Week 340

28th June, 2015

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

William Butler Yeats: The Second Coming

For years we thought the Greeks were waving to welcome us but now, as I have been suggesting for some time and the world has come to realise, they are not waving but drowning.

It looks as if capital controls will be presaged by an ad hoc Bank Holiday on Monday. Very difficult times are ahead. This year’s earnings from tourism will be severely dented and next year’s may be even worse if the country can’t afford imports we’ve all come to rely on.

This evening, it is confirmed. Not just a Bank Holiday Monday but a Bank Holiday week and a half. The Banks in Greece are set to be closed until a week on Tuesday.

Very limited – €60.00/£40.00 withdrawals will be allowed from ATMs. You won’t see much spending going on.

29th June, 2015

A hot and sultry day. We were out early at the supermarket and then out again exercising to coincide with people having a second viewing of our apartment. It couldn’t have been a better day for it. The gardens looked wonderful and the rooms were flooded with sunlight. It is south facing and that is definitely a selling point. We hope to hear the outcome before the Greeks hear their outcome.

30th June, 2015

The last day of June reached 30C/86F in Surrey. It is forecast to reach 34C/93F tomorrow.We went strawberry and raspberry picking and then gorged on them when we got home.


Our estate agent phoned to say that the ‘second viewers’ of our property from yesterday were going to phone him to make an offer by mid-morning and a new viewer was coming all the way from Wales to see it in the afternoon.

As I write at 8.00 pm UK Time, the outside temperature is a sticky 27C/81F while I watch live reports from a very wet Athens. Just over a week ago, I wrote about the Greeks propensity for a deus ex machine ending and it looks tonight as if that is exactly what is going to happen. The European negotiating groups will meet at midnight tonight to consider newly submitted proposals by the Tsipras government which will be much more painful but acceptable to Europe. With one bound they were free… or not in this case.

1st July, 2015


Must be going gaga. Welcome July.

Sleeping on top of the bedsheet was the order of the night a la grecque. Temperatures didn’t fall below 22C/70F. At 9.00 am, we reached 27C/81F and, as I write at 10.30 am, we have reached 32C/90F. We are forecast to hit 35-36C/96-97F this afternoon and the media is just as bad as we have been used to in Greece each Summer. Just in case you missed it or don’t understand, hot temperatures mean you should drink more water and stay in the shade. I think I’ve got it.

Done an hour and a half at the Health Club and Pauline is now roasting Salmon with pesto crust, mushrooms, shallots and fennel. At 10.30 pm, the temperature here is 27C/81F and BBC News has announced that today has been the hottest July day ever recorded.

2nd July, 2015

Hot and humid day but not as uncomfortable as yesterday. We even had five minutes of rain this morning just as the gardener was about to start mowing the lawns. Fortunately, he was soon able to resume his work and leave pleasing stripes on the grass.

When we returned from the Health Club, soaked in sweat, tired and hungry, I collected the mail. One letter stood out with a postal frank of Burton Upon Trent. It was from a solicitor. He had handled the administration of my Mother’s estate when she died in 2008. It had included a parcel of Barclays shares that Mum had bought with the proceeds of the sale of Sanders & Sons on the death of my father in the mid-60s. Bank shares are in the doldrums compared with when Mum held them but I was shocked by my emotional response to the solicitor’s letter.

The legal firm were a partnership which I had never heard of but I was surprised to find that it had subsumed an earlier firm called Goodger Auden. This was a long established firm which dad had used. His solicitor was Colonel Auden throughout the time that I was conscious of such things. Colonel Auden was related to the poet, WH Auden, who went to school in my home village of Repton.


I found the cyclical relationship so moving that the cheque became irrelevant.

3rd July, 2015

Another seriously warm day. At 5.00 pm we were recording 27C/81F and rather humid. We did a quick shop and then decided to miss our exercise in favour of some garlic stuffed Halkidiki olives and a bottle of iced Pinot Grigiot which we consumed outside on the patio where we eventually grilled rump steak to eat with delicious Greek salad.

