Week 503

Sunday, 12th August, 2018

Sometimes one has to admit one is an old codger. I plead guilty. On Friday, I went in to the EE shop which is in our local Sainsburys. We have had EE contracts for the past 6 six years and been fairly happy with the service provision. At the end of our last mobile contracts which provided us with 2, Samsung S6 mobiles, we were entitled to new phones if we renewed our contracts. I chose Huawei P20 Pro smartphones for both of us. If you wanted to buy them without a contract today, they would cost you £1600.00/€1790.00 for the two.Going into the EE shop was preferable because we wouldn’t have to wait for them to be posted and have to wait in to receive them plus I could get an Assistant to clone our old phones and save me a few hours. Or so I thought….

We came home with our new phones on Friday and I spent the rest of that day and most of Saturday updating and re-organising all our apps for Organisation – calendars, newspapers, media, etc / Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Chrome, etc. / Finance & Investments / Files & Cloud Storage … and so it goes on. Our phones are insured through a ‘free service’ of our Bank Account so I logged on to alter the details. As I entered the IMEI number to identify the phones, the site told me that Pauline’s was a metallic Huawei P20 Pro but mine was just a cheaper and smaller Huawei P20. Bear in mind, I had just spent 2 days setting it up.

I checked the two phones and, sure enough, mine was distinctly smaller. I checked the box which was identical to Pauline’s with one exception of 3 letters – Pro – and that made all the difference. I felt a bit of an idiot and stupid old codger. Even so the EE Assistant hadn’t noticed either. A trip back to the shop in the middle of Sunday morning and I emerged with a new, Huawei P20 Pro phone and I spent the rest of the day setting it up.

I am a politics geek and a news junkie. I need access to information media at all times. Radio, TV, Newspapers and Politics Blogs over the internet are essential. As soon as we leave the UK on our travels, that is what I become anxious about. How will I access the news? Driving across UK is not a problem but, the moment we roll out of the Tunnel into France, I start to have a problem. Our car provides DAB/VHF/MW/LW radio. In UK, I use DAB. In the early stages of France, DAB is lost but VHF is possible but not for long. I then switch to the poor quality Long Wave which goes a remarkably long way. We could pick up Radio 4 in the Dordogne but it often became lost in the interference of power lines and other obstructions.

While we were driving back at the end July, I was musing on this and suddenly had an epiphany. Our car infotainment unit offers Bluetooth connection. My smartphone offers Bluetooth connection. Perhaps I could Bluetooth the radio on my phone through the speakers of my cars infotainment unit. Today, with my new phone, I established that this process worked. I shouldn’t have a problem next time we drive through Europe.

Monday, 13th August, 2018

Early start because we both had appointments with the ‘dreaded’ Hygienist at our Dentist’s surgery conveniently located in Sainsbury’s next to the EE store. Personally, I hate all Hygienists with a passion too strong to fully express. We have Dental Plans which cover a 12 month period for about £100.00/€121.00 which provided for 2 x dental checkup per year and 2 x hygienist visits per year. She keeps trying to cajole me into 4 x hygienist visits per year but there is as little chance of that as .. (Fill in your own impossibility.). Pauline and I have both bought and been using water jet, tooth picks three or four times a day to keep our teeth clean after food and drink. According to the Hygienist, it has made a major difference so has been worthwhile.

After 20 mins of agony, we went out to do yet more shopping. We eat one, large pack of cherry tomatoes per day on average so we bought another 4 to get us through to next shopping on Friday. Haddock loins with fantail prawns for our meal today with, tomato salad, cucumber & dill salad and rocket salad. Looking forward to it already. Before we go to the gym, I have contacted a couple of firms of garage door installers to come and quote us for an automated, roller door.

Really enjoyed our workout followed by jacuzzi and water jet massage. We were out for about 2.5 hrs. Came home to cook a lovely meal and a bit of relaxation. I have had a garage door company confirm a visit later in the week and I will require at least one more before I choose.

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Week 502

Sunday, 5th August, 2018

Up early on another beautiful morning. After breakfast, we went down to the beach for a walk.  It was absolutely delightful. We walked for about an hour from Goring to Worthing Pier. The sun was strong and the crowds were absent at 9.30 am..

Packed beaches in Worthing.

As a child, I remember going with my parents to the seaside, and being told to “smell the ozone”, as it was healthy and good for me. You could certainly smell the “ozone” this morning. We took huge lungsful of it as we walked along. Actually, I’ve since found out that the distinctive (seaside) smell is not ozone, it is dimethyl sulphide and inhaling it is not necessarily good for you.

Be that as it may, we did our walk and then went home and into our sun-filled garden to empty our crabs of their bounty. A 0.5 kg of crab meat was mixed with a 0.5 kg of cod to make a 1kg of delicious, Crab Pâté. Garden cleaned of crab shell, we headed off to the Health Club and did our full session. Back home and in scorching sunshine, we griddled swordfish steaks in the garden and ate them with wonderful tomato salad.

The day has finished with us saying to each other – I’ve really enjoyed today. – as we seem to do at the end of most days. What more can one ask of retirement or any life stage? We are enjoying life so much that I am constantly checking over my shoulder to see if some harbinger of doom is lurking. If it can happen to a Chuckle Brother, it can happen to anyone.

Monday, 6th August, 2018

Absolutely blazing hot morning which reached 29C/84F by mid morning and 30C+/86F+ in the afternoon. We had a man from British Gas booked to come and replace the ridiculously complicated analogue controls for the central heating with Hive digital ones. While I was waiting, I mowed the lawns and ran the water sptinkler on them for a couple of hours. Because we missed our window cleaner while we were away in France, I did all the windows and the door at the front of the house.

When the engineer did arrive, it turned out to be a lad from a few houses away who had been assigned to our installation. The original controls were replaced by digital ones linked to my internet hub. We have dual zone heating and hot water which separately controls upstairs and downstairs. Now, all of that can be controlled from my iPad, smartphone and computer across the net and from anywhere in the world. Although that sounds fanciful and pointless, it would have been very useful when we were in France for five weeks and will be very useful while we are in Tenerife for a month in November.

It is also so easy to use compared with the intricacies of the older controls. Of course, after one has absorbed the ease of on-line control of the heating, one can go on to extend the uses to power plugs and light bulbs. Anyone who goes away for any length of time will be familiar with the needs to install timers for lighting to foil/fool burglars and, maybe sound/radio to give the deception of house occupation. It also appeals to gadget geeks and computer freaks. Guilty!

There are some occasions when one takes a leap of faith and immediately regrets it. As an instinctive ‘early-adopter’, I have been through that many times. This has proved an instant justification for taking that risk.

Tuesday, 7th August, 2018

Another beautiful day – how long can we say that? – It was 31C/88F as we set off for the Roundstone PYO Farm which is less than a mile away from home. The farm is huge – big enough to use a small set of tractor drawn carriages to take people to the varied picking fields. Strawberries are mainly over but raspberries are in full swing along with soft fruit such as red/white/black currants, blackberries, rhubarb, plums, runner and French beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, sweetcorn, courgettes, beetroot, onion etc..

We only wanted raspberries today because Pauline is making jam. In less than 40 mins, we picked 5kgs of luscious raspberries in scorching sunshine, paid just over £5.00 per kilo (Tesco is £12.00) for around 5kgs and drove home. We went off to Tesco to buy 5kgs of sugar and the jam will be made tomorrow because we are not going to the Health Club. Tomorrow, we are having Lunch with our next door neighbours.

As I opened my local paper on-line yesterday, I was shocked to find onw of my 6 sisters staring out at me. She reminds me of my Mother which is shocking enough in itself.

Nothing surprises me greatly anymore but this really did come out of the blue. It shows how isolated members of my family are from each other.

Wednesday, 8th August, 2018

We are not going to the gym today for the first time in 10 days. We are going out to have lunch at our neighbour’s house. Before that, I have been exploring a problem we have with our car and garage.

For most of our life, we have had large, double garages and usually with large, double doors remotely controlled. It makes life so easy and convenient. Here, we only have a single garage with a single, (narrow feeling), manually operated, up-and-over door. Our car is large and wide and has a tolerance of about 5″ either side as we drive through the doorway. This is made particularly narrow by the door mechanism being bolted on to the side walls with their aluminium struts and guides. Driving in and out without accident requires two of us – one steering and the other shouting from behind – even though we have reversing sensors and a reversing camera with guidelines.

A must-have, new model of our Honda CRV comes out at the end of this year and, horror of horrors, it is wider than our current model. I think this will be our 12th or 13th new CRV and they have gradually become more ‘butch’ in design to suit the American market. This has meant putting on more bulk. Short of demolishing the garage and rebuilding it, I was coming to the conclusion that we would have to park on our drive as all our neighbours do on theirs. Throughout our lives, we have been the exception to the rule in many things and putting our car in the garage has been one of those things.

My wife, who is extremely practical, looks like she’s solved the problem. A motorised and remote controlled, roller shutter door which doesn’t fit on the inside entrance pillars but behind the entrance and takes up little extra room at all looks like the way to go. I have done some research of providers and the cost is remarkably little. Delivered, installed and with two, remote control units, the cost is around £1000.00/€12,00.00. You can’t say fairer than that although I will try to beat them down a bit by getting three quotes and playing one off against the other .

Thursday, 9th August, 2018

Well, how lovely to wake up to rain. That’s exactly how we felt in Greece when we got an unexpected downpour. Like manna from heaven if either actually existed. Quite a bit cooler today. Didn’t get above 20C/68F and with only weak sunshine.

