Week 440

Sunday, 28th May, 2017

I love driving. I can drive all day quite happily. Indeed, we are going to spend July driving in Europe. The ghastly state of Britain’s motorways and the frustrations they engender makes them incredibly tiring. We only had 4 hours sleep on Friday night and then did 7 hours driving on Saturday morning. We were in bed for just about midnight and allowed ourselves a leisurely ‘get-up’ this morning. Rising at 8.00 am felt scandalous but it was a one off indulgence.

The day was very humid and warm although not consistently sunny. In fact, just as we set up to cook outside this afternoon, we had a clap of thunder and a brief downpour. I’m sure the garden was more happy with that than we were. I am troubled today. The faces of my siblings are floating across my head’s cine screen. Past and Present meshes and clashes in the kinetic imagination along with Regrets and Possibilities.

It was lovely to see Bob and put my arm round him for the first time in so many years. We shared a bedroom for 18 years and I was transported back there by his face. His ingenuity and inventiveness gave me more than he knows. I was shocked to find he wears hearing aids. I was even more shocked to learn that quite a few of my siblings have hearing problems. For a number of years, I have been aware that, when I lie on my right side in bed, the radio sound is extremely muffled. I am not deaf in my left ear but my hearing is impaired. Of course, I am also almost blind in my left eye. Mum suffered from terrible tinnitus in later life. If you didn’t believe in Genetics you should take note. You heard it here first – if you’re not a deaf Sanders!

Monday, 29th May, 2017

Spectacular Thunder and Lightning storm between Midnight and 2.00 am this morning and an uncomfortably humid night. There were over 500 lightning strikes over our region last night.

Today has been sticky hot with plenty of sunshine and occasional bouts of light rain. I managed to mow and feed the lawns in sunshine and then retreat to my newspaper when it rained. I also enjoyed watching Huddersfield Town win promotion to the Premier League by beating Reading in the playoff final this afternoon. Back to the gym tomorrow.

Tuesday, 30th May, 2017

Grey but warm today. At 7.00 am we are seeing 16C/61F but no sun. We are going to the gym later but I have to catch up on correspondence first. Skinny Lizzy has written to me twice since Friday and I haven’t replied yet. Must say thank you to Brian for his hospitality.

Ruth seems to have got it into her head that I am a creature of habit. If only life were that simple. I have always embraced the new, the innovative, the change agent. I have always been an ‘early adopter’ of new technology. I bought the first computers for my school, I was the first to buy, teach myself and then teach others how to use the BBC Computer 35 years ago. I introduced my colleagues to the internet 25 years ago when it was just text-based and felt the waves of scepticism and fear come back from them. I designed and launched an early, institution-wide intranet before most people knew what they were.

Totally Unacceptable!

I have tried never to stand still for too long. I suppose you could call that a habit – moving house seven times (so far) in our married life, building and living abroad, etc. could hardly be characterised as set in one’s ways but I would concede that I do have a ‘habitual’ element to my character. Pauline has always called me low level Aspergic (She calls me low level many things but that is the nicest!) because of my need to line things up, balance light switches on/off, keep every where very tidy, etc. I also like to have routines in my day. There are things I always do – get up at 7.00 am and go to bed at midnight, for example. My diet has led me to regulated food types and eating times. For me, they are coping mechanisms which (D) will find useful when he takes the pledge.

I am an inveterate recorder and planner. I keep spreadsheet records of my weight, blood pressure, INR, etc. I have spreadsheets  recording electricity, gas and water use. Pauline maintains precise, financial records. We have done this all our married life. In some respects, the Blog is just an extension of this documentary habit. To some people, like Michael, recording and sharing one’s life with others is anathema. I have the confidence to know and acknowledge I am weird and share that fact with others for their amusement. I do have some guilty secrets but I’m not telling you!

I’m going out now to buy another gadget to help my plants cope while we are away. I’m going to fit a digital timer to a water spray system in my back garden to water the pots once or twice per day to avoid putting that responsibility on our neighbours. I had three or four of these in our Greek garden but didn’t see fit to repatriate them. This one from Screwfix is under £20.00 and will do the job easily.

