Week 736

Sunday, 29th January, 2023

Quite a grey, cool day. Although the temperature is 9C/48F, it still feels quite cool. Sunday is a politics day. My Mother is turning in her grave. She scoffed at the idea of supermarkets opening on a Sunday. She wouldn’t believe that it is now one of the most popular for shopping. For me, the political week starts on a Sunday. The interviews start on Sky with Sophie Ridge.

The same people do the rounds. Today, it was greasy Gove. He was totally unconvincing in his defence of Zahawee. By the time he got to the BBC studios  to be interviewed by Laura Kuenssberg, Zahawee had been sacked and Gove looked even more oily.

There will be many who are totally oblivious to all this turmoil. They send out for their Daily Mail/Express and are quite prepared to believe the headlines and the pictures that hit them. Those that can read will be thinking differently.

We now know that there are dozens of senior civil servants who have complained about the bullying of Raab and the explosive revelation this week of a leaked N10 document showing that Boris Johnson was warned not to continue seeking financial advice from Richard Sharp who he shortly appointed as Chairman of the BBC. Equally, Sharp wrote to all BBC employees telling them he had never advised Johnson on finances. Both were lying and both are in trouble.

Sunak has to explain why breaking the Ministerial Code means Zahawee has to be sacked for the ‘crime’ but Braverman doesn’t require the same punishment. All of this, of course, will pass the average Mail/Express picture browser by. Do they even know who these characters are?

Monday, 30th January, 2023

A relatively mild night and start to the day. We didn’t fall below 8C/47F. I woke up feeling empty – not physically but emotionally. It has been a week since I learnt that they had found something on my prostate scan which would require a biopsy but I haven’t got a date yet. That is hanging over me like a black cloud.

Hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts

I am an inveterate list maker. I love to wake to a list of tasks for the day. Things to achieve over the next 24 hrs. When I woke this morning, my first thought was, Must put the Black Bin out. What sort of life is that? I have nothing on my agenda. The calendar is blank for the day. I hate it.

Over breakfast, I have got to create jobs. I am going to split my exercise in to two, separate sessions in the Gym. I’m going to tidy the garden (What am I saying???). I am going to set the two robots off on their tasks. I am going to try to repair an old, colour laser printer which is producing poor quality copy. I am going to talk to my friends in the North. Can it get more exciting than this?

Even the French Drama Series I’m watching in the Gym isn’t really gripping me. It should be. The subject matter is fascinating. In English, Netflix title it, Women at War although the French original is just, Les Combattantes or The Fighters. The drama deals with the German invasion of France in the First World War, the terrible casualties of the men sent out to the trenches at the Front and the women back home suddenly realising that they no longer had to remain domesticated at home but were needed to replace the men.

I am already enamoured of Sofia Essaïdi who plays a central part in the drama. She is French Moroccan born in Casablanca -how exotic is that? Her part is replacing her father in running the family factory producing Trucks. Pre-1914, it would have been no place for a woman but now there is no other option. The women struggle against prejudice but soon learn the skills both managerial and mechanical which is why the world was never the same when the men came home from the war.

Tuesday, 31st January, 2023

As January comes to a close, have you noticed how quickly the days are lengthening already? It is noticeably lighter in the mornings which ought to make me more optimistic but I don’t feel that. Something sad is niggling away. I don’t feel particularly old but I will be 72 soon. This morning I learned that my PSA test – Prostate Antigen – was 7.0 which is apparently a sure sign of cancer and makes me sad.

So many of my friends are in the same situation. I was talking to John Morris this morning. He is 72 today. He is feeling his age because he has had hip and knee replacements recently but so many of the group echo the sentiments on this tee-shirt.

We really have been the fortunate generation. We own our homes which have soared in value. We retired at young ages – well many of us. Pauline & I were still just 57 when we left to enjoy a life of ‘playing out’. We have good, protected and inflation-proofed pensions which allow us to travel and enjoy comfortable retirements. The generation before us seemed to accept old age whereas we increasingly resist it.

I was sent this photo from 1972 which features the Students Union reps. I never got involved in that sort of stuff preferring to be on the outside looking in but I knew all these people. They all look very different now as I do but it is not what you look like but what you are like that counts so I fail on both counts.

The Florida pool develops.

If things hadn’t gone wrong, we would have landed back at Gatwick Airport from Tampa at 8.45 this morning. It’s a pity but this PSA test wouldn’t have happened so soon if I hadn’t so it may turn out to be fortunate if the problem is caught early.

Wednesday, 1st February, 2023

New month. Hope you are happy and enjoy February 2023. Up early and by 6.30 am had already spoken to Kevin. Good to have him back in my life. He is very supportive. Driving up to Surrey this morning and that will include the M25 at rush hour on a day when there are no trains.

Optimism for the future is sometimes in short supply. Gardening is a process which relies on and implies optimism for the future. There is little point in preparing ground, sowing seeds or planting if you don’t expect to live to see the result. I tidied up the raised beds and lawn a couple of days ago and caught myself planning things for the Spring. Julie told me yesterday that she had just acquired an allotment plot in North Yorkshire and sent me photographs over Whatsapp.

A lot of hard work needed to get it in shape but it will be lots of fun doing it. If we were in UK consistently enough, I would consider an allotment myself but they are too tying and demanding. I’m not ready for that yet. Might have to go up and see Julie’s though.

Just had a three hour round trip through rush hour to take C to St Peters Hospital in Chertsey for what turned out to be a 10 mins appointment. Home in time for a session in the Gym this afternoon.

Thursday, 2nd February, 2023

Yesterday, amongst all the other dire warnings, there was one that appeared in a number of newspapers but which struck me particularly.

Warning as popular food and drink ‘increase your risk of dying from cancer by up to 30%’ … Ultra-processed foods such as sliced bread, breakfast cereals, fizzy pop and ready meals have long been singled out for their high levels of salt, fat, sugar and artificial additives.

The Mirror – 1/2/2023

It is ironic really because I am facing a potential cancer verdict myself and yet we have made a life’s mantra of avoiding processed foods. I would say that 95% of our diet is based on fresh ingredients cooked at home.

I was thinking about that as we assembled the weekly shopping list. For a while, we have been eating a roast chicken at the weekend with home made sage & onion stuffing. Gone are the days of the £3.00 chicken. We decided long ago to go for quality and ignore the price. A Norfolk Black chicken from Sainsburys costs around £16.00 – £20.00 and will make two meals plus stock for the future. It is very economical. It also clearly tastes better than cheap chicken

We certainly didn’t eat processed foods in my family as a child. My mother prided herself on cooking fresh things each day. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a brilliant cook like the one I have now. Once you have tasted Pauline’s food, you wouldn’t want to go out to eat or buy ready meals to bring home.

Just finished the French Drama Series, Les Combattantes, and had to get off the treadmill to mop the tears from the gym floor. It was horrendously sad as the two, long lost lovers reunited in the fog of war and were killed as their hands and eyes met. I am too soft for such sadness.

Friday, 3rd February, 2023

I’ve received a letter from the Urology Depart to say that it may be some weeks before I am called for my biopsy. A bit worrying but, with rolling strikes in the Health Service and GPs now balloting to join them, it is what I can expect. It may, of course, be a positive thing if they don’t think it so urgent after viewing the scan.

Just getting on with the day. What are you doing? What can anyone do? With Bank Rate going up to 4% yesterday, I’m hoping that savings accounts are improved very soon. Keep checking the best rates tables.

I start the day by reading the newspapers – The TelegraphThe TimesThe Independent and The Guardian – and I’ve got subscriptions to the first two. I can get into the others freely and then, if I have time, I browse the colour comics – The MailThe Express and The Mirror. They are free because … well, who would pay for them?

Each morning I’m sent updates by the Manchester Evening News and particularly for Rochdale and Oldham and from the Huddersfield Examiner so I follow them up during the day.

I am putting on weight and eating and drinking too much. Think I’m trying to drown my sorrows but I’ve got to get a grip. Going in the Gym is not enough. Got to make a plan!

Saturday, 4th February, 2023

I wrote on Monday about having to make lists of jobs to motivate myself. Well, the car is cleaned; the garden is tidied, the house is clean and tidy. What can I tick off next? It would be nice to say life was tidy but there are so many loose ends that I have to address. I will get there. You can be assured but they need more work. I never give up how ever much I flounder.

The big job today, along with my exercise routine and watching the 6-Nations Rugby, is sorting out the Office. Yesterday, I threw out the colour laser printer. I bought it 7 years ago just as we moved here. We took it to the tip. The new one I bought recently is far superior. As soon as I moved the cabinet it was sitting on, my friend moved in with the cleaning equipment. As you will know, she is cleaning mad while I am tidiness obsessed.

Today, I am sorting out the bookcases. Most books now go unread. Everything is digital. Some of the very elderly, I know, still take paper books to bed with them but what else is there? What I have still got with me are memories that I have carried from place to place – not willing to let go. Above is the book I chose as my prize for Literature student in the Sixth Form at Grammar School. Could you get more exciting and sexy than this?

It is followed by Deus Nobiscum – God with us – the motto of my Grammar School which was founded in 1520. My Dad went there in the 1930s. I left in 1969. It closed in 1972. It just couldn’t go on without me. The book was written by my old music teacher. She had huge bosoms but we knew her as Fanny Radford.

The third book is worth a fortune and is the history of my home village, Repton – the capital of Mercia. Chester thought it was special. It had nothing on Repton! It was a present to my Dad from his Auntie Kesssie over 60 years ago. I had to fight my siblings for it. I won!

Time moves on. I move away from my village and my family. I make new friends. Some support me and some don’t. My friends, Kevin & Chris, are rocks at a time of tempest. I don’t even understand their appreciation of my friendship. I saw it as all one way. I sucked up their support.

Even so, in 1976, as I was completing my BA Degree with a course on 20th Century Poetry, they bought me an anthology of Thomas Hardy’s poetry. I was moved by the gesture and inscription. It has travelled with me throughout the rest of my life.

I have my own leather-bound Masters thesis on the works of Professor R.H. Tawney which I’ve featured before but the other item on my bookcase which is so significant in my life is that chronicling our Greek lives on Sifnos spanning 30 years. It was a major part of our lives and, although I created a website for it at the time, it just had to be recorded in a hard copy.

How time flies. It is 8 years in July that we sold our house and left our island for the last time. In doing so, we just managed to reclaim our investment before the Greek economy imploded. It has allowed us to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Even so, it is great to have this memory as ours become a little hazier than we would like.

Week 735

Sunday, 22nd January, 2023

Glorious day of beautiful sunshine and blue sky. The car is gleaming like a new machine outside as the sun glints off its sparkling metallic paint. The leather seats have been completely restored with a rich cream and the tyres look like new. The valet has taken me about 3 hours but I actually enjoyed it. Probably have to do it again before it is officially valued.

My whole, adult life I have been interested in Poetry and Politics. In fact, PPE would have been the perfect University course for me. Normally, it means Politics, Philosophy and Economics but I would have had to add an additional P for Poetry. It would have helped me understand all the little wrinkly people of the world as well. We have been going through the most exciting and challenging times in political life over the past decade and it is culminating in the total decay of the Tory government. 

The cartoon above from the Tory supporting, Murdoch owned Sunday Times, makes a trenchant comment on the Sunak government and the Tory governments it has succeeded. If you need any help, Pork Barrel Politics originated in the USA and refers to bribing the electorate with a barrel of pork, for example, to support/vote for the provider. Cleverly, the cartoon suggests that, with one hand the Tories are trying to bribe the electorate with ‘Levelling Up’ cash while covering up the Tories individual avarice with a tissue of lies. It is quite typical of a decaying of power.

When political power deserts a government, they find themselves fighting on multiple fronts – some trivial and some very serious. Boris Johnson tried to bury the Russia Report but it is about to hit him as the country becomes aware of the sheer duplicity of his actions. Of course, they will also become aware of the dodgy relationship between Johnson and the man he appointed to Chair of the BBC as he helped him to a £800,000 loan.

We have a Deputy Prime Minister – Raab – who is currently being investigated for multiple instances of bullying in the workplace …

… and a Prime Minister who has received two fixed penalty notices from the police. Nobody in that office has done that before. These things are unprecedented but we also have a former Chancellor who is now Chairman of the Tory Party who was found to have claimed public money to heat his horses’ stables during the MPs’ Expenses scandal which he said was a careless mistake and now he is being fined by the Tax Authorities for another careless mistake as he failed to pay millions of pounds in tax on an off-shore investment designed to avoid paying tax.

