Week 441

Sunday, 4th June, 2017

A slightly fresher feel to the day which is also a little breezier. Only 17C/63F in pleasant sunshine. We are going to the health Club for another workout this afternoon. We’ve found that the weekends are currently quieter than during the week so the experience is much more enjoyable.

I rarely go to see the doctor. Other than ongoing treatment, I feel remarkably healthy. My blood pressure is 112/72 with a pulse of 68. However, recent chest pains have returned and Pauline is going to seek an early appointment tomorrow just to eliminate any concerns. With a father who died very young of a heart attack and a younger brother who had a heart attack in his mid-30s, it is sensible to be cautious. The fact that I am on permanent warfarin should help but I may need an ECG to put my mind at rest. It’s amazing how a small seed of doubt can grow into a central concern.

Salmon & Asparagus – Marriage made in Heaven!

Well, we’ve been to the gym and done 90 mins hard workout without any signs of distress so I think things must be alright. We’ve decided not to seek a doctor’s opinion at the moment but to monitor the situation. Came home and had the most wonderful meal cooked by my wonderful wife. It did include sin but who wouldn’t on a Sunday. My sin was to have fresh asparagus which I’m not supposed to eat because of its high vitamin K content. Boiled and dressed with Kalamata olive oil plus lemon juice and cracked black pepper. The taste is nigh on orgasmic. Asparagus with roast, wild salmon just cannot be beaten!

Monday, 5th June, 2017

Yesterday it was reported that we had had one of the warmest and driest Springs on record. Today started fresher and breezier and, although we got to 18C/65F, by late afternoon we had persistent, light rain which is continuing as I write at 10.00 pm.

Health & Safety Gone Mad!

This morning, I spent a couple of hours searching through my store of old, family photos for some things one of my sisters had requested. Just by the way, I came across this early snap of my father in around 1929. He is middle of the back row in a white shirt. It looks as if he is 13-14 and is a less beautiful version of me. What struck me was the diligent attention to Health & Safety policy. Who carried out the risk assessment?

I also found four, long letters that I wrote in 1993 from the Cycladic island of Folegandros to my mother. We started to spend a few weeks there as Hotel Kamari and Sifnos started to become uncomfortable and noisy. If you are looking for a quiet, unassuming, traditional Greek Island, Folegandros could well be for you.

Did our third, consecutive day of exercise at the gym. We are talking about extending our sessions by adding work on additional pieces of equipment. Last time I used the rowing machine, I was too enthusiastic and pulled a muscle in my back. We are considering trying again but working our way in to it more carefully. I would like to build the circuit up to two full hours eventually. If I give myself a few minutes of ‘recovery’, I feel that I could go again but I am relaxing in the Jacuzzi by then. Must try harder!

Tuesday, 6th June, 2017

A blustery but mild night with sporadic, driving rain. One of the few mornings that I haven’t got up and walked straight outside barefooted. Surprising how wet rain is! Turned my mind to other things – barefoot in Tuscany, gadding about Genoa, Touring in Turin – and feeling optimistic. What more could a man want?

Tomkin cherry tomatoes

If we are what we eat, I am a tomato. They are my go-to food of choice. I have eaten untold kilos of Piccolo cherry tomatoes  over the past two or three years. Usually, they originate in Italy or Spain. I have found a new variety which, I hope, will become a staple. In Asda, I speculatively bought a pack of Tomkin tomatoes grown in Lancashire of all places. They are sensational in flavour, sweetness and skin toughness. If Brexit does actually happen, at least I will have a source of tomatoes. Some consolation although not much.

Wednesday, 7th June, 2017

Mild – 18C/65F – but breezy day. I pushed myself to work harder. I spent 2 hrs fully valeting the car. Working outside in the sunshine was enjoyable. We spent the afternoon at the Health Club where I was keen to increase my output. I’m going to do it incrementally rather than all in one go. Increased the time on the running machine to 45 mins and on the bike to 25 mins and then did some weight-stress pulley work ( I don’t know what the apparatus is called really. The one pictured on the left is rather like a ‘home’ versin of it.) for 10 mins followed by 25 mins in the pool. It left me about 20 mins in the Jacuzzi/Hydro Massage Centre.

What I was particularly encouraged about was that I recovered quickly from this routine and started thinking about doing it again tomorrow. I came home with the intention of spray treating the lawn which I wouldn’t have considered until recently after exercise.

Over today, we have moved closer to making a decision about going away to the Canaries for November. It may turn out to be Gran Canaria where we’ve found a nice, 5* hotel. It has two, heated, outdoor pools, a gym, two restaurants, lovely big suites with fridges, tea & coffee making facilities, a sofa and easy chairs, flat screen television with satellite channels, Wi-Fi, safe, sea view balcony with table and chairs and sun beds/parasols. These are the things we look for in a month away so we can continue our life but elsewhere. Is it worth £6,000.00/ €6,907.00? We think it probably is.

Thursday, 8th June, 2017

A lovely day which saw the breeze drop and the temperature reach 18C/65F. It was shopping day for us – Asda, Waitrose & Tesco. It took two hours and felt like it. Another session at the Health Club left us feeling fairly self-righteous and clean but tired and aching. We’ve done 7 out of the last 9 days.

The day started, of course, by going down the road to the local Community Centre to vote. Let’s hope Jeremy appreciates our support! Just as the election campaign was announced, a middle aged woman called Brenda was stopped on the street and asked if she had heard about it. Her response to the interviewer went viral both as a source of ridicule and a symbol of the person in the street’s indifference. Oh, not another one, she exclaimed. It’s ridiculous. There’s just too much politics now.

This is important!

People like me despair at that sort of response. The idea that politics is something you do for a few minutes every five years is the great problem with democracy and the reason why so many politicians are able to take us all for fools. Politics affects every single phase of our days and our lives from the price of our weekly shop to the cost of our house; from the safety of our movement on the streets to the effectiveness of our transport; from the quality of the air that we breathe to the safety of the water that we drink. Politics ensures our dust bins are emptied and our fire brigade comes to save our burning house, that police face off terrorists and catch our burglars. Politics addresses the privileges of the rich and the needs of the poor. Brenda would be the first to complain if these things went wrong for her and so should we be. Go out and vote and change the world!

While I was in the gym, I was watching Countdown, the alpha-numeric quiz show which helps me concentrate on mental exercise while I’m doing the physical. The presenter, Nick Hewer, volunteered the fact that he couldn’t see the point in food other than the necessity of life. What it was he ate was of little importance to him as long as he maintained his energy levels and his health. For us, this is so perverse. He may eat to live. We very definitely live to eat. The joy of travel is the food. The joy of cooking is the food. The joy of shopping is the food. I didn’t marry a cordon bleu chef for nothing ….. as well as her astonishing beauty.

It is now just after 10.00 pm and the Exit Polls suggest that the Tories may lose seats and not have an over all majority. There may be a god after all. Of course, as the night develops, this projection may not be sustained but whatever happens, The Labour Party are back on the scene and can affect the Brexit negotiations. I might need a banana to cope with this!

Friday, 9th June, 2017

Just an hour after the polls closed last night, the heavens opened and thunder and lightning tore the skies asunder. It was a Shakespearean harbinger of a UK political storm. The Exit polls predicted that the Tories had failed to force their ‘nastiness’ on the country. Everyone was laughing loudly and declaring that it just couldn’t be right.  It was and you don’t have to look far to realise why. Public Sector workers have seen their pay cut for 8 years. Young people have been saddled with life-changing debts just for the sake of an education which didn’t give so many of them reasonable jobs. A large proportion of the country didn’t want a ‘hard’Brexit out of the Single Market and it looks as if they now won’t get it.