Wednesday, 31st May, 2017

Well, May has gone out on a cracker – in more senses than one. Today has been warm and very sunny throughout the day – 22C/70F at mid day. Tonight is a hot and sticky 18C/65F. We’ve done a good session at the Health Club and even managed to do our swim although still indoors. We were certainly tired at the end of our session which last over 2 hours.

Our local farm which is about a mile away has already opened its Pick-Your-Own service with broad beans, onions, rhubarb and strawberries already available. We are forecast to have lovely weather for the next week or so and we will almost certainly have a trip to the farm to gorge on strawberries although not until we’ve paid for them, of course.

Thursday, 1st June, 2017


 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the new month and the official beginning of Summer 2017. In spite of the fact that it feels like Summer arrived quite some time ago, the official start has been celebrated with lovely warm sun and blue skies with a temperature of 23C/73F.

The weather is particularly appropriate for our next door neighbours who are driving up to Buckingham Palace for a Garden Party. I received a text while we were shopping in Worthing asking if we would take their photo just before they left home this afternoon. I made it back in time to do just that and record the event below. Gill’s only problem was that, having got the hat fixed on, could she wear it in the car for a couple of hours and not have to fix it all over again in the Buckingham Palace loo. She emailed later that they had loved the event, the weather and the food. I don’t know if they managed to meet the Queen. Rather them than me!

We were involved in more prosaic events of our own – cutting and shaping hedges, mowing and edging lawns and watering pot plants. This is the most delightful place to live in the sunshine.

Friday, 2nd June, 2017

A warm leading to hot day that reached 27C/81F in the shade. We have both been feeling a little under the weather for a couple of days – tired and lethargic. Yesterday, I experienced background chest pains and again first thing this morning. I thought I had pulled a muscle. Pauline thinks it might be a chest infection. We have both had lingering, background head colds for a week or so. I Googled Angina Symptoms but Pauline pointed out that hearts are on the left whereas my pains were on the centre right. Biology has never been my strong point.

Saturday, 3rd June, 2017

Delightfully sunny day that reached 22C/70F at mid day. We were tired this morning because we had been up at 3.30 am. Do you know how light it is at that time in the morning in June? Very light. Our neighbour’s burglar alarm went off and I decided I must go and check the house. All the doors, windows and back garden gate were locked. By the time I had checked, the street was populated by half-dressed neighbours coming out to check. The people from the house where the alarm had been triggered were away but we had their mobile number and texted them. Fortunately, the alarm cut off after 30 mins and we made a cup of tea and then went back to bed.

We relaxed outside in the sunshine this morning entertained by a troupe of newly fledged starlings taking some of their first flights and landing clumsily on our fence top before inspecting the lawn for grubs. The grass is looking particularly good at the moment and perfect for a starling-diner.

Catherine has asked me about pictures of Ruth’s Mum. I must admit, I have never seen one. I wonder if cousin (D) has. After all, he is very old! I must scan in and circulate all the family photos that I have.

We had a wonderful session in an almost deserted Health Club this afternoon and I was surprised to find that I have lost 4lbs since my last trip there on Thursday. No wonder that I’ve been feeling so starving all the time!

Week 439

Sunday, 21st May, 2017

What a wonderful day! I suppose it was all over UK but here we had blue, cloudless skies from Dawn until Dusk with lovely warmth reaching 21C/70F. No workout today. We even sat outside in the sunshine with coffee and newspapers.

Tomorrow is the deadline for registering to vote in the General Election. There are still so many people who have not and, probably, will not get a vote. I find it so hard to believe. I couldn’t wait to vote in my first General Election. In 1969, the voter age was reduced from 21 to 18. I would like to see it reduced to 16. My first vote was in June 1970 when the country made the mistake of electing Tories and Edward Heath. He was in power for just over 3 years and presided over the oil price hike and petrol shortages accompanied by the miners’ strike and the power blackouts. Fortunately, we had another chance to vote in February 1974 when Heath thought he would have his position strengthened but found himself replaced by dear old Harold Wilson from Huddersfield. Heath went on to sulk for ever! Wilson went on to embrace the White Heat of Technology! I had a third chance to vote when Wilson called a snap election just 8 months later when he secured the massive majority of 3.

