Week 54

27th December, 2009

Pauline’s Mum went back to her flat today. At lunchtime we drove her over the snow-covered wastes of the Pennine Moors to the wastes that we call Oldham. She was happy and Pauline had made her a Turkey & Stuffing sandwich to take with her for her lunch. She was going to practise on a tin of beans with her new can opener.

Sunday papers, Test Match followed by football. Heaven! The cricket went well and I would say that England were slightly ahead.


Watched Arsenal beat Aston Villa and Hull lose toMan. United who played played poorly but ground out a result.

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A day of eating leftovers before the big diet. I had to eat Gravadlax (home-cured), Roast Ham (home-cooked), a terrine of pork and partridge with beef fillet and bacon (home cooked), Christmas cake (home baked & decorated), minced pies (home baked with home made mince meat), Full Cream Ice Cream (home made). All that was after a bacon sandwich for lunch (toasted home made bread). Lunch was washed down with half a bottle of Claret and Dinner was completed with a bottle of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Bring on the diet, PLEASE!


28th December, 2009

Freezing outside. Got up at 7.00 am and went swimming. It was delicious. The pool was empty for an hour as were the jacuzzi and steam room. As I drove to the Health Club, the sky was gloriously rich. There was virtually no breeze and the sunh shone.

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En route, I stopped to take a photo and was suddenly mobbed by all these animals wanting my autograph. I tried to shun them but one , Shauna, particularly sheepishly demanded the right to be herd.

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29th December, 2009

Pauline’s Mum had to be taken to Hospital for her cataract operation. Why do these obligations always clash with the Test Match? England scored  575 – 9 Declared and then proceeded to skittle out the first six South African wickets and I spent five hours sitting in a Hospital car park while Pauline’s Mum was waiting to be told that her eyes were too dry for a cataract operation she had been waiting for for months. I had to make do with Test Match Special on Radio 4 Longwave.


30th December, 2009

Thirty one years ago this morning, we woke up to thick snow everywhere. It was the morning of our wedding. I really enjoyed the day. Our little house was crammed with family and friends. It was lovely.


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The intervening years have been fantastic. Thirty one years later, we have woken up to thick snow and a blizzard. We stayed tucked up to celebrate our anniversary. We planned our Spring Departure to our Greek Home, had champagne and canapés for Lunch followed by Pheasant in red wine jus with roasted root vegetables for Dinner. Just had time to watch Man United thrash Wigan before going to bed.

31st December, 2009

Happy New Year to All Our Readers.


1st January, 2010

Fought our way over the Pennines today to visit Pauline’s Mum. The road was bleak, treacherous but spectacular. Without a 4-wheel Drive we wouldn’t have attempted it.

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2nd January, 2010

Just managed to get the papers today before the snow set in for another day. This Global Warming is driving me mad. The Times says this has been the coldest December for thirty years. Some wacky scientists have been observed that a totally unexpected lack of solar activity over the past Decade which parallels a similar solar phase in the Eighteenth Century as a lack of sun spots accompanied earth cooling is merely masking Global Warming. They also think it is possible for 5 billion angels to dance on the head of a pin.

Had texts and phone calls from Caroline and Ruth throughout the day. Caroline has been in England (well nearly – Newcastle actually) for the New Year period. She managed to persuade Newcastle & Derby to Draw 0-0 and then went down to leave flowers on Mum’s grave. She drove past Mum’s old bungalow but says she could see little signs of change. She agreed to meet Ruth in Derby. Cal was staying at The Stuart Hotel in Derby.


Ruth had to drive with Kev, I think, through snow down to Derby. She had a difficult journey and got lost in Derby. Who wouldn’t?

Week 53

20th December, 2009 

Snowed incessantly around Yorkshire today. Just managed to get the Sunday papers before it set in. Elsewhere in Britain the Eurostar service has been cancelled stranding 75000 travellers and 2000 were trapped in the tunnel all night while thousands of cars and lorries parked along the M20 unable to move. Lovely cartoon in The Sunday Telegraph today:


21st December, 2009 

The shortest day of the year. It actually felt like it today. The sun shone in a crystal blue sky and seemed low to the horizon all day, skimming the snow drifts. Diggers came and released us from our snow-drift prison just after lunch. We drove over the Pennines to see Pauline’s Mum. Thought you might like to see some shots of the moors on the way over:

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This is on the Nont Sarah’s road (A640) running parallel to the M62. It is a favourite for hang gliding. They throw themselves off the side of the escarpment and out across the moor.

22nd December, 2009 

The snow came in waves today. There was white-out at times on the M62.


