Week 469

Sunday, 17th December, 2017

Week 469 marks the start of The Blog’s 10th year. If I focus on that fact, I can hardly believe it. Of course, it has encapsulated and chronicled some dramatic moments in my life as well as many very mundane ones. Often, I have completely lost sight of who it is written for and, currently, I still don’t know. When asked, I always say that it is for me and my memory but I hope it has, at times amused or enraged some others who, like me, enjoy viewing the minutiae of others’ lives. I have always been an ‘observer’ rather than a ‘joiner’, on the edge of the party rather than the life and soul of it. It suits me which is why my chronicle – The Blog – has made me comfortable in its construction and development.

Today, Pauline has been decorating her Christmas Cake. I have rarely seen her so tense in a kitchen. Everything has been stressing her from concerns about a North Korean attack to her icing being too sticky to roll out. Fortunately, North Korea held off today and trial and error produced a sheet of the correct colour icing that could be cut to fit a template and successfully laid over the cake. After all, World War was avoided for another day.

The High St. & Square, Repton

I was watching a programme which allowed people to describe the place of their origin. Naturally, they invested pleasurable memories in their description and love to return to their origins to rediscover childhood memories. I often hear of people making a final relocation in their lives to return to their childhood roots. I was reflecting on the journey that my own life has taken from a small, East Midlands village to a Lancashire town, a Yorkshire town, a Surrey town and a Greek island and now a West Sussex village. I was desperate to leave my small village for the anonymity of a town. I don’t mind going back as an ‘observer’ but I could never contemplate returning to be part of a community.

It is a strange phenomenon in my psyche and my life. I can enjoy reviewing past events and places in my timeline and the Blog is a good place to start but I can’t face the commitment of really returning in any meaningful way. It may explain why I like moving house and why I have really enjoyed leaving all or many of my possessions behind when  I did. In Yorkshire, we sold all our furniture with our house and gave away most of the rest of our possessions. In Greece, we sold or gave away all our furnishings and most of our other belongings before we left. In Surrey, we sold our Duplex fully furnished and started afresh in a brand new house in Sussex. There is something enjoyable for me in a tablar rasa and the chance to escape old mistakes and to build on acquired experiences. The Blog allows me to revisit times, places and experiences on my own terms without having to compromise my isolation or ‘observer’ status. This, in itself, is a raison d’être.

Monday, 18th December, 2017

Beautiful salmon pink skies both morning and evening bathing the surrounding buildings with a theatrical glow. In between, we had plenty of blue sky and strong, low Winter sun. The day was reasonably mild and windless making our outdoor swim really enjoyable.

Pauline has been planning the Christmas Day meal that she is going to cook for her family. Every element has to be the best she can source. I’ve written before of our long held determination to only eat food that we could prepare from good, natural ingredients. We went out of our way to make things from scratch that others, with less time or inclination, would just take from a supermarket shelf. Pauline would make all her own bread – in the days when we ate bread. We bought a pasta maker – in the days when we ate pasta – and a sausage maker to make what was once one of my favourite foods. We don’t eat cake and biscuits but, when we did, Pauline would make them much better than shop bought ones.

We didn’t take the home-made principle too far. For example, we used to love bacon in the past but never attempted to cure that. I love smoked salmon and Gravadlax. I love kippers and cold, smoked mackerel. These are examples of processed foods that we have continued to buy. Recently, however, I have been finding it difficult to source good quality smoked salmon at reasonable prices. I am currently considering trying to smoke my own fish and I’ve been looking for Smokers that I can use in the garden. I think I will start small and, if successful, scale up. Too much smoked food is not particularly good for one but, if I can produce smoked salmon and mackerel to eat once or twice a month, I will be pleased. I hope it will be a rewarding experience. Could be a New Year Resolution.

Tuesday, 19th December, 2017

If there was a god, he’d be in his heaven.

A lovely day which started off with bright sky and sent shepherds their traditional warning followed by delightful sunshine but a hint of frost on the lawn. We’ve been out shopping for Christmas Lunch items in Littlehampton. Later we went to the Health Club. After an hour in the gym, we changed for the pool. As I put on my swimming boxer shorts and pulled the ties, one snapped and withdrew into the waistband. There was nothing I could do to retrieve it and I certainly felt insecure in swimming without it. I settled for 20 mins in the Jacuzzi/sauna and then came home.

Pauline roasted salmon with pesto topping accompanied by salad and we relaxed in to a glorious evening which, in contradistinction to the morning sky, suggested shepherds should be delighted. The temperature didn’t get above 9C/48F but it certainly felt pleasant in the sunshine. This evening, at 8.00 pm, it is still 7C/45F and is forecast to remain around that throughout the night. Certainly, there is unlikely to be a ‘white Christmas’ thank goodness.

Wednesday, 20th December, 2017

Quite a mild day. Swimming was really enjoyable outside today and we both felt wonderful after our gym & swim session. The rest of the day was spent by Pauline in cooking for Christmas. She managed to roast a couple of duck legs which we ate with salad for our meal as well. This evening, I’ve watched Man.Utd. being well beaten by Bristol City who I found myself cheering for.

I love political turbulence and it is not difficult to find. I received a Christmas card from Superfast & Blue Star Ferries this morning and you can be sure why. I’ve looked at a potential booking that we used to do – Leaving around Greek Easter in April and returning at the end of September, travelling in a Luxury cabin with our car. The cost has come down hugely. At the end, we were paying around £1000.00/€1130.00 for that return crossing. Today, I could buy it for £630.00/€715.00. For all the bullish data coming out from a Greek government who are way behind in the opinion polls, the actuality is very different. Kathimerini tells us today that joblessness is continuing to soar. The forced appropriation and auctioning of mortgage defaulters’ properties and the population’s pessimism about avoiding the need for a 4th bailout with its attendant external supervision means the economy is not as Syriza would want us to believe. Add to that the other members of the EU’s growing reluctance to take the immigrants building up on Greek Islands and reluctantly being resettled on the mainland and it is not a happy society.

Of course, it is not all sweetness and light here at the moment, thank goodness!

Thursday, 21st December, 2017

Brighton Pier last night.

The shortest day is a glass half full time in which we can look forward to longer, lighter days. Went out early – 8.45 am – under grey sky to Tesco for our final shop before Christmas. One of the joys of retirement is to be free to beat the crowds. Even then, we didn’t totally succeed. So many people were out shopping to beat the crowds that none of us really succeeded. I am absolutely convinced that some people just love the frisson of busy shops and lots of people to get a genuine sense of being involved in the festivity. There is nothing like a bit of pushing and shoving to make one feel part of the real world.

I used to try to persuade my aged mother that 10.30 on a Saturday morning was not the best time for a retired old lady to be driving to town, looking for parking, walking the supermarket aisles when the rest of the working world were desperately using their hard earned weekend to do the same. She insisted on doing it though and I have since realised, in my own retirement, that being amongst the land-of-the-living makes one feel less marginalised in the aging community.

Why does it take a Christmas celebration to get supermarkets to stock excellent and well priced smoked salmon? I have been trying to source it for weeks but only found small packs at extortionate prices. Today, packs of 300-500 gms appeared priced only slightly ahead of the 100 gms packs that had been on sale until recently. The fish mongers was stocked to flowing with whole, fresh salmon. We just bought one which cost only £21.00/€23.70 but will feed us for five, gluttonous meals.

Incredibly mild today even if it has been grey and dull. As we left the Health Club at 4.00 pm, the car read 14C/57F. It makes so many of these television adverts full of fake snow look depressingly false. We’ve done 4, consecutive days of quite hard exercise and we were both feeling it today. We are going to try one more tomorrow and then have Saturday off. We will go again on Sunday and then have two days off as long as Boxing Day is nice enough for a coastal walk.

Friday, 22nd December, 2017

A relatively mild – 10C/50F – but dark, damp and gloomy morning on what is said to be the busiest of the Christmas period. A couple of things that Pauline had found unable to get in Tesco yesterday had to be sourced in Sainsbury‘s today. We were out at 8.00 am and the roads were fine. The supermarket was rather busier than usual but we were in and out quite quickly. I will be pleased to see no more shops for months. I was going to clean the car but the weather is very off-putting and it would soon be wet and filthy again so I am putting that off.

We have decided that we will definitely do one more gym session today and one on Sunday which will mean we will have done 6 out of the 9 days over the holiday period. Usually, the Health Clubs have a spurt of new memberships and activity at the start of the New Year in line with resolutions but that quite quickly tails off. The state of the economy also conditions membership and there is some uncertainty around here with younger families concerned that stretching themselves with mortgages has left them vulnerable to rate rises. That may deter some from taking on more commitments. Fortunately, that is not a problem which affects us nor has it done for almost 10 years which is reassuring. We even received an advisory letter to say our cash ISA’s rate had increased to a massive 1.06% which forced me to sit down for a while.

After a quick call in to a very busy Tesco carpark en route to the Health Club, we found that so many workers had finished early for Christmas that the gym was very busy as well. In spite of that, we did our 5th, consecutive session plus swim and felt all the better for that.

Saturday, 23rd December, 2017

It was the night before the night before Christmas ……. Please let it be over soon. Everywhere I go I hear that terrible musak about a white Christmas that I haven’t seen for so many years. In fact, I can’t remember seeing snow on Christmas day since I retired in 2009 and there have only been 4 really white Christmas Days in the past 51 years. Even if there had been snow every Christmas, I would still hate that bloody musak! Thank goodness we are heading for a mild and grey day of monotone and calm.

Now Greece might be a different matter. They have snow already. Hundreds of drivers have been stranded on the main Athens to Thessaloniki highway, as a snow storm hit central Greece today. A woman is reported dead in the snow-bound northern Peloponnese. Beaufort 9 winds have stopped ferries to the Cycladic islands and streets of Santorini have been turned in to rivers by torrential rain that has wreaked terrible damage and exposed the poor state of the island’s infrastructure. All those in UK wishing for a white Christmas should think themselves very lucky to get a boring, grey sky.

