Our first frost. It was light but perceptible at 7.00 am. P&C were coming today so we were up early. We did our household chores and then enjoyed the political programmes. They arrived just after 11.00 am on a gloriously sunny morning. Pauline had made tomato & red pepper soup which we shared and then went down to the coast for a walk.
There were quite a few people out on this beautiful afternoon. We had to park away from the Marina because it was so busy. We walked along the beach path towards the Marina and the Yacht House, past the shut-for-the winter holiday food, shellfish shops and the shivering dogs forced to brave the cutting sea breeze. It was …bracing and we weren’t there for long. We drove on to Rustington but only to show our guests the area. On down through the village and home.
Our back garden was flooded in sunlight and positively warm being sheltered from the icy, sea breeze. It had heated the kitchen to boiling point. C & I watched a poor match between Southampton & the luckless Everton. Later, I watched a better match where dear old Huddersfield took the lead against the force that is Man. City but eventually gave in and lost.
Pauline had pre-cooked Boeuf Bourguignon. We were starving after the chilled walk. She had incorporated two, full bottles of my best Bordeaux so it was pleasing to find the flavour was deep and rich. It was the first time we had eaten red meat for as long ago as we could remember. We hardly ever use salt when we cook now and I was concerned that the sauce was too salty. The first thing P&C said was, Can we have some more salt? You can do without anything over time. I’m glad we’ve dropped salt.
Monday, 27th November, 2017
We woke to heavy rain and a strong breeze. We took P&C out to see the local facilities. We even shopped at Asda and called in at Dunelm. Later in the morning, after Turkey Soup, we went out to Worthing town and walked through to the pier. The sky was grey and heavy and the sea was dark. It rolled into the each with large, breaking waves. We walked along the boarded pier, past the fishermen’s many rods,to the café/restaurant at the end of the pier. We ordered a pot of tea and cake for our visitors and spent a pleasant half hour there before returning to our car on top of the multi-storey carpark and heading home.
At home, Pauline cooked roast salmon and served it with salad and we sat around to reminisce about times and relationships gone by. These are uncomfortable and emotional conversations but necessary all the same. We’ve eaten so much and exercised so little over the past couple of days that I’m looking forward to a trip to the gym tomorrow.
Tuesday, 28th November, 2017
Lovely morning of sunshine and blue sky. Not cold as we’d expected. P&C were driving home to Surrey this morning and left after breakfast around 10.30 am. We went out to the Health Club and did a good session in the gym followed by a delightful session in the outside pool.
Thought I would share with you a view which presented itself as we drove past our local cemetery. New signs had gone up. As I was taking my photo, a woman walked past with her dog and said, Who can be surprised at that?
Wednesday, 29th November, 2017
Penultimate day of November 2017 has opened with lovely, early sunshine on a chilly morning that had hints of frost but no more. We went down to the sea shore to walk and buy fish.
We walked in a very bracing breeze down the Littlehampton Marina boardwalk out into the sea and then fairly rapidly walked back to the fisherman’s shed to buy 4 large sea bass weighing 5lbs for £35.00/€39.60.
Pauline has always liked living by the sea. It is one of the things that appealed to her when we lived on a Greek island. It takes 5 mins or so to drive down to the Marina but we don’t do it as often as we thought we would. Every time we do, Pauline’s face lights up and I realise why we are living here. We haven’t swum in the sea although we have discussed it. We do walk on the beach and Pauline stoops to take the temperature of the water. Until recently, it has felt fairly warm although we are not daft enough to risk it at this time of the year.
Even so, it is a lovely place to go for a walk and the air feels fresh and healthy. Many people jog along the coastal walk from Littlehampton to Worthing and some even run on to Brighton some 20 miles away when they are training for marathons. Children on scooters like this path as much as dog walkers who are restricted to non-tourist times.
Thursday, 30th November, 2017
A glorious day of clear, blue sky and strong sunshine but cold. No frost but only 3C/37F at 7.00 am. and not getting much above 6C/43F all day. We did our weekly shop and felt the bite of the air as we walked between the car and the supermarket. When we got home, we made a decision that we couldn’t face swimming outside today in spite of the beautiful sunshine and that led to a decision to have a day off.
It is this time of year when Sussex begins to pull away from the rest of the country as far as weather goes.
