Week 471

Sunday, 31st December,

The last day of the year is dull, wet and fairly dismal. It doesn’t bode well for the firework celebrations that are planned to welcome in 2018. However, we are still alive and grateful for that. Sunday papers followed by a really enjoyable football match in which Palace held City to a draw and closed with the two managers sitting together and talking almost like adults. I enjoyed it anyway.

No exercise today and, although we both heaved a sigh of relief initially, I am starting to feel itchy energy as I pace around the house. I might do the vacuuming. It is too uninviting to go out for a walk. Pauline is roasting a brace of partridge for our meal and we will accompany them with a bottle of  Juan Gil Jumilla which was given us for Christmas by our dear friends in Yorkshire. It is the last alcohol for some time so it better be good.

As usual, one of our New Year’s resolutions is to be better people and that means fitter and healthier. We are starting our strictly paired-down calorie intake tomorrow and that will include complete abstinence from alcohol for as long as we can hold out. We will go back to weighing out and calorie calculating all our meals. I am also pledging to increase my physical exercise in small increments over the next few months. I will do 10 mins. extra on the jogging machine each session in the first week and then add 10 mins. per session on the bike in the second week. In the third week – if I’m still alive – I will add 2 lengths (50m) to my swimming each subsequent week until I’ve taken my current 20 lengths to 30.

Another of our resolutions is to travel more but with a particular purpose. We are looking to rent villas in the south of France and in Tenerife to provide us with a base for summer and winter breaks. We have tight requirements. It must have good cooking and clothes washing facilities, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, satellite television and a pool which should be heated in Tenerife for the winter. Basically, we want to continue our normal life somewhere else for a while. We may use that as a springboard to buying somewhere in 2019 depending on Brexit (ahh) outcome. We also want to do a couple of short breaks in European cities – Italy & Spain – although we are not particularly good at that sort of thing.

One resolution I failed miserably at in 2017 was to stop walking round with my mouth open like a gibbering idiot. I will redouble my efforts. Pauline is resolving to smile more and make herself squint less in photographs. You read it here first.

Monday, 1st January

Didn’t quite make the 7.00 am start today but it will be our only lapse this year. On the first day of 2018, after breakfast and newspapers, we followed our routine of the first day of each new month – we read and record our meters – gas, electricity & water. Everything is entered into a spreadsheet which we’ve kept almost as long as we’ve been married. We have a smart meter in our Office which displays consumption figures – or it did until it failed a couple of weeks ago. Today, we could be found in the rain with pen and pad, umbrella and torch sharing the routine together. This is how a marriage works!

We ventured out into the rain at 10.00 am to ….. pick up a mop from Argos. All great matters of State are here. Don’t you just wish you could join us in the high life? We are off to the Health Club for our first exercise of the year this afternoon although the weather isn’t exactly tempting us out.

Tuesday, 2nd January

Spent the entire day thinking it was Monday. Yesterday felt like Sunday because it was the post New Year calm before the storm. It reminds me of the old joke from my student days that I found hilarious but few others laughed at:

Two hippopotamuses wading in the mud. One picked his head up, sniffed the air, looked around and said in a slow, deep voice, Mavis, I keep thinking it’s Thursday.

As students, pretending to be very intellectual, we thought that was side-splittingly funny – so much so that we entitled our college magazine, Mavis, as some ‘in joke’. The mildly amusing absurdity of it has stayed with me for almost 50 years. The boy who first told me the joke is now a 68 year old artist with a gallery in Yorkshire. How times move on – or not.

I hesitate to insert a description of our bedtime routine here so, if you are sensitive, look away now. I am addicted to late nights and early mornings. It has been like that all my life. My normal bedtime is midnight and the radio news comes on at the side of our bed at 6.00 am. We get up an hour later and the day begins. At night time, Pauline goes up to read around 10.30 pm and I watch Newsnight and the Newspaper Review before tidying the house, checking the doors, turning out the lights and setting the alarm. When I get to bed, Pauline is either still reading her book (on her Kindle) or snoozing. I tell her the headlines from tomorrows papers and I am then asleep within 5 minutes.

Not tonight. As soon as I went up, I could see a look of genuine concern on Pauline’s face and anxiety in her eyes. She asked me to look at her tongue. It was bright yellow as if it had been scattered with pollen. She does suffer with an acid reflux problem and this is not totally unusual. Actually, she regularly brushed her tongue to get rid of it. She is also prone to tongue ulcers. However, tonight, she wanted me to look at quite a large, yellow/brown circular lump far back on her tongue which she had noticed for the first time.

Her iPad had Google open at Symptoms of Mouth Cancer. Actually, the appearance of the lump was more like the description of (look away) Genital Warts. She said she had tried brushing it and pulling it off but it wouldn’t move and was certainly a growth. We resolved to go straight to our dentist tomorrow morning to get an expert opinion before moving on to the doctor. I found it hard to get to sleep and finally dropped off dreaming about seriously worrying results.

