Week 271

23rd February, 2014

A quiet but very mild day which reached 14C/57F which is well above the seasonal average which is 8C/46F on this day. We’ve had a quiet day but Pauline’s sister and her husband had some bad news.

Colin’s younger brother died in hospital this morning of a heart attack. Pauline & I both know from experience that the death of someone closely related jolts one’s system and forces one to confront one’s own mortality.

24th February, 2014

Glorious, glorious day in Surrey with clear blue skies, strong sun and relatively mild temperatures predicted to reach 14C/57F today. I’ve spent the morning sorting out the next batch of ISAs which mature in a week’s time. We have some more to do in early April although we’ve decided not to buy new ones until the end of the year this time giving us time to get more clarity about interest rates. We can shelter £11,880.00 from tax for the new financial year but the amount earnable on that is small. If we both put in our maximum cash allowance we would earn £178.00. One has to wonder if it’s worth the bother. The only upside caveat to that is the CPI has dropped to 1.9%.

25th February, 2014

The day started with sun but soon moved in to torrential rain. It feels mild although it is only 12C/54F. We have been finalising visits for our trip to Yorkshire/Lancashire at the beginning of April. It centres around our information seeking visit to Pauline’s relatives to check out our research on the Family Tree and  then to have Dinner with two, old school colleagues. We are staying in a Holiday Inn at Brighouse as we did last winter and we will have our car serviced while we are there.

I’m really looking forward to the moorland between Lancashire and Yorkshire. I don’t think you can beat it for emotional contact with the world.

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Today, we are free to do what we like so we are off to the Health Centre to work on our fitness. We are expecting Jane Bennett to appear at the Centre one day soon – probably as a Trainer.

26th February, 2014

Another delicious day of warm sunshine in Surrey. We went out early for Pauline’s appointment with a ‘hearing test’. For ages now I’ve been telling her she’s going deaf and she’s been replying that I mumble. Today we got the definitive answer. I am going for elocution lessons!

The next task today is to sort out my wardrobe and bag up all the clothes to go to the charity shop. For the last ten years, I have been spending £30.00 – £40.00 per shirt from CTShirts (Charles Tyrrwhitt). I notice that the price has come down since the recession and they probably wouldn’t set the world of fashion alight particularly if you shop at Boden but I loved them.


They are now far too big and I rarely wear a shirt & tie now anyway. They are going for someone else to enjoy. Pauline is happily disposing of them as well as many other items some of which were bought as transitional garments last year.

I had a bit of a heart/blood pressure blip at the gym yesterday so we are giving it a miss today.

27th February, 2014

I’ve had a postal relationship with my friend, Caroline, for the past twenty years. I employed her as an Attendance Officer at my school all those years ago. She had attended the school as a pupil from the first day it opened in 1951 – the year I was born – and had come back to serve as a representative of the Local Authority until I bought her in as a privatised service when the LEA retreated under financial stress. Since she retired, she has travelled to almost all points of the Globe and sent me cards, hundreds of them, when she wanted to share her experiences with a friend. I have tried to reciprocate.

Not so long ago, Caroline was writing to me from South America and, yesterday, I received a card from Goathland. I had to check the map to see where it was and suddenly realised that I had once been near it when I did the Lyke Wake Walk with College friends one inebriated night. It is in North Yorkshire near Robin Hood’s Bay. It is a beautiful spot.


28th February, 2014

Farewell to February and officially welcome Spring tomorrow. Actually, Spring arrived in Surrey some time ago. Mild and sunny, the weather has been one of the nine warmest winters on record along with the wettest. The trees are in blossom and the daffodils are blooming. The trees are bursting with the weight of new buds.


We were visited last night, in the South, by the Northern Lights or as we learned in school is called the Aurora Borealis. How wonderful is this?

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On a more mundane level, I had to see the dentist today to be delivered the wonderful news that I require a crown at the cost of £650.00. It will be done in the next couple of weeks at the practice in Westminster near Pimlico.

1st March, 2014

Welcome March and welcome Spring. The sun is out. It’s warm and bright and daffodils are opening. Happy new month to you all.


The Skiathan is a bit downbeat as he records: It’s another dreary start to the day. Skopelos News is anticipating: dreary weekend with a big chance of rain. Symi Dream says: Let’s hope the rain holds off. It can only get better!

Week 270

16th February, 2014

Spring has arrived. That’s what he meant by Valentine’s Day!

