Week 119

28th March, 2011

Another gorgeous day. This time next week, we move house. Two weeks today we set off for Greece. Up early and out into town. We had to visit three banks: Lloyds TSB, Barclays and Natwest. Lloyds TSB was a scruffy and depressing old building but we were served by delightful people who took the utmost care. Barclays was pedantic, slow, awkward and annoying. Natwest was excellent and extremely efficient. All we wanted each bank to do was send a sum of money to our solicitor using CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System) and another to our own account using BACS (Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services). Should be simple but turned out to send Bank people into a complete panic. Moving £100,000.00 blocks of money terrified them. I thought they would be doing it all every day. They do work in a bank!

The money has gone to our Solicitor’s Client Account and will be exchanged on Thursday at 1.00 pm as we get our keys. We have never met our solicitor and almost certainly never will because they are in Portsmouth. Their name doesn’t exactly inspire confidence because they are called Coffin Mew LLB but you can’t have everything.

29th March, 2011

We took the car for a pre-Greek Trip check. Being such good customers, it is always free. I doubt that will pertain when we move south. We said goodbye to the staff from who we’ve bought a new car almost every year for twenty five years.

A second round with the banks this morning. Today we transferred all the interest out of the temporary accounts. Interestingly, £100,000.00 in a bog standard, instant access, deposit account for nine months in Lloyds TSB returned £900.00 in interest. The same amount for the same time in Barclays only returned £680.00 and in Nat. West, only £720.00. The Barclays & Lloyds accounts were purely temporary until we bought a new property. We closed them completely today. The Nat. West account was first opened by Pauline in 1968. Currently our private adviser/account manager is a lad I taught and who left our school some twenty years ago. Whenever we have wanted a facility, Nat West have always complied. We are reluctant to leave but there is no point in having an account based in Oldham. When we return in October, we will have to address that. In just the same way, our wills are deposited with our Huddersfield solicitors. Bob has a copy. Pauline’s niece has a copy. The Huddersfield ones will have to be moved.

Went for our final trip to the Health Club, had a lovely swim, jacuzzi and steam room session and then spent the afternoon contacting all sorts of organisations from investment firms to service suppliers to inform them of our change of address.

30th March, 2011

Up early because we are driving to Surrey. Tomorrow is ‘Exchange’ day. After weeks of warm, dry, sunny weather, today is dull and damp and heavy rain is forecast. The M1 was quiet and the journey uneventful. We did it in 4hrs which is as good as it gets. The weather was warm and sunny until we reached the M25 when the rain came. After a sandwich with Phyllis & Colin, we went down to our development. It looked good and we will be happy to get the keys tomorrow. We drove back to West Byfleet in high spirits until we got caught in a bit of a traffic jam. We had been parked there for a couple of minutes when – Bang – a sharp shove from behind rocked us forward. An Asian lad had lost concentration and run in to the back of us. Pauline & I looked at each other and both of us thought – Oh No! We’re driving to Greece in ten days. – as we jumped out of the car. On the basis of the noise and movement, we expected to see major damage to the car. Miraculously, there wasn’t even a scintilla of a scratch. The plastic bumper had absorbed the impact but sustained no damage even to its paint finish. We could not believe it. For some time, we continued to stare at, feel, stare at, feel the bumper until we could do it no longer. We’d had a lucky escape in our almost brand new car.

We decided to go out for an early dinner at a local Italian Restaurant – Ponte Vecchio – in West Byfleet. It is a delightfully informal trattoria.


31st March, 2011

Off to our Development to get the keys today. First we have a ‘Familiarisation Meeting’ to teach us how to live in an apartment. After we have the keys, we will need to check that all the white goods are working properly, that the toilets and showers and the heating is working properly. Most people will have another check after living in their apartment for a month. Unfortunately, the burglar alarm has not yet been fitted and that is crucial.

The keys were handed over at 1.00 pm as the solicitor phoned me to say the money had been paid. The burglar alarm man turned up and we now know it will be fitted before we leave for Greece. We spent the afternoon trying out the taps, sockets, showers, oven, fridge-freezer, lights, etc. We have to write a snagging list. We parked our car in the underground car park and checked out the huge store cupboard we can store our wine in.

1st April, 2011

These photos show the development and the second one outlines our property. Underneath the building is the car park where we have a specific parking bay and a large, secure storage area.

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The blind lady called at 12.00 pm to fit the blinds and we left to drive back to Yorkshire at 2.30 pm. Friday afternoon is not a good time on the M1 and there were a number of accidents and hold-ups but we got back by 6.30 pm and finished a tiring day with a Chinese takaway – the first for months.

