Week 115

27th February, 2011

The Sunday papers felt thin and poor today. Fortunately, Birmingham beat Arsenal and England gained a moral victory over India.  It really should have been declared a victory as we had wickets to spare but we have to subsidise the Third World as in everything else.

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I watched the autistic  people of Kirklees, young and old, protesting outside the Town Hall that funding for their Day Care Centre was being withdrawn and that they would become housebound because of this as would their carers. The passion with which they expressed their plight was extremely moving and persuasive. I would prefer that my taxes were spent here than on relieving poverty abroad. For example, we are, even now, giving oversea aid to China. It will cease in April but it is happening now. Read about it here.

28th February, 2011

The last day of February! Can you believe it? I thought time would slow down when we retired but it is actually speeding up. In five weeks, it will be exactly two years since Pauline & I last set foot in a school and since we caught any sort of infection at all. Lovely quiet swim today after cleaning and tidying the shoe box because a couple came for a viewing this morning and another will come tomorrow.

Ordered a new telephoto zoom lens for my camera today. The camera itself was courtesy of school and cost £750.00 when I first bought it. Now it can be bought for £500.00. The lens is less than £150.00 for a Canon ef-s 55-250mm f4-5.6.

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This will give me great fun, particularly in Greece.

1st March, 2011


March hares abound on white rabbit day. It has been a beautiful Spring day. We were basking in sunshine through the glass around our pool today. Swimming felt vaguely Mediterranean this morning. The Health Club was almost empty and we had the pool to ourselves.

While we were out swimming we allowed our Letting Agent show another client round the property because we are keen that they let it for the month of April and will, therefore, refund us a month’s rent. As soon as we got home, I cancelled my BT account for phone line, calls and broadband from April 4th. I’ve only had it for three months of an 18 month contract and those first three were free so, of course, I’ve had to pay a cancellation charge of £120.00 but, when I get back in October, I will use Sky to supply my services.

2nd March, 2011

Pauline reckons she gets through a bottle of SPF30 Sun Cream in less than a fortnight. In Greece, each bottle would cost €18.00 (£15.00) and she would need 15 – 20 of them. £300.00 on sun cream does seem a little excessive. Instead, we wait until it is discounted in British supermarkets – at least 50% reduction. Today we went to Asda and bought each bottle at £5.00 or one third of the Greek price. The other big purchase today looked like this:


Yes, we ordered two toilet seats for the bathrooms in Greece. Greek toilet seats are cheap but nasty and very uncomfortable. Our bottoms deserve real English class!

3rd March, 2011

Some disappointing news this morning. Our completion date has been postponed by two weeks from March 18th to March 31st. This is annoying because the builders were particularly forceful about insisting that we agree to their initial completion date and now it is they who are holding us up. They say that hard landscaping and planting will not be finished in time  and they want everything to be perfect before anyone moves in. Fortunately, we will not be greatly inconvenienced by this but people with dependent property sales going through will have real difficulties. We have to rearrange the fitting of the blinds but that is all.

Greece is still wracked by strikes. Today and tomorrow State telephone company workers and the police are striking and rallying in Syndagma Square over job cuts, wage cuts and pension cuts. On Monday, Trolley buses in Athens are cancelled. On Wednesday all modes of public transport are on strike throughout Greece. On Thursday, all postal services are on strike protesting against privatisation. However, if you could travel to Cape Sounion south of Athena you might just see this night view of a cusp of the moon through the Temple of Poseidon:


4th March, 2011

Sainsburys shopping on Friday morning although all the dozy old biddies seem to be there by ten o’clock. We had to go to Staples first to buy new packing boxes for despatching to Greece. They need to be quality, double skinned, reinforced cardboard to withstand a battering. Then off to buy four new pillows for Greece and on to Sainsburys. After doing a week’s shop, we fill up with Sainsbury’s petrol. When we were working, we would do 250 miles a week at 27 mpg. Our bill would have been £55 – £60.00 per week. Now it is less than half that.

All the time we were out shopping, I was itching to be trying out my new telephoto lens that arrived at the beginning of the week but I hadn’t had time to use. I thought I would combine this with my sentimental need to record the ‘shoebox’ for posterity before we leave it. It is not particularly a place I will recall with affection but I would like to be, at least, able to recall it. The longer lens was, of course, wholly inappropriate for this job but I was determined to try it out.

