Week 418

Sunday,25th December, 2016





Have a lovely day. We are off to Surrey for a few hours of Family entertainment. Pauline has done all the cooking apart from the turkey which will have 3 hrs of warm weather followed by an hour ‘resting’.

The drive up was very quiet and quick – just under an hour. The day was enjoyable and the meal was delightful (Why didn’t I take any photos?). Pauline made four, different starters –

  • A filo pastry parcel containing roast salmon with pesto
  • A chopped, smoke salmon tower on a blini with caviar topping
  • An endive leaf filled with cream of Dolcellate
  • A chunk of cantaloupe melon with a leaf of red oak lettuce and Serrano Ham

The main course was

  • A beautiful, buttery, Norfolk turkey provided by P&C
  • Pigs in Blankets
  • Sage & Onion Stuffing + Forcemeat with Apricot Stuffing
  • Sprouts & Chestnuts
  • Baby Carrots finished in Balsamic Vinegar
  • Goose Fat Roasted King Edward Potatoes

As much as anyone could manage it, the Sweet was a choice of

  • Homemade (circa 2015) Christmas Pudding with creamy custard
  • Rich Chocolate Log with Double Cream

I would defy anyone to find a better meal cooked professionally. The quality of everything was outstanding. Pauline had also made a Christmas Cake and, as happens every year, everyone was so full it wasn’t even cut until we had left. We never get to taste the cake.

The road was busier as we drove home but we were back for 7.30 in the evening in light rain. The weather report was that we had just missed the warmest Christmas Day for 100 years by 0.5C/1.2F. The day had peaked at 14C/57F which felt very warm anyway.

Monday,26th December, 2016

Goring Beach

Quite a chilly start to this morning at 7C/45F but delightfully sunny. We went out for an early-ish walk on the beach just down the road at Goring on Sea. It was quite delightful. We could have done without the dog walkers but one can’t have everything. People were out, like us, walking off excesses from yesterday. Others were in the sea on sailing boats or jet skis and a few were fishing. The commercial fishing boats remained beached and the wet fish shack was closed unsurprisingly.








A happy start to the day. The temperature did reach 11C/52F at early afternoon. Now, Pauline is making Turkey stock from yesterday’s carcass and we are preparing  smoked salmon salad for our meal.   Lovely way to meander through the day.

Tuesday,27th December, 2016

We have been in Sussex for 9 months now and this morning we woke to our first frost. The temperature outside is 0C/32F and the grass is tinged with silver. The sky, of course, is cloudless and the strong, low sun bathes the world in light. It is a wonderful morning to be alive.

At 10.00 am, we had an appointment with a lad called Daniel at the Worthing Lawn tennis Club. It is a sporting complex near our Health Club. Often, as we drive home, we see people playing Croquet in all weathers. Today, as we drove up, there was a man in shorts playing Pétanque. The temperature was still 0C/32F outside. Daniel is playing in an indoor tennis tournament where we found the temperature lower than outside. Where the sun didn’t reach, the gauge fell lower than freezing. We managed to watch the first set which he won but then gave up and drove home.

Interesting article in The Times this morning about the effect of a plunging £/€ rate and the general mood surrounding Brexit.

South Africa, Argentina and Mexico are expected to be among the most popular holiday destinations next year as Britons seek out countries where the pound is still strong. …. With currency fluctuations expected to continue next year this is influencing holiday decisions. South Africa is expecting to see large numbers of British holidaymakers in 2017 and one major travel company is reporting a 50 % increase in bookings to Goa for winter sun.

Europe is likely to be the biggest loser in this trend. Even we committed Europhiles have been considering Mexico. The month of November is warmer and comparative in price to Tenerife in spite of the longer flight.

Wednesday,28th December, 2016

Pauline’s Passion

Another chilly/sunny start to the day. At 7.00 am, it was -1C/30F with light frost on the lawns. And so the day starts. As our 38th wedding anniversary approaches, I have to admit that my wife’s passion for me has been replaced by her love of  ………………………………. turkey & stuffing sandwiches especially made with ‘oven-bottom muffin’ from Oldham. It’s a Northerner thing! Two days after Christmas, she still has the materials left over to make her passion reality. I can only stand back and watch. I’m having turkey soup.

Unfortunately, Pauline’s ‘shingles’ are returning and, this time, in her mouth. Poor thing. It is horrible for her. We are going down to the Doctors’ surgery this afternoon and tomorrow she will have a blood test. It is difficult to understand the trigger for this attack. She was asked if she was stressed but nothing could be further from the truth. We are too relaxed, if anything.

Some people rave about the London Eye. I can’t see the attraction myself. I wonder what Pugin would have thought of a Ferris wheel intruding into the London landscape and jarring with his designs for the Palace of Westminster. You can’t imagine the Greeks soiling their classical sites with such, tasteless nonsense. Well, actually, you don’t need to imagine it because that is exactly what they tried to do ….. and failed.

