Week 457

Sunday, 24th September, 2017

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

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

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Week 456

Sunday, 17th September, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 18th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 19th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Avoid being late by not flying at all. Brilliant!

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

Wednesday, 20th September, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, 21st September, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, 22nd September, 2017

Sunrise on the shoreline this morning.

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

Heuchera Rio

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

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

Saturday, 23rd September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Week 455

Sunday, 10th September, 2017

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

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

Monday, 11th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 12th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 13th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 14th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, 15th September, 2017

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

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

Saturday, 16th September, 2017

It won’t be like this!

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

Maybe more like this.

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

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

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

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

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

They charged one and let the other one off.

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

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

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

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Week 454

Sunday, 3rd September, 2017

From the Sunday Times – 3/9/17

A grey day with an Autumnal chill in the air and a spit of rain. After last night’s escapade, we were tired when the radio went off at 6.00 am. We were still up and about around 7.00 am but rather tired. Newspapers this morning just increase the sense of mayhem and incompetence surrounding BREXIT. I really despair.

The government are trying to appease the electorate. The prime minister is trying to appease the Cabinet. The Cabinet is trying to appease sections of the Tory Party. The Right Wing ‘Fruitcakes’ are trying to intimidate the centre right ‘Remainers’ who are beginning to lean towards the Liberal and centre left ‘Remainers’. Basically, everyone is stabbing everyone else in the back, the front or stabbing themselves.

Went to the gym and did a full session including a long, outdoor swim this afternoon. The water was noticeably warmer and the outside air noticeably colder than it has been since the Springtime. The world is changing. Gran Canaria is starting to feel a really good idea.

Monday, 4th September, 2017

A warm and humid, sweaty day even though the temperature didn’t get above 21C/70F. Pauline is going shopping in Guildford with her sister and niece tomorrow. We drove to the train station to buy her a ticket. It’s lucky she wasn’t going today because they are on strike again. Unfortunately, she has to change at Havant which means her train will take 90 mins but she is happy to do it.

Angmering Station

The railway is huge business particularly down here. As workers are forced out from London by housing prices, our region which is about an hour from the city where they work is increasingly attractive. Lots of people use the train to get to work and back. It is not cheap if you’re doing it every day.

Most businesses feel the need to invest and keep up to date to retain their customers. Not the railway. They are blasé and take their clientele for granted. These buildings do not seem to have seen much modernisation since Beeching in the 1960s. Angmering is growing enormously. The number of passengers they can expect to carry will equally grow. They will not be satisfied with 1950s furniture and 1960s services.

The service is still the ‘cheery’ staff-heavy process of the past. There is a large, middle aged lady in the tiny ticket office behind the arched glass window. There is the station master with mutton chop sideboards and braces. The entrance/exit is cramped and suited to passage of a handful of passengers an hour. The generation of profit from the through-flow of passengers does not seem to fit with this scene from yesteryear.

Tuesday, 5th September, 2017

My wife has left me….. to go shopping in Guildford! Can you believe it. She’s already had a problem and been re-routed on the train from Angmering to Guildford. Yesterday, she was told she had to go via Havant at 9.05 am. I took her to the station early because of all those little bastards going back to school and she was told that the only train she could get out was at 8.50 am via Barnham. What a way to run a railway. The sooner Jeremy nationalises it the better!

I’m doing IT work this morning. Reinstalling MS Office on Pauline’s laptop which seems to be playing up with some software after upgrading to Windows 10. It is extremely warm but grey outside and very warm in the house. The figs are still swelling but I don’t think they will make it this year.

Good to see at least one area of society is moving the right way. As a confirmed atheist, I rejoice in the British Social Attitudes Survey into religious faith which found ‘No Religion’ in the majority and climbing. It’s always reassuring to find one’s fellow citizens seeing the light. It’s all down hill for religion now!

