Week 305

26th October, 2014

Our daily routine of bed at midnight and up at 7.00 am was not interrupted by the clock changes last night. The only thing that was notable was the fact that all our clocks now change automatically with the exception of the one on the oven. It is a pity to have darker evenings now but it is lovely to acknowledge the seasons. We are deep in to Autumn. Three days ago, the gardener swept up and bagged huge amounts of leaves yet, already, the grounds are obscured by more. This morning, I looked out at 7.00 am to see squirrels tunnelling under heavy layers of crisp, brown leaves to hide their winter food store and next door’s cat using leaf fall as cover to stalk three foraging magpies.


This week we are thinking of another south coast trip to view new houses. We know persistence will produce results. This time we have properties in the Battle, Hastings, Brighton areas.

27th October, 2014

A beautiful day of blue skies and sunshine and temperatures above Sifnos and Athens. It would have been a good day to go out house hunting but tomorrow is forecast to be similar so we will set off reasonably early for Sussex and Kent. Pauline has identified properties to look at and the round trip will take most of the day. This one looks interesting outside Hastings:


Today has been a frustrating one of trying to set up two on-line managed ISAs, putting our allowance for this year into them and transferring a poorly performing Santander into them as well. Completing this task has been far from on-line and has involved two supplementary phone calls and now leaves us waiting for confirmation letters by post. It is certainly not very digital.

28th October, 2014

The day has been one of Summer in Autumn with fiery coloured trees glowing under blue skies with strong sun. We left for a 200 mile round, house-hunting trip stopping first in Hastings, Sussex and then moving on to Adlington (nr. Ashford), Sellindge and Staplehurst in Kent. We saw four developments but only one appealed to us and that was the Hastings one featured in yesterday’s Blog.

29th October, 2014

Continuing our weather obsession, today has started, in complete contrast to recent days, damp and grey although still very mild. The newspapers are equally obsessed with weather related stories and The Times this morning reports that:


British strawberries will be available in December for the first time because warm weather and the use of polytunnels have given growers a nine-month season.

They also feature people sunbathing on deckchairs in London yesterday. While I write, Elerania has contacted us and we will speak on the phone later today. She is such a good friend and I bitterly regret not engaging her when I first moved to Sifnos – in line with one or two other regrets.

30th October, 2014

Long and involved shopping trip this morning that left us both tired. This afternoon, I am tidying the Study out while Pauline turns two pairs of new trousers up for me. She is convinced I’m shrinking. Wouldn’t you just love a dynamic life like this?

Honda contacted us to say they were ready to replace our brakes. It is set to be a lovely day tomorrow – probably the warmest last day of October day since records began is being forecast at 21C/70F – so we are setting off at 5.00 am for Huddersfield. We will be there around 8.30 am  for a couple of hours only and then off back home. We intend to be back in Huddersfield for 2.00 pm. Let’s hope the M25 and M1 motorways are kind.

Pauline has been discussing properties with developers and we are planning trips out next week. A trip to West Sussex – Hampshire for one day and another to East Sussex – Kent. Life can really be fun. We are flying to Greece in a couple of weeks and have a trip back to France at the beginning of December. We haven’t done so much varied travelling for years.

31st October, 2014

We began our valediction for October at 4.00 am and were on the empty M25 soon after 5.00 am. The darkness of early morning gave way to warm sunshine as we arrived in Yorkshire by 8.30 am. The temperature, as news bulletins kept informing us, reached an all time high for Halloween’s Night. In Surrey,it was 24C/75F. Tonight, as I write at 11.30 pm, the temperature outside is 16C/61F. In Sifnos, it is 14C/57F and in Athens it is 13C/55F. However, I don’t think this summer can last much longer.

We had returned to our Honda Dealership to have our brakes renewed. It was in Greece that they first started squeaking and we thought it was a consequence of the dry atmosphere.


The regular service identified the need for their replacement – a job that would have cost £600.00 but came free with our three year maintenance agreement. The job took two hours during which we drank coffee and read our iPad newspapers.

By 11.30 am, under a beautiful, summer sky, we set off back on our seven hour round trip. After a fairly problem-free journey up the M1, the M25 on a Friday afternoon was horrible. Instead of 3.00 pm, it was 4.30 pm by the time we got home and we were tired.

