Week 495

Sunday, 17th June, 2018

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

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

Monday, 18th June, 2018

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

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

Tuesday, 19th June, 2018

Greek & Italian Basil – the same fate!

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

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

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

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

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Week 494

Sunday, 10th June, 2018

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

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

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

Monday, 11th June, 2018

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

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

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

Tuesday, 12th June, 2018

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

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

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

Wednesday, 13th June, 2018

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

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

Thursday, 14th June, 2018

Saint Sauveur, Nouvelle Aquitaine.

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

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

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

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

Friday, 15th June, 2018

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

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

Saturday, 16th June, 2018

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

The Last Supper for Tsipras?

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

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

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Week 493

Sunday, 3rd June, 2018

Planes heading over the coast to Europe.

What a gorgeous, sunny day which reached 26C/79F at peak. The sky was blue all day. I sowed some Rocket seeds for Pauline in the hope that they would be ready just before we go away. I will harvest them hard and hope they will be back by the time we return. It is always difficult growing anything when we are away for weeks.

When we lived in Surrey, we were very aware of planes overhead flying from/to Gatwick & Heathrow. We were about 33 miles from Gatwick and 15 miles from Heathrow. Down here on the south coast, we are about 36 miles from Gatwick and hear no large plane noise at all although we see the sort of sky traces illustrated in this mornings photo as planes cross the coast and the Channel. Of course, we see some smaller aircraft from the local, Shoreham Airport but that is rare and no discomfort. We are extremely lucky. In Surrey, we heard the constant drone of distant traffic punctured by a train somewhere off over the town. Here, we are troubled by none of that.

Monday, 4th June, 2018

Another lovely day of sun and cloud which felt distinctly sultry although only reaching 23C/74F. I spent the morning reviewing our power supplies.

We use British Gas for Dual Fuel supply. It costs us just over £1000.00/€1139.00 per year. It has been fixed for 2 years and runs out in July. I am going to fix it for one more year and the cost will be just £4.56/€5.20 more per year. I was surprised after all the price rises that have been announced recently. I will also take BG up on their service to provide a Wi-Fi based and remotely controlled Hive thermostat which will enable us to switch the heating on/off over the Net.

I like reaching the target.

We did another gym session. I was tired before I got there and even more tired when I left for home. I have completed my target every day in the past 7 and 14 out of the last 16. Pauline thinks I am pushing it too hard but I know that, as soon as I make an excuse to myself and chicken out, I will use that excuse to myself increasingly.

This was the topic for discussion as we drove home and then cooked Calamari outside in the sunshine. I have been persuaded to take a day off tomorrow but I might make a late bid for a swim some time in the morning.

Been watching the replaying of the Jeremy Thorpe saga. I remember it clearly in the original and the increasing incredulity I felt at the time. I can’t believe the strength of the establishment cover-up and the slapstick joviality with which it is now reviewed. From politicians to Director General of the BBC to top policemen and security forces, the arms of the national establishment closed around Thorpe to ensure the general population didn’t lose faith in/respect for/obedience to the elite.

Tuesday, 5th June, 2018

Sky Q box soon to be replaced by pure Wi-Fi.

Tuesday, as everyone knows, is a Day of Rest. Well, it is in our house anyway. To hell with the God Squaders! They probably voted Brexit anyway. We have decided not to go to the gym today. Ok. We feel a bit twitchy but our minds are made up. I’ve been examining the process of moving us to Sky Q, a platform which allows us to carry television viewing from room to room. We already have 6 televisions but satellite on only half of them. Sky Q allows us to pause in one room and continue in another or to save to our phones or iPads to watch on the go. Useful but self-indulgent. I’ve decided to wait because the whole thing will be obviated later in the year when Sky service will become totally on line.

After that brush with new technology, I needed a lie down. Actually, I really enjoyed it. I love these new challenges. Now, I have to embrace computerised control of watering systems to maintain our herbs for 5 weeks while we are away. This is what life’s about – controlling one’s life remotely. In just the same way, I tested myself and sent off my INR result this morning and had an assessment within the hour without ever visiting the hospital. Pauline received a phone call from her doctor to resolve an issue which didn’t need to take up face-to-face surgery time. Soon we will never see anyone ever again. How good can life get?

Wednesday, 6th June, 2018

Life rocketing away!

Warm and humid with the temperature reaching 26C/79F, everything is growing. We spent the morning cutting the hedges for the second time this month. Plants have been trimmed back in the borders. Tomorrow the lawns will need cutting again. I sewed pots of Rocket Salad seeds on Sunday and, true to their name, they are up and rocketing away already.

We went off to the Health Club to do a full gym workout and a part swimming routine. Hot sunny weather brings part time swimmers out and I don’t find it enjoyable and relaxing to have to fight for swimming space. We did 10 lengths (250 ms.) and then stopped. Apparently, the UV levels in our region are at their most dangerous at the moment so cutting down exposure is no bad thing.

As soon as we get back from France, we come to the end of our current EE mobile contracts and are entitled to move or choose new smartphones in exchange for another 2 year contract. I’ve spent some time today looking at alternative smartphone models because our EE service is worth continuing. I expect we will just upgrade to a Samsung S9. We don’t make so many phone calls with it but we do text, access the internet on the go and send and read emails. I follow and update my Twitter feed and Facebook pages. I’ve found I use my camera a lot so a reasonable standard will help. The cameras is a 12mp one which is not the best but will certainly do for anything I want to produce. The contract will be for two phones at £38.00/€43.30 each for unlimited 4G calls and texts and 4mbs of data. This will do fine.

Thursday, 7th June, 2018

A bright but overcast and muggy morning. At 10.00 am the temperature is 17C/63F but feels warmer. The Irish Times has reported this morning that the UK Supreme Court has ruled the Northern Ireland abortion law to be in breach of Human Rights. As a life-long enemy of Roman Catholicism, this is another, wonderful breach of that ludicrously anachronistic religion. It is a cause for celebration.

I grew up in a predominantly Roman Catholic household ruled by my mother. All things about life, food, clothing, finances were tied to religious obedience. I cannot believe now that I submitted to such tyranny but times were very different. My hero was James Joyce’s altar ego, Stephen Daedalus who refused, even on his mother’s death bed to acknowledge the ‘faith’ by muttering Lucifer’s words, Non Serviam. I took succour from that while all the time wondering if I was really strong enough to do the same. It is/was a belief system of utter hypocrisy. Witness in modern times the Magdalene Laundries, the plethora of paedophile priest cases, etc..

I was forced to live a lie – going to church every Sunday under threat of punishment, going to confession every month to ‘confess’ a mere confection of lies that I knew and the priest knew were a confection. Being sent to a Seminary totally against my will but arranged and reinforced by a nun in the hope that I would see the light and become a priest. I marched with the scouts on St George’s Day up to but not in to the village CofE church because, to cross that threshold, would be tacit acknowledgement of another, ‘legitimate’ religion.

It always struck me as odd that a dishevelled man on the streets of Derby, muttering to himself about god was dismissed as a madman who should be locked away but a man dressed in a black frock, walking round the outside of a church, chanting about god was considered the ultimate authority and beyond reproach and was to have his hand obsequiously kissed in an act of fealty. A man from Africa chanting and dispensing felicitations by wafting smoke or spraying water on their followers was to be dismissed with amused contempt as an ignorant savage but a man in a church wafting smoke or spraying water on their congregation was to be lauded as the true representative of ‘god’.

Of course, this religion is founded in hypocrisy by appealing to the natural, human condition of searching for something outside one’s self. It led to my final argument I had with my Mother just before she died. As a teacher, I saw it as my mission to redress the balance and never hesitated to tell children that I didn’t believe in god and could see no, logical reason why anyone would. I told my mother this and she was scandalised by that information. I asked how she could believe in imaginary concepts of authorities which were only social constructs. She asked me why I would deny her the comfort, in dying, of belief in god and heaven. This self delusion is the ultimate hypocrisy. So I suppose it was my Stephen Daedalus Non Serviam moment.

The real irony here is that the predominantly Catholic South have elected a gay prime minister and voted to allow abortion while the predominantly Catholic North have a dour, Presbyterian party calling the shots in denying the population abortion. Never has a united Ireland seemed more possible.

Friday, 8th June, 2018

A hot and very humid day. It reached 26C/79F in early afternoon. Of course, this was nothing like Greece which is experiencing its first heatwave of the year with temperatures approaching 35C/95F in places. We threw caution to the wind and decided to miss our gym routine.

