Week 276

30th March, 2014

Despite losing an hour, we were up early and out to do the week’s shop at the supermarket. It’s still very busy – probably with people planning barbecues in this lovely weather. It was 19C/66F at 8.00 am and forecast to be the warmest day so far this year.

Back home, we are still unpacking from our Yorkshire trip. I’ve got letters to write to people we met and we’ve still to prepare for our trip to France a week after next. We are going to Reims hopefully via Arras. I’m really looking forward to it.

Reims embodies the Champagne Region and I’m looking forward to visiting a Champagne House like the one below. It’s also where the Germans signed their acceptance of surrender terms in 1945.

reims2 reims3

There is also the famous cathedral, of course, where they took the trouble to carve images of Pauline and I in stone. We still look quite good!

reims4 reims5

31st March, 2014

Lovely, mild day to say ‘Goodbye to March, 2014. We will never see it again other than in our dreams. Did a quick trip to Tesco’s and then called in on Phyllis & Colin to deliver the pies. Colin didn’t look well. I think he is suffering at the moment. Let’s hope the pies perk him up. Pauline has set me a whole string of ‘office’ tasks today including scanning in and cataloguing a pile of documents. She obviously is embracing the idea of a ‘paperless office’.

Pauline is washing and ironing with a view to our French trip in ten days or so. We might meet sometime today if she lets me out of the Study.

1st April, 2014

Happy New Month and Welcome to April.


Right on cue for April Fools, the boiler had broken down in the Energy Centre and it was cold showers all round. We had to be out by 9.00 am for Pauline’s haircut so there was no time to prevaricate. Someone else contacted the Management Company to get it fixed.

2nd April, 2014

Had to go to the dentist to have my temporary cap replaced. My dentist is in Westminster (Pimlico actually!). When I was about 13, I read a short story called The Pimlico Kid. It was a thriller type plot set in smog-bound central London. Ironically, someone published a ‘first’ novel with exactly that title last year. Equally ironically, central London was forecast to be smog bound today with Saharan dust. Actually, it wasn’t bad and the temperature was a balmy 21C/70F. Men were walking round in shorts. I was in shirt sleeves and without a coat.

The trip to the dentist is a little longer than we would prefer – a 30 minute train journey from West Byfleet to Waterloo and then two tube journeys each of two stops to Pimlico. It’s very easy really and today’s journey saved me about £400.00. In Woking the Dentist offered a cap on private Dentistry for £650.00 but at her NHS practice in Pimlico, she would do it for £250.00. We’ve really enjoyed going there and, today, it took three and a half hours door to door return including the treatment. I’m not a great fan of trains but this was excellent.

3rd April, 2014

Today is the fifth anniversary of our leaving work in Education and joining the What shall we do today? group. Although the time has flown by, we still don’t feel completely adjusted to idleness. Never mind! Someone’s got to do it so it might as well be us. Just heard that the bloke who succeeded us at the replacement Academy has just been sacked (moved on) for inappropriate treatment of a pupil. It’s not a world for old men or even for me.

Had the burglar alarm system serviced this morning. Life doesn’t get much more exciting than that. The service engineers employed by our firm all seem to be chosen for their stature – tall enough to do the work without needing a ladder. We pay £250.00 per year for a response alarm system which is serviced twice a year by Custom Security Services.

4th April, 2014

Today, as we walked out into warm, early Summer sunshine, we looked at the gardens around our house. The flowering cherry trees were just coming into flower bud at this time last year. This year, the trees have flowered wonderfully and dropped and are now getting on with growing. Everywhere, Spring is finished at least a month earlier than last year. For at least two weeks, the fields have been decorated with May Blossom from the end of March.

mayblossom eggs

Birds around here have already nested are getting on with the job of egg production.

5th April, 2014

We are on a short trip to visit our French friends in a week and Pauline is busy washing, ironing and preparing. I’m taking my computer for its annual service on Tuesday so I’m spending the weekend cleaning it up. I have Bank Account logins, Investment Account logins, ISA Logins, etc. which I wouldn’t like anyone else getting access to so I have to back them up and clear them from my machine.

