Week 219

24th February, 2013

I haven’t been ill since April 2009 until today. I seem to have caught a stomach bug which has totally incapacitated me. I am a typical man about all illness. I ignore all signs until I can face it no more and then I complain until my wife takes over. Couldn’t get out of bed this morning. My limbs were stiff, shivering and sweating. Without going into detail, my body was completely empty. In fact I had lost half a stone over last night. My head was banging and I was constantly falling into sleep mode. By mid day I was up and drinking a cup of tea which I retained for less than half an hour and I slept through the rest of the day. What more can you want from a blog?

25th February, 2013

Didn’t wake until 9.00 am. Managed to keep my orange juice and tea inside me although it all feels rather uncertain. No energy to do anything. Sorry.

26th February, 2013

Up and almost back to normal this morning. Managed to retain my orange juice and tea. Might eat later. We received a letter from the Welsh MP, Ann Clwyd, who we wrote to a couple of months ago after she had made a dramatically emotional speech in Parliament shortly after the unnecessary death of her husband in hospital. She spoke to the House about the criminal neglect meted out by nurses who thought they were too educated to care and offer the simple patient support that they are paid for and the mismanagement of hospitals which seem to be organised for the welfare of staff rather than patients. When Pauline’s Mum died in hospital, part of the problem was that she was ill at the weekend. (How could she be so careless?) Part of the problem was that nurses were too interested in their files in their offices than the humans on the Ward and part of the problem was that inexperienced Doctors were left floundering without support from seniors. We wrote to the Hospital and met the Senior Management who acknowledged failings and promised imminent changes. We left it at that. What we didn’t realise was the nationwide prevalence of this iniquity. As soon as we witnessed Ann Clywd’s intervention did we speak to anyone else. It is now clear, from, what she tells us, that there are thousands of people across the country prepared to bear witness to the failing NHS. She is planning submissions to the Health Minister. One of the certain outcomes of this movement will be 24/7 hospitals. Another will be a look at Ward Management. A third will be addressing the amount of time Specialists spend on site.


Our dear friend from Sifnos  phoned us today to tell us about out electricity bill which is quite nice. They owe us €57.00. She was surprised to find that we didn’t have to pay the House Tax. I wasn’t but I’m pleased it has been confirmed. Our previous island ‘friend’ may have left our affairs in a mess but it has a rewarding side to it.

27th February, 2013

The day brightened up to a lovely one with some pleasant sunshine. We had a wonderful swim in a fairly quiet Health Club and then decided to do some Office Work. Phone calls and emails afternoon after homemade asparagus soup. Pauline did a full audit of the accounts and a redesigned Teachers Pension Website Membership was announced. It carries our P60s, our earnings and tax payments. Pauline has received a radically revised Tax Code following the payment of her first State Pension in three weeks time.

28th February, 2013

Last day of February. Spring won’t be to long now. Weak sunshine here and still cold. The thermometer says 8C/47F but it feels much colder. Only 10C/50F in Greece today but a bit sunnier. For some reason, Greek cold weather always seems that much more biting. Perhaps because it doesn’t meet expectations.

Interesting news from Greek newspapers about the new Greek identity papers/passport. This is particularly unfortunate for those EU citizens with dual Nationalities. The Greek Government is going to force all its citizens to re-register, give up their passport(s) and identity papers and be issued with a new, EU passport in which all will become naturalised Greeks with no dual nationality allowed. This will be difficult for some who have traded on dual identity particularly for Healthcare. In UK, the Coalition Government are looking to restrict access even for EU citizens to Social Welfare services including NHS.

1st March, 2013


Happy March to you all. Happy March to the Tory Party who now know they are going to crash and burn in a couple of years not to be seen again for quite some time. What is worrying is the success of the British edition of Greece’s Golden Dawn – sort of Golden Dawn with Manners. If CallmeDave tracks to the right we find ourselves on the European brink, we will all regret it.

2nd March, 2013

Pauline and I are not intrepid travellers on any level. We love travelling but every step is planned with the intention of removing as much risk as possible. This is as much the case on our journey through life as our travels through Europe. As soon as our Greek house was built, we looked for insurance. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do. The Greeks we asked looked at us with some bemusement. When we said it must include ‘earthquake cover’, they thought we were bonkers. Eventually, we did find a Greek chap who represented an American Insurance company who would sell us cover but it was very expensive. We found a good company who would insure our UK and our Greek property at a discount and have been with them for a year or two. Intasure has really put our minds at rest. I wouldn’t mind betting, however, that a poll of islanders would show a large majority not insured. These are poor people who stand to lose everything in the event of a disaster. At which point, they would have to turn to the State for help.

