Week 254

27th October, 2013

Well, what a lazy day. Newspapers and football like a real couch potato. Quite enjoyed it really. Warm outside and has just started raining late into the evening. The TV News is all about the coming storm. It has started to hit the south coast already.


Rush hour is cancelled tomorrow. Trains and flights in London are on hold and commuters are told to stay at home. Our house is totally surrounded by thirty foot trees. Sleep well!

28th October, 2013

Well the Big Wind turned out to be a small puff for us. We heard and saw nothing. Stories in the morning media of trees down in central London, 99 mph gales on the south coast, torrential rain in Wales. Surrey was like a mild and dry oasis of calm for us but this is a house demollished by a fallen tree in Edenbridge, just 39 miles from our house.


This morning it is bright and 11C/51F at 9.00 am. We are off to the Health Club for a good, long swim after an inactive weekend. Tonight we are at the Nuffield Hospital for Pauline to see a consultant about a problem with her foot. Private Healthcare bought by the NHS. This is how Pauline & I did it before we retired. You don’t often see this on the NHS. It’s nice of them to keep in the manner to which we are accustomed!


I wonder how much they are paying?

29th October, 2013

It is an absolutely gorgeous morning. Blue skies and strong sun. We still haven’t seen (felt) any wind. I am off to look at my sister-in-law’s broadband router which is playing up and then for a swim.

Nowadays I am confident to weigh myself every morning. Since arriving back in Surrey, four weeks ago, the scales are reading 19 lbs/8.6 kg/1st 5 lbs less. I have been losing just over half a pound per day. I’m hoping that this will accelerate now that I am on my no-alcohol three months.

30th October, 2013

It looks a bit as if Greek Islands are becoming no-go areas during these winter months. We are thinking of making a flying visit to the house next month but the connections are awful. At the moment, I can only find to ferries in and two out in a week. Kathimerini has been reporting the laying up of ferries because the price of fuel has made them uneconomic during winter. Skiathan Man  and Skopelos Woman report major changes to their connections.


We had a request from someone desperate to buy our duplex apartment this morning. They’re moving into the area and need to be within walking distance of the train to London Waterloo. They want two bedrooms and are prepared to pay a premium for the seclusion that our gated development would afford them. Pauline has booked a valuer to see what we can reasonably ask after three years of ownership. Once again, if we were to sell, I would prefer to sell it furnished. Anyway, we will see what transpires.

31st October, 2013

A man from Townends Estate Agents called this morning. He walked round and appraised our duplex apartment. He gave us a valuation that left us gasping. It meant that, in just under three years ownership, it had increased its value by just under £100,000.00. His estimate was that, if we put it on the market in the next month, he would have a signed up a buyer within six weeks. It all makes the Yorkshire property market look pretty sick.

Having got over the shock, we went round to see Phyllis and Colin. The new BT Hub had arrived so I installed it for them and set their ipad up to wirelessly access it. By the time we got home, it was time for my own IT Engineer to arrive to install a new powerpack in my seven year old desktop computer. It took him forty minutes and, with the price of the new pack, cost me £100.00.

1st November, 2013


My lovely sister asked me recently what the white rabbit was all about. Of course, anybody who has been out of Bolton will know that white rabbits are lucky and that, traditionally, one tries to be the first to wish one’s loved ones ‘White Rabbit’ on the first day of a new month to make their days filled with luck. Of course, we don’t all have a spouse who prods us in the ribs at one minute after midnight – asleep or not – to wish us ‘White Rabbit’. That takes real love – or something!

A calm and mild but not too bright day for the start of November. The apartment has a narrow fluctuation of temperature between 22C/70F – 24C/75F but it is all maintained by the lights and our body temperatures. We just do not use the heating at all. Last winter, in the deepest cold, we needed the central heating occasionally but the total cost of all our heating and hot water for the year was £199.00.

It looks as if my much-loved seven year old computer could not be revived with the just a new powerpack installed yesterday. It needs a new motherboard and that is a step too far. I might as well buy a new computer. I ordered one this morning. Even that was a fraught process. As I tried to pay on-line, I was told that my credit card was blocked. I phoned the card company who put me through to the ‘Fraud Department’ who told me it was just a routine action to make sure my card was not being used by anyone else. I had to go through the whole process all over again. The new computer will be ready to pick up tomorrow. I’m going to order a new iPad Air as well. Pauline will take over my old one.


