Week 451

Sunday, 13th August, 2017

Glorious day of warmth and bright sunshine. Had intended to go to the Health Club but the garden was too enticing. We spent the morning in the sunshine reading papers and discussing future plans. Particularly, today, we are discussing garden development.

We intend to have some hard landscaping done to extend and widen the patio  walkways and cut down on the lawn which looks nice but doesn’t get used. We want to take advantage of the climate down here and plant some fruit trees that we couldn’t grow in Yorkshire. Particularly, we are thinking of plum, cherry and peach. We want smaller, controlled trees that don’t require ladders to maintain. Fruit trees come on a huge variety of root stocks for that very purpose. ‘Pixy’ rootstock confines the tree’s growth to 6Ft – 8ft which will be plenty for our garden. We think they should do well here. certainly, the figs are fruiting and the olive tree, slightly unbelievably, is also producing masses of fruit. Whether they come to maturity is still to be seen but it’s a start!

Monday, 14th August, 2017

Lovely, sunny and warm morning. I have been doing some research on my home village of Repton in the East Midlands. In shoring up my memories of my past, my website is being prepared to store historical photographic records of Repton which will be allied to a presentation of the Sanders Family History for which we will be eternally grateful to cousin David. I hope to complete this in the next few days so that I can push ahead with Pauline’s family tree before we go away to Greece.

Talking of Greece, our garden here is fragrant with the smell of fig trees which anyone who has lived with them in the Med. would recognise immediately. Suddenly, the Brown Turkey is producing lots of fruitlets. The Rouge de Bordeaux is only just beginning to produce fruit buds. The smell of the figs today is mixing with the smell of griddled courgette slices. We do so much cooking outside that I ordered a more commercial griddle unit (£200.00/€220.00) and had a power unit installed on the garage wall outside. Today the griddle arrived and we have used it to cook vegetables and salmon. It is excellent for the job but very heavy to carry when I move it to store in the garage.

Tuesday, 15th August, 2017

On the day when the Meteorological Office (UK) told us that the south east of England had experienced its coldest first half of August for 30 years, the temperature reached 25C/77F in lovely, strong sun from delightful, blue skies. I’m sure you will be excited to read that I had a ‘free’ haircut by my wife. I still haven’t paid for a haircut since 1969 and must work out how much I’ve saved in that time.

I cut the lawns and then we went to the Health Club after three days away from it. It’s amazing how much easier exercising is after a few ‘rest’ days. Unfortunately, the better weather brought out the crowds and we were unable to swim outside so it is a two-edged sword. Even so, we felt much better after it. Pauline griddled chicken outside which we ate with salad.

Argassi, Zakynthos 36 years on.

It is 36 years ago this month that our Greek sojourn began with a 3 week holiday on the quiet, under-developed, Ionian island of Zakythnos. In those days, it didn’t have an airport and we flew to Athens and then took a bus to the Peloponnese port of Kylini where we went by ferry to the island. We stayed in a house in Argassi which was a quiet village with two restaurants and a roadside fruit shop. It was our first holiday together, our first time flying and our first time in hot sun. For a couple of days we hated it and wondered how we would survive three weeks. By the end, we didn’t want to go home.

We have spent time in Greece every year since then. I don’t think we will be going back to the now party island, Zakythnos. Anyway, this summer, it is on fire. The authorities have declared a State of Emergency with over 20 serious wild fires breaking out and destroying acres of woodland. As usual, the government minister has declared it to be deliberate arson. Usually, this accusation is accompanied by the theory that developers want to clear designated ‘forest’ for development. The current state of the economy rather belies that and furious islanders have refuted it. The government are rapidly rowing back from these words.

Wednesday, 16th August, 2017

Up and out early this morning. Pauline had a 9.00 am appointment at the Beauty Parlour in Rustington for a facial and neck massage. I can’t think of anything worse but she likes it.

It was a lovely, sunny and warm (22C/70F) day with just a hint of breeze. We got home to drink coffee in the sunshine in the garden. Out to the Health Club for a couple of hours including a successful swim outside in the sunshine.

This evening, we were watching an emotional programme called Long Lost Family where people who have failed to find missing members of the family enlist the help of the professionals. So often it is people who were given up for adoption and are looking for some sense of connection. Usually, it has dominated their lives – the sense of not belonging, of not knowing their origin and a sense of rejection. Finding a relative usually releases a great flood of emotion that has been largely contained all their lives.

The surroundings of Helme Village.

In the programme tonight, a fresh faced man was looking desperately for his Father who he had never met or even seen a picture of. As he was interviewed, my mind kept telling me that his face was familiar. I still don’t know why even now but it soon became apparent that he was from the small, Yorkshire hamlet in the Green Belt on the Pennines where we had lived for years. We lived in Helme village for nearly 20 years and he had been a lad growing up there. For a while our memories rehearsed those years. We left in 2000. So much has happened since then mostly for the better. We feel so lucky when we wake each day and embrace the future.

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Week 450

Sunday, 6th August, 2017

How many people do you know who have maintained a Diary for 450 consecutive weeks? Nor me. Sheer madness!

I’m afraid that today is a low news day or was until late afternoon. It was quite delightful, Summer weather with warm sunshine across our garden all day. I wasn’t there. I sat in the Lounge reading the newspaper and watching the Test Match which, weather permitting, England should win easily. I also watched a bit of the Charity Shield – Arsenal v Chelsea but got rather bored.

I went outside and the Pop Festival a couple of miles away could be heard, faintly, struggling across the fields and through a new housing development. Much more excitingly, I found the two sticks I had bought back in May were starting to produce fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in May – just 3 months ago – I received by mail order two, green sticks which I was told were two, different varieties of fig. I potted them up and just kept them fed and watered. Now, they are about 3 feet tall and, today, I noticed the first budding fruits which should ripen for picking next year. I told you that I would keep you informed and I will continue to do so. We were also given what I thought was an ‘ornamental’ olive tree. It is now covered in olives and they are swelling rapidly. I have high hopes of them.

I hope I live to see my wife making  and marketing her famous fig jam as well as cold press, West Sussex olive oil. I will give a free jar/bottle to the first reader to request it around 2020.

Monday, 7th August, 2017

Today is a lovely, warm-not-hot (22C/70F) and everywhere looks ‘Summery’. It is a day to appreciate being alive whatever one’s age. Of course, old men are more inclined to dwell on this than the young but such is life. Had a lovely morning with the cricket which ended this afternoon in England concluding a Series win over the South Africans at Old Trafford.

Sisters Janey & Florrie

We did our own workout at the Health Club which gives me other reasons to reminisce. Do you see familiar faces from the past in those around you in the present? I am always walking past someone and, tugging Pauline’s arm, I whisper, That’s John Jones or whoever. Usually, it is someone who exhibits a few characteristics of a person from my past – their walking style, their figure or their face.  In the last few days, Pauline and I have both independently seen a woman walking around the Health Club pool and, as we’ve left, said, I saw Auntie Florrie this afternoon.

Florrie (born 1906) was Pauline’s Mum’s sister. She died in 1995 aged 89. An impressive woman who had come through a hard life with tenacity and inner strength, she walked with a ramrod straight back and sense of real deportment.  She spoke with a broad, Lancashire accent until she answered the phone, at which point, she became the Queen.The woman in the Health Club was the spitting image – almost too alike to be comfortable. I had to fight back the urge to ask her if she was called Florence!

Tuesday, 8th August, 2017

The Summer continued with warm rain. We enjoyed a morning mooching and indulging ourselves as if we had been given an unexpected day off work. I was working on the pages of my website which had been giving me trouble for a couple of months. I am a natural prevaricator and have put off addressing the software problems thrown up by a ten year old, school copy of Macromedia Dreamweaver which I had been using at work and which I brought away with me when I retired in 2009. It is the same with most of my software. I haven’t really felt the need to update Ms Office 2010 or Adobe Acrobat 8.1 because it still does the limited jobs I require.

I love the web design package provided by Dreamweaver which I combine with Fireworks, the image manipulation software. Dreamweaver incorporates an FTP client which makes it all so handy. Unfortunately, it is that element which has stopped working and I’ve had to download a separate software facility to do the job. This is annoying and clumsy but effective.

Wednesday, 9th August, 2017

Two days ago, I wrote about Pauline’s Auntie Florrie who died over 20 years ago aged 89. Today, we have learned of the sad death of her daughter, Vivienne, who had been trying to assert life over cancer for the past few months. She died last night aged 74. We send our sincerest condolences to Richard and the family.

In years gone by, 74 would have been talked about as a ‘good age’ to achieve. Nowadays, it feels unacceptably young. And yet, Vivienne had cheated cancer once before many years ago and gone on to live a very happy life. Only days ago, she returned from her final holiday abroad. It was a last act of defiance. Let’s hope we all have that chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The black & white photo above is Vivienne with a dribbling Pauline some 64 years ago. It was taken in the back garden of their house in Holly Lane, Hollins, Oldham. Pauline took me back there last year.

Thursday, 10th August, 2017

Well, it is beginning to look a lot like Autumn has arrived in the first half of August. Lots of rain and cool temperatures are not what we expect. The change seemed to coincide with the start of the school holidays. Farmers are starting to worry about harvesting crops because they need a settled period of dry weather to raise the quality of their produce. Mother Nature, however, just steams on and the blackberries at the side of the railway track running down the side of Tesco’s carpark in Littlehampton are already swelling in size and turning a juicy black.

We’ve spent another couple of hours in a quiet Health Club. We had thought that school holidays would see lots of kids turning up with harassed parents but quite the reverse. They must have all gone on holiday. We are really glad that we chose to go abroad either side of the school holidays. There are real benefits to being retired!

