Week 424

Sunday, 5th February, 2017

Larkin’s second volume of poetry published in 1955.

For those of us indoctrinated in to the Roman Catholic religion, rejection is never enough. It forms us and informs the rest of our lives no matter how we struggle to break free. Nominally, I rejected its shackles from early puberty but even now, in my early dotage, it squats inside me filling my every waking and many sleeping moments with a sense of guilt derived from original sin. Contemplative Sundays seem to have returned to my life in retirement. Outside, my neighbours are cleaning cars, weeding gardens, shopping, and all the other jobs they have to fit in to the weekends but which I have been free all week to complete. Interestingly, I have taken, recently at the weekend, to returning to volumes of poetry on the shelves in my office.

Of all the poets that I’m familiar with, Philip Larkin speaks for me, almost my words in almost the tone my thinking sounds in my head. I love the musicality and strength of Eliot, the sad, romantic lilt of Yeats, the homespun vision of Norman Nicholson and the animal vibrancy of Hughes but I don’t feel they read my mind. Larkin does. I hate to depress you because I am certainly not but this was my poem for today. I won’t bore you by quoting it all but give you enough to understand its central tenet.

Next, Please

Always too eager for future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy.
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say,

Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear,
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste! …………..

Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.

It is a strongly contemplative theme on the blank, futility of life. It is the sort of theme that an escapee from Catholicism may wield around their head in slaying their demons. As Larkin said, Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.

Monday, 6th February, 2017

Old Technology!

Lovely bright and sunny but fairly cold morning. A hint of frost soon warmed up but only reached 9C/48F. A copy of Yellow Pages dropped through the door this morning. I haven’t seen one or used one for a few years. It immediately struck me how ‘old technology’ it is. Whoever bought it and now runs it did a bad deal. How many people, younger than 95, turn to an already out of date book for the most up to date catalogue of contacts? How forward looking is a firm you might employ which hasn’t bothered to put up a website? My copy went straight in to the ‘Recycling Bin’. At least I’m Green and not Yellow!

Everyone goes to the gym in January. They manage to keep their resolution for a few weeks. Unfortunately for us, it means the facilities are more crowded than normal. We were hoping the start of February would see a downturn but not so far. Today, we had a struggle to find jogging machines free and there must be 30 – 40 of them in there. We had a struggle to get exercise bikes and there must be 20 – 30 of them. We had to pack in to a crowded Jacuzzi which holds 20 or more in 5 different bays and then get too close for comfort to strangers in the sauna. Why aren’t they in work? Does nobody work these days? Brexit will sort them out!

As prices soar along with interest rates, life will get much harder for the marginalised. We will become the poorer neighbour of America instead of being the awkward relation of the European Union. An article I read on a political blog this morning argued that we will learn to accept and even love cheap, American, GM crops which scientists agree are safe but Europe has set its mind against. It is a fascinating paradox that those who argue Climate Change deniers ignore majority opinion in the scientific world are so often the same people who deny the safety of GM products in the face of majority opinion in the scientific world. In the end, we all tend to believe what we choose and objective reality falls in to the abyss.

Tuesday, 7th February, 2017

A glorious, sunny and warm day which reached 14C/57F as we walked through Littlehampton this morning. We were searching for replacement LED bulbs, one of which has failed in our Kitchen ceiling. This has happened to us in three, separate, new-build homes and is so difficult to reconcile. In our kitchen, we have 4 LED downlighters. We have a number in each bathroom as well. One in the kitchen expired yesterday which is surprising as they have only been in operation for 10 months, are described as ‘long life’ and cost £7.00 per unit. It is described as 4w / equivalent 40w. What on earth does that mean?

Our bulbs are ‘white’ light but are they white ‘daylight’?, ‘soft’ white? or ‘warm’ white? I did a search and found that they had already been superseded by 35w and 50w bulbs. I rejected these and went out shopping. After visiting four, new lighting shops, I accepted that I would need to replace all four in order to get a match. the others can be moved to other rooms. This nonsense has been propagated by the EU in the name of the environment and is as bonkers as its supporters!

Wednesday, 8th February, 2017


I think I have written before that Pauline and I are, essentially, Jack Spratt & his wife. Pauline is keen on cleaning and I am obsessed with tidying. In that and many other respects, we make a fantastic team. Pauline is incredibly practical but, given a letter to write, she will sit pondering what to say for ages. I love writing but I couldn’t paint a door or change a bulb in a new, LED down-lighter. Pauline takes all that in her stride and even relishes it. What more could a man want? It is important and rewarding that we complement each other.

My wife has said for a long time that I was on the early end of the Autistic spectrum – Aspergic. Tidiness, arranging and lining things up is an example of autistic behaviour. I laugh when I catch myself doing it but I fear it is getting worse. Three light switches in the hall of our house control lights that can also be controlled by three switches upstairs. I have started trying to make sure that the switches upstairs are all up/down and that the same occurs downstairs.  Sometimes, the synchronisation means running up and down stairs to get everything just so. I don’t feel distressed if I don’t get this right but I’m amused by a good solution.

Oh No!

When I lay the table for a meal, I make sure that table mats are evenly spaced and parallel and perpendicular to the table edges. When I leave the dining table, I make sure the chairs are left under the table and in line. In the Health Club changing room this afternoon, I caught myself straightening a bench so it lined up with the lockers. I line my papers  and pencils up on my desk and sort my books on the shelf in to subject or height order. I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m completely barmy.  I’m pretty sure I’ve always done it but I have more time to observe it and indulge it now. It does mean that we have a very tidy house.

Thursday, 9th February, 2017

A cold and overcast day although we are told it will get colder over the weekend. We did our weekly shop at Tesco. and then drove home to receive a visit from an electrician who we want to do a couple of jobs for us. Pauline wants an extra down lighter in her bathroom. I want a couple of weather proof, external sockets outside on the garage wall because we cook out there a lot. I use an electric griddle and a double ring hob. Pauline uses a pressure cooker to make stock quite often. It can produce a strong and pervasive smell which permeates the kitchen but soon blows away in the garden.

Talking about pervasive smells, Greece and Grexit along with the ‘Poison Dwarf’ are back on the agenda. Across Europe, media is reporting that a recent IMF report says Greek debt is unsustainable and that the fund’s participation in any future bailout would be conditional on a new round of austerity measures or on other lenders cancelling their debts — a circumstance considered highly unlikely.

The IMF anticipates that without a new bailout package, Greek debt will grow to almost three times its GDP over the next five years as the interest on loan repayments increases from 2.5 per cent to 7 per cent. Yields on Greek ten-year bonds jumped to 8 per cent on Tuesday as investors considered the possibility that Athens could go bankrupt. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, has said that a decision by the IMF to pull out of the bailout programme would derail plans to keep Greece afloat.

Friday, 10th February, 2017

Angmering Village in Winter.

An even colder day which barely got above 4C/39F. To make things even more enjoyable, there was a spell of soft and very wetting rain. It wasn’t a day for going out but we did risk a trip to the Health Club for a couple of hours.

I felt really tired after exercise today. We fed on a meal of bean salad with cold fish. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, it was really lovely. The full meal was fit for a king:

  • Tuna Pate (Homemade)
  • Cold, smoked Mackerel
  • Prawns
  • Salad of Cannellini Beans in Garlic Mayonnaise
  • Cucumber & Hummus

This was accompanied by sparkling water. I love this sort of meal now. I don’t know why but fish currently dominates our diet. The freezer is stuffed full of Chicken, Duck, Pheasant, Beef Steak but we go out and buy, Salmon, Cod, Crab, Prawns, Whitebait, Kalamari. Things will turn round in time.

Saturday, 10th February, 2017

We come to live in the sunniest county in Britain and see…….. SNOW! Well, it was light, wet stuff which lasted 10 minutes but it was still a shock. Back to normal now but I blame this Global Warming and Brexit. We were recently given an olive tree. It is sitting in a pot in our back garden. It’s looking a bit shocked now!

Who could do without olive oil? It would be hard although we all may have to in a couple of years. In fact, that day may come even sooner because there have been major problems with the olive oil market this season. Drought and disease have combined to cause a ‘disaster’ for the olive oil industry and prices are set to soar in Britain’s high street supermarkets, according to a new report out this week.

Even if Greece’s output hasn’t been too bad, they manage to pull disaster from the jaws of success by shipping much of their raw product in tankers straight to Italy where it is bottled, rebadged ‘Produce of Italy’ and a 50% price premium added. Around 60 % of Greece’s olive oil output is shipped to Italy. Apparently, Greek entrepreneurs who tried to export their own country’s oil found no one in Greece to make the bottles which they had to buy from Italy. They had difficulty getting loans to pay for the bottles, and then they were hit with the taxes. Due to Greece’s economic issues, the government asked businesses to estimate and pay the taxes they would owe in 2016 ahead of time — in 2015. It’s no basis for a business model in a sector where olive oil alone represents nearly a tenth of Greece’s agricultural output.

I’m going to have another look at Rapeseed oil which has been touted as the healthier, home-grown option, with a light and nutty flavour. Be great if it was calorie-free, wouldn’t it?

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Week 423

Sunday, 29th January, 2017

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Can’t believe that the first month of 2017 is almost gone. Soon I will be 66! That is quantitatively different to 65. I will soon be on the downward slopes to 70. I don’t know where the brakes are. It has been something of a day for introspection.

I was reading an interesting report this morning about some research which appeared to bear out the saying that, in death, one’s whole life flashes before one. There is, apparently, some evidence to suggest that life events really are the last to leave the brain as it dies and reappear although not in linear or sequential form in the final three minutes before death.

Unfortunately, we went on to watch the heart-tugging serialisation of the drama, Call the Midwife which is adapted by Heidi Thomas from memoirs of Jennifer Worth. It is a moving and colourful look at midwifery and family in 1950s East End London. Although I was born in to a middle class, east Midlands family, many of the concerns and activities in this drama echo strongly with my 1950s childhood. Experiences forced through the prism of time are reflected in shadows of real pleasure flooded by sadness. I must get out more.

Monday, 30th January, 2017

It’s going to be a warm and wet week. At 9.00 am, we are reading 8C/46F and we are expecting 10C/50F. Rain was heavy last night and is forecast to feature in some part every day this week. Shouldn’t have bothered cleaning the car yesterday.

This week, we have got a concentrated run of cerebral activities at home balanced by physical activities at the Health Club. I am going to pick up my ancestry research and attempt to finish a book analysing the Brexit vote which I downloaded over Christmas. I have been so involved in other things that reading books has rather fallen by the wayside. Next week, the weather is forecast to be dry so we may use that period to go out and about. I need to use this week for reading.

Blue Star 1 built Year 2000

For 15 years, we drove across Europe either from Zeebrugge or Calais to Ancona where we caught a ferry down the Adriatic. Our first trip was in 2000. At that time, there were 40 ships sailing the Adriatic with the Greek flag. We first took a trip on Blue Star’s brand new Blue Star 1 ship. It was an optimistic start. In recent years, the number of Greek ships had been reduced to 10. Today, only seven Greek ships sail in the Adriatic. The Minoan ships left at the end of 2016 and now are limited to the Aegean. It is a symbol of the decline.

Tuesday, 31st January, 2017

West Sussex this afternoon.