The Labour Party are on the march as we return to two party politics. They have polled 40% of the vote. UKIP are finished and the Greens have made no advances. The Liberals threw their big chance for returning to prominence although it was good to see them gain a few seats. What this does mean is that the Tories are beholden to the Irish who don’t want a hard border and will mean compromising on Freedom of Movement and the Single Market. The DUP want to keep the Pension Triple Lock amusingly. They are also opposed to the Climate Change movement. They will extract a tough penalty for their support.

Saturday, 10th June, 2017

Gran Canaria

Surprisingly lovely and warm day reaching 22C/70F with clear blue sky and strong sun. Almost no breeze today. Tonight, the sky is bright and clear at 10.00 pm and still rather muggy at 18C/65F. We have been to the Health Club for a couple of hours and then cooked Calamari and Greek salad out in the garden. It has felt like a lovely day over all and you can’t ask more than that.

Tonight we booked a month away in Gran Canaria for November. We have never been there before so it will have novelty value at least. It has a gym, spa, two heated, outdoor pools and lots of walks so we can continue our programme as if we are at home. It also has the all important Wi-Fi in the suites so normality will reign.

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Week 440

Sunday, 28th May, 2017

I love driving. I can drive all day quite happily. Indeed, we are going to spend July driving in Europe. The ghastly state of Britain’s motorways and the frustrations they engender makes them incredibly tiring. We only had 4 hours sleep on Friday night and then did 7 hours driving on Saturday morning. We were in bed for just about midnight and allowed ourselves a leisurely ‘get-up’ this morning. Rising at 8.00 am felt scandalous but it was a one off indulgence.

The day was very humid and warm although not consistently sunny. In fact, just as we set up to cook outside this afternoon, we had a clap of thunder and a brief downpour. I’m sure the garden was more happy with that than we were. I am troubled today. The faces of my siblings are floating across my head’s cine screen. Past and Present meshes and clashes in the kinetic imagination along with Regrets and Possibilities.

It was lovely to see Bob and put my arm round him for the first time in so many years. We shared a bedroom for 18 years and I was transported back there by his face. His ingenuity and inventiveness gave me more than he knows. I was shocked to find he wears hearing aids. I was even more shocked to learn that quite a few of my siblings have hearing problems. For a number of years, I have been aware that, when I lie on my right side in bed, the radio sound is extremely muffled. I am not deaf in my left ear but my hearing is impaired. Of course, I am also almost blind in my left eye. Mum suffered from terrible tinnitus in later life. If you didn’t believe in Genetics you should take note. You heard it here first – if you’re not a deaf Sanders!

Monday, 29th May, 2017

Spectacular Thunder and Lightning storm between Midnight and 2.00 am this morning and an uncomfortably humid night. There were over 500 lightning strikes over our region last night.

Today has been sticky hot with plenty of sunshine and occasional bouts of light rain. I managed to mow and feed the lawns in sunshine and then retreat to my newspaper when it rained. I also enjoyed watching Huddersfield Town win promotion to the Premier League by beating Reading in the playoff final this afternoon. Back to the gym tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29th May, 2017

Grey but warm today. At 7.00 am we are seeing 16C/61F but no sun. We are going to the gym later but I have to catch up on correspondence first. Skinny Lizzy has written to me twice since Friday and I haven’t replied yet. Must say thank you to Brian for his hospitality.

Ruth seems to have got it into her head that I am a creature of habit. If only life were that simple. I have always embraced the new, the innovative, the change agent. I have always been an ‘early adopter’ of new technology. I bought the first computers for my school, I was the first to buy, teach myself and then teach others how to use the BBC Computer 35 years ago. I introduced my colleagues to the internet 25 years ago when it was just text-based and felt the waves of scepticism and fear come back from them. I designed and launched an early, institution-wide intranet before most people knew what they were.

Totally Unacceptable!

I have tried never to stand still for too long. I suppose you could call that a habit – moving house seven times (so far) in our married life, building and living abroad, etc. could hardly be characterised as set in one’s ways but I would concede that I do have a ‘habitual’ element to my character. Pauline has always called me low level Aspergic (She calls me low level many things but that is the nicest!) because of my need to line things up, balance light switches on/off, keep every where very tidy, etc. I also like to have routines in my day. There are things I always do – get up at 7.00 am and go to bed at midnight, for example. My diet has led me to regulated food types and eating times. For me, they are coping mechanisms which (D) will find useful when he takes the pledge.

I am an inveterate recorder and planner. I keep spreadsheet records of my weight, blood pressure, INR, etc. I have spreadsheets  recording electricity, gas and water use. Pauline maintains precise, financial records. We have done this all our married life. In some respects, the Blog is just an extension of this documentary habit. To some people, like Michael, recording and sharing one’s life with others is anathema. I have the confidence to know and acknowledge I am weird and share that fact with others for their amusement. I do have some guilty secrets but I’m not telling you!

I’m going out now to buy another gadget to help my plants cope while we are away. I’m going to fit a digital timer to a water spray system in my back garden to water the pots once or twice per day to avoid putting that responsibility on our neighbours. I had three or four of these in our Greek garden but didn’t see fit to repatriate them. This one from Screwfix is under £20.00 and will do the job easily.

Wednesday, 31st May, 2017

Well, May has gone out on a cracker – in more senses than one. Today has been warm and very sunny throughout the day – 22C/70F at mid day. Tonight is a hot and sticky 18C/65F. We’ve done a good session at the Health Club and even managed to do our swim although still indoors. We were certainly tired at the end of our session which last over 2 hours.

Our local farm which is about a mile away has already opened its Pick-Your-Own service with broad beans, onions, rhubarb and strawberries already available. We are forecast to have lovely weather for the next week or so and we will almost certainly have a trip to the farm to gorge on strawberries although not until we’ve paid for them, of course.

Thursday, 1st June, 2017


 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the new month and the official beginning of Summer 2017. In spite of the fact that it feels like Summer arrived quite some time ago, the official start has been celebrated with lovely warm sun and blue skies with a temperature of 23C/73F.

The weather is particularly appropriate for our next door neighbours who are driving up to Buckingham Palace for a Garden Party. I received a text while we were shopping in Worthing asking if we would take their photo just before they left home this afternoon. I made it back in time to do just that and record the event below. Gill’s only problem was that, having got the hat fixed on, could she wear it in the car for a couple of hours and not have to fix it all over again in the Buckingham Palace loo. She emailed later that they had loved the event, the weather and the food. I don’t know if they managed to meet the Queen. Rather them than me!

We were involved in more prosaic events of our own – cutting and shaping hedges, mowing and edging lawns and watering pot plants. This is the most delightful place to live in the sunshine.

Friday, 2nd June, 2017

A warm leading to hot day that reached 27C/81F in the shade. We have both been feeling a little under the weather for a couple of days – tired and lethargic. Yesterday, I experienced background chest pains and again first thing this morning. I thought I had pulled a muscle. Pauline thinks it might be a chest infection. We have both had lingering, background head colds for a week or so. I Googled Angina Symptoms but Pauline pointed out that hearts are on the left whereas my pains were on the centre right. Biology has never been my strong point.

Saturday, 3rd June, 2017

Delightfully sunny day that reached 22C/70F at mid day. We were tired this morning because we had been up at 3.30 am. Do you know how light it is at that time in the morning in June? Very light. Our neighbour’s burglar alarm went off and I decided I must go and check the house. All the doors, windows and back garden gate were locked. By the time I had checked, the street was populated by half-dressed neighbours coming out to check. The people from the house where the alarm had been triggered were away but we had their mobile number and texted them. Fortunately, the alarm cut off after 30 mins and we made a cup of tea and then went back to bed.

We relaxed outside in the sunshine this morning entertained by a troupe of newly fledged starlings taking some of their first flights and landing clumsily on our fence top before inspecting the lawn for grubs. The grass is looking particularly good at the moment and perfect for a starling-diner.

