Week 171

25th March, 2012

Summer in Surrey – in March. The weather has officially announced it.

Pauline is packing boxes for posting to Greece.

26th March, 2012

6.50 am INR test this morning. Hopefully, the last in Woking for some while. A trip this afternoon to see the little girl, Ria – my dentist. The sun is so hot she and her Polish assistant are clearly itching to get out in it like all young things. I make her feel better by reminding her that in another 45 years she will be retiring and free to enjoy all the sun she can get. My mouth was pronounced fine.

We went to the local Post Office to check we would be alright with four, big, heavy boxes for delivery to Greece on Monday next week. We were assured that there would be no problem.

27th March, 2012

The warmest, sunniest day of the year so far. We were off to Honda in Weybridge for 10.30 am for our Holiday Check. When they heard that we were driving across Europe next week, they left a Honda bag containing all the things one requires by law in the various countries – warning triangle, aluminium blanket, first aid kit, spare bulb kit, etc..

Sat out in the sun for a bit to discuss events coming up. We decided that we would have to leave Surrey at 4.00 am to make our tunnel crossing. To have a better sleep, we decided to book a hotel down in Ashford for the evening before. We booked the Holiday Inn which is 10 minutes away from the tunnel and only costs £50.00.

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This evening, after watching Chelsea beat Benfica, we sat outside at 10.00 pm in March to drink our coffee.

28th March, 2012

We won’t need to go to Greece at this rate. The weather just keeps heating up. Shopping at Waitrose felt like shopping in Italy without the pushing. We had lunch outside on the patio and then hurried in doors to escape the sun.

Jane’s birthday today. She is 58. I sent her an email and received a nice reply.

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Pauline finished packing the boxes although she’s worried about the total weight – it’s creeping over 200 kg. I produced contact sheets for our keyholders – two neighbours plus Phyllis & Colin. I contacted the burglar alarm company, Custom Security Services so they know the altered priority of contact over the next six months.

Watched quite a good match between AC Milan – Barcelona which ended 0-0 and then laughed away the evening listening to ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron deciding whether or not I should panic buy petrol and hoard it ‘illegally’ in my garage. Did he eat a pasty and, if so, was it from Leeds or Liverpool station? Was he simplifying the tax system or robbing the poor pensioners to reward the rich, top 1%? You can just tell he is a man of the people and that we are all in this together!


29th March, 2012

Hot and sunny – I can’t stand it. Phyllis & Colin are coming for lunch – Pauline is making Fish Pie with Trout, Cod and Prawns dressed with a Mornay Sauce and soft mash potatoes. I’m providing a wonderful, ice cold Pinot Grigiot to drink with it. For Afters we are having Tarte Citron dressed with fresh raspberries and cream. My job is to tidy the lounge and then stay out of the way. I do that quite well.

After a lovely meal, I spend some time teaching Phyllis how to use her new iPad. When they leave, we sit out in the sun for an hour. I phoned Ruth and was shocked to hear her voice. She sounded dreadful and said she had had heavy ‘flu’ for a fortnight and couldn’t shake it off. She told me about Liz having Lunch with the Queen in Manchester last week and how proud Mum would have been of her. Liz was supposed to visit Ruth today but had to be put off because of her illness. I hope she gets better soon. Things can get a hold if you’re not careful – especially at her age.

Still tinkering with things before we go away. Phoned Credit Card companies to tell them. Phoned Sky with whom I have a TV/Phone/Broadband contract and tried to get my bill mitigated for the duration. Found I will save £50.00 per month which will pay for my Nova satellite contract in Greece.

30th March, 2012

Perhaps the last of the lovely weather before we get to Greece. Today is going to be another scorcher. We are off to the Woking Peacock Centre this morning so Pauline can have her hair cut at Toni&Guy. It isn’t ideal but she’ll risk it today. We will then go on to Santander to take out ISAs for the new, financial year. We have to forward buy because we will be away.

En route to town, we spied a garage with no more than ten people queuing. We ‘topped up’ our tank. We have 320 miles in the tank and France is only 80 miles away. It’s not going to be a problem.

