Week 443

Sunday, 18th June, 2017

Phew what a scorcher! As readers of the Blog will know, I am something of a weather watcher and recorder. My iPad app and my smartphone app tell me throughout the day the weather in numerous different towns and cities of my choice across the globe. I list all the places I have lived and worked from those in Yorkshire and Lancashire to those in Greece to Surrey to where I live now in West Sussex. Today has been consistently hotter than Greece and Italy throughout the day. We got up to 21C/70F at 7.00 am and, by 2.00 pm, nearly melted as we got out of our air-conditioned car at the Health Club in to 30C/86F. As I write at 11.00 am, it is still 23C/74F and distinctly clammy.

Our pots of herbs are loving the climate they are encountering. Particularly, the basil – both Italian and Greek and the French Tarragon are flourishing really vigorously. What they do need is regularly watering and cutting to encourage new growth. We are in danger of having more than we can cope with. The new figs are really doing well and I will feature them after we come back from our European Tour – assuming they survive.

Monday, 19th June, 2017

A hot day without cloud cover or mitigating breeze. We reached 30 C/86F but spent most of the day at a sweaty 27/81F. Out in the sunshine, the tarmac was liquidising. It reminded us of Sifnos where crude road surfaces rutted and melted on a regular basis. I valeted the car and then used my new, cordless hedge trimmer to …you can guess what. It is lovely, balanced, light and easy to use. we set off for the Health Club but decided en route that we had done enough today and turned round and came home.

Even though we didn’t make it to the gym, I did my 10,000 paces and feel satisfyingly tired. We relaxed this afternoon in the garden with garlic stuffed olives and a bottle of Pino Grigiot. I’ve quite grown to like this Italian/New Zealand mix which is lovely chilled with salad. This evening, I will complete the guidance notes for our European trip next week so that we can get the most out of it. Particularly, I’ve been researching Tuscan properties for longer term rental. It would be nice to have a villa or apartment in Tuscany to rent June – September where we can live our life in a more sophisticated environment than we could in Greece. Greek simplicity is fine for a while  but not for too long. Certainly, you don’t want to be taken ill there!

Tuesday, 20th June, 2017

Greek God – 1980

Weather, weather, weather, weather! We’re British. We’re obsessed with weather and we are in the middle of one of the longest, hottest June spells on record. Our local forecast says tomorrow may well be the hottest June day since the record breaking summer of 1976. Where were you then? I was stuck in a dingy flat in Oldham, Lancashire at the age of 25 and after 4 years of teaching. I couldn’t afford to go on holiday and I was determined to lose weight. I went running, starved myself and pedalled on an exercise bike all day as I read books about the history of the Labour Party. I lost 6 stones in the six weeks school holiday and went back a ‘new man’. Over the next two years, I put it all back on and then lost it all again and…. Yo Yo weight loss/gain started there and lived with me for 40 years.

The last few days have been Greek weather without the frustrations. Today started at 7.00 am and it was 20C/68F. I mowed the lawns and then needed a shower. By 1.00 pm, it was 27C/81F as we set off for the Health Club which turned out to be an oasis of air conditioned cool. We did a hard work out and found the temperature gauge had reached 31C/88F as we left at 3.30 pm. We are already discussing whether we should fit ceiling fans in the bedrooms and possibly even air-conditioning units. Where is Frangiskus when you need him?

Wednesday, 21st June, 2017

It is 10.00 am and a sweaty 27C/81F. It has been a very warm night and, of course, the morning has ushered in the Summer Solstice or Longest Day. Apparently, 34C/93F is forecast for today which could be an all time record for June.

Of course, it is going to be a very long day for the Tory Party which is having its programme for the next two years read out by the queen in Parliament even while it is still trying to buy the support of the Irish DUP. We can only hope that they will be put out of their misery very quickly and a new election called.

