Week 668

Sunday, 10th October, 2021

A strange, grey start to the morning. I’m working on my backup Blog and playing a recording I made last night of Simon & Garfunkel. It was the Reunion Concert in Central Park in 1981. I suddenly realised that this was a reunion 40 years ago.https://www.youtube.com/embed/yB-Ds2E-BDk?list=PLVnkoLiLMTm7j0ZPI3xWEsAnCpKZ52czR

I heard these songs when they were first released never mind in a reunion. These are the sorts of insights that force us to confront our timeline of age. Actually, although the words come back easily, I don’t get quite the same pleasure. They are a bit tainted over time.

Hard to believe how lovely yesterday evening was. In warm October sunshine, we cooked and ate outside, talked and planned future travel. The past is important but the future is where we are going. We are already talking about a long trip to Greece next Summer (June & July), doing the drive we have done over 30 times before – Calais – Mulhouse, Alsace, – Ancona, Italy – Patras, Greece – Piraeus – Sifnos. It will probably be the last time we do it – a bit like a reunion concert. We will never desert Athens but the long island-stays will probably give way to Spanish ones instead. 

Monday, 11th October, 2021

Busy day and a busy week ahead with a lot to get through before we go away next week. Flowers started arriving at our house a week ago and are still looking good this morning. In fact, these Lillies are almost at their full-blown best and they smell wonderful!

This morning I started the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) process for entry to the USA all of which has to be done online.

Also had to do an online application for the car in France. Because we have a new car, we need a new CRITAIR air quality certificate for driving in major towns and cities.

Both applications are straightforward and easy to achieve and much easier than the UK government’s travel requirements applications. At least we don’t need an application to get into Yorkshire or Greater Manchester although some people would like to introduce one. Talked to my friend in Royton this morning and arranged a visit to see him while we are in the area next week.

The dreaded day has come when I have to try on about 15 new items of clothing and decide what will be kept and what sent back. That will be another uncomfortable activity for the morning and will be followed by lawn cutting and hedge trimming before a two-hour walk. I’ve also got to prepare the Gym for the arrival of the Rowing machine. Pauline’s got two doctor’s appointments today

Just spent an hour doing something I normally hate – trying on clothes – and found it almost enjoyable. Keeping everything in the smaller of two sizes ordered. Not an experience I have encountered for quite some time – in fact not for 30 years. Already, some of the wardrobe bought for me a couple of months ago is already far too big and has to be ditched. I suspect this batch will be redundant by the end of the year. Expensive business losing weight!

As we walked this morning in weak sunshine, I asked my wife if she thought I was too obsessive. She said, “Lets put it this way. You’re just on the other side of normal.” I thought that was fair.

Tuesday, 12th October, 2021

The day finished so hot and sunny yesterday that we cooked and ate outside in the garden. Wonderful start this morning which promises a good day. It is going to be busy. I’m taking Pauline to the Beautician’s for 9.15 am and then back for a walk and some gardening. Got an insulation firm coming in the early afternoon to quote on spray-foam insulating the garage/gym roof in time for colder weather. Later in the afternoon I’m taking Pauline to have two biopsies on suspect patches of skin which she had examined yesterday. She woke up worrying about it this morning.

The temperature dropped to 6C/43F last night and I’ve actually switched the heated seats, steering wheel and mirrors on this morning. I rarely have to do that down here but it is a nice facility to have. The Daily Mirror is running a story this morning that says the warm start to October will soon be replaced by arctic temperatures and that the whole of Wales and the North of England will be seeing snowfall by October 24th which is just a couple of days after we drive back South.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NBHHFnUqo5o?feature=oembed

As the newspapers feature the latest, Tory-dominated select committee report with damning accounts of the heartless incompetence in allowing thousands of unnecessary deaths in the early stages of the pandemic, particularly in Care Homes but also in failure to Lock Down early enough, a wonderful piece of 1986 video emerged which illustrates the enduring cynicism of Tory governments.

Another lovely end to the day. We cooked Calamari and Greek Salad and ate outside in the garden as the sun went down. It was delicious in the Autumn evening light. Life can be lovely, can’t it? It just doesn’t do to be too isolated!https://www.youtube.com/embed/efUpNxQPLMU?feature=oembed

Revisited one of my all-time pieces of music that carried me through dreadful times in dark days of 1974 in my Oldham flat. It was cold, dark and bleak with power strikes and a 3-day week outside as I fought against intellectual and emotional isolation inside. Chopin’s Etude Op.10 No.3 Tristesse (Sadness) played out on my battery-operated cassette recorder in darkness lit only by a 3-bar gas fire. It is an experience that I have not and will not ever forget.

Wednesday, 13th October, 2021

6.30 am

Glorious morning after quite a clear and cool night. The temperature went down to 7C/45F. In the Mediterranean corner of the garden, the fig leaves are starting to show signs of Autumn with edges browning and curling. All the remaining fruit is starting to blacken and give up the ripening process. The Tenerife tree had to be wrapped in a fleece blanket as it began to shed leaves as a result of the temperature drop. Only the grass still looks vibrantly green.

Yesterday ended with Pauline having chunks taken out of her body on a table at the Doctors’ surgery. One piece came out of the side of her nose and the other from her leg. This latter one bled profusely and she really looked like a wounded soldier when she walked back to the car. Fortunately, she was still able to cook when we got home. However, this was just an exploratory investigation. We will hear the results in the next three weeks.

Wounded Soldier!

This morning the exercise routine has to be completed early because we are driving up to Surrey to help P&C complete their NHS Covid passes on their iPads ready for travelling to the States next month. I also have to sort their central heating timer controls out for them which should be fun. Still, it is a glorious day for driving through the Sussex/Surrey countryside and I’m looking forward to it.https://www.youtube.com/embed/4KGmLLsdWCM?feature=oembed

Music, driving and emotions make me a frightening liability. The most beautiful scenery, a nice new car, wonderful weather and Canto della Terra playing combined to overwhelm me with happiness and I suddenly realised I couldn’t see through the mist of tears. It is so embarrassing but I’ve always been that way and I just have to plough on and hope it clears.

The Italian completely destroys me although the English is quite prosaic:

Must get a grip. I’m becoming obsessive again. Still, I’m going to learn all the Italian on this album before I do another long drive so I’m able to focus both on the music but also on the road!

Thursday, 14th October, 2021

Another eventful day although not significant in any special way. Quite warm this morning but rather overcast. Got a Covid tester lady arriving at 9.00 am. Not easy giving a pint of blood so early but it has to be done. Got to get my priorities right and it is worth £50.00 a time.

With the blood still flowing from my fingers, we set off to return clothes to Next, to shop at Sainsbury’s and then drive to Worthing to return clothes. Pauline ordered sets of clothes in two sizes and, I’m pleased to report, had to return the bigger of each pairing. I intend that it will not be long before she has to do the whole thing again.

Moody Worthing Seascape

Worthing town centre was lovely and warm, vibrant even. We were going to pick up some boxes of Lateral Flow tests for our travels. Don’t want to infect or get infected snogging people. Our Pharmacy hasn’t had any for a few weeks now so we thought Boots might. As we walked through the Piazza, a couple of young people had an outdoor NHS stall and were handing them out to passers-by. We took 4 boxes which amounted to 28 tests. Some will go to Athens with us and some to the North. We should have enough for France in December and any other trips we might sneak in before we go to USA in March.

We took four, massively heavy bags of clothes – virtually all my wardrobe – to St Barnabus Hospice Charity Shop in Rustington. The bags were so heavy, we had to keep stopping to rest as we walked down from the carpark. Some of the clothes still had their sales labels in them and many had never been worn. Hopefully, they should make good money for the Hospice.

Friday, 15th October, 2021

My Dad, who died 57 years ago, would be 106 today. Can you believe the waste of a life and a marriage and a family to die at the age of 49?

Yesterday turned really warm and sunny as we walked for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Something quite nice happened as we walked around the perimeter of our Development. I was just remarking on how lovely the wide swathes of newly mown grass were looking. They were cut on Wednesday by the gardeners. I spoke to a man who was planting bulbs in one of the public spaces. His first response was:

You do plenty of walking, don’t you? Incredible what it’s done to your weight. The grasscutters were talking about it yesterday as you walked past. Amazing! Well done!

A sucker for recognition and praise, I did the next few hundred metres floating on a cushion of hot air.

I am a rule-breaker by inclination. If someone tells me I can’t do something, it is like a red rag to a bull. I have to prove them wrong. Rules really are made to be broken. My car reads speed signs, projects them on to the windscreen and gives me the choice of setting the ‘speed limiter’ which doesn’t allow me to break the speed limit of or ‘adaptive cruise control’ which makes sure I keep right up to the speed limit all the time. Of course, I can override them and I always set the cruise control to the maximum speed limit + 1mph in order to ensure I’m breaking the rules.

I was thinking about this as I drove yesterday. Our village has a 20-mph limit which feels incredibly slow. I do 21 mph but so many people ignore it altogether. I understand. In retirement, I can afford to go slowly. They are workers and when I was working, I drove everywhere at full throttle. Over the years, I’ve had 2 or 3 speeding tickets including one near the French Alps where I had been doing 120 mph in a 130 kmph/80mph limit non-stop for about 2 hours. They were very nice about it and only charged me €60.00.

Around 30 years ago, I was standing in the dock of the Crown Court, Manchester. I was the accused and a bit nervous although not particularly. I had taken the day out of school and driven with Pauline to the multistorey in Deansgate and walked to Crown Square where I entered the buildings. I was ushered into a room where we sat for hours and then to a corridor where I was told I was next up after the current murder trial.

Eventually, I was called and led into the court and up to the Dock. My wife sat in the Gallery. After what seemed like forever, the judge in full regalia and wig appeared. I was asked who was representing me and was faced with incredulity when I said I was representing myself. Even so, the judge sat down and waved the proceeds on.

At this point, I should step back and explain and if I’ve reported this before, I apologise. On the penultimate day of Summer term 1991, I was summoned to an urgent school meeting at Royton Town Hall. It was a screaming hot day and I was late. I was driving a new, Honda Prelude sports car and really going for speed to make my deadline.

When I arrived, I was told the meeting had been cancelled and my journey unnecessary and I raced back to school to complete the day. The following day, we left school at 1.00 pm and drove home to Huddersfield, packed the car and on to Hull Docks for an overnight journey Hull – Zeebrugge and then across Europe to Greece and our island.

Fast forward 6 weeks, we drove back across Europe and arrived in Huddersfield on the first Friday of September before school Training Days on the Monday. As usual, our doormat was mountainous in 6 weeks’ mail. It always took hours to wade through but I loved it. Well, I did until an official letter from Manchester Crown Court appeared and I realised I was summonsed to appear. I eventually found a letter of notification of speeding on Shaw Road, Oldham at the end of July. It gave me 14 days to reply. A second letter then appeared telling me that, as I hadn’t replied within 14 days, I had another 14 days to pay my fine. I then had a third letter telling me that, because I hadn’t paid my fine, I would have to go to court.

I phoned the court and said I was appealing against the ruling and that’s how I got summoned to the High Court under a judge. When I stood up in the court and the judge in a wig and full regalia addressed me, I said I was representing myself. The judge actually smiled, listened to my explanation of having been abroad for 6 weeks and soon told me, after consultation, that he would dismiss the case because it was a nonsense that I had been summoned there at all. Of course, I agreed and left happily. Pauline and I went straight out and celebrated with an Italian meal in a nearby restaurant.

The murderer before me had been found guilty and my experience became the stuff of legend. These are the sorts of crazy experiences that make us what we are. Some things happen in our lives we wish had never occurred and which we want to put right. Some we can sit back and relish in memory. This was one of the latter.

Saturday, 16th October, 2021

Woke up at 3.00 am thinking about the events that lay ahead. Downstairs drinking tea and watching rolling news on Sky. Did go back to bed and slept a bit. A lovely start to the morning even though the sky outside was fairly brooding. So much to get through today in preparation for driving North tomorrow – from packing, contacting people, even arranging for our neighbour to put the bins out and bring them back in. We have new, gym equipment arriving this afternoon. I’m looking forward to that.https://www.youtube.com/embed/B9SZjLW44Ko?feature=oembed

The last time I used a rowing machine at David Lloyd, I tore a muscle in my back. Must be more moderate when I start. I won’t even try until we get back from the North.

In order to relax about the preparations, we went out on an early walk. Just managed to get back after 90 mins as light rain began to fall. We are forecast for a sunny afternoon which will be nice. I’m going to do an hour in the gym and then sort clothes out for my wife to pack. I might even be able to watch some football this afternoon. Quite typically, after weeks of little problem, my hernia pain has come back to bite me today. Pauline has wanted to phone the hospital to expedite my treatment but I have been stopping her. I don’t want it to interfere with the travel arrangements we have made. Let’s hope it settles down again.

Ripon College posted this photograph from the developers which features a well-known staircase known by Kevin and I as the staircase to heaven aka Byland.

Week 667

Sunday, 3rd October, 2021

Wet and warm yesterday, grey but dry and warm this morning. We are driving up to Surrey this morning so Pauline can have lunch with her sister as a pre-celebration of her birthday. On Tuesday, I am cooking so somebody will die! Anyway, got to get my exercise routine done before we set off at 11.00 am. Even though I woke at 4.00 am and didn’t get properly back to sleep, I have got up feeling very lively and energetic. I think I’m regressing to childhood although not in the mental capacity yet, fortunately.

Feeling optimistic and fortunate. Don’t really know why. Anyway, better not to analyse it too much in case it evaporates under scrutiny. When we get back from Surrey, I’ve been instructed to look through about 20 emails my wife has sent me – from the Kitchen to the Office – of clothes she is considering sending for to replace the ones I have been throwing out. How do people without email buy online?

And John will be modeling…although I don’t think I can live up to these men. Not young enough; not slim enough and not hairy enough. Still, I’ll try. It’s all for a good cause!

Lovely walk this morning. The sun came out and the temperature rose. Lovely to be walking in shorts & Tee-shirt in October. Talking about regressing to childhood: as we walked the church bells began to ring out and I was suddenly reminded of that childhood joke about the old couple who made love once a week on a Sunday to the rhythm of the church bells. One day a fire engine went past and the old man had a heart attack. Really appealed to a 12 yr old!

I’ve been researching weather patterns for the area of Florida we are going to next Spring. We are thinking April would be a good time. We would like to visit New York and then fly over to Boston, Massachusetts as well to visit my childhood friend who has lived there for the past 50 years. We would aim to be in the USA for a month to make it worthwhile.

Lovely drive up to Surrey under clear, blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. I sang all the way to Take That & James Taylor. Felt like I was driving across Europe. Really enjoyed my ‘naff’ little self!

Images of the afternoon in Surrey

Driving back we couldn’t get any petrol. Most stations were empty and those that were not had huge queues. Only got 400 miles left in the tank!

Monday, 4th October, 2021

Heavy bursts of rain overnight but this morning is sunny and warm. I like the weather organised in this way. I like organisation altogether. I hate indecision. I almost hate choice. I am a nightmare when shopping. I choose the first thing I see rather than have the agony of having to view lots of examples and then make a choice. That’s why my wife does the clothes shopping.

I check the bank accounts ritually every morning online and had a bit of a shock to find Pauline had ordered me around £700.00 worth of clothes online. She told me not to worry because most of it would probably go back and that she had ordered multiple choices of the same things. It feels weird to be ordering clothes for me at all but quite nice.

We’ve finally got round to advertising our X-Trainer which has hardly been used at all in the past 18 months since we bought it.

I’ve decided that I need a rowing machine instead so space has to be made for it in our restricted gym area. Actually, the Rower is cheaper although goodness knows what I will get for the X-Trainer secondhand.

Going out to see if we can get petrol this morning. It isn’t easy down here. I wonder if it will be in the North when I get up there soon. Tomorrow, I am cooking a Birthday meal of Monkfish Tails, King Scallops and King Prawns in a White Wine & Garlic Sauce and I’m serving it with French Beans and Asparagus Tips so I have to make sure I have all the ingredients.

As we drove, we saw huge queues at petrol stations for fuel where they had it. At Tesco, we drove straight in and filled up. I’m back to a tank of 570 miles now. I now have a USB in the car on which I already saved about 20 assorted CDS and, as I started the car, this song came on automatically and at high volume.https://www.youtube.com/embed/N2ICtCO8TCw?feature=oembed

As we walked into Tesco, what was playing over the Supermarket audio system but:

Whatever I said, whatever I did
I didn't mean it
I just want you back for good
Want you back, want you back
I want you back for good

I’d been singing it at the top of my voice in the car minutes earlier. How do these things happen? Coincidence can be incredible. Can’t get rid of it now!

Tuesday, 5th October, 2021

 I must firstly wish Pauline a happy 70th birthday. She doesn’t look a day over 50 and probably won’t for years to come. She is blessed with the fairy genes of eternal youth. I hope she has a lovely day to remember. She received a second bouquet of flowers from her friend, Margaret, in Marsden who we will have lunch with in a couple of weeks.

Glorious morning after a night of strong winds and heavy rain. We are going out for a walk under clear, blue skies and gorgeous sunshine.

Yesterday was a day of sunshine and showers but mainly sunshine and we had a wonderful walk.  I’ve now completed 16 kilometres a day every day for 235 consecutive days or about 8 months. Quite pleased with that and it has built up an expectation in myself that I cannot let go of. I’ve got to do it every day for a year ….. at least!

I’ve got a nightmare few days ahead. Tomorrow, we are going to pick up lots of new clothes and I will have to try them all on. I cannot think of anything worse. I hate trying clothes on but it has to be done! I will not be taking any photographs for the Blog. That would be too embarrassing. My other test today is cooking which I’m quite looking forward to. I enjoy cooking but don’t get much chance with a specialist in the house.

Our lovely, Italian neighbours across the road have just had a new baby. A gorgeous little boy they have named Lorenzo. It is the Latinate name for the anglicised Lawrence and means Laurel Crown. As we walked, I imagined what it would be like to be 3 weeks old in late 2021. Little Lorenzo, with just a modicum of luck, will see 2121 and could see much more. Modern science is already talking of human life span being extended to 130 quite normally. Of course, there is a difference between Life Span and Healthy Life. Certainly, I would choose the latter over the former.

Pauline spoke to her niece in Florida on a webchat yesterday afternoon. We have tentatively agreed to go over for the month of March next year and to spend a couple of days in each of New York and Boston, Massachusetts. Having never been before, I’m rather looking forward to it.

