Week 318

25th January, 2015

How do you feel about beetroot? I must say from the outset that I have always loved it. I enjoy it in pickled, salad form and roasted as a vegetable but the one thing I have never done is drink it. In fact, I have spent my life avoiding vegetables in juice form just as I don’t wear sandals or hair shirts. We have always grown beetroot in our vegetable gardens over the past forty years without knowing its health-giving properties  but today I drank it for the first time on the strength of reliable evidence that says it increases anti-coagulation – which might help me reduce my intake of warfarin – and lowers blood pressure which might reduce other drugs I take. The juice sold by Tesco & Sainsbury is featured below.

brjuice brjuice2br

I drank a glass this morning and loved it. Pauline is rapidly searching out Juicers powerful enough to turn raw beetroot into a drinkable form but, as I sat down to a bowl of vegetable soup this afternoon after a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast and a mid-morning snack of a banana, I began to panic that I was in danger of voting Green. Help!

5.30 pm GMT – Syriza has won the Greek election with what may possibly be an overall majority.


Tsipras has done it and now inherits the poisoned chalice. Maybe that’s what Samaras wanted after all. Greece will shake with excitement, (misplaced) optimism and real trepidation. Nobody knows what will happen in reality but one thing is sure, it won’t be kind to right wing business people.

26th January, 2015

Today, the Greek people wrote history, Tsipras declared in his victory speech. The Greece of the elite has been defeated.

By elite, of course, he means ‘old order’ dominated by ΠΑΣΟΚ and Νέα Δημοκρατία but also and more basically, Capitalism and the money owning classes, inherited money and privilege. The ever optimistic crowds believe their vote has sent one, simple message: Good Night, Mrs Merkel.


If only it were that simple. A famously euro sceptic French politician has said that Syriza has made a mistake to believe that you can separate austerity from staying in the euro. On the contrary, austerity has been imposed precisely to save the euro. The two are inseparable… Anyone who thinks it’s possible to reform the euro is deceiving themselves and wasting time.

The immediate question is what do about the final, €3.6 billion of aid to Greece that was due to be signed off in the next month in return for Greek compliance with the demands of the Troika – demands that Tsipras said firmly in his victory speech last night would no longer be met. A two-month extension from Greece’s creditors, granted to conclude an audit that will determine the release of the next tranche of loans, is due to expire on February 28. A flight of capital out of Greek banks that began several weeks ago is likely to accelerate and the value of the euro against currencies such as sterling and the dollar will slide. With Greek government bonds suddenly perceived as more risky, the yield, or return, given to their holders is expected to soar. For many, simple, island Greeks this will be meaningless but will hit home when pensions and services are cut and EU subsidies dry up completely. Now is not a time to be ill, old or jobless in Greece. Equally, now may be a very risky time to hold Greek bank accounts.

27th January, 2015

Busy day today including a hard, gym session so I’m writing this in retrospect which is never good for a man with a memory like a sieve. Really big event today was Pauline cutting my hair which shows how dramatic life is at the moment. The latest Eurotunnel special offer was emailed to me – a £20.00/€26.75 day return for car and up to nine passengers.


We will do our monthly shop at the beginning of February in the Hypermarkets of Calais/Coquelles and, partly thanks to the Greeks, the purchases will cost us so much less than in the Summer.

28th January, 2015

Really pleasant, sunny day which reached 10C/50F in the afternoon. We went through what has become a regular ritual in our house now. We spent half an hour reviewing my clothes and throwing about two thirds of them out because they are way too big for me. Pauline has already replaced them with new and is tired of the old clogging up the wardrobes. It is quite a cathartic exercise which feels like discarding an old and unsatisfactory past to which I know I will never return. The problem is that I’ve become quite obsessive about buying new socks but losing weight doesn’t seem to affect their effectiveness. For that reason, my sock draw just gets more and more full. Used socks are not really the sort of thing one takes to the Hospice Shop so they stay in the draw.

Having established superfast broadband last week, I’m turning my attention to ‘cloud’ computer storage this week. We both use Ms. OneDrive cloud backup services currently but would like the increased security of hosting our own data so I’ve decided to buy a wireless, backup drive for home. This has an app. for connectivity with mobile phone , iPad and laptop whilst out of the house so it will seamlessly replace our current arrangements.


