Week 211

30th December, 2012

A beautiful, blue sky and sunny day heralds our 34th Wedding Anniversary. This day of 1978 was thick with snow. We lived on the edge of the Pennines and friends and relatives from all over the country were driving to Meltham in Yorkshire. For many of them, the weather made it touch and go but they all made it. Mind you, they weren’t helped by the council gritter men going on strike. I genuinely remember it as the best day of my life. I loved every minute. I’m afraid that, although our love has got stronger over the years, the photographs are deteriorating. Never mind, I remember it clearly:


31st December, 2012

I remember someone asking me when I stopped working, What achievements will you have to aim for? It brought me up short. Pauline & I have always lived our lives by that sort of measurement. Five year plans to be completed have always been our ruler. We have continued to set out our plan and to push towards completion. In some respects, we have more now than when we were in employment but now they all concerned with our lives and not our jobs. Today was the day to discuss them. I’m afraid I’m not going to share our plans with you.

Having set our world in order, we went for a long swim. We had been swimming for about twenty minutes when some middle aged chap came in to the pool and decided to launch himself between Pauline & I doing a flailing and over exuberant crawl stroke. He was clearly there to make a point that he was a stronger, faster swimmer and old wrinklies were just in the way. I’m not having people call Pauline an ‘old wrinkly’. He quite deliberately struck in to me as he went past. What he didn’t realise was that I am rather like an iceberg – 10% above the water and 90% elsewhere – so he proceeded to attack Pauline. What he didn’t realise is that Pauline is genuinely scarey. He soon stormed off in a huff, shouting at children as he did.

At 10.00 pm precisely, Pauline sent Happy New Year texts to friends in Greece and I made sure the champagne was chilling well. We’ll probably open it at 11.30 pm or we’ll never get to bed and we wrinklies need our sleep if only to stay alive long enough to achieve our dreams 5-year plans.

1st January, 2013

Happy New Year to all our readers – Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος


All years should start like this. A bottle of champagne with my favourite girl. Bed by 2.00 am. Up a little bit late to the most glorious, sunny morning. Emails and texts of good wishes from lots of friends and relatives. A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a bucket of Yorkshire Tea. The Times arriving on my iPad. No commitments. Absolute Bliss! 2013 is going to be a very good year.

2nd January, 2013

I was just thinking of my old friend, Jonathan. We were friends from Repton during the 1960s. He married an American girl – a teacher – and moved to Acton, Masachusetts where he has remained ever since. I last saw him forty years ago in about 1972. We have been corresponding since Mum died four years ago but he is still working and doesn’t have time to write. I was at my desk, in front of my computer, thinking of Jonathan, when up popped an email from him – the first for quite a few months. To be honest, I don’t think he’s to comfortable writing chit-chat. He’s more at home with scientific test reports. But he’s in America and I am never comfortable on a phone. I love writing so he has to do the same. His wife is retiring this year and Jonathan is beginning to think about it even if he says he can’t afford it. He is a very careful man by nature and seems to still worry about affording Healthcare when he leaves his company’s scheme.

3rd January, 2013

Pauline paid a lot of money to have a front tooth veneered to cover a permanent brown blemish I believe was caused by a childhood infection. Over Christmas, the veneer has turned decidedly light brown. We have gone back today, to have it reappraised. The dentist immediately agrees to redo the whole thing next week so Pauline has heaved a sigh of relief.

When I had my Desktop computer serviced the other day, we realised that I had bought it eight years ago and fitted a new hard drive four years ago. Delighted though I am with my machine, I made a resolution that I would take Backup more seriously. Pauline & I have important data on a desktop and two laptops in UK and a Desktop in Greece. We would be devastated if we lost things like financial or medical records, photographs, research material, correspondence, etc.. We do back it up sporadically on USB sticks but I’ve decided it is time to embrace backing up in the Cloud. I used Microsoft ‘Live’ for a while but found it slow and cumbersome. I’ve turned to Google Drive as a possible solution and I think it’s going to be fine.


I get 5 Gb free and that should be plenty for quite a while. What’s more, it is automatically synchronised with my computer so that when I open or close my machine, files I have worked on are automatically backed up. That’s the theory. I’ll let you know.