Jobs done. Pauline looks spruce as a goose. ISAs bought, we set off for Tescos. We had to fight our way round those queuing for petrol to do our last bit of shopping. By the time we came out, the queues had gone and so had the petrol. The garage was closed.

With four days to go, we feel smugly ready. I can’t stop thinking about Ruth. Two weeks of thick ‘flu has gone on for too long. She needs to see a doctor before it degenerates into pneumonia. I’ll have to tell her myself. Oh, I just have.

31st March, 2012

A day in today – conserving petrol. Joke! We have spent the day tidying up loose ends. The boxes have been labelled and weighed. They go as a ‘consignment’ and, in total, weigh in at 82Kg. I have been uploading everything I can’t do without – filewise – to ‘the cloud’. I have been packing laptop bags plus software, camera bags plus chargers and additional technology that I can’t do without. Pauline has been ironing clothes for the trip. At least these days we only have to take clothes that we need for travelling. Everything else is in the house.

I was so pleased for Ruth that Bolton won today and pulled out of the relegation zone. I hope it boosts her up. I was almost as pleased to hear City couldn’t beat Sunderland.

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Week 170

18th March, 2012

Happy Mothers Day.

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Pauline made a huge, cream-filled Victoria Sponge while I read the Sunday Times and then watched Man. U. humiliate Wolves 5-0. While I was still singing songs of celebration, we drove over to have a late lunch with Mandy and her boys, Phyllis & Colin.

19th March, 2012

The day of the year so far. Clear blue skies and brilliant, strong sun all day. The newspapers are full of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats shooting themselves in the foot/feet. It is reported that 50 doctors are preparing to stand for parliament against government MPs who vote in favour of the Health Service Reform Bill. Now the Coalition is threatening to cut income tax for the richest while foisting Road Pricing, cuts in Pensions, frozen Wage rates and reduced social benefits on the Majority. In my view, this really is The Longest Suicide Note in History.

It was rumoured that sales of the New iPad would be oversubscribed as prospective buyers camped out on the streets to get their hands on those that were available last Friday. I’m not that desperate and, with two weeks left in UK, I though I would have to wait until October. I rang round, speculatively, this morning and found there was no problem. Currys told me they had ‘loads’ in the warehouse and would deliver one to my door tomorrow morning. I ordered a black, 32Gb Wi-Fi one for £479.00.


This afternoon we went into town to speak to Santander Bank about ISAs. We have one full cash one each maturing on April 5th – the day after we have left UK. We want to transfer it into Santanders 2 yr fix at 4.00%. We also want to take out another full cash ISA each on April 6th – as we board a ship for Greece. Fortunately, Santander are desperate and are prepared to let us do all the paperwork in advance. On March 30th, Pauline has an appointment at the hairdressers in preparation for travelling. She is going to risk Toni&Guy this time which just happens to be next to Santander. We have made an appointment to tie the investment ends up.

20th March, 2012

Bought a cover for my new iPad today. There seems to be only one style available at the moment because iPad3 is larger than the older and much inferior model. I’ve order it from Amazon, like most things.

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My iPad has arrived fully charged. I love it. I am writing this sentence on it now.

Spring has also officially arrived. Today is the Spring Equinox – a word that means equal night – when day and night are of equal length. For most of us in UK (& USA for that matter) Spring arrived just after Autumn. We didn’t have a Winter this year. I didn’t miss it either.

21st March, 2012

Lovely day again. Budget Day today. Three years ago, today, we were approaching our last fortnight of teaching. This year will see a pay freeze for teachers and regional pay bargaining for those where we were working. For us, we get a 5.2% increase in our pensions. Can’t be bad! Of course, we are no longer Higher Rate Tax payers and we don’t pay National Insurance which is something we hadn’t anticipated. National Insurance is 14% of earnings so it is a significant amount. The tax band is being raised increasingly to £10,000.00 per year over the next two years which is also rather nice.

The Chancellor has attacked Pensioners although I did think that age-related tax bands were something of an anomaly. I wouldn’t have benefited for another four years and, with my memory, I’ll have forgotten the whole thing. I think that I have lost out on £200.00 per year. I’ll cope.

