Week 607

Sunday, 9th August, 2020

As the Summer hits its high points – and it’s already 23C/74F at 8.00 am in the garden – we are preparing for a long Winter. Well, squirrels do it. Why shouldn’t we? Fail to Prepare and you should Prepare to Fail. Exercise has been magical since the start of the pandemic even though we did, initially, miss the health Club. We know that this magical weather will end and that, although we are in a fortunate part of the country for warmth and sun, there will be wet days and relatively cold days when we won’t want to go our walking.

At 9.00 pm last night, there was a knock on the door and a young man handed over two, black, rubberised tiles each about 0.5 mtrs square. These will be the basis of our gym floor. We had been looking at buying the flooring from an on-line company. The materials alone would have cost us £500.00/€554.00. The work would have taken us days of sweat and frustration. Pauline found a company in Shoreham-by-Sea who have quoted us £561.0/€22.00 to supply and fit the whole floor and they’ll do it in 4 hrs.. Guess what we decided to do.

There are 2 styles in 4 different colours to choose from. We chose the roundal style in black. The sections are thick sop sound deadening and flexible which is good or an elephant like me. They are warm and moppable for those who sweat a lot. The tiles are designed like jigsaw pieces. They interlock with a good beating from a rubber hammer. What it does mean that, in the unlikely event one was damaged, it can be removed a replaced.

As the temperature has climbed to 36F/97F this afternoon, even our thoughts have turned to air conditioning. If this is to be the ‘new normal’, we are going to need some relief. We had it around the house in Greece and now will come to expect it in Sussex.

Monday, 10th August, 2020

A very hot night that didn’t fall below 22C/70F which officially designates it as a ‘tropical’ night. We were up at 6.30 am because we were both thirsty after losing so much liquid over night. We were facing a day of hot temperatures – We reached 32C/90F. – which were acceptable even for Greek summer and we were finishing our preparations for the gym flooring to go down.

Eleven years ago, we had been retired for 4 months and were preparing to drive to our Greek house until October. We had a new car which had been valeted. We were desperately trying to make sure that I had enough drugs to last me over the duration.

Packing drugs in the Dining Room – 2009

Looking at the photo I posted all those years ago, it carries so many connotations for me. The Dining Room is in Quarry Court, Longwood, Huddersfield. The Dining Room features a stripped, oak table that Pauline bought for a few pounds in 1974. The Drinks Cabinet came from my family. When I requested it, my Mother insisted I buy it from her. The chair is one of 4 carved, mahogany Dining chairs that Pauline and I bought from an antique shop in Yorkshire and had reupholstered. All the furniture was left for the house purchaser. The drugs are at my worst point. I no longer take Type 2 medication, Hypertension medication is almost gone and Cholesterol medication is halved.  The whole scene represents a distant existence.

Our route was from Huddersfield to St George’s Dock, Hull and overnight on P&O Ferry to Zebrugge. Drive like bats out of hell non-stop to Ancona … and rest. Luxury Cabin on Superfast for 24 hrs down the Adriatic.

Good Old Days

Arrive in Patras and drive to Piraeus to, hopefully, catch ferry to Sifnos that day. The whole journey was to take us 3 days although that didn’t always work. When I think now that I drove at speeds hovering around 100 mph most of the way through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy with the latter very fatigued and through the darkness of the early hours of the morning. Such brave-foolish things young people do. At least we survived and are still here to tell the tale until Covid-19 gets us!

They were exciting/challenging times but, although I long to get back on my travels, I’m not sure I would want to embrace this challenge again. We had thought of it this year. maybe the pandemic saved us from ourselves.

Tuesday, 11th August, 2020

Another hot, humid night led to a hot and humid early morning. At 7.00 am, as we walked in to Sainsbury‘s, the temperature was 21C/70F. It was the first time I had been in to a supermarket for quite a few weeks. The first thing that hit me was how few actual shoppers were in the aisles which were almost blocked by Click&Collect pickers with their full trolleys. They were all wearing masks although all the ‘directional’ arrow indicators had gone which meant that ‘distancing’ was no longer being strictly observed. Shelves were not really fully stocked. Fish counters, Delicatessen counters, Bakery counters were still not open although we were told last week that Tesco Fish counter will reopen next week. We suspect that supermarkets may take advantage of this pandemic to rationalise a number of facilities out of existence.

By 3.00 pm, the temperature has hit 33C/92F. I have spray-watered the lawns so that they look thick, green and lush. We have produced another batch of smoked salmon. We have been constantly refining our technique until we hit the recipe we both like. We are both amazed at the results of our experiments. The final solution has been a longer cured – 28 hrs – Gravadlax followed by a miniscule amount of smoking. We had been told by all the experts that smoking should be for between 24 – 48 hrs. The result was a product that burnt one’s throat and remained there for days afterwards. There was little taste of salmon and huge amounts of campfire. 

Home smoked salmon

We have refined it down until we do 28 hrs curing in salt, sugar and dill followed by just one hour smoking in apple wood. The final product is wonderful and costs about 25% of the shop packaged equivalent. Winner all round.

Wednesday, 12th August, 2020

As we got up at 6.30 am, the temperature was 22C/70f – so officially another Tropical Night. By 9.00 am it was 24C/75F and outside I was beginning to believe I was hearing the cacophony of cicadas across the garden. All it needed was the braying of a donkey from across the valley, the clip of goat hooves up the road, the long, low, boom of an arriving ferry and …

Out in the garden, the overnight warmth had encouraged even more tomatoes to scream out, Pick me!. I picked them. Just 3 pots of tomato plants have produced 5Kgs of fruit with about the same again to come. However, I really must read the seed packets next year. I bought what I thought were sweet, cascading cherry tomatoes. They are very ripe but not sweet by modern standards. They have cascaded but are much bigger than cherry tomatoes. Similarly, I grew the pepper plants from seed. I thought I was buying ‘bell’ pepper plant seeds. The first one fell off as I examined them this morning. It is in ‘finger’ shape. When I returned to the original seed packet, it clearly said, sweet tasting, elongated, finger peppers. Well, I’m only have a Research Degree. Don’t expect me to read things.

Two young men have arrived to install the gym floor. It is a thick, rubberised carpet of interlocking tiles. Warm, insulating and quiet to exercise on. They are interesting people – Poles who sound like Americans – who are much in demand at the moment. So many others are doing what we are doing and not returning to commercial gyms but developing gyms at home. It might be an extra up front expense but will pay dividends in the future. Certainly, I wouldn’t be surprised if homes in the country/on the coast carry a premium and especially with a home gym attached. People will want to get away from the density of urban dwelling and the risks of close contact exercise. I think we’re on to a winner here!

I am writing this at 2.30 pm. The temperature has hit 32C/90F once again and it feels very wet. Humidity makes everything more difficult. This morning we cut all the lawns, trimmed all the hedging, strimmed all the edges, swept up all the cuttings and watered all the grass. The weather made it twice as tiring.

Thursday, 13th August, 2020

Another hot, ‘Tropical Night’ with bursts of heavy rain opened dry and steamy at 6.00 am. This is a delicious time when so many lie-a-bed and leave the world to us. It looks and smells fresh and wonderful. We arrived at Tesco by 6.55 am as the temperature reached 24C/75F. Our ways parted as Pauline went in to the store and I set off on my walk. It was a very sweaty activity today as it has been for the best part of a week but enjoyable for all that. 

4 Wine Racks = 4 x 63 = 252 bottles

I ordered these wine racks from Amazon. They come flat-packed and require 36 screws. I have had an electric screw driver and an electric drill/screwdriver for more than 10 years and really been terrified of using them. Today, we built 4 wine racks with 144 screws and found that an electric drill/screw driver wasn’t so bad at all.

We also ordered our garden kitchen equipment – stainless steel, professional cabinets and a large, upright freezer. We have had the flooring laid and booked our favourite electrician to install 8 x double electrical sockets which will require a new, consumer unit. We will also have 3 double LED strip lights installed and a lantern with PIR sensor outside. I have worked out how to take wi-fi outside where I will have a large, 55″ TV with a Sky Q Box installed so that life can run seamlessly while we are exercising.

Just today’s harvest.

On this lovely evening in the garden, I’ve been picking tomatoes that have ripened over the day. We are already up to more than 7kgs/15.5 lbs from just 3 pots of plants. We are trying hard to eat them although they are softening fast in this hot weather. Today, our meal consisted of Roast Cod loin accompanied by roast tomato & garlic. That’s all. I ate so much tomato! I am really trying but one can only do so much.

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Week 606

Sunday, 2nd August, 2020

A day without going out walking – warm and sunny but not hot. Maximum 22C/70F but very comfortable. This is a planning day. Things are moving rapidly in the outdoor cooking and gym installations.

My neighbour from the house behind us invited me to see his gym room. He has laid rubber flooring, gym equipment, a television and a fridge full of beer. Well, I can manage without the beer but I like the way he’s done things. The out door cooking kitchen will consist of two, stainless steel industrial catering base units plus to similar wall units.

Part of the outdoor kitchen.

In the gym area, we will have a Treadmill, a lumbar bike and a cross trainer.

 

The flooring will be an interlocking rubberised tile system. his will provide some flexibility and extra warmth. We will need an electrician, to come and assess the installation. We will probably install the floor matting ourselves. We will need a kitchen fitter to install the kitchen units and then a tv installation man to put a tv on the wall. We expect the whole thing to be up and running by late September just in time for the cooler, wetter weather to appear and make outside exercise more difficult.

The whole thing won’t cost much more than a couple of years gym membership for the two of us. Of course, we won’t have a pool. We are still talking that over but it seems a bit over indulgent at the moment.

Monday, 3rd August, 2020

A busy and warm, rather close morning. We were up early and the temperature had soon risen to 24C/75F with a sticky humidity.

A couple of days ago, my next door neighbour who was born in West Yorkshire, told me that his rhubarb plant he had stuck behind his garage 4 years ago had really  grown for the first time. It is on the other side of the fence to where I planted my fig trees that are now an embarrassing 15ft/4.6 mtrs tall and weighed down with fruit Earlier in the year, I was flooding the fig trees with water to encourage swollen, juicy fruit. It has worked too well. The trees have shot up and the figs are as big as apples.

All that watering has had an equal effect on his rhubarb. Just after breakfast, my neighbour who is also called John, called round with an armful of rhubarb. Two hours later, Pauline had turned it in to Rhubarb & Ginger jam to eat with yoghurt. Delicious!

Electra Palace Athens – Foyer

We should be walking into the foyer of the Electra Palace, Athens in just over three weeks. We won’t be and I informed them of that this morning. 

Electra Palace Athens – Foyer

We have been staying in Electra Group Hotels in Athens for more 30 years – The Electra Hotel on Ermou Street, The Electra Palace Hotel on N. Nikodimou Street and The Mitropolis Hotel on Mitropoleos.

Electra Palace Athens – Foyer

We have been in Greece every year since 1981. The Electra Palace was a haunt of children’s author, Nina Bawden and her husband, Austen Kark who was managing director of The BBC World Service. They renovated an old house in Nafplio.

Suite in The Electra Palace Hotel

It may look rather staid but its cool and calm atmosphere is the perfect retreat from a day in the hot and noisy streets of Athens.

The hotel responded to my communication by immediately providing me with a voucher for the full value of my booking – €1,400.00 for 4 nights stay + an extra 10% which can be used at any time and will be repaid in full if I don’t use it within 18 months. So many British companies could learn from this. It immediately makes me want to return as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 4th August, 2020

Started the day like every recent Tuesday by getting up at 6.00 am and driving out by 6.50 am so that Pauline can enter Sainsbury‘s by 7.00 am. It provided us with the least contact with ‘people’ that we can manage while still conducting our lives. As regulars will know, I did my walk and arrived back 40 mins later with a bit of a sweat on.

