Week 512

Sunday, 14th October, 2018

The warmth just goes on. We are reading 17C/63F at 8.00 am. Actually, I forgot and left the thermometer outside last night. The night was punctuated with a short burst of heavy rain. By the time I had rescued the thermometer, it had switched from Centigrade to Fahrenheit. Must be a Brexit message there. At least it is now dry and we can look forward to swimming outside after our gym session this afternoon.

I have written before about my proclivity to bulk buy and stockpile. I was reminded of it by reading Hunter Davies’ article in the Sunday Times this morning. If you don’t know Hunter Davies, he has been a journalist all his life and really came to prominence in the late 1960s by writing the Beatles Biography. Davies is 82 and recently widowed but has contributed to the Sunday Times ‘Money’ section for many years, developing a reputation as a curmudgeonly, old skinflint. He bemoans the cost of things and looks for ways of saving money plus making money through investments. He is usually very amusing and, although much older and wealthier, reminds me of me a bit. This millionaire currently forward buys and stockpiles bags of porridge oats which he purchases from Morrisons at £0.75/€0.85 per bag.

I used to think I was odd until I read Hunter Davies. I bulk buy and stockpile many commodities when I know they are greatly reduced. I use a particular ‘Gum Health’ Mouthwash which usually retails at £5.00 per bottle. Every so often, it is reduced to £2.50 and I go in for the kill. Actually, it is currently £1.98/€2.25 in Superdrug and £4.00/€4.55 in Boots. I will often have two boxes each containing 24 bottles of mouthwash adorning the storage racks in my garage. If you want to know something even more weird, I always open a new bottle on a Friday evening and make it last exactly two weeks. That’s how I know we are approaching the weekend. Hunter Davies doesn’t need to budget like this and nor do I but it is fun and gives us pleasure. Mind you, he is Scottish.

He also ruminates constantly on the tightrope balancing act between how long he will live – His wife of 56 years died recently. – and how much money he will have. He doesn’t want to run out but doesn’t want to leave much behind either. It is one of life’s great dilemmas!

Hope you enjoy the new week. It could be your last.

Monday, 15th October, 2018

Happy Birthday to my Dad. He would have been 103 today but was cruelly removed from our lives at the age of 49. I was 14 at the time and remember so little about his influences in my life which is a pity. He died in hospital where he was being treated for heart problems. One can only think that he might well have survived with a heart bypass operation today and gone on to live a long and happy later life. I am just grateful that I have had 18 years more than him already and still counting.

A grey, warm day greeted us at 7.00 am with 17C/63F on the thermometer. Shorts and Tee-shirt  on and down for fresh orange juice and tea. The newly sowed lawn has grown amazingly over night. By the time we return from Tenerife, we will be mowing it with stripes as if nothing has happened.

Moody Skiathos

The order of the morning has been packing for our trip to Yorkshire (Pauline), sorting out new, bonus+ savings accounts (Me) and following the latest Brexit talks before setting off for the Health Club. We did our full gym routine but gave the pool a miss today. There is so much to do before we set off around 9.00 am tomorrow.

If you read the Skiathan’s Blog or just visited Skiathos, you will be alarmed to read that Skiathan Man is so influential that his presence has produced earthquakes over the weekend. If you like small, Greek islands, visit Skiathos immediately – before Skiathan Man and/or Brexit destroys it!

Tuesday, 16th October, 2018

Up early on a gloriously warm (17C/63F) and sunny morning. Driving to Yorkshire which will take us between 4 and 5 hours depending on the motorways. ….

Autumn is well advanced in Yorkshire.

The drive was completely smooth and uneventful. The M25 at one end was busy but moving. The M1 in the middle was rather quiet and the M62 at the end of the journey was … well, the M62. We did it in 5 hrs and the most notable things were the change in temperature and seasons as we moved North. Touching 20C/68F in Sussex, we arrived to 14C/57F in Yorkshire. The advance of Autumn was the most noticeable change across the country.

Looking forward to meeting up with old friends and neighbours tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day

Wednesday, 17th October, 2018

After a fitful night, – I usually don’t sleep well on the first night in a new bed. – we were up early and down to breakfast. Eating feels sinful but ‘required’. It is a lovely, autumnal morning and we have a busy day ahead.

Old friends: Pauline, Little Viv & Margaret.

Driving through old haunts is the most bizarre experience. It is hard to stay sharp and appreciative of the landscape. I find I have gone miles almost without thinking about the very familiar landmarks. I know them, in retrospect, so well.

We drove to a Bistro in an old, mill owner’s house on the outskirts of Huddersfield. We were there for just after 10.30 am. Huge cups of Yorkshire tea and Columbian coffee, savoury tarts and sweet confectionaries came and went. The conversation flowed so easily and the memories fell softly as three hours passed in no time at all. Eventually, we had to leave and parted with the promise that our friends would visit us in Sussex next.

We drove on to our old home in Longwood that we left in 2010 to move to Surrey. Our lovely next door neighbour, Jean, had arranged to meet us. Her husband, Perry, a lookalike Rod Stewart, is a technical lecturer in Bradford but preparing to retire soon. Jean has lived there for 25 years but they are about to embark on a house building project in Halifax. We swap recent experiences, reminisce about past events and, after a couple of hours, agree to keep in email contact until our next meeting.

We have been out for about six hours and are exhausted. We are unused to socialising and suddenly parachuting into such a series of situations is very tiring. I remember the same feeling after 6 weeks quietly in our Greek house. The first day back at work of speaking, planning, interacting with others for hours left us shattered. Of course, we also had to do it all again the next day. Just so now, we are off to Lancashire tomorrow to visit two, different friends plus some of Pauline’s relations.

Thursday, 18th October, 2018

The most perfect day of clear skies and continual sunshine. It was a clear, star-filled sky over night and the result was an early morning frost and ice on the car windscreen. After breakfast, we drove over to Hollinwood to view Pauline’s Mum’s commemoration book at the crematorium. It is 8 years since she died at the age of 96 and we have attended to bear witness every year on this day since.  Of course, nature is always sad. The trees around the park weep russet-coloured leaves to mark the occasion. Usually, the sky weeps light rain but gave us reason to rejoice today.

After a short while, we drove over to Shaw to visit my old friend and colleague, Brian. It was a lovely few hours gossiping about people we have known and how their lives have developed in absentia. 

Marsden Moor

Our next appointment was with two elderly relatives of Pauline – her cousin, Joyce (81) and her husband, Harry (82) who have lived in the same house in Littlemoor for 56 years. Pauline & I taught their, two children – Susan & Andrew – who are now 58 & 53. How old that makes us feel.

We drove on to the site of our old school which is now a field with the foundations in place for a huge number of new houses. Very strange feeling. We also visited the school where I was Headteacher which has also been demolished and now has been turned into a public park. We drove on to the new Academy which has replaced the schools and then back over the Pennines and Marsden Moor on the A62 past the Nont Sarah’s Pub and into Outlane.

By the time we got to our hotel, we had been out and meeting people, talking and listening for 7 hours. We were exhausted and ready for rest and isolation before planning tomorrow’s trip back to West Sussex via my home village of Repton and my Mum’s grave.

Friday, 19th October, 2018

We always wake at 5.59 am every morning in time for full consciousness and the BBC_R4_Today news at 6.00 am. The only difference is that, when we were working, my head would groan as I rehearsed what I had to get through that day and what I hadn’t done to prepare for it. It would immediately make me feel tired and reluctant to get up. In retirement, I immediately begin to think of all the things I want to get done in the day and I am itching to get up and started. The whole thing is psychological and pivots on the words Requirement & Expectation/Choice & Anticipation. It is amazing how being in charge of one’s own destiny empowers one and engenders optimism and enjoyment.

This morning, our hotel decided the words were going to be Requirement & Expectation. We were woken in our darkened room to the sound of an alarm at 5.25 am. I had been in a deep sleep and woke with a jolt, thinking I was at home. I leapt out of bed, turned left and walked into the wall. I suddenly realised that I was not at home. The noise was a fire alarm. Shorts and tee-shirt on, I went out into the lobby outside our suite. As I did so, the alarm stopped. I was the only person to be seen. It turned out later that some flight crew who had an early off at Leeds/Bradford airport had made and burnt toast and set off the alarm.

It was too late to go back to bed. Cups of tea in our suite, showers and down for Breakfast. Can you eat at 6.30 in the morning? Well, we managed to force it down and go back to finish packing. By this time it was the most glorious day beginning. We checked out around 8.30 am – after I had cleared ice from the windows. I was still in my shorts and tee-shirt which suddenly seemed wholly inappropriate.

We drove off to the Capital of Mercia, Repton in Derbyshire where I originated. We had done our duty in visiting Pauline’s Mum’s crematorium and we were now doing the same for my Mum & Dad who are buried together in the village. We visit on the same day each year – October 18th – and the scene is similar in its autumnal sadness. The grave and the graveyard littered with damp, dead and decaying leaves, we only stay a few minutes to concentrate our thoughts and memories …. and then life goes on.

Saturday, 20th October, 2018

Although the drive down and back was as good as it has been for years, the weather was delightful and we were buoyed by lovely experiences and memories, the week has been quite intense for a retired and retiring gentleman. This morning, I can feel the tiredness of the past few days, of all the driving, talking, thinking, kissing. Ruth will tell you that, as you move nearer to 70 years old, these things can take there toll and you need a little time to recuperate. I should have been in London marching with the Brother/Sisterhood but it was a stretch too far. I had to leave my sister, JaneBG, to represent me. With ¾ million marchers, a little, old man like me wouldn’t be missed. Anyway, I do my bit in other ways!

Back on more mundane matters, it was great to see that I have a lawn again. We reseeded it just two weeks ago and a combination of a really rainy day followed by lots of warm and sunny weather has resulted in a thick, sward of luscious, green growth. I was so tired today that I cancelled a trip to the gym and just stood in the sunlit garden admiring the grass. Pauline griddled peppers and swordfish steaks outside in the sunshine and it provided the most wonderful meal to end the day with a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc. Life can be good, can’t it?

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Week 511

Sunday, 7th October, 2018

Gorgeous, sunny day that reached 19C/66F. The perfect day for my newly reseeded lawn after yesterday’s good watering in by the rain. The days ahead are said to be returning to warm and settled and in the low 20sC/70F-ish.

I’ve always been interested in, as opposed to good at, photography. Pauline bought me my first SLR in 1980 – a Ricoh KR10 Super – and I took to it straight away. I documented the early years of our married life and, particularly, trips to Greece. Photography in those days was dominated by film and sending rolls of it off to be processed. I even did some black & white. We had a dark room in school and I entertained fantasies of developing my own negatives. Of course, I am as impractical as my fantasies and I ended up sending them all away to be processed. We had to wait weeks for the prints to be posted back and then only a handful were worth keeping.

Later, school splashed out £750.00/€855.00 on a Canon DSLR for me to upgrade to digital photography that cut out the middle man and we lashed out £3,500.00/€4,000.00 for a colour laser printer to produce quality hard copies. I was never good enough to really justify it but I soon began to realise that one could rescue many images with a little help from Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks which is still my favourite.

I love images. They can say so much. My little brother, Bob, is a gifted photographer although it pains me to admit it. He has the patience and tenacity to find perfect shots. He has been posting them on Twitter and other sites for quite some time in his early stages of retirement. I think many of them are lovely. Look at these:

Aren’t they so delightfully evocative? You wouldn’t think a scientist had that in him. He must get it from me. These are just the sorts of things I would happily have framed and hanging on my wall if they would stand blowing up. He’d probably charge me too much for the privilege so I may have to bootleg them.