We drove 10 miles down the coast to Bognor Regis made famous by George Vth with his renowned, Bugger Bognor, remark as he recuperated from a chest infection. Actually, it is more Cyril Regis than George Vth. Like so many English seaside resorts, it is fairly tawdry and depressing without its teaming throngs of tourists. Even with them, it is hard to feel affectionate for its charms. It compares poorly with Littlehampton, Worthing and Brighton. We parked up and walked the promenade, down the scruffy pier and back to the car.

Saturday, 9th June, 2018

Another hot and humid day but a little more overcast this morning. Woken by a phonecall from British Gas reminding me that an engineer would be round by 8.00 am to reset my smart metre which had stopped transmitting to them although I could see everything reported fine in my Office. Rushed orange juice and tea and then let in a lovely chap from BG. He was with us for about 20 mins to do something I could have done for them if someone had told me. He said not many of his customers know how to read their smart meter never mind reset it. By 8.30 am, I was making fresh coffee and downloading my paper.

Little time to read the paper though. By 9.30 am I had cut, edged and fed the lawns – front and back – swept the patio and tidied up the garage. Another cup of coffee and I was on to vacuuming the house from top to bottom. A man’s work … Actually, I want to get my ‘step’ ratio up. We are going to the gym at 2.00 pm so I would like to have a reasonable start recorded on my watch. I’m averaging 12,000 paces per day over the past two months so I have a reputation to keep up. An athlete’s work …

Regular readers will know that I love gadgets as well as being target driven. Cordless lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners give me incentive enough to do what I would rarely have done before. Last Thursday, I went to the Dentist. It was just a 6 monthly checkup on my dental plan. Older readers will know that older teeth can be a nightmare when eating. As teeth separate and gaps appear, they are (not to put too finer point on it) food traps. It is impossible for me to travel anywhere without tooth picks.

The dentist asked me if I used dental floss but I find it so hard to get my fat fingers into my mouth and particularly to reach back teeth. He told me I should buy a water jet tooth flosser. I think I had seen one before but never really focussed on it. However, he immediately hit my gadgeteer’s sweet spot and I looked them up on-line as soon as I got home. I’ve got to have one. In fact, Pauline immediately ordered one for me. At a cost of £55.00/€62.70, I will have a gadget which will jet water or air into the crevices of my back teeth without having to swallow my own hand. It will also help eradicate the gingivitis that I have suffered with since my teenage years. Could life get any better?

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Week 492

Sunday, 27th May, 2018

The final week of May, 2018 and another hot and humid day. We have reached 26C/79F today and it feels much hotter in our sheltered back garden. We were forecast thunder and lightning followed by torrential rain last night. We received none of it. The morning broke to news of storms elsewhere but the sky was clear and sunny here this morning and the temperature rapidly rose from 16C/61F overnight.

We have been to the Health Club to do our exercise routine. The only thing we do differently at weekends is drop the swimming. It is no fun fighting for space with the sunbathing crowds or the poseurs in the pool. We are driving up to Surrey tomorrow but will be back in full exercise routine on Tuesday as the workers go back…. to work.

Isn’t it wonderful to see the Roman Catholic Church utterly rejected by one of its formerly staunch bastions – Southern Ireland. It just shows that blind prejudice and nonsense only ever is time-limited. Rationality will always, ultimately, win out. I don’t think I will live to see the ultimate triumph of the complete annihilation of Catholicism but it will certainly come. It will happen with EU Membership in just the same way. Already one can hear the Brextremists dying away.

Monday, 28th May, 2018

Box Hill

Wonderful day. Bank Holiday? I hate Bank Holidays normally! Today was a hot and sunny one which reached 28C/83F. We went out early and drove to Surrey to visit P&C. The drive up was reasonably quiet and pleasant. The countryside is at its most beautiful with thick, new growth in trees and hedges.

About half way through the 50 mile/1 hour drive, I made a strange connection which brought me up short. A sign post for Box Hill suddenly brought memories flooding back of a vaguely surreal recollection. More than 60 years ago, my brother Bob & I were visiting our Grandparents. Grandad took us on a walk up Box Hill. At the time, our grandparents lived in Purley, Croydon. I can remember that they lived in Laburnum Terrace but I have no recollection of how we got to Box Hill or back again. I have never been there since and the memory is hazy but what a strange coincidence that I find myself here again!

As we drove home, the brilliant, hot sunshine disappeared, spots of rain flecked the windscreen and suddenly we were in deep floods on the final stretch of 4-5 miles home. Flash floods had gathered as a cloud burst passed over. Traffic was slowing to negotiate the hazards. By the time we drove in to our drive, the sun was coming out again and all was well with the world.

Tuesday, 29th May, 2018

My Grandfather who I referred to in yesterday’s post was the son of Irish immigrants. He was born in abject poverty in Brighton in 1894 and was christened James Joseph Jeremiah Coghlan. You’d never guess he was an Irish Catholic would you? He worked in London as a French Polisher, Furniture Restorer and furniture salesman. Just before he was about to retire, he was knocked over by a London taxi and badly injured. He retired with my Grandma, Lily, to the small, East Midlands village of Repton where I was born.

As a child at the turn of the century, he learnt his humour very much from the ‘slapstick’ of the silent movies. I can still remember him now trying to tell us children through laughing till he cried eyes about an incident near his cottage. There was a small hump backed bridge across the brook and he was walking round to meet us for lunch. As he did, an elderly cyclist came too fast on his bike over the bridge, hit the hump and flew over the handlebars landing in a heap on the road. It could have been, maybe was, a serious incident but he could only see the funny side of it. He thought it was hysterical.

We had our own slapstick moment this morning which left Pauline mortified but me laughing like a drain (to coin a phrase). All signs of yesterday’s cloud burst had disappeared. Suddenly, while we were in Sainsbury’s, we heard the most almighty roar as torrential rain crashed down on the roof. As she drove us home, Pauline dodged deep puddles and drifts of water where she could. Facing passing traffic in the lane near our house, she had no alternative but to drive straight through a deep rainwater drift and I suddenly heard someone shout out loud,

Oh! Thanks very much.

I looked in the wing mirror and saw a middle aged man walking with a woman and his dog. He was wearing light beige trousers and was desperately trying to brush off the clouds of dirty water squirted up and drenching him. there was nothing Pauline could have done but it was a delightfully slapstick moment that Grandad Coghlan would have loved.

We finished the day with a full, workout session and swim at the Health Club. We came home feeling so happy with our selves and our lives. We feasted on cold salmon with pesto, prawns and salad. Let’s hope this is continued and nobody comes along in their car to drench us.

Wednesday, 30th May, 2018

A warm, steamy and very humid day. The temperature only reached 22C/70F but it felt very close. We did a full exercise routine and left the pool feeling absolutely knackered. I’ve set myself the target of doing Thursday and Friday as well.

We have got just over three weeks until we drive to the Dordogne. Looking back in my Blog, eight years ago this month, we were in a French DIY shop in Greece. Leroy Merlin in Athens is where we were shopping for air conditioning units to upgrade the original ones we had installed in our house and 200 sq.ms. of tiles for our patio which we had finally got round to upgrading. It was the beginning of our taking responsibility for the house after leaving that to Stavros for too long.

It felt good that we were no longer relying on someone else and not subject to the small island politics/commerce that had ruled our lives until then. As a loyal islander, Stavros tried hard to channel our cash through island businesses even if that meant limited choice and increased prices. By this stage, we were aware of this and striking out for ourselves saved us at least 50% of the cost and increased our choice of materials 500%. It was a good time as our house finally received our own stamp on it.

In Greece as in Italy, most are proud to be members of the EU. In Italy, unlike Greece, quite a few would like to be outside the euro. “We are worried that if there is instability in Italy and it has an impact on the financial situation, this financial situation could create extra problems for us,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said as he spoke in Europe. Speaking inside Greece, the public were told ‘everything is under control.’ Two contradictory statements on the same day is the stuff of Greek politics.

Thursday, 31st May, 2018

Oh no! We are losing May so quickly. Let’s hope we lose its torrential rain as well. We’ve had another downpour this morning. It was quite interesting the first time. It’s getting boring now. It was so wet, I had to send my wife out to do the first harvest of the summer’s herbs. It didn’t take her long and she only has to wash, chop and batch freeze them so that’s alright then. The Basil isn’t ready, of course but the picture shows plates of Oregano, Majoram (which is origanum vulgares), Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Tarragon and Wild Rocket.

Anyone who knows me knows I love gadgets. I would buy a gadget even if I didn’t need it just to prove to myself that I could master it. I told Pauline that I would like to convert our fixed heating controls to remote/Wi-Fi ones. This month, we have to reassess our fuel providers as our ‘fix’ is coming to an end in July. We are with British Gas because that’s what was set up for us by our builder. Actually, it has proved to be excellent both in terms of on-line service and price. We have Dual Fuel from them and our 12 month bill for a 4-bedroomed, detached house has been £977.00/€1115.00 which we think is fantastic. Searching around, I might save £50.00/€57.00 if I switched but without guarantee of the accompanying service so I’m not especially inclined to.