Talking about Greeks – which we weren’t – the nation are renowned for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They are doing it in spades this time. Their one hope of income for the winter is through tourism. What do they do? Destroy tourism. Spanish bookings are up more than 100% and discretionary bookings in Greece are massively down. All European governments are warning their citizens of the dangers of holidaying in Greece. If you only have a couple of weeks each summer, why would you risk it in a country where they may run out of food supplies, fuel for taxis and ferries and the ATMS are likely to run dry? Why not find your sun in Spain or Turkey? Lefteris Lazarou, a popular TV chef who was the country’s first to be given a Michelin star, told To Vima radio that tourists would be left furious and starving if capital controls continued.

Tourists are cancelling 50,000 bookings a day amid food shortage fears. Holiday bookings are down by 50,000 a day since the government’s announcement of a referendum and the introduction of capital controls, the Greek tourist association said yesterday. One in five bookings at Greek hotels is made at the last minute and sensitive to changes in sentiment, leaving the industry braced for a catastrophic downturn at the height of the season. Bookings on ferries to the Greek islands have fallen by 60 per cent in the past week, Andreas Andreadis, head of the Association of Hellenic Tourist Enterprises, said. Domestic tourism has been wiped out nearly to zero, Mr Andreadis added, as Greeks cancelled travel plans to stay at home or with relatives.

4th July, 2015

Lovely day that reached 27C/81F but without the humidity of previous days. We had a viewing booked for mid day so we went to the Health Club for an hour’s work. As we drove home, the estate agent phoned to say the clients had not been able to make that time and would like to come at 3.00 pm.. We quickly showered and went out so the viewing could take place. We were going to cook but decided to go to Waitrose and buy cold food for our meal after the viewing. We bought dressed crab, and two types of prawns.


We ate it with green salad which was wonderful with a bottle of ice cold Pinot Grigiot.

Week 339

21st June, 2015

The longest day of the year – the Summer Solstice. It has been a bright, warm (rather oppressive) day quite typical of summer in Surrey. We both did an hour’s exercise in the gym after reading the Sunday papers.

Pauline slow cooked chicken in lemon, garlic and white wine and served it with roasted, peppers, fennel, asparagus and shallot. We are expecting another viewing tomorrow evening so the house has to be tidied. At 8.00 pm, Sainsburys are delivering ‘for free’ with an additional £8.00 discount all the heavy things we didn’t want to lug ourselves – Packs of sparkling water, giant bottles washing detergent, bleach, etc.. It’s good of them, isn’t it?


As the Greek crisis edges ever nearer to the precipice, The Sunday Times reports:

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One of the many bloggers I monitor daily reports:

I hope a decision will be made so people can start thinking about tomorrow. Here on Skopelos I know firsthand that people have cancelled their holiday, others only want to pay for services with a card to keep the cash. People have taken their money out of the banks but there is still money in the atm’s.

And yet, one has the feeling that the Greeks, deus ex machine, will pull it off. Either way, it’s going to be a nightmare for years to come. As we move almost to the anniversary of our selling the house on Sifnos, we cannot stop reflecting on our great good fortune at escaping this sorry place.

22nd June, 2015

It rained over night and there is some light rain lingering this morning. I’m tired because I woke at 4.00 am and it was so light outside, I couldn’t get back to sleep until I put the radio on and the Shipping Forecast did the trick.

We’ve got a fifth viewing of our property this evening and are going out to exercise at mid day. Tomorrow is forecast to be hot and sunny and we are off to the South coast to look at some new properties.

Although the news from the Greek front is rather more optimistic this morning, this is the headline on the front of the Daily Express and the clever cartoon in The Times:

express tcart

23rd June, 2015

We’ve got another property viewing at mid day so Pauline & I are going to the Health Club and leaving the tour to the Estate Agents. The morning has started mild but overcast. It is forecast to get better as the day and week goes on.