Well, I acquitted myself reasonably well with the birthday meal. First, a bottle of Prosecco from P&C with some olives and then a mixed fish dish of monkfish tails, scallops & king Prawns in a white wine, garlic and butter sauce with tarragon accompanied by roast tomatoes with grated parmigiana, green beans and asparagus. Went well. We were both totally stuffed. Lots of lovely neighbours came round with flowers and cards.

Wednesday, 6th October, 2021

Got up a bit late this morning – 7.30 am – after a busy day yesterday. This morning is glorious and sunny with clear, blue sky just as it was yesterday. When I posted a picture of Pauline setting out on our walk yesterday with a clear, blue sky behind, Dave Roberts from Rochdale said it was raining there and friends from Oldham agreed. Other’s misfortune is so heartening, isn’t it?

I think I managed to make Pauline’s 70th Birthday enjoyable.  She has far more friends than she realises and they are drawn from across the world, across the country and across the decades. She heard from her niece in America and her friends in Malta, Spain and Greece. She heard from her friends in Dorset, Buckinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire. She has heard from distant relatives, old school friends, from old College friends, from former teaching colleagues and from people we’ve got to know on our travels. She also had neighbours knocking on the door bringing cards and flowers. The kitchen table is smelling delightful this morning and, for once, it’s not me.

There is new housing going up all around us. Our walk takes us through this park attached to some new housing and the builders appear to be using the idea of a drainage-soakaway to create a small lake. It is gradually filling under the sunshine to the joy of dogs and seagulls. Must be lovely to have a lake to walk around. Actually, it is such a lovely, warm day that we have cooked and eaten outside in the brilliant sunshine. Life can be good, can’t it?

We won the Euromillions lottery last night. Actually, the first prize of £153 Million wasn’t won but our £2.50 ticket produced a prize of £3.00. What shall we do with it?

Thursday, 7th October, 2021

After the most wonderful day yesterday with wall-to-wall sunshine, living, cooking and eating outside in the delicious warmth, this morning has opened quite grey. It is lovely and warm though so we are going out for an early walk.

Links across time, with our graduated past, are an essential part of the human condition. At times, we try to deny them, shut them out, concentrate only on the present, the now, but it is ultimately impossible. I have written before of my side on the Nature/Nurture debate shifting radically over the years, of looking in the mirror each morning to shave and seeing my Mother’s face. This morning on BBC R4 Today programme, I heard a poet reading this:

Mother, I find you staring back at me.

When did my body agree

to wear your face?

Imtiaz Dharker, from ‘Postcards from god

Why didn’t I write that? It is exactly how I feel. It challenges all my intellectual understanding of the human condition.

One of the things I really enjoy about the current use of social media is the way people I meet and ‘speak’ to and who have never met each other but connect just through my account eventually strike up an independent friendship. I am the ‘matchmaker’. I feel great about that. At the moment, for example, I’ve got a lad/man from College who I haven’t seen since 1972 striking up a friendship with a man from my school who I haven’t seen for 20 years. It’s lovely and they are brought together on a platform in which they find their political views coincide. They live nowhere near each other and may never meet in person but it opens and expands their lives.

Our home 1984 – 2000

In just the same way, we can maintain old relationships which we would otherwise have allowed to lapse in the past. Over a decade ago, our doctor bought our house in Helme, West Yorkshire. We left for Surrey and then Sussex. In the past, that would probably be an end to it but both he and his nurse wife have kept in contact with me through email and Twitter. They both contacted us yesterday to congratulate Pauline on looking so good at the age of 70. This sort of contact may seem intrusive but is well-meant and gives pleasure. We all need positive stroking! Hopefully, we’ll drop in and see them in a couple of weeks if we can fit it in. Our schedule is rapidly filling up now.

The other thing that means a lot to me is Travelling. Maybe it is the escape, maybe the anonymity of the foreign. It is certainly the challenge of different language and culture. Greece has always offered me that challenge. We will renew our relationship with the Greek language and culture next month.

Re-installed the British Airways app.

George Bernard Shaw said that Britain and the US are “two nations separated by a common language“. Certainly, the culture is very different and not one I buy into easily. That’s going to have to change. Last night we bought return flights for Gatwick-Tampa / 2nd – 30th March. We decided to splash out and go Business Class so we can have beds to sleep properly. The flight out is 10hrs but only 8½ hrs on the way back. We had to pay an additional £170.00 just choose our own seats/beds but the total cost was still an amazingly reasonable£4,950.00. Something to look forward to!

Friday, 8th October, 2021

At 8.00 am, we took the car in for the dent/paint repair it needed after some old dear opened their car door on to it in a windy carpark. We will be without it for about 8hrs but it is close enough to walk home through the woods and back again later to collect it.

The repair shop is on the edge of the PYO farm just 20 mins walk away. Such an idyllic setting fringed by these fruiting Sweet Chestnut trees. Our walk home is beautiful and peaceful.

The local Council has recently spent a couple of months resurfacing the woodland path with a light gravel mixture that drains well but looks natural and makes walking easy.

When we got home, a worker from Southern Water knocked on our door and asked if he could test the water quality. Don’t think we’ve ever had that before and, initially, I was suspicious. However, that’s exactly what he did and, apparently, the company does this constantly around the region. I have to say that we never trust tap water since living in Greece and everything we drink or use in cooking is filtered first. Just a long-term habit we have found unable to shake off. I drink sparkling water and certainly nothing from a tap unless you count a wine barrel.

To anyone who prevaricates and puts things off for years, my advice would be DON’T. You never know when the chance will be lost. I have never voted Tory. I will never vote Tory but, today, we learned of the untimely death of James Brokenshire, a pleasant, mild-mannered Tory minister who had never smoked but was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer in 2018, left government for treatment, was declared cancer-free but had it recur this year and died this morning at the tender age of 53. How awful is that? Think of all the hopes and dreams he will never achieve. Never leave things unsaid or undone. You never know!

We have now really got the travel bug back. Yorkshire soon. Athens in November. Florida in March and we have agreed to sneak another quick Christmas shopping trip to France in to December. Feels really good to be moving again.

Saturday, 9th October, 2021

What a lovely, lovely day! Warm – hot even – with blue sky and strong sunshine. To feel 22C/70F in October is wonderful. Packed quite a bit in. Up early and out to Rustington for fruit & vegetables. Next to the Garden Centre and Hobbycraft for Christmas Cake boards for the Domestic Goddess! Just walking in the sunshine is a delight. Next, on to Worthing to collect clothes orders.

It looked beautifully French this morning bathed in sunshine. Quite a few people around. We went to a Department Store and collected 14 parcels of clothes that Pauline had ordered for me. While we were there, she picked out three more shirts and bought them. I’m going to have to arrange a mortgage at this rate.

After that, we moved on to the Pier and Beach. Everything is changed by warmth and sunshine. People everywhere were enjoying life.

Must be lovely to be so relaxed about your life to be able to spend Saturday morning fishing at the end of the pier. While I was working, I could never have done that. I was constantly striving to improve and succeed.

Now, there are lovely things to achieve. For example, I’m getting fitter and actually buying clothes. I can hardly believe it. This afternoon, two of my neighbours came round to collect my Step-Climber machine. They tried to buy it but I just wanted it moving so I had space.

After they’d gone, Pauline ordered a rowing machine to put in its place. That will be much more useful. I might actually develop stomach muscles!

Week 666

Sunday, 26th September, 2021

Well, Brexit really is the gift that keeps on giving. Now we have panic buying of petrol. The cheapest fuel in our area is at Asda Superstore and people were queueing out onto the dual carriageway this morning. Incredibly dangerous. I panicked because I thought they were queueing for cut-price Shloer. We filled our car up a week ago and we still have more than 500 miles in the tank.

Really incredible that The Tories have had to re-embrace Freedom of Movement but think that all those European HGV drivers they made feel so unwelcome that they went home will now immediately reverse their decision and uproot themselves for a temporary job. That is the arrogance of the Right Wing. Even more galling is that this feeble government has had ministers out all week denying that the shortage of labour has anything to do with Brexit as Project Fear becomes Project Reality.

Our walk yesterday morning left us wet as the Sea-Mizzle got heavier before the sun came out. Fortunately, it was very warm which made it all bearable. We’ve got just over 3 weeks before we drive North for a week and we will try to cover all bases while we are there. I will still have to complete my daily exercise routine being a renowned obsessive. Our hotel houses the Health Club we were members of for so many years so that should help. We just have to hope the weather is kind to us. I must admit it is often a shock returning.

It will be 2 years since I have visited my parents’ and grandparents’ graves in the family graveyard in Repton. Similarly, it will be 2 years since we have visited Hollinwood Crematorium where Pauline’s Mum’s ashes were scattered. It will be good to do them that honour of remembrance again. It is a small gesture but worthwhile and makes us feel better.

Last night I wept …. again! I finally gave in and watched Judy Dench & Steve Coogan in Philomena. I have put off watching it for lots of reasons. If you can watch this film without getting absolutely furious, you are not me. If you are an ex-Catholic and watch this film without being driven to hatred, you get somewhere close. If you have ever lost a child and can watch this film without weeping copiously, you are absolutely heartless.

We have known for a long time about the Magdalene Laundries which were RC church institutions in which young women considered guilty of licentiousness, unwed motherhood or prostitution were incarcerated and forced into menial labour. The nuns treated the women so appallingly because their religion taught them that ‘sin’ must be ‘punished’ and atoned for. Philomena suffered a breech birth but was forced to cope without painkillers. She was allowed to see her baby for an hour a day until it was sold to American adopters. Although Philomena was incarcerated there in 1952, the last laundry in Ireland closed in 1996.

Martin Sixsmith, the former BBC reporter, accompanied Philomena to the USA to search for her son and I won’t spoil the story for any reader who is brave enough to watch it but …. it isn’t happy. I just so wish my Mother could have seen it. She would probably have denied its veracity anyway.

What a delightful day Sunday turned out to be. Our walk was in full, boiling hot sunshine. We returned in time for me to do my Gym routine (obsessive?) and then to cook our meal and eat it outside in the garden. Griddled Swordfish Steaks with Greek Salad was just wonderful in the sunshine. I wish the joy of these days on all my readers!

Monday, 27th September, 2021

Dark, wet and warm – sounds sensual, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s just the weather this morning. The temperature remained a humid 18C/65F overnight.

There are some horrible things that happen to old men. I know we hear women complain about the aging process a lot but men really suffer. Prostate problems, bladder problems, are common. We don’t suffer wrinkles and don’t have wrinkly skin as much as women but we do find hair sprouting from every orifice. Shaving every day is demanding enough and I had to order a new electric shaver last week but hair sprouting out of my ears and nose are horribly embarrassing. I’ve had to order a new ear/nose hair trimmer as well. What was once a slow and simple development, is now a strong and wiry protrusion. I don’t deal with these things easily or happily. I often look to my wife to sort them out for me. I can’t really see the grass sprouting from my ears but I’m determined not to look like an old, out-of-control man.

I try to be nice although I do realise I am disgusting. I try to be presentable although I do know I can be off-putting. I try to treat people well although I know I can be arrogant and opinionated. The last thing I ever want is to hurt someone. At the same time, we all have to hold views, opinions, positions and they will offend others of another persuasion. That can’t be avoided. All intellectuals expect and accept this division. Others maybe not. I do have to remind myself about the rough and tumble of intellectual debate. The overall rule I think one should abide by is not to deliberately hurt or belittle. Generally, I believe I live up to that principle.

Gozo

Pauline’s closest school friend, who lived and taught in Halifax for 40 years, sold up and moved permanently with her husband to the small, Maltese island of Gozo where they bought and renovated a property and have been living there for about 5 years. We said we would go out and visit them and an article in the Sunday Times yesterday highlighted the superb weather Malta enjoys – over 300 days of sunshine, for example. Looks like it is one to put on the must-visit list. We must go where we are wanted and Malta definitely wants UK tourists at the moment. Could be a Winter destination.

Actually, we’re after Breakfast and the clouds have blown away, the sky is lovely and blue and the sun is shining. How life can change at the flick of a switch! We’ve had a lovely walk in hot sunshine. I’ve done my Gym routine (obsessional) and then we’ve eaten outside for the 5th, continual day. Strong sunshine over the Dining Table and goodness on it. This is the way to stay alive and meet one’s destiny!

Tuesday, 28th September, 2021

A warm night with a short burst of explosive rainfall. It woke me at 4.30 am. I didn’t mind at all. I listened to the World Service and then BBC Today programme and still got up feeling lively and optimistic. We decided to go out early for a walk as sunshine broke through the clouds. The walk was lovely, bright and warm. I felt good, fit and bouncy on my feet and found myself internally singing a song I haven’t thought about for over 50 years. This was released in 1966. It looks and sounds very much of its time:https://www.youtube.com/embed/U9zxj4RE0O8?feature=oembed

Sunshine came softly through my a-window today
Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways
It’ll take time, I know it but in a while
You’re gonna be mine, I know it, we’ll do it in style
‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine

Having done my exercise and showered, we were off to the Health Centre for our ‘Flu jabs. The jabs were free but it proved an expensive experience. I was inside the Medical Centre getting exasperated with all these old dears around me. They must have been at least 70 years old if they were a day! Anyway, having survived the Care Home atmosphere, we got out to the car – our new car with hardly any miles on the clock – to find someone had failed to hold their door in the wind when they got out next to us.

The wind was quite strong and we had a deep dent that cut right through the paintwork. The offending car was still there but I couldn’t face the wrangle of Insurance documents so we just drove straight down to our local car accident/body shop and booked it in for repair. The car will go in for one day in just over a week and the work will cost me £312.00. Annoying but at least it will be restored quickly. At least it will be done before we drive North. Pauline has requested our Covid Boosters before then as well. We will see.

I know this isn’t significant to write about really but it just shows the minor irritations of retired life. We’ve been in this house for 5½ years and we’ve hardly had to replace a single light bulb. It is a sign of the times. We have 18 still working in the Kitchen alone. However, one of the Cooker Hood bulbs had gone this morning and Breakfast was dominated by trying to work out how to get the old one out and a new one in.

The hood is a substantial, externally-ducted one that tantalises our neighbours with Pauline’s cooking smells. There was no shifting the glass cover on one of the bulbs. I always approach things like a bull-in-a-china-shop and with all the subtlety of a brick. I have a screwdriver out and start prizing the glass off. No luck. Pauline sprays it with WD-40 and out pops the glass without force at all. I’m afraid, I will never change!

I found out today that our car no longer has a CD player. I have to download from the internet straight onto the car audio system or convert all my CDs to MP3 format on a stick and plug into one of the USB ports in the car. I can do it but it is a bit long-winded because I have so many CDs to convert. Amazing to think this one USB stick will hold 877 media CDs. I will have James Taylor jostling with Mozart and Take That with Puccini.

Wednesday, 29th September, 2021

What a wonderful morning. Woke at 5.00 am and the sky was bright with stars. As the sun came up, the gorgeous blue of the sky gradually lightened and revealed a wonderful world. What will happen today? Went out for a walk at 8.45 am and it was absolutely delightful. My hernia pain has been a lot better for a week now.

I have never been practical but I have been logical. It is the way I think. When we looked at the learning styles required in Education, I was definitely a Abstract Sequential learner. I like logic. I love technology. I was quite shocked to find that I was quite good at I.T. but it has given me great fun for the past 30 years. Of course, Retirement can be dangerous because it is easy to fall behind with developments. I have tried to keep up and face new challenges.

I really enjoyed getting to grips with converting (ripping) my media CDs to MP3 files stored on a USB stick. When I tried it out on the car’s media console, it was immediately really simple and good to use and provides so much choice without fuss. Being Abstract Sequential, I am a bit uncomfortable with Fleetwood Mac & Rumours rubbing shoulders with Chopin Études and Elgar’s Enigma Variations but I’ll cope.

Something else which has been upgraded in the new car (It may be commonplace to many Readers already.) is the utility where text messages and emails come into the console, are posted up on screen and one can choose to have them read out loud by the media unit automatically so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

There is also a ready-made bank of replies chosen to fit the text that one can send back at the press of a finger.

This is what technology should be doing for us and I love it. I want more of it. Took Pauline out for her mammogram screening this morning. It was at a mobile unit in Tesco‘s carpark because every little helps. Quite fortuitously, actually, because I was able to fill up with petrol at the same time – a whole £11.00’s worth. I’ve only got 570 miles in the tank now. There was no diesel which should be banned from the earth anyway but there were no queues either.

Really loved today. Been walking on air. Lovely weather, enjoyable experiences. Happy times! There should be more of it. I’m so easily pleased really!

Thursday, 30th September, 2021

Yesterday, we were cooking outside in the sunshine. This morning is grey and brooding. It is still mainly dark at 6.00 am.  Even so, I have woken feeling optimistic and light, happy and hopeful. It may be misplaced. I may be deluding myself but it is definitely there. Went to bed late and got up early but feeling very energetic. Actually, the day will be quite busy.

I bet they don’t gleam like this!

We’ve got two firms coming today: our window cleaners are doing a full, autumn clean of windows, woodwork, soffits and guttering. It will take a couple of hours. We also have a company coming to look at insulation of our garage/gym roof. It is a garage and, instead of running a radiator throughout the winter in there as we did last winter, we want to conserve the heat we put in as much as possible. The process that we think will be most effective is a spray-foam one and we are looking for a quote today from a Southampton-based firm.

I won’t be doing this!

I am a planner and organiser by nature. It makes me look controlling which, of course, I’m not … very much. Got to organise timings for the next few trips. Firstly, I need to work out driving times so I can arrange meetings with people in Lancashire and Yorkshire. I’m going to go mad and give them my mobile number so it’s easier to control. I hope to use my ‘free’ day to go to Manchester on the tram from Oldham Mumps. Haven’t been to Manchester for so many years. I used to travel Mumps to Victoria on the train twice a week at one time particularly when I was going to the Business School in Oxford Road. Be interesting to see the developments over the past 20 years.

Only 2 Business Lounges available at Gatwick currently.

Next we’ve got to work out times for driving to Gatwick for our Athens flight, bag-drop times and going through security control. We are Gatwick ‘members’ and have been offered Premium Security to get through checks more quickly. I’ve got to book the Business Lounge according to times of arrival because we are allocated time-slots for arrival. At the moment, there are only two Lounges available at North Terminal so pre-booking is important although the cost is funded by our bank accounts through our DragonPass service.

I must be using my phone too much. My wife says it is permanently glued to my hand. I’m on my 3rd screen cover in just over a year and I’ve had to send for some more. I’m not offered a replacement phone until next June. This evening I weighed myself and was delighted to see that I had reached the same weight I last saw 36 years ago. I knew things were changing. I am getting younger by the day.