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When we first moved in here in early November, ours was the only car. We were the only residents. Since then, the flats have gradually been solved as the prices have been reduced from well over £100,000.00 to the final four being advertised at £73,000.00. We believe these four have been snapped up as a job lot by an investor. We worked out that with the rent they are charging, the yield would be about 8.5% which is, currently, very good. Behind the flats, in the back of the courtyard, are what they laughingly call ‘coach houses’ in which the accommodation is on two floors over the garage. We think they initially went on the market at £180,000.00 two years ago but they have all been sold for just over £120,000.00 which anywhere else would be ‘cheap as chips’. The development still has a lovely view over the Colne Valley.

Week 114

20th February, 2011

Dark, brooding and oppressive sky – loveless, lightless and foggy. Pauline went out for the newspapers and found an old lady standing outside the apartment block next door to ours. She had gone out for a walk, taking a newly cut key with her. When she returned, she couldn’t turn the key in the lock even to get in to the communal area never mind her own apartment. She lived alone and didn’t want to wake any one else by ringing their bell that early on a Sunday morning. Pauline saw how cold she was -there was snow all around us – and invited her in to the shoebox.

She came in and sat down in our lounge. Pauline went on for the paper while I entertained the lady. In ten minutes I managed to get her life story out of her. She came from Ireland as a young woman and settled in London where she had spent most of her life. She told me she was 82 years old . Although she was from a family of eight and was a lapsed Catholic, all her brothers and sisters were dead. She had three nephews in Huddersfield which is why she had moved up here.

After talking for ten minutes, I thought that I would try her key in the lock. After j-j-j-jiggling it a bit, I managed to turn the lock and get her in to her block. She was delighted. I gave her a kiss on the cheek and she scampered off to her apartment. Only when Pauline got back with the papers and asked me what the lady’s name was did I realise that was the only thing I hadn’t asked her.

Great win for Bolton at Fulham yesterday. Certainly looks like they made the right decision about their change of Manager.


21st February, 2011

One of the most dismal looking days I’ve seen for a while. Six weeks today we move house and seven weeks today we set off for Greece.

This morning we went off to Santander to buy a couple of cash ISAs. £10,200.00 at 2.85% (2.35% above Bank Rate guaranteed for twelve months). It offers instant access if I need it. The Advisor said he expected 4% to be available for the new Tax Year after April 6th. We will take out two more ISAs then and, hopefully transfer these current ones in.

22nd February, 2011

Trying again to go down to Surrey this morning. The aborted trip from a couple of weeks ago is back on now. Pauline wants to check out hairdressers and make an appointment for just before we leave for Greece and we both want to look at Doctors’ surgeries. The M1 is reported to be very foggy this morning so it may take a while.


The drive was wonderful and the M1 half empty. A journey that can regularly take four an a half hours and has taken up to seven hours a couple of times today was completed in three hours. We unloaded our bag at Phyllis & Colin’s house and then went on to Weybridge to book a hair appointment for Pauline on April 9th – two days before we leave for Greece. We went on to Woking to to visit two Doctors’ surgeries to pick up their information packs and check the premises out.


23rd February, 2011

Met the blind lady from Hillarys Blinds (I don’t think they’ve heard of apostrophes.) just after lunch today. We met at our new property which was absolutely full of workmen. They were blitzing it for completion in three weeks. We had to negotiate quite hard with the blind lady. Eight windows and a full length glass door will cost us £800.00 fitted and working. This will be done the day we pick up the keys and will allow us to lock up, set the alarm and leave the place secure. The alarm will be set up so that, if it goes off, it will automatically contact Pauline’s sister in West Byfleet which will be great when we are away.

Drove straight back up the M1 to Huddersfield. It took near four hours than three this time because of long hold up for an accident just before Sheffield. At least we got back in time for Man.U. v Marseille although there were no goals.

24th February, 2011

Tired this morning after the drive yesterday. Even so, we went swimming. What a mistake! Apparently, it’s Half Term. Parents had brought their kids. We beat a quick retreat. I hate Half Term.

I am working on new photo albums for the website. A lot of them will have to be done in the winter when I’ve got time to raid the photo stores and scan them all in. It will be a November project. I’m also considering going on a training course to improve my website design skills. Goodness know, I need it.

25th February, 2011

The skies are so dark today. We shop on Friday. Even though the skies are grey, the familiarity of Huddersfield town gave me pause for thought:

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I have five weeks left as a Yorkshire man.

26th February, 2011

Saturday is papers and sport. A strong win for Man. Utd. and a nervy win for England against France both made me happy but it doesn’t compensate for information confirming and deepening the recession. I was getting quite gung-ho about a rate rise in the next couple of months leading to at least 1.5% by the end of the year. This would have strengthened the pound and given better investment rates. The latest news makes that rather less likely. When will the economy support we pensioners? Those youngsters just get it all their own way.

