Week 564

Sunday, 13th October, 2019

Vit.C hasn’t saved me.

At 7.00 am, the morning is mild (16C/61F) but grey and monochrome. My head-cold is still fairly monochrome as well. Any Blog reader will know that I live inside routines. Every morning starts at 6.00 am with BBC Radio 4. Up at 7.00 am, Pauline makes me fresh orange juice by juicing 2 large oranges. After that, I am handed a large cup of Yorkshire tea and my Breakfast is completed by some freshly made banana milk shake with fat free milk and calorie-free sweetener. Generally, that will carry me through until our meal at around 4.00 pm. Pauline makes porridge with fresh fruit for herself and drinks a cup of hot water. She hasn’t drunk tea or coffee for  almost 2 years now.

While Pauline makes Breakfast, I download the newspapers on our iPads and check email. Our mobile phones tell us what the temperature is outside. The house is so well insulated that it doesn’t provide much hint of external conditions. As I went through the emails, one stood out – You have won a National Lottery prize. Pauline pointed out that it was supposed to €15 million but the a check found our prize was £140.00/€161.00. Still, it’s better than a poke in the eye. It almost covers the cost of our hotel room at Gatwick airport at the end of the month.

Harold of Huddersfield

This week, we are driving up to Yorkshire. I am looking forward to being reacquainted with my old friend, Harold Wilson, who we left standing outside the magnificent façade of Huddersfield Train Station. Like so many memories, time and distance soften the loss but returning evokes much emotion and so many memories.

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Week 563

Sunday, 6th October, 2019

12 years to go… for us

A lovely, warm sunny day which reached 18C/65F. Morning on Sunday is papers, political discussions and home jobs. I actually spent a couple of hours cleaning the car. A trip to the Health Club which was very quiet and then home, shattered, we went round to our neighbour’s house. Drank a couple of glasses of red wine with them and chatted to neighbours from all around us as we wished Pat Happy 80th Birthday. It was nice to get to know them better. Let’s hope we get to celebrate such a birthday.

I threw in the bomb of Brexit to liven up the conversation and it didn’t disappoint. One chap just walked off to the other side of the room because he couldn’t cope with it. Our next door neighbour is a German lady who has lived in UK for 20 years and worked as an English teacher. She has been resisting regularising her status here because she resents having to do so after 20 years of public service and paying taxes to the UK state coffers and who could blame her? It is shameful that anyone in her position should be asked to do anything at all.

Monday, 7th October, 2019

The guilty body?

Mild morning with brilliant, orange, mackerel sky. A bit of a breeze. We had a couple of tradesfolk attending our property. First to arrive was the Burglar Alarm installers who came to provide a 3 year service. When we went to Greece recently, our alarm went off. We think it could have been a spider. They are invading our house in abundance at the moment. As the service engineer finished his survey without finding anything specific, this little chap walked silently by.

Pauline learns some Plumbing.

Next up was the plumber. We have a flexible, pull-down, swan-neck tap. Recently, it started to leak from the base of its neck. The builders said it would be either a washer or a cartridge that needed replacing. The plumber decided he could fix it but would need a replacement part. He would have to return. At least Pauline was able to see what to do after our warranty runs out. The alarm man decided that it was about time to replace the back-up battery which he didn’t have with him. He would need a replacement battery which he would have to return to fit.

We will need two more appointments before we go away and we’re running out of days. We are off to Yorkshire soon and then to Tenerife until December. So little time yet so much to achieve!

Tuesday, 8th October, 2019

Venice in Greece

A mild -17C/63F – with weak sunshine. Pauline went out early to have her face rearranged at the Beauty Clinic. I stayed at home because my face is beyond repair. We only have three weeks to go before we fly out for a month in the Canarian sunshine. Before that, we will spend a few days in sunny Yorkshire. We are hoping to not need our central heating until we return in December.

Greece has already been hit by some difficult weather. Mount Olympus has seen snowfall but, over the past 24 hrs, the Cyclades islands including Syros and Andros, Sifnos, Tinos and Milos have been hit by strong winds, prolonged thunder and lightning and torrential rain leading to flooding. A video clip of a river running over the main street of Sifnos port, Kamares, was sent to me this morning and this of a venetian street on the island of Syros appeared this afternoon.

We always watch the Lunchtime Politics Live programmed on BBC2 and have become accustomed to setting off for the gym as it finished at 1.00 pm.. Recently, we adjusted our timing so we can watch while we are exercising. It is a great improvement and has made the routine go so much more quickly.

Wednesday, 9th October, 2019

Almost a full moon last night – apparently it will take another 3 days. Awoke to heavy rain in the middle of the night. Awoke at 6.00 am to dry and warm weather. By just after 7.00 am, the sun was up and blue skies slowly emerged. Looks like it will be a nice afternoon for swimming outside.

This time last year, I collected a huge, leathery seed pod from a tree in Tenerife and stuck it in my bag. When we got home, I researched it and found that I had collected seeds from Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree. I read up about cultivation and learnt that one should put the seeds in boiling water for 24hrs. I did that with one half of my seeds and not with the other. The advice was totally vindicated because all those not boiled failed to germinate and all those boiled did germinate.

This is an extremely tender plant/tree. It is native of tropical climes. Although I grew my germinated trees on in pots outside, I knew that even a mild winter here would be a danger to them.  Recently, I brought two specimens indoors. In the following graphic, I feature the view from mid-July on the left set against one from today.

Three months apart.

Although I am doing this for a bit of fun, it has to be taken very seriously – like Brexit. When we are away for a month, P&C are going to look after these fast growing trees. If they can make 3 ft in 3 months, October could be interesting for P&C. This is how a fully grown tree can look.

Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

I just hope I can get them out of P&C’s conservatory by December and then fit them in the car to bring home.

We are almost half way through October but swimming outside is still absolutely delightful. Today, with sunshine on our backs and under blue skies we swam as squirrels chased other on the surrounding trees and birds feasted on the festoons of orange, Pyracantha berries that are set off brilliantly against the backdrop of the yew hedges. After more than an hour in the gym, swimming in this environment is a relaxing delight. We feel so lucky to have this facility.

Thursday, 10th October, 2019

An absolutely delightful day of warm sunshine and blue skies. We still have Basil thriving outside in pots in our back garden. Admittedly, the large leaved, Italian basil has finished but this hardier, purple-veined, Aramato Basil is still going strong. It tastes and smells exactly the same although its leaves are a little tougher and smaller.

Aromato Basil – (Ocimum Basilicum)

My Broadband is supplied by BT. It is reliable, sufficient and reasonably priced. I get a download speed of around 32Mb and upload of circa 11Mb. However, for a couple of weeks last month, BT Openreach vans have been working in our street quite intensively. Today, I learned that I can now have fibre direct to my door for just £8.00/€9.17 per month extra. It will provide me with a huge increase in performance – almost beyond my expectations.

As our demands on our broadband bandwidth increase all the time with 6 televisions, plus control of heating and lighting services in addition to computers, laptops, iPads, Kindles and smartphones all drawing down from it, the increased speed particularly in wi-fi will be very welcome. It may be that the introduction of 5G will obviate some of this demand but, for now, we will take anything we can get with real gratitude.

Friday, 11th October, 2019

This is one of life’s ironies. Yesterday I wrote of arranging for our BT Broadband to be upgraded from 30Mbs to 300 Mbs. Upgrading from fibre-to-cabinet to fibre-to-home. Eliminating the copper from the street cabinet – even though it isn’t very far -makes such a huge difference. In about 10 days, I will receive new equipment – a new hub and wi-fi extender discs. The irony is that, within 5 hrs of booking this upgrade, our current BT Hub went down. I realised when we checked the Hive hub which piggybacks on the BT one and controls the hot water, central heating and lighting to find it wasn’t working.

BT & Hive Hubs

Unfortunately, I realised it as I was going to bed at midnight. By 1.00 am, I had both hubs up and working so I could sleep without worrying. However, this morning, as we finished our coffee, all our smoke alarms went off.

Three of these can make a hell of a row!

They are incredibly noisy and difficult to silence. There was no smoke or steam or cooking. We can only assume it was a spider that set one off but the noise could be heard out in the garden and up the street even with everything closed.

After a while, even calm people working their way steadily through the problem become rather tense and tetchy. The alarms are mains powered with battery backup. Finding the isolation switch was an adventure. Getting to the toolbox and picking out the correct screwdrivers. Searching out a screwdriver to prise off the cap and then release the battery took a while. Eventually, we were able to stop, reset and reassemble the three units and, as we did, a small, black spider abseiled down from the one on the landing. We tested all and all were working correctly.

In the past week, we have had to address a leaking tap, a misfunctioning burglar alarm, wi-fi and Hive hubs down and misfunctioning smoke alarms. As a backdrop to this, I have contracted a severe head cold which is making my exercise routine more difficult than usual. I refuse to give in to it!

Saturday, 12th October, 2019

A grey damp day. My head cold seemed to get worse as the morning went on. We debated whether to go to the gym or not but I couldn’t let it go and forced myself through it. To cheer myself up and lift the gloom of the day outside, I spent a bit of time researching the immediate area of our home for the month of November.

Our sun terrace looks down to the sea and Costa Adeje.

Apparently, it is possible to walk to Siam Water Park and the Siam Shopping Mall in just over 5 mins and to the centres of Costa Adeje and Playa de las Americas in around 20 mins. This is ideal for us. We like to walk and explore new places.

Zakynthos Town Harbour

Just over 38 years ago, we had got back from our first, Greek venture. Zakynthos was our first island. It didn’t have an airport so we flew to Hellinikon International Airport. From there, we got on a minibus to be driven across the Peloponnese to the port of Killini  and then ferry to Zakynthos Town dominated by the church of St Denis (Dionysius). Zakynthos was all but destroyed during an earthquake in 1953 and, after buildings were rebuilt with earthquakes in mind, a year ago, they were hit by another big one. Quite a bit of damage was caused although not on the earlier scale.

Earthquakes off south west Zakynthos today.

This morning, 2 more 4+ Richter shocks hit the island. They are said to be after shocks from last year.

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Week 562

Sunday, 29th September, 2019

The penultimate day of September 2019 opened with strong winds and rain. Surprisingly warm –  18C/65F at 7.00 am. We will only go out to the gym today so we hope it clears up before that. Newspapers and political programmes form the first couple of hours and then my job is to vacuum the house and do some dusting. Pauline is steam-cleaning the hard floors downstairs. Unalloyed joy!

Just as Greeks thought the economy was ticking up, Moodys, the credit rating agency throws a wet blanket over it:

The collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook is “credit negative” for Greek and Cypriot banks because it reduces the cash flow of businesses in the tourism sectors of both countries … This development will result in a reduction in tourism revenue and investment … it may even lead to business closures. It could also affect other sectors linked to tourism, such as transport and trade…. the exposure of Greek banks to businesses (hotels and restaurants) that worked with the bankrupt company was 10.8%, and 13.9% for Cypriot lenders at the end of March 2019.