Catherine has asked me about pictures of Ruth’s Mum. I must admit, I have never seen one. I wonder if cousin (D) has. After all, he is very old! I must scan in and circulate all the family photos that I have.

We had a wonderful session in an almost deserted Health Club this afternoon and I was surprised to find that I have lost 4lbs since my last trip there on Thursday. No wonder that I’ve been feeling so starving all the time!

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Week 439

Sunday, 21st May, 2017

What a wonderful day! I suppose it was all over UK but here we had blue, cloudless skies from Dawn until Dusk with lovely warmth reaching 21C/70F. No workout today. We even sat outside in the sunshine with coffee and newspapers.

Tomorrow is the deadline for registering to vote in the General Election. There are still so many people who have not and, probably, will not get a vote. I find it so hard to believe. I couldn’t wait to vote in my first General Election. In 1969, the voter age was reduced from 21 to 18. I would like to see it reduced to 16. My first vote was in June 1970 when the country made the mistake of electing Tories and Edward Heath. He was in power for just over 3 years and presided over the oil price hike and petrol shortages accompanied by the miners’ strike and the power blackouts. Fortunately, we had another chance to vote in February 1974 when Heath thought he would have his position strengthened but found himself replaced by dear old Harold Wilson from Huddersfield. Heath went on to sulk for ever! Wilson went on to embrace the White Heat of Technology! I had a third chance to vote when Wilson called a snap election just 8 months later when he secured the massive majority of 3.

Wilson sadly retired as he developed the first signs of dementia and James Callaghan took over before losing to THATCHER in May, 1979. So, excitingly, I had the chance to vote and change things in UK four times in the first decade that I was eligible. The Scottish Independence Referendum campaign was so invigorating for the Scots, it would be great to engender that appetite for change in UK elections.

Monday, 22nd May, 2017

If days can get more wonderful than this, I want to see them. The sky was blue; the sun was strong; the temperature reached 26C/79F and all was well with the world.

Strong & Stable (Not!)

We went shopping and then I cut the lawns, watered and fed all the herbs in pots before setting off for the Health Club. We had been told that the outdoor pool would be closed for repair and refurbishment but the work was only just about to get under way and we were able to do a last outdoor swim under sunny skies before the pool was drained. It was delightful. By the time we got home, I had completed 16,000 paces and was ready for roast salmon with pesto topping and salad.

The day had started on a bounce as strong & stable May had proved anything but by changing her manifesto promise of 4 days ago after being told how upsetting it was for her core supporters. You can’t get more strong and stable than that. It is almost unprecedented in modern election politics. The Labour Party did exactly what I wanted them to by announcing the cancelling of University Student Fees from the new academic year thus aggressively fishing for the youth vote hours before voter registration closed. Isn’t politics exciting?

Tuesday, 23rd May, 2017

Lovely day which I spent gardening in the morning, trimming hedges, watering lawns, cutting edges. We went off to the Health Club for a couple of hours and then came home to cook our meal outside in the garden. I was in charge of griddled courgettes, mushrooms and shallots with chicken thighs which had been marinated in garlic and tarragon.

The News and newspapers have been wall-to-wall Manchester Bombing but I did notice in The Independent that Jane BG has been working her magic again. They reported under this heading: India cancels plans for huge coal power stations as solar energy prices hit record low that the cost of solar power in India had been in free fall against the cost of coal. That is when people should consider moving to renewables. We shouldn’t be hurting ourselves economically to do it but, rationally selecting the cheapest option. I still don’t understand why it cannot be made mandatory for all new property’s roofs to be constructed of solar power generating materials. On that scale, it would soon become cost effective.

Wednesday, 24th May, 2017

Gorgeous, gorgeous day which was sunshine all the way and peaked at 26C/79F. We had to do our weekly shop today because we are going to leave for a short pilgrimage to Yorkshire tomorrow. I put the water sprinklers on the lawns for a couple of hours and then we went off to the Health Club for our third, consecutive session of workout. Unfortunately, today we were not able to swim. The closure of the outdoor pool has started to show its true impact. Swimming classes filled the two, indoor pools so we gave it up as a bad job and basked in the Jacuzzi and Sauna.

The Weak & Wobbly.

The Manchester bombing has given May the chance to play the ‘firm smack of leadership’ card so I am pleased that Corbyn has declared hostilities reopen from Friday. He was just building up a head of steam as May was floundering in ‘U-turns’. This momentum has to be quickly re-established. I got one piece of election literature for the local election and that was from the Tories. When I confronted the others at the Poll Booth, they pleaded lack of funds. In this national ballot, I have received just one piece of literature. Guess who from.

What Nick Herbert has omitted to point out is that, only a week ago, he belonged to a party who pledged to take your house away and deplete your savings down to the last £100,000.00. It doesn’t matter that you have scrimped and saved to shore up your finances against future disasters. As soon as signs of dissent appeared, May insisted she never really meant it. There was always going to be a ‘cap’ and it was always going out for discussion anyway. NOTHING HAS CHANGED, Don’t Panic! NOTHING HAS CHANGED, Don’t Panic! – apart from that! This is duplicitous politics at its worst.

Of course, it followed the Hammond U-turn disaster. Careful-as-he-goes, Philip Hammond jumped recklessly into a policy of raising National Insurance charges (basically, a tax) which went down like a lead balloon and had to be reversed within days with the mantra of ‘the listening government’. Unfortunately, it was listening to the wrong people.

Thursday, 25th May, 2017

A hot and sultry night has given way to a very hot morning. By 7.00 am, I was outside watering potted plants and giving them a good talking to, telling them that we are going to Yorkshire and that they had to look after themselves for a few days. Bags are packed and everything else done. We are setting off early in order to have enough time to visit as many people as we can.

This morning feels like a ‘Sifnos’ one. The people of Sifnos, on the other hand, are feeling a different heat. The Greek government has passed through harsh, new measures on tax and pensions only to find their optimism dashed once again as a bailout tranche is denied them. New charging for water is adding to the pressure on outgoings and I’m told that they are currently worrying about ferry services in the winter which are uneconomic in a time of essential economies.

As we left Sussex at 9.30 am, the temperature read 25C/77F and, after driving through the fringes of the Sussex Downs, we crossed into Surrey to the temperature of 26C/79F. The Yorkshire border brought 27C/81F and, when we stepped out of the car in Brighouse, we thought we were in Southern Europe. It had taken a rather frustrating 6.5 hrs with problems on M25 and M1 holding us up and slowing us down. It’s almost impossible to enjoy a drive across UK any more. The fact that the weather outside was for enjoying and we were trapped in a metal box did add to the frustration.

Friday, 26th May, 2017

It’s a hard life!

A hot night has given way to another hot day which read 27C/81F on Marsden Moor at mid day. After BREAKFAST, we drove over to Royton to visit my old colleague and good friend, Brian. It was a lovely visit and we talked non-stop for a couple of hours before driving back to Huddersfield by crossing Marsden Moor basking in baking, hot sun. The moors always look so Greek in this weather.

After leaving Brian, we drove a ‘Memory’ tour through Meltham and Helme, stopping to gaze on those-we-have-known. The nice thing is that memories are not all they’re cracked up to be. Yorkshire and its stone properties and the Moors and their stark desolation are just that – memories which soften and fade with time.

Ruth ‘holding’ me – before I started at the gym!

This evening, we are going out to help Ruth celebrate her 70th birthday. This is more about me than her. I’ve got a 70 yr old sister!!! Fortunately, I’m still quite young really. Let you know how it goes later in the evening.

I was a post-war baby brought up on food rationing and coupons. Look how huge I was as a baby. Suet Pudding, Jam Roly Poly, lots of bread & butter, home made cakes and pastries were the staples that have given me a life long weight problem.

