Week 547

Sunday, 16th June, 2019

There are times that one must be grateful for one’s own life. I constantly reflect on how lucky I am. Pauline says, Not Lucky. We worked hard for this. I suppose she’s right but events constantly underline my view. I was reminded of this by three occurrences this morning: a posting on Facebook, an article in the Sunday Observer and a reminder from my on-line calendar.

A girl who we taught some 30 years ago posted on Facebook this morning that she was feeling depressed. She lives, of all places, in Derby and worked for Rolls-Royce. She has a good job and enjoys it. She has a happy marriage and a young child. Ostensibly, she has little to be depressed about and yet we know that her early life and experiences created in her a residual depression that can never be fully expunged. What a dreadful legacy for a vivacious and energetic young woman!

I was reading an article about the projections for the newish, automatic enrolment pensions which the government forced on employers. They run the risk of retiring on a pension of far less than £15,000.00/€16,800.00 per year, the equivalent of the current national living wage. That’s bad enough but, what struck me even more forcefully was the quoted average national wage before tax is £27,500 and I realised how fortunate we are. Our pension income, after tax, is much greater than double the average national wage before tax. Yes, we did work hard for it but many people out there work just as hard without the same rewards.

You can’t beat homemade Pest.

Of course, life is not made happy by money. It helps and lack of it can be very depressing. My on-line calendar reminded me that tomorrow will mark the 39th anniversary of an horrific car accident that almost took our lives away. The things we’ve done in the last 39 years  …. more of that tomorrow. (Sorry!) …. Today, we made our first pesto of the season. Even in this relatively cool and damp June, our basil plants are thriving. Glossy, green and juicy leaves when combined with good olive oil, ground cashew nuts, garlic, and lemon juice produce the most wonderfully sweet-tasting, verdant pesto. If you’ve only ever eaten commercially produced pesto, you’ve never known the real thing. They are poles apart.

Monday, 17th June, 2019

A surprisingly lovely day reaching 22C/70F with lots of sunshine. We drove to Rustington at 9.00 am for Pauline’s hairdressers’ appointment and my date with Waitrose Coffee Shop.  

Waitrose Coffee Shop, Rustington

We returned to sit in the garden sunshine with our coffee and decided we had too many jobs to fit in so cancelled our trip to the health Club. Even so, I easily completed my 10,000 paces by mowing the lawns, watering all the plants and hoovering the house.

Today is the day, 39 years on from our car accident. I spent a fortnight in hospital with brain bruising and the best part of 12 months convalescing. So many exciting things have happened to us since that time and we will never forget our good luck. Every succeeding day is a joy not least more than 10 years of ‘playing out’ in retirement.  And tomorrow – France with all the fun that will entail.

Tuesday, 18th June, 2019

Up early on a lovely, warm morning, drink, pack the car, set the automatic lights and off to the Channel Tunnel. Travellers have to be checked in at least 45 mins before driving on to the train so has to be factored in to the trip time. I know that Brexit Security checks have also caused some longer delays so our mindset is already prepared for that too. Fortunately, we have no real deadline today. Check-in at our hotel in Coquelles is not until 2.00 pm so things are relaxed. We have our newspapers downloaded and every thing prepared for a wait. Let’s go!

….. No delays at the Tunnel but plenty of slowing roadworks en route. We were even offered an earlier train but declined. The drive was our first, lengthy drive and it really was a sharp learning curve. Driving with ACC and ILA switched on was akin to a sitting in a driverless car. Adaptive Cruise Control allows one to set a cruising speed but leave the car to adjust that speed according to traffic in front. This feature speeds up and slows down the car according to circumstances. Intelligent Lane Assist and Blind Spot Warning combine to keep the car within the white lines and warn of anything over or undertaking. This actually guides the steering wheel, unless the driver overrides it, and keeps it within the lines which is a slightly unnerving experience at 70 mph on the motorway.

Breakfast was running round the carpark,

As we drove in to the hotel grounds and carpark, we were greeted by a ‘flock’ (??) Of newborn (hatched) chicks that ran towards Pauline – obviously recognising her maternal qualities. We had specified which suite we wanted and were duly shown up to it. The evening was interesting as we watched the bonkers Tory Party hustings which was followed, quite appropriately, by a massive thunder storm with flashes of lightning, crashes of booming thunder and a roar of torrential rain. Shakespeare would certainly have approved. He may, even now, have staged it.

Wednesday, 19th June, 2019

We thought France, mid-June, new car, no set times or dates, just freedom. We’ll drive down the coast with the sunroof open and the sun beating down on our heads, highlighting and warming the beaches ….. We’ve woken to more thunder and rain from dark skies. We’ve eaten a little breakfast and are now settling down with coffee and newspapers, Radio4 Today followed by Sky’s All Out Politics before we set out into the world. It might have stopped raining by then.

…….. it has and the sun is out, shining from blue skies. the temperature has reached 24C/75F. We drove down the coast to Wissant and walked in the warm sunshine. Quite delightful!

Wissant Beach – Dutch ‘Wit Zand’ / English ‘White Sand’

We’ve been here many times before but hadn’t learnt of the Wissant School of Painters featured on the cliff.

The Wissant School of Painters

It has been a lovely, gentle day of sunshine, walking and I’ve learned something new about the car. For years, as we’ve driven into Europe, Radio 4 reception has faded. We’ve switched to the decreasingly usable Long Wave until Switzerland or Southern France has blanked us out completely. Now, Smartphone connectivity has allowed us to access radio over internet and put it straight through our car radio. It has changed life completely.

Thursday, 20th June, 2019

The morning started grey but, like yesterday, quickly turned warm and sunny with delightful blue sky and bright light. We had a leisurely start to the day. Radio 4 Today from my iPad at ECT 7.00 am (GMT 6.00 am) with a cup of Yorkshire tea. Down for Breakfast before 8.00 am and back for coffee and Sky’s All Out Politics for an hour until 10.00 am. Out into the delightfully warm sunshine.

We took the A16 down the coast through Sangatte, Wimereux, Boulogne, Neufchatel, Le Touquet and then inland to Montreuil-sur-Mer. It is both much the same as so many small, French towns and yet delightful in its provincial charm. We drove down lots of narrow, cobbled streets banked on either side by tall, 3-4 storey 18th/19th century buildings. This is the origin of Les Misérables and it shows. We parked up on the cobbled, market square at the town centre.

Miserable Chocolates

My usual way of getting to know a new place is to sit and eat and drink while watching the world go by. I’m afraid that approach has long gone which is a pity because these French, provincial towns are just full of eating and drinking places advertising everything I’m not allowed to have. So it was that we set out on foot to walk around and look and smell but not touch.

Jean Valjean was Mayor here.

One can immediately understand the ‘metalled’ footwear of the past because walking for long on cobbled streets becomes excruciating. If you wanted a symbol of European sentiment and unity, this last scene pictured below, shouted it out to Brits feeling sensitive about their host’s view of them.

A moving symbol of Unity.

We drove back to the hotel in the afternoon to find out about the Tory, It’s a Knockout competition and then went out shopping in Cité Europe. The sunshine had lasted and improved throughout the day and into the evening. Our meal was smoked salmon salad instead of all those calorific offerings shrieking out at us in the town centre. End of a lovely day.

Friday, 21st June, 2019

Beautiful morning to open the Summer Solstice. We are actually making the longest day even longer by leaving France at 1.00 pm and arriving in UK at 12.35 pm.

Our hotel grounds in Coquelles.

We left our hotel at 9.30 am and drove down to Carrefour Hypermarket where we plundered the fresh fruit & vegetables mountain. Such wonderful choice and quality at this time of the year.

You can’t beat 40 varieties of tomatoes – guaranteed for taste and freshness!
Bottom right – Fennel bulbs the size of footballs.

The fishmonger had a huge 3 kilo chunk of swordfish (Trois kilos d’espadon) costing €40.00/£36.00 which will do for a couple of weeks and is so difficult to source in UK at the moment.

Espadon – 3Kg of swordfish to be sliced into steaks & griddled

We drove back to the Tunnel Sous La Manche and checked in for a train one hour earlier than intended. Leaving at 12.15 pm, we arrived in Folkestone at 11.50 am thus making the Longest Day even longer than usual.

Saturday, 22nd June, 2019

Lovely, warm and sunny day. We decided to do some supermarket shopping followed by garden jobs. I mowed the lawns and we re-potted the Bell Peppers into bigger pots with a wigwam support of canes. We cut back the sage and Oregano plants for use in the kitchen. Pauline washed, spun and chopped them for the freezer. The cherry tomatoes are in full flower so they were fed and watered. The Rocket was ready for cutting again and we had that for our meal.

Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a tree that we found in Tenerife. I brought some seeds back and sowed them recently. Well, today they are starting to show their true natures with secondary leaves opening like their parent tree. Soon, I will have to pot them up and take them outside to see if they can survive a Sussex Winter.

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Week 546

Sunday, 9th June, 2019

For years we’ve bought new, Honda cars. Generally, we’ve ordered them one week and picked them up next. Not this time. We have had about 12, new CRVs in the past 20 years and we’ve been waiting for the latest upgrade model – a Hybrid, All-Wheel drive, Continuous Variable Transmission, Automatic vehicle which obviates the need for gears. It is a step change improvement on previous models.

This model features Adaptive Cruise Control which, if you use cruise control as we do most of the time, is a fantastic improvement. There is nothing worse than setting Cruise Control to the speed limit and then finding a vehicle in front doing a much slower speed. This innovation allows the car to slow down and speed up  according to what’s in front. There is an ‘intelligent speed limiter’ facility which allows one to stick within prescribed speed limits without breaking the law.

Milan Ring Road – an absolute delight!

There is a facility called ‘Low speed following’ which allows one to set the car to auto when in a slow, queue of traffic. It slows down and stops as the traffic in front dictates and then starts up and accelerates away as the traffic in front allows. That is just the sort of facility that would be useful on the Milano Ring Road.

Often we would hit the Milano Ring Road after 10 or so hours of driving through the night and we were at our lowest ebb. My co-pilot would be at her calmest and I would be pinning my eyelids open. Another innovation – ‘Lane Departure Warning’ would have been very helpful here as would ‘Traffic Sign Recognition System’ which reads road conditions and automatically adjusts the car’s systems to meet those demands. 

Monday, 10th June, 2019

Wet, wet, wet! It was grey and heavy rain. We looked like spending the morning indoors. We received a phone call from Honda to say that our new car was arriving some 6 weeks early on a transporter this morning. We drove down to the dealership and arrived just as our car was rolling off the carrier on to the forecourt. £40, 000.00/€45,000.00 worth of car can look pretty ordinary slicked with protective wax, wrapped in plastic sheeting and in need of pre-delivery preparation.

We had to do the paperwork immediately to transfer our ‘cherished number plate’ that we’ve had since 1997. I bought it for £250.00/€280.00 back then and it is now worth some £12,000.00/€13,500.00 which is rather nice. The new car will be ready by Thursday or Friday so I’ve got to rather hurriedly shift rather a lot of cash from an Investment account in one bank to our Current account in another bank to the Honda dealership’s account in another bank. It used to be done through bits of paper called ‘cheques’ or Bankers’ Drafts in the old days. Now it is done electronically and, however confident one is with the process, moving huge amounts of cash through the ether is a little nerve wracking. The good thing about it is that it can happen almost instantly.

That done, we were able to enjoy the rest of the day by putting in a couple of hours at the Health Club. Home to chicken and salad for our meal and to jeer at the lunacy of the Tory Leadership contest. This country is going to hell in a handcart! At least we will have a new car to drive away in.

Tuesday, 11th June, 2019

Après nous, le deluge! Yesterday was a washout in some regions. Actually, we go off lightly and, this morning, the day opened clear and sunny. We had sun all day and reached 24C/75F as we left the Health Club.

This morning we had to go to our ‘local’ bank branch to do an ‘official’ bank transfer to pay for the new car. Apparently, we are nor allowed to transfer a sum as large as we needed from our home computer through on-line banking. I don’t know how often you go to a bank branch. We haven’t been for about a year. Actually, our home branch is in Oldham which tells you how often we use it. We went in to Rustington which is 2.5 miles away.