Friday, 1st October, 2021

Happy New Month to all our readers and all who don’t read the Blog as well. Important to mark the start of October. Got up to dark and wet this morning at 6.30 am but the weather has soon cleared up and we are destined for a dry day.

I’m reviewing my wardrobe once again as the weight falls. Last night I removed every, single, formal shirt and put them in a bag. This morning, we drove into Rustington and took them to a charity shop – Link to Hope – which was delighted to receive them. There is something quite exhilarating about getting fitter and losing weight and it becomes a project in itself. Throwing out clothes is rather re-affirming. It frames the determination never to return to the old ways. Could just do with a tummy-tuck now.

Saturday, 2nd October, 2021

Up at 6.30 am and out for a jog by 8.30 am. It was dry and reasonably bright but rain is forecast. After 90 mins of exercise, the world looks a much better place. Actually, it does anyway. I’m feeling so much more optimistic and confident now. …. hope it’s not misplaced! I think losing weight and getting fitter, having lots of exercise and fresh air has made a huge difference. Lots of vitamin D through sunshine has left me tanned and healthy. Probably drop dead tomorrow.

When I’ve finished my gym work-out, I’ve been told to return to my wardrobes and start throwing out all the rest of my clothes. Pauline loves buying clothes and she rarely gets the chance to buy any for me. I rarely wear clothes. Shorts & tee-shirt are enough. She took me to Next yesterday. Can you imagine it? I’m looking forward to buying some new suits really but I might lose a bit more weight first. I’ve been looking at Brook Taverner for suits. Not only do they look good but they are incredibly cheap. Back in the 1980s, I was paying £700.00 for handmade suits in Huddersfield.

I know of an on-line company called Moonpig who arrange digital greetings cards. This afternoon, out of the blue, a company delivered a large, pink box from moonpig.com. It was flowers for Pauline who is 70 on Tuesday. The flowers were sent from her niece who is living in Florida at the moment.

I know they are for Pauline but I love cut-flowers in the house and these gorgeous, Autumnal colours are lovely. We’ll be happy to accept a weekly order, thank you. I remember that I was quite disdainful of the fact that the Common Room of my College had vases of cut flowers refreshed a number of times a week when I was there. Almost certainly a hangover from when it was an all-female College for demure, young ladies. I didn’t meet any of those but I have matured and would appreciate the flowers now.

Equally, I will help out with the lovely bottle of Champagne that was delivered shortly afterward from …. www.moonpig.com but without any sender’s name. Frantically scrabbling around for the sender’s identity so she can thank them. Moonpig confirmed that the classy bottle of champagne was from Pauline’s niece as well along with an open invitation for us to go out and stay with them in Florida. How lucky are we?

Week 665

Sunday, 19th September, 2021

Wonderfully warm and sunny day yesterday. Returned to the familiarity and sameness of UK life. Unpacked the car. Stacked the 8 cases of wine (48 bottles) we are allowed to import – about 10% of normal purchases. Ate a meal of cold, cured duck and aged Brie cheese with salad and a bottle of Bordeaux Rouge in the garden. Unfortunately,  this morning has opened overcast.

Got lots of house jobs to do. The Hive, automatic switching system I use to control the indoor lighting and heating from my iPad/smartphone across the internet from anywhere in the world has to be restored to ‘normal’ settings. It was nice to monitor the outside of our home on the South Coast from our hotel room in France via the CCTV we recently had installed. Mind you, I noticed that the plant pots needed watering and I haven’t got that installed on remote … yet!

Had postings of this old man from my past. John Holden was in my year at College but I really think I look younger.

John Holden – back centre – in his heyday!

How life deals with us is quite astonishing. Above is John Holden in 2021 and below in his prime in 1970. What has 50 years done to us?

I refuse to accept this decline – Rage, rage against the dying of the light! – and will keep my exercise routine going as long as I can into my 90s and beyond. I have so many ambitions to achieve before then! Keep the faith!!

Terri-Lee

Really looking forward to meeting up with people from my past and it is pleasing that they are keen to meet up with a lunatic like me. At the age of 70, it feels right to reaffirm one’s past by reuniting with shadows that inhabited it. There is no reason to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about it. We all make mistakes and feel unsure but age should have compensations and one of those is not being scared of the past. I am already preparing a face to meet the faces that I will meet. I expect ghosts of earlier times will walk across our dreams but we will have to meet them face on.

Did have a strange message from an ex-College girl who says she well remembers me giving her a lift on my bike down the hill into Ripon and us getting stopped and warned by a policeman. The thing is, not only did I not have a bike or any memory of the incident but I don’t remember the girl either. One of us is losing it. I suppose it could be me!

One of my little girls from school who I’ve kept in touch with over the years is the grand old age of 30 today and is celebrating by holidaying in Magaluf. Mind you, she has 4 kids which she’s left in her Mum’s care while away. Nice, warm-hearted girl who has always had to fight for everything in life, it is good to see her happy and reasonably settled. As one of the shadows from her past, I wished her well this morning.

Monday, 20th September, 2021

Don’t know if it was returning back to normality or what but I have felt a sadness all day just going about the routine. Did our walk at 9.00 am and then went to Tesco and Asda early on for bottled water. There was none that we wanted. I am building up a stock of bottles of sparkling water against dire warnings of shortages. Shloer was on special offer but completely gone as well.

We went to fill up the car for the first time since buying it. Honda filled the tank which gave us 620 miles and all our driving of the past week to the Tunnel, around the Pas de Calais and back to Sussex and we still had 140 miles left in the tank. The Hybrid engine is delightfully quiet and frugal. Our car generates electric power to refill the battery as it drives and as it brakes. However, I look forward to the next one being a chargeable Hybrid so that I can drive more of the time without using petrol. I’ve already told Honda what we want.

The intricacies of the Day-2 Tests

Had to complete our Zava Day2 Covid Tests yesterday and send them off via a Priority Post Box which meant going down to the village. It wasn’t too complicated but it was detailed and required so much form filling and information gathering.

Nice start to this morning and we are forecast a sunny day. Got the lawns and hedges to do. The car needs cleaning after our French trip and I’ve got my exercise routine to complete as usual. Burying myself in routine! On the bright side, there is some suggestion that America may be persuaded to open their borders to UK travellers earlier than expected. Maybe something to look forward to there.

Don’t you just hate getting old? Some people go wrinkly and grey. I have found that my skin has become more fragile and quick to damage. Just caught my arm on a door handle this morning – a simple, everyday mishap which one would dismiss if one noticed at all. Nowadays, this leaves me ‘marked’ for days. Did exactly that this morning and, as I sat down at my computer, I noticed an angry blood blister forming under the skin of my arm. I know now that it will be there for a week or so. It annoys me!

Tuesday, 21st September, 2021

Well, yesterday turned out to be a lovely day with lots of sunshine and 22C/70F as we walked. Ironically, having avoided the mosquitoes in France last week, I got bitten all over my legs in Sussex today. I haven’t worn long trousers for so many months that I am very exposed to this. I don’t care really. They are not half as bad as the biters in Greece. They always seemed to love my flesh and who can blame them? Somebody has to!

Shortage of sparkling water and Shloer in our supermarkets at the moment. Both rely on carbonation to varying degrees and we know that there is a shortage of CO2 stocks which are a bi-product of Fertiliser manufacture which, in turn, has been halted by the increasing costs of energy. Luckily, I discovered another terrible, non-alcoholic drink to replace Shloer. For anybody who is as daft as me to be denying themselves wine, J2O_Spritz with apple & watermelon flavour is quite nice. Only about 20 cals per 100 mls.

A perfect storm is hitting post-Brexit UK. Shortage of labour as EU workers disappear. Shortage of European goods because of severed supply chains. Shortage of transport deliveries which rely on workers and shortage of products produced in UK because of shortage of workers to pick and pack and deliver. Shortages of anything automatically put up wages and prices which feed directly into inflation, the danger of which I have been flagging up for a while.

This turmoil is now being hit by the Tory government’s casual disregard of the energy industry. While trumpeting their Green credentials, they have failed to keep concentration on the Generation process. Because of this, UK residents are going to be paying massively increased fuel bills which are not being seen across Europe while coping with increased food prices on rapidly disappearing supplies that are not being seen across Europe.

Now throw into the mix, the removal of the £20.00 per week Universal Credit for the poorest and the increased National Insurance payments of the earners and the hugely increasing cost of heating their homes and you have a crisis of monumental proportions. This is unlikely to go well.

Within that context, it seems rather insensitively self-indulgent to celebrate the announcement, which I predicted recently, of the opening up of the US to UK/European visitors. I have no idea when we will go but I’ve started exploring flights from London to Tampa preferably Direct. It is a flight of about 10 hrs out and just over 8 hrs back. It will be the longest flight we’ve taken and we quickly decided that Economy wouldn’t do. We will go Business Class which provides individual pods and seats that fully recline into beds. I was surprised to find that the price really wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Sleeping across the Atlantic.

The illustration above is for Finnair Business Class which costs around £5,500.00 for 2 Direct Returns from Gatwick to Tampa. I checked out what this includes and I was persuaded immediately. It makes BA Club Class appear quite dated in comparison.  Looks now like we won’t be going out until February/March next year so we may try Athens in November instead.

Wednesday, 22nd September, 2021

Woke up in the middle of the night. I was woken from a dream of wandering, distraught, in a railway station. Wandered, lost, through a busy city. What on earth does that mean? Up early on the most beautiful morning. Busy day today so going out for an early walk at 8.30 am. We have garden furniture being delivered, fresh fish being delivered and a Covid-Project tester arriving for our monthly tests. My official Day-2 test from our French trip came through negative yesterday. Pauline’s isn’t available yet.

What a lovely day yesterday was. It started sweetly and just got better. Figs for Breakfast. I can think of little nicer.

Breakfast in the Sunshine

We went out early to Rustington in lovely, warm sunshine. Had to have new lenses put in my prescription sunglasses which were chipped. The lad who served us was so obsequious that he virtually licked the carpet clean as we walked on it. When it came to telling me the cost, he said, I want to be transparent about it. I pointed out that it was a good line for an optician. To give him his due, he saw the humour in it.

Regular readers will know I am a bit obsessive/addictive. If I do something, I don’t ever let go. The trick is to get me obsessed with good things and unhooked from the harmful. So, if I can establish a pattern of no alcohol and replace it with low-calorie soft drink, then I generally stick to that pattern. If I get myself hooked on an exercise routine, then it is harder for me to stop doing it than just carrying on. I know myself and I openly admit to being obsessive, quite arrogant and, occasionally condescending but, as anyone with half a brain knows, these character traits are integral to genius. One cannot escape one’s nature. That’s why I have a constant fight against my inclination towards self-indulgence.

In that vein, we walked for a couple of hours in the most wonderful sunshine this morning. I came home and cut the lawns and then went in the Gym. I completed my 222nd consecutive workout routine. I’m obsessed with stats and memories although the latter seems to have some patches missing these days. The one thing I have learned with age is not to be over embarrassed by one’s beliefs, obsessions and urges. You only get one life and often that is short so just go for it. What have we got to lose apart from our dignity?

Electra Palace Hotel, Athens

We learned yesterday that we are unlikely to go to the US until early next year so we are looking at things to do in November. We already have a booking for a suite overlooking the Acropolis in an Athens city centre hotel which we should have taken up in August 2020. We are thinking of taking that up this November unless anyone has any better suggestions. I have to check the travel requirements. It was only for 5 days originally so we will extend it to a week or just a bit more. Be nice to have some sun, hear Greek shouted across the streets and eat some Greek, peasant food. Our hotel is 5* and we rarely eat there because the food is quite pretentious as ‘posh Greek’ can so often be.

Thursday, 23rd September, 2021

Absolutely gloriously warm and sunny morning. This does feel a bit of a bonus in the final week of September. We are going to look to extend the good weather well into Winter by travelling abroad after braving the chills of the North next month. Looks like it could be cost-effective when we hear of raging fuel prices in Brexit Britain.

Wall to wall sunshine yesterday as well as from Dawn to Dusk. We were 22C/70F. Lovely, early walk. Garden Dining Furniture was finally delivered. We set it up in time for our afternoon meal.

We ate in brilliant sunshine which was nice. The test results from our French trip had finally come through negative for both of us. The London University project tester had spent an hour in our back garden running Lateral Flow and Anti-Body tests for the 17th consecutive month.

We had a day of weird, phone calls both to our mobiles and house phone. Whenever we picked up, no one answered. Very strange. At one point, my watch said I was receiving a phone call on my mobile but I couldn’t find it. After 20 mins of panic-stations, we found it in my shoe in the cupboard. I’m absolutely cracking up!

Christmas in the September sunshine.

It seemed strange that, on such a lovely, Summer’s day, Pauline was steaming Christmas puddings in readiness for late December. The steamer has to be run for about 8 hrs continuously so it sat outside in the garden where it would be least disruptive. It’s so nice having a practical wife when you are so impractical yourself.

On this day over a decade ago, I was recording the jobs Pauline undertook at our Greek home. From unblocking the drains to oiling the windows, annually, she did the work. Fortunately, it was just what she likes doing and is good at doing.

Friday, 24th September, 2021

Mum & Dad – Happiness 1950s style

Today marks the 56th anniversary of my Dad’s death from a heart attack while in hospital in Burton upon Trent where he was being treated for heart problems. It almost certainly wouldn’t happen today. He would be put on Blood Thinners and a Statin. When I review the sorts of things he was told during early treatment for angina, you can see how the science was evolving. He was told that eating fatty foods like bacon was bad for his heart. (✔) but he spent his Breakfast religiously eating every piece of bacon with a piece of bread to soak up the fat. Of course, he went on to eat both things together so consuming all the fat he was supposed to be avoiding. (✘) Can you imagine dying at 49 years old? Unbearable! I was just 14 years old. Ultimately, I feel I didn’t really know him.

What a lovely day it was yesterday. The sun shone hot and bright. We went out early to the Garden Centre and to Sainsbury’s instead of having a Delivery. We did a 90 mins walk and discussed our next foreign travel. We have a voucher held over from August 2020 for £1,340.00 which came from a cancelled 4-night booking back then. We have agreed that the French trip did us good and we should follow it up with a return to Greece as quickly as possible.

Yorkshire/Greater Manchester in October and I’ve just emailed a booking for Athens in November. Incredibly, it will be 7 years since we last spent November there. It will be nice to spend some Wintertime there. Fortunately, Greece will have plenty of sunshine to walk in. Instead of 4 nights, we are going to have 7 but prices have so crashed that it won’t cost me more than an extra £400.00 and the flight prices are almost give-away.

Easyjet is the go-to airline for Greece. It is Greek, after all. Outward bound our base ticket is an unbelievable £22.99 x 2. When we add things like self-select seats with extra legroom, additional luggage, early and exclusive bag-drop, Fast-track security and Speedyboarding, we are still only paying about £130.00 x 2 and about the same on Return. What’s not to like?

We will fly Gatwick – Athens. We will probably drive to Gatwick and stay at the Airport Sofitel the night before. This has a number of benefits. We don’t have to leave home too early. We can leave our car there for the week. We can drop our bag off at the airport the night before which makes life easier in the morning and we can go straight through to a Business Lounge which our bank account provides before going down to Gate.

Before we leave, we will contact island friends to see if they want to meet us in Athens. We won’t have time to go there this time but intend to next summer. It would be lovely to see Elerania again for Lunch in Athens. Just 12 years ago, we finally had the Log-burning stove we bought and shipped over from Halifax installed in our Greek house lounge. With just 2 weeks before we were ready to leave and Autumnal weather in the air, we lit it for the first time. It was too hot!

Saturday, 25th September, 2021

Yesterday was almost certainly the best day of the year. Incredibly hot and sunny from start to finish. Really lovely. Almost everything was in place to make it a perfect day. Oh, what a perfect day … We did some shopping … for a change. Wonderful fruit and vegetables for the next few days. We are just too healthy! A 2 hr walk in the sunshine was delightful and then we sat in the garden and soaked up the rays. Soon we’ll be in the North and it will probably be snowing. Still, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m intending to tough it out in shorts and t-shirt as I would if I was in the warmer South.

I have pinned down the day and times for meeting Chris & Kevin + Julia in York. Julie has contacted me to agree a date for our meeting in Bridlington. She was worried that her upcoming cataract operation might get in the way but it will be over before I see her. She says her pirate patch will be removed before I get there although I did offer to do it myself. She may try to arrange a meeting with Nigel at some stage. John Ridley will meet me in Ripon and we will have a coffee together and, perhaps, revisit our old Digs house.

I have so much to catch up on with all of them and so much to tell them of my history. I last saw Kevin in 1978. Christine visited us with Julia in1985 in our home in Helme, Meltham. Julie, I last saw at a party in her home in Rochester, Kent in Summer 1973. She told me yesterday that she left that area in 1974 and I haven’t seen or heard of her since until she contacted me last year. I am so looking forward to seeing them all again and giving them a hug. I have no doubt the years will drop away. They all sound keen to see me and why shouldn’t they? It is good to close the gap of missed years.

Our trip to Athens is now completely tied up. We fly on November 9th from Gatwick and home on November 16th from Eleftherios Venizelos. The Accor Sofitel Hotel we chose to book at Gatwick is closed for the pandemic until next year so we will drive in the morning and park at the Long Stay Carpark. It is amazing how the international travel scene has changed since the pandemic. Our hotel can be cancelled up to 7 days before arrival. Our flights can be changed up to the day we fly. We feel quite secure in our bookings for that reason.

As we sat in the sunshine yesterday afternoon, we planned out the next few months with US travel sometime in Feb/March/April next year, hopefully. We will look to drive to Greece in May/June and then plan a Spanish drive to Aguila, Murcia. We need to be there to search out villas for the future. It feels a bit like life is re-starting! From the Past Forward!

This morning has opened a bit grisly with mist and lack of sun but we know that it is going to get much better on the South Coast this morning. An old friend from school who lives down the coast from us in Dorset and a neighbour up the road from us have both told us that they are still swimming in the sea at the moment. Makes us feel very unambitious!

Week 664

Sunday, 12th September, 2021

Woke up at 4.30 am again this morning. You’d think I wasn’t active or tired enough to induce long sleep.  Well, my sad, lonely and monotonous life was lit up, warmed up and filled with sunshine yesterday. Reunited with lots of old friends without rejection. I haven’t treated them well over the past 50 years but there is obviously a pent-up desire to meet again.

