Week 434

Sunday, 16th April, 2017

Happy new week. A nice, sunny morning although not over warm. I sat in the garden to read my newspaper although it is rather awkward mixing sun with an iPad screen. Pauline was in the kitchen preparing a leg of lamb with a herb crust to be slow-cooked and then to be eaten this afternoon. All around, families are out walking in the sunshine with kids on scooters and Dads in shorts. Time to stay at home and dream of Europe.

Bologna is too far to drive this afternoon but will be on our route this summer and I was looking for a nice hotel when I came up with this photo. It seems criminal that anywhere can be allowed to look this beautiful. We are hoping to stay in Genoa, Lucca, Bologna on the way out and Modena, Parma, Piacenza on the way back.

The intention is to drive to Italy via the South of France route stopping at Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin and then to return up the route we have used 30 or more times – the E35 past Milan and round Lakes Como, Lugano and Maggiore into Switzerland to Bellinzona and Lucerne on the way back calling at Mulhouse in Alsace. The planning is, of course, half the fun although I am struggling to make decisions about hotels this year which is why I keep going on about it.

Monday, 17th April, 2017

Picture from Chiswick House & Garden from Liz.

It’s 12C/54F here but feels chilly in the breeze. I received a text messager from my skinny, little sister – Lizzie Dripping – this morning suggesting that I resist driving through Europe this summer and take a Shearings coach tour to the Italian Lakes instead. She has clearly spent too much of her career working with old people.! Actually, we don’t really understand why the Italian Lakes are so prized. As destinations in themselves, they are fairly tawdry and fraying around the edges. To a previous generation who were unaccustomed to easy, European travel, they may have represented ‘refined abroad’ but we are stayed in hotels around the lakes en route to other destinations and not been over enamoured. We certainly haven’t enjoyed Swiss hotels at all.

Liz sent me this picture of a nesting duck in Chiswick House grounds. I received it while I was out shopping – for a 1.5 Tog Quilt. Our house is so hot, we are struggling to sleep. We went to our nearby Dunelm to buy a new Quilt. Just be chance as we were getting out of the car in their carpark, a beautiful, big, fat, brown rabbit casually loped by and browsed the grass and leaves. It seemed totally unconcerned by us as I frantically searched for my mobile phone to take a photo. By the time I found it, the rabbit, sensing that I am a roast rabbit fan, had begun to look for safety. This is the only reason that my photo is less composed that that from Liz.

Tuesday, 18th April, 2017

Gorgeous day of sunshine and blue sky. Spent the morning outside doing a full valet of the car. Went to the gym at 1.00 pm for a couple of hours. Worked out in an idle moment that we do about 50 Km each week which is reasonable. Wonder how much we did when we were working?

General Election in UK called even though it is not in the gift of the Prime Minister to call. It will become a re-run of the Brexit Referendum and a measure of how opinion has moved in the past few months. Many of us who would vote for an inanimate brick if it promised to vote against Brexit settlements, welcome this opportunity to make our voices heard. We will be looking for a grand electoral pact between Labour / Lib.Dems. / Greens / Scots. Nats. to force a re-think.The Tories could well have miscalculated and it will be our job to ensure they have! The election is dated June 8th. The best tweet of the day said,  June will see the end of May!

Wednesday, 19th April, 2017

A day which looks much nicer than it feels. Blue sky and sunshine over a temperature which was 4C/39F at 7.00 am and has only reached 11C/52F at mid-afternoon. We went out early to Worthing sea front to collect an order from M&S and then Pauline went on to the hairdressers. I sloped off to Café Nero for an hour’s people watching and coffee.

Last time we did this, I went to Costa Coffee but was very dissatisfied with it. The Wi-Fi was strong but the coffee was poor and the furniture was Spartan and uncleansed. The Café Nero  was even worse. The coffee was poor and the furniture was Spartan and uncleansed but the Wi-Fi was poor also. I will stay in Waitrose coffee shop next time.

The pound sterling appreciated this morning against the news of a General Election. It moved to £1.00 = €1.19 for the first time since the Brexit calamity. I took the chance to buy an extra £1000.00 of Euros from my Forex company. As I did so, I checked my transaction history and was surprised to find that I bought £3000.00 of euros in 2012 at a rate of £1.00 = €117.50. It just shows how these rates don’t move very far although not so many years ago, we were buying at £1.00 = €1.42 which would be nice to see now.

Thursday, 20th April, 2017

Cold start to a beautiful day. Blue sky, strong sun moving from 2C/36F to 15C/59F over the day. It was shopping day which meant visiting Asda, Sainsburys and Tescos as well as Argos and Wickes within the span of 2 hrs. As we drove home, we came across a couple of blue-lighted police cars and a large group of men standing on a traffic roundabout which featured a car on its roof. Later, we heard that an elderly motorist had hit the curb and flipped over on to the roundabout with the road being closed for over an hour.

After unpacking and relaxing with a cup of coffee as we digested the Labour Leader’s election presentation, we set off for the Health Club. The gym has been completely refurbished with new equipment after closure for a fortnight. It is really good. We did almost 2 hrs of exercise including swimming in the outdoor pool and it was almost 3hrs door to door as we arrived home.

Friday, 21st April, 2017

High notes from the Sea Bass.

The day starterd off grey but mild and went on to become bright, sunny and warm at 16C/61F. We went down to the beach to buy fish. The hut was crowded with customers which is always a good sign. Local Turbot, lovely, large, wild Sea Bass and locally caught Dover Sole (which seems a contradiction in terms) will feature on our plates over the next few days. The beach is just delightfully relaxing. Tourists could be seen wandering around with pots of Winkles and huge, fat gulls hung around hopefully.

We were supposed to be going to the Health Club but I was aching so much after yesterday that I ducked it at the last minute. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I go to the gym, my recovery period doesn’t seem to be improving. It’s annoying!

Saturday, 22nd April, 2017

Genoa

Lovely, warm and sunny day that reached 15C/59F. After Breakfast, I decided to be decisive and book all the hotels on our European drive out and back. We will go:

Coquelles, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin, Genoa, Lucca, Bologna, Bellinzona, Mulhouse, Reims, Coquelles

over the month of July. I have used IHG hotels because their quality is reliable and I am a member but, where necessary, I have sourced additional hotels through Booking.com with whom I am also a member. Booking.com give me reductions on prices because of my membership and regular usage. IGH hotels give me points and I had enough to book 3 of the nights with breakfast free of charge which saved me over £300.00/€360.00.

Lucca

Because we are going out down the Southern route – A6, A7, A43 – we will be visiting and exploring places we have never been to before like Genoa and Lucca. We will take our time and stay in each place for a number of nights so that we can explore neighbouring areas. For example, we will use Lucca as a base to explore Tuscany and, in doing so, explore places for long-term-let next year or even purchase.

We don’t want the large house that we had in Greece but a small apartment which we could use as a base for a few years would be interesting. Pauline describes it as an extended hotel room where we can cook and store our belongings. It is nice to have those options in our retirement. Actually, in the late 1970s and early 1980s when we were first travelling to Greece, we would both have preferred Italy but it was so expensive then. To buy or build a house would have been prohibitive. Not so now. In spite of the £/€ rate, prices are much more accessible in Italy now.

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Week 433

Sunday, 9th April, 2017

Glorious mid-summer’s day that reached 23C/73F at its peak. We were out early for a walk along Littlehampton Marina. Lots of other people and their dogs seem to have had the same idea but we did an hour’s walking without too many obstacles. Everyone was taking advantage of the weekend and the lovely weather. On the water and on the beach people were making the most of it.

There seemed to be boats of all sorts moving out of the Marina and a flotilla of sail boats preparing for a ‘race’. Children starting on their school, Easter Holidays were out in force on scooters and being dragged behind pet dogs along the sunny promenade and line fishing for crabs with their Dads leaning over the rails down to the water. At 10.00 am, parents could be heard telling eager youngsters it was too early for ice creams and exhorting them to just enjoy the sunshine and wait.

We walked along the edge of the beach for 30 mins from Littlehampton towards Goring and then turned round and came back. All along the beach, small pockets of families were settling down for the day with picnics and towels. Small children were dashing excitedly in and out of the water. All those with fully developed brains were keenly avoiding the water all together. Thank goodness we no longer have to manage those exuberant and nascent psychologies .

At home, we did a couple of hours of gardening – trimming the lawn edges and cutting back and shaping up the hedges. All around us, the distinct smell of barbecues were drifting across the area. We had chosen an electric griddle outside to cook onion slices, mushrooms and fillet steaks. It produced the most delightful meal and a day to remember!

Monday, 10th April, 2017

A bit cooler than yesterday but lovely and sunny and reaching 16C/61F by early afternoon. We decided to do gardening rather than gym work today. I mowed the lawns, weeded the beds and finished clipping the hedges. Just finished as the bin men collected our garden refuse bin. Today, we have all three bins – Black ‘general’ waste, Green ‘recycle’ waste and brown ‘garden’ waste collected today. Next week, it will just be black. the service is fantastic and ‘nearly’ encourages me to recycle.

We went out to Worthing sea front to go to M&S and then on to Wilkos for some external varnish for our garden furniture. There were lots of tourists around in spite of the cooler temperatures.

We went on to buy bags of ornamental bark for top mulching the beds and we picked up some nice plants at the same time. The plants which are illustrated here lined up against the back lawn are:

  • Euonymus Japonica ‘Paloma Blanca’
  • Hebe ‘Purple Princess’
  • Laurus Nobilis aka Bay Tree x 2

Interestingly, we went in to one, upmarket garden centre and bought the midget Bay tree for £4.00 and then went on to a scruffier garden centre and bought the bigger Bay Tree for £4.00.

We were out and then home working from 9.00 am until 3.00 pm. By that time, I had easily done my 10,000 steps and was feeling very tired. Is it my age? It’s a worry!

Tuesday, 11th April, 2017

A lovely day that reached 16C/61F in our back garden. We tried to keep active this morning. We finished pruning the young hedging plants, planted out our recent purchases from local Garden Centres and top dressed with ornamental bark. It’s hardly Wisley RHS but it is a bit of fun. It’s also amazing how much time and energy it takes.

In Yorkshire, we had an acre of land to manage while holding down very demanding jobs. Weekends were spent doing all the housework and the gardening. In Greece, we had huge amounts of land to maintain although, being away half the year made it much more demanding. This house is just right for retired people who want to dabble but not take it too seriously or allow it to consume too much time. I am thinking of planting a couple of Brown Turkey Figs in a hot and sunny, sheltered part of the back garden. We loved them in our Greek garden and it would be an interesting challenge to get them fruiting in Sussex.