January 2017 goes out with a whimper of dull, wetness. At least it is relatively mild at 8C/46F and things can only get better.

My wife is wonderful. Each day she brings our accounts up to date on her accounting package and then gives me her back-up stick to copy it on to my computer. I don’t even both opening it most days but, this morning, I was checking something and laughed as I found that the accounts were forward forecast to 18 March, 2020. Not only were our finances healthy but she was assuming we were both healthy too. She swears by positive thinking. I ‘m not so sure!

A first at the Health Club this morning. I’m on the jogging machine watching a distant television set showing the parliamentary debate on Brexit and listening through headphones plugged into my jogging machine. It is a fantastic debate with passionate speeches on both sides and up steps Ken Clarke. His speech in favour of voting down the triggering of Article 50 is intelligent, witty, informed by 50 years of experience in public life and unflinchingly honest as only someone who has seen it all and is stepping down at the next election can be. I am not a natural supporter of Clarke but his speech is so gripping that I forget I am on the jogging machine.

Ancona Port

Suddenly, I was grasping for grip as I lay horizontal, tethered by my still connected headphones and as the treadmill belt burned skid marks in to my knees. I’ve never had skid marks on my knees before. Fortunately, a lovely, young woman exercising on the machine next to me heard my groans and saw the whites of my eyes as I struggled to realise what was happening to me. She hit the red, emergency stop button on my machine and I started to recover my dignity.

Cosy and dry at home, we have been planning our main, Summer trip driving across Europe. We are going to take a different route to Ancona, do it more slowly and stay longer en route in France and Italy. So far, we are going to drive Calais, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Nice, Genoa, Florence, Montepulciano, Ancona.

Wednesday, 1st February, 2017

Welcome to February 2017, a new month which is starting dark, damp and cool. It is the shortest month, speeding time erosion up but hastening the Spring.

The word February is believed to have derived from the name ‘Februa’ taken from the Roman ‘Festival of Purification’.  The root of the word could be februo meaning ‘I purify by sacrifice’.  Although pure already, I sacrifice most days just in case. As part of the seasonal calendar, February is the time of the ‘Ice Moon’ according to Pagan beliefs.

We are finding it hard to adjust to the fact that we will be leaving the EU in a matter of weeks while preparing to spend weeks travelling through and staying in the very countries that we are leaving. Therein lies the madness.

Thursday, 2nd February, 2017

Evening sky in west Sussex.

Quite a warm day which actually brought some sunshine and ended with an interesting sky. We reached 11C/52F in mid afternoon which felt pleasant as we left the Health Club after another good workout and one in which I managed to stay upright on the treadmill for 45 mins. My knee’s still a bit sore from coming off it the other day. A sign of age, I suppose.

An article in The Times today says that simple tests of health in age include being able to stand on one leg with eyes shut for 10 seconds and being able to get up from a sitting position in a chair without using the arms 22 times in 60 seconds is another. I don’t know about you but my balance has never been good. I tried it in the kitchen this afternoon and fell over on the count of 2. Pauline didn’t do much better. I am going to practice every day for a month. I will report back on my progress on March 1st.

I wrote the other day on the testing for Altzheimer’s/Dementia which I would have failed for years. I have driven to Tesco from our house at least once every week for the past 40 weeks. I can summon a picture of Tesco in my mind and the roundabout I go round just before the carpark. I can summon up a picture of my car on our drive at home. I cannot summon up the link between the two. This is not something new. I have been geographically-challenged since my youth. I find map reading difficult although I got my badge as a scout and passed ‘O’Level Geography at school. I fail the practical. Never has an invention been more valuable to me than the satellite navigation system. Of course, my best navigation is done by my wife who absolutely relishes it. We make a good team.

Friday, 3rd February, 2017

The day started well but nosedived in the mid afternoon. These two weather-watcher snaps illustrate the development well.

















Pauline is suffering from a bout of Blepharitis from which she has suffered for a long time. We made an early trip to the chemist for an antibiotic cream to treat it. Throughout the winter, each morning we eat a bowl of home made soup before leaving for the Health Club. Today – and for the next couple of days – it was the most wonderful, roasted vegetable soup on a base of turkey stock from the freezer. As we walked across the carpark to the Health Club, the weather was already changing and spitting rain arriving. By the time we left, it was dark and seriously wet although still 10C/50F. We drove home and put the car in the garage and walked in to a warm house, almost feeling that Friday Night Feeling for the first time for years.

The tip of the Iceberg.

We are told that there is a shortage of supply of vegetables from southern Europe after a particularly cold and wet winter. Today, we are told that supermarkets are rationing iceberg lettuces but, as some wag pointed out, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We tried to buy courgettes the other day to no avail and, this morning we struggled to buy fennel bulbs for a rabbit dish we are cooking tomorrow. Only Sainsbury’s had any left. How would we have survived?

Actually, I am not allowed any green leaf vegetable so my allocation is available to ‘sealed’ bids on a daily basis. Tesco is allowing customers a ration of just 3 iceberg lettuces per day. Who are these people? That is really taking salad to another level but, on that basis, I will happily give my 21 lettuces a week to some, desperate rabbit  salad feaster.

Saturday, 4th February, 2017

England 19 -16 France

The day has been quite delightful with blue skies and lots of warm sun. Ironically, we have spent most of the day in doors on projects in the office and sporting distractions on television. It is always nice to complete correspondence which you’ve been meaning to get round to for weeks and today was one of those occasions. We also booked an electrician to come and quote us for some additional fittings. I mapped out our European drive for early Summer, started to check out hotels for our stopovers and to work out distances and driving times. We have never really gone in for spontaneity.

Interesting articles in the Daily Telegraph this morning about the state of European Political Economies with particular reference to Italy and Greece. Although it was based on the decade old argument about the differential interest rates required by northern and southern European economies and their inability to activate monetary policy according to individual country’s needs, this analysis referred specifically to the urgency for Italy to leave the euro and reiterated Greece’s need to do the same. In Italy, this theme is both prescient and much discussed. There is a strong band of opinion in favour of such action. In Greece, one senses that further austerity measures will bring Greeks to that opinion as well. Although it will mean short to medium term pain, it will free their economies to adopt policies to bring them back to health in the long term.

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Week 422

Sunday, 22nd January, 2017

Another bright, sunny but coldish day. The temperature reached a dizzy 6C/43F. I was completely  sedentary today. I valeted the car yesterday. Today, I watched 3 politics programmes, 3 football matches and read the Sunday Times.  I ate a wonderful. roast dinner of chicken and sage & onion stuffing. I hardly moved from the sofa. I did measure up and plan out shelving for the storage room under the stairs but it hardly counts for activity. Back to the gym tomorrow!

The Donald started weird and will probably end weird. His inauguration speech would have made Hitler preen with pride and his ending may well  be in a bunker of sorts. I predict that he may well not serve one full term never mind two. If he does stay in office for four years, he may well compromise the world’s security with his relationship with Russia or his lack of relationship with China, Iran, Korea, etc.. It is so good to see that more people came to support him in Washington than any previous President elect. Not!

Monday, 23rd January, 2017

As forecast, we woke to thick and freezing fog with a temperature of -4C/25F. It was slow to lift and, when we left for the Health Club at 1.00 pm, the temperature had only reached 3C/37F. It is said to be getting warmer towards the weekend. Before I continue, I’d like to share a lovely and humorous chart of Modern Art Explained that I found on Twitter.








Someone had plenty of time on their hands. They could be, of course, retired like us. We are beginning to turn our attention to installing some hard landscaping in our back garden. At the moment, we just have a 6ft, tanalised fence enclosing about 250 sq.m. of luxurious grass. we are thinking of bordering the fence with raised beds with planting to soften the fence. The web has quite a few examples of the type of thing we are envisaging:












We will invite quotations from 2 or 3 of the myriad of groundwork companies that look for work around here and consider work starting in the Spring.

Tuesday, 24th January, 2017

Cold start with frost but no fog. However, the strong, winter sun did help the temperature to reach 7C/45F. The morning was spent at home because Pauline’s new laptop was out for delivery. By 11.00 am, it had been delivered, unpacked and I was setting it up.

All the simple stuff like basic settings – time, place, language, etc. – went smoothly but email has become a nightmare with web-based mail which comes with Windows 10 and which we use to synchronise across platforms. Our email accounts and on-line diaries can be accessed from our  desktops, laptops, iPads and smartphones which require an i-Cloud account as the bridging mechanism. I did all the right things but without all the right reactions. Having established the accounts on the new laptop, email suddenly became slow and reluctant and diary integration became sluggish to synchronize. This happened last time we did this and I panicked. This time, I shrugged and gave it a few hours. I was rewarded with working systems by late evening.

I have a Norton security account with 10 device installations available on it. That had to be downloaded and installed. In order to do that, I had to take the temporarily ‘free’ MacAfee software off. Next, I installed, Ms Office Professional which will provide most of the software Pauline will need. This is followed by Adobe Acrobat Professional and a printer driver and scanner driver.

We drove over to Littlehampton in the middle of the day to visit the Physiotherapy Dept. to discuss a long standing problem that I’ve had with my arm. It’s been giving me serious discomfort for almost 12 months. They told me that I’ll have to wait to be seen. It looks as if it will be a few more weeks yet. Back to the gym tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25th January, 2017

The first dull and overcast day for a long time. Quite cold but as bad as recently. By 7.30 am it was 2C/36F and, eventually, we reached 9C/48F. We have had a really good day although it would be hard to convey why to an outsider. I have written before of an accounting programme we have been using for nearly 25 years but which was no longer compatible with the current Windows 10 platform. So many other people have bemoaned the loss of such an important facility that I had a hunch Microsoft might address the problem. They did it once for me personally. I tried to install the software and, lo and behold, it went on a ran perfectly first time. I kissed my wife.

You see! I warned you that I would find it hard to convey the true import to outsiders but, to us, it was a massive pleasure to find that our detailed, financial records of so many years will carry on long in to the future. Now you know, you can kiss your wife. Of course, there is always something bad around the corner. No sooner had we celebrated our success but a note came through to me from a news blog I follow informing me that HP laptops were subject to immediate recall because batteries were spontaneously bursting in to flames rather like the Samsung phones. Fortunately, I removed the battery immediately, checked the serial number and made sure it wasn’t one of those to be recalled.

We have a central heating company arriving tomorrow to give our boiler an annual service. It costs £120.00/€141.00 but means that everything is guaranteed for the first 5 years of its life. We’ve also got an electrician from the site. He is commonly known as ‘Surfer Dude’ by his fellow builders but to us he is Paul. We have asked him to put an extra spotlight in Pauline’s bathroom so she can see her wrinkles better and shave more effectively. We also want some 3-pin sockets replaced with new ones incorporating USB charging points and we want a weather-proof socket for outdoor cooking which we do a lot down here.

Gradually, as we live in the house, we realise there are things we can do to make life more comfortable/enjoyable. The additional electrical facilities, storage facilities and garden landscaping are, of course, a bit self indulgent but useful and enjoyable all the same.

Thursday, 26th January, 2017

A fingerful is not enough. They want an armful.

