Week 436

Sunday, 30th April, 2017

April is signing off  on an uncharacteristically wet note. Having mentioned last week that we had hardly seen rain in the past year, today was warm and wet. The lawns were screaming their thanks. We had already decided to stay at home. Why mix with the hoi polloi on a Bank Holiday weekend. Did you know that hoi polloi comes from the Greek, οἱ πολλοί or ‘the many’. Below are οἱ πολλοί of Sifnos on their ‘Sifnos Run’. This is the start line and the presentation area at Kamares harbour where it is certainly warmer and sunnier than West Sussex today.

I have been very lazy today but I am tired after this fairly busy week. I certainly couldn’t have taken part in ‘Sifnos Run’. Reading the newspapers, writing to friends and watching 3 football matches has been the sum of my exertions.

Friends/Fellow students from College days – some 48 years ago – were in touch today and one posted this very poor quality photo of me in 1970, 19 years old and flying down the wing in the College football team. I have never been a footballer as they soon found out and dropped me. I was a rugby union player in the distant mists of time. It feels so strange to be in touch with an old life that I can barely believe I was part of.

Monday, 1st May, 2017

Solidarity Brothers and Happy May. A lovely, warm morning to greet the new month. I’ve spent the past hour drinking fresh coffee and listening to a podcast of the Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson, reprising his part in the Labour landslide of 1997 – 20 years ago today. You will remember that Blair avowed to eschew ‘soundbites’ and then stood on Downing Street steps and said, A new day has dawned, has it not? followed by, I feel the hand of Destiny on my shoulder. They were heady times. We will not see them again for quite a while.

‘Janey’ fights back!

Twenty years ago, I found a white flowered climbing rose called Sanders White. I had to buy it and plant it out in my Mum’s garden. Unfortunately, Catherine Sanders hated it and had it removed as soon as possible as I found on my next visit. Pauline’s Mum – Jane Farrow (1914 – 2010) was always known as ‘Janey’. She was a lovely lady who was a real survivor, dying at the wonderful age of 96. When we found a Fuschia called Janey, we had to have it. We put in two which we believed were Hardy Fuschias. During the last winter, which was relatively mild, ‘Janey’ lost all her leaves and was reduced to a pile of dry twigs. We were convinced she was gone. In the past couple of weeks, she has surprised us both and fought back through the bark mulch and looks like she will put on a strong display later in the summer.

Old Sifnos friends – much missed!

Lovely couple of hours at the Health Club this afternoon although we were surprised to find so many others there today. They should be relaxing in the garden with a barbecue. We did our own ‘Sifnos Run’ and exhausting it was too. I was pleased to see ‘old friends’ out supporting the island run yesterday. Today we did

  • 40 mins jogging machine
  • 20 mins cycling
  • 10 mins tension weights
  • 30 mins swimming in the outside pool
  • 20 mins Jacuzzi and sauna

When we came home, feeling absolutely knackered, we ate Greek Salad & Whitebait. Life could be a whole lot worse.

Tuesday, 2nd May, 2017

Χταπόδι σαλάτα

Absolutely gloriously sunny day which reached 18C/65F in mid afternoon. Went out to buy fresh octopus for tomorrow’s lunch – as you do. Where do you get it? Well, Morrison’s any day of the week. Pauline will boil it, let it go cold and then slice it thinly to be served with olive oil and lemon. Delicious and very cheap unlike in Greece where it is very expensive in the tavernas.

We left with thyme on our hands.

We went on to the garden centre – all risk of frost has passed down here and Easter and Bank Holiday crowds disappeared. We are only shopping for pot plants which we can ask our neighbours to water while we are away. We are growing herbs:

  • Sage
  • Fennel
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sweet Basil
  • Greek Basil

These will complement the large Tarragon which has rejuvenated from last year. I also bought some Geraniums (or Pelargoniums strictly speaking). I am a sucker for these plants particularly the bright red flowering varieties.

We are told that April has been a very unusually dry one. We could have told them that. Fortunately, we have water on tap and don’t really need to worry too much about that. Britain, after all, invented rain.

Wednesday, 3rd May, 2017

We are resting our weary bones this morning. A building company ‘snagger’ is coming round to replace a couple of external door seals which were splitting. It meant that we decided to miss our gym session and do our ‘big shop’ today. We were out for a couple of hours  but back in time for the Daily Politics and to hear the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, helping May’s election appeal by attempting to frighten the British electorate.

Barnier has turned the UK’s stated aim of pre-empting all negotiations with an agreement on Europeans living in Britain and Britains living in Europe. Europe are determined to make this as difficult and expensive as possible and, quite definitely, bargaining chips in the final accounting process. This should make expats on both sides of the Channel feel very nervous because it increases the likelihood of the UK government walking away completely without an agreement and that would be very bloody for both sides.

Two figs: Rouge de Bordeaux & Brown Turkey

In our Greek garden, we had a couple of fig trees which were fruiting well by the time we left. We would like to grow some figs in our sheltered, south-facing, Southern English garden. I have taken advice and there are two varieties that will do well down here – Rouge de Bordeaux which did well at Versailles in notoriously chilly gardens and Brown Turkey which is probably better known. I will plant them in full sun and train them on the garage wall to benefit from the sun’s residual warmth in the evenings. I will keep you posted on their progress or lack of it.

Thursday, 4th May, 2017

Local elections on a grey and overcast day. Most people would be hard pressed to know that there is an election. We have had just one leaflet through the door and that was for the Conservative candidate. I was amused to read that the UKIP candidate is called Evariste Lardeur. You can’t get more English than that, can you?

As we left the polling booth in the local Community Centre, the sun came out and the temperature soon read 16C/61F. We went on to the Health Club and did another couple of hours. Now the kids are back in school and the Bank Holiday weekend is over, we have the outdoor pool to ourselves after our hard workout in the gym. It is delicious swimming with the sun on our backs in warm, clear water.

