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.
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.