Week 582

Sunday, 16th February, 2020

We did get some strong winds over night but nothing like what we had been expecting. I am writing the bulk of this at 1.30 pm and it is certainly raining hard outside but we have just been shown shots of the Arsenal ground where one match will be played this afternoon and the weather looks absolutely horrible – torrential, driving rain and heavy mist. The other game is from Aston Villa in Birmingham where the railway station next to the ground is submerged in flood water. Police are declaring a major incident across large swathes of Wales where whole communities have been cut off by floods.

I report the above to justify not going to the gym today. We are having a ‘tucked up’ day. House work and self indulgence will be the orders of the day. About 45 years ago, my Sunday morning would be getting up at 6.00 am and walking about a mile to the paper shop to buy a copy of the Sunday Observer and The Sunday Times. I was in Oldham and the newsagents only stocked a couple of copies of each. They were hidden behind huge piles of the colour comics and, particularly, The News of the World which has to have been one of the most misleading titles ever. I was always nervous and got up increasingly early on Sundays because I feared missing out on my newspapers. Back home with toast, fresh coffee and my newspapers, I would read them from cover to cover while, in the background, Chopin played. I was addicted to the études and nocturnes. I wore out the cassette tapes.

Sky-Q box makes app access so much easier.

From cassette tapes to digital Spotify is quite a stretch and yet it defines the context of 45 years. As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with music for quite a few years and have been trying to reclaim my enjoyment. Today I enjoyed the new facilities of my Sky Q box to much more easily access on-line apps and signed up to Spotify – media services provider which allows one to play music online.

An heroic return to Chopin.

So this morning I was ‘tucked up’ with my digital newspaper and on-line recordings of Chopin piano pieces and it was lovely.

Back home on Sifnos

In an idle moment, I thought I would explore some of the other apps available. YouTube was available and I rarely access it on my computer so I thought I’d try it out on my television. What to search for? I don’t know why but I put in Sifnos and the very first video that came up was one taken last summer. It was taken through the windscreen of a car as it was driven down the mountain from Άγιος Συμεών. As it sped down the road that I knew every inch of, I realised that we were passing our (ex) house. Actually, of course, it only caught the open gate and the drive but, having spent so many years there, it felt really weird.

Monday, 17th February, 2020

Out at 8.00 am this morning on a damp and gloomy morning which soon gave way to pleasant blue sky and sunshine. We were driving to Chichester to St Richard’s Hospital Ophthalmology Department. The people at this hospital are fantastic and gave me an appointment at the drop of a hat and even phoned me back to provide  an earlier alternative. At this time in the morning, rush hour traffic makes it rather a tricky journey. Today and in school Half Term, we whizzed along unhindered.

Almost empty Hospital Carpark.

Crowded NHS hospitals? Not today and rarely at St Richard’s. They serve a huge population with a bias toward the elderly so one can only conclude that their case management is really excellent.

Completely empty corridors.

It is a lovely, friendly, people-centred hospital. Staff walking round the place go out of their way to ask if they can help visitors find their destinations. It even treats its staff with thought and care.

No picnics today.

I’ve had some early signs of Diabetic Retinopathy and asked for some further investigation especially because I have only ever had the sight of one eye and, to lose that, would be disastrous. Because the traffic had been so unusually light, we arrived about 45 mins early for my appointment. Happily, I was almost immediately called in and had powerful drops administered to expand my pupils. It was a quick procedure which soon led to optical photography and I will get analysis within 2 weeks.

Back home and courtesy of Spotify, I have renewed my long lost acquaintance with Sergei Rachmaninoff today. In the mid 1970s, I became obsessed with Rachmaninoff and today I replayed the first piece I ever listened to – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. From a new, 4 bedroomed home on the West Sussex coast, I was immediately transported to a scruffy old bedsit in a Lancashire mill town. The span is almost unbridgeable but Rachmaninoff did it.

Tuesday, 18th February, 2020

I don’t know about you but I have resisted getting a cloud-based voice service like Amazon‘s Alexa or Echo because I need to move more than I need to speak. However, our new Sky-Q handsets obviate the need to manually search for channels, programmes, titles, people, etc by providing a voice command service. The last time I used a voice recognition facility was 20 years ago in a text scanning software suite which allowed one to read it in to the page. It created so many typos that it was more trouble than typing the text out oneself. 

Two of the five new handsets.

Our new, Sky-Q handsets travel smoothly through about 800 channels but take a long time to get there, However, we are having fun using the voice-command facility which never stumbles and drives the software at lightning speed. I really should have ordered this system 12 months ago. It’s providing lots of new facilities and actually costs me less than the old setup.

We had a pleasantly dry and sunny morning after a clear sky last night. We drove to the Health Club early today – at mid day – in good weather but came out about 3.00 pm in rain and darkness. The David Lloyd Club was quiet and has been so recently inspite of many special offers of ‘free’ day-passes and ‘cheap’ 3-month tasters. Recently, they have been running an expensive television advertising campaign which emphasises the family quality of exercising together in the clubs.

Television Advertising Campaign

We are torn between wanting David Lloyd to attract enough members to maintain the facilities but not so many to make it feel crowded and definitely not ‘kids’! 

Wednesday, 19th February, 2020

Our fisherman’s shed is closed on Monday and Tuesday and any other day of bad weather. We arrived this morning just as a full supply of fresh fish arrived. It looked wonderful. We bought a joint of Tuna, a joint of Swordfish and a huge, whole Hake. 

Hake – Not a pretty fish!

We seem to be going once every couple of months at the moment and the more we get known, the better deals we get. We spent £180.00/€215.00 this morning with them and that seemed to make us their new best friends. Commerce is so shallow and fickle isn’t it?

Quite a catch!

Portioned, it makes 3 meals for 2 people of Swordfish and 7 meals for 2 people of Tuna. The Hake is cut into 3 meals for 2 people. So, in all, we will get 13 portions each out of this catch which works out at just £13.85/€16.60 for each meal for 2 people aka Pauline & I.

With all this lovely food, I need to work it off. I felt absolutely knackered after my gym workout today. I don’t know why but I refuse to admit it has anything to do with age!

Thursday, 20th February, 2020

There is anticipatory joy and celebration in the Sanders Household this morning. We will be playing Poo Sticks again. 

Our biennial Bowel Cancer Screening test kit has arrived. For those readers much younger – and I don’t mean Ruth – the NHS provides bowel screening tests every two years between the ages of 55 and 75 although Ruth will be pleased to learn that she can continued to receive them on request.

What Fun!

Until now, this was quite a demanding test performed over 3 separate days. The first 2 days’ results had to be kept in the ….FRIDGE! Now, it has been refined and can be conducted and posted off on the same day. 

Of course, taking the test at all is a sign of age. We spend all our time trying to avoid acknowledging the process of aging. I was actually delighted yesterday to wake up with a huge spot on the end of my nose like some love-sick teenager. When I squeezed it the mirror was showered with gunge. However, when I see aging in others, I know I am just denying a reality.

Panos, Rania & Nefelli

Yesterday, a friend sent me a photo of people we knew on Sifnos and who we haven’t seen for 5 years. We were shocked to see how much older they looked. In just the same way, I walk around with pictures in my head of people I last saw in the early 1970s. My first reaction is, Do I look that old? Of course the answer must be in the affirmative although I can’t see it myself. 

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Week 581

Sunday, 9th February, 2020

All the talk of the coming storm caused us to expect an uncomfortable night and to decide not to visit the gym today. Although the web is full of reports and pictures from around the country, so far we have escaped. Maybe it is all to come. We have light rain and blustery wind but nothing exceptional. 

Blackpool this morning.

Disappointingly, the Manchester City v West Ham match this afternoon has been called off this morning ‘Due to extreme and escalating weather conditions’. However, I am watching England absolutely slaughter South Africa in the final One Day International from a sunny place. 

Another sunny place in early Summer is southern France and, today, I am booking a few days in Bordeaux  in June.

UNESCO Heritage site – Old Town Bordeaux

We have decided to rent an apartment in the centre of the Old Town and I have found a good one on Rue du Pas-Saint-Georges, an old street liberally scattered with cafes/restaurants spilling out on to the pavements. The old market is within walking distance as is a large supermarket. The train station isn’t far away. 

Monday, 10th February, 2020

We had strong winds last night and quite heavy rain but none of it was really out of the ordinary. However, this morning the Sky dish was out of operation and, when I went out to check on it, I saw this below:

Found below the Sky Dish.

When I looked up at the edge of the roof, I could see where the mortar had fallen from and I realised that we would be phoning more than just a satellite engineer.

Call the Builders … Quick!

Fortunately, the roof is covered by our 5-Year warranty and David Wilson will send someone out today to sort it out. I’ve engaged a same-day-service satellite firm to come and repair or replace the satellite dish. It will cost me £69.00/€82.00 which is fine but I have to be prepared to stay in between 9.00 am – 6.00 pm which is a pain. In the meantime, I am running Sky‘s All Out Politics on one of my iPads.

Well, the original call-out charge soon escalated into a new satellite dish and fitting costing £220.00/€260.35. Believe me, I would have payed double that for normal service to be resumed. The builders will now be out tomorrow to make good the damage. They sounded extremely chastened when we contacted them this morning. They were particularly concerned about the safety of people underneath. They could see huge compensation claims in the pipeline. Fortunately, we got away with a broken satellite dish and a smashed wheelie bin lid. We can’t decide whether to be so petty as to reclaim it from the builders. They’re nice people.

Tuesday, 11th February, 2020

The winds continue. Although not really terrible, they are bringing a cutting edge to the temperature. At 8.00 am, the builders arrived to assess the damage. In itself, it is minor but it damaged our Sky dish and they have agreed to refund of the cost of repair. I discovered last night that our neighbours’ car had been damaged. Fortunately, ours was in the garage.

Happy Birthday to Kevan today. As if coping with Ruth wasn’t enough, now he also has to contend with aging. Life really isn’t fair!

Spending 6 months each year in Greece led me to stockpile drugs because they weren’t really obtainable abroad. In fact, when we were there, the Medical Centre & Pharmacies put out pleas for people to donate their unused/unwanted drugs back to the central stores for other’s use. Repeat prescriptions and a generous doctor made my stockpile fairly easy to build. Unfortunately, as we stopped those half years abroad, I continued to build my store. 

Today, we addressed the drug mountain. We filled two bin bags with out of date drugs. Even so, it felt rather reprehensible.

Wednesday, 12th February, 2020

Worthing Pier in the sunshine this morning.
Medjool Dates

We drove into Worthing early this morning. It was beautiful as we went down the coast road. We were going to the open market for our latest addiction – Medjool Dates. They are absolutely delicious and a great substitute for sweets which we are not allowed. 

