Week 486

Sunday, 15th April, 2018

The day has opened much cooler and rather grey. I suppose it is only the middle of April but I expect better. I will get better tomorrow, I hear. It was ever thus!

James Joseph Jeremiah Coghlan (1894 – 1976)

Politics programmes, Sunday papers, blah, blah, etc. You’ve read it all before. Actually, I helped Pauline prepare a document for our Greek friends on the merits of Tumble Dryers (You heard it here first!) and their availability in Greek outlets like Kotsovolos. The cheapest ones can be purchased for just over €320.00/£277.00 which is not too extortionate.

A member of my family then started a chain email concerning the possibility of seeking dual nationality through our Grandparents’ Irish heritage. They were seeking information of the birthplace of our Grandfather. Unfortunately, I was about to dash their hopes because I knew that Grandad was born in Brighton – an irony that is not lost on me considering where I have ended up. Our Grandfather – James, Joseph, Jeremiah Coghlan – couldn’t have been more Irish in origin but he was born in 1894 to Irish immigrants in Brighton. It just goes to show that you can’t even rely on your own Grandfather over Brexit. He is pictured opposite during the First World War when he served in the Cavalry.

Monday, 16th April, 2018

Gorgeous, gorgeous day. Blue sky and warm sunshine. After mowing the lawn for the second time this month, we returned to the exercise regime. It felt great and swimming in the outdoor pool under strong sun and blue sky felt positively Mediterranean.

The first part of the day was taken up with a visit from a painter who was going over the filled and sanded plaster work which had received remedial work. The painter, a lovely chap, did the work – two coats – in just over an hour. We now have the exact name of the paint so that we can do incidental touch-ups ourselves. We have three years left on our warranty but getting people in can be a bit of a pain so it is good to have a supply in the garage to do small jobs ourselves.

We bought a £1000.00 of Euros yesterday at £1.00 = €1.1301 online on Saturday and picked them up today. We will continue to forward buy currency as the rate dictates over the next few months to fund future travel. I use International Currency Exchange  and I am an account holder of Moneycorp – both specialist FX Traders – and yet Tesco are currently offering better rates than both.

Tuesday, 17th April, 2018

Another lovely day. The garden was in sunshine. My friend, Brian from Oldham, phoned which was nice. It is one of the penalties of living at either end of the country that we don’t get to meet so often. Another really enjoyable session at the Health Club. The pool was delightfully quiet, sunny and warm.

Strange to think we would now be back, hard at work if still in Education. Members of staff who are still there have been recording the end of their holidays as they dash back from Spain or wherever. Instead, we have meandered through our day indulging our preferences. This life could be so much worse.

My INR, which I test every week, has to remain between 2.0 – 3.0. For many months it has been near perfect. Because of that, I have been allowing myself to eat illicit things like Rocket Salad which contains high Vitamin K that mitigates against the efficacy of the anti-coagulant, Warfarin, I take each day. I used to call green salads Rabbit Food but, as soon as they were prohibited, I craved them. Well, today has proved a step too far as I have fallen to the bottom of the scale with INR = 2.0. All green vegetables are back off again.

Wednesday, 18th April, 2018

Glorious day of sunshine and 72F/22C temperatures. It is really good to see some Summer weather after such a long Winter. For some strange reason, the outdoor pool was madly popular. All the stalwarts of winter swimming were looking at each other and suggesting their fair weather friends ought to have served their time if they wanted parity outside.

Common Thyme & Lemon Thyme

We had done a morning of shopping for building/’snagging’ materials plus plants for our herb collection. This year we are going to concentrate on Tarragon (which we already have and has overwintered well), Oregano, Dill, Basil, Chives and Thyme. We can only cope with an assembly of patio pots this year because we will not be at home enough to manage anything else. I use an automatic watering system and all the herbs are regularly cropped and frozen for use across the year. Particularly, we need lots of basil to make Pesto which we use a lot with Salmon dishes and Dill which we use with most other fishes.

Thursday, 19th April, 2018

Haskins Garden Centre

A beautiful day. The Met. Office says it has been the hottest April day in my lifetime. We didn’t go to the beach because of predictable human behaviour. You can guarantee that hot sunshine will have brought out many sun worshippers on the beach. Instead we went to the garden centre where the other half of the world had considered it a good place to congregate.

In spite of the scorching weather, we went to the Health Club and did our full gym routine but the world had moved from the garden centre to the outdoor pool so we didn’t swim. We rather resented it but it would have been too stressful to fight for space to swim. We went home and sat in the sunshine.

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Week 485

Sunday, 8th April, 2018

Καλο Πασχα  to all our Greek friends. We watched last night’s celebrations through the main street of Kamares. Cool but dry meant that the candlelit procession was comfortable.

As predicted, today is a wet one here. Even so, we will not rest. The Health Club has to be visited this afternoon. I am on a winning streak having already reached my target every day for the past 7 and I’m bidding to make it an 8th. I have managed a daily average of 12,000 paces over the past week and covered around 43 miles. I won’t be able to bare looking at my phone unless I achieve my target today. It’s got to be done!

Monday, 9th April, 2018

A warm, grey and wet morning. Suitcases are at the bottom of the stairs. John is just trying to remind himself how to lock/unlock them and what the combination is. Haven’t used them for a few months and I can hardly remember yesterday. Taxi booked for lunchtime then train to London Victoria and tube to Kensington High Street – Holiday Inn.

I chose it for its location, because I am a member and receive members’ rates and because it has a large indoor pool and large gym both of which has been fully refurbished in the past 18 months.

Tuesday, 10th April, 2018

Lovely hotel with great gym and pool. We did our routine there yesterday to get travelling tiredness out of ourselves. Lovely sleep in a very comfortable bed and quiet room. Grey, vaguely misty and dull here on Kensington High Street this morning. Of course, we were forced out of our routine to eat Breakfast around 8.00 am. We struggled to eat it but certain things just have to be done.

After recovering from morning food, the next test of endurance was ‘shopping’. For once, I achieved almost a score draw this morning and escaped with the single purchase of a new umbrella for Pauline which appealed to my gadget enjoyment with a button that not only opens automatically but also closes automatically as well. That had to be worth £15.00/€17.21. I almost had to buy sunglasses in the same expedition but managed to convince Pauline that they didn’t suit her. She trusts my judgement!

We went for a walk around a misty Kensington Palace gardens. It was a quiet morning and it gave us an excuse for some exercise. Royal Palaces are such tawdry things in rainy reality and no amount of gilt on the gates can raise the profile. I longed to drape my ‘Corbyn for King’ banner across them but I hadn’t got one and wouldn’t have got away with it anyway.

The gardens in this weather were not too exciting but rather more so than shopping for women’s clothes. We returned to our hotel for coffee and a rest in which to read our newspapers. When we got there, our meeting with our Greek friends was postponed by email because a problem had arisen. They were supposed to be coming to our hotel for 11.00 am but now would come at 3.30 pm.. That’s alright. We were ‘free’ all day. We went to the gym and did a workout. It felt good and the facility was remarkably popular with guests. It is one of the best exercise facilities I have ever seen in a hotel.

We know from experience what a Greek appointment time is like – movable without explanation. We sat in the lobby of our hotel for an hour but, by 4.30 pm., they hadn’t arrived. We went back to our room for a cup of tea and email our friends. By 5.00 pm, we had  not heard from them and we had virtually resigned ourselves to not seeing them. Then, at 5.30 pm, two hours after we were expected to meet, the phone went and a concierge announced, We have a Ms Elerania in the Lobby to see you. We hurried down and there they all were frustrated having gone twice round the Circle Line looking for the Kensington High Street stop and trying to get off the underground before the doors closed and the train moved on.

Apostolos, Maria, Nikos, Elerania & Pauline

We went down into the Lounge and the Greek adults had coffee, the Greek children had ice cream and Pauline & I had a pot of tea. We talked and talked and talked and talked. We talked for four hours. We talked until we were all exhausted. Our conversations covered what was going on with all our friends and some less friendly islanders, what was going on in the island politics and economic developments, what was going on with our friends in front of us and what we should do in the future. They have offered accommodation on Sifnos and we will take them up on it next year. This year is too busy now. They will convey our very best wishes to Emmanuella & John, to Flora and to Olga.

At 9.30 pm, our Greek guests left to try and navigate the three remaining underground stops to their hotel in Sloane Square and we returned to our room and ordered ‘Room Service’. We hadn’t eaten since 8.00 am but hadn’t even noticed and now had little hunger. We order two starter portions – of cold meat and salad and one of smoked salmon and salad with a bottle of wine. It was enough. I watched Newsnight and then fell into bed after a very long day in which I had covered 16,500 paces and then talked for England.

Wednesday, 1th April, 2018

Up at 7.00 am. Forced to eat another ‘Breakfast’ and then coffee with the newspapers in our room. We contacted our Greek friends at their hotel to thank them for a lovely meeting and their offer of accommodation on Sifnos. We wished them a safe flight back to Athens tomorrow and told them that we looked forward to seeing them on Sifnos once again.

We checked out, walked to the Kensington High Street Underground Station and took the Circle Line to Victoria Station. That is where our problems started once again. Since we have been down here and using Southern Railways, we have been on just three rail journeys. The first one to a Celebration Dinner followed by a show, we returned to Victoria for the last train and it was promptly cancelled. We took a train to a midway point and then had to go home by taxi at an extra cost of £80.00/€92.00. Pauline subsequently went shopping with her sister and the train was late and then re-routed.

Today, our train started about 20 mins late apparently because some idiot had driven his car into the railway bridge in Croydon and delayed the service. Then, when we were about half way home, the guard announced that they had decided not to stop at our home destination in order not to slow the train down for everyone else and thus avoid paying ‘lateness’ compensation. Instead, we were going to have to go to Littlehampton which is further away and……take a taxi at our expense. At least we had transferred from a cool and damp Capital to a warm (17C/63F) and sunny coastal village where, even after 3 days away, the lawns were growing very quickly.

