Week 322

22nd February, 2015

Beautiful, sunny morning but cold – minus temperature with heavy frost. In spite of the weather, I suspect Greece is not a very warm place to call home at the moment. Dominic Lawson’s byline in the Sunday Times this morning is:

Four weeks of Greek hubris, then back to humble moussaka

Those of us whose childish understanding of the English Civil War came from Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That have an adage to encapsulate the financial dispute between the Greek and German governments. The Germans are the Roundheads, “right but repulsive”, while the Greeks are the Cavaliers, “wrong but romantic”…..

….it is hardly surprising that Varoufakis has been humiliated. The terms agreed late on Friday involve acceptance that the bailout package continues to be set and monitored by the International Monetary Fund, the ECB and EU finance ministers; and that if this troika is not satisfied with Greek commitment to economic reform, the money will be frozen — exactly what Syriza swore it would never accept.

A few days ago, there was snow on the mountains of Sifnos. Will it have melted by Easter or will there be complete meltdown?


23rd February, 2015

Continuing the cold but bright theme this morning.

Leading Greek news was that Syriza had submitted their bailout extension request/economic plan but that the Germans had not considered it good enough and had given the Greeks 24 hrs to redo their homework and get back to them. This is heaping public humiliation on the Greeks who, I believe, should just tell the Germans to ‘stuff it’ and walk away but they are so desperate to stay within the euro that they continue to genuflect before the Troika.

Leading British news is Cash for Influence involving two party grandees who have been caught with their snouts in the trough. We aren’t surprised but we are still disgusted. We continue to joke about corruption in Greece, corruption in the European Parliament while largely turning a blind eye to politicians cashing in on their privileged positions. This is going to have to change in the face of the electorate’s complete disillusionment!

24th February, 2015

The birds are singing; the sun is shining; the gardener is outside pressure washing Winter from the garden paths and steps and all is well with the world – well not the political one but the social, ordinary human world.

In Greece, the strain is beginning to show in the Government where cracks are opening in the Coalition. In Britain, major and long-forged reputations are being trashed in the blink of an eye. Life is such fun.

After a particularly hard session in the Health Club, we came home to a meal that Pauline had beautifully prepared earlier today. Freshly made Tomato & Basil Soup followed by Braised Pheasant with onions, button mushrooms and red peppers.

course1  course2

Felt a great deal better after that just as the Greeks will have felt revived by the EU’s ticking of their last submitted homework which was returned with Satisfactory (just) scrawled in the margin.

25th February, 2015

The sun brought yesterday’s temperature up to 14C/57F yesterday. This morning is grey and half yesterday’s top temperature. Still, once again, this Winter has hardly shown us any snow. Much less than Sifnos, for example. Look at this in the second week of January.


You can just imagine walking up there in your shorts, can’t you? Book now!

We’ve just received our bill for the past twelve months heating and hot water bill. It is generated centrally for our development and delivered on demand although we only pay for what we use. All central heating and all hot water for our Duplex cost us the princely sum of £272.84 / €373.00 for the whole of 2014. I don’t know how we’re going to afford it. The UK Government only gave us £200.00 / €273.00 for the Winter Fuel Allowance!

We are house hunting again. Pauline is researching property in Andover, Hampshire. She has found some new builds that she likes and we are hoping to go and look at them tomorrow. It is about 50 miles or an hour’s drive from here.

26th February, 2015

Yesterday eventually reached 12C/54F and today feels mild as well although not terribly sunny. We’ve been out to town to shop at Maplin. It’s a store I love because I’m in to gadgets but, today, all I needed was a couple of Micro SD Data Cards to expand the memory of our smartphones.


They cost next to nothing but make all the difference. How can something so small store 4000 Mb of data?

We still cannot believe how lucky we have been to sell in Greece. We continue to walk round on air. The Greek Government is seen as such a shambles and liability going forward that the Euro seems to have no floor. It has sunk to its lowest for seven years and, today, £1.00 will buy €1.38. This will make all their imports so expensive and their possessions, including their houses, so cheap.

The mood in Europe appears to be hardening. In Germany, particularly, it is becoming polarised. Bild newspaper are running a campaign calling its readers to take a picture of themselves next to a front page reading: No more billions for the greedy Greeks.


The matter is certainly not settled either inside or outside Greece. This uncertainty cannot be at all helpful.

27th February, 2015

Glorious, glorious day with clear, blue skies and strong sun. We are going to the Health Club early because Pauline has a pre-operation meeting with the consultant this afternoon. Unfortunately, she still hasn’t got a definitive date for the actual operation yet so we are feeling a little uncertain about our travel arrangements. However, medical matters must be attended to first.