The ‘Athens Eye’ in Syntagma Square.

Athens Mayor, Giorgos Kaminis, planned to erect the Athens Eye. The Wheel at Syntagma Square was supposed to offer joy to thousands of Athenians over the Christmas days and be free of charge until Epiphany on January 6th 2017. It was scheduled to start operation on December 22nd. On the 20th, the wheel was erected and set up without passenger gondolas.

Gradually, over Christmas Week, the gondolas were attached but, by Christmas Day, the wheel was not ready for operation. On the December 27th, workers arrived and began to dismantle the structure as meteorologists forecast ‘heavy snow falls and powerful north winds’ in Athens in the upcoming days. In addition, the Athens Eye was set up before the safety controls were concluded and the relevant permission and license were issued. The epitome of forward planning and how to waste money!

Thursday,29th December, 2016

Cold at 7.00 am reading -1C/30F. Strangely, there was virtually no frost or wind. I don’t understand scientific things like weather. It is foggy at Gatwick and -3C/27F. In Athens, it is snowing. I’d love to be there and see it.

We have a busy day. We were up at 4.00 am because Pauline couldn’t sleep. She was being troubled by the resurgence of her shingles. We went back to bed at 5.00 am and were up again at 7.00 am and out to do the weekly shop in Tesco at 8.00 am. It is our anniversary tomorrow and our celebratory meal will be Lobster Thermidor starter followed by Crispy Duck main course. I am teetotal until May so I cornered the market on low calorie white and red Shloer. When I’m desperate, it gets me through. After Christmas, many people are pledging abstinence and the supermarkets cut the price on non-alcoholic drinks. Tesco cut the price of Shloer from £2.50/€2.95 to £0.99/€1.16. I’ve cornered the market and filled the garage.

On the way home, I took Pauline to the surgery for a blood test and then on to the Lawn Tennis Club to meet M&K. We had left some cooking equipment at their house on Christmas Day and they were returning them. Plus, the bottle of red wine they had bought for my Christmas Lunch and which I didn’t drink, they were kind enough to bring down for me as well. That’s two bottles they have given me for Christmas. They are standing in the kitchen, challenging me to not touch them for another four months. I will move them to my racks in the garage.

We were supposed to be going to the gym but it is such a lovely, sunny day that we are going to the beach for a walk in the fresh air. Later, we are going to our next door neighbours for a couple of hours to meet people who have moved into the new houses on our street over the past six months.

Friday,30th December, 2016




Today is our 38th Wedding Anniversary. We are celebrating by having the dishwasher repaired. Unlike our marriage, which is in good, working order after 38 years, our dishwasher has stopped working after 6 months. The heating element has packed up. It would choose to fail two days before Christmas. All our white goods – Washing Machine, Tumble Dryer, in the Laundry and Oven, Hob, Fridge/Freezer, Wine Cooler and Dishwasher in the Kitchen are covered by our House Builders Warranty for 5 (now 4.5)years. The Electrolux Service Engineer has just texted us to say he will arrive between 11.00 – 15.00 hrs. He must have known that was exactly when we go to the gym. Still, if you’ve ever had to wash-up by hand, you will know why we are staying at home.

There is nothing that I have done in my life that has made me happier than getting married. I really enjoyed the day itself and have never regretted anything about it since. Quite the reverse, marriage was the making and saving of me. Pauline has carried a huge burden but she has come through with flying colours. Our first aim is to achieve 40 years which Google says is a Ruby Anniversary. Just time for everyone to save up!

We went out for a walk on our local beach yesterday morning. It was beautifully sunny and reasonably warm. Of course, many other people had made the same decision as us. The promenade was full of kids trying out their new roller boots and scooters, dogs chasing balls and the parents strolling in the sunshine. The beach itself was quieter but huge gulls were marauding around dead fish that had been washed ashore on the tide.

Saturday,31st December, 2016

Here’s to 2017!

The end of another year of life. I know there are people who believe that it is important to mark every milestone in life because it will not be salvageable in the future. About things like Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, year ends/beginnings, I am totally underwhelmed. I have an instinctive need to play them down, to keep everything on an even keel, to iron out the highs and lows of life in to one, calm continuum. Everyone seems to be saying that 2016 has been a terrible year and I can see that Brexit and Trump can make them feel that way. Over all, however, and compartmentalising Brexit for now, I am left with an extremely optimistic feeling about the future. Of course, it may be wholly misplaced but it is there. Ultimately, all lives end in tragedy but, hopefully, not yet.

The workers on our ‘newly constructed’ street were outside yesterday taking down the Christmas lights from their houses and cleaning their cars ready for the week to come. Preparing for the normality of life. They will go out or entertain tonight; sleep it off tomorrow and then turn their faces to the world of work on Tuesday. We will not. We will stay up until midnight and toast each other in sparkling water. We will raise a toast to you too where ever you are and whatever you situation.