Had a huge session at the Health Club. The gym is being upgraded and all the equipment has been moved upstairs to the indoors tennis courts. It means that we have to exercise without the distraction of television. I thought it would be harder but soon got lost in my head and found 40 mins on the jogger had ended before I finished planning the next trip. We did 20 more mins on a cycle and then went in the Jacuzzi. I felt bad about skipping the outdoor pool but it is School Holidays and it looked as if CHILDREN might be allowed in to swim.

Wednesday, 12th April, 2017

A little cooler this morning at 10C/50F and will only get to 14C/57F. My breakfast consists of fresh orange juice, tea followed by fresh coffee. It is a liquid diet. It relies heavily on electricity and gadgets. The tea requires an electrical kettle; the coffee is produced by my dream machine coffee maker. The orange juice is spun out of an electric citrus press attached to a Kenwood Food Processor. Pauline already has a heavy duty Kenwood Chef  Mixer. It’s a bit big to lug out every morning just to juice a couple of oranges so she bought a light weight Processor. Today it failed. Actually, it has been temperamental for a few days and Pauline has even questioned the viability of some sockets in the kitchen. Today the machine made my orange juice and then died. (RIP in the bin.)

We both looked at each other and said, That didn’t last long. And we traced back when we bought it. It was then we realised that we bought it along with a sausage maker and a deep fat fryer using Pauline’s ‘Long Service’ award. I don’t know if it happens in other authorities but teachers in Oldham received an award of £200.00/€236.00 for completing 30 years continuous service at the LEA.  When all around us in industry were receiving large, annual bonuses, this seemed more like a patronising slap in the face than an award. People bought ironic items with the cash. My friend, Sam, bought a set of tyres for his car in the 1980s. Pauline bought kitchen equipment with hers in the 2003/4 school year. All the equipment was sent in the container to our Greek home.

So that Food Processor has only lived 13 years in two separate countries and 5 separate homes. They just don’t make things to last any more! Actually, it has proved impossible to replace speedily. Don’t tell the Brexiteers but we are going to replace it with a German one. The Bosch is the one Pauline has chosen and ordered for £109.99/€130.00.

Unfortunately, it will not be available for collection for another couple of days. I am going to have to squeeze my oranges MANUALLY! I won’t need to go to the gym.

A year ago, we moved in to our new house and proceeded to look round for a supplier and fitter of bedroom furniture. We found one called Betta Living. They came round, measured up and quoted us a price of just under £15,000.00/€17,700.00. We thought it was reasonable and agreed. They offered us a deal to not pay for a year and then pay off in full or pay back over 5 years by which time we would have paid nearer £30,000.00/€35,400.00. We asked if the price would be reduced for immediate settlement but were told not. It made sense to keep the cash in our bank rather than theirs and we accepted the arrangement. This week, we arranged to pay off the full amount. When we contacted the finance company, they sounded surprised we didn’t want to repay double the original figure.

Thursday, 13th April, 2017

Turned in to a lovely, warm day after a cool start. We actually reached 18C/65F in the afternoon. Pauline took advantage of it to wood-treat the out door furniture. She loves doing things like that and always does them well. I encourage it!

New House Building Everywhere.

The morning was exasperating because of the traffic on our shopping trip. The trend in UK nowadays is to eschew the once-a-week trip to one supermarket and to go many times for individual purchases instead. This has encouraged large chains to rein back on their building of superstores and to move to opening smaller, more ‘local’ branches.

During the recession, people have become more ‘savvy’ and less ‘loyal’ and have been researching products and prices – often with the aid of on-line devices like MySupermarket – and then visiting lots of different outlets with precise purchases in mind. This particularly appeals to parsimonious me who likes to find a bargain and then corner the market.

With that in mind, Thursday morning is no longer a trip to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop. Pauline has done the research and we are setting off for Asda (Bananas & Oranges), Sainsbury’s (Figs & Smoked Mackerel + Argos), Waitrose (Yoghurt) and Tesco (everything else). Even though it is school holidays and the roads should be quieter, the queues were dispiriting. The roads are being dug up everywhere for ‘services’ pipes to supply the new developments. Of course, everyone is up in arms about the pressures being put on the local infrastructure by these comers-in. I wonder how long it will be before we are up in arms about these comers-in! We’ll have to give it a day or two yet.

Friday, 14th April, 2017

I last saw Peter in 1971.

Well it’s started out as a lovely, sunny morning. I’m going to take advantage of that for mowing the lawns and cleaning the car. Yes, I know I’m being very daring but that’s me.

I am still getting very strange feelings about aging. A couple of days ago I viewed a Faceache page which contained a photo of a young man getting married in 1974. I last saw that young man 46 years ago at college and the memories were triggered and flooding through my mind. I was training to be a teacher. Peter was in my year but suddenly dropped out and I think went on to be a business man. No prizes for who made the right decision.

I last saw John in 2002.

Yesterday, like most days, I was reading the local newspapers from places where I’ve lived and worked. The Littlehampton Gazette gave way to the Derby Telegraph and then the Huddersfield Examiner followed by the Oldham Chronicle. Up popped this young man sitting in front of his class. John Fidler is 77 and has run the town’s Local History classes for at least 30 years. He was Head of History in my school and, like most historians, extremely enthusiastic. In John’s case, he had attended my school from its inception in 1951 – the year I was born. I am walking past the open door of his classroom now as his voice booms out across the centuries. Where has it all gone?

Saturday, 14th April, 2017

The day started off beautifully with lovely sunshine but most people around here missed it. It’s strange but they always seem to stay in bed at the weekends. We were up at 7.00 am as usual. By the time people in the neighbourhood started moving, the sun had gone and with a brisk, sea breeze, the temperature was a rather chilly 12C/54F.

I didn’t think there would be any post today but I got a very unusual delivery. It looked like a greetings card addressed to me and my birthday was last week. Actually, the card had part of our address on it but had ‘IRELAND’ printed ominously at the bottom. When I looked carefully at the envelope, the post code was BT6 which isn’t ours. I looked it up on the internet and it is the postcode for south Belfast.

Of course, the card was from my lovely, old sister who lives in the North of England. Belfast / Sussex – They’re easy to confuse when you’re nearly 70! Still, it is the thought that counts and she did take the trouble to go out and buy me a card which is lovely. I may decide to have my birthday on April 15th in future.

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Week 432

 Sunday, 2nd April, 2017

Lovely day under a strong sun. We sat out in the garden soaking up the sunshine and discussing the events of the weeks and months to come. It was lovely. Let’s hope it lasts.

This Tory government is hell bent on reducing the size of the State through consistently cutting funding while insisting it is increasing it. Some of this is direct.

  • Take my old profession in education. Not only have they not been training enough teachers but they have cut salaries by holding them below inflation and are now cutting funding to the institutions themselves so that many are asking parents for voluntary contributions, raising class sizes, and failing to employ enough support staff. Now everyone is shocked to find that there is a staffing shortage.
  • The Health Service which received primacy under the last Labour government with boosted funding, managed to achieve excellently short waiting times and good staffing levels. Under a smoke screen of ‘increased headline funding’, the Tories are steadily dismantling it by not funding Social Care adequately which results in the Hospitals becoming blocked and now leads to essential surgery being rationed and A&E waits of many, many hours.
  • The transport system is performing on pot hole ridden roads which Local Authorities don’t have the cash to repair.
  • The prison service is in chaos because of the lack of new buildings and the desperate shortage of staff to run them.
  • The military are a vanishing breed. Constantly cut back, we wouldn’t be able to defend Gibraltar if we wanted to.

A mutilated NHS, a crippled police force, divided schools and a vulnerable military. This attack on the state is an attack on each and every one of us. You need look no further for a reason for this government embracing Brexit so enthusiastically. It is the biggest smokescreen ever!

Monday, 3rd April, 2017

Pauline and I last went to work on this day in 2009. We have really enjoyed our first 8 years of retirement and look forward to many more. Of course, regular readers will know that I only have 11 years left but Pauline will go on and on.

It is chilly here today – just 11C/52F – with sea mist rolling in. Had to go out early to the Physiotherapist in Littlehampton. I’ve been having help with a long standing shoulder problem. Fortunately, after ignoring it for twelve months, two sessions at the Physio have almost cleared it up. Should have addressed it earlier.

RIP F/B Agios Giorgos

Sad to hear of the death of an old friend over the past couple of weeks. It is funny how travellers become attached to modes of transport. We certainly loved the  F/b άγιος-γέωργιος / Agios-Georgios. We travelled on it for years. It was noisy, dirty and slow but we loved it – after a fashion. It took 5 hrs 30 mins from Piraeus to Sifnos but it was cheap and would take our car easily. Last week, it was towed away to a Turkish scrap yard. She was 45 old and had been superseded by much faster craft. Zante Ferries and Aegean Speedlines are the new kids on the block, each currently doing it in just over 4 hrs.. Of course, we started travelling to Sifnos at the beginning of the 1980s – before most of you were born – and the F/b Ionion did that route in tandem with the F/b Kimolos. They fell off the conveyor belt into the ferry grave yard long ago. So farewell and many thanks to F/b Agios-Georgios.

Tuesday, 4th April, 2017

Another disappointing day weather-wise. It’s reasonably warm but grey and started off damp. At least it saved me watering the pots outside. The tarragon has been transformed from a stump of dry sticks to a verdant plant. It is now growing urgently and I measure its progress against the courses of bricks in the garage wall. It has been overwintering there along with the little olive tree P&C gave us which is waiting to be planted out in our main, olive grove.

We have to balance what we can reasonably grow in pots around the patio with the time we are planning to be away this year and what we can justifiably ask our neighbours to water for us. We have booked a short, French trip in the next, few weeks and are still tying up the arrangements for the summer. We expect to be away for quite a few weeks and we must get our bookings completed soon.

€1500.00 on the kitchen table looks nothing.

For a number of years, I have monitored the fluctuations of the £/€ exchange rate. I have apps on my smartphone, my iPad and my Desktop. I check them regularly – sometimes 3 or 4 times each day. It started back in 2000 when we were building our Greek house and paying for land, materials and labour by sending money in Sterling and having in converted into Drachmas and, subsequently, Euros. The exchange rate, of course, made a big difference to the costs and I was always sensitive to its fluctuations.  Again, when we were selling the house, picking the right time to ‘complete’ the transaction and to send the proceeds back to UK was also a sensitive event.

