Week 522

Sunday, 23rd December, 2018

A very wet and grey morning. All my political programmes have finished for the festive period – just one of the reasons why I hate Christmas. There are many others. However, one benefit is hearing from people from my past who get in touch at this time. So many lives that touch in crossing and move on. Yesterday, I also heard from my fairly reclusive brother, Mike, for the first time for a couple of years. That was nice.

Pauline is preparing things for the ‘family’ Christmas meal. I’m contemplating my navel (when I can find it) and wondering why the hair on my chest, etc., is going snowy white but the hair on my head is not. I’ve always had a strange body but that is unfathomable. Perhaps I’ll have to look around the changing rooms at the Health Club this afternoon to see if I am ‘normal’. I won’t hold my breath. I’m a bit shocked to find that the Health Club will be closed on Christmas Day. They’re giving the staff a day off! What am I paying my fee for? What is the world coming to?

As we left the Health Club this afternoon, the temperature had reached 13C/56F although still fairly grey. We felt good after our 6th day of exercise out of the past 7 and drove home to a meal of smoked salmon and prawns with salad. It was wonderful and I ate too much. Have to work harder at the Health Club tomorrow.

Monday, 24th December, 2018

Tsunami Christmas 2004

Time is a strange thing and it plays havoc with the human mind. On Saturday, a tsunami engendered by the eruption of volcano Krakatoa hit the Indonesian islands of Java & Sumatra. People around who heard the news, remarked that it was even more shocking happening in Christmas week. Although I don’t really think that, I understand the sentiment. It really can’t make drowning in a tsunami any worse if it coincides with others, elsewhere, celebrating. However, media reports included a reminder of a previous tsunami which devastated Sumatra at just this time of year. What was really shocking for me was that it occurred 14 years ago. I remember it well.

Tsunami Christmas 2018

Setting aside both of those tragic events for one moment, let’s concentrate on me! 14 years ago, I was only 53! As far as I knew at the time, I had another 7 years to go until retirement. Our Greek home was not quite completed. I would not be diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic nor suffering from Atrial Fibrillation for another 5 years. Our Mums were still alive. We would move house 3 times. I would lose 10st. in weight and start to get fit again. We would buy 5 new cars, visit 7 different countries and I would start this Blog.

14 years ago! I can see it like it was yesterday. I remember sitting in Pauline’s family’s lounge trying to avoid the jollity of Christmas, reading a book about political philosophy on my iPad and glancing at a television report about the devastating effects of the tsunami. People affected were starving and homeless at just the time we were filling our faces with food and drink.

How can so much happen in 14 years? What it does teach one is the difficulty of projecting forward 14 years and predicting what will have happened. The one thing we can be certain of is that we will both be 81 if we survive. Now that is seriously scary. And just think of 14 more Christmases to get through!

Tuesday, 25th December, 2018

I was brought up in a Roman Catholic household. I objected, made it clear that I didn’t believe but it was insisted that, unless I complied and genuflected, there was no future for me. I hated it but acquiesced. From the day I left home in October 1969, I rejected the nonsense of organised religion and became a fierce opponent of it. Long before I left home, I was convinced that the Roman Catholic Church was a weird and sinister organisation but it wasn’t until later in life that the edifice truly become crumbling down. The scandal of Paedophile priests and the Magdelane Laundries are just the tip of a shady and selfish organisation more caring for its self than its followers.

My Mother fervently believed that it was her, God-given mission to bring up her children as practising Catholics. She even enlisted nuns to cajole my brother and I to attend a Seminary in an attempt to encourage us to train as priests. All 7 of her children rejected this and it was predictable. Nobody with a brain gets bullied in to believing anything. In fact, if you are pushed one way, the natural reaction is to go the opposite. And so it was.

How much of my early life was wasted in the meaningless symbolism of a failed belief system? The Sunday morning masses? The nightly prayers? The barmy rituals of Fish on Fridays, Fasting for Lent, daubing burnt palm leaves on the forehead for Ash Wednesday, manufactured sins to be ‘confessed’ on Sunday, etc.. Remembering makes me shudder and that is not how one should recall one’s childhood. I remember reading James Joyce’s A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man in my teen years and being hit between the eyes with such an epiphany of understanding. I was not alone! Stephen Daedalus, aka young James Joyce, was rejecting the Catholicism of his Mother and his Country. He was rejecting the narrow and cramping beliefs of Southern Ireland. On his Mother’s deathbed, she begs him to reaffirm her beliefs and he repeats the refrain of Lucifer, Non Serviam. I swore there and then to make those my watchwords.

These plaster figures must be at least 80 and, maybe, 90 years old.

Christmas was a ritual in itself. An Advent calendar and the setting out of the Crib were pre-requisites. The crib, which Mum had brought from her own childhood, was laid out in the Lounge or ‘Front Room’ as it was known. The Front Room was somewhere that children were not allowed apart from highly controlled, special occasions. Otherwise, it was Mum & Dad’s private space. They had their own ‘Parker-Knoll’ arm chairs, a polished beech wood radiogram sitting on a polished walnut, splay-legged ‘occasional’ table and an inglenook fireplace now housing the latest, coke-fired stove. Bookshelves with copies of Art History books, religious-based fiction and reference books stood against the wall. Christmas Eve was always marked with the festival of Carols from Kings College, Cambridge and Christmas morning began with an early walk up to Mass before walking home for breakfast and presents.

My sister, Skinny Liz, tweeted today a picture of the crib that had come from Mum’s childhood to our childhood in our family home. Obviously, Liz had snatched it like some ‘ruin-bibber’ (Philip Larkin’s description) of her past. It works. I was quite shocked how much those paltry, plaster figures evoked emotion in me. I found myself weeping for a lost time I once longed to leave and now can never retrieve. At least Catholicism, organised religion in general, is all but beaten in the developed world. I will not live to see its total abolition but feel confident of its complete eradication – like polio and malaria ultimately.

Wednesday, 26th December, 2018

Our 67th Christmas has passed. Actually, we quite enjoyed yesterday. We were up at 6.00am, tea and juice and then packing the car with food for 9 people. Drove to Surrey taking about one hour on surprisingly busy roads for 7.00 on Christmas morning. Pleasant, warm day. Well, actually, we left Sussex in 8C/46F and drove to 0C/32F in Surrey. Pauline & I quickly began to prepare the turkey and the day began.

We all exchanged presents. The children are children no more. They are young men and have all grown bigger than me. I used to beat them all up. Now they all bully me. I still try but come off worse. They went out to play tennis at the Nuffield Health Club while we completed the cooking. At 3.00 pm, we sat down to a meal of:

Starter – Anti Pasti

Prosciutto, Bresaola, Parma Ham, Pancetta, Mortadella, Salami, Smoked Salmon, Olives, Artichokes, Baby Peppers stuffed with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with Humous. All accompanied by Rocket Salad and home made Chive and Parmesan bread. Might have slightly overdone it because everyone needed quite a rest before the main course.

Main Course

Turkey with Sage & Onion Stuffing plus Sausage Forcemeat Stuffing. This was accompanied by King Edward Potatoes roasted in Goose Fat, Roasted Carrots , French Beans with Garlic, Baby Sprouts with Bacon & Chestnuts plus Gravy and Cranberry Sauce.


Pauline’s Christmas Pudding with Double Cream Custard  and/or Lemon Meringue Pie plus whipped cream.

Pauline’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Anyone who was hungry after that must have hollow legs. Even though I didn’t feel that I ate so much, I felt ‘stuffed’ for the rest of the day. By 7.30 pm, we were just leaving the Dining table and thinking about packing up the car. The drive back was reasonably quiet and we were home for 9.00 pm. We live in quiet, anti-social isolation and spending a day with other ‘people’ is extremely tiring. We had an early night. Only 12 months until our 68th Christmas.

This morning, we didn’t get up until 8.00 am. We spent the morning festively re-organising the garage and then went to the Health Club to work yesterday off. Our meal today was leftovers from yesterday’s starter. Never let me look at food again!

Thursday, 27th December, 2018

Supermarkets after Christmas are great places for bargains. Today in Tesco we bought two, huge salmons for £13.00/€14.50 each. I bought two, large packs of smoked salmon for reduced price. I then went to collect another Christmas present – a pressure washer from Halfords. What more could a man want?

I’ve had umpteen pressure washers over my adult life and I always mistreat them and find myself replacing them fairly quickly. The most recent one was bought 3 years ago as we moved in here but the pressure hose has almost burst and needs replacing. Halfords have a reasonable one for £160.00/€180.00 so I bought it. Now, of course, I’ve got to clean the car. I wonder how many times I could have had it cleaned by somebody else and still have saved money. Still, the exercise does me good.

The Health Club was quite busy today as people worked off their Christmas food. As regulars, we soon get to know regulars. Today, there weren’t many people we recognised. The turn of the year is always the time when reluctants come out on a mission. It doesn’t last long for many. We look forward to them all going back to work and education and leaving the facilities to the old wrinklies.

Friday, 28th December, 2018

Well, I opened the box of my new, Karcher pressure washer this morning. Taking 25 pieces of plastic and metal out of the plastic wrapping, I thought I had better read the instruction booklet. I couldn’t. There were some incredibly badly drawn diagrams and some unintelligible text in Arabic.

IQ test for this morning.

Three cups of coffee later, my wife had constructed it. I, proudly, took it out to the garage. Exhausted, I decided to try it out tomorrow. Today, I went on line, with my fourth cup of coffee at my side, to register my new product with Karcher and to set up the 3yr warranty.

That done, I set the pressure cooker up in the garden to produce stock from the turkey carcass and to drive the local cats mad. It will all be done by the time we go to the Health Club.

The gym was full of people working Christmas off. Adverts suggest new members might like a cheap. three month starter membership to attack their resolutions. The club, of course, hopes they will stay and pay their £1200.00/€1335.00 per year on an annual basis. In our experience, it increases every January without fail. Once you’re hooked, you swallow the increase and move forward. For many, however, the first throes of ambition fade and April sees a quieter period. Our membership is off-peak because we don’t need the busy time of post-work. Even so, it still costs us £2000.00/€2230.00 per year for a couple.

Friday, 28th December, 2018

A grey and uninviting morning. Having done 10 of the past 14 days at the Health Club, we decided to take the weekend off. We have a special celebration on Sunday which we will mark by going for a walk by the seaside early in the morning. Today, I celebrated early by valeting the car including using my new pressure washer. What fun!

Pauline had the pressure cooker up in the garden to produce more stock from the turkey carcass. It’s getting to the point where we haven’t enough storage space in our freezers for all this stuff. This evening, I watched Liverpool thrash Arsenal and boost their hopes of winning the Championship for the first time in 27 years. That would be good to see.

This time, 40 years ago at 11.30 pm., I was polishing Pauline’s tan boots ready for her big day tomorrow. ….

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Week 521

Sunday, 16th December, 2018

The journey towards December, 2028 begins with a beautiful morning – bright, sunny and sharp. I hope I can describe myself in that way in ten years time. Phlebas the Phoenician featured in Eliot’s The Wasteland. In the section, Death by Water:

He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool

This started as The Hellas Blog and has transmogrified into a Sanders Retirement Blog. Although I should have predicted it, the change has completely surprised me. It is different rather than disappointing and outward looking rather than confining.

Interestingly, this morning the Sifnos site featured a grey, cold and misty Kamares harbour with our, former house nestled into the hillside. We wonder how the new owners are enjoying it and wish them well.

Monday, 17th December, 2018

A gorgeous morning of blue skies and sunshine. Spent it doing some financial work including a couple of niggling things which one should not have to address. The villa we rented in Tenerife took an ‘accidental damage’ deposit. We’ve been back more than two weeks now and it hasn’t been repaid so I’m following that up. Pauline buys books for her Kindle on my Amazon account. Actually, like so many she buys electronically, it was a ‘free’ book. Cunningly, they charged her for an audio book. I had to do an on-line chat with them to get it refunded. That was no problem but it will take up to 7 working days to appear in your account. Think of all the interest they will generate on my £3.99/€4.44 in those 7 days!