Wednesday, 3rd January

Woke up at 6.00 am and my first thought was about Pauline’s ‘problem’. Somehow, you wish it had been a dream. She went to the bathroom to look at her tongue and … the lump was still there. We both agreed to go out at 8.30 am to get to the dentist for some serious advice. Breakfast for me was freshly squeezed orange juice and tea. For Pauline it was a cup of hot water and a bowl of her daily cereal – raw porridge oats mixed with fruit and skimmed milk. She was finding it as hard to drink and swallow as she was last night. Suddenly, she found the lump had moved backwards on her tongue and, after a painful and uncomfortable attempt she removed it.

It was the hard, round, half-dome husk of a cereal seed which was about half a centimetre in diameter and which had acted like the suction pad of a limpet on her tongue for 24 hrs. It had survived umpteen hot drinks and a bowl of soup, a chicken and vegetable meal and a bottle of water. It had survived being brushed, gargled, scraped and pulled. It had looked to all intents and purposes as if it was integral to her tongue. Hurray! We did an increased gym & swim yesterday and we will do another one today.

We didn’t choose to swim here in Littlehampton!

It was quite blustery last night and the strong gusts continued sporadically this morning. We did our 70  mins in the gym and steeled ourselves to swim outside. Actually, the outside temperature was 11C/52F but the wind chill did reduce that rather. Even so, we did our swim and followed that with a sauna and Jacuzzi and water jet massage. I managed 11,500 paces again today and earned about 720 calories in my exercise at the Health Club. I am fulfilling my resolution of increasing my exercise by 10 mins in the first week and another 10 mins will be added next week followed by a gradual increasing of my swimming lengths. I will achieve about 70,000 paces per week which equates to about 53 kms/33mls covered. For an old(er) man, I think that is becoming reasonable but I must try harder.

Thursday, 4th January

Already the mornings are seeming to get lighter earlier. Things are certainly getting better. Before we know it, we will be seeing the Spring. Our Hellebores are already flowering beautifully which is a delight in these dark days.






The cyclamen are coming back strongly and hydrangeas are budding up with promises for the new season. We have every reason to be optimistic.

It was 13C/56F today which made swimming outside pleasant although a strong breeze tended to take make us wince at times as it blew cold spray across our bare backs. We did another full, enhanced exercise routine again for the 4th, consecutive day and were definitely starting to feel it. One more tomorrow and then Saturday off.

Friday, 5th January

This blog entry will concern itself with the minutiae of life. (What’s new? I hear you ask.) If you haven’t got time to waste, look at something else. We went out to buy two padlocks today.

Our trips to the Health Club involve changing rooms and lockers. We get changed for the gym and lock our stuff up. We arrive back at the changing shattered and sweaty to get ready for the pool. Unlock and relock. Finally, we shower and dress after swimming – unlock again.

We use a padlock with a key. The key is attached to a strong, rubber wrist band. well, I say strong but I have seen a few members scratching around at the base of the foaming Jacuzzi for a dislocated key. A woman last week had to have her padlock cut off her locker because of a lost key and, yesterday, Pauline’s band pinged open as she changed for swimming. Five minutes later and I would have been on a diving course to recover it from the bottom of the huge, outdoor pool. The only reason we haven’t dispensed with keys is because all the combination padlocks we’ve seen have been too small to read with tired, old eyes. If your reading glasses are locked in a locker which is padlocked with a combination you can’t see, then you’re knackered. Today, I found some padlocks with a combination you could read with the naked eye from outer space. Hope Pauline can see them.

Saturday, 6th January

I was involved in Education and training for more than 50 years. Some of those were, of course , my own education but my work and my own development went on side by side until the mid-1980s when I completed my Masters Degree. I have always believed Education is the most liberating and empowering of processes for all people. It certainly was for me.

I have met, known and worked with an enormous number of interesting, challenging, unusual even bizarre people in my time from my own teachers and lecturers, people I have worked for and those who have worked for me but it is the students I have been responsible for who particularly remain in my memory. One of the things I have learnt is that my judgement of them has rarely been right. It is a humbling sense of my own ignorance about humankind.

The girl in the red dress with her Mum & Dad

Purely by chance this week, I read in the Manchester Evening News of two men in their late 30s who are in court for attacking and viciously torturing a vulnerable man in his flat before killing him and escaping with £40.00 in cash. As soon as I read the names, I knew them. I could see them as daft, troublesome little lads in the early 1990s. Amazing how ‘special needs’ kids from 25 years ago can evoke a whole section of one’s life. In this same week and quite out of the blue I received a message on Faceache from a girl called Donna. I didn’t recognise her surname because she is married but she was a lovely pupil who is now 41 years old. I last saw her 25 years ago as she went out into the world. She went on to 6th Form College, Birmingham University and then the hotel industry. Nowadays, she flits between her home in Birmingham and her home in Barbados.