On Wednesday, there is a linear open market in a Worthing street parallel to the sea front. We don’t go very often but we found a stall that sells high quality Medjool dates at a price far cheaper than the supermarkets. We bought a kilo for £6.60/€7.90 and they will last in the fridge for up to 6 months theoretically. Actually, they will be gone in 2 weeks in our house.

I am addicted to fruit & vegetables.

My recent diabetic eye check-up has resulted in a follow appointment because a problem was found. This is always concerning for me because I only have sight in one eye. Anything wrong with my good eye terrifies me. The letter told me that I would be invited back within the next 3 months. I phoned immediately and the specialist in charge said, What are you doing on Monday. I could see you around 10.00 am. Fantastic response from a fantastic National Health Service. 

Southlands – state of the art eye hospital, Shoreham on Sea

I also learnt that we have a hospital down the road in Shoreham on Sea – Southlands which is home to a new, state-of-the-art eye care centre and specialises in outpatient services, diagnostics, day surgery and more. If you’re going to go blind, you might as well do it somewhere nice!

Thursday, 13th February, 2020

Well a dark, wet day and not very warm in the stiff breeze. As we drove out to the supermarkets. There was evidence on the roadsides of strong rain from the previous night. While we were in Tesco, the rain roared on the metal roof and the floods were more obvious as we drove home. We drive up Water Lane (Wondered where it got its name.) as we go towards our house. It starts off in the village and this is what it looked like 3 years before we moved in. Fortunately, our Development is much higher than this.

Angmering Village Square – 2013

In Littlehampton, Climping Beach has been hit by falling rain and rising tides to break through the sea defences and flood the roads and surrounding farm land.

Dilapidated Sea Groynes on Climping Beach

The Environment Agency say they cannot afford to replace them at a cost of £100,000.00/€120,000.00 per groyne. This deliberate neglect has been going on for around 10 years we are told and is not exclusive to Sussex. All round the country’s coastline, the sea defences have been allowed to deteriorate and fall. It doesn’t affect us personally but the facility of the shores are a huge advantage and we regret any degradation.

No cooking outside today. As soon as we got back from the gym, the house smelt deliciously of roasted loin of Hake with scallop and prawn topping served with roasted tomatoes. Absolutely wonderful and cosy as the rain bounced down outside. Could have done with a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc but still got 47 more days to go.

Sunny Barcelona

As a direct reaction to the weather here, I have set aside this evening to research a hotel for a week in Barcelona in the summer. We need lights at the end of the tunnel to walk towards.

Friday, 14th February, 2020

We went out early this morning to our local refuse disposal site. To get there, we have to drive over the railway lines and we were held up to wait for a train and held up again on the way back. Strangely, for 9.00 am, the trains were almost empty.

After driving home, we prepared the house for a Sky engineer who is visiting tomorrow. He is going to install a Sky Q 2TB box in our lounge. It will mean moving the sideboard/cupboard on which the tv stands. It is full of all sorts of things we couldn’t decide where to store and is very heavy.

Behind the cupboard is the media panel installed by the house builder and the engineer will need access to it. After we had emptied the cupboard, and moved it out, we realised that it hadn’t been moved since it was delivered 4 years ago. The spiders which had taken up residence were not happy at being exposed to the light and even less happy to find themselves being sucked into our vacuum cleaner. Pauline would have been mortified if the Sky engineer had found out she hadn’t cleaned there for so long. I, on the other hand would have been quite relaxed about it.

This system connects one box – the 2TB box – to the satellite dish via hard link HDMI cable and then up to 4 mini boxes linked to that via wi-fi. One will go in the Kitchen, one in the Study, one in our Bedroom and one in the Ironing Room. The main box allows one to record 6 programmes and watch a 7th at the same time. The mini boxes allow one to watch independently other live programmes or programmes saved to the main box or to pause a program on the main box and pick it up in another room. They also make it much easier to pause live tv and restart it. It just suits the way we use our media as we walk from room to room arguing with politicians and journalists alike.

I’ve just told Pauline that the engineer will need access to 4 additional rooms and she has gone absolutely mad. Fortunately, I will be out of the way watching football tonight so she will be left in peace to clean the 4 rooms.

Saturday, 15th February, 2020

I hate days like this. The Sky engineer is expected between 8.00 am – 5.00 pm. Do not pass Go! Do not leave the house! We are told that the storm will hit us about 11.00 am

It is 11.00 am and the sun has started to trickle out. My Sky account informs me that the Sky engineer will be with us between 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm. We decide to pop down to the beach for a walk in the sea breeze. Signs of the previous storm allied to high tides are still absolutely obvious with shale strewn across the coastal path, across the coast road and up adjoining streets. 

Not sunbathing in Littlehampton harbour.

The sun very quickly gave up the struggle and settled in to a gentle greyness. Although the temperature registered 11C/52/F, it felt much more bracing in the stiff breeze coming off the sea.

Mark the Sky Man.

Over the past 4 years here, we have welcomed so many tradesmen and, almost without exception, they have been delightful, with a pride in their job and keen to provide a good service. Mark from Sky arrived at 3.05 pm. By 3.10 pm, I had learnt that he was born and bred in Littlehampton, went to the local school, lives in a flat near the beach, is 29 years old and engaged to Jenny who works in a Call Centre. They will be married in Worthing in April.

Mark brought with him the Main Q-Box and one mini-box. I asked him to supply me with three additional mini-boxes which I had earlier been told would cost me an extra £300.00/€361.00. I thought it was a reasonable price but Mark told me it would only cost half that. Who was I to argue? He finished by 5.00 pm – just in time for me to watch Liverpool win again. Mark told me that we was rewarded with £3.00/€3.62 for each of the 3 extra boxes he sold me. This is how wonderful workers are exploited. It wasn’t much but I gave him a couple of bottles of wine as he left. I was very grateful for his work.

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Week 580

Sunday, 2nd February, 2020

Well, Brexit hasn’t improved the weather even on this palindromic day – 02.02.2020 – Grey and wet this morning although mild at 12C/54F. It’s enough to turn one to drink although not me. We Derbyshire-bred men are made of sterner stuff. Yesterday, I began my second month of abstinence with equanimity. Today, I have only 59 more days to go. They would go and make February 29 days this year. Still, with resolve stiffened, I go forward to the gym.

Get behind me … for 59 more days.

It could be worse. On this day in 2009, it was snowing across the Pennines. The roads were blocked and school was closed for 4 days. I was visiting a Cardiologist who ordered an echo cardiagram and diagnosed me with Atrial Fibrillation. I have been an imbiber of rat poison ever since.

Monday, 3rd February, 2020

We are pushing ourselves for the first 3 months of this year with a view to ‘earning’ and indulging ourselves in a sustained period of travel after that. Today, against a backdrop of grey skies that turned, eventually, to more rain, I pursued a rental property in central Bordeaux. We intend to spend a week of June in the city and have decided not to stay in a hotel but rent an apartment instead. 

We are ‘foodies’ and one of the frustrations when we are staying in hotels in European cities is to browse the local market, find lots of exciting ingredients but not be able to do anything with them. An apartment will provide that opportunity. 

We love these places.

We intend to take an apartment in central Bordeaux where we can shop in the nearby Marché des Capucins which appears to feature the most wonderful fish, meat, game, fruit and vegetables that will give us great enjoyment.

Tuesday, 4th February, 2020

Lovely sunny day with clear blue sky and sharp, rich colours. Pauline has gone out to the Beauticians for her 3rd of a course of 5 facial treatments – electrolysis on her chin.  We are both being visited by the evils of old age. Pauline has about 5 hairs appearing on her chin. They are so slight that I haven’t even noticed them. I am too worried about my own degradation. I am starting to develop grey hair. I am constantly catching myself walking round with my mouth open. I’ve noticed that lots of old-er men do the same. When you walk round with your mouth open, not only do you look brain dead but there is a tendency to slobber. Sexy it is not. 

Rue des Faussets – Bordeaux

To distract myself from slobbering, I am continuing to research our Bordeaux trip. I have found a pleasant apartment just off Rue des Faussets which will be worth following up. The area is teeming with small restaurants and leads out on to a lovely, sunny square – Place Saint-Pierre.

Place Saint-Pierre – Bordeaux

What is so lovely is to be able to find the property on a website – today I am using Booking.com – and then to be able to walk around the area on Google Maps and search out all the attractions without getting exhausted.

Having used my fingers to do the walking in France, I am now off to exercise in the gym. I have now done 5 full weeks without alcohol and missed just 2 days exercise targets. Must try harder!

Wednesday, 5th February, 2020

Sunrise over Worthing Pier

We were out early on a beautifully bright morning. Pauline had to be at her ‘new’ hairdressers for a 9.00 am appointment. I walked along to the pier where scores of noisy school children were supposed to be queueing for a production in the pier theatre of Jane Eyre. My head immediately switched into ‘teacher’ mode and I was about to bark out a few orders but managed to restrain myself.

Exotic Early Morning!

The rabble were admitted to the restraint of mid 19th century Bronte of and I continued to late Victorian Worthing Pier. Later, I rested in Costa Coffee with a giant coffee and my iPad until the most beautiful girl in the world returned.

Back home, we did something fairly revolutionary. We decided not to go to the gym. Instead, we walked around our Development and then the local area. I manged to achieve my target even so. As we walked, the most massive rabbit I have ever seen in my life darted out of the hedgerow, saw us and darted straight back in. I didn’t really believe what I was seeing. It was huge. Have to take it with me to the gym tomorrow. 

Thursday, 6th February, 2020

A busy, early morning which opened with clear skies and a touch of frost on the lawn. Major supermarket shopping day starting with Asda and then on to Sainsbury‘s followed by Tesco. My mother’s generation wouldn’t begin to understand our style. For most of my life at home, she shopped locally and expected everything to be brought to her baskets by the shopkeeper. Service was all. Most things were wrapped in heavy duty paper including meat and fish. After I had left home and she had moved on to supermarkets, like us she did one, main shop per week at one, main supermarket although I could never understand why she chose to do it on Saturday when she had all the quiet times of the week to avoid crowds.

Our trip today results from Pauline’s research into which supermarket is best for each item. She uses a supermarket comparison app to compare prices and special offers. We have the time and it is amazing how much she saves in that way. It isn’t only about price. Individual supermarkets have items which are consistently better than from their rivals. The only downside is that we like to do everything ourselves. Scan as you Shop is what we like to do. We use it in Asda and Tesco but it is not available in Sainsbury’s. As a result of that system, we can just scan our phones across the terminal to pay and have an immediate digital record of our purchases.

I started bright, sunny but cold and it didn’t really get above 9C/48F all day. This afternoon, we drove down to Rustington Beach which was bathed in sunlight as the tide was far out. We parked up and set off to walk to Littlehampton Pier. As we walked, the breeze was at our backs and the effort of walking raised our breathing and our temperatures. 

