Week 366

27th December, 2015

Welcome to the start of the Blog’s 8th year. A particular welcome to the Poison Dwarf. Can’t wait to meet up. Let’s make it a New Year’s Resolution!


At least Christmas is over for another year. Stress levels are dropping and we are off for a workout in the gym. Of course, it is this time of year when the number of Health Club members suddenly leaps as resolutions about health, fitness and weight loss are made. We regulars know that, by mid-January, the pressure rapidly decreases. Of course, as retirees we are lucky to be able to do everything off peak. Many would say we are past our peak as it is but Pauline would never admit it.

28th December, 2015

Officially, today is Boxing Day. Unofficially, it’s Monday. The day opened at 6.00 am with the most wonderful sky of glorious colours. When we stepped out, it was sunny and incredibly warm. By 10.30 am, it was 16C/61F. We went to the Health Club and the exercise felt glorious. I watched Bolton Wanderers beat Blackburn Rovers while I was on the jogging machine.

Bolton Win!

Bolton is Ruth’s team and they are broke and bottom of the Championship but, today, I thought they were excellent.

We returned and made a meal of tomato & cucumber salad with smoked salmon, prawns and crayfish tails. Absolutely delicious. We spent the rest of the afternoon drawing scaled plans of the rooms in our new house, cut-outs of scaled furniture and positioning them in various ways. We’ve decided from this, for example, that we will have 2 x 3 seater sofas + 1 x 2 seater sofa in the lounge. We are making a second trip to Sofaworks tomorrow to do a confirmation of our choice.

29th December, 2015

Set off for Slough – about 16 miles away – in strong sunshine and 13C/55F  to visit  Sofaworks again. As we drove through Windsor and past the Great Park which has been carpeted with daffodils for weeks, we were shocked to notice that they were going over.

Windsor Great Park

Spring in Windsor is almost finished. Apparently, we have had the warmest December for 70 years. The warmest in our lifetime.

The whole trip took half an hour. We checked the sofas, confirmed what we wanted, found out that the lead-in time is 11 weeks and agreed to phone our order when we’ve made our next visit to the house next week. At least the rains and subsequent flooding have not visited us down here. Our old stomping grounds of Lancashire and Yorkshire have been and are continuing to be hit by wet problems. This is Delph in Lancashire (formerly Yorkshire):

Delph Floods

and this is Brighouse, West Yorkshire:

Brighouse Floods

Water is so essential but so destructive if not controlled.

30th December, 2015

A mild but breezy day to celebrate our 37th Wedding Anniversary. Where has the time gone? Unfortunately, we are celebrating it by doing our latest round of bowel cancer screening (aka pootest).

Bowel Cancer Screening Test

I know it’s not the most romantic but needs must if we want another 37 years. In searching for a graphic to illustrate this (I’m not in my own home and couldn’t scan it in.), I found it on a site entitled Older People’s Voice. We really don’t think of ourselves as ‘older people’ but I suppose many would.

The other activities on this auspicious day include:

  • Spring Cleaning the house. (P&C are away for a few days so we will do our duty.)
  • Having my haircut by Pauline.
  • Going to the gym.
  • Shopping for our meal.

I’m really missing my Sky Sports particularly when England appear to be winning the first Test in South Africa. ………….. No sooner have I written that than THEY’VE WON! Finn took 4 wickets.

Finn takes 4 wickets.

How did you spend your wedding anniversary? Oh, I was hoovering the house, stain-cleaning the carpets and steam cleaning the oven. Well, everyone’s got to do something.

31st December, 2015

The death knell of 2015 is sounding on a bright, sunny day of sharp blue skies. Anticipating the new year, we are in optimistic mood. We will take possession of our new house in about eight weeks. Four of those we will spend in the warmth of Tenerife.