My life has touched both ends of the spectrum. If I take credit for one, I would have to take the blame for the other. The only thing one can do is hope to make a difference and accept it won’t always succeed. It also shows how little difference teachers make in the overall scheme of things. Two boys of challenged ability have found themselves on the perimeter of society. One girl who was lucky enough to have a lovely mother who was a cleaner in my school and was determined that her daughter would do well, made the most of her chances.

Week 470

Sunday, 24th December, 2017

Christmas Eve means so many things to different people at different stages of their life. To children and parents of children it means something very different to people deep in age like me. For me, it is navigating the changing patterns of mankind so that my life can continue as seamlessly as possible. Will the roads be clear or jammed? Will the gym be busy or quiet? Will political debate on television and in the digital media be interrupted or maintained? Do I have to look like I’m enjoying it?

Well, today went alright. We did jobs in the house this morning, went to the Health Club which was slightly busier this afternoon and are spending an evening of contemplation tonight as usual. I have played Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Hits at full volume to drown out the world and its musak and followed that by Handel’s Opera, Xerxes with its tearful opening aria, Largo. these pieces always set me up for the sadness of Christmas.

  • Bird on the Wire
  • Dance me to the end of love
  • So Long Marianne
  • Hey That’s no way to say Goodbye.

I am sobbing on the carpet and then Handel’s Largo totally destroys me. I am a really sad case and not safe to be allowed out with music unless nurse is with me. Unfortunately, today she was cooking.

Monday, 25th December, 2017

Up at 6.00 am. Dark, chilly, damp, no newspapers, rubbish radio, rubbish television. Idiots queuing from the middle of the night to get a place in the queue to watch the queen go to church in the middle of the morning.  The world has gone mad. Happy Christmas!

Pauline prepared one of her best Christmas meals for a long time if ever. This is what it consisted of:


  • Meat Terrine – Pork, Chicken & Duck wrapped in Bacon & served with Pear Compote.
  • Fish Terrine  – Salmon mixed with Cream Cheese & Dill wrapped in Smoked Salmon & served with Avocado & Cucumber Salsa.

Main Course

  • Norfolk Bronze Turkey
  • Pigs in Blankets
  • Sage & Onion Stuffing
  • Baby Sprouts with Bacon & Chestnuts
  • Roasted Potatoes
  • Roasted Carrots
  • French Beans
  • Cranberry Sauce & Apple Sauce


  • Year-old Christmas Pudding served with Cream-enriched Custard or Pouring Cream.
  • Lemon Chiffon on a Ginger Base.

The cake, which had been lovingly crafted, was left uncut until we prepared to drive home. As she rarely gets to try her own cake, Pauline cut a large slice to bring away with us. Even I tried it and it was absolutely delicious and moist. Now we are looking forward to some exercise tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26th December, 2017

Up early as usual and out on a short drive to Bognor Regis. It is about ten miles from our home. A beautiful, sunny day of blue sky but quite raw at 8.0C/47F and, with a wind chill factor, it felt colder than that. We parked up on the Esplanade. Others had obviously had the same idea although it wasn’t over busy.

I walked on this beach with my Grandad & Nana Coghlan and my brother, Bob, in 1955. I actually can remember it because there was a very strong wind which whipped up beachful’s of sand that stung our bare legs as we walked. I was reminded of this today because there were so many outlets for ‘Deck Chairs & Wind Breaks’. You just don’t see them in the Mediterranean.

Actually, our walk didn’t last much more than 40 mins although it felt longer. We drove back feeling better for the experience. We ate a meal of cold turkey and slices of the starters from yesterday. Pauline hadn’t brought any of the sensational sweets home with her otherwise we would have gorged upon those as well. We will definitely need to be back in the gym tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27th December, 2017

Got up at 7.00 am to find an avalanche had hit the back garden. If we’d got up an hour later, we’d have known nothing of it. It was gone and the rain had cleaned up. We had to go out and buy milk. The breeze was biting and the temperature read 3C/37F and the rain drifted into our faces. We really do need to be in some warm sunshine. I resolve to take my search for properties abroad more seriously and get on with finding somewhere to enjoy this coming year.

We have been all over the place in our decision making for some time. It is not usually a problem to us but we have been finding it difficult to choose and commit to decisions on travel. It is time to focus our minds and make them up. We’ve even been talking about the possibility of buying a place in the Canaries. Certainly, we will look for a long term rental there for this winter and a month or so rental in the South of France for the summer. That is my task this week.

Thursday, 28th December, 2017

Ferring Beach in the sunshine.

