Week 259

1st December, 2013

Last month of the year. We wish all our readers a happy December.


We have always travelled to Sifnos in the best cabin available on the 24hr ferries down the Adriatic from Ancona – Patras – Ancona. It is called a LUX cabin and is quite pleasant. Over the past ten years or so, this is how the prices have fluctuated for two people in a Luxury cabin plus car:

2000 Blue Star £691.83
2001 Minoan £488.80
2003 Anek £785.00
2004 Anek £696.00
2005 Superfast £782.00
2006 Superfast £662.00
2007 Superfast £731.00
2008 Superfast £558.00
2009 Superfast £691.00
2010 Anek £357.48
2011 Anek £493.29
2012 Superfast £967.59
2013 Superfast £713.96
2014 Superfast £810.00

The only caveat to this is that we ceased to travel at peak times from 2010. What the prices illustrate is the ferry companies uncertainty about the economy and what it will bear. As you can see, they believe that 2014 will be a stronger year. We suspend judgement. What we are thinking of doing is flying to Athens and on to Sifnos in the first couple of weeks of December to see our house and our friends.

2nd December, 2013

Pleasant, comparatively mild although rather dull morning sky. In our usual role reversal, Pauline is painting skirting boards while I am reading the paper, writing emails and blogging. Actually, I’m also cooking anti-pasti. Yesterday I roasted about fifteen bulbs of garlic. Today I’ve squeezed the soft, garlic paste into a bowl and mixed it with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. I’ve lined a baking tray with large, halved tomatoes then spread the garlic mixture over the top and roasted them for an hour. We will eat them cold with salad or topped with parmesan cheese and grilled to accompany roast loin of cod. Who said dieting can’t be fun?


3rd December, 2013

Went round early this morning to help Phyllis with her laptop but I fear it is too late. The machine is old and beyond real redemption. She will need a new one. I will help her choose after Christmas. Until then, she will make do with her iPad. She doesn’t use her laptop much anyway so a cheap replacement will do.

I remember the time when laptops cost twice as much as desktops. Not anymore! PCWorld have an excellent Toshiba for just £259.00. It’s ridiculous.


Gave the gym a miss today. Pauline is painting and I am writing. Thank goodness we don’t have the terrible Greek storms. I found this photo of seas around Skopelos on a blog this morning. I doubt ferry connections are too punctual today.


4th December, 2013

Remarkably mild and pleasant here this morning. We have not needed the heating at all this week.

After sending us the cost of our annual heating bill unsolicited, another small sum of money appeared in the Bank Account courtesy of the Department for Work & Pensions – a £10.00 Christmas Bonus. It really is going a bit far. However, our generation is beginning to realise just how lucky we are and have been. Tomorrow, the Chancellor is touted as being about to raise the State Pension Age to 69/70 years of age for the next cohorts. The same will happen with inflation-proofed pensions like those of teachers and civil servants.

With most Christmas Cards written, enveloped, addressed, stamped and ready to post, a few of the special or unusual ones are still to wrap up. This one started in 1994 but the process began ten years before that. The card below is one of a pair that we have been cross shuttling between friends in Edinburgh and ourselves. Each posting contains a written note or a printed newsletter and it is delightful and/or frightening to review the years inside. Nearly thirty years are enclosed within the two cards. Ours will go next week and I look forward to reading through history in the card coming to us this year.


5th December, 2013

This morning I had to be at the Community Hospital by 6.45 am to beat the commuter rush. I was there at 6.30 am and freezing it was too. Almost our first sign of frost this year. The large fig tree on our street has lost all its leaves over night. I had my INR tested but the result will arrive in the post on Saturday.

Today, Pauline and her sister are buying up Marks & Spencer. I don’t care where she buys her clothes as long as it’s not from Boden! I expect her to have better taste than that.

I’m writing a Christmas letter to Caroline – a lady who worked for me for quite a few years but has been retired for at least ten. She is single and an inveterate traveller. South America, North America, Africa, Europe. There are few continents that she hasn’t visited in the past decade and everywhere she stays, she sends me a postcard. I have received scores of them. It is a delight to get them. In addition to cards, Caroline scrutinizes the local media for ex-pupil highs and lows. Those appearing in court cases and those celebrating achievements. A few months ago, it was news of a couple of murderers. This month, it is an ex-pupil who left in the 1980s and is becoming know as a writer of stage, radio and television plays.