4th January, 2013

Greece is colder than Surrey today. As I write, Athens in 45F/7C whereas Surrey is 52F/11C. It probably doesn’t help to know that but it’s interesting. We received a Christmas card from Sifnos this morning from our friend, the plumber and his family. It was lovely to open in our English apartment.

Great swim today – 30 lengths – and then home for smoked salmon salad lunch. I’ve been trying to get some records out of Derbyshire County Council. They haven’t made it easy and, just as I get close, they close their Office in preparation for moving it. I can have nothing until the middle of February. They directed me to a Blog with pictures like this to prove it.


5th January, 2013

Another mild day. We’ve spent it indoors. I’ve been working on an upgrade for Sanders Web. It is strange making all ones mistakes in public but I am past worrying about it.


Week 210

23rd December, 2012

The Blog began four years ago this week. Mum had died a few months earlier. Pauline’s Mum was still with us although she was beginning to feel rather unstable on her feet at the age of 94. She managed another two years. Four months after the first Blog entries, we had left our jobs and taken the first steps into the world of retirement. We had already spent a our holidays for a couple of years in our Greek house and were contemplating freshening up our home in England prior to putting it on the market. At the time, we had intended to work for one more year. We might even have done two if the house didn’t sell. As it is, we had to seize the financial settlement on offer while it was there and to move on to our next five year plan.

Unlike previous diary attempts which failed on day two, this one has endured for the very reason that so much has changed in our lives since its inception. The Blog has formed a stable axis of a turning world and I believe that it will continue to do so.

24th December, 2012

A lovely, bright and extremely mild day. Pauline has spent the morning preparing things for the family feast tomorrow – making chocolate torte, making ice cream and orange sorbet. I spent a few hours working on a new, on-line photo album software which I need to help me upgrade the Sanders Site as it presents new things. Later in the afternoon, we all met at The Maybury Inn for an early evening meal. Two of the boys, aged 11 and 9, were already rather too tired. It was a nice, homely meal to start Christmas.

25th December, 2012


To most of our Greek readers, Καλά Χριστούγεννα. Happy Christmas to one & all. Bah, Humbug!

We woke to a mild, bright morning but, by the time we had finished breakfast, the skies were leaden with dark thunder clouds which opened and deluged the neighbourhood. Soon we will leave for Pauline’s family’s home to suffer Christmas.

Pauline cooked a wonderful meal. Everyone had a happy time. We ran off when Strictly Come Dancing was mentioned and retreated to the sanity of ‘Sanders Towers’.

26th December, 2012

The morning is wonderful and calm. The sky is blue and the sun is pouring through the windows. The temperature is only 8C/47F but feels much warmer. No Health Club today. We used to drive to the coast for a picnic on Boxing Day but we have decided to spend the day reading and writing. Pauline sent for three swimming costumes and they arrived on Christmas Eve. She is trying them on this morning and parading around the house. All part of life’s rich tapestry. This evening, there are a couple of football matches to watch.

Turkey Pie for our meal today followed by the remainder of the wonderful chocolate torte with raspberry sauce that Pauline made for the Christmas Day meal.


The whole day was complete when United won in the last minute and City lost….again.


27th December, 2012

Another lovely & bright day. I received a letter from Bill Flook including copies of :

  • Mabel Lilian Flook’s Birth Certificate
  • Mabel Lilian Flook’s Marriage Certificate to Richard Watthew Sanders – our Grandfather
  • Mabel Lilian Flook’s Death Certificate
  • Richard Watthew Sanders’ Birth Certificate

While I was idly browsing a research bank, I also came across

  • Auntie Kessie’s Teaching Appointment Record.

I am beginning to make connections, to feel empathy with lost members of my family. I am wandering around in a world of Repton of a century ago and to realise what events must have meant to them. It is quite exciting.

Phyllis bought us some wonderful freesias before Christmas and, as they continue to open, the lounge becomes increasingly perfumed. I love flowers. If it didn’t feel so decadent and self indulgent, I would fill the house with them.