Friday, 11th August, 2017

A pleasantly warm morning but not high summer. We are going to the North to attend a funeral but also to visit Mum’s grave in time for her birthday. She would be 94 a week on Tuesday. We are going to stay in Haydock for a couple of days. Never been there before. May never go there again but it will be interesting for a couple of days. I suspect it will contrast starkly with Athens where we are heading very soon.

A trip to Sainsbury’s today continued the Autumnal theme first identified in Tesco yesterday. The hedge around Sainsbury’s was fecund with ripening elderberries. The birds are certainly going to get fat or diarrhetic on the bounty. We, on the other hand, are continually trying to fight the fat with exercise. We did another couple of hours at the Health Club today. It was our 6th session in 7 days and we were beginning to feel it by the end. Probably have tomorrow off.

Saturday, 12th August, 2017

Congratulations to Jane & David on 40 years of marriage. Pauline tells me that it is a Ruby Wedding celebration. Good luck with that!

At least they will be able to celebrate by watching the football. Last night was the opening of the new, Premier League season with a great game which Arsenal narrowly squeaked over Leicester City and there are more games today, tomorrow and Monday. Pauline will banish me to watch in the Office. After the football, Jane & David can lie back in their garden up in Yorkshire tonight and watch the Perseid Meteor Shower if they don’t die from hyperthermia first!

Just for Jane, Huddersfield won 3.0 and are top of the Premier League. I never doubted it.

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Week 449

Sunday, 30th July, 2017

A sunny day which looked warmer than it felt because of quite a strong breeze. The morning was spent in quiet contemplation aka reading the papers. The afternoon was a two and a half hours at the Health Club in the gym and the outdoor pool. We both felt really good at the end of it.

Congratulations to my little brother, Bob who (I understand) is celebrating 40 years of marriage to a cook. As I’m in my 39th year of marriage to a cook, I can no longer use that as an excuse for being overweight.  I’m also ashamed to admit that I haven’t a clue where this was taking place. It was 1977 and I don’t think I was there. I was probably, very sensibly, left off the guest list.

Bob and I shared a bedroom for 18 very formative years. I was there when he bought his first pair of Levi Jeans. They were so  stiff, he stood them up by themselves in the bedroom. I seem to remember him soaking them in the bath for a week while he was wearing them!  While I was twittering out Cat Stevens songs, Bob was listening to John Mayall & the Blues Breakers. While he was taking things apart and rebuilding them, I hadn’t learnt to change a plug. Of course, I had anticipated the future where plugs never needed changing.  Not sure what’s happened to Bob’s feet. I have a horrible feeling that I don’t really know him at all.

Monday, 31st July, 2017

A really pleasant day of sunshine and warmth as the breeze disappeared. I was feeling a bit under the weather this morning. I had a couple of dizzy spells and found that my pulse had dropped to 40 bpm. My blood pressure was lowish – 107/64 – and I was feeling a little ‘otherworldly’. You might say: No change there then! As a result, I spent the morning sitting down trying to solve an FTP problem I have with a website.

I had the Test Match on in the background. I have a television on the wall in the Office. Suddenly, the background came very much to the fore as England began to make the break through. Soon, I forgot my health and was rooting for Moeen Ali as he approached the moment, on a hat-trick, when a third wicket would win the Test and the series for England. A sublime moment in any players career, Moeen bowled and the team claimed LBW only to be denied by the umpire. They appealed and Moeen, England and History was not to be denied.  It was a life giving moment.

So revived, we set off for the gym and did our routine for the third consecutive day without a hitch. Really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 1st August, 2017

Hello August

Happy August 2017 to all our readers. Life could be a lot worse. Brexit could already have happened! Remember, there’s still all to play for.

August has been welcomed in with such a wonderful day that we forgot the gym and sat in the garden sipping chilled, white wine. Sometimes, you just have to let go and indulge yourself and this was one of those occasions. The peace and quiet, the warm, windless sunshine and the green grass made it a day to remember.

We did find time to trim the hedges which has made them look better and more looked after. We understand that tomorrow could be wet so today was a good one to enjoy. On Thursday, I must mow the lawns and feed the plants but today is for enjoyment.

Wednesday, 2nd August, 2017

Well, I’m certainly glad we took full advantage of yesterday’s lovely weather because today has turned windy with heavy rain and 19C/66F. So much for August!

I’ve had a chance today to review Greek news. You will probably be aware that the government – under European direction – is trying to get to grips with forcing Greeks to pay their taxes. To that end, they are attempting to assert central control and oversight by moving all payments to electronic/plastic (POS) point of sale machines. The deadline passed a couple of days ago for businesses from lawyers to plumbers to request and adopt these machines and start using them. In this command economy, failure to do so will attract a large fine. The Greeks are, however, highly experienced in getting round such measures. They applied for machines, did one transaction and then go back to ‘cheaper’ cash in hand style business.

In this way, the rich get richer by avoiding tax and the poor are able to make their meagre finances eke out a little better and none can see that, ultimately, it is their country that will bump along the bottom of the debtor’s prison cell in perpetuity. The state of the country’s economy has impacted heavily on wages and salaries in Greece’s private sector. They are shockingly low especially when one takes into consideration the cost of living in the country. Many are surviving on €500.00/£440.00 per month. You can bet Stavros is taking full advantage of that.

Not a surprise, therefore, that more than 50% of Greeks cannot afford a week’s holiday according to data from the EU statistics agency, Eurostat. Due to the economic crisis, 53.6% of Greeks either take no holiday during the year, or have to settle for less than a week. Statistics place Greece near the bottom of the list. Romanians are in the most difficult position with 66.6% saying that they cannot afford a holiday. They are followed by Croats with 62.8%, Bulgarians with 56.4% and Greeks. Ironically, it is Romanian and Bulgarian workers who are most likely to work in the Greek island and drive down Greek wages.

Thursday, 3rd August, 2017

A very blustery and cool day – just 19C/66F again. We are expecting guests for the weekend so make an early trip out to do all the shopping. Four supermarket visits later, we are just walking out of Tesco when all hell breaks loose. As we walk through the doors, flashing lights start accompanied by sirens blaring and, as we walk towards our car, a voice shouting, Excuse me, Sir. A man in uniform was moving swiftly towards us. He said we’d set off the alarms and had we got anything we hadn’t paid for? We hadn’t although we had been doing ‘Self-Scan’.

The Scene of the Crime!

He asked us if we had any joints of meat. We hadn’t. We volunteered that we had two sides of salmon costing £33.50/€37.10 and he immediately said that would be it. We showed him our till receipt and he went into effusive apology mode. Apparently, they have been having lots of thefts of high value meat and fish and an invisible, electronic security marker should have been automatically removed when we scanned it in but the process failed thus setting off the alarm. I think he was more embarrassed than we were.

As we walked on to the car, we received a call to our mobile. It was upsetting news. Pauline’s family had received sad information and our guests now couldn’t come for the weekend and have to make an emergency dash to the North of England instead. Although the news wasn’t totally unexpected, it was still a shock and hard to accept.

We went to the gym to absolve ourselves of the crime in Tesco. Two hours later, we feel better and come home to eat our ‘stolen’ salmon. It tasted so good!

Friday, 4th August, 2017

Cool but dry and sunny with the wind going down here in West Sussex while temperatures across Southern Europe are continuing to be uncomfortably hot. Even the Skiathan would be struggling now. Heat in Greece? Who would have thought it? The hottest we experienced was 43C/109.4F and that was in Piraeus where I nearly gave up the will to live. Apparently, the record for Southern Europe stands at 48C/118.4 and our Met. Office say that, after an extended hot period, the record could be challenged although more likely in Italy than Greece. Half the day up to your neck in sea water followed by the other half under air-conditioning is the survival mode we adopted. Thank goodness we are not in Florence now.

We’ve booked the carpark at Gatwick for our flights to/from Athens and paid the remainder for our month in Gran Canaria. When we started going to Greece, in the late 70s/early 80’s, we budgeted for £20.00/€22.00 per day expenditure. plus flights and hotel. Exactly 30 years ago this month, return flight to Athens from Manchester for two of us cost £153.00/€173.00 and two weeks at Hotel Kamari cost £109.00/€121.00 for a double room. After we’d factored in taxis to the airport in Manchester and home and then down to Piraeus and back plus Duty Frees, we did the whole thing for around £600.00/€665.00 per fortnight. We would do 2 weeks June-July and return for 2 weeks in August for around £1,200.00/€1,330.00. Today, a month in Gran Canaria cost £5,500.00/€6,100.00. Of course, it is not comparing like with like. Our first years in Greece were budget in every way. Our month in Gran Canaria is 5* all-inclusive but that is what aging earns.

Saturday, 5th August, 2017

A lovely, warm and sunny day. I did my house jobs – unstacking the dishwasher, hoovering the house and then felt free to watch the Test Match. It was very enjoyable and I was really absorbed until early afternoon went we went to the Health Club. An hour in the gym followed by 30 mins swimming in the sunshine outside and then 30 mins in the Spa. Felt great as we drove home to watch the rest of the cricket as South Africa collapsed and the first football match of the new season – a draw between Aston Villa v Hull.

Although we are not really aware of it, our village is being invaded this weekend by 8000 ‘music’ lovers for the annual pop concert known as Music Mania. It has been going for the past 7 years and is hosted by the local rugby club. They say they have capacity for 8000 people per day and a two day pass costs £60.00/€66.50. It is not our sort of thing but we don’t condemn it. It is a nicely, quirky thing to do.