Now, the Government is legislating for the problem. They estimate that there are no more than 15% of properties with insurance policy against an earthquake across the country. The Greek finance ministry is going to make property insurance against earthquake and floods obligatory according to the excellent Greek Blog, Keep Talking Greece. The argument behind the property insurance is that the Greek state is unable to compensate victims when an unexpected event such as an earthquake occurs. This is an attempt to forestall the possibility of widespread economic damage from an unexpected event such as an earthquake or flood. The insurance policy will be compulsory for every act that has to do with the property like sale, rent etc. What was most interesting to me was that the first, grassroots Greek response I read was to view this measure as yet another tax on the part of a heartless government. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

Week 218

18th February, 2013

An absolutely wonderful day with clear, blue skies and birds singing all around. It makes one glad to be alive. I must admit, I didn’t use it well. I read the newspaper and watched Huddersfield lose. I had been entertaining hopes of an Oldham v Huddersfield Cup Final after Saturday’s wonderful 94th minute escape but it wasn’t to be. At least I got to speak to Ruth.

19th February, 2013

I’m always happier when Bob is the same age as me and for a few weeks now he is.


On April 22nd, 1950, Mum & Dad were married at Ss Mary and Modwen Catholic Church in Guild Street in Burton-on-Trent. Ten weeks later, I was conceived. I was born on 6th April, 1951 and,  seven weeks later, Bob was conceived. I don’t know what was in the Repton water.

An early start today. Shopping trip to France. Tunnel crossing just before 9.00 am. The car will be full of fruit and vegetables, lots of lovely cuts of meat, a small amount of cheese and wine for future drinking.

At 6.30 am, the frost was heavy and the temperature was 3C/37F with a light mist. As we drove towards the tunnel, the sun rose – a huge, orange disc rebounding from the sky line. It gave way to the most beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies – not hot at 12C/54F but it felt like Summer. Quick trip to our favourite wine suppliers on Rue Marcel Doret to buy 160 litres of wine and then on to Auchan. We have a fridge for the boot of the car and it took the meat – duck breasts, corn fed chicken, beef steaks, beef medallions, joint of pork, pork loins, a large, jointed rabbit. The coolbox took the fish and cooked meat – two sides of fresh salmon, two large loins of cabillaud (cod), some smoked salmon, smoked pork, smoked sausage and a couple of boxes of Brie. Bags took packs of puntarelle and radicchio endives, garlics, onions plus a few, large jars of Dijon mustard.


Got home in time to watch Arsenal being humiliated.

20th February, 2013

The day has taken some time to find the sun but, as I write around 11.00 am, it is starting to shine through the trees. The Pound Sterling is definitely in the shade this morning having fallen from what was a steady £1.00 = €1.20 to about £1.00 = €1.14 this morning.

Pheasant & Celery with Tarragon soup for Lunch. Pauline knocked it up in half an hour and it was delicious. Our Dinner was Endive drizzled with Walnut oil, thin slices of smoked pork loin that we bought in France.


A General Strike across Greece today. The old dragon continues to flail its tail and yet economic data is genuinely showing signs of recovery. Kathimerini reports that Greece’s current account deficit narrowed last year to its lowest level since the country joined the euro, adding to evidence that the economy is slowly responding to harsh austerity measures.


21st February, 2013

My Grandmother came from Gloucestershire. My Grandfather was rooted in the heart of the Midlands – in  Repton. She was living in her family home with her parents and siblings on Station Road, Wickwar in 1911. The road, as it suggests, was in parallel with the railway line which bounded and fed industrial expansion. Particularly, it brought materials to Yate Airfield where aircraft were, initially, repaired but, eventually, built by Parnall Aircraft Company, amongst others. Now, my Grandfather, a journeyman joiner in Repton, Derbyshire met this girl from Station Road and married her in 1914 – the outset of the war. My Mother had always told me that Granddad had been a pilot in WW1 and there are photos of him in uniform which suggests that.

However, cousin David found that Granddad was RNAS and brought up his war record. He found that he didn’t join up until 1916 by which time he had met Mabel and married her, brought her back to Repton and my Dad had been born. So the question still remains – Why did a stable young man from an established Repton family and with a half completed skill set suddenly up sticks and travel over 100 miles down to Bristol area? I’m looking at websites about Yate Airfield. It was on Station Road. Mabel lived on Station Road. Aircraft were repaired there. Granddad was a carpenter. Suddenly, I read “Demands of wartime aircraft production meant that many woodworking companies were contracted to build aircraft.” The penny dropped.

