Week 725

Sunday, 13th November, 2022

Very humid this morning. Went to bed late because we have a visitor staying. We ate late, stayed up talking. The visitor is the Head of a company which advises other tech-y companies how to solve development problems almost before they know they have them. He is only in his early 40s which is annoying but he is interesting to talk to. We ate outside in the Sanders Kitchen

The Sanders Kitchen

It is only ‘outside’ in the sense that the side walls are just mesh screens to allow the weather in and keep the creepy crawlies out.

Callicarpa ‘Beauty Berry’
Florida Woodpecker

It has all the mod cons that any kitchen has – sink, dishwasher, gas hob and barbecue, fridge, wine fridge, etc. It is a lovely place to sit and eat. There is a much bigger, indoor kitchen next door.

The morning walk takes us along woodland roads and the animals and birds just going about their daily lives are wonderful. Saw a Florida Woodpecker yesterday hammering hell out of a tree trunk and beautiful, little finches with red breasts and black & yellow striped coats. This afternoon, I was taken by this bush which is abundant here. With its pink/purple berries, it looks quite striking. There’s something pure, simple, sweet and non-malicious about Nature which is to be admired. It has no designs on those observing it. It just is.

Monday, 14th November, 2022

Last night we were taken out to Dinner by the businessman, David, who is staying with us. We went to a local Italian Trattoria. It wasn’t brilliant as a restaurant but we were out with friends and business was paying. No complaints here. We ate seafood, badly cooked and poorly presented but no problem.

The Cinema Room

After Dinner, the girls went up to the Cinema Room to watch Strictly Come Dancing. I am not a fan of the programme but I will use it to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime.

A warmish day – 27C/81F – which was lovely to walk in. This is redneck, Republican territory for people who have money and don’t want to share it. Properties are huge and defended vigorously.

Red Kneck Country

This ranch-style property on our walk is typical rather than unusual for the area. Huge tracts of land with huge drives leading up to huge properties where they park huge vehicles. The sign on the gate says, We don’t call 911 (Emergency/Police). We use weapons/hand guns. ‘Welcome‘! We don’t welcome the dreadlocked. Lovely people.

It is Daniel’s 19th birthday this week. He is in need of nothing so I thought we would buy him something stupid. I thought I might get him a mad, baseball cap in Wallmart. Pauline was forced to model it for me. They made her look too erotic so I decided it wasn’t right and we chose something much more bonkers. He’ll love them because he is equally daft.

It is lovely to have our own car and chose when we go where and when rather than be beholden to others. Today we nipped to Walmart for some things and on to Publix for the rest. Back ‘home’, Pauline completed the production of a huge Lasagne for this evening when the workers get back from Tampa. It will be one of the best meals they’ll ever eat and it will be ‘free’.

Tuesday, 15th November, 2022

Hot and humid start to the day although we are constantly surprised because the house is permanently air conditioned throughout night and day. As soon as we step outside, the heat and humidity hit us. This morning, my valet has to do the washing.

A Launderette near us …

I get through at least two pairs of shorts and tee shirts every day. It’s also sheets washing today. Do you change your bedding at least once a week? Pauline was talking to a couple of our friends recently who were absolutely shocked we did that. You hear all the big news in this Blog!

Benidorm

Some of my friends are in regular contact through Whatsapp as we share the experiences of our lives. Kevin is in Benidorm again but he hasn’t picked a good week. He’s already sent me two videos this week of torrential rain and rivers in the street. He’s also sent me an extended clip of his karaoke performance. I must admit, it wouldn’t be for me at all. In fact, I would absolutely hate it. Having a friend who is so far removed from my world is quite good fun. I think he would feel the same about me.

David, the businessman who is staying with us, runs Clarify. He is a really personable and intelligent individual. Tonight is his last night here before he flies back to UK not far from where we live in the South. M&K were going to take him out to Dinner but he has requested Pauline’s cooking instead. Very wise man. She is producing tarragon & garlic, flame griddled chicken breasts with sautéed wild mushrooms, dauphinoise potatoes, asparagus and broccoli. I’m quite looking forward to it myself.

We went out to Publix (Sainsburys) for the ingredients. American supermarkets put ours to shame. They have everything in multiple choices and huge proportion. Living with a chef, I am used to hunting for specific types of potato, exactly the right fresh herb and the most unusual types of mushrooms, etc.. It is not cheap. This pack of washing pods does 61 washes but costs $42.00/£35.50. We have been here for just 8 days and our supermarket shopping is already £350.00. Good fun though!

Wednesday, 16th November, 2022

Woke up to a message from Jay, my next-door neighbour, asking if we had watched the space rocket launch this morning. Mind you, it was sent at 7.00 am (UK) / 2.00 am (F). He said that the house is fine and particularly clean because it hasn’t stopped raining since we left and that he would take my car out for its first run at the weekend. Really reassuring to have him there. I’ve already checked the house on the cameras at 6.00 pm (UK) / 1.00 pm (F) and it is still raining and amazingly dark. We are just about to go out for a long walk in the sunshine.

My chef’s task tomorrow morning is to make a birthday cake for a youth who will be 19 years old. Can you imagine it? It will be a chocolate cake baked in the main, indoor kitchen.

We had to go shopping for the ingredients and Chef’s enjoyment is in selecting precisely the best items. It’s all incredibly expensive though. Here is the Sales Receipt. A simple chocolate cake will cost around £21.00! I can’t afford that! As we walked into the store, they were playing The First Cut is the Deepest – P.P. Arnold. How appropriate!

Thought you might like to see my favourite part of the house. I haven’t played the piano since the early 1970s. The Art Block at College. I recreated the piece I was working on all those years ago. It is distinctly introverted and sad. It predicted the future.

Thursday, 17th November, 2022

A cool start to what turned out to be a lovely, warm and sunny day. I watched the UK Budget speech before setting off for my walk alone. Pauline is making a chocolate birthday cake so I have left her in peace. We are going to Tampa this afternoon for a birthday meal and then we are all going to an Ice Hockey game because that was his choice.

Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay

I wrote yesterday about being contacted by my neighbour to reassure me about the house. Since then, two amazing coincidences of contact across time and space have occurred. I have written before about ‘adopting’ kids while we were teaching. Yesterday, a girl called Fiza contacted me with the most moving message. She was/is a very bright girl who should have gone to Oxbridge but was prevented from going to university at all because of her culture. She went early into an arranged marriage and had kids.

She still called me, Sir and said she was contacting me without her husband knowing because he wouldn’t approve. At the age of 41, she is finally doing a Counselling & Psychotherapy BSc at Manchester and she wanted us to know. She said I was the first person she thought of when she got the acceptance letter. She said, I honestly wish you were here so I could hug you. Just letting you know that even after all these years your support and love at that time still kept me going through so much.

I was just drying my eyes when I received another Direct Message from circa 1984. I didn’t do a lot of teaching of English or reading of Fiction but one book which went down well was an American one set in New York. I have spent my life quoting bits from Harriet the Spy to friends. Last night, a message came in from a girl called Lisa who must be nearly 50 now. I can barely remember her as a child but she obviously remembered me and the first thing she reminded me of was her enjoyment of Harriet the Spy which I read to her all those years ago. She was contacting me because she had just passed her GCSE English at Grade A and she thought I would be pleased. Even at her age, she is working at Oldham College now.

Friday, 18th November, 2022

Lovely day yesterday. When I got back from my walk, the postman had delivered us a Christmas present all the way from Marsden, West Yorkshire. It was sitting on the Kitchen worksurface.

Christmas Comes Early

It was from our friend, Margaret. There are some lovely, genuine people in the world along with the shallow ones. Margaret is beset with the problems of her elderly parents and her own grandchildren, but she has found the time to do that for us.

Around mid-afternoon, we drove the hour’s journey to the centre of Tampa. It is a beautiful, modern city next to the ocean.

We had booked a table for Dinner outside overlooking the Bay. It was lovely and the food was good. After Dinner, we walked to the Amalie Stadium to watch the ice hockey.

There is ice hockey and then there is the American take on it which is absolutely mad. Every couple of minutes, the game would have a time-out and the music would blare out over the system. Most committed fans – and lots of them looked like the woman in front of me – would be up and dancing, whooping, singing and watching the screen to see if they would be featured. If they were, they would go absolutely ‘ape’. This is definitely not the place for a shy and retiring Englishman like me. Even so, I quite enjoyed it.

Saturday, 19th November, 2022

Lovely hot and sunny walk this morning. Blue skies, strong, warm sunshine, the beautiful scent from the pine trees and the noise from marauding flocks of crows looking to harass the predatory Red Kites circling lazily above. If you weren’t here, you missed a treat.

Met this little chap scuttling relatively swiftly across the sandy woodland track. As soon as I went to photograph it, it stopped dead and shrank into its shell. I tapped the top of the shell and it stuck its head out and a gave a large hiss. I got my photo anyway.

These properties back in the woods feel very remote. For the past couple of weeks walking, we’ve been watching the development of this, new property. It is not lived in yet but we know the owner is called Julio because someone living on the same track thought I was him. Two weeks ago, there was no grass here at all. A company have been laying turf in hot sun for days on an area which must be at least two acres.

Week 724

Sunday, 6th November, 2022

Up at 5.00 am leaving my valet and social secretary silently sleeping. Straight down to the basement gym for a couple of hours. Strangely, I was the only one there. 

This morning the weather had deteriorated badly at the airport.

Breakfast at 8.30 am and then out to get the shuttle to South Terminal. Through priority security quickly and down to No1 Lounge.

By 12.30 pm, we were boarding and offered a bottle of red wine. Great for encouraging sleepiness. Just woken for Dinner. I had chicken with another bottle of red wine.

A 9 hour flight went very quickly and we were soon descending into Tampa Airport. As we did, dozens of friends’ texts/Whatsapps/Facebooks/Twitters shouted out of my phone. Lovely feeling although sad to leave them behind.

After the arduous security checks – finger printing, etc, – we were out to collect cases and be picked up by A&K and whisked off to the house for …. Red wine and barbecued salmon. Delicious. By this time, I was tired. I had been up and active for 22 hours. Time for bed. Oh, Pauline & M have to watch the ‘Strictly’ results programme before bed. 😵

Monday, 7th November, 2022

Time zones do rather mess with your head. Despite being active for 22 hours on Sunday, I was awake after about 3hours sleep. At 7.00 am (UK) / 2.00 am (Fl), I awoke thinking about what was going on in the world. Fortunately, I gave myself a good talking to and went back to sleep.

I woke at 7.00 am (Fl) / 12.00 pm (UK) just in time to watch the Daily Politics on BBC2. It was excellent and geared me up for the day. Took this photo from our bedroom window out on to the front garden. At 7.00 am, the temperature is 23C/72F nice and cool because I’ve got to sort out a 3 hr walk this morning after a big cup of Yorkshire Tea.

I’m going to have to mow the grass.

This is a lovely place to be in the Florida countryside. Still very open and under populated the properties are huge and widely spread. Everywhere is big and surrounded by huge lawns.

Been on a lovely, two hour walk around the neighbourhood this morning. It got a bit hot but it was great to explore the area.

Made a new friend today. Just wouldn’t leave me alone. I do tend to have that effect on girls. Not even sure what she is – Grasshopper? Cicada? Locust? Anyway, she has very good taste!

Tuesday, 8th November, 2022

Adjusting to the time change already. Went to bed early last night – 9.30 pm (F) / 2.30 am (UK) and slept well. Woke at 5.00 am (F) / 10.00 am (UK) feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Yorkshire tea and then out for a walk to see if I could reconnect with my new best friend the grasshopper who I’m going to call Jenny.

