Week 301

28th September, 2014

It would be hard to distinguish today from mid-Summer. The weather has been so warm – 25C/77F at peak with lovely sunshine that, if it wasn’t for the golf which we won easily for the tenth time in twelve competitions, we would have sat outside all day. As it was, we luxuriated in the day on our trip to the Health Club for a good hour’s workout.


The newspapers and broadcast reports are all about Tory troubles. MPs defecting to Golden Dawn (sorry UKIP) and another photocopying his genitals and sending the results to on-line girls (sorry Sunday Mirror reporters).

mp1 mp2

You can’t start a party conference much better than that. Looks like it’s going to be another great week!

29th September, 2014

As we see out September over the next couple of days, the warm weather holds although today was rather overcast and steamy. Apart from our daily exercise routine, I’ve been monitoring the Tory Part Conference where pensioners were guaranteed inflation-proofed pensions. That will do for me. I also wrote to my friend, Caroline, who sends me cards from all her globe-trotting expeditions and spoke to Ruth to agree a visit to sunny Bolton in just over a fortnight.

Booked a shopping trip to France for next week we will stay in our favourite hotel in Coquelles that we have been using for about twenty years now.

30th September, 2014

It has been announced today that the month of September in 2014 in England has been the warmest and driest for over a hundred years. Certainly, today,  the last before October found a temperature of 24C/75F by mid-afternoon. It felt even warmer as we left the Health Club having upped our regime, doing an hour/500 calories of cardio exercise.

We received the latest colour magazine from our estate agent and were amused to find our property highlighted.


In Greece, it is pay the first instalment of you Property Tax day and banks are seeing long queues. We always paid ours off in one go but not this year. We shall spend ours in France next week on frivolous luxuries.

1st October, 2014

Happy October!


The month opened at 7.00 am with warm rain. It was a lovely change from the most dry September for a Century.

Interesting to see the Greek political scene is starting to crack prior to imploding. Kathimerini says:

The way things are going, the administration will find itself in a process of decay and go down in a blaze of insignificance.

Certainly, if Syriza take power, Europe will disown them, the Greek Balance of Payments will spiral out of control, Pensions and property values will be devalued far more than they have been currently, the country’s infrastructure will fall apart. Already the Public Power Corporation (PPC) is heading for a financial blackout as unpaid electricity bills are growing at an annual rate of 30 percent, having reached 1.7 billion euros at the end of July from 1.3 billion euros last year. It really is not a place to live and work at the moment and, without solid infrastructure, their golden geese – tourists – will look elsewhere.

In Britain, Road Fund Licences (Tax Discs) became obsolete this morning. It will all be recorded digitally. Who will pay it now? I was taking mine out of the car at 7.00 am. Was I beaten by anyone else? I’ve still got a series of Swiss vignettes on the windscreen. I might sell them all as a memento job lot on Ebay.

rfl swissv

2nd October, 2014

Up early on a warm and sunny morning. The temperature only reached 22C/70F but it felt lovely in the sunshine. Out of the house by 8.30 am and in to town for our annual eye checks. Everyone over 60 gets them free and everyone over 60 gets a 20% discount on the price of glasses at Specsavers. Neither of us needed new ones. I’ve got so many pairs, I don’t know what to do with them.

We went on to Headmasters for Pauline to have her hair cut. We’d thought of waiting until we were in Athens but it is just too long until we go. I went to a coffee shop and read my iPad  newspaper. A new market walkway has opened up with wonderful fresh fish, meat & game, fruit and vegetables, coffee beans and tea supplies sold all along it. We bought baby hake and trout, huge corn cobs, juicy raspberries and great bunches of fresh herbs all at very low prices.

In the afternoon, we did a Sainsbury’s shop. Of course, Sainsbury’s have reported dire trading data hard on the heels of an atrocious mis-accounting scandal and a continuing slump at Tesco. Morrisons has been dragged into a price-match war with the discounters – Aldi and Lidl. Every shop till receipt tells us how much ‘cash back’ we have been awarded because of Price Comparison. To cap it all, the petrol price has fallen to 124.9p/1.59€ per litre. Our shopping bills are falling. This week, we only spent £45.00 and received a Price Comparison discount of £2.40.

