Week 479

Sunday, 25th February

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

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

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Week 478

Sunday, 18th February

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

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

Monday, 19th February

Little Bob.

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

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

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

Tuesday, 20th February

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 21st February

Sun changes everything.

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

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

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

Thursday, 22nd February

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

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

Friday, 23rd February

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


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

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

Saturday, 24th February

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

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

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

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Week 477

Sunday, 11th February

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

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

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

Monday, 12th February

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13th February

Happy Pancake Day

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

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

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

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

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

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

Wednesday, 14th February

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

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

Thursday, 15th February

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

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

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

Friday, 16th February

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

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

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

These are combined with one major protein each day:

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

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

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

Saturday, 17th February

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

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

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

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Week 476

Sunday, 4th February

Sussex in February.

Another day, another week of retirement. The day is lovely with blue sky and strong sun although cold at only 6C/43F but you can’t have everything. Indeed, wonderfully freeing as Retirement is, it is not easy being at a loose end.

When we first stopped working 9 years ago, someone asked us how we would cope without achievements. That didn’t really hit me at the time. I remember thinking after completing the 11+, ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ Levels, a Cert. Ed., a B.A. and an M.A. that it would be wonderful not to have to sit another exam. I remember thinking after deciding my Professional life had peaked that it would be wonderful not to have to prepare for and go through another interview. Retirement seemed an extension of that letting go and yet, it is all so hard to do.

Summer in France.

One learns that achievements in life are essential to existence. If someone else doesn’t set the bars, we have to set them for ourselves. That is essentially what I have learnt from Retirement. Right from the word ‘go’, we set ourselves life style goals of early rising, healthy eating, weight loss and daily exercise routines. Gradually, we have intensified and refined those goals but, largely stuck to them as we enter the final year of our first decade of retirement. At the same time, we set ourselves challenges of travel and experience.

Originally, we set our time in our Greek house to be revised when we were 65. Actually, circumstances conspired to bring that forward by 3 years and forced us to reconsider our plans. Last year, we challenged ourselves to do a 2000 mile European drive and visit places that we had previously just sped past. Not only did we do it but we felt we had achieved something in its completion. This year, we will fulfil an ambition that Pauline has long held which is to live in France, shop in local markets and cook with the best, French ingredients. For a month or so we will do that.

November in the Sun.

Because of our involvement with Greece, we have both felt that we neglected Spain. This year will mark our first attempts to redress that. After returning from six months in Greece, we both felt that UK winters were pretty dour and cold experiences but didn’t feel justified in jetting off again for sun. This year, we will do exactly that with a villa in the Canaries for November. All of these things we said we would do, planned to do and will achieve this year – fate willing.

The trick is to keep all the plates spinning for as long as possible which is why we are off to the Health Club this afternoon and hope all the workers are enjoying playing out and avoiding achievements for another day.

Monday, 5th February

Snow on Camber Sands

A chilly but sunny day. We reached 5C/41F but only 60 mls/96kms away on Camber Sands near Rye there was snow. It was strange to see that picture as we set off to swim outside in the sunshine.

We’ve done six out of the last seven days at the Health Club and we will have an enforced day off tomorrow because we have a software engineer visiting from British Gas. I will miss the exercise but it will give me chance to complete our plans for a trip to Edinburgh in April. We have intended to visit every year for about 40 years. We have ex-colleague friends who live and lecture at the university there.

For about 40 years, we have been exchanging the same, two Christmas cards with increasing piles of infills – short newsletters of our year’s activities. Now, we are going to do it and drive the 450 mls/725 kms. We will do it in two legs each way. I have more or less chosen hotels and routes but still have to confirm them. Just before that, we have friends from Sifnos visiting and we want to return to Poole in Dorset again to revisit another ex-colleague friend. Well, we pledged to travel this year and we are really going for it.

Tuesday, 6th February

A chilly and frustrating day. The sun was out but the temperature didn’t get much above 5C/41F. We drove to Rustington to do some shopping and then home for hot, home-made, turkey & vegetable soup. No Health Club today because the Gas Man Commeth. Actually, there were three of them all booked to visit three houses 100 metres apart. Brilliant planning not lost on the engineers themselves as they realised the lapse in economy. BG had updated the operating system that governs the transmission and presentation of our gas and electricity consumption on a smart monitor in our Office.

To get some activity under my belt, I decided to clean the car while I waited for the engineer but it was so cold that I was grateful when he turned up and stopped me. This was his second visit and, after an hour of effort – mainly spent on his mobile phone to his office – he announced that, in conjuction with his fellow workers in the vicinity, he would have to return for a third visit in a month bringing a new meter. Brilliant!

Our shopping trip in the morning had put a few steps on my watch but, by 8.00 this evening, I was getting itchy about not achieving my target. My lovely wife agreed to get fifteen coats on and set out in the 2C/36F night with me to walk off the rest of my paces for the day. After all, she knew I would get lost after a few steps from the house without a sat. nav.. It was freezing but made me incredibly happy as my watch buzzed ‘GOAL’.

Wednesday, 7th February

Glorious day but chilly again. Only 2C/36F as we went down to the village to pick up an Amazon parcel from the local Post Office. The village looks lovely this morning. The renowned Gastro-Pub, The Lamb, was bathed in sunlight and the pollarded  trees in the square looked stark against the crystal blue sky. We feel so lucky to have settled in this lovely, little community with attractive and healthy surroundings that are pleasing to the eye.

I hate buying clothes and leave most of that to my wife. I have needed a new pair of casual shoes for months but baulked at paying £70.00/€79.00 for them. When Pauline found some I both liked the look of and the price, she ordered two pairs. They’ve turned out to be very pleasant – for £35.00/€39.50.

Thursday, 8th February

I don’t understand weather. Looked out of the window at 7.00 this morning and everything looked wonderful. The sky was blue, the sun was just coming up at the back of the house and it looked as if it was going to be a lovely day. Breakfast is accompanied by two smartphones and two iPads plus Radio 4’s Today programme. I am addicted to some apps on my digital media. For a long time, I was constantly checking the £/€ exchange rate. I still do it but not so often now. I am wedded to my Garmin Connect app which calls up my exercise data from my watch and analyses it.  Of course, I regularly check my on-line calendar app for appointments, activities, payments to be made, etc.. I also regularly check the weather app for temperature data. Why? I’m not sure but I’ve got into that habit.

This morning, my weather app, which is very reliable, told me that the outdoor temperature was -6C/21F. There was no sign of that outside – no frost, snow, ice, wind. I stepped outside to check for myself and, sure enough, it was very cold. Later, we drove down the appropriately named Water Lane which had been flooded by a water main burst and it had obviously turned to thick ice. Later in the day, however, we were happily swimming outside in an air temperature of 10C/50F.

Á propos of absolutely nothing, this is our village Postman 130 years ago. He rode about on this bone-shaker over unsurfaced tracks.

Friday, 9th February

There was rain overnight and still some in the morning. Fortunately, it gave way to blue sky and sunshine by the time we left for the Health Club and persisted after we had completed our gym work and gone outside to swim. The breeze was distinctly chilly as we swam today but we are tough and ploughed on through our 30 lengths and ran back to the sauna to warm up.

Back home, we went round to our neighbours’ house to get instruction on how to look after Como, their cat, while they are away. In addition, our post today brought the results of our ‘poo test’ which announced that we were both tested clear of cancer and that our next test would be in two years time. Of course, developing bowel cancer now would not be picked up for two years so it is hard to be completely relaxed but, at least for now, we are clear.

Saturday, 10th February

Homemade Beetroot Chutney.

A day at home. It is wet outside but, inside, the kitchen is pervaded with the smells of beetroot chutney and roasting chicken.  Pauline is making a new batch of chutney which will see us through the summer. The Summer? We haven’t even reached Spring yet although Farming Today, which I listen to at 6.30 am on Saturday mornings, was based in Lambing Sheds in Gloucestershire this morning and reminded us that Spring is not so far away. It still feels a long time coming.