Monday, 8th October, 2018

Up at 6.30 am to a cold but gorgeously orange sunrise-lit sky. The sky reminds one of the backlit stage of a pending drama. We are driving up to Surrey this morning to visit Pauline’s sister, Phyllis, who hasn’t been well recently. Before that, I have lots of jobs to get through. Bin day so I have to drag out three wheelie bins – green for recycle, black for landfill and brown for garden waste. Black is every week and the other two bi-weekly. Not a bad service.

We set off for Surrey about 9.30 am and were there for about 10.30 am. I went off to Tesco to have the car cleaned while Pauline talked to her sister. By 12.00 pm we were driving back to Sussex and arrived at a busy Health Club. Two hours of workout and half an hour of jacuzzi/water massage and we drove home for 3.00 pm. Pauline has a hospital check-up and had to follow that up while I prepared our meal – sword fish steaks, griddled mushrooms and tomato salad – which Pauline finished off. Hope the Skiathan‘s news is good. I’m rather reluctant to ask in case it’s not.

Tesco on the right and Brooklands original track on the left.

It is always strange returning to a place that we’ve once lived. Driving around streets without having to think about directions even though I haven’t frequented them for about three years is the weirdest feeling. I can’t even manage that in the place where I currently live. As I drove to Tesco in Byfleet next to the original Brooklands Race Track first built in 1907, I got a twinge of nostalgia …. but nothing more than that. Surrey was not my favourite destination.

Tuesday, 9th October, 2018

A warm and sunny day reaching 20C/68F in the afternoon while we were swimming outside in Indian-summer weather. We are well in to our 3rd year of warranty in our house and had to call for the plumber this morning because one of our bathrooms developed a leak from the shower. We had already had the mastic sealant replaced without a solution. Today, integral, modern, plastic plumbing dictated that a square be cut out of our kitchen ceiling; the problem identified as a plastic pipe joint which had slipped apart; the pipes reconnected and resealed followed by a water test to make sure that the problem was solved.

A ‘snagging square.

The whole process took less than an hour but the square hole in our kitchen ceiling is filled with a white, plastic trap prior to a visit from a plasterer who will do an ‘invisible’ repair and then a visit from a painter to repaint the ceiling. All of this is called ‘snagging’ and just this one problem will have entailed 4 separate tradesmen calling and working on 6 separate occasions. Plumbers have now done 3 visits. The mastic sealant specialist has visited. The plaster will do at least one session and the painter will do a visit. One is left wondering how much this all costs and, consequently, how much profit is actually built in to a new-build to insure against these inevitabilities. To give David Wilson Homes their due, there is no prevarication. We report a problem and they arrange for a specialist to sort it out and that will continue until 2021.

Wednesday, 10th October, 2018

Kwikfit Worthing

A glorious day – Summer revisited – which was cloudless blue sky and sunshine. By 8.30 am, the temperature was 18C/65F and 22C/70F this afternoon around the pool. We were up early because we found a nail/tack embedded in the tread of one of our tyres. There was no deflation. Our warning system would have flagged that up but it needed to be checked out. We went out to Kwikfit in Worthing at 8.30 am.

The tyre was checked and the ‘tack’ removed, all pressures checked and we were on our way. It took about 40 mins in all. They had a comfortable seating area with good wi-fi. Lovely people who provided a good service. We were on our way by 10.30 am and watching PMQs before going out to the gym. After 70 mins in the gym, the outdoor pool felt like high summer. Home for 4.00 pm, we cooked Whitebait outside in the garden. It’s been a lovely day – the sunniest and warmest in October for many years – until next year.

Thursday, 11th October, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny morning. We went out early to every supermarket in the area to do our weekly shop. Yesterday, it was my rear, nearside tyre that needed attention. Today, it is my left foot that needs some work – from my wife not Kwikfit.. All the pounding on the treadmill in the gym has led to my flesh on the base of my foot splitting quite painfully. Because of that, I’ve decided to give exercise a rest and pursue more sedentary activities for one day.

I spent the afternoon looking at on-line savings accounts to move money to from investments that have matured and lost their bonuses. I’ve also been contacting the owners of the villa in Tenerife that we will be travelling to in three weeks. Before that, we are visiting friends in Huddersfield, Yorkshire and Oldham, Lancashire for a fleeting visit next week and we have been arranging dates and times for that. Because of slightly optimistic noises coming out of Brexit negotiations over the past few days, the Pound has risen and I have been buying £3000,00 of Euros at €1.14 = £1.00. Says a lot for the state of UK/EU relations that I should consider that exchange rate acceptable.

South Western Tenerife Coast

We haven’t used our central heating since last April and I’ve been in shorts since June. I’m hoping that spending the month of November in southern Tenerife will allow me to extend that until December. The temperature for the next two weeks in south Tenerife is forecast by the BBC to be around 27C/81F every day. That will do nicely as Halloweeen (What’s that all about?) and Bonfire Night come and go. Home for that unusually tropical, 2018 December. Maybe!

Friday, 12th October, 2018

It seems more than 8 years ago.

Warm day – unusually warm – reaching 22C/70F at peak. We’ve done a full gym session and swim in the warm outdoors. We feel as if we are swimming in the Mediterranean. Soon, we will be in Tenerife and a month in that climate will be really enjoyable. Today, I’ve been finalising our arrangements for arrival at our rented villa in La Quinta, South Western Tenerife. We will spend a night at a Gatwick hotel and then fly on November 1st. We return on November 30th. If we like the property, we may book another month in the early new year. February in the sunshine would be rather nice.

Rose Hill Bistro

Before that, we’ve got an incredibly busy few days in Yorkshire reconnecting with old friends. We are visiting old, school colleagues/friends who we left behind 10 years ago. Even the building is gone now. We are visiting Pauline’s Mum’s crematorium spot, as part of an entire day in Lancashire – the Oldham/Royton area. We are visiting our lovely next door neighbours in Huddersfield who we left 8 years ago as well as our lovely school friends who we spent a lifetime with.

Our friend, Margaret, who used to work for Pauline, always comes up with interesting new venues to meet. This year, she has chosen Lunch at Rose Hill Bistro in Birkby. We know the area well but the establishment is new and very interesting. We are looking forward to it. Let’s hope the weather is good!

Saturday, 13th October, 2018

As predicted, it has been the warmest recorded October day in history of our area. We reached 25C/77F and it is still 23C/74F at 7.00 pm. Our gym routine was followed by a 30 mins swim outside in lovely sunshine. It has been the perfect time for re-seeding the lawn. Warm and dry to prepare the soil followed by lots of rain and then very warm dry weather for germination. Soon, we will have a few hours of rain before warm, dry weather returns.

We drove up to Surrey a week ago and noticed immediately how advanced the Autumn was ahead of us. Even now, the trees and hedgerows are still clinging to Summer’s bloom although Parthenocissus aka Virginia Creeper aka Boston Ivy is really showing its age. Autumn is a very comfortable season down here and there is little sign of nature’s distress. In the North, I once remember our Lancashire Pennine school being closed just before Half Term because of heavy snow. I will be happy if I never see snow or frost again. I doubt we will see it in Tenerife.

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Week 510

Sunday, 30th September, 2018

A milestone achieved!

The end of September already. Pity really because it’s been a really good month. We’ve been Spring-Cleaning. A bit counter-intuitive I know but the windows and doors outside are looking grubby in this lovely sunshine so we did them anyway. We also went to the Health Club. Today was important in my goal achievement.

I started this Garmin App. for my new Garmin smartwatch in the middle of October last year. In spite of that, today, I reached a daily average paces for the past twelve months of 10,008.6 paces from a total of  3,613,156 paces for the year which equates to walking 1,874.2 miles in the year. Obviously, with 2 weeks still to go, I can improve on this and I motivated to do just that. Don’t ask me why.

Pauline’s sister, Phyllis is ill and in hospital. It looks like she is spending at least two nights there so it must be serious. She has a digestive tract problem which seems to run through the family and she is finding it hard to deal with. Let’s hope she is out soon because M&S could collapse without her.

Monday, 1st October, 2018

Welcome to a new month on the Blog as it careers towards the end of its 10th year. Less than three months to go. I won the battle to say White Rabbit first for a change.This morning is the most gorgeous, autumnal morning. Clear, blue sky and strong, uninterrupted sunshine. What could be better? Well a bit more warmth. It is only 9C/48F this morning at 9.00 am. I’m still in shorts and tee-shirt but rather more aware of my skin as we shop for essential supplies.

Of course, the first day of the month is marked with spreadsheets and readings. Gas and Electricity usage is recorded and analysed. You will, probably, all have been doing the same this morning – apart from Ruth. Often water consumption is checked but not this morning because we were feeling disinclined to lie on a cold, slightly damp lawn to read the water meter three feet below a manhole cover. Our water bills are fairly insignificant since we were metered.

We also tested and recorded our blood pressures with very satisfactory results. Tomorrow is INR testing. I have better record keeping than the hospital on that one. My spreadsheet records test results back to January 22nd, 2009. Of course, I married the right girl for my nature. Her financial records started on paper on the day we got married but every single transaction is available digitally from January 22nd, 1993. I’m not sure why January 22nd is significant.

I have written before of my sadness in losing my love of music. It has always been so emotionally and intellectually important to me. I am starting to do something about it. Perhaps maturity is allowing me more control over my emotional response. This morning, as I write, I am going back to basics – to the point of the start of my journey. Playing Handel’s Largo – the opening aria to his opera, Xerxses. I kept my emotions in check and progressed to Chopin’s Nocturnes which have meant so much to me over the years but which I coped with admirably today. Maybe I am on my way back!

Tuesday, 2nd October, 2018

A strangely bitty day. I started by scarifying my largely dead back lawn for the third time in a week and it is virtually ready for reseeding. I have six more bags of ‘lawn’ ready for disposal but our local tip is closed today so they are stored. We were both feeling tired and decided, extraordinarily, not to go to the gym. I have built up lots of little jobs which I have done this morning. We are flying to Tenerife in 4 weeks or so and our Airport Lounge memberships are being changed by our bank which provided them We are going from Priority Pass to Dragon Pass Premier.

If this seems rather superficial, I can assure you it is not. These lounges provide an oasis of calm and comfort allied to technical support – good Wi-Fi and charging points plus unlimited food and drink – both non and alcoholic. For two people, the cost of using an airport lounge each on  both legs of one’s journey would be at least £120.00/€135.00. We have done 4 double trips already this year with at least 2 more airports still to visit. This would have cost us at least £600.00/€675.00 just for this year’s travel. I phoned the bank to hurry them up for our new membership cards.

Some of our investments have matured and lost their ‘bonus’ rates of interest. Today was one for addressing that. Pauline had a doctor’s appointment during the morning and we also did a trip to the garden centre for grass seed and topsoil to start work on re-growing large areas of lawn in the next few days. I want to catch the warmer, autumn days for germination so it regenerates while we are away in November.

Wednesday, 3rd October, 2018

A beautiful day of blue sky, strong sunshine and warm temperatures which reached 22C/70F. It was ideal because we were driving to Dorset after breakfast to spend the day with our friend and ex-colleague, Jill. Actually, two ex-colleagues, one of whom was celebrating his 61st birthday, died last week. Such things bring one up short and evoke serious thought.

We had, fortunately, chosen the perfect day and our journey of just under two hours was delightful. Jill lives in Blanford Forum and has done for the past 20 years. It is a delightful, pastoral setting for an essentially quiet life. She was a good friend of Pauline’s at work and we have only seen her a couple of times since she left our school in 1978. Today was a delightful catch-up over a lovely, sea food lunch. Even the drive home was uneventful although I could feel the tiredness coming out after 4 hours driving. We had met Jill in Poole harbour this time last year but neither of us knew much about Dorset. It is a lovely area and full of interest. Jill’s husband is retiring at the end of this month so we are hoping to invite them to our home soon and to see a lot more of them.

