Week 423

Sunday, 29th January, 2017

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Can’t believe that the first month of 2017 is almost gone. Soon I will be 66! That is quantitatively different to 65. I will soon be on the downward slopes to 70. I don’t know where the brakes are. It has been something of a day for introspection.

I was reading an interesting report this morning about some research which appeared to bear out the saying that, in death, one’s whole life flashes before one. There is, apparently, some evidence to suggest that life events really are the last to leave the brain as it dies and reappear although not in linear or sequential form in the final three minutes before death.

Unfortunately, we went on to watch the heart-tugging serialisation of the drama, Call the Midwife which is adapted by Heidi Thomas from memoirs of Jennifer Worth. It is a moving and colourful look at midwifery and family in 1950s East End London. Although I was born in to a middle class, east Midlands family, many of the concerns and activities in this drama echo strongly with my 1950s childhood. Experiences forced through the prism of time are reflected in shadows of real pleasure flooded by sadness. I must get out more.

Monday, 30th January, 2017

It’s going to be a warm and wet week. At 9.00 am, we are reading 8C/46F and we are expecting 10C/50F. Rain was heavy last night and is forecast to feature in some part every day this week. Shouldn’t have bothered cleaning the car yesterday.

This week, we have got a concentrated run of cerebral activities at home balanced by physical activities at the Health Club. I am going to pick up my ancestry research and attempt to finish a book analysing the Brexit vote which I downloaded over Christmas. I have been so involved in other things that reading books has rather fallen by the wayside. Next week, the weather is forecast to be dry so we may use that period to go out and about. I need to use this week for reading.

Blue Star 1 built Year 2000

For 15 years, we drove across Europe either from Zeebrugge or Calais to Ancona where we caught a ferry down the Adriatic. Our first trip was in 2000. At that time, there were 40 ships sailing the Adriatic with the Greek flag. We first took a trip on Blue Star’s brand new Blue Star 1 ship. It was an optimistic start. In recent years, the number of Greek ships had been reduced to 10. Today, only seven Greek ships sail in the Adriatic. The Minoan ships left at the end of 2016 and now are limited to the Aegean. It is a symbol of the decline.

Tuesday, 31st January, 2017

West Sussex this afternoon.

January 2017 goes out with a whimper of dull, wetness. At least it is relatively mild at 8C/46F and things can only get better.

My wife is wonderful. Each day she brings our accounts up to date on her accounting package and then gives me her back-up stick to copy it on to my computer. I don’t even both opening it most days but, this morning, I was checking something and laughed as I found that the accounts were forward forecast to 18 March, 2020. Not only were our finances healthy but she was assuming we were both healthy too. She swears by positive thinking. I ‘m not so sure!

A first at the Health Club this morning. I’m on the jogging machine watching a distant television set showing the parliamentary debate on Brexit and listening through headphones plugged into my jogging machine. It is a fantastic debate with passionate speeches on both sides and up steps Ken Clarke. His speech in favour of voting down the triggering of Article 50 is intelligent, witty, informed by 50 years of experience in public life and unflinchingly honest as only someone who has seen it all and is stepping down at the next election can be. I am not a natural supporter of Clarke but his speech is so gripping that I forget I am on the jogging machine.

Ancona Port

Suddenly, I was grasping for grip as I lay horizontal, tethered by my still connected headphones and as the treadmill belt burned skid marks in to my knees. I’ve never had skid marks on my knees before. Fortunately, a lovely, young woman exercising on the machine next to me heard my groans and saw the whites of my eyes as I struggled to realise what was happening to me. She hit the red, emergency stop button on my machine and I started to recover my dignity.

Cosy and dry at home, we have been planning our main, Summer trip driving across Europe. We are going to take a different route to Ancona, do it more slowly and stay longer en route in France and Italy. So far, we are going to drive Calais, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Nice, Genoa, Florence, Montepulciano, Ancona.

Wednesday, 1st February, 2017

Welcome to February 2017, a new month which is starting dark, damp and cool. It is the shortest month, speeding time erosion up but hastening the Spring.

The word February is believed to have derived from the name ‘Februa’ taken from the Roman ‘Festival of Purification’.  The root of the word could be februo meaning ‘I purify by sacrifice’.  Although pure already, I sacrifice most days just in case. As part of the seasonal calendar, February is the time of the ‘Ice Moon’ according to Pagan beliefs.

We are finding it hard to adjust to the fact that we will be leaving the EU in a matter of weeks while preparing to spend weeks travelling through and staying in the very countries that we are leaving. Therein lies the madness.

Thursday, 2nd February, 2017

Evening sky in west Sussex.

Quite a warm day which actually brought some sunshine and ended with an interesting sky. We reached 11C/52F in mid afternoon which felt pleasant as we left the Health Club after another good workout and one in which I managed to stay upright on the treadmill for 45 mins. My knee’s still a bit sore from coming off it the other day. A sign of age, I suppose.

An article in The Times today says that simple tests of health in age include being able to stand on one leg with eyes shut for 10 seconds and being able to get up from a sitting position in a chair without using the arms 22 times in 60 seconds is another. I don’t know about you but my balance has never been good. I tried it in the kitchen this afternoon and fell over on the count of 2. Pauline didn’t do much better. I am going to practice every day for a month. I will report back on my progress on March 1st.

