Week 464

Sunday, 12th November, 2017

Giacomo Puccini sits in Lucca

I have written before of my on-off relationship with music. For 40 years, I have loved classical music and found it particularly informed my emotional and intellectual life. In the early years, I particularly loved Chopin, Mozart and Rachmaninov. Later, I just couldn’t get enough Beethoven to the point that I was becoming a real bore about his Symphonies. There came a point, in my late 40s when I started to take Opera seriously. Puccini, Donizetti, Verdi, Mozart, Delibes, Bizet – I had to know everything. I bought guides to help me understand their music and the libretti. I would drive Pauline mad by playing them at full volume and trying to sing in Italian (which I do not have) while tears streamed down my face. That is the predominant emotion much music evokes in me.

Giuseppe Verdi sits in Bologna

Suddenly, 10 – 15 years ago I lost my enjoyment completely. I couldn’t understand it. I just kept trying to listen but failed and left it completely. It hurt me – my failure. It worried me – perhaps there was something wrong with me. Is this a sign of early onset dementia? I could find no mentioned parallel. Eventually, I stopped trying. My music library was packed away in a cupboard along with a hi-fi system that was redundant. I shunned music and majored on writing and reading, on politics and political movements.

Today, I made the first tentative start to climb back. I shut myself in the lounge and forced myself to listen. It was an Arts Channel recording of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. I must admit, I had to try very hard to stay with it and I did try to combine reading The Sunday Times along with it but I got through to the end. It was the English National Opera‘s production and sung in English with on-screen titles which I found rather distracting because it pointed up the fairly trite parts of the libretto which Italian gives such import to. However, like some reverse state of alcoholism, I am back on the booze and will try again before I get the jitters. Tomorrow will be Puccini and I will visualise him sitting in the square outside his house in Lucca where we talked this Summer. I hope he will applaud my intentions.

Monday, 13th November, 2017

Lovely Littlehampton or Wonderful Worthing.

Out early on a beautiful morning. Chilly at only 5C/41F but with glorious skies and strong sun. We drove down the coast road to our local hospital. It has recently been graded as Excellent and gives every appearance of being well run. Unlike everywhere else we’ve been, there is lots of parking. The hospital corridors are quiet and empty. The reception areas are well staffed and waiting is at a minimum.

I was there at my own request for an Anti-Coagulation Review. I had already tested myself this morning at 2.4 and my test at the hospital was identical which was a good ‘control’. I discussed my life long use of rat poison and whether there was a better alternative. I have been given information about some other drugs which may be less restrictive on my diet and less demanding on my time in terms of testing and reporting. Apparently, I am free to choose and it will be prescribed for me at the hospital.

Tuesday, 14th November, 2017

We try to go to the Health Club 5 days out of 7. When we do go, we spend an hour in the gym and half an hour in the outside pool. We go when it is quiet so we don’t struggle to get on equipment and we can find a free lane in the pool. The gym is huge and has dozens of pieces of each type of equipment but membership is high. There are three pools and organised classes in the two indoor ones but even in cold weather the outdoor pool is popular as its warm water steams into the atmosphere.

We have an off-peak membership which really has few restrictions. It opens between 6.30 am – 11.00 pm but we have to stop at 4.00 pm so allowing the workers to take precedence in the evening. It opens 7.00 am – 10.00 pm at the weekend but we can’t go until 2.00 pm. All of this suits us perfectly. The cost is £136.00/€152.00 per month or £1632.00/€1824.00 per year for the two of us. Using it around 250 times per year, that works out at £3.25/€3.62 per person per session which seems very reasonable if you compare it with a large cup of coffee on the high street.

We do 40 mins on the treadmill doing fast walk/jogging followed by 20 mins on a cycle. On both of these pieces of equipment, we have individual television screens which really help to pass the time. Outside, the pool is heated throughout the year and steams in cold weather. I do 20 km each week on the treadmill, 35 km each week on the bike and 2.5 km each week in the pool. I aim to do 1000 km each year on the treadmill, 1750 km on the bike and to swim 125 km each year in the outdoor pool. I think that is plenty in my mid 60s. We treat it as a substitute for going to work and try to attend each week day between 1.00 pm – 3.00 pm. It makes us feel better about collecting our pensions.

Wednesday, 15th November, 2017

I’ve just cleaned the car.

A grey but reasonably mild day for mid-November. The poor, low level light of oncoming Winter is a little depressing and I have brief twinges of regret that I am not in the Canary Islands as was intended for the November. It is 23C/74F on Gran Canaria this morning but only 13C/55F here as we park up in our village square. It is not an area that we frequent very often but, this morning, we notice that the butcher is selling locally sourced venison and pheasants. However, they are significantly more expensive than those on sale in the weekly farmers’ market and this is one of the problems with local suppliers.

Around the pool this afternoon, the temperature had reached 15C/60F and our swim was all the better for that. Just a little bit of sun would have helped but you can’t have everything.

Thursday, 16th November, 2017

Lovely day which had reached 15C/60F by 10.00 am as we returned from our weekly shop. The sun had taken quite a long time to appear but, by the time we had done our hour in the gym and were ready to go outside to the pool, the sky was blue and the sun was out. Our swim was lovely. We have been very lucky that the month when we should have been abroad in the sun has turned out to be so benign here.

Greece cannot say the same. It has been hit by heavy rain and subsequent flooding of biblical proportions according to Kathimerini. This has affected islands and mainland. The Dodecanese island of Simi has been declared a disaster area and suburbs of Athens have seen 16 people die with 5 more still missing. It is at times like these that one realises the edge upon which Greek society survives. In good times, the sun shines, the tourists come, the cash tills fill and life is good. It only takes an act of nature to be one strike away from disaster.

On our very first trip to Athens in 1980, we entered our hotel just as a huge rainstorm hit the city. We checked in and were given our key for our room. Fortunately, we chose to climb the stairs because, as we sort out our room, the power went off as torrential rain flooded the externally mounted electric fuse box. Everything went out. We were in total darkness. If we’d taken the lift, we could have been stuck for hours. On another occasion, the streets became like rivers as a storm burst over the city. We tried to rush for shelter down crowded, flooded streets. Suddenly, Pauline just disappeared …. down a manhole where the cover was missing but couldn’t be seen in deep water. I hauled her out shaken but otherwise unhurt but we reflected that it could have been so much worse.

Hints of a Third World country suddenly come to mind as the pavements are poor and broken, the drainage is neglected and blocked, the buildings are poor quality and subject to collapse in extreme weather. Social and Medical services are underfunded and understaffed to deal with the aftermath. It has been worse in the late 70s and early 80s. It has been better in the 2000s before the economic collapse but it does make Greeks feel vulnerable. On Sifnos, a major dam expensively constructed with EU funding immediately turned out to be Gerry-built (although the builder was Cypriot) as soon as it was needed to contain heavy rainfall and the islanders found their prized construction collapsing. These are signs of a First World nation on the surface not really having eradicated their Third World past.

Friday, 17th November, 2017

Less than two weeks left of November. I am still wearing short-sleeved shirts and swimming outside. Today we only reached 13C/56F but, with no trace of a breeze and under clear, blue skies with lovely strong low sun, it felt much warmer. I must admit that, if the pool wasn’t heated, it would be a different . We came home and griddled swordfish steaks in the garden – eaten with salad it was just bliss.

I’ve never been big on celebrations. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Public Holidays are opportunities for nothing special at all. Since a very early age, Christmas has meant nothing to me at all but something to be endured. I used to bitterly resent the fact that there were no newspapers printed and radio and television news just pedalled out the clichéd events of Royal Family attending church, Queen’s Speech, Fake snow everywhere and huge Christmas trees surrounded by perfectly wrapped boxes tied with bows.

There is one thing I did appreciate and that was Christmas Day food. I love turkey and I love sage & onion stuffing. Why do we never eat it all round the year? I often make a resolution to do that and then it disappears into the New Year enthusiasms for dieting, etc.. Not this year. Tomorrow we will not go to the Health Club because it is Christmas Day and Turkey and stuffing will be served. Think we’re mad? We don’t care because we’ve got the turkey. A 4 kilo bird will provide plenty of meat for us hot and cold, fill Pauline’s favourite sandwiches – Turkey & Stuffing – and then produce litres of stock for winter soups. No turkey will die in vain.

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Week 463

Sunday, 5th November, 2017

Remember, remember, a day to remember this has been. The sky has been a piecing blue with not a cloud throughout the daylight hours. Just letting one’s eyes drink in those colours and that light lifts one’s spirits. We have been at home to watch the remarkable implosion of the political scene as witnessed by the three, main Sunday political shows and then some football. The less I go in to those the better.

Continental Drift

I originated in the East Midlands, in Mercia and, particularly, the small village of Repton which is dominated by the public school that I am rather reticent to acknowledge was the alma mater of Roald Dahl and Jeremy Clarkson. Many of my brothers and sisters, over the years have gravitated towards the south – to Maidenhead, to London, to Farnham, to Sussex coast, etc.. Now, it seems that they are just following (or leading) , the trend.

Repton was the historic capital of Mercia and considered the epicentre of the country. Not any more according to a report in the Sunday Times this morning which draws on the Liverpool University PopChange Project. By 1971, they judged that the centre line between North and South could be drawn through Newhall, a very small town in south Derbyshire just 5 miles from my home village. Almost 45 years later, they judged that this line had advanced 9 miles into Leicestershire by dint of the fact of population drift towards the south.

It means prosperous southerners are being crowded into a smaller landmass each year as the south sucks in more immigrants and has a higher birth rate. Chris Lloyd, professor of quantitative geography at Liverpool University, said: “The north-south divide is moving south because the south is gaining an ever increasing share of the population of Britain.”

I’ve got to start persuading my siblings to go North in retirement. Somebody’s got to take a lead or I’ll get crowded out down here.

Monday, 6th November, 2017

The weather is at a crossroads with Summer still in East Preston.

Gorgeous day with blue skies and strong sunshine. A little chilly just after 7.00 am with almost a hint of frost on the lawn. Soon, the house was baking hot as the sun poured in and we went out in Summer clothes as usual.

I had a major problem to solve this morning. Both Pauline and I received emails, ostensibly from our broadband provider, saying that within a minute of each other our accounts had been ‘successfully accessed’ from Azerbaijan (me) and Turkey (Pauline). This was accompanied by the standard advice to immediately change our passwords and our ‘recovery’ details. A link was provided to follow for this.

Something like this always makes one a little shaky but have to be addressed. I checked the link address and satisfied myself that it was correct and then proceeded to change the settings which we have used for too long. I then contacted our provider to demand explanations of why and how this could have happened. It takes forever to get hold of these people. They are always experiencing an unusually high demand of callers which is a non sequitur in itself. What they mean is that they are always understaffed even for a normal demand. Although, when I finally got to speak to them, they tried to assuage my concerns, they have still not got back to me with a reasonable explanation of the situation. However, they will. Believe me!