We went out to do our weekly, Tesco shop. We bought sides of salmon, tuna steaks, plus 4 bags of frozen, calamari tubes along with lots of other things. As usual, we do scan-as-you-shop which really suits us. We have a running total of purchases and expenditure on a handset which we clip on to our trolley. At the end, our bags are full of purchases and we transmit our handset to the till which takes our payment – in our case, through our mobile – and w leave without troubling the shop staff at all.

 

Of course, there is the possibility for theft and fraud. Either not scanning some items or scanning in cheaper items for more expensive ones is a weakness with the system. There has been a huge rise in the sale of (cheap) carrots, apparently, because people were scanning them in instead of (expensive) avocados. The supermarkets noticed that they were selling many more carrots than had ever been in their stock. Actually, I prefer carrots to avocados.

To counteract fraud and theft, the stores do periodically and, apparently, randomly check the till receipt with the goods in the customer’s trolley. Today, it was our turn. You can imagine Pauline’s horror when it turned out I had forgotten to scan not one but four bags of frozen squid. I must admit, I was slightly embarrassed myself. Actually, four bags of frozen squid would not my first choice for a theft and the supermarket assistant just smiled it off but what it will do is ensure we are checked quite a few times over the next few visits. We will have to make a number of quick visits to buy single items so we aren’t held up for long periods. Awkward!

Friday, 10th August, 2018

The morning started off beautifully when we got up at 6.00 am but, soon, clouded over and light rain fell intermittently and is forecast to throughout the day. Missing the warm sunshine already so we have turned our minds to going abroad. Amazingly, it is only 2 weeks since we returned from France. The papers this morning are full of torrential rain and flooded streets in France & Switzerland yesterday. Thank goodness we were driving back in that. We are paying for our Tenerife villa today. It is a 3 bedroomed property with its own heated pool on the south eastern coast of  Tenerife which we have rented for the month of November. The cost is quite reasonable compared to a hotel £3,500.00/€3,900.00 + flights which are very cheap.

The villa is within walking distance of the sea and shops, restaurants, etc. and it fulfils my three, main requirements of wifi, pool and English language tv. It has a large kitchen with dishwasher, washing machine and there is a barbecue outside on the patio. More importantly, its location will more or less guarantee us sun and warmth in November and that is worth paying for.

Busy itinerary today. Out to a garage door showroom in Lancing. I bet they don’t have any boils! On to the EE shop to, hopefully, collect our new smartphones and then back home to set them up by exchanging all our aps and information from old to new phones. Finally, we will go to the gym for the 11th day out of the last 12. Impressive or what? OK, what!

Saturday, 11th August, 2018

A second day of not going to the gym. Beginning to feel a bit stir crazy. We’ve been trying to catch up with jobs at home. I’ve been updating our new phones so that all the services we use them for regularly are restored. Although I tried to resist it, I’ve conceded that it would be best to use a case to protect our phones from accidental damage by fitting a case. I’ve found the ‘official’ one which allows one to access the it from the front screen. ‘Officially’, the cover cost £19.99. From Ebay, the cost is £3,85 postage ‘free’. I’ve ordered two.

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Week 501

Sunday, 29th July, 2018

We were told that we would get rain overnight but didn’t believe it. Woke up to rain. Unbelievable! Yesterday, I cut and fed the lawn. This morning, the weather watered it in for me. Be interesting how long it takes for the grass to resume its green and luscious look.

The hydrangeas we planted at the front door seem delighted with the water. Lots of organisations in our area have events planned for today and they are definitely not pleased to see the break in the weather.

We went out for the 10.00 am opening of Tesco. As we walked round, Pauline remarked on the dull lighting over the fruit and vegetables. When we got to the check-out, we realised why. This Tesco doesn’t open until 11.00 am on a Sunday. Archaic law. It will have to change!

The day has remained damp/rejuvenating throughout. I look forward to my grass updating very soon. We will restart our gym routine tomorrow. We have five weeks until we fly to Greece and I am determined to work hard to earn that indulgence.

Monday, 30th July, 2018

Liz & Caroline

Lovely to wake up to rain again this morning. Quite warm and we reached 25C/77F although fairly cloudy for most of the day. We are expected to rise to 31C/90F by the end of the week with high humidity. I will keep watering the lawns. They are showing real signs of regeneration already.

It has been a day of reminiscences which never goes well with me. I was opening a box file in our office and this photo fell out. It pictures my two, youngest sisters, Elizabeth (now 60  and Caroline (now 56). Of course, they live in my head with this image because I left home shortly after this to go to college. My first foray into tertiary education was to take up a teacher training place at the Anglican, all-women’s College in Ripon, North Yorkshire. As a (nominal) Roman Catholic male, I couldn’t have asked for better. I was one of 20 men in college of 600 women. Religion was suddenly irrelevant to almost everyone.

Today, those members of the ‘lonely’ 20 men were posting reminiscences of their of their own. I, embarrassingly, featured in a number. One recorded our production of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt in which I played the Button-Moulder. I didn’t enjoy it. I am not comfortable on stage or, indeed, in a theatre but it was a requirement of subsid. Drama. I also wrote my own 15 mins sketch called ‘Sentimentality’ which bombed and was not revived. Thank goodness.

Went to the gym for the first time in over 6 weeks and did a full work out. Felt good and we really enjoyed it. We have maintained our fitness while abroad by doing plenty of walking and swimming. Now we aim to move on and extend our routines. I have to start doing some sit-ups to strengthen my stomach muscles.

Tuesday, 31st July, 2018

July is ending with another beautiful day. I think we had quite heavy rain over night -certainly, the lawns were cheering – but this morning is clear blue sky and lots of lovely sunshine. We have only reached 22C/70 F but it has felt delightful. We did a second, full workout at the gym but, at last, I got round to giving the car an inside/outside valet for the first time since we returned from France a week ago.

Since getting back from our travels,  I have switched our dual fuel power supply from BG …. to BG but on a new and improved fixed tariff. I’ve also booked an engineer to install Hive Active Heating which will connect our boiler controls to our broadband hub and allow us to control it using apps on our smart phones and our iPads.

This system is really just a digital control backbone which can ultimately be expanded to add controlled electrical sockets and light bulbs allowing remote control of many electrical items as well as delivering surveillance video stream to us across the net. Really appeals to a geek like me.

With our bank account, we get ‘free’ annual travel insurance, mobile phone insurance and unlimited entry to and services of airport lounges across the world. Having a pre-existing health condition – atrial fibrillation – I have to pay a top-up premium. Pauline renewed our cover this morning for the next twelve months and it hadn’t gone up at all.

Wednesday, 1st August, 2018

Happy August to all readers – I almost forgot. Where am I on the Dementia Gradient?

We live within walking distance of the sea but rarely go down there. Every time we visit Worthing town, we are surprised that it is on the beach. Today, we had some things to look for – Aftershave for me, Trainers for Pauline etc. – and we drove down the seafront road, past the pier and to the multi-storey carpark where we go right up to the top for the views.

View from a Carpark.

It was an absolutely beautiful morning, warm, sunny and bright, reaching 22C/70F. For Worthing, it was open market day but the town didn’t feel particularly busy as a French market day would. On the beach edge there was a tawdry fair ground although not many takers for rides at 10.00 am.. Purchases made, we headed home and then did another, full exercise session. We are really enjoying getting back into this routine and celebrating the fact that we haven’t lost any of our fitness over the 6 weeks away.

Thursday, 2nd August, 2018

Woke to another wonderfully clear and sunny blue sky at 6.30 am. Actually, we remarked on the early darkness last night. It seemed to be coming earlier in spite of a completely clear and starry sky. I know we are past the tipping point but to be noticing shorter days already is a bit of a shock.

My Mother would have been 95 this month and my Father would have been 103 in October. Going through their mementos, I found a leather folder of honeymoon records. They married nearly 70 years ago and honeymooned in the Cotswolds. Mum had saved for all those years after Dad’s death in 1965, pictures of their honeymoon accommodation and the receipts for everything from their rooms to the meals and even room service. One, particular hotel stood out for me – The Lygon Arms Hotel in the Cotswolds situated between Banbury, Worcester and Cheltenham. Mum always talked highly of her love of the Cotswolds although I’m not aware she ever went back.

The Lygon Arms – Cotswolds

This morning, I received an email from a company called Chic Retreats offering three nights of absolute luxury in a Cotswold hotel called The Lygon Arms. It’s not somewhere that I would choose to stay. I really do prefer modern over ancient. Obviously, it was to Mum’s taste and had very special meaning for her.

They were only staying there for two days en route to The Fortfield Hotel in Sidmouth – a hotel which was very grand but burned down a couple of years ago. Unusually, I have Mum’s record of their stay in The Lygon Arms with all the charges they paid. They were there for the 22nd & 23rd April, 1950. I was born on 6th April, 1951 so one pre-conception is shattered.

Friday, 3rd August, 2018

Absolutely gorgeous day of blue sky and strong sunshine which peaked at 30C/86F. We walked down into the village to take a parcel to the Post Office. It is an easy and enjoyable walk from our house which takes about 10 mins..

We are always shocked to find that our village is on the ‘tourist track’ and, as we walked through the village centre this morning, tourists were having their breakfast outside the The Lamb and the sunshine underlined the ‘holiday’ character of the village. Our coast is renowned for its reputation as the sunniest in UK and people are prepared to pay for that on their holidays.

I am continuing to irrigate the lawns to bring them back from the brink of five weeks baking hot neglect. That was the order of the rest of the Morning while watching the Test Match. Off to the Health Club at lunchtime for a 2 hr session. The indoor pool is being drained for restorative work so the outdoor pool is like Blackpool at this time of the year.