Everything appears to be organised on a grid, ‘block’ system and there are miles of rolling hills cut through by roads on which the occasional house, each big enough to be a small town in itself, is standing.

Since meeting my new girlfriend yesterday, I have Googled her. All men should do due diligence on their girlfriends. She is a Florida native – a Lubber Grasshopper – and can be poisonous to small mammals and birds but not to humans and, particularly kind ones like me.

On my walk today, I came across this post box outside a huge, sprawling country property. Suddenly realised it was a grasshopper support. Nobody walks anywhere in America. Nowhere is close enough to anywhere else to walk to it. Everyone has multiple vehicles in the drive and petrol is incredibly cheap.

When they saw us walking down the road yesterday, people stopped to offer us a lift. They assumed we had broken down and were walking for help. The idea of walking for fitness in the fresh air and sunshine is complete anathema to Americans. I have to say, I am really enjoying it.

There is something quite delightful about walking in the fresh air while being bathed in hot sunshine. Today, we set off a bit earlier in 25C and returned a couple of hours later in 28C. Gorgeous. While I walked, I chatted through Whatsapp messages to John, Kevin and Julie in Lancashire, Spain and Yorkshire.

In the afternoon we went out for our first big shop at Publix supermarket. It is a lovely, well stocked shop. Every employee is super helpful, incredibly polite and upbeat. We bought fresh Dover Sole and said to the lady on the counter, We’re from Dover. (It’s a bit of a stretch, I know but it was meant to be light hearted.) You’re from Dover, she said dryly. Well, this isn’t. It was caught a few miles away from here. Of course, you can tell a good shop when it stocks the best brands as illustrated in this photo.

Wednesday, 9th November, 2022

Still haven’t completely adjusted to the time shift. We’ve got the US Mid Term election coverage meshing in with UK PMQs. Actually managed to stay in bed until 7.15 am (F) / 12.15 pm (UK) in order to watch Prime Ministers Questions on Sky TV on my iPad. Florida is on a storm warning so I’ve put off hiring a car until Friday.

A Nissan Rogue – The clue is in the name.

There is an Enterprise Rental outlet just 3 miles away so I’ve been finalising availability and prices. We want something similar to what we drive now. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to settle for a NISSAN. Can you believe it. Who would volunteer to drive a NISSAN? We had a brand new one about 40 years ago and the wing mirrors fell off while we were driving.

Even so, it offers plenty of what we would expect in a car if not everything. It is for three months and it will get us around. We don’t expect to be doing many long journeys ….

…. I’ve booked the car for Friday but not through Enterprise who wanted $3,700 per month. On the advice of K, I did a fresh search and found the same model but at Hertz for half that price. Might buy him a present for that. Some chewing gum or something similar.

Thinking about English friends tonight. Feel so far away. Do you ever get that? Travelling is wonderful. I love it but I feel I am leaving and letting down others. I know I’m bonkers but there it is. Kevin is in Spain anyway.

The chef cooked a lovely meal Dinner this evening – pork spare ribs with green beans and asparagus. It was wonderful. A lovely end to the day. We are expecting a Tropical Storm tomorrow. Should be exciting.

Thursday, 10th November, 2022

Every television screen in Florida, yesterday and again today, has been dominated by two topics – the Mid Term Election results and Trump’s lack of success and the coming Hurricane Nicole to a Tropical Storm.

In UK, it seemed that every effort went into keeping places – schools, offices and shops – open. In Florida, they appear to go all out for safety. In this litigious country, the media is dominated by the dangers of storms advising extreme caution.

I have to do my exercise target whatever the weather so I went out in torrential rain and blustery winds to walk for a couple of hours. To be honest, for all the furore in the media here, it really wasn’t worse than a bad day on the Pennines but much, much warmer.

Now, it is only 2.00 pm (F) / 7.00 pm (UK) and I am shattered. I am reduced to self-portraits of my leg from a prostrate position on the bed.

Friday, 11th November, 2022

The Tropical Storm of yesterday that American media played as life threatening, turned out to be a whimper of rain. This morning opened hot and steamy with high humidity. My walk yesterday left me soaked to the skin with driving rain. This morning’s walk left me soaked to the skin with oozing sweat. (Too much information? Hard Luck!) As I walked, I was contacted by David in Rochdale, John & Julie in Yorkshire and Kevin in rainy Benidorm. We exchanged experiences and it felt nice to do that.

The countryside showed the effects of the heavy rain and everywhere smelled gorgeously of pine needles as they carpeted the ground. Everywhere smelled fresh and new. The world looked great and the woods rang round with the calls of exotic birds. Actually, I’ve known quite a few exotic birds in my life. You can still see the scars.

M&K really kindly drove us out to collect a hire car. We had to go to Hertz in Brooksville for the car which turned out to be a rather bigger Toyota which meant we dodged the lowly NISSAN! Everyone at Hertz was pleased to acknowledge British people – Oh, love your country! – and were super friendly as they took our money. Have a nice day, now.

Don’t know how they chose the numberplate. Seems a bit rude! M&K really kindly guided us home and gave us controls for all the electric gates and garage doors. Later, we did our first trip out alone to shop for tonight’s meal – roast salmon with pesto topping accompanied by roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

Saturday, 12th November, 2022

We still haven’t got this time zone yet and were up at 2.00 am / 7.00 am drinking tea and downloading The Times. Back to bed at 4.00 am for about 3 hours and then out walking in the already warm day which eventually reached 28C/83F of sweaty humidity and sunshine. The woodland paths are teaming with wildlife. Squirrels everywhere too fast to photograph apart from this one which had obviously left the Home for the Visually Impaired.

Wonderful bird song echoes all around. Huge properties set in even greater land are fenced and patrolled by guard dogs who come up to challenge us. Actually, they’ve seen us so much in the past week that many can’t even be bothered to bark any more.

As I was walking, I passed a lady who had driven down her long drive to the gate to collect her post. She looked up and said, You really walk. I’ve seen you so much recently. I told her that I had to do a minimum of 10 miles per day. Ten miles! Get out of town, she exclaimed. Actually, we were in the middle of a forest and well out of town but I held back from pointing that out.

Everyone has a Winnebago bigger than a Northern Semi on the drive. Goodness knows where they take it.

We drove out to Walmart (sort of the equivalent of UK Asda which they once owned.) A woman on the door asked where we were from and, when we told her England, she said, Just love England. I asked if she’d been there and she said, Oh no but I love watching Keeping Up AppearancesOh, Hyacith Bouquet, I said. Bucket, she relied snappily. I just love her. We went on to Publix which is rather similar to UK Sainsburys. It was nice to do it under our own steam. An English, business guest is arriving this evening and Kieron is cooking steak on the barbecue in the Sanders Kitchen tonight so we can just sit back and relax.

Week 723

Sunday, 30th October, 2022

What a hot night. I was up at 3.00 am (was 4.00 am) drinking tea, watching Sky News and reading Twitter. Went back to bed around 4.30 am (was 5.30 am) and actually slept a little. 

This morning, with only 6 days to go, I am ticking off jobs from the list. Order currency for the first few days. Gone are the days when I would order £10,000.00+ in Euros to get us through 6 months in Greece. It was very straightforward. I ordered from specialist FX companies and had the notes delivered to our door for a much better price  than anyone else could offer. Now, the pandemic seems to have destroyed the business model of most of those companies as travel collapsed and those remaining only offer the same rates as Tesco bank or the Post Office. I only want £1000.00 starter pack of Dollars and then I will pay everything else with my phone and Direct Debit to avoid transaction charges.

Where has this keenness for Halloween come from? I know it’s American and there seems to be an absorption into our culture of Americanism but I just can’t raise a single shred of enthusiasm for it. Today, on my walk, parents and kids were dressing the outside of their homes with what I assume is cobweb and giant spiders going up the walls, pumpkin heads but plastic ones.

Lovely evening meal of salmon with pesto crust and garlic green beans. Drank a bottle of wine I bought in 2016 for £5.40. Today, if I wanted to buy it on-line, it would cost me 10 x that amount. Anyway, it was delicious and well worth it. In comparison with European wines in UK, European wines in America are incredibly cheap. Looking forward to a few days of that before we go back to our diet.

Monday, 31st October, 2022

The houses around have reached peak insanity. Giant spiders climbing up walls, cobwebs draped over hedges, skeletons climbing in or out of windows. Walked past one house where a skeleton was being hauled up the outside wall to the bedroom window. I asked the blonde leaning out of the window whether it was escaping or invading. She said she hadn’t decided yet. The children were running round excitedly outside.

After all these years, I have forgotten what it was like to anticipate events like this – in my case, bonfire night – but I can guess what it means to parents being prepared to put themselves out for their children. When you’ve got children, I suspect the concept of selfishness doesn’t even arise. Certainly, the parents I saw really went far to please their kids.

Cathy – 2018

Had a lovely day of contact with friends and relatives. I know I’ve changed but I am really enjoying it. Some of them are completely bonkers of course but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. My sister, Cathy, contacted me to ask for a newspaper report which featured her that I had posted in my Blog 4 years ago. Years ago she trained as a teacher and then as a Psychotherapist (what I’ve always called a Psychobabbler). Now, as a result of her Osteoporosis, she is about to set up her own Personal Training business. She doesn’t seem able to sit still.

Tits

I am trying to squeeze as much enjoyment as I can out of the friends in contact with me. I like to think we offer each other something. Julie sent me the photo above from her garden this morning. Nice photo.

Tuesday, 1st November, 2022

Happy November. It certainly started with a bang here. A hell of a night with incredibly strong winds.

A lot of people around here asking for return of Halloween decorations that have blown away in the night. The family across the road are looking for a ‘black & white striped witch’s leg with a red shoe’. Now it’s not just windy but wet. I’m having my hair cut. I find it difficult to sit still all that time but it has to be done. I wonder if you can have general anaesthetics for hair cuts?

Must find some kids!

Pauline filled a bowl with chocolate bars for Trick or Treat kids coming to the door. Now she’s talking about taking the remainder to the kids in the street to make up for their loss of a leg. Seems a bit excessive to me. What an idyllic world children live in!

As we leave for 3 months in USA, I have spent a really enjoyable morning talking to friends and assuring them that they will not escape from photos of hot sun as they battle through the snow that will definitely blanket the North of England and Northern Wales this year according to the forecast. That is the cross-border beauty of digital communication.

Verifly

Smartphones have transformed our lives. This morning, I have been able to complete all the documentation on our smartphones for travel and entry to Florida in about an hour on the Verifly App while talking to Kevin about his upcoming trip to Spain. Actually, I may have accidentally bequeathed all my worldly goods to his lovely daughter, Julia but she’s worth it.

A letter has just come through the door telling Pauline she is to receive a Winter Fuel Payment of £250.00 before January. I don’t know If I am going to get the same but I will be complaining under the Equalities Law if I don’t. I’ll certainly spend it in Florida before Julia gets her hands on it.

Wednesday, 2nd November, 2022

Still very warm but not so sunny today. Anyway, there are lots of jobs to complete. My valet has been preparing, ironing and packing clothes for the trip. Most of it is now complete and I am being dressed each day in things which aren’t going.

Had to do all three hours in the Gym yesterday because of the unpredictable weather. I’m hoping to get a long walk in this morning.

Brighton Yesterday

I’ve got to take Pauline to the hospital this afternoon to have the stitches taken out of her ‘Biopsy’ wounds.

Guide for my Neighbour

One of my last acts has been to prepare a guide for my neighbour to look after our car. I know it will make him cringe/laugh but he needs it.

Thursday, 3rd November, 2022

This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wetWind by Ted Hughes

Incredible evening and night with absolutely torrential rain and gale-force winds and yet so warm. Hard to sleep. Won’t need to clean the car or patio before I go away. They’ve both been utterly jet-washed. Bit of a drama up in Surrey yesterday with P&C. For a while, it looked like we would be driving up there. Good job we didn’t try it.

