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.

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