In Greece, that awkward hiatus between Easter and Summer is under way. The Skiathan has been giving us a countdown to Summer (according to the first Charter Flights arriving) but, in reality on the smaller islands, commerce jogs along underwhelmingly until the real crowds arrive for ‘money making time’.

As in so many other years in recent times, the tourist industry is advertising its wares against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty and deprivation with noises off from the emboldened, one party state known as Turkey. Developments on Greece’s periphery are of great concern. A crisis with unforeseeable consequences is already under way in the Balkans in Albania, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). However, Turkey undoubtedly remains the main concern. No one can rule out a military act by Turkey against Greece and they already plan military exercises with live ammunition in international waters south of Kastelorizo. Turkey also have the whip hand over control of migrant movement which is already increasing to Greek islands as the weather and seas improve.

More ferry strikes threatened.

To make matters worse, Europe have forced the Greek government to accept increasingly humiliating and difficult terms in return for the next tranche of their bailout. Pensions are to be cut savagely again. Tax-free bands of earned income are to be considerably reduced and – at last – the self-employed will be hit by new tax charges.

Predictably, Greek organised labour is flailing around in desperate futility. Over the May Bank Holiday, transport was crippled by strikes in Athens and ferries were off on Monday. The seaman’s union, The Pan-Hellenic Maritime Federation, have announced another two day strike as ‘tourist time’ gets underway and threats a ramping up with rolling strikes going forward. Their shouted demand is, Take back the new austerity measures! It remains to be seen how long the government can allow them to threaten the cash-cow that is the country’s tourist industry. 

Friday, 5th May, 2017

Well, it’s not sunny here or warm. We haven’t got above 14C/57F under moody skies. We drove down to Tesco about a mile from the beach. Seagulls here are vermin. They are growing in numbers and a pest in the neighbourhoods. It is a little know fact that it is illegal to feed seagulls and punishable by a sizeable fine. I can’t find out if it is illegal to poison seagulls. It is amazing how big and intimidating they are when you get close up. In Tesco carpark, they can be found rooting through discarded food bags with an acquired skill. They sit on the lamp standards waiting to attack.

We drove on to the shoreline fishmongers to buy Sea Bass and then home before going off to the Health Club for another couple of hour’s work. We will go again tomorrow to make it five out of seven days work. I do about 3,500 – 4,000 calories worth of cardio work each week which is at least two days full calorie allowance for me. I may not come into JaneBG’s category but that feels enough for me. At least I am beginning to find my recovery is coming rather more quickly now.

It is 39 years ago this month that Pauline asked me out for our first date. We went out to dinner and I knew that night that she was the one for me. Within two months, I had gone out and bought an engagement ring  before asking her. I took her for Dinner – Duck & Black Cherries – and to a performance of Leaping Ginger at the Royal Exchange in Manchester which starred a very young Robert Lindsay.

I was terrified that she wouldn’t like the ring although I was confident that she would say ‘Yes’. She said, ‘Yes’ and that she loved the ring. Whether she meant it, I’ve never been sure. At least she is still wearing it. I fear it is rather aggressively ‘of its time’ in terms of the design but she insists she is still happy to wear it and rarely takes it off other than when she is making bread.

Saturday, 6th May, 2017

A Lazarote Beach

Lovely, warm, sunny day that reached 18C/65F. It has been an active day. From soon after breakfast, I was out in the garden mowing the lawns, potting up the herbs, cleaning the patio. We went to the Health Club later and did two hours exercise. I burned nearly 800 calories. I have done my 15,000 paces today. If anything, we over did it. I wanted to sleep when I got home. Although I hadn’t eaten little all day, I almost felt too tired to eat my meal – Roast Salmon & Tomato Salad. I love roast salmon with a little pesto topping!

We are looking at a month in Lands-are-Grotty in November for some winter sun. Our dilemma is whether to go to a posh hotel with all inclusive which has real implications for the diet or to rent a villa where we can self-cater.

Week 435

Sunday, 23rd April, 2017

Recently I told you that I had interrogated the NHS Life Expectancy Calculator and been told that I have just 11 years (slightly less now) to live. I can expect to die aged 76 years old. My brother, Bob, reminded me that in my teenage years I swore to kill myself when I reached 50. It is the sort of youthful, anti-aging bravado that stupid teenagers exhibit. I must admit that, having reached pensionable age, dying at 76 seems impossibly early but that’s what the NHS said.

My wife, of course, thinks I’m bonkers and just ‘willing death’ upon myself by even contemplating it. Left to her, we would never confront it until it happened and, even then, I suspect she would be denying it – just like the Black Knight – as only a flesh wound! I, of course will be crying and cowering in a corner. Today I read an article by Martin Hemming that almost made me feel ‘normal’ as it opened like this:

“Here’s a fun game you can play at home. It’s called When Am I Going to Die?

Play the game here, if you dare

It’s really good. You gather your nearest and dearest around a computer screen, Google life expectancy calculator, pick one, then stick in everyone’s relevant details — age, sex, how many packets of cigarettes they smoke a day, have they ever had a job in a uranium mine, that sort of thing. The person with the highest score wins.”

Of course, in his case, the winners were those with the most money to cushion their old age as exemplified by the Queen who has just turned 91. If only it were that simple. Anyway, I took the Life Expectancy Test that he suggested and was granted an extra 9 years. I am mindful, however, that it was devised by Aviva to persuade me to invest in life insurance but I’m sure it’s more accurate!

Monday, 24th April, 2017

Lovely, warm and sunny morning. By mid afternoon we had a quite ‘muggy’ 16C/61F. How long will it last? Rather like Life Expectancy, we are told it’s going to get colder. Pity really because we are off to France soon for a short break. Excellent couple of hours at the Health Club today. It has had a great deal of money spent on it over the past month. All the gym equipment and accompanying media has been renewed. It really feels luxurious and actually makes one want to stay and exercise.