Lovely, crisp and bright day of blue sky and strong sun. We did our weekly shop at Sainsbury’s this week and it was very, almost eerily, quiet at 9.30 am. These workers just don’t have the stamina like the old days! Checkout workers were sitting around, twiddling their thumbs as we approached. We drove home on quiet roads and prepared to go back to the Health Club after three days of rest. We drove in to the David Lloyd car park and the signs were a little ominous. It was quite full. We had a conference about whether to proceed or not but thought we’d made the effort to get there so we should get on with it.

Pauline in her element.

The changing room was so full, I had to fight my way in and there was hardly a locker to use. I finally found one, got changed and went out to join Pauline outside the gym. She had experienced similar problems. We went into the gym area and every piece of equipment was in use. In almost two years of membership, we had never seen it like this. We turned round, walked out and got changed back in to our ordinary clothes. As we walked back to the car, we decided it was too lovely a day to do nothing so we drove down to Ferring Beach for a walk.

We are so pleased that we made this decision. The weather was warm (ish) at 9C/48F without a hint of a breeze and the sun was strong and hot.

Pauline makes friends.

People were out walking their dogs and playing with children. A dog came up to befriend us but no children did thank goodness. One group was having a picnic but nobody was swimming. A group of riders were exercising their horses at the sea’s edge. The tide was out and small pools broke up the vast expanse of sand and glistened in the sunlight. Pauline comes alive in these surroundings and glows with happiness. We walked for an hour or so and felt so much better for it. This is a lovely beach we must return to very soon. It is only minutes away from our house.

Friday, 29th December, 2017

A beautiful, bright and breezy day which followed a wet night. So good of the weather to organise itself like that. We only have 9C/48F and the wind will make that chillier but we are still going to make another attempt at the Health Club today although swimming is a little in doubt.

0% – thank you very much!

It is almost two years since we were purchasing things for our new house in West Sussex. New beds, fitted bedroom furniture, dining table & chairs, sofas and chairs for the lounge, etc.. Everyone offered us interest-free credit and refused to reduce the price if we paid in full immediately. It seemed stupid not to keep our own cash earning a massive 1.2% tax free in a savings account and dribble payment to loan companies over 1, 2, 3 or even 4 years. It isn’t really a problem just setting up direct debits payable until a finite date although, occasionally, we discuss just paying them off so they don’t appear on our statements.

Essentially, with people who don’t need to borrow money but do like to hold that facility in hand for future reference, it is important to have a credit rating. We know people who have not borrowed for a number of years being rejected for mobile phone contracts because they have no credit records. Our new house purchases had payments terminating after Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 and even one after Year 4. They amount to very little each month so that they can almost be paid off by our State Pensions but, already, we have completed 2 with another to go in a couple of months and 2 more over the next couple of years. We look on them as pay rises for the thrifty.

The A62 across the Pennines.

Our old hunting ground in Yorkshire was beset by bad weather. Snow was falling and making travelling difficult – hazardous even. Our daily trip across the Pennines from West Yorkshire to Lancashire would have been impossible for a while as it was on our wedding day – the anniversary of which we mark tomorrow. In the Pennine region it is taken for granted but it is only when one is out of there that one realises nothing is inevitable. Today in West Sussex, we have seen no snow. Driving is like every day. We’ve been to the Health Club and swum outside under delightful sun then driven home and griddled swordfish steaks in the garden. The two environments are different worlds and I know now which I prefer.

Saturday, 30th December, 2017

Meltham Mills Church

Oh Happy Day! Callooh Callay. Our 39th wedding Anniversary. We married where we were living in Meltham Mills, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Actually, we were married in a Registry Office ceremony and only had a ‘Blessing’ in church to please my Mother. On this morning in 1978, we awoke to a blizzard of snow which had fallen over night. The council gritters were on strike and guests really struggled to get to us. Fortunately, they did make it and the day was magical and memorable. I can’t believe how fortunate I’ve been. One finds oneself holding one’s breath and hoping for another 39 years but realising that is very unlikely.

The Beautiful 27 year olds.

However, to that end, we will celebrate today by doing a couple of hours of exercise a the Health Club but, first, I have to do my household chores. Unstacking the dishwasher, hovering the house and shelling the lobster for this afternoon’s meal. We will have a Seafood Gratin consisting of lobster, langoustines and scallops topped with Gruyere cheese. We will toast our health down the years with a bottle of champagne and finish with a reprise of Pauline’s Lemon Chiffon. Life could get better but not a lot.

We have been rewarded with a beautiful, clear but breezy day of sunshine and blue sky. The world around us is still enjoying its holiday break while we are looking forward to them going back to school/work. We are already formulating New Year’s Resolutions which will appear here tomorrow at the start of the new week. Thanks to those who have contacted us to offer congratulations.