The best place was tucked up with a glass of dry sherry, a mince pie and a copy of The Times. Started to plan our trip across Europe in the Spring to our home in Greece. Making lists of all the things we must take with us:

  • 50″ LCD TV
  • 2 x Garden Spade
  • 2 x Garden Fork
  • Video Camera
  • Enough wine for 6 months
  • Etc, Etc, Etc.

Usually, Christmas holidays are the time to book sailings: Hull – Zeebrugge (return P&O) and Ancona – Patras (return Superfast) plus Piraeus – Sifnos (return Hi-Speed). We would already have bought our Easter flights last Summer. Not this year. We expect to leave in April without booking anything. We will not drive to Hull but down to Dover and sail to Calais. We will drive until we want to stop and then find a hotel in France and then another one in Italy and the one in Patras, Greece before arriving at our island. We will take any ferry that is available as long as it is comfortable. We won’t book returns.

23rd December, 2009 

Had to do the hoovering today. Fortunately, the hoover overheated half way through the house and I had to stop. Like 90% of the country, we have a Dyson. We also have new carpets throughout the house. Dyson’s have a tendency to clog up their filters and overheat. New carpets give off a lot of fluff. This is our Dyson and it’s rubbish.


Pauline’s niece, Mandy, is a Director of Xerox. I’ve probably told you all this before but she gave up work for three or four years and adopted three little boys. They are now growing up well, attending Private schools and playing every sport imaginable. They play at the London Irish club where James (the middle one) is quite a star. Daniel, the youngest one is good at football and has been spotted by a scout from Premier League, Fulham Football Club. He has been invited to join their Young Academy. This is the three brothers in their London Irish kit:


24th December, 2009 

A blizzard hit us this morning around 9.00 am. We set off at 10.00 am to cross the Pennines to get Pauline’s Mum. Fortunately, a 4 wheel drive makes mince meat of these conditions. Unfortunately, she is so frail compared with this time last year. The first entry of this Blog (Week 1 : 25th December, 2008) was a picture of Pauline and her Mum. A year shows quite a big difference. Certainly, this year walking is much more difficult. The stairs are like a mountain. Well, they are for me too.

25th December, 2009 

Happy Christmas one and all! Up at 7.00 am as usual. This is the scene outside:


We always have the traditional Sanders Breakfast – Toast and home-cooked Ham although I eat it with Dijon mustard. Pauline & I don’t give each other Christmas presents and haven’t done for years – not since our first Christmas together when we gave each other 40 presents each. Pauline’s Mum got presents – a new skirt and house shoes, books and an easy use electronic can opener. They are really brilliant. You literally plonk them on the can and press a button.

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Because the rest of Pauline’s family is in Surrey, we have to take photos to send to them to prove we are enjoying ourselves:

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The turkey is cooking along with sage & onion stuffing and force meat stuffing. Potatoes & Parsnips are par boiled. Sprouts are waiting in the pan of water for the starters gun. The bread sauce is already prepared as are the pigs in blankets. Mum would approve. She wouldn’t approve of the cheer that went up when I watched the Pope being forced to the floor by some sex-starved woman during Midnight Mass in Rome.

Pauline & I never drink champagne. It doesn’t really agree with either of us. Today at 11.00 am , I settled down to an hour and a half of How England Won the Ashes on Sky Sports and drank a bottle of pink champagne that Pauline’s niece, Mandy, had bought us. I don’t know if it was the emotion of the event (I had missed the Ashes Series while I was in Greece and only kept up to speed by texts from Ruth.) or the quality of the drink but it was some of the best champagne I have drunk. Oeil de Perdrix:


Cheers everyone!

I meant to applaud Caroline for her immense good taste in Christmas Cards. She sent us exactly the same one that we sent out. Only after hers arrived did I notice that it sponsored Irish charities.


It was officially a white Christmas in Quarry Court with snow falling heavily at 6.00 pm.

26th December, 2009 

Snow turned to rain over night and then froze hard. What do you do on Boxing Day? I did what all good husbands do: I toured the town for a chemists to buy cream to soothe my Mother-in-Law’s Piles. You can’t beat it for fun! Whereas my Christmas Day was calmness personnified, Ruth was doing crowd control – not at Bolton Wanderers because that would have been too easy. No, Ruth was controlling the hordes in her own home!

Look at this lovely Christmas Table setting BEFORE & AFTER & EVEN AFTER THAT:

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This is Brandon Pickle. Have you ever seen a boy with such wrinkly legs? How do Granny & Grandad Butcher do it?

