Week 207

2nd December, 2012

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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