Thursday, 12th April, 2018

Up early because we have a ‘snagger’ coming to the second of three phases of work on our resettlement cracks. Stage one was filling the cracks with plaster. Stage two is sanding down the dried plaster to a smooth finish. Stage three will be repainting. Stage two took less than an hour with a dust collecting sander so minimum mess and disruption. The jolly worker came and went. Pauline followed up by vacuuming and steam cleaning the floors anyway.

Soon, I have to go to the Doctors’ surgery for an annual pre-diabetic review. Although my readings no longer indicate Type 2 Diabetes, I remain on the books for life in case of relapse or recidivism. I am happy about this because I get better monitoring of my health and any perks that come with Diabetic Care. For example, I have a specialist eye check each year which I wouldn’t normally do. I got free prescriptions although now they are free anyway.

Of course, now, I have an even greater health scare to worry about. I have had three, notable head traumas in my life. When I was about 10, I was so determined and intent on winning a playground race that I ran straight into the finishing line which was a brick, school wall. I was knocked clean out. About 5 years later, i was knocked out in a tackle on the rugby field and played on for about 20 mins with severe concussion. At the age of 29, we were involved in a car smash which left me with severe brain bruising having been knocked out in the collision. You can imagine how delighted I was to read yesterday that new findings show the Dementia risk rises 17% after suffering a single concussion and are far worse for those with severe brain trauma. These risks are exacerbated by diabetes. There is no hope. Take me now!

Monbazillac area, Aquitaine.

Actually, could you wait until December? I’ve got quite a lot of travel booked and paid for. This morning, we paid for our villa in the Dordogne. We are staying in the Monbazillac area and about 10 mins. drive from Bergerac. A month in a lovely looking Gite with a pool, gym, Wi-Fi and UK television channels is costing only €2400.00/£2086.00. You can’t say fairer than that and, at the moment, I can still remember it – more or less. Can I push myself to go to exercise this afternoon? Of course I can!

Friday, 13th April, 2018

Up early on a grey and cool morning. We had our weekly shop to do – Asda and Tesco. It took a couple of hours. We came home for coffee and got ready for the gym. Just as we were going out of the door, I felt, I don’t want to do this. I feel really tired. We turned round and thought again. Not wanting to do nothing, we chose to visit a couple of our local garden centres.

The weather is set to warm up dramatically in the next couple of days. The garden centres are stuffed full of the most wonderful plants and shrubs. I could happily buy one or ten of each but, because we are away so much this year, we are going to restrain ourselves. Of course, we don’t have the garden for most of them now anyway. Pots of herbs which can be automatically watered while we are away for months at a time will be the order of the year.

Kotsovolos is owned by Dixons.

Greek island weather can be extremely cold and very damp. Humidity is a very  uncomfortable thing which makes for  unpleasant conditions in houses and on clothes, bedding and furnishings. One of our Greek friends has asked for information on Tumble Dryers. A strange request, you might think but, when we lived on Sifnos, a tumble dryer costing £100.00/€115.50 in UK cost €500.00/£433.00 in Greece. Very few people had them because the weather was so reliable for half the year. During the other half, people hunker down and cope.

ΚΩΤΣΟΒΟΛΟΣ/Kotsovolos is probably the largest electrical retailer in Greece. They do have more choice than when we were looking but the price differential is still high. We managed to source ours in UK and put it in the shipping container we sent over but Greeks don’t have that luxury.

This Tumble Dryer – Greece=€539.00 / UK=€265.00.

In spite of the price, we would have always bought one. Who couldn’t live without soft, fluffy towels?

Saturday, 14th April, 2018

Well, we survived Friday 13th and woke up this morning to thick fog. It was a prelude to a lovely, warm and sunny day with blue skies. We have missed that for a whole week. On the wave of this beautiful start to the day, we decided to indulge ourselves and not return to the Health Club until Monday.

On this day 8 years ago, we were just driving off the P&O ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge en route to our house on Sifnos. We spent so many happy hours on those ferries from 2000 – 2010. They were pretty basic then and I don’t think much has changed all this time later.

When I think about what we did, it makes me shudder. A bottle or two of wine for Dinner to celebrate the start of our journey followed by a poor quality sleep in our cabin and then drive off for a 15 hr, unbroken journey across Europe until we stopped at the port of Ancona. No wonder we crashed out on the Ancona – Patras ferry and saw virtually nothing of the Adriatic. It all seems light years away. Still, we wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything. The drive to the Dordogne this summer will seem like child’s play by comparison.

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Week 484

Sunday, 1st April, 2018

Happy April 2018. Good to see the EU is providing us all with an updated passport to start the new tax year. It’s going to be a busy few months of travelling.

The month has opened with fairly grey skies and not particularly warm either. We did Easter yesterday with our roast shoulder of lamb. It felt slightly strange and distinctly fatty to be eating meat again. Today, we are off to exercise and then feast on roast salmon to be eaten with salad. Meanwhile, stranger things are happening in our house….I am taking pictures of Pauline’s body.

Pauline has worried for years, particularly because of our time in Greece, that she is damaging her skin with the sun. Her Mum had lots of dark, skin spots and, of course, you grow like your Mum. Pauline consulted the doctor who wasn’t particularly concerned but advised her to photograph and measure some of the worst blotches. That is what we have been doing today. We will do it every couple of months over the rest of the year and then see what changes have taken place. Hopefully, there are none.

Monday, 2nd April, 2018

The day started off with torrential rain which was a pity because I had to put the bins out for collection. We are going to London for a few days next week to share with our Sifnos friends so we researched and booked our train tickets this morning. It turned out to be amazingly cheap – just £27.00/€31.00 return for two people from Angmering to London Victoria. We chose to select our specific times of travelling – otherwise it would have cost us £74.00/€85.00. We are staying on Kensington High Street which should be an education. We are looking forward to it. We booked online at the Southern Rail site which is incredibly easy.

Tomorrow, we will drive down to the station and collect our tickets using the code generated by our online purchase.

We drove to the Health Club at 1.00 pm as normal and did 70 mins in the gym. As we walked through to the outside pool, the rain stopped and we spent an enjoyable 30 mins completing our 0.75 kms of swimming before finishing off with half an hour in the sauna, Jacuzzi and water massage. We were home by just after 4.00 pm by which time it had started raining again.

Tuesday, 3rd April, 2018

Typical Spring day of sunshine and showers. We went down to our local station to collect our tickets and arrange taxis for next week’s trip to London. These are the occasions when one appreciates living in a smaller, more rural community. Everything is small scale and friendly. People very chatty in the ticket office at the front of the station. Just opposite is the taxi office – well garden shed with a telephone. The man behind the desk was very pleasant and, when I commented on the sign above his head banning abuse and violence, he informed us that he didn’t mind abuse but he drew the line at violence. To think you need to specify. A bit like teaching!

Spring on the Beach.

Today, we embrace the start of our 10th year of Retirement. Who’d have thought we would have managed all that? It feels a remarkably recent memory and yet so far away. It has been an enjoyable, exciting and rewarding period. It could go on for another 40 years or end tomorrow. We constantly feel we are walking on air and eggshells at the same time.

Optimism and pessimism are two sides of the same coin. I was listening to reports of the ex-Health Minister, Andrew Lansley, who went to his doctor because his wife nagged him about a persistent back pain, only to discover that he has stage 3 Bowel Cancer. These are the egg shells we all live on. My back’s been aching all morning.

Wednesday, 4th April, 2018

Cool Couple – circa 1978

Early shopping day at Sainsbury’s this morning. We are going to be away for a chunk of next week and we have a workman coming early tomorrow so our routine has had to change. Went to the garden centre as well for bags of soil and gravel in preparation for tomorrow when we won’t go to the Health Club. We intend to plant out two fig trees and an olive tree with, perhaps, one more to follow.

Did our 5th, consecutive trip to David Lloyd and our muscles were cracking but we got through it. It is the second week of Easter Holidays and quite a few students were there. The New Year Resolution crowd have faded away and the Health Club are desperate to entice in a new crowd with special offers. We are just plodding on regardless.

Pauline & I have been together 40 years next month and married 40 years in December. A relative wrote to me today and included a photo of 40 years ago. Nice to see. It was taken in Yorkshire and the backdrop is beautiful. We are not sure if it was Summer 1978 or Summer 1979. Which ever, it is nice to see and reminisce.

Thursday, 5th April, 2018

A lovely, lovely day. We were up early for a plasterer to do some ‘snagging’ work – resettling cracks 2 years after we moved in. It took him all morning. While he was working, I gave the lawns their first cut.

Over the years, starting the mower for the first time after a winter break, was a nightmare which left one with strained arm ligaments after tugging the start-up cord. This Spring, all I had to do was charge the battery over night and click it in to place this morning. A push of the button and we were away. Cut on ‘high’ the grass looked lush and beautifully striped when I’d finished. I completed the process by broadcast-applying ‘Aftercut weed and feed’.

We went on to move some plants around in the front flower beds and then planted out the fig trees and an olive tree in the back garden. We have a very sheltered, sunny and warm spot behind the garage and next to the fence where the figs can develop and be trained. By the time I had completed these activities, I was absolutely shattered – much more than a trip to the gym. I guess that I was using different muscles that hadn’t had a workout for quite some time. Tomorrow is forecast to be sunnier and warmer and could reach 16C/61F which should be enjoyable. We will be gyming and swimming.

Friday, 6th April, 2018

Start of the new tax year and I was born 67 years ago today. The world was so different. Dad’s demob trunk containing his uniform, gasmask and suit was stashed in an outhouse at home. Rationing was still prevalent and wartime vocabulary was on every lip. When we went out for our Sunday afternoon family walk, the wartime phrases tumbled out from Mum & Dad – best foot forward, plan of campaign, sucky sweet, chilly pom pom, etc..I was born into a rural, family business, Conservative, village world. That backdrop was the substance of my rejection. On escaping, I embraced a Northern, industrial, town, anonymous life which released me from the shackles of my birth. I have been running ever since as far as a Greek island.