I wrote the other day on the testing for Altzheimer’s/Dementia which I would have failed for years. I have driven to Tesco from our house at least once every week for the past 40 weeks. I can summon a picture of Tesco in my mind and the roundabout I go round just before the carpark. I can summon up a picture of my car on our drive at home. I cannot summon up the link between the two. This is not something new. I have been geographically-challenged since my youth. I find map reading difficult although I got my badge as a scout and passed ‘O’Level Geography at school. I fail the practical. Never has an invention been more valuable to me than the satellite navigation system. Of course, my best navigation is done by my wife who absolutely relishes it. We make a good team.

Friday, 3rd February, 2017

The day started well but nosedived in the mid afternoon. These two weather-watcher snaps illustrate the development well.
















Pauline is suffering from a bout of Blepharitis from which she has suffered for a long time. We made an early trip to the chemist for an antibiotic cream to treat it. Throughout the winter, each morning we eat a bowl of home made soup before leaving for the Health Club. Today – and for the next couple of days – it was the most wonderful, roasted vegetable soup on a base of turkey stock from the freezer. As we walked across the carpark to the Health Club, the weather was already changing and spitting rain arriving. By the time we left, it was dark and seriously wet although still 10C/50F. We drove home and put the car in the garage and walked in to a warm house, almost feeling that Friday Night Feeling for the first time for years.

The tip of the Iceberg.

We are told that there is a shortage of supply of vegetables from southern Europe after a particularly cold and wet winter. Today, we are told that supermarkets are rationing iceberg lettuces but, as some wag pointed out, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We tried to buy courgettes the other day to no avail and, this morning we struggled to buy fennel bulbs for a rabbit dish we are cooking tomorrow. Only Sainsbury’s had any left. How would we have survived?

Actually, I am not allowed any green leaf vegetable so my allocation is available to ‘sealed’ bids on a daily basis. Tesco is allowing customers a ration of just 3 iceberg lettuces per day. Who are these people? That is really taking salad to another level but, on that basis, I will happily give my 21 lettuces a week to some, desperate rabbit  salad feaster.

Saturday, 4th February, 2017

England 19 -16 France

The day has been quite delightful with blue skies and lots of warm sun. Ironically, we have spent most of the day in doors on projects in the office and sporting distractions on television. It is always nice to complete correspondence which you’ve been meaning to get round to for weeks and today was one of those occasions. We also booked an electrician to come and quote us for some additional fittings. I mapped out our European drive for early Summer, started to check out hotels for our stopovers and to work out distances and driving times. We have never really gone in for spontaneity.

Interesting articles in the Daily Telegraph this morning about the state of European Political Economies with particular reference to Italy and Greece. Although it was based on the decade old argument about the differential interest rates required by northern and southern European economies and their inability to activate monetary policy according to individual country’s needs, this analysis referred specifically to the urgency for Italy to leave the euro and reiterated Greece’s need to do the same. In Italy, this theme is both prescient and much discussed. There is a strong band of opinion in favour of such action. In Greece, one senses that further austerity measures will bring Greeks to that opinion as well. Although it will mean short to medium term pain, it will free their economies to adopt policies to bring them back to health in the long term.

Week 422

Sunday, 22nd January, 2017

Another bright, sunny but coldish day. The temperature reached a dizzy 6C/43F. I was completely  sedentary today. I valeted the car yesterday. Today, I watched 3 politics programmes, 3 football matches and read the Sunday Times.  I ate a wonderful. roast dinner of chicken and sage & onion stuffing. I hardly moved from the sofa. I did measure up and plan out shelving for the storage room under the stairs but it hardly counts for activity. Back to the gym tomorrow!

The Donald started weird and will probably end weird. His inauguration speech would have made Hitler preen with pride and his ending may well  be in a bunker of sorts. I predict that he may well not serve one full term never mind two. If he does stay in office for four years, he may well compromise the world’s security with his relationship with Russia or his lack of relationship with China, Iran, Korea, etc.. It is so good to see that more people came to support him in Washington than any previous President elect. Not!

Monday, 23rd January, 2017

As forecast, we woke to thick and freezing fog with a temperature of -4C/25F. It was slow to lift and, when we left for the Health Club at 1.00 pm, the temperature had only reached 3C/37F. It is said to be getting warmer towards the weekend. Before I continue, I’d like to share a lovely and humorous chart of Modern Art Explained that I found on Twitter.








Someone had plenty of time on their hands. They could be, of course, retired like us. We are beginning to turn our attention to installing some hard landscaping in our back garden. At the moment, we just have a 6ft, tanalised fence enclosing about 250 sq.m. of luxurious grass. we are thinking of bordering the fence with raised beds with planting to soften the fence. The web has quite a few examples of the type of thing we are envisaging:












We will invite quotations from 2 or 3 of the myriad of groundwork companies that look for work around here and consider work starting in the Spring.

Tuesday, 24th January, 2017

Cold start with frost but no fog. However, the strong, winter sun did help the temperature to reach 7C/45F. The morning was spent at home because Pauline’s new laptop was out for delivery. By 11.00 am, it had been delivered, unpacked and I was setting it up.

All the simple stuff like basic settings – time, place, language, etc. – went smoothly but email has become a nightmare with web-based mail which comes with Windows 10 and which we use to synchronise across platforms. Our email accounts and on-line diaries can be accessed from our  desktops, laptops, iPads and smartphones which require an i-Cloud account as the bridging mechanism. I did all the right things but without all the right reactions. Having established the accounts on the new laptop, email suddenly became slow and reluctant and diary integration became sluggish to synchronize. This happened last time we did this and I panicked. This time, I shrugged and gave it a few hours. I was rewarded with working systems by late evening.