28th December, 2012

Incredibly mild for the end of December. These dog days between Christmas and New Year are strangely anti-climactic. However, we have our wedding anniversary to celebrate on the 30th so that is one event to look forward to. We may go out for lunch if we can manage to eat anything after Christmas food.

I’ve spent the day planning for 2013. Pauline & I always like to be clear about our commitments and targets where ever we are. More of this will unfold as time passes. For the immediate, I am about to work on the Sanders Website and one of my needs is display the genealogical material efficiently. I particularly want to display graphics attractively. I use Macromedia Dreamweaver and there is a very basic facility in there to do the job but the professional platform is Java. I learned very early on that I am not a scripter. I went on a very expensive three day course and sank without trace. I was quite surprised because I think extremely logically but I was useless at learning script. I’ve bought a small, off-the-peg program to build my presentations for me. Even I can do it. Now the web will be swamped with photo albums.

29th December, 2012

Received an email from Ruth today with a nice photo of a few old codgers. I’m still looking for the key to turn time back particularly when I hear reports of people like Tony Gregg falling off the conveyor belt at 66!


Week 209

16th December, 2012  

This is the last week of the fourth year of my Blog. I would never have believed, when I started, that I would sustain it so long. I am determined now to maintain it until I can no longer write even if its format or platform is forced to change at some time in the future. I may be the only one but it gives me genuine pleasure. Pauline has proof-read the whole four years and I am about to save it in Pdf form as well so I can make a future hard copy. All sounds a bit navel-gazing but, when you’ve got a navel like mine, what else can you do?

My Great Great Grandfather, Edwin Thomas Sanders, Chairman of Repton District Council, had a brother William (1869 – 1927). I was browsing through some old newspaper reports and came across this:


According to the family tree I’ve inherited, William would be 30 years old at this time and a bit mature for this recklessness but who knows. His father, my  Great Great Grandfather, Richard Sanders, owned the flour mill at the end of Main Street and I was lucky to find two photographs in a little softback book of photos of Repton.

mill_19001.jpg  mill_19002.jpg

They are said to date from 1900 and feature the mill which is their home. The children who would have lived here at some timed were Annie, Edwin Thomas, Sarah, Alfred Henry, Mary Jane and William Richard. By the time of these photos, Great Great Grandfather, Richard Sanders had been dead for nine years and Edwin Thomas, as the eldest surviving male heir, had taken over in charge of the Mill. In the photograph, above left, Alfred Henry Sanders (1864 – 1938) is seen holding the horse, centre right. The woman standing is Mary-Jane (1866 – 1946) and the woman sitting is Sarah (1862 – 1940).

The photograph above right shows Mary Jane feeding the chickens and a pig. Her long skirt trails in the mud. Mud splatters feature on the once white walls of the thatched dwelling. The water supply is a hand pump from the well on the outside wall of the house. Cold, dark, damp and dirty is what springs to mind. Having said that, they all lived to respectable ages (at least those that didn’t die in infancy.) Great Great Grandfather lived to 70. Annie lived to 76, Edwin Thomas to 67, Sarah to 78, Alfred Henry to 74, Mary Jane to 80. Only the youngest, William Richard let them down by only managing 58 years but I suppose he was a bit reckless!

Actually, Edwin Thomas is listed in 1895 as a Builder of Repton, as I suspected. Wealth built up in milling was being used to diversify into other services. I have to present the next article of evidence in two pieces. The item, below left, is continued by the item, below right. It is a report in The Derby Mercury of 1895 of a Lively Parish Meeting in which the second half lists E.T. Sanders (Builder) as dissenting. It also shows William Dakin (retired builder) as in the dissenting ratepayers of Repton. William Dakin was married to Edwin Thomas’ sister, Annie.

newsp4.jpg  newsp51.jpg 

By 1909, Edwin Thomas was a highly respected member of the community, aged 49 and describing himself as a builder. He was elected to Burton Board of Guardians and Repton Rural Distric Council.


I cooked Cassoulet for Dinner this evening. It was a real success.