Friday, 1st December, 2017
Happy December 2017 and farewell November never to be seen again. It is a clear, bright, blue sky with sun but very cool. At 7.00 am, it was only 4C/39F and the temperature peaked at a roaring 7C/45F in the mid afternoon.
We spent the morning at home catching up on correspondence and then did a stint at the Health Club. I have to admit that the outdoor pool defeated us today because there was a biting breeze which we couldn’t face. I still managed to do my 10,000 paces.
Saturday, 2nd December, 2017
Yesterday was officially the first day of Winter. It certainly feels rather like it today. We are hovering around a chilly 6C/43F. We don’t have the frost and snow of the North but it still feels chilly. Of course, the start of the new month has encouraged people to start thinking about Christmas – Bah Humbug! I can’t even begin to get interested in it.
Here, families with children and even some without are keen to decorate their houses. At least it is a long way away from religious celebration. Our neighbours get together with ladders and help each other out to put up their lights as they share coffee and cakes. At least they wait until December and take them down soon after the day.
We are very happy to keep our observation of the period to just one day. It is enough to see people and enjoy a good meal. My heart sinks at the excitement generated by those who love parties which I hate and huge congregations which make me uncomfortable. Good luck to those who like it. I feel fortunate to be excluded.
Another gloriously sunny day. After the usual rounds of political interview – and why do they invite the Chancellor on days before the Budget when he can legitimately say that he can say nothing? – we did the first batch of Turkey Stock from yesterday’s carcass. If you’ve ever made chicken or turkey stock from bones in your kitchen, you will know that the smell can be all-pervasive. Fortunately, on this lovely day, we were able to make ours outside in the garden. The turkey carcass will be split into two halves and put with onions, carrots and herbs with each being pressure -cooked twice. This will provide about 12 ltrs of stock for the freezer.
Later, we did about 3 hrs at the gym and out in the pool. We came back feeling wonderful and ate salad and…..cold turkey. Actually, it was even more tasty cold than it was hot. Lovely Sunday. What more can one ask?
Monday, 20th November, 2017
A grey, damp day which was mild at 13C/55F but felt colder. We drove down to Argos to pick up two, new electric toothbrushes. We have been using them for more than 20 years and our current ones must be about 8 years old and have travelled with us to Greece for a number of years. They are starting to lose their charge too quickly and we have decided to move on.
In UK we seem to have absorbed a strange commercial hype which is called Black Friday. It originated in America and is designed to stampede the gullible into believing that they are being offered a short term advantage. They are not. Nor is it confined to a Friday. Black Friday will last for at least a week and maybe longer. Today, we have collected two new ones toothbrushes under the Black Friday banner and they have been weirdly upgraded.
Our original brushes had a holder which contained a rechargeable battery which could be plugged in to the shaver sockets in our bathrooms and upon which rotary brush heads can be attached. The new brushes have 3 years warranty (made in Germany), 6 different programs for all sorts of actions from normal brushing to gum care, extra whitening to I don’t know what. They also have a timer cycle which buzzes when you’ve cleaned each quadrant of your mouth and a warning if you are pressing on too hard. To top it all, there is a smartphone app to interface with the Wi-Fi in the brush holder that will track your weekly teeth cleaning routines and tell you where you are failing. How did we manage without all this in the past?
We went to the gym as usual but, as I got changed, I realised that my towel and shirt were missing from my bag. We turned round and came home feeling rather short changed.
Tuesday, 21st November, 2017
Quite a warm day for late November in which we reached 15C/59F without any sun. On Saturday we ate roast turkey. On Monday we ate cold turkey and today we lunched on turkey soup. As Pauline was able to extract 7 ltrs. of turkey stock from the carcass, I expect to have that background taste in many soups to come over the winter. We did a good workout at the gym and in the pool and came home feeling wonderfully satisfied with our efforts.
In 1962, I passed my 11+ exam and went to Burton Grammar School in Staffordshire. It was an ancient establishment first established around 1520 but it was housed in a fairly new building which was only 10 years old when I arrived. My father had attended the school in a different building between 1926 – 32 and some of those who taught him were still there to teach me. My cousin, David had just preceded me at the school as well.
