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
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

aleppo
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.

mitsotakis
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.

Deer-in-Blankets

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.

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