Week 62

21st February, 2010

Looked out at 6.00 am and the world was clear and fine. Got up at 7.30 am to a blizzard and the roads thick in snow. Went out for the papers immediately to feed my addiction and only just made it in my 4×4. Slid all the way down the hill back home. It’s going to be another ‘tucked-up’ day.


22nd February, 2010

Still getting everything ready for Greece. Today I ordered propagation units for growing vegetable seedlings before planting out. I ordered them from Sutton Seeds.

Another preparation is a framed photograph of our first house when we got married. The house you all came to on our wedding day. Pauline bought it in 1974 for £4,000.00 and we sold it in 1984 for £29,000.00. Our Greek house has pictures of Slade House and Quarry Court and now it will have the coaching house in Meltham. It went on the market two years ago for £340,000.00 but we can’t believe they got that for it.


23rd February, 2010

One of our biggest headaches in Greece at the moment is communications. We have our mobiles – we have a Vodafone contract phone each and we have a pay-as-you-go Vodafone Greece mobile with SIM as well. The latter would be quite useful for Greek calls in Greece but not cheap to phone UK. The UK contract mobiles cost 75p per connection outside UK using something called the Vodafone Passport which then allows one to use inclusive minutes. This is great if you talk for hours but Pauline phones her Mum two or three times per day and, as we are away 180 days, it would cost us just over £400.00. I know that’s not a lot and we would happily pay it but I’ve decided to resurrect my Skype membership.

Almost as soon as Skype was available, I downloaded it and tried to use it. Skype uses peer-to-peer technology to allow users to voice communicate over the internet (VOIP or voice over Internet Protocol). What it means, in real terms, is that two Skype users can talk for free. If a Skype user contacts a non-skype phone number, there is a charge but it is small. I can Skype call Pauline’s Mum from Greece to her flat in Oldham. She won’t know the difference but it will only cost me 1.2p per minute. Three 3-minute calls per day for 180 days will cost about £20.00. This is fantastic. It is all done with a little bit of software and a handset plugged in to a USB port. You can even have a hands-free phone now or a wireless Skype connection.


24th February, 2010

The one prerequisite for VOIP is a broadband connection. I am struggling to get a phone line. Some people wait for years because the OTE – the former nationalised telephone company in Greece – is a lame leviathan where the jobs-for-life theme is strongly expressed. The OTE is 30-percent owned by Deutsche Telekom after a limited take-over last year but as a condition they had to agree to leaving workers in their jobs undisturbed for life. This is one of the main problems with the Greek economy. The previously nationalised industries have been partly hived off to the private sector but they have taken their old working practices with them. These include being paid 14 monthly salaries in a 12 month period, being paid extra if they have to carry a file up or downstairs, having a job for life, etc.

25th February, 2010

Yesterday there was a general strike across Greece. They refuse to accept the harsh measures that the EU are forcing on them. The strike paralysed Greece not least because there was no transport apart from that taking strikers to their rallies. Below is a photo of a cafe on Syntagma (Constitution) Square which has been vandalised by the strikers. Unfortunately, they are frightening off their lifeblood – the tourists.


Even the Greek Government are attempting to bite the hand that feeds them. Germany will eventually have to bail them out. The Greeks won’t kowtow to them. They are demanding of the Germans 56 billion Euros in reparation for Second World War damages.

27th February, 2010

We are within six weeks of leaving Pauline’s Mum for six months. It was always assumed that, when she became unable to look after herself, she would move from the Anchor Housing ‘Residential’ home to the  Anchor Housing ‘Care’ home just further up the hill. Below are the two properties. They are about 200 yards apart. Pauline & I secured the last flat in the newly opened  Anchor Housing ‘Residential’ home – Spring Hill Court – 28 years ago. She was thrilled with it and has loved living there. She was 67 when she moved in and Pauline & I bought all the furniture for her. It is a warden-assisted place but it has always been absolutely delightful because of the management of the property. Many people have to sell their own homes in order to afford a flat. Pauline’s Mum had nothing – still has nothing – and everything is funded for her.

The second photo is of the Anchor Housing ‘Care’ home – Millfield – which has had two inspections and come out of both with an Excellent report.

spring-hill-court.jpg  millfield.jpg

Ultimately, we would like her to move from one to another when she feels the time is right. We think that time is not far away but she isn’t quite ready now. We think that after we have been away for 6 months and she has lost part of her safety net, she may feel differently. On that basis, we are going to talk to the Millfield Management before we go just to find out entry requirements. We know it is an expensive place to get in to normally but Pauline’s Mum should be fully funded. Next week is a busy one ferrying Pauline’s Mum to hospital, etc and we hope to fit a visit to Millfield in as well.