When I got there in September 1962, I was taken on my first day by the son of a family friend who was going into the 6th Form and went on to be Professor Alan Deacon at the LSE. There was something very ‘old school’ about the establishment. In my year was a lad called Mike Smith who was notable for two reasons. Firstly, his father was a renowned Maths teacher known as ‘Brab’ Smith although I was surprised to find his real name was Harry. Secondly, he wore short, tailored trousers with his uniform in his first five years. No other boy did that. In fact, it was a matter of great pride to me and a real right of passage that I was wearing ‘long’ trousers for the first time and ‘ankle socks’ as I proudly displayed to my friends.
Mike Smith was not in my circle of friends. He didn’t play rugby. He wasn’t an athlete. He was a foreign languages buff. All three things separated us. We went our separate ways in 1969 and I haven’t seen him since until today. I was on the treadmill and watching the small incorporated television screen. Countdown on Channel 4 is one of my favourites at this time because it is mentally demanding while the treadmill is physically demanding. For anyone who doesn’t know it, it is a time-pressured words & numbers test.
A new contestant was introduced as Mike Smith, retired but formally a linguist in the petrochemical industry. The name didn’t immediately get me but his face instantly told me I knew him. It is almost 50 years since I last saw him and even then he was not significant to me but I have a memory for faces and instantly recognised him and was transported across 48 years. He was up against a 7 times champion and, if you’re interested, he narrowly lost but he got my attention and I forgot the effort I was putting in on the treadmill completely.
Wednesday, 22nd November, 2017
A glorious day which we had expected to be cold and very windy with heavy rain. That’s what was forecast. In fact, it was a still, mild (15C/59F) day of completely clear blue skies and strong sunshine. Because it was Budget Day, we had decided to stay at home and not go to the Health Club. Instead, I vacuumed the house, cut the lawns and cleaned and tidied up the patio.
In the post we received the first half of our Winter Fuel Payment notice. It is quite ironic at a time that we are swimming outside, cutting the lawns and cooking outside. The second £100.00/€112.70will come in a couple of weeks. We have worked out that our total fuel bills – gas and electricity for the year – are around or just under £1000.00/€1127.00 which is much cheaper than we were paying in our Yorkshire house a decade ago. With this government handout, we will be around £800.00/€902.00 for the year. We have a smart meter but it doesn’t really tell us much and is more useful to the power supplier in not needing to visit our property than it is to us. When we look to switch supplier in a few months, the smart meter probably won’t be compatible anyway.
We are still fairly profligate. We have 6 televisions which are on standby permanently. Why have a remote control if you have to get up to switch on? We have 2 fridges and 2 freezers. So many of our appliances are permanently on charge from vacuums and lawnmowers to tooth brushes, smart phones, iPads, etc.. We have a washing machine, dishwasher and tumble dryer. The latter is power hungry. We only have a gas hob and we don’t use the central heating much so our gas bill is negligible.
We were supposed to eat the last of the turkey meat today but, I managed to persuade Pauline to turn it into a turkey meatloaf and serve it tomorrow instead. Today, we griddled wonderful tuna steaks in the garden and ate them with salad. However, I know what’s coming tomorrow.
Thursday, 23rd November, 2017
Beautiful day with clear blue sky and strong sunshine. We only reached 14C/57F but it felt lovely in the sun especially as we swam this afternoon.
This morning we went out to collect our third attempt at a floor steam cleaner. The first isn’t strong enough. The second didn’t steam for long enough. This one says it will give 25 mins of continuous steaming which should be fine. I will let you know.
We’ve got wood and tile floors downstairs and a steam mop is excellent for keeping them clean but it has proved difficult to find a reliable model. Most don’t do more than 15 mins continuous work. One we bought last just 6 mins before it needed refilling. Anybody want two, useless steam cleaners? Only £50.00/€57.00 each. No, thought not.
You missed a treat today. Turkey meat loaf. We ate it with salad and it was wonderful. My wife is a culinary genius!
I have been writing over the past few days about the rather fragile state of the Greek infrastructure and I have used what some might consider the derogatory description of Third World as I attempted to calibrate it. I offer you this example for such views which are at the very least medieval and some would say fairly Third World in their echoes.
The Greek Orthodox Church has permeated the national psyche since as long as anyone can remember. Nothing happens in Greece without reference to the Church and the clergy. It is an insidious and invidious presence in politics, culture including popular media, education and every sphere of Greek life. Although, in private, the powers and persuasiveness of the church have been diminishing amongst younger members of the community as religion has rapidly dwindled in so many sophisticated communities but rarely has it been so openly challenged as by the current, left wing government who would like to move to secularism as soon as possible.
