Week 263

29th December, 2013

A surprisingly sharp frost this morning followed by a wonderfully sunny day. Our next door neighbour came round with a bunch of flowers. They are lovely. I really love cut flowers in the house. The General is very generous and they brighten up the table.


We are having a fairly quiet day in today. Pauline is making fresh cream ice cream for our anniversary meal tomorrow. I am hard at work with The Sunday Times and a couple of football matches.

At this time 35 years ago, we were both exhausted having done everything we could to prepare for our wedding. We lived on the edge of the Pennines – on the Yorkshire side – and it had begun to snow heavily. To make matters worse, the Council workers and particularly the Gritting Team, had gone on strike. Paulines’s family would be trying to get to us across the treacherous Pennines from Lancashire and my family were arriving from Derbyshire and all other points around the country.

30th December, 2013

At this time (9.30 am) on this day in 1978 I was nervous. I was getting married at 11.30 am but it wasn’t that. Pauline’s family who only lived 15 miles away but over the Pennines had just phoned to say they were struggling to get to us. I hadn’t heard from members of mine at all who were driving from points all over the country.

wedding1  wedding2

You have to remember that fashions were different in 1978! Suffice it to say, we had an absolutely magical day. Everybody DID manage to arrive and the day was a joy but not as wonderful as the ensuing 35 years. It is hard to believe, now, that it was so long ago.

31st December, 2013

Having spent the past twelve months denying myself carbohydrates, I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary by cooking Risotto for Dinner which we ate with a bottle of Champagne. Pauline’s contribution was chocolate soufflé with melting middle and delicious, homemade, double cream ice cream. Anyway, we’re back on the waggon on Wednesday.

Today we’ve done an hour at the gym which was busy with workers on holiday. Disgraceful! They should all be back at work by now.

This evening’s meal will be barbecued spare ribs with a really good bottle of red wine and then Champagne at midnight. When (if) we wake up in 2014, the discipline starts again for another twelve months. Pauline’s already got the clothes catalogues out – but no Boden!

1st January, 2014


We wish you all a wonderful New Year. Of course, we remember welcoming in 1960 and the ‘white hot revolution of Technology; 1984 with excitement and trepidation of ‘Big Brother’s’ visit; 2000 and the ‘Millennium Bug’ that failed to materialise. What will 2014 bring? Let’s hope it brings our family and friends what they would wish for themselves and Skiathan Man more fish than he can eat. Maybe we will meet sometime soon. Happy New Year to Bart Simpson, to the Skopelos team , to those at Simi Dream and to Simon Baddeley at Democracy Street.

2nd January, 2014

Up at 6.00 am and down to the hospital by 6.40 am. Urgent blood test and home by 7.00 am.. The darkness at 7.00 am gave way to a beautifully sunny morning with bright, clear blue skies. After some ‘Office’ work, we went off to the gym for an hour or so. It was reasonably quiet although not all have gone back to work yet. Workers are just being too indulged by those soft employers these days.

Beginning of the new year is always software renewal time for me. My strongest I.T. advice to anyone on the internet is to purchase and install a good virus checker. I wouldn’t advise freeware for this. I use Norton 360 for my machines. It has dug me out of lots of problems.


It can be expensive. A standard price from Norton is around £59.99 for 12 months cover for three machines. Norton flag up the date for renewal constantly and it is easy to click and pay. Two minutes search on the net reveals the same product half price from Total Computing – £29.99. We use a desktop and two laptops so the cover is very economical.

3rd January, 2014

Up a bit later today after a long day yesterday but we were out at the supermarket for weekly shopping by 9.30 am. Television news was full of flooding, high tides and strong winds but there is no sign of any at the moment. Apparently, Cobham, which is less than nine miles away, is cut off by floods.

Now 12.30 pm and the skies have gone black and we have thunder & lightning and heavy rain. Neighbours are just in the middle of having a satellite dish erected on the roof. What fun!

Although I can hardly believe what I am writing and the old me would never have done so, our only meal today has been a fish salad with a glass of sparkling water and I’ve loved it. Cold cured salmon and smoked salmon dressed with olive oil and lemon on a bed of mixed leaves. All this fish I’m eating, I’ll turn into Skiathan Man soon! I also opened a pack of coffee I received for Christmas. It was a revelation.


I must say thank you to Mandy. I shall certainly buy some more of this.

4th January, 2014

An unpleasant day outside today – wet, cold and windy. Unfortunately, I have to take Pauline to the Nuffield Hospital in Runnymede to see a Specialist about a little cyst on the joint of her toe.

The newspapers are headlining runaway house prices across the UK over the past year. The area we left three years ago is still showing a negative figure – of minus 1.5% whereas our area is galloping away with +11.5%. All our lives in the North of England we have been watching this disparity grow. Now we are hitching a ride on it although we don’t know for how long.

