Week 67

28th March, 2010 

Putting the clocks back and forward used to be such a chore. I am dominated by time and have clocks and watches everywhere. Nowadays almost all of them are radio controlled timepieces. The clock in the kitchen, the clock in the dressing room, the radio alarm by the bed are all controlled and reset by the signal from Rugby. The clock on the TV, the clock in my car are both set by satelllite signals. I love driving across Europe because the Satellite Navigation system resets the clock by one hour in France and two hours in Greece. Having reset our watches, our phones and the cooker clock manually, we were ready to start the day.

It was a lovely, sunny day dominated by the Papers and some poor quality football. I cooked Belly Pork with Savoy Cabbage and red pepper and white wine jus. It went down very well.

29th March, 2010 

The windows and doors were inspected this morning, one or two adjusted and the job signed off. The curtains have gone back up. The burglar alarm man turned up to reattach the contacts to the new back door and patio door and put a new battery into the alarm box. Thirty minutes = £110.00. Just like teaching. The house has gone back to its pristine order.

I’ve found a simple instruction video on the web to teach me how to create a proxy server on my PC so that, in Greece, I can fool the BBC into believing that I am receiving my internet feed from UK and are worthy, therefore, of watching British TV free of charge.

Keep getting emails from Ruth telling me how soft I am. Of course, she’s right. Did you watch Married, Single, Other tonight? I did through floods of tears. What can I do about it? At my age?

30th March, 2010 

For the past 30 years I have been driving Pauline to Vidal Sassoon’s in Manchester or Leeds every couple of months to have her hair cut. That’s all she has and in the arcane gradation of hair dressing salons, she has always insisted on a ‘Top Stylist’ to cut her hair. Recently, that has cost £60.00 but it does make her happy. In return, she always cuts mine herself. The last time I had my hair cut by a Barber was 1968 and it cost Ten Shillings so I’ve been saving that at least. Recently, the ‘Top Stylist’ from Sassoon’s in Leeds left the shop and set up on her own in Farsley, Pudsey. Pauline was so pleased with her expertise that we went today to have her hair cut privately.

I don’t know if you are aware but Farsley is in The Rhubarb Triangle, a 9-square-mile triangle in West Yorkshire located between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell, famous for producing early forced Rhubarb. If you’ve ever eaten ‘Champagne Rhubarb’, even in a yoghurt, you can be sure it came from the Rhubarb Triangle. Farsley, Pudsey is renowned for Rhubarb or Tusky as Keith Waterhouse  would call it.

rhubarb-triangle-sign.jpg  carlton-rhubarb.jpg 

I have a close University friend called Tash (because he had one.) who was so proud that he came from The Rhubarb Triangle.

Pauline’s hairdresser had set up shop in a flat in the heart of old Farsley. It forced Pauline to break her solemn pledge never to set foot in a school again. Her hairdresser’s flat was in an old school.

puds1.jpg  puds2.jpg  puds3.jpg

We leave for Greece two weeks today which means that Pauline will not have her Sassoon-trained hairdresser for six months. There is no one on the island that she will trust to cut her hair but, as luck will have it, her hairdresser used to live and work in Athens and will provide Pauline with recommendations for a top stylist there. Mind you, it will be an expensive haircut – seven hour, £100.00 round trip on the ferry, £150.00 night in a hotel, £100.00 eating out plus the cost of the hair cut. Still, as long as it makes her feel better!

31st March, 2010 

We could see snow on the Pennines across the valley but we were thankfully free of it. Received an email from Jane on her return from Athens:

Hi John – thanks for posting my photo for a second week. My team who run my office and therefore have access to all my emails think you are as mad as a march hare. But then they now know that to be a family trait

We had a great trip to Athens – the taxi drivers were back at work but the firemen went on strike on Tues and had a demo in Syntagma Square – this was good for us as we were not on fire and their demo cleared the traffic which meant we could walk about without threat from Athenian drivers. Athens is so much nicer than when we last went 30 years ago. The weather was glorious, the hotel was 5 star and we had a suite with a view of the Acropolis and I loved the new museum. We also returned to the Archaeological Museum to see again Agamemnon’s death mask, Zeus and the horse and boy jockey – amazing. The Greeks seem to have learned how to make good wine in the intervening years. So a great success and fortunately I had booked us on Easy Jet  not BA so we travelled without problem and v cheaply – and I have always been snooty about the orange airline. I will be using them and their on line check in and speedy boarding system again

Hope you have a great birthday – does it seem strange to be nearly 60?