It hasn’t been explained how it is possible to be so careless that you set up an off-shore investment to avoid paying UK tax without knowing but that is the defence. It is tired and a sign of resignation. They are on their way out and they know it.

Monday, 23rd January, 2023

Cold night down to -2C/29F. Frost this morning under crystal clear skies but with early sunshine melting it quickly. Don’t need to go out today. It’s correspondence day. I’ve got three people to phone – Brian in Royton, Dave in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, John in Yorkshire. Looking forward to that.

I’ve written before about my love of Mail, even Junk Mail which we still get by the ton. I am always the first to the Mail and I open all the mail whoever it is for. My wife is perfectly happy to indulge my excitement. In fact, she prefers me to get any bad news and to break it to her gently.

Daily Excitement!

Pauline believes my phone is permanently attached to my arm. It is the first thing I look at in the morning and the red number disks on phone apps. Here, this morning, I have a Whatsapp message from North Yorkshire in Social Media group, 3 newspaper reports in the News group, 11 alerts about things I’ve been searching on Google apps. Down at the bottom, I have a mystery text, 3 emails and an item message from our online calendar which turns out to be a reminder that I have to put all three bins out today.

Most of my email is junk mail as well. Any company I have bought from or even made an enquiry with bombards me with daily emails. I could block them but I don’t because I like to see what they are offering. Does this make me appear to be one sad man? Probably but who cares? I am too old to be self conscious about it.

My whole life has been centred around words, concepts, ideas and communication. I love to connect and to get connections. Who is that text from? Well, of course, I’m not telling you.

Everything comes to an end ultimately and 7 years seems to be a trigger. So many things have been breaking down in the past couple of months. Today, it is the cordless vacuum cleaner. I bought a Gtech and it has been fine but it finally died. We have ordered a Shark even though the obvious one would be a Dyson. We could never buy one of those because of his fervent support for Brexit as he moved his production abroad. I don’t even like using Dyson hand dryers in public toilets. Now sharks I’m all for!

Tuesday, 24th January, 2023

Up early because we have an electrician arriving at 8.00am to fix a problem that has developed with the garden lights. It will only take a half an hour. Fortunately, it is dry and mild. It is just starting to become apparent that the days are lengthening. It is definitely lighter earlier. Thank goodness for that!

Driving up to Surrey this morning with a coffee cake that Pauline made yesterday. It is to celebrate the 58th birthday of Little M. The first time I met her was in 1978 and we played hopscotch together. I don’t think she does it any more.

Around 58 years ago or more, Pauline was learning to play the piano. She says that, although she enjoyed it, she wasn’t very good and has always had a hankering to try again. We have talked about it many times without following it up. I always thought that it would be a two minute wonder and any piano we bought would then gather dust for years.

We have decided that she must have a keyboard and we have chosen a ‘starter’ kit which can be set up in the Ironing/Sewing room for her to practice. It’s only £130.00. Headphones will maintain my sanity and she can play away to her heart’s content. If it proves a success, we can move on to something bigger and better. We will see.

Wednesday, 25th January, 2023

Not a good day. Grey, cold and slightly damp. The Hospital phoned to confirm that they had found something on the prostate in my MRI scan and told me I had to go in for Biopsies. No prizes for guessing what they found. I just have to hope that it is one of the slow growing, non-invasive cancers that take so long to kill me that I die of something else first. Suddenly feel very alone. Even so, Pauline is immediately supportive and Kevin phoned to say he knew I would be alright.

Went out to Littlehampton to collect the digital piano and then on to Chichester to collect the vacuum. As an old hand at this, I photograph the unpacking at every stage. It makes re-packing and returning so much easier. The vacuum turns out to be excellent but the piano is rubbish. Perhaps it is my fault for not reading the advert carefully enough but it seems to be less about piano and more about synthesizer. The sound and tone was very poor – for £150.00. We set it up, tried it out , repacked it within a couple of hours.

As we prepared it for return, I realised it had come from Middleton in M24. Nothing reliable ever came out of that postcode. I will look for something better tomorrow. The budget will have to be increased considerably to get a quality machine.

I use IT for almost everything. I love its universality. I can control my lights, cameras, heating, etc from anywhere in the world. Of course, it is fine until something goes wrong and then everything is thrown out of kilter. I use Hive to control everything until I can’t and then I feel lost. Today, I really feel lost and then Hive went down.

At first, I resorted to analogue. I phoned the company. They told me there was a 30 mins minimum delay. Eventually, I learned that there was a nationwide problem and, at 7.00 pm, there is still a connectivity problem. It is really difficult although not as bad. Can you imagine, Dear Reader, having to walk to the wall control to switch up your heating manually? Nightmare!

Thursday, 26th January, 2023

I gave over a few hours yesterday to getting our digital platform, Hive, back up and working. It turns out, the problem was not just mine but national. I found a number of newspapers running articles about it. Everyone was screaming that they couldn’t put their heating on from the train home from work or couldn’t monitor the security of their homes from the camera systems and alarms.

It reminded me of an event we experienced in Athens when a lightning strike cut the power supply to the shopping streets. Pauline was just in the process of paying for clothes she had chosen and the shop just refused to proceed because they couldn’t just take cash in the hand. Everything relied on credit card payments and stock control databases which were shut down at the time. We take these things for granted until they go down and illustrate our reliance on them. That’s when the wrinkly, old people scoff and feel justified in not entering the modern world of IT. I am determined never to enter that stage.

David’s isolated home.

Had a phone call from a man who played quite a significant part in my life growing up in a small and very insular village. David, moved to live in Wales 40 years ago. Actually, I haven’t seen him since 1969 when he was only 28 but seemed so much older to me. Now his wife is dead and he lives alone in this isolated, beautiful but bleak place in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I certainly couldn’t live anywhere so remote or so wet. Wales is so WET. I wouldn’t even consider it.

The hospital paperwork has just arrived. Sounds horrendous. They’re certainly not going to stick needles and instruments where they think they are. It would be unspeakable! It says: Prostate biopsies are taken through the perineal skin. I’ve just had to look it up and IT’S NOT NICE! Phoned my little brother, Bob, in Maidenhead. He has already been through all this. He sounded fine and was enjoying my utter ignorance about my own body. I suppose that’s what brothers are like. Talked to Kevin who was all sloppy but very supportive.

Friday, 27th January, 2023

Lovely morning of bright sunshine – 11C/52F. Strange how it can be darkened by events out of one’s control.

You know you’re on your way out when you get something like this and it colours all your activities. I found it difficult to exercise. Is there any point? Well, my addictive nature forced me on but these thoughts play across one’s mind. Will there come a day when I can stop talking about health, doctors, hospitals? My Blog reflects what’s in my mind at the time. I’m only 71. Grow old with me!

Suddenly, politics feels hollow and pointless just when the political scene is becoming so interesting. Imagine when that senior political spokesman, Rod Stewart, phones in to a discussion programme on Sky and tells the audience that the Tories are destroying the NHS and they should vote for Labour instead. We’ve only been screaming this for years: turn, turn, turn and now the times they are a-changing.

On this day 13 years ago, we finished our final Ofsted inspection with the damning verdict of Satisfactory and I was going for a heart scan which found Atrial Fibrillation. I’m not sure if the two events were connected. Now, my heart could not be stronger or healthier. If only the rest of me would keep up!

Saturday, 28th January, 2023

Cold start to the morning – just 4C/39F but feels colder. It is a day at home doing jobs …. well, for my housekeeper. We love new houses but can’t move too often and so maintenance is all important.

Our house has to be pristine and as good as new. Even two old codgers leave their mark on a house over a number of years. This morning I have had to instruct my housekeeper to address some of the grubby marks and scrapes on the walls and ceilings where life has left its imprint. I opened a bottle of red wine yesterday and the cork went straight in leaving a fountain of red which sprayed the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, two drops hit the ceiling and need to be painted out today. Perfect opportunity for her to get rid of marks around light switches, etc..

I am more a gadgets person. I love learning what they can do to make life easier. I’m not very practical so it is always a challenge. It even took me a while before I could get the best out of my coffee maker but now we’ve got a new kettle which has flashing lights and lots of different temperature choices. Boiling water has never been so exciting.

The Florida pool design.

Life is all about self improvement, moving forward and making one’s position better. M&K in Florida have only been in their new house a matter of months and already part of the garden is being dug up and a pool with jacuzzi installed. M sent us this enticer yesterday. Who would not be happy with this?

Work has begun already.

My self improvement today will be back in the Gym. My fitness is coming back but it is slower than I’d hoped. I’ve got to be more consistent and more determined. I have so much to live for. I have aims to pursue and targets to meet. It is important to remain focussed!

Week 734

Sunday, 15th January, 2023

Beautiful, sunny and bright morning spoiled by a phone call to say my MRI scan is cancelled because the equipment has broken down. I will be sent a new appointment as soon as possible.  Real sense of anti-climax. Still, at least any bad news is delayed.

In November 2021, we were in New York and flew back to Tampa just hours after Frank & Diane, friends from Oldham who we hadn’t seen for years, flew in and stayed just a block away from our hotel. They were en route to visiting their son and his wife just outside NY city. Frank & Diane had bought and run a  private school in Oldham for about 30 years and had just retired. Lovely times lay ahead of them.

Frank’s hobbies were fitness and, in particular, cycling but also music and playing one of his numerous guitars. While in New York, he was desperate to visit Woodstock which is where this happy photo was taken. Just 9 months later, at the age of 70, Frank was dead from an inoperable brain tumour and the dreams of a happy, adventurous retirement were over.

Now alone, Diane has returned to New York to spend Christmas with her son but also to revisit Woodstock and to scatter Frank’s ashes. It is hard to accept that this is how all lives end but accept it we must.

This is one reason why I love to travel. The sense of movement and exploration obscures and distracts me from the reality of what is to come. But it is also why reaching out to friends has become so important and largely so rewarding. Who knows when we will need them even more?

One of those who rivals me for travel, Dave Roberts from Rochdale, really seems to be constantly globe trotting. Currently, he is in New Zealand. Only 3 months ago, he was on a boating trip down Le Canal du Midi and visiting Narbonne, Beziers and Carcassonne.

In July, he was on a cruise visiting Athens from where he contacted me for advice on places to see and then Napoli on the south west coast of Italy. That is definitely the way to keep the looming terminator at bay. Keep fit. Keep moving. Keep looking for new experiences without ditching your past.

Just had a phone call from the hospital to say my scan will now be on Tuesday afternoon. I’m really pleased, very grateful and just a little bit apprehensive.

Monday, 16th January, 2023

The morning opened at quite a cold 5C/41F and didn’t get much higher all day. Kevin said he’d had his coldest bike ride of the year. Mind you, it is only half way through January. We left the house shortly after 9.00 am to drive to Surrey. We had to leave the burglar alarm off because we had set Little John and Little John’s Mate to vacuum the house while we were out. As we drove up the M25, we received messages on our phones to tell us that they had completed their jobs.

M is in Surrey having returned from Florida. It was lovely to see her. She is so caring. She had returned to spend time with her elderly parents. She has the age-old problem of parents who need care and a family in a different part of the world who need her too. In the end, she has to lead her own life. She can’t sacrifice it for her parents but it is hard. They will have to go into supported accommodation or have social support in their own home but it is always difficult making that choice when you are elderly and frail.

In the end, M has to live her own life and her parents have to live theirs but getting there is not easy. Sometimes, P&C don’t realise when they are well off. I didn’t give up so much of my life for my Mother nor would I. She didn’t expect it. She had her life and wanted me to have mine. The same with Pauline’s lovely Mum. We went to our Greek home with her blessing but we came home immediately she needed us.

This is what I went for really. Pauline makes Christmas cakes every year for other people and we never get to taste any. Well, today we did and they were wonderful. Apparently, K’s eaten most of his. I had a huge piece and it was WONDERFUL.

Tuesday, 17th January, 2023

Quite a cool start to the morning. There was even a slight trace of frost on the roofs around. I have my scan this afternoon and Kevin messaged me this morning to wish me good luck. In fact, I think he’s going sloppy in his old age. He wrote, When they examine the film, they will find a heart of gold. I’m sure some of my old friends wouldn’t say that but it was nice of him anyway. 

