Week 163

30th January, 2012

The M62 in West Yorkshire was closed temporarily by snow last night. Here in Surrey, the days are still mild with a little edge on the breeze. We certainly haven’t seen any snow and it is our ambition to go for a whole year without seeing any. We are going through fully blown Spring inside our flat:


The morning started badly with England throwing a victory away and capitulating to Pakistan


and then got worse with United throwing an easy victory away and letting Liverpool in.


31st January, 2012

Last day of January – can you believe it? Cold and frosty outside this morning. In fact, my computer said it was -4C this morning when I got up. We keep hearing that snow is on the way but there is no sign so far. In Greece, for the fourth consecutive year, they have snow. People have been told that they can only drive with snow chains on this week. When you know the poor quality of some of the older houses, they must be freezing.


The debt negotiations seem to go on for ever but really are on the brink of conclusion. You still don’t feel that the Greeks are really meeting the rest of Europe half way but that is duplicitous Greeks for you. The EU said – You must privatise your Nationalised industries. Against their will, the Greeks agreed. The electricity generation industry was opened up with new companies coming in to challenge the state provider. However, the market was so skewed that the state company kept all its advantages of customer list, etc, as when it was a monopoly. As a result, the  competitors collapsed within months and they are back to stage one. Very little else has been achieved in the privatisation process.

Fantastic game tonight in which Everton beat Man. City. It was a really enjoyable match made better by United winning and Chelsea drawing. The icing on the cake was Ashley Cole being sent off. Poor old Mancini blamed himself.


1st February, 2012

Happy February to you all.


Nine weeks until we leave for Greece. With freezing temperatures in Greece and heavy snow in Italy, we have to hope the weather improves rapidly.

Had to do a bit of shopping today and, although the temperature was hovering about 4C, it felt much colder in reality. We should have been going swimming but a delivery – of a new vacuum cleaner – which should have been yesterday and failed to turn up is now rearranged for today. Once again, they have failed to give us a specific time band in spite of bragging on their website and on their answerphone that they do. They even swore blind that they did turn up yesterday and put a card through the door but they are lying. Let’s hope they turn up today.

Phyllis and Colin are coming for Lunch tomorrow so Pauline is busily cooking in preparation for that. I have been replying to a woman from The Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is doing a Doctorate on Green Stuff. She is interested in our exciting experiences of Heat Exchangers and Biomass Burners and how it has made us so much more aware of and responsive to Global Warming and Climate Change. Poor girl! She is in for an interesting afternoon. I think I will open a bottle of red wine to soften the blow for her. She is Norwegian, poor girl!

2nd February, 2012

A day cold enough to take your breath away. By 6.45 am I was queuing outside the walk-in hospital. The doors open at 7.00 am. In that temperature of about -4C, it wasn’t easy standing outside. The doors open at 7.00 am and I was 4th in the queue. Even so, I was home by 7.15 am. and eating breakfast. We had to be out again at 9.15 am for Pauline’s appointment with the doctor to review the results of her x-ray which show early signs of arthritis but nothing much more which is pleasing.

Phyllis & Colin are coming for lunch today so it is my job to dop the hoovering. The new vacuum we ordered has still not arrived so we have borrowed an old Dyson that weighs five tons for me to use. After completing my work, I have a lie down while Pauline completes food preparations. The meal turns out to be wonderful – Steak pie with new potatoes, snap peas in garlic butter, green beans and delicious carrots. Colin was driving but Pauline, Phyllis and I shared a bottled of iced Pinot Grigot. Phyllis and Colin lived 60 years of their lives in Oldham so Pauline tries to create things for them that they can’t get in Surrey. So, she made Holland’s Pies (a mixture of pork and beef in water crust pastry) and ‘Japs’ (a type of multi-layered macaroons) which remind them of their past.

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We had a lovely meal and Phyllis could hardly walk as she left.

3rd February, 2012

A very cold day. When I went down to the garage, the car read -3C. I drove down to the paper shop on heavily salted roads and the car read -6C. We went out later to do shopping at Tesco and had the car cleaned. I couldn’t imagine what their hands must have felt like in that temperature.

4th February, 2012

I had entertained the hope that I might get through the winter without seeing snow at all. Unfortunately, today a light smattering of snow has fallen. It was very warm in our flat but it is amazing how cold outside affects the psyche. I made Cassoulet for our evening meal – a real, hearty winter warmer.

Week 162

22nd January, 2012

Breakfast, papers, football. Disgraceful win for City with Balotelli still on the pitch. What was the referee doing? Fairly disappointing win for United given their early dominance.