Syriza has been reluctant to invite the prelates to pronounce on matters of the state. They have started to try to curtail the church’s influence in education and schools, in taking over natural disasters, etc and the church is not happy. After the recent floods and subsequent deaths of citizens, the Arch Bishop – The Metropolit of Kavryta – has seized his moment and announced that he knew why they happened: it was because Greece is run by an atheist Prime Minister and many atheist ministers!
He complains also that he was not invited to television panels about the flash floods and underlines that a representative of God should be there so that the point of view of the Church could be heard! The Church’s view is the most valid when such phenomena are being evaluated. Natural disasters express the wrath of the Creator for the apostasy of His creation, that is of the man. Never mind, the New Democracy party ( Νέα Δημοκρατία) will be back soon and all will be well.
Friday, 24th November, 2017
Another lovely day of warmth and sun. We did a brief trip to Sainsbury’s and then came home to do some work. I completed a full valet of the car inside and out including deep feed leather treatment of the seats. It took me nearly two hours and I just managed to finish in time for The Daily Politics.
Off to the Health Club at 1.00 pm – an hour in the gym followed by half an hour in the outdoor pool and half an hour in the Spa – and then a drive home to eat roast salmon with pesto crust and tomato and cucumber salad. Feel so good after all that. We will do one more session tomorrow and then P&C are arriving on Sunday for a couple of nights so exercise will be on hold.
Recently, we’ve been reading of rises in car insurance. Ours is renewed in December. We insure fully comprehensive for two named drivers and add legal cover, unlimited European cover, windscreen cover but not breakdown cover because AA cover comes with our car. Last year, this cost us the princely sum of £323.00/€361.00 but this year it has gone down to £300.00/€335.00. We have maximum no-claims discount of 9 years = 79.5% and we have moved to a cheaper area. Our car is always garaged and thefts around our neighbourhood are minimal which encourages insurance companies to reduce the risk factor.
Saturday, 25th November, 2017
Coldish but beautifully bright and sunny. Clear, blue sky and strong sun. Only 10C/50F but delicious. Cleaned the windows. Went to the Health Club – 1 hr in the gym + 30 mins in the pool. Home for roast Sea Bass with salad and Liverpool v Chelsea on BT Sport television. Ended in 1-1 draw but enjoyable watch.
Can you believe that we are almost entering the last month of 2017? We will be 67 soon and retired for 9 years. It is staggering. I follow a really enjoyable Blog written by an interesting man called Simon Baddely. It has a cool title because he lives part of the year in Corfu on Democracy Street(ODOS DIMOKRATIOS). I began to follow him when I was an Expat living in Greece. The most amazing thing happened. Simon is a resident of Birmingham and works in a totally different sphere but, suddenly, his life burst into mine with huge coincidence.
Simon’s world suddenly embraced a man called Paul Peacock. It was a totally tangential relationship for Simon but Paul had worked as my wife’s assistant for a few years. The chances of that were so small that I was absolutely amazed. The connection was Jack Hargreaves who I remember in Out of Town which was a hugely successful series from Southern Television that ran for twenty-five years. Each episode was presented by Jack Hargreaves who, with his relaxed and amiable style, offered viewers a fascinating insight into the ways of rural life of years gone by. Paul Peacock had written and published a potted Biography of Jack Hargreaves who turned out to be Simon Baddely’s step-father.
These are the coincidences of life that add and deepen one’s experience of it. I read Blogs until they come out of my ears. I love to follow other people’s lives which is why I put my own out there on my Blog for others to follow. this activity really does have positive results. Simon is decades older than me but he is embracing his age and the attendant ills in public on his own Blog. It is for all of us to take instruction from these experiences.
I follow a Blog written by two lads/expats on Simi. I could not be further apart from them in so many elements of their lives but I chose to spend three weeks on Simi twenty years or so ago and remember it with real affection. It doesn’t seem to have moved on so much since we were there. That is a plus for many tourists but may not be so much for Simi inhabitants who want to live in the real world. If you want to go anywhere on Simi, you need to be really fit. Be warned.
