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!

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