2nd April, 2011

Got up this morning and thought, with some trepidation, about the bumpy fortnight we’ve got ahead. It starts in the shoe box in Huddersfield – getting our chattels ready for the Removers by 6.00 am on Monday and ends two weeks today as we drive up to our house on Sifnos. In between, we will drive up and down the M1 three times, drive the length of Europe, stay in five hotels, sail down the Adriatic, drive across the Peloponnese and sail across the Aegean. Exciting but tiring. We finished off the four boxes being posted to Greece and began to plan for the removal.

Week 118

20th March, 2011

A lovely day with sun and blue sky for the Spring Equinox with the Sunday papers. Found two cracking photos – a spineless hedgehog with a homemade jacket and a very friendly robin – while researching something else. Thought you might like to see them:

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 21st March, 2011

Athens is still in the grip of the unions as the government tries valiantly to press on with privatisation.  It means that public transport is constantly disrupted. Medical services, pharmacies, legal services, schools and universities are all subject to strikes and protests. At the moment, garbage is piling up in the streets and a series of general strikes are planned to paralyse the country. To add to the woes, strong winds have closed down all the ports today.

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22nd March, 2011

Another lovely Spring day. What is happening to the British weather? It is unbearably good. Had a look round our local park today. We’ve lived here for eleven years and never been in to it. The main reason was because it was so run down that it didn’t look very inviting. The Greenhead Park is the main park in Huddersfield and has been open to the public of Huddersfield since 1884. It was created on land which was originally open fields, and was used for public meetings, concerts, galas, firework displays, and even balloon landings. On opening, the Park offered a range of genteel pursuits for visitors, including a series of five ornamental lakes and lakeside viewing arbours, a bandstand, the ornamental bedding and fountain of the Italian Gardens, together with a raised terrace which was planned for the construction of a glass pavilion.

Sadly, the park had deteriorated by the time we moved near to it. It was, perhaps two or three miles from our house and closer to the town. The grand, stone houses of the rich merchants of nineteenth century Huddersfield were being split up and turned into student lets for the University. The wonderful, glass pavilion was in a state of disrepair to the point of near collapse. Suddenly, £5.5 million was found from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The work began 18 months ago and are due to be completed by July. We won’t be here to see it. We went to see where they were up to:

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23rd March, 2011

The Spring weather just gets better. Yesterday afternoon touched 20F and today promises even more. March is looking as if it could be the driest on record here in Yorkshire. Fortunately, Sifnos appears to have had a really wet winter. The underground aquifers should be nicely full to guarantee a reliable water source for the rest of the year.

As it was so lovely outside, we took the car to be cleaned and polished – only £6.00 – and then came back to the shoe box to clean and vacuum the inside. It’s only three months old and only done 3000 miles so the job was easy and enjoyable. With the temperature reaching 18F, it was quite warm work outside.

24th March, 2011

Pauline & I haven’t rented any type of property since the early 1970s. The last five months in a rented shoebox has been interesting but STRANGE. One thing has changed since our student days. Protection for the tenant is much improved. We have been the first tenants in a new-build, two bedroomed, unfurnished flat. It has fridge-freezer, dishwasher, washer-dryer, oven and hob and costs a snip at £550.00 per month. We paid six months rent up front and are leaving one month early so we are hoping to get a month’s rent refunded. We also paid a £650.00 bond/deposit at the outset. Nowadays, this is not just additional rent for an unscrupulous landlord. The money goes in to an official deposit scheme which has to have the agreement of both landlord and tenant before the money is re-released. One week tomorrow we will hand back the keys and claim our deposit back.


25th March, 2011

Shopping day today after an early morning Diabetic Clinic with our wonderful doctor. She provided me with a prescription to cover all necessary medication for six months. Off to Sainsburys where the chemist could not cope with the size of my prescription. We left with one carrier bag full and another one to collect on Monday. On to the garden centre to buy bags of seed potatoes and onion sets to take to Greece.

After lunch I took Pauline to the Beauty Parlour to have a facial before I take her to Sassoons tomorrow to have her hair cut. We had to rush home to allow a viewing of the shoebox. We took a phone call from a friend and ex-colleague of ours in which we discussed the recent fallout from the achievement of Academy Status of our old school and another across the town. After the early redundancies which we took advantage of, such prospects appeared to have been shut off to others. Then the Coalition announced austerity measures. Our Academy escaped by the skin of its teeth. Suddenly, the money has started to dry up and 30% of the staff are going to be ‘dispensed with’. Who knows on what terms?