3rd October, 2014

Lovely, warm, early Autumnal day reaching 22C/70F. A quiet one for us. We put in an extra effort at the Health Club. A really hard hour and just over 500 calories later, I staggered to the car. We heard from relatives of Pauline’s family who we found while researching her ancestors. By coincidence, they are also living in Surrey, close to Hampton Court. We have agreed to go over and meet them next week for coffee.

4th October, 2014

The morning started off sunny but soon turned pitch black and rain began. It’s nice to see rain It’s still warm. There is a sense of change in the air. As tourists desert the Greek Islands and look for warmer climes so we explore new destinations for the Winter. How about Siena?


We are considering calling in there on our drive across Europe next Spring.

Week 300

21st September, 2014

The morning has opened fresh but sunny with a temperature of 16C/60F. The Blog is 300 not out! Can’t believe it. We have just 12 weeks to go before completing 6 years. You have to admit that it shows stamina if nothing else.

Sunday is special. In my childhood, it was the enforced attendance at Mass. For the past 40 or so years, it has been the enthusiastic attention to the Sunday papers and political journalism. It couldn’t be more exciting this weekend post-Scotland poll and the great Constitutional Debate. The West Lothian Question is being used by Cameron and Lynton Crosby to attempt to skewer Miliboots and the Labour Party. Should Scottish MPs be barred from voting on purely English matters thus depriving the Labour Party of 40 Scottish Labour MPs? Suddenly, the country is galvanised by things they know nothing about like The Barnett Formula. I remember Joel Barnett well. He was the MP for Heywood & Royton in Oldham between 1964 – 1983. He was also Secretary to the Treasury under Wilson and Callaghan.


Barnett devised a formula which could be used to devolve public spending to the regions of the UK. This process from the early 1970s persists in devolving higher per capita public spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland than it gives to English citizens and has been a source of discontent amongst those who realise this for a long time. Not only has Cameron appeared to entrench the persistence of this Formula but pile additional, political bribes into the equation as well. It doesn’t bode well for the United Kingdom.

22nd September, 2014

Lovely sunny morning. We drove down to Caterham, a quaint, market town, on the Surrey border to look at a property



and then on to Longfield, just over the border into Kent, to look at another. Both were interesting but neither made us leap with joy. The search continues.

23rd September, 2014

Cool start to a lovely, sunny day. Got a bit of a bug that comes and goes. Went out to see Phyllis & Colin and then on to the Health Club. We did 45 minutes and 425 calories by which time I felt much better.

I am trying to renew my downward trend in weigh loss by limiting myself to 1520 calories per day. That’s why earning an extra 400 a day through exercise is so worthwhile. Today I have consumed

  • a large cup of tea
  • 3 cups of fresh coffee with skimmed milk
  • a banana
  • 250g of fruit yoghurt
  • 60g of smoked salmon
  • 77g of kipper fillet
  • 2 x sticks of celery
  • 4 x cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large glasses of red wine

and I still have 60 calories left because of my exercise contribution.

As an out and out politics geek, I luxuriated in the speech of the Leader of the Labour Party this afternoon.


Fascinating stuff which is rolling the Blairite world of New Labour back and resounding with echoes of Gas & Water Socialism.

Fascinating ‘Love in the Sun’ documentary on British television which featured women who had married Greeks and lived on their islands. With one exception, all the marriages had failed. The men had exhibited liberalism and multiculturalism for a period but, ultimately reverted to type and the marriages had broken down. The island of Symi featured heavily and reminded us how pleased we were to find it in the early 1990s when we were getting so fed up of all the noise outside Hotel Kamari on Sifnos. Traffic on the road was making it impossible to sleep. We rented a lovely, quiet house up the Kalistrata and got really fit walking up and down the steps each day.


24th September, 2014

If you want to buy an Sony Xperia M2 Smart phone, PC World will sell you one for £200.00.