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23rd January, 2012

One of the delights of living down here is to take advantage of special offers from Eurotunnel such as a £22.00 return crossing that they sent me today. We have booked this morning to do a shopping trip in three weeks time.

Went to the pool and had a lovely swim. I managed ten lengths this time. We have quite a busy week so the next swim could be Thursday when we will expect to do twelve lengths.

24th January, 2012

A wet day today but not too cold.The app. on my PC shows 3C at 9.30 in the morning. If all goes well today, Amazon will collect our faulty coffee maker and deliver a new one

Amazon have done exactly what they promised. They collected the damaged coffee maker at 11.00 am but didn’t deliver the replacement until 6.30 pm. I will unpack and test it tomorrow.

Watched a really good League Cup semi-final in which Cardif beat Crystal Palace on penalties.


25th January, 2012

Grey and overcast and quite cold outside. After breakfast, we unpacked the coffee maker and made our first cups of coffee. I have a huge, assorted pack of ESE pods. This morning we tried Izzo Caffe 100% Arabica ESE pods from Naples. They were wonderful.

Later in the morning, a nest of coffee tables were delivered from Oakland Furniture. These virtually complete our furniture buying for this year.


This afternoon, we went out a bought Asda’s entire stock of Wash & Go because it was on a very cheap offer. It will be sent to Greece where it is very expensive and I get through something like fifteen in the six months.

26th January, 2012

Woke up at 5.30 am today. I hadn’t slept well because I’ve pulled a muscle around my shoulder blade – probably swimming – and I couldn’t find a single position in bed where it didn’t hurt. When I got up, I found that the toilet in the en-suite had sprung a small leak. The beauty of buying a new property is that, for the first two years, we just phone customer services and a plumber comes round and fixes it for free. By 6.45 am, I was standing outside Wolking Walk-in Hospital waiting for my blood test. By 7.10 am I was home watching England v Pakistan. After breakfast, I fell asleep on the settee.

While she was hoovering, Pauline blew up our Dyson vacuum cleaner and we will have to replace it. Fortunately, Phyllis & Colin had a spare one – as you do – and we have borrowed it. We’ve invited them for lunch next week. Pauline will make Colin’s favourite – meat pie. Colin is, of course, a Lancashire lad and loves the famous Holland’s Pies.


27th January, 2012

After breakfast today, the sun came up and bathed the flat in warmth and light. I watched England continue to do a good job on Pakistan. Broad and Panesar were particularly impressive.


Pauline, who went for an x-ray on a lump on her shoulder which seems to be giving her pins & needles and some numbness in her left arm, had a telephone consultation with a doctor today. It seems that is what the do here. It seems that she is suffering from early signs of Arthur as arthritis is know in her family. All the women in her family suffer from it. She is being offered physiotherapy and cortizone injections. We are disappointed as she is so young. Like her Mum, she will probably suffer from it for the next forty years.

After lunch, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful, mild and sunny afternoon and go for a walk. Our property is in Maybury Place which is just off Sandersy Lane. Not only are our gated grounds lovely and quiet but Sandy Lane is a dead end for cars so is also very quiet. At the end of the lane is a narrow, muddy track where only walkers can go but which leads to Maybury Hill and to a gastro-pub with a fantastic reputation for food – The Maybury Inn.


We had a walk up there and back round our own grounds of the old convent which are magnificent.

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Week 161

15th January, 2012

A cold, bright and delicious day here today. Sunday papers and football. The temperature outside hardly rose above -3 but we suddenly realised as we went to bed that the heating hadn’t been on all day and we hadn’t noticed.

16th January, 2012

Sun and blue skies in Surrey as Greece play poker right up to the deadlines in Europe. I still expect a deal to be done but they are beginning to make me nervous.

I don’t think I’ve told you before but I am having this recurring dream where I am an English teacher, it is time for a lesson but, when I look in the books, I haven’t marked them. No great deal really but I wake up anxious and then, suddenly, realise that I’m not a teacher any more. Relief floods across me and I go back to sleep. As a teacher, I regularly hadn’t marked the books but it rarely gave me anxiety and I haven’t been an English teacher for nearly twenty years. I could do with ditching this dream. Perhaps I’ll retire from it.

17th January, 2012

Now I’ve retired from it, I’ve got time top watch the cricket. Unfortunately, England decided to have an off day. Pakistan easily bowled them out for under 200.

Spent some time helping Pauline back up her files in the cloud. She uses Windows Live. It really makes sense because her files will always be safe there – as long as she remembers her login and password.