It was so hot today that we gave the Gym work a miss and just enjoyed the garden. I put the sprinklers on to water the lawns for about three hours and we enjoyed the sun for a while. We had watched the Queen’s Speech and had confirmed that the impotence of the government had completely neutered it. There is still no agreement with the DUP and, this afternoon, there is a hint that the Scots. Nats. will have a veto over the Great Reform Bill. It’s all going very well!

Thursday, 22nd June, 2017

It’s all down hill from here. The days are getting shorter as we breathe. Today has opened oppressively hot and I was just remarking on the possibility of thunder when thunder began to roll around the sky. It was accompanied by a few, large spots of rain for a couple of minutes. Later in the day, as the temperature rose to a heavy 26C/79F, the sun beat down from blue skies.

We did our weekly shop and then sat down to make some plans for our European trip. We are inveterate makers of Plans and Lists and you can’t beat a good spreadsheet. Today I was looking at jobs that have to be done before we leave and things to see while we are travelling. The jobs list is simple one of necessary arrangements like set internal lighting timers; set plant irrigation timer system; check car tyres, etc.. At the same time, I was continuing to explore places we will visit. We intend to travel from our Tuscan hotel base by train to Florence, Pisa and Lucca.

Today, I was researching Pisa and hope to visit the Palazzo Blu modern art gallery on Lungarno Gambacorti pictured above. In Lucca, it would be lovely to go to Puccini e la sua Lucca opera house and, in Florence to visit the Uffizi Gallery. It would also be nice to just sit in a sunny, Italian piazza and sip a coffee or glass of wine and watch the world go by. We will see which alternative wins out.

Friday, 23rd June, 2017

A slightly fresher start to the day with pleasant sunshine. We spent some time working through the settings of our satellite navigation system. It is a built-in one that comes with our Honda car. We have had that since shortly after we bought our first CRV in 1999. Until a year ago, the Honda badged sat. nav./infotainment unit was sourced in the USA but not from a commercial, across-the-counter name. It was fantastic although it was starting to show its age. Our new car has a built in Garmin-based unit which is very unfriendly and counter-intuitive. It has taken us twelve months to really get to grips with it. This European Tour should be a good test. Unlike earlier sat. nav./infotainment units, this one incorporates internet access but I would much prefer a good sat. nav. and less features.

We have managed to program in all our hotels from France to Italy to Switzerland to France. At least this year will allow us to use our Mobile Contracts in Europe freely including data roaming which helps. If you’ve ever driven across Europe, you will know that BBC radio is a problem. FM radio doesn’t really survive the Channel and DAB is even worse. LW is the only possibility and I have know it last until I was in sight of the swiss alps although it is barely distinguishable from the reception background ‘noise’. When I was listening to the Test Match, I would put up with any interference.

Today our car is one year old. For about 30 years, we would be waving it goodbye this week and picking up our new one but we have only done 6900 miles this year which is around half what we would normally have driven when we were working. It will probably do 3 year’s service before we trade it in.

Saturday, 24th June, 2017

Sun in a Glass

The sun has gone. The breeze has lowered the temperature markedly. The sky is overcast. My breakfast recalled the sunshine in the most wonderful, fresh orange juice. The juice of two oranges releases a skyful of sunshine.

The next month will involve a lot of driving and quite a few hotels. It won’t be easy to wash and dry clothes so the car will be packed with enough to get us through. They are laid out on a bed in a guest room having been painstakingly ironed by Pauline. Now she is harvesting herbs from pots on the patio. Italian and Greek Basil have both grown really well. They have been savaged and turned into Pesto. Later, it will be portioned up and stored in the chest freezer in the garage. Dill, Oregano, Tarragon and Thyme will all be chopped and frozen for winter use. I will feed the herb stumps which will, hopefully, regenerate for another crop.

We bought patio furniture in a hurry a year ago when we had no table and chairs in our kitchen. Now it is outside, it is not ideal and I’ve been looking around for replacements. I’ve known of a company called Rattan Direct for some time and would like to see the quality of their products in reality. I checked the showroom. There is one ….. in Bolton. I feel a visit to see my sister coming on. Now, however, it’s time for the gym!

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