Ruth did well by managing to gather under one roof for a few hours quite a few of my siblings – Bob, Jane, Catherine, Liz and Michael – which was no mean feat. It was certainly a very interesting experience. It was almost like having all my own weaknesses and strengths reflected back to me. I could really sense that I was in them and that they were very much in me. When Catherine approached and spoke, I saw my Mother more strongly than I have done in 30 years. When Liz giggled, I was transported back 50 years sitting in our family dining room. Ruth, who is very gregarious and active, looked very happy with her own family and friends around her and she deserved that. Her girls and their children are quite delightful. I couldn’t stop telling anyone who would listen that the last time I saw Karen, who is now 42, was in her plastic pants and nothing else shuffling around the lounge floor before she could walk.

I also met one of my cousins and his lovely wife. My cousin (D) preceded me at the Grammar School my Dad and I both attended but had left before I got there – so he is obviously very old. I think I have seen him twice in the past 40 years. His wife assures me I have met her before but my terrible memory denied that. She is a delightful lady who has a lot to put up with. I suspect (D) has some of my stubbornness (Doesn’t that look an awkward word?) and, instead of taking his wife’s advice, has to arrive at his own solution.

In essence, (D) needs to lose weight if he wants to live another 15 years with his lovely wife. The trouble is, he has lived with this weight problem for so long that changing it looks an impossible task and he feels it is too late to try. If he did, he would quickly find that quite the reverse is the case and he would come to relish the achievement. There are very few things really left to achieve in retirement but this is one rewarding goal.

Saturday, 27th May, 2017

We got back to the Hotel this morning at about 1.00 am and were in bed for 2.00 am. The alarm went at 6.00 am on a hot and sultry morning and we were on the motorway by 8.30 am. The M62 and the subsequent M1 were both lovely to drive this morning but, having got on to the M25, we began to crawl at an effective 15 mph for a couple of hours. As soon as we got off the M25, our trip down through the Surrey Hills and the fringes of the Sussex Downs was quick and delightful. I estimated we would get home for 1.00 pm but it was 3.30 pm before we actually made it. 7 hours is a crazy time to take for that journey.

The Labour Party have been soundly condemned for advancing views about Terrorism, its causes and prevention in the course of fighting the election. The Tories, meanwhile, have done exactly that in the guise of ‘strong government’. Polls this weekend show the Tory lead cut from 25% at the outset to just 6% now. Although this may be illusory, transitory or a ‘blip’, the Tories are wobbling. The Times cartoon today encapsulates this position neatly.

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Week 438

Sunday, 14th May, 2017

What a glorious morning. The garden and patio are bathed in hot sunshine. The increasing collection of herb pots is visibly reaching to the warm light. We’ve planted out the basil today – a mixture of large leaf, Italian sweet basil and small leaved, Greek basil. We are not going to get frosts but whether it is warm enough for basil to prosper yet is debatable. Today, we are only touching 17C/63F so we will see.

Just watched a dispiriting United performance against Spurs in the last game ever at White Hart Lane after 118 years. Although Rooney was the last scorer of a goal there, his performance over all was poor. Hull were relegated yesterday. Hull is one dismal place – home to Prescott, the Poison Dwarf and a relegated football team accompanied by high unemployment statistics and extreme poverty levels. Can’t decide which is worse. Lovely bridge, though.

Monday, 15th May, 2017

Warm but wet this morning although the light rain stopped as we left the house at 9.30 am in 17C/63F. We drove to Worthing to return ‘stuff’ to M&S, walked across town to the sea front store. The town looks shabby and many of its inhabitants rather ‘on the edge’. We drove back to Littlehampton calling at Sainsbury’s and Argos, Tesco and Wickes. We got home 4 hours after we had set out and I had done 7000 paces already.

After a drink, we set off for the Health Club and did a couple of hours by which time my paces count had reached 14,000 and we were both absolutely done in. Roast salmon and salad for our meal and then relaxation. I was catching up on reading – newspapers English and Greek, Blogs English and Greek. Things are looking badly wrong for Greece again with sentiment moving them back towards the exit door.

As Syriza is forced to contemplate doing what they came to power pledging they would never do – legislate to impose harsh austerity measures, so the hard-pressed population is reacting. There will be a general Strike on Wednesday although ferry boats will be out of action for Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’ve booked an island holiday beginning or ending on those two days, tough. If you’re stuck in Athens, site-seeing may be hindered by Strikes of buses until the weekend and don’t get ill because the action will also affect hospitals.

Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, trumpets: Greek economy slides back into recession. The Guardian in Britain says: ‘From bad to worse’: Greece hurtles towards a final reckoning. They argue that agreement between the Greek government and its creditors is stalling and the population have given up hope of a resolution. They conclude:

Even if the latest impasse is broken and a deal is reached with creditors soon, few believe that in a country of weak governance and institutions it will be easy to enforce. Political turbulence will almost certainly beckon; the prospect of “Grexit” will grow.

What should be most worrying for the country is the prospect of nationwide strike action harming the golden goose as services which directly affect the tourist industry are affected.

Tuesday, 16th May, 2017

Here it has been sunny, hot and humid. At 7.00 am it was 17C/63F and by mid-afternoon it was 23C/73F. I cut the lawns in strong sun and we did a full exercise routine which finished with a lovely swim outside. For the second, consecutive day, I easily achieved 14,000 paces. I even vacuumed the house when we got home and griddled chicken and courgettes in the garden for our meal.

It feels as if we have been active all day again which is more than can be said for Greek seamen. Their strike has been extended until Saturday. The islands are cut off and any tourists on them stranded. The weather in the Cyclades has been gale-force winds at Beaufort 8 which makes the seamen’s strike seem opportune but can’t be helping the tourist trade. Imagine you flew out to Athens for a week expecting to catch an island ferry. You will now be stuck in Athens with strike action paralysing that city too.

Wednesday, 17th May, 2017

A warm and muggy day that saw some much-needed rain. We had quite a few jobs to do today and decided to give our aching bodies a day off in order to do them. It is one of the joys of self determination in retirement. We are well in to our 9th year of retirement and have packed an enormous amount in to our first 8 years. Two sets of our friends, married couples who are of broadly similar ages to us are just  embarking on retirement now. We reflect how lucky we have been to stop working early in good enough health to enjoy it.

We have been looking at Canary islands for a month away in November. Having done 3 months in Tenerife last year, we have been casting around for a different one. The only other that we have direct experience of is Fuerteventura which we stayed on over 20 years ago. We have been struggling to find a really good hotel with all the facilities we want and, preferably, adults-only. We think we’ve found one but back on Tenerife in Los Cristianos which is busier than we would normally choose but is an adults-only hotel which should be quieter and more ‘select’.

We are hoping to make a decision tomorrow which will virtually tie up the rest of this calendar year. We were reflecting on how quickly 2017 is already disappearing. By the time we get back from Tenerife, Christmas will be upon us and the year will be all but over. And then came 2019!

Thursday, 18th May, 2017

Honda DAB/FM Radio/ CD / Bluetooth Mobile / Internet / Sat. Nav.

No sooner are drought conditions mooted than it rains …. and rains. Today is warm and wet. The lawns are looking more emerald green than ever. The atmosphere is humid and the plants outside appear to double in size each day. Honda phoned this morning to say our new media/comms. unit was ready for fitting. We will go in tomorrow for that and to have our Year 1 Service done. Both jobs will take a couple of hours so, instead of a ‘Courtesy Car’, we will take our iPads and relax with Honda coffee. Everything is ‘free’. We have a 5 Year Service Agreement with the car and a 5 Year Warranty on everything to do with the car. Our Sat.Nav. is almost the first thing to go wrong in the past 30 years.