Thomas Cook employed around 1,000 people in Greece and accounted for around 3 million tourist arrivals per year, or about 9% of the country’s total arrivals of 44 million in 2018, according to Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος data. Thomas Cook had a particularly strong presence in Crete and Kos, where around 70% and 25% of the two islands’ hotels, respectively, had contracts with the company. The effect of Thomas Cook’s liquidation on Cyprus’ tourism sector is also likely to be substantial. Around 250,000 tourists annually travel to Cyprus with Thomas Cook and generate revenue of €187 million.

We, of course will go back to Greece in 2020 but we will also spend about 3 months in Spain/Canaries. We still intend to take our car on a ferry from Portsmouth – Bilbao or Santander. Because we know so little of Spain, we have been wildly casting around for where to spend the Summer. We will rent a villa which must have its own pool and all facilities for cooking, washing clothes and television + wi-fi. We will need somewhere to park our car securely. Originally, we were thinking of Murcia where our friends had an villa but they have sold it recently so we are now looking at Tarragona as a destination.

Bilbao to Tarragona is only 350 miles/550 kms. It would take around 5 hours to drive that which is a comfortable day out depending on when the ferry docked. I’ve been checking out places available on various villa rental websites. This is just outside Tarragona:

Only £70.00/€79.00 per night on average to rent.

One thing that is immediately obvious is that mainland properties in Spain are much cheaper than those we rent in the Canaries. It seems that guaranteed winter sunshine carries a premium.

50 miles this week.

Did a full workout routine in quite a quiet Health Club this afternoon. The weather probably put many people off although it did dry up and reached 20C/68F. It is surprising how many go to eat in the restaurant without exercising. We have really been trying to push ourselves over the past few months and see that as a way to enjoy some extended times away without feeling guilty. We will feel that we have earned them.

One of the problems an obsessive like me suffers from is an addiction to little, orange bars on his smartphone. It genuinely pains me if one of them is blue – meaning a daily goal unachieved. It leads to the most ridiculous attempts to fulfil the target wherever I am. I am taking my gym and swimming wear when I go to France so that I can go to bed without worrying. Our hotel has a huge, indoor pool and a small gym which will do for the few days we are away. We will also be doing lots of walking anyway so I have high hopes of success.

Monday, 30th September, 2019

We are saying farewell to September 2019 with the most gorgeous morning. which I wasn’t up to photographing. A little bit cooler start at just 12C/54F but dry and glowing. Eventually, as we left the Health Club in mid afternoon, we had struggled up to 20C/68F with weak sunshine. We have done our last, formal workout for a short while but we will use the Hotel’s gym and pool to fill in while we are away.

The forecast as we travel tomorrow morning is for heavy rain but nothing as bad as the storm that will hit Manchester and the Tory Party non-conference. They have already had a lot of water dumped on them but there is a yellow weather warning out for tomorrow. Good job Ruth lives in the penthouse.

Greater Manchester flash flooding.

Had a delightful email yesterday from our Honda dealer. Their premises are rather cheap-by-jowl with housing in an old area near the sea. It takes about 10 mins to drive to them currently.

About 5 mins drive from us is a Peugeot dealership which recently has had a huge new development added. I thought it strange because I wasn’t aware that Peugeot were popular enough to merit it. Now we realise that Honda have taken over that franchise and built a huge new outlet for themselves as well. This will be wonderful for us. It is closer, more spacious with lots of parking.

Tuesday, 1st October, 2019

There are times when I really struggle to get to grips with the passage of the days. October already. All one can do is shrug and get on with the new day, month… Happy October, 2019 to you all anyway.

We are celebrating getting another month older by driving through the Channel Tunnel to one of our favourite hotels for a short stay. We will do some walking if the weather is friendly, some shopping and some wine buying. We will eat some nice food and try to forget that Pauline is 68 on Saturday.  I never thought I’d be married to an old woman but it comes to all of us at some stage …. if we are lucky enough to last that long.

It is 7.20 am as I write and light rain has just begun to fall. It looks like any walking will be inside today. I will be visiting the hotel’s gym and swim before I open my first bottle of wine in 31 days. Looking forward to it. I suspect that one glass will have a considerable effect never mind a bottle. Whatever, it will have to be red.

Lovely drive to the Tunnel. The hotel desk greeted us and we settled in. Out to the hypermarkets and then back to the hotel for a gym session followed by a meal and the wine. It’ s always a bit of an anti-climax after the build up over a dry month

Fitness Queen

It was good to complete our fitness targets after a day of sitting. It was nice to drink a glass of red wine after a month of abstinence.

Wednesday, 2nd October, 2019

Up at 7.00 am (ET) to listen to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme at 6.00 am (GMT). Down to a wonderful breakfast at 8.00 am/7.00 am with fantastic scrambled eggs. I always think one can judge the cooking by the quality of scrambled egg. It is not as easy to do well in catering, buffet proportions. The French bacon was quite delicious.

Pauline, as I enjoy repeating, will be 68 on Saturday. Because of that, she deserves being indulged. I hate shopping for clothes. She loves it. Today is her day so we have visited a huge, Designer retail Outlet in Coquelles. We have been there once before but didn’t stay because it was absolutely packed. Today, it is anything but.

Very quiet shopping mall in France.

If its not clothes, it is chocolate that Pauline likes to shop for. We spent quite a bit of time in shops like this:

Pauline’s Passion.
Pauline’s other Passion.

We did so much walking today that we didn’t need the gym. We drove down to our wine supplier and had to dodge groups of immigrants running across the dual carriageway as they fled the local gendarmarie who were following to move them on. The migrants tried to stop lorries and get into the back of them as they were held up on the highway. The irony of the contrast between our indulgence of bulk wine buying set against the subsistence struggle of the dishevelled migrants was not lost on us.

We drove back to our hotel where we had a suite of rooms. We choose this hotel as much for its grounds which are extensive and are surrounded by farmers’ fields. On the grass was a mother hen with her newly hatched chicks. As I approached them, they rushed straight up to me to get the food they thought I was bringing.

Not easy to control that class!

As soon as they realised that I was empty handed, they were off back under the rhododendron bush. As we walked away, a spy had insinuated himself into the arch of my car’s wheel

Staring at the chicks from our front wheel.

Beautiful sunshine today but not warm. I don’t think we got above 15C/59F. The white cliffs of Dover and the broad sides of cross channel ferries have been picked out in the strong, sharp light of an autumnal sun.

Thursday, 3rd October, 2019

Up early and down to BREAKFAST. Won’t see that again for a long while. Scrambled egg …Oh, scrambled egg. Packed up and off. Down to the hypermarket for a few supplies and then to Euro Tunnel.

Why would you take the Ferry?

We are booked on a 12.50 (ECT) /11.50 (GMT) train but, as always, we are early. As always, the French are happy to put us on an earlier train although they are making it considerably more uncomfortable to experience security checks with long queues to get through. They are definitely emphasising the conditions we can expect as a Third Country if we’re ever stupid enough to Brexit.

The train journey was quiet, quick and uneventful. We read our digital newspapers and, in no time at all, the daylight began to flood back in to the train. From drive on to drive off was just 35 mins. Why would anyone volunteer to spend three times that on a ferry? As soon as we stop at the station, the train is so quiet that the doors open and we are driving off on to the Kent roads. The drive back is also quiet and uneventful apart from being slowed by the roadworks being carried out to facilitate a lorry stack in the event of Brexit. Of course, it doesn’t matter how short a period one is away, it is always nice returning to home familiarity.

Friday, 4th October, 2019

One of the problems with growing older is that our friends, neighbours and family grow old with us and … We have a number of octogenarian family members – which is a sign of the times – and, this weekend, our neighbour across the road will ‘celebrate’ being 80. We have been invited to help him and we bought him a card in France to test his linguistic skills.

Happy Birthday from France.

I’ve bought and stored a card for Ruth’s 80th as well because it won’t be long. Even my wife will be 68 tomorrow. I am cooking a special, birthday meal – but not until we have done our gym workout. It will include langoustines, large scallops, monkfish and tail on prawns. I have to sneak out and source them tomorrow.

Saturday, 5th October, 2019

Happy Birthday to my darling wife. She was born on this day in 1951. In my view, she certainly doesn’t look 68 and she doesn’t act 68. We are going to celebrate by a trip to the gym. I am cooking supper – that should be interesting.

I am making two, fish dishes –

  1. Langoustines in a tomato, white wine and dill sauce.
  2. Monkfish & King Scallops in a garlic and tarragon butter sauce.

I am following that with Raspberry Pavlova with fresh, sweet raspberries and whipped cream. This is one of Pauline’s favourites. Anything with lots of whipped cream will be a favourite of Pauline’s.

I’m pleased to report that, even though we were shattered after 2 hrs at the gym, I managed to cook a really lovely meal accompanied by  bottle of dry champagne and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. We needed a rest after that.

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Week 561

Sunday, 22nd September, 2019

We were expecting the recent lovely weather to have broken by this morning. It stayed warm – 17C/63F – overnight. I’m still sleeping on top of the bed as opposed to in it not under it. We really are going to have to install air conditioning. It is 22C/70 F this afternoon and dry and pleasant with a bit of weak sunshine.

Brexit could founder here in Shoreham Port.

My sister, the wonderful Jane BG, posted something very interesting on Facebook today. It is an extended read but well worth the effort. Shoreham Port is just down the road from where we live and I certainly didn’t know how Brexit could affect it. This piece makes clear:

Posted from Shoreham Port in West Sussex:

“Just a few observations from a recent Brexit no-deal planning meeting I attended representing Shoreham Port.

1) If there is no deal, all fish and fish products (eg fish fingers) exports will require a Catch Certificate. The DEFRA official present said these can take up to 12 hours to process at the export port. Our biggest fishing concern at Shoreham says that if that is true then that would likely end all exports of live shellfish and fresh fish. Shoreham is the fourth largest fishing port in England and the largest port for scallops in Europe, with much of the catch exported.

2) All timber products exported, including the pallets the fish and shellfish are sitting on, will require a hygiene certificate, essentially saying they have been steam-cleaned.

3) With no deal, foreign fishing boats will be excluded from UK waters and UK fishing vessels will be excluded from EU waters. 80% of the fish sold in fish and chip shops is imported and 65% of the fish landed in UK ports is exported. Essentially, the fish Brits eat generally comes from abroad and the fish we catch is mostly sold on the continent.

4) With no deal, organic food and animal feed cannot be exported to the EU under any circumstances. 95% of Sussex lamb is currently exported, apparently.

5) One government official said we are not to expect delays at ferry ports despite all the extra paperwork. All exports and imports will require the relevant Customs declaration forms and exporters and importers will have to have a variety of forms and certificates.

6) All food, feed, medicines and certain other goods with hygiene, safety and/or a variety of other ‘non-tariff’ requirements will have to go through particular ports with the ability to process them. These ports will have something called a Border Inspection Post. The French have set up a huge Border Inspection Post at Calais, apparently, capable of handling all the traffic from Dover. However, there is no room for stacking HGVs and any trucks without the correct paperwork will be returned to Dover immediately.

7) Our Harbour Master believes Shoreham is the only designated BIP port for fish between Devon to the west and Yorkshire the other way. I’m not sure what that means if EU vessels aren’t allowed in our waters anyway.

