Week 206

25th November, 2012

Sunday papers, fresh coffee, Politics on Sunday, two football matches but no goals. Smoked salmon for lunch and Pheasant for Dinner. Torrential rain seems to be falling everywhere but here. The Chelsea match – twenty five or so miles from our home – was played in sweeps of monsoon rain. Here it was dry. Our old home area in West Yorkshire seemed to be reporting raging rivers and inches of rain to come.

People in Greece are picking their olives and taking them to press although Skiathan Man says many think they can buy olive oil cheaply enough to not bother with the back-breaking work of picking themselves. We left just a little early this year to pick any of ours but Pauline cured two kilner jars of ours very successfully last year.


26th November, 2012

A pleasant, mild morning enhanced by highlights of England’s Test victory. I have been captivated by a family photograph that David Pritchard sent me. It looks like it was taken in the garden in Repton. He thinks it was circa 1925:


As I understand it, the photograph features from left to right:

Granddad Sanders (Richard Watthew [Dick] b. 1889) and on his lap is Auntie Kath (b 1921); Sitting high is Kessie (Kate Anne Kesterton) (b. 1887) and next to her is the Grandmother none of us got to meet, Mabel Lilian née Flook (b 1894). Sitting next to Mabel is Great Grandfather Edwin Thomas (b. 1860). On the grass, with his head on Great Grandfather’s knee is Eric (b. 1915), my Dad looking exactly as I did at that age. Next to him on the grass is Auntie Marj. (b. 1919). Seated on the right of Great Grandfather is Great Aunt Susan Sarah (b. 1886) and Great Aunt-in-Law Annie (‘Nance’ b. 1833), wife of Dad’s brother, Edwin Thomas (b. 1891), who is sitting in the deckchair on the right with Mary Kate Delamont Sanders (b. 1920), later Mary Long, sitting on the front edge of his chair.

I have decided to start with a difficult-to-do character, my Grandmother who I never met, Mabel Lilian née Flook (b 1894) because she was incarcerated in a Mental Asylum later euphemised with the name Pastures Hospital Mickleover from 1930 until her death in 1962. She gave birth to her final child, Auntie Edwina, and, within two years, was incarcerated never to return home. I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Derby Records Office.

27th November, 2012

First thing I had my annual review with my doctor. It was excellent which was pleasing.

I’ve had a reply to my FIR which gives me real hope of some answers. Twitter-feed informed me that Flooding is making access to Repton from north of the Trent extremely difficult.… and I was back in my youth remembering the fields of floods cutting off Willington. It is still raining in the North but, in Surrey, everything is calm. We are almost at the end of November and we’ve used the central heating for two hours since our return from Greece. We are told that really cold weather is on the way and yet our apartment is built to such standards of insulation that body heat of two adults is enough to keep it warm. Our heating and hot water bill last year was just £100.00.

I cooked smoked salmon risotto this evening and it was really enjoyable.

28th November, 2012

For the past couple of weeks, Pauline & I have been going to the Nuffield Health Centre in West Byfleet and swimming half a kilometre each morning. We are really enjoying it, getting quicker at completing it and recovering much sooner. From Monday, we are going to start adding lengths until we are up to the kilometre. The Health Centre is coming towards the completion of its total refurbishment and, next week, will be installing dozens of new pieces of machinery. I’m going to get really fit watching that happen.

29th November, 2012

Up at 6.00 am and out at 6.30 am to be at the Walk-in Centre for my blood test. It was freezing and we had to stand outside for ten minutes. Back for coffee and to watch Heir Hunters, a television programme I’ve become addicted to. We can’t go swimming today because the burglar alarm is being serviced at an unspecified time. I debated whether to get the step ladders out to make the service easy but, when the engineer arrived, he was a 6ft. 7in., 23 year old boxer who could do the whole job without going on tiptoes. The burglar alarm – linked to a call out centre and the police – cost £240.00 per year but the service takes ten minutes.