We are definitely getting fitter. We did another strong, 90 mins workout in the gym culminating with 30 mins in the outside pool under warm, gentle rain. It felt wonderful and I could have done it all again.

Friday, 19th May, 2017

Out early this morning on a bright and fairly warm start to the day. Had to be at the Honda Dealership for 8.30 am to have our First Service which comes at 12,000 miles or 12 months which ever is first. We are a couple of weeks off the first anniversary and have only done 5,800 miles but our media/comms. unit was being replaced so we killed two birds with one stone. It was needed for 2 hours and, rather than taking out a courtesy car and going through the rigmarole of transferring our insurance, we sat with a lovely pot of fresh coffee and our iPads using the garage’s Wi-Fi and reading our newspapers.

It was soon done and we were on our way but the weather changed and the heavens opened. Honda give us a complimentary valet but the rain soon washed every inch of the car and left it sparkling. Honda reset all the radio presets for us. We have DAB, FM and Longwave. We have been told for ages that FM was going but DAB reception is still a little flaky in some places whereas Longwave is still the best bet to pick up the cricket commentary on Testmatch Special while driving in France. Now we have to redo all our Favourite Destinations by saving our locations when we visit them. I have to pair up our mobile phones and iPads via Bluetooth as well. Still it’s good to be back in working order.

Did our last 2 hour session of the week at the Health Club and our last swim in the outdoors pool for quite some time. The health Club inform us that while repairing the crack in the pool’s floor, they are going to take the opportunity and completely refurbish it with new tiling throughout. It could be late August before we get back in. For some reason, the indoor pools just don’t give the same experience. Perhaps it is the over fluorinated water that we find off putting.

Saturday, 20th May, 2017

A lovely, sunny and moderately warm day of 15C/59F. We have spent the day at home doing jobs. I have been potting new plants up, weeding flower beds and sweeping the patio. I also had to reacquaint myself with the car’s automatic tyre pressure deflation warning system which came on when we were recalibrating our tyre inflator machine. This is the sort of thing that comes up so rarely, one forgets the process and the handbook really becomes important. I learn so many things while looking it up. For example, my tyres will give me a visible indication when they are close to needing replacing. The indicator is a triangle that appears on the wearing tyre. I’ve only once had to replace a set of tyres on the car because we replace the car so regularly. I was shocked to find that 4 tyres cost nearly £1000.00/€1,164.00.

Pauline cooked the most wonderful meal of roast sea bass on the bone accompanied by roasted cherry tomatoes in tarragon. Absolutely wonderful. As a one-off, we had green, French Beans which I’m not supposed to eat.

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Week 437

Sunday, 7th May, 2017

Herbs L to R – Tarragon, Sage, Olive, Oregano, Thyme, Bay

Pleasant day with patchy sunshine and reasonably warm. It’s a day off work  with no trip to the gym. We went out to the garden centre for some more clay pots and a couple of dill plants. They will be potted up tomorrow along with basil plants. I’ve decided to buy an automatic watering controller for the times while we are away.

Norma & Harry

 

It is already 8 years since we retired even though we still walk the corridors in our dreams. Of course, we worked with hundreds of staff over nearly 40 years. Our school employed 130 teaching staff at its height and we regularly hear of older ones falling off the conveyor belt of life. It was nice to see Norma, my assistant for a few years, celebrating her husband, Harry’s birthday.

Harry used to teach Craft in my school until he had a bad accident at home and fell from a ladder – an accident that provoked a severe stroke at the age of 40. He was unable to teach after that but here he is celebrating his 80th birthday. Norma is 75. It is good to see they have had life after his accident. Harry, a skilled carpenter, filled his time with little jobs at home and he restored the ‘Richard chair’ for me many years ago.

Monday, 8th May, 2017

The weather is lovely, bright and sunny but we’ve had a difficult day. I spent a couple of hours valeting the car while Pauline cleaned the house. The car doesn’t know what’s hit it. It’s never been so clean. The leather seats have almost satiated on polish and the paintwork is inches deep in wax. Pauline’s cleaning halted early when our cordless vacuum halted and blurted error messages. We read the manual, followed the recommended steps and accepted it had died.

Fortunately, when I phoned GTECH at 6.00 pm this evening, I was told that replacement parts would be with me tomorrow. An hour later, I was messaged by DPD arranging the delivery. I don’t think we could have expected a better response than that which is fortunate because our sat. nav. went on the blink this afternoon.

We have an integrated Comms. / Sat. Nav. / Entertainment system which is Honda badged. This afternoon, it froze, freed up and then froze again. I only just found my way home from the Health Club. We had been to do another two hours of hard work which culminated with 30  mins in the outdoor pool. This will mean a trip to Honda tomorrow to get it sorted out. Fortunately, it will cost nothing apart from time and it is a very rare event with our cars.

Tuesday, 9th May, 2017

The day started and finished with clear skies and strong sunshine. In between, it was fairly overcast. I wouldn’t describe it as warm for May at 13C/56F. We went out early for Pauline’s doctor’s appointment and then to Worthing to pick up my new suit. I also bought a water sprayer for irrigating my lawns. We have had an incredibly dry winter and there is even talk of a hosepipe ban in the summer. I am getting in there in advance. It costs next to nothing and gives a choice of about 7 spray patterns. Our lawns are going to love it!

My new fig trees.

The GTECH vacuum cleaner broke down yesterday. A new part was delivered this afternoon and everything is back up and working. You can’t ask for better service than that. On the way back from Worthing, we stopped in at the Honda garage to tell them about a ‘dicky’ sat.nav./infotainment unit. They put a diagnostic computer on it for a few minutes while we had a cup of coffee and pronounced a whole new unit was required. It will be available in a few days. We have used less than 12 months of our 5 year warranty.

When we got home, our neighbour came round with our fig trees which had been delivered while we were out. Tomorrow I will be preparing planting holes  and with stone at the bottom to restrict the root growth which will encourage fruiting. It will be interesting to see if the micro climate of our back garden is good for fruiting figs.

Wednesday, 10th May, 2017

Figs – sticks which should fill out and grow by next Spring.

A lovely, warm and sunny day that reached 20C/68F by early afternoon. After coffee and the papers for half an hour, we completed our tasks in the house and then went back to the garden centre for more clay pots to pot up our new fig trees. I say trees but they are really short sticks with a few green buds. However, we know from experience that, once they get going, they will grow and bush and become very vigorous. What we don’t know is how well they will fruit.

We potted them up with some stone at the bottom. Restricting their roots encourages fruiting. That’s why the rocky subsoil of Greece is so good for their success. I’m hoping that the residual warmth of the garage wall reflecting back what it has absorbed throughout the day will encourage more clement conditions to further help their development.

This is where the day begins.

Did a lovely but hard session at the gym culminating in swimming 400 metres in the outdoor pool under warm sunshine. I am definitely beginning to recover from these sessions more quickly. Indeed, I have not felt this vigorous and energetic since I was at school. I am finding it harder to sit down and stay sitting down – something I used to specialise in. On the days when we don’t go to the Health Club, I find myself pacing around the house looking for things to do. My computer is beginning to feel superfluous to requirements. My iPad provides most news and social media content over coffee in the morning.

Today when I got back from the Health Club, I vacuumed the house and cut the lawns while Pauline produced our meal which, today, was a wonderful Greek Salad and Calamari. Absolutely delicious!

Thursday, 11th May, 2017

Yet another lovely, warm – even humid day that reached 21C/70F. We did our regular Thursday tour of the supermarkets. Actually, we missed one out. A new Aldi opened about a mile away this morning but the opening jamboree attracted so many crowds that we thought we would check it out later in the week. We did buy another, fresh octopus from Morrisons. It is locally sourced and very cheap. When we got home, I watered the lawn again because we still haven’t had any rain in spite of forecasts.

