Week 426

Sunday, 19th February, 2017

My little brother is 65 today. Happy Birthday to Bob. Actually, he’s not that little and he is only 10 months younger than me but there have to be bragging rights for the elder brother occasionally. I wish him a very, happy birthday.

Of course, everything is related. Bob’s birthday means he is the same age as me for just a couple of months and, soon, I will hit the downward slope towards 70. I haven’t even got a safety harnesss and I can’t find the brake.

To distract me from the inevitable decline, we are planning travel – driving in Europe during the summer & holidaying in the sun in the winter – and exploring our heritage while at home. Although I already knew it in principle, what has been so instructive is the contrast between families in the 19th/20th Centuries who largely were rooted in place and community and people like me who are rooted in none of these. So many tradesmen have come to our door in the past year and so many have migrated across the country in their lives. Admittedly, the traffic has been largely southwards but not entirely. Anonymity can be liberating and isolating in equal measures.

Just read an entry from the Skopelosnews Blog which chimes with our view  exactly and reminds us of what we miss/don’t miss.

Living on an island is both sweet and sour at the same time. You cannot compare it to living in a city, a village. There is a melancholic feeling about the fact that you are separated from the rest of the country/world because of the sea and only boats can help you bridge that distance.

It is the oxymoron of bitter-sweet and liberation-isolation that can only be understood fully through experience.

Monday, 20th February, 2017

Rather a damp and grey start to the morning. Actually, our morning really started at 4.00 am when I couldn’t sleep. This is something that rarely happens. I woke up feeling hot because the outdoor temperature over night was about 10C/50F. We went downstairs to have a cup of tea. While we were there, we finished watching Testament of Youth. You will no doubt be aware that it is the harrowing memoir of Vera Britain, Shirley Williams’ Mum. It covers her experiences during the First World War and the beginning of her journey towards pacifism. It is the sort of film I weep buckets at and I didn’t disappoint.

Back to bed at 5.00 am and the radio turned on to Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme an hour later. By 7.30 am, we were drinking fresh orange juice and tea and turning to possible events of the day. One of the main jobs today is to consider our wills. We made them more than 30 years ago when we were living in Yorkshire. They are lodged with a solicitor in Huddersfield and we have two executors who live in the South of England. For a while, we had a codicil relating to our Greek property but that is now revoked.

Of course, we have moved home a number of times since we first drew up our will and Sussex is the latest example of that. I have to inform the solicitor. Unfortunately, when I checked the solicitors’ website, it looked distinctly ‘unloved’ and unmaintained. When I contacted them, it appears they were taken over a couple of years ago. Our wills can stay with them and I will check that our executors are still willing to act for us. As it is 31 years since we drew these wills up, some beneficiaries are already dead – our Mothers, for example – but the general thrust remains valid.

I think I inherited this from my father and his ‘Dig for Victory’ movement but I love growing vegetables and don’t really have enough ground here. I had heard that there was an Angmering Allotment Association and I had considered finding out about it. This morning a leaflet came through the door inviting me to apply for a plot. I am sorely tempted but they have very strict rules about maintenance and we have so many plans for travel that I don’t think I could fully comply or make the most of the opportunity. I think it is something that will have to wait for a few years. I just hope that I won’t be too old by the time I’m ready.

Tuesday, 21st February, 2017

An overcast but fairly mild day. We had an electrician here today doing some totally unnecessary, but  indulgently useful work which included installing outdoor, electrical sockets on the external wall of the garage to make cooking outside easier and additional down-lighters in one of the bathrooms so that Pauline can count her wrinkles more accurately.

The electrician that we chose from our local, Checkatrade listing, turned out to be an absolutely lovely lad – (I say ‘lad’. He is 42, married with 3 kids but that says a lot about me now.) – who chatted non-stop as he worked, clearly loved meeting new people and turned out he is married to a barrister. If you know me, you will know that I can illicit the complete life story of any, total stranger within the first ten minutes of meeting and so it was with Darryl. I can tell you how old Darryl’s Gran was when she died and what illness his brother-in-law is suffering from. I can tell you what Darryl weighed twelve months ago, how much he’s lost since then and what sport he’s played since he was at school.

I can even tell you where Daryl will be on Friday, what operation he’s having and how long he’ll be off work. I can tell you where Daryll’s allotment is and what he likes to grow there. I can tell you where he likes to drive on holiday, what the names and ages of his three kids are and what he likes to drink both hot and cold. Of course, because of client confidentiality, I won’t be telling you any of those things but, after an hour with Darryl, I could almost write his biography.

Because of waiting for my new, best friend, Daryll, we couldn’t go to the gym today. To make up for it, I spent some time hoovering the house and then a couple of hours valeting the car inside and out. After Daryll had left, I did all the weeding outside and trimmed back the hedging at the front of the house. While I did these jobs, my wife was otherwise engaged with her newspaper. However, using our new, outdoor facility, she did cook a wonderful batch of whitebait which we ate with salad.