17th December, 2012

We were just about to go swimming when we found our road had been totally closed for resurfacing without any warning at all. We now realise that this was at the behest of the developers not the Local Authority so there were none of the statutory notices in advance. Lucky we had no emergencies.

Spent the day researching and found the source of Richard Sanders (1821 – 1891), my Great Great Grandfather’s Will and of William Dakin’s, who was married to my Great Aunt Annie. I have to send to the Derbyshire Records Office for copies.

Ate a wonderfully, smelly, gooey cheese that is like imbibing a deep tasting double cream with attitude. We bought it in France on spec.:


18th December, 2012

The daily swimming session is beginning to show real dividends. We are doing just 600 m. each day but I’m feeling much better for it. Having missed a day yesterday because of the roadworks, I felt quite tired today at the end of 600 m.. I’ve got to be up to 800 m. by the end of January and 1000 m. / 1 k. by the end of March. We’ve got to incorporate the jogging and rowing machines in the new year.

19th December, 2012

The day has started with beautiful sunshine. We have no appointments booked apart from the Health Club. I hate Christmas and all it stands for both religious and commercial but I love getting cards. I love all mail. It is a standing joke in our house that I run like a puppy to grab the post as it comes through the letter box. I love ‘junk’ mail. I am happy opening and reading a flyer from the latest pizza joint nearby even though I will never eat their wares but I love hearing from relatives and friends and cards and newsletters are just my thing. Got a card and newsletter from an old school colleague this morning which was lovely to open. People’s lives are what really interests me and people watching.

Felt absolutely dead after swimming today. It was raining and Pauline put her umbrella up, saying she didn’t want to get wet! News on Greece was good today with the City announcing, Standard & Poor’s ratings agency last night upgraded Greece’s credit grade by six notches. This is its best position for the Greek economy for quite a while.

I’m cooking again tonight – Duck and Green Salad – but not being too adventurous. We bought wonderful, huge duck breasts in France and their flavour is dynamic. Washed down with a carafe of claret. Wonderful! I’ll be back swimming tomorrow.


20th December, 2012

Welcome to 20. 12. 20.12. A dark and gloomy day. Heavy rain all night has given way to persistent rain this morning. It feels cold at 9C but I notice Sifnos is only 9C this morning and Skiathos is only 8C  with torrential rain that has made an impact on the streets. For me: Operation ‘Tidy Study’ this morning before swimming.

You will notice the other Blogs I follow in the Blogroll or ‘Links’ list at the side of my writing. I usually work my way up from the bottom to the top although some are not currently operative. An interesting lady who lives in Piraeus and writes almost exclusively about food has written an interesting article in the last couple of days entitled: Are there too many municipal employees? It can only be a rhetorical question but so many, native Greeks can’t see it or, at least, acknowledge it. Just as it is for the State industries/services, so it is for State Bureaucracy. The author is not Greek but married to a Greek. She is in a unique position to observe and comment. I wish she would do more of it.

It is fatal being retired and married to a cook. We appear to have eaten all the mince pies she has made. And now she’s made a Christmas Cake. Actually, she made it weeks ago but iced it today. The little decorations on the top typify Pauline completely. She bought them in 1967 when she was doing her ‘O Level Domestic Science. Unlike me who would have lost (or eaten) them by January 1968, Pauline has kept and used them for 45 years. She has a wonderfu sense of continuity. We’ve been married 34 years at the end of this month. Can she keep me going as long as the decorations?

cake.jpg  pies.jpg

21st December, 2012

This is the shortest day – Winter Solstice 2012. In fact, the skies are blue, the sun is out, squirrels are running around with gay abandon. Yesterday’s dark skies would have been much more appropriate. I may have to divorce my wife. I will certainly have to restrain her. Yesterday, in addition to all the other cooking, she made an apricot and cream sponge sandwich cake. I was going to put a picture of it on my Blog today but we ate it. (The cake not the Blog.) I will never lose weight at this rate. We had to put in an especially hard swim today but now I can’t walk.