We sat outside in the Quad. at lunchtime today and it was delightful to enjoy the birds, the trees and the air in the sunshine. We must remember, however, that two people died in the storms yesterday, many places remain flooded and storms are predicted to return on Thursday so we are making the most of it.

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17th February, 2014

Been a really interesting day today and what more can one ask for than that? Pauline & I were doing some research because the Woking Council has objected to the fencing around our development. We have been taking photos, measuring fence heights and pacing out distances.

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After all that fresh air, we went to the Health Club. We had cholesterol tests. Mine was 4.3 but Pauline’s was 7.1. Of course mine is the result of five years of Statins. Pauline, who has been careful about her health all her life, may now have to join me.

18th February, 2014

Quite heavy rain today coming across the trees in swathes of water. Can’t be a pretty sight for the flooded. Pauline went to a Pilates class with her sister at the Health Club while I continued to research her family. Already, I’ve got it back to 1802 with her Great Great Grandfather, John Barnes. This type of research can be really frustrating but this line has allowed me top zip through it.

I don’t know if you have moved to this yet but I have persuaded Pauline to join me in the cloud. Everything we do on our computers, laptops and IPads is saved to Ms Live.com where we share about 10 Gigabytes of on-line space which is perfectly adequate for our needs. We also back that up again on portable drives but it means we will never be dependent on our computer drives again. The SkyDrive suite combines file storage with on-line mail, address book and calendar.

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Early night tonight. We’re off to France on a shopping trip tomorrow.

19th February, 2014

Out of the house at 6.00 am. Arrived at the Tunnel just after 7.00 am. In France by (8.00+1) 9.00 am. Off to the wine store and then to Auchan in Coquelles. Before I could draw breath, Pauline had bought three pairs of shoes and a new bag. We went on to buy Rabbit, Duck, Pork, Fish, Mustard, Lettuces the size of dinner plates, wonderful radishes. From the charcuterie counter, we had smoked pork, cold, pressed belly pork, smoked sausage, galantine of ham.


We had a cup of coffee and Pauline had a sandwich then we drove back to the Tunnel and caught the first train. We were back in our home at exactly 2.00 pm. It was a really enjoyable morning.

For our meal this evening, we feasted on goods from the Charcuterie Counter and a really good bottle of claret.

Sent an email to Bob who has joined me on the age of 62. Happy Birthday, Bob.


20th February, 2014

A really pleasant day with Spring weather and a temperature of 13C/55F. We were tired after yesterday’s excursion so gave the gym a miss. I had to be at the Medical Centre anyway because I had the first of my ECGs. This one was done by a nurse in the surgery and my heartbeat registered at 61 bpm. This is excellent but my heart was in atrial fibrillation at the time of the test which made it more guess work than anything else.

I spent some time this morning on my research into Pauline’s ancestors. I am still working on her father’s line of the Barnes/Fish strands. I’ve got back to her Great, Great Grandfathers – John Barnes (B. 1802 in Doncaster) and Matthew Fish (B. 1794 in Norwich). It’s proving a really rewarding quest and very quickly productive.

Pauline cooked a lovely meal of confit of duck legs, shallots, mushrooms and peas. It was wonderful.


21st February, 2014

Relied on my own INR reading for the first time today. It came in at 2.2 just within my 2.0 – 3.0 acceptable range. I emailed St Peter’s Hospital with my result and they emailed me back by return with dosage advice. It was exactly what I predicted but it is a fantastic service. We went on to town to do some shopping and visit the Halifax to discuss ISAs which are about to mature. We’ll be moving from 4.0% to 1.5% but at least inflation is coming down (1.9%) to meet us.

It has been another relatively warm and very sunny day with temperatures once again reaching 13C/55F.

22nd February, 2014

Pauline went to Zumba class at the Health Centre with her sister. I stayed at home and went on with my research. I’m really enjoying it. We knew that Pauline’s paternal Grandfather, John William Barnes, was a Coal Merchant in Oldham at the start of the last century but Pauline had searched in vain for any mention of it in the records. I subscribe to the Ancestry website


and, after a few hours of searching, managed to find his listing in a 1935 telephone directory. It was very rewarding to confirm that fact.


While Pauline was out, I prepared and cooked rabbit casserole. I used some pork belly to keep the rabbit moist and included celery and thyme to accentuate the flavour. We will eat it tomorrow.