Week 417








Sunday,18th December, 2016

This is the first day of Year 9. After 2922 entries, the Blog still endures. Even today it has proved its worth. Just a small thing but, as I was washing the car this morning, I struggled with the lance attachments for my pressure washer. It is a Karcher. I bought it or so I thought in May from Currys. I am nothing if not methodical. I checked my email records and couldn’t find an order or receipt. I checked my Blog and found it recorded on April 21st and bought from Argos. Back to my records and, not only had I got credit card details of the purchase but I had a confirmation of product registration details from Karcher.  My pressure washer will be fixed or replaced on Monday.

I know this isn’t of great significance but a small, running commentary of one’s daily life can jog the memory and trigger recollection of much that isn’t recorded here. When I bought a pressure washer isn’t of great importance but the Blog also records major events in our lives. You are welcome on that journey.

I was thwarted in cleaning the car and there was no chance of me doing it by hand. I moved on to my next task which was mowing the lawns. Can you believe it? Cutting the lawns seven days before Christmas. It was enjoyable and, although I cut them quite long, they look good with a lush, green stripe. Now I’ve got the hoovering to do. A man’s work ….

Monday,19th December, 2016

Winter can be depressingly dark!

Monday morning! Don’t you just love it? It is a grey and misty, damp and cold day which didn’t get above 7C/45F. We packed up our ‘no-longer-functioning’ Karcher Pressure Washer which we bought from Argos in April in a black dustbin bag having discarded the box long ago and trundled off to speak to the desk staff in our nearby store. The serving girl didn’t say anything other than, Do you want a replacement or a refund? The fact that I’d had it for nine months and used about as many times was, seemingly, irrelevant. Customer is king. Long may it remain so! I’ll pick up my brand new replacement tomorrow morning.

We went on to the Health Club and it was soon obvious that a lot of people have finished for the holidays already. What is the world coming to. These people should be at work until Friday if not Saturday. They complain about the older generation. They don’t know they’re born. The Changing Rooms were full. The huge equipment area was busy and the Spa was teaming with bodies. Oh, don’t you just hate people?

Tuesday,20th December, 2016

The aircraft hangar which is Sainsbury’s.

The day is grey, coolish and dampish rather like yesterday. Nipped out to pick up the replacement pressure washer from Argos which is now situated in Sainsbury‘s stores. This store in Rustington by the Sea is huge. My smartphone snap shows my trolley containing the pressure washer. Argos stretches out behind me while all the eye can see is clothes on racks. Beyond what the eye can see is five times as much again of fresh produce, tinned produce, frozen produce and bottled produce. It is a workout just to walk down to the wine and beer section. I know because I go nearly that far for the sparkling water. Each side of this emporium is flanked by huge, fresh fish counters, butchers counters, delicatessens, ready prepared meals counters, etc., etc..

Although this may pall a little to the civilised world, those Sifnos islanders struggling through the winter would kill for such provision. Instead, they have the joys of ‘supermarkets’ we in the affluent world would call ‘pantries’ as almost everything has to be sourced in Piraeus/Athens and brought by ferry to the island. Recent marine strikes can’t have helped.

The Windmill Supermarket / Corner Shop.


Super Mario’s Supermarket

Although the supermarkets are not the source of world shattering news, they may have heard today that the island of Nisyros in the Dodekanese has been hit by an earthquake of 5.5 richter. So not inconsiderable. We spent a month there exactly 25 years ago and found it really interesting. It is an island with a dormant volcanoe at its centre.. In 1991, there was very little infrastructure, in fact, very little of anything apart from sun and peace. All the noise came from outside. I remember so well craning to get the world service reports as conservative members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union attempted to depose Mikhail Gorbachev. I thought the world was collapsing while I was away. Little did I know.

Wednesday,21st December, 2016

The Winter Solstice in West Sussex.

The day is grey, coolish and dampish again rather like yesterday and the day before. Tomorrow will (hopefully) be  completely different. Today is the Winter Solstice or shortest day. The Solstice is when the North Pole is tilted farthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year. Frome here on in, things can only get better especially for Skiathan Man who is one year older today. We wish him well and an early return to his island.

There is an advert on television at the moment where a guest at a Christmas party bores the host as he talks about bin collection arrangements. I’m beginning to become that person. We have three ‘wheelie’ bins’:

  • Black for General Waste
  • Green for Recycled Waste
  • Brown for Garden Waste

I must admit to not really knowing (or caring) what goes in to what although I do try, occasionally. In Yorkshire, our collections would now be every 3 weeks – to encourage more recycling the council says. In Surrey, the collections are every 2 weeks. Here in Sussex, collections are weekly and incredibly reliable. They are on a Monday and will even be collected on Boxing Day this year. Isn’t life sweet?