I was reminded this afternoon about something I got involved in 46 years ago this summer. I was in college and doing Subsid. Drama. It was never my thing but I had to do something. A call came out for extras on an ITV police drama which was being filmed in Yorkshire. The name of  the drama series escapes me – might have been called ‘Villains’ or something like that. The star of the drama was a young Alun Armstrong who must have been 25 years old at the time. We spent most of the day sitting on a grass bank with Armstrong as he kept us entertained with stories and jokes that appealed to our age. We all got an Equity Card and £10.00 for a day’s work. If you got to speak, you got £25.00 but I didn’t.

I have followed his subsequent career keenly and dined out on my tenuous connection with him ever since. I do know that I got arrested in the filming and Mum had concerned neighbours ringing up to tell her that I was in trouble. She had only just got a television in 1971 and certainly didn’t watch anything as downmarket as ITV. She didn’t see my starring role and nor did I.

Wednesday, 6th September, 2017

Last night looked as if it was full moon and we have woken to quite a chilly feel outside and a temperature of 14C/57F with weak sun. Pauline is tired after her travels yesterday. Even the return trains were delayed but not by much. It does leave one feeling that train travel is a step too far. Go by car!

Perfect Student Uniform!

When I left for college in September 1969, my Mother insisted, against all my protests, that I go dressed appropriately like the country gentleman she saw me. I was embracing my ‘calling’ in training as a teacher and high standards would be expected of me. She marched me off to a gentleman’s outfitters in Burton and insisted on buying me the most expensive, green country jacket with wide, red check she could find. It was exactly like the one pictured left only that it had leather buttons. I hated it especially when she teamed it up with a striped shirt and yellow cravat! How many students in the steamy, protest years of 1968/69 went around wearing a cravat?

Dressed like that, I arrived in my first, student digs and, immediately,  my worst fears were confirmed. I was not expected to be a country gentleman but a 1960s, protesting student. Within a week, I had traded my very expensive jacket in for a secondhand, green flap jacket which my Mother immediately denounced when she saw it as a toilet attendant‘s jacket.

A screen shot from ‘Villains’ – ITV 1971 starring me and Alun Armstrong.

This morning, I found the episode of Villains starring Alun Armstrong in which I was an extra. If you want to see the beautiful acting talent I was 46 years ago, you can watch it here. We were playing ourselves, students protesting about hare coursing. We were in a ‘demo’ van and confronted by the police. This link is for the episode 6 in which I appeared and it is on YouTube: Villains, Episode 6: Sand Dancer. Although I know there will be a few Alun Armstrong fans, most of you will be impatient to see me so you just fast forward to these locations:

  • 27 mins.44 secs – John is in ‘Student Demo Van’ travelling down the road when we stop to pick up a hitch hiking Alun Armstrong.
  • 28 mins.41 secs – John is seen getting out of van wearing green, toilet attendant‘s jacket.
  • 28 mins.52 – 55 secs – John is seen in fore shot – still in green, toilet attendant‘s jacket – carrying a placard. Best man at my wedding, Kevin Dagg, is next to me.
  • 28 mins.59 – 29 mins. 04 secs – John is seen going for the Oscar in fore shot – still in green, toilet attendant‘s jacket.
  • 30 mins.33 – 49 secs – John almost clinches the starring role as he stands in line, waiting for a caution while he dabs, expertly, at his bloody nose. Unfortunately, Kevin steals the show by smoking and giving his real name to the Sergeant.

Of course, I went on to selflessly devote myself to education and stood aside to allow Alun Armstrong to enjoy the television limelight. I really didn’t want to overshadow him!

Thursday, 7th September, 2017

The problem Greece has always had is ‘extending’ the amazingly short holiday season. Why is it a problem? Because September weather in Greece is increasingly unreliable. It can be absolutely wonderful with warm days and warm seas. It can be wet, stormy and difficult for transport.

Four passengers injured as Sea Jet 2 collides with pier at the port of Sifnos

This week, there have been some stormy days in the islands and strong winds have done some damage. When we were living half the year on Sifnos, locals would tell us that September, when the tourists had largely left, were special with great weather and quiet beaches. We did 6 Septembers and can report that the weather seems to know when September has arrived. It is a marked change with cool nights and less than reliable days. The winds are increasingly strong and ferry timetables threatened by the difficulty in crossing between Cyclades and Piraeus.