It looks like Europe will do its regular thing of kicking the can down the road in the hope that something will turn up. It will mean years more pain for the Greeks in the form of much bigger tax increases on much lower earnings. I checked prices on a Sifnos hotel this morning – not that I would stay there. It is old and the road noise outside is horrendous but three nights at the start of September are selling at Hotel Kamari on Booking.com for £76.00 including ‘free wi-fi’. In my view, it’s still not worth £25.00 per night but there can’t be much profit for the owners in that! At the same time, the proposed settlement with Europe includes:

VAT on food service up to 23 %

  • abolishing the special status granted to Aegean islands (with a 30 % discount on VAT rates).
  • an extraordinary levy of 12 % on 2014 business  profits, in two installments, one this year and one in 2016.
  • a hike in corporate tax from 26 to 29 %, concerning the nearly 15,000 companies with pre-tax earnings of at least €100,000 per year.
  • an increase in the solidarity levy for households earning at least €30,000 per year.
  • the luxury tax increases from 10 to 13 % on things like swimming pools and big cars.
  • against all hopes, the single property tax (ENFIA) will remain intact, while farmers will see significant tax hikes in their costs.

24th June, 2015

A lovely summer’s day – warm and sunny. We were out early on our way to St Peter’s Hospital in Woking. Pauline is having a CT scan. As we park and enter the delightfully new hospital corridors we are met by five separate members of staff from desk staff, porters in lifts, orderlies and nurses all who spontaneously welcomed us and offered to take us to our destination. We couldn’t have been better treated if we were in private medicine. Pauline’s appointment was for 9.30 am but she was seen earlier. I stayed in the waiting room with ‘free wi-fi’ reading my paper. There were only two others there. I got talking to an ‘oldish’ lady who seemed to be accompanying her husband who was also having a scan. He struggled to walk to the scanning room. I asked her, rudely, how old she was.

She said, I’m 96. He’s my son. I used to run a café in Kingston until 6 years ago.

She was fantastic for her age. In fact, she was fantastic for my age! She lifted my spirits completely. We have been to too many hospitals and to see too many doctors in the past five years. It’s got to stop. Having said that, I have to go for my INR test tomorrow and to see the ophthalmologist in Ashford Hospital on Friday.

While we were in the Hospital, I received a call on my mobile from the estate agent selling our property. The viewer yesterday expressed a desire to buy our home and wants to bring his wife for a second viewing. This is a positive development and comes just short of the anniversary of selling our Greek home. The auguries are good. They are not good for the Greek people though as Kathimerini reports:


25th June, 2015

A wonderful, wonderful day. Hot and sunny – 25C/77F – with blue skies and white, fleecy clouds. We were up at 6.00 am and outside the Woking-Walk in Medical Centre by an early 6.45 am for an official INR test. That done, we set off for the south coast.


Angmering was our first stop. It took about an hour to get there. The developers’ office had a temporary notice pinned up saying they would not be open until 2.00 pm which was annoying but gave us the chance to visit various amenities we wanted to check out. Angmering Medical Centre with its attached Pharmacy was very reassuring







and then the Virgin Active Health Club at nearby Rustington was very pleasing. Lots of equipment and not too busy. The David Lloyd Health Club on the outskirts of Worthing looks good too.

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We found the Sainsbury’s Superstore at Rustington, the Waitrose and the Asda stores. We found a handy Dentist surgery. By the time we hjad done all that, it was time to go back to the site office of the house builders. We were back at our home before rush hour traffic.

26th June, 2015

A Landmark day! Hot and humid, our temperature peaked at 28C/82F. We did a shop at Sainsbury’s which totalled £105.00 but cost us nothing again. We had £5.00 cash-back and payed the rest in vouchers. At 1.00 pm, we left for Ashford Hospital for my Diabetic Retinopathy checkup. The Opthalmologist explained that I needed no further checks because my diabetes had been irradicated. He said I could have a yearly check if I wanted it. I booked one for June 2016.

As we drove home, our Estate Agent phone to say he now had two couples who wantrd to buy our property. One couple is desperately trying to raise more money to meet the asking price while the second couple is having a second viewing on Monday. I predict that we will be out of this property by Christmas even if we are not in a new one by then.

27th June, 2015

Hot and humid day – 25C/77F. We are forecast to be in the 30Cs/Upper 80Fs by Tuesday.For the third day running, we have not been to the gym. I will have to do an hour and a half tomorrow. Our meal was griddled Chicken cooked outside and eaten with Greek Salad. It’s ironic really but lovely.

Greece is falling apart! It is not surprising but the Europeans didn’t expect them to be so tough. Whatever happens, Greece will be in decline for many years to come. Stavros & Sarah have gone from dreams of millionaire status to relative poverty in just five years.  Their kids will have to leave Greece if they want a future. The future of all our island friends is far more precarious today than it was in the early years when we first bought land there.