Thursday,22nd December, 2016

Told you the weather would change. Today was bright, sunny and cloudless from dawn until dusk. Not hot – 10C/50F – but a delightful day. I’ve spent most of it outside. We were up at 6.30 am and out on a round trip of supermarkets by 7.30 am. Pauline is catering for 9 of us on Sunday and has carefully planned and sourced the elements of the meal. Today, we go to Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, miss out Morrisons and, finally, Tesco. We are home for 11.00 am and shattered. At least we’ve missed the worst of the rush although it was bad enough. We won’t need to go to another shop until Tuesday at the earliest.

One lovely distraction as we drove was to listen to Melvyin Bragg discussing T.S. Elliot’s work which I haven’t re-read for a while. Today, he was concentrating on the Four Quartets which I love. Particularly, I love the opening to the first Quartet – BURNT NORTON.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

From pathos to bathos. After coffee, I use my new, replacement pressure washer and about two hours of my time to valet the car inside and out. It was hot work under the strong, low sun. By the time I had finished, I was sweating almost as much as a workout at the gym. Day off from there today so I could afford to expend the energy elsewhere.

Friday,23rd December, 2016

Having received Christmas greetings from our Sifnos friends, my mind has turned back to Greece this morning. Tsipras and Syriza appear to be waning fast and attempting to shore up their standing with the electorate with short term bribes which break their bail-out agreements. Like the ill-judged anti-austerity pledges, their position is destined to be beaten back by their European creditors and they will default to base position of trying yet another new government. This is likely to be the resurgent, New Democracy party – the old Νέα Δημοκρατία with the old, Mitsotakis family re-taking power in the guise of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, son of the former leader, Konstantinos. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose or whatever that is in Greek.

Snow on beach in Southern Crete – 22/12/16

It must feel increasingly chilly for Greeks and no wonder. There is little end in sight. There was snow on a southern beach in Crete yesterday for the fist time in 25 years. Knowing the poor quality building of so many island houses and complete lack of insulation allied to minimal heating, Greece is not where you want to spend your Christmas or New Year.

Our Sifnos house was built to much higher standards with insulated walls and ceilings, double glazed windows and doors and underfloor heating. You won’t find many properties like that on Greek islands currently. So many have poorly fitting windows and doors which aren’t a problem in the Summer but a nightmare in cold weather. Many will be living in the style of our pre-central heating 1950s and wearing multiple layers of clothing. They will, of course have many, lovely sunny days in the Winter but the dry, cold bites harder than one would imagine.

Here, in Sussex, the day is sunny and 11C/52F which is reasonable. We are pottering through the morning before going off to the Health Club for, probably, the last session before Christmas. After a good workout, I spent 10 mins in the jacuzzi followed by 10 mins in the sauna. There were three, youngish men in the sauna. They were not known to each other but had struck up a conversation before I arrived. As I sat down in the hot, darkness on the pine-slatted benches of the sauna, they were discussing immigration.

The problem is these immigrants.
Yes, they’re a nightmare.
They’re bloody mad.
Yeh, they’d murder you as soon as look at you……Still Brexit’ll soon sort that out.
Yeh. Hope so.
Yeh! …. Where you from mate?
…You won’t believe this but.. I’m Persian. I’m from Iran. Where you from?
Well, I’m Indian by family but I was born in Africa. Where you from, mate?
Oh, I’ve been here nearly 10 years. I’m from Spain. Anyway, I hope you’re right about Brexit.

You couldn’t make it up!

Saturday,24th December, 2016

A cold start to a day which has soon reached 11C/52F. It obviously rained over night but is a pleasant day for Christmas Eve.

Pauline & I don’t really give presents to each other and haven’t since about 1980 when we realised we had gone over the top and bought each other more ‘things’ than we had time to use or storage space for. It felt horribly over indulgent like eating far too much. Everybody says Christmas is for children and for families. We have never had children and, as you might expect, I have a rather perverse view of Christmas. There is something deliciously lonely in the introspection of the day that only a strange person like me could enjoy.

Actually, I have received a ‘present’ from my wife this year although you would think she is trying to tell me something. Before we went away to Tenerife at the end of October, I gave up alcohol for six months. We rather over indulged ourselves on the wonderful food at the hotel and washed it down with sparkling water. As a result, we put on weight and are now on diets. We are recording all our intakes on the food in/exercise out app myfitnesspal which allows us to track all the calories in and out over each day, week, month, etc..

The upshot of this is, we are approaching our Christmas Day not drinking and severely restricting our food intake. I have received just one present – a Professional Alcohol Breathalyser. Great present for a man who is currently teetotal. It is a juxtaposition that really appeals to me. We are going to drive past the frenzied, last minute shoppers this afternoon on a visit to the gym. I’ve got to get 450 calories (out) on to my app to balance out any unforeseen accidents while eating tomorrow. Happy Yuletide!