Shades of Rustington Blue

Walking back, the bitter breeze attacked our faces and left us keen to turn on the heated seats, the heated steering wheel and the climate control. Still, amazing how good, clean, seaside air can make one feel!

Friday, 7th February, 2020

Went out early on a cold and bright morning to … Hobbycraft. Pauline had noticed that she could save £1.00/€1.18 on cake containers. She will need 2 next Christmas so we ventured out to save £2.00/€2.36 over a 12 month period. You can take this enthusiasm too far, you know.

I don’t use texting on my smartphone very much. I have big, fat fingers and I don’t find the keyboard easy to use quickly. Consequently, I don’t receive many texts on it either. You will never find me sauntering across the road replying urgently to a text from someone. Even if I got one, I would always respond in repose with forethought. I get out of the habit of checking texts unless my bank or similar require identification. 

Skinny Liz & Alistair Shanghai Airport

This morning, purely by accident because my fat finger caught the text app, I noticed that I had a message from Lizzie Dripping. She is one of my many little sisters. She had the brilliant idea of going to China for Chinese New Year. Actually, her son is married to a Chinese girl so it was obviously a nice idea until coronavirus struck. She texted me to say they had been forced to leave early because Shanghai Airport was about to be ‘locked down’. I texted back – Don’t come near me for at least 2 weeks. but, as she has not come near me for 40 years, I suspect that I am safe.

Saturday, 8th February, 2020

I retired 11 years ago in April. Most of my major software came with me from work. Well, it would have cost thousands of pounds to buy for myself. I’m still using Macromedia Web Design suite and Adobe Acrobat Pro from 2008. 

I have updated my 2007 copy of MSOffice a few times when I could scrounge a copy from somewhere but now, Microsoft have got wise to this policy and are forcing customers to ‘rent’ their software on an annual licence basis. 

I run Ms. Office over multiple machines and it would cost me about £80.00/€95.00 per year. I’m not paying that! After searching, I found an Office 2019 for £36.00/€42.50 as a download. What’s not to like about that. I paid, received my download button and registration key and roared ahead. Except, I didn’t. As soon as I tried to download, the software didn’t come. I immediately thought that I’d been scammed and they had my credit card details. 

I hate it when old people get to scared to make transactions online for fear of fraud. Was I falling into that category? I even phoned the card company with my concerns. They didn’t seem over worried and didn’t suggest ‘freezing’ my account. I got into a rather fragile online chat relationship with the company’s technical help who told me that I needed to remove every last vestige of any, older Office components. Never had to do that before. I had 2010 & 2016 copies on my machine. Having done that, the download went smoothly and the installation but, when I came to register my software, Microsoft told me the software key had been used to many times already. My ‘scam’ fears rose again but, as soon as I informed the company, they sent me a new ‘key’ and the job was done.

Apart from a bit of nervous perspiration, I have a fully working copy of MS Office 2019 which will last me a few more years for the sole cost of £36.00/€42.50 so I’m already squids in!

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Week 579

Sunday, 26th January, 2020

The greyness continues although its is mild. Rain is forecast for later. It is a morning in and we have divided our work on traditional lines. Pauline made breakfast, set about cleaning the house and ended the morning with a bit of ironing. I was busy watching the cricket from South Africa and reading the newspapers.

Actually, I also spent some time tying up loose ends for our Springtime travel. When we go away for a month, we book a taxi to Gatwick and take a room at the Sofitel the night before. We drop our bags off at the airport in the evening and then just walk through the covered corridor to the Checkin in the morning. We go through security and down to a Executive Lounge, No1 Gatwick for Breakfast. If we had to pay for any of this we probably wouldn’t do so. Entry on the door is £40.00/€47.50 per person. Fortunately, we get a DragonPass Premier card from our bank which entitles to choose entry to all the Executive Lounges. However, we have found increasing pressure on entry to these facilities and now book ahead to ensure we have places available. The Lounges want to maintain the serene atmosphere and limit occupancy levels in order to do that.

We will have breakfast and download our newspapers in peace and quiet before venturing out into the teaming concourse with people walking everywhere at the slowest pace one can imagine and dragging their potentially lethal cabin case behind them.

No 1 Gatwick, Executive Lounge

It beats me why anyone shops for electrical goods or clothes at the airport because it isn’t really ‘duty free’ at all. Those shopping are oblivious to others just wanting to get on with their travelling. Anyway, we insist on booking ‘extra legroom’ on our flights so we automatically get ‘speedy boarding’ and don’t need to queue for hours.

With that trip done and dusted, we went out in light rain to the gym and did a full exercise routine. It makes sense for me to watch the cricket on the jogger and on the exercise bike than just on a settee in our lounge.

Monday, 27th January, 2020

Grey at first and wet later. The weather couldn’t get much worse. I’d rather be in South Africa for the weather and the cricket.

Whatever I was doing today, I was never far from a television screen for what turned out to be the final day of the Test Match. I’ve really enjoyed watching this series especially because we were winning. It is lovely to be able to be able to access live broadcasts and the time to watch them. It is one thing I missed in Greece where the satellite service providers didn’t deem their audience likely to want to pay for it. Perhaps there are a few in Corfu but not generally in Greece where Basketball, Football & Athletics reign.

Today we received a letter from our bank informing us that they owed us money. You don’t get one of those every day. Apparently, a recent historical audit had found that customers who had made international payments between 2010 – 2014 had done so with wrongly calculated foreign exchange rates. This was a time when we were spending half the year each year in our Greek home and using the bank’s services extensively. They have informed us that they will be paying back the deficit plus interest. I’ll drink to that …. on April 1st after my 3 month embargo.

Unpleasant outside though it was, we went out to do our exercise routine. Addiction is a terrible thing. I have missed just one day so far in 2020. My body expects it now.

Tuesday, 28th January, 2020

Ripon Market Square

The day has opened with beautiful sunshine and blue skies. We went for an unusually early Gym session because I had an appointment this afternoon. The day felt lovely after the persistent greyness of recent times. Driving with sunshine in our eyes felt delightful. The gym was busy at 11.00 am with people who we never meet in our normal slot.

Back home, I read for a while. On Faceache, an ex-college student had made a return to the town and taken pictures of a rainy Ripon a few days ago. I was immediately transported back to 1969 in Ripon market square and its obelisk where I first learned the power of red wine. I was 18 and in my first week away from home. Wonderful, wonderful days that I didn’t really want to end. Reading on, I went to the Huddersfield Examiner which reported the first snow of the season by publishing a photo taken in the lane next to our garden in the tiny village of Helme. We were working in that garden from 1984 – 2000. It was a joyous place where we were very happy and I, once again, didn’t want to leave.

The lane at the side of our garden – Helme.

I had to go out to the Hospital to have my annual, Diabetic eye check up which involves receiving iris-expanding drops followed by 3D photography of the eyes. Fortunately, I am no longer considered diabetic so the pressure on my sight is not so extreme but I value the service for my own reassurance. 

Pauline had to drive because of the drops effect on my eyes and I was carried home and ‘waited on’ for a couple of hours until I was prepared to admit that I could see well enough to look after myself. It was then that I opened my email to read the most shocking story of the day or week. When we sold our property in Helme in 2000, we moved to a house built in a disused quarry in Longwood. We really enjoyed it and the experience was made even better because we had such lovely neighbours. We hadn’t really had any neighbours for the past 20 years.

Jean & Perry lived next door and we would often come home to find Jean mowing our lawns. Perry lectured at Bradford College in Crafts. In his spare time, he bought, renovated and let out properties in the area. He would often come round and do the odd bit of joinery for us because I certainly couldn’t. Jean is our age but Perry is about 14 years younger. He always said he would retire at age 55 which is this year. They have owned Spanish properties in the past and dreamed of buying another one for their Retirement. 

Today all those dreams are gone. Recently, Perry a fit workaholic, was diagnosed with Vasculitis which has resulted in him receiving a plasma cleansing treatment seven times in a short space of time followed by an infection that gave him fluid on his brain and then a massive blood clot on his lung. He has been left with little feeling in his feet and fingers and will always have to wear a splint and use a crutch. If that doesn’t put one’s troubles in perspective, nothing will. It certainly teaches us that we should never take our time for granted but make the most of every single minute we have here together. We never know when we might lose it.

Wednesday, 29th January, 2020

A gloriously sunny day but nor warm. Quite a chill in the breeze has kept the temperature at around 10C/50F. Quite a lot of Office work this morning – writing to friends, contacting our bank and our builders. 

French waves breaking on Sussex shores.

To enjoy the sunshine and get some bracing air, we nipped down to the beach where humans don’t exist. The tide was coming in and rattling the pebbles against the breakwaters. Amazing how the seagulls cope with such waves but they seem quite at home. There is something elemental down here that chimes with one’s sense of being. 

Toy Town on the Beach

The tugs and sways of the sea find echoes in our subconsciousness. I suppose, humankind crawled out of the primordial soup and back to it we will return. The shingle beach is scattered with death – shells, fish heads, etc. which will wash in and out on the tide until they are reduced to grains of dust.

Thursday, 30th January, 2020

Is this a boiler I see before me?

The penultimate day of January 2020 has reverted to recent type with dull, grey skies and intermittent rain.  We were receiving a tradesman this morning for our annual, central heating service. For the past 10 years, we have lived in new-build properties and heating has barely featured as something worthy of attention. We have lived in old houses. Our first was a coaching house built at the beginning of the 20th century. The heating was costly to run and not particularly efficient. We opened up a fireplace in the lounge to burn logs and provide direct warmth. The boiler was upstairs in the ‘Airing Cupboard’ and was drop fed from a cold water tank in the loft. 

When we lived in a 5-bedroom, 3-storey house in Yorkshire more than 10 years ago, the heating bill was about £2,500.00/€2,965.00 per year. The house was built in 1980 when insulation standards were so much lower. Here and 10 years on, our heating bill is less than half that because of greater efficiency of the apparatus and more modern approaches to insulation. However, one of the things you don’t really get in modern systems is a hot airing cupboard. In the past, our copper boiler was just lagged with an ill-fitting and laced-up boiler jacket. Lots of heat escaped which dried and aired the washed clothes. There is little or no heat escaping from the totally encased boiler which is directly fed from the incoming cold water pipe.

Of course, our boiler is connected to the web and we can control it from iPads and mobile phones which feels like light years away from the boiler we coped with in our first house more than 40 years ago. However, it still has to be maintained and we have an annual contract for a little man service. He spends about 90 mins and we spend £120.00/€143.00 but it’s worth it. 

Friday, 31st January, 2020

The days continue grey and damp and reflect our mood and that of millions of our fellow countrymen and women.