Week 61

14th February, 2010

Be still my beating heart!


Click Heart for Passion.

I walked in to Sainsburys yesterday morning and was hit by an overwhelming perfume. At the doors they always display the fresh flowers and they seemed to be overwhelmingly roses – red roses. I remember thinking how strange it was as I almost fell over a display of pink champagne on my way to pick up a paper. Suddenly, I twigged – Valentine’s Day. Of course, in school one was never allowed to forget that. Kids sending cards to kids. Kids sending cards to teachers. It was a hothouse of hormones. Then one would smile indulgently at the never changing merry-go-round of the cycle of development. But now how irrelevant and tacky it seemed.

Much more importantly, the downward spiral of the Climate Change religion goes on apace. The Sunday Times ran a story of a report by leading scientist who cast doubt on the accuracy of the warming data because of where the weather stations are sited. their siting is clearly important to their accuracy and conditions have changed since some or many were put in place. For example, a weather station at Manchester Airport was originally set in green fields but has been gradually built around until it is now based on and surrounded by concrete. Concrete absorbs and emits heat thus providing falsely higher  temperatures. Other stations are positioned near air conditioning units, etc. It is this data upon which we are building costly plans for the future. You can read the full article below:


15th February, 2010

Having survived Valentine’s Day, I now find myself having to survive Half Term. Pauline & I have had some memorable Half Term breaks –

Milan was great but cold and foggy.

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Furteventura in the Canaries was hot and humid:

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Lille was very French:

lille_1.jpg lille_2.jpg lille_3.jpg

Venice was just unforgettable:

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Paris was all restaurants:

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Arras was medieval:

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This Half Term we went to the Health Club to find Mothers taking their children to swimming lessons – in our pool! We went home and resolved not to return until next Monday. I honestly think Half Terms are an unnecessary distraction from school work, an unwarranted interruption to learning. These sorts of hiatus could scar children for life. I think we should be arguing for a 5 Term Year with a week’s break at the end of each one. Five weeks holiday should be enough for anyone.

The Greeks, of course, who are really in the mire and are desperately trying to drag everyone into it with them, the Greeks are on holiday. Today is ‘Clean Monday’ (Καθαρή Δευτέρα). This is the first day of the Greek Orthodox Lent. The common term for this day, “Clean Monday”, refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods. (I’ll drink to that!) Eating meat, eggs and dairy products is traditionally forbidden to Christians throughout Lent, with fish being eaten only on major days, but shellfish is permitted. The other activity on Clean Monday is to fly kites. All Greeks go out to fly their kites after lunch. Lent is the beginning of spring. We must go out to greet the first outdoor day of the new year. The community celebrates this day by climbing the nearest hill and flying kites on the fresh spring wind!

16th February, 2010

Mum was a big admirer of the Jesuits and she would not have enjoyed the article in The Times today that started:

The sexual abuse scandal in Jesuit-run German schools is spreading rapidly and is likely to involve more than a hundred former pupils, according to the head of one of the affected colleges

This is classic Roman Catholicism and beats the Climate Change scandal into a cocked hat in all but the cost to us. Read the full article here:


17th February, 2010

Found a fascinating string of Blogs today. Firstly, a Japanese girl who has married a Greek from Piraeus. She has studied in England (Birmingham) and Italy (Pisa) as well as Japan and Greece. She is a Doctor of Philosophy but her Blog is about living in Greece and focusses on Greek food. It can be found here:


18th February, 2010

Got an email from Liz today. She sounded very up-beat:

I have been to lunch today at house of Lords. Really wish Mum was alive to tell her.
You know how easily impressed she was. Me Lizzie dripping hob nobbing with Lords
There are 17 bars there! And I met the speaker. I was so excited.

I replied:

Well Lizzie Dripping
What were you doing there? Did you drink in all 17 bars

Liz got back to me to say she was lobbying Lord Victor Abedowale who looks a bit like the Tories answer to Bob Marley. Apparently, he is the CEO of Turning Point.


19th February, 2010

Bob’s 58th birthday. Got a nice email from him. Had to be up and out by 8.30 this morning because Pauline’s Mum had final assessment in Oldham Royal before cataract operation. As usual, travelling was a nightmare. Five or six hours of snow had fallen last night. The M62 was completely closed. It had police cars across it. A car was stranded half way up the grass of the roundabout with its back end staved in from an earlier collision.There had been accidents at 5.30 am, 6.15 am, 6.45 am and 7.00 am. Black ice was said to be the problem and there was a 12 mile tail back amounting to 2.5 hours. Of course, the mooors road was out of the question because that would have been impassable. We had to go on a long, circuitous route many miles out of our way in huge lines of frustrated cars. We got there in the end but it was scarey and not fun.

