Week 28

28th June, 2009

Quiet day in the sunshine with the Sunday papers. Absolute bliss!

29th June, 2009

Lovely swim this morning. Bowl of porridge and checked email. Had one from Liz – we all did – making the same point Bob & Jane had done before that she was enjoying work and couldn’t envisage retiring. I am pleased for them all but my reply to Liz sums up my view:

“I’m afraid there is too much I want to do to go on working. I definitely did not want to die working. Mum had been trying to get me to retire almost since I was 50. She feared a repeat of Dad. I have no intention of dying young but, when I go, I would like to die picking peaches in my garden, sipping ouzo in a Peloponnese Ouzerie, meandering down the Grand Canal in Venice or sipping Espresso in Bologna or exploring the fish market in Marseille or touring the vineyards of the Dordogne or on my book signing tour of Great Britain or ……………. I may only have twenty five years left. Can I fit it all in?”

I hope my adventure will continue for years to come. I might go raspberry picking tomorrow.

June 3oth, 2009

Raspberry picking was off today because of rain. Inspite of this, the rain was very welcome. We have had no rain for about a fortnight and the Hostas are beginning to look distressed. Ruth told me she was celebrating her 37th wedding anniversary at the Rendevous Hotel in the beautiful market town of Skipton. I sent the hotel an email telling them about her wedding anniversary and asked them to pass on my best wishes. I was hoping they might give her a bunch of flowers or a bottle of champagne.

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I was shocked to get an immediate reply from a worried Receptionist saying she had no record of the booking. I phoned Ruth on her mobile. She told me the website she had booked it through. I phoned the hotel receptionist who turned out to be a lovely girl. I gave her the details and she said she would sort them out with the website. I passed the hotel phone number on to Ruth & Kev who were travelling by bus ‘for an adventure’. I must admit I’ve had all the bus ‘adventures’ to satisfy me for a life time and the only ones I can tolerate now are airport shuttle buses.

1st July, 2009

White Rabbit! July began with a steamy 28C. A trip to Oldham to have Pauline’s Mum’s pacemaker checked, a lovely long swim at the Health Club and a spot of Wimbledon watching. All being well, tomorrow will be raspberry picking.

2nd July, 2009

True to our word, the wonderfully hot and sunny morning found us in Emley at 9.30 picking raspberries – about 8 kilos. It was an enjoyable experience which cost us £3.50 per kilo. Sainsburys charges £8.64 per kilo without the sunny field and sense of satisfaction.


Home for coffee and The Times. I did the Hoovering. (I know I should say vacuuming but I can’t get out of the habit). It even annoys me. It always used to drive me insane that Mum never went to see a doctor; it was always the ‘Doc’.. People didn’t drive a Mercedes; it was always a ‘Merc’.. And she always had a ‘spot’ of lunch. Don’t get me started on this because I could write a book on it. Even now I have only known two people describe cold weather as ‘chilly pom pom’ – Mum and a girl I once met who I ditched the moment she said it.

3rd July, 2009

Can you believe the date? I leave for Greece two weeks today. Next year, I will have been there for more than three months already.

4th June, 2009

On Monday we have to post boxes to Greece containing all the things we cannot fit in the car. We bear in mind the fact that, when we come back in October, we will only have four months until we return in March. So things that can be left until then will be. For example, I want to take a pressure washer but it will wait until next year. Essentials for this year include:

  • Kitchen gadgets ( Food Processor, mandolin, potato ricer, meat mincer & sausage maker),
  • Standard Lamp,
  • Cases of wine,
  • Gardening implements (spade, fork, etc.),
  • Computer with monitor and scanner,
  • Additional crockery,
  • Food stuffs better bought in England (Breakfast & Assam tea, Columbian coffee, etc.)
  • Additional clothes to refresh wardrobe
  • Toiletries better or cheaper in England (soap, tissues, sun cream, tooth paste, etc..)

So today, we are preparing to have a practice pack of the car.

Week 27

21st June, 2009

Had a couple of emails from Ruth today. She is a lovely sister to have. So understanding. She sent me a couple of photos which I will feature on the website this coming weekend but I will store here immediately.

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This is Ruth, Joanne & Brandon. I can remember Joanne shuffling round the carpet on her bottom making a row aged about 18 months. How did she turn out so beautiful? Brandon looks a bit impish but Declan, eating crisps, looks a real hooligan. Thank goodness he wasn’t in my class. I would have retired even earlier.

