Week 110

23rd January, 2011

Fresh coffee and the Sunday papers. Say no more.

24th January, 2011

This week starts with three themes:

  • producing a timetable/plan for the next two months.
  • completing arrangements for the following six months
  • dispatching legal documents & deposit for the apartment

This morning, it is the last point first. The signed legal documents are packaged up and taken down to the post office for ‘registered mail’ delivery. Next, our internet banking site. We have immediate access to our current and deposit accounts. We often transfer cash from our English to our Greek banks and expect the same process to our solicitor’s account to be easy. It isn’t. We find that we can only transfer £10,000.00 ourselves. Anything further needs Bank involvement. What’s the point? A number of phone calls later and at the cost of £20.00, the job is done. So much for internet banking. Our solicitor, who is in Southampton, by the way, confirms receipt of everything. We are now totally committed and on our way.

Wonderful couple of hours at the Health Club. We were wondering why it was so quiet. I was talking to a chap in the sauna who told me that people were cancelling their subscriptions. Some were going to a new, Local Authority Health Club a couple of miles away. Others were cancelling because the recession made it too expensive. As so many new contracts are taken out in January, it is this month that sees them not renewing. All the more room for us!

25th January, 2011

Today, after our swim, we drew up this rough plan for the period up to going abroad:

Measuring for Blinds (Monday)

Familiarisation Meeting for new property    10/3/11
Completion of new property and get keys    18/3/11
Hospital (Monday) – Anti coag.    28/3/11
Doctor (Friday) – Diabetic Check      1/4/11
Car holiday check               ?
Load Lorry & drive to Surrey (Monday)      4/4/11
Furniture arrives Surrey      5/4/11
Return to Huddersfield / Hotel night 1 Clean shoebox      6/4/11
                                        Hotel night 2 Hand back keys      7/4/11
Return to Surrey (Friday)      8/4/11
Pauline has hair done. Has to last 6 months.      9/4/11
Leave for Greece (Monday)    11/4/11

We still have about ten weeks before we leave and, in that time, I must visit Ruth and wish her Good Luck in selling her property and moving on. I must go to Oldham for the first time since we left after Pauline’s Mum’s death. We will visit Margaret, the Anchor House warden, Cath, the cleaner and Brian, my friend from school. These are responsibilities before we leave for the South and for Europe.

26th January, 2011

Today after swimming I have turned my attention back to the drive across Europe. We need two hotels en route; one in France and one in Italy. I try to do 5 – 6 hrs driving each day for the first two days and then only 2 – 3 hours on the final morning before we board the ferry in Ancona. Because of that, it means we hit the same areas on the map each time. Last year we stayed in Colmar in Alsace and we will do again. We will try a different hotel. The next day, once again, we will stay in Modena for night two but we will try another hotel there as well.

I have found Booking.com to provide an excellent service for booking hotels in Europe, particularly last year when we had to change our dates at the last minute. In Colmar, this year, I have chosen Hotel l’Europe – Horbourg-Wihr, Colmar.


In Modena, I have chosen Hotel Real Fini Baia Del Re:


Both hotels are 4* and both are close to our route. In very low season, the French hotel only cost £70.00 for a double room for a night. We will eat dinner in the L’Eden des Gourmets restaurant but we won’t have time for breakfast. Italian hotels are almost always more expensive than equivalent French ones. Hotel Real Fini Baia Del Re is no exception but still only £105.00 for a double room for a night.

27th January, 2011

A wonderful swim today. In fact, after two swims, two jacuzzis, a sauna and a steam-room session, I could hardly walk back to the car and Pauline was too tired to carry me.

28th January, 2011

Must have overdone it yesterday because I woke up stiff, aching and tired. We decided to give the Health Club a miss today. Instead, we did our Sainsburys’ shop and then went on to the farm shop. We bought a couple of pheasants and wanted some rabbit but non was available. A pheasant easily does a meal for two and costs £3.30. It’s so tasty. On the way back, we drove through the Yorkshire countryside reminiscing on times past – so sentimental but nice.

yorkshire.jpg  yorkshire2.jpg

29th January, 2011

I have an upset stomach today. I don’t know if it is something I have eaten but the feeling is unpleasant. Today, I have just had a bowl of porridge but the flutters go on.