Now, they really have me hooked. They are offering a good priced fuel contract with an excellent additional package of Wi-Fi automation. It includes the Hive Active Heating Thermostat, a Hive Hub, Amazon Echo Dot controller, Hive Motion Sensor, some Wi-Fi controlled smart plugs and smart light bulbs. The whole thing comes for £220.00/€251.00 including 90 mins fitting which I think is a bargain. I’m staying with British Gas!

Friday, 1st June, 2018

Happy June 2018 to all our readers. Let’s hope that, after all the recent rain, it will be a warm, sunny and dry month. We will be in France before it ends. Last night I booked an extra trip for September. Shortly after we get back from Greece, we are flying to Edinburgh to meet up with some friends who we haven’t seen for 40 years. Every Christmas in that period we have shuttled the same two Christmas cards between each other with a new newsletter attached and the pledge to meet up soon.

Bjorn, a Norwegian, taught pottery in our school and his wife taught jewellery making. They went off to Edinburgh University to lecture in their disciplines. Bjorn is now retired but his wife continues to produce and exhibit world-renowned jewellery. It is going to be great to meet up again after all this time.

I have a confession to make. I couldn’t make myself go to the gym today. After a whole morning out walking round villages and shops with Pauline, I was tired. We decided to stay at home and do some jobs. By early evening, however, I was getting anxious about not achieving my target of 10,000 paces. I needed another 2,500 as a minimum. We went for a walk down a leafy, village lane past the old, abandoned (plant) nursery and the huge house and estate known as Tall Trees. It was owned until 6 or 7 years ago by the impresario, Lord Delfont. It is currently up for sale for £1,645,000 although it is rumoured that it will be bought for development potential. By the time I got home, I was reading 11,200 paces.

Saturday, 2nd June, 2018

A lovely, warm and sunny day. Mowed and edged the lawns. They are looking very green after all that rain. The basil is developing rapidly although the rest of the herbs are looking very sorry for themselves having been heavily harvested yesterday. They will be back and ready for another savaging when we get back from France in August.

Did a cardio regime in the gym but gave the pool a miss because the weather was so pleasant that we expected it to be busy. School goes back on Monday and we will return to swimming. Today, the sun was out all day and the temperature was 23C/74F. We went home and cooked whitebait in the garden, Whitebait & Salad with ice cold Sauvignon Blanc is a wonderful meal on a day like today.

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Week 491

Sunday, 20th May, 2018

Morning started quite dull – rather mirrored my mood after the yawn of yesterday. No, I didn’t watch the wedding (I’m with SWMBO on that!) but, unfortunately, I did watch the Cup Final and United didn’t even look like winning. I am really not convinced by Mourinho or his tactics any more.

With the tiredness of travel out of our systems, we are getting back in to the old routine this morning. It is mid morning and the sun is coming out. We are going to the Health Club and the week gets under way. We have just 5 weeks of routine before we set off on our drive to the Dordogne where we have rented a Gite in Saint-Sauveur about 10 mins drive from Bergerac. We will be there for a month. The website describes it as:

A traditional Perigordian Building of beautiful warm stone with oaks beams featuring a large Infinity Pool within 3 hectares of garden full of fruit trees and roses.

As I so often say in these situations, We’ll be the judge of that! However, one must approach it with optimism like everything else in life – even the Cup Final. What I ensured was that it has Wi-Fi and British Freeview Television so life can have some continuity.

Monday, 21st May, 2018

A very humid day of alternating sunshine and thunder clouds. We did our exercise routine and, after an hour and a half, we went out to the pool in brilliant sunshine. Swimming was delicious with the warmth, the brightness, the beautiful, clipped green hedges and tall bordering from which the blackbirds and thrushes singing their hearts out. Suddenly, as we swam in the Garden of Eden, dark clouds loomed and then emptied all over us in heavy, driving rain. It drove us out of the pool – we didn’t want to get wet after all – and we moved on to the Sauna, Jacuzzi and Water Massage.

By the time we were showered and changed and walking to our car, the sun was out once again. The temperature had dropped a little after the rain and read 24C/75F.

Our region is served by Southern Railway. They run services to all sorts of interesting places along the South Coast as well as up to London, etc.. Pauline and I could almost count the number of times we have used trains in the past 40 years on one hand but we thought we might use some down here. We’ve used the train three times and each one has been a disaster. Southern Railway is renowned for terrible service currently because it has such poor labour relations.

Today, all the timetables have been altered.  I know we are not the only region to suffer that today but Southern have cancelled many trains and quoted ‘logistical problems’ as the cause. They’ve known for months that this would be coming up but plans quickly went awry. One enterprising executive with an eye for publicity has offered ‘free’ use of his helicopter on a first-cum-first-served basis for a week between Shoreham Airport and London Battersea for a week until rail services are back on track. Apply on Twitter.

Tuesday, 22nd May, 2018

Warm and sunny day which reached 25C/77F. Lovely to be out and about. Especially lovely for outdoor swimming which is, once again, feeling Mediterranean.

Someone had the effrontery to imply that posting pictures and notes about food we prepare and eat in our daily lives is boring, ridiculous, pointless. I always reflect on criticism. I am very introspective by nature and I continually re-examine my thoughts and actions. One criticism of I make of myself would be that I am too self reflective. As is my way, I have pondered on the criticism and why my interest (obsession) with food should annoy someone.

The stuff of life – Fresh Tomato Sauce

I went back to basics and analysed my relationship with food from an early age and how that coloured my development. Being born in 1951, the immediate post-war years still had rationing until 1954 and were informed by ‘filling’, energy giving foods that I couldn’t contemplate now. Bread, Pastry, Suet, Potatoes were the staples. Fried Breakfasts were de rigueur. A number of my siblings and I developed weight problems ultimately. My sister went to Domestic Science College, my brother and I both married girls who went to Domestic Science/Teaching Training Colleges. Subsequently, I have fought a 40 year battle with being overweight. My food now bears little resemblance to my childhood. In fact, it is almost a rejection of it. I remember Mum’s reaction to the idea that one might eat garlic or olive oil as one of sheer disgust. In my life now, those two ingredients allied with tomatoes are my staple.

Sifnos Revithia – Chickpea Soup

If we are what we eat, I am fresh tomato sauce made with olive oil, garlic, dill and a splash of dry, white wine. It reminds me so much of Italy and that is how I experience life through the food and wine of my situation. My abiding memory of Sifnos is of chickpeas – Revithea (Chickpea Soup) was served every Sunday across the island and Revithea Keftedes (Chickpea Balls) are a staple taverna offering. In France, I will never forget dropping in to a fairly shabby looking, old house restaurant when no where else was open and we were starving. We were offered boned & stuffed quails (Cailles) that were amazing and showed such love for the process of cooking. As someone once said : Food is not just eating energy. It’s an experience. That is how Pauline & I and thousands of others like us calibrate our lives and travels through the experience of food. It is woven in to our memories.

As Orson Welles said: Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.

Wednesday, 23rd May, 2018

Happy 71st Birthday to my sister, Ruth. Lets hope she has a lovely day. It’s certainly been a beautifully warm, sunny and increasingly humid day down here. Unfortunately, we are not allowed cakes. Ruth doesn’t need to but we were busy exercising.

All around the pool, people were sunbathing on loungers and being served with food and drink from the restaurant. We (who are holier than thou) were staggering out of the gym and gasping up and down the pool for half an hour. Of course, we felt so much better for it as we drove home in a temperature of 22C/70F but with some cloud drawing over and threatening rain.

Of course, I am so much younger than my sister and still learning new skills. Regular readers will be familiar with my total impracticality. My wife is the person who takes responsibility for anything of a practical nature from rebuilding dry stone walls, plastering, tiling, painting, etc., etc.. We are 2 years in to a 5 year total warranty on our house and all the fittings including white goods. Recently, our externally ducted extractor hood has started rattling like an old car when it is switched above slow speed. Pauline said she would contact the helpline for a an engineer to look at it.

I thought I might take a look and removed the filters. When I turned on the fan and fiddled around, it was obvious that the rattle was coming from a specific area where a screw held the motor. I checked the screw head and found a screwdriver of the right type and right size and tightened the screw. To my amazement, the rattle ceased immediately. Pauline looked at me with eyes wide and astonishment on her face. I couldn’t believe it but turned triumphantly, replaced the filters and got on with the day – with an extra spring in my step. I may not get away with a reputation for total inability again.