This morning, EE gave me two for free – which was nice of them. One is for Pauline and the other for me. We both have unlimited calls and unlimited texts plus 2Gb of data. In addition, our allowance is fully usable in any EU country so driving through Europe, staying in Greece will be much more comfortable next year. The whole package for the two of us costs just £55.00 per month. How things have improved recently.

25th September, 2014

Lovely, lovely day! Sunny and wonderful. Shopping at Sainsbury’s, hard work at the Health Club and then Elerania contacted us to keep us up with events. What fun!

Life is so much fun. It is only a three weeks until we go to Yorkshire and I visit my sister and acquaintances from a previous life. In an extra three weeks we are going back to Greece. Who knows what will happen there.

26th September, 2014

A lovely, warm day that registered 24F/75C although with only weak sunshine. Did a really hard workout at the Health Club after going round to sort Phyllis’s iPad out. Pauline phoned Elerania back. I spent the day wrestling with apps on new smartphones, apps on iPads and apps on PCs so that our calendars are common to all platforms and all update each other. It was nice to hear the confirming ‘dings’ as entries on one machine began to populate all the others. In just the same way, I have ensured our exercise and diet app is available across platforms and the same with internet banking and email. The next integration will be contacts.

In spite of the warm, dry weather, Autumn is increasingly showing itself and evening darkness comes quickly and takes us by surprise. As Pauline perceptibly observed this morning, the trees sound very different now.


The breeze which once fluttered leaves is now producing dry and spiky sounds of old leaves breaking away and falling in a death spiral to the ground. Only the failing vestiges of Summer maintain their hold and Winter cannot be too far away. How lucky are we in Britain to experience these distinct and qualitatively different seasons in our lives.

27th September, 2014

A calm and warm morning was disturbed by the realisation that we had no hot water. A trip to the ‘engine room’ of the Development revealed that there had been a momentary power service blip over night and the boilers had gone off. The room is huge and houses the woodchip Biomass, three gas turbines and a CHP unit but resetting is easy and Pauline can soon have her shower.

The newspapers are dominated by emergency Parliamentary proceedings yesterday rubber stamping bombing raids on Iraq and, probably, Syria to drive back those who would establish an Islamic Caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean. I am writing to my MP to ask for the total annihilation of Golden Dawn in Greece to be included in forward plans. Talking about Greece, it looks as if the coalition’s attempts to loosen the economic reform programme’s fiscal targets and to shed EU control allowing lower taxes and higher pensions will fail. The Troika, quite rightly, just won’t allow it as ekathimerini reports.


It would be folly to go back to old ways after all the suffering people have been put through.

Week 299

14th September, 2014

A new week starts and marks mid-September. I start to look around and as myself what I’ve achieved so far this month. Achievement is not as easy in retirement as in one’s working life. On this occasion, I’ve decided to re-launch the weight loss programme with renewed vigour. I have 4 stones/25 kilos still to lose so I won’t manage it by the end of the year as I’d hoped but it does get much harder as I get closer to my target weight. I now hope/expect to make it by May 2015. To that end, we did an hour at the Health Club this morning and re-launched our iPad app, MyFitnessPal which monitors weight/height/age/ plus calories in and calories out via exercise. I just find it a real motivator.

15th September, 2014

If we had stayed the full time, we would have arrived back from Greece today. As it was, we arrived back eight weeks ago. Actually, we are expecting a phone call from Sifnos this morning and are returning to Greece in about eight more weeks. Today started under leaden skies but has very quickly given way to sunshine and blue sky. The week ahead is forecast to bump along at 24-25C/75-77F.

Just got back from an hour at the Gym and 400 calories burnt off. The day is now so beautiful that we are going to sit out in the sun. Our meal today is tuna & mackerel with tomato and cucumber salad. We are so healthy we squeak!

16th September, 2014

A fortnight ago today we were snoring. I was Great and my wife was Little. I won’t go into who was Fakenham.


Two weeks later, we are hard on the fitness trail. An hour at the Health Club and 400 calories burned off later, we are both feeling holier than thou.