I think it is time for the Blog to have a refresh so I am experimenting with different skins at the moment. This is one I quite like:


These are other possibilities:

blog3.gif  blog4.jpg

Week 109

16th January, 2011

After Sunday papers, we had to give ourselves over to the apartment Legal Pack again. It is a massive 200 pages of legal jargon. This is nothing like buying a house. An apartment is so complicated. We actually HAVE to become part of the Management Company. It is Leasehold – 125 years – and we have to pay Ground Rent as well as Service Charge which is about £2000.00 per year. Fortunately, that is off-set by providing our power and heat. It also covers our Buildings Insurance.

17th January, 2011

Before we go off to the Health Club, we have to push the Builders to let us on site this week. Pauline phones and we get an appointment for Friday morning. We will drive down there on Thursday. All the work on the property can now be put off until we return from Surrey. We are planning our Greek trip in parallel. We have booked our crossing through Eurotunnel at 20% of the cost it would have been from Hull. And there is no better way to get to France.


18th January, 2011

Our solicitor has strongly advised us to insist on seeing our new property, whatever state of development it is in, before we despatch signed paperwork. The builders were trying to stall for the end of January but, as soon as we insisted, they caved in and we have agreed this Friday. One of those days you dream of at the Health Club. We arrived at 1.00 pm, changed and went to the pool. It was deserted. We had it completely to ourselves for 30 minutes swimming and then on to the jacuzzi. It was delightful.

We spent sometime speaking to our solicitor about financial transfers because we have money in at least three different banks for security. It is a lovely feeling not needing a mortgage or to sell a property BUT it is less than comfortable having huge amounts of money in banks when financiers are advocating allowing failing banks to go bust at the expense of their creditors.

19th January, 2011

We drive 6 miles to the Health Club but it only takes about 5 minutes because it is all motorway: junctions 24 – 25 of the M62. Unfortunately, today it was blocked solid we suppose by an accident. We turned straight round and went home. Tomorrow we are off to Surrey.

20th January, 2011

We are up especially early today. I have to have my haircut – Pauline says – before we set off. I hate it but it has to be done. We then check the car – oil, tyres, washer bottle – and load it up with things we want to get down there but not via the Removal Service. My huge, desktop computer, monitor and laser printer are going today. We have survived with a couple of laptops for the past 9 months so it will be nice to get back to a proper machine in the new apartment.


We are late setting off for the M1. It is a beautiful, sunny day which has already reached 11.00 am and we haven’t set off yet. Set off at 11.30 am and, with one, short break, we arrived easily within 4 hrs. The motorway was absolutely empty and in clear, strong sun. It was a joy to be travelling.

21st January, 2011

We are up early because we have to be on site for 10.30 am. When we got there, we had to where builders’ boots and hard hats before we were allowed on site. We were introduced to the site manager who turned out to be a Yorkshireman called John. We got on well immediately. He came from Thirsk where I did my first teaching practice.

It was exciting to see the apartment for the first time but it was dificult to judge it properly because it had so far to go to completion. Somethings were better than we thought; some things not as good as we hoped. The bedrooms are going to be fine. The ensuite is really lovely. The Lounge has a couple of awkwardly placed features which would make the settees we were going to buy less easy to fit comfortably. We have decided now to buy nothing until the keys are handed over and we have spent a little time there on our own. This may well be October when we get back from Greece. For this reason, we don’t stay on in Woking but drive straight back up to Yorkshire to our shoebox. The drive to and from Woking were entirely M1 & M25. Both ways the sky was clear and blue with strong, low winter sun that turns gloriously red in the evening. The motorways were so quiet that we wondered if mankind had been hit by some deadly disease wiping out 90% of the population at a stroke. Were we the only ones with immunity? We mulled over the idea as we drove. We decided that it was likely to be the infectiously high petrol prices which had slaughtered a nation of car drivers. The Coalition will pay for this too.

22nd January, 2011

We went to Sainsburys to do our weekly shop. We also filled up the car. The cost, in petrol of driving to Woking was £53.00. The cost of driving back was £52.00. I know we are excluding wear and tear and depreciation but the journey was really enjoyable and cost £105.00 up front. I looked at the cost of a rail ticket from Huddersfield to Woking and back at the same times (which are condsidered off-peak) and it would have been an incredible £385.00. I don’t even like trains or the smelly people who travel on them. All those MPs in economy – Brr! The stench of corruption pervades the whole train even if you do get to sit down.