We drove home to griddle (French), swordfish steaks in the garden. We dressed them with olive oil and lemon and ate them with salad. I was thinking this morning that, without any conscious intent, I hardly ever eat red meat. A popular choice during our time in France was a pate of white fish and crab. As soon as we got home, we made our own with cod and a dressed crab. Tomorrow, we will go down to the Fishermen’s Shed to buy two, fresh crabs to make some more. I love it.

Saturday, 4th August, 2018

After a night in which the temperature didn’t fall below 19C/66F, the morning opened a little hazier than normal but soon reached 24C/75F and is expected to peak at 28C/82F this afternoon. We went out early to walk by the seaside and buy a couple of crabs from the fisherman’s shed. Families were already arriving and setting out their pitches on the beach. Many looked as if they were there for the day with chairs, tables, umbrellas and cool boxes. Children were charging down into the sea with gay abandon that only the young can exhibit.

Littlehampton Crabs – 2 for £16.00/€18.00

Instead of destroying the kitchen, we will take all the meat out of these crabs outside in the garden where we can afford to make a mess. It will be quite enjoyable to work on them in the sunshine.

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Week 500

Sunday, 22nd July, 2018

Week 500. You have to admit, it demonstrates perseverance/obduracy at the very least. I was pondering on this tangentially this morning. I do tend to commit myself to things. Since 1984, I have bought Honda cars. I have been an IHG member for many years and collected many ‘points’ and ‘free’ hotel rooms over that time. I became hooked on Greece, in general, and Sifnos, in particular, over a period of 35 years. Currently, we have been using hotels from the Accor Group and it has been causing me a bit of angst and a sense of betrayal. I’ve been trying to analyse what it is about my character that leads me into this enjoyment of continuity.

I would like to say that I had the answer but I don’t. I certainly don’t give in easily. If I’m in a fight over something, I will not stop until I’ve won or it is absolutely obvious that I can’t. I am incredibly loyal to people who gain my trust but cut them dead immediately if they betray me. The Blog began to help me record my life and shore up my memories for the final 20/30/40 years (perm any number) and has become a friend in itself. I feel totally committed to it. It will be lovely (for me at least) to begin Week 1000 in 2028 when I am 77 years old and, who knows, Week 2000 in 2048 when I am 97 although I won’t be holding my breath even if I’ve still got some.

Le soleil se lève sur le lac asséché ce matin.

This morning, we woke up in our room in the Novotel (Accor Group) Limoge Le Lac – which was still minus Le Lac this morning. We had a wonderful breakfast, returned to our room to download our copies of The Sunday Times and prepare for our journey to Orléans. We loved the Limoges hotel and were reluctant to leave it but we’d booked ahead for the next three nights so couldn’t do anything other than leave.

Betrayal but Irresistible!

Our journey to Orléans on this gorgeous, warm and sunny morning was really enjoyable. Just 2.25 hrs of smooth and quite quiet motorway through almost totally empty countryside. Our French hotels are so civilised and check-in time is midday which suits us well. We arrived at our Mercure (Accor Group) Hotel but not before being pushed all around the city centre by road works and diversions that threw our sat.nav. into paroxysms of despair.

We arrived, were provided keys for our room which I insist must be at or near the top so it is quiet with good views. A caveat to that is the availability of a lift and I have slightly questioned the principle after Grenfell. However, that specification is in my membership account ‘preferences’ and I haven’t got round to changing them. Eating a hotel Breakfast in Limoges has left us absolutely podged for the day so we didn’t book the restaurant. We have rested with our newspapers, a glass of white wine and some gorgeous pistachio nuts. We need rest because, tomorrow, we will ‘do’ Orléans.

Monday, 23rd July, 2018

Woke up in a different hotel room and had to find the toilet in the dark. In the previous, Limoges hotel, the bathroom and toilet were separate. I had just learnt that and we moved on. This early morning, I nearly ended up stark naked in the corridor.

Dignity saved for now, we made tea and listened to BBC Radio 4 Today. Before going down to Breakfast, I got dressed. Once bitten ….Hotel Breakfast is judged by the quality of the scrambled eggs and this hotel passed the test reasonably well. Freshly squeezed orange juice is my other test and here it was passed with flying colours. Can’t be doing with hotels that provide ‘long life’ juice from packets/tins.

We ate our breakfast by the side of the pool in lovely sunshine. There were three GB cars in the carpark and near to our table was a family of parents and two, under-fives who were learning all the words of breakfast items in French. They hardly knew them in English. At least Nutella didn’t over reach them. At my age, drinking orange juice, tea and coffee at breakfast has to be followed by a period of rest and renewal before I can venture in to the world inspite of France’s reputation for easy access to public toilets. It gives me an excuse to read my newspaper in peace before setting out to explore the town and its shops.

Would you believe it. Monday is half day opening in Orléans and the shops don’t open until 2.00 pm. We walked in 31C/90F temperatures …. to look at the cathedral. Actually, it is magnificent and infuriating in equal measure. It’s magnificence is infuriating because, when one thinks of the lives consumed in the incredible effort to build that structure and the dwellings they must have lived in set against the cathedral’s edifice, the central futility of the project is laid bare. It is for ‘ruin-bibbers’, as Philip Larkin described us, to walk round on a sunny morning before the shops open and little else.

Tuesday, 24th July, 2018

Sunrise over the cathedral & roofs of Orléans.

Up early. We have a 4.5 hr drive to Coquelles this morning. We are going to endeavour to stay on the Paris ring road and avoid the centre of the city this time. I’ve seen enough of the Arc de Triomphe for a lifetime. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been away or how much we’ve enjoyed ourselves, by this stage, we really look forward to getting home. We have one night in Coquelles and then some shopping to do in the hypermarkets of Calais before we go through the Tunnel tomorrow.

Absolutely delightful drive avoiding the Parisian tourist sights but going close to Arras, the home town of a boyhood friend of mine from Grammar School. No problems. No incidents. Smooth driving on clean, clear motorway. As we drove into the grounds of our hotel in Coquelles, the first thing that struck us was the colour of the grass. When we
stayed there 5 weeks ago, everything was green and vibrant. Today, the grass is a brown and dry mat. The temperature is 31C/89F and humid. Rather uncomfortable. We have a suite in the hotel. We use it so often that we even specify the number now.

We shopped for things and then returned to our suite and laid out a buffet of tasty bits – tomatoes, cucumber, Salmon Pâté, Scallop or Saint-Jacques Pâté, Serrano Ham and a bottle of red wine. We relaxed and read our newspapers, watched the UK news and breathed out. Tomorrow, we will do a weekly shop and then go through the tunnel and drive back to Sussex.

Wednesday, 25th July, 2018

When you’re on your way home, you just want to get on and get there. Well, that’ s how we are. Up at 6.00 am on a hot and sticky morning. Showers and down to breakfast. Nice scrambled egg but the orange juice is not freshly squeezed. It will be tomorrow! Coffee in our suite with the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme and then out to the hypermarket. No wine this time just groceries. Auchan had loins of swordfish (Espadon) and we bought 10, large steaks. We also put 16 duck breasts in our trolley. When we thought we could fit no more in our car’s fridge, we stopped.

It is school holidays and we thought the tunnel would be busy. It was quite the reverse. Perhaps people really are taking their holidays at home. We have never seen the Tunnel car park so quiet.

Our car began to think it was superior as it sat in splendid isolation. We listened to the radio and logged in to the Tunnel’s Wi-Fi while we waited for our train. By 1.00 pm (UK time) we were off and into Kent. The drive back was quiet and enjoyable. The temperature outside was 31C/90F but inside it was 17C/63F. That’s the sort of temperature I like to drive in. It keeps me alert.

Back home, we were shocked to find the lawn was brown. When we left it was a lush green. Fortunately, all our pot plants – herbs mainly – were fully grown. There is so much Basil that it will take Pauline most of tomorrow to make Pesto and freeze it. I had set the heating system for ‘Holiday Setting’ which is ‘frost free only’. Unfortunately, very early on in our absence, there was a local power cut and the heating reverted to default settings which meant that the water was kept hot throughout the five weeks we were away. It also reset the burglar alarm. Still, these are things I will consider and address for next time.

Thursday, 26th July, 2018

I was up at 6.oo am. I will be for a while because I am slow to move out of Central European Time. The watering system that I moved to the figs and olive trees has completely revived them so I am now on a non-stop campaign to bring the lawn back to health. At 6.30 am, I was turning on the watering system for a long day of treatment.

No breakfasts now – just freshly squeezed orange juice, tea and coffee. It’s not a problem. I did find breakfast difficult to eat and it made me feel lethargic for quite a part of the morning. Having my hair cut by my wife because it has really grown over the past five weeks. I’ve then got all sorts of jobs to catch up on. I’ve got investment accounts that need renewing/replacing. I have to update our power supply contracts which run out in a fortnight. I have to organise the new smartphones that EE are desperate to give me to keep our business.

We do everything finance-wise on line. While we’ve been away, using insecure Wi-Fi, I haven’t been able to access our accounts. This morning, Pauline is checking and bringing our bank and credit cards accounts up to date. The credit card is one long list of tolls paid and ‘non-sterling transactions’ to accompany them. Most of our spending was in euros to avoid these charges but, at the peage, a credit card is much easier and quicker.

French & Italian Peage. What Fun!

There is a pre-pay system which we may set up for our next, European drive.

The basil was so strongly grown over the past 5 weeks that we decided to capitalise on it immediately before it turned to seed. There is so much herb that Pauline needed a kilo of Parmigiano-Reggiano and of pine nuts before we could start. After a trip to the supermarket for pesto constituents, we harvested the sweet, Italian Basil plants and Pauline set to making the Pesto. I set the watering system up to slake the thirst of the front garden, the pot plants and then the back garden and, particularly, the lawns. I will have them back to their best before we fly to Athens in a few weeks time.

