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.

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