22nd February, 2013

Snowing here. Seriously wet in Greece. The new ‘Athens News’ replacement, EnetEnglish, is reporting massive flooding across Attica; there has been torrential rain over Skiathos over night and Symi Dream reports heavy rain also. This photo is posted by Reuters and shows a woman rescued from flood waters by a resident standing on top of her car during heavy rain in Halandri, northern Athens.


Turkey & Vegetable soup for lunch and Dinner was Rabbit Stifado with Broccoli. Lovely.

23rd February, 2013

Light snow flurries this morning. Bitterly cold – My Weather app on my iPad says -1C (feels like -6C). We stay tucked up. It’s a weekend of getting fit watching sport. Looking forward to England beating France at Twickenham and Bradford beating Swansea at Wembley.

France have already taken a battering this weekend as Germany’s President yesterday called for English to become the common language of the European Union. The Times report this morning says:

Joachim Gauck braved the wrath of the French to appeal to all EU nations to put more effort into teaching English so that everyone in Europe could better understand each other. The head of the German state, a popular former Lutheran pastor, said that better communication in English would lead to greater integration and the united Europe of his dreams. He also wanted a common European TV channel in English to cover the concerns of all the member countries in order to break down suspicions and misunderstandings.

I can only say, Absolutely old chap!

Week 217

10th February, 2013

As regular readers will have noticed, I’ve been dabbling in a bit of family tree research along with my much older cousin, David. I get very easily distracted and often follow quite aimless connections. For example, I was told recently that one member of the family, my Great Grandfather Edwin Thomas Sanders, who had lived in the Repton Mill, moved to a large split property call Gordan Villas. Below is a picture of Gordan Villas today.


It really looks very little different to what I remember fifty years ago. Two girls who were in my class at the local school lived in the property – Elizabeth McDonald on the left and Patricia Adams on the right. ‘Tricia Adams was my first girlfriend at the ripe old age of ten. I bought her a small, pink plastic case of hair grips as an enticement. She was sent over later, I suspect by her Mother, to give me a box of sweets. I know who got the best deal! Elizabeth’s mother was Dorothy McDonald née Adams. She had been born in Gordan Villas in August of 1922. She had an older brother, Reginald, who was the father of Patricia. He and his wife (who I think was called Stella) were rather trendy. They had a brand new open top Triumph Herald with white wall tyres and they parked it on the pavement outside their part of the building.

The Adams family was related to many of the older village families; Dorothy’s great, great grandfather was the Rev’d John Pattinson, vicar of Repton from 1804 to 1843, and her grandmother, Stella Pattinson, owned the post office. This is her around 1900.


The Pattinson family owned the Post Office for a hundred years until 1953. What I have established is that the Adams family occupied Gordan Villas at least from 1922. We lived at 81 High Street aka Ingle Nook. The space where the land was purchasef for the house and the building firm was still enclosed and used for Council storage just after 1900 as this photograph shows. The land is immediately after the white walled house.


Mum eventually sold the house in 1976 for the princely sum of £31,000.00 and the newspaper advertisement, in 1976, referred to the building of the house being in 1933 by Sanders & Son.


11th February, 2013


Skiathan Man has got his tea bags exactly two weeks after we posted them. The parcel took two days to get to Athens and then twelve to get to the island because of a strike. Skiathos is bathed in sun today. We have woken up to light snow. It didn’t stop us going for our swim. Today we start our seventh week without alcohol. I haven’t done that since 1969.

12th February, 2013

It was a cold night and this morning has broken grey and 1C/34F. The horsemeat scandal gallops on. This morning, Tesco have announced that their Bolgnese sauce was up to 100% horsemeat and nobody had noticed. Pauline has always ensured that we shun any ready-made meal on the grounds that, if we saw what it was made of – mechanically recovered meat and ground up bonemeal and cartilage – we would certainly never touch it. She has been completely vindicated. Last night we ate a starter of homemade Waldorf Salad followed by homemade stuffed tomatoes in which the tomato stuffing was just minced beef and herbs. The beef was minced by Pauline from beef steak bought at the butchers. We scoffed our meal with a self-satisfied smile as the news came in.

Instead of swimming, today we went in to the running machine room. About thirty or forty running machines lined the walls. Each one has a television screen set into the front with multiple Sky Channels or one could choose to plug in an iPod or listen to the radio. At the same time one could monitor one’s speed, distance, incline, duration and heart beat. If one entered one’s height and weight prior to starting, the machine calculated and continually announced how many calories one was burning off. By the time I had understood all the displays and the settings, I was exhausted.