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Week 448

Sunday, 23rd July, 2017

Lovely, warm and sunny morning which lasted until 2.00 pm when the cloud came over and gave us a short, sharp shower. Since then, it’s been alternate bright/wet. Back home after three weeks on the road, we have been enjoying playing house. My Sifnos friend, Martin, is also enjoying his new house – the first he has bought for many years. We are so pleased for him.

Houses are so often milestones in one’s life with lots of emotional baggage stored in them. We have lived in 8 different properties together not to mention those we lived in before we met. We retired in April 2009 and put our Yorkshire home on the market. It took a year to sell. It was 7 years ago this month that we returned to our Greek home having completed the sale of our house in Yorkshire. That time has flown by even though a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. We suffered the loss of Pauline’s Mum, moved between 4 more properties and sold our Greek home, finally settling in West Sussex.

Our neighbours in Yorkshire were really lovely people who helped us enormously. They owned a property in Spain and drove there each year as we were setting off on our drive to Greece. Sometime next year, we are considering a drive to Spain and hope to tap our neighbours’ experience to help us. How much of Europe can we drive round before they abolish it? Will there be a long transition period? Will we still be welcome after the Tory’s underwhelming offers to EU members currently resident in UK? We must make the most of the available time!

Monday, 24th July, 2017

Pleasantly warm and mainly sunny today, We have pottered rather than been dynamic. Think we are still coming down from our 2000 mile trip over the past three weeks. We did a trip to Honda to book a service. The car will go in tomorrow morning before we restart at the Health Club.

I did a quick check through the Blog on this day over the past few years. Only 8 years ago, we had just retired and were in our Greek home. More interesting than that was the fact that we were still placing an order for The Times newspaper which we got a day late from the island newsagent. Haven’t read an actual newspaper for so many years now. Three years and three days ago we arrived back from our last trip to Sifnos and got on with our lives. Soon we will return to Greece but flying rather than driving.

Tuesday, 25th July, 2017

The drive to and from Greece always left us needing a day or two to recover. Of course, latterly, there was six months to recover each way. Certainly, as we get older, we seem to take a little longer to get back to peak energy. After three weeks and 2000 miles driving plus miles and miles of walking around hot and noisy French and Italian towns, it has taken us four days to feel ready to go back to the gym. It is almost four weeks since we did our exercise program here. Before that, I mowed the lawns and valeted the car.

We drove to our Health Club and got stuck in to the gym work. I must admit, I didn’t find it as comfortable as I would hope. Still we pushed ourselves through 40 mins on the treadmill and 20 mins on the bike. We didn’t do any weights but moved out to swim.

Our Club has three pools – two indoors and an outdoor one which is heated all year round. That’s where we like to swim. While we were away, this outdoor pool was completely refurbished including being retiled. This afternoon, under 22C/70F of warm sunshine, we loved doing a 30 mins swim. The session is ended with half an hour in the Jacuzzi, Water Massage and Sauna followed by shower and home.

However, I have got in to the habit of stepping on the scales as I’m walking out of the changing room to leave. We ate well on our European Tour including Breakfasts in many hotels. I spent the time feeling absolutely ‘stuffed’. Of course, we did plenty of walking but I felt sure I had put on weight. When I weighed myself this afternoon, I found I had lost 4lbs/1.8 kgs. Let the Brexiteers take not – Europe helps you lose weight.

Wednesday, 26th July, 2017

The day turned wet by 9.00 am and continued that way until mid day. I don’t think the temperature got above 20C/68F all day. It did dry up in time for us to go to the Health Club for a couple of hours including a swim outdoors but it was never really ‘summer weather’.

Having spent the past three weeks driving and staying across Europe, we took a large stash of euros which we had forward bought months ago. I got a rate of £1.00 = €1.20. Currently, people are getting less than £1.00 = €1.00 from FX sellers. However, we did pay tolls, petrol and a few other things with credit card where it was easier. Our on-line account retells our travels and lists many ‘non-sterling transaction’ charges. Imagine our thoughts when we received a mobile call from our bank’s FX Fraud Department. Of course, it was a scam call and we didn’t give any information away. I immediately searched their number on-line and many people had reported the same scam in the past month. It doesn’t half make you feel vulnerable initially.

The Greek Government and Press routinely trumpet their confident expectation of big increases in tourism and so often they turn out to be vacuous claims. This year, the exchange rate is harming all European tourism and, it turns out, to Greece in particular. Kathimerini reported yesterday that international visitors to Greece have not met expectations in the first half of this year. Arrivals from the United States fell 18.2 % and receipts from US tourists shrank by a remarkable 30.8 %. It also appears from my research that eastern Europe – Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine – are increasingly holidaying in the Greek Islands and they, traditionally, have less disposable income than Western European travellers.

Thursday, 27th July, 2017

Interesting day but not a Summer’s one. The temperature got no higher than 20C/68F with light sunshine and some light rain. We did our weekly shop at Tesco and Sainsbury’s and then went to Worthing to see the pier. It was our first time and probably our last. We walked the full length and then drove home. It is a perfectly respectable pier and all around it are the holiday makers fun-fare offerings. The pier itself had lots of fishermen casting their hopeful lines. The pier is quite short and doesn’t take much walking. It does have a nice tea room and restaurant but little else.

Worthing really is a holiday town. People really do come just for a holiday. I find it hard to believe but there is a Summer season here. Everywhere one walks there is the smell of frying fish. The sensation makes one quite nauseous although the queues food are long.

We bought swordfish and tuna steaks plus cod loins for our freezer. Today we had roasted cod loin with a herb crust and accompanied by tomato and cucumber salad. It was wonderful and not something you would find on the menus of Worthing emporiums.

Friday, 28th July, 2017

Rustington (village) Town Centre

We went on a drive around Rustington ‘town’ which is small enough to be a big village, down to Littlehampton Marina and along the coast towards the Goring Fisherman’s beach shack. Everywhere was really busy. It is quite a shock to realise that this area is absolutely still a popular tourist destination.

When I first contemplated retirement, I thought it would be a time to enjoy watching cricket. Then we spent our Summers in our Greek home where few people had even heard of cricket never mind received on their television channels. Today was damp and warm in alternating cycles but weather at the Kennington Oval was perfect for England’s bowlers to destroy the South Africa batting and I had time to watch it.

Ben Stokes’ batting was an absolute joy and his 112 laid the platform for a young, England bowler I knew nothing about at all. Toby Roland-Jones took 4 wickets in his first bowl for England and the South Africans were left 227 runs behind with 2 wickets remaining. England will have to enforce the follow on and finish them off completely. They will never have a better opportunity.

Saturday, 28th July, 2017

Happy Birthday to my old sister, Jane BG. I posted this card on Faceache this morning.

She is a committed European and, like me, an ardent ‘Remainer’. She even bought the hat!

Pauline & I have been married for 38 years and we almost never argue. We do bicker a bit but nothing ever worth remarking on. However, Dear Reader, I must tell you that I assaulted my wife last night for the first time ever. She yelled when I hit her and that woke me up. I never dream and, if I do, I never remember it but, when Pauline woke me up last night, it was because I had punched her in the left buttock. Fortunately, she has plenty of padding there but it was a shock to me. I thought I had been punching a politician under a desk ( Don’t ask.) at that moment and I was putting some force in to it. Pauline is walking a bit strangely this morning and I am using the other hand to pick up my coffee. Otherwise, everything goes on normally.

Do you follow Symi Dream? I’ve been reading this blog for a long time but my Norton Security software has started blocking the site in the past few days. I can’t quite make out why but would be interested to hear from others.

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Week 447

Sunday, 16th July, 2017

Old fashioned Bellinzona

A lazy morning of newspapers and breakfast in Bologna and then an enjoyable drive into Switzerland. The Milan ring road which is normally a violent beast of a road was lovely while all those vile Italians were still at mass worshipping false idols. We reached our hotel in Bellinzona just in time to watch the start of the rather one-sided Wimbledon Men’s final. I was also able to watch a re-run of Hamilton’s brilliant win in the British Grand Prix.

Tomorrow, we are on to a lovely hotel in Mulhouse at the start of the Alsace Wine Route although we won’t be following it. Just one night there and then on to Reims.

Monday, 17th July, 2017

Up early this morning in our least favourite hotel on the trip. It is anonymous and has virtually no upfront staff. Check-in was by computer screen. Room was allocated and payment taken via the computer screen. A room barcode was printed out like a sales receipt and then used to access the lift and the room door. Checkout was by computer screen. Only breakfast was provided by people. We won’t use that again.

By 10.30 am, we are on the road out of Switzerland and into Alsace. This journey takes us round Lake Lucerne and through Basel. We are staying in The Holiday Inn, Mulhouse. We have stayed there many times over the past 20 years and really like it. The drive was in beautiful sunshine apart from going through the Ghotthard and the Seelisberg Tunnels. After the San Gotthard (17 km) Tunnel, we stop at our regular service station for a ‘comfort break’. The temperature started off as 25C/77F, fell to 19C/66F in the peak alps and then rose up to 31C/88F in Alsace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We check-in an hour early and unpack. After a cup of tea, we go down to the pool and swim for 45 mins. It is a lovely and really liberating. We will read the paper and then go down to the renowned fish restaurant for Dinner.

Tuesday, 18th July, 2017

Rue Buirette, Reims Centre

We have a 4.5 hr drive today out of Alsace, through Champagne country and in to Reims. It is incredibly hot from the outset and gets hotter. At 8.00 am, it reads 25C and 33C by mid-afternoon. The sky is clear blue and the sun strong. The drive, which is an 130 kph/80 mph cruise most of the time, is quiet and enjoyable. Much of it is on long stretches of perfect tarmac without a vehicle in sight.