1st November, 2014

Happy November!


Happy anything really. Time, day, month, year matter little – until you run out! Even so, we are entering the end stages of a momentous year for us.

Today is yet another beautiful, sunny and mild one. 18C/65F in Surrey and exactly the same on Sifnos. Only 16C/61F in Athens. To celebrate the new month, I’m watching football and Pauline’s sewing. We are still rather tired after our exertions of yesterday.

Week 304

19th October, 2014

Up early to a beautiful, sunny day which reached 20C/69F by lunchtime. Hotel breakfast of bacon & scrambled eggs and then off to Repton to say ‘Hello’ to Mum. We always go at the most poignant time of year when the signs of natural decay drift across the wonderfully peaceful and isolated graveyard.


We were there by 11.30 am and did our duty. She rebuked me as usual, pointing out that I visited more often in death than in life. I took it on the chin and we set off for Surrey.

Throughout our journey, the sun shone and the trees burned with Autumn. It was blustery but warm. Showers of leaves carpeted the roads as we drove. Little Viv phoned us in the car as we drove and, as soon as we got home, we picked up a message from friends on Sifnos. We have had a delightful four days away and now have to get back on with the fitness campaign.

20th October, 2014

A glorious, sunny and warm morning. Autumn is in full flow as our garden shows.


Back from Yorkshire, we are catching up with business. I’m transferring money into new, savings accounts while Pauline is phoning friends on Sifnos. She has also made tomato soup in her spare time while I’m still trying hard to finish The Sunday Times.

21st October, 2014

A lovely, bright and sunny day but a bit breezy. Only 20 miles away, in central London, a woman was killed when a huge tree was blown down on top of her. We have been busy catching up with correspondence – emails and letters. Pauline cooked a delicious meal of roast salmon with broad beans and onions. I should add that we have embarked on a ‘dry’ month or until we fly to Greece at least. So our meals are accompanied by sparkling water.

The ‘no wine’ rule gave me a dilemma this afternoon because I was preparing Beef Bourguignon. It requires a bottle of red wine but I salved my conscience in the knowledge that all the alcohol is driven off in the cooking.


I’ve been trying to arrange a new joint account with a Savings Bank to deposit money but ‘money laundering’ concerns mean one has to go to ridiculous lengths to prove one’s identity. It’s worse than Greece (almost). Tomorrow, we have to take copies of our passports and driver’s licences to the Post Office to have them ‘officially’ verified by some spotty youth. They then have to go off in the snail mail post to be checked before we can open an ‘on-line’ account. Bonkers!

Pauline was checking the Heathrow Long Stay car park to book it for our Greek trip next month. Up on her computer accounts came the last time we booked that car park. It was in 1998 when we flew to Greece and stayed in Sifnos over Easter for the first time. I can picture it so well. Nikos had just been born and the weather was freezing. We sat huddled around an oil-filled radiator in Hotel Stavros and shivered.

22nd October, 2014

Happy Birthday to the twins,  Liz & Mike. 57 today.


Beautiful, bright and breezy but chilly start to the day. We’ve been out to our bank to get copies of documents certified to comply with EU money laundering legislation in setting up savings bank and ISA accounts. We have been with bank for forty years, have a ‘Private’ Black Account and pay £300.00/380.00€ per year to service it. We have a Personal Banking Manager. We ask to have our documents certified and are told that will only be done to help us buy their financial products. Disgusted, we go off, confidently, to the Post Office where we’ve had this service before only to get the same response as our trusted bank. Apparently, some main Post Office branches will provide the service for £15.00/19.00€ but we will have to drive miles to get to one. It really does feel rather Third World-ish in a Greek way!

23rd October, 2014

Outside, the gardener is blowing the carpets of leaves into a sack. It’s a bit like herding eels in the breeze. We are setting out on a tour of the south coast today, house hunting.