Friday, 27th July, 2018

A very warm and sticky night. If this sort of temperature becomes a feature of our climate, we are going to have to make changes – ceiling fans or air conditioning units in our bedrooms. The main problem is that we have bought a new-build property because of its most up to date insulation qualities. Our use of the central heating is kept to a minimum. However, those qualities are exactly the ones that militate against keeping it cool in the hot weather. Should have thought of that!

Crab fishing from Littlehampton Marina.

I was up at 6.15 am and had the sprinkler system on the lawn working flat out shortly afterwards. I left it on as we went out to shop at Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose. We also went to Littlehampton Marina to the fishermen’s shed to buy crab.

My wife went fishing for crabs.

Actually, we bought crab and sea bass. The crab will be mixed with cod loin and some thick yoghurt and herbs, which we bought in Tesco, to make a crab-flavoured, fish Pâté.

Tomorrow, we will make the next batch of Pesto and then the Basil will be fed and watered and persuaded to put on growth for at least one more cutting in mid-September after we come back from Greece. We will also harvest three pots of Oregano, two pots of Tarragon and the Chives. It’s going to be a busy Saturday.

Saturday, 28th July, 2018

The day has started off bright but fresher and breezy. We are around 22C/70F with a strengthening breeze that is bringing screaming gulls in from the shore. All around us, farmers are starting to move straw bales to winter stores and are completing their harvesting of grain. It is still only July. Farmers will all be going on holiday at this rate. It is harvest weekend for us too. Today, we made the second cutting of our herb pots with realistic prospect of at least one more to come.

My job was Oregano…

….. and Tarragon…

Pauline did the Thyme and made the Basil Pesto.

Today, we harvested huge amounts of sweet, Italian, big-leaved basil and small-leaved, Greek basil. Because of its fragile nature, it was immediately combined with pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and Parmigiano Reggiano to make the most wonderful Pesto you will ever taste. My wife is brilliant!

Of course, I don’t get to just observe. Today, as well as the Basil, we had to crop Oregano, Thyme, and Tarragon. The Dill, which we cut before we went away, has failed to regenerate for a second crop and the Marjoram has died completely. It was my job to cut and strip the Oregano and the Tarragon. It is a laborious and time-consuming activity and I was glad when it was over. In the meantime, Pauline was stripping the Thyme and cutting the Basil.

Although the lawns are very brown, I have watered them virtually non-stop since we got home on Wednesday. Today, I cut them and fed them. We are expecting some rain over night which will help to water the feed pellets in. I am hoping to get it back to luscious green within two weeks.

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Week 499

Sunday, 15th July, 2018

The morning opened with claps of thunder but it soon gave way to hot sunshine and a temperature of 31C/89F. We were up at 6.15  am and out walking by 9.00 am. We tried a new route and found ourselves walking past a Pécharmant chateau. Chateau Terre Vieille or Old Land is a hidden establishment in idyllic countryside unhindered by modern life.

“Not sure why they put those pillars and gates there other than for show. If the gates were closed, which they probably never are, visitors could just walk around them.

Monday, 16th July, 2018

Woken up again by a thunder storm at 6.00 am. Apparently, they are a common corollary of the high, Summer temperatures round here. They hit phone services – both landline and mobile – plus power supplies. This morning, the power did go off for 5 mins but it soon returned and life moved on. Well, we boiled the kettle, put the radio on and downloaded our newspapers, updated our Twitter feeds, etc..

We went out for a walk around Bergerac. It has its own airport. It is a regional centre but it is just an overgrown village. We spent an hour exploring the backstreets. The French seemed to be suffering post-World Cup lethargy. Shops were opening very reluctantly. Traffic was light and parking easy. In these cities, I like to check out property shops and collect brochures to be read at leisure. Of course, I usually relate them to our Greek property owning experience. Today, I picked up an Anglophile, expat magazine.

It contains essential services provided by expats for expats. Particularly, I would have given my right arm for the following service advertised to those settling in the Dordogne. I did try to get Sky satellite feed in our Greek home. I even took my Sky box from Surrey to the house. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible and we ended up settling for a Greek/Albanian feed which gave me Premier League football and BBC News but was still limited.

Having said all of that and even though we have loved our time here, the Dordogne would not be our choice for a foreign home. It is hard to put one’s finger on that decision but, ironically, it is a bit too parochial, a bit too pastoral and a bit too isolated for my taste as I move towards my 70s. The buildings honour the past and the standards of the past rather than meeting the exciting expectations of the modern and the future. This may well appeal to those who are old at heart but not to me.

I want modernity and the services of the modern world and value them above all else. The Dordogne and its culture seems to celebrate values that are not mine. Even the markets feature small scale, pastoral production of things that swerve the standards expected of such products produced on a national scale. One cannot imagine this process to be sustained in the long term. It harks back to a romantic view of an earlier age just as the architecture does. In spite of this, it will go.

Tuesday, 17th July, 2018

A lovely but slightly fresher morning of sun and cloud. We have five days left here until we move on. After more than three weeks setting out most mornings to explore new places, we can feel our enthusiasm moderating and a more ‘normal’ modus operandi asserting itself. This morning I am taking the rubbish bags down to the village, communal bins. We will buy fresh fish from the visiting fish ‘shop’ and we will do our 10,000 paces plus half hour swim. I have tested my own INR this morning and reported it to Worthing Hospital who will send back advice on medication levels for my anti-coagulant and the next testing date by the end of the day.

This is how I prefer to approach travel – not tourism but living somewhere else however temporarily. I like the process of researching, investigating, learning and installing the elements of my life wherever I am at that time. I still follow largely the same diet and exercise regime, follow the same internet and political news passions but set against a different backdrop. It was just so in Greece, the same here in the Dordogne and will be when I live my November in Tenerife. It actually gives me genuine pleasure pulling one life through another.

We set out for an early walk towards a village/town called Mouleydier. We walked for an hour each way in warm but not burning sunshine. It was quite delightful. We walked in bright sunshine and wooded shaded. After an hour’s walk past the most delightful but isolated, country properties, we arrived in Mouleydier – just another, interesting but ‘frozen in time’ village/town

Mouleydier Town Centre

En route, we passed one of these common acknowledgements the French put at the side of roads. This was a small, quite overgrown memorial to a 9 year old boy who died when the Germans entered and set fire to the village.

Our walk took us two hours in total by which time, I had completed my 10,000 paces quite easily but, as soon as we got back, we went straight to the pool and did a strenuous, half hour swim. It was quite delicious.

Talking about delicious. Today we had pre-boiled haricot vert (green French beans) that we bought from the village market and mixed in a fresh, tomato sauce cooked with garlic and dill. After having digested that and watched the Daily Politics, we went for another half hour swim. So, two hours walking and one hour swimming. Our reward was a meal of smoked salmon, tiger prawns and tomato salad. Absolutely wonderful. We followed it with yoghurt and fresh blackberries picked from around the grounds of the Gite.

At 8.30 this evening, the temperature is still 28C/83F. All our windows are thrown open to cool the gite. The temperature falls very slowly at night. I must admit, I didn’t realise this about the Dordogne. It certainly feels more Mediterranean than I imagined.

Wednesday, 18th July, 2018

Gloriously hot and sunny day which had hit 31C/89F by 11.00 am. We are in the 4th week of our time here in the Dordogne. This morning, we have done our lst, major shop at Intermarche. They have already latched on to our custom and we were able to use a loyalty voucher to reduce our bill by €9.61.

We leave on Sunday to drive to Orléans for a couple of nights and then on to Coquelles for a night before crossing to Folkestone on Wednesday. Here, in the Dordogne, Intermarche, holds sway but, back in northern France, Auchan and Carrefour are the dominant retailers so Intermarche will have to whistle.

Thursday, 19th July, 2018

First person to greet me this morning – after my gorgeous wife, of course – was my holiday buddy, Brian. OK, he is a snail and a snail in France but never be derogatory about snail’s pace. Brian moves like lightning. Well, Brian moves quite fast. Every morning, he is there to greet me on the front step. Every evening, he is there to wish me goodnight from the back step.

This morning is absolutely gorgeous with very strong, early sunshine from cloudless skies. We are forecast to be 33C/92F today so swimming and walking will be done relatively early so Pauline doesn’t shrivel up in the intense heat.

We are already preparing for our drive home although we don’t leave until Sunday and cross to UK on Wednesday. My job this morning is to examine two contracts that end and need to be renewed/replaced as soon as we get back to Sussex. Our dual fuel power provider contract finishes in a couple of weeks and I have virtually concluded that a new, fixed price contract with British Gas will provide me with the best, all round service for the next 15 months. I am going to also choose their offer of ‘Hive’, digital heating controls because I love innovation.

The other contract I have to resolve is our mobile phones which are complete the week after we return. We are entitled to ‘free’, new handsets and to renegotiate the terms of our plan. We expect to travel a lot in Europe over the next couple of years which the contract will cover so we like to have plenty of ‘data’ to take with us until that cross-border facility runs out if there is a transition period. Because of ‘old eyes’ we would both prefer a bigger screen and the camera is really well used now. I think I have decided on Huawei P20 Pro. It has 3 cameras including ‘zoom’ and ‘low light’ capabilities plus ‘facial’ and ‘fingerprint recognition’ unlocking. The contract is only £43.00/€48.22 per month although we will need two so £86.00/€96.44 per month. For that we each get 8Gb of data per month plus unlimited texts and calling minutes plus ‘wi-fi’ calling which is useful in our house. And, in two years, we will do it all again with a new handset. Keep you posted.