The other thing I am doing this morning is exploring a trip that we are now considering in June to Malta & Gozo to visit one of Pauline’s oldest friends from school days who has retired to live on Gozo. It is a nice, warm month and we will hope to have a pleasant week or so. Easyjet prices are incredibly cheap for flights in June. Return tickets cost around £100.00/€111.30 per person in mid-June.

St Paul’s Bay, Malta

So many lovely things to look forward in the new year as long as we survive Christmas. As determined forward planners, we will spend the next couple of weeks making more firm plans and looking to book as early as possible.

Tuesday, 18th December, 2018

Glorious opening sky at 6.30 am soon gave way to grey and wet morning. We love this time at the Health Club. Everybody is so tired and looking forward to a holiday from work, holiday celebrations and many other things other than exercise. The Club is very quiet and left to the maniacs like us. We know that the new year and resolutions will bring a surge of new members and that will last until around March when the 3 month trial ends. Then it is left to the committed until the next surge.

New Honda CRV Hybrid

Pauline & I don’t give each other Birthday or Christmas presents. Every day is a birthday and Christmas rolled into one. Apart from lots of travel to be booked, we are also looking forward to the new, improved model of our car. The Honda CRV Hybrid will combine petrol and electric seamlessly. The combustion engine charges up the battery. At slower speeds, it automatically selects the battery drive and then combines with the petrol engine in acceleration and, finally, uses just the petrol at cruising speeds. It never has to be plugged in and charged because it is self-charging but delivers considerable improvements on fuel efficiency.

I love gadgets and the new car will be loaded with them including:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Keeping Assist System
  • intelligent – Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Intelligent Speed Limiter
  • Traffic Sign Recognition
  • intelligent Multi Info Heads up Display
  • Blind Spot Information incl. Cross Traffic Monitor
  • Infotainment System with full internet access

There are just two problems. We will have to find around £40,000.00/€44,500.00 and it won’t be available for around three months. Must start saving!

Wednesday, 19th December, 2018

Horrible, wet and grey start to the day although it has brightened up with some sunshine by mid day. Not a day for outside jobs so I’ve been looking at things to upgrade our office.

Almost 20 years ago, I bought a early, colour, laser printer which was as big as a washing machine and cost £3,500.00 / €3,900.00. It was incredibly slow in bringing the first page out and not much quicker in printing subsequent copies. The quality was good but not brilliant and the cost per copy meant I had to ration my usage of it.

In our home office nowadays we have two laser printers – one mono and one colour. They are connected by manual switch to our two PCs. We don’t conduct print runs on an industrial scale and the, relatively cheap, toner cartridges last a long time.

Today, I had cause to replace one of the cartridges which had cost me about £60.00/€67.00. Thinking about it, we’ve had these printers for over 5 years. When the toner runs out, I think I will replace the two printers with one, wireless Colour laser which not only negates the need for manual switching but also allows ‘airdrop’ printing from our iPads and smartphones. I did a quick, on-line check and the cost of a perfectly good quality, reasonably fast, Brother laser will be under £200.00/€222.00. It will certainly improve the speed and effectiveness of our activities and make a bit of extra space in the office.

Thursday, 20th December, 2018

Fresh Salmon – What a Feast!

A lovely, sunny day but not warm at only 9C/48F. Actually, we got to 13C/55F this afternoon. We have decided to do as much of the shopping for Christmas Day meals as we can today and very early tomorrow. Storage is one of the problems. We have a fridge-freezer in the kitchen and a chest freezer in the garage but still we are struggling to fit things in. We have a wine fridge which may have to be used for other things for a few days. Sorry about such parochial matters but some days life is like that. I’m sure I’ll get back to contemplating the meaning of life soon. Today, however, Sainsbury, Asda, Waitrose and Tesco call. After all, Christmas is a religious festival and where better to worship?

You can’t beat Smoked Salmon!

Even the Health Club is serving festive meals, putting on parties for members and generally trying to be all things to all women. I have no interest. I just go to exercise and come home. Actually, the past 3 days have been remarkably quiet. I do like that. I wish it could be Christmas every day-ay. I say this not least because of the special offers the supermarkets put on at this time of year. Whole, fresh salmon at almost half price. We bought two this morning. Another of my favourites – smoked salmon – is often sold off shortly after Christmas Day at a hugely reduced price and I cash in again. I like lots of different fish but really can’t beat salmon.

Had Christmas newsletters from lots of my friends and ex-colleagues over the past couple of weeks. One today informed me of five former colleagues who have died in the past few weeks. I always remember acknowledging the fact that so many teachers in my early days in the teaching profession seemed to retire one year and die soon after. In some respects, they were representative of their generation. The State Pension was never designed to be paid for 20 or 30 years. On average, 5 years was about the survival rate after retirement at 65. As I went on in my career, early retirement became much more the fashion with staff leaving aged 55. Actually, it is that group who are dying off after 25+years of retirement. Coming to the end of our first decade of retirement, we feel very fortunate for what we have had but hungry for so much more.

Friday, 21st December, 2018

Today is the shortest day. The winter or hibernal solstice marks official start of winter. It certainly doesn’t really feel as if we’ve experienced any winter at all so far. This morning, we’ve woken to 12C/54F at 6.00 am although the light outside is dull. Final Christmas purchases this morning before the trouble starts so we were out by 7.30 am. Perishables like double cream which we don’t want or have no room to freeze having been purchased, we drove home through still quiet streets. Actually, it looks as if most people have gone to work today.

The schools finished on Wednesday and I had assumed that workers might be off today. Just shows how out of touch I am with the work place. It does suggest that the High Streets will be manic on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and that we have been fortunate to be able to do our shopping early.

You can buy this in Argos.

Of course, the British public will all soon be out practising their drone-flying skills and what better place to do it than over wide, open spaces like an airport. It beggars belief that someone with a remote control can shut a major airport down for 24 hrs without being stopped or detected. This beast of a drone with 20mp, HD camera, can be purchased in Argos for just £13,00.00/€1,450.00 and could have something far more sinister – say explosives or Novichok attached to it. Of course Failing Grayling, Transport Minister, has made such a good job of the railways that we probably don’t need to worry but if some, sinister geek can do this on a shoestring without a reasonable response, just imagine what the shattering of the Open Skies Agreement by a hard Brexit will do for our aviation.

Saturday, 222nd December, 2018

Fuschia ‘Janey’ aka Mump

Beautiful morning of sunshine after quite a clear, moonlit night. The temperature is 10C/50F and windless. We may be in mid winter but we were just remarking yesterday that a number of plants which disappeared completely over the past two years have held their leaves and even some flowers right up to this point. We have two, small fuschias called Janey which we bought only because that was Pauline’s Mum’s name although we both, affectionately, called her Mump. Each of the past, two years, they have disappeared entirely. I wrote them off; cleared away the dry stick remains and prepared to buy replacements. The next Spring and quite late on, they reappeared from below the soil’s surface and flowered more strongly. This year, they have stayed around and continued to flower. Even now, although looking rather worse for wear, they are still with us.

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Week 520

Sunday, 9th December, 2018

The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dali

The final week of the 10th year of the Blog has given me pause to think and assess where I am. My thoughts were particularly provoked by waking early this morning and listening to a programme on Radio 4 – Something Understood – a regular spot on Sunday at 6.30 am which is basically an extended Thought for the Day. Today, the theme was Living in the Moment with the strapline: If not Now, When? For those of you who have a simple answer to that question, you shouldn’t waste your time ‘now’. This includes a relative of mine who reacts every time I mention planning for the future by singing:

Enjoy yourself, Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think…

At the outset, I must confess to being deeply conflicted on this topic. It is partly driven by my notoriously poor memory and my love of History to my genuine enjoyment of personal planning and preparing for the future. Living in and for the moment is anathema to me. I am the embodiment of seeing life as a rehearsal because I always feel I have failed and want to leave that failure behind so I can move forward and try again.

The American poet, Emily Dickenson said: Forever – is composed of Nows and, of course she is right but that is not how I experience it and have always thought, by association, did most other people. I have always been obsessed with time to many people’s amusement/annoyance. I constantly calibrate my life with a variety of metrics – How many steps I’ve done per day/month/year; how much Electricity/Gas/Water I’ve used this month/year; how much income I’ve received this month/year/decade and how much I’ve spent or put into investments; how many years since I retired or since I last saw someone or since so & so died. The statistics provide a meaning and a context to my life. They are the humdrum continuum of my days.

The poet who speaks most for me is Philip Larkin. I was immediately touched by and learned off by heart his poem, Days and, 50 years on, I can still recite it:

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Like me, Larking acknowledges there is nothing but earthly time and that is calibrated in days but he also recognises it is not as simple as that and the human condition searches for meaning to join up the ‘nows’ or ‘days’. In that search, we are bound to reflect on what has been and consider what might be in the future.  That is one reason why I write my Blog and, as Dali’s picture illustrates, memories decay and slip away through time. The tree is already dead. The pocket watches soften and bend, are flyblown or eaten by ants. Even the cliffs are eroded by the sea. Everything will leave this place but at different rates and in different timescales. It is up to us to fight to keep control of it as long as we can because letting go leads to madness and death.

Have a lovely week. Enjoy yourself. It may be later than you think.

Monday, 10th December, 2018

Up early in the dark. Many of our neighbours are up at this time to commute to London. We were driving down to the Channel Tunnel for a 8.50 train. Although it is reasonably close, the circuitous route we have to drive takes a minimum of 90 mins and in the early rush hour down here took 2hrs. We were there for 7.30 am to be greeted by a glorious sun rise and a very quiet parking area.

Morning Glory at the Tunnel

It was unusual to say the least but we were on to our train and under the sea exactly on time. Driving off from a very quiet train, we went on straight to the wine store. We had pre-ordered £250.00/€278.00 of wine which provided us with ‘free travel’ and then went on to spend another £300.00/€333.00. Fortunately, on a day when the Tory party went even more loopy than usual and the Pound crashed, our order and the day’s prices were already fixed. It would explain why the store was almost deserted this morning.

The Land of Milk & Honey.

Our saving on UK prices was about £500.00/€555.00 plus the £100.00/€111.00 return fee on the Tunnel. With the car packed up, the next stage was driving to Cité Europe for groceries and other things at Carrefour. Duck – legs and breasts were one item, swordfish another. As you can see from my photo, the carpark was almost deserted – in the run up to Christmas.

Brexit Europe – Empty

We drove on to Coquelles and Auchan where we completed our shopping including some Christmas presents. It wasn’t difficult. We have been at this time of year for the past 20 years or so and never had such free run of the shops.

Desperately looking for a parking space.

We were back at the Tunnel and on our train early – 1.50 pm (CET) and off in Folkestone by 1.25 pm (GMT). Even the drive home was quick and quiet. When we got home at around 3.00 pm, we realised where everyone was. They were glued to their television sets watching Theresa Dismay acknowledging her latest failure in the House of Commons and Corbin’s latest failure to bring her down. Should have stayed in France. At least it was quiet there!

Tuesday, 11th December, 2018

A lovely, mild and sunny day which allowed me to cut the lawn for the first time since I reseeded it following the disastrous drought over the summer while we were away. I had bought a huge bag of pelleted grass seed and lots of topsoil and we both worked for a full day preparing and seeding and treading and watering. The weather was reasonably warm in October and the seed germinated well but we went away for the month of November before anything more could be done. Today, we have mowed and striped the lawns and they are looking healthy and well. I can look outside with pleasure once again.