17th September, 2014

It looks like I may have to send Skiathan Man some galoshes or a boat because his weather is turning difficult.


Ours, on the other hand is becoming Mediterranean. We have 24-25C/75-77F forecast for today and 26-27C/79-80F tomorrow.

Although we keep being told that the Scottish vote is too close to call, it looks as if the markets have already accepted and factored in a ‘No’ vote. The Pound Sterling has been strengthening since the weekend.

Had a long call from Elerania this afternoon. We’ve asked her to rope our Special Friend in to advise the Scots in their voting tomorrow. I think they’ll see sense.

18th September, 2014

You won’t be interested but, in researching Pauline’s Barnes Family tree, I found someone else doing the same. I contacted them and found a couple – lawyer and doctor by profession – distantly related to Pauline who are researching the same tree. I emailed them and got a long reply by return.

A warm day today reaching 26C/79F at its height – muggy and sweaty. Back to sleeping on top of the bedclothes while the Skiathan is still swimming home. At 2.00 am we were woken by the most enormous lightning flashes and thunder cracks followed by a monsoon downpour although it only lasted half an hour.

19th September, 2014

Today has started off very warm as well and we understand that will continue for quite a while. Shopping at Sainsbury’s. We have started using their Fast Track process. You pick up one of their barcode readers as you enter the shop.


You swipe each item in as you pick it up and put it into a bag in your trolley. When you get to the checkout, you just hand over the reader which shows what you have recorded. You are trusted to be honest which we are. The barcode reader shows how much you owe and a receipt is generated accordingly. It is so quick. I must suggest it to Moshka next summer.

20th September, 2014

The day has rather a muggy feel to it but the overcast sky is not forecast to reveal the sun until later. We have decreed today as a rest day which means Pauline is cleaning and cooking and I am reading and writing. Because of the warmth, we opened doors and windows as soon as we got up at 7.00 am. Within a few minutes, next door’s cat, Minnie, had called in to say good morning and then strolled casually out to go big game hunting under the trees.


Phone rang at 11.00 am. The estate agent asked if they could bring a prospective buyer round in fifteen minutes. Pauline had just finished cleaning. Everywhere looked perfect. When the buyer is escorted round the property, we make ourselves scarce. We will be told on Monday morning how it went. I hope we haven’t sold. We could be out on the streets soon!

Week 298

7th September, 2014

A lovely, warm day of 22C/70F. We spent it reading the Sunday papers which were fixated on the poll showing Scotland’s separation from UK becoming more likely. With ten days to go, the Chancellor appeared on television in a naked attempt to bribe the Scots with promises of reforms to come if they vote against separation. It looks as phoney as it is and won’t work.

I spent the afternoon, tidying up one of my websites to suit changing circumstances. It is an ongoing project.

8th September, 2014

Every day I read a handful of Greek Blogs, which are featured on the right of mine. I keep up to date with life on Symi island in the Dodecanese – somewhere I last visited in 1990. The author writes about the weather, about photographic tours, about filming, about new books and about a cat. I suddenly realised yesterday that he hadn’t mentioned an influx of Syrian refugees. This article appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday:

As we stepped off the Dodekanisos Pride ferry onto the Greek island of Symi for our late August beach holiday, our thoughts were on sunbathing and sailing. But our first sight was of 48 dispossessed Syrians carrying backpacks containing their worldly possessions. Within a week their numbers had grown to more than 200 and we could ignore their misery no longer.

Spending our last four days among them, we came across a septuagenarian with facial gashes who sat bleeding in 30C heat waiting for a doctor, as he had for 10 hours. He had hit his face against rocks when the Greek port police fired a shot in the air.

Nearby was the Kahalani, a 180ft yacht whose crew hovered attentively beside those sipping cocktails on board. Little did these pleasure-seekers realise that many of those in misery just steps away had once holidayed on yachts of their own.

This is the modern-day Greek tragedy unfolding on the closest island to the Turkish mainland, a 45-minute catamaran journey from Rhodes.