6th December, 2013

Absolutely glorious morning with blue skies and bright sunshine. The overnight news of gales and floods on the coastline have not been replicated here. These are shots from Norfolk and Tyneside:

 storms1 storms2 

The window cleaners are doing their job, Pauline is painting the front door and I’m writing. Soon we will go and spend a couple of hours at the Health Club in the Gym and then in the Pool and Jacuzzi.

Had to take Pauline’s laptop in for repair yesterday. I think the fan has stopped working because it was reporting an ‘overheat’ problem. It will cost us £50.00 but it is an excellent laptop so well worth it.

Pheasant for Dinner tonight and I’m cooking.

Actually, it turned out wonderfully. I braised the pheasant in turkey stock with a couple of onions, a bulb of garlic,  a couple of carrots and a punnet of button mushrooms. It was moist and succulent. I served it with Brussel Sprouts. Pauline will make a soup out of the sauce and vegetables that remain.

7th December, 2013

We have high pressure across the south of England and the weather in Surrey is very settled. Really quite mild for December.

My INR result arrived this morning. It coincided with a number of dizzy spells over the past couple of weeks. They can be quite scary particularly if I’m out in the world. We had thought that maybe I was losing weight a bit too quickly but I don’t think it’s that. My blood pressure is low and, I suspect, that is the main cause. Many things affect warfarin. Alcohol increases the blood thinning effect whilst the vitamin K in green vegetables decreases it. To aid my diet, I have cut out alcohol and increased intake of green vegetables. As a result, my INR is 1.9. The therapeutic range is 2.0 – 3.0. Not far off but no cigar. Looks like I’ll have to go on a bender to get my reading up a bit. Could help me watch the cricket as well.

Serious computer glitches at the country’s main air traffic control centre left thousands of passengers stranded today after hundreds of flights were grounded at airports following a technical fault. Thank goodness we didn’t choose this weekend to fly.


At least they won’t be able to watch the cricket highlights!


Week 258

24th November, 2013

Apparently, a calendar year consists of 52.1775 weeks. On that basis, five years is 260.8875 weeks. As a result, the Blog will start its sixth year on Sunday, December 15th. I’m sure all readers will want to put out the flags – or something. I suggest something like this could be flown for the week:


Still, you’ve got a couple of weeks to prepare.

25th November, 2013

Lovely, sunny morning through the autumn leaves of the oaks around the property. Pauline is refreshing the kitchen by re-painting the walls. It will take about an hour. Then, she will move on to the hall and stairs where furniture moving in created a few scrapes and re-settlement has left a few cracks. This sort of thing is an absolute joy for Pauline who thrives on it. She intends it to look perfect if and when we put it on the market. Someone else who lives in the Development dropped in for coffee on Sunday and confirmed our recent property valuation which had seemed so optimistic to us. A number of tenants had commissioned valuations and were thinking of cashing in on huge increases.

My job this morning is to find a new home for various ISAs which mature over the next few months – We have a number of 2-year fixes at 3.7% with Halifax coming towards conclusion in January and February and 4% ISAs with Santander maturing in April. These are rates one can only dream of today. The longest I’m prepared to fix for is two years and I don’t even want to do that. The best rate for a two year fix currently is 2.0%. With CPI currently running at 2.2% and RPI at 2.6%, they will lose us money. We also use an instant access, on-line savings account which our own bank, NatWest offers a generous 0.5% on. We use a Post Office account which at least offers 1.5% and we will still be losing money.

26th November, 2013

This is a week of high pressure bring settled weather with lots of clear, blue skies, strong, low sun and chilly nights and mornings. We are in the last days of November but the Autumn trees are still glorious and very slow to relinquish their leaves.

We went to shop in a newly extended Sainsburys in Knaphill. It is bigger than a number of football pitches put together and really could do with its own taxi service to get around the shelves. Certainly, I lost a few pounds in weight shopping there.