Had a lovely, long phone call from our Greek Amanuensis last night. We caught up with lots of island gossip. Stories of torrential rain abound. We had sent our friends a large box of presents we bought at Fortnum & Masons – Different sorts of teas, speciality coffees, high quality chocolates, fudge, biscuits, etc.. It arrived on the F/b Adamas Korais on Wednesday and they had great fun opening each, individually wrapped item. We had to say a massive thank you for their very special help and friendship. They told us that another of our friends, the Notary, had suffered a fall in her office and is quite badly injured. We will speak to her tonight.

22nd December, 2012

This is the season of goodwill to all men. It seems to include Greeks. Reading Kathimerini over the last couple of days, the news about Greece is unbelievably positive. You might like these articles:


Who would have thought that Samaras could do it. He’s held the most unlikely coalition together for almost six months against the opposition of almost 50% of the constituency. The Germans have been the Greeks’ bogeymen and to hear them recognise Samaras’ achievement will mean a lot – as will the suggestion that they need not fear another austerity package. Whether or not it is true, the Greeks feel they have been subjected to new austerity measures every few months for the past three years. After all, they’re even having to paying tax on their earnings now. Where will it end?

Week 208

 9th December, 2012

Sunday, which used to be such a dreaded day – family at church followed by family lunch followed by family walk – is a lovely, relaxing day. The Sunday Times is interesting today. Gove’s war over pay for teachers is one of the provocative items. I’m not a teacher. It won’t affect me but it still riles me. The man is bonkers! He is already talking about putting his Department on a ‘war footing’ against the teachers. Having floated the idea of regional pay, he is now pushing ‘payment by results’. Both show a complete lack of understanding of the type of people who become teachers. I walk round the lounge, seething against things which will have no bearing upon me. Pauline tells me to calm down.

coffee.jpg  gove.jpg

I sit down with a cup of capuccino and sip it slowly like a Greek and then turn back to my iPad newspaper to read: People have morals, not firms like Starbucks and my blood pressure hits the roof. I think back to this time last year as HMRC pursued us for £3000.00 of unpaid tax and wonder what sort of world I’m living in. I suddenly realise that I am fiercely pacing the lounge and Pauline is telling me to sit down. I turn back to my coffee and iPad and read: Nurse Russell knows what’s killing the NHS and I’m back in the chaos that Pauline & I have experienced over the past five years or so. I really am becoming a grumpy old man. I’ve always had a point of view but now I’ve got time to pursue it. The House of Commons email server will be reset to block my address very soon!

It was all brought back to perspective by a football match. Now that is worth getting worked up about, particularly when it’s City v Utd..And what a match! United deserved to win 2 – 3 but the quality was high on both sides. Later, I cooked tarragon chicken and potatoes with a cold & crisp, lemon-tangy, Pinot Grigot. My blood pressure’s feeling better.


10th December, 2012

Pauline is unwell. It’s only a head cold but, after four, clear years, it has hit her. She had forgotten what it was like. Today she is dosed up with Lemsip. She is staying in doors because it’s quite cold outside. We are not going swimming until tomorrow.

I received a second email from my cousin, David. It contains lots of good information plus two photographs that I haven’t seen before. Of course, David is very, very old so I would expect his memory of family history to be much deeper than mine.


This photograph was taken – I’m sure in our garden in Repton – I believe around the date 1924-25. It is a happy family scene featuring my Grandmother who I never met, Mabel Lilian Flook with Aunti Kath on her knee and my Grandfather, Richard Watthew Sanders with Aunti Marg. on his knee. Dad, Eric Richard Sanders aged 10+, is sitting in the middle looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. I looked identical at that age.

I wrote earlier about being contacted by a member of the Flook family who has quite a bit of family tree work done already. I’ve finally been able to reply with information about and photographs of his/her Aunt, Mabel Lilian.

11th December, 2012

In spite of strong sun and cloudless sky, the frost has stayed all day. Even now, at 3.00 pm., frost whitens the lawn under the trees. Unfortunately, we are due to be out early tomorrow for a shopping trip to France and freezing fog is forecast. We’ve checked oil, tyres and water. We’ll see what the next morning brings.

12th December, 2012

Up at 4.30 am and out at 5.30 am. It is -4C and we are expecting freezing fog on the motorway. The temperature falls to -6C as we drive but the fog stays away. We get to the tunnel check-in with 45 mins to spare. The sun is just coming up as we drive through passport control which is a desultory affair.