Wilson sadly retired as he developed the first signs of dementia and James Callaghan took over before losing to THATCHER in May, 1979. So, excitingly, I had the chance to vote and change things in UK four times in the first decade that I was eligible. The Scottish Independence Referendum campaign was so invigorating for the Scots, it would be great to engender that appetite for change in UK elections.

Monday, 22nd May, 2017

If days can get more wonderful than this, I want to see them. The sky was blue; the sun was strong; the temperature reached 26C/79F and all was well with the world.

Strong & Stable (Not!)

We went shopping and then I cut the lawns, watered and fed all the herbs in pots before setting off for the Health Club. We had been told that the outdoor pool would be closed for repair and refurbishment but the work was only just about to get under way and we were able to do a last outdoor swim under sunny skies before the pool was drained. It was delightful. By the time we got home, I had completed 16,000 paces and was ready for roast salmon with pesto topping and salad.

The day had started on a bounce as strong & stable May had proved anything but by changing her manifesto promise of 4 days ago after being told how upsetting it was for her core supporters. You can’t get more strong and stable than that. It is almost unprecedented in modern election politics. The Labour Party did exactly what I wanted them to by announcing the cancelling of University Student Fees from the new academic year thus aggressively fishing for the youth vote hours before voter registration closed. Isn’t politics exciting?

Tuesday, 23rd May, 2017

Lovely day which I spent gardening in the morning, trimming hedges, watering lawns, cutting edges. We went off to the Health Club for a couple of hours and then came home to cook our meal outside in the garden. I was in charge of griddled courgettes, mushrooms and shallots with chicken thighs which had been marinated in garlic and tarragon.

The News and newspapers have been wall-to-wall Manchester Bombing but I did notice in The Independent that Jane BG has been working her magic again. They reported under this heading: India cancels plans for huge coal power stations as solar energy prices hit record low that the cost of solar power in India had been in free fall against the cost of coal. That is when people should consider moving to renewables. We shouldn’t be hurting ourselves economically to do it but, rationally selecting the cheapest option. I still don’t understand why it cannot be made mandatory for all new property’s roofs to be constructed of solar power generating materials. On that scale, it would soon become cost effective.

Wednesday, 24th May, 2017

Gorgeous, gorgeous day which was sunshine all the way and peaked at 26C/79F. We had to do our weekly shop today because we are going to leave for a short pilgrimage to Yorkshire tomorrow. I put the water sprinklers on the lawns for a couple of hours and then we went off to the Health Club for our third, consecutive session of workout. Unfortunately, today we were not able to swim. The closure of the outdoor pool has started to show its true impact. Swimming classes filled the two, indoor pools so we gave it up as a bad job and basked in the Jacuzzi and Sauna.

The Weak & Wobbly.

The Manchester bombing has given May the chance to play the ‘firm smack of leadership’ card so I am pleased that Corbyn has declared hostilities reopen from Friday. He was just building up a head of steam as May was floundering in ‘U-turns’. This momentum has to be quickly re-established. I got one piece of election literature for the local election and that was from the Tories. When I confronted the others at the Poll Booth, they pleaded lack of funds. In this national ballot, I have received just one piece of literature. Guess who from.

What Nick Herbert has omitted to point out is that, only a week ago, he belonged to a party who pledged to take your house away and deplete your savings down to the last £100,000.00. It doesn’t matter that you have scrimped and saved to shore up your finances against future disasters. As soon as signs of dissent appeared, May insisted she never really meant it. There was always going to be a ‘cap’ and it was always going out for discussion anyway. NOTHING HAS CHANGED, Don’t Panic! NOTHING HAS CHANGED, Don’t Panic! – apart from that! This is duplicitous politics at its worst.

Of course, it followed the Hammond U-turn disaster. Careful-as-he-goes, Philip Hammond jumped recklessly into a policy of raising National Insurance charges (basically, a tax) which went down like a lead balloon and had to be reversed within days with the mantra of ‘the listening government’. Unfortunately, it was listening to the wrong people.

Thursday, 25th May, 2017

A hot and sultry night has given way to a very hot morning. By 7.00 am, I was outside watering potted plants and giving them a good talking to, telling them that we are going to Yorkshire and that they had to look after themselves for a few days. Bags are packed and everything else done. We are setting off early in order to have enough time to visit as many people as we can.