Week 469

Sunday, 17th December, 2017

Week 469 marks the start of The Blog’s 10th year. If I focus on that fact, I can hardly believe it. Of course, it has encapsulated and chronicled some dramatic moments in my life as well as many very mundane ones. Often, I have completely lost sight of who it is written for and, currently, I still don’t know. When asked, I always say that it is for me and my memory but I hope it has, at times amused or enraged some others who, like me, enjoy viewing the minutiae of others’ lives. I have always been an ‘observer’ rather than a ‘joiner’, on the edge of the party rather than the life and soul of it. It suits me which is why my chronicle – The Blog – has made me comfortable in its construction and development.

Today, Pauline has been decorating her Christmas Cake. I have rarely seen her so tense in a kitchen. Everything has been stressing her from concerns about a North Korean attack to her icing being too sticky to roll out. Fortunately, North Korea held off today and trial and error produced a sheet of the correct colour icing that could be cut to fit a template and successfully laid over the cake. After all, World War was avoided for another day.

The High St. & Square, Repton

I was watching a programme which allowed people to describe the place of their origin. Naturally, they invested pleasurable memories in their description and love to return to their origins to rediscover childhood memories. I often hear of people making a final relocation in their lives to return to their childhood roots. I was reflecting on the journey that my own life has taken from a small, East Midlands village to a Lancashire town, a Yorkshire town, a Surrey town and a Greek island and now a West Sussex village. I was desperate to leave my small village for the anonymity of a town. I don’t mind going back as an ‘observer’ but I could never contemplate returning to be part of a community.

It is a strange phenomenon in my psyche and my life. I can enjoy reviewing past events and places in my timeline and the Blog is a good place to start but I can’t face the commitment of really returning in any meaningful way. It may explain why I like moving house and why I have really enjoyed leaving all or many of my possessions behind when  I did. In Yorkshire, we sold all our furniture with our house and gave away most of the rest of our possessions. In Greece, we sold or gave away all our furnishings and most of our other belongings before we left. In Surrey, we sold our Duplex fully furnished and started afresh in a brand new house in Sussex. There is something enjoyable for me in a tablar rasa and the chance to escape old mistakes and to build on acquired experiences. The Blog allows me to revisit times, places and experiences on my own terms without having to compromise my isolation or ‘observer’ status. This, in itself, is a raison d’être.

Monday, 18th December, 2017

Beautiful salmon pink skies both morning and evening bathing the surrounding buildings with a theatrical glow. In between, we had plenty of blue sky and strong, low Winter sun. The day was reasonably mild and windless making our outdoor swim really enjoyable.

Pauline has been planning the Christmas Day meal that she is going to cook for her family. Every element has to be the best she can source. I’ve written before of our long held determination to only eat food that we could prepare from good, natural ingredients. We went out of our way to make things from scratch that others, with less time or inclination, would just take from a supermarket shelf. Pauline would make all her own bread – in the days when we ate bread. We bought a pasta maker – in the days when we ate pasta – and a sausage maker to make what was once one of my favourite foods. We don’t eat cake and biscuits but, when we did, Pauline would make them much better than shop bought ones.

We didn’t take the home-made principle too far. For example, we used to love bacon in the past but never attempted to cure that. I love smoked salmon and Gravadlax. I love kippers and cold, smoked mackerel. These are examples of processed foods that we have continued to buy. Recently, however, I have been finding it difficult to source good quality smoked salmon at reasonable prices. I am currently considering trying to smoke my own fish and I’ve been looking for Smokers that I can use in the garden. I think I will start small and, if successful, scale up. Too much smoked food is not particularly good for one but, if I can produce smoked salmon and mackerel to eat once or twice a month, I will be pleased. I hope it will be a rewarding experience. Could be a New Year Resolution.

Tuesday, 19th December, 2017

If there was a god, he’d be in his heaven.

A lovely day which started off with bright sky and sent shepherds their traditional warning followed by delightful sunshine but a hint of frost on the lawn. We’ve been out shopping for Christmas Lunch items in Littlehampton. Later we went to the Health Club. After an hour in the gym, we changed for the pool. As I put on my swimming boxer shorts and pulled the ties, one snapped and withdrew into the waistband. There was nothing I could do to retrieve it and I certainly felt insecure in swimming without it. I settled for 20 mins in the Jacuzzi/sauna and then came home.

Pauline roasted salmon with pesto topping accompanied by salad and we relaxed in to a glorious evening which, in contradistinction to the morning sky, suggested shepherds should be delighted. The temperature didn’t get above 9C/48F but it certainly felt pleasant in the sunshine. This evening, at 8.00 pm, it is still 7C/45F and is forecast to remain around that throughout the night. Certainly, there is unlikely to be a ‘white Christmas’ thank goodness.

Wednesday, 20th December, 2017

Quite a mild day. Swimming was really enjoyable outside today and we both felt wonderful after our gym & swim session. The rest of the day was spent by Pauline in cooking for Christmas. She managed to roast a couple of duck legs which we ate with salad for our meal as well. This evening, I’ve watched Man.Utd. being well beaten by Bristol City who I found myself cheering for.