Time for coffee and newspapers. The 8.00 am crossing seems popular. The 30 min crossing is soon over. Lovely sunny morning in France. We drive to the wine store first. We only spend around €200.00. Unlike the old days, travelling from Yorkshire, we can pop over the Channel any time we like. We don’t need to stock up for six months. Off to Auchan in Coquelles for coffee and grocery shopping. We bought a bit more wine including a case of champagne for Christmas, a large assortment of pork, duck, rabbit, fresh salmon and white fish. Lots of salad things, meat patés, and an assortment of cheeses.

I can’t cope with more than two hours shopping anywhere. By 12.30 pm (French), I was shattered. We bought a sandwich which we ate with coffee and checked-in for an early train home. As we drove up the motorway at 2.00 pm (UK), the sun was already going down. The temperature dropped 4 degrees immediately we crossed the Channel. The further we drove into Surrey, it was apparent that the frost had never disappeared. I couldn’t really stop to photograph the really intense scene. My iPad grabbed this.


13th December, 2012

Another very cold morning. Up at 6.00 am and queuing outside Woking Walk-in Hospital bt 6.45 am in -4C. Born in Derbyshire and 40 years in Yorkshire has toughened us. It was noticeable that the Surreyites couldn’t take it this morning. Later we take the wine we bought for Phyllis & Colin. They seem happy.

Pauline is still really suffering with this cold. It is almost a week now. We decide to stay in the warm. Pauline is cooking salmon & pesto parcels for the Christmas Day starters. I’m continuing to work on the update for Sanders Web which will be lauch as soon as I’m happy with it.

It is reported on a Greek Blogsite today that Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras declared that the Grexit era was dead. Speaking in Brussels to reporters after the Eurogroup approved the mammoth bailout fund of 52.5 billion euro, an obviously relieved Samaras said:

“Solidarity in our union is alive, ‘Grexit’ is dead. Greece is back on its feet.The sacrifices of Greek people have not been in vain,. It’s not only a new day for Greece but also a new day for Europe.”

“Grexit’ is the short term used by international media commentators and economists to describe scenarios about the possibility of bankrupt Greece exiting the euro zone.

14th December, 2012

Heavy rain outside with occasional flakes of snow. We’ve just been told that West Yorkshire has had its once a year morning of black ice with people unable to step out of the houses without falling, multiple car crashes and lots of rescue horror stories. Dozens of Kirklees schools were closed today. We remember the experience vividly and I was only too pleased to sit and watch the cricket. Lovely stuff. It is so good to watch a winning England side.


For living in the development that contains our duplex apartment, we pay a service charge. It is something we have never done before. Originally, it was set at just under £2000.00 per year and we expected it to increase every five years or so. This charge pays for weekly cleaning of public areas inside and out. Although we have our own front door on to the garden, we walked down a carpeted corridor to the underground carpark. That corridor is cleaned and hoovered every week. Windows are cleaned. The Development and the carpark electric gates are serviced when required. Trees and bushes are planted and pruned. The leaves swept up and taken away. The lawns are mowed. The parking areas are swept. The communal lighting is maintained as is the binstore. The tv satellite and distribution system is maintained, all electrics, water, etc. are maintained. To add to this, it includes the cost of generating power in our own on-site Energy Centre and supply of all our heating and hot water. It also includes our house insurance and Emergency Repair Service. The more one looks, the more it seems to be a very good deal. What has made it even better is that the £2000.00 per year has been reduced over two years to £1400.00.

Quite unexpectedly today I received a phone call from Bill Flook. He had written to me out of the blue during the summer. I’m still not sure what relation he is to me. All I can tell you is that my Grandmother Mabel Lilian who I never met was Bill’s Aunt being the older sister of Bill’s Father, Norman, Albert Flook. He is only 50 which surprised me and he has been an invalid for twenty years. He has agreed to send me paperwork of his research and I will do similarly.

