Week 58

24th January,  2010

For some reason, Sundays are not quite the same anymore. For 40 years I have got up between 6.00 – 7.00 am and urgently gone out to buy the newspapers. It has always been, for as long as I can remember, the most important thing about Sunday. It has been my religion. In the early ’70s, I would get up and walk two miles to the nearest paper shop to buy The Sunday Times and The Observer. Living in Oldham, I had to get up at an early hour to buy these papers because the paper shop would only carry two or three of them. They were not popular in Oldham. The Sunday Mirror or News of the World – No problem. The shop would have hundreds of them but not the ‘posh’ papers. I’ve never had them delivered because they arrive far too late. I read them avidly from cover to cover. They take me about 4-5 hours. If I waited for them to be delivered, I’d never get them finished. In Greece, they cost me about £10.00 and last two or three days.

For some reason, now that I have got all day every day to read the newspapers, they have lost a little of their specialness. I no longer read The Observer, anyway. It hasn’t been the same since Tiny Rowlands relinquished it. Nowadays, The Observer competes to be the most boring paper in the world – and wins. I have had to file it under ‘Life’s too short’. Nowadays (I hate that word.) I read The Sunday Telegraph. I particularly like it for the City/Financial pages. I also find it provides an interesting support in opposing the whole Climate Change lobby.

25th January,  2010

Had the entire Health Club to ourselves today. As we sat in the jacuzzi overloooking an empty and glassy pool, we pretended that we were in our own private facility. This dream was soon shattered, however, when I called the butler to bring us a drink and no-one came.

It is so nice to have the time to explore the world and, in my own small way, document it. I love photographing things. I bought left, a digital camera. It cost £700.00. It is a Cannon EOS 500D and I absolutely love it. I forgot to leave it in my office when I left but never mind.


I used to video everything at one time. I have dozens of tapes of Greek Islands in the 1980s & ’90s on analogue tape. As part of my Retirement Project I have bought a VHS – DVD copier/recorder. School provided me with boxes of re-recordable DVDs, which I forgot to leave in my office. I am starting to digitise the old tapes so that I can edit them on my computer. As a result, I have started to get interested in videoing again. I went out and bought a small camcorder today. It is a Samsung and so tiny you can stick it in your pocket. It only cost about £150.00 which is half the price I paid for an Analogue one 15 years ago. That was huge and cumbersome. If I get in to it again, I will buy a better one.

samsung.jpg  samsung_2.jpg 

27th January,  2010

Fun-packed day after a wonderful work out at the Health club. We drove to Leeds – up the M62 – to IKEA. It is always amazing how quickly we can get to Leeds on a weekday off peak time. First thing in the morning, it might take up to an hour but by 11.00 am we can do it in 20 minutes. We want to shade the sides of our pergola in Greece with white, cotton curtains in a tented effect to moderate the sun. Pauline was all ready for buying material and making 15  3m x 1m curtains. This would have taken her a fair while. We suddenly noticed that IKEA sold packs of two, cotton white curtains in exactly the right size with attachments for £10.00. We bought 8 packs. If you’ve ever walked round IKEA, you will know that it is a hideous and extremely trying place. We arrived home shattered and fell asleep.

We were awake well in time for the big match. (well I was) I thought City played well but United were undoubtedly the better team and Rooney, Giggs and Scholes were in a class of their own.


28th January,  2010

Went to Oldham to see my friend and ex-colleague, Brian Robinson. He has just retired too and is completing the doing up of his cottage in the Dordogne. Then we went on to Pauline’s Mum to make Lunch for her. She wolfed down cheese omlette with potatoes and mushroom sauce.

The Pound has strengthened against the Euro so we took the opportunity to send £7000.00 over to our Greek Bank. It always annoys me how much Nat West charge us for the privilege. I also received a phone call from the Manager of Tesco’s On-Line Savings Bank. We had intended using it for some of our regular savings but it’s procedures are so convoluted that we gave up. I am fairly ICT literate and I was even a member of the pilot group for Nat West’s first foray into internet banking about ten years ago. Tesco defeated me and I wrote to point that out. We switched to Principality BS on-line accounts quite easily and told Tesco so. They rang to say that they were going to forward my plans to Head Office. I am expecting a call any day to use me as a National Advisor.