If you want to know more visit #Shoreham4eu

Pauline & I after exercise.

Did an early workout today so I could watch Man.Utd. … lose at West Ham and Liverpool beat Chelsea. I’ve missed just 6 sessions in the past 3 months. Even as the darkness falls around 7.30 pm, the temperature has stayed at 18C/65F and really relaxing. Still, looking forward to a warm November in Tenerife. Before that, we are visiting France and Yorkshire.

Monday, 23rd September, 2019

Out early on a warm (18C/65F) and sunny morning. We went to Rustington for Pauline to have her haircut. The news, the conversation was about the fall of Thomas Cook Travel. It has been coming for such a long time. Every time we walked past a Thomas Cook shop, we would ask each other who goes there any more. There would always be one or two old dears who had never used a computer in their lives but they must have been rapidly dying out. The real surprise is that the company had been so slow in adjusting to the changing market. There are about 150,000 UK travellers abroad and 50,000 just in Greece. All will need repatriating at public cost.

Cabinet Maker, Thomas Cook launched one-day rail excursions in 1841.

There are always holiday company failures. It is a precarious business. I remember Court Line and Clarkson’s Travel shocking the nation as it collapsed in the early 1970s but it is the historicity of this oldest company in the world that reverberates.

In a connected but separate observation, the UK has rowed back on its original commitments to EU citizens living and working in UK by stating that their right to UK services – Health Service, etc. – will only be for 6 months in to a No Deal Brexit world. Many European countries, including Spain and Greece, had announced continuing support for UK ex-pats in their country on the expectation that UK would reciprocate. Now, they are already reconsidering that position.

Where the Spanish lead, the Greeks will surely follow.

One can feel this rabid, Brexit mob desperately trying to narrow the world and pull up the drawbridge. Soon, Skiathos will be off limits for UK citizens.

Tuesday, 24th September, 2019

Warm – 17C/63F – overnight but wet and that is how the morning opened. It was dark, wet and gloomy. Across the country, heavy rain was causing flash flooding in towns and cities. Here, it was just refreshing the trees and shrubs and washing our lawns a glistening, deep green.

I test my own INR every Tuesday and report the result to the Hospital Anti-Coag. Dept. about every 7 weeks. Twice a year, they ask me to do a testing check by getting the Doctor/Hospital to test me and match it to my own result. Today was that day. Fortunately, by 8.45 am, the rain had stopped and I went down to the doctors’ surgery for my test. My own test was perfect and it agreed with the doctor’s which is reassuring.

The sun came out literally and metaphorically as we sat and watched the Supreme Court deliver the most damning judgement on this Government and its hapless Prime Minister. Joy of joys! Of course, Johnson had insisted that the prorogation had nothing to do with Brexit and the courts said the same of their judgement so did the supremely brave woman, Gina Miller, who had brought the case and Jolyon Maugham, QC who supported her. Boris Johnson had failed his test.

Winners: Jolyon Maugham & Gina Miller

Meanwhile, Greece is having a difficult time with the collapse of Thomas Cook as only one of its problems. 50, 000 UK tourists alone need repatriating not to mention German ones. Will hotels get their bills paid? Will they find contracts to replace these holes for the new season? An earthquake on southern Crete, a whirlwind causing havoc on the Peloponnese, were both followed by 832 migrants/refugees arriving in 48 hours. All they need is Boris Johnson to pop over to sort things out and they will have the full house.

Wednesday, 25th September, 2019

A second, lovely, grey, wet day. It is so enjoyable. I don’t have to water the plants or the lawns. Nature is heaving a huge sigh of relief. So is the House of Commons which has Boris Johnson by the short & curlies  (Google it.) and he is wriggling desperately.

The Tory government refused to bail Thomas Cook out even though the cost to the public purse would not have been much more than the cost to us of its collapse. The Turkish and Spanish governments were poised to join the Chinese if the UK government underwrote the extra £200 million demanded by the banks. I can only suppose that the Greek government couldn’t raise the cash to join in even though the fall-out from the crash will hit them hard.

It is not the last week of the season that is the real problem. It is the new contracts that would have been negotiated over the winter months which will hit hard. The regular loss of Thomas Cook flights in and out of the Greek airports, the hotel rooms pre-booked providing the Greek economy with security of income over next tourist season that will really be felt and may well drive current contract prices for other operators.

The defeat of Brexit in the next few months may come to the rescue of the Greeks in spite of the Skiathan’s concerns.

Thursday, 26th September, 2019

Out shopping at 8.30 am on a mild – 18C/65F – but rather grey morning. Asda followed by the farm shop, Sainsburys and then Tesco where we visited our favourite counter and its usual great display.

Tesco Fish Counter – 2 miles from the shore.

The Fish Counter Manager is an extremely amenable chap who goes out of his way to provide us with everything we want. In return, we spend a great deal of money with him each week. He is rightly proud of his daily, counter display even though you will notice his spelling isn’t the greatest.

Back home, I studied the Kamares Harbour proposed development. I was contacted by a Greek, Blog reader who has been with me since living on Sifnos. It provides context for the closure of Captain Andreas Fish Taverna.

Proposed concrete desecration of Kamares Harbour, Sifnos.

Renting out a property that will become devalued by the development plan which means a huge redevelopment of concrete that will destroy the old fashioned, quaint port side buildings. The small island, retro-Greek style and atmosphere of this port which has particularly developed since the 1950s

Friday, 27th September, 2019

Heavy rain at the start of the day kept us indoors. Actually, we had decided on that the night before. Pauline was doing the dreaded ironing and I was addressing the financial investments.

Interest rates are falling. They could go negative if the ND-Brexit takes place. It means that I am having to readdress our savings accounts to get the best out of them. Until the febrile atmosphere is a little more settled, I really don’t want to tie stuff up for long. Because of that, I am struggling to get much above 1.4%. It will have to do for now.

I’ve never noticed this free-to-air television channel before. Richard drew my attention to it yesterday and I managed to download a series about Greek travel. I know we’ve done a lot of it but it was nice to see old haunts. The first programme we caught was centred on the Cyclades and included Syros, Naxos, Folegandros, Milos and Sifnos – all islands we have touched or stayed or lived on. We are looking forward to the Dodecanese, the Peloponnese, Northern Greece, Athens and more.  

This morning this was posted on an ex-pat Blog:

The Head of Greek Customs has made an announcement confirming that, in the case of a No-Deal Brexit, all imports and exports from and to the UK, including 7,000 products imported daily from e-shops, will be subject to the customs checks associated with Third Country nations. Tariffs will also be imposed.

This includes parcels through ELTA and Courier services. Greek businesses will need an EORI number to make declarations. 4,200,000 UK tourists a year will be subject to baggage checks and will be unable to carry more than 10,000 euros cash with them. He says that a no-deal Brexit would cause huge problems ….

There will be some ex-pats who voted for Brexit if they got a vote. Very few thought it would make their life harder. It’s looking as if a number of turns of the screw will give them pause for thought.

Saturday, 28th September, 2019

A beautifully sunny but rather blustery start to the day. By mid-morning, we are at 18C/65F and I wouldn’t expect it to get much further but it will do for now. We are away in France for a few days next week and will spend some time wine tasting and buying. It will be my first glass of wine or any alcohol for 31 days which will mean I have achieved around 90 ‘alcohol-free’ days this year so far. We will be away for November and I will certainly abstain over January. I would be pleased if I could get it up to 4 months in 2020.

It is important to take control of one’s own life and not to blame other people even though few could deny the significance of childhood and parents. While still an adherent to the tenets of Marx’ Economic Determinism, I am not a follower of Nihilism but would consider myself an Existentialist. The difference, as the Skiathan would tell you, is a fine one but important. Both camps believe that life is essentially meaningless but the nihilist extends that to everything – politics is meaningless, ethics are meaningless, etc.

Existentialists, who I identify with, believe that it is not enough to offer an absence of structures; not enough to reject existing systems of meaning like political correctness, non-racism, cordiality, cooperation and to offer nothing but the absence of these structures in their place. Life is essentially meaningless and, therefore, we can and should construct our own meaning and value system.

Our current politics is one of nihilism. It is one of rejection of existing systems of meaning. Don’t like the EU? Vote Brexit. What is Brexit. Well, Brexit means Brexit. That, in a nutshell, is nihilism and it has resulted in Trump and Brexit. There is another way. An Existentialist step forward.

Goodness, where did all that come from? Hoping to see the Opposition parties come together in the next few days, while the Tories are pretending to play happy families at their almost-conference, to ditch this government and install a temporary one to seek an extension to Article 50. We then have time for a referendum or a referendum through a general election to get rid of this lunacy about leaving our European heritage. The heritage of Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre.

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Week 560

Sunday, 15th September, 2019

Glorious, glorious day of blue skies and hot sunshine all day. We reached 24C/75F and very enjoyable it was too. It is so much more enjoyable when it is less expected. In the Mediterranean, it soon becomes de rigueur to keep out of the sun. It can soon become too much and so available that no one needs to sit out in it.

Of course, UK in Autumn is not renowned for hot sunshine and it is more important to enjoy every minute of it when it occurs. Being old and distinctly not body-beautiful, a sun tan is not important apart from for the essential vitamins provided by sunshine. I live in short sleeved shirt and shorts all year round down here so I already get plenty of exposure. We also swim outside for 30 mins per day which helps. We have a lovely set of patio furniture but rarely sit out because we are so busy being active and because it is so difficult to read an iPad screen in the sunshine. Today, I chose to do all the edging of the lawns which gave me an hour in the sunshine.

I wrote the other day of my need to keep reviewing the context of my life and that the Blog helps me with this. Last night I went outside in the warmth of the night in my back garden and had a weird moment when I asked myself, What are you doing here?  Not in my back garden but in this small village in the County of West Sussex. What am I doing here? Why am I here? Where do I really belong? I have absolutely no answer to any of those questions. I belong nowhere or anywhere.

The Pinnacles – home 2010 – 2015

Of course, we’ve moved around a bit and lived in different places and countries. On this day, 4 years ago, our solicitor phoned us to say we had exchanged contracts with the buyer of our Duplex Apartment in the Maybury area of Woking, Surrey. We were, effectively, homeless. Actually, our purchaser was still living in Australia and wouldn’t want to take possession until early October so we had a little extra period of grace but our new home in Sussex wouldn’t be ready until April of the following year. That lead to us spending 2 months in Tenerife and 4 months staying with P&C. At least we’re settled …. for a while.

Monday, 16th September, 2019

We may be settled but the world moves constantly. Everything is in a state of flux. When we first landed on Sifnos island, a speck of rock in the Aegean, we were learning to like many foods we had not had much contact with before. It is amazing now but, 35 years ago, I had little experience of olives, olive oil, oregano, basil or bell peppers. Even my experience of fish was largely restricted to what I was served swamped in parsley sauce on Fridays. I was rapidly educated.

Captain Andreas Fish Taverna – Kamares, Sifnos.

I was particularly educated at what was the classiest restaurant in Kamares. It was called Captain Andreas Taverna and was owned by an influential family who also owned and operated a fishing vessel that supplied the restaurant. Their son, Andreas, who was about 12 years old, served us in the restaurant. He went on to become Mayor of Sifnos and only retired from that post last month.

