.00 each way. We will be taken to the Sofitel which is just a covered walkway from the North Terminal.
We can check in at the hotel and then, in the evening, trundle our cases over to the bag-drop area in the terminal and drop them off through the automatic process. After a good night’s sleep, we will walk across to the terminal, go through security to airside and to an Executive Lounge where we will have a bit of breakfast before going down to Gate and setting off. Long ago, we Checked-In online for our flight and printed out boarding passes. It really is all so easy these days. It’s been a long time since we even suffered a delay. (Not wishing to tempt fate.)
Anyway, we have a few days to finish off all the jobs a house needs before being left for a month. I have to cut the lawns, sort out the automatic lighting system and make sure the central heating is set to frost-free. At least nowadays I can control all that from my smartphone.
Monday, 28th October, 2019
A cool but glorious start to the morning. We cooked outside yesterday and will do again today but, with days to go before we leave for a month, we will frost-wrap the fig trees this morning just in case. Shopping this morning and then gardening followed by a full Health Club workout.
Sunbathed in the back garden while Pauline griddled swordfish steaks. Yesterday it was tuna steaks. It is delightful to have such lovely weather. This is officially Half Term down here. We have always associated October Half Term with Autumn leaves. I have vivid memories of an image that summed up the epitome of futility. We drove through the Yorkshire Dales one Half Term week and the weather was blowing a gale. We came across an old man, miles from anywhere, sweeping dry, brown leaves as the strong winds blew them everywhere. What was he doing?
I have other memories of walking the streets of Lille in France kicking through the leaves in the weak sunlight. I am a little ashamed to admit that these memories can make me rather maudlin. It felt wonderful and sad at the same time – the very definition of oxymoron. How many Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter seasons does a man have? It is a reminder not only of passing time, of the inevitability of death but of those loved ones who are gone. It is unbearable and inevitable at the same time.
Tuesday, 29th October, 2019
A nondescript sort of day with occasional, weak sunshine alternating with grey, forbidding skies. Not cold but fresher than it has been. We did a bit of garden tidying and clothes packing against a background of the political landscape playing out on our screens.
Our last day at the Health Club for a month was tiring. Somehow, it is easier when a run of continuity stretches ahead. Anyway, we did it while watching the Parliament Channel and then came home to cook our meal and watch the Parliament Channel for an hour or two longer. Reading back through my newly restored Blog, I found that this week in 2008, we were blanketed in snow and facing an Ofsted inspection at school. It was going to be a period of maximum stress. A year later, we had retired, spent six months in Greece and returned home to pay off our mortgage and embrace the future. How times and lives can change!
Wednesday, 30th October, 2019
Greece may be coming towards the end of its Μικρό καλοκαίρι (Little or Indian Summer) but we are just preparing to fly out and extend ours. Greece has, quite unusually, experienced a return to Summer weather in Autumn but it now seems to be coming to an end with much needed rains. We are about to fly to Tenerife for some much needed sunshine and warmth.
No Health Club today or for another month. I’ve cleaned the car and garaged it. The Alarm company have sent an engineer round to obviate any problems we might have over the next month. Actually, he has turned out to be a real expert. He has spent 3 hours working on the system and has replaced the sound box outside and three of the five infrared sensors in side the house. We remain in his expert hands for our ongoing security.
We have cleaned out and restored the smoke alarms, set the automatic lighting and heating and put the garden to bed. Our neighbours all around are well aware of our plans and fully in the loop in case of problems. Everything for the trip has been packed. The itinerary has been typed out and printed. We know exactly what to do from the moment that the taxi picks us up to the time we leave our plane in Reina Sofía Airport. That is how we have always operated. Micro-planned down to the last degree.
Oh, I forgot. I’ve got to have my haircut to save Pauline carrying her hairdressing equipment. We have weighed the cases and they are well below our limit but the less we carry the better so I will be forced to spend an immobile hour in the kitchen with a hairdresser’s cape around my neck. Still, I’ll look even more beautiful after that.
Thursday, 31st October, 2019
Up early and finishing packing. By 9.00 am, I was sitting in the kitchen in the ‘Richard Chair’ having my hair cut by my wife while watching All Out Politics on Sky TV. The house and garden are spick and span. The car has been cleaned and garaged. The taxi is booked and we are off to …
Actually, we will stop at the Sofitel Hotel ,where we have already checked-in online. We can drop our bags off between 8.00 pm & midnight and then go back to our hotel and sleep. Tomorrow morning we can walk through security unencumbered by baggage.