Week 416

Sunday,11th December, 2016

This is the last week of the Blog’s 8th year. Officially, we will only reach 19 years but we have set our sights high and are aiming for 20.

Steyning High Street

Another really wonderful day. Clear, blue sky and strong, winter sunshine. We went out to a market town (village) near us -Steyning. It is absolutely delightful. It is only about 10 miles/16 km away and really pretty.

We received a Christmas present from friends in Huddersfield. They sent us a collection of Yorkshire products to make us feel homesick. Actually, they failed. We love where we are and don’t long to turn back the clock. Brief visits to the North are enough. We did feel the need to reply in kind and to send them a present of Sussex produce. For that reason, we were driving to Steyning and The Sussex Produce Company. For our Yorkshire friends, we bought Sussex wine and cheese. The Stopham Wine Estate is near Pulborough, West Sussex and The Bolney Estate is near Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

wswine sussex-shop








tractorThe fascinating link between this shop and our West Yorkshire past was doubly underlined here. The photograph below contains a tractor used to emphasise the shop’s agricultural roots. The tractor, if you click to enlarge the picture, is a David Brown model which ceased to be made in the early 1970s. The factory was yards away from our first home in the small, Yorkshire village of Meltham. The tractor production was taken over by Case. Our first trip to Greece in 1981 was to the island of Zakynthos. As we arrived in the port, we spied a tractor parked on the quay. It was an old, David Brown model.

I know I go on about this ad nauseum but it is something which haunted us until two or three years ago. As the Greek economy was so obviously collapsing and we were keen to sell our house, Pauline & I were absolutely convinced that we had little chance and that we were likely to be stuck for a decade or more. There is no dispute that we seized our chance and had a lucky escape. The recent report in Kathimerini underlines that: House prices will continue to slide in 2017. Essentially, there is little chance that we would have achieved our goals without the immense effort that we made and risks we took at the time.

Monday,12th December, 2016

christmasIt has been a dreek day – miserable, dull, grey and wet – and not at all in the Yuletide spirit. So, a refreshing change. We went to the local hypermarket Garden Centre for … ‘Yuletide Gifts’. At this time of year, Garden Centres have successfully turned themselves in to Tinsletown in the public consciousness. Don’t try to buy weedkiller or slug pellets because you will be turned away or redirected into the darkest corners of the forgotten beyond. Ask for a golden reindeer that sings Christmas songs and there will not be a problem. God’s in his heaven and all is well with the world – particularly of weeds and slugs.

Pauline’s Shingles is not over but decidedly better so we went to the Health Club. We did a good workout and came back to cook a lovely meal of Sea Bass fillets, roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic mushrooms.

This morning, we nipped down to the village Post Office to send a parcel off to friends in Yorkshire. Apart from the shock that it cost £12.00/€14.30 in postage, the experience and service was delightful. The shop was busy and its services were in demand. So, reports today which suggest that this Tory government are planning a new cull of local, small Post Offices which, for many, are a lifeline are very concerning. Actually, the Tories are in serious trouble on a number of fronts as The Times reports today. They are quietly and gradually shaking the public’s confidence in the NHS and pushing responsibility for social care on to Local Authorities by ‘allowing’ them to raise Council Tax in order to plaster over the gaps. At the same time, we have reports of £274/€327 million being ‘thrown at some barely credible ‘climate change’ group without any process of monitoring. Add to this an interesting and revealing article by Matt Ridley this morning. Under the title: Climate Change Act has cost us the earth, he asserts that the law that introduced a slew of expensive subsidies for renewable energy will leave us £300 billion worse off by 2030. The full article can be read here.

Tuesday,13th December, 2016

The shame of the West in Aleppo.

Another dark, dark, day with persistent, soft, wet rain. It’s only redeeming feature was  a temperature of 15.5C/60F which, for mid December, is more than reasonable. It almost felt obscene but we were planning Christmas food set against the background of the most unimaginable reporting of the ‘hell’ that is Aleppo. As the television in the Kitchen played the video of pools of blood in bombed-out properties not so very far from us, we were discussing ‘Starters’. It just shows how the West is great at appointing highly paid ex-civil servants to Head NGOs but absolutely bereft of moral fibre when it comes to taking action.

Pauline will be cooking Christmas Dinner for 9 in a couple of weeks and she is starting to finalise her plans. It is something at which she is absolutely brilliant. Guests will be offered a choice of three or four ‘Starters’ and today was trial day. I was forced to try two of the possibilities. They were both great (I can’t tell you what on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.) and will both appear on the menu.

I’ve just heard that a ceasefire has been declared in Aleppo to let the poor sods get out! There is a god! Well there isn’t but you know what I mean.