Eating fish overlooking the Aegean.

As time passed, Andreas‘ father died and, later, his mother, Poppi, retired from the restaurant. Andreas worked for the OTE and then as Mayor. The restaurant was taken on by another side of the family and seemed to be doing well. I know we have been gone for 5 years but it came as a shock this morning to find that the restaurant was being advertised for rent. This will mean little to most readers of the Blog but, to us, it is quite shocking and indicative of our distance from the island.

Dinner as the sun goes down across the harbour.

Another chunk of our past life will be no more. For us, it feels a little unsettling. That restaurant and its owners/workers played a significant part in our Greek lives. First and final meals were eaten there to mark arriving and leaving. Now, all is leaving.

Tuesday, 17th September, 2019

Glorious day with warm sunshine and peerless, blue skies from day break to day’s end. A lovely day for a visit from P&C who drove down from Surrey. After a light lunch, we went down to the beach for a walk and to enjoy the sunshine and sea air. The temperature reached 24C/75F but felt warmer when we returned to the sanctuary of our back garden.

P, P & C

The beach path was quiet but there were people sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the sea. The view with its crisp light and azure blues looked more Mediterranean than southern England.

Even on such a lovely day, I managed to sneak out mid morning to do my exercise at the gym. At this unusual time of the day for me, the gym was a lot busier with Mums who had dropped off their darlings at school and now had time to themselves. Even so, I got to do everything I wanted to do and drive home before P&C arrived.

Wednesday, 18th September, 2019

The morning is opening on another, glorious day. You have to feel sorry for those going to work. Our guests will be leaving later and we will do another trip to the gym. It looks like it will be another warm day.

Five summers ago, I was making daily trips to the local refuse tip in Kamares, depositing things which we didn’t think our purchasers would want. Four years ago this week, we were making daily trips to the Storage Company to deposit things which our purchaser in Surrey hadn’t bought and in readiness for vacating our apartment. It is amazing how quickly these things fade – in my mind anyway.


For me, this essentially communal living in relatively cramped rooms proved to be a step too far. Having left Sifnos, we quickly realised that this could never be a long-term, all year round home. We had to buy a detached house.

I liked my Office.

Pauline had the patience to research and organise trips and viewings. I would have bought almost the first one we saw. It took us 6 months to find and then another 6 months to have built our current home but it has proved well worth the wait.

Thursday, 19th September, 2019

The gorgeous days just keep coming. Cloudless skies, strong sun and 23C/73F temperature today. Shopping round of Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco was completed soon after 9.30 am. We actually sat out in the garden and sunbathed while listening to the legal case against the government’s proroguing of parliament. It is quite inspiring to see barristers, at the top of their game, performing so calmly and expertly. We also did our exercise routine. We have only missed 1 day out of the last 28 and just 3 out of the last 56.

Had a problem putting the car in to Drive as we were leaving the supermarket this morning. This is the second time in a week. It is not a problem with the car but it is a problem with me. We’ve almost completed our first 2000 miles now so you would expect us to have ironed out all the wrinkles but, after 20 or so new Honda cars over the past 40 years, this one is like no other. It is miles better. We absolutely love it. However, familiarity has bred complacency.

After 45 years of driving, this takes some getting used to.

There is no gear stick – manual or automatic. There are only push/pull switches. It isn’t difficult but in moments of relaxation or quickly required action, it is easy to revert to the old way and forget sequences of actions. For example, having pressed the start button – which produces a silent engine start, one has to depress the footbrake, depress the handbrake and press the Drive button. Should be straightforward but, when I did that on Monday, nothing happened. I did it twice. I even turned the engine off (re-boot) and followed the routine again but nothing happened.

Eventually, I realised that my door, which is incredibly light for fuel economy, was slight ajar. I didn’t know that the car wouldn’t move in that condition. Today, it happened again for a different reason in which I was to blame. At least we are being kept on our toes as we learn the new technology. Let’s hope this is an aid to staying young.

Friday, 20th September, 2019

Beautiful morning in the sunshine of our garden and a temperature of 23C/73F. Tried to make it active by doing a bit of lawncare. Part of this included spray-watering because we’ve had so little rain in the past 3 months. I’m really pleased because exactly 12 months ago we returned from a 5 weeks in France to a completely dead lawn after the hottest and driest period on record. We had to completely reseed it – something we had never attempted before – and the result has been little short of miraculous. Now it is rich, green and vigorous.

The Pound Sterling has ticked up a little against the Euro. It is currently at £1.00 = €1.13 so I forward bought another £1,000.00 worth to build up our stock. Who knows what will happen but we will travel come what may and will need euros. At the same time, the historically significant, Thomas Cook Travel is teetering on the edge of collapse, putting thousands of people’s holidays, flights and jobs at risk.

A famous name may be flying off.

We are flying to South Tenerife for November. true to our characters, we have booked a villa, bought our flights, pre-booked the airport lounge, booked a hotel at Gatwick for the night before and booked a taxi to get us there. Everything is organised within a inch of its life. When we were there last November, the most common plane flying in to Reina Sofía Airport was from Thomas Cook Airlines. Holiday destinations around the world will feel the demise of such an iconic carrier/holiday retailer. Fortunately, we won’t be one of them.

Saturday, 21st September, 2019

Sounds like the last of the beautiful, late summer days is occurring today. We are going to enjoy it. Up just after 6.00 am, out to buy & post a birthday card for our friend, Little Viv by 8.30 am. Coffee and newspapers followed by some garden work and then off to the gym.

While we were spending half our year in Greece, I traced and followed a number of UK ex-pat Blogs. Particularly, I listed Bart Simpson’s Paros Blog which is now gone, The Skiathan’s Blog which has continued even through personal crisis and a strangely inconsistent support for Brexit, The Skopelos Blog, Symi Dream which is still going and, one of my favourites for lots of reasons, Democracy Street maintained by Simon Baddeley who I have actual and experiential connections with. I have retained these links and follow them regularly. What they do display is the precariousness of ex-pat life.

John Manuel & wife + wordly possessions from ‘Ramblings from Rhodes

Ex-pat life is precarious because one is never ‘one of them’ and always a ‘comer-in’ as they say in Yorkshire. On our Greek island, we always knew this. We didn’t denounce it or begrudge it; we just accepted and worked with it. However, in moments of crisis, that is the time our true status was laid bare. Of course, there are always exceptional people who are prepared to cross mental/emotional/nationalistic frontiers but they are the exception.

For many of these ex-pats, of course, life is precarious because they are escaping something – may be it is romantically escaping the rat race, maybe it is following a dream, maybe it is escaping opprobrium of their sexuality in a different setting. Often these reasons lead to the burning of boats irrespective of the means to subsist. Many, maybe most, don’t buy properties as we did and have the means to support themselves but rely on renting and the fragile ‘tourist-based’ labour market to make ends meet. A number try to combine that with the chance to be more creative as writers.

I have followed John Manuel’s Ramblings from Rhodes for a number of years. Like me, he enjoys words and I appreciate that. He is, perhaps only a couple of years younger than me. He was a Graphic designer in UK before ‘retiring’ to Rhodes with his Greek wife where he wrote books and did a bit of tourism-related work. He seemed proud of his Greek home and garden and it came as a total shock to read that he was just renting it and that, after 14 years residence, he was being forced to vacate it. What an unsettling shock that must have been. He & his wife are moving to Crete. Ramblings from Rhodes will have to become Cuttings from Crete.

24C/75F on Brighton beach today.

Hot in Brighton today with the Labour Party Conference getting off to an uproarious start as Shadow Cabinet Front Benchers lead a demonstration chanting for a People’s Vote. There were plenty of sun worshippers on the beach as well.

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Week 559

Sunday, 8th September, 2019

Coolish start to the day – only 13C/55F – but with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Morning start with political programmes as the Brexit debacle disintegrates further. The Tory party are imploding as was forecast three years ago. It would be topped off by the Prime Minister believing his own bluster, defying the law and ending up in prison buteven he isn’t brazen enough for that, unfortunately. The newspaper headlines and the morning interviews are not encouraging for a government teetering on the edge of anti-democratic, illegal flailing.

On a less significant note, we’ve been out to the garden centre to buy Autumn Lawn feed and then on to the supermarket. Absolutely fascinating to find, at 10.00 am, the Garden Centre car park very busy and the supermarket car park absolutely packed – busier than a Saturday. It says so much about us as a society and our attitude to religion. We are embracing the former enthusiastically while deserting the latter in our droves. In the midst of all this political turmoil, such observations are enough to sustain one.

We regularly hear of the high proportion of food that goes to waste in UK homes – something like 30% apparently. Particularly, this features bread and fresh vegetables. The buy-one-get-one-free culture has become frowned on because of its tendency to encourage over buying. I am married to a culinary genius. She plans food purchases to the nth degree. I eat the most wonderful meals that I have absolutely no desire to eat out and be disappointed. It has been my delight for the past 41 years.

Green Tomato Chutney

Our tomatoes and green peppers had all arrived in an absolute glut at the end of the season. Pauline has responded by producing tomato & pepper antipasti and green tomato chutney. Nothing goes to waste in our house. Everything is used for something. Today after doing a couple of hours at the Health Club, our meal was a Greek Salad, a (homegrown) lettuce salad and a huge swordfish steak griddled outside in the garden where the temperature had just reached 22C/70F in the afternoon. The lawn is striped and luscious green and the world looks wonderful. It will look even better when we’ve broken Brexit!

Monday, 9th September, 2019

A wet day down here on the South Coast. It is so unusual as to be quite delightful. We have been attending to indoor stuff this morning. Pauline has been baking bread and ironing although not at the same time. I have been doing man’s work – putting out the bins. All three this week Black (landfill)/Green(recycle)/Brown(Garden). The first one is every Monday including Bank Holidays. The latter two are every other week. It is a fantastic service.

I have also been exploring how to exploit my iPad Pro via VPN to view UK television channels, including Sky and BT-Sport and to mirror it on Hotel/Villa televisions abroad. We used the iPad Pro screen which is a reasonable size – 12.9″ – to watch reception but it would be nice to make use of a flat screen television.

The new iPad Pro has no HDMI socket or Headphone socket for that matter so I was delighted to find that there is an adaptor for this purpose. For a small cost of about £50.00/€56.00 it is a good solution. One attaches the Lightning Digital AV Adaptor to the Lightning connector on the iPad and then to the TV or via an HDMI cable. We are off to France soon so I am looking forward to trying it out. The VPN, which seems to default to a server in Addlestone, 5 miles from where we lived in Surrey, cost £60.00 per year and will prove invaluable.

Today has been a momentous day politically. Royal Assent has been given to the Bill blocking a No-Deal Brexit. This is the first stage in defeating Brexit altogether. Even more important, however, is the news that Speaker Bercow is to stand down once Brexit has been broken.

John Bercow is the greatest Speaker of the House of Commons since Speaker Lenthall stood up to Charles I in the 1640s When the story is written of the defeat of Brexit democratically, it will show that Speaker Bercow played a big part.