Before that, what I experienced yesterday made such an impression on me that I had to do something. My little sister is Head of Adult Social Care Services for Surrey County Council. I saw M coping with two elderly people who are rapidly moving towards the point when they are going to need just such services. In her Guardian article, Liz makes a lot of her desire to deliver integrated health and social care services to the adult population of Surrey. M has two adults with multiple health and welfare requirements so I thought I would go to the top and seek Skinny Lizzie’s advice. The photo on the left is how I remember her.

From the sublime to the trivial. My new Xerox printer came with a £40.00 cash back offer. I had to apply with copies of my invoice and printer setup page. I sent off what I thought was sufficient but they rejected it for lack of evidence. It’s only £40.00 but rejection is a red rag to a bull with me. I phoned my supplier, got all of the information required, submitted it to Xerox. A £40.00 cash back is winging its way to my account.

Worthing Pier this evening.

That done, I turned my thoughts to my existence. My longevity. Is prostate cancer going to get me? Someone told me the other day that most men of my age were living with it. Actually, it is only one in eight and I don’t intend to be one of them. If they find a problem, I will opt for surgery whatever the risks. I intend to live to 100 and to meet my destiny whatever it takes.

Got to live to share this.

The MRI scanner was very noisy and incredibly long. I was in it for just under an hour. As soon as they moved me down the tunnel and said, Now don’t move, I got a terrible itch on my cheek. I zoned out and fell asleep. I awoke to find my leg trembling. Nobody complained. The person administering the injection into my arm was called Fabio. He was from Milan. I love Milan and have driven through it many times. We had a lot to talk about. It is hard to believe my fate has been decided today in this place.

We drove home down the coast which was looking illuminated by sky and by man. I find this sort of thing quite threatening but everything is threatening at times. I maybe in my death throes but that will make me even more reckless. Beware!

Wednesday, 18th January, 2023

Up early this morning to a clear sky of stars and this beautiful little chap in the lightening sky. Just took it with my phone camera in the garden. Another hint of frost and certainly feeling cold.

Up early because we’ve got a person from our Developers coming with a thermal imaging camera to test heat loss. We have been saying for a while that one bedroom was significantly colder than all the others and that maybe the insulation was defective there or the window was badly fitted.

Our house is almost 7 years old and almost 2 years out of warranty but our Developers – David Wilson Homes – are a class act. They take customer satisfaction very seriously and immediately offered to investigate our problem.

The representatives of the company are lovely, friendly and helpful people and so it was this morning. Within minutes of inspecting the problem, Steve said there was clearly an insulation problem – either missing or slipped insulation boards – and he would bring someone else from the company to assess how to rectify it. Can’t quite see how they will do that retrospectively but that’s why they are the experts.

A very kind Blog Reader has done me the honour of official recognition and sent me a card of greeting. My friends tell me I have earned it although I’m not sure my wife would agree.

We retired in April 2009. We took lovely, big redundancy packages as the school prepared to combine with another and move into a £25 million, new Academy building. In our last decade, we had bumped along the Ofsted ratings of ‘Satisfactory’ (Damned with feint praise.) to ‘In Need of Improvement’ to ‘Special Measures’ twice when the Headteachers were expected to resign/sacked.

The new Academy was ostensibly an answer to the Oldham race riots of a decade before. One, mainly Asian school was being integrated with another, mainly white school. Neither school had good reputations and the strange belief was that a swan would arise out of the mating of two, ugly ducklings. Old timers like us were scorned for our scepticism. The BBC featured the school as a brave new dawn in race relations. £ millions more were poured into extra staff and facilities. Everyone interviewed spoke highly of the changes. Within 3 years, they were ‘In Need of Improvement’. By 2016, they were in ‘Special Measures’. In 2019, they were ‘In Need of Improvement’ and this week, they are back in ‘Special Measures’

The big thrust of the Academy raison d’etre was to demonstrate that race relations across the divide in Oldham could be healed. Huge, social integration programmes were foisted on the kids and their families to that end. The Ofsted report this week strongly criticises discipline and behaviour with particular note of use of racist language and abuse. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Thursday, 19th January, 2023

We dropped to -1C overnight and we have a frost this morning. I am considering submitting an official complaint. I didn’t move to the South Coast to see cold weather. It’s costing me a fortune keeping the central heating on in the Gym to protect all the sensitive computer elements of the exercise equipment. It’s intolerable.

If you live in the North – Yorkshire/Greater Manchester – you expect harsh conditions at this time of the year but on the South Coast??? We had enough of it while we were there. The photo from the Huddersfield Examiner above is of Castle Hill in Huddersfield this morning. It brought it all back to me particularly the trials of driving across the Pennines every day to work.

Our school was old and the campus was hard to make safe in these Winter conditions. For that reason, we were often one of the first to close. Certainly wouldn’t miss Greater Manchester now. I pledged to avoid snow for the rest of my life if I could. The photo above from the MEN is of Manchester Airport which had to close two runways this morning.

This is the colour I want – Modern Steel Metallic.

Honda contacted us this morning. They said they were contacting long standing customers. We always treat all such approaches with huge scepticism. We have driven Hondas since 1984 and have bought more than 20 new vehicles from them including 11 or 12 CRVs. I am a sucker for new cars although the current one is only 18 months old and has only done 7,500 miles. Honda are, ostensibly offering lots of discounts on new cars plus ‘special’ values on used ones. We will talk to them next week but they will have to beg hard and very nicely.

Friday, 20th January, 2023

Beautiful day of Mediterranean sunshine and blue sky. Not exactly Mediterranean temperatures but not bad. It is a day to celebrate being alive. I am doing it with a full, exercise program. Yesterday, I did 1.5 hrs on the treadmill and really enjoyed it so my fitness is coming back although it is amazing how quickly one can lose it by taking a break from making the effort.

The Film.

One of the things that helped me through the exercise yesterday was watching an absolutely wonderful film – Bank of Dave – which I urge you to see. It is based on a true story about a man called Dave Fishwick from Burnley who owned a number of outlets selling Vans across Lancashire. He made a lot of money but loved his community and was determined to help the members of it.

Dave, who is brilliantly played by Rory Kinnear, Roy Kinnear’s son, wanted to open a community bank which took deposits and lent out just to the people of Burnley. He wanted to lend to people who were commonly rejected by the national banks. All profits he made were to be given directly to Burnley charities.

He applied for Bank status giving him the right to take deposits and lend money. The major banks saw this as a threat to their old boys’ club and tried to put things in his way including having him arrested.

The real Bank of Dave in Burnley.

Needless to say, Dave won the day and opened his bank. I knew quite a lot of this background before I watched the film and it didn’t spoil it one bit. There is also a delightful, romantic sub plot running through the film which builds to a climax. A must watch!

Our lovely next door neighbour, Dee, has just called round with her face full of fear and trepidation. She lectures in English at the local College and last night, coming home from work, she misjudged her reversing in her BMW and WENT OVER THE GRASS! I can’t be angry with someone so beautiful but I did my best. I thought you were going to confess to something trivial, I said with a stern face. She quavered and then realised I was joking. It’s lovely to have nice neighbours.

I’m cooking tonight giving Pauline a night off. I’m doing Chicken thighs with onion, garlic and parsley and a medley of diced celery, carrot and mushroom. It maybe a disaster but Pauline will still say it’s a triumph so I’ve got nothing to lose.

I’ve just been seeking an online valuation of our car and I think a new one will only cost us £8,000.00 on £42,000.00. Could be a possibility. I’m not terribly bothered but it would save cleaning this one.

Saturday, 21st January, 2023

Another gorgeous morning. Might go mad this morning and clean the car. Well, I might be trading it in soon. There again, I may not. My phone buzzed at Midnight. It was Kevin from North Yorkshire. He had got my recommendation of the film – Bank of Dave – and he and Christine had just finished watching it. They really enjoyed it and were thanking me for the recommendation … at midnight.

Housekeeping today includes having my haircut, valeting the car in case I trade it in and watching Liverpool v Chelsea while doing a couple of hours on the treadmill. You see what you’re missing, Dear Reader? I’ve also got to look at best Easy Access Savings AccountsYorkshire Building Society has just increased our rate to 2.95% yesterday but I will keep searching.

It looks like High Street Bank branches will just about have gone in the next 5 years. Another great swathe of closures was announced yesterday. There is a widespread expectation that cash payment will largely have gone in the same timeframe. This has been hastened by Covid. The old, infirm and IT illiterate may be restricted to Post Office accounts.

None of this particularly worries me because I never use cash. I don’t even know what some coins are worth. I was shown a £2.00 coin the other day and it could have been 2p for all I knew and, did you know that there is a 20p coin? I’m more at home with Euros than these things. I have a Charge Card which is badged Mastercard, A Mastercard Credit Card and a Visa Debit Card none of which I use directly at all. They are all stored electronically in my Google Wallet app on my phone. I also have Airport Lounge cards, Foreign Exchange cards, Hotel Reward Cards and Supermarket Club Cards all of which can be stored there too.

So, I only use my phone to access these cards and my face/fingerprint gives me controlled access. All of this is great … until something goes wrong. This week, our Credit Cards were renewed and I had to delete the old and establish the new on my app. Simple task. I did it on Pauline’s phone but my app wouldn’t let me do mine. I phoned the bank. A recorded message told me they didn’t deal with it over the phone anymore but I had to go through the app. I am not given to tantrums but I had one then. The app told me I had to go through the online chat engine – Cora.

Cora‘ usually turns out to be a young man from the Asian sub-continent who is very polite but absolutely useless. This afternoon, I have been sent round and round in ever decreasing circles trying to deal with a problem which could have been solved in 5 minutes on the phone. Tomorrow, we will contact our Personal Banking Manager and tell her what we think of the service but this is likely to become an increasingly common concern as those who are not comfortable with smartphones – and I can think of a few – begin to grapple with these problems. Forget the Industrial Revolution, the Financial Revolution is changing / will change the whole way society interacts.

Who would have predicted that I would be paying my window cleaner by Bank Transfer or my Electrician using the app on my phone. Who would think that the Greengrocer would need wifi to allow online payments or the carwash would need a card machine? These are big steps forward but, just like the electric car market, the infrastructure can’t afford to lag behind. The one, underlying theme here is that the ‘official’, tax collecting authorities can monitor these digital interactions which makes their life much easier. When cash disappears, the Black Economy is dead.

Week 733

Sunday, 8th January, 2023

The day is moderately warm and sunny. Unusually for January, we haven’t had the heating on for ages. Bought Pauline a new Liquidiser yesterday from Currys. It is by Bosch and the quality of the German manufacturing means that the solid glass goblet is so heavy, Pauline can hardly carry it empty never mind full of liquid. I’ve told her it will be good training for her upper arms.

My next toy is going to be a wireless colour laser printer which will free up space and cables in the Office and allow Wi-Fi printing from iPads and smartphones. 

I’ve decided on this one which is incredibly cheap until you realise that the toner costs almost as much as the original printer. 

It will be replacing another Brother which I’ve had for about 15 years. They are great workhorses and I hope this will be the same.

Did 40 mins on the treadmill yesterday. Going to do 50 mins this afternoon and then an hour on Monday. I intend to be up to 1.5 hrs by next weekend. Keep you informed if I live. …. I’ve done my 50 mins continuous and don’t feel too bad. Chatted to Kevin who is 73 today. Makes me feel so much better that most of my friends are so much older than me. Kevin seems happy going out on his bike each day. Must help keep him alive. I’ve also contacted my boyhood friend, Jonathan, who has lived in Boston, Massachusetts for 50 years and who I had hoped to visit this time but circumstances got in the way. Maybe next time.

Monday, 9th January, 2023

Lovely start to the day with clear sky and lots of sunshine. I’ve been eating porridge for breakfast since I’ve been ill and I’m getting addicted but, along with freshly squeezed orange juice, it feels very healthy. I know oats lower cholesterol so let’s hope its working.

Had quite a refreshing phone call over breakfast. It was from Printerland where I’d ordered from yesterday.

Are you sure you want to order that printer, Sir. Of course, we are happy to supply it but there is a much better one for your needs, a newer product which costs much less to resupply with toner. It costs just £40.00 more but you can claim that £40.00 back from Xerox and get extended warranty.

Quite refreshing really. Well it persuaded me and my new printer will arrive tomorrow. Two minutes later another phone call from The Urology Department at Worthing Hospital. I was only referred to them on Friday and the Consultant’s secretary was speaking to me first thing on Monday morning. Would I be available for a telephone triage consultation with the Consultant this afternoon? Of course I would. ….

… The Consultant has just phoned and told me I will be given an MRI scan in the next few days. I can hardly believe the NHS service I am receiving.