This week, the weather illustrated the islands’ problem. We often worried that our ferry to the mainland would be disrupted/cancelled by September weather and make our Superfast connection to Ancona difficult. Yesterday, the Sea Jet 2 jetfoil ferry, on the way to Folegandros, collided with the harbour in Kamares, Sifnos. I am told it drifted in high winds. It suffered a large gash to its hull and four passengers were injured and taken to the Medical Centre in Apollonia which is a fairly rudimentary place.

All passengers were disembarked, the ferry was suspended from scheduled sailings until repairs had been completed. As a result, dozens of passengers on board will have required emergency accommodation and those from Sifnos will have had their travel plans thwarted. When one goes on holiday, that uncertainty is not what one wants. Travellers with unlimited time can cope but holiday makers need more surety.

Friday, 8th September, 2017

I love the new and innovative. I am an ‘early adopter’ of new gizmos, processes, etc. However, I also like to plan my life well ahead and not have circumstances forced upon me unexpectedly. Pauline and I maintain synchronised, on-line calendars which tabulate everything well in advance – even fairly immaterial things like which bins to put out each week and when to re-order prescriptions. I like to act within a self-controlled context.

Long ago in January/February we agreed travel plans for the year. Trips to France, our European Drive in July, our trip to Greece in September, our short trip to Yorkshire in October and a month in the Canaries in November. There are still spaces to slot things in – impromptu, spontaneous things but the main framework of my life for the rest of the year is fairly organised and known. I am looking forward to our flight to Athens this weekend and getting back in to the Greek milieu. I am looking forward to spending November in a 5* hotel in Gran Canaria being pampered and fed but with all the exercise facilities we have at home.

Well, I was until late last night. I received an email to say that a problem had arisen in the total renovation programme of the hotel and it could no longer be available. We were being offered another hotel in the same chain which they said was of equal quality but in a slightly different area. We were aware of this hotel and had rejected it in our original search. We rapidly re-read our contract. We had paid £6000.00/€6,600.00 up front in good faith. The small print said explicitly that the company held the right, in extreme circumstances to move us to another hotel of equal standard in their chain .

I quickly checked case law advice for such a circumstance and it seemed the company had that right. We went to bed depressed. This morning, I took the bull by the horns, phoned the company and told them that we had received their email. I told them that we specifically rejected their alternative hotel and took a deep breath. The reply came back immediately, No problem, sir. We can look for an alternative hotel for you or give you a full refund. I felt my body and mind relax. I had been expecting a serious battle and had ben preparing my armoury. Suddenly, £6000.00/€6,600.00 was winging its way back to our account and we can make new plans. We had booked a hotel for the night at Gatwick Airport which we’ve had to cancel as well.

After that, the day seemed strange. Suddenly, the future was uncertain. I began to look for an alternative trip for November but couldn’t settle to it. We distracted ourselves by booking a couple of nights in a hotel in Poole in Dorset at the beginning of October so that Pauline and I can meet up with an old, school/work friend who we’ve not really seen for 40 years. Even so, the uncertain November is nagging away in my head and it will be over night.

Saturday, 9th September, 2017

It has been the most delightfully warm and sunny day here – not quite what was forecast. I have been really lazy and watched England finish off the W.Indies and clinch the Test series followed by two Premier League matches. My dear wife, on the other hand, has been working all day making sure everything we need is ironed and packed. It is a major job!

The weather in Athens is forecast to be around 32-33C/90-91F. That is warm but manageable. Greek Meteorologists have announced this week that July 2017 was the hottest since 1880. Temperatures reached 46C/115F on Crete. Can you imagine it? The hottest I have ever experienced is 41C/105F and it nearly killed me.