Tuesday, 7th November, 2017

A cool day and rather grey day. We swam under leaden skies and there was a faint hint of steam rising from the heated water. We’ve done 7 days exercise in the past 9 days and tomorrow will be a rest day. That’s a lot of days! We are going into Worthing after Pauline has visited the Hygienist. She’s been desperate to have her teeth professionally cleaned for weeks and I’ve been holding her back. If there is one thing I hate more than Dentists it is Hygienists. They hurt me.

It has never been more important than now to have internet security. Witness our email accounts being hacked the other day. I have installed Norton Security on all our main IT for years. Last year, I extended it to our iPads and smartphones. Really, you have to close the door on any piece of apparatus that surfs the internet. Of course, as the number of devices proliferate, the more expensive it becomes. I made the mistake very early on of ticking automatic renewal on my Norton Account and found that they had charged me an arm and a leg. I had to badger them into submission to get it returned.

It is just over a month until I will need to renew my subscription and I was reminded of that by an email from Total Computing who offered me software to cover 10 devices for £29.99/€34.00. We have a 7 devices – a desktop, 2 x laptops, 2 x iPads and 2 x smartphones to cover so this seemed a reasonable offer. It leaves room for any whim of fancy that induces us to add to that array of IT over the coming year. I did a quick search and couldn’t find it cheaper. Generally, many were asking around £39.99/€45.50 but a check on the automatic renewal price at Norton produced a price of £55.00/€62.50. It pays to be a cheapskate and check a few alternatives.

Wednesday, 8th November, 2017

A cold, grey day which didn’t get much above 9C/48F. We had decided to take the day off work and go shopping. While the country was paralysed by the possibility that the Secretary of State for International Development would be sacked and were tracking her flight from Kenya to UK, we drove to the dentist at Sainsbury’s for Pauline’s Hygienist appointment and then on to Worthing under leaden skies.

We did some desultory shopping for clothes. Is it me or do so many clothes shops look like jumble sales? Little choice and what there was just looked cheap and nasty. No wonder people prefer to buy on the net. Wednesday is the out door market in Worthing and we bought huge mangoes from the fruit stall which will get us through the week. We also bought pheasants and grouse from the Game stall which sells free range eggs as well.

Back home, the Secretary of State for International Development was still in the air and her flight was minutely tracked by television news stations. There must have been so little on the agenda. Duly sacked she ‘resigned’ and the country heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Thursday, 9th November, 2017

Having spent a life time enjoying lots of different types of food, my retirement years have been marked by control and self-denial with a changing and narrowing of my diet. As I began to understand my body for the first time in almost 60 years, I realised that one major change which would help me was to cut out major, staple carbohydrates particularly bread, pasta, potatoes and rice but also other flour derivatives like cake, biscuits, pastries, etc. This discovery allowed me to control my blood sugar roller coaster which drove my appetite. It allowed me to defeat my Type 2 Diabetic condition and to lose a considerable amount of weight.

In the last week, two news reports have appeared that either set me as a trend setter of a trend follower although neither appeals to me. The British public is losing its love of pasta, apparently, and is buying considerably less. One thing they are replacing it with is spriralized vegetables which is exactly what we started to do           4 years ago. One of the reasons given for this is an anti-carb fashion. At the same time, purchase and consumption of bread is considerably down for lots of reasons including anti-carb. sentiment and free school meals in Primary Schools which replaced packed lunches that had previously centred on sandwiches.

I did worry that my diet has appeared very faddy. I cannot eat green vegetables – beans, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, lettuce, etc. because of the Vitamin K they contain which militates against my warfarin drug. I don’t use sugar at any time only artificial sweetener based on Maltodextrin or Polysaccharide although recently I’ve become aware that it can cause spikes in blood sugar and, for that reason, I am dropping it. Having said all of that, I desperately try to keep my faddiness under wraps most of the time but I was reminded of it as we walked around the supermarket this morning and found the illustrated display of  Organic, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Where does that fit in?

Friday, 10th November, 2017

You can’t beat a Siberian Goose!

Yesterday for the first time since last April, I put on a long sleeved shirt. Not for long. The sun came out and back to a short sleeve. Pauline has 4 different duvets for our bed measured from 1 – 13 Tog. The tog is a measure of thermal resistance of a unit area We haven’t used the heaviest one for such a long time, I’m told we took that one to the waste tip months ago. Yesterday, we moved up from 1 Tog to 3 Togs but I’m finding that too hot. Today, we have had breakfast with the patio doors open and the sun streaming in. A third of our way in to November. It could be worse.

Today, Pauline is making Piccalilli and I am vacuuming the house. You can’t get much more exciting than that apart from watching England lose to Germany tonight.

From the shallow to the sublime, I am reminded of W.B. Yeats poem, The Falling of the Leaves :

Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

So much has changed in the hundred years since these lines were written and yet the natural world dictates that so much has stayed the same.

Saturday, 11th November, 2017

I follow and occasionally dip in to a site called Historical Pics. Recently, I found this and it took me back across the years.

This is Sackville Street in Dublin in March 1966. It pictures what remains of Nelson’s Column after having been blown up by the IRA. . Just over 4 months later, I was standing there, aged 15 and feeling slightly vulnerable in view of what I was looking at and thinking, This is so far removed from my home village in appearance and atmosphere. It was a growing experience and a right of passage.

Those troubled, insurrectionist times are, temporarily at least, behind us. A degree of peace, prosperity and normality has returned to the island of Ireland. However, as Gladstone observed, Just when you think you have found an answer to the Irish question, the Irish change the question. And so it may be right now. After the EU Referendum, I predicted that it might rise or fall on the border between North and Southern Ireland. That appears even more apposite now than ever.

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Week 462

Sunday, 29th October, 2017

Lovely sunny day and surprisingly warm in our garden. Pauline’s been cooking all morning again with supplies of sauces and pickles streaming from the kitchen. I’ve been watching political analysis programmes and reading the papers. Someone’s got to do it.

We’ve done a session at the Health Club which was surprisingly busy for a Sunday and then come home to eat homemade fishcakes which Pauline made from trout. We ate them with broad beans and broccoli. If anyone ate at a better meal today, I’d like to see it.

Watched Leicester beat Everton this afternoon. Why does it take the sacking of a manager to motivate them? Once again, they looked a changed team and Vardy, in particular, looked much more committed.

Monday, 30th October, 2017

What a glorious day – warm and sunny. I spent a couple of hours fully valeting the car under sunny, blue skies and a temperature of 16C/61F. We did a full exercise routine but swimming outside in strong, low Autumn sunshine was magical.

We have been buying and driving Hondas since 1984 when we first bought a new Accord. Brand loyalty over 33 years has had its benefits and we have even been offered places on development committees in Swindon in the past. Currently, we are driving a CRV and it is our 12th or 13th. It is a 2.0 ltr., petrol, automatic. We’ve had it for about 16 months and done only 11, 500 mls./18,500 kms.. It is well kitted out with leather seats, sat.nav/infotainment + wifi centre, climate control and cruise control. However, we are always on the look out for new models with new gadgets and, this morning, we received the latest news of a new CRV which was exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show.

A sign of the times, Diesel has been completely dropped but a Hybrid is being introduced. I would consider that if it doesn’t limit the distance I can drive. If the petrol engine contributes to the charging of the electrical power and the two work symbiotically, I would seriously consider buying one. It wouldn’t be for the ‘green’ credentials but for lower running costs. We do a lot of short journeys interspersed with huge drives. Most days, we do less than 10 miles whereas, sometimes, I want to be able to do 700 miles in a day. The short journeys mean our petrol consumption is dreadful. With automatic transmission and permanent climate control on, our consumption averages 22 mpg. On a long journey, we can get 33 mpg. If I can improve on that, I would really consider hybrid.

Tuesday, 31st October, 2017

A surprisingly warm day that touched 16C/61F once again. The breeze made it feel a bit fresher as we walked outside to the pool and walked back dripping wet.

I have been plateau-ing with my weight for quite a while but, in the past month or so, by not drinking alcohol and by just tightening up a little on my intake allied to my exercise, I have lost just about 3 kgs. It has given me the incentive to push on again and I am going to use the month which we should have been spending indulging ourselves in Gran Canaria to be increasingly circumspect and determined to edge my weight down some more. In fact, we are going to hold on to that determination as long as we can through Christmas and New Year and on until we start travelling again which should be March/April time.

It is another of those commercial captures of pagan/folk/religious customs which in this case is called Halloween. The indulgence of parents in their children is incredible to behold. I begin to think the parents get more out of it than their kids. I remember that, as an English teacher, I was told that kids love literature based on ghosts, supernatural events, etc.. They may do but I could never get interested in it myself. I always wanted fact-based reading. While others read sci-fi or fantasy, I read biography or history. My objection to religion always was that it was akin to believing in fairies.

Shop in France this week and you will never get away from Halloween paraphernalia. I believe that is the same in the USA. Around us parents have been decorating the outside of their houses with ‘ghostly dressings’ to demonstrate their commitment to positive parenting. We are expecting knocks on the door from some softly spoken, middle class kids shyly enquiring, Trick or Treat. I am desperate to answer, Trick, just to see what they will do but Pauline won’t allow me. She has bought a basket of revolting sweets to make them sick. They are ready on the hall console table waiting for the bell to ring.

Wednesday, 1st November, 2017

We said Goodbye to October 2017 with a very pleasant day and we are welcoming November 2017 with an absolutely beautiful morning. Clear blue skies, strong sunshine and a temperature of 13C/56F at 8.00 am. We are having a day off from routine and going shopping in Worthing. I hate shopping but I have to support Pauline in one of her pleasures.

As we ambled through Worthing town centre, we happened upon Maplin. It is one of my favourite shops because it sells all sorts of electrical and computer gadgets. I’ve been thinking of extending our home Wi-Fi so it can be used in the garden and I had been looking at solutions in Maplin online.

Today, for the mere outlay of £60.00/€69.00, I bought a Wi-Fi power line solution. It consists of a plug-in hub extender or hotspot which is connected to my hub by Ethernet cable and the house electrical circuit by three pin plug. I have two, additional mini Wi-Fi hotspots which I plug in to an outdoor socket and another in the kitchen.

I’ve used these before and found them very annoying because we had to set up new hub identities and make sure our mobile apparatus are constantly re-switched to the appropriate hub. This one now allows me to clone my hub settings to all the hotspots which alleviates that problem. I have yet to test the strength outside but I hope to when the strong sun allows me to see my iPad screen.

The temperature in town reached 17C/63F which is not bad for the first day of November. The newspapers seem to be full of dire warnings about this winter being the coldest and hardest for over five years. We may really regret giving up our Canary Island trip after all.

It always shocks me that our multi storey carpark looks out over the sea. Living here, one often forgets how close we are to the shore as we go about our everyday lives. We always park on the top floor (roof) of the carpark and the views are lovely at any time of year. Today, late autumn sunshine bathes the sea and the roof tops, backlighting the wind farm off the coast line and the hazy cloud that is gathering from Brighton in the east.