Addicted to the Palace of Varieties.

This afternoon we both have dentist’s appointments. Certainly not my favourite way to fill my time but a necessary policy for insuring diminishing assets. Before that I have been indulging myself with one of my favourite  pastimes  – watching the Parliamentary Debate on the Meaningful Vote. I can’t get enough of it but I know some would still prefer the dentist.

Girona – Spanish Venice?

While watching/listening to the debate in our Office, I researched one of the trips we are proposing to make in the new year. Girona is just over the French border into Spain. It is about 20 miles inland from one of those old, coastal favourites, Lloret de Mar.

Wednesday, 12th December, 2018

Calamity! In the final week of the 10th year of the Blog, I couldn’t access it. Trying to just produced a fatal error message. I have been using 1&1, an American platform provider for the past 10 years. Recently, it was taken over by Ionos, a German internet company and now things are changing.

I must admit, after 10 years of precious records, I do worry about losing the lot. I sometimes think of migrating to the public, WordPress platform but have never plucked up the courage to take the plunge. Today’s blip has made me reconsider it.

I thought I had done something wrong but it turns out that the new, parent company had upgraded the platform with a much updated WordPress Platform and just hadn’t bothered to inform us. I made a phone call and was answered by a young Philipino lady who was actually in the Philippines. I told her that 10 years of records were extremely important to me and, within 5 mins, she had sorted my problem out. She even invited me to the Philippines but I had to decline.

The new platform is very different and, this evening, I am still struggling to get to grips with it. This is one of the joys and frustrations of I.T. development. Learning new skills and fighting to produce results is at the heart of why I do this.

Thusday, 13th December, 2018

A chilly 4C/39F start to the morning with a lovely, clear sky. I went out in a short sleeved shirt and quickly regretted it although I affected not to even notice the temperature. This is about the coldest we have felt it down here. Of course, it is reminiscent of mid-summer in Yorkshire. Drove to Tesco and an eerily quiet carpark. Perhaps everybody’s died in the night. However, even the few people shopping were a few too many. People are so annoying but they are especially annoying at Christmas!

John Gillespie

My first teaching job was in Oldham, Lancashire. I knew nothing about the place when I applied. For example, I didn’t know that it was one of the most deprived areas in the country and that the school I had applied to was served by population in the most deprived place in UK at the time. It was May 1972 when I entered the building housing the Education Authority offices – a dark, red brick, Victorian, satatanic mill if you’d ever seen one which I hadn’t. I was being interviewed by the Director of Education who had attended Repton Public School where Roald Dahl and Jeremy Clarkson were educated and the school’s Headteacher who had been a pupil at Gordonstoun Public School where Prince Charles was educated. If you knew Oldham, this pairing were these least likely introduction to the town one could imagine.

I was a fairly arrogant young man who thought he was an absolute gift to teaching. I still had long, ‘College’ hair of the ’60s style and I had chosen to cover it up with a gingery wig from the Props Department at college in order to pass the suitability test. I have to say that the interview did not seem to be going too well until the Director asked me where I was from. As soon as I told him Repton, the whole mood changed and I knew I had a job. All the Director wanted to discuss was the village shop, the day Len Hutton scored a century on the school pitch and the Fives Courts in the school grounds. All thoughts of Oldham Education, of poverty and deprivation evaporated and I was ‘one of them’.

John Gillespie was a fairly ‘other worldly’ man with the best of intentions to educate children in the high culture he loved. He spent his days largely in thought, singing the classical music that the ensemble he and his wife played in were currently rehearsing. We were pushed in to difficult productions of Brecht and Becket rather than Shakespeare or Shaw as if he were directing his own am.dram. group in the town. Still, his heart was in the right place and he looked well when I saw him about three years ago. Unfortunately, I learned yesterday that he is seriously ill in hospital at the age of 92.

Friday, 14th December, 2018

A really cold feel to the morning. We went out to Waitrose in Worthing and the car was reading 3C/37F and it felt bitter in the breeze. We were shopping for antipasto – Prosciutto Crudo, Milano Salami, Bresaola, Bologna Mortadella, sun dried tomatoes,  baby peppers stuffed with humous, piquante peppers stuffed with mozzarella, green olives stuffed with pimento, Calamata olives – for a special meal. For a period which is quite close to Christmas, shopping was quiet and relaxed. Maybe news this morning of the High Street dying more rapidly than we think is true.

I don’t know if you have this experience but my mobile phone and my Desktop computer open up each day with new, photographic screens. I look forward to seeing what comes up. Today, my desktop gave me this:

I absolutely love Venice and the Grand Canal. It is 25 years since we were there and it is one of the few places that I would love to go back to. Having said that, everything I’ve read suggests that it is more difficult to enjoy today than it was back then. The pressure of tourism is increasingly taking its toll on the city. 

Saturday, 15th December, 2018

The passage of time is amazing, startling, frightening, lots of ings but, not the least, it is humbling. Ten years ago, I was only 57 and still working although I thought that my time in education was coming to an end. I had started to keep a diary so many times before but this was different. It continued beyond the first week. Chronicling my life’s events and emotions seemed a useful thing to do – essentially for me. One of my heroes has been Anthony Wedgewood Benn. He had a lifetime commitment to socialism. He also recorded his life, day by day, in taped recordings that he made every evening before he slept. I don’t pretend to be recording anything as significant although many of my entries have real import for me.

The lines:

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

are from T.S.Eliot’s 1925 poem, The Hollow Men. For me, it describes the ultimate futility of life and the fact that, for most, it ends in failure. In a hedonistic sense, existence is justification enough. Tomorrow, we will turn our face to the next decade. See you back here at the end of 2028.

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Week 519

Sunday, 2nd December, 2018

Quite busy after our month away. The mountain of post at the door was something to behold. Most of it, of course, was catalogues and brochures. In a digital age, it is amazing how much these companies must spend on printing and posting. A ‘Next’ catalogue weighed in like a tome of Encyclopaedia Britannica and that’s showing my age. The rest was appointments with medical services to be entered up on our on-line calendar, end of term accounts from investment companies/banks, etc all of which has to be filed appropriately. All of this is my job.

Mixing at its finest!

Pauline had a really easy day. She made three Christmas cakes and two Christmas puddings. The latter were cooked most of the day in the steamer. The former were baked and tested, baked and tested as the timer dinged and they were taken out, checked and put back in in a rhythm that seemed to go on forever. So much cooking went on that our meal today was cold, roast chicken and salad. It was delicious with a glass of dry sherry from a bottle bought to pour poured into the cake mix.

Three Wise Christmas Cakes

Pauline obviously enjoyed getting back to her high-order skill as she selected the best ingredients, combined them with real experience and then suddenly realised that her mixing bowl was not big enough to take materials for three cakes in one go. Her jam kettle which would normally have helped here was left in Greece.

Cue a trip to Sainsburys and a £2.50/€2.82 plastic, washing up bowl which was perfect although the traffic there and back was absolutely manic. I’ll soak my feet in it later. Of course, while all of this was going on, I had to watch three, really top class football matches won by Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Back to the gym for us tomorrow to continue the good fight.

Monday, 3rd December, 2018

A grey day which produced lots of rain and only a little sun. We were out early because one of us was having a mammogram. The next one will be when we are 70! Amusingly, the scanner was parked in Tesco carpark which is somewhere we are quite familiar with. We were there for a 9.00 am appointment although it does seem strange to me that a medical procedure should be scheduled in a supermarket carpark rather than a hospital.

After driving home, we have spent the day getting up to speed on administrative tasks. Pauline has renewed the car insurance after some strong bargaining. She saved at least £10.00/€11.21 on the published update. I was charged with renewing our security software for our digital instruments which are up for renewal in mid-December every year. We use Norton Security and have done for the past 20 year. It has proved reliable, flexible and economical and we have expanded it from one PC in the 1990s to 3 computers, 2 iPads and 2 smartphones today. I managed to find a seller of 10 licenses for £24.95/€28.00. This is so much cheaper than we were paying 20 years ago and provides us with daily updates of the software. As we spend the entire day connected to the internet with all 7 devices, using banks, insurances, making purchases with credit cards and providing addresses and pin numbers, we feel confident that we are protected.

We’ve been home for three days now and are beginning to feel itchy feet. This morning, I booked a short, shopping trip to France. We will leave next week and concentrate on things for Christmas – mainly sparkling wine for us but we will think of others if we can afford it and we’ve got time. Our travel through the tunnel is free courtesy of the Calais Wine Store. I will spend about £500.00/€561.00 on wine but only need to pre-order £250.00/€280.00 in order to have the £70.00/€79.00 ‘free’ return ticket through the Tunnel.

Tuesday, 4th December, 2018

Out early on a clear and low sun morning to Worthing. Driving down the beach road, sunlight scorched the water and backlit the furniture on the horizon – wind turbines, a rig, anchored engineering vessels, etc. We drove to the multi-storey carpark which announced ‘Full’. We drove up to the top floor and parked alongside the only other car up there. The day was laid out in all its glory around this rooftop. Even the seagulls were content.

The purpose of our trip was Christmas related. We haven’t had time to buy Christmas cards or presents. Pauline needed Christmas cake accoutrements and had been sourced on-line and purchased in town. The other thing we had to do was take a suitcase back to Debenhams where we bought it as a set of 4. We bought it almost a year ago and have used it 3 times. As we packed to fly home from Tenerife, we found one of the locks jammed and could not be locked. Today, the store didn’t bat an eyelid and repaid the price straight back on to our card so we can look again at leisure for a replacement.

Having almost bought out a chocolate shop, Pauline spotted a ‘bag’ shop as we walked back to the car. A few minutes later, we were on our way home with two, extra bags in the back of our car. They were a canvas, ‘carry-on’ bag for flying with and which will take her iPad and Kindle plus all the other paraphernalia that we cannot afford to lose en route. It felt like a good day all round.

Wednesday, 5th December, 2018

£12.00/€13.50 for 10 Aegean Seabass fillets

A fairly grey and overcast day in which we have a list of jobs to complete. Having been away for the whole of November, we are now in catch-up mode. However much I don’t like Christmas, I recognise my duty to others who do. Our neighbours have already started decorating their houses with lights. It is not something I would contemplate even under threat of torture but I recognise their right to lose all sense of propriety and stress the National Grid. We have already started to receive Christmas cards and, therefore, have an obligation of civility to reciprocate.

We were out early to go to Rustington. Shopping at Iceland to buy seabass fillets for meals over Christmas. On to Asda to buy sweet sherry for the Christmas cakes. Took the opportunity to sneak a bottle of Manzanilla sherry in to the trolley for myself. I rarely buy it but I love, aridly dry sherry and Manzanilla is the ultimate. Most supermarkets don’t stock it apart from at Christmas so it is a good time to indulge. Rather like your maiden aunt, I only drink it for medicinal purposes although I don’t restrict myself to one, small glass. I like it ice cold with salted nuts. My body shudders with anticipation as I write this.

Putting all thoughts of food and alcohol aside, we have jobs to do at home. First, 60+ Christmas cards to write and 60+ stamps to lick and stick. My job is running the address database and mail merge it with sheets of laser labels. That done, I have to start work on my annual, Christmas newsletter. In spite of my Blog, I am finding it hard to let go of this tradition. It does reach some people who don’t have access to the Blog – some who don’t have a computer or internet. It also just satisfies my personality trait of desire for continuity, determination to remain consistent, determination to maintain my own processes. My one, nod to change is that many will be emailed rather than posted this year.

Thursday, 6th December, 2018

Mainly a day of administration. We did have to do our weekly shop at Sainsburys/Tesco and then complete the Christmas cards and the Newsletters. We also watched quite a bit of the Brexit debate in parliament before facing the evening traffic to take Pauline to hospital for a CT scan.