Later, we went on to the gym to lose a few more pounds. I’m aiming for a look-alike competition with Jane B.G..

27th November, 2013

I have spent the day working as an IT technician for Phyllis. Her ancient laptop has been in need of overhaul for some time. Hard drive clean-up, software tighten-up, virus protection, internet speed-up. Four hours later, things don’t look too bad and she is back on track. Part of the problem is that she is still on Vista .


The work took so long, we forwent swimming which we had intended to do. The evening ended well with United’s 0-5 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen.

28th November, 2013

It is remarkably mild for the dog days of November. This morning I have been instructed to prepare and print address labels for all our Christmas cards – about 60 in all. The Greek ones will be posted soon. Pauline is touching up the paintwork in the hall, stairs and landing. We are going to squeeze in an hour at the gym before the Burglar Alarm man returns to complete the renewal of our system.

29th November, 2013

At 10.30 am, the temperature here was 11C/5F which was exactly the same as Skiathan Man was reporting. I was driving Pauline to the dentist for a replacement (£700.00) front tooth veneer. She has needed since we were in Greece and, at last, it is ready. She is going off to London tomorrow with her sister Christmas shopping and needs to look her best.

So far this year we haven’t even seen any frost although the North has even seen a bit of snow. This picture appeared in the papers this morning:


It accompanied reports of a terrible three month winter on the way. This is the headline in the Daily Express:

100 DAYS OF HEAVY SNOW: Britain now facing worst winter in 60 YEARS 

and they accompany their article with a back copy of the newspaper from winter 1947 which is always cited as the worst winter of ‘modern times’ although, presumably, not as bad as the last Ice Age. Even so, it’s bound to all be blamed on Global Warming.


These forecasts are accompanied by those of airports closing for weeks on end and the lights going out because of demands made on the National Grid. And it all begins next week! Amusingly, we received our Winter Fuel Payment from the Government. The £200.00/€240.00 is just slightly more than the whole of our heating and hot water bill came to last year.

30th November, 2013

The last day of November and my wife has left me. Well, for a day. She has gone to London to do clothes shopping with her sister. They have booked a table at a lovely restaurant – The Opera Tavern which is just opposite the Drury Lane theatre and near Covent Garden. She will be able top eat with gay abandon without worrying about my diet. It will do her good.


It’s funny but I feel quite lost. Pauline and I are rarely more than a room away even when we were at work. We have only spent one night apart since 1978 and that was when she was in hospital. I’ve got to make my own coffee.

Week 257

17th November, 2013

A day in huddled round the iPad and the PC. After reading the newspapers, I am researching new-build properties in Kent and Sussex. Looking back across the Blog, this time four years ago we were doing the same thing. How far we feel we have travelled in that time. We are going to do another research trip in the next couple of weeks. It will either be West Sussex or South Kent. We will have to keep our eye on the weather because snow is forecast – in Surrey?

18th November, 2013

New clothes seem to be delivered every day at the moment. Because of my changing figure, my clothes are looking increasingly baggy. Pauline is filling bin liners with my old clothes and preparing to take them to the charity shop in Byfleet.


Who would want them after I’ve done with them goodness only knows but they will soon be getting nearly-new garments as I move on again. It’s an expensive business losing weight.

Although my blood pressure is now excellent, my pulse rate is still too high. My resting rate can be over 100 and, when I’m exercising, it can be double that. Official advice is that exercising pulse rate should be no more than 220 minus one’s age so I should be 220 – 62 = 158. If I do thirty minutes on a jogging machine, my heart rate is 190 – 200 in the first ten minutes but then falls to around 110 after the half way stage. That is exactly what happened today. My aim is to get that down – and still be alive.

19th November, 2013

I love these autumn days – clear blue sky, strong, low sun, crisp temperatures – and today was no disappointment. The trees are still rioting with colour.


Had a really enjoyable session at the gym today and then came back for homemade asparagus & pea soup. Wonderful! Let’s hope I am as happy after the England v Germany match tonight.