Meanwhile, a chill wind blows through Greece and its islands – literally and metaphorically. Freezing temperatures in Athens and reaching down to the Cyclades has made life difficult for the thousands of displaced migrants still arriving on the islands and roaming the capital’s streets. At the same time, the Greek people themselves continue to suffer relative privations as a result of their post-crash crisis. As Kathimerini reports:

Greece has the unenviable distinction of having the second to worst performing residential property market in the world this year, according to data up to the end of September.

Greek property prices continue to plummet!

A Global Property Guide survey shows that the annual price decline in Greece came to 6.03 percent. Among European Union member-states, Cyprus was a distant second behind Greece, with a 2.2 percent annual decline in home prices, while Spain was in third after seeing a small drop of 0.45 percent. …The central bank forecasts that the slide is unlikely to reverse in the coming quarters, as the factors that have led to it have not been eliminated.

There was an equally depressing article by Richard Pine in The Irish Times a couple of days ago. While it would repay reading in full, it essentially argues that Clientelism and Plutocracy are so embedded in the Greek political system that to change it would require heart and brain transplants in the corridors of power. It concludes that yet another general election is almost inevitable within the next three months. Life will continue its intolerable, downward spiral for ordinary Greeks while we celebrate the new year in relatively high spirits.

1st January, 2016

Καλή πρωτοχρονιά! / Bonne année / Feliz año Nuevo / Ein glückliches neues Jahr / Happy New Year. Welcome 2016!


The Blog wishes all its readers an interesting and enjoyable New Year. Our approach through the Blog to 2016 will be based on Kierkegaard’s view that:

Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.

In 2016, the Blog will support that life-defining principle. In that spirit, we completed our bowel cancer tests on the last day of 2015 and posted them off today. We will see the results returned this month while we are abroad. Bet you didn’t want to know that!

Went to bed at 1.00 am this morning after watching, what we thought, was a poor and chaotic firework display on the Thames embankment. The television commentator kept telling us how spectacular it was but we’ll be the judge of that and it wasn’t. Listening to Radio 4’s Today programme at 6.00 am; up at 7.00 am and doing the housework by 9.00 am. Out at 9.30 am to Tesco for essential supplies. The carpark was quite quiet – I’m not sure why. Now we are off to the Health Club for our first workout of 2016. Got to keep moving forward.

2nd January, 2016

The end of Year 8/Week 1 already. The Christmas period is always a strange and disconcerting one – never really sure what day or time it is. Most of the working world will go back to the coal face on Monday while we prepare for our second month in Tenerife and the last few weeks before we move in to our new house (hopefully). It’s been a grey, damp and cool day and thoughts of a Canarian climate are pleasing.

Tenerife Sunshine Beckons

Newspapers, radio and television are predictably greeting the new year with new ‘diets’ which are guaranteed to lose 7 pounds in a week/a stone in a month/4 stones in six months, etc.. I’m glad I don’t even consider things like that anymore although we are renewing our self control and I am going to try to do another 6 months without alcohol. I did it a couple of years ago and, after the first week, didn’t have a problem. I’m pretty sure I can get through to July without it. We don’t do a great deal wrong with our food choices although it wasn’t so easy to maintain over Christmas and we certainly need to re-address our portion sizes. We do more than our fair share of ‘set exercise’ in the gym and the pool but retirement is not conducive to activity throughout the day and we have got to find a substitute for ‘sitting around’ during large sections of time.

Week 365

20th December, 2015

The start of the ultimate week of Year 7 of The Blog. I’ve been reliably informed that Sarah & Stavros have ordered lines of flags to celebrate next Sunday – the start of Year 8. I wonder what they’ll do when we reach The Decade!


Mark December, 2018 in your diaries. Ah! the anticipation. Actually, we began on December 25th, 2008.

Out to the Peacocks Shopping Centre in Woking to collect a watch I’d ordered on-line from the Watch Shop. As soon as I looked at it in reality, I knew it was going back – and so it is. I will try again. I think I will now buy a smart watch to link with my smart phone. I’m considering the Garmin blue tooth enabled.