I have written about my antipathy to ‘Charities’ before but it has raised its ugly head again and we should really address this issue. I preface my remarks by saying that I am not opposed to the principle of charity as such. Indeed, it would be inhumane to be otherwise. I am perfectly happy to give things to people who I know are in need and I do. What I am opposed to is the state concept of charity which pervades our society and allows government to hide behind it.

Why should churches be considered charities? Religion is a matter of personal choice and should be funded by those who choose it not by the state’s exemption from taxation. Why should establishments of privileged education be charities? If you can afford to buy privileges for your kids, you don’t need charity. ‘Free’ State Education is readily available. What I particularly object to is the charity industry. A couple of years ago, The True and Fair Foundation’s report – “A Hornets’ Nest” – found that 1,020 charities were spending less than 50 per cent of their total income on charitable activities. Some of the charities are some of Britain’s best known voluntary organisations such as Cancer Research UK, the Guide Dogs for the Blind and the British Heart Foundation. Age UK spent just 48 per cent.

It is the panoply of ‘organisation’ that takes inordinate amounts of the gullible donors’ hard earned cash. Charity administrators pay themselves salaries that the ordinary donors could only ever dream of. So much of this work should be done by our government and by levying the appropriate taxation levels not left to the tenuous reliability of charity organisers. Kids Company went under with allegations of chaotic accounting, spurious claims of effectiveness and sexual abuse being investigated by the police. Now the sex scandals of Oxfam hit the headlines. If nothing else, these two examples throw up question marks about the degree of scrutiny of due process from the Charity Commission.

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Week 475

Sunday, 28th January

Quite a pleasant day. The sun is out and the sky is blue. Pauline is out in the garden boiling chicken bones – pressure cooking for stock actually – and the neighbour’s cat has just adopted her as his new, best friend. The cat’s called Como although I don’t know if that is from Perry or Lake. We have just been asked to feed him for 8 days in February which should be interesting. On current plans, they’re lucky to find us in for 8 consecutive days in February. I just hope I won’t be reduced to walking the neighbourhood late at night calling for a missing cat.

Sunday is a day of rest and, this week, so it is for us. Our bodies are telling us that is the right decision. I remember reading last year about a man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days which, even though he’s half my age, is very impressive. I bet my sister, Jane BG could emulate that. She probably has already. Think of the calories expended in running 26 miles every day. Pauline & I feel we’ve done enough after 5 consecutive days of exercise. Time for the sofa and the football.

Monday, 29th January

A dull and overcast day. You’ll be excited to know that our new window cleaner is a huge improvement on the one we sacked. For example, he has cleaned the windows. Got the smart meter technician coming from British Gas this afternoon so my exercise will be to vacuum the house and valet the car. Life doesn’t get much more exciting!

As the British Gas software engineer was working outside on the meter box, strong, fine, soaking rain was driven into his face by a chilly wind. He pulled up the zip on his quilted, rain proof jacket and pulled down his woolly hat over his forehead. Even so, I was pleased to be retired and in the comfort of my centrally heated Office. The engineer remained cheerful until he found he couldn’t install the new software ‘patch’ that would upgrade my smart meter and he announced he would have to return next week. Not a problem.

I took the opportunity of being at home to tie up the next element of our 2018 travels. I booked our hotel in Athens for the beginning of September and EasyJet flights. Our seats on the EasyJet flights are exactly the same as those we have booked on the Valencia flight in May. After trying their latest hotel – The Metropolis last time, we are going back to our favourite – The Electra Palace – this time. It is expensive but worth it. We are comfortable there. It has two pools and a gym. Its position suits us

Tuesday, 30th January

How many suitcases do you need? We have 5 or 6 already but Pauline decided that we needed a 7th. I know she has her reasons but it is becoming a problem storing them all. Today, we were out early on a morning that had a hint of light frost after a wonderfully clear night sky studded with stars and floodlit by a nearly full moon. Here, we are lucky to have little light pollution and the sky was exciting to view.

Living here, we often forget we are so near the sea. In Greece, it confronted us every minute of the day but here it is out of immediate sight and when we go to the shops in Worthing, it still surprises us that we are walking down the side of the beach. The sun was glinting off the quiet sea and out to the wind farm on the horizon as we walked to Debenhams to pick up yet another suitcase of the type we already have a sizeable collection. Actually, I’m sure it will be helpful to add to the other 3 in this style.

I read local, on-line newspapers from places in my past on almost a daily basis. Local papers from Derby, Oldham/Manchester, Huddersfield, Sussex although they are struggling now as like never before. Often, communities don’t realise how important they are until they lose them. In the past year, the century old Oldham Chronicle went under. There will be others to come. For 30 years, Pauline & I lived in Huddersfield. To the uninitiated, as I was, it sounds rather forbidding but it proved a class act compared to Oldham. It had some excellent shops, cinemas, theatres and restaurants.

We have always been ‘foodies’ and one of our treats – at first monthly and, later, weekly – was to eat at Sole Mio in Huddersfield’s Imperial Arcade. In the 1970s, it opened our eyes and palates to things we take for granted now. Pollo Allegro was my favourite dish – freshly made in the kitchen, it really amounted to a Chicken Kiev on the bone but with Mozzarella wrapped in Parma Ham in the cavity of garlic butter. It sounds daft now but these ingredients were unknown to me at that time.

Home made pasta was a revelation as was home-cured Bresaola. More than anything else, however, was the delightfully informal style of the Trattoria where Birthdays were celebrated by turning the lights out, Mario shouting, Musica, Maestro, Musica as Happy Birthday to you was played over the sound system and a giant ice cream sweet with a lit sparkler stuck into the mix was brought in for the celebrant who got a large and sloppy Mario kiss. The Huddersfield Examiner announced today that Mario – restaurateur, expert fly fisherman and talented amateur artist – had died at the age of 80. We all die a little with these passing of landmarks of our lives.

Wednesday, 31st January

A mixed but cool day with a cold edged breeze. We did a full gym routine and swam outside but the walk out and back were not as comfortable as we would have liked. At least the water is heated. We spent 10 mins. in the sauna afterwards to warm back up.

I was still thinking about this as I read the Greek newspapers tonight. Particularly, I read about an incident on the Blue Star Naxos as it was approaching the island of Syros in the Cyclades. A 60 year man was seen to climb on the side railings and jump overboard at 9.00 pm. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. In practical terms, can you imagine the temperature of the sea at this time of year and the terrible darkness at that time of night? In human terms, can you imagine the mental turmoil that brings a man to do such a thing? If you have ever been on such a ship, there is a slight temptation to consider the jump as one looks over the side but to actually do it is terrible.

Thursday, 1st February

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy February. Hope you enjoy it as much as we intend to. Go for it! We celebrated it, as we do every new month, by reading and recording on our spreadsheet our consumption of electricity, gas and water. We were surprised to find that our figures were down compared to the same time last year. For us, that was quite counter intuitive but pleasing.

We did our normal weekly shop. I just thought I would share with you my wife’s dissatisfaction with her shopping experience. Pauline eats porridge for breakfast every day. Often it is raw in home made muesli but, currently, it is cooked with milk and fresh fruit. Of course, my boyhood hero, Dr. Samuel Johnson, once famously observed that oats is:

a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.

I don’t denigrate oats quite so strongly but it wouldn’t be my choice. Pauline is always looking for new productions of oats and, today, bemoaned the fact the Tesco was scaling back its range. I couldn’t believe it as I counted some 17 different producers of rolled oats. Some people are never satisfied! When Pauline found Quaker Oats in Sifnos supermarkets, people exclaimed, Ah, Quacker! So that’s what it will always be called in our house.