I love political turbulence and it is not difficult to find. I received a Christmas card from Superfast & Blue Star Ferries this morning and you can be sure why. I’ve looked at a potential booking that we used to do – Leaving around Greek Easter in April and returning at the end of September, travelling in a Luxury cabin with our car. The cost has come down hugely. At the end, we were paying around £1000.00/€1130.00 for that return crossing. Today, I could buy it for £630.00/€715.00. For all the bullish data coming out from a Greek government who are way behind in the opinion polls, the actuality is very different. Kathimerini tells us today that joblessness is continuing to soar. The forced appropriation and auctioning of mortgage defaulters’ properties and the population’s pessimism about avoiding the need for a 4th bailout with its attendant external supervision means the economy is not as Syriza would want us to believe. Add to that the other members of the EU’s growing reluctance to take the immigrants building up on Greek Islands and reluctantly being resettled on the mainland and it is not a happy society.

Of course, it is not all sweetness and light here at the moment, thank goodness!

Thursday, 21st December, 2017

Brighton Pier last night.

The shortest day is a glass half full time in which we can look forward to longer, lighter days. Went out early – 8.45 am – under grey sky to Tesco for our final shop before Christmas. One of the joys of retirement is to be free to beat the crowds. Even then, we didn’t totally succeed. So many people were out shopping to beat the crowds that none of us really succeeded. I am absolutely convinced that some people just love the frisson of busy shops and lots of people to get a genuine sense of being involved in the festivity. There is nothing like a bit of pushing and shoving to make one feel part of the real world.

I used to try to persuade my aged mother that 10.30 on a Saturday morning was not the best time for a retired old lady to be driving to town, looking for parking, walking the supermarket aisles when the rest of the working world were desperately using their hard earned weekend to do the same. She insisted on doing it though and I have since realised, in my own retirement, that being amongst the land-of-the-living makes one feel less marginalised in the aging community.

Why does it take a Christmas celebration to get supermarkets to stock excellent and well priced smoked salmon? I have been trying to source it for weeks but only found small packs at extortionate prices. Today, packs of 300-500 gms appeared priced only slightly ahead of the 100 gms packs that had been on sale until recently. The fish mongers was stocked to flowing with whole, fresh salmon. We just bought one which cost only £21.00/€23.70 but will feed us for five, gluttonous meals.

Incredibly mild today even if it has been grey and dull. As we left the Health Club at 4.00 pm, the car read 14C/57F. It makes so many of these television adverts full of fake snow look depressingly false. We’ve done 4, consecutive days of quite hard exercise and we were both feeling it today. We are going to try one more tomorrow and then have Saturday off. We will go again on Sunday and then have two days off as long as Boxing Day is nice enough for a coastal walk.

Friday, 22nd December, 2017

A relatively mild – 10C/50F – but dark, damp and gloomy morning on what is said to be the busiest of the Christmas period. A couple of things that Pauline had found unable to get in Tesco yesterday had to be sourced in Sainsbury‘s today. We were out at 8.00 am and the roads were fine. The supermarket was rather busier than usual but we were in and out quite quickly. I will be pleased to see no more shops for months. I was going to clean the car but the weather is very off-putting and it would soon be wet and filthy again so I am putting that off.

We have decided that we will definitely do one more gym session today and one on Sunday which will mean we will have done 6 out of the 9 days over the holiday period. Usually, the Health Clubs have a spurt of new memberships and activity at the start of the New Year in line with resolutions but that quite quickly tails off. The state of the economy also conditions membership and there is some uncertainty around here with younger families concerned that stretching themselves with mortgages has left them vulnerable to rate rises. That may deter some from taking on more commitments. Fortunately, that is not a problem which affects us nor has it done for almost 10 years which is reassuring. We even received an advisory letter to say our cash ISA’s rate had increased to a massive 1.06% which forced me to sit down for a while.

After a quick call in to a very busy Tesco carpark en route to the Health Club, we found that so many workers had finished early for Christmas that the gym was very busy as well. In spite of that, we did our 5th, consecutive session plus swim and felt all the better for that.

Saturday, 23rd December, 2017

It was the night before the night before Christmas ……. Please let it be over soon. Everywhere I go I hear that terrible musak about a white Christmas that I haven’t seen for so many years. In fact, I can’t remember seeing snow on Christmas day since I retired in 2009 and there have only been 4 really white Christmas Days in the past 51 years. Even if there had been snow every Christmas, I would still hate that bloody musak! Thank goodness we are heading for a mild and grey day of monotone and calm.