Thursday, 2nd November, 2017

Beautiful Autumn Day over the South Downs

A gorgeous, gorgeous day from start to finish. Blue sky and warm sunshine throughout.  I mowed the lawns. Morning was shopping and afternoon was exercising.

Today

The changing season means that the strong, low sun dips behind surrounding hedges and buildings as we swim outside in the pool but the clear, blue sky is constantly reflected in the warm water. I do 0.5 km per day and 5 sessions per week after an hour in the gym. I manage my 10,000+ paces at least five days per week and try to supplement with other activities on my day off. It certainly feels good. Today was a delightfully quiet one at the David Lloyd Health Club and we had the pool to ourselves.

We drove home and griddled chicken out in the garden. It is hard to believe that we are in to November. Actually, we should have arrived in Gran Canaria today for a 28 day indulgence in the sun. We are not there because we had deliberately booked a 5* hotel which was closed throughout the summer months for total refurbishment. We thought it would just be opening, freshly minted, as we arrived. Unfortunately, redevelopment hit a snag and the reopening is delayed. We were forced to cancel because we didn’t want the alternative offered. We are trying to use that change to work on our fitness and weight loss.

Friday, 3rd November, 2017

Worthing Panorama

Early out to Worthing this morning in lovely sunshine which quickly clouded over as we got there. Took a widespread shot of the streets below us as we parked on the top of the multi-storey. Buying Christmas cards today. If you get one, it will feature a robin so be prepared. I must admit I would email everyone but it doesn’t quite seem socially acceptable at the moment. I think that five more years may see that change.

The sun came out again as we drove out for another lovely session at the Health Club. That is five this week and we may do Saturday as well. My body seems to be holding up better now so we will try.

Saturday, 4th November, 2017

The local rugby club held its annual firework display last night. It was a lovely, moonlit evening. They certainly made a good decision because this morning has opened with torrential rain. Although it feels like a day to stay in doors, we may make a trip to the gym but miss out the outdoor swimming today.

Pauline is busy making chutney. The kitchen is pervaded with the aroma of raw and cooking onions. She is looking like an advert for perpetual motion and is in complete contrast to me at my keyboard. This is one of the reasons why I always have the tendency to put on weight while Pauline remains sylph-like. My interests are basically cerebral, sedentary ones whereas Pauline loves practical activity. I’m going to have to get a walker to stand on while I’m writing and reading.

Wonderful food of Bologna!

Pauline and I have always lived to eat rather that eaten to live and it is ironic now that I live on permanently restricted foods and calories. Foods are restricted because of my life long coagulant control medication which means I can’t eat much of all those lovely, low calorie things like lettuce, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, etc. These are high in Vitamin-K which counteracts my medication. My calories have to be restricted to 1800 per day because I am retired and not constantly running round buildings shouting at people. I do contribute 600 calories 5 times per week by exercising which allows me to eat a bit more but I try to ‘bank’ those to encourage my weight loss. We did our 90 minutes in the gym and pool this afternoon by the way.

Beautiful Bologna!

Pauline has a room lined with cookery books and we are cookery programme addicts on television. I always appreciated the permanently inebriated Keith Floyd who really set the standard for modern cooks to follow. Elizabeth David was just a bit early for us although it is her style of Mediterranean cooking that we prefer. I love the soft, gentle, natural, slightly unvarnished flavours of the Med. where the strongest influence in flavour seems to be olive oil, garlic and tomato. I can’t abide the brash, palate-destroying flavours of chilli pepper or curry powder. Fish has become our passion in retirement and Rick Stein is a favourite chef of ours (although he has gone through a phase of destroying dishes with chilli flakes. An Oxford graduate, he combines intelligence, literary knowledge with simple cooking. This morning, he was presenting a weekend of exploring food and cooking in Bologna. As it is only just over three months since we were there, the shots of all the lovely places we explored brought back delightful memories.

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Week 461

Sunday, 22nd October, 2017

Happy 60th birthday to my little twin sister and brother, Liz & Mike. Who would have believed that even they would eventually age?

Quite a chilly day which only reached 13C/56F although there was plenty of sunshine. Storm Brian turned out to be something of a damp squib no more than a strong breeze. My lawns, which are cut to winter length, looked like lush green sea in the wind but that was about it. The clocks go back next week but we have anticipated the changing season by roasting our first pheasant for nearly a year. I’m still in short sleeved shirts but it feels as if I won’t be for much longer. Now is the time to regret not looking for a replacement to our cancelled month in the sun in the Canaries.

Today, political programmes accompanied by the Sunday papers have been on the agenda followed by watching a poor Everton side be easily overhauled by Arsenal which may well lead to the third Premier League manager to go this season. In idle moments, we have been discussing and researching a springtime trip to Rome to keep us moving.

Monday, 23rd October, 2017

A dull and dank day only reaching 16C/61F. Every time we go away and use someone else’s Wi-Fi network, one of us finds our email service splutters and causes send and/or receive problems on our return home. Invariably, it rights itself over the next few days but, as the computer literate member of the house, it is my responsibility to sort it out. Wherever we go, we carry smartphones and iPads which have to pick up the hotel’s wi-fi network and it is this which sparks the problem. It knocked out Pauline’s email service this time. I could get it to receive but not to send. It has taken me quite a few hours to sort t out but we are breathing more easily now.

I have an apology to make. Little Lizzie Dripping has confirmed what my eldest sister, Ruth, had already told me. I have been sending her birthday congratulations a day late for years. She and Mike were 60 on Saturday. I have altered my on-line calendar to reflect that for subsequent years. I apologise for that but not for her other complaint which was that I had chosen photos that made her brother look sexier than her. Well, I can see her point!

She prefers to have herself represented by this photo taken over the weekend in Budapest. She’s a lovely girl although I’m not sure about the jacket. Probably picked it up in a Tyneside Charity shop. I know I am old and my judgement is suspect but I don’t think she looks 60.

Tuesday, 24th October, 2017

Somehow, as one gets older, medical problems play more heavily with one’s mind and emotions. This morning, we were out early for 8.00 am dental check-ups. We have joined a new dentist. It was proving too far to drive back to Surrey every time we needed treatment. At one time, we were even travelling to central London to visit a dentist. Today and quite prosaicly, we visited the new dentist surgery in Sainsbury’s. It is impossible to get an NHS dentist so we have bought dental plans which only cost £100.00/€111.60 for 12 months and provide an initial check-up plus x-rays followed by 2 trips to the dentist plus 2 hygienist treatments per year.

As I went through my initial check-up, he was announcing to his assistant, Upper 4 – bad staining bone loss 4, lower right 7, bad staining and bone loss 3, etc.. X-rays were taken and flashed up on the screen before me in negative format. It made my teeth look terrible rather than just well lived in. Internally, I shrank in humiliation. I must admit that I have never liked dentists and once went for ten years without visiting one. I do clean my teeth twice a day but the task is performed fairly perfunctorily. I like hygienists even less. They definitely hurt me as they probe my gums and I avoid them like the plague. I drink coffee and red wine and that stains my teeth which are difficult to keep white. Effectively, I have old man’s teeth. At least I don’t chew baccy.

When we got home, I had an email from the Haematology Team at Worthing Hospital giving me an appointment to meet them to discuss my warfarin use. While we were discussing dates on my diary, the postman delivered a heat pad that Pauline had ordered to help me ease the pain I am experiencing from my ‘frozen shoulder’. Nothing more than this makes me feel old. It is debilitating and limiting and the heat pad is so reminiscent of the sort of thing your Granny might be seen using that I wanted to hide it and go out for a game of rugby. I did neither, of course, and using it today has definitely helped. Just don’t tell anyone.

Wedesday, 25th October, 2017

The last week of October. We swam outside in 18C/65F with warm sun on our backs. What a delight.

In Greece, the weather has taken an autumnal turn. It was the final rehearsal for lighting the Olympic Flame to be taken to Pyeongchang, South Korea for the Winter Olympics in February next year. The lack of sun was the problem and the torch was only lit on the third attempt due to cloudy weather. Greece is not the place to be as the weather turns down towards winter – not if you like comfort anyway. Particularly not if you would rather avoid leaks and draughts.

I am falling in to bad ways again. I had about 40 bottles of Colgate Gum Health Mouthwash and, over the past 18 mnths, that has dwindled to only 8. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable at that exposure.

After forensic research, I found it being sold at £2.50/€2.81 per unit from Superdrug as opposed to the headline figure of £5.30/€5.95 . Pauline ordered in bulk and we went to pick them up. They will now grace bathroom cabinets until I get down to 6 or so and feel the need to stock up future reserves.

Thursday, 26th October, 2017

A warm night was followed by a warm day which reached 20C/68F by mid-afternoon. We spent a chunk of the morning visiting three different supermarkets sourcing lots of different items that Pauline had researched in advance. We were delighted to find lovely, big swordfish steaks which have been absent for a couple of weeks. I’ve been getting withdrawal symptoms. We grilled them outdoor for our meal this afternoon after returning from the Health Club. However, something amusing happened at our final shop – Tesco.

I love tech and gadgets. I like to use my smartphone to facilitate things so I’ve been delighted to see Tesco develop a ‘smart pay’ system that incorporates the club card and cashless payment system. Shopping is ‘scan as you shop’ with a barcode reader handset which is really useful and quick. Really, we hardly need a shop assistant at all. Having filled our bags in our trolley with a total of about £115.00/€130.00 of groceries, we just read it on to the POS terminal and then scan our smartphone apps to collect points and pay.

On this occasion, however, all did not go to plan. The scanner refused to read my phone code and I had to seek assistance from the helper who was loitering for that purpose. He was a middle aged man with a thick Irish brogue. He was delightful but new nothing about the automatic checkout system. He immediately looked totally out of his depth and confessed that he had never dealt with such a problem before. Unlike some of his younger colleagues who panic when faced with this type of problem, he was a picture of amused calmness. You have to imagine this being voiced in thick, Irish accent. He said, Have you tried to pay the  £115.00 for your shopping? Yes, you have. There is nothing more that you can do. Take it and go. I don’t have a problem with that. We did a double take and both agreed that we didn’t need to steal £115.00 of shopping from anybody even Tesco. We went to a different checkout point and everything sailed through. We drove home with an easy conscience and a real sense of righteousness.

Friday, 27th October, 2017

Gorgeous, mild day. I noted that Yorkshire experienced frost in the countryside. We had clear skies and half a moon last night but didn’t fall below 12C/54F. Blue skies this morning were graduated by high flying jet trace lines as planes soared out of Gatwick across the Channel.

Down below, I was mowing the lawn. Of course, it has to be cut much higher at this time of year and we are rumoured to be in line for a few cold days soon so all the more important to protect it. Talking about protection, we called in to the garden centre to buy a couple of fleece hoods to protect our fig trees if the weather looks like it may get down to freezing. I don’t think that happened last year but it’s good to be prepared.