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Week 468

Sunday, 10th December, 2017

This will be my favourite.

This is the last week of the 9th year of the Blog. No, please, no applause. It is a rather grey, wet day and the temperatures are nothing to write a Blog about although we were at 9C/48F while the Home Counties were around 1C/34F and snowing so we can’t complain.

We haven’t been out today. Pauline has been planning the Christmas meal that she will cook for her family. Just the starter has me salivating:

  • Rustic Pâté with Pear Compote & Ciabatta Toast
  • Salmon Terrine with Pear Avocado Salsa & Ciabatta Toast

I won’t go on because I will drown in the anticipation. The entire menu and specific recipes have been typed up after extensive research. While that was going on, I was upgrading Norton Security Premium on two Desktop computers and two laptops. I’ve also put it on the iPads and the smartphones. That is eight machines covered and I’ve got two outstanding installations left for this year all for the princely sum of £29.99/€34.00.

I’ve watched three football matches this afternoon culminating in the thrashing of United by City. It was almost as if Mourinho set them up on a suicidal path to defend for 90 minutes. It was never going to work.

Monday, 11th December, 2017

Up especially early this morning because we were going to brave the rush hour traffic and drive to Worthing so that Pauline can have her hair cut. The weather was dominating the news and snow, particularly, was central to conditions in the North, Midlands and as far south as Surrey. We just had unpleasantly cold rain. We parked on the top, outside level of the multi-storey carpark and the cold sea breeze cut through us as we stepped out of the car.

We parted company as Pauline went in to  Toni&Guy and I went on to Costa Coffee. The atmosphere outside was pretty horrible but there were few inside. I spent my hour enjoying the iPad newspaper and then suffered half an hour of shopping with Pauline. We drove home and decided to stay there today.

Of course, the weather immediately picked up and the sun came out. As the television news featured increasingly difficult driving conditions across the country, our weather improved and got rather warmer. The night sky forecast ‘shepherds delight’ and all well with the world. Talking of world, I sent homemade e-cards to friends in Boston, United States, Melbourne, Australia and the island of Gozo, Malta as well as friends in Sifnos, Greece.

Our Notary who went the extra kilometre to help us complete a really successful sale of our Greek property contacted us a week ago and told us she was thinking of bringing her family to the UK next year. She wanted information and advice. We have written with that and offers of help to make their trip enjoyable. It will be lovely to see her and her family again.

Tuesday, 12th December, 2017

Valencia City

A lovely, sunny if rather chilly day which started off at -1C/30F with a light frost and didn’t get higher than 7C/45F. I spent the morning updating my website and researching travel to Valencia. Our dear friend and ex-colleague from West Yorkshire has a property in Murcia. For two years now, she’s been trying to get us there. Pauline & I have never been to Spain other than to the Canary Islands of Fuerteventura and Tenerife. For two years we have been receiving travel books and hotel books plus bottles of Spanish wine to get us hooked on the idea.

Her property is in Mazarron and we might drive there ultimately but first, we thought we would fly for a short break in Valencia in the Spring. I understand that the orange blossom is there to be smelled in March which would be nice to experience.  I have been trying to find out about somewhere I know absolutely nothing of. It will be interesting to experience a different culture. It is nice to have a lot of new areas to explore.

Back in West Sussex, the temperature has forced us not to swim outside although some others continued to do so. We just did gym work today and will go back to swimming tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13th December, 2017

The gorgeous Lizzie Dripping.

We have really enjoyed today and the weather has been kind to us. Warmer – 10C/50F – and swimming outside was back on and delicious. A festive air has arrived with Christmas cards from France, Australia, America, Greece, and around the UK. Got a request for my address from own sister. I suggested she sent wine rather than Christmas cards but she did supply this official portrait instead. I think she looks gorgeous but then I’ve always loved venison.

While I’m dwelling on the lunacies of the festival, I thought I would share a few Cracker jokes with you that featured in The Independent. My favourite was about the Leader of the Labour Party who was awarded an international peace prize in the past week but most media outlets ‘forgot’ to mention it.

  1. Why did Donald Trump continuously decorate the Christmas tree? Because people kept saying “moron” to him.
  2. Why was Theresa May sacked as nativity manager? She couldn’t run a stable government.
  3. Why did Jeremy Corbyn ask people not to eat sprouts on Christmas Day? He wants to give peas a chance.

Hope you had as enjoyable a day as I have.

Thursday, 14th December, 2017

We went out early on a bright, chilly morning to do our major, weekly shop at Tesco. With Christmas only just over a week away, we expected the roads and the shopping aisles to be crowded. Not so. May be the lull before the storm but there was a strange quiet all around.

We did a full gym & swim. It was our third, consecutive day of exercise and we were both beginning to feel it in our muscles. Swimming was enjoyable but a little edgy because of the bite in the sea breeze that wafted over the water’s surface. Still we did it and felt righteous for the achievement. Pauline is going out early tomorrow for a ‘facial’ at the Beauty Parlour in Rustington and then we will do one more exercise session. We will probably then take a day off on Saturday to allow our bodies to recover.

Catherine bought us some white cyclamen about 18 months ago and they flowered for such a long time. We were delighted with them although we had never grown them before. Suddenly, they began to die back and virtually disappeared. Residual leaves remained and we left them there. A couple of months ago and quite surprisingly, those leaves began to expand and multiply and suddenly, in the past fortnight, pure, white flowers have pushed up on succulent stalks to light up a dark border. Never give up!

Friday, 15th December, 2017

The day started off wet and cold but developed to blue sky and sunshine by afternoon. Pauline went out early to have a facial. We are so rarely apart that a quiet house was quite unnerving. I completed a number of tasks including something I’ve been putting off for days because it felt so intricate. Our heating system was preset by the builders with the assumption that it would suit most lifestyles. It is something which is quite alien to those of us who were born into homes with open fires and no central heating.

Looks simple – wasn’t.

New homes have to meet energy certificate requirements and the newest homes have to meet the most stringent. Because of that, the number and size of radiators is calculated to within an inch of the industry standard. Hot water for washing, etc., is intended to be on all the time. Indeed, it’s thought to be more economical in this way instead of making it heat up from a standing start as we did in the past. The installer has also seen fit to preset the times of day and minimum temperatures each room will need according to a working family with different settings for weekend. It was my job to reset the upstairs thermostat, erasing weekend settings and lowering the overall temperature. Sounds easy. Took me an hour.

I did the cooking today while Pauline was a lady of leisure. The menu was Roast Loin of Cod accompanied by roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic and oregano plus sautéed, button chestnut mushrooms. Looked good by the time it was served. I’m not surprised.

Saturday, 16th December, 2017

There was a bitter edged breeze as we stepped out in to Rustington at 9.30 am. We were on a mission to find cookery shops to assist my wife in her pet project. As ususal, I had gone out underdressed and pretending that I could cope. It was soon obvious how mad I was. I was suffering before we had walked half way across Waitrose carpark.

In the High Street, the movement of freezing air was unfettered and biting. I bit my bottom lip and pretended I was impervious to cold while making a mental note that we would definitely be spending next Winter in the Canary Islands. However, I was looking at an Instagram contributor who posted pictures of the East Midlands village of Repton, where I grew up, from earlier this week and I came across the photo on the left. I instantly felt better.

Today the Blog closes its 9th year. It started out as an idle experiment, became an interest and is now a way of life. Obsession may be too strong a description but I cannot go to bed without recording something of the day. Actually, Week 1 began on Christmas Day, 2008 which is not exactly met but 52 weeks x 9 = 468 and allows for the slippage over time of exactitude. Officially, there are 52.1429 weeks in a year but who will go around quoting that? People would really think I was weird. Hope to see you in Year 10 – tomorrow or Week 469.2861.

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Week 467

Sunday, 3rd December, 2017

A mild but fairly grey day to start the penultimate week of the Blog’s 9th year. The day has been quiet and uneventful although the newspapers are fairly explosive and not in a good way for the Tories.

With joy in my heart – but not until I had followed three, separate political discussion programmes, we drove down to an almost deserted Health Club and did our statutory hour in the gym and half hour in the outdoor pool which was totally devoid of swimmers. What is wrong with these people? We give them two days off from work and offer them a beautiful outdoor swimming pool and they turn their noses up at it. They don’t know when they’re on to a good thing!

Monday, 4th December, 2017

Told you Ireland would be the stumbling block of Brexit and today has proved just that. The seemingly insoluble fix of Southern Ireland demanding no hard border which meant the North remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union while the DUP and Northern Ireland demanding no division between themselves and the mainland Britain who say they don’t want either the Single Market or the Customs Union. Of course, if Northern Ireland get to remain in the Single Market and/or the Customs Union, the Scots, the Welsh and London are demanding the same conditions. Sort that one out!

We have spent a quiet day of shopping and exercise. We shopped in Aldi for Greek Olive Oil – Kalamata – which we love on salad. We went to the Post Office to buy postage boxes for presents for our friends. On to the Health Club for about three hours. Once again, as the air temperature didn’t get above 11C/52F, we swam outside in peace and quiet and glorious solitude. Back home, Pauline cooked whitebait in the garden and the day wound down to relaxation once again. I have been doing some searching for rental properties in southern France for next June/July. We want a base with a Wi-Fi, a pool, cooking, and laundry facilities.

Tuesday, 5th December, 2017

My Incentive.

A rather grey day and not very warm reaching 11C/52F at tops. We did a trip to shops in the area sourcing Italian foodstuffs which we could pack into a large postage box to send to our dear little friend in the North of England. Bottles of wine, specialist pastas, lots of difference pasta sauces and pestos, a huge block of Parmigiana Reggiana, bread sticks, Pannetone, Amaretti biscuits, etc. We had great fun in finding them.