Wednesday,14th December, 2016

A very different day started with the most beautiful sunrise. The temperature hadn’t fallen below 11C/52F over night and soon rose in the sunshine although only to 14.5C/58F. We were on a mission this morning. We have a dear friend in the North of England who is itfoodgoing through very difficult times particularly as her aged Mother’s only carer. She is fairly fragile herself without this terrible burden. Our task this morning is to source nice things to cheer her up and make Christmas a little happier.

She is Italian in origin and we have been putting together a gift box of Italian products. We don’t have an Italian specialist outlet very near although we could have driven the 20 miles/32 kms to Brighton but it seemed excessive so we sourced them in the major supermarkets around us. It is surprising how easy this is to do until Brexit.

New Democracy Leader – Kyriakos Mitsotakis

It’s beginning to sound a lot like ….. potential regime change in Greece. Tsipras has flown too close to the sun and fallen to earth with a bang. His popularity has long been in negative territory and he currently trails Νέα Δημοκρατία by a wide margin in opinion polls. To address that, Tsipras has countermanded agreed actions as part of the EU supervision and bail-out agreement. Particularly, he has promised pensioners an extra (bribe) payment and he has said he will not implement agreed VAT rises on smaller islands. Unsurprisingly, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) immediately shelved a recently announced debt relief package in protest at the government’s plan. Equally unsurprisingly, the Νέα Δημοκρατία leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is to press his argument that Greece needs snap elections with European Commission. Who would be surprised if they agree with him.

Thursday,15th December, 2016

Another warm day which reached 14.5C/58F again. We were out early and (guess what) shopping. Still, Pauline takes her cooking very seriously and sources ingredients with incredible attention to detail. Later, we had another, wonderful Health Club session. I am really enjoying it at the moment.

Every year about this time, I have to renew our internet virus barrier software. I have been choosing Norton for 20 years or so. It used to be an extremely expensive business. I once paid over £50.00/€60.00 to cover two computers. Gradually, some internet providers have seen the sense of offering ‘free’ cover. Banks offer ‘free cover’ and many more software companies have muscled in on the market. As a result, the price has been driven down repeatedly. Today, I bought Norton Security for 10 separate devices for just £29.99/€36.00. I bought it from Total Computing which I’ve used for a few years. If I’d gone to Norton (Symantic) itself, it would have cost me £39.99/€48.00.

Of course, the need for this software has increased immensely over the past 20 years. It is not possible to connect to the internet without protection software. It is certainly not possible to access personal or financially sensitive information without it. We have gone from one desktop pc to add two laptops, two iPads and two smartphones. All devices are used to access the net and all need protection.

Friday,16th December, 2016

Another relatively warm day although not terribly sunny. We reached 13C/55F. We’ve spent the morning by Worthing beach. So many people walking around in short sleeved shirts and shorts even. You have to remind yourself that we are in the final week before Christmas. Global Warming is a wonderful thing.


Pauline was having her hair cut while I used the excellent Wi-Fi and drank a fairly mediocre cup of coffee which cost me £2.30/€2.75 in Starbucks. We had a quick trip to a rather dispiriting M&S and then drove to Waitrose where we bought Deer-in-Blankets which turned out to be lovely. We had them for our meal along with smoked salmon, prawns and salad. The whole thing was accompanied by sparkling water. Delicious!

Last night, I stayed up and watched the last edition for this year of the political programme, This Week. For some reason, it doesn’t start until 23.45 hrs and finishes at 00.30 hrs. This morning we had to leave the house at 8.30 hrs We spent all morning on our feet in town, got home to watch The Daily Politics and then went to the Health Club and did an hour in the gym. By the time we got home, I was knackered.

A day off from the Health Club tomorrow. I’ve got energetic jobs lined up – cleaning the car, mowing the lawn and hoovering the house. Our window cleaner hasn’t turned up this month so I’m going to do them. I’m picking up a rechargeable gadget window vacuum cleaner from Currys tomorrow to help me with it. I love gadgets.

Saturday,17th December, 2016

The temperature has gradually declined over the past few days and today only reached 11C/52C but even that is good for the week before Christmas. We have come to live in a beautiful place on the edge of the South Downs National Park. It has turned into a lovely year and we both feel very lucky.

This is the last day of the last week of the Blog’s 8th year. It has been going so long that it is an integral part of me. It is my daily record threaded through by my thoughts and beliefs. It is first and foremost for me and my wife but I am happy to share it with interested others. I love eavesdropping on other people’s lives. My political hero, Tony Benn, recorded his day in his diary every night for 50 years. I started late and won’t surpass that but I’ll be happy to manage 20 and delighted to complete 30 years. I will be pleased to record the first day of the Blog’s 9th year tomorrow and I look forward to it with the optimism that I welcome every new day. I wish all of you the happiness that I have been fortunate enough to record.

Week 415

Sunday, 4th December, 2016

Glorious, cloudless day of strong, low sun and glowing blue sky. I love Sundays. It hasn’t always been so but today I sat outside in the garden and read The Sunday Times in the warm sunshine. I’m sure I’ve written before that Sundays in my youth were the worst day of the week. Up early for a family trip to Mass. No going out to meet friends. Sunday lunch was so often roast beef which was my least favourite and then there was the family walk in the countryside. Never subscribe to the false memory of a golden age in the past. Even during my working life, Sunday marked the end of the weekend and preparation for work on Monday. Oh deliver us!

ang_magAnd that is what retirement in to a modern world has done. No wonder we are up at 7.00 am to embrace the day. Freshly squeezed orange juice, lashings of tea followed by freshly ground and brewed coffee. Newspapers downloaded to the iPad and television on for 9.00 am and the Marr Show followed by Peston and then the Sunday Politics. And Breath.

While I was breathing, the latest edition of the 80-page, Angmering Community Magazine was posted through our door and I reflected what a delightful place we had come to live in. Snatch an hour to write my Christmas Newsletter. The ones for Greece have to be posted in a couple of days. Now a fantastic match in which Bournemouth came back to beat Liverpool 4-3 and United were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton. Back to complete and proof-read my Newsletter and print the address labels. And rest.

Monday, 5th December, 2016

Holiday Inn Folkestone

Glorious morning again but still chilly. We have pottered around our normal jobs. We are going to France tomorrow and the weather forecast says that with temperatures warming up, fog could be a problem in the mornings down here. Tomorrow, we have to leave around 5.30 am which could be especially tricky. We have debated this throughout the day and just now – at 3.30 pm – after a particularly strong weather forecast, we have relented and booked a room at the Folkestone Holiday Inn Express for tonight. It cost next to nothing at £53.00/€63.00 and will mean a later start and no fight with the fog. Relaxation all round.

Tuesday, 6th December, 2016

We have stayed in many Holiday Inns and some Holiday Inn Expresses including wonderful ones in Mulhouse in Alsace and Parma and Modena in Italy but this wasn’t one of them. It was down at heel and uncomfortable and we won’t use it again. We got up and left early. It was the most glorious morning and a joy to be driving.

We drove to the Wine Store to buy Phyllis’s wine and on to the hypermarket to stock up on provisions. The new freezer is being delivered on Wednesday and we have to justify its tunnel_12_16purchase. We were so urgent in our activities that we returned to the Tunnel an hour and a half early and got on an earlier train. Our return crossing, by the way, had cost us just £23.00/€27.31 for  car and two passengers.

We rolled off on to the Kent motorway system at around 1.00 pm, switched on the radio and our hearts sank. We have the TA (Traffic Announcements) button switched on for journeys like this and very soon our radio news was interrupted with information about our own, home village. A car accident had occurred in the centre of Angmering resulting in the car turning over and smashing in to a cartshowroom window. As a result, all the roads around and into our home were shut or blocked with queuing traffic. We were making such good progress in Kent and the driving was delightful. A boding sense of trouble ahead was rumbling in our minds. We got closer and closer and saw long queues of cars just after our turning. We sailed past and into our drive without a hitch. It felt wonderful.

Just thought I’d share this cartoon that I picked up on Twitter with you because it amused me. It will probably give you pause for thought before reading the Blog again.

Wednesday, 7th December, 2016

newsletter_16After a lot of driving the previous day, I usually wake up tired but not today. Hit the ground running on a misty morning that turned to sunny and clear blue skies. After Breakfast, I cleaned the car of the salt and road grime that winter driving brings, tidied up an already tidy garage and waited for the Currys van to arrive with our new chest freezer. Predictably, they couldn’t find us. Our postcode wasn’t recognised on their sat. nav. so we had to talk them in. Of course, they arrived in the middle of PMQs although it wasn’t great today.

This afternoon, I completed the printing of my newsletter – 40 copies going out this year – and made sure all the address labels were printed as well. Pauline completed writing all the cards so they can be posted tomorrow. We are posting about 70 cards with 2nd class stamps costing £0.55/€0.65 at a total cost of £38.50/€45.20 before the cost of the cards are factored in. Christmas eh? Bah! At least I was able to work with the Parliament Programme on televising the Brexit Debate.

Thursday, 8th December, 2016

So much warmer than it has been. In fact, it was said that Tuesday was our warmest December day since 1972. I was 21 then and in my first term of teaching. I was too busy to notice how warm it was.

or_16This morning, we had to go out to the village Post Office to pick up a parcel. As we drove out, we spotted an OpenReach telecoms engineer down a hole in the pavement 50 mtrs from our house. Whenever we see that, it reminds us of Mikailis – our electrician friend from Sifnos. Where ever we drove on the island, Mikailis would always be found at the side of the road, in a hole, investigating something. If we see an Openreach engineer nearby, we always get nervous. As new build houses are handed over and buyers get ready for occupation, they request telephone lines and Broadband provision. More often than not around here, they choose BT Openreach. A little man (Mikailis) comes out and starts grappling with dozens of multi-coloured cables that look more like a weaving loom.

Pheasant is a wonderful meat.

The last time this happened, the engineer disconnected us ‘accidentally’ and we were without Broadband for a week. We was like a near-death experience. This morning, as we drove home, the BT telecoms engineer had disappeared and, soon after we got in, we realised that we had no Broadband and, then, no phone line. I tried to phone BT Openreach on my mobile. If you’ve ever tried it, you will know that it is like knitting water. No real people just automated menus design to frustrate. After coffee, we gave up and went out to look in the neighbourhood. We found two engineers in another hole about a mile away. They were really nice men and extremely apologetic. The took it upon themselves immediately to sort out the problem.

I received a call on my mobile from BT Openreach to say the line would be fixed by Monday. BY MONDAY!!! We sat around in despair. We had (chose) to go out to buy some pheasants, whitebait and lobsters to stock our freezer. It took an hour but, when we got home, everything was sorted out. The phone was back on and we had internet. Praise be to BT.

Friday, 9th December, 2016

blancUp and out fairly early this morning. The temperature didn’t drop below 11C/52F last night and was still there at 7.00 am today. We were out about 8.30 am and down to the village Post Office to post Christmas cards. Greek and French ones cost £1.52/€1.81 but those for the USA cost only £1.05/€1.25.

Then we set off for Surrey. It is a beautiful drive of exactly 50 miles/80 kms which takes less than an hour. We were delivering cases of wine which we had bought in France  for P&C. Actually, it was 48 bottles of one sauvignon blanc which costs just £3.00/€3.57 in France and saves British buyers £4.50/€5.36 per bottle. So the 48 bottles cost her £144.00 instead of £360.00/€429.00. Repent at leisure Brexiteers!

I have to tell you that Pauline and I have been scammed on the web. It happened while we were in Tenerife looking to buy another pair of the shoes we had bought there in a High Street shop in February. The shoes are lovely, light and very soft leather slip-ons. They cost around £60.00/€72.00. No shops that we visited had any left in stock and nor did the manufacturers – Fluchos – have any of my size in stock. Pauline searched the web for hours because that’s what she likes doing. Eventually, up popped a website that had them in the right size and in three, different colours for £62.00/€74.00 each. Pleased with herself, she ordered them. We had to have them sent to P&C in Surrey because we were away for a month.

I checked our bank account the next day and the company had drawn on our account for the shoes but I was disturbed to find that the company was in Shenzhen which is the Chinese border with Hong Kong. I went to the website and inspected the HTML behind its link and found it to be an alarmingly unusual www.portcullispropertysolutions.co.uk. When I did an internet search on this company and its email address, service@onlinescredit.com, I found scores of people had not received their order or received strange substitutions for their order. I contacted my credit card provider immediately.

I was told that I had to give the company 30 days to fulfil their contract. Today we drove to Surrey and picked up the shoes. Spot the difference.

The bottom row are the ones I ordered.
The bottom row are the ones I ordered.
The fake ‘PRADA’ substitutes.













Today, my card provider has pledged to refund the £220.00/€262.00 that we have lost and to track the fraudsters through the Shanghai Bank. not one to give up, Pauline found me one, genuine pair of shoes through a French company and they are perfect.

Saturday, 10th December, 2016

The end of the penultimate week of the 8th year of the Blog. It is ending very optimistically. I told you recently that I cry at the drop of a hat, in a sad film, at a Puccini opera or even if Waitrose has run out of Lobster Thermidor. Today, I found myself moved to tears by reports of someone I have never even met and don’t know other than vicariously.

Mrs Skiathan

I love following other people’s lives. I love reading their blogs. I have been following the blog of a ex-pat resident of Skiathos for a number of years. For quite a while, he and his family have been in the toughest battle that any family can be asked to fight. Mrs Skiathan has been in a long term fight with Stage 4 cancer and the family have been living back in UK to help their struggle. I suspect that, unless you’ve experienced it, you will never truly know what they have been going through. It is certainly an experience none of us would wish for.

Mrs Skiathan has been through major surgery and recurring bouts of bad news. Today, she has announced that she has been pronounced ‘free of cancer’. I found tears on my face just reading those words. I have never met them but I have followed their ups and downs for a number of years and I would be surprised if the impression I have formed of them as thoroughly nice people is far of the mark. Good things should come to good people and sometimes they do. They don’t need to hear it but Pauline & I wish them a very Happy Christmas.