Week 453

Sunday, 27th August, 2017

Tarragon Processing

Up early after a hot and sweaty night. The sky is blue and cloudless and, by 9.00 am, I was out in the garden simulating a herb processing factory. Last year’s Tarragon bush looked dead even by early May. We use a lot in cooking so we went out and bought a new one. Potted up, it grew strongly and quickly. Suddenly, the old bush began to sprout and very quickly overtook the new one. Now we have more tarragon than we could eat in the next three years never mind this season. And it will happen all over again next year.

Cutting, washing, spinning dry, stripping and chopping, bagging up and freezing. It’s an intricate process for a non-technical man. Sitting in the garden in 26C/79F in the shade, it was hot work. After I’d achieved my goal, I was told to move on to the Oregano and then the Thyme. Basil will come tomorrow because it doesn’t freeze well and will immediately be turned into Pesto which stores excellently in the freezer. We use it at least three times a week in cooking on fish.

To finish the morning, Pauline is making Victoria Plum Chutney and the kitchen is heavily scented with warm Raspberry Vinegar. I have collapsed before the cricket with the Sunday Times on my iPad and we will go out to the Health Club in the early afternoon and hope to get back to watch the Liverpool v Arsenal match at 4.00 pm. The love of my life will be cooking Calamari in the garden which we will eat with salad. Domestic Bliss, eh. You can’t beat it!

As we drove back from the Health Club where we said ‘Hello’ to Auntie Florrie, the temperature had reached 28C/82F. We sat in the garden and cooked delicious Calamari which we ate with salad and garlic mayonnaise dip. It’s a winning combination! In our thoughts was Pauline’s Mum who looks down on us from the Study wall and who would have been 103 today. She died 7 years ago but is regularly in our thoughts.

Monday, 28th August, 2017

They tell me it’s Bank Holiday. I don’t care. I never go to a bank. It’s an archaic term that should be abolished. Nothing wrong with National Holiday. There are people flocking off to the beach down the road, desperate to make the most of the sun. We have been told that it is the hottest August Bank Holiday on record at 28.8C/84F. It certainly is lovely and warm. Actually, we only reached 27C/81F.

We are doing what we always do on Monday. Pauline had one or two items she was trying to source for an event she’s attending soon. Eventually, we found them in Hobbycraft – a shop which, as its title suggests, particularly stocks stuff for craft hobbies. We have one a few minutes drive away and they provided just the right things. Cookery, of course, is one of the ‘crafts’ they deal in and they have a great selection of jars and bottles for storage. Pauline made enough Plum Chutney to get us through until next Summer.

A couple of weeks ago, I was remarking on the abundance of early fruit ripening on Blackberry and Elderberry bushes around our region. Crab Apples are falling by the kilo and Oak trees are heavy with acorns. They used to say that this didn’t bode well for the Winter but that is an old wives’ tale. Certainly, the wild life should be stocking up their larders in preparation for leaner times. This lovely picture appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday and seemed to sum it up nicely.

Tuesday, 29th August, 2017

A hot and humid day which reached 25C/77F with strong sunshine and no movement of air. A busy morning in which Pauline re-harvested the ever-willing basil plants from our patio pots and turned her cuttings into lots of wonderful pesto which has been frozen in portions to get us through the winter. I cut and edged the lawns, fed them and then fed and watered the remaining pot plants.

We went to the Health Club and did our standard 90 mins of exercise including 30 mins in the outdoor pool. Now Bank Holiday is over and the facilities are almost back to normal. We were able to swim in peace and the beautiful, clean, clear water was a delight under the strong sun.

Back home, we griddled Tuna Steaks with Mediterranean vegetables outside in the garden and settled down to watch England lose the Test Match in the last few overs of the 5th day. The ‘dog days’ of Summer are drawing to a close and parents and children everywhere are kitting themselves out and girding their loins for another year of school. We, on the other hand, are preparing to run riot through a child-free world. Greece soon followed by Yorkshire and Gran Canaria.

Wednesday, 30th August, 2017

Woke up to light rain and distinctly cooler temperatures. I phoned Ruth in Bolton and she had no rain at all. It’s always ‘cracking the flags up North’! Even so, we completed our tasks which included driving into Worthing and quite a bit of walking across the town. On the way back, we did our weekly, supermarket shop, picked up a parcel and the time had stretched to more than three hours out. I felt tired. In fact, I have felt tired all day and we decided to give the Health Club a miss for today.