Thursday, 4th October, 2018

Foggy but mild this morning. It is main shopping day and we visited Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose and the Post Office. It is Pauline’s birthday tomorrow. I am cooking so had to spend an hour sourcing ingredients in Rustington. We had gone out at 9.00 am and didn’t get home until nearly mid day by which time I had already completed 7500 paces so we decided to give the gym a miss and, after lunch of tomato salad, we went down to the beach to walk and ‘take the air’.

The weather was supposed to change from mist to sun but clearly hadn’t received the memo. Misty, sunless light was the order of the whole day. The beach was almost deserted apart from a couple of dogs with their owners. Dogs are allowed on the beach in the off-season (October – March). I wouldn’t allow them there at any time. I wouldn’t allow dogs in the country at all. This is what Brexit was about: Deport all Dogs!

Shades of Grey on Littlehampton Beach

All the beachside infrastructure was closed up – boating lake, cockles & whelks stall, rock shop, tourist tat shop. Even the lifeguard stations had packed up and gone on holiday. We enjoyed the warm, damp, grey air and walked for about an hour. It felt lovely to be fit, healthy and alive.

Friday, 5th October, 2018

Pauline & her Dad









Happy Birthday, on this gloriously sunny morning, to my darling wife. For our 67th birthdays, I had a self-portrait commissioned. I think you’ll agree we don’t look too bad for our age. We have spent the past 40 years welded together at the hip. We’ve spent just one night apart in those 40 years when Pauline was in hospital and we are looking for at least another 25 years more. I just hope the Skiathan and his family are thinking along those lines as well.

I rarely remember to buy her a card. She usually gets a folded A4 sheet of printer paper with Happy Birthday X scrawled in red ink. At least I don’t sink to typing and printing it out. This year, I managed to get away long enough to buy a real card. I am cooking the meal of Lobster, scallops and langoustines in a roasted tomato and dill sauce with slices of potato and rosemary bread to mop up the juices. Scallops and mopping up juices are her absolute favourites but she will have to work for them. I expect her to spend the morning helping me re-seed the lawn and then we will do a full gym session before I display my dazzling culinary expertise.

Saturday, 6th October, 2018

It is 7.30 pm and my wife is in the lounge watching Come Dancing. I am skulking in the Study watching anything else but, particularly, Man. Utd. staging a miraculous comeback against those Premier League titans, Newcastle.

Earlier, the weather proved us right. Yesterday, we spent it feeding, raking, re-seeding, top-soiling and re-treading the the rear lawn. It took about 5 hrs in total to work the 200 sq. ms.. By the end of it, I was shattered. This morning, I have swept the patio clean and then the rain has arrived to start the germination process.

By the time we set off for the gym, it was absolutely throwing it down. Fortunately, tomorrow will be dry and the week ahead will get progressively warmer. This is the perfect climate for grass seed germination. The grass seed we chose was coated with a water absorbent gel to speed up and maintain the process. It cost about £60.00/€68.00 and left a bit to spare. If you add a 10kg pot of Growmore at £12.00/€13.70 and 4, huge packs of compost at £30.00/€34.00, the whole thing was achieved for under £110.00/€125.00. This evening, it feels good to have done all our jobs and exercise routine as well.

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Week 509

Sunday, 23rd September, 2018

A cooler but bright and sunny day. Newspapers, football and gym exercise fairly sum up the day. Having been away this week, it is a time to enjoy HOME. Be that as it may, we have places to go over the next couple of months. We are going to Dorset to meet up with our friend, Jill, although not staying over this time. We are going to Yorkshire to see old friends and visit our Mothers’ graves. And then we are flying out to spend the month of November on the south east tip of Tenerife.

Sunny Girona

Even so, we know that we cannot stand still and are beginning to plan next year’s trips. We are still toying with a Springtime trip to Australia although, in our discussions, it is on and off the agenda every other day. The length of the flight is at the core of our vacillation. An hour’s flight to Edinburgh was ideal. Two and a half hours flight to Valencia was perfectly acceptable. Three and a half hours to Athens was beginning to become uncomfortable and four and a half hours to Tenerife will really be stretching it. A twenty four hour flight to Australia, even with one stop, feels like a step too far and then again it might be worth it.

Our annual Athens trip will include a Greek island stay next year. In fact, we are expecting to spend a month on an island sandwiched either side with a few days in Athens making it about five weeks in all. We have already been invited to stay in the home of a friend on Sifnos. That is likely to be in September.

We will almost certainly do a couple of short breaks in France after Christmas and we will probably rent a villa for the month of July on the French/Spanish border. We haven’t decided which yet but that is one discussion today. It will be somewhere between Perpignan and Girona. I fancy the latter.

We are very much hoping that the villa we are renting in Tenerife will be to our liking – it has its own heated pool, wi-fi and English Freeview television plus a fully kitted out kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine. We don’t want to camp out but we do want to extend the 2018 sunshine experience. If we like this villa, it may become a recurring experience over the next few years. As we start the final week of September 2018 and the start of Winter, we are thinking about the future with optimism.

Monday, 24th September, 2018

A beautiful morning of blue sky and strong sunshine as we got up at 6.30 am. It isn’t warm at just 7C/45F because of those clear skies at this time of year. We have a ‘snagger’ coming to redo the sealant around the bath and one of the shower trays.

We learned that 2 -2½ years after completion of a new-build property is just the time to address resettlement issues but it is also the time when builders’ warranties run out. We were lucky to buy just at the time when 5 year warranties were on offer. They have since been withdrawn for new purchasers. With 2½ years still to run, we feel very fortunate and relaxed about the years ahead. What is particularly reassuring is that everything is included in that warranty right down to the white goods that came with this new property. Cetainly, I would never buy an old property again.

Tuesday, 25th September, 2018

As the Skiathan observed, the view might be of Summer but the feel is distinctly Autumn. At 7.00 am, we were reading 7C/45F and didn’t rise above 19C/66F all day although it felt much warmer in our back garden and around the pool as we swam outside this afternoon. It is almost October but members were sunbathing outside around the pool.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about renewing our mobile phone contract and receiving an upgrade smartphone. We chose a Huawei P20 Pro which we were told would cost us £800.00/€900.00 each for our phones. I must admit, I was sceptical until I searched for one to buy and found that was exactly the price demanded on the open market. When we received our smartphones, we were told that a ‘special offer’ for people ‘buying’ their phone in September included a ‘free’ pair of Huawei ‘earbuds’ which were valued at £80.00/€90.00 per pair. Once again, I was incredulous. How could a pair of earphones be worth that much?

They arrived today and are pretty much state-of-the-art. The case they are stored in is powered up by USB cord and the earphones are blue tooth with controls for receiving smartphone calls, etc. I went on line to buy a pair and couldn’t get a pair below £85.00/€95.00. Actually, we will each pay around £1002.00 over the 2 yr contract and receive unlimited calls, texts + 10GB of Data per month. It is a deal we are happy with.

Had a very active day in the strong sunshine today. The morning was spent weeding, pruning and trimming the hedges. Later we went to do our full gym routine and a wonderful swim outside in the sunshine.

Wednesday, 26th September, 2018

Rustington in (mid-Summer?) late September.

Time is rushing away. We are in the last 5 days of September. Today, I received my new, Bank Debit card with an expiry date of the end of 2021. I will be 70 years old by the time I receive it. What the hell is happening? I remember 1984 with Orwellian dread. I remember 2000 with a trembling computer. I remember thinking reaching 50 (2001) was the zenith of achievement particularly as my Dad died at 49. I remember thinking 60 (2011) meant I was officially a senior citizen. Surely, 70 (2021) means I am officially dead? I am trying to keep my expectations low. Getting to 80 (2031) would be a real achievement. Getting to 90 (2042) would be the height of good fortune. Of course, age without good health is a questionable attainment. That’s why a daily gym session is so important.

We went out early to Rustington in Mediterranean weather. It is an attractive town at the best of times with good shops and lots of facilities but was particularly enjoyable in the sunshine today. Pauline was having a facial and I was having a mooch and a coffee at Waitrose. By 11.00 am, it was 25C/77F in the wonderful sunshine. Home to watch Corbyn’s speech and then off to the Health Club for a couple of hours. Chicken marinated in lemon, tarragon, garlic and olive oil, griddled outside in the sunshine with tomato salad was just wonderful.

Thursday, 27th September, 2018

What a glorious day of wall to wall sunshine. It is a day to celebrate being alive. Pauline observed this morning, as I continued to obsess about the passage of time, that just 20 years ago we were still in our main, Yorkshire home which we only sold in 2000. So much has happened in that time.

In the past 20 years, both our mothers have died. We have retired. We have sold 4 houses and bought/built 4 houses and rented two others. We have moved out of Greece and branched out in our travels. We have bought 10, new cars – all Honda CRVs. Pauline has been operated on to remove a benign tumour from her arm and had her gall bladder removed. I have been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and Type 2 Diabetes. The former is being successfully managed and the latter is gone. I have lost 11.0st/70kgs and gone down 2 shoe sizes.

So many of these events have been life changing. Retirement, losing our parents, leaving an adopted country, leaving our homes, addressing life-challenging conditions. they are not minor events in a individual’s life. They are perhaps not as seismic and life-threatening as the Skiathan Man has had to face but, in our small world, they have been big events. If we can grab another 20 years, we think of how much we can pack in. We may not have so many new homes although there may be one or two in the timeline. Similarly with new cars. We hope for more travel and less medical attention but that is in the lap of fate. Keep looking forwards. Keep moving on.

To that end, we did a morning out in the wonderful sunshine in which we reached 23C/74F and then three hours at the Health Club with a full exercise session. I have managed 16,000 paces today and I am averaging 10,000 paces per day for a calendar year. If I can keep that going, perhaps I can see 2038.

Friday, 28th September, 2018

One of the things about aging is feeling that a younger generation is leaving one behind. All generations feel that at some times and in some ways. Pauline & I always pledged that we would never say, We’re too old for all that! or that equally defeatist exclamation, Thank goodness I won’t be alive when that happens! There are some things that I will not embrace for reasons of safety or taste rather than age per se.

I have no desire to walk across an open road while texting on a phone. Actually, (and this is an admission) I can’t bring myself to write ‘hip’ texts without punctuation or use smiley-face emoticons instead of words. After all, I was an English teacher. Equally, I have no desire to bungee jump or paraglide.

When I was in my formative years in Grammar School, I wouldn’t have been seen dead with a handbag. It was a struggle to make me carry a raincoat. I certainly wouldn’t have had a tattoo even had I been allowed to by my parents which wouldn’t have happened even on pain of death. Now, in the changing room at the Health Centre, one feels positively freakish not being decorated from head to foot in blue ink.  Equally, I wouldn’t have been seen blow drying my hair or preening in the mirror for hours while applying body lotion. I hold to those principles still but I have cracked on one line of development.

For years I watched Mediterranean men walk around casually sporting a shoulder/handbag. I was a bit shocked but regularity breeds familiarity and, as I travelled more and required more backup – reading glasses, toothpicks, tissues, Sweetex tablets, medication tablets, smartphone, iPad, etc. – I found my pockets were not enough. I took the plunge and bought a leather, man-bag in Athens. At first, I was very self conscious and tried hard to not stand with my hands on my hips but, eventually, it became part of daily attire. Like so many Greek things, it wasn’t built to last and started to fray at the seams. My next bag was bought in M&S of all places. It has been all over Europe with me. After almost 10 years, it too is showing signs of wear and I’ve had to order a new one. My only embarrassment this time is that it will cost almost £80.00/€96.00. You could have bought a car for that in my day!

