Week 465

Sunday, 19th November, 2017

All the signs of Autumn.

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.

Prefects – 1968. I am back row, 2nd left and Mike Smith is centre of middle row.

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.

Harry (Brab) Smith

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 (66) on ‘Countdown’ today.

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.

The Metropolit of Kavryta

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.

Simon in Corfu on Democracy Street

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.

Jack Hargreaves

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.

 

Paul Peacock

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.

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