Unfortunately, we can never escape our origins. My childhood was one bereft of animals. I’m not sure why but my Mother thought that 8 children was enough for anyone without dogs and cats. I was allowed a rabbit at the age of 11 but I managed to kill it very shortly after. Mum taught us that dogs were dirty and that we shouldn’t touch them. Consequently, I have always hated – maybe feared – dogs and avoided them like the plague. There is nothing I can do about that now. It doesn’t concern me but I like to understand its origins. Today, with a good sense of irony, my little sister sent me a birthday card which acknowledged my sensibilities. Can you imaginine touching a dog’s wet nose? I shudder to comprehend!

Saturday, 7th April, 2018

A warmish and sunny day which saw me move into short-sleeved shirts for the first time since November last year. We had decided not to go to the Health Club because we had jobs to catch up on. We are having a few nights in London next week and ironing and packing are Pauline’s focus while I had house duties – stripping the bed, vacuuming the carpets, dealing with the dishwasher – followed by completing outdoor jobs which involved pressure washing the patio flags, the tarmac drive to the garage and the front paths, plus washing clay flower pots for new season use, etc..

I want to buy some more comfortable garden furniture to replace the rather harsh wrought iron stuff that we rapidly bought from Argos to get us started two years ago with more comfortable, rattan furniture which will, perhaps, dominate the patio less. There is a debate in our household on the correct way to go but this is the sort of thing that I am favouring. By its very nature, garden furniture is limited in its use. Good weather is required and reasonable temperatures for sitting outside. Months of the winter mean the furniture sits outside unused. Ergonomically designed units appeal to me to satisfy that dilemma. These are the sorts of ‘cube’ arrangement that can be covered with a waterproof throughout the winter and which don’t dominate the area. I think they are the way forward. These are the big issues of the day!

The other big issue of the day was Manchester City against Manchester United. At least this was settled before Saturday was out. A really absorbing match which held its audience until the end and the right team won.

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Week 483

Sunday, 25th March

A warmish day but rather grey. We reached 12C/54F but it didn’t really feel like it because of the lack of sunshine. We had no problem with losing an hour and were up at 7.00 am as normal. Politics programmes and papers plus an attempt to construct an introduction to Athens for my sister who has never been there before and is considering going. I always amaze myself how much I know about the place. We have spent time in Athens every year since 1980 and often two or more times each year. It feels like a second home.

Off to the Health Club for a full workout while it is relatively quiet and then back for our meal of cold roast duck and salad. Schools here break up for Easter on Thursday. We always used to consider the year was over by this stage. Yes we had public exams and things like that but there was little else we could do at this stage. We would go away to Greece and return to start preparations for the new school year before setting off for our 6 week summer holidays.

Monday, 26th March

Talking about Greece, the news today is of Greece turning orange. Strange? Well, it sems that the atmosphere has picked up, carried and dumped tons of red, Saharan sand mixed with wind and rain across the Mediterranean particularly across the Greek islands. This photo is not shot with a filter but an unreconstructed  view of a Cretan harbour. We had something similar but less dramatic here last year.

The weather wasn’t Cretan but it was pleasantly warm today. Swimming outside was lovely and relaxing this afternoon after our gym session. It was 12C/54F as we drove out this morning. As you know, we virtually never eat red meat now. This is not an ethical choice but one of changing taste. Nor are we even marginally religious.

Easter has only meant two things to us. Firstly, it was a holiday which is never bad. Secondly, in Greece, it was a time when we felt like a British Muslim at Christmas – totally on the outside and bewilderedly looking in. The one thing we did take from it was roast lamb. In a spirit of integration, we would purchase half a lamb from our local, island farmer and then, after our first meal, ask ourselves what we were going to do with the rest of it. Today, we drove to Sainsbury’s and bought a shoulder of West Country lamb for roasting this weekend. You’ve got to show willing, haven’t you?

Tuesday, 27th March

A damp start to the day but the afternoon was warm and sunny reaching a lovely 15C/59C as we swam outside. Pauline’s new fitness tracker had been excellent – for a week – but then refused to charge. I did a search on the net and found lots of disgruntled owners who’d had the same problem. One thing in favour of Amazon is the ease of sending things back. The watch has already been returned and the money credited to our account. We’ve ordered a different one from Currys/PCWorld which we pick up tomorrow.

This bracelet fitness tracker/watch for women provides all the data one could want for £70.00. Now I’ve got Pauline hooked on measuring her activities including sleep patterns, she is quite happy to pay for a better quality watch.

Today, I collected my new shaver. I bought the last one about ten years ago in a supermarket in Alsace. We were driving to our Greek home and I suddenly realised that I hadn’t packed my electric razor. It has done me well for all these years but Pauline started complaining that I was looking unkempt and poorly shaved. I hope that I will pass muster tomorrow after charging up my new machine.

I have spent part of my day completing an introduction to Athens to smooth my sister’s projected first visit. I have learnt a lot where I thought I knew as much as I needed to. My sister is a vegan. Yes, I know it’s madness but we all have our weaknesses. Did you know that Athens boasts three, vegan restaurants in the city centre. There is Vegan Nation on Ermou Street, Lime Restaurant in Dekeleon Street and Mama Tierra in Akademias. Who knew that?

Wednesday, 28th March

I must wish my sister, Mary-Jane, a happy 64th Birthday this morning. Let’s hope she enjoys it.

A wet morning that has soon faded to brightness but not particularly inviting outside. We will be going to the Health Club in early afternoon by which time sunshine is forecast. Talking about forecasts, the Met. Office has been warning of a return to winter over Easter. Because of that, I have left any work in the garden for a couple of weeks and smiled smugly when I heard my neighbours mowing their lawns. Now we are told that it will actually get warmer over Easter and that all threats of winter weather are banished. I do remember a Derbyshire cricket match at Buxton being abandoned in early May because of heavy snow but let’s hope that isn’t repeated.

I have talked about being on the early end of the autistic scale before. Really only in retirement have Pauline & I discussed it. Certainly, it is in retirement that those traits I exhibit which might be ascribed to autism have become slightly more pronounced. Perhaps that is only now that I have the time to indulge them. Things like enjoying symmetry, lining things up, leaving light switches in the ‘correct’ position give me satisfaction.

In school, of course, we had autistic kids who were on the extreme end of the scale and, although we employed Assistants to deal with them, I was aware that they found inter-personal relationships more difficult and took the use of language much more literally. Pauline has always said I do that when she says, Turn right and I turn into a Builder’s yard rather than at the next road junction. Why didn’t she say what she meant? Well, this week, I have caught myself doing it and I’m beginning to accept she might be right.

We went to the dentist to change our appointments at the dentist’s request. The receptionist asked my name and searched for it on the database. Having failed to find it, she looked up and asked, How do you like to spell your name, John? I found myself looking her straight in the eye and saying, Correctly. Pauline cracked up laughing as the poor woman looked away and thought about how she could deal with this idiot. She solved it by asking how I spelt my surname. Easy question which I responded to by spelling it. Afterwards, Pauline explained that she needed to know which spelling of the word, John/Jon, I used so she could locate it in the index. Why didn’t she say what she meant?

Thursday, 29th March

Can you believe that it is nearly the end of March? We went out to collect Pauline’s new Fitness Tracker/Watch from Currys. We were supposed to be informed by email that it had arrived. We weren’t and, when we got there, they couldn’t find it. Disorganisation seemed to reign supreme. Don’t buy shares. They could be on their way out. Anyway, Pauline now has a new, Garmin Fitness tracker which will keep her motivated.

We shopped in Sainsbury’s and they had huge, loins of fresh tuna ready for Easter. We bought 4 large steaks for £13.00/€14.83. Later, we had no sooner packed our bags for the gym than it began to pour torrential rain and we decided to give it a miss. A short time later the sun came out.

I completed my Athens guide for my sister and then agreed our meeting place with our Sifnos friends over Easter in Kensington. My next job is to photograph and measure Pauline’s skin ‘blemishes’ as the result of sun damage. We have to do it a few times over a period of time to see if they are developing or if it is our imagination.

Friday, 30th March

A wet day with only short dry breaks across the day. To avoid the crowds, we did our week’s shopping earlier than usual at 8.30 am which coincided with a dry spell. That done we went to the Health Club during a downpour which persuaded us not to swim. We did 70 mins. in the gym and came home.

I have written about sleep a number of times because it has always fascinated me. Are you a night owl or a lark? I am both. I have always worked best late at night. Often, in my early 20s, I went to work all day and then came home and worked literally all night on university essays, washed and shaved and went to work again. I can’t do that now but I do like to stay up ‘late’ and wake ‘early’. Margaret Thatcher was famously believed to be able to survive on 3-4 hours sleep each night. For most of my life, I have thrived on 6 hours.

Of course, I don’t need to now but old habits are hard to break. I have just started trying to go to bed by 11.30 pm. The 6.00 am news on Radio 4 still wakes me in the morning but Pauline says I tend to snooze through the first half hour. The moment I get up, soon after 7.00 am, I am lively in my head at least and increasingly in my body.

‘Now, not only do I monitor my exercise during waking hours but my fitness watch monitors my sleep patterns over night. I find it really interesting the spread of light and deep sleep I enjoy each day which adds up to at least 7 hours now. I am quite surprised to find how little I wake over that 7 hour period.

Saturday, 31st March

Greeted the last day of March with gorgeous blue sky and sunshine. Today is a ‘home’ day. House cleaning day. My jobs are to unstack the dishwasher, vacuum the house top to bottom, strip the bed for changing, dust the surfaces and drink coffee. Pauline is slow roasting lamb with garlic and fresh rosemary for our meal.