This morning feels like a ‘Sifnos’ one. The people of Sifnos, on the other hand, are feeling a different heat. The Greek government has passed through harsh, new measures on tax and pensions only to find their optimism dashed once again as a bailout tranche is denied them. New charging for water is adding to the pressure on outgoings and I’m told that they are currently worrying about ferry services in the winter which are uneconomic in a time of essential economies.

As we left Sussex at 9.30 am, the temperature read 25C/77F and, after driving through the fringes of the Sussex Downs, we crossed into Surrey to the temperature of 26C/79F. The Yorkshire border brought 27C/81F and, when we stepped out of the car in Brighouse, we thought we were in Southern Europe. It had taken a rather frustrating 6.5 hrs with problems on M25 and M1 holding us up and slowing us down. It’s almost impossible to enjoy a drive across UK any more. The fact that the weather outside was for enjoying and we were trapped in a metal box did add to the frustration.

Friday, 26th May, 2017

It’s a hard life!

A hot night has given way to another hot day which read 27C/81F on Marsden Moor at mid day. After BREAKFAST, we drove over to Royton to visit my old colleague and good friend, Brian. It was a lovely visit and we talked non-stop for a couple of hours before driving back to Huddersfield by crossing Marsden Moor basking in baking, hot sun. The moors always look so Greek in this weather.

After leaving Brian, we drove a ‘Memory’ tour through Meltham and Helme, stopping to gaze on those-we-have-known. The nice thing is that memories are not all they’re cracked up to be. Yorkshire and its stone properties and the Moors and their stark desolation are just that – memories which soften and fade with time.

Ruth ‘holding’ me – before I started at the gym!

This evening, we are going out to help Ruth celebrate her 70th birthday. This is more about me than her. I’ve got a 70 yr old sister!!! Fortunately, I’m still quite young really. Let you know how it goes later in the evening.

I was a post-war baby brought up on food rationing and coupons. Look how huge I was as a baby. Suet Pudding, Jam Roly Poly, lots of bread & butter, home made cakes and pastries were the staples that have given me a life long weight problem.

Ruth did well by managing to gather under one roof for a few hours quite a few of my siblings – Bob, Jane, Catherine, Liz and Michael – which was no mean feat. It was certainly a very interesting experience. It was almost like having all my own weaknesses and strengths reflected back to me. I could really sense that I was in them and that they were very much in me. When Catherine approached and spoke, I saw my Mother more strongly than I have done in 30 years. When Liz giggled, I was transported back 50 years sitting in our family dining room. Ruth, who is very gregarious and active, looked very happy with her own family and friends around her and she deserved that. Her girls and their children are quite delightful. I couldn’t stop telling anyone who would listen that the last time I saw Karen, who is now 42, was in her plastic pants and nothing else shuffling around the lounge floor before she could walk.

I also met one of my cousins and his lovely wife. My cousin (D) preceded me at the Grammar School my Dad and I both attended but had left before I got there – so he is obviously very old. I think I have seen him twice in the past 40 years. His wife assures me I have met her before but my terrible memory denied that. She is a delightful lady who has a lot to put up with. I suspect (D) has some of my stubbornness (Doesn’t that look an awkward word?) and, instead of taking his wife’s advice, has to arrive at his own solution.

In essence, (D) needs to lose weight if he wants to live another 15 years with his lovely wife. The trouble is, he has lived with this weight problem for so long that changing it looks an impossible task and he feels it is too late to try. If he did, he would quickly find that quite the reverse is the case and he would come to relish the achievement. There are very few things really left to achieve in retirement but this is one rewarding goal.

Saturday, 27th May, 2017

We got back to the Hotel this morning at about 1.00 am and were in bed for 2.00 am. The alarm went at 6.00 am on a hot and sultry morning and we were on the motorway by 8.30 am. The M62 and the subsequent M1 were both lovely to drive this morning but, having got on to the M25, we began to crawl at an effective 15 mph for a couple of hours. As soon as we got off the M25, our trip down through the Surrey Hills and the fringes of the Sussex Downs was quick and delightful. I estimated we would get home for 1.00 pm but it was 3.30 pm before we actually made it. 7 hours is a crazy time to take for that journey.