Very sunny but incredibly humid day. Back home by 8.00 am, we tried to sit outside to discuss some things we have to make decisions on but found it almost too intense to remain there. To add to the humidity, I’ve been watering everywhere until the steam rises.

Quite productive – Grown from seed.

The topic for discussion of our garden meeting today was our investment portfolio. We have five savings/investment accounts which were paying us a reasonable if not fabulous return until recently. In the last couple of months all have reduced their returns to a massive 0.35% per annum. Nobody can countenance that. With the UK CPI at 0.6%, the savings would actually be losing money. I have never allowed them to do that.

I am going to do something unprecedented for me and use the-safe-as-houses, inflation-beating NS&I. National Savings & Investments  has always seemed so staid that I’ve looked for other investments vehicles. Now, I am retrenching. They have a number of benefits:

  • Boring but safe as houses;
  • Inflation busting investment rate of 1.15% (Can hardly believe I’m writing that!);
  • We can hold joint investment accounts so Pauline can easily access all when I die;
  • We are not limited to a 2 x £85,000 = £170,000 FCS Compensation Scheme;
  • Instant access without loss of earnings

The one downside of this is having to give up the ISA shelter on a good chunk of the investment which we’ve built up over the past 20 years. However, 0.35% is untenable. Time to move on.

Wednesday, 5th August, 2020

Lovely day but once again it is hot and humid. We have been planning our new, home gym. We have builders and electricians coming round tomorrow with a start date of November. After breakfast, we finalised our plans in anticipation of our coming meeting. Then, we set off on a walk down to the Post Office in our local village centre.

Life is crawling back to ‘normal’ for some.

It is always relatively quiet but there are hints of some customers returning as two or three tourists take a drink outside the Lamb Hotel in the village square (triangle). 

Actually, everywhere is quiet. Almost all of our near neighbours are working from home and, I was shocked to discover yesterday that so many of them and even much younger ones are developing gyms in their garages. Many of them are actually enjoying home-schooling their kids and are actively considering continuing in the Autumn. Certainly, most are very reluctant to send their kids back to formal school classrooms. 

If I had been working in Education now, I certainly wouldn’t be exposing myself to all those people – over 1000 per day – which I might come in contact with. The government blithely talk of ‘working in bubbles’ only illustrating their complete ignorance of the realities. It might just work for Primary schools at a push. It certainly wouldn’t work in Secondary where older pupils are prime receptor/transmitters of virus to the homes of adults.

My school had more than 100 staff many of who were over 50s with heart conditions, Type 2 Diabetes and other frailties which would require them to shield. They would need to meet daily if they were doing their jobs and shielding would be impossible. Without constant test screening, face masks and a minimalist curriculum, it is something of a graveyard.

 

Thursday, 6th August, 2020

Glorious, August day. We were up at 5.45 am and out by 6.30 am. We were on our way to Tesco in West Durrington at the start of a morning of shopping. Pauline did £100.00/€111.00 of shopping for ‘free’ while I did my walk. Why was it for ‘free’ – well, because we had built up around £100.00/€111.00 of vouchers converted from Clubcard Points and these were cashed-in. We have about £50.00/€55.50 worth of vouchers for Sainsbury‘s as well so I am pushing Pauline to use rather than hoard these things before they are lost in inflation.

I have written recently of feeling trapped with travelling becoming so difficult for people like me. The Daily Telegraph is running a number of articles today which seriously undercut any confidence that might be returning to tourism this summer.

This one appears to suggest that the threat will come from the Greeks themselves – imposing travel bans or prohibitive quarantines because of rising infection rates – some imported but now, increasingly home-grown. 

Other countries and particularly France may require UK quarantine on return from abroad. There is a sense in which this is seen as threatening behaviour by UK Plc as part of Brexit negotiation – or failure of it by the Bungling Brits. It is definitely time for us to make a second trip to France in case it is our last chance.

I am writing at 7.00 pm and the temperature is 29C/85F. It feels very hot, still and sultry. The night will be hot and tomorrow even hotter. This is what we like if we can’t travel.

Friday, 7th August, 2020

After a Greek night of heat and humidity, we were up at 6.00 am and out to Worthing town centre via the beach by 7.30 am. We had a click & collect from M&S to make. The beach and the town streets are extremely quiet.

Even the tide was out although it wasn’t yet 8.00 am. The temperature was 27C/81F and the sun was strong. The sea – far out – was like glass and really reflected the sky.

We collected our purchase, nipped in to Waitrose for some Feta Cheese and Kalamata olives and were back home by 9.00 am. 

All my own work from seed to fruit.

After coffee, I set about watering roadside lawn, front lawn and Drive side-beds. Meanwhile, I was picking tomatoes from the plants I grew from seed believing them to be cherry tomato plants. They are nothing of the sort. We would not buy this sort of size fruit from the market. They are also incredibly prolific. We have so many that Pauline is thinking of roasting them with garlic and putting them in jars for anti-pasti.

Lovely Lunch

We don’t usually eat lunch but today was one of those lovely days of wonderful weather combined with some excellent news from the past 24hrs (which I’m banned from reporting) which just had to be celebrated. Our lunch included lettuce, tomatoes and figs picked a few minutes earlier from our garden. Anyone who has done that knows this sense of achievement adds a frisson of euphoria to the flavour.

Saturday, 8th August, 2020

2013 – £17.60
2020 – £46.50

On this seriously hot, Greek day, the humidity was high and the temperature was 27/81F by 7.30 am and, ultimately reached 34C/93F. The humidity was there all day and was energy sapping. Even so, we did plenty of work. I cut all the lawns again and watered everywhere.

Our meal was griddled Tuna steaks with Greek Salad. Real echo of the past. On this day 7 year ago, I recorded our change from buying litres of Italian olive oil on our drive home to buying 5ltr cans of Greek oil to bring home in the car. This was our favourite and cost €19.50/£17.60 for 5ltrs. It is delightful with salad but, at that price, we used it with so many types of cooking.

Today, of course, we don’t have the opportunity of carrying 20ltrs of oil back to our Sussex home but we still prefer Greek oil. Pauline sourced Kalamata oil in ½ltr of bottles for £4.20/€4.65 (£42.00/€46.50 for 5ltrs). The price is irrelevant now but the oil is delicious and we don’t cook with it but dress our salads instead. However, it is difficult to beat Greek olive oil.

As I write at 8.00 pm, the temperature is a wet and sweaty 28C/82F. It is on nights like this we wish we had installed air-conditioning in the bedroom.

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Week 605

Sunday, 26th July, 2020

The last week of July. In fact August on Saturday. Summer is running away. I have to keep telling myself these things to maintain equilibrium and context. The first Test series of the Summer draws to a close this week and, hopefully, Manchester weather will allow England to bring it to a successful conclusion.

;'[p
Fun in the Sun

At the same time, the government announce new travel restrictions and the pandemic which was said to be “contained very soon” and then “over by Christmas” is now triumphantly to be “over by the middle of next year”. The Transport Secretary had just got off a plane in Spain for his holidays and less than 6 hours later his own department announced a 14 day quarantine for all people flying from Spain. This type of action really undercuts the whole travel industry. If you can’t book with confidence then you are unlikely to book at all.

I’m going to clean the car, watch the cricket followed by the football and read the newspapers.

Monday, 27th July, 2020

Actually, I didn’t clean the car because today was forecast to be wet and I knew I had to go out and collect packs of wood. One of the things that interests me is the information bodies give out to ameliorate authorities and smooth their path through Covid-19 re-opening. We ordered the loft boarding from Jewson in Worthing. They told us that it would be collectable after 10.30 am on Monday. We would be sent a text to be told what time to turn up to collect so that social distancing could be maintained. By 11.00 am on Monday, we had heard nothing and I phoned them.

I was greeted by an incredulous voice saying, Just come when you like. We went immediately. The huge store was absolutely empty and the five assistants were without masks. Our packs of loft boards were stacked up waiting for us. There were no other orders left out. It looks as if there is little take-up currently.

We drove home and I spent the next 3 hrs in the garage installing the new ceiling, moving storage boxes and freeing up the parking area. It was an absolutely satisfying activity. I had offered the floor staging to my neighbour and he told me this morning that he would like it in his garage so that will clear some more space.

Last night we heard that the UK had scuppered travel to Spain and its islands by insisting on them quarantining on return to UK. It is a bit of a joke because, generally, UK has a worse Covid-19 incidence than other EU countries. We suspect another agenda but it was interesting how Brexiters and far-right Tories were already denying the facts. One of our relatives watched some pappy, ITV morning programme and insisted that this quarantine requirement was false. She had heard a contributor announcing that it could easily be subverted. Within minutes, government spokesmen insisted that it would remain in place.

There could be more quarantines to come.

I struggle to understand why people just swallow that nonsense without exercising some critical judgement but then that is what Brexit was all about.

Tuesday, 28th July, 2020

Up early at 6.00 am on a lovely morning. Out to Sainsbury‘s at 7.00 am and I did my walk. I admit, I have been a little disincentivised since last Thursday when Garmin Connect – the app/website that integrates my watch with my phone – was taken down because of an ‘extraordinary outage’. I seems that they had been hit by a ransomware attack which freezes the company’s IT systems and demands payment to release them. That tells you everything you need to know about me. I am utterly target driven!

We have 8 months left of our 5yr warranty on this house. Any snagging/problems need to be raised with the builders before the end of March 2021. A house near us suddenly found a problem with their bay window roof and had a team of workers fixing it for 3-4 days recently. We have decided that we must really go for it.

Major Panic – a failing rubber seal.

Yesterday, a rubber seal on a pop-up sink waste valve split and fell apart. Last night the dual flush push button on one of the toilets sprang out and refused to go back. A small section had broken off.

Catastrophe – a broken toilet flush button.

Not on the scale of a leaking bay window but these niggly small things will be fixed by a little man in a builder’s van without causing us inconvenience.

Finished decluttering the garage, valeted the car and watched England win the Test series against West Indies. Garmin came back up for the first time in 4 days and registered that I had well exceeded my targets. A very rewarding day!

 

Girl from the past.

Totally out of the blue, I found a message from a girl I last saw in 1973-4. She was about 1-2 years old and her name was Julia. I have to admit that my memory is rather hazy but I remember snatches of it. It makes me a little shaky trying to recall those distant days.

Wednesday, 29th July, 2020

I must wish my skinny sister, Jane BG, a very happy 68th birthday. She is a champion runner and puts me to shame and, at her age, leads the way for all of us. 

Jane B. G. – 68 today.

A day at home in beautiful weather with blue sky and lots of sunshine. After breakfast at 6.30am we prepared to approach the nightmare that is an insurance claim. Today, it was dealing with a  Credit Card ‘Claim-Back’. After half an hour on the website  claim area going round in circles, we were seriously frustrated and decided to take our lives in our hands and phone up.

Ignoring all the dire warnings that we couldn’t phone and should use the web; ignoring all the dire warnings about the effect of the pandemic on their phone service; ignoring all their dire warnings about the suggestion that we would be put on hold for hours, I went on hold and was answered within 2 mins. The lovely lady dealing with my claim apologised for keeping me waiting and promised a written reply within 24 hrs. This is all I was requesting and will fulfil my claim requirements immediately.  

I was so happy after this result that I set about mowing the lawns and pressure washing the car for the next couple of hours. We did our next round of smoked salmon. I have now refined it to just 3hrs of smoke. It is plenty and suggests those sites which talk about 24 hrs must be hard core smokers. I am pleased to say that my Garmin service is now fully restored and our exercise targets are fully restored. Life is back on an even keel.