I like to keep up with current affairs. Each day I read or browse on-line The Times, The Huddersfield Examiner, The Oldham Chronicle, Kathimerini (The Athens-based English Greek Newspaper), Ta Nea (Greek Newspaper) and four or five Greek Blogs. I found this in one of the blogs yesterday:


1st April, 2010 

White Rabbit! Jane sent me a photo of her and her team. This is Jane and the rest of the The Irish Peatland Conservation Council :


Don’t they look gorgeous. Why are they so weak on Climate Change? Happy April to you all!

Had a meeting with our Estate Agent at lunchtime. Agreed to drop our price by £25,000.00. Told them that we were leaving the country for six months and that all selling would be up to them. They didn’t seem phased by that. They’ll probably do nothing just as last year.

In the afternoon I went to Armitages Garden Centre to buy seed Potatoes to take to Greece. I already have the onion sets. I also bought some asparagus roots and rhubarb roots. I am going to create the rhubarb triangle of the Aegean.


2nd April, 2010 

Hope you read the opening reports of the Shoesmith-stitchup by Ofsted & Balls. Shocking as it is, nobody in Public Service should be at all surprised by the illegal and utterly immoral behaviour of that ridiculous body and their bully-boy boss, Balls. Ofsted is a creature of Balls and Balls is a creature of corrupt power. Rewritten 17 times to erradicate any criticism of police or Health officials, remove any positivity about Shoesmith and deflect all blame away from Balls and on to her, the toady Ofsted Inspectors must be in their last throes of influence. Read the full reports below:


3rd April, 2010 

It was nice to read that I am normal. Not that I doubted it inspite of the chattering classes attempts to re-define the roles of the sexes. The Male Brain, as Louann Brizendine concludes in her sequel to The Female Brain, is ‘marinated in testosterone’ and is hard-wired to cause men to lie and take risks and to be low on personal responsibility and social conditioning. At one time I almost worried that I had a one-track mind. Now I can relax in the knowledge that it’s normal. Thanks, Louann, you little minx!


Week 66

21st March, 2010

United powered majestically past Liverpool and Chelsea faltered pathetically at Blackburn. Increasingly, Chelsea are looking like an ageing bunch who will have to be replaced for next season.

waynerooneymanchesterunited.jpg  ancellotti.jpg

22nd March, 2010

Whenever we are away, the house is automatically lit. We currently have twelve timed lights including one outside permanently on a dusk/dawn switch. Because six months is a long time, I have had to break the rule of a life time and purchase energy-saving, long-life bulbs. I almost had to get a mortgage to pay for them. Fortunately, Pauline had save up £140.00 in Sainsburys points which went towards defraying the cost. We needed them. Our weekly shop leapt from £100.00 to nearly £500.00 with all the items we needed to take or send before us by freight. You wouldn’t believe that toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, toothbrush heads, coffee, tea, etc., could cost so much but when you are buying for 6 months it soon mounts up.

23rd March, 2010

Lovely day today. Went to see Ruth & Kevan in Bolton. We went for coffee. It took 30 minutes from house to house. Ruth’s house is neat as a new pin. In fact, every house on her estate looks neat as a new pin. The lawns are manicured to within an inch of their lives. It was lovely to see them both but particularly Ruth who has been so kind and supportive of me since Mum died and over this first year of our retirement. She is a lovely girl who we should all count ourselves grateful to have as a sister.


Kevan doesn’t look any different to the man I remember in 1972. He must be the Peter Pan of Bolton. He is gentle, mild mannered and empathetic.  No wonder Ruth chose him. Perhaps he chose her. We leave for Greece three weeks today and Ruth and I will keep in contact with Skype. Anybody else on Skype?