22nd March, 2012

The morning started off sunny at 7.00 am but has rather clouded over by 9.00 am. After doing some office work, we are going over to see Phyllis & Colin. Phyllis wants to buy an iPad and would like some help in the process. When I phoned Currys on Monday, they said they had lots in their central store so I will advise her to get it from there.

The weather just got better and the temperature reached 22C just after mid day. We sat outside for a while and fought hard to avoid opening a bottle of wine. Had a lovely meal of smoked salmon & scrambled eggs with toasted home made bread.

23rd March, 2012

Glorious day reaching 22C today. I subscribed to The Times with Pauline’s Kindle but found it a disappointing experience. All text and no graphics or graphical layout somehow destroyed the newspaper experience. It was better than two day old newspapers on a remote Greek island but not in UK. I’ve now taken on The Times on the iPad and it is a different experience altogether. I’ve only really been buying paper news at the weekends recently and reading the on-line version of The Telegraph but I’m really getting in to The Times on the iPad. I expect to enjoy it even more on a rock in the middle of the Aegean.

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24th March, 2012

Perhaps an even hotter day today although Greece is forging ahead with wonderful weather now.

We have spent the day speaking to our neighbours about where we will be and when over the next six months in case of emergencies. Across the courtyard from us is a Probation Officer. She will have a set of keys in case the burglar alarm goes off. Vicky, an ex-army medic, who lives behind us will be an emergency call too. We have our alarm linked to a Call Centre monitoring system and Pauline’s sister is the first person they call but we could do with some back up if they go on holiday.

My iPad has a lovely self-photo gimmic. These are my favourites:

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Week 169

11th March 2012

A day of tooth ache and painkillers was lightened by an excellent England win in France at Rugby Union and then the defeat of City by Swansea followed by the victory of United over West Brom.


12th March 2012

After a week of agony, we went off to the hospital to get an INR test. They were extremely efficient and I had a result within an hour. It was satisfactory for my operation to go ahead in the afternoon.

We turned up half an hour early at the surgery and went straight in for a process which took nearly an hour. The little girl dentist did her best and she was ably assisted by a polish girl who was designated to hold me down. Three or four injections and she was underway with a pair of pliers – pulling and levering and twisting – until the top of my tooth cracked and fell in my mouth. She was struggling, she told me, to get the roots out. After half an hour, the injections were starting to wear off and she turned to drilling the bone to release the roots. The pain became intense and action had to be halted for another round of injections. My little girl dentist was showing visible signs of tiredness and stress. She had used all her strength to lever out this tooth and was failing. The Polish assistant holding me down was amazed how strongly anchored the tooth was. I said, I told you how good that tooth was. Shall we cap it instead? They didn’t really see the funny side. In fact, it was the first sign of stress that I had seen on their faces. Another twenty minutes struggling produced two, long and bloody roots which clinked into the ceramic bowl. The third refused to come and is still inside the cavity. The little dentist said it was probably dead and would could to the surface itself later. I hope to hell she’s right. I’m going back for a review in a couple of weeks and just before we leave.


An hour after we got home, the injections were wearing off and the pain became excruciating. I was climbing the walls and trying to pull my face off. The problem is that I can only take Paracetamol because of my warfarin and it wasn’t strong enough. Pauline phoned the Doctor who kindly found something stronger I can take and wrote a quick prescription which we picked up and took to the chemist. Within an hour, I was out of pain – until I saw Arsenal score a late winner against Newastle.

13th March 2012

A remarkably good night without pain but a pillow covered in blood in the morning. I was made, by Pauline, to mouth wash with tepid salt solution but, after twelve hours without pain killers, my only discomfort was bruising and aching down one side of my face. I have been told to rest for 48 hrs and I am taking it seriously.

The new iPad (3?) goes on sale on Friday. I want one to take to Greece with me but, when I phoned up to order one, they told me that delivery would be two or three weeks and even that could not be guaranteed. This takes us so close to leaving day that I may have to wait until October.


The new iPad has retina display which makes the screen resolution so good that pixels are not seen by the naked eye. Apple say the processor is twice as fast as that in iPad2. The screen is coated with finger print resistant coating. Voice typing will be a new addition allowing one to dictate to the word processor and multiple languages and characters simultaneously which will be helpful in Greek. The new iPad comes with much better 5mp cameras and lots of new apps including high-end photo editing software. I look forward to it.