I have written before of my on-off relationship with music. For 40 years, I have loved classical music and found it particularly informed my emotional and intellectual life. In the early years, I particularly loved Chopin, Mozart and Rachmaninov. Later, I just couldn’t get enough Beethoven to the point that I was becoming a real bore about his Symphonies. There came a point, in my late 40s when I started to take Opera seriously. Puccini, Donizetti, Verdi, Mozart, Delibes, Bizet – I had to know everything. I bought guides to help me understand their music and the libretti. I would drive Pauline mad by playing them at full volume and trying to sing in Italian (which I do not have) while tears streamed down my face. That is the predominant emotion much music evokes in me.
Suddenly, 10 – 15 years ago I lost my enjoyment completely. I couldn’t understand it. I just kept trying to listen but failed and left it completely. It hurt me – my failure. It worried me – perhaps there was something wrong with me. Is this a sign of early onset dementia? I could find no mentioned parallel. Eventually, I stopped trying. My music library was packed away in a cupboard along with a hi-fi system that was redundant. I shunned music and majored on writing and reading, on politics and political movements.
Today, I made the first tentative start to climb back. I shut myself in the lounge and forced myself to listen. It was an Arts Channel recording of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. I must admit, I had to try very hard to stay with it and I did try to combine reading The Sunday Times along with it but I got through to the end. It was the English National Opera‘s production and sung in English with on-screen titles which I found rather distracting because it pointed up the fairly trite parts of the libretto which Italian gives such import to. However, like some reverse state of alcoholism, I am back on the booze and will try again before I get the jitters. Tomorrow will be Puccini and I will visualise him sitting in the square outside his house in Lucca where we talked this Summer. I hope he will applaud my intentions.
Monday, 13th November, 2017
Out early on a beautiful morning. Chilly at only 5C/41F but with glorious skies and strong sun. We drove down the coast road to our local hospital. It has recently been graded as Excellent and gives every appearance of being well run. Unlike everywhere else we’ve been, there is lots of parking. The hospital corridors are quiet and empty. The reception areas are well staffed and waiting is at a minimum.
I was there at my own request for an Anti-Coagulation Review. I had already tested myself this morning at 2.4 and my test at the hospital was identical which was a good ‘control’. I discussed my life long use of rat poison and whether there was a better alternative. I have been given information about some other drugs which may be less restrictive on my diet and less demanding on my time in terms of testing and reporting. Apparently, I am free to choose and it will be prescribed for me at the hospital.
Tuesday, 14th November, 2017
We try to go to the Health Club 5 days out of 7. When we do go, we spend an hour in the gym and half an hour in the outside pool. We go when it is quiet so we don’t struggle to get on equipment and we can find a free lane in the pool. The gym is huge and has dozens of pieces of each type of equipment but membership is high. There are three pools and organised classes in the two indoor ones but even in cold weather the outdoor pool is popular as its warm water steams into the atmosphere.
We have an off-peak membership which really has few restrictions. It opens between 6.30 am – 11.00 pm but we have to stop at 4.00 pm so allowing the workers to take precedence in the evening. It opens 7.00 am – 10.00 pm at the weekend but we can’t go until 2.00 pm. All of this suits us perfectly. The cost is £136.00/€152.00 per month or £1632.00/€1824.00 per year for the two of us. Using it around 250 times per year, that works out at £3.25/€3.62 per person per session which seems very reasonable if you compare it with a large cup of coffee on the high street.
We do 40 mins on the treadmill doing fast walk/jogging followed by 20 mins on a cycle. On both of these pieces of equipment, we have individual television screens which really help to pass the time. Outside, the pool is heated throughout the year and steams in cold weather. I do 20 km each week on the treadmill, 35 km each week on the bike and 2.5 km each week in the pool. I aim to do 1000 km each year on the treadmill, 1750 km on the bike and to swim 125 km each year in the outdoor pool. I think that is plenty in my mid 60s. We treat it as a substitute for going to work and try to attend each week day between 1.00 pm – 3.00 pm. It makes us feel better about collecting our pensions.
Wednesday, 15th November, 2017
A grey but reasonably mild day for mid-November. The poor, low level light of oncoming Winter is a little depressing and I have brief twinges of regret that I am not in the Canary Islands as was intended for the November. It is 23C/74F on Gran Canaria this morning but only 13C/55F here as we park up in our village square. It is not an area that we frequent very often but, this morning, we notice that the butcher is selling locally sourced venison and pheasants. However, they are significantly more expensive than those on sale in the weekly farmers’ market and this is one of the problems with local suppliers.