Week 338

14th June, 2015

Almost mid-June and the morning is warm with light, fine rain. The gardens are desperate for it. Greeks would pay for it – if they had any money! The news from Hellas just gets worse. Adult unemployment is up to 26.6% and youth unemployment has reached 60%. Despite optimistic voices, Kathimerini screams rather tautologically:

Rental rooms’ occupancy rates down up to 50 percent

hs hs2

Hotels like these on Sifnos cannot know if they will be still under the Euro before the end of the season. Can they provide consistent service in a turbulent economy? Why take the risk? Kathimerini’s next headline tells us:

Arrivals by ferry from Italy posted 14 pct drop in Jan-Apr

and we are part of that statistic this year although we have only delayed until the end of August but it is a sign of the times. If you add to that the immigrant problems that are swamping Greek islands, maybe Turkey would be a safer bet.

15th June, 2015

A warm (20C/68F) and rather humid day. Pauline had to go to the local surgery for tests. Her appointment  was at 9.23 am. I love that specificity! We were home by 10.01 am. At 11.30 am we went to do an hour’s workout at the Health Club and, unfortunately, missed a call from our estate agents who wanted to conduct an instant viewing. The will rearrange later in the week. In spite of the fact that I bought enough wine to last me nearly six months when we were in France, I have decided to abstain for at least a couple of months or until we leave for Greece. Our meals will now be accompanied by sparkling water for the next few weeks. The discipline will do me good and save a lot of calories off my daily total. So much of our cooking is al fresco griddling that the cheap, try-out model griddle we first bought is being discarded. We’ve now ordered a commercial quality machine from Lancashire.


It is incredibly cheap at £138.00/€191.00 and, hopefully, will go with us to our new house. In addition, Pauline has found a replacement for the table lamp shade broken recently.


It will only cost Foxtons about £50.00/€70.00. They should be grateful!

16th June, 2015

Warm (22C/70F) but hazy, humid day. Everything we’ve been doing is too exciting to mention – well, we cleaned the patio and watered the newly planted bushes. You see, I knew you wouldn’t be able to contain yourselves. An hour at the Health Club and another half a stone in perspiration has left me light headed in this humidity. Roast cod, roasted fennel and garlic mushrooms for our meal today – with sparkling water! Nice to see Barty Simpson back on line this morning.

17th June, 2015

Muggy morning. Our neighbour, General Vicky is coming round for coffee. She intends to put her property on the market this summer to take advantage of rapidly rising prices and we are having a strategy meeting to co-ordinate our marketing. It is also Prime minister’s Questions in the House so I will have to be at the Health Club earlier in order to watch it while I exercise. The British Government is offering advice to tourists to Greece today. Under a headline of

Treasury Braced for Turmoil as Fears of Greek Exit Soar

the message develops

There are fears that a Greek default could mean restrictions placed on money entering and leaving Greece, having ramifications for the financial services industries and causing problems for British tourists.

British tourists in Greece this summer will initially have to rely on their tour operators. However, the Foreign Office will be in touch with travel agents, providing advice to citizens on what to do about money, and may help if tourists become stranded.

It goes on:

What about civil unrest? There is the possibility that travellers may be held up by strikes or protests. You will not be compensated by an airline for any resulting delays or cancellations because such unrest is considered to be an “extraordinary circumstance” so make sure you take out travel insurance before you leave and ideally as soon as you book. …….

…….the Greek authorities could introduce administrative controls on people’s access to their money. Deposit withdrawal limits could be introduced, along with restrictions on the amount of money that can be transferred outside the country.

It is certainly not a happy place to be. It may seem life as normal on small Greek islands but only if one ignores the bigger picture which will certainly impact on them as the centre breaks down.

18th June, 2015

Warm day – 22C/70F – and just the day to go strawberry picking. We went to a local farm and filled two large punnets in just over 10 mins..