I got in the habit of using a couple of tradex companies who offered useful facilities and beneficial exchange rates. The International Currency Exchange (ICE) and Moneycorp were invaluable when we were dealing in hundreds of thousands of pounds. Yesterday, there was a brief uptick in the market and I bought £1500.00 at £1.00 = €115.00 to add to some we already had. I bought it through Tesco Bank. Today, the rate had already slipped back to £1.00 = €113.50. Although these are small differences, they can make quite a large difference eventually. I will continue to monitor and buy more according to events. There is talk of Sterling being undervalued and likely to rise considerably towards year end but we can’t wait for that.

Wednesday, 5th April, 2017

Car Emissions stickers from the Frogs!

It is a glorious morning of blue sky and strong sun for my last day of being 65. To acknowledge that fact, the French government have written to me. As you know, the world has gone mad over air quality and emissions standards. Goodness knows why. The air down here on the Cote de Brighton is wonderful. If someone is mad enough to live in Central London, that’s their look out! However, as you also know, we all hate the French and here is another justification. If you intend to drive on French roads – and why wouldn’t you? They are the best bit of the French. – you have to display an emissions sticker on your car windscreen. Where can you get it? From the French government and pay for the privilege. If caught without one, you risk a hefty fine of £116.00/€135.00 to be paid to…… the French government. Who would be their favourite people to fine …. Brexiteers aka the British public!

We went to Worthing for some shopping. The view from the multi-storey carpark is always wonderful and today was no exception. Pity about those off shore wind turbines polluting the skyline. You can blame The Greens for that!

A trip to M&S led to a walk on the beach. It may be full of stones but it is quite delightful. In this period between holiday periods, the area is pleasantly quiet. We spent a couple of hours walking and then drove home for coffee.

At 1.00 pm, we left for the David Lloyd Health Club. We have been working hard to extend our exercise routine. We now do

  • 40 mins. on the jogging machine,
  • 20 mins. on the exercise bike,
  • 10 mins on dumbells,
  • 30 mins in the outdoor pool.

We relax with

  • 20  mins. in the Jacuzzi and Sauna.

My watch was intended to record 10,000 steps per day. I am easily exceeding that. Today, I completed more than 17,000 paces and, in the gym alone, completed 8.5 kilometres.

After the Health Club visit which we manage at least 4 times per week, I feel fitter and cleaner but my figure and weight don’t seem to be improving which is a bit disheartening.

Thursday, 6th April, 2017

Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday old bugger.
Happy …. 66th!

Well someone’s got to sing it. I did get a card from P&C who are really the only people old enough to remember what Birthday cards and snail mail is. It made me smile, particularly the text on the back which read, Whatever you do, always try to look on the bright side. How can I do that with Brexit? Now, I’m going out to Tesco to celebrate.

Throughout my working life, my wife insisted that I wear ‘nice’ aftershave. She bought me Channel pour Homme and insisted I use it because she liked it. I convinced myself, for the sake of a quiet life, that I liked it too. It cost a small fortune and that thought hurt me every morning when I splashed it on. Today, if I bought a bottle, it would cost me £50.13/€59.00 every two months.When I retired and thought about economising, I searched around for an alternative.

In Boots, I spotted an aftershave which was attractively priced at £2.99/€3.50. I bought some, loved it and have never looked back. I dread to think how much I’ve saved over the past 8 years. Actually, I’ll work it out later.

Actually, I have saved about £2,260.00 while using an aftershave I prefer.If you add to that my saving on haircuts which my wife has provided for the past 40 years, you would think I would be rich. What went wrong?

It has been a lovely day. Blue sky and bright sunshine in which we reached 19C/66F. After shopping, I cut the lawns and cleaned the car inside and out. Pauline cooked Calamari and Greek Salad out in the garden which was delightful.

I received many Birthday wishes on Facebook and even ‘conversed’ with my brother, Bob, on that platform. He and I haven’t had a meaningful conversation for almost 50 years and it was nice to feel our way back in to a relationship.

Friday, 7th April, 2017

A gorgeous day which touched 19C/66F at mid afternoon. We set off for Surrey to visit P&C and help them out with their new, ‘Smart TV’ by connecting it wirelessly to the internet and making sure they could access the apps. P has got to grips with it very quickly for such an old person. She has already worked out how to record programmes and recall and play them. She didn’t seem fazed by switching between her Freeview box and her Wi-Fi Smartscreen. This is impressive for a lady of 98. She can now save one programme while watching another and search out a past programme to download and watch. All she needs to do now is to live long enough to watch them all!

Our drive through the Sussex countryside was fabulous and was only marred by entering the M25 which was all but stationary. Amazing amount of dead wildlife at the roadside as we drove. Why anyone needs to gas badgers beats me. We must have seen 6 or 7 each way dead by the roadside. Driving back, we hit another traffic jam as we got to Littlehampton. A 3-car pile up at ‘going home’ time left tired motorists at the end of their working week and desperate to get home to enjoy the lovely weather with their families, stuck inside the cars and fuming.

Nice to see that Corbyn’s Labour Party has found some policies that many could coalesce around.

  • The proposal to put VAT on private education fees is the least they should do. This should be linked to the removal of Charitable Status.
  • The intention to launch a new, Council House building programme as a priority.
  • The proposal to end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS, integrating the NHS and social care for older and disabled people.

With a more professional leader, they could actually make a difference.

Saturday, 8th April, 2017

Glorious day that has reached 22C/70F in our garden. This morning, we chose to go out and drove the couple of miles to Goring Beach to enjoy the sea air. It was delicious and, surprisingly, reasonably quiet. These young people just can’t keep up. We walked for about an hour in the sunshine and then drove home to sit in the sun in the garden. Mustn’t have too much sun!

We sat out in the garden for a couple of hours with an icy bottle of Pinot Grigio and talked through our plans. We have been having a problem actually committing to specific bookings for our Europe drive and we have resolved to do it this weekend. It is strange but decisions seem harder this year now we are so settled in our new home.

As it is a year since we left our Duplex Apartment in Maybury, Woking, we know that communal living was never going to be for us. We are unlikely to do it again. After we had sold, we learned about a ‘killer clause’ in our contract which neither we, our solicitor, our buyer or her solicitor noticed. The leasehold ground rent was set to double every 10 years. If we had stayed 30 years, we would have been paying £16,000.00 per year just in ground rent and trying to sell on to someone who would be expected to find £32,000.00 per year after 10 years. If they stayed 20 years and sold on, the next owners would be expected to pay an eye watering £64,000.00 per year just for ground rent. It was only as another resident was selling 6 months after we left that this killer clause was discovered. This was at exactly the same time that this subject was hitting the press and becoming widely reported. We were lucky enough to almost double our money over five years of ownership but we certainly wouldn’t have done if we had known then what we know now. Thank goodness that we have a freehold property again.

Painting the white lines on Sifnos

Of course, for those of a religious or cultural bent, the Easter celebrations are imminent. Our supermarkets having been pushing it for weeks. In Greece, television will have been saturated with Easter, Easter, Easter for the past few weeks and, now, the obligatory film of the Athens meat market will be run illustrating the price of lamb carcasses. On the Cycladic islands, the ‘clean up’ of the beaches a couple of weeks ago has now been followed by the women painting the ‘white line’ decoration between the paving stones. This is done all round the island each year. Anything to get the tourists. Over this week, farmers will slaughter and bag up in white, shroud-like bags whole lamb carcasses for delivery or collection to be spit-roasted on Easter Saturday evening or Easter Sunday morning. In solidarity, we’ve bought a leg of lamb from Tesco.

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Week 431

Sunday, 26th March, 2017

We admit to getting up late today after not going to bed until 2.30 am last night. It’s hard to come down quickly from an evening like last night. Today has opened with glorious blue sky and strong, uninterrupted sunshine and temperatures that reached 17C/63F. We had intended to go to the gym but were too tired. We then intended to go down to the beach but were too tired. We ended up sitting out in the sunshine in our back garden, relaxing and reading the newspapers. So enjoyable.

Pauline cooked a wonderful roast chicken with sage & onion stuffing, roasted carrots and parsnips. So enjoyable. I watched a fairly low key but successful England performance against Lithuania which is where our dining table was made. Perhaps they should stick to that. An early night tonight to prepare for an energetic new week.

As problems arise in Greek-EU negotiations, a recent report informs us that tax evasion in Greece is estimated to be between 11billion euros and 16 billion euros annually. This is estimated to reach 6 to 9 % of Greece’s current GDP which is huge if you’re struggling – even if you’re not.

What this knowledge of the Greek psychology and economy feeds in to is the belief that Greece will need at least 20 years to return to pre-crisis levels. This is the view of Poul Thomsen, the IMF representative in charge of the European program of the International Monetary Fund. He believes that Greece will need many years of assistance from its European partners.

He sharply criticized the Greek governments on the implementation of the austerity programs. The focus of the programs was excessively on the reduction of wages than on reforms of the products markets. He spoke of “terrible resistance in regards to the opening of closed professions. He insisted that Greece, for years, enjoyed pensions like Germany without the economy to support them. Is this going to be another false alarm or will the Greeks find they have suffered needlessly for so many years when they could have been seeking their own solutions?

Monday, 27th March, 2017

Hebe Heartbreaker -subtle or what?

Hebe Frozen Flame

What a beautiful day again with strong, warm sunshine beaming out of clear, blue skies. It is confirmed short sleeved shirt weather which today read 18C/65F. We did a tour of the garden centres close to our house. There are four in total and range from the huge and very commercial to the tiny and homespun. We want some shrubs to replace a few that have failed over winter. They were ‘awkward place’ plants put in by the developers down the side of the drive which is dry and shaded by the side   of the house. I have been considering some of the multitude of Hebes on the market at the moment. There is Hebe Heartbreaker – so called because of its price – and Hebe Frozen Flame which I particularly liked. My wife, of course, disagreed and preferred a Variegated Hebe.

Hebe Variegata

These plants cost about £9.00/€10.50 each which is expensive for what they are and much up on our garden centres in Yorkshire although they were 6 -7 years ago. Because we couldn’t agree, we came away empty handed. I know I’ll get my way soon though so I can wait. We also looked for herbs – Sage, Basil, Dill. It is a little early yet so they will have to wait for a while.