29th January,  2010

Went swimming at 8.45 am. Arrived home at 9.15 am. Pool was full of madly aggressive old ladies. I ran away. Pauline went out to meet a friend and left me quivering in the lounge watching Blair give his evidence to the Iraq Enquiry.

30th January,  2010

Absolutely gorgeous day today. How did I spend it – cleaning the windows! Exactly a year ago we spent about £15,000.00 replacing our sofwood windows with PVCu (dark wood effect) windows. Our house is south facing and the windows had taken a pasting from the sun. Our house is three storeys and the drive is sloping up to a half height roof. These things combined mean that no one in Quarry Court can get a window cleaner to risk life and limb. We bought our replacement windows in the depth of recession on a half price offer from a local and long established firm , Coral Windows of Bradford. They were an excellent firm and we are delighted with our windows. However, Pauline pointed out this morning as the sun streamed in making the windows look filthy, we haven’t cleaned them once yet. Of course, a lot of the time we were in Greece but that is no excuse. We bought designs which open and turn so that the outside can be cleaned from the inside. That was the excitement for the day.

Week 57

18th January, 2010

I am a Type 2 diabetic because I am so fat. It means I have to have my feet and eyes checked every year by diabetic specialists. Fortunately, neither are showing signs of diabetic damage but I do have them checked. Also, because I only have the sight in one eye, I have always been careful about attending check-ups. I go twice a year. My glasses check is due now and I am about to make an appointment at Specsavers for a test. My eye test is free and I usually get new glasses at the same time.

When I was 7 years old, in 1958, it was noticed that I kept walking in to lamposts and walls. I constantly had plasters across my nose. The Repton Primary School Doctor who visited once per term, first picked up that I was deaf in my left ear. As I left the classroom where I was being tested, I walked in to the the big, mahogany door. I was called back and given an eye test. They discovered that I was blind in my left eye. What had been going on with my left side in the womb I really don’t know. Even then, I was determined not to be a left-footer.

I was sent to the Derby Royal Infirmary Eye Clinic where I went with Mum. We must have gone on the bus but I can’t remember. I was prescribed glasses and we were sent to the Opticians connected to the hospital. It was called Wozencroft Opticians.

Wozencroft Opticians
59 Osmaston Road


I was tested and measured and told I would have National Health wire frames because they were ‘free’. I had to wait almost two months for them to arrive in the post. I remember it quite clearly because I couldn’t wait to show them off. I broke them within a month by sitting on them and had them stuck together with tape for ages. I bet Mum couldn’t face another bus journey. I checked today on Wozencrofts Opticians and it is still there. The name sounds Jewish or Polish Jewish to me but a quick search tells me it is old English and related to Wolstencroft.

Specsavers have a site where you can preview their frame designs and try them against your face. I don’t have an easy face to suit and have always tended to wear big, steel frames until the kids at school told me I wore 1970s pornstar glasses. I don’t know how they knew. Now I check the frames carefully. These are some examples that I’ve tried:

john_specs_2.jpg  john_specs_4.jpg  john_specs_5.jpg

john_specs_3.jpg  john_specs_6.jpg

19th January,  2010

Pauline had to go to the hospital to have a disconcerting patch of skin on her forehead checked out by the dermatologist. Fortunately, it appears to be nothing to worry about. More disappointing was Man City’s win over United.

20th January,  2010

Pauline’s Mum’s health seems to be stable at the moment. I wish the same could be said of her TV. Flat-bound as she is, her television and DVD are lifelines and even more so now that cataracts are making reading difficult. We bought her a wide-screen tv 18 months ago but it died today and she was lost without it. We drove over the Pennines and bought her a new set, delivered it, installed all the Freeview channels and took the old one away. I don’t know if you’ve bought a TV recently but they are so (comparatively) cheap. We bought a Hitachi 32” LCD for her flat which won’t take a much bigger size. It cost us £270.00. No wonder no one repairs them. She is delighted with it. She says it is like being at the Pictures. So that’s fine!