As a counterpoint to the exercise, when we return from France, we will fill up on wine which is still at better prices than when bought in UK. I’ve gone from French to Italian and, recently after three months in Teneriffe, to Spanish wines. I’ve picked these out from my favourite store –

  • Rioja Finca Monica
  • Rioja Crianza Gardenos
  • Rioja Crianza Ederra
  • Chateau Tour de Barbereau
  • Chateau Reyssac Bergerac

Of course, I will always love claret and I’ve got dozens of bottles already but I will take advantage while there is still the possibility of good value, good quality French wine available. Very soon our supplier will be feeling the effects of looming Brexit and calculating how long they can stay open. We have been buying from them for over 30 years and haven’t bought any wine in UK in that time. It will be a sad end – for one of us!

Tuesday, 25th April, 2017

Gorgeous day for driving to the Channel Tunnel – blue skies and strong sunshine. We are told that other areas have had frost. Being close to the coast, I suppose, we are lucky and just have the clear skies. Every where we go now we have to take an array of chargers – Smartphones, Kindle, two different iPads, smart watch, etc. – which I attach to a ‘cube’ multi-socket. They are checked even before passports, cheque cards and euros. You would think we are going to Ulan Bator instead of Nord-Pas-de-Calais!

What a beautiful day! Blue skies and sunshine all the way. Never seen the Channel Tunnel service so quiet. Two trains were amalgamated and still only amounted to 30 vehicles. This is the way it will go now. We left Folkestone at 12.30 pm and arrived 30 mins later at 2.00 pm – if you see what I mean.

Checked in to our hotel and found we had been upgraded to a Family Suite which was lovely. We have stayed here many times. Sometimes loyalty does pay. Just a pity Stavros didn’t understand the principle! Went down to Auchan to do a bit of shopping and bought a bottle of wine to taste. We drank it this afternoon with our meal of Normandy Soft Cheese, fresh prawns, sweet, cherry tomatoes and Remoulade.

It’s good to get away. Some times a change of scenery can make a difference – even if it is in France. This evening turned out to be even more spectacular than normal as huge, black clouds arrived bringing long, slow lightning flashes, booming thunder rolling around the hotel grounds and an avalanche of hail. The lawns around the hotel temporarily turned white and the large, brown rabbits grazing there ran for cover.

Wednesday, 26th April, 2017

What a strange day. Quite a chilly but sunny start. We had BREAKFAST. We had coffee and read the papers in leisurely style and then went down to the wine store to do our buying. Everywhere is quiet, from the tunnel crossing yesterday to the hotel and breakfast room to the supermarkets and the wine store. It is symptomatic of what is to come in the name the of ‘Little Englanders’.

We drove down to Cite Europe in strong, ‘hot’ sunshine. Having parked, found a euro to release our trolley and walked inside, a roar started to pound on the development’s glass roof. It was an almighty hail storm. The carpark became a sea of slushy, ice in minutes and, just as quickly, went back to sunny and dry.

Driving back to the hotel, the storm had left the trees like the church grounds in a post-wedding scene. Confetti everywhere looking lovely in the sunshine. We bought a snack for our meal which we took back to the hotel to watch the last PMQs on television. How awful is Theresa May? She and Corbin deserve each other. I look forward to the tussle over the Pension Triple Lock. Keep those annoying young buggers down. That’s my prospectus.

Thursday, 27th April, 2017

Mum in the early 1930s. 1923 – 2008

It is 9 years today since my Mum died. I can see her now, dead. It still haunts me although not as  much as it has. It is almost as concerning that 9 years have elapsed since that day. How can that be? She was months off being 85. She has been in my mind throughout the day and dancing across my memory’s cinema screen. Visions of good and bad times viewed through a misty lens and accompanied by a redolent tune – a Chopin Etude ( Tristesse) – evoking sadness of lost experiences. There is no reviving or escaping one’s past.

Just as always when she was celebrating something, I am abroad. We are preparing to leave France this morning through the Eurotunnel after finishing our shopping. Breakfast and checkout followed by a trip to Auchan to purchase food for our next few days.

Off to the terminal and a quick crossing of 30 mins. We drive out into sunshine and quiet roads. Isn’t going away almost inevitably a boost to returning home? Our newly adopted village looks so appealing in the light of new eyes. So many houses festooned with heavy racemes of wisteria. We are home by about 1.00 pm. Unload the car and stack boxes of wine in the garage and then a meal of prawns, crab and salad.

The plants on the patio need watering, the lawn needs cutting and the car needs cleaning but those things are for another day. Tonight, I am watching City v United and catching up on election news. Listened to a dreadful interview of Boris Johnson by John Humphries on Radio 4’s Today programme. Humphries allowed Johnson to bluster through and avoid answering questions while insinuating buffoonery and blatant electioneering unchecked. I am becoming increasingly concerned about the bias or incompetence of the BBC.

Friday, 28th April, 2017

I think it might have rained a little over night. The garden furniture looks damp. It can’t have been much because the grass is dry. We have had so little rain since we moved in here. I know it is becoming a concern for farmers and gardeners. Pauline has gone out to the Beauty Parlour to have a ‘facial’ whatever that means. I am left to do all the jobs. I’ve unstacked the dishwasher, watered the patio  plants, mowed the lawns and fed them. I will put the sprinklers on this afternoon when we get back from the gym.

We did a 90 mins. stint in the gym and pool today and I was exhausted at the end of it. The temperature reached 16C/61F as we swam outside in the pool. It’s been quite a busy and interesting week and I can feel the tiredness in my body. Going to fit another gym session in tomorrow. We have gone back to calorie counting and I need the exercise to allow me to eat. Today’s meal was smoked mackerel, prawns and tomato & cucumber salad. Absolutely delicious and well within my calorie allocation.

Saturday, 28th April, 2017

The problem with retirement after a busy working life is replacing the constant and built in motion of one’s previous days. I am very conscious of ‘sitting’ too much. I read my newspaper, use my iPad or computer, watch television or just sit and talk. Sedentary is a dangerous condition. As a result, I keep looking for ‘jobs’ to do to keep me moving. Today I have unstacked the dishwasher, vacuumed the entire house, valeted the car inside and out and then spent two hours in the Health Club. Although I have fulfilled my mission and done 13,000 paces, I can now barely walk!