24th March, 2010

Terrible memories today of the sweep coming to 81 High Street. I’ve probably written about this before so you must excuse me but I always remember the Dining Room beings swathed in sheets and towels on the floor and the table right up to the hearth. We were banished to our bedrooms until the big clean up had been completed and then Brunch was served. Today we spent hours covering every carpet upstairs and down, taking down curtains and blinds. Coral Windows are coming tomorrow to fit new patio windows, new back door, new windows at the back of the house. On Friday, the blind man comes. Let’s hope he can find his way here.

25th March, 2010

After Mum, the alarm got us up at 6.00 am. Pauline shot out of bed. Within half an hour, I was awake. After tea and toast, we put the finishing touches to covering up the televisions, computers, etc. By 8.00 am I was off to Sainsburys to buy biscuits for the workers. As I arrived home, I met my neighbour, Jean, who told me that her husband, Peregrine, who is lecturer in a tertiary college in Bradford, was informed by email yesterday that he had been identified in a small pool of lecturers for possible redundancy. He is 48. This is an immediate sign of the slimming of public sector provision in general and tertiary education in particular. The fact that Perry is in the business of skilling young apprentices is of little importance apparently.

At about 9.00 am, the van arrived and the banging began:


Perigrine’s wife, Jean, is a bird lover. The lawn is covered with bits of bread in the morning but our lounge carpet is covered in bits of bread by the evening. It is a straight forward process of redistribution mainly done by magpies. They sit on our chimney and yell down it before carpet bombing with stale white sliced. I’ve asked Jean for a healthier brown but to no avail. Before we go away, we are determined to get a cowell put on the chimney. We don’t want to come home to six months of stale bread.


I’m going to be known as the man with the diseased phallus on the top of his house.

26th March, 2010

Went round to speak to my next door neighbour this afternoon. Put one foot on their ‘decking’ which had a winter’s litchen and water on it. It was like stepping on to black ice. I fell quite comically headlong but managed to avoid damaging the woodwork. Struggling to my knees and then feet a little shaken and with green-stained knees and elbows, I dismissed the fall with a wry smile but, as the evening wore on, I became increasingly stiff and my ankle throbbed. I had quite a bit of pain to get upstairs for bath and bed. I really don’t think it is broken.

27th March, 2010

Got up in the middle of the night, forgetting about my ankle damage and nearly fell headlong again with the pain. As the day goes on, however, the pain eases and it is clearly just a sprain or slight ligament damage. Saw my doctor today to obtain medication for the next 200 days. This amounts to:

  • Amlodipine -1000mg
  • Atorvastatin – 4000mg
  • Doxazosin – 400mg
  • Losartan – 20,000mg
  • Pioglitazone – 9000mg
  • Metformin – 200,000mg
  • Warfarin – 1740mg

I feel quite ashamed of the fact that this is what is keeping me alive. Spent a lot of today preparing the launch of a new (additional) blog which will allow me to limber up for writing a book on our Greek experiences. I will maintain it over the six months abroad with vignettes of small island life particularly under the scrutiny of economic hardship and reducing European subsidies.

You will notice that a ladybird has dropped by to keep a close eye on the Blog. She is very welcome just as you are.


Everyone who goes to Bolton has a nice time. Pauline and I went on Tuesday and had coffee and conversation. Man. United went today and had three points.


I posted a letter to Mike today.

Week 65

14th March, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day


Today was a beautifully sunny and warm day. We drove over to Oldham. We ate lunch in the flat and had Cod in Mornay Sauce with home-made chips. Before Pauline’s Mum could say she was ‘stuffed’, she was force-fed Apple Crumble with Custard. While John & Pauline struggled with ‘seconds’, Mum stumbled to the toilet and then puffed back to her chair. As she fell back into her chair, she switched on the television and adjusted the volume to level 34. Right, are you going? she said and Mother’s Day was over.