It is so cheap these days. Two terabytes plus software will cost me £99.00/€132.30. My first PC had a 42Mb hard drive partioned at 32Mb because that was the working limit at the time. This backup drive is 2,000,000Mb. How times have changed!

29th January, 2015

January is nearly done already. Has anyone found the ‘pause’ button yet? We really need it now. Life is so good that ‘pause’ would be perfect at this time.

Oh well, onward and upward – well outward to Currys to purchase my ‘Cloud Drive’ and to the doctor to collect a repeat prescription. The morning has been spent connecting up the drive, linking phones, laptops, iPads and Desktops to it. While we are out at the Health Club, 7Gb of data will be backed up wirelessly.

30th January, 2015

Very chilly day to day where the temperature didn’t rise above 6C/43F. We did a shop at Tesco this morning, dropped in to see Phyllis & Colin on the way home and intended to go to the gym. After four hard consecutive days of exercise, I decided that I needed a day off so we went out to M&S to buy a birthday present for James. As we got to the counter to pay, a older lady nipped in front of us. She was very trendily dressed in leggings and a particularly colourful, patchwork style, short coat. Pauline said immediately that she loved the coat. The older lady turned and smiled and said, Oh, I’ve had it for years. I’m 92 you know. We were left absolutely amazed as she skipped off towards the escalator. That’s certainly something to aspire to.

One thing that has particularly helped me to control my eating has been my new bean-to-cup coffee maker. I’ve had it exactly a year now. I drink three or four cappuccinos each day without sugar and with fat free milk. Today I found some interesting cups to serve it in. I’ve been looking, unsuccessfully for quite some time. These may be the answer:


31st January, 2015

Woke at 7.00 am to a heavy frost/light dusting of snow but it had disappeared by 10.00 am as we went out to fix an iPad problem for Phyllis. Actually, it was something I had not come across before where her internet browser had gone into negative colour which made it even more difficult for her to read it. After a long period of trawling nerd chatrooms, I discovered that she had accidently touched the ‘Private Browsing’ button which, if selected, results in that effect. When you know, it is remedied at the touch of a button.

Unwittingly, Pauline and I are fitting in with the current demographic in relation to shopping. Forty years ago we used to do one, huge, monthly shop at a supermarket – Asda – and then smaller, supplementary ones at local, village shops. Twenty years ago, we went to one supermarket – Sainsbury’s to do a weekly shop and that was enough. Working long hours made us time-poor so the least time spent in the process was best. Now, in retirement, we shop at Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and Asda according to what we need at what is good value. We play the system. The last two shops have been in Sainsbury’s and Asda so, today, came an envelope of coupons to the value of £25.00/€33.37 off our next shop at Tesco. In addition, we have 20p/€0.27 per litre off petrol which is already currently £1.06/€1.41 per litre. In a couple of weeks, a similar enticement will come from Sainsbury’s and we’ll go back there for a shop. All the supermarkets are desperately seeking increased customer base and loyalty but the British people are responding by becoming ‘discount tarts’. And so are we.

Week 317

18th January, 2015

A grey, damp and cold day all day – just the sort for staying in and reading the papers. This time next week the Greeks will have voted in a general election that could cause the country to default and leave the single currency. The Sunday Times, this morning,  had a lovely explanation of how the perfect bailout might work:

There’s a village in Greece where everyone is in debt. One day a German tourist walks into the local hotel and puts a €100 note on the desk, saying he wants to inspect the rooms before deciding whether to stay. The owner gives him some keys and as soon as the visitor walks upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and dashes next door to settle his debt with the village butcher.

The butcher takes the €100 and runs to repay what he owes the pig farmer. The pig farmer uses the €100 note to pay his drinks bill at the taverna. The taverna owner uses it to pay his barmaid, who is staying on tick at the hotel. She pays off her room bill with the €100 note. Then the hotel owner replaces the €100 note on the counter, so the German will not suspect anything is amiss. That’s when the traveller comes downstairs, announces the rooms are not to his liking, pockets his €100 and resumes his journey.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt. That’s how a bailout should work.