Surrey

In this week 5 years ago, we were just meeting a buyer for our Duplex Apartment in Surrey which, ultimately led to our purchase of this new home on the Sussex coast. Time just eats away at one’s life but we don’t regret this move at all.

Thursday, 30th July, 2020

Roadside Beauty!

Another wonderful day and we were up at 6.00 am, out by 6.45 am. Pauline was shopping at 7.00 am while I did my walk. I’ve been doing it so long now that I’m on acknowledging terms with lots of regulars. The man with the bobble hat and Dalmatian dog comes jogging past. We nod and say, Morning. It is only on a Thursday that we meet but the bond is strong. The nurse in her blue, linen coat with badge and name tag is getting in to her Ribena-coloured Ford Ka outside the block of flats. She doesn’t speak but her face acknowledges weeks of familiarity. Even the bent-over old man with a shock of white hair and face parallel to the pavement attempts to raise a smile. as he does his morning walk at 7.15 am. He is not giving up! Nor am I. Look at this bearded clematis just woven in to the hedgerow on my walk around West Durrington this morning. Understated, roadside beauty.

The sun is increasingly heating up. It rapidly reaches 26C/79F. Pauline will be quite quick today because there are so few people shopping at this time. I don’t know why. It is a wonderful time to be out and about. I need 45 – 55 mins for my walk. I deliberately break in to a faster walk/jog in order to not keep her waiting too long. I am sweating by the time I reach the car and my legs are quite tired.

Doorside Beauty

We are home by 8.30 am and the day can start. Coffee for me and porridge for Pauline. An hour in the Office bringing the accounts up to date and following up emails. Then, outside to start our jobs. By 10.00 am, I am turning the automatic watering system to water the lawns. First the grass strip outside our property edging the pavement/road. Mine is the greenest most luscious section on the road. I even weed and feed it, mow it twice a week and water it as often as possible. Then on to the front lawn. and round to the back lawn.

While that’s going on, I start to clean the downstairs woodwork which is white and shows all dirt and stains around the ground floor of the house. I’m not going any higher. In fact I haven’t got a ladder for it. We will pay the window cleaner for that service. It is so hot that I tire quite quickly and by 12.00 mid day, we stop for a lunch of home-smoked salmon and garden peas in the garden.

I meant to say, we have had our Hybrid CRV for 13 months now and I am still learning its new features. We have only driven 5500 miles so far. Recently, I have ben getting myself used to Automatic Brake Hold. This is a cross between the facilities of manual and automatic driving. With a manual drive which I last had in 1984, a handbrake is essential. With an automatic, I rarely bothered about setting a handbrake ever. Just leave it in ‘Park’ and go! This hybrid which we’ve driven fore over a year and which straddles Manual/Automatic, has three buttons for braking. 

Automatic Brake Hold

In the top centre, the ‘P’ you can see is the equivalent of ‘park’ on an automatic gearbox. The ‘P’ on the top right is a switch you pull and, in effect, is the old handbrake. The button below is the interesting one I am just starting to use. The ‘Brake Hold’ is fantastic. When you come to the lights and stop, you just press ‘Brake Hold’ and the car is in automatic ‘foot pedal brake’ but without exerting your foot. When you want to set off, you just depress the accelerator and away you go. At the next stop, you just bring the car to a stop with the foot brake and the brake hold takes over until you set off again.

Now I am comfortable with it, it is a delight. Why has it taken me so long to learn? I refuse to blame my age! Great news to end the day. Mastercard has written back to us confirming their rejection of our £4,000.00 charge back claim against them. Rarely has a denial of liability been so welcome. This means that the last flailings of our insurance company have been satisfied and they must pay out. Can’t wait to get back to them tomorrow!

Friday, 31st July, 2020

For no reason at all, we were up at 5.45 am and drinking orange juice and tea before the 6.00 am Today programme had started. I had a list of jobs to complete in my head as I began to shave and, by 8.00 a,m., I had completed them. 

  1. Write letter to doctor asking for supporting letter to supply Insurance Company with reasons why we should not fly to Athens in three weeks time under current  conditions.

  2. Supply the final piece of evidence to the Insurance Company from our Credit Card organisation which should trigger the final repayment on our May/Tenerife break.

    (We have already received £1,250.00 from the airport hotel, from the villa rental company and from Easyjet.) Now we want £4,000.00 from our travel insurance for the loss of our villa rental. We should now get it this week and we can then submit our second claim for the August trip.

By 10.00 am, we were on the 5 mile / 8 Kilometre round trip to the Doctors’ Surgery and then on to Dunelm for an order that Pauline had placed on-line. The temperature had hit 31C/88F and the walk reminded us of exploring Greek islands in the early days when we were young and spent our whole time hiking in the baking sun.

Harvest done already!

We were amazed to see that the harvest was in already and it is not even August. The blackberries are in full fruit and huge and sweet. What a strange year it has been! 

Back home, I have mowed all the lawns including my elderly neighbour’s across the road and instigated a full, automatic, spray  watering programme that goes on all afternoon. Everything looks luscious in the sunshine. The grass is iridescent blue-green and the tomatoes are ripening rapidly to orange – red. 

Saturday, 1st August, 2020

Happy? August?

August already in this prison of a time and a country. We should be flying to Athens in just over a fortnight but we won’t. It is both too risky and would not be enjoyable under current conditions. Both Easyjet and our hotel – The Electra Palace – have, without our request, offered the possibility of re-arranged dates. We would prefer our money back and to re-arrange at our own behest.

Consequently, we have sought our doctor’s support in cancelling this trip. Actually, we are doing this in a climate of rising spikes and local lockdowns in UK and increasing outbreaks in Greece. There is still a chance that one government or another will take the decision out of our hands but we will prosecute our own case in the meantime. It seems daunting because we are still concluding a claim from a cancelled May trip to Tenerife but we don’t give up.

The summer is running to seed!

As we did our walk this afternoon past harvested cornfields and Anthriscus Sylvestris or Cow Parsley running to seed, I couldn’t help but reflect on my life losing one of its limited summers almost without acknowledgment. I feel imprisoned in a time and a narrow, illiberal country which still believes itself ‘Great’ even as it prepares to disintegrate. The poorly educated, ‘red top’ influenced, blue rinse brigade have brought us to this. There is one thing we are certainly not doing – Taking back control!

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Week 604

This gallery contains 32 photos.

Sunday, 19th July, 2020 Well, it’s wet but very warm this morning. Perfect for growing. We have changed our plans completely from outdoors to in-house. Pauline is touching up wall paint scrapes. I have been completing the resubmission to our … Continue reading

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Week 603

Sunday, 12th July, 2020

A lovely, Summer’s day with beautiful, blue skies and a few, high flying, fleecy white clouds with 22C/70F of warmth. After breakfast, papers and political programmes, we made a walk for ourselves. We need some more salad leaf seeds to keep us going through the rest of the season. Actually, they have been harder to source than one might expect. It looks as if lots of lock-downers have been doing the same thing – living on home grown salad.

One of four local Garden Centres.

We did a 5 mile round trip walk to Highdown Garden Centre which is one of four within easy walking distance of the house. They had a couple of packets of mixed, cut-and-come-again green leaves seed. and we returned to our house to cut the lawns, sow some beds of salad and enjoy the sunshine.

We drive across to France later in the week. It is no big deal. We have done it so many times that it is like driving to Sainsbury‘s. However, we haven’t done it for 7 months and not under these conditions. We have to stay in our car while travelling, to wear a mask in public and to fill out this form prior to approaching border controls.

We must complete and present this on re-entering UK from France.

UK and Greek newspapers/Blogs tell us what the Sunday Telegraph is trumpeting this morning:

Greece considers second lockdown after tourists bring spike of cases.

This was always going to be the danger for Greek islanders who had stayed safe throughout the height of the pandemic because of their location. Suddenly, they get what they need but don’t want – invading tourists some of whom are asymptomatic virus carriers. On small islands, this could run riot in no time. Nothing will be easy this year.

Monday, 13th July, 2020

Dad would have been proud of me. Actually, he probably wouldn’t. He never expressed an acknowledgement of pride in his son that I can remember in the whole of my/his lifetime. He was a builder and architect and wanted his son to grow up to take over the business. His son was a huge disappointment to him. He bought me Meccano, Leggo, a Draughtsman’s equipment (a special pen) but all fell flat. I had no interest in any of it. Now, Literature and Poetry and I was your man but construction? No! Only long after his death, I learned that he described my fingers as ‘sausages’. Although I wouldn’t disagree, I did find myself rather shocked. Could explain my love of pork bangers.

My Nemesis?

My wife is the practical one. In Greece, it was not easy to get an odd-job man in. I took a box of tools including a drill to the island with the intention of doing my own jobs around the house. Of course, I didn’t do them. I paid someone else to. I brought the tools and drill back with me to Surrey and then Sussex where I paid someone else to do the work professionally. Today, I plucked up my courage, charged up the drill and set about fixing my wine racks safely to the garage wall. It worked! Flushed with success, I took on the more ambitious project of establishing door tie-back hooks on the Garage wall and the Laundry door. Of course, it went brilliantly although my wife was very nervous. She had images of having to rebuild the house after I had finished. I don’t know why I didn’t try all this before.

Tuesday, 14th July, 2020

We are feeling rather hemmed in and in need of some movement and European culture. The combination of the pandemic and these lunatic Brexiteers is combining to make it all the more difficult. We need to break out … and we will.

Poseidon Palace Hotel, Kaminia, Patras

On this day in 2014, we were spending it in a lovely hotel on the outskirts of Patras on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. We had stayed there for a number of years either side of our drive to Sifnos. The following day we were to sail down the Adriatic for 24 hrs to Ancona.

Giacomo Puccini’s birthplace in old Lucca

On this day in 2017, we were driving from Lucca to Bologna having spent the best part of a week visiting Torino, Genoa, Lucca old town, Pisa and Firenze. It was part of our month long grand tour which took in Coquelles, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Moderna, Parma, Piacenza, round the Milan ring road, round Lakes Como and Lugano and in to Switzerland to Bellinzona.

From there we travelled through the Ghotthard and the Seelisberg Tunnels to Mulhouse at the start of the Alsace Wine Route. We went on through Colmar and Strasbourg and then down the A4 through Metz and Epernay in Champagne country. 

Finally, we drove through Saint Quentin, Arras, Bethune, St Omer and back to Coquelles. It was tiring but expansive, outward looking and optimistic and it emphasised our roots based firmly in European life.

Ribérac Market – July 2018

Two years ago on this day in 2018, we were in the Dordogne and returning from visiting my cousin, Sue and her husband Phil in Salles-Lavalette when we came upon a delightful market in the Dordogne commune of Ribérac. It is these vignettes of travel that make us what we are. I, for one, will never allow myself to be defined by Little England. To that end, we are going to make a brief foray into France once again on Thursday.

Wednesday, 15th July, 2020

Pauline had her hair cut on the last day before the official Lock-Down on Saturday, March 21st. We could see it coming and just got a last day appointment. Some 16 weeks later, this is what she looked like.

Tuesday, July 14th after 16 weeks without a haircut.

An hour in Worthing and £80.00/€90.00 lighter my wife looks younger and happier …. er, no. She now thinks longer looks better. I’ll leave you to decide. I daren’t say anything.

Wednesday, July 15th after a haircut.

This is Pauline almost 4o years ago outside our first house in West Yorkshire. She was only 29 years old. These photographs were taken on our new, Polaroid Camera.

I had a fascinating walk through the streets of Worthing for an hour which I would normally have spent in a coffee shop. The sea front is putting on a brave face particularly near the pier but the people are absent and the shops are in a dire state of abandonment and disrepair.