College Road, Ripon

I spent a few hours on Messenger talking to Dr. John Ridley in Catterick and arranging to meet him for coffee in Ripon on the morning of a day that I will also be reunited with Kevin & Chris Dagg and my ‘God daughter’, Julia. We have agreed to meet for tea in the afternoon in York and then on to Julia’s home also in York when she gets home from work. Really looking forward to that. Haven’t been to York for a long time.

We’re going to visit this lovely, York village.

Then contacted Nigel and Julie in Bridlington. I agreed to go up there for a day. Julie will show us around the seaside town that I’ve never been to before. As long as Nigel is well enough, we hope to meet him and his wife as well. Either at the beginning or the end of that day, I hope to visit poor, old Tash in Leeds and maybe meet Chris Tolley as well.

Sunny Bridlington

This is all quite revolutionary for me. I’ve hidden myself away for so long – going as far as a remote, Greek island to be isolated. Arriving at the age of 70 and other things happening this year releasing memories have opened me up and made me more receptive to this. I feared rejection but found, instead, that others feared the same. Julie is incredibly nervous that she won’t look the same as I remember. I assured her she and me both!

Before all that, we have our French trip. We will have to leave the house at 7.00 am tomorrow so I will be up at 5.00 am and in the gym for 90 mins before showering and packing the car. The crossing is around 11.00 am and we will have the afternoon shopping in Cite Europe and relaxing in the hotel’s Health Club. Feels quite exciting to be moving around again although there are lots of other places I would like to go and things to do as well.

Today is delightfully warm and sunny. Got to mow the lawns, water the tubs and then do my walk and gym work. Sorry if this is such a boring routine. It is, of course, Retirement.

Monday, 13th September, 2021

Madness! Sheer madness! Woke at 2.30 am but couldn’t get back to sleep. Well I am up at 3.30 am and in the gym. By 5.00 am, into the shower and by 7.00 am the car is packed and we are on our way to the tunnel. It will take us about 2hrs 30 mins to get there and we will have time for coffee before driving on to the train. It is very warm and humid this morning. I’m feeling good after my shower and fresh orange juice. Looking forward to the adventure.

The joy of Le Shuttle!

Our train departs at 11.50 am and takes just 35 mins but, because of the time difference, we arrive at 13.35. Off to Cité Europe for some shopping and then check-in at our hotel for rest and relaxation. I may have to do an hour in the gym when I get there because I am an obsessive.

Cite Europe is quite quiet!

The major shopping centre was quite quiet. We bought wine and salad and returned to our suite to indulge our senses. The wine was delicious and makes a mockery of the stuff we buy in UK. For just €5.20/£4.43, I bought this delicious bottle from Carrefour. Really enjoyed it with garlic olives. Je t’aime! The bottom of the bottle gives it away with a wonderful sediment. I will buy lots more of this to take home. Je t’adore!

For anyone who likes pints in Irish pubs and shouted conversations over loud pop music, this isn’t for you. Gentle, thoughtful and indulgent experiences are more my style. The day has been delightful with lovely sunshine and a top temperature of 27C/81F. I have managed a better than usual exercise target and finished the day better than I started. Sometimes, we are rewarded for our goodness. 

Tuesday, 14th September, 2021

Great sleep last night – the sleep of the good. Woke at 6.45 am (5.45 am UK). Going to get my exercise done early and then enjoy the day. Confucius, he say, You can do both!

Early Morning Walk

Lovely walks around our hotel. Vast, open spaces, France is so … French. Dozens of huge, brown rabbits everywhere. Walked for a couple of hours and then back for Breakfast – Yoghurt & Fruit for Pauline. Freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee for me.

We are going out to the shops but not for me. Pauline is going to throw our euros at dress/shoe/bag shops. I will be the supporting act.This is not somewhere I feel comfortable but sacrifice is necessary. For me it is enough to know that others are happy. I am selfish enough as it is.

I will plan tomorrow. I think we will drive along the coast – Sangatte, Wissant, Le Touquet, and on. This evening is incredibly warm and emotional. I am incredibly emotional. I have spent all my adult life trying to control this tendency, maintaining a plateau of response. Suddenly, this year, emotion has flooded back and overwhelmed me from every angle. This has not been me for 50 years. It slightly embarrasses me but I can’t currently stem the tide. It is just something I have to resolve.

An incredibly warm Summer evening in September.

The wonderful, warm and moonlit evening makes me emotional. I’ve just been watching Long Lost Family on my iPad and wept at the sadness of three siblings in their 40s missing finding their Mother by a matter of 4 years as she died in her 90s. My head is screaming, Why didn’t you look earlier? My heart is bursting for them. The sheer sadness of life-long separation!

‘Well met by moonlight.’

Wednesday, 15th September, 2021

A lovely, warm and sunny morning for walking early through the fields of France. Just under two hours breathing the glorious warmth of cut grass, reaped wheat and baled hay under a big blue sky.

Back for Breakfast. Still associate Hotels with self-indulgence and big, cooked Breakfasts. Unfortunately, that has to be denied at the moment and, maybe, for ever. Now, I pass the Salle de Petite Dejeuner and exercise instead. I am paying for a lifetime of self-indulgences with self-flagellation.

We have to have two Covid tests – one in France & one in UK. The one here has to be done three days before we set off back. This morning, we walked into the village to the Pharmacy.

Pharmacie Guilbert – lovely people!

I was ready to use my basic French to request a Covid Antigen test:

Pouvons-nous faire un test Covid ici?
Combien de temps cela prend-il et combien cela coûte-t-il?

I felt quite cheated when the notice in English on the door announced that we could have tests at a cost of €38.00 each and would take 20 mins for a result. They were lovely people and very friendly. We both tested negative and we’re provided with paper and electronic copies of the results. We walked back, past the magnificent Maison du Maire.

Maison du Maire

We watched Prime Minister’s Question Time and then we drove out to Wissant Beach. It is popular with the British although we were virtually the only ones there today. It is called Wissant because the locals heard the British describe it as White Sand. Unfortunately, by the time we got there today, the sun had largely disappeared. 

Uk immigrants prepare to invade French beaches!

Tomorrow,we are intending to drive down to Boulogne to do some shopping and visit the Fish Market. All that IT preparation has allowed me to watch Liverpool on BT Sport via my iPad. Great match!

Thursday, 16th September, 2021

Up early on hot and sunny Summer’s day. Out for a two hour walk in the beautiful countryside before Breakfast and then driving to Boulogne. We have been here many times but recent events have badly affected it.

Boulogne looking like Littlehampton.

We parked up at the Fish Quay which is still functioning but minimally. Shabby and run down would describe it now.

Fish straight off the boat.

We have been coming to Boulogne for well over 30 years and the wonderful cheese shop of Philippe Olivier for just as long.

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to eat such calories but I can look. Story of my life! It does look good but so is my self discipline.

We drove to the Auchan hypermarket on the outskirts of Boulogne and bought some food for our meal. We chose roast chicken with salad and a lovely bottle of red wine that went straight to my head. We ate crab & langoustines with salad last night and a bottle of white wine that went straight to my head. French food and wine is a nightmare. It tests my self control to destruction immediately.

No shortages here!

The abundance of fresh and healthy produce in French markets is something to behold. There are no empty shelves or shortages of products anywhere. They are untouched by Brexit in that respect.

Shiny & Fresh!

Friday, 17th September, 2021

Up early on a warm, Friday morning. Out for a two hour walk that, fittingly, starts at the tribute to the workers who constructed the Tunnel. I remember being excited about driving under the sea until I realised we drove on to a train.

We were still mainly travelling Hull – Zeebrugge in those days but we were early ‘tunnellers’. While I was out, I heard from my cousin, Sue, who lives in South West France. I had unearthed a photo that was sent to me from an Ancestry site which featured my Grandfather, Richard Watthew Sanders who started the family Building Company; his sister, Kesterton Sanders who was a spinster Headmistress of a school in Derby and one of Grandad’s daughters, Edwina, who was a classical pianist and Mother of Sue.

Sutton on Sea – 1953

Sutton-on-Sea was a horribly staid (and cold) East Coast, seaside town that was the base for all our early, family holidays. I hated it with a passion. We rented a house and a beach hut for the fortnight. Brrrr!!

Knowing how much I love getting mail, I bought this postcard for friends in UK who don’t have email addresses. I really hope they enjoy getting it.

The local Post Office.

Walking down into the village to the Post Office now. Wonder how long this will take to reach the North of England!

Now 7.00pm and still warm. We’ve been at 24C/75F during the day. I haven’t slept under the bedsheet all week. We had to buy fly spray yesterday after squishing a mosquito and finding a tissue full of blood. Fortunately, haven’t found any bites yet. It’s been a lovely few days and done me good to break out of the UK island prison. There are very few things that I’ve missed, I have to say, though the re-entry requirements are incredibly demanding although an IT genius like me will manage it in the end.

Saturday, 18th September, 2021

Up to 5.45 am and out on a jog by 6.00 am. It was still dark but warm. Sheer madness but it has to be done. Travelling back through the Tunnel at midday so I’ll be busy for the rest of the day.

The day begins at 6.00 am.

At the outset, it was so dark that I was struggling to see the track. On the return, beautiful colours of the day were obvious although the floodlights from Eurostar were still standing out.

Eurotunnel over the field.

Out for almost 2hrs and then back for a shower, coffee and packing the car. All the forms have been completed so it ‘should’ be straightforward.

Last minute shopping for Fresh Produce.

Off to Auchan for fresh produce like salad, duck and fish. Immediately down to the Tunnel sous La Manche. Unlike any other time we have been, there is almost nobody there. There are almost no lorries lined up.

Where have all the travellers gone?

We drive off the empty train onto an almost empty M20, M25, M23. The journey down and home has taken us about an hour less than normal. We are home, in the garden with a mountain of mail, a bottle of Bordeaux Superieur and 24C/75F of warm sunshine by 2.00 pm. It’s been quite a busy day but I’ve still got an hour in the Gym before my meal and relaxation. Slept really well last night. Let’s hope I do tonight. Back in my own bed usually makes things easier.

I’ve had a week of self-indulgence but now have a month of hard, crackdown on diet and exercise. That will mean no alcohol, low-calorie meals and a controlled mindset. I have to take control of myself and my body. Self-denial is good after self-indulgence. In a stupid sort of way, I’m quite looking forward to it. Soon, I will be fitted for some new suits and I will be at the next stage for new clothes all round. No point in stopping now.

Week 663

Sunday, 5th September, 2021

Conservatory panel fixed yesterday. New car this week. Trip to France next week. Lovely weather projected to last for a while. You would think that things were going well and life would feel good. On one level, it certainly is but I’ve woken today and for a few days with an all-pervasive, underlying sadness that colours my judgement. I haven’t been writing for quite a while now and I will have to address it directly very soon.

On our regular, outdoor walk yesterday morning, a comfortably upholstered young woman called out that I was getting slimmer by the day. She had been watching me for the last few months and noticed the change. How did I do it? The fact that I’ve walked past her house every day, twice a day didn’t seem to register – or perhaps it has.  I thanked her for her kind words. It does rather underline the fact that we have calculated I haven’t been this weight since 1987. Yesterday, another couple who we regularly meet on our journey had said more or less the same thing. Gives me a bit of a boost.

My Garmin watch/smartphone app records that I have only missed my target of 10 miles per day twice in the past 8 months. I am nothing if not dogged and determined. Unfortunately, I do everything to excess – both good and bad. Even though I’ve managed 10 miles per day, every day for 8 full months with the exception of 2 days, those 2 days really niggle me! I am already planning how to fulfill my obligation on the day that I drive down to the Tunnel. We will leave at 7.30 am. I will be up at 6.00 am and do an hour in the Gym before we go. When we check-in at the hotel, I will have to use their gym to complete my target.

If you’re not I.T. tech-savvy, I would advise you not to even attempt a European trip at all at the moment. Having booked and paid for Covid tests online, they have arrived by mail but the results will be emailed to us. The test booking numbers have to be uploaded to the Government website along with an online Passenger Locator Form which cannot be completed until you’ve had a test abroad up to 3 days before arriving home. Those results have to be filled out on the online form as well as passport details, etc.. They really are making it difficult to escape.

On the European side, they are expecting us to download and install the TousAntiCovid app and dovetail our NHS QR codes now compatible with France’s TousAntiCovid app (connexionfrance.com)

We cancelled so many trips last year, we have a stash of €5, 350.00 in our travel pack ready to spend on our short trip next week. We might as well really indulge ourselves. I feel a French Fashion shopping trip coming on!

Monday, 6th September, 2021

Feeling a bit empty this morning. Hard to describe why. It’s already a lovely day at 7.00 am and is going to get hotter. We’re going down to the beach for a while to enjoy the sun on the water and wander in the waves. Still got plenty to do for Friday’s exchange of cars and Monday’s exchange of countries but I really can’t be bothered. I feel quite preoccupied. Even so, all the mundane, ritualistic activities have to be completed including putting out the bins and testing my INR. I’m reading that a number of areas in the UK are having their bin collections placed under threat because of the shortage of drivers. If that happened here, at least we have time to take our own to the local tip.

Had a lovely Messenger communication from Chris Dagg. She is obviously nervous that I will not commit to a meeting. Having made up my mind that I will, I won’t go back on that. It makes me feel quite emotional that she doubts it. Maybe it is because I have been so reluctant until now. I have assured her I will go to her house in Barwick-in-Elmet to meet up for the first time for 43 years. She has just got back to me to say Julia would like to meet me as well. It could be fun.

Fantastic day yesterday. We reached 26C/79F with a sultry atmosphere. I am brown as a berry and even tastier!

Our former home on Greek TV

Fascinating to see our former Greek home, the one we designed and had built on land we bought more than 20 years ago, was shown on Greek television yesterday. Didn’t know whether to feel proud or sad.

Greece 2011

Exactly 10 years ago today, this little, feral cat appeared at the back door of our Greek home and begged for attention. If she doesn’t melt your heart, nothing will. She brought her mother and brother with her but she was the leader because she understood her human appeal.

Athens 2018

Every year apart from 2020/2021 we have returned to Athens. I really miss it and will go there at the first opportunity.

Tuesday, 7th September, 2021

Didn’t sleep well and woke at 5.00 am wet with sweat. The temperature had hovered around 18C/65F overnight. We really are going to have to look at getting air conditioning installed.

Incredible day yesterday. You missed it, you should have been here. We reached 28C/83F yesterday afternoon and we expect warmer today. Lots of jobs done and our exercise routine plus sunbathing. Down at the seaside, life was wonderfully quiet now that schools have gone back. Good to see teachers getting down to work after all this holidaying.

Down at the Beach – peace!

Today is set to be even better. I’m driving Pauline to the Beautician’s where she will be treated for an hour. She is having a ‘Facial’ which she loves but I can see no tangible benefits in at all. I will go for a walk by the sea and then take her home. I have a number of jobs to complete today including lawn cutting and travel documents to fill out.

While I am parked up and waiting, I have been walking in 24C/75F of sunshine to a park near the Beauticians. It must be my age but the things that most catch my eye on these walks are plants. The shrub illustrated below is a Mediterranean favourite that I found thriving in a garden I passed this morning. It is rather tender and wouldn’t survive in the North.

Brugmansia Sanguinea, (Red Angel’s Trumpet)

Another favourite around here is one that we grew all around our Greek home. The Bottle Brush shrub or Kalistamon which comes from the Greek Kali (good) stamon (flower stamen).

Bottle Brush shrub or Kalistamon

We are fixing a date that we can meet Chris & Kevin + Julia and it feels the right thing to do. With so much invested in our joint pasts, it is time to draw on that rich experience. It is possible that they will invite others from my past to join us. That would be enjoyable. The time for hiding away is over. I have withdrawn from this for the best part of 50 years but I could die any time and should embrace my past as soon as possible. Obscurity is for the graveyard.

A neighbour across the road has Covid. It is the first person we have known who actually got it. There is the wide expectation of another ‘Lockdown’ at the end of October with Schools’ Half Term being extended by at least a week into November to perform a firebreak

Wednesday, 8th September, 2021

What a day yesterday and night turned out to be. Under cloudless skies all day, we reached 29C/84F and the temperature didn’t drop below 19C/66F overnight and it is 22C/70F by 7.00 am. Even so, I managed about 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This morning has opened beautifully. The clear, blue sky is crisscrossed with high, white plane trails as the journeys from Europe to and from Gatwick/Heathrow increase.

It is forecast to be a better and hotter day than yesterday and the fig trees, which are over 16ft tall now, are absolutely covered in fast ripening fruit. Hope the weather is good enough for another 2-3 weeks and we will be gorging on them. Don’t think the olives, lemons and pomegranates from our Greek garden are going to be viable here for a few more years. I am still eating Victoria plums and fresh cobs of corn from our area. They are so delicious.

One of the things I have to do before travelling, is make sure my IT equipment is functional enough to get me through time away from the Office at home. I have a laptop which would normally go with me but I haven’t turned it on for about 3 years. My iPad has taken over. I have the largest, professional iPad and set it in a case which incorporates a keyboard through Bluetooth. Effectively, it becomes a laptop but is light enough to fit in my Man-Bag.

Most of us access all tv and radio channels digitally, across the internet feeding through our TV or DAB radios. I can generate an internet connection anywhere in the world even when there is no wifi available. Smartphones come with large data supply contracts. It is easy to create a wifi hotspot with your smartphone which can feed your iPad. My smartphone accesses the fast, 5G network and its wifi is really fast.

In order to access UK TV/Radio abroad, one needs to disguise one’s location and make the broadcaster believe you are still in the UK. To do this, we install a VPN – Virtual Private Network – which re-routes our wifi through a UK base. In that way, we can get everything we would at home. This has been made even more important since Brexit which has removed the ability to access UK media and Sky satellite broadcasts. After so long without travelling, I am having to address these services urgently before we go away on Monday.

Two days ago, we received a text to say Flu jabs wouldn’t be available immediately. Today, we were told we can book straight away. Because we are going away, we have had to set an early October date. My suspected hernia problem has been remarkably better for the past few days but I have just heard from the surgery department at the hospital to say I am on the list but not yet. I’ll see how my body develops before deciding what to do.

Thursday, 9th September, 2021

Another wonderful, hot and sunny day yesterday. In fact, I have a guilty admission to make. The ice cream van came round in the evening and we both had DOUBLE 99s!! They were glorious. They cost £2.25 each. Can you imagine that? Mind you, we both regretted it immediately after eating them – incredibly filling and manufactured in flavour and quality.

Actually, on our walk through the park yesterday, we saw 3 lovely, young lads queuing at the icecream van, hot and sweaty after playing football in the sunshine. Just as we passed, one lad asked the price of an icecream and was told £1.50. He turned away sad-faced saying, Oh, I haven’t got enough. Pauline went back and offered to pay for him. He was incredibly nice and polite but his friend stepped in to make up the sum. Lovely moment.