TV programmes this morning feature interviews with Brits who voted Brexit and didn’t think it would affect them in Spain. Now they are concerned about their pensions vis a vis uprating and exchange rate fluctuation. They are worried about how they will afford Healthcare now EHIC cover is disappearing and, of course, as our government rows back on early pledges over Europeans in UK, EU member states are likely to review their conditions for the residence of UK immigrants to their countries.

We were out shopping this morning with basketsful of European vegetables and fruit. Guaranteed supply for the rest of the year is not enough. 

Beautiful Bordeaux

We have 2 months planned abroad in the Canaries so far this year plus a week in Athens. We have 2 x 4 days stays in Yorkshire and we expect to arrange similar shopping trips to France in June and September. We want to do a couple of European City Breaks as well which will include Bordeaux and, possibly a Spanish city as well. We’ve wanted to go to Bordeaux for quite a while and I am currently exploring hotels and flights. Easyjet flights from Gatwick are incredibly cheap but I haven’t really found a good hotel within walking distance of the town centre so that is my current quest. Whatever anyone else says, we will be travelling as citizens of Europe!

Saturday, 1st February, 2020

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 579

Week 578

Sunday, 19th January, 2020

Another glorious day with a hint of frost around. It is so lovely that we went for a walk around our Development to enjoy the sun and fresh air. We had woken up to a disappointing message to tell us that the villa we had booked on Lanzarote for the month of May is no longer available.

Apparently, the owner has two booking platforms and one had failed to communicate with the other. The villa was already booked but it failed to show on the Booking Chart. I had even booked Easyjet flights yesterday at a cost of £540.00/€634.00 for the two of us. Fortunately, Easyjet have a cancellation policy which meant it only cost us £33.00 and the rest was repaid to us. We discussed it as we walked and decided to look again.

Two days ago, Pauline took a photo as we left the Health Club. Today, I took the same photo.

What a difference sunshine makes. It’s even stiffened the backbone of that previously wilting lamp post. We have now done every day for 3 weeks here and I’m really feeling weary but my target is 91 so only another 70 to go. 

Monday, 20th January, 2020

Beautiful day of blue sky and sunshine. We had been led to expect very low temperatures last night and heavy frost this morning but it failed to appear even though the sky was so clear. I think we are saved by proximity to the sea.

I am addicted to politics, current affairs and news as well as really enjoying sport. I regularly move between the kitchen, lounge and office as I did this morning watching the last throes of the 3rd, S. Africa v England Test Match. England were going to win as long as the weather held out. It did and they did. I was determined to watch the victory. The televisions were on in all three rooms where there Sky boxes.

My current Sky receivers
  1. In the lounge we have the main box – a Sky+HD 2TB Box – allied to a 55″ smart screen. This allows me to record 2 programmes at once + download catchup programmes saving up to 350 hrs of material.
  2. In the kitchen we have a Sky+HD WiFi Box allied to a 42″ screen. This allows me to record one programme + download catchup programmes saving up to 60 hrs of material.
  3. In the office we have a Sky+ Multiscreen Box which just allows us to watch any other Sky programme. 

So, practically, we could have 3 different Sky programmes on in 3 different rooms at the same time. We also have 3 ‘Freeview’-receiving televisions in 3 of the 4 bedrooms upstairs.

Today, I gave in to Sky’s persuasion and agreed to swap over to Sky Q boxes. This has been prompted by our newly acquired super, super fast, fibre to the door broadband. Sky Q boxes are largely run on wi-fi not all relying on satellite dish reception. It is about time. After all, all the Spanish properties we’ve stayed in have received/supplied all Sky channels through internet alone.

My new Sky receivers

The main Q box currently will connect to the satellite dish but will then feed all the other mini boxes via wi-fi alone. This means that the main box will record 6 shows and watch a 7th live. It will also allow users to watch different Sky programmes on 3 different televisions at the same time. It is also possible to freeze a live or saved programme in one room and pick it up at the same point in another room. Finally, it allows one to download programmes/films to an iPad and watch them at a later date.

I was paying £101.00/€118.40 per month for my current package. By making this switch to a larger Q box + 4 mini boxes and taking their incentive of Sky Cinema, the monthly price will be ….. £98.00/€115.00. A Sky engineer will be calling soon.

Tuesday, 21st January, 2020

A hint of frost and a beautiful day. We decided to go out to a different beach. I looked at the map and just picked one. Our sat. nav. said it would take us 20 mins to drive there and so we set off. We were going somewhere we had probably been just once before – Elmer Beach just outside Bognor Regis. George V famously is reported as saying, Bugger Bognor when he was asked to endow it with Regis in its title. Pauline had  similar view of it when we went there a couple of years ago. Elmer Beach, on the other hand, is a jewel.

Elmer Beach …. well, rockery.
Cormorant on a stick.

Miles of virtually deserted pebble beach, beautiful sunshine and vibrant colours all provide a wonderful counterpoint to Winter’s greyness. We walked and drank it all in. Fresh sea air, brilliant sunshine a Mediterranean colours do so much for the spirits. We even enjoyed talking to the cormorant.

Wednesday, 22nd January, 2020

In total contrast, today is dull and cold. Why did I decide to clean the car? Anyway, it had to be done so I did it. In this week back 11 years ago in 2009, we were just entering our last Ofsted inspection of our careers. How far away that feels. I do know I’d rather be cleaning the car whatever the weather.

Coming back in from the depressing weather, I made an enquiry about a villa in Costa Adeje, southern Tenerife for the month of May. 

It looks interesting, reasonably well appointed with its own, heated pool and may give us an enjoyable month in the sun. We’ll see.

Returning from the gym, we cooked our meal outside but it was rather cold – only around 8C/47F – and the air was damp. Where is that global warming when you want it?

Thursday, 23rd January, 2020

Grey, grey, grey and the same temperature as yesterday – 8C/47F – but feeling cuttingly colder in the coastal breeze. Today, we were dragged out of the E.U.. On this exact day 7 years ago in 2013, I wrote in my Blog:

Snowing lightly this morning. It is 1C/34F here and, in Greece, 15C/59F.  ‘Call-me-Dave’ Cameron finally made his speech this morning. It is the first step of the Conservative party sleep walking out of Europe. An in/out referendum by 2018. What fools!

We were out early to do our weekly shopping at Sainsbury‘s and Tesco. Our bill struck me as quite high – circa £160.00/€190.00 – although that did include two, large, sides of salmon, 3 cod loins, and a large, quality fresh chicken which certainly adds to the cost.

We went to Sainsbury‘s first and rather regretted it. It was in darkness and the escalator was stationary. There was a power cut which, unbeknown to us, was being experienced over a wide part of our, local area including our own home which we found as all the clocks were flashing when we returned. Sainsbury‘s announced, when the power came back on, that their computerised tills would take some time to re-boot. They did but, just as customers goods were being swiped through, the power went off again and the whole process started over again. This happened three times before order was restored. Amazing how much relies on computers and, therefore, on electricity.

Our former home in Kamares, Sifnos.

The photograph above appeared in my inbox yesterday. I was immediately take back over the past 20 years of our lives. This is the port of the Greek island on which we bought a field and built a house. Looking back now, it almost feels unreal and yet the memories are testament to its reality. Must go back and see it soon.

Friday, 23rd January, 2020

Between 1969 – 1978, I wasn’t registered with a doctor at all. I never needed one. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t visit a dentist either. Between the ages of 18 – 28, many of us are generally healthy and too busy living our lives and dreaming of immortality to worry about our health. Getting married, of course, changes all that. In my experience, women think and know about bodies more than men and Wives like to organise their maintenance. Well, that may be a big generalisation but it certainly applied to me. I don’t like to acknowledge illness but, if something goes wrong, I don’t understand it and panic.

Diabetic Retinopathy Image

In the space called Retirement, we have more time to contemplate our navels .. and other bits. I am constantly amazed to learn what bits we have got and which I’ve had for almost 70 years without realising it. Of course, increased knowledge of body bits means increased areas of concern. I have always been, essentially, blind in my left eye. I was born with it and never even thought about it as a youth. In my 50s, I had a ‘vision episode’ which led to me visiting Specsavers exactly 11 years ago. The young girl there who checked my sight probably saved my life. She picked up an irregularity which led me to a cardiologist who diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation and prescribed life-long warfarin. Without that, there is a huge chance that I would have suffered a stroke or heart attack by now.

Although I am no longer considered Diabetic, I still feel reassured by attending annual Diabetic retinopathy test in which my eyes are scanned in 3D for any blood vessel abnormalities. Of course, this is made even more important in someone with sight in only one eye. Next week will be my annual test. As regular readers will know, I am religious about testing my INR or coagulation rate of my blood vis-à-vis my Atrial Fibrillation and next week will be my bi-monthly hospital report. Bi-annually, as senior citizens, we do the poo test. It is, of course, more formally known as the Bowel Cancer Screening Test. Next week, we will be undertaking this for the 5th, consecutive time.

Let’s hope we pass that lot …. if you’ll pardon the expression!

Friday, 23rd January, 2020

Recently we have got used to getting up and observing a grey world outside. Today was no different. I resolved to complete a Springtime booking in the sunshine. The previous villa I featured on Wednesday has been rejected in favour of a new-build villa that we know of from our walks last November. It is built on 3 levels at the back overlooking the sea and one level on the front overlooking the extinct volcano with the banana plantation.

The back of the villa is on 3 levels.
The Lounge-Diner is at the back overlooking the sea.
The balcony out from the bedrooms.

The problem with these rentals for just two people is that, to get all the facilities we want, you have to rent a property which is far to big for us. This is huge in footprint and has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a large, open plan lounge/dining Room, kitchen, laundry room, pool, verandas all round plus garage. The cost for 4 weeks is €4,567.00/£3,850.00 + flights. We have booked Easyjet return flights with extra legroom and speedy boarding for £640.00/€760.00. On a grey day like today, I would have paid double for everything!

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 578

Week 577

Sunday, 12th January, 2020

A lovely day of blue sky and sunshine. I am on the 12th day of 91 days without alcohol. I must say that I have hardly thought about it but I control the circumstances.  We had considered a few days in France but that would be fatal. Going to a dinner party, going out to a restaurant, anything out of routine, in fact, would severely test me. Drinking wine is essentially a social act and, for me, is intimately wrapped up in eating good food.

I use one specific replacement for alcohol. It is not pleasant but I can easily become addicted to it. I drink Shloer and sparkling water in spritzer form. The wine racks remain absolutely full and the Shloer boxes rapidly become empty. Over Christmas, supermarkets sell a lot of Shloer and, in the new year discount it. This year, standard price is £2.20/€2.58 and I found that Morrisons was selling it discounted at £1.00/€1.18. Too good to be avoided for an addict like me. This morning we drove down there to stock up. 

Pauline’s Grandparents she never met.