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Week 453

Sunday, 27th August, 2017

Tarragon Processing

Up early after a hot and sweaty night. The sky is blue and cloudless and, by 9.00 am, I was out in the garden simulating a herb processing factory. Last year’s Tarragon bush looked dead even by early May. We use a lot in cooking so we went out and bought a new one. Potted up, it grew strongly and quickly. Suddenly, the old bush began to sprout and very quickly overtook the new one. Now we have more tarragon than we could eat in the next three years never mind this season. And it will happen all over again next year.

Cutting, washing, spinning dry, stripping and chopping, bagging up and freezing. It’s an intricate process for a non-technical man. Sitting in the garden in 26C/79F in the shade, it was hot work. After I’d achieved my goal, I was told to move on to the Oregano and then the Thyme. Basil will come tomorrow because it doesn’t freeze well and will immediately be turned into Pesto which stores excellently in the freezer. We use it at least three times a week in cooking on fish.

To finish the morning, Pauline is making Victoria Plum Chutney and the kitchen is heavily scented with warm Raspberry Vinegar. I have collapsed before the cricket with the Sunday Times on my iPad and we will go out to the Health Club in the early afternoon and hope to get back to watch the Liverpool v Arsenal match at 4.00 pm. The love of my life will be cooking Calamari in the garden which we will eat with salad. Domestic Bliss, eh. You can’t beat it!

As we drove back from the Health Club where we said ‘Hello’ to Auntie Florrie, the temperature had reached 28C/82F. We sat in the garden and cooked delicious Calamari which we ate with salad and garlic mayonnaise dip. It’s a winning combination! In our thoughts was Pauline’s Mum who looks down on us from the Study wall and who would have been 103 today. She died 7 years ago but is regularly in our thoughts.

Monday, 28th August, 2017

They tell me it’s Bank Holiday. I don’t care. I never go to a bank. It’s an archaic term that should be abolished. Nothing wrong with National Holiday. There are people flocking off to the beach down the road, desperate to make the most of the sun. We have been told that it is the hottest August Bank Holiday on record at 28.8C/84F. It certainly is lovely and warm. Actually, we only reached 27C/81F.

We are doing what we always do on Monday. Pauline had one or two items she was trying to source for an event she’s attending soon. Eventually, we found them in Hobbycraft – a shop which, as its title suggests, particularly stocks stuff for craft hobbies. We have one a few minutes drive away and they provided just the right things. Cookery, of course, is one of the ‘crafts’ they deal in and they have a great selection of jars and bottles for storage. Pauline made enough Plum Chutney to get us through until next Summer.

A couple of weeks ago, I was remarking on the abundance of early fruit ripening on Blackberry and Elderberry bushes around our region. Crab Apples are falling by the kilo and Oak trees are heavy with acorns. They used to say that this didn’t bode well for the Winter but that is an old wives’ tale. Certainly, the wild life should be stocking up their larders in preparation for leaner times. This lovely picture appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday and seemed to sum it up nicely.

Tuesday, 29th August, 2017

A hot and humid day which reached 25C/77F with strong sunshine and no movement of air. A busy morning in which Pauline re-harvested the ever-willing basil plants from our patio pots and turned her cuttings into lots of wonderful pesto which has been frozen in portions to get us through the winter. I cut and edged the lawns, fed them and then fed and watered the remaining pot plants.

We went to the Health Club and did our standard 90 mins of exercise including 30 mins in the outdoor pool. Now Bank Holiday is over and the facilities are almost back to normal. We were able to swim in peace and the beautiful, clean, clear water was a delight under the strong sun.

Back home, we griddled Tuna Steaks with Mediterranean vegetables outside in the garden and settled down to watch England lose the Test Match in the last few overs of the 5th day. The ‘dog days’ of Summer are drawing to a close and parents and children everywhere are kitting themselves out and girding their loins for another year of school. We, on the other hand, are preparing to run riot through a child-free world. Greece soon followed by Yorkshire and Gran Canaria.