21st January,  2010

I have always loved food as long as I can remember. Coming home from school after Rugby training to find tea not made, i remember eating my way through half of one of those sliced loaves from the pantry, thick with butter, and then looking forward to tea as normal – terrible pastry tarts, one plain one fancy biscuits. What were we doing? Pauline is a trained cook. She is brilliant. I like to think I can cook but then Pauline does the same thing a week or two later and there is no comparison. Unfortunately I didn’t learn the basics and find myself making it up as I go along – and making crass mistakes. As a cook, I am imaginative and enthusiastic but technically flawed. It gives me so much pleasure that I carry on.

I thought it was quite sad when Jane wrote to me recently and said she wasn’t interested in food. It almost seems like she is saying that she’s not interested in life. After oxygen (and wine), food is the staff of life. Of course there are those who eat to live and there are those who live to eat. I am definitely in the latter group. Combining lovely, fresh ingredients and producing wonderful tastes is an absolute delight for me. Today I cooked a version of Cod Provençal accompanied by Dauphinoise potatoes for dinner. I am pleased to say my supervisor thought it quite successful.

cod_provencal.jpg  dauphinoise_potatoes.jpg

There are others in my camp. I received these incriminating photos recently of the meeting between Ruth & Kevan and Caroline & Les in Derby over the New Year. They ate in an Indian restaurant, I believe although that is one place you would never find me. I’m not too keen on Derby either. Have you noticed how often Ruth is seen with a glass of red wine in her hand? I’m beginning to worry about her.

ruth_1.jpg  ruth_2.jpg

As we arrange our drive through Europe in ten weeks time, we are planning to stop in Colmar, a medieval town in Alsace which produces wonderful wines, in Bolgna, the food capital of Italy and in Le Marche, home to the peasant cookery style  (so close to my own) of Italy

22nd January,  2010

Our computers and our Study are in the process of being tidied out. The computers still store ludicrous papers about Pedagogic Styles with an Interactive White Board  and Bringing Departmental Delivery in line with Virtual Learning Environment. If anybody would like a copy it is too late. This absolute nonsense has gone the way of all digital things. The Study has guides to Children’s Care, Learning & Development (who cares?) and Making Inclusion Happen (Include me out!) These were the stuff of mine and Pauline’s management trade. We should have been ashamed of ourselves. All of this rubbish will go to the tip but some things won’t.

After a new hard drive in my computer, I have had to import from the ether a backed-up copy of Pauline’s financial accounts going back to 22nd January 1993. Before that she was using account books. These are not being thrown out ever. The first book began on 25th September, 1981. I attach the first page of it for interest.


My first monthly pay cheque in October 1972 was £62.00. My annual salary was £950.00. You will see that by 1981, I was taking home £457.22. I was earning nearly £7,500.00 per year. How rich was that? Pauline took home £368.12 and earned about £6000.00 per year. It allowed us to buy Slade House, go on holiday to Greece, buy a new Datsun Cherry and eat out at the Sole Mio. For those of you who don’t remember the Datsun Cherry, I include one below. They only had a wing mirror on the driver’s side and that fell off.


As you will see, a meal at the Sole Mio – our local Italian – cost £10.75 (a 3 course meal for two with wine.) Today it would be £75.00.

23rd January,  2010

Since the beginning of the world, Leeds United have been hated for their thuggish lack of sophistication. For any sentient being alive to football in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s would recognise this characterisation particularly exemplified by Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter. Strange it was, therefore to find oneself supporting underdog, Northern Leeds against those Nancy-boy, superior Southerners, Tottenham Hotspur.  And how wonderful to see Beckford score an equaliser in the 96th minute. Sometimes begin to wonder if there is a god!


Week 56

10th January,  2010 

Got an email from Liz with her new address: liz.bruce@manchester.gov.uk but, as she stresses, you must “keep it clean and appropriate please even Gods can be sacked!”

5.00 pm today it started snowing.

11th January,  2010 

5.00 pm today it stopped snowing. Twenty Four Hours of continuous snow has given our area its worst travelling conditions of the winter. To make matters worse, my hard drive suffered a catastrophic collapse and gave up the ghost. I couldn’t revive it in Safe Mode and resigned myself to starting again. Usually, someone at work would give up their time to set up a new hard drive for me but now it means a trip to the techies at PC World. My machine cost £2000.00 three years ago from Evesham Computers. It went out of business a year ago. The convention in our house is that I change my machine every 2 – 3 years and hand my old one down to Pauline. Fortunately, that is still available and on-line. I’ve already had to take a new Desktop and a laptop to Greece.