Pauline’s Mum is our post office. We do most of our shopping on-line and have everything delivered to her. She’s always in and it means she gets visitors. Today we collected three parcels: some 6 x Kingsize Egyptian Cotton Sheets from BHS central delivery; Magix Video & Audio Editing software package from Amazon and some kitchenware from Lakeland.

20th February, 2010

Saturday is always Sainsburys Day even in retirement. It is hard to believe but early on Saturday morning is still the quietest time to get through the weekly shop. I am indulging my love of offal again this week. I am addicted to liver and kidney in red wine sauce. This is eaten with shredded savoy cabbage cooked in butter and garlic. Wonderful. I love it. It will take my mind off Man U..

kidliver.jpg  shred_savoy.jpg

I bet you just want it!

Week 60

7th February, 2010

I can’t believe I’ve managed to sustain this for 60 weeks. If only I could diet with that determination. Started snowing again today. After an initial foray out for the Sunday Papers, it was a lovely, relaxing day of reading, Rugby Union and Premier League football. Just a pity Arsenal were so spineless!

Wonderful but horrifying article by Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph in which he ferrets out money – our taxpayer money – given by our government under various guises to spurious foreign organisation under the heading of fighting climate change. Amongst other outrageous items of expenditure, he lists the £239, 538.00 we spent for study of ‘Climate Change Impacts on Chinese Agriculture’. The whole article can be read here.


8th February,  2010

Aren’t Monday mornings wonderful? Went for a wonderful swim although the Steam Room was out of order. It is the Spirit Health Club chain and there are clear signs of economic tightening. The Managers are definitely less specialist and expensive to employ than they were ten years ago. The temperatures of the pools are lower – or is it me?

The next hospital visit for Pauline’s Mum this afternoon. We’ve got two this week. To add to her problems, her gout has flared up again. This afternoon it is skin cancer on her nose – post operative – that we are checking. She was signed off. I can’t remember what I was looking for help with for Pauline’s Mum but suddenly I found myself staring at this cherubic face. It was someone called Liz Bruce. I thought, I know that girl! Suddenly realised it was our Liz.


There is a comment box at the bottom of this webpage. I sent in the following message:

What a wonderful new Strategic Director you’ve got and she looks gorgeous!

John Sanders – Huddersfield Home for the Bewildered

9th February,  2010

More snow today. Thought I’d do a search for Liz Bruce in an idle moment. Up popped a copy of  The Daily Telegraph. Mum would have been so proud. You can read the article below:


10th February,  2010

The Health Club was really quiet – probably the snow put them off. The Steam Room had been repaired. I met a Hungarian in the changing rooms. He decided to tell me a joke:

A woman got on a train with her strange looking child and they both sat down. The train moved on one stop and a man sitting opposite prepared to get off. As he did so, he leaned over to the woman and said, You’ve got a very ugly child. The man got off, leaving the woman visibly upset. Another, seeing her distress went over and said, I’ll get you a cup of tea to settle your upset. He went off down the carriage and came back with a cup of tea and a banana. He said, Here you are love. This will make you feel better and I’ve got a banana for your monkey!

I’d heard it before but I laughed all the same. It made him feel better. Well, he was Hungarian.

Spent the rest of the day tightening up the plans for our European trip. We leave England on April 13th and arrive on our island on April 19th. We leave our island on October 4th and arrive back in England on October 9th – 180 days after leaving it.


11th February,  2010

Interesting day today. A young, trainee teacher from my old school who I had been mentoring and supervising last year called round in the morning to ask me to continue in that role. I am very reluctant to get involved. He is a higher order ICT instructor but with weak literacy skills. This latter point seems to count for so little these days but it is essential in my view. We agreed someone else should mentor him. I am free!

Took Pauline’s Mum for pacemaker check. She passed. It is 8 years old and still working well. She will be 96 in August. We will be away but will fly home for a few days if necessary.

12th February,  2010

Had a day off from the Health Club today. Pauline has spent the morning speaking to insurance companies. We now have the house and contents insured for the whole of the 6 months it is unoccupied. We don’t even need to have neighbours coming in to check. We probably will but it is reassuring that it is not a requirement. If you’ve never left your house unoccupied for more than a couple of weeks, you would probably not be aware of insurance requirements. Most House and Contents insurance policies stipulate a limit of 30 days that the property can be left unoccupied. After that, insurance policies are void. Leaving the house for 180 days can be quite daunting. Today we found Intasure, a Lloyds registered insurance company who will insure us for the whole period at a cost of £330.00 for the year. Health insurance and Travel insurance are being provided by Columbus Direct and cost £260.00. Car insurance comes from Fortis. Once again, this is not easy to get for more than a couple of months. We have had to negotiate individually with Fortis and have agreed to pay £20.00 per month extra for the six months we are away so £120.00 on top of our annual comprehensive policy.