Now Greece might be a different matter. They have snow already. Hundreds of drivers have been stranded on the main Athens to Thessaloniki highway, as a snow storm hit central Greece today. A woman is reported dead in the snow-bound northern Peloponnese. Beaufort 9 winds have stopped ferries to the Cycladic islands and streets of Santorini have been turned in to rivers by torrential rain that has wreaked terrible damage and exposed the poor state of the island’s infrastructure. All those in UK wishing for a white Christmas should think themselves very lucky to get a boring, grey sky.

Week 468

Sunday, 10th December, 2017

This will be my favourite.

This is the last week of the 9th year of the Blog. No, please, no applause. It is a rather grey, wet day and the temperatures are nothing to write a Blog about although we were at 9C/48F while the Home Counties were around 1C/34F and snowing so we can’t complain.

We haven’t been out today. Pauline has been planning the Christmas meal that she will cook for her family. Just the starter has me salivating:

  • Rustic Pâté with Pear Compote & Ciabatta Toast
  • Salmon Terrine with Pear Avocado Salsa & Ciabatta Toast

I won’t go on because I will drown in the anticipation. The entire menu and specific recipes have been typed up after extensive research. While that was going on, I was upgrading Norton Security Premium on two Desktop computers and two laptops. I’ve also put it on the iPads and the smartphones. That is eight machines covered and I’ve got two outstanding installations left for this year all for the princely sum of £29.99/€34.00.

I’ve watched three football matches this afternoon culminating in the thrashing of United by City. It was almost as if Mourinho set them up on a suicidal path to defend for 90 minutes. It was never going to work.

Monday, 11th December, 2017

Up especially early this morning because we were going to brave the rush hour traffic and drive to Worthing so that Pauline can have her hair cut. The weather was dominating the news and snow, particularly, was central to conditions in the North, Midlands and as far south as Surrey. We just had unpleasantly cold rain. We parked on the top, outside level of the multi-storey carpark and the cold sea breeze cut through us as we stepped out of the car.

We parted company as Pauline went in to  Toni&Guy and I went on to Costa Coffee. The atmosphere outside was pretty horrible but there were few inside. I spent my hour enjoying the iPad newspaper and then suffered half an hour of shopping with Pauline. We drove home and decided to stay there today.

Of course, the weather immediately picked up and the sun came out. As the television news featured increasingly difficult driving conditions across the country, our weather improved and got rather warmer. The night sky forecast ‘shepherds delight’ and all well with the world. Talking of world, I sent homemade e-cards to friends in Boston, United States, Melbourne, Australia and the island of Gozo, Malta as well as friends in Sifnos, Greece.

Our Notary who went the extra kilometre to help us complete a really successful sale of our Greek property contacted us a week ago and told us she was thinking of bringing her family to the UK next year. She wanted information and advice. We have written with that and offers of help to make their trip enjoyable. It will be lovely to see her and her family again.

Tuesday, 12th December, 2017

Valencia City

A lovely, sunny if rather chilly day which started off at -1C/30F with a light frost and didn’t get higher than 7C/45F. I spent the morning updating my website and researching travel to Valencia. Our dear friend and ex-colleague from West Yorkshire has a property in Murcia. For two years now, she’s been trying to get us there. Pauline & I have never been to Spain other than to the Canary Islands of Fuerteventura and Tenerife. For two years we have been receiving travel books and hotel books plus bottles of Spanish wine to get us hooked on the idea.

Her property is in Mazarron and we might drive there ultimately but first, we thought we would fly for a short break in Valencia in the Spring. I understand that the orange blossom is there to be smelled in March which would be nice to experience.  I have been trying to find out about somewhere I know absolutely nothing of. It will be interesting to experience a different culture. It is nice to have a lot of new areas to explore.

Back in West Sussex, the temperature has forced us not to swim outside although some others continued to do so. We just did gym work today and will go back to swimming tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13th December, 2017

The gorgeous Lizzie Dripping.

We have really enjoyed today and the weather has been kind to us. Warmer – 10C/50F – and swimming outside was back on and delicious. A festive air has arrived with Christmas cards from France, Australia, America, Greece, and around the UK. Got a request for my address from own sister. I suggested she sent wine rather than Christmas cards but she did supply this official portrait instead. I think she looks gorgeous but then I’ve always loved venison.

While I’m dwelling on the lunacies of the festival, I thought I would share a few Cracker jokes with you that featured in The Independent. My favourite was about the Leader of the Labour Party who was awarded an international peace prize in the past week but most media outlets ‘forgot’ to mention it.

  1. Why did Donald Trump continuously decorate the Christmas tree? Because people kept saying “moron” to him.
  2. Why was Theresa May sacked as nativity manager? She couldn’t run a stable government.
  3. Why did Jeremy Corbyn ask people not to eat sprouts on Christmas Day? He wants to give peas a chance.

Hope you had as enjoyable a day as I have.