Thursday, 24th May, 2018

Up at 5.00 am on a fine, warm and lovely morning. An hour later, we were on the road to the Channel Tunnel. It was a lovely drive along roads edged with the blooming verdant, Spring growth of trees and bushes. Two hours after leaving home, we were on the train going under the sea. The crossing was incredibly busy. The train was full.

Driving off into the streets of Coquelles and then Calais, we drove straight to the Calais Wine Store which paid the £60.00 for our crossing. Everywhere groups of illegal migrants were congregating. Unusually, large groups of Gendarmerie were in evidence. The two groups didn’t seem to be interacting. The migrants focus was the nearby woods where they were camped out and the lorry park which they saw as their target.

We chose and paid for around £600.00/€685.00 of wine (This observation in itself seems ironic.)  and packed up the car. We drove on to Auchan where we bought fresh fish.

Why can they put an island nation’s fish shops to shame. The had a whole tuna fish on the counter and steaks a couple of inches thick were being cut from the middle. We couldn’t walk past. We had to buy some.

After loading up the car, we were back at the Tunnel sous la Manche by 1.20 pm (CT) and back in UK by 12.50 (GMT). The drive home was nice and quiet apart from an articulated lorry that had fallen off the motorway and landed on its side in a hedge. Looked as if the driver had lost concentration.

Home just after 2.30 pm, the car was unpacked and put away in the garage as we reflected on an enjoyable day. We feel lucky to be able to do it.

Friday, 25th May, 2018

The final week of May, 2018 has opened warm and sunny. We are still tired after yesterday. Out early-ish (8.50 am) to do our weekly shop and then home before going out again to 4 different garden centres, all within a couple of miles of our house, to source extra Greek Basil plants. Actually, we bought 4 Italian and 4 Greek Basil plants to supplement our stock.

The temperature was reading 22C/70F, the sky was summer blue and the sunshine was strong. Feeling as we did, the gym was cancelled and enjoyment on the menu. We had to do a trip down to the village which always looks pleasant in the sunshine. Isn’t life wonderful when you’re retired? We’ve been harvesting some of our herb pots – Dill, Oregano, Marjoram and Mint along with a lovely, big bag of fresh Rocket Leaves and Chives for our salads.

Saturday, 26th May, 2018

Greek Island – Halkidiki – this week.

A very warm, sunny but humid day. We are reading 28C/83F at 4.00 pm. We’ve just done a gym workout and come home to a meal of cold, roast salmon with pesto accompanied by tail on prawns and a simple tomato and cucumber salad. It is perfect and delicious. We have a bottle of ice-cold Portuguese red to accompany it and the combination is perfect. It is ironic to be sitting in this sunshine when reports of the weather on the Greek island of Halkidiki have produced the above picture this week. It is not unknown but it is pretty unusual in our experience.

Four weeks today, we set off for our French adventure. We are driving to Saint-Sauveur in the Dordogne where we have rented the property featured above for a month. Our first stop will be in Coquelles and the second night in Orleans before driving to the property featured above which looks over the vineyards of Chateau Monbazillac. I have a cousin who has a property about an hour’s drive away and we will go over and see her during our month away.

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Week 490

Sunday, 13th May, 2018

Sunday – a day of rest and we are not going to the gym today. Newspapers, football, Formula 1 and correspondence. The temperature has been quite warm – 16C/61F – and weakly sunny.

Junk Stone Mail

I don’t know if I have ever written about this before but I am an addict for mail – snail or e. I love it. If I hear mail coming through the letterbox, I am the first to get it. Pauline knows that I must be allowed to open the mail whoever it is addressed to. I make no distinction between significant and junk mail. Mail is mail! Equally, I don’t ‘unsubscribe’ from junk email. I like to browse and delete. I hate the idea of missing out. For that reason, as you can imagine, Sunday is not my favourite day because there is no post. Until today.

Today, I discovered that we had received ‘junk’ mail of the most unusual kind. Outside the door on the garden path was a stone collected from the beach. It had been written on with an inscription that said:

Made to make a stranger smile. Hope it worked.

Love from Helen Joy from Empower Hypnotherapy.

Of course it didn’t work. I don’t need or have interest in Psychco-babble of any sort but it does amuse me greatly. I even bothered to check this out on the internet and found it here – Empower Hypnotherapy. It’s obviously gibberish but good luck to those who pay for it.

Monday, 14th May, 2018

Nice, sunny and warm Monday. Put the bins out. Cut the lawns. Set up the automatic watering system. We are off to Gatwick in the early hours of Tuesday morning so Pauline has been ironing and packing.

EasyJet – We’ll be the judge of that!

We’ve done ‘Check-in’ on line as well as download our ‘Boarding Passes’ to our phones. I must admit that I always like to have a hard copy printed out and in my bag just in case. We fly at 9.00 am so our drive to the airport is an uncomfortable time of 5.00 am.. We will drop off our bags and head for a Lounge (My Lounge or No1 Lounge) at North Terminal to wait for our flight. Our seats are pre-booked each way so nothing has been left to chance. We’ve got ‘speedy boarding’ and  ‘extra legroom’. Now we have to weigh our cases to ensure neither exceeds the 15kgs. We are taking our exercise clothes as well as everything else but it should be straight forward. We’ll probably be in bed by 10.00 tonight so we get about 6hrs sleep. At our age, we don’t adapt to early starts as well as we used to.

Tuesday, 15th May, 2018

Up at 3.00 am and out at 4.30 am on the most glorious morning one could imagine. The sun was rising in a mild and red tinted sky. We drove to Gatwick North Terminal Long Stay Car Park. Even at 5.30 in the morning, the carpark bus was packed with prospective travellers. Everything is automatic in the airport. We had chosen our seats and checked in on line. We went to automatic bag drops, printed out and attached our own luggage labels, went through passport control and into the Aspire Airport Lounge. Orange Juice and coffee but not too much. I never use aircraft toilets!

5* Valencia Palace Hotel

We’ve chosen a really good hotel.

Down to Gate. I have to say that EasyJet have hit a sweet spot over the past couple of years. We took one of the first ever EasyJet  flights from Athens in the 1990s. It was thought of as cheap and unreliable.  We used to rely on British Airways and Olympic Airways in those days. Now, British Airways  feels rather tawdry for short haul and our experiences of EasyJet flights has been well priced, efficient, on-time and comfortable. It is great not to be badgered with airline food nowadays, isn’t it?

The  app on my phone contains my Boarding Pass, tells me which Gate to go down to, whether we are on time or, as recently, early. It tells me which baggage carousel to collect my cases from when I arrive, where to get a taxi from and what’s worth seeing at my destination. I would really recommend it.

Taxi from the airport – just €25.00 for a 15 km trip through the centre of Valencia. It was a fascinating introduction. Our hotel is opposite the Orchestral Centre and the separate and architecturally delightful Opera House in the huge and beautiful park. Throughout the park and throughout the day, young and old walk, jog, run, bike, do outdoor gym work on public equipment in the open air. We were there on a Tuesday evening as hundreds trooped out of the latest Beethoven Recital – training for the mind and emotions as all around others trained their bodies, This is a place of wonderful, modern architecture created for people and their lives now.

Wednesday, 16th May, 2018

A hot and sunny morning. After Breakfast, we set off walking across the city to the Central Market. Why don’t we have a market like this. Every fish known to man is on display at reasonable prices. Scores of butchers, Vegetable sellers, Nuts and Olives, Dried Pulses, everything we love is available here. Some people eat to live and others live to eat. We are most definitely the latter.

Food production, markets and cooking tell one so much about a culture. It provides endless fascination. Of course, those who eat to live see it as a mechanical process reduced to calories and nutrients but come to Valencia and see the excited crowds vying for air-cured hams and beef, for loins of fresh tuna, for myriad choices of olives and olive oils , for herbs in huge bunches, for the most amazing, local tomatoes looking more like star fruit.

Back to the hotel after it seemed like we had been walking all day. Now for a swim. The roof top pool is enclosed during the ‘winter’ with a removable glass roof. We had been amused to see Valencians walking around in jumpers and heavy coats in spite of a temperature of 26C/79F under clear blue skies and scorching sun. I’ve heard of “Ne’re cast a clout til Spring is out” but that’s ridiculous. Well, in the hotel pool, it is still winter and the glass roof remained on meaning a humidity to blow your head off.

Even so, we did a good 30 mins swim. We had the pool to ourselves which was nice. After that, we went up to the roof garden and sat in the sun with a bottle of wine and some olives once again on our own in peace and quiet. We are in the city but undisturbed by roaring traffic and noisy crowds. That is just how we like it.