15th March, 2010

Blood coagulant check showed everything stable. One more visit the day before we leave for Greece and the it will be down to phone calls from the island. Had a nice email from Bob today. More than twenty years ago, I asked him to be the Executor of my Will. Fifteen years later, following the build of our Greek house, I sent him a Codicil. As we prepare to leave the real world for six months, I felt the need to check that everything was in place. Pauline knew exactly where to find our copies of the Wills but I wondered if Bob would remember. He is only young don’t forget. His response was delightfully reassuring:

Thanks for this.  I do still have all the paperwork you sent me (and I know where it is)

Stay well – enjoy your time in Greece – and smile to yourself when you think of me commuting each day on the treadmill in London

Best wishes


16th March, 2010

We set off to Hull exactly four weeks today. I have been buying seeds, onion sets, seed potatoes, etc to take with us. I’ve got to hit the ground running when we get there because we are right at the end of the sowing season in the Mediterranean.

17th March, 2010

Two more hospital check-ups for Pauline’s Mum this week and one more next week and we will have almost seen the end of them before we go.

Article from the front page of a Greek Newspaper today:

No cabs on streets tomorrow

There will be no taxis serving the capital and other major Greek cities tomorrow as cabbies stage a 24-hour strike. Taxi drivers object to government plans to make them issue receipts, keep account books and pay tax according to their income. The cabbies are protesting despite the government’s decision to postpone the implementation of these measures, originally planned to take effect immediately, until 2011. Under the current system, drivers pay just over 1,200 euros in tax each year, regardless of what they earn. Cabbies staged two 24-hour strikes last month and have pledged to continue their action until the government satisfies their demands.

This gives you a flavour of what the Greek Government is up against. Some echoes of this, of course, are to be found in the BA strike and the Unite Union’s relationship with The Labour Party not least with Mrs Har-person.


18th March, 2010

I wrote to Cal wishing her Happy St Patrick’s Day and including her essential emblem:


She wrote this back to me:

Thank’s! I had a grand day. I didn’t bother with green sausages this year just my usual bowl of Flahavan’s porridge. Then I had a lovely day in the garden planting 3 apple tress and finally getting my goosegog bush in the ground. Anyway, of course we had the bacon and cabbage with floury shpuds and parsley sauce probably like the whole nation on Patrick’s Day and a few scoops alright of the aul fire water, poitin.

Beamish and Murphy’s are the Cork stouts not that nonsense (West Brit) Dublin stout-Guinness.


I did have a right aul head on me the next day at work but I was instructing a yound lad of 18 who is totally blind to make pizzas, I am getting him ready to start Uni in Sept, he is doing his leaving cert at the minute and I have been instructing him in Braille and long cane for the last year and then I had to go to a 5 year old who is totally blind also and do long cane training with him, he has a global developmental delay also so he can be a right little bugger when he wants.

Life is mental at the minute as of course you know this time of year is so busy in the garden. I spent the whole of last weekend disinfecting my cold frame and pots before I go planting my veg seeds. I am doing carrots, parsnips, potatoes of course and all the usual suspects of the salad world.

Got to run I am instructing 16 volunteers in sighted guiding on Monday morning at the Uni before they support a group of 8-14year olds doing beep baseball and goal ball at a Camp Ability we are running at easter.

Yeah, I know the Toon should be going up but I don’t think they’ll stay up unless that stupid southerner Ashley buggers off and money is spent on players. My beloved Rams are doing reasonably well but they won’t be going up…………..Yours, on the brink. Cal x

PS: I am certain now that I was mixed up on the maternity ward in Derby City Hospital and given to the wrong family, ewe’s are all too weird for me to be related to any of you!

19th March, 2010

I was just about to email Jane for a photo when I received an email from her:

Subject: FW: Photo

Hi John – a photo of me. First year in the High School they discovered that I had no hand/eye/ball/bat coordination for any sport but I could memorise the rules for most games so they made me junior referee for the hockey matches. This is me clearly looking slightly anxious prior to my first refereeing the home game against Derby Girls High. Some might say my life script is being a “referee” .