I’ve spent most of my life reading something or other for some reason or other. Rarely have I read much fiction since I first discovered histories and biographies in my youth. I was amused by the  The Bookseller’s shortlist for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. The award was first given in 1978 to a work called:

Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice

Subsequently it has been won by the likes of:

Highlights in the History of Concrete (1994)
How to Avoid Huge Ships (1992)
The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003)

This year’s nominees include:

Nature’s Nether Regions, a history of genitals
Where do Camels Belong?
Divorcing a Real Witch: For Pagans and the People That Used to Love Them.
The Poison Dwarf – Where is she now?

You will remember the emotive, Climate Change campaign that feature a polar bear clinging to the world’s last bit of ice with the blackmail that human activity was generating greenhouse gases, warming the planet which was melting the pack ice and, subsequently destroying the polar bear’s habitat. Polar bears, it implied were just clinging on and in danger of imminent extinction – and it will all be our fault.


Well, can you believe it, the polar bear population, far from diminishing is thriving. The Times features a recent report from  the University of Victoria, British Columbia , which observes that there are at least 25,000 bears, more than double the number in the 1960s and half of them are driving around in gas guzzlers. (Alright, I made that last bit up.) What you couldn’t make up is the sacking/resignation of the devout Head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri who was supposed to be an expert on the world’s changing weather patterns — not the sexual satisfaction of his own staff.


28th February, 2015

The last day of February, 2015. We will never see its like again. It comes with news from the Met. Office that this has been the sunniest winter on record – or at least for 100 years. I can believe it. I have so much sunshine inside me. I feel it particularly today because our friends, the notary and her husband, contacted us. It’s  wonderful to know we have such lovely friends on the island. We’re really looking forward to returning! Let’s hope Greece still exists when we get back.

The Telegraph has this headline:

Humiliated Greece eyes Byzantine pivot as crisis deepens

and proceeds:

Neither side holds the upper hand in the strategic game of chicken which could still see Greece forced out of the euro. Greece’s new currency designs are ready. The green 50 drachma note features Cornelius Castoriadis, the Marxist philosopher and sworn enemy of privatisation.

The amateur blueprints are a minor sensation in Greek artistic circles. They are only half in jest. Greece’s Syriza radicals have signed a fragile ceasefire with the eurozone’s creditor powers. Few think this can last as escalating deadlines reach their kairotic moment in June. Each side has agreed to a deception with equal cynicism, knowing that the interim deal evades the true nature of Greece’s crisis and cannot bridge the immense political divide. The Nobel poet Odysseus Elytis – voice of Eastward-looking Hellenism – honours the 200 note. The bills rise to 10,000 drachma, a wise precaution lest there is a hyperinflationary shock as Greece breaks out of its debt-deflation trap at high velocity.

Difficult to know what currency to take with us. Tourists are certainly going to be unsettled. Perhaps gold bars would be best.

Week 321

15th February, 2015

We are entering a mild, dry and sunny week as a prelude to the official announcement of Spring. Unfortunately, we have the mild and dry but not the sun this morning. In fact, we expect clear skies and sunshine from Tuesday onwards. This is perfect timing because we are off to France.

Our friendly Honda salesman phoned yesterday to ask us if we would like a new car. The incentive was ‘free money’. He was offering us 0% interest on the cost. There was a time when I would have taken it immediately but not now. We used to do 14,000 each year and change our car each year. I love the smell and feel of new leather and metal from a new car, the tautness of its chassis and the bright shine of its paintwork. The cost of a new car each year was just one of those things we factored into our budget.


In retirement, priorities change and so does our car usage. In spite of two return trips to Greece plus umpteen trips to France, the south coast, Norfolk and Yorkshire, we have only clocked up 18,000 in 28 months. We don’t need 0% interest money because our own, invested cash is paying so little we might as well borrow from ourselves as we did for most of our car purchases. This will be the first ever new car that will have lasted three years in our possession and then we’ll swap it at the end of the year or even at the start of 2016.

16th February, 2015

The dominant political thinking in UK is that Greece will leave the Eurozone but not yet. Today or in the next few days there will be a delaying fudge allowing both sides to return to their supporters crying victory. The screw has been turned on Merkel over the weekend with local voting showing a strong rise in anti-bailout sentiment for Greece so she cannot go too far. There has been voluble support demonstrated for Syriza in Greece increasing expectations that they will stick to their election, anti-austerity manifesto.