Meltham Mills

When Pauline & I got married nearly 40 years ago, we were living in our first house together in Meltham, West Yorkshire. Just down the road, David Brown Tractors had taken over an old, stone mill for their production. We went on our first Greek trip in 1980 to Zakynthos and, as we got off the ferry, we were confronted by a David Brown tractor on the quayside. This morning, the BBC Breakfast show was investigating Manufacturing’s attitudes towards Brexit. Their film came from that same old, stone mill in Meltham which has now been taken over by a modern textiles firm called Camira Fabrics. Here, in West Sussex, at 7.30 in the morning we were transported 40 years to another world and it felt very strange. So much has happened since then.

Friday, 12th May, 2017

A warm, sunny and fairly ‘muggy’ day which reached 17C/63F by mid afternoon. It started with light rain and rained again just as we were swimming outside before warm sun reappeared. We have done 10 x 90 minute sessions out of the past 14 days and we are both beginning to feel it. Unfortunately, the Health Club have informed us today that a serious crack has been discovered in the outdoor pool and it will have to close for 5 – 6 weeks from the end of next week which is a great pity because it has been an extremely enjoyable addition to our exercise. There are a couple of indoor pools but, strangely, the experience is completely different.

In Greece, Kathimerini reports that more than 2,500 refugees live in Athens squats while the numbers arriving are rising rapidly again. The EU seem to oscillate between helping and blaming the Greeks for a problem which can only be defined as living on the front line.

At the same time, it was admitted this week that Capital Controls – limits on Greek’s withdrawal of cash from their bank accounts – will remain in place for another two years at the least. These restrictions are onerous but necessary to prevent capital flight from an ailing economy prone to illegal activity. Three years ago, we had enough difficulty repatriating a few hundred thousand euros and be quite skilful in the way in which we used the ‘system’. Today, we might well find it impossible. There is an alarming story on a Financial website of a couple who bought and lived on Zakynthos now, because of ill health, wanting to repatriate their money having sold their property in Greece but being stymied by capital controls. The more I read, the more grateful I feel.

Saturday, 13th May, 2017

Pinto

What a glorious day. Lovely sunshine and reaching 18C/65F. We drove 50 miles up to Surrey to deliver cases of French wine to P&C. We stayed a couple of hours and drove the 50 miles home again. It is a delightful drive with hedgerows in full height and full bloom, Chestnut trees are decorated with white a red candle flowers, white, May Blossom decorates the  Hawthorn hedging and, as we approach the village, Lilac bushes intermingle with racemes of wisteria with a heady mix of colour. Our back garden was bathed in strong, warm sunshine and everything was so green. What a time to be alive!

Heard from an old, Sifnos friend this week who I haven’t seen since he left the island about 10 years ago. Martin (Pinto) is a lovely lad who we befriended on the island when he was struggling to make ends meet. We used to pass on all the back copies of (expensive) newspapers to him to keep him up to speed with the world. He came to have lunch with us at our house. When we returned one summer, Martin had left after suffering the fate of many English ‘friends’ of Greeks. We have stayed in touch ever since and, this week, he has told us he is buying a house in Cheltenham.  We are really wishing him well.

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Week 436

Sunday, 30th April, 2017

April is signing off  on an uncharacteristically wet note. Having mentioned last week that we had hardly seen rain in the past year, today was warm and wet. The lawns were screaming their thanks. We had already decided to stay at home. Why mix with the hoi polloi on a Bank Holiday weekend. Did you know that hoi polloi comes from the Greek, οἱ πολλοί or ‘the many’. Below are οἱ πολλοί of Sifnos on their ‘Sifnos Run’. This is the start line and the presentation area at Kamares harbour where it is certainly warmer and sunnier than West Sussex today.

I have been very lazy today but I am tired after this fairly busy week. I certainly couldn’t have taken part in ‘Sifnos Run’. Reading the newspapers, writing to friends and watching 3 football matches has been the sum of my exertions.

Friends/Fellow students from College days – some 48 years ago – were in touch today and one posted this very poor quality photo of me in 1970, 19 years old and flying down the wing in the College football team. I have never been a footballer as they soon found out and dropped me. I was a rugby union player in the distant mists of time. It feels so strange to be in touch with an old life that I can barely believe I was part of.

Monday, 1st May, 2017

Solidarity Brothers and Happy May. A lovely, warm morning to greet the new month. I’ve spent the past hour drinking fresh coffee and listening to a podcast of the Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson, reprising his part in the Labour landslide of 1997 – 20 years ago today. You will remember that Blair avowed to eschew ‘soundbites’ and then stood on Downing Street steps and said, A new day has dawned, has it not? followed by, I feel the hand of Destiny on my shoulder. They were heady times. We will not see them again for quite a while.

‘Janey’ fights back!

Twenty years ago, I found a white flowered climbing rose called Sanders White. I had to buy it and plant it out in my Mum’s garden. Unfortunately, Catherine Sanders hated it and had it removed as soon as possible as I found on my next visit. Pauline’s Mum – Jane Farrow (1914 – 2010) was always known as ‘Janey’. She was a lovely lady who was a real survivor, dying at the wonderful age of 96. When we found a Fuschia called Janey, we had to have it. We put in two which we believed were Hardy Fuschias. During the last winter, which was relatively mild, ‘Janey’ lost all her leaves and was reduced to a pile of dry twigs. We were convinced she was gone. In the past couple of weeks, she has surprised us both and fought back through the bark mulch and looks like she will put on a strong display later in the summer.

Old Sifnos friends – much missed!

Lovely couple of hours at the Health Club this afternoon although we were surprised to find so many others there today. They should be relaxing in the garden with a barbecue. We did our own ‘Sifnos Run’ and exhausting it was too. I was pleased to see ‘old friends’ out supporting the island run yesterday. Today we did

  • 40 mins jogging machine
  • 20 mins cycling
  • 10 mins tension weights
  • 30 mins swimming in the outside pool
  • 20 mins Jacuzzi and sauna

When we came home, feeling absolutely knackered, we ate Greek Salad & Whitebait. Life could be a whole lot worse.

Tuesday, 2nd May, 2017

Χταπόδι σαλάτα

Absolutely gloriously sunny day which reached 18C/65F in mid afternoon. Went out to buy fresh octopus for tomorrow’s lunch – as you do. Where do you get it? Well, Morrison’s any day of the week. Pauline will boil it, let it go cold and then slice it thinly to be served with olive oil and lemon. Delicious and very cheap unlike in Greece where it is very expensive in the tavernas.

We left with thyme on our hands.

We went on to the garden centre – all risk of frost has passed down here and Easter and Bank Holiday crowds disappeared. We are only shopping for pot plants which we can ask our neighbours to water while we are away. We are growing herbs:

  • Sage
  • Fennel
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sweet Basil
  • Greek Basil

These will complement the large Tarragon which has rejuvenated from last year. I also bought some Geraniums (or Pelargoniums strictly speaking). I am a sucker for these plants particularly the bright red flowering varieties.

We are told that April has been a very unusually dry one. We could have told them that. Fortunately, we have water on tap and don’t really need to worry too much about that. Britain, after all, invented rain.

Wednesday, 3rd May, 2017

We are resting our weary bones this morning. A building company ‘snagger’ is coming round to replace a couple of external door seals which were splitting. It meant that we decided to miss our gym session and do our ‘big shop’ today. We were out for a couple of hours  but back in time for the Daily Politics and to hear the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, helping May’s election appeal by attempting to frighten the British electorate.

Barnier has turned the UK’s stated aim of pre-empting all negotiations with an agreement on Europeans living in Britain and Britains living in Europe. Europe are determined to make this as difficult and expensive as possible and, quite definitely, bargaining chips in the final accounting process. This should make expats on both sides of the Channel feel very nervous because it increases the likelihood of the UK government walking away completely without an agreement and that would be very bloody for both sides.