Electra Palace Hotel, Thessaloniki

If I’m going to die of prostate cancer, I’m going to enjoy myself first and definitely achieve my ambitions. I’ve always wanted to go to Thessaloniki (or as the Greeks know it, Saloniki) in Northern Greece. It has its own Electra Palace Hotel in the same group as the one we use in Athens.

Nice View

For a week at the end of May a suite with a lovely sea view will cost us around £2000.00 and Easyjet flights are incredibly cheap. So that is the plan. I am looking to book it today.

Well, I’ve achieved both aims for today. I managed an hour on the treadmill and I’ve booked 5 nights in Thessaloniki 15th – 20th of May. Easyjet flights are also booked. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 10th January, 2023

What a horrible, dark and wet morning. Not even warm today – only 9C/48F. certainly not inviting. However, I have to go out … to buy a light bulb. We have been in this house for almost 7 years and I cannot remember having to replace a light bulb. Last night, the central light in the bathroom flickered and died. When we unscrewed the glass, we found an element that we had never bought before.

This strange contraption has 4-pins and just pushes in. Where can you get them? Amazon will deliver this afternoon but I have found them at Screwfix and Toolstation which are not far away so that’s where I’m going this morning. At £15.00 for two, they are not cheap but 7 years is fairly economical.

Been out to Sainsburys where the carpark is under cover. The day is just incredibly horrible. Pauline says that prices in Sainsburys are noticeably going down. I am blissfully unaware of any of that just as I haven’t got a clue about practical things like light bulbs. I celebrate my lack of knowledge in these areas. That is what wives are for. I’m happy to concentrate on booking flights and hotels, buying computers and red wine. All the difficult things.

Going to do 70 mins on the treadmill today. Really feeling stronger by the day. Probably split my exercise in to two sessions so as not to overdo it too soon. The new printer is being delivered today and I don’t want it leaving outside in this weather so we are home for the day. Going to look at a couple of French trips for March and June/July. That’s my expertise even though it’s very stressful.

Google have sent me my travel record for the past year and it tells me that I have travelled the equivalent of once around the world. Now that’s an idea …. actually travel round the world in 180 days.

Wednesday, 11th January, 2023

Lovely, clear, dry morning with the remnant of a moon still up in the sky. Had a message from Kevin’s wife, Christine, over breakfast which was nice. She was asking about my recovery. Got to get away from talking about health. We had a pleasant exchange. I was able to tell them about our travel dates arranged so far including time in the North of England when we hope to meet up.

Levenshulme yesterday.

All my friends up there were telling me about too much rain and flooding was featured in the Manchester Evening News yesterday. It was so horribly wet down here yesterday that I decided to order light bulbs from Amazon rather than go out for them. A pack of 2 arrived at 7.00 pm last night. One of the two didn’t work. I’ve got the bother of returning it now.

On this day, 11 years ago, we were living temporarily in the ‘Shoebox’ in Huddersfield and we instructed our solicitors to go ahead with the purchase of our property in Surrey. Eleven years ago! Where is this life rushing to?

Well, today we were rushing to charity shops and clothes disposal banks. Pauline is spending hours going through wardrobes and throwing out clothes that we will never wear again. They are either two big or too garish or just haven’t been worn for so many years that it’s pointless storing them. Today, we took 4 black bags of my clothes plus a bag of knee length leather boots that Pauline hasn’t worn since we left the North of England

Normally, we take things to the Hospice Shop but they were closed so we took them to Link to Hope which was nearby.

As we were near the beach, we dropped in to enjoy the sunshine. Quite a few others had gone even further and taken to the waves.

Thursday, 12th January, 2023

Well, thank goodness for our Gym. Certainly not going to be out walking for a while. Rain, rain, rain and the darkness. Had a phone call from a Consultant in the Radiology Department at Worthing Hospital yesterday. She asked me if I was available to go in for a full body, MRI scan on Sunday afternoon. Who could say No to that. Of course I am available. I am extremely grateful.

My little sister, Skinny Lizzie, was featured in The Guardian yesterday. She has just taken on Head of Social Care at Surrey County Council. You can read it here.

Jeff Beck

At our age, the death of icons of our youth can really bring us up short. Jeff Beck’s death has been announced and, although he was 7 years older than me, it makes me pensive. I notice that Dave Weatherley posted a retrospective this morning. I must admit, I know very little about him other than early tracks of my youth. Let’s hope there is a Silver Lining.

Friday, 13th January, 2023

Friday 13th. If you are superstitious, which I am not, hold tight! Beautiful day here with lovely blue skies and sunshine. Out early for an annual review at the surgery. Things seem to be getting back on track … apart from the question mark hanging over the prostate scan on Sunday afternoon.

Kevin has contacted me and pledged to stay alive until October when we will meet up again. I like that commitment. I will meet it. It means more to me today for some reason. Do you care ?

I have been having a problem with DHL for a while. I ordered a new printer on Sunday and was told it would be delivered on Monday. On Monday, I was phoned and told that there was a better model. I accepted that and was told it would be delivered on Tuesday. DHL contacted me on Tuesday to say they had my printer but couldn’t deliver it until Wednesday. It wasn’t. I phoned them and they promised it would be delivered on Thursday, It wasn’t. I phoned and they said they were inundated with parcels and would deliver it on Friday.

It was delivered today after 4 days of inconvenience. I will put in a formal complaint. This is unacceptable. I had also ordered a new, bedside radio alarm to replace one that had been at my bedside for 15 years. It is one of the most important items of my daily life. It starts every day. The old one had buttons that were beginning to fail.

The new new one is DAB or has digital radio stations and will charge my smartphone over night. It will see me through the next decade and then I will only need to replace it twice more before I am admitted to the Care Home. Do you care? Probably not! Well Dear Reader, that is your choice.

Saturday, 14th January, 2023

Friday 13th turned out to be a good day in that Pauline was told the skin blemish on her cheek was sun damage but not cancerous. Additionally, she will be offered 6 monthly check-ups by the hospital going forward. Just hope the news from my scan tomorrow is as positive.

Still raining. The sea must be full by now. We live between the Sussex Downs and the beach. It provides us with beautiful landscapes. Julie was telling me about the screen printing she was working on in her conservatory when an invitation to a local gallery came in accompanied by this lovely piece.

Because of the weather, I’ve been spending my time doing things which stress me but which I enjoy. Firstly, I’ve set up the new printer on our Office network. Still trying to configure wireless ‘air’ printing but that is nearly solved. I’m also setting up the radio alarm which is proving more difficult with a dreadful manual from a respectable producer – Roberts Radio – but it is not as intuitive as it ought to be. I will get there in the end. …….

… Been mulling it over all afternoon while watching Man. Utd thrash a very poor Manchester City team to go 3rd in the table. Suddenly, the solution appeared before me. Final whistle, big cheer, went straight up and completed the setup. Good afternoon’s work! Poor old Kevin is bemoaning Huddersfield conceding a 98th minute equaliser to Hull of all people.

Week 732

Sunday, 1st January, 2022

Happy New Year from the Blog. I am feeling a lot better and more optimistic. Shared good wishes with friends and already planning the next travel opportunities. Hoping to do Europe in a big way this Spring/Summer so researching and booking starting points will be important early. I expect to do this mainly driving which is one of the joys of European travel but we may do a couple of short haul flight destinations as well as Athens.

I’ve been fancying a short break in Bordeaux for ages so we might fly there and, similarly, to the rather racy city of Marseille which would also merit a week without a car. I’ll be exploring those destinations and flights from London for late Spring/early Sumer. We will have a couple of separate weeks in the Coquelles area walking and exploring restaurants. We will go to Athens in late September and the North of England in October. So that will allow us to spend late June and the month of July driving in France & Italy. After that, who knows, maybe back to Florida for a while.

I’m going to spend a lot of January in here.

The first objective must be to get rid of this mysterious infection and start getting fit again. I’m on Day 5 of the double strength Antibiotics which appear to be working. Going to spend 15 mins in the Gym this afternoon and my focus for the next few weeks has got to be in there, building up my strength and endurance. It is amazing that a short break away allows one’s fitness to drain so quickly.

I’ve just been chased out of my Office by … a ROBOT and I obeyed. This is starting to get rather interesting.

Monday, 2nd January, 2022

Woke up feeling distinctly better physically but absolutely empty emotionally as if something huge has just gone, as if a major motivation has been snatched away. Just got to get my head down and move forward.

The Robot Vacuum has proved such a success downstairs that I’ve ordered another for the first floor. It will be delivered on Thursday. Having set up the first one, a second should be straight forward. Famous last words.

Our house is coming up to 7 years old. With only two of us living in it, the wear & tear is minimal but some, small jobs are starting to appear. We need a plumber to replace a seal in the kitchen tap which has sprung a gentle leak and we need a pop-up waste in the Ensuite sink repairing along with a pop-up toilet flush button replacing.

These are just niggly little things but I like to keep on top of them. We also have one of the outside house lights which is operated automatically by light sensor repairing/replacing because the sensor has stopped working. So, to start the year as I mean to go on: book plumber and electrician as soon as possible.

Trying to stay positive although I admit it is a bit of a struggle at the moment. Getting out in the sunshine helps so we drove down to the beach. The roads were so quiet that it was as if a secret germ had wiped huge swathes of humanity from the face of the earth. Actually, I hadn’t realised that this was like a delayed Bank Holiday.

The beach and the road along side had lots of walkers, some hardy souls opening up their beach huts and eating sandwiches and coffee on tables at the front.

It was remarkably mild and beautiful but my mind and my body weren’t set for it, We took some lovely lungsful of sea air and then drove home through Rustington. When we got home, I was going to phone tradesmen but, now I know it is a holiday, I’ll wait till tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3rd January, 2022

Old memories, old friends are swirling round my head after a relatively good night. The past is almost like a bereavement. Although the people are gone, I continue to search for them, see them in a crowd … The past haunts me. People rise out of the mists of time and then fall back. I’m left hoping they continue to rise again. If they don’t, either I have dementia or I’m dead.

Rising out of the mists of this morning is this lad. His name is Russell Osman who lived in the Bull’s Head pub across from my childhood home in Repton. Admittedly, he is 8 years younger than me so was only 3 when I started at Grammar School and 15 when I left Repton for the last time. Russell’s dad, Rex Osman, had played for Derby County in the 1950s and Russell spent every spare hour of every day kicking a football around the pub carpark.

All that carpark practice paid off. Russell, who followed me by attending the Grammar School, eventually, went on to play for Ipswich and England. He was really good and had 10 years in the top flight of football. Now, at the age of 63, he is a pundit with the Indian football league,

This morning, Russell, that little lad from 1968, rose from the mists of the past to appear before me. I was watching Sky News in the Office and an article about Pele’s funeral came up accompanied by an interview with … Russell Osman.

Russell Osman

The beautiful, little lad of the 1960s is now a be-whiskered 63 year old man who has lots of life’s experience packed under his belt. In the end, it is not what we look like. It is what we are like that is important.

Wednesday, 4th January, 2022

I am waking up tired and shaky. I want to wake up looking forward to vigorous exercise. I am trying to force my head to tell my body but it isn’t really working at the moment. Kevin has been trying to gee me up but the body just isn’t willing right now. Amazing, though, how wonderful it is to have supportive friends in the background.

In spite of some horrible setbacks this week, I am trying to look to the future. I have forward booked two, separate weeks away for later in the year.

Electra Palace Suite

In mid-August, we will spend a week in Athens: 21st  – 28th. An Acropolis view Suite with balcony and breakfast will cost us £3,200.00 and the Easyjet flights with extra carry-on luggage, Extra Legroom and Speedy Boarding will cost £717.00 so the whole thing will come in under £4000.00

Electra Palace Acropolis View Balcony

In mid-October, we will spend 5 nights in Yorkshire – 16th – 21st. It will allow us to get round and see friends – well those who want to see us. My friend, Brian, from Royton phoned me last night to ask after my health and say how much he was looking forward to our next visit. I missed him last time and two years seems so long. We have to fit Margaret from Marsden in and John, Kevin & Julie in North Yorkshire.

It’s good to have things and people to look forward to. I trust that, by then, all this will be well behind me and I will be once again pounding the streets, enjoying my body.

Finding a good, local plumber is rather like finding a needle in a haystack. I asked around but neighbours couldn’t really help. They had the same problems. I searched the net and came up with a young-ish man from Worthing who had done his apprenticeship in the local college, set up his own company and survived for 9 years. I took a risk and phoned him.