2nd November, 2013

A special friend from Sifnos phoned this morning to tell us we had received an electricity bill. Fortunately, not only is it paid directly from our Greek Bank Account but I monitor it remotely on the internet. However, it was lovely to hear from her and about what’s going on on the island. What hasn’t been happening is rain. She is going to activate a watering programme immediately.

I don’t know if I dare tell you this but retirement has made me even more of a ‘thrifty geek’ than before. We have time to search out the best prices for everything. When a supermarket offers ‘two for one’, half price items, I can’t see the point in buying a few. Why not forward buy for the year. Dishwasher tablets are expensive items. Today, they were on a half price offer. We bought enough to last a year. Half will go to Greece. We have a huge storage cupboard in the garage which is a wine cellar but now also contains lots of comparatively expensive products which, just over the past couple of days, have cost/saved us £300.00. It does feel a little ‘confessional’ admitting that to you.

I’m going to spend the rest of the weekend setting up my new omputer and installing software – in between football matches. Ruth will be pleased this weekend because Bolton have won.

Week 253

20th October, 2013

We have been away from our Greek home for four weeks now and back in Surrey for three. Who is winding thast clock? After a busy and social few days, it is nice to have some solitude and quiet. Sunday papers and making plans for the next two or three weeks. At lunch, Pauline made tomato, roast garlic and basil soup. It was delicious. I had a glass of Castle Hill beer. Anybody who knows Hudderfield – like Kevin – will know that Castle Hill is a famous, Huddersfield landmark. I rarely drink beer but I couldn’t resist a couple of bottles from Mallinsons, a micro-brewery from Lockwood in Huddersfield. I bought Castle Hill Premium beer and Emley Moor Mild. I drank the former today and it was just lovely.

beer1 beer2

21st October, 2013

Looks like a wet and windy week ahead. It’s alright for Skiathan Man lazing round in the sun. I am back on the Health Club treadmill – literally!

Pauline’s booked us Dentist Appointments, Doctors Appointments and my Annual Diabetic Review. I’ve booked two return trips to France with Eurotunnel for November and December. You’ve got to get your priorities right.

After a few indulgences after the past few weeks – driving back across Europe and staying in a string of Hotels then driving up to Yorkshire and eating out with friends – my weight has been on a plateau. Now all of that is over, I have decided to refocus. I am going to do three months without alcohol and to tighten up on my food intake. At the same time, I am going to increase my activity level. I aim to lose two stone by Christmas and another two stone by mid-March when we leave for Greece.

Went for a really enjoyable session at the Health Club including a hard swim. My one meal today, cooked by Pauline, was absolutely fantastic. We ate oven-baked loin of halibut with roasted tomatoes, asparagus and samphire tossed in garlic oil all accompanied by sparkling water. I haven’t eaten samphire before. I really enjoyed it and will certainly eat it again.


22nd October, 2013

For the past two years – since we downsized – I have been storing 30 or so large framed prints that were hanging on the walls of our previous house. They are Pre-Raphaelite and the years immediately afterwards – including Waterhouse and Whistler. They are generally 3ft x 2 ft in dimension and they will never fit in a property that we own in the future.

This is Dante Gabriel Rosetti : Beata Beatrix


and Proserpine (1874)


This is Waterhouse – The Soul of the Rose (1908)


and Miranda – The Tempest (1916)


Each one cost £100 – £150.00 and, although I don’t expect that for them, I do want a reasonable return on them. How shall I sell them? They are impossible to send in the post. I don’t want dozens of buyers trekking to our house. We are going to a local art shop in West Byfleet to get some advice.

23rd October, 2013

Lovely, warm and dry sunny day where the temperature reached 20C/68F and the autumn trees glowed with colour. A morning of minor jobs.

  • Collected a new pressure cooker from Argos.
  • Wrote to Margaret.
  • Investigated Campervan sites near Woking for Brian to try.
  • Paid money into the Bank.
  • Read the paper.