When I had my blood test at the hospital on Monday, I came straight home and tested it myself with my new machine. The home test produced INR = 3.7. Today, my hospital result arrived by post. It said INR = 3.7. Although the result is outside my 2.0 – 3.0 range, it was reassuring to know that my machine and process was accurate. I have just got to stop eating green leaf vegetables because the vitamin K decreases my coagulant capacity. What does one eat to lose weight?

Week 262

22nd December, 2013

A beautiful, warm and sunny Spring day in the middle of December. Yesterday was mid-Winter and the Shortest Day or Winter Solstice. It produced tranquil, evening colours on the landscape.


Today starts the march towards the Summer. Once again, we are warmer than Athens.

Unfortunately, I’m celebrating Christmas with a stinking head cold. It is the first bug I have suffered from since I finished work four years ago when I would expect to get two or three of these each year as the pupils passed it round the institution.

23rd December, 2013

A bad night and the heavy head cold persists. We’ve had to cancel a trip to the Health Club. The day outside is extremely warm but has turned very wet and windy as we approach lunchtime. (What am I talking about? I don’t eat lunch.)

Pauline is cooking for Christmas – preparing two kinds of stuffing: sausage meat & chestnut and sage & onion , two sauces: cranberry and apple. She is preparing pigs in blankets, finishing the Christmas cake decoration and checking on the pudding. She made meringues and double cream, vanilla ice cream. One thing’s for certain, there will be no shortage of food.

24th December, 2013

It was a wild night of gale force winds and torrential rain but the morning dawned still and dry and very mild. The television news this morning, however, and the newspapers were dominated by the effects of the storm. The Surrey/Sussex border seemed to be particularly bad along with the South Coast. These are pictures from the morning papers:

flood1 flood2 flood3 flood4

Hundreds of trains weren’t running because of trees across the line. There were reports of thousands of people without power. Phyllis & Colin arrived to say they were without power and had been since midnight. A terminal at Gatwick was packed with people trying to get home for Christmas but going nowhere because of persistent power cuts.


The sun is out here and we are preparing for a family trip to the best, local Italian restaurant for a late afternoon meal. All diets are off when we step through the doors of Amore.

25th December, 2013


In spite of terrible floods and power outrages, Christmas morning has opened up bright and sunny if rather ‘crisp’. We had a lovely Italian meal with the family last night. We drank wine but still managed to rise around 7.00 am. The news was all about towns and villages not far from us being flooded and cut off, thousands of houses without power for Christmas Day. We feel fortunate and we hope you do too.

It was on this day five years ago that the Blog actually started and it was with this picture of Pauline’s Mum out on the fields of West Yorkshire. Sadly, neither are still with us


although both are in our minds and hearts.

Pauline cooked the most magnificent meal. The trouble was that trying to eat two days running was too much for me. Everybody enjoyed the day and we went to bed tired and stuffed.

26th December, 2013

We woke at 6.30 am still tired and stuffed but to the Radio 4 news telling us that Byfleet – a village about two miles down the road – was virtually cut off by flood waters and that the giant retail park, which houses M&S and the Tesco hyperstore where they were expecting Boxing Day sales to start at 9.00 am, had a totally flooded car park and sewers erupting like fountains. The story had been similar all around us on Christmas Day with floods and electricity outrages at Guildford, Bournemouth, Leatherhead, Epsom, etc.. The photo below shows Debenhams in Guildford:


Unfortunately, I’ve passed my cold to Pauline and she has become a fellow sufferer. The difference is that she doesn’t mention it.

27th December, 2013

A lovely, bright morning. Took Pauline out early to M&S to pick up an order she had made on-line. Apparently, ‘click & collect’ is fast becoming the shopping method of choice although I prefer ‘click & receive’. Whatever floods there were have disappeared and life is back to normal in our area anyway.

The post brought a card from Greek friends with lovely wishes for the New Year along with the inevitable Bills – electricity, satellite TV (OTE), etc.. I also took a call from my old friend, Brian, who has just completed the sale of his French property in Bordeaux and is happy about that. We will go up to Yorkshire/Lancashire in March to visit him.

I used my new INR testing machine for the first time and produced an almost optimum result of 2.6 which was very pleasing. I must admit, though, that neither of us is feeling brilliant at the moment. I still haven’t thrown my cold off and Pauline’s continues to develop.

28th December, 2013

A beautifully sunny and relatively warm day. An early trip to the supermarket to avoid the crowds was completely unnecessary. There were hardly any shoppers and this morning’s Times reported footfall down 10% in High Street Sales although they suggest it may have been partially compensated for by on-line shopping. They were probably all reading The Skiathan instead. Intriguingly, they also reported a large rise in people doing their on-line tax returns on Christmas Day between 12.00 – 1.00 pm..