Now that’s how the Greeks would have liked it to work. Unfortunately, life’s not that simple as the 60,000 or so Greeks who fixed mortgages in Swiss Francs are finding now they are 20% more expensive. There is no substitute for straight, honest dealing.

19th January, 2015

Gloriously sunny but cold morning. The air is sharp and clear. We are out early to the supermarket and then off to the Health Club before coming home to clean and tidy the house. This evening, we are hosting a pre-residents meeting to set the agenda for the residents meeting tomorrow. It is one of those necessary evils we have to go through twice a year. A number of our services are communally funded – heating and hot water come from a heat interchange unit centrally sourced and maintained. Our refuse goes to a community bin store. Our car parking space is in an underground car park where other residents park as well. Our grounds are maintained by a communally hired gardening team and they are lit by centrally funded lighting. It is all very economical but policy has to be agreed across 38 property holders which can be frustrating. It is one reason that we are intending to move to a detached property where we can take full responsibility for our own lives.

20th January, 2015

Our coldest night of the Winter with temperatures down to -5C/23F. The Times featured an excellent photo to illustrate this in today’s edition:


Now, at 11.00 am, we have a beautiful, sunny day with frost largely gone.

The Greek election appears to be increasingly going to the far-Left, Syriza party. Three opinion polls last night saw the anti-austerity party increasing their lead to somewhere between 4% – 6%. This is outside the area of statistical error and really firms up their chances. A poll for Mega Channel put them 4% ahead. A poll for Pro Thema put them 4.4% ahead and a poll for Skai Television put them 6.5% ahead. The only real question is whether they will need coalition partners or can manage alone.

21st January, 2015

We had a long meeting last night and were very late to bed. Consequently, this morning we weren’t up until 7.15 am. We did go out for a tough session at the Health Club but Pauline still had the strength to make a wonderful meal of roast vegetable and tarragon soup followed by home made baked beans and Cumberland sausage.

Interesting news from the Economic Summit in Davos where the head of BP has said that oil prices could remain low for up to three years. He added that that could send UK petrol prices below £1.00/€1.30 per litre. Every little helps! It also looks as if the European Central Bank will embark on a policy of Quantitative Easing to the tune of 500bn euros / £382bn. This policy will tend to drive down interest rates which will also make investors less enthusiastic about investing in the currency. Recent depreciation of the euro is largely due to anticipation of QE coming down the line. All in all, it should be good news for we Brits.

22nd January, 2015

Had to perform my least favourite husbandly duties this morning. To her credit, Pauline doesn’t ask it of me often so, when she does, I comply uncomplainingly. So it was, we went off to the Peacock’s Shopping Mall to look for clothes.


The funny thing was that, no sooner had we entered the shopping area but a tannoy message told everyone to go outside because fire had been detected. We were back in very soon afterwards and I managed an hour and a half during which time Pauline failed to find anything to her taste. On our way up to the roof top car park, we passed a new butcher’s shop which had opened in Market Walk and we bought four pheasants at £3.25 / €4.30 each which is an excellent price.


I installed my new Sky Router this afternoon because the switch to fibre optic super power is supposed to take place during tomorrow. Switching routers usually results in temporary reductions in speed and so it is for me. I will wait and see the outcome over the weekend and do a speed test on Monday. I’m sure you’ll wait with bated breath.

23rd January, 2015

Woke up to the heaviest frost of the Winter so far. It registered -6F/21C where we live although a little Oxfordshire went down to -9C/16F. The day gave way to beautiful sunshine although it was still only -2C/28F as we drove to Sainsbury’s at around 10.00 am. We were just turning into our lane on the drive home when I noticed an Openreach worker fiddling around in the Fibre Optic case on the corner. I knew instinctively that he was linking me up.


I rushed through the front door to check, barely noticing that the burglar alarm wasn’t set. Sure enough, my 5Mbps had leapt to 32Mbps download and upload had been transformed 10 fold to 10Mbps. It was only then that Pauline pointed out the burglar alarm problem. It is linked to a call centre by phone. I checked the phone and it was dead. The service department made light of it and soon had me back on and sailing along. The whole thing strikes me as distinctly odd, though, as I have a sky phone line rental (on a BT installed line) and a Sky fibre broadband connection using wholly BT infrastructure based in a BT cabinet. How can this really be considered privatisation?