Thought I would share this letter with you that I picked up on Twitter. It really appealed to me because it nicely illustrated the problem one has in arguing with many Brexiteers who just blithely shout, What are we waiting for? Out means out. Get on with it! When it is suggested that they haven’t fully understood the complexities of their position, they reply that it is boring and reside in a complacent, Everything will be fine. The letter was written by a constituent to his MP and is an allegory of the Brexit process.

Saturday, 27th October, 2017

Cold night and chilly start to the morning. Turned in to the most gloriously sunny day which reached 16C/61F but felt warmer in the sun. In spite of the lovely weather, we haven’t gone to the Health Club.

It is baking and preserving Saturday here. Pauline is making savoury sources, pickles, jams and making the Christmas cake. It is a hive of industry and the smells are to die for. I have been feeling hungry all day. In her spare time, Pauline knocked up a delicious, home-made tomato soup and we followed that with sprattus sprattus or whitebait from the Baltic Sea and garlic sauce and salad. feels like the Summer’s back!

Summertime officially ends in the early hours of tomorrow morning and the clocks go back one hour. Gone are the days that we have a major task adjusting clocks and watches. We have 4 radio alarms, a kitchen wall clock, two smartphones, two laptops and a desktop computer that all adjust themselves over night. I have two clocks to fix in the morning on my coffee maker and on the oven. Why on earth anyone needs a clock on their coffee maker, I’ll never know. I want my cappuccino at 7.57 am precisely. Why? It switches of automatically having rinsed itself anyway. The problem is that I can’t turn my coffee maker on each morning and see the wrong time. It would really work me up.

Of course, the time saved in bed is no longer relevant to us. Workers will appreciate it but shirkers like us will hardly miss a beat. The real upside is lighter mornings which encourage one to get out and active and darker, ‘tucked up’ evenings which suit our pattern much better.

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Week 460

Sunday, 15th October, 2017

The Great Storm of ’87.

As the Blog enters its 460th week, we are shocked to realise that it is 30 years ago today that UK was hit by the Great Storm which Michael Fish so famously missed. The sense of 30 years is hard to quantify. It sounds a lot but feels a little. October 1987 feels well within touch to me even though I would have to research my life to pin point it in my history. Even more incredible is the news that some parts of Britain are to be hit by a ferocious storm once again in the next 48 hrs. It could coincide with us driving up the country to Yorkshire so we are hoping for the best.

Feeling more like summer than summer, everything reverts to type. The gym was quiet and the pool was delightful as we swam with warm sun on our backs. We are sitting outside or inside with the doors open. We are cooking outside and eating summer food not menus more associated with winter. Today, Marides, Skordalia and Horiatiki cooked in the sunshine and eaten in delightful warmth.

Monday, 16th October, 2017

After a warm night, we got up to a morning which read 18C/65F at 7.00 am.We set off for the Health Club at around 1.00 pm but, as soon as we entered the carpark, we knew that it wouldn’t be enjoyable today. The carpark was packed and there must have been a special event on today. We turned around immediately and went for a healthy walk on the coastal path. As we went down on to the beach between Worthing and Brighton around 2.00 pm, we were aware that something strange was happening to the sky. It was going dark but fluorescent with flashes of orange.

By the time we got home the light was … dark. There was a dramatic and fluorescent deep orange light which made the world look like a stage set. You could be forgiven in thinking that we were experiencing an eclipse. At 3.00 pm, street lights were on. I thought we were uniquely experiencing this in West Sussex until I turned on the national weather and found people from North and South were seeing the same thing. The explanation for this phenomenon seems to be that clouds were carrying Saharan dust. At least we didn’t get the winds or the rain just the dramatic light.

Tuesday, 17th October, 2017

Lovely, West Sussex morning. Bags packed, passports dusted off, car ready and we are off on our pilgrimage to Yorkshire. We expect to take about 5 hrs with a coffee break built in. Of course, much will depend on the M25 and the M1. Recent trips suggest we would be wrong to assume anything.

Of course, this may be one of our last trips as Lancashire and Yorkshire are isolated by a hard border after Brexit. Looking forward to inflation figures out today. Suggestions this morning are that it may come inaround 3.0% – 3.1% which would strengthen the pound because it would move an interest rise even more into focus. It would also increase our inflation-proofed teachers’ pensions by that amount which would be nice. It is unlikely that teachers’ pay will rise to the same extent. Historically, teachers’ pensions fall behind teachers’ pay. We just happened to be lucky enough to spend nearly a decade of retirement where our pensions have risen by the inflation rate whereas teachers’ pay has retreated considerably. Effectively cut. Why would anyone be a teacher currently?

Great drive which took five hours including two coffee breaks. The sun shone throughout although the temperature didn’t get above 16C/60F. The M25 was reasonable and the M1 was unusually quiet which meant that we arrived at our hotel relaxed and happy. We are looking forward to visiting Oldham tomorrow morning and then meeting up with friends in a Bistro in Thongsbridge later in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 18th October, 2017

Hollinwood Crematorium

Beautiful, sunny day but cold – 8C/46F at 9.00 am. It is Pauline’s Mum’s 7th anniversary of her death. We drove over to Hollinwood Crematorium to commemorate the day. The grounds are delightful in the middle of an area blighted by decaying mills and terraced houses. Of course, every year when we visit, the signs of natural decay, brought on by Autumn, are everywhere.

Hollinwood Crematorium

Today, the sun backlit the autumnal trees and the scent of damp, dead leaves was heavy in the air. We followed the ritual of visiting the Book of Commemoration which is always turned to the current day. We stand before it and this moment forces us to focus on the memories for a few minutes. We hug and then take a slow walk to the tree where Pauline scattered her ashes. Today, we were greeted by an excitable, little poodle which was so full of energy and wanted to play so totally unaware of the sadness of the moment.

Yorkshire was beautiful but very cold.

Our responsibility fulfilled for another year, we returned to the bustle of life. We drove back to Yorkshire over the A62 and returned to our hotel suite to watch Prime Minister’s Questions. May was seriously dreadful today. She looked like a woman who had lost all authority and confidence. She is not good at thinking on her feet at the best of times. Today, she looked as if she couldn’t think where she’d left her feet.

We left at 1.30 pm for a drive to Thongsbridge near Holmfirth. We were meeting an old, school friend at a new Bistro for a late lunch. Philomena Fogg’s Bistro turned out to be in the most unlikely old mill complex. It was packed and we soon found out why. We ordered a fish platter and a vegetable platter for the three of us and accompanied it with sparkling water. It was really enjoyable and two hours of conversation flew by.

Thursday, 19th October, 2017

A foggy morning but not cold. We drove down to Huddersfield town centre to visit the oldest remaining shop in the area. It is C.Booth & Son – Hardware (specialising in Chefs’ knives). It opened in the mid-19th Century but is now going on-line. Pauline has bought a whole collection of kitchen knives over the past 30 – 40 years from this shop and needed a couple of replacements today.

I have twin brother and sister who I still see in my mind’s eye as in their gawky teenage years. On Sunday, they will celebrate their 60th birthdays. Liz is celebrating early with a trip to Budapest. She is soon to retire. Mike’s been retired for a few years. Neither look like teenagers any more but both appear happy in different ways.

We are driving back to Sussex tomorrow. If we set off immediately after breakfast, we should be back by mid afternoon and, especially, before the storm winds which are forecast for the weekend.

Friday, 20th October, 2017

Accident Closed M40.

Up early and a pleasant start to the day – warm and dry. Quick breakfast and checkout and then on to the M62 – M1 – Really going well with good weather and extremely light traffic. Cruise control set, relaxed driving – until we reach the M25. At that point, movement quickly ground to a halt and we took nearly an hour to travel 10 miles. The blame could not be laid on the M25 on this occasion. There was a bad accident that completely closed the M40 and that backed up on to M25 exits which held us up. I bet you’re glad you asked.

Oh, you didn’t. Well, it took us about 5 hours and home looked nice as we walked through the door. The car is in the garage because we are threatened with high winds over night and we are now ‘tucked up. It has been a really enjoyable week but socialising is very tiring and I am glad to be home, working on my web pages, updating my Facebook postings, and my twitter postings, making this dynamic entry in my Blog and watching the last episode of Cold Feet which ended in a crescendo of lunacy. Was it a mistake to revive this vehicle?

Saturday, 21st October, 2017

Fig leaf anyone?

Today is all about the weather. I spent Thursday with my old friend, Brian and now we are meeting his windy namesake as the south coast gets a bit of a blow. We’ve strong gusts laden with heavy rain and even a quick blast of hail but the whole day threaded through with strong sun which makes the garden look, if not feel, like mid summer. The figs have seen this developing around them and decided that there is no point in fighting it. The first leaves have fallen away and scuttled into the corners of the patio.

I am a Man. Utd. supporter but I was terribly torn when they visited Huddersfield Town this afternoon. At times, they were playing in strong winds which were driving sluicing, cold rain. As Huddersfield went 2-0 up and then were pulled back to 2-1, I began to waver. As soon as I was told that Huddersfield had not beaten Man.Utd. since 1952, I really wanted them to hold on to their lead and so they did.

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Week 459

Sunday, 8th October, 2017

Stop me if this gets boring but I need to record it. I am currently well into a no-alcohol period that I intend to maintain until 2018. I’m not finding it difficult at all. I don’t need the alcohol although I do enjoy it and love the taste and effect of wine with my meal. However, I found myself becoming too dependent on the expectation of wine with my meal and had to assert my self discipline. I drink sparkling water with food and really enjoy it. I am saving lots of calories that way. However, for variety, I have been drinking Shloer. I don’t know if you’ve tried it but it is said to be made from grape juice without alcohol. I drink the Shloer (light) red and white. It is just 22 calories per glass. The downside is the taste which is too sweet.

Shloer costs between £2.20/€2.45 – £3.00/€3.35 per bottle normally. One of my obsessions is bulk buying bargains. Occasionally, the supermarkets loss-lead Shloer and today was such a day. Asda was advertising it at £1.20/€1.34 per bottle. That was a signal to swoop and corner the market. When we got there this morning, I cleaned them out of Shloer (light) red & white. It was about 40 bottles with which I can decorate the walls of my garage. However, while we were there, we noticed that Asda had introduced their own-brand. It was priced at £1.00/€1.11 per bottle. I bought a couple of bottles of red & white. As soon as we got home, we did a blind tasting. The Asda own-brand is miles nicer. It actually tastes of grape, is only 22 calories per glass and is not sweet. I will have to get some more. My only problem is consuming the 100 or so bottles of ‘sweet’ Shloer that I’ve got in the garage first.

If you think this is all too weird, you are not alone!

Monday, 9th October, 2017

Early start under grey skies. Pauline had a hair appointment in Worthing at Toni & Guy. I spent my customary hour at Starbucks with my iPad and a large café latte which cost me £3.20/€3.60. Can you believe it? Home via the Doctors’ Surgery to book Flu jabs. Pauline is having her anti-Pneumococcal injection as well. I had mine a couple of years ago. This protects against pneumonia, septicaemia, and meningitis. Later, the Health Club will dominate over 2 hours of the afternoon.