The shopping included a lot of walking about and we then went on to do our gym work and swim. By the time I got home, I had already done my 10,000 paces for the day. I am someone who is goal-driven. It is a great incentive to me when I feel like sitting down and resting. In the last 7 days, I have used a minimum of 70,000 paces / averaging 10,000 per day and covering 36.2 miles or more than 5 miles per day. In addition to this, I have swum just short of 2 miles. I’ve even caught myself running up and down stairs at home.

I Blog, Facebook and Twitter. I use each platform in slightly/very different ways. My Blog is read by one circle of people (poor things), my Facebook is read by a known and specific group of people and my Twitter feed is public. I like to express my views openly and strongly. I don’t feel unable to say what I think or to upset faint hearts. I am always fascinated to find followers and amazed how they find me. I only mention this now because I have been amused over the past few days to be followed by a professor from Bologna University who also presents a Social News magazine of the national television channel in Italy – Rai. The other new follower was a member of the Spanish judiciary and former member of the Catalan Parliament. Great fun to reach out to them from the South of England.

Talking of reaching out, we heard from an old, Sifnos friend this morning who is bringing her family to see us next Spring. She is a lovely lady who helped us sell our house and who we haven’t seen for three years. Reaching out from a speck of rock in the Aegean Sea to the South of England. How lovely!

Wednesday, 6th December, 2017

The Ensuite

Another grey day but mild-ish. It was 9C/48F at 7.00 am. We are up especially early this morning because we have an electrician arriving shortly after 8.00 am to install some new lights. We are having two ceiling spots put in the ensuite, another in the family bathroom plus a PIR above the garage door so I don’t spend hours in the dark looking for the key hole.

Because we are posting abroad, I have to do my Christmas newsletter to include with cards and I’m doing that today. It’s almost getting towards the time to send greetings electronically but maybe not just yet. Got to send a birthday greeting to David tomorrow. He’s at university so we will probably just do that on Facebook.

It’s a pretty good job where an electrician can do three hours work and ask for £275.00/€312.00 but they can and we are prepared to pay it. Our electrician supplied 3 spotlights plus a PIR and fitted them for that price. He did an excellent job and we settled in cash. We realise now that we should have done that work at the start.

By the time our electrician had finished, it was too late to get to the Health Club even though the temperature had reached 14C/57F. The breeze had picked up and that felt quite cutting. We posted our parcel to our friend in the North and did a bit of shopping in Rustington before driving home to cook roasted chicken breasts with peppers, onions and mushrooms. Lovely meal. Lovely day. We feel so lucky to enjoy it together.

Thursday, 7th December, 2017

The beautiful, Littlehampton Hospital

Grey, cool day. Had to go out to an old, dilapidated version of a hospital. Littlehampton Hospital for an early morning appointment. Although I am no longer taking medication for Type 2 Diabetes, I continue to be offered monitoring processes. Each year, I go for Diabetic Retinopathy examination. It is particularly helpful to me because I only have sight in one eye. Last year, I was told that my sight was getting better and it continues to do so. This goes against normal trends in which older eye muscles slacken and focal lengths extend which leads to increased short sightedness. In my case, I have found my eye sight improve to the point where I go out without my glasses which I have worn for almost 60 years and shock myself when I suddenly realise it.

I have to be administered strong pupil-dilation eye drops before my eyes are photographed with the negatives sent away for analysis. As a result, after my appointment, Pauline has to drive me home. As I step out in to the carpark on this dull and overcast day, my eyes sting and water as if I was stepping in to strong daylight. It hurts and I narrow my vision in self protection. As a result, we decide not to go to the Health Club but, even so, I struggle to read my iPad and watch the news and, for a number of hours, my pupils remained huge.

Last night, our little, local village put on their annual Christmas market accompanied by a small children’s fair. The roads were closed for 4 or 5 hours and the local traders showcased their wares. We walked down on a pleasantly mild night to see the spectacle which was predictably low key but delightfully homespun. It lasted for just those hours and was then just as quickly dismantled as the village returned to normality.

Friday, 7th December, 2017

A busy and rather cold day. It was 3C/37F when we got up at 7.00 am and didn’t rise much above 6C/43F all day. However, it was gorgeously sunny and bright which felt like some compensation. We did our weekly shop and came home to do necessary jobs. Pauline wrote about 70 Christmas cards. It was a point of debate this year for the first time. Could we send Christmas greetings by email/Facebook, etc.? It just feels a little bit early. Maybe next year.

My Christmas Newsletter. Should I print them all? I could get away with sending many electronically. My continual, year round spewing of news and information has almost obviated the need for a Christmas newsletter for many but obsession is a difficult thing to throw off. I will continue with it this year and send out some electronically and others in hard copy.

We have already started to get e-card Christmas wishes from some people but it doesn’t feel right to move completely that way and some of our friends don’t have that facility anyway. It would be so much easier and cheaper and we will re-examine it next year.

Anyone who gets cards from us will know that robins are a favourite and they will not be disappointed this year. Pauline writes them and I produce the address labels. It is an imbalance in labour rectified by my time producing the letter.

The car is filthy but the temperature was so cold that I shied away from cleaning it myself. We drove down to the nearest hand car wash but the queue was so long that we came home and I did it myself. I have always thought that car wash charges are exorbitant but bare hands, cold water and 4C/39F is worth a fortune avoiding.

Saturday, 8th December, 2017

I don’t miss this!

We awoke to reports of snow arriving in the North and Midlands. I lived in the former for 40 years and was born in the latter and lived there for my first 20 years. I am happy if I never see snow again having spent most of my adult life battling with the stuff as I criss-crossed the Pennine routes to and from work. It started with a bit of frost but strong sun soon dispersed that and the day was largely pleasant and reasonably mild. Unfortunately, we didn’t get out until late in the evening because we were stuck in the Office and Kitchen respectively.

Newsletters proof-read, edited, printed and folded for Christmas Card envelopes. Person specific adapted newsletters for other individuals across Europe and America. All now printed and despatched. Pauline wafted the fragrant scent of melted apricot jam across the kitchen as she prepared to cover the Christmas cake in marzipan. There was a time when I would have sneaked some of that wonderful almond paste but not now that I count calories.

Later, Pauline cooked the most wonderful meal of sea bass en papillote with salad. The fish had come from our local fisherman’s hut and was caught about 5 miles away from our house. For some reason, that made it taste all the better. Just as we were eating, the postman rang the doorbell and delivered a wonderful bottle of Spanish red wine and a guide book to Andalucía. It was a present from a friend and former colleague who has a property in Mazarron and keeps pestering us to go out there. The wine may well do it.

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Week 466

Sunday, 26th November, 2017


Our first frost. It was light but perceptible at 7.00 am. P&C were coming today so we were up early. We did our household chores and then enjoyed the political programmes. They arrived just after 11.00 am on a gloriously sunny morning. Pauline had made tomato & red pepper soup which we shared and then went down to the coast for a walk.

There were quite a few people out on this beautiful afternoon. We had to park away from the Marina because it was so busy. We walked along the beach path towards the Marina and the Yacht House, past the shut-for-the winter holiday food, shellfish shops and the shivering dogs forced to brave the cutting sea breeze. It was …bracing and we weren’t there for long. We drove on to Rustington but only to show our guests the area. On down through the village and home.

Walking to the beach.

Our back garden was flooded in sunlight and positively warm being sheltered from the icy, sea breeze. It had heated the kitchen to boiling point. C & I watched a poor match between Southampton & the luckless Everton. Later, I watched a better match where dear old Huddersfield took the lead against the force that is Man. City but eventually gave in and lost.

Pauline had pre-cooked Boeuf Bourguignon. We were starving after the chilled walk. She had incorporated two, full bottles of my best Bordeaux so it was pleasing to find the flavour was deep and rich. It was the first time we had eaten red meat for as long ago as we could remember. We hardly ever use salt when we cook now and I was concerned that the sauce was too salty. The first thing P&C said was, Can we have some more salt? You can do without anything over time. I’m glad we’ve dropped salt.

Monday, 27th November, 2017

We woke to heavy rain and a strong breeze. We took P&C out to see the local facilities. We even shopped at Asda and called in at Dunelm. Later in the morning, after Turkey Soup, we went out to Worthing town and walked through to the pier. The sky was grey and heavy and the sea was dark. It rolled into the each with large, breaking waves. We walked along the boarded pier, past the fishermen’s many rods,to the café/restaurant at the end of the pier. We ordered a pot of tea and cake for our visitors and spent a pleasant half hour there before returning to our car on top of the multi-storey carpark and heading home.

At home, Pauline cooked roast salmon and served it with salad and we sat around to reminisce about times and relationships gone by. These are uncomfortable and emotional conversations but necessary all the same. We’ve eaten so much and exercised so little over the past couple of days that I’m looking forward to a trip to the gym tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28th November, 2017

No way out.

Lovely morning of sunshine and blue sky. Not cold as we’d expected. P&C were driving home to Surrey this morning and left after breakfast around 10.30 am. We went out to the Health Club and did a good session in the gym followed by a delightful session in the outside pool.

Thought I would share with you a view which presented itself as we drove past our local cemetery. New signs had gone up. As I was taking my photo, a woman walked past with her dog and said, Who can be surprised at that?

Wednesday, 29th November, 2017

Penultimate day of November 2017 has opened with lovely, early sunshine on a chilly morning that had hints of frost but no more. We went down to the sea shore to walk and buy fish.







We walked in a very bracing breeze down the Littlehampton Marina boardwalk out into the sea and then fairly rapidly walked back to the fisherman’s shed to buy 4 large sea bass weighing 5lbs for £35.00/€39.60.