It was such a sunny time in our back garden that we eschewed the Health Club and sat outside for a while. While we did, we prepared our letter of complaint to Southern Rail about the debacle of Saturday evening. With so many commuters complaining about them, I suspect our problems will be considered ‘small beer’ but we will press on and go as far as the Ombudsman if necessary.

Tuesday, 28th March, 2017

Happy Birthday to my little sister, Mary Jane, who is 63 today. Let’s hope she has a lovely day. The weather is certainly beautiful….. Actually, she’s just told me that she is celebrating in Riga where my weather app. tells me it is 5C/41F feels like 0C/32F. Oh well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue sky and sunshine AGAIN here. What is happening? What with BREXIT and GLOBAL WARMING, the world is going mad. We drove the couple of miles down to the beach which turned out to be in shade and chilled by a cold, sea breeze. We weren’t there long.

Maremma Coast

Pauline is cooking Calamari & Greek Salad for our meal. She is doing it outside because our back garden is registering 15C/59F with lovely sunshine. There is something quite delightful and liberating to cooking in the sunshine. No fishy smells pervading the house. The lawn wasn’t keen though.

Tuscan Countryside

 

 

 

 

 

We have been continuing to kick ideas around for our European Odyssey this summer. Finding a good hotel in Montepulciano has not proved easy. The place is gorgeous but the infrastructure doesn’t come up to scratch. We have moved on to a province of Tuscany – Grosseto near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the Maremma.  It is only 3 hrs driving to Ancona which is lovely. We’ve found a good hotel which will allow us to explore the Tuscan countryside and the Maremma coastline. Looks good fun and to think someone told me the other day that I was stuck in a rut. If only I could find a rut!

Wednesday, 29th March, 2017

The Post Arrives

A miserable, damp day as the divorce from Europe begins. No one will win in this as in most divorces. Everybody loses. Just as in family divorce, those who lose most are the children and so it will be with BREXIT. The old have callously sold the young and open-minded, their children and grandchildren down the river. And for what? It feels particularly strained for us. Just over two years ago, we quit Greece and now we are quitting Europe. Next stop is to quit the World!

The Blog – Keep talking Greece – tells us that the effects of BREXIT on Greece will be considerable, costing €1 billion in exports alone. UK is Greeces 7th export market. Tourism is bound to suffer because of the decreasing £/€ level leading to increasingly expensive trips. To add to that is the fear of what may happen to the 60,000 Greeks who live and work in UK. Nothing is secure for them yet.

Thursday, 30th March, 2017

Lovely day for the penultimate one of March. Sunny, warm – humid even – we reached 21C/70F by mid afternoon. This morning we have been cornering the world market in Shloer (light). When I decided to cut back on drinking wine, I looked for a substitute. Shloer is a non-alcoholic grape juice which is so awful that no one can drink more than a couple of glasses each day and that amounts to about 50 calories. This has to be set against a bottle of red wine at about 600 calories. It has definitely helped me kick a bad habit.

The cost is also a lot cheaper. I buy my wine at about half price in France. I probably pay about £5.00/€5.90 per bottle. Shloer cost £2.00/€2.35 per bottle normally but, as we approach celebrations like Easter and Christmas, the supermarkets cut the price. As we approach Easter, Tesco are selling Shloer at £0.99/€1.16. I went out today and bought 100 bottles which have saved me £100.00/€116.00. Can’t get in the garage but I’ve saved money.

Had a wonderful couple of hours at the Health Club today which culminated in half an hour in the sunshine, swimming in the heated, outdoor pool. After completing 90 mins of solid cardio exercise and 30 mins swimming, we followed it by half an hour in the spa. I drove home feeling really clean and fit!

Friday, 31st March, 2017

Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’

Helleborus ‘Angel Glow’

The last day of March 2017. We will never see it again. Tomorrow is April Brexiteers Day! We have decided to embrace the future by going out to buy plants for our garden. It is exactly one year this week since we moved in and we always said we would give ourselves time before we developed the garden. We need a few replacement plants for the less sunny, drier side of the house that edges the drive to the garage. In this situation, you can’t go wrong with Hellebores (The Lenten Rose). That is what we chose on our trip down to the garden centre.

One plant was marked as £19.99/€23.30 reduced to £14.99/€17.50 and the second was priced at £10.99/€12.90. We also bought a Euphorbia priced at £9.99/€11.70. When we got home, we found that they hadn’t charged us for one of the Helleborus, effectively saving £10.99/€12.90. Oh well. You win some and you win some!

Having just read the sales receipt, it turns out we missed the words ‘multi-buy’ which entitled us to one plant ‘free’. Might go back for some more. Certainly, everything around here is flowering and shooting with gay abandon. I cut the lawns exactly a week ago and they will need doing again this weekend. Today, however, we have done our third, consecutive 2hr workout. We are already becoming addicted to swimming outside. Warm sunshine and warm, clear water with bird song all around make for a lovely experience.

Saturday, 1st April, 2017


 

 

 

 

Welcome to April 2017. Hope you enjoy it even though Chaucer characterised it as the cruellest month. He was obviously distracted by Brexit.

Busy morning. We’re not going to the Health Club today so I’m trying to stay active. After breakfast, I’ve unstacked the dishwasher, hoovered the entire house and now we are going out to the beach to buy fish for tea.

I wanted Turbot but will have to wait a few days. Everything sold here is bought from local fishermen each morning. This means you can’t predict availability. We are told Turbot may well be available later in the week. Today, we chose thick, Hake cutlets. Today, 4 cutlets cost £16.00/€19.00. We also bought a large, dressed crab for lunch tomorrow.

We went for a brisk walk down the Marina boardwalk. Commercial enterprises are just starting to gear up for Easter Holidays when they will expect lots of tourists. Today, the restaurants and cafes were testing the fire alarms as we walked past. Ambling dogs and their owners stopped and listened with caution.

As we walked down the Marina, with the tide completely out, cloud came over and turned the temperature, which was reaching 16C/61F, down a notch. It’s certainly a lovely place to stretch your legs and breathe fresh air. As we walked 20 mins one way and 20 mins back, we raised our pulse rate and received lots of smiles from people walking the other way. It is an interesting change from Surrey where everybody seems to look the other way and avoid one’s gaze.

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Week 430

  Sunday, 19th March, 2017

Will it make me fitter?

It is strange how the thermometer can read the same temperature on different days and yet the days feel very different. Yesterday’s 12C/54F felt so much warmer than today’s 12C/54F. Must be the sea breeze but it feels on the wintry side of Spring today.

Meant to tell you about my new watch. It is called Pebble and links via Bluetooth to my smartphone. This is ‘useful’ because it flags up calendar events, texts, messages and phone calls. It also doubles up as a fitness monitor with steps taken and heart rate monitored over the day. The only trouble is that every time an email comes in, my watch vibrates on my wrist and I receive about 50 emails each day. It can be quite tiresome keeping track of them particularly because the screen is just at the limit of readability for me without glasses. I have become a man in perpetual squint, staring at his watch. Will it make me fitter?

Monday, 20th March, 2017

Coldish and wet – fine rain in 10C/50F. We set off early to drive to Surrey. It turned out to be a bit of a wild goose chase and we came home feeling unfulfilled. We arrived just in time for The Daily Politics at 12.00 pm. Just as we thought the Summer was approaching, the Winter bites back.

Economic Winter is threatening to bite back in Greece as Syriza are caught between a rock and a hard place, with their rhetoric and the reality clashing remorselessly. The Government fails to implement the lenders demands on Labour Reform because they know they are putting their necks in the electoral noose but, in doing so, they are bringing the country’s economy closer to serious danger. At the same time we are told by Kathimerini that:

Hundreds of thousands of properties around Greece are at risk of seeing their value plummet even if the economy returns to steady growth in the coming years. Consequently, these properties may even be put up for demolition.

If that wasn’t enough, a sharp increase in migrants reaching Aegean islands from Turkey has been noted in the past couple of months and the good weather hasn’t even started. Hold on to your Καπέλα!

Tuesday, 21st March, 2017

Beautiful if a little chilly start to the day. Brighton Pier looks imposing in the sunlight. Pleased to see that the Butcher of Belfast, Martin McGuinness, who got his ultimate come-uppance today, didn’t arrange to have that blown up as well as The Grand Hotel. Few rational people will mourn his demise not least among the families of those he murdered or arranged to be murdered in the duplicitous name of Roman Catholicism – just like the paedophile priesthood and the nuns of the Magdalene Laundries ‘caring’ for ‘fallen women’.

This is how The Times saw it.

Inflation is finally showing the Brexit effect as it hit 2.3% and is forecast to touch 3% by year end. I hope it is by September because that is the month when our Teachers Pensions are inflation upgraded.

We are going to hear the Brexiteers begin to squeak as the pips of the economy – food prices, fuel prices, etc. – are squeezed and raised. Now we have officially invoked Article 50, all sorts of demons are going to emerge to bite us. It will be the poor who will feel it first but it will get all of us. Hold on to your hats.

It is exactly a year since we got the keys to our new home. In one sense, it has gone quickly but, in another, it feels like we’ve always lived here. You will know that experience. Today, in the tranquillity of sunny Worthing, we ventured out to the Health Club for a big session of life affirming cardio exercise. Did 650 calories today followed by some dumbbell work on my injured right arm. Not sure if that has helped or not.

Wednesday, 22nd March, 2017

Horrible, dark and wet day here. After PMQs, we are off to the Health Club again but it won’t be a pleasant walk across the huge carpark at David Lloyd’s. Heads down and in to the driving rain – rather like Brexit!

Today, details are revealed of the plans being drawn up for a white paper to be published this summer on what post-Brexit border controls will look like and who will police them. The climate is going to turn radically colder. Apart from controls on our physical borders which will clearly be strengthened, a form of ‘stasi culture’ is to be enforced by making landlords, employers, Health Service officials, Higher Education institutions, etc., be the gatekeepers to our society. The stress will be on Britain’s needs in the labour market. This will be chilling and systematic and single out those not working and paying tax in this country. The real question will be concerning Europe’s response in terms of ex-pats living abroad.

I’ve been with BT Broadband/Phoneline/Sport for a year now. I get completely free, landline phone calls, half price calls to mobiles with call identifier, Fibre optic, superfast broadband and BT Sport. The whole thing was costing us £63.99/€74.00 per month. It is currently supplying me with broadband speeds of 34mbs download / 12mbs upload which are reasonable but not the best. One soon gets used to improved speeds so only the best will do.