26th March, 2011

Another early morning start – off to Leeds – to take Pauline to Vidal Sassoons for her hair cut. I had a nice hour reading the papers while she paid up £64.00 to have her hair trimmed. We will have to go to Athens for the next one in June. That will cost £100.00 just for the ferry. I’ve offered to cut her hair myself but she didn’t seem keen. Pauline has a ‘Top Stylist’, whatever that means, and when we move, the nearest Sassoons is Sloane Street, London where the equivalent stylist will cost £120.00. The last time I went to the barber, it cost 10 shillings.


Week 117

13th March, 2011

Watched an interview with Rory McGrath the other day. I had no idea he had been born in to a Roman Catholic family – as I had – or that he had been forced to attend church and serve at mass and that he had bitterly resented it- as I had. I knew nothing about his fractured relationship with his mother or his total rejection of religion. The interview, presumably, was to publicise his new book – The Father, The Son and The Ghostly Hole – in which he describes how even as the most lapsed of Catholics, the religion has shaped him forever in just the way I believe it has me.

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The book arrived yesterday. I shall keep you informed on my view of it.

14th March, 2011

Early morning anti-coagulation check at the hospital. The last one before we leave. My INR is up from 1.9 to 2.6. The optimum is 2.5 so that’s good. The next one will be done by the Baker on Sifnos and phoned back to the Huddersfield Royal. We went on to Santander to discuss new ISAs for post April 6th. Our cash allowance has gone up to 2 x £5,340.00 = £10,680.00. I expect interest rates to go up in a couple of months and maybe by 0.5 % so we will miss out on that by being away but, at least, we can park some cash and make a bit at the same time. I have picked a flexible ISA guaranteed to pay 2.8% above Base Rate so I will at least profit from a rate rise.

After lunch – a bowl of Pea & Mint soup – I had an appointment at the Chiropody Department. I told them I was going away for six months and they have left me to make my next appointment in October.

15th March, 2011

Horribly grey, foggy and gloomy day today. We have spent the morning informing people – banks, insurance companies, etc – of our forthcoming change of address. Off to the Health Club at 12.30 pm but it is disappointingly busy.

16th March, 2011

Once again, the day is foggy and ugly. We will be swimming at mid day but up until then we are doing indoor things. Everything of significance is about leaving. Today, we have cancelled all further Council Tax payments and all further Contents Insurance payments. I have cancelled the BT phone and Broadband contract from the day we leave and Pauline is redirecting mail for 6 months to our new address. We have had a feeling for the last three months that we were largely marking time and this has increased as the days go on.

I have always had this problem of getting ahead of myself. From the moment I get to a birthday, I anticipate the next. I may be 59 but I’m in my 60th year. I may be living in Huddersfield but I am waiting to move to Woking. I maybe moving to Woking but I’m leaving for Greece. People say you should live for the moment as I prepare for my next five or ten year plan. It drives Pauline bonkers and I know ‘Life isn’t a rehearsal’ but I have to have goals, targets and purposes. I have to create my own structure around and through my life. I have to feel at least marginally in control of it. This feeling is hugely magnified by retirement.

And now the tragedy of the day – no Tarragon!


In the last few months I have become addicted to it. I’ve eaten it in years past and had to work quite hard to enjoy it but, just before Christmas, Pauline and I were in a mediterranean restaurant in Huddersfield (note the contradiction in terms) and I ordered a grilled chicken dish served with a tarragon cream sauce. It was sensational. I immediately went out to buy fresh tarragon. Only one supermarket in Kirklees was selling fresh tarragon – Asda which is a fair few miles away. Made a special trip there today only to find they had none. Why is life so hard?

17th March, 2011

Today we’ve been focussing on microwaves. All the big issues occupy us. Not for our time the minor concerns of Libya or the trivia going on in Japan. We need to consider a new microwave. We use ours for defrosting and for fast finishing food. We’ve had only three microwaves since I bought the first one – a Phillips, the size of a chest of drawers – in 1978. Our new kitchen will have a new microwave but, because our new kitchen will be installed before we move in, it will have to be free standing. We have also wanted a steam oven so we intend to combine the two functions in a multi-function steam microwave.

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Actually, these machines have microwave/oven/grill/steam functions combined and come in under £300.00. You can’t say fairer than that.