It’s a middle and upper-class Syrian exodus. In the past weeks neurologists, lawyers, bankers and judges have slept on the concrete floor of the police station terrace beside their only (blocked) lavatory.

“Ninety per cent of those arriving are university-educated. Twenty per cent earned over $200,000,” confided an undercover policeman. He talked off the record to highlight how the police do not have the manpower and facilities to cope.

Despite requests from the United Nations, the mayor refused to allocate a reception building for the refugees. By law they are illegal immigrants, and they are under arrest until the district attorney has checked their paperwork.

At first many refugees were too frightened to speak to me, fearing that I was a Syrian agent. They all asked not to be photographed or named. Again and again I was told: “If the army sees we’re saying what’s happening in Syria, they’ll kill our families.”

There was the once-privileged woman whose driver got lost in Damascus when the electricity went out. “I opened the car door,” she said, “and there were heads and decapitated bodies everywhere being eaten by dogs.”

Among the group, who were wearing numbered armbands to identify them, was a 17-year-old boy travelling alone: “My mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunt — all extinguished.” And the student who said he went to his best friend’s birthday in the next village and returned to 3,000 corpses: “All killed with poisonous gas.”

“I’m an old, sick man,” pleaded another arrival. “I’ve a sugar problem.” He indicated injecting himself with insulin.

Many had not slept for days. “We looked death in the eyes to come here. I thought we were leaving behind our suffering,” whispered Omar, an engineer, breaking into tears. “But it’s just beginning.”

One night dozens of people lay on the police terrace in rows, their legs bent to avoid kicking those squashed at their feet.

The overspill filled the post office, which the refugees called “the ghost house”; it had been described by the UN as unsuitable. Here babies slept on the floor, sweltering amid the rubbish. They were condemned to stay for up to five days while the local police struggled to complete their paperwork.

You have to be solvent to get this calibre of refugee welcome. These Syrians had paid up to €11,000 (£8,700) each to reach Greece — including €3,000-€5,000 to Turkish traffickers for the sea crossing, often just five nautical miles and 40 minutes away. They were headed for Athens to pick up fake passports and identity documents, for which they had already paid more than €3,500. Most were aiming for northern Europe. They could not travel legally or apply for political asylum until they reached their final destination and they risked a jail term if they travelled under a false identity.

While the UN reports that the number of Syrian refugees has risen above 3m, the problem is rapidly accelerating in Symi: 900 arrived in August, and the police there estimate up to 8,000 by the end of the year. On an island with a population of 2,600, that’s equivalent to 126m turning up temporarily in the UK.

One morning I took breakfast with two men who had made a treacherous five-hour crossing in a rubber dinghy. Only 10% of those arriving were women and children. Most of the men hoped to get their families out later, less perilously.

The situation will worsen this winter. “The waves are 13ft high; the boats cannot quickly land close to the shore,” the police told me. “In February the traffickers threw 12 or 13 people overboard near Nimo, including a six-month-old baby.”

The refugees cannot count on help from the islanders once they land. “The port authorities treat us like animals,” said a 19-year-old, once an economics student. “I was called a ‘rat’ and ‘vermin’.”

The hotels are now busy because it’s high season, but even those with vacancies mostly refuse to let rooms to asylum seekers. It’s bad for tourism. Last week the chief of police was yelling to the mayor to find accommodation for a 70-year-old couple. He shrugged and they wandered off, saying they would sleep on the street.

My daughter Ella, 16, and I helped as much as we could, smuggling three children to our shower, getting food and medicine to a handful of people, giving away most of our clothes to those who had lost theirs overboard.

“You mustn’t talk to them,” said one islander. “You don’t know what diseases they might have.”

A local restaurant, Pantelis, sometimes provides food. The Syrians are entitled to two free meals a day costing a total of €5.60. But last week the port authorities charged them €10 a head for one meal. Jill Quayle is a resident Brit who supports the refugees tirelessly. They weren’t even getting drinking water until another island resident, Ian Haycox, collected €300 from fellow expats to buy it.