Week 113

13th February, 2011

A dark, wet day outside only lifted by the Sunday Papers and Man. United’s win over City yesterday enhanced by Rooney’s overhead goal. We have reconsidered the hotels en route to Ancona in April. Last year we stayed in Colmar (Alsace) and Modena (Italy). We have decided that, because we are going through the Tunnel and will be hitting the French motorways an hour and a half earlier, we can aim a little further. Our membership of the Spirit Health Club allows us privileged prices at Holiday Inns across Europe. We have booked a Holiday Inn in the Medieval, Alsace town of Mulhouse. Just see how medieval the hotel looks:


We will drive on to the hammy city of Parma in Italy for our second night. Like all Italian hotels, the Holiday Inn is classically designed:


To be honest with you, we spend so few hours in these places before moving on that there is no point splashing out on luxury. We have found that hotel prices are falling across Europe. These two hotels cost less than £55.00 per night each with free internet and breakfast. Where else could you get that?

14th February, 2011

Valentine’s Day means a trip to the Anti-Coag Department at the hospital. My INR is rising nicely and I will have one more test before we go away. I shall continue to phone my blood tests in to Huddersfield Royal while I am in Greece, have one more face to face in October before I can reorganise in Surrey. Off to the Health Centre and, after a half hour’s swim I relax in the Jacuzzi where I meet a young man who appears keen to talk. Unbelievably, it turns out he has driven up from Surrey where lives on the other side of Woking from our new apartment. He fits solar panels in millionaires row just down the road in West Byfleet. Lovely to see Chelsea sinking without trace and Torres failing to score again.


15th February, 2011

Today, after exhaustive searching and price comparison, we go on another buying trip for items bound for Greece. Purification filters for our Brita water jugs, Wash&Go shampoo, Corsodyl toothpaste and ‘Oral B’ electric tooth brush heads are all either horrendously expensive or unavailable entirely on our island. We don’t usually shop at Asda but all the bargains were there today and so were we. Of course, we are buying enough for six months so we buy in bulk when things hit ‘half price’. Spending so much time in the sun means sun tan lotion is essential. Pauline insists on a ‘once-a-day’ lotion. She buys ‘Piz Buin Day Long’ sun tan lotion. For 200mls, it cost £19.50 standard price. Pauline pounces when it turns up under £10.00. We usually go away just as the holiday market is being kick started with ‘half price’ or ‘2 for 1’ offers.


We have found that ferry connections from Piraeus to Sifnos are awkward when we arrive this year. We have decided to spend a couple of nights in Patras on the Pelopennese before driving down to Piraeus port on Saturday, April 16th. Pauline has already booked the Hotel Patras Palace. We normally pay £120.00 per night. This year the price is below £90.00. Maybe the Greeks are seeing sense at last.

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16th February, 2011

A beautiful morning – blue sky and sunshine – only spoiled by learning that we had missed Pancake Day yesterday. I had no idea. Can I justify pancakes today instead?


We went in to town this morning and did a tour of the banks because we will soon need them to transfer money to our solicitor’s clients account. The cash is in three separate banks – Nat West, Barclays and Lloyds TSB – each one will charge between £20.00 & £30.00 to send the money digitally by CHAPS – robbers!

17th February, 2011

Thick fog in Huddersfield this morning as we set off for Bolton to visit Ruth & Kevan. As we progress down the M62, the skies clear and the sun comes out. It was lovely to see them again and especially because they took us to see the ‘Show Flat’ in the old mill where their new apartment is being completed. Ruth is very excited about moving which has rather surprised Kevan but we can see why she can’t wait to move in. Her penthouse apartment is in ‘The Cotton Works’, a development of a beautiful, red brick, art-nouveau-ish mill built for Sir John Holden between 1925 -1926. Typically, real design went in to the building but it only lasted as a cotton mill for 40 years and closed in 1965, six years before Ruth even met Kevan.

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We couldn’t see Ruth’s apartment because it won’t be available for a couple of months but she took us to the ‘show flat’ ands it was very impressive for fellow down sizers. What was equally impressive was the price they have agreed to pay. They are stealing it! Kevan took photos of Ruth with Pauline & I in the show flat.

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18th February, 2011

Interesting day today. We received a joint gas & electricity bill for the first three months in the shoebox. The bill came to a paltry £270.00 which is less than we were paying for one equivalent month in our house. We are leaving the shoe box one month early having paid six month’s rent up front. We have asked for one month’s rent back. It is only £550.00 but would buy us something in our new house. We only get it back if they can let the shoe box for that month. Today we got a phone call to say that someone wanted to view the shoebox tomorrow. We’ve got to sell the unsellable.