It’s about £180.00 and will interface with my Sony smartphone for calls and email, on-line calendar and text alerts.

21st December, 2015

A little cooler today never rising above 14C/57F and with weak sunshine. We went to Tesco and Waitrose early and the crowds were fairly light. The Health Club, on the other hand, was surprisingly busy. Received a card from a member of staff I haven’t seen for at least 30 years and a newsletter from another I haven’t seen for at least 20 years. I can see them in school, hear their voices and yet our paths crossed only briefly in the grand scheme of things. We may never meet again. Life is strange!

22nd December, 2015

Today is the shortest day of the year – the Winter Solstice. The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December solstice and is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.


The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June.


Thousands of Pagans across the UK are celebrating the Winter Solstice, many gathering at the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge to watch the sunrise. Pagans are as deluded as Christians but all are fortunate, this year, to have a temperature close to that of the Summer Solstice. It was 14C/57F over night here and has reached 16C/61F this afternoon.

23rd December, 2015

Wonderful, wonderful day with wall to wall blue sky and sunshine. The temperature reached 15C/59F. I took Pauline to the hairdressers while I read my iPad paper in Costa Coffee (£2.40 for an Americano!) with a ridiculously expensive cup of coffee. Went on to the Health Club for a couple of hours and then back to cook our meal. I griddled fish outside in my shirtsleeves two days before Christmas. That’s the sort of Global Warming most of us want. Keep burning the coal!

I have no idea why but my Norton Internet Security always comes up for renewal at Christmas time. It has changed its name from Norton 360 to Norton Security. I don’t care. I can’t do without it but there are so many rivals now that the price has been reduced drastically. I used to have to pay £50.00 per computer. Norton themselves still ask that if you do ‘automatic renewal’. I’ve bought the update from Amazon for £22.00 for five machines. Anyone using the internet would be bonkers to not cover themselves.


The Christmas present for our Greek friends is the news that HSBC whistleblower, Herve Falciani, has handed over details on thousands of allegedly suspicious international transactions to the Greek government. Ironically, the information has been handed to the government’s general secretary, Michalis Kalogirou. Now I know a thing or two about people called Kalogirou and how they deal with money. I am writing to Michalis.

24th December, 2015

A very pleasant Christmas Eve morning – mild and fairly sunny at 7.00 am. We were in M&S by 7.30 am to collect the turkey. Already there were queues being ‘organised’ by staff.

turk3 turk4

The turkey, a Pembrokeshire Bronze, weighs 6.2Kg which means it will roast for about 3 hours and then rest for an hour. It can go in at 10.00 am to be ready for 2.00 pm. It’s the same ritual every year. Pauline is now busily preparing it for tomorrow’s cooking with butter under the skin, chestnut, pork and apricot stuffing in the neck and bacon over the breast as pictured above. At times like this, it’s wonderful having a professional chef in the house.

We are going to the Health Club for a couple of hours this morning. Can you believe they are closed for Friday & Saturday. We are all going out for a late lunch this afternoon at the Jovial Sailor in Ripley so we will need to earn the right to eat. I always find these occasions awkward because of my diet. At least I’m driving so I won’t be drinking.


25th December, 2015


It was on this day in 2008 that the Blog began. Having never managed to maintain a diary for even seven days before, this on-line effort has now endured for seven years. I look forward to the next seven … and the next…. and the next.

Since the end of childhood some 50 years ago, Christmas Day has always been an uncomfortable, bitter-sweet occasion but, at least, one to indulge unashamedly in. Now that indulgence is off-limits, only the bitter-sweet discomfort remains. I often wonder how many people wake on Christmas morning with a sense of foreboding, already looking forward to the normality of ‘ordinary’ times. Alright, I know, I’m weird. We all have to be something. I hope all those reading this have a lovely day not afflicted  by such reservations.