24th January, 2015

Feels like Spring in Surrey. The skies are blue, the sun is shining and the birds vigorously being birds all round the woods. For Greece, however, the final supper looms. As Sky (Greek)TV called the election for Syriza by 7%, today’s editorial in The Times says this morning that Syriza is:

a leftist movement that believes it has overcome the laws of arithmetic. If any Greek government after the elections, either as a single party or as a coalition, implements Syriza’s programme, it will do great damage.

Certainly, the markets look as if they are bracing for trouble. The Euro has settled at £1.00 = €1.34 for the weekend. Thank goodness we sold last Summer and bought Sterling. The British currency is strong as many, panicking Greeks have realised and seek to get their money out by buying it.

Week 316

11th January, 2015

Glorious morning of blue skies and sunshine but cool with a hint of frost. Roles are completely reversed today. Sifnos is three times warmer than us. 6C/42F at 10.00 am compared with an island temperature of 18C/64F. We are going to generate some heat in the Gym this morning.

I had a disturbed night and woke at 4.30 am thinking about the Skiathan‘s problem. Actually, I was thinking how I would cope with it if Pauline was ill. To tell the truth, you never really know until it happens. I just hope I would be strong and not fall apart. I like to think I would fight for every scrap of medical support available. There is mounting evidence that that is exactly what one has to do. Of course, unlike the Skiathan, we don’t have a young child to look after and shelter from the storm. Radio 4 came on at 6.00 am as usual and distracted my thoughts. The Skiathan does not have that luxury.

12th January, 2015

Horribly cold, snowy weather with Force 8 gales are set to hit the Cyclades in the next two or three days just as snow is forecast in Northern England. Down here, the weather is comparatively Mediterranean – well not too bad anyway.

Had my six monthly medical review this morning and was told that I am close to leaving Type 2 Diabetes behind. This is what Pauline has been saying could happen for the past two years but I didn’t really believe. I would like to say that it’s been a long, hard slog but, in reality, it hasn’t. At least it will give me the incentive to continue the campaign. On that note, we drove straight to the Health Club for an hour’s exercise. I was too enthusiastic and felt absolutely shattered when I got home.

My review was with the Practice Diabetes Nurse. The waiting room was packed with old people coughing and sneezing, shuffling with sticks and bent over. Is this the future? Tomorrow I will have a follow-up phone call from the doctor. It is a fantastic surgery which is privately sponsored by a charitable trust founded around finance from the Bedser Twins (England’s fast bowlers in the 1930s and ’40s) and Harry Secombe (1950s star) of The Goons.

bedsers bsecombe

This seems to make a big difference to its ability to offer services other practices can’t afford.

13th January, 2015

Have to put off managing the country today because we have to shop at Tesco, host the Burglar Alarm engineer for our six monthly service and receive a follow-up phone call from my doctor after my annual review. I just hope there’s no major terrorist attack forcing me to convene and chair the COBRA Committee. This always happens when I’m in Tesco.

A beautifully sunny and pleasantly mild day which has just been improved as I am delighted to confirm, after my doctor phoned this afternoon, that I am no longer a diabetic. I find it hard to believe but it is official. Now where’s that wine?

14th January, 2015

Lovely sunny day but cold. At 10.00 am, it is only 3C/37F which is seriously chilly. The sharp light under glorious blue skies makes one glad to be alive. Not going to the Gym today. We’ve got too much to do.

My job is to upgrade our broadband facility to superfast fibre optic and to complete the transfer of another pair of ISAs. The derisory interest rate is beginning to look almost acceptable as CPI falls to 0.5%. We will actually be making a +1.00% improvement. We are being told that deflationary pressure in UK is good while underlying inflation – RPI – stands at 1.6% and Europe, the basket case, is in a deflationary spiral which could be difficult to pull out of. Unfortunately, as Europe is currently our biggest trading partner, you can’t really separate the two. What is incredible and why we are so pleased to be out of it, the Euro has fallen to nearly €1.30 = £1.00. My Foreign Exchange Bank has just texted me to say that Sterling is at a six year high against the Euro. There is still a real chance that Greece will elect a left wing alliance called Syriza who will default on its debt and find itself pushed out of the E.U.