Our near neighbour, a lad in his early 30s, went out in a suit yesterday and came back with a bouquet of flowers.


We couldn’t believe it. We met his Mum. She was younger than us. It has shaken us both.

It is only the first week of April but so warm outside this evening that we sat outside around 9.00 pm and shared a glass of red wine to usher out my 62 year. It was delightful and every moment like that must be savoured.


Week 275

23rd March, 2014

A bright, sunny, warm day which we spent indoors working on cleaning, tidying and research. We did receive a lovely card from Sifnos friends which had been delivered to the wrong apartment and was brought round this morning.


The weather is forecast to turn colder soon, particularly in the North where we will be venturing. I think there was some snow in Lancashire/Yorkshire this evening.

24th March, 2014

The travelator of time is hurtling the future towards us. It will soon be April and I will soon be 63. What fun!


A relatively chilly 11C/51F outside. Only going out to the Health Club today. Greece is in the low 20sC/69F.

25th March, 2014

We’ve got two trips in the offing. This week we are going to Yorkshire and, in two weeks we are visiting Reims in France. I’m looking forward to them both. We’ll need some Euros for France and they’re currently being sold at £1.00 = €1.165. Must buy some soon. Will it go up or down? Who knows?

Been out this morning to underscore some research – to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Well, actually, we discussed the family relations with Pauline’s sister, Phyllis. It was brilliant. She not only remembered some, long dead characters but produced photos of some as well. You can always rely on very old people!

Here is a photograph from the first year of World War 1 showing Pauline’s Grandfather, John William and her Father, Philip.


What a tale it tells and what a changing world they were about to experience.

26th March, 2014

Up at 5.00 am and out at 6.00 am. The M25 was quiet and the M1 was fine. We arrived in Oldham via Holmfirth and Meltham, by 10.00 am. The weather was fine but cold. Just one stop for coffee and a banana. First stop was Joyce & Harry for a discussion about our research on the Farrow-Houldsworth family lines. Joyce & Harry were delightfully welcoming but chaotic on memory as usual.

Drove back across the Pennines and stopped on the tops to have a snack of tomatoes, celery and cold sausages before going to our hotel in Brighouse and checking in.


27th March, 2014

Yesterday we were up at 5.00 am and on the road by 6.00 am but that was planned. Today we were up at 7.15 am and in the car park by 7.20 am but that was totally unplanned. After a long day and still in the deep sleep of recovery, we were woken in our hotel bed by an almighty siren. We hadn’t ordered a wake-up call and, waking drowsily and slowly, I first thought it was the alarm on my iPad.

Of course, it wasn’t. The sound was shaking the walls of the whole hotel. We got dressed. Pauline was complaining loudly. I ventured out into the corridor to find the Fire Door open and a cold blast blowing towards me. We walked out of the hotel and into the car park as other guests joined us. Two fire engines were roaring up the drive and hotel staff with clipboards were ticking guests off their lists.


Fortunately, it was dry and not too cold and we soon walked back in through the front entrance with a strong smell of burnt toast lingering. Pauline, looking like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards but gorgeous, soon showered and dried her hair in case it happened again. Talk about shutting the stable door!

28th March, 2014

We didn’t get our early wake-up call today so no fire. Even so, we were up by 7.30 am and out on a meat pie hunt by 9.000 am. The pies are not for us but for Colin who pines for Lancashire grub. After a tour round Asda, and Sainsbury’s, we found just six in Tesco’s which will have to do for him.

We are going to see a new born baby this afternoon – first Granddaughter to one of our friends. Pauline took us into Next to buy baby clothes. I found it a remarkably enjoyable activity. We bought two outfits and this is one of them:

dress1 dress2

I meant to say Happy Birthday to Jane. I sent her an email saying:

After 60 there is no way back. Enjoy your day.
Love from sunny Yorkshire.