Friday, 20th July, 2018

A very warm and humid night which made sleeping uncomfortable. We have booked this Gite until Monday – 28 nights – but had already shortened that by adding an extra night on the way back in Orléans. Now we have truncated it by another day and booked a night in Limoges – the porcelain city – for Saturday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It splits the first leg of our return journey into two, relaxing, 2 hr. drives and assuages our feeling that we have largely exhausted this area for now. We are always like this anyway. Wherever we go and for however long – be it for 6 months or 6 days – we get itchy feet in anticipating the moving on. We recognise it in ourselves after all these years travelling and embrace our weaknesses.

Last night, we discussed the possibilities. I identified Limoges as a easy, en route possibility and searched Booking.com for hotels. I chose the 4* Novotel Limoges Le Lac. It has a pool, gym and good Wi-fi. The price for a ‘Superior Room’ with Breakfast is €177.00/£160.00 and the hotel is sited on the banks of Lake Uzurat. Check in & out by 12.00 pm. Ideal for one night. We will leave on Sunday for another 2 hr drive to Orléans and two nights there followed by a 4 hr drive to Coquelles on Tuesday.

Saturday, 21st July, 2018

Closed our Gite. Reclaimed our €200.00/£178.00 Deposit and set off for Limoges. It is a lovely, 2 hr drive on good motorway. Just two days ago, we had booked the 4* Novotel Limoges Le Lac. When we arrived at a really lovely hotel, we found the Lake…..completely dry. Not the weather like the UK but because work was being carried out on the ‘basin’.

View from the window of Room 436.

The only water was in the hotel’s pool which was too busy in this very warm weather for us to seriously swim. Anyway, we thought we would retreat to our hotel room and pamper ourselves with a bottle of wine and some pistachio nuts. I know, we really go for it when we let go!

How it should have looked.

We will settle back and listen to the BBC 1.00 pm News on Radio 4. It is wonderful now that Hotels across Europe realise that wifi provision is as essential and expected as bathrooms. Until recently, hotels thought they could charge for the ‘privilege’. Then they thought they would provide ‘free access’ to an impossibly slow service and charge for a provision that was actually useable. It soon became apparent that they were charging for the air their customers breathe. Now, they accept that good, reliable and useable wifi access is a taken-for-granted facility which defines their establishment. I would never return to a hotel where my internet access was compromised.

In this hotel, I am downloading pictures from my phone and editing and updating my Blog while receiving BBC Radio 4 simultaneously. I would expect nothing less.

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Week 498

Sunday, 8th July, 2018

What a gorgeous day in the Dordogne. How many more times can I say that over this month? We went out early before the temperature rose from 26C/79F to 32C/90F. We drove about 5 km to the village/town of Creysse – not to be confused with Cressy – which has a population of 1800 people.

It is right on the banks of the Dordogne and sleepy, green and beautiful. We walked along the river path in the shade of the trees fringing the river bank. Lots of  20ft fig trees here.

The walk was delicious at 9,00 am and, after an hour, we resisted the Boulangerie and drove back to the gite to watch Marr and then enjoy a vigorous 30 mins swim in the pool. We finished just in time to watch The Sunday Politics. It is so lovely to watch the Brextremists squirm and spit because they begin to realise that the best they can expect is BINO (Brexit in Name Only). The Left are moving towards a second vote and potential abandonment of the whole, sorry nonsense. I predicted it but we will continue to hold our breath. For those who think this is all obsessive nonsense – wait to see the effects of a full on Brexit. You will regret being a bystander!

Monday, 9th July, 2018

As the very warm and sunny weather continues, we are beginning to question the schedule we are pushing ourselves through. Even so, we went on a 40 km drive today through the bustling and busy town of Sarlat and cross country to the beautiful, Thirteenth Century, Bastide village of Domme.

Looking down from the ramparts across the Dordogne.

We parked in the carpark at the bottom of hill and got on the miniature train to be taken up to the village. We had a recorded commentary in multiple languages to listen to on the way up which was quite useful.

Domme village

The village itself was beautiful and disappointing in equal measure – beautiful because so many of the original, 700 year old buildings are still standing but disappointing because they have been turned into a tourist theme park.Pécharmant

We took the train back down and drove back to our gite where we swam the dust of the day off in the cool and crystal clear water. Pauline griddled salmon with pesto outside and we ate it with salad. We are tired tonight and are resolved to do much less tomorrow. It is the England match tomorrow and we need to do a shop. Other than that, we will relax, walk, swim and read.

Tuesday, 10th July, 2018

An easier day. Didn’t get up until 7.00 am. Wonderful fresh orange juice, tea and coffee and then out to the mobile fish trailer that comes to the village on Tuesday mornings. We came away having spent €67.00/£59.34 on sword fish steaks, tuna steaks and a side of salmon – enough to give us 4 griddled meals. On to Intermarche for other shopping like duck breasts and chicken and then back for a long swim. With the temperature settling around 30C/86F, we set off for a long walk along the local vineyards. They are vines of the  Pécharmant appellation, a local red wine.

The fields are still green after little rain and under baking sun. The air was alive with the astounding din of unseen choruses of cicadas. At least this evening would be relaxing with a chilled bottle of Pécharmant and a football match in which I am neutral.

Wednesday, 11th July, 2018

A second quiet day at the Gite. We did an early morning swim and a late afternoon swim which, together, amounted to 1.5 kms. We were both shattered after that.

The grounds of this Gite are absolutely delightful. Plum, Fig and Apple trees are interspersed with Blackberry bushes and lots of flowering shrubs. It is so green in direct contrast to our Greek property which we left exactly 4 years ago today.

We are driving over on Friday to visit my cousin, Sue, who has bought, renovated and now entertains guests in a large, village house in the village of Salles- Lavallete. I haven’t seen her for 10 years since Mum’s funeral. It will be fun to catch up.

Thursday, 12th July, 2018

Another lovely, hot and laid-back day. We went out to view a small, Bastide town called Villeréal. Another medieval masterpiece living and breathing in the 21st Century. I’m not sure how many more of these I can take. I certainly couldn’t live in one.

Town Square – Villeréal

They are interesting, some beautiful like the one today which had been seamlessly integrated into modern life but one just knows that living standards are heavily compromised by the buildings and infrastructure. Power, water supply, sewerage disposal, roads, parking all are adjuncts to the structures of 800 years ago. I think the featured cars are fairly modern.

We drove back through fields and fields of sunflowers. They have obviously been staggered sown and are now at various stages of development. I thought I’d take the cliche shot but the sun refused to move round and so did the flowers.

Back at the gite, we did a hard, 30 mins swim, did an hour long walk around the vineyards and then returned for a second swim before griddling swordfish steaks and ate them with salad. It was a truly wonderful meal. I have a feeling we will sleep tonight.

Friday, 13th July, 2018

If you were superstitious, you would have been wary this morning. We are not and weren’t. We did the 50 mile trip through the centres of Bergerac and Ribérac to visit my cousin’s B&B plus Gite in Salles-Lavalette.

Cousin Sue & (Australian) husband, Phi Tuffin.

The journey was fine and we stopped in Ribérac town to walk the market en route to our destination. It was typically bustling and colourful.

Ribérac Market.

Sue & Phil’s house is in a very relaxed village which would lull anyone to sleep. They are lovely people who also rent out bikes to cyclists to explore this wonderful landscape. They are still waiting for Ruth & Kevan to drop in.

Saturday, 14th July, 2018

View from a Gite.

Last night was hot and humid with a fiery sky. Even so, we were tired after a three hour drive and slept like logs. This morning, we have woken up still rather jaded and, as the sun and temperature rise, we have decided to stay at base and relax. Well, not exactly relax because we’ve done a hard swim and will complete our 10,000 paces with a good walk later but we will not need the car today.

View from a Gite.

Smoked Salmon Salad for lunch today plus Wimbledon and the England match. Life could be so much harder!

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Week 497

Sunday, 1st July, 2018

Happy July from the sweltering Dordogne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hot and humid night and we were up early – 6.30 am – to greet the sunrise. Freshly squeezed orange juice followed by Yorkshire Tea and a cup of coffee get me started for the day. We are going to another of those, essentially, medieval towns (villages) which has a big, all-encompassing open market on a Sunday.

The place is called Issigeac which the locals seem to pronounce EasyJack. It is only 20 mins drive away although we must have past at least 10 different wine estates en route. One can become rather blasé about the scenery after a while because it is so similar just as the little settlements are. We felt the same about Italian/Tuscan towns. I suppose, you could say the same about most, British towns.

Although we were there and parked well before 9.00 am, the market was already busy and vibrant. We walked through the first street and said to each other, “We’ll have some of those and … those and those. The most wonderful and interestingly huge tomatoes – red, orange, yellow, purple – maybe about ten, different types. Shallots, garlic and onions in the green, newly pulled stage. A little, old lady was selling her own eggs from her small holding and had pictures of her hens. I asked their names but she didn’t understand. Even so, we bought half a dozen. We also bought local strawberries (gorgeously sweet) and raspberries,  pickled garlic and delicious, green olives.

We drove back to watch the Sunday Politics show and for a swim in the pool as the temperature ramped up again. I did some jogging round the grounds to get my paces up. We cooked and ate large, shelled prawns in a tomato and garlic sauce with langoustines cooked in garlic oil. It was accompanied by griddled slices of cauliflower with lemon sauce. Absolutely delicious! Later, we went for a long walk in the countryside before watching some football.

Monday, 2nd July, 2018

Fantastic thunder and lightning show last night. Really spectacular sheet and forked lightning. It drifted away around 11.30 pm and we went to bed. I always go straight out like a light – the sleep of the just. When I woke at 6.00 am, Pauline told me she had been awake and walking around half the night because the storm had returned with even greater intensity and heavier rain. I had snored through it all. Well rested this morning, we had a problem with the internet. The hub had been knocked out by the storm.