Pauline has always liked living by the sea. It is one of the things that appealed to her when we lived on a Greek island. It takes 5 mins or so to drive down to the Marina but we don’t do it as often as we thought we would. Every time we do, Pauline’s face lights up and I realise why we are living here. We haven’t swum in the sea although we have discussed it. We do walk on the beach and Pauline stoops to take the temperature of the water. Until recently, it has felt fairly warm although we are not daft enough to risk it at this time of the year.

Even so, it is a lovely place to go for a walk and the air feels fresh and healthy. Many people jog along the coastal walk from Littlehampton to Worthing and some even run on to Brighton some 20 miles away when they are training for marathons. Children on scooters like this path as much as dog walkers who are restricted to non-tourist times.

Thursday, 30th November, 2017

Yorkshire today.

A glorious day of clear, blue sky and strong sunshine but cold. No frost but only 3C/37F at 7.00 am. and not getting much above 6C/43F all day. We did our weekly shop and felt the bite of the air as we walked between the car and the supermarket. When we got home, we made a decision that we couldn’t face swimming outside today in spite of the beautiful sunshine and that led to a decision to have a day off.


London today.

Littlehampton today.







It is this time of year when Sussex begins to pull away from the rest of the country as far as weather goes.

Friday, 1st December, 2017

Happy December 2017 and farewell November never to be seen again. It is a clear, bright, blue sky with sun but very cool. At 7.00 am, it was only 4C/39F and the temperature peaked at a roaring 7C/45F in the mid afternoon.

We spent the morning at home catching up on correspondence and then did a stint at the Health Club. I have to admit that the outdoor pool defeated us today because there was a biting breeze which we couldn’t face. I still managed to do my 10,000 paces.

Saturday, 2nd December, 2017

Yesterday was officially the first day of Winter. It certainly feels rather like it today. We are hovering around a chilly 6C/43F. We don’t have the frost and snow of the North but it still feels chilly. Of course, the start of the new month has encouraged people to start thinking about Christmas – Bah Humbug! I can’t even begin to get interested in it.

Here, families with children and even some without are keen to decorate their houses. At least it is a long way away from religious celebration. Our neighbours get together with ladders and help each other out to put up their lights as they share coffee and cakes. At least they wait until December and take them down soon after the day.

We are very happy to keep our observation of the period to just one day. It is enough to see people and enjoy a good meal. My heart sinks at the excitement generated by those who love parties which I hate and huge congregations which make me uncomfortable. Good luck to those who like it. I feel fortunate to be excluded.

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Week 465

Sunday, 19th November, 2017

All the signs of Autumn.

Another gloriously sunny day. After the usual rounds of political interview – and why do they invite the Chancellor on days before the Budget when he can legitimately say that he can say nothing? – we did the first batch of Turkey Stock from yesterday’s carcass. If you’ve ever made chicken or turkey stock from bones in your kitchen, you will know that the smell can be all-pervasive. Fortunately, on this lovely day, we were able to make ours outside in the garden. The turkey carcass will be split into two halves and put with onions, carrots and herbs with each being pressure -cooked twice. This will provide about 12 ltrs of stock for the freezer.

Later, we did about 3 hrs at the gym and out in the pool. We came back feeling wonderful and ate salad and…..cold turkey. Actually, it was even more tasty cold than it was hot. Lovely Sunday. What more can one ask?

Monday, 20th November, 2017

A grey, damp day which was mild at 13C/55F but felt colder. We drove down to Argos to pick up two, new electric toothbrushes. We have been using them for more than 20 years and our current ones must be about 8 years old and have travelled with us to Greece for a number of years. They are starting to lose their charge too quickly and we have decided to move on.

In UK we seem to have absorbed a strange commercial hype which is called Black Friday. It originated in America and is designed to stampede the gullible into believing that they are being offered a short term advantage. They are not. Nor is it confined to a Friday. Black Friday will last for at least a week and maybe longer. Today, we have collected two new ones toothbrushes under the Black Friday banner and they have been weirdly upgraded.

Our original brushes had a holder which contained a rechargeable battery which could be plugged in to the shaver sockets in our bathrooms and upon which rotary brush heads can be attached. The new brushes have 3 years warranty (made in Germany), 6 different programs for all sorts of actions from normal brushing to gum care, extra whitening to I don’t know what. They also have a timer cycle which buzzes when you’ve cleaned each quadrant of your mouth and a warning if you are pressing on too hard. To top it all, there is a smartphone app to interface with the Wi-Fi in the brush holder that will track your weekly teeth cleaning routines and tell you where you are failing. How did we manage without all this in the past?

We went to the gym as usual but, as I got changed, I realised that my towel and shirt were missing from my bag. We turned round and came home feeling rather short changed.

Tuesday, 21st November, 2017

Quite a warm day for late November in which we reached 15C/59F without any sun. On Saturday we ate roast turkey. On Monday we ate cold turkey and today we lunched on turkey soup. As Pauline was able to extract 7 ltrs. of turkey stock from the carcass, I expect to have that background taste in many soups to come over the winter. We did a good workout at the gym and in the pool and came home feeling wonderfully satisfied with our efforts.

Prefects – 1968. I am back row, 2nd left and Mike Smith is centre of middle row.

In 1962, I passed my 11+ exam and went to Burton Grammar School in Staffordshire. It was an ancient establishment first established around 1520 but it was housed in a fairly new building which was only 10 years old when I arrived. My father had attended the school in a different building between 1926 – 32 and some of those who taught him were still there to teach me. My cousin, David had just preceded me at the school as well.

Harry (Brab) Smith

When I got there in September 1962, I was taken on my first day by the son of a family friend who was going into the 6th Form and went on to be Professor Alan Deacon at the LSE. There was something very ‘old school’ about the establishment. In my year was a lad called Mike Smith who was notable for two reasons. Firstly, his father was a renowned Maths teacher known as ‘Brab’ Smith although I was surprised to find his real name was Harry.  Secondly, he wore short, tailored trousers with his uniform in his first five years. No other boy did that. In fact, it was a matter of great pride to me and a real right of passage that I was wearing ‘long’ trousers for the first time and ‘ankle socks’ as I proudly displayed to my friends.

Mike Smith (66) on ‘Countdown’ today.

Mike Smith was not in my circle of friends. He didn’t play rugby. He wasn’t an athlete. He was a foreign languages buff. All three things separated us. We went our separate ways in 1969 and I haven’t seen him since until today. I was on the treadmill and watching the small incorporated television screen. Countdown on Channel 4 is one of my favourites at this time because it is mentally demanding while the treadmill is physically demanding. For anyone who doesn’t know it, it is a time-pressured words & numbers test.

A new contestant was introduced as Mike Smith, retired but formally a linguist in the petrochemical industry. The name didn’t immediately get me but his face instantly told me I knew him. It is almost 50 years since I last saw him and even then he was not significant to me but I have a memory for faces and instantly recognised him and was transported across 48 years. He was up against a 7 times champion and, if you’re interested, he narrowly lost but he got my attention and I forgot the effort I was putting in on the treadmill completely.

Wednesday, 22nd November, 2017

A glorious day which we had expected to be cold and very windy with heavy rain. That’s what was forecast. In fact, it was a still, mild (15C/59F) day of completely clear blue skies and strong sunshine. Because it was Budget Day, we had decided to stay at home and not go to the Health Club. Instead, I vacuumed the house, cut the lawns and cleaned and tidied up the patio.

In the post we received the first half of our Winter Fuel Payment notice. It is quite ironic at a time that we are swimming outside, cutting the lawns and cooking outside. The second £100.00/€112.70will come in a couple of weeks. We have worked out that our total fuel bills – gas and electricity for the year – are around or just under £1000.00/€1127.00 which is much cheaper than we were paying in our Yorkshire house a decade ago. With this government handout, we will be around £800.00/€902.00 for the year. We have a smart meter but it doesn’t really tell us much and is more useful to the power supplier in not needing to visit our property than it is to us. When we look to switch supplier in a few months, the smart meter probably won’t be compatible anyway.

We are still fairly profligate. We have 6 televisions which are on standby permanently. Why have a remote control if you have to get up to switch on? We have 2 fridges and 2 freezers. So many of our appliances are permanently on charge from vacuums and lawnmowers to tooth brushes, smart phones, iPads, etc.. We have a washing machine, dishwasher and tumble dryer. The latter is power hungry. We only have a gas hob and we don’t use the central heating much so our gas bill is negligible.

We were supposed to eat the last of the turkey meat today but, I managed to persuade Pauline to turn it into a turkey meatloaf and serve it tomorrow instead. Today, we griddled wonderful tuna steaks in the garden and ate them with salad. However, I know what’s coming tomorrow.

Thursday, 23rd November, 2017

Beautiful day with clear blue sky and strong sunshine. We only reached 14C/57F but it felt lovely in the sun especially as we swam this afternoon.

This morning we went out to collect our third attempt at a floor steam cleaner. The first isn’t strong enough. The second didn’t steam for long enough. This one says it will give 25 mins of continuous steaming which should be fine. I will let you know.

We’ve got wood and tile floors downstairs and a steam mop is excellent for keeping them clean but it has proved difficult to find a reliable model. Most don’t do more than 15 mins continuous work. One we bought last just 6 mins before it needed refilling. Anybody want two, useless steam cleaners? Only £50.00/€57.00 each. No, thought not.

You missed a treat today. Turkey meat loaf. We ate it with salad and it was wonderful. My wife is a culinary genius!

I have been writing over the past few days about the rather fragile state of the Greek infrastructure and I have used what some might consider the derogatory description of Third World as I attempted to calibrate it. I offer you this example for such views which are at the very least medieval and some would say fairly Third World in their echoes.

The Greek Orthodox Church has permeated the national psyche since as long as anyone can remember. Nothing happens in Greece without reference to the Church and the clergy. It is an insidious and invidious presence in politics, culture including popular media, education and every sphere of Greek life. Although, in private, the powers and persuasiveness of the church have been diminishing amongst younger members of the community as religion has rapidly dwindled in so many sophisticated communities but rarely has it been so openly challenged as by the current, left wing government who would like to move to secularism as soon as possible.