Wednesday, 30th August, 2017

Woke up to light rain and distinctly cooler temperatures. I phoned Ruth in Bolton and she had no rain at all. It’s always ‘cracking the flags up North’! Even so, we completed our tasks which included driving into Worthing and quite a bit of walking across the town. On the way back, we did our weekly, supermarket shop, picked up a parcel and the time had stretched to more than three hours out. I felt tired. In fact, I have felt tired all day and we decided to give the Health Club a miss for today.

For some reason, I checked Direct Messenger on my iPad and found I had a message from someone I had never heard of. It had arrived 5 days ago and I was totally unaware of it. I never use Messenger. This was from a girl/woman who had ben a childhood friend of sister Caroline’s and had lost touch with her. She had been searching the internet and found my Blog and decided to contact me. Apparently, she used to live opposite the garage in the High Street. This High Street and its buildings has so many connection-memories for the Sanders Family.

Thursday, 31st August, 2017

Lycabettus Hill, Athena

The last day of Summer has been celebrated with pleasant, warm sunshine. I have been doing some web development work and replying to my new, best friend from Repton. We have done another session at the gym, cooked griddled chicken in the garden and organised lunch in a couple of weeks for our neighbours. I have also been planning what we are going to do in Athens while we are there. It is like London. We have been there so many times, we are blasé about the sights. We have never been up Lycabettus Hill so we will do that this time. Of course, we will meet up with friends and visit old haunts as well. It will be good to take the Greek economic temperature and see how shops and restaurants we have dealt with for nearly 40 years are doing.

I have also been looking for a hotel near Blandford Forum in Dorset because, when we return from Greece, we are going to visit an ex-colleague/friend from school who we have only seen once in the past 35 years. It will be interesting to gauge the passage of time.

Friday, 1st September, 2017


 

 

 

The passage of time has brought us a new month. Summer has ended. What happened to Summer? Today is blue skies and glorious sunshine. Might catch a few rays in the garden later. It is noticeable how quickly daylight/darkness ratios are changing and the cooler starts to the mornings are increasingly pronounced. Our fig trees are covered in fruit which I begin to realise are unlikely to ripen early enough this year.

I am an avid reader of local newspapers particularly linked to places I’ve lived and/or worked in. For 45 years, I’ve been reading the Oldham Evening Chronicle first in print form and, latterly, on-line. It kept me in touch with people and places that have figured in my life. I have even appeared in it quite a few times myself. I like to track ex-pupils progress and, particularly how they got on in court or when their prison release date will be. The ‘Chron.’ has survived for 163 years  but finally succumbed to the march of time as we all will. As the new month starts and the year speeds down the hill, I’m still clinging on.

It has proved to be a beautiful day for the first one of Autumn. We reached 25C/77F around our outdoor pool where I swam 400m for the 7th time in 9 days having also done an hour of cardio in the gym each time. It is starting to get seriously enjoyable and we will soon need to add one more exercise element into our gym work.

Saturday, 2nd September, 2017

A day of two halves. Until 4.00 pm, we pottered around at home. Well, I did. Pauline was hard at work making a birthday cake. For a week or two we have been sourcing things like candles for an 80th birthday cake. At one point, we thought Pauline’s sister would have to be 81 instead because the candle set she wanted didn’t contain a ‘0’. It is a coffee and walnut cake which is one of Phyllis’s favourites and it had to feed 15 people at a birthday party.

Foxhills Hotel & Country Club

I wore a suit and tie every working day of my life. I enjoyed it. I actually missed it for a short while when we retired. Now, 8 years on, I hardly ever wear a suit and tie. I had to wear one last night and it felt weird. We set off for Surrey before 5.00 pm and arrived at the Foxhills Hotel & Country Club just after 6.00 pm. A private dining room had been rented for this birthday dinner and I had to carry the cake up to it. It is an iced sponge cake but so big it is really heavy.

Soon the other guests began to arrive and have a glass of wine in the Lounge. Finally, Phyllis, who is 80 on Tuesday, arrived and we sat down to dinner. I was driving and didn’t drink. I had pre-chosen food that would fit in with my diet – crayfish Starter, steamed cod Main Course and Cherry Sorbet for Pudding. The final course was the best prepared. During the meal, Phyllis received her presents and, with coffee, Pauline cut the cake and handed out slices.