Dan Proudfoot – Loved his name. – said he could visit us in a couple of hours. Couldn’t believe it. Our jobs were so small that plumbers haven’t bothered to get back to us. He turned up, saw the three jobs, popped out to the local Plumbers’ Merchants, returned and did all three jobs within an hour. I have already recommended him to my neighbours.

Thursday, 5th January, 2022

Warm but dismal, damp start to the day. I hesitate to write this but a blood testing appointment at 9.00 am got me out of the house and into an completely empty Surgery. Absolutely wonderful and comprehensive treatment.

Little John emerges from his lair under the stairs.

What a state of man have I become? I’m reduced to buying friends now. And robots at that! My new best friends are Little John and Little John’s Mate.

Little John’s Mate lives upstairs.

Little John and Little John’s Mate are very willing and have agreed to meet me any time I want. They just hang around charging on their docking stations until summoned. I’ve never seen the house so clean and I was responsible for vacuuming so I should know.

Definitely feeling a bit better physically than I was. Jill from next door has just Whatsapp’d me to ask how I was, which was nice. Unfortunately, she has just got Covid for the second time. I’ve had to instruct her not to kiss me.

Little Daryll came round this afternoon because we have a failing outside light. It is always switched on but only lights as the twilight arrives and goes off with the morning sunrise. After 7 years continuous working, it failed recently and our little electrician friend nipped out to replace it. He was here for half an hour while he kept us up to speed on the home-schooling of his kids, his own ongoing music education and the completion of a conservatory on his house. We introduced him to Little John and he took a photo to discuss with his wife. What lovely people there are in the world!

Friday, 6th January, 2022

Lovely start to the morning after a warm night. Feeling better again. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the fight back. I am trying to be optimistic. My doctor has just phoned to say that they have narrowed my health problem down to A-typical Pneumonia which is a form of Legionnaire’s Disease. It is typically caught from air conditioning units. I spent six weeks living in a house where the air conditioning was working 24 hrs a day. It is possible that is where I contracted it. Equally, it could just as easily have been caught in any of the shops/restaurants that we visited.

I have to renew my subscription to Microsoft 365 this week. It is about £80.00 a year for MS Office to be installed on 6 separate stations. We have it on two computers, two iPads and two smartphones. I use MS Word word processor and MS Excel spreadsheet most of all but a major draw is the huge cloud storage facility that comes with it. On OneDrive, we get 1 terabyte or 1000 gigabytes of storage and, although I am constantly using my phone to take photos which go straight to cloud storage, I will struggle to fill this facility for at least a decade.

All files and graphics are date indexed. They even stamp time, date, geographical location and, for me, go back as far as I’ve been storing photos. Each day, the cloud storage reminds me of all its records for that day back across the years. For example, over Christmas, it threw up this polaroid from 1979. I was going to caption it: The Young Revolutionary but suddenly realised that I wasn’t that young. At 28, I had completed 7 years of teaching including two promotions, completed a first Degree and got married. And yet …. I look so young.

Not as young as this young lady. This is Pocahontas in 1973, Rochester, Kent where I went to a party in August of that year. All seems so long ago and yet …

Our Office has a colour laser printer which I bought about 10 years ago and a mono laser printer which must be 15 years old now. Things have moved on a lot since then. I now want to print straight from my smartphone and iPad and modern lasers now do wireless printing. I’m researching them today.

Saturday, 7th January, 2022

A warm, drab but wet day. Going to start again in the Gym today. I was formally given permission by my doctor in a phone call yesterday with the caveat that I monitor my heart rate as I do. Fortunately, my treadmill has a built-in heart monitor so I shall have to pay more attention to it for a while. After yesterday’s quite definitive diagnosis from my doctor, I have had to instruct my wife to address me as Legionnaire Sanders as only they can get the disease.

I haven’t drunk any alcohol for 6 weeks but, as I’ve got better and started eating again, I’ve been drinking a low calorie, non-alcoholic grape juice. It’s a bit sweet for me (alright, it’s hideous) but I’m getting used to it. I’m preferring it to Shloer at the moment. We went out to Asda this morning to stock up on it. While we were out, the robots cleaned the house and were just returning to Dock as we got home. It’s a great system.

I am an atheist but I recognise that some lunatics believe in the fantasy of virgin birth, the appearance of three wise men and people ascending into heaven. That’s their choice. Yesterday is recognised by the fantasists as Epiphany which literally means revelation but of what we are not sure. Certainly religions around the world seem to celebrate it as a renewal which makes sense at the beginning of a new year.

The procession is important. Nice to see ‘our’ house at the back.

The Greek Orthodox Church particularly associates this renewal with the sea, the immediate source of their bounty. Every year, they process through the community and have religious ceremonies at the water’s side and then a cross is thrown into the waves and young men dive in and compete to be the proud retriever of the cross.

It might be Greece but the sea’s still cold!

After that, islanders, particularly, gather for a communal feast with music and dancing. It is all very simple, rudimentary and homespun but inclusive and reaffirming. So it is on Sifnos every year.

Lots of food, drink and music accompanied by ‘terrible’ singing and strangely uninhibited dancing. We know these characters so well. It is strange to be looking in from the outside.

Week 731

Sunday, 25th December, 2022

For all Blog readers who celebrate Christmas, we wish you a lovely day. It is quite warm, grey and misty damp down here this morning. We are preparing to drive up to Surrey to be with M&K, P&C and the boys which will be nice. Hoping the M25 will be clear at around 11.30am. It usually is on Christmas Day.

Boxing Day is set to be warm and sunny so we may be able to continue our tradition of going down to the beach. We had imagined ourselves barbecuing Christmas Dinner in hot, Florida sunshine but Spring Hill will only reach 7C today so it looks like we would have been rethinking that. My friend, Jonathan, in Boston, Massachusetts is experiencing -8C and lots of heavy snow. Wouldn’t volunteer for that.

Christmas week 2008.

The last two years of Pauline’s Mum’s life saw us not travelling down to Surrey because she couldn’t face the journey. She came to our house in 2008 & 2009 and we carried her up the steps on a chair. You can see from the photo across the fields of West Yorkshire that she had a cheeky, spirited personality which carried her through her 96 years.

Christmas Day 2009

Her last Christmas was in 2009 and, at least she spent it with us. It was a happy day although she struggled to get through it. Her whole life was a struggle but she fought and won 96 years. I hope I can be as strong.

We drove up to Surrey for Christmas Day. I slept most of the day and then we drove home early because I was absolutely exhausted.

Monday, 26th December, 2022

My night was a struggle last night. I cycled between hot and cold, freezing and boiling, shaking uncontrollably and sweating profusely. I have lost control of my drug platforms. My INR is going mad. I’ve had a range of INR 2.0 – 3.0 for around 15 years. I test myself once a week and record it on a spreadsheet. In the last month, it has veered wildly between 4.7 and 1.7.

I was determined not to break the tradition, and Pauline drove us down to the beach. It was a lovely day and crowds were out walking or just taking the air. Unfortunately, it immediately emphasised the problem. All those people enjoying a walk in the sun along Sea Road and there is no way I can join them let alone do 10 miles.

I tottered on to the beach feeling more like an old man than ever. Just these few paces took an enormous amount of mental strength.

Boxing Day on the beach … for three minutes.

As we drove home, I am near to collapse. I am hardly able to stand unaided and Pauline got her way. She phoned 111 who immediately said they were sending an ambulance. When it arrived, a lovely couple of paramedics started a long process of tests. Eventually, they said that they would normally take me straight to hospital but Worthing Hospital was bulging at the seams and the wait outside would be some hours. I think they were softening me up to take there alternative route which is via my surgery which was supposed to be open on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 27th December, 2022

Cathy & Baby Theo.

When Pauline phoned at 8.00 am, the recorded message still said they were open but they weren’t. I have a series of blood tests tomorrow and we can pin the surgery down to a plan of action. The Paramedics have sent all their notes and test results to the surgery. They thought it it was a urine infection which would be great in that a course of antibiotics should clean it out. Certainly, dropping the statins doesn’t seemed to have changed anything.

We are looking at Nuffield in Chichester to get a CT scan or an MRI scan. The problem is, we have ben given three, very different prognoses: a problem between the liver and the pancreas; a result of long term Statins use; a urinary tract infection.

Catherine sent me a photo of her latest grandson, Theo Servante. It obviously makes her very happy. Kevin and John Rid are incredibly proud of their grandchildren too. Just think this little one will have an average life expectancy of 100.

Maybe I will get back to writing something more interesting soon….

Wednesday, 28th December, 2022

…. but not yet, I’m sorry to say. Had another of those nightmare nights when I sweated so heavily that I woke up wet, all the sheets and duvet were wet and, at 3.30 am, Pauline was stripping and remaking the bed for the umpteenth time recently. More blood tests at the surgery this morning followed by a doctor consultation.

Springtime in Paris

Horrible, grey, wet day out there. My doctor was fantastic and gave me 30+ mins of his time on a pressured, post-Christmas day. I feel so lucky and grateful. Not only that but he will ring me before he leaves tonight if the results are in. He will also arrange scans. I really am beginning to sound like the old man I am determined not to be. Hopefully, I will break out of this cycle soon.

Summer in Provence

I am daring to believe there is a future and that it needs to be planned for. France would be good to drive through this new year.

Thursday, 29th December, 2022

Didn’t sleep well and had another odd dream. Saw myself walking on Ilkley Moor which I only did once in 1974 with my friends, Kevin & Chris. It is just a fairly bleak moor with rough grass and huge rocks thrusting through towards the sky.

Why is this illness prompting these old pictures in my sleep? They must have lurked around for all these years in my subconscious and are just now being released.

Like some hourly bulletin on a dying Monarch posted on the Palace gates, here is the latest: I collected the Antibiotics prescribed at 9.00 last night. They appear to cover most of the areas of concern in one, huge pill, 3 times a day for 7 days. The pills are big enough to give a horse pause for thought never mind a little human like me. Still, if they work, I will be delighted.

This afternoon, I am off to the Radiology Department of Worthing Hospital to have some scans and I will see my doctor at 9.00 am tomorrow to go through the results. How unbelievably good is our NHS? … Well, even more than that.

Even Worthing Hospital welcomed us after finding somewhere to park. Straight to Radiology, just manged to take my coat off when a little girl called my name and took me into her room. I was told to take my shirt off, press my chest against a screen, hold my breath and that was it. As we went to pay for the carpark, we found it was free. We had been there less than 15 mins including searching a busy carpark. Absolutely wonderful service.

Forgot to say, Big John may be fading fast but Little John arrived this morning in preparation for a quick take over when required.

Friday, 30th December, 2022

Another weird night. Woke up soaking wet and Pauline was soon completely stripping the bed and remaking – which is a strange activity at 3.00 in the morning.

Sunny morning at the Surgery.

Had to be down at the Surgery (Yes, I know, I do go on.) for a review of yesterday’s scans, the results of which were in last night. There is no lung disease or sign of Pneumonia. A Liver scan has been booked and more blood tests including for Prostate cancer. Another review to see how things are progressing next Friday. If you tot up the hours of face-to-face I am being given, you would only conclude how lucky I am being in my treatment. I, for one, am embarrassed and determined to get well and out of their hair as quickly as possible.

Petite Jean est arrivé.

You will know that Little John arrived yesterday very neatly packaged but with minimal instructions. I was guided to an on-line video which was very helpful and I quickly set it up, started it charging while installing the smartphone app to control it. This afternoon was time to see what he could do.

Before cleaning, Little John has to do a map of the ground floor to work out the most thorough but efficient route to take for the rest of his life. Only took about 15 mins. Next, he was instructed to start work. This whole ground floor would have been given 20 mins attention by me. Little John gave it 1 hour 25 minutes of full and non-stop attention before returning to base to dock.

When he switches off to recharge and await instructions, we have chance to empty him. Some, maybe most, of the robots have special dust catching bags which are held in the Docking Station and have to be removed by the user and replaced. This is an ongoing financial commitment. Ours has a pull-out cassette with filter lid which contains the compacted waste, It is emptied and can then be rinsed before putting it back.

It’s rare to get such fun on our Wedding Anniversary. We don’t take these things seriously. They are just another day in the year of fun and frolics. This one happens to mark our 44th year of marriage. The one difference is that we won’t be celebrating with Champagne or any alcohol this time.

Saturday, 31st December, 2022

A horrible, dark day of driving rain. Not a day for going out but for being tucked up and contemplative as we leave this year behind. Spent a self-indulgent morning in the Office playing The Moody Blues on Spotify on the TV app.