One of the things about where we live is that nowhere is far away especially if you have a car. The money was transferred, the receipt confirmed and the car will be ready in a couple of days. We drove home and spent a couple of hours in the glorious weather mowing the lawns, trimming the hedges and generally tidying up. It was delightful and satisfying.

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a tree we found in Tenerife 6 months ago and from which we took seeds. I sowed them in two pots. The first were soaked in boiling water for 24 hrs and the second were not. This morning, those soaked in boiling water had germinated and the others had not. Delonix Regia or ‘The Flamboyant Tree’ is a gorgeous, red-flowering tree of the Med..  We’ll see if it survives in Sussex.

Wednesday, 12th June, 2019

I have never been seriously concerned about climate change and, I must admit, I am not now. I have no children and, as I approach 70 years old, I do not worry too much about the children of the future. Certainly, I am not prepared to turn the clock back on current standards and advances in order to produce a future world of which I will not be a part. As ever, the world will innovate to confront the demands of the world’s climate.

We are told that, although driving, sailing and flying has revolutionised our ability to travel across the globe, we must stop driving, sailing and flying because of threats to the climate. We are told that, although humankind has been a meat eating species for as long as we know, now our meat eating must be curbed/stopped to save the planet. Science is already producing ‘Test Tube Meat’ and plant-based meat substitutes. We are told that fossil fuels which our planet has in abundance should be eschewed because their exploitation is dangerous to the planet’s existence.

I do not support any of those choices per se. Amusingly, however, I find myself falling in to a number of those decisions by accident out of self-interest. I have hardly eaten any red meat for 2 – 3 years. I almost entirely eat fish and chicken. This has absolutely nothing to do with climate change but is almost accidental and an alteration of choice. I have just ordered a  self-charging, Hybrid car. It has absolutely nothing to do with climate change but provided me with fuel consumption which more than doubles the economy of my current model.

Carnival cruise ship

The anomalies in the climate change analysis are fascinating. I read an article today which said, Carnival cruise ships produce more sulphur oxide than all Europe’s cars in total. The solution is blindingly obvious – ban all cruising. It doesn’t appeal to me. The thought of being cooped up on a ship for more than a day fills me with dread (sorry Richard). Even so, science will arrive at electrically powered planes, ships, cars, everything and the power will be stored in massive batteries sourced from renewable energy and humankind will look back on these problems and laugh just as we do about early attempts of men to fly. What we shouldn’t be doing is denying ourselves the benefits of progress in order to salve our consciences about the future generations.

Thursday, 13th June, 2019

Last night we heard torrential rain for about 30 mins. We woke to sunshine and a very clean, fresh world. Our garden was certainly grateful for the drink. The paperwork for our new car – transfer of our ‘cherished number plate’ to our new car and the transfer of registration of our current car to our dealership arrived this morning. We also had to contact our insurers to ensure that our new car would be covered from the time we took it over at 5.00 pm tomorrow. 

We decided that we would have a short break in France with the new car. That done, we chose to enjoy the rest of the day by not going to the Health Club but planning a short trip away. We will book a suite in our favourite hotel in Coquelles and go out for day trips along the coast during the days.

Lunch in Honfleur? Could be worse!

Wimereux, Bolougne, Le Touquet, Berk-sur Mer, Dieppe, Honfleur, Deauville all provide interesting stopping off points for lunch or dinner and a stroll.  It will be lovely to put the new car through its paces while we enjoy the coastline next week.

Friday, 14th June, 2019

Quite a demanding day. The weather has been pleasant plenty of sunshine and 20C/68F. We did some more gardening this morning – finishing hedges, mowing lawns, potting up plants and harvesting some herbs. It’s amazing how long these jobs take.

We received confirmation of 3 nights in a suite at our favourite hotel in Coquelles. We booked return Tunnel crossings immediately so everything is arranged for next week. Out on Tuesday morning and return Friday evening. Next, although we are tired from the morning’s work, we decided to go to the Health Club because our bodies regretted not doing the exercise routine yesterday.

Home for a quick meal and then out to Honda for the new car. It was already out on the forecourt when we arrived. The old car is just 3 years old and has done 22,672 miles/36,487 kilometres including a trip around Europe last summer.. We have enjoyed driving it. Admittedly, the fuel consumption is poor. We are driving an automatic with the air-conditioning permanently on. We drive mainly short journeys and average 22mpg/35.5kpg of unleaded.

Old (2016) CRV

As you can see, the new car is totally different but looks almost identical. Actually, although this is our 13th new CRV and 4th new model, the latest one is incredibly updated.

New (2019) CRV

Just one, small detail illustrates this modernisation. All our CRVs have been automatics. The early ones had dashboard-mounted gear sticks. Later ones went to the more conventional shift arrangement. The gearing was always one of their pleasures, climbing and descending smoothly and almost seamlessly. We drove almost continuously on ‘speed control’ in order to avoid breaking the law.

The new model has the speed limit projected at eyelevel on the windscreen for the driver to see along with the car’s current speed. It features an ‘intelligent speed limiter’ function which reads the road signs and regulates the car’s speed accordingly. You can, of course, over ride it but why would you – unless you are a boy racer and my days are gone on that score. The new car also has no gears at all. The drive is CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission, also known as a shiftless transmission or stepless transmission. It has no gear stick of any sort. Everything is done via electric buttons/switches. Now that does need some getting used to.

The gears are replaced by switches.

Because a lot of the work is done by an electrically powered engine, it is almost silent. This is particularly true at slow, starting speeds. We are reliably informed that our old 22mpg/35.5kpg will suddenly become 52mpg/84kpg which will be nice.

Saturday, 15th June, 2019

The day started off beautifully but has turned gently damp. It is only 18C/65F which is poor for mid-June but feels quite pleasant. I must just wish my little brother, Bob, happy retirement. He’s only 67 and very healthy so let’s hope he’s got a lot more mountains to climb yet. If he enjoys it half as much as me, he will be a happy chap!

I apologise in advance that my Blog entry is once again dominated by the new car but I have definitely realised that I have so much to learn and understand before we go away on Tuesday. There is so much on-board information and so many settings to adjust. It has taken me all morning just to scratch the surface.

Blind Spot Information System.

There are those, of course, who say just drive and all will become clear but I love gadgetry and I want to squeeze the maximum amount of pleasure from this machine. After all, we never know how many more there will be for us to enjoy.

Head-up Display screen rises in front of steering wheel.

When we press the start button, a symbol lights up in the wing mirrors to tell us that the radar sensors are switched on to warn of vehicles in our blind spot when overtaking. Excellent. I’ve always wanted this although I haven’t quite got to grips with the parameters within which it operates. I’m sure I will. The other element I’ve been acclimatising to this morning is the Head-Up-Display which emerges from the dashboard as the engine starts. It’s one of those things you don’t know you need until you have it and then realise it is actually indespensible.

Tried out the ‘Intelligent, Adaptive Cruise Control as we drove to the Health Club this afternoon. It is cruise control but with a refinement which copes with traffic in front that slow one down. The car reads the speed of the car in front and adjusts its speed and following distance automatically. Slight problem this afternoon as we drove down the High Street of our village, encountered a badly parked car and found ourselves being harshly braked to avoid hitting it by the automatic system. This is quite a steep learning curve. I will be sleeping with the handbook for the next couple of nights before we set off for France.

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Week 545

Sunday, 2nd June, 2019

Yesterday we reached 25C/77F and today was just 22C/70F. Even so, it’s been a lovely weekend. An annoying string of events on the timeline, however, was the series of problems with four items of apparatus. My bean-to-cup coffee maker sprang a leak. It is 3 years old and out of warranty. My pressure washer has started playing up with problems connecting and disengaging the lances. It is still in warranty. My iPad has suddenly started closing down without reason. It cost me about £1000.00 about 3 years ago and is out of warranty. Our condenser/tumble dryer, sited in the Laundry, has suddenly started leaking from the water container which collects the condensation. It is 9 months old.

It’s amazing how these things happen. Built in obsolescence is definitely a problem in our increasingly technological age but the tumble dryer was bought from Hoover via Currys has a 1 yr parts & labour warranty plus another 9 years parts warranty. Confidently, we phoned the Helpline only to be told that the slot-in container which collects condensation is not covered by even a 12 month warranty. They offered three solutions. We could buy a new one ourselves. We could go back to Currys and demand a whole new machine. Their final solution was we could immediately buy from them an extended warranty which would mean the water container would be replaced  for free.

I wonder how many people fall for that. They must think we are barmy. When we pointed out that we were sold the machine with a 12 months parts & labour + 9 extra years parts only warranty and that, under the Consumer Rights Act (2015), they were obliged to honour that agreement, the operative went away to consult his Manager and came back to tell us that the decision was to send a replacement part ‘free of charge’ as a ‘goodwill gesture’. By this stage, I had my own goodwill gesture for him. What the ‘helpful’ warranty/service department don’t realise is that these are the sorts of dodgy dealings that I relish addressing ….. but they will.

Monday, 3rd June, 2019

This morning opened on the 5th item to break down as I cleaned the Juicer after my morning orange juice. Separating the base of the jug from the blades of our Bosch, a locking lug snapped off rendering it useless. we’re on such a losing run that I’m keeping tight hold of all my body parts in case something falls off this week.

My tirade via Twitter and email against Hoover has already brought a jittery response. My contact with Karcher likewise. My coffee maker seems to have cleared its own leak at the moment and my iPad will have to be replaced shortly after 3 years of almost constant use.

My wife and I receive a State Pension of about £1,100.00/€1,240.00 every 4 weeks or £14,300.00/€16,110.00 per year all after tax. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live on that pittance. Fortunately, we can treat it as an extra bonus that goes into a savings investment but many have just that to live on. The European Union want the UK to bring State Pensions increasingly into line with the more generous (realistic) member nations. This is how they treat their citizens:

Imagine being a widow pensioner with no occupational pension having to survive on £550.00/€620.00 over 4 weeks or £137.50/€155.00 per week particularly if you don’t own your own house. I know there are supplementary payments but few could really make life liveable at that subsistence level. When a your pension falls below that of Mexico and Chile, you know it is time to do something – and Brexit is not it.

Tuesday, 4th June, 2019

Time has always been an obsession of mine. I think it came from my inability to train my memory. I feel the need to reinforce facts about my life continually in case they disappear into the mists of time. I build a memory board to constantly refer to. These fragments I have shored against my ruins … My on-line calendar stores and repeats events back to me over the years. For example, I know already that a week on Monday – June 17th – will be the 39th anniversary of the most horrific event that has ever happened to Pauline & I. Known as The Great Car Crash, it reminds me that I could have been dead since 1980, at the age of 29, and missed so many wonderful experiences with, hopefully, many more to come.

I was prompted to write about this again by a news report this morning about the battle for Tiananmen Square which was 30 years ago today. I was just 38. Absolutely flabbergasting! I find myself falling into old man’s clichés like: I can see it as clearly as if it was yesterday.

Tank Man in Tiananmen Square – June 4th, 1989

The trouble is that I can and you only have to think about the events of your own life over the past 30 years to realise that distance with some shock. It is important for me to use events like this as a metric for my own existence and, quite fortuitously, I received an item in my newsfeed this morning which recorded the fact that the Beatles split as a group 50 years ago this summer.

End of the Beatles – Summer 1969

I was 18 and about to leave home, go to College and begin the great adventure of life. I was starting out on learning to be a person in my own right. Three years later, as we were leaving College, my girlfriend found herself pregnant and had an abortion. I reflect now, not with sadness but just as an understanding of the metric of time that I could now have a son aged 47. I am genuinely grateful that I don’t and that my life took a different turn

Wednesday, 5th June, 2019

It is only 10 years ago this week that we put our Yorkshire home up for sale. Only 10 years ago this week! We had just retired from teaching and were planning our future. We were back home from Easter in our Greek house on Sifnos and were intending to move south to Surrey.

We were scurrying round, smartening it up in readiness for valuation and marketing. As one does in this situation, we hoped the house would sell in a week and we would be moving out soon after. In the event, not a single buyer came to view the house for 12 months during the downturn and, when they did a year later, we were least expecting it.