Our bustling seafront.

All the lovely, little eateries on the Italian row are grubby, isolated and depressing. It is open market day down the central street although there are no stalls today. There aren’t any shoppers. The multi-storey carpark which is normally full is absolutely empty today. Physical Commerce is on its last legs.

View from the (empty) carpark.

It’s all rather depressing really. One wonders how the streets of Worthing Town will ever climb out of this despond. It can only be by marketing itself as a very healthy, seaside environment where families will be safe to live and play, to have holidays and enjoy the coastline.

Thursday, 16th July, 2020

Past mid-July and it is becoming noticeable that mornings are a little darker and darkness comes slightly earlier in the evening. This is the downward slope into depression. To lift our spirits, we were up at 6.00 am and out by 8.00 am on the drive to Folkestone Eurotunnel. It is a couple of hours drive from here normally and we were travelling peak commuter time on the M25 so we have to give ourselves plenty of leeway. You have to check-in 45 mins before departure and we were crossing at 11.40 am so we thought we’d timed it right. 

We were shocked to find that there is no rush hour, no peak commuter time, no anything. The roads which are normally solid queues were all but deserted. 

Very quiet M25.

We arrived with about 90 mins to spare which gave us time for Pauline’s wonderful coffee. The knock-on problem with that is that almost all public toilets are closed. The ones in the Tunnel Terminal were open but, in spite of social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing, everyone in the toilets was washing their hands and then using air-blasting dryers which had the effect of launching droplets of potentially infected water vapour in thick clouds through the enclosed space. I drew the management’s attention to it but received a blank stare.

A regular haunt.

We drove straight from the Tunnel terminal in Calais to the Wine Store, collected our order, added some additions, paid and left. It took about 20 mins. We drove down through Coquelles village to Auchan and bought a few things – Cheeses, cold meats, mustards, garlic, duck breasts and legs, etc.. As we drove towards Coquelles, immigrants bands were sprinting across roads into woodland. Police cars were parked, slewed across roads to block them and, when we reached Auchan, small groups of immigrants were furtively checking out the carpark. It made us feel a little uncomfortable. We were leaving a £40,000.00/€44,000.00 car unattended and containing £1,000.00/€11,000.00 of wine as a prime target.

Why does French produce look more interesting?

Anyway, all went well. We were back at the Tunnel early and got on an earlier train. I always fill out the Advanced Passenger Information (API) on-line and we filled out a mandatory Covid-tracing form which we handed in to the passport agency. She immediately told us it was for the French side who had not asked us for it. There is a UK one to do which we had to fill out when we got home.

The drive home at 4.30 pm was equally quiet and we arrived relaxed and early. It was our first, moderately long journey -4hrs driving – for quite a few months and I was tired after unloading all the wine and racking it. We’ve got to be up at 6.00 am tomorrow for Tesco’s so we must be in bed by midnight.

Friday, 17th July, 2020

Up late after a hot and humid night. Getting up at 6.30 am was a struggle after yesterday. I drove to Tesco in West Durrington about 10 mins away. Dropping Pauline off at the door, I parked and set off on my 5 mile/8km walk in warm sunshine almost reminding me of our walks abroad – Canarian not Greek. Although I was tired as I started, I soon found myself falling into a really enjoyable rhythm and was almost sorry when I arrived back at the car to find Pauline loading shopping into the boot.

Lake Como

On this day 6 years ago, we we driving from our hotel in Parma down the Milano Ring Road, round the Italian/Swiss Lakes, through Switzerland and on to Mulhouse in Alsace where we stayed tonight. Puts our French trip yesterday and our drive to Tesco this morning in to perspective and I found that rather depressing. To cheer myself up, I’m going to rake the lawns and clean the car.

Saturday, 18th July, 2020

Lovely, warm and sunny day although only 23C/74F. I woke up early thinking about our latest travel insurance claim. We have been pursuing it for weeks and, each time we think we have reached the end, they put in another hurdle to get over. Having demanded and received every imaginable piece of evidence, they have demanded that we put the claim to the credit card company first.

This is underhand and, in our experience, unprecedented. It is calculated to wear people down and encourage them to drop their claim. Fortunately, we are not easily worn down and do not give up. If the principle wasn’t enough, there is £4,000.00/€4,400.00 at stake. Anyway, we a Black Account holders at our bank which also insures us and we pay £350.00/€385.00 per year just to finance the services. We refuse to be given the run around by them. These are the thoughts that I awoke with at 5.30 am.

After juice and tea, I took my coffee into the Office and started searching the website for a form to initiate a Section 75 Claim against our credit card company. I entered a maze. I had tried phoning them only to be told pandemic-hit staff shortages made it impossible to discuss anything. The website just mirrored and amplified the phone approach. After an hour or so we found a link to a page that led to a claim form. This is all carefully calculated. In our case, it made us more determined.

First figs of the season.

I know we are in to mid-July but that would be at least 4 weeks early to be picking figs in Greece. In an English garden, it is astonishing to be finding ripe figs. Admittedly, this variety is Brunswick which is better suited to our climate. However, we have a Brown Turkey fig absolutely laden in fruit this year. They keep you going through second wave lock-down.

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Week 602

Sunday, 5th July, 2020

The weather is organising itself well. Rain overnight gave way to sunshine and blue sky with 22C/70F temperature. Regular readers will know the Sunday routine – political programmes, newspapers and then ….

Open dry the fish for 24hrs to produce the pellicle surface.

The salmon has been curing for 24hrs and it is time to wash off the cure, dry and replace in the fridge for another 24hrs to form the sticky texture prior to smoking. As the moisture has been drawn out by the salt, the fish has stiffened in texture. The next stage will see that increased.

Just perfect weather for our 90 mins walk with warm, sunny, dry but not to hot conditions. I don’t know why but I’m really tired after it every day. I thought my fitness level would increase and my recovery time with it but nothing seems to change and I hardly ever miss my target. I put it down to age.

Monday, 6th July, 2020

An overcast but warm morning which gave us lots of jobs. The first thing after breakfast was to start the smoker, get it going in the smoke chamber and then place the salmon on its trivet, adjust the bottom and top vents and leave to gently smoke away for the next 12 hrs. That’s why we were keen to start it by 8.00 am. It is sited in the back garden so the smell of smoke wafts away and doesn’t annoy any neighbours.

Next was my haircut. Of course, I’ve not been affected by the pandemic because min has been cut by my wife since 1978. She is brilliant at it and, more to the point, very cheap. She has all the correct equipment like cape, hairdresser’s scissors, electric trimmers, ear and nose hair trimmers (for the more sophisticated man), etc. It happens in the kitchen and takes about an hour by which time I am squirming to get away. At least I can watch the Sky Politics while I suffer.

Later, we trimmed up all the hedges which are growing non-stop at the moment, cut the lawns, strimmed the edges and swept up. Pauline griddled the most wonderful Tuna steaks in the garden and cut fresh lettuce which she served with griddled peppers.

Time on the wall

Regular readers will already be familiar with my obsession with time and its graduation. For me, context is all. Our Office wall is plastered with graduations in time from our parents’ photographs to graduation certificates, houses we have owned and lived in over the past 40 years and other mementoes of times in our life. This week, marks 6 years since we sold our house and left Sifnos for the last time. Our house sale board has featured in Office/Studies ever since. We had intended to return this year. We won’t and very few regulars will. Optimistic tourist observers hope Greece will achieve 25% of normal business. Depending on conditions, we will look to returning in 2021.

Tuesday, 7th July, 2020

The smoked salmon was retrieved after 10 hrs last night and we tried it straight away. It is delicious but we both agreed that it would have been better with less smoking so the next one will be done for jus 6 hrs. Even so, it is a good first attempt and we won’t need to buy smoked salmon any more.

Shopping for the Few.

I’m sure many, perhaps most of us have mused at some time or other about the [lack of] activity known as sleep. To think that every human being does it/needs it and we lie down in the dark, unconscious at the same time as all those in half of the globe. While we do it, the other half of the globe is walking round following conscious activity. The hinterland of this action, of course, comes at the variable start and finish. Some need 8 – 10 hrs, others need 5 – 7 hrs although we are told somewhere in the middle is best for our health.

All our married life, Pauline has had to put up with me sleeping for about 6hrs a night. To bed at midnight and awake at 6.00 am for the past 42 years and she is beginning to get used to it. When we were working, we were early embracers of the 24hr shopping revolution. After a long, working week, we were always early birds at the supermarket on Saturday and I was out at 6.00 am on Sunday to get the papers. We have bodies perfectly attuned to pandemic shopping. Miss the queues and get there early. This is what we did this morning. Up at 5.45 am, out 1 hr later and Pauline shops at Sainsbury‘s at 7.00 am while I go on my 5 mile/8km walk. Fortunately, once again it is dry and warm.

Life changed here 6 years ago today.

All week we will have Sifnos in our minds. It is 6 years ago this evening that we visited the little, white building you can see just beyond the wall. It is the office of our friend and Notary, Elerania Miliotie who had spent months guiding us through the process of selling our house. Six years ago this evening we received hundreds of thousands of euros that we needed to get out of Greece and back in to our UK bank. It was only because of the help of Elerania and the understanding of the local bank workers that we weren’t stymied by Greek tax avoidance/tax evasion red tape. Most of this was put through our long standing account at the National Bank but I also opened a second account at another bank – the Piraeus Bank – to separate and thus reduce the size of our receipts.

Our House in April 2002

Although we look back fondly on these times and are incredibly grateful for the experiences not to mention the financial security that the enforced saving through investment gave us, we are glad to have divested ourselves of the responsibility of Greek property ownership especially in these inauspicious times. 

Wednesday, 8th July, 2020

Woke up to rain again. Quite steamy warmth but wet early. Just as before, the rain stopped and we went for our walk in a beautifully clean-smelling world …. to Asda. It is a walk of about 35 mins each way which would take us 5 mins in the car. We were keen to be back for PMQs and the Financial Statement. 

As advertised, the lad has removed stamp duty from houses under £500,000.00/€556,000.00 which is pretty meaningless down here. Houses don’t cost under that mark. Still, if it motivates other parts of the housing market and keeps the builders working, it will have helped. We have received a very acceptable estimate for hard landscaping in our back garden. We are keen to keep the ‘economy’ patio paving slabs that we have already and considerably extend them. They are called Brett Economy Buff Riven. Brett is a company owned by Marshall‘s which is a long established West Yorkshire company we know well from an earlier life.

Marshall-Brett paving.

Although this is bog-standard, economy paving and many neighbours have ‘upgraded theirs, we actually like it. It is incredibly quick draining after rain and easy to keep clean. It is also cheap. Our extended patio will only cost £5,000.00/€5,560.00. The only downside is that groundwork companies are very much in demand after people have spent months locked down, saving money and thinking, If we can’t go abroad, we ought to develop our home. Ours won’t be able to start work until 9th November. For us, it’s not a problem. Currently, I think, they’re struggling to get the paving slabs as production cranks up again.

Actually, everyone is trying to look as if they’re back to normal but are paddling fiercely below the surface. We order and paid for outdoor storage containers from Homebase at least a month ago. They took our cash at £420.00 per container but now tell us that we are unlikely to receive them until October. We’ve asked for our cash back.

At least on this day 6 years ago we had our cash back and were plotting our course back to UK. It feels so far away now and yet so recent.

Thursday, 9th July, 2020

The world is really struggling to adapt to the new normal. The extension to our patio will need quite a few packs of Marshall-Brett paving flags. The builder has a flashy Marshall-Brett brochure but can’t get the flags because they haven’ been produced for months and manufacture is only just beginning to get going. They can’t do our garden until the first week in November.