Tuesday, 10th September, 2019

Went to bed and watched the end of parliament which took us to well after midnight. Didn’t get up until 7.15 am today. Yesterday I wrote about an Apple Digital Adaptor. Today, I’ve found that a multi-port adaptor at the cost of just £70.00/€78.30 which will both provide HDMI connectivity for mirroring to a television but a USB port as well – something I have never had with an iPad and which will let me carry copies of files and copy them on to a memory stick.

I haven’t used an HDMI cable for so long and thought I would have no use for them again so disposed of at least three when clearing out from our last home. Now I have to buy one. A 3 metre cable to make life easier in a hotel room costs £25.00/€28.00. I’m looking forward to trialling this system in France when we go soon. Most villas in the Canaries already utilise the web to deliver UK channels to their  televisions but I now have a back-up

I’ve had another disaster with my pressure washer. I bought a Karcher and it worked well for a few months. About 4 months before the warranty ran out, it failed. I complained and was sent a new one. That has now failed in exactly the same way. It is obviously a design fault. I could but I can’t be bothered to complain again. It will go to the tip and I’ve ordered a new make & model. It is a Spear & Jackson and costs £100.00/€112.00. It has all the attachments that I need including an integrated soap dispenser and a patio scrub cleaner. I will report back on progress in a couple of months – if you can stand the suspense. I should have saved myself a lot of angst and gone to a car wash. Would have been cheaper! 

Wednesday, 11th September, 2019

Autumnal Sea on the South Coast

This morning, we went down to the beach to buy fish from the Fishermen’s Hut. Yesterday, the sun was out and the skies were blue. Today, although mild, the skies reflected in the sea were autumnal but just as interesting.

Waving ‘Goodbye’ to the Summer.

In the Blog, I recorded 10 years ago today that I Woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a 1000 marauding monkeys on the roof. It was, of course, torrential rain and was a bit of a shock coming in our first experience of Greek September.

Athens in the Rain

Last week, the first one of September, Kathimerini reported: The weather in Greece is unstable with a scent of autumn: rainfalls, thunderstorms and temperature drop. How does the world know it’s September in Europe? I’m pleased we chose to go a couple of weeks early this year.

Thursday, 12th September, 2019

Out early on a mild morning which eventually settled at 22C/70F. We were out to Tesco for our weekly shop, the Post Office Depot for a ‘missed’ parcel – a lovely jumper for Pauline – and then on to the local waste tip to dispose of my old pressure washer. Our final destination was Littlehampton Marina/Worthing Beach for the Fishermen’s hut.

The Fish has been unloaded.

The Marina is very quiet at this time of the year which suits us absolutely well. There is the odd person fishing from the walkway and a few dogs and joggers but not many of any.

Good selection of locally caught fish.

The hut is open 5 days a week (Wednesday – Sunday) this time of year and most fish on sale is locally caught. It is quite expensive but the quality is wonderful. The fish below Tuna, Swordfish, Sea Bass & Sea Bass fillets cost £176.00/€197.00 but it will last quite a while.

Exercise really hurt today. Doing it every day without exception is beginning to take its toll. We have guests next week so we may have a couple of days off.

Friday, 13th September, 2019

I have long thought and one reason why I maintain my blog is that it is possible to sleep walk through life without realising it passing by. In fact, so many of us do. We are so wrapped up in the routines of our days that we rarely stand back and see the bigger picture. The context of one’s life is important. To understand it is to regain a little bit of control over it. To really know where one is on one’s time continuum is, for me, only possible by regularly reflecting on the context of my existence.

I had one of those senior moments yesterday. As we drove out to the beach in the morning, I suddenly realised that I wasn’t going to work as others were. I’M RETIRED suddenly hit me. You might think that strange as I get half way through my 11th year of retirement but it is easy to take one’s situation for granted. Getting up and not going to work becomes the default to the point where it can be forgotten how wonderful life is. Freedom, comfort, enjoyment, self-indulgence become the new default.

It is because of the freedom to self-indulge and enjoy ourselves that we subject ourselves to a moderately disciplined routine of getting up early, keeping active, going to ‘work’ at the Gym/Swim, immersing ourselves in Politics and doing plenty of travelling. However, all the time, I try to keep in mind where I am in my life’s line. At the moment, I feel like I am in a very good place.

Villa with heated pool & sea view near Siam Park, Puerto Colon, Tenerife.
We can carry on our exercise routine.

We are going to spend a few days in France soon and then a few days in Yorkshire. Soon after that, we will go to southern Tenerife for a month. We have rented a large villa with a heated pool, large sun terrace overlooking the sea, wi-fi, UK television and all the facilities one would expect in one’s own home. Cost for the month is €6000.00/£5325.00 plus our flights. Back for Christmas and then …. who knows?

Saturday, 14th September, 2019

Well, we got through Friday 13th unscathed. Actually, we quite enjoyed it. I enjoyed it even though I’m in an extended ‘no alcohol’ spell. This will be my third month of it this year. I love wine. I love reading about it, researching it and, especially, drinking it. To be honest, I like it too much just as I like good food too much. I have to continually rein myself in. When I talk about ‘no alcohol’, I mean no wine. Ironically, I have a store of about 200 bottles and will soon be going to France and returning with another 100 bottles or so. I need more storage.

90 bottle wine rack.

This always happens when I’m not drinking. It is one of the ironies of life. I’m going to buy a simple rack that stores 90 bottles and will cost me £80.00/€91.00 ready built. The threat of Brexit makes a man do desperate things. I buy all my wine from France. It is always approximately 50% UK price.

The wine merchants I use do give me ‘free’ tunnel crossings for an over night stay but, this time, we will be staying longer so paying for ourselves. Assuming the extension goes ahead at the end of October, I will fit a couple more trips in by the end of January. I may need quite a few more wine racks and another storage area with big walls!

Ten years ago today, I was drinking a glass of chilled Orvieto and toasting the day. We walked up our land and took this photo above the house.

This day in 2009.

We had retired 6 months before and had just 2 weeks left on the island before setting off on the drive home. I remember that we hit a cloud burst on the downward slopes of a Swiss mountainside as the light failed and were engulphed in a flood that totally immersed the road. It was one of the most frightening times of my life but … we lived to tell the tale.

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Week 558

Sunday, 1st September, 2019

September and Back to School. How wonderful. I’m not going! Actually, after a lovely trip to Athens, I am going to school myself on my diet. I’m going back to calorie counting with the app I used to use and which integrates nicely with my smart watch and phone. I have it installed on my Desktop PC, on both my iPads and my smartphone. It integrates with my Garmin smart watch and focuses on calories out through exercise/living while I record everything I eat and drink for calories in.

I can constantly see the balance and, therefore, how much more activity I need to do or how much less food I can indulge. When I return to strict calorie counting, I am always shocked how close to the limit that I go unconsciously and it provides me with the necessary jolt to my conscience and forces me to confront my self-indulgence. The one thing it does underline is the value of exercise. If there is something I want to eat ort drink, I have to earn it by putting in the exercise and you would be amazed how much exercise is required for only small indulgences. Fortunately, I have schooled myself to enjoy very low calorie food.

As schools go back, children and their parents disappear from the Health Club and, particularly, the outdoor pool. The grown-ups can have it to themselves again which is a real bonus. That will help with my calories-out column.

Maria Nadali taking over from Andreas Babounis as Mayor of Sifnos.

Great to see Sifnos elect a woman mayor this time. The new Mayor of Sifnos, Mrs. Maria Nadali, has been sworn in for the next term and taking over from our old friend, Andreas Babounis who we have know since his early teenage years. How old are we?

Monday, 2nd September, 2019

Up early with a cooler start to the morning – only 12C/54F. It is unlikely that the patio vegetables – cherry tomatoes and bell-peppers – will progress any further. I’ve picked all the remaining ripe fruit and I will clear the plants. Autumn cleaning is in order so I’ve been pressure washing the patio flags, cutting the lawns a little higher and clearing annual plants away. I’ve always liked sweeping the old away and starting afresh and this fills me with pleasure.

The last of the sweet fruits.

The one thing I do not intend to sweep away is my identity. I am a confirmed European. British? Maybe. English? Not bothered. If I am not European, I am a citizen of Erewhon. We are living in a parliamentary democracy. We are not governed by plebiscite. The referendum was advisory but parliament is sovereign. Brexiteers just don’t understand this. You can’t ignore the democratic structure just because you fear you won’t get your way. If you can’t persuade parliament to Brexit, there will be no Brexit and that is what we are working hard for.

Talking about working hard, the gym was almost deserted today. Teachers back to school. Parents preparing children for school tomorrow. The grown-ups are back in charge and, hopefully with Brexit as well in the near future.

Tuesday, 3rd September, 2019

The problem today is fitting exercise around politics. Today is the start of the fight back after a summer of politicking by the minority, Tory Government and the unelected Prime Minister. We were pre-informed for Johnson to threaten rebels with deselection and an early election. What we got was a panic-stricken Boris Johnson rushing in to Downing Street, losing his public school arrogant swagger and ‘bottling it’.

A vision of panic!

The election will come and it will be a referendum on Brexit and he’ll probably lose it. It is interesting to read how complacent some ex-pats have become about Brexit. Brits living in Spain say they voted Brexit to keep all the foreigners out. Suddenly their pensions are cut by 20% because of currency exchange depreciation and the hard line being taken by the Home Secretary, Preti (sinister) Patel, against Europeans in UK will bring a heavy backlash in Europe. You only have to read the sensitive response of the men behind Symi Dream to know how dangerous and unsettling all this is.

Wednesday, 4th September, 2019

This morning has opened with heavy, driving rain. Warm – 17C/64F – but wet. Sometimes rain can be glorious, cleansing, refreshing and revitalising. My lawns certainly think so. The England Test Team will be slightly less enthusiastic. For Pifflewaffleblustermeister, Boris Johnson, the weather has changed in a decidedly uncomfortable way. Last night was an absolute joy as arrogant, public school sense of entitlement crumbled in bluster and buffoonery followed by panic.

Panicky Pifflewaffle Blustermeister, Boris Johnson
Johnson’s side-kick , Jacob Rees-Smug

We are looking for an extension to provide time preferably for another referendum but, failing that, for a general election which would become a Brexit Referendum in itself.

As forecast, the rain stopped; the skies cleared to blue and the sun shone strongly with the temperature reaching 22C/70F. We went out to the Health Club and worked hard. I have missed my target on only 4 occasions in the past 2 months including trips to France and Athens. Spent my time exercising in the gym watching my built-in television screen and switching between cricket and parliamentary debates.

The vote to block leaving Europe without a deal passed with a larger majority than the night before and will now go to the Lords before returning to the Commons for the final vote. Then, we can seek an extension to Article 50 in Brussels and bring this terrible shower down before running an election campaign on Revoke, Remain & Reform.

Thursday, 5th September, 2019

A mild but not hot day of cloud and sunshine. All the mundane things of shopping and exercise were done. However, the real stories of the day were in Westminster. After an uncontested summer of bravado, the adults have turned up and are teaching the juvenile clown what will actually happen.