Luxury accommodation on Samos.

We are just starting to notice the changing temperatures although we are told that a significantly warmer patch is arriving towards the end of the week. Meanwhile, the last (tourist) stragglers have left the Greek islands – they left Sifnos some time ago – and those remaining are beginning to get ready for colder and wetter days. In anticipation of this, migrants have been making last attempts at safe-ish crossings to paradise (aka Greek islands, aka Europe). Over 2,200 people are staying in and around the Samos migrant camp even though it’s capacity is for 700 people. UNHCR have observed that overcrowded Greek refugee camps are ill-prepared for winter. They might note how much many poor Greeks themselves are prepared for the cold months to come.

Tuesday, 10th October, 2017

Another overcast morning although not cold at 14C/57F. I’m going to cut the lawns again today because they are still growing at quite a pace and are luxuriantly green. Before that, I am indulging another of my addictions – buying watches. What is wrong with me? Perhaps I’m just too self-indulgent.

Five years ago, I bought a simple, Casio Digital Watch that read my heart rate from a chest strap when I was exercising. It was waterproof so I could keep it on all day including when I was swimming. I moved on a couple of years ago to a Pebble watch which pairs with my phone and tells me how many steps I’ve taken. It is waterproof but doesn’t give my heart rate. I tried to buy an upgrade but found Pebble had gone out of business in the two years I’ve owned the watch. Because of all my searching, the algorithms picked up my obsession and directed me to Curry’s who have a special offer on a Garmin watch which does everything I want and I bought it. What will I do with my other two watches? Well Christmas isn’t far away. I’ve got time to wrap them up.

When I went for my annual checkup with my doctor, it was acknowledged that all medication had been removed for treatment of Type 2 Diabetes and that Blood Pressure medication had been reduced. My blood pressure is still persistently on the low side of average so it was suggested further lowering my medication levels of Doxazosin. I’ve done over a week with a halved dosage and found no change in my blood pressure at all. I am working towards ridding myself of all medication apart from a statin.

Wednesday, 11th October, 2017

The temperature didn’t fall below 16C/61F throughout the night but didn’t rise much during today under grey skies. The temperature made 18C/65F at peak and we did get an hour of sunshine at the end of the day but that’s not much use. At least swimming outside this afternoon was enjoyable.

My sister is trying to kill me. I wouldn’t call myself an athlete these days like I was in my youth. I have lost quite a lot of weight but from a disgraceful degree of obesity. However, I do around 8 hours of, for me, reasonably strenuous exercise each week. I certainly feel much fitter than I was even a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately my sister, Jane BG, is very, very fit. She is a ‘runner’ and skinny as a stick. She recently won Sports Coach of the Year at Farnham Sports Awards and has been chosen to represent her country in the Home International in Derry next month. However, she is not content with that, she is trying to entice me in to running outside. I’m afraid, it’s not going to happen. I am happy doing what I do. Jane, on the other hand, seems to get great pleasure out of being a member of the ‘running community’. She is obviously very good at it but then she is so much younger than me.

It always happens when one is nervous and it did today to me. I closed an on-line investment account when the bonus ceased and opened a new one. It meant moving a large amount of money. I did what I always do. I set the transfer process up, sent a £5.00 tester which arrived in the other bank’s account within 2 mins and then sent the large amount with confidence. After 5 mins, it hadn’t arrived. After an hour, it hadn’t arrived. I was getting seriously concerned. The phone rang from someone purporting to be from the Fraud Department of my bank and asking me to provide security information of my account. I was immediately suspicious and said I would phone them back.

When I phoned them back, they kept me waiting for quite a while as they examined my account. Then they passed me to the Fraud Department. You can imagine how I was feeling. After they asked me a string of security questions and telling me my answers had ‘passed the test’, they said an attempt to move a large amount of money had been attempted and flagged up by the computer which automatically blocked it. After I confirmed its legitimacy, it was released and immediately appeared in the new account. And Breathe! What’s the point in on-line banking?

Thursday, 12th October, 2017

Big shopping day. Sainsburys followed by Morrisons, Tesco and Asda. Picked up my new smart watch from Currys and headed home. Glorious weather – like summer revisited. It was so nice that we thought we would go for a walk on the beach. The water was really warm to the touch. The temperature outside was only 18C/65F but it felt very comfortable.

The sea front had plenty of locals walking, playing with their children and dogs. The climate is so benign that one can imagine how healthy this atmosphere is for older people.

We were walking for about an hour and then drove home to enjoy the sunshine in our garden. Today was a non-gym day. A muscle recovery day. Tomorrow will be lawns mowed, car cleaned and full Health Club routine. We are told that he weather will get warmer down here throughout the weekend and beyond with Monday possibly breaking the record for mid-October figures on record.

We are making a pilgrimage to Yorkshire next week as part of our annual calendar of royal visits. We are hoping that the warmer weather accompanies us across the countys’ borders.

Friday, 13th October, 2017

A mild night has led to a mild day which hovered around 18C/65F but under grey skies. Things which looked like they were preparing to shut down growth for winter have started growing again. The tarragon which we had savaged and processed for ‘the last time’ this year is beginning, once again, to get bushy and thick. The lawns are incredibly green and lush. I cut them today and they are looking lovely and healthy.

Did a really hard workout this afternoon and felt absolutely exhausted as we drove home. We are looking forward to visiting old friends and old haunts next week. I am particularly looking forward to revisiting the moors. I love their daunting beauty, their solitude and savagely expanding loneliness.

The contrast with West Sussex is stark. The gentler, softer, green expanses of the South Downs envelope one whereas the Yorkshire Moors almost challenge one to survive in spite of them. In many respects, I found strong echoes of the moors of the North in the expanses of the bleakness and barren views on a Greek island at the end of summer.

Saturday, 14th October, 2017

Pensioners’ Outing today. It was warm over night – 16C/61F – and the day has felt unusually warm although it didn’t get above 20C/68F. The sky was fairly grey and sea mist has descended this evening. We went out to our local GP Practice for our Flu jabs. Our appointments were for 9.15 am and 9.30 am but we soon realised that those times were irrelevant. As we approached the car park we were confronted with two things: firstly there were no parking spaces in an area with more than 100 designated spots and secondly, a queue of grey-haired, old people snaked some 100m from the Surgery door, down the steps and right across the car park. Everyone was there for a vaccination and some for the pneumonia one as well. They all had similar ‘banded times’ to us.

Actually, it didn’t take long and we were on our way. You won’t want to know this but I did a trip to our local garden centre to buy Autumn dressing for the lawns. It feeds grass to get it through the winter and kills off any moss or broad leaved weeds that might have arrived over the summer. Actually, mine are so healthy that they will only need the nourishment but that is what will keep the grass green and growing throughout the cooler months. To cover both lawns only costs about £10.00/€11.24.

It has been a relaxing day to remind us that it is Saturday although I did spend a couple of hours valeting the car in preparation for our voyage to Yorkshire next week. Even so, I only accumulated 7000 paces as against 13000 yesterday. I am slowly getting to grips with the functionality of my new, smart watch and its interface with apps I use like myfitnespal.

Pauline griddled Sea Bass on the bone out in the garden and, just as she finished, the sun came out and bathed everywhere in weak, warm light. These really do feel like bonus days.

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Week 458

Sunday, 1st October, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Up early to damp weather outside for this first day of October. The girls left for a trip to Arundel before splitting up with Catherine returning to her house about 5 miles away and Ruth & Jane going to London. Ruth brought each a present from their trip to Brighton yesterday which was very thoughtful of her. Pauline received a bauble commemorating their visit to The Royal Pavilion and I received an amusing book to mark the fact that I have given up alcohol again, this time for a target 4 months. It was lovely to see my sisters in my house but I do find company exhausting. Even so, it was good to do.

We went for a full work out this afternoon. We are going away to see an old work colleague in Poole Harbour later in the week so we will do 2 more sessions at the Health Club before we go. The sun came out around mid day and we had a lovely swim in the out door pool. Sunday is a good one to go to the Health Club because many people choose family time instead of exercise.

One of the topics of conversation that came up with my sisters that they believed I am a Climate Change denier. I am not but I don’t believe that human activity is the main cause of change. I believe, and I think there is plenty of evidence to back this up, that there have been huge shifts in warming and cooling, in heating and cooling which have little causation in earthly activity but are triggered by external factors. An interesting report in The Independent on Saturday says that we are heading for a mini ice age beginning in the next 15 years and mirroring the last one in the second half of the 17th Century. The next one will be slightly mitigated by the recent warming we have experienced and so start from a higher point. Hold the front page: Climate Warming becomes Climate Cooling!

Monday, 2nd October, 2017

Lovely warm and sunny day. We were up early because we were taking the car to have some stone chips re-sprayed. We have a body shop nearby called ChipsAway and they will only have it for the day while we drive around in one of their courtesy cars. It will only cost around £200.00/€230.00 including the replacement car so it’s well worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

It is à propos of absolutely nothing but I thought I would just record pictures of my sisters’ trip to Brighton a couple of days ago. They visited The Royal Pavilion and then the British Airways Brighton i360. We haven’t even been there ourselves. They seem to have really enjoyed what was quite a tiring escapade and brought these photos back with them. I must stress that they are only half of my sisters. I have 6 in all. I know what you’re thinking but I can cope. I’ve got 2 brothers as well.

Logged on to The Skiathan’s Blog to find it was being read from Manchester as well. The Tories are so in trouble that they are contemplating Winter on Skiathos. Well, Chios, Samos, Lesvos, Kos, Leros and Rhodes have got plenty of immigrants, why shouldn’t Skiathos entertain (detain) Theresa May and Boris Johnson, et al? Good Luck with that! I don’t know if The Skiathan had anything to do with it but Manchester certainly gave the Tory Conference delegates a warm welcome.

Tuesday, 3rd October, 2017

My sisters arrived on Friday and the weather took a turn for the worse. They left on Sunday and Monday saw a return of the sun. Today was particularly nice with clear, blue sky and strong sun. The temperature was not hot but reached a pleasant 19C/66F. After an hour in the gym, we had the outdoor pool to ourselves with the sun on our backs and it was absolutely delightful.

We are going to Poole Harbour for a couple of days to meet up with an old friend and to celebrate Pauline’s 66th birthday on Thursday. I have been searching for somewhere nice to eat for her birthday Dinner. There is a Rick Stein restaurant nearby which has an interesting menu. Whether we will be able to get in, we will see. We are going to try out the Poole David Lloyd Health Club while we are there. We will spend a chunk of Thursday in Blandford Forum where our old friend has lived for 40 years.

Wednesday, 4th October, 2017

Bournemouth Pier

Off at 10.00 this morning to Poole via Bournemouth. May go to the David Lloyd Health Club in Poole before checking-in to our hotel. The journey is a couple of hours but check-in isn’t until 3.00 pm so we’ve got plenty of time…..