Slow-cooked Shoulder of West Country Lamb.

As the day has developed, the sun has withdrawn behind lightly grey skies. I watched Liverpool save their reputation against a well organised Crystal Palace. It was raining and cold in London which is disappointing because our Sifnos friends are arriving at Gatwick today. They are here for a fortnight and we are going to join them for their second week.

We will be in Athens early in September because our time is already booked up for most of the year. Since we sold the Sifnos house, we have been staying in Athens in the early Autumn. It is there that we first ate filo lamb parcels. Pauline loved them and she will be using the left over lamb to make them again this evening to be saved in the freezer. Filo has been bought because we have decided that life is too short to make our own for this. Otherwise, we never eat pastry.

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Week 482

Sunday, 18th March

Avalanche this morning.

Woke to a smattering of snow this morning. We had expected much more. Whether it was the Beast from the East or the Pest from the West, it rejected us on the coast. A little bit on the grass but not on the paths or the road. I don’t think we’ll be needing our snow shovel – at least not today.

The temperature is 0C/32F this morning and feels quite sharp when we go outside. Even so, we will go to the Health Club after the political programmes have finished. At least I won’t have to watch the desperately poor and embarrassing England Rugby Team perform today. While I exercised yesterday, I watched with abject horror as they handed the Irish a St Patrick’s Day present – at Twickenham of all places.

Monday, 19th March

The day feels bitterly cold although it has hovered between 0C-1C/32F-34F. We drove to the Health Club in the early afternoon but the carpark was packed – They must have been hosting some sort of promotion. – so we turned round and drove home. We had lots of other things to be getting on with.

Our Greek friends from Sifnos have been in touch to tell us when they will be arriving in England so that we can get together. We have decided to stay in London while they are here so that we can share time. We have booked a hotel in Kensington for a few days and we have arranged to meet up to see the sights together. It will be nice to talk to them again and to hear all the gossip. There is a lot that we need to catch up on.

As a child growing up in a rural village, not so many people had their own telephones at home. Most relied on the red telephone boxes in the street with ButtonA/ButtonB to press for payment. We did have a phone in our hallway like the one illustrated. It was also connected to Dad’s office a few yards away by the handle on the right. Turning it rang a bell on his hand set and he answered to be told lunch was ready.

Looking at it now, it feels as if I have come from a different world. How could I be that old? How far we have come to be carrying smartphones around in our pockets 60 years on. This thought was provoked by a report in The Times this morning about large proportions of the population no longer using fixed line services at home other than for Broadband. We use both. Even so, I am still uncomfortable using the phone. I would much rather speak to people face to face and often put off contacting friends for that reason. I use my smartphone for everything apart from voice contact.

Tuesday, 20th March

From Winter to Spring and back again. Today was warm-ish (9C/48F) and sunny. The garden was bathed in warm sunlight. We swam outside as if it was mid Summer. It was absolutely lovely. Out of darkness in to the light. I think I keep saying but this Winter seems to have been a long one.

Today is the Spring Equinox. This year’s Spring Equinox, also called the March or Vernal Equinox, falls today at precisely 08.15 am GMT. The sun sets and rises roughly 12 hours apart during the equinox. About 92 days and 19 hours after the Spring Equinox, the Earth will reach its Summer Solstice.

British Summer Time is on its way. On Sunday at 1.00 am GMT, the clocks go forward and my trouble starts. My wife will start agitating for blackout blinds at the windows and trying to get me to set the radio news to come on at 7.00 am rather than 6.00 am. We have had this battle every year for the past 40. So far I have won. I can see that coming to an end – one way or another!

Wednesday, 21st March

Lovely, sunny and Spring-like day. The birds had certainly got the message. I finally took the frost-free blankets off the fig trees and let them breathe in the sunlight. We went to our local garden centre and looked for a mature-ish olive tree. They have quite a few and I will be purchasing very soon. It is becoming time to plant out our fig trees and to accompany them with a couple of olive trees.

Olea Europea is the tree that we will be putting in our garden. Going on the small tree we pot-grew last year, we will be able to harvest a reasonable amount of olives fairly quickly. We brought home just a few kilos from the trees in our Greek garden and Pauline did a fabulous job in marinating/curing them. We had salad olives and made delicious tapenade from them and these were olives harvested fairly early in the season because we were leaving the island in the first week of October.

I draw your attention to the death reported yesterday of Caterina Irene Elena Maria Imperiali dei Principi di Francavilla. I met her in person in the early 1960s in my home village of Repton in Derbyshire. She was an early, television celebrity and was known as Katie Boyle. She was born in Tuscany but married in UK and became a television personality, regularly appearing on panel games and programmes such as What’s My Line? and Juke Box Jury. I met her when she opened the Summer Fete for Repton Public School and it was considered quite a coup to get her.

It scares me to think back to that time. She died this week aged 91. She must have been 36 when I met her and I was 11. I have to keep saying these date and ages to myself to fully realise the context in which I live. Failing this, it is easy to sail through life oblivious to the parameters of our existence.

Thursday, 22nd March

A rather overcast morning. We were up early in readiness for a building ‘snagger’ to arrive. He duly did, and agreed that all our snags were legitimate. They will be done over the next two or three weeks. It is dry lining work which is minor but necessary. Apparently, they expect these things to happen and factor them in to the new-build costs. Even so, it is quite a long winded and time consuming process which will have cost quite a bit.

This afternoon, we went to the Health Club and did our full gym programme but decided to miss the pool because we both felt tired after doing 6/7 days in succession. As we drove home, the sun came out and the temperature read 11C/52F. It was delightful to griddle chicken breasts in the garden for our meal.

Friday, 23rd March

Don’t know why but I keep thinking it’s Saturday. Of course, it wouldn’t make any difference if it was but it is Friday. And it is an absolutely beautiful day which has reached 13C/55F around the pool this afternoon. We were just reflecting, as we got out from our swim, that we wouldn’t have been doing this in Greece until June at the earliest. Even then, the sea temperature would have made us wince initially. People all around us are cutting lawns and planting out bedding plants. We are just hanging fire for a short while because a return to cold weather is predicted and we are in no hurry.

Modern Retirement

As we walked in the warm sunshine this morning, we talked about being on permanent holiday. That’s what retirement feels like. We have no commitments, no responsibilities, no debts and no demands on our time. We get up each day and do what makes us happy. Nobody holds an expectation of us that we feel necessary to fulfil. In so many senses, it is an idyllic state and we really do not want to change it. It does feel almost wrong – immoral and about to hit the reality buffers at any time. So many people we have known in an earlier time who worked until they were 65, had a year or so of retirement mixed with some ill health and then died. For us, this is an absolutely purple patch.

We have done 7 out of the last 8 days but today’s session was quite delightful. The Health Club was a little quieter and the pool was beautiful in the sunshine. Tomorrow, if the weather’s nice, will be a walk on the beach. Am I dreaming?

Saturday, 24th March

Worthing Wheel

A day off from the gym. Encouraged by a relatively warm and bright day of 11C/52F, we drove along the coast road from Littlehampton to Worthing and on to Lancing. Unfortunately, so had many others and we soon found ourselves in long streams of traffic. In Worthing, holiday makers were everywhere. The restaurants were very busy and the beach path full of walkers/bikers/scooters/dogs, etc.

The lawned area near the beach that was recently covered in a marquee housing a temporary skating rink now features a temporary Ferris Wheel. It may be me but I cannot understand the appeal of a circus attraction in the centre of town. I wouldn’t even entertain it. I feel exactly the same about the London Eye on the South Bank. What is the point?

Anyway, we soon returned home away from the crowds and back to normality. I griddled chicken and mushrooms in the garden for our meal and then settled down to answer a raft of emails. I received one from my sister who is thinking of visiting Athens and wants advice on when to go and where to stay. I think I can manage that.

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Week 481

Sunday, 11th March

A warmer and bright morning – 10C/50F by 11.00 am  and 12C/54F by mid afternoon – which is dedicated to newspapers and Politics. What are Sundays for otherwise? Actually, we are going back to exercise today after sitting around so much yesterday.

One of the problems with older age is altering eyesight. As optical muscles contract and focal lengths change, eyesight can be affected and become problematic. Because I’ve always been short sighted, I have been delighted to find that my eyesight has actually improved marginally and I wear my glasses less than I used to do. Pauline, who has always had excellent eyesight has been shocked and rather hurt by the rapid deterioration in her ‘close’ sight even though her long sight has been unaffected. She now has three, different pairs of glasses for reading. A pair for using her computer are not right for reading her Kindle and she has a third pair for sewing.

For quite a long time, I’ve been wearing smart watches  that link to my smartphone and measure everything from heartrate to footsteps used to distance travelled to calories burnt. I am very target-driven and feel very uncomfortable if I don’t achieve my minimum 10,000 paces. I wear my watch for everything so it has to be waterproof for swimming and showering. It can be set to measure swimming sessions which is useful. I have a Garmin watch which links to my phone and tells me how I’ve performed each day/week/month/ in terms of paces taken, distance travelled and calories burned. It also gives me a constant heartrate report. I can read it without glasses.

Pauline received a ‘free’ fitness tracker with some clothes she bought but, unsurprisingly,  it isn’t much good. What it has done is waken her interest in a better one. I’ve researched and found one that is attractive enough for her to wear, provides all the data anyone could wish for and costs just £30.00/€33.75. Guess where I’m sourcing it? Amazon, where else?

Monday, 12th March

Subdued light on Worthing Beach.

Rather a grey and, intermittently, damp day. Mild though at 11C/52F. We went out early to Worthing for Pauline to have her hair cut. We always park in the multi-storey carpark near the beach. We automatically drive straight up to the top, open air floor to park because it is much quieter there. At 9.00 am, we were the only ones today but we soon found out why. The lifts were out of order.