They looked lovley, tasted wonderful and it was only after we got home that we found we could have bought them more cheaply in Asda, They were charging us extra for the experience of picking them for ourselves. Back at home we received a phone call to tell us of two viewings on our property on Saturday. We then got ready for lunch with a group of Pauline’s relatives at the Maybury Inn. The food was lovely. Pauline and I had Calamari starter and Sea Bass fillets for main course. Really enjoyable.


I had to be at the Doctor’s Surgery by 4.30 pm to talk to him about my fainting/collapsing experiences lately. He told me that it was not only a feature of older age but my blood pressure tablets were no longer appropriate since I have lost so much weight. He removed half of my Doxazosin dosage. I now take very few drugs at all. I will remain on a Statin and Warfarin for life but the others will soon be gone.

19th June, 2015

A warm and muggy day which felt a little sticky and uncomfortable. We received a phone call first thing to say there are two sets of buyers wanting to view our property on Saturday and a South African couple – cash buyers – who want to come on Monday. We went out to Sainsburys to do our weekly shop and then on to the Health Club for an hour and a half’s activity. We finished with a Jacuzzi and a Sauna. A chatty man in the sauna opened a conversation and, when I asked him what he did, he told me he owned Ponte Vecchio a fairly local Italian restaurant in West Byfleet. When I pressed him, he told me he wasn’t Italian himself but Iranian. We came home and ate a lovely, cold meal of Greek salad, crab, prawns and langoustine tails. The front page of The Times today is echoed across all the

British newspapers and tv/radio news


People are being told that travel to Greece carries dangers. Tourists should not rely on credit cards. Credit controls may quickly lead to lack of fuel for transport particularly if they need to get to or leave an island. Kathimerini says:

Athens International Airport is extending an incentive scheme aimed at encouraging airlines to use the country’s main terminal during the winter into the summer, in an effort to achieve sustainable growth.

Christine Lagarde made clear that she saw the Greek Government as made up of juveniles. She said she needed to talk to adults. Having said that, we know that the history of Tsipras is as a negotiator who, in student politics, sought to do deals. Monday is going to be interesting! I certainly wouldn’t be so sanguine if we hadn’t sold last summer.

20th June, 2015

A day of patchy, light rain and cloud. Certainly the lawns could do with some water. As I write at 7.00 pm, the skies have opened and heavy rain is falling. We had to vacate the property for two viewings this morning. I accompanied Pauline to M&S and Tesco for a couple of hours. We didn’t go to the Health Club today and my body said, Thank you. It’s still bruised and aching from my passing out and fall in the car park recently.

All the newspapers carry some form of Greek Travel Alert. The Daily Express is typical.


Week 337

  7th June, 2015

Sometimes life is really ironic. We are booked to go through the Eurotunnel tomorrow morning. Suddenly, last night Pauline was feeling unwell with post operative pain and discomfort. We were up at 1.00 am, drinking cups of tea and discussing whether to call out a doctor. We chose not to on balance and she is decidedly better this morning but I set off for the Health Club alone while Pauline completed the packing. I did a strong hour’s workout, walked out into the sunshine in the car park and promptly collapsed – falling headlong on to the tarmac. I suspect I was rather dehydrated although it was a bit disconcerting.

If that wasn’t enough, the BBC is reporting:

Two unexploded World War II mines discovered near the port of Calais have led to the cancellation of a number of cross-Channel ferries. The bombs, which are more than 70 years old, are of British origin and were found on the beach near the port. One, thought to be booby-trapped, cannot be moved. The operation to defuse the bombs will be carried out by divers from the French Navy. Roads into Calais have been closed and drivers are being diverted to Dunkirk.

We will see what happens. Maybe Calais won’t exist by the time we get there!



However, if all goes ahead, there will be a hiatus in the Blog for a few days.

8th June, 2015

A leisurely start this morning as we set off for Ashford and the Tunnel. It is warm and bright. Our train was delayed by an hour because of an ‘earlier incident’ but we were soon on and off and driving down to our hotel in Cocquelles.

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We’d booked a suite for the week so that we could drive out to places of interest.

9th June, 2015

Our trip out today is to Lens. It has a thriving open market on a Tuesday. Unfortunately, after an unusually large, buffet breakfast and an hour recovering with out digital newspapers, we didn’t set off for the 60 mile drive until about 10.30 am. We arrived at just after 11.30 am to find the market traders just packing up after a hard morning sitting on stools, drinking strong coffee and smoking Gauloise.