After 4.5 hrs driving along the A35 through Colmar and Strasbourg and the A4 through Metz and Epernay in Champagne country, we have arrived in Reims at the Hotel de la Paix on this, beautiful street of Rue Buirette, Reims Centre. The hotel is lovely with a pool and a gym. Our room is gorgeous and very relaxing. The internet is strong and useful. The garage is spacious and safe. We have stayed here many times in the past and, because of that get an upgraded room for loyalty.

We have a dining table in our suite and our meal for today is tomato & cucumber salad (made by Pauline) with couscous & French Stick (for Pauline), Taramasalata (for me), large prawns in their shells and some Époisses de Bourgogne  cheese. Now we are listening to the 5.00 pm news programme on BBC Radio 4 at 6.00 pm (CET) and reading The Times. It will be an early night before we do the last European leg to Coquelles tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19th July, 2017

Up fairly early and the temperature at 7.00 pm was just 19C/66F. By the time we left our hotel at 9.30 pm, it was 25C/77F. As we drove through Saint Quentin, Arras, Bethune, St Omer, the temperature hit 30C/86F but had crashed to 24C/75F by the time we parked up at our hotel in Coquelles around 1.00 pm.

After checking in, we drove over to the Calais Wine Store that we use and found the area swarming with illegal migrants looking for lorries to stow away on. The French police were touring the area to deter them but not detain or arrest them. This allows a lawless atmosphere in which economic adventurers roam free and without fear of reprisals. They are clearly emboldened and take more and more risks in their obvious intent which is to live on the golden streets of Britain. Every one out this morning is black, male and aged 18 – 25 years. The summer months are building a new migrant wave from Libya, Turkey through Italy and Greece and on to the rest of Europe. The port of Bari in southern Italy received 1500 migrants on boats from Libya last weekend.

This cannot go on. Hardly any – around 20 – were from Syria. So many were young men from Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh and Ivory Coast. One is inclined to ascribe economic rather refugee status to the majority. Whatever the past sins of colonial European countries, allowing bands of lawless and marauding young men from the African and Asian continents to roam the continent of Europe cannot be permitted nor can the charities be given free reign, over the heads of national governments, to make it easy for them to arrive.

Thursday, 20th July, 2017

Up early – 6.00 am CET/5.00 am GMT and had a couple of hours reading the papers and watching Sky News. Check-out and re-pack the car and then off to Cite Europe for some final shopping before driving down to the Tunnel. We are a couple of hours early and request an earlier train. There is one in 30 mins which will cost us an extra €90.00/£80.00 in 40 mins which will be a ‘free’ transfer. We go for the latter only to find we are on the former train anyway thus saving €90.00/£80.00.

Back in UK, we drive off the train but are soon in a jam on the M20 which has 5 mile queues because of a lorry fire. Out of that, the drive home is familiar and lovely. As we approach our ‘home’ village, we noticeably relax and breathe out. We have completed 2065 miles. There is no contradiction that it is nice to go travelling but it is oh so nice to come home even if we have only lived there for twelve months.

The post of three weeks was piled up in the Hallway as we opened the front door and turned off the burglar alarm. The cases and bags of dirty clothing were unloaded. Cases of wine were moved into the garage, We got back into the car and drove to Sainsburys to buy milk and salad for our meal.

Friday, 21st July, 2017

To all the workers across the country, it is that Friday feeling. To us it is enjoying our home with fresh eyes of returnees. The weather is warm and sunny. We did a Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda shop. I mowed the lawns front and back, strimmed the edges, fed and watered the pot plants – all the herbs are really bushy and full. The day was so delightful that we cooked outside – griddled  tuna steaks with salad in the sunshine. Lovely!

Tourists desperate to leave Greece.

In the 1990s, we became rather disenchanted with Sifnos and Hotel Kamari. We started to travel to leave the Cyclades and try out the Dodecanese instead. We went to Symi, to Kos, Rhodes, Nysiros and hoped to move on to Tilos. Today, they have been hit by an earthquake of 6.6 Richter Scale and many, many unsettling aftershocks. Tourists are dead, seriously injured, sleeping outside on the grass for fear of falling buildings. Large numbers of tourists grabbed their belongings and headed straight for the airport in a desperate bid to get out of Greece before another quake hits them. As they move to peak tourist weeks, this is not what the country needed.

Saturday, 22nd July, 2017

We are still living in CET. Getting up at 7.00 am felt incredibly late. The sun was streaming through the bedroom blinds and the house was feeling hot. Our herbs were automatically watered while we were away and responded very well. This weekend, Pauline will harvest and freeze most. The basil will be turned straight into pesto. Most of the tarragon will frozen but some will be mixed with Dijon Mustard. I’d never done this before but were served it in Bologna and loved it. It goes beautifully with fish and chicken. I’m currently obsessed with pesto and I feel a tarragon-mustard obsession arriving to rival it.

Having spent the past few weeks driving, our next and imminent trip is flying to Greece. Although I prefer to be under my own steam with our own car, it is good to soften the inconvenience of flying with extra comfort at the airport. We have airport lounge membership with Priority Pass through our bank account. The benefits include food and alcohol and good wi-fi which, whenever free, should not be sneezed at but, mainly, it is a comfortable and civilised place to sit in relative peace and quiet. Our new membership cards arrived while we were away. They take us up until July 2020. I will be 69 when the new ones arrive. I can’t believe it!

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Week 446

Sunday, 9th July, 2017

Pauline checking out the hotel’s shuttle service.

Wonderful sleep in this lovely, port-side hotel. Enjoyable and relaxed breakfast followed by a good read of The Sunday Times. Out for a long walk into the old town. It is so hot and humid that walking isn’t easy. It is a mish -mash of old and very old architecture blending with the new-ish. One of the things that is immediately obvious is that the streets are full of Italian restaurants. Can you believe they would be so popular? As a working port, it has some of the grubbiness of Patras and Piraeus. It is certainly not as stylish as Ancona but, from our hotel room on the 7th Floor (with no cladding and two fire escapes!), it looks really interesting.

Lost in Translation!

You might think, in the light of recent events, that staying on the top (7th) floor would make us nervous but the view makes up for it all. The hotel clearly take the risk of fire very importantly as this notice outside the lifts illustrates. We are going to enjoy our penthouse view and sleep peacefully because tomorrow we drive to Lucca as we explore Tuscany. Our hotel there is about 15 mins walk to the train station from which we can travel to Pisa (about 20 mins) and Florence (about 70 mins) as well as Lucca itself.

Tomorrow will be the shortest we do – just 95 miles – and we will stay in Tuscany for 4 days. We hope to look around for long-term-let properties for future years. We want somewhere we can spend a couple or three summer months which has cooking, sleeping and internet facilities possibly with satellite TV which we can drive to comfortably for the next decade of retirement.

Monday, 10th July, 2017

The Tory government is on the ropes! May is begging the Opposition for help. Can you believe the brass neck? They are also prepared to put the status of UK nationals living abroad in jeopardy because they are not prepared to accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ over European citizens living in UK. This is the flailing of a failing party which is letting its leader waver in the wind.

The £ is falling again. It is currently £1.00 = €1.13 set against £1.00 = €1.43 three years ago tomorrow which marks the day we left Sifnos. Not a time to be buying European property now!

The centre of ancient Lucca.

We left Genoa at around 11.00 am in stifling heat and arrived at our hotel in Lucca in less than two hours. The temperature had reached 33C/92F but felt hotter because of the humidity. Our hotel is delightful and our room is lovely. The car is parked in the large carpark under a tree for shade. It will stay there for four days while we let the train take the strain!

We unpacked and, after a cup of tea, set out to do the 20 mins walk to the railway station. En route, we found a huge Co-op Supermarket. The train station is where we will come to go to Pisa and Firenze (Florence) over the next few days. We found that the trains are so frequent that we will just turn up and get the first one to arrive. They cost next to nothing as well.

On the walk back, we called at the supermarket to buy our meal. It always starts with cucumber and tomatoes followed by salami, roast ham and mortadella. Fresh peaches for sweet are wonderfully refreshing.

Tuesday, 11th July, 2017

It is 3 years today that we left Sifnos for the last time and drove to Patras as a prelude to driving back across Europe.

It is always a bit hit and miss choosing hotels on the internet. It is reasonably easy to make a mediocre place look wonderful with a little graphical technology. That is why I like to use the IHG chain because it is a fairly reliable guarantee of a reasonable if not luxurious standard right across the UK and Europe.  The hotel we are now in is an independent chain because there was no IHG available but it has turned out to be lovely. The carpark is huge and secure. The reception is pleasant and bi-lingual. The room is very clean, reasonable size, well appointed with good facilities – we have a safety deposit box. The wi-fi is strong and the breakfast was excellent. There is a small gym if we can cope with exercise after walking around the old town all day.

Birth place of Giacomo Puccini.

After breakfast, we went out to get things from the car. I had parked it under a tree for shade. Mistake – a bird had pooed all over the bonnet. It was trained to do that by Stavros’ sea gulls which have been range finding over his little boat. Over night, it had set hard like concrete and took me 15 minutes to remove with my cleaning solution. After coffee, we are off to the medieval, walled town centre of Lucca. It is only about a 20 mins walk away but it is very hot so we will take our time.

Did I say it was hot? As we entered the walled city, the temperature reached 39C/102F, It was high humidity and low air movement. In spite of that, we had a wonderful day. I even managed to visit Giacomo Puccini’s birth place. What joy!

After a couple of hours of sweaty walking, we stopped for a drink and a rest. A beer and a sparkling water – €8.40. Worse than Venice but enjoyable all the same. Then, we left the walled city and walked to the train station to buy tickets for tomorrow. We are going to Firenze (Florence) for a few hours. The return tickets are €34.00 for two return tickets.