Another full exercise session and a really cold swimming session. Even so, I have fast forwarded my programme to do 30 x 25ms (0.75 kms) per session in the pool. I am such a poor stylist at swimming that it hurts but at least it is helping tone up my chest and arm muscles.

Friday, 2nd February

Out early on a mixed morning to Worthing. In Pauline’s eternal quest for the perfect pair of trousers, we were going to complete the ‘Click & Collect’ process at Debenhams. I hate Department Stores with a passion. Particularly, I hate the terrible stench of chemical perfume smell that hits me as I walk through the first few counters near the door. All Department Stores seem to be like this in England, France, Italy, Greece. They all look like relics of a bygone age of Are You Being Served? They give me the shivers! At 9.30 am on a Friday morning, Debenhams had more assistants than customers. One wonders if it can survive.

We were only there for half an hour and then back to the roof top of the multi storey carpark to be rewarded with this lovely, tonal view of Worthing Bay.

Went for yet another session at the gym and in the pool. This week, I have swum 4km/2.5mls in the outdoor pool and covered 82,000 paces or 68kms/42mls in cardio workouts in the gym. It feels good. We will have Saturday off and then get back to it on Sunday.

Saturday, 3rd February

I have always been an early adopter of innovative technology. Always embrace change and leave the past behind. Regularly, it comes back to bite me and early versions of new inventions fail but I can’t help myself. When we were buying our new-build house on a new, greenfield development, I wrote to the builders and to BT to suggest they might provide superfast, fibre-optic broadband instead of installing fibre-optic, green terminal cabinets and running old technology copper wiring to each house.

Of course, they both ignored me. We still have a respectable 40 Mbs of broadband width but it could and should be so much better. This week, BT have announced that new homes are going to receive fibre-optic cable direct. There will be no, last section copper wiring to slow the process down. Modern Britain will catch up with the Far East levels of provision by 2050 or so. We may have to move house again just for that.

Cover the roof in solar panels.

Another thing I wanted on my new house was solar panels on the roof as part of the construction. I asked the developers for it. Not possible in late 2015/ early 2016. By mid-summer 2016 and a few months after we had moved in, they were offering solar panels to new buyers as an extra and, on top end models, they came as standard. At our time of life, installing solar panels would not, probably, be cost effective and I wasn’t thinking of saving the planet but I suggest house builders take this far more seriously. It is possible to construct roofs entirely from sun power generating materials. If the cost is greatly reduced through mass production – it would even pay the government to find ways to subsidise this process – then power generation could become something we largely didn’t have to worry about.

I was reading about a couple who had designed and built their own house along energy-saving lines. Solar roof panels and heat source technology were providing them with all the energy their house required. They had incorporated triple glazing and the house really requires no heating whatever the weather outside. With such a massive push on the building of new houses, why not try to proof them for the future – or next 50 years? These innovations will only be cost effective if they are mass adopted. We have to start demanding them.

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Week 474

Sunday, 21st January

Not a pleasant day. It has rained fairly heavily for most of it. It has been dark as well although not cold. Our reaction has been to stay indoors. Relaxing doesn’t come easily at the moment and I felt listless throughout the day. Political programmes, newspapers and a football match were the day’s distractions. Pauline served a wonderful, homemade, smoked salmon and poached salmon terrine which we ate with salad.

I did a bit of research on a short trip to Valencia in late April or early May at the time of the orange blossom. Found a lovely hotel and EasyJet flights which were very cost effective. Four days in Valencia in May will cost us half the price of our four day trip to Athens in September. It is nearly four years since we sold our Greek house and five since my friend and ex-colleague, Brian, sold his property in the Dordogne.

He contacted me today because he had found it for sale after the person he sold it to had finished the renovation. Brian sold it on partly refurbished five years ago for £42,000.00/€47,500.00 and he found it on re-sale today at £146,000.00/€165,000.00. It is a lovely, little cottage with a number of out-buildings which are ripe for development. Of course, he sold before the referendum and the subsequent crash in the Pound but he doesn’t really regret it. He has moved on with other areas of his life. And so have we.

Monday, 22nd January

It rained over night but dried up soon this morning and was distinctly warmer than of late. We were around 11C/52F as the day progressed. We set off around 9.30 am for Surrey and P&C’s. It is a delightful journey which took about an hour. We sat and talked over coffee for a couple of hours and then revisited our old property to see how it was faring before driving back to Sussex.

I cooked chicken thighs with peppers, mushrooms and onions for our meal and we went through the post. It included the apparatus for the ‘poo test’ which we are doing for the fourth time. Every two years from the age of 60, 62, 64 and now, 66. We will do it for another four occasions until we are 74. I read recently that they are going to start at 50 soon. Just hope people take it up and aren’t squeamish. I included extra onions and olive oil in the meal today to smooth the test’s progress. Now where are the surgical gloves?

Tuesday, 23rd January

What a depressingly dark, wet, misty day. I even woke up feeling fed up. Someone keeps stealing my hair in the night. It is getting thinner and thinner. At Grammar School more than 50 years ago, teachers said they saw me entering a room 10 mins  before I arrived because my ‘quiff’ was so resplendent.

If you don’t know what a quiff was, you’ll have to google it. Certainly, they would not say it now and I couldn’t grow a quiff now either. The only good thing is that I rarely see my own deficiency because it is behind me temporally and actually. I’ll have to do a Rooney and have it stitched back in.

Little Viv & Iris

We did a work out in the gym today but missed out on our swim because the rain and gloom was so insistent that we could not face it. As we drove home I received a text message from an old friend – Caroline who I employed as an School Attendance Officer in the 1980s. She was actually a past pupil of my school although long before I arrived.

As one of the ancillary staff, she maintains friendship groups with other non-teaching staff and had gathered together two others from the dim and distant past. We visit Little Viv regularly when we drive back but Iris, who was School Office Manager, I haven’t seen for 25 years. The text I received brought back lovely memories even if it won’t bring back my hair.

Wedesday, 24th January

Another soggy day. Another day of no outdoor swimming. We still did our gym work but can’t wait to go outside in the pool again. Tomorrow that looks possible. We were at 11C/52F which is about average down here for the time of year but these depressingly dark days do leave one yearning for something warmer and brighter. On that score, Pauline has found a new build property on the southern coast of Tenerife that is in the price bracket that we would be prepared to commit. She has sent for more details and will build up a portfolio of available properties for us to look at when we spend our month out there. I am now preparing to fix a short break to Valencia in May.

Mum was an Fine Art student and became an Art Teacher at the Girls’ High School. Her particular favourite was Augustus John and she had a number of books of his works. His life drawings of the nude, female form seemed to dominate I seem to remember so I wasn’t encouraged to look through those books. I was reminded of another favourite and a book I was allowed to flick through by an article on my local news tonight.

Heath Robinson, who is now an adjective in his own right, was a designer of wacky and over complicated contraptions of the ‘Wallace & Grommit’ type. There is an Exhibition of Heath Robinson designs in Southampton shortly. Might go and have a look if we can fit it in to our busy, travelling schedule.

Thursday, 25th January

Chalk & Cheese. That is the difference between yesterday and today. Grey and wet has given way to blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. Swimming outside this afternoon was almost akin to winter in the Med.. Ironically, the temperatures on both days hovered around 11C/52F.

While I was on the treadmill, I watched the news which was followed by the national weather. As is the custom, a viewer’s weather photo was featured and today it was from someone in Birstall near Leicester. No great import there. Certainly, I have never been there although in one, strange sense, I belong there.

I have lived, like so many of us in the modern world, in many places in my life. I celebrate that fact and feel I fit in perfectly to Theresa May’s vaguely pejorative description of citizens of nowhere. I was born in Repton in Derbyshire and moved away to Ripon in Yorkshire as a student where I lived in ‘digs’ and then a flat above an estate agents and below a rather noisy brothel. I moved to Oldham and lived in a flat in another former (just) brothel. It still had a red light in the hall (which passed innocent me by completely.).

