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!
And 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
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 purchase. 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 showroom 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
After 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.
This 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.
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
Up 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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.
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.