All around us children have gone back to school. Little Rebecca-Janes in starched white blouses and school bags as big as themselves have been excitedly walking to Angmering School. I remember it myself; 1962 saw me taking the bus to Burton upon Trent, getting away from the tyrany of home and making my own way in the world. I loved it. Girls from the nearby High School. Can you believe it? They were on the bus!

The morning light and the evening dusk are both displaying the decay of the Summer. We did a lovely walk around the perimeter of our Development and through the newly discovered park. The walk takes just under 2 hours each day.

On the outer edge of our Development, the builders placed a terrace of 2-bedroomed, ‘afforable’ properties. They are next to the wood which masks the main road and has considerable traffic noise. The terraced houses shield the rest of the development from the noise. These tiny, ‘affordable’ properties are selling at around £400,000 which is quite astonishing. The park we’ve recently discovered on our walk and features a beautiful, 5G phone mast, is beginning to show early signs of Autumn as the hedgerows are flecked with yellow, dying leaves. It is planted with fruit trees which are heavy with apples and the blackberries are almost gone. The Summer is over.

Down at the beach last evening.

The daytime temperature of 26C/79F was replaced in the evening by distant thunder and lightning which brought cooler air. Before it arrived, there was the most beautiful sunset. There are some good things in the world!

Even so, this morning has opened hot and humid. Can’t decide whether to clean the car before I trade it in tomorrow. We learnt that some garden dining furniture which we ordered months ago in time for the Summer months may actually be delivered soon. Brexit has been used by the company for its inability to import. Brexit is the lunacy that just keeps on giving.

Latest HGV trainee – courtesy of P. Holgate.

What I am pleased by is to find that so many of my ex-college friends are so vehemently opposed to Brexit from right across the country. From Kevin Sellers in Scotland to John Morris in Nottingham, Dave Weatherly in Bolton and Peter Holgate in Knaresborough plus so many more artists across Yorkshire and Lancashire, they regularly respond positively to my political postings. It is only in the past 3 years or so that I’ve been in touch with them and I’ve learnt so much about them and myself by reaching out.

This could be coming to your doormat.

Of course, it is so easy across the internet. I receive dozens of communications overnight, during breakfast, through the day on my watch and phone. Some of it I even want to see. I have lots of followers on Twitter including fascinating barristers, politicians and writers. Even so, I have a strange addiction to post, even junk mail and particularly old-fashioned postcards. I’ve had it for such a long time.

I like to visualise people scampering down to be first to the post-delivery just like me. My wife has been trained never to open anything but to leave it for me. I expect to send a few from France next week. My old friends, Caroline in Greenfield and Brian in Royton, will definitely get one. Generally, people without email are recipients of postcards. It is lovely to make connections and postcards are such simple, naive forms of communication.

Friday, 10th September, 2021

Today it is an incredible 15 years since Pauline’s brother, Jack, died of a brain tumour at the age of 72. It all happened very quickly and we remember being very shocked that nothing could be done for him. His other sister is 84 and he would have been 87 this year. How fragile life is!

Yesterday turned out to be another glorious one. Blue sky, strong sunshine and 22C/70F which made our walk enjoyable. For some daft reason, the fact that it wasn’t forecast made it even more enjoyable. After the walk and my Gym routine, we sat outside in the sunshine for an hour. Would have been nice to have had our new garden Dining Furniture delivered while the weather is good but we just ate in the kitchen with all the doors thrown open. We have actually been given a date for delivery soon after we return from France but it will be mainly too late for this year.

In the Summer of 1972, I went for an interview and got a job to teach in the London Borough of Ealing. I actually fancied teaching in the City although I think the schools were pretty rough. Ultimately, I didn’t take it up because I had a more pressing engagement in OLDHAM!! What was I thinking? With short attempts to get out – a job in Essex, a job in Huddersfield – I was marooned there for the rest of my career.

This morning, a report in The Spectator magazine talks about property around the Ealing area going for £175,000 in 2000. The same properties in 2021 are selling at over £1 million. If only I’d known.

Can you believe £1 million?

We sold a house in Yorkshire for around £270,000 in 2000 and I don’t think it’s worth so much more even now.

Spoke too soon about my ‘hernia’ problem. Yesterday after exercise it was large, swollen, firey and uncomfortable. Decided that I will have to pursue a more proactive course when we get back from France. Woke up AGAIN at 4.30 am, like the sad, lonely old man I am and I was aware of it. It stopped me from getting back to sleep. At least an operation will make life interesting!

Just heard from John Ridley who is going to meet me in the morning for coffee in Ripon and then a sentimental walk up College Road and, perhaps, calling in at Cottages for old time’s sake. I will visit the Daggs in the Afternoon/Evening. Looking forward to that already!

Saturday, 11th September, 2021

A hot and humid night is being followed by a warm and muggy day. Picked the new car up yesterday and our first trip this morning has been used to set up the seat positions memory, the reversing camera arrangements, the sat.nav settings for units of time/distance. It’s all very familiar – actually identical – apart from wheel styles and a wireless smartphone charger. It is registered in Pauline’s name as all the 20+ new cars we have bought have been. I don’t know why but I just like her to have the reassurance that everything we buy is hers, not mine. Just a weird quirk of mine!

Pauline in her new car at Waitrose.

Love the new-leather smell of a new car. It is even quieter than the last one. All around, people are driving smelly, noisy diesels and leave them idling in stationary traffic. Hybrids like ours are as near silent as is safe and the engine cuts out completely at stationary points like traffic lights. We took the last one straight to France 2 years ago and this one will be doing the same journey. Hope we can put a few more miles on it this time. Pauline has already ordered another new one for 2023!

One thing we do need in France is a Breathaliser. We can be fined if found driving without two disposable ones. We’ve got two but they are both out of date now. There are none in stock here so we have to hope they don’t check us. The other thing I need is James Taylor – Sweet Baby James CD to sing along to while we drive:

Boring and monotonous or not, I have to complete my exercise routine. A sunny and warm walk today has been followed by an hour in the Gym while Pauline gets packing together for France.

We spent quite a bit of cash on ‘professional’ quality gym equipment as we left our Health Club. The Treadmill and Bike have proved invaluable but the Cross Trainer has hardly been used. I want to replace it with a Rowing Machine so I’ve got the problem of selling the Cross Trainer to make space. I’ll have to solve that when we come home.

Yesterday morning I heard the very sad news that an old, College friend, John ‘Tash’ Coates had been hugely debilitated by a massive stroke and was in hospital in Leeds. I heard it on the College grapevine – John Morris, heard from John Ridley who heard from Chris Tolley who lives near Tash.

John ‘Tash’ Coates

I’ve written to his wife and I will go up to try and see him. Tash is a few months younger than me but, we all fear this sort of disaster striking at our age.

Week 662

Sunday, 29th August, 2021

Had an extended conversation with Chris Dagg yesterday over Messenger. We haven’t done that for a long time. It started off about a video of her daughter looking and sounding more like her than her. Unfortunately, it moved on to her wedding in 1972 and the death of her best friend and bridesmaid, Judy Hall, at the tender age of 69. Christine is obviously still very shaken by it. She sent me a photo of the two of them in 1969.

I wasn’t particularly friendly with Judy but just had a passing acquaintance. Even so, it is really shocking to hear of her untimely death. Nowadays, it seems so wrong to die so young. Judy Hall, I think, was considered one of the college beauties at the time and featured in the College Prospectus in 1970.

Chris suggested they would like to meet and talk to me after all this time and I have agreed to contact them to arrange it. Hauling in the years will be interesting!

Glorious and warm sunny morning. Had to be at Specsavers for a 9.00 am appointment – on a Sunday! Went on to the beach for a walk in the sunshine. It was low tide and the Marina looked delicious in that Mediterranean light producing those colours.

There weren’t many people about at 9.30 am but these boy-racers were on the water, setting out to sea.

We did a short walk down the shoreline as the Shellfish, Coffee, Burger and Fish&Chip stalls were just opening up.

Families were just starting to park up and walk onto the beach, laden with chairs, tables, picnic baskets and everything else needed for an extended day. They were getting there early to secure their favourite area for the day. That was the signal for us to return home to our garden.

Monday, 30th August, 2021

A grey, overcast but humid morning. I’m wearing grey and feeling rather grey. There are few, rays of sunlight on the horizon – literally or metaphorically. Don’t often get that Monday-Morning-Feeling much since being retired but it is all-pervasive today. To-Do list today includes: Exercise routine and going through the wardrobes to throw out so many sets of clothes which are no longer useful. They will go into the clothes bank bins at the local supermarket apart from suits which are still wearable and will go to a charity shop.

Had a lovely, late-night contact from Chris Dagg again last night. I had noticed a girl/woman had commented on Chris’ daughter’s video on Youtube. Her name was/is Janiceanne Wollstein who lives in Munich. I searched her out and saw a photo of her face and it looked familiar. I did some more research and found she had attended Ripon at the same time as us so I asked Chris what her name was.

Little Anne (Janiceanne Wollstein) Robinson

These things so often come in waves of remembrance. Her name was Anne Robinson and she was a small, happy, jokey girl. I remember her sitting in her PE knickers in the Bishops Chase Common Room larking about. It was the passion-killer knickers I remember most! Until recent problems, Chris has gone to visit her regularly in Germany.

Chris, Judy & Anne

I’ve agreed, after all this time, to drive up and meet them in the near future. Should be an interesting occasion and something to anticipate.

How high can Rioja go?

Sometimes things just go against one and continue on downhill. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ve been driven back to drink …. well wine with my meal. For some time, I’ve used an arch-lever-corkscrew which is brilliant and undemanding. It has never failed … until now. Yesterday, I was opening a bottle of Rioja in the kitchen when the lever pushing the screw into the cork just met no resistance and a fountain of red wine shot up all over me and over the kitchen cupboards.

It was instantly pointed out to me that I hadn’t checked the ceiling where the wine shower had ended up. Even after wiping it down, a stain remains. Somebody other than me will be repainting it this morning. Fortunately, the developers left us some of the paint for just these occasions. Equally fortunately, my wife relishes doing jobs like this.

We still haven’t got our conservatory window unit replaced a month after I smashed it while gardening. The glazier says he will fit it the moment units arrive in the country from Europe. Bloody Brexit!

I think I’ve sorted out all I need to do in the complex of routines required to hop a few miles over to France. To think there was a time we could almost just turn up and go at a whim and now it takes days just working through the process. It almost takes all the enjoyment out of it. When we return, we can still bring back cheese and other things less available here but only 24 bottles of wine per person. So much control taken back!

Tuesday, 31st August, 2021

The last day of Summer 2021. Up at just after 6.00 am after a broken night’s sleep. World Service/Radio 4 since 4.30 am mainly about the US withdrawal and betrayal in Afghanistan and 90 mins of that is enough for anyone. Feels like we are marking and wasting time which is running away into the Autumn. There is so much more we could be enjoying. This morning feels fairly autumnal in that it is grey, dark, misty and uninviting. At least it is warm. Breakfast with all the lights on tells us the days are already shortening.

Lights on in August?

Just 6 years ago today, our current home looked like this. We had bought it off-plan, which makes the asking price cheaper, and the builders were sending us an update.

Just over 5 years on, we have had it valued and the increase is a pleasing 37%. This is all the more reassuring because it is 37% of a much higher price than we would have had to find in the North. In Surrey, our property sold for about 80% increase over 5 years but this will do. Maybe, we will have to move back to the North and cash in. Having said that, our local beach has been voted well into the top 10 beaches in the country.

The great thing about being a nomad is that you can go anywhere that you like without feeling guilty. You can even spend half your time in one home and half in another as we did in Greece/Surrey. This is a lovely place to live but, when it comes down to it, everywhere we are is lovely. It’s what you make of it.

Peter Holgate & wife, Karen

Former College friend, Peter Holgate, lives in Knaresborough but travels far and wide in retirement. This morning, he sent me this photo from his trip to Kilburn High Street Underground station. Rather cheered me up.

I need a bit of cheering up. The prognosis for US travel in November became even more gloomy yesterday as the BBC announced that:

The European Union recommended a pause on all non-essential travel from the US as Covid-19 cases surge. The daily average for hospital admissions has risen past 100,000 for the first time since last winter.

This will not encourage the Americans to open up their travel conditions for tourists. Quite the opposite.

The other big news of the day is that 3 coats of paint have solved the Rioja stain on the kitchen ceiling. As soon as my decorator completed that job, she cut my hair so at least she is paying her way! As we extended our walk to 90 mins this morning, the clouds disappeared revealing blue sky and lovely, warm sunshine. We discovered a huge park complete with outdoor exercise equipment, an ornamental pond and lovely planting just 10 mins walk from our house. It’s only taken us 5 years to find it.

Wednesday, 1st September, 2021

Now, where did you go …..?

Summer has departed and Autumn ushered in. It really feels like a retrograde step that will leave us all worse off. Our Fig trees are loaded with fruit but most are unlikely to swell and ripen in time to be enjoyed. Outside, the world is grey but warm. This is our 70th Autumn on this earth and still we journey. These changes are much more significant than any of us can know. We are all punching above our weight.

As life goes on, our calendar includes taking delivery of our new car – probably on Monday or Tuesday next week. Ultimately, it will cost us less than £9,000.00 to buy a cleaner car. So the existing one will have cost just £346.00 per month excluding fuel and insurance. Everything else is ‘free’ including full Service for 5 years, Hondacare breakdown assistance and roadside recovery Europe-wide. Not that we’ve ever needed it. Our current car has been the first one to include the new, European requirement for an emergency-call button which provides a ‘free’, 3G signal to local recovery firms via Hondacare. European innovation has been a wonderful thing!

Hondacare Included

September has been a popular time to change cars for a number of years and my on-line memory box threw up this image today:

Honda Prelude

I think we had 3 of these before we moved on to the 4-wheel drive, CRV. Enjoyed driving it but can’t believe how low down the driving position was compared to our current car. The Boot was incredibly small and it would never have coped with our Greek travel or wine-buying trips to Europe.

Crag Hall, Derbyshire

My cousin, who lives in the Charente in southwest France, has contacted me today to suggest that we have a family, long weekend next year and book this house which will accommodate about 20 of us and cost just £3,500.00 for 3 nights. The house is in the Peak District which is not my favourite place but I can manage 3 days.

Thursday, 2nd September, 2021

Another grey and dark morning. Yesterday did turn out warm and there were periods of sunshine but not enough. We need to get away. We need to go abroad, to hear foreign languages, taste different tastes. We need to see different sights.

My face gives everything away. I could never be a poker player. Sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, lust, hunger, joy – my face immediately displays all these inner conditions outwardly to those who know me. Unlike T.S.Eliot’s Prufrock, I am constitutionally unable to prepare a face to meet the faces that I meet.

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

New car by Tuesday and then we will go to France for the following week. I’ve booked a suite in a hotel in Coquelles (£800.00) for 5 nights beginning Monday, 13th September. I’ve booked return trips by Eurotunnel (£312.00). We will drive out to interesting towns and villages to shop and walk over the week.

Tests to be delivered this morning.

In order to facilitate this, I’ve had to download and fill out a Déclaration d’honneur (honesty form) for entry to France on which we declare we have no Covid problems. We have also had to order test kits to be used within 2 days of returning to UK at a price of £138.00. While we are in France, we have to go to a pharmacy to have a test (cost unknown) within 3 days before crossing back into UK.

After all that, the hotel’s prices have decreased so much that the cost far outweighs the additional Covid charges. It will be so nice to get away and it is a lovely, comfortable hotel.

The Suite has plenty of space and is really a home-from-home. Particularly at times like these, we prefer to be able to keep at a distance from others and a suite allows this.

Importantly, the hotel has a lovely pool and well appointed Fitness Centre. Although we will do plenty of walking, we will need an additional facility over the week.

When I get to this stage, it almost feels wrong to be leaving but I’ll steel myself and do it. After all, there’s nothing holding us back.

Of course, there are all those incidental things like travel insurance to sort out. We have annual travel insurance ‘free’ from our Bank’s Black Account. Unfortunately, old codgers like me have to declare conditions that require a bit of an additional charge. A suspected hernia can now be added to that.

Friday, 3rd September, 2021

Hardly a chink of sunlight yesterday although we reached 22C/70F. Just a few miles away at the Kennington Oval, the Test Match eventually was bathed in sunshine. This morning is much brighter and sunnier and forecast to improve as the day develops…. Actually, the day improved remarkably and our walk was in hot sun. The temperature hit 25C/77F and made the day so much more enjoyable.

Autumn in Le Touquet

I’ve been contacting our French hotel this morning to make sure my wife gets her favourite suite and to ask about Testing Centres before we return home. Apparently, we can be tested and receive the result while we wait at the Pharmacy in the village. We are looking forward to visiting some lovely, coastal towns like Le Touquet and Wissant.

Arras

We might go to Arras to look up John Whetton, my old, Grammar School friend who has lived there since 1968. We need to do lots of walking so that will partly govern our destinations. I’ve also got to control my diet in this festival centre of food & wine.

Received a call from our Honda Dealer with good news and bad news. The bad news is that the car won’t be ready until Friday 10th. We leave the following Monday. The new sat.nav. will need reprogramming over the weekend, the smartphones paired up to the audiovisual unit, the iPads Bluetooth-paired and all the seat, mirror and door settings set up before we leave.

The good news is that they had overcharged us by £500.00 and that was being removed. Some arcane process with Honda last time and this meant, if we took out Honda Finance to partly pay for the car, the price of the car was reduced by £1,500.00 and a number of other things were provided for ‘free’ like the 5 years servicing, etc. We do not borrow money and, currently, it wouldn’t be cost-effective anyway. However, that means our credit rating is damaged because we have no borrowing record. So, we agree to borrow a nominal £5,000.00 and get all the attendant benefits of it for a month and then completely repay it and retain all the benefits plus enhancing our credit rating.

I have long enjoyed Whistler and had a large print of his Little White Girl hanging in our houses over the years.


Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl – Whistler 1864

Today, the Royal Academy has announced its upcoming Whistler Exhibition for next February. I wonder what our lives will be like that far ahead. Will we still be alive?

Saturday, 4th September, 2021

Very warm this morning and the sun is out but with cloud around. As we moved into the afternoon, we reached 24C/75F and quite humid. The forecast is for some lovely weather to coincide with schools going back – which will be nice. Talking about schools, we had a frantic discussion this morning about how long we’d been retired and whether it was April 2009 or 2010. It was 2009 and we will have been idle for 13 years in April next year.