I completed scanning in Pauline’s memories box with the help of her sister’s memory. Pauline didn’t know who these people were although they were in her box. The photograph was taken in Oldham in the early 20th Century and were, in fact, the Grandparents she never met.

We did our gym workout and then Pauline griddled Tuna steaks in the garden. It is noticeable that the afternoons are remaining lighter longer which is a lovely prospect of what is to come.

Monday, 13th January, 2020

Another beautiful morning which is lucky because I have to wheel 3 bins out on to the roadside for collection this morning. I’m a bit tired because we went to bed well after midnight. We were watching a film. It is a very rare event for me. I am not a fan of films or fiction generally. I am more attracted by facts and ideas. Also, I don’t cope with late nights as well now as I did in my youth. However, one of the benefits of retirement is the ability to choose to do whatever one wants and hang the consequences.

I am rarely if ever conscious of dreaming although I am aware of specific triggers in me that cause it. Since childhood, if I had a temperature through illness, a common dream for me was to be on a high cliff or building and feel the sensation of falling. I know we are all believed to dream every night particularly in our REM state. During Rapid Eye Movement sleep, our brain is almost as active as it is when we are awake. REM sleep is thought to help consolidate memories.

It is almost 11 years since I retired from teaching and I haven’t taught an English lesson since the 1980s but, recently, I’ve been waking up genuinely concerned that I am going in to a classroom this morning where my class is about to sit an examination on a book which I have not taught them – actually, I’ve not bothered to teach them. In real life those sorts of things didn’t really worry me. I took them in my stride and always found a solution – usually it was just CHEAT. However, in my dream I wake slightly fearful of the consequences and then reality suddenly dawns on me.

          You’re not a teacher. You have no responsibility. It’s somebody else’s problem.

I am instantly bathed in a warm enveloping sense of relaxation and calm. It is the calm of retirement that everyone should experience.

Tuesday, 14th January, 2020

Tuesday is INR testing day. Recently, I have been so stable that I’ve reduced it to fortnightly. Actually, if I didn’t have my own machine, I would be having the test only every 8 weeks which is a little too scary for me. That is how often that I have to report my reading to the Hospital which I do via email. It is so convenient.

I am fortunate to be able to fund myself. The machine is about £600.00/€699.00 to buy and, although I get 24 test strips on prescription from my doctor, I buy a backup pack at a cost of £80.00/€93.22 per year as well. I suppose I could demand additional ones on prescription but I decide to make it equitable. My INR range should be between 2.0 – 3.0 and, mainly, it is. I have kept a spreadsheet since January 2009 recording every single reading which is more than can be said of the NHS. Every time I have moved, my records have not moved with me.

I have now completed 2 weeks without alcohol and my test today reflects that. For the first time since April last year, I am outside my required range. I tested 1.8. This is because my blood is slightly too thick. Alcohol contributes to blood thinning/anticoagulation and my test reflects that. I have two choices: take more Warfarin or drink wine. I have decided to ….. take more Warfarin.

Storm Brendan meets Littlehampton

It is a horrible day outside – grey and wet. Coastguards have issued an urgent warning for West Sussex, as the remains of ex-Storm Brendan sweeps in. We are still going to the gym but I can’t see myself swimming today.

Wednesday, 15th January, 2020

We went out early to buy fish from the fisherman’s shed on Littlehampton Pier. At that time, the day was dire – grey, cold and wet. Fresh fish was just being displayed as we arrived. Usually, we can only order large amounts of Tuna and Swordfish which, of course, is not caught locally but today, a joint of each had just been delivered.

A desolate Marina

A 1.3 kg joint of Swordfish cost us £31.00/€36.17 which compares with today’s market price of £32.00/€37.30 per kilo. The 4.3 kg joint of Tuna cost us £98.00/€114.28 which compares with a market price today of £60.00/€70.00 per kilo. 

Sunny Littlehampton Beach

We moved on to Littlehampton Beach which was much less inviting than usual even the seagulls had left for the land and allowed the rooks to move in. Certainly not a day for a swim in these waves.

Thursday, 16th January, 2020

We seem to spend our lives shopping. Yesterday we were out on the shoreline to buy fresh fish.

4.3 Kilos of ‘Sushi Quality’, Yellowfin Tuna
The toilets are on the furthest left.

Today it was Sainsbury’s and Tesco for our main, grocery shoppingThis split photograph shows the shop frontage of Tesco Extra. The right hand side is the first quarter and the left shows the other three quarters. The toilets are at the bottom of the far left corner. This is not good news for old men. Walking from one end of the shop to the other is a reasonable workout in itself. No wonder you see so many old people bent over their trolleys in exhaustion.

Talking about exhaustion, I’m feeling it today. I didn’t sleep well again last night and I have no idea why. I’m not troubled in the slightest. Quite the reverse. I am into the 16th day of a rather calorie-reduced period. I am about to go to the gym for the 18th consecutive day of my current piece. These things do take their toll but my mind just fights back and shouts, Keep going. Don’t let yourself down. Who could ignore that?

Friday, 17th January, 2020

Pauline went out this morning in rain to go to the Beautician’s in Rustington and returned an hour or so later in brilliant sunshine out of clear, blue sky. I’ve certainly had enough of grey, English days. I really wish we had booked some time away in the sunshine.

This morning I booked us a month away in Lanzarote in a 2 bedroom villa with a pool, washing machine wi-fi and English language tv. 

Nice Pool Area
Outdoor Cooking
Sky Sports available

For the month of May, it will cost us £3,850.00/€4,520.00 + Return Easyjet Flights at £540.00/€634.00 for the two of us.

Kitchen with oven, hob, microwave & dishwasher
Not sure about the miror.

We will go to Gatwick the day before, drop off our bags early and stay in the Sofitel for the night because we fly early the next day which gives us plenty of time on arrival at our villa for orientation.

Saturday, 18th January, 2020

Gorgeous morning with a hint of frost in the fields. We drove down to the beach to let our eyes drink in the sunshine and banish the Winter Blues. The tide was out and the sand exposed, strewn with pebbles.

Pauline always comes prepared for every, climactic condition  and she posed in her Mediterranean sunglasses to the total admiration of all the passing dogs and their owners.

We walked along the waterline for a while and breathed in the ozone being greeted by trotting dogs, large and small before driving home for coffee. 

We went off to the Health Club at 1.00 pm for our 21st, consecutive day and did a couple of hours exercise before driving home to griddle chicken thighs and mushrooms in the garden. I watched Cricket in the gym and was disappointed when rain stopped play but I caught the last few overs of the day back home. Great to watch Newcastle beat Chelsea in the last minute of extra time this evening.

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Week 576

Sunday, 5th January, 2020

The weather has turned out to be completely wrong. Supposed to be pleasant this morning according to BBC forecasts. I planned to clean the car. Actually, it is cold with light rain falling. I have decided to watch the cricket from South Africa where the sky has also taken an overcast demeanour. Fortunately, the cricket is going England’s way – at the moment.

I’ve had superfast, fibre -to-the-door from BT for a few months. I pay for a guarantee of 300 mbps download speed which is 10 x faster than before. I also expect around 50 mbps upload. I thought I would do a check this morning and received this result.

My Broadband Speeds.

I do find BT incredibly reliable and worthwhile. It costs me £75.00/€88.00 per month but that also includes ‘Unlimited Anytime Landline calls’. What I find astonishing is how these communication/information/entertainment bills  have gradually been incorporated in to our monthly outgoings over the years. We pay:

  • BT Broadband + Landline Calls = £75.00/€88.00
  • BT Sport = £10.00/€11.74
  • EE – 2 Mobiles = £89.00/€105.00
  • Sky TV = £102.00/€120.00
  • TV Licence = £13.20
  • Web Space + Domain Name rental = £16.50/€19.40

So that is a total of £305.50/€408.40 per month or an astonishing £3,666.00/€4,900.80 per year and this has just insidiously crept up. We always had a landline in our house as a child although we were not allowed to use it. Many people, probably most in the early 1950s, had to rely on the red box public telephone on the street. Making a call involved pushing a few pennies into the phone box and pressing Button A. In those days people did not have access to mass communication or information gathering. The nearest source for that was the local library.

Personally, I believe that all such access to information and communication should be a right and ‘free’ to individuals financed through progressive taxation. Of course, entertainment is a different matter. People should not have to decide whether to eat and heat their homes as opposed to hearing/watching the news of world events or being able to telephone their friends and relatives. 

Monday, 6th January, 2020

Didn’t sleep well last night and woke up tired. The day was grey and the street had taken down its Christmas lights thank goodness. In the religious calendar, it is Epiphany. I’m pleased to know that I had my own epiphany many years ago and saw sense. The Greeks, of course, take it to extremes and dive into the Aegean in spite of the season. 

I saw a video clip of snow falling today at Σταθμός Δουκίσσης Πλακεντίας, the last Metro station on the way out of Athens before reaching the Airport. Quite amazing. These days are featuring cold, strong winds, rain and snow across the Hellenic lands. What a time to throw oneself into the sea. On Σίφνος, just one person volunteered at πλατυ γυαλο and you can see how sunny and warm it was.

πλατυ γυαλο

In Φάρο, no one could be found and the cross was thrown in attached to a string only to be retrieved by the priest himself by hauling in the string. I’m sure the sea gods understood in those conditions.


I didn’t need a god to persuade me in to the water today. My wife is fearsome enough. Actually, it’s easier when the water’s heated. Someone should tell the Greeks!

Tuesday, 7th January, 2020

A week in to the new year already as the travellator speeds up. Today, I have booked up another chunk of the year. Yorkshire in March will be interesting. Friends from our past who we were thinking of visiting in Australia have helpfully saved us a pile of cash by getting themselves deported back to UK. Their visas have run out and there son’s job and that of his Australian wife has meant a move to the U.S. so they have failed to get their visas renewed. We are going to visit them in Saddleworth in their new home. It will coincide with the first day of our 12th year of Retirement. Really hard to believe.

The day is lovely which bodes well for our gym & swim. Before that, I’ve had to read my new car manual because, when I was cleaning the car the other day, I looked at a row of switches below the steering wheel and thought that I wasn’t completely sure what all of them were.

One of five banks of switches in the car.

Now I am clear, will I remember? I will do my best. I love the car and love driving it. I have never had a more relaxing driving experience from any car. This would have been ideal for driving to Greece. Let’s hope it is as we drive across Spain in the Summer. I’m already wishing my time away! 

I am such a lucky man. Every day I finish my meal and observe how wonderful it was. Today, Sea Bass with Scallops and Prawns in a light, Garlic Sauce with roasted peppers & endive. If I died now, I’d die a happy man!

Wednesday, 8th January, 2020

Yet another grey day. It’s depressing. Pensioners shouldn’t have to put up with this. Actually, it is forcing us to reassess our future arrangements. We have been discussing reallocating our travelling times to alleviate this darkness. Maybe we should return to our previous pattern and do two months in the Canarian sunshine in November and January/February and then enjoy the warmer months at home in Sussex. We are going to toss that idea around in heads before making any firm decision.