13th February, 2013


No pancakes for us yesterday. We are starting our seventh week without carbohydrates. I hate to say it but it has almost become a way of life now. I do miss a glass/bottle of wine but not as much as I thought I would. I have a series of half yearly diabetic checks coming up over the next few weeks and it will be interesting to see what changes are reported. Tomorrow it will be eye check. Next week is blood test. Two weeks later will be full check. What it is to be a ‘demic!

14th February, 2013

My Love & I went to the eye clinic this morning. She drove. I had to have drops in my eyes in readiness for my annual diabetic eye check up. Very romantic it was too. After an hour, she led me by the hand out into the sunshine which immediately burned into my widely dilated pupils as I shuffled across the carpark. It was six hours before I could read my newspaper on the iPad and, when I did, I found it had been delivered in a different and more difficult to read format.

Fifty years ago today, Harold Wilson became Leader of the Labour Party. He matched the ‘never had it so good’ complacency of Macmillan with a desire to embrace the ‘white heat’ of techological advancement. I was in Grammar School with the whole of my life before me. White hot technolgy excited me. I wanted some of that and became a Labour supporter from then. My parents were Conservative voters. They read The Telegraph. They were socially established and in business. It was understandable. It was written that I should go in a different direction and I did. I went to Huddersfield and there I found Harold – outside the station.


15th February, 2013

It is now completely established – There is something wrong with me. Today took receipt of a ‘sports’ watch. What am I doing? Well, I need to time my swimming exercise period and my own, thirty three year old watch isn’t waterproof. I love it because Pauline bought it for me after our car accident but it won’t do the job in the pool or the sea. The thing about watches nowadays is that, if you are not looking for investment or prestige, it is impossible to pay any money for them. My new, waterproof, sports watch with backlight, alarm, stopwatch, day/date/time display is a black, digital Casio from The Watch Shop and cost £15.60 including postage. I ordered it yesterday evening and it arrived this morning. How do they do it for that money? It better not turn out to be horsemeat.


I bought a bag of mussels in Tesco yesterday and just checked with the Fishmonger – “They don’t contain horsemeat do they?” He looked genuinely hurt. “We’re not allowed to sell it anymore”, he said with a mournful fall in his voice. I felt quite sorry for him.

After Cousin David totally destroyed my retirement this week by completing the research on the Sanders Family History in a few days – something which I was going to spin out over a few years. Now, instead of comfortably pretending I am researching on my computer, I have to go swimming wearing a ‘stopwatch’!

16th February, 2013

It’s not east constructing meals without carbohydrate. It means we eat a lot of salad. Unfortunately, I take warfarin which is negated by too much green leaf. Breakfast is two, freshly squeezed oranges followed by a huge cup of Yorkshire tea. Mid morning is a cup of freshly brewed Americano coffee. Lunch is homemade soup or fish and a small amount of salad. The fish is most often smoked salmon but smoked mackerel is also a favourite. The salad is pea shoots and rocket or endive with a bit of crumbled blue cheese. Evening meal – if we feel like it at all – is meat/fish and a single vegetable. Tonight Dinner will be Fillet of Lamb  slow cooked with onions and mushrooms and served with cauliflower.


Since 1980, we have taken delivery of 24 new Honda cars. Since 1999, we’ve had 8 CRVs in three different models. Driving to Greece each year, this has been an ideal car for the journey and the island terrain. We took delivery of our latest CRV at the beginning of November and today, Honda contacted us to ask if we would be prepared to attend a ‘review’ of the latest model at their offices in Slough. The car is made just down the road in Swindon. It might be nice to have some personal input to our next model.


This evening live football is Oldham Athletic v Everton in the Cup. Having taught in Oldham for nearly forty years makes this a must watch. Actually, we will be constantly scanning the crowd for faces of ex-pupils and colleagues. Tomorrow, live football is Huddersfield v Wigan also in the cup. It will again be a must watch – scanning the crowd for ex-neighbours and friends.

Week 216

3rd February, 2013

Poor old Skiathan Man. His parcel of tea is so near and yet so far. We have tracked the parcel all the way to Greece but a 48 hr ferry strike was followed by another and now…. another. Let’s hope he can hold out. I have visions of him crawling down the harbour road with pictures of strong and flavoursome,Yorkshire Tea dancing before him, drawing him on and finally fading into a yellow, Liptons tea bag of tepid, cat wee and here we are in Surrey almost bathing in tea it’s that plentiful.


4th February, 2013

Drove Pauline to town to have her haircut at Headmasters. I spent a pleasant hour with a small Americano (£1.60) and my newspaper. When we got home, the post had arrived. There was one for Pauline from HM Revenue & Customs. They are definitely not good news. Last time we got one, it cost us £4000.00. This time it was just announcing her new tax code in the light of her State Pension which is payable from March. Shame but it has to be paid.