We have been surviving on instant coffee since October. It has been a nightmare. We were trying to avoid unpacking everything that would just have to be packed up again shortly. Today, we could stand it no more. We attacked the stack of 37 huge boxes stacked neatly in bedroom 2 of the shoebox and finally repatriated our coffee maker. We bought some fresh coffee this morning and, after spending half an hour inhaling it, we brewed two, huge cups and hugged ourselves as we gulped it.


Week 108

9th January, 2011

A freezing cold day with thick ice everywhere. It was a nice day in with Sunday papers and a win for Man. Utd.. Poor old Gerrard but he had to go.


10th January, 2011

Up early this morning. Lots to do starting with a trip to the Anti-coag. team at the Huddersfield Royal. I am really going to miss them. My INR has gone down to 1.7 which is too low and my Warfarin has been increased to 8mg per day. I will have been taking warfarin for two years in a fortnight. Home to the shoebox for coffee and then out to the Health Club for a lovely, long swim.

Completing the legal pack for the house purchase this afternoon and, therefore, carefully re-reading all documentation related to the house. One of the interesting elements of the purchase is the service charge which, originally was set at £2000.00 per year but was subsequently reduced, under negotiation, to £1500.00. of this, £800.00 per year funds the on-site hot water generator. All of our central heating and hot water and all of our electricity is provided by a Combined Heat & Power unit in the basement with a biomass boiler as a backup. The CHP unit even generates enough electricity to export some back to the National Grid. Instant Heat and Hot water is supplied on demand. The system is supplied by Vital Energi.

11th January, 2011

We finally instructed solicitors to go ahead with the purchase of our property in Woking. Exchange of contracts is supposed to be March 18th but  already the builders are making a few noises of bad weather having delayed them a little. We have been told we can view the property from the inside from the end of this month and we then hope to get contractors in to measure up for wardrobes, carpets and curtains/blinds. We will have just over three weeks between getting the keys and leaving for Greece. It’s all a bit tight.

12th January, 2011

After a long swim which left me unable to walk further than to the car, we spent the day doing paperwork and generally tidying up our affairs. It is one of the great joys of retirement to be able to put a day aside to organising one’s finances, catch up on correspondence, organise one’s life, tidy ones computer, filing cabinet, papers, etc.. While one is working, all of these things constantly nag away at one’s consciouness and are desperately completed in the margins of one’s life.

Anek Lines brought out their 2011 brochure today. Its prices are so good that we’ve been pursuaded to jump ship and leave Superfast for Anek. We have successfully managed to book a Luxury cabin for two for a return price of less than £500.00. It is an incredible price.

anek.jpg  lux.jpg

13th January, 2011

My hamstrings were so tight that Pauline allowed me a day off swimming.

Recently, I have had a long email from Jonathan Kelly who has lived in America for the past thirty years. He is in Boston, Massachusetts and his sister, Gillian, who some of you might remember, lives in Canada. Jonathan is 64 – so nearly as old as Ruth – but he expects to have to work for at least another three years. He is coming to England in the summer for a holiday. Unfortunately, I will be in Greece but he is going to visit Dave Beasley. Surely you remember him! Dave and his wife, Sue, sold up in Repton and bought a small holding in Wales. Dave retired at the ripe, old age of 45 and is now approaching 70. By coincidence, Dave phoned me this afternoon and we had the first long chat for ages. It took me back almost 50 years to days of naive fun. Who remembers those?

14th January, 2011

Lovely couple of hours at the Health Centre. Achieved my week’s target in the pool and the Steam Room was back in action. Our main meal was roast pheasant and vegetables for our meal today. Delicious!

Received the legal pack for the Duplex purchase. It is intimidatingly complex particularly because we are not buying a detached house on a separate plot of land but a two floor apartment in a three floor building with enclosed but shared grounds. It will take most of the weekend to read through and respond to. It will also mean an early trip back to the site – possibly next week.