20th November, 2013

Grey, cold – 3C/37F – and raining this morning. It feels dark and uninviting. Not the sort of day one would choose to go out to work – oh, I’m not! We have a team of men round this morning to service the guttering and downpipes. Tomorrow we have ADT Alarms upgrading our house alarm system. This morning I used my last ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) coffee pod. It is a vital tool when I’m hungry. Fortunately, my new order arrived ten minutes ago. A huge box of 300 pods direct from Italy.


After a poor display by England against Germany last night, I am hoping for better things from the England cricket team at the start of the Ashes Test series in Australia tonight. It has been lovely to watch a couple of hours review this afternoon of last summer’s Ashes win which I could only listen to on the radio while in Greece.

21st November, 2013

Couldn’t face staying up to watch the cricket last night although I wonder if Ruth did. Watched the highlights this morning and it was lovely to see Stuart Broad rubbing the Aussies faces in it.


Let’s hope he can keep it up.

I wasn’t too brilliant this morning so we have given the gym a miss today We have quite a few things to do anyway. As senior citizens we are absolutely wonderfully treated by our NHS. Our doctors, the Practice, the local Community Hospital, the District Hospital as well as free ‘flu’ jabs, free prescriptions – we just couldn’t ask for more. We just wish the dental practices were on the same footing. However, (and if you’re eating, look away now.) we have just been contacted by the National Bowel Screening Service to submit tests just two years after we first did it. I think this is a fabulous service – particularly as Mum suffered from bowel cancer – and, however squeamish I am, I shall do it. Apparently, they will continue to offer this service to us every two years until we no longer have or need bowels. And it’s all free! This is what you get in the post


along with a pack of cardboard spatulas. The rest I will leave to your imagination. After six samples over three days, the card is posted off to the University of Surrey in Guildford. We could pop it over in the car.

22nd November, 2013

Don’t even talk about the cricket! Took Pauline for a doctor’s appointment at Goldsworth Park and then off to Tesco. It was 11.00 am by the time we drove in to the car park. It was immediately obvious that the park and the store were packed. With nowhere to park in this megastore at mid-morning on a Friday, we tried to drive straight out but found ourselves stuck in a jam for 30 minutes just to get out of the car park. Christmas certainly seems to have come early here this year!


We went for a session in the gym and then spent the afternoon catching up on correspondence.

23rd November, 2013

Strong, low, winter sun this morning although fairly cold at 5C/41F. Went at 8.00 am to do the Tesco shop. Quiet and pleasant. Home by 9.15 am. Our car insurance renewal had arrived. Because we are abroad so long, we have a non-typical policy. It has to include European driving and breakdown for 180 days. LV have offered it for Pauline & I for £440.00 a year. It’s not cheap but neither is it exorbitant. I was listening to the young lads at the Health Club the other day vying for who could get Third Party insurance for their mini for under £2000.00. I was thinking of offering to chauffeur them for that.

Week 256

 10th November, 2013

It is now seven weeks since we left our Greek home and six since we arrived back in Surrey. The time has flown by. We have spent time in Yorkshire, had a trip to East Sussex and, this week, we are off on a shopping trip to France followed by another drive to Tonbridge on the River Medway in Kent. Pauline has to see a dental technician who will be making a veneer for one of her front teeth and the colour match is crucial.

Beautiful sunny, blue sky day today. We should have gone out but it has been a stay at home with the Sunday Papers and no less than three football matches day which culminated in United beating Arsenal. During the match which was won by a van Persie goal, Rooney ran eleven kilometres.


Pauline cooked pheasant with asparagus for our evening meal. It was glorious!

11th November, 2013

It is a warmer day reaching 12C/54F but grey and a bit wet. A phone call this morning told us that there are people interested in viewing our apartment even though it is not yet on the market. In fact, we are not going to be rushed in to it at all. Pauline wants to look at properties in West Sussex next. We don’t want to worry Cathy yet but we are going to look around Horsham just north of Worthing next. It is an historic, West Sussex market town with beautiful surrounding countryside.

horsham horsham3 horsham2

Had an excellent work-out in the gym today. Half an hour on a jogging machine, ten minutes on a rowing machine and ten on a cycle. I was really aware of my body after that lot. Can’t do any tomorrow because we are off to Boulogne to the fish market, to Philippe Olivier cheese shop and to Auchan.