The Metropolit of Kavryta

Syriza has been reluctant to invite the prelates to pronounce on matters of the state. They have started to try to curtail the church’s influence in education and schools, in taking over natural disasters, etc and the church is not happy. After the recent floods and subsequent deaths of citizens, the Arch Bishop – The Metropolit of Kavryta – has seized his moment and announced that he knew why they happened: it was because Greece is run by an atheist Prime Minister and many atheist ministers!

He complains also that he was not invited to television panels about the flash floods and underlines that a representative of God should be there so that the point of view of the Church could be heard! The Church’s view is the most valid when such phenomena are being evaluated. Natural disasters express the wrath of the Creator for the apostasy of His creation, that is of the man. Never mind, the New Democracy party ( Νέα Δημοκρατία) will be back soon and all will be well.

Friday, 24th November, 2017

Another lovely day of warmth and sun. We did a brief trip to Sainsbury’s and then came home to do some work. I completed a full valet of the car inside and out including deep feed leather treatment of the seats. It took me nearly two hours and I just managed to finish in time for The Daily Politics.

Off to the Health Club at 1.00 pm – an hour in the gym followed by half an hour in the outdoor pool and half an hour in the Spa – and then a drive home to eat roast salmon with pesto crust and tomato and cucumber salad. Feel so good after all that. We will do one more session tomorrow and then P&C are arriving on Sunday for a couple of nights so exercise will be on hold.

Recently, we’ve been reading of rises in car insurance. Ours is renewed in December. We insure fully comprehensive for two named drivers and add legal cover, unlimited European cover, windscreen cover but not breakdown cover because AA cover comes with our car. Last year, this cost us the princely sum of £323.00/€361.00 but this year it has gone down to £300.00/€335.00. We have maximum no-claims discount of 9 years = 79.5% and we have moved to a cheaper area. Our car is always garaged and thefts around our neighbourhood are minimal which encourages insurance companies to reduce the risk factor.

Saturday, 25th November, 2017

Coldish but beautifully bright and sunny. Clear, blue sky and strong sun. Only 10C/50F but delicious. Cleaned the windows. Went to the Health Club – 1 hr in the gym + 30 mins in the pool. Home for roast Sea Bass with salad and Liverpool v Chelsea on BT Sport television. Ended in 1-1 draw but enjoyable watch.

Simon in Corfu on Democracy Street

Can you believe that we are almost entering the last month of 2017? We will be 67 soon and retired for 9 years. It is staggering. I follow a really enjoyable Blog written by an interesting man called Simon Baddely. It has a cool title because he lives part of the year in Corfu on Democracy Street (ODOS DIMOKRATIOS). I began to follow him when I was an Expat living in Greece. The most amazing thing happened. Simon is a resident of Birmingham and works in a totally different sphere but, suddenly, his life burst into mine with huge coincidence.

Jack Hargreaves

Simon’s world suddenly embraced a man called Paul Peacock. It was a totally tangential relationship for Simon but Paul had worked as my wife’s assistant for a few years. The chances of that were so small that I was absolutely amazed. The connection was Jack Hargreaves who I remember in Out of Town which was a hugely successful series from Southern Television that ran for twenty-five years. Each episode was presented by Jack Hargreaves who, with his relaxed and amiable style, offered viewers a fascinating insight into the ways of rural life of years gone by. Paul Peacock had written and published a potted Biography of Jack Hargreaves who turned out to be Simon Baddely’s step-father.


Paul Peacock

These are the coincidences of life that add and deepen one’s experience of it. I read Blogs until they come out of my ears. I love to follow other people’s lives which is why I put my own out there on my Blog for others to follow. this activity really does have positive results. Simon is decades older than me but he is embracing his age and the attendant ills in public on his own Blog. It is for all of us to take instruction from these experiences.

I follow a Blog written by two lads/expats on Simi. I could not be further apart from them in so many elements of their lives but I chose to spend three weeks on Simi twenty years or so ago and remember it with real affection. It doesn’t seem to have moved on so much since we were there. That is a plus for many tourists but may not be so much for Simi inhabitants who want to live in the real world. If you want to go anywhere on Simi, you need to be really fit. Be warned.

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Week 464

Sunday, 12th November, 2017

Giacomo Puccini sits in Lucca

I have written before of my on-off relationship with music. For 40 years, I have loved classical music and found it particularly informed my emotional and intellectual life. In the early years, I particularly loved Chopin, Mozart and Rachmaninov. Later, I just couldn’t get enough Beethoven to the point that I was becoming a real bore about his Symphonies. There came a point, in my late 40s when I started to take Opera seriously. Puccini, Donizetti, Verdi, Mozart, Delibes, Bizet – I had to know everything. I bought guides to help me understand their music and the libretti. I would drive Pauline mad by playing them at full volume and trying to sing in Italian (which I do not have) while tears streamed down my face. That is the predominant emotion much music evokes in me.

Giuseppe Verdi sits in Bologna

Suddenly, 10 – 15 years ago I lost my enjoyment completely. I couldn’t understand it. I just kept trying to listen but failed and left it completely. It hurt me – my failure. It worried me – perhaps there was something wrong with me. Is this a sign of early onset dementia? I could find no mentioned parallel. Eventually, I stopped trying. My music library was packed away in a cupboard along with a hi-fi system that was redundant. I shunned music and majored on writing and reading, on politics and political movements.

Today, I made the first tentative start to climb back. I shut myself in the lounge and forced myself to listen. It was an Arts Channel recording of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. I must admit, I had to try very hard to stay with it and I did try to combine reading The Sunday Times along with it but I got through to the end. It was the English National Opera‘s production and sung in English with on-screen titles which I found rather distracting because it pointed up the fairly trite parts of the libretto which Italian gives such import to. However, like some reverse state of alcoholism, I am back on the booze and will try again before I get the jitters. Tomorrow will be Puccini and I will visualise him sitting in the square outside his house in Lucca where we talked this Summer. I hope he will applaud my intentions.

Monday, 13th November, 2017

Lovely Littlehampton or Wonderful Worthing.

Out early on a beautiful morning. Chilly at only 5C/41F but with glorious skies and strong sun. We drove down the coast road to our local hospital. It has recently been graded as Excellent and gives every appearance of being well run. Unlike everywhere else we’ve been, there is lots of parking. The hospital corridors are quiet and empty. The reception areas are well staffed and waiting is at a minimum.

I was there at my own request for an Anti-Coagulation Review. I had already tested myself this morning at 2.4 and my test at the hospital was identical which was a good ‘control’. I discussed my life long use of rat poison and whether there was a better alternative. I have been given information about some other drugs which may be less restrictive on my diet and less demanding on my time in terms of testing and reporting. Apparently, I am free to choose and it will be prescribed for me at the hospital.

Tuesday, 14th November, 2017

We try to go to the Health Club 5 days out of 7. When we do go, we spend an hour in the gym and half an hour in the outside pool. We go when it is quiet so we don’t struggle to get on equipment and we can find a free lane in the pool. The gym is huge and has dozens of pieces of each type of equipment but membership is high. There are three pools and organised classes in the two indoor ones but even in cold weather the outdoor pool is popular as its warm water steams into the atmosphere.

We have an off-peak membership which really has few restrictions. It opens between 6.30 am – 11.00 pm but we have to stop at 4.00 pm so allowing the workers to take precedence in the evening. It opens 7.00 am – 10.00 pm at the weekend but we can’t go until 2.00 pm. All of this suits us perfectly. The cost is £136.00/€152.00 per month or £1632.00/€1824.00 per year for the two of us. Using it around 250 times per year, that works out at £3.25/€3.62 per person per session which seems very reasonable if you compare it with a large cup of coffee on the high street.

We do 40 mins on the treadmill doing fast walk/jogging followed by 20 mins on a cycle. On both of these pieces of equipment, we have individual television screens which really help to pass the time. Outside, the pool is heated throughout the year and steams in cold weather. I do 20 km each week on the treadmill, 35 km each week on the bike and 2.5 km each week in the pool. I aim to do 1000 km each year on the treadmill, 1750 km on the bike and to swim 125 km each year in the outdoor pool. I think that is plenty in my mid 60s. We treat it as a substitute for going to work and try to attend each week day between 1.00 pm – 3.00 pm. It makes us feel better about collecting our pensions.

Wednesday, 15th November, 2017

I’ve just cleaned the car.

A grey but reasonably mild day for mid-November. The poor, low level light of oncoming Winter is a little depressing and I have brief twinges of regret that I am not in the Canary Islands as was intended for the November. It is 23C/74F on Gran Canaria this morning but only 13C/55F here as we park up in our village square. It is not an area that we frequent very often but, this morning, we notice that the butcher is selling locally sourced venison and pheasants. However, they are significantly more expensive than those on sale in the weekly farmers’ market and this is one of the problems with local suppliers.

Around the pool this afternoon, the temperature had reached 15C/60F and our swim was all the better for that. Just a little bit of sun would have helped but you can’t have everything.

Thursday, 16th November, 2017

Lovely day which had reached 15C/60F by 10.00 am as we returned from our weekly shop. The sun had taken quite a long time to appear but, by the time we had done our hour in the gym and were ready to go outside to the pool, the sky was blue and the sun was out. Our swim was lovely. We have been very lucky that the month when we should have been abroad in the sun has turned out to be so benign here.

Greece cannot say the same. It has been hit by heavy rain and subsequent flooding of biblical proportions according to Kathimerini. This has affected islands and mainland. The Dodecanese island of Simi has been declared a disaster area and suburbs of Athens have seen 16 people die with 5 more still missing. It is at times like these that one realises the edge upon which Greek society survives. In good times, the sun shines, the tourists come, the cash tills fill and life is good. It only takes an act of nature to be one strike away from disaster.