Saturday, 29th September, 2018

The penultimate day of the month has been glorious. Wall-to-Wall sunshine from peerless skies. and really warm. We had already decided to take a day of from the Health Club and to fill it with jobs. It was a busy day. By 9.00 am, I was scarifying our ‘dead’ back lawn. By 10.30 am, we were at our local pharmacy for our Flu’ jabs and, by 11.30 am, we were at the Local Authority Tip with bags of lawn and then back at the house to watch an abject Man. Utd. lose to West Ham. of all  people.

After that, I gave the car a full valet including treating the leather upholstery, hoovering the whole of the inside and wax polishing the outside. It took me the best part of two hours and I was really tired by the end of it. I was rewarded with a rare treat. In fact, I haven’t had it for about 20 years. Pollo Allegro or Italian Chicken Kiev. It is chicken breast with a pocket slit in the centre which is filled with garlic butter and mozzarella cheese. The breast is wrapped in pancetta ham and then coated with bread crumbs. (I’ve had absolution for eating bread today.) It is deep fried usually but we pan roasted ours in the oven. It was absolutely wonderful and took us back to our Friday nights after a hard week at work when we would go to Sole Mio in Huddersfield for an indulgent, Italian meal.

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Week 508

Sunday, 16th September, 2018

Gorgeous day again. These are always considered bonus days in the second half of September. 22C/70F and lots of clear, blue skies with uninterrupted sunshine. Why are we going to Scotland? It can’t be better than here. Anyway, at least we will be reunited with our friends after all this time.


Our neighbours installed their new/our old garage door and then came over with a ‘thank you’ pot plant. I must admit, we don’t ‘do’ pot plants these days but politely received it. It is an Anthurium which originates from Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Venezuela. It was brought to Europe in 1876. The name Anthurium derives from the Greek words ‘anthos’ and ‘oura’ which mean ‘bloom’ and ‘tail’.

Apparently, ‘House Plants’ are back in fashion. In the 1960s and 1970s, when we were setting up house, they were all the rage. No home was complete without a Monstera Deliciosa  or Swiss Cheese Plant growing up in the corner or a Wandering Jew or Tradescanthia hanging down from a basket. They thrived in the damp conditions of student flats or first time buyers houses. As my generation moved up market, cleaner, dryer conditions were de rigour. Even the Che Guevara posters have gone. However, in time-honoured tradition – what goes around comes around – house plants are back in fashion. Who are we to resist?

Monday, 17th September, 2018

Summer in full bloom. The whole day has been sunshine-filled and a temperature of 24C/75F. We won’t expect any more of the Canary Islands in November. I have been watering pot plants on the patio prior to leaving them to their own devices tomorrow morning. We expect to continue cutting Rocket leaves for a little while to come. The lawns (lol) are cut and the hedges trimmed. We’ve done another gym workout today and packed our bags. Actually, it seems strange to be flying but staying within UK. We’ve packed our passports anyway because we will need Photo I.D.. We made them anyway if Scotland breaks away. It will be good to get in before we need a visa and before mobile roaming is cut off.

Edinburgh Station looks very interesting!

The flight from Gatwick to Edinburgh is 1hr 35 mins long at a cost of £227.66/€257.00 for the two of us which compares well with a train journey from our village to Edinburgh of 10hrs 11 mins. costing £330.53/€373.00 for the two of us and a of a drive of 461 miles and 8 .0 hrs non-stop driving costing £158.00/ in Unleaded Petrol for the return trip without stops but also takes a few years of your life.  Edinburgh Station looks very interesting but after 10 hrs? Probably not so much.

Tuesday, 18th September, 2018

Up at 7.00 am to a grey and blustery but very warm (18C/65F) morning. I have scheduled ‘Hive’, internet-controlled, light bulbs around the house so that I can play with them while we are away. Having announced that publicly, of course, I have negated their effectiveness but who reads this nonsense. Final packing – phone/iPad/watch chargers + multi-socket still have to be packed. Breakfast juice enjoyed and dishwasher stacked and then we are off.

Descending in to Edinburgh

We are driving to Gatwick at 9.30 am – timed in order to miss the worst of rush hour. Normally, it would take about 40 mins but we expect at least an hour at this time on a week day. …. The drive was good. We soon went through to No1 Lounge and relaxed before going down to gate. Early take off and early landing. The plane was not full. Plenty of room for spreading out. Took this photo as we were descending to land.

Edinburgh Airport small and friendly and easy to use. Taxi to Queensferry Road was immediately available. Our taxi driver shocked me immediately when he replied to my questions: Did you vote for Independence? No. / Did you vote for Brexit? Yes. These answers go against all the trends for younger Scots. He went on to explain that he voted on selfish (his word) grounds. He dealt in Bitcoin as a hobby and he was likely to make more money out of chaos. He was also a fan of Farage.

When we go to our hotel, having contributed to our taxi driver’s next crypto currency purchase, a lovely girl checked us in. She wouldn’t have voted Brexit even if she was allowed to. As a Moldovan, she was working hard in our service industry and providing an excellent service. A Moldovan accent with a Scottish twang overlaid is really rather nice although not so easy to understand.

Wednesday, 19th September, 2018

Pauline with Bjorn & Anne-Mari

What a day to choose to explore Edinburgh. Gale force winds and torrential rain. Actually, we had a wonderful day which began with a lovely, hotel breakfast and then a taxi into the city centre because of the inclement weather. We were dropped at a previously agreed coffee shop and, within a few minutes, 40 years were rolled back and in walked Bjorn and Anne-Mari. We last saw them in 1978.

Bjorn is Norwegian and Anne-Mari was born in Africa. All those years ago when we met them, they were living in our (then) home village of Meltham in West Yorkshire. Bjorn is a potter who taught in our school. Anne-Mari is a jewellery designer. In 1978, they both left for posts in Edinburgh University and remained there until they retired. For years, we have been promising to visit them and exchanging Christmas cards. The same two cards with infill newsletters have been shuttling between us for 40 years. Today, Pauline fulfilled her promise of seeing them again. In spite of the weather, it was a lovely day which ended in a meal back at their big, old Edinburgh stone house.

The photograph above, shows us in a bookshop where we found a copy of Anne-Mari’s book on jewellery design. At their home, they introduced us to 3D printing which I knew about but had never actually seen in reality. They were using a 3D printer to produce prototype items of jewellery. It was an interesting experience.

Thursday, 20th September, 2018

A totally different day with the morning opening on clear blue sky although still a little breezy. My phone shows me that the temperature at home on the Sussex coast at 7.00 am is 17C/63F but only 9C/48F here in Edinburgh. We are going to do one of my least favourite activities today – shopping. Pauline gets so few chances to indulge herself in actual (as opposed to virtual) clothes shopping that it is time for me to indulge her and just take the pain.

Walking on Princes Street, Edinburgh

After breakfast this morning, we had the day to ourselves so we sat with coffee and our digital newspapers. At 10.00 am, we set off to walk from our hotel up Queensferry Road with views of Fettes School (alma mater of Brown & Blair) in the distance, into Queensferry Street and then Princes Street. The weather was brilliantly blue sky and strong sunshine but with a cold, blustery wind – a hangover from yesterday’s gales. In the Orchard Park as we walked past, huge branches torn off in the wind lay strewn across the grass, debris blown from roofs littered the gardens and the pavements. The temperature at this time in the morning was 9C/48F compared with a reading of 17C/63 F in our home village in Sussex.

Closing Down

As we turned in to Princes Street, we enter House of Fraser department store. I hate those sorts of places at the best of times but today it was more depressing than ever. As I so often do in these situations, I found a chair to sit and browse and watch the world go by while Pauline set off across the store to look at clothes. Today, the store was being plastered with ‘Closing Down – 20% off marked price’ posters by the very staff who now knew they were losing their jobs. I found the scene profoundly depressing and I felt so sorry for all those loyal workers who were still doing their best for the Management.

We are notoriously bad at this shopping process and Pauline’s heart really wasn’t in it. We did some window shopping, a bit of seeing the sights and then set off back on the 2 mile walk to our hotel to catch the Daily Politics. and the One o’Clock News  followed by Scottish News which was nice to see although difficult to understand. Isn’t town walking tiring? Hard pavements and lots of noise and people. Who can cope with people? They constantly get in one’s way, take specific lines of walking and refuse to budge unless I barge them. They smell of sweat, cheap perfume, cigarette smoke, stale coffee and all sorts of unspeakable other things. Give me a solitary life by the sea!

Friday, 21st September, 2018

Woke to a pleasant but greyish morning – at 7.00 am, Edinburgh 7C/45F – West Sussex 14C/57F. Ate a third, consecutive hotel breakfast and vowed never to eat again … for life. The morning was spent packing up, charging phones and tablets, doing emails and reading the newspapers. An email came in from Easyjet to warn us that our flight was delayed by 15 mins. Not a problem.

Our taxi arrived on time and we were at the airport 30 mins later. Edinburgh Airport was absolutely packed. Looked busier than Gatwick. We thought we would be ok by going to one of the two private lounges airside and relaxing with a glass of wine. That’s when the day took a bit of a down turn. Arriving at No1 Lounge, we were told that it was absolutely full and had a waiting list that would take 2 hrs to clear. We went on to Aspire lounge to find a notice on the door saying ‘Currently Full’. On inquiry, we were told that there would be a wait so we sat in the foyer for 30 mins aspiring to get in before finally finding to a comfortable chair and table with charging points, strong wi-fi and some refreshments.

As we settled back, we checked the Easyjet app to find that our delay had been extended to an hour. By this stage, we just hunkered down with another glass of red wine and watched other people come and go. Eventually, we were called to gate and then to board a newish and very comfortable plane. It was a good flight but, because of our delayed take-off in Edinburgh, we had to wait for a landing slot by circling the airport for about 20 mins. Eventually, we landed about 90 mins later than timetabled.

Fortunately, our bag was off first from the carousel, the bus back to Long Stay carpark was waiting outside and we were soon in our car on the road home. It really doesn’t matter where we go, how long we stay for, how much we enjoy it – coming home is wonderful! And so it was.

Saturday, 22nd September, 2018

The thing that strikes one immediately is the difference in temperature. It is really noticeable. Back home, the house feels almost uncomfortably hot even though we haven’t had the heating on since last March/April. I have gone to do the supermarket shop in shorts and short-sleeved tee-shirt. I don’t feel out of place because half the men there are doing the same.

Our shopping today really reflects our current dietary patterns. I am still a real pain. I always need to follow a low-ish calorie content regime. I am constantly searching for food elements which are full of flavour, and stomach-filling texture but low in calories. Unfortunately, I am not able to use green vegetables like lettuce, broccoli or cabbage because they contain high levels of Vitamin K which militates against the Anti-coagulant drug, Warfarin which I take for Atrial Fibrillation.

Latterly, I have been majoring on tomatoes – virtually every day as a side salad – and cauliflower which I also eat cold and dressed with olive oil and lemon as a salad. These two have become staples and are combined with a central component of protein such as fish or chicken. Recently, we have also been turning to pulses and a mixed-bean salad. This is just simply dressed with olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Everything is dressed with herbs and rough, black pepper to replace salt. We do use flakes of sea salt but sparingly.

Today, we had roasted loin of cod with tail-on prawns and roasted cherry tomatoes in garlic and oregano. The depth of flavour is extraordinary and lingers for quite some time after we have finished eating. It is of a quality that one would rarely expect to receive in a restaurant at home or abroad and leaves one feeling better about one’s self than before it was consumed.

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Week 507

Sunday, 9th September, 2018

Bosch Electric Lawn Raker – £170.00/€191.00

Lovely warm and sunny day that reached 22C/70F here on the south coast. We did our gym routine and I cleaned and tidied the garage in preparation for the new door being installed on Tuesday.

