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!


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