She mailed back:

I certainly will – as we’re in St Lucia where it’s glorious. Both the Times and Guardian apparently have my name in their birthday lists – think I’ll have to be dead for that to happen again! 

29th March, 2014

Had a wonderful meal out with friends at the Olive Branch restaurant in Marsden.


Still feel full this morning. Up at 7.00 am and we will set off soon after 8.00 am.

The weather is warm and sunny – almost like early, English Summer. The drive back is delightful. The temperature outside has reached 21C/69F. The traffic is conspicuous by its absence and all is well with the world. We have done the drive in three and a half hours although the last ten miles on the M25 were difficult and frustrating. The first thing we say to each other as we leave the motorway and approach our home – Yorkshire, Surrey, they’re like two different worlds.

Week 274

16th March, 2014

It can’t last much longer but today has been glorious again with clear, blue skies and strong sunshine. The temperature has reached 20C/68F and the windows have been open all day. Pauline has been outside doing some garden tidying. In this weather, everybody has been outside somewhere.

spring3 spring4

Today we ordered a new Kindle E-Book Reader from Amazon. Pauline loves hers which is entering its fourth year and this is a newer, lighter and more powerful edition. She has literally hundreds of books on it. The real beauty of it is the free, 3G wireless internet connection which allows her to buy and download books and magazines but also to get email and even browse the web.

kindle2 kindle3

The Tablet, a leather cover and superfast charger all delivered in two days only cost £200.00. A Bargain! Pauline will get hours, days and years of happy reading from it. She can have one in the Lounge and one in the bedroom and they will both synchronise to open at the right page for her reading automatically.

17th March, 2014

The beautiful weather has gone! It was still here at 7.00 am but, as predicted, clouded over by 10.30 am. Fortunately, I stumbled across this infallible weather forecasting kit on Twitter.


We’ve reached 17C/62F this afternoon and it feels pleasant. The countryside surrounding our drive to the Health Club is a riot of optimistic colour.

18th March, 2014

A day of sun and cloud. The little cherry sapling planted outside our home is starting to come in to its own.


We haven’t seen snow or even cold weather this year. We are hoping that spell won’t be broken when we go up to Yorkshire in a week or so.

Our grounds were those of a Nineteenth Century Convent. All the planting is from the brooding, peaceful past. Deep in our wooded surrounds, huge Camellia trees are blossoming profusely but out of sight. Ever the intrepid explorer, I waded in with secateurs and brought back a bounty of pink and white blooms. Pauline trimmed them up and arranged them beautifully.


We touched 17C/63F this afternoon with pleasant, intermittent sunshine and one, brief, light shower. It has rained on five of the past ten March 18ths.

19th March, 2014

An overcast morning which is forecast to reach 17C/63F. We are leaving for a holiday in Yorkshire in a week or so and Pauline is organising our requirements while I am contacting friends to make arrangements to meet up. We’ve booked hotels and restaurants for reunion meals already. It is Budget Day in Britain so I will be glued to the Broadcast of the speeches at midday. With a election only just over a year away, we can expect some (bribes) giveaways.

As we drove away from the Health Centre this afternoon, the gauge on the dashboard reported 21C/69F outside. It certainly felt like Summer although are told there are cooler times ahead.

Certainly, the Budget warmed things up a little. The tax we pay doesn’t kick in until each person has earned £10,000.00 and that will increase by another £500.00 next year. The ISA, tax-free cash savings allowance is going up from £5,760.00 per year to £15,000.00 per person. Pauline & I can stash away £30,000.00 jointly per annum without paying tax. The Help to Buy Scheme which appears to be fuelling house prices down here is being extended to 2020. A new (4.0%) National Savings Bond will come in by 2015 to help savers. We will take this help and then vote Labour in next year. Ironically, Santander wrote to us today to say that our £24,000.00 at 4.0%, two year ISA would mature in May and be transferred into a 1.00% alternative which will be less than half the inflation rate.