26th December, 2015

It was on this day in 2008 that I wrote in my second Blog entry:

Boxing Day – Who needs it? Spent today driving around the Moors in weak winter sunshine. They remind me so much of Greek Island scenery – desolate and brown, undulating and punctured by volcanic rock erupting through the heather.

and I took this lovely photograph up on the Yorkshire moors edging Huddersfield.


Happy times! It was unseasonably mild there then and it is even more unseasonably mild here now. 15C/59F this morning in Surrey. I’m afraid it is rather cooler and wetter in Lancashire/Yorkshire. That contrast was pointed up by an illustration in a newspaper of an ice cream van out on Christmas Day in the south of England selling Christmas Pudding Ice cream.


If you’re in the North, you may well be buying sandbags or mops & buckets.

Week 364

13th December, 2015

This is the penultimate week of the Blog’s 7th year. It actually started on Christmas Day 2008 but the inexactitude of the calendar’s mathematics makes it difficult to pin down. There are 52.143 weeks in a year. If one calculates 7 x 52.143 = 365.001. I will celebrate the beginning of the 8th Blog Year on Christmas Day, 2015. I just provide advanced warning so Sarah & Stavros can put out the bunting in preparation. The Sunday Times trumpets that the Paris Conference Climate deal ‘to change the world’ in 50 years. I will be 114 years old and not really bothered. By that stage, I won’t be going out much – may be to the Health Club, supermarket and that’s it! 

A very mild but grey day today. We went out at 10.30 am and spent a couple of hours in the Health Club. An hour on the jogging machine followed by a spell in the pool, the Jacuzzi, the Sauna and back home. I cooked chicken and green peppers for our meal. The day has sort of melted away which is a bit disconcerting but that’s how it goes some times. For some reason, my mind has been obsessed with thoughts of my Mother today. I think I miss her.

14th December, 2015

After an early chill in the breeze, today has continued mild. We went round to our old apartment because we were told that some post had evaded the re-direction instruction and been delivered there. It was the first time we had met our buyer. She was still in Australia when we completed the sale with her daughter. The first thing that hit us when she opened the daughter was the stink of cigarette smoke. It is 30 years since I last had smoked and one encounters so rarely now that the strength of the smell is quite overwhelming.


It is hard to believe that I subjected Pauline to that for our first few years of marriage. I don’t criticise those who smoke but I am surprised that they don’t worry about the consequences and the cost.

We did a couple of hours of exercise and then we ate griddled cod loin with salad. We are not able to buy much beyond one day’s food because we are not in our own home. We are going to France at the end of the week and we would normally do a huge shop in the hypermarket but we will have to restrain ourselves on this occasion.

15th December, 2015

Out early and off to the Peacock Shopping Centre in Woking. Had to have my glasses frame adjusted after leaning on them and altering the shape. All done for nothing at Specsavers where I bought them. It was a grey, damp day which Britain excels in over the winter months. We are looking forward to our return to Tenerife. Just got to get through (Bah Humbug) Christmas first.

I wrote my customary newsletter to relations and friends and informed them that they could contact us at our old address because we were using redirection.


Inspite of that, many are choosing to send emails/e-cards instead. Quite refreshing really.

16th December, 2015

Out early again this morning for dentist appointments. I had a temporary cap fitted to replace the one that shattered while we were in Tenerife. It was prepared and fixed at 9.30 am but had fallen out by 4.30 pm.. We are off to France tomorrow morning so I will try to get it re-fixed next week.

The media is reporting that this is turning out to be the warmest December for 100 years. Certainly Surrey features many men walking round in short sleeved shirts and shorts. Daffodils are flowering and some of the bushes and trees are strongly budding while the local news featured early strawberries fruiting.

daffs3 straw3

I certainly don’t complain and won’t if I never see snow again.

17th December, 2015

This has been a week of early starts. This morning we are driving down to the Tunnel for a short, shopping trip in France. Bags packed last night. A shower, cup of tea and off into rush hour traffic. It is always ‘rush hour’ here.