Boris Johnson – The Great White Hope – is disintegrating before our eyes. His Government has caved under united pressure across the House against a No deal Brexit. He petulantly expelled 21 senior members of his party for defying him. In doing so, he turned a majority of one into a minority of 23. This morning, to add to his woes, his own brother, Jo, decided he couldn’t stomach Johnson’s treatment of fellow Tories and was opposed to his Brexit policy and resigned. A minority of 23 turned into a minority of 25.

Electioneering without an Election

As if this wasn’t too much for The Great White Hope, he went to Wakefield to launch an election campaign without an election. Sensibly, all the Opposition parties have agreed not to have an election until a No Deal Brexit is outlawed and an extension sought and provided by Europe. This extension will only be provided for either a referendum or an election. I think we should be asking for a referendum although Johnson’s rambling, barely coherent ‘speech’ in front of a group of conscripted trainee police, one of whom fainted behind him without causing him pause to act, should give us all hope in any future election.

Friday, 6th September, 2019

It is actually beginning to feel a bit like Autumn. The mornings are just a little darker at 6.00 am. The evenings are darker just that little bit earlier each week. However, still 7 weeks until the clocks go back. This morning was the first one which started in single figures – 9C/48F – although we are still picking figs from our garden. I’ve decided that we will get no more tomatoes or peppers as the night get colder and I’ve harvested all the remaining fruits ripe or not. Pauline is going to use the tomatoes and peppers to make her own anti-pasti and the green tomatoes to make a bit of chutney. Waste not want not as Ruth used to say.

The Summer is over!

Pauline was making Bread and her beloved ginger biscuits. I was in full garden tidying mode including lawn raking with my wonderful, electric lawn rake, pot cleaning and storing. Talking about storage, we are looking for some additional  patio storage to put garden tools, furniture cushions and so on away.

A couple of these will do.

You can tell it’s Autumn. After returning home from the gym to cook our meal, it started with one of our Greek favourites – Peas with Artichoke Hearts in tomato sauce (Arakas me Aginares ). This was followed by Greek salad, tail-on prawns and smoked salmon. You just can’t beat it.

Saturday, 7th September, 2019

Not cold today but dry although we didn’t get above 19C/66F. It feels like Autumn is confirmed. We were always told that September in Greece was the best weather and you can have lovely days but we did 6 Septembers in Greece and, in each one, the Start of September turned out as if the switch had been pulled and things changed. I took this picture 10 years ago from our Greek house in the first week of September 2009. It is typical of the possibilities of Greek Autumn.

View from our home above Kamares – September 2009

We did only one year when we stayed into October and realised two things. The weather was extremely unpredictable and, from an island like Sifnos, the ferry timetabled dwindled rapidly and became less reliable in line with the weather. We didn’t need that and chose to make our normal exit around the second week of September from then on.

Our Greek cat family.

One of our problems was the sentimental one of a family of feral cats who had adopted us and relied heavily on us for 6 months each year. We just had to harden our hearts and hope they returned next year which they always did.

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Week 557

Sunday, 25th August, 2019

The train to Syndagma was not packed nor was it unbearably hot despite the temperature reaching 37C/99F outside. Things do change. The modern train’s air conditioning is such a contrast with those of the 1980s. The Greeks deserting Athens for cooler island beaches is absolutely nothing new.

At the Electra Palace, our suite was still being cleaned so we took ourselves up to the roof terrace and had a drink while drinking in the views.

Roof Terrace – Electra Palace

Settled in with glass of beer, nothing else was possible but to sit glued to Sky Sports and the cricket. We used to think that Botham walked on water. Now we know, Stokes lives on Cloud-9. If I live to see a better innings than that, I will die a happy man!

Out later to our favourite restaurant for a Greek Salad with garlic sauce, small, sweet squid for me and Moussaka for Pauline……with WINE. We even ate an ice cream on the way back to our hotel. Of course, I also watched Newcastle beat Spurs which was a joy. We’d only had 4-5 hrs sleep in the past 48 so bed was an early 10.00 pm (8.00 pm GMT).

Monday, 26th August, 2019

Up at 7.00 am (5.00 am GMT) and a cup of tea, download The Times on two iPads. Leaving our air-conditioned rooms and going up in the lift to the Breakfast Room, the 32C/90F heat at 8.00 am is a shock. Offered a table out on the terrace in full sun, we choose to eat inside in the air conditioned shade.

Pretty as a picture: 1981 – 2019

We first visited Athens in 1981 en route to Zakynthos. Pauline wore this cardigan & top on that occasion and here she is, 38 years later, flying off to Athens wearing the self same outfit. I love little, meaningful vignettes like this.

After breakfast, coffee and politics, we’ve hit the hot streets of Athens. Ermou Street (the Oxford Street of Athens) is much quieter than usual.

The temperature is 36C/97F by 10.00 am so Pauline’s demands to visit shops is easily acceded to because each one belts out air conditioning. She rarely buys anything because Greek quality is so poor but the activity gives her pleasure so I indulge it.

A Loukamades Shop

As we set out this afternoon, the temperature had reached 39C/102F and made walking quite warm. We were going to find a couple of Loukoumades shops because Pauline (thinks) she loves them.

Loukamades frying.

They are fried doughnut balls served in a bath of Greek honey and sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts. We found the shops – Pauline had Loukamades and I had ice cream. We were both full afterwards and regretted it. We won’t do that again …… until next time.

Tuesday, 27th August, 2019

The temperature fell over night to 29C/84F but air conditioning is a wonderful thing. I woke up full after dinner last night on grilled sea bass and Greek salad but I forced myself to breakfast on fresh orange juice and the most wonderful scrambled eggs. You can always judge a chef on his scrambled eggs. This one is brilliant.

After coffee and BBC Radio4 Today in our suite, we set off for Piraeus. The temperature at 10.30 am as we bought our metro tickets was 34C/93F and, when we got on the train at Monastiraki, we opened the windows for a good blast of air.

Train approaches very hot & deserted Monastiraki

An aggressive beggar boarded the train and really gave passengers a hard time. Some even gave in and paid him. I don’t know if we have hard faces but he only tried once and soon gave up.

We were down in Piraeus in 30 mins and walking along a deserted dock area which would usually be teeming with travellers. Most cafes are now gone. Ticket offices, which once proliferated, have been rationalised back to2 or 3.

An empty Piraeus

As we were walking round and looking at the changes, we received a text from our next door neighbour to say our burglar alarm was going off. She has a key and the alarm code but it was locked in her husbands filing cabinet and he was on the golf course. Eventually, everything was sorted out and our pulses went back to normal but we could have done without it.

Back in Athena, I was captivated by this little lad waiting impatiently for his sugar-rush with a griddled corn on the cob as temperatures soared to 39C/102F, and we were sauntering back to our air-conditioned, 5* Hotel suite. We swam in the indoor pool because the outdoor one was just too exposed and then read and snoozed until Dinner at 7.00 pm. CET / 5.00 pm GMT. Dinner was Greek Salad and Moussaka …. and rest.

We received a text from our Sifnos friend, Elerania Miliotie, saying she couldn’t be in Athens until next Wednesday and asking us to visit for Lunch tomorrow. We have all our days planned but, if we don’t get together in the winter, we will visit them next summer.

Wednesday, 28th August, 2019

Another beautiful day of hot sunshine and clear, blue skies. After breakfast of fresh orange juice and scrambled eggs, we went back to our suite of rooms for a cup of coffee and the newspapers. Then we walked out into the screamingly hot, bright sunshine through the Plaka to Monastiraki Metro Station. Everything there is easy, automated and in English nowadays which makes life comfortable. Because it’s August and most Athenians are out of town, there were still spare seats which was also nice.

The Athens Metro – They Know!

We have travelled past Kallithea scores of times and never stopped to explore. Today we found it quite delightful with lots to see. The first site was:

Kallithea Lidl

Kallithea actually turns out to be full of dress shops. I went in more over a one hour walk than I’ve been in to over the past 10 years. Still it gave Pauline pleasure and she didn’t actually buy anything which gave me pleasure so all turned out well.

One of the things that has always amused us about Greeks is their tendency to slip from Greek to English and back again with apparent reason. Often we hear someone end a phone conversation with Endaxi, OK, OK, Yassus, Bye. In UK, you are unlikely to see a shop name employing the Greek Language but look at this from Kallithea:

English Language in Athens suburb.

If this was in Manchester and the shop name was written in Greek, it might create interest but nobody would be able to read it.

Really lovely day ended with a long swim in the pool followed by a vegetarian meal. We didn’t set out to do that and we don’t want to advertise it but we really enjoyed Greek Salad with Garlic Sauce followed by Peas & Artichoke Hearts in tomato sauce.

Thursday, 29th August, 2019

Got up at 6.30 this morning and followed the unfolding news about the nationwide anti-Brexit protests. Even our local town, Worthing, was brought to a standstill by protestors sitting in the road. Up to the rooftop restaurant for Breakfast and then out into the sunshine for a long walk.

Our Suite in the Electra Palace

We went around the Acropolis area. Pauline even found a blouse/shirt that she really liked and bought. Of course, I needed a glass of water when I heard the price – €15.00/£13.60 – but had to manage with beer. The lady who ran the shop was a quite delightful Corfiot who was desperate to converse in English and we indulged her for a while.

Let me take you by the hand & lead you through the streets of Athens…

One of the noticeable innovations in Athens this year is the proliferation of electric scooters. They can be picked up anywhere, paid for by credit card and dumped anywhere when you’ve finished with them.

Ancient & Modern in central Athens

After an interesting couple of hours walking down streets we haven’t visited for years, we went back to our hotel for coffee and newspapers. Then we set off for a walk around the Syndagma area which seemed appropriate given what is happening in London at the moment. The buildings are still showing the horrible degradation resulting from anti-austerity demonstrations with burning scars and paint splashes on beautiful stone/marble facades of buildings and pavements.

Back to the hotel and, having completed our ‘paces’ for the day, we went down to the indoor spa pool for a 30 mins vigorous swim.

Electra Palace Spa Pool

We have become accustomed to returning from our exercise programme to cook and eat our one, main meal of the day. Although we are eating breakfast here, we are sticking to that routine largely. Today, we are going out at 5.00 pm for our meal which will be Greek salad, Garlic Sauce and Roast Chicken. I’m hungry today after our exercise.

Taverna Paradosiako – Simply the Best

Wonderful meal which we ate too fast because we were ravenous. A salad as big as a mountain. A bowl of garlic sauce to feed an army. Half a roast chicken each and a litre of white wine and the bill came to 28.00€/£25.40 in the centre of Athens. We were stuffed and hardly troubled financially. We said our goodbyes for another year and returned to the hotel for coffee and Channel 4 News. This new VPN has proved invaluable and the large screen of my iPad-Pro is a good television substitute. Two hours ahead is a bit of a problem for UK schedules but we cope.

Friday, 30th August, 2019

Up at 6.00 am. Breakfast at 7.00 am. Taxi at 8.00 am. Airport at 9.00 am. Bag-drop  at 9.30 am. Swiss Port Executive Lounge for 40 mins and then down to Gate by 11.15 am. Take off at 12.00 pm. Arrival at Gatwick at 1.20 pm (GMT). Wonderful service from start to finish and particularly from Easyjet which is consistently excellent at the moment.