Our hospital in Worthing manages to look completely calm and under control. The car parks are nearly full but the reception areas are really peaceful and quiet. Walking past X-ray into Scan we were struck by how few patients were around. In fact, the seating area we were directed towards only had one other patient. I was amazed how polite, supportive, welcoming and gentle the staff were with their clientele as their service was accessed – far more understanding than I was as a teacher.

Eventually, Pauline was called 20 mins early for her appointment. Actually, the procedure took a lot longer than either of us had imagined. We arrived at 5.40 pm and didn’t get out until 7.00 pm but that was because of the nature of the procedure rather than pressure of patients. She will hear the results of her scan in around 2 weeks and we await, with trepidation, the pronouncement. We are optimistic but very worried and there is nothing we can do about it.

Friday, 7th December, 2018

A morning of really heavy rain. Outside was not inviting at all. We completed indoor jobs. Finally, the Christmas cards are done. We had already bought 60+ stamps. When Pauline told me, I was absolutely shocked that each one cost £0.56/€0.63. I understand why she chose Second Class. I haven’t bought any, personally,  for at least 40 years just as I never have any money, never use credit cards or anything else in shops. I ask for things and my assistant pays.  I know you will be incredulous at that but it is absolutely true. From the day we got married, I handed all my money and control of it over to Pauline. The only financial transactions I make are, occasionally buying on-line with my credit card and I make the decisions about investments. It works really well.

We posted about 8 cards to America and Europe and they, alone, cost £14.00/€15.64 and we had to drive down to the Post Office to have each one weighed individually. What is the world coming to? Weighing Christmas cards? Afterwards, we went on to the Doctor’s Surgery to pick up my prescription for INR Test Strips. If I bought them privately, they would cost me £80.00/€90.00 so I at least felt I was still in credit for the day. I do save the Hospital/Surgery by doing all my own testing so I don’t feel too bad about the cost although, if I’d known 20 years ago what I know now, I might have saved them any cost at all by not putting on so much weight.

All around us, people are decorating their houses with lights. We really feel the humbugs of the street. I suppose that they are all happy to be in new properties and some have children but I just can’t bring myself to join in that spirit. Actually, Pauline & I are having our first of two Christmas dinners tomorrow. Each year, we buy a turkey to eat because we like it but mainly for stock to make soup for us and the gravy on Christmas Day when we cook for the family. Quite expensive turkeys, aren’t they?

Saturday, 8th December, 2018

Little Liz

Another grey, day which started damp and improved slightly over the afternoon. According to the weather forecast we should have a run of dry and bright days to come. Wrote a review of our Tenerife rental property this morning. I like to do that because I prefer to see honest appraisals when I am choosing.

Otherwise, it has been a quiet day of cleaning up my computer, upgrading the core system on our iPads, and replying to my sister Liz. Every year she asks for my address in order to send me a Christmas card. I know I move quite a lot but she has known this one for three years and still hasn’t recorded it. Baby sisters are hopeless.

The kitchen has been smelling tantalising today with turkey roasting in the oven. It is something of an indulgence because it will largely become turkey soup and turkey stock for Christmas Day Lunch but it has provided us with a delightful meal this afternoon. Otherwise, Brexit takes centre stage as we near the dénouement to use that well known English term. All around the country and in spite of terrible weather, People’s Vote rallies have been taking place although you wouldn’t know that from the BBC who studiously missed it while leading on the protests in France. Strange that!

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Week 518

Sunday, 25th November, 2018

The top of our adopted street.

Another glorious Sunday. We have spent the day ;at home on this quiet, golfing development just metres from the sea. The sun has been particularly strong and the temperature reached 25C/77F with no breeze. We have done what we would do at our UK home – sitting on the patio discussing World events. In recent years, we have been amongst other hotel gusts and it is nice to be private and to enjoy the sun and the pool without compromise. This is definitely the way for us in the future.

The bottom of our adopted street.

We leave for Gatwick at the weekend and will do a quick dash to France a few days later to do some shopping before Christmas. I don’t know why I mention that because we couldn’t care less about Christmas other than many places seem to close up. Our discussions today have virtually crystallised our intention to drive down to Girona just over the French/Spanish border for the month of July with a couple of nights in Bordeaux en route. The whole trip will encompass at least five weeks with a couple of hotels plus one in Bordeaux either way.  September in Greece and November in the Canaries plus a couple of city breaks should get us through 2019.

Monday, 26th November, 2018

Our last week of this month away. The pool cleaner arrived late and so we had our first swim of the day late which meant we wouldn’t have time to go out walking and be back in time for Daily Politics (now Politics Live). We just lay out in the sunshine around the pool. We were doing fairly mundane things. Pauline had received our car insurance renewal demand. It was £50.00/€57.00 more than last year. Exactly as last year, she went to our current company’s website and applied as a new customer and saved £50.00/€57.00. It looks as if we will just cancel our existing contract and start a new one as we did last year.

Nick Herbert, MP – Arundel & South Downs

While we were watching Politics Live, we heard that Theresa May was addressing the House of Commons at 3.30 pm. We decided to clear our diaries and watch. In the whole of the Commons, she received support from three MPs and one was ours – Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel & South Downs. We will need to make sure he is toast at the next election. Our constituency was hugely Remain. The Commons is massively opposed to May’s deal but for opposing reasons. The only solution looks like General Election (Tory turkeys voting for Christmas) or a People’s Vote which would be difficult to square with the poor of the North and East. 

I still think this latter choice is the least worse choice which is why I’ve spent so much time canvassing for it. All will come clearer very soon. The worst that can happen is that we leave the EU to placate millions of dispossessed who had and, largely still have, any real idea of the consequences of their decision.

Tuesday, 27th November, 2018

San Blas

One of those typical, Canarian mornings that opened with sunrise behind a huge bank of ominous cloud. Breakfast, download of newspapers, prepare for first swim and the sky is blue, the sun is up. There is not a single cloud in sight. We started the first part of our 27th hour of swimming in 27 days. Completed second half this afternoon. Just three days and three hours left before return to Sussex.

After a swim and coffee, we set off on an hour long walk to a small settlement called San Blas on the coast of south eastern Tenerife. It is essentially residential with an emphasis on holiday rental accompanied by the services that the tourist demographic require.

It sounds ‘snooty’ but the emphasis is on English services for English people who cannot or are not prepared to interface with Spanish/Canarian society. Guinness Pubs, Aberdeen Steak Houses, etc. are the very stuff of Canarian’s supply to this Anglophile demand. The sign below is typical of the Canaries:

There is no effort to be made in San Blas. Just follow the signs and you can access England in the sun.

We walked back in time for Politics Live and the Brexit debate. Another swim in the sunshine and then relaxation. It is funny but, after an hour’s rest in the sun, I was feeling lazy and in need of exercise. I seem to have reset my body clock and may have to live on a permanent treadmill. Worth considering.

Wednesday, 28th November, 2018

A momentous day. Up early and sunshine from dawn to dusk. Early swim, long, 2hr walk followed by second swim. We have now done 28 hrs of swimming and 50 hrs of walking. The photo below was taken a few days ago from the top of our road. I can’t believe that is snow on top of the mountain but it might be.

After 2 x half hour swimming + 2hrs walking, we felt we could settle down to sunbathing and politics in equal measure. Not only did BofE analysis tell us that we will all be poorer under any scenario of Brexit other than Remain but, as I predicted almost two years ago, Labour have said that they expect it unlikely they will force a General Election and the likeliest resolution will be a People’s Vote. John McDonnell said he would vote Remain. Even though I have believed this since the referendum, there have been times of doubt. It is good to see my prediction confirmed.

We celebrated with sea bass en papillotte and roasted peppers with a chilled bottle of Rioja. We leave on Friday so we are having to eat down the fridge/freezer and drink the wine cellar. It’s a nightmare.

Thursday, 29th November, 2018

Another, glorious day for our last full one this month. We leave for the airport tomorrow morning and Gatwick tomorrow evening. Today was relaxing including another hour of swimming. We were really lazy and sat around the pool in the sunshine. We’ll quite miss this street. It is quiet, sunny and private.

On the street where we’ve lived.

I have written before that we don’t go ‘on holiday’ but just live somewhere else for a while. This is exactly what we’ve been doing here. We’ve really enjoyed ourselves and our destination but we will happily say farewell and move on. We do not have any emotional attachment to the place. It provided us with exactly what we wanted and that is it.

Tomorrow morning we will hail a cab to the airport and fly back to the West Sussex coast for Christmas. As residents of Erehwon, we will start to plan our next residence.

Friday, 30th November, 2018

It doesn’t matter how experienced we are at travelling or how blasé we become or how much we are enjoying the experience, Pauline & I always react in the same way. A couple of days before, we anticipate leaving and want to get on with it. The day of leaving, we are always ready far too early and itching to move. And so it was at the end of this month. This morning, having gone to bed around midnight, I was awake and raring to get going soon after 5.00am. Actually, we didn’t get up until just before 6.00 am, had a liquid breakfast, finished the packing, downloaded our newspapers and emails and went through the routines for leaving. Outside, everything suggested another, lovely day but, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

The bright, white speck of light at the top is the space station.

In this case, we are not in a hotel so we made sure all the furniture that we had placed to suit our routines were replaced into the owner’s choice. We cleaned the house although a team of cleaners would almost certainly blitz the villa as soon as we left. Suitcases outside, all doors and windows locked, final check of bags, documents, valuables, etc., and we were off. We took the first taxi which was waiting. Unfortunately, it was driven by a madman who had obviously got anger management problems and was determined to vent his spleen on anyone within 100ms of his car. What it did mean was that the journey to the airport was very quick and cheap – about €15.00 – and we still managed to live to tell the tale.

Sala Montana Roja

Airports are so much more user-friendly nowadays. I remember queuing for hours in what amounted to a cattle shed for tourists at the old, Athens airport. It was almost as if they weren’t interested in our comfort and pleasure. Of course, we were poor, young teachers then. Now, you can turn up and drop your bags any time you choose. We were in the airport 4hrs before flying. Having dropped off our bags, we went through passport control without being checked, went through security in literally 5 mins and then on to the only private lounge in the airport – Sala Montana Roja – which was amazingly quiet. Admittedly, it is not the greatest offering we have seen but it was comfortable, peaceful and provided refreshments. I picked up a bottle of white wine, a bowl of olives and some Iberico Ham and we whiled away about 3 hrs with our iPads.

Pollarded trees in Angmering Square dressed for Xmas.

I don’t know if I told you but I had bought Tui flights because they fitted our timings perfectly. They were actually much more expensive than Easyjet which also flies out of Gatwick or Ryanair which goes from the ungodly Stanstead. The planes, the service both in the airport and on the plane are absolutely excellent. Their punctuality pleased us and we’d happily book with them again. Landing at Gatwick around 7.00 pm, our bags were quickly off and we met our taxi driver. We chose not to chat much as he drove us home on a journey of about an hour We did learn that he had been a taxi driver all his life and, in his spare time, made fitments for dolls’ houses. We didn’t pursue that too much in case it went where we didn’t want to go. What he did do was drive us through our village square which was lit up for Christmas which was nice – or something.

Saturday, 1st December, 2018

We are moving towards that desperate time they call Christmas. Let’s hope we all get through it quickly and welcome in the New Year. Before the end of this year, the Blog will celebrate the start of its 11th year of existence which is an achievement in some way and Pauline and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary which is an achievement in some way and next April, we will celebrate 10 years of retirement which is an achievement in some way.

Anyway, don’t be put off by me. You enjoy the new month, the forthcoming celebrations and the welcoming of a new year with all the possibilities that it should bring. Have a lovely weekend. I’m off to Sainsburys.