19th February, 2011

Happy Birthday to Bob. 59 today. He’s certainly got the key of the door! Got outside the door of our shoebox to be met by this:


Had to send my wife to get the paper in a blizzard. Poor woman!

Week 112

6th February, 2011

Lovely day with the papers made so much better by Chelsea losing to Liverpool.


7th February, 2011

The very final papers to be signed and witnessed have to be sent off this morning. We asked the lady in the Sales Office of the Charles Church development where we are renting this shoe box to witness our signatures and, particularly, the plan illustrating the extra land we have bought outside our Duplex. This will be very important, in our view, when we come to sell. We are going down tomorrow to meet the blind man (or it could be a woman called Hillary).

8th February, 2011

Was it lucky or unlucky? It depends how you view it. We were packing the car prior to setting off to Surrey this morning when the phone went. It was the builders advising us that it would be difficult to get on site for a couple of days. We had to phone the Blind man and cancel the fitting and we cancelled our journey.

It was a pity really because the day was so beautiful. It felt as if Spring had arrived. It could have made for a nice journey. It was also a pity because I had put off meeting Ruth because of our journey. Anyway, we will see her next week. We took advantage of the sun and drove over to Oldham to say goodbye to my friend, Brian. We hoped to see one or two other people but our final trip to Oldham will be on Thursday of this week.


9th February, 2011

You wouldn’t believe how few possessions we have in our shoe box home. Admittedly, it isn’t really possible to walk in to the second bedroom because it is stacked from floor to ceiling in packing cases and stacks of framed pictures. The lounge has three arm chairs, a coffee table and a television. The kitchen has a round dining table and four chairs. We have a huge bed, bedside cabinets and dressing table and chair, two filing cabinets and a hall table. This is the sum total of our things which have to be moved to Surrey. We have asked three removal firms to give us a rough quote and each one is about £1000.00. Now we have asked two to come and quote us specifically. One will arrive at 9.00 am tomorrow.

We have deliberately chosen smaller, family firms with good reputations. Tomorrow it is Jack & Jill Removals from Holmfirth.


10th February, 2011

Two removal firms came today to quote. Jack & Jill featured above – They said they would need two lorries and two days and cost about £1100.00 and Walsh Transport & Storage who said they would use one lorry with two drivers and cost £700.00 + VAT. We chose them not just on price but because they will call at 6.30 am on Monday, April 4th,  load the lorry and drive straight down to Surrey. They will unload, swap drivers and set off back. That is just what I wanted. We will stay with Phyllis & Colin that night and then drive back to Huddersfield on Tuesday.

I have booked three nights in a hotel so that we can tie up our affairs in Huddersfield before we finally leave. We have paid £650.00 deposit on this shoebox and we intend to get every penny back. When we return to the empty flat, we will paint over the  scrapes to the walls that inevitably come from six month living and from moving our goods in and out. The painters on the site have given us a huge can of paint that they used to paint the walls in the first place. We will hoover the carpets, clean the kitchen and bathroom and leave the place looking as we found it – a sparkling shoebox.

We will go through a ritual that we have done each year for the last ten – we will take two large boxes of items to the main Post Office in Huddersfield and have them despatched to Greece. They will weigh about 30Kg in total and cost about £100.00. Sending these boxes allows us to have things we can’t get in Greece or which cost such an incredible amount in Greece that we find it hard to justify buying. To give you two examples: it isn’t possible to buy decent tea on Sifnos so we buy six months’ supply and send it; dishwasher tablets cost three times the price on Sifnos so when they are on half price offer in Sainsburys, we buy six months supply and they will be sent. It all makes a huge difference to life on the island and leaves extra space in the car for essentials like Italian wine.

On our last day in Huddersfield, we will walk the flat with our letting agent to establish its condition and the go on line to the property rental deposit scheme to reclaim our deposit. We will drive down to Surrey for three nights before we set off for the Continent.

11th February, 2011

After reading the Daily Telegraph this morning, I immediately contacted my Honda Dealership to complain about adverse publicity for my car.

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Strangely, Honda didn’t seem to understand that news of a Tory espousing their car could harm its ‘reliability’ image. Astonishing!

Drove over to Oldham for the very, very last time today. Pauline’s cousin’s husband, Harry, was having problems with Skype so we went over to help out. We said goodbye to Joyce and Harry. They are lovely people. We drove on to meet June, Pauline’s widowed sister-in-law, and spent half an hour with her before saying goodbye. It may not be the absolutely last time we see people but we will have to make a special journey to visit and see them.

