Week 37

30th August 2009

Lovely day today. Went to the Internet Cafe to post my Blog and send some emails to friends who are going back to school on Tuesday. Checked our bank account and found that the LA had placed a life-changing amount of money there to say thank you for all our hard work. That’s nice and rather comforting. Lovely people the Local Authority.

We have now done 155 weeks in Greece or 3 years since we first spent 3 weeks in Zakynthos in 1981. Most of that but by no means all has been spent on Sifnos. Today, we witnessed a most unusual weather condition which would be normal for us in Huddersfield in Autumn but not in the middle of a Greek summer.

Often, as we drive across the Pennines, descending steeply and rapidly from the M62 (the highest stretch of motorway in Britain) into Saddleworth we are above the clouds which have settled on the moor below. We can go from clear blue, sunny skies into darkest winter in the matter of a few yards. Today, in Kamares, it was 31⁰C and absolutely still. High humidity had made it a bit sticky. As we set off down to the beach to swim and cool off, thick mist/cloud/fog rolled off the sea and turned the beach into night. There was the bizarre sight of sunbathers laying on the sand under a dark sky. A ferry coming into the harbour took five times as long as it felt its way to the jetty, hooting out warnings as it came. It was so unusual and so hot we continued to swim but couldn’t make out our usual landmarks as we swam across the bay.

We finished our swim and walked back to our car. We couldn’t see the ferry because the fog was so dense. Our car was a hundred yards away and, by the time we got there, the fog had rolled away and left just this view from our house.

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31st August 2009

Today we got our first piece of junk mail. I was so excited for lots of reasons. Firstly, as Pauline, will tell you, I love opening post – any post. I open everything that arrives at our house. I love getting the most basic and inappropriate junk mail – cashmere pashminas, incontinence pads, hearing aids, Viagra – I love them all. Secondly, for a long time we have been asking Stavros where we live. Nobody seems to know, including us. Thirdly, it just marks us out as members of the community to have letters delivered to our house. This particularly piece of junk mail was from Nova Satellite TV inviting us to spend more money with them. I won’t be but I shall keep their letter pinned to the notice board in my Study here for some time.

We have had one other letter delivered. It was from me. I sent it to myself to find out where I lived. I had a rough idea and Stavros and I worked out a rudimentary address. I wrote ourselves a letter saying “Dear Us ….Love Us”. We posted it in a box 500m away from the house and it was delivered one month later by a postman who lives next to the post box. Anyway, this is our address:
John & Pauline Sanders                      John & Pauline Sanders
Kavalaris                                                Kavalaris
Kamares 840 03                                   Kamaron 840 03
Sifnos                                                      Sifnos
Cyclades                                                 Kiklades
Greece                                                    Hellas

I’ve only got five weeks left this time but, next year, it would be nice to hear from you.

1st September, 2009

White Rabbit. I have been in Education since September 1956. On the first occasion, I went to school without being taken and managed to remember my name, my date of birth, my address and whether or not I was staying to school lunch. I wasn’t but how I wished I was! This is the first of 54 Septembers that I will not be packing my bag, trying to remember my name and date of birth and trying to get ‘Seconds’ if not ‘Thirds’ for school lunch. Already, I feel strangely isolated and out of the loop. I will sit in the sun up a Greek mountain and cry into the wind as I listen to Donnizetti’s ‘Lucia de Lammermoor’ at full volume to drown out the memories.

I have become a strangely maudlin man, prone to tears at the least predictable moment as a memory creeps past the firewall. Are all old men like this or just the odd ones? I can cry on reading an obituary in ‘The Times’ or thinking about someone from the past. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Mum. I don’t think I am depressed. I enjoy almost every bit of every day. I particularly enjoyed watching United beat Arsenal last weekend. I am very optimistic about the future. But Mum’s death has exposed something very vulnerable in me that I knew was there but didn’t acknowledge.

2nd September, 2009

Received emails from Ruth and Jane this week. It was nice to hear from them. Ruth sent me photographs which were interesting. They showed Bob & Jane on holiday.

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Jane and some other chap and Ruth with a gang of hooligans.

3rd September, 2009

Until recently and certainly when I was younger, I thought my work was really important. I would work all day and stay up half the night analysing data, writing reports, developing new policies. I spoke at meetings with commitment and enthusiasm. I encouraged my staff to embrace new ideas and try out new methods. Particularly, I encouraged staff almost as old as me to adopt new technology to do their job better. What first hits you when you stop doing it and stand back is ‘What a lot of bollocks it was’. Life’s like that. They don’t miss you. There is always someone else available to stand up and spout bollocks enthusiastically in your place. Nothing is that important but, while you are doing the job, it is often not easy to see.

4th September, 2009

Travel can be undertaken in two ways. One can either move or one can stand still. In our younger days, Pauline and I were committed to movement. We would book as many holidays as we could, ticking places off our cultural lists. Paris, Arras, Lille, Milan, Rome, Venice, etc – we spent four or five days doing them all. We did the Canary Islands and Cyprus, Belgium, Luxembourg, Northern France, the Alps, the Italian Lakes, Switzerland, Scandinavia. In between, we visited twenty different Greek islands. We were always on the move. Our lawns never got cut because we were always away in our time off.

Eventually, travel, the symbol of cultural enterprise and enjoyment, began to pall. We decided to build the house in Greece and stop moving so much. Of course, we have to get here and return to England and, of course, that involves movement and travel but it also involves a lot of staying still. They say that if you stay still, the world will come to you. I can believe it. Certainly, here on our island, you observe the whole gamut of human relationships in microcosm. It is quite amazing how many people I meet who have a connection with my other life, however tangential. Two or three years ago, we met a family out walking on Sifnos. Within five minutes we had established a common acquaintance although they lived in Ipswich and we in Huddersfield. Richard turned out to be a Geography teacher who had once worked with a professional who subsequently worked in our school as an advisor. Not earth shattering, I know, but a lovely feeling of common bond.

5th September, 2009

Nikos the tiler came to our house today. He doesn’t speak any English but his wife who runs the tile shop speaks it perfectly. Last year, we drove up to see her one day in our shiny, black Honda CRV. The next thing we know her husband has bought her a shiny, black Honda CRV. It is the only CRV on the island and she hardly ever drives but it looks good in the garage. Anyway, Nikos came and measured up our patio. It amounts to about 1402m.

We have already chosen the tiles. It will cost us about £5500.00. He also measured the kitchen which will cost another £500.00. So £6000.00 for the tiles this winter and I’m a pensioner!

Went up to a lovely little village today called Artemonas. They had hosted a food festival featuring the produce of individual Cycladic islands. Represented were Serifos, Sifnos, Milos, Santorini, Paros, Andros, Kythnos, Syros. Pauline and I have visited every one of these islands. Each had a booth and brought food or produce particular to them. Live bouzouki music was played at full volume. It started at 7.30 pm as the sun went down and the scene was magical.

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I’m amazed to report that, in spite of visiting the Food Festival, I have lost 4lbs this week.