An early and chilly start today. The Boiler Service man was arriving at 8.00 am and I had an INR test at 9.00 am so it was all go. Outside, it was 0C/32F at 7.00 am and is still that as I write just after 10.00 am. All things boiler are sorted out and my INR test – my first in my new surgery – was completed although in the old fashioned way by giving an armful of blood. I’ve got so used to a pinprick on my finger that it came as a bit of a shock. Also, the sample is sent off to Worthing hospital and they contact me (probably by carrier pigeon) with the result and warfarin dosage advice.

Received a phone call from the Physiotherapist in Worthing to ask about my arm pain. After answering about 50 questions about the problem, I began to wonder if he couldn’t have made better use of his time examining me. He did tell me that it would be about 20 weeks before he could see me – if I’m still alive. In the mean time, he has diagnosed the problem remotely and will send me out some exercise suggestions to tide me over. He suggested that, by the time I am called for treatment, I won’t need to go in. Let’s hope so.

Friday, 27th January, 2017

We have gone tropical! It’s 7C/45F today and I’m sweating. Heard from Mastercard to inform me that the fraudulent sale of shoes which we bought on-line from UK (Shanghai) has been recovered from the Chinese Bank and we will not be expected to pay.  Pauline immediately ordered another pair from Sarenza, a French company. We have bought from them before and know they are trustworthy.

Had a personal ‘valet’ this morning. Haircut by my wife plus all the embarrassingly ‘old man’, tell tale signs of ear hair and nose hair trimmed. The older I get the more coarse the bottom of my feet become with really solid, callous-type, skin. I had it all shaved off with a liberal covering of soothing cream applied. Too much information? Tough! This is my diary.

We drove to Worthing B&Q to collect some shelving we had ordered and then on to the Health Club. We did a good work out even though it was full of OLD PEOPLE!! After driving home, I cooked Duck Breasts, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. I was quite pleased with it. The Worthing INR confirmation letter had arrived this morning and I was shocked to read that my next, ‘official’ test is not for another 10 weeks which is the longest, untested spell I will have ever done. If I wasn’t also self testing, I would be seriously concerned.

Saturday, 28th January, 2017

Clear skies, strong sunshine and 7C/45F at 7.30 am. At the equivalent time of day 9.30 am on Sifnos, the temperature was 2C/36F. Let’s hope the underfloor heating is still working!

It’s not just the temperature which is cold in Greece. According to Politico Blog and many Greeks themselves, the viability and commitment of the Tsipras government is very much in doubt. Having promised high, Syriza quickly caved in and went low. Consequently, citizens who voted with high but totally unrealistic expectations are disillusioned and lashing out. Currently but symptomatic of the Greek political scene, farmers are protesting a range of issues including pension cuts, tax rises and social security reforms by blocking highways with their tractors.

The government is mulling over a way forward after Thursday’s Eurogroup meeting which piled more pressure on Athens to legislate measures now for the period after 2018, when the country’s third bailout ends. To make matters worse for the government, it is not just the IMF that is demanding these measures, but all creditors involved in the Greek bailout. This brings the central problem in to stark relief. Tsipras is telling the electorate that the results of Thursday’s meeting will have no impact on his resolve to stick to his pledge not to legislate any measures now for the period after 2018 while all the time being told that that is exactly what he must do. He is caught between a rock (aka farmers, doctors, pensioners, et al.) and a hard place (aka Greece’s creditors).

Who will speak for Greece?

Tsipras sees his economy tanking under the continual economic thumbscrews. Last year saw a new low in the creation of new enterprises in Greece, confirming the impression that going into business in the country is neither easy nor a way out of unemployment. Even fewer new enterprises were set up than in the politically and financially turbulent 2015. Investment in homes by Greek households has fallen 85 % since 2008 and the slump in household investment brought about an even greater decline in investment by constructors.

As a desperately sad coda to this already sad summary, the Lambrakis Press Group (DOL) which was founded in 1922 and grew to become one of Greece’s main media groups, also owning a stake in Mega TV, announced on Saturday that, after a failure to reach an agreement with its lenders, the publication of Ta Nea and To Vima newspapers will cease immediately. Who will speak for this country?

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Week 421

Sunday, 15th January, 2017

Pauline, Phyllis & Colin – 15/1/17

Half way through January already. I still haven’t found the key to slowing time down. It’s becoming quite scary! Today is wet and cold. The temperature was 3C/37F and didn’t get much above 7C/45F all day. We had hoped for nicer weather because we were driving up to Surrey to collect P&C and bring them back to Sussex with us. They are staying for a few days. Traffic was reasonable and we did the 100 mile round trip in just under 2 hours. It was nice to do a drive of some length.

Pauline cooked a gorgeous, roast chicken with sage & onion stuffing and roast vegetables. Even P&C have given up wine for the moment so it was accompanied by sparkling water. One of the activities while they are with us is helping Colin to master his iPad and another is tracing some of his recent family members. These are two things I can help with although I may have to ask for support from my big sister, Ruth. Tomorrow, we are going to amble down to the seaside for some fresh air and exercise.

Monday, 16th January, 2017

The M25 at its best in the rain.

Woke up to heavy rain and the news that Colin had been up in the night with pain from an operation he recently had on his wrist. It was clearly infected and looked inflamed. He was in real discomfort. We have no Walk-in Centre down here. The nearest one is 16 miles away in Brighton. It is definitely a drawback. It was decided that he needed to visit his doctor back in Surrey. So, after breakfast, our guests packed their bags and I loaded up the car and drove them back. It is a 2 hour round trip but today was horribly wet both from the sky and spray from the road. There was a lot of standing water on the road sides as well. It made the trip quite tiring.

Skiathan Man has so much time on his hands that that he has been able to find contemporary, new Sifnos material which had evaded me completely. If you click on the link, it is fairly wordy but well worth reading. I must admit, I have never hankered after a hair shirt, back to basics, idyllic-simplicity sort of life. As the account from Sifnos illustrates, it is readily available in small and less accessible islands but it never appealed to us. It sought us out occasionally when the water pump failed or the boilers sprang leaks, when the electricity supply went off for hours at the most inopportune moments and when we couldn’t get a phone line.

However, we went out of our way to bring all the creature comforts of a modern, British home to our new Greek building – double glazing, air conditioning, log burning stoves and underfloor heating. We had a huge, sterna or water storage tank and an excellent plumber who came immediately there was a problem. Just having our lovely, 4-wheel drive, air conditioned car to get around in made all the difference. I only have to read the accounts of the Simi men who sit around wearing 4 layers of clothing and a blanket with the shutters closed all day and towels at the windows to soak up the leaks and I shudder and thank my lucky stars.

Tuesday, 17th January, 2017

Our new Medical centre.

Cold but bright morning with lovely, pink-orange sunrise sky followed by strong, low sunlight. We had to be out for a 9.00 am appointment at the Doctors’ surgery. It was my first appointment with a GP for 12 months and our first visit to our new, West Sussex GP. We had taken a urine sample down to the surgery yesterday. I had offered to fill both pots so that Pauline didn’t have high cholesterol but she declined. We had spent an hour or so preparing a medical ‘event’ résumé each. It is quite a shock to realise how many testing processes we’ve taken part in over the past couple of years. The Practice building is huge but still the large carpark  was nearly full.

Everyone we met in the waiting rooms told us that we had been allocated to the best and most in-demand GP in the Practice and she was certainly excellent in her responses to us when we saw her right on time. It turned out that Pauline’s cholesterol level is nothing to worry about. I have been directed to the Osteopathy Department to which I can self-refer for treatment of a sports injury to my arm which I’ve been carrying for 12 months. Everything can be accessed on-line from repeat prescriptions to making appointments and receiving confirmations to reporting INR self testing results and receiving dosage advice. This suits us perfectly.

Wednesday, 18th January, 2017

My own, personal Changing Room.

A bright but cold day which was sunny throughout but didn’t get above 5C/41F. Ironically, 2016 has just been confirmed as the warmest on record. I must admit that I didn’t really notice it myself. I thought Tenerife was always like that. President Trump will do his best to warm things up.

We went out to pick up parcels from Littlehampton this morning. After watching PMQs, we drove to the health Club. Of course, the world is now back at work but it also looks as if New Year’s resolutions have waned quite quickly. As the illicit photograph of the mens’ changing room shows, it was deserted around early afternoon. The often busy, Health Centre coffee shop was also particularly quiet. There will be lots of membership offers by summer.

The Skiathan shocked me by referring to Barty from Paros today. I didn’t realise they knew each other. I haven’t heard from Barty for ages and his Blog ceased to be updated for so long that, even though I had visited it most days, I deleted it from my list. I hope he’s alright.

Thursday, 19th January, 2017

Worthing Beach at sunset today.

These are glorious days – cold but glorious. Today, once again, we peaked at 5C/41F but were bathed in sunshine all day. In our sheltered back garden here in West Sussex, it was warm enough to sit out and drink coffee. It is really boosting to be in this place.

We did our third, consecutive day of hard, gym workout. I have been feeling tired all week. We have found that my blood pressure is rather low. Certainly lower than Pauline’s. I am currently taking blood pressure medication each day. I take Losartan and Doxazosin to combat high blood pressure. All my Diabetes medication was withdrawn over 12 months ago and we have had a feeling that the remaining medication was becoming less helpful. I think there is a case for reducing it at least.

In Greece, the better weather may have returned but a return to better, economic conditions seems a long way off. Last wee, I reported on the distant prospect of house values recovering any time soon. Today, it is reported that Poul Thomsen,  Director of the European Department of the IMF estimates that it will take 21 years until unemployment will return to levels before Greece was hit by the economic crisis. Unemployment in Greece will return to pre-bailout levels of 7.8% average in the years 2001-2007 by 2038. This, of course, has a knock-on effect for the whole economy. I look forward to it coming right by the time I am 86!

Friday, 20th January, 2017

Sunrise at 7.15 am raises the curtain on a wonderful, new day.

The temperature at 7.00 am was 0C/32F and it didn’t manage better than 4C/39F all day. However, this was the price for a gorgeous day which was presaged by the sunrise featured on the left. We’ve been at home today because a number of different tradesmen have been arriving to address small, ‘snagging’ issues – a clip broke when the dishwasher service man removed the kitchen plinth, a patio door hasn’t been fitting particularly well and the seal on the en suite shower door had sprung out. We had a leak from a joint in the guttering and a small scratch on a pane of glass in a window of Bedroom 4. Nothing was desperate but, when you’ve paid out a lot of money and you’ve got a 5 year warranty, why not use it?

The heating has been on and off all day. At the back of the house, the temperature has been tropical as the sun streamed through the conservatory windows and doors. At the front, it got quite chilly as the central heating went off. I was sitting around typing most of the day and that’s not conducive to generating heat. I was printing hard copies of our financial records for the second half of last year for filing. Our records of every, day to day transaction go back to 1978. The early ones, of course, were recorded in ‘accounts books’ but, from January 1993, every, single item of our expenditure has been recorded on a digital accounting programme. It is an ‘historical’ record which runs comfortably alongside the Blog in cataloguing our lives.