We are on the 7th Floor with a lovely view over the amazingly tree-lined countryside of Crawley. The drive here actually gave us the ability to look around at the autumnal Beauty of this area which is dominated by the airport.
Why does travelling always make you tired? From the moment I got in the taxi, I felt exhausted. The taxi driver was a very friendly Northerner from Macclesfield. He had lived on the South coast for more than 20 years but recognised our accents immediately.
Friday, 1st November, 2019
The start of a new month as October 2019 drops off the conveyor belt. Welcome to November which we are embracing in a new location. We have greeted the day at 5.00 am with a cup of tea and then checked out of our hotel.
Of course, as the Skiathan will tell you, there is more to celebrate than a new month. Today marks the start of the third Happy Non-Brexit period.
It is early – 5.00 am early. Waking up in a strange bed at this time is never ideal but needs must. Check-out from Hotel, walk down the covered path to Gatwick North Terminal and go through security to Airside. It is wet outside. At this time, the airport is reasonably quiet and we can walk fairly unhindered to our No1 Lounge where we will catch a little bit of Breakfast before going down to gate. We land in Reina Sofía Airport at around 12.35 pm and will be picked up by a driver arranged by our villa owner.
Everything went wonderfully smoothly and we took off On time in rain and a temperature of 9C/48F. We landed On time in wonderful sunshine and a temperature of 29C/84F. We were met by villa owner, Darius, who drove us to our villa. It was exactly what we expected which is nice.
Saturday , 2nd November, 2019
Up at 6.30 am on a hot and sticky morning. The temperature hadn’t dropped below 24C/75F last night but we were so tired, we slept soundly until 6.00 am.. Pauline had brought a citrus juicer for me and we bought oranges yesterday along with porridge for Pauline. Breakfast over, we settled down with our newspapers and the rugby. It wasn’t a surprise that we lost and, in a strange way, slightly reassuring that the Tories who had tried to co-opt the English victory for Brexit, we left holding the losing baby.
We walked down to Siam Mall and did a full shop at HiperDino supermarket. They had wonderful joints of swordfish and we bought 4 huge ones for half the price we would in UK. We bought salmon steaks and chicken fillets. We took 4 of the biggest red peppers that you have ever seen. In Sainsburys, they would have been half the size and cost £2.40/€2.80. Here, all 4 cost a total of €0.75/£0.65. How can that be? I am going to live solely on peppers for a month.
Well, thank goodness we’re going to win the election because, after England and then Man,Utd., I feel I’m on a losing streak! I did find my friend, Jeremy’s office near by ..
We came ‘home’ by taxi with all our shopping. The taxi cost just €3.50/£3.02 but I don’t think the driver was best pleased at such a huge fare. At least we had most of our provisions for the next few days and settled down to cook and eat the most wonderful swordfish steaks with Greek Salad and Green Salad. Now Pauline is fully involved in Strictly Come Something and I am out on the terrace doing this Blog.
Woke up at 6.00 am as normal and didn’t feel too bad after our long drive yesterday. We had a long list of jobs to get through so decided early on to restart our gym routine tomorrow. The day was delightfully warm and sunny so, after doing our weekly shop at Tesco, we set about a couple of hours of gardening. Pauline trimmed the hedges while I mowed the lawns.
The back garden felt absolutely lovely and it was hard to believe that we are in the latter half of October. We cooked outside – griddled Swordfish Steaks – and enjoyed the fresh, warm air. The only thing about this time of year is that the evening time brings cooler temperatures and we had to close the patio doors by 6.00 pm.
My one other task was fitting new batteries in all three smoke alarms. We were told that they were interconnected and that fitting one wouldn’t be good enough. I proceeded to do just that. Of course, I could get the tops off and the batteries out but I couldn’t get the new ones in or the tops back on. Fortunately, my wife can do stuff like that. The first two alarms went back satisfactorily. The third one at the top of the stairs immediately started to bleep as soon as the new battery was inserted. We concluded that it was faulty and would need expert attention or completely replacing. We decided to phone for help on Monday.