We seasoned Hellas travellers know there is only one reliable place to go for inter-island ferry information. GTP or Greek Travel Pages has been published for decades but now is also on the web. Today I was able to fit the last connection into the outward itinerary by fixing the third ferry connection of the trip. We have to cross the British Channel, the Adriatic Sea and the Aegean Sea. This latter crossing is expensive and infrequent at this time of the year. Fortunately, the Hydrofoil service – Aegean Speedrunner – will have started its Summer service. The ferry takes between 5 – 6 hours from Piraeus – Sifnos. The Hydrofoil takes half that. It still costs £120.00 for two with car.


13th February,  2010

Pauline & I have lived together for nearly 32 years. When I say ‘lived together’, I really mean it. We haven’t spent a night apart in that time – or a day. We have worked together on the same campus, often in the same building and, at one point, even shared the same office. We know each other and each knows what the other is thinking often before they do themselves. It will soon be twelve months since we last went to work. As well as wonderful, it has been strange. All our lives we have been running, trying to achieve something. Suddenly, we are not and yet we have both found ourselves substituting future goals which are of no great consequence and pushing ourselves towards them.

I am reminded of the Lines from Elliot’s Ash Wednesday:

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn ……
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still

Even in our travelling, we must learn to sit still.

Week 59

31st January, 2010

When we were teaching, we could tell you immediately what conditions we needed to deliver successful lessons. If we had been advising parents what classroom conditions they should be looking for to ensure their child would receive the best education, we might come up with a whole list of requirements from skilful and knowledgable teachers with good discipline to innovative ICT to warm and attractive classrooms BUT, the top of any list would always feature class size. Ask any parents who sacrifice thousands of pounds each year in private school fees and they will tell you that one of the most important privileges they are buying is smaller class size.

You can imagine our amazement and then our amusement when, first under Thatcher and then under Blair (War criminal & Roman Catholic)/Ruth Kelly (Education Minister & Roman Catholic), we were told when extra teachers could not be afforded, that bigger class size actually led to better teaching.

There are several different advantages to bigger class sizes relating to teacher quality and teacher pay that often get overlooked in the political posturing known as educational policy. Smaller classes require more teachers, which drives down both the quality of teachers as a whole as well as their pay. The only people who benefit from more teachers are politicians who can claim they have done something for education and teachers unions who get more members. Larger classes, with high quality teachers, actually benefits both the children and the teachers.

This is Bonkers in the Head thinking which could only come from someone who has never faced a clas of 50 – 60 kids and tried to teach them. Actually Thatcher, Blair and Kelly all sent their children to private schools in some perverse sense of punishment by smaller class size. Politics is cynical and politicians say what they need to say particularly when in office. The really annoying thing is that you can always find gullible members of the public to support them when caught on the vox pop hoof. Oh yes. I’ve never really thought about it but, now you come to mention it, I suppose bigger classes must be much better for our children.And then the Government will find a polling organisation who can persude a majority of the 20 people asked to agree with the Bigger Classes – Better Chances slogan. Below are pictures of the classrooms Ruth inhabited as a child:

victorian_classroom.jpg victorianchildrenclassroomw.jpg

1st February, 2010

Today, of course, it is not shortage of teachers that is on the agenda. Today we are being told to believe that people are clamouring to keep working. Surveys tell us that 65% of those questioned are desperate to keep working. They love it so much, there is nothing they would rather do. Forget hobbies, forget travelling, forget self indulgence! What 65% of the adult population are desperate to do is get up every morning and decide not to follow their dreams but to commute across town in order to build that house, attend that meeting, sell that coffee, sweep that road. Do me a favour! This is  state-driven propaganda.

2nd February, 2010

While the rest of the world was out at work, I was down at PCWorld buying a new laptop for my wife, installing all my school-bought software and setting up the wireless network. When I bought my first laptop (with school money) ten years ago, it cost £2500.00. It had short battery life, weighed heavier than a hod of bricks and, I think, had a 10″ screen. It was a Toshiba. It has long since dropped in a skip. I must have had five more school laptops since then. Buying my own was a strange experience. Once again I bought a Toshiba but, this time, it has a 17″ screen, a 2.5 hrs battery, a built-in webcam & microphone and an on-line healthcheck and repair system. And it only cost £500.00.