I moved to Meltham in Yorkshire and then on to the village of Helme a few miles away. From there I moved to Longwood in Huddersfield and, briefly, to a small apartment in Salendine Nook a mile away. In the meantime, we were living in the house we designed and had built on the Cycladic island of Sifnos where we lived half the year while we moved for the other half of the year into a duplex apartment in Woking, Surrey. Finally, for now, we have moved to a new build property in Angmering, West Sussex.

Birstall Church – Thomas Sanders married Susannah in 1897

Birstall near Leicester is somewhere I have only visited genetically. My name is Sanders and the first record that family research has evidenced is of my ancestors living in Birstall in the 18th Century. Particularly, a boy, Thomas Sanders, was registered as born to the parents of Andrew & Elizabeth Sanders in 1770. There is record of a Thomas & Anne Sanders who died in 1771 and who may have been Andrew’s parents and may be my six times grandparents.

We are already talking about buying a small property – possibly in the Canaries and Pauline hasn’t given up hope of another new house in UK before we are finished – just to keep her hand in. I’ve often wondered if my maternal grandfather, James, Joseph, Jeremiah Coghlan, who was born in Brighton to Irish immigrant parents, was from a long line of travellers and I have inherited restless feet. I certainly didn’t get it from my Dad.

Friday, 26th January

Le Shuttle – Quickest & Cheapest

Another day of blue skies and strong sunshine. We did our fourth consecutive day of exercise. I found my muscles arguing back a little today. As we promised ourselves in our New Year Resolutions, we are gradually increasing our effort. We are now doing 70 mins cardio-vascular gym work and I am increasing my swimming from 20 x 25ms by 2 lengths each week for 5 weeks to reach 30 x 25 ms to make 0.75 km per session. It is starting to take its toll. I am up to 26 lengths each day and it is hurting. Even so, my weight is showing the benefit. I am approaching a weight I haven’t seen for more than 30 years and that is spurring me on.

Booked a shopping trip to France next month, taking advantage of the Shuttle’s regular discounting policy. Our tickets cost just £20.00/€22.80 return for the car with as many passengers as we wish to carry. This makes shopping really cost effective. We will do our week’s shop as well as stock up on wine. It’s a pleasant trip as long as the weather is kind. Before we go, we want to have tied up our trip to Valencia in May and one to Athens in September.

Saturday, 27th January

Valencia Town

A pleasant start to the day with plenty of sunshine but the afternoon brought a bit of rain. We decided to do the gym today because Sunday and Monday we are otherwise engaged. On Monday, we have a British Gas engineer coming to update the software on our smart meter which will, apparently, take a couple of hours. We’ve also got a new window cleaner coming. We’ve sacked the original one who charged £20.00/€22.80 per time and cleaned everything remotely and badly with a pole and water brush. The new one cleans every thing by hand and only charges £18.00/€20.50.

Hotel Valencia Palace

In our continued quest to plan our 2018, we booked a break in Valencia in May. I chose a lovely, 5* Hotel on the edge of the town. SH Valencia Palace has all the things we want like an indoor and an outdoor pool plus an excellent gym. It has a large room with tea/coffee making facilities, free wifi, satellite television and it has a good restaurant. The total cost was about £600.00/€684.00. The flights were booked with EasyJet and cost £240.00/€274.00.

So that’s another part of the plan resolved. Now I just have to secure our Athens trip for September, our Yorkshire trip for October and then work out when we can fit in Edinburgh and Cheltenham. Could be a good year.

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Week 473

Sunday, 14th January

A lovely, sunny day …. of rest and I’m feeling so energetic! May have to go out for a walk later but there are two reasonable matches to watch this afternoon including Liverpool v City. Trouble is that I’m becoming addicted to my exercise app and it  shows I’ve only covered 750 paces this morning. No wonder I’m bouncing around like a mad thing! Or it could be the Turkey Soup. Those bones keep on coming. Why did we buy such a big one?

Canal du Midi

Beziers

Some of my spare time today is given over to finding the best place to rent in France this summer. I favour the Mediterranean side. What do you think about Beziers? I like the idea of it for lots of reasons. It is where the Canal du Midi runs out into the Mediterranean. The Canal featured in the Rick Stein classic barge journey cookery series on British television. It provides my favourite cooking style and majors on fish. The weather is almost guaranteed It has lovely countryside and vineyards and is close to Med. beaches and sea. The town is interesting in itself and there are plenty of places to explore round about.

We are looking for a villa which must have outside space – eg a garden. It must have wifi internet access and satellite television. It must have full cooking facilities and clothes washing facilities. It must have air conditioning and it must be rentable for 1 – 2 months in the summer excluding August. It is amazing how affordable they are. Beziers is a relatively short drive of 650 mls/1050 kms which we could do in under 10 hours but would split into a couple of stages en route. With winter rumoured to be about to start in UK, this is a lovely task to pursue.

Monday, 15th January

Central Greece

The day has opened with blustery winds, dark skies and intermittent rain. At 11C/52F, it’s not cold but outside is not inviting. It is bin day and I am pleased I put them out last night in the dry. We will still go to the Health Club after our day off but it is not a day for outside entertainment – or sleeping rough. We will probably have to swim outside even before we get to the pool. The standing water is currently so unpleasant.

Strikes paralyse Greece.

Northern and Central Greece is blanketed in snow and there are reported deaths of fishermen and infrastructure damage on the Halkidiki Peninsular because of dreadful weather with strong winds. At the same time, Greece in general and Athens in particular is being paralysed with a wave of strikes protesting against the next round of reforms demanded in exchange for a third bailout by the EU. There is no public transport today including flight disruption. The Civil Servant’s Union is rallying against intended curbs on their ability to strike.

Tuesday, 16th January

A sunny but cool day which we spent sorting out future events. We did do another full session at the Health Club including an extended swim outside and it really feels as if it is beginning to pay dividends. Our weight its falling quite rapidly as we burn considerably more calories than we consume. We are finding the ‘recovery’ period is much quicker and our ability to ‘repeat’ the routines much more possible.

Villa in Amarilla, Tenerife

We think we have found a pleasant villa in Amarilla on the southern coast of Tenerife for the month of November. It is much bigger than just two of us require but that is necessary to get all the facilities we want. A 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom property with private, heated pool and which includes a fully fitted kitchen + outdoor Barbeque, laundry, wifi, satellite television with British channels + Sky Sports.

The villa is 10 minutes walk to the beach and grocery shops. This is almost the precise description we could have designed for our search. Even better than that is the price. For the month of November, the villa will cost us £2,800.00/€3,150.00 which is about half the cost of the hotel we would otherwise have booked. This way of travelling is much more to our taste and allows us to self-cater in the way we like. We can do plenty of walking and swimming as well as cook for ourselves which is just what we enjoy.

Wednesday, 17th January

Villa in Amarilla, Tenerife

Lovely blue sky here but very chilly in the breeze although the gauge read 10C/50F. The walk outside to the pool took a bit of doing. Still, we did another full exercise programme and felt good for completing it. We’ve missed only one day in the past fifteen. Before going out, we had to shell out £150.00/€170.00 for a man to come and ‘service’ the boiler. He was here 20 mins and really only read the dials then pronounced it ‘fit’ as it should be after less than two years work.

Well, we’ve actually taken a decision! We’ve booked a villa in Tenerife for the month of November and followed that up by securing reasonably timed flights with Thomson Airways. Thank goodness for that. I couldn’t stand my own indecision for one minute longer. Now we can turn our attention to the Summer and securing a villa in southern France for a month or so to idle away June – July. Once again, we have precise requirements – a pool, cooking and laundry facilities, wifi and air-conditioning. We will also require private parking and outside space. It will be nice to secure this before the weekend is out.