In an idle moment this evening, I searched Google for methods of sorting out my troublesome smoke alarm. I immediately found half a dozen helpful videos on YouTube telling me exactly what the problem was and how to fix it.
In the video I chose, I was taught to discharge any residual power after removing the battery by holding down the test button for 20 secs. After refitting the new battery, the bleeping restarted immediately. Next I was told that there could be dust or a web on the sensitive plate – called something or other – and it should be blasted with air through all its vents to clean it. I hadn’t got an air compressor to blast it but I have got a strong puff so I gave it full throttle, refitted the battery and everything appears to be working correctly. Let’s hope I’m not woken up in the night.
Monday, 21st October, 2019
Up early on a dark and damp morning. Bin day – all three today. That ‘s my job especially as it’s wet. Soon after, I have to go out to the Parcelforce depot to collect a package from BT Openreach which they tried to deliver on Saturday morning while we were travelling home. The package is a new, high-speed hub for full fibre connection plus 2 wi-fi extender discs. Actually, our house is fully wi-fi covered but these extender discs will reinforce that distribution and, I’m hoping, I can use one to provide a better performance out in the back garden.
We’ve managed to book the BT engineer to come to our house on Wednesday and the alarm engineer to call next week on the day before we leave for the airport. We’re working on the just-in-time principle.
Ten years ago this week we suddenly had a huge weight lifted from our shoulders. We had retired 6 months earlier and now we were paying off a relatively massive mortgage. It had been hugely increased as we borrowed to build our Greek house. I wrote at the time that “Pauline and I are flying around the lounge with the lightness of being mortgage-free.“ We have bought and sold two properties since then but never had a mortgage and it is enormously confidence inspiring.
Tuesday, 22nd October, 2019
The most glorious day of warm sunshine and wonderful, azure blue skies. We shopped in the early summer day; swam in the June warmth; cooked outside in the wonderful weather. Have I said it was a lovely, warm day?
I forgot until the last moment that my little sister was 62 yesterday. Of course she is in denial and she has deliberately had her photo taken with my younger brother, Bob, in order to make herself look younger.
We are going away soon so we spent an hour or so packing up the garden furniture and storing it in the garage. Tomorrow, we will wrap the fig and olive trees against the risk of frost while we are away. We need to leave everything in order before we go. Today, I moved a major investment which had matured over to another year’s account which will nearly keep our capital up with inflation. It is not exactly reassuring. I have considered purchasing a Buy-to-Let property or a property abroad but decided that both are time/risk demanding at the moment.
Wednesday, 23rd October, 2019
Early up because of expecting BT Openreach engineers. Very excited! Just unstacked the dishwasher and a ring on the doorbell announced their arrival.
Fibre has already been brought to a box on the outside of our house and now needs to be brought into the Study/Office. This involves drilling through an outside wall which I’m not terribly happy about but needs must. Pauline has deep cleaned the Study/Office just in case a man with a drill notices a bit of unremoved dust. She’s never really understood men and their relationship with dust.
Peter the Openreach engineer told me he was just 6 years old when I started teaching. He has a 14 year old son and was going to a Careers meeting to his son’s school tonight. It made me feel very old although not as old as Ruth. We’ve had so many trades people come to our house to offer us their skills and it is distinctly humbling to find how ordinary but wonderful they are. Just really good human beings doing their best for their families and their customers with no great sense of ego.
Peter was just an ordinary man with no great pretensions but hopes for his young son and the future. He was keen to talk and share his life with me. There were so many coincidences in which his life had, unknowingly, collided with mine. He had started school in South Benfleet in Essex just as I was starting teaching in Lancashire. Just as he was going to Secondary School, I got a job as head of English in a Secondary School 2 or 3 miles away on Canvey Island. His best friend lives on Oriental Road, Woking, Surrey about half a mile away from where Pauline & I lived in Surrey. Now he lives in West Worthing just next to where Pauline & I go to our Health Club every day.
I love people and their lives and this poor chap was forced to divulge his full history in the half hour he was at our house. As soon as he’d gone, I had to set the new hub up with
2 x Smartphones
3 x iPads
1 x Desktop
2 x Laptops
3 x Sky Boxes
5 x televisions
Fortunately many of them have WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) buttons to talk to the hub. This makes it all so quick to link them up. We came back from our Health Club stint, cooked our meal and then I did the whole thing in an hour. Apparently, we have immediately increased the value of our house by installing super fast, fibre to the door, internet. I would have done it anyway.