This morning we are reading of impassable roads, overturned vehicles and cars stuck in deeply flooded carriageways.

Car Hire, Brooksville, Florida

In stark contrast, I’ve settled on where I will be going to hire a car next week in Brooksville, Florida. Three months will cost me around £5,000.00 for an SUV which is reasonable.

Took Pauline out to get her hair cut. It has been cut quite short with the intention of lasting 3 months. She seems confident it will.

Friday, 4th November, 2022

Glorious morning. Got my orders for the day.

  1. Strip bed.
  2. Unstack dishwasher
  3. Take rubbish to local tip
  4. Tidy up and secure garden furniture
  5. Mow neighbours’ lawns
  6. Pack technical bag with laptop, iPads, Kindle, etc + leads.
  7. Do 3 hours exercise to keep me out of the way
  8. Sort out automatic lighting/heating schedule
  9. Anything else I’m ordered to do

People can be so nice. A beautiful, youngish girl was about to jog past while I was out on my walk when she stopped and paid me a lovely compliment: I think you’re doing so well. I see you every day pushing yourself to exercise. It’s very impressive. It quite took me back. I’m not used to girls saying nice things. Took a while to compute. Had to tell her she wouldn’t see me for 3 months but I would still be doing the same thing in the Florida sunshine. Have to look out for her in February if she’s still managing the jogging. You know these young ones don’t have the staying power

Lovely weather for Bonfire Night

The Rugby Club grounds are a short walk away and the road was lined with cones in advance of their Bonfire tonight. Perfect weather for it.

Saturday, 5th November, 2022

Up at 5.00 am on a warm and dry morning. Straight into the Gym for a three hour stint. I watched a drama production of Catherine the Great of Russia starring Helen Mirren. At least it held my attention while I worked. It’s not my normal early morning choice but these are special days. It’s amazing how one’s mind can be tricked into ignoring the pain of exercise.

By shortly after 8.00 am, the Gym was over and everything closed down for the winter. My valet had eaten her porridge and finished the final packing. The cases had to be weighed. We are entitled to 3 bags each and each one can contain 23kg (51lb). So, between us, we could put 46kg in the hold and 92kg carry on. I couldn’t lift 92kg never mind carry it on board. Understandably, we won’t use half that amount.

So much has changed and improved over recent years. Our taxi will collect and take us to the Sofitel Hotel at Gatwick around 1.00 pm. We don’t fly until Sunday but I will check-in online at home before we leave. Bag-drop is automatic and self-administered and will be done this evening which leaves us free tomorrow morning to whizz through security and passport control.

View from our Hotel Room

The ‘runway’ view became greyer, mistier and less attractive as the afternoon progressed. It didn’t matter. I was borne along on the warm air of happiness and a bottle of red wine. About 6 hours sleep tonight and then I have to be in the hotel gym to work off the wine.

Week 722

Sunday, 23rd October, 2022

Woken by huge flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder this morning around 6.00 am. The rain came down heavily for about an hour and then the sun appeared and the sky cleared to a lovely blue. I did my walk alone. Pauline was making bread and cleaning the kitchen. I’m better out of the way. 

The turn around point of my walk is at the end of Mill Road so I take a photo and Whatsapp it to Pauline so she can calculate she has about an hour to get her lover out of the house before I arrive home. While I’m walking, lots of friends get in contact and slow my progress down. I can’t leave them waiting. I have to reply quickly. I don’t know why.

Everything now is geared towards leaving UK for 3 months. We have just two weeks left so the food has to be wound down or frozen. Things we would normally do over the next 3 months like send Christmas cards have to be organised. We usually send out around 65 each year. I have done a newsletter telling all our friends and relatives not to bother sending cards this year. I will email it to as many as possible but there are quite a few who I don’t have emails for. They will have to be printed and posted before we leave.

I’ve just found that my address label printer has died. It has lasted for 14 years having been bought for school. I use my computer, iPad and smartphone so much that I’ve really forgotten how to use a pen. Certainly, I couldn’t legibly hand write all those addresses. I’ve ordered a new one. It’s coming, of course, from Amazon Prime. I ordered it at 1.00 pm Sunday and it will arrive on Monday for ‘free’. Love that sort of service and it persuades me to expect it of others.

Incredibly warm again here – around 20C/68F – in the final week of October. Covid infection rates are soaring here again and we have our Flu jabs tomorrow so I’ll be dying by Tuesday morning. I always get flu from the flu jab. No, don’t worry Dear Reader. I’ll cope.

I’m cooking tonight. I’m giving my wife a masterclass in Chicken & Green Peppers. World Beating! …. Even though I am loathe to blow my own trumpet, the meal was BRILLIANT. Of course, I’m not looking for gratitude just a little friendly warmth and the recognition of the culinary community.

Monday, 24th October, 2022

Up and out early on a very warm – 18C/65F – morning. We are going for our Flu jab. I was shocked to be told by Julie this morning that she had never had a flu jab. Couldn’t get into our surgery so we booked at a Pharmacy called Kamsons. I’d never heard of them until we came down here and I thought they were a local business but it turns out they have 70 branches across the country and have outlets in Failsworth & Bolton, Bradford & Leeds as well as many in the south.

The ‘Jabber’ was excellent. I didn’t feel a thing although I’ll probably be dying of flu by tonight but Pauline’s arm hurt immediately. That’s what it is to be a weak specimen! Got a busy day of activity now – cutting my neighbours’ lawns, doing my walk followed by a Gym session and then I’m returning to a starring role in the kitchen with my world beating Risotto. Bet you wish you were eating here today, Dear Reader!

Had a long text from David Weatherley in Bolton. Must try to meet up with him on my next trip North in the Spring. It’s 5.00 pm and no side effects so far from the jab. There will be. Can you believe our age group failing to get the jab? Seems bonkers to me.

Tuesday, 25th October, 2022

Once again 18C/65F this morning. Just after breakfast, sitting in the Office, minding my own business, telephone call to say P&C who we collected from a Florida flight at Gatwick on Saturday have both tested positive for Covid. After two years of being incredibly careful, we have been exposed to the infection. You can never trust people from Surrey! We did a Lateral Flow test immediately but both were negative. I do have a sore throat but that is probably as a result of the Flu jab.

I’ve decided not to rent a car before we arrive in the USA. There are a number of Enterprise outlets in Spring Hill, Florida where we can get a vehicle when we have recovered from the flight. Richard kindly went to the expense and trouble of sending me his guide to driving routes in America which may well inform future trips. With just over a 10 days before we fly, clothes selection – even last minute ordering – and packing is well under way.

I’m finishing putting the garden to bed for the Winter, preparing information for all the neighbours, writing to lots of people – yes, friends around the world – and relatives to keep them in the loop. Tomorrow, I have to take Pauline to hospital for a biopsy of a suspect patch of skin on her cheek. Hopefully, it’s nothing.

1971 -2022

Story of our times on the BBC website. The couple above left Northern Ireland to escape the violence. They took a campervan on a three year trip round the world. They were interviewed by Gloria Hunniford 51 years ago before they left. They didn’t see it broadcast because they were abroad and there were no recorders in those days. The husband died in 1988 and the wife pictured now was contacted by the BBC with a clip of the interview from their archives all these years on. Revisiting the past is such a rich seam.

Wednesday, 26th October, 2022

Warm weather and dry weather are preparing us for our Florida Winter. I’ve received a request from Catherine, who only lives 5 miles away, for photographs of her as a young one. I am known as the repository of family photos. I have 25 + of Catherine at different ages. This is the one that represents what I most remember of her:

Done some more walking and garden work today. This afternoon, I’ve taken Pauline to Southlands Hospital at Shoreham on Sea to have biopsies of three areas of skin – one on her face and two on her legs. She is religiously careful of sun damage and had been for 30 years. In Greece, she constantly covered up with sun cream and clothes. I never bothered. It seems that Pauline has been the one to suffer. I suspect that none of her concerns will come to anything but she is being safe by checking.

This is where I spent my afternoon. The temperature was a delicious 21C/70 F and I did an hour’s walking while I waited. Met a lovely girl in the carpark who was struggling to find the ticket machine. I went over to help her. She turned out to be a Massage Therapist from Arundel. I told her I needed massage. She mentioned Kings Drive which was intriguing. I helped her with the machine and then did half an hour’s walk before my wounded soldier returned. The traffic was incredible on the way home but we got there and life resumed.

Thursday, 27th October, 2022

Woken abruptly from a dream about Massage Therapists at 5.00 am. It is so hot. Today has really been like a Summer. I Whatsapp‘d Kevin, John, David and Julie saying I hoped they were enjoying this lovely weather and I received a barrage of abuse in reply. Apparently, they have all had heavy rain today. Oh Dear! I feel dreadful now …. a bit. Alright, not much. Told them I was in training for Florida. Didn’t seem to help.

Pauline is still suffering with swollen foot tendons. I have been walking on my own. We have reached 22C/70F here in glorious sunshine. Our last shop at Sainsburys and the Beach Fish outlet before we go abroad. I’ve been preparing the Christmas card list for contacts. Nobody will get Christmas cards. All will get explanatory newsletters through one method or another. About 65 homes have colour codes –

Yellow = Email
Green = Direct Messenger
Orange = Whatsapp
Red = Postage

For the past 30 years I have dealt with a diminishing database of friends addresses to print on labels. It used to take me hours to line up and produce each time. This year, I am transferring all the addresses to a database which will print direct to my new label printer in minutes. The awful thing is that our age means we have to edit our list according to who has died, who has separated or remarried.

We sat down together to go through the list – edit, amend or delete people who have fallen off the edge. We were just talking about a girl called Lin – a lovely ex-pupil who had escaped a troubled home in Oldham, married and moved to my home town of Derby. Just as we discussed how best to contact her, the first contact for over 6 months came in from her telling us she was leaving her husband and what her new address would be. Such is life!

Friday, 28th October, 2022

The glorious weather continues and the house is ‘open’ as if it was mid-Summer. The flowers in the garden are all still blooming and the lettuces I sowed late and just hope some would mature are all now being cut daily.

In this week in 2008, Oldham was blanketed in thick snow and school was closed for three days. It feels like a lifetime and a world away.

In the same vein, my records show that, in this week in 2009, we received confirmation from Northern Rock that we had paid off our mortgage. We haven’t borrowed money since. And In this week in 1972, I was just completing my second month as a teacher. The No.1 in the UK charts was Mouldy Old Dough by Lieutenant Pigeon and, in the USA, My Ding-A-Ling by Chuck Berry. Oh, the mists of time rise and fall in the memory!

Faros (Lighthouse), Sifnos Greece.

Today is Ohi or No Day in Greece. Ohi Day commemorates the rejection by Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 October 1940. They were certainly defending a beautiful place.

Saturday, 29th October, 2022

It is ‘neighbours day’ for me today. What kind, lovely people we have living around us. Two houses are going to keep a check on the front, two others on the back and one more will be responsible for the car as well as coordinating any reports of problems. He is a builder and will deal with any tiles blown off the roof should it happen.

My next door neighbour drives BMW and Mercedes cars but is not familiar with electric or hybrids. This morning, he drove me round our Development in my car so he can get used to the controls. Strange feeling. He is going to take it out each week while I am away to keep the battery charged.

There are all sorts of strange things he needs to know like:

  • It won’t start with the door open.
  • It won’t start unless brake pedal is depressed.
  • The handbrake switch won’t work without brake pedal depressed.

I’m sure it will be fine. We just need to lead him into it gently. He really enjoyed his first drive of an electric/hybrid.