22nd June, 2009

Quiet day – trip to Health Club for swimming, etc.. Buying trip for things we want to take to Greece: a food processor, a meat mincer and sausage maker, a blue flourescent tube insect killer, some wasp traps. We are beginning to worry about what we can get in the car this time. We will have to use Parcelforce again.

Spent some time developing a new page for the Website. This is just a ‘Favourites’ page away from home. It will sustain me in Sifnos.


23rd June, 2009

Got up at 2.00 am because our neighbour’s alarm was going off. They are in Greece. At any other time, Pauline & I would really have resented the break in our sleep but we suddenly realised as we walked round the outside of the house what a beautifully balmy night it was. The heady scent of honeysuckle wafting on the warm night air and the feeling that we could sleep in this morning without a problem. What freedom. The burglar alarm just stopped of its own volition. It must have sensed our contented and calming presence.

Had to give the pool a miss this morning because we don’t want to over train. Went out to buy more stuff for Greece. We needed a good CD player. We needed a new computer. PCWorld supplied both today.Massive shop – 2 customers.

24th June, 2009

Lovely day today. Went to see the Ophthalmologist. Got there right on time – 9.15 am. Unfortunately, I was a day early. Got to go back tomorrow. Went swimming. Pool completely to ourselves. It was lovely. Swam for half an hour followed by jacuzzi and steam room. Did another fifteen minutes swimming and then rushed off to Oldham. Pauline’s Mum had to go for a check-up. She got the all clear which is more than can be said for my friend, Brian, who looks as if he has Prostate Cancer. He is waiting for the results of his biopsy.

25th June, 2009

Went back to the Ophthalmologist today. Pauline and I were going to do a 10k run this morning but the specialist put drops in my eyes and it completely incapacitated me for the rest of the day. We went swimming instead. I’ll have to do the run next year.  Managed to mow the lawns later in the evening.

26th June, 2009

Strawberry picking on a beautiful sunny morning. We went to Bentley Grange Farm near Emley Moor mast.


This is a farm on land the history of which goes back to the 11th century and the Cistercian Monks of Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire. Their interest in the land was purely commercial – for iron ore. When the iron was spent, the land was turned over to agriculture and Bentley Grange derives from the Anglo Saxon description  – wild grass becoming grain. Nowadays it is fruit. This week – strawberries grown in long, grape vine type constructions with grow bags on waist high platforms and strawberry plants cascading huge ripe and clean berries straight to hand. We picked 20 lb in 20 minutes. Next week the raspberries will be ripe enough to pick and shortly after, we will go for blackcurrants. Pauline’s bread and homemade jam – just perfick!

27th June, 2009

Quiet day today – recovering from fruit picking.

Week 26

This Blog is moving in to completion of half a year. I’ve never managed half a week of a diary before. With only five weeks to go until we leave for our Greek house – we will be away for circa 90 days this summer – this week will be spent making insurance arrangements.

  • Our current house insurance only allows an absence of 60 days – need to renegotiate that.
  • Our car insurance, has to be expanded to provide fully comp for three months abroad.
  • Our travel insurance has to have the necessary health cover for this extended period.
  • Car must be valeted and serviced.

We will send another box of items ahead of us by Parcelforce. We will take a few cases of white wine and pick up some more of red wine. Stavros is feeling rather down at the moment and he will need lifting. We are also taking a lot of gardening equipment with us this time.

17th June, 2009

Took Pauline’s Mum out for a meal at lunch time. We all ate too much but she was happy and vibrant as this photo shows:

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Her cancer operation has really healed well. Pauline will kill me if she sees this photo because she’s not at her best but I think she looks happy and lovely.

Just 30 days until we set off on our trip across Europe to Sifnos. Nowadays we largely use our Sat. Nav. which comes with our car but this is the sort of route we follow:


Set off Saturday 8.30 am

0.0 Turn right at Heiststraat
0.3 Turn left at Meeuwenstraat
0.5 Turn right at Isabellalaan/N34 Continue to follow N34
1.9 Turn left at Baron de Maerelaan
1.9 Take the ramp onto Baron de Maerelaan/N31 Continue to follow N31
18.9 Slight left at E403/Expresweg/N31 (signs for A10/E40/N31/E403/Kortrijk/Veurne/Brussel/Oostende) Continue to follow E403/N31
21.2 Take the E40 exit toward Gent/Brussel
21.3 Keep left at the fork to continue toward A10/E40
21.7 Keep right at the fork, follow signs for E40/Gent/Brussel and merge onto A10/E40
103.5 Take the exit toward E40/E19/Luik/Namen/E411/Antwerpen
105.0 Merge onto R0
130.5 Take the exit onto A4/E411 toward Namen/Luxembourg Continue to follow A4Entering Luxembourg
313.9 Continue on E25
333.7 Take the exit toward Luxembourg-Ville (Sud)/Saarbrücken/Metz
334.8 Merge onto E25
345.5 Slight right toward E25
345.9 Slight right at E25 Entering France
346.3 Continue on A31
371.9 Take the exit onto A31
381.6 Take the exit toward Strasbourg/Metz-Est
382.9 Merge onto A4 Partial toll road
394.5 Take the exit onto A4 Partial toll road
547.2 Continue on A35 (signs for Colmar/Mulhouse/Offenburg/A35)
562.9 Take exit 10 toward Duttlenheim/Duppigheim
563.3 At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto D1422 heading to Strasbourg/Blaesheim/Innenheim/Obernai Go through 1 roundabout
565.8 At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto A35
604.5 Continue on N83
615.9 Continue on A35 Entering Switzerland
682.0 Continue on A3 Toll road
698.0 Take exit 9 toward Arisdorf/Bern/Luzern/Gotthard Toll road
698.8 Merge onto A2 Toll road
726.1 Take exit 45-Härkingen to merge onto A1/A2/E35 toward  Rothrist/Zürich/Luzern/Gotthard Toll road

  We always reach here in time for Dinner around 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm
734.9 Take exit 47-Wiggertal toward Reiden/Luzern/Gotthard Toll road
735.7 Merge onto A2 Toll roadEntering Italy
971.7 Continue on A9 Partial toll road
1002.7 Take the exit onto A8/E62 toward Milano Partial toll road
1007.9 Take the exit onto A50/Tangenziale Ovest toward A4/Bologna/Genova/A7/A1/E66/Torino Partial toll road
1038.4 Continue on E35 (signs for Bologna/Melegnano/A1) Toll road
1039.3 Take the exit onto A1 Toll road

Take the exit onto A14 toward Bologna Borgo
Time for a snooze usually 1.00 am – 6.00amPanigale/Bologna/Padova/Bari/A13/Ravenna/Ancona Toll road
1453.2 Take exit Ancona Sud-Osimo toward Ancona Sud/Osimo Toll road
1453.7 Continue straight Partial toll road
1454.3 Continue straight onto SS16
1458.4 Take exit Ancona Centro toward Ancona
1458.8 Merge onto Asse Nord-Sud
1463.5 Slight left at Via Alessandro Bocconi
1463.9 At Piazzale della Libertà, take the 2nd exit onto Galleria del Risorgimento
1464.6 Continue on Via Antonio Giannelli
1464.7 Arrive at Ancona, Italy – Sunday, 9.00 am.
  Section time: 13:51, Total time: 13:51

As you can see it is 1464.7 Kilometres or 910.1 miles and, if driven continuously, should take 13 hrs 51 mins.. Because we stop to sleep and eat, it takes us 24hrs. Then we have to get a boat down the Adriatic which takes 20 hrs. Then we drive to Piraeus from Patras which takes another 3 hrs. Then we take a ferry to our island for another 6hrs. It is quite a journey and costs about £2000.00 return.

18th June, 2009

Today, we signed papers for our redundancy settlements and filled out Pension forms to take effect from August 31st. Although we are not working, we have three more salary cheques to receive. We have been very lucky to have spent the last five months of our service on fully paid gardening leave as well as another year’s salary in redundancy. To cap it all, we were told that we could have 35 year long service awards in cash – enough to buy a new desktop computer to take to Greece. We feel quite uncomfortably mischievous as we plan the next few years out.

Jane B.G. has got to me. Probably because she is so skinny. We have a month before we leave for Greece where we will swim twice a day for three months. We calculate that we will do 170 swims before we come back to England. We will go on one set walk every day – 85 walks – and then we will be developing our vegetable garden. Because of Jane B.G., we thought we would use our last four weeks here profitably so we have rejoined our local Spirit Health Club. We had been members for years but, in recent times, we found ourselves not getting there. I calculated last year that the swim we had in June had cost us nearly £800.00 we had used it so little. We decided to stop kidding ourselves and cancel our subscription. We became lapsed members. Today we joined just for 4 weeks, because that is all we have left, for an amazing price of £75.00 for the two of us. We went off for our first swim of the year. I did thirty minutes non-stop followed by a Jacuzzi and a Steam Room. I felt wonderful. About an hour after arriving back home the phone went and I panicked when I realised my legs wouldn’t work. Probably I’d brought my resting pulse down too much. I think I’ll have to pace my return to peak fitness.