Another of the nine apartments that we are interested in in Surrey has been sold. We are starting to get a bit jumpy but there may be good news ahead.

12th January,  2010 

Snow clearing and swimming are the order of the day. Our old school is still not back in session since Christmas. Even as they clear the snow, the problems get worse. The local newspaper, The Oldham Chronicle, reported middle of the night call outs as pipes burst throughout the school.


Even Bob sent me some pictures of snow. This first one is the pond in his back garden:


and this second one is of two of his friends out on a walk:


The snow does look bad around Maidenhead but Bob does want you to know that he never really needed my help.

In between clearing snow, I am transfering old, analogue VHS video camera tapes of Greek holidays to digital DVD. I will then transfer the film to my PC (when I’ve got it repaired) to be edited. The juxtaposition of the snow of 2010 all around us while we watch the searingly hot scenes of 1990 in Greece is weird but wonderful. Did I say snow clearing? It’s 11.00 am and has just started snowing again.

13th January,  2010 

Today we are supposed to be driving down to London to put a deposit on an apartment. I am writing this on Tuesday evening because I expect to be leaving at 4.00 am. However, recent weather forecasts suggest snow all down the M1 as we drive. We are considering going on Friday now but that means we won’t be able to meet Ruth & Jane on Saturday. We’ll make a decision at 4.00 am today.

We left at 5.00 am. As soon as we opened our garage door, we knew it was sheet ice outside. The temperature was -4ºC. We slid  sideways down the Quarry Drive on to the main road which was also sheet ice and then had a steep hill covered in black ice to contend with on our way to Ainley Top and the motorway. Two cars with their front ends smashed in from two separate incidents the night before were left on the side of the hill. We struggled up one side and down the other to the M62. The motorway was fine but thoughts of the precious road rather undermined my confidence in it.

By 6.30 am we stpped at Trowell South Services (no I’ve never heard of it either – It’s near Ilkeston.) for coffeee. Just as I was parking, I laughed my socks off as this little dumpy woman in bobble hat and pink boots did the splits as she hit the tarmac. I thought she must be drunk. I got out of the car still laughing and promptly fell flat on my face. The entire car park was glassy, black ice. Short of crawling on all fours, we couldn’t reach the coffee shop. We had to drive round to the undercover petrol station and get coffee there. Good job really because Pauline was desperate for the loo.

We continued to drive and light snow began to fall. We drove on but, as we approached Rugby, the snow came down heavily, the traffic increased and the motorway turned white. Our mobile went and the lady we were going to meet from the sales office in Surrey phone Pauline’s mobile to say, “Don’t bother coming. It’s taken me an hour to drive the mile from my house.” We turned round and drove home but that’s where our trouble started.

As we approached the top of the hill down to our house at about 11.00 am, walkers stopped us with tales of the black ice and carnage of cars on the hill. We turned round and drove three miles to the start of the other approach road to our home only to find it closed by the police because of a bad accident. We thought we weren’t going to get home. There was one last way – another couple of miles detour which led to a cobblestone hill (locally known as The Cobbles).

Gingerly, we drove passing car wreck after car wreck. We actually reached The Cobbles and the rutted surface actually helped our ascent. To our horror, the road leading to our quarry was sheet ice lined on both sides with abandoned cars. The quarry was half blocked with cars which couldn’t move. More by luck than judgement, we manoeuvred inch by inch until we faced the mouth of the quarry which was still thick with snow. Our car likes snow and we shot up to our garage, automatic doors opening gratefully and swallowing us up.

14th January,  2010 

I woke up bruised and aching this morning. I think I’ve sprained my big toe. I must remember that I’m not a 25 year old rugby player any more. Of course, I take warfarin which causes internal bleeding and my skin bruises angrily like a purple wheal across my flesh. Still I felt better after tea and toast and a phone call to say my computer was ready for collection.

Today’s Huddersfield Examiner reported:

FREEZING ice chaos hitting Huddersfield has been described as the worst ever seen by police and highways staff. One of Huddersfield’s most experienced traffic officers said the chaos caused by icy roads led to more than 100 accidents and grit stocks in Kirklees remain at “critical level” with stocks dwindling despite the cutbacks in gritting.