The beach to ourselves.

I walked down to Toni&Guy with Pauline and then on to Starbucks for myself. An hour’s good Wi-Fi accompanied by a delicious, large (half pint) filter coffee made the morning very enjoyable. We drive to and from Worthing following the beach road and we stopped this morning to walk on the pebbles. The dampness had stopped temporarily but the light was grey and subdued. Few people were out there this morning and the atmosphere was quite delightful. Just to listen to the waves and smell the sea air is simultaneously a relaxing and stimulating experience and gulls were wheeling and swooping, looking for any food washed up amongst the pebbles.

Ivan Savvidis – owner of PAOK Fc.

In the Health Club changing room yesterday, all the talk was about the demonstrations at West Ham Football Club on Saturday. Some were incensed with the football but more were incensed with the mid match demonstration by a few supporters which led to some parents removing their children from potential danger and the owner of the club withdrawing to calm the protest down. What would they say if they read the Greek papers today to find the headline:

Greek football match abandoned as club owner storms pitch with gun

Apparently, PAOK Salonika’s president invaded the pitch with a gun during a match on Sunday. Ivan Savvidis – one of Greece’s richest men who is a close friend of President Putin – tried to confront the referee with a gun in a hip holster after his side had a late goal ruled out for offside. You couldn’t make it up!

Tuesday, 13th March

What a glorious, sunny and warm Spring day. I have spent most of it outside in the wonderful air. Breakfast was at the table with the patio doors flung wide open for the first time this year. A large cup of freshly ground coffee with frothy, skimmed milk and topped with cinnamon drunk in the warmth of Spring sunshine. How could life get much better?

I went on to spend a couple of hours giving the car a full valet while Pauline made her next batch of chicken stock outside in the garden. The smell of chicken bones reduced to deeply unctuous liquid in the pressure cooker pervaded the air of the garden and reached me out on the drive as I cleaned the car. Next door’s cat got quite excited but his anticipation was wholly unrequited.

Naxos hotel – We stayed here in 1982.

We went to the Health Club and did a full exercise session. Swimming outside has suddenly become more popular and there were even a few people sunbathing outside round the pool today as well. We did our 30 x 25 meters swim and a spent half an hour in the Sauna, Jacuzzi a Water Massage before driving home to griddle Tuna Steaks in the garden.

As we ate our meal, we watched a programme called something like New Life in the Sun. It was a couple looking for a home on the Cycladic island of Naxos. It immediately brought back memories of our holiday there in 1982. It was there where we were first offered retsina and whitebait which they laughingly referred to as small fry or ‘little Athenians’ which they told us should be eaten by biting off their heads first. We were immediately hooked by these lovely people. As we discussed that, we suddenly realised it was 36 years ago! How could that be. So much has happened since then. What’s next?

Wednesday, 14th March

Just a lovely, happy, ordinary day of sunshine and pleasant, Spring warmth. We did a little shopping which was made rather more problematic because most of the local roads are being closed for new, traffic management changes. Diversions are in place and all traffic is being pushed into one, main road. This is creating, long queues. It is the sort of thing which, when we were working and time-poor, would really frustrate us. In retirement and with no, pressing engagements, we just go with the (slow) flow.

This time 9 years ago, we were just going through our final, retirement negotiations with the Local Authority. Everything was uncertain apart from the fact that we would stop working. We were bargaining hard for good payoffs and sorting out the mysteries that are pensions. Two weeks this weekend will mark exactly 9 years since we have worked. So much else has happened but we finish most evenings saying to each other that we have really enjoyed the day. When it comes down to it, what more can we ask than that?

Found our exercise routine hard today. My calf muscles felt like they were cracking and, by the time I got in the pool, I was fighting cramp. Did the full session though and didn’t give up. Makes me feel better about myself for not backing down. I cooked this afternoon – chicken thighs and mushrooms with garlic and tarragon. I hate to say it but it was gorgeous. We are very lucky people!

Thursday, 15th March

Dry Lining needs replacing.

Can you believe that we are half way through March already? I thought it was supposed to be heavy rain today but, once again, we have blue skies and sun with a temperature of 10C/50F.

In 2 weeks, it will be exactly 2 years since we moved in to our new house. We have a full, 5 year warranty but 2 years is about the time to be assessing and having resettlement cracks, etc. seen to. Today, we have been walking round the house, doing a tour of inspection and photographing anything which we need to bring to the ‘snaggers’ attention. We’ve identified 5 snags which will need adressing. They are mainly to do with the ‘dry lining’ process on the plaster board joins. Our builders are absolutely excellent and anything we ask for is done swiftly and efficiently without demur. That is what you want when you buy a house.

We were preparing for our visit to the Health Club when we received a phone call to be told that both P &C were unwell. C had gone in to hospital to have some carcinomas removed from his lip and ear. This is just another bout of a series of carcinoma removals which he has suffered over the past few years. Unfortunately, while they were there and C was in mid=operation, P collapsed and spent a subsequent number of hours on a trolley in the A&E department of St. Peters Hospital. She was suffering from gastroenteritis and really experiencing extreme dehydration. This is not the first time.

We decided that we should go up to see them so we cancelled our exercise trip and set off for Surrey. The weather was gorgeous and the drive was delightful. The temperature read 16C/61F as we drove up in brilliant sunshine. We spent 2 hours with P&C and then left for Sussex. Our return journey wasn’t quite so smooth because we hit ‘rush-hour’ traffic but we were home for 5.00 pm and relaxing with some sea food for our meal

Friday, 16th March

I was writing about retirement day on Wednesday. Today, I was listening to someone talking about the insecurity of managing a mortgage. Of course, we were very lucky not to experience that sort of feeling. We took out larger and larger mortgages over our married life and never really worried about affording them in spite of interest rates of over 15% for a while. Well, that’s not quite true. We always stretched ourselves to our limit in terms of borrowing and then budgeted to within an inch of our lives in the early stages. That soon passed and we looked to the next extension.

We paid off our huge mortgage as we retired  with the aid of lump sums and severance payments. It was the first time in 30 years of marriage that we were completely debt free. It was almost an uncomfortable feeling and, in some ways, continues to be so. We are constantly grateful for the quality of our State and Teachers’ pensions, our investments and savings and the freedom they give us. We feel totally uninhibited and able to fulfil our dreams. We live a lovely standard of life and want for nothing. I don’t write any of this to boast. In some ways, quite the opposite. We regularly feel so undeserving of our position. We have worked hard for nearly 40 years to achieve this situation but there are lots of people who have worked equally hard and will never achieve it.

Sides of Norwegian Salmon.

We have gone fish mad in the past two years and today, when we went to the fish counter at Tesco, asked for a side of salmon and the fishman/salesman whispered to us that today was exactly the day for salmon. He was selling it at ‘half price’. A side of salmon weighing 1Kg each cost £7.50/€8.51. Elsewhere in the store, we could have bought a half side at 0.5 Kg for £7.90/€8.96. We eat salmon at least twice each week both hot and cold. We were very happy to take advantage of the ‘special offer price’ and buy 4 sides of salmon at a total of £30.00/€34.00 plus 2Kg of tail on prawns for £25.00/€28.35. Even so, it felt quite self indulgent.

Saturday, 17th March

A cold day in which temperatures didn’t rise much above 2C/36F. Strangely, it didn’t feel that cold although we did have a few flurries of wet snowflakes. Nothing settled. We did a gym session but did not go outside to the pool. We felt that 70 mins. cardiovascular in the gym on Saturday and Sunday would be good enough and then we could get back to the full programme on Monday or Tuesday.

The temperature in Yorkshire is -2C/28F as I write. When we were in Huddersfield, our annual gas and electricity bill was about £2,200.00/€2,500.00. This was 10 years ago and it felt a lot then but it was a necessary evil. The house we lived in was not much larger than the one we are in now but it was 25 years old. Since then, we have bought new-build properties and the difference in heating and insulation is immense. In our first, two years in this property, we have been paying  £1010.00/€1146.00 for dual fuel from British Gas. Today, they have asked us to reduce that to £890.00/€1010.00. In a year in which this winter seems to have been rather colder than average, we thought we had been profligate. Quite the reverse. Why would anyone buy an older property if they didn’t have to?

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Week 480

Sunday, 4th March

At home today. Political programmes, newspapers, football matches and then Pauline is emptying her wardrobe to donate to British Heart Foundation collection box at our Health Club. It is a symbiotic donation in that Pauline gets rid of unwanted clothes, the BHF gets clothes to sell. Pauline gets an empty wardrobe and the chance to say, I think I need new clothes.and I get to answer, Of course, Darling, if you need them. When I have a triple bi-pass, Pauline will be able to say, my clothes contributed to the research on that. Most of us are winners!

While that’s going on, I’ve been investigating replacements for my increasingly clunky Macromedia Dreamweaver MX. It’s a school copy and, like so much of my inherited school software, is feeling out of date. I can cope with writing some Html but, in retirement, I prefer wysiwyg software. Dreamweaver falls largely in to the latter category but things have moved on so much in the last 10 years. I stopped keeping up and developing just as CSS or Cascading Style Sheets became de rigueur and any re-entry into the market must include that.

At the same time, ten years ago, I was just designing for Desktops and Laptops. Now, websites need to work on Tablets and scale down to smartphones. I have found a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) designer software that provides CSS and scalability for differing platforms. It costs $180.00/£150.00 so I will have to negotiate with my wife against the cost of her new wardrobe.

Monday, 5th March

Beginning to feel a bit like Spring at last and the birds are very active. A beautiful thrush has adopted our garden for his food shopping. Down in the village, there are small hints of the change of season. The daffodils are out and the air is pleasantly mild. The pollarded trees haven’t got the message yet.