We had an email from our friend, Rania, on Sifnos. We are having about 50 metres of walling built at the front of our property. It is being done by an Albanian friend of ours called Nikos and his team. He doesn’t speak any English but has been to see Rania to tell her that our big, iron gate has been damaged and goats have got in to the garden. He wants permission to go ahead and get the gate repaired. I have had to tell him to do it immediately and I will pay him in April.

18th January, 2012

I’ve enjoyed fresh coffee for a long time and, over the years, I’ve bought a lot of coffee making machines/gadgets. Some have been so complicated, I gave up with them, some have been barely adequate and they sit in a cupboard and some have been great but expensive to use. For example, I have two espresso makers in Greece which I had given up on while we were working in England because they were so messy and time consuming. For five or six years, we have been using pod machines because they are so much more convenient. We have had two Bosch Tassimo machines which have worked well, produced a consistent cup of coffee from a wide choice of pods but cost 25p per cup.


The machine costs about £100.00 and we have had two over the years. Now, however, the second one has gone ‘phut’. I have decided to go back to ground coffee machines but which also take ESE or Easy Serving Espresso pods.

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I have chosen a Cuisinart Espresso Maker which is reasonably priced at about £170.00. I have also found an on-line firm that will sell me ESE pods at 16p per time.

19th January, 2012

Went to the pool for a swim this morning. It is a competition-sized pool and twice the length of the one we used to use at our Health Club. I was absolutely knackered after six lengths. We haven’t swum for four months and it told on my arms and legs. We just have to keep going back until it improves.

Recently my INR has been all over the place. We couldn’t find a reason for a long time but we now think it is because we have stepped up our intake of green vegetables to try to help me lose weight. Unfortunately, Warfarin is interferred with by Vitamin K. I should avoid things carrying vitamin K like all my favourites:

Asparagus Lettuce
Blueberries Parsley
Broccoli  Peas

Pauline is tearing her hair out trying to sort out a diet for me! She’s just made some biscuits.

20th January, 2012

How Amazon managed without us when it started, I cannot imagine. Pauline & I have sustained this economy for all the months we have been back in England but the 0.6% growth in sales in January can be tracked, in its entirety, through our ‘Home Accounts’. Today, a series of delivery men have been ringing our door bell with parcels of items that are going to Greece to get us through the next six months. I think today we have had four since 8.00 am and we still have one to come.

It’s just arrived and it’s beautiful. Typically Italian machined steel. It is heavy and sexy. I love it. It has a three year warranty as well which should just about see me out – not before I die but until I want another one.

You will not believe this. It does not work. IT DOES NOT WORK! It is dead as a dodo even when plugged in. We’ve check the plug and fuse to no avail. It came from Reading this morning by van. I am going to throw it back to Reading from the roof top tomorrow.

21st January, 2012

A grey day illuminated by the emergence of our hyacinth. It seems to be straining a bit but it has been in the downstairs toilet since Phyllis gave it us in November. I think it’s nice.


Didn’t Norwich do well but Chelsea were pretty poor. I can’t feel sorry for Torres. He shouldn’t have deserted Liverpool.


Week 160

8th January, 2012

Off to the paper shop in beautiful sunshine. I drove past a magnificent camelia tree in full flower. Mum would have been so jealous of flowers in the second week of January.


After watching Man. U. beat City 3-2 in the FA Cup, I produced a spreadsheet of my drug stock and projected forward to the first week of October. These are the sorts of ground breaking things you can do in retirement. I joke but the process is absolutely crucial. I cannot afford to run out and I really cannot afford to buy these drugs in Greece if they were obtainable or not. I’ve worked out that, on the open market, my drugs would cost me £150.00 per month. With the help of our previous doctor in Yorkshire, we have managed to build up a stockpile which reaches to the beginning of October but we need to continue building this up for future years. It seems strange to us that we need to be manipulative like this. Upstanding citizens with a right to medication but who want to travel abroad for six months at a time.

9th January, 2012

Had to go for my annual Diabetic Eye Test this morning. This takes about an hour. I have drops in 20 minutes before the tests. By the time I’m ready, I have to be led by the hand. Nowadays, I have a number of photos taken of the back of my eye. Hopefully, all will be well and I will return for another test next year.

This afternoon, we continued to address our investments which have matured and require attention rather than let banks stick our money in nil-return holding accounts. I’m cooking dinner tonight – seafood linguine – as Pauline has done all the cooking recently.

10th January, 2012

Pauline is brilliant. She has had a little lump – maybe a ganglion – on her shoulder for six months or more. She is prone to these. Ten years ago she had one in her forearm that was pressing on the nerve and had to be cut out in a Birmingham hospital. This one appears to be associated with tingling in her arm and the arm feeling icy cold. Today she went to see a doctor about it. He has referred her for an x-ray. At the same time, she told him about our drugs dilemma when we go to Greece. He immediately reassured us that we could have the drugs that we need on prescription. This was particularly apposite because the Greek News is reporting:

For patients and pharmacists in financially stricken Greece, even finding aspirin has turned into a headache.