Once again today, 92% of the schools across Kirklees were closed again. I really don’t know what’s happening in Education nowadays. They’re probably all at home watching the cricket. England all out for 180. What is Peterson doing?

15th January,  2010 

My PC, which cost me £2,500.00 three years ago has had a £50.00 new hard drive fitted and is ready to be picked up from PC World. A lovely Techie called Rabnawaz has worked on it, putting back Vista Premium and all the service packs. He has upgraded all my drivers for me. I do it myself but all of them at one sitting was monotony personified. I’ve still got to hook all my hardware up, recreate my home network and then download all my files from my internet-based Sky Drive, including my websites. I have to reinstall Ms Office 2007, MacromediaSuite (Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash), AdobePhotoshop, Acrobat Professional  and one or two other lesser programs.  It takes hours. It will fill Sunday.

Back to Surrey this lunchtime. I certainly couldn’t take any more Test Match today. We are hoping to look at one of the three remaining apartments in the building we have both liked and, possibly, to semi-secure it with a deposit.

16th January,  2010 

The journey down was good yesterday but we couldn’t get an appointment and had to wait till today. The meeting wasn’t until lunchtime so we were almost certainly going to miss meeting Ruth & Jane in Yorkshire. That would have been historic and Ruth will probably kill me. I feel very bad about it (if she’s reading this). The apartments left are not really good enough and we decided it was better not to commit ourselves. Didn’t leave Surrey until 5.00 pm and traffic was bad on the way back. It took nearly five hours and I was shattered. I just got in to see highlights of Chelsea put seven goals past Sunderland. I hate Chelsea.

17th January,  2010 

Woke up shattered. I must be getting old! Spent the day bringing my computer up to spec before uploading Bob’s photo on the web and bringing my Blog up to date. The snow is beginning to thaw. I think I see a little bit of lawn this afternoon. Tomorrow, we will return to our work pattern: up at 7.00 am, shower and large cup of tea, off to the Health Club for 9.00 am. Swimming, Jacuzzi, Steam Room, a bit more swimming and off by 11.00 am; coffee and The Times followed by what ever we want. Sounds wonderful.

Week 55

3rd – 5th January, 2010

The snow has been totally incapacitating here this week. To make matters worse, we had to leave our car with the repairers for two days. There are only a few days a year when a 4-wheel drive is essential each year and we contrived to give ours away. I wrote of a young lad reversing into our car in Sainsbury’s car park just before Christmas. The damage was minor but needed repairing. We had a date for repair before Christmas but the snow came so we cancelled and rearranged for Monday-Tuesday this week. We couldn’t back out again as the snow threatened. We drove through a blizzard to deliver our car and pick up our Honda Jazz courtesy car.


It is difficult enough changing a large, luxurious car for a little runaround but this was manual and just front-wheel drive. As we drove home, the falling snow was already causing major problems for drivers. We made it and shut ourselves away for two days. I watched the Test Match. It wasn’t going entirely to plan. South Africa were getting on top.

I thought you might like to see a local garden party, and photos of the road:

garden_party.jpg  ou.JPG  our_road.JPG

Also I have two photos of Jane BG in the snow:

janebg.jpg  janebg_2.jpg

At least I got some wonderful photos from Ruth illustrating that her snow was pretty deep as well.

kevan_1.jpg  kevan_2.jpg  tree.jpg

Twenty Five years ago Bjorn Rodnes, a Norweigian Ceramics teacher  in our school left us to go and lecture at the University of Edinburgh. We have never seen him since. However, every year of that 25 we have exchanged a Christmas Card. In fact we have exchanged the same two Christmas Cards throughout that 25 years. This is the one for this year. Obviously, it is stuffed with twenty five years of notes on pieces of paper stuffed inside the card. We really treasure it and look forward to receiving it.


6th January, 2010

Pauline’s Mum had three Hospital appointments this week. Each one we go on means a 40 mile round trip and takes half a day. This week it should have been:

  • Skin cancer on nose check up.
  • Pre-Cataract operation assessment
  • Internal scan

Because of the weather, they were all cancelled. The upside and downside of this was that I had all the time in the world to watch the Test Match. It was quite surreal. The entirety of our little world had shut down because of weather. All the schools were closed. Our old school was closed for the week which rather miffed us. Kirklees ran out of gritting material. Nowhere had rock salt for sale. The Test Match was conducted under brilliant blue skies and searing temperatures.