Wednesday, 22nd February, 2017

Went out at 9.00 this morning to a tile shop between Shoreham and Brighton. We have large, floor tiles right across our kitchen and in to our Utility Room. In every other house we’ve lived in, we have had spare, back-up tiles in case of accidents. Here, we have none. Ever mindful of the future, I decided to buy some. They are Johnson ‘Natural Tones, Matt Ecru 600mm x 600. I found a shop about 8 miles away who stocked them. They are so big, they come in boxes of 3 which I picked up today at a cost of £39.00/€46.20. They will now grow cobwebbed and dusty on the shelves in the garage until…

It was nice to explore a different part of our new, home area. The tile store was on the edge of Shoreham Beach although it was rather grey today. We are constantly surprised how close to the shoreline we live and are determined to put more time aside to visit the many interesting places dotted along it. It would be more enjoyable in warmer weather. Today the temperature has remained 10C/50F since early this morning but feels a lot cooler in a strong, breeze.

The gym really hurt today but we stuck it out and Pauline saved the day by cooking a lovely meal of Roast Pheasant, with roast shallots and carrots. Absolutely delicious!

Thursday, 23rd February, 2017

East Sussex this morning.

Today, as we know, is Doris Day. Storm ‘Doris’ has hit Britain. Scotland has blizzards, Blackpool has storm force gales, London has trees uprooted, trains and flights cancelled. Even East Sussex has strong wind bringing high tides and Angmering in West Sussex felt the effects. Our garden chair blew over!

What the wind did do was blow the clouds away,  reveal blue sky and sunshine. Sheltered from the wind, the temperature was 12C/54F which is good for mid-February. We have visited Sainsburys, Waitrose and Tesco this morning. All were wonderfully quiet. Old people obviously decided not to venture out in this dangerously breezy sunshine. If only it was always like this.

Curry is torture.

I have never liked hot and spicy flavours – Chilli, Curry, Paprika – even though I tried to when my friends in the 70’s & 80’s were raving about them. How hot can you take your curry? was the test of manhood which I failed every time. I have always gravitated towards French and Italian styles, ingredients and flavours.

In age, I have increasingly favoured dishes flavoured by herbs rather than salt, pepper or the condiments of the devil listed above. I do make an exception for garlic which I adore. Currently, Sage, Basil, Dill, Oregano, Rosemary, and Tarragon are favourites. Interestingly, the world is coming back to me. A report in The Independent this morning says:

Half of UK’s curry houses could shut over the next decade due to British healthy eating trends.

It suggests that we are looking for shorter menus with lighter, healthier options with more fish and vegetable dishes.

They always say that, if you stand still long enough, everything comes back round. I should be in fashion at least twice in my lifetime!

Friday, 24th February, 2017

A lovely, sunny and quite mild day reaching 11C/52F although there was an edge the coastal breeze. We have had none of the difficulties reported around the rest of the country caused by the storm. Nice picture in The Times of sheep’s response to cold wind. I know just how they feel … and taste!

We are often woken to the sounds of sea gulls outside screeching at each other. They are not a problem and still new enough to us to be quite a delight. People who have lived around here for years, can often be heard complaining about them and consider them vermin just like many people in the countryside consider squirrels and rabbits. I’m sure seagulls can be annoying at times. They seem to choose wisely the people they want to attack – children holding ice creams aloft like trophies, pensioners unwrapping sandwiches, etc.. The gulls singled out Stavros’ boat to carpet-bomb while leaving all others clean.

Chairs lined up. Yay!

In Worthing, as we fill our car boot with shopping, gulls will waddle up expectantly almost begging for contributions. When they are not forthcoming, they can be found trying to get in to discarded sandwich wrappers and crisp bags that drift round the car park in the breeze. The local newspaper has recently featured this more enterprising bird which has gone back to source. He/she has got into the habit of sneaking in to local shops and emerging with unopened bags of Cheese & Onion.

As you can see from the photo above, the weekend is starting well with everything in its place and lined up. there is nothing like being straight.

Saturday, 25th February, 2017

A grey day which reached 12C/54F but felt colder. We are told that it has been an unseasonably warm winter which is why crocuses and daffodils are full bloom and almost going over long before the start of March. To be honest, it has almost crept up on us unnoticed. Now we’ve been told, the public spaces are noticeably filled with colour and our flower beds are definitely bursting with buds of new growth. It is a delightfully optimistic sight.

Angmering Station

We are planning a trip to London to visit the Hockney Exhibition at The Tate Gallery soon so we drove to our local station to check parking and pick up times and prices. It is a lovely, parochial place which is easy to use. A train to London Victoria takes and hour and a half and costs just £23.00/€27.14 return. We rarely use trains but this will certainly be preferable to driving through central London.

We went on to the Health Club for a couple of hours work out and then drove home where we had a weekend, indulgent treat for our meal – pork spare ribs with broad beans and garlic mushrooms. It was absolutely wonderful.

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