Pauline made MORE mince pies while completing three different lots of housework at the same time. I was more ambitious and read the paper and then turned my attention to financial matters. Sort of Men’s Work! We are consummate savers. After using our full ISA allowances, we like to use a savings account that we can dump spare cash in to. Three or four years ago, I was getting 4.2% including a bonus. Two years ago, this was down to 3.1%. Today, it is impossible to beat 2.2% for an easy access, on-line saver. I am going to use the Post Office account for this so we can easily move money around easily whether we are in Greece or UK.

30th November, 2012

Glorious blue skies and strong, low sun all around. Autumn leaves still clothe the trees but, this morning, are crusted with frost for an hour or two before the sun burns it off.

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Out just after 9.00 am for the weekly shop. The Tesco supermarket is already busy. It is a 24 Hr. megastore with an M&S attached. The carpark is big enough to swallow half of the residents of outer London. Christmas is everywhere. Personally, I hate Christmas and all that attends upon it. Fortunately, my wife is of a similar opinion so we reinforce each other’s predjudices quite selfishly. I saw an advert for half price, artificial Christmas Trees today and thought, if I  made Christmas Trees, what time of year would I feel it necessary to halve the price in order to persuade people to buy them. After a nano-second’s thought, I decided that July would be a good time to offer half price Christmas Trees. As it got closer to Christmas, and people became keener to secure a tree, I would feel confident to increase the price. Adverts like this rely on the herd instinct to be infected by the celebratory instinct and to suspend critical thought and rational judgement.

By the time we finished shopping, cars were looking for the last few parking spaces in this vast carpark which one needs Olympic training just to get across. Home for coffee and then out for a wonderful swim. I’m beginning to feel better everytime I do it. Later, I had to go for my annual diabetic review. All my readings were fantastic and I left the surgery skipping.

1st December, 2012


It cannot be the last month of the year already. Happy December everyone.

Skiathan Man drew my attention to an interesting article in The Guardian – a newspaper which is a bit too boring for me normally. In the month before we left Sifnos, crates of beautiful logs started to appear in delivery yards. The local tile shop was ‘branching’ out (no pun intended) by stocking a few crates. They certainly seemed to sell quite quickly although I remember thinking that a crate of logs would go up in smoke in no time at all. The Greeks think their electricity is expensive. I honestly don’t think it is much more than ours although I’m sure many homes aren’t insulated as well as ours. I think there is also an anti-establishment, anti-authority thing going on. Property tax bills are being tied to electricity supply and there is a revolutionary spirit abroad – We’ll show them. We won’t use their electricity. We’ll live simply off the land. We’ll collect our own firewood. They couldn’t do that on Sifnos and I don’t think they’ll find buying logs is a great deal cheaper than paying for electricity.

Week 205

18th November, 2012

Disaster today. My huge, desktop coputer has thrown a wobbly and gone into cardiac arrest. In truth, I had known it was coming for a few days. The on/off switch has been temperamental. It is either the switch or the power supply which is fortunate. At least the hard drive storage is alright. Now, I’ve got to find a company to help me with this.

19th November, 2012

At 9.00 am we will go to PCWorld repair desk. If that is no good, I have a number of choices around Woking. We also have to fit in a swim at the Health Centre and picking Phyllis & Colin up from Gatwick Airport. I took the CPU of my set up down to PCWorld which has now been amalgamated with Dixons/Currys. Their technical centres have been fantastic sources of support but now they have been instructed to deal with only a small number of branded products. They couldn’t deal with mine which came from Evesham Computers in 2004. Evesham went out of business in 2008. I did a quick search in the area for independent tradesmen and settled on SurreyCPR, a very local, one man firm who had an excellent website. I phoned him at 9.00 am and he was with us by 12.00 pm. The problem turned out to be the power supply unit (£50.00) but this meant I needed a new display card (£20.00). I asked for a new DVD Writer to be fitted (£30.00) and the hour’s call out was £50.00. The total of £150.00 was wonderful and I would have paid it three times over. The computer cost me £2,700.00 eight years ago.