Thursday, 17th May, 2018

No real sign of fishing in this fish-mad city.

Up for what is only the second breakfast this week and already we are begging for mercy. How do people cope with breakfast every day? Anyway, we force ourselves and then start a long walk in hot sun down to the port and the beach. Actually, it was a fascinating 40 mins walk past schools, supermarkets, restaurants, greengrocers, estate agents etc.. We had to stop and look in many places and even tour round a couple of supermarkets to see what produce looked good. Food is so important in life. You will all remember the famous Oscar Wilde observation: After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.

Valencia parks are beautiful.

We stopped at the port for a drink and a rest before walking back to our hotel for a swim. Actually, while we were there, we got in to a conversation with a Scottish couple and watched three, Valencia teachers working their socks off trying to control about 40, Junior School kids on an outing round the port on a boat. Rather them than me. I’d be amazed if one of those kids didn’t end up in the water even if it was just me pushing them in.The morning’s outing had accrued 13,000 paces without feeling arduous at all. This is such a people-friendly place with such soft and gentle planning that walking is a delightful, leisure exercise.

Our last night. Tonight we are going out for Tapas and a walk in the warm air before packing for our return to Sussex tomorrow. It has been so enjoyable and absorbing that we have already pledged to return and spend longer next time. But there are so many places waiting to be explored. How will we fit them all in?

Friday, 18th May, 2018

Valencia (Manises) Airport

Up early and down to BREAKFAST. I can’t take any more FOOD! When we are leaving a place. however lovely, we don’t like to linger but get on and go. We settled our bill in Euros cash and went outside to get a taxi. A 30 mins drive to the airport cost just €15.00 and was delightful.

Valencia Airport is deceiving. From the outside it is, like all the others, a fairly conventional, concrete structure but inside it is delightful. Of course, it is helped by not being over used. It is, after all, only the 10th busiest airport in Spain. Having said that, it is very well appointed and slickly managed. It has the best Business Lounge – Sala Joan Olivert – we have been in and we have used a large number over the years. It looks as if it has been newly designed and furnished with USB charging points in the sides of all the chairs, fantastic wi-fi speeds and delicious free food and drink. We were there for about an hour reading our iPad papers when a message came in on the Easyjet app to say the plane would be about 15mins late arriving and expressing profuse apologies. It also informed us of a new Gate No. to go to for Boarding.

As we went down to Gate, I spotted someone I thought I knew but couldn’t place him. He was absorbed in his phone messages and I probably stared a bit too long trying to place him. Suddenly, I realised where I knew him from. We watch Saturday Kitchen on television and Matt Tebutt has replaced James Martin as presenter. This was Matt Tebutt with a small Research/Production team. He also presents another programme which we are fascinated by – Food Unwrapped. I was amused that he was flying on an economy, Easyjet flight and I was just chatting to Pauline about it as we took our seats at the front of the plane. Who should sit down immediately behind us but Matt Tebutt and his party.

The flight was fantastic and the journey so short. We have spent most of our adult lives doing interminably long ‘short haul’ flights to Greece, Cyprus and the Canaries. Our early flights to Greece in the 1980s were all over 4hrs long. It felt like forever. This flight was just under 2hrs and it was a dream. I even had the energy to photograph the snow on the Pyrenees as we passed over. The world is a wonderful place from above it. You suddenly realise how lucky birds are.

Back on terra firma, our bags came out together and very early and we were off to get the bus to the Long Stay carpark. Just as it was about to leave for its circuitous journey, a panicking woman leapt on and told the driver she had left her passport in her car and had to get there and back in 20 mins before her flight closed. In spite of looking totally bored with his repetitive route, the driver was fantastic and he leapt into action as well as arranging another to follow him and take the woman back to airport terminal with her passport. Ordinary people can be so impressive sometimes.

Saturday, 19th May, 2018

Up early and out without BREAKFAST. What a relief! We had to do our weekly shop at Sainsbury’s and Tesco. In warm sunshine, shopping can be a delight. The supermarkets were surprisingly quiet at 9.30 in the morning. We zipped round and go home to find television was being dominated by a royal wedding.

What is wrong with these people? How can poor, struggling people lose their hardships by sublimating them into the idolising of a group of people who will never know their struggles or sense of deprivation. I understand the establishment encouraging this ‘bread & circuses’ approach to bolster their own position but why do the disenfranchised fall for it? To people like me of a vehemently anti-monarchy, pro-republican persuasion, the whole thing is incomprehensible. It leaves one thinking, as royalty are fawned over by the impoverished classes, that they get what they deserve. However, I am not defeatist and care to dream of a better future.

Village Humps

We live on the edge of what once was a small village. It is expanding rapidly and exponentially. With expansion come people and cars. The clogged up roads are becoming a big, political issue in our local politics. Traffic-calming measures since before we arrived have included chicane-type barriers to allow flow control but the increased pressure of cars has made these pinch points a serious area of frustration. After endless debate, the chicanes have been taken out and replaced by speed bump/humps that fit in to a 20mph – 30mph limit through the village. It has taken weeks of upheaval but is finally finished. Of course, many are still complaining. That’s villages for you!

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Week 489

Sunday, 6th May, 2018

The sun changes everything and so it does today. I’ve got so much free time that all the garden jobs have been done already and I can sit out in the sun with a coffee and the Sunday papers. Actually, the papers are almost impossible to read on my iPad in strong sunshine but I’m sure I will catch up later in the day. The poor neighbours are still having to catch up with car cleaning (Mine was done by Honda as part of the Service.), lawn mowing (I did mine to make up paces during the week.) and plant watering (I have to restrain myself from overwatering.).

Tarragon, Dill, Oregano, Marjoram, Greek basil, Italian Basil, Thyme, Chives and Rocket

Today might appear to be one for going to the beach but there will be hundreds of others with that idea so we will go to the Health Club which should be all but deserted. That sums us up perfectly – crowds go one way and we head in a diametrically opposed direction. After a couple of hour’s exercise, I will griddle chicken and peppers in the garden and then water the herb pots before settling down with the newspapers.

Monday, 7th May, 2018

As we move into the hottest Bank Holiday Monday since records began, – only since the 1970s – we were up early and out to the beach. We spent an hour walking along the beach path before most of the world was up. Shopkeepers – Shellfish sellers, flip-flop, sunglasses and Worthing Rock sellers, deck chair renters, etc. – were just thinking about opening up. Families, keen to establish their pitch for the day on the beach, were arriving with children, parasols and dogs. The temperature at 9.00 am was 22C.

We drove home by 10.00 am and had coffee before doing jobs. I had to sand down our outdoor cooking table which has served as the base for Griddle, Deep Fat Fryer, Pressure Cooker and outdoor Hob. It took me a couple of hours sanding by hand. I should have bought a power tool but thought it was a bit indulgent. Tomorrow, Pauline will revarnish the wood to get us through another year.

Yesterday reached 26C/79F. This morning was 20C/68F by 9.00 am and reached 29C/84F as we left the Health Club at 3.00 pm. Now, at 7.30 pm, the temperature is still 25C/77F. We will keep these temperatures for another day before returning to the season’s norms.

Tuesday, 8th May, 2018

Another wonderfully warm and sunny day. We spent the morning gardening – mowing the lawns and trimming the hedges – as well as watering potted plants. I’ve got my automatic watering system out ready to set up for next week when we go away. I was tired by the end of the morning but we were determined to do our exercise routine and we were rewarded with a quiet gym and a fairly quiet outdoor pool.

As we drove home through the village, we couldn’t help reflect how beautiful it is. Particularly, at the moment, so many houses are festooned with the most beautiful racemes of wisteria. It grows and flowers particularly well down here and, as a result, is very popular. As the evening came on, the temperature became quiet oppressive and the house felt uncomfortable. We walked outside under the stars. Quite magical!

Wednesday, 8th May, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny day. We had to do some shopping and the trip out was delightful. When we got home, we did jobs outside in the sunshine. I prepared the meal for the afternoon. It is going to be my version of Bouillabaisse consisting of Salmon, Cod, Scallops and Tail-on-Prawns. They were set in a sauce of shallot, garlic, celery, white wine and chopped dill with cherry tomatoes.

In spite of the lovely weather, our exercise at the Health Club began to take its toll today. We have been pushing ourselves quite hard over the past week. In the past 7 days, I have completed 95,500 paces which is an average of 13,650 daily. In the past week, I have covered 50 miles. As Pauline pointed out, if someone said that I should walk just over 7 miles each day for 7 days, I might balk at the suggestion. Still, I’ve done it.