12th February, 2011

Beautiful, sunny day today. It really does feel like Spring but we know cold weather is due on Monday so let’s enjoy it. I have spent this morning on one of those scintillating internet searches for a ……mop. I know it is a big idea and hard to get your head round but I need a mop. Me, personally. We spent about £10,000.00 last summer having the outside of our Greek house tiled.


It is my job to keep the tiles clean but I need a mop to do it. The Greeks are weird people and their spades have no handles, their brushes are medieval and their mops are bits of rag.


I ask you, could you use these tools? Of course not! I took my spades and a proper yard brush and now I need a proper mop with a flat head.


Week 111

30th January, 2011

Inspite of Sunday papers, I spent the day moaning and groaning and being a typical man who is ill. This stomach bug still has a grip. I have been trying to work on updating my Blog and website design but could only really feel sorry for myself. On the upside, at least I’m not eating much.

31st January, 2011

I’m getting rather tired of this and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but I can’t keep food inside me for more than an hour and I’m not being sick. I couldn’t face swimming again today. Later in the evening I felt a little better and began to work on my website. I am toying with a view like this:


We exchanged contracts on our property this afternoon and we are going down next week to meet blind fitters (fitters of blinds) so that they can be fitted as soon as we get the keys on March 18th. We won’t live there until October when we’ve got carpets and wardrobes fitted.

1st February, 2011


I’m better and going to the Health Club this morning. I’m certainly glad that this bug is on its way out.

Swimming was great. The sun came out and lit up the pool but had disappeared by the time we drove home to our shoebox. As we parked up, it suddenly occured to me that we had never featured our shoebox in the Blog. I remedy that here.


There are currently no designated parking spots so, as you can see, we claimed the one by the front door. Not for too much longer now, thank goodness.

2nd February, 2011

After a bowl of cereals, it is soon obvious that my stomach bug hasn’t completely gone. We set off for town but come back early because of my discomfiture. Phyllis phones to say she has a problem with her printer. We try talking her through all the obvious work-arounds but to no avail. Telephone IT support must be a nightmare to work in.

I get twenty or so emails each day. When I was working, I was getting five times that many. A large proportion are skim-read and deleted. I have a huge structure of folders to save the others from ‘purchases’ to ‘travel’ to ‘family’ and ‘friends’. The best emails to receive after those confirming some lovely purchase or element of foreign travel are from Family and from Friends. Last night, just as I was going to bed at 11.30 pm, I got one of each. From Ruth I got an email arranging to meet before we leave for Surrey and for Greece. I look forward to that. I then got an email from lad who taught in my Department in Oldham. He moved on a year before I retired so it is almost three years since we communicated. Email is wonderful. I can’t get in to ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ seems quite mindless. The clue is in the name.

3rd February, 2011

Porridge for breakfast this morning and, although my stomach is still a little fluttery, I have retained it for three hours so I’m going swimming. It’s a lovely day. I’ve written a grumpy-old-man email to Jeremy Paxman about the BBC World Service. He’s complaining about the service being cut and, although I not opposed to paying for the British Broadcasting Service to the world, anyone who listens to it in Europe will hear very little about Britain but will soon become experts on political and social conditions in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, etc..This is not the service I pay my money for. The clue is in the title. I want British Broadcasting news and culture of Britain being broadcast to the rest of the world in the hope the may emulate it.

4th February, 2011

One of those days when you’re glad not to have to go to work. Torrential rain and gales outside. We were going to drive down to the Honda garage this morning but local television tells us that the roundabout leading to them is closed due to flooding. Unfortunately, we have to go to Sainsburys and then we must go swimming. Perhaps we could combine the two.

Received an email from Malcolm last night and the same one copied from Ruth telling me about poor old Malcolm’s accident. Apparently, he went in to his garage on Saturday morning – still blind drunk from the previous night – and he lurched drunkenly, falling and breaking both bones in his left leg. Poor man. He was so drunk, they pinned his leg without anaesthetic. Below is a picture of Malcolm the night before he fell:


5th February, 2011

Saturday! Everyday is Saturday now. It’s throwing it down with rain but the gale-force winds have died down. Saturday papers! I’m not a Tory supporter and definitely not a Lib.Dem. supporter but, at last someone is addressing the ghastly, failed experiment of Multiculturalism. If you’d taught in Oldham, Burnley, Preston, Huddersfield, Bradford over the past forty years you couldn’t possibly disagree. In fact we have been desperate for someone in government to have the bravery to articulate it. We have said throughout our teaching life that the Asians of Oldham have to come out of their Pakistani enclave and embrace Britishness. A large proportion of the Mothers of Oldham’s Asian community still can’t speak English. The fathers prefer it that way. Learning the language should be a pre-requisite of permanent residency.