…… We arrived in Bournemouth after a couple of hours of easy driving. We parked up and walked down to the pier where I bought Pauline an early birthday present of huge slabs of cream & chocolate fudge. We had a walk along the coast and then set off for the David Lloyd Health Club in Poole. There we did a 40 mins swim in their outdoor pool and a few minutes in the sauna before driving to our hotel in Poole Marina.

It is just a Holiday Inn Express but quite delightful. We had a snack and then set off to walk around Poole Quay. It was a wonderfully warm evening and the Quay was full of interesting sights. We found a lovely fish restaurant where we can celebrate Pauline’s birthday tomorrow and found the Deli/Cafe where we will meet our friends in the morning.

By the time we had walked back to our hotel, we were tired and I had done my 15000 paces for the day. This evening will be a quiet one of newspapers and television. I just don’t have the stamina my sisters clearly display.

Thursday, 5th October, 2017

Happy 66th birthday to my lovely wife. We have now accrued 132 years of experience between us. I’m so glad we chose to come down to Poole Quay to celebrate her birthday. The weather has been absolutely lovely. Sunshine and beautiful views over the past two days. We have also had a lovely meeting with a girl who taught at our school between 1973 -77 and with whom Pauline was particularly close. The last time we saw her was at her brother’s house in Surrey – a beautiful, old house previously owned by Rick Parfit of Status Quo. Those are the only connections other than by Christmas card in 40 years.

Jill was a PE teacher who married an accountant and moved to Dorset. She is 65 now and I thought she was much younger. I also thought she had worked with us for much longer than 4 years. Maybe she just made a bigger impression on me than I thought. Today, we walked down from our hotel – a 25 mins walk – to meet Jill at the Deli on the Quay. The sun was strong and warm as we sat in front of the Cruisers, fishing vessels and tall sailing boats with sun filtering through the masts. The temperature was only 18C/65F but there was not a hint of a breeze which made it feel warmer. We were there for a couple of hours as the years rolled away and parted vowing to meet up again soon.

In our down time, we’ve been discussing our possible Australia trip. We are still rather balking at the length of flight. Kindly, Richard has suggested a counter intuitive idea – fly even longer and further. It has rather captured our imaginations and reawakened a flight of fancy we considered before we built the Greek house. Richard has suggested flying around the world with multiple stopovers. Thank you, Richard. Hold that thought!

Friday, 6th October, 2017

Another day of our ‘Indian Summer’ with strong sunshine from peerless blue skies. This old chap served in the British Army in India but was best known for his 1907 camp for kids on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour where we have been over the past three days. This camp led to the formation of The Boy Scouts Association and, ultimately, a world wide movement. The old chap is sitting here on Poole Quay looking out to his former haunt. He is nothing if not a ‘Remainer’.

We, on the other hand, are leaving this lovely place in lovely weather. We have really enjoyed our few days and reunited with our old friend and colleague and now return to West Sussex revived and ready for an exercise programme this afternoon….The drive home took about an hour and forty minutes although strong sun make it a little difficult. It doesn’t matter where we go and how much we enjoy ourselves, homing coming is delicious and very comfortable. Pauline even had Birthday cards waiting for her on the doormat.

Saturday, 7th October, 2017

Sea Bass for the griddle.

Had to do our weekly shop so we went out early to beat the crowds. Sainsbury’s by 8.30 am and Tesco by 9.00 am. Everywhere was so deliciously quiet and devoid of people that it reminded us of our weekend shopping when we were working. We always tried to hit the weekend running and get to the supermarket for 8.00 am to avoid the crowds. Today, we bought some lovely big and thick Tuna steaks for griddling. They were accompanied by  whole Sea Bass, nice, thick cod loins and a couple of sides of salmon. That should get us through the next few days.

We went off to the Health Club to punish ourselves for our three days away but ended up really enjoying it. Unfortunately, when we got home and relaxed, I realised that I had given myself a ‘dead leg’ in my right upper thigh and it increasingly gave me pain over the evening.

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Week 457

Sunday, 24th September, 2017

Another lovely day of warmth and sunshine. We’ve spent quite a bit of it – after three political programmes: Marr, Peston and Sunday Politics – outside in the garden. The topic of conversation today has been an alternative to our cancelled trip to Gran Canaria. At this, fairly late stage, it hasn’t seemed possible to find a good enough hotel with a room for the month of November to make us book again.

Actually, having planned out our year’s activities, I was feeling a little disorientated by the late cancellation. Pauline has sensed that and come up with a real plan. We wanted sun and warmth in the winter months. The Canaries almost guarantees that which is the only reason we chose it. Pauline has suggested an ambition we shelved a few years ago while tied up with our Greek home. We are seriously considering going to Australia for the month of Jan/Feb 2018. We would fly to and stay in Melbourne. It happens to be where two of our oldest friends from school have moved out to be near to their son. It also happens to be somewhere Pauline has family connections.

Monday, 25th September, 2017

A warm night – 16C/61F – ended with a warm but damp morning. Weak sunshine arrived in early afternoon and a temperature of 21C/70F. We did our first full gym session for over two weeks and it felt hard. We did the full 60 mins in the gym and followed it with 30 mins in the outside pool but I had to push myself each bit of the way and I’m sure I’ll feel it tonight.

Watched a fascinating speech by the Labour Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, at the start of the Labour Party Conference. There really does seem to be a lot of optimism around that the Tories are falling apart and that Labour’s time is coming. There certainly doesn’t appear to be much to beat at the moment.

This day in the afternoon 5 years ago we boarded Superfast IV in Patras to sail overnight to Ancona as we left for the winter in Surrey. There was a seamen’s strike about to start and we were on the last ferry out before everything tied up for 48 hrs. On board, we dined on grilled salmon with a bottle of red wine and failed to stay awake long enough to see the ship dock at Igoumenitsa en route to Ancona. Only 5 years and yet so long ago. So much has happened in that time. Calculating the ledger of experiences, we are definitely in a better place. Fitter, healthier financially and physically. So much to look forward to.

Famous last words!

Tuesday, 26th September, 2017

We were up an out early for Pauline’s annual health check at our local doctor’s surgery. It was amazingly busy for 8.30 in the morning. It is one of the problems with the burgeoning development around here. Infrastructure rather lags demand.

Another lovely day of warm sunshine reaching 22C/70F by mid afternoon. We have just finished our second day returning to our exercise routine and I’m absolutely knackered. Pauline griddled the most wonderful Tuna steaks out in the garden and topped it with a delicious Balsamic reduction which was accompanied by tomato salad and cannellini bean salad dressed with garlic, lemon and olive oil.

In free time, we have been continuing to research a trip to Australia. We have decided that spending a month in Melbourne would be more rewarding by renting rather than staying in a hotel. We have found a lovely apartment overlooking the harbour and which has a pool, gym, all our home facilities including Wi-Fi and allows us to control our own food and cooking. It is near the ‘free’ tram system so we can have easy travel most of the time and just rent cars for special visits.

The flights, on the other hand, are difficult and complex choices. There are 33 different airlines that fly London – Australia. They have different and different number stopovers . Most do 1 or 2 stops of differing lengths of time but some do 3. Seat comfort is clearly important and seat width and legroom differ quite a lot. Luggage allowances are fairly similar but some offer free Wi-Fi and free film choices. Some agents mix and match airlines over 2 or 3 legs and prices vary massively. For someone who likes to be in control of all the facts, to feel organised and make rational and informed decisions, this is quite mind blowing. Must try harder tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27th September, 2017

Out early on a pleasantly mild morning which reached 21C/70F by mid afternoon. Pauline had been urged to have a chest xray during her GP annual review. Worthing Hospital has plenty of parking which is unusual and it is very cheap to park in it.

The one thing it isn’t is quick to get to from our house. On-line route planners say it is 7.5 miles away and would take 21 mins which is bad enough in emergency. Drive through early morning rush hour traffic and you can add half that time again. This doesn’t feel comfortable if you are rushing a critically ill partner to A&E. When we got there, the service was fantastic. We didn’t have an appointment. It is a walk-in service. We were directed straight into the Radiology Dept. and asked to sit. There were about 5 people also sitting and waiting. After 2 minutes, Pauline was called and she returned 5 mins later smiling and ready to go home. What more can you ask of a Health Service which is free at the point of delivery?

I drove home to cut the lawns, watch Corbyn’s quite impressive speech to Conference and then set off for another 90 mins full-on exercise. The last 30 mins outside in the pool were, once again, delightful, refreshing and relaxing. I can’t think of a nicer way to exercise. I always finish with 20 mins of Jacuzzi and water jet massage. As I drive home, I feel really good but, after a couple of hours my body acknowledges what it has done. Today it did 15,000 paces.

Thursday, 28th September, 2017

Out early again for a trip to the Doctor for my Annual Review. My appointment was for 8.40 am but I wasn’t seen until 9.20 am. The doctor didn’t get in until 10 mins after her first appointment. This was the repeat of the pattern on Tuesday when Pauline had her review. When I got to see her, she asked me what she could do for me and, after I had pointed out that she had requested the meeting, demonstrated repeatedly that she hadn’t read my notes and was ‘winging it’ a bit.

I’d had a fasting blood test a week ago and my results were excellent. My diabetic results for blood sugar were even better than last year. Liver and kidney function were excellent which is surprising although I have stopped alcohol which will have helped. I had to talk about the persistent pain in my upper arm. I had asked this doctor about it a year ago and she had sent me for physiotherapy. It really had no effect.

The arm improved over the summer but, what I had thought was a muscle tear or a trapped nerve, spontaneously returned about a month ago and is currently limiting and debilitating. I did some research of my own and came up with the diagnosis the doctor gave me this morning. I am suffering from ‘frozen shoulder’ or adhesive capsulitis and it is particularly prevalent in Type 2 Diabetics although no one really knows why. It can last up to 5 years and there are very few effective treatments.

I can have no complaints. Type 2 Diabetes, Atrial Fibrillation, Hypertension and now Frozen Shoulder are all my own fault – the wages of a dissolute life, eating and drinking too much and not getting enough exercise. I clearly deserve all I get. At least I won’t let them beat me. I have already had all Type 2 Diabetes medication removed. My diet and exercise has meant my Blood Pressure is well under control to the point of being on the low side and my medication is all but removed. I am not allowing this latest diagnosis to limit me. We did our 4th consecutive 90 mins routine at the gym and in the pool. Today, we swam under the sun in a temperature of 21C/70F. Quite delightful. It feels like being on holiday.

Friday, 29th September, 2017

Hot, muggy night has opened to a very wet day. Typical after such lovely weather of the past week because three of my sisters are coming for coffee this morning and then back for Dinner this evening. It is an historic day. Ruth is staying with us for a couple of nights. It will be the first time we have slept under the same roof for nearly 50 years. No gym for a couple of days but I have done the vacuuming which was exhausting and, in this extremely humid atmosphere, rather moistening.

