Sunday, 2nd October, 2016
A lovely, warm and sunny day with blue sky and high, white clouds. After the political programmes and before the football, we sat out in the sun in the garden. We deliberately chose a house with a south-facing garden which gives us long days of sunshine. It also helps us to grow patio plants successfully. Of course, one can’t fight the seasons and, as we open the conservatory doors onto our breakfast table each morning, we are beginning to notice the early air has a little bite to it. Today, I cut the basil plants back to the base and Pauline made the last batch of pesto using our plants this season.
Watched a programme about Rick Stein’s connection with and appreciation of John Betjeman last night. Suddenly saw a volume of poems that was said to be a ‘First Edition’ of Summoned by Bells featured. It reminded me that I have a first edition, signed and numbered as 1/125 with the location of Repton in 1960 included in the inscription. I think Mum gave it to me. I know that Betjeman used to visit and stay with Dr Hodson who lived about 100 yards up the High Street and he could be seen playing croquet on the lawn. It has been carried with me from house to house for 40 years and probably will be for the eleven years I have left.
Monday, 3rd October, 2016
Yet another lovely day of sunshine and blue sky. We are told that last month was one of the warmest Septembers on record and I can quite believe it. It was a great month not to be a teacher. Let’s hope my last 11 Septembers are as good if not better. About this time, we begin play the game about when we move into long sleeved shirts; when we feel it necessary to put the central heating on for the first time; when the continental quilt will be needed on the bed. No signs of any of those as yet.
We are going to France soon and we’ve decided not to go to the Health Club but to get jobs done. I have to mow the lawns, check the car for oil, water and tyre pressure and make sure we have all our necessary documents. Pauline is washing and ironing in preparation for packing.
A couple of weeks ago I reflected on the Greek media’s reports of the fall in tourism this year. This weekend, they reported the serious drop in holidays, holiday lengths and spending by the Greek population itself. The number of Greeks not affording a holiday at all and those cutting the number of nights away meant that spending by Greeks fell by a whacking 15% this year. It is not surprising with so many out of work or experiencing more pension cuts.
The Tories, here, are busily making it clear that we are not just leaving Europe but we are really LEAVING EUROPE. This will almost certainly mean import/export duties coming in to cross-border transactions as well as visas for Britons travelling to Europe and Europeans travelling to Britain. It may well mean deporting some foreign nationals who are deemed surplus to our workforce requirements and borders being much more strictly controlled with entry based on our requirements for skilled workers. This is all going to turn very ugly.
Tuesday, 4th October, 2016
Still the lovely weather continues with blue skies and strong sun flooding our back garden from dawn until dusk. The early morning – 7.00 am – and the evening – 7.00 pm – are tinged with the sharp edge of cool air of Autumn but the days are warm with Summer sun and delightful.
Like, I suspect, so many men of my age, I have been on a odyssey to reconnect with influentially formative figures from my past. My hero Rugby and English teacher from Grammar School was Vic Roebuck. I managed to write to him and thank him for all he had done for me just months before he died aged 82 in 2010. He was sad after losing his wife but still fighting to keep fit and serving Burton upon Trent Rugby Union Club.
Having failed to get in to Newcastle University in 1969, I settled, as a male Roman Catholic, for a Teacher Training place at an all-female, Church of England, Training College. I was one of the first 20 men amongst 600 women. I saw Ripon training College as very much second best but I absolutely loved it. My English tutor, David McAndrew, introduced me to serious poetry and writing. Particularly, he introduced me to the Cumbrian poet, Norman Nicholson. In an idle moment, I googled David and up he popped celebrating his new collection of poems, Gesture from Fragments at the Ripon Writers’ Group. He must be mid-80s but looks remarkably the same as I remember him when I last saw him in July 1972 – only 44 years ago. I wrote, speculatively, to him and received an email back immediately.
As I started teaching, I felt as if I had to redress my failure. I applied for an Open University degree course. It would take a lot of my earnings, all my spare time and energy and many late nights writing assignments. It was worth it. I loved it and began to take a pride in myself. My third year course was 2oth Century Poetry. My tutor was a middle aged man called Harry Chambers. I had never heard of him but, it turns out, he was a legend in the publishing world of modern poetry. He was a close friend of Seamus Heaney, a confidant of Philip Larkin and a promoter of burgeoning, young talent that eventually became the establishment. The year after I graduated he moved his publishing company, Peterloo Poets, to Cornwall. He left a profound impression on me.