I use two, Brother Laser Printers – a mono and a colour. They cost next to nothing to buy these days. In the late 1990s I paid £3,500.00 for a colour printer the size of a washing machine. Today, we have two in one office and they needed new toner. I use a supplier called Toner_Giant who deliver next day without extra cost. I could buy Brother ‘official’ products. The mono costs £101.00/€117.00 alone. A ‘compatible’ and equally good replacement cost just £25.00/€29.00. The colour toner came to £100.00/€116.00 instead of £250.00/€290.00. Progress is wonderful!

Saturday, 21st January, 2017

We did a terrible thing this morning. We stayed in bed until 8.00 am. Don’t know why but we must have been tired. It won’t happen again! At 11.00 am, the sky is blue, the sun is shining but the temperature is just 2C/36F. Indoors, by contrast, it is a constant 22C/70F. I’ve begun to think about Tenerife again if life doesn’t warm up soon.

Yesterday, I wrote about our record keeping over the past 40 years with the past 24 on a computer. Since January 1993, Pauline has been using Microsoft Money which has been perfect for recording every day spending, saving in multiple accounts. It’s facility and flexibility is quite sophisticated. It is a derivative of Ms Excel spreadsheet. The software was discontinued in 2009 and doesn’t operate on Windows 10. I did phone Microsoft in America when I first moved up to Windows 10 and they worked on my machine remotely, putting a patch into the operating system but, as soon as I did my first, major upgrade, the  patch ceased to work and I gave up. For this reason, we are still using Windows 7 on our laptops.

Pauline’s laptop is becoming particularly clunky and we want to keep it alive as long as possible so she is going to relegate it to a specialised ‘accounts’ machine and we have ordered her a new one from HP. Most laptops look very much the same although Pauline insists on a 17″ screen. She’s always insisted on big ones. You can pay anything from £350.00/€405.00 – £2000.00/€2320.00 for a machine but this will be lightly used so, this morning, we chose at the lower end. With a wireless mouse, this new laptop cost just £450.00/€520.00. It will arrive on Monday and the accounts machine moved up to Pauline’s Study/Ironing Room.

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Week 420

Sunday,8th January, 2017

Sunny Skopelos

A mild day but rather grey here. In Greece, the story is different. KTG have this headline:

Snow chaos: Two dead, hundreds trapped in highway, islands in state of emergency.

Rethymnon, Crete

Our route, along the new, Athens – Corinth Highway, was blocked by traffic failing to cope with the heavy snow. Skopelos has the signs of real snowfall. Obviously, Northern Greece is suffering and we know that -17C/1.4F is being experienced in one area that is suffering with a power cut. Two older people are known to have died with hypothermia and refugees are suffering in tents in Northern camps. Even the southern islands such as Crete are experiencing winter snow as are the Dodekanese where many more migrants are camping out. Even many Greeks themselves are not really equipped to deal with these conditions because they are so rare. The residents of apartment blocks in Athens have been so impoverished by the economic crisis that communities have failed to maintain heating for the buildings so individual residents have very little recourse even though a new law has just been passed to address that.

Monday,9th January, 2017

Sunny Artemonas

Just an ordinary day of routine jobs and activities. My wife is on the floor in the kitchen, re-grouting the join between floor tiles and skirting board where re-settlement has left a slight gap. Yesterday, she was re-waxing the kitchen table. She loves doing things like this and is very skilled at it. I am measuring up prior to booking a ‘little man’ to come and put shelves up in our store cupboard under the stairs and, finally, ordering the shelving for the garage. The routine of the Daily Politics re-starts today and then we go to the Health Club for our daily workout.

The Commercial Centre

On Sifnos, life is certainly not routine. After Friday’s Theofania ‘celebrations’ when three, hardy, young souls threw themselves into the icy, harbourside sea for the joy of finding a small crucifix-shaped artefact, the islanders are now coping with snow and freezing temperatures. The hazy picture on the left will mean nothing to most readers but does to us. The windmills seen through the snow-mist are at the side of the two supermarkets we shopped at almost daily. We never saw them like this and few people have. The new school is near here. Wonder if it is open today….. Well, as Mayor Andrea confirmed, school was closed!

Tuesday,10th January, 2017

Another mild day – 10C/50F at 8.00 am – with reasonably blue sky and low, winter sun. After a trip out to Asda, I’ve been doing some Ancestry research. Actually, I have been cannibalising previous work with a view to consolidating our family tree before moving on to the Coghlan line and then the Barnes family. I’ve also got so much reading to do that I must get on with it. I am struggling to get through The Times and The Telegraph each day as well as the numerous Blogs I follow as well as local papers in the evening. Over Christmas, I downloaded Tim Shipman’s acclaimed political commentary on Brexit, All Out War. I still haven’t read it but must do now before we actually leave.

We’ve done a hard session in the gym today. The Health Club is predictably busy because New Year’s resolutions are still in place. The changing rooms were busy for both of us. Still, we did our job and then drove home to a meal of duck breast, green peppers, shallots, and button mushrooms cooked by me. It was, of course, delicious.

Wednesday, 11th January, 2017

At 7.30 am, the sun is just about to rise in a clear sky but the temperature is already 10C/50F. Just as well because we are going out to Worthing for the morning. Pauline has ordered clothes which we have to collect and we are going to Specsavers to pick up our new glasses. I remember how excited I was to get my first pair at the age of 7 in 1958. They were ‘free’, National Health ‘specs’ with the wire loops that hooked behind the ears with a ball-stop end which has left a permanent impression on my skin. I was desperate to wear glasses because I thought it was a sign of maturity rather than short sightedness. Of course, it was a good job they were free because I broke them most months – ususally by sitting on them – and had to wait another 8 weeks for replacements.

In Worthing shopping area by the sea front, we spent an hour or so this morning. The temperature soared to 14C/57F but felt much colder with a brisk breeze off the sea. Pauline picked up two pairs of trousers which we promptly returned in the afternoon. We got back from Worthing in time to watch the first PMQs of the New Year and to get the perfect Corbyn soundbites:

Our NHS is in crisis but the PM is in denial.

Mocking the PM’s launch of the ‘shared society, Corbyn pointed out that the definition of a ‘shared society’ is:

people sharing hospital corridors on trolleys.

The Prime Minister was left with no defence but to brazen it out and it is becoming increasingly obvious, even to those who rarely pay attention, that the Tories are determined to run down the NHS until we beg to be allowed to pay for it.

Thursday, 12th January, 2017

We made a good choice of day to be confined to the house. Although the morning opened pleasantly enough, by 11.00 am, light rain began to fall and, a couple of hours later, heavy rain set in and lasted for 5 or 6 hours. As the light faded and the temperature began to drop, the rain lightened and turned to wet snow. At 7.00 pm, it is covering the roof tops but Yorkshiremen are laughing at it.

The Dishwasher’s working again!

We were confined to the house because two people were calling. Firstly, and very pleasingly, the Dishwasher Service man came and fitted a new heating unit and pump to our 8 month old AEG dishwasher. It is built in to the kitchen units and we have had the plinths adjusted so he could get the machine in and out. Actually, I began to quite enjoy washing up by hand – once in a while – but I will feel equally pleased to see a machine do it all for me again. The AEG man took about an hour and a half before stepping out in to inclement weather for his next job.

Another Meccano Kit!

Later in the day and stepping out in to increasingly heavy and cold rain, a nice, young, Romanian lad in a white van. He lugged three packs of garage shelving parts wrapped tightly in heavy duty plastic and brown, gaffa tape to my door, asked for a signature and was off to his next drop before I realised that I could only just lift one of the packs with great difficulty into the garage. We now have tomorrow morning’s job mapped out. I’ve got my power drill charged up in readiness. I just have to work out how to use it.

I had a box of Meccano for a Christmas present when I was 7 years old. I struggled to use it from a technical and an imaginative point of view. Such a great disappointment for my father. This garage shelving kit makes me feel 7 years old again but I’m sure Pauline will sort it out. She loves heavy construction.

Friday, 13th January, 2017

Wessendenhead, Meltham, West Yorkshire

Lucky for some – particularly if they don’t have to go to work. There was a slight smattering of snow over night and that soon disappeared although it has been a chilly day in which we didn’t get above 9C/48F. As you can see, one of our old, stomping grounds was true to type with plenty of white stuff. It is one of those days to be at home. I spent the morning doing some research work on Ancestry. This afternoon, we decided to address the garage shelving unit that had arrived yesterday. The hardest part for me was getting all the plastic binding off the packages. It is obviously machine-applied and very strong and tight. I got there in the end and then sat down to read the construction instructions.

The first step was to get my wife involved. There is nothing I can’t do when she puts her mind to it and so it was today. Actually, it took a lot longer than expected but what is two hours in the great scheme of things. I had a real feeling of self-satisfaction when she finished it.

Saturday, 14th January, 2017

The Laundry is a foreign & distant land.

Gorgeous sunrise this morning at 7.30 am but it stayed pretty cold all day not getting much above 6C/43F. We have guests staying over the next few days so cleaning and shining the house was the order of the day. Actually, very little needed to be done. There are just two of us wandering around a brand new house which is cleaned and vacuumed most days anyway but ‘guests’ concentrate the energies and the critical faculties.

Every morning, Pauline provides the breakfast and I unstack the dishwasher. I download the newspapers on both iPads and I make the coffee. Since I bought a new, cordless vac., I have set myself the task of vacuuming the floors whereas, Pauline uses her new, steam cleaner to clean the tiled and wooden floors. My job is to do all lawn cutting and plant watering, car valeting and garage maintenance. Because she is so much better than me, Pauline does the bulk of the cooking although I really do enjoy it.

Pauline is responsible for washing and ironing. I have no idea how to use the washing machine or tumble dryer and keep saying I must learn. I don’t think I have ever really used an iron in my life and the thought of learning it scares me. My territory is the Office and the technology we use there. How to install and maintain the colour and the mono laser printers; how to use the label printer and the scanner; passwords for significant computers and websites are my persistent worry. I am constantly writing guides on how to use everything and how to access everything for Pauline in case I die in the night. I’ve always been optimistic! I’m going to have to get her to do that for the Laundry. She just says, The manuals are in the filing cabinet. Unfortunately, she’s responsible for filing so I’m sure I’ll struggle to find them. It is the inevitable downside of a long, close and interdependent relationship. Ideally, Pauline will pass away as I utter my dying words: We spent the last of our savings on Claret yesterday.

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Week 419

Sunday,1st January, 2017





It is approaching 11.00 am and the first residents on our street are venturing out. We have been up for 4 hours and feeling our way in to the new year. We have been fielding lots of Happy New Year texts which is the current trend while I am preparing a ‘formal’ email for friends.

Do you make resolutions? The general joke is that people make them on New Year’s Eve/Day and break them the next day. We have made some joint resolutions and I have made some individual ones.

  • Pauline read that short breaks which break up the routine make one’s life feel longer. Consequently, she has decreed that, in addition to a long drive across Europe this summer and, possibly, a winter sunshine trip, we are going to do lots of short breaks in European towns/cities as well. We both want to visit Bologna which we’ve driven past 30 times but never seen. We both want to revisit Venice which we spent 4 nights in 20 years ago. We want to go to Florence and Rome, to Madrid and Barcelona. I would quite like to visit Dubrovnik and we would both like to go to Bordeaux and Bergerac. Some of these destinations can be linked in a long drive. Some can be short flights.
  • After month-long spells in 5* Half Board Hotels, our diet has slipped a little and needs to be reasserted. Already the alcohol is gone but food intake has increased and must be got back under control immediately. Portion size is the order of the year! Of course, we must maintain – or increase our exercise regime.