I woke up this morning panicking as I realised I was 71. I can’t do this, I thought. Where are you? Where is my support? I realised that I had received a text from a friend – ex-employee – who is over 80 and rather infirm. She and I have exchanged postcards from around the world for 20 years. Last night she sent me a photograph of her daughter and grand daughter. I feel so old and bereft!

I have to settle myself. My turn to cook again today. Third time in just over a week. Tarragon Chicken with honey roast carrots and parsnips. Went down quite well. I enjoyed doing it. Pauline is watching Strictly Come Dancing and I am moping around in the Office – casually watching Liverpool – Leeds. When that 15 year old girl is my age, I will be 127 aka … DEAD! What is the point?

Week 721

Sunday, 16th October, 2022

Up at 4.30 am and straight into the gym. After 3hrs on the treadmill, I’ve woken up and I’m ready for orange juice and coffee. Shower, shave and packing the car. On the road by 9.30 am. 

Everywhere is very quiet. Where is everyone? Surely not in bed on a Sunday. Don’t they know there is no time to waste? The M25 is empty. The M1 is empty. Our sat. nav. keeps saying the M1 is closed because of a fatal accident but it is one of those annoying, out of date messages that we are not sure whether to believe and follow a huge diversion or not. Having learnt from past experiences, we pulled into Newport Pagnell Service Station for coffee and to enquire about the information. 

Glad we did, we moved on regardless and pulled into Repton village just after mid-day. We went straight to the little, private graveyard where my family are buried. I go at the same time every year and without fail it is damp and dull. 

Monsom Lane, Repton

It made a change to stand and remember them in warm sunlight. Still strange though. As I walked between Mum & Dad’s headstone, Nana & Grandad’s headstone and that of their best friends, Nellie & Bert, I am overwhelmed by the memory that these are people who I spoke to, touched, kissed, to who I owe my genetic makeup but are no more other than through me. I tell myself I am being too self-indulgent and leave quickly to drive up to Yorkshire.

The further North we drive the more Autumn is advanced. The colours of the trees are delicious and the M1 remains quiet. By 3.30 pm, we drive into the grounds of our hotel and unload enough luggage for a 3-month American trip never mind a week in Northern England.

The grounds are quiet but beautiful. Because I have been up since 4.30 am, have walked more than 10 miles and driven about 6 hours, I am indulged with a meal in our suite and freedom to watch Liverpool beat Man. City. on TV.

While I am writing my Blog, I get a call from my friend, Brian, in Royton. I am supposed to be meeting him on Tuesday, but he tells me he has been in hospital for 5 days and has to have an emergency operation on his prostate. Brian is a very strong man – former policeman – ex drugs squad, ex murder squad – but he sounded very emotional and clearly didn’t want me to see him like that. We agreed to meet in the Spring when I return from Florida. It just underlines for me the lesson that I have learnt in the past couple of years evaporating time underlines the importance of friends.

Monday, 17th October, 2022

Interesting day as a start to our Northern sojourn. A lot of our timetable doesn’t fit with what I intended but that’s life. The morning began at 5.30 am …. walking in warm, dry West Yorkshire. After Breakfast we drove a few miles for a lovely visit to … Halifax. The Piece Hall looked wonderful in this lovely, October weather.

It was fairly quiet this morning although there are lots of lovely little coffee shops and seating areas to meet up with friends and discuss life past & present.

Built out of local stone, the Piece Hall is a statement of prestige and financial achievements of the past in a town that has seen better days like so many in the North. As we walked back to the car through the town centre streets, we had to make our way through huge bus queues of the old and the poor which seemed to symbolise a time decades ago. It starkly delineated North and South, poor and rich. We just don’t see those sorts of scenes on the South Coast. Of course, we have buses and bus services. We have poor and more wealthy people but those sorts of socially deprived scenes just do not occur.

Tuesday, 18th October, 2022

Woke up late at 6.15 am this morning. Must have been tired. It turned out to be a glorious morning as I worked out in the hotel gym – my old health centre from almost 15 years ago. Did about 90 mins and then had breakfast before showering and changing and driving off to Hollinwood Crematorium, Oldham. The Pennines, from bright sunshine, blue sky and shades of green/brown were incredibly beautiful this morning.

As we dropped down into Denshaw, thick mist hit us. It was so evocative of years of driving over the moors to work.

We spent a few minutes talking to Pauline’s Mum/my Mother-in-Law in the lovely, warm light. I don’t remember that before in the 12 years since she died. We didn’t stay long because another, well attended funeral was taking place. We moved on to explore Middleton – a place I haven’t been for so many years. I found much of it hard to recognise. It is, essentially, very old and very Northern in character but it was helped by the incredibly warm weather.

I went on to visit old stomping grounds in Derker, particularly the site of the school I was Head of in the early 1980s before it was closed and demolished. I feel really moved by the thought that this ground was the site of so many lives, experiences, emotions. I was haunted by staff who had given so much but had been hit by serious illnesses and died in the years I was in charge.

I was moved by the terribly poor state of the housing in Afghan Terrace even after ‘modernisation’. I could tell you so much about the lives of residents there 35 years ago if I could manage it without weeping. Looking at the housing stock, the residents’ lives can’t be so much better now particularly if they are renting.

We drove on to meet friends in Holmfirth at the Vineyard. We had a late Lunch there with Margaret and Viv and a couple of hours’ chat over old times before driving back to our hotel and another hour’s exercise to work off the food.

I’m very tired and a little emotional after the long day but I’m really grateful for the friendship of the people who met us today. The older I get and the less time I have left, the more I realise the importance of old friends.

Wednesday, 19th October, 2022

Up early and did 90 mins of exercise before breakfast. Drove up to visit Christine & Kevin Northwest of Leeds.

Post rush-hour, the traffic was light and it only took us 30 mins. We spent about 5 lovely hours with them. Chris cooked a gorgeous meal of pork strips in sauce with jacket potatoes and salad followed by apple crumble. It was absolutely lovely. It is always hard to cook for a cook. Kevin kept us entertained and even showed me his bike. I taught them how to calculate their State and Teachers’ Pensions based on this morning’s announcements of September’s CPI upon which our pensions will be uprated. It was a really enjoyable day in which the years rather dropped away.

It is obvious that our experiences over the past 50 years have resulted in a divergence of views. It would be surprising if they hadn’t but the core of human values that attracted them to me are completely evident. They are good people. Someone once said that they would not have chosen the people at College. They were just random people of that time they wouldn’t want to see again. That is not my view. The people of my past still populate my present thoughts and are really valued for their diversity. Maybe it is just my sad perspective!

Drove back late afternoon through terrible traffic to visit our former doctor who bought one of our houses – 4 houses ago – and still lives there 22 years on. We loved that house and lived in it for 16 years but sold to raise money to finance our Greek build in 2000. That house is now 40 years old and we wouldn’t move back for anything although we loved it at the time.

Thursday, 20th October, 2022

A dark, dank morning in which the distant views from our hotel are shrouded in mist. Total change to the first half of our stay. Only 12C/54F here this morning. At home on the South Coast the temperature is 17C/63F – quite a big difference.

An hour or so in the Gym, breakfast and then we are going shopping in Leeds this morning. We are going to the magnificent Victoria Quarter, Leeds:

Victoria Quarter, Leeds

It echoes the more renowned arcade of Milan on, perhaps a slightly smaller scale.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

…. and then reality struck. The Tories removed their truss and heavy rain closed the M62 just as we were on it. We were stuck for a while as police cars with sirens and flashing blue lights in and out of the lanes. Fortunately, we were near to an ‘exit’ and managed to get off and back to our hotel just as the Tories imploded live on Sky TV.

The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the hotel gym and following the unfolding drama in Westminster. Whatever anyone will admit to at the moment, this marks the turning of the Brexit tide and the start of the long march back. No one will tell you that yet least of all the Labour Party who don’t want to frighten the horses prior to the election but it will be in their economic recovery plan just as it is in that of the more sensible Tories.

Friday, 21st October, 2022

Strange day which began at 6.00 am as I looked out of the hotel window to see thick fog and heavy, driving rain. The North knows how to say goodbye. Went down to the Gym and did 90 mins exercise before Breakfast.

Went back to our suite to finish packing, have a final cup of coffee and then packed the car. Set of for the South by driving … North. It is how you have to do it. To get on to the M1, the quickest way is to take the North bound M62. Actually, in spite of the rain which was obliterating all the road markings, this section of the drive was the smoothest. The M1 was dire with long hold-ups due to accidents in the heavy rain and the M25 was even worse with the Friday night traffic causing congestion most of the way.

Newport Pagnall – Highlight of the day!

Highlight of the drive was a stop at Newport Pagnall Service Station to get some fresh air and have a cup of coffee. The first half of the day featured heavy, foggy, darkness and rain. The second half saw the temperature rise as the skies cleared and we actually saw some sunshine. Even so, it took the best part of 6,5 hrs this time.

When we got home and unpacked, I still had to do an hour in the gym. Actually, it was quite de-stressing. I received communications from Kevin, Christine and Julie which felt nice. I worked off some of the stiffness from all that driving. We also had to nip out to refuel the car because we have to set off for Gatwick Airport at 7.00 am tomorrow to collect P&C from their Florida flight and take them to their Surrey home. Finally, I have to contact some of those people I failed to meet this time. Have to go back in the Spring!

Saturday, 22nd October, 2022

After the exertions of yesterday, the radio still came on at 5.55 am and we were up for 6.00 am and were driving out by 7.00 am for Gatwick Airport South Terminal. P&C were supposed to be landing at 8.30 am from Tampa but, having checked the flight on my BA App, I found that they had left early and would land really early. By the time we had got into the Short Stay Carpark walked through the airport to Arrivals, their plane had landed and we were waiting for them to appear with their luggage.

Really interesting watching people arrive and be greeted by their friends and relatives. British people are fairly cool and hardly acknowledge the reunion at all. Ethnic minority groups are incredibly excited, warm, enthusiastic displaying lots of hugs and kisses and laughing. Some groups have special, ethnic greetings. There was a group who had to say a number of ceremonial greetings and formal kisses to each member of the party. Another group brought flowers and a traditional, flat, round loaf that is offered to the arrivers. The diversity on display was delightful.

We got P&C home to West Byfleet safely where they were enthusiastically greeted by their cleaners who had done the shopping and the dog who had obviously missed them. I set their iPad up and then we left smartly because we had so much to do ourselves.

We are leaving for Florida in two weeks and staying for three months. I am told we need more luggage so we made a trip to M&S to collect it. Of course this meant parking up and walking along the beach road and past the pier. It was deliciously warm and sunny and there were lots of people out enjoying the day.

By the pier opening, it seemed to be ‘Mods’ day because there were a lot of old people standing around in ‘Parkers’ admiring the array of scooters parked up. I suppose it takes all sorts.

Finished the day watching Man Utd hold Chelsea to a draw and sleeping through Strictly Come Dancing. See you on the other side, Dear Reader!

Week 720

Sunday, 9th October, 2022

I think I get more pathetic by the day. I have always been emotional. I have always been unbelievably stubborn. I have never known such fluctuations since I was a young man. I have tried to construct a safety blanket of calm and to live inside my head. I think age is challenging that. I feel more vulnerable.

I was reflecting on these changes last night as I ignored the football and watched a film with my wife. The film was a Danish Romantic Comedy which, of course, ended wonderfully and romantically with the two protagonists resolving to live together in a beautiful villa in the gorgeous, Italian coastal town of Sorrento. What’s not to like.  I suddenly realised I was actually enjoying the plot of a woman and cancer survivor leaving her cheating husband to live with bereaved man. I’ll be reading Mills & Boon next!