For some reason, I checked Direct Messenger on my iPad and found I had a message from someone I had never heard of. It had arrived 5 days ago and I was totally unaware of it. I never use Messenger. This was from a girl/woman who had ben a childhood friend of sister Caroline’s and had lost touch with her. She had been searching the internet and found my Blog and decided to contact me. Apparently, she used to live opposite the garage in the High Street. This High Street and its buildings has so many connection-memories for the Sanders Family.

Thursday, 31st August, 2017

Lycabettus Hill, Athena

The last day of Summer has been celebrated with pleasant, warm sunshine. I have been doing some web development work and replying to my new, best friend from Repton. We have done another session at the gym, cooked griddled chicken in the garden and organised lunch in a couple of weeks for our neighbours. I have also been planning what we are going to do in Athens while we are there. It is like London. We have been there so many times, we are blasé about the sights. We have never been up Lycabettus Hill so we will do that this time. Of course, we will meet up with friends and visit old haunts as well. It will be good to take the Greek economic temperature and see how shops and restaurants we have dealt with for nearly 40 years are doing.

I have also been looking for a hotel near Blandford Forum in Dorset because, when we return from Greece, we are going to visit an ex-colleague/friend from school who we have only seen once in the past 35 years. It will be interesting to gauge the passage of time.

Friday, 1st September, 2017




The passage of time has brought us a new month. Summer has ended. What happened to Summer? Today is blue skies and glorious sunshine. Might catch a few rays in the garden later. It is noticeable how quickly daylight/darkness ratios are changing and the cooler starts to the mornings are increasingly pronounced. Our fig trees are covered in fruit which I begin to realise are unlikely to ripen early enough this year.

I am an avid reader of local newspapers particularly linked to places I’ve lived and/or worked in. For 45 years, I’ve been reading the Oldham Evening Chronicle first in print form and, latterly, on-line. It kept me in touch with people and places that have figured in my life. I have even appeared in it quite a few times myself. I like to track ex-pupils progress and, particularly how they got on in court or when their prison release date will be. The ‘Chron.’ has survived for 163 years  but finally succumbed to the march of time as we all will. As the new month starts and the year speeds down the hill, I’m still clinging on.

It has proved to be a beautiful day for the first one of Autumn. We reached 25C/77F around our outdoor pool where I swam 400m for the 7th time in 9 days having also done an hour of cardio in the gym each time. It is starting to get seriously enjoyable and we will soon need to add one more exercise element into our gym work.

Saturday, 2nd September, 2017

A day of two halves. Until 4.00 pm, we pottered around at home. Well, I did. Pauline was hard at work making a birthday cake. For a week or two we have been sourcing things like candles for an 80th birthday cake. At one point, we thought Pauline’s sister would have to be 81 instead because the candle set she wanted didn’t contain a ‘0’. It is a coffee and walnut cake which is one of Phyllis’s favourites and it had to feed 15 people at a birthday party.

Foxhills Hotel & Country Club

I wore a suit and tie every working day of my life. I enjoyed it. I actually missed it for a short while when we retired. Now, 8 years on, I hardly ever wear a suit and tie. I had to wear one last night and it felt weird. We set off for Surrey before 5.00 pm and arrived at the Foxhills Hotel & Country Club just after 6.00 pm. A private dining room had been rented for this birthday dinner and I had to carry the cake up to it. It is an iced sponge cake but so big it is really heavy.

Soon the other guests began to arrive and have a glass of wine in the Lounge. Finally, Phyllis, who is 80 on Tuesday, arrived and we sat down to dinner. I was driving and didn’t drink. I had pre-chosen food that would fit in with my diet – crayfish Starter, steamed cod Main Course and Cherry Sorbet for Pudding. The final course was the best prepared. During the meal, Phyllis received her presents and, with coffee, Pauline cut the cake and handed out slices.

We left around 9.30 pm to do the hour long drive to West Sussex. We actually made it about 11.45 pm. As we set off for the M25, we found that the entrance was closed all night for ‘work’. The queues went for miles. A diversion was set up but, as we neared it, we saw lots of flashing ambulance and police car lights accompanied by huge queues of traffic. If I had been on my own, I would just have joined the queues but Pauline likes a challenge and easily navigated me through the problems and on to our familiar A24. From there, it was plain driving.

By the time we had got into the house, it was almost midnight and we needed a cup of tea and to ‘come down’ before we went to bed. We watched the news and the newspaper review and went to bed about 1.00 pm. It’s funny but, as I get older, I don’t seem to manage late nights so easily. I find ‘social situations’ quite tiring and stressful. By 1.00 pm, I was nodding and finding it hard to stay awake. To sleep, perchance to dream….

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