It is a Bank Holiday weekend. I suspect that only means something to you if you are still working. It means absolutely nothing to us as long as the social facilities we use – shops and Health Club mainly – are still available and they are. All around us, families are making the most of the ‘long weekend’ with lawns being cut and barbecues being lit. The weather has been absolutely delightful and the temperature reached 17C/63F this afternoon. We ate Roast Salmon & Salad ( 500 cals.) accompanied by a delightful bottle of sparkling water.

Have you noticed how many people don’t eat at a dining table? Some children I taught thought that all meals were eaten with a plate on your knee in front of the television. Admittedly, we do have a TV in the Dining area of our kitchen but we have made it a rule to eat our meals at the Dining Table, to not eat in the Lounge or to drink alcohol in there either. We both feel much more comfortable eating and talking around a table than balancing plates on our knees. Call me old fashioned. Oh, you did!

Week 434

Sunday, 16th April, 2017

Happy new week. A nice, sunny morning although not over warm. I sat in the garden to read my newspaper although it is rather awkward mixing sun with an iPad screen. Pauline was in the kitchen preparing a leg of lamb with a herb crust to be slow-cooked and then to be eaten this afternoon. All around, families are out walking in the sunshine with kids on scooters and Dads in shorts. Time to stay at home and dream of Europe.

Bologna is too far to drive this afternoon but will be on our route this summer and I was looking for a nice hotel when I came up with this photo. It seems criminal that anywhere can be allowed to look this beautiful. We are hoping to stay in Genoa, Lucca, Bologna on the way out and Modena, Parma, Piacenza on the way back.

The intention is to drive to Italy via the South of France route stopping at Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin and then to return up the route we have used 30 or more times – the E35 past Milan and round Lakes Como, Lugano and Maggiore into Switzerland to Bellinzona and Lucerne on the way back calling at Mulhouse in Alsace. The planning is, of course, half the fun although I am struggling to make decisions about hotels this year which is why I keep going on about it.

Monday, 17th April, 2017

Picture from Chiswick House & Garden from Liz.

It’s 12C/54F here but feels chilly in the breeze. I received a text messager from my skinny, little sister – Lizzie Dripping – this morning suggesting that I resist driving through Europe this summer and take a Shearings coach tour to the Italian Lakes instead. She has clearly spent too much of her career working with old people.! Actually, we don’t really understand why the Italian Lakes are so prized. As destinations in themselves, they are fairly tawdry and fraying around the edges. To a previous generation who were unaccustomed to easy, European travel, they may have represented ‘refined abroad’ but we are stayed in hotels around the lakes en route to other destinations and not been over enamoured. We certainly haven’t enjoyed Swiss hotels at all.

Liz sent me this picture of a nesting duck in Chiswick House grounds. I received it while I was out shopping – for a 1.5 Tog Quilt. Our house is so hot, we are struggling to sleep. We went to our nearby Dunelm to buy a new Quilt. Just be chance as we were getting out of the car in their carpark, a beautiful, big, fat, brown rabbit casually loped by and browsed the grass and leaves. It seemed totally unconcerned by us as I frantically searched for my mobile phone to take a photo. By the time I found it, the rabbit, sensing that I am a roast rabbit fan, had begun to look for safety. This is the only reason that my photo is less composed that that from Liz.

Tuesday, 18th April, 2017

Gorgeous day of sunshine and blue sky. Spent the morning outside doing a full valet of the car. Went to the gym at 1.00 pm for a couple of hours. Worked out in an idle moment that we do about 50 Km each week which is reasonable. Wonder how much we did when we were working?

General Election in UK called even though it is not in the gift of the Prime Minister to call. It will become a re-run of the Brexit Referendum and a measure of how opinion has moved in the past few months. Many of us who would vote for an inanimate brick if it promised to vote against Brexit settlements, welcome this opportunity to make our voices heard. We will be looking for a grand electoral pact between Labour / Lib.Dems. / Greens / Scots. Nats. to force a re-think.The Tories could well have miscalculated and it will be our job to ensure they have! The election is dated June 8th. The best tweet of the day said,  June will see the end of May!

Wednesday, 19th April, 2017

A day which looks much nicer than it feels. Blue sky and sunshine over a temperature which was 4C/39F at 7.00 am and has only reached 11C/52F at mid-afternoon. We went out early to Worthing sea front to collect an order from M&S and then Pauline went on to the hairdressers. I sloped off to Café Nero for an hour’s people watching and coffee.

Last time we did this, I went to Costa Coffee but was very dissatisfied with it. The Wi-Fi was strong but the coffee was poor and the furniture was Spartan and uncleansed. The Café Nero  was even worse. The coffee was poor and the furniture was Spartan and uncleansed but the Wi-Fi was poor also. I will stay in Waitrose coffee shop next time.

The pound sterling appreciated this morning against the news of a General Election. It moved to £1.00 = €1.19 for the first time since the Brexit calamity. I took the chance to buy an extra £1000.00 of Euros from my Forex company. As I did so, I checked my transaction history and was surprised to find that I bought £3000.00 of euros in 2012 at a rate of £1.00 = €117.50. It just shows how these rates don’t move very far although not so many years ago, we were buying at £1.00 = €1.42 which would be nice to see now.

Thursday, 20th April, 2017

Cold start to a beautiful day. Blue sky, strong sun moving from 2C/36F to 15C/59F over the day. It was shopping day which meant visiting Asda, Sainsburys and Tescos as well as Argos and Wickes within the span of 2 hrs. As we drove home, we came across a couple of blue-lighted police cars and a large group of men standing on a traffic roundabout which featured a car on its roof. Later, we heard that an elderly motorist had hit the curb and flipped over on to the roundabout with the road being closed for over an hour.