“They talk about human rights,” says Vassilis Milathianakis, the harbour master. “But why should we feed them when they’ve paid €3,500 for their boat trip? We don’t have the money. We’re the ones suffering — I’ve had five hours’ sleep this week.”

As we boarded our ferry to leave the island, we saw that many of the refugees were coming too, including the old man with the gouged face. He was lying on a stretcher, and Ella held up his saline drip as he was taken aboard.

Then, one after the other, the 150 Syrians departing with us nodded towards us, put their right hand over their heart and mouthed: “As-salaam alaikum.” Peace be with you.

It paints a difficult and painful picture of the island as a holiday destination.

9th September, 2014

Beautiful morning – bright, sunny and mild but not too hot. It reached 22C/70F in the shade and 33C/91F in the sun. The forecast is for this to continue throughout September. We had a phone conversation with a Sifnos friend this morning. Everything seems to be going fine. Maybe we will see her in early November. Today, we are going to do a big workout at the Health Club.

Another poll shows the Scots/UK breakaway as a real possibility with opinion split 50% v 50%. The uncertainty is affecting share prices, Sterling exchange rates and Scottish house values. This is how the Sunday Times reported it yesterday:


Spent the best part of two hours at the Health Club including Gym and Pool work. Drove home in brilliant sunshine and drank a bottle of red wine on the patio. Everything feels so perfect at the moment I want to burst with happiness. Talking about bursting – I weighed myself today and I have lost half a stone since returning from Greece. I am now at the weight that began to really worry me in 1984 at the age of 33. It can only improve from here.

10th September, 2014

I’m looking more and more like my Mother. It’s not a good look for a man! I work on the treadmill facing floor length mirrors and see my Mother staring back at me. Scary or what? I was a teenager and formed my guiding beliefs in the Left Wing 60’s politics. I was passionate about the primacy of Nurture over Nature; I was scathing about those principles that others derived from genetic inheritance and eugenics. As one gets older, of course, one tends to soften but I have been really shocked by my family’s influences on me and my destiny. Not the least shock is beginning to realise that I have my Mothers eyes, jowls, moles, emotions, etc..

11th September, 2014

This time last year, Pauline & I took up 4G sim-only plans from EE which were incredibly cheap. We don’t actually use mobile phones a great deal anyway. We had pretty basic Galaxy Ace smartphones which were still adequate for our needs. A year on, we are beginning to reassess. We can have another smart phone with a contract from EE. The decision is whether to have a Windows phone – i.e. a Nokia – to mesh with our Windows 8 computers and our Microsoft Cloud storage or an iPhone to integrate with our iPad software.

nokia iphone

They’re both ‘free’ but it’s one of those things the idle retired can muse on endlessly. Feeling a bit under the weather today with the return of the edges of a ‘flu bug so I’ve not gone top the Health Club and I’ve got time to speculate mindlessly about such things as mobile phones.

12th September, 2014

A beautifully warm late Summer day which reached 24C/75F without a breath of wind. The trees are just beginning to betray marginal signs of Autumn and the ground beneath their feet has a light sprinkling of early Autumn leaves. Woodland anemones have been reaching to the light and flowering amongst the detritus of Autumn onset.


After our Sainsbury shop and a quick drive down to Farnham to look at some new houses being built, we returned home to sit outside and drink a glass of red Bordeaux in the extremely warm air.


Yesterday was new school day on Sifnos – just an hour – with religious blessings of everything that moves and some that don’t. Today the children did a full day and the poor teachers got a taste of the year to come. We are expecting a first hand account from our friends.

13th September, 2014

Newspaper columnists are writing Farewell to Scotland letters this weekend and may well be writing Farewell to Europe letters in the near future. Meanwhile, the Greek coalition is looking increasingly creaky as a recent poll published on a Blog I follow shows this:

KKE 5.6%
Independent Greeks 3%

There is one good and obvious thing about this finding – the fruitcakes who are Golden Dawn are falling back. They need 3% to be represented in Parliament and further action may degrade them below that point. Actually, the motormouths who like to act tough are not when it comes down to it. It’s good to be out of that febrile atmosphere.