I really am a creature of habit. The trick is to get me hooked on good rather than bad habits and I find it hard to change. I know I love exercise but the weather has caused a slight hiatus in our programme and going back to it today has been an effort. As soon as I started in the gym, I loved it and came home glowing after our outdoor swim followed by a sauna session. It is great to be back. I read that exercise releases endorphins – one’s body’s feel-good chemicals – which can lift one’s mood and improve self-esteem. I would say that it definitely does all of that for me.

Tuesday, 6th March

Our new, local Aldi.

Lovely, warm day. We were out early to collect 8 pairs of shoes for Pauline from Next. She has been looking for this style of shoe for quite a while, apparently, and when they appeared on-line, she ordered four pairs in four different colours and in each of two, different sizes. We went to  the store and she tried them on. Both sizes were wrong. Fortunately, they do a half size and Pauline has ordered another, four pairs to fit. As long as she’s happy, I am.

Perfectly pleasant Aldi presentation.

We shop at Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose normally but we are increasingly going to Aldi. They have some excellent quality produce at excellent prices. We particularly like their Smoked Salmon, Parmigiano Cheese and Kalamata Olive Oil. We went there today to stock up. In fact, our meal was smoked salmon, large prawns, cold salmon with pesto topping and salad. It felt right in this opening of Spring.

We did our second day of full exercise this week, finishing with ¾ of a kilometre in the outdoor pool. It felt absolutely fabulous and we drove home in high spirits. This has been only our 4th exercise session in the past 7 days but we intend to do every day until Sunday so that will really put us back in the groove.

Wednesday, 7th March

An absolutely lovely day but one in which I struggle to identify any real achievements. It has been warm – 10C/50F around the pool this afternoon – with blue sky and gorgeous sunshine. We did do a full exercise regime again today and swimming under a warm sun felt like being on holiday.

I spent part of the morning going through the old software on my desktop computer and looking for prices to update it. It is 9 years since I retired and I have been using a copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2010. There is nothing wrong with it and, I must admit, I do really only use Word & Excel on a regular basis. However, I do like to have the choice of building a database with Access and I would like to have the email client, Outlook, as a backup to the web-based client. The last time I bought this suite of programs, it cost hundreds of pounds. In those days, it came in CD format and took a few days to arrive. Today, I bought it for £25.00/€28.00 and it came an as immediate download with a ‘key’ accompanying it. So much change and so much for the better.

Thursday, 8th March

Beautiful day of blue sky and sunshine which reached 10C/50F. We did some shopping this morning which allowed me the opportunity to challenge my little brother, Bob, at photography. Bob is regularly posting lovely, landscape photos that have obviously taken a long time to scope and set up. I, on the other hand, eschew all that malarkey and shoot from the hip with spectacular effect. I won’t brag but leave you to judge.

Bob’s picure hasn’t even got a title!

The immortal ‘Sun over Asda’.

If you’re wondering about the UFO in the top left, it’s my thumb. You have to admit, I’ve really got the hang of composition. Please don’t tell Bob.

Shattered after another full workout. We will force ourselves to do Friday and then have a day off. I was pleased to find today that I have lost 1.5 stones/9.5 kilos since 1/1/18.

Friday, 9th March

A grey and cooler day which didn’t get above 8C/47F. We went to Tesco for our weekly shop and it afforded me the opportunity to produce another entry in my much-acclaimed photo series.

The eternal: ‘Grey over Tesco’.

We went to the Health Club and did our 6th exercise routine in the past 7 days. Our limbs really began to feel it and will welcome tomorrow off to rest and recuperate. We will return to work on Sunday. This past week has featured an item that the BBC headlines as: How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining. The fabulously named, Prof Norman Lazarus, aged 82, of King’s College London, who took part in and co-authored research, said: “If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system.”

We’ll be the judge of that!

Saturday, 10th March

We’ve certainly chosen a good day to stay at home. Outside it is grey and heavy, fine, ‘wetting’ rain is falling. I know you will be excited to read that I am going to tidy the garage. It is already tidy in most people’s eyes but I have been instructed to find storage space for preserving jars which have been slowly accumulating over the winter and starting to out grow the Laundry room storage areas. That is my task. If I don’t complete this Blog post, you will know that I have been denied access to the televisions to watch Rugby and Football matches because of failure to complete prior instructions.

Job done but England lost to France and so to Ireland. A disappointing end to the day …. if it wasn’t for Aldi. I love and am nearly addicted to smoked salmon. This week we bought a pack from Aldi. They may not be your first choice for quality products but suspend your scepticism. This 200g pack of smoked salmon was one of the nicest I have eaten for a long time and I’ve eaten a lot. Not only that but it was exceptionally cheap – comparatively. This 200g pack from Aldi was £2.99/€3.37 whereas a 200g pack from Tesco would have been £5.50/€6.19. I would recommend it on quality alone.

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Week 479

Sunday, 25th February

A glorious, glorious day of blue sky and sunshine. We (I)  have luxuriated in doing very little. Newspapers and three football matches have left me satiated with relaxation and self indulgence. The whole day has looked like summer and felt like winter. A couple on Brighton Beach featured in The Sunday Times exemplified the atmosphere.

Actually, Pauline has made stock and cooked whitebait out in the garden but it wasn’t somewhere to rest and relax. In the kitchen, the febrile political situation was centre stage as I read through the blogs and the newspapers and the unsavoury but unctuous Charity organisations are still making plenty of waves. These self-serving, hierarchical organisations which see themselves as businesses and entitled to equivalent perks while claiming special, charitable concessions are at the centre of this mess. They are, of course, propped up by successive governments who want to keep the problems they address at long arms’ length. I am loathe to repeat it but I have been warning of this for40 year’s.

Monday, 26th February

A seriously cold day that didn’t get much above 4C/39F although it was beautifully clear and sunny. We went to the Health Club but ducked outside swimming and restricted ourselves to 70 mins in the gym. I watched interviews from Parliament Green and they were conducted in heavy snow. Amazing. Train companies were already cancelling schedules for evening services in anticipation of problems. Today, we ate red meat for the first time in many months. Pauline cooked peppers stuffed with a Bolognese sauce and topped with Parmigiano. It was absolutely delightful.

The 8th Century crypt in repton church.

I originated in Mercia – one of the most powerful kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England; it held a position of dominance for much of the period from the mid-7th to the early 9th century. More specifically, I originated in Repton, the capital of Mercia. Repton, on the banks of the River Trent, has long been well known for its public school centred on St Wystan’s church with its Anglo Saxon crypt which is the burial place of two Mercian kings – Ethelbald in 750 AD and Wiglaf in AD840. Today, I stumbled upon a research paper from Bristol University reported in EurekAlert! which is a blog of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Don’t ask!

Skull of C8th resident of Repton.

EurekAlert! reports that researchers from Bristol University have firmly identified through carbon dating, bones in a mass grave, first discovered in the 1980s, as expressly connected with the dates when it is know that the Viking Great Army wintered in Repton, Derbyshire, in 873 A.D. and drove the Mercian king into exile. Even more interesting to me was the fact that carbon dating from almost 40 years ago led to the belief that the bones were considerably older  but recent and more accurate dating methods have been reapplied and this specific date confirmed.

What was especially interesting was the explanation for that discrepancy between the two dating processes. Apparently, the older test could not distinguish a problem that is now known. The bones of fish that formed a part of the people’s diet, carry the carbon from much earlier times and become embedded in the bones of those who ate them. This carbon trace persists and was difficult to eliminate in the original tests. Fascinating for a major fish eater. I will have my date of birth tattooed on my bones just to be clear.

Tuesday, 27th February

Woke to an icing sugar sprinkling of snow. This decoration always makes the world come alive. Because of this major change to the world, fewer cars left houses in our neighbourhood to go to work. Teenagers took the day off from school – although the schools weren’t closed – and ran through the village pelting each other with snowballs. They had to work hard to gather enough snow to make a snowball but 15 year olds seemed very excited about it.

We drove down to the post office to collect a parcel in the village and, on our return, saw a young woman examining the underside of her car. She said, she had passed her test 5 years ago but had never driven in snow and didn’t realise how slippy it was. She had skidded into the kerb and thought she had damaged her suspension. It is a bit of a novelty this white stuff.

I must admit to something of a guilty secret. The parcel I had gone to collect this morning included a ‘selfie stick’. Actually, for a mere £20.00/€22.75, I received a telescopic stick to fit my smartphone, a Bluetooth switch to attach to the stick and control the smartphone remotely and a mini-tripod to attach the smartphone to also for remote photography. I have had to accept that I so rarely use my digital SLR and so often photograph with my smartphone that I should address the issue. At the same time, although I am not thrilled by my appearance on camera, I am unable to include my wife and myself in recorded experiences. We may, in future times, regret that. Hence the selfie stick.

Wednesday, 28th February

A bitterly cold but bright and sunny day. Watched reports from London of strong and settling snow, of frozen harbours down the south west coast. We felt lucky with our lot. We’ve done some shopping and a full workout at the gym although swimming will only resume at the weekend as the temperature gets above freezing. Today has not got above 2C/36F and much of it has hovered around -2C/28F.

I’ve always enjoyed photography. Pauline bought me my first SLR camera – a Ricoh – in the early 1980s. I loved it. For a while, I thought I was quite good but I didn’t persist and, each time I picked it back up, I became increasingly dissatisfied with my efforts. Later, around 10 years ago, I bought (school bought me) a very expensive Canon DSLR and thought I was the bees knees. The trouble was, as I bought tripods and expensive wide angle and telephoto lenses, my bag became so cumbersome and heavy that I left it at home more than I took it with me. Then I got a smartphone and, quite contrary to my prejudices, found I could take perfectly acceptable photos for my Blog with that alone. Suddenly, I realised that I hadn’t taken my camera bag out of my office for months.