After unpacking and relaxing with a cup of coffee as we digested the Labour Leader’s election presentation, we set off for the Health Club. The gym has been completely refurbished with new equipment after closure for a fortnight. It is really good. We did almost 2 hrs of exercise including swimming in the outdoor pool and it was almost 3hrs door to door as we arrived home.

Friday, 21st April, 2017

High notes from the Sea Bass.

The day starterd off grey but mild and went on to become bright, sunny and warm at 16C/61F. We went down to the beach to buy fish. The hut was crowded with customers which is always a good sign. Local Turbot, lovely, large, wild Sea Bass and locally caught Dover Sole (which seems a contradiction in terms) will feature on our plates over the next few days. The beach is just delightfully relaxing. Tourists could be seen wandering around with pots of Winkles and huge, fat gulls hung around hopefully.

We were supposed to be going to the Health Club but I was aching so much after yesterday that I ducked it at the last minute. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I go to the gym, my recovery period doesn’t seem to be improving. It’s annoying!

Saturday, 22nd April, 2017


Lovely, warm and sunny day that reached 15C/59F. After Breakfast, I decided to be decisive and book all the hotels on our European drive out and back. We will go:

Coquelles, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin, Genoa, Lucca, Bologna, Bellinzona, Mulhouse, Reims, Coquelles

over the month of July. I have used IHG hotels because their quality is reliable and I am a member but, where necessary, I have sourced additional hotels through Booking.com with whom I am also a member. Booking.com give me reductions on prices because of my membership and regular usage. IGH hotels give me points and I had enough to book 3 of the nights with breakfast free of charge which saved me over £300.00/€360.00.


Because we are going out down the Southern route – A6, A7, A43 – we will be visiting and exploring places we have never been to before like Genoa and Lucca. We will take our time and stay in each place for a number of nights so that we can explore neighbouring areas. For example, we will use Lucca as a base to explore Tuscany and, in doing so, explore places for long-term-let next year or even purchase.

We don’t want the large house that we had in Greece but a small apartment which we could use as a base for a few years would be interesting. Pauline describes it as an extended hotel room where we can cook and store our belongings. It is nice to have those options in our retirement. Actually, in the late 1970s and early 1980s when we were first travelling to Greece, we would both have preferred Italy but it was so expensive then. To buy or build a house would have been prohibitive. Not so now. In spite of the £/€ rate, prices are much more accessible in Italy now.

Week 433

Sunday, 9th April, 2017

Glorious mid-summer’s day that reached 23C/73F at its peak. We were out early for a walk along Littlehampton Marina. Lots of other people and their dogs seem to have had the same idea but we did an hour’s walking without too many obstacles. Everyone was taking advantage of the weekend and the lovely weather. On the water and on the beach people were making the most of it.

There seemed to be boats of all sorts moving out of the Marina and a flotilla of sail boats preparing for a ‘race’. Children starting on their school, Easter Holidays were out in force on scooters and being dragged behind pet dogs along the sunny promenade and line fishing for crabs with their Dads leaning over the rails down to the water. At 10.00 am, parents could be heard telling eager youngsters it was too early for ice creams and exhorting them to just enjoy the sunshine and wait.

We walked along the edge of the beach for 30 mins from Littlehampton towards Goring and then turned round and came back. All along the beach, small pockets of families were settling down for the day with picnics and towels. Small children were dashing excitedly in and out of the water. All those with fully developed brains were keenly avoiding the water all together. Thank goodness we no longer have to manage those exuberant and nascent psychologies .

At home, we did a couple of hours of gardening – trimming the lawn edges and cutting back and shaping up the hedges. All around us, the distinct smell of barbecues were drifting across the area. We had chosen an electric griddle outside to cook onion slices, mushrooms and fillet steaks. It produced the most delightful meal and a day to remember!

Monday, 10th April, 2017

A bit cooler than yesterday but lovely and sunny and reaching 16C/61F by early afternoon. We decided to do gardening rather than gym work today. I mowed the lawns, weeded the beds and finished clipping the hedges. Just finished as the bin men collected our garden refuse bin. Today, we have all three bins – Black ‘general’ waste, Green ‘recycle’ waste and brown ‘garden’ waste collected today. Next week, it will just be black. the service is fantastic and ‘nearly’ encourages me to recycle.

We went out to Worthing sea front to go to M&S and then on to Wilkos for some external varnish for our garden furniture. There were lots of tourists around in spite of the cooler temperatures.

We went on to buy bags of ornamental bark for top mulching the beds and we picked up some nice plants at the same time. The plants which are illustrated here lined up against the back lawn are:

  • Euonymus Japonica ‘Paloma Blanca’
  • Hebe ‘Purple Princess’
  • Laurus Nobilis aka Bay Tree x 2

Interestingly, we went in to one, upmarket garden centre and bought the midget Bay tree for £4.00 and then went on to a scruffier garden centre and bought the bigger Bay Tree for £4.00.

We were out and then home working from 9.00 am until 3.00 pm. By that time, I had easily done my 10,000 steps and was feeling very tired. Is it my age? It’s a worry!

Tuesday, 11th April, 2017

A lovely day that reached 16C/61F in our back garden. We tried to keep active this morning. We finished pruning the young hedging plants, planted out our recent purchases from local Garden Centres and top dressed with ornamental bark. It’s hardly Wisley RHS but it is a bit of fun. It’s also amazing how much time and energy it takes.

In Yorkshire, we had an acre of land to manage while holding down very demanding jobs. Weekends were spent doing all the housework and the gardening. In Greece, we had huge amounts of land to maintain although, being away half the year made it much more demanding. This house is just right for retired people who want to dabble but not take it too seriously or allow it to consume too much time. I am thinking of planting a couple of Brown Turkey Figs in a hot and sunny, sheltered part of the back garden. We loved them in our Greek garden and it would be an interesting challenge to get them fruiting in Sussex.