There is one, specific moment that I can pinpoint quite accurately in my teenage years when my developing brain was illuminated. A young man trapped in a large family and a small village was literally almost knocked over by this event. An epiphany of such proportion was delivered by a pop song. It was so significant that I can see it with such clarity as I write. I was just 14 years old and in my bedroom one afternoon and listening to (pirate) Radio London when this came on. I know many will find the ‘telling’ all too melodramatic but I promise you it is true and has stayed with me for the rest of my life.

Regular readers will know that music makes me cry. At the age of 14 I didn’t.  Standing in the centre of my bedroom alone a new release from The Moody Blues (who I knew nothing about) came on the radio: Go Now in 1965. I drew breath, felt unsteady on my feet and said in my head, That’s the Answer and was amazed to find tears pouring down my face. I felt like the song had spoken directly to me and me alone. It was giving me answers but it was 4 years before I actually did ‘Go’.

I had been looking out for a long time. Perhaps I should have been looking in on myself but do young men really do that? The next song to point the way was Voices in the Sky in 1968.

Children with a skipping rope
Tell me what you sing
Play time is nearly gone
The bell’s about to ring
Voices in the sky

Just what is happening to me
I lie awake with the sound of the sea
Calling to meVoices in the Sky – The Moody Blues 1968

I was on the cusp of ‘A’ Levels and leaving. What was happening out there on the rim of the new world? If only this innocent, cocky lad had realised. When he got away. When he got there, things were not as he expected or predicted. It was scary, exciting, bewildering, challenging all rolled into one. It offered more questions than answers. Certainly more answers than I’d got at the time.

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it’s done to me …Question – The Moody Blues 1970

When life had moved on, I was teaching and just completing my first Degree, the Moody Blues brought out this much more maturely themed piece – Forever Autumn – which almost destroys me even now as I listened to it this afternoon. The events of the past are so far away that it hurts.

Week 730

Sunday, 18th December, 2022

Today has opened warm and wet and rather dark. It is exactly a week since we landed back in UK from the bright, stark sunshine of Florida. I would like to say that I’m feeling completely better but I’m not. I’m tired all the time. I’m tired of feeling tired. I should be out walking, exercising in the Gym and keeping the years at bay. At the moment, I feel old, weak and emotional.

Probably not the time to watch Lady Chatterley’s Lover as we did last night on Netflix. It is the third version of the book I have seen in film with this being made for Netflix in 2022. I first read the book at Grammar School in around 1966. It was almost my only sex education I received there other than reading Somerset Maugham’s, Cakes & Ale. All the important pages had been well thumbed by many boys before me. D.H. Lawrence’s book, of course was prosecuted for obscenity. The prosecution was lost and it marked the end of the old world of restricted morality and the welcoming of a more liberal, new world.

The chief prosecution barrister turned to the jury with disdain and asked them if this was the kind of book “you would wish your wife or servants to read“. It showed how out of touch the old, pre-war world was from the new world anticipating the white heat of technology. No wonder the prosecution failed.

This latest film version took some liberties with the original narrative but I found it moving. Too moving. For 50 years I have tried to keep my emotions in check, to live on a ‘flat’ plane of emotional control. I didn’t read and watch fiction for fear of its effects. Letting myself go is difficult … almost scary. I am safer with politics or sport.

Monday, 19th December, 2022

Every day a little bit stronger. I have driven today for the first time for three weeks. We did some shopping – Pauline needed ingredients to make Christmas biscuits and home made chocolates. The Christmas cakes and puddings were made and delivered before we left for Florida but this picture from 13 years ago in our Huddersfield kitchen echoes the same, old rhythms of the season. 

Christmas 2009

We drove down to the beach but I was struggling to make the most of the walk so we didn’t stay long. As you can see, not many did on a grey day like this. 

I am getting increasingly frustrated with my lack of energy even though I am pushing myself to try harder, go further. I feel pathetic. You probably feel I am too.

Tuesday, 20th December, 2022

Although the Blog began on Christmas Day 2008, in numerical terms it began its 15th year this week. It has become part of my life and has reached out, quite surprisingly, to many people. I write it for myself but I am pleased others read it and I try not to be too self conscious in that knowledge. I am too old to be embarrassed about expressing what I think and feel. I am what I am – here to be accepted or rejected according to your understanding of my character. For those still with me, you need to live at least another 29 years before you can rest.

Regular readers will know that history and statistics are important to me and for 26 years – since 1996 – we have been shuttling two Christmas cards between ourselves and a Norwegian friend, Bjorn, and his wife, Anne-Marie.

This is the card that we chose in 1996. Each year it either leaves us bound for Edinburgh or leaves them bound for us. It contains a newsletter and is now so thick and well used that it is re-spined with grey, sticky tape. It is like a 26 year old blog in that it chronicles two couple’s lives over that period. I love it.

Sainsburys set up for those with cash.

It is an absolutely gorgeous, warm and sunny day down here. A day to be relished. A day to be walked in. I wish I could do it justice. Maybe soon. We made a special trip to Sainsburys this morning to buy things for the local Food Bank which is currently appealing for help. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to rely on charity for food. The fact that people do shames our country.

Wednesday, 21st December, 2022

A dark and misty start to the day in total contrast to yesterday. It is, of course, the shortest day of the year. When you’re 71, what you need is as much time as possible with long days and as little time wasted sleeping as possible. The only thing about the shortest day is that it can only get better from here.

Yesterday, we went to Sainsburys to buy things for the local Food Bank. I think we spent about £50.00. The request from the food bank was for long-life food and not fresh fruit and vegetables or other perishable goods. We just bought lots of tins of meat and vegetables with ring pulls because many don’t even have can openers

As we walked out, a member of Sainsburys staff stopped us and offered us two, free bunches of flowers and they are lovely. Really like the purple, Ornamental Cabbage set against the blush of the Lilies.

I am feeling better but not ready to do my 10 mile walk yet. I am going to try a bit on the treadmill in the Gym today. Hope that works and I can regain some confidence. I had thought that the Health bills from the USA were settled. I had even gone as far as to initiate a claim with the insurance arm of my bank. I now find that the American Healthcare system has other ideas.

Further invoices for another $579.00 have come in from the Testing Centre – labcorp – and the Hospital – Care One – which I will have to phone them to settle. I’m going to use my Skype phone through the internet to do that – something I haven’t done for years. Assuming this is an end to it, our insurance will be paying $1,014.00 to pay the bills.

Thursday, 22nd December, 2022

Slept well and feeling decidedly better today. Well, until we went to Sainsbury’s … again. I don’t know why we don’t live there at the moment. It was packed at 9.30 am but Pauline is responsible for salad Starters and alternative Sweets for Christmas Dinner so they couldn’t be bought too early. She assures me this was our last shop this week. We’ll see!

Chris

Former flat mate, Chris Tolley, who I haven’t seen since 1972, sent me best wishes this morning which was nice. It must be part of the aging process but these things mean so much more to me now. Not sure about the jumper though!

Toned-down Lights

We really don’t celebrate Christmas other than to be social with others. Some of the houses in our street have children although we virtually never see them. For the last few years, the houses have been covered in Christmas lights. The children are a bit older and the lights, this year, are distinctly toned down. Our lovely Italian neighbours from across the road came over last night and brought a nice bottle of wine to wish us well. I’m not drinking alcohol at the moment but it will go into the Chiller for when I am.

I have spoken to the insurers this afternoon and they have confirmed that they will pay my claim in full which is nice to know. There is no reason why they should challenge it but they usually do so it’s good to have a straight forward payment this time.

Friday, 23rd December, 2022

It’s an absolutely horrible, dark and wet day down here this morning. I’m feeling a bit lost and moody. I said I was going in the Gym on Wednesday but didn’t feel up to it in the end. Going to try again this morning. Looks like we have dodged the coldest Christmas in Florida for 50 years so every cloud has a silver lining.

I am working in the Office to the soundtrack of James Taylor which is a bit worrying. It is the soundtrack to sadness. Got to stay positive.

Nat.West Black Account Insurance not only said they would pay us out in full for our Florida expenses but actually did so on the spot without my having to provide any proof of my bills. They just took my word for it and thanked me for coming back early to the NHS to limit the charges. Quite refreshing.

Having spoilt Pauline with a new steam iron, I really went mad yesterday and ordered this robot vacuum from Currys. It is a Samsung which can be controlled from our smart phones and will map the house floors over the first few outings allowing us to use it selectively or just leave it to roam one entire floor of the house at the time we set.

Saturday, 24th December, 2022A warm night and a brighter start to the day. I was right to be sceptical about no more shopping. Pauline suddenly realised that she didn’t have any Mascarpone Cheese for a sweet she was making. We have 5 superstores within about 3 miles of each other but the ingredient couldn’t be found in WaitroseSainsbury’sTesco or Morrisons. Finally, we went to Asda and there was plenty.

Pauline’s hair is dancing.

Mind you, the frantic whirligig of the search just typified for me everything which is wrong about these festivities. Had lovely contacts from Kevin and Julie yesterday plus e-cards cards from Caroline in Ireland and Ruth in Bolton which was heartening. I even managed 15 mins on the treadmill for the first time in a month.

CT Scanner

By January, I intend to build back up to a couple of hours. Pauline wants me to pay for a CT Scan after Christmas so we can finally eliminate some of our wilder fears. I don’t know anything about these sorts of things but, apparently, it is a whole-body scanner which is able to see deep into the body and provide images of internal organs like the Liver and Pancreas. Looks like I will be given no choice.

The turning tide this morning.

Tradition in our Christmas over the past 40 years has been Christmas Day with family and then Boxing Day picnic on the beach – Blackpool & Fleetwood for Pauline’s Mum and Scarborough & Whitby for our choice in the North. Here it is so much nearer. Just over 5 mins and we are there. This morning the tide was high and turning as joggers/walkers enjoyed the beach.

Pleased to report that not only did I manage a walk on the beach this morning but I did 30 mins on the treadmill in the Gym this afternoon. It gave my confidence a boost.

Week 729

Sunday, 11th December, 2022

Landing on time at Gatwick at 8.00 am, we were told two things. Firstly, the temperature was -5C and secondly we had landed in a remote part of the airport to avoid skidding. It certainly was very white outside.

A frozen Gatwick

We were stuck on the plane for quite a while as mobile step structures and buses were brought out to us. It must have added at least 40 mins to our arrival. Anyway, we were soon through all the checks and our taxi driver was waiting for us. The roadside trees and bushes, fields around Gatwick as we drove away were just caked in frost. It got less as we drove closer to the coast and there was nothing in our village as we approached our house.

We were home by 10.30 am to find that the weird battery in our new Honda Hybrid was completely flat. Honda Assist came out and tried to re-charge it. They managed enough to drive it round to Honda and leave for Monday to be dealt with. Pauline got Jason next door to nip her to Sainsburys to buy essentials and that was it for the day.

Monday, 12th December, 2022

Early assessment at the Health Centre. Richard across the road took us down there and picked us up when we asked. When I met the clinician, I realised it was the one who I first consulted about my hernia so he knew what a mad old bugger I was. I had made this appointment from America and sent across the American Hospital’s results by medical link.

I rehearsed my theory about sunstroke putting my Liver in to shock which had subsequently produced all the other nasty effects. This was basically the American theory and led to the need for multiple body scans and interventions which they warned would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

More than a decade of Statins.

Luckily, he had had three days to consider the notes I sent him across the Atlantic and he knew more or less what my problem was from the outset. It is believed at my surgery it is little to do with sunstroke or my Liver but was a well known effect of long term Statin use in some people. To eliminate any problem with my heart, I will have an ECG later in the week and, after two weeks without statins, another set of blood tests. I really believe I did the right thing returning home for this.

The car is on charge over night at Honda and will, hopefully, be delivered back to us tomorrow morning. Enough for today.

Tuesday, 13th December, 2022

A much better night. Slept until 4.30 am and then on and off with the radio on until 6,30 am. Up on an attractive morning of weak winter sunshine. Honda phoned at 8.00 am to let us know that our car was completely recharged and ready for the road. Pauline got John next door to run her over there and she returned with the car. Good start to the day.

A quiet Winter Marina Scene

We nipped down to the Marina where the tide was high. It wasn’t too cold so we had a little walk to stretch our legs.