We walked on further and called at the supermarket to buy salad, prawns, pressed carpaccio of octopus and tapenade. Back to our hotel for a much needed shower and some food before listening to the BBC PM programme. Big day tomorrow!

Wednesday, 12th July, 2017

Beauty before the bridge!

Up early this morning, breakfast and out to walk to the train station. Lucca to Firenze in 80 mins. The temperature is unrelenting at 36C/97F. We walk out of Firenze train station blinking into the strong sunshine. We have held visions of Florence – the Duomo, The Uffuzi, the Ponte Vecchio, etc. for many years. I’m afraid to say that, as we fought our way through the thousands of tourists, Florence didn’t really live up to its expectations.

The temperature precluded joining hours of queues outside the Duomo and the Uffizi. The Ponte Vecchio was tawdry and crowded. We opted for a beer in the shadow of the bridge. It was much more rewarding. We met a lovely couple from Wrexham and then went on to talk to a couple from Australia.

We walked back to the Firenze Statione through the beating sun and thronging crowds. The train leaves at 14.10 and is on time and busy. We got comfortable seats for the 80 mins journey and settled back to watch the tableau that is the Tuscan countryside.

Thursday, 13th July, 2017

The punishing schedule continues – more Breakfast. We can only just manage. Today we are going to Pisa which is only 30 mins away by train. Unfortunately, it is incredibly hot and humid. The temperature is 37C/99F but the humidity is so high that we are soaking wet before we even finish the 20 mins walk to the station. After a few days in the Tuscan cities, one becomes a little blasé about the architecture and Pisa continues the same theme although it is a little more gentle and civilised than Firenze and not so insular as Lucca.

Of course, we had to visit the Leaning Tower even though we constantly try to resist being tourists. There were hordes of Japanese (and one or two others) attempting the hands-supporting-the tower’s-incline cliched pose while hordes of partners photographed them. We took our photo, bought two bottles of iced water and slaked our thirst. Then, we left the hordes and walked into the Archbishops’ House grounds which were a haven of cobbled quiet.

From this cool, shady tranquility we walked back towards the train station. Three hours out in that heat was enough. We seem less tolerant of the extreme heat as we get older, I used to revel in heatwaves in Greece but it is too much for me now and we both seek out the shade and the air conditioned. I don’t drink enough water as it is and particularly in heat. I must try harder.

Tomorrow we drive to Bologna. We have driven past it 30 times in the past 20 years and always said that we must stop and visit. Tomorrow we will.  We are looking forward to it. Bologna is the food capital of Italy. It must be our spiritual home!

Friday, 14th July, 2017

We are sorry to leave Lucca and our lovely hotel even though thunder was rolling around the sky in 36C/97F at 11.00 am. We might return to explore the countryside rather than the towns. We took the A1 to Bologna. It’s only 100 miles and takes around 2 hrs. It is 130kph/81mph most of the way so I set my cruise control to 82mph in order to say I am not being controlled by the law.

We are staying in the Holiday Inn Express Fiera Bologna. We have stayed in sister hotels in Parma and Moderna. They are fantastic value for money. A night in a double room with breakfast, tea/coffee making facilities, a safety deposit box, a settee and TV, a small gym and a restaurant plus wonderful parking can be had for about €60.00. It is really good. Because I am an IHG Gold Card holder, our 2 night stay is free through points accrued. We also get a penthouse room overlooking the outskirts of Bologna. Tomorrow, we will leave the car in the carpark and take the bus to the centre of Bologna. We have driven past it 30 times in the past 20 years but now we have the chance to explore the food capital of Italy.

Saturday, 15th July, 2017

The Giuseppe Verdi Shopping Arcade

A lovely sleep followed by a lovely breakfast and out into a lovely morning. Everything is LOVELY. We set out from our hotel at about 10.00 am in 25C/77F and walked across the road to catch the bus into the centre of Bologna. We got off at the Train Station and, armed with a hotel map, we walked towards what we thought was the modern centre. WRONG! The map was so small we couldn’t read it and ended up in the centre of the old town which was full of spray paint graffiti on lovely old stone buildings.

After 15 days of continual sight-seeing, our legs are beginning to feel the pace. We found our way out of the old town and, after viewing the Giuseppe Verdi Opera House and offices of the Università di Bologna, we stopped for a beer (and a glass of water) to watch the world go by. This really is the best way to understand a city and its people. Forget the dignitaries and their buildings. Watch the people.
We have met some wonderful ones. Yesterday, it was a lovely girl (aged 21) from Bologna who had trained in hotel management in Portsmouth at great cost to her family in the hope of forging a career in the hospitality industry back home. Also, a wonderful young woman from Mongolia who had given up everything to go to a college in Manchester, live in Rusholme and learn four languages. A young, African-origin man, got on the bus and desperately struggled with his few English words to make sure we got off at the right stop for our hotel. These are life affirming but humbling events that go to the heart.

Tired and moist, with a temperature of 32C/90F, we return to our hotel on the bus. It has cost us €3.00/£2.60 each way (4 km) for two of us and been an absolute delight. Aren’t buses good fun? We haven’t been on one for years. Back at the hotel, a shower and change of clothes is an urgent task then we can settle down to reading the papers on our iPads. Dinner in the hotel restaurant tonight and then a drive of about 200 miles and 3.5 hrs through Moderna, Parma, Piacenza, round the Milan ring road, round Lakes Como and Lugano and in to Switzerland to Bellinzona. This is a journey we have driven 30 times and know very well.

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Week 445

Sunday, 2nd July, 2017

A late morning. Didn’t get up until 8.00 am although that was Central European Time and equivalent to our normal 7.00 am. We drank orange juice followed by tea followed by coffee and downloaded the Sunday Times on each iPad then settled in to watch Andrew Marr. I hope you saw that duplicitous, oleaginous, obnoxious BASTARD Gove. He is the exemplar of the worst in politics.

At 11.00 am (CET), we checked out of our hotel and drove down to Cite Europe to fill our car’s fridge with nice things to eat for our meal later on. It is the easiest way to control our food intake rather than accept a restaurant menu. We bought prawns, humous with olives, taramasalata, tomatoes and cucumber.

We drove on down an empty and beautiful A26 motorway to  Reims. The Best Western Hotel de la Paix is a pleasant stop that we have made a number of times. It has a gym, an indoor pool and reasonable if functional rooms. It is in the centre of the city but has a basement carpark which is secure and is one of our requirements when searching city hotels. I follow the speed limits in Europe, setting cruise control almost all the time. Although we had a couple of stops for coffee, we still arrived by 2.30 pm which was ‘Check-in’ time. Our room is pleasant and, after unpacking, we walk round the city centre – past the cathedral, the opera house and a multitude of restaurants – until we have the drive out of our legs.

Now we can read the papers, watch the BBC News and have some food. Tomorrow, we set off for Dijon where we will spend a couple of days.

Monday, 3rd July, 2017

Woke at 7.00 am (CET) to listen to BBC Today programme on Radio 4 at 6.00 am (BST). Orange juice, tea and coffee with a banana and we went out for a walk in Reims to start our day. By 11.00 am, we were packed up and checking out. We put our bags in the car and gingerly manoeuvred out of the underground carpark and on to the pedestrianised street/road. The day was fine, sunny and warm –  22C/70F – as we entered the A26 motorway heading for Dijon.

If you’ve ever done this sort of drive, you will know that the motorway is in fabulous condition and there are very few motorists on it. The fields stretch for miles/kilometres in an uninterrupted patchwork quilt of greens, yellows and browns. Actually, there were quite a few whites as the garlic was flowering but the biggest delight is the wide expanse of sunflowers. What you don’t see a great deal of is cattle or sheep. We were looking, in vain, for fields of mustard.

A couple of drinks/toilet stops as the temperature climbed to 25C/77F and we were soon on the outskirts of Dijon. Our hotel is a Holiday Inn at Toison d’or which is outside the centre but with a handy tram stop nearby. It is huge and delightful. What we have learnt since arriving here is that Dijon Mustard is not an official designation and little of it originates in Dijon. Most of it, including this popular Maille brand, comes from Canada.

We are here for two nights so we will take the tram to the centre of Dijon tomorrow morning and spend the day there. We are told there is plenty to see and the day will be hot and sunny. If we manage to catch the right tram back and get off at the correct stop, I will report back on our experience. If we don’t, send out a search party! We’ve got to be in Lyon on Wednesday.

Tuesday 4th July, 2017

Woke up to a gorgeous morning which led to a really enjoyable day. The sky was blue. The sun was strong and, at 7.00 am (CET), the temperature was 22C/70F.  After a leisurely start with BBC Radio 4 and The Times, we ventured out into the inferno that was rapidly rising to 29C/85F and on to a tram bound for Dijon Centre. The ticket was just under €3.00 for two of us. The journey took about 10 minutes and immediately showed what a delightful city Dijon is. Old buildings have been proudly and carefully preserved by converting their uses to modern requirements. Living space blends seamlessly with commercial space and transport is cheap, available and green.

What Dijon does do is sell mustard strongly even if it isn’t really made here any more. All the tourists obviously expect it so they go all out. Shops are everywhere selling small jars (for tourist presents) of scores of differently flavoured examples of ‘Dijon Mustard’. We sat and drank frapuccinos across the street from this shop which is claimed to be the original site of the first Dijon Mustard shop. Your guess is as good as mine whether it is all commercial hype or not. Frankly, I’m happy to believe it and buy my Dijon Mustard in Sainsbury’s!