Sorry we have not been able to get together before you go off to Sifnos. David and I fly to Athens this weekend – first time we have been back since 1980. So am looking forward to visiting the Acropolis Museum and sitting in the sunshine etc.


20th March, 2010

Pouring with rain today. The Saturday Times brought new delight. In 1994 I was the first person in my area to access the internet. Sixteen years ago, of course, it didn’t look anything like it does today. It wasn’t a graphical medium. It was dial-up and a 14.4 kbit/s modem which had formerly powered a fax machine. I remember making my first connection and accessing files from Manchester University. I was so excited I went screaming over to demand that the current Headteacher (who was subsequently sacked for incompetence) came to witness the earth shattering occasion. After four unsuccessful attempts to connect, it was fifth time lucky. He took one look a the string of text appearing slowly on the screen, said, Humph! Is that it? and walked off. I must admit that I hardly noticed. I was on a different planet. Ever since then, I have dreamed of and agitated for all interaction to take place on the net. I worked towards a virtual school until I finally the Learning Platform adopted in my own school.


It is now a requirement for all schools. I have long believed that access to services – local and national govermental as well as commercial – should be accessed over the web and I was pleased to see the Labour Party is flagging that up in The Times today.


Week 64

7th March, 2010

Glorious sunshine AGAIN. The views across our valley were beautiful, although the snow covered ridges of the Pennines in the distance, have rather been lost in these photographs.


8th March, 2010

Long and arduous day today. Pauline’s Mum’s cataract operation is coming good but our trip to the hospital with her today got more and more exasperating by the hour. We have been treating extreme infection in her operated-on eye with three different creams/ointments every two hours. It has been an exhausting and exhaustive programme. The eye is showing real improvement. We were told to take her back to the Eye Clinic for 2.30 pm today. We got there early. The pattern is always the same: I drop Pauline and her Mum outside the Clinic with a wheelchair. I drive round and round the carpark until a space becomes available. Pauline arrives in the Clinic before the appointment time and then wait hours to be seen. Today, in spite of a precise appointment time, she was told the wait would be at least three hours – oh and by the way, we can do nothing until her notes arrive. These notes never arrive.

Because of my Mother-in-Law’s age, we have been regulars at the Oldham Royal over the past two or three years. Every time, the appointment is prefaced by an inordinate wait, an unknown doctor appears and asks all the same questions as the last time because the notes from before cannot be found. When it comes to it, the treatment is sympathetic and effective but the infrastructure is appalling. The consultation invariably ends the same way. Pauline’s Mum is given a prescription which can only be obtained at the Infirmary’s Dispensary. This is about the size of a cupboard. Get three people on the customer side of the counter and the bodily contact becomes so indecent observers would categorise it as troilism. The main function of this despensary is to service the hospital. Any outpatient demands go strictly to the back of the queue. After three hours in the clinic, Pauline had another 45 minutes in the Dispensary by which time her Mum was so desperate for the toilet, we nearly put out a flood alert (in my car!). The National Health Service is made up of lots of lovely, caring and often highly skilled people all drowning under a bureaucratic framework that is unable to cope with the demands of 2010.

9th March, 2010

Not feeling well today. Ironic really because it is five weeks short of one year since we were last in school. Only yesterday, I was remarking that, in that time, I we had suffered not one single illness. Usually, in any school year, we come in contact with so many ill people that I guarantee two or three bouts of cold/’flu.. Did a little bit of gardening in the sunshine but my heart wasn’t in it.

As you know, we all hate Arsenal but even I had to marvel at their performance against Porto tonight. It was breathtaking and the goal by little Nasri was wonderful. I still don’t rate Bendtner inspite of his hat-trick.


10th March, 2010

Sunny and warm today. We spent some time outside tidying up after this destructive winter. I suspect that a number of shrubs that have survived the past decade have been done for by this winter.