These are the cash-rich-time-poor people who wait for such a moment of free time to pay their tax.

Week 261

15th December, 2013

Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday Dear Blo-og.
Happy Birthday to you.



Actually, the Blog began on Christmas Day, 2008 but, arithmetically, it has now been going for the equivalent of five, whole years. It has come a long way in that time along with our lives, making some laugh, some cry and some spit blood and feathers. Long may it continue!

16th December, 2013

Thank you to all those readers of the Blog who sent their congratulations and best wishes for the future.

Another mild day here – 14C/57F – although there was a little, light rain early on. We were out early to do a bit of shopping. All the hype about booming sales for Christmas has been punctured by the reality which is poor sales. The Times carries a headline today: Retailers cut prices by half after sharp drop in footfall. Certainly, advertising through all media has intensified until it borders on the ridiculous. It is as if retailers are in the middle of an absolute panic. Of course, if one’s got money, one’s in the driving seat.

When we got to the Peacock Shopping Centre, it was certainly quiet for a week before Christmas. I was going to one of my favourite shops – Maplin. Basically, it is an electrical store majoring in computing. I bought a Broadband Delivery Extender which connects to my router and uses the apartment’s electrical sockets to transmit broadband round the property. It can be accessed via wireless or Ethernet cable which will improve the service to Pauline’s laptop and to our mobiles and iPads.


I’ve set it up and the performance is absolutely excellent. Broadband speed downstairs is just as good as connected to the hub upstairs in the Study.

17th December, 2013

Did a really hard session in the gym yesterday and I’ve been absolutely knackered ever since. Even this morning I’m still feeling it. However, I told Pauline that I want her to force me, however reluctant, to go every day this week because I know we will have a couple of days off next week. Why did I say that to her?

18th December, 2013

Went out early to beat the rush hour traffic and ran straight in to a thirty minute jam. Eventually got to the Surgery to pick up my prescription and then to Tesco Pharmacy to pick up a shopping trolley of drugs. Haven’t been feeling well for a couple of days. I have had all the symptoms of low blood pressure without the statistics. Chose to miss the gym after all and spend the day analysing the Development’s end of year Accounts and Projections for 2014. You can’t get more riveting than that.

Even though we are in the second half of December, we still aren’t using the heating at all. It really justifies buying new-build with the most up to date insulation. We have had heavy rain and strong winds today and a football match in Stoke was temporarily abandoned because of a white out hail storm.


19th December, 2013

Up and out by 6.30 am to be first in the queue for a blood test at the Woking ‘walk-in’ Hospital. Arrived at 6.45 am and was second. Beautiful morning with bird song greeting the light of a nearly full moon in a cloudless sky. Even so, at that time, it wasn’t especially cold.

The nurse took three goes stabbing the crook of my arm with a javelin before she go enough blood to test. I will get my result by post on Saturday. I have more or less decided that I will buy my own testing kit. The can be expensive but the price has come down considerably since I first looked. There are many machines available for Home use but the best seems to be made by Coaguchek.


If you buy it through Amazon, it will cost £585.00. If you buy it from Coaguchek, it will cost £358.00 and to me it will be only £299.00 because I don’t pay VAT. Those on long term warfarin are VAT exempt. The test strips are also quite expensive (particularly if you make a mistake) but from Amazon they cost £2.91 each whereas the Coaguchek price is £2.75 each.

It’s turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day and relatively mild at 10C/50F – almost exactly the same as Athens. Squirrels are chasing round the oak trees outside and the birds seem to think it is Spring. Their songs are gorgeous! Am I beginning to sound old?

20th December, 2013

I will always think of this as Pay Day. For forty years our salary was paid into the Bank on the 20th of each month. Unfortunately, not any more. Not that I’m complaining. We are incredibly lucky but I still have that ‘institutionalised’ streak in me. I’m waiting for the Lunch Bell to ring!

We think we know why I’ve been feeling strange recently – I’ve dropped half a stone in weight over the past few days and my body has been telling me.

Glorious morning with strong sun although a little cool at 5C/41F. We were out early again today. First to Waitrose at Goldsworth Park to buy all the final elements of the Christmas meal – fresh cranberries, vegetables, Pancetta lardons, bacon, sausages and sausage meat, a lobster, chocolate, fresh, double and clotted cream, etc. With all the shopping done by 9.30 am, we escaped a rapidly filling car park.

By 10.00 am we are back home, unpacked and drinking delicious, fresh cups of freshly made cappuccino in Humbug Towers. I managed to phone Ruth at last. It was nice to hear her voice but I don’t think she really wanted to talk. She was busy and about to go out. She has her life to lead just as I have mine.