Two figs: Rouge de Bordeaux & Brown Turkey

In our Greek garden, we had a couple of fig trees which were fruiting well by the time we left. We would like to grow some figs in our sheltered, south-facing, Southern English garden. I have taken advice and there are two varieties that will do well down here – Rouge de Bordeaux which did well at Versailles in notoriously chilly gardens and Brown Turkey which is probably better known. I will plant them in full sun and train them on the garage wall to benefit from the sun’s residual warmth in the evenings. I will keep you posted on their progress or lack of it.

Thursday, 4th May, 2017

Local elections on a grey and overcast day. Most people would be hard pressed to know that there is an election. We have had just one leaflet through the door and that was for the Conservative candidate. I was amused to read that the UKIP candidate is called Evariste Lardeur. You can’t get more English than that, can you?

As we left the polling booth in the local Community Centre, the sun came out and the temperature soon read 16C/61F. We went on to the Health Club and did another couple of hours. Now the kids are back in school and the Bank Holiday weekend is over, we have the outdoor pool to ourselves after our hard workout in the gym. It is delicious swimming with the sun on our backs in warm, clear water.

In Greece, that awkward hiatus between Easter and Summer is under way. The Skiathan has been giving us a countdown to Summer (according to the first Charter Flights arriving) but, in reality on the smaller islands, commerce jogs along underwhelmingly until the real crowds arrive for ‘money making time’.

As in so many other years in recent times, the tourist industry is advertising its wares against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty and deprivation with noises off from the emboldened, one party state known as Turkey. Developments on Greece’s periphery are of great concern. A crisis with unforeseeable consequences is already under way in the Balkans in Albania, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). However, Turkey undoubtedly remains the main concern. No one can rule out a military act by Turkey against Greece and they already plan military exercises with live ammunition in international waters south of Kastelorizo. Turkey also have the whip hand over control of migrant movement which is already increasing to Greek islands as the weather and seas improve.

More ferry strikes threatened.

To make matters worse, Europe have forced the Greek government to accept increasingly humiliating and difficult terms in return for the next tranche of their bailout. Pensions are to be cut savagely again. Tax-free bands of earned income are to be considerably reduced and – at last – the self-employed will be hit by new tax charges.

Predictably, Greek organised labour is flailing around in desperate futility. Over the May Bank Holiday, transport was crippled by strikes in Athens and ferries were off on Monday. The seaman’s union, The Pan-Hellenic Maritime Federation, have announced another two day strike as ‘tourist time’ gets underway and threats a ramping up with rolling strikes going forward. Their shouted demand is, Take back the new austerity measures! It remains to be seen how long the government can allow them to threaten the cash-cow that is the country’s tourist industry. 

Friday, 5th May, 2017

Well, it’s not sunny here or warm. We haven’t got above 14C/57F under moody skies. We drove down to Tesco about a mile from the beach. Seagulls here are vermin. They are growing in numbers and a pest in the neighbourhoods. It is a little know fact that it is illegal to feed seagulls and punishable by a sizeable fine. I can’t find out if it is illegal to poison seagulls. It is amazing how big and intimidating they are when you get close up. In Tesco carpark, they can be found rooting through discarded food bags with an acquired skill. They sit on the lamp standards waiting to attack.

We drove on to the shoreline fishmongers to buy Sea Bass and then home before going off to the Health Club for another couple of hour’s work. We will go again tomorrow to make it five out of seven days work. I do about 3,500 – 4,000 calories worth of cardio work each week which is at least two days full calorie allowance for me. I may not come into JaneBG’s category but that feels enough for me. At least I am beginning to find my recovery is coming rather more quickly now.

It is 39 years ago this month that Pauline asked me out for our first date. We went out to dinner and I knew that night that she was the one for me. Within two months, I had gone out and bought an engagement ring  before asking her. I took her for Dinner – Duck & Black Cherries – and to a performance of Leaping Ginger at the Royal Exchange in Manchester which starred a very young Robert Lindsay.

I was terrified that she wouldn’t like the ring although I was confident that she would say ‘Yes’. She said, ‘Yes’ and that she loved the ring. Whether she meant it, I’ve never been sure. At least she is still wearing it. I fear it is rather aggressively ‘of its time’ in terms of the design but she insists she is still happy to wear it and rarely takes it off other than when she is making bread.

Saturday, 6th May, 2017

A Lazarote Beach

Lovely, warm, sunny day that reached 18C/65F. It has been an active day. From soon after breakfast, I was out in the garden mowing the lawns, potting up the herbs, cleaning the patio. We went to the Health Club later and did two hours exercise. I burned nearly 800 calories. I have done my 15,000 paces today. If anything, we over did it. I wanted to sleep when I got home. Although I hadn’t eaten little all day, I almost felt too tired to eat my meal – Roast Salmon & Tomato Salad. I love roast salmon with a little pesto topping!

We are looking at a month in Lands-are-Grotty in November for some winter sun. Our dilemma is whether to go to a posh hotel with all inclusive which has real implications for the diet or to rent a villa where we can self-cater.

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Week 435

Sunday, 23rd April, 2017

Recently I told you that I had interrogated the NHS Life Expectancy Calculator and been told that I have just 11 years (slightly less now) to live. I can expect to die aged 76 years old. My brother, Bob, reminded me that in my teenage years I swore to kill myself when I reached 50. It is the sort of youthful, anti-aging bravado that stupid teenagers exhibit. I must admit that, having reached pensionable age, dying at 76 seems impossibly early but that’s what the NHS said.

My wife, of course, thinks I’m bonkers and just ‘willing death’ upon myself by even contemplating it. Left to her, we would never confront it until it happened and, even then, I suspect she would be denying it – just like the Black Knight – as only a flesh wound! I, of course will be crying and cowering in a corner. Today I read an article by Martin Hemming that almost made me feel ‘normal’ as it opened like this:

“Here’s a fun game you can play at home. It’s called When Am I Going to Die?

Play the game here, if you dare

It’s really good. You gather your nearest and dearest around a computer screen, Google life expectancy calculator, pick one, then stick in everyone’s relevant details — age, sex, how many packets of cigarettes they smoke a day, have they ever had a job in a uranium mine, that sort of thing. The person with the highest score wins.”

Of course, in his case, the winners were those with the most money to cushion their old age as exemplified by the Queen who has just turned 91. If only it were that simple. Anyway, I took the Life Expectancy Test that he suggested and was granted an extra 9 years. I am mindful, however, that it was devised by Aviva to persuade me to invest in life insurance but I’m sure it’s more accurate!

Monday, 24th April, 2017

Lovely, warm and sunny morning. By mid afternoon we had a quite ‘muggy’ 16C/61F. How long will it last? Rather like Life Expectancy, we are told it’s going to get colder. Pity really because we are off to France soon for a short break. Excellent couple of hours at the Health Club today. It has had a great deal of money spent on it over the past month. All the gym equipment and accompanying media has been renewed. It really feels luxurious and actually makes one want to stay and exercise.

As a counterpoint to the exercise, when we return from France, we will fill up on wine which is still at better prices than when bought in UK. I’ve gone from French to Italian and, recently after three months in Teneriffe, to Spanish wines. I’ve picked these out from my favourite store –

  • Rioja Finca Monica
  • Rioja Crianza Gardenos
  • Rioja Crianza Ederra
  • Chateau Tour de Barbereau
  • Chateau Reyssac Bergerac

Of course, I will always love claret and I’ve got dozens of bottles already but I will take advantage while there is still the possibility of good value, good quality French wine available. Very soon our supplier will be feeling the effects of looming Brexit and calculating how long they can stay open. We have been buying from them for over 30 years and haven’t bought any wine in UK in that time. It will be a sad end – for one of us!