Actually, we received a phone call from the Estate Agent as we drove through Italy between Parma and Modena to tell us that a viewing was going to taken place and all the negotiations were done via Skype from our island house. Not only did we agree a sale of the house but all the furniture as well which was a boon. For a few years, I rather missed the familiar backdrop of the Yorkshire / Lancashire moors but that has faded into the mists of time. I wouldn’t go back to live. Life is so much easier in Sussex.

Thursday, 6th June, 2019

Quarry Court Garden – June 2010

Just one year on from yesterday’s memory and 9 years ago this week, we had flown home temporarily from Greece to tie up the sale of our house in Quarry Court, Huddersfield. We left our Greek house to look after itself for a month with our car in the garage and the garden serviced by an automatic watering system.

We were in our final 4 weeks of our Yorkshire home. We had sold it with most of its furniture but, after 10 years living there, much was left to clear out. We had to hire a car to get around. We got that from Enterprise in Woking. I still receive emails from them 9 years on.

We had nowhere to live when we got home from Greece in October. The remainder of our goods and chattels were taken away to storage. The money from the house sale was arranged to be transferred into three, separate Banks for safety and we set off for Manchester airport. At that point, things started to go wrong. Our solicitor informed us that there had been a ‘technical hitch’ in our buyers’ solicitors office. We panicked. We had just cancelled all the house services including the insurance and would be in the air for about 4 hours.

The moment we got to Athens airport, Pauline had to phone the insurers to extend our house insurance for a couple of days until the buyers sorted out their problems. I can still feel the stress of that time. However, we did it and moved ahead. Only 9 years ago and so much water under the bridge. I really do wonder how many more exciting experiences we’ve got to have by 2018.

Friday, 7th June, 2019

Glorious start to the day – RAIN. We have forgotten what it looked like. The lawns are jumping with joy. It has come the day after our area was suggesting that water controls/hosepipe bans may well be necessary this summer because the Winter has been so dry.  

I started the week listing a number of relatively young machines which were already breaking down. I have spent quite a lot of time addressing these problems. Particularly, our Hoover Condenser Tumble Dryer is only 9 months old and the company was trying to wriggle out of its responsibility. When we phoned the ‘Warranty Department’ in Bolton they tried to say that the company had designated the ‘water container cassette’ as a consumable item and not as a machine part covered by the 1 year Parts & Labour Guarantee and that we would need to purchase a replacement or we could take out additional insurance from them which would cover the part. Lastly, they said we could go back to the retailer, Currys/PCWorld and demand a new machine.

As soon as we baulked at these suggestions and pointed out their illegality under the Consumer Rights Act (2015), the Warranty Department decided that we would be provided with a replacement part ‘as a gesture of good will’. That was like a red rag to a bull. I immediately wrote in very strong terms on Twitter and by email to the company’s management pointing out the weakness of their position. This morning a replacement part arrived by post from Milan. Hoover is owned by Candy which is based in Italy. What is important to note is that the company’s policy was to evade their commercial/legal responsibility and it is possible/probable that less articulate, determined, time-poor customers would have been browbeaten into coughing up extra money.

Contrast this with Karcher who received one, short email from me and informed me yesterday that they were despatching a complete replacement by return. It arrived this morning by Parcelforce. Warning to companies – Beware pensioners with half a brain and access to social media!

Saturday, 8th June, 2019

A busy day of strong winds and some rain although warm. We visited Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons which are all in our locality. Delighted to find that swordfish is back on sale after quite a long period without it. We love griddled swordfish steaks and bought a joint for future use.

Hoover/Candy have contacted me and offered us a chance to return our 9 month old Condenser-Tumble Dryer in exchange for a new one. It is something we may take up although it is hard to see that it will be much improved because the principle parts are the same.

I was reading my Blog from 5 years ago – the summer that we sold our Greek house. On this day, we finished clearing our garden of the Winter weeds which is a far bigger job than it sounds and we ate a meal of roast leg of pork. Pork was always my favourite meat and particularly crackling.

However, that really isn’t what struck me. It is that we haven’t eaten any meat apart from chicken and duck for such a long time – perhaps a couple of years or so – that pork appears as a weird concept. Unusually, as we walked through Sainsburys today, we talked about pork spare ribs. We even hovered over them in the meat aisle and then decided that it was a step too far.

After our daily gym & swim, our meal today was a timbale of crabmeat, some smoked mackerel and smoked salmon accompanied by a green salad and a tomato salad. Get behind me meat! I’m not a Tory cabinet minister feeling the need to confess to drug taking – something which seems to be all the rage.

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Week 544

Sunday, 26th May, 2019

Our EU election is almost forgotten in the popular mind but today sees the majority of the rest of Europe go to the polls. Of course, as EU citizens, we are allowed to vote in any member country but additional registration is required. On Thursday when we voted, many – possibly 1000s – of foreign nationals were disenfranchised in spite of being formally and legally registered and entitled. The cock-up or conspiracy theories abound but The Guardian reports:

The government is facing the prospect of being sued by campaigners for EU citizens in the UK and British nationals abroad who were denied a vote in the European parliament elections.

As in so many other things, the Government blamed everything and everyone else including Local Authorities. That is fairly disingenuous. They were repeatedly warned that it would happen but, like about so many things, they were in denial. They didn’t want to admit the elections were taking place. They don’t want to admit Brexit just isn’t doable. I believe that our Government was culpably negligent. The payback will be the opposition parties uniting with disaffected Tories defeating the executive and forcing a General Election. The price of any voting pact will be the cast-iron commitment to a confirmatory referendum with Remain on the ballot. The only other process I can see being viable is to revoke A50.

Monday, 27th May, 2019

Bank Holiday Monday – apparently. It’s 8.40 am and all is quiet. The workers have turned over and are enjoying the bliss of another day off. Actually, we never did that. Days off were days to be enjoyed doing stuff. About 25 years ago, we went to Venice over this long weekend with an Occasional Day attached. That 4 days around San Marco were an absolute delight and one I would happily repeat. Arriving at Marco Polo Airport around midnight and taking a water taxi through the lantern-lit darkness to our hotel in Piazza San Marco was pure magic.

Piazza San Marco

The culture shock returning from the theatrical backdrop that is Venice to the offices and corridors of our old, mill-town school was defining in its contrast. Of course, you can’t live in a theatre and the economic reality of life reasserts itself.

Last night we stayed up until 1.30 am to follow the European Elections. As we have suspected for some time, the mood for Leave has softened considerably as this BBBC/Press Association release illustrates:

In spite of our late night, we were up before 7.00 am and enjoying the sunny day. Today, on a more prosaic level, we have gone out into the sunshine to try to source some Basil plants.  The Garden Centre is all ready to capitalise on Bank Holiday shoppers in the warming weather.

With 10 basil plants -8 Green, Sweet Basil & 2 Purple or Red Rubin Basil – for about £20.00/€22.70. Over the summer, these plants will provide us with material to produce enough pesto to get us through 12 months plus leaves for mixing with salads.

We will be at the Health Club around lunchtime as we were yesterday and the day before that and every day for the past 51 days – just missing 2 in that time. It is usually fairly quiet at holiday time and the facilities are left to odd balls like us.

Tuesday, 28th May, 2019

Wake to Radio4 Today programme at 6.00 am which is essentially focussing on all things Brexit but with other, interesting topics as well. It is on in the bedroom, in the dressing room and, downstairs, in the kitchen and in the office. It starts on the radio alarm and moves to digital radio via television in all the other rooms. It finishes at 9.00 am by which time real life begins but we have suddenly got hooked on Sky’s All Out Politics which runs from 9.00 am – 11.00 am. By 12.15 pm, it is BBC2’s Politics Live until 1.00 pm.

At 1.00 pm, we leave for the gym where we exercise for 90 mins and watch BBC/ITV News followed by the Parliament Channel which we continue at home over the afternoon. At 6.00 pm BBC News (again) is followed by Local News and then one of the highlights of the day with the brilliant Channel 4 News 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm. The day is topped out by ITV News at 10.00 pm, BBC2 Newsnight 10.30 pm – 11.15 pm and Sky Newspaper Review 11.30 pm – 12.00am.

Throughout this period, I am busy on Facebook and Twitter. The problem is where to make the time for anything else. I’ve got to clean the car. My coffee maker has sprung a leak and I’ve got to sort that out. My pressure washer has started playing up and I’ve got to sort that out. The first is 3 yrs old and out of warranty. The second is 6 mnths old but there is no one nearby to service it. And I’ve got to STOP BREXIT!

This is really becoming overload. Having said that, we do seem to be making real headway on the 2nd referendum. Our fitness regime, although time consuming,  is definitely showing signs of improvement. It just feels like turning up to work each day and our bodies factor in the demands of the routine. Strangely, on the 2 days in the past 52 that we couldn’t get there, our bodies felt lethargic and lacking. Even daily exercise can be addictive.

Wednesday, 29th May, 2019

Up and out early to go to our local Honda Dealership. Just 6 weeks until we collect our new car but we have to have ours Serviced and MOTd. They needed the car for an indeterminate span of time so lent us a ‘courtesy car’. It was a brand new Jazz.  It is always interesting to drive a different car for a while.

Honda Jazz Automatic – Courtesy Car

We have driven the developing editions of Honda CRV 4-wheel drive, automatics since 1997/8. Powerful engine, large cars with high driving positions, revering cameras have become so standard for us that, to get into something low (standard) to the road with reduced engine power and NO REVERSING CAMERA was something of a culture shock. Just getting to the first roundabout and putting my foot down only to find myself not accelerating away from the on-coming traffic was instructive. What was nice was the ‘new car’ smell. It was that as much as anything which persuaded us to change our car so often in the past.

The other thing we had to do today was to organise the transfer of our ‘cherished number plate’ to the new car. It used to be a really longwinded procedure in the past with forms to be filled out and posted off with a couple of weeks wait before the returned paperwork arrived. Now it can be done online and is almost instant.

Really good to see serial liar, Boris Johnson put on a path to the High Court to answer for his blatant but convincing (to the totally gullible) lie about £350 million a week currently sent to the EU which he said would be diverted to the NHS. It has been a long time coming but is well-deserved and underlines the fact that the Referendum was won on the back of duping the ill educated and poorly informed.

Thursday, 30th May, 2019

Lovely morning. We were out early to do our weekly shopping. Asda followed by Tesco. Home and then made a momentous decision. We weren’t going to the Health Club today. We both felt desperate but decided it was the right decision and got on  with it.

We spent the afternoon in the sunshine of the garden. We potted up 10 basil plants, sowed more Rocket and Cut-&-Come-Again Salad Leaves, cut the lawns, watered and fed the Fig and Olive trees and succession sowed salad and rocket leaves.

We harvested our first Rocket and could immediately tell the difference. Our bought Rocket from Israel was harsh, strongly peppered and strident in its quality. The home-grown, picked young was soft, delicate and lightly peppered. Delightful with griddled Tuna. The Government ‘Health Tsar’ was featured today trying to ‘nudge’ families away from highly processed foods in order to raise health levels and reduce mortality rates. We feel so lucky to have spent our lives avoiding processed foods and embracing fresh, home-made meals.

Friday, 31st May, 2019

We have seen May out with the most beautiful day which you could be excused in mistaking for mid-summer. Warm, sunny and brilliant with green grass, burgeoning hedgerows and cloudless, blue skies. Swimming outside at the end of our workout really felt as if we were on holiday. Actually, as we discussed it, we agreed that we are permanently on holiday. It is certainly impossible to differentiate between different days in different places as we trot through retirement.

Coquelles/Calais – Ancona, Italy = 976 miles

My watch app tells me that I have walked 50.2 miles in the past week and 198 miles in the past 28 days. At the end of this month, it tells me that I have walked an amazing 2030 miles in the past 12 months. Can you imagine setting out on a walk of 2030 miles? I checked it out and I found that I could have walked the whole of the drive we used to make from Calais in France to Ancona on the Italian coast and back again and still had another 80 miles to spare.