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Those responsible for this tribe shall not go unpardoned:

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Week 52

13 December, 2009 

This is the final week of the Blog’s first year. Let’s hope for thirty more! I suffer from Atrial Fibrillation. It is no big deal but it does increase my risk of strike and heart attack. For that reason, I have to take the blood thinning agent – Warfarin. I also have to be regularly monitored by the hospital Anti-Coagulant Department. There are risks with taking warfarin: a serious cut may not stop and lead to bleeding to death. A fall could cause internal bleeding. I had a heavy fall while gardening in Greece and found the whole of my left side with massive and angry bruising which took three months to disappear. Pauline wants to get me off warfarin and today she found an article in The Sunday Times. It describes a new, implant technique that is being performed by a consultant at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington which obviates the need for warfarin. I attach the newspaper cutting: atrial_fibrilation.pdf

14 December, 2009

Just like buses, you wait for ages then two come along together. This morning another treatment avoiding the use of warfarin was announced. I attach the journal cutting: atrial_fibrilation3.pdf

15 December, 2009

Pauline has complained for the past 40 years that she didn’t have time to indulge her passion for cooking. Well now she does. It’s only half way through December and I’m already mince-pied out. We are on our third batch and we haven’t even started on Christmas Cake or Pudding. She’s made them all. Admittedly, Pauline’s mincemeat is a wonder of the world.


16 December, 2009

Received a lovely collection of photos from Ruth’s belly dancing break. Didn’t look too warm and sunny. I was afraid of that. At least Bolton won.

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17 December, 2009

We are on diet-watch. Ironically, we are not watching our own diets although we definitely need to. We are watching Pauline’s Mum’s diet to make sure she eats enough. Today it was Lasagne with sheets of spinach green pasta. It was wonderful. Pauline made it at home and we set off across the Moors to the Barnes residence where it was cooked. Pauline’s Mum ate a huge plateful. We had set off in a flurry of snow. The Pennine ridge looked sugar dredged and as we crossed from East to West the scenery was beautiful:

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18 December, 2009

Pauline is showing me no mercy. She has completed the Chrismas Cake. With a little historical touch, she has  furnished it with decorative figures she first bought for her GCE ‘O’ Level cooking class 43 years ago. It is quite amazing to think girls at the age of fifteen were making Chrismas Cakes in Home Economics in those days. They don’t get much further than sandwiches nowadays. I have included two photos of the cake. The second one was to provide a sense of scale.

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19 December, 2009

Memory can be quite painful and often surprising. Pauline & I were married 31 years ago (in about 11 days). It was thick with snow and the Gritters were on strike in Callaghan’s Britain which made the journey difficult for many people. As I write this, waves of snow are coming towards us across the Pennines. How lucky are we? We are tucked up warmly and have every conceivable distraction. The temperature was -13°C last night. Can you imagine the effect on a rough sleeper and we have some of those around Huddersfield. Last night, one group really were sleeping roughly, stuck in Eurotunnel without warmth or sustenance.

Memory of my wedding is neither painful or surprising. I loved it. This week, however, is the anniversary of the execution of Nicolae Ceauşescu.


Twenty Years! Can you believe that? I can picture those last days in Romania as if I was there myself. Twenty years! That is very frightening. In twenty years, if I am still alive, I will be 78 years old. It has gone so fast and will go so fast. Time seems to go faster the older one gets. Forty years ago and away from home for the first time fending for myself I was never happier. I did what I wanted, wore what I wanted and ate what I wanted when I wanted to. It was like a dream come true. What came as an absolute shock to me was that these newly found freedoms were of so little significance to my peers. They had taken them for granted during their childhood. I could dine out on stories of family tea times and ‘one plain and one fancy’. Do you remember that? My friends were incredulous when I said that I had never been allowed to choose a single item of clothing for myself and they thought I made up stories of being taken to the Gents Outfitters by Mum and, after the shop assistants had received their obligatory dressing down from Mum, I left with striped nylon shirts to be worn with khaki slacks and a mustard coloured cravat.

Forty years ago this winter was my first away from home. My Best Man at my wedding – Kevin Dagg – was one of the first people I shared digs with. Today I received a card from his wife with a photograph taken in those first few months:


It is a scan of a photocopy of a scan of a photo so the quality is very poor. If you’re unsure, I am the one bottom right with his hand up.

Week 51

6th December, 2009

We want to downsize, to take a chunk of equity out of our house, to move South for better transport links, to find somewhere which is new-build and more manageable when we are out of the Country for half the year and to have security over that period. We have found an apartment which we think fits the bill but can’t sell our house.