Thursday, 24th October, 2019
The darker mornings slowly creep up and we suddenly realise that we put the light on when we get up. It is a source of regret for me although I do accept the seasonal range of changing days. I am not Canute although even he did not try to turn back the tide but demonstrated to his subjects that even Kings were subject to natural laws. Fortunately, Man has learnt to work around nature with the social constructs that only humanity can devise. On Saturday night, one of those constructs will come to the rescue temporarily. We turn back the clocks and push the darkness back round the diurnal circle to form darker evenings.
It is rather grey anyway this morning with soft, wetting rain which contributes to the gloom of the day. We have a plumber arriving this morning to fix a leaking tap. A tap which cost nearly £200.00/€232.00 really shouldn’t be leaking after less than 4 years use. Apparently, taps like these have ceramic gland cartridges. It is all quite beyond my understanding so I look forward to an expert arriving. I, for one, believe in experts what ever slimy Gove says.
We’ve got just one more ‘expert’ to come to our house before we fly off to the Canaries. Next week, the burglar alarm man is coming back to comprehensively check our system. We will need it while we are away.
While we are away, we will be spending Euros. We buy our travel and accommodation with our credit cards in UK but all spending abroad is in local currency to avoid huge currency conversion charges. Over the past year, I have been forward buying currency as the Brexit debate ebbed and flowed and the Pound rose and fell against the Euro. I use FX experts like ICE and Moneycorp with whom I have accounts and who home deliver. Recently, however, Tesco Bank have more than matched them in value and I only have to go to my local supermarket to pick the up. Earlier in the week, the £1.00 = €1.1640 and I bought another £1000.00 worth to store away for future use. It’s gone down a bit since then so my constant monitoring was worth while.
Friday, 25th October, 2019
This morning, I lost my life – well, a significant part of it. This Blog is published on a hosted WordPress platform. I have maintained it since Christmas 2008 – It will be 11 years old in a couple of months. It’s strapline is a quote from TS Elliot’s The Wasteland in which the Fisher King describes his final attempt at coherence. This Blog shores up the fragments of my life in a final attempt at producing some coherence as a result. Of course, like everything, it will end in tragedy and failure but the effort will deliver it from futility or so I hope….
This morning, I lost everything. WordPress works with style sheets which form the framework in which content is contained and presented. Over the years, I have used 2 or 3 different style sheets just to keep the appearance fresh and interesting although functionality has been at the heart of my choice. There are thousands of WordPress stylesheets and existing content is instantly refreshed with a new wrapper. On Thursday evening, in an idle moment, I trawled though stylesheets and considered a change. Eventually, I decided against it and closed my computer down.
This morning, I was locked out of the last 11 years of my life. ….
Saturday, 26th October, 2019
I went to bed at midnight thinking about my Blog and woke at 6.00 am thinking about my Blog. I had attempted to restore data but, overnight, I realised that it was just the stylesheet that was missing. As I had browsed the stock of new stylesheets, I must have half selected one but not fully and deselected my original. Sounds garbled but I understand it. The error message I kept getting was: No stylesheet attached. I woke up knowing what I had to do – sort of.
I opened my control panel from my hosts – Ionos/1&1 – found the stylesheets bank and selected one, held my breath and refreshed my Blog page and up popped….
As I whooped round the kitchen, England scored their first try against New Zealand in what turned out to be a rout. England were brilliant and so was my mood. The day just couldn’t get much better. I’m going to the gym to celebrate.
At 7.00 am, the morning is mild (16C/61F) but grey and monochrome. My head-cold is still fairly monochrome as well. Any Blog reader will know that I live inside routines. Every morning starts at 6.00 am with BBC Radio 4. Up at 7.00 am, Pauline makes me fresh orange juice by juicing 2 large oranges. After that, I am handed a large cup of Yorkshire tea and my Breakfast is completed by some freshly made banana milk shake with fat free milk and calorie-free sweetener. Generally, that will carry me through until our meal at around 4.00 pm. Pauline makes porridge with fresh fruit for herself and drinks a cup of hot water. She hasn’t drunk tea or coffee for almost 2 years now.