Had a huge session at the Health Club. The gym is being upgraded and all the equipment has been moved upstairs to the indoors tennis courts. It means that we have to exercise without the distraction of television. I thought it would be harder but soon got lost in my head and found 40 mins on the jogger had ended before I finished planning the next trip. We did 20 more mins on a cycle and then went in the Jacuzzi. I felt bad about skipping the outdoor pool but it is School Holidays and it looked as if CHILDREN might be allowed in to swim.

Wednesday, 12th April, 2017

A little cooler this morning at 10C/50F and will only get to 14C/57F. My breakfast consists of fresh orange juice, tea followed by fresh coffee. It is a liquid diet. It relies heavily on electricity and gadgets. The tea requires an electrical kettle; the coffee is produced by my dream machine coffee maker. The orange juice is spun out of an electric citrus press attached to a Kenwood Food Processor. Pauline already has a heavy duty Kenwood Chef  Mixer. It’s a bit big to lug out every morning just to juice a couple of oranges so she bought a light weight Processor. Today it failed. Actually, it has been temperamental for a few days and Pauline has even questioned the viability of some sockets in the kitchen. Today the machine made my orange juice and then died. (RIP in the bin.)

We both looked at each other and said, That didn’t last long. And we traced back when we bought it. It was then we realised that we bought it along with a sausage maker and a deep fat fryer using Pauline’s ‘Long Service’ award. I don’t know if it happens in other authorities but teachers in Oldham received an award of £200.00/€236.00 for completing 30 years continuous service at the LEA.  When all around us in industry were receiving large, annual bonuses, this seemed more like a patronising slap in the face than an award. People bought ironic items with the cash. My friend, Sam, bought a set of tyres for his car in the 1980s. Pauline bought kitchen equipment with hers in the 2003/4 school year. All the equipment was sent in the container to our Greek home.

So that Food Processor has only lived 13 years in two separate countries and 5 separate homes. They just don’t make things to last any more! Actually, it has proved impossible to replace speedily. Don’t tell the Brexiteers but we are going to replace it with a German one. The Bosch is the one Pauline has chosen and ordered for £109.99/€130.00.

Unfortunately, it will not be available for collection for another couple of days. I am going to have to squeeze my oranges MANUALLY! I won’t need to go to the gym.

A year ago, we moved in to our new house and proceeded to look round for a supplier and fitter of bedroom furniture. We found one called Betta Living. They came round, measured up and quoted us a price of just under £15,000.00/€17,700.00. We thought it was reasonable and agreed. They offered us a deal to not pay for a year and then pay off in full or pay back over 5 years by which time we would have paid nearer £30,000.00/€35,400.00. We asked if the price would be reduced for immediate settlement but were told not. It made sense to keep the cash in our bank rather than theirs and we accepted the arrangement. This week, we arranged to pay off the full amount. When we contacted the finance company, they sounded surprised we didn’t want to repay double the original figure.

Thursday, 13th April, 2017

Turned in to a lovely, warm day after a cool start. We actually reached 18C/65F in the afternoon. Pauline took advantage of it to wood-treat the out door furniture. She loves doing things like that and always does them well. I encourage it!

New House Building Everywhere.

The morning was exasperating because of the traffic on our shopping trip. The trend in UK nowadays is to eschew the once-a-week trip to one supermarket and to go many times for individual purchases instead. This has encouraged large chains to rein back on their building of superstores and to move to opening smaller, more ‘local’ branches.

During the recession, people have become more ‘savvy’ and less ‘loyal’ and have been researching products and prices – often with the aid of on-line devices like MySupermarket – and then visiting lots of different outlets with precise purchases in mind. This particularly appeals to parsimonious me who likes to find a bargain and then corner the market.

With that in mind, Thursday morning is no longer a trip to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop. Pauline has done the research and we are setting off for Asda (Bananas & Oranges), Sainsbury’s (Figs & Smoked Mackerel + Argos), Waitrose (Yoghurt) and Tesco (everything else). Even though it is school holidays and the roads should be quieter, the queues were dispiriting. The roads are being dug up everywhere for ‘services’ pipes to supply the new developments. Of course, everyone is up in arms about the pressures being put on the local infrastructure by these comers-in. I wonder how long it will be before we are up in arms about these comers-in! We’ll have to give it a day or two yet.

Friday, 14th April, 2017

I last saw Peter in 1971.

Well it’s started out as a lovely, sunny morning. I’m going to take advantage of that for mowing the lawns and cleaning the car. Yes, I know I’m being very daring but that’s me.

I am still getting very strange feelings about aging. A couple of days ago I viewed a Faceache page which contained a photo of a young man getting married in 1974. I last saw that young man 46 years ago at college and the memories were triggered and flooding through my mind. I was training to be a teacher. Peter was in my year but suddenly dropped out and I think went on to be a business man. No prizes for who made the right decision.

I last saw John in 2002.

Yesterday, like most days, I was reading the local newspapers from places where I’ve lived and worked. The Littlehampton Gazette gave way to the Derby Telegraph and then the Huddersfield Examiner followed by the Oldham Chronicle. Up popped this young man sitting in front of his class. John Fidler is 77 and has run the town’s Local History classes for at least 30 years. He was Head of History in my school and, like most historians, extremely enthusiastic. In John’s case, he had attended my school from its inception in 1951 – the year I was born. I am walking past the open door of his classroom now as his voice booms out across the centuries. Where has it all gone?

Saturday, 14th April, 2017

The day started off beautifully with lovely sunshine but most people around here missed it. It’s strange but they always seem to stay in bed at the weekends. We were up at 7.00 am as usual. By the time people in the neighbourhood started moving, the sun had gone and with a brisk, sea breeze, the temperature was a rather chilly 12C/54F.

I didn’t think there would be any post today but I got a very unusual delivery. It looked like a greetings card addressed to me and my birthday was last week. Actually, the card had part of our address on it but had ‘IRELAND’ printed ominously at the bottom. When I looked carefully at the envelope, the post code was BT6 which isn’t ours. I looked it up on the internet and it is the postcode for south Belfast.