Bella Bologna

This next resolution may leave an unpleasant impression upon you. The more delicate of you it may scar for life. If you are a princess, look away now. No, no, not you, Sarah! I don’t know if you have noticed but, as men age, their mouths seem to drop open as if they are auditioning for gibbering idiots escaped from The Home for the Bewildered. The open mouthed stare is not a good look particularly when it is accompanied by a slight dribble from the corners of the mouth. It has come to me. Pauline pointed it out a couple of years ago and I am increasingly catching myself in mirrors and shop windows looking at a lost soul with mouth open, staring vacantly back at me. It has got to stop.

  • Constantly ask myself if my mouth is open and carry a tissue to dab away excess liquid.

Told you that you would find it distasteful but these things have to be faced and, if you can’t do it in old age, when can you do it? Enjoy your day.

Monday,2nd January, 2017

East Preston Beach – Freezing!

An official Bank Holiday. We had to go to Waitrose to pick up a parcel from the John Lewis Parcel Collection point. It was an extremely cold start to the day at 1C/34F with clear, blue sky and strong, low sun. The town and the roads were extremely quiet at 9.00 am as if everyone is enjoying a ‘lie-in’ prior to going back to work tomorrow. Don’t understand.

We drove on to East Preston beach for a look round. It looked delightful but was rather cold. There is a growing enthusiasm for cold weather swimming. If anyone had been here, it would have been a great place to try that. We would happily watch.

Tuesday,3rd January, 2017

Little Viv & Jane Barnes

A cold but beautifully sunny day. Frost on the lawn this morning but, already, the daylight feels a little earlier. Had to go out and buy (BUY) packs of printer paper. When we were at work, we wouldn’t even have considered it. Reprographics would have delivered it to our offices and we would have used it seamlessly in school and at home just as our Management System was accessible on-line in school and at home. We have been retired for 7 years now and having built up quite a stock, it is only in the last couple of years that we have had to go out and actually buy our own. It comes as a bit (a hell) of a shock.

Little Viv was our Reprographics Manager and supplier of all paper requirements. I thought of her immediately that the printers – We use a mono laser and a colour laser in our Home Office – we are running out of paper. It is people like Viv that I miss the most about retirement from work. The long-serving, honest and dedicated individuals who contributed so much to one’s life.

Something else which I’ve been using since we retired but which originated in school is computer software. I’m still using the MS Office 2010 edition which I used in school the year I left plus the Macomedia Suite of Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash of even earlier vintage. The time is rapidly coming when I will need to upgrade. We run all this software on at least four computers.  Ms Office will cost me £80.00/€94.00 per year to ‘rent’. The Macromedia Suite will cost around £500.00/€590.00. I’m only a pensioner!

Wednesday,4th January, 2017

Early trip out to Rustington this morning which is quite chilly but better than the last couple of mornings. About 1C/34F. We had our biennial eye test appointments at 8.30 am. My eyesight has hardly changed since I was 7 years old. If anything, my sight has improved. I often have to take my glasses off to read and I rarely wear my distance glasses unless I’m driving. Actually, today, my distance test showed a small change which would merit me having new glasses which I already needed anyway because I have had my current pairs at least 4 years.

I chose new styles with reaction lenses and was fitted for them. It is not as easy to get the ‘half moon’ frame now because it has rather fallen out of favour but it suits my usage perfectly. Pauline only needs reading glasses and had two pairs of those. The total bill for 6 pairs of glasses came to just £400.00/€472.00 which seems quite reasonable these days and will do the next two years at least. They will be ready in one week.

The Health Club was quieter yesterday as everyone went back to work. We had a good workout and are looking forward to going back today. Pauline’s got a doctor’s appointment this afternoon to look at the shingles on her tongue which are really hurting her so we are going to exercise earlier.

Thursday,5th January, 2017

Still Buying

Quite cold – 0C/32F at 7.30 am but clear blue sky all day with strong sun. One of those days when one feels thankful to be alive. This is especially true if you’re not a High Street retailer who, so we are told, are beginning to have a tough time with difficult trading. Next and John Lewis, the High Street stars of recent times are posting falls in profits and forecasting difficult times ahead with job losses. Brexiteers, be warned, you will rue the day! You can’t blame us. Pauline & I are doing our utmost to keep the commercial centres afloat. The buying just continues.

Outdoor Swimming in January.

Today, we were out at 9.00 am and off to Sainsburys/Argos to pick up an internet order of a steam iron (£80.00€94.00).  On to Waitrose/John_Lewis to pick up an internet order of a steam cleaner (£99.00/€1.16). On to Tesco for our main, weekly shop which came to £130.00/€152.00. We were home by 11.00 am and tired. It took for ever just to unload the car. We were out to the Health Club at 1.15 pm and, after an hour of cardiovascular work, we went back to swimming for the first time since moving here. I have had problems with a trapped nerve in my arm for almost twelve months and have shied away from swimming but today we took the plunge and used both the indoor pool and the wonderful, heated and steaming outdoor pool. It was really enjoyable and, I think, has done me good.

Friday,6th January, 2017

We have been without a working dishwasher since before Christmas. Can you imagine it? Washing up by hand! The engineer came out last week and couldn’t remove the kitchen plinth to get the machine out to work on. We had to call the kitchen installer to remove the plinth and he came today. Now, we have arranged for the dishwasher to come back on Thursday. By this time, we will have been without our machine for three weeks. My hands will be red raw.

Because we were waiting in for the kitchen fitter, we were unable to go to the gym. We’ll try to go tomorrow instead. We made a trip to the local recycling site to get rid of a build up of rubbish – an old iron, a stack of boxes, an surplus bathroom cabinet, etc.. It is made so easy for us here. Other areas we’ve lived in like Surrey and Kirklees put draconian restrictions on these facilities and, as a result, suffer costly fly-tipping. These councils never learn but should visit Arun to see things working well.

It is Epiphany, apparently, and Greeks have a frightening way of celebrating Theofania. They congregate around the docks and a priest casts a cross into the sea thus blessing it. The youth of the area dive into the icy water for the honour of retrieving the cross. Madness at the best of times but, this year, Greece is approaching Siberian winter. Sea diving may not end well.

Saturday,7th January, 2017

All change here. It is the first morning for a while that we haven’t needed the central heating on. At 7.30 am, it was 10C/50F which makes a change and is in sharp contrast to Greece which is basking in snow and near sub-zero temperatures.

The Stations of the Cross

There are lovely stories in the Greek Blogs about the epiphany ‘plunges’ yesterday. Shock horror but a ‘woman’ beat the men to the cross on Rhodes. In Sikinos, only one brave soul dared to dive in to the freezing water and, in Trikala, the cross broke in two pieces. In Patras, that delightful University city of culture, a fight broke out between the middle aged divers who were disputing who found the cross first. The prize for strangest event went to Kalamas river in Neraida on the north west coast opposite Corfu. Here the cross was tossed in to the fast flowing river but got caught in the branches of a tree. The photograph shows how one man was so desperate to win that he risked life and limb.

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Week 418

Sunday,25th December, 2016





Have a lovely day. We are off to Surrey for a few hours of Family entertainment. Pauline has done all the cooking apart from the turkey which will have 3 hrs of warm weather followed by an hour ‘resting’.

The drive up was very quiet and quick – just under an hour. The day was enjoyable and the meal was delightful (Why didn’t I take any photos?). Pauline made four, different starters –

  • A filo pastry parcel containing roast salmon with pesto
  • A chopped, smoke salmon tower on a blini with caviar topping
  • An endive leaf filled with cream of Dolcellate
  • A chunk of cantaloupe melon with a leaf of red oak lettuce and Serrano Ham

The main course was

  • A beautiful, buttery, Norfolk turkey provided by P&C
  • Pigs in Blankets
  • Sage & Onion Stuffing + Forcemeat with Apricot Stuffing
  • Sprouts & Chestnuts
  • Baby Carrots finished in Balsamic Vinegar
  • Goose Fat Roasted King Edward Potatoes

As much as anyone could manage it, the Sweet was a choice of

  • Homemade (circa 2015) Christmas Pudding with creamy custard
  • Rich Chocolate Log with Double Cream

I would defy anyone to find a better meal cooked professionally. The quality of everything was outstanding. Pauline had also made a Christmas Cake and, as happens every year, everyone was so full it wasn’t even cut until we had left. We never get to taste the cake.

The road was busier as we drove home but we were back for 7.30 in the evening in light rain. The weather report was that we had just missed the warmest Christmas Day for 100 years by 0.5C/1.2F. The day had peaked at 14C/57F which felt very warm anyway.

Monday,26th December, 2016

Goring Beach

Quite a chilly start to this morning at 7C/45F but delightfully sunny. We went out for an early-ish walk on the beach just down the road at Goring on Sea. It was quite delightful. We could have done without the dog walkers but one can’t have everything. People were out, like us, walking off excesses from yesterday. Others were in the sea on sailing boats or jet skis and a few were fishing. The commercial fishing boats remained beached and the wet fish shack was closed unsurprisingly.








A happy start to the day. The temperature did reach 11C/52F at early afternoon. Now, Pauline is making Turkey stock from yesterday’s carcass and we are preparing  smoked salmon salad for our meal.   Lovely way to meander through the day.

Tuesday,27th December, 2016

We have been in Sussex for 9 months now and this morning we woke to our first frost. The temperature outside is 0C/32F and the grass is tinged with silver. The sky, of course, is cloudless and the strong, low sun bathes the world in light. It is a wonderful morning to be alive.

At 10.00 am, we had an appointment with a lad called Daniel at the Worthing Lawn tennis Club. It is a sporting complex near our Health Club. Often, as we drive home, we see people playing Croquet in all weathers. Today, as we drove up, there was a man in shorts playing Pétanque. The temperature was still 0C/32F outside. Daniel is playing in an indoor tennis tournament where we found the temperature lower than outside. Where the sun didn’t reach, the gauge fell lower than freezing. We managed to watch the first set which he won but then gave up and drove home.

Interesting article in The Times this morning about the effect of a plunging £/€ rate and the general mood surrounding Brexit.

South Africa, Argentina and Mexico are expected to be among the most popular holiday destinations next year as Britons seek out countries where the pound is still strong. …. With currency fluctuations expected to continue next year this is influencing holiday decisions. South Africa is expecting to see large numbers of British holidaymakers in 2017 and one major travel company is reporting a 50 % increase in bookings to Goa for winter sun.

Europe is likely to be the biggest loser in this trend. Even we committed Europhiles have been considering Mexico. The month of November is warmer and comparative in price to Tenerife in spite of the longer flight.

Wednesday,28th December, 2016

Pauline’s Passion

Another chilly/sunny start to the day. At 7.00 am, it was -1C/30F with light frost on the lawns. And so the day starts. As our 38th wedding anniversary approaches, I have to admit that my wife’s passion for me has been replaced by her love of  ………………………………. turkey & stuffing sandwiches especially made with ‘oven-bottom muffin’ from Oldham. It’s a Northerner thing! Two days after Christmas, she still has the materials left over to make her passion reality. I can only stand back and watch. I’m having turkey soup.