While Pauline makes Breakfast, I download the newspapers on our iPads and check email. Our mobile phones tell us what the temperature is outside. The house is so well insulated that it doesn’t provide much hint of external conditions. As I went through the emails, one stood out – You have won a National Lottery prize. Pauline pointed out that it was supposed to €15 million but the a check found our prize was £140.00/€161.00. Still, it’s better than a poke in the eye. It almost covers the cost of our hotel room at Gatwick airport at the end of the month.
This week, we are driving up to Yorkshire. I am looking forward to being reacquainted with my old friend, Harold Wilson, who we left standing outside the magnificent façade of Huddersfield Train Station. Like so many memories, time and distance soften the loss but returning evokes much emotion and so many memories.
Monday, 14th October, 2019
A grey, damp day which didn’t get above 17C/63F. It doesn’t matter. Yorkshire wouldn’t seem the same if it wasn’t like this.
Ten years ago, we were spending a lot of time in Oldham Hospital with Pauline’s little Mum who suddenly had shingles across her eye. It is a horrible, painful condition for anyone but, for someone in their mid-90s, it is very unfair. She made light of it and recovered.
My weather app. tells me that we are distinctly average for rain over the past 30 years and not so far off the average high temperature. Tomorrow should be dry for our drive to the North.
Got home from the Health Club today to find BT Openreach parked in our drive. They were pulling fibre optic cable through the ducts from the street cabinet to our house. Gone are the days when they had to dig up the road and drive. A junction box has been attached to the outside of our house in the flower bed and, next week, they will turn up to install the new hub and wireless extension equipment. A week on Wednesday, we will go from 30Mbs to 300Mbs in the blink of an eye. Apparently, at the same time, it will significantly increase the value of our house by improving its desirability. It will certainly be more desirable to me!
Tuesday, 15th October, 2019
Up at 6.30 am on a grey but mild morning. Final packing of suitcases and the car. Out by 8.45 am and on the road to Yorkshire via Repton in Derbyshire. Our sat.nav. And the AA app calculated 3.5 hours to Repton followed by 1.5 more hours on to Yorkshire. The first couple of hours’ drive were excellent and enjoyable and then we met a motorway closure around Leicester. The reason was a collision between a lorry and a van which completely closed the M1 for an air ambulance to land. The tailbacks were frustrating but we didn’t have a deadline so lived with it and got on our way again.
The changing face of my old, home village was fascinating/shocking. This picture below features a residential property know as The Manse. In the century between the 1870s and the 1970s, it was the manse serving the attached Congregational Chapel which had been central to so many of my family ancestors. The building to the right of the manse is a hair and beauty salon.
Ironically, the left hand side where the brown door now is was a pitch black cave of a place in which sat a grimy, one-legged war veteran who spent his day repairing boots and shoes. It was a place where old men gathered to gossip. For a young lad, it was quite a scary place. The right hand side was Wainright’s Forge where a furnace was constantly being stoked with fire irons and metal was beaten in to shape. The smell of tempered metal haunts me as I looked through the windows.
Today would have been Dad’s 104th birthday. Unbelievable to think he missed 55 of those years. Although I remember him, I often find myself questioning whether those memories are real or received. I wonder how we would have got on in my adulthood. I have a feeling that he wouldn’t have approved of me and my views.
A total of 5 hours driving plus a Coffee/Toilet break, visit to my parents grave and a short excursion around my home village stretched to near 8 hrs. When you haven’t got a deadline, delays don’t seem so important. Fortunately, the holdup didn’t happen until shortly after the toilet break which was lucky. We arrived at our hotel in Brighouse by 4.30 pm. Check-in, a cup of tea and then down to the gym to make sure I achieved my targets before settling down for the evening.
Wednesday, 16th October, 2019
The morning opened dark and wet but soon brightened up. We were up early and down to breakfast and then out in the car towards Huddersfield town centre. We were going to Bolton to visit my sister, Ruth and her husband, Kevan. We had to take them some flowers and we went out first to buy them.