We have had a very pleasant trip which took us to Upper Froyle in Hampshire – only 25 miles from our house – Brackenwood in West Sussex – a further 20 miles on and then Pulborough in West Sussex just 10 miles from Worthing where my sister, Catherine, lives. The journey back to our house from there was 40 miles. We went to see this house amongst others:


We have specific requirements for our new house:

  • Laundry
  • Study with fast broadband
  • Large kitchen
  • Dining Room
  • Downstairs Cloakroom
  • 4 Double Bedrooms with at least 1 En Suite
  • Multiple satellite TV points
  • Garage – preferably double.
  • It must be new build
  • It will be preferably under the 3% stamp duty at £500,000.00

This house style is £500,000 in one area and £560,000 in another. We are prepared to go higher in price to buy in a better location. It must have good supermarkets and a Health Club within easy reach and it would be nice to get to the coast quickly.

24th October, 2014

Barty aka Paros Man wonders whether we are missing Sifnos as he flies back from his holidays.


Since leaving the island, we have been so busy that we haven’t thought about it much although a phone call from friends there does leave one reliving the world that is a Greek island. We have had two such calls today while we were out and our imaginations immediately recreate the place our callers sit in, walk in, shop in, live their lives. Even this morning, we have spoken by phone to two friends on the island and had email contact with two others. To be honest, when we reflect, we do not miss the claustrophobia that was Sifnos and relish the expansive challenge not being a Greek home owner presents. The rest of the world is such a big place to explore.

As our media reports huge rebates for Germany and France and a huge supplementary payment of £1.7 Billion as a result of our surging economy, the Get Out of Europe Campaign receives a major boost. This is from Guido Fawkes this morning:

The EU this morning orders Britain to pay a £1.7 billion “prosperity tax” within weeks, while France and Germany receive massive rebates. A continental source gloats to the Telegraph: “there is nothing Britain can do about it”. That isn’t true: Dave can refuse to pay, tell Brussels to deal with it and then see what they do. It’s our money, the PM has to say “no, no, no”.

They just can’t let Thatcher go.

25th October, 2014

The British newspapers are screaming for us to get out of the E.U. The huge additional payment is today’s trigger although it has actually been know about since last May. The newspapers are full of stories about Calais being a lawless town with immigrants who have made their way right across Europe with the sole intention of getting in to Britain. There is some truth in that in our recent experience. It is certainly worse than what we have seen over the years in Patras port.

Separatism abounds. Scotland voted to stay – just – but all those bugbears of keeping them are being paraded. The Barnett Formula used to decide the central grant has long been thought over generous to those north of the border. There are calls to re-formulate. Topical for today is the GMT. Many would like England to remain on permanent European Time – maximising the evening light. A strong argument against this has always been put up by the Scots who would live in longer hours of darkness. This old chestnut is coming out now with differential time zones suggested. All the mood music points to an exit.

Week 303

12th October, 2014

On Tuesday, we are going to visit a long lost, distant relative of Pauline’s family who I found researching the same material on a website. I contacted them only to be invited over for coffee at their home in East Molsey near Hampton Court Palace. It’s only about 13 miles away from us and will be an interesting visit. Pauline has been trawling through her huge archive of family photos and selecting out ones to take with us.

Not to be left out, I’ve been going through my store and came across this one which I’d forgotten. This was taken some time in 1952.


My brother, Bob is on the left and I’m on the right. There is only 9 months between us. I’ve know idea where our pram was parked. I don’t recognise it at all.

13th October, 2014

A day of heavy rain. We have been working on projects in the house. Pauline’s phone has been going non-stop with calls from Developers and Estate Agents trying to interest her in their latest wares.

While Skiathan Man was making and cooking sausage, I was making tomato, garlic and basil sauce and cooking pieces of Ling fish in it.


Like his SWMBO, we are not keen on spicy and prefer the more traditional Mediterranean flavours of olive oil, tomato and garlic.

14th October, 2014

We drove over to East Molsey near Hampton Court Palace this morning to meet two of Pauline’s relatives who we weren’t even aware existed until a couple of weeks ago.


I contacted them via an ancestry research site. Patrick & Beth proved to be lovely, welcoming people.


Patrick is a High Court Judge and Beth is a Barrister and professional Opera Singer. They have children away at public school. They gave Pauline & Phyllis cake and coffee and we exchanged information and photographs.