14th March 2012

We leave for Greece three weeks today. It is a beautiful, warm and sunny day. Pauline & I have sat outside with our coffee and reviewed all our arrangements but particularly:

  • Greek House Insurance from Intasure
  • Travel & Medical Insurance from Insure&Go
  • Our Travel Plan with all Dates and Booking References
  • All Hotel Confirmations
  • All Ferry Confirmations

Our apartment development really is in a delightful oasis of calm. It was, after all, originally chosen for a convent. Our front door and windows are bathed in sun most of the day and our patio takes full advantage. Most surprising of all is the bird song – it seems much more than in rural Yorkshire. Blackbirds and song thrushes compete throughout the day from the tops of the towering spruce and Scots pine trees fringing the property. They perform from dawn till dusk at the moment only disturbed by energetic squirrels.

15th March 2012

I know I have left it late and I will be hard pushed to get a new iPad before I go but, if I do, I will want wi-fi to put through it. I pay €40.00 for a 10Gb Cosmote broadband USB dongle which is alright but it won’t allow Pauline on at the same time with her laptop nor will it communicate with an iPad. I have finally found a company on line who will sell me a USB dongle dock which will create a wi-fi hotspot and allow me to connect other things. I phoned up the entrepreneur selling these things in Scotland and ordered one. The GoBaby Dongle Dock seems to fit the bill.


Just a few minutes sitting outside in the sun brought my face colour up to what it was when we left Greece last October. Apparently, South East England was warmer than Greece and Spain yesterday.

16th March 2012

Decidedly cooler and greyer today – only about 10C. We bought our last tranche of euros today and again got £1.00 = €1.174. It will make things feel more reasonable as we purchase in Greece.

We have been getting more and more dissatisfied with our Tesco supermarket – a hypermarket built in the grounds of the old Brooklands motor racing track. The track, with its sloped sides to cope with the speed, was hand dug in 1906.  Malcolm Campbell and John Cobb drove here and set records. The colour photo shows part of the track as it is now on the fringe of the Tesco carpark.

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Tesco has become grubbier, less attractive and less well stocked. It is not the pleasant experience it should be. Strangely, that is what national surveys are saying too and that is why the UK Chief – Richard Brasher – has stepped down.

Today, we went back to Sainsburys which was our supermarket of choice in Huddersfield but is four miles further away here. It was immediately cleaner and more welcoming. When we came to pay the £100.00 bill, Pauline found she still had about £25.00 points credit on her Sainsburys card and cashed them in. It was worth going.

17th March 2012

Love Saturdays. Early breakfast and out for the papers. Discuss current tasks with Pauline. Postman calls with a package of €2350.00 which I bought from ICE (International Currency Exchange) yesterday. We have now bought £10,000.00 of euros at excellent rates over the past couple of months and it will easily get us through the next six months including paying about £4000.00 for building and maintenance work and possible ‘house owners’ tax. We are a careful couple and we bought in tranches to avoid losing out to surprise fluctuations. Fortunately, the rate has stayed quite stable. Tourists have been getting around €1.13 – 1.14 = £1.00. We have been getting about €1.175 which will do at the moment.

As many will know, Pauline records every financial transaction that we make from Sainsburys shopping to petrol purchases. It is impossible to escape her records however small and she has done this since we married in 1978. We wanted to interrogate our computer accounting system. How much are we spending on petrol nowadays? Answer – £25.00 per week. How much were we spending in our last weeks of teaching? Answer – £50.00 per week. Currently, because our outgoings are so much reduced, we worked out that we have 10% additional disposable income than in our final months of teaching. Next month, we get a 5.2% increase in our pensions. Next March, Pauline gets an additional £5000.00 State Pension. We should have retired long ago!

Week 168

4th March, 2012

We have four weeks until we leave for Greece. The time is rushing away. In our planning for the time away, we service the car and we service ourselves. Dentist appointments for both of us and an haircut for Pauline are planned for the end of March. Neither services are well supplied on the island and would mean a time consuming and costly trip to Athens. Unfortunately, my teeth have decided to anticipate the treatment. For a week now, one of my teeth has been giving me a nagging ache after eating or drinking hot or cold things. I’ve tried to manage the pain like the truly stalwart man I am but it has got worse and more persistent and I can’t see myself holding out until my appointment. Pauline will phone for an emergency appointment tomorrow morning.