Week 269

9th February, 2014

While the world around us appears to beset by floods and we have news today that it has been the wettest winter for 245 years, we are tucked up and our patio is bathed in Surrey sun. The temperature reached 13C/55F in the sunshine but wind and light rain did sweep in later in the day.

Cousin David appears to have worked our Sanders Family Tree back to 1770 which is impressive. I have set myself the next month or so to research Pauline’s Family by tracing back the Barnes and Farrow lines. Having lived and worked in the vicinity of Oldham for the last forty years, it will be interesting to explore the history of the Nineteenth Century Cotton Mills through Pauline’s ancestors. The town is still dominated by the architecture of the mills which were long since abandoned by their primary function – even their secondary trade of mail-order service has largely now gone and many mills rot.

This mill, built in the immediate pre-First World War years was almost redundant after the 1929-21 cotton price crash. Think of the investment someone put into this:


Pauline Grandfather Barnes worked as a Cotton Carder but eventually began his own business as a Coal Supplier.

10th February, 2014

Someone’s posted a 40 year old picture of me on Faceache.


I’m the one in the blue jumper aged 20-21 on a tour round the Masham Brewery famous now for Black Sheep beer or Theakston’s Brewery famous for Old Peculiar. I would like to say Those were the days. but they weren’t really. Anyway, 42 years on, I haven’t changed a bit!

11th February, 2014

The Tories are really getting ‘flooding’ in the neck. Cameron is panicking and, tonight, promised ‘unlimited funds’ to solve the problem. I predict that it will come back to haunt him. Harold Macmillan, when asked what a prime minister most feared, said: ‘Events, dear boy, events’.” Well poor old Cameron has got his event.


I weighed myself today and saw a figure that I haven’t visited for about twenty five years. Pauline is still skipping around the Lounge.


12th February, 2014

A day that started off well but soon degenerated into pestilence and flood. The television news is only about flooding in the South. They seem to have forgotten that the North is flooded as well. What it must be like for anyone who has flooding affecting their home, one can only imagine but we are told that there is much worse to come. You can guarantee that the Summer will be dominated by hosepipe bans.

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13th February, 2014

Drove to collect our beautifully repaired alloy wheel this morning. It has been re-edged, polished, lacquered, kiln-dried, rebalanced and fitted back on the car for the cost of £145.00. It is lovely to have it back. We’ve spent three days running on a ‘space saver tyre’ and restricting ourselves to 50 mph.


Our other commitments today were an hour in the gym and, later, two hours in a Residents’ Meeting. They are usually boring but, on this occasion, was expertly run by our Management Company, Chamonix. Just a run-of-the-mill day for us but only a few miles away poor souls are drowning in floodwater or diluted sewage as it is becoming known.

14th February, 2014

Torrential rain today and quite strong winds although nothing like those down on the coast. Reasonably mild, though, at 12C/54F.

The Skiathan tells me it is something called Valentine’s Day. I don’t know what that means but, apparently, this day holds some significance. Youngsters eh!

Had a visit to the Doctor this morning. I have to have two ECGs. The first is at the surgery and is done on the spot. The second is a 24hr ECG which involves me attending hospital early in the morning, being fitted with sensor pads wired up to a monitor and then being sent out to do a ‘normal’ 24hrs before returning the monitor which will be analysed by a private company who will report back to my GP. On the basis of those findings, they will decide how proceed. Say what you like about the NHS, my treatment is absolutely wonderful.

15th February, 2014

When you’re not working, Saturdays mean very little. And so it is with us. Pauline is making marmalade and I’m drinking fresh coffee and reading the papers. We are both rather tired because the wind was roaring through the trees last night and, although the morning started off dry and bright, heavy rain is constantly moving across in organised attacks.

Week 268

2nd February, 2014

The lovely days keep coming. Sunny and mild today. We should be outside walking but, instead, are reading the Sunday papers – electronically. I’ve just received and email from Jean, our neighbour when we lived in Yorkshire. We are arranging to meet in March which will be nice. Got a couple of football matches to watch as well. Lunch today was celery sticks with humus. Can you believe it?


I am distraught, today, with the news that the apostrophe is being dropped by most Local Authorities in their signage, etc. The reason is that they don’t have enough staff who know how to use it. What have these teacher’s been doing?