Syriza is and has been offering the Greek people an alleviation of what they perceive as their suffering – having to pay taxes, reducing over generous pensions, breaking closed shop monopolies that have been handed down through families, demanding backhanders for state services, ignoring building and planning regulations, etc. Reality says that, if this really is Syriza’s policy, it will fall at the first hurdle. Polling suggests Syriza really will win this time:

“The difference is between a rough three and four percentage points and I don’t see it closing,” said professor Dimitris Keridis, who teaches political science at Athens’s Panteion University. “Samaras is facing the inevitability of defeat.”

When we were home owners there, it is what we most dreaded. Markets are likely to plummet. Banks are likely to haemorrhage, capital controls are likely to be required. It will be Cyprus  revisited. It will certainly put the wind up right wing hoteliers!

15th January, 2015

Mid-January already and incredibly mild outside with lovely sun. The gardeners are preparing the grounds for the Spring. I think there may be a little local difficulty before then but we must be optimistic.

I contacted Sky and they will upgrade my broadband to 42Mbs with a new, wireless router for free. In six months time, it will cost me just £10.00/ €13.00 per month extra and the whole process will take ten days. Joy of Joys!


Well you heard it here first and today it happened. The Euro moved to its weakest against the Dollar and Sterling for seven years, moving to £1.00 = €1.31 this morning making the Euro worth £0.76. The immediate reason was that Switzerland unexpectedly unpegged the franc from its anchor to baseline euro because they are worried about a Greek debacle pulling the euro too low. Of course, many are worried about that and the Swiss franc has soared as Euro countries have sort refuge. For us, travelling across Europe this year will be considerably cheaper whereas living in Greece will be considerably more expensive for imports.

16th January, 2015

The Euro holds at £1.00 = €131 and reports from Greece this morning tell us that so concerned are Greeks that the outflow of money is causing serious liquidity problems for the four, main banks. Two – probably Alpha and Eurobank – have already been cited as seeking  emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) with the other two expected to follow shortly. There are still nine days to the election which gives plenty of time for money to flow abroad.

The Health Club was incredibly busy today. All these people on New Year resolutions. We know they’ve got no staying power or, as my friend, Sam used to say in his annual lecture, STICKABILITY. Two or three weeks and their hectic work and social lives will have kicked in as they increasingly don’t manage to find time for the gym. We junior retireds, on the other hand, have all the staying power required although quite how we’ll deal with it when we are abroad this year, we still have to figure out. We no longer have a Greek garden to clear.

17th January, 2015

The morning has opened with a heavy frost but it has soon been despatched by a lovely, sunny sky. We put the central heating on for half an hour – a noteworthy event – but it soon got too hot. Pauline received a parcel from Lakeland this morning. It is a vegetable spaghetti maker or a new version of that old classic spiral cutter for fruit and vegetables. It will save us doing it all manually. Yesterday, our meal was Courgette Bolognese with blanched, al dente strips of courgette instead of spaghetti.


It actually proves to be a delightful and low calorie alternative. We will use it with courgette, carrot, parsnip, celeriac and cucumber possibly peppers and celery. It only cost £30.00 / €39.32 and helps me continue the struggle. We have a mandolin but this is a little less lethal.

We’ve just completed a really hard session at the Gym instead of eating lunch. I am absolutely exhausted. Fortunately, there is a football match to watch this afternoon. I am cooking. It is roasted vegetables – celery, fennel, carrot, onion, tomato, mushroom – and chicken breasts. Everything left over will go in to tomorrow’s soup.

Week 315

4th January, 2015

Lovely, sunny day. We have spent it quietly reading the newspapers which are full of Royal indiscretions – lovely to see Airmiles Andy getting his comeuppance -, the starting pistol being fire on the Health versus Wealth election and the dire state of Europe. Sport has been centred on FA Cup. Its famed romance is rather lost on me.

5th January, 2015

How the time is flying past – measured in olive oil consumption. We brought 3 x 5 Ltr. cans of olive oil from our favourite supermarket on Sifnos when we left in July. The oil is Pauline’s favourite for cooking and for salads. Today, we are opening the final can.