Tesco Christmas Hangar

Spoke too soon. I’m off to Tesco because Pauline has squillions of pounds in vouchers to redeem by the end of this week. Tesco in West Durrington is like an aircraft hangar with food. Today is supposed to be the busiest shopping day before Christmas according to the BBC but you can’t trust them and their ‘fake’ vicars. Actually, as this hastily snatched photo shows, in spite of all the shoppers, it still looks fairly empty. We bought a turkey as we do every year. It’s not for Christmas day but to make stock for soup and to supplement the gravy on the big day. We bought lots of fish, a big chicken and two tons of vegetables and fruit plus all the ingredients for three Christmas cakes and two Christmas puddings (Don’t ask.).

The whole bill came to about £170.00/€192.00 but we actually paid about £140.00./€158.00 and we had about 15 vouchers giving us points towards our next £25.00/€28.00 off. Most of this largesse is because we’ve been away for a month and Tesco have begun to panic that we’ve left them for a rival. Their rivals are panicking for the same reason and also trying to entice us back. It is lovely to hold a strong hand for a while but they’ll soon all twig.

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Week 517

Sunday, 18th November, 2018

A wonderful day started early with juice and tea and newspaper review on Sky News followed by interviews with Corbyn and May. It was followed by a fascinating Marr Show on which, Andrew Marr, a declared Brextremist, lost his cool in an interview with a member of the Labour ‘Shadow’ team. The BBC seem to be burning their boats and going for broke. Will there be any way back for them?

An hour long swim in the sunshine followed by an hour sunning ourselves on the patio. These are great times for family planning – by that I mean planning our family future. We always have ‘5-Year-Plans but, today, we allowed our minds to consider the next 10 – 15 years. Will we both still be here? Will it be just one of us? We have no children.  Do we want to have hundreds of thousands of pounds tied up in property? Should our aim be to use Equity Release, sell up and rent or sell up and downsize? We are going to mull over these options. There is no hurry of course.

The glory of the Canarians skies.

We did a second swim which brought our swimming time to 18 hrs since we arrived. We do (approx) 2 lengths per minute or 120 per hour so we have completed 2,160 lengths since we arrived. I have shoulders like tree trunks after all that. We should complete another 12 hours swimming or 1,440 before we leave which will make a grand total of 3,600 lengths. I must create a spreadsheet for this but not before showing the wonderful sky shining over the pool this evening.

Monday, 19th November, 2018

All together now – Aaagh.

A couple of days ago, I went over a ridge and twisted my knee, ankle and bruised my foot. My foot swelled up and was hot and fiery. My knee was just uncomfortable and throbbing. I tried to pretend to myself that I just needed to walk it off but I found I couldn’t get my shoe on and I couldn’t put weight on one side of my foot.  I could hobble out to the pool which allowed me to increase my swim time to (partially) compensate for lack of walking. I watched an Attenborough programme about penguins last night and suddenly realised what they reminded me of in their walking style although they didn’t seem to have bruised feet.

It doesn’t matter where I go, I always damage my feet. I was regularly doing it in Greece. Once, I cut my foot badly on the entrance to the shower of our cabin on the ferry to get across the Channel as we set off for 6 months. When I got to the house, I got up on the first morning, forgot where I was, walked into the table and broke my toe for at least the third time in my life. Pauline used to panic when I screamed in pain. Nowadays, she just rolls her eyes and gets out the First Aid kit.

There could be worse places of confinement.

Because of my stupidity, I have been less active than I need to be. Fortunately, I have been saved from going stir-crazy by having this lovely pool and by the turn of events in the British, political scene. I have been listening to BBC R4 via my iPad and watching BBC News/Sky News/ITN News/Parliament Channel, plus, joy of joys, I have access to lots of Greek/Italian/French/Spanish channels and their take on Brexit is fascinating.

Tuesday, 20th November, 2018

Wonderful, warm and sunny day. My foot was feeling better and we went for a walk after doing our first, 30 mins swim. After returning to our villa, my foot began to swell so we decided to stay around the pool. Actually, we both had too much sun today because our main activity was swimming. My smartphone told me that, when the temperature reached 24C/75F here, our home village was feeling 4C/39F.

Smartphone balanced on my knee.

Actually, in spite of the fantastic Wi-Fi, I find that I am using my phone round the pool rather than my iPad. The screen on an iPad is terrible in the sunshine. I can’t believe what is available to me while abroad these days. After spending hours of my life outside Greek, newsagents’ sheds waiting for a ferry to deliver day-old copies of The Times, nowadays, the internet brings everything to me instantly.

I remember Pauline despairing as I lay in scorching, hot sunshine on Greek beaches while reading the History of Trade Unionism (1894) by Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887) by Ferdinand Tönnies. Of course, I had to carry those huge tomes with me on holiday. Today, I had the great pleasure of watching the Governor of the Bank of England being interviewed by Nicky Morgan and the Treasury Select Commitee as it was streamed ‘live’ by The Independent on my smartphone balanced on my knee as I sat in the sunshine round the pool.

Wednesday, 21st November, 2018

This was the day I got back on track with my exercise. We completed our 21 hours of swimming over 21 days but also got back to a long walk. In fact, although my foot is still bruised and swollen, I managed to get my shoes on and we did a long walk. Not only did it

make me feel psychologically better but the swelling went down and didn’t fully return over the evening’s rest.

We are staying in a rented villa in the middle of a huge golf course that runs from the coastline right up towards the mountains. It seems to be popular with wealthy wrinklies who charge about on electric, golf buggies. What it is characterised by is manicured grass with beautifully managed backdrops. We went for a coastal path walk which is literally 200ms from our villa and within view of the Marina. The only hazard is from misfit golf balls.

Thursday, 22nd November, 2018

A lovely day of exercise and challenge. I managed to do an hour of swimming and two hours of walking. I felt quite tired at the end of it but it was a good, satisfied feeling.

Loooking in to the Future.

The pool cleaner arrived at 8.30 am and we swam as soon as he was gone. Around 10.00 am, we set off for an hour’s walk up to a large supermercado which has just reopened after refurbishment. The sun burned our backs as we walked up – and it is almost entirely an upward gradient from the coastal path where our villa is to Las Chafiras further into the island’s interior.

We bought two, large Pescado Lubina – Sea Bass – priced at €7.25/£6.42 per kilo and two  Pescado Dorado – Gilt Head Bream – priced the same as the Bass. It all came from a wonderfully stocked and beautifully presented fishmonger’s counter. The fish were expertly trimmed, de-scaled and gutted in quick order for this fantastic price. How can they do it so much cheaper than in the UK?

We filled our bags with wine, oranges and grapes, bell peppers as big as breeze blocks, tomatoes (the very stuff of life), herbs and olive oil. At the checkout, the girl called a taxi for us and it arrived by the time we were out of the doors. It took about 10 mins to drive the route it had taken us an hour or so to walk there.

Within a few minutes of unpacking our groceries, we were swimming our second half hour of the day in hot, blinding sun. We ended with smoked salmon, iberico ham, cheese and biscuits for our meal. Nice bottle of Tempranillo to ease it all down. And rest…

Friday, 23rd November, 2018


Gorgeous day. We have managed to do our hour’s swimming and two hour’s walking plus spend plenty of time relaxing around the pool in the sun. The temperature has reached just 24C/75F but, with an absence of breeze off the sea, has felt much warmer in our back garden.

It is weird but there are no seasons here. The lemon tree is covered in small, undeveloped fruit, large, developed and ripening fruit and flowers as well as buds all at the same time. Nothing gets time to rest and rebuild for the next season – because there isn’t one. We have a lovely, flowering

bush which has lit up the patio in constant flower since we arrived. I recognise it as the Marigold Bush or Tagetes. In the warm sunshine , it is constantly attended by small, hover bees.

We have the ubiquitous Palm Trees plus many, different cactus and assorted ‘Succulents’. We also have a number of plants I have never see before and can’t identify. This one is particularly interesting with its lilac/mauve flowers born out of delicious, orange/yellow cases. Set against the black, volcanic rock, it is delicate and beautiful in the sunshine.

Saturday, 24th November, 2018

A lovely, day which started and finished with a swim in our pool. We have now been here 24 days and completed 24 hrs of swimming plus 40 hrs of walking. Today, we did a 2 hr walk to a shop that sells boxes of Spanish nougat and marzipan sweets from Valencia which we can take home and give to our friends for Christmas presents.

We were absolutely shattered after all that exercise followed by an hour or so sunbathing. Sun really does take it out of one. I watched England thrash Australia in the rugby (on Sky) and then Spurs thrash Chelsea in the football (on BT Sport).  Pauline cooked a wonderful meal of chicken joints marinaded in oregano, garlic, lemon and olive oil and accompanied by roasted vegetables – bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and florets of cauliflower. It was lubricated by a delightful bottle of red wine from the local, corner shop and costing €3.50/£3.10.  Bodegas de Abalos proved to be a delightfully fruity accompliment.

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Week 516

Sunday, 11th November, 2018

It was 49 years ago last month that I left home. It was a comfortable, middle class home in a small and comfortable, East Midlands village. Repton felt claustrophobic, narrow and suffocating and I was delighted to escape although I was naive, very innocent and unprepared for the real, often cold world I found myself in. Soon, a sense of being out of my depth in an alien environment felt appropriate and right. I wasn’t trying to recreate the cosy, family life I had left and I seldom returned to over the next 40 years or so.

The old men of Ripon.

I wanted to go to Newcastle University to read English Lit. but I couldn’t bring myself to work hard enough at my Grammar School where A Level preparation definitely didn’t suit my learning style. I was good at and hard working in Rugby and Contract Bridge. Instead, I went to Ripon College in North Yorkshire to train as a teacher which is what I had considered from early, teenage years. Although I harboured a real sense of failure over those three years, I loved being there. The work was undemanding – easy, actually – and it gave me the space I hadn’t had at home to learn what sort of person I was going to be rather than what my Mother wanted me to be.

I learnt how to get on with people and, particularly, girls who I knew virtually nothing about having attended an all-boys school. I failed spectacularly many times but learned how to cope with failure. I had some real successes and understood the joy my talents could bring me. I grew up. My college girlfriend got pregnant just as we were leaving for our first posts. She had an abortion. We lived together for a couple of years but drifted apart and haven’t seen each other since 1975. She married in 1978 – the same year that I did. While teaching full time, I had completed an English Lit. B.A. through the Open University and went on to complete a M.A. History of Ideas research degree at Huddersfield University soon after. I’ve always done things the hard way as my Primary School teacher told me when I was 7 years old.

The youth of 1969 – 72.

It was when I got married in 1978 that I last saw friends from college. I don’t know why but I’ve always just moved on with my life and not had much inclination to go back. Just as I rarely went back to my family home, so I’ve just been back for a few minutes to show my wife where I was at college. That college was an all female, Church of England training college. I was a male, (nominally) Roman Catholic. It was a time when English and Maths teachers were in desperately short supply and the college were instructed to grab men off the streets. I was one of just 20 men within a college of 650 young women. It was a culture shock but not one I rejected.

Each year, some of the men meet in Ripon to remember their experiences. It is always on the second Saturday of November. I am usually abroad as I am now. These photos were taken last Saturday at the event in Leeds. I am rather shocked at the effects of the aging process. It is 45 years since I last saw them but I think I’m the only one who hasn’t aged.

Monday, 12th November, 2018


After another hour’s swim, we did a long walk around the area. We walked over a lot of manholes which Pauline is very wary of. In Athens once and in torrential rain we were walking along the pavement when Pauline suddenly disappeared down a submerged manhole where the cover had been dislodged by the force of water. It could have been the last time I saw her. She could have been badly injured. I managed to react to her shriek and haul her out of a hole. Since then, she has always skipped over manholes. I, on the other hand have caught Jeremy Corbyn disease. You may know that he collects (photographs of) manhole covers. I feature the most common one on the pavements around here. It caught my eye because it mentions BT.

