Week 424

Sunday, 5th February, 2017

Larkin’s second volume of poetry published in 1955.

For those of us indoctrinated in to the Roman Catholic religion, rejection is never enough. It forms us and informs the rest of our lives no matter how we struggle to break free. Nominally, I rejected its shackles from early puberty but even now, in my early dotage, it squats inside me filling my every waking and many sleeping moments with a sense of guilt derived from original sin. Contemplative Sundays seem to have returned to my life in retirement. Outside, my neighbours are cleaning cars, weeding gardens, shopping, and all the other jobs they have to fit in to the weekends but which I have been free all week to complete. Interestingly, I have taken, recently at the weekend, to returning to volumes of poetry on the shelves in my office.

Of all the poets that I’m familiar with, Philip Larkin speaks for me, almost my words in almost the tone my thinking sounds in my head. I love the musicality and strength of Eliot, the sad, romantic lilt of Yeats, the homespun vision of Norman Nicholson and the animal vibrancy of Hughes but I don’t feel they read my mind. Larkin does. I hate to depress you because I am certainly not but this was my poem for today. I won’t bore you by quoting it all but give you enough to understand its central tenet.

Next, Please

Always too eager for future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy.
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say,

Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear,
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste! …………..

Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.

It is a strongly contemplative theme on the blank, futility of life. It is the sort of theme that an escapee from Catholicism may wield around their head in slaying their demons. As Larkin said, Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.

Monday, 6th February, 2017

Old Technology!

Lovely bright and sunny but fairly cold morning. A hint of frost soon warmed up but only reached 9C/48F. A copy of Yellow Pages dropped through the door this morning. I haven’t seen one or used one for a few years. It immediately struck me how ‘old technology’ it is. Whoever bought it and now runs it did a bad deal. How many people, younger than 95, turn to an already out of date book for the most up to date catalogue of contacts? How forward looking is a firm you might employ which hasn’t bothered to put up a website? My copy went straight in to the ‘Recycling Bin’. At least I’m Green and not Yellow!

Everyone goes to the gym in January. They manage to keep their resolution for a few weeks. Unfortunately for us, it means the facilities are more crowded than normal. We were hoping the start of February would see a downturn but not so far. Today, we had a struggle to find jogging machines free and there must be 30 – 40 of them in there. We had a struggle to get exercise bikes and there must be 20 – 30 of them. We had to pack in to a crowded Jacuzzi which holds 20 or more in 5 different bays and then get too close for comfort to strangers in the sauna. Why aren’t they in work? Does nobody work these days? Brexit will sort them out!

As prices soar along with interest rates, life will get much harder for the marginalised. We will become the poorer neighbour of America instead of being the awkward relation of the European Union. An article I read on a political blog this morning argued that we will learn to accept and even love cheap, American, GM crops which scientists agree are safe but Europe has set its mind against. It is a fascinating paradox that those who argue Climate Change deniers ignore majority opinion in the scientific world are so often the same people who deny the safety of GM products in the face of majority opinion in the scientific world. In the end, we all tend to believe what we choose and objective reality falls in to the abyss.

Tuesday, 7th February, 2017

A glorious, sunny and warm day which reached 14C/57F as we walked through Littlehampton this morning. We were searching for replacement LED bulbs, one of which has failed in our Kitchen ceiling. This has happened to us in three, separate, new-build homes and is so difficult to reconcile. In our kitchen, we have 4 LED downlighters. We have a number in each bathroom as well. One in the kitchen expired yesterday which is surprising as they have only been in operation for 10 months, are described as ‘long life’ and cost £7.00 per unit. It is described as 4w / equivalent 40w. What on earth does that mean?

Our bulbs are ‘white’ light but are they white ‘daylight’?, ‘soft’ white? or ‘warm’ white? I did a search and found that they had already been superseded by 35w and 50w bulbs. I rejected these and went out shopping. After visiting four, new lighting shops, I accepted that I would need to replace all four in order to get a match. the others can be moved to other rooms. This nonsense has been propagated by the EU in the name of the environment and is as bonkers as its supporters!

Wednesday, 8th February, 2017


I think I have written before that Pauline and I are, essentially, Jack Spratt & his wife. Pauline is keen on cleaning and I am obsessed with tidying. In that and many other respects, we make a fantastic team. Pauline is incredibly practical but, given a letter to write, she will sit pondering what to say for ages. I love writing but I couldn’t paint a door or change a bulb in a new, LED down-lighter. Pauline takes all that in her stride and even relishes it. What more could a man want? It is important and rewarding that we complement each other.