Received an email from Catherine. This is what she said:

Hi John

I had a lovely 55th b’day, It was a sunny but cold day.1 teach full time except for Tueday pm and eve when I am at college doing a psychotherapy and counselling degree. I teach the children who are out of school for one reason or another but mostly the ones I teach have phobias, OCD, trauma or Aspergers so it is interesting! I also am doing my first placement at a counselling service in Worthing which takes up evenings-I have to do 18months probation before getting paid work. I don’t get much time to do much else at the moment. The course finishes at Xmas – if I can get all the assignments completed! I don’t think I will ever be rich but don’t care about that as I have simple pleasures except Larie and I would like to move abroad to live in the sun. Jamie would like to move out of home but rent and properties are v expensive here. He is part way through accountancy training and has a very expensive girlfriend so no money! Our dog Bella is getting old so I am already eyeing up some puppies… but not telling her of course! I don’t mind keeping in touch but won’t be doing it every week as I don’t have time or the inclination and family stuff is not my’cup of tea’-to quote mum. hope that’s enough info to keep you going


I’m still not sure what made so many of us so anti-‘family stuff’ as Catherine puts it when so much emphasis was put on it in our early life. Maybe I’ve answered my own speculation in that sentence but I’m not sure. Answers to jrsanders@btinternet.com.

Talk about class! Did you see United tonight? Rooooneeeyy!


11th March, 2010

Cut the lawns today for the first time in 6 months. I needed oxygen after finishing it. Pauline drove over to have lunch with her Mum and arrived back to find me collapsed on one of the garden benches. I’m sure it did me good. I’ll be ready to run with Jane BG soon.

The whole of Greece was on strike today – no flights, ferries, trains, buses, taxis, trams, schools. No public sector of any sort and the Olympic Airways workers who were sacked when it was privatised a year ago are still striking too. Rubbish is not being collected again:


To make matters worse, Athens has been hit by a huge cloud of sand whipped up on winds blowing across the Sahara. The city is covered in a yellow film of sand.


12th March, 2010

Wonderful photo from Greek newspaper – Ta Nea (The News) – this morning of the demonstrations in Athens yesterday. It is taken in Syntagma (Constitution/Parliament) Square right outside Hotel Grande Bretagne. Unfortunately, it didn’t show the banks and shops that were firebombed or the policemen injured.


You will have noticed that I read Kathimerini (the English version) because my Greek is too weak to sustain the full Greek version. It is part of The International Herald Tribune . However, in the past few months I have upgraded Internet Explorer to Version 8 which is so superior to previous versions and it offers so much more in terms of Add-ons. Particularly, one can integrate Google toolbar with its language translator. This is a fantastic piece of software which allows me to load a multi-column newspaper page with dense text in Greek and it is translated in front of my eyes in less than a minute. The translation isn’t perfect but it’s a hell of a lot better than I could do and I can now get a Greek’s insight into the news.

Below is a copy of the front page of Ta Nea (The News) in Greek and then in its rough translation:

taneagr.gif     taneaeng.gif

13th March, 2010

I haven’t been to Ripon for thirty years and haven’t visited The Black Bull pub since 1972. It used to be a favourite haunt as a student. I was one of twenty males amid 620 females at Ripon. The transition in 1969 from an all boys Grammar School to an all girls College was genuinely enjoyable. In spite of having lots of sisters, I didn’t really know that girls were like that. Thirty eight years ago I left that closeted environment where everything was done for me and entered the real world. What a shock. The twenty males, of course, bonded strongly and, although one died during the course and two dropped out, we always knew ourselves as The Company of Twenty.

And yet, I really am not one for dwelling in the past. I have always resisted reunions. Today, in retirement, I went back to meet The Company of Twenty. In doing so, I visited the College buildings that are now private, residential apartments; I visited the building where my old flat was with the noisy brothel above. The green bay windows on the first floor was ours. The top floor was all together top shelf.


I visited The Black Bull where old men like me shook hands and tried to recreate the past. I came away deciding that I probably wouldn’t do that again.


Week 63

28th February, 2010

Sunday papers pretty boring today. Man United won but that was equally flat match. Disappointing!

1st March, 2010


First day of Spring. Hurrah! Beautiful sunny day. Thought about pressure washing the patio. Thought about it but didn’t do it.