This all started in Covid Lockdown and leaving the Health Club to establish our own Gym. I opened Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts and have been avidly consuming fiction ever since. Weird! When I’m on my own in the Gym, I watch Political Thrillers, Fact-based Spy Thrillers, Films set in specific, historical times, Foreign Language films with subtitles, things that challenge my thinking and make me work quite hard to enjoy.

At the moment, I am watching a political thriller called Nothing but the Truth which is set in Washington DC and based on true events of 2005 when an investigative journalist was jailed for failing to reveal her sources as she exposed political wrong doing.

Glorious, sunny and warm day for mid October. Walking in the park was wonderful. Blue sky and sunshine seem to lift most things.

Just a walk in the park …

Actually, we desperately need rain. The new grass seed is crying out for it. We are forecast rain next Friday at the earliest so the hosepipe and sprinkler system will be out tomorrow. We should have moved to Wales instead. Now, that’s a thought …

Monday, 10th October, 2022

Incredibly warm night which, unfortunately, I experienced too much of. Didn’t sleep well … again. The morning radio programme had an article about Northern towns establishing Warm Zones for people – particularly older people – to go for company, food and to keep warm. How impoverished and sad a picture that paints. We were discussing the fact that we haven’t used our central heating since we came back from Florida at the end of March. We don’t expect to use it now until we return from Florida in February next year so that will be a calendar year without the heating on. Quite amazing really.

Far from worrying about Warm Zones, my concern is keeping the Gym comfortable. It is a ‘single-skin’ Garage after all. The roof insulation has made an enormous difference – certainly far more than I would have predicted. Pauline is the practical one there. My job is to regulate and control the conditions. After quite a few false starts, I have now established a Wi-Fi temperature gauge which alerts me on my smartphone when the temperature gets too cold for the sensitive exercise equipment and too hot for the wine store. I can then switch on a radiator for heating or a blower for cooling by Wi-Fi with my smartphone as well.

There are things that a man has to do at times that he doesn’t even admit to unless it is in his Blog. I have been clothes shopping … in an actual shop! Fortunately, the trousers didn’t suit me (Who could blame them?) but it all made me very nervous. I actually tried them on in the shop. I don’t remember going in to a shop changing room since being a very young man. I won’t be doing it again in a hurry.

AM

When we went out to town, the light was soft, warm but grey. M&S is across from the pier and we walked on the beach for a few minutes to get over the shock of shopping. By the time we had been round Waitrose, the sky was blue and the sun was out.

PM

My walk in the afternoon was hot and sunny. This is the sort of October weather I like.

Tuesday, 11th October, 2022

The sun is up, the sky is blue
It’s beautiful and so are you …

Well the sun is is up at least…again. Last night was star-spangled and moonlit all night and the morning has opened on pure, azure blue skies. Of course that is almost standard for the Florida contingent.

This is Dinner Florida-style last night. We will be shopping in Publix soon and cooking dinner in the Sanders Outdoor Kitchen.

In part of my preparation for three months away, I’ve had to sort out medication, covid passes, insurance, etc.. Everything has been done on-line. That is the beauty of the post-Covid Health Service for me. I use NHS Login + records, Patents Know Best login + records and my local Surgery login + records.

Patients Know Best + NHS

It is possible to access our medical records since the start of our lives on these sites. I found my inoculation records back in 1951 as a baby are recorded here. It’s fascinating.

I am happy doing all the stuff which we normally had to book and queue for on-line. It is quick, clean and easy.

Wednesday, 12th October, 2022

Early walk in lovely, warm sunshine this morning. We leave for our annual, royal visit to the barbaric lands in the North of England on Sunday and are not expecting such benign conditions there.

We will split our time between Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. Some visits will be set and some spontaneous drop-ins. Today I fixed specific days and times for meeting Kevin & Christine in Yorkshire. There are lots of others to see around our old home there and we will set that out soon.

Holmfirth Vineyard

We also arranged to meet Brian & Val in Royton and Margaret & Viv for lunch at Holmfirth Vineyard. Although it is only a mile or two above where we lived for years, we have never been there before and it will be interesting to see.

Highdown Vineyard, West Sussex

Actually, West Sussex has lots of vineyards. The climate down here is perfect for grape growing/wine making. Highdown is only two miles away from us but I’ve never been.

We have to visit Hollinwood Crematorium to acknowledge the memory of my Mother-in-Law on one morning and then we can roam Greater Manchester as if we lived there.

Thursday, 13th October, 2022

Rejoice, we have rain – lots of warm, wet rain. It is a great relief. The groundsman on our Development was complaining how quickly the grass areas were growing but saying they badly needed rain. They have it now. We are beginning to see signs of Autumn now.

Autumn leaves beginning to fall in the wood yesterday.

Looking back in my records, this time in 2008 we were in Huddersfield/Oldham and were blanketed in heavy snow. To add to the joy, we had just heard about another impending Ofsted inspection. So, you see, old age can bring some improvements.

West Yorkshire – 2008

Those same records gave me another piece of information which I found hard to believe. I had recorded the dual fuel bill that we were paying for Gas & Electricity in our house in Yorkshire 14 years ago . It was costing us £500.00 per year more than we are paying in this house down on the South Coast all these years later. It was certainly colder in Yorkshire and the house was built in 1990 so the insulation standards were much lower but the price of energy comparison still astounds me.

Symphony Kitchen

When we bought our current house, we paid for an upgraded Kitchen. It wasn’t cheap. It is lovely and Pauline is pleased with it but, recently, she found a couple of bubbles in the paintwork on two drawer fronts. We had a 5-year warranty with the build of the house and all the fittings and fixtures including white goods and kitchen units, etc.. We have been here just over 6 years so Pauline contacted Symphony Kitchens who almost have the monopoly on new-build kitchens currently. They are based in Barnsley. They didn’t quibble. Someone will be round to fit replacement drawer fronts for free in a couple of weeks.

I’m sure you’re enjoying the political turmoil, Dear Reader. I am. It is almost impossible to believe the student politics being conducted by our government at the moment. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny. At least, we will have a Labour government shortly.

Friday, 14th October, 2022

A grey, warm day. I have been out for a couple of hours walking while Pauline makes bread, prepares for our trip to the North next week and does the ironing.

Of course, the whole day is dominated by the chaos in the government. It was predictable but incredible. Extreme in the extreme, Truss and Kwarteng are one the edge of weird and were almost bound to fail. Their disastrous effects on public life in UK is the consequence.

This is almost certainly the end of a list of lunatics who have masqueraded as British Prime Ministers. It is time for a boringly serious and sensible operator like Keir Starmer. The Tories are finished for quite a while. Only time will tell how long. Those that send out each day for copies of the Daily Mail/Daily Express will soon be cut adrift and assigned to the loony bin for some time to come.

Saturday, 15th October, 2022

The middle of October already. Our lives are hurtling backwards or we are rushing forwards. It puts the ruinous comedy going on before our eyes, currently, in to perspective.

When people can be so cold?
They’ll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them
Oh, but don’t you let them
 ….

We are going to see Our Friends in the North before that time runs out. We’ve got a 5 hr drive tomorrow. I will extend that a bit by making a detour to Repton to pay a visit to Mum & Dad’s grave as usual. So it will be nearer 6 hrs by the time we get to Brighouse. I will be up at a ridiculous hour to get my exercise done before we set off. So think of me at 4.30 am as I spring out of bed and either set off on a walk or go into the gym for a couple of hours.

This morning has started beautifully with blue sky and sunshine. A friend on the North Yorkshire coast contacted me early to say she had windy, cold and wet weather. Pauline & I celebrated the day at 7.30 am by sticking a huge spike in our fingers and squeezing out a whole test tube of blood. After that, we have to whizz it down to a Priority Posting box to be sent off to the Office for National Statistics survey hub. We will get our result in just over a week by email.

Our anti bodies are already high and, on top of that, we have recently had our Booster so we should be off the scale. Actually, Pauline hasn’t felt well since the Booster so she is currently a little concerned. Headaches, Nausea, Tiredness – these are only some of the symptoms I provoke in her.

Autumn is becoming more obvious down here. Today, the scratchy sound of leaves drifting across the road is very apparent. Many trees are still in full leaf but some are showing the in-between signs of colour change. What is very obvious is the bumper fruit harvest. Apples and pears are in abundance. Our locality is a former fruit farm area and even the park land is covered in windfalls.

Week 719

Sunday, 2nd October, 2022

Warm but very wet opening to the day. Really interesting time in the political sphere at the moment as the Tory Party gets closer to imploding than it ever has in my lifetime and in most lifetimes. There really is a chance that they could be reduced to a rump of under 100 MPs at the next election. Spent the first couple of hours watching Sophie Ridge and Laura Kuenssberg political interviews. Neither were prepared to push their subjects hard enough for my choice. Still too deferential for me.

Actually, I’m quite enjoying a series of foreign language films on Amazon Prime. I’ve just finished a fascinating one  called: The Working Girl / Tu unmérites amour. (You deserve a lover) It is a most unlikely subject for me to watch. It features a girl who is involved in prostitution but wants a real relationship. I don’t know how I got drawn into it but I found myself captivated by the main actress playing the central roll. 

Her name is Hafzia Herzi and she is French / Tunisian / Algerian hence her dark eyes and olive skin. She has the absolutely fascinating mixture of strength and vulnerability and of emotion conveyed through wordless inscrutability.

The backdrop to the film is the Parisian streets which I liked and, being soft, I was pleased to see that she escaped the city and found a type of resolution in love as she left. It was a work in progress like most of life. I think I am becoming more romantic in my old age or, maybe, just becoming a silly, old man. Whatever you do, don’t tell my wife.

Just reviewing my entertainment for the day and I notice it centres around women. The football was a complete write-off with City humiliating United 6 – 3 although it could have been 10 – 0. I think I’m off football.

Monday, 3rd October, 2022

Didn’t sleep well – listening to BBC World Service at 4.30 am and then the Tory U-Turn early on. It helps to push other thoughts aside and concentrate on politics. Did like this graphic tweeted by one wag who found this chalked on the street outside the chancellor’s home:

I actually heard one policy I completely agree with. The Tories are talking about instituting a Central Bank Digital Currency in the UK. This would swiftly bring about the death of cash. The two policies go together and it can’t come soon enough for me. I never have cash. I don’t know how to use coins or even what they look like anymore. I have even stopped using credit cards almost entirely. My phone, iPad and computer are the only things I need for paying, recording and banking. In the Tory’s view, hard money will just quickly die out.

We went out early to Worthing to visit CLOTHES SHOPS!! It was a softly grey but very warm and windless morning. The shopping is on the Beach road along the almost deserted pebble beach.

By the time we walked back to the car, the sun was up, the sky was blue and the walking was delightful.

Tuesday, 4th October, 2022

Woke at 4.30 am. It is so dark. Radio on at 5.00 am for World News. Even downstairs with orange juice and tea at 7.00 am, it is still quite dark outside. I hate this section of the year:

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This is Dylan Thomas’ expression of the desire not to give up at approaching death. We must not also. That is exactly why I keep exercising, keep reading, writing, thinking about politics and travel. Body and mind must be exercised continually. I may be flabbier in both than I would like but I am still trying.

Simon & Garfunkel – Athens 2022?

These two reprobates popped up yesterday meeting in Kypseli, Athens at Fokionos Negri. I first met them in 1982. The one on the left was a teenager whose father’s hotel I was staying in. The one on the right was part of a duo singing in the Old Captain’s Bar on the island. They were a Simon & Garfunkel tribute band. He was Paul Simon and he even had hair. Oh, how times have changed.

Of course, I was in a tribute band with Kevin in the early 1970s. A brilliant clip of our talents has recently been unearthed and I present them to you now.