Phyllis & Colin were supposed to be landing at 18.15. I monitored Gatwick’s arrivals board and was amazed that the flight was estimated to arrive thirty minutes early. Because we were concerned about rush hour traffic and finding parking, we left an hour before they were due in. It turned out that there was virtually no traffic, car parking was easily accessible and then Phyllis & Colin were forced to stay on the plane because its landing was early. The passport control was a crowded nightmare and we ended up waiting for a very long time.

20th November, 2012

On Monday, while I was waiting for a computer repair, I used my laptop to continue my research. I subscribe to an on-line service called Ancestry.co.uk which gives me immediate links to most of the important databases. I managed to locate my Great, Great Grandfather, Richard Sanders born in Birstall, Leicestershire in 1821 and his wife, Anne who was born in Desford, Leicestershire in 1828. I know David Pritchard has already covered this ground but I feel obligated to at least rehearse it myself before adding to his research. (Hope you are enjoying your Sunday, David. I was wondering who The Observer reader was. At last you’ve revealed yourself.) Today is a wet day – grey and rather gloomy. The temperature is only 12C/54F. We will have our swim but otherwise will stay tucked up and I will have time to go on with my research.

I Googled the name Mabel Lilian Flook / Mabel Lilian Sanders and came up with a piece of unformatted database data entitled FLOOK WILLS. This is what it said.

MARTHA ANN  </b>  WICKWAR GLS WID </b> 1928  to  FLOOK, GEO WM .Brewers Clerk  &  SANDERS, Mabel Lilian w/o Richard

It so happens that this was the year of the birth of her last child, Edwina, and just before her incarceration in The Pastures Hospital. I will raise this with my new best relative in the Flook family.

21 st November, 2012

The Greek newspapers note that increased optimism about a deal for Greece in Europe is bolstering the value of the Euro. Samaras is playing a much more cunning hand than I ever gave him credit for. I didn’t think he had it in him. He is holding a shaky, flaky coalition together while taking an angrily sceptical population, kicking and screaming through the pain of major surgery without much sedative being offered. However, even Samaras, having got Greece to accept its side of the bargain, needs Europe now to honour its part.

22nd November, 2012

We drove to West Byfleet station and caught the 10.00 am train to Waterloo which only stopped at Surbiton. From Waterloo, we took the Underground to Green Park where we got off and walked to Fortnum & Mason. As one enters the shop, it looks a bit like an Eighteenth Century Knocking Shop. Further inside, it looks like an upmarket Woolworths gearing up for Christmas. We bought lots of things for our Greek friends – specialist teas, coffees, chocolates, biscuits, etc. Then, laden down with our purchases, we went across the road to sit in an alley (That alley turned out to be the Burlington Arcade.) drinking fresh coffee (at what turned out to be Laduree, world famous Parisian cake makers and inventors of the famous double-decker macaroon.). You will note how tired Pauline looks. Anybody who tried to shop with me would look just as exasperated. I am not a happy shopper. Sitting drinking coffee and watching the world go by is more my sort of thing. Later, we went back to Green Park for the Underground to London Bridge for Borough Market. This was absolutely fantastic. Every type of food produce one could imagine was on sale. We even met a Greek girl from Sparta who was selling olive tea. We tried it and bought a bag. We bought four more pheasants for less than we paid in Yorkshire and then had lunch in a fish restaurant (The Fish! Kitchen) in the heart of the market. We had fish, chips and mushy peas – wonderful quality fish in beer batter, mint flavoured peas and excellent chunky chips with a cold bottle of Trebbiano. The bill – £60.00 and no newspaper wrapping in sight.

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We were home for 4.00 pm and then I slept for a couple of hours. I was exhausted. I’m certainly not a shopper. Recovered in time to watch a delightful, new semi-comedy drama called Last Tango in Halifax and starring Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid & Sarah Lancashire. It was wonderful and so was the landscape.