18th March, 2011

Glorious, sunny day today. Even Sainsburys looked beautiful. After shopping, we went to our favourite hardware shop to buy a new, steel, filleting knife.


While we were there, I had parked up and paid £1.50 for my parking ticket. As I was walking back to my car with the ticket, a large BMW pulled up behind me. The driver, a middle aged white man, put a disabled badge in the window, got out of the car and sprinted down the street. That really annoyed me but, just at that moment, a traffic warden, a little black lady, walked down the street. On the spur of the moment, I told her what I had just seen. At first, she just brushed me off. He might be able to sprint even if he is disabled, she said. She took one look at the disabled badge and asked, Was this man with any one? When I told her that he was on his own, she said, Well that’s interesting because this badge is for a woman. I didn’t wait around to watch the conclusion of this drama. By the time Pauline and I had come out of the knife shop, the warden was still waiting for the man to return.

Later we had a lovely swim as the sun shafted in through the windows and then sunbathed in the jacuzzi. Life can be so hard at times. For Dinner this evening, I cooked roast salmon with a garlic, lemon and tarragon crust. This was accompanied by roasted shallots and peppers. We both absolutely loved it.

19th March, 2011

A strange day. It was supposed to be beautiful but failed to live up to expectations. England were unexpectedly rubbish against the bog trotters of Ireland but, at least Man. Utd. managed to squeeze a win over Bolton. Poor old Ruth.

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Week 116

6th March 2011

A bitter sweet day with England beating South Africa and United losing to Liverpool. Still, it’s not life and death is it? It’s much more serious than that!

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Got a message from Sue Wilson this evening via Facebook. I don’t really use Facebook but have any messages redirected to my email address. This is how the exchange went:

Sue Wilson  March 7, 2011 at 2:46pm

60 this year eh John ?And I’m 50 – where does it all go ?? Sx 

John Sanders  06 March at 22:48

How kind of you to remind me, Sue. I only take comfort in the knowledge that the decade 50 – 60 goes so fast you hardly have time to draw breath. If you have a list of things you want to get done, don’t hold back. There soon won’t be time.
Love John 

Sue Wilson  March 8, 2011 at 5:09am

How very true. And no, we’re not holding back – Phil and I have been together less than 2 years, have bought a 50 acre farm and will be living the good life within a year. As a first step towards that, I’ve just tossed in my $130,000 stressy job with a software house, booked to come back to UK for 3 weeks at the end of March to sell my house and get things in order. Phil has also sold his main place and we move in 11 days time. Everything will go to the farm, he will clear 6k’s worth of debt/loan each month and we will find somewhere cheap for Mon-Thurs. So we’re cracking on !What about you ? Are you full-time in Greece now ?

Notice the strange date system used in Australia. This is what Australians look like and could explain why they can’t get the date right:


7 th March 2011

Yorkshire Water – a wonderful company – told us today that although we will have consumed five months worth of water by the time we leave the shoe box, they will not charge us a penny. Pauline had set £150.00 aside for the water bill but, when she phoned to let them know when we would be leaving the shoe box, she was told that our property hadn’t been registered with them yet so that they wouldn’t be requiring a final reading and would not be billing us at all. I record this event because you won’t hear of such magnanimity often.

I took Pauline for a hospital appointment this afternoon and recorded Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in all its glory. Hardly historic is it?


8th March 2011

Glorious, sunny and relatively warm Spring day today. I makes one glad to be alive. Got a letter from an ex-colleague who I haven’t seen for around 15 years. A Birmingham University History graduate, he had been stricken by polio as a boy and went through his whole teaching career coping with the left side of his body virtually lifeless. I never knew how he coped and, one day, he got to Oldham on the bus from Halifax which he had done every day for about thirty years, leaving home each day at 5.30 am in order to arrive at school by about 7.30 am. He would do an hour’s marking, teach a full day, attend a meeting until 5.00 pm and then get two buses back to Halifax, getting home about 7.00 pm. This particular day, he arrived at the bottom of the hill, got off the bus and thought, “I can’t face this any more!” Bursting into tears, he got back on the bus and went home where he lived with his parents in Halifax. This was fifteen years ago now and I haven’t seen him since but I have received a Christmas card from him each year since until this year when we got nothing. It turns out that his father had died and he was so upset that Christmas was cancelled.

It is strange but little contacts like this drag one back across the years in a way that isn’t always welcome and underlines the essential sadnesses of so many (maybe all) human lives.