At 6.30 am, it is 14C/57F. Athens is only 10C/50F at the moment. Our day is expected to reach 16C/61F. Who wears coats nowadays? In three weeks we are back in Tenerife where the temperature is 23C/74F. I think I’ll get a job as a weatherman!

Great drive down to the Tunnel in remarkably light traffic and strong sunshine for 8.00 – 9.00 am. Clearly, the Tunnel traffic has been badly affected by the migrant problem. We were given an earlier crossing, loaded on to a half full train and booked in to a very quiet hotel. All of this in the week before Christmas which has traditionally been very busy with festive shoppers. We settled in to our Suite.

After I’d watched The Daily Politics, we went shopping for P&C’s wine and a little for ourselves. We bought a  snack of cold meats and shellfish for our meal and took it back to our suite. We went back out to Cité Europe and bought a Christmas present for a relative. Driving back, we got caught in a traffic snarl-up which is becoming a regular here as police respond to migrant challenges. It delayed us for about fifteen minutes and we got back to our hotel to eat – drink a glass of wine – and read the papers. The temperature at 4.00 pm is registering as 17C/63F and BBC London news are reporting 16.5C/62F is the highest December temperature for 100 years.

18th December, 2015

Christmas Week (Bah Humbug) begins with warm temperatures – 16C/61F – although rather overcast. Usually, we have breakfast in hotels but not today. We drove down to Auchan and did a little food shopping and then off to the Tunnel. We were back in Surrey by lunchtime. We ate prawns, crab, St Jacques terrine and salad.


Nice little interlude.

We have booked a visit to walk round the inside of our new house during the first week of January before we go away. Hopefully, we will get the key shortly after we return.

19th December, 2015

We left the house in 16C/61F of warmth at 9.00 am to go shopping. Last night was the warmest December night on record at 14.7C/57F. The Times this morning features daffodils in full flower at Windsor Castle just a few miles away from here and people punting in summer dress on the river in Cambridge:

daffsw punt

Certainly, people are having to force the spirit of Christmas more this year. On Sifnos, friends say it was bitingly cold as the tree was lit up in Apollonia Square and Andreas, the Mayor, officiated. They are certainly having to wear more clothes than here.

sifchris1 sifchris2 sifchris3

These are awful times for people who don’t really do Christmas. Roads and pavements, Shopping Centres and shops are crammed with craze-eyed shoppers intent on being FIRST to everything. There are Christmas songs and even some carols blaring out from speakers everywhere one goes. Still, it will soon be New Year!

Week 363

6th December, 2015

A damp but very mild morning. We are going to an 18th Birthday Party this afternoon. I hate parties of all kinds apart from political parties but needs must. The party is for David, Pauline’s nephew. Yesterday, we  went out and bought the dirtiest birthday card we could find and, this morning, Pauline has made his requested cake – coffee & walnut. Quite a sophisticated flavour for a young man but that is what he wants.

cake_beach angbeach

The cake has become an Angmering, pebble beach scene with driftwood shoring up the sides. I’m certain it won’t look like this for long when the gannets see it.

While the cake was being made, I had the arduous task of researching and choosing the fitted furniture for our new, home office. I have decided on this:


7th December, 2015

Incredibly mild for the time of year – 13 or 14C/55 or 57F – although the north of England is suffering with heavy rain and flooding this weekend. We are seeing none of that down here. We did check that our new house was not being built on a flood plain and were reassured that, although it is near Water Road, our house is never threatened. The builders sent us an up to date photo of the build:


At least it is water tight with roof, windows and doors fitted although there is still scaffolding around the garage because they are still doing the roof on that.

Actually, the temperature peaked at an unseasonally mild 16C/61F at 2.00 pm as we left the Health Club. Mind you, we were hot and sweaty ourselves by that time. Earlier, I had been to the dentist to arrange for a replacement crown for the one that disintegrated while we were away in Tenerife. Not a problem but it will cost me £540.00 plus£36.00 for the Check-up. I’ve definitely been in the wrong job all these years!