15th October, 2014

My Dad was born on 15th October, 1915 which would have made him 99 today. Instead, he died at the cruel age of 49. This is him aged 9 months pictured in July 1916 during the white heat of World War One when his father was away in the Royal Navy Air Service.


It may even have been taken for his father to take away as a keepsake to get him through the war. This is him in 1963, the year before he died.


I was so saddened talking to my sister, Ruth, last night. I had intended visiting her but can’t this time. More upsetting were the ‘network’ of distant relationships we all seem to have adopted. I woke at 3.00 am thinking about it. I know I am as much to blame as any and it looks as if it is irretrievable which is really regrettable.

Tomorrow morning early – 6.00 am to beat the rush hour on the M25 – we are setting off for Yorkshire. First stop will be the Honda garage to have our car serviced. We are staying for three nights and driving home via Mum & Dad’s grave in Repton on Sunday morning.

16th October, 2014

Up at 5.00 am and on the road by 6.00 am driving to Yorkshire. We were there by 9.45 am despite two lots of M1 roadworks slowing us down. We drove straight to Hepworth Honda, our Dealership of 30 years, to have the car serviced and to chat to our friend, Chris Woods, who has sold us twenty new cars over the years. We sat around with our iPad newspapers while the work was done.

Just after 11.00 am, we revisited some Huddersfield sights and then drove to our hotel – the Holiday Inn at Brighouse – to check in. We had booked a Suite which cost little more than an Executive Room and it is perfect for our needs. We have a bedroom with a TV,  a lounge with a dining table, fridge, TV, settee and armchairs, Bathroom with bath and shower. The gardens are beautiful and rabbits run round the lawns.

17th October,2014

Woken up early to a beautiful, sunny morning. Blue sky and Autumnal sun; don’t have to go to work; time to enjoy the moment. This morning, after a leisurely breakfast of orange juice and tea, we are driving over to Oldham to visit my old colleague and friend, Brian and his wife, Val.

We drove back to Huddersfield and prepared to meet friends – Viv, Margaret & Tony – for Dinner. We had chosen to go to a restaurant near our old house. Erics was called something else when we last went there. So many restaurants have struggled during the recession. We met at 7.00 pm and it was lovely to meet up again. It is nice to meet good, honest friends. The restaurant was packed and noisy but the food was brilliant. I had sea bass fillet with scallop for my starter. Chicken and pancetta filled me up and I didn’t need a sweet although some of our group had one. Pauline had confit duck followed by cheesecake. It was a good evening.

18th October, 2014

Up a bit later this morning – 7.15 am – after our activities yesterday. Our normal days are spent quietly together and yesterday was spent in hours of talking in social situations. It was very draining. Goodness knows how I would feel going back to teaching now. This morning we are going in to town so Pauline can do some shopping and then over to Oldham to the crematorium to remember her Mum’s death 4 years ago today.

For the second half of October, it is incredibly warm. We’ve come away to Northern England and I’ve only brought short sleeved shirts. I was out in one until late last night and wearing one to go out this morning. If this is Global Warming, let me have more of it! We went to Oldham to say ‘Hello’ to Pauline’s Mum. And then – from the sublime to the ridiculous – we visited Tesco to buy up all its Holland’s pies for homesick Colin. We do it every time we come up. We went on to buy a couple of suitcases for our November trip to Greece. When you’re not driving, you need suitable luggage.

Now, back at our hotel, we are sitting in glorious sunshine, surrounded by wonderful grounds of trees and bushes on fire with Autumnal colours. It is a lovely place to relax and read the newspaper.


Week 302

5th October, 2014

Wonderfully sunny day for Pauline’s Birthday. She is 63 today. Happy Birthday Darling.


We went out to an Italian restaurant with family to celebrate it. Interesting meal.

6th October, 2014

A cool, windy and wet day. We dedicated it to financial management work. Pauline prepared dressed crab for our meal and it was absolutely delicious.


Felt a bit under the weather so we didn’t go out to exercise. We did visit the new, Asda Megastore – out of interest and to do a bit of shopping. Our big shop this week will be in France.