Ultimately, it is believed that Markel will stiffen her resolve not to support Greeks who don’t want to pay back what they borrowed and Syriza may wriggle on the hook but will split into constituent parts – Maoists, Trotskyites, Communists, etc. This will be followed by the ultimate run on the banks, credit controls and an unplanned Grexit. This, in turn, will produce a massive devaluation in returning to the Drachma. Social instability will see the rise of the balmy party – Golden Dawn – with all that entails.There again, it may all turn out well with Greeks and Germans staging a love-in.

17th February, 2015

Beautiful, clear day at 6.30 this morning as we drove out of the garage and down to the Channel Tunnel. How light it is now at this time in the morning. By 7.00 am, the cloudless blue sky was illuminated by strong sunshine. We were at the check-in well in time for a coffee, passport control and lining up to go. We were Letter W for the crossing. At 8.12 am we saw this notice:


At 8.13 am, we saw this notice:


At 8.14 am, we were advised that there would be a two hour delay because a train had unexpectedly ‘stopped’ in the tunnel and had to be ‘retrieved’. We spent the time reading our iPad newspapers and drinking coffee. Instead of crossing at 8.50 am (GMT), it wasn’t until 10.50 am (GMT) that we finally set off. This is virtually midday in France, of course, so our shopping trip became much more rushed that it should have been. However, it was all achieved safely, wine from the Calais Wine Store, fresh fish – cod, salmon and haddock, meat – rabbit, duck and pork, vegetables plus some olive oil to tide us over from Auchan in Coquelles. Back on the car train for 15.20 (GMT), we were home an hour and a half or so later and unpacking. A bit rushed but a reasonable day.

18th February, 2015

Beautiful, sunny and mild day again this morning. Crocus heads are straining eagerly towards the sky; birds are madly anticipating mating and squirrels charge around like mad things.

Talking about mad things, sounds like Syriza will have caved in to European pressure by Friday and normal servitude will have been restored. The Germans have insisted and the Greeks have bent the knee. They’ll dress it up as a partial victory back home but it will, ultimately, be total climb down in order to ‘get the money’. We, on the other hand, are stepping up at the Health Club in order to lose pounds!

Absolutely knackered after 40 mins on the treadmill and the Greek’s negotiating position doesn’t seem to be much more spritely either. The Euro weakened to £1.00 = €1.36 suggesting deepening pessimism across European markets. Will Greece end up in the hands of the Russians or remain under the boot of the Germans. We will soon know.

19th February, 2015

I’ve always liked this day because my younger brother, Bob’s birthday today makes us the same age for a couple of months. It’s great to see him reaching 63. It must be hard, though, because he’s still out there in the workforce developing databases. Anyway, we wish him happy birthday.


Tested my Broadband speed to advise a neighbour this morning. Since my upgrade from copper to fibre connection, I have gone from 5 Mbs Download / 1 Mbs Upload to 35 Mbs Download / 10 Mbs Upload. This is a fantastic improvement for £10.00 / €13.60 per month.

20th February, 2015

A morning that started off bright and sunny but had turned fairly grey by the time we ventured out at 10.00 am. Not out long – a quick turn round Tesco’s, fill up with petrol at £1.00 /€1.36 per litre and off home. We’ve done three really hard workouts at the Health Club this week so we’re having a day off to do some correspondence and watch the Greek debacle unfold. Thought Syriza had more backbone than it has eventually displayed. Tsipras and his gang have been shown to be the 1968 Campus Debating Society in power.


The jackboot of Germany has won again. Must be hard for Sifniots to swallow.

21st February, 2015

Woke up to a bright but chilly morning. Our trees all around the grounds are alive with birds anticipating Spring. As the day unfolded, we put on our computers and laptops to find Internet Explorer wasn’t working. It was hanging up for both of us. It’s my job to sort these problems out. How do you get on the internet without internet explorer? Fortunately, I had installed Google Chrome as well on all machines. I found a conversation going on on-line about internet explorer failing to work. It seemed to coincide with users of Norton Virus/internet security which we use. A quick update of Norton 360 and Internet Explorer was up and running successfully again. Phew!

Had a day off work yesterday so it’s back to the Health Club this lunchtime for a good workout. Chicken with tarragon and lemon is slow cooking in the oven for when we get back.


First, we have to earn it.

Week 320

8th February, 2015

We were woken by birdsong before 7.00 am this morning and the day is certainly Spring-like.