Mina Mavrou, who runs a pharmacy in a middle-class Athens suburb, spends hours each day pleading with drugmakers, wholesalers and colleagues to hunt down medicines for clients. Life-saving drugs such as Sanofi (SAN)’s blood-thinner Clexane and GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK)’s asthma inhaler Flixotide often appear as lines of crimson data on pharmacists’ computer screens, meaning the products aren’t in stock or that pharmacists can’t order as many units as they need.

“When we see red, we want to cry,” Mavrou said. “The situation is worsening day by day.”

The 12,000 pharmacies that dot almost every street corner in Greek cities are the damaged capillaries of a complex system for getting treatment to patients. The Panhellenic Association of Pharmacists reports shortages of almost half the country’s 500 most-used medicines. Even when drugs are available, pharmacists often must foot the bill up front, or patients simply do without.

The financial crisis is brewing a “Greek tragedy” of slowing access to medical care and worsening outcomes for patients, Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, wrote in an October article in The Lancet.

The Greek Ministry of Health didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

It has always been a problem but is worse now. Pauline’s discussion with the doctor has really reassured us.

11th January, 2012

Another warm and sunny day. We had the front and back doors open to let in the ‘Spring’ sunshine. Greece, on the other hand had this:


Not only had Athens received a dumping of snow which stopped traffic but the winds were Beaufort 9 which stopped all the ferries.

12th January, 2012

Early start this morning. I was outside the Woking Walk-in Hospital at 6.45 am for my INR test. I have found this the best way to get a quick test. Unfortunately this morning, I found myself with the ‘Butcher of Surrey’ and she really hurt me. She had two, vicious but unsuccessful attempts on my left arm. She laughed when she couldn’t find a vein and I was in agony. She took my right arm and began to excavate it with something sharp but failed, once again, to find a vein. Finally, she stuck something akin to a pick axe into the vein on the top of my hand which fountained blood and then swelled up. I walked out in to the still dark morning, covered in swabs and plasters.

After going home to lick my wounds and have breakfast, we went to the Woking Leisure Park. It is, literally, a park which also contains a swimming building with three pools, steam rooms, jaccuzis, etc and another huge building containing gymnasia, etc. We went at 11.30 am. One pool was absolutely empty. Another pool was lightly used. The third pool we didn’t get to see at all. We used to pay £80.00 per month (almost £1000.00 per year) for swimming in a Health Centre. Because we are 60, we can have access through the main part of the day, which is the only time we want to go, for £40.00 per year. We join on Monday.

13th January, 2012

What a lovely day – Friday 13th with clear blue skies and strong sun. We did the London – Brighton Rally today. Well, we did Woking – Brighton in about an hour. It was a delightful drive. We headed for a trawler shop to buy freshly landed fish. It was coming off the boat as we arrived.

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We bought enough fish – Sea Bream, Bass, Haddock, Cod, etc., to last us a month and then we drove down to Brighton Pier. We deliberately did the ‘old, retired couple’s thing’ of sitting on a promenade bench eating our ham sandwiches and bathing in the winter sun. The sea was flat as a pancake. It was reasonably quiet apart from the sea gulls.


We drove home and went to see the Halifax Bank in Woking. Over a month ago, we had transferred a matured ISA each into a new fixed-rate ISA package at 3.5%. We signed all the forms and left. After five weeks, we had received no confirming paperwork. When we contacted Head Office, we were told that the money hadn’t been moved. So customer sensitive are they that, without prompting, they gave us financial compensation and backdated our ISA to the original date but on the new, fixed rate of 3.7%. It’s great when the customer is king as Greece is finding out.

14th January, 2012

Heavy frost this morning. Out early to get the paper. I found the owner’s wife, a nice, big Polish woman, plastering the windows with Closing Down notices. She told me that tomorrow will be her last day of trading because the new Asda which opened up about a mile away has taken all their trade. I’ve only just got to know them and they are so convenient! They are offering the shop to rent so, maybe, someone else will take the battle on.

Week 159

1st January, 2012


Happy New Year. Happy January to you all! Got a text and then a nice email from Liz today. She hadn’t got my card and change of address because she’d moved. She’s talking about going to live in India. I can’t see it myself but who am I to judge. I chose Greece!

Sunday papers and no wine today. A bitter sweet start to the New Year.