Birds maraud the White House.

If you want grey, you can have grey and we did this morning as we walked on the beach with the gulls and the rooks.

You won’t buy fresher fish than from here….

Although the sight and sound of waves breaking on the pebbled beach raised our spirits, we definitely felt that our get-up-&-go was missing this morning. It was a real effort to do our exercise routine today … but we did. As we drove home, Pauline read a report of a man suffering a heart attack on a jogging machine in our gym about a week ago. Fortunately, there are defibrillators everywhere and all the staff are trained in CPR. The man was resuscitated and has been released from hospital unscathed. Reassuring. Now where’s the sun?

Thursday, 9th January, 2020

Another dark, damp morning although mild at 12C/54F. Today is shopping day – Post Office, Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco. After that and before we go to the gym, we discuss our other trip to Yorkshire which will be in October. This trip has to include October 18th which, unfortunately, this year falls on a Sunday. I went on my IHG app and put in the dates. Just 4 nights in our normal suite including member discount was coming out at £650.00/€765.00 which seemed a bit steep. We decided to look around for alternatives. We never eat in our hotel other than for Breakfast so we looked at a development that was being designed as we were leaving Huddersfield in 2011.

Just down the road from where we used to live, a beautiful, 18th century textile mill stone building was being converted into apartments. Subsequently, they were let out on short/medium terms with accompanying facilities like gym, spa, coffee shop, bistro, hair salon, conference & meeting centre.

We would rent the penthouse which is sited at the top of the old water tower. It has a roof terrace which provides panoramic views over Huddersfield. More to the point, it has a fully equipped kitchen which will allow us to do our own catering which suits us very well.

We had never considered it before but, when we put our dates in to the booking form, it came up with a price of £350.00/€412.00. That is quite a persuasive argument which we expect to follow up tomorrow. 

Friday, 10th January, 2020

Well, something has gone seriously wrong this morning. Blue sky, bright sunshine and reasonably warm. How did that happen? We celebrated by doing a bit of gardening – pruning and tidying. It was nice to be out there and active.

View of Kastro – 1928

This morning I received a fascinating photograph from a Sifnos friend. It shows what looks like tourists in white, summer suits with straw boaters posing for pictures with Kastro as a backdrop. It just underlines how slow the pace of change was up to the 1970s. 

The great Sifnos Cheese export machine – circa 1962

Of course, Sifnos time differs from that in the rest of the world in one major respect. Whereas we all work on BC & AD, Sifnos just has Pre-PD & Post-PD. These two photographs feature Sifnos in gentler times, pre-Poison Dwarf.

Saturday, 11th January, 2020

We had a panic two days ago because Pauline had lost her autograph book. She got it in 1960 and her enthusiasm for collecting signatures lasted long enough to get about 8 specimens. However, it is priceless to her because one of those eight is her father’s. It is a link with him that has endured since his death in 1961 when she was just 10 years old.

Pauline’s Dad’s signature the year before he died.

It always sat in an old, oak box on the mantlepiece in other houses. We don’t have a mantlepiece here and the oak box is empty. Everywhere has been searched twice until this morning when a clutch of old photographs revealed the autographs nestling inside. Pauline’s Dad was there and will never be lost again. He is to be filed carefully after I have scanned him in and saved the scan in triplicate – on a USB Memories stick, in the Cloud and on this Blog. 

We both love our iPads. Particularly, I love my huge iPad Pro with its attached keyboard cover that turns it almost into a laptop. However, its main drawback is that the screen is unreadable in sunlight and we love to spend our spare time in sunlight whether in the garden or abroad. Pauline has long used an Amazon Kindle to read books. She reads every night in bed and often in the evening and outside in the sunshine because the paperwhite, liquid crystal display doesn’t degrade in sunlight. 

Kindle 1 and Kindle 2

She has 2 Kindles and the first one was bought in December 2010 for £150.00/€177.00. She bought a larger one with a backlight and sharper screen display since then but both have ‘free’ 3G/4G AT&T connectivity to download from the Amazon shop, collect emails and slowly browse the web. This element is fairly basic but has been invaluable when we’ve been in isolated places without wi-fi.

Today, it looks as if Kindle 1 is dying. Only 9 years service? They just don’t make things to last these days. Of course, Brexit will put all that right. 

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Week 575

Sunday, 29th December, 2019

As Christmas week ends, the Blog begins its 12th year of inconsequential babble. For me, it is structure, routine, purpose, context, diary, memory…. Whatever it is for you, Dear Reader, you have my sincere sympathies. The anniversaries come thick and fast around now. Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Wedding Anniversary (41st tomorrow – Thank you, Richard.) New Year’s Eve, Start of New Decade – the 2020s.

Over the years, I have not been brilliant at maintaining friendships in any meaningful way. I have not been prepared to go the extra mile for anyone other than my wife. It’s not that I don’t care but that I don’t care enough. If have to be blunt. I know, because my Mother warned me over 50 years ago that I would die a sad and lonely death through lack of friends and she will probably be proved right. I think, in many ways, she did the same.

However, on retiring and having time to reflect upon my life, I took stock of the support significant people gave me at strategic points in my development. I realised that there were people who went beyond the call of duty – unlike me – to help me find my way. I realised that I owed them the duty of gratitude I should have bestowed at the time but was too much in a hurry to leave that stage of my life behind and move on to the next to do it.

There was my Rugby/Athletics/English mentor who helped me through the time after Dad’s death. I hadn’t seen Vic Roebuck for 40 years and he was in his 90s when I tracked him down. I wrote him a long letter of thanks for all the precious time he had spent on me and what it had meant to me. He wrote back with real gratitude that I had ‘remembered’ him. He died a couple of years later. I wrote to my College English tutor, David McAndrew who had supervised my thesis and started me on the path of life long learning. He provided me with the spark I needed to forge ahead in my academic development. David was in his 90s when I finally tracked him down through the publisher of his last volume of poetry. I actually received an email of thanks from him. He died the next year. At least I manged to acknowledge my debt to them before they went and I recorded it in my Blog with their photographs at the time. 

From the left – Spud Murphy, Mick Holmes, Me, Dave Beasley

As a child, I did not really like large family life or small village life. I found them both claustrophobic. I was desperate to break out, to break away. Of course, as a young lad, I was unable to do either but I was given one, genuine escape by David Beasley. He was/is about 12 years older than me. He ran the village Scout Troop and his wife ran the Cubs. In the Winter of 1957, David put me on the back of his motor cycle and drove me all of 200 yds up the village High Street to the Village Hall to join the brotherhood of males in the Cubs. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.

As I progressed from Cubs to Scouts, etc, I received huge support and advice from David Beasley. He took me on my first journey outside UK …. all the way to Southern Ireland. In the summer of 1966, just as England was winning the World Cup, we toured around Loch Derg in SW Ireland in a horse drawn ‘tinkers’ caravan. I first learned to smoke and be violently sick on that trip. I learned that Catholic priests got drunk and that Irish horses farted all the time. I haven’t seen David since 1969. I moved away to college and he moved away to live in his beloved Wales with his dear wife, Sue. He was the third person I had to track down and thank and, 10 years ago, I did just that. We have corresponded ever since.

Yesterday, an old scouting friend who has lived in Massachusetts for the past 50 years emailed me to say he had phoned Dave over Christmas only to be told that Sue died in her sleep a week ago. She was just 76. Like Pauline & I, Dave and Sue had led a quiet, fairly isolated life on a remote, Welsh farmstead relying on each other and troubling no one else. I can only imagine how he is feeling now.

Monday, 30th December, 2019

The penultimate day of 2019 and my 41st Wedding Anniversary has opened with an orange light illuminating a foggy sky. My phone says it is just 3C/37F but it is bin day and feels quite mild as I venture out to do man’s work. By 9.30 am, we are out and down on Littlehampton Pier. 

Morning looks like Evening.

The sun is fighting the mist and will obviously win eventually but the battle is beautiful. Everywhere was almost deserted save for the occasional dog taking its old man for a walk. We both rejoiced in the acknowledgement that we lived in such a beautiful place. 

Life is a beach … almost deserted.

Even so, we still did our gym routine and then returned to cook scallops, prawns and Sea Bream in white wine and garlic sauce with Gruyère cheese topping accompanied by roasted endive. What a wonderful, celebration meal.

Tuesday, 31st December, 2019

Overcast and cool this morning to mark the end of 2019. Although we’re going to the gym, we have jobs to do beforehand. It is my job to unstack the dishwasher. So that’s done. It is my job to vacuum the house. So that’s done. Now I am going to turn my mind to New Year Resolutions.

  1. First on the list is actually making the Hotel/Flights booking for Athens in August/September. Prevarication has stopped and that will be done today. Next, I will try to firm up Summer travel with a drive across Spain and a villa in Murcia for June/July. In between these travelling events, we will intersperse shorter trips to France although we would like to arrange a week in Bordeaux at some stage.

  2. Second, we are going to tighten up on our diet starting with a complete embargo on alcohol for 3 months. This will be accompanied by renewed vigour in the gym & pool. Particularly, we are going to start adding a new piece of resistance equipment in to our routine to work on our stomachs.

  3.  I am going to address one of my other, life-long weakness once again. That is learning to program. I have decided to become a child again and learn Python.

I think I’ve written before that I am a strong ‘end-user’. I have no understanding of the ‘back office’ at all. I can drive a car but know nothing about its workings at all. I couldn’t repair one and I’d struggle to change a tyre. I know how to use my body but I have no idea what parts it is made up of or what could go wrong with it. I use lots of computers but, even though I went on a course to teach me, I still could not possibly build my own.

Information Technology I was good at. Computing I failed completely. It always surprised me because, in spite of being an Arts student, I was always good at Maths & Logic. I thought they would lend themselves to programming. I spent £1500.00/€1765.00 on a course to learn how to program but found I was out of my depth immediately and, although I was reluctant to admit it, I just gave up ultimately.

Twice I have tried to confront my failure but never with any real conviction. This time is different. I can feel it. I will learn to program in Python!

Wednesday, 1st January, 2020

Warning! This year will include flashing images…

I must admit, our acknowledgement of the New Year was fairly cursory. We drank our last glass of wine for 3 months together, Pauline exclaimed, White Rabbit and we went to bed. That’s what old people do. We heard the occasional firework although most of the people around us have gone away for New Year. I don’t know if they’re trying to tell us something.