The Labour Party have been soundly condemned for advancing views about Terrorism, its causes and prevention in the course of fighting the election. The Tories, meanwhile, have done exactly that in the guise of ‘strong government’. Polls this weekend show the Tory lead cut from 25% at the outset to just 6% now. Although this may be illusory, transitory or a ‘blip’, the Tories are wobbling. The Times cartoon today encapsulates this position neatly.

Week 438

Sunday, 14th May, 2017

What a glorious morning. The garden and patio are bathed in hot sunshine. The increasing collection of herb pots is visibly reaching to the warm light. We’ve planted out the basil today – a mixture of large leaf, Italian sweet basil and small leaved, Greek basil. We are not going to get frosts but whether it is warm enough for basil to prosper yet is debatable. Today, we are only touching 17C/63F so we will see.

Just watched a dispiriting United performance against Spurs in the last game ever at White Hart Lane after 118 years. Although Rooney was the last scorer of a goal there, his performance over all was poor. Hull were relegated yesterday. Hull is one dismal place – home to Prescott, the Poison Dwarf and a relegated football team accompanied by high unemployment statistics and extreme poverty levels. Can’t decide which is worse. Lovely bridge, though.

Monday, 15th May, 2017

Warm but wet this morning although the light rain stopped as we left the house at 9.30 am in 17C/63F. We drove to Worthing to return ‘stuff’ to M&S, walked across town to the sea front store. The town looks shabby and many of its inhabitants rather ‘on the edge’. We drove back to Littlehampton calling at Sainsbury’s and Argos, Tesco and Wickes. We got home 4 hours after we had set out and I had done 7000 paces already.

After a drink, we set off for the Health Club and did a couple of hours by which time my paces count had reached 14,000 and we were both absolutely done in. Roast salmon and salad for our meal and then relaxation. I was catching up on reading – newspapers English and Greek, Blogs English and Greek. Things are looking badly wrong for Greece again with sentiment moving them back towards the exit door.

As Syriza is forced to contemplate doing what they came to power pledging they would never do – legislate to impose harsh austerity measures, so the hard-pressed population is reacting. There will be a general Strike on Wednesday although ferry boats will be out of action for Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’ve booked an island holiday beginning or ending on those two days, tough. If you’re stuck in Athens, site-seeing may be hindered by Strikes of buses until the weekend and don’t get ill because the action will also affect hospitals.

Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, trumpets: Greek economy slides back into recession. The Guardian in Britain says: ‘From bad to worse’: Greece hurtles towards a final reckoning. They argue that agreement between the Greek government and its creditors is stalling and the population have given up hope of a resolution. They conclude:

Even if the latest impasse is broken and a deal is reached with creditors soon, few believe that in a country of weak governance and institutions it will be easy to enforce. Political turbulence will almost certainly beckon; the prospect of “Grexit” will grow.

What should be most worrying for the country is the prospect of nationwide strike action harming the golden goose as services which directly affect the tourist industry are affected.

Tuesday, 16th May, 2017

Here it has been sunny, hot and humid. At 7.00 am it was 17C/63F and by mid-afternoon it was 23C/73F. I cut the lawns in strong sun and we did a full exercise routine which finished with a lovely swim outside. For the second, consecutive day, I easily achieved 14,000 paces. I even vacuumed the house when we got home and griddled chicken and courgettes in the garden for our meal.

It feels as if we have been active all day again which is more than can be said for Greek seamen. Their strike has been extended until Saturday. The islands are cut off and any tourists on them stranded. The weather in the Cyclades has been gale-force winds at Beaufort 8 which makes the seamen’s strike seem opportune but can’t be helping the tourist trade. Imagine you flew out to Athens for a week expecting to catch an island ferry. You will now be stuck in Athens with strike action paralysing that city too.

Wednesday, 17th May, 2017

A warm and muggy day that saw some much-needed rain. We had quite a few jobs to do today and decided to give our aching bodies a day off in order to do them. It is one of the joys of self determination in retirement. We are well in to our 9th year of retirement and have packed an enormous amount in to our first 8 years. Two sets of our friends, married couples who are of broadly similar ages to us are just  embarking on retirement now. We reflect how lucky we have been to stop working early in good enough health to enjoy it.