Horrible journey in heavy rain and even heavier traffic with deep, surface water and terrible road spray. However, we got there and were just parking up when Pauline’s mobile rang. It was our next door neighbour. Our smoke alarms were all going off in the house and he couldn’t stop them. A few weeks ago, he phoned us while we were in Athens to say our burglar alarm was going off. When we got home, our three fire alarms had set of spontaneously for the first time. This time, there was little we could suggest to our neighbour but to turn the mains supply off and let the batteries run out for us to deal with when we get home.
We spent a lovely couple of hours with Ruth & Kev who are both looking extremely happy, healthy and hearty in spite of being so much older than Pauline & I. Annoyingly, I forgot to take a photo before we left. I will do so next time.
The drive back to Huddersfield was totally different. The weather was dry and sunny with blue skies and sunshine. The traffic was much lighter as we drove into Huddersfield town centre and then on through Netherton, Meltham and Helme.
We drove on past a green, Holme Valley as the sun shone over it towards Longwood where we lived until 2010
We left the North of England almost 10 years ago and, although we had spent almost 40 years together there with wonderful memories, it is not somewhere I could move back to now. It feels hard, harsh, lacking in the softness of indulgence. As a beautiful, theatrical backdrop, it has a lot to recommend it. As a place to call home, I have moved on to sunnier climes.
Thursday, 17th October, 2019
Can you believe it? Yorkshire has frost at 6.00 am this morning. It does presage a beautiful morning and this is the carpark from our suite on a the upper storey of our hotel.
Certainly, the onset of Autumn is more pronounced up here than is evident on the South Coast. At around mid day, we drove in to Huddersfield and up to The Manor House Restaurant in Lindley.
We met up with our old friends and ex-colleagues, Little Viv and Margaret. It has become a tradition and Margaret is tasked with choosing a new venue each time. She has rarely let us down.
A light lunch of Caesar Salad and sparkling water but with lots of heavy talking passed 2hrs very quickly. We split after agreeing to meet again in March. We drove in to town where the exciting new university buildings dominate the skyline. Today was Open Day and the town was flooded with hordes of excited young people dreaming of leaving home and setting out in the world.
Negotiating strange people like that, we drove back to our hotel for a cup of tea and to catch up on political events. I still am extremely optimistic about beating this Brexit nonsense!
Friday, 18th October, 2019
Up in the darkness at 6.30 am. It had rained torrentially in the night but was dry now. After breakfast, we drove over the Pennines to Oldham to the Crematorium to pay our respect to the memory of Pauline’s Mum who died 9 years ago today. We have done this every year since and will try to continue to have this focus in her memory. She deserved it.
We drove on to visit my friend and ex-colleague, Brian and his wife, Val, in Shaw. We only meet a couple of times each year. I love talking to him. There is no one more down to earth.
After a couple of hours with Brian & Val, we drove up to see the site of our old school completely covered in 40-50 new, Redrow homes. It felt quite divorced from our long term recollections. It underlined our distance between reality and memory and, without sentiment, we moved on. We drove on to visit relations of Pauline – Joyce & Harry. It was nice to see them and we had a delightful conversation for an hour or so before setting off over the Pennines to Huddersfield.
When we got back to our hotel, the final nail in our run of bad luck arrived. An email from our neighbour said, Smoke Alarms still not turned off but burglar alarms have now joined in.
Saturday, 19th October, 2019
Up early and very light Breakfast at 6.30 am. On the road by 7.00 am. Almost immediately told by our sat.nav. of an accident/holdup on the M1. It turned out to be a 25 yr old ‘pedestrian’ killed on the motorway by a Mercedes. What he was doing there goodness only knows although it was late on a Saturday night.
The diversion, which thousands took, added about 90 mins to our journey and left us exasperated. One thing saved our sanity and you will be shocked to hear what it was.
Today, Parliament met on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands war. Boris Johnson was trying to get his EU Withdrawal Bill through the Commons. We knew he’d fail but there was always some tension about it. The debate went on for about 4 hrs and was absolutely fascinating. I managed to get live Parliament TV on my mobile and put it through our car Infotainment unit. As a result, although our journey took about an hour longer than it should have done, I hardly noticed any of it because I was gripped by the drama of the debate.
We arrived home about 1.30 pm and took bottles of wine to our neighbours either side to say ‘sorry’ for the disturbance of our smoke/burglar alarms disturbing their week. We griddled chicken out in the garden where the sunshine shone and the temperature made it delightfully warm. We were able to watch the voting conclusion to the Parliamentary debate on television and applaud the Opposition in their victory. Now we have to unpack and get on with normality.