Around the pool this afternoon, the temperature had reached 15C/60F and our swim was all the better for that. Just a little bit of sun would have helped but you can’t have everything.
Thursday, 16th November, 2017
Lovely day which had reached 15C/60F by 10.00 am as we returned from our weekly shop. The sun had taken quite a long time to appear but, by the time we had done our hour in the gym and were ready to go outside to the pool, the sky was blue and the sun was out. Our swim was lovely. We have been very lucky that the month when we should have been abroad in the sun has turned out to be so benign here.
Greece cannot say the same. It has been hit by heavy rain and subsequent flooding of biblical proportions according to Kathimerini. This has affected islands and mainland. The Dodecanese island of Simi has been declared a disaster area and suburbs of Athens have seen 16 people die with 5 more still missing. It is at times like these that one realises the edge upon which Greek society survives. In good times, the sun shines, the tourists come, the cash tills fill and life is good. It only takes an act of nature to be one strike away from disaster.
On our very first trip to Athens in 1980, we entered our hotel just as a huge rainstorm hit the city. We checked in and were given our key for our room. Fortunately, we chose to climb the stairs because, as we sort out our room, the power went off as torrential rain flooded the externally mounted electric fuse box. Everything went out. We were in total darkness. If we’d taken the lift, we could have been stuck for hours. On another occasion, the streets became like rivers as a storm burst over the city. We tried to rush for shelter down crowded, flooded streets. Suddenly, Pauline just disappeared …. down a manhole where the cover was missing but couldn’t be seen in deep water. I hauled her out shaken but otherwise unhurt but we reflected that it could have been so much worse.
Hints of a Third World country suddenly come to mind as the pavements are poor and broken, the drainage is neglected and blocked, the buildings are poor quality and subject to collapse in extreme weather. Social and Medical services are underfunded and understaffed to deal with the aftermath. It has been worse in the late 70s and early 80s. It has been better in the 2000s before the economic collapse but it does make Greeks feel vulnerable. On Sifnos, a major dam expensively constructed with EU funding immediately turned out to be Gerry-built (although the builder was Cypriot) as soon as it was needed to contain heavy rainfall and the islanders found their prized construction collapsing. These are signs of a First World nation on the surface not really having eradicated their Third World past.
Friday, 17th November, 2017
Less than two weeks left of November. I am still wearing short-sleeved shirts and swimming outside. Today we only reached 13C/56F but, with no trace of a breeze and under clear, blue skies with lovely strong low sun, it felt much warmer. I must admit that, if the pool wasn’t heated, it would be a different . We came home and griddled swordfish steaks in the garden – eaten with salad it was just bliss.
I’ve never been big on celebrations. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Public Holidays are opportunities for nothing special at all. Since a very early age, Christmas has meant nothing to me at all but something to be endured. I used to bitterly resent the fact that there were no newspapers printed and radio and television news just pedalled out the clichéd events of Royal Family attending church, Queen’s Speech, Fake snow everywhere and huge Christmas trees surrounded by perfectly wrapped boxes tied with bows.
There is one thing I did appreciate and that was Christmas Day food. I love turkey and I love sage & onion stuffing. Why do we never eat it all round the year? I often make a resolution to do that and then it disappears into the New Year enthusiasms for dieting, etc.. Not this year. Tomorrow we will not go to the Health Club because it is Christmas Day and Turkey and stuffing will be served. Think we’re mad? We don’t care because we’ve got the turkey. A 4 kilo bird will provide plenty of meat for us hot and cold, fill Pauline’s favourite sandwiches – Turkey & Stuffing – and then produce litres of stock for winter soups. No turkey will die in vain.
Saturday, 18h November, 2017
It is a grey, damp and rather depressing day outside today. We are at home enjoying not going out. The news from rain-sodden Greece has worsened over night with three more bodies found in the aftermath of the West Athens flooding. This brings the toll to 19 deaths as a result of the weather.
If anyone thought I was overstating the case a couple of days ago when I wrote about the Third Word-ness returning to Greece, you should really read the ‘Opinion’ article from Nikos Katopoulos in Kathimerinithis weekend. Under a title of Suffocation, he writes:
Virtually every Greek citizen feels sadness, shame, disappointment and anger about their homeland……An evening stroll around Athens ….amounts to a surreal experience as degeneration seems to have engulfed all aspects of public life…. Greece is at the bottom of all quality-of-life indicators. It is slipping into underdevelopment..