3rd February, 2014

Made that trip to WheelWizard in Cobham this morning. My alloy wheel repair will cost about £120.00 next week and take a day and a half. It’s better than £500.00 for a new one.


Watched a fantastic match tonight in which Chelsea beat Man. City by playing them off the park. Early night because we have to be up at 5.00 am and out at 6.00 am to avoid rush hour traffic on the M25 as we head for the M1 and up to Lancashire.

4th February, 2014

Long but wonderful day today. We went to a funeral. Up at 5.00 am and out by 6.00 am. We drove on to the M25 where the ‘rush hour’ was already well under way and then on to the M1 which, miraculously, had no holdups. We did the 220 miles from Surrey to Lancashire in under 4 hours. The night before had been wild and wet and the night following was predicted to be the same. Our trip neatly slotted between the two with dry and fine weather.

The first thing we noticed as we got out of the car in Waterhead was how freezing cold it was. We called in at Haynes’ bread shop to buy Colin some ‘oven bottom muffins’ and then on to the Tesco Superstore to buy him a dozen Hollands meat pies. You can take the boy out of Lancashire but you can’t take Lancashire out of the boy. Colin may have emigrated to Surrey but his tastebuds are still in the North.


We then moved on to the main event of the day and drove to Hollinwood Crematorium for John Woolley’s funeral.

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It was like, as one person observed, a school reunion. The old school was demolished in the summer while we were away and it, obviously, left a huge feeling of void which this cremation, ironically, filled. John Gillespie at 88, John Fidler at 77, Liz Hardy, Pat & Derek Wild, Mike & Doreen Elwell, Norma Taylor, Lesley Scoble, Val Winkle, Dave Joynes, Lindsay Heneghan, Dave Spencer, Trevor (Sniffer) Parry, Jim Rothwell, Vince Kenny, Jean Lowe, Mary Decelis, Andy Clough, Nelli Wood, Julie Rogers, Pete & Kate Holford, Pat Baxter, Pauline Pichon, Margaret Taylor, Little Viv., John & Carol Bewick, Helen Crowther, Eugene Kirwan, Sarah Bristow, Hilary Nelson, Michael Charlesworth plus us made about 35 ex-staff present so at least a third of the staff. It was stimulating to see them all again.

Afterwards, we drove another 4 hours back to Surrey and I collapsed with a glass of red wine. I had eaten just two bananas all day.

5th February, 2014

Went to bed at midnight as usual last night but the trip had taken its toll on us and we got up almost an hour late this morning. It is 10C/51F but rather grey today.

It is beginning to look like I will have to have a pacemaker/heart-monitor fitted and I read today that the procedure is becoming much easier. The latest innovation means that a small device, the size of two matchsticks can be injected into the chest muscle in the Doctor’s surgery in a matter of minutes. rather than the much larger monitor placed into a cavity prepared by operation.


6th February, 2014

Our one commitment today was top appear before the ophthalmologist at Woking Community Hospital for my Annual Diabetic Eye Test. Pauline has to accompany me because the drops I have to have mean I can’t drive home. The service is fantastic. I arrived at 11.20 am. Within five minutes, I’m called in for the drops to be administered. Twenty minutes later, I have half a dozen photographs taken of my eyeballs and we are off home. On so many occasions we are reminded how wonderful the NHS is whatever common parlance says.


7th February, 2014

Very mild day that reached 13C/56F in the sunshine. It felt like Spring. Workmen appeared on site to install electric car charging points. Nobody who lives here drives an electric car but this condition of the development was put in place by Woking Borough Council.


8th February, 2014

At my advanced age of (nearly) 63, it is no surprise to learn that most of my contemporaries are retired. Certainly, most of those who I met at my Teacher Training College in the late ’60s and early ’70s seem to have hung up their chalk. After all, what was the TPS created for if it isn’t to keep us in the manner to which we have become accustomed?

Some of those retirees are to be found on social media and one this morning reminded me of my first teaching practice in a Northallerton school which didn’t want a long haired, tieless boy wonder in their classrooms. I was reasonably happy to put on a tie for a few hours but not to get my haircut. Bob Barker-Whyatt came up with the answer with a wig he found in the Props Basket. It had seen better days. It was slightly ginger and thinning rapidly for a twenty year old’s head but it did the trick. On my last day there, I took my wig off and all the kids stood up and applauded. What I hadn’t realised was they all knew it was a wig from day one but refrained from commenting. Happy days!