23rd November, 2012

Early trip to Tescos for the weekly shop this morning. By 10.30 am it is so teaming with silver shoppers that we cannot bear it. On this particular morning, however, I am really struggling after so much shopping yesterday. I am absolutely exhausted and really only want to lie down in a darkened room. Still, Pauline is determined to make mincemeat today in preparation for mince pies. I don’t know why. We only eat them all. We even cancelled swimming today and sat quietly with a smoked salmon salad for lunch before doing a few jobs. I had some writing to do and phone calls to make. Pauline steeped her dried fruit in brandy. Fortunately, I arrived just as she was spooning through the mixture and I offered to taste it. I was allowed.

For Dinner tonight I cooked braised rabbit  and served it with savoy cabbage and baked potato. The rabbit was bought in France so, of course, it came whole including its head. The eyes looked at me as I severed it. I’m not al Qaeda, I said to the eyes. They didn’t look convinced. Tonight, there is a rabbit’s head rolling around in my bin. Having said that, the rabbit was fantastically tasty and produced a wonderful gravy which really complemented the meal. Sorry eyes.

24th November, 2012

I was born in to the United Kingdom. The Commonwealth was all around me. By the time I had reached my late twenties, alarm at the rising tide of immigration had made me English. The Northern towns where I lived and taught had developed substantial Asian enclaves, almost no-go areas at times. I started to travel abroad – to Greece, to Italy and to France. I became decidedly European. I am still fervently European but my allegiances are being sorely tested. I live half the year in Greece and shop during the other half in France. I love to travel and stay in Italy and yet the ever expanding Union is testing the patience and pocket of all around me. Defending my European credentials is becoming harder. Economic migrants from both Bulgaria and Romania are much poorer than the rest of the EU, with GDP per capita of about 33% of the EU average but will soon have free entrance to our labour market and benefits system. In return, I may, in theory, have free entrance to the Greek Health Service – if they had one. It is little more than symbolic in places. Drugs are in short supply. Doctors are unpaid. Experienced doctors go private. The market is totally out of balance. It is hard to see a way out of this at the moment.

Week 204

11th November, 2012

Today, I had to turn my mind to finances. Since we retired, it has been hard to know where to invest money. The stock market has been weak and savings account rates low. We have had a policy of always saving the full ISA allowance each year for both of us. We also run an on-line investment fund which we can drop money in to at any time. It is a good discipline and means we never worry about money. My mother lived on her investments alone for much of her life and could talk knowledgeably about companies and their share earnings. She kept tranches of Blue Chip shares for long periods. My approach is small beer in comparison and I don’t take any risks that I can avoid and just try to get ahead of inflation. It is becoming harder. The bonus that comes with popular investment accounts usually lasts for a year and so I am regularly looking to reinvest at this time of year. I didn’t come to many conclusions before the football started.

Having watched Man. U. make Villa look distinctly ordinary yesterday, I watched Man. City just beat a remarkably poor Spurs who are definitely still missing Harry. Chelsea v Liverpool weren’t so much better although it was good to see Liverpool with a bit of fight back.


12th November, 2012

Went to bed at 10.00 pm last night and the radio came on this morning at 4.00 am. By 5.00 am, we were in the car with Phyllis & Colin and two, huge cases en route to Gatwick Airport. The road was busy but we arrived at about 5.40 am and were going round Tesco by 6.30 am.

Off to the Health Club at 1.00 pm and we managed a half kilometre swim which really made us feel more lively. I got back to find a Facebook request from a lad I haven’t seen since 1972 at college. It turns out, he has been living and teaching quite near me in Kirklees for a long time. It will be interesting to hear his story:


By coincidence, we will rehearse the early morning process again tomorrow but drive to the tunnel and across to France.