Unfortunately, Pauline’s ‘shingles’ are returning and, this time, in her mouth. Poor thing. It is horrible for her. We are going down to the Doctors’ surgery this afternoon and tomorrow she will have a blood test. It is difficult to understand the trigger for this attack. She was asked if she was stressed but nothing could be further from the truth. We are too relaxed, if anything.

Some people rave about the London Eye. I can’t see the attraction myself. I wonder what Pugin would have thought of a Ferris wheel intruding into the London landscape and jarring with his designs for the Palace of Westminster. You can’t imagine the Greeks soiling their classical sites with such, tasteless nonsense. Well, actually, you don’t need to imagine it because that is exactly what they tried to do ….. and failed.

The ‘Athens Eye’ in Syntagma Square.

Athens Mayor, Giorgos Kaminis, planned to erect the Athens Eye. The Wheel at Syntagma Square was supposed to offer joy to thousands of Athenians over the Christmas days and be free of charge until Epiphany on January 6th 2017. It was scheduled to start operation on December 22nd. On the 20th, the wheel was erected and set up without passenger gondolas.

Gradually, over Christmas Week, the gondolas were attached but, by Christmas Day, the wheel was not ready for operation. On the December 27th, workers arrived and began to dismantle the structure as meteorologists forecast ‘heavy snow falls and powerful north winds’ in Athens in the upcoming days. In addition, the Athens Eye was set up before the safety controls were concluded and the relevant permission and license were issued. The epitome of forward planning and how to waste money!

Thursday,29th December, 2016

Cold at 7.00 am reading -1C/30F. Strangely, there was virtually no frost or wind. I don’t understand scientific things like weather. It is foggy at Gatwick and -3C/27F. In Athens, it is snowing. I’d love to be there and see it.

We have a busy day. We were up at 4.00 am because Pauline couldn’t sleep. She was being troubled by the resurgence of her shingles. We went back to bed at 5.00 am and were up again at 7.00 am and out to do the weekly shop in Tesco at 8.00 am. It is our anniversary tomorrow and our celebratory meal will be Lobster Thermidor starter followed by Crispy Duck main course. I am teetotal until May so I cornered the market on low calorie white and red Shloer. When I’m desperate, it gets me through. After Christmas, many people are pledging abstinence and the supermarkets cut the price on non-alcoholic drinks. Tesco cut the price of Shloer from £2.50/€2.95 to £0.99/€1.16. I’ve cornered the market and filled the garage.

On the way home, I took Pauline to the surgery for a blood test and then on to the Lawn Tennis Club to meet M&K. We had left some cooking equipment at their house on Christmas Day and they were returning them. Plus, the bottle of red wine they had bought for my Christmas Lunch and which I didn’t drink, they were kind enough to bring down for me as well. That’s two bottles they have given me for Christmas. They are standing in the kitchen, challenging me to not touch them for another four months. I will move them to my racks in the garage.

We were supposed to be going to the gym but it is such a lovely, sunny day that we are going to the beach for a walk in the fresh air. Later, we are going to our next door neighbours for a couple of hours to meet people who have moved into the new houses on our street over the past six months.

Friday,30th December, 2016




Today is our 38th Wedding Anniversary. We are celebrating by having the dishwasher repaired. Unlike our marriage, which is in good, working order after 38 years, our dishwasher has stopped working after 6 months. The heating element has packed up. It would choose to fail two days before Christmas. All our white goods – Washing Machine, Tumble Dryer, in the Laundry and Oven, Hob, Fridge/Freezer, Wine Cooler and Dishwasher in the Kitchen are covered by our House Builders Warranty for 5 (now 4.5)years. The Electrolux Service Engineer has just texted us to say he will arrive between 11.00 – 15.00 hrs. He must have known that was exactly when we go to the gym. Still, if you’ve ever had to wash-up by hand, you will know why we are staying at home.

There is nothing that I have done in my life that has made me happier than getting married. I really enjoyed the day itself and have never regretted anything about it since. Quite the reverse, marriage was the making and saving of me. Pauline has carried a huge burden but she has come through with flying colours. Our first aim is to achieve 40 years which Google says is a Ruby Anniversary. Just time for everyone to save up!

We went out for a walk on our local beach yesterday morning. It was beautifully sunny and reasonably warm. Of course, many other people had made the same decision as us. The promenade was full of kids trying out their new roller boots and scooters, dogs chasing balls and the parents strolling in the sunshine. The beach itself was quieter but huge gulls were marauding around dead fish that had been washed ashore on the tide.

Saturday,31st December, 2016

Here’s to 2017!

The end of another year of life. I know there are people who believe that it is important to mark every milestone in life because it will not be salvageable in the future. About things like Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, year ends/beginnings, I am totally underwhelmed. I have an instinctive need to play them down, to keep everything on an even keel, to iron out the highs and lows of life in to one, calm continuum. Everyone seems to be saying that 2016 has been a terrible year and I can see that Brexit and Trump can make them feel that way. Over all, however, and compartmentalising Brexit for now, I am left with an extremely optimistic feeling about the future. Of course, it may be wholly misplaced but it is there. Ultimately, all lives end in tragedy but, hopefully, not yet.

The workers on our ‘newly constructed’ street were outside yesterday taking down the Christmas lights from their houses and cleaning their cars ready for the week to come. Preparing for the normality of life. They will go out or entertain tonight; sleep it off tomorrow and then turn their faces to the world of work on Tuesday. We will not. We will stay up until midnight and toast each other in sparkling water. We will raise a toast to you too where ever you are and whatever you situation.

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Week 417








Sunday,18th December, 2016

This is the first day of Year 9. After 2922 entries, the Blog still endures. Even today it has proved its worth. Just a small thing but, as I was washing the car this morning, I struggled with the lance attachments for my pressure washer. It is a Karcher. I bought it or so I thought in May from Currys. I am nothing if not methodical. I checked my email records and couldn’t find an order or receipt. I checked my Blog and found it recorded on April 21st and bought from Argos. Back to my records and, not only had I got credit card details of the purchase but I had a confirmation of product registration details from Karcher.  My pressure washer will be fixed or replaced on Monday.

I know this isn’t of great significance but a small, running commentary of one’s daily life can jog the memory and trigger recollection of much that isn’t recorded here. When I bought a pressure washer isn’t of great importance but the Blog also records major events in our lives. You are welcome on that journey.

I was thwarted in cleaning the car and there was no chance of me doing it by hand. I moved on to my next task which was mowing the lawns. Can you believe it? Cutting the lawns seven days before Christmas. It was enjoyable and, although I cut them quite long, they look good with a lush, green stripe. Now I’ve got the hoovering to do. A man’s work ….

Monday,19th December, 2016

Winter can be depressingly dark!

Monday morning! Don’t you just love it? It is a grey and misty, damp and cold day which didn’t get above 7C/45F. We packed up our ‘no-longer-functioning’ Karcher Pressure Washer which we bought from Argos in April in a black dustbin bag having discarded the box long ago and trundled off to speak to the desk staff in our nearby store. The serving girl didn’t say anything other than, Do you want a replacement or a refund? The fact that I’d had it for nine months and used about as many times was, seemingly, irrelevant. Customer is king. Long may it remain so! I’ll pick up my brand new replacement tomorrow morning.

We went on to the Health Club and it was soon obvious that a lot of people have finished for the holidays already. What is the world coming to. These people should be at work until Friday if not Saturday. They complain about the older generation. They don’t know they’re born. The Changing Rooms were full. The huge equipment area was busy and the Spa was teaming with bodies. Oh, don’t you just hate people?

Tuesday,20th December, 2016

The aircraft hangar which is Sainsbury’s.

The day is grey, coolish and dampish rather like yesterday. Nipped out to pick up the replacement pressure washer from Argos which is now situated in Sainsbury‘s stores. This store in Rustington by the Sea is huge. My smartphone snap shows my trolley containing the pressure washer. Argos stretches out behind me while all the eye can see is clothes on racks. Beyond what the eye can see is five times as much again of fresh produce, tinned produce, frozen produce and bottled produce. It is a workout just to walk down to the wine and beer section. I know because I go nearly that far for the sparkling water. Each side of this emporium is flanked by huge, fresh fish counters, butchers counters, delicatessens, ready prepared meals counters, etc., etc..

Although this may pall a little to the civilised world, those Sifnos islanders struggling through the winter would kill for such provision. Instead, they have the joys of ‘supermarkets’ we in the affluent world would call ‘pantries’ as almost everything has to be sourced in Piraeus/Athens and brought by ferry to the island. Recent marine strikes can’t have helped.

The Windmill Supermarket / Corner Shop.


Super Mario’s Supermarket

Although the supermarkets are not the source of world shattering news, they may have heard today that the island of Nisyros in the Dodekanese has been hit by an earthquake of 5.5 richter. So not inconsiderable. We spent a month there exactly 25 years ago and found it really interesting. It is an island with a dormant volcanoe at its centre.. In 1991, there was very little infrastructure, in fact, very little of anything apart from sun and peace. All the noise came from outside. I remember so well craning to get the world service reports as conservative members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union attempted to depose Mikhail Gorbachev. I thought the world was collapsing while I was away. Little did I know.

Wednesday,21st December, 2016

The Winter Solstice in West Sussex.

The day is grey, coolish and dampish again rather like yesterday and the day before. Tomorrow will (hopefully) be  completely different. Today is the Winter Solstice or shortest day. The Solstice is when the North Pole is tilted farthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year. Frome here on in, things can only get better especially for Skiathan Man who is one year older today. We wish him well and an early return to his island.

There is an advert on television at the moment where a guest at a Christmas party bores the host as he talks about bin collection arrangements. I’m beginning to become that person. We have three ‘wheelie’ bins’:

  • Black for General Waste
  • Green for Recycled Waste
  • Brown for Garden Waste

I must admit to not really knowing (or caring) what goes in to what although I do try, occasionally. In Yorkshire, our collections would now be every 3 weeks – to encourage more recycling the council says. In Surrey, the collections are every 2 weeks. Here in Sussex, collections are weekly and incredibly reliable. They are on a Monday and will even be collected on Boxing Day this year. Isn’t life sweet?

Thursday,22nd December, 2016

Told you the weather would change. Today was bright, sunny and cloudless from dawn until dusk. Not hot – 10C/50F – but a delightful day. I’ve spent most of it outside. We were up at 6.30 am and out on a round trip of supermarkets by 7.30 am. Pauline is catering for 9 of us on Sunday and has carefully planned and sourced the elements of the meal. Today, we go to Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, miss out Morrisons and, finally, Tesco. We are home for 11.00 am and shattered. At least we’ve missed the worst of the rush although it was bad enough. We won’t need to go to another shop until Tuesday at the earliest.

One lovely distraction as we drove was to listen to Melvyin Bragg discussing T.S. Elliot’s work which I haven’t re-read for a while. Today, he was concentrating on the Four Quartets which I love. Particularly, I love the opening to the first Quartet – BURNT NORTON.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

From pathos to bathos. After coffee, I use my new, replacement pressure washer and about two hours of my time to valet the car inside and out. It was hot work under the strong, low sun. By the time I had finished, I was sweating almost as much as a workout at the gym. Day off from there today so I could afford to expend the energy elsewhere.