12th November, 2013

Up early and out into the misty, wet morning. An hour later, we were crossing the channel through the tunnel. A 25 mins journey costing £11.50 each way for the car an both of us. Leaving Calais behind today, we drove straight to Boulogne and the docks where fishermen set up fish sales to sell that morning’s catch.


Unfortunately, the catch wasn’t too exciting today and we decided not to buy. A trip round Boulogne shows how little is left of the tourist infrastructure now the ferries no longer call here. There are still so lovely, little ‘eateries’ but a man on a diet has to have discipline in such a situation. By the way, this is the first time in the last forty years that I’ve found myself in France and bought no wine at all. What would I do with it? We went on to Auchan and bought lots of food applicable to our current eating pattern – salad, vegetables, duck breasts, quails, pork joints, cooked meats and some cheese.

We were back in Surrey for 4.30 pm as a weak sun was going down in these dark days of winter. The forecast suggests we might get our first frost of the winter tonight.

13th November, 2013

Lovely blue sky and strong sun this morning. We needed this weather for our trip yesterday. Had my annual diabetic review this morning and passed with flying colours. All my readings are excellent – low cholesterol, low blood pressure, good blood sugar, etc. – and my medication is being greatly reduced. Much of this is due to weight loss and being alcohol free for an extended period. We both had ‘flu jabs. Mine is free. Pauline has to pay for hers.

To celebrate, we went to the Health Club and did thirty minutes on the treadmill. We went home for a meal of endive, crevettes  and French garlic saucisson washed down with sparkling water. There’s nothing quite like tearing the head of a shellfish and downing it in one when you’re sober!


14th November, 2013

A comparatively mild day – 14C/57F – with weak winter sun. Pauline is experiencing a dental marathon today. I delivered her to the Dentist at 10.00 am for a visit to the hygienist to have her teeth professionally cleaned. She will then be seen by the Dentist for work which will take two hours. She will have two fillings and then have a sub-standard front tooth veneer removed. I then have to drive her down towards the south coast to Tonbridge to visit the Dental Technician who will make the new veneer. The intention is to help him get the best possible colour match. This trip will be about an hour each way with a thirty minute appointment.

We should get home for around 4.00 pm. We’ll have time for something to eat and then, later this evening, we are off to Gatwick to meet P&C arriving back from Tenerife. Quite a day with about four hours driving.


15th November, 2013

In my younger days I would work on University material until four or five in the morning, catch an hour’s sleep, shower and walk to school to teach a full day without any real difficulty. As I’ve got older, this has become completely out of the question. Even late nights set me back the next day. So it is this morning. Home from Gatwick just after midnight, we weren’t in bed until 1.00 am. This morning I feel like death warmed up.

It is the most glorious, sunny day with a clear blue, Mediterranean sky although it isn’t warm at 10C/50F. We went out at 9.30 am to do the weekly shop at Tesco. To be honest, we didn’t need much after our trip to France during the week but we have to keep Tesco afloat. There was a Save the Children Christmas Card stall at the Tesco/M&S entrance and, although we both hate children, the cards looked quite nice so we bought our requirement. We only need 70 these days now we are not in work. I’m obsessed with robins because of the feisty, aggressive nature. It drives Pauline mad but we’ve majored on that again. Look away now if you don’t want to see your Christmas card six weeks early.

robin1  robin2

There is no rush to write them but I’m beginning to think out my Christmas Newsletter which will accompany many. We will have to be posting to Greece in a couple of weeks.

Usually, this is a night to leave the television turned off – the annual Children in Need nonsense. Fortunately, this year there is an England match on so there is something equally dire to watch.

16th November, 2013

Another glorious, autumnal day with squirrels playing chase around the base of the trees outside our front door and huge, black crows cawing at the tops of the wonderful oaks.



Week 255

3rd November, 2013

Glorious day! Sunny, bright blue skies and warm. Unfortunately, the papers are full of doom about freezing temperatures to come soon in November. This Global Warming. It’s so complicated isn’t it.