When shall we three meet again?

The girls arrived just after mid day and had coffee before being taken by Catherine to look around the coast and beaches.  We had Dinner shortly after 7.00 pm and it was strange to sit around a table as a family albeit part of what we knew 50 – 60 years ago. Missing were the twins, Liz & Mike, and Caroline. Pauline cooked a very pleasant meal which centred on salmon in filo parcels with pesto. Strange to eat pastry even if it was just filo after all this time. She had spent many hours researching alternative dishes for Catherine who is a vegan and I think that went down well.

We have met and talked so rarely over the years and, when we do, I am always amazed by the blood-letting tone that the conversation turns to. We have all carried similar if different bundles of angst around with us over the years since our childhood. I always thought it was just me. If I had met them more and talked about it, maybe it would have faded in time. There again, it is so embedded, maybe it wouldn’t. I am past caring now. It is what it is and will remain.

Saturday, 30th September, 2017

The girls are going to Brighton today. Unfortunately, they are too late for the Corbyn rally but they are visiting the Pavilion and then going up British Airways Brighton i360 which is like a vertical cable car with viewing platform, bar and restaurant. I must admit, we haven’t been there ourselves and it doesn’t particularly interest me but I’m sure they’ll enjoy it. I drove them to the station for 9.30 am to catch the train. They won’t have to worry about parking or driving.

Flowers from Catherine

Back home, I am going to carry on researching flights to and from Australia. We are a little daunted by the length of time in the air and think we may aim to break it up with a couple of days in Singapore so that is my job to investigate this weekend as we see September out. The girls are having Dinner in Brighton this evening so I can indulge myself with a couple of hours of fantastic football – Chelsea v Man City. Ruth has texted to find out the results but she doesn’t want to know really because she is a Bolton fan and her team have just lost their 8th consecutive match and gone 8 games without scoring a single goal.

As I suggested, we have done some more ‘Australia trip’ research today and think the only way we will cope with flight length is to break it in Singapore and have a few nights in Changi. A 12hr flight followed by 2 or 3 days relaxing in a super technology city like Changi would be interesting and give us time to get out of our ‘compression socks’ and re-channel the blood supply around our bodies.

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Week 456

Sunday, 17th September, 2017

Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh…..Oh….Oh…. I’m not well. Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….

Why do we always feel worse at night than in the morning and worse in bed than when we get up and move around. Last night the ‘flu’mist descended with a vengeance after I had spent the day thinking I had thrown it off. I woke with a sore throat and a snuffle which was an improvement on last night and, now I’m up, I feel a little better again……. but still very ill! Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….Oh….

Looks like we were lucky in our choice of weeks to go to Athens. The previous week was windy and wet and next week is forecast to be another heatwave. KTG reports that temperatures could reach 40C/104F by Wednesday and that won’t be comfortable in Athens. In fact it will be unbearable. At the same time, it is forecast that we will return to warmer days but it is all relative. My figs are rejoicing at the news.

Monday, 18th September, 2017

Glorious, sunny morning. My synchronised, on-line calendar says I only have one bin to put out this morning so I’ve done that and everything is under control. We are holding a Lunch Party for neighbours on Wednesday so today is an interim shopping day to source ingredients. Cutting the lawns, cleaning the car and going to the Health Club for the first time in 10 days will follow. The hectic life of a retiree is never easy.

Mowed the lawn and then we had a knock at the door and a plasterer had come, quite unannounced, to do some ‘snagging’. It meant that a chunk of our day was looking after him and not going shopping or out to the gym. Watched the Daily Politics on which IDS deliberately, knowingly and quite fallaciously tried to argue that Boris Johnson’s £350 million for the NHS was accurate in the face of all the National Statistical Authorities. By 2.00 pm, we were free to go shopping.

Do you remember Damsons? As we went to Tesco, Pauline said she wanted to make damson jam and they were advertising them. No damsons. We collared the Fruit & Veg. buyer and asked him about them. He wanted to know what damsons were. He checked his database and could find no mention of them. We knew already that Tesco say they sell them. We rather gave up and came away. Unfortunately, one thing I don’t like doing is ‘giving up’.

As soon as I got home, I phoned Tesco Head Office and asked where I could buy the damsons they were selling. I found I was speaking to a special needs, work experience girl who was partially deaf and had a speech impediment – ideal for call centre/customer relations work. She had never heard of damsons and asked how to spell it for her computer search. She was quite buoyant after she had written down the six letters in the right order. She found them on her Tesco Central Store database and she asked me where I lived. That took another 10 mins. explanation and spelling out. I told her I had just come back from the store but she insisted on putting me through.

The lady at West Durrington Superstore Customer Relations was very pleasant. She asked me what damsons were and how to spell it. I told her and that they were on her database as 300 g pks for £2.00. She then said, And were you over charged?  As patiently as I could, I reiterated my earlier explanation that I had been in the store 20 mins ago and could find no damsons, that their specialist on that area had never heard of them and could find no mention of them on his database. Then, just as I was really in despair, as if in a blinding light of epiphany, her voiced returned to the phone and said calmly as if everything prior to this was wiped clean, We received 6 pks this morning, Sir. The next delivery will be on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 19th September, 2017

Gorgeous, sunny morning if only 11C/52F. We are told that temperatures will be returning to the low 20Cs/70Fs in the next few days down here. I’m beginning to feel a lot better today. Thanks for asking. Oh, you didn’t. Optimism is starting to reassert itself. I’ve even been entertaining the idea of buying a small property in the south of France and started to browse possibilities. If only Brexit wasn’t such a sticking point.

Currently, the Commons Treasury Select Committee have warned that British Expats with pensions and insurances are threatened as the Financial Times amongst a number of media outlets reported. This is down to the potential loss of ‘Passporting Arrangements’ which allow pan-European contracts being enforced. It could also seriously affect flights in and out of UK. As the British Chamber of Commerce is warning:

Upon ceasing to be a member state of the EU, the UK ceases to be a beneficiary not only of the Customs Union and the Single Market, but also (i) the European Single Sky; (ii) the European Common Aviation Area Agreement; (iii) all Comprehensive Air Transport Agreements the EU has entered into with a number of other countries like the US and Canada, as well as (iv) all Horizontal Air Transport Agreements the EU has entered into with other countries around the world.

As things currently stand, on 30 March 2019 there will no longer be an Open Sky for the UK other than to the extent provided in pre-existing “old” bilateral Air Services Agreements that the UK entered into and which may remain in force or any newly agreed bilateral Air Service Agreements, and other than as agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement (if any) or otherwise agreed with the EU and the other participating states in the European Common Aviation Area.

Avoid being late by not flying at all. Brilliant!

This scenario is currently being tested out for the government and British people by Ryanair. They appear to be parking their planes at airports rather than flying from them in order to avoid delays and improve their punctuality. They should take a look at the EasyJet method.

Wednesday, 20th September, 2017

A grey day although fairly mild. Had to be out for a blood test this morning prior to my annual review next week. Went on to Tesco and managed to corner the market of Damsons. They had 2 kilos delivered over night and we bought them all. Many jars of damson jam will follow over the next few days.

We have friends coming round for Lunch and have decided to put on Mεζέδες (Mezethes). We are going to eat Χταπόδι Σαλάτα (Octopus Salad), Mαρίδa (Whitebait), Σολομός σε φιλό (Salmon in Filo), Pεβυθοκεφτεδες (Chickpea Balls), Σκόρδaλia (Garlic Sauce) Σπαράγγι (Asparagus) and Χωριάτικη (Greek or Village Salad). No Greek wines, I’m afraid, just Italian. Of course, everything is cooked by Pauline. My jobs, as menial support, have been to do the vacuuming and lay the table which I have done expertly. Our figs and olives outside are getting decidedly excited.

The meal was really enjoyable not least because I hadn’t eaten for 18 hrs having submitted to a 12 hr fasting blood test this morning. The company and the conversation was fascinating. Our friends have done very different and interesting things and lived in a number of different places. I do find these things quite stressful and tiring because I don’t do them very often. Maybe I should but I’m lazy in that respect.

Thursday, 21st September, 2017

A lovely morning which reached 21C/70F but turned wet in late afternoon. We had three tasks to complete this morning as we went out into the sunshine. We had to buy jam jars for Pauline’s afternoon project of making damson jam; we had to find a new dentist and had chosen a practice which has opened inside our local Sainsbury’s store; we wanted to buy some more cyclamen to supplement the ones that Catherine had bought us this time last year.

In Hobbycraft we found the jars – 2 dozen for £20.00/€22.70 – for jam and some more for chutney later. On to the dentist. It is in demand and appointments are not readily available. Good or bad sign? At least people go there in numbers. We signed up for an Annual Plan which cost us £100.00/€113.60 per year each and allows for two check ups per year plus 20% off standard treatment charges. We have no idea if that is good value or not but we will see if we live for another 12 months. Finally, we went on to the garden centre and found an amazing array of cyclamen – 8 different colours in three different sizes. We always go by the mantra – If you’re going to have one, have a big one. – and bought 3 large white and 3 large red for £20.00/€22.70. Planting them will be a weekend job.

My cold symptoms have returned with a vengeance over night and Pauline is in the middle of infection too so we are in a sorry, wheezy state. I really thought I would have fought it off much more quickly than this. It is now a week since I first felt symptoms. The trouble is that, because we were away for a week prior to this, it is now two weeks since we did gym work and we are becoming rather stir crazy.

Friday, 22nd September, 2017

Sunrise on the shoreline this morning.

Up at 6.30 am. The plasterer arrived an hour later to do some ‘snagging’ work. The painter will appear to complete the job some time this morning. We have a 5 year warranty on everything in and outside our new house including the white goods, kitchen units and fitted furniture that came with it. We have just over 3½ years left. It is rather reassuring. Unlike other new-builds we have bought, we have had remarkably few problems and, unlike our previous, Taylor Wimpey property which only had a 2 yr cover and in which we had to fight like mad to get things done, David Wilson Homes are a dream to work with.

Heuchera Rio

This is the start of the Autumn Equinox. Day and night are equal in the sense of daylight and darkness. Ironically, it was our coldest night of recent months going down to 8C/46F. The sky was clear and sparkling with stars and the morning has brought blue sky criss-crossed by plane trails lit up by gorgeous sunshine. If the painter arrives early enough, we are hoping to walk on the beach and shop at the fisherman’s hut.

As the day developed, our plans changed because the painter kept us waiting all morning. Eventually, we had to cancel the coastal walk and settle for a trip to the garden centre nearby. We wanted something colourfully leaved that will manage partial shade. We settled for a collection of Heuchera. They have really been developed since we first used them nearly 40 years ago. We chose Rio (illustrated), Marmalade and Lime Marmalade. They will be a useful addition to our driveside beds.

Saturday, 23rd September, 2017

This has been the most beautiful day of warmth and sunshine. We went down to Littlehampton Beach to buy some fish. The sun was delightful and the beach deserted. The occasional person passed us as we walked down the Marina but, essentially, we had it to ourselves.