I have a Norton security account with 10 device installations available on it. That had to be downloaded and installed. In order to do that, I had to take the temporarily ‘free’ MacAfee software off. Next, I installed, Ms Office Professional which will provide most of the software Pauline will need. This is followed by Adobe Acrobat Professional and a printer driver and scanner driver.

We drove over to Littlehampton in the middle of the day to visit the Physiotherapy Dept. to discuss a long standing problem that I’ve had with my arm. It’s been giving me serious discomfort for almost 12 months. They told me that I’ll have to wait to be seen. It looks as if it will be a few more weeks yet. Back to the gym tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25th January, 2017

The first dull and overcast day for a long time. Quite cold but as bad as recently. By 7.30 am it was 2C/36F and, eventually, we reached 9C/48F. We have had a really good day although it would be hard to convey why to an outsider. I have written before of an accounting programme we have been using for nearly 25 years but which was no longer compatible with the current Windows 10 platform. So many other people have bemoaned the loss of such an important facility that I had a hunch Microsoft might address the problem. They did it once for me personally. I tried to install the software and, lo and behold, it went on a ran perfectly first time. I kissed my wife.

You see! I warned you that I would find it hard to convey the true import to outsiders but, to us, it was a massive pleasure to find that our detailed, financial records of so many years will carry on long in to the future. Now you know, you can kiss your wife. Of course, there is always something bad around the corner. No sooner had we celebrated our success but a note came through to me from a news blog I follow informing me that HP laptops were subject to immediate recall because batteries were spontaneously bursting in to flames rather like the Samsung phones. Fortunately, I removed the battery immediately, checked the serial number and made sure it wasn’t one of those to be recalled.

We have a central heating company arriving tomorrow to give our boiler an annual service. It costs £120.00/€141.00 but means that everything is guaranteed for the first 5 years of its life. We’ve also got an electrician from the site. He is commonly known as ‘Surfer Dude’ by his fellow builders but to us he is Paul. We have asked him to put an extra spotlight in Pauline’s bathroom so she can see her wrinkles better and shave more effectively. We also want some 3-pin sockets replaced with new ones incorporating USB charging points and we want a weather-proof socket for outdoor cooking which we do a lot down here.

Gradually, as we live in the house, we realise there are things we can do to make life more comfortable/enjoyable. The additional electrical facilities, storage facilities and garden landscaping are, of course, a bit self indulgent but useful and enjoyable all the same.

Thursday, 26th January, 2017

A fingerful is not enough. They want an armful.

An early and chilly start today. The Boiler Service man was arriving at 8.00 am and I had an INR test at 9.00 am so it was all go. Outside, it was 0C/32F at 7.00 am and is still that as I write just after 10.00 am. All things boiler are sorted out and my INR test – my first in my new surgery – was completed although in the old fashioned way by giving an armful of blood. I’ve got so used to a pinprick on my finger that it came as a bit of a shock. Also, the sample is sent off to Worthing hospital and they contact me (probably by carrier pigeon) with the result and warfarin dosage advice.

Received a phone call from the Physiotherapist in Worthing to ask about my arm pain. After answering about 50 questions about the problem, I began to wonder if he couldn’t have made better use of his time examining me. He did tell me that it would be about 20 weeks before he could see me – if I’m still alive. In the mean time, he has diagnosed the problem remotely and will send me out some exercise suggestions to tide me over. He suggested that, by the time I am called for treatment, I won’t need to go in. Let’s hope so.

Friday, 27th January, 2017

We have gone tropical! It’s 7C/45F today and I’m sweating. Heard from Mastercard to inform me that the fraudulent sale of shoes which we bought on-line from UK (Shanghai) has been recovered from the Chinese Bank and we will not be expected to pay.  Pauline immediately ordered another pair from Sarenza, a French company. We have bought from them before and know they are trustworthy.

Had a personal ‘valet’ this morning. Haircut by my wife plus all the embarrassingly ‘old man’, tell tale signs of ear hair and nose hair trimmed. The older I get the more coarse the bottom of my feet become with really solid, callous-type, skin. I had it all shaved off with a liberal covering of soothing cream applied. Too much information? Tough! This is my diary.

We drove to Worthing B&Q to collect some shelving we had ordered and then on to the Health Club. We did a good work out even though it was full of OLD PEOPLE!! After driving home, I cooked Duck Breasts, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. I was quite pleased with it. The Worthing INR confirmation letter had arrived this morning and I was shocked to read that my next, ‘official’ test is not for another 10 weeks which is the longest, untested spell I will have ever done. If I wasn’t also self testing, I would be seriously concerned.

Saturday, 28th January, 2017

Clear skies, strong sunshine and 7C/45F at 7.30 am. At the equivalent time of day 9.30 am on Sifnos, the temperature was 2C/36F. Let’s hope the underfloor heating is still working!

It’s not just the temperature which is cold in Greece. According to Politico Blog and many Greeks themselves, the viability and commitment of the Tsipras government is very much in doubt. Having promised high, Syriza quickly caved in and went low. Consequently, citizens who voted with high but totally unrealistic expectations are disillusioned and lashing out. Currently but symptomatic of the Greek political scene, farmers are protesting a range of issues including pension cuts, tax rises and social security reforms by blocking highways with their tractors.