We’d ordered some large, storage boxes for out in the garden. each one was £420.00/€470.00. We are hoping to declutter the garage by using them. The company took our cash but then told us that we wouldn’t receive the goods until late September because stock was not available. We have cancelled and asked for our money back. It was quite fortunate because we found almost identical boxes for almost half that price and they will be supplied by Amazon in a week.

We are going to France on a shopping trip next week. We have pre-ordered £550.00 of wine from our regular supplier – The Calais Wine Superstore. We have been buying there since the early 1980s. Then, we were driving Huddersfield to Hull and getting on P&O Ferries to Zeebrugge and on to Calais. For more the last 10 years, we have been going through the Tunnel on day trips. 

aka Mecca

Usually, a day trip would cost £60.00 return through the Tunnel. That was cheap enough to factor in. We usually save about 50% on UK prices. However, the wine store has long offered ‘free’ travel set against a pledge to buy £400.00/€450.00 worth of wine.  Since the pandemic, Tunnel crossing prices have gone up 3-fold or more. Next week, the wine store will cover our return tickets of £220.00/€246.00. Actually, I’ve pre-ordered £600.00 of wine with a UK saving of £500.00. We will aim to do a couple more trips before the end of the year.

Good job I don’t drink – just like Liz.

Just been told that the company buying our old phones will send the money to our bank account in the next few days.  Everything is jogging along nicely. Shame the weather has been so disappointing particularly as the south coast is hosting the Test Match. This morning was drizzly as Pauline shopped in Tesco and I did my 5 mile walk. Still, it was warm. I mused as I walked at 7.00 am this morning that I literally haven’t worn anything but shorts and tee-shirts since end of March. No wonder that I look like a leathery old prune.

Friday, 10th July, 2020

Lovely warm and sunny morning now England are doing badly in the cricket. We were going to do home work but have decided to walk along the coastal path from Goring Fishermen to Worthing Pier.

Beach Garden between Goring and Worthing.

Lovely blue sky and sunshine with 22C/70F with not even a hint of sea breeze made it a perfect day for the walk. It wasn’t too busy either although it was quite early in the morning and families were only just arriving as we walked back.

Pier café open again but outside.

Even so, virtually nobody wore masks. We didn’t because we were in the open air but the path goes quite narrow in places and distancing is difficult. I read someone on Twitter the other day asking if others were like her and held their breath while passing close to people and that is exactly what I do.

Social Distancing in Worthing – taken to extremes.

We got quite a shock, as we walked closer to the pier to see the Worthing Wheel had been put back up and already re-opened. Personally, I can’t see the point or the attraction in these things. When people raved about the London Eye, I had to stifle a yawn. I’m not a hampster!

Saturday, 11th July, 2020

An empty Kamares Port.

On this day, 6 years ago, we left Sifnos after 30 years continuous association with the island. Kamares harbour was bustling with cars and travellers. Our friends had come down to see us off. Little did we think that it would be so long before we returned. We are hoping it will be next year but Covid-19 will decide. Already there is rumour of Greece’s imported infection rate going up and of the closure of their land borders. KTG report 60 new infections on Friday with 42 found in tourists. Infection-free islands are torn between Scylla & Charybdis – between fear of infected tourists and fear of an impoverished winter. They will get Charybdis anyway. It is just a matter of to what degree. Reports out of Greece suggest that they think 25% of normal tourist trade will be a good result.

‘The Times’ cartoon.

As gyms announce their re-opening from July 25th, we have already decided that it won’t be safe to return until a vaccine is available. Gyms are particularly vulnerable areas with breath projected far and wide, with virus-laden sweat sprayed liberally around. We don’t want to wear a mask to exercise nor have to book specific times to attend. Type -2 Diabetes, overweight, and atrial fibrillation all combine to make me vulnerable and not inclined to take too many risks which is why we are developing our own, home gym.

Equally, if we visited Sifnos every year for 30 years and haven’t for the past 6, we have visited Greece every year for the past 40 but we will almost certainly miss this year. Fear of flying is part of it but the unrelaxing experience we would be flying to with great heat and face masks, difficult hotel conditions and in restaurants, one is left wondering what the point would be. We paid out over £2000.00 in for hotel and flights for 5 days in Athens so we will need a doctor’s letter to claim back from our insurance company.

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Week 601

Sunday, 28th June, 2020

It is as if they knew. The Blog Gods I mean. Week 601 almost never happened. Since Christmas Day, 2008, the Blog has been hosted by a web hosting company called 1&1 which morphed into Inonos. It is a WordPress build which has been not only hosted but managed by Inonos. It enabled me to work almost without any prior knowledge. After all, I wanted to write a virtual stream-of-consciousness dribble without having to worry about the platform. I have done so with only one, major blip which I eventually solved. Today, it was much more serious.

The hosting company have not updated the WordPress version. I think because they want to stop managing it and cut customers loose to manage their own. I found Week 601 could not be published. The hosts make it increasingly difficult to contact them. Eventually, I was coaxed to cut myself loose of their management and branch out on my own. I did so ….. and lost 11 years of memories. Strangely, Pauline was much more upset than me. I had almost accepted it. A few minutes later, I returned to my site, refreshed it and …. IT WAS UP AND RUNNING!!!! Well, obviously, you can see it.

Memories will go on…..and on…..and on…..and on ….

Monday, 29th June, 2020

I’ve spent the entire day installing, upgrading and customising our new smartphones which were delivered today. Copying our old phones across to our new ones is so easy now that it took a couple of minutes. Setting things up into groups, re-establish accounts and passwords took a little longer. Actually, the import of of the process was so great that I could barely believe it.

As I went through my day, I kept returning in my mind to what might have been. In my head, I had really given up my Blog. What that really meant was that I was giving up on memories of the past 11 years of my life. That was worrying because it is fantastic to just refer back to be reminded of those events even if I couldn’t remember them actually. You ought to try reaching back to events from 2008/09 just to realise how difficult it is whatever the quality of your memory.

Tuesday, 30th June, 2020

Today started at 6.00 am as we got up to go to Sainsbury’s. No more queuing now. We arrived at 7.00 am and Pauline went straight in. Today, instead of starting my walk, I sat in the car and read The Times because it was raining outside. We drove home by 8.30 am and prepared to meet a Goundwork estimator who came round to give us a quote for flagging an area of garden. We have a very basic garden flag called Brett Broadway Buff Riven. It is an economy item but really useful and effective. When it rains, these flags are non-slip and quick to drain.

Brett Broadway Buff Riven

We look forward to the estimate and getting on with the work. As for me, after 11 years of recording my Blog, I have to learn new routines. I can tell you, I’m not complaining. Actually, I can hardly believe it is happening. Sounds straightforward but it is actually quite challenging.

Wednesday, 1st July, 2020

 

Happy new month to everyone – apart from Brexiteers who are condemned to rot in perpetuity. Looks like there will be a release of continental travel although not for Greece and who can blame them. If I was living on a covid-pure island, I would be tempted to keep the drawbridge up even if it did mean short term economic woes. If I was a Brit (I suppose I am.), I would be wary of flying to Greece with all the risks it carries with it and can you imagine 32C/90F of sunshine and heat and having to walk round in a face mask. Is that a relaxing holiday? I don’t think so.

Wonderful fillet Steak

I woke up at 5.30 am thinking, My Blog’s working! I have to tell you that it feels almost miraculous. When 11 years of memories are gone, it can feel quite daunting. To have them suddenly reappear is wonderful. As we walked out to Asda to source some of their finest fillet steaks, I was walking on air. Something which takes 5 minutes to drive, took us 30 minutes to walk. The shop itself was almost deserted. We bought 6 steaks, put them into our favourite Carluccio’s bag and set off on the half hour home.

We eat red meat very rarely but we’ve both been surprised to find how much we have enjoyed this steak. It is in great demand and it is difficult to source. If you see any, it is best to corner the market immediately. We ate it with just some fresh, green salad picked from the garden plus a lovely, cherry tomato salad.

I spent a chunk of the afternoon cleaning up our ‘old’ mobiles, removing all security setups and returning them to factory settings. They are going to a smartphone purchaser tomorrow who will pay us £116.00/€129.00 each for them. The new phones are free and £232.00/€258.00 for the last pair of ‘free’ ones feels like a nice return. I know we will have paid for them through our contracts but that’s gone now.

For some time now, Pauline has been complaining that her volume button on her iPad was not working. I must admit, I thought it was out of warranty and that we would have to get her a new one. I finally turned my mind to it today and found she still had 14 days on her warranty. I phoned Apple in Brighton. They appear so restricted in manpower that they try to force callers to deal with an ‘intelligent’ answer machine. I got nowhere and was reduced to talking gobbledygook in order to force the automaton to direct me to a human being.

After 20 mins waiting on the line a transatlantic voice went through my identity check and proceeded to ask the problem I was raising. I told her the fault and she proceeded to dial in to the iPad and run a diagnostic test. In the downtime while I was waiting, I asked her where she was. In the Philipines, Sir, she said. The nearest Apple centre is 9 miles/15 km down the road in Brighton and yet the iPad was being diagnosed 7,000 miles/11,000 km away in the Philipines. To cap it all, she asked me to remove Pauline’s iPad cover which immediately released the volume button and allowed it to work perfectly. Thank goodness she was so far away. She couldn’t see my embarrassment.

Thursday, 2nd July, 2020

Up and out early to be at Tesco for 6.55 am. One or two shoppers were already going in as we arrived. Pauline went in with her trolley, surgical gloves and mask on. I set off for my walk. The weather was warm but with weak sunshine. I walked for 45 mins and then met Pauline back at the car. She reported the Store to be fairly quiet and with significantly fewer people wearing PPE. This is going to be the most dangerous time.

The government wants us to think it’s all over so that they can get the economy back to work. People, therefore, and especially the thick ones, think it’s all over because “Boris says” and act with gay abandon. This is a mirror of the American style where right wingers shouted loudly about exercising their rights to freedom and trusting in God. (Something of a paradox there.) Now, many of those shouting the loudest actually have Covid19 themselves. Ignorant self confidence is no defence against a virulent pandemic. One only has to listen to the horrendous reports of those caught up in Intensive Care Units to know caution should come first. We would rather follow caution and live to fight another day.

The garden and the car have never been so well maintained. The house has never been so clean and tidy, our fridges and freezers have never been so well stocked and our current accounts so well filled. Lockdown has had these effects but they are only possible because we are retired with comfortable pensions. One only has to think of those furloughed and doubtful if their job will still be available in the near future. It must be dreadful for them. Talking of money, we walked down in to the village to post off our old smartphones to a company call Handtec who have agreed to send us £232.00/€258.00 in return. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of our phones, not a scratch or blemish so they will easily sell them on.

In our garden as, I suppose, in many gardens up and down this isolated land, it is hydrangea time. We have always loved them although they were not so successful in the North. Here, they can be seen in abundance all round the village.

Friday, 3rd July, 2020

A beautiful morning. The sunshine got us up at 6.30 am. Sunshine encourages a positive outlook on life and the day ahead. It turned out to be more positive than we expected. Our insurance claim, which we initiated in the first week of May for around €5000.00/£4,500.00 looks like it will be paid back in full very soon. Pauline had a conversation with the assessors this morning and it was a really positive conclusion.

High Class Restaurants – Absolute Heaven!

Now we will have to consider our trip to Athens towards the end of next month. We paid up front in January just under £2,000.00/€2,220.00 for 5 days. We really don’t know what to do about it. I supposed you really could describe us as the ‘worried well’. However, it is hard to imagine enjoying the baking heat of Athens whilst wearing a mask, eating outside at our favourite tavernas and worrying to sit for 4 hrs in close proximity on an aircraft having got through procedures in a busy airport. If UK FCO advice changes to allow it and Greek government allow it then we will have a difficult decision to make. It is particularly poignant for two reasons. We have been to Greece at least once every year since 1980 and next week will mark 6 years since we sold our Greek house and land and left Sifnos.