13th November, 2012

Up again at 4.00 and on the road at 5.15 am. The drive down to the Tunnel wasn’t quite as straight forward as usual because of some early morning fog patches which slowed traffic down but we were still at the tunnel for around 6.30 am. It’s all so much easier than in the early days. I book on the internet and enter my car registration and get an email confirmation. As I drive up to the unmanned check-in booth, a camera reads my number plate and by the time I get to the machine’s screen, it reads, Welcome, Mr Sanders. I press a button and it prints my paperwork out and off I go. I must admit, it doesn’t speak to me which I miss because I’ve spent the Summer shouting back at the speaking toll booths, Arrivederci.


This was just a shopping trip today. We didn’t buy wine for ourselves because we didn’t need any but we drove over to the Calais Wine Superstore first to buy a little bit for Phyllis. We then went on to Cité Europe (which was almost deserted as you can see below) and walked round the large Carrefour. The quality of fish, meat, cheese, butter and vegetables is wonderful and €250.00 later, it was time for lunch. A pleasant little bistro provided us with a two course lunch of soup – onion for Pauline and crab for me – followed by Beef Bourguignon and french fries for Pauline and Roast Lamb with a garlic cream sauce and Duchesse Potatoes for me. Delicious! Unfortunately, because I had to drive home, I could only drink sparkling water but that was ok.

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We lingered so long over lunch that we only just made our departure time of 3.40 pm but, with the hour difference, we were back in UK by 3.15 pm and home in Surrey by 4.30 pm. Cheese and biscuits and a bottle of red wine for Supper and an early night.

14th November, 2012

Today is the most beautiful, mild, sunny day you can imagine for mid-November. It is one of those days when one is glad to be alive – to be retired, free and alive is a real bonus.

I even enjoyed the goals scored against England in the evening. Ibrahimovic showed that there is no substitute for talent with a wonderful hat trick topped off with a brilliant fourth goal.


12th November, 2012

Another lovely day apart from the fact that we were up at 6.00 am and in a hospital queue by 7.00 am for my INR blood test. I was feeling shattered after ten minutes in the queue but I couldn’t show it because standing immediately in front of me was an 86 year old little old lady with a tube up her nose attached to an oxygen bottle that she had wheeled with her on a trolley. She didn’t complain so neither did I.

We went off to the Peacock Shopping Centre at 10.00 am because Pauline was desperate to look for a new bag. She had browsed the internet for hours and identified two, particular bags – one from Debenhams and one from Lewis’s. The bag has to hold a Kindle, an iPad, passports, tickets, currency, keys and mobile phone plus sundry other things. It must have a long enough strap to go diagonally across the chest with central and internal zips. She doesn’t want to pay much more than £100.00. We went to the relevant shops to look at these bags:

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Of course, non had them in stock. The internet has reduced these once great shops to husks.

This afternoon I took Pauline to Woking Walk-in Hospital for a small operation on a cyst on her toe which had been increasing in size over the summer. I wasn’t in on the action but they split open the cyst and squeezed some jelly-like substance out of it. I don’t know what flavour.

This evening, we have to go to a Management Committee Meeting for the Development within which our Duplex lies. It will deal with the Annual Expenditure of our Management fees which amount to nearly £2000.00. This includes the on-site biomass as well as maintenance of the grounds – trees, grass, fences, lighting, etc..

Got a note from John Ridley this afternoon suggesting that he and Nigel (Nigel!) should act as estate agents for our Greek house. I can’t see it myself but it was nice to hear from them.

I’ve just been reading Skiathan Man and he’s been watching England cricket. Where’s he getting that from on Skiathos? Surely not from Nova.

16th November, 2012

Today there were three by-elections all won by Labour including the weather-vein constituency of Corby where the star-struck Louise Mensch had run off. Bad night for the Tories but even worse for the Liberal Democrats who will be annihilated at the General Election for reneging on their election promises. At the same time ‘Police Commissioner’ elections were mocked by the electorate as irrelevant and, at a price of £100 million, a costly waste. It was pleasing to see that Prescott was rejected by the impoverished, sink area of Humberside. Little good ever comes out of there!