We have actually seen rain today. I’m surprised to find myself pleased to see it. Enjoyed a day in with the Sunday papers and the pain in my tooth didn’t stop me enjoying Man. United’s humiliation of Harry Redknapp.


5th March, 2012

9.00 am and Pauline is phoning the Dentist for me. They will see me at 3.00 pm today. En route, we call in at Sainsburys and, when we get to the Dentist, the news isn’t good. I have developed an infection by trying to hold out until my booked appointment and will now have to have a course of anti-biotics. There are two possible approaches to the tooth which is at the upper, back right and is already more filling than tooth. I could have extensive and expensive root canal surgery followed by a crown but that would take three months to complete – three one hour appointments for the root and then a two month wait before the crown is fitted. Unfortunately, we leave in four weeks and it couldn’t be fitted in. The other possibility is to have the tooth removed which would make eating on that side difficult without a denture. You really know you are old when it gets to this stage! The other problem with having serious dental work is that I am on Warfarin – the anti clotting drug. The dentist is insisting that I have an INR test and reach 2.0 – 2.5 on the morning of my treatment. The treatment will be on March 15th in the afternoon. We go home to phone the hospital. They are not pleased about it but say turn up in the morning and we will do it. So far so good!

6th March, 2012

Quite a grey day this morning. I am catching up on correspondence. I have done the research on biomass safety, put together a quick report and sent it off to the Management Company with our concerns. I have also sent a copy to the Doctorate student from London University who I had been cooperating with in her research.

Did a bit more Greek shopping – building up our first aid kit with plasters and bandages, insect repellent and bite soother, pain relief tablets. Crazy that you can only buy two packs of Paracetamol at a time from a supermarket in case you want to overdose on it. On that basis, they ought to restrict half the food stuffs they sell. Pharmacies are on strike in Greece at the moment.

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7th March, 2012

Remembered to send an e-card to Catherine for her Birthday on Friday. Managed to use an old photo I had.


I was surprised to find an almost instant and lovely reply in my email box which was nice. It is just amazing to have a little sister of 57. In a moment of nostalgia, I went back to the village of our birth – to Repton High Street – virtually by Google Maps and walked up the street from The Square to The Cross, pausing at our village Primary School and thought of Mum and all the time she invested in us. I really do have too much time on my hands.


8th March, 2012

My tooth is giving my terrible trouble. I am in agony and still have a week to wait, officially, until I have it is to be extracted and then only if my INR is acceptable. Pauline, who is good at these things, phoned them this morning and demanded an earlier appointment. I will now have it out on Monday afternoon, thank goodness.

I was embarrassed to watch United lose to Bilbao at home. It was very poor.


9th March, 2012

Woke up to news that Greece had crossed the magic line in its ‘haircut’ or bond swap initiative. At least 85% of creditors had agreed to take a cut and be repaid the rest a long time off. This mean that the Greek government will now receive the rest of the bail-out money. The great worry, as the black lining to this silver cloud is the fact that growth isn’t happening. The vested interests, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers,  taxi drivers, train drivers, electricity workers, air traffic controllers are all still agitating against the government’s policies. Unemployment is ridiculously high with youth enemployment approaching 50% and yet retail prices are remaining stubbornly high. The only area that we have found sensitive to the recession is in hotel prices. They are decidedly lower this year and news is that many hotels are closing and/or being sold off.

10th March, 2012

A beautiful, sunny, warm Spring day today. We are registering 16C this afternoon. Not working, we don’t get ‘that Friday feeling’ but Saturday is still a special day. Saturday paper, bacon sandwiches and fooball on television. Pauline is going out shopping with her sister and her niece for underwear. That’s outside my expertise so I’m staying at home. I think they are going to Walton on Thames. Had a text message exchange with Ruth as we watched Bolton beat Queens Park. A really important but badly officiated match. Ruth was in the pub watching with her friends.

This goal snatched from a Sky broadcast shows QPR clearly scoring with the ball well over the line as the goalkeeper clawed it back but it was disallowed: