Week 454

Sunday, 3rd September, 2017

From the Sunday Times – 3/9/17

A grey day with an Autumnal chill in the air and a spit of rain. After last night’s escapade, we were tired when the radio went off at 6.00 am. We were still up and about around 7.00 am but rather tired. Newspapers this morning just increase the sense of mayhem and incompetence surrounding BREXIT. I really despair.

The government are trying to appease the electorate. The prime minister is trying to appease the Cabinet. The Cabinet is trying to appease sections of the Tory Party. The Right Wing ‘Fruitcakes’ are trying to intimidate the centre right ‘Remainers’ who are beginning to lean towards the Liberal and centre left ‘Remainers’. Basically, everyone is stabbing everyone else in the back, the front or stabbing themselves.

Went to the gym and did a full session including a long, outdoor swim this afternoon. The water was noticeably warmer and the outside air noticeably colder than it has been since the Springtime. The world is changing. Gran Canaria is starting to feel a really good idea.

Monday, 4th September, 2017

A warm and humid, sweaty day even though the temperature didn’t get above 21C/70F. Pauline is going shopping in Guildford with her sister and niece tomorrow. We drove to the train station to buy her a ticket. It’s lucky she wasn’t going today because they are on strike again. Unfortunately, she has to change at Havant which means her train will take 90 mins but she is happy to do it.

Angmering Station

The railway is huge business particularly down here. As workers are forced out from London by housing prices, our region which is about an hour from the city where they work is increasingly attractive. Lots of people use the train to get to work and back. It is not cheap if you’re doing it every day.

Most businesses feel the need to invest and keep up to date to retain their customers. Not the railway. They are blasé and take their clientele for granted. These buildings do not seem to have seen much modernisation since Beeching in the 1960s. Angmering is growing enormously. The number of passengers they can expect to carry will equally grow. They will not be satisfied with 1950s furniture and 1960s services.

The service is still the ‘cheery’ staff-heavy process of the past. There is a large, middle aged lady in the tiny ticket office behind the arched glass window. There is the station master with mutton chop sideboards and braces. The entrance/exit is cramped and suited to passage of a handful of passengers an hour. The generation of profit from the through-flow of passengers does not seem to fit with this scene from yesteryear.

Tuesday, 5th September, 2017

My wife has left me….. to go shopping in Guildford! Can you believe it. She’s already had a problem and been re-routed on the train from Angmering to Guildford. Yesterday, she was told she had to go via Havant at 9.05 am. I took her to the station early because of all those little bastards going back to school and she was told that the only train she could get out was at 8.50 am via Barnham. What a way to run a railway. The sooner Jeremy nationalises it the better!

I’m doing IT work this morning. Reinstalling MS Office on Pauline’s laptop which seems to be playing up with some software after upgrading to Windows 10. It is extremely warm but grey outside and very warm in the house. The figs are still swelling but I don’t think they will make it this year.

Good to see at least one area of society is moving the right way. As a confirmed atheist, I rejoice in the British Social Attitudes Survey into religious faith which found ‘No Religion’ in the majority and climbing. It’s always reassuring to find one’s fellow citizens seeing the light. It’s all down hill for religion now!

I was reminded this afternoon about something I got involved in 46 years ago this summer. I was in college and doing Subsid. Drama. It was never my thing but I had to do something. A call came out for extras on an ITV police drama which was being filmed in Yorkshire. The name of  the drama series escapes me – might have been called ‘Villains’ or something like that. The star of the drama was a young Alun Armstrong who must have been 25 years old at the time. We spent most of the day sitting on a grass bank with Armstrong as he kept us entertained with stories and jokes that appealed to our age. We all got an Equity Card and £10.00 for a day’s work. If you got to speak, you got £25.00 but I didn’t.

I have followed his subsequent career keenly and dined out on my tenuous connection with him ever since. I do know that I got arrested in the filming and Mum had concerned neighbours ringing up to tell her that I was in trouble. She had only just got a television in 1971 and certainly didn’t watch anything as downmarket as ITV. She didn’t see my starring role and nor did I.

Wednesday, 6th September, 2017

Last night looked as if it was full moon and we have woken to quite a chilly feel outside and a temperature of 14C/57F with weak sun. Pauline is tired after her travels yesterday. Even the return trains were delayed but not by much. It does leave one feeling that train travel is a step too far. Go by car!

Perfect Student Uniform!

When I left for college in September 1969, my Mother insisted, against all my protests, that I go dressed appropriately like the country gentleman she saw me. I was embracing my ‘calling’ in training as a teacher and high standards would be expected of me. She marched me off to a gentleman’s outfitters in Burton and insisted on buying me the most expensive, green country jacket with wide, red check she could find. It was exactly like the one pictured left only that it had leather buttons. I hated it especially when she teamed it up with a striped shirt and yellow cravat! How many students in the steamy, protest years of 1968/69 went around wearing a cravat?

Dressed like that, I arrived in my first, student digs and, immediately,  my worst fears were confirmed. I was not expected to be a country gentleman but a 1960s, protesting student. Within a week, I had traded my very expensive jacket in for a secondhand, green flap jacket which my Mother immediately denounced when she saw it as a toilet attendant‘s jacket.

A screen shot from ‘Villains’ – ITV 1971 starring me and Alun Armstrong.

This morning, I found the episode of Villains starring Alun Armstrong in which I was an extra. If you want to see the beautiful acting talent I was 46 years ago, you can watch it here. We were playing ourselves, students protesting about hare coursing. We were in a ‘demo’ van and confronted by the police. This link is for the episode 6 in which I appeared and it is on YouTube: Villains, Episode 6: Sand Dancer. Although I know there will be a few Alun Armstrong fans, most of you will be impatient to see me so you just fast forward to these locations:

  • 27 mins.44 secs – John is in ‘Student Demo Van’ travelling down the road when we stop to pick up a hitch hiking Alun Armstrong.
  • 28 mins.41 secs – John is seen getting out of van wearing green, toilet attendant‘s jacket.
  • 28 mins.52 – 55 secs – John is seen in fore shot – still in green, toilet attendant‘s jacket – carrying a placard. Best man at my wedding, Kevin Dagg, is next to me.
  • 28 mins.59 – 29 mins. 04 secs – John is seen going for the Oscar in fore shot – still in green, toilet attendant‘s jacket.
  • 30 mins.33 – 49 secs – John almost clinches the starring role as he stands in line, waiting for a caution while he dabs, expertly, at his bloody nose. Unfortunately, Kevin steals the show by smoking and giving his real name to the Sergeant.

Of course, I went on to selflessly devote myself to education and stood aside to allow Alun Armstrong to enjoy the television limelight. I really didn’t want to overshadow him!

Thursday, 7th September, 2017

The problem Greece has always had is ‘extending’ the amazingly short holiday season. Why is it a problem? Because September weather in Greece is increasingly unreliable. It can be absolutely wonderful with warm days and warm seas. It can be wet, stormy and difficult for transport.

Four passengers injured as Sea Jet 2 collides with pier at the port of Sifnos

This week, there have been some stormy days in the islands and strong winds have done some damage. When we were living half the year on Sifnos, locals would tell us that September, when the tourists had largely left, were special with great weather and quiet beaches. We did 6 Septembers and can report that the weather seems to know when September has arrived. It is a marked change with cool nights and less than reliable days. The winds are increasingly strong and ferry timetables threatened by the difficulty in crossing between Cyclades and Piraeus.

This week, the weather illustrated the islands’ problem. We often worried that our ferry to the mainland would be disrupted/cancelled by September weather and make our Superfast connection to Ancona difficult. Yesterday, the Sea Jet 2 jetfoil ferry, on the way to Folegandros, collided with the harbour in Kamares, Sifnos. I am told it drifted in high winds. It suffered a large gash to its hull and four passengers were injured and taken to the Medical Centre in Apollonia which is a fairly rudimentary place.

All passengers were disembarked, the ferry was suspended from scheduled sailings until repairs had been completed. As a result, dozens of passengers on board will have required emergency accommodation and those from Sifnos will have had their travel plans thwarted. When one goes on holiday, that uncertainty is not what one wants. Travellers with unlimited time can cope but holiday makers need more surety.

Friday, 8th September, 2017

I love the new and innovative. I am an ‘early adopter’ of new gizmos, processes, etc. However, I also like to plan my life well ahead and not have circumstances forced upon me unexpectedly. Pauline and I maintain synchronised, on-line calendars which tabulate everything well in advance – even fairly immaterial things like which bins to put out each week and when to re-order prescriptions. I like to act within a self-controlled context.

Long ago in January/February we agreed travel plans for the year. Trips to France, our European Drive in July, our trip to Greece in September, our short trip to Yorkshire in October and a month in the Canaries in November. There are still spaces to slot things in – impromptu, spontaneous things but the main framework of my life for the rest of the year is fairly organised and known. I am looking forward to our flight to Athens this weekend and getting back in to the Greek milieu. I am looking forward to spending November in a 5* hotel in Gran Canaria being pampered and fed but with all the exercise facilities we have at home.

Well, I was until late last night. I received an email to say that a problem had arisen in the total renovation programme of the hotel and it could no longer be available. We were being offered another hotel in the same chain which they said was of equal quality but in a slightly different area. We were aware of this hotel and had rejected it in our original search. We rapidly re-read our contract. We had paid £6000.00/€6,600.00 up front in good faith. The small print said explicitly that the company held the right, in extreme circumstances to move us to another hotel of equal standard in their chain .

I quickly checked case law advice for such a circumstance and it seemed the company had that right. We went to bed depressed. This morning, I took the bull by the horns, phoned the company and told them that we had received their email. I told them that we specifically rejected their alternative hotel and took a deep breath. The reply came back immediately, No problem, sir. We can look for an alternative hotel for you or give you a full refund. I felt my body and mind relax. I had been expecting a serious battle and had ben preparing my armoury. Suddenly, £6000.00/€6,600.00 was winging its way back to our account and we can make new plans. We had booked a hotel for the night at Gatwick Airport which we’ve had to cancel as well.

After that, the day seemed strange. Suddenly, the future was uncertain. I began to look for an alternative trip for November but couldn’t settle to it. We distracted ourselves by booking a couple of nights in a hotel in Poole in Dorset at the beginning of October so that Pauline and I can meet up with an old, school/work friend who we’ve not really seen for 40 years. Even so, the uncertain November is nagging away in my head and it will be over night.

Saturday, 9th September, 2017

It has been the most delightfully warm and sunny day here – not quite what was forecast. I have been really lazy and watched England finish off the W.Indies and clinch the Test series followed by two Premier League matches. My dear wife, on the other hand, has been working all day making sure everything we need is ironed and packed. It is a major job!

The weather in Athens is forecast to be around 32-33C/90-91F. That is warm but manageable. Greek Meteorologists have announced this week that July 2017 was the hottest since 1880. Temperatures reached 46C/115F on Crete. Can you imagine it? The hottest I have ever experienced is 41C/105F and it nearly killed me.

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