Watched Primeminister’s Question Time as Ed Miliband took Cameron’s Energy ‘policy’ apart and left him spluttering. The Tories now – in the face of their Coalition partners – pledge to get rid of Green Taxes. It’s all coming apart at the seams.

Went for a lovely swim in a deserted pool and came home about 4.00 pm to cook our one meal of the day – Pork chops with grilled onions and garlic mushrooms. We are on Day 3 of the alcohol ban and it is not a problem.

24th October, 2013

A beautiful, sunny day and how do I spend it? Tidying out the garage. I must be mad!

The day turned into one of real disappointment. I have been really looking forward to moving to superfast, fibre-optic broadband from BT. It should be installed next week. Having read through the paperwork, however, I find that I can only access it via Ethernet to the main socket which is used by Sky TV in the corner of the lounge. I have two, unusable (for fibre-optic) phone sockets in the Study upstairs. I’ve had to phone to cancel the installation. To their credit, both companies made the process of cancelling and reinstating my broadband connection so easy. It’s a disappointment but that’s life!

25th October, 2013

A beautiful, Autumnal morning in which the temperature reached 21C/69F. We are off to a new Dentist in Chobham. Pauline is told she needs two fillings and a veneer whch will cost about £600.00. I need just to clean my teeth better. What a cheek! I had had to pay £28.00 to be told that.

Yesterday I searched the internet for pheasants sold in Surrey. I picked a farm shop called Garsons in Esher. It’s only about fifteen minutes drive away. It is also a Garden Centre. I phoned them and they said they would put half a dozen birds aside for me. Today we drove there and found a foodies’ wonderland. This was the view outside this morning:


This is what we bought.

gc2 gc3

Large pheasant cost £4.49 which is a very reasonable price. They were sourced in Hampshire by Bevan’s Butchers which had an outlet inside.

26th October, 2013

A disappointingly dull day and we are waiting for the storms to come. Of course, Nature provides strong winds at this time to encourage the trees to strip but this is forecast to be the worst storm for 25 or so years. As we live totally surrounded by tall trees, it will be an interesting Sunday night. If you see leaves on trees, get out and look now. They will be gone by Tuesday.


Newspapers and football have become the order of Saturdays. When you’re retired, it is far wiser to avoid shopping with the Great Unwashed at the weekend. Last night, Pauline cooked braised pheasant with cauliflower and sprouts. It was great to have those lovely, strong gamey flavours. Today, it is my turn and I’m doing Moules Marinières again because I’m addicted to it and it really sits well with my diet as long as I leave out the cream.


Week 252

13th October, 2013

It rained all night and looks like raining all day. There is something wonderful about rain – especially when you haven’t experienced it for six months.

No football this weekend after the England win on Friday so the Sunday papers are more prominent. Unfortunately, it is a poor weekend for news. European scroungers are high on the agenda. Those coming from Europe are, apparently, costing the NHS £1.5 billion per year and the Tories are doing a deal with the Germans to put a stop to it. When you see what we are entitled to in Greece, you realise that reciprocity is not how it sounds. The Sunday Independent is suggesting that a National Health Service free at the point of use will soon be ‘usustainable’ for UK citizens anyway so the matter will cease to be a talking point while The Sunday Times reports that

THE top medical official responsible for running the NHS in London has admitted that the service is at times unsafe for patients because doctors and nurses are spread too thinly.

It is all jolly stuff but has to have a kernel of truth and that is worrying.

14th October, 2013

It is a grey and overcast day. Our neighbour, Colonel Wellington, is coming round for coffee after just returning from a sailing holiday in the Ionian islands. Then, we must go swimming. I need some activity after a wet and lazy weekend.

Lovely to hear the BBC trying to interview members of Golden Dawn in Athens. Now the (jack)boot is on the other foot. They are the hunted ones running away. They literally ran inside their office and locked the door leaving John Humphreys on the pavement. Classic!

I’ve spent the afternoon preparing to switch from a Sky TV/Telephone/Broadband package to just TV from Sky and the phone/Broadband from BT. The big draw is illustrated by available performance. Currently, I get a download of 5Mbs and upload of just 0.7Mbs. Contrast that with BT’s fibre optic offering of download – 76Mbs and upload- 17Mbs. In addition, I get BT Sport channels for free. Admittedly, it will cost me £20.00 or so a month more but who’s counting?