We have been looking at Canary islands for a month away in November. Having done 3 months in Tenerife last year, we have been casting around for a different one. The only other that we have direct experience of is Fuerteventura which we stayed on over 20 years ago. We have been struggling to find a really good hotel with all the facilities we want and, preferably, adults-only. We think we’ve found one but back on Tenerife in Los Cristianos which is busier than we would normally choose but is an adults-only hotel which should be quieter and more ‘select’.

We are hoping to make a decision tomorrow which will virtually tie up the rest of this calendar year. We were reflecting on how quickly 2017 is already disappearing. By the time we get back from Tenerife, Christmas will be upon us and the year will be all but over. And then came 2019!

Thursday, 18th May, 2017

Honda DAB/FM Radio/ CD / Bluetooth Mobile / Internet / Sat. Nav.

No sooner are drought conditions mooted than it rains …. and rains. Today is warm and wet. The lawns are looking more emerald green than ever. The atmosphere is humid and the plants outside appear to double in size each day. Honda phoned this morning to say our new media/comms. unit was ready for fitting. We will go in tomorrow for that and to have our Year 1 Service done. Both jobs will take a couple of hours so, instead of a ‘Courtesy Car’, we will take our iPads and relax with Honda coffee. Everything is ‘free’. We have a 5 Year Service Agreement with the car and a 5 Year Warranty on everything to do with the car. Our Sat.Nav. is almost the first thing to go wrong in the past 30 years.

We are definitely getting fitter. We did another strong, 90 mins workout in the gym culminating with 30 mins in the outside pool under warm, gentle rain. It felt wonderful and I could have done it all again.

Friday, 19th May, 2017

Out early this morning on a bright and fairly warm start to the day. Had to be at the Honda Dealership for 8.30 am to have our First Service which comes at 12,000 miles or 12 months which ever is first. We are a couple of weeks off the first anniversary and have only done 5,800 miles but our media/comms. unit was being replaced so we killed two birds with one stone. It was needed for 2 hours and, rather than taking out a courtesy car and going through the rigmarole of transferring our insurance, we sat with a lovely pot of fresh coffee and our iPads using the garage’s Wi-Fi and reading our newspapers.

It was soon done and we were on our way but the weather changed and the heavens opened. Honda give us a complimentary valet but the rain soon washed every inch of the car and left it sparkling. Honda reset all the radio presets for us. We have DAB, FM and Longwave. We have been told for ages that FM was going but DAB reception is still a little flaky in some places whereas Longwave is still the best bet to pick up the cricket commentary on Testmatch Special while driving in France. Now we have to redo all our Favourite Destinations by saving our locations when we visit them. I have to pair up our mobile phones and iPads via Bluetooth as well. Still it’s good to be back in working order.

Did our last 2 hour session of the week at the Health Club and our last swim in the outdoors pool for quite some time. The health Club inform us that while repairing the crack in the pool’s floor, they are going to take the opportunity and completely refurbish it with new tiling throughout. It could be late August before we get back in. For some reason, the indoor pools just don’t give the same experience. Perhaps it is the over fluorinated water that we find off putting.

Saturday, 20th May, 2017

A lovely, sunny and moderately warm day of 15C/59F. We have spent the day at home doing jobs. I have been potting new plants up, weeding flower beds and sweeping the patio. I also had to reacquaint myself with the car’s automatic tyre pressure deflation warning system which came on when we were recalibrating our tyre inflator machine. This is the sort of thing that comes up so rarely, one forgets the process and the handbook really becomes important. I learn so many things while looking it up. For example, my tyres will give me a visible indication when they are close to needing replacing. The indicator is a triangle that appears on the wearing tyre. I’ve only once had to replace a set of tyres on the car because we replace the car so regularly. I was shocked to find that 4 tyres cost nearly £1000.00/€1,164.00.

Pauline cooked the most wonderful meal of roast sea bass on the bone accompanied by roasted cherry tomatoes in tarragon. Absolutely wonderful. As a one-off, we had green, French Beans which I’m not supposed to eat.