7th October, 2014

A lovely, sunny day. I have to go out for a blood test. Life’s full of fun. I had my free ‘flu jab as well.


Apparently, middle-aged people with heart trouble could halve their risk of a heart attack by getting a flu jab, research suggests. Usually, after a ‘flu jab, I feel under the weather for a couple of days. As we are going to France tomorrow, I hope that isn’t repeated this year.

We’ve had a flurry of communications with Sifnos in the past 24hrs. It feels strange now we don’t live there. Under normal circumstances, we would have been back in Surrey for a month anyway but speaking to people we know in situations we picture in our mind’s eye is strangely unsettling.

8th October, 2014

A damp and rather dull, autumnal morning. Off to France for a couple of days shopping. First, I had to do some urgent communications with people on Sifnos.

Leave at 10.00 am for the Folkestone Tunnel. We will be in France by mid day. Pauline has written a shopping list as long as two men’s arms so the car is full of refrigerators, cool bags, shopping bags, etc.. Let’s hope the back axle survives!

The rain was heavy as we drove down to the Tunnel but the sun shone over Calais and Coquelle as we drove off the Shuttle and to our hotel. Coffee and a banana and then off to Cite Europe to do some shopping.

9th October, 2014

Heavy rain and strong winds over night but the morning has dawned bright, mild and blustery. After Breakfast, we set of for the Calais Wine Superstore. As we drove the five miles there, we noticed numerous, small knots of Asylum Seekers dotted around the area.


As we approached the Wine Store, a large bunch of these people were being ‘monitored’ by French police in a white van. This is where the immediate problem lies. Dozens, maybe hundreds of people cross from Africa and Asia through Greece and Italy to France with one intention – get to Britain, the Land of Milk & Honey. They destroy their documents of origin and cannot be made stateless so the French police do nothing more than harass them. There is no mileage in picking them up. They merely roam the countryside constantly trying to board a vehicle to get across the Channel.

We are the lucky ones. We live in Britain. We spent the morning indulging ourselves in a splurge of shopping on things that Asylum Seekers could only dream of. After buying 150 bottles of wine, we moved on to Auchan in Coquelles.


There we bought packs of Duck Legs, Duck Breasts, joints Pork and Beef. On to Carrefour in Cité Europe where we bought a week’s fruit and vegetables, cold meats, cheese and lots of fish. We bought a side of salmon, loins of cod, fillets of ling and two, huge, live crabs.

We filled our car fridge, cool boxes and cool bags and set off for the Tunnel. Two hours later, the crabs were swimming in the sink at home in Surrey, staring and waving at Pauline. They didn’t swim for long in a stock pot of boiling, salted water. They will be on the menu tomorrow.

10th October, 2014

A relaxing day. We ‘dressed’ the crabs – a time-consuming process but great fun. Next door’s cat got very excited and was rewarded with some scraps. Our reward was a lovely, crab meal. We’ll probably have to repaint the kitchen having scraped the walls clean of shell fragments but – no pain no gain.

Looks like Europe is heading for a triple dip recession which will be disastrous for Greece, killing off its nascent recovery. Samaras is struggling to maintain equilibrium as it is. If the German economy is wobbling as it appears to be currently then the Greek situation must be parlous. It seems that we just got out in time!

11th October, 2014

Went to the EE Shop in Woking for some technical help with our SIM cards. A lovely, little girl who has just graduated as an architect served us and sorted out the problem within half an hour.


We drove home delighted because an hour of our attempts through the phone’s settings had achieved nothing. It turns out that the SIM card settings could only be edited from within an iPhone and not our Sony Xperia.

Next, I have turned to financial matters – moving an ISA that had lost its Bonus %age and investing in a new one for each of us under this year’s allowance and regulations. Now we can each invest £15,000.00 each tax year in a tax-free ISA wrapper. We have always invested our maximum allowable since we retired and this year will be no different although the rate is appalling. We can get 1.4 – 1.5% for an easy access ISA at the moment so for £30,000.00 over a year we will just earn £450.00. We will try to avoid using ISA money but we don’t want to tie it up at the moment so we have accepted that position. If we can put a lot of money into property, we are likely to make 9 – 12% p.a. around here so that is a much better bet.