We walked round the huge, Food Hall / Market and agreed we could buy one of everything – and that was just the 15th fish counter never mind the vegetables, meat, preserves, jams, olives, etc.. We also agreed that we wouldn’t want to carry a lot of stuff around and back on the tram so, when we eventually returned by tram to our hotel, we went in to the wonderful Carrefour next door and bought a host of salad delights and fruit for our meal. This really is a terrible way to have to live one’s life. After our meal, we finished off the afternoon with a walk through the massive park across the road from the hotel. It was replete with a lake and trees full of mellifluous birds enjoying the sunshine just like us.

Wednesday 5th July, 2017

A functional hotel for a one night pit stop.

Up at 7.00 am with the temperature at 22C/70F. Thank goodness for air conditioning in the hotel and our car! A liquid breakfast and then a trip to Carrefour next door to buy our food for the day before setting off on the A31 and, eventually, the A6 – the wonderful l’autoroute du soleil to Lyon. We are driving through wine country. So many of the wine labels of one’s past flash by on the road signs – Chambertin, Musigny, Nuits-St-Georges, Beaune, Mersault, Montrachet, Macon. As we drove, the temperature rose to 27C/81F by 11.00 am and 30C/86F by 1.00 pm.

We arrived by 2.00 pm and the temperature had hit 33C/92F by the time we got out of the car and unloaded our bags. After a drink, we went out for a walk in the vicinity but, with only one night here, this was never intended as an in-depth explore – more a taster. Any way, it soon proved too hot to do much pavement walking. We returned to the hotel to watch Wimbledon. We saw Konta win, Murray win and are currently watching Nadal winning while we read our newspapers.

Tomorrow we drive to Italy and spend a couple of days exploring Turin. Looking forward to that. Hope the sun controls itself a little.

Thursday, 6th July, 2017

It is hot! We have set off for Torino (Turin) at 9.30 am CET on the A43 through Chambery and past Grenoble, through Susa Piedmont and Rivoli. The motorway is quiet and beautiful but Turin town is busy, chaotic and stressful. Eventually, in 32C/90F of heat we find our hotel. We have to drive through an archway that makes me breathe in. When I’m through, I breathe out with successful pride and see a huge tram sail straight through without hesitation.

Our hotel is on Via Assietta 3, Torino. It is in the heart of the city and very near the train station. Tomorrow, we will do some exploring. Tonight, we are going to eat in the hotel restaurant and then relax and build up our strength for tomorrow.

Our car is in the hotel’s underground carpark and will stay there until we leave for Genoa. This is not a city in which to relax and drive. You have to do one or the other. On our 7th day of travel, we will choose relaxation and exploration on foot.

Friday, 7th July, 2017

Up at 7.00 am in a freezing cold, air conditioned room. Opened the shutters on to Via Assietta – the street our hotel fronts on to – and the heat hit me. It is a surprisingly quiet street for a city centre hotel. After a perfunctory breakfast, we set out to explore. Before we have been out 30 mins, my feet are aching and my shirt is soaking. We pressed on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city is just quite beautiful at every turn. Every other outlet is a food provider and every food provider is for panini, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, risotto, etc.. It looks impossible to eat non-carbohydrate food in this city/country. I think I’m going to be drinking a lot!

As well as my Blog, I’m keeping a rolling Faceache page going, Tweeting and writing a series of postcards to my old friend, Caroline, who doesn’t have a computer. It isn’t so easy to find postcards now and particularly not post boxes.

….It’s evening – 9.00 pm – and we have just eaten the most delightful meal of tomato salad, olive tapenade, roast ham with herb crust slices and smoked tuna slices. We drank a bottle of ice cold Savoie Blanc which has gone down well in a temperature that still reads 29C/84F. We are satisfied, tired and very happy after a lovely day well spent. What more can one ask of retirement or life in general? Looking forward to what tomorrow will bring as we drive to Genoa Port.

Saturday, 8th July, 2017

Very hot and humid this morning. We turned the air conditioning off last night because of the noise and the room was uncomfortable when we woke at 6.00 am CET. After breakfast, we went outside for a walk to stretch our legs and buy something for our meal this afternoon. Cheese, ham, tomatoes and cucumber with a bottle of wine will do nicely. Packed the car up, settled the bill and left around 11.30 am.

It is Saturday and the roads of Torino were quieter although still manic. Having negotiated the city centre, we were soon on the E70 motorway (speed limit 81 mph ignored by Italians) driving for two hours to the port of Genoa. At this point, when we most relied on our sat.nav., we were led a merry dance right through the centre of one of the busiest ports in Europe just as all the ferries were docking/leaving. Our blood pressure rose but we took a deep breath and worked our way through a mish-mash of small roads until we found our way out and to our hotel – Holiday Inn City Centre Genoa. It is lovely – very modern, very swish and very comfortable.

We drove into the underground parking which is an important facility for foreigners in Italy. It is some of the best garaging we have used and will make life comfortable for the next two days. Into the hotel and we are on the top – the 7th floor – which is great for our view over the port. My IHG Gold Card membership gives us free, hi-speed wi-fi. That is important to me. We go up to our Executive Room and check out the facilities – wi-fi works, TV works, wall-safe works, air con works. The view across the harbour is lovely. Just across in the ferry check-in, there is a huge food market. We buy pesto-verde to eat with our salad and slices of porchetta. Our meal is put together by Pauline and I open the wine which has been chilling in our in-room fridge. A bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino 2011 – absolutely delicious.

BBC News Channel is featuring wall to wall G20 plus the Test Match and the wonderful efforts of the British Lions.  We also have some English language film channels but, unfortunately, no Wimbledon. We settle down to our newspapers and watching the world go by. Tomorrow, we will step out to explore Genoa. We will miss Andrew Marr but we will enjoy a hot and sweaty walk through magnificent buildings of Genoa port.

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Week 444

Sunday, 25th June, 2017

After  eight and a half years, we have reached all the 4s. Can you imagine 444 weeks or 3108 days of stream of consciousness dribble. At least the Poison dwarf loves it! And here’s some more.

The day started off grey but soon gave way to blue sky and sunshine although we didn’t get above 20C/68F. After a morning of political programmes and pottering among the pot plants (all the Ps), we did a lovely workout at the gym which was delightfully quiet. These ‘workers’ just don’t have the stamina nowadays!

The Greeks, of course, know instinctively how to do it. The country is being ravaged by a heat wave – 35C+/95F+ – so the refuse collectors have gone on strike. The refuse bins smell in the summer heat at the best of times. You can just imagine how the streets of Athens stink as the heatwave mixes with days old rubbish.

Monday, 26th June, 2017

Gorgeous day here that reached 25C/77F in lovely sunshine. We left for Worthing at 8.30 am. Pauline had a hair appointment at Toni&Guy and I had an appointment at Starbucks coffee shop. Job done, we drove home to learn that the Tories had bribed the DUP with our money to keep themselves in power. I almost feel like joining insurrection on the street myself. In the afternoon, I cut the lawns, trimmed the hedges at the front of the house and tidied everything up.

Pauline cooked the most wonderful meal of Sea Bass on the bone with salad and asparagus followed by fresh strawberries. We reviewed our process for Holiday setting our central heating and made sure we had everything necessary for our car. We have made all arrangements and are ready for the off. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 27th June, 2017

Life in our quiet, coastal village proceeds serenely against the backdrop of a National cacophony of chaos. It feels humiliating in the extreme that our government is presiding over such internal and external instability.

At home, the Tory Government has Local Authority infrastructure imploding around itself. Doctors leaders are warning of impending doom in the Health Service in addition to the existing shambles of Social Care. Schools are screaming about inadequate funding and inability to appoint and maintain staff. What links the two is a pay freeze which, in reality, is a pay cut. Set against this is a huge, ‘magic money tree’ bribe of Irish extremists to keep the Tories in power.

On going austerity has been thrown in to sharp relief by the tower block tragedy which has escalated into the narrative of a nationwide cost cutting neglect of standards. There are not enough building inspectors, firemen or fire engines, not enough Local Authority funds or workers. The Tory Government can’t be blamed for it all but they have been caught in charge of the spinning plates and will be blamed just as they can be blamed for the humiliation that is Brexit. Who knows where that will end!

Wednesday, 28th June, 2017

Wet, wet wet! Warm, warm, warm! Who could predict how lovely rain would look. We had almost forgotten it. It started in mid afternoon yesterday, has continued intermittently over night and that pattern is set to be replicated today. The only downside is that the sky is rather depressingly overcast.

I’ve been meaning to feature something that appealed to me in the press a few days ago and which was picked up by tv-tabloid morning programmes today. It is the story of an Indian gentleman called Singh who lives in Newcastle and speaks with a fairly broad, Tyneside accent. He has a ‘convenience’ shop which he chose to badge Singhsbury’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Sainsbury’s threatened him with legal action if he didn’t remove it. You can see how closely it looks like one of their superstores and how they might feel threatened. Undeterred, Mr Singh, complied and changed his little shop’s name to Morrisinghs. His reward has been national coverage although he says he can’t cope with any more exposure because he’s working 90 hours per week as it is. At least Morrisons has a sense of humour and are nor pursuing him for threatening their empire.

Thursday, 29th June, 2017

For a year or so now, my INR has been stable. My testing periods are between 6-8 weeks apart, the testing strips are provided for me and I do all the testing myself. This means I can keep on top of my Warfarin dosage and, if I go abroad, there isn’t a problem. My parameters are INR 2.0 – 3.0 and today I tested at 2.7. Almost perfect. I just email my result to the  Anticoagulant Clinic of my local hospital and they provide dosage and future testing advice by return. It is a wonderful service that gives me great confidence. On my part, I always take the medication prescribed. I never fail and I never forget to test and report on the set dates.