Leaving our Hotel Lobby.

The flight was delightful – quiet and quick. When we first started to fly to Greece, we would leave late on Friday night after school on some cheap airline and it would often be delayed and take 4.5 hours flying time. We would constantly be worrying whether we would connect with the Sifnos ferry leaving Piraeus at 8.00 am on Saturday. Modern jets now do the trip in 3.20 hrs and are so reliable.

Over the Italian lakes.
The beautiful fields of France.

The drive home was really relaxing and we arrived by 3.30 pm. I picked a kilo of figs and 2 kilos of cherry tomatoes from our back garden and then we went out to Sainsbury to buy essential supplies. Everything from Athens to Angmering has been delightful. Easyjet has been particularly delightful. Pre-booking our seats and buying Speedy Boarding certainly helps but the whole thing is a slick operation nowadays.

Saturday, 31st August, 2019

We were up at 6.00 am (GMT) / 8.00 am (EET) and, rather thankfully, returned to our simple breakfast of porridge and hot water for Pauline and fresh orange juice and tea followed by a huge cup of freshly ground coffee. Pauline gets on putting the clothes we took away in the washer. I’m deactivating the automatic lighting system we use from our Hive hub originally bought in for our central heating.

By 8.30 am, we were out in a temperature of 21C/69F with pleasant sunshine. Off to the Garden Centre for a huge, 10kg tub of Growmore which nearly dislocated my arm carrying it back to the car and then on to Asda and, finally Tesco. Tesco had a glut of half price salmon sides. We bought a few to take us September.

At the gym this afternoon, I got so engrossed in watching highlights of the 3rd Test that I had to do 30 mins extra on the Jogger just to see the conclusion with Ben Stokes amazing innings to win it. So today I did 70 mins on the Jogger + 30 mins on the bike. Even though I knew how the match ended, I still found myself nervous and elated in equal amounts. Nothing could be more inspirational. Certainly, I hardly realised that I was exercising until the most excruciating cramp hit me and left me in agony.

If you follow the Blog, you will know that I have been growing on the seeds that I collected from a flowering tree in Tenerife last November. They are now about 30 ins high and need potting up. I will bring a couple indoors for the Winter to ensure they survive. Now I have a pod collected from another shrub/tree which I collected in the Acropolis area of Athens and which I would like to have a go at growing.

After all, everyone said that we would never grow figs in our Sussex garden. Not only have we been growing them but we’ve been eating them for quite a few weeks now. So, it will be good to give this new shrub a try. I think I have identified it as Spathodea Campanulata or The African Tulip Tree. I will further bore you if germination is achieved.

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Week 556

Sunday, 18th August, 2019

Another lovely day. Another lovely week to come. I’m going to start by cleaning the car. Every weekend for years in the North of England, I would drive down to the local carwash, read my paper in the queue and feel a little uncomfortable as a team of immigrants slaved over my car for 10 mins. They relieved me of about £10.00/€11.00 or so but I felt my working week justified the cost.

Northern Humour

Even in retirement, I continued for many years but now I do my own. I love the exercise. I spend a couple of hours every couple of weeks and save at least £20.00/€22.00 per month.

Pauline is busily cooking ginger biscuits which she loves and then completing preparations for our coming trip abroad. The carparking at Gatwick is booked. The hotel is booked. Clothes are being ironed although I wouldn’t care if she ironed them or not. Shorts and tee-shirts looked better crumpled on me. Because Greece is on the outer edge of satellite reception for UK, I’ve decided to use a VPN.

This is a Virtual Private Network for the uninitiated which disguises where one is operating from. It has been a genuine source of irritation and puzzlement to me why it has not been possible to access most UK media whilst abroad. Fortunately, there has been a notable exception. BBC Radio is open but why can’t everything else be behind a paywall with login access?

I pay for my Times  newspaper and access it through a paywall. I pay my BBC Licence Fee. Why should I be denied access to it while abroad? I pay my Sky TV and BTSport fees. I can access them on my iPad around UK. Why not in Europe? They should be available to me. Now, they will be. It doesn’t cost much financially although I have been concerned about it slowing internet access down a bit. In European hotels, the internet access is getting quicker and more reliable all the time but I don’t want to compromise it if I can avoid it. Early trials don’t suggest my access is slowed down at all. All the hubs have shown up in Addlestone, Surrey so far. The cost is just £60.00/€65.70  per year.

Monday, 19th August, 2019

Up early for a drive to Surrey. We are visiting P&C and delivering a renovated laptop to a student without one. While there, my job was to set up P’s new iPad and clear her old one for a boy without. He hadn’t had in his hands for 2 mins before it was up and working and looking to install Netflix. Who the hell watches Netflix? I have the Parliament Channel on my iPad. Now, that’s more like it!

Brown Turkey finally ripening.

The drive to Surrey and back was delightful and uneventful. It took us about an hour each way. Even the M25 didn’t have its customary holds-up. I did my duty and delivered a working laptop, setup a new iPad and cleaned an old one for reuse all in a couple of hours. When we got back, I had a lengthy job of watering all the patio pots which are still delivering kilos of red & yellow cherry tomatoes. We eat tomato & basil salad virtually every day at the moment. One thing that is pleasing us is that our second fig tree – the Brown Turkey – is finally ripening and we have started to pick. They are delightful! 

Feels strange to have not been to the gym today. It is only the 3rd time in the past 6 weeks. I feel that I’ve let myself down somehow. Anyway, back to work tomorrow. Even so, we are coming up to travelling time. Greece very soon followed by short breaks in France and Yorkshire and then a month in Tenerife. That will destroy my gym routine so I’d better get used to it.

Tuesday, 20th August, 2019

A pleasant, warm day. We have been sorting out travelling arrangements for this week with suitcases out, clothes ironed and timings checked. Out in the garden, we continue to pick figs and tomatoes. We have done a final sowing of salad leaves and the lawns and hedges will be trimmed tomorrow. We have got back in to gym routine and feel much better for it.

I back everything up in triplicate. Belt & Braces has nothing on me. We have used Cloud Storage Backup for years with MS. OneDrive initially and until they limited ‘free’ storage to 5Gb. I then moved on to BT Cloud which came ‘free’ with my internet and gives me 1000 Gb.. It is invaluable because we can back up our PCs, our Laptops, our iPads and our smartphones all to one cloud area and each of us can access the other’s saved material. Today, we bought some additional USB sticks for to back up specific elements separately.

It is all so cheap these days. My first Desktop PC only provided 42MB hard drive although it was only text-based MS-DOS. However, it had to be partitioned at 32MB because that was the maximum a hard drive could cope with at the time. Of course this was about 1987-8 as my starter Amstrad PCW which had no hard drive at all was being replaced. I wrote my entire 50,000 word, Masters’ Dissertation with the Amstrad saving every precious page on floppy disks.

Today, I popped out to Argos and bought 112,000MB of storage for just £27.00/€30.00 and I can carry all of them around in my pocket. I can retrieve information from them almost instantly as opposed to the minutes/ 10s of minutes sometimes required to access fairly simple text-based files from the floppy disks we had for storage back then. Having said all that, I wouldn’t have missed being in at the start of this information revolution for anything. It was exciting, challenging and rewarding beyond belief. I count myself incredibly lucky to have been in at the start.

The next advance will be the redundancy of fixed-link broadband by 5G mobile signal. Until recently, I have been berating the telecoms companies for not delivering fibre to our doors. This would provide us with 200 – 300 mb/s download speeds. Now, it seems %G will provide us with 20,480 Mb/s. It is almost unbelievable and wonderful and …. I want it NOW!

Wednesday, 21st August, 2019

Lovely day of gardening in the morning and gym work in the afternoon. Sunny and warm – 22C/70F – and delightful in the garden, we’ve really enjoyed our time. Pauline has trimmed all the hedges and I’ve swept up after her. The climate is relaxing and pleasant without being taxing and over hot.

Ten years ago, we were spending our first summer of retirement at our house in Sifnos.


We were clearing the garden and painting the outside of the house. Particularly, this week, Pauline was repainting the intricate sliding iron gate at the opening of our drive.

The view from our house – August 2009

It was incredibly time consuming to paint and the hot sun made the paint go thick, gloopy and impossible to apply after a few minutes outside. To add to her problems, Pauline suffered with the extreme heat of August. We forget how uncomfortable that could be in August. Certainly we found it harder to deal with as we grew older.

Thursday, 22nd August, 2019

Mum graduating aged 21 in 1944

I start the day by acknowledging my Mum’s Birthday. Born in 1923, she would be 96 today. She died 11 years ago. I find it hard to believe so much has happened for all of us since she died. I still have the unconscious impulse to phone her to tell her of something I’ve been doing but that impulse has faded and comes less often. I’ve posted two photographs 4 years apart when she was 21 and 25. The first was just as she was graduating in 1921 in London and the second was just as she started teaching at Burton upon Trent Girls High School in 1948. She and her friend and fellow teacher, Margaret were sharing a flat together above Goodall’s Garage in Repton. Joey Crowther, also in the photo was a Biology teacher at the Boys’ Grammar School and was still there 20 years later as I was preparing to leave.

I must admit, I do find my memories of Mum fade rather with time although specific interactions still bite into my thoughts. It is just the same with my general memory. This morning, the GCSE results come out in UK. We were always in Greece on this day and would phone school to find out the important statistics. What it also meant, however, was that we would soon be packing up the car and preparing to leave the island for the long drive home.

Mum, Joey Crowther & Margaret Adams – 1948

We found ourselves talking about this at 6.00 am today as Radio 4 announced exam results day. We started driving across Europe 20 years ago. In the early and younger days, we would try to do the journey with just 2 stops. From the island to Piraeus and then drive across the top of the Peloponnese to Patras where we would have a night at the Patras Palace. One night in a cabin followed on the Patras – Ancona ferry. Then we drove hell for leather round the Italia Lakes and through Switzerland, just stopping in a motorway service station around Aire de Keskastel for a few hours sleep. Next morning, on to Zeebrugge and P&O overnight back to Hull.

To achieve our timetable, we had to leave Sifnos on the Monday so we got back to Yorkshire on the Friday. This gave us time to do the washing, supermarket shopping and look out our suits and briefcases ready for Monday start. It took us a week to acclimatise to the temperature and the time zone. So much of this, which I had forgotten, came back from the trigger of the exam announcement.

Friday, 23rd August, 2019

Out early today. First, we took our rubbish to the local tip because we won’t be here to put it out for collection on Monday. Next, we drove to Rustington so that Pauline could visit the Beauty Parlour to have a ‘Facial’. I had the joy of an hour in the Waitrose coffeeshop. While I was there, I tried to use my earbuds to listen to the Sky Politics programme, All Out politics. It was only then, for the first time, that I found my new iPad Pro didn’t have a standard earbud connection jack socket. I’ve had it over a month and not realised. With less than 24 hrs until we go abroad, I had to scramble to get a USB-C adaptor for it.  After Argos relieved me of £9.00/€10.00, I was on my way.