Skiathan Man – always an interesting read – quotes a Greek teacher: ’17 demonstrations planned in Greek cities on Saturday, bring your own Molotov’. It demonstrates how far Greek society is moving away from the civilised mainstream even if one acknowledges why. He also kindly explained how he watches the cricket. I’d forgotten that normal people have broadband. When we are in our Sifnos house, we only have a 10Gb dongle contract for internet access. I once watched a day of cricket from ‘Sky TV’ and used 6 of my 10GB allowance for the month. Nova did televise England in South Africa but it’s a long time until that comes round. I envy Skiathan Man and that at least.

We are going up to London on Thursday. It takes about 20 minutes on the train. We went down to the station this morning to purchase Day Travel Cards. For £ 13.20 our cards will allow us to travel to Waterloo and back and anywhere on the underground. If we look like making it a regular trip, we will probably invest in Senior Rail cards which, for £28.00 give us one third off all rail journeys even first class. Actually, we are planning Harrods, Fortnum & Masons, Borough Market and, possibly, the Tate Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition – Victorian Avant-Garde.


17th November, 2012

A fairly grey and overcast day. We had just had breakfast when the dentist phoned to say Pauline’s re-worked veneer had arrived and she would fit it in the next twenty minutes if we could make it. We got there and the job took more than an hour. The original price for the job was £350.00 but because of the problems the surgery had in sourcing the correct veneer, the price was reduced to £230.00.

While Pauline was in the surgery, I sat in the car reading notes of research done by David Pritchard into the Sanders Family history which he did eight or more years ago. At the time, I was deep into work and gave it a cursory although enjoyable perusal. Now the time has arrived when my genes are itching to take up the baton and I hope I can build on David’s work. His research took the family back to the 1770s. I have the time and the inclination so, amongst other projects in Surrey and Greece, I hope to report new discoveries in the next few months. What has particularly spurred me on was as the result of some early enquiries I made at the beginning of this year. I was struck by the name of my Grandmother who I didn’t meet. Dad’s Mother who was called Flook. I thought this was quite a strange name. In fact, I thought it might be German but found it was listed as an interesting and unusual surname derived from the Old Norse personal name “Floki”, which was originally a byname meaning outspoken or enterprising. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Agnes Flooke, which was dated November 24th 1609, marriage to William Huffe, at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, London, during the reign of James I. I also found that the Flook name was/is heavily clustered around the Bristol area.

I contacted the Bristol & Avon Family History Society. I knew Grandad Sanders was a pilot in WW1. I knew Mabel Lillian Flook came from Wickwar in Goucestershire where she married Grandad in November 1914. I asked myself how a solidly Midlands-based man could find himself marrying in Gloucestershire at the beginning of a war that he survived, against all the odds, as a pilot. I thought that, if I was sent to train and/or be stationed in the Bristol & Avon area for an activity that gave me a life expectancy of about seven weeks, I would look to pass on my genes immediately. Grandad Sanders didn’t hang around and Dad was born in 1915. When I got back from Greece, I received this quite explosive letter:

Chipping Sodbury
South Gloucestershire BS37 6LQ

September 2012

Dear Mr Sanders,

A friend of mine has showed me the request that you had included within Bristol and Avon Family History Society journal, for September 2012, about the information within your request for help, about your grandmother and other relations.

Your Grandmother is my aunt, Mabel Lillian Flook, Mabel the older sister of my father, Norman Albert Flook. I have been steadily working my way towards you and your siblings. However, I am stuck now, trying to discover the second marriage of Lily Catherine Sanders nee Coghlan, to Gordon J. Bennett, the death of Lily Catherine Bennett, the birth of Ronald Albert Wilson and finally the death of Ronald Albert Wilson. However, as soon as I have managed to discover these four certificates, then I will move onto their children.

Going back in time, I have managed to get back fully to Samuel Flook. Who would be your great great great grandfather. Samuel Flook baptism took place within the Parish Stapleton in 1812 and his wife Sarah Breddy. Sarah baptism took place in 1814.