Saturday, 1st June, 2019

Happy June

Glorious day to welcome in the new month. We can hear mowers going all around as the workers find precious time to catch up with garden jobs that the real population – the retired or lame, sick & lazy – do during the week. We had an early breakfast in the sunshine and then potted up our tomato and pepper plants.

It’s all just a bit of fun which we’ve decided to do as we’re not going away for any extended period of time until the Autumn. When we first moved here I had real success with cherry tomato plants in pots and I’ve gone back to those. I bought some self-watering planting trays which will hold 3 plants each.

We’ve potted up 3 yellow cherry and 3 red cherry plants plus one each of the ‘bell’ peppers illustrated below. I haven’t tried those outside Greece so it will be interesting to see how they do. With our climate, I can’t see any reason why they don’t succeed but I will let you know. I know you’re on tenterhooks!

 We lived in Huddersfield for 40 years and have lots of friends still there. We go back at least once and, maybe, twice per year to meet many of them. One of our friends is tasked with seeking out a new eatery to meet up and eat in every time. She does it very well but it would be nice to beat her to it sometimes.

For quite a few years, I have followed Blogs from expats in Greece. One such is a lad who lived on Skiathos. I was in Greece reading about the experiences of another Englishman in Greece. I read one day of his plight as he ran out of Yorkshire teabags long before he could return to replenish them. I sent him a box as soon as I got home. I have followed his story and that of his Polish partner – especially through the nightmare that is cancer. Even though he has blocked me on Twitter because he is, inexplicably, a Faragist and can’t take me posting the truths about Brexit, I still follow The Skiathan’s Blog most days in a strange, addictive loyalty.

The Scullery Kitchen & Bar, Huddersfield.

This morning it paid off because he featured a couple – Judith & Steven Butcher – who had either owned or worked at a taverna on Skiathos but now had returned to UK to open up a restaurant in Huddersfield. The Scullery Kitchen & Bar looks like a good choice for our next meeting in October. I would even like to see Skiathan Man there to dicuss the inevitable defeat of Brexit. It would be nice to meet him after all these years.

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Week 543

Sunday, 19th May, 2019

The Open University, celebrating its 50th birthday throughout 2019, was established by Royal Charter on 23 April 1969. It was conceived by Harold Wilson and its midwife was Jennie Lee. I entered the O.U. community 6 years after its inauguration. I actually believe that it saved me. I left Grammar School in 1969 with a sense of complete failure. I had been fortunate enough to be given all the tools for success and I had shunned them in favour of sport and laziness. While all my peers had swanned off to University, I had been forced to creep, quietly in to Teacher Training.

I was teaching English to A Level in a Secondary School and felt like a charlatan. I had to assuage my shame and Harold Wilson & Jenny Lee gave me that choice. This Distance Learning approach really suited me. I would work a 10 hour day at school and then do a 4 (sometimes 6 or even 8) hour night in my grubby, little bedsit with my books spread all over the place and my Olivetti typewriter on the dining table. I was 25 and thought little of coming home from school, making a sandwich, opening a bottle of wine, turning on my B&W TV for the news and starting on a 5,000 word essay which needed to be posted in the morning as I walked to school.

Cost in 1975 – £1.25 / €1.43

I look back with amusement and pleasure at the activities I had to undertake – watching television programmes on at 4.00 am on Vasari and Italian Renaissance Art or on British, Romantic Poets and the Rise of Industrial Britain. Sheer madness! My excitement as new units of study arrived: Logic & Rational Thinking, The Philosophy of Descartes, Revolution and Karl Marx. This is what I had been dreaming of!

Finishing the wine, smoking my way through a packet of cigarettes and typing furiously until 2, 3, 4.00 am before catching 2 or 3 hours sleep, getting up, putting my suit on and walking up to school to work another 10 hour day. I had split up with my ex-College girlfriend and had all the time I needed to address this deficit in my life. I felt my self esteem growing as I did these courses although, by the time I completed my final course and received my Degree, the paperwork was no longer important. I had my certificate sent by post. I was already on to the next course – a research Masters Degree in The History of Political Ideas at Huddersfield University.

The Open University influenced the rest of my life. I became addicted to self-improvement, to life-long-learning and to a love for acquiring knowledge. I have tried hard to improve myself intellectually and culturally for the 40 years since I first graduated. If it hadn’t been for the relatively cheap and relatively simple to access Open University system, I really believe I would be a very different person now. Just as I finished my O.U. Degree, I got married, Pauline started an O.U. Degree of her own and then helped me through my Masters. We were both teaching full time but also feeling so grateful and fulfilled.

Monday, 20th May, 2019

Delonix Regia

The weather seems to have tilted significantly into Summer. We no longer expect shock, cold nights, we do expect plenty of sunshine down here. We don’t expect a great deal of rain. It seems appropriate to plant out without fear although I may give it another week before setting out pots of cherry tomatoes and basil plants. Today, I have Rocket … rocketing away, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Tarragon, Chives all growing strongly. This morning, we are potting up and putting out Geraniums and sowing cut-and-come-again salad leaves.

I’ve also got a chance now to use something I brought back from Tenerife at the end of November last year. A tree with red flowers and long, green, sheath-like pods which turn hard brown on maturity lined the streets where we had a villa. I picked a couple of pods and put them in our luggage. Today, I took the pod down from the bookshelves in the Office and looked up for the first time what the tree is called. Its name is officially Delonix Regia which is more commonly referred to as The Flamboyant Tree or Flame Tree.

Having looked the propagation of this tree up, I am advised that I must put the seeds into a jug of boiling water and leave them for 24 hrs after which they will be ready to sow. I’m going to try some indoors and some outside. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, 21st May, 2019

Glorious day, as I suspect most of the country are enjoying. In our sheltered, south-facing garden, the rays are concentrated and increased. It is hard to force oneself to work when relaxation in the sun is calling. Still, we forced ourselves to do a few jobs and a full workout at the Health Club. We’ve missed 2 days in the past 45. We’re still pushing ourselves.

Our village competes in the Britan in Bloom competition. Teams of amateur gardeners can be seen out in all weathers tending to all sorts of bankings, flower beds, woodland tracts, roadside verges. Many areas that look wonderfully ‘natural’ are the result of their hard work.

Pollarded trees in the Square thrusting out to the sun.

We were shocked to find that the trees in the Village Square are hard pollarded every Winter but they come back strongly in the Spring as you can see from the today’s photo above.

Wednesday, 22nd May, 2019

Lovely days just keep coming. Blue skies, strong sunshine, 22C/70F temperature, lush, green, striped lawns and complete freedom to enjoy the day. This is how Retirement was meant to be. The only problem on the horizon – well, on the lawn, actually – is a family of blackbirds who have discovered an excellent site for meal time on the newly seeded patch at the back of my lawn. I have become a living scarecrow and I excel at the job!

Andrea Loathsome resigns

The lawns are striped because I cut and fed them this morning in between political programmes. It is in Westminster that all the focus is trained on today. Will Theresa Dismay get the chop today or tomorrow. All credibility is gone. Her party want her to leave. This evening, as I write, her Leader of the House, Andrea Loathsome has resigned because she already feels tainted by her cabinet decisions and wants to stand for leader. She won’t get it but ego is everything. There will be more to go soon and the Prime Minister may not be far behind. Exciting times.

Whatever happens with Brexit and I still think Remain has a 50/50 chance of success – maybe better, politics will never be the same again. To someone like me who has lived and breathed politics for the past 50 years since the 1968 ‘Students Paris Revolution’, Harold Wilson’s White Heat of Technology and Tony Benn’s involvement particularly in the 1980s, this is the most glorious time to be living through and, particularly, in retirement.

Thursday, 23rd May, 2019

Gorgeous day for Ruth’s 72nd birthday. Let’s hope she enjoys it. She seems very content with her life. She deserves that because she has obviously worked hard at it.

Ruth & friend.

The beauty of the day for me is VOTING. We went out shortly after 8.00 am to our local community centre/polling station. We were the only voters at that time.

Packed carpark at the Polling station.

We put our crosses for Remain parties and set off for the weekly shop. Asda and Tesco today.

In Tesco, the fishmonger had Ray Wings. Had Skate before but never Ray so we bought a couple. I think they cost £9.00/€10.20 for a Kilo of fish. Looking forward to cooking and eating that.

I don’t know if it is because we have not been travelling for a while and need a frisson of interest but we seem to be obsessed with the idea of buying a Canary island property. The idea of having somewhere warm and sunny to spend a good chunk of our Winter is currently quite appealing. Rather than pay out large rental fees, maybe it would make more sense to buy and sell at a future profit. We are looking for somewhere with good, local connections, a couple of bedrooms, a pool and sun terrace and somewhere that we can install broadband internet/wi-fi and Sky television reception. We don’t want to spend much more than £200,000.00 / €230,000.00. Currently, we are looking in southern Tenerife.

Friday, 24th May, 2019

The day has opened with joy – but enough about the resignation of the Prime Minister –  blue sky, sunshine and 23C/73F. We have had to make a trip about 10 mins away to the Honda dealership who are supplying our new car. Because delivery has been delayed (Because of Brexit, Honda has closed Swindon and moved production to Japan) until July, we will have to have our car serviced (free) and MOT’d. In the past 40 years, we have bought 30 new cars and only one has been kept long enough for an MOT. This is number 2. We’ve only done about 22,000 miles/35,400 kilometres so there will be no work on it. We won’t even need new tyres but we will have to hand our car over for a day and drive a courtesy car for a few hours.

Our Honda dealership.

We are looking in the Canaries for a winter holiday property because, we can be sure of good weather, can get reliable internet provision and British TV. I wouldn’t buy in Greece again. Greece is not somewhere to spend the winter months and is not politically & economically stable enough. It doesn’t provide Health services that people approaching their 70s require.

For months – maybe a couple of years – we have been told that Greek tourism is booming. So often, Greek government statistics are heavily revised and so these are being now. Interestingly, Kathimerini is running an article today that rather undermines the buoyant portrayals of arrivals at the airport. The large inflow of tourists from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the last 15 years has led to a 30 percent decline in the per capita spending of holidaymakers in Greece over the last few years.

Last year the average per capital expenditure of visitors to Greece amounted to 519.6 euros: Compared to 2005, when average spending was 745.7 euros per trip, expenditure was down 226.1 euros or 30.3 percent.

This was happening before we left. Taverna owners were telling us that tourists were buying food in supermarkets and taking it back to their hotel rooms to prepare and eat. One-step-up-from-camping was depriving them of revenue. Certainly, the eastern Europeans do holidays on a shoestring which takes the Greek tourist industry back to the ‘hippy’ days of the 1970s and isn’t conducive to raising high profit margins.

Saturday, 25th May, 2019

The start of yet another Bank Holiday. I’m sick of them. Does nobody ever work these days? And, it’s a beautiful day of sunshine and 23C/73F. The world feels wonderful. The rest of Europe goes to the polls tomorrow so we have to wait for our results. Early indications are that heavily Remain areas have shown an increased turnout while Leave areas have seen depreciable falls in interest in the democratic process. So win-win all round.

We went out early to Sainsburys and the Garden Centres. I want Basil plants and Cherry Tomato plants for the patio collection. Actually, for the start of a Bank Holiday weekend, quality plants were a little thin on the ground. Hardly any Basil at all. We’ve decided to leave it a week.

Thought I’d clean the car for the last time. I got my pressure washer set up and did a couple of runs through with a dirt-buster lance and a shampoo spreader. As I went to change to a pressure-rinse lance, I couldn’t get it to fit. After 20 mins frustration, I had a strop and gave up. Having calmed down, I thought I would contact Karcher. After all, I’ve only had it 5 months and it has a 24 month warranty. Of course, the helpline unhelpfully told me that they would not be back until Tuesday.

Built by Karcher. Fixed by John.

Regular readers will already know that I am not practical. I find it difficult – and this is no exaggeration – to change many/most lightbulbs, particularly these new-fangled halogen ones. I was helped by ‘sealed’ plugs because I had real difficulty changing one of those and don’t get me started on drilling holes or cutting wood because it would quickly become a disaster area. Today was going to be different.

Like so many people who are incapable of DIY, I have a plethora of tools all neatly filed in a large tool box. All have been purchased at a time of stress in the belief that they will bless me with the skill to use them. They don’t. I can’t and they get stored in the toolbox until someone with a bit of skill needs to use one. Usually that person is Pauline. Today, she was cooking. I decided to take charge. I Googled my problem and a man showed me how to fix it on a YouTube video. I thought, I can do that. It had taken the man 3 minutes to remove the connector, refit it and snap everything together again. You will be impressed to learn that it only took me 30 mins with the help from a couple of tools from my box. As a result, I am thinking of going into business ….

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Week 542

Sunday, 12th May, 2019

Another gorgeous morning. They tell me it’s Sunday. I just get up, celebrate the fact that I’m still alive and get on with my orange juice. Really enjoying Sophie Ridge on Sunday on Sky TV. She seems to have arrived at a much better balance than the BBC and the Andrew Marr Show. Interesting to hear the inside story of Labour Party machinations. The Janus head is criticised roundly across twitter. We will not vote for their ‘soft Brexit’ choice. We will vote tactically for Lib. Dems.. I have been putting this out everywhere I can think of on Twatter and also on Faceache.

I am hearing that Corbyn’s stance is likely to be challenged by Tom Watson’s group if he tries to push through a deal with the Conservatives without a second referendum. There are over 100 Labour MPs supporting Tom Watson and his Future Britain Group which would make Corby’s position nigh on impossible.

On a more serious side, we are thinking of taking the new car, when we collect it in early July, out for a test drive along the French coast for a few days. We haven’t a clue where. The furthest we have driven down that coast was to Le Havre. We went in a February many years ago. I remember it was freezing and we sat outside a backstreet fish restaurant and ate the most wonderful, grilled seabass under the warmth of a patio heater. It is an experience that has stayed with me over the past 30 years.

Calais to Rouen is 135 miles – just a morning’s stroll.

We’ve always wanted to see Le Havre and Rouen so that would be an interesting drive. It would take a couple of hours down the A16 and the A28. A nice hotel for a couple of nights and then back to Calais for a night before increasing our wine stock and driving home.

Rouen centre

The new car should arrive on July 2nd as long as the container ship from Japan gets a move on and Prime Minister Farage doesn’t declare war on the Orient before that.

Monday, 13th May, 2019

Sunshine all day and a temperature of 19C/66F. Sun, blue sky and bright light just makes the day feel ‘lighter’ for some reason. That’s one of the things I particularly enjoyed about living in Greece. Of course, there were grey, damp days but the sunshine was never far away. The island we lived on has been establishing an ‘event’ over the past 2 or 3 years which brings people to the economy in that flat time between Easter and Summer.

Sifnos Run – 2019

The Sifnos-Run was held yesterday and seemed to have plenty of entrants. Andrea, the Mayor, was competing again even at his age although he was a young boy when we first met him. We were pleased to see two, old friends popping up in the pictures after the finish.

Nikos & his Grandmother

We first met Margarita and her husband, Nikos in the Summer of 1984 – 35 years ago. We had started travelling to Greece 3 years earlier. Arriving on Sifnos seemed to be the answer that we were looking for. We certainly touched down there at least once every one of those 35 years. We watched little Nikos grow from birth to age 20. Here he is, having taken part in the run, being hugged by his Grandmother with a face showing pride and eternal sadness. We wish them both well.

We are getting on with our lives. There is so much more to see and do. Life on Sifnos was a little restrictive and isolating. We have done so much more and seen so much more by leaving. Today, we got up, opened the blinds to the blinding sun and considered what we would choose to do.  What more could anyone ask for? We chose to go to Asda to buy 3 x 60 ltr bags of ‘potting compost’ and then on to the garden centre, which is 5 mins. drive from the house, to buy some Geraniums.

We chose a premium cultivar Kalliope. Kalliope (Καλλιόπη) or ‘beautifully voiced’ was the lover of Ares, the god of war. She was renowned for her eternal beauty. Just what you want in a geranium! 

Tuesday, 14th May, 2019

I thought I would really miss Yorkshire when we left in 2009 having lived there for nearly 40 years but the feeling soon faded. Thought I would miss Sifnos when we left in 2014 after 30 years there but the feeling has soon faded. After just 3 years, I absolutely love it down here on the south coast.

I spend about 20hrs per week here.
Spot the Bees’ Nest.

Today, our village has been bathed in wall-to-wall sunshine and looked wonderful under the perfect blue sky. The flint & brick properties clad in Wisteria, currently stongly in racemes of flower, and the fading Lilac trees mingle with heady blossom of Photinia  and Laurus Nobilis. I cut the lawns, raked them out and cut them again. They are looking lush, shiny and green. By the time I went to the Health Club, the temperature had reached 22C/70F so the air-conditioning was working overtime.

The residents around here have their own Faceache page on which they ask each other for help and advice about various topics they largely share in common. As we are all new to our properties and new neighbours are coming on stream all the time, the in-comers’ pets take time to orient themselves to their new area. Cats, particularly, seem to disappear regularly as their ‘owners’ panic when they don’t come home. At this point, pictures and plaintive messages are put up on Faceache with requests for help.

Today, it was slightly different. A woman in a new property somewhere in the area posted a photograph of a swarm of honey bees that had entered her back garden and formed a nest suspended from her little daughter’s tricycle. She had contacted the local council offices only to be told that someone would visit in just over a week. A quick post on Faceache today immediately brought three offers of help from local beekeepers.

Wednesday, 15th May, 2019

Another lovely day for mid-May. Blue skies and sunshine with a top temperature of 22C/70F. While we were walking out in shorts and tee-shirts, swimming outside and using sun cream, may areas of the Mediterranean were experiencing ….. SNOW! This on Corsica this morning:

Corsica in mid-May?

The world is really going mad.  As long as it is mad in our favour, I will welcome the changes.

Pauline & I taught in the Lancashire, Pennine town of Oldham for most of our 40 years. It was always an impoverished place and, particularly as the mills closed, alternative jobs were few and far between and an Asian community who had been lured to Oldham by the mill work were gradually left in difficulties as they lost employment. My school drew on a wide catchment area which included one which was listed in the government’s poverty report as THE poorest ward in England. Coldhurst ward has now been replaced as the poorest in England by Werneth also in Oldham and it’s been joined by a 3rd, Oldham ward of St. Mary’s.

Werneth in Oldham

The real irony is that Werneth was, during the Industrial Revolution, part of an affluent area of Oldham known as the ‘Grand West End’. In the 14th century, a manor house in Werneth was owned by a family called Oldham. Werneth is based on a coal field which was extensively mined from the early 19th century and, during the industrial revolution, the Platt Brothers were based in Werneth as they designed and built cotton-spinning machinery for the many mills in Oldham and south Lancashire. The tide of history moves in and then recedes. Werneth and Oldham have waited a long time for the waves of affluence to break once again on its streets.

Thursday, 16th May, 2019

A warm and sunny day that reached 21C/70F. Because of a real lack of rain down here, I spent a couple of hours watering the lawns and flower beds. We had gone out to do our weekly shop at Tesco early this morning. Shopping at that time is lovely and quiet and so much quicker.

Cheap & Brilliant.

Back home, the watering took care of itself. Over the years, I have had an assortment of very expensive sprinkler systems but today my apparatus cost £5.50/€6.30 from Argos. It works brilliantly. And while the sprinkler did its job, I spent an hour or so lobbying MPs on Brexit.

The internet and the social platforms – particularly Facebook and Twitter are such instant and democratising tools. As I drive down through the village at 10.00 am, having already skimmed The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian plus half a dozen News Blogs, I see elderly gentlemen returning from the local papershop with their folded copies of The Telegraph in one hand and their dog lead in the other. They are the final, analogue generation.

They received their political information strained through the muslin of formal media outlets – radio, television and newsprint. Apart from writing Letters to the Editor, their ability to influence political events was largely restricted to the ballot box. Now, we are energised and enfranchised by the internet. If a politician speaks on radio or television, I can reply immediately by email or Twitter.

Here, within 5 mins of receiving a Remain Labour email, I was able to respond by circulating my amended copy to every Leave MP in Labour. It basically pointed out that the Janus approach of the party was driving voters away. In the analogue age, any response from me would have taken so long, I wouldn’t have bothered. Now it is a joy. The interesting thing is that it works. Views do change with pressure from people like me.

Friday, 17th May, 2019

Out early on a grey and cool morning. After such a good run of weather, today seems depressingly dark. We were going to Worthing to pick up 3 pairs of shoes. Why we need 3 pairs of shoes, goodness only knows. I have more shoes than space to store them or time to wear them but Pauline is obsessed with buying shoes and when they are not for herself, they are for me. When I challenge her about it she just brushes it off with, Well, they’re cheap and will be useful in the long run. I know I go to the gym every day but I now have 3 pairs of trainers. I will be jogging until I’m 90 just to get full value.

While we were walking through the town, we went down Bank Passage and I noticed a Gentlemen’s Barber Shop. Look at the price of a haircut. I last had my hair cut by a barber in September, 1969 and it cost 10 shillings – £0.50/€0.58 – but £8.50/€9.71! People tell me that this is actually quite cheap but I would need first aid if I had to pay it. My wife is worth so much – as a barber.

Do you remember men’s barbers back in the 1960s? A seated row of men. A fraternity of conversation in a smoke-filled atmosphere with piles of hair clippings on the floor, wafts of clove-scented pomade in spray bottles on the shelves along with ‘Something for the weekend, Sir?’. Old Mr. Coates had the barber’s shop in my home village and the memories of it make me shudder. He was particularly good at ‘pudding basin’ cuts for boys. I’m going to block this memory out!

Saturday, 18th May, 2019

Slightly brighter and warmer today – 16C/61F – but not so exciting. A bit like the idea of Boris Johnson as prime minister! It must be the reason why I am cooking today – comfort food. I am cooking duck cassoulet. We are gradually reducing our stocks of French duck legs & breasts. Soon be time to return for new supplies.

When we do go back to France, it will be in the new car. I was preparing my finances this morning for that event. We have virtually never bought a car on borrowed money in the past 40 years – unless you include borrowed from ourselves. I remember friends in my youth buying cars on hire-purchase. By the time they had paid off the debt, they were going back for a newer car and another long term debt. Basically, a large chunk of their income was deducted immediately throughout their working lives just to drive a car. We always tried to get ahead of that and save throughout our ownership so that we could buy the next. That always put us in the driving seat, to coin a phrase. It certainly allowed us to drive a better bargain on a new car.

E-Call & Emergency Stop

I was interested to see that our new model includes Honda E-Call & Emergency Stop Signal. That sounds impressive, I thought. Good for Honda! Then I read that this is a safety system required by EU Regulation. There is no mention of the requirement of our mobile phone having to be present so I’m not really sure of the connectivity here but the chart above describes its modus operandi.

There is an SOS button which one can press manually if the car hasn’t sent the signal automatically. What you can’t do is turn the signal off. Over all, however, I love these innovations. Anything which will make life safer automatically will be beneficial for me. My only question is: What happens if Brexit does go ahead? Will we lose European connectivity? Like most other things Brexit, nobody seems to know.

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Week 541

Sunday, 5th May, 2019

A bright but chilly start to the day – one which didn’t get above 13C/55F. I’ve been in shorts & tee-shirt for the past couple of months. Actually, I’ve never lived anywhere that I’ve seen so many men in shorts & tee-shirt almost all year round. Today, our bare flesh was something of a bellwether for the changing temperature.

Sundays are newspapers and politics and today was no different. I’ve been finding it difficult to remember that it is a Bank Holiday weekend. While working, I’d have had no problem in remembering we had an extra day to come. Now, I just find it annoying that the workers aren’t away in their …’works’ and leaving the real world to us.

Actually, the Health Club has been almost deserted for the past couple of days. Once again today, after doing our full gym workout, the outdoor pool was completely empty for the 30 mins we were there. We did our full swim followed by 10 mins in the sauna and 30 mins in the jacuzzi and water massage. It’s been a good month of our new resolve. You will notice that my watch has transmitted 28 days of data to my phone. It shows that I missed just one day’s exercise because I drove to Surrey to visit relatives that day.

My personality hates seeing that one blip in the orange bars but I am pleased that I have covered almost 195 miles in this period from 376,000 paces. I am averaging almost 14,000 paces per day for 28 days. I have still not touched a drop of alcohol and have followed a more restrictive diet. Only another 4 months to do!

Monday, 6th May, 2019

Gorgeously sunny morning with beautiful, blue sky. Warm enough to go out in shorts & tee-shirt. I’m told that it is Bank Holiday and, as we went out at 9.00 am, the roads were very quiet. The workers were making the most of it and staying in bed. The retirees were making the most of it and ‘playing out’. Hope that keeps the Health Club quiet this afternoon.

Actually, I was going to Asda to corner the market in Shloer. It is helping me drink more water and abstain from wine. In Waitrose and Tesco the price is £2.20/€2.58, but it has been reduced in Asda to £1.00/€1.17 and I am taking advantage of this and bulk buying. It is not a straight replacement nor could I drink it neat too often. It is bearable mixed 50%/50% with sparkling water. It is also low calorie so it has two benefits of reducing my calorie intake and increasing my water consumption.

In my Blog-post of 10 years ago today, I was enjoying the fact that we were in our second month of retirement and contrasting the before and after states of our changing life style. I wrote this:

After I had got home, I would have opened a bottle of wine while I/we started the cooking, finished that bottle at the start of the meal, opened a second and drunk half or more before the end of the meal. After a sweet and coffee, I would have fallen asleep for an hour or so before waking up and wandering into the Study to start preparing for Friday.

It is difficult now to get back into the mindset that produced these actions but I’m glad I am in a very different place today.

Tuesday, 7th May, 2019

Some people think I ignore ‘Green’ issues. One of my sisters accused me last time we met of being a climate change denier. Neither of these two charges are accurate. There is no doubt in my mind that the climate is currently changing. I would describe myself as something of a sceptic about its causes and resolution. Climate changes and has done over all known records. Man has always found solutions for the effects of those changes. Man will again. What I could not accept is the solution that says,

We invented motorcars but we must eschew them and return to the horse & cart or bicycle. We invented the jet engine but we must now all stop flying. We have been meat eaters from time immemorial but now we must all become vegans.

Returning to the early 19th century or before is not the answer. We cannot and should not uninvent things. We need to find ways in which these inventions are bent to the environmental cause. Hybrid and electric cars are already arriving rapidly. All-electric aeroplanes are not far away. These things will be available without our need for a medieval hair shirt.

Off-shore Wind Farm – Worthing

A perfect example, for me, is the wind turbine. Few people want one near their house. They are noisy and intrusive. Not many would really object to them out at sea. The port of Zeebrugge has been surrounded by them for 20 years without complaint. Worthing has a wind farm off shore which really doesn’t trouble people. I wanted solar tiles to be used for the roof of our new house but we weren’t even offered solar panels. We live in one of the sunniest areas in the country. Within 6 months of moving in, all the new properties delivered on our development had solar panels on the roofs. I enquired about the costs of fitting solar panels privately. On current projections, we would have to live to 95 to make it cost effective.

That is where you find me. I love innovation. I am an early adopter by nature. I will try new things if I think they will be beneficial to my family but I am not magnanimous enough to sacrifice myself for somebody else’s family long after I’ve gone. I will not vote for hardship now to deliver gains for people I will never meet when I am long dead.

Wednesday, 8th May, 2019

We’ve got rain! I think that’s what you call it. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it. I don’t remember before having to water the lawns in April/May but I have this year. It’s actually lovely to see – rather like the first strong rains of Autumn in Greece.

Because it’s wet and because we aren’t going out this morning, I am doing some of the ‘minority’ jobs that I’ve had in mind for some time. For example, I’ve had in mind for some time, to deal with the burgeoning problem that so many of us suffer from as we increasingly negotiate moving from analogue activity to digital.

Particularly, I am talking about passwords to secure entry to our sites of business. They are a nightmare to record securely and remember or retrieve when required. I am considering buying a Password Manager to help me. Having installed it and stored passwords for different sites – We need passwords for 3 different Banks, for Health accounts, for power and water suppliers, for retailers sites, for web development sites, for on-line newspaper purchases, etc., etc. – all one requires is one password to enter the software to retrieve all the others. One can even store Bank Account & Credit Card numbers securely in this way.

StickyPassword costs less than £20.00 to download and works across all one’s platforms on all one’s instruments – PCs, Macs., iPads, Android smartphones – and syncs continually. It helps with dementia symptoms or just someone like me who has never had a memory.

Thursday, 9th May, 2019

A day of sunshine and showers. As we drove from our garage, where rain had lightly fallen, a mile away to Asda, where no rain had fallen at all and then on to Tesco about 3 miles away where raining was still falling, the temperature read 16C/61F. It continued that way throughout the day although sunshine beamed out strongly as we swam in the tranquillity of our Health Club’s outdoor pool.

Kamares Beach 9th May, 2012

The weather in Greece should be warming up and the dry season really should be underway. We wouldn’t have expected any rain from now until September. On this day in 2012, the temperature was 26C/79F and we went down to the beach to test the water – it was a bit too cold for swimming.

Ioannina – 7/5/2019

Two days ago, Greece had snow. Kathimerini told us that:

The weather in Greece has obviously gone crazy. Beginning of May and some landscapes in the country look as if they are still in January. Heavy snowfalls were recorded in North-Western Greece on Tuesday morning in Nymphaio by Florina in West Macedonia and some mountainous villages by Ioannina or by Metsovo in Epirus.

Certainly, Greece’s weather has been in a strange state of flux for the past 12 months.

Friday, 10th May, 2019

Out early on yet another beautiful day. They just keep on coming. We were off to Worthing – a 10 mins drive away – to collect some ordered shoes and do a bit of shopping at Waitrose. We always take the coast road just to enjoy the views. Of course, people are at work and school and the beach was lovely and quiet. It was 16C/61F at 9.30 am – just lovely for a walk.

It is good to remember where we live. It is so easy to get trapped in our narrow corridor of life. Pauline chose our village specifically because it gave us quick and easy access to these views and we don’t look at them often enough.

Actually, today we walked away from the beach and into the town. Nice surprise was to find a French Market setting up down the centre of Montague Street. Unfortunately, they were selling all the things we are avoiding like bread, cheese, tarts, cakes, olives, etc. Still, maybe we will visit them in France during the Summer after we’ve collected our new car.

Back to the Health Club at mid day for our 34th consecutive session of exercise. Generally, the club is quite quiet. This may be down to the inconvenience of the changing rooms being completely refitted. It is also the time when those who took out ‘New Year Resolution’ memberships and have now fallen by the wayside. Whatever, it makes activity very relaxed and swimming outside in the sunshine and bird song is idyllic. The temperature reached a really pleasant 18C/65F this afternoon as we swam in paradise.

Saturday, 11th May, 2019

Bright and sunny but cool this morning. We went out early to the Post Office to return, yet again, clothes Pauline had ordered but rejected on first sight. We went on to Sainsbury’s for tomatoes and Aldi for smoked mackerel. Later, we went to do our 35th consecutive day of exercise and came home to a roast salmon & salad meal.

We only buy the plain smoked on the leftjust £1.49/€1.72  from Aldi.

We are also on our 35th day of diet and ‘no-alcohol’. I wasn’t putting weight on but I wasn’t losing it either. I wanted to start moving it downwards again. I decided that I was prepared to take a bit of pain for a few months.

In terms of my diet, I have come a long way from my past.  I was thinking about it this morning as we purchased smoked mackerel. I wouldn’t have entertained this in my younger, more indulgent days. Now I love ‘oily fish’.

In the past, I would have snacked all day on sweets, chocolate and biscuits. Now, I don’t touch any of that ever. My snack of choice is fruit and particularly bananas, grapes and dried fruit. Even then, I have to fight to control myself. My first bulwark against hunger is a drink of coffee, tea or sparkling water. It means I seem to spend a lot of my time in the toilet but, at my age, I do anyway.

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Week 540

Sunday, 28th April, 2019

A quiet morning so we decided to take some travel decisions. We can’t put it off any longer. First, we decided to book a trip to Athens for a week at the end of August. I can tell you that recent reports in Greek news outlets about overcapacity driving down room prices in Athens are unfounded. We are returning to our favourite hotel – The Electra Palace in the centre just off Navarchou Nikodimou – and a suite for €315.00/£275.00 per night. It’s a nice room in a nice hotel in the centre of a capital city but…

Electra Palace Suite

Even the Easyjet flights seem more expensive than usual. Return flights from Gatwick with extra legroom, speedy boarding and 2 x hold luggage costs £762.00/€885.00. Still, it’s only money, isn’t it?

Well it was until we spent some more! We’ve booked four nights in our Yorkshire hotel in October. That puts the Greek price into context. Four nights in a suite in the Holiday Inn will cost us £590.00/€685.00. I must go and see my sister in Bolton and commiserate with her over her team’s relegation. We are now looking for a nice villa with private pool in the Canaries, preferably Gran Canaria, for the month of November.

Erratum: I was wrong about the Greek hotel prices. Last year, we paid €223.00/£193.00 per day for a ‘classic’ room whereas we are only paying €308.00/£266.00 per day for a suite this year.

Monday, 29th April, 2019

Gorgeous morning. Blue sky and strong sunshine. I am watering the lawns today in the face of a prolonged dry spell forecast for our area. I’m also looking for an addition to my automatic watering system to maintain the pots of herbs we are growing. Because we are not having an extended holiday in this Summer, it won’t be a major problem but, after collecting the new car, we may do the occasional short break on the Continent and even 4-5 days will need some watering.

My other jobs this morning have included individually lobbying ever, single voting member of Labour’s NEC who will be meeting and voting on an integral and confirmatory second vote on any Brexit arrangement. There are some 42 of them and I have had to search out their individual Twitter accounts and, failing that, their email addresses. I failed in only 4 cases so feel I covered as much as I could.

Finally, I have to find a villa in the Canaries for the month of November. We keep talking about it and then putting it on the back burner and then returning to it. More evidence of tourists avoiding European bookings or, putting them off has come from Thomas Cook this weekend with bookings to EU countries like Greece sharply down and bookings elsewhere and, notably Greece’s great friend, Turkey, sharply up.

After an enjoyable trip to the gym & swim, we came home to eat cold duck and salads and book a villa in southern Tenerife with sea view and near beaches.

It has a heated pool, 3 x double bedrooms, 3 x bathrooms, kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine, wi-fi internet, British television programming including Sky/BT football, indoor and outdoor eating. It has a lounge which faces the sea with views to La Gomera. It is within walking distance of restaurants, shops and supermarkets.

The cost is £5,200.00/€6015.00 for the month of November. We can cancel with full refund right up to the beginning of October. So, if anything goes wrong in the next 5 months or so, we are covered. We’ve sent a deposit on the app but still await confirmation so we will wait. We have also still got to arrange flights but it feels like we’ve tied up a lot of the lose ends for this year and it feels satisfying.

Tuesday, 30th April, 2019

Another beautiful day to see out April. I should clean the car but I’m finding it difficult to get motivated because we’ve already sold it. We will drive it for just 2 months more so I will have to clean it soon but, perhaps, not today. In this wonderful sunshine, everything is growing away.

The hedges at the front have just grown up and out rapidly but almost imperceptibly. I walked out of the front door this morning into the strong sunshine and was immediately struck by the sight of a healthy, mature hedge. It is about 4ft high but we want to put about another foot on it so we’ll let it grow a bit straggly before trimming it. That’s my excuse anyway. Meanwhile, we are waiting for official confirmation of our Tenerife booking before booking appropriate flights. We will almost certainly go with Easyjet. They are definitely the short haul airline to beat at the moment.

Confirmation of our booking has just come in from a lady called Rita. It is written in Spanish but we quickly translated it and she informed us that not only would they pick us up from the airport but, because we were staying for a month, they would completely wave the charge of €15.00 per day to heat the pool. This is the sort of welcome that could make us the sort of people who could quickly become regulars.