Wednesday, 5th October, 2022

Incredibly warm night and even warmer morning. Not a lot of sun around but lovely nonetheless.

It is Pauline’s 71st birthday so I am on best behaviour. On the whole, we don’t celebrate birthdays. Would you celebrate being 71? I left a box of chocolates that I know she likes and this card. Unfortunately, I committed the cliché mistake of leaving the price on the back.

She has celebrated by accompanying me on a 2hr walk. It is so lovely to be out in shorts and tee-shirt in October. Actually, my legs are quite tired today. I have walked almost 4,000 miles this year already so it’s not surprising. We are trying to push old age behind us and to keep it there as long as possible.

My old friend and Cumbrian poet, Norman Nicholson, wrote a wonderful poem about how we anticipate age and respectability in youth and then disavow it in old age:

Rising Five 

I’m rising five” he said
“Not four” and the little coils of hair
Un-clicked themselves upon his head.
His spectacles, brimful of eyes to stare
At me and the meadow, reflected cones of light
Above his toffee-buckled cheeks. He’d been alive
Fifty-six months or perhaps a week more;
Not four
But rising five.

Around him in the field, the cells of spring
Bubbled and doubled; buds unbuttoned; shoot
And stem shook out the creases from their frills,
And every tree was swilled with green.
It was the season after blossoming,
Before the forming of the fruit:
Not May
But rising June.

And in the sky
The dust dissected the tangential light:
Not day
But rising night;
Not now
But rising soon.

The new buds push the old leaves from the bough.
We drop our youth behind us like a boy
Throwing away his toffee-wrappers. We never see the flower,
But only the fruit in the flower; never the fruit,
But only the rot in the fruit. We look for the marriage bed
In the baby’s cradle; we look for the grave in the bed;
Not living
But rising dead.

Norman Nicholson (from Complete Verse, Jonathan Cape, 1999)

I’ve almost forgotten that age before tired legs and bad backs. Still, I’ve got to fit in an hour in the Gym and then husbandly duties …. well making a Birthday meal. Today it will be:

  • Hot Olive Bread with Greek Olive Oil and Balsamic Dip
  • Fresh Pasta with Frutti de Mare and White Wine & Garlic Butter Sauce
  • Mixed Berry Gateaux with Whipped Cream

All sounds very filling and unhelpful to dieters but we are not 71 every day …. unfortunately. The next big gulp is 80. 

Thursday, 6th October, 2022

Incredibly warm night. I woke up at 3.30 am, soaking wet with sweat. I panicked thinking I must be seriously ill. Turned out the temperature was the problem. It was strange because I looked out of the window on a bright moon and a sky full of stars. In October, a clear sky would usually mean low temperatures. Autumn is not the natural time for travelling although the birds think it is. Here they are amassing on the wires of pylons at the Garden Centre deciding which flight path to take.

The warm night gave way to an equally warm and sunny morning. Shopping – Christmas Cakes and Christmas Puddings ingredients on the list. We will never taste them but Pauline’s family will back in Surrey. This weekend will be a hive of industry with cakes baked in the kitchen and puddings steamed outside in the garden for 8 hours at a stretch. They will be transported up to Surrey when we go to collect P&C from Heathrow later in the month.

We’ve passed the plans for the pool at our Winter House.

We are preparing for three months away. The House insurance has been sorted out. The security and maintenance have been dealt with including CCTV, Alarms, Wi-Fi heating and lighting controls. We have four lots of neighbours on observation patrols and with keys. Pauline is dealing with packing and clothes. I am dealing with flights, hotel en route, car hire while we are there, etc.. We have the Tory government shenanigans for trashing the exchange rate and making everything more expensive. It will cost us over £6,000 to hire a car now which is considerably up on what it was when I first looked in late August. Still, it is what it is.

Feeling a little sad this evening. Don’t know why. Maybe it is the dying of the year – Autumn into Winter. New years promise so much but …

Friday, 7th October, 2022

Another incredibly warm night and gloriously warm start to this morning. At 7.00 am, the sky was alive with reflected light and activity from Gatwick.

The Morning becomes Electric.

Didn’t sleep particularly well again and woke at 5.00 am reviewing all the jobs I have to and all the ambitions still to achieve. When I’m thwarted, I don’t give up. It just makes me try even harder to find a way. What I do like doing is out with the old and in with the new. I like getting rid of ‘stuff’. De-cluttering is delightful. Today we booked an early slot at the Recycling Site to take things which I just haven’t used for so long.

Littlehampton Recycling Site

A Digital SLR camera which I had bought for me almost 15 years ago by school but haven’t used for the past 5 years at least and a tripod that went it. About 5 lenses and filters which my smartphone can far outdo. A hundred different computer leads and fittings that are now redundant. A laptop that has outlived its usefulness and been replaced long ago.

All of these things go into the back of the car and have to fight for space with the prunings of 2 x 20 ft Fig Trees. I think I’ve observed this before but the staff at the site are unbelievable polite, friendly and helpful. I parked the car, opened up the back and staff leapt up to help direct me to the right areas. One saw all the tree branches and immediately helped me carry them to the skip. Makes me actually want to do the right thing and go back there again.

From the Goose that laid the Golden Egg ..

I’ve been watching these things develop as I’ve been on my walks. Thought I would take a photo today. They look like a cross between peaches and orange eggs. Actually, they are the most beautiful seed capsules of a clematis which is sprawling over someone’s fence.

Saturday, 8th October, 2022

Didn’t sleep well for a second night. Troubled mind. Woke early and it is SO dark! What a gorgeous day has opened. Clear blue sky and strong sunshine. I am garden tidying, walking and making lots of phone calls.

By the way, just found out that the golden eggs are seed pods of the Passion Flower. How could I have made such a mistake about Passion?

Phone my friends in Oldham to arrange visits. Lovely to hear their voices. Immediately keen for us to call round. Can’t wait to drop in a see them. Brian in Royton is celebrating his birthday today. Going to see him and his wife. Margaret and Little Viv will meet us at a secret location. All sorts of people to surprise!

Ford Edge – SUV Rental

Been talking to car hire companies in Spring Hill, Florida about car rental for three months. Looks like we will use EnterpriseNobody is cheap but we need to be mobile without being dependent on others.

Booking Flights, Three months car hire and living expenses for three months put quite a strain on credit card limits. I’ve had to phone our personal banking manager to double our credit limit. I talked to a lovely girl from Southend to organise that. Her Dad was a Maths teacher in the 1950s – 70s. The last time I was in Southend was for a job interview back in 1978. I got the job – Assistant Head of English – but didn’t take up the post because I couldn’t find anywhere reasonable to live at the time.

Southend is on the lead into Canvey Island. I’m going to be spending three months in Spring Hill on the edge of Pine Island. I think I know which one I would prefer to spend my winter on.

Week 718

Sunday, 25th September, 2022

Glorious morning of clear blue sky and strong sunshine. A little cool at just 12C/54F but it will soon warm up. The garden will be starting to take the hint that it is time to consider closing down for the Winter. Lucky Mandy is jetting off to Florida before us. Only 30C/86F but it will do.

I am woken by the radio – BBC R4 – every morning at 6.00 am. On Sundays, the first hour includes a programme by Mark Tully called Something Understood. I am not religious but this programme tries to explore spirituality through various topics of investigation. lt is a focus on different human traits and looks for the ‘God’ in them. lt would not be my focus. l’m interested in people and our similarities and differences.

ln my beginning is my end. ln succession Houses rise and fall, crumble …
ln my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon …T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets Part ll: East Coker

Today, the focus was on Homesickness. I have to say upfront that I have never really felt it although it depends on what you define as ‘home’. I know many people who believe the place of their birth/early development. Many of my friends have returned to or remained in the locality of their origin. lt is a very traditional view of life. For me, Home really is where the Heart is. I could never imagine returning to live in an insular, East Midlands village. I couldn’t escape it quickly enough.

The Entrance to our Development this morning.

I have enjoyed living in different places in UK and Europe. ln the early stages of each new home, there are moments when I missed the familiarity of the past one and, in our Greek home, there was always the stress of a different language and culture to cope with but that was part of the appeal.

Glorious sky over the Parkland today.

Life is about leaping out into the unknown, the untested, and extending one’s learning. I am constantly looking back to measure what I’ve got compared with what I had. lt is an evaluation process. What I take with me through that journey is a set of values that haven’t changed much since embarking on my own life. Sometimes it is a lonely place to be but loneliness really is the human condition. I feel fortunate to have people who care about me to support me.

Monday, 26th September, 2022

A warm day of sunshine and showers. Did a two hour walk in lovely, hot sunshine but there was a bit of rain either side. Still picked another kilo of tomatoes from the garden. Just can’t stop them at the moment. We are eating them in salads, roasted with garlic and olive oil, turned into a sauce for freezing. Effectively, we are tomatoes! When I planted out just three plants, I didn’t expect a lifetime of fruit.

Pauline is buying me clothes for Autumn/Winter at the moment. Trying them on, I realise that I’ve put on a bit of weight so I am currently on a sharp, weight loss programme which involves no alcohol, eating less and exercising more. I am quite enjoying it.

I don’t care much about clothes, look at clothes or need to buy clothes. Most of the time I don’t even feel the desire to wear many clothes. Only when my wife takes charge do I start to notice what is available. When I was working, I used to buy from Charles Tyrwhitt. One of my current retailers of choice is Brook Taverner but, it’s only clothes after all.

Kevin’s just contacted me to say that the results of his 2nd operation are in and although the polyp was huge, took over an hour to get out and was on the cusp of malignancy, the biopsy proved positive. He’s got to return in 6 months for a check up. So, we’ve both been lucky. It has underlined the importance of being vigilant and not ducking the checks.

Now I’ve got another hour in the Gym if I’m going to lose this weight gain in short order. At least I am enjoying a Spy Thriller called Kleo set in the period of German Unification. It involves a former Stasi spy from East Germany pursuing traitors in the West as the border wall crumbles.

Tuesday, 27th September, 2022

A little cooler last night. Pauline is saying we may have to get a duvet on the bed soon. Up in North Yorkshire, Julie said she had given in and lit the log burning stove. Looks a bit rustic for me but I’m sure it’s cosy. We’ve had log fires/log burning stoves in a number of houses but I’m rather past that now.

They are hard work, can be grubby and a bit smelly and you need a hell of a lot of wood because it burns so quickly. In age, I prefer simple, clean radiators although we are hoping not to need the central heating before we leave for Florida in November.

We’ve opened on to a lovely morning and relatively warm. Some shopping to do and we managed to incorporate a trip down to the beach for a walk. No kids. They’re all in school. No joggers. They’re all at work. No old people. They’re all in Tenerife. We had the place to ourselves under a beautiful, big sky.

I’m hoping for an Indian Summer in the North of England when we go up. It will certainly help because I will still have to do my exercise and would prefer to do it outside.

The day got warmer and sunnier by the minute. Went out on my ‘normal’ walk and met this little chap. We had a good chat before parting ways – up trees/under trees – but I’m sure we’ll meet again.

Wednesday, 28th September, 2022

Another gloriously warm and sunny day. I’ve been walking on my own for a couple of days. Pauline has injured her foot. I’ve been forcing her to pound the footpaths too much. These younger ones just don’t have the stamina anymore. So I’ve been talking to myself and the people walking round inside my head. I’ve also been talking to the wildlife en route.

Yesterday it was a squirrel and today a rabbit. Every day robins come up to chat and you can’t get rid of the magpies. The one downside of replacing the grass with artificial is the loss of birds coming down to feed so I make the most of things on my walk.

With so few weeks to go before we jet off abroad for three months, we are starting to tidy and close down the garden a bit earlier than usual. I’m also continuing to help our neighbours with their lawns. It is lovely to be outside in this wonderful weather.