The government is mulling over a way forward after Thursday’s Eurogroup meeting which piled more pressure on Athens to legislate measures now for the period after 2018, when the country’s third bailout ends. To make matters worse for the government, it is not just the IMF that is demanding these measures, but all creditors involved in the Greek bailout. This brings the central problem in to stark relief. Tsipras is telling the electorate that the results of Thursday’s meeting will have no impact on his resolve to stick to his pledge not to legislate any measures now for the period after 2018 while all the time being told that that is exactly what he must do. He is caught between a rock (aka farmers, doctors, pensioners, et al.) and a hard place (aka Greece’s creditors).

Who will speak for Greece?

Tsipras sees his economy tanking under the continual economic thumbscrews. Last year saw a new low in the creation of new enterprises in Greece, confirming the impression that going into business in the country is neither easy nor a way out of unemployment. Even fewer new enterprises were set up than in the politically and financially turbulent 2015. Investment in homes by Greek households has fallen 85 % since 2008 and the slump in household investment brought about an even greater decline in investment by constructors.

As a desperately sad coda to this already sad summary, the Lambrakis Press Group (DOL) which was founded in 1922 and grew to become one of Greece’s main media groups, also owning a stake in Mega TV, announced on Saturday that, after a failure to reach an agreement with its lenders, the publication of Ta Nea and To Vima newspapers will cease immediately. Who will speak for this country?

Week 421

Sunday, 15th January, 2017

Pauline, Phyllis & Colin – 15/1/17

Half way through January already. I still haven’t found the key to slowing time down. It’s becoming quite scary! Today is wet and cold. The temperature was 3C/37F and didn’t get much above 7C/45F all day. We had hoped for nicer weather because we were driving up to Surrey to collect P&C and bring them back to Sussex with us. They are staying for a few days. Traffic was reasonable and we did the 100 mile round trip in just under 2 hours. It was nice to do a drive of some length.

Pauline cooked a gorgeous, roast chicken with sage & onion stuffing and roast vegetables. Even P&C have given up wine for the moment so it was accompanied by sparkling water. One of the activities while they are with us is helping Colin to master his iPad and another is tracing some of his recent family members. These are two things I can help with although I may have to ask for support from my big sister, Ruth. Tomorrow, we are going to amble down to the seaside for some fresh air and exercise.

Monday, 16th January, 2017

The M25 at its best in the rain.

Woke up to heavy rain and the news that Colin had been up in the night with pain from an operation he recently had on his wrist. It was clearly infected and looked inflamed. He was in real discomfort. We have no Walk-in Centre down here. The nearest one is 16 miles away in Brighton. It is definitely a drawback. It was decided that he needed to visit his doctor back in Surrey. So, after breakfast, our guests packed their bags and I loaded up the car and drove them back. It is a 2 hour round trip but today was horribly wet both from the sky and spray from the road. There was a lot of standing water on the road sides as well. It made the trip quite tiring.

Skiathan Man has so much time on his hands that that he has been able to find contemporary, new Sifnos material which had evaded me completely. If you click on the link, it is fairly wordy but well worth reading. I must admit, I have never hankered after a hair shirt, back to basics, idyllic-simplicity sort of life. As the account from Sifnos illustrates, it is readily available in small and less accessible islands but it never appealed to us. It sought us out occasionally when the water pump failed or the boilers sprang leaks, when the electricity supply went off for hours at the most inopportune moments and when we couldn’t get a phone line.

However, we went out of our way to bring all the creature comforts of a modern, British home to our new Greek building – double glazing, air conditioning, log burning stoves and underfloor heating. We had a huge, sterna or water storage tank and an excellent plumber who came immediately there was a problem. Just having our lovely, 4-wheel drive, air conditioned car to get around in made all the difference. I only have to read the accounts of the Simi men who sit around wearing 4 layers of clothing and a blanket with the shutters closed all day and towels at the windows to soak up the leaks and I shudder and thank my lucky stars.

Tuesday, 17th January, 2017

Our new Medical centre.

Cold but bright morning with lovely, pink-orange sunrise sky followed by strong, low sunlight. We had to be out for a 9.00 am appointment at the Doctors’ surgery. It was my first appointment with a GP for 12 months and our first visit to our new, West Sussex GP. We had taken a urine sample down to the surgery yesterday. I had offered to fill both pots so that Pauline didn’t have high cholesterol but she declined. We had spent an hour or so preparing a medical ‘event’ résumé each. It is quite a shock to realise how many testing processes we’ve taken part in over the past couple of years. The Practice building is huge but still the large carpark  was nearly full.

Everyone we met in the waiting rooms told us that we had been allocated to the best and most in-demand GP in the Practice and she was certainly excellent in her responses to us when we saw her right on time. It turned out that Pauline’s cholesterol level is nothing to worry about. I have been directed to the Osteopathy Department to which I can self-refer for treatment of a sports injury to my arm which I’ve been carrying for 12 months. Everything can be accessed on-line from repeat prescriptions to making appointments and receiving confirmations to reporting INR self testing results and receiving dosage advice. This suits us perfectly.

Wednesday, 18th January, 2017

My own, personal Changing Room.

A bright but cold day which was sunny throughout but didn’t get above 5C/41F. Ironically, 2016 has just been confirmed as the warmest on record. I must admit that I didn’t really notice it myself. I thought Tenerife was always like that. President Trump will do his best to warm things up.

We went out to pick up parcels from Littlehampton this morning. After watching PMQs, we drove to the health Club. Of course, the world is now back at work but it also looks as if New Year’s resolutions have waned quite quickly. As the illicit photograph of the mens’ changing room shows, it was deserted around early afternoon. The often busy, Health Centre coffee shop was also particularly quiet. There will be lots of membership offers by summer.