I am struggling to cope with my main, back lawn because large areas of it died in the five, dry, hot weeks I was away in the Dordogne. I am going to buy an electric lawn rake/scarifier for a start and then reseed the bald areas. I had one of these machines before and, if you’ve never used one, I can tell you that it is one of the most labour-relieving implements you can ever own. If you’ve ever tried to rake out a large lawn with a hand rake, you will know immediately.

Monday, 10th September, 2018

We have a 5 year warranty on this house and all its fittings. We are only half way through that period so we have called the joiner out to fix a slightly moveable bannister rail. These are the sorts of things that I wouldn’t want to do myself nor would I want to pay a man to do for me. Being able to ring our house builder and get a joiner sent out pronto and free of charge is wonderful. Gordon the joiner is coming this morning at 8.00 am which will be good because it forces us to get up early and start the day positively.

When he arrived with large white van and almost as large toolbox, Gordon removed a small wooden patch to reveal a screw which he tightened with one of his 40 screwdrivers and then replaced the patch. Off he went back to Brighton leaving two happy customers in his wake.

We ordered a new tumble dryer a week ago from Currys. Pauline had very specific requirements and, when their website said it would take 10 – 21 days for delivery, we went ahead and still ordered. We were a little disconcerted when the follow up receipt of the order had altered the wait to 2 – 4 weeks. Even more annoying was the fact that they drew the money on our credit card immediately rather than waiting until they were ready to despatch. So, this morning, I phoned them – well, I am still on hold now after going through more menus than an ordinary person has breath to sustain – only to be told that there was an unusual demand on their services and it could take at least 10 mins before they answered me. I hate making phone calls at the best of times but this really winds me, an essentially calm man, UP!

David Lloyd, Worthing – Gym

Did another full routine at the gym and pool on a quiet Monday. Time of year when everyone is back at school/work and many have given up on fitness until January when life will become frenetic again.

Tonight I received a text message informing me that the Tumble Dryers had been received in the warehouse and would be out for delivery urgently. We are going away in a week. Let’s hope they get on with it.

Tuesday, 11th September, 2018

Up at 6.00 am after a very warm night for mid-September. We didn’t drop below 18C/65F. We have the garage door company coming at 8.30 am and Pauline has a Doctor’s appointment at 9.00 am. My official INR test has to be emailed through to the hospital this morning and it is good at 2.8.

By 11.30 am, the new garage door was fitted and working and we were able to prepare for our trip to the Health Club. I will have achieved my target every day this month apart from one, averaging 13,000 paces per day over 28 days and covering 178 miles. That excludes swimming which adds quite a bit to my physical output. The reward will be a day off tomorrow when we have a list of 14 tasks to complete which will be incorporated with a walk on the sea shore for lovely, fresh air.

Our tasks include a trip to Screwfix to collect 4 Hive bulbs which I can program or control from my phone/iPad while we are away. It is a step into the modern world after spending so much time and money on plug in timers for table lamps to give the appearance we are at home. They are expensive but they do have smart wi-fi connectivity which makes remote operation so useful.

Wednesday, 12th September, 2018

Hold the Front Page! We are not going to the Health Club today. I am genuinely feeling guilty and rather uncomfortable particularly with no cricket to distract me.

Greeks are not cricket fans or cricketers – with the noble exception of the Corfiots. Because of that, Greek TV stations didn’t commission cricket coverage on their satellite Sports Channels. We took Nova Satellite package because it gave us UK Premier League football. We then switched to OTE Satellite package when they bought the Premier League rights. In the early days, I could even switch from Greek commentary to the original English one but later lost that. Only once did we get Cricket Test Matches when England were in South Africa and I could never understand why. It has been a real bonus this year to be in UK and to enjoy a fantastic England-India series. Really enjoyed it – especially the result.

Went out to pick up my lawn rake/scarifier this morning from Argos and then on to Screwfix to collect my Hive, wi-fi bulbs. After that, we drove on to the Littlehampton Marina and bought fish – a swordfish joint and two seabass. Home for PMQs which was poor and then on to more jobs. We are expecting Currys to deliver our new Tumble Dryer which is why we are housebound this afternoon. I have mowed (what I still laughingly call)the lawns while Pauline has done the third and last major harvest of the Basil Plants and made even more Pesto. The basil is definitely much more ‘woody’ by this stage and needs picking over carefully. We could now live solely on Pesto until 2020 but I bet we eat it a lot quicker. I love it!

The new tumble dryer arrived about 5.30 pm delivered by two Sri Lankans. They took the old (2.5 yrs) one away at the same time. We were just relieved that we had a new one at a price of around £315.00/€354.00. Normal life will be resumed tonight….. and we’ll dry some clothes.

Thursday, 13th September, 2018

Quite a day. Absolutely beautiful blue skies with strong, uninterrupted sunshine and a temperature of 22C/70F. We prepared the garage to put down parking lines so I can garage the car on my own rather than expect my assistant to be constantly in attendance. Off out to Sainsburys and then the Chemists and home by 9.30 am.. Harvested the last of the Thyme and Oregano plants for the season; washed and froze the produce. Picked up and assembled (with my wife’s help) the new lawn rake & scarifier.

Did a really enjoyable session in the gym. Amazing how much better a day off made us feel. Pauline has decided she wants to work on her upper arms by using dumbbells. I have ordered some for home so she can do the exercise when she wants. It’s the sort of thing you need to do every day – maybe more than once – in order to really get some benefit. I will supervise her exercise if I’m paying out the princely sum of £9.99/€11.20.

Friday, 14th September, 2018

Warm but grey day which reached 21C/70F but didn’t get the pulses running. We did some jobs around the house and then a gym workout. I am averaging 14,500 steps per day over this week and more than 13,000 per day for the past month. I am still a month short of completing a full year with this watch but I’m already averaging 9, 500 steps per day over a nominal 12 month period.

Whenever we go away, I struggle to pick up news channels, Parliament debates, etc.. Often, even in good hotels, I just get BBC News Channel or even just CNN. One can access BBC Radio over the internet abroad but not TV. By chance, I was reading an expat in Greece Blog the other day and learnt of an app which didn’t sound promising but I thought there was, maybe, something in it. ‘TV Catchup’ suggests exactly that but was discussed as a source of real-time reception abroad. It sounded too good to be true.

I downloaded the app to my iPad and tried it out in our hotel room in Athens recently. To my amazement, it worked. I could pick up UK Freeview Channels and they were not blocked like the iPlayer. I have a 12.5″ screen iPad Pro which was good enough to watch on but it got me thinking of putting that through the hotel’s TV screen to make it more user friendly. A quick search on the internet brought up a Digital AV Adapter which had an Apple lighting connector and a port for its charger. This is important to maintain the iPad’s charge in a battery-hungry process.

The adapter  plugs into the TV’s HDMI slot and allows the TV screen to mirror that of the iPad. Today, I tried it out on a small TV set upstairs at home with perfect results. As the ‘A’ in Audio Visual suggests, I got both Sound and Pictures which I could control with the TV remote. As almost every flat screen TV nowadays has an HDMI socket, this will be of immense use in our travels across Europe.

Saturday, 15th September, 2018

In the coming week, we are flying from Gatwick to Edinburgh to meet up with a friend and ex-colleague of ours who we haven’t seen for almost exactly 40 years. Bjorn, a Norweigan Potter, taught at our school from 1975 – 78. He then went on to lecture at Edinburgh University where his wife – a jewellery designer – also lectured. For the past 40 years, we have exchanged the same two Christmas cards with newsletters enclosed to the point where one is nearly falling apart. We have been promising to visit him for the past 30 years and this is the year where we will live up to our promise.

Bergen Harbour

It is exactly 50 years ago this summer that I spent a month on a motorbike touring Norway with a friend. Excluding a couple of weeks in Southern Ireland ( which most people would do), this was my first time abroad. It left an indelible impression on my young (17 yr old) consciousness. We drove up to Newcastle and got the ferry to Bergen. I don’t remember every stop but Bergen, Lillehammer, Oslo and Stavanger Fjord stand out.

Stavanger Fijord

We stayed in Youth Hostels which were the cheapest way to do it but were positively plush compared with their English counterparts. We had the most wonderful, hot, sunny weather and I have an image indelibly implanted on my memory that has remained all of those 50 years.

We were driving over the mountains under a strong sun from clear blue skies. All around us was thick snow which our road cut through. Suddenly, some 50-60 metres to our right and out in the middle of the snow-covered mountainside, a young couple sat at a table with a lit candle in between them. They had a bottle of wine and two glasses and were toasting each other. That seemed strange enough to a young, impressionable lad like me but even stranger was the fact that there was no sign of a vehicle to get them up in the mountains and no signs of disturbance (footsteps) in the snow from the road to their table.

We whizzed past on our motorbike and only discussed it when we settled back in our Youth Hostel for the night. However, both of us saw it and neither of us could explain it. Answers on an email.

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Week 506

Sunday, 2nd September, 2018

Yesterday, on the first day of Autumn, we reached 23C/73F and this morning has opened with clear, blue skies and strong sunshine. At 6.30 am, it is a little cooler than one would choose but the day is going to be great. We are going to do one, final trip to the gym before leaving for Greece. We will have missed just one day in the past three weeks. In our Athens hotel, we will swim but not gym. We get plenty of walking done in the city. Looking forward to meeting old friends.

Fruits of Autumn

This is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness to quote John Keats’ Ode to Autumn. It is characterised by mild days but cooler nights, by later sunrises and earlier sunsets. In the past and for many years, it meant going back to work after 6 weeks in Greece so there was always a hint of sadness. I tell myself that enjoyment can be sucked out of all the seasons although Summer warmth is still my real enjoyment. That is why we are buying extensions to our ‘Summer’ with trips to Greece and to Tenerife which will take warm weather well in to the British Autumn. Even so, we have just been told that this has been the joint hottest Summer in British history – equalling 1976. I had just completed 4 years of teaching and was living in a pokey little flat in down town Oldham. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Monday, 3rd September, 2018

Just as we prepared for going away, our 30 month old Tumbled Dryer died. It’s hardly done much service for two people using it a couple of times per week. Like everything else, as soon as we use lose the facility, it becomes indispensable. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day yesterday and we were able to put the clothes outside in the sun to dry but we anticipate a lot of dirty washing when we return from Greece and will urgently need a dryer.

Hoover Condenser Dryer

If you are not a tumble dryer aficionado, you may not know that there are three, main types. The first is a vented machine that emits water-laden air from a hole in the front/back/side. We’ve had many of that type in the past. They are the cheapest of the three. The second is the condenser dryer which – you’ve guessed it – condenses the water vapour before it can escape and is collected in an integral container. This type is more expensive than the former but considerably cheaper than the final type which is Heat Pump. The Skiathan can stop making notes now.

While conventional tumble dryers release the hot air used to dry the clothes, the Heat Pump technology conserves and reuses it, so less energy is used and it reduces energy consumption further. Sounds wonderful but, at £1100.00/€1220.00, it is a wonder I can manage without. A Hoover Condenser Dryer (10kg load) costing £300.00/€335.00 will do just nicely, thank you, although there is a 10 day wait for one to come back in to stock and be delivered. Thank goodness we will be away for a while.

Tuesday, 4th September, 2018

She’s such a messy eater!

Wandering through the streets of Athens in 34C/93F of sunshine from strong, blue skies, we felt we were home. It is as if we had never left. In our flight yesterday my mobile was contacted by service providers in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The flight was wonderful and lasted only 3hrs 10 mins although I was only awake for 40 mins of that. Athens airport was so slick, with luggage on the carousel before passengers were there to collect and the Metro left the moment we had picked seats and sat down.