Reading the Greek Blogs and Newspapers still fretting about the Greek economic crisis. The Government is trying to find ways of forcing earners to pay tax on their earnings. As I reported last week, even doctors and dentists declare their annual earnings as €5000 instead of €100,000 in crude but successful attempts to avoid paying tax. If you go to them for treatment, they are supposed to give you a bill with a tax receipt which they file with their accountant and, ultimately, the government. They don’t issue these receipts because they know it is a paper trail of evidence to their earnings.

Of course, honest citizens should report these frauds but don’t because, if they insist on a tax receipt from their doctor, they are charged more instead. Unfortunately, what happens is that the Inland Revenue estimates their earnings and taxes them accordingly. This leads to ever decreasing declarations of earnings. Some earners, however, are easier to check on than others. Taxi drivers are going to have a meter in their cars that will record their journeys and their charges and, therefore, their earnings. They are going to be charged tax on their actual earnings. This is revolutionary in Greece. Consequently, all taxi drivers on going on a two day strike. Unluckily for them, most Athenians are looking forward to the taxi drivers’ strike because the roads will not be clogged up by yellow taxis.

2nd March, 2010

Only the second day of Spring but it is so beautiful today that after a long swim/jacuzzi/steamroom, followed by bacon sandwiches and The Times, Pauline is tidying up the garden in warm sunshine while I clean the patio and steps up to the house with my pressure washer. It takes about 4-6 hours altogether so I have to pace myself. Also, it has to be done twice a year. It won’t get done again until November. Let’s hope I’ve sold it by then.

Got an email from Malcolm Pritchard tonight. It was nice hear from him although I think Ruth was trying to get me in to trouble for using his photo without permission. However, Ruth did send me this picture of Malcolm taking part in the Winter Olympics – which, at his age, is impressive.


3rd March, 2010

A stressful and emotional day today. Took Pauline’s Mum for the first of her two cataract operations. A lttle nervous because we’ve pushed her into doing it and we know there is a (small) risk. The surgeon started operating at 7.30 am and, although I don’t know how many he was getting through, Pauline’s Mum was last on the list at 4.30 pm. Even so, she had to present at 11.30 in the morning.

 We took her to the Oldham Royal Infirmary with a wheel chair in the back of the car. The parking is impossible so I dropped them off and spent 40 mins looking for parking while Pauline took her up to the ward and made sure she was settled.


Off to Sainsburys to buy sandwiches for lunch and then in to Pauline’s Mum’s flat to do some essential wiring before she got back. Every time we phone, she takes ten minutes to get out of her chair and another ten to hobble across the room to the phone. She has resisted us moving her phone next to her chair but now is our chance. All went well. Next we had an appointment at Millfield, the Anchor Housing Care Home just up the road from her warden assisted flats.


Apart from the appointment that Pauline had made for us to visit this place, there was another impetus on my mind. Pauline’s Mum saves all the back copies of the Oldham Chronicle for us. We read them to see the names of all the children we have taught who are mentioned in the Crime reports, got married or died of a drug overdose and the occasional one who has graduated from University. We are always reading them a week after the event. On Monday, we read about Ellen Brierley, the first ever Mayor of Oldham, one time chair of the Education Committee, former Governor of our school. She had left her home where she had lived independently until the age of 95 and moved in to Millfield where she was celebrating her 96th birthday attended by the current Mayor of Oldham and the current Mayoress and Chair of the Education Committee.


We were invited in through the front door of the Home by the Patient Care Manager. She started to ask about our position with Pauline’s Mum. Pauline told her that her Mum was 95 and increasingly frail. I told her I had seen the story about Ellen Brierley in the paper. Suddenly, a Nurse walked past, did a double take and then walked back again and said, Hello Mr & Mrs Sanders. How are you? I knew her face immediately but couldn’t put a name to her. The Care Manager whispered her name as the Nurse disappeared. Two minutes later, she was back, announcing that she was 40 this year and her son was doing very well, thank you. This sort of thing happens all the time to us. I am (un)fortunate that I instantly remember their face from 40 years ago but can’t remember their name. Pauline usually doesn’t recognise them at all. They always remember us and, for that reason, expect us to remember every instant of their school life. They challenge us to remember. It can be very stressful. Another orderly walked past and I recognised her instantly but couldn’t put a name to her.