On our very first trip to Athens in 1980, we entered our hotel just as a huge rainstorm hit the city. We checked in and were given our key for our room. Fortunately, we chose to climb the stairs because, as we sort out our room, the power went off as torrential rain flooded the externally mounted electric fuse box. Everything went out. We were in total darkness. If we’d taken the lift, we could have been stuck for hours. On another occasion, the streets became like rivers as a storm burst over the city. We tried to rush for shelter down crowded, flooded streets. Suddenly, Pauline just disappeared …. down a manhole where the cover was missing but couldn’t be seen in deep water. I hauled her out shaken but otherwise unhurt but we reflected that it could have been so much worse.

Hints of a Third World country suddenly come to mind as the pavements are poor and broken, the drainage is neglected and blocked, the buildings are poor quality and subject to collapse in extreme weather. Social and Medical services are underfunded and understaffed to deal with the aftermath. It has been worse in the late 70s and early 80s. It has been better in the 2000s before the economic collapse but it does make Greeks feel vulnerable. On Sifnos, a major dam expensively constructed with EU funding immediately turned out to be Gerry-built (although the builder was Cypriot) as soon as it was needed to contain heavy rainfall and the islanders found their prized construction collapsing. These are signs of a First World nation on the surface not really having eradicated their Third World past.

Friday, 17th November, 2017

Less than two weeks left of November. I am still wearing short-sleeved shirts and swimming outside. Today we only reached 13C/56F but, with no trace of a breeze and under clear, blue skies with lovely strong low sun, it felt much warmer. I must admit that, if the pool wasn’t heated, it would be a different . We came home and griddled swordfish steaks in the garden – eaten with salad it was just bliss.

I’ve never been big on celebrations. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Public Holidays are opportunities for nothing special at all. Since a very early age, Christmas has meant nothing to me at all but something to be endured. I used to bitterly resent the fact that there were no newspapers printed and radio and television news just pedalled out the clichéd events of Royal Family attending church, Queen’s Speech, Fake snow everywhere and huge Christmas trees surrounded by perfectly wrapped boxes tied with bows.

There is one thing I did appreciate and that was Christmas Day food. I love turkey and I love sage & onion stuffing. Why do we never eat it all round the year? I often make a resolution to do that and then it disappears into the New Year enthusiasms for dieting, etc.. Not this year. Tomorrow we will not go to the Health Club because it is Christmas Day and Turkey and stuffing will be served. Think we’re mad? We don’t care because we’ve got the turkey. A 4 kilo bird will provide plenty of meat for us hot and cold, fill Pauline’s favourite sandwiches – Turkey & Stuffing – and then produce litres of stock for winter soups. No turkey will die in vain.

Saturday, 18h November, 2017

Storms over Greece.

It is a grey, damp and rather depressing day outside today. We are at home enjoying not going out. The news from rain-sodden Greece has worsened over night with three more bodies found in the aftermath of the West Athens flooding. This brings the toll to 19 deaths as a result of the weather.

If anyone thought I was overstating the case a couple of days ago when I wrote about the Third Word-ness returning to Greece, you should really read the ‘Opinion’ article from Nikos Katopoulos in Kathimerini this weekend. Under a title of Suffocation, he writes:

Virtually every Greek citizen feels sadness, shame, disappointment and anger about their homeland……An evening stroll around Athens ….amounts to a surreal experience as degeneration seems to have engulfed all aspects of public life…. Greece is at the bottom of all quality-of-life indicators. It is slipping into underdevelopment..

It is a desperate situation which will take immense effort to change and will require a really concerted European effort.

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Week 463

Sunday, 5th November, 2017

Remember, remember, a day to remember this has been. The sky has been a piecing blue with not a cloud throughout the daylight hours. Just letting one’s eyes drink in those colours and that light lifts one’s spirits. We have been at home to watch the remarkable implosion of the political scene as witnessed by the three, main Sunday political shows and then some football. The less I go in to those the better.

Continental Drift

I originated in the East Midlands, in Mercia and, particularly, the small village of Repton which is dominated by the public school that I am rather reticent to acknowledge was the alma mater of Roald Dahl and Jeremy Clarkson. Many of my brothers and sisters, over the years have gravitated towards the south – to Maidenhead, to London, to Farnham, to Sussex coast, etc.. Now, it seems that they are just following (or leading) , the trend.

Repton was the historic capital of Mercia and considered the epicentre of the country. Not any more according to a report in the Sunday Times this morning which draws on the Liverpool University PopChange Project. By 1971, they judged that the centre line between North and South could be drawn through Newhall, a very small town in south Derbyshire just 5 miles from my home village. Almost 45 years later, they judged that this line had advanced 9 miles into Leicestershire by dint of the fact of population drift towards the south.

It means prosperous southerners are being crowded into a smaller landmass each year as the south sucks in more immigrants and has a higher birth rate. Chris Lloyd, professor of quantitative geography at Liverpool University, said: “The north-south divide is moving south because the south is gaining an ever increasing share of the population of Britain.”

I’ve got to start persuading my siblings to go North in retirement. Somebody’s got to take a lead or I’ll get crowded out down here.

Monday, 6th November, 2017

The weather is at a crossroads with Summer still in East Preston.

Gorgeous day with blue skies and strong sunshine. A little chilly just after 7.00 am with almost a hint of frost on the lawn. Soon, the house was baking hot as the sun poured in and we went out in Summer clothes as usual.

I had a major problem to solve this morning. Both Pauline and I received emails, ostensibly from our broadband provider, saying that within a minute of each other our accounts had been ‘successfully accessed’ from Azerbaijan (me) and Turkey (Pauline). This was accompanied by the standard advice to immediately change our passwords and our ‘recovery’ details. A link was provided to follow for this.

Something like this always makes one a little shaky but have to be addressed. I checked the link address and satisfied myself that it was correct and then proceeded to change the settings which we have used for too long. I then contacted our provider to demand explanations of why and how this could have happened. It takes forever to get hold of these people. They are always experiencing an unusually high demand of callers which is a non sequitur in itself. What they mean is that they are always understaffed even for a normal demand. Although, when I finally got to speak to them, they tried to assuage my concerns, they have still not got back to me with a reasonable explanation of the situation. However, they will. Believe me!

Tuesday, 7th November, 2017

A cool day and rather grey day. We swam under leaden skies and there was a faint hint of steam rising from the heated water. We’ve done 7 days exercise in the past 9 days and tomorrow will be a rest day. That’s a lot of days! We are going into Worthing after Pauline has visited the Hygienist. She’s been desperate to have her teeth professionally cleaned for weeks and I’ve been holding her back. If there is one thing I hate more than Dentists it is Hygienists. They hurt me.

It has never been more important than now to have internet security. Witness our email accounts being hacked the other day. I have installed Norton Security on all our main IT for years. Last year, I extended it to our iPads and smartphones. Really, you have to close the door on any piece of apparatus that surfs the internet. Of course, as the number of devices proliferate, the more expensive it becomes. I made the mistake very early on of ticking automatic renewal on my Norton Account and found that they had charged me an arm and a leg. I had to badger them into submission to get it returned.

It is just over a month until I will need to renew my subscription and I was reminded of that by an email from Total Computing who offered me software to cover 10 devices for £29.99/€34.00. We have a 7 devices – a desktop, 2 x laptops, 2 x iPads and 2 x smartphones to cover so this seemed a reasonable offer. It leaves room for any whim of fancy that induces us to add to that array of IT over the coming year. I did a quick search and couldn’t find it cheaper. Generally, many were asking around £39.99/€45.50 but a check on the automatic renewal price at Norton produced a price of £55.00/€62.50. It pays to be a cheapskate and check a few alternatives.

Wednesday, 8th November, 2017

A cold, grey day which didn’t get much above 9C/48F. We had decided to take the day off work and go shopping. While the country was paralysed by the possibility that the Secretary of State for International Development would be sacked and were tracking her flight from Kenya to UK, we drove to the dentist at Sainsbury’s for Pauline’s Hygienist appointment and then on to Worthing under leaden skies.

We did some desultory shopping for clothes. Is it me or do so many clothes shops look like jumble sales? Little choice and what there was just looked cheap and nasty. No wonder people prefer to buy on the net. Wednesday is the out door market in Worthing and we bought huge mangoes from the fruit stall which will get us through the week. We also bought pheasants and grouse from the Game stall which sells free range eggs as well.

Back home, the Secretary of State for International Development was still in the air and her flight was minutely tracked by television news stations. There must have been so little on the agenda. Duly sacked she ‘resigned’ and the country heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Thursday, 9th November, 2017

Having spent a life time enjoying lots of different types of food, my retirement years have been marked by control and self-denial with a changing and narrowing of my diet. As I began to understand my body for the first time in almost 60 years, I realised that one major change which would help me was to cut out major, staple carbohydrates particularly bread, pasta, potatoes and rice but also other flour derivatives like cake, biscuits, pastries, etc. This discovery allowed me to control my blood sugar roller coaster which drove my appetite. It allowed me to defeat my Type 2 Diabetic condition and to lose a considerable amount of weight.

In the last week, two news reports have appeared that either set me as a trend setter of a trend follower although neither appeals to me. The British public is losing its love of pasta, apparently, and is buying considerably less. One thing they are replacing it with is spriralized vegetables which is exactly what we started to do           4 years ago. One of the reasons given for this is an anti-carb fashion. At the same time, purchase and consumption of bread is considerably down for lots of reasons including anti-carb. sentiment and free school meals in Primary Schools which replaced packed lunches that had previously centred on sandwiches.

I did worry that my diet has appeared very faddy. I cannot eat green vegetables – beans, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, lettuce, etc. because of the Vitamin K they contain which militates against my warfarin drug. I don’t use sugar at any time only artificial sweetener based on Maltodextrin or Polysaccharide although recently I’ve become aware that it can cause spikes in blood sugar and, for that reason, I am dropping it. Having said all of that, I desperately try to keep my faddiness under wraps most of the time but I was reminded of it as we walked around the supermarket this morning and found the illustrated display of  Organic, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Where does that fit in?