Even so, we allowed ourselves 10 more minutes in bed this morning. Over breakfast, the normal conversations of the day took place like, What shall we eat for our meal today? We settled on roast salmon and salad. What do we intend to achieve over the day? Pauline will steam clean the floors downstairs. I will vacuum out the car but, before that, I must cancel my Amazon Prime (temporary, free) Membership. I watched about 5 Premier League games over Christmas and then searched to see if there was any other content I would like to see. There wasn’t but, even if there was, I couldn’t have saved it to my Sky Box so it was pointless. There is nothing I buy that is needed at break neck speed so it’s over.

We’ve had a lovely, long chat with our Sifnos friend, Elerania, who was wishing us Happy New Year and commiserating over Brexit. She was our Notary and her husband was our Dentist. They have two, delightful children. One is studying in Athens and may even come to London to university. 

Kastro, Sifnos

They live in the fortified settlement or castle, Kastro. They all seem well and happy and would like us to visit soon. Who knows …

Thursday, 2nd January, 2020

What a depressing day! Dark, grey and gloomy from start to end. We went out shopping early in the gloom. We swam outside in darkening gloom and we cooked in the garden in near darkness but with the outside lights on at 4.00 pm. It was 10C/50F but felt quite cool. Contrast this with the gorgeous day on Monday pictured in the photo below when the temperature was only 8C/47F but felt much warmer in the sunshine.

Dancing in the Sunshine.

I think it is the very darkness of the day that pushed me on to look for additional travelling possibilities. The Spanish trip is becoming more focussed in our minds and I hope to tie something up very soon. Today, however, I heard from my friend, Brian, who lives in Shaw, Lancashire and we have decided that we must go up to see him at the beginning of April. No travel before then because we are concentrating on Exercise, Diet and being alcohol-free for 3 months. That would all go by the board if we were travelling and socialising so early April it will be.

Friday, 3rd January, 2020

Slightly brighter morning and a bit warmer than recently. We were reading 11C/52F  at 7.00 am. Mind you, it’s not half as bright as the morning in Cape Town where the cricket I am watching is coming from. While I am watching, I’ve seen something completely new to me which is nice.

Mistle Thrush

Do you ever think about birds? I must admit, I rather take them for granted most of the time and then, suddenly, I realise that there are these entities carrying on their lives largely high above our heads. Tweet of the Day precedes Radio4 Today programme at 5.55 am. This morning, it was David Attenborough presenting the Mistle Thrush. Hearing it, I realised immediately that that was the bird I hear every afternoon singing high up in the surrounding trees while I’m swimming at the pool.

Grey Heron

We live above Water Lane in Angmering. Obviously, it is always better to live above rather than below it. In the Winter when the water table rises, a hidden brook runs openly on the surface of the grassland. This year, we’ve noticed two, grey herons fishing there which was quite exciting. Reading up, I realise it is quite a common sight and I do remember herons eating all our fish in the pond of the picnic area in our Repton garden. Even so, I have seen them only rarely. 

Hadida Ibis

An intruder appeared on the Test Match outfield in South Africa which the commentators laughingly referred to as a Hadida. I have never heard of or seen one before. Looking it up, I found that it is a form of Ibis. Nice to learn something new.

Saturday, 4th January, 2020

Yet another grey start to the day and quite cool – only 5C/41F. I was going to cut the lawns this morning but have decided to give it a few days for warmer, drier times. Actually, I was looking back at earlier times as I watched England take 3 South African wickets in Cape Town. Ten years ago this week, I was sitting in the hospital carpark listening to Test Match Special from South Africa as Pauline’s Mum was being prepared for cataract operations. 

Pennines, January 2010

We had driven across a snowy Pennine route. This sort of scene seemed to be a big feature in our daily lives for the best part of 40 years. We have hardly seen snow for the past 10 years and would be quite happy to never see it again. 

Pauline’s been allowed out on her own this morning because she’s got the first of 6 appointments  to ‘improve’ her face. We are still going out to exercise in the early afternoon. Let’s hope the air has warmed up for our venture out to the pool! …..

……. and, suddenly, the clouds disappeared, the sky was blue and the sun shone strongly as we started our swim. Mind you, we ran back to the sauna as soon as we got out. 

By the way, I don’t know if you noticed but today at 8:20 pm and 20 seconds it was 20:20:20 2020.

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Week 574

Sunday, 22nd December, 2019

Twas the week before Christmas…… Oh please let it end.

Phil Tuffin in Salles-Lavalette

I am completely in sympathy with cousin, Sue Wilson’s partner, Phil Tuffin as depicted in this photograph. We visited them in the Dordogne a couple of Summers ago and I can testify to his wit and sanity in normal times.

Of course, the Shortest Day has ended with the Winter Solstice. For my part, they mean little although I can easily understand why they stood out and were marked as momentous events by people who lived in a world without electricity, the light bulb and gas central heating. Surviving this low point means one may live to see another Spring, enjoy another Summer and reap the bounty of another harvest. I can see why it could be invested with religious significance through the reliance on the vicissitudes of the weather. 

My ancestors lived here in the Repton Mill.

I can only imagine how my ancestor, pictured above outside their home of the Repton Mill in the second half of the 19th century, coped with the cold and darkness of these days. How did they manage with non-flushing, outdoor toilets, a water supply trough just outside the front door and almost no access to medical help?Their life was dark, cold, hard working and with few comforts and yet they were some of the wealthiest of the village blessed with home ownership, with a regular income from the flour mill and farmland and animals to almost guarantee a reasonable diet. Imagine the position of the labourer with unstable employment, income, lodgings and provisions.

Our house has been pervaded with cooking smells throughout the weekend as Pauline prepares food for one meal on one day this week. We had the luxury of downloading and reading electronic newspapers, watching football matches on huge televisions, exercising and pampering ourselves in the gym and spa facilities at the Health Club and then returning home to griddle Tuna Steaks in the garden. Even our toilets flushed, our taps ran hot indoors and the central heating was switched on and off over the web. It is only in retrospect that we fully realise how good life can be.

Monday, 23rd December, 2019

Bloody Christmas. It takes normal life over. Have you noticed that people exiled from their culture such as ex-pats are even more desperate to try to revive old memories than people living here currently. I’ve noticed British ex-pats in Greece are desperate to relive their past Christmas experiences by recreating elements of home abroad. Some of them even voted for Brexit which suggests a distinctly loose grip on reality. Here, we are playing it low key. We’ve even been to the gym while others are exercising in Sainsburys.

I quite enjoy watching Premier League football. I think we can lay claim to one of the better competitions in European football. It is still debateable whether Brexit will affect British team make-up. We will have to see if it becomes a points-based system, those at the bottom of the League may struggle. I watch mainly through Sky but also BTSport which I get by dint of my Broadband subscription. Now, there is a new contender on the scene. Amazon has bought the rights to all the post-Christmas week games. That involves 9 on Boxing Day and another 2 on Friday. To access them, one needs to be a member of Amazon Prime. I’m not a member of Amazon Prime……..

………..I am now! I’ve got access to 9 Premier League games on Boxing Day and another 2 on Friday. I’ve taken out a ‘free’ 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. Oh life is good! Must remember to cancel before January 22nd, 2020!

Tuesday, 24th December, 2019

Christmas Eve? Oh no! This whole saga isn’t over yet. Still, keep your head down and it soon will be.

We send about 70 cards each year and I’ve just been through and ticked off all who didn’t sent us cards this year. It comes to 17. A few have let us know in advance that they are cheapskates and are not sending cards this year. One or two have died and the rest have just gradually fallen away. Mike who retired from work about 20 years ago has stopped writing. Trevor, who we last worked with 13 years ago, has suddenly stopped sending cards. Mabel, who taught Pauline in the 1960s and must be approaching 90, has suddenly stopped contacting us. We haven’t been told that she’s died. Our rule is that we don’t stop however many people do. We continue to be faithful to our friends.

We’re driving up to Surrey tomorrow morning with a Christmas Dinner for 9 in our car. It has all been sourced, prepared and packed ready for finishing off on the day when we arrive. We will set off around 7.00 am. The turkey, which is the only thing we don’t provide and we are told weighs 6.5kg, will need to go in by 9.00 am  if it is to be ready for 2.00 pm. All the starters are ready, the puddings are ready and the vegetables are pre-prepared for finishing. Two types of stuffing is cooked in advance and ready for the big reveal. Two, large Christmas Cakes are ready for transportation. Presents for the kids are bagged up. It should all be over and us back in the peace of our own home by 9.00 pm.

The meter in the room ….

For some one who is obsessed with data capture and logging, I was surprised by my wife this morning. Our power smart meter was flashing red this morning. It sits under my computer and has done for over 3 years. I have become a bit complascent about it but I still regularly check our daily usage. Today, instead of green, it was flashing red. I had no idea why until Pauline pointed out that she was boiling the kettle. She’s known for a long time that high usage forces the light to turn from green through amber to red. You learn something every day!

The Health Club was quite busy today but it’s closed tomorrow. No idea why. Back on Boxing Day to work that Turkey meal off.

Wednesday, 25th December, 2019

My 68th Christmas Day. It has been one of my least favourite days in the year since I was about 5 years old. There is nothing you can do about it but keep your head down and wait for it to end. We were up at 6.00 am and drinking tea. It was dark outside and my phone said just 3C/37F.

By 6.30 am, I was filling large plastic boxes with all sorts of food including the Christmas pudding which was made about 18 months ago plus a steamer to cook it. All the vegetables were pre-prepared, stuffing was already cooked. Fruit flans were cooked and just had to be assembled. Custard/Crème Anglaise was boxed up for reheating. The starters – smoked salmon pate with melba toast and duck terrine with garlic bread were packed in too. The more delicate foodstuffs went into the car’s fridge.

By 8.00 am, we were off on the drive up to West Byfleet, Surrey on the most beautiful morning. The drive itself is always delightful and was even more so on very quiet roads. More than anything, the weather was delightful and sunny. Soon after we arrived, I took a photo at the bottom of the garden. Compare this with all those ghastly, stereotypical images of Christmas Day pedalled perpetuated in popular culture.

Sun on the water at the bottom of the garden.

Compare this with all those ghastly, stereotypical images of Christmas Day pedalled perpetuated in popular culture. More like this will do well for me.

Pauline’s meal went well and the turkey was the best I can remember. We experimented with not stuffing the turkey and not covering it with foil but basting it regularly. It proved wonderfully moist and flavoursome. Of course, a lot could be down to the turkey itself. The Christmas Pudding was made in Autumn 2018 and had definitely improved with age. I had two helpings. Well, I had gone out for an hour’s walk while others were cooking, etc.

We started for home around 7.30 pm and were back an hour later. However nice the people are, I always heave a sigh of relief when I re-enter my sanctuary and so it was this evening.

Thursday, 26th December, 2019

The day has opened dark and wet. Not at all inviting. After breakfast, we drove to Sainsburys because we had used a lot more milk than expected and needed replacement. The store has an underground carpark which is perfect when the weather is wet.