The Skiathan shocked me by referring to Barty from Paros today. I didn’t realise they knew each other. I haven’t heard from Barty for ages and his Blog ceased to be updated for so long that, even though I had visited it most days, I deleted it from my list. I hope he’s alright.

Thursday, 19th January, 2017

Worthing Beach at sunset today.

These are glorious days – cold but glorious. Today, once again, we peaked at 5C/41F but were bathed in sunshine all day. In our sheltered back garden here in West Sussex, it was warm enough to sit out and drink coffee. It is really boosting to be in this place.

We did our third, consecutive day of hard, gym workout. I have been feeling tired all week. We have found that my blood pressure is rather low. Certainly lower than Pauline’s. I am currently taking blood pressure medication each day. I take Losartan and Doxazosin to combat high blood pressure. All my Diabetes medication was withdrawn over 12 months ago and we have had a feeling that the remaining medication was becoming less helpful. I think there is a case for reducing it at least.

In Greece, the better weather may have returned but a return to better, economic conditions seems a long way off. Last wee, I reported on the distant prospect of house values recovering any time soon. Today, it is reported that Poul Thomsen,  Director of the European Department of the IMF estimates that it will take 21 years until unemployment will return to levels before Greece was hit by the economic crisis. Unemployment in Greece will return to pre-bailout levels of 7.8% average in the years 2001-2007 by 2038. This, of course, has a knock-on effect for the whole economy. I look forward to it coming right by the time I am 86!

Friday, 20th January, 2017

Sunrise at 7.15 am raises the curtain on a wonderful, new day.

The temperature at 7.00 am was 0C/32F and it didn’t manage better than 4C/39F all day. However, this was the price for a gorgeous day which was presaged by the sunrise featured on the left. We’ve been at home today because a number of different tradesmen have been arriving to address small, ‘snagging’ issues – a clip broke when the dishwasher service man removed the kitchen plinth, a patio door hasn’t been fitting particularly well and the seal on the en suite shower door had sprung out. We had a leak from a joint in the guttering and a small scratch on a pane of glass in a window of Bedroom 4. Nothing was desperate but, when you’ve paid out a lot of money and you’ve got a 5 year warranty, why not use it?

The heating has been on and off all day. At the back of the house, the temperature has been tropical as the sun streamed through the conservatory windows and doors. At the front, it got quite chilly as the central heating went off. I was sitting around typing most of the day and that’s not conducive to generating heat. I was printing hard copies of our financial records for the second half of last year for filing. Our records of every, day to day transaction go back to 1978. The early ones, of course, were recorded in ‘accounts books’ but, from January 1993, every, single item of our expenditure has been recorded on a digital accounting programme. It is an ‘historical’ record which runs comfortably alongside the Blog in cataloguing our lives.

I use two, Brother Laser Printers – a mono and a colour. They cost next to nothing to buy these days. In the late 1990s I paid £3,500.00 for a colour printer the size of a washing machine. Today, we have two in one office and they needed new toner. I use a supplier called Toner_Giant who deliver next day without extra cost. I could buy Brother ‘official’ products. The mono costs £101.00/€117.00 alone. A ‘compatible’ and equally good replacement cost just £25.00/€29.00. The colour toner came to £100.00/€116.00 instead of £250.00/€290.00. Progress is wonderful!

Saturday, 21st January, 2017

We did a terrible thing this morning. We stayed in bed until 8.00 am. Don’t know why but we must have been tired. It won’t happen again! At 11.00 am, the sky is blue, the sun is shining but the temperature is just 2C/36F. Indoors, by contrast, it is a constant 22C/70F. I’ve begun to think about Tenerife again if life doesn’t warm up soon.

Yesterday, I wrote about our record keeping over the past 40 years with the past 24 on a computer. Since January 1993, Pauline has been using Microsoft Money which has been perfect for recording every day spending, saving in multiple accounts. It’s facility and flexibility is quite sophisticated. It is a derivative of Ms Excel spreadsheet. The software was discontinued in 2009 and doesn’t operate on Windows 10. I did phone Microsoft in America when I first moved up to Windows 10 and they worked on my machine remotely, putting a patch into the operating system but, as soon as I did my first, major upgrade, the  patch ceased to work and I gave up. For this reason, we are still using Windows 7 on our laptops.

Pauline’s laptop is becoming particularly clunky and we want to keep it alive as long as possible so she is going to relegate it to a specialised ‘accounts’ machine and we have ordered her a new one from HP. Most laptops look very much the same although Pauline insists on a 17″ screen. She’s always insisted on big ones. You can pay anything from £350.00/€405.00 – £2000.00/€2320.00 for a machine but this will be lightly used so, this morning, we chose at the lower end. With a wireless mouse, this new laptop cost just £450.00/€520.00. It will arrive on Monday and the accounts machine moved up to Pauline’s Study/Ironing Room.

Week 420

Sunday,8th January, 2017

Sunny Skopelos

A mild day but rather grey here. In Greece, the story is different. KTG have this headline:

Snow chaos: Two dead, hundreds trapped in highway, islands in state of emergency.