8th December, 2015

Went out early this morning to New Maldon – a southwest London suburb – where there is a concentration of Lounge and Dining Room furniture outlets. D.F.S., Furniture Village, Sofa Store, Oak Furniture Land. The weather was warm but overcast. After three hours of shopping, Pauline was just getting into her stride but I was exhausted. We drove back to the Health Club and did a couple of hours de-stressing in the gym and the pool, the jacuzzi and the sauna. Later, we had a lovely meal of fresh, dressed crab, crayfish and prawns with Greek Salad and Humus. It is still one of my favourite meals.

I forgot to say that we posted our Christmas cards yesterday morning. The post box in West Byfleet was so full from being stuffed with cards over the weekend that I couldn’t get our 70 envelopes in to it.


I had to go into the Post Office and hand them over the counter. I created and produced the Newsletter. I addressed all of our envelopes with address labels printed on sheets of 21 at a time. Pauline wrote inside the cards. She insists on that since I once wrote in them ‘From Pauline & John Sanders’ which she said was incredibly impersonal. Every year we receive four different cards from Jane & David and then have to guess which particular couple each is from. Still it has relieved me of the task of writing which I’m hopeless at now. Bring on the day when it is acceptable to greet by email or text message.

9th December, 2015

Gorgeous blue skies and strong sunshine this morning although rather a sharper temperature. We were out early to pick up a prescription. The Surgery carpark was unusually packed and hectic. Had a row with the chemist at Tesco. Above the counter, they boast ‘five principles’ one of which says You will never have to wait more than 15 minutes. They routinely say, when one hands over the prescription, ‘Got any shopping to do? It will be 15-20 minutes. Today it was 45 minutes. At our age, every minute counts!


Had the outside of the car cleaned on the way home – £10.00 – and we will clean the inside ourselves this afternoon. I am responsible for cooking again today. I am marinating boneless chicken thighs in garlic, lemon, olive oil and oregano. I will griddle it outside in the sunshine now it has warmed up.

10th December, 2015

Went out early …………… to Slough. Betjeman wrote:

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

and nothing has changed. It is a conurbation 20 miles west of central London with absolutely nothing to recommend it apart from a trading park which has a number of sofa and bed outlets. That is why we went. It was a nice day. The shops were interesting but few would argue against the bombing of Slough.


We had driven  through Windsor and past the castle. We had driven through Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed only 800 years ago. Sounds good but it really doesn’t improve the experience of Slough.

We were back in time to do a couple of hours at the Health Club in the gym and pool and then home to griddle salmon steak outside to be eaten with Greek Salad. This evening will be relaxing. We are tired after a busy week.

11th December, 2015

Went out early in spitting rain under leaden skies to drive to Camberley just next door to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.


More prosaically, we were going to a Next superstore to look at furniture.


Quite nice sofas but not good enough. Saw a Dining Table which has gone to the top of the list although the Dining chairs may come from someone else. I know that I and, therefore, the Blog have become fixated on relatively transient baubles like furniture but that is what we will need soon after we return from Tenerife. We have to do the legwork now.

12th December, 2015

Making a meal for P&C today – Steak, mushrooms, onions and baby vegetables – so shopping was required. Out early and back early but still the supermarket was unpleasant. Don’t you just hate Christmas? People in Surrey shop like they drive, rushing everywhere and giving no quarter.

Spent a chunk of the day trying to resolve an email problem that is besetting Pauline. She is still using Outlook 2007.


It sounds older than it is but is distinctly clunky nowadays. It is my job to resolve IT/Technical issues. I worked on it for about two hours desperately trying not to lose all her back emails. Eventually, I recreated her account using IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) as opposed to the previous standard, POP (Post Office Protocol). The problem had me grumpy and frustrated. The solution produced a rush of released satisfaction.