My wife has said for a long time that I was on the early end of the Autistic spectrum – Aspergic. Tidiness, arranging and lining things up is an example of autistic behaviour. I laugh when I catch myself doing it but I fear it is getting worse. Three light switches in the hall of our house control lights that can also be controlled by three switches upstairs. I have started trying to make sure that the switches upstairs are all up/down and that the same occurs downstairs.  Sometimes, the synchronisation means running up and down stairs to get everything just so. I don’t feel distressed if I don’t get this right but I’m amused by a good solution.

Oh No!

When I lay the table for a meal, I make sure that table mats are evenly spaced and parallel and perpendicular to the table edges. When I leave the dining table, I make sure the chairs are left under the table and in line. In the Health Club changing room this afternoon, I caught myself straightening a bench so it lined up with the lockers. I line my papers  and pencils up on my desk and sort my books on the shelf in to subject or height order. I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m completely barmy.  I’m pretty sure I’ve always done it but I have more time to observe it and indulge it now. It does mean that we have a very tidy house.

Thursday, 9th February, 2017

A cold and overcast day although we are told it will get colder over the weekend. We did our weekly shop at Tesco. and then drove home to receive a visit from an electrician who we want to do a couple of jobs for us. Pauline wants an extra down lighter in her bathroom. I want a couple of weather proof, external sockets outside on the garage wall because we cook out there a lot. I use an electric griddle and a double ring hob. Pauline uses a pressure cooker to make stock quite often. It can produce a strong and pervasive smell which permeates the kitchen but soon blows away in the garden.

Talking about pervasive smells, Greece and Grexit along with the ‘Poison Dwarf’ are back on the agenda. Across Europe, media is reporting that a recent IMF report says Greek debt is unsustainable and that the fund’s participation in any future bailout would be conditional on a new round of austerity measures or on other lenders cancelling their debts — a circumstance considered highly unlikely.

The IMF anticipates that without a new bailout package, Greek debt will grow to almost three times its GDP over the next five years as the interest on loan repayments increases from 2.5 per cent to 7 per cent. Yields on Greek ten-year bonds jumped to 8 per cent on Tuesday as investors considered the possibility that Athens could go bankrupt. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, has said that a decision by the IMF to pull out of the bailout programme would derail plans to keep Greece afloat.

Friday, 10th February, 2017

Angmering Village in Winter.

An even colder day which barely got above 4C/39F. To make things even more enjoyable, there was a spell of soft and very wetting rain. It wasn’t a day for going out but we did risk a trip to the Health Club for a couple of hours.

I felt really tired after exercise today. We fed on a meal of bean salad with cold fish. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, it was really lovely. The full meal was fit for a king:

  • Tuna Pate (Homemade)
  • Cold, smoked Mackerel
  • Prawns
  • Salad of Cannellini Beans in Garlic Mayonnaise
  • Cucumber & Hummus

This was accompanied by sparkling water. I love this sort of meal now. I don’t know why but fish currently dominates our diet. The freezer is stuffed full of Chicken, Duck, Pheasant, Beef Steak but we go out and buy, Salmon, Cod, Crab, Prawns, Whitebait, Kalamari. Things will turn round in time.

Saturday, 11th February, 2017

We come to live in the sunniest county in Britain and see…….. SNOW! Well, it was light, wet stuff which lasted 10 minutes but it was still a shock. Back to normal now but I blame this Global Warming and Brexit. We were recently given an olive tree. It is sitting in a pot in our back garden. It’s looking a bit shocked now!

Who could do without olive oil? It would be hard although we all may have to in a couple of years. In fact, that day may come even sooner because there have been major problems with the olive oil market this season. Drought and disease have combined to cause a ‘disaster’ for the olive oil industry and prices are set to soar in Britain’s high street supermarkets, according to a new report out this week.

Even if Greece’s output hasn’t been too bad, they manage to pull disaster from the jaws of success by shipping much of their raw product in tankers straight to Italy where it is bottled, rebadged ‘Produce of Italy’ and a 50% price premium added. Around 60 % of Greece’s olive oil output is shipped to Italy. Apparently, Greek entrepreneurs who tried to export their own country’s oil found no one in Greece to make the bottles which they had to buy from Italy. They had difficulty getting loans to pay for the bottles, and then they were hit with the taxes. Due to Greece’s economic issues, the government asked businesses to estimate and pay the taxes they would owe in 2016 ahead of time — in 2015. It’s no basis for a business model in a sector where olive oil alone represents nearly a tenth of Greece’s agricultural output.

I’m going to have another look at Rapeseed oil which has been touted as the healthier, home-grown option, with a light and nutty flavour. Be great if it was calorie-free, wouldn’t it?

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