At our 12 month contractual anniversary, BT have  (surprise, surprise) written to me to offer an new, upgraded Infinity 2 hub which they guarantee will give me a minimum of 47mbs download and reduce the price as well. Who could refuse. Well, they do want to tie me in to an additional 18 months contract but (whisper it quietly) I was staying with them anyway.

Thursday, 23rd March, 2017

The day has started off wet but soon turned sunny and bright. It is relatively mild at 11C/52F. We are waiting for a carpet fitter to address a small problem with the carpet on our landing. It should only take half an hour before we do our weekly shop and then go on to the Health Club.

The effect of water hardness.

We are having a bit of trouble with the quality of the performance of our dishwasher. Things that are taken out after washing have a ‘granular’ texture to them as if they are carrying a calcium deposit. We have had to check the precise ‘hardness’ of our water supply from Southern Water. Hands up those who know what units hardness is measured in. I certainly didn’t. There are many. Our own water supplier lists 5 and our dishwasher handbook refers to 3 of those. It turns out that our water is pumped from underground sources in the chalk at Burpham, Angmering and Patching. This produces a water quality, on the broadbrush descriptions of Soft/Moderately Hard/Hard/Very Hard, of Hard. It is specifically measured on the Clarke Scale of Water Hardness as 19.95. Bet you’re glad you asked!

Friday, 24th March, 2017

The day has been a glorious one of clear blue skies and strong sun. The temperature only reached 13C/56F but it felt warm and Spring-like. Angmering is full of beautifully flowering Magnolia trees. Surrey was so full of Camelias but Mum would have loved the flowering trees of West Sussex. Our new village is a constant contestant in the Villages in Bloom competitions and the village council work hared along with dozens of volunteers to plant up, water and maintain flower beds, roadside edges and hanging baskets throughout the year. It really is a lovely place to live.

Easily do my 1000 steps.

My new BT router (hub) arrived this morning. A new hub usually meant connecting to my Desktop computer and setting up on the software. Today, it meant linking my Desktop and Pauline’s Desktop via Ethernet cables to the Router and then our two iPads wirelessly and then our two smartphones wirelessly and then six televisions wirelessly. It became a morning’s job. Still, it’s the sort of job I’m happy doing. Just wait until the ‘internet of things’ needs the router linking to the fridge-freezer, the microwave, the washing machine, dishwasher and the heating. We’ll need a weekend to connect a new router. Joy of Joys!

We left for the gym at 1.00 pm and really did a hard session. Usually Friday is a quiet day there because the workers are all too knackered to exercise. Today, it was packed. After an hour in the gym, Pauline swam outside in the heated pool while I relaxed in the Jacuzzi. I had already done my 10,000 steps for the day and could be expect to be carried for the rest. We were home by 3.30 pm to have our meal of smoked mackerel, tuna pate and prawns with tomato salad. I love this sort of food.

Saturday, 25th March, 2017

Oh what a day! We were off to London although not to march on parliament in support of Remaining in Europe. We were helping P&C celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary and it was their idea to go for a meal and then go to a show. We were leaving from Angmering Railway Station on the infamous Southern Rail. It takes about and hour and a half from Angmering to London Victoria and costs around £22.00/€25.50 return.  We added travel on the Underground to our tickets which cost us just short of £48.00/€55.50 for the day which is fantastic. Well it would be if it worked.

The day opened with beautiful sunshine from blue skies although the breeze was chilly. We haven’t used a train in Britain for so many years – maybe 20 – that we drove down to the station and parked our car to make sure we did things correctly. The small, provincial station in Angmering is grubby and run down. The train arrived, was reasonably new, clean and empty. We got seats with a table so we could put our iPads and phones out although the passing scenery was distractingly interesting.

Of course, we arrived with over an hour to spare before we were to meet the others at the Raymond Blanc restaurant, Brasserie Blanc in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia near the theatre we were going to – The Dominion. We stopped off for a coffee nearby and then went on to join everyone at the restaurant. It is a trendy, little bistro which is relaxing, informal and serves fantastic, quality food.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Having lived together for almost 40 years, Pauline and I chose exactly the same courses. We ate:

  • Rainbow beetroot goat’s curd salad ( smoked gold, candy & red beetroot, goat’s curd, beetroot crisps)
  • Herb-crusted Cod Fillet ( with smooth mash, mussels, saffron sauce)

Herb-crusted Cod Fillet – Delicious!

We did differ on our choice of Sweet. Yes, we ate Sweet for once. Pauline chose Normandy Apple Tart with double creram (Calvados buttered apples, almond cream filling, vanilla ice cream) I chose Chocolate & Almond Torte (vanilla ice cream, crème Anglaise, toasted almonds)

I had eaten two bananas and a few cherry tomatoes that day. I was really ready to eat when we got to the restaurant. It really was a wonderful meal and I ate every bity of it but, on reflection, I didn’t feel uncomfortably full at the end – just nicely satisfied. That is the skill of a professional restaurant.

We left and walked across the road to the theatre. We were going to watch An American in Paris with the delightful Gershwin melodies. We’ve been to The Dominion before to watch We Will Rock You which I hated but this was really enjoyable and well produced with fantastic sets. The Theatre was packed full and no wonder.

I have virtually never taken a ‘Selfie’ because I am not self-obsessed so, when I tried it, it was a disaster. I won’t be trying another in a hurry. I did spot a rather strange boy behind who was trying to get in to our picture. He is known as ‘Bumface’! I suppose it’s better than being a Poison Dwarf.

After a lovely show and a wonderful meal, we said our goodbyes at around 10.20 pm and nipped in to the underground to Oxford Circus and changed for Victoria. All going well. The illuminated board at Victoria station announced that there were two trains returning to Angmering – the 11.07 and the 11.37. The second one was suddenly cancelled but ours was ‘on time’. We waited to be told which platform. And we waited. Suddenly, a worker started shouting that our train had been cancelled as well. He told us that we must take an alternative to Gatwick and Three Bridges – a place I had never heard of.

Of course everyone going to Brighton, Horsham, Gatwick, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Hassocks, Billingshurst and Pulborough as well as Angmering were urged on to that train. We were crushed, standing, airless and sweating for around 30 minutes to Three Bridges via Gatwick Airport. We didn’t really know where we were going or what to do when we arrived. We had been told at Victoria that there would be buses at Three Bridges to take us on to Angmering. When we got to Three Bridges, harassed guards were urging people on to the Brighton bus. When we asked about Angmering, they looked blankly in to the middle distance.

We went outside where there was a busy taxi rank and I picked the first available white black cab and asked to be taken to Angmering. By this time, it was just before midnight. The driver turned out to be a delightful, Sri Lankan lad who was worried we didn’t realise how far the journey was and how much it would cost. Fortunately, we were reasonably clear about both and we wanted to get home although, what we weren’t aware was that if we had got in to the cab 10 minutes later, the price would have doubled. We arrived back in the Angmering station carpark at almost exactly the time our train had been expected to get us there originally. It cost us an extra £85.00/€99.00 in taxi fare but we made it and by the time we got to bed, 1.00 am had instantly become 2.00 am as the clocks went forward.

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Week 429

Sunday, 12th March, 2017

Spring – the Tarragon gets it but the Basil doesn’t.

Quite a grey but mild morning with intermittent, light rain. It is just enough to water in my lawn treatment so I’m happy about that. Unfortunately, I am not happy about everything and the subject that dominates the airwaves today and, probably, for many days to come is BREXIT. The madmen (and women) of the Tory party are determined to push us all over the cliff whatever the landing. I am in full agreement with the words of Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion and other rational thinking):

[The Tories] handed over this massively important decision to a simple majority of ill-informed voters. …….The fleeting opinion, on just one day, of a slender majority of an ignorant and misled public is now touted as the sacred and unchangeable word of “the British people”……Not just for the next five years, as in an ordinary election, but long after we are no longer around to reap the consequences.

At least Dawkins is prepared to say what so many others fear will make them unpopular. Happy, pagan Sunday!

Monday, 13th March, 2017

It’s all happening at Littlehampton Beach!

What a wonderful day of blue sky and sunlight from end to end. It was relatively warm (14C/57F) outside and very warm in our sheltered garden. I actually enjoyed cutting the lawns and then we sat out with our coffee and made plans for developing the garden. We were supposed to be going to the Health Club but were enjoying the garden so much that we cancelled and relaxed. You can do that when you’re retired.

I had to be at the Physiotherapy Department at Littlehampton Health Centre to have help with a muscular problem in my right arm that has persisted for more than twelve months. It first appeared after a vigorous work out in the pool in Tenerife in February 2016 and just hasn’t cleared up. We were early so we drove a couple of minutes further to the beach which was quite delightfully lit by the strong sun. We made a pledge to return as soon as another sunny day pops up and we have free time.

Back at the Physio’s, I was pummelled and prodded, stretched and put through my paces. I was given fresh exercises to do at home and a return appointment in three weeks time. If I can get a resolution to my problem, I will happily comply.

Tuesday, 14th March, 2017

Angmering Village Today

Angmering Village Today

A lovely day and one for Springtime jobs. The morning was spent outside weeding the flower beds, power washing the patio flags, cleaning flower pots and garden furniture, etc.. These are enjoyable and optimistic times. The weather is warm – 15C/59F – today and forecast to be warmer tomorrow. The days are getting longer. Tomorrow is a day to ‘beware’ of and the weekend after next the clocks go forward. We open our minds to greet the coming Summer – our 66th.

Over the past few days, Lawns, Flowerbeds and Patio have been spring cleaned. Life seems to be in order. These are wonderful times and, in spite of Brexit, the destruction of Great Britain and the ravages of rampant inflation to come, we will look out to borders further on. Planning our travels for the Summer is almost as good as going on the travels themselves. Finding and booking hotels is just so much fun. We hope to have our synchronised, on-line diaries full for the rest of the year in the next week or so. Keep you posted.

Wednesday, 15th March, 2017

The Summer is Coming!

I told you yesterday, that today would be one to ‘beware of’ and, of course, most of even the least literate of us will be chanting, Beware the Ides of March! The 15th of March is marked in the Roman calendar and, of course, if your name is Julius or even Caesar, you should stay in bed – in a locked room. Last night was clear and beautifully lit by a full moon – not good murdering conditions. Today is brilliantly sunny with a cloudless, blue sky. Thoughts of murder and mortality are far away.