Friday, 10th November, 2017

You can’t beat a Siberian Goose!

Yesterday for the first time since last April, I put on a long sleeved shirt. Not for long. The sun came out and back to a short sleeve. Pauline has 4 different duvets for our bed measured from 1 – 13 Tog. The tog is a measure of thermal resistance of a unit area We haven’t used the heaviest one for such a long time, I’m told we took that one to the waste tip months ago. Yesterday, we moved up from 1 Tog to 3 Togs but I’m finding that too hot. Today, we have had breakfast with the patio doors open and the sun streaming in. A third of our way in to November. It could be worse.

Today, Pauline is making Piccalilli and I am vacuuming the house. You can’t get much more exciting than that apart from watching England lose to Germany tonight.

From the shallow to the sublime, I am reminded of W.B. Yeats poem, The Falling of the Leaves :

Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

So much has changed in the hundred years since these lines were written and yet the natural world dictates that so much has stayed the same.

Saturday, 11th November, 2017

I follow and occasionally dip in to a site called Historical Pics. Recently, I found this and it took me back across the years.

This is Sackville Street in Dublin in March 1966. It pictures what remains of Nelson’s Column after having been blown up by the IRA. . Just over 4 months later, I was standing there, aged 15 and feeling slightly vulnerable in view of what I was looking at and thinking, This is so far removed from my home village in appearance and atmosphere. It was a growing experience and a right of passage.

Those troubled, insurrectionist times are, temporarily at least, behind us. A degree of peace, prosperity and normality has returned to the island of Ireland. However, as Gladstone observed, Just when you think you have found an answer to the Irish question, the Irish change the question. And so it may be right now. After the EU Referendum, I predicted that it might rise or fall on the border between North and Southern Ireland. That appears even more apposite now than ever.

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Week 462

Sunday, 29th October, 2017

Lovely sunny day and surprisingly warm in our garden. Pauline’s been cooking all morning again with supplies of sauces and pickles streaming from the kitchen. I’ve been watching political analysis programmes and reading the papers. Someone’s got to do it.

We’ve done a session at the Health Club which was surprisingly busy for a Sunday and then come home to eat homemade fishcakes which Pauline made from trout. We ate them with broad beans and broccoli. If anyone ate at a better meal today, I’d like to see it.

Watched Leicester beat Everton this afternoon. Why does it take the sacking of a manager to motivate them? Once again, they looked a changed team and Vardy, in particular, looked much more committed.

Monday, 30th October, 2017

What a glorious day – warm and sunny. I spent a couple of hours fully valeting the car under sunny, blue skies and a temperature of 16C/61F. We did a full exercise routine but swimming outside in strong, low Autumn sunshine was magical.

We have been buying and driving Hondas since 1984 when we first bought a new Accord. Brand loyalty over 33 years has had its benefits and we have even been offered places on development committees in Swindon in the past. Currently, we are driving a CRV and it is our 12th or 13th. It is a 2.0 ltr., petrol, automatic. We’ve had it for about 16 months and done only 11, 500 mls./18,500 kms.. It is well kitted out with leather seats, sat.nav/infotainment + wifi centre, climate control and cruise control. However, we are always on the look out for new models with new gadgets and, this morning, we received the latest news of a new CRV which was exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show.

A sign of the times, Diesel has been completely dropped but a Hybrid is being introduced. I would consider that if it doesn’t limit the distance I can drive. If the petrol engine contributes to the charging of the electrical power and the two work symbiotically, I would seriously consider buying one. It wouldn’t be for the ‘green’ credentials but for lower running costs. We do a lot of short journeys interspersed with huge drives. Most days, we do less than 10 miles whereas, sometimes, I want to be able to do 700 miles in a day. The short journeys mean our petrol consumption is dreadful. With automatic transmission and permanent climate control on, our consumption averages 22 mpg. On a long journey, we can get 33 mpg. If I can improve on that, I would really consider hybrid.

Tuesday, 31st October, 2017

A surprisingly warm day that touched 16C/61F once again. The breeze made it feel a bit fresher as we walked outside to the pool and walked back dripping wet.

I have been plateau-ing with my weight for quite a while but, in the past month or so, by not drinking alcohol and by just tightening up a little on my intake allied to my exercise, I have lost just about 3 kgs. It has given me the incentive to push on again and I am going to use the month which we should have been spending indulging ourselves in Gran Canaria to be increasingly circumspect and determined to edge my weight down some more. In fact, we are going to hold on to that determination as long as we can through Christmas and New Year and on until we start travelling again which should be March/April time.

It is another of those commercial captures of pagan/folk/religious customs which in this case is called Halloween. The indulgence of parents in their children is incredible to behold. I begin to think the parents get more out of it than their kids. I remember that, as an English teacher, I was told that kids love literature based on ghosts, supernatural events, etc.. They may do but I could never get interested in it myself. I always wanted fact-based reading. While others read sci-fi or fantasy, I read biography or history. My objection to religion always was that it was akin to believing in fairies.

Shop in France this week and you will never get away from Halloween paraphernalia. I believe that is the same in the USA. Around us parents have been decorating the outside of their houses with ‘ghostly dressings’ to demonstrate their commitment to positive parenting. We are expecting knocks on the door from some softly spoken, middle class kids shyly enquiring, Trick or Treat. I am desperate to answer, Trick, just to see what they will do but Pauline won’t allow me. She has bought a basket of revolting sweets to make them sick. They are ready on the hall console table waiting for the bell to ring.

Wednesday, 1st November, 2017

We said Goodbye to October 2017 with a very pleasant day and we are welcoming November 2017 with an absolutely beautiful morning. Clear blue skies, strong sunshine and a temperature of 13C/56F at 8.00 am. We are having a day off from routine and going shopping in Worthing. I hate shopping but I have to support Pauline in one of her pleasures.

As we ambled through Worthing town centre, we happened upon Maplin. It is one of my favourite shops because it sells all sorts of electrical and computer gadgets. I’ve been thinking of extending our home Wi-Fi so it can be used in the garden and I had been looking at solutions in Maplin online.

Today, for the mere outlay of £60.00/€69.00, I bought a Wi-Fi power line solution. It consists of a plug-in hub extender or hotspot which is connected to my hub by Ethernet cable and the house electrical circuit by three pin plug. I have two, additional mini Wi-Fi hotspots which I plug in to an outdoor socket and another in the kitchen.

I’ve used these before and found them very annoying because we had to set up new hub identities and make sure our mobile apparatus are constantly re-switched to the appropriate hub. This one now allows me to clone my hub settings to all the hotspots which alleviates that problem. I have yet to test the strength outside but I hope to when the strong sun allows me to see my iPad screen.

The temperature in town reached 17C/63F which is not bad for the first day of November. The newspapers seem to be full of dire warnings about this winter being the coldest and hardest for over five years. We may really regret giving up our Canary Island trip after all.

It always shocks me that our multi storey carpark looks out over the sea. Living here, one often forgets how close we are to the shore as we go about our everyday lives. We always park on the top floor (roof) of the carpark and the views are lovely at any time of year. Today, late autumn sunshine bathes the sea and the roof tops, backlighting the wind farm off the coast line and the hazy cloud that is gathering from Brighton in the east.

Thursday, 2nd November, 2017

Beautiful Autumn Day over the South Downs

A gorgeous, gorgeous day from start to finish. Blue sky and warm sunshine throughout.  I mowed the lawns. Morning was shopping and afternoon was exercising.


The changing season means that the strong, low sun dips behind surrounding hedges and buildings as we swim outside in the pool but the clear, blue sky is constantly reflected in the warm water. I do 0.5 km per day and 5 sessions per week after an hour in the gym. I manage my 10,000+ paces at least five days per week and try to supplement with other activities on my day off. It certainly feels good. Today was a delightfully quiet one at the David Lloyd Health Club and we had the pool to ourselves.

We drove home and griddled chicken out in the garden. It is hard to believe that we are in to November. Actually, we should have arrived in Gran Canaria today for a 28 day indulgence in the sun. We are not there because we had deliberately booked a 5* hotel which was closed throughout the summer months for total refurbishment. We thought it would just be opening, freshly minted, as we arrived. Unfortunately, redevelopment hit a snag and the reopening is delayed. We were forced to cancel because we didn’t want the alternative offered. We are trying to use that change to work on our fitness and weight loss.

Friday, 3rd November, 2017

Worthing Panorama

Early out to Worthing this morning in lovely sunshine which quickly clouded over as we got there. Took a widespread shot of the streets below us as we parked on the top of the multi-storey. Buying Christmas cards today. If you get one, it will feature a robin so be prepared. I must admit I would email everyone but it doesn’t quite seem socially acceptable at the moment. I think that five more years may see that change.

The sun came out again as we drove out for another lovely session at the Health Club. That is five this week and we may do Saturday as well. My body seems to be holding up better now so we will try.

Saturday, 4th November, 2017

The local rugby club held its annual firework display last night. It was a lovely, moonlit evening. They certainly made a good decision because this morning has opened with torrential rain. Although it feels like a day to stay in doors, we may make a trip to the gym but miss out the outdoor swimming today.

Pauline is busy making chutney. The kitchen is pervaded with the aroma of raw and cooking onions. She is looking like an advert for perpetual motion and is in complete contrast to me at my keyboard. This is one of the reasons why I always have the tendency to put on weight while Pauline remains sylph-like. My interests are basically cerebral, sedentary ones whereas Pauline loves practical activity. I’m going to have to get a walker to stand on while I’m writing and reading.

Wonderful food of Bologna!