We went out to Sainte-Alvere, about 20km away and, once again, we had chosen market day. How France manages to sustain so many small scale producers can only be through these local outlets. Even so, it must be fairly precarious. Our problem is that we seem to have been to a different market each day and can’t physically store or eat any more food however special it is.

Today we are going take it a bit easier although we will fit in two, half hour swims and a walk. We are griddling chicken thighs with salad for our meal and looking forward to the football after last nights penalty shoot-outs.

Tuesday, 3rd July, 2018

Hot and very humid this morning. In fact, our phones reported 100% humidity. We went down to our local market for fish – sword fish steaks – and artisan bread for Pauline. Back to the gite for coffee and then out on  20km drive to Perigueux. Interesting city particularly if you like cathedrals which are not my thing. Needless to say, the traffic was a Perigordian knot of its own and we didn’t stay long.

Everywhere on the drive back was beautiful. Farms to the left of us vineyards to the right all punctuated by restaurants. Don’t make me eat any more!

Back at the gite, coffee and the newspapers and then a 30 mins swim in the pool. My job then was to make a tomato sauce with huge purple and yellow beefsteak tomatoes plus a whole bulb of garlic, a massive, green shallot and some olive oil, white wine and a large bunch of dill (aneth). With these sort of ingredients, I am a genius. This sauce will be matured for use tomorrow with langoustines.

Oh, it all feels so indulgent. If we were having a holiday from a busy and pressured job, we would feel totally deserving. But we’re not. We are permanently on holiday and just moving home to the Dordogne for a while. As such, this whole experience feels incredibly fortunate. After all, we may never do it again.

Wednesday, 4th July

A quieter day today. No major excursions if you don’t count driving out to the local bottle-bank. Actually, it was very lucrative. We posted 4 plastic water bottles into the container and were given a couple of cents token to spend at Intermarche. Now what will I spend it on? Maybe a bottle of Bergerac wine. I think I’ll need to drink a lot more bottled water before I can afford that.p

Just going out for a long walk in the local countryside followed by a strong swim which will earn me the right to watch 90 mins of Prime Ministers Questions. We may go mad today and eat red meat for the first time I can remember for months. Griddled filet steak looks a possibility with shallots and mushrooms. That sounds good enough to merit a long walk.

Actually, the early evening brought a violent thunderstorm with lots of thunder claps and strong rain. The power went off just after we had washed up from our meal and made coffee. We thought it would last a few minutes. After two hours, life was becoming a bit tedious. After four hours, I was searching the boot of our car for a torch. I had one but had never used it and the batteries were corroded and useless. As the light faded to dark, the power came back on ….. and immediately went off again. Fortunately, the second coming stayed and I made coffee and turned on the television news. Bliss! Amazingly useful stuff, electricity!

Thursday, 5th July, 2018

Another lovely day although slightly cooler. By late afternoon, we had peaked at 26F/79F. We went out for a tour this morning. We intended to start with a market in Lalinde village. As we approached it and looked for parking spaces which were at a premium because of the event, the skies opened and rain poured down.

We decided not to stay but drive on to our second destination – Limeuil which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Vézère which feature picturesque viaducts in the village.

Last of the Summer Wine.

Limeuil itself is a delightful hamlet of potters and artists and others exploiting the water. Down on the banks at the confluence of the two rivers, a canoe school was set up and waiting for customers. Rising up above the river banks, old, honey stone buildings edged narrow streets which climbed the steep hills – defences against flooding. It reminded us of Holmfirth with sunshine. We did a long and tiring climb to the top past umpteen pottery and art shops – mostly naieve work which could capture the tourist – and restaurants which we had to struggle harder to resist.

We drove back in lovely sunshine and stopped in Lalinde where the market stalls were just packing up. There was a lot of crushed ice on the road a strong smell of fish. On to the gite and a strong swim in the pool. I was exhausted at the end of it. We cooked langoustines in tomato, dill and garlic sauce and ate it with griddled cauliflower and red pepper. Lovely day. These are experiences to be stored in the memory banks – dementia willing!

As we drank coffee, our attention was drawn to the quiet, rural lane that we can see over the fields from our kitchen. Initially, we noticed a build up of traffic. Next, a fire engine and an ambulance arrived followed by a couple of police cars. You could not find a quieter or more isolated lane but traffic does drive much faster than the 90kph/56mph limit and there had been a downpour. Big incident for a little place. Everything has its context.

Friday, 6th July, 2018

Another really enjoyable day. Humid and ‘close’ but inconsistently sunny. We did our weekend shop but indulged ourselves with walks around Carrefour, Netto and Intermarche. We also looked round Brico (B&Q equivalent) which had house and garden hardware. Recently, we visited the market in Eymet. Today, as we walked round Netto, we noticed a jar of simple pâté de campagne made by 4th generation family producers in Eymet. That became our lunch and it was absolutely delicious.

The morning produced 7,000 paces and we returned to have a strong swim in the pool before lunch. Now we are reading our newspapers before we go for a walk and return to watch World Cup matches.p

Our main meal today will be brochettes of duck breast, marinated in lemon and garlic and then griddled. As usual, we will eat it with a simple salad. While we relax for the rest of the day, we will spend the evening researching tomorrow’s trip.

Saturday, 7th July, 2018

Early morning in the heart of the Dordogne.

Up at 6.00 am to watch the sunrise out of the early morning mist around our gite. The long grass has nets of mist/condensation blanketing it but soon to be burnt off. We are going out to (another) medieval village/town. This time we will visit Monpazier about 40 mins drive away. Of course we have to be back for 4.00 pm for a particular event.

Our trip out was an absolute joy. In baking sun, we entered the cool shade of this medieval town. It is hard to believe that people still live, move and have their being in this ancient place. It is billed as ‘the most beautiful town in France’ and who could argue with that sobriquet?

Astonishing constructions for covered walk ways from 700 years ago. Cool, dark and protected from the weather.

We spent a lovely morning exploring the past in the present and then drove back via Beaumont du Perigord which turned out to be a ‘mini-me’. one becomes rather blasé after a while.

Back at the gite, we had a strong, 30 mins swim and then went out for an hour’s walk through the woods as the cicada orchestra almost deafened us with its enthusiasm. Back from our walk, we were in time to watch England beat a disappointing Sweden 2-0. After showers, we griddled swordfish steaks outside and ate them with salad and an ice cold bottle of Bergerac Sauvignon. What a lovely day. We say that so often these days that we realise how lucky we are. It is after 8.00 pm (CET) but still 32C/90F. It’s going to be a sticky night.

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Week 496.

Sunday, 24th June, 2018

Up early on a warm and sunny morning. Wonderful breakfast and then packed up for leaving. Out by 9.15 am and on the road to Orleans. The only problems was that, although 95% of the route was on open, clear, wonderfully flat and well maintained carraigeway, 5% involved the Paris Ringroad. We have a Garmin sat.nav. installed in our car. It is a replacement for the proprietary, Honda instrument we are used to and Garmin is absolutely dreadful. It sends us weird and less than wonderful ways that send my wife mad. Sometimes, it just loses all sense of direction at all and sits statically as I flail around the roads.

Today, as I entered the outskirts of Paris, the sat.nav. decided to both send us off the ringroad and through the centre of Paris and, when we got there and shouted at it, the sat.nav. decided to freeze altogether. As a result, we got to revisit so many of the capital’s attractions – the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elyse, etc. – at least twice before we worked out our own salvation having lost a great deal of nervous perspiration

Eventually, of course, the motorway route out presented itself and calm was restored. If anything, the drive was too quiet and beautiful. The effect was quite soporific although my wife doesn’t allow moods like that. We were certainly jolted back to reality as we negotiated the one way system of Orleans as we searched for our hotel but, once there, like giving birth (I’m told), all labour pains are forgotten. The hotel, a 4* Mercure on the banks of the Loire, is delightful. We have an excellent room with a large TV on which England score 6 goals.

View from our hotel room over the banks of the Loire.

Orleans is a lovely place to see. I didn’t realise that it was France’s second city after Paris for a long time. It was considered so important that it was heavily bombed by the Germans and had to be largely rebuilt. Many old buildings still remain and are worked in to the city’s fabric. The cathedral which is the same size as the Notre Dame is a magnificent structure that dominates the skyline. We certainly enjoyed our walk down the river bank and back through the old streets.

Old Orleans

A bottle of wine, some Brie cheese and cherry tomatoes and we felt very relaxed. All our good intentions of swimming and using the gym went out of the window and I settled for watching an excellent Columbia thrash an aggressive and poor Poland. Went to bed tired but happy.

Monday, 25th June, 2018

Lovely drive after breakfast round the pool in Orleans. Just 4hrs to Bergerac and shopping at Intermarche Hypermarket and then on to our gite in Saint-Sauveur. Boiling hot at 31C/88F with such strong sun. We unpacked and made a meal while watching Russia lose.  New places always make one tired and the complimentary red wine emphasised that. Tomorrow we will explore the vicinity.

Got the priorities right!

We have met our hosts. The owner is from Warrington and worked in  ….  Oldham. Unbelievable coincidence.

Tuesday, 26th June, 2018

A day which started hot and just got hotter. There was no movement of air as a strong sun beat down from peerless skies. We thought we would go down and explore the local village – St. Sauveur – first thing this morning. It didn’t take us long because there is virtually nothing there. A few houses, a church, a very old infants school, a boulangerie, a boucherie and a carpark with half a dozen locals crowding round three vans selling vegetables, wine and fish. We were told that they spend every Tuesday morning in this carpark and, today, we had struck lucky. We really had.