15th October, 2013

Today would have been Dad’s 98th birthday. Unfortunately, he has missed half of those years by dying at the incredibly early age of 49 when I was just 14. It is impossible to know how our relationship would have developed in advancing age or whether I would have felt compelled to have followed him into the family business but we will never know. I don’t know when this photo of him was taken exactly but it can’t be too long before he died. He was at a reception for architects at The Bull’s Head.


I will be visiting his grave in Repton on Saturday morning. We set off for Yorkshire at 5.30 am tomorrow.

A weak sun is out this morning, shining through an increasingly autumnal looking line of trees. The temperature is decidedly cool at 9C/48F. We particularly begin to feel its divergence from Greek weather where Athens is 25C/77F and Skiathos is 22C/70F. The difference is that Skiathan Man can laze around outside while I have to do it indoors.

16th October, 2013

Set off from Surrey at 5.30 am and a temperature of only 6C/43F with forecasts of thick fog and heavy rain. We experienced neither. Nor did we see much traffic over the two and a half hour’s journey. We stopped off in Leeds to visit June, Pauline’s brother’s wife and then to call in at IKEA. By 1.00 pm we had checked in to the Holiday Inn, Brighouse and were in the pool having a good, long swim.

hib1 hib2

By mid-afternoon, it was pouring with rain so we relaxed, booked Dinner in the restaurant and settled down to relax. Tomorrow will be a very busy day.

17th October, 2013

What a lovely day we had. Up early and off to Honda to have our car serviced and to chat to our friend, Chris Woods.


In mid-morning, we drove to Bolton to visit Ruth & Kevan. What a lovely girl she is! Ruth not Kevan. Ruth fed us smoked salmon salad which is exactly my sort of thing. We stayed for an hour and a half – the time just flew past. Even so, it was strange to leave saying, See you next year. but that is exactly what life is like now for us.

We drove back to Huddersfield to visit our former neighbour, Jean but, unfortunately, she wasn’t in. We left a card and might return tomorrow. When we got back to the hotel, we were too tired to swim so settled down to a cup of tea and a snooze before changing to go out to Dinner with old friends. We dined at Bradleys restaurant with our friends, Margaret and her husband & Little Viv.


The meal was wonderful. I had Rosemary Marinated Pigeon Breast as a starter followed by a main course of Roast Partridge with lovely vegetables. To be honest, the company was so engaging that I ate the meal without fully appreciating it but it is a delightful restaurant.


We spent about three hours over the meal and parted by agreeing to meet again in March instead of waiting twelve months.

18th October, 2013

Woke up early – 6.00 am – to a grey morning. We will not be having breakfast for a second day. We are off across the Pennines to Oldham and a busy set of visits.

What a day! We drove through thick fog and heavily damp air across the moors from Huddersfield to Oldham where we arrived at 9.00 am. We drove straight to the site of our old school which now looks like this:


In some respects, this gives us final closure. We will never return here because there is no here to return to.

By 9.30 am we were in the new Tesco Megastore to buy two dozen Holland’s meat pies for Colin. He has been craving them and can’t source them in Surrey at all.


Next we drove to Greenwoods at the bottom of Vulcan Street to but two dozen Oven Bottom Muffins.


Guess who they were for. Yes, for Colin. You can take the man out of Oldham but you can’t take Oldham out of the man.

On to Shaw to visit my friend, Brian – ex-drugs squad, ex-murder squad, ex-school attendance enforcer. He has down sized since retiring and sold his cottage in France. We spent a lovely hour or so chatting and reminiscing and then it was time to move on again.

This time we moved on to the Crematorium to remember Pauline’s Mum on the third anniversary of her death.


1914 – 2010

On again to Joyce & Harry to collect their homework. They were asked to make notes about Pauline’s family history. They had done just that and we have lots of leads to follow up.

19th October, 2013

Up early and settled our hotel bill. After complaining to the Desk Manager about being charged £30.00 for three days internet access after it being free in all our hotels across Europe, it was removed from our bill. Restores one’s faith in something. We drove on to Hinchcliffe’s Farm Shop in Netherton for meat and game.