Thursday, 18th January

A sunny but cold and blustery day. We did our weekly shop and then prepared for our exercise routine. By mid day, we decided to have a ‘let go’ day and decided not to go to the Health Club. We sorted out the final details of our November trip to Tenerife. Particularly, we downloaded apps on our smartphones to monitor and control our villa rental and, separately, our flights. Contacted our airline to upgrade our seats to ‘extra legroom’. This cost us an extra £100.00/€113.50 for two people return which is scandalous.

With the early winter sorted out, we are now turning our minds to the summer and urgently attempting to fix a period of some six weeks in France for June-July. I have been looking at a villa in Beziers but it could be Narbonne or Montpellier. We just want relaxed sunny, warm conditions. We also want to arrange a Greek island holiday with stays in Athens at each end for September. We are hoping to do a short break in Spain in the Spring and at least one trip to Yorkshire in October. We don’t do spur of the moment travel. This is the time to research, check, check again and book well ahead to ensure we get what we want.

Friday, 19th January

Clear skies last night delivered blue skies and sun this morning with a light touch of frost. Having said that, we feel very lucky to not have the cold and snow of the North to cope with. We had quite enough of that for 40 years crossing the Pennines and queuing on the M62 for hours in snowbound gridlock. Instead, we were outside in the sunshine, exercising at the gym and swimming in the sunlit, outdoor pool.

Chateau de Monbazillac

Well, we’ve secured the second element of our 2018 travels with 5 weeks (June/July) in France. After quite extensive searching, I pulled back from the Beziers coast to the Dordogne and the outskirts of Bergerac. We are renting one of two Gîtes in the grounds of Chateau de Monbazillac. The Gîtes are owned by a couple from Yorkshire and have their own, huge infinity pool, and fully kitted out gym. We will have all home comforts including dishwasher and laundry facilities, wi-fi and English satellite television to while away the evenings’ wine tasting. Total cost is fantastic at £2,200.00/€2,500.00. Now we can turn our attention to a short, Spanish trip in the Spring and a Greek trip in the Autumn.

Saturday, 20th January

Stop over at the Mercure Orleans

A wet day. We decided fairly early on that we would have a day off and not go out so we did ‘home’ things. I had my haircut. Pauline made salmon terrine for next week. I vacuumed the house and then completed the Summer trip planning. We will drive to the tunnel, make the crossing and then stay in Coquelles for the first night. From there, the journey is about 8.5 hrs which we will split into two legs. The first will take us to Orleans where will stay in a Mercure hotel. I am a member so I get a 10% discount. The hotel is lovely with pool, gym and restaurant. The second leg of the trip will take around 4 hrs. On the way back, we will also stay in Orleans and Coquelles. With that all booked up, we can relax.

In the next few days, we want to have tied up our Greek trip and a short break in Spain – we are thinking of Seville or Valencia. After cancelling our Gran Canaria month last November, this Winter has felt a long, hard slog and we are looking forward to indulging ourselves in some warm weather again.

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Week 472

Sunday, 7th January

 A beautiful, sunny morning that makes one glad to be alive. I think I am although this may just be an altered state aka death. Maybe, I will never know. Having watched the Marr Show, I am convinced the prime minister is not just in an altered state but on another planet. When discussing the Health Service today, it was less a case of, Nothing Has Changed and more a case of Everything is Planned and Wonderful.

Watched a very old episode of Dad’s Army last night (Desperate or What?) which reminded me of reports I had read earlier on a Greek blog. In the wartime comedy of the British Home Guard, the old codgers were drafted in to help with the war effort by working in the fields bringing in the harvest. The threshing machine was steam powered and the whole process harked back to the agricultural revolution and a time when religion insinuated itself into every sphere of human activity. After gathering in the bags of grain, the vicar and the verger put it upon themselves to perform a service out in the fields to bless the bounty of their god. (You see, I find it hard to write it even now.) Of course, in this comedy the whole scene develops into arguments and recrimination, pushing and shoving about nothing of any importance. Fade to credits.

Yesterday was Epiphany for some. Our neighbours took down the Christmas lights around the outside of their houses and the Greeks threw crosses into the freezing sea for bonkers men and boys to dive for in the hope of receiving Christ’s redemption. The world has most definitely gone mad.

Although the grip of orthodox religion is gradually being forcibly loosened by the left wing government, it is still constitutionally there and permeates the whole social fabric on the less cosmopolitan islands. I think that, for Greek Youth, the pride in being seen by their community as the ‘winner’ has long superseded any religious accolade but still they dive and still they must be the one to hold the cross aloft for applause of the wiser and warmer old people at the quayside.

Before the cross is tossed into the foaming briny by the priest, he releases doves (pigeons) as a symbol of peace to calm the tempestuous waves so fishermen can ply their trade safely through the year. I was amused to read of one dove which, when ‘released’ by the priest, fell like a stone to the bottom of the water like the proverbial dead parrot. Definitely no luck there! Another on the northern Peloponnese ended, just like Dad’s Army, in pushing, shoving, fisticuffs, having to be separated by port police, civil police, religious luminaries and elders followed by threats of legal action. Why? Because one boy got the cross first and had it snatched out of his hand raised in victory by another boy – who was rumoured to be a GYPSY! Fade to credits.

Greek island life really hasn’t moved on enough for a modern economy. That, of course, is half the charm for the two week holiday makers.

Monday, 8th January

It’s fleeing it today. As Oldhamers will tell you, that means it’s bloody freezing! As we drove out along the coast road to Worthing, the car told us it was only 3C/38F and very grey. Pauline was returning some shoes she had bought but wasn’t satisfied with. We parked in Waitrose carpark and walked through the town exploring different streets as we went. We are having a day off from the gym today to give our muscles a rest and so a more relaxed jaunt through town is really enjoyable.

Warwick Street, Worthing – The Italian Centre

We came upon the Italian Quarter – a street which had 7 or 8 Italian Restaurants or Delicatessens within a 100 metres of  each other. Italian language floated over the breeze. It was a lovely discovery ….. except, as we read the menus, we realised that our old passion for English/Italian cooking was no longer appropriate. Flavours sounded wonderful – tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil, etc. but always combined with those gross carbs that we no longer eat – pasta (in an Italian?), rice (in Risotto?) and potatoes (in chips??). Of course, who has ever started an Italian meal without the nibbles of crostini with tapenade?

We came home mourning the loss of our old, eating life and fell back upon grilled salmon and salad – our current staple. For sweet, we really went for it with Greek Yoghurt and Damson Jam. Who needs Seafood Risotto?

Tuesday, 9th January

Up early on a grey and cool day to go to the Dentist. Great start to the day. Actually, it was the Hygienist I was seeing and I hate them even more than the dentist. It did turn out to be better than anticipated and I was home by 9.30 am. At home, my wife is reprising her Christmas triumph by making another meat terrine – Duck/Pork/Chicken wrapped in Bacon. I am doing man’s work – sorting out the smart meter with British Gas and reading the newspapers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The smack of firm government (not) resounds around front pages this morning. I  have been trying quite hard to keep political campaigning out of the Blog and confine it to Faceache/Twatter but it is such a nondescript day otherwise that I can’t resist. I keep going back in my mind to the Yeats poem – The Second Coming – and the lines:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

It seems to describe this Tory administration perfectly and you could not want more of a dream team to tear us out of Europe.

Off to the Health Club soon to try and get it out of my head. In the past 7 days I have done 90,000 paces covering 43.5 miles or 70 kilometres. Got to keep it going. Will I still be able to do this when I’m 75, 80? Don’t answer that!

Wednesday, 10th January

Lovely day of blue sky and sunshine which reached 11C/52F. Our muscles are beginning to show signs of fatigue after meeting and exceeding our 10,000 paces target for 10 consecutive days. Even so, we will be off to the Health Club again this afternoon.