Friday,23rd December, 2016

Having received Christmas greetings from our Sifnos friends, my mind has turned back to Greece this morning. Tsipras and Syriza appear to be waning fast and attempting to shore up their standing with the electorate with short term bribes which break their bail-out agreements. Like the ill-judged anti-austerity pledges, their position is destined to be beaten back by their European creditors and they will default to base position of trying yet another new government. This is likely to be the resurgent, New Democracy party – the old Νέα Δημοκρατία with the old, Mitsotakis family re-taking power in the guise of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, son of the former leader, Konstantinos. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose or whatever that is in Greek.

Snow on beach in Southern Crete – 22/12/16

It must feel increasingly chilly for Greeks and no wonder. There is little end in sight. There was snow on a southern beach in Crete yesterday for the fist time in 25 years. Knowing the poor quality building of so many island houses and complete lack of insulation allied to minimal heating, Greece is not where you want to spend your Christmas or New Year.

Our Sifnos house was built to much higher standards with insulated walls and ceilings, double glazed windows and doors and underfloor heating. You won’t find many properties like that on Greek islands currently. So many have poorly fitting windows and doors which aren’t a problem in the Summer but a nightmare in cold weather. Many will be living in the style of our pre-central heating 1950s and wearing multiple layers of clothing. They will, of course have many, lovely sunny days in the Winter but the dry, cold bites harder than one would imagine.

Here, in Sussex, the day is sunny and 11C/52F which is reasonable. We are pottering through the morning before going off to the Health Club for, probably, the last session before Christmas. After a good workout, I spent 10 mins in the jacuzzi followed by 10 mins in the sauna. There were three, youngish men in the sauna. They were not known to each other but had struck up a conversation before I arrived. As I sat down in the hot, darkness on the pine-slatted benches of the sauna, they were discussing immigration.

The problem is these immigrants.
Yes, they’re a nightmare.
They’re bloody mad.
Yeh, they’d murder you as soon as look at you……Still Brexit’ll soon sort that out.
Yeh. Hope so.
Yeh! …. Where you from mate?
…You won’t believe this but.. I’m Persian. I’m from Iran. Where you from?
Well, I’m Indian by family but I was born in Africa. Where you from, mate?
Oh, I’ve been here nearly 10 years. I’m from Spain. Anyway, I hope you’re right about Brexit.

You couldn’t make it up!

Saturday,24th December, 2016

A cold start to a day which has soon reached 11C/52F. It obviously rained over night but is a pleasant day for Christmas Eve.

Pauline & I don’t really give presents to each other and haven’t since about 1980 when we realised we had gone over the top and bought each other more ‘things’ than we had time to use or storage space for. It felt horribly over indulgent like eating far too much. Everybody says Christmas is for children and for families. We have never had children and, as you might expect, I have a rather perverse view of Christmas. There is something deliciously lonely in the introspection of the day that only a strange person like me could enjoy.

Actually, I have received a ‘present’ from my wife this year although you would think she is trying to tell me something. Before we went away to Tenerife at the end of October, I gave up alcohol for six months. We rather over indulged ourselves on the wonderful food at the hotel and washed it down with sparkling water. As a result, we put on weight and are now on diets. We are recording all our intakes on the food in/exercise out app myfitnesspal which allows us to track all the calories in and out over each day, week, month, etc..

The upshot of this is, we are approaching our Christmas Day not drinking and severely restricting our food intake. I have received just one present – a Professional Alcohol Breathalyser. Great present for a man who is currently teetotal. It is a juxtaposition that really appeals to me. We are going to drive past the frenzied, last minute shoppers this afternoon on a visit to the gym. I’ve got to get 450 calories (out) on to my app to balance out any unforeseen accidents while eating tomorrow. Happy Yuletide!

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Week 416

Sunday,11th December, 2016

This is the last week of the Blog’s 8th year. Officially, we will only reach 19 years but we have set our sights high and are aiming for 20.


Steyning High Street

Another really wonderful day. Clear, blue sky and strong, winter sunshine. We went out to a market town (village) near us -Steyning. It is absolutely delightful. It is only about 10 miles/16 km away and really pretty.

We received a Christmas present from friends in Huddersfield. They sent us a collection of Yorkshire products to make us feel homesick. Actually, they failed. We love where we are and don’t long to turn back the clock. Brief visits to the North are enough. We did feel the need to reply in kind and to send them a present of Sussex produce. For that reason, we were driving to Steyning and The Sussex Produce Company. For our Yorkshire friends, we bought Sussex wine and cheese. The Stopham Wine Estate is near Pulborough, West Sussex and The Bolney Estate is near Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

wswine sussex-shop








tractorThe fascinating link between this shop and our West Yorkshire past was doubly underlined here. The photograph below contains a tractor used to emphasise the shop’s agricultural roots. The tractor, if you click to enlarge the picture, is a David Brown model which ceased to be made in the early 1970s. The factory was yards away from our first home in the small, Yorkshire village of Meltham. The tractor production was taken over by Case. Our first trip to Greece in 1981 was to the island of Zakynthos. As we arrived in the port, we spied a tractor parked on the quay. It was an old, David Brown model.

I know I go on about this ad nauseum but it is something which haunted us until two or three years ago. As the Greek economy was so obviously collapsing and we were keen to sell our house, Pauline & I were absolutely convinced that we had little chance and that we were likely to be stuck for a decade or more. There is no dispute that we seized our chance and had a lucky escape. The recent report in Kathimerini underlines that: House prices will continue to slide in 2017. Essentially, there is little chance that we would have achieved our goals without the immense effort that we made and risks we took at the time.

Monday,12th December, 2016

christmasIt has been a dreek day – miserable, dull, grey and wet – and not at all in the Yuletide spirit. So, a refreshing change. We went to the local hypermarket Garden Centre for … ‘Yuletide Gifts’. At this time of year, Garden Centres have successfully turned themselves in to Tinsletown in the public consciousness. Don’t try to buy weedkiller or slug pellets because you will be turned away or redirected into the darkest corners of the forgotten beyond. Ask for a golden reindeer that sings Christmas songs and there will not be a problem. God’s in his heaven and all is well with the world – particularly of weeds and slugs.

Pauline’s Shingles is not over but decidedly better so we went to the Health Club. We did a good workout and came back to cook a lovely meal of Sea Bass fillets, roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic mushrooms.

This morning, we nipped down to the village Post Office to send a parcel off to friends in Yorkshire. Apart from the shock that it cost £12.00/€14.30 in postage, the experience and service was delightful. The shop was busy and its services were in demand. So, reports today which suggest that this Tory government are planning a new cull of local, small Post Offices which, for many, are a lifeline are very concerning. Actually, the Tories are in serious trouble on a number of fronts as The Times reports today. They are quietly and gradually shaking the public’s confidence in the NHS and pushing responsibility for social care on to Local Authorities by ‘allowing’ them to raise Council Tax in order to plaster over the gaps. At the same time, we have reports of £274/€327 million being ‘thrown at some barely credible ‘climate change’ group without any process of monitoring. Add to this an interesting and revealing article by Matt Ridley this morning. Under the title: Climate Change Act has cost us the earth, he asserts that the law that introduced a slew of expensive subsidies for renewable energy will leave us £300 billion worse off by 2030. The full article can be read here.

Tuesday,13th December, 2016


The shame of the West in Aleppo.

Another dark, dark, day with persistent, soft, wet rain. It’s only redeeming feature was  a temperature of 15.5C/60F which, for mid December, is more than reasonable. It almost felt obscene but we were planning Christmas food set against the background of the most unimaginable reporting of the ‘hell’ that is Aleppo. As the television in the Kitchen played the video of pools of blood in bombed-out properties not so very far from us, we were discussing ‘Starters’. It just shows how the West is great at appointing highly paid ex-civil servants to Head NGOs but absolutely bereft of moral fibre when it comes to taking action.

Pauline will be cooking Christmas Dinner for 9 in a couple of weeks and she is starting to finalise her plans. It is something at which she is absolutely brilliant. Guests will be offered a choice of three or four ‘Starters’ and today was trial day. I was forced to try two of the possibilities. They were both great (I can’t tell you what on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.) and will both appear on the menu.

I’ve just heard that a ceasefire has been declared in Aleppo to let the poor sods get out! There is a god! Well there isn’t but you know what I mean.

Wednesday,14th December, 2016

A very different day started with the most beautiful sunrise. The temperature hadn’t fallen below 11C/52F over night and soon rose in the sunshine although only to 14.5C/58F. We were on a mission this morning. We have a dear friend in the North of England who is itfoodgoing through very difficult times particularly as her aged Mother’s only carer. She is fairly fragile herself without this terrible burden. Our task this morning is to source nice things to cheer her up and make Christmas a little happier.

She is Italian in origin and we have been putting together a gift box of Italian products. We don’t have an Italian specialist outlet very near although we could have driven the 20 miles/32 kms to Brighton but it seemed excessive so we sourced them in the major supermarkets around us. It is surprising how easy this is to do until Brexit.


New Democracy Leader – Kyriakos Mitsotakis

It’s beginning to sound a lot like ….. potential regime change in Greece. Tsipras has flown too close to the sun and fallen to earth with a bang. His popularity has long been in negative territory and he currently trails Νέα Δημοκρατία by a wide margin in opinion polls. To address that, Tsipras has countermanded agreed actions as part of the EU supervision and bail-out agreement. Particularly, he has promised pensioners an extra (bribe) payment and he has said he will not implement agreed VAT rises on smaller islands. Unsurprisingly, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) immediately shelved a recently announced debt relief package in protest at the government’s plan. Equally unsurprisingly, the Νέα Δημοκρατία leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is to press his argument that Greece needs snap elections with European Commission. Who would be surprised if they agree with him.

Thursday,15th December, 2016

Another warm day which reached 14.5C/58F again. We were out early and (guess what) shopping. Still, Pauline takes her cooking very seriously and sources ingredients with incredible attention to detail. Later, we had another, wonderful Health Club session. I am really enjoying it at the moment.

Every year about this time, I have to renew our internet virus barrier software. I have been choosing Norton for 20 years or so. It used to be an extremely expensive business. I once paid over £50.00/€60.00 to cover two computers. Gradually, some internet providers have seen the sense of offering ‘free’ cover. Banks offer ‘free cover’ and many more software companies have muscled in on the market. As a result, the price has been driven down repeatedly. Today, I bought Norton Security for 10 separate devices for just £29.99/€36.00. I bought it from Total Computing which I’ve used for a few years. If I’d gone to Norton (Symantic) itself, it would have cost me £39.99/€48.00.

Of course, the need for this software has increased immensely over the past 20 years. It is not possible to connect to the internet without protection software. It is certainly not possible to access personal or financially sensitive information without it. We have gone from one desktop pc to add two laptops, two iPads and two smartphones. All devices are used to access the net and all need protection.

Friday,16th December, 2016

Another relatively warm day although not terribly sunny. We reached 13C/55F. We’ve spent the morning by Worthing beach. So many people walking around in short sleeved shirts and shorts even. You have to remind yourself that we are in the final week before Christmas. Global Warming is a wonderful thing.