The hospital told me I am the ideal patient. Apparently, lots of people don’t medicate or test as required. Distance medical care is going to become increasingly common with ‘Skype‘-type consultations, on-line ordering of medication and appointment making. Patients are going to have to look after themselves more, taking responsibility for their own health much more than has been expected in the past.

We have spent the day making sure that the house and garden are ready to be left to their own devices and to take care of their own health for a few weeks. The lawns have been cut as short as I dare. The patio plants have been clustered and an automatic watering system installed and tested successfully. In doors, automatic lighting has been installed and the heating system set to ‘Holiday’. Typically, the plants around the house are just beginning to come into their bloom. I’ve given them a talking to and told them to slow down.

Friday, 30th June, 2017

The last day. We will never see June 2017 again. Make the most of it. What better way to mark it than with a trip to the Waste Recycling Site on a sunny morning? We will miss our waste collection next week and – true to dynamic precision planning – this job of self expurgation was No. 29 on our Going Away Jobs List. Filled up with petrol (No. 30) on the way back at a price of £1.11/€1.27 per litre and then did a tyres/oil/washer bottle check before packing and garaging the car. That’s how it goes – one day Littlehampton Waste Disposal Depository and next day Tuscany!

Saturday, 1st July, 2017

Happy new month. We are up at 6.00 am this morning to put the house to bed before leaving for Tunnel crossing to Europe. Must see Europe again before they abolish it! A night in Calais/Coquelles and then on to Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin, etc..

The dishwasher has been run through and emptied – by me. The heating/hot water has been set in ‘holiday’ mode. The car is packed with a month’s clothes, etc.. The automatic lights have been set and tested. The final act is to spray each room with fly spray before closing the doors. Lastly, the alarm can be set without fear of live insects flying/crawling across the infra-red sensors and triggering a deafening siren. Make sure the doors are locked and BREATHE!

Lovely drive from Sussex, touching Surrey and into Kent and the Eurotunnel. Warm sunshine but fairly busy roads. We entered an extremely busy tunnel check-in at around 11.00 am. We were on board and moving shortly after mid day and in Coquelles before 2.00 pm (CET). We checked in to the Holiday Inn – a hotel we’ve been using since it was badged Millenium Copthorne many years ago. It is sultry warm as we visit the hypermarkets. Tomorrow, we will drive 2.5 hours to Reims.

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Week 443

Sunday, 18th June, 2017

Phew what a scorcher! As readers of the Blog will know, I am something of a weather watcher and recorder. My iPad app and my smartphone app tell me throughout the day the weather in numerous different towns and cities of my choice across the globe. I list all the places I have lived and worked from those in Yorkshire and Lancashire to those in Greece to Surrey to where I live now in West Sussex. Today has been consistently hotter than Greece and Italy throughout the day. We got up to 21C/70F at 7.00 am and, by 2.00 pm, nearly melted as we got out of our air-conditioned car at the Health Club in to 30C/86F. As I write at 11.00 am, it is still 23C/74F and distinctly clammy.

Our pots of herbs are loving the climate they are encountering. Particularly, the basil – both Italian and Greek and the French Tarragon are flourishing really vigorously. What they do need is regularly watering and cutting to encourage new growth. We are in danger of having more than we can cope with. The new figs are really doing well and I will feature them after we come back from our European Tour – assuming they survive.

Monday, 19th June, 2017

A hot day without cloud cover or mitigating breeze. We reached 30 C/86F but spent most of the day at a sweaty 27/81F. Out in the sunshine, the tarmac was liquidising. It reminded us of Sifnos where crude road surfaces rutted and melted on a regular basis. I valeted the car and then used my new, cordless hedge trimmer to …you can guess what. It is lovely, balanced, light and easy to use. we set off for the Health Club but decided en route that we had done enough today and turned round and came home.

Even though we didn’t make it to the gym, I did my 10,000 paces and feel satisfyingly tired. We relaxed this afternoon in the garden with garlic stuffed olives and a bottle of Pino Grigiot. I’ve quite grown to like this Italian/New Zealand mix which is lovely chilled with salad. This evening, I will complete the guidance notes for our European trip next week so that we can get the most out of it. Particularly, I’ve been researching Tuscan properties for longer term rental. It would be nice to have a villa or apartment in Tuscany to rent June – September where we can live our life in a more sophisticated environment than we could in Greece. Greek simplicity is fine for a while  but not for too long. Certainly, you don’t want to be taken ill there!

Tuesday, 20th June, 2017

Greek God – 1980

Weather, weather, weather, weather! We’re British. We’re obsessed with weather and we are in the middle of one of the longest, hottest June spells on record. Our local forecast says tomorrow may well be the hottest June day since the record breaking summer of 1976. Where were you then? I was stuck in a dingy flat in Oldham, Lancashire at the age of 25 and after 4 years of teaching. I couldn’t afford to go on holiday and I was determined to lose weight. I went running, starved myself and pedalled on an exercise bike all day as I read books about the history of the Labour Party. I lost 6 stones in the six weeks school holiday and went back a ‘new man’. Over the next two years, I put it all back on and then lost it all again and…. Yo Yo weight loss/gain started there and lived with me for 40 years.

The last few days have been Greek weather without the frustrations. Today started at 7.00 am and it was 20C/68F. I mowed the lawns and then needed a shower. By 1.00 pm, it was 27C/81F as we set off for the Health Club which turned out to be an oasis of air conditioned cool. We did a hard work out and found the temperature gauge had reached 31C/88F as we left at 3.30 pm. We are already discussing whether we should fit ceiling fans in the bedrooms and possibly even air-conditioning units. Where is Frangiskus when you need him?

Wednesday, 21st June, 2017

It is 10.00 am and a sweaty 27C/81F. It has been a very warm night and, of course, the morning has ushered in the Summer Solstice or Longest Day. Apparently, 34C/93F is forecast for today which could be an all time record for June.

Of course, it is going to be a very long day for the Tory Party which is having its programme for the next two years read out by the queen in Parliament even while it is still trying to buy the support of the Irish DUP. We can only hope that they will be put out of their misery very quickly and a new election called.

It was so hot today that we gave the Gym work a miss and just enjoyed the garden. I put the sprinklers on to water the lawns for about three hours and we enjoyed the sun for a while. We had watched the Queen’s Speech and had confirmed that the impotence of the government had completely neutered it. There is still no agreement with the DUP and, this afternoon, there is a hint that the Scots. Nats. will have a veto over the Great Reform Bill. It’s all going very well!

Thursday, 22nd June, 2017

It’s all down hill from here. The days are getting shorter as we breathe. Today has opened oppressively hot and I was just remarking on the possibility of thunder when thunder began to roll around the sky. It was accompanied by a few, large spots of rain for a couple of minutes. Later in the day, as the temperature rose to a heavy 26C/79F, the sun beat down from blue skies.

We did our weekly shop and then sat down to make some plans for our European trip. We are inveterate makers of Plans and Lists and you can’t beat a good spreadsheet. Today I was looking at jobs that have to be done before we leave and things to see while we are travelling. The jobs list is simple one of necessary arrangements like set internal lighting timers; set plant irrigation timer system; check car tyres, etc.. At the same time, I was continuing to explore places we will visit. We intend to travel from our Tuscan hotel base by train to Florence, Pisa and Lucca.

Today, I was researching Pisa and hope to visit the Palazzo Blu modern art gallery on Lungarno Gambacorti pictured above. In Lucca, it would be lovely to go to Puccini e la sua Lucca opera house and, in Florence to visit the Uffizi Gallery. It would also be nice to just sit in a sunny, Italian piazza and sip a coffee or glass of wine and watch the world go by. We will see which alternative wins out.

Friday, 23rd June, 2017

A slightly fresher start to the day with pleasant sunshine. We spent some time working through the settings of our satellite navigation system. It is a built-in one that comes with our Honda car. We have had that since shortly after we bought our first CRV in 1999. Until a year ago, the Honda badged sat. nav./infotainment unit was sourced in the USA but not from a commercial, across-the-counter name. It was fantastic although it was starting to show its age. Our new car has a built in Garmin-based unit which is very unfriendly and counter-intuitive. It has taken us twelve months to really get to grips with it. This European Tour should be a good test. Unlike earlier sat. nav./infotainment units, this one incorporates internet access but I would much prefer a good sat. nav. and less features.

We have managed to program in all our hotels from France to Italy to Switzerland to France. At least this year will allow us to use our Mobile Contracts in Europe freely including data roaming which helps. If you’ve ever driven across Europe, you will know that BBC radio is a problem. FM radio doesn’t really survive the Channel and DAB is even worse. LW is the only possibility and I have know it last until I was in sight of the swiss alps although it is barely distinguishable from the reception background ‘noise’. When I was listening to the Test Match, I would put up with any interference.

Today our car is one year old. For about 30 years, we would be waving it goodbye this week and picking up our new one but we have only done 6900 miles this year which is around half what we would normally have driven when we were working. It will probably do 3 year’s service before we trade it in.

Saturday, 24th June, 2017

Sun in a Glass

The sun has gone. The breeze has lowered the temperature markedly. The sky is overcast. My breakfast recalled the sunshine in the most wonderful, fresh orange juice. The juice of two oranges releases a skyful of sunshine.

The next month will involve a lot of driving and quite a few hotels. It won’t be easy to wash and dry clothes so the car will be packed with enough to get us through. They are laid out on a bed in a guest room having been painstakingly ironed by Pauline. Now she is harvesting herbs from pots on the patio. Italian and Greek Basil have both grown really well. They have been savaged and turned into Pesto. Later, it will be portioned up and stored in the chest freezer in the garage. Dill, Oregano, Tarragon and Thyme will all be chopped and frozen for winter use. I will feed the herb stumps which will, hopefully, regenerate for another crop.