For the past three or so months in UK, we have been unable to source fresh, swordfish steaks which we both love. As soon as we approached the poissonnerie, we spotted huge  steaks of very fresh swordfish at an excellent price. That had to be our meal for the day. We had packed our ‘second best griddle’ for coming away and it was put to good use as we cooked our fish out in the baking sun. It was strange but it continued to get hotter as the day matured and topped 32C/90F at 9.00 pm this evening. We decided that lots of time swimming in the pool would be a good idea and that was our major exercise for the day.

Wednesday, 27th June, 2018

Up early on a very hot morning. Liquid breakfast – orange juice and tea – and then out to the city of Bergerac which is about 10 mins drive away. We had checked car parks and post codes for the sat. Nav.. Nothing is left to chance. The parking is on the banks of the River Dordogne but, by the time we got there it was full. We searched, drove further out and managed to squeeze in a roadside spot. Walking back along the river side towards the old town, I took this classic, cliché shot of the bridge over the river.

We walked on into the old town and the covered market. We actually managed to buy large bunches of fresh Dill and Tarragon which cannot be found in the supermarkets. Outdoor market stalls were scattered all around the old quarter and, in spite of the strong sun and infernal heat of 32C/90F, we stayed all morning.

Drove ‘home’ in time to watch Prime Minister’s Questions at 1.00 (CET) and then go for an arduous but delicious swim in the pool. Pauline had marinated chicken boneless thighs with garlic, lemon and tarragon and she griddled it outside to be eaten with salad. I then settled down to glory in the thrashing of Germany. What a good day.

Thursday, 28th June, 2018

Up early on this hot and sultry day. We drove about 15 miles to the old, Bastide town of Eymet. A sleepy, rather decaying little place of medieval buildings and narrow, hot streets, Eymet was preparing for market day with stalls sprawling right across the central square and out into the side streets.

We arrived before 9.00 am and stayed until around mid day before driving on to the supermarket to do a shop and back home to cook Cod Provençal which we ate with griddled cauliflower. Later we did a long – around 50 mins – swim and another walk up towards the local chateau. Another really enjoyable day in Europe.

Friday, 29th June, 2018

Up at 6.30 am on a hot and sticky morning. We were going out early to a place called Sainte-Aulaye which is about 40 miles north west of here. My friend and former colleague, Brian (also former member of Greater Manchester Murder Squad), bought an extensive but run down property with lots of land in Sainte-Aulaye about 10 years ago but, after doing lots of work on it, he reluctantly sold it.

It was quite a demanding drive along very narrow, poor quality roads bounded by agricultural land and forestry. It was very hot when we got there and there was little to see. It is too layed back for its own good. It was lunchtime when we got there but, with little signs of food, we turned round and drove back.

Sainte-Aulaye

By the time we got back and had done a quick shop en route, it was 2.30 pm and still 32C/90F. We were starving having just eaten one banana since getting up in the morning but decided to fight off our hunger and do a strong, 30 mins swim before preparing food.

Really lucky to have this.

Salmon with pesto topping was griddled outside and eaten with salad. Pauline then put a load of washing into the machine and we went for a long walk. It was a hot and sweaty affair producing more washing. It’s looking like being a long, hot night.

Saturday, 30th June, 2018

Well, the last day of June has been an exceedingly hot one topping out at 34C/93 F without a breath of wind. We went shopping for some chicken, langoustines and salad and came home to sit in and around the pool for the rest of the day. Pauline did wash and dry the sheets and some clothes but the only other activity was grilling duck breasts cut into strips and marinated in lemon and garlic. With fresh salad, it was a meal to remember. The washing machine is in the summer kitchen which is delightfully ‘open’ rather in the manner we are considering in Sussex.

View from the Summer Kitchen to the Pool.

I watched a couple of memorable football matches which ended in Argentina and Portugal going out but the standard was, generally, good. We’ve already planned tomorrow. We are going out early to make the short drive to Issigeac where a thriving market sets up on Sunday mornings and has done for centuries, apparently. We will try to get out for 8.00 am in order to find parking when we arrive.

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Week 495

Sunday, 17th June, 2018

Today is a day to celebrate being alive. This is particularly true for Pauline & I. It is 38 years ago today that we had a near-fatal car crash. Driving to school with exam papers (marked) in the boot of our first, brand new car together, we were cut in two by a maniac driver who went out of control on a notorious bend and drove straight in to us. I was hospitalised for a fortnight with severe brain bruising and off work for the best part of a year. Pauline was badly cut and bruised. In fact, she came off worst because I have no memory of it at all. She still has flash backs.

Our first, new car was a pageant blue Mini with a registration prefix of ‘V’ which came in August 1979. As poor, young teachers, the only way we afforded it was because an in-law of Pauline worked in British Leyland management and got us a discount. Richard probably doesn’t remember it at all but he set us on our way and started our love of new cars. The mini was written off before it was a year old and we moved swiftly on to Nissan (Datsun). We had two of those before going to Honda where we have stayed ever since. Our second car was an ‘X’ registration Datsun Cherry followed by a ‘Y’ registration Datsun Stanza. I remember that, as we drove the Cherry to the garage to trade it in for the Stanza, the side door mirror fell off. The car was only just over twelve months old. The Stanza lasted just two years and we moved on to Honda. I think it is now eighteen new Honda cars we have purchased since then. The next one will probably be at the beginning of next year.

Monday, 18th June, 2018

Greece is firmly back on the agenda this summer. Headlines like this are featuring in the UK press: Eurozone braces for row with Greece over bailout exit terms. and concerns are raised that Greece will suffer a fourth financial collapse unless an agreement is signed with the EU to write off some of its debt mountain. The Greek parliament last week adopted the 88 so-called “prior actions” that paved the way for a deal with euro zone finance ministers. Athens must continue to cut pensions and implement a wide range of public-sector reforms to satisfy its exit conditions.

Prime minister, Tsipras, continues to attempt his Janus act saying one thing to Europe and another to the electorate. He has told the country that they will, at last be free of supervision from Europe but is actually expected to agree to a tougher surveillance regime than that imposed on Ireland or Portugal, which both exited their bailout programmes early. He can expect plenty more protests and ND challenges but may just survive to reach the promised land.

Tuesday, 19th June, 2018

Greek & Italian Basil – the same fate!

Quite a grey and humid start to the day. I’ve just been out in the back garden to give the Basil a warning. Tomorrow is guillotine day. Pauline will harvest fairly savagely and spend the first part of the day making pesto. Basically, she makes Genovese Pesto using basil, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. The pesto will then be ‘portioned’ and frozen. Pauline makes it brilliantly and I am addicted to it particularly with fish.

Of course, we stayed in the port of Genoa last summer but a long life jar of pesto there is as unappetising as one in England. If you haven’t eaten fresh, homemade pesto, you’ve never lived. It is a revelation. Just don’t tell our basil plants which have tried so hard to put on growth recently. Oh, I feel so sorry for those who can’t summon up excitement about food. The eat-to-livers as opposed to the live-to-eaters.

One of the downsides in living where new homeowners are coming on stream regularly, and our area has seen a lot of recent housebuilding, is that new internet connections are almost a daily occurrence. BT Openreach should have an office in the village because they are constantly around at curb sides, fiddling with wire spaghetti in green ‘fibre boxes’. I have used BT as my broadband supplier since I first had an ISDN connection back in 2000. I have used Sky for a 5 year period but BT have been by far the most reliable and provide the best service.

New internet connections mean that we are quite often ‘temporarily’ unplugged accidentally or deliberately by network engineers. Once, I found the hub wasn’t seeing the net on a Friday night at about 5.30 pm of a Bank Holiday weekend. I couldn’t sort it out until the following Tuesday and had to resort to trips to Sainsbury’s café in order to download my paper and upload my Blog. Nightmare! When it went down this morning, my heart sank. Three minutes later, it soared again.

Wednesday, 20th June, 2018

Lovely, warm and sunny day. I don’t know if this happens to you but for many years we have reacted the same way before we travelled abroad. It didn’t matter how enjoyable or exciting travel appeared. It didn’t matter how much we wanted to experience new things, the comfort of the ‘normal’ sees us resenting ‘change’ at the last minute. We often say to each other, Why are we doing this? in the last days before we travel. It would be so much easier to stay in our pattern.

Orléans on the banks of the Loire

Of course, we can’t give in to that. Trying new things and new places will keep us alive and moving forward. Soon, we leave for France and an expansion of our life. We must embrace it. Our first night will be in Coquelles which we know well but night 2 will be in Orléans which we’ve never visited. We are staying in a Mercure Hotel for one night before driving on to Nouvelle Aquitaine. Today has been spent doing jobs before we leave. Cleaning the car, checking the oil, tyres and washer bottle has been my responsibility.  Pauline has been ironing and packing clothes.

Because of the required jobs, we agreed that the Health Club would have to be off the agenda until we come home. After our well established routine, that feels quite a wrench. However, I will still complete my 10,000 paces per day by going for a walk in the evening to supplement my totals.

Thursday, 21st June, 2018

The equinox. The longest day. The official start of Summer and the day before we go abroad for the Summer. Jobs today are cutting the lawns to within an inch of their lives. We are going to be away for five weeks and don’t want a hay meadow to harvest when we come home. The herb pots must survive so I have had to set up the automatic spray system. It is set to twice daily misting for 10 mins each time. Every time I set it up, I have to go on line to remind myself how to do it. Fortunately, there is a short video on-line to remind me when I need it.

The timer can be set up to run 4 times per day and all or any combination of days of the week. It should maintain my herb pots until we get home. Today, Pauline portioned out the Pesto she made on Tuesday. It has produced 60 x 2-person portions so 60 meals for us. We eat it at least twice per week so a second cutting when we get back in August will easily see us through the next 12 months.