All the news on climate change is good. Trump has appointed a sceptic and may well renege on some of the barmier agreements that Obama signed. It is reported today that we have just had the second warmest winter on record for the Northern Hemisphere which will certainly save on heating bills and a U.S.-based team of scientists reported in the journal, Nature Climate Change that natural variations in the Arctic climate could well be responsible for about 50 % of the overall decline in September sea ice since 1979. Can you believe that weather variations can be part of changing natural patterns?

Today was so warm and sunny that we ditched the gym for the natural variation of the beach. We drove the 5 min trip to Goring beach and walked in the wonderful, Spring sunshine.

It takes about half an hour to walk from Goring Beach by the fisherman’s hut to Worthing Pier. The round trip of an hour may well become our regular, pre-gym exercise. The difficulty is the dog walkers who block the pathways. Fortunately, they are banned from May 1st for the rest of the season. Then we only have to compete with the Summer Holiday children on scooters and skateboards although they are pretty easy to shoulder to the floor. We may well be away for most of the school holidays anyway.

The theme of the moment concerns air quality. Here population density is still quite low and air quality high. At night time, the sky is not polluted by city lights and moon and stars are clear. We feel extremely lucky – in spite of BREXIT.

Thursday, 16th March, 2017

There is often a snag.

A definitely cooler day which struggled to reveal the sun. The morning started a little misty. We had a visit from a ‘snagger’ who was replacing a kitchen draw front because of a bubble in the paint finish. It might sound a small item but this draw cabinet cost £700.00/€805.00 and who would pay that for an item with a flaw? Our Builders are great and gave us a comprehensive, 5 year warranty on everything. We intend to take full advantage of every day of that warranty.

A lovely chap brought the new drawer front and spent an hour drilling and fitting it. We are very happy with the service and are now assured that this ‘blemish’ will not deteriorate in a few years time.

A girl who I taught English in my second year of teaching and her brother a year later both turned out to be my future wife’s cousins. They were delightful kids who worked hard and did well. The girl wrote to me yesterday and told me that she had just had her 57th birthday. It was an eye watering thought. How old am I? She included her middle initial in her email. On enquiring what it stood for she told me and foolishly asked my middle name. Foolishly because I gave her chapter and verse.

The Richard Chair

My middle name is Richard. It is a Sanders tradition that the eldest, male child is called Richard. Back in the early 1700s, it was the first name. Later in the 1900s, Richard became a middle name. We have a chair, an apprentice piece, made by my Great Grandfather which came to me because I am John Richard. It is known as The Richard Chair. It will go to my brother’s male heir when I die. I had it restored about twenty years ago so it looks as good as new even though it is over 100 years old.

Last week I bought a ‘Fitbit‘ watch/Fitness Monitor for about £100.00/€115.00. Within about two days, I realised it wouldn’t be right for me. Today, I bought a replacement – a Pebble watch which connects to my smart phone and notifies me of phone calls, texts and emails, calendar events, footsteps walked, heartrate measured and distance covered. All that is possible for £40.00/€46.00. It’s charging up now and I hope to feature it tomorrow.

Friday, 17th March, 2017

Pleasant day but not warm. Today is 12C/54F but with a sharp edge on the sea breeze. This is what we can expect for the next week.

BREXIT is going so well. Little Englanders are feeling sooo happy but is the Plan for Britain Working? Not it’s not! We could end up with Europe and UK splitting in their constituent parts. What does it matter? We’re all going to hell in a handcart and it seems the English electorate don’t care. A poll in The Telegraph tomorrow indicates that people would prefer Brexit above the Union with Scotland, et al..

Set sail for the Summer!

I’m constantly receiving emails from the Calais Wine Store. At one time, we were buying from them at at least a 50% discount. Now, it is almost not worth it and soon, as they have admitted, they will have to close down. Britain will soon become the costly man of Europe for lots of products that the Brexit maniacs thought were British.

On the bright side, today is the Equilux when day and night are equal. I must admit that I had always believed that to be the Equinox around March 21st but I have been introduced to this concept. The Equilux occurs a few days before the Spring Equinox and a few days after the Autumn Equinox. This date varies depending on where on Earth you are, and indeed Equiluxes do not occur at all close to the equator.

Saturday, 18th March, 2017

A lazy day of Sport and Newspapers. The biggest problem of the day was unstacking the dishwasher (my job) only to find that Pauline had completely rearranged every kitchen cupboard since the last time I’d used them. A simple job took me three times as long. However, I wouldn’t want my readers to dwell on my misfortune for too long. I did recover over the day – until England lost.

By evening, I had been sitting around so much, I was bounding around with energy. We decided to go down to the harbour for a walk and some fresh air. The temperature at 8.00 pm was 11C/52F although the sea breeze chilled that. We were surprised to find lots of people walking their dogs and their children. It was enjoyable, however, and we’ve resolved to do it regularly.

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Week 428

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.

Sgt. Pepper – 50 years old in June.

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

Standing Room Only at Starbucks

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.

Worthing Pier – across the road from M&S

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

Found this little demon in Rustington!

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

Spring has definitely Sprung!

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.

Files all lined up!

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

Only about 55 years apart .

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.

 

Storm across Kamares

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

Our local beach

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

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside…

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.

Spring sunshine in a Guest Bedroom

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!

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Week 427

Sunday, 26th February, 2017

Grey and slightly damp but mild day. Definitely a day for political discussion, newspapers and football watching. There will be plenty of days for going out in the sunshine….. hopefully.

Natural Hog Casings for homemade sausages.

We try very hard not to buy processed food. I have even tried hard to cut out bacon, salami, mortadella, bresaola and saucisson although I absolutely love them all. Today, Pauline has ordered natural hog casings in order to make her own sausages. We used to do it in our Greek house where quality sausages were just not possible to buy. You could get tinned frankfurters which I’ve never liked or Greek sausages – Lukániko (λουκάνικο ) which tended to be thin, hard and spicy. Additionally, their provenance was always slightly suspect so we learned to do without them.

Had to share with you my favourite cartoon of the year so far. Taken from The Times:


 

 

 

 

Well, England really only just beat Italy and Man. U. really only just beat Southampton. It’s been a nail biting afternoon. I gave my morning over to researching a tennis tournament in Pefki, Maroussi, Athens this Easter. Could be an interesting trip.

Monday, 27th February, 2017

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

Clean Monday / Καθαρή Δευτέρα for the first day of Lent, if that means anything to you. To some Greeks it means doing without eating meat, eggs and dairy products. Actually, most, modern Greeks don’t take it too seriously but like the culturally binding routines of Festivals that accompany it.

We are celebrating in the only way we know how. Today is Fish Pie Day. Pauline is making it with lobster, scallops, prawns, cod and salmon. The topping – replacing potato – is slices of fennel topped with grated Gruyère cheese. Oh, I wish it could be Lent every day-ay-ay-ay.

My little brother, Bob, is in Barbados. He’s just tweeted this photo saying it’s raining. I went out to collect the bins after the refuse collectors had been. I was hit by a violent deluge of hail. As soon as I got back inside, the sun came out.

It’s quite unpleasant outside today and feels cold. The temperature only reached 9C/48F and is a meagre 6C/43F at 6.00 pm, grey and damp. It really doesn’t make you want to go outside. Much nicer to sit down inside to a really good Fish Pie.

Tuesday, 28th February, 2017

Glorious day here for February to die on. Bright sun in clear, blue skies. A bit chilly, reading 2C/36F at 7.00 am. We weren’t getting the white stuff that was falling heavily in the Midlands and the North of England thank goodness.

Clean Monday / Καθαρή Δευτέρα on Sifnos was preceded on Sunday by Carnival / Καρναβάλι. We were sent a link to the video of this event. Homespun and amateur, the film shows islanders dressing up and mocking/celebrating Greek culture and traditions. We were delighted that this year’s festival featured our dear friend, Emmanuella who helped us so much on the when we were on the island. We’ve heard from her but we haven’t seen her for over two years. This is a scene with a ‘postman’ in the Artemonas Πλατεία.

It seems so far away as the British government prepare to pull the shutters down on European access. Fear of a post-Brexit interregnum which will allow mass migration from poor areas of Europe to Britain are being addressed with controls which will inform those wishing to come that they will have no security of tenure. From shortly after April 2017, those EU residents who attempt to come to Britain will be not allowed to claim benefits and will be told that their stay is conditional and probably temporary. Britain, expects reciprocal action to be taken against ex-pats living in Europe. Dual nationality may well be abolished under these arrangements.

Wednesday, 1st March, 2017

Happy March, 2017

The daffodils may be almost on their way out and many trees and shrubs budding vigorously. The birds may be singing  optimistically and the grass growing enthusiastically but it’s still very cool outside. Even so, I am delighted to see that our potted French Tarragon is growing back strongly and will not need replacing for this year at least.

The Power Meter sits at the bottom of my monitor accusingly.

For years, the 1st of the month has meant for us reading and recording the electricity, gas and water meters. Usually, that would mean going outside or into the garage to the meters. Here, I have a smart meter mounted just below my computer monitor and, at the click of a button, I can see and record on my spreadsheet the total usage for the month and the years of both gas and electricity individually or combined. This is data for a geek like me that is so wonderful it borders on the orgasmic. Unfortunately, the water meter is set into the front lawn so it is easy for the company to come round and read but is not user-friendly at this time of year.

Of course, it is a lot more expensive to power this 4-bedroomed house compared with the 2-bedroomed Duplex we ran in Surrey. There, the total, annual cost was under £500.00/€590.00. Here it is £850.00/€1000.00. It is still below average for a house of our size in the UK. A lot of our expense goes on drying washing. We never do that outside but always use a tumble dryer which could be seen as an indulgence. Thank goodness, we don’t have to balance heating and eating like a significant number of poor people including those reliant on just their State Pension.

Thursday, 2nd March, 2017

A lovely, lovely day in which one could really believe that Spring had started. Clear blue skies from Dawn to Dusk with strong sunshine which raised temperatures in sheltered areas to 14C/57F although the edge on the breeze reduced that to 10C/50F in most parts. We did our weekly shop at 9.00 am and then completed our third, consecutive hour of cardio workout in the Health Club. Just as we were finishing showering and dressing to leave for home, the Health Club fire alarm went off and everyone traipsed out in to the carpark. Fortunately, we were able to drive away.

We got home and put together a wonderful meal of Cornish dressed crab, scrambled egg, cold water prawns and tomato & cucumber salad. It was one of those dishes that make one feel good to be alive. Having just finished our meal, I walked over to make coffee and the power went off. Everything went dead. I thought I was in Sifnos. We don’t expect this in Britain nowadays. After phoning the power company, it turned out that the house developers up the road had severed a main cable. Must have been a bit of a shock! Anyway, it was back on within 90 mins..