I read a strange article in the Greek Newspaper, Kathimerini, yesterday which reminded me of an experience we had on a Greek island around 25 years ago. We were finding the rented accommodation on Sifnos increasingly unsatisfactory and we began to branch out by visiting and staying on Paros, Milos and Folegandros in the Cyclades and Symi and Nisyros in the Dodecanese. While we were on the tiny island of Nisyros, we were walking, barefooted at the sea’s edge, when we were strangely assaulted by the sight of a white-haired cow staring at us from the waves. It turned out to be just its head floating alone and we left the island thinking that some anti-social farmer or butcher had just tossed the unwanted body part into the sea.

Washed up on a Sifnos Beach.

Yesterday, Kathimerini reported that carcasses of cows had begun to wash up on the beaches of Cycladic islands including Syros and Sifnos. This cow washed up on the beach in Vathi, Sifnos was said to be part of the normal, Greek tradition of throwing overboard carcasses of animals which die in transport. If you’re thinking of visiting Sifnos, beware floating cows.

Thursday, 11th January

Great rejoicing in the Sanders’ Household this morning because we have been sent notice of our latest round of Bowel Cancer Screening aka the poo test in our house. In the case of my bowel, a very large screen is absolutely recommended. The test is available to people aged 60 – 74 (It is anticipated that one loses control of one’s bowels after that age.) and is offered every two years.

After writing this Blog for nearly ten years and with my distinct lack of memory, I am in danger of repeating myself many times. I am biologically illiterate. I know almost nothing about my body or how it works. I know absolutely nothing about female bodies and how they work. One of my problems is that it doesn’t really bother me. The more I learn about my body and others, the more I shrink from the knowledge. It’s pretty disgusting, you have to admit. Who, for example, would know that we don’t just have one bowel but two?

I could extend this happy ignorance to many areas of my physical existence. I have no real idea what my kidneys or liver really do and I definitely don’t know where they are. I have been forced to look at the working of my heart but my understanding is very simplistic just as my understanding of the internal combustion engine is. Sex has never been explained to me which is just as well because it would have scared the hell out of me. What I do know is that this is a fantastic service provided by the NHS (the poo test not sex) and incredibly reassuring. Whether I should be reassured by it or not, I don’t know.

Friday, 12th January

William Blake’s The Sea of Time and Space (1821)

My degree, which concentrated on the influence of Literature on our understanding of History included looking at the contribution of William Blake’s Art and Poetry to the development of English Romanticism. I realise now that I had little knowledge of his biography. I actually thought, in my ignorance, that he was London based. Today, I learned that he lived in West Sussex for a time. Petworth and Bognor Regis claim Blake as a former resident and an exhibition – William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion – opens today at Petworth House. As an impoverished poet and artist almost unrecognised in his own time, he decided to leave the capital. He moved with his wife, Catherine, to a cottage in the village of Felpham where he enjoyed some of his most productive years. If you’re going to be impoverished, there is no better place.

Saturday, 13th January

We’ve finished the week as it has been most days – under a leaden, grey sky. We did another workout at the gym and will take Sunday off – probably. I’ve done 85,000 steps covering 44 miles/71 Kms and swum 3 kms in the past 7 days so I think I we are due a rest.

We celebrated with the most wonderful meal cooked by Pauline. It is one of my favourites but it is a little indulgent so we don’t eat it often. I adore chicken with tarragon cream sauce. We have bags and bags of our own frozen tarragon in the freezer. We don’t make it with chicken breasts but pan fried boneless thighs. The sauce is cooked with the residue from the chicken and allowed to thicken a little through reduction. We fight quite hard each day with our diet so this is an occasional indulgence. The flavours which one would characterise as classic French is very much my choice. I noticed a dish tweeted by The Skiathan today involving Toulouse Sausage and spicy Chorizo. These are the polar opposites to my taste. Even so, I hope he enjoyed it.

Over the past five years, I have become a lover of fruit. I have said before that, if we are what we eat, I am a tomato. I could have added that I am also quite fruity. The morning starts with the juice of two freshly squeezed oranges. As the morning develops, I will eat a couple of bananas. I will also have a glass of pure apple juice. With my meal, I will eat blueberries with my yoghurt and we have become accustomed, lately, to sharing mango in the evening. We eat so many, we have started buying them by the box. Tesco sell a box of 6 for £4.00/€4.50 which is fantastic value. Unfortunately, I am denying myself the delights of grapes in all forms at the moment.

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Week 471

Sunday, 31st December,

The last day of the year is dull, wet and fairly dismal. It doesn’t bode well for the firework celebrations that are planned to welcome in 2018. However, we are still alive and grateful for that. Sunday papers followed by a really enjoyable football match in which Palace held City to a draw and closed with the two managers sitting together and talking almost like adults. I enjoyed it anyway.

No exercise today and, although we both heaved a sigh of relief initially, I am starting to feel itchy energy as I pace around the house. I might do the vacuuming. It is too uninviting to go out for a walk. Pauline is roasting a brace of partridge for our meal and we will accompany them with a bottle of  Juan Gil Jumilla which was given us for Christmas by our dear friends in Yorkshire. It is the last alcohol for some time so it better be good.

As usual, one of our New Year’s resolutions is to be better people and that means fitter and healthier. We are starting our strictly paired-down calorie intake tomorrow and that will include complete abstinence from alcohol for as long as we can hold out. We will go back to weighing out and calorie calculating all our meals. I am also pledging to increase my physical exercise in small increments over the next few months. I will do 10 mins. extra on the jogging machine each session in the first week and then add 10 mins. per session on the bike in the second week. In the third week – if I’m still alive – I will add 2 lengths (50m) to my swimming each subsequent week until I’ve taken my current 20 lengths to 30.

Another of our resolutions is to travel more but with a particular purpose. We are looking to rent villas in the south of France and in Tenerife to provide us with a base for summer and winter breaks. We have tight requirements. It must have good cooking and clothes washing facilities, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, satellite television and a pool which should be heated in Tenerife for the winter. Basically, we want to continue our normal life somewhere else for a while. We may use that as a springboard to buying somewhere in 2019 depending on Brexit (ahh) outcome. We also want to do a couple of short breaks in European cities – Italy & Spain – although we are not particularly good at that sort of thing.

One resolution I failed miserably at in 2017 was to stop walking round with my mouth open like a gibbering idiot. I will redouble my efforts. Pauline is resolving to smile more and make herself squint less in photographs. You read it here first.

Monday, 1st January

Didn’t quite make the 7.00 am start today but it will be our only lapse this year. On the first day of 2018, after breakfast and newspapers, we followed our routine of the first day of each new month – we read and record our meters – gas, electricity & water. Everything is entered into a spreadsheet which we’ve kept almost as long as we’ve been married. We have a smart meter in our Office which displays consumption figures – or it did until it failed a couple of weeks ago. Today, we could be found in the rain with pen and pad, umbrella and torch sharing the routine together. This is how a marriage works!

We ventured out into the rain at 10.00 am to ….. pick up a mop from Argos. All great matters of State are here. Don’t you just wish you could join us in the high life? We are off to the Health Club for our first exercise of the year this afternoon although the weather isn’t exactly tempting us out.

Tuesday, 2nd January

Spent the entire day thinking it was Monday. Yesterday felt like Sunday because it was the post New Year calm before the storm. It reminds me of the old joke from my student days that I found hilarious but few others laughed at:

Two hippopotamuses wading in the mud. One picked his head up, sniffed the air, looked around and said in a slow, deep voice, Mavis, I keep thinking it’s Thursday.

As students, pretending to be very intellectual, we thought that was side-splittingly funny – so much so that we entitled our college magazine, Mavis, as some ‘in joke’. The mildly amusing absurdity of it has stayed with me for almost 50 years. The boy who first told me the joke is now a 68 year old artist with a gallery in Yorkshire. How times move on – or not.