I also have discovered the names of Samuel Flook father and mother. However, I have not researched them at all yet. Therefore, I may be able to carry on going back. Your other great-grandmother was Martha Ann Cratchley. She was born on the 25th February 1870. I already have extra layer of information on the Cratchley, right back to the second Samuel Cratchley. Who was born in Randwick Gloucestershire, at about 1778.

So if you would kindly let me know. What information you require. Then I will gladly provide you, with anything that I am able.

W. A. Flook

Week 203

November 4th, 2012

A slothful day of laziness and indulgence. Aren’t they all? This one was worse. Breakfast, newspapers, football, lunch with wine, football, dinner with wine.

Tomorrow will be better!

November 5th, 2012

Up early. Went down to the garage to prepare the car for its trip to Yorkshire tomorrow and its exchange for the new car. Check oil, windscreen bottle and tyre pressures. Empty the car of everything that doesn’t belong to it. The most important thing was cleaning the sat. nav. of saved destinations. It is just getting ready for its 24 month service. (£250.00) I won’t need to do that. It probably would be expecting a new set of tyres (£1000.00+) so I won’t need to do that. The Road Tax is due in three weeks. ( £250.00) I won’t need to pay that. All in all, I’ve saved money by buying a new car.

We went on to the Health Club and had a wonderful, first session. Swimming, Jacuzzi, Steamroom. We had it almost entirely to ourselves. We do know that they must be struggling for clients. As soon as we showed any interest, they wouldn’t leave us alone, phoning with new offers. Even in the affluent commuter belt of Surrey, people are having to make savings. One of the first things that goes is the Health Club membership.

November 6th, 2012

Up at 4.30 am and out by 5.30 am on the M25 before full rush hour. It is incredible how many people are on the road at this time in the morning. Sat. Nav. told me that it was a journey of 202 miles. and, leaving at 5.30 am, I should get to Huddersfield Honda Dealership by 9.20 am. In spite of a coffee stop in Leicester Forrest, we managed to shave 30 mins. off that time. It was lovely to see Chris, our salesman of 25 years relationship. He confirmed that it was the 20th new car that he was handing over to us. He also told us that we would receive a cheque for £500.00 from Honda for being such long-standing customers. We were with Chris for an hour while he tried to explain all the computer aids of a car that is so new, he hasn’t been able to master them himself. I told him I would spend some days on the car and then send him some notes of guidance.

We drove away and on to Netherton – a village on the edge of Huddersfield – where there is a farm shop that we have used for years. We bought half a dozen pheasants for £4.00 each plus lots of quality meat which will tide us over until we go to France.

We drove on to Repton to visit Mum’s grave. It depicted a quintessential English Autumn day. A Keatsian Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The light soft, the trees colourful, the ground carpeted with the bronze fire of fallen beech leaves. To complement the scene, light rain had begun to fall. I found myself weeping in empathy as I concentrated on the thought of my dead Mother.

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If I analyse it, I am weeping for the idea of a lost Mother and, probably, for myself rather than for her but, in memory, she lives.

Life has to go on and so did we. The new car was a delight to drive even though I had to fight to access the new, DAB radio. It had 400 stations but it took me ages to find Radio 4. I did it but, at 120 mph, put the rest of M1 users at great danger. Pauline shouted at me. I will need the rest of the week to get to know all the innovations in this model. You need to be retired for this car. You need the free time.

We were home by 3.00 pm and, after driving 550 miles, I sank into a large, leather sofa with a huge cup of tea. I woke in time to watch a mediocre Man. City. scrape a poor draw against Ajax.


I love elections. Whether I can stay up to watch in the US Presidential contest tonight, I don’t know.

November 7th, 2012

I didn’t make it through the night but the radio woke me this morning at 6.00 am with the pleasing news that Obama had been re-elected. Sanity, at least in part, has returned to the US.