Of course, the card was from my lovely, old sister who lives in the North of England. Belfast / Sussex – They’re easy to confuse when you’re nearly 70! Still, it is the thought that counts and she did take the trouble to go out and buy me a card which is lovely. I may decide to have my birthday on April 15th in future.

Week 432

 Sunday, 2nd April, 2017

Lovely day under a strong sun. We sat out in the garden soaking up the sunshine and discussing the events of the weeks and months to come. It was lovely. Let’s hope it lasts.

This Tory government is hell bent on reducing the size of the State through consistently cutting funding while insisting it is increasing it. Some of this is direct.

  • Take my old profession in education. Not only have they not been training enough teachers but they have cut salaries by holding them below inflation and are now cutting funding to the institutions themselves so that many are asking parents for voluntary contributions, raising class sizes, and failing to employ enough support staff. Now everyone is shocked to find that there is a staffing shortage.
  • The Health Service which received primacy under the last Labour government with boosted funding, managed to achieve excellently short waiting times and good staffing levels. Under a smoke screen of ‘increased headline funding’, the Tories are steadily dismantling it by not funding Social Care adequately which results in the Hospitals becoming blocked and now leads to essential surgery being rationed and A&E waits of many, many hours.
  • The transport system is performing on pot hole ridden roads which Local Authorities don’t have the cash to repair.
  • The prison service is in chaos because of the lack of new buildings and the desperate shortage of staff to run them.
  • The military are a vanishing breed. Constantly cut back, we wouldn’t be able to defend Gibraltar if we wanted to.

A mutilated NHS, a crippled police force, divided schools and a vulnerable military. This attack on the state is an attack on each and every one of us. You need look no further for a reason for this government embracing Brexit so enthusiastically. It is the biggest smokescreen ever!

Monday, 3rd April, 2017

Pauline and I last went to work on this day in 2009. We have really enjoyed our first 8 years of retirement and look forward to many more. Of course, regular readers will know that I only have 11 years left but Pauline will go on and on.

It is chilly here today – just 11C/52F – with sea mist rolling in. Had to go out early to the Physiotherapist in Littlehampton. I’ve been having help with a long standing shoulder problem. Fortunately, after ignoring it for twelve months, two sessions at the Physio have almost cleared it up. Should have addressed it earlier.

RIP F/B Agios Giorgos

Sad to hear of the death of an old friend over the past couple of weeks. It is funny how travellers become attached to modes of transport. We certainly loved the  F/b άγιος-γέωργιος / Agios-Georgios. We travelled on it for years. It was noisy, dirty and slow but we loved it – after a fashion. It took 5 hrs 30 mins from Piraeus to Sifnos but it was cheap and would take our car easily. Last week, it was towed away to a Turkish scrap yard. She was 45 old and had been superseded by much faster craft. Zante Ferries and Aegean Speedlines are the new kids on the block, each currently doing it in just over 4 hrs.. Of course, we started travelling to Sifnos at the beginning of the 1980s – before most of you were born – and the F/b Ionion did that route in tandem with the F/b Kimolos. They fell off the conveyor belt into the ferry grave yard long ago. So farewell and many thanks to F/b Agios-Georgios.

Tuesday, 4th April, 2017

Another disappointing day weather-wise. It’s reasonably warm but grey and started off damp. At least it saved me watering the pots outside. The tarragon has been transformed from a stump of dry sticks to a verdant plant. It is now growing urgently and I measure its progress against the courses of bricks in the garage wall. It has been overwintering there along with the little olive tree P&C gave us which is waiting to be planted out in our main, olive grove.

We have to balance what we can reasonably grow in pots around the patio with the time we are planning to be away this year and what we can justifiably ask our neighbours to water for us. We have booked a short, French trip in the next, few weeks and are still tying up the arrangements for the summer. We expect to be away for quite a few weeks and we must get our bookings completed soon.

€1500.00 on the kitchen table looks nothing.

For a number of years, I have monitored the fluctuations of the £/€ exchange rate. I have apps on my smartphone, my iPad and my Desktop. I check them regularly – sometimes 3 or 4 times each day. It started back in 2000 when we were building our Greek house and paying for land, materials and labour by sending money in Sterling and having in converted into Drachmas and, subsequently, Euros. The exchange rate, of course, made a big difference to the costs and I was always sensitive to its fluctuations.  Again, when we were selling the house, picking the right time to ‘complete’ the transaction and to send the proceeds back to UK was also a sensitive event.

I got in the habit of using a couple of tradex companies who offered useful facilities and beneficial exchange rates. The International Currency Exchange (ICE) and Moneycorp were invaluable when we were dealing in hundreds of thousands of pounds. Yesterday, there was a brief uptick in the market and I bought £1500.00 at £1.00 = €115.00 to add to some we already had. I bought it through Tesco Bank. Today, the rate had already slipped back to £1.00 = €113.50. Although these are small differences, they can make quite a large difference eventually. I will continue to monitor and buy more according to events. There is talk of Sterling being undervalued and likely to rise considerably towards year end but we can’t wait for that.

Wednesday, 5th April, 2017

Car Emissions stickers from the Frogs!

It is a glorious morning of blue sky and strong sun for my last day of being 65. To acknowledge that fact, the French government have written to me. As you know, the world has gone mad over air quality and emissions standards. Goodness knows why. The air down here on the Cote de Brighton is wonderful. If someone is mad enough to live in Central London, that’s their look out! However, as you also know, we all hate the French and here is another justification. If you intend to drive on French roads – and why wouldn’t you? They are the best bit of the French. – you have to display an emissions sticker on your car windscreen. Where can you get it? From the French government and pay for the privilege. If caught without one, you risk a hefty fine of £116.00/€135.00 to be paid to…… the French government. Who would be their favourite people to fine …. Brexiteers aka the British public!

We went to Worthing for some shopping. The view from the multi-storey carpark is always wonderful and today was no exception. Pity about those off shore wind turbines polluting the skyline. You can blame The Greens for that!

A trip to M&S led to a walk on the beach. It may be full of stones but it is quite delightful. In this period between holiday periods, the area is pleasantly quiet. We spent a couple of hours walking and then drove home for coffee.