I was thinking about retirement and work yesterday when the girl at the Greengrocers asked me if I had that Friday Feeling? I assume I read her right and said, Is it Friday? That Friday night at the end of a week was always delicious. For us, it would be Chinese Takeaway night. Wouldn’t even entertain the idea now. All that Monosodium Glutamate used to enhance the flavour that left one with such a dry mouth on Saturday morning. I remember it well although we haven’t eaten one since retirement.

Memory is such a strange thing. It absolutely torments me. Flashes of my past and particularly past failures haunt my daily present time. I will groan and someone nearby will ask why. Of course, I never admit the true reason. I make something up and try to push the thought back into the mists of time. This year, I’ve found that even more difficult to do. I’ve tried facing it head on but not succeeded. What is shocking and cruel is the difference between memories that are as acute as yesterday and those I just cannot recall at all.

Going by the brain graphic, my strengths are in the Temporal and Parietal lobes. The Frontal lobe is a confusing mixture for me. The executive functions of Thinking, Planning, Organising and Problem Solving are strengths for me but Emotions, Behavioural Control and Personality are distinctly weak areas.

Not being sure which year I retired; not being sure what day it is; these things undermine one’s confidence. Remembering the enjoyment of a Friday night; recalling the aftertaste on the Saturday morning quite acutely; these things are the ironic torture of lost times.

If I was to take the Dementia Memory Test, I’m sure I would fail. One of the first questions they ask is, What Day is it? They also give you a name and address to recall at the end of the test. Those sorts of things I have never remembered. That’s why I’ve got so many recording systems. Forgive me if I’ve told this story before and I’ve forgotten but the story of Jane.F.’s Mother-in-Law always appealed to me. During the memory test, one is shown ordinary objects, animals, etc. and asked to identify them. In her 90s, Mrs. F. was shown a picture of a camel and she studied it for a moment and then said, Now is that a camel or a dromedary?  Of course, the young tester hadn’t got a clue. That is the sort of thing that would happen with me. Pedantic to the end!

Wonders will never cease. The glazier has turned up with a replacement full-length, double glazed unit for the conservatory at the back of the house. It has been a month now and he says he has had to bully the suppliers to get this. All the cost is in the materials. The labour took less than 10 mins to fit.

Week 661

Sunday, 22nd August, 2021

I am driven by facts, data, records, calendars, history, memory. As a professional, these are the sorts of things that have to be recorded and inform one’s day, week, year. At the very early stage of the World Wide Web in the UK, I introduced an online calendar in school for all to see across the institution. At home, Pauline & I have been using an integrated, online but private calendar to record immediate and ongoing events for years. I never forget a birthday, anniversary, recurring event because it is recorded and flagged up days in advance. I can plan in advance and make sure I never miss or am late for a meeting.

It has wonderful juxtapositions like today’s entries inform me that the second freezer in our outdoor kitchen starts its 4-year extended warranty this morning and today would have been my Mum’s 98th birthday. I try to mark these things in my Blog.

Mum’s 98th Birthday

The problem is that I have run out of photographs and become even more repetetive than in my words. Even so, I mark the day.

It is a beautiful day here this morning and we are going out for an early walk in the sunshine. Everything is growing so fast that the lawns will need cutting and the hedges trimming again. Actually, the day reached 24C/75F A the afternoon progressed. I felt so let down that I opened iced  white wine to drink with home made crab cakes.

Got chatted up by a baby on my walk this morning. His Mother said he only used to talk to dogs. He was widening his social circle by making a concession for me. 

Monday, 23rd August, 2021

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
    “And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
    Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
    “I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
    Why, I do it again and again.”

Lewis Caroll – 1865

I have written before but it is worth repeating that the Nature/Nurture argument has become clearer to me over the years. In my youth, the left-wing view was that Nature – socio-economic – was the most important in the effect on human development and that the eugenicist view of inherited characteristics was dangerous. For that reason, and in later age, I have been astonished and had to acknowledge the power of heritability. The consequence of this is the overwhelming conclusion that none of us change fundamentally over our lives however much we develop superficially. My wife has just told me how annoying I can be. Nothing fundamental really changes.

Letter to a Friend about Fat Girls – Philip Larkin – 1945

The wife whose husband watched Away matches
While she behaved so badly in the bath ….
… I’m happier now I’ve got things clear, although
It’s strange we never meet each other’s sort:
There should be equal chances, I’d’ve thought.

Age changes us all superficially. We lose the lustre of youth. Our skin wrinkles; our hair goes grey; our weight increases; our eyesight weakens; our reproductive ability largely disappears. The list goes on but it is predictable. What is so important is the constant core of the character. This is what has so astonished me. It is almost immutable. Characteristics remain although we often don’t acknowledge them to ourselves.

We’ve been in a number of places where masks are difficult to wear. The car showroom involved lots of talking and nobody was wearing masks. The Tomato grower was wanting to talk and was not wearing a mask. Three days on, we take a Lateral Flow Test this morning and it is negative. I also did my weekly INR test and it is a perfect 2.5.

Negative Lateral Flow Tests

Accepting all my character strengths and weaknesses has often been painful to me. Today, I am coping with other, more physical pains. Last night I stubbed my little toe and this morning it is firey and swollen. I do it and ‘break’ it so regularly that you’d think I would learn. I don’t. Haven’t heard from the consultant about my potential hernia yet so my social secretary is following that up today. She is also driving me to the Opthalmology Department of the hospital where I have my eyes tested every 6 months. I have enlargement drops (Oh, how I need those!) which make driving impossible.

Overcrowded Opthalmology – Home of the Dyed Blonde

I could read the bottom line of the chart with confidence this morning so I am not in danger of losing my sight for a while. Can still see the truth! Just my luck that, when I emerged into the daylight with my pupils wildly dilated by the ‘drops’, the sun was shining strongly and burning into my retinas. It is an incredibly painful experience. Even the European Driving Lights on vehicles approaching us as I was driven home felt as huge, bright and intensive as floodlights at a football match. For the second day running, we have reached 24C/75F. I paid for it last night. I was already annoyed with myself for drinking wine outside in the sunshine. By midnight, my skin was clearly overexposed and uncomfortably hot. I didn’t sleep so well.

We are stopping supermarket deliveries at the moment and returning to our own shopping. Things are in such short supply and there are so many ‘substitutions’ in deliveries that it is more successful choosing ourselves.

Brexit has really taken back control!

With Afghanistan so much in the news currently, I just wanted to share this clever but sad image from Twitter this morning.

It’s entitled: The Disappearing Woman and depicts the power of a warped religion and ideology.

Tuesday, 24th August, 2021

It is 4.00 am and I couldn’t sleep …. Again! What the hell is happening this year? I have rarely had such difficulty coping with things. At the moment, I am regularly waking around 3.00 in the morning and failing to get back to sleep. Sometimes I lay there for hours thinking. Sometimes, I admit defeat and get up. So it is this morning – a warm morning after the most beautiful moon overnight. Usually, I would put Sky News on but I can’t even face that this morning. May go out for a walk.

Covid infection rates are surging in Greece probably because they have been forced for reasons of economy to accept tourist money. They decided that they couldn’t go for 2 years without earnings. They will pay a heavy price in the Autumn. We have deliberately held off going but I’m really missing it. At least I could have relied on a warm welcome.

Greek August – 2010

Eleven years ago this week, I was recording that we had been on the island for almost 5 months and had just 6 weeks left before departure. We had set off for the drive in the first week of April and would return in the first week of October. By that time, we were really ready for 1st World facilities again.

There is only so much staring at quiet, sandy beaches one can do. I found myself longing for traffic noise and bustle, for the ability to drive more than 5 miles without falling into the sea.

Stuffed full of life’s essentials plus French/Italian wine for 6 months on the way out, the car was emptier on the way home until we filled up again with French/Italian cheese and wine as we drove back across Europe. What were those Daily-Express-reading Brexiteers thinking of?

The Honda CRV pictured parked in Apollonia car park in August 2010 was our 12th year of owning them. Now, 11 years on, we have ordered another. I must check back and find out how much we paid for our first one in 1998. This was one of the few times we didn’t have silver. Exciting black didn’t really do it for me. Showed up all the dirt and dust of a Greek island car park. Actually, our first two in the early 2000s were orange and pearlescent yellow. Felt really brave breaking the mould in those.

It’s 5.45 am and I have a headache as if I’ve just been punched in the head. The BBC Radio4 Today programme starts in 15 mins. Not worth going to bed now. Feels like things have resolved themselves and it is time to get on with the day. When I get in the gym, I can continue a Netflix series that I’ve been really enjoying over the past week. It has a delicious irony and is entitled, The Defeated.

Set in post-war Germany, the bombed-out nation is trying to resurrect its pride while being ruled by the allies. The arrogance of Nazism which deludedly believed the Allied Forces were punching above their weight and found, to their cost, that it was they who had assumed a false superiority. The fall is all the harder for the proud!

Well, the day has really taken a turn for the better. Lovely, hot and sunny weather all day and currently reaching 25C/77F. Quelle surprise! After completing my gym routine, I’ve been able to sit out in the sun with a glass of iced-Shloer. What more could a man want?

We were supposed to be going to the North of England for a week in October. I had even toyed with extending that period. Today we have cancelled all that.

Wednesday, 25th August, 2021

Beautiful morning. We are going out for an early walk. I will complete my gym routine and then we are driving to Surrey to visit P&C. It will be the last trip of any distance that this car will do in my hands. Hope it enjoys the experience! It will turn 9,000 miles in the process.

Maybe you are tough. Maybe you are unsentimental. Maybe you are not susceptible to emotion. Maybe you are not Human. I am all of these things and extremely human and vulnerable. I have never considered it a weakness to admit it. Some have a strange belief in not showing one’s feelings. Maybe they receive it from their parents, maybe from their culture. There was a wartime pride in stiff-upper-lip that I have never subscribed to.

Some interpret that as weakness although they do so at their peril. Sensitivity, sensibility, self-awareness are strong leaders of an understanding of self and one’s place in the world. This sense empowers one to deal with difficult situations so much more decisively and with genuine understanding. It allows one to keep channels of thought open whereas blind strength shuts them off automatically.


Charlie Watts dead at 80!

I was thinking about frailty and death today. It was sparked by news of The Stones’ drummer, Charlie Watts, dying at 80. After all, 80 is the new 60. It feels far too young to go.

A big lad I know from College days is badly in need of a new hip. Nowadays, that is not easy to come by through the NHS in these Tory Government days. Today he was seen by a specialist and put on the waiting list. He is a keen walker and distinctly disadvantaged by any delay. I don’t know if he is in a position to buy ‘private’ treatment although I expect he is but I understand his reluctance to go down that route having subscribed to National Healthcare all his life. I am in the same position potentially with need of surgery on a hernia. I feel extremely young and any frailty like this pulls me up hard. I am not prepared to compromise on my lifestyle and physical fitness so, ultimately, will pay for treatment although it goes against the grain.

The C-19 Zoe Study that we contribute towards each day has announced this morning that efficacy of the jabs declines significantly at the 6 month point. Fortunately, the decline is much more for those with the Oxford AZ jab than the Pfizer jab that we had but it will necessitate a booster soon. The most vulnerable, especially the immune-suppressed such as cancer sufferers, will take priority but it will be for all over 70 at least. Unfortunately, Pauline is not 70 yet so that may be a problem.

I am still doing my full workout routine including a 7 mile walk each day. It starts off around the perimeter of our development which goes through a delightfully wooded area before leading out onto the local streets. It ends up in the gym for an hour.

There are some things we really missed when we spent 6 months in Greece. Locally grown sweet corn was one, strawberries/raspberries and Victoria Plums. Currently, we are gorging on Victoria Plums. They are particularly plentiful and wonderful this year. We used to pick them round the corner at the local PYO farm but are too lazy this year. They are not in the shops long so you have to make the most of them while they are. I am doing. What we do pick and eat as we walk are blackberries. It is a race of time with the birds but I’m not prepared to lose, as you know, so any tactics however underhand are employed.

It is 6.30 in the evening now. We are home and the sun is strong. The temperature currently is reaching 25C/77F and it looks as if the night will be a bit uncomfortable. Hope I manage past the 3.00 am line tonight.

Thursday, 26th August, 2021

Very warm night – sticky and uncomfortable. Out walking at 6.30 this morning. My head was buzzing but the countryside was almost silent. Quite a few jobs to get through so early exercise will help. Looks to be quite an average day weather-wise but warm.

Glorious weather for our drive to Surrey yesterday. We were going to collect a box of Pauline’s family’s old photos. It was initiated by the fact that her cousin, Joyce, was celebrating her 65th wedding anniversary. At 85 years, Joyce is so much older than Pauline and the photographs really illustrate the time-gulf.

Joyce & Harry with about 60 yrs apart

It is 1956 and I was already 5 years old but in its grainy, black & white, it feels so out of my remembered experience. We forget how ‘grey’ life could be back then. Wartime rationing had only ended fully in 1954 and things we take for granted were still in short supply. The standard of living was incredibly ‘make-do-and-mend so many weddings were done on shoestrings.

I was surprised to find out that they had received their second letter of congratulations from the Queen. Apparently, they are given for 6oth, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries. Unlike us, Joyce & Harry have lived in the same house for almost all their married life. I can’t imagine it.

I bet they couldn’t have conceived of a beach hut like these on Littlehampton Beach selling for £30-40,000.00. Who would bother, I’m not sure but that’s the going price. I quite like going down there for a walk but I can’t imagine sitting outside a hut for the day as so many seem to. This in itself is a throwback to the time when Joyce & Harry were getting married. I remember my own parents renting a beach hut for the duration of our holiday and lunch being rustled up inside them. They are not particularly happy memories.

This photo popped up yesterday, ostensibly of boats in Kamares harbour but illustrating our former Greek home clearly nestling high in the foothills of the hillside and looking down over the port. Pauline had a Facetime video conference with her niece in Florida yesterday evening and the news is not terribly optimistic for UK-US travel in November. Apparently, there is a strong rise in infection there and, as we know, it is going up here and forecast to get worse in the Autumn.

After all our activities today, I relaxed watching the Test Match from Headingly. The garden was flooded with strong sunshine, warmth wafted through the conservatory doors but the television pictures showed a Leeds cricket ground shrouded in cloud and spectators huddled in quilted coats. Commentators talked of cold weather and I didn’t miss it one bit.

Today we had our Covid-free confirmation from the recent tests. We had our strong antibodies confirmed as well. My eye test was so good that I don’t have to repeat it for another 12 months. The only downside has been the lump in my groin which is huge today. The pain is moving around and I’m beginning to fear it might be something other than a mere hernia. We know a letter has been despatched to the surgeon but my social secretary is phoning tomorrow for an urgent review at the surgery and, if nothing can be speeded up, I will have to go privately.

Friday, 27th August, 2021

Today would have been my lovely Mother-in-Law’s 107th birthday. She died aged 97. She was the cause of us moving in to an Old People’s sheltered accomodation for the final weeks of her life. It was an education in itself and a humbling experience. She is featured on our Office wall and we talk about her regularly. She was extremely kind to me and one of the most forgiving people I have ever met. People like me need people like her.

Life feels a bit flat. There is a distinct absence of pinpricks of hope at the moment. Things to raise the spirits are fast disappearing. I was even reading the travel corespondent, Simon Calder’s assessment of the UK-US travel predctions this morning and they are so uncertain as to be gloomy. I was so tired yesterday that I went to bed at 9.00 pm and slept through until 6.00 this morning. Still feel rather tired.

I am being contacted by a doctor this morning about my problem which is becoming a bit more acute. I am attempting to push forward a precise prognosis and then we can decide whether I go privately or not. Need to get it sorted out because it’s beginning to impact on my activities. I will still walk 10 miles a day even if it is painful but it niggles the back of my mind before I set off and dominates me while I am doing it.

The sun is setting on the Future.

It was interesting to talk to P&C the other day when we went up to Surrey. They are in their mid-80s and Charlie Watts’ death had just been reported at the age of 80. I asked that really sensitive but important question: Does news like that panic you? Does it give you pause for thought. They said that it worried them more in their 70s than it does now. There seems to be an acceptance of the inevitable.

Doffcocker Lodge

A lad from College days, Dave Weatherley, has recently taken to contacting me. Incredible to find that he is from and has been in Bolton all his life. So many students in my year were living within miles of me. He has been posting photos of a nature reserve in Bolton call Doffcocker Lodge. It is obviously somewhere he retreats to regularly. You can see why. Who would have expected this beauty in Bolton of all places?

An amusing story that I recount over my own humiliation – It is the most delightful, warm and sunny day. We have a lot to get through today so decided to go out for an early walk. I am expecting a call-back on my mobile from the doctor. We have just set off when my mobile rings. The caller says in an almost unintelligible, Indian accent: You requested a callback. It is my intention to be as convincing as possible to expedite my referral to the specialist. I launch into a description of my groin problem and how it was worsening. The caller is silent and doesn’t respond. Suddenly, the call is dropped.

I check my phone for the number and don’t recognise it. Could it have been a fluke scam? Eventually, I redial the number to get the answerphone for SpecSavers who I’d forgotten were going to call me back when my reading glasses were available. I will be a little red-faced when I call in tomorrow to collect them. Hope they don’t demand to inspect my groin first.

Saturday, 28th August, 2021

This morning is lovely, warm and sunny and we have done early shopping for fruit and then a delightful, long walk enjoying the heat. As we walked, we talked about going to France in the new car which should be ready in just over a week. I installed the French equivalent of our Covid Certification – Tous AntiCovid app.

Eventually, yesterday my doctor did ring and typed a letter to the specialist to expedite my referral for surgery. She dictated the contents as she typed so that I knew exactly what she had said. If I don’t hear very quickly, I will go to the Nuffield or the Spire which both have hospitals not far away in Chichester for treatment. One of the complicating factors is my anti-coagulant treatment. I have to admit to being fairly scared because of the potential risks but I will have to face it at some stage. I am not prepared to accept 30 more years of pain and discomfort.

I am going through a strange phase of distraction and elsewhere-ness. I’m doing stupid things because I’m thinking about other than the moment. Last night, I went to bed at around 11.30 pm and found myself shaving rather than brushing my teeth. I use electronic tools for both activities and in similar places but, honestly …

I wrote the other day that I am prone to damaging my feet. I am regularly breaking toes through clumsiness. I am also prone to cutting myself and, with anti-coagulant, the damage lasts quite a long time. This afternoon, I stubbed my toe on a Dining Chair and thought nothing else of it until the meal was over and I looked down to see the damage.

A Temporary Plate

Earlier, in hot sunshine, we had done a walk, trimmed the hedges, mowed the lawns and I’d gone on to do my Gym routine before driving round to Honda to have our Licence Plate temporarily replaced with this one prior to delivery of our new car. Our cherished number plate will go on the new one and we are stuck with this for a week. Hope we don’t get stopped and challenged. There’s no way I will remember this one.

Our personalised number plate has been with us for 30 years. It was deliberately chosen to disguise the fact that we changed our car each year and each time it was silver. Staff at school began to remark that we were obviously too wealthy so we disguised it with a perpetual plate. It didn’t cost a lot but it did the job. It is a bit of a faff to move to a new car but we let Honda do that. I can’t be doing with old cars and MOTs and I love the innovations that bring us up to date. Now we will just need somewhere to drive in this new model. The last one went straight to France. I wonder if this one will.

Julia (Dagg) Crane posted a video of Christine (Burton) Dagg’s daughter, Lucy, singing and playing the piano. It caught my breath as I realised how much it reminded me of Chris when I first knew her. Heredity is an incredible thing.https://www.youtube.com/embed/puqIMsNj2pg?feature=oembed

Chris contacted me and gave me a YouTube link of her performance. She bills herself as part of a Leeds-based duo who perform at Weddings, Birthdays, Celebrations, etc..

The light dies over Littlehampton although a beacon retains possibility. Here is Hope and Despair juxtaposed.

Week 660

Sunday, 15th August, 2021

Lovely, sunny and mild start to the day. We were 17C/63F overnight. Sunday – just another day in the time continuum.

 My wife wants to learn a new language. She’s decided on French because she wasn’t allowed to take it at Hathershaw in the 1960s. She had to do German which she hated. When she’s mastered the rudiments of French, she will add starter Spanish because there is so much crossover. I did French and Spanish at school but need to do lots of brushing up so I will go through a higher level but parallel course.

Learning Languages in senior years is said to prolong one’s mental vigour. I find reading and writing foreign languages much easier than speaking them so I will have to concentrate on the latter. We are going to start with a ‘free’ teaching app called duolingo and, if that takes off, maybe we will enroll on a language school course. This app is installed on our smartphones and iPads and involves lots of speaking. May get even more strange looks in the street!

I’ve had to admit that the pain in my groin is getting worse. The swelling is increasing as I exercise and it can no longer be ignored. My wife will phone the surgery on Monday and make me an appointment which I may attend. If it is a hernia or worse, it could need a stay in hospital. I have only ever stayed in hospital once and that was after our car accident in 1980. I don’t know about you and not to get too technical, but I sleep naked and have done since I was 18. I don’t possess any pyjamas.

When I was in hospital for 2 weeks 41 years ago, I’m told that I regularly got out of bed and wandered the ward stark naked. Of course, I was much more beautiful then. Because of the nature of my head injury, I have absolutely no memory of this at all, fortunately. Just in case I need something, my wife has purchased me the above to keep me decent …. Or so she thinks. I think they will make me look rather like Christopher Robin but I don’t complain.

Some former College students have complained that I never submit current photos of myself on social media. At last, my wife has sanctioned this exhibit from Hermes. I had just come out of the gym.  I think it has a classic touch and doesn’t give too much away. A man should have an air of mystery. Within 5 minutes, it was viewed and commented on by 140 past students. I can’t say I’m surprised!

My weight is now sub-1985 and I am beginning to wonder why it has taken me until the age of 70 to really get to grips with it. Story of my life. I do everything the hard way but I do get there in the end. It doesn’t help, of course, that my wife is such a good cook. Everywhere we go, everywhere we have lived, she has produced tempting food.

Greek House Catering

This photo was taken in our Greek home over a decade ago and is typical of what I gave in to. So you see, it’s never been my fault!

Monday, 16th August, 2021

A wonderful start to this morning. Blue sky and lovely sunshine and warmth from the start for a change. Big day! Should have been flying to Athens this morning but just couldn’t leave. Instead, I’m going out to collect my new reading glasses …. again. I might even go mad and clean the car.

Regular readers will know that I am obsessed with Time. I have been for as long as I can remember. The Blog itself is driven by my need to describe, define and control time. Its passage is marked now by the tick of a clock, the beat of a heart, the setting of the sun at the end of the day, even the appearance of grey hairs on the head urging the application of blonde dye. People often tell me that I am living in the past. You can’t go back, they say but it betrays a lack of understanding of the concept.

Yesterday morning, I was jolted by the radio at 6.00 am and immediately thrown into R4 Something UnderstoodThe Time of our Lives. What a way to start Sunday! It wasn’t a shock. I had woken 30 mins earlier thinking of memories, of the times of my life and of experiences and conversations. They haunt my consciousness and have done all my adult life.

These days, we conceive of time as linear. It moves inexorably from A – B. From Birth to Death, from Creation to Expiration. According to Theoretical Physics, our Universe was formed by the Big Bang and that was when time & space were born. It is well portrayed by Holst in the Planets: Mars, Bringer of War.https://www.youtube.com/embed/L0bcRCCg01I?feature=oembed

In this concept of time, like the dark, wet cave-tunnel I described in the Blog last Saturday, there is little chance of going back but, the original and ancient concept of time was not linear as we tend to see it today. It was circular. It is this concept that Einstein re-conceived. He acknowledged the deeply mysterious nature of time & space and argued that the separation of Past, Present and Future is an illusion. Each element is relative to the other. Even TS Eliot recognised the circularity of life. In Sweeney Agonistes he wrote:

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.

Many experiences of time are circular in nature – Night-Day-Night, the changing of the seasons: We’re captive on a carousel of time… sang Joni Mitchell in The Circle Game.https://www.youtube.com/embed/V9VoLCO-d6U?feature=oembed

Ancient societies, which were founded upon Agriculture, were far more in touch with the cycle of Nature. Only relatively recently with the advent of recorded history have we started to think of time as past, present and future. We are constantly striving for a better future. It is part of the human condition.

Simon & Garfunkel wrote and performed an incredibly powerful elegy to the passage of time on an ill-fated love affair using the seasons as their vehicle: April Come She Will …

The autumn winds blow chilly and cold
September, I’ll remember
A love once new has now grown old
 ….https://www.youtube.com/embed/ITXBjDTXS90?feature=oembed

These are classic expressions of the modern world. Time is both circular and linear at the same time. We live in our past and present at one and the same time. We may try to block or deny it but that is futile. We are animals with memories. We take them both forward to our future. I will not, cannot and would not want to relinquish my past even if I could. Nor will I let it escape me. It informs and enriches my present. It will be an intimate part of me into the future and until I die …. or lose my memory.

Psalm 90 says: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. My Blog numbers our days until past, present and future become one.

Tuesday, 17th August, 2021

Overcast but forecast to be dry all day. Really will have to clean the car today. We have been invited to Honda on Friday morning to discuss a ‘special offer’ for changing the car. We’ve only done 8,000 miles but it is 2 years old and about as long as we’ve kept any car. If Honda come up with a really attractive offer for ours and replacement with a new one, I could easily be tempted.

Our current one cost £42,500.00 just over 2 years ago. A replacement is listed at £45,500.00. That includes 5 years servicing plus 5 years Hondacare Roadside Assistance in UK and Europe. We will go with an open mind. Might even park it by an Italian lake like this. Need a bit of self indulgence!

Yesterday was sunny and warm. We drove down to the beach and spent a few minutes just enjoying the sound of the sea and the gulls. We were almost the only ones there. It is so nice to be able to access this environment quickly and easily.

Medical Science has finally caught up with me. My wife phoned for an appointment for me yesterday morning. A ‘triage’ telephone consultation was arranged for the afternoon. In that conversation with a paramedic, I was invited down to the surgery in the evening.

I never go into that sort of meeting without my own research. I was reasonably certain that my problem is an Inguinal Hernia and that the only way to solve it would be surgery. I also got the feeling from the earlier phone call that they were reluctant to put me forward for it unless my life was threatened as it could be but only in extremis. I went prepared for the discussion.

After being examined, the paramedic confirmed he thought it was a hernia but said they are rarely operated on these days. I told him that wasn’t true and that this is probably an Inguinal which should be operated on. Some people’s faces give everything away. His certainly did although his mouth could not quite keep up with his mind.

He became a different person instantly. We’ll send you for an ultrasound and that will decide if you need to speak to a Consultant Surgeon, he said. I asked about timescales and he burbled. I thanked him for his time and left. By the time I had driven home – less than 5 minutes – he was on the phone to say he had consulted my doctor and that the ultrasound stage would not be needed. I would be referred urgently to a Consultant Surgeon. And that, dear reader, is how the inarticulate or ill-educated can be so done down by the gatekeepers of state services. I could easily have deferred to that medic, accepted his view and walked out to an ongoing lifetime of pain and discomfort. It should not be so.

Wednesday, 18th August, 2021

Went to bed happy and slept well. Woke to glowering, dark skies but warm – 17C/63F. Took Pauline to the Beauty Clinic early yesterday morning and driving her to the Hairdresser’s early today. We always book ‘early’ appointments for everything we can. People who know we are retired are regularly surprised. Workers expect retirement to be a chance for staying in bed. Nothing could be further from the truth for me.

Girl Reading – Charles Perugini

It was just 5 years ago today that I made the wrenching decision to give away all my pictures. I had collected them over a 40 year period and they had been carefully wrapped and catalogued for storage but I quickly realised they would never fit in our new, modern home. They were collected by the Hospice organisation, St Barnabas House and will have been sold for around £3,000 – £4,000.00. For quite some time they gave us updates.

Along with an obsession with time goes my fascination with the human connection across the years. I am gripped and saddened in equal measure. The most recent series of Long Lost Family has been a must-watch/can’t watch for me. The sofa is still damp from the previous week’s episode when I sit down to watch the next. What is most striking for me are the similarities rather than the differences in each narrative. The search begins with trepidation because of the initial feeling of rejection. Why was I rejected? is the primary question.

Research Tools

So many of the searches are for people who have tried for years to find the person they are separated from but have never really had the skills or know-how to be successful themselves. Some have put off searching for fear of rejection all over again or for fear of upsetting others in their lives. When they are about to be reunited, often their first questions are about what the person they are looking for looks like, then about their welfare and, finally, they ask the question, Do they want to see me? All the time, they are looking for and fearing the merest hint of rejection.

The rewards of the meeting are tangible, immense and, probably unknowable for those who haven’t lost. There is a sense of lifelong search and aching longing being over. The anxiety on their faces almost melts away in real-time. The worst outcome is when they find their connection too late. Death has beaten them and the longing is never satisfied or, even worse is when they find their connection but are rejected all over again and they are subject to lifelong torture.

So many expressions of reaching out over the years are displayed in accounts of former college students of my year regularly posted on social media.  Peter Holgate recently gathered his family around him to ‘celebrate’ his 70th birthday.

Last of the Summer Wine?

Tash Coates and his wife now regularly meet up with his old friend, Kevin Sellers and his wife as they are photographed here on the Murray Firth on the north coast of Scotland.

Thursday, 19th August, 2021

I’m sure you will remember where you were and what you were doing on this day exactly 30 years ago, dear reader. Of course, you do! We all remember where we were on the day when the success of the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, led by hard-line communist elements of the Soviet government and military was in the balance. The fall of communist Soviet Union was also in the balance although the reunification of East & West Germany was well on the way.

Lifeline to the World – 1991

Where was I? I was 40 years old and excitedly clutching my Roberts Shortwave World Radio to my ear with the BBC World Service broadcasting the developments in minute detail. Why? Well, because in those days my only contact with the real world while touring Greek islands was via the radio. No Broadband; no smartphones; no digital, satellite TV; just old-fashioned transistor radio and largely unintelligible Greek television blaring out the crisis. (The Greeks have long been allies of the Russians.) Where was I clutching my transistor? I was spending 3 weeks on the volcanic, Dodecanese Island of Nysiros.

On this day in 1991

 Nysiros was/is a tiny island with little tourist accommodation and meagre infrastructure which is what attracted me to it in the first place. I think I was running away. We were staying in the one, reasonable quality hotel which had a pool. Looking back, I am struck by how basic the Hotel Porfyris really was. What I didn’t know at the time was that the name, Porfyris, is the Greek for purple and came from a description of the colour of unhealthy urine. (Hope you’re still with me, dear reader.)

The one claim to fame of the island of Nysiros is that it is centred by a semi-dormant volcano. It was still smoking when we walked across it. We felt its heat under our feet and collected these warm stones shown above. The photograph shows chunks of volcanic rock collected 30 years ago but, actually, thousands of years old. The postcard is part of the collection I sent to myself from each island to greet us when we got home. At that time, Pauline was Head of Year and, as we walked in the harbour, she met a lad from her Year who had come over with his parents from Kos for a day trip to visit the volcano.

It was such a grey and dark day yesterday all day. We had the lights on for breakfast at 6.30 am. The scene on the street as I dropped Pauline off for her haircut was grey and depressing. I am trying hard to carry sunshine inside me and to look forward to future trips. This week, I am reviewing the requirements for a French trip in early September. It is so onerous with 2 tests to be booked and undertaken – one in France and another back here – that it seems to make a short trip not worth the effort. We have our trip to the North in October and then hope the US opens up in time to go over in November.

I was cold overnight and woke at 4.30 am. I hate that. I’m so wracked by thoughts that I can rarely get back to sleep. Let’s hope the day brightens and warms up. Picked figs from the garden for breakfast this morning but there are nowhere near as many as last year because of the weather.

Nil Desperandum … The sun is out and the day is warm by 11.00 am. We’ve been out plundering Tesco and Asda for half-price Shloer. I’ve bought up all the red and I’m on to the white at the moment. I’ve cleared the shelves in both supermarkets if you were thinking of buying. Now we’re going out for a walk in the sunshine.

Friday, 20th August, 2021

Up early on a very warm and humid morning with a clear, blue sky and strong sunshine. It had rained overnight which is the right organisation. At last I got the car valeted yesterday in time for our meeting at Honda this morning. I’ve done an on-line valuation and know how much they will need to offer for our current car. We also know how desperate they are to shift new cars in a very ‘flat’ market. We will expect some deep discounting to capture our interest. Looking forward to the game.

Greece – 2009

Took this photo of Pauline on this day in 2009 in our Greek home. It was a very hot day in real terms – 30C+/90F+ – throughout the day and not much cooler at night. Of course, 12 years on, she is much slimmer now. She has been forced to support my fitness/diet regime and her weight has fallen dramatically until she is fast approaching her wedding weight from 1978. We both feel so much better for our weight loss and increased levels of fitness. For me, it will continue to be a lifelong struggle.

At the same time, my instincts are screaming that our lives are running away without any fightback from us. I am constantly denying myself things and forcing myself to complete exercise goals. Keep hearing temptation on my shoulder: Go on. Give in. You could be dead soon and then you’ll regret not indulging yourself.

Captain Ridley

We heard the shocking news about the untimely death of Sean Locke, a highly intelligent and thoughtful comedian and an extremely perceptive but quietly spoken man who has succumbed to cancer at the age of 58…..58!! He had been successfully treated for skin cancer some years before but it had come back to take him. Not to be too morbid but life is highly unpredictable. We cannot afford to ‘mark time’.

My old digs-mate, John Ridley, is displaying real optimism at the age of 72 by going out and buying himself a new boat to sail up in the Lake District. He appears to make the trip from his North Yorkshire home very regularly in the Summer months and Dave Roberts seems to spend half his time there as well. The Lake District has never really held much attraction for me. It’s not Mediterranean enough!

After years of very big gardens, we are fairly minimalist these days, The drive is one area we do plant up and these little fuchsias are lighting up the beds this summer.

Janey

I’m repeating myself, I know, but their name is Janey. As I’ve said before, there are a lot of Janes in my life. Indeed, it is a name running through the history of my family. I love Jane as the female equivalent of John.  I was going to call my daughter Rebecca-Jane but these fuchsias were planted in memory of my lovely Mother-in-Law who would be 107 next week. These shrubs die away every Winter and then magically re-emerge in the Spring. They seem to symbolise her tenacity for survival against all life threw at her.

Worthing Pier

Thought I’d share with you a lovely, drone shot of our local pier in Worthing that appeared yesterday. The tide is out and the Worthing ‘Eye’ is on the left of the pier. Coming off the back of the pier would mean going left to Goring, Ferring, Rustington and Littlehampton or going right to Lancing, Shoreham by Sea, Hove and Brighton.

Saturday, 21st August, 2021

Yesterday, we went to Honda Littlehampton to discuss the idea of a new car. It will be like-for-like but just a bit cleaner and fresher smelling. In the 2 years since we bought the current one, Honda have added a wireless phone charger in the central console which will be helpful. I already knew that I expected a price of £30,00.00 for our old car as a minimum. They offered £28,000.00 and we walked away. An hour later, as we did our walk in the sunshine, they phoned and offered £30,000.00 and I accepted.

We should get our new car in three weeks’ time. The only thing we couldn’t get is exactly the colour we wanted. We have had silver for the past 40 years with a couple of ‘zany’ exceptions. We had decided on gun-metal grey this time, but the wait would have been January 2022. We decide to accept silver and an immediate delivery. They will do all the troublesome bits like swapping the cherished number plate, etc..

We went to our Italian tomato supplier. Filamenos, the patriarch, is a sad, old 81 year old man. He is from southern Italy originally although his name is Greek and means Good Friend. I spent some time talking to him. He came to Angmering 60 years ago and found employment in the market gardening industry of the early 20th century.

Our whole area has some of the most fertile soil in the country and the most warmth and sunshine although you wouldn’t believe it this year. Filamenos and his son grow tomatoes, Peppers, Basil, Figs, Lemons etc.. He is sad, bordering on depressive. He is 81 years old. His wife died 26  years ago. He is lonely and sad. When I asked him whether he would like to be in Italy or Sussex, he replied by pointing to the earth. I would rather be under here, he said. I can understand the total loss like that which leads to despair. I felt for him, put my arm around him in solidarity as he walked me round his greenhouses proudly showing me fruiting lemon trees and huge, fig trees, aubergine plants and acres of tomatoes.

Later yesterday,we walked in the sunshine although my hernia was really troublesome, and I had to manage it carefully. It is incredibly painful, and I was hit by a huge sense of sadness last night. Is this all there is?

This morning is appropriately grey although very warm and we are going out for an early walk in case it rains. Then it will be humdrum jobs like lawn cutting and hedge trimming if the weather allows. Could it get any better?

Week 659

Sunday, 8th August, 2021

Another fitful sleep last night. Woke at 4.30 am. The mornings are a bit darker and the evenings darken noticeably earlier now. The days are shortening. Is Summer over? Schools go back in 4 weeks. Lucky teachers!

Feeling lighter this morning. I always find eating fish for my meal makes me feel better, less heavy and ponderous. Wonderful Sea Bass fillets from the fish farms of Igoumenitsa in Greece for my meal yesterday and Samphire from the estuaries around the coast of North Wales – an excellent place to come from – made a fantastic meal.

I could eat fish everyday for ever. I wish I could reel them in myself. Lots of calcium for regeneration of old bones. Plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2. My new bathroom scales say my bone density is good for my age and, inspite of all this walking/cycling/jogging, I show no signs of knee or hip problems. What’s a dodgy groin amongst friends. Don’t answer that!

Next week, we should have been flying to Athens, Although I feel slightly regretful we cancelled, overall I am relieved. Covid is rampant there at the moment. Wildfires are leading to evacuations across the city and the Peloponnese and daytime temperatures are above 100F currently. Would love to be world-watching in baking sun with an iced Café Frappé. Even as far away as our Cycladic island, the fires from Attica were clouding the sunny skies with smoke drifting across the beaches. Wouldn’t volunteer to experience that especially in the heat. Even wet Wales seems more attractive.

Kamares Beach in the smog.

For those still labouring under the misapprehension that they live in the best country in Europe with a world-beating government, this should give them pause for thought.

Imagine not having a private pension and having to rely on the State alone. Well, it doesn’t bear thinking about for someone at the end of their life. 

Monday, 9th August, 2021

The weather was wet yesterday although we had a wonderfully hot and sunny section for our walk. Overnight, Shakespearian weather – strong winds, torrential rain and thunder woke me at 4.00 am. The dramatist used it to symbolise the breaking and cleansing of the old world, and the reordering of old relationships in a new world. I was up drinking tea and watching BBC news until 5.00 am and then, of course, found it difficult to go back to sleep.

This morning has started off the same way. It will get better … we are told. It’s just that I have to put all the bins out this morning. I really do need a little slave! Anyway, I’ll just have to keep my exercise routine going and look to the future.

Unbelievably, it is 4 years since the death of Viv. Butterworth and we send our heartfelt condolences to Richard on what must be an even more difficult day. We often talk about her and she lives on in our memories.

My weight is reducing and my clothes need replacing. I spent an hour or so of Sunday morning removing 23 long sleeve and 26 short sleeve T-shirts from my ‘casual’ wardrobe. They are going to have to be taken to the Hospice Shop. Some still have their purchase labels attached so haven’t been worn. I must admit to feeling a little ashamed of this self-indulgence but at least I admit it. So, now, my sports/casual wear and my suits/shirts/formal wear all need replacing. I’m enjoying being lighter and I am determined to never return to that size.

In the Gym, I am watching the 2nd series of Bitter Daisies on Netflix. It is a thriller set in Galicia. I can see why it won awards because it is well written. Watching it on a treadmill is a bit of a risky proposition because I am having to read subtitles and stupid people like me find it difficult to do two things at the same time. If you remember, they always used to say about President Ford who constantly had gum in his mouth and fell down the plane steps on disembarking that he couldn’t chew and walk at the same time. I’m a bit like that with my mind constantly somewhere else and, watching a film, I am completely lost in it like a child.

People told me that I would enjoy Line of Duty long ago. I resisted until recently and then we watched Series 1, Episode 1. Halfway through, we gave up and thought it wasn’t for us. We were persuaded to go back to it and got absolutely hooked. We are already well into Series 2. Keeley Hawes is such a good actress and she speaks without subtitles. My problem is remembering which plot I’m in from Bitter Daisies or Line of Duty. The crossover is confusing. I think it will be a sign of success when I feel I don’t need to escape but can just enjoy the real world. I wonder what will make that happen.

Throughout the past 40 years, we have pushed hard to save, invest and improve our financial positions. We tried to balance the pain with pleasure. We didn’t deny ourselves experiences like travel and entertainment but, more than anything else, we ploughed cash into property and always tried to go further than was comfortable.

We experienced interest rates at 15% at one stage and, although it seems small beer now, borrowing £¼million in the 1980s felt pushing it. I know that we didn’t have to find the size of deposit that is required nowadays but just a glance at the chart on the left suggests a big leap of faith is well worth taking for young house buyers. I would advise hurting themselves in the short term for the pleasure of the future.

I have spent all these years trying to educate myself in classical music and opera, eschewing ‘pop’ music as if it would corrupt me. In just the same way, I have told myself that fiction is unnecessary escapism and that fact is where truth lies. In my dotage, I find that the fiction of film is exactly what I need to escape the persecution of fact and some ‘pop’ music speaks so directly to me that I’ve become infatuated by it. These two elements have combined to fix me in this song:https://www.youtube.com/embed/7gzZEtiusO4?feature=oembed

Some would say I am returning to my juvenilia. I say I am going forward to an excitingly invigorating future!

Tuesday, 10th August, 2021

Great sleep last night for the first time for a couple of days. I’ve written before that I virtually never dream or I’m not aware of it at least. Last night, I dreamed I was a ruthless blackmailer. I turned out to be quite good at it with my acumen for record-keeping. I also woke with my face stinging as if I’d burnt it in the sun yesterday … or was it walking through hellfire overnight? Woken up with real optimism this morning which makes me feel good.

This morning has opened dry and fairly sunny and yesterday turned lovely and hot for our walk. According to our forecast, we have a couple of weeks of dry weather to come which will be nice after Sunday night. We have a Covid Lateral Flow Test and Blood Antibody test at 8.00 am. I am expecting two, DPD deliveries including my new lawnmower. Then I have to go down to the surgery for my Shingles injection. How I will cope with the excitement, I don’t know.

Well Thierry, a delightful, gay Frenchman has spent an hour in the sunshine of our garden providing our latest Covid Tests. He is a bee keeper and says this season has been one of the worst. It certainly has been for our figs.

When we were trawling through a box of photograph memories last night, this young man fell out. I last saw him in 1995 just after he left school. He had spent the Summer term after exams at our house doing some building work but he had worked with me in school for 5 years learning computer management skills and become an adoptee, coming out on meals, trips to the coast, etc..

Mark was one of those delightful human beings who made life seem worth living. We still laugh at his expression when we took him to the bakery in our village and bought a freshly, baked loaf. He took one look and then in astonishment exclaimed, No way is that bread not sliced! For me, it was his syntax that made me laugh but, he had never experienced good bread in his life only sliced, white pap. I put out a query to other adoptees and was told last night that Mark had moved to London recently and was living there. May have to look him up.

The influential, political blog, Reaction, ran an article by Deloitte’s Chief Economist this week headed:

UK house price boom is here to stay

Brexit and the pandemic are now making significant changes to the UK’s housing market. But their effects are likely to be more pronounced in narrow sub-markets (micro) rather than come in the form of broad-based (or macro) changes. As migration slows and post-pandemic hybrid working arrangements transfer households from cities to suburbs or adjoining towns and villages, demand is likely to be better distributed geographically.

This might mean weaker prices in urban conurbations but strong demand in adjoining areas. As people place greater emphasis on space, demand for small flats is likely to weaken while pushing up prices of larger properties with outdoor space.

Worth bearing in mind as I was considering investing in inner-city apartments. I have gone back to reconsider Spanish holiday apartments which are likely to be more popular than ‘communal’ hotel environments for some time to come. The development in Aguilas, Murcia is still available at circa £120,000.00 and there are plenty more starting around £75,000.00. As soon as we start European driving again, Aguilas must be a priority.

Aguilas Development – Still at the drawing board stage

Of course, a major setback will be the use of our smartphones which provide so much service abroad normally to access information apps and radio/tv media. Now, we will have to pay at least £1.00 a day to even access the network all as a benefit of Brexit.

Wednesday, 11th August, 2021

Quite a grey start to the day this morning at 6.00 am. The long-range forecast says we can expect no rain for two weeks but temperatures are not expected to be great.

About 10 years ago or so, I fell out of bed in my sleep while I was in Greece. I hit my head on the bedside cabinet and ripped my ear on the sharp corner. It bled for hours and I should have had it stitched but that is not easy on a small island and I just left it to heal. I did it again last night, crashing into the bedside cabinet and cutting my arm and almost taking out my left eye. I must stop being so vigorous, especially with my groin! My arm is already very painful from my Shingles jab yesterday.

Took delivery of a new lawnmower yesterday and was outside trying to start it around 7.00 this morning. Took a while to get used to a new system but I got there. I love that sort of techie challenge. It is cordless like my current one. It makes mowing the lawns so easy. I was always put off by the effort of starting classic petrol ones and hated corded electric even more. It takes about an hour to fully charge and runs for around 40 mins which is plenty. I’m actually inclined to do the house vacuuming because the machine is also cordless.

Of course, now I need to get rid of the old mower. We have excellent Recycling Sites around here but, recently, they are requiring us to book a slot for visiting. It’s a bit of a pain but retirement makes it easier.

The day has turned lovely, warm and sunny. Blue sky and 22C/70F. We’ve done our walk, been to Sainsbury‘s for Courgettes to griddle in the garden this afternoon with Tuna steaks and now I’m going in the Gym for an hour. It will help me calm down and stave off the next topic a while longer.

The Guardian is featuring this morning an article on a really important topic for people of my generation – the Care System. The problem is that no government is prepared to take on such a thorny issue because it involves forcing difficult funding decisions on people. Because I have no children and no one to leave my estate to, I was always attracted to my assets being sequestered after my death to pay for it – notoriously dubbed the death tax. I am really not worried about dying and I’m certainly not worried about my estate. You really can’t take it with you!

Building up a good savings pot is important for enjoying life but equally important in those final years to death.  I don’t think the public sector is ever going to provide truly acceptable conditions and we will have to fund it ourselves if we can.

On the edge of our Development, work is well on the way on the construction of a 64-bed Hallmark care home which will provide residential and dementia care. The luxury development is being constructed at a cost of £11m on a 1.9-acre site. Of course, it won’t be cheap but it will include a café, a state-of-the-art cinema, a hairdressing salon and therapy room. Spacious bedrooms will have their own full en-suites with showers and all bedrooms on the ground floor will have access to their own patio. Other innovations will include an ice cream parlour, reminiscence lounge, garden room, and an outdoor roof terrace. I’m putting our names down. We can grow old together in luxury!

Thursday, 12th August, 2021

What a lovely day it turned out to be after an uncertain start yesterday. Really warm for our walk. This morning looks as if it’s going a similar way. Apart from a Sainsbury’s and a fish delivery early on, we have a clear diary today so we might go down to the beach.

All the main roads around the outskirts of our village are being redeveloped – widened into dual carriageways to cope with the additional traffic brought about by house building. I often wondered what sorts of jobs people do who move here. A lot of the high-end housing is snapped up by London commuters or techie homeworkers but the Service Industry and, in particular, Retail Supply and Delivery is massively expanding.

An Amazon Warehouse & Distribution Centre was opened about 5 miles away and long lines of these vans started to stream through the village in mid-morning out on delivery. It must have been very annoying for villagers and complaints have finally re-routed them but the L.A. has had to balance the creation of lots of new jobs against residents’ irritation. The MEN yesterday featured a new Amazon Centre in Kingsway Business Park, Rochdale which will create around 150 new jobs so valuable to the area but something to watch.

I moved to Oldham with my little friend in 1972. I don’t mind admitting that it was a massive culture shock for me. I had never lived in a town in my life. I hadn’t even spent much time in any town at all. I was particularly struck by the awful state of the buildings in general and the domestic dwellings in particular. Blake’s phrase, Dark Satanic Mills seemed to be written with Oldham in mind. I remember searching for a flat was so depressing and soul-destroying that I began to think we had done the wrong thing.

This is Barker Street which ran between Rochdale Road and the Market. This is the time we arrived in Oldham. I gulp when I see it and wonder what the hell I was doing in the town. I don’t even really remember why we went there in the first place.

No one who regularly shops in supermarkets can have failed to notice the signs of supply chain problems. Last week it was bottled water. This week it is French/Italian cheese and quite low stocks of fresh fruit and vegetables. Racks spread wide but thinly to disguise the shortages.

This morning, I read a really interesting and informed Twitter thread about serious shortages in the Construction Industry not just of labour which is affecting Agriculture as well but materials. Social Media is full of cartoons like this but the situation is much more serious than that. The knock-on effects for all of us could have major implications.

The headline is that construction costs have gone up about 40-60% on average. Electricians will not quote for jobs now unless they are immediate starts as the wholesale cost for cabling/copper is only guaranteed by the wholesaler for 3 days. Fixed price quotes are now a thing of the past. Cement and plaster have doubled in price. Some timber has tripled. Many Brickyards have zero bricks in stock and some roof tiles now have a 48-week lead time. Almost one whole year.

Our new, Italian neighbours had two tiles fly off the roof in the recent winds and no one can source the right colour replacements. I stupidly smashed a huge, conservatory window 10 days ago. The glazier came round within 4 hrs but he warned us there were virtually no replacement units available and we still haven’t got one. Fortunately, it crazed the outside pane of the double glazing but didn’t affect the inside.

All this might sound fairly trivial but it has huge implications for the economy in general and the housing market in particular. It will create two opposing pressures. The U.K. economy is underpinned by housing/building. The eye-watering increase in cost will inevitably lead to higher house prices, but they’re already so unaffordable that too much of an increase could lead to a collapse. This could, potentially, trigger a U.K. ring-fenced credit crunch. If that happens, everything will get more expensive for the U.K.. Interest rates and inflation would go through the roof. Do not be retired in that environment.

Friday, 13th August, 2021

The date suggests that this will not be the luckiest one but don’t worry, dear reader, that’s a lot of nonsense.

In my beginning is my end ….

Strange pattern to the days at the moment. For the 3rd day running, yesterday opened grey and damp but turned gloriously hot and sunny. Today is fairly overcast at 6.30 am. Completed my 183rd consecutive day of exercise goal. I’ve gone so far, you would have to shoot me to stop me now. Pretty sure I’ve got a hernia in my groin but I’m not prepared to let it affect my routine so the doctor will have to fit a solution around that.

Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

Finally, the glazier has given us a price for the window unit replacement and it is excellent at £160.00 although I don’t think he has been able to source one yet. Must be more careful with my strimmer in future.

The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

On this day in 1961 under the auspices of Kruschev, The Berlin wall was erected. The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin. Construction of the wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic on 13 August 1961. The Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. I was 10 years old and I remember my parents’ discussion about it around the dining table.  

Berlin Wall being erected – 13th, August 1961

I was 38 before it fell and, when it did, few were prepared for it. The West Germans took great risks and invested huge amounts of money reintegrating their backward Eastern half. They have even elected an East German citizen Chancellor of Germany for the past 16 years. Now, European internal borders are completely open other than to Brexit Britain. I do miss the long, cross Europe drives

I can’t sleep through the moments
All the moments you’ve stolen ..

Fresh, dressed, Devon Crabs for our meal yesterday with green salad and tarragon tzatziki in the sunshine was absolutely wonderful. Actually, it was so good, I ate too much. Must control myself!

Sorry about all the quotes interspersed this morning but they have been flooding through my mind over night and it seemed the best way to clear it. All but the last couplet come from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: East Coker. The only explanation I can offer is that an item about a crime in East Coker came up on a newsfeed yesterday and it immediately triggered a memory of the long poem that I last read in the mid-1970s.https://www.youtube.com/embed/7my5baoCVv8?feature=oembed

If you want to know how juvenile my humour is, turn your volume on and listen to this clip. I almost fell off my chair shrieking with laughter.

Saturday, 14th August, 2021

Many years ago, when I was about 14 years old, I went caving with a group of boys. The experience is hard to visualise unless you were there but, essentially, we went out of the sunshine through an increasingly narrowing cave entrance to a rapidly dark and confining tunnel. Eventually, we were crawling on our hands and knees in water and pitch darkness through a tight tunnel where we couldn’t stand up and could only go forward or back according to the person in front and behind us. I can remember the ‘trapped’ feeling rising in me. Although I didn’t know the term, claustrophobia at the time, that’s clearly what I was experiencing and it was a useful learning experience. That is how we test ourselves.

Woke up this morning with a sense of sadness and distance. My past seems untouchable and down a tight, dark tunnel in which I’m stuck. My future is dark and unknowable. I can’t go forward or back and am reliant on those behind and in front. I am suffering from temporal claustrophobia.

My 14-year-old self got through the tight tunnel and was able to stand up in the most beautiful, high-ceilinged chamber. The nightmare was that, to get back, I had to go through the whole experience again. The nightmare of time is that we can never go back but only move forward into the darkness.

Once again this Saturday morning, the light is poor and vaguely grey. Lovely afternoon and evening of hot sunshine … again yesterday. The Mediterranean corner of our garden was flooded with warmth. The fig trees and Canarian tree and Mediterranean herbs were all loving it. Beautiful, crescent moon last night and warm overnight.

On this weekend each year, the Greeks go on holiday for around 2 weeks. In teaching times, we would already have been there for a fortnight and, suddenly, the island and its shops would become flooded with double the number of customers. In retirement, we would have been there for 4+ months already and were preparing to book hotels and ferries for our return drive through Europe in a couple of months.

The Windmill Supermarket aka Sainsbury’s

For all the lovely weather, the gorgeous, warm sea-swimming, the delicious taverna food and the stimulating challenge of coping with a foreign language and culture, there comes a time when change is desired. Of all the things we longed for, a well-stocked, British supermarket was high on the list. The Windmill Supermarket was lovely. Run by Maria, it supplied us with fresh oranges from her father’s orchard and eggs from their own chickens, pork from the next-door farm, etc. but so many of the staples one gets used to at home were difficult to find.

These sorts of projects are always risky.  Must admit I’ve always thought that taking a risk was the only way to move forward. I am a risk-taker although I do try to think things through and do due diligence as well. Buying land and laying out £200,000.00 in a building project on a small, Greek island was always going to carry an element of risk. It paid off and gave us a lot of pleasure but it took some nerve.

It’s impossible, said Pride.
It’s risky, said Experience.
It’s pointless, said reason.
Give it a try, whispered the Heart.

If you want something better. If you want something to change. The only way is to hold your nerve and take a bit of risk. The rewards can be enormous. Some old people in a Care Home once told us: Don’t hold back. Do it. You only get one life and it is short. We regret not having followed our dreams. As they spoke, they were confined to an immobile, old age in fraying chairs and watching the traffic pass on the road outside – not able to go back and waiting for their future to come them.