Our hotel, the Electra Palace, had already upgraded us because of our frequent bookings and provided us with complimentary drinks, Premium Superfast Wi-Fi  plus other trappings. We settled in, went out for a walk, bought a bottle of wine and some salted pistachio nuts and went back to relax with Sky News. Later, we went out to eat at our favourite, street-side taverna – Evegenia’s Paradosiako – where we ate Greek Salad with Garlic Sauce followed by barbecued Sea Bass. Dreamy!

We went up to the Roof Garden this evening and sat around the swimming pool overlooking the Acropolis. It was moonlit, bright and warm with 30C/86F at 9.00 pm. The whole atmosphere takes us back to good times. Next Summer, we have been invited to Sifnos for the Summer. It is something we are seriously contemplating. It would be nice to see Stavros again.

Wednesday, 5th September, 2018

Very hot today. Woke up to 25C/77F at 7.00 am but reached 35C/95F as we walked out in mid morning. Our first task was to find a new restaurant we had read about for dinner this evening. It is on Odos Erotokritou

We liked what we saw on the menu and decided to return in the evening. We walked on down to Monastiraki Station to take the train to ‘posh’ Kifisia. It was hot – very hot – and our walk didn’t last long. We took the train back to Monastiraki and then walked back through Plaka, stopping only to buy a punnet of juicy figs from a street barrow.

The Fruits of Greek Autumn

Back at our hotel and with the air conditioning down low, we drank coffee and watch Prime Minister’s Questions although little good it did us. Then we were out again and taking the train down to Piraeus. It has always been a dive but even more so in recent years. We were travelling on a €4.50 / 24hr Athens unlimited travel ticket. Enforced payment is supposed to be introduced but many station barriers were left open and people just blatantly climbed over the fence where the barriers were in use. Nobody has to pay unless they choose to.

Down in Piraeus, one is overwhelmed by the detritus of travelling humanity. It is grubbier than ever but the anticipation of travel is as exciting as ever.

We just touched base but didn’t stay long. Most of our regular haunts have closed down which is sad but not surprising. We took the train back to our hotel and had a good swim before going out to Dinner.

Thursday, 6th September, 2018

Hot again. We’ve seen 33C/92F and quite high humidity. Today was walking in Athens streets. Down to Omonia and the markets. It was so hot that we couldn’t face the stench of the meat market. The outdoor, vegetable market provided anything to rival the Dordogne.

Outdoor Market – Omonia

We were visiting old haunts, places we have walked a hundred times but are now seeing with fresh eyes. We bought grapes and figs from a street seller and took them back to the hotel for our lunch. We went for a swim and did a 30 mins workout .

Going out for grilled Sea Bass and salad for Dinner this evening and linger over a carafe of chilled wine under a hot and humid sky as the light dies. How lucky are we?

Friday, 7th September, 2018

Up early – 6.00 am (Greek Time) / 4.00 am (UK Time) – and down to breakfast. The last breakfast for a while, thank goodness. Even so, scrambled egg and bacon, washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice is a pleasant treat. The sunshine really adds to the flavours and feeds the eyes for the day ahead.

By 9.00 am, we were off to the Syndagma underground station and, with 2 x €10.00 tickets in hand, we crowded on to a commuter train to the airport. By 10.00 am, we were walking into the airport, dropping off our bags for Easyjet and going down to the Goldair Handling Lounge to relax in peace, drink a glass of fresh, orange juice and read our on-line newspapers.

On board our Easyjet flight by 11.30 am, we heard that a 30 minute delay with refuelling would hold us up. It is the first Easyjet delay we have experienced over many flights. The journey back was uneventful and we landed at Gatwick around 2.35 pm.. Quickly through the airport, successful baggage reclaim and out to the Long Stay Carpark shuttle bus. In to our car and a short hop of 45 mins back home via Tesco for some essential supplies.

Sitting back in our kitchen, it seems barely believable that we were breakfasting in Athens only a few hours ago and fighting our way through the crowded underground system to travel to the airport and then sitting high up above the only too tangible clouds over the patchwork fields of France. Life is strange and magical but it was brought back to earth with a bump when we received an email from our next door neighbours to say that their cat, Como, who we had recently looked after while they were away, had been found, run over, more than a mile away from home. They are lovely people and the are heartbroken.

Saturday, 8th September, 2018

Time zones are one of the things that I take time to adjust to. After the last few days spent 2 hrs ahead of UK, we woke at 5.30 am and were up soon after. We had a fairly busy day planned so it was quite helpful. Around 8.30 am, we set off for Worthing. Even then, the coastal road was busy with joggers, cyclists and dog walkers. We parked in the multi-storey car park and set off for the Sports Direct shop in the centre of town. It always amuses me that, potentially, it is most popular with sporty, fit people and yet access to and from the shop is via an elevator. What’s wrong with stairs?

I was picking up a new pair of trainers for use in the gym. I’ve been using the same, cheap pair for the past 15 years and they are beginning to show their age. So am I, of course, but I am not so easily replaceable. (I hope.) We went on to visit Asda and Sainsburys after not doing our weekly shop this week. Home to watch the cricket and then out to the gym. By the time I had done 70 mins exercise there, my watch was showing 16,500 paces completed and I was feeling reasonably satisfied with myself. One eye on the England ‘friendly’ with Spain tonight and one eye on catching up with correspondence.

Another fun-filled day tomorrow. Today has finished with another, old fogey moment. We have had new smartphones for about three weeks. We have both had Huawei P20 Pros. Suddenly, Pauline recently noticed small scrapes on the side of her screen. This really upset her because she had no idea how they had been caused and is meticulous in her care for things. Today, I noticed similar small scrapes on my screen. I ran my finger over them and suddenly realised that the screen didn’t feel like glass. Flicking the screen edge with my finger nail brought up the plastic protector that the manufacturer had covered the screen with and which had started to bubble. I pulled them off both screens which now look pristine. I feel rather more stupid than usual.

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Week 505

Sunday, 26th August, 2018

It’s going to rain today. Folklore dictates that Bank Holiday weekends are wet and the weather will not disappoint. Actually, it will be nice to see some more rain. I need something to kick my lawns back to life. Bank Holidays are irrelevant any way. I bank on-line.

Two weeks ago, we picked up our new smartphones – Huawei P20 Pro – which we are given ‘free’ to maintain our EE contracts. We have unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 10Gb of data which we can also use across Europe, US and Australia. Actually, we each pay £43.00/€47.50 per month. I chose the phones particularly for their cameras. Each phone has 3 lenses all by Leica and includes a 40MP lens with a 5x Zoom. That is far superior to my 10 year old, Canon EOS SLR.

If you want to buy these phones on the open market without a contract, they would cost you £799.99/€895.00 and, for a 2 month promotional period, they are offering ‘free’, wireless earphones. They say, as you can see, that these are sold at £149.00/ although I find it hard to believe. They certainly make them hard to ‘claim’ by making people wait 2 weeks after phone purchase and then scanning in their receipt and uploading the jpeg to their website. Not to be put off, I’ve done it this morning.

Monday, 27th August, 2018

Fuscia Janey

Today is fairly cloudy. We didn’t get above 22C/70F all day and with little sunshine. It is the birthday of my Mother-in-Law. Pauline’s Mum was affectionately called ‘Mump’ by us but was known as ‘Janey’ by her family. Today, she would have been 104 although she died 8 years ago at 96. We found a fuschia called ‘Janey’ and have planted it in her memory. She was short and squat and tenacious and the fuschia suits her perfectly. It disappears every winter and, just when we think it is lost for ever, up it pops from arid ground to flourish beautifully. We remember a lovely woman – Janey Barnes (1914 -2010). Thoughts of her still make her smile.

Slug I murdered & its Friend

I did something terrible today. I feel absolutely awful about it. I killed a slug. It was bin day today and, as I took the first bin out on to the roadside, I noticed a huge slug on our drive. I thought, I don’t want that eating our plants and I ‘deliberately’ ran it over with the wheels of the bin. I killed it and thought nothing more until an hour later when I brought the first of our three , empty bins back in and noticed the squashed and exploded slug was being in kissed/nudged back into life by another slug like some dead elephant being revived by members of its tribe. The slug was obviously dead and the ‘friend’ ultimately realised that but I continued to feel guilty for hours. When we went out to the gym, the dead slug remained alone on the drive.

Tuesday, 28th August, 2018

A lovely warm and sunny day which only reached 22C/70F but felt hotter because of the humidity. Although I am sedentary by instinct, in retirement I have become active by design. Today, we did a tour of shops and Doctors’ surgeries followed by the gym. It amounted to 14,000 paces and a feeling of pleasure.

I read a lot. I read newspapers, political blogs and Greek blogs along with many other things in Twitter and Faceache. It is important to keep up with current information in all spheres. I read Greek Blogs everyday in order to keep me in touch with the country I have invested 40 years of my life. If I wanted to go to any country where I would feel at home it would be Greece. Even so, I am still absolutely convinced that our decision to sell and leave was absolutely right in economic terms and I don’t regret it for one minute.

Though Greece slipped to 24th place on the list of the wealthiest countries in the European Union in 2017 from 14th a decade ago, it remains the 19th dearest state in the bloc, data from a Eurostat report on prices for consumer goods and services showed. Incomes and prices have parted to a worrying degree. Despite the economic crisis and the impoverishment of millions of Greeks, prices for consumer goods and services remained high. On the other hand, the country was cheaper in housing with prices last year remaining below the EU. How lucky were we to extricate ourselves from property ownership?

I’ve read a blog from Skiathos for many years. The Skiathan is a very interesting man and worth following although his blog, like mine is diminished by his departure from Greece. I read a Blog from Simon in Birmingham/Corfu which has amazingly connected to people Pauline &  I know from our academic experiences. Simon Baddeley lives in Birmingham and Corfu and is a lecturer in Social Administration. He featured one of Pauline’s Assistants one day quite out of the blue and we were amazed at the coincidence. We first went to Greece in 1981 which surprises me in retrospect but the Skiathan’s wife only went to the island ten years ago.

We used to leave Sifnos towards the end of September and, sometimes, in early October. We virtually never saw rain in August. This year, Greece has experienced exactly that. Every year we saw bad weather on Greek television with hailstones as big as golf balls featured as they destroyed northern crops. This year, it seems to have gone further south than usual. Skopelos lost electric power for hours after numerous lightning strikes. The joy of these blogs is that we recognise and feel the experiences they depict like this shot of the garage of a Greek ferry. We spent so much of our lives in these suffocatingly hot and smelly places.

Wednesday, 29th August, 2018

Well, it might have rained in Greece but it is certainly raining here this morning against all former predictions. Between 6.30 am – 10.30 am, it came down incessantly. I’m beginning to get a bit worried that, even with rain, my back lawn is not regenerating. Before we go to Tenerife, I may have to get a professional company in to scarify and reseed it. I can’t spend the entire Winter looking out on huge, brown patches.

We went to the Health Club around 12.30 pm by which time the sun was out and the warm world (22C/70F) was restored. We have only failed to do our exercise regime once in the past 18 days. Routine is the important thing here and it no longer feels an imposition. I use the jogging machine for 40 mins while watching the One O’clock News and then I have recently become engrossed in a programme called Murder, Mystery and My Family which is effectively historical research in which two, criminal barristers reinvestigate historical cases of murder where the alleged perpetrator was hanged. They submit their findings to a High Court Judge.

The Rotunda Central Manchester Library

My Masters was a Research Degree in the History of Ideas. The process of discovering and interpreting information from the past is absolutely riveting. Today, while watching the two barristers research their case, I was flashed back 30 years to the hours and days I spent in research for my thesis which was entitled R.H.Tawney and The Medieval Tradition. It was founded in the rise of Marxist Theory informing political thought at the end of the 19th Century and the birth of the Labour Party at the beginning of the new Century. I submitted it, successfully, in 1989 having completed it while I was working full-time as a teacher. In fact, I had been a teacher for nearly 20 years.