I hesitate to insert a description of our bedtime routine here so, if you are sensitive, look away now. I am addicted to late nights and early mornings. It has been like that all my life. My normal bedtime is midnight and the radio news comes on at the side of our bed at 6.00 am. We get up an hour later and the day begins. At night time, Pauline goes up to read around 10.30 pm and I watch Newsnight and the Newspaper Review before tidying the house, checking the doors, turning out the lights and setting the alarm. When I get to bed, Pauline is either still reading her book (on her Kindle) or snoozing. I tell her the headlines from tomorrows papers and I am then asleep within 5 minutes.

Not tonight. As soon as I went up, I could see a look of genuine concern on Pauline’s face and anxiety in her eyes. She asked me to look at her tongue. It was bright yellow as if it had been scattered with pollen. She does suffer with an acid reflux problem and this is not totally unusual. Actually, she regularly brushed her tongue to get rid of it. She is also prone to tongue ulcers. However, tonight, she wanted me to look at quite a large, yellow/brown circular lump far back on her tongue which she had noticed for the first time.

Her iPad had Google open at Symptoms of Mouth Cancer. Actually, the appearance of the lump was more like the description of (look away) Genital Warts. She said she had tried brushing it and pulling it off but it wouldn’t move and was certainly a growth. We resolved to go straight to our dentist tomorrow morning to get an expert opinion before moving on to the doctor. I found it hard to get to sleep and finally dropped off dreaming about seriously worrying results.

Wednesday, 3rd January

Woke up at 6.00 am and my first thought was about Pauline’s ‘problem’. Somehow, you wish it had been a dream. She went to the bathroom to look at her tongue and … the lump was still there. We both agreed to go out at 8.30 am to get to the dentist for some serious advice. Breakfast for me was freshly squeezed orange juice and tea. For Pauline it was a cup of hot water and a bowl of her daily cereal – raw porridge oats mixed with fruit and skimmed milk. She was finding it as hard to drink and swallow as she was last night. Suddenly, she found the lump had moved backwards on her tongue and, after a painful and uncomfortable attempt she removed it.

It was the hard, round, half-dome husk of a cereal seed which was about half a centimetre in diameter and which had acted like the suction pad of a limpet on her tongue for 24 hrs. It had survived umpteen hot drinks and a bowl of soup, a chicken and vegetable meal and a bottle of water. It had survived being brushed, gargled, scraped and pulled. It had looked to all intents and purposes as if it was integral to her tongue. Hurray! We did an increased gym & swim yesterday and we will do another one today.

We didn’t choose to swim here in Littlehampton!

It was quite blustery last night and the strong gusts continued sporadically this morning. We did our 70  mins in the gym and steeled ourselves to swim outside. Actually, the outside temperature was 11C/52F but the wind chill did reduce that rather. Even so, we did our swim and followed that with a sauna and Jacuzzi and water jet massage. I managed 11,500 paces again today and earned about 720 calories in my exercise at the Health Club. I am fulfilling my resolution of increasing my exercise by 10 mins in the first week and another 10 mins will be added next week followed by a gradual increasing of my swimming lengths. I will achieve about 70,000 paces per week which equates to about 53 kms/33mls covered. For an old(er) man, I think that is becoming reasonable but I must try harder.

Thursday, 4th January

Already the mornings are seeming to get lighter earlier. Things are certainly getting better. Before we know it, we will be seeing the Spring. Our Hellebores are already flowering beautifully which is a delight in these dark days.

 

 

 

 

 

The cyclamen are coming back strongly and hydrangeas are budding up with promises for the new season. We have every reason to be optimistic.

It was 13C/56F today which made swimming outside pleasant although a strong breeze tended to take make us wince at times as it blew cold spray across our bare backs. We did another full, enhanced exercise routine again for the 4th, consecutive day and were definitely starting to feel it. One more tomorrow and then Saturday off.

Friday, 5th January

This blog entry will concern itself with the minutiae of life. (What’s new? I hear you ask.) If you haven’t got time to waste, look at something else. We went out to buy two padlocks today.

Our trips to the Health Club involve changing rooms and lockers. We get changed for the gym and lock our stuff up. We arrive back at the changing shattered and sweaty to get ready for the pool. Unlock and relock. Finally, we shower and dress after swimming – unlock again.

We use a padlock with a key. The key is attached to a strong, rubber wrist band. well, I say strong but I have seen a few members scratching around at the base of the foaming Jacuzzi for a dislocated key. A woman last week had to have her padlock cut off her locker because of a lost key and, yesterday, Pauline’s band pinged open as she changed for swimming. Five minutes later and I would have been on a diving course to recover it from the bottom of the huge, outdoor pool. The only reason we haven’t dispensed with keys is because all the combination padlocks we’ve seen have been too small to read with tired, old eyes. If your reading glasses are locked in a locker which is padlocked with a combination you can’t see, then you’re knackered. Today, I found some padlocks with a combination you could read with the naked eye from outer space. Hope Pauline can see them.

Saturday, 6th January

I was involved in Education and training for more than 50 years. Some of those were, of course , my own education but my work and my own development went on side by side until the mid-1980s when I completed my Masters Degree. I have always believed Education is the most liberating and empowering of processes for all people. It certainly was for me.

I have met, known and worked with an enormous number of interesting, challenging, unusual even bizarre people in my time from my own teachers and lecturers, people I have worked for and those who have worked for me but it is the students I have been responsible for who particularly remain in my memory. One of the things I have learnt is that my judgement of them has rarely been right. It is a humbling sense of my own ignorance about humankind.

The girl in the red dress with her Mum & Dad

Purely by chance this week, I read in the Manchester Evening News of two men in their late 30s who are in court for attacking and viciously torturing a vulnerable man in his flat before killing him and escaping with £40.00 in cash. As soon as I read the names, I knew them. I could see them as daft, troublesome little lads in the early 1990s. Amazing how ‘special needs’ kids from 25 years ago can evoke a whole section of one’s life. In this same week and quite out of the blue I received a message on Faceache from a girl called Donna. I didn’t recognise her surname because she is married but she was a lovely pupil who is now 41 years old. I last saw her 25 years ago as she went out into the world. She went on to 6th Form College, Birmingham University and then the hotel industry. Nowadays, she flits between her home in Birmingham and her home in Barbados.

My life has touched both ends of the spectrum. If I take credit for one, I would have to take the blame for the other. The only thing one can do is hope to make a difference and accept it won’t always succeed. It also shows how little difference teachers make in the overall scheme of things. Two boys of challenged ability have found themselves on the perimeter of society. One girl who was lucky enough to have a lovely mother who was a cleaner in my school and was determined that her daughter would do well, made the most of her chances.

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Week 470

Sunday, 24th December, 2017

Christmas Eve means so many things to different people at different stages of their life. To children and parents of children it means something very different to people deep in age like me. For me, it is navigating the changing patterns of mankind so that my life can continue as seamlessly as possible. Will the roads be clear or jammed? Will the gym be busy or quiet? Will political debate on television and in the digital media be interrupted or maintained? Do I have to look like I’m enjoying it?

Well, today went alright. We did jobs in the house this morning, went to the Health Club which was slightly busier this afternoon and are spending an evening of contemplation tonight as usual. I have played Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Hits at full volume to drown out the world and its musak and followed that by Handel’s Opera, Xerxes with its tearful opening aria, Largo. these pieces always set me up for the sadness of Christmas.

  • Bird on the Wire
  • Dance me to the end of love
  • So Long Marianne
  • Hey That’s no way to say Goodbye.

I am sobbing on the carpet and then Handel’s Largo totally destroys me. I am a really sad case and not safe to be allowed out with music unless nurse is with me. Unfortunately, today she was cooking.