Photograph by Bob Sanders – Sunrise over Jubilee River, Windsor

My brother, Bob, has obviously more staying power and determination. Not only is he prepared to get up and out early in the morning but he seems to relish braving the cold and wet in order to take a good photograph. Today, he was rewarded by getting this picture in the Evening Standard. I think you will agree, it is not bad for a little brother. Wouldn’t mind a large copy of this framed on my Lounge wall – if he’s looking for 40th Wedding Anniversary presents. I ought to add that, by coincidence, Pauline & I celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary this year.

Thursday, 1st March





First day of March. Happy New Month. It has been a bitingly cold day – -2C/28F but without snow. The news media has obsessed with bad weather all day and chosen the worst spots to site its journalists so the worst of the weather can be showcased. Standing in front of a motorway and telling us nothing is moving as cars drive past doesn’t instil confidence. When the quotes they report are this original – Stranded motorist on M80: ‘It’s like a car park’ – you know they are struggling to keep a story alive.

I am really ashamed to admit that we didn’t leave the house today. Actually, that’s not quite true. We did pack our exercise bags and open the garage door. The air outside was so cold that Pauline said, Are you sure you want to do this? Like anyone just setting off for the gym, I wasn’t sure, so I said: We’ll give it a miss. and came back in the house. We both spent the rest of the afternoon feeling rather bad about that decision but we both have to live with it.

Friday, 2nd March

M62: Junction 23 – 22

We must have had a flurry of snow overnight because there was evidence of an icing sugar sprinkling this morning – in places. It was -1C/18F when we got up at 7.00 am but we didn’t realise that until we stepped outside. The morning news was full of weather-related problems on the media. Our old friend, the M62 motorway between junctions 23 – 22 was one of the worst hit. It is, after all, the highest stretch of motorway in the country. We travelled it for around 40 years twice each day.

Near our old home.

This week, has seen long delays and, today, complete closure. Snow, accidents and 90 mph winds have all combined to bring this about. The school that superseded ours was closed on Wednesday, yesterday and again today. Often, we did the difficult journey only to find the school’s condition was so bad that we had to close and then make the dangerous journey home. It took us most of the day and we arrived home more stressed than if we’d worked a normal day. At least we haven’t exposed ourselves to dangerous driving conditions this time. We’ve stayed at home for the second day running which feels bad but will do us good.

Our Sifnos friends have given us dates for when they are coming. We are really looking forward to seeing them again. Since we left three years ago, we have only met them briefly in Athens a couple of times. It will be lovely to spend time together this Greek Easter.

Saturday, 2nd March

Well, Spring has finally sprung here on the South Coast. We have woken to a lovely, sunny day and a reasonable temperature of 7C/45F and we got to 10C/50F in mid afternoon. Of course, that is not quite true of all the country and the media outlets, in particular, are still running old (cheap) footage of the past few days and looking to keep the story rolling while they find resources to catch up. Lots of horror stories abound about snow from Surrey to Scotland and I wrote about the chaos on the M62 across the Pennines yesterday. I particularly liked this slight dig at the hype which was posted on Twitter under the caption:

Getting bloody ridiculous now on the M62.

We are really looking forward to going to the Health Club this afternoon after two day’s absence. We are going rather stir-crazy. We are committed to a good week of exercise and our bodies feel they need it. We will start swimming outside on Monday. Hoping to avoid polar bears.

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Week 478

Sunday, 18th February

Not quite such a wonderful day with plenty of cloud although still warm. The past few days have certainly felt like harbingers of Spring. Birds have been more active. Neighbours have been cutting and feeding their lawns and, about 10 miles away in Brighton, people have been swimming in the sea. This lady was featured in The Sunday Times today.

We swim outside most weathers but at least our pool water is heated. Yesterday, we swam under gorgeous blue skies and sunshine. Today, the water visibly steamed up into the cloudy sky. In the past 18 days, we have done a gym and swim on 14 of them. We have swum 10.5 kms / 6.5 mls. It may not be impressive for good swimmers but I am rubbish, have a frozen shoulder and always precede my swim with 70 mins cardio vascular exercise in the gym. So, to be blunt, I’m fairly buggered before I get in the water. That is what I say to the old ladies who swim past me at least. It’s amazing how popular swimming outside is down here. However, Sunday is always a quieter day – probably because everyone’s out shopping – and today we had the pool (pictured on the right) to ourselves.

Monday, 19th February

Little Bob.

Happy Birthday to my little brother, Bob. He is 66 today. He likes taking photographs and I like many of them. He didn’t take this one but it is very evocative. I think, ironically, that it was snapped on Bognor Regis beach over 60 years ago.

A disappointingly damp, grey day. Not cold but not inviting. I am seeing it through prejudiced eyes because I have a cold. We had already decided to have a day off from exercise and feeling under the weather has only confirmed that. Pauline did the last feed for our neighbour’s cat. Our neighbours are home from Cancun this morning.

We did go out for a while to drop off a parcel and then went on to the beach to buy fish from the fishermen’s shack but there was nothing available today. Obviously there was a poor catch last night. I had been looking forward to fresh sea bass for our meal but roast chicken was the substitute and fantastic it was too.

Tuesday, 20th February

A dull and fairly grey day at the start which brightened up as it developed and lit the water with twinkling sunshine as we swam in mid-afternoon. Because I am such a creature of habit, I find going out to exercise daily easier than returning to it even only after one day’s break. Nearly turned round in the car park today as we walked to the Health Club. Fortunately, my better nature/conscience (aka wife) stiffened my resolve and I left three hours later feeling wonderfully refreshed.

Exercise seems to have the opposite effect on me to the one my reason tells me. I go out feeling hungry and return from exercise not even thinking about it. Reason tells me that calories expended should mean increased demand for calories replenished. The opposite seems to be the case. As a complete ignoramus about how my body works, I have to seek higher authority for this puzzling phenomenon. Pauline tells me that exercise draws Glycogen from the body as I exercise and that will continue for a while as I drive home. What it is to have a wonderful wife who can explain all the mysteries of the world.

When I’m reduced to accessing BBC Bitesize, you know my level of knowledge and understanding.

I love my wife even more today because she has saved me around £100.00/€113.50. We received a notice from our house buildings/contents insurer today saying our cover would be automatically renewed in a couple of weeks and the premium would be – about £130.00 more than last time. Of course, we never allow automatic renewals and had specifically said so on the initial contract but they were trying it on as usual. What they didn’t allow for was my wife. If you know about stuff like glycogen then you can handle insurance companies. A quick search on the web found identical cover for £100.00/€113.50 less. It was with our current insurer.

When she phoned to enquire why, she was told that it was just for new customers. Pauline’s reply was that she would cancel her current contract and reapply as a new customer. After a pause, the sales girl answered, Well, you could do that but I’ll see if I can save you the trouble. Moments later, we were offered exactly the same terms as a ‘new customer’ without ‘sales’ having to fill out all the forms again. The price for Building & Contents plus legal cover fell from £297.00/€336.00 to £197.00/€223.00 at a stroke. That’s my girl!

Wednesday, 21st February

Sun changes everything.

Spring is back again. Gorgeous sunshine flooding into the kitchen from the patio doors which are open to the fresh air. Quite delightful. My neighbours have started feeding and cutting their lawns. I’m holding off for another week or so in case winter turns back round and bites us.

I remember (quite) a few years ago in Yorkshire spending the whole of March and first half of April in balmy weather then breaking up for Easter and setting out for Manchester Airport for our flight to Athens. Out of absolutely nowhere, a blizzard hit the motorway. Cars and lorries were sliding off and into each other and it took us twice as long through terrifying driving conditions to make our flight. We did but the experience has never left me.

We did a lovely, full exercise programme this afternoon and the sun managed to hold out and light up the pool. Our aim is to do Tuesday – Saturday, a five, consecutive day stretch. Sunday will become a day of rest because there are so excellent football matches to watch.

Thursday, 22nd February

Gorgeous day from start to finish. It had been a clear, cold night although there was no sign of frost in the morning. However, as we drove out around 9.00 am, our car infotainment unit read 3C/37F and there was a chime as the icy road symbol appeared. The road certainly didn’t feel or look icy and it started us thinking that, throughout the two winters we have been living here, we have not seen a gritting lorry or grit on the road. Over 40 years in Yorkshire, it was one of the most common, Winter sights on the motorways we travelled.

We are told that some really cold weather may be on the way for our area. We were going to swim outside again today but it was so popular in the sunshine that we gave it up as not worth the fight and settled for longer in the Sauna and Jacuzzi instead. We still came home and griddled swordfish steaks in the garden which really is beginning to feel rather spring like in this wonderful sunshine.

Friday, 23rd February

Weekly shop at Tesco in wonderful sunshine but a chilly breeze. Mountains of salad, sides of salmon, swordfish steaks, tuna steaks, smoked salmon and then off to the Marina Fishermens’ Cabin to buy fresh, locally caught sea bass.

Compared with the farmed fish we see in supermarkets, these are expensive but worth it. Four, large sea bass cost £52.00./€59.00. Most of the fish, etc., is locally sourced and it feels good to be buying such quality food.

Did our 5th of 6 exercise sessions today and swam in sunshine twinkling on the outdoor pool as a raw breeze grazed our backs. After 70 mins in the gym and 30 mins in the pool, I am beginning to cramp and feel tired. Off to the sauna for 10 mins and then 20 mins in the Jacuzzi and water jet massage area before shower and home to smoked salmon salad. A lovely end to the afternoon and the sun is still shining.

Saturday, 24th February

The sun just keeps on coming. It makes one glad to be alive. A chilly start to the morning at -1C/30F but with no sign of frost at 7.00 am. By 10.00 am, Pauline is making chicken stock in the garden and I am luxuriating in reading the newspapers and blogs. It almost feels like a weekend.