Today, 30 years on and many miles away from Manchester, I was on the jogging machine in the Health Club watching a television programme as the two barristers visited the very place where I had spent so long in my own research – The Rotunda Central Manchester Library. Life is full of so many rich coincidences. I got off the jogging machine and kissed my wife who supported me so unswervingly throughout that tortuous process of research. Without her, I would never have completed it.

Thursday, 30th August, 2018

A lovely warm and sunny day reaching 22C/70F – maybe the end of Summer. Certainly, it is quite alarming how quickly the evening light is dying and the morning arriving later each day. The European Union have received an overwhelming expression of opinion from citizens with 8 out of 10 respondents in a European Union online survey supporting the ending of daylight saving time. I must admit, it has been my view for a long time and I would welcome the change. What would be interesting would be if Brexit left UK marooned in the old time-warp while the rest of Europe moved ahead.

Went to the Health Club for a workout today for the 17th day out of the past 18. Yesterday, I wrote about my intellectual, former life. Everything I’ve done since leaving school in 50 years ago has been fairly sedentary. Until then, I was energetic and active every day. I played rugby, did athletics or trained for the two at least 6 days per week while at Grammar School. After that, I was studying and teaching. Both activities involved a lot of sitting down, of writing and reading. Since I retired almost 10 years ago, I have been gradually ramping up the exercise and today my calculator says I have covered a record (for me) 187 miles walking and cycling in the past 28 days.

I was amused to read of the Greek embrace of SIMP – the Sustainable Island Mobility Plan – which

encourages solutions to the mobility issue of the Greek islands by using methods such as the wide limitation of the use of cars, the promotion of carpooling, the introduction of electric vehicles, the reduction of speed limits and the improvement of existing parking spaces as well as the creation of new ones.

Sifnos is being announced as the first SIMP in Europe. Good Luck with that. Like the smoking ban, it will be more ignored than observed. I look forward to the first battery powered ferries to dock in Kamares. They’re on strike again on Monday, anyway so that should cut down on emissions.

Friday, 31st August, 2018

Paradosiako Taverna

We are seeing August out with a lovely, warm and sunny day. The window cleaner has been and left us with sparkling windows but £18.00/€19.90 poorer. It’s worth it though. I’ve mowed what’s left of the lawns and we are tidying up the hedges and weeding the borders to leave the place tidy before we go away next week. The temperature has reached 22C/70F with lovely sunshine.

A three hour stint at the Health Club and home to griddle Tuna Steaks in the garden to be eaten with tomato and cauliflower salads. The last day of Summer is ending well. We will be in Greece in three days and real heat. Looking forward to that. Dinner at Paradosiako, our favourite taverna. Can’t wait.

Saturday, 1st September, 2018

Never an easy month to welcome; we just have to grit our teeth, acknowledge that Summer is over and embrace the Autumn. Happy September to you all.

Certainly the light is changing noticeably. Mornings start later and evenings earlier. Ironically, the weather has spent late August feeling autumnal and gone back to Summer just as the new season begins. This morning is warm and sunny. Ideal to make pupils and teachers not want to go back to school. Oh Dear. How sad! Never mind. We are off to the gym to in an attempt to fight back against the onslaught of infirmity.

I once worked out in an idle moment that we would have, theoretically, emptied our theoretical pension pot if we drew on it for 17 years. With only 7 years to go we are working towards theoretical profit. Of course, it’s all theoretical, fortunately. They will continue to threw money at us if we live to be 100. Over 40 years of pension. Now you’re talking!

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Week 504

Sunday, 19th August, 2018

Well, a grey and mild start to the day. It is just 20C/68F this morning and a little breezy. I’m told it’s Sunday by my phone although it makes little difference to me. It is nice to download a Sunday paper and to watch a bit of Test Match and Football but I can do most of that on so many days that it really doesn’t matter.

Dublin 1979

It mattered to my Mother who would have been 95 on this coming Wednesday. She was a totally committed Roman Catholic and she wanted her 7 children to be so as well. As I developed a thinking mind, I resented it hugely and, the moment I left home at 18, I dropped the ‘pretence’ immediately. Subsequently, all of my siblings have done the same. However, there is a saying that Once a Roman Catholic, always a Roman Catholic and there is some truth in that. For a long time, I didn’t recognise this but Catholicism imbues one with a sense of ‘original sin’ of being subsequently guilty and unworthy. I recognise, intellectually that such a position is not justified but, emotionally, it is much more difficult to jettison.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature. .. It is the opium of the people.

Karl Marx – ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’.

Dublin 2018

We see that it is accepted most strongly in oppressed and/or impoverished groups – in the Third World, for example, but also in the black minority in Britain and in the Irish. Religion seems to ‘explain’ their poverty and place in inequality. The gradations of social standing from God in his Heaven, the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate made All Things Bright & Beautiful.  Of course, Mum derived from Irish stock and inherited her Catholicism. She was by no means stupid but wasn’t prepared to look critically at her beliefs in the way those born further on in the Century are. She was furious when I told her that, just as she had tried to force religion on me so I saw it as my duty as a teacher to advise children to avoid that pernicious, world view.

I have long militated for the eradication of religion’s place in politics and social administration. I have been extremely heartened by the rapid decline in religious observance in Britain. Today, The Sunday Times runs this article:

Young Ireland says Nope to the Pope

On the eve of another papal visit, in pubs and parks Irish people say the Catholic Church has lost its grip on the nation.

It is enough to gladden an old man’s heart, to raise the spirits of Karl Marx and to answer my Mother’s attempts at indoctrination.

Monday, 20th August, 2018

Taken 40 years ago.

Out early on a warm and humid morning which reached 24C/75F. Pauline was having her hair cut before we leave for Greece in a couple of weeks. The sea front was in busy, holidaymaker mode and the sea looked  blue, warm and inviting. Back home, we booked the installation of a new garage door, a trip to the PYO Farm to pick Victoria Plums which Pauline has a passion for and to arrange a visit to Byfleet to visit her sister.

This time last year, we were in Haydock, Lancashire to say goodbye to Pauline’s cousin, Vivienne who had died of cancer. We are thinking of her husband, Richard who has had a year to come to terms with his grief. Neither of us is confident that we can really imagine what it is like to lose our close partner but know it will happen to one of us ultimately.

We set off for our 8th, consecutive visit to do our duty in the gym. It is becoming easy and routine at the moment and we are looking to increase our efforts by adding a piece of machinery – probably rowing – to our exercise regime. It will be good to get back in to swimming soon when the kids go back to school and the indoor pool repair is completed.

However, target driven as I am, I get real pleasure from screens on my smartphone like the one pictured here. I am uncomfortable if my chart has gaps on its daily report. Pleasure is a full row of yellow bars demonstrating my commitment. A daily average of 13,748 paces covering a total of 48.7 miles for this week makes me feel good. Did you know I was weird? It is something that retirement requires to be meaningful – target achievement. We wrinklies have to set our own targets and drive ourselves on to achievement. We are trying so hard to do just that!

Tuesday, 21st August, 2018

Cloudy and humid start to a day which never dipped below 19C/66F over night. We went out early to the local PYO farm just round the corner from our house. Victoria Plums are ready for picking. They are a favourite of ours. In 20 mins, we had two bags containing 8kgs/18lbs of plums. The trees are so prolific and easy to pick from. It was a delight. By the time we drove home, the temperature was 28C/82F although fairly dull and very humid.


Off to the supermarket for huge bags of sugar so the jam can be made. That is Pauline’s job for the rest of the day. A trip to the gym is cancelled. I am watering the lawn and trying to persuade it to regenerate. The plums were so easy to pick, we ended up with too many really. They have been stoned and quartered and cooked up. After the sugar has been added, I become an enthusiastic Chief Taster. I so rarely get to eat anything sweet that ‘normal’ jam now tastes almost unbearably sweet. Gorgeous!

We have two weeks until we leave for Athens and then a further two weeks until we fly to Edinburgh. My cousin in France has been trying to entice me into a cousins’ reunion in the Charente Department of south west France. That is where we visited her about a month ago and, because of that, we are not in a hurry to return. There are only so many places to visit in a lifetime and we are already planning events for next year. We are hoping to revive an Australia trip in the Spring, a month villa rental in July in Girona over the border from France to Spain, an Athens trip allied to an island visit in September and then a month in the Canaries in November. Quite a busy year.

Wednesday, 22nd August, 2018

Mum & Me in Foremark Woods 1953

Today, my Mum would have been 95 years old. Unfortunately, she died 10 years ago and the pain is rapidly greying into recession. In the photo, I was 2½ years old and she was 30. It is so unsettling how these experiences and memories have run away into the mists of time. It is exactly what will happen to me and my darling wife and to all of you. We cannot escape it but it is so difficult to embrace and accept it.

Living one’s life in the here-and-now is the only option but these pinch points of memory are painful in the extreme and even more so as reality is replaced with the chimera of memory. I remember my relationship with my Mother in the awkwardness of its reality and, talking to my sisters some years on, I am surprised and vaguely shocked that our memories and judgements have an uncomfortable similarity. I wasn’t as odd and mad as I have thought over these past 50 years. Still, I find myself hard to live with.

In the here and now, my lawn is still a dying mess after no rain for the five weeks I was away. I can’t quite decide what to do about it or how far to go to revive it. I may have to re-seed whole areas of it this Autumn although I’m going to be away for a lot of that too. I may have to get a professional company in to advise me although, if we redesign the garden anyway, I don’t want to go mad with the original lawn. What a dilemma!

Thursday, 23rd August, 2018

Woke early – 5.00 am – after a hot and humid night. Left for Surrey around 9.30 am. We were visiting C&P in Byfleet. The first three quarters of the 50 mile journey were pastoral and delightfully quiet. The last section should have joined the M25 but our sat.nav. warned us of a 40 mins delay on our section so we detoured through Cobham which is a delightful town but can be frustratingly busy to navigate. A journey which usually takes us an hour actually took us 90 mins and the frustration made me tired.

It was nice to return to the area. After all, it is only two and a half years since we left, having completed five years living in the area. It is strange how one drops back, almost unconsciously, into the routes and routines of places once so familiar. It was nice to see C&P again. As we talked, I dropped back into the routine of sitting talking and upgrading their iPad as I did so. They never do it for themselves. I’m not sure if they know how to. Anyway, that was always my job – downloading and updating the operating system, updating the apps, cleaning up the messages, etc..

We stayed around three hours and then drove back incorporating the M25 leg without any hold-ups in that direction. Even so, after sleeping for only 5 hours last night and then doing some 2½ hours busy driving, I was tired. Pauline did the cooking – roast cod loin with garlic and white wine fantail prawns and more salad. Two glasses of wine and I was ready for a sleep.

Friday, 24th August, 2018

Woke up at 5.00 am for the 3rd time this week and didn’t really get back to sleep. Beautiful, sunny day with clear, blue sky although a little edge on the air this morning. In the modern way of things and quite without any formal intention, we shop in almost every different supermarket there is according to what my wife considers best quality and best value.







Bananas are my go-to energy replacement food and, although it will sound pretentiously fussy, the bananas from Asda are a quality level higher than all the other suppliers in terms of taste. We eat a box of cherry tomatoes per day on average and are addicted to a variety called Vittoria which we buy in Sainsbury’s. Our salads always include capers which Pauline buys in large jars from Waitrose. The salad is dressed with Kalamata Olive Oil which is great value from Aldi. Any fish that we don’t get from the local fisherman’s shack is bought in Tesco although Morrisons is the only one to always have a supply of fresh, locally caught Octopus and we buy supplies of Whitebait from Iceland.