2nd January, 2012

Went shopping in Sainsburys Knaphill this morning. Pauline wanted to take back some pillows that she had bought there and considered rubbish when she took them out of their wrapping. A nice old lady who looked a bit like Mum was trying to cross the carpark road. She seemed surprised and delighted when I stopped the car and waved her across. It doesn’t happen much down here. They’re more inclined to run old ladies over. When I got in to the store, she made a beeline for me. Our eyes met over the rhubarb. “Oh that would make a nice change”, she said. “I grow it in my garden but, of course, it’s not ready yet.” It was one of those nice moments of the day.

This afternoon, we donated our smaller television to Phyllis & Colin for their second set. We have a new one being delivered on Friday and mounted on the wall in the Study. Tomorrow, our little man is coming to put shelves up in the Study. We had to make room for it all.

3rd January, 2012

Our little man, Graham, came from Epsom to put shelves in the study, more towel rings in the bathrooms, three mirrors in various rooms and sundry other small jobs. Working in a apartment is decidedly different to a detached house. For example, he had to wait until after 8.00 am before he started drilling. Then, when you’d predict electricity cables coming up from the floor, in the apartment, they come down from above and Graham, luckily, just missed one as he put up the shelves. We sat on tenterhooks downstairs while he worked.

Actually, I am exhausted. There is no way I could have gone back to work this morning. I was replying to emails until after midnight and the up at 6.00 am to be ready for Graham’s arrival. It’s always the same with us. We can’t wait until the person doing the work has finished, been paid and left. It is not as if Graham is not a delightful and interesting person. He is but we are both uncomfortable with someone doing the work while we are sitting around.

4th January, 2012

Things have gone a bit weird this morning. My friend of 30 years and Honda car salesman, Chris Woods, has sent me a photograph oh him in 1978. He is a lovely man about the same age as me; Grammar School educated; well travelled. I sent him the 2004 Honda pricelist I found and a photo of Pauline & I in 2003. He sent me back a photo of him in 1978.


Our little man, Graham Simkins, did all the final jobs yesterday including putting up shelves in the Study. Today, we are reconstructing the services: plugging back in mono printers, colour printers, label printers, scanners, audio systems, internet hubs, wireless transmitters, DVD and Video editors and checking everything works. On Friday, a large plasma television is being delivered and mounted on the wall. I will then release ‘official’ photos of the new study.

5th January, 2012

We went to the Doctors surgery to collect a repeat prescription for me. We are having something of a tussle. Apparently, NHS guidelines say that prescriptions should not be written for more than three months at a time. We go to Geece for six months. Our lovely doctor in Huddersfield would give us two three month prescriptions and tell us to take them to two separate chemists. She knew we wouldn’t abuse that position. Coming to Woking has put us in a whole, new position. Apparently, they suffer from ‘health tourism’ quite badly here. People sign up, get lots of drugs and then never return. We are struggling to find a way round it at the moment.

6th January, 2012

I know I keep saying this but, in the last three months, we have had so many deliveries, tradesmen, service people coming to our new home. They must number in the twenties by now. Almost without exception, they have been eye-openingly lovely people who are desperate to provide not just a good service but better than that and cheerfully. I ordered a 43″ Flat Screen television with wall mounts from Comet on-line. Because I don’t do ‘work’, I ordered the wall mounting service to go with it from Comet. It was about £100.00 extra. It turned out to be an excellent £100.00’s worth. Two lovely blokes phoned from their wagon to say they would arrive in half an hour. They wished us Happy New Year, brought in the large-ish tv and carried it upstair to the Study. With it they brought the wall mounts, two tool boxes and a vacuum cleaner. The van driver was the passenger’s support in this. I told them exactly where I wanted the television.

Within minutes, they had three different drills out. The wall mounts I’d ordered were universal and came with fittings for fifteen different makes. I would have been thinking about the job for months before calling for ‘a little man’ to fit it for me. Lovely people who had driven all the way from Southampton at 7.30 am did it for me in fifteen minutes with no mess or mistakes. The cost of £100.00 was cheap. Now I have a Study with broadband at the desk, a sofa a widescreen Sky Sports. What more could a man want……apart from nice food, plenty of red wine, female company occasionally???


7th January, 2012

The most beautiful day today. No wonder we don’t need the heating. It is 11C outside and full sun. Squirrels are leaping through the trees here shouting, “When does Winter start? I want to dig up my nuts!” Well, you know what squirrels are like.We read the papers while watch/listening to The Pirates of Penzance which Pauline performed in forty years ago.

We have been back in the UK for 13 weeks and we have 13 left before we leave. Next week is ‘Planning Week’ for our return.