Final trip to the Health Club which was fairly busy today. We worked hard and then came home to griddle Filet Steak in the garden to be served with 3 different salads – tomato, cauliflower & broccoli and green leaf. Unfortunately, I watched the cricket in the kitchen as we cooked and ate. No good for the digestion.

Saturday, 24th August, 2019

Last week of August 2019 coming up. We are going to Gatwick and to Athens. I was expecting to watch England destroy Australia in the Test match but now I’m going to mow the lawns and clean the car. I’m not really sure why I’m doing the latter because it will be left in the Long Stay carpark but at least it will look its best.

Gatwick Long Stay North

As someone who never remembers where he’s parked his car in Tesco’s, the huge expanse of Gatwick Long Stay is a nightmare. It was just the same on Superfast Ferries. Fortunately, I was accompanied by the perfect answer – Pauline. Before we leave the car, she writes in her notebook the Zone number and Section letter so we know exactly where to get off the shuttle bus. I know it sounds obvious although I always think I’ll remember but never do.

Ferry Garage, Car Deck 5, zone C  – but where’s the car?

We used to sit and laugh when, using Pauline’s attention to detail, we got down to the 4th or 5th car deck to sit in our car prior to disembarkation (on the left near the bulkhead) and then watched families searching for their car. Often they would leave in desperation and then reappear two or three times, looking more and more anxious and still carrying bags, children, car keys, etc..

Having taken the car out of our garage this afternoon, I opened the bonnet to check the oil and realised this was the first  time I had ever opened the bonnet in the 2.5 months since we bought it. The engine is pristine but I couldn’t find the dipstick.

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Week 555

Sunday, 11th August, 2019

I’ve been awake since 5.00 am. The bedroom window was open on a close night and I was woken by the cooing of wood pigeons in the scots pines across the field and then by the screeching of marauding and ever present herring gulls above the house. Lovely morning and quite warm over night at 19C/66F. We went out for a walk around the local area this morning. We were doing it for a reason. On the grassed area of our development which was built on the site of an old Nursery, an old apple tree was spilling its fruit on the floor as a result of the winds. We filled a bag with a few kilos in readiness for making apple & beetroot chutney.

Nature’s Bounty

While we were there, we noticed the abundance of juicy, ripe blackberries. We went back with Tupperware containers and picked for 30 mins or so which resulted in about 2kg of beautiful fruit and terribly scratched and sore limbs. Pauline is such a wizard in the kitchen that this fruit was turned into jars of jam in no time at all and ready to put on our yoghurt for sweet.

Essence of Hedgerow

After we had pulled all the thorns from our arms and our legs, bathed our wounds and washed away the blackberry stains from our hands, we set off for the Health Club. I was shattered before I started having survived on about 5 hrs sleep and then had an active morning but it has to be done. At least I got home to watch Man. Utd. thrash Chelsea 4-0 in the first game of the new season.

Monday, 12th August, 2019

A little damp today. Still pretty warm and we have had thunder circling the area. Of course, it’s my job to get soaked (possibly get struck by lightning) and put the bins out. With great courage, I pulled through. Then, it was time to go out and source beetroot, red onions and red wine vinegar to combine with the windfall apples we collected the other day and from which Pauline will craft a delicious chutney.

The fundamentals of Beetroot Chutney.

We could have got the constituents from the local, PYO farm but, in the proportions we required, Asda was more economical. Although we’ve done a full, gym workout this afternoon, Pauline will be storing a good few jars of chutney before the end of the day.

Home grown salad

We’ve been enjoying our own, garden produce for a while now. Figs and lots to come, green peppers griddled with swordfish steaks, homegrown tomato & basil salad, lettuce and rocket salad – all but the fish produced by us. A bit romantic, I know, but to eat tomatoes & basil both of which were growing in the garden 5 mins before is a lovely experience.

Tuesday, 13th August, 2019

Up at 6.00 am and out by 7.30 am this morning because we both had Dentist & Hygienist appointments. We had alternate half hour sessions with each one starting at 8.00 am.. Of course, at our age, our teeth don’t change a lot and, once again, we have no follow-up work to do. Our contract entitles us to 2 visits to the Dentist and 2 to the Hygienist per year for a price of £100.00/€108.00 per year.

My dentist is a young, intelligent Brazilian man and I thought I would be able to teach him a new word today that I had discovered recently. I had accidentally come across the term Lusophone. It means Portuguese language speaker. It derives from the Romans name for Portugal which was Lusitania and the Roman word for voice which is phone. He thought about that for a while and then said, Ah yes, we pronounce it Looso-pho-nia and we call the Portuguese Losers.

Can’t resist a bargain!

We drove on to Rustington for some stuff from the chemist and bought a couple of Kilos of cherries to snack on and 3 kilos of Victoria plums for Pauline to turn into jam. Last year we picked our own but we haven’t got time this year. We also went in to The Works and bought a copy of the Highway Code. We have meant to for a time because we are both moving rapidly towards 70 and though we ought to refresh our memories and check changes to the law. We may be slow, elderly people but we intend to keep driving for many years to come.

In Surrey, we were always being nearly run over by cyclists on the pavement. The Council allowed/encouraged it. The Highway Code still says emphatically and unequivocally that it is not allowed to ride cycles on the pavement. Down her in Surrey, one is more in danger from being knocked over by aggressive drivers of motability scooters. The Highway Code states clearly that drivers of motability scooters must give precedence to pedestrians on the pavement. I can see that I will be keeping this book with me at all times.

Ten years ago today – 13th August, 2009 – I recorded in my Blog the following:

Ten years ago we asked our bank for a £50,000.00 ‘Bridging Loan’ to buy a field on an island in Greece. We were incredibly lucky to ask a bank manager who not only harboured the same ambition as us – to build a house in Greece – but one who knew our island and where the field was. She helped us have the confidence to go ahead with our project and commit some £200,000.00 that we didn’t have. We quickly paid back the bridging loan and now own the house outright. We retired this summer and, fortuitously, so did she. Sue Riding was lovely to us as Manager of our Nat. West branch. Soon after helping us, she visited our island. She then moved on to work for Coutts Bank. Today I wrote to her with pictures of the house and wishing her happy retirement.

Amazing to think it is 20 years ago since we started this process by instigating a bridging loan but how fortunate the whole process turned out for us!

Wednesday, 14th August, 2019

Strange to see a damp, dark day but that’s what we’ve got today. Pauline was engaged in her final preserves of the year – Victoria Plum Jam. We have both loved Victoria Plums for years but usually the time when they are available has coincided with us being abroad. Last year we picked our own from the orchards round the corner from our house. This year we’ve just bought them from the glut hitting the shops.

Victoria Plum Jam.

I was free to explore our travel plans for next year. We are going to take the ferry from Portsmouth (just 30 miles from here) to Bilbao or Santander and then drive across Spain to Murcia region. I was looking at the drive when we get off the ferry in Spain and where likely stops would be. Nowadays, I try to limit our driving time to about 4hrs per day if I can and that would take us to the city of Zaragoza. Here, I must digress.

There is something about the word Zaragoza that reaches back across the years for me. It is blended in my mind with Zagreb and Zarathustra and linked to a purchase my brother, Bob, made in the 1960s. When I was about 14, Bob went to a jumble sale and bought an old radiogram. The woven speaker cover was fraying and holed but the radio worked and the sound was fine. We used to listen to Dick Barton Special Agent in the darkness of our bedroom and be sorely afraid.

We also used to listen to Pick of the Pops and started to get in touch with popular culture which our family life starved us of. But there was one element that silently imprinted itself on my imagination and that was the cities listed as stations on the dial. They sounded distant, exciting and unreachable. They challenged the sense of myself constrained by the shackles of a small, East Midlands village

For some reason, the cities of Zaragoza and Zagreb spoke to me particularly. I certainly hadn’t a clue where they were and, now I think about it, not much impetus to find out. They existed as distant, future but exciting escapes from my provincial prison. Quite by accident, these chiming words from my past led me to pick up the philosophical work of Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra which turned out to be seminal for my development. In it, Nietzsche states that “God is dead” and that Christianity is decadent and leads mankind into a slave morality concerned with the next life rather than this. My reading of Karl Marx was leading me down a similar path if I really needed leading.

To think that I may visit Zaragoza next year seems to complete a circle of development that will urge me on to visit Zagreb. I realise now that it is in Croatia which is somewhere we have been intending to visit for some time. Having sailed up and down the Croatian coast so many times for years en route to Greece, it would be good to visit and spend some time there.

Thursday, 15th August, 2019

I apologise in advance for the nonsensical religiosity of this entry but today is a big one in Greece. It is colloquially known as the Summer Easter. In the rapidly declining Roman Catholic world, it is known as the Assumption of Mary. In Greece, it is known as the Dormition of Virgin Mary. I always thought of it as Choc.Ice Day.

View from high above Agios Symeon
Map of Sifnos

Our house on Sifnos was built just above Agia Marina and high above us on the mountain was the monastery of Agios Symeon. On this day every year pilgrims – which means huge numbers of islanders and tourists – would drive/walk past our house and on up to the monastery for the Festival celebrations. I always wanted Pauline to stand at our gate with bottles of water and a tray of Choc Ices to capitalise on this deluded nonsense. We could have made a fortune.

The map of Sifnos still features on our hall wall and it holds great affection for us. However, doesn’t this tradition of small world introspection, of old world ritual and tradition illustrate the yawning gap between us and that goldfish bowl world we left behind. It hurts me to say and even think it but, even when we were there, we would hold our breath and allow these things to pass us by rather than getting involved and criticising as I would in UK. The Tsipras government has made a concerted effort to loosen the Greek institutions’ attachment to the Orthodox submission – sorry, religion – but there is a long way to go.

Friday, 16th August, 2019

Warm but overcast day. We were out by 9.00 am driving down to the fisherman’s hut on the Marina.

Looking for Fish on Littlehampton Marina

We wanted a joint of sword fish. It produces 8 big slices for about £40.00. It was waiting for us when we arrived.  Wonderful quality for a reasonable price.

Swordfish with homegrown Peppers & Tomatoes

We did our daily trip to the Health Club for a couple of hours work and then came home for a lovely meal of roast cod loin with salad. Unfortunately, the Test Match was stopped for rain and the rain soon appeared over Sussex shortly after 4.00 pm.. It’s Friday so the workers will already be celebrating.

Saturday, 17th August, 2019

Busy day although we didn’t get up until nearly 7.00 am.. My job this morning was picking tomatoes from our patio plants, harvesting Tarragon, Thyme and Sage and then washing, stripping, chopping and freezing them for the winter use. Ought to be good fun but immensely back breaking and fiddly. The plants will produce one more cutting before the Winter. While I was doing that, Pauline was upstairs in the ironing-room getting clothes ready for our upcoming trip. I finished the morning by vacuuming the house.

Sage & Thyme with Tarragon to come.

Of to the Health Club for what turned out to be a really enjoyable session and then home for roast salmon and salad and the test match followed by Man. City v Spurs which ended in a 2-2 draw because of the video referee spotting a handball. Excellent.

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