It is a desperate situation which will take immense effort to change and will require a really concerted European effort.
Remember, remember, a day to remember this has been. The sky has been a piecing blue with not a cloud throughout the daylight hours. Just letting one’s eyes drink in those colours and that light lifts one’s spirits. We have been at home to watch the remarkable implosion of the political scene as witnessed by the three, main Sunday political shows and then some football. The less I go in to those the better.
I originated in the East Midlands, in Mercia and, particularly, the small village of Repton which is dominated by the public school that I am rather reticent to acknowledge was the alma mater of Roald Dahl and Jeremy Clarkson. Many of my brothers and sisters, over the years have gravitated towards the south – to Maidenhead, to London, to Farnham, to Sussex coast, etc.. Now, it seems that they are just following (or leading) , the trend.
Repton was the historic capital of Mercia and considered the epicentre of the country. Not any more according to a report in the Sunday Times this morning which draws on the Liverpool University PopChange Project. By 1971, they judged that the centre line between North and South could be drawn through Newhall, a very small town in south Derbyshire just 5 miles from my home village. Almost 45 years later, they judged that this line had advanced 9 miles into Leicestershire by dint of the fact of population drift towards the south.
It means prosperous southerners are being crowded into a smaller landmass each year as the south sucks in more immigrants and has a higher birth rate. Chris Lloyd, professor of quantitative geography at Liverpool University, said: “The north-south divide is moving south because the south is gaining an ever increasing share of the population of Britain.”
I’ve got to start persuading my siblings to go North in retirement. Somebody’s got to take a lead or I’ll get crowded out down here.
Monday, 6th November, 2017
Gorgeous day with blue skies and strong sunshine. A little chilly just after 7.00 am with almost a hint of frost on the lawn. Soon, the house was baking hot as the sun poured in and we went out in Summer clothes as usual.
I had a major problem to solve this morning. Both Pauline and I received emails, ostensibly from our broadband provider, saying that within a minute of each other our accounts had been ‘successfully accessed’ from Azerbaijan (me) and Turkey (Pauline). This was accompanied by the standard advice to immediately change our passwords and our ‘recovery’ details. A link was provided to follow for this.
Something like this always makes one a little shaky but have to be addressed. I checked the link address and satisfied myself that it was correct and then proceeded to change the settings which we have used for too long. I then contacted our provider to demand explanations of why and how this could have happened. It takes forever to get hold of these people. They are always experiencing an unusually high demand of callers which is a non sequiturin itself. What they mean is that they are always understaffed even for a normal demand. Although, when I finally got to speak to them, they tried to assuage my concerns, they have still not got back to me with a reasonable explanation of the situation. However, they will. Believe me!
Tuesday, 7th November, 2017
A cool day and rather grey day. We swam under leaden skies and there was a faint hint of steam rising from the heated water. We’ve done 7 days exercise in the past 9 days and tomorrow will be a rest day. That’s a lot of days! We are going into Worthing after Pauline has visited the Hygienist. She’s been desperate to have her teeth professionally cleaned for weeks and I’ve been holding her back. If there is one thing I hate more than Dentists it is Hygienists. They hurt me.
It has never been more important than now to have internet security. Witness our email accounts being hacked the other day. I have installed Norton Security on all our main IT for years. Last year, I extended it to our iPads and smartphones. Really, you have to close the door on any piece of apparatus that surfs the internet. Of course, as the number of devices proliferate, the more expensive it becomes. I made the mistake very early on of ticking automatic renewal on my Norton Account and found that they had charged me an arm and a leg. I had to badger them into submission to get it returned.
It is just over a month until I will need to renew my subscription and I was reminded of that by an email from Total Computing who offered me software to cover 10 devices for £29.99/€34.00. We have a 7 devices – a desktop, 2 x laptops, 2 x iPads and 2 x smartphones to cover so this seemed a reasonable offer. It leaves room for any whim of fancy that induces us to add to that array of IT over the coming year. I did a quick search and couldn’t find it cheaper. Generally, many were asking around £39.99/€45.50 but a check on the automatic renewal price at Norton produced a price of £55.00/€62.50. It pays to be a cheapskate and check a few alternatives.