What this does mean is that we can book our flights. So the return flights for two of us will be  £657.88/€762.25 which is made up of:

Even with Easyjet, the cost soon mounts up. However, when you’ve booked a property, it’s nice to tie up the travel.

Wednesday, 1st May, 2019

Kαλό μήνα – Kαλό Máios  – Happy new month – Happy May. You will never see April 2019 again. It has fallen off the ever moving carousel of time. The older one gets, the more significant this carousel and disappearing time become. I was asked the other day why I featured a white rabbit on each first day of the month. I suddenly realised that I didn’t know the origin of the tradition. I asked the internet.

There is no definitive answer but various sources say it originates from Medieval times but don’t give an explanation of its origin. I also learnt that ‘White Rabbits, White Rabbits’ was written in the  Notes and Queries book from 1909. It reads “My two daughters are in the habit of saying ‘Rabbits!’ on the first day of each month. The word must be spoken aloud, and be the first word said in the month. It brings luck for that month. Other children, I find, use the same formula.”

We are enthusiastic travellers but no one could accuse us of being impromptu or impulsive. We micro-plan everything. Nothing is taken for granted. For travel some 6 months ahead, we are just about to book a taxi to the airport and a night at a hotel before our early morning flight.

Sofitel – Gatwick

We used the Sofitel last year because it is very comfortable and directly linked by a pedestrian way to the Departures Terminal. This means, we can drop our bags off the night before and get up at a more acceptable time in the morning of our departure. A Superior Room without breakfast is £145.00/€169.00 (member’s Rate).

Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

A pleasant day of gentle sunshine and 16C/61F. We went out to do our weekly shop at Asda and Tesco and we were delighted that we were offered a large, 1.5 kg joint of fresh Tuna that will make 4 meals for us. It cost £37.50/€43.70  and looks beautiful quality. As we walked in, there was a Hearing test ‘tent’. This is temporary but inside there is a permanent Pharmacy, a Dentist and an Opticians – supermarket health service.

All my adult life I’ve drunk wine. Since the age of 21 – a total of 47 years – I have drunk the best part of a bottle of wine each evening with my main meal of the day. I love wine. I love French, Italian and Spanish wine particularly. A survey I saw this morning chimed with my reasons for drinking almost exactly particularly while we were working.

I could subscribe to all of these.

I spent January not drinking alcohol and I’ve just finished April without alcohol. This time, I’m pledged to not drink alcohol until September if I can do it. I’m doing it mainly to save around 550 calories per day but also to give my liver a rest. Of course, alcohol generates consumption of additional food and calories as well. I’ve often wondered if I was an alcoholic but really knew my addiction was to the ‘pattern’ of the day which ended with that warm fuzz of an empty bottle of wine. When I get into the pattern of sparkling water with my meal, I don’t give alcohol a thought. The only time I do think about it is when I walk past my wine store of some 200 bottles. Perhaps I’ll have to up my consumption when I start again just to deplete the stock a bit.

Before that, I’ve been putting the world to rights by voting for a Remain party in the local elections and then doing my 25th day’s exercise out of the past 26. Felt a bit tired today and even the swimming was an effort but we had been very busy in the morning. This evening, I’ve just topped 16,000 paces for the day.

Friday, 3rd May, 2019

What a lovely day. Sunshine and 17C/63F made swimming, after a full work out, really lovely. We are in the Arun District Council for local elections. It has been Tory for as long as people can remember. Not any more! I knew our votes for Remain would do the trick. The Tories can’t believe they’ve lost control but they are losing it everywhere. Can’t wait to contact my MP, Tory Brexiteer Nick Herbert, tomorrow to let him know we are coming for him next. It is time this message was sent to the Leave parties: up with you we will not put!

This day in 2010 we were gardening in 26C/79F in our Greek home. We then drove down to the fishing village of Faros where we ate lunch at the water’s edge and sipped ice cold white wine as the waves lapped against the shore.

Faros – 2010

While we sat there with our Calamari and Horiatiki, we were actively sorting out the sale of our Yorkshire home prior to moving down to Surrey. How far we’ve come and how much has changed since that day. It’s almost unbelievable.

Saturday, 4th May, 2019

Gorgeously sunny morning although a little chilly at 7C/45F. I don’t know if it’s age or retirement or fitness but, every morning, I can’t wait to get up and on with the day. I always watch a review of the morning’s newspapers at 11.30 pm as they first come out so I know what I want to read first thing in the morning.

There is really only one thing this morning and that is the Local Election Results. I was amused last night by a tweet from a solicitor, former Lib.Dem. parliamentary candidate for Colne Valley and a friend of ours who was at our Wedding 40 years ago. He was raving about the overthrow of the Tory councillors by Lib.Dems. in a small area known as Lindley. The Tory majority had been 2000 votes and it was an achievement but he was describing the win in apocalyptic terms befitting the fall of a Dynasty.

What has equally amused me is the narrative from Brextremists that the election results above clearly show that the population want Brexit to be done. What part of all the Leave-supporting parties losing support set against the Remain parties hugely gaining support could be read as that would puzzle any sane human being other than to know we really are in a Trumpian, post-truth era.

After newspapers this morning, I will complete my manly duties of vacuuming the house while my wife begins to address the final, little ‘snagging’ details. We are now starting our 4th year here and we only have 2 years of warranty left but we can deal with all sorts of small things ourselves – well my wife can. Every new house has some resettlement problems. We had to have the tiled floor in our en suite re-laid because hairline cracks appeared in a couple of floor tiles. The builders did that and it took three days of work. Slight separation between a skirting board and stairs because of resettlement is an easy job for Pauline to fill and paint/touch up. We have a few, minor paint scrapes on walls over the past 3 years so she’s addressing those as well.

Later, we will go to the Health Club to do our 27th out of 28 consecutive days of exercise. I think 2,700 minutes or 45 hours of cardio-vascular exercise in a month is a reasonable commitment on our part. Actually, it is self-feeding now. I really look forward to it and the thought of not doing it makes me anxious. Anxiety is not good and exercise is so you know what will happen!

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Week 539

Sunday, 21st April, 2019

Angmering Wood this morning.

For many years, Easter was spent in Greece with a mad dash to the airport on a Friday night in order to get the Saturday morning ferry to Sifnos. Often, of course, it wouldn’t coincide with Greek Easter at all and, this year, English schools go back on Tuesday and Greek Easter is next weekend. We always returned to Athens from the island a couple of days early because Greek ferries are notoriously unreliable in poor weather. This year, a couple of days in Athens would have been less than enjoyable with poor, cold weather.

Today, we will reach at least 25C/77F and, next week, Easter on Sifnos will hover around 20C/68F. For once, the fates have smiled on us. The countryside all around us looks wonderful.

Brighton Beach Yesterday

The photograph above was featured in this morning’s Sunday Times. You can see why we do not go to the beach on public holidays. Still, with schools going back on Tuesday, the beach is ours to enjoy. For today, we’ve been hard at it in the garden potting up herbs and tidying everything up.

Later, we will be off to the gym and then Pauline will griddle Tuna Steaks out in the garden. I apologise if my posts include quite a lot of food at the moment but I am trying to be hard on my consumption so thoughts of food are higher on my agenda and hunger is never far away.

This morning of April 21st, 1967 Greeks woke up to the rumble of tanks, occasional rifle shots and military hymns playing on the radio. Then it was the ominous, sinister announcement on the radio: “The Hellenic Armed Forces undertake the governance of the country”. The Junta led by Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos, Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos and Colonel Nikolaos Makarezos  ordered the tanks to roll in Athens. Greek soldiers took over the most crucial spots in the capital, then arrested all key politicians.

Junta take over Greece – April 21st, 1967

The junta suspended 11 articles of the Constitution to establish the regime. Freedom of speech became non-existent, with strict censorship rules for radio, newspapers and, later, television. Isolated from the rest of Europe, condemned by most Greeks and especially those who were in self-exile, it took 7 years and led by a student uprising to force the junta out which opened the way for Constantine Karamanlis to return to Greece and form a democratic government. Those condemning the Climate Change protesters in London at the moment should bear this necessary protest for change in mind.

Monday, 22nd April, 2019

Our Easter meal yesterday after returning from the Health Club was fresh tuna steaks griddled in the garden and served with huge quantities of different salads. Radicchio & Radish, Lettuce & Courgette slices, Rocket & Lemon, Broad Bean. Accompanied by sparkling water because alcohol is off the agenda until September if we can manage it.

Actually, the first month is always the hardest and, particularly when we combine it with a severe reduction in calorie intake and a considerable increase in calorie output but, as we get close to completing that first month, my personality traits kicked in and I find myself craving sparkling water. That is how weird I am!

We ate our meal around 4.30 pm after exercise. The day was still very warm and even more beautiful as the sun went down. We ate in the kitchen but with the patio doors flung open wide for the first time this year.

Sunset in Angmering – 22/04/19

Today has been just as warm but rather sultry – humid almost. We’ve spent the morning gardening and both felt shattered even before we set off for the Health Club but we still went. Actually, Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday have been the quietest days we have experienced in The David Lloyd Club. The past two days have been absolutely delightful swimming in the sunshine and warmth. We are so lucky and constantly remind ourselves.

Tuesday, 23rd April, 2019


Quite a humid and steamy morning. We spent it mulching all our shrubbery beds with the most deliciously scented bark chippings. It was a really satisfying activity which leaves the beds looking and smelling attractive. Actually, I had seriously underestimated how much it would take and we had to dash off to Wickes half way through to buy another 4 bags which allowed us to do the job generously.

As we worked outside, we were constantly visited by cats who were attracted by the scent of the wood bark and wanted a bit of a stroke. Our next door neighbours had a cat called Como (Lake not Perry) but he was found dead on the road after a few months. Having got over that, they collected two ‘rescue’ cats – two, young sisters – one tabby and one jet black. They are named Mimi and Rosetta after characters in Opera. I did point out that, after their first cat suffering a tragic death on the road, it was tempting fate to name a second one after Mimi from  Puccini’s La Bohème. In the opera, of course, Mimi dies tragically young of consumption. Last night, I thought my prediction had come true. I noticed that our neighbours had listed Mimi as missing on the local Facebook site. She had been missing for 24 hrs.

This morning the panic was over and Mimi came round to check out the wood bark, bringing her sister with her and a new friend we had never met before. They all seemed very happy although Mimi did have to show off by climbing the young tree outside our house.

Wednesday, 24th April, 2019

Should have cleaned it fiirst!

A different morning. Grey sky with a few spots of rain – not enough but a start. For once, we hadn’t got lots of jobs to do. I vacuumed the house while Pauline did the dusting. We were actually left with time to do some reading and writing which was nice.

We have been really pushing ourselves since returning from Yorkshire almost 3 weeks ago. Stronger control on the diet and push on the exercise. We have missed just 1 day in the past 19 at the Health Club.

My smartwatch records my activity although I don’t collect the swimming data. The data is bluetoothed to my smartphone where it is presented by day/week/month/year. I am obsessed with achieving a yellow graph bar denoting 10,000+  paces recorded for the day. In the past 7 days, I am averaging 15,007.3 paces per day and I’ve covered 54.5 miles in those 7 days. I’ve covered 2,400 miles in the past year. I burn circa 700 calories in 90 mins in the gym and another 150 calories in 30 mins swimming in the outdoor pool each day. Data, don’t you just love it?

We are starting to feel the muscles straining under the constant exertion but we are determined to push on. This will be continued until we go abroad in September. If physical exercise keeps one alive, we are determined to live forever. Mind you, if United lose to City tonight, I might just end it all this evening!

Thursday, 25th April, 2019

The morning opened grey and lightly damp but was totally transformed to blue sky and sunshine by 9.00 am when we went out on a marathon shopping trip. Asda, Sainsburys, Aldi and, finally, Tesco  took us 2hrs. We definitely fit the latest shopping pattern in that we no longer buy everything in a one-off shop from one supermarket.

Today, we bought bananas and grapes from Asda – one for quality reasons and the other on price.  We bought tomatoes and chicken thighs from Sainsburys because trial and error has taken our preference there. On to Aldi just for smoked mackerel which is better quality and less than half the price of the major supermarkets. Finally, we went on to Tesco for the rest and especially fish. They are still holding whole salmon at less than half price and we bought one plus some lovely, thick cod fillets.