Thursday, 14th December, 2017

We went out early on a bright, chilly morning to do our major, weekly shop at Tesco. With Christmas only just over a week away, we expected the roads and the shopping aisles to be crowded. Not so. May be the lull before the storm but there was a strange quiet all around.

We did a full gym & swim. It was our third, consecutive day of exercise and we were both beginning to feel it in our muscles. Swimming was enjoyable but a little edgy because of the bite in the sea breeze that wafted over the water’s surface. Still we did it and felt righteous for the achievement. Pauline is going out early tomorrow for a ‘facial’ at the Beauty Parlour in Rustington and then we will do one more exercise session. We will probably then take a day off on Saturday to allow our bodies to recover.

Catherine bought us some white cyclamen about 18 months ago and they flowered for such a long time. We were delighted with them although we had never grown them before. Suddenly, they began to die back and virtually disappeared. Residual leaves remained and we left them there. A couple of months ago and quite surprisingly, those leaves began to expand and multiply and suddenly, in the past fortnight, pure, white flowers have pushed up on succulent stalks to light up a dark border. Never give up!

Friday, 15th December, 2017

The day started off wet and cold but developed to blue sky and sunshine by afternoon. Pauline went out early to have a facial. We are so rarely apart that a quiet house was quite unnerving. I completed a number of tasks including something I’ve been putting off for days because it felt so intricate. Our heating system was preset by the builders with the assumption that it would suit most lifestyles. It is something which is quite alien to those of us who were born into homes with open fires and no central heating.

Looks simple – wasn’t.

New homes have to meet energy certificate requirements and the newest homes have to meet the most stringent. Because of that, the number and size of radiators is calculated to within an inch of the industry standard. Hot water for washing, etc., is intended to be on all the time. Indeed, it’s thought to be more economical in this way instead of making it heat up from a standing start as we did in the past. The installer has also seen fit to preset the times of day and minimum temperatures each room will need according to a working family with different settings for weekend. It was my job to reset the upstairs thermostat, erasing weekend settings and lowering the overall temperature. Sounds easy. Took me an hour.

I did the cooking today while Pauline was a lady of leisure. The menu was Roast Loin of Cod accompanied by roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic and oregano plus sautéed, button chestnut mushrooms. Looked good by the time it was served. I’m not surprised.

Saturday, 16th December, 2017

There was a bitter edged breeze as we stepped out in to Rustington at 9.30 am. We were on a mission to find cookery shops to assist my wife in her pet project. As ususal, I had gone out underdressed and pretending that I could cope. It was soon obvious how mad I was. I was suffering before we had walked half way across Waitrose carpark.

In the High Street, the movement of freezing air was unfettered and biting. I bit my bottom lip and pretended I was impervious to cold while making a mental note that we would definitely be spending next Winter in the Canary Islands. However, I was looking at an Instagram contributor who posted pictures of the East Midlands village of Repton, where I grew up, from earlier this week and I came across the photo on the left. I instantly felt better.

Today the Blog closes its 9th year. It started out as an idle experiment, became an interest and is now a way of life. Obsession may be too strong a description but I cannot go to bed without recording something of the day. Actually, Week 1 began on Christmas Day, 2008 which is not exactly met but 52 weeks x 9 = 468 and allows for the slippage over time of exactitude. Officially, there are 52.1429 weeks in a year but who will go around quoting that? People would really think I was weird. Hope to see you in Year 10 – tomorrow or Week 469.2861.

Week 467

Sunday, 3rd December, 2017

A mild but fairly grey day to start the penultimate week of the Blog’s 9th year. The day has been quiet and uneventful although the newspapers are fairly explosive and not in a good way for the Tories.

With joy in my heart – but not until I had followed three, separate political discussion programmes, we drove down to an almost deserted Health Club and did our statutory hour in the gym and half hour in the outdoor pool which was totally devoid of swimmers. What is wrong with these people? We give them two days off from work and offer them a beautiful outdoor swimming pool and they turn their noses up at it. They don’t know when they’re on to a good thing!

Monday, 4th December, 2017

Told you Ireland would be the stumbling block of Brexit and today has proved just that. The seemingly insoluble fix of Southern Ireland demanding no hard border which meant the North remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union while the DUP and Northern Ireland demanding no division between themselves and the mainland Britain who say they don’t want either the Single Market or the Customs Union. Of course, if Northern Ireland get to remain in the Single Market and/or the Customs Union, the Scots, the Welsh and London are demanding the same conditions. Sort that one out!

We have spent a quiet day of shopping and exercise. We shopped in Aldi for Greek Olive Oil – Kalamata – which we love on salad. We went to the Post Office to buy postage boxes for presents for our friends. On to the Health Club for about three hours. Once again, as the air temperature didn’t get above 11C/52F, we swam outside in peace and quiet and glorious solitude. Back home, Pauline cooked