Wednesday, 8th November, 2017
A cold, grey day which didn’t get much above 9C/48F. We had decided to take the day off work and go shopping. While the country was paralysed by the possibility that the Secretary of State for International Development would be sacked and were tracking her flight from Kenya to UK, we drove to the dentist at Sainsbury’s for Pauline’s Hygienist appointment and then on to Worthing under leaden skies.
We did some desultory shopping for clothes. Is it me or do so many clothes shops look like jumble sales? Little choice and what there was just looked cheap and nasty. No wonder people prefer to buy on the net. Wednesday is the out door market in Worthing and we bought huge mangoes from the fruit stall which will get us through the week. We also bought pheasants and grouse from the Game stall which sells free range eggs as well.
Back home, the Secretary of State for International Development was still in the air and her flight was minutely tracked by television news stations. There must have been so little on the agenda. Duly sacked she ‘resigned’ and the country heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Thursday, 9th November, 2017
Having spent a life time enjoying lots of different types of food, my retirement years have been marked by control and self-denial with a changing and narrowing of my diet. As I began to understand my body for the first time in almost 60 years, I realised that one major change which would help me was to cut out major, staple carbohydrates particularly bread, pasta, potatoes and rice but also other flour derivatives like cake, biscuits, pastries, etc. This discovery allowed me to control my blood sugar roller coaster which drove my appetite. It allowed me to defeat my Type 2 Diabetic condition and to lose a considerable amount of weight.
In the last week, two news reports have appeared that either set me as a trend setter of a trend follower although neither appeals to me. The British public is losing its love of pasta, apparently, and is buying considerably less. One thing they are replacing it with is spriralized vegetables which is exactly what we started to do 4 years ago. One of the reasons given for this is an anti-carb fashion. At the same time, purchase and consumption of bread is considerably down for lots of reasons including anti-carb. sentiment and free school meals in Primary Schools which replaced packed lunches that had previously centred on sandwiches.
I did worry that my diet has appeared very faddy. I cannot eat green vegetables – beans, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, lettuce, etc. because of the Vitamin K they contain which militates against my warfarin drug. I don’t use sugar at any time only artificial sweetener based on Maltodextrin or Polysaccharide although recently I’ve become aware that it can cause spikes in blood sugar and, for that reason, I am dropping it. Having said all of that, I desperately try to keep my faddiness under wraps most of the time but I was reminded of it as we walked around the supermarket this morning and found the illustrated display of Organic, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Where does that fit in?
Friday, 10th November, 2017
Yesterday for the first time since last April, I put on a long sleeved shirt. Not for long. The sun came out and back to a short sleeve. Pauline has 4 different duvets for our bed measured from 1 – 13 Tog. The tog is a measure of thermal resistance of a unit area We haven’t used the heaviest one for such a long time, I’m told we took that one to the waste tip months ago. Yesterday, we moved up from 1 Tog to 3 Togs but I’m finding that too hot. Today, we have had breakfast with the patio doors open and the sun streaming in. A third of our way in to November. It could be worse.
Today, Pauline is making Piccalilli and I am vacuuming the house. You can’t get much more exciting than that apart from watching England lose to Germany tonight.
From the shallow to the sublime, I am reminded of W.B. Yeats poem, The Falling of the Leaves :
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us, And over the mice in the barley sheaves; Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us, And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
The hour of the waning of love has beset us, And weary and worn are our sad souls now; Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us, With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
So much has changed in the hundred years since these lines were written and yet the natural world dictates that so much has stayed the same.
Saturday, 11th November, 2017
I follow and occasionally dip in to a site called Historical Pics. Recently, I found this and it took me back across the years.
This is Sackville Street in Dublin in March 1966. It pictures what remains of Nelson’s Column after having been blown up by the IRA. . Just over 4 months later, I was standing there, aged 15 and feeling slightly vulnerable in view of what I was looking at and thinking, This is so far removed from my home village in appearance and atmosphere. It was a growing experience and a right of passage.
Those troubled, insurrectionist times are, temporarily at least, behind us. A degree of peace, prosperity and normality has returned to the island of Ireland. However, as Gladstone observed, Just when you think you have found an answer to the Irish question, the Irish change the question. And so it may be right now. After the EU Referendum, I predicted that it might rise or fall on the border between North and Southern Ireland. That appears even more apposite now than ever.