Looking it up, I found that BT were intimately involved in Telephony/Broadband infrastructure for a number of years in the Canary Islands. In our rented villa, the broadband speed is excellent. So many of the villas have huge satellite dishes which are now redundant because UK TV is available over the internet. Here, we have Freeview + Sky Sports + BT Sports all over broadband plus super fast wi-fi. Everything comes through a supplier called Movistar.

Internet and English language TV were stipulations of mine in booking this villa for a month but the quality of both is absolutely excellent. I am able to transport my life seamlessly to this location and continue as if nothing has happened apart from an improvement in weather. Another stipulation was a private pool and this has proved a massive success. Although we paid extra for the pool to be heated, it has allowed us to transport our Health Club routine without a hitch. Over the weekend, we had an electrician arrive to replace a light and today saw the arrival of the pool cleaner/maintenance man and the gardener. We are certainly getting our money’s worth.

Tuesday, 13th November, 2018

Another delightful day. I can hardly believe that we have so many satisfying experiences. Maybe it is just frame of mind. We hardly complete a day without being really satisfied and fulfilled. Up at 7.00 am to lovely, warm sunshine. Juice & tea and then outside for a 30 mins swim. Coffee in the sunshine and reading.

HiperDino Express Golf Supermarket

I prepared roast tomatoes with garlic, onion and oregano. This will accompany roast haddock loins for our afternoon meal. Watched the Daily Politics before setting off on a long, coastal walk round the Marina to a supermercado we had found the other day. Hyper Dino Express Golf was neither Hyper, Express nor Golf but who knows if it was Dino. We needed cherry tomatoes and grapes and celery. It took just under an hour to walk there and the same back. When we got ‘home’, we had a cup of tea and then did our second 30 mins swim. We will not rest!

As the afternoon came to an end, clouds rolled in and threatened rain. At 9.00 pm, it is still 22C/70F but who knows what will happen over night.

Wednesday, 14th November, 2018

A lovely day of sunshine, swimming and walking punctuated by engrossing bouts of political reportage. We are pushing ourselves and our muscles are beginning to push back. As we did our morning walk, which followed 30 mins swimming, my calves were tight and painful. We had to really fight on through it.  We returned in time to watch PMQs and eat tomato and humous salad and then we were out again for a second walk before returning to do a second 30 mins swim. After all that, we really feel we are due a restful evening. Unfortunately, there is not much on TV so we catch up on correspondence – in this case, emails.

Before that, Pauline had pre-prepared a cold meal of salmon with pesto topping accompanied by cauliflower salad dressed with olive oil and lemon. Absolutely delicious. With it we drank a bottle of chilled Rioja BlancoBodega de Abalos – which I know absolutely nothing about other than it costs a staggering price of €3.50/£3.05 for a delightfully light and citrus-edged white wine. All my life, I have drunk and acquired a knowledge-base of mainly red, French and Italian wines. In the early days, I flirted with Greek but not for long. It is really good fun to buy wine and feel out of my comfort zone. There are so many lovely surprises.

Thursday, 15th November, 2018

Up at 7.00 am and swimming by 7.30 am. The pool man was due by 8.30 am and we were going out by 9.00 am.. It was a lovely, warm and sunny morning. We set off for an hour long walk to an area called Chafiras where there is a major and well stocked supermarket. It is not a HiperDino but a MegaDino and it has a wonderful, fresh fish counter plus a large, wine stock.

We bought half a kilo of swordfish (Espada) which cost us €6.05/£5.30, two, huge sea bass (Lubina) weighing one kilo between them and costing €6.03/£5.28, plus two, large white fish fillets of a deep water fish related to the Hake species and called Brótola which cost €6.75/£5.92. We also bought 6 bottles of wine – to get us through the evening – two, huge papayas, four packs of tomatoes and a few, household items and the whole bill came to a total of €64.00/£56.10. Quite unbelievable. The cashier even called a taxi for us to take our shopping home.

Of course, by the time we got home, all hell was let loose in the Commons. Rubbish Raab had resigned earlier, Greasy Gove had been offered but not accepted Raab’s post. May was fighting, largely unsupported by those behind her.Her case seems unwinnable  and a People’s Vote much closer. I suspect it is likely to be run in May next year as Brexit is ‘frozen in time’ by the EU. It is not a foregone conclusion but I respect Remain will win.

All this for €18.83/£16.50!

What really amuses me is the reaction of our fishing industry in UK. They voted overwhelmingly to Leave the EU. They did so because they believed that the Common Fisheries Policy allowed ‘foreign’ fishermen to take a lot of the fish stock from their, home waters. Take Back Control was the mantra but they forgot one thing. Taking back control for themselves meant ceding back controls to the other, European nations. Where do our fishermen sell 80% of their stock – to France & Spain and, of course, their response will be to apply tariffs thus making ‘our’ fish less attractive and border controls will slow down the shipping process which puts a perishable commodity like fish at real risk. This was the stupidity of a binary brexit vote. Even the people deeply involved in the industry are shocked to discover the ramifications of their decision.

Friday, 16th November, 2018

I started the day at 6.00 am like it ended yesterday at midnight – glued to the news. The British government doesn’t implode every day of the week so current developments are fascinating. Greasy Gove is playing it true to his name and hasn’t resigned …. yet. He’s still hoping to get the top job although he would be a nightmare. It was 11.00 am before we surfaced from the TV room and did our first swim of the day.

I have to be honest with you, we didn’t walk today for the first time in over two weeks. We moved just metres between the TV, the pool, the sun beds and the dining table. Actually, we both agreed that it made a lovely change although I did feel guilty all day. Even so, sun is a wonderful, life-affirming commodity and we certainly soaked it in today. Our villa and its pool are south facing and receive sunshine all day long. We did two half hour swims and spent most of the rest lounging on the sun beds. We didn’t waste our time completely. We planned out the Christmas meal and started to work on our travel for 2019. So exhausting!

Saturday, 17th November, 2018

A pool on a pool.

Up just after 7.00 am and looked out on the patio/pool to find hints that it may have rained a little last night. Cutting up and squeezing oranges, making tea, slicing papaya and banana – all the daily breakfast routines – laughed about how well the Canarians organised their weather. Never falls much below 20C/68F or much above 26C/79F and just rains occasionally, lightly and at night.

One of my signature dishes.

Drinking our breakfast and downloading copies of The Times digital edition, our attention is suddenly drawn to a roar outside. It soon becomes obvious, we are being deluged by a ‘tropical’ storm. We are relatively new to the Canaries having visited 30 years ago for a week and done 4 months in the past 3 years. Certainly, we have never seen rain like this. We actually have a pool on our pool cover. It is really good fun. If we’d come for a tourist week of sunshine, we would be very upset but having come for a month of living in a different location, this is just great fun.It rained heavily, on and off all morning.

I am writing at 2.00 pm and the sun is out as if nothing had happened. We are going out to do double swimming before our meal which will be roast hake and (my) roasted vine tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, diced onion and oregano. This will be well worth doing a 60 mins swim to earn. After our meal, there is a rugby match to watch. Pauline’s got ‘Come Dancing’ on her agenda and, while she’s otherwise engaged, I am writing to my MP again to demand he supports a People’s Vote. The support for Remain around West Sussex in general and our village in particular is palpable.

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Week 515

Sunday, 4th November, 2018

A warm, humid but cloudier day. We were up at 6.50 am for orange juice and tea. Next was a half hour swim and then coffee. Watched barrow-boy Banks on Marr and then out for a walk. We are staying in a very quiet, underdeveloped area around a golf course. Our villa is very much of a type which middle class Brits built/bought a few years ago and now let out to produce income. Our villa has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large kitchen/diner/lounge/tv room adjacent to a covered patio dining area and a 12m pool. The surrounding streets are lined with such properties.

All around are gardens planted with succulents, yucatan palms, yucca plants, etc. and infilled with macerated volcanic rock. Many have echoes of ‘Old England’ as ex-pats cling to their memories of their homeland. Bistro gravy granules, Auntie Bessie’s Yorkshire Puddings and Oak-leaf tinned pressed ham are popular here along with copies of The Sun. The Canaries are not renowned for culture. We only go for the weather.

Monday, 5th November, 2018

Starting my swim around the Canary Islands

Up early this morning just before 7.00 am. Lucky we were because, as we drank our orange juice and tea, a figure appeared outside on our patio. We had left the gate locked but, as he took out his cleaning equipment and went to the pool, he announced that he would come every Monday and Thursday at the same time because he was the pool cleaner. Fortunately, I had my shorts on or he may never have come back again.

The cleaner stayed about 30 mins and then left as quietly as he’d arrived. We had our first swim of the day. I find it is great ‘thinking’ time. Today, I was reflecting on my recent achievement in swimming round the British coastline. I went on to congratulate myself for taking on the total coast lines of the Canary Islands in my spare time. Crowds cheered me on in my personal battle with the waves, jellyfish and things.

Everyone can dream!

In spite of appalling conditions, I battled on and finally reached …. the other end of the pool. By this evening, we have completed 4 hrs of swimming and 8 hrs of walking in our first 4 days. We have celebrated with roast trout  accompanied by cauliflower salad and tomato salad. It was all supported with a bottle of Los Mollinos (Tempranillo) which cost a death defying €3.50/£3.00 from our local, corner store.

I slept like a log last night and I can feel the same coming on this evening. We are exhausted! Don’t think this is a holiday. It is warm ‘Boot Camp’ with knobs on. Having said that, we did pledge to ourselves to fulfil certain commitments and you can be sure we will do it. We never give in.

Tomorrow, we will start with a swim followed by an hour’s walk to another town up the nearby mountain where we will shop and then take a taxi back because we will be laden with bags. When will it end?

Tuesday, 6th November, 2018

Lots of fruit on a scruffy Lemon Tree

When we got up at 7.00 am, there were signs that it had rained lightly in the night. It was quite a shock for us and, probably, for the plants around the garden. They are, of course, mainly plants that are happy in arid conditions.

The roadsides are decorated with Oleanders and Bougainvilleas that we know well from our Greek garden but the gardens here are decorated with Agaves, Cactus, Palm, etc.. Here we have a scruffy Lemon Tree which is covered in fruit, a Mediterranean Rhododendron known as Carex Paniculata and lots of Cactus and Palms.

All the garden beds are mulched with black, volcanic rock reduced to pebble-sized nuggets. It sets the planting off beautifully and seems wholly appropriate to the location. We are in a golf course location and the coarse grass is maintained with frequent use of automatic sprinkler irrigation but gardens seem to cope without water other than a very infrequent rainfall.

Wednesday, 7th November, 2018

Nice feet … shame about ….

I am writing this on Thursday morning because I couldn’t walk on Wednesday evening and thought I was going to die until I watched United win in Europe in Fergie Time. Even then, I was so tired that I dragged myself the 5 mtrs to bed and slept for about 7 hours which is unheard of.

The morning started with juice, tea and a 30 mins swim. I then took a photo of a beautiful, red dragon fly that settled on our pool cover which turned out to be my feet. They are beautiful feet but the sunshine made seeing my phone screen so hard that I missed the dragon fly completely.

We paid €200.00/£174.00 to have the pool heated for 4 weeks. It really makes getting in so much easier. The pool is also cleaned twice a week. It is suggested that the pool is kept covered when not in use so we don’t lose the value of the heating and the water is kept clean of leaves and insects. We swim 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins in the afternoon. Each time we get out, we pull the cover back over. It is a deep pool with 7ft at one end and 5 ft atthe other. Clearly, the owners like diving in. It is 12.5 mtrs long which provides a good swimming length and gets sun all day long. There is a sizeable patio with four sun beds and a covered verandah with a dining table and six chairs.

Hard Walking!