Roundabouts I have known.

My regular walk takes me through a mixture of semi-urban and parkland in this rapidly developing community. It can actually look quite attractive in the sunshine.

Had a nightmare this afternoon. Had to go to a clothes shop! Can you imagine it? I never go to clothes shops … EVER for ANYTHING. This is Next in Rustington. Have you ever watched women shopping in clothes stores? Have you ever wanted to commit immediate hara-kiri? Women are so strange.

Thursday, 29th September, 2022

Gorgeous morning. We drove to sunny Bognor Regis – about 20 mins away – for our Covid Booster-4 jab. It We’ve had 3 x Pfizer shots. This one is a double Moderna. It was brilliantly organised and we were in and out in minutes.

Bognor Beach

We had a short walk on the beach and stared aghast at one of the worst piers in the world. Basically, it is a shed on sticks.

Bognor Pier (shed)

One of the scary things about the Vaccination Centre was that it was full of OLD PEOPLE. I had to queue up with OLD PEOPLE. The problem is I was continually asking myself: Do I look like this?

Actually, the lady nearest the camera had to have a chair at first while she waited but she was born in 1935. She’s definitely had a life well lived. Even so, when I’m her age, I will expect another 14 years minimum.

Friday, 30th September, 2022

Bright and sunny but cool start to the morning. We went down to 6C/43F last night. Did my walk early and then we went shopping. Awful shortage of items and choice in Sainsburys. It is really getting worse. Price rises are very obvious. Pauline pointed out a pack of chicken thighs that were £3.50 and are now £5.50 in a matter of weeks. There were only 2 packs on the shelves. This is becoming the Ceausescu world of consumerism. Soon we will all be queuing for bread.

Last Night

I’m pleased to say that our Winter Home in Florida was left unscathed by the recent storm and it prompted me to recall when we last had any strong winds at all down here. When we moved, we were told that we wouldn’t see frost or snow but that strong winds off the sea could be quite a feature. I don’t think we have had any this year at all. Probably blow the house down tonight after that!

Early this Morning

I’d like to say that I took these photos but I didn’t. They were posted by a local photographer. We live between the South Downs and the sea. It means that our climate is relatively benign with no great swings in conditions. Even so, the Autumn is certainly signalled with cooler nights.

Pleased to say we had no adverse reactions to our Booster jabs. We were told to expect extreme tiredness and lethargy but the worst we have is bruised left arms. I’m going to have my Flu jab in the same arm next week. I’m not going to be armless. We are leaving September behind tonight. It’ll be Half Term soon! Life is flying by and there is so much to do, people to see, places to visit.

Saturday, 1st October, 2022

Happy October if you can stand the pace. You may be in the present and racing towards your future but never forget where you came from. Never forget your past because it never forgets you. You will never see September 2022 again in your lifetime. It is gone!

Onward into that bright, new October. After a warm but very wet night, the morning has broken with real promise. The sun has been bright all day. A very warm walk was followed by community spirited activity. We have spent the afternoon working on the lawns of three busy neighbours – cutting, edging, weed killing, reseeding. After three hours, we are exhausted.

Sunrise in Angmering

Our Booster-4 jabs are already assimilated into our Covid Travel App which will be needed for travel to the USA soon. This really appeals to me. Jab on Thursday and digitally recognised officially by Friday. I have hardly seen my own doctor – a lovely, German lady – for two years. They have pushed me on to the sexy Romanian one. I haven’t complained but I have finally written to my named doctor with a shopping list of requests.

I will need three months repeat prescription before I go away instead of the standard two months. I have also requested that she save me £2,000 by putting me forward for the colonoscopy in early 2024. I have asked for a Prostate Cancer test when I get back in February after learning that my younger brother has tested positive. Ultimately, my letter looked like a Sainsbury‘s shopping list but it should save us both face to face time.

Week 717

Sunday, 18th September, 2022

Glorious morning and warmer than the start of yesterday. I am setting out on my 129th 11 mile walk since my hernia operation and my 499th consecutive walk minus one recovery week. Can’t stop now. Kevin is setting out on his bike for the first time since his operation although it will be gingerly done because he is full of metal clips. Julie’s invited me to the South of France but I’ve had to decline on this occasion. Time is tight!

Anybody reading this will think I am slightly mad and certainly obsessed. Guilty! But I’m not alone. Fortunately, Kevin is just as obsessed with exercise and targets.

Chris at No3 goes out each morning at around 5.00 am to run before work. Michelle has turned the Garage into a gym. Jason at No2 has turned his garage into a Gym. Derek & Alex behind our house have turned their garage into a Gym but also go out walking at 5.30 am every day before he sets off for the London train. We are all mad or there is something in the water.

My next door neighbour’s lawn is dying in patches. He asked my advice and I offered to repair it for him … because I am nice like that. Been out to the garden centre this morning to buy grass seed and topsoil to do the job while he is at work next week. Bit of a shock to find Christmas had come early. We’re still picking tomatoes in the garden not thinking about buying Christmas cards.

Actually, we are thinking about Christmas cards because we leave for Florida at the beginning of November so this year I will send out Electronic Cards (with a robin on) to those who can receive them. If you don’t have a PC/Smartphone, you will still get a card posted by our neighbour at the right time. We have to buy, write, address and stamp them before we leave.

The Establishment is going full tilt at the Monarch’s death and shoring up the Line of Succession. Like lambs to the slaughter, the royalists are queueing for ever just to say they’ve queued for ever. It is amazing how the poor and underprivileged worship the rich and privileged. 

Monday, 19th September, 2022

Definitely an Autumnal feel in the early morning air – not cold but with a slight edge. The world is peaceful as the workers enjoy a lie-in. We were out before 9.00 am walking. The silence is deafening. As we walked, we came across this poor thing in the lane by the wood.

I don’t know what the lifespan of a pheasant is but this female looks as if she’s been cut off in her prime. Even the girls are beautiful although not a patch on the Cocks, of course. I don’t think she’s been shot so must have been hit by a car and recently because foxes will soon have her.

Edinburgh – 2018

My photo-box brought out one from 4 years ago. A long weekend in a very wet and extremely windy Edinburgh with our old friends Bjorn and Anne-Marie. Pauline holding her new book, Digital Crafts. I was able to get my hands on a 3D -Printer for the first time which was fun. Unfortunately, the castle was closed because of strong winds but the flights from Gatwick and back were unaffected. Unbelievable that it is 4 years ago.

Desperately searching Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer for things to watch today. Might be reduced to cleaning the car!

Tuesday, 20th September, 2022

Another lovely day. Warm and sunny. We went out for an early walk because we had Hygienist appointments in the middle of the day.

I absolutely hate visits to the Hygienist and every time I go, I tell him so as I enter his room. It sets the tone for the half hour appointment. He tiptoes around me, cooing supportively, constantly praising how well I am doing and how good my teeth are …. for my age. I know he’s conning me. He knows he’s conning me. Whether he knows I know I’m not sure but I set the tone. Today, I am told that I’m doing very well in my teeth-care and my mouth is that of a much younger man. Which one, he doesn’t say but I’m only there because I am ordered to by my wife who has paid for annual contracts for us both.

We drive home via Sainsburys. I don’t know about you but we always wear masks in shops and our region like so many has seen a rapid rise in infection over the past fortnight. Quite a few masks in the supermarket this morning. We have our Covid Boosters in Bognor Regis next week but have received positive news from the research project we contribute to each month. We both have high resistance through strong anti-bodies measured recently.

We ate in the garden again today. The weather is rather like an Indian Summer, warm, sunny with no breeze. Life in the garden is rather like life in the house but with sunshine. We have superfast internet connection everywhere including in the Gym.

Keeping up with friends. There are so many I find it hard to keep up. Kevin’s idea of humour was sent to me this morning with a Greek sculpture set alongside a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. My friend, John Morris from College sent a copy of his wedding photo. He married another College girl and the wedding was held in Tong, Bradford. It was in 1973, Tash Coates and Chris Tolley were ushers and John ‘Tash’ Coates can be seen in the background.

Preparing for a Winter when I won’t be at home. Oh, everyone will seem so far away! The Gym needs to be kept frost-free to protect the computer controls of the exercise machines and the TV, the Sky-Q box and the CCTV hub. The wine needs a controlled temperature too. I have taken delivery of a smart socket that will tell me the temperature inside the Gym and turn on & off the oil-filled radiator to prevent cold damage. It arrived yesterday and I kept waking up in the night trying to work out how to connect it up because most people give up and send it back.

I failed last night. I failed first thing this morning. By 10 o’ clock, I suddenly realised that the Bluetooth connection on my phone was connecting with my watch and preventing it connecting with my new socket. Took my watch off and left it in another room for 10 mins and everything went through. I went out to the Dentist in almost a euphoric mood. I’m odd like that!

Wednesday, 21st September, 2022

Gorgeously warm and sunny day all day. Sounds like it was in many areas. Julie, up in North Yorkshire, said it was similar there. We had an early walk and then spent the day doing neighbourly things. Pauline was cutting herbs from the garden and giving them to people nearby. I was mowing their lawns, and we jointly re-seeded our next door neighbour’s lawn while they were out. They have offered to look after our car while we are away for three months so it is the least I could do.

Facebook Memory Bank – Ten Years Ago

Facebook threw up this memory from exactly 10 years ago today. It just shows how much has changed in the past decade. Of course, we were only 61 then, weren’t we? I had only been retired just over 3 years.

By 4.00 pm, I’m absolutely shattered. We are going to eat griddled Tuna Steaks with Greek Salad out in the garden. Wonder how many more times we will do that this year. Just got 20 mins to work in the Gym before that.

Thursday, 22nd September, 2022

Up early and out walking before 6.30 am. Lovely morning. Warm and emerging bright. The sun was rising over the wood.

My walk takes me through three, different parks and I meet totally different people at that time in the morning. On my way back, 2.00 hrs later, I meet the school children walking to their day. On the footpath a group of obviously Year 7 pupils – girls and boys dressed in pristine new school uniforms, perfectly pressed and spotless – were kneeling in a huddle on the footpath. Illicit drug taking before school? No, they had found a MOTH and were excitedly discussing it. They even showed it to me. How wonderful to be still on the crest of innocence like that. It won’t be for long.

By 10.15 am, we were driving up to Surrey. Mandy is over from Florida so we drove up to see her. Lovely journey of just over an hour and enjoyable weather and views. Traffic was light even on the M25.

We were given a lovely Lunch and talked for about 4 hours. It was good to see her again. The next time we meet will be at Tampa Airport, Florida in the beginning of November.

The Autumn hasn’t reached us yet.

We have to collect P&C from Gatwick as soon as we get back from the North of England and that will be my urgent focus now. Basically, we have 3 clear days – 17th/19th/20th October – and we have to make arrangements to meet friends in those days. Not far off now.

Friday, 23rd September, 2022

Lovely sight to greet us this morning – strong, wet rain. Haven’t seen that for so long. The garden was dancing. Drove Pauline to the hairdressers because parking is so difficult. Drove home but she was out before I could get anything done. I had to send my lover away. On to Sainsburys which was crowded with OLD PEOPLE and then home for coffee and the Budget.

It is the Budget that will break the Tory Party apart for a long time to come. It rewards the rich, boosts house prices, and shows that the slogan, Levelling Up, was always just that – a slogan. Borrowing is having to be astronomical to pay for the Magic Money Tree economic policy. This has immediately spooked the markets and the currency has fallen off a cliff just as we are about to spend 3 month in USA. It is a crisis akin to Black Wednesday in 1992 when the UK was forced to leave the ERM.