20th March, 2014

Out early to the local hospital for an INR check to assure myself that my own machine is working accurately. This will be the third and last time this year. I agreed with my GP that I would have it serviced and recalibrated after 12 months. We were there at 6.40 am but only third in the queue. Home by 7.10 am.

I’ve got into a bad habit of watching a programme called Heir Hunters which is shown at 9.15 am each weekday. I could easily save it to watch later but it doesn’t seem to have the same enjoyment so Pauline had to wait until 10.00 am before we did they weekly trip to the supermarket. It was chaos – old people everywhere – and impossible to navigate the aisles without being mown down by a mad Granny!

The Camellias I scrumped a couple of days ago are really opening up to show their true glory.


21st March, 2014

A nice, sunny morning but not too warm at 10C/50F. My INR result has come back by email today and, pleasingly, is just within parameters. The Doctor has written asking me to contact him about the results of my 24hr ECG.

Today and for the rest of this weekend I will be researching the Farrow/Houldsworth side of Pauline’s family because we will be visiting relatives in Oldham when we stay in Yorkshire. Some are Primary Sources for our research and the time with them will be valuable. It’s going to be a busy few days.

Week 273

9th March, 2014

Summer has arrived. We are told that we will be warmer than Greece today and that everyone in the South is heading down to the beach. Can’t think of a better reason not to go there. The record High for this day is 15C/59F. At 10.00 am this morning, we have already exceeded it.

Happy Birthday to Catherine. I’ve made and sent her an e-card.


I was shocked to work out that, with all the age upgrades, she isn’t entitled to her State Pension until 2021 when she will be 66. However, looking as she does, it shouldn’t be a problem.

10th March, 2014

The media told us that we reached 20C/68F yesterday and it was certainly a warm night here. This morning opened a warm and sunny 15C/59F but clouded over by mid day as we were going out. We had an appointment at the Halifax to discuss moving ISA Funds in from Santander but they left us waiting for 20 minutes without explanation so we left giving them a flea in their ear as old people are inclined to do.

The Doctor’s Surgery phone me to say that my Blood results were back and fantastic. They are completely removing Pioglitazone and reducing my Metformin by 25%. There is actually a belief forming that, if I can lose four or five more stones in weight I could cease to be Diabetic. This will be fantastic although I’ll probably be dead from a heart attack. The results of the ECG will not be back for a while.

As we drove to the Health Club today, it was striking how a warm weekend has brought everything out. It was just waiting to display itself.


11th March, 2014

A rather overcast and cool morning for our trip to London. On this day last year, snow was falling in Surrey. Half an hour by train from West Byfleet to Waterloo followed by a couple of Tube journeys to Pimlico. I was visiting the Dentist in Chapter Street, Westminster. It looks innocuous enough but it cost us £8.00 for two coffees nearby.


Jane lives just across the river and, unbelievably, the Dentist lives just down the road from her and her Uncle lives in an Apartment in Imperial Court.

We left home at 10.00 and were home by 4.00 pm. We go back at the beginning of April to have the crown fitted.

12th March, 2014

A grey, chill start gave way to sun and 20C/68F by the afternoon. On this day last year, cars within twenty miles of here were stuck in thick snow. I know which I prefer.

We had a couple of trips out in the car to do shopping but sharp chest pains deterred me from visiting the Health Club today.

13th March, 2014

Beautiful, sunny day reaching 17C/63F. It seems to have shot past. Why does time do this to one’s life? After a series of fairly innocuous and mundane activities like shopping and walking in the sunshine, it’s suddenly tea time. There is something suspiciously wrong with the chronology of this world!

The evenings are staying lighter and lighter as March marches on. As I write, at 9.00 pm, the temperature outside is 16C/61F whereas Skiathos is only 14C/57 and Athens is a cold 9C/48F. All around us the gardens are full of heady Springtime. Blood red Camelias and pink tinged Magnolia jostle for the eye with Flowering Cherry and the carpets of daffodils. Mum would have loved it.

camelia magnolia

14th March, 2014

The day started off chilly and with fairly thick fog at 7.00 am but has soon given way to blue skies and beautiful sun. It is forecast to reach 16C/61F. This day in 2011, it was -5C/23F.