15th December, 2012

Beautiful, bright and sunny day with much better temperatures up at 10C. I’ve completed the setting up of a new, on-line savings account and received the paperwork to start using it today. The only thing is that it’s a whole 1% less than last year.

Spurred on by Bill Flook contacting me, I’ve returned to research today. I’m enjoying looking through past newspaper records and I just illustrate a few findings today. Family members will remember that Grandad Sanders – Richard Watthew – had three fingers missing on one hand. We were told that he cut them off in the circular saw in the wood store. Well, I found confirmation of that:


I’m not sure Granddad would have described it as a Minor Mishap.To put this horrible and traumatic accident – referred to by one newspaper as a ‘little mishap’, into context, it happened one year after his father died and just six months after his wife has given birth to Edwina, an experience that has or is beginning to unhinge her mind. And we wondered why Grandad was so monosyllabic and serious.

A few years later he was bouncing back as the following advert illustrates:


Week 207

2nd December, 2012

Interesting article about inflationary pressures in the British economy in The Times yesterday. It was illustrated by this chart:


It is allied in my mind to the suggestion that Public Sector pay is unlikely to rise before the next election under this coalition. It is also apposite because we retired one year after it’s baseline. In that time, because we have payed up our mortgage and down-sized and because our Teaching Pensions have increased by inflation plus Pauline is about to access the State Pension, our disposable income will have risen by around 20% whereas the average, per capita household income has diminished by just less than 4%. At the same time, while energy bills have nationally increased by 63%, ours have literally tumbled by around 60% as we’ve left our large house. Petrol costs are up by 13% nationally whereas ours are down by at least 50%. OK, we still eat and food prices have affected us like everyone else but the overall position has led to us feeling incredibly fortunate and not in a position we could have predicted when we took our first, tremulous steps into retirement.

3rd December, 2012

You can always tell people with time on their hands. One of the jobs on the list for this week is Christmas post. Cards and presents for Greek friends. I’ve managed to resist the Poison Dwarf this year. Cards for British and French friends and relatives. My job was to do a brief, illustrated note – one for Greece and another for Britain – to slip inside the card. I was also responsible for printing the address labels from our database. Pauline had the easy job of handwriting all the cards because she doesn’t trust me. Once she went mad because I signed them all from John & Pauline Sanders. I couldn’t see what was wrong with that but she said it was rudely impersonal. I argued that I hated receiving cards from people and not knowing who they are. Happy Christmas from Martin. WHICH MARTIN?????? I know lots of Martins and I can’t read the Post Office stamp.

Which is why I am not allowed to write Christmas cards – good excuse. I received a present from Honda today. A cheque for £500.00 for being a good customer. Better than a poke in the eye. Went for a really good swim – we have set a target of an extra five lengths by the end of the week. We did our extra one for today. By Friday, we will be doing 600 m..

4th December, 2012

Off to the Post Office with a parcel for Greece. £40.00 to send 6.5 kilos in 7 days with a £100.00 insurance cover. It’s not great but needs must.


So many jobs have come up today that we’ve had to miss swimming. It’s feeling very cold outside today. The Greek Blogs seem to be moving seamlessly from olive collection to wood gathering. Cold weather is on its way to Europe.

5th December, 2012

At 6.00 am, I looked out of the window and teased Pauline saying, Heavy Snow! She believed me but it wasn’t. We listened to the Today programme for an hour and then Pauline got up, looked out and said, You won’t believe it’s snowing. I didn’t and it was. The snow was what you would call ‘a light dusting’ but we heard of Luton and Stansted airports being closed, schools in Essex being closed, trains to London being delayed and problems on the roads. Laugh on Yorkshire!

Our next door neighbour sent a text during the morning saying she was playing golf in Woking this morning but would put her keys through our letterbox this afternoon as she set off for Manchester to fly to Qatar to play golf. She was doing the same in Spain last week. What a life.

Braved the blizzards to go swimming today and managed an extra couple of lengths. We’re on target for 30 by Friday. Back home, I checked my Blog for this day over the past couple of years. Last year was fine but, in 2010, we were renting a tiny flat in Huddersfield and it was the coldest night on record of -18C. We were surrounded by a foot of snow. Even so, life continued as normal.