After our morning swim and some newspaper reading in the sun, we decided to go for a walk acros the moon. Well, much of the landscape here is lunar. We were heading somewhere I’ve never heard of from somewhere I’ve barely heard of and there were two ways to get there. The first was walking along side a fast, main road for about 9.5 kms.. The second was going across country on a footpath across unreconstructed, volcanic terrain.

I was not about to embark upon 9.5 kms. so the lunar landscape it was. It was amazing how hard and unforgiving volcanic rock can be to walk on. By the time we got home – some two hours on – my feet and ankles were feeling real pain and, as the evening wore on, I found that I could hardly stand and walk. I went to bed rather worried that I may be laid up for a few days. Actually, my legs were sore but a few hours sleep saw them recover almost totally.

Thursday, 8th November, 2018

A glorious day from start to end. Hot and sunny with not a cloud to be seen. We were up at 7.00 am and the pool cleaner arrived at 8.00 am. By 9,00 am, we were doing our first, 30 mins swim. We also walked through the golf course area for an hour and a half up to a large supermarket. We took a taxi home.

Some actually come to play golf!

We have now been here a complete week and, in those 7 days, we have done 7 hrs swimming and 14 hrs walking. This is exactly what we planned when we booked this place. Having spent 4 months in all-inclusive, 5* hotels over the past three years,  we believed that we could best maintain our lifestyle by renting and doing it ourselves. We love the fact that we can swim unhindered whenever we choose and cook and eat what we want when we want. It suits us well.

Friday, 9th November, 2018

A lovely, warm and sunny day. Swimming, walking, dreaming in the sunshine. What else is there? After our first swim, we set off for a coastal walk towards a fishing village called Los Abrigos. I must admit that the black, volcanic deposit doesn’t shout ‘beach’ to me but the Spanish are so good about paving coastal walks and supportive of the proliferation of personal swimming pools that the beaches are largely irrelevant.

Our walk provided us with today’s 2hr session and we were certainly ready for a sit in the sun when we got back. Actually, our relaxation in privacy was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Anna, our Management’s agent who was checking we were happy with the property. She was Spanish but had lived in the south of England for 10 years and spoke excellent English.

When she’d gone, we did our second swim of the day and the cooked swordfish steaks to eat with tomato salad and cauliflower salad accompanied by a delightfully dry but wonderfully flavoured white wine which I’d never tried before and which cost €3.50/£3.06. You really can’t ask more than that .. of wine or life. We feel so lucky and yet every time I say that, my tough little wife says, Well, we’ve earned it! Personally, I still feel unworthy.

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

A wonderful day. Up early for juice, tea and a swim. As we finished our swim, a call came from the front gate. It was an electrician ,,,, from Wigan. Actually, he had not come directly from there but had left his home town 25 years ago and works as a handyman here on southern Tenerife. He was here to fix a faulty bathroom light which he managed in no time and was on his way to a tiling job down the road. He said he hasn’t been back to Wigan for years. Why would you?

We are completing our 10th full day here. Just another 20 left. So far, we have met our targets of 2 hrs walking and 1 hr swimming per day. It feels very satisfying although we did break one of our less strictly observed rules and eat red meat today. Pauline cooked slow-roasted, pulled pork with roasted onions, peppers and mushrooms. It was absolutely delightful. Of course, we didn’t even begin to eat it before we had achieved our other targets. At 4.00 pm, I still had 2500 paces and 30 mins swimming left to do.

A view to cheer when England’s wet.

I had watched Cardif beat Brighton followed by a very good England rugby match and I was still waiting for Crystal Palace v Spurs in the torrential rain to take place. We ser off down the road and walked the coastal path just far enough to achieve the target. Back for our second swim of the day and the pork was ready. What a lovely meal. It’s great when you haven’t eaten meat for a while.

A lovely day is closing with Pauline watching Strictly Come Dancing and, maybe, we’ll watch a soppy film on Film 4 before review of the newspapers on Sky and bed at midnight. It is a real bonus that the Canaries follow our time zone.

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Week 514

Sunday, 28th October, 2018

The end of Oxi Day – Sifnos 2018

A beautiful day in West Sussex and a lovely evening on Sifnos in the Greek Cyclades. Here it is a relaxing weekend. There it is Oxi Day. This is the day of ‘No!’ for the Greeks.

At 3 a.m. on the morning of October 28th, 1940, Emanuele Grazzi, the Italian ambassador to Greece, delivered an ultimatum from Benito Mussolini to Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas. Il Duce demanded that Metaxas allow the Italian army free passage to enter and occupy strategic sites in Greece unopposed. Faced with this demand, Metaxas delivered an unequivocal response in French, the diplomatic language of the day, Alors, c’est la guerre. This brief phrase, Then, it is war, was quickly transmuted into the laconic Oxi, the Greek for No, by the citizens of Athens.

At 5:30 a.m., before the ultimatum had even expired, the Italian army poured over the Greek-Albanian border into the mountainous Pindos region of Northern Greece. There they met fierce and unexpected resistance. Within six months, Ioannis Metaxas would be dead; his successor, Alexandros Koryzis would commit suicide; Mussolini would be humiliated; and the Germans would raise the swastika over the Acropolis.

Despite Greece’s ultimate fall to Axis powers, Metaxas’ response resulted in a fatal diversion and delay for the Axis powers in general and the German army specifically. The Battle of Greece was decisive in determining the future course of the Second World War. Today and right across Greece, people celebrate by marching – military, religious and civil groups raise banners and walk before crowds of their neighbours to remember the strength of moral purpose displayed by their forebears in the face of Mussolini and Hitler.

Monday, 29th October, 2018

Up early on a chilly but beautiful morning. Checked my phone which said it was just 3C/37F outside. Went out to test it but the back garden was warm and sunny. My app said that south west Tenerife was 22C/70F at that time and would reach 27C/81F at peak of the day. It also doesn’t fall below 21C/69F at night time. A month of that will do.

Sunny Worthing

This morning, we were up at 6.30 am because we had booked our ‘snagger’ to arrive at 8.00 am. He’d done his job and was gone before 9.00 am and we were on our way to sunny Worthing – and it really was sunny. Pauline had a hair appointment. I had a meeting with Starbucks Coffee. The girl who served me was Polish. She told me that she was 34 and had lived in UK for 16 years. When I asked her about Brexit and how it had affected her, she told me that her parents-in-law had voted ‘Leave’ and that it had caused serious disruption in relationships but both now regretted their vote and hoped to change it. She, herself, had received far more personal abuse since the vote.

Back home, we confirmed our taxi for the airport, finalised our packing list, printed out research papers for the area we are travelling to and had a bowl of home made tomato soup prior to setting off for the gym. We both felt so much better after a couple of hours of exercise and enjoyed our meal of roast duck breast plus tomato salad and cauliflower salad.

Tonight will be relaxing. We will do one more exercise regime tomorrow before setting off for the sunshine. looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 30th October, 2018

Up early on a much warmer morning – 11C/52F – although not quite as sunny. Having had her hair cut yesterday, my darling wife is having a facial this morning at a ‘Beauty Parlour’ in Rustington. Once again, I am sitting in a coffee shop with my iPad. This time, I am in Waitrose café and the coffee is absolutely wonderful. The only problem with these places at this time of the day is that they’re so full of old people. They are shuffling along in slipper type shoes with sticks or trollies to lean on. They sit and complain about the weather – what ever it is – being too hot or too cold, too sunny or too rainy.

I’m constantly trying to guess their age. I am trying to compare them with myself. Do I look and act like them? I don’t think so but maybe I do. I think all old people should have to wear age badges in a prominent position so we can measure ourselves against each other. Have you noticed how a lot of men, as they get older, walk around with their mouth open? Pauline keeps telling me I do that. It looks inane! I’ve been trying to catch myself doing it by checking in shop windows and house mirrors and keep giving myself a good talking to about it. Unfortunately, the action is involuntary and happens when one least expects it.

When she comes out to meet me, Pauline is glowing with health and ‘new’ skin. Close your mouth, she says. We drive home for a bowl of home-made tomato soup and then off to the gym for our last session until December. In the past 12 months, I have averaged more than 10,500 paces every single day and covered almost 2,000 miles. Really enjoyed today’s session and we drove home to a meal of scallops and large, shell-on prawns in garlic oil and served with a tomato salad and a broad bean salad. This could almost be my favourite meal. We spend the rest of the day putting the house to bed for a month and speaking to our neighbours to keep them up to speed. This is our last night in our bed until December.

Wednesday, 31st October, 2018

Last day of October 2018. Enjoy it. You’ll never see it again….unless dementia gets you. In which case, every day could become 31/10/18. It is a lovely, sunny day outside and warm-ish at 11C/52F although it looks as if we’ve had a bit of rain over night.

It doesn’t matter where I go, how I go or when I go, I always get a little manic just before travelling. I am determined that everything is planned and executed to within an inch of its life. I will not forget anything and then have regrets especially when we are away for  a month. This morning is just such a time as the deadline approaches. Just a space for PMQs at mid day and then a taxi (£53.50/€61.00) will appear to take us to Sofitel Hotel, Gatwick Airport.

We fly at 9.00 am tomorrow so this makes life easier and more relaxed. The hotel (£150.00/€169.00) is just a covered walkway away from our Departure Terminal. We’ve ‘checked-in’ on-line and we can drop our bags this afternoon so tomorrow morning will be even more comfortable. What can go wrong? Ah!!!

Thursday, 1st November, 2018

Fantastic start to the new month. I woke Pauline at 4.30 pm and said, White Rabbit. She said, Close your mouth. And then went back to sleep. We were up at 5.00 am and in the airport at 5.30 am. Having dropped our bags off the night before, we went straight through to airside and Airport Lounge No1. It was too early really but we knew we wouldn’t eat until the end of the day so we forced down good quality scrambled eggs and really good bacon. We washed it down with lashings of fresh orange juice. High speed internet and digital newspapers for a while.

No1 Lounge Gatwick

At 8.00 am, we were going down to gate and onboard by 8.30 am. We have extra legroom and the seats feel great. The captain announces that the flight will only be 3hrs 40 mins which is nearly an hour less than we had been told. We took off at 9.15 am and landed at 1.00 pm after an event less journey. I slept through most of it. Tenerife South was reasonably quiet and our bags came up fairly quickly and together. We walked out into the warmth – 26F/79F – to look for the taxi rank. Our taxi took 15 mins and cost us €16.00/£14.00. He was the normal ‘insane’ taxi driver’ and we felt that he was late for his mother’s deathbed but we eventually arrived in one piece.

Tenerife South Airport

We juggled with a large bunch of keys which fell out of the coded key box and then, gradually, got into our villa. As described, it has a large, heated pool outside with all day long sun on the patio. Inside, there is a large kitchen/diner and television room with Freeview channels. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Having dumped our bags, we did the five minute walk to the local ‘supermercado’ and sourced our meal – cheese, biscuits, pickle and some bottles of wine. We followed this with yoghurt.

By 7.00 pm, I only needed 1800 paces to complete my target for the day so we are going to do a short walk of the neighbourhood before settling down to coffee outside round the pool. With UK TV, we can watch Newsnight and the New paper Review before bed. Tomorrow, we have to decide whether to rent a car for the month or take taxis when required. That will be breakfast time discussions. For now, the temperature is 22C/70F here, 9C/48F in West Sussex and 5C/41F in Bolton. Oh to be in Bolton.

Friday, 2nd November, 2018

The night temperature didn’t drop below 22C/70F and the morning broke to a lovely, sunny day. We slept very well for our first night in a strange bed and were up just before 7.00 am. No oranges yet so it was tea and coffee outside around the pool while we downloaded and read our newspapers whilst listening to Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme. By 7.30 am, I was doing my first half hour swim. The water is deliciously warm. We paid €50.00/£44.00 per week to have the pool heated just to take the chill off the water that can appear over night at this time of year. Actually, the diurnal range is incredibly narrow here throughout the year. Today it spanned 22C-26C/70F-79F.