We are long standing customers of the Electra Palace Hotel in Athens and expect to have our booking shifted to next year but we’d rather have the money now and decided what we want to do with it rather than someone else. The flights are about £530.00/€590.00 and we would lose that. Because I am (diet controlled) Type 2 and have medication for atrial fibrillation plus medication to control my blood pressure, we believe I am at greater risk than otherwise. On that basis, we will consult our doctor to provide ‘official’ medical grounds to claim on our insurance. Still, our insurance company tell us there is no time limit for claims so we can decided nearer the time.

Saturday, 4th July, 2020

A warm, wet morning. Not a problem. We have indoor jobs to do. Pauline has been sent out into the garden to harvest piles of basil and make pesto. Homemade pesto is unbelievable but high in calories so we have had to learn to control ourselves. We are also starting on our first attempt to create our own, smoked salmon.

Stage 1

The first stage is to cure the fish as Gravadlax. We have done this before but weren’t completely satisfied with it. For a side of salmon, which tends to come in at 1.5kg/3.3lb, we skin the fillet, trim off the thin end at the tail leaving it about 1kg/2.2lb for curing. The fish is then cured in a mixture of:

  • a cup of sugar,
  • a cup of salt,
  • a tbsp of freshly ground pepper
  • a handful of chopped dillweed
Stage 2

Half of this mixture is placed on a sheet of clingfilm and then the fish sits on top. The other half of the mixture is spread on the topside of the fish which is then tightly wrapped in the clingfilm. It is placed on a baking tray with another tray weighted down on top and put in the fridge for 24hrs. The fish is turned occasionally and, after taking it out,

Stage 3

After 24hrs curing in the fridge, the fish is removed from the fridge, unwrapped and wash clean in cold running water. It is patted dry with a paper towels and then returned to the fridge uncovered for another 24hrs. This process produces a sticky surface coating known as the pellicle. This stickiness encourages the smoking process to adhere to the fish.

The cold smoker engine.

After 24 hrs in the fridge, the fish is placed on a rack in the smoker and the sawdust is lit at one corner. Over the next 12 – 24 hrs, the sawdust smoulders around the maze-shaped container, smoking the fish. The first stage will be completed by 11.00 am on Sunday. We should be trying our first home=smoked salmon on Tuesday.

The rain is over and we are going for a 6 mile/10 km walk. I haven’t been to a pub voluntarily since the late 1960s and I will not be going now whoever deems it to be safe. Why would anyone want to cram into a noisy, crowded, uncomfortable environment full of strangers to pay over the odds for an alcoholic drink when one can enjoy a lovely bottle of red wine at a reasonable price and talk quietly with people one chooses to be with? I just don’t see it at all.

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Week 600

Sunday, 21st June, 2020

The arrival of Week 600 has coincided with the Summer Solstice and the Longest Day. Only 8 more years for the 1000! For those who read the Blog, it probably always feels like the longest day but this one marks the start of Summer. The start of Summer? it’s almost over isn’t it? Certainly this coming week will feel much more like Greek Summer. We are forecast 4 or 5 consecutive days around 30C/86F. Today and tomorrow are a cool 22C/70F but that’s alright.

Having written a couple of weeks ago about seeing virtually no rain for the past three months, we have woken up over the past three mornings to find it had rained over night. If this is the new normal, bring it on. I cut and fed the lawns just before the first rains and they are now looking lush, green and in good health. the tomatoes are really fruiting well, the peppers are flowering and the figs are swelling and just starting to colour up. Really, these are the fruits of Lock-Down activity. In addition, we have acres (exaggeration) of successions of lettuce which we eat almost every day.

I eat a lot of smoked salmon. It is quite self-indulgent in its price – a moderately priced fish with ‘value-added’. That is cold smoked. We have been thinking of adding our own value to the wonderful salmon we buy every day around here.

A ‘starter’ Outdoor Smoker.

Today, Pauline is ordering me an outdoor portable smoker and some oak chips to smoke my own side of salmon. That will be fun to try. I just spent an hour watching videos on YouTube of how to cold smoke salmon. Fascinating.

Monday, 22nd June, 2020

Up early on a beautifully sunny morning that. again. reached 22C/70F. Clear, blue sky and delicious sunshine. We were setting out on a 6 mile round trip to Dunelm. Usually, we would jump in the car and be there in less than 5 mins.. Today, it was an excuse to get our exercise done. We walked there and back. Pauline had selected Click & Collect which we did but it took us 80 mins overall to get home. Amazing how pleasant the walk was and didn’t feel demanding at all. The car is feeling quite neglected. We carried our new, kitchen blow torch back home.

Back home, my job was water & feeding the tomatoes and the peppers. They are really coming on. Tomatoes already heavy with fruit. Peppers are in flower. I also gave the figs, that are covered in swelling fruit, a long drink from the hosepipe. Tomorrow, the lawns will be cut, fed and watered.

During the enforced closure, lots of establishments – pubs/restaurants have taken the opportunity of improving their properties. Down a muddy lane, we have a pub called The Spotted Cow. It is very popular. The owners have spent the past three months refurbishing the outdoor furniture and the gardens, repainting the outside and generally sprucing the place up. Although I am not a frequenter of pubs, it looks very inviting.

Development near our old home in Kamares.

The house we designed, had built and lived in on Sifnos for 10 years is the long, white streak in the top, right hand corner. The land on the mountain side lower down the road towards the port has laid bare for millennia. Now, slowly and quietly, development is taking place on the ‘hot’, ‘English’ side of the bay. Shows optimism at least. Look forward to seeing the completed buildings next year.

Tuesday, 23rd June, 2020

A rather bitty day. We were out early to shop at Sainsbury’s at 7.00 am on a very warm and sunny morning which eventually reached 26C/78F. I did a 4 mile / 6.5 km walk while Pauline shopped. Home for coffee and then we built our food smoker. It will be in use by the end of the week. I mowed, fed and watered the lawns while Pauline made a first harvest of the herb pots on the patio for chopping and freezing.

Our quarry garden – 2010

Ten years ago this week, we had returned to Yorkshire from our Greek home to clinch the sale of our Huddersfield home. This week 10 ,years ago, our buyers got their finances in place and we were finally certain the the sale would go ahead in the following week. This was good because we had flights back to Athens booked for 6 days time. We just made it. It was a happy time in Quarry Court.

We flew back to Athens and then by ferry to Sifnos where our garden had been watered automatically while we were away. We were trying our hand at growing vegetables in Mediterranean climate and on rocky island soil. It proved quite a difficult learn and, when went out into our vegetable garden after a month away, we didn’t expect to see the massive tangle of weeds and vegetable plants that presented itself to us.

In spite of that, we had vegetables as I proudly recorded even though it would have been so much better if we handed tended them.

Fruits of Neglect – Greece 2010

We drove back to UK in October 2010 homeless. We went to live in an Old People’s Home where Pauline’s Mum, who was 96, had lived for more than 30 years.

Mump – 2010

We stayed with her as she went in hospital, went through a serious operation and died less than three weeks after we had got home. It was an awful , awful time.

Wednesday, 24th June, 2020

The heat really hit the fan today. Woke up at 6.00 am to 18C/65F. Breakfast and out to walk along the sea shore at 8.00 am in 22C/70F of brilliantly Mediterranean skies.

Littlehampton Beach – 8.00 am.
The Garden on the Beach.

We walked for an hour – about 5mls/8kms – and then drove home for coffee and a long afternoon of garden watering as the temperature hit 31C/88F. If we had been in Greece, we would have stayed mainly indoors. Automatic sprayers are such a boon. I was able to intensively water front and back lawns plus the beds lining the drive without leaving my seat in the sun.

Thursday, 25th June, 2020

Up at 6.00 am to a temperature of 22C/70F. Out to Tesco by 7.00 am for an 8.00 am opening. I set off on my 5 mile/8 km walk only to be interrupted by a phone call telling me that the store has reverted to its original 7.00 am opening so I would only have 30 mins for my walk. I started to run. It was hot work. Even so, I was only 10 mins late back to the car.

Approach to Goring Beach.

Home for coffee and then out to Goring on sea beach for a walk in the sea breeze cooled sunshine. By 9.00 am, it had reached 30C/88F and, by the time we set off home at 10.00 am, it was the full 32C/90F – hotter than Greece and much of Spain. This is the sort of weather Pauline and I relish.

Home to enjoy the garden and water the lawns. Actually, it was just to hot and intense out on the garden furniture and very reminiscent of our Greek house patio which proved painful to walk on by mid day without shoes. I scalded the soles of my feet out on our patio flags this morning. We felt bad sitting inside on such a day and decided to take the car to explore places we had never been.

Swanbourne Lake, Arundel

Our housing development was given the temporary name of Swanbourne Park by David Wilson Builders. It was one of those advertising titles designed to catch the buyers on a website. We didn’t even bother to consider what it referred to. Today we found out. We drove out just 4 miles/6.5 km to Swanbourne Lake and Wetland near Arundale. It was quite delightful but dominated by seagulls on their holidays from the seaside.

Friday, 26th June, 2020

A warm but very humid day which didn’t read higher than 23C/74F but felt much hotter and less comfortable because of the humidity. All the doors and windows open found very little air movement and we couldn’t go out because we were expecting a delivery of flags and builders and for the back garden. We knew that these things would be annoyingly inconvenient and it has started today with a delivery time posted as 8.00 am – 7.00 pm.. Go to Jail & Don’t Pass Go!

Samsung Galaxy S20 5G

Tomorrow, after 24 months of our smart-phone contracts with EE, we are entitled to new phones. Actually, we have been very happy with our current Huawei P20 Pro contracts costing us £40.00/€44.00 each. However, Trumpian politics has led to the blacklisting of Google Apps on Huawei platforms.

The former is more important to us than the latter. Google Pay, Google Maps and our integrated calendar, etc, are all going to be lost on our Huawei‘s and ‘free’ phones worth around £1000.00/€1,100.00 each on the open market are not to be sneezed at. Just to add to that decision, the ultra fast 5G network which is already in Brighton just 10 miles away from us will make a huge difference. It will mean our contract price increases by about £20.00/€22.00 per month but it will be worth it.

I must admit that I use my smartphone more for its computing and photography utilities than I ever do as a phone. In that respect, I am much like my generation. At home, I reach for the landline long before I do the mobile. I have no idea why. All calls are ‘free’ – within each contract plan. Even so, I don’t make many phone calls anyway. I never have.

The building supplies arrived by mid afternoon by which time, I had fully valeted the car. As I did it, I realised that we hadn’t filled up with fuel for more than three weeks and we still had 250 miles in the tank. Now, I have a sparkling car in the garage with nowhere to go until Tuesday unless we decide to go on a jaunt. Anyway, now we were free to go out for a long walk in the sunshine. I have only failed to miss my exercise target once in the past five weeks. My alcohol consumption slipped a bit in the hot weather. I’ve drunk wine twice in the past five weeks which is not bad for me.

Next stop, a trip to France. We need a change of scenery.

Saturday, 27th June, 2020

Raining… Hurray! Warm but raining this morning and continued until 11.00am. The garden is loving it. I’m ordering the new phones and preparing to organise a French trip through the Tunnel. We heard that Eurotunnel’s booking site crashed under the release of pent-up demand. We will give it a few days before booking.