We bought patio furniture in a hurry a year ago when we had no table and chairs in our kitchen. Now it is outside, it is not ideal and I’ve been looking around for replacements. I’ve known of a company called Rattan Direct for some time and would like to see the quality of their products in reality. I checked the showroom. There is one ….. in Bolton. I feel a visit to see my sister coming on. Now, however, it’s time for the gym!

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Week 442

Sunday, 11th June, 2017

Ferdinand Tönnies

As Ruth will clearly remember, in 1887 Ferdinand Tönnies published Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft or ‘Community & Association’ which first described the contra-distinction between the pre-modern sense of community or family and neighbourhood and the modern concept of atomization in individualism. Gemeinschaft is characterised as the old notion of social relationship in community and is set against what we now consider the norm of organised individualism or society. This latter concept derives its origins from Hobbes concept of the social contract described in Leviathan and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations which expounded upon how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity.

It is this movement from the old to the new which has always meant so much to me. Born into a large family in a small village, I longed to escape into the anonymity of elsewhere. The fact that it turned out to be Yorkshire, in general, and Huddersfield, in particular, we will gloss over. However, having moved a number of times and lived in different parts of UK and Europe, I very definitely feel myself a ‘Citizen of Nowhere’ or Citizen of the World’ in the modern parlance rather than rooted in community – Bolton, for example. It is liberating and isolating in equal measure.

Wednesday, 14th June, 2017

As France humiliated England by beating them with 10 men, so Theresa May managed to humiliate herself in front of Macron by losing control of her notes in the breeze. This morning, the European Parliament humiliated UK by crowing about our floundering politicians and offering us a chance to turn back from Brexit but on less favourable terms.

It is with those concepts in mind that I look forward to European travel this year – driving through France, Switzerland and Italy; travelling to Greece; holidaying in the Canary Islands.

Monday, 12th June, 2017

We eat more fish than ever. Red meat is virtually never entertained. In fact, discussing it this morning, we could not remember when we last ate Beef, Lamb or Pork. It can certainly be counted in months. We have almost fallen into this diet without consciously choosing it. I know, medical advice warns of the dangers of eating too much red meat and that may have, subconsciously, influenced us but we didn’t sit down one day and make a formal decision to change. We eat lots of salmon – hot and cold, cod, sea bass, bream, sole, prawns, squid and whitebait. Really, the only meat we eat is chicken, duck and pheasant.

The carbohydrate grouping of bread, potatoes, pasta and rice and derivatives have been off my list for about four years now after I discovered that they built up my blood sugar temporarily and then it crashed soon afterwards leading to my eating again to satisfy it. The other element of denial is green vegetable which contains large amounts of vitamin K. This militates against the blood thinning chemical, Warfarin, that I take for Atrial Fibrillation. I don’t eat no green vegetable but I do it rarely and it is all the more exciting when I do. Today, for example, I positively drooled over a small portion of green, French Beans.

Of course, additionally, we have done formal exercise for a number of years and more intensively in the past couple or so. A blogger I read religiously boasted of ignoring such exercise and diet and taunted us that he was doing so while eating pizza. That is so unkind it can barely be lived with. Occasionally, if I dream of breaking out from the straightjacket that I have fashioned for myself, I dream of PIZZA or Rissotto. I don’t follow that dream just as I have never smoked a cigarette since 9.30 pm on the 15th October, 1984 when I sat in a Masters tutorial and decided to give up my 40 a day habit. I fear that one slip could lead to total collapse.

Roast salmon topped with (homemade) pesto crust with tomato & (peeled) cucumber salad was the order of today followed by a small amount of apple and yoghurt. It has an extremely ‘clean’ taste and a distinct lack of heaviness that carbohydrate engenders. I find that it doesn’t make me feel sluggish or bloated and doesn’t lead to sugar rushes and crashes which encourage repeated needs to eat.

Tuesday, 13th June, 2017

Glorious day of blue sky and sunshine and 22C/70F. We have spent most of it outside. We have done a really enjoyable gym session but the garden has called today. We cooked Whitebait out there this afternoon which we ate with salad and a New Zealand Pinot Grigio. No Pizza! Life is sweet!

You can’t beat a good spreadsheet and I don’t try to. I have spreadsheets to tabulate and record so many things. With only a couple of weeks to go, my most pressing spreadsheet records places in Europe, hotels in places in Europe, distances to drive between hotels, nights booked in hotels and places of interest to visit while there.

Today, I have been researching trips out from our hotel in Tuscany. Trying to park in major tourist towns in Italy is not advisable so we will travel from Lucca to Florence and Pisa by train. The Italian train company is incredibly cheap and quick with a 90 mins trip costing just €12.00/£10.50 and leaving every 20 mins.. A trip to Pisa takes just 30 mins and costs €6.00/£5.25. The last train journey we made was an absolute nightmare. If these are cocked up, it will be more genitalia than Trenitalia! We are already researching long term lets in Tuscany for next year. This summer, we will check them out and make a decision.

Wednesday, 14th June, 2017

It’s one of those days. The sky is clear. The sun is strong and the temperature is 27C/80F. We decided to take a break from the gym and to drive down to the trawler shop on Littlehampton Pier. It was delightful to walk on and not too busy because the schools are back. We had a good walk in the Marina and drew the sea air into our nostrils before calling at the fish shack to buy two, big, fresh, Sea bass for our meal.

Some mothers were on the beach and supervising their pre-school children as they swam in the sea. Cockle & Whelk stalls were open in anticipation of the season and older people sat around the coffee shops on the edge of the beach. Rather like Sifnos, it is a place waiting to happen. I met this gorgeous girl on my walk along the promenade.

Thursday, 15th June, 2017

Another lovely day to mark mid-June. Already, the Summer is galloping along. The temperature in our back garden this morning was 25C/76F in the shade. There was just a hint of a breeze off the sea. We did a full supermarket shop and then a big Health Club session. I am, currently, absolutely knackered but happy. We have eaten Roast Cod Loin with King Prawns and fresh Dill (from our pots) with Asparagus and Broadbean Salad. Michael would have loved it!

Back in the real world, if you wanted a visual explanation of the General Election result, it is provided by the party leaders’ response to the tower block fire in London last night. Theresa May went down to speak to the firefighters and left without speaking to bewildered residents. Jeremy Corbyn went in to the groups of survivors, cuddling, consoling and offering help. May has learnt nothing from her Election debacle when she spoke in a sterile environment to carefully selected party workers while Corbyn was wowing the crowds on his tour of the country and interacting with everyman.

Rising interest rates are being signalled by 3 members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee as UK is hit by a perfect storm of a falling economy and a rising inflation. The former militates against raising interest rates while the latter demands it. What a position from which to approach Brexit!

Friday, 16th June, 2017

High Summer meets mid-June as the temperatures rise towards the 30sC. We decided to do a couple of gym sessions over the weekend and allow ourselves time at home today. Lawns cut, car washed. House vacuumed and hard floors steam cleaned. We feel seriously in control of our environment. Our meal of griddled chicken and salad was cooked outside in the garden under strong sunshine.

The backdrop or mood music of the day has been created by the increasingly febrile reaction of sufferers and activists, reacting to or hyping up the tower block fire in Kensington. The pressure point has focussed on mortality numbers which have been under-reported / played down and have moved, under pressure, from 6 to 17 to 30 and now 70. Celebrities, using their ‘status’, have appeared on the media openly challenging these numbers and reporting first hand accounts of 100 – 200 deaths. The media has been quick to shut them down. One celebrity had been booked to appear on Newsnight but was quickly replaced because she had challenged the official line earlier in the day. The political Blogs are alive with rumours of ‘D’ Notices being imposed upon the media by the government to limit the furore. If it is true, they will fail.

Saturday, 17th June, 2017

A delicious, Summer’s day which saw a temperature of 27C/81F here. We spent the morning in the garden and I put the sprinkler system on for a couple of hours. By 2.00 pm, we were working hard in the gym which was quiet as workers made the most of the sun. This evening is rather uncomfortably warm and we know that temperatures tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday are forecast to touch 30C/86F so we need to pace ourselves.

At 2.oo pm yesterday, I ordered a cordless hedge cutter on-line from GTECH. At 10.00 am this morning, it was delivered to my door. It came ready charged but I will try it out next week so as not to annoy the neighbours with the noise. Looks an excellent machine though. We now have their vacuum cleaner plus hand held, their lawn mower and their hedge trimmer. They are so convenient without an electrical cord that I would recommend them to anyone. I had a slight problem with one element of the vacuum cleaner which has a 2 year warranty. I phoned for advice and received a replacement the next day.

As a ‘new man’ who revels in house work – well, using gadgets, actually, – I celebrate this day every year for a special reason. It is on this day in 1980 that someone went out of control in his car on the bend as we approached our school and cut our first new car – a 2 month old, pageant blue mini – in to pieces. Pauline was badly cut and bruised. I was thought to be dead but revived and I spent two weeks in  hospital unconscious with brain bruising. It took the best part of a year to recover from that set back and I would never have done it without the patience and dedicated love of my wonderful wife.

Looking out as the sun beats down from a clear, blue sky on our lush, green lawns with birds singing heartily and with so much life left to live, I reflect on the 37 years of time I might have lost just there. For that reason, I empathise and celebrate with the Skiathan and his wife whether they are eating pizza or not. She has fought back from Stage 4 cancer and critical surgery and is now cancer-free. Life can feel very good at times not least when you fear losing it!

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