Early morning swim – delicious!

By 9.00 am, we were in full ‘Hunter gather’ mode and out in search of reasonably stocked supermarkets. We decided before we came that we would be reluctant to hire a car and would rely on walking as much as possible. We had researched and identified an area that looked a potential source of groceries. It included a supermarket intriguingly branded Iceland. We set off for what turned out to be an hour long walk and found the supermarket was indeed Iceland and it was well stocked. Amusingly, it also carried many Waitrose-branded lines which we recognised.

Iceland-Waitrose Outlet

We rapidly filled a trolley with lots of fish – salmon, cod and hake fillets, large and small prawns. We bought cheese, pesto, cornichons, houmus, yoghurt, etc. Nearby, we had already identified a fruit and vegetable wholesaler who had a small outlet for private customers. We were able to purchase about 3kgs of large and cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, sweet, juicy grapes and huge papaya for Pauline’s breakfast. We also needed washing powder and other cleaning items, kitchen towels, etc.

By this stage, we had 8 bulging bags and there was no way we could walk home with that. The lady on the supermarket till called a taxi for us and two minutes later we were packed into it with all our shopping in the boot. The young taxi driver drove like his life was coming to an immediate end and we were down the hill at our gate before we had finished breathing. We paid him €10.00/ £8.80 and collected our shopping which had been spread right across his boot. It was worth it though.

Saturday, 3rd November, 2018

Wonderful day although we are absolutely exhausted this evening (19.30). 22C/70F at 7.00 am and 26C/79F at peak. We have been here two, full days and swum for two, complete hours and walked for four hours. We said that we would use this relocation month to up our fitness levels and we have hit the floor walking/swimming. I am having orange juice and tea for breakfast and then doing 30 mins swimming. Coffee and then out for some shopping because everything is closed tomorrow.

Light lunch of tomatoes and humous and the out for a walk to the Marina San Miguel. It means walking round the Amarilla golf course along volcanic, cinder paths to the huge marina. The walk took about an hour and the return felt quicker but was very similar. Why does that so often happen?

Before we went out for our walk, I watched Man.Utd. steal a win over Bournemouth on BT Sport. When we booked this villa, I stipulated some English language television. I was told we would have Freeview channels and I was happy with that. When we arrived, we found we had all of that plus Sky Sports and BT Sports channels. My cup runneth over! The broadband/wifi is fantastic and the TV is supplied by the internet feed as well. Many villas around here are clogged up with huge satellite dishes. Ours has simply upgraded to digital reception. It is clearly the way to go as Sky customers in UK are about to discover with the Q Box. 

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Week 513

Sunday, 21st October, 2018

Another absolutely glorious day. They just keep coming. After breakfast, Pauline made bread – 4 large loaves – while I did the vacuuming and watered the pot plants. We decided that it was such a beautiful day that we would go down to the sea side and walk. We started on Goring beach next to the fisherman’s hut. He was open and selling fresh fish.

We walked on towards Worthing. A morning Yachting Regatta was finishing and the yachts being taken from the water and back to the clubhouse where drink seemed to be flowing freely on the terrace.

We decided to turn round at Worthing Pier. It had taken us about an hour to get there and we had another hour back to the car in the fisherman’s carpark. The Pier was busy and the ice cream sellers around were doing good business. Multitudes of children were living other lives in the play area and dogs, dreaming of exciting smells, strained on their compulsory leashes.

The hour walk back seemed to go much quicker and we were glowing as we got in our car to drive home.

Back in the garden, Pauline cooked calamari and served it with tomato salad and rocket salad – lovely meal to end a lovely afternoon. Still the sun beat down on the luscious green of the newly sown lawn. Hope you are enjoying your day.

Monday, 22nd October, 2018

The fun days continue. Peerless, blue skies and strong sunshine greet us after a clear and moonlit night. Pauline’s doing the washing while I catch up on correspondence. Seems a reasonable division of labour. We are off to the gym and swim around 1.00 pm and we will be back to griddle Tuna Steaks in the garden around 4.00 pm. The fish will be accompanied by tomato salad which I eat at least 5 times per week. I am just addicted to tomatoes.

Morning becomes Tomato

I was reminded of this by an article in The Times which describes the ubiquity of tomatoes in our culture. Tomatoes are such a mainstay of our diet that it’s easy to forget they were unknown in Europe until the 16th century, when they arrived from Central America.

Those early tomatoes would be barely recognisable to us today: they were yellow in colour and probably striped. The people of what is now Italy took to them quickly, calling them pomi d’oro – golden apples – which became today’s pomodoro. The taste of a tomato is a unique combination of five ‘tastants’ – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury (Umami) compounds. That’s why they are so delicious. I grew them successfully last year and now I raid Sainsbury’s for them.

Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018

On Sunday, the temperature on Goring Beach was 25C/77F. On Tuesday, we were still in full sun but didn’t get above 16C/61F. Today, the sky is a little hazier but we have reached 20C/68F. Although we are off to the warmer weather of the Canaries in a week, it is possible that we will be hit by a cold blast before we go.

Zakynthos – Argassi 1981

We learnt while we were away that a girl – She’s a woman of 58. – who Pauline & I both taught and who is related to Pauline, has just retired from nursing and gone on a holiday to Zakynthos. She stayed in Argassi. It just so happens that we were there 37 years ago on our first foreign holiday together. We had been married for two years and had never flown before. In those days, there was no airport in Zakynthos and we flew to the old, Athens Airport – Ellinikon International – and then drove for about 8 hours across the Peloponnese to the port of Kylini, stopping only for a few minutes at the Corinth Canal and again in Patras for drinks.

In those days, Argassi barely existed.   A few houses, a couple of tavernas, a roadside shed selling local fruit and one hotel – the Mimosa Beach Hotel which I know is still there. We fell in love with Greece over that three week stay and the next year visited Naxos for two weeks and Milos for three weeks. We were hooked. We visited Greece every single year after that. We went to other countries too but always to Greece at least once each year. I imagine it will be that way until we can no longer travel.

Wednesday, 24th October, 2018

Another glorious day of clear blue sky and sunshine. Only 18C/65F maximum but delightful for all that. After years eating out in Greece, we love Marides or Whitebait which is known on some islands as Athenians or small fry. On a Greek island, the quality can vary enormously. Occasionally, the little, silver fish are carefully prepared but, generally, they are floured and deep fried in their crude and natural state. Often, it is served with Skordalia or Garlic Sauce.

Back in UK, these little fish are less easy to source particularly having been prepared. We are not natural shoppers at Iceland but we were told that they sold frozen, floured whitebait. We bought a pack at the massive cost of £2.49/€2.82. One pack is plenty for two people. They turned out to be fantastic quality and flavour. We got into a routine of buying 10 packs at a time and storing them in our freezer. We would eat them about once a week.

Suddenly, after nearly three years, Iceland  have dropped this line. I have been trying to find out why. Today, we were going round local branches to buy up existing stocks. They have ‘use-by’ dates of the end of 2019. They are being sold off at the grand price of £0.50/€0.57. At the same time, I have been lobbying the company’s management and, simultaneously, been trying to find out the source of their supply so that I can contact them. What fun you can have when your retired!

Thursday, 25th October, 2018

Another lovely day with lots of sunshine but a rather cooler at 16F/61F. Early out to the hospital for Pauline and then our weekly shop at Tesco. Actually, that was more difficult because we go away for a month on Wednesday so all our ‘normal’ purchases had to be tempered by that fact. Tesco had a special offer price on sides of salmon. We normally buy two but there is no point leaving that in the freezer to de-nature while we are away so we had to control ourselves. That done, we decided to take a day off from the gym and get small tasks done at home.

One of my jobs was reading up on Greek news. We are reminded, this week, of the source of Greek’s problems. In a week when Kathimerini’s leader article reflects that the Greek economy remains very weak and at risk in today’s worsening environment, with trade wars and market turbulence around the globe. International investors are already sceptical about the prospects of the Greek economy and it is becoming even more difficult for those investors to place their money in Greece.

Ironically, it is in this same week when it is reported that former Greek minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his wife Stavroula Kourakou were incarcerated in Korydallos prison near Piraeus port. Greek judicial authorities ordered that the couple be remanded in custody following their testimony on charges of money laundering. The 69-year-old former minister (in the Simitis government 2001-2203) and his spouse denied charges of having laundered 2.8 million euros/2.5 million pounds in kickbacks for a contract to upgrade six navy frigates, according to Greek, judicial sources. They were considered a ‘flight risk’ because of their Swiss property and Swiss bank accounts.

This is the background against which Greece’s economic and political system foundered and, with E.U. membership or not, it will only be salvaged until such corruption ceases to be endemic.

Friday, 26th October, 2018


Looks like today may be my last of wearing shorts until we get to Tenerife. It is forecast to be much colder. Today was only 13C/56F and felt chilly in the breeze. We had a builder here first thing to do a bit of ‘snagging’ and then went out to the gym. At least we were sweating by the time we returned home. The forecast is for 26C/79F for our first week away and that will do fine. In our own garden, many plants which are still flowering are going to get a shock.

Earthquakes, predictably, in Lancashire have stopped fracking for the second day. It’s beginning to play into the sceptics hands from the outset. Less predictably, Zakynthos/Zante in Greece, which suffered a massively destructive earthquake in 1953, has suffered another of 6.4-magnitude off the coast.

Earthquake – Zakynthos – 1953

Earthquake – Zakynthos – 2018

Of course, the destruction nearly 65 years ago was almost total. The destruction today was shocking for the residents but relatively minor. One, noticeable result was the splitting of the harbour jetty – no small problem for islanders!

Saturday, 27th October, 2018

Today is distinctly different. We have woken to 4C/39F but with a lovely, clear blue sky and rising sunshine. We are not prone to frost here and the extremes of weather are moderated by the coastal breeze and sea temperatures but 4C bites into one’s body through clothes.

Hall North to Kitchen South

Our back garden faces South and is sun-filled from dawn to dusk. The front of the house, with its north face, is very different. The transition from back to front has to be experienced to be believed. Fortunately, the kitchen where we spend so much of our time is at the back and sun floods in through the conservatory windows and doors raising the temperature massively when compared to the hallway and the front.

I have put on long trousers today. I was hoping to last a few days longer in shorts leading up to our flight to the sun. Never mind. Comfort before ambition. Today we are completing travel preparations. We are staying at the London Gatwick Sofitel the night before we fly. It means that we can drop our bags off at the airport the day before we fly and then just walk from our hotel through the covered walk way to the airport terminal in the morning carrying only hand luggage.

Packing preparation

When we get to Tenerife South–Reina Sofia Airport, we will take a taxi to our property about 20 mins away. The first thing we will want to know is the location of a reasonable supermarket to start the stocking up process. This morning, I’ve been searching out supermarkets in our area and then walking to them on google earth to check out their accessibility. Thank goodness for such modern technological solutions. Back on the analogue front, Pauline is finishing collating clothes and essentials for a month. Everything is being laid out in one of the spare bedrooms. Fortunately, we have all mod cons so clothes can be washed, dried and ironed. No need to carry hairdryers although we do have a 40kg hold luggage allowance. We rarely use anything like that.

We do take our own coffee and tea although we have found Yorkshire Tea does depend on the type of water available. We always take a multi-socket with integrated USB ports as the use of rechargeable multi-media has expended exponentially. Apart from iPads, Bluetooth earphones, smartphones and watches to be charged and interfaced, we now take electric tooth brushes, electric, tooth water flossers, and my shaver.We should save on our electricity bill for a month although we have had to pay an extra €50.00/£44.00 per week for our pool to be heated but that feels just fine.

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