Had an email from Cal that I would like to share with you:

Some new pics for you. These boyo’s (deer) ran out in front of me on my way to work again the other morning. Part of a local lake frozen, pics of the extension, storm damage in the garden, our river flooding and road closureIt will be a year in March since we began the extension, what a year to pick, what an adventure! Between having to dismantle the central heating boiler which means no central heating in the coldest winter for years, floods and storms and the well freezing tis certainly an adventure. We have the start of the roof with most of the joists in place the timber plates on the top of the blocks and most of the blocking of the chimney complete. We have the ceiling height measured and positioning of the velux windows and french doors organised. So it’s the roof struts, felting and tiling next and spring official starts tomorrow in Ireland, yippee.

The pay cut is on hold at the minute as the section 39 agencies battle it out with the HSE and strikes and work to rule look likely, however, some bright spark in HR instructed payroll to deduct the paycut in my pay by accident, they will reimburse me now the error is discovered. Ah well now I know my pay is going to be down by €278 per month when it eventually gets implemented. But I love my job and I am working with 5 children under 5 with multiple disabilities at the moment which is great fun.

Cal seems to live in such a stunningly beautiful place, some of the hardships she describes may be mitigated. I have to say, she seems supremely happy with her lot. Below are the first two of a number of photos that she sent me and which I will post on the Blog/Website. The first is of the frozen fringes of the lake. I’m not sure what the second is centred on but the mountains look spectacular.

cal_1.jpg  cal_2.jpg

It took me a while to work out the next two although the woodland scene is beautiful. When I blew it up to full size, I spotted a number of deer that Cal was talking about. I have enlarged that section for for delight.

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3rd February, 2010

Pauline’s Mum is going through a bad patch again. We are currently exploring the possibility that she is wheat-intolerant. The doctor has prescribed a drug that treats irritable bowel syndrome and we have been out to buy the latest product on the market – Genius Bread. I’ve tasted it today and the brown bread tastes almost like bread.

genius-bread.jpg  geniusbrownbread.jpg

We have had heavy snow this morning and tonight. Only we superior beings with 4xwheel drive vehicles can get about the streets. One of the positives from this weather in January has been the marked upturn in sales of 4xwheel drives. Some were beginning to feel battered by the balmy army of climate changers. Now that it is obvious that they are all cheats and criminals, the 4xwheel drivers feel able to crawl back into the sunlight – or in their case, the snow.

4th February, 2010

It is nice to see the new religion – Climate Change – in retreat. The Church has been brought low by sexual cheats. ( If only Mum had lived to discover the full extent of the Irish Catholics’ degeneracy.) and Climate Change desciples are being demoralised by the data cheats upon whose sand they build their castles. One is almost tempted to shout, There is a God!

You may or may not have heard of Steve Penk. He has compered a film clip show on TV but is also a DJ.


He is based in Oldham and when someone rang in to his radio programme to say the traffic was snarled up under a bridge in Chadderton where a woman was poised to throw herself off, he immediately played, after careful consideration, “the classic rock track ‘Jump’ by Van Halen” in order to show empathy with the frustrated motorists. The woman did jump and, as an unrepentant Penk pointed out, “only shattered her feet”. The people of Oldham, the people that I have given 40 years of service to educate, are nothing if not subtle.

5th February, 2010

Pauline & I have been travelling across Europe in one way or another for more than 30 years. Over the past 10 years, we have spent a minimum of 2 months abroad each year. In spite of this and in spite of being meticulous planners, we still get real excitement when we book the next trip and genuine flutters of destabilisation in the week before we set off. Today we had to start arranging medical insurance for six months in Greece, car insurance to cover the period away and, in order to do that, we had to fix our dates exactly. We have changed our minds again and decided to set off from Hull with P&O.


We will leave England on April 13th and return on October 9th. This represents 179 days – one short of the statutory limit for tax purposes. We booked our P&O crossing which is just over 12 hours and costs £470.00. For that we get a Luxury cabin with settee and satellite TV, return passage for us and our car and Dinner & Breakfast.

6th February, 2010

Today we booked the other major leg of our journey – Ferry from Ancona in Italy to Patras in Greece.

ancona_port.jpg  patras-port.jpg

Normally, this will cost us a minimum of £750.00 but travelling in Low Season has halved the cost. We have booked with Anek Lines. I also had a meeting with my Doctor. She is a wonderful woman as well as a gorgeous blonde. I raised the fact that I was intending to live abroad for six months each year but would still be relying on her for drugs all of which I get free. She was immediately supportive. We have fixed appointments for the end of March and the middle of October.