Rethymnon, Crete

Our route, along the new, Athens – Corinth Highway, was blocked by traffic failing to cope with the heavy snow. Skopelos has the signs of real snowfall. Obviously, Northern Greece is suffering and we know that -17C/1.4F is being experienced in one area that is suffering with a power cut. Two older people are known to have died with hypothermia and refugees are suffering in tents in Northern camps. Even the southern islands such as Crete are experiencing winter snow as are the Dodekanese where many more migrants are camping out. Even many Greeks themselves are not really equipped to deal with these conditions because they are so rare. The residents of apartment blocks in Athens have been so impoverished by the economic crisis that communities have failed to maintain heating for the buildings so individual residents have very little recourse even though a new law has just been passed to address that.

Monday,9th January, 2017

Sunny Artemonas

Just an ordinary day of routine jobs and activities. My wife is on the floor in the kitchen, re-grouting the join between floor tiles and skirting board where re-settlement has left a slight gap. Yesterday, she was re-waxing the kitchen table. She loves doing things like this and is very skilled at it. I am measuring up prior to booking a ‘little man’ to come and put shelves up in our store cupboard under the stairs and, finally, ordering the shelving for the garage. The routine of the Daily Politics re-starts today and then we go to the Health Club for our daily workout.

The Commercial Centre

On Sifnos, life is certainly not routine. After Friday’s Theofania ‘celebrations’ when three, hardy, young souls threw themselves into the icy, harbourside sea for the joy of finding a small crucifix-shaped artefact, the islanders are now coping with snow and freezing temperatures. The hazy picture on the left will mean nothing to most readers but does to us. The windmills seen through the snow-mist are at the side of the two supermarkets we shopped at almost daily. We never saw them like this and few people have. The new school is near here. Wonder if it is open today….. Well, as Mayor Andrea confirmed, school was closed!

Tuesday,10th January, 2017

Another mild day – 10C/50F at 8.00 am – with reasonably blue sky and low, winter sun. After a trip out to Asda, I’ve been doing some Ancestry research. Actually, I have been cannibalising previous work with a view to consolidating our family tree before moving on to the Coghlan line and then the Barnes family. I’ve also got so much reading to do that I must get on with it. I am struggling to get through The Times and The Telegraph each day as well as the numerous Blogs I follow as well as local papers in the evening. Over Christmas, I downloaded Tim Shipman’s acclaimed political commentary on Brexit, All Out War. I still haven’t read it but must do now before we actually leave.

We’ve done a hard session in the gym today. The Health Club is predictably busy because New Year’s resolutions are still in place. The changing rooms were busy for both of us. Still, we did our job and then drove home to a meal of duck breast, green peppers, shallots, and button mushrooms cooked by me. It was, of course, delicious.

Wednesday, 11th January, 2017

At 7.30 am, the sun is just about to rise in a clear sky but the temperature is already 10C/50F. Just as well because we are going out to Worthing for the morning. Pauline has ordered clothes which we have to collect and we are going to Specsavers to pick up our new glasses. I remember how excited I was to get my first pair at the age of 7 in 1958. They were ‘free’, National Health ‘specs’ with the wire loops that hooked behind the ears with a ball-stop end which has left a permanent impression on my skin. I was desperate to wear glasses because I thought it was a sign of maturity rather than short sightedness. Of course, it was a good job they were free because I broke them most months – ususally by sitting on them – and had to wait another 8 weeks for replacements.

In Worthing shopping area by the sea front, we spent an hour or so this morning. The temperature soared to 14C/57F but felt much colder with a brisk breeze off the sea. Pauline picked up two pairs of trousers which we promptly returned in the afternoon. We got back from Worthing in time to watch the first PMQs of the New Year and to get the perfect Corbyn soundbites:

Our NHS is in crisis but the PM is in denial.

Mocking the PM’s launch of the ‘shared society, Corbyn pointed out that the definition of a ‘shared society’ is:

people sharing hospital corridors on trolleys.

The Prime Minister was left with no defence but to brazen it out and it is becoming increasingly obvious, even to those who rarely pay attention, that the Tories are determined to run down the NHS until we beg to be allowed to pay for it.

Thursday, 12th January, 2017

We made a good choice of day to be confined to the house. Although the morning opened pleasantly enough, by 11.00 am, light rain began to fall and, a couple of hours later, heavy rain set in and lasted for 5 or 6 hours. As the light faded and the temperature began to drop, the rain lightened and turned to wet snow. At 7.00 pm, it is covering the roof tops but Yorkshiremen are laughing at it.

The Dishwasher’s working again!

We were confined to the house because two people were calling. Firstly, and very pleasingly, the Dishwasher Service man came and fitted a new heating unit and pump to our 8 month old AEG dishwasher. It is built in to the kitchen units and we have had the plinths adjusted so he could get the machine in and out. Actually, I began to quite enjoy washing up by hand – once in a while – but I will feel equally pleased to see a machine do it all for me again. The AEG man took about an hour and a half before stepping out in to inclement weather for his next job.

Another Meccano Kit!

Later in the day and stepping out in to increasingly heavy and cold rain, a nice, young, Romanian lad in a white van. He lugged three packs of garage shelving parts wrapped tightly in heavy duty plastic and brown, gaffa tape to my door, asked for a signature and was off to his next drop before I realised that I could only just lift one of the packs with great difficulty into the garage. We now have tomorrow morning’s job mapped out. I’ve got my power drill charged up in readiness. I just have to work out how to use it.

I had a box of Meccano for a Christmas present when I was 7 years old. I struggled to use it from a technical and an imaginative point of view. Such a great disappointment for my father. This garage shelving kit makes me feel 7 years old again but I’m sure Pauline will sort it out. She loves heavy construction.

