Sunday, 5th March, 2017
Not a pleasant day outside. Not cold but intermittently wet. Who cares. Today is an ‘in’ day. I am being forced to watch the politics programmes and the Chancellor, as he does every time, telling us that he cannot reveal what will be in his Budget. Why do they invite them on? I know it is probably the only time they will agree to be interviewed but only because they have a cast iron case for answering no questions. Watching it is almost as bad as sitting outside in the rain.
A couple of football matches this afternoon but not before I am forced, forced to eat a homemade sausage. Only in the name of road testing, of course. Yesterday, Pauline made 2 kilos of Pork & Sage sausages. She had a bit of a struggle getting the hog skin casings on to the injection nozzle but, eventually managed it and produced these beauties pictured. I have to tell you that they taste wonderful. We don’t buy commercial ones any more but these would put me off them anyway.
This year, it will be 50 years since the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think I have written before that my life which was once dominated by music is now almost totally bereft of it. I have actually worried that there was something wrong with me as I kept trying to listen and continually found it such a struggle I have given up.
I have to admit that I was never really a devotee of ‘pop music’ although, as an intelligent boy growing up in the 1950s – 60s, I had and still have a fairly encyclopaedic knowledge of songs and artistes of that period. It stopped dead in 1972 when I started teaching and discovered Chopin.
My brother, Bob, was far more ‘alternative’ and counter culture in his musical persuasions. While I was listening to The Beatles, he was in to The Rolling Stones and John Mayall & the Blues Breakers. I wasn’t passionate about pop music then like many others of my generation were. I hated discos and dancing although I was enticed by the girls who congregated there. There were two, seminal moments of sheer epiphany for me. I will never forget hearing The Moody Blues ‘Go Now’ in 1965 for the first time and almost being knocked off my feet. A year later, I really was stunned by the emotional power of Lorraine Ellison‘s ‘Stay With Me’. I thought that I was probably the only person it spoke to until I heard top performers choose her record to be in their Desert Island Discs.
By the early 1970s, as a harassed teacher, I became addicted to Chopin’s Etudes & Nocturnes. I played them to death and, by the time I was moving into the 1980s, I was teaching myself opera and became passionate about Mozart, Donizetti and Puccini. That continued well in to the 2000s. Why have I lost it completely now?
Monday, 6th March, 2017
A pleasant day of sun and sea breeze which reached 11C/52F. We were out early to Worthing so that Pauline could have her hair cut at Toni & Guy. She had a 9.30 appointment. Her haircut at £59.00/€68.20 is less than she was paying at Vidal Sasoon in the North ten years ago.
I had a similar appointment with the coffee and Wi-Fi at Starbucks. As you can see from my photo, it was standing room only.
The coffee was poor compared with the ones my machine makes back home and they charge around £2.50/€2.90 for it. The flavour is bland and the strength is ‘weak’. There was only one, poor girl running the place although she wasn’t over run with customers. The Wi-Fi is good.
An hour later, we walked a couple of streets to the sea front by the pier to go to M&S where I really indulged myself with a pack of socks. Is it me or do socks wear out a lot more quickly these days? It was as we walked back to the carpark that a couple of remarkable things happened. By ‘remarkable’ I mean worth remarking on although not extraordinary.
- To get to the multi-storey carpark, we have to walk through a shopping centre which contains a betting shop with gaming machines. As we approached it, a man on a motability scooter drove up at pace, parked outside the shop and the driver got off and ran in to place a bet.
- We have to pay for the carpark before we go up to our car. The cost for 2 hours was £2.00/€2.32 . Pauline put the first £1.00 coin in and it got stuck. Nothing we could do would dislodge it. Eventually, we pressed the intercom button and an ‘operative’ was dispatched to open up the machine. Pauline was given her £1.00 coin back and told to try again. This time, the machine demanded £3.00/€3.48. We had stayed 2 mins too long.
Life’s strange really. Isn’t it?
Tuesday, 7th March, 2017
A gorgeous day of blue sky and sunshine. Not hot but we did reach 12C/54F which felt delightful. The trees and shrubs are bursting with green buds. Early flowering trees are doing their job and the birds are calling as if they have just been released from eternal darkness. Another early trip out to Rustington via Asda and Sainsbury’s.
Rustington town centre in the Spring sunshine is lovely. Pauline was going to check-out and provisionally book a facial at the Beauty Clinic. Haircut (£59.00/€68.20) followed by Facial (£52.00/€60.10) – what will come next? You can see how happy it makes her – the little demon!
Back in time for The Daily Politics and homemade vegetable soup and then off to the gym. A solid hour of cardio and a relax in the giant Jacuzzi and then home for Greek Salad/ Ελληνική σαλάτα and Whitebait/μαρίδα or Αθηναίοι. The fish was cooked out in the garden in glorious sunshine and tasted all the better for it. We have a day off tomorrow because it is the Budget.