We are not so desperate that we will sell cheaply or buy expensively. In fact, I intend to be a cash buyer when we do go and to extract the full bargaining power that that includes. It did make us a bit depressed today, however, to find it advertised in The Sunday Times & The Sunday Telegraph.

7th December, 2009

We have yet another skip on our drive.

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Slowly but surely we are throwing away our past. We are known as The Skip People in Quarry Court, not because we live in one but because we are always hiring them. This time it was for emptying the attic, tidying the garden and clearing out umpteen things we brought away from school. Folders of Policies, policy documents, if we’ve written one, we’ve written forty.

  • Anti-bullying
  • Dealing with Racist Incidents
  • Individualised Learning
  • Incorporating new technology into pedagogy
  • Using the Virtual Learning Environment

And so on and so on. And why? Did it really make any difference? Did it hell! All those hours, all those late nights. What a lot of nonsense. We are so pleased to be out of it. With every skip we feel lighter.

8th December, 2009

I’m thinking of applying for a mobile home in Oldham Hospital car park. I spent another five hours there again yesterday. Pauline’s Mum was taken ill again and an ambulance had to be called. She was suffering from severe dehydration last time and imminent kidney failure. As a result, she was told to eat and drink more. She always does as she is told and has been eating and drinking a lot more but severe dehydration and imminent kidney failure were diagnosed again today after six hours of tests. She is being kept in over night. I just got home to watch a few minutes of Man. U. and Gerry Robinson’s investigation into Dementia Care Homes. Life is just one bundle of laughs.

9th December, 2009

Great swim, toast & coffee and then off to see Pauline’s Mum in Oldham Royal. Yet another accident had blocked the M62 and we had to go across the Moors instead. The Motorway is blocked a couple of times a week regularly because of the pressure of numbers.


Pauline’s Mum is being kept in for more tests but, having been rehydrated, she is bouncing around like a two year old and managing her own care.

Received an email from Jonathan Kelly today. He is a three years older than me and has been living in the US – Masachusetts – for 27 years. He has worked at Foster-Miller, and engineering research and innovation company all this time. Ironically, this company was bought out by a British one called QinetiQ six years ago. Jonathan tells me that he won’t be able to afford to retire at least until he’s 67 because he will lose his Medical cover from his firm. Employers don’t run pension schemes in America. Employees are expected to make there own provision. To make things worse, Jonathan’s Employers are suffering badly in the downturn and going through swathes of redundancies. Jonathan says that they are all permanently on a knife edge but he has survived so far. It doesn’t sound like the great, capitalist dream is quite doing it.

10th December, 2009

Pauline was awarded the Life Saver of the Day award at the Health Club. We were luxuriating in the jacuzzi looking over a totally empty pool. (One of the benefits of being free during work hours is that the facilities are so quiet.) The pool surface was glassy and undisturbed. Suddenly, something broke the surface and zipped across the pool. It stopped. Pauline dashed over. It zipped across the surface, rippling the pool again. Pauline leant forward and, skimming with her hand, pulled out a fly doing the backstroke. She flipped it over on the poolside and, after a couple of moments reorientation, the fly flew off. Pauline was wildly applauded by me from the jacuzzi.

Pauline’s Mum has come out of hospital. The verdict is that, because she is 95, her kidneys are not working efficiently and so she becomes dehydrated. We have no idea or advice on how to deal with this.

I learn today that John Humphreys has a grown up son called Christopher. He is a professional cellist who lives and works in Athens. In the past ten years, Humphreys and his son have bought land and built a house on the Pelopponese. As a result of that, he and his son have contributed to the collection of books that I will feed in to by writing a book about their experiences of building in Greece.


11th December, 2009

It was actually dry all day today – but dark and foggy and uninviting. Wrote a long email to Jonathan Kelly today. I was trying to describe events in my life since I last saw him in 1975. Found myself refering to Middle & Working Classes and realised he would have little memory or concept of that. Jonathan has a SIP  to look forward to when he retires in his mid to late 60s. With the current state of the Markets, it probably won’t be worth much but it is a fore-runner of the pensions for all state employees very soon. Like Jonathan, many Public Sector workers are seeing pay freezes or pay cuts for quite some time to come – maybe three or four years. Final Salary pensions, I predict, will go in the life time of the next Conservative Government. This has to happen. We just can’t afford it. Public Sector pay must be slashed and many jobs must go. We just can’t afford to support them on our pension. Thank goodness we are out of all that. I am thinking of joining The Pensioners’ Party. I might even put myself forward as a parliamentary candidate. Quangocracy, Local Beaurocracy must go! Let’s have slash & burn Conservatism!