Week 221

10th March, 2013

Happy Mothers’ Day!

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11th March, 2013

The temperature is 0C/32F in Surrey with light snow falling. Skiathos reached 23.5C/ 74F yesterday. It really isn’t fair. I’m going swimming in spite of the weather.

I am a fairly grounded sort of  person to the point of being boring. I don’t believe in gods, angels, fairies, astrology or anything else so intangible. Occasionally, inexplicable things hit me. A friend we met on our Greek island and who five years or so ago relocated to Cheltenham where he works in a Bookshop, was in my thoughts all day yesterday. We had intended visiting him over the winter but didn’t make it. We haven’t met for those five years although we do keep in touch by email. We haven’t written since Christmas. Suddenly, having though so much of him yesterday, an email pops up from him this morning. Exactly the same thing happened with my friend, Jonathan, in America last week. Coincidences can be uncanny and a little unnerving.

I love fresh coffee and have a wonderful espresso machine which provides perfect coffee everytime with ese coffee pods. I use a mail order company to supply the pods which cost £0.17 each – a far cry from the £2.00 or so for a coffee in one of the chains in town. My favourites are Cafe Toscano (Tradizione con gusto) an arabica-robusta blend and another arabica – Caffe Bravi (Roma). I’ve order 300. Should get me through the week.

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12th March, 2013

A bitingly cold day. The media is full of people sleeping in their cars all night stuck in deep snow less than an hour away from here. We have none. A tiring and expensive morning. Shopping! Need I say more? Well, I bought new shoes – at M&S of all places. Can you believe paying so much for a pair of casual shoes. I can remember when you could buy a house for that price! Well, not quite but it’s a lot. They were made in China.

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On to Specsavers to collect and pay for my glasses plus two pairs of reading glasses for Pauline. Another £300.00 or so. For glasses. I remember when you could buy a monocle and still have change for new buttons! I had rimless specs with reaction lenses. Pauline had two pairs of reading glasses – one tinted for reading outside in the sun and one for doing computer work. How decadent is that? I remember when we could only afford one candle to read by and that had to be shared.

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By this stage, Pauline was well in to her shopping mode and I was exhausted. Superdrug, Boots, etc.. I saw my life ebbing away. Shopping Centres are an abomination and the Peacock Centre in Woking is no exception.

13th March, 2013

Had to go for my 6 monthly diabetic blood test this morning. The traffic was terrible. The surgery car park was full. My appointment was for 10.00 am but I was called early. The nurse had writing on the back of her hand. I asked what it was. She told me it said “toga”. It was to remind her to hire one for her daughter who has to have one for school because it is ‘Greek’ week. I suggested it would be more appropriate to dress as a pauper but she didn’t see the funny side.

A childhood friend of mine who has lived in Boston, Masachussetts for the past 40 years wrote to me recently. Although he is older than me, he can’t afford to retire yet because the safety net state services we in UK are afforded are not a available in the US. He has to pay his own medical fees when he retires. Can you imagine it. His wife, a teacher, doesn’t get a State pension to supplement her teaching pension. It’s not all bad here.

14th March, 2013

Out for the Dentist this morning. We joined an NHS Dentistry Practice about five miles from our home as soon as we moved to Surrey. We were delighted with the young, Indian girl dentist that we were allocated to but, by the time we had been to Greece and back, she had moved on to a ‘more permanent position’. It turned out that she had recently qualified when we met her. Our next dentist was a young West Indian girl who had just qualified. She was quite good but, by the time we had been to Greece and returned, she had moved on to something more permanent and we were allocated a young, Chinese girl who has just qualified. We are tired of being used as classroom resources by young trainees and we have decided that we will find a private dentistry practice with a little more stability.

We spent the afternoon trimming the hedging bushes outside our Duplex, weeding the surrounding beds and sweeping up. The early morning rain had gone and given way to blue skies and strong sunshine. The quadrangle in which we were working was positively warm. Rather than a fortnight’s work on an acre of garden as we have had to do in the past, nowadays it feels good to get it all done in an afternoon.

Pauline cooked cod loin with oven roasted tomatoes and sugar snap peas. It was a lovely meal for Dinner but I am struggling to eat anything at the moment. A wonderful cup of fresh coffee to finish. It so completely rounds off the tastes of a meal and there was news today of its health benefits. A recent Japanese study has confirmed the findings of an earlier, European study which found that those drinking between one and three cups of fresh coffee per day were 15% less likely to suffer strokes. Oh good!

15th March, 2013

Grey day but not cold – about 12C/54F – as we set off for the weekly supermarket shop. Not a lot to buy today but it still took an hour to get through. Every aisle had some spotty youth with a huge trolley taking things off the shelves for an internet customer. The incidence of this has expanded exponentially since we moved down here amongst the cash-rich but time-poor people of Surrey. There is no axiom of ‘Customers First’ amongst these characters. They are part of a ‘spotty youth internet shoppers union’ which is forced to spend part of its time discussing last night’s party, part of its time discussing tonight’s party and the rest of its time blocking every shelf on every aisle while it substitues items you ordered on the internet for far less appropriate but much more expensive ones that you didn’t order.

Called in on Phyllis & Colin on the way back. Did a bit of work on Phyllis’s iPad to help her buy something on line and Colin wanted to review a rail trip to Scotland so they didn’t have to do the lengthy drive. Back home we had received mail. Ours included our Council Tax demand which had gone up by 50% on last year. Even I know that no Local Authority has been bold enough to go above 2% – 3% increases. It turns out that they think our property is empty which allows them to levy 150% tax. We have written to them to put them straight.

Lovely swim today although the pool was quite busy which always puts us off. We don’t go at the weekend because a lot of chldren like to swim and, as you know, we hate children. I, certainly, couldn’t eat a whole one.

16th March, 2013

Raining again. Today is a home day. Reading the paper, watching football and rugby – I have to get fit somehow – and getting up to date with correspondence. My friend in America has finally been made redundant. Government spending on defence procurement is significantly down and his work in research and development is equally being rolled back. Add to that fact that he is 64 years old and he was expecting it. His wife retired from teaching last summer so they can embrace retirement together. I wish him well.

Everton v Man City football and Wales v England rugby this afternoon with a bowl of home made vegetable soup. Have I got the energy?

Nice to see Everton humble Manchester City 2 – 0 in spite of losing a man. What on earth England were thinking nobody knows. The were utterly humiliated by Wales.

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