For the past couple of mobiles which means about the past 4 years, I have chosen leather flap covers because I got in the habit of dropping them from considerable heights onto hard floors. However, recent developments have hastened shops to accelerate use of self-scan and contactless pay using smartphones. Sainsbury’s and Argos have an apps that make shopping so easy with one’s phone – scan the barcode, itemise one’s purchases and keep a running total of expenditure. This process requires access to front screen and back camera all the time. This is infuriating with a cover flap.

Having said that, the cover has saved the quality of my old mobile so that I will now trade it in for £115.00/€127.00. I am buying an alternative back cover to counteract dropping and a screen cover to counteract scratching.

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 600

Wek 599

Sunday, 14th June, 2020

Glorious, warm, morning of blue sky and strong sunshine. Later it reached a very humid 23C/72F and, because of the humidity, it felt hotter. We watched the political programmes until just after 10.00 am and then set off for the Garden Centre on foot. I was going to buy a new tap connector for my outdoor, garden tap to fit the hosepipe.

When we got to the Garden Centre, there was a queue of about 5 people waiting patiently in the sunshine. The organisation is controlled by an operative who is there to ensure the Centre doesn’t exceed the maximum number of customers it considers safe. His other job is to sanitise the returned trolleys. He combines the two functions by only allowing another customer in when a trolley is returned by an exiting customer. This works very well at the moment but just wait till the weather turns. How many of us will queue in the rain for a tap connector? Even so, I still had to push a huge trolley around a garden centre following the one-way route to get to a tiny tap connector on a display a few feet from where I originally entered.

The shops are allowed to open tomorrow but, one of the few I want to visit, Currys PC World, is still only available for Click & Collect. We’ve built up a number of things we want to look at before we buy – a smart watch for Pauline, a computer for me and a television for the lounge. None of those will I buy without seeing and discussing with the trader. They will wait until I can.

Angmering Walks

Our walk back takes us through another newish house development about 10 years older than ours. Like so many of the developments around here, space is not at a premium and developers have built in lots of natural areas of grass and parkland planting which relieve the pressures of modern living. We were walking through this area when were heard a little lad – aged 5/6 – screaming with excitement under a conifer tree. His dad had given him a project of finding fir cones to take home. He was so excited that he had found lots under the trees. I’m so sorry they don’t excite me these days.

French Style

Cousin Sue posted this from a park in the Dordogne. Don’t the French have such style? No wonder the hooligans wanted Brexit. This is just too sophisticated for them. Heard a racist use that old trope, Britain’s Full yesterday. I don’t know where they drive or walk. Almost everywhere I go I see wide open spaces – lots of room for immigrant NHS workers, for immigrant Hospitality workers, lots of room for immigrant agricultural workers, lots of room for people who will far surpass Brexiteers and racists in life ambitions.

As a footnote to last week’s decision making process: we have finally decided that the Studio garden Room will have a footprint of 22ft/6.7m long x 8ft/2.5 deep. the hard standing flagged area will be that plus 2ft all round. My job now is to get builders to quote for the flagging and an electrician to discuss getting power in to it. Don’t worry, I’ll bore you plenty more before that’s all done.

Monday, 15th June, 2020

The summer is disappearing already and we’ve been nowhere. It is the Longest Day on Sunday and then all down hill from there. Winter draws on. Today is another lovely, bright and sunny morning with 16C/61F at 7.00 am. By mid morning, we are getting up to 70C/22F and everything is enlivened by sunshine. 

Pauline has taken her courage in her hands and booked a hair appointment but she can’t get one until mid-July. All the evidence is that parents are not going to be bounced in to sending children back to school before they feel it is safe and shoppers are reluctant to linger in commercial premises. Whatever the government want, people will vote with their feet. It was amusing to read the tweet of a Greek doctor on Crete I follow on Twitter who says July cancellations are at 80% and August cancellations are at 50% so why did the Deputy Mayor of Crete announced yesterday that Island bookings currently stand at 80%? This is so common in Greece. 

I have a paving firm coming round this afternoon to quote me for extending the patio and providing the hard standing for the studio garden room. After that, we will walk round to the garden centre where the garden building supplier is based and go through the details of the ordering process.

Tuesday, 16th June, 2020

Another beautiful and warm morning. I am missing being abroad, missing the demands of navigating a different culture with its smells, tastes, sights and sounds. I miss the challenge it brings to my settled routine. I can’t say I’ve missed the weather.

It has been so good here for the past3+ months that we are becoming quite blasé about it in the way a few weeks in Greece would lead us. There, sunshine and heat was the norm. One didn’t have to make the most of it while it was there. More often than not, like most Greeks themselves, we avoided the sun and shrank from the heat. Every afternoon in our house, we would close the shutters for about three hours as the intense sun beat straight into the windows. That way, we could open everything up as soon as the sun had gone down to cool the house for the evening.

Kamares – without tourists.
“This is a tragic, a disastrous year. We will just try to cover a fraction of our expenses this summer,” said Georgoulas, who runs a boat tour agency at Oia town on Santorini.

Greeks are preparing to tighten their belts this winter. Usually, those involved in tourism expect to earn enough over the frenzied tourist months – really only June-August and mainly August, to get them through the winter. Those low paid ‘hod-carriers’, employed only for the summer months to work in the service industry, would sign on for government support when the tourist leave.

Plenty of space on the beach in Platys Gialos.

This year, huge swathes of Summer Season workers will not get employment in the first place so this will knock on into island economies as shop keepers and their customers are impoverished. The big question is: will confidence have returned next year? Will there be a second spike? Will travellers feel safe to fly?

Back home today has been one of activity. Up at 6.00 am and out to Sainsbury’s for 7.00am. Pauline joins the queue which rapidly lengthens at this superstore. I set off to run to Rustington. It’s a round trip of only 2.5 miles but I’m shattered when I get back. Time for a drink and then lawn cutting for me and hedge trimming for Pauline. I used a lawn feed and thickener across front and back lawns so had to put the sprinkler on because we have no rain in the immediate forecast. It was hot work as the temperature went over 22C/70F for the umpteenth time recently.

Wednesday, 17th June, 2020

I have been dead for 40 years. On this day in 1980, the ambulance crew took me from my demolished car and put me in an ambulance believing I was dead. The ambulance driver placed an oxygen mask over my face and suddenly I started to fight for my life. I kicked him and he sat on my legs to control me. I did the only thing I could and bit his nipple. He ran out of the ambulance, clutching his breast and screaming in pain. I remember nothing of that at at all and have never met the man who was off work for a week afterwards.

1980 ‘V Reg.’

I spent more than a week unconscious in hospital and took nearly a year to recover fully. The compensation I received from the insurance company nowhere near made up for the disruption to our lives. Every year I celebrate how fortunate I was to have such a wonderful wife to nurse me back to health and put up with the aftermath of that accident. We were driving our first, brand new car together – a pageant blue, ‘V’ reg Mini which Richard Butterworth facilitated our purchase of. We were very proud of it for 10 months and then it was gone. Although we have had at least 20 new cars since then, we will never forget that day.

Even so, as we drive round in a 2020 ‘Hybrid’ 4-wheel drive ‘Utility’ vehicle with all the refinements, we don’t even have to open the windows manually. Can you imagine it?

Thursday, 18th June, 2020

Up at 6.00 am. It had rained over night. Joy of joys! Yesterday had been wall-to-wall sunshine. We walked along the shoreline from Littlehampton towards Worthing. There were a few little children in the sea and the Beach Lifeguards were setting up their summer stations on the beach.

Littlehampton Beach Yesterday
West Durrington Today

This morning we were out to Tesco for a weekly shop. On my walk around the area, trees were still dripping and puddles lingered. It was, however, steamy warm and I was sweating profusely by the time I got back from my walk and Pauline came out of the store.

We drove home and had coffee, did some jobs – Pauline preparing for our meal later and me searching out some new, smart phones for our automatic upgrade as our contract reaches 24 months. We’ve been using EE for quite a few years and been very pleased with the service. For the past two years, we have had Huawei P20 Pro which has been an excellent phone that I chose mainly for the quality of its cameras but has now been undercut by Trump’s war with the Chinese which has seen Google withdraw its apps on the phone. Immediately, Huawei loses all of their attraction for us. It looks like we will go back to Samsung (Galaxy S20 5G) and EE will buy our old, ‘free’ Huawei for £50.00/€55.50 each.

Findon Village, West Sussex

This afternoon, we drove out to Findon Village which is about 4 miles outside Worthing. It is a pleasant but rather a claustrophobic community which appears to be dominated by pubs and restaurants – all closed – attempting to maintain their place by serving take-aways. It features a lot of old properties some up to 450 years old. It feels a bit like a living museum.

Friday, 19th June, 2020

Garmin Vivosmart4 smart watch

We didn’t have to get up early today. We were up at 7.00 am to find the weather had been perfectly behaved. It had rained over night and was now drying up. After breakfast, we walked to Sainsbury’s – a 5 mile/8 km round trip. We weren’t shopping but collecting a click& collect from Argos. When we got there, a huge 100yd/90mtr queue snaked around the underground carpark. Because we weren’t going to the supermarket Pauline showed her text confirming her order was ready to collect but was denied entry. We had to stand in a queue for 25 mins before she was allowed in. I was quite happy recovering from the first half of the walk.

This is our 4th Garmin watch between us. I have one I am delighted with. Pauline has gone through two already because she will insist on buying cheap ones. Even this is relatively cheap at £74.99/€83.00. One would normally expect to pay 2 or 3 times that amount for a good one. Having said that, this one measures everything one could want and much one doesn’t. Steps, Heart Rate, Pulse, Distance travelled, Calories Burned, Blood Oxygen Levels as well as the weather, News Items, indications of phone calls, texts and emails. The biggest challenge is absorbing all that information whilst walking without falling over. One charge lasts 5 days and the whole thing is slight enough to please a girl while being almost big enough to read without one’s glasses.

Saturday, 20th June, 2020

This rarely happens but we got up this morning not knowing what we intended to do today. I like to have a pre-considered set of targets for my day. I gives me an immediate sense of purpose and allows me the sense of freedom to achieve my targets in my own time and order. Today, beyond drinking my orange juice, tea and coffee, I had nothing lined up at all. It was preparing to be a lovely day with high, fleecy clouds under blue sky and sunshine. The day eventually settled at a pleasant 22C/70F with virtually no breeze.

Bognor is definitely faded.

Being footloose and fancy free, we drove the 10 miles down to Bognor Regis. I have been there twice before – once a couple of years ago just as we were exploring our area and, the first time, 65 years ago with little Bob and Nana & Grandad Coghlan. The only thing I remember of the 1955 visit was a strong wind whipping up the sand on the beach and driving biting sand into our bare legs.

The sea never fades.

Today’s visit was warmer, sunnier and without even sea breeze. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has seen much interest from royalty for many years. In fact, probably it has not seen much since George V uttered the immortal words, Bugger Bognor on his deathbed in 1936. We did an hour or so walk on the coastal path with a fair few others enjoying the warm air. The Butlins emporium, which had £50 million spent on its upgrade 20 years ago, is lifeless and silent.

We drove home to a ‘normal’ Saturday afternoon football, lots of tea and then thick, roasted loins of code with roasted cherry tomatoes. I’m finding it hard to get back in to the football although the integrated sound-over s helping. I always find the first matches of a new season don’t draw me in and this feels just like that. Anyway, I was looking forward to cricket.

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Week 598

Sunday, 7th June, 2020

A lovely, sunny morning although not over hot. There is a little bit of a breeze which is keeping the temperature to around 18C/65F. After the political programmes and newspapers this morning, we set off for a fairly brisk walk of about 90 mins. The weather is such a bonus in this. If it had been raining, I just don’t think I would have done it which is why we need an alternative and that is unlikely to be the Health Club for quite some time.