On this day 9 years ago, we were in hunkered down in our Greek house and suffering strong winds and violent hail storms. Symbolically, today in Sussex has been calm, warm and peaceful.

Thursday, 9th May, 2018

Lovely morning. My exercise app awarded me a special flag for achieving 8 hrs sleep for the first time since I’ve been using it. I spent the morning doing some I.T. work. I’ve needed a photo manipulation app for my iPad for some time. I never take my SLR camera with me now when we go abroad and my smart phone camera is better than my iPad camera by quite a long way. The problem is that my smart phone pictures are so huge – up to 7.5 mbs – that I need to reduce them without compromising quality. On my computer, I use Macromedia Fireworks or Adobe Photoshop but these are not available for the iPad. I have managed to combine two apps – Image Diet and Affinity Photo –  which will allow me to do the job and complete my Blog with illustrations of a 100 kb or less which is what I aim for.

I decided that I needed a day off from the health Club and the weather immediately heated up. Strong sunshine and 18C/65F made the day seem really relaxing. We did a spot of shopping and a trip to the garden centre. Pauline griddled Tuna Steaks in the garden which she served with lemon and olive oil dressing accompanied with tomato salad. It was absolutely delicious. We having been eating so much fish and, consequently, drinking so much white wine – mainly sauvignon blanc – that we are rapidly running out. We are going to have a day trip to France to replenish our stocks shortly after we get back from Valencia.

Friday, 10th May, 2018

Lovely warm and sunny day after quite a chilly start to the morning. We reached a balmy 19C/66F as we swam outside this afternoon. The day had started off with a quick trip to Tesco. This week we needed little because we are off to Valencia at the beginning of next week. Did a full exercise programme including a full swim outside and came home for a delightful meal of smoked salmon salad eaten in the garden. Sometimes, one has to be so grateful for these experiences.

Tomorrow, I have to set up the automatic watering system for all the pot plants. The lawns need to be cut and the bags prepared for packing. We will do two more trips to the gym and there is an excellent gym and two pools at our hotel so we will need our exercise clothes.

Saturday, 11th May, 2018

We are off to Valencia for a short break next week. As soon as we get back we are going on a shopping trip to France. After using The Calais Wine Superstore for about 25 years. Even in these straightened times, we still get wine around 40 – 50% cheaper than in UK. I haven’t bought a bottle of wine in UK for over 30 years. As the Pound has weakened and the Euro strengthened, people have been less inclined to make the trip across the Channel in search of duty free booze.

As a result, the Calais Wine Store has teamed up with Eurotunnel to offer ‘free’ crossings in return for a guaranteed purchase of £250.00 of wine. We’ve never bothered to use it but, for the first time, we’ve taken advantage of the offer. We will buy around £500.00 of wine which will save us around £400.00 on UK prices and then save £60.00 on our return Tunnel trip which can’t be bad for poor, old pensioners. Can it? This time we are going to do a one day trip instead of having a couple of nights in a hotel as well. Crossing the Channel at around 9.00 am, we will be home by about 4.00 pm. Just in time for tea (or cheese & wine).

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Week 488

Sunday, 29th April, 2018

Coastal City of Valencia

Cold and grey outside. We have determined to stay in although we are expecting heavy rain and strong, cold winds over the next couple of days so we had to spend time in the back garden sheltering our herb pots and blanketing them with horticultural fleece. Even so, I fear for the welfare of the Basil which may need to be replaced with new plants if the cold blast hits them.

We are off to Valencia in a couple of weeks so I have been checking out plans for connections between airport and hotel and for interesting places to visit while we are there. I suspect that we will do what we always do which is not visit lots of ‘must see’ sights like the Science Museum but walk around the old town and sit in cafes watching the Valencian world go by. We have found a nice, 5* hotel with indoor and outdoor pools plus a good gym and with easy metro links with the city. Looking forward to exploring somewhere new.

Monday, 30th April, 2018

A vile night and day of strong winds, heavy rain and very cold temperatures (hovering around 5C/41F) to mark the end of April. We were up at 7.00 am and out by 8.30 am in heavy, fine and very wetting rain. The sea was grey and leaden as the sky as we drove in to Worthing town.

Pauline was picking up some clothes she’d ordered from Debenhams, having her hair cut at Toni & Guy and I was enjoying a pint of fresh coffee at Starbucks. We drove back through the village/town of Ferring to make a third attempt to pick up a parcel that UPS have been trying to deliver to me for the past 5 days. It still wasn’t there.

I am a mild mannered person who understands that arrangements can go wrong but this organisation is totally unacceptable. Since I ordered this parcel of medical supplies, I have had to make 5 phone calls and drive 3 trips to unsuccessfully collect from an office miles away from my home. Today, the company arrived at my house for the third time while I was out at the Health Club ignoring the fact that we had agreed last week that they would deliver to a UPS Access Point for me to collect.

When I got home I phoned and gave the unfortunate Desk Clerk both barrels. Within minutes, I received a mobile call to confirm that the driver would do what he was supposed to do the first time and actually deliver to the nominated office and that I will be able to collect on Wednesday. I have written to the management of UPS and to the medical company, CoaguChek expressing my disquiet at their level of service. It is one of those satisfying things that retirement gives one time to do.

Tuesday, 1st May, 2018

A cold and very sunny start to the morning. Happy May. I think it’s going to be good. The sunshine soon warmed up the back garden and I was able to take the fleece covers off my herb pots and let them embrace the day.

Embracing the day on the 1st of May is a lovely thing to do. I am still researching raised beds for the garden and, once again, the most amazing coincidence presented itself. I came across a company in Lowestoft, Suffolk who were marketing flat packs of raised bed kits. I went on their web site – Harrod Horticultural – and found a video presentation. Playing it, I was immediately struck by the presenter. I knew him well from my past life. In fact he used to make me coffee most days at work. The presenter, Paul Peacock, was a Science teacher at my school and Pauline’s Assistant for a short while.

About 10 years ago, I was sitting in my Greek house and reading some of the Blogs I follow. One, Democracy Street written by Simon Baddeley, referred to Simon’s relative, Jack Hargreaves, who spent years presenting a country skills programme called Out of Town on ATV. The Blogger, Simon, refers to a Lancashire man who has just written a short biography of Jack Hargreaves and he posts a photo of the author. I take one look at the photo and it is – Paul Peacock who made very poor coffee, by the way. Nice to see he’s still got some work.

Wednesday, 2nd May, 2018

The day started off with heavy rain. We needed to visit Honda because, although our 24 month service has been booked for the middle of June, we have suddenly heard a knocking noise underneath which sounds like the Macpherson Suspension Strut on the wheel mounting. We managed to secure an immediate appointment for tomorrow morning and may bring our service forward to combine and save time.

Getting home, the rain was really driving in and I decided that I didn’t need to put myself through going out in it again. We agreed that we would give the Health Club a miss and do jobs at home. Pauline did tidy up work on the stair case where new-build settlement had left some gaps to fill and repaint. I completed my complaint to UPS having finally collected my parcel today and then prepared our meal which was shallots, garlic, cherry tomatoes and tail-on-prawns with white wine sauce. I accompanied it with roasted yellow peppers and garlic mushrooms. Genius! Well, I enjoyed it anyway.

Thursday, 3rd May, 2018

A glorious morning and day. Blue sky, strong sunshine and increasing warmth which peaked at 20C/68F. We went out early to Yeomans Honda in Worthing. We had a concerning noise under the floor of the car which is just coming up to two year’s old and has only done 14,000 miles. Over the past 40 years, we have had 23 new Hondas and 12 new CRVs. We have never had any concern about any of them before this. The new, hybrid CRV is due out in UK at the turn of the year so we will be replacing this car after when it is about  30+ months old.

We are due a 24 month service in about 6 weeks time so we thought we would cover both things in one visit. We had a ‘courtesy’ CRV to get us through the day and so life could go on seamlessly. We went on to do a full exercise routine at the Health Club. Swimming was a particular delight with warm sunshine sparkling on the clear water and birdsong ringing round the hedges.

Friday, 4th May, 2018

It was forecast and it was delivered. A beautiful, warm, sunny day. From the moment we got up at 7.00 am, the sky was so inviting. We had to do our weekly shop but we managed that by 9.45 am. We were still driving a ‘courtesy car’ because they couldn’t work out what the noise was coming from below the passenger seat. We were driving home when the phone went to say that they had  finally identified the problem which turned out to be the failure of a small, rubber connector on the Macpherson Strut providing suspension to the front, nearside wheel. There was no charge, of course for the warranty work or the 24 month Service because we have 5 years’ warranty and a free, 5 year service agreement.