If you expand this, you will notice the rabbits.

I wrote the other day about the house building that is going on in our newly adopted area. Of course, we have no right to be critical. We are part of that development onslaught. We walked down a leafy lane not far from our house, past the Spotted Cow gastro pub. On one side of the lane, a disused horticultural centre stood ready for 30 more new homes. On the other side of the lane was a delightful, big field full of rabbits playing. On the tangled, iron gate was a yellow, development notice informing the neighbourhood of another 200 houses to be built there.

Friday, 22nd June, 2018

Warm and sunny as we tie up loose ends in and outside. The garden will take care of itself. The house is set up for an extended period of solitude with automatic lights set up. The cases are largely packed with clothes for 5 weeks including swimming and gym kit. All things electric are in a separate box:

  • 2 x electric toothbrushes
  • electric water picks
  • electric shaver
  • laptop
  • 2 x iPads + Kindle + phone chargers
  • hair dryer
  • electric griddle
  • Honda fridge

We like this sort of unplanned, seat-of-the-pants travel. Our Honda ‘fridge’ is beginning to show its age. Well, it is 20 years old this year. It came with our first, new CRV and has done every driving trip to Greece, around Italy, and sometimes to do UK supermarket shopping as well. We must get a new one but it will do this time. We intend to do French market shopping and the fridge will be invaluable.

Saturday, 23rd June, 2018

I was up at 5.00 am. Couldn’t sleep because I woke thinking of the last minute jobs I had to do before we go away. Must make sure I’ve got all my chargers. Must phone thye credit card provider to let them know our dates. Must give the fruiting figs and olives some more cans of water as no rain is forecast for at least a week.

The day at 5.00 am is absolutely beautiful with blue sky and already strong sunshine. 15C/59F outside. Our friendly blackbirds are clearing the lawns of slugs. Seagulls whirl high above the house and planes from Gatwick are silently soaring even higher, leaving white trace indicators of the route across the Channel. We are leaving at 9.00 am to go under the sea but our first leg has deliberately been chosen to be easy. A short hop to Folkestone, drive to a hotel in Coquelles for the rest of the day.

Holiday Inn,  Coquelles has been a favourite for years. We have a suite and we can swim and gym and then watch the football. Hopefully, we will see Sweden hammer Germany. We have a 4 hour drive tomorrow so we will leave about 9.00 am and take a break in the middle to reach our hotel in Orleans by 2.00 pm. The Mercure Orleans Centre also has a gym and an outdoor pool so we can get a bit of activity in before Dinner.

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Week 494

Sunday, 10th June, 2018

A sultry morning to follow a sultry night. Humidity really makes moderate temperatures feel hot. Just 20C/68F outside but clammy as hell. Breakfast with all the conservatory doors and windows flung open. Water and feed the pots and then settle down for political programmes and the newspapers. Another trip to the gym this afternoon.

After a moderate year of travel last year, we are upping the activity this summer. Valencia, Calais, Dordogne, Athens, Edinburgh, Yorkshire, Tenerife – these trips add up to 80 days away. We’ll need Christmas to rest. Next year, we plan to still build in a couple of months away but add garden design to the mix. Our back garden is not huge but it is 260 sq.metres which is plenty for people who intend to travel a fair amount, be away from home and not available to maintain a garden much. Equally, we have to accept that, if we stay here until the lights go off, we will not want acres of ground to maintain.We have had acres of garden in other places and they dominate one’s life.

I’ve been researching designs of other’s gardens to give us ideas to consider. I like grass and I don’t mind feeding, weeding and mowing it but month long trips away complicate that. Even so, I don’t want to eradicate nature altogether unless we really are radical and install something we have long talked about – an endless pool which is a smallish pool with a strong, counter current that means you can swim as hard as you like but you will never reach the other end. The other thing we want is a permanent, covered, outdoor kitchen because we do so much cooking in the garden.

Monday, 11th June, 2018

Jane & Catherine celebrating the extension of the franchise to all men.

Another hot and sultry day. Apparently, we were the hottest area reaching 26C/79F at peak. We drove out to Worthing at 8.30 this morning because Pauline was having her hair cut. I did my hour in a coffee shop and then we drove home. We did a session at the Health Club and by the end of it I had completed 15,000 paces. We came home to cook whitebait in the garden sunshine.

In 1918, a coalition government passed the Representation of the People Act 1918, enfranchising all men.The Fourth Reform Act extended the franchise to all men over 21, whether or not they owned property and I was pleased to see that two of my sisters saw that as important enough to celebrate by marching in London over the weekend. Apparently, some women were also given the vote as well.

Tuesday, 12th June, 2018

A thinly sunny but humid day of around 21C/70F. We spent the morning out and about. We visited a couple of local garden shed/summerhouse/garden office retailers. We have a nicely secluded patch of just 3ms  x 3ms behind the garage where we can site our outdoor kitchen.

One of the retailers deals in a company called The Malvern Collection from Worcestershire and we think we have found a suitable building from them. We will take power for lights and sockets from the garage and the building will be erected on additional paving which will have to be laid down first.

Eventually, we decided that today was the day for a rest from the gym. We will go for a walk this evening in order to meet our minimum target of 10,000 paces and that will allow us to sleep easy. Tomorrow, we will get back to the grindstone.

Wednesday, 13th June, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny day which only reached 22C/70F but felt warmer. Everything is growing so quickly. We have made our first harvest of the Dill which Pauline will chop and freeze for future use. Hopefully, by the time we return from France in August, the next crop will be ready. The Basil, both small leaved Greek and large leaved Italian are developing very quickly and will be turned in to Pesto just before we cross the Channel. That will also give us at least one and, maybe, two more cuttings before we leave for Tenerife in November.

Spent some time this morning with photos that I’d taken of the back garden. I was Photoshopping them to illustrate how it will look after we’ve had it re-developed with additional paving and a garden room for outdoor cooking. I’ve measured up and estimated the materials required. We have a fairly popular paving slab which I’ve been able to price up at a case of 20 for £167.00/€190.00. My estimate is that we will need 260 will cost us around £2200/€2500.00 + other materials + labour. We will also need about £3000.00/€3,400.00 for the garden building. I believe we will do the whole project within about £10,000.00/€11,370.00 which is very pleasing.

Thursday, 14th June, 2018

Saint Sauveur, Nouvelle Aquitaine.

Quite surprised to find it dull and lightly rainy outside this morning. I was due to mow the lawns. So, this morning will be indoors. (Did I really start a sentence with ‘so’? I must be getting younger!) I’ve got lots to do with only a week until we go away. We usually micro-plan our route even though we follow sat.nav..

We sit down with our map-book and AA route print off and lots of coloured highlighters. I check contentious sections with Google Maps Street View. Pauline works out her ideal route and highlights it on the map. She annotates her AA printout and then uses all that information while we are driving to hold a running argument with the sat.nav. directions. As a result, we never get lost. For Pauline, this is one of the happiest parts of any trip. Yes, I know that’s sad but chacun à son goût.

We are going to be away for 5 weeks so we are busily arranging things. My job is to arrange early repeat prescriptions and Pauline’s is everything else. She is ironing and setting aside clothes for 5 weeks ( We do have a washing machine in our rented property.) and saying to me, You can’t wear that! It is a well worn routine that I am very familiar with. We will have a break and go to the gym this afternoon. The rain is stopping so we might even get a swim.

After 70 mins in the gym, we went outside to find the skies had cleared and the sun was beating out of clear blue. We had the pool largely to ourselves and really enjoyed a 30 mins hard swim followed by Sauna, Jacuzzi, Water Massage, shower and home. Goodness, I felt clean! We griddled Sea Bass in the garden, paired it with an icy Sauvignon Blanc and prepared for a relaxing evening. I’m researching supermarkets near our holiday rental.

Friday, 15th June, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny day which reached 23C/73F. We did a last full shop before going abroad and then went to the gym. After 70 mins cardio workout, we did a delightful 30 mins in the outdoor pool in gorgeous sunshine. Coming home, Pauline griddled chicken and peppers in the garden – a delightful way to end the (non) working week.

Our back lawn is the meal table for an increasing family of Blackbirds. First it was two adults searching morning, noon and night but now it is two adults plus five youngsters. The young ones are bolder than mum & dad. Eventually, they realise that I’m not ‘bird’ and jump up on to the perimeter fence where they balance noisily and giddily to wait until I’ve returned in doors so that they can go back to collecting slugs and worms. They seem to eat an amazing amount of food like all growing children. I feel bad disturbing them but I will have to mow the lawns tomorrow. There are other lawns nearby to feed from.

Saturday, 16th June, 2018

The Greeks have been struggling with their economic crisis for so long, it has become a way of life. Although they are continually told that it is coming to an end, there are more cuts in pensions and social support along side further sales of National assets in the pipeline. These are bitterly disputed every time but, in spite of regular demonstrations, the government presses on and has so far survived.

The Last Supper for Tsipras?

There has been one theme which has run almost since the break up of Yugoslavia after the death of its hard man president, Tito. The struggle has been over the name Macedonia which the Greeks have always claimed was theirs. It has been bad enough to be the ‘vassal state’ (to coin a phrase) of Germany for so many years. They certainly aren’t prepared to cede the name of Macedonia to near neighbours. Recently, it was looking as if an agreement for the Former Yugolavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was moving towards a conclusion with Republic of Northern Macedonia as an acceptable title.

Many Greeks  are vehemently opposed to this and particularly the opportunistic, right wing, New Democracy party. This week they raised a No Confidence vote in Parliament. Yesterday, the opposition failed in their bid but the government lost another MP and put their coalition under severe strain.  It might be a sign of the tide turning in Greek politics.

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