They take me back to my smoking days in the ’70s & ’80s. It is thirty years since a cigarette touched my lips. I still have the cigarette box which had been my father’s, the cigarettes and the nearly new lighter I had when I finally gave up on November 14th, 1985.

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We had intended to go on to the Lens Louvre but a fit of apathy overcame us and we did a ‘drive-by’.

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10th June, 2015

Our second buffet breakfast in as many days and we are beginning to regret ordering them. Today we are going to Boulogne. We have been many times before but it is an enjoyable trip out – only 40 mins. from Cocquelles. The weather was hot and humid and rather tiring. We parked on the quay near the Fish Market. It was full of the most wonderful produce. I had my eye on a huge turbot (more accurately, he had his eye on me.) and there were crabs the size of dinner plates, langoustines and lobsters to die for.

Checking out the daily catch at Quai Gambetta's fish market in Boulogne. Photos © hidden europe

The whole thing was very frustrating because we weren’t in a position to buy any because we had nowhere to store it over our stay. We did have a fridge in our suite but not suitable for a lorry load of fresh fish!

We mooched around the open market which is on Wednesday in Boulogne but it looked more a tourist trap than a proper market. Pauline popped in to a few clothes and shoe shops without finding anything she really liked. Ironically, we then went in to Carrefour to buy some food for a snack meal and Pauline found the summer shoes she had liked last year in lots of different colours and bought five pairs.


Last year she bought two pairs for Elerania and sent them to Sifnos because she had admired them.

We went back to the hotel and enjoyed the grounds which were being tidied up by a huge army of gardeners.


It really is an enjoyable and comfortable place to stay. We have been using it for thirty years or so when it was originally a Copthorne Millenium hotel.

11th June, 2015

We got up for breakfast (again!) to the sound of torrential rain. It was very hot and humid. By the time we set off for Le Touquet – Paris Plage, the sun was out and the skies were blue. During the day, the temperature reached a sticky 28C/83F. We walked the sea shore and then the wonderful open market.

I was so moved by the beauty of the sea front that I snatched up my iPad to take a photo. This is it:


Realising that I hadn’t quite caught the core magic of the place, I took a second:


The problem with iPad screens in bright sunlight is that they are useless. By the time I got a grip, Pauline was using her phone:

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After a long walk at the sea front, we explored the centuries old market full of enticing goods I’m not allowed to eat:

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12th June, 2015

Throughout the week, I had been buying bottles of red Bordeaux to ‘try’ prior to buying ‘in bulk’. A couple of my absolute favourites were bought in Auchan – A St Chinian and a Buzet. You’ll notice that I was pretty Buzet by the time I photographed the second one – so buzet that I forgot the third one which is a Minervois.

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Today we went out and bought fifteen cases of the stuff along with a freezer-full of duck, pork, beef steaks, rabbit joints plus olive oil, mustard and fresh fish including cod loins, whole salmon, crab and langoustine. Should keep us going over the weekend!

We drove back to the Tunnel with the car laden down. A lovely journey home apart from the M25 had a 2 mile hold-up because of an accident. After unloading the car, everything had to be put away neatly because estate agents are conducting a viewing of our apartment tomorrow.

13th June, 2015

We had to get back yesterday because Pauline has a hospital appointment with a consultant at Ashford hospital this morning. We had to be there for 10.30 am as we drove through Runneymede where they were gearing up for Magna Carta celebrations for its 800th anniversary. The hospital at Ashford is new, shining and almost fully automated.

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You check-in by machine, sit in front of screens which flash up when you are to be seen and where. Only then do you meet a human. In Pauline’s case, she has to have endoscopy which won’t be pleasant but will reassure her ultimately. We hope!

As we drove home, the estate agent called to say the viewer of our property had tried to open the lounge windows and had knocked a table lamp over smashing its shade.


Pauline was very upset. She bought this lamp in the early 1970s and had brought it with us to every property we have lived in. It featured in our wedding photo cutting the cake. It is probably worth very little financially but a huge amount emotionally. We are trying to source a replacement for Foxtons to buy for us. I have a feeling that it will be very expensive.