21st December, 2013

A wet day today. Most of the working world will be out shopping so it feels wonderful to have done all ours during the week. I’m settling down to an excellent match between Liverpool & Cardiff where the sun is out. I’m also catching up on correspondence. Heard from my old Assistant at school this morning with lots of news about ex-colleagues. I am hungry to hear such news.

Week 260

8th December, 2013

Pauline is becoming terribly profligate. We had to dash out and buy her a third Kenwood Chef food mixer in forty years. What is the woman doing with them?  Actually, the first one in the 1970s cost around £200.00, the second one came ‘free’ courtesy of an insurance company after the first one twerked itself off the kitchen work-surface in the throes of kneeding dough and smashed on the floor.


This one, selling in hard economic times, is back to the 1970s price. Normally now, of course, I would be extracting my own price – sponge cakes with whipped cream centres, speciality breads, meringues, etc.. Unfortunately, they are all useless to me now. All I can do sit and gaze on this ‘useless’, gleaming machine. Why did we buy it?

9th December, 2013

Lovely, sunny day and not cold – 11C/52F. Christmas cards are starting to arrive and we haven’t posted ours yet. It is interesting that we find 11C acceptably mild for December in England. Skiathan Man has gone native and describes 12C as cold enough for a log burner in Greece. We have put our heating on for an hour in the past fortnight.

Having said that, I notice we are eating more soup at the moment and salad has virtually disappeared from our table. Anyway, tonight I am cooking – casseroled quails. It is a favourite of ours. We buy the quails in France – usually still with the heads on – and I end up with a plastic bag full of little birds’ heads to dispose of. Below you can see how delightful the live bird can be but taste it in a casserole with lots of green peas and you won’t worry about its life.

quail quail1

quail2 quail3

The flavour is wonderful.

10th December, 2013

Wonderful, wonderful day which reached 14C/57F. Clear blue sky and strong, low sun. It made one glad to be alive! It hadn’t started that way. We set off for the Tunnel at 6.15 am – semi-dark, swirling mists and 0C/32F on the road. You can’t beat the M25 for enjoyment. By 7.30 am, we were drinking coffee and waiting to drive on to the train. Thirty minutes later, we were in France. It’s so easy nowadays like going to Waitrose.


I associate going to France with piling case after case of wine in to the boot of the car. It was strange not to be doing that. I don’t have a great need for wine at the moment. We did go to the wine store to buy some for Phyllis but not for ourselves. P&C like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. She pays around £6.00 per bottle in Tesco who will be advertising that as half price. I can buy it for her at £2.49 per bottle like for like.

We went on to Auchan to do our monthly shop. A large salmon, filleted on site for us plus cod loins, Duck Breasts, cheeses, meat terrines, chestnuts, salad vegetables, sacks of onions and bags of oranges.

terrine terrine2


11th December, 2013

A misty morning but not very cold as we are up and out early again. Pauline has to be at the hairdressers for 9.00 am. The traffic is horrendous at this time and a ten minute journey took over half an hour. Christmas cards being posted today exactly two weeks before Christmas Day. It is, of course, a portentous day being 11/12/13. I won’t be able to write that again until I am 152!

12th December, 2013

A trip to the Farm shop in Esher this morning. It was chilly but without frost. We were warmer than Greece when I checked. Even as I write at 11.00 pm in UK / 1.00 am in Greece, we are warmer than Athens.

Pauline wanted to buy some specialist sausages to trial for the Christmas meal that we are cooking. We bought,

  • Gloucester Old Spot Pork sausages
  • Wild Boar & Apple sausages
  • Venison sausages

along with a large joint of Belly Pork and some huge Pork Chops.

There is a fascinating article about the terrible quality of the Greek education system in the Irish Times today. It is entitled: Why Greece’s schools are a shambles and its universities are chaotic. It argues that the system is chaotic from school right through university and suggests  that the system’s problems currently appear intractable.

13th December, 2013

Goodness knows where that threat of weeks of snow and cold came from at the end of November. It now looks as though we will be settled and mild for the foreseeable days and, probably, through Christmas.

Posting of Christmas Cards and Newsletters had waited for today because Pauline wanted her haircut before she had her photo taken. It happened this morning and here is the result:


14th December, 2013

Well, Friday 13th went alright. Pauline even ordered a Christmas present for me. I know what it is.


Malvolio would be really jealous! Actually, although we cook for everyone else, Pauline & I have never really done Christmas. We would quite happily chant, Bah Humbug! and sleep until Boxing Day. Unfortunately, the world demands that we mark the day. Actually, the arrangement is that we will meet family for Lunch on Christmas Eve at our favourite Italian restaurant in Byfleet. On Christmas Day we will all gather at Mandy & Kieron’s and Pauline & I will cook. Boxing Day will be spent in the tranquillity of our apartment.