Friday, 13th January, 2017

Wessendenhead, Meltham, West Yorkshire

Lucky for some – particularly if they don’t have to go to work. There was a slight smattering of snow over night and that soon disappeared although it has been a chilly day in which we didn’t get above 9C/48F. As you can see, one of our old, stomping grounds was true to type with plenty of white stuff. It is one of those days to be at home. I spent the morning doing some research work on Ancestry. This afternoon, we decided to address the garage shelving unit that had arrived yesterday. The hardest part for me was getting all the plastic binding off the packages. It is obviously machine-applied and very strong and tight. I got there in the end and then sat down to read the construction instructions.

The first step was to get my wife involved. There is nothing I can’t do when she puts her mind to it and so it was today. Actually, it took a lot longer than expected but what is two hours in the great scheme of things. I had a real feeling of self-satisfaction when she finished it.

Saturday, 14th January, 2017

The Laundry is a foreign & distant land.

Gorgeous sunrise this morning at 7.30 am but it stayed pretty cold all day not getting much above 6C/43F. We have guests staying over the next few days so cleaning and shining the house was the order of the day. Actually, very little needed to be done. There are just two of us wandering around a brand new house which is cleaned and vacuumed most days anyway but ‘guests’ concentrate the energies and the critical faculties.

Every morning, Pauline provides the breakfast and I unstack the dishwasher. I download the newspapers on both iPads and I make the coffee. Since I bought a new, cordless vac., I have set myself the task of vacuuming the floors whereas, Pauline uses her new, steam cleaner to clean the tiled and wooden floors. My job is to do all lawn cutting and plant watering, car valeting and garage maintenance. Because she is so much better than me, Pauline does the bulk of the cooking although I really do enjoy it.

Pauline is responsible for washing and ironing. I have no idea how to use the washing machine or tumble dryer and keep saying I must learn. I don’t think I have ever really used an iron in my life and the thought of learning it scares me. My territory is the Office and the technology we use there. How to install and maintain the colour and the mono laser printers; how to use the label printer and the scanner; passwords for significant computers and websites are my persistent worry. I am constantly writing guides on how to use everything and how to access everything for Pauline in case I die in the night. I’ve always been optimistic! I’m going to have to get her to do that for the Laundry. She just says, The manuals are in the filing cabinet. Unfortunately, she’s responsible for filing so I’m sure I’ll struggle to find them. It is the inevitable downside of a long, close and interdependent relationship. Ideally, Pauline will pass away as I utter my dying words: We spent the last of our savings on Claret yesterday.

Week 419

Sunday,1st January, 2017





It is approaching 11.00 am and the first residents on our street are venturing out. We have been up for 4 hours and feeling our way in to the new year. We have been fielding lots of Happy New Year texts which is the current trend while I am preparing a ‘formal’ email for friends.

Do you make resolutions? The general joke is that people make them on New Year’s Eve/Day and break them the next day. We have made some joint resolutions and I have made some individual ones.

  • Pauline read that short breaks which break up the routine make one’s life feel longer. Consequently, she has decreed that, in addition to a long drive across Europe this summer and, possibly, a winter sunshine trip, we are going to do lots of short breaks in European towns/cities as well. We both want to visit Bologna which we’ve driven past 30 times but never seen. We both want to revisit Venice which we spent 4 nights in 20 years ago. We want to go to Florence and Rome, to Madrid and Barcelona. I would quite like to visit Dubrovnik and we would both like to go to Bordeaux and Bergerac. Some of these destinations can be linked in a long drive. Some can be short flights.
  • After month-long spells in 5* Half Board Hotels, our diet has slipped a little and needs to be reasserted. Already the alcohol is gone but food intake has increased and must be got back under control immediately. Portion size is the order of the year! Of course, we must maintain – or increase our exercise regime.
Bella Bologna

This next resolution may leave an unpleasant impression upon you. The more delicate of you it may scar for life. If you are a princess, look away now. No, no, not you, Sarah! I don’t know if you have noticed but, as men age, their mouths seem to drop open as if they are auditioning for gibbering idiots escaped from The Home for the Bewildered. The open mouthed stare is not a good look particularly when it is accompanied by a slight dribble from the corners of the mouth. It has come to me. Pauline pointed it out a couple of years ago and I am increasingly catching myself in mirrors and shop windows looking at a lost soul with mouth open, staring vacantly back at me. It has got to stop.

  • Constantly ask myself if my mouth is open and carry a tissue to dab away excess liquid.

Told you that you would find it distasteful but these things have to be faced and, if you can’t do it in old age, when can you do it? Enjoy your day.

Monday,2nd January, 2017

East Preston Beach – Freezing!

An official Bank Holiday. We had to go to Waitrose to pick up a parcel from the John Lewis Parcel Collection point. It was an extremely cold start to the day at 1C/34F with clear, blue sky and strong, low sun. The town and the roads were extremely quiet at 9.00 am as if everyone is enjoying a ‘lie-in’ prior to going back to work tomorrow. Don’t understand.

We drove on to East Preston beach for a look round. It looked delightful but was rather cold. There is a growing enthusiasm for cold weather swimming. If anyone had been here, it would have been a great place to try that. We would happily watch.