6th December, 2012

My computer says it is -2C outside at 8.00 am but by 10.00 am, we are in positive figures. I managed to catch a bit of the Test Match on television. Alistair Cook was on another Century and England were making India look tired.


I had to be dragged away to do shopping. We’re off to France again on Wednesday so we can’t afford to clog the freezer up in advance. As we walked around the supermarket, I had the story of Anastasia Karagaitanaki ringing in my ears. I read about her in Ekathimerini in an article headed, Depression deepens Greek middle class despair. Anastasia is a 59 year old, former cafe owner. When her business went bust, she had to move in with her aged Mother and now they both survive on the €785.00 that her dead father’s pension still provided. Her great fear is what she will do if and when her Mother dies. Just as in England, the political elite find it easier and more to their taste to squeeze the middle classes until the pips squeak rather that chase those who can afford to avoid tax.

7th December, 2012

I often watch Yorkshire local news on BBC to maintain our links with the past. Every work day of nearly forty years, we drove over the Pennines from Yorkshire to Lancashire and then back again in the evening. In the winter, we would invariably go the M62 one stop each eay. As anyone who uses it will know, southerners complain about the M25 but it is nothing compared with parts of the M62 which is a nightmare. The small section we travelled on experienced serious accidents two or three times per week which brought long traffic delays. It was renowned as the highest stretch of motorway in Britain. If snow was around, we would get it. We once hit a blizzard in April while driving to the airport. This morning we saw film of our stretch of the M62 which was blocked yesterday morning and again last night at rush hour. We will never do that again.


We are continuing to enjoy and discover new elements of our 13th new Honda CRV. Because we spend six months abroad each year, I have despaired at not being able to adjust the headlights for right hand driving. We ‘ve always had to rely on those cut out and stick beam adjusters that you can buy from Halfords. After six months of car washes in Europe, they are not so good. Today, Honda have confirmed for me through the ‘concierge service’ (We new CRV drivers have our own, dedicated concierge service, you know.) that Smart Technology in my headlights not only switches them on automatically according to the level of daylight but makes them shine left when I steer left, right when I steer right and self-dip if I’m on an upward incline or if it senses traffic coming towards me. I have put a complaint in to Honda about the lack of an espresso machine so I expect to see that in the next model.

Went to the local waste disposal centre to get rid of a lot of junk that had been clogging up our garage store for months. As we dumped it, we heaved a sigh of relief and the garage rose visibly. We reached our target in the swim today; 600 m. up from 500 m. last week. Our task now is to get to the 1000 m. / 1 kilometre as soon as possible. I need a lie down.

8th December, 2012

Will someone please stop the clock. It’s the 8th of December already. My life is running away. It is a wonderful morning, one that makes me feel so glad to be alive. We have a top gastro pub just over a mile away from us and we’re going to walk there for lunch. First I have my Blog and emails to do.

  • Email to David Pritchard. I sent one a few weeks ago but haven’t heard back from him.
  • Email to Martin – ex-Sifnos friend.
  • Email Rizwan – ex-teaching colleague.
  • Email to Ruth – lovely sister.
  • Email to Chris – Honda Salesman/friend in Huddersfield.
  • Email to Anne Clwyd, MP.

Over the past four years, Pauline and I have had three close relatives die in hospital. We have seen the NHS up close and personal and been subject to its dreadful short comings at first hand. We have seen the poor, physical state of the buildings, the lax maintenance of the interiors and learnt of the appalling short comings of NHS Management through recent experience. Pauline & I went to the trouble of meeting with the Senior Management of West Pennine Acute Hospital and, reviewing our notes from that meeting in the cold light of day, they are no less shocking. We are learning to become grumpy old people. We were touched by Ann Clwyd’s tears in the House of Commons last week as she described the gross neglect of her husband as he died in hospital. It so mirrored our own experiences but was said by the Minister and the Nurses Leader to be an unfortunate one-off. It was neither ‘unfortunate’ nor a one-off. It is the result of a systematic breakdown in the nursing management which encourages semi-literate nurses to believe they are graduates who go on to believe that basic care is beneath such intellectual status.