As we walked on, the Care Manager pointed out Ellen Brierley sitting at a table talking to another resident. Her face lighted on me in instant recognition (I’m not easy to forget.) and I went over to greet her. She looked immaculate as if she was just about to chair the next Education Committee and she began to speak in the way I had heard her speak so many times over the past 40 years. I told her which school Pauline and I had taught at since 1972 and she responded in a controlled and cultured speech to praise all the work we had done. She knew us to have been of the highest order of teachers or that’s what I thought she was saying until I suddenly realised she was using all the right words (education speak) but none of them were in the right order. They made absolutely no sense at all. I had cut out the story about her from the paper and when I told her, she said, I wondered where it was. I’ve been searching my mind …. We never quite got to what she was searching her mind for as a nurse came and took her away. This was my first ever contact with the effects of Alzheimer’s.

4th March, 2010

Athens is in chaos. A blog I follow published this photo of all the striking taxis. Not content with striking, they have parked right across Syntagma (Constitution) Square preventing all private motorists and buses from going about their business. Anyone who knows Athens, knows that Syntagma Square is an essential thoroughfare for the city. Closing it paralyses everything.


With stupid talk of Germany demanding Greece sell all its islands and the Acropolis before it gets a bail-out, the Greeks are getting more and more angry. Another general strike is called for tomorrow.

5th March, 2010

Our worst fears are realised this morning after a phone call to tell us that Pauline’s Mum cannot see out of the operated-on eye and is distressed. Pauline phones the hospital who tell us to take her in immediately. Another 30 mile trip. We get to the hospital at 12.30 pm. I drop them off with the wheel chair and then drive round the car park looking for a parking space. Although I find one quickly this time, the 12.45 pm appointment becomes 3.00 pm. It is quite scandalous how a 95 year old woman can be treated in that way. The news is good and bad. The operation looks as if it has been a success and the lens is clear. The eye socket, however, is severely infected, swollen and urgently needs treatment.

The treatment is even worse for an old lady. She has to use three different sorts of drops/gells to be squeezed in to her eye every two hours with fifteen minute intervals between them. I produce a chart to pin on her kitchen door. The logistics would challenge a Maths Graduate never mind an old lady with one eye and poor legs. She gets up at 5.00 am each day (Don’t ask why.) The chart begins:

5.30 am – Red Tube
5.45 am – Blue Tube
6.00 am – Tube from Fridge
7.30 am – Red Tube
7.45 am – Blue Tube

Not only does she have to read this chart with one, very old eye but she has to be able to open the tubes with terribly arthritic hands and squeeze it into her own eye something like twenty times before her bedtime at 8.00 pm. I’m beginning to really see why growing old is no fun.

6th March, 2010

Lovely experience today. I was preparing Pauline’s new laptop for taking to Greece. She has a desktop in the Study but, while she worked on that, I used the wireless connection on the laptop to set up radio and television services for access in Greece. Most British television isn’t accessible over the web when one is outside UK. The IP address from a foreign internet provider is blocked which means so is the content. One can get Sky News (BBC News I can get in Greece anyway.) and some ITV programming but the big thing is, we can get BBC Radio. I have wireless speakers to put round the house there so, through the internet, we can download Radio 4 (DREAM ON!) and listen to the Today programme in bed. If the Greek Sports Channels don’t cover the Test Matches and it was rather hit and miss last year, I will be able to listen to Test Match Special.

While I was on-line, a message popped up about Ruth trying Skype out. I clicked on Video Call and Ruth popped up. We had a lovely fifteen minute chat. Because it was Skype to Skype, it was absolutely free. We have agreed to meet for coffee in one of the next few Tuesdays before we leave. We will then make arrangements for when we will be on line to phone each other. What a lovely (old) girl she is.