At 1.00 pm, we left for the David Lloyd Health Club. We have been working hard to extend our exercise routine. We now do

  • 40 mins. on the jogging machine,
  • 20 mins. on the exercise bike,
  • 10 mins on dumbells,
  • 30 mins in the outdoor pool.

We relax with

  • 20  mins. in the Jacuzzi and Sauna.

My watch was intended to record 10,000 steps per day. I am easily exceeding that. Today, I completed more than 17,000 paces and, in the gym alone, completed 8.5 kilometres.

After the Health Club visit which we manage at least 4 times per week, I feel fitter and cleaner but my figure and weight don’t seem to be improving which is a bit disheartening.

Thursday, 6th April, 2017

Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday old bugger.
Happy …. 66th!

Well someone’s got to sing it. I did get a card from P&C who are really the only people old enough to remember what Birthday cards and snail mail is. It made me smile, particularly the text on the back which read, Whatever you do, always try to look on the bright side. How can I do that with Brexit? Now, I’m going out to Tesco to celebrate.

Throughout my working life, my wife insisted that I wear ‘nice’ aftershave. She bought me Channel pour Homme and insisted I use it because she liked it. I convinced myself, for the sake of a quiet life, that I liked it too. It cost a small fortune and that thought hurt me every morning when I splashed it on. Today, if I bought a bottle, it would cost me £50.13/€59.00 every two months.When I retired and thought about economising, I searched around for an alternative.

In Boots, I spotted an aftershave which was attractively priced at £2.99/€3.50. I bought some, loved it and have never looked back. I dread to think how much I’ve saved over the past 8 years. Actually, I’ll work it out later.

Actually, I have saved about £2,260.00 while using an aftershave I prefer.If you add to that my saving on haircuts which my wife has provided for the past 40 years, you would think I would be rich. What went wrong?

It has been a lovely day. Blue sky and bright sunshine in which we reached 19C/66F. After shopping, I cut the lawns and cleaned the car inside and out. Pauline cooked Calamari and Greek Salad out in the garden which was delightful.

I received many Birthday wishes on Facebook and even ‘conversed’ with my brother, Bob, on that platform. He and I haven’t had a meaningful conversation for almost 50 years and it was nice to feel our way back in to a relationship.

Friday, 7th April, 2017

A gorgeous day which touched 19C/66F at mid afternoon. We set off for Surrey to visit P&C and help them out with their new, ‘Smart TV’ by connecting it wirelessly to the internet and making sure they could access the apps. P has got to grips with it very quickly for such an old person. She has already worked out how to record programmes and recall and play them. She didn’t seem fazed by switching between her Freeview box and her Wi-Fi Smartscreen. This is impressive for a lady of 98. She can now save one programme while watching another and search out a past programme to download and watch. All she needs to do now is to live long enough to watch them all!

Our drive through the Sussex countryside was fabulous and was only marred by entering the M25 which was all but stationary. Amazing amount of dead wildlife at the roadside as we drove. Why anyone needs to gas badgers beats me. We must have seen 6 or 7 each way dead by the roadside. Driving back, we hit another traffic jam as we got to Littlehampton. A 3-car pile up at ‘going home’ time left tired motorists at the end of their working week and desperate to get home to enjoy the lovely weather with their families, stuck inside the cars and fuming.

Nice to see that Corbyn’s Labour Party has found some policies that many could coalesce around.

  • The proposal to put VAT on private education fees is the least they should do. This should be linked to the removal of Charitable Status.
  • The intention to launch a new, Council House building programme as a priority.
  • The proposal to end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS, integrating the NHS and social care for older and disabled people.

With a more professional leader, they could actually make a difference.

Saturday, 8th April, 2017

Glorious day that has reached 22C/70F in our garden. This morning, we chose to go out and drove the couple of miles to Goring Beach to enjoy the sea air. It was delicious and, surprisingly, reasonably quiet. These young people just can’t keep up. We walked for about an hour in the sunshine and then drove home to sit in the sun in the garden. Mustn’t have too much sun!

We sat out in the garden for a couple of hours with an icy bottle of Pinot Grigio and talked through our plans. We have been having a problem actually committing to specific bookings for our Europe drive and we have resolved to do it this weekend. It is strange but decisions seem harder this year now we are so settled in our new home.

As it is a year since we left our Duplex Apartment in Maybury, Woking, we know that communal living was never going to be for us. We are unlikely to do it again. After we had sold, we learned about a ‘killer clause’ in our contract which neither we, our solicitor, our buyer or her solicitor noticed. The leasehold ground rent was set to double every 10 years. If we had stayed 30 years, we would have been paying £16,000.00 per year just in ground rent and trying to sell on to someone who would be expected to find £32,000.00 per year after 10 years. If they stayed 20 years and sold on, the next owners would be expected to pay an eye watering £64,000.00 per year just for ground rent. It was only as another resident was selling 6 months after we left that this killer clause was discovered. This was at exactly the same time that this subject was hitting the press and becoming widely reported. We were lucky enough to almost double our money over five years of ownership but we certainly wouldn’t have done if we had known then what we know now. Thank goodness that we have a freehold property again.

Painting the white lines on Sifnos

Of course, for those of a religious or cultural bent, the Easter celebrations are imminent. Our supermarkets having been pushing it for weeks. In Greece, television will have been saturated with Easter, Easter, Easter for the past few weeks and, now, the obligatory film of the Athens meat market will be run illustrating the price of lamb carcasses. On the Cycladic islands, the ‘clean up’ of the beaches a couple of weeks ago has now been followed by the women painting the ‘white line’ decoration between the paving stones. This is done all round the island each year. Anything to get the tourists. Over this week, farmers will slaughter and bag up in white, shroud-like bags whole lamb carcasses for delivery or collection to be spit-roasted on Easter Saturday evening or Easter Sunday morning. In solidarity, we’ve bought a leg of lamb from Tesco.