Week 437

Sunday, 7th May, 2017

Herbs L to R – Tarragon, Sage, Olive, Oregano, Thyme, Bay

Pleasant day with patchy sunshine and reasonably warm. It’s a day off work  with no trip to the gym. We went out to the garden centre for some more clay pots and a couple of dill plants. They will be potted up tomorrow along with basil plants. I’ve decided to buy an automatic watering controller for the times while we are away.

Norma & Harry

 

It is already 8 years since we retired even though we still walk the corridors in our dreams. Of course, we worked with hundreds of staff over nearly 40 years. Our school employed 130 teaching staff at its height and we regularly hear of older ones falling off the conveyor belt of life. It was nice to see Norma, my assistant for a few years, celebrating her husband, Harry’s birthday.

Harry used to teach Craft in my school until he had a bad accident at home and fell from a ladder – an accident that provoked a severe stroke at the age of 40. He was unable to teach after that but here he is celebrating his 80th birthday. Norma is 75. It is good to see they have had life after his accident. Harry, a skilled carpenter, filled his time with little jobs at home and he restored the ‘Richard chair’ for me many years ago.

Monday, 8th May, 2017

The weather is lovely, bright and sunny but we’ve had a difficult day. I spent a couple of hours valeting the car while Pauline cleaned the house. The car doesn’t know what’s hit it. It’s never been so clean. The leather seats have almost satiated on polish and the paintwork is inches deep in wax. Pauline’s cleaning halted early when our cordless vacuum halted and blurted error messages. We read the manual, followed the recommended steps and accepted it had died.

Fortunately, when I phoned GTECH at 6.00 pm this evening, I was told that replacement parts would be with me tomorrow. An hour later, I was messaged by DPD arranging the delivery. I don’t think we could have expected a better response than that which is fortunate because our sat. nav. went on the blink this afternoon.

We have an integrated Comms. / Sat. Nav. / Entertainment system which is Honda badged. This afternoon, it froze, freed up and then froze again. I only just found my way home from the Health Club. We had been to do another two hours of hard work which culminated with 30  mins in the outdoor pool. This will mean a trip to Honda tomorrow to get it sorted out. Fortunately, it will cost nothing apart from time and it is a very rare event with our cars.

Tuesday, 9th May, 2017

The day started and finished with clear skies and strong sunshine. In between, it was fairly overcast. I wouldn’t describe it as warm for May at 13C/56F. We went out early for Pauline’s doctor’s appointment and then to Worthing to pick up my new suit. I also bought a water sprayer for irrigating my lawns. We have had an incredibly dry winter and there is even talk of a hosepipe ban in the summer. I am getting in there in advance. It costs next to nothing and gives a choice of about 7 spray patterns. Our lawns are going to love it!

My new fig trees.

The GTECH vacuum cleaner broke down yesterday. A new part was delivered this afternoon and everything is back up and working. You can’t ask for better service than that. On the way back from Worthing, we stopped in at the Honda garage to tell them about a ‘dicky’ sat.nav./infotainment unit. They put a diagnostic computer on it for a few minutes while we had a cup of coffee and pronounced a whole new unit was required. It will be available in a few days. We have used less than 12 months of our 5 year warranty.

When we got home, our neighbour came round with our fig trees which had been delivered while we were out. Tomorrow I will be preparing planting holes  and with stone at the bottom to restrict the root growth which will encourage fruiting. It will be interesting to see if the micro climate of our back garden is good for fruiting figs.

Wednesday, 10th May, 2017

Figs – sticks which should fill out and grow by next Spring.

A lovely, warm and sunny day that reached 20C/68F by early afternoon. After coffee and the papers for half an hour, we completed our tasks in the house and then went back to the garden centre for more clay pots to pot up our new fig trees. I say trees but they are really short sticks with a few green buds. However, we know from experience that, once they get going, they will grow and bush and become very vigorous. What we don’t know is how well they will fruit.

We potted them up with some stone at the bottom. Restricting their roots encourages fruiting. That’s why the rocky subsoil of Greece is so good for their success. I’m hoping that the residual warmth of the garage wall reflecting back what it has absorbed throughout the day will encourage more clement conditions to further help their development.

This is where the day begins.