A lovely, warm sunny day which reached 18C/65F. Morning on Sunday is papers, political discussions and home jobs. I actually spent a couple of hours cleaning the car. A trip to the Health Club which was very quiet and then home, shattered, we went round to our neighbour’s house. Drank a couple of glasses of red wine with them and chatted to neighbours from all around us as we wished Pat Happy 80th Birthday. It was nice to get to know them better. Let’s hope we get to celebrate such a birthday.
I threw in the bomb of Brexit to liven up the conversation and it didn’t disappoint. One chap just walked off to the other side of the room because he couldn’t cope with it. Our next door neighbour is a German lady who has lived in UK for 20 years and worked as an English teacher. She has been resisting regularising her status here because she resents having to do so after 20 years of public service and paying taxes to the UK state coffers and who could blame her? It is shameful that anyone in her position should be asked to do anything at all.
Monday, 7th October, 2019
Mild morning with brilliant, orange, mackerel sky. A bit of a breeze. We had a couple of tradesfolk attending our property. First to arrive was the Burglar Alarm installers who came to provide a 3 year service. When we went to Greece recently, our alarm went off. We think it could have been a spider. They are invading our house in abundance at the moment. As the service engineer finished his survey without finding anything specific, this little chap walked silently by.
Next up was the plumber. We have a flexible, pull-down, swan-neck tap. Recently, it started to leak from the base of its neck. The builders said it would be either a washer or a cartridge that needed replacing. The plumber decided he could fix it but would need a replacement part. He would have to return. At least Pauline was able to see what to do after our warranty runs out. The alarm man decided that it was about time to replace the back-up battery which he didn’t have with him. He would need a replacement battery which he would have to return to fit.
We will need two more appointments before we go away and we’re running out of days. We are off to Yorkshire soon and then to Tenerife until December. So little time yet so much to achieve!
Tuesday, 8th October, 2019
A mild -17C/63F – with weak sunshine. Pauline went out early to have her face rearranged at the Beauty Clinic. I stayed at home because my face is beyond repair. We only have three weeks to go before we fly out for a month in the Canarian sunshine. Before that, we will spend a few days in sunny Yorkshire. We are hoping to not need our central heating until we return in December.
Greece has already been hit by some difficult weather. Mount Olympus has seen snowfall but, over the past 24 hrs, the Cyclades islands including Syros and Andros, Sifnos, Tinos and Milos have been hit by strong winds, prolonged thunder and lightning and torrential rain leading to flooding. A video clip of a river running over the main street of Sifnos port, Kamares, was sent to me this morning and this of a venetian street on the island of Syros appeared this afternoon.
We always watch the Lunchtime Politics Live programmed on BBC2 and have become accustomed to setting off for the gym as it finished at 1.00 pm.. Recently, we adjusted our timing so we can watch while we are exercising. It is a great improvement and has made the routine go so much more quickly.
Wednesday, 9th October, 2019
Almost a full moon last night – apparently it will take another 3 days. Awoke to heavy rain in the middle of the night. Awoke at 6.00 am to dry and warm weather. By just after 7.00 am, the sun was up and blue skies slowly emerged. Looks like it will be a nice afternoon for swimming outside.
This time last year, I collected a huge, leathery seed pod from a tree in Tenerife and stuck it in my bag. When we got home, I researched it and found that I had collected seeds from Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree. I read up about cultivation and learnt that one should put the seeds in boiling water for 24hrs. I did that with one half of my seeds and not with the other. The advice was totally vindicated because all those not boiled failed to germinate and all those boiled did germinate.
This is an extremely tender plant/tree. It is native of tropical climes. Although I grew my germinated trees on in pots outside, I knew that even a mild winter here would be a danger to them. Recently, I brought two specimens indoors. In the following graphic, I feature the view from mid-July on the left set against one from today.
Although I am doing this for a bit of fun, it has to be taken very seriously – like Brexit. When we are away for a month, P&C are going to look after these fast growing trees. If they can make 3 ft in 3 months, October could be interesting for P&C. This is how a fully grown tree can look.