15th January, 2011

Strong winds and heavy rain today. Unfortunately, we had to go to Sainsburys. When we got back and relaxed over the Saturday papers, we decided to ignore the Legal Pack for the property and concentrate on preparations for Greece. We need Health Insurance for six months and House Insurance for the next twelve months:

The Health Insurance for us both with my existing conditions of:

  • Diabetes,
  • Hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol),
  • Hypertension
  • Atrial fibrillation

costs just £264.00 for the six months from Columbus Direct.  The insurance for the Greek house comes from a company called Intasure.  A year’s cover for the house, including earthquake damage and £20,000.00 Contents cover is just under £400.00. At least we have a fairly belt and braces insurance cover for ourselves, our car, our property and its contents.

Week 107

2nd January, 2011

Sunday – New Year’s Resolution – we walked to the paper shop. Haven’t done 200 metres unassisted for a long time. Got back to the shoebox but was too tired to read the papers. We have been having some second thoughts about the Woking property over Christmas. We haven’t been able even to walk the floor plan yet although we do now have detailed measurements. A door has been changed (by the planners according to the builders) from a glass panelled one to an almost solid one. It will make the lounge too dark. We are seeking an urgent meeting with the developers who weren’t available over Christmas and New Year. I don’t know what’s happening to the workers of today.

3rd January, 2011

And now we’ve got a Bank Holiday. What has happened to the work ethic? Pauline & I are working on our itinerary for Greece 2011. At the moment, this is the plan:


4th January, 2011

Drove over to Leeds to look at furniture shops today and found a number of items that would suit us but soon decided that it was all too soon to start purchasing. We might even be going back into the property search business if we can’t resolve the problems in Woking. We must live for the moment and be patient about the future. Later, I wanted to stay up to listen to the Test Match but fell asleep and went to bed. I haven’t got Ruth’s stamina.

5th January, 2011

Off to the dentist this morning. Before I got together with Pauline in 1978, I hadn’t been to the dentist for ten years – since I left home, in fact. She made me join a brand new practice opening up in Meltham, the village where we then lived. It was run by a young man called John Derbyshire who we became friendly with. Although he eventually sold the practice and we have moved house three times, we have stayed with the practice. It is only seven miles away. It has been sold again recently and is now in Asian hands. Whether it is our sensitivities or not, it appears that we are being pushed in to many more peripheral and expensive procedures than we ever were in the past. Suddenly, today, ‘scale and polish’ which is standard NHS treatment incorporated in a check-up was no longer possible for either Pauline or I. We both need, according to Waqar Mohammed, intensive and expensive treatment from the hygenist who will then scale our teeth. Suspicious, we are grateful to be moving elsewhere soon.


Fantastic football results last night and tonight but feel sorry for Bolton and for Roy Hodgson. Can I stay up to listen to the cricket? Do they really need me now anyway.

6th January, 2011

Good day today. In one, fell swoop we have resolved the planning issue on our apartment in Woking. We think it may have been because the lead sales administrator was absent because her stand-in for a day was able to assimilate the problem, check it with Head Office, instruct the Site Manager and free the log jam. We now think that the lead sales administrator couldn’t be bothered or wasn’t prepared to make waves for the Site Manager. We are delighted.

We went out to rejoin our Health Club today. We’ll be here – on and off – for about three more months so we took out a three month joint contract for £210.00. The club has a good pool, gym, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi with restaurant/coffee shop attached. We can go off-peak (9.00 am – 5.00 pm / Monday – Friday) for less than £1.70 each per day. We started using this Health Club in 2002 and these prices are now at their cheapest. We spent a couple of hours swimming and preening.

pool.jpg  gym.jpg

7th January, 2011

Oh no! Just as I’m whooping up our Ashes victory, I look outside to find heavy snow has fallen and is still falling.  We could really do without that.


8th January, 2011

Up early now we’ve beaten the convicts. Where is the snow? Gone. Simple day today. Sainsburys trip and the focus on the two current strands of our life:

  1. Preparing the legal pack for the apartment purchase
  2. Completing the travel arrangements for April – October 2011

Before our weekly trip to Sainsburys, we went to a quaint little Huddersfield shop that we’ve used for years to buy some new kitchen knives. It is a wonderful, old hardware shop which I now realise is the oldest existing shop in Huddersfield. I got into conversation with the owner who told me that it was opened in 1865 – and he brought out photographs – and had been in the family ever since.


It doesn’t look much in this photo but the wheel above the shop is not a satellite dish but a timber saw wheel like the one that chopped of Grandad Sanders’ fingers.