We left around 9.30 pm to do the hour long drive to West Sussex. We actually made it about 11.45 pm. As we set off for the M25, we found that the entrance was closed all night for ‘work’. The queues went for miles. A diversion was set up but, as we neared it, we saw lots of flashing ambulance and police car lights accompanied by huge queues of traffic. If I had been on my own, I would just have joined the queues but Pauline likes a challenge and easily navigated me through the problems and on to our familiar A24. From there, it was plain driving.

By the time we had got into the house, it was almost midnight and we needed a cup of tea and to ‘come down’ before we went to bed. We watched the news and the newspaper review and went to bed about 1.00 pm. It’s funny but, as I get older, I don’t seem to manage late nights so easily. I find ‘social situations’ quite tiring and stressful. By 1.00 pm, I was nodding and finding it hard to stay awake. To sleep, perchance to dream….

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Week 452

Sunday, 20th August, 2017

Gorgeous morning at 6.00 am – a bit chilly but with clear, blue sky and a nascent sun. We are up early because we have a longish drive to Lancashire this morning. We are attending a funeral on Monday morning so are staying in the Haydock Holiday Inn. It looks quite pleasant and has a gym and a pool to keep us occupied for two nights. We expect the drive to be 5-6 hours so a 7.30 am start is planned.

The drive was really enjoyable with largely quiet roads. We chose the M40/M6 route over the M1 we normally use. The weather was sunny and warm all the way. We actually got away at 8.00 am and even with a couple of coffee stops still arrived by 1.00 pm. The hotel is set in lovely, rural grounds and we are looking forward to using the gym/pool. First, I was pleased to watch Huddersfield win their second Premier League match.

Monday, 21st August, 2017

View from my window.

We have woken up to a warm but overcast morning which rather reflects the events of the day because we are attending a funeral at mid day. We’ve been up since 7.00 am and had a pleasant breakfast. After the funeral and a get together with Pauline’s relatives, we will return to our hotel to do some exercise and have a swim. Tomorrow morning, we are going to Repton to visit my Mum’s grave on her birthday.

We left for the funeral at 11.00 am and drove the 26 miles to the crematorium in Blackburn – Pleasington Cemetery & Crematorium. It is a beautiful setting, a huge area of grass and trees in an urban connubation. Peaceful and restful, it is ideal for encouraging contemplation. 

 

 

 

 

I’m not a Christian. I am a confirmed atheist. I have so often attended funerals and felt hypocritical but morally obliged to mouth the hymns and acknowledge the prayers. The service (remembrance) today was one of the most appropriate I’ve been to.    It was a real ‘family’ celebration of a Mum’s/Wife’s life and what she meant to them. That, in my view, is what funerals should be like.

Tuesday, 22nd August, 2017

Happy 94th Birthday, Mum.

A long but interesting day. We had Breakfast at 7.0 am and left at 8.00 am. We drove to Monsom Lane, Repton to visit Mum’s grave. She would have been 94 today.

We did a drive round, re-acquainting ourselves with old haunts and recent changes. The village has become so busy and crowded. Driving through was quite difficult. We drove down to The Square and, as we did, I saw a man come out of ‘our’ house at ’81’. I parked up and stood around. He returned and I took the chance to speak to him. I told him that my family had built it and I had spent my formative years there. Although I could tell he was humouring me, I noticed an accent in his voice. He told me he had only bought the house three years ago and that he was Norwegian. He was more interested in who had lived next door. I was able to tell him about Auntie Kessie although I don’t think that is what he wanted to hear.

I pointed out the ‘Tree of Heaven’ in his front garden and told him Mum had planted it and had been very proud of it. At that point, I think he’d had enough and I apologised for accosting him on the street and let him go. We drove on through Willington towards the M1 and on our route home.

The M1 and the M25 were uncomfortably and unusually quiet until we were held up by four fire engines dealing with a burnt out car. Eventually, we got home around 5.00 pm – a 9 hour journey but largely of our own making. We were certainly tired by then.