I rarely read instruction books for new gadgets. One of the tests of quality is the level of intuitiveness they are endowed with. Today, I spent one hour working through the Audio system in my new car. It shouldn’t be difficult. It is a combined unit of satellite navigation (no longer DVD-based but constantly ‘live’), a DVD player, a radio with DAB/FM/LW, a CD player with a hard drive storage. It is integrated with a trip computer which reports mileage (switchable for kilometres) fuel consumption/fuel remaining/road temperature. The whole thing is controlled by touch screen, controls on the steering wheel or voice commands. I’m pleased to report that after an hour of play, I can get Radio 4.

The other innovations I have had to get to grips with urgently are the ‘keyless entry’ system. You don’t need to use your key to open the doors. As long as it is in one’s pocket, the car doors will open and the engine will start at the push of a button. Similarly, when leaving the car, one merely closes the door and everything locks automatically. At the same time, the key fob in one’s pocket tells the car from a couple of metres before one enters it to set the driver’s seat to the previously chosen position. It holds two separate settings programmed to two separate fobs. Dream on!

November 8th, 2012

Up at 6.00 and at the Walk-in Hospital for my blood tests by 7.00 am. Unfortunately, there was a huge queue. I had an appointment elsewhere for a ‘flu jab at 7.40 am but I didn’t make it in time. By the time I left the Walk-in Centre, it was standing room only. It was so busy, a lady from the office came out to take my blood. “Don’t worry, I’ve been trained.”, she said and that really worried me. She did a good job and by about 8.00 am, I was having my flu’ jab.

Home for breakfast – Shreddies & coffee – with the digital newspaper and then a couple of hours writing before setting off to the Health Club.

Wonderful couple of hours at the Health Club this afternoon. We swam just half a kilometre but I was tired when I’d finished. We haven’t swum for nearly three months and I’ve got to get back in to the routine.

November 9th, 2012

A bright but slightly chilly morning. The temperature was forecast to reach 10C/50F outside but it felt quite chilly as we left for the Health Club. We managed an extra six lengths today. My body says, ‘Thank goodness I don’t go at the weekend.’

In spite of the temperatures outside being half of those currently in Greece, we haven’t felt the need to put the heating on at all. The insulation of this new apartment is phenomenal.

Today I learnt that my new car has warning sounds if I set speed boundaries. Experimenting, I set 30 mph and 80 mph as the boundaries it would warn me of breaking. I’d only gone a couple of miles before I took this parameter off because it shouted at me every time I went over 30 mph. I also found that, as soon as I play a CD in the unit, it rips it into MP3 format and saves it to the hard disk just as one might do on a computer. The CD then becomes redundant as far as the car is concerned so it can be played elsewhere instead. As long as the car is in ‘park’, it will play a DVD where the Sat. Nav. screen is and, although the cars transmission is automatic, the steering wheel includes gear change paddles that will over ride the automatic gear selection.

November 10th, 2012

We are off to France next week so I am desperately trying to get up to speed with the new car. Sorry to bore you. Today, I’ve been learning some of the switches. The tailgate rises and falls electronically. It can be switched internally from the control panel or externally from the key fob which will also open and close the electric windows. I have a (VSA) vehicles stability assist button which is on be default and prevents over and under steering. Actually, the power steering is much lighter on this model. I have a deflation warning indicator that I have to set when the tyres are inflated correctly and sounds if one falls below standard. I have a Hill Descent Control button which I have to set for the obvious. I have ABS which is standard in most cars now but mine is topped up with an Emergency Stop Signal which is really useful particularly as I do a lot of motorway driving on the Continent. ESS switches on the hazard flashers automatically if you brake hard at 60 or above. I also have (CMBS) collision mitigation braking system which is a radar sensor which detects if the vehicle in front cuts its speed and automatically cuts mine to match. This is particularly helpful with cruise control which I use all the time on the motorway. There will be a test next week to see how much you remember. I certainly won’t pass it.

Bacon sandwiches for lunch today as we watch the Rugby. Life could be worse.