Winter Sun

This afternoon, we have put together an insurance claim for just over £500.00 to reclaim medical expenses – £300 for two Hospital assessments and £200 to BA for the change of flights. We don’t anticipate any problem with that because it is entirely reasonable.

Wednesday, 14th December, 2022

Feeling a little worse this morning. Bit shocked to have gone back a bit. Struggling to get going. However, life goes on. Pauline did a large fish order yesterday as it looks like we will be home for a while. It is delivered mid-morning so she has a lengthy job skinning and portioning it up. It should make about 12 meals apparently. While she is doing that, she is also making bread – 4 x Brown Loaves. I am sitting round rather uselessly.

My brothers and sisters meet more often on Twitter and Facebook than in reality. Bit of an indictment but there it is. Jane put on her annual, Christmas posting which I always think strange as she swears not to eat cakes and sweets. She obviously likes the tradition of Betty’s of Harrogate.

Bob, on the other hand, who is a photographer in retirement, posted this lovely shot of a walk around his local area in Maidenhead in Berkshire.

You really know who your friends are when things are not going well. Richard in Chorley kindly sent us an e-card and wished me well. Julie contacted me to say that she had stopped her statins because she was also having adverse Liver problems and wished me well. David from North Wales has contacted me twice and Kevin from North Yorkshire has tried to keep my spirits up by making me laugh.

Our neighbours have been absolutely lovely, sending us messages of sympathy that our American trip was cut short and wishing me a speedy recovery – offing any help that they can provide. It is all rather humbling.

Seems rather strange that we have received £500.00 Winter Fuel Payment plus £20.00 Christmas Bonus plus £400.00 additional fuel bill support but we are going to supplement that by completing a medical bills claim for around £500.00 this afternoon.

Thursday, 15th December, 2022

An absolutely beautiful day of clear blue skies and strong sunshine. I’ve got up feeling genuinely much better this morning and more optimistic than for about 3 weeks.

The Beach Garden

Early on, I received a phone call from a nice lady from Nat West Insurance Services being friendly but probing the veracity of the claim I submitted yesterday. Being a nice, honest person, she knew my claim was genuine almost instantly and ended up telling me about her Mother’s health and what she was doing for Christmas rather than quizzing me. She told me my claim would be paid in full but I told her that two more receipts for about another $250.00 would be coming in the next week and she agreed to hold off and wait for them. A claim that would come to less than £750.00

My brother, Bob, who lives in Berkshire, has cold, Winter conditions and took the photo above this morning. Glad we haven’t got that.

A lovely, quiet spot.

We drove out along the sea road towards Lancing to drink in the sunshine and get some fresh air. It was absolutely delightful.

Lancing Beach

We didn’t stay long because it wasn’t terribly warm but the time was enough to stretch our legs and fill our lungs with sea air.

On home for a bowl of hot, homemade, Pea Soup and then down to the surgery for an ECG – heart trace – to see whether this recent incident has affected or damaged my heart function. I doubt that myself but it has to be checked to rule it out.

I’ve had a sudden rush of blood. It must be the illness but I’ve bought Pauline an early Christmas present. I’m sure she’ll love it. I’ll make sure she has plenty of time to play with it.

Friday, 16th December, 2022A strange night of figures dancing through my head. This is an odd thing I’m going through. Leonard Cohen sang to me. Faces smiled and blew kisses. Places appeared and faded. I woke late. Outside there were signs of frost on the roofs. I didn’t know frost was allowed on the South Coast. Anyway, the sky is clear blue and the sun is strong. The world looks beautiful and I am feeling a little bit more optimistic.

NHS Provision has been wonderful.

People talk about the paucity of service in our current NHS without acknowledging that the Tories have spent 12 years running it down, underfunding it, allowing staff to go unreplaced and preparing it for privatisation. I can tell you. Dear Reader, we will all regret it if it happens. Two simple visits to a doctor plus simple blood and urine tests cost me £750.00 and the service was less accurate (more money driven) and the facilities were no more plush.

Our Peaceful Village

People in America saw me the day I turned up and they said, I’m sure you wouldn’t get this in UK. In reality, Pauline booked me a doctor’s appointment in UK from America on Friday and I was seen at 8.00 am on the Monday. Yesterday I had an ECG and that full heart trace found no problem. I must admit that I didn’t think it would. The Statins have been removed and I will have repeat blood tests after they are completely out of my system. I couldn’t ask for or pay for better and more thorough treatment.

Quaint little Angmering.

I am not completely right yet as a couple of hours shopping showed me this morning. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of it. I don’t like it and I don’t know why it’s happening.

Saturday, 17th December, 2022

Quite a cool but wonderfully bright start to the day. Went out early to collect Pauline’s new, Christmas steam iron and some 2kgs of frozen strawberries. My chef is making strawberry jam this afternoon.

The source of the problem.

We’ve finally tracked down the source of our flat battery that dogged us as we arrived home from America. Our car has a wireless smartphone charger where you just lay your phone and the engine trickle charges it as you drive. As soon as you switch the engine off, the charger should go off. We realise, now that the charger had stayed live for a week since it had been driven and even that small discharge of power had been enough to run the battery down. It hasn’t happened since.

Interests rates went up again last Thursday to what people are laughably calling historic levels of 3.5%. It is the highest for 14 years but miniscule for people of our generation. However, although I’ve got most of our money tied up in higher rate investment bonds, We have a fair chunk in a YBS ‘rainy day’ Easy Access account. It only pays 2.6% which is criminal set against an inflation rate of 9.3%. I put £35,000 in there in July but it is still about the best available at the moment. I don’t think institutions have been quick enough to react to the rate rise but maybe something will happen soon.

Littlehampton Beach yesterday evening.

These are lovely times for wonderful skies on the coast. I stare into that seascape and find it rather scarily bleak and infinite …. like death. It makes me want people.

The chef has produced another 11 pots of delicious strawberry jam and has now been allowed time off to play with her new steam iron. I’m watching the Test match from Pakistan.

Week 728

Sunday, 4th December, 2022

Day 5 of the Sun/Heatstroke and it is very unpleasant. I am constantly tired and cycling through hot and cold. Mainly I feel cold although others say I feel very hot and my body, unpredictably, starts to sweat heavily.  It has meant that I haven’t been outside for two days. It feels seriously weird.

The temperature has been quite hard to live with. Pauline found this wrap-on plastic thermometer which I’ve never seen before.

She wrapped it across my forehead for about 20 secs and a green, indicator line appears to show my current temperature is 38.5C. The standard adult reading would be 36.1 – 37.2C and 39.4 is phone the hospital.

Our beach in West Sussex yesterday morning.

Confined to the house, I’ve reached out to male friends as we all watched the matches today and shared our views on them. It is nice to know good people.

Angmering Village Christmas decoration launch.

Back in our Angmering village, Jason, our builder, will have taken the car out around the Development to keep it ticking-over and charged. We’ve been here 6 years now and the first 2 saw us socially committed. We went down to the village ‘do’. When we realised it was too exciting for people of our advanced years, we stopped going.

Monday, 5th December, 2022

Sorry to go on but this illness has gone on too long. Woke up soaked again. Talked it through and decided to get some professional advice. Phoned 111 this morning. They just said the wait to be spoken to individually would be a few hours and that the website could be consulted. The first 4 questions I answered each responded with, Phone 999 so that wasn’t much help but it was a bit scary.

It has been decided that I need to go and see a Doctor which is where we are going now. Could be an interesting experience.

Basically private A&E.

The place was fairly routine and not particularly well appointed but the people were lovely. We were seen by a very fat, black lady Doctor and her chavvy, black, tattooed Assistant. They were both absolutely lovely thoughtful although neither side really understood what the other was saying. 

Golf Fanatics in this surgery.

How much do you weigh? I told her in  ‘Stones’. How much is that in Kilos? I told her. 

What medication are you taking?  ‘Doxazozin’

How to you spell that? D O X A Z O Z I N

I spell it over and over until she says, You mean A zee, O zee? 

I said, You are weird people! 

She replied: You think we’re weird. You weigh yourself in ROCKS.

Now take this next door and stick your ‘spotted dick’ in it and fill it. I said we cover ours with custard. They both thought I was mad and stuck a huge needle in my arm. One pint of blood (maybe a bit of an exaggeration) later, my urine sample – brilliantly presented and without custard – brought the news I hadn’t got heat/sunstroke all along and it was almost certainly an unrelated liver/kidney infection that my blood analysis would reveal in a few days. A cheery farewell and don’t forget to pay $165.00 on the way out. If you feel bad and would like to pay some more, don’t hesitate to call.

Tuesday, 6th December, 2022 

I slept throughout the day until a phone call from the Path Lab late in the evening told me my results were in and they didn’t look good. I had Elevated (double normal) liver enzymes which they needed to see me about tomorrow at 9.00 am.

Suddenly, a man who got up early to embrace the joy of a 10 mile walk, loves to write and communicate, is specialised in research has found himself having to think 10 times before shuffling off to the toilet and struggles to maintain his balance in that process. Has struggled to write anything coherent for days

Wednesday, 7th December, 2022 

Pauline and I discussed over night what our response should be tomorrow and it was soon proved right. We were back at the clinic. It was as we had suspected. They had found Liver damage. They recommended Ultra Sound which would cost around $1000.00 moving up toa CT scan which she instantly warned was not cheap. How much? Well in to the multiple $1,000.00s and it is the treatment that it reveals is needed which really costs.

Of course, we have insurance which will pay for all of this but there is the sense of escalating cost set against increasing treatment. We had decided if the process sounded too intricate or costly, we’d go back to UK and the NHS. M&K have been unbelievably nice to us and they already sense our disappointment. They have said immediately, you come when you want and stay for as long as you want. It makes the leaving seem so much easier.

One of the immediate problems with this illness is that it has attacked my ability to think clearly, make decisions confidently write directly. I’ve had M help me contact my UK Dr’s Surgery through Patience Know Best. We copied the identical blood test which I had in September which produced ‘Satisfactory’ results and the pdf them for the surgery here to compare.

After we’d made the decision to return, she helped me find and book a similar Premium Economy flight from Tampa. I felt like a geriatric as we did it. Same Flight, same airports, same timings. The price of $2,620 x 2 = $5240 which seemed reasonable at such short notice but the whole thing was waived. We just had to pay a $200 administration cost.

It was obviously horribly cold when we booked and received the details on my BA app. The current temperature at Gatwick, which is renowned for low temperatures at night, says we will land in 2C.

Thursday, 8th December, 2022

Slept for a large chunk of the morning and then went out with M&K to return the hire car and then on to visit a few local beaches. I wasn’t really up to it but I did my best. I even had my photo taken with Pauline.

Ill, spaced out and really struggling

I was wearing winter clothes because I felt so cold even though the temperature was about 28C at the time. It is one of the symptoms of my problem which I think started with heatstroke. Enterprise, the hire car firm, returned all our unused deposits instantly and everything was done so easily that we will almost certainly use them next time.

I actually ate some pizza for tea – my first food for a week – but almost instantly regretted it.

Friday, 9th December, 2022

Our last full day here. Pauline was packing but I was so tired I slept almost all the time. I’ve been having lurid dreams but last night’s really shocked me.

In 1972, I was starting my first teaching job and was given a list of rentals I could try by the LEA. They were all absolutely dire. The best of them was the most deadful ‘Room’ in a former stone mason’s house which had, until very recently, been used as a brothel. I arrived there desperate for accommodation.

The ground floor room was as basic as you could get. It had a double bed in the corner, a sideboard where I could put a TV, a Dining Table and chairs under the window and an armchair next to a small, tiled, open fire. The one other room was a tiled kitchen which held an old, sit-up-and-beg gas cooker and a sink and drainer. Toilet/washing facilities were upstairs and communal.

I can describe that in detail now because of my dream. For all these years I had blocked out that awful experience. It was the most uncomfortable and unhappy of my life. In my dream, I was standing outside in the courtyard through the gate looking in on my younger self sitting in the armchair completing another Open University Essay at 4.00 in the morning before setting off for work. For the first time in all those years, my mind had allowed myself to see the memory in an accurate way. I woke up in tears.

The other dream was a typical ‘fever’ one for me. It was all very vague and difficult to recall but we were on a train in central France in pitch darkness. If you know anything about me, you will know that Pauline is my sat.nav. I am so useless geographically that I can get lost going to my local supermarket.

We got off the train in to sheer pitch blackness. I turn to Pauline for guidance. She is nowhere to be seen. I reach for my mobile but it isn’t in my pocket. I think, I am in central France in pitch darkness without my mobile and unable to call anyone for help. My mind is panicking and I am going mad as Pauline touches my wrist. I hear myself say, Is that you? A groggy voice says, Yes, what’s wrong?

Apparently, she didn’t touch my wrist. She was deeply asleep when I woke her shouting, Is that you? which she thought wasn’t normal as she was the only other in the bed. Just shows the turmoil that goes on in my subconscious.

Saturday, 10th December, 2022

Travelling day. Our BA flight doesn’t leave until early evening but the dilemma is where to watch the Match. Pauline & I decide not to put M&K to any more inconvenience and chose to go to the airport early rather than have them make a mad dash after the match.

We were there before 1.00 pm, said our goodbyes to M&K, found comfortable armchairs with charging points for our phones, iPads and Laptop and settled down to watch the match. The airport wi-fi was reasonable but the match wasn’t.

As soon as the game ended, we quickly went through the World Traveller bag drop desk and down to gate.

BA Tampa Gate

Everything was totally efficient. Boarding started completely on time by ticket price. We were on early and had an overhead locker to ourselves. Very soon after the 7.30 pm departure, Dinner was served. Unfortunately, this was one occasion that I wasn’t hungry and couldn’t really enjoy it but Pauline compensated for me. We both had the chicken and it was lovely.

After Dinner, I just pulled the blanket over me and slept and slept …. until Breakfast was announced about two and a half hours from London which was 6.30 am (UK). I just had a glass of orange whereas Pauline stuffed herself with chicken sandwiches. She certainly deserved it after being so worried about me.

Week 727

Sunday, 27th November, 2022

November 2021 – Athens

A lovely day which reached 28C/83F. Although I did my exercise routine this morning fairly early, the day has otherwise been one of relaxation. The exercise is so taken-for-granted now that I feel lazy over the rest of the day. A year ago this month, I was at the Athens Marathon. In the 12 months since, I have walked the equivalent of 150 marathons and there is still time to go. Actually, I’ve got to keep it going for another 29 years yet.

My walking has allowed me to see so much wildlife – rabbits, squirrels, red kites, hawks, geckos, etc. Today, I was excited to photo a long, black snake in the garden as it disappeared under a conifer.

It was much more frightened of us than we were of it.

The garden is a delight to live and work in. M&K inherited a garden buggy and a ride-on-mower which were left in the huge garage when they bought the property. M loves wizzing round the garden on both.

M&K have both got the gardening bug since moving here. Pauline & I are going to contribute by creating a herb garden. Almost every herb known to man can be easily grown in this climate so we are looking forward to it.

K has already developed his golf practice range on the back lawn where the pool will be installed over the next 6 months. He has always had a hankering for a fire-pit table so that is what he brought home today and set up working. For a house with three kitchens, they won’t really need its cooking function. For a climate which is fairly sweaty at night, its heating facility won’t be much needed either. It looks nice, though, doesn’t it? That’s the main thing.

Monday, 28th November, 2022

Warm and sunny morning – which eventually reached 28C/83F – to visit garden centres. We drove to a nearby one called Lowes. It was very much like a B&Q in Uk but not so impressive.

We were looking for Herbs (which Americans didn’t recognise until we said, erbs.) The plants were quite disappointing, but the barbecues were the best. Massive and really cheap. Might have to export one to Sussex.

Drove home to do a two hour walk which Pauline joined me for half of. While I was walking, a message came in from my little sister, Liz, who is usually living in London or Newcastle but was messaging from …. Athens. I have been there 60 – 70 times but it was her first visit and she was asking for ideas to visit.

The paths I walk.

My walk was dry, hot and dusty. It is such a shock to be messaged out of the blue by someone from my family. She was messaging from the Electra Metropolis Hotel which we have used and know well. We remember the building as the former Ministry of Education and saw striking teachers massing there. Now it is a 5* hotel beyond the reach of Greek teachers’ salaries.

I wrote her a potted guide in 10 minutes on my phone with pictures of places to visit and sent it all across on Whatsapp for her consideration. Even though I was in the middle of nowhere, Mobile 5G signal is everywhere in USA and there is little problem in communicating.

Lovely meal eaten outside by the water.

In the late afternoon, we drove into Tampa and went to a waterside restaurant for a 21st birthday meal. It was lovely. I remember some enjoyable 21st birthdays in the past and this was a grown-up attempt to give a young girl a memorable experience.

Tuesday, 29th November, 2022

Up early for a walk on a day that eventually reached 28C/83F. I split the exercise in two halves so that I could do other things including watch the Eng v Wales match at 2.00 pm here. Glad I did.

The long & very straight road leads me to your door ….

It was international day in more senses than one. Liz is in Athens and I chatted to her and sent her some restaurant suggestions near her hotel that cater for weirdos like her – vegetarian/vegan stuff. We exchanged messages while we walked. At the same time, I was joking with my cousin who is English but lives in France. She has returned to her roots for a brief visit and immediately tested positive for Covid.

Also, while I was walking, I was communicating with Lancashire, Yorkshire and Australia to add to Greece and France. My friend, John, sent me this photo that he took in 1969 and developed in the College Art Block. He & I plus Nigel lived there for two years with the Boyd family at 12 College Road (1969-71). I have featured it before but this is the actual picture he took as we started our lives there. Kevin suggested it should have a Blue Plaque. I’m not sure if the blue denoted literary, artistic or pornographic achievement but I’m sure he’ll tell me.

12 College Road, Ripon – 1969

There could not be much greater contrast between the two photos. The bottom one taken with a basic, b&w camera and hand developed. The whole feeling of cramped and stuffy propriety allied to the absence of colour and warmth doesn’t make one want to return to those times. The top photo with its vibrant, hot colours that so attracted Hockney as a painter but in a countryside of luxury and prosperity where anything feels possible just begs one to make the most of every day.

England 3 – 0 Wales in the Cinema Room this afternoon.

I do love reaching out across the space and time of life. It feels rich and enthralling. To be able to go back and talk to my past but move forward and explore the present while planning for the future is exactly what I want to do.

We finished the afternoon enjoying the football in the cinema room with nuts and iced-white wine. No popcorn in sight thank goodness although I think there is a machine in there to make it.

We eat about 6.30 – 7.00 pm here and I sat down wondering if Liz had been to our table at the restaurant we suggested in Athens where the time is +7hrs. She’s going out for the day to Delphi tomorrow but I’m afraid it’s going to pour down all day. At least she’ll come back clean.

Wednesday, 30th November, 2022

I can’t remember struggling so hard to motivate myself today. My exercise routine was a real struggle both physically and mentally. I had to keep talking myself through it. Just another half an hour; just another 4 miles, soon be going back for a drink. Think how much better you will feel when you’ve achieved it. My body was creaking and I was feeling my age. Out here in gorgeous scenery and 28C/83F – which is what it tends to be most days – I ought to be relaxed and full of life but, sometimes, things gnaw away at my mind and sap my energy.

No school bus run for us ….

It’s great to be retired isn’t it and free to do all these wonderful things. I meet lovely people, watch wonderful wildlife and keep in contact with friends across the world. On my morning walk, I see fleets of these yellow school buses which have priority on the roads. If I do a second walk, I usually see them delivering children to their individual homes at the end of the day.

Little Liz

While I was walking through the sunshine of Florida, Little Liz and her husband were in Athens celebrating Liz’s 65th birthday. Today she went on a trip to Delphi to consult the oracle. I warned her it would be wet and it just shows that you should always listen to your big brother.

Liz in Delphi

I’m sure she enjoyed it whatever the weather. After all, she’s spent a good chunk of her early, professional life in Newcastle so most things are better than that.

All eyes on Chester tomorrow. It is the first By-election of note for quite a while and, certainly, since Labour went into a massive, 18% lead in the polls. However, in these one-off By-elections, LibDems usually do well so we will see. Labour held it with about 9,000 majority last time so it is quite an ask for the LibDems.

Thursday, 1st December, 2022

Florida White Rabbit.

Doesn’t quite make sense but the month of December has opened on strong sunshine and me still suffering from sun/heatstroke. Everyone here says, Have a day off. Rest & Relax. My body says, That makes sense but my brain screams, Never give in.

Pauline went out with M clothes shopping to the ‘Mall’. (Quite difficult to write that word but I got there. She gets so little chance to do it at home so I hope she really enjoys it and spends all our money.

I set out on my morning walk and felt as if I was battling against the whole world. Of course, I wasn’t. I was battling my mental attitude and the soreness of my bones, particularly my pelvic area which feels as if it hasn’t been oiled for a long time. I’m still feeling quite light-headed and strangely emotional. I’ve been given this rehydration pack which is full of minerals and water. I’ve finished it so we’ll see.

I hate feeling out of control of myself just as I hate not being able to help others. It’s one of those things I’ve just got to get my head down and work through. I’ve set out on my second session and got home by 3.00 pm. I sat in front of my laptop and started to do my Blog. A few lines in, I was asleep and slept for the best part of 3 hrs. I went down for cheese & biscuits and found I just couldn’t eat. I was even too exhausted to talk.

K was watching Ice Hockey. M&P were going to the Cinema Room and I was looking for the Chester Byelection result. It is 9.00 pm (Fl) now and 2,00 am (UK). I am tired but determined to hear the result. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Lib Dems got it and I wouldn’t mind.

New Labour MP for City of Chester

The majority was well above what was expected – with 17,309 votes – a 61% share of the vote and nearly 11,000 more than the Conservative candidate.

Friday, 2nd December, 2022

Had a lot of sleep yesterday and woke feeling tired. Went out for an early-ish walk to fight off sore bones, light head and general feeling-sorry-for-myself-itus. It worked. Fortunately, although the sun was strong, the temperature did not go much higher than 26C/79F which made things easier. I managed 8 miles and will do the rest this afternoon.

Colin the automatic vaccum cleaner.

I suddenly realised that there is one member of the family that I haven’t introduced you to yet. Colin named himself and was given a post-it note in case he forgets. Colin is a vacuum robot who stalks the floors downstairs keeping them immaculate. He lives in the Storeroom where the docking-station stands. Tell Colin to start cleaning and he undocks and starts roaming the floors.

Colin can cope with most things such as piano legs or doorways. What he can’t do is climb up or down and he doesn’t do well with long pile carpets.

The White Room

So, the unfurnished White Room has a large step/step down and a fairly deep pile carpet, so someone actually has to do that by hand. When Colin has finished or, if he feels the need for recharging, he just glides back to his docking station, automatically empties himself and starts charging ready for next time. Colin never complains.

Saturday, 3rd December, 2022

Had a horrible night. Embarrassingly pathetic! Pauline woke me at 3.00 am to say we were swimming in water and I was leaking from every pore which was strange because I felt freezing. I was, in fact, burning up and the sheets really were saturated. I haven’t wet the bed for almost 70 years. Just to get some sleep, we put towels down beneath us, turned UK radio news on and, eventually drifted off.

Getting up just after 7.00 am, I was told that I would not be walking today. Now usually, I would say yes and then do it anyway because I have a slight tendency towards belligerency but today, I have had to swallow my pride and accept. It is a personal tragedy and shame but there it is. My base target has been 10 miles per day since my 70th at the beginning of April 2021. I think I did 81 days and then was stupid enough to have a day off.

The effect of that on me was so infuriating that I vowed to do a complete year. You will see, I actually completed 371 continuous days before my hernia operation stopped me for 6 days. After that I was seriously hitting back until today and you can see this run stops at 204 consecutive days of 10+ miles a day.

I am rarely ill but, like most men, when I am, I’m completely incapacitated. Actually, I really don’t like people fussing round me. Like a sick dog, I prefer to curl up in a corner and wait for the affliction to pass. Unfortunately, Pauline has decided that this condition could lead to thickened blood supply and trigger a heart attack so, for her peace of mind, I am doing as I’m told.

I have a growing list of things in this house that I intend to take home with me:

  1. The Outdoor Kitchen
  2. The Indoor Kitchen
  3. The (eat anything) Toilets
  4. The live-in Masseuse
  5. Colin the Robot Vac.

I looked for a Robo-Vac today and found lots available in the UK cost low end (£190) and high end around £1500). The one I’m featuring is around (£500) and will do 3 hrs running around cleaning up before for going back to base and emptying and recharging.

It will map each floor of the house and save that in its memory to help future trips. All our downstairs rooms are wood or tile apart from the Lounge which has very low pile carpet and the same upstairs. It can even be controlled remotely by smartphone if you want the house immaculate when you get home as I know we all do.