Wednesday, 8th March, 2017
A warm night has opened on a warm but grey day with horrible, fine, ‘wetting’ rain. Today is our ‘Half Term’ as we are staying at home and we couldn’t have chosen a better day to do it. Actually, I went outside last night and, under the moonlight, could still hear birds desperately calling for mates at 10.00 pm. I know the feeling! Spring has definitely sprung.
Today, however, is a different matter. Dull and damp outside, let’s hope the Budget gives us lots of tax breaks and pensioner handouts. We certainly deserve them. To hell with all these bleating youngsters. When they’ve haven’t experienced astronomic inflation rates and mortgage rates, they don’t know they’re born! I had been teaching for 4 years and still on a very poor salary when the UK inflation rate hit 26.9%. Married in 1978, we were buying our first new house together and stretching ourselves to the limit when the mortgage rate was hitting 15.5% and didn’t drop below 11% for a decade. Now, mortgage free, it is our turn.
And when it’s your turn, there’s nothing better in the morning than superfast broadband and a large cup of freshly brewed, frothy, cinnamon-topped coffee with complete freedom to direct the course of one’s day. Today, for me, I am going to follow PMQs with the Budget speech and analysis. I am going to spend my afternoon, planning Spring and Summer time travelling. Let’s leave the youngsters to figure out how they can avoid work by going on Gap Years or taking Career Breaks. Life is hard when your young. That’s why retirement is so much fun.
Thursday, 9th March, 2017
Happy 62nd Birthday to my little sister, Catherine. It’s good to see that she is so happy and healthy but to actually acknowledge her age means I have to accept my own. We were both born in a small, East Midlands village in the 1950s. Catherine lives, merely by accident, within a few miles of me in West Sussex. Coincidence is a strange beast!
At least she had a lovely day to celebrate getting closer to her state pension although she will have to wait another 4 years which is quite ridiculous. Pauline got hers when she was 61. Catherine won’t get hers until she is 66. That’s what the huge, WASPI demonstration in central London was about yesterday.
Today has been a wonderfully warm and sunny, Spring day. We reached 16C/61F at mid afternoon and even now, at 7.00 pm, it is 12C/54F. Actually, this is exactly the same temperature as Sifnos this evening. I thought I would feature an attractive photo of the schizophrenic weather as a storm crossed Kamares bay this morning.
We’ve done our weekly shop. Each time, we try to buy items for the Food Bank collection box which stands at the Checkout. We tend to buy tins of meat because they are durable and easily manageable for the organisation. It’s quite hard to buy without seeing individuals who might be benefitting and we get to the barmy point when we hope they are not bored with our contributions or think we should be buying pasta or rice to complement the meat. The ‘Needs’ list by the collection point never changes so we go on buying tins of meat. Be interesting to know who it does help.
Friday, 10th March, 2017
A misty, moisty morning. Although we reached 14C/57F, it didn’t feel so pleasant outside this morning. Pauline went out to have a ‘facial’ at a Rustington Beauty Parlour. I stayed at home and felt the isolation of a silent house. Later, we did a couple of hours in the gym before coming home to a meal of smoked mackerel, prawns and garlic bean salad.
We are expecting Brexit to be formally triggered next week. Today, I am eating strawberries grown in Spain and wondering how long I will still get these. As I am about to book Greek hotels for our summer trip, the pound sterling falls to £1.00 = €1.14 and I curse those simple minded Brexiteers.
Saturday, 11th March, 2017
A pleasant day leavened by England’s thrashing of Scotland in the rugby this afternoon. Spring weather seems to be bringing people out in to the shops. This is something not to be encouraged when we are out shopping. I marked this turn in the season by treating the lawns to a liberal top dressing of enrichment laced with weed killer. Only time will tell if that £20.00 feast was justified.
We aren’t going to the Health Club this weekend so we’re trying to cram in lots of jobs that we have started but not completed over the past few weeks. We are in the middle of booking hotels for our pan-European odyssey and working out timings and mileages between stops. The days are gone when we just crossed the Channel and then drove like bats out of hell until we hit the docks in Ancona some 15 or so hours later. Now we can take our time and enjoy the trip.
Another job I have to do is look to move savings into longer term, higher returning vehicles. It is almost time to ditch ISAs – certainly ‘cash’ ones and move in to Bonds as inflation attacks savings. This is particularly the case while returns on investments are low and we have a joint, tax-free amount of £2000.00/€2,300.00 unearned income a year. Now our house buying and furnishing process is complete, we can lock some capital up for a while and defend its value from the ravages of inflation. Because we have a Final Salary Pension, we didn’t need an annuity, thank goodness. As it is, I played the game of working out what size pension pot we would have needed to provide our level of pensions and according to actuaries, it turned out to be around the £1 million / €1,140,000.00 mark which is extraordinary in itself. Pauline and I set ourselves the target of living long enough to empty that imaginary pot. Our digital accounts tell us that we have almost halved it already. Must keep living!