Amazing how much we rely on mains electricity. Couldn’t check Google for the power company’s contact number. Couldn’t distract ourselves with a television. Could heat the coffee. Couldn’t put the heating on. Couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t.

Friday, 3rd March, 2017

Our very local Garden Centre.

Took a day off from exercise at the gym today. We went out to our garden centre – literally 5 mins drive away – to look for some ‘fill in’ shrubs for a bed where some have failed and ideas for additional garden furniture. There are garden centres all around us but this is the biggest and the best quality. As we walked round, I was particularly keen on some new, Hebe variations.

We are looking for colour all year round at the side of the house down the drive to the garage. These new Hebes look excellent candidates. They are low growing and strong in colour.

Hebe Magicolour

Hebe White Gem

 

 

 

 

 

While we were walking round, Pauline smelled what she thought was Mimosa – a scent she has always loved since our Greek house. It turned out to be Sarcocca Confusa or ‘Sweet Box’. It looks like we are definitely having some of that either side of the front door. In reality, the shrubs on sale were so tempting, we could have bought one of everything if we had the space for it. In age, however, we have learnt not to impulse-buy but purchase after reflection. We will check out gaps in the beds and then return to get the plants we need.

Saturday, 4th March, 2017

Littlehampton Marina

Lovely mild and sunny day. We went down to the Post Office to return another on-line purchase which wasn’t what it seemed and then nipped down to the Marina to have a walk in the fresh, Spring air. Of course, at the weekend, you can always expect quite a throng of visitors and today was the same. Littlehampton Marina is lovely with a wide, open walkway and lots to see. We always like to call in at the fishermen’s huts to see what fish is for sale and see what the little boys are catching with their hooks & lines dropped over the wall.

Lifeguard Training on the seafront.

The beaches and boardwalks are busy with others and their dogs taking the air, even paddling at the sea’s edge. Children scoot past or glide on their roller boots. Old people hobble along behind, pulling in huge lungsful of reviving ozone. Today, there was a special focus of interest as a gaggle of new lifeguards were standing in the sea being inducted by their instructor. Although the air was pleasantly warm, I can’t imagine the sea was. Rather them than me. We drove home for a bowl of home made vegetable soup.

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Week 426

Sunday, 19th February, 2017

My little brother is 65 today. Happy Birthday to Bob. Actually, he’s not that little and he is only 10 months younger than me but there have to be bragging rights for the elder brother occasionally. I wish him a very, happy birthday.

Of course, everything is related. Bob’s birthday means he is the same age as me for just a couple of months and, soon, I will hit the downward slope towards 70. I haven’t even got a safety harnesss and I can’t find the brake.

To distract me from the inevitable decline, we are planning travel – driving in Europe during the summer & holidaying in the sun in the winter – and exploring our heritage while at home. Although I already knew it in principle, what has been so instructive is the contrast between families in the 19th/20th Centuries who largely were rooted in place and community and people like me who are rooted in none of these. So many tradesmen have come to our door in the past year and so many have migrated across the country in their lives. Admittedly, the traffic has been largely southwards but not entirely. Anonymity can be liberating and isolating in equal measures.

Just read an entry from the Skopelosnews Blog which chimes with our view  exactly and reminds us of what we miss/don’t miss.

Living on an island is both sweet and sour at the same time. You cannot compare it to living in a city, a village. There is a melancholic feeling about the fact that you are separated from the rest of the country/world because of the sea and only boats can help you bridge that distance.

It is the oxymoron of bitter-sweet and liberation-isolation that can only be understood fully through experience.

Monday, 20th February, 2017

Rather a damp and grey start to the morning. Actually, our morning really started at 4.00 am when I couldn’t sleep. This is something that rarely happens. I woke up feeling hot because the outdoor temperature over night was about 10C/50F. We went downstairs to have a cup of tea. While we were there, we finished watching Testament of Youth. You will no doubt be aware that it is the harrowing memoir of Vera Britain, Shirley Williams’ Mum. It covers her experiences during the First World War and the beginning of her journey towards pacifism. It is the sort of film I weep buckets at and I didn’t disappoint.

Back to bed at 5.00 am and the radio turned on to Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme an hour later. By 7.30 am, we were drinking fresh orange juice and tea and turning to possible events of the day. One of the main jobs today is to consider our wills. We made them more than 30 years ago when we were living in Yorkshire. They are lodged with a solicitor in Huddersfield and we have two executors who live in the South of England. For a while, we had a codicil relating to our Greek property but that is now revoked.

Of course, we have moved home a number of times since we first drew up our will and Sussex is the latest example of that. I have to inform the solicitor. Unfortunately, when I checked the solicitors’ website, it looked distinctly ‘unloved’ and unmaintained. When I contacted them, it appears they were taken over a couple of years ago. Our wills can stay with them and I will check that our executors are still willing to act for us. As it is 31 years since we drew these wills up, some beneficiaries are already dead – our Mothers, for example – but the general thrust remains valid.

I think I inherited this from my father and his ‘Dig for Victory’ movement but I love growing vegetables and don’t really have enough ground here. I had heard that there was an Angmering Allotment Association and I had considered finding out about it. This morning a leaflet came through the door inviting me to apply for a plot. I am sorely tempted but they have very strict rules about maintenance and we have so many plans for travel that I don’t think I could fully comply or make the most of the opportunity. I think it is something that will have to wait for a few years. I just hope that I won’t be too old by the time I’m ready.

Tuesday, 21st February, 2017

An overcast but fairly mild day. We had an electrician here today doing some totally unnecessary, but  indulgently useful work which included installing outdoor, electrical sockets on the external wall of the garage to make cooking outside easier and additional down-lighters in one of the bathrooms so that Pauline can count her wrinkles more accurately.

The electrician that we chose from our local, Checkatrade listing, turned out to be an absolutely lovely lad – (I say ‘lad’. He is 42, married with 3 kids but that says a lot about me now.) – who chatted non-stop as he worked, clearly loved meeting new people and turned out he is married to a barrister. If you know me, you will know that I can illicit the complete life story of any, total stranger within the first ten minutes of meeting and so it was with Darryl. I can tell you how old Darryl’s Gran was when she died and what illness his brother-in-law is suffering from. I can tell you what Darryl weighed twelve months ago, how much he’s lost since then and what sport he’s played since he was at school.

I can even tell you where Daryl will be on Friday, what operation he’s having and how long he’ll be off work. I can tell you where Daryll’s allotment is and what he likes to grow there. I can tell you where he likes to drive on holiday, what the names and ages of his three kids are and what he likes to drink both hot and cold. Of course, because of client confidentiality, I won’t be telling you any of those things but, after an hour with Darryl, I could almost write his biography.

Because of waiting for my new, best friend, Daryll, we couldn’t go to the gym today. To make up for it, I spent some time hoovering the house and then a couple of hours valeting the car inside and out. After Daryll had left, I did all the weeding outside and trimmed back the hedging at the front of the house. While I did these jobs, my wife was otherwise engaged with her newspaper. However, using our new, outdoor facility, she did cook a wonderful batch of whitebait which we ate with salad.

Wednesday, 22nd February, 2017

Went out at 9.00 this morning to a tile shop between Shoreham and Brighton. We have large, floor tiles right across our kitchen and in to our Utility Room. In every other house we’ve lived in, we have had spare, back-up tiles in case of accidents. Here, we have none. Ever mindful of the future, I decided to buy some. They are Johnson ‘Natural Tones, Matt Ecru 600mm x 600. I found a shop about 8 miles away who stocked them. They are so big, they come in boxes of 3 which I picked up today at a cost of £39.00/€46.20. They will now grow cobwebbed and dusty on the shelves in the garage until…

It was nice to explore a different part of our new, home area. The tile store was on the edge of Shoreham Beach although it was rather grey today. We are constantly surprised how close to the shoreline we live and are determined to put more time aside to visit the many interesting places dotted along it. It would be more enjoyable in warmer weather. Today the temperature has remained 10C/50F since early this morning but feels a lot cooler in a strong, breeze.

The gym really hurt today but we stuck it out and Pauline saved the day by cooking a lovely meal of Roast Pheasant, with roast shallots and carrots. Absolutely delicious!

Thursday, 23rd February, 2017

East Sussex this morning.

Today, as we know, is Doris Day. Storm ‘Doris’ has hit Britain. Scotland has blizzards, Blackpool has storm force gales, London has trees uprooted, trains and flights cancelled. Even East Sussex has strong wind bringing high tides and Angmering in West Sussex felt the effects. Our garden chair blew over!

What the wind did do was blow the clouds away,  reveal blue sky and sunshine. Sheltered from the wind, the temperature was 12C/54F which is good for mid-February. We have visited Sainsburys, Waitrose and Tesco this morning. All were wonderfully quiet. Old people obviously decided not to venture out in this dangerously breezy sunshine. If only it was always like this.

Curry is torture.

I have never liked hot and spicy flavours – Chilli, Curry, Paprika – even though I tried to when my friends in the 70’s & 80’s were raving about them. How hot can you take your curry? was the test of manhood which I failed every time. I have always gravitated towards French and Italian styles, ingredients and flavours.

In age, I have increasingly favoured dishes flavoured by herbs rather than salt, pepper or the condiments of the devil listed above. I do make an exception for garlic which I adore. Currently, Sage, Basil, Dill, Oregano, Rosemary, and Tarragon are favourites. Interestingly, the world is coming back to me. A report in The Independent this morning says:

Half of UK’s curry houses could shut over the next decade due to British healthy eating trends.

It suggests that we are looking for shorter menus with lighter, healthier options with more fish and vegetable dishes.

They always say that, if you stand still long enough, everything comes back round. I should be in fashion at least twice in my lifetime!

Friday, 24th February, 2017

A lovely, sunny and quite mild day reaching 11C/52F although there was an edge the coastal breeze. We have had none of the difficulties reported around the rest of the country caused by the storm. Nice picture in The Times of sheep’s response to cold wind. I know just how they feel … and taste!

We are often woken to the sounds of sea gulls outside screeching at each other. They are not a problem and still new enough to us to be quite a delight. People who have lived around here for years, can often be heard complaining about them and consider them vermin just like many people in the countryside consider squirrels and rabbits. I’m sure seagulls can be annoying at times. They seem to choose wisely the people they want to attack – children holding ice creams aloft like trophies, pensioners unwrapping sandwiches, etc.. The gulls singled out Stavros’ boat to carpet-bomb while leaving all others clean.