However, today is a sad one. It was announced this morning that one of my life’s heroes had left the world over night. Anthony Wedgewood Benn (Tony Benn) has died aged 88 years.


I suppose one shouldn’t be sad. He led a wonderful life and lived to a good age but it is always sad when a character of real influence departs. I was born in to an essentially middle class, Tory voting family, did an arts degree in English Literature and joined a middle class profession in Teaching. Hearing Tony Benn speak, I was galvanised by left wing analysis – essentially, Marxist Dialectic. I needed to understand it better and had to go back to its origins, its history. I found a young man at Huddersfield University – Dr Bill Stafford, who was looking for people who were interested in the History of Ideas, had an initial Graduate qualification and were prepared to research part time in the evenings. The overt prize was a Higher Research Degree, a Masters in the History of Ideas. The immediate prize for me was the introduction to a world I could otherwise only have dreamt of.

I read Marx’ seminal work, Das Kapital, I read Tonnies’ Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Community & Association), Max Weber’s Community & Society and this led me, ultimately, to the life and works of R.H.Tawney. Having been brought up a Roman Catholic and having rejected it completely in my teenage years, I was particularly interested in the relationship between Religion and Politics. R.H.Tawney addressed this. I read Religion and the Rise of Capitalism: A Historical Study on a beach in Greece. It was riveting! I began to consume Tawney:

The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century
The Acquisitive Society
Education: The Socialist Policy
The British Labor Movement
Land and Labour in China

All of this time, I was teaching a full day, going home and reading and thinking. It rather got on top of me. I hadn’t been looking for another qualification just some understanding. It was Pauline who pushed me on and past the winning post. She sat and typed and printed out my whole dissertation – R.H.Tawney & the Medieval Tradition on our trusty Amstrad PCW. It was a labour of love and I was awarded my Master of Arts in 1988 when I was 27. It really should have been awarded jointly.

tawney       amstradpcw

I’ve just done The Skiathan’s Greek God Test and I’ve, worryingly turned into Athena!

15th March, 2014

A delicious Summer’s day in Surrey. Everything looks so much more alive in the sun. Freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly poured Yorkshire Tea, freshly brewed coffee and newly downloaded copies of The Times …. these are a few of my favourite things and then I don’t feel so bad. Still got three 6 Nations Rugby Matches and two Premier League football matches to watch. It is too much for one man. By mid-afternoon, we have reached 20C/68F which is not bad for mid-March.

The other job on my list for today is to continue my research into the Farrow/Houldsworth family lines from which Pauline was derived. I’ve got it back to the 1840s and one more Generation should be possible before we hit the difficult stage of few, available records. I haven’t been helped by a Census Recorder or a subsequent transposer listing Farrow as Farraw and Houldsworth being occasionally recorded as Holdsworth. I have been helped by the families’ propensity to remain centred in Oldham something which was still noticeable of our pupils in Oldham Education during our teaching days.

Week 272

2nd March, 2014

Can you believe it? Almost April already! It has been another pleasant day of Spring weather until darkness when heavy rain set in. That’s the way the world should be organised.

Interesting week coming up. Pauline is having a fasting blood test tomorrow. I’m then driving her in to town to buy the new coat she hasn’t stopped talking about for months. She insists she needs it desperately. Why shouldn’t she? She can have as many coats as she wants. You only live once. And, on that theme, I will be 63 in one month and we will have been retired for exactly 5 years. Why does it advance so swiftly and so silently? Later in the week, I’m going in to have a 24hr ECG monitor fitted. I’m hoping it will illustrate the extent of my heart problem.

3rd March, 2014

Out early today to take Pauline for her blood test. The morning is quite chilly but dry. I think the daffs may regretting emerging.