Tuesday, 25th April, 2017

Gorgeous day for driving to the Channel Tunnel – blue skies and strong sunshine. We are told that other areas have had frost. Being close to the coast, I suppose, we are lucky and just have the clear skies. Every where we go now we have to take an array of chargers – Smartphones, Kindle, two different iPads, smart watch, etc. – which I attach to a ‘cube’ multi-socket. They are checked even before passports, cheque cards and euros. You would think we are going to Ulan Bator instead of Nord-Pas-de-Calais!

What a beautiful day! Blue skies and sunshine all the way. Never seen the Channel Tunnel service so quiet. Two trains were amalgamated and still only amounted to 30 vehicles. This is the way it will go now. We left Folkestone at 12.30 pm and arrived 30 mins later at 2.00 pm – if you see what I mean.

Checked in to our hotel and found we had been upgraded to a Family Suite which was lovely. We have stayed here many times. Sometimes loyalty does pay. Just a pity Stavros didn’t understand the principle! Went down to Auchan to do a bit of shopping and bought a bottle of wine to taste. We drank it this afternoon with our meal of Normandy Soft Cheese, fresh prawns, sweet, cherry tomatoes and Remoulade.

It’s good to get away. Some times a change of scenery can make a difference – even if it is in France. This evening turned out to be even more spectacular than normal as huge, black clouds arrived bringing long, slow lightning flashes, booming thunder rolling around the hotel grounds and an avalanche of hail. The lawns around the hotel temporarily turned white and the large, brown rabbits grazing there ran for cover.

Wednesday, 26th April, 2017

What a strange day. Quite a chilly but sunny start. We had BREAKFAST. We had coffee and read the papers in leisurely style and then went down to the wine store to do our buying. Everywhere is quiet, from the tunnel crossing yesterday to the hotel and breakfast room to the supermarkets and the wine store. It is symptomatic of what is to come in the name the of ‘Little Englanders’.

We drove down to Cite Europe in strong, ‘hot’ sunshine. Having parked, found a euro to release our trolley and walked inside, a roar started to pound on the development’s glass roof. It was an almighty hail storm. The carpark became a sea of slushy, ice in minutes and, just as quickly, went back to sunny and dry.

Driving back to the hotel, the storm had left the trees like the church grounds in a post-wedding scene. Confetti everywhere looking lovely in the sunshine. We bought a snack for our meal which we took back to the hotel to watch the last PMQs on television. How awful is Theresa May? She and Corbin deserve each other. I look forward to the tussle over the Pension Triple Lock. Keep those annoying young buggers down. That’s my prospectus.

Thursday, 27th April, 2017

Mum in the early 1930s. 1923 – 2008

It is 9 years today since my Mum died. I can see her now, dead. It still haunts me although not as  much as it has. It is almost as concerning that 9 years have elapsed since that day. How can that be? She was months off being 85. She has been in my mind throughout the day and dancing across my memory’s cinema screen. Visions of good and bad times viewed through a misty lens and accompanied by a redolent tune – a Chopin Etude ( Tristesse) – evoking sadness of lost experiences. There is no reviving or escaping one’s past.

Just as always when she was celebrating something, I am abroad. We are preparing to leave France this morning through the Eurotunnel after finishing our shopping. Breakfast and checkout followed by a trip to Auchan to purchase food for our next few days.

Off to the terminal and a quick crossing of 30 mins. We drive out into sunshine and quiet roads. Isn’t going away almost inevitably a boost to returning home? Our newly adopted village looks so appealing in the light of new eyes. So many houses festooned with heavy racemes of wisteria. We are home by about 1.00 pm. Unload the car and stack boxes of wine in the garage and then a meal of prawns, crab and salad.

The plants on the patio need watering, the lawn needs cutting and the car needs cleaning but those things are for another day. Tonight, I am watching City v United and catching up on election news. Listened to a dreadful interview of Boris Johnson by John Humphries on Radio 4’s Today programme. Humphries allowed Johnson to bluster through and avoid answering questions while insinuating buffoonery and blatant electioneering unchecked. I am becoming increasingly concerned about the bias or incompetence of the BBC.

Friday, 28th April, 2017

I think it might have rained a little over night. The garden furniture looks damp. It can’t have been much because the grass is dry. We have had so little rain since we moved in here. I know it is becoming a concern for farmers and gardeners. Pauline has gone out to the Beauty Parlour to have a ‘facial’ whatever that means. I am left to do all the jobs. I’ve unstacked the dishwasher, watered the patio  plants, mowed the lawns and fed them. I will put the sprinklers on this afternoon when we get back from the gym.

We did a 90 mins. stint in the gym and pool today and I was exhausted at the end of it. The temperature reached 16C/61F as we swam outside in the pool. It’s been quite a busy and interesting week and I can feel the tiredness in my body. Going to fit another gym session in tomorrow. We have gone back to calorie counting and I need the exercise to allow me to eat. Today’s meal was smoked mackerel, prawns and tomato & cucumber salad. Absolutely delicious and well within my calorie allocation.

Saturday, 28th April, 2017

The problem with retirement after a busy working life is replacing the constant and built in motion of one’s previous days. I am very conscious of ‘sitting’ too much. I read my newspaper, use my iPad or computer, watch television or just sit and talk. Sedentary is a dangerous condition. As a result, I keep looking for ‘jobs’ to do to keep me moving. Today I have unstacked the dishwasher, vacuumed the entire house, valeted the car inside and out and then spent two hours in the Health Club. Although I have fulfilled my mission and done 13,000 paces, I can now barely walk!

It is a Bank Holiday weekend. I suspect that only means something to you if you are still working. It means absolutely nothing to us as long as the social facilities we use – shops and Health Club mainly – are still available and they are. All around us, families are making the most of the ‘long weekend’ with lawns being cut and barbecues being lit. The weather has been absolutely delightful and the temperature reached 17C/63F this afternoon. We ate Roast Salmon & Salad ( 500 cals.) accompanied by a delightful bottle of sparkling water.

Have you noticed how many people don’t eat at a dining table? Some children I taught thought that all meals were eaten with a plate on your knee in front of the television. Admittedly, we do have a TV in the Dining area of our kitchen but we have made it a rule to eat our meals at the Dining Table, to not eat in the Lounge or to drink alcohol in there either. We both feel much more comfortable eating and talking around a table than balancing plates on our knees. Call me old fashioned. Oh, you did!

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Week 434

Sunday, 16th April, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, 17th April, 2017

Picture from Chiswick House & Garden from Liz.

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

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

Tuesday, 18th April, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, 19th April, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, 20th April, 2017

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

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

Friday, 21st April, 2017

High notes from the Sea Bass.

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

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

Saturday, 22nd April, 2017

Genoa

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

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

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

Lucca

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

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

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Week 433

Sunday, 9th April, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, 10th April, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 11th April, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, 12th April, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 13th April, 2017

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

New House Building Everywhere.

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

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

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

Friday, 14th April, 2017

I last saw Peter in 1971.

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

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

I last saw John in 2002.

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

Saturday, 14th April, 2017

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

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

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

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Week 432

 Sunday, 2nd April, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, 3rd April, 2017

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

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

RIP F/B Agios Giorgos

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

Tuesday, 4th April, 2017

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

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

€1500.00 on the kitchen table looks nothing.

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

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

Wednesday, 5th April, 2017

Car Emissions stickers from the Frogs!

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

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

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

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

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

We relax with

  • 20  mins. in the Jacuzzi and Sauna.

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

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

Thursday, 6th April, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 7th April, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 8th April, 2017

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

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

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

Painting the white lines on Sifnos

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

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 432