We walked for a while and it felt good to be out in the sea air and the sunshine. A couple of older men were fishing under the board walk. A family of Mum, Dad, two kids and a dog were walking with a pushchair on the beach at the edge of the water enjoying the freedom of a huge, open space.

Walking here in these conditions make us reflect how lucky we are. Prime Location the property selling site today listed the top ten places to retire to. It placed West Sussex at the number 1 spot saying it is ranked strongly for good weather and disability-free life expectancy.

We walked back to the fishermen’s shack to buy some fish from the fresh catch. Littlehampton Lobsters, Brighton Crabs, locally caught Sea Bass, Brill and Turbot lay on ice along side Monkfish with their mouths agape and silent, silver Mackerel. It is lovely to see and it had quite a crowd of shoppers outside.

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Week 455

Sunday, 10th September, 2017

An alternatingly grey and damp/warm and sunny day. As the day has developed, the former has disappointingly ousted the latter. I have been doing the usual Sunday things – political programmes, newspapers, household chores. I even vacuumed the house from top to bottom. I also think I’ve found a replacement hotel for November but, as we’re going away, I’ll ponder it for a while. If it’s gone by the time we get back, so be it.

The government continues to oscillate over its Brexit policy but there is one thing it seems fairly settled on – The British people voted against ‘free movement of people’. Europe says that the corollary to this is exit from the Free Market and the Customs Union. It also means that there will be an equal and opposite reaction from Europe. Travel and work for the British in Europe will be equally difficult. It may involve other reciprocal rights we currently expect like medical treatment. This is not going to be a comfortable settlement although the Little Englanders will be happy. Expats won’t!

Monday, 11th September, 2017

Up at midnight to drive to Gatwick for our flight to …. (whisper it) …. Europe. We have an early flight and arrive in Athens just after 11.00 am. Snatched a few hours sleep and will make the rest up on the plane. It is a blustery but dry and moonlit night. Should be a fun drive.

Really enjoyed the drive to Gatwick Airport Long Stay Carpark which took about an hour. We were picked by the circular bus immediately and whisked off to the North Terminal. We were flying with EasyJet which has the UK’s worst record for delays. The service today was wonderful, slick and impressively quick. We had booked our seats in advance on-line as we had checked in on-line. All we had to do was drop off our bags. We did that ourselves  at the automatic machine which weighed our case, printed out our luggage label and despatched our case for loading on the plane. The trip through safety checks was swift – although it was 4.00 am admittedly.

We went straight to No 1 Lounge on airside where we got fast broadband, coffee and bacon sandwiches in delightful comfort and peace. We were so relaxed that we almost forgot to go to Gate which was a 10 mins walk away. We walked straight on and sat down in seats with ‘extra leg room’. We took off right on time for a flight of 3 hrs 35 mins. Which landed 10 mins early in Athens. The only hiccup was the really bad turbulence as we crossed the Alps.

As we queued to get off the plane, I got into conversation with a couple who said they were staying in Athens for a couple of nights before setting off for the islands. Where are you going? I asked. You won’t have heard of it.  they said. It’s a small island called Sifnos.We’re staying in a little, 2* hotel in Kamares. We told them that not only did we know it but we knew the Poison Dwarf who runs it. Having done our job for the day, we collected our bag and got on the first Metro train that arrived to get to Syndagma. It was quite busy.

We walked through the Autumn sunshine – 29C/84F – to our hotel which was just being completed this time last year. The Electra Metropolis is one of three we now use in Athens along with the Electra and the Electra Palace. We checked in to our room and went for a swim. Delicious! After that, we had a snooze and then went out for a walk. At 9.00 pm, we went out to our favourite, street corner taverna. Eugenia’s Taverna on the corner of Voulis Street.

Greek Salad with griddled Sea Bass and Sea Bream was a wonderful way to finish the day and we waddled happily back to the hotel and had coffee. Tomorrow will be a big, walking day so we need an early-ish night.

Tuesday, 12th September, 2017

Up at 8.00 am (6.00 am BST) to listen to Today. Outside, the temperature was 23C and, by the time we went for Breakfast had reached 25C. I took this photo on the Breakfast Room balcony. By the time we had gone back to our room to prepare for the day, the temperature had reached 27C. We slapped on the sun cream and asked the hotel to get us a taxi to Lycabettus Hill funicular.

Arrived at the Furnicular/Teleferik which goes up the hill every 30 mins. It was leaving in 5 mins. We bought return tickets for both of us coming to 15 Euros. The journey is 90 secs. The view as you step off the train is spectacular. With Athens laid out before us and the Parliament building next to the National Gardens in the foreground, Saronic Gulf in the background, it is a delightful sight.

We spent half an hour or so walking round and taking photographs and then took the furnicular back down. We are not natural sightseers and rarely stay long. We decided to walk back to our hotel – down the glassy, marble steps to Kolonaki and past the Embassy area where something was happening and forcing the police to close streets to traffic, local television companies to send out news gathering teams with small groups being videoed for the news. It might be just the upcoming transport strike but it could be something more sinister.

The walk back took no time at all – maybe 20 mins although it was hot and sweaty work in strong sun and 33C/91F temperatures. We stopped off at the periptero to buy iced bottles of sparkling water to replace and rehydrate.

We went to sit round the pool at the top of our hotel where we relaxed and enjoyed the sun. Later we went back to our room for a shower and to read our iPads. It really is annoying that the iPad is virtually unusable in sunshine.

Wednesday, 13th September, 2017

Up and outside for Breakfast in 28C/82F this morning. The bad news is that there is a transport strike here tomorrow. We will have to go by taxi. Still that is cheaper and more reliable in today’s Athens than it was even 5 years ago. Today is a wandering, shopping, mooching day.

We started our meandering walk towards Omonia Square at about 10.00 am. The temperature had risen to 31C/88F and a little more humid than yesterday. We walked down  Mitropoleos Street and past the Cathedral/Duomo that has been under reconstruction for many, many years. Lo and behold! It was free of scaffolding and restored to the building that we first viewed in 1980.

We walked through the streets of hawkers pedalling tawdry goods to people who couldn’t really afford them. We revisited haunts that we used to visit when we were furnishing our Greek house. Little has changed although there did seem to be an increase in tourist eating places. There are noticeably less beggars on the streets although there are still some. There are lots of Chinese and Japanese tourists and many less Americans than usual.

The city is still that awkward mix of ancient and tawdry. Our hotel, The Electra Metropolis,  is a brand new 5 star hotel in the heart of the city. It is situated at the beginning of Mitropoleos Street next to Syntagma Square. We have known the building for many years as the Ministry of Education. We have seen hordes of teachers protesting outside about their pay or lack of it. The building was designed by the famous architect Patroklos Karantinos. The basement of the building houses its own remarkable cultural attraction viewed through the glass pavement – the remains of the Themistoclean Wall which surrounded ancient Athens.

Thursday, 14th September, 2017

Up at 6.00 am and Breakfast out on the terrace looking over the city at 7.30 am. We would normally walk up to the Syndagma Metro Station and catch a train to the airport. This morning, we know that a strike means the metro stops at Dukakis Plakendias and the whole world would be looking for taxis on to the airport so we asked the Doorman, as we checked out, to get us a taxi all the way. The price is €40.00 – almost twice the cost of the train – but it was an enjoyable and quick journey.

It was a warm morning and the driver had his sun roof open. Outside the airport, the temperature was already 30C/86F at 9.00 am. Everything having been done online like check-in and seat allocation, boarding passes printed out, all that was left was ‘bag drop’ which used to be done separately for each flight but is now done centrally and in an integrated way.

We got that through quickly and walked down to the Goldair Lounge. This is quite a long walk through those ‘fake duty-free’ shops selling Toblerone and perfume and tourist tat packaged as Greek specialities. It was busy and we had to force our way through the crowds. Life would be so much easier without people wouldn’t it? Our EasyJet flight was due to take off at 12.00 mid-day. We drank some fresh orange juice and used the Wi-Fi for our iPads. Pauline looked for the ‘Gate’ number an hour before departure and it said Already Boarding at gate 34. We didn’t really believe it but we walked straight there and they were, indeed, really boarding. We went straight on and sat down in our ‘extra legroom’ seats.

EasyJet have been reported to be the worst airline in Britain for punctuality and delays. They have clearly reacted positively. Our experience out and back to Athens has proved the most smooth, hitch free experience we have had for some time. Today, we took off exactly on time and landed 20 mins early. You can’t ask more than that. In addition, all the reports about increased security creating extra delays haven’t proved accurate in our experience. In Athens Airport, our identity, passports and Boarding passes were checked five times before we got on the plane. At Gatwick, we followed massed throngs of passengers from various flights as we came back through passport control. We went through the automated system and it proved so much more efficient than the manned system. We left Athens at 12.00 mid day and back home in West Sussex at 4.00 pm.

Friday, 15th September, 2017

Half way through September already. Real signs of Autumn and a distinct nip in the air this morning. Breakfast will definitely not be served on the terrace. It is very sunny with blue skies but only 8C/47F. Our figs are beginning to get the message that their fruit was just produced too late this year and is unlikely to be picked and eaten. The photograph on the left illustrates the scene in a Sussex park as it musters itself for Autumn.

I don’t know if I picked it up on the plane on the way out to Athens but, last night, I was hit by a violent sore throat, a headache and a cold. I hven’t even had my ‘flu jab yet. Actually, the Health Ministry is warning of a potential ‘flu epidemic causing chaos in the Health service this winter and issuing an ultimatum to hospitals to clear their wards of ‘bed blockers’ in preparation. I haven’t heard the term ‘euthanasia’ used yet but it will surely come from this government

Saturday, 16th September, 2017

It won’t be like this!

Wanted to start back at the gym this morning but my man-flu is still raging so decided to give it a miss. Sat outside in the glorious sunshine for a while. We have finally decided (I think) to go ahead with hard landscaping the back garden. It will mainly feature extending the patio in all directions but also installing a canopy over the cooking area along the garage wall. It’s been made clear to me that it won’t be like the first one pictured here. My darling wife has just called it ‘gross’! And that’s an end to it!

Maybe more like this.

Yesterday, Pauline was griddling mackerel outside when a short, sharp, rain shower thought it would be a good idea to put in an appearance. I had to hurriedly erect a giant, garden dining table umbrella but something more permanent would be preferable. We are going to do some local research and get quotes.

Quite by chance this morning, the subject of comics and their one-liners was featured in the paper. Tim Vine is always talked about as the king of this genre :

Conjunctivitis.com – that’s a site for sore eyes

but the report had two other crackers both from yesteryear. Tommy Cooper:

Police arrested two kids yesterday. One was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks.

They charged one and let the other one off.

and to my own surprise my personal favourite from Ken Dodd:

I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.

When man-flu strikes, you have to lift your spirits somehow. There again, you could always listen to Boris Johnson flailing about and screaming, Pick me! Pick me!

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 455