Will it last until we return or will we have to survive on a French/Italian substitute? It will certainly be cheaper this year whether Greece is still in the Euro or not. Today, the Euro fell to its lowest point for nine years. Reversion to the Drachma would depreciate Greek products still further. Yesterday, the Germans said they were prepared to cut Greece adrift and although there is a huge slice of posturing in that threat, there is also a strong thread of reality running through it.

6th January, 2015

The oil price fell below $50.00 per barrel today as OPEC refused to cut production and a slow down in global energy consumption is leading to excess supply. In purely parochial terms, our pump price for unleaded petrol fell to £1.09/€1.38 per litre. We filled the car and had a £0.14/€0.18 discount so paying £0.95/€1.21 per litre. The cost of filling our tank has fallen by about £15.00/€19.10 or 25% in the past three months. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

Made the mistake of teasing my sister, Jane BG, about her weight. Well she is enormous. She retaliated by trying to get me into a x-country race – 5K or 10K – sometime soon. My Doctor says I can only accept the challenge if she is prepared to fund the funeral expenses. Knowing her, she probably is.

7th January, 2015

Haven’t really seen any snow for the past three years since we moved down to Surrey. Haven’t really experienced much cold weather either. All so different from our life in Yorkshire and so different from Greece where snow has closed some schools today and could be found on the beaches of Crete. Sifnos had some wet snow, friends tell us. Not the place to be in the Winter! There aren’t many houses with underfloor heating. Below is a picture of Crete yesterday:


Rather them than me.

8th January, 2015

A lovely, sunny day which was twice as warm as Athens and the Greek islands. Tinos is so badly blanketed in snow that they are in their third day without power which largely controls heating and water pumps. Fancy a holiday? Try the Yorkshire-Lancashire Pennines. They are green when compared to Tinos.


Felt a bit under the weather myself so we didn’t do a Health Club session but we were out at 7.00 am for an INR test at the walk-in centre. I test myself once each week which is just as well because my next ‘official’ test is in six weeks.

9th January, 2015

The weather really is topsy-turvy still. We have another beautiful day with temperatures double those of Greece. 14C/57F against 7C/44F and, believe me, that can feel deadly cold on Sifnos where creature comforts are lacking. This is a photograph taken today up above our ex-house on the island of Sifnos. It was sent to me by a friend. Skiing holidays in Sifnos. I can think of one or two people that I’d like to send on that.


Felt better today so skipped around Sainsbury’s but didn’t go to the Health Club. Might try to squeeze a session in on Sunday.

With Winter – a dead time for house sales – being followed by a General Election which is commonly acknowledged to engender uncertainty and put off house buyers further, the housing market is forecast to be flat over the main part of 2015 although it may flourish in the Autumn. Therefore, we don’t expect to be moving anytime soon. Because of that, I have decided to grasp the nettle and address the ‘superfast broadband’ issue and then use it as a selling point. We have a tri-partite package of television, telephone and broadband supply from Sky. I have resolved to ask them to upgrade our broadband to fibre optic which will take us from circa 6Mbs to 76Mbs. It will cost only about £10.00 per month extra and give us much better service for a Desktop, two laptops, two iPads, two smart phones and two wireless televisions.

10th January, 2015

So warm this morning we had all the windows and doors open to freshen up the house. Suddenly realised after an hour that everything was still open to quite to a freshening breeze. At 9.00 am it was 13C/56F which is pleasant for mid-January.

I can’t believe how shocked and slightly emotional I felt this morning when I opened a Blog I have been reading daily for some three or four years. The Skiathan’s Blog has been a source of familiarity and friendship however remotely. The horrible thing is that Ian and his wife, Kamila, have had the equilibrium of their family torpedoed by every family’s nightmare. Cancer! I have never met them but it is no less shocking. They are clearly very nice people and, as is so often observed, bad things always seem to seek out nice people. Ian has announced his intention to stop blogging and concentrate on helping his wife through her crisis.


His reaction is completely understandable. In times of crisis, we tend to look inwards. There are many, not least me, who will miss him and hope he will reconsider in time. Sharing your thoughts, emotions, concerns with others, however tenuously, can be cathartic, even useful. I am spending my day today with the Skiathan in my head and I wish him and his family so much good fortune. They certainly need it and, I think, deserve it. I look forward to see him on-line again soon with news.