Monday, 25th December, 2017

Up at 6.00 am. Dark, chilly, damp, no newspapers, rubbish radio, rubbish television. Idiots queuing from the middle of the night to get a place in the queue to watch the queen go to church in the middle of the morning.  The world has gone mad. Happy Christmas!

Pauline prepared one of her best Christmas meals for a long time if ever. This is what it consisted of:

Starter

  • Meat Terrine – Pork, Chicken & Duck wrapped in Bacon & served with Pear Compote.
  • Fish Terrine  – Salmon mixed with Cream Cheese & Dill wrapped in Smoked Salmon & served with Avocado & Cucumber Salsa.

Main Course

  • Norfolk Bronze Turkey
  • Pigs in Blankets
  • Sage & Onion Stuffing
  • Baby Sprouts with Bacon & Chestnuts
  • Roasted Potatoes
  • Roasted Carrots
  • French Beans
  • Cranberry Sauce & Apple Sauce

Sweet

  • Year-old Christmas Pudding served with Cream-enriched Custard or Pouring Cream.
  • Lemon Chiffon on a Ginger Base.

The cake, which had been lovingly crafted, was left uncut until we prepared to drive home. As she rarely gets to try her own cake, Pauline cut a large slice to bring away with us. Even I tried it and it was absolutely delicious and moist. Now we are looking forward to some exercise tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26th December, 2017

Up early as usual and out on a short drive to Bognor Regis. It is about ten miles from our home. A beautiful, sunny day of blue sky but quite raw at 8.0C/47F and, with a wind chill factor, it felt colder than that. We parked up on the Esplanade. Others had obviously had the same idea although it wasn’t over busy.

I walked on this beach with my Grandad & Nana Coghlan and my brother, Bob, in 1955. I actually can remember it because there was a very strong wind which whipped up beachful’s of sand that stung our bare legs as we walked. I was reminded of this today because there were so many outlets for ‘Deck Chairs & Wind Breaks’. You just don’t see them in the Mediterranean.

Actually, our walk didn’t last much more than 40 mins although it felt longer. We drove back feeling better for the experience. We ate a meal of cold turkey and slices of the starters from yesterday. Pauline hadn’t brought any of the sensational sweets home with her otherwise we would have gorged upon those as well. We will definitely need to be back in the gym tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27th December, 2017

Got up at 7.00 am to find an avalanche had hit the back garden. If we’d got up an hour later, we’d have known nothing of it. It was gone and the rain had cleaned up. We had to go out and buy milk. The breeze was biting and the temperature read 3C/37F and the rain drifted into our faces. We really do need to be in some warm sunshine. I resolve to take my search for properties abroad more seriously and get on with finding somewhere to enjoy this coming year.

We have been all over the place in our decision making for some time. It is not usually a problem to us but we have been finding it difficult to choose and commit to decisions on travel. It is time to focus our minds and make them up. We’ve even been talking about the possibility of buying a place in the Canaries. Certainly, we will look for a long term rental there for this winter and a month or so rental in the South of France for the summer. That is my task this week.

Thursday, 28th December, 2017

Ferring Beach in the sunshine.

Lovely, crisp and bright day of blue sky and strong sun. We did our weekly shop at Sainsbury’s this week and it was very, almost eerily, quiet at 9.30 am. These workers just don’t have the stamina like the old days! Checkout workers were sitting around, twiddling their thumbs as we approached. We drove home on quiet roads and prepared to go back to the Health Club after three days of rest. We drove in to the David Lloyd car park and the signs were a little ominous. It was quite full. We had a conference about whether to proceed or not but thought we’d made the effort to get there so we should get on with it.

Pauline in her element.

The changing room was so full, I had to fight my way in and there was hardly a locker to use. I finally found one, got changed and went out to join Pauline outside the gym. She had experienced similar problems. We went into the gym area and every piece of equipment was in use. In almost two years of membership, we had never seen it like this. We turned round, walked out and got changed back in to our ordinary clothes. As we walked back to the car, we decided it was too lovely a day to do nothing so we drove down to Ferring Beach for a walk.

We are so pleased that we made this decision. The weather was warm (ish) at 9C/48F without a hint of a breeze and the sun was strong and hot.

Pauline makes friends.

People were out walking their dogs and playing with children. A dog came up to befriend us but no children did thank goodness. One group was having a picnic but nobody was swimming. A group of riders were exercising their horses at the sea’s edge. The tide was out and small pools broke up the vast expanse of sand and glistened in the sunlight. Pauline comes alive in these surroundings and glows with happiness. We walked for an hour or so and felt so much better for it. This is a lovely beach we must return to very soon. It is only minutes away from our house.

Friday, 29th December, 2017

A beautiful, bright and breezy day which followed a wet night. So good of the weather to organise itself like that. We only have 9C/48F and the wind will make that chillier but we are still going to make another attempt at the Health Club today although swimming is a little in doubt.

0% – thank you very much!

It is almost two years since we were purchasing things for our new house in West Sussex. New beds, fitted bedroom furniture, dining table & chairs, sofas and chairs for the lounge, etc.. Everyone offered us interest-free credit and refused to reduce the price if we paid in full immediately. It seemed stupid not to keep our own cash earning a massive 1.2% tax free in a savings account and dribble payment to loan companies over 1, 2, 3 or even 4 years. It isn’t really a problem just setting up direct debits payable until a finite date although, occasionally, we discuss just paying them off so they don’t appear on our statements.

Essentially, with people who don’t need to borrow money but do like to hold that facility in hand for future reference, it is important to have a credit rating. We know people who have not borrowed for a number of years being rejected for mobile phone contracts because they have no credit records. Our new house purchases had payments terminating after Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 and even one after Year 4. They amount to very little each month so that they can almost be paid off by our State Pensions but, already, we have completed 2 with another to go in a couple of months and 2 more over the next couple of years. We look on them as pay rises for the thrifty.

The A62 across the Pennines.

Our old hunting ground in Yorkshire was beset by bad weather. Snow was falling and making travelling difficult – hazardous even. Our daily trip across the Pennines from West Yorkshire to Lancashire would have been impossible for a while as it was on our wedding day – the anniversary of which we mark tomorrow. In the Pennine region it is taken for granted but it is only when one is out of there that one realises nothing is inevitable. Today in West Sussex, we have seen no snow. Driving is like every day. We’ve been to the Health Club and swum outside under delightful sun then driven home and griddled swordfish steaks in the garden. The two environments are different worlds and I know now which I prefer.

Saturday, 30th December, 2017

Meltham Mills Church

Oh Happy Day! Callooh Callay. Our 39th wedding Anniversary. We married where we were living in Meltham Mills, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Actually, we were married in a Registry Office ceremony and only had a ‘Blessing’ in church to please my Mother. On this morning in 1978, we awoke to a blizzard of snow which had fallen over night. The council gritters were on strike and guests really struggled to get to us. Fortunately, they did make it and the day was magical and memorable. I can’t believe how fortunate I’ve been. One finds oneself holding one’s breath and hoping for another 39 years but realising that is very unlikely.

The Beautiful 27 year olds.

However, to that end, we will celebrate today by doing a couple of hours of exercise a the Health Club but, first, I have to do my household chores. Unstacking the dishwasher, hovering the house and shelling the lobster for this afternoon’s meal. We will have a Seafood Gratin consisting of lobster, langoustines and scallops topped with Gruyere cheese. We will toast our health down the years with a bottle of champagne and finish with a reprise of Pauline’s Lemon Chiffon. Life could get better but not a lot.

We have been rewarded with a beautiful, clear but breezy day of sunshine and blue sky. The world around us is still enjoying its holiday break while we are looking forward to them going back to school/work. We are already formulating New Year’s Resolutions which will appear here tomorrow at the start of the new week. Thanks to those who have contacted us to offer congratulations.

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