Week 461

Sunday, 22nd October, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 23rd October, 2017

A dull and dank day only reaching 14C/57F. Every time we go away and use someone else’s Wi-Fi network, one of us finds our email service splutters and causes send and/or receive problems on our return home. Invariably, it rights itself over the next few days but, as the computer literate member of the house, it is my responsibility to sort it out.

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Week 460

Sunday, 15th October, 2017

The Great Storm of ’87.

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

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

Monday, 16th October, 2017

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

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

Tuesday, 17th October, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, 18th October, 2017

Hollinwood Crematorium

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

Hollinwood Crematorium

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

Yorkshire was beautiful but very cold.

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

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

Thursday, 19th October, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, 20th October, 2017

Accident Closed M40.

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

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

Saturday, 21st October, 2017

Fig leaf anyone?

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

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

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Week 459

Sunday, 8th October, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 9th October, 2017

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

Luxury accommodation on Samos.

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

Tuesday, 10th October, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, 11th October, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 12th October, 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, 13th October, 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, 14th October, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Week 458

Sunday, 1st October, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Monday, 2nd October, 2017

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Tuesday, 3rd October, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, 4th October, 2017

Bournemouth Pier

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 5th October, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, 6th October, 2017

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

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

Saturday, 7th October, 2017

Sea Bass for the griddle.

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

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

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Week 457

Sunday, 24th September, 2017

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

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

Monday, 25th September, 2017

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

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

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

Famous last words!

Tuesday, 26th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 27th September, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, 28th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, 29th September, 2017

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

When shall we three meet again?

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

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

Saturday, 30th September, 2017

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

Flowers from Catherine

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

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

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Week 456

Sunday, 17th September, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 18th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 19th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Avoid being late by not flying at all. Brilliant!

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

Wednesday, 20th September, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, 21st September, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, 22nd September, 2017

Sunrise on the shoreline this morning.

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

Heuchera Rio

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

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

Saturday, 23rd September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Week 455

Sunday, 10th September, 2017

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

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

Monday, 11th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 12th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 13th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 14th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, 15th September, 2017

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

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

Saturday, 16th September, 2017

It won’t be like this!

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

Maybe more like this.

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

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

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

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

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

They charged one and let the other one off.

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

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

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

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Week 454

Sunday, 3rd September, 2017

From the Sunday Times – 3/9/17

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

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

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

Monday, 4th September, 2017

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

Angmering Station

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

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

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

Tuesday, 5th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 6th September, 2017

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

Perfect Student Uniform!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 7th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 8th September, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 9th September, 2017

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

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

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Week 453

Sunday, 27th August, 2017

Tarragon Processing

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

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

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

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

Monday, 28th August, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, 29th August, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, 30th August, 2017

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

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

Thursday, 31st August, 2017

Lycabettus Hill, Athena

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

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

Friday, 1st September, 2017


 

 

 

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

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

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

Saturday, 2nd September, 2017

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

Foxhills Hotel & Country Club

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

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

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

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

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Week 452

Sunday, 20th August, 2017

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

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

Monday, 21st August, 2017

View from my window.

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Tuesday, 22nd August, 2017

Happy 94th Birthday, Mum.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 23rd August, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, 24th August, 2017

Lovely, fresh Swordfish.

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

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

Friday, 25th August, 2017

Swordfish griddled in the garden.

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

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

Saturday, 26th August, 2017

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

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