7th January, 2010

England won a famous Draw in the Test Match.


The meter linked to my computer told me that by 10.00 pm tonight the temperature was down to -12°C. Our new Electricity Monitor was working overtime.

8th January, 2010

Had an email from Jane earlier in the week. She was telling me of the places she is intending to visit over the next few months. I think it is meant to be a counterpoint to my talking about spending so much time in one place – id est  Greece for 180 days in 2010. Jane says she is holidaying in Peru in August. This suddenly triggered a memory in me that I don’t remember telling anyone about before.

When Bob went to the Antarctic (I’m not sure exactly when that was), Mum was very worried about him. Every time I phoned home she spoke about it. I think it must have been about 1974 or so. I was only a couple of years in to my teaching career and I didn’t know how to placate Mum’s fears. She told me it was my job to look after my little brother. My knowledge of where he was based was ludicrously minimal. (I passed GCE Geography by writing about Indians eating rice.) Anyway, I can see myself now – aged about 23-24 – in the school library with a pupil’s atlas checking on where South Georgia was. When I found it, I thought, “There’s no way I’m going there!” The next best thing, I thought, was to get as close to him as I could then, if anything went wrong, I wouldn’t be too far away. Where should I go? I consulted the atlas.

South America looked a short hop from South Georgia. What’s in South America? I consulted the atlas. Chile? Chile in 1974 was not a good place to be. I chose Peru as the next best place.


I got the Times Educational Supplement and looked up ‘Jobs in Peru’. Immediately I found one. British Council: Teachers of English in Peru. I wrote off immediately without thinking and without telling anyone. A month went by and I heard nothing. I completely forgot about it. One Saturday morning a brown envelope arrived. I had an interview in London a week later. I went to tell the Head that I needed time off to go to London and that I needed a reference. At that point, my good will crumpled. The Head didn’t want to lose me, offered me a better job and I ditched Bob to fate and accepted the additional £1000.00 a year or what ever it was.

9th January, 2010

I received a touching email from Caroline yesterday. I can’t believe what she is going through. I know she won’t mind me sharing it with you. This is what she wrote:

Dear John,

What a lovely week we’ve had, it took us 4 hrs to drive a two hour journey back from Cork airport on Sunday.

On Monday we discovered we were living on borrowed time with our water, the pipes were frozen from our well and we were living on the water in the tank and we had loaned our friends across the mountains our water butts as there system had failed. We rang John R’s our friendly local builders merchants, all out of water butts! We were iced in and I returned to work, I had to walk all the way from the back bedroom to the front bedroom, to my office. The washing is lying stinking in big heaps and the dishwasher is full of dirty ware.

On Wednesday we attempted to get out to buy bottled water. It took us an hour to crawl a mile and half to Blackwater Bridge and back, the main road was closed. We finally got out on lunchtime to buy 41 lites of bottled water for drinks and cooking, another cannister of gas and much needed rations for ourselves and the birds. We met the whole valley and exchanged words about of all things the weather.  But the most important purchase was Batiste dry shampoo, once home again I re-acquainted myself with batiste dry shampoo, you spray it on massage in, brush through and viola you hair is miraculously clean. I had to use it for the first 6 months when we bought the cottage and had no running water.

On Thursday night – suddenly there was a big cracking noise then a series of smaller ones. Les went up in the loft and outside to check the chimney. A block had cracked next to the chimney.

 On Friday, Les rang assorted mates, Dick, Simon and Mike to find out what the story was with said chimney. The result the previous owners must have had a fire in the chimney at some stage and not had it repaired. The solution a new chimney liner has to be fitted, Les rang John R’s again, it will take 3 days to get itIn the meantime he discovers that indeed a trickle of water is getting into the tank so there is a real possibility that we will have a shower, yippee, I am doing cartwheels. A man on Radio Kerry announces that this weather is here to stay until possibily March, the first year we have to disconnect the central heating boiler due to the extension and we have the coldest winter in decades and pay cuts, oh the joys.

Love Cal x

PS: Welcome to reality with the car most people drive runarounds and can’t afford luxurious ones

This is Cal and Les on their wedding day – 30 December, 2000. This will be Photo of the Week next week and will be accompanied by her story.