We don’t hear from the island for a month and then, suddenly, three different friends phone us all in a weekend. Yesterday it was our special friend asking how we were and then, this morning two more good friends were moved to contact us. It must be something in the water – or the sky. One this morning was telling us a funny story about an islander who has his boat moored in Kamares harbour – like so many others – and all the birds of Sifnos seem to be targeting this one boat to dump on. So much so that he has installed bird scaring equipment on the boat but all it is doing is amusing residents and further attracting the birds. Spooky! Bird Dumping Comes from Within. Could be a title for a book.

4th November, 2013

As everyone else trudged to the Station to go up to the City to WORK on this wonderfully sunny morning, Pauline and I undertook our one commitment of the day – 8.50 am Routine mammogram at Woking Walk-in Hospital. By 9.00 am, we have the rest of the day FREE.

Today, I am struggling to get to grips with Windows 8 after twenty years of growing up and through Windows 1 – 7 plus Vista. It’s rather fun to be really challenged.


I then have to research new-build property on the South Coast in case we do decide to market our apartment. I am looking at four bedroomed, detached houses. Back to the future!

5th November, 2013

A bit chilly and damp today. Hasn’t risen above 13C/55F today but tomorrow should be warmer. The only trouble with colder weather is that it increases the appetite. Not good when one is on a diet although my weight is still going down. I’ve lost a stone and a half since leaving Greece.

Pauline is in ‘Decorating Mode’! If we are going to sell our Apartment and that is not decided yet, she will want it to look perrrffect, Not that it needs it but, if we ever market a property, she has STANDARDS! Off to Homebase for some paint, rollers and brushes.

We had to be back for a burglar alarm adviser. We were unhappy with our current company, Custom Security Alarms, who just didn’t provide a good service for £250.00 per year. We are swapping to ADT , a much bigger company with a better reputation.

6th November, 2013

A spectacularly uneventful and grey day. I spent it researching new build properties on the Sussex coast. They are still less than an hour from central London but prices are so much cheaper. We are retreating to a four bedroomed detached. We have established that we are just not ready for apartment living.

7th November, 2013

An early start on a mild, bright and dry day. By 6.45 am, I was at Woking Community Hospital to have my INR tested for the first time for three months. Last time, it was on Sifnos. It takes minutes and then we return for tea and (for Pauline) toast. At 9.00 am, we are picking up Phyllis & Colin and setting off for Gatwick Airport. They are spending ten days in Tenerife. We were supposed to be flying to Bologna for a long weekend but we have changed our minds and are now going to look at property areas on the South Coast.

Stories from Greece this morning are all about the Government’s ejection of occupying workers at the ERT building in Athens.


8th November, 2013

Pauline used to make all our bread every week. We never bought any. In fact, it was hard to buy edible, shop-bought bread. Since January 1st, however, I haven’t been eating carbohydrates so my wife’s lovely bread has been redundant. Skiathan Man is proudly showcasing his homemade Tomato and Herb bread while I am in the gym trying to dispose of all traces of its pernicious effects.

We have decided that the time is right to switch away from swimming and to do some hard work in the gym. The last couple of sessions have been half an hour of intensive gym work. We are trying to get it up to an hour by Christmas.

9th November, 2013

Nice, bright but cold morning. We are off to the south coast – East Sussex – to look at new-build properties. We have a number to look at but this one has particularly attracted Pauline.


It will take us about an hour to drive which is fine on a lovely day. A walk by the seaside and a look at a few houses – what could be nicer?

It poured with rain the whole way. We got stuck in a traffic jam for three quarters of an hour but we did see some interesting places. We found a house we liked in Hailsham which is about ten miles outside Eastbourne.


It’s a bit ridiculous after having downsized to two bedrooms to return to five but it felt so much more relaxing. It is also ridiculous that a new property with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study, two sitting rooms and a large dining room in Sussex should cost less than a two bedroomed apartment in Surrey. It is all to do with accessibility to central London.

We ended up in Bexhill on Sea where the beach was packed with holiday makers.


We travelled back through Hastings (which looked very seedy and down-at-heel.) and Battle, Tunbridge Wells (where we saw a few ‘disgusted’.), Sevenoaks, Leatherhead (where the Great Train Robbers met fifty years ago.) and then back to Byfleet. The temperature didn’t rise above 8C/46F all day.