Wednesday, 23rd August, 2017

After 9 hrs on the road yesterday, we are certainly jaded and have decided to start back at the Health Club tomorrow. I have to cut the lawns and clean the car today. We have also done our weekly shop. It’s actually a lovely day at 23C/73F with pleasant sunshine.

Not long now until we fly to Greece. That’s why the weather there is changing to strong winds, heavy rain, hail, storms and drops in temperature. The weather in Greece has been as unusual as ours this August. Greece has experienced back-to-back heatwaves reaching quite extreme temperatures and how often do you remember heavy rain in August? Almost never in my experience! Here in UK, we have had one of the coolest, wettest first halves to August for 30 years and it doesn’t really look like improving much any time soon. All we need now is heavy snow across Gran Canaria in November and life will be perfect.

It was reported in the last few days that Greece had seen a 30% drop in travel receipts and arrivals from the United States over the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2016. It may be related to the €/$ rate which has made European travel much more expensive for Americans just as the €/£ rate has arrived at a long term low of £1.00 = €1.08 today and has seen a 25% depreciation of the currency since the Brexit vote. Fortunately, I bought thousands of Euros in anticipation of this decline just after the vote and we are still managing to live on those when we travel.

Thursday, 24th August, 2017

Lovely, fresh Swordfish.

A sunny and warm day which reached 24C/75F in the mid afternoon. We went out to buy fish – Swordfish and Tuna Steaks plus Mackerel fillets – £65.00/€71.00 of future meals. I tested my INR. It is remaining steady at 2.5 and has been within my target for the past 18 months which is pleasing.

We sat in the sun in our garden this morning but it felt lovely to get back in to our pattern of exercise and diet. We went to the Health Club and did 90 mins of cardio exercise and then used the Spa for half an hour. As usual, I easily completed my 10,000 paces target for the day. As a newspaper proclaimed the benefits of 10 mins brisk walk per day, we felt extremely virtuous. We average 65 mins per day every week but completed within 5 exercise days.

Friday, 25th August, 2017

Swordfish griddled in the garden.

Woke to a beautiful day with lovely, strong sunshine and a temperature that reached 25C/77F eventually. I spent a couple of hours valeting the car after our trip to the North of England. We did another session at the Health Club and griddled swordfish steaks outside for our meal. It was delicious.

We are preparing to fly to Greece shortly. Looking forward to hearing the Greek Language and smelling the Greek smell. In the past few days, Greek media has been reporting hug, new waves of migrants arriving in Greece and, today, they have announced that they will be bowing the knee to Europe and accepting the return of swathes of migrants who landed in Greece first before moving on to Germany, France, Sweden, etc.. The weakest must do the work of the richest.

Saturday, 26th August, 2017

Well, Summer has returned. Lovely, clear blue sky and warm sun today reaching 23C/74F. It was comfortable in our garden to sit out and chat. We are talking through travel for 2018. We have tentatively come to the conclusion that we might rent a villa in the south of France for June-July and then fly to Greece to spend 2 or 3 weeks on an island followed by a week in Athens in September. Currently, we are thinking of Poros where our friend, Elerania’s parents have holiday lets. It is close to Athens as well. We might even pop over there in the next couple of weeks to check it out.

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Week 451

Sunday, 13th August, 2017

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

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

Monday, 14th August, 2017

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

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

Tuesday, 15th August, 2017

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

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

Argassi, Zakynthos 36 years on.

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

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

Wednesday, 16th August, 2017

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

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

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

The surroundings of Helme Village.

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

Thursday, 17th August, 2017

The Summer is running away. Today opened warm but wet but soon turned blue skies and lovely sunshine  with a temperature of 22C/70F. We did our weekly shop and then spent a couple of hours exercising at the Health Club. We have done 10 sessions in the past 14 days averaging one hour continuous cardio workout per day for the past two weeks. Well, I feel fit!