19th June, 2009

40 years ago this Summer, I went to Training College. I shared an upstairs flat of a four storey house with two other lads who were Freshers as well. My College was for all girls – 650 of them – and the College had only just decided to take men – all 20 of them – a few weeks before I applied. On one of the few occasions Mum took me anywhere, we went up to Ripon in her car – I can’t remember which one now but it was the one after the Austin A40. She got Nellie Deacon to go with us because she didn’t want to drive home alone. She was still fairly inexperienced as a driver. I was the first one there because Mum was keen to get back before nightfall. There were two bedrooms, a single and a double. Guess who got the single bedroom! Later in the day the prospective occupants of the shared room arrived. Nigel Faulds from St Albans and John Ridley from Whitley Bay.

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In the group photo, Nigel Faulds – who is now a Buddhist Monk by the way – is  standing back, extreme left with his arms folded. I am back, third from the right with my old friend, Kevin Dagg second from the right. For some reason, John Ridley didn’t get on this photo. Next to it is a recent one of him as Headteacher of a Primary School in North Yorkshire.

Leonard Cohen spent ten or more years as a Buddhist Monk – I think during the 80s and early 90s. I would never have heard from him if it wasn’t for Nigel who dragged me away from Cliff Richard and introduced me to sitting under the table, drunk as a skunk on red wine and howling to Leonard Cohen’s:

Like a Bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried in my way to be free….

The Leonard Cohen concert on TV last night transported me back 40 years. I had a tear in my eye for lost youth.

Week 25

7th & 8th June, 2009

Set off for Surrey en route to the Tunnel. Stayed with Pauline’s niece, Mandy, and her husband, Kieron, adopted boys, David, James and Daniel. Also, of course, we met up with Pauline’s sister, Phyllis and her husband, Colin.

Phyllis is almost 72 and Pauline is almost 58 years old.

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Phyllis has recently bought a Laptop and, in spite of her failing eyesight, is doing well in getting to grips with using it and, particularly, the internet.

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Went out for an enjoyable family meal at Fox Hills Country Club – a resplendent establishment featuring a number of golf courses, indoor and out door pools, spas, tennis courts, restaurants, etc.. The original Ottersey Estate dates back to before the Norman Conquest. The latest and existing house was commissioned by MP Sir Ivatt Briscoe (on expenses as a second home) and designed by architect, George Bessier, cousin of Benjamin Disraeli. In 1923, the whole estate was bought by the Borthwicks who sold it on to Aer Lingus in the 1970s.

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9th June, 2009

Left early in the morning for the tunnel. Usually we would be going in school half terms. This time, it was lovely and quiet.

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We drove down to Auchan and bought £1200.00’s worth of wine for £600.00, some olive oil and mustard, some fresh meat and vegetables to put in the fridge in the back of our car and then found a nice restaurant for lunch. Back to the train with a rather heavier car and 30 minutes later we are hoofing it back up the country to Yorkshire.

10th June, 2009

Quiet day today after our exertions of the past few days. Don’t want to overdo it. Had to unpack the car and put all the wine into racks around the garage walls. Actually, some of it stayed in cases because it will be coming to Greece with us in five weeks time. If you’ve ever tasted Greek wine you would know why. England win 6-0 against Andorra. You wonder if it was worth it.


11th June, 2009

Ronaldo is no more. It is a loss to the Premiership. £80,000,000.00 should make up for it.


12th June, 2009

Heaven has come to Huddersfield! Sainsburys has opened a new store. It is less than ten minutes away by Formula 1 car and is a delight.


Pauline & I are brand-loyal. In the past 30 years we have had a new Honda car every year, been to Greece once if not twice each year and spent more than £100,000.00 in Sainsburys. How do I know? Pauline has recorded every single penny of expenditure from day one of our marriage. In the first three years she meticulously kept accounts books, cross-referencing them with paper bank statements. Shortly afterwards, she started to use a financial software package and cross referenced it with Nat West on-line which I tested for the bank.  We can tell you how much we have paid out to any retailer over the past thirty years at the press of a button. It doesn’t get much sadder than that.