Tuesday,3rd January, 2017

Little Viv & Jane Barnes

A cold but beautifully sunny day. Frost on the lawn this morning but, already, the daylight feels a little earlier. Had to go out and buy (BUY) packs of printer paper. When we were at work, we wouldn’t even have considered it. Reprographics would have delivered it to our offices and we would have used it seamlessly in school and at home just as our Management System was accessible on-line in school and at home. We have been retired for 7 years now and having built up quite a stock, it is only in the last couple of years that we have had to go out and actually buy our own. It comes as a bit (a hell) of a shock.

Little Viv was our Reprographics Manager and supplier of all paper requirements. I thought of her immediately that the printers – We use a mono laser and a colour laser in our Home Office – we are running out of paper. It is people like Viv that I miss the most about retirement from work. The long-serving, honest and dedicated individuals who contributed so much to one’s life.

Something else which I’ve been using since we retired but which originated in school is computer software. I’m still using the MS Office 2010 edition which I used in school the year I left plus the Macomedia Suite of Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash of even earlier vintage. The time is rapidly coming when I will need to upgrade. We run all this software on at least four computers.  Ms Office will cost me £80.00/€94.00 per year to ‘rent’. The Macromedia Suite will cost around £500.00/€590.00. I’m only a pensioner!

Wednesday,4th January, 2017

Early trip out to Rustington this morning which is quite chilly but better than the last couple of mornings. About 1C/34F. We had our biennial eye test appointments at 8.30 am. My eyesight has hardly changed since I was 7 years old. If anything, my sight has improved. I often have to take my glasses off to read and I rarely wear my distance glasses unless I’m driving. Actually, today, my distance test showed a small change which would merit me having new glasses which I already needed anyway because I have had my current pairs at least 4 years.

I chose new styles with reaction lenses and was fitted for them. It is not as easy to get the ‘half moon’ frame now because it has rather fallen out of favour but it suits my usage perfectly. Pauline only needs reading glasses and had two pairs of those. The total bill for 6 pairs of glasses came to just £400.00/€472.00 which seems quite reasonable these days and will do the next two years at least. They will be ready in one week.

The Health Club was quieter yesterday as everyone went back to work. We had a good workout and are looking forward to going back today. Pauline’s got a doctor’s appointment this afternoon to look at the shingles on her tongue which are really hurting her so we are going to exercise earlier.

Thursday,5th January, 2017

Still Buying

Quite cold – 0C/32F at 7.30 am but clear blue sky all day with strong sun. One of those days when one feels thankful to be alive. This is especially true if you’re not a High Street retailer who, so we are told, are beginning to have a tough time with difficult trading. Next and John Lewis, the High Street stars of recent times are posting falls in profits and forecasting difficult times ahead with job losses. Brexiteers, be warned, you will rue the day! You can’t blame us. Pauline & I are doing our utmost to keep the commercial centres afloat. The buying just continues.

Outdoor Swimming in January.

Today, we were out at 9.00 am and off to Sainsburys/Argos to pick up an internet order of a steam iron (£80.00€94.00).  On to Waitrose/John_Lewis to pick up an internet order of a steam cleaner (£99.00/€1.16). On to Tesco for our main, weekly shop which came to £130.00/€152.00. We were home by 11.00 am and tired. It took for ever just to unload the car. We were out to the Health Club at 1.15 pm and, after an hour of cardiovascular work, we went back to swimming for the first time since moving here. I have had problems with a trapped nerve in my arm for almost twelve months and have shied away from swimming but today we took the plunge and used both the indoor pool and the wonderful, heated and steaming outdoor pool. It was really enjoyable and, I think, has done me good.

Friday,6th January, 2017

We have been without a working dishwasher since before Christmas. Can you imagine it? Washing up by hand! The engineer came out last week and couldn’t remove the kitchen plinth to get the machine out to work on. We had to call the kitchen installer to remove the plinth and he came today. Now, we have arranged for the dishwasher to come back on Thursday. By this time, we will have been without our machine for three weeks. My hands will be red raw.

Because we were waiting in for the kitchen fitter, we were unable to go to the gym. We’ll try to go tomorrow instead. We made a trip to the local recycling site to get rid of a build up of rubbish – an old iron, a stack of boxes, an surplus bathroom cabinet, etc.. It is made so easy for us here. Other areas we’ve lived in like Surrey and Kirklees put draconian restrictions on these facilities and, as a result, suffer costly fly-tipping. These councils never learn but should visit Arun to see things working well.

It is Epiphany, apparently, and Greeks have a frightening way of celebrating Theofania. They congregate around the docks and a priest casts a cross into the sea thus blessing it. The youth of the area dive into the icy water for the honour of retrieving the cross. Madness at the best of times but, this year, Greece is approaching Siberian winter. Sea diving may not end well.

Saturday,7th January, 2017

All change here. It is the first morning for a while that we haven’t needed the central heating on. At 7.30 am, it was 10C/50F which makes a change and is in sharp contrast to Greece which is basking in snow and near sub-zero temperatures.

The Stations of the Cross

There are lovely stories in the Greek Blogs about the epiphany ‘plunges’ yesterday. Shock horror but a ‘woman’ beat the men to the cross on Rhodes. In Sikinos, only one brave soul dared to dive in to the freezing water and, in Trikala, the cross broke in two pieces. In Patras, that delightful University city of culture, a fight broke out between the middle aged divers who were disputing who found the cross first. The prize for strangest event went to Kalamas river in Neraida on the north west coast opposite Corfu. Here the cross was tossed in to the fast flowing river but got caught in the branches of a tree. The photograph shows how one man was so desperate to win that he risked life and limb.