Actually, there are six weeks until the Spring Equinox. At 10.00 pm, we have all the windows open upstairs and down to the freshen up the flat. The forecast for this week ahead is settled with high pressure and mild temperatures. Pauline is ironing with the sun streaming in. I don’t know if that makes it any easier. She did win the Lottery last night but hasn’t decided how to spend the £25.00/€34.00 yet. These things have to be carefully thought through.

9th February, 2015

We reached 10C/50F today in the sunshine but it still felt cold outside, particularly as we walked back to the car after exercise at the Health Club. There’s nothing worse than sweat drying cold on one’s back – not to put too fine a point on it.

Britain is awash with horror about the elite getting away with secret, Swiss Bank accounts and huge amounts of tax evasion. I remember Pauline being chased three years running for £4000.00, £80.00 and even £0.42 although she was under PAYE throughout. Here, we learn of individuals owing hundreds of thousands of pounds who are failing to be prosecuted for deliberately evading tax and the head of a bank who appears to have colluded in that crime and then been rewarded with a peerage and a government job. Are we still in Greece?

10th February, 2015

A grey morning but dry and a relatively mild 7C/45F. Friends on Sifnos, this morning, say it is cold and wet there. I am re-working one of my websites this morning and hope to upload it by the end of the week. When we were selling the Greek house, I created, proof-read and uploaded a sales site in 24hrs – I was so keen to sell – and all the mood music coming out of the country confirm our decision. I still believe it could go either way but I am slightly inclining towards Grexit now.

Pauline is making vegetable soup and vegetable spaghetti for our meal but first we must earn it by working hard at the Health Club. It is nice to see further signs of Spring on its way as crocuses force their heads into the world beneath the trees around our house.


11th February, 2015

Out at 9.00 am under leaden skies and cold, though a bit warmer than Greece. We are topping out at 8C/47F but it feels colder. Ruth and Kevan are out walking in the North of England to celebrate a birthday. Rather them than me!

We have been to the Peacock Centre for Pauline to have her haircut at Headmasters while I read my iPad newspaper in Patisserie Valerie and drank the best Latte I’ve had for a long time.


We went for a cursory walk around Debenhams which is obviously waiting new stock, bought a Europe 2015 Road Atlas to supplement our Sat. Nav. and bought a couple of jars of Genovese pesto from Carluccio’s.

We’ve done a really hard session at the Health Club this afternoon that has left me shattered. I certainly won’t be able to keep pace with Ruth and especially not Jane B.G.. I may even need a lie down before my meal – Roast Salmon steak with pesto crust accompanied by grilled onions, peppers and garlic button mushrooms – and another lie down after it.

12th February, 2015

Enjoyable day out driving down to Sussex to view properties. Hailsham, Hellingly, Lewes, Horsham, Haywards Heath. We left at 9.30 am and got home by 3.00 pm. We were looking more at areas than specific properties. Rather liked Haywards Heath. Never been there before but it had a good feel and appeared to have lots of the services we want to find in reasonably close proximity.

13th February, 2015

Friday 13th – Name Day of The Poison Dwarf. Have a wonderful time!

We’ve been doing correspondence and Management business for our Development. Not really enjoying doing that. Hopefully, we’ll be in a house by the end of the year. For the past 40 years – in fact, all of our married life – we’ve lived in detached properties. The last time I lived in a flat was as a student in a flat above an Estate Agent and below a brothel. I had not foreseen the amount of communal activity required to manage ownership of a shared property and grounds. We really don’t need it and it is urging us to move on.

Week 319

1st February, 2015


January 2015 is dead. Welcome February! It is a lovely, sunny morning although fairly chilly. I’m undergoing the arduous, Sunday ritual of reading the papers on my iPad, updating my Blogs and websites and watching football. Pauline is fielding enquiries from house developers which come in even on a Sunday and making marmalade. Jointly, we will do a session at the Health Club. I will try to make it coincide with the Sunday Politics programme with Andrew Neil on BBC1. The jogging machine and the exercise bike each have individual televisions to watch and I get so engrossed in the political process that the exercise is over too soon.

2nd February, 2015

Set out early on a sunny but bitterly cold morning to St. Peter’s Hospital.


It was 0C/32F and felt colder. The car’s warning systems flashed ICE on the dashboard display and was dinging to draw our attention to it. Funny really because there was no frost but we had been told to beware black ice. We were going to take Pauline to see a specialist – a consultation for which she has been waiting for three or four weeks. It is a non-emergency but significant. The result is that she has to have keyhole surgery and the wait could be up to eighteen weeks. We pleaded that we had booked travel tickets and were told that it was only the maximum timeframe and that she might get a much earlier cancellation anyway. The operation will be in Ashford Hospital. If it came to it, she could go privately. We’ll see.