Because of this, we had a busy morning visiting supermarkets. We also went to the Post Office ‘Sorting Office’ to collect a parcel that we missed while we were out yesterday. The parcel was two more, pairs of shorts for me. I haven’t worn any, normal clothes since the beginning of June. I haven’t slept under the bedsheets in that time either. We are off to Athens and later a month in Tenerife which could well see me extending the naked legs and short sleeved T-shirts until the beginning of December. Long may it last. Global Warming is working for me at least.

Saturday, 25h August, 2018

Another pleasant start to the day with lots of sunshine. The day just struggled to 22C/70F but felt really lovely. It has been quite quiet. Pauline has done a 3rd harvest of our basil pots and made another, huge batch of Pesto which is then bagged up in 50g packs which is enough for one meal for two people. We have about a dozen plants of Italian – large leafed – sweet basil and Greek – small leaved. We already have enough Pesto to get us through the next twelve months but we may have one more cutting in late September.






I have been catching up with correspondence. I wrote to my Sifnos friend, Martin, who I haven’t seen for quite a few years now but we have agreed to visit him to catch up. Instead of just sitting down to watch football now, I try to time my exercise in the gym so I can watch at the same time as sweating. Actually, I really enjoy it and it makes me feel quite virtuous. Today has been another lovely day. We are so lucky. We say that to each other almost every day. If only we could freeze time NOW.

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Week 503

Sunday, 12th August, 2018

Sometimes one has to admit one is an old codger. I plead guilty. On Friday, I went in to the EE shop which is in our local Sainsburys. We have had EE contracts for the past 6 six years and been fairly happy with the service provision. At the end of our last mobile contracts which provided us with 2, Samsung S6 mobiles, we were entitled to new phones if we renewed our contracts. I chose Huawei P20 Pro smartphones for both of us. If you wanted to buy them without a contract today, they would cost you £1600.00/€1790.00 for the two.Going into the EE shop was preferable because we wouldn’t have to wait for them to be posted and have to wait in to receive them plus I could get an Assistant to clone our old phones and save me a few hours. Or so I thought….

We came home with our new phones on Friday and I spent the rest of that day and most of Saturday updating and re-organising all our apps for Organisation – calendars, newspapers, media, etc / Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Chrome, etc. / Finance & Investments / Files & Cloud Storage … and so it goes on. Our phones are insured through a ‘free service’ of our Bank Account so I logged on to alter the details. As I entered the IMEI number to identify the phones, the site told me that Pauline’s was a metallic Huawei P20 Pro but mine was just a cheaper and smaller Huawei P20. Bear in mind, I had just spent 2 days setting it up.

I checked the two phones and, sure enough, mine was distinctly smaller. I checked the box which was identical to Pauline’s with one exception of 3 letters – Pro – and that made all the difference. I felt a bit of an idiot and stupid old codger. Even so the EE Assistant hadn’t noticed either. A trip back to the shop in the middle of Sunday morning and I emerged with a new, Huawei P20 Pro phone and I spent the rest of the day setting it up.

I am a politics geek and a news junkie. I need access to information media at all times. Radio, TV, Newspapers and Politics Blogs over the internet are essential. As soon as we leave the UK on our travels, that is what I become anxious about. How will I access the news? Driving across UK is not a problem but, the moment we roll out of the Tunnel into France, I start to have a problem. Our car provides DAB/VHF/MW/LW radio. In UK, I use DAB. In the early stages of France, DAB is lost but VHF is possible but not for long. I then switch to the poor quality Long Wave which goes a remarkably long way. We could pick up Radio 4 in the Dordogne but it often became lost in the interference of power lines and other obstructions.

While we were driving back at the end July, I was musing on this and suddenly had an epiphany. Our car infotainment unit offers Bluetooth connection. My smartphone offers Bluetooth connection. Perhaps I could Bluetooth the radio on my phone through the speakers of my cars infotainment unit. Today, with my new phone, I established that this process worked. I shouldn’t have a problem next time we drive through Europe.

Monday, 13th August, 2018

Early start because we both had appointments with the ‘dreaded’ Hygienist at our Dentist’s surgery conveniently located in Sainsbury’s next to the EE store. Personally, I hate all Hygienists with a passion too strong to fully express. We have Dental Plans which cover a 12 month period for about £100.00/€121.00 which provided for 2 x dental checkup per year and 2 x hygienist visits per year. She keeps trying to cajole me into 4 x hygienist visits per year but there is as little chance of that as .. (Fill in your own impossibility.). Pauline and I have both bought and been using water jet, tooth picks three or four times a day to keep our teeth clean after food and drink. According to the Hygienist, it has made a major difference so has been worthwhile.

After 20 mins of agony, we went out to do yet more shopping. We eat one, large pack of cherry tomatoes per day on average so we bought another 4 to get us through to next shopping on Friday. Haddock loins with fantail prawns for our meal today with, tomato salad, cucumber & dill salad and rocket salad. Looking forward to it already. Before we go to the gym, I have contacted a couple of firms of garage door installers to come and quote us for an automated, roller door.

Really enjoyed our workout followed by jacuzzi and water jet massage. We were out for about 2.5 hrs. Came home to cook a lovely meal and a bit of relaxation. I have had a garage door company confirm a visit later in the week and I will require at least one more before I choose.

Tuesday, 14th August, 2018

Lovely, warm start to the day. We are in charge of next door’s cat, Como (named after the Italian Lake not the American singer), for the next 4 days. It is quite a responsibility. Our first job is feeding him this evening. Made a note on our online, interactive calendar. Just hope Como reads it and comes home.

Our car has a built in, Garmin Sat.Nav.. It is possible and now time to update the maps. This is done by installing Garmin Direct app on my PC and then downloading the maps – about 3 gb of data onto a usb stick. Then, one has to plug the USB stick into one of the car’s two USB ports and upload the data. Download from the PC takes about an hour. Upload to the car takes about 3 hours apparently. In that time, the sat. nav. cannot be switched off which means the engine must be running continually. This means I need to be with/in the car for those 3 hours.

Did a good workout at the gym, came home and griddled duck breast slices and vegetables – onion, courgette, red pepper and mushrooms in the garden and then completed the car sat. nav. upgrade. It actually took less than 30 mins.. I’ve been putting it off for months because of the inconvenience I was pre-warned about. The meal was lovely and the sat.nav. easy so all went well at the end of the day. Now, at 7.00 pm, the next door’s cat is fed, we have been fed and the sun is shining warmly. The day reached a pleasant 23C/74F. The world is peaceful.

Wednesday, 15th August, 2018

Overlooking Genoa Port – July 2017

A lovely day which reached 23C/74F. We have spent a lovely day doing ordinary things like mowing and feeding the lawns and exercising at the Health Club. At the same time, the Italians are still reeling from the collapse of a major, highway bridge just a few hundred metres from where we were exactly a year ago. July last year, we were staying in the Holiday Inn Genoa overlooking the port and just a few hundred metres from the bridge that has collapsed. We loved Genoa but there but for fate go we!

We bought the first Honda CRV to arrive at our Dealership in Huddersfield back in 1998. We proceeded to have a new one each year for quite a while until we got much nearer to retirement. I think we have had 13 over 4 different models over the years. Our current car has done just 17,000 miles in 27 months. However, we have been keenly anticipating the new model – the 5th generation – which is due out in early 2019.

It is a hybrid engine with continuously variable transmission powering all-wheel-drive. It features automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist as standard. It will have a hybrid engine option for the first time. Honda calls the new system Intelligent Multi Mode Drive (i-MMD), and it comprises a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and two electric motors and gives automatic stop-start action. Looking forward to that and we’ve now learned it will be only 30mm wider than the current one so, with the new, garage door, it will continue to be garaged.

Thursday, 16th August, 2018

A warm but damp start to the day. It improved but didn’t register above 19C/66F. Fortunately, I had cut and fed the lawns yesterday so the rain was very welcome. We did our weekly, Tesco shop and then a full workout at the gym.

By the time we got home, the sun was out and the day was lovely. We cooked roast salmon and pesto served with salad for our tea and the day ran down quietly. We never cease to be amazed at how lucky we are to have this time together. Nearly 10 years now of comfortable and interesting retirement. Preceding generations could only have dreamed of such luxury. We leave for Athens in a couple of weeks and our hotel, The Athens Electra Palace, has been voted the best placed hotel to book for people visiting Athens. We have been using it for so many years that we almost take it for granted but we are not surprised by its rating.

We have been there so many times, it feels like a home from home and Athens, that once felt dirty, noisy and a bit aggressive, now feels warm, homely and very familiar.

Friday, 17th August, 2018

Up early this morning on a lovely, bright and sunny morning but one which had just a touch of Autumn in the air. Yesterday at 7.00 am, the temperature was 19C/66F but this morning read only 13C/55F. That’s come a bit too soon but it is only two weeks until September. (Back to school – Ha Ha!). At 8.30 am, the garage door company arrived to measure up and give me an estimate for a new, automated, roller door which will give me 10″/25.5cm more width on the entrance. This will make all the difference in putting the car away each night.

The cost is more than I at first anticipated because we have a non-standard door width opening. Apparently, it is wider than standard. Goodness knows how people drove through anything narrower. They would need to be a midget in a Smart Car to make it.

Anyway, I have offered the old door to our neighbour across the road who has dented his and he is pleased to accept it. For years we have had automated garage doors and it will be good to get back to that. This door sits neatly on the inside of the garage and rolls up into a box over the lintel. We will have two fobs for the operation plus a control on the wall.

The world is full of ‘old people’. Well, my world is. It struck me as I stood at the checkout of Sainsburys at 9.30 this morning. Looking round, everyone apart from the workers was grey haired, wrinkled and rather slow. I was getting increasingly agitated as I tried to negotiate slow thinking, slow acting, slow, slow, old people. Am I being insensitive and unkind? I’m sure I am and I’m equally sure that it will come to me … but please not yet!

Saturday, 18th August, 2018

Yesterday morning felt slightly Autumnal. Last night was warm and humid. This morning at 6.30am, I was listening to Farming Today on BBC Radio 4 coming from a Herefordshire farm and the commentator pointed out rows of swallows roosting on the telegraph wires. Anyone with country knowledge knows that that is a sure sign of Summer drawing to a close and the onset of Autumn. At home, as a boy, I would watch from my bedroom window as the numbers of swallows got so many that the phone wires seemed to sag under their weight as they twittered away before leaving en masse for a warmer, African winter. It still feels too soon so let’s hope it’s a false start.

When we started to live in Greece until well through the Autumn, we were always shocked by how the weather seemed to know that September had arrived. It continued to provide lovely weather but with almost instant inconsistences. If you monitor Greece and the Greek economy like I do – sad person that I am, you will be hearing the constant refrains about surging tourist arrivals and the imminent possibility of the country escaping the close attentions of its European creditors. The intention is to create an atmosphere of rising optimism even though many, perhaps most, Greeks are still hurting from their reduced circumstances.

Greece-Turkey bilateral trade at £3.05 bln / €3.4 bln in 2017

However, just as hopes may be rising of a better future, a perfect storm may be about to crash around them. Close neighbours and trading partners, Turkey, are feeling the heat as the Turkish lira crashes. Greek companies that export to Turkey are concerned that the collapse against the euro and the deterioration of consumer and business confidence in the neighbouring country will affect their exports this year. Greece currently has a trade surplus with Turkey but there are fears that this could be reversed if the Turkish economy dips into recession.

Another neighbour of Greece, Italy, is bracing for a debt crisis like the one it suffered in 2011, fears that have been exacerbated by the problems in Turkey. Moody’s and another big ratings agency, Fitch, will announce if they are going to downgrade Rome. That comes at an awkward time as the economy is slowing and the European Central Bank is reducing the size of its monthly bond-buying program. On both sides, Greece is facing a potential reduction in demand for its products. Total reliance on tourism is a dangerous thing.

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