Chairs lined up. Yay!

In Worthing, as we fill our car boot with shopping, gulls will waddle up expectantly almost begging for contributions. When they are not forthcoming, they can be found trying to get in to discarded sandwich wrappers and crisp bags that drift round the car park in the breeze. The local newspaper has recently featured this more enterprising bird which has gone back to source. He/she has got into the habit of sneaking in to local shops and emerging with unopened bags of Cheese & Onion.

As you can see from the photo above, the weekend is starting well with everything in its place and lined up. there is nothing like being straight.

Saturday, 25th February, 2017

A grey day which reached 12C/54F but felt colder. We are told that it has been an unseasonably warm winter which is why crocuses and daffodils are full bloom and almost going over long before the start of March. To be honest, it has almost crept up on us unnoticed. Now we’ve been told, the public spaces are noticeably filled with colour and our flower beds are definitely bursting with buds of new growth. It is a delightfully optimistic sight.

Angmering Station

We are planning a trip to London to visit the Hockney Exhibition at The Tate Gallery soon so we drove to our local station to check parking and pick up times and prices. It is a lovely, parochial place which is easy to use. A train to London Victoria takes and hour and a half and costs just £23.00/€27.14 return. We rarely use trains but this will certainly be preferable to driving through central London.

We went on to the Health Club for a couple of hours work out and then drove home where we had a weekend, indulgent treat for our meal – pork spare ribs with broad beans and garlic mushrooms. It was absolutely wonderful.

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Week 425

Sunday, 12th February, 2017

Last of the chilly days. I think we struggled up to 5C/41F and the sun broke through for a while. We are told that warm days will be back tomorrow which should reach double today at 10C/50F. I’m looking forward to getting out in the garden again – weeding and mowing the lawns. Just shows you how much time I’ve got on my hands.

It was an indoors day for me but not for this daft dog. It was snapped playing on the sea shore. I’ve never been keen on dogs unless they are well roasted with garlic and olive oil but this one almost looks acceptable.

Major Eric Sanders – 1946

I have been looking through a box of memorabilia which hasn’t been opened for quite a few years. While I was reminding myself of some photographs of a trip to Ireland in 1966, a metal square fell out on to the office floor. As I picked it up, I realised that it was a small, framed photograph of Major Eric Sanders aka ‘Dad’ taken in 1946 as he was demobbed. He was 31 years old. Incredible to think what he had to go through in the deserts of Palestine. How foreign it must have been to a young man from a small, Midlands village.

How lucky I have been in my life to choose most of my experiences, to go abroad at leisure and in comfort and to live beyond the age of 49. He always blamed the heat of the desert for his hair loss and told us stories of frying eggs & bacon on sun-heated Land Rover bonnets and stones. The things that I’ve never forgotten were the really important ones like a penchant he developed in the army for smearing bacon with marmalade and drinking chicory-based ‘Camp’ coffee. Mum had to pretend she liked it for years when they were first married. In spite of this, Dad died when I was 14 and long before I really got to know him. I regret that.

Monday, 13th February, 2017

Well it’s all change. By 10.00 am we were reading 10C/50F and later the sheltered, back garden reached a dizzy 16C/61F. I celebrated by cutting the lawns for the first time for two months. It felt and smelt good. No politics this week. Parliament has broken up for Half Term. We don’t want them overdoing it. We did a really hard couple of hours at the Health Club. We struck up a conversation with a couple who we’d seen there before but never spoken to. He was a retired Banker aged 86 and his wife was 85. They had spent time working out in the gym and followed it with a swim. They travel around the world and particularly enjoyed Greece in their younger days but, in age, they want more luxurious hotels in the Canaries. We would love to emulate them at that age.

Spot the hand of ‘The Nasty Party’.

The current angst in Britain with the state of the NHS is always addressed by the Tories with the refrain: We are putting in Billions more and just what we were asked for. They imply that funding is increasing exponentially under their management. We know it is not true. We can see it is not true but few of us have the facts at our fingertips when we articulate the case.

This graphic from the Institute for Fiscal Studies provides all you need to know about why you have to wait in A&E for hours or lie on a trolley in a corridor for hours or have your surgery cancelled because of lack of beds. The real question is, what is the motive. Am I cynical in suspecting that we are being softened up for a charging policy? Is this a long term aim of the Tories to weaken the country’s trust in a cradle to grave service and move people to private practices?

Tuesday, 14th February, 2017

Harbingers of Spring.

A rather grey day which only reached 10C/50F. Snowdrops are out in force around here. There are some buds coming through on the hydrangeas at the front of the house and yesterday’s weather did give us a suggestion that Spring isn’t too far away.

This is a day for loved ones – if you get sucked in to all that commercial guff. My wife and I agreed nearly 40 years ago that Birthday, Christmas, Anniversary and Valentine’s Day recognition through presents was completely unnecessary. You can’t get more romantic than that. Today has been renamed by me as Poison Dwarf Day. We celebrated the occasion by going for an extra long workout at the Health Club.

Montepulciano

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our first draft stopovers en route to Ancona Port this Summer. In the past, we would drive like-bats-out-of-hell and do the journey in 18 hrs. Latterly, we would take it a bit slower but still look at it as basically a journey to Greece and then a journey home. Now, we won’t have much of a timetable and can take up to a month each way. We have returned to the plan over the past few days and it currently lines up like this:

Out

Calais – Reims – Dijon – Lyon – Turin – Genoa – Montepulciano – Ancona

Return

Ancona – Parma – Bellinzona – Mulhouse – Reims – Calais

I am now identifying hotels for each stop and how many nights we want to be there. This is the sort of research I enjoy.

Wednesday, 15th February, 2017

The day started beautifully bright and sunny. The sun glistened on the dew of the newly striped lawn. I was going to go out and do some weeding of the beds around the house but, by the time I was ready, the sun had disappeared and dull greyness pervaded the sky. Instead, I turned my mind to something which has been troubling me for some time. Like the typical prevaricator I am, I really have to grit my teeth to address such things.

The Sanders Family – 1925

I’ve spent the morning scrabbling around my computer and cloud backup as well as my filing system to find a document produced by cousin, David, which pulled together our Family’s History. He sent it to me quite some time ago when life was in such a state of flux that, even though I was excited to get it, I decided to deal with it later. As I moved house and my computer failed and was replaced, I am still struggling to locate it. I absolutely hate misplacing things! I am going to have to beg for another copy soon.

Always lovely to receive a brown envelope from HM Revenue & Customs particularly after we had two demands of unpaid tax over recent years. Fortunately today, we were just being informed of a raise in the tax-free allowance which will be £11,500/€13,530.00 from April. This is particularly noteworthy because our allowance is still rising towards the £12,000.00/€14,120.00 that was promised by the UK government whereas the Greek’s tax-free allowance has been cut to £7345.00/€8636.00 and their creditors are demanding another reduction over the next 12 months.

Yesterday’s press featured a leaked EU document which they headlined:

Britons in Europe will face BACKLASH from bloc’s members after Brexit.

This suggested that BRITISH nationals living in a country in the European Union could well face reprisals over the UK’s treatment of foreigners. The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee drew up the internal document that looked at the impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc and indicates that the 1.2 million Britons living with the EU could pay a price for Theresa May’s failure to offer a secure future for EU nationals in the UK.

It is not really a time to be property owning abroad at the moment and may not be again. There are likely to be serious issues around reciprocity of Healthcare, Pensions, Cash movement and Bank Guarantees, Personal Identity and Social Security. Already, moves are being prepared to restrict those living abroad from returning to Britain for ‘free’ Healthcare. This is bound to provoke a response in Europe. Brexit will not be responded to economically but politically in order to shore up ‘The Grand Project’.

Thursday, 16th February, 2017

You can’t beat meat wrapped in entrails.

The day has started warm but grey although it is forecast to become sunny as the day develops. Although not a ‘Vegan, Vegetarian or tree hugger’, I will not be observing Τσικνοπέμπτη unlike the Greeks who mark the start of Lent by gorging on barbecued meat wrapped in entrails. It was always one of their more sophisticated habits we declined. We will be going for the over indulgent Tuna Pate & Tomato Salad. I know but you only live once. In the UK, start of Lent weekend is at the end of next week but we are celebrating early by shopping at Tesco, going to the gym and generally living it up as usual.

Friday, 17th February, 2017

Spring is coming! Spring is coming! Don’t Panic, Mr Mainwaring! Don’t Panic! Yesterday, we topped at 14C/57F and the forecast is for 16C or 17C/61F or 63F. This is excellent for February in England. The lawns have reacted well to being cut. Shrubs everywhere are budding up. Even the flowers in the hall are blooming. The cyclamen that Catherine brought us in October have flowered continuously and continue to do so. Optimism abounds ….. apart from bloody Brexit!

Already, this morning we have reached 10C/50F and I’m going outside to clean the car. What fun!

From L-R: Jimmy. Mick, Me & Dave.

Continuing to go through my Memorabilia Boxfile, where I found a photograph of Dad from 71 years ago earlier in the week, today I turned up a very faded, ‘Box Brownie’ photo of me 51 years ago with my scoutmaster, Dave Beasley, Michael Holmes who lived in High Street, Repton and Jimmy Philips who lived on the council estate at the far edge of the village. We had travelled to Dublin and then on to County Donegal in southern Ireland. I have wonderful but hazy memories of the trip. It was when I confirmed myself as a smoker and revelled in Sweet Afton which eventually made me very sick.

Saturday, 18th February, 2017

Lovely, warm day which reached 14C/57F as we left the Health Club at 4.00 pm after another couple of hours hard work. It was the fourth session this week and I found I was just beginning to cramp in my calves as I was finishing. Is it my age? Must try harder!

Worthing Pier

Pauline cooked what is becoming one of my favourite dishes for our meal today. Fish Pie should be off the agenda because I can’t eat potato but, with an inventive twist. This ‘pie’ was made up of Salmon, Cod, Scallops & Prawns in a Béchamel Sauce and topped with long, thin slices of Courgette topped by a light sprinkling of grated Parmesan. Pauline has a Jacket Potato with hers. I don’t.

We are told that we will be warmer than Greece over the next week. We have an electrician coming to do a few, small jobs but we have also resolved to go down in to Worthing and walk down the Pier which we have not yet done. It looks interesting and will post pictures as soon as I can.

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 425