While I am doing this, I should pay tribute to the man who, probably, had the most profound influence upon my intellectual development. Soon after I had graduated from the Open University, I began to feel uncomfortable with my inability to understand the political world around me with any real perspective. We were living in Huddersfield and I saw an advert in the Huddersfield Examiner for applications from ‘mature’ students for a research degree – a Master of Arts in The History of Ideas. I didn’t even know what it was but it sounded challenging and I wrote to the young man who was supervising the course. It was Dr Bill Stafford. My research was into the rise in the influence of Marxist thought in late 19th Century Britain, the Rise of the Labour Party and the political writings of R.H.Tawney. Bill is now Emeritus Professor William Stafford.
Wednesday, 5th October, 2016
Up at 5.30 am. Why is it still dark? By 6.30 am, the daylight is breaking on a glorious morning. By 7.00 am, we are fighting against a strong sun in our eyes as we drive across to Folkestone and the Tunnel. As we always do, we arrive early, and get offered an earlier crossing.
I took some photos on my new phone and the quality seems reasonably good although I really must go back to my digital SLR camera. The phone and the iPad cameras are just so much more convenient. Certainly, the people parked in front of us on the train could not have posed much better than these, unsuspecting victims.
As we drive to our hotel in Coquelles, the gorgeous grounds are flooded in sunlight as the rabbits enjoy a mid morning lunch of grass flavoured grass. We have booked a suite for a couple of days to celebrate Pauline’s coming of ‘old’ age. We have been coming to this hotel for 25 years. In that time it has been under two or three owners. Originally, it was French and subsequently Millenium Copthorne. Now it is IHG.
I am an IHG member and get discounts, upgrades and free nights. Here, we have an upgrade. We will stay in an IHG hotel in Yorkshire and at the airport on the way to Tenerife. Each stay adds benefits to my account.
Having checked in and unpacked, we drive out to Cite Europe shopping complex where Pauline buys ……more shoes, in fact, three more pairs of shoes. Well it is her birthday. As we drive back to the hotel via Auchan supermarket, this delightful scene across the road presents itself. A French farmer ploughing his field against the backdrop of The Channel complete with ferries and the white cliffs of Dover. The Channel seems to be widening as we stand there. All the mood music from the other side is strident. Let’s hope it is only a negotiation position being struck at the outset!
Thursday, 6th October, 2016
I’ve woken to a nascent,blue sky and another wonderful day. Pauline has woken to being 65 + 1 day. Nightmare! Hotel breakfast to which we are so unused that we are full before we start. Back to our room for coffee and newspapers before we set out for the coast road and the Calais to Boulogne via Wissant, Tardinghen, Audinghen and Wimereaux. In beautiful sunlight, the journey was a delight. We revisited old haunts and found new ones.
After a lovely day in the sunshine, we went back to our suite and ate a meal of prawns, celeriac dip, tomatoes and cured ham with a bottle of chilled, white Burgundy. This bottle cost £10.00/€11.11 but would cost £21.00/€23.34 in UK. We are aware now that this facility will only be available for another 18 months. They are all considering their futures even now.
Friday, 7th October, 2016
Up at 7.00 am (6.00 am GMT) and down to breakfast at 8.00 am. Breakfast is an alien concept and hard to stomach but the feeling that ‘we’ve paid for it so we’ll eat it’ still prevails. Feeling painfully full, we stagger back to our room to drink coffee and read the newspapers.
At 9.30 am, we check-out and drive to Auchan where we do our weekly shop plus packs of duck breasts, duck legs, rabbit, etc.. Salad and fresh fruit abounds in our shopping trolley. We set off for the Tunnel about 10 mins away. A cup of coffee and a toilet break and we are queuing up for the train. Off and on to English motorway by 12.00 GMT, we set off on our 90 mins drive to home. En route as we join the M25, we see a large lorry full of boxes (We now know of frozen roast potatoes.) being searched and about 15 migrant stowaways being removed. They have endured temperatures of -25C for hours. The Daily Mail newspaper reports later confirm that.
Home by 2.00 pm, we read through correspondence, unload the car and sink back into our sofas. It doesn’t matter where we travel, coming ‘home’ is great!
Saturday, 8th October, 2016
Is it a sign of age to be tired after being away for a few days? If so, I’m not tired at all. Even so, we both lazed around a bit this morning. I did rack up all the bottles of wine we bought. It came to 140 bottles for us, 48 for P&C and another dozen for friends. Our car swallows 200 bottles of wine without trying. Our wine store also gives us ‘free crossings’ through the tunnel so the process is painless.
After that, we went to the Health Club for a good workout. Really enjoyed it after days away indulging ourselves.