Interest rates will have to rise sharply, This is good for those of us with cash reserves. Ordinarily, rate rises depress house prices but Kwarteng has chosen to boost an already inflated housing market by cutting stamp duty for First Time Buyers up to £425,000. This will put rocket boosters under the bottom of the market and inevitably float the top end into an even higher stratosphere. Our house has increased its market value by 50% in just over 5 years. Where it will go now is anyone’s guess.

Ten years ago today, we were driving back from our Greek home. Ferry from Sifnos and then a couple of nights indulgence in this delicious place – The Poseidon Palace Hotel in Patras on the Peloponnese. Lovely times!

Saturday, 24th September, 2022

There is a hint of Autumn in the air this morning. It’s not cold but it is different. Still out in shorts and tee shirt walking for a couple of hours. Back at home, I am still having to struggle to configure this Wi-Fi thermostat plug to control the heating in the Gym while I am away for 3 months. I can’t afford the temperature to fall below about 11C/52F or it can damage the equipment’s computerised controller boards. I’m quite enjoying solving the problem and I’m almost there … but not quite.

Many friends are preparing for the change of season. My old room mate, Dr. John Ridley has had his last trip of the season in his boat on Ullswater Lake. He sent a photo of himself looking more like the Retiring Sea Captain than ever. When I think of him, it is as a 20 something, fresh-faced and studious young man. Maybe we’ve all changed a bit.

Poor old John Morris has been looking forward to restoring his mobility with a hip replacement. These are the things of old people or, at least, they used to be. John has been thwarted by the emergence of a serious melanoma near the point of operation and his hip replacement has been put on hold. For someone who loves to travel, it has proved very frustrating.

David Roberts, on the other hand, has been getting as much travelling under his belt as he can before winter – cruise around the Med including time in Athens. Now he’s spent the last few weeks in the south of France and travelling down the Canal du Midi. Today he’s in Carcassonne. I am very jealous!

Even Ziggy the cat has come back home for Winter. He has been missing for 6 months from a house on our Development. There have been frantic requests put out in the hope that a resident might find him. You would have thought they would all have given up after 6 months but he was spotted this week and persuaded to go home. Joy all round.

Julie is full of joy. She tells me that her weight loss program has resulted in a pair of jeans 2 sizes smaller than when I last saw her. She is naturally overjoyed and committed to eating lettuce for the rest of her life. Poor girl! Kevin, on the other hand is still full of metal clips but managed to evade Christine’s ire and get out on his bike. He seemed to enjoy it and got home after 13km – which of course isn’t much – without any mishaps.

We will see them all again soon and then jet off to avoid Winter altogether while we annoy Mandy in our Florida Winter Home. Going to visit my friend in Shaw before that. Haven’t seen each other for ages.

Week 716

Sunday, 11th September, 2022

Glorious morning – warm and sunny with blue skies. Didn’t sleep well but today will be busy so I just need to get on with it. We have insulation installers arriving early tomorrow morning to work on the Gym roof. In preparation, I have to bring down everything stored in the suspended ceiling including lots of empty, plastic storage boxes used for moving, some suitcases, a large fridge for the car, a spare Dining Chair, a box of computer parts (just in case), etc. We all accumulate so much ‘stuff’.

It will be a good occasion to re-address the accumulation of ‘stuff’. I like that sort of thing – throwing away the past and moving on, starting again.

Fortunately, the next week is going to be dry so most of my exercise will be done outside and I can cover all the equipment in sheeting. Yesterday, I was able to watch the cricket from the treadmill which made a refreshing change from all the constitutional whitewash.

Talking of whitewash, just spoken to Kevin who is not looking forward to Monday but has started the process of evacuation and cleansing. I’ve tried to encourage him by pointing out that at least he will lose weight. Not sure it worked.

Lovely walk in Summer sun which reached 24C/75F followed by a meal out in the garden in the perfect evening. Bottle of champagne and fish for our Supper. There are not many things that could improve on life for me. Mandy flies in from Florida tonight and it will be nice to see her but I am preparing to tie up dates for our October trip to the North and even thinking to book Athens for next September. I am looking forward while continuing to enjoy my past.

Monday, 12th September, 2022

Very warm night with clear, moonlit sky. Didn’t drop below 18C/65F overnight and has opened to a gloriously sunny morning. The Gym insulators arrived shortly after 8.00 am and say they should manage it in a day. They seem more interested in my wine collection than the roof.

Pauline booked us in for our Covid Booster jabs in time for travelling to Yorks./Lancs. and meeting lots of people. We are driving 8 miles to sunny Bognor Regis to a concrete box to have our protection boosted for another 6 months or so. We have also booked our ‘Flu’ jabs. It will take us through our Florida trip and give us more confidence in crowded spaces like airports, shopping malls, etc..

Had some banter with Kevin this morning because it is his big day. I ‘m sure everything will go well. It carried on as I walked in 27C/81F of Summer. Meanwhile, Dave Weatherley, in Bolton posted this from his morning walk.

I really don’t miss that sort of weather at all. Haven’t seen Northern mists for years. Love walking round lakes though!

Tuesday, 13th September, 2022

Didn’t sleep … again. Up early and out for a blood test at the surgery. I’m probably dying. No, don’t concern yourself, Dear Reader. We all have to in the end. Kevin’s procedure wasn’t completely conclusive which has annoyed/worried him. He was in surgery for over an hour which is a long time and he is sore and discomfited. I still think he will be alright. Hell, we sound old!

Track for the day … Harking back to a time I barely remember …

Property prices down here are ridiculous. This beach hut sold for £30,000.00 yesterday and our modest house price increase has made us nominal millionaires. The whole thing is crazy! Currently, another circa 1000 new homes are proposed within the Angmering area.

Wednesday, 14th September, 2022

A wet start to the day. Going to be in the Gym this morning … after it has been cleaned. The insulation created a huge amount of white dust. Everything was covered in dust sheets but there is still a lot lingering. I’ve sent my cleaner in there. Meanwhile, I am researching happier things like … Death in Service benefits for teachers.

I have spent 40 mins on the Teachers Pensions website and I’m still not very much clearer. The Unions have been so busy fighting for benefits for same-sex partnerships that heterosexual partnerships seem to have suffered and the whole thing has become muddied and unclear. Certainly, it isn’t easy to claim or to know what one is claiming.

I know you will think I’m mad (What am I saying? You already think I’m mad!) but I am preparing a folder for the filing cabinet marked: In Case of Death. It will contain copies of Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Teachers Pension Logins, Proof of Bank Accounts, Savings and Investment Accounts. I can imagine the panic at the death of a partner and the relief at having everything ready to hand.

Today: John Williams – Theme from Schindler’s List:

As I look outside at the curtain of soft, wetting rain greying out the view, my photo memory store brings up two images from 2009.

This week in 2009.

This picture taken up to the top of our field and looking down over the house and on to the port of Kamares. On that day, it was 32C/90F as we climbed the land towards the olive & peach trees to photograph the scene.

England in Greece.

This second photo is a reminder that we were interlopers – however welcome – in a foreign country. The oak settle, in the house built on a remote Greek island, originated in Oldham Town Hall. The log burner was sourced in a shop in Halifax and the standard lamp was bought in Leeds. The photographs on the walls were of other houses we had lived in in UK. The log baskets were bought from itinerant Gypsies who travelled the Cyclades, making and selling their wares. The photos are back on the walls of our Office now but everything else was left behind to continue its life in others’ hands.

We finished the day in 23C/73F of warm sunshine under blue skies in the garden eating Supper. Lovely end to the day having completed my 11 miles, talked to Kevin who is readjusting to his position and recalling running a marathon in Leeds in 1986 with Jimmy Saville. We all review our past constantly as we prepare for the future. Nothing can be erased or whitewashed out. We learn from it and move forward.

Thursday, 15th September, 2022

A very busy day. Awake since 3.00 am, up at 5.00 am on a warm and dry morning. Still dark. Shorts & tee-shirt on and out for a walk. Quiet, still, silent and beautiful, the morning was delightful. Out for 2 hrs and then back for Orange Juice & Tea before another 30 mins in the Gym.

Shower and on the road by 9.00 am. We are driving to Milton Keynes via M25 +M1. It usually takes 2.5 hrs but today is 3hrs. By the time we arrive, I’ve been awake for 9 hrs and moving for 7 of them. We are going to visit Pauline’s old College friend, Christine. She was widowed 5 years ago when her husband died of Bowel cancer which returned 10 yrs after being declared clear. He was only 62. Christine is a lovely girl who I have taken to immediately.

We talk over coffee and then go out for Lunch which is very pleasant at a local pub.. I never go to pubs but it is Christine’s choice and we indulge her. I feel terribly sorry for her. She is obviously very lonely in spite of having 3 grown up sons nearby. After about 5 hours visit, we have to leave. They agree to meet with other friends from their College days but without me next time. I feel terrible deserting her and leaving her alone on the doorstep but we will have a fight through the M25 rush hour traffic.

The traffic is even worse on the M25 homeward bound but we get there. Pauline prepares a snack of prawns & Salad for Supper while I do another hour in the Gym. While I’ve been out, lots of friends and people I know have been contacting me. I usually respond quickly. Tonight, I do it in my own time.

Friday, 16th September, 2022

Up early on a lovely morning for a Sainsburys Click-&-Collect at 8.00 am. On to Tesco and then Asda for petrol. We really live it up! Still, the sun is shining from a lovely blue sky, the day is warm and enjoyable and I’ve got tasks to complete. What more could you want? A few things but ….

Every day, I read the local newspapers from places I have lived. The Derby Evening News is less often now but the Manchester Evening News and the Huddersfield Examiner are regulars as is the Worthing Argus. I even read the Chester Chronicle for old times sake. Today, an item caught my interest. The milky river.

Alkrington Woods Nature Reserve – Milky River

Goodness knows what the local residents have been tipping in there but the result is quite dramatic.

A week ago in the North, Julie said her tomatoes were coming to an end. Ours are still going strong but a couple of cold nights will probably stop them. They have been a real success. Our friends in the North have done well this year and I’m looking forward to seeing them in October.

Saturday, 17th September, 2022

Coldest night of the Summer/Autumn so far. I was sleeping with a girl who wanted a duvet. Can you believe that? I thought I was hot enough!

The times are obviously moving on. Last week we had sparkling skies at night but didn’t fall below 17C/63F. Last night we had sparkling skies and the temperature fell to 6C/43F. Evening darkness is falling quickly now. The sun sets here at 7.15 pm this weekend and rises at 6.45 am. Just 12.5 hrs of daylight and declining. In Florida, the daylight is just about 12hrs and night time doesn’t fall below 25C/77F. I don’t think anyone will need a duvet there unless they set the air-con too low. Day time temperatures are 32C/90F which will do.

Glorious morning. Been busy already. I’ve been sending Phyllis photographs. She has just got her first smartphone at the ripe old age of 180 and now has to get to grips with Whatsapp. It’s a strange quirk of mobile phone texting that you can send as many texts as you like for ‘free’ within your contract but, as soon as you attach a graphic, they charge you a ‘relative’ fortune. If you use Whatsapp on your mobile phone and attach graphics, everything is completely free.

Lovely sunshine on our walk and the recent rains have halted the early signs of Autumn in the trees. Grass everywhere has grown back even more lushly.

Doffcocker Lodge, Bolton

Dave Weatherley in Bolton sent this beautifully Autumnal shot of his local Nature Reserve where he walks most mornings.

Decided that it’s time to prune the Fig trees back. They have grown to an embarrassing height – at least 20 ft – but neither my neighbour behind or the ones at the side had complained. The Brown Turkey Fig fruited well whereas the Versailles Fig didn’t ripen in time. I may have to reconsider them next season.