When we got home, we decided that the day was so delightful that we would give the Health Club a miss. I cut the lawns and trimmed the edges. We went round to our local Garden Centre and bought some more pots, some more Basil and Dill plants and potted them up. We have decided not to rush the raised beds but to install them in time for next season and, possibly, combine them with some more extensive hard garden design.

Sexy or What?

Not going to the gym today will give my poor feet a bit more respite from their regular pounding. Daily workout on the treadmill plus the drying effect of the chemicals in swimming water have combined to make the heals of my feet tough, thick skinned, dry and prone to cracking. I try to ignore it but, when the crack gets as deep as these, I have to have attention.

Every morning, I have my feet softened in a bowl of water, filed or scraped, creamed and taped to pull and knit the crack fissures back together. It is a labour of love that my wife willingly undertakes. This latest problem has been receiving daily treatment for more than a month and is better but not completely cured so a lighter day could well help.  That’s my excuse anyway.

Saturday, 5th May, 2018

Today is notable for two celebrations. Today is the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx birth. A massive influence on world thinking, analysis and subsequent events. Those who wrinkle their noses and scoff at the mention of his name, clearly don’t know how much of his thinking permeates modern life. Marx and Engels foresaw how globalisation would work. They wrote:

In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes.

In 2015, Socialism was the most searched word on Webster’s online dictionary. Socialism does not carry historical baggage for a younger generation left behind by the iniquities of capitalism. A Harvard study found that a majority of millennials reject capitalism and a third are in favour of socialism. Marxist thought will continue to inform Historical and current analysis generating new relations between workers.

Bishops Park Restaurant

On a lighter note, this weekend marks exactly 40 years since Pauline first asked me out. It was a good job she did because I was far too timid to ask her. We went to a small restaurant on the outskirts of Oldham near a golf course. I can still remember the evening with sharp definition which is impressive for someone without a memory.

Even then, it was more café-cum-restaurant and very relaxed. The tables had flowers in a jug centrally on gingham table cloths. Rather as I have remained, I over enthusiastically pushed the flowers aside and seized Pauline’s hand as soon as we sat down. I was dressed in a dark suit and pale blue shirt with dark blue tie. I have no idea what we ate but I remember walking back to the car in the pitch darkness of the carpark of this place on the edge of the moors. We had our first kiss and I knew immediately that I would ask her to marry me. I was just 27 years old and we got married 8 months later in December 1978. Happy, exciting times that I have never regretted for a single moment.

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Week 487

Sunday, 22nd April, 2018

An early and still Marina.

Huge and prolonged thunder and lightning storm last evening. It was exciting to watch with sheet and forked lightning over towards the sea. Briefly, we were swept with heavy, driving rain and we feared for our newly potted-up seedlings but our fears proved unfounded. Usually, a thunder storm clears the air of humidity and draws in cooler temperatures. This did not and the night was rather hot and oppressive.

Two ghosts on the beach.

We woke early and got up. Without breakfast or even a drink, we were parked by the beach before 7.00 am. A beautiful, still day under a gorgeous, blue sky and early morning sun with just a hint of haze over the sea.By the time we get home at around 8.30 am, we have already done a large part of our daily 10,000 paces target and that’s before we go to the gym this afternoon.

By mid day, our meal has been prepared for when we get home from exercise. slices of cold, duck breast and mushrooms to be eaten with salad. If we are starving when we return, there will not be a long wait in food preparation. We might actually have time to read the Sunday papers. How things have changed. While I was working, my Sundays were sacrosanct and set aside completely to Sunday papers. Now I have all the time in the world, I am too busy being active to read them. On this day two years ago, I received my first State Pension and I realised I was old. What does that make me now? Old+2!

Monday, 23rd April, 2018

John – Sleep Pattern

Pauline – Sleep Pattern

Don’t you think sleep is a strange thing? It is something most of us take for granted and rarely reflect on but all humans spend approximately 30% of their lives laying down with their eyes closed and oblivious to the rest of the world. Bizarre isn’t it. Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness. It is a requirement of all sentient beings although, to many of us, it feels a bit of a waste of time.

I have written before that I tend to manage on 6hrs sleep per night, going to bed at midnight and waking at 6.00 am. Actually, last night I was so exhausted after doing 7 consecutive workouts at the Health Club and then walking on the beach yesterday before 7.00 am that I went to bed shortly after 11.00 pm. It felt strange. Of course, like everything else, I monitor my sleep patterns now with my smart watch and phone. I have been doing it for a couple of months and the sleep patterns are very similar.

I fall asleep almost the moment my head hits the pillow and I am into ‘deep’ sleep. Pauline is in very ‘light’ and fairly fitful sleep and wakes twice as many times per night compared with me. If I so much as twitch my toe, she is awake and asking if I am alright. She could fall out of bed and I would be unaware of it. Indeed, there was the famous time when, in another house, an earthquake shook and the garage door rattle like mad – or so Pauline reported because I slept right through and learnt about it over breakfast.

Of course, we now know that lack of sleep can cause heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Guess what I’ve suffered from in the past. Well, this morning I go for my annual Type 2 Diabetes check. I ceased to be Diabetic a couple of years ago but prefer the safety first attention of remaining on the books. I had to have a pre-meeting blood test and my Diabetes Control measurement expressed in mmol/mol has fallen even further into the ‘normal’ having gone through the Diabetic to Pre-Diabetic to Normal over the past couple of years. This, at least, is a reason to stay positive.

Tuesday, 24th April, 2018

Yesterday was St George’s Day (allegedly). I’m not convinced it has any significance although right wing nationalists have long tried to rally around this cause.

Cry ‘God for Harry, England and St George’ – (Henry Vth, Act 3)

I reject Deity, Monarchy and Nationalism. They are constructs that we can do without. So many of those baying for England and St George will be unaware that their hero is merely the stuff of legend which places him as part Turkish and part Greek and someone who never set foot in England – probably because he didn’t have a blue passport. Nationalists like to hang their predilections on this recruiting sergeant.

I have never really felt the need for communal identity. I have written before of hurrying away from the village in which my family were founded and in which I lived for 20 years. Anonymity has always appealed. Not staying in one place for too long feeds into that tendency. It is with some wry amusement that I find myself cataloguing my life in a public Blog and living in a ‘village’ community now although new house building is exploding that description fairly rapidly. The core of the villagers can be observed struggling hard to maintain the concept and we constantly get literature beseeching us to get involved.

‘Involved’ is something that scares me. Instinctively, I shun it. I am happy to observe others enjoyment in participation – even to vicariously participate through the sort of publication that comes through our door on a regular basis. Today it was a directory of local services but it is often publication of the scores of local groups for social interaction from Women’s Institute to Local History to learning Italian. It is amazing to me how social people around us are while I pursue my solitary observations.

Wednesday, 25th April, 2018

Another April day of sunshine and showers. I know this is of no real moment in the great scheme of things but we are trying to grow herbs in pots while spending approximately 12 weeks away. I managed it last year with an automatic water spray system but I am looking for a more reliable and sophisticated solution this (or next) year. I intend to install raised beds with an automatic, drip feed watering system and I used some of this morning to research the possibilities. What an enjoyable project to have the time to evaluate. How wonderful can retirement be?

We did our 10th consecutive day of formal exercise and seemed to be getting stronger as we did it. I am averaging 15,000 paces per day over the past week and have covered 55 miles. Back home, Pauline cooked an absolutely delightful meal of Dover Sole filet with scallops and prawns. Served with salad, it rounded off a lovely afternoon.

Thursday, 26th April, 2018

A quiet day in which we went through our normal routines. Morning was spent replying to correspondence, reading newspapers and Faceache/Twitter_feed, bit of housework, etc.. The weather outside has been decidedly Aprilion with sunshine and showers. Even our swim was started in warm sunshine and finished in breezy showers.

I was expecting a delivery of INR testing strips from Coaguchek which was delivered by UPS just as we were out at the Health Club. When I got home, I had a hell of a job to  trace the package, contact UPS and set up a delivery to a pickup point. Some companies make it easy and some have little idea. I could have been old, frail, alone and desperate for these supplies. Fortunately, I am none of these and have ordered them weeks early so my supply is seamless.

Friday, 27th April, 2018

Mum circa 1983 aged 60 in Bretby

Today is the 10th anniversary of my Mother’s death. It happened at a difficult time in my life. I was grossly overweight and had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Work was winding down towards retirement and we were searching for answers to our way forward. My relationship with my Mother had always been a confused and confusing one. I remember my emotional turmoil as I wrote an oration for the funeral service.