Excellent session at the gym today and then back for homemade soup followed by roast salmon with a pesto crust and button mushrooms. Worth working for. This afternoon, we have the next ISAs maturing and I can move them into a larger ISA pot. Life will be so much more manageable when they are all amalgamated under one roof and waiting to strike when a big investment rate is announced. Chance would be a fine thing.

3rd February, 2015

Woke up to an inch or so of snow and bitterly cold. Drove out of the garage at 7.00 am, making virgin tracks, en route for the Post Office parcel collection point. We were battling through Surrey people with little experience of snow. Our life in Yorkshire and daily travel across the Pennines have made us quite accepting of such driving conditions but Surrey workers found the colour white bewildering and traffic crawled along. We made it there and back eventually but then decided not to go to the Health Club today because we were expecting another delivery and didn’t want a repeat of today.

Quite a number of desperate to sell housing agents phoned in today and we might go to look at one or two if the weather looks comfortable. I’ve been doing a quick guide to Athens for some relations who are calling in there soon. Pauline has got her marmalade in to jars and stored away.


Can life get any more stressful?

4th February, 2015

A cold but dry day. We did a huge session at the Health Club after which I, for one, was totally exhausted. Pauline barely perspired. It knocked me out for the rest of the day. We had one of my favourite meals – roast pheasant in a mustard sauce with onions, carrots and cauliflower –  and it nearly revived me.


5th February, 2015

Well, already the Greek bravado is unravelling. Syriza are admirably pledged to hit the big earners with tax rises, to increase property tax year on year and to unify all earnings which will mean getting everything on-line and centralised in its control but, will it run out of money before they can act? The media is speculating about Cyprus-style credit controls on the Banks to stem the flood of money out of the country. To its credit, the government are looking at pan-European checks and controls on accounts that Greeks hold abroad. I can certainly provide some assistance in pointing them in the right direction.

The Sunday Times last weekend was warning holiday makers who wanted to book Greek holidays not to book too soon in case the currency came under threat and, if and when they travelled, to take currency with them rather than rely on Greek Banks which could easily have liquidity problems. This may be posturing but, if you’re a fan of economic ‘game theory’ as Varoufakis is reported to be, these are the tactics one can expect.


As our NHS becomes a political football with rumours of its demise, Pauline has been called for a pre-op meeting at the hospital three days after she was first seen by a specialist. It is both amazing and wonderful in equal measure. She may actually have her operation within a month of seeing the GP. Even when we were using BUPA the timetable wasn’t much better. At the same time, the old chestnut is being more seriously examined of forcing those who reside outside UK to pay for NHS treatment and so that patients have to get it back from the country in which they reside. It’s only surprising they didn’t enforce it earlier.

6th February, 2015

Bitterly cold day exacerbated by a cutting wind. Quick shop at Tesco – mainly vegetables, milk and coffee beans. The total came to £58.00/€78.15 but was reduced to £45.00/€60.60 by all the vouchers we had been enticed with.

Had to go to Woking Walk-in for my annual eye check. It’s absolutely necessary but a bit of a pain. I have to arrive half an hour before the check and have drops put in. When my pupils are so dilated that I can’t read my newspaper on the iPad, I am called back in for eyeball flash photography. The photographs are compared with last year’s to identify any changes. I don’t think there really are any. I’ve been half blind for years. My doctor will get the results in a month.

Pauline fancies some short breaks in European cities in the next couple of months and is currently researching 4 day (3 night) trips to Rome and to Barcelona. Seems a nice idea to brighten the winter days up.

7th February, 2015

My sister suggests Barcelona over Rome. Personally, I would always prefer Italy to Spain but we will give both a try in the next few weeks. The Euro has settled for the weekend at £1.00 = €1.35 which is its cheapest for quite a few years and is partially a result of the impasse reached over the Greek problem. Who blinks first will be important but, whether it’s Greece or Germany, only trouble can follow.

Here, we are constantly being told that the Baby Bulge, retiring generation have never had it so good whereas young people are really struggling to afford a property, etc.. When we were in our early years of buying a house, we were paying interest rates of 12-14% and had to beg for an interview with the bank manager to get a loan. Today, we are told that mortgage rates may soon fall below 1.00% for two year loans and 2.00% for five year loans. -I looked at the current price for the television we bought a few years ago for £1200.00/€1,620.00 – which is now £350.00/€472.00 and the £1500.00/€2022.00 fridge-freezer is reduced to £600.00/€810.00. This young generation have never had it so good – to coin a phrase!