When the weather is wet in the South, it tends to be cold and wet in the North which means snow. And so it was 10 years ago. We brought Pauline’s Mum over the Pennines from Oldham. She couldn’t face being driven all the way to Surrey. It was a beautiful time. Our last Christmas with her.

Our last Christmas with Mump.

Just look at the snowy, Yorkshire background to the shot above. Actually, it isn’t typical of Christmas Day anywhere in UK but it is a wonderful memory.

Worlds apart and a decade later, we are here in West Sussex – both parentless. It is a strangely, rootless feeling. We are the limit of each other’s microcosm.

At the bottom of Sea Lane.

We went down Sea Lane to the coastal path. The tide was turning and the sea was fiery in the cold, light rain. We only stayed long enough to take the air and blow the times away. Home and hot coffee and we are back on an even keel. Christmas is over and we are on to New Year.

Friday, 27th December, 2019

If I was called in for my Dementia Test today, I would fail.

Question 1 – What Day is it?

Question 2 – What is the date?

Absolutely no idea. Failed!

Today started off beautifully bright and sunny and cold but turned warmer and grey. We were going to the gym but got caught up in jobs – I cleaned the interior of the car while Pauline made about 2 litres of Turkey stock in the pressure cooker which I set up outside in the garden.

We have a 2-ring hob which allows us to do this outside and save the house being permeated with the smell of fatty, turkey stock. This stock will serve us for quite a few weeks as the basis for soup. 

The Thinker

In the early afternoon, we nipped down to the beach to blow the cobwebs away. Actually, there was no breeze at all and the temperature was mild and calm. Back home, Pauline recreated Christmas Dinner but this time with sprouts and bread sauce. It was absolutely wonderful.

Saturday, 28th December, 2019

Heard this morning via my lifelong friend from America that my old friend and mentor, Dave Beasley’s wife has died in her sleep of a heart attack at the young age of 76. These things come as such a shock to the system. One is faced with the stark reality of life and death immediately. Pauline keeps reminding me that we should do what we want to do NOW and now prepare for a time we may never see. I’m more cautious and like to prepare for scenarios of longevity.

On that theme, we’ve already booked November in Tenerife. Unfortunately, Easyjet flights are not available until April 2020. I’ve put it in our calendar to remind me. We’ve been looking at booking a week in Athens at the end of August.

Acropolis Suite, Electra Palace, Athens centre.

The hotel is available and cheaper than last year. The flights are available so we will tie that up in the next few days. We just have to confirm a property for June/July in Spain and book ferry crossing Portsmouth – Bilbao and foreign travel for most of the year will be blocked out.

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Week 573

Sunday, 15th December, 2019

It has been rather like April today. Sunshine and showers. Not cold but not warm. It has been a day of office work and kitchen preparations. I’ve done my final proof-read, re-edit and printing of the newsletter. It’s amazing how important these proof-reads are. We have received professionally published and printed leaflets from Lib. Dems. and Conservatives in the last few days with the most glaring errors in them.

Now, I know that I should be the last one to cast aspersions because my Blog is littered with spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. I even fail to get the correct date on my entries for days on end but my defence is that I am chiefly writing this for my own records and often very late at night. When I have time, I try to review the week on a Saturday and correct the most glaring errors but, often, they pass me by. Now Pauline is like a hawk. She could sub-edit for England. If my laziness and sloppiness annoys you, sorry but ‘tough’!

November 2020 in the sunshine.

After working hard and watching the most dire football matches for a while, we decided to decide about re-booking the villa in Tenerife for November 2020. That shows optimism and faith in a future. The price is almost identical to this year’s so there is little to think about. It will cost us £5,150.00/€6170.00 plus the flights for 30 nights.

Monday, 16th December, 2019

A nondescript day which gave us opportunity to complete tasks. We took out huge piles of Christmas cards for posting and then went on to Sainsburys for specific items for Pauline’s Christmas lunch. These are things on her ‘To-do’ list which was written on our return from Tenerife two weeks ago. I have done everything on my list apart from the last two. One I’ve been putting off for a while which is to find a new and better home for a lot of our savings. There seems no short or even medium term prospect of better investment rates for cash savings so I have got to look at invest bonds for a large proportion of the non-urgent cash.

I can’t allow our instant access accounts to drift on as they have fallen to just 1.2% but it’s shocking to find that locking our money away for 5 whole years would add less than 1% extra. I can’t see myself going for more than a 2 year fix at the moment.

Tuesday, 17th December, 2019

In 1984, Pauline and I flew to Athens late on Friday evening, June 22nd. We arrived in the early hours of the morning at Ellinikon International Airport and waited outside for a bus to take us to Piraeus Harbour. It was hot, sweaty and the bus was packed with island-hopping travellers and their rucksacks. We were very tired and, when we got down to the port at about 3.00 am, we went to the ticket offices and bought tickets for the 5 hr journey to the island of Sifnos on the F/B Ionion.

In those days, Boulis had a taverna on the keyside and he employed a young relative to wait on tables. That young man was John Kalogirou. His English was good and my Greek was non-existent. We talked and I learned that he came from a family home in Piraeus. He learned that I was a teacher. We were both called John but I was forever known as ‘teacher’. Whenever we were near, I would hear a voice shouting out: Ah, teacher! and there was John Kalogirou.

Beautiful view for a meal in the sunshine.

In those early days, we travelled around the island by bus. The bus stop in the square of Apollonia was outside a taverna rented and run by a Greek-Cypriot called Savvas. He was an absolutely excellent cook and Pauline, particularly, loved his dishes. At some point, and I’m not sure when but Savvas was eased out of the tenancy and moved to another taverna in Platys Gialos. Shortly afterwards my friend, John Kalogirou, turned up as its new owner under the less than subtle name of Beautiful Sifnos (Ωραiα Σiφνος).

Although his garden tables were blessed with the most wonderful, mountain views, he never seemed to be very busy. His cooking and that of his little wife, was pleasant but he always seemed to be teetering on the edge of failure. It was good to see him wishing his customers Happy Christmas today. Looks like things are still going on.

Wednesday, 18th December, 2019

This morning, I started the day by settling our destination for November 2020. We will go to Gatwick on October 31st, fly to Tenerife on November 1st and fly back to Gatwick on November 30th. The villa we so enjoyed this year was available so I secured it. Unfortunately, Easyjet flights to Tenerife are only available up to October 2020 so far so that will have to wait.

Easier than driving and cheaper.

I have now got to turn my attention to properties for rental in June-July 2020 in Tarragona/Salou and ferry crossings from Portsmouth to Bilbao. It is planning these sorts of things on grey winter days that makes life worth living. The ferry journey is 24 hrs but only leaves twice a week. The Brittany Ferries ship looks luxurious especially if we choose a Luxury Cabin. The drive on from Bilbao to Tarragona is just over 300 miles and will take about 5 hrs. Just perfect!

I didn’t really want to leave it but I had to go to the gym. The workout was completed with such a headful of travel plans that I hardly noticed the time or effort and the swimming outside was absolutely wonderful. On these days of cooler air temperature, we like to follow up with a short spell in the Sauna and then I have 20 mins in the Jaccuzi/water massage area while Pauline is doing girl things in the changing rooms. It only takes me 7 mins for a shower, dried, dressed and out and, even then, I’m usually waiting for my wife. About 6 mins to drive home and, within 30 mins we are eating corn on the cob and griddling swordfish steaks on the Griddle/Plancha in the garden. Can life get any better? Well we have got to get through Christmas!

Thursday, 19th December, 2019

A dry, grey start to a day which, eventually, turned wet. We had to do our weekly shop at Sainsburys and Tesco. This is a great time of year for us. Supermarkets are hugely discounting fresh, whole salmon for the Christmas celebrations. Today, Tesco advertised their salmon as half price – £5.50/€6.43 per kilo for whole fish. Each fish weighed about 3.8kg at a price of about £21.00/€24.55. Pauline is an expert at filleting. In fact, she relishes it. We bought two, whole fish and will probably buy two more just after Christmas when they are being discounted for New Year.

Filleted, Skinned, Pin-Boned and Portioned by a skilled Chef.

Pauline called at the Doctors’ Surgery this morning to pick up a prescription. As she waited by the desk, she heard staff informing patients that there is a 3 week time lag for new appointments. It feels a hostile, atmosphere for anyone unfortunate enough to fall ill. Welcome to the Tory world of non-entitlement. It really emphasises the need to take responsibility for one’s own health because the State is certainly going to struggle to do it for one.

My brother, Bob, has a medical condition which he has been waiting to be operated on. It is a serious condition and should be treated urgently. Recently, he has been rushed to hospital with complications which cannot be separated from this delay in treatment. He is making no fuss about it but I’m not that stoic and would be lobbying everybody I could to get it dealt with. I wish him well in seeking a resolution. Talking about brothers, I heard from my little brother, Mike, for the first time in a couple of years. I found it quite emotional. I must be getting old.

Friday, 20th December, 2019

The reverse of yesterday. Heavy rain over night has left reports of flooding in the south east. Multiple vehicle accident closed the road to Gatwick this morning, the M23 is closed in both directions around Crawley and will be for the rest of the day. The train line to Brighton – some 10 miles away from here – is closed because of flooding and we read of a flood closing the road one way out of our village. We always predicted that Brexit would have this effect!

Now, at 10.30 am, the sun is out and all is well with the world …. apart from politically. Although the media is obsessed with Christmas, Sunday is the Shortest Day marking the lowest point of the year. Every subsequent day gets longer and brighter with a renewal of energy. The fight must go on.

We haven’t seen any Winter yet and, maybe, that is to come. The skimmias mass planted at the front of our new house are certainly packed with berries which all the old wives seemed to think presaged a hard season for birds but it will be  winter of discontent for many.

Saturday, 21st December, 2019

Exactly 25 years ago, a Norwegian lad who had taught at our school and then moved on to lecture at Edinburgh University sent us a Christmas card with a small, paper  insert wishing us season’s greetings and telling us briefly what had happened over his last year. We reciprocated with this card which has been shuttled back and forth alternately over the subsequent years. It has had to be repaired with grey, insulation tape on its spine and is stuffed full of newsletters so it will hardly close but it is still going .. and coming.

It makes fascinating reading for us. Almost everything we said we were going to do, we actually did … eventually. In 1997, we told Bjorn that we must go up and see him and we did … in 2018!

Angmering is quietly festive which suits our tone completely. It is important to mark the passing of the year without indulging in the self-deception of religious ritual. This is the Shortest Day and tomorrow opens on the Winter Solstice. We will do our annual cooking of the Christmas meal at Pauline’s family’s home and then retreat to the peace of our West Sussex village. After celebrating our Wedding Anniversary on December 30th, New Year the following day, we will get back into healthy routines of diets and exercise.

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