Heard from a Sifnos friend which reminded me that I must contact Martin.

For some reason, I felt lethargic and lacklustre and ducked going to the gym which was lazy and foolish and I regretted shortly after making the decision. We are going to have a busy day tomorrow to make up.

We have to plan our trains and underground to get to the dentist in Westminster on Monday of next week. Watched an interesting analysis of the ‘London Economic Pull’ which clearly explains why property around us has increased by 30+% in the 3 years we’ve been here and why properties sell within days of going on sale. No one who works in the city can afford to live there. It only takes 20-30 minutes to get there by train from Woking where prices are relatively high but much more affordable. In fact, many are prepared to commute 2 hours each way each day to buy property they like.

4th March, 2014

Chilly start to a beautifully sunny day. Just 2C/39F although it is forecast to reach 10C/50F. We are off to the Peacock Centre in Woking to give Pauline a spot of ‘retail therapy’ as if she didn’t get enough on-line!

pc3 pc4

The strangest thing happened when we went shopping. Pauline took me in to look at the £80.00 coat she had viewed last Saturday and had decided she wanted my opinion on before buying it. Just as she was trying the coat on in the Principles section of Debenhams, an announcement was made across the store that all coats were ‘Half Price’ just for today. My considered opinion saved us £40.00 and Pauline got her coat!

Amazingly, the temperature reached 16C/61F this afternoon. The warmest this Spring. Chris, our Honda salesman/friend from Huddersfield phoned just to touch base. We look forward to seeing him in about a month.

5th March, 2014

Apart from going for a blood test. I hardly have any blood left in my arm now. It is five years since I started taking warfarin and statins.

The rest of the day was taken up with research, photography plus editing and presenting material for the Management Committee to present to Woking Council.


Pauline & I will have to attend a Planning Hearing in mid – late April. Ironically, we received a lovely letter from our Sifnos friends this afternoon.

6th March, 2014

Chilly start to a wonderful, Spring day. Had to attend the local hospital to have an ambulatory ECG monitor fitted. Straight off to the Supermarket to do the weekly shop and then home to finish of the research and email it off. I have a Diary to keep for the 24hrs to allow the analysis to be tied in with the readings. There was some suggestion this morning that I may have to have a pacemaker fitted. Certainly, my heart was originally in intermittent atrial fibrillation but in recent times it is in that state every time it is checked. May be they will be able to shock it back in to regularity.

Pauline’s friend, Margaret, phoned to say her daughter had had a baby daughter after a particularly long and difficult delivery which spread over three days. Unimaginable! We’re going to visit Margaret in Yorkshire in a month.

I’m determined to do a standard day so, after coffee and reading the paper, we go to the Health Club for an hour. Thirty minutes on the jogging machine followed by fifteen minutes on a cycle. We left the rowing machine out today to avoid dislodging the chest sensors. Even so, I was sweating as we left. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to shower because of the sensors. Pauline had to sponge me down. Too much information? Sorry!

7th March, 2014

Wonderful day which reached 21C/69F in mid-afternoon. Lovely sunshine. We went out reasonably early to return the ECG monitor. By the time we returned, the gardeners had arrived and were hard at it. The grounds are tended every Friday. We’ve recently appointed a new team of gardeners at a cost of £12,000.00 per year. They are excellent and very hard working.

It is wonderful to see the Spring signs on trees and bushes, plants and bulbs and the abundance of birdlife. It was a planning stipulation of Woking Borough Council that bird boxes were put up on the trees throughout the property. We wake up to a concerto of thrushes advertising their wares.


8th March, 2014

Another Wonderful Spring Day. Sunny and 16C/61F. It makes one celebrate being alive! I got so carried away, I had my hair cut. Around here they charge £35.00 to cut men’s hair. Mine is done for free. Working on the principle that my hair is cut 6 times per year, in the past 36 years at today’s prices, I’ve saved 6 x £35.00 = £210.00 x 36 = £7,560.00. Could have had a really good meal out and a bottle of fine wine for that price.