Today there has been a terror attack (Dare I call it that?) in Barcelona. A reference to it popped up on Faceache and it featured a report from The Manchester Evening News. As I browsed the article which conflated the Manchester Bombing at the Ariana Grande concert with the Barcelona attack today. The link was a youngish man who was at the earlier concert and just escaped the bomb blast and then was in the Barcelona area of the terror attack today. As I stared at this report and read the young man’s name, I suddenly realised I knew him. In fact I taught him some 15 years ago. After my report of yesterday’s experience, I’m wondering which coincidence will complete the trilogy.

Friday, 18th August, 2017

Very muggy night and early morning. We have jobs to do today. We will be away on Monday when the refuse collection comes round so we are off  to the local tip to dispose of our own. Later, Pauline completes her beauty routine by having her hair done in Worthing and I will be allowed to sit in a coffee shop with my iPad.

The Joys of west Sussex.

When we were retiring and looking to move south, I fancied living in Kent because I thought it would give us easier access to Europe and, as the Garden of England, might make growing fruit and vegetables more enjoyable. We did tour the Kent coast and didn’t really find anywhere we really liked. Most places we visited were rather run down and under-invested. Pauline fancied Surry followed by Sussex and spent half a year researching places, getting me to visit places. Eventually, we settled on Surrey and a Duplex Apartment. It was fine while we spent half the year in Greece but, as soon as that ceased, we knew communal living wasn’t for us. Pauline decided on Sussex and then West Sussex and then on Littlehampton and then on Angmering. I’m so glad she did.

The Daily Telegraph reviewed a report today published by Prudential Insurance about the best places in Britain to retire to. After considering a number of factors including disability-free life expectancy, access to healthcare, crime levels, pensioner populations, healthy lifestyles and the weather, it pronounced West Sussex as the top choice followed by Dorset. They could have added buoyant house prices and fantastic shopping services to that list plus easy access to Gatwick airport. All of these things combine to make retirement here pleasurable.

Saturday, 19th August, 2017

Figlets

A quiet day today because we have a long drive tomorrow. It is a warm, mainly sunny day. I valeted the car this morning in strong, hot sunshine and I was just about to mow the lawns when a large, grey cloud came over and dumped a quick but heavy shower on us. Fortunately, I had just put my gleaming car back in the garage and hadn’t got the mower out. After just 20 mins, the sun was back out so we could set up the griddle to cook our meal. Today it is Filet Steak (so long since we ate red meat) with tarragon mustard sauce and onions and mushrooms.

While we were cooking, I had time to check the fig bushes. I’m not sure this fruit will make it to maturity but the budding fruitlets should mature next Autumn as long as I can keep them going over winter.

I am continuing work on the village of my birth/youth – Repton in Derbyshire. At one end of High Street is The Square where our family lived and at the other end is The Cross where the Church and the public school is. I am really only interested in a pictorial record of the village. None of us lives there any more but we all harbour memories, mental video tape of our pasts. I am using two sources:

  • A History of Repton by Robert Bigsby (Pub. 1854)
  • Repton Remembered by Repton Village History Group (Pub. 1987)

They have a wealth of material to play with. We are driving to Lancashire early tomorrow so those pleasures will be deferred until we return.

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Week 450

Sunday, 6th August, 2017

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Monday, 7th August, 2017

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

Sisters Janey & Florrie

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

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

Tuesday, 8th August, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, 9th August, 2017

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Thursday, 10th August, 2017

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

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

Friday, 11th August, 2017

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

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

Saturday, 12th August, 2017

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

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

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

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Week 449

Sunday, 30th July, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 31st July, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, 1st August, 2017

Hello August

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

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

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

Wednesday, 2nd August, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 3rd August, 2017

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

The Scene of the Crime!

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

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

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

Friday, 4th August, 2017

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

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

Saturday, 5th August, 2017

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

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

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Week 448

Sunday, 23rd July, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 24th July, 2017

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

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

Tuesday, 25th July, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 26th July, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, 27th July, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, 28th July, 2017

Rustington (village) Town Centre

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

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

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

Saturday, 28th July, 2017

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

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

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

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

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