9th March 2011

Pancake Day.  A reason to be cheerful particularly if you are married to Pauline who makes fantastic pancakes.Those more eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I erroneously mourned the missing of Pancake Day on February 16th. What a fool! The trouble was, I’ve been cutting down on food so much my stomach has shrunk and I couldn’t eat many. After my tenth, I was starting to feel full.

Today Pauline started packing boxes for despatch to Greece. We bought three cartons but it looks like we may fill four. It will cost us a bit to send them to Sifnos but, when the things that make life happy surround us in our house, we rarely stop to count the cost.

Instant & Fresh Coffee                     Tea Bags
Porridge Oats                                     Dried Yeast
Basmati & Risotto Rice                    Assorted Batteries
Printer Paper                                     Printer Toner                        
Large Roll of Dustbin Bags              Mouthwash
Tubes Toothpaste                             Interdentals  
Bars of Soap & Handpump Soap    Suntan Lotion                                   
Anti-perspirant                                 Boxes Tissues                                               
Boxes Dishwasher Tablets              Dishwasher Cleaner

These things may look as if we are trying to recreate England in Greece. We are not. They are each chosen for one of two different reasons.

Some things are extortionately expensive on a Greek island where they are not so much in demand. For example, Dishwasher tablets cost double the normal English supermarket price. We buy them when they are on two-for-one offer in England – effectively one quarter of the Greek price. When we buy for six months at a stretch it saves lots of money. 60 tablets cost £13.58 in Tesco and £26.00 in Greece. In Sainsburys’ two-for-one offer we only paid £6.50. Six boxes cost £39.00 instead of £156.00. That, in itself, pays for the postage of all the boxes. In six months, we use 25 bottles of suntan lotion which can cost three times as much on the island.

The other reason is quality of product. Have you ever used Greek soap? If you had, you would know it smells of the most revolting, cheap-floral scent. Greek tissues are as soft as newspaper. Tea bags in Greece are cat wee in water – Lipton tea bags. Have you tasted them? Once tasted always forgotten:


The word ‘Quality’ is a relative term and it does not exactly describe the contents of the bag.

10th March 2011

Had a phone call today to tell us that our apartment in Surrey was finally finished and had been signed off by NHBC. Shortly afterwards another phone call told us that of yet another viewing for our shoe box tomorrow.

Fascinating to hear the current attack on future pensions. Will workers, grateful for a job, take it or will they fight? Thank goodness we were paid to go when we did. I know how I would be feeling now if I had, say, five – ten years to go.

This afternoon, the weather, which has been Spring-like for days turned a little wintry. Nothing desperate and nothing like Athens at the moment which is deep in snow.

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The snow is so bad in Athens at the moment that the transport unions have called off the General Strike on the basis that they can’t do worse than the weather.

11th March 2011

Sent Catherine an email for her birthday last Wednesday and received a reply today:

Thanks for birthday wishes-had work all day but enjoyed an eve meal with family. Back to dissertation the next day but getting there .  Looking for a job.Good luck with move, Enjoy your 60th and have a great time in Greece. Love cathy

I find it hard to believe that Catherine is 56 years old. While I have aged quite noticeably, everyone else has stayed the same age, in my imagination, that I remember them from the past. Talking about the past, I have been reflecting on origins, places, belonging, etc.. I think I will miss Yorkshire and the familiarity of place but not for long. When I return to Repton , I shiver uncomfortably with memories. I look over my shoulder in case someone recognises me. I want to be the unobserved observer.


I have invested more than 25 years of my life to Sifnos in the Greek Cyclades. Our house there is valued at about £400, 000 – £450,000 but soon after we have left it, we almost forget that we own it. We have always tried to conduct our two lives as if they were unconnected. The Greek house had to be developed and financed so that it didn’t impinge on our life and finances in UK and largely that has been true. I suspect that, when we sell the Greek house, we will never return to Sifnos and it will soon retreat into a shadowy hinterland of past.

11th March 2011

The longer we have lived in Greece, the more we are amazed to find so many English people doing the same thing. I featured John Humphrys twelve months ago when I bought his book – Blue Skies & Black Olives – in which he describes his purchase and building of a house with his son on the Pelopponese. His son lives and works in Athens as a classical musician. The erstwhile Minister of Sport in Blair’s administration, Tony Banks, had a property on the beautiful, Dodecanese island of Symi.

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Today a clothes designer, Katherine Hooker, was featured in The Daily Telegraph today. She designs for Kate Middleton – whoever that is – but she lives on Patmos from April to September and was preparing to set off. We leave in four weeks for Greece.