Opposite Sainsbury’s

Enjoyment in simple pleasures is making me feel rather old but there is no alternative until we can wave our passport around again. Simple scenes like this are really quite pleasing on the eye. Even so, I’d rather be in Valencia or Athens right now.

The right garden building but wrong colour.

We have been all over the decision making process about a new gym cum kitchen cum garden storage building outside. It looks as if we have (almost) come to a decision. We are taking so long because we estimate an overall cost of £25 – 30,000./€28,050.00 – 33,660.00. It will be 8′ deep x 14′ long but just low enough not to need planning permission. The price will include paving, electrical installation and gym equipment + TV installation. We will need electrical sockets galore for at least 2 exercise items + TV & Sky box, for at least 4 cooking items and for recharging at least 2 garden items. We will have to see if it will need any heating but we doubt it.

Although we can buy this building locally, if we want to see an actual example – and we do – we will have to drive to Staines where there is a branch showcasing an example.

Monday, 8th June, 2020

Quite a grey morning but warm. Today will be spent in two activities: firstly, marking out the area of the back garden where we will need additional flagging and the area a garden building will require and, secondly, following up insurance claims allied to reviewing our next, booked trip.

Our month in Tenerife that has now passed contained four elements. The flights with Easyjet were cancelled by them so we are entitled to a full refund. In spite of the fact that they wanted us to accept vouchers for future travel, we insisted that we wanted a refund and formally requested the return of our £540.00/€605.00 and we will get it but we don’t know when. Fortunately, we are not under threat of losing our job and worried about our income. We are not in need of the money tomorrow but we will get it.

We’ve already got two parts of our villa rental back amounting to about €800.00/£715.00 but the bulk payment, €4,500.00/£4015.00 is being covered by our bank’s travel insurance – we renewed our annual policy in July last year, long before pandemic exclusions came in to force. This morning we were told by the bank that this was being actioned this week so we look forward to that.

How confident would you be?

Thought I’d check if I could see any progress on our EasyJet money but there was nothing to see. While I was there, I looked at our next flights in August to Athens. They cost us £570.00/€640.00 for two returns. Firstly, they are still flying and are bookable although one of the Departure times has changed. However, the seats that cost us £570.00/€640.00 would now cost us £208.00/€233.00 or around 36% of the original price. Still, like so many people, we may not be brave enough to fly. Who knows?

Masked & Gloved but left out in the cold.

We walked down to our village surgery which has a Pharmacy attached to collect a repeat prescription. It was 12.30 pm and there were only 2 customers – Pauline and the person inside. I was reading my Twitter-feed while Pauline formed a queue of one. Actually, it felt quite pleasant at 20C/68F and we were getting part of our exercise target done.

Tuesday, 9th June, 2020

Out early on a morning in which the world smelled so fresh after over night rain. Quite warm – 17C/62F at 8.00 am. I parked in Sainsbury‘s underground carpark and set off for my walk while Pauline shopped. I walked to Rustington past some delightful houses and gardens. One garden gate featured a name plate that suddenly took me back more than 50 years. Woodbine Cottage immediately conjured up a packet of cigarettes. It was the cigarette of choice for almost all the men who worked in my Father’s Building Firm.

At the time, they were one of the cheapest so Mum and Dad needed to differentiate themselves from the workers by smoking the manly, Players Navy Cut in Dad’s case and the more sophisticated Senior Service in Mum’s case. Everybody smoked and social differentiation came to bear even there.

By the time I was 14, I was pinching cigarettes from packets on the mantlepiece and practising out in the village. As soon as I got some holiday earnings, I was smoking confidently. Of course, I couldn’t follow my parents. I had to strike out on my own with Players No 6. By the time I left home in 1969, I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day. By the time I was teaching in 1972, I was coping with the stress of work by smoking 40 cigarettes a day and had moved on to the modern but prestigious, John Player Special Black.

The last cigarettes I purchased in 1985.

In spite of trying to give up many times and lasting less than a few hours each time, I smoked for another 13 years until, in 1985, I woke up one morning and thought, I don’t need to smoke any more. Typically for me, I had bought an expensive new lighter a few days before and a new pack of cigarettes the night before. The pack of 20 cost me £1.22/€1.37 in 1985. Today, in Sainsbury‘s they would cost me £11.10/€12.45.

All of this was triggered by the Woodbine sign on the gate and the images flooding through my mind from last night when I watched two more episodes of the drama I’ve been enjoying called Babylon Berlin which is set in the late 1920s of the Weimar Republic. Overwhelmingly, it is set in a dark world where everybody and I mean everybody smoked almost all the time. We have moved so far since then that it is almost choking to watch.

Wednesday, 10th June, 2020

Woke up to a grey morning but warm and dry. We had gone to bed happy last night after receiving an email from EasyJet confirming that they had repaid the cost of our unused return flights to Tenerife in May. Our bank balance will improve to the tune of £640.00/€720.00. Such things always help the orange juice go down.

We are expecting patches of light rain today so need to snatch every possible dry spell to get our exercise done. This is exactly why we need a gym room in the garden for such difficult days. This afternoon we are doing the full costings in our estimation and then invite some groundwork firms to offer estimates for the doing the hardstanding and an electrician for installing sockets. The building itself will come with on-site erection built in so that price will be a fixed sum.

herbs and Bell Peppers have been outside since mid-May

All around the patios at the moment are collections of pots and containers with tomatoes and herb plants that need maintenance. We could not have dreamt of growing tomatoes outside in Yorkshire and certainly not safely since early May. These have been grown from seed and are now flowering profusely. They are tumbler, cherry tomatoes which we eat by the ton. The five plants we have will probably supply a couple of weeks worth of salads but it is the fun of cultivating them which has made it worthwhile.

Home grown tomatoes flowering profusely.

I grew Sweet Bell Peppers reasonably successfully in Greece but not as well here so I have half a dozen grown from seed and advancing quickly now outside.

We have watched Boris Johnson floundering once again under the forensic questioning of Keir Starmer. Always a pleasure. It is now dry and we are going out for our walk. Wish us luck!

Thursday, 11th June, 2020

Pauline got me up at 6.00 am on a rather grey morning. By 6.35 am, I was driving her to Tesco. We had been led to believe that it would be raining and I didn’t want her to queue out in the rain. She was just the first there at 6.45 am. I set off for my walk. Far from raining, it was warm and got warmer as the sun came out. The day has been delightful. I got back to the car after 90 mins and 6 miles walking. Not exactly record breaking but I was shattered when Pauline emerged with a laden trolley.

After coffee and the newspapers, we drove down to the local Authority Tip to take some defunct electrical items that can’t go in the collected bins. We were met by a long queue. Pent up demand over the lock-down allied to the need for social distancing has made access rather tedious. Only about 15 mins wait and we were on our way home. Driving through the village struck us how much we had settled in and how the inhabitants care for the environment. Angmering in Bloom is continuing to work in spite of the problems.

Angmering in Bloom

When we got home, we were contacted by our bank demanding additional information to support our insurance claim. It is worth £4,500.00 so, even though it is frustrating, it will be worth it. We had an hour or so tracking down documents, digitising them and uploading them to the Bank’s Insurance Claim site.

On our patio – 2012

From the moment that Pauline decided that we had to cut out salt to control my blood pressure, I have been addicted to herbs. There were only a few I remember from my childhood. Parsley was served every Friday in a sauce to accompany fish. Sage appeared with onion in annual stuffing. Mint accompanied roast Lamb. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any others. These days, we use Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Dill, Tarragon and particularly, Basil. I love garlic with everything. These flavours have been learned, ingrained and enjoyed throughout our time in Greece and they’ve followed us back to UK. We always grow Basil and Pauline makes Pesto. We never buy any ready made. Whatever it is, it’s not Pesto.

This year, I’m growing 4 different types of basil – Italian Greeen, Purple, Greek and Cinnamon. It will mix in salads and be used for cooking. I’m eating so much smoked salmon at the moment that I’ll have to buy a smoker for the garden. When the Garden Building is up, it can stand on the patio. Small packs of good quality salmon are costing around £8.00/€8.92 for our meal. If I smoke whole sides and Pauline slices them thinly, it will save us so much money … and what fun for the neighbours.

Friday, 12th June, 2020

The forecast was for lots of very warm rain today. We were up to bright sunshine and clear skies. Pauline is expecting an ‘all day delivery’ from UPS so I took advantage of the weather to do a 5 mile walk. It was a lovely, freeing interlude. Mind you, I was shattered when I got back. Pauline had spoken to the Bank’s insurance arm and was told our claim was back in the queue after uploading additional evidence that they had requested.

Pauline was making salmon fishcakes for our meal later in the day. I love fishcakes! If it stays dry and it certainly looks like it at the moment, we will spend an hour or two marking out the back garden for the flagging which will be required for the footprint of the building we have selected plus some extra space. After that, it will be my job to price up the materials required and getting hard landscaping firms to provide estimates for the work. The worst thing about all of it is not the cost but the disruption. Residents around us have had additional paving laid and the work seems to have gone on for ever. I won’t enjoy that.

Banana Thief

Vindicated with my early start. The rain has come lightly and very warmly this afternoon. I am in my office enjoying Chopin Études and drawing up plans for development of our outdoor facilities. Certainly, life could be a lot worse.

Satuday, 13th June, 2020

I follow the weather for the week on the BBC website. It used to be provided by the Met. Office but now comes from the Meteo Group which, like all good things, comes from Europe. However, now we’ve left the EU, they’ve decided to give us any old forecast because they don’t care. Today, they told us we’d have lots of rain after noon so we went for our walk early in the morning. We were home by 10.30 am and the blue sky was unsullied as the temperature rose to 23C/73F and stayed there until after 5.00 pm. European relationships will be like that in future.

Our job at home today is to map out, on the ground, the area of the extending garden flagging and the footprint of the building to be erected on it. Yesterday’s rain prevented our intentions. We started by doing that with garden canes and a huge ball of string. Then, I decided that we needed to really visualise what we were going to do so I looked for a spray marker to mark out the grass. I found one in Screwfix and we shot off in the car to purchase it. …. only not that easy.

When we got there, we were told that they were only dealing with Click & Collect customers. We went through the farce of standing at the door, bringing Screwfix up on our smartphone, ordering the spray, paying for it with credit card and receiving an order number. Having walked 4 paces in to the shop from the door, we were presented with the spray with our name and order number wrapped round it. Covid safe or what!

Back home, we measured out the patio base we anticipated, inserted canes into the lawn and tied string along the lengths and widths. We then placed the building inside the extra patio base with canes and strings. We are told by the company that we have to allow 2 ft between any wall of the building and any other wall, fence, etc. to allow for maintenance. We have chosen a Studio Garden Room with Garden Storage Shed attached measuring 16ft x 8ft. The extra patio required is 20ft x 12ft (20ft/6.01 mtrs. x 3.7 mtrs.). As soon as we’d mapped it , we looked at each other and said almost synchronously, We ought to go for the next size up – 18ft x 8ft. That will give us so many more options.

So that’s a decision …. we think. Decision making isn’t easy is it? I’ve already picked out the gym equipment that we’ll need. It was important to check it fitted in easily. It does.

We’ve now got to find some kitchen cabinets and worksurface to put around one end and ask an electrician about the best way to get power and internet access into it. The machines take wi-fi and a Sky Q-Box would be useful. Instead of watching politics in a stationary position, it is better to be moving at the same time. This really does seem like a plan coming together…. although, this evening, we are considering extending the building to 20ft/6.01 mtrs. or even 22ft/6.7 mtrs.. I wonder if you can get a 3-piece suite in it?

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