The Greek newspapers are running an ongoing story about combatting tax evasion or just straight failure to pay tax. The state are tightening the screw by allowing authorities to access bank accounts, safety deposit stores, etc. to confiscate debts owed to the state. The Independent Authority for Public Revenue will first target major enterprises, wealthy (non) taxpayers, bars and restaurants as well as people illegally letting out property and failing to declare their incomes from the rent. The Greek state has hundreds of billions of euros still owing to it by corporations and individuals and that amount is growing annually.

Of course, Greeks want all the services of the state but just don’t like the responsibilities and costs forced upon them. It is almost ten years since smoking in public places was banned but you wouldn’t know it. That law is universally ignored in practice. Non-smokers are just starting to raise their voices and to demand that law enforcement is brought to bear on society. Greek Society and Law Enforcement are two, totally incompatible things.

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Week 477

Sunday, 11th February

Lovely blue sky with strong sunshine that made the house feel hot but belied the cold outside. As usual, it has been a day of newspapers and football although we did go for a full workout and swim at the Health Club. As I watched a match at our old home of Huddersfield, I shaded my eyes against the sun flooding in through the window while snow blasted across the Huddersfield ground.

Found time to read the Greek newspapers this morning and was interested to read that, following the conclusion of the bailout program in August, the Greek Finance Ministry officials expect a period of monitoring by Greece’s creditors, probably lasting four years to the end of 2022, during which the country will be asked to implement the reforms it has committed itself to. Despite public statements about a ‘clean exit’, the supervision is expected to be strict.

It is unlikely that the Syriza Government will still be there by the time the country is set free of supervision. They are unpopular and beset by problems relating to a scandal of corruption in the State Medical supplies industry, continued wrangling over the name of former Yugoslavia and continued downward pressure on social support and pensioners across the nation. I would expect Νέα Δημοκρατία to take over when that is put to the electoral test.

Monday, 12th February

A cold start to the day – -2C/28F at 7.00 am – but we eventually experienced a high of 10C/50F as we swam at around 3.00 pm. Because the morning was so bright and sunny, I used it to valet the car inside and out. We are going on a shopping trip to France soon so I wanted to prepare by filling the washer bottle, checking the oil and tyre pressures.

After a hot bowl of homemade soup which my wife seems able to rustle up in minutes with minimal ingredients, we wondered what on earth to do for an hour when the Daily Politics is on recession. We even set off for the Health Club earlier than usual. Mondays are always rather busy in the gym and even more so as temporary members who joined for a cheap, 3-month trial on a wave of New Year Resolutions are flooding through the facilities. Actually, we are not even half way through February and this initial enthusiasm is beginning to die down but it is also Half Term which increases visits of parents and children. That is the worst. Children!

When we got home around 4.00 pm, our back garden was still flooded in sunlight, sheltered and warm. We griddled, mushrooms, onions and chicken breasts outside in the garden. Pauline had made chicken stock out there this morning. We joked that we hardly needed an oven nowadays because we cook so much outside.

Everything we griddle is marinated in Greek olive oil and there was a interesting article on television this evening about the insect which is currently blighting and destroying olive trees in southern Italy – in Puglia particularly. Huge olive groves have been laid to waste by an insect ravaging the age old trees. It will only be a matter of time before it spreads north through Italy and south through Greece. In addition, successive droughts of the past five years have seriously reduced crop sizes and, for the British buyer, the collapse of the euro has increased the price. For us, it is the perfect storm.

Tuesday, 13th February

Happy Pancake Day

As my ‘Times’ newsletter informed me this morning, the problem with Shrove Tuesday is the risk of a load of terrible pancake jokes which fall flat.

You shouldn’t have to put up with that crêpe.

The morning didn’t start well. The night had been one of strong winds and driving rain. So it was this morning as we ventured next door to feed our neighbour’s cat. It (He)wasn’t there. We put out the food and called our best cat calls but no sign of Como. He has a cat flap in the patio door and is microchipped to open it. With visions of cats squashed on nearby roads running through our imaginations, we left.

Within an hour, we couldn’t get cats out of our heads so we walked back through the wind and rain to be greeted by  ….. Como the cat. He’d eaten all his food and was begging for more. Of course, he got it!

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

The weather was so awful by lunchtime that we decided to stay at home. I took advantage of our enforced leisure to reappraise our Edinburgh trip. We’ve discarded driving, and taking the train and now favour flying from Gatwick. It only takes just over an hour and costs just £22.00/€24.70 per person each way. We will have to leave our car at Gatwick and travel by tram from Glasgow Airport to our hotel on the Royal Mile but all of this is preferable to other transport. We will only go for 3 or 4 days but, in our experience of cities, that is enough. It will give us plenty of time to meet up with our friend and see the major sights. We are not tourists by any stretch.

Wednesday, 14th February

What a horrible day – certainly not one for lovers. It started off cold and sunny but soon delivered, cold and dark with heavy rain and that is persisting well in to the evening. It’s definitely affected next door’s cat. He doesn’t want to go out, keeps crying and is absolutely starving. I know the feeling. Actually, we did go out to the gym but couldn’t face swimming. I know I will already be wet but driving, cold rain on your back is not a pleasant prospect.

Received our tax code notice from the Revenue & Customs and it was accompanied by the now customary illustration of where tax take is spent. I am always amazed by how small a proportion of the pot is spent on the UK Contribution to the EU budget. If only those complaining about the money flooding away in to Europe would recognise his point. Membership of the biggest single market in the world for such a small price. I have deliberately tried not to proselytise  on this topic in my Blog but this personal event today allows me to step over that line for once.

Thursday, 15th February

Up early this morning and out on the road to the Channel Tunnel. We were booked on a 9.20 am crossing for a shopping trip. After two days of rain, we had fortuitously chosen a sunny day to cross the channel. We waited for half an hour at the Folkeston side and drank coffee while reading our iPad newspapers. Quickly loaded aboard the train, we relaxed with our reading for the quiet, 30 mins journey. Rolling off into Calais by 11.00 am (ET), we drove straight to the wine store.

I have lots of red wine and I am trying to reduce my consumption. At the same time, I am aware that this source may be about to dry up altogether so it is important to maintain stocks against future deficits. This is the first time for many years that I’ve majored on white wine. It is particularly appropriate because we are eating so much fish nowadays. Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc were well represented today. Of course, I couldn’t resist a few cases of Red Bordeaux and some Spanish Tempranillo which I’ve recently begun to enjoy. I spent about £535.00/€600.00 and then we drove on to Auchan in Coquelles where we bought lots of duck, fish and vegetables.

We had set ourselves quite a tight timetable and were soon off back to the Tunnel where we got on the 2.15 pm train home. As we drove on our way back through Kent and into Surrey on the M23 near Gatwick, we came upon the most horrendous crash involving 5 or 6 vehicles which had completely closed the entire North-bound motorway for about 5 hours. The tailbacks went for miles. Really felt for anyone driving to the airport for a flight. They had no chance of making it. Fortunately, we were travelling South and soon arrived in sunny Sussex. We do this sort of trip a lot but it still strikes us as we relax at home how strange we had been in another country only hours ago.

Friday, 16th February

I have loved bacon since I can remember. Mum served it for breakfast most mornings in my first 18 years of life. When I left home, it was a weekend breakfast treat – especially smoked. However, Pauline and I have tried through almost 40 years of marriage to eat mainly home made food. Pauline has made all the bread we ate. We began to make our own pasta and tried to make our own sausages. Biscuits, cakes, etc. have all been home made. Nowadays, you could count on the fingers of your hands the things that we purchase that have been pre-processed. We don’t yet smoke our own salmon. We don’t roast our own coffee beans. We don’t make our own cheeses. We don’t press our own olive oil. Short of that, there is very little we buy that could be considered as commercially processed.

We have tried to turn our diet to mainly fresh produce. Every week, we consume

  • 5 packs of cherry tomatoes,
  • 3 cucumbers,
  • 2 packs of rocket leaves,
  • a head of broccoli,
  • a head of cauliflower,
  • 4 peppers
  • 3 packs of mushrooms,
  • 10 onions
  • 2 garlic bulbs
  • 14 large oranges,
  • 7 mangoes,
  • 21 bananas
  • 2 packs of blueberries

These are combined with one major protein each day:

  • swordfish or tuna steaks,
  • cod loins,
  • salmon fillets,
  • sea bass,
  • whitebait,
  • calamari,
  • chicken fillets

The protein element is cleanly cooked with olive oil – usually griddled but also roasted. We try to use little salt and to flavour with herbs – dill, tarragon, oregano, thyme, bay, sage, parsley mainly.

The reason that I raise this at all is not out of self congratulation but because the British media has majored this week on the cancer risks of highly processed foods. Who knows how reliable the recent research is. After all, for years we didn’t eat eggs or butter based on that sort of research. However, it does feel reasonable (if that isn’t an oxymoron) to follow a largely natural and ‘clean’ diet where possible and that is what we do and have done for years. Just occasionally, if we eat somewhere unusual and are forced to compromise our diet or if we have a brainstorm and think wouldn’t it be enjoyable to break all the rules, we always end up regretting it and wondering how we ever craved those commercial foods at all.

Saturday, 17th February

What a wonderful, wonderful day. It has been blue sky and strong sunshine from dawn to dusk. From getting up at 7.00 am until sitting down at 6.00 pm, I have been on the go. I’ve hardly read the newspapers or blogs.

Vacuumed the house, valeted the car, home made soup for lunch, off to the Health Club for a full, 3 hr session. Swimming under azure blue sky in warm sunshine is the perfect way to finish a hard exercise session. My phone has registered 15,000 paces so far today.

Back home, we griddled fresh tuna steaks in the garden and ate them with the new (Sanders) craze of rocket and remoulade plus tomato and cucumber salad. I really do prefer chilled red wine but, on this Spring-like day, a bottle of sauvignon blanc really raised the spirits to sky high. It is hard, sometimes, to believe life can get much better than this.

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