Pauline was having her hair cut while I used the excellent Wi-Fi and drank a fairly mediocre cup of coffee which cost me £2.30/€2.75 in Starbucks. We had a quick trip to a rather dispiriting M&S and then drove to Waitrose where we bought Deer-in-Blankets which turned out to be lovely. We had them for our meal along with smoked salmon, prawns and salad. The whole thing was accompanied by sparkling water. Delicious!

Last night, I stayed up and watched the last edition for this year of the political programme, This Week. For some reason, it doesn’t start until 23.45 hrs and finishes at 00.30 hrs. This morning we had to leave the house at 8.30 hrs We spent all morning on our feet in town, got home to watch The Daily Politics and then went to the Health Club and did an hour in the gym. By the time we got home, I was knackered.

A day off from the Health Club tomorrow. I’ve got energetic jobs lined up – cleaning the car, mowing the lawn and hoovering the house. Our window cleaner hasn’t turned up this month so I’m going to do them. I’m picking up a rechargeable gadget window vacuum cleaner from Currys tomorrow to help me with it. I love gadgets.

Saturday,17th December, 2016

The temperature has gradually declined over the past few days and today only reached 11C/52C but even that is good for the week before Christmas. We have come to live in a beautiful place on the edge of the South Downs National Park. It has turned into a lovely year and we both feel very lucky.

This is the last day of the last week of the Blog’s 8th year. It has been going so long that it is an integral part of me. It is my daily record threaded through by my thoughts and beliefs. It is first and foremost for me and my wife but I am happy to share it with interested others. I love eavesdropping on other people’s lives. My political hero, Tony Benn, recorded his day in his diary every night for 50 years. I started late and won’t surpass that but I’ll be happy to manage 20 and delighted to complete 30 years. I will be pleased to record the first day of the Blog’s 9th year tomorrow and I look forward to it with the optimism that I welcome every new day. I wish all of you the happiness that I have been fortunate enough to record.

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Week 415

Sunday, 4th December, 2016

Glorious, cloudless day of strong, low sun and glowing blue sky. I love Sundays. It hasn’t always been so but today I sat outside in the garden and read The Sunday Times in the warm sunshine. I’m sure I’ve written before that Sundays in my youth were the worst day of the week. Up early for a family trip to Mass. No going out to meet friends. Sunday lunch was so often roast beef which was my least favourite and then there was the family walk in the countryside. Never subscribe to the false memory of a golden age in the past. Even during my working life, Sunday marked the end of the weekend and preparation for work on Monday. Oh deliver us!

ang_magAnd that is what retirement in to a modern world has done. No wonder we are up at 7.00 am to embrace the day. Freshly squeezed orange juice, lashings of tea followed by freshly ground and brewed coffee. Newspapers downloaded to the iPad and television on for 9.00 am and the Marr Show followed by Peston and then the Sunday Politics. And Breath.

While I was breathing, the latest edition of the 80-page, Angmering Community Magazine was posted through our door and I reflected what a delightful place we had come to live in. Snatch an hour to write my Christmas Newsletter. The ones for Greece have to be posted in a couple of days. Now a fantastic match in which Bournemouth came back to beat Liverpool 4-3 and United were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton. Back to complete and proof-read my Newsletter and print the address labels. And rest.

Monday, 5th December, 2016


Holiday Inn Folkestone

Glorious morning again but still chilly. We have pottered around our normal jobs. We are going to France tomorrow and the weather forecast says that with temperatures warming up, fog could be a problem in the mornings down here. Tomorrow, we have to leave around 5.30 am which could be especially tricky. We have debated this throughout the day and just now – at 3.30 pm – after a particularly strong weather forecast, we have relented and booked a room at the Folkestone Holiday Inn Express for tonight. It cost next to nothing at £53.00/€63.00 and will mean a later start and no fight with the fog. Relaxation all round.

Tuesday, 6th December, 2016

We have stayed in many Holiday Inns and some Holiday Inn Expresses including wonderful ones in Mulhouse in Alsace and Parma and Modena in Italy but this wasn’t one of them. It was down at heel and uncomfortable and we won’t use it again. We got up and left early. It was the most glorious morning and a joy to be driving.

We drove to the Wine Store to buy Phyllis’s wine and on to the hypermarket to stock up on provisions. The new freezer is being delivered on Wednesday and we have to justify its tunnel_12_16purchase. We were so urgent in our activities that we returned to the Tunnel an hour and a half early and got on an earlier train. Our return crossing, by the way, had cost us just £23.00/€27.31 for  car and two passengers.

We rolled off on to the Kent motorway system at around 1.00 pm, switched on the radio and our hearts sank. We have the TA (Traffic Announcements) button switched on for journeys like this and very soon our radio news was interrupted with information about our own, home village. A car accident had occurred in the centre of Angmering resulting in the car turning over and smashing in to a cartshowroom window. As a result, all the roads around and into our home were shut or blocked with queuing traffic. We were making such good progress in Kent and the driving was delightful. A boding sense of trouble ahead was rumbling in our minds. We got closer and closer and saw long queues of cars just after our turning. We sailed past and into our drive without a hitch. It felt wonderful.

Just thought I’d share this cartoon that I picked up on Twitter with you because it amused me. It will probably give you pause for thought before reading the Blog again.

Wednesday, 7th December, 2016

newsletter_16After a lot of driving the previous day, I usually wake up tired but not today. Hit the ground running on a misty morning that turned to sunny and clear blue skies. After Breakfast, I cleaned the car of the salt and road grime that winter driving brings, tidied up an already tidy garage and waited for the Currys van to arrive with our new chest freezer. Predictably, they couldn’t find us. Our postcode wasn’t recognised on their sat. nav. so we had to talk them in. Of course, they arrived in the middle of PMQs although it wasn’t great today.

This afternoon, I completed the printing of my newsletter – 40 copies going out this year – and made sure all the address labels were printed as well. Pauline completed writing all the cards so they can be posted tomorrow. We are posting about 70 cards with 2nd class stamps costing £0.55/€0.65 at a total cost of £38.50/€45.20 before the cost of the cards are factored in. Christmas eh? Bah! At least I was able to work with the Parliament Programme on televising the Brexit Debate.

Thursday, 8th December, 2016

So much warmer than it has been. In fact, it was said that Tuesday was our warmest December day since 1972. I was 21 then and in my first term of teaching. I was too busy to notice how warm it was.

or_16This morning, we had to go out to the village Post Office to pick up a parcel. As we drove out, we spotted an OpenReach telecoms engineer down a hole in the pavement 50 mtrs from our house. Whenever we see that, it reminds us of Mikailis – our electrician friend from Sifnos. Where ever we drove on the island, Mikailis would always be found at the side of the road, in a hole, investigating something. If we see an Openreach engineer nearby, we always get nervous. As new build houses are handed over and buyers get ready for occupation, they request telephone lines and Broadband provision. More often than not around here, they choose BT Openreach. A little man (Mikailis) comes out and starts grappling with dozens of multi-coloured cables that look more like a weaving loom.


Pheasant is a wonderful meat.

The last time this happened, the engineer disconnected us ‘accidentally’ and we were without Broadband for a week. We was like a near-death experience. This morning, as we drove home, the BT telecoms engineer had disappeared and, soon after we got in, we realised that we had no Broadband and, then, no phone line. I tried to phone BT Openreach on my mobile. If you’ve ever tried it, you will know that it is like knitting water. No real people just automated menus design to frustrate. After coffee, we gave up and went out to look in the neighbourhood. We found two engineers in another hole about a mile away. They were really nice men and extremely apologetic. The took it upon themselves immediately to sort out the problem.

I received a call on my mobile from BT Openreach to say the line would be fixed by Monday. BY MONDAY!!! We sat around in despair. We had (chose) to go out to buy some pheasants, whitebait and lobsters to stock our freezer. It took an hour but, when we got home, everything was sorted out. The phone was back on and we had internet. Praise be to BT.

Friday, 9th December, 2016

blancUp and out fairly early this morning. The temperature didn’t drop below 11C/52F last night and was still there at 7.00 am today. We were out about 8.30 am and down to the village Post Office to post Christmas cards. Greek and French ones cost £1.52/€1.81 but those for the USA cost only £1.05/€1.25.

Then we set off for Surrey. It is a beautiful drive of exactly 50 miles/80 kms which takes less than an hour. We were delivering cases of wine which we had bought in France  for P&C. Actually, it was 48 bottles of one sauvignon blanc which costs just £3.00/€3.57 in France and saves British buyers £4.50/€5.36 per bottle. So the 48 bottles cost her £144.00 instead of £360.00/€429.00. Repent at leisure Brexiteers!

I have to tell you that Pauline and I have been scammed on the web. It happened while we were in Tenerife looking to buy another pair of the shoes we had bought there in a High Street shop in February. The shoes are lovely, light and very soft leather slip-ons. They cost around £60.00/€72.00. No shops that we visited had any left in stock and nor did the manufacturers – Fluchos – have any of my size in stock. Pauline searched the web for hours because that’s what she likes doing. Eventually, up popped a website that had them in the right size and in three, different colours for £62.00/€74.00 each. Pleased with herself, she ordered them. We had to have them sent to P&C in Surrey because we were away for a month.

I checked our bank account the next day and the company had drawn on our account for the shoes but I was disturbed to find that the company was in Shenzhen which is the Chinese border with Hong Kong. I went to the website and inspected the HTML behind its link and found it to be an alarmingly unusual www.portcullispropertysolutions.co.uk. When I did an internet search on this company and its email address, service@onlinescredit.com, I found scores of people had not received their order or received strange substitutions for their order. I contacted my credit card provider immediately.

I was told that I had to give the company 30 days to fulfil their contract. Today we drove to Surrey and picked up the shoes. Spot the difference.

The bottom row are the ones I ordered.

The bottom row are the ones I ordered.


The fake ‘PRADA’ substitutes.













Today, my card provider has pledged to refund the £220.00/€262.00 that we have lost and to track the fraudsters through the Shanghai Bank. not one to give up, Pauline found me one, genuine pair of shoes through a French company and they are perfect.

Saturday, 10th December, 2016

The end of the penultimate week of the 8th year of the Blog. It is ending very optimistically. I told you recently that I cry at the drop of a hat, in a sad film, at a Puccini opera or even if Waitrose has run out of Lobster Thermidor. Today, I found myself moved to tears by reports of someone I have never even met and don’t know other than vicariously.


Mrs Skiathan

I love following other people’s lives. I love reading their blogs. I have been following the blog of a ex-pat resident of Skiathos for a number of years. For quite a while, he and his family have been in the toughest battle that any family can be asked to fight. Mrs Skiathan has been in a long term fight with Stage 4 cancer and the family have been living back in UK to help their struggle. I suspect that, unless you’ve experienced it, you will never truly know what they have been going through. It is certainly an experience none of us would wish for.

Mrs Skiathan has been through major surgery and recurring bouts of bad news. Today, she has announced that she has been pronounced ‘free of cancer’. I found tears on my face just reading those words. I have never met them but I have followed their ups and downs for a number of years and I would be surprised if the impression I have formed of them as thoroughly nice people is far of the mark. Good things should come to good people and sometimes they do. They don’t need to hear it but Pauline & I wish them a very Happy Christmas.

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 415