Roast tomato & Red Pepper soup topped with grated Gruyere cheese for lunch and roast pheasant for Dinner this evening. We have now done 35 days without carbohydrates or alcohol. I can’t believe it myself. However, I have dismissed Pauline’s taunt that I was alcohol dependent. There was some truth in the argument that I was addicted to the routine of nice meal must mean nice bottle of wine. It was the routine expectation that I was addicted to rather than the wine itself. I do have an addictive personality. I remember that in my post-student days I found myself addicted to sugary, fizzy drinks. I wouldn’t touch them now. I replaced that addiction with cigarettes. I wouldn’t touch them now. Set against that, I looking forward to a nice bottle of Barolo at the beginning of April.


5th February, 2013

Glorious day in Surrey – clear blue skies and strong sunshine although cold at 3C/37F compared with 15C/59F in Athens. I was reading an article in a Greek Blog – Keep Talking Greece – this morning that said the Greek Health Ministry had decreed that all non-Greek citizens, including EU members, should pay double the Greek Citizen price for Health Care. If it is true and I rather doubt it, it must be urgently challenged in the European Courts. It has to be illegal.

I wrote recently about hearing from friends we have not seen for over thirty years. It set me thinking about the passage of time. As I was going through my bookcase, I came across my Masters Degree Dissertation. It had to be submitted as a bound edition – one copy for the University and one for me.

thesis.jpg  thesis2.jpg  pcw.jpg

I can remember writing it and Pauline typing it. I can remember her slaving over a steaming hot Amstrad PCW and I can’t believe how far we have travelled since then. I can’t believe that it is 25 years since I published that thesis.

6th February, 2013

The British Media today is dominated by the parliamentary vote last night in favour of ‘Gay Marriage’. It is hard to see why the Tories are getting so exercised. As someone pointed out yesterday, they really are ‘on the wrong side of History’. It is interesting to see the Tories – in Government for less than three years – tearing themselves apart over so many issues. They hate Gay Europeans!

It is impossible to run a computer without antivirus protection. Five minutes on the internet would almost certainly bring infection. I have use ‘Norton 360’ for a long time now but it can be expensive. We need to cover three computers here in UK. A warning message came up to tell us it was time to renew our subscription. The price for 3 PCs was £54.00 and I nearly fell in to it. A few minutes searching found me the same product for immediate download on 3 PCs for £23.00. They are their own worst enemies these shyster software companies.


7th February, 2013

Beautiful sunny day but cold. A day off from the Health Club – two hours walking round Tesco is all I can manage in one morning without needing a long lie down.

Nice to hear the Greek Ferry Strike is off for now although there is a General Strike to come. Today I’m turning my thoughts to Personal Financial Investment. Each year since we retired, we have each taken out our full ISA allowance for cash investment. This year the new ISA limit allows us to invest £11,520.00 between us. The problem is that, although we have four years worth still at 4.1% for another year, this time the best I can get is 2.0%. I’m beginning to wonder whether to go into Equities and take a little risk. The best cash ISAs currently on the market are Barclays (2.04%), Halifax (2.05%). At least our Barclays shares have returned to near the £3.00 level. I took a call from our ‘personal’ banking manager this afternoon. It is a waste of time. The Bank can no longer give independent financial advice. They are just intent on pushing their own products.

8th February, 2013

Gloriously sunny day but very cold at 2C/35F whereas Athens is 12C/54F. The pound/euro level is returning from its lows to a more respectable level. I think the right price would be £1.00 = €1.20. It also makes the mental arithmetic much easier.

9th February, 2013

What is wrong with horsemeat? I’d eat it. Well, what is wrong is that people aren’t getting what they bought. It could be dog meat or minced rat. Uncontrolled Suppliers may be sourcing the cheapest protein they can. What is scandalous is that the Government and the end suppliers sat on the information for days before going public – compounding the felony. How did it get past the authorities? What authorities? The cutbacks have decimated them. When disease was found in Ash trees, a fungus called Chalara Fraxinius, the Government knew months before they released information and allowed the fungus to take an untreatable hold. Maybe it would have been untreatable anyway but Government had to find a ‘spin’ for the information before they released it. Who are we to understand?

The scandal in the NHS has been developing for years. Anecdotally, there has been plenty of evidence. Empirically, the Government had mortality rate tables indicating serious problems for three years before opening up pandora’s box. How many people died unnecessarily in that time? Who are we to understand?

Nice photo doing the rounds:


Sterling is strenthening against the Euro to €1.18 today. That’s better.