Did a lovely but hard session at the gym culminating in swimming 400 metres in the outdoor pool under warm sunshine. I am definitely beginning to recover from these sessions more quickly. Indeed, I have not felt this vigorous and energetic since I was at school. I am finding it harder to sit down and stay sitting down – something I used to specialise in. On the days when we don’t go to the Health Club, I find myself pacing around the house looking for things to do. My computer is beginning to feel superfluous to requirements. My iPad provides most news and social media content over coffee in the morning.

Today when I got back from the Health Club, I vacuumed the house and cut the lawns while Pauline produced our meal which, today, was a wonderful Greek Salad and Calamari. Absolutely delicious!

Thursday, 11th May, 2017

Yet another lovely, warm – even humid day that reached 21C/70F. We did our regular Thursday tour of the supermarkets. Actually, we missed one out. A new Aldi opened about a mile away this morning but the opening jamboree attracted so many crowds that we thought we would check it out later in the week. We did buy another, fresh octopus from Morrisons. It is locally sourced and very cheap. When we got home, I watered the lawn again because we still haven’t had any rain in spite of forecasts.

Meltham Mills

When Pauline & I got married nearly 40 years ago, we were living in our first house together in Meltham, West Yorkshire. Just down the road, David Brown Tractors had taken over an old, stone mill for their production. We went on our first Greek trip in 1980 to Zakynthos and, as we got off the ferry, we were confronted by a David Brown tractor on the quayside. This morning, the BBC Breakfast show was investigating Manufacturing’s attitudes towards Brexit. Their film came from that same old, stone mill in Meltham which has now been taken over by a modern textiles firm called Camira Fabrics. Here, in West Sussex, at 7.30 in the morning we were transported 40 years to another world and it felt very strange. So much has happened since then.

Friday, 12th May, 2017

A warm, sunny and fairly ‘muggy’ day which reached 17C/63F by mid afternoon. It started with light rain and rained again just as we were swimming outside before warm sun reappeared. We have done 10 x 90 minute sessions out of the past 14 days and we are both beginning to feel it. Unfortunately, the Health Club have informed us today that a serious crack has been discovered in the outdoor pool and it will have to close for 5 – 6 weeks from the end of next week which is a great pity because it has been an extremely enjoyable addition to our exercise. There are a couple of indoor pools but, strangely, the experience is completely different.

In Greece, Kathimerini reports that more than 2,500 refugees live in Athens squats while the numbers arriving are rising rapidly again. The EU seem to oscillate between helping and blaming the Greeks for a problem which can only be defined as living on the front line.

At the same time, it was admitted this week that Capital Controls – limits on Greek’s withdrawal of cash from their bank accounts – will remain in place for another two years at the least. These restrictions are onerous but necessary to prevent capital flight from an ailing economy prone to illegal activity. Three years ago, we had enough difficulty repatriating a few hundred thousand euros and be quite skilful in the way in which we used the ‘system’. Today, we might well find it impossible. There is an alarming story on a Financial website of a couple who bought and lived on Zakynthos now, because of ill health, wanting to repatriate their money having sold their property in Greece but being stymied by capital controls. The more I read, the more grateful I feel.

Saturday, 13th May, 2017

Pinto

What a glorious day. Lovely sunshine and reaching 18C/65F. We drove 50 miles up to Surrey to deliver cases of French wine to P&C. We stayed a couple of hours and drove the 50 miles home again. It is a delightful drive with hedgerows in full height and full bloom, Chestnut trees are decorated with white a red candle flowers, white, May Blossom decorates the  Hawthorn hedging and, as we approach the village, Lilac bushes intermingle with racemes of wisteria with a heady mix of colour. Our back garden was bathed in strong, warm sunshine and everything was so green. What a time to be alive!

Heard from an old, Sifnos friend this week who I haven’t seen since he left the island about 10 years ago. Martin (Pinto) is a lovely lad who we befriended on the island when he was struggling to make ends meet. We used to pass on all the back copies of (expensive) newspapers to him to keep him up to speed with the world. He came to have lunch with us at our house. When we returned one summer, Martin had left after suffering the fate of many English ‘friends’ of Greeks. We have stayed in touch ever since and, this week, he has told us he is buying a house in Cheltenham.  We are really wishing him well.