Mum circa 1943 aged 20 in Croydon

Strangely, although this may just be a trick of my memory system, it seems so much longer ago. It was a different world. She represented a different world, value system, morality, religion. It is a world which most of us have now rejected and replaced. Right up to the end, Mum still talked about the ‘nigger in the wood pile’ and ‘golliwogs’ – the dolls from her youth – without much sense of prejudice. She talked of ‘eye-ties’ (Italians) stinking of garlic and thought pork pie was for the Working Class. She went on a Nile Cruise and told me in horrified tones afterwards that some people on the boat wore ‘Trainers’ not nice ‘Court Shoes’ like her. She had a lot of Hyacinth Bouquet about her.

I understand that her tendency to snobbery and over exaggeration of ‘station’ came from her feeling the need to compensate for her, distant Irish immigrant background. Unfortunately, as any reader of this Blog will know, I well and truly caught the affliction. However, she also gave me so many tools which have stood me in good stead – a love of words and ideas, of argument and debate, of art and music, of nature. This August, she would have been 95 and I remember her here.

Saturday, 28th April, 2018

First trimmings of French Tarragon.

A grey but mild day. We’ve decided to have a couple of day’s rest. Pauline is looking forward to making a new batch of bread – for herself – and I have done a bit of tidying up in the garden. We did have a fruitless trip out to Ferring to collect a parcel which still hadn’t been dropped off and to Sainsburys for Tahini paste which they hadn’t got in stock. Traffic around here on a Saturday is very busy and to be avoided if at all possible.

Pauline is roasting chicken for our meal and flavouring it with the first trimmings of the new season’s French Tarragon from our garden. The herbs and salad leaves are growing well inspite of the rather poor weather. The recently planted out fig bushes and olive tree all seem to be loving their release from pots and into open ground. I have high hopes for them.

In Greece, it is reported that eight years of austerity imposed by its Eurozone partners will end this summer. At the same time, however, it is also reported that

Greece’s economic crisis is over only if you don’t live there.

Everyone else, in other words, might have moved on because Greece isn’t threatening to knock over the other dominoes that are known as the global economy anymore, but its people are still stuck in what is the worst collapse a rich country has ever gone through. Indeed, if the International Monetary Fund’s latest projections are correct, it might be at least another 10 years before Greece is back to where it was in 2007. And that’s only if there isn’t another recession between now and then

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Week 486

Sunday, 15th April, 2018

The day has opened much cooler and rather grey. I suppose it is only the middle of April but I expect better. I will get better tomorrow, I hear. It was ever thus!

James Joseph Jeremiah Coghlan (1894 – 1976)

Politics programmes, Sunday papers, blah, blah, etc. You’ve read it all before. Actually, I helped Pauline prepare a document for our Greek friends on the merits of Tumble Dryers (You heard it here first!) and their availability in Greek outlets like Kotsovolos. The cheapest ones can be purchased for just over €320.00/£277.00 which is not too extortionate.

A member of my family then started a chain email concerning the possibility of seeking dual nationality through our Grandparents’ Irish heritage. They were seeking information of the birthplace of our Grandfather. Unfortunately, I was about to dash their hopes because I knew that Grandad was born in Brighton – an irony that is not lost on me considering where I have ended up. Our Grandfather – James, Joseph, Jeremiah Coghlan – couldn’t have been more Irish in origin but he was born in 1894 to Irish immigrants in Brighton. It just goes to show that you can’t even rely on your own Grandfather over Brexit. He is pictured opposite during the First World War when he served in the Cavalry.

Monday, 16th April, 2018

Gorgeous, gorgeous day. Blue sky and warm sunshine. After mowing the lawn for the second time this month, we returned to the exercise regime. It felt great and swimming in the outdoor pool under strong sun and blue sky felt positively Mediterranean.

The first part of the day was taken up with a visit from a painter who was going over the filled and sanded plaster work which had received remedial work. The painter, a lovely chap, did the work – two coats – in just over an hour. We now have the exact name of the paint so that we can do incidental touch-ups ourselves. We have three years left on our warranty but getting people in can be a bit of a pain so it is good to have a supply in the garage to do small jobs ourselves.

We bought a £1000.00 of Euros yesterday at £1.00 = €1.1301 online on Saturday and picked them up today. We will continue to forward buy currency as the rate dictates over the next few months to fund future travel. I use International Currency Exchange  and I am an account holder of Moneycorp – both specialist FX Traders – and yet Tesco are currently offering better rates than both.

Tuesday, 17th April, 2018

Another lovely day. The garden was in sunshine. My friend, Brian from Oldham, phoned which was nice. It is one of the penalties of living at either end of the country that we don’t get to meet so often. Another really enjoyable session at the Health Club. The pool was delightfully quiet, sunny and warm.

Strange to think we would now be back, hard at work if still in Education. Members of staff who are still there have been recording the end of their holidays as they dash back from Spain or wherever. Instead, we have meandered through our day indulging our preferences. This life could be so much worse.

My INR, which I test every week, has to remain between 2.0 – 3.0. For many months it has been near perfect. Because of that, I have been allowing myself to eat illicit things like Rocket Salad which contains high Vitamin K that mitigates against the efficacy of the anti-coagulant, Warfarin, I take each day. I used to call green salads Rabbit Food but, as soon as they were prohibited, I craved them. Well, today has proved a step too far as I have fallen to the bottom of the scale with INR = 2.0. All green vegetables are back off again.

Wednesday, 18th April, 2018

Glorious day of sunshine and 72F/22C temperatures. It is really good to see some Summer weather after such a long Winter. For some strange reason, the outdoor pool was madly popular. All the stalwarts of winter swimming were looking at each other and suggesting their fair weather friends ought to have served their time if they wanted parity outside.

Common Thyme & Lemon Thyme

We had done a morning of shopping for building/’snagging’ materials plus plants for our herb collection. This year we are going to concentrate on Tarragon (which we already have and has overwintered well), Oregano, Dill, Basil, Chives and Thyme. We can only cope with an assembly of patio pots this year because we will not be at home enough to manage anything else. I use an automatic watering system and all the herbs are regularly cropped and frozen for use across the year. Particularly, we need lots of basil to make Pesto which we use a lot with Salmon dishes and Dill which we use with most other fishes.

Thursday, 19th April, 2018

Haskins Garden Centre

A beautiful day. The Met. Office says it has been the hottest April day in my lifetime. We didn’t go to the beach because of predictable human behaviour. You can guarantee that hot sunshine will have brought out many sun worshippers on the beach. Instead we went to the garden centre where the other half of the world had considered it a good place to congregate.

In spite of the scorching weather, we went to the Health Club and did our full gym routine but the world had moved from the garden centre to the outdoor pool so we didn’t swim. We rather resented it but it would have been too stressful to fight for space to swim. We went home and sat in the sunshine.

Friday, 20th April, 2018

Well mid-Summer in mid-April is very welcome. We seem to have gone from 0 – 60 in a matter of a few days. The sticks have become hedges all around our village. As I drove, I was accustomed to viewing fields and vistas that now are obscured by burgeoning hedges. One’s heart leaps to see this. Re-birth everywhere. A school of young starlings have adopted our back garden lawn and are learning to launch themselves from the fence. Flowering trees decorate the roads and gardens. Thrushes sing from the trees around. Our fig trees open their beautiful, new year’s leaves and the lawn is blooming with verdant energy.

Looked back in my Blog to 9 years ago. I recorded:

Spent the week playing at being retired: getting up after 7.00 am, reading the newspaper, gardening, shopping off-peak, popping out to the Garden Centre.

Nine year’s on, we ‘popped out to the Garden Centre’ and bought Dill, Sweet Italian Basil and small leaved Greek Basil. We will pot it up tomorrow and look forward to growth.

Saturday, 21st April, 2018

An hot, sleeping out of the duvet, night. We are still on 3.5 tog but will reassess in a few days and look to go down to 1 tog unless, of course, it suddenly snows. Today, we will pot up our Basil, Oregano and Dill plants ready for their Summer encouragement. Other than Tarragon, these are the herbs we use most on a regular basis.

We use so much Pesto that the Basils will have to work hard. This year we have 6 plants and would expect to harvest them at least twice and, hopefully, 3 times. This should combine with pine nuts & Parmisan to make enough Pesto to get us through the year. Pauline separates it into 50g parcels for freezing. When you’ve got a chef in the family, things go very smoothly.

The temperature read 18C/65F at 9.00 am and 25C/77F by mid afternoon. We did our 6th, consecutive full workout and swim and really enjoyed it. Back home, we cooked an old favourite outside in the garden – fried calamari. We ate that for the first time in Sifnos almost 30 years ago. The evening has developed into quite a humid one that is reminiscent of elsewhere.

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