British tourists eschewing Greece.

Interesting reading the Greek Press this morning. Bookings from UK are falling and, although Germans are still the main market, British are falling down the list with Italians now coming second. The evidence quoted from Trivago is that hotel prices are heading down although I could see no evidence of that in our favourite Athenian hotels. One thing you can say about this trend is that Brexit is certainly a major factor and will be for some time to come.

Friday, 26th April, 2019

A cooler day with only a little sunshine. We spent the morning doing paperwork, correspondence and accounts. It was actually nice to do some catch-up work but, all the time, I was concerned that I wasn’t getting steps on my watch.

Skinny Lizzy dressed for the Ball.

We did, of course, do our 20th day of exercise routine in the past 21 days and swimming at the end was a delight. The pool is surrounded by tall, well-clipped yew hedges out of which small and large birds constantly appear, fly off and return soon to dive back into the hedge. Goodness knows how many nests there are in those bushes. Squirrels clamber along the tree branches and tightrope walk the bevelled tops of wooden fences and seagulls straight from the sea fly lazily above us. We finished off with a sauna and jacuzzi/water massage. The wildlife stayed outside.

I don’t know if it is that I sound like a sad, old man but my little sister, skinny Lizzy, sent me a worried text having read in my Blog that I was dieting and pushing my body in the gym. She doesn’t have to worry because it is exactly who I am. Of course, after all this time, she would not really know that. However, it was nice that someone took the trouble to show concern.

Saturday, 27th April, 2019

Mum over the Years

My Mum died 11 years ago today. Even writing that shocks me. I can smell, touch and hear the days surrounding her death and funeral although, I must admit the urge to contact her has faded into a seldom jolt of unthinking impulse. She still lives on in us all and, every time I meet one of my brothers and sisters, she figures significantly in conversation. She had a profound effect on all of us.

Time and memory has always fascinated me. Recently, I was reading a book called Making Time by a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Beckett University. It confirmed something I had found out unwittingly and to my cost. Quite seriously, one of the reasons I pushed to build a property on a Greek island and live there half the year was because I thought it would help slow time in retirement down. Life on a Greek island is not lived at a fast pace – quite the opposite. Often it could be described as a slow-paced monotony of order, repetition and routine. It is largely uneventful in the grand scheme of things and certainly compared to a busy, professional life in a UK city.

How wrong could I be. No sooner had we arrived back on the island in early April but it seemed we were packing up ready for departure in late September. Back in UK, no sooner had we got back into the routines of our life here than we were planning our travel back to Greece. As Steve Taylor expands on in his book, it is the very nature of routine that speeds time up in the human consciousness. For young children, time seems to go slow because every experience is new. Taylor posits that, the more information our minds take in, the slower time seems to pass.

This partly explains why time passes so slowly for children and seems to speed up as we get older. For children, the world is a fascinating place, full of new experiences and fresh sensations. As we get older, we have fewer new experiences and the world around us becomes more and more familiar. It also explains why short breaks away in new destinations can seem much longer than they are. Hold that thought!

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Week 538

Sunday, 14th April, 2019

A pleasant start to this chilly morning was improved by the obvious state of complete panic in the Tory Party portrayed in the Newspaper headlines and illustrated in the political interviews. Lovely to see Iain Duncan-Smith more agitated than normal at the prospect of having to fight European Elections and desperate to depose his Leader. Great to see former Tory MPs and Ministers announcing their defection to The Independent Group and listen to David Lammy out on the front foot.

I am constantly hungry and fighting it. We are really working hard to decrease our calorific input and maximise our calorific output. I have been trying to maintain a regime of activity. This morning, I spent an hour or so spraying the lawns with broadleafed weed killer. By 1.00 pm, I could have eaten the kitchen floor tiles. I have to use Displacement Activity to counter those pangs of hunger. I go to the gym and that is what we did today.

The hard bit.

As my wife, who knows much better than I how my body works tells me, exercise can suppress appetite. Apparently, it generates a hormone called peptide which signals satiety.

The relaxing bit.

I wanted to watch Liverpool v Chelsea this afternoon so we didn’t do our swim. Just 70 mins in the gym and then a relaxing 20 mins in the Spa which combines a jacuzzi & Water Massage area with a steam room and sauna.

Back home, I just had time to griddle some vegetables and chicken thighs outside in the garden. I had been marinating them in lemon juice, garlic, oregano and olive oil since this morning. And so ends another lovely day. Happy week everyone!

Monday, 15th April, 2019

A pleasant, bright morning but with a chill in the breeze. Highlight of the morning – apart from putting the bins out – was a trip to Wickes in Wick.

We were going to buy large packs of bark to mulch the shrubbery beds. Yes, I know, too exciting but contain yourself. W have an offer of 4 x 90 ltr bales for £22.00/€25.50 which, if you are in the bark cognoscenti, you will know is a good deal.

As UK prepares to bask in temperatures warmer than Corfu, Greece has suffered a weather event which is rare for April.

Sunny Athens this afternoon.

Here we are expecting lots of tourists for the Easter week of sunshine and 70F/22C temperatures. Worthing was featured on the television news this evening to celebrate our pier being voted best across UK. Worthing is the new Athens!

Tuesday, 16th April, 2019

Up early for some reason this morning. The world was rather dull and grey at 6.30 am. In my quest to keep active, I immediately think through a series of jobs I will do before the gym. I’ve got my husbandly duties to perform – vacuuming the house. I’ve got my manly duties to perform – valeting the car. I’ve got my senior citizen’s duties to perform – taking my wife to the surgery to collect repeat prescriptions. and then I’ve got my fitness duties to perform – a trip to the Health Club for our 10th, consecutive session of 100 mins continuous exercise.

Lizzie Dripping looks happy.

We think 1000 mins/16.7 hrs of exercise in 10 days is an acceptable level of commitment. Allied to that, we have been scaling back our consumption and drinking no alcohol at all. Because we have altered our plans for this Summer, we are going to try to use it for a Health campaign and are going to try to keep this going until September. Of course, age and retirement fuel these thoughts and intentions in many, people. I read that my sister, Catherine, goes swimming regularly and takes lots of walks with her dogs. My brother, Bob, is always out walking and following his passion for photography. My sister, Ruth who is very old, and her husband go walking with organised groups. My sister Jane BG is an internationally renowned,  x-country runner of note.

Last night I received a text from one of my younger sisters, Skinny Lizzy, with a picture of her out hiking. She is 62 and suffers from arthritis (commonly known as Arthur) although I didn’t know that. I lived with her for the first 18 years of my life but have seen very little of her since. I realise that I know very little of her but she looks lovely and happy which makes me feel happy.

Wednesday, 17th April, 2019

Lovely morning. Great to be alive. Driving up to Surrey to visit P&C for a couple of hours. The hedgerows along the route are alive with urgently new, green leaves and shoots. There is beautiful blossom everywhere which is highlighted in the sunshine. The temperature has reached 19C/66F and I am back in my shorts. One downside is the number of dead badgers we pass on the roadside. I have never seen so many before as I have down here. Until now, I thought they were essentially black and white. Actually, these are mainly tawny coloured with white heads and black patches. Why anyone would want to exterminate them I don’t know. Down here, they can just rely on motorists.

Lightning Strike hits 4 at the base of the Acropolis approach.

We returned from Surrey and arrived back in Sussex by 3.30 pm. Catching up with the news, we heard about the continuing problems with Greek weather. Greece’s National Meteorological Service EMY issued a warning of dangerous weather phenomena forecast to strike Athens and Attica. EMY warns of strong rainfalls, thunderstorms and locally also hail. By 4.30 pm (GT) today, a Greek Blog was reporting four people were injured after a lightning strike hit the ticket office at the base of the Acropolis of Athens during a thunderstorm this afternoon. The injured have been transferred to Evangelismos hospital in the city centre.

By contrast, UK is set to get warmer and to reach 26C/79F by the weekend whereas Athens will founder around 17C/63F. We are looking forward to exploring our area in the sunshine. This is Angmering Wood today.

Angmering Wood

Swimming should be good in this weather and, maybe, we can get started on planting out pots of herbs and salad plants.

Thursday, 18th April, 2019

Lovely morning – sunny and 16C/61F – and I’m out shopping in shorts and tee-shirt at Tesco. We buy a whole, fresh salmon about every 2 weeks and pay around £13.50/€15.65 per kilo. Because it’s Easter holidays, Tesco Fish counter is selling whole, fresh salmon for £5.50/€6.40 per kilo. We bought 3 at a total cost of £46.50/€53.80. It just shows how much over the odds we are paying normally.

Whole fresh salmon at less than half price.

Because we buy so much fresh fish at this counter each week, we have developed a good relationship with the man who is responsible for it. He now goes out of his way to provide us with good service and supplies us with fish which is not on display but held in cold store waiting to be prepared for display. Instead of tiny pieces of fresh Tuna, he supplies us with full joints to slice ourselves. Instead of a handful of fantail prawns, he supplies us with 2kg bags from the back store. He always produces a beautiful display of his fish in the mornings and is very proud of his skill.

As we left the store, I nearly fell over in shock. My mother, Catherine, – who has been dead for 11 years – was walking towards us. I caught my breath, looked away and looked back again. My mother turned out to be one of my little sisters – also Catherine. She only lives 4 or 5 miles away but I’ve only seen her a couple of times in the 3 years we’ve been here. She had just come from the gym and was looking very skinny. We talked for a few minutes and she sounded very happy and contented with her life. I am pleased. I want all my brothers and sisters to be as happy and contented with their lives as I am.

Finished the day with a gorgeous session at the gym & swim where the numbers were massively down. Looks like everyone’s gone away. Even the 23C/73F weather didn’t attract numbers to the outside pool where we swam in quiet isolation. Sauna, jacuzzi, water massage and home for roast salmon with pesto crust and 4 different salads – Samphire, Broadbean, Rocket and Tomato. Wonderful! I’m addicted to salads.

Friday, 19th April, 2019

Across the country, it has been a beautiful day but I’m sure none more beautiful than in Sussex-on-Sea. We have reached 24C/75F this afternoon and the seaside/countryside looks wonderful.


We have tried to be as active as possible while the workers are much more inclined to relax and indulge themselves in the  sunshine. Out at 9.00 am to Littlehampton to buy bags of soil, plant food, lawn weed & feed and some early herb plants to pot up – different sages, different thymes, a couple of (French) tarragon and a couple of rosemary.

When we got home, I mowed the lawns and then set off to the Health Club where we did 70 mins in the gym and then 30 mins outside in the pool. It felt a bit like a hotel pool on the Mediterranean today. Not so many swimming but lots on sunbeds surrounding the pool and even more in the outdoor restaurant just at one end. Still, we managed to have a good swim and then drove home to cook in the garden. Pauline had prepared goujons of cod with 4 different salads and garlic sauce. Dreamy!

Saturday, 20th April, 2019

The beautiful approach to our West Sussex village.

There are some days when one is just glad to be alive. Today is such an occasion. It was almost too tempting to just sit around in the sun but I didn’t give in. The sun was strong; the sky was blue and the temperature was 22C/70F by 10.30am. I went out to wash the car. It took me about an hour. Then, I fed the lawns with a granular, weed&feed mixture that I scattered by hand. I followed that up by watering it all in with an automatic sprinkler system because no rain is forecast for quite a while.

We sat out in the sun for about an hour and then set off for the gym. I have missed one day in past 14 since we returned from Yorkshire. It was reasonably quiet although the weather had brought out the sun-worshippers so we gave swimming a miss. The temperature reached 25C/77F contrasting well with Athens where it reached a mere 16C/61F at the foot of the Acropolis this afternoon. Actually, we were both shattered when we got home. Cold fish and salad for our meal – Smoked Mackerel, Tuna Tartare, Endive Salad & Garlick Sauce, Broadbean Salad – which all felt so right in this weather.

Lovely, Lovely Day.

Posted in Sanders Blog - Hellas | Comments Off on Week 538