Next we headed to Repton, Derbyshire in the heart of the where I was born and where my parents are buried. I know my sister, Ruth visited recently and put some potted plants on their grave. We arrived to a scene that Keats described as:

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

I aarived to find grave robbers had got there first and all that was left was a bare begonia rootball minus the pot.


If someone was so desperate, I hope they found happiness in it. I said a brief ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ to Mum and Dad and we set off for Surrey.

They journey was wonderful although I can’t get the fact that I am leaving Mum behind out of my head. The traffic was so light that we were ‘home’ in no time.


Week 251

6th October, 2013

Glorious morning. Sitting outside in our courtyard in the sunshine with the temperature hitting 80F/27C. The gardeners mowed the lawns on Friday and they still smelled sweet and fresh. No sign of the squirrels yet but Autumn is only creeping in slowly.

outside1 outside2

7th October, 2013

Another lovely day. One has to remind oneself that it is October. The temperature reached 25C/77F – short sleeved shirt weather. The big job of the ealy morning was visiting Phyllis & Colin and discussing the upcoming holiday requirements. Then I went on-line and booked it for the. A week in Tenerife for them to walk in the sunshine.

Later, we went to the Health Club for an hour to swim. Tomorrow it will be an hour in the gym. Our meal this evening was cooked by me – Moules marinières but without the cream. After six months without shell fish in Greece, this was wonderful.


8th October, 2013

We are told that colder weather is on the way so we are really enjoying this delightfully warm early October. Today has been sunny and 25C/77F. We printed out Phyllis & Colin’s travel documents which we booked on-line for them yesterday and delivered them to their house with an itinerary. Later, we spent an hour in the Health Club. No swimming today. We went in one of the exercise rooms. Pauline used the Jogger while I used a rowing machine then we sat together and pedalled like mad on bikes. I was a little distraught to calculate that, after 45 mins exertion, I had only burned 165 caloriesand I was absolutely shattered. Pauline was worried because my pulse hit 194 while on workout.

I have spent a lovely evening watching a production of Verdi’s Nabucco from the Arena di Verona on Sky Arts channel. What a delight!


9th October, 2013

Busy morning in Woking. Pauline had a hair appointment at Headmasters while I was going in to the EE (TMobile/Orange) shop to renew our contracts and upgrade our mobiles. I have two, monthly mobile contracts and had identified new, Samsung smart phones to upgrade to. I had decided that I didn’t use my phone enough to justify almost £75.00 per month to move them both on to a 4G network but, when I arrived at the shop, a notice offered a discounted, ‘sim-only’ contract for £21.00 per month per phone. It gives unlimited calls, unlimited texts and 1Gb of internet data per month. I couldn’t resist it. This will disappoint Skiathan Man who I had promised one of the mobiles to and will now have to wait at least 12 months for. I just couldn’t turn down such a 4G offering.

10th October, 2013

Today was dominated by preparing for an evening meeting of our Apartment Development’s Management Company meeting. We had lots of paperwork and particularly accounts to wade through. The meeting is held in a Victorian school building which takes me back to the Secondary School building where I was Headteacher -huge, floor to ceiling arched windows, all the pipework exposed as it snakes round the inside of the rooms, the old gas lamp pipes still showing after having been converted to electricity, parquet flooring, etc.. Oh, those were the days!

11th October, 2013

Early morning trip  to the Surgery for a blood test prior to my Annual Diabetic Review in a couple of weeks. We then went off to find a new dentist because we are rather dissatisfied with our current one. It is nigh on impossible to find an NHS Dentist around here and, because we are only in the country for six months each year, we have decided not to take out a payment plan. We will just pay for treatment as we need it. Unfortunately, that will be £1000.00 for two, new veneers for Pauline immediately. She went in to check out a new surgery she had found on the internet but it is so difficult to tell from the waiting room appearance what sort of clinical treatment one can expect. We haven’t chosen yet.

Angus Beef Steak for Dinner tonight before suffering another England football match.


12th October, 2013

It is, unbelievably, two weeks since we got back to Surrey and three since we left our island home. We have so much to fit in before Christmas. We’re in Yorkshire/Lancashire next week to visit friends and family. We have at least one and, hopefully, two visits to France plus a trip to Bologna in Italy to do yet. I’m looking forward to all of them. Life could be worse!