Pauline and I have always lived to eat rather that eaten to live and it is ironic now that I live on permanently restricted foods and calories. Foods are restricted because of my life long coagulant control medication which means I can’t eat much of all those lovely, low calorie things like lettuce, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, etc. These are high in Vitamin-K which counteracts my medication. My calories have to be restricted to 1800 per day because I am retired and not constantly running round buildings shouting at people. I do contribute 600 calories 5 times per week by exercising which allows me to eat a bit more but I try to ‘bank’ those to encourage my weight loss. We did our 90 minutes in the gym and pool this afternoon by the way.

Beautiful Bologna!

Pauline has a room lined with cookery books and we are cookery programme addicts on television. I always appreciated the permanently inebriated Keith Floyd who really set the standard for modern cooks to follow. Elizabeth David was just a bit early for us although it is her style of Mediterranean cooking that we prefer. I love the soft, gentle, natural, slightly unvarnished flavours of the Med. where the strongest influence in flavour seems to be olive oil, garlic and tomato. I can’t abide the brash, palate-destroying flavours of chilli pepper or curry powder. Fish has become our passion in retirement and Rick Stein is a favourite chef of ours (although he has gone through a phase of destroying dishes with chilli flakes. An Oxford graduate, he combines intelligence, literary knowledge with simple cooking. This morning, he was presenting a weekend of exploring food and cooking in Bologna. As it is only just over three months since we were there, the shots of all the lovely places we explored brought back delightful memories.

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Week 461

Sunday, 22nd October, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 23rd October, 2017

A dull and dank day only reaching 16C/61F. Every time we go away and use someone else’s Wi-Fi network, one of us finds our email service splutters and causes send and/or receive problems on our return home. Invariably, it rights itself over the next few days but, as the computer literate member of the house, it is my responsibility to sort it out. Wherever we go, we carry smartphones and iPads which have to pick up the hotel’s wi-fi network and it is this which sparks the problem. It knocked out Pauline’s email service this time. I could get it to receive but not to send. It has taken me quite a few hours to sort t out but we are breathing more easily now.

I have an apology to make. Little Lizzie Dripping has confirmed what my eldest sister, Ruth, had already told me. I have been sending her birthday congratulations a day late for years. She and Mike were 60 on Saturday. I have altered my on-line calendar to reflect that for subsequent years. I apologise for that but not for her other complaint which was that I had chosen photos that made her brother look sexier than her. Well, I can see her point!

She prefers to have herself represented by this photo taken over the weekend in Budapest. She’s a lovely girl although I’m not sure about the jacket. Probably picked it up in a Tyneside Charity shop. I know I am old and my judgement is suspect but I don’t think she looks 60.

Tuesday, 24th October, 2017

Somehow, as one gets older, medical problems play more heavily with one’s mind and emotions. This morning, we were out early for 8.00 am dental check-ups. We have joined a new dentist. It was proving too far to drive back to Surrey every time we needed treatment. At one time, we were even travelling to central London to visit a dentist. Today and quite prosaicly, we visited the new dentist surgery in Sainsbury’s. It is impossible to get an NHS dentist so we have bought dental plans which only cost £100.00/€111.60 for 12 months and provide an initial check-up plus x-rays followed by 2 trips to the dentist plus 2 hygienist treatments per year.

As I went through my initial check-up, he was announcing to his assistant, Upper 4 – bad staining bone loss 4, lower right 7, bad staining and bone loss 3, etc.. X-rays were taken and flashed up on the screen before me in negative format. It made my teeth look terrible rather than just well lived in. Internally, I shrank in humiliation. I must admit that I have never liked dentists and once went for ten years without visiting one. I do clean my teeth twice a day but the task is performed fairly perfunctorily. I like hygienists even less. They definitely hurt me as they probe my gums and I avoid them like the plague. I drink coffee and red wine and that stains my teeth which are difficult to keep white. Effectively, I have old man’s teeth. At least I don’t chew baccy.

When we got home, I had an email from the Haematology Team at Worthing Hospital giving me an appointment to meet them to discuss my warfarin use. While we were discussing dates on my diary, the postman delivered a heat pad that Pauline had ordered to help me ease the pain I am experiencing from my ‘frozen shoulder’. Nothing more than this makes me feel old. It is debilitating and limiting and the heat pad is so reminiscent of the sort of thing your Granny might be seen using that I wanted to hide it and go out for a game of rugby. I did neither, of course, and using it today has definitely helped. Just don’t tell anyone.

Wedesday, 25th October, 2017

The last week of October. We swam outside in 18C/65F with warm sun on our backs. What a delight.

In Greece, the weather has taken an autumnal turn. It was the final rehearsal for lighting the Olympic Flame to be taken to Pyeongchang, South Korea for the Winter Olympics in February next year. The lack of sun was the problem and the torch was only lit on the third attempt due to cloudy weather. Greece is not the place to be as the weather turns down towards winter – not if you like comfort anyway. Particularly not if you would rather avoid leaks and draughts.

I am falling in to bad ways again. I had about 40 bottles of Colgate Gum Health Mouthwash and, over the past 18 mnths, that has dwindled to only 8. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable at that exposure.

After forensic research, I found it being sold at £2.50/€2.81 per unit from Superdrug as opposed to the headline figure of £5.30/€5.95 . Pauline ordered in bulk and we went to pick them up. They will now grace bathroom cabinets until I get down to 6 or so and feel the need to stock up future reserves.

Thursday, 26th October, 2017

A warm night was followed by a warm day which reached 20C/68F by mid-afternoon. We spent a chunk of the morning visiting three different supermarkets sourcing lots of different items that Pauline had researched in advance. We were delighted to find lovely, big swordfish steaks which have been absent for a couple of weeks. I’ve been getting withdrawal symptoms. We grilled them outdoor for our meal this afternoon after returning from the Health Club. However, something amusing happened at our final shop – Tesco.

I love tech and gadgets. I like to use my smartphone to facilitate things so I’ve been delighted to see Tesco develop a ‘smart pay’ system that incorporates the club card and cashless payment system. Shopping is ‘scan as you shop’ with a barcode reader handset which is really useful and quick. Really, we hardly need a shop assistant at all. Having filled our bags in our trolley with a total of about £115.00/€130.00 of groceries, we just read it on to the POS terminal and then scan our smartphone apps to collect points and pay.

On this occasion, however, all did not go to plan. The scanner refused to read my phone code and I had to seek assistance from the helper who was loitering for that purpose. He was a middle aged man with a thick Irish brogue. He was delightful but new nothing about the automatic checkout system. He immediately looked totally out of his depth and confessed that he had never dealt with such a problem before. Unlike some of his younger colleagues who panic when faced with this type of problem, he was a picture of amused calmness. You have to imagine this being voiced in thick, Irish accent. He said, Have you tried to pay the  £115.00 for your shopping? Yes, you have. There is nothing more that you can do. Take it and go. I don’t have a problem with that. We did a double take and both agreed that we didn’t need to steal £115.00 of shopping from anybody even Tesco. We went to a different checkout point and everything sailed through. We drove home with an easy conscience and a real sense of righteousness.

Friday, 27th October, 2017

Gorgeous, mild day. I noted that Yorkshire experienced frost in the countryside. We had clear skies and half a moon last night but didn’t fall below 12C/54F. Blue skies this morning were graduated by high flying jet trace lines as planes soared out of Gatwick across the Channel.

Down below, I was mowing the lawn. Of course, it has to be cut much higher at this time of year and we are rumoured to be in line for a few cold days soon so all the more important to protect it. Talking about protection, we called in to the garden centre to buy a couple of fleece hoods to protect our fig trees if the weather looks like it may get down to freezing. I don’t think that happened last year but it’s good to be prepared.

Thought I would share this letter with you that I picked up on Twitter. It really appealed to me because it nicely illustrated the problem one has in arguing with many Brexiteers who just blithely shout, What are we waiting for? Out means out. Get on with it! When it is suggested that they haven’t fully understood the complexities of their position, they reply that it is boring and reside in a complacent, Everything will be fine. The letter was written by a constituent to his MP and is an allegory of the Brexit process.

Saturday, 27th October, 2017

Cold night and chilly start to the morning. Turned in to the most gloriously sunny day which reached 16C/61F but felt warmer in the sun. In spite of the lovely weather, we haven’t gone to the Health Club.

It is baking and preserving Saturday here. Pauline is making savoury sources, pickles, jams and making the Christmas cake. It is a hive of industry and the smells are to die for. I have been feeling hungry all day. In her spare time, Pauline knocked up a delicious, home-made tomato soup and we followed that with sprattus sprattus or whitebait from the Baltic Sea and garlic sauce and salad. feels like the Summer’s back!

Summertime officially ends in the early hours of tomorrow morning and the clocks go back one hour. Gone are the days that we have a major task adjusting clocks and watches. We have 4 radio alarms, a kitchen wall clock, two smartphones, two laptops and a desktop computer that all adjust themselves over night. I have two clocks to fix in the morning on my coffee maker and on the oven. Why on earth anyone needs a clock on their coffee maker, I’ll never know. I want my cappuccino at 7.57 am precisely. Why? It switches of automatically having rinsed itself anyway. The problem is that I can’t turn my coffee maker on each morning and see the wrong time. It would really work me up.

Of course, the time saved in bed is no longer relevant to us. Workers will appreciate it but shirkers like us will hardly miss a beat. The real upside is lighter mornings which encourage one to get out and active and darker, ‘tucked up’ evenings which suit our pattern much better.

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Week 460

Sunday, 15th October, 2017

The Great Storm of ’87.

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

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

Monday, 16th October, 2017

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

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

Tuesday, 17th October, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, 18th October, 2017

Hollinwood Crematorium

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

Hollinwood Crematorium

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

Yorkshire was beautiful but very cold.

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

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

Thursday, 19th October, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, 20th October, 2017

Accident Closed M40.

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

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

Saturday, 21st October, 2017

Fig leaf anyone?

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

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

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