I just hope I can get them out of P&C’s conservatory by December and then fit them in the car to bring home.
We are almost half way through October but swimming outside is still absolutely delightful. Today, with sunshine on our backs and under blue skies we swam as squirrels chased other on the surrounding trees and birds feasted on the festoons of orange, Pyracantha berries that are set off brilliantly against the backdrop of the yew hedges. After more than an hour in the gym, swimming in this environment is a relaxing delight. We feel so lucky to have this facility.
Thursday, 10th October, 2019
An absolutely delightful day of warm sunshine and blue skies. We still have Basil thriving outside in pots in our back garden. Admittedly, the large leaved, Italian basil has finished but this hardier, purple-veined, Aramato Basil is still going strong. It tastes and smells exactly the same although its leaves are a little tougher and smaller.
My Broadband is supplied by BT. It is reliable, sufficient and reasonably priced. I get a download speed of around 32Mb and upload of circa 11Mb. However, for a couple of weeks last month, BT Openreach vans have been working in our street quite intensively. Today, I learned that I can now have fibre direct to my door for just £8.00/€9.17 per month extra. It will provide me with a huge increase in performance – almost beyond my expectations.
As our demands on our broadband bandwidth increase all the time with 6 televisions, plus control of heating and lighting services in addition to computers, laptops, iPads, Kindles and smartphones all drawing down from it, the increased speed particularly in wi-fi will be very welcome. It may be that the introduction of 5G will obviate some of this demand but, for now, we will take anything we can get with real gratitude.
Friday, 11th October, 2019
This is one of life’s ironies. Yesterday I wrote of arranging for our BT Broadband to be upgraded from 30Mbs to 300 Mbs. Upgrading from fibre-to-cabinet to fibre-to-home. Eliminating the copper from the street cabinet – even though it isn’t very far -makes such a huge difference. In about 10 days, I will receive new equipment – a new hub and wi-fi extender discs. The irony is that, within 5 hrs of booking this upgrade, our current BT Hub went down. I realised when we checked the Hive hub which piggybacks on the BT one and controls the hot water, central heating and lighting to find it wasn’t working.
Unfortunately, I realised it as I was going to bed at midnight. By 1.00 am, I had both hubs up and working so I could sleep without worrying. However, this morning, as we finished our coffee, all our smoke alarms went off.
They are incredibly noisy and difficult to silence. There was no smoke or steam or cooking. We can only assume it was a spider that set one off but the noise could be heard out in the garden and up the street even with everything closed.
After a while, even calm people working their way steadily through the problem become rather tense and tetchy. The alarms are mains powered with battery backup. Finding the isolation switch was an adventure. Getting to the toolbox and picking out the correct screwdrivers. Searching out a screwdriver to prise off the cap and then release the battery took a while. Eventually, we were able to stop, reset and reassemble the three units and, as we did, a small, black spider abseiled down from the one on the landing. We tested all and all were working correctly.
In the past week, we have had to address a leaking tap, a misfunctioning burglar alarm, wi-fi and Hive hubs down and misfunctioning smoke alarms. As a backdrop to this, I have contracted a severe head cold which is making my exercise routine more difficult than usual. I refuse to give in to it!
Saturday, 12th October, 2019
A grey damp day. My head cold seemed to get worse as the morning went on. We debated whether to go to the gym or not but I couldn’t let it go and forced myself through it. To cheer myself up and lift the gloom of the day outside, I spent a bit of time researching the immediate area of our home for the month of November.
Apparently, it is possible to walk to Siam Water Park and the Siam Shopping Mall in just over 5 mins and to the centres of Costa Adeje and Playa de las Americas in around 20 mins. This is ideal for us. We like to walk and explore new places.
Just over 38 years ago, we had got back from our first, Greek venture. Zakynthos was our first island. It didn’t have an airport so we flew to Hellinikon International Airport. From there, we got on a minibus to be driven across the Peloponnese to the port of Killini and then ferry to Zakynthos Town dominated by the church of St Denis (Dionysius). Zakynthos was all but destroyed during an earthquake in 1953 and, after buildings were rebuilt with earthquakes in mind, a year ago, they were hit by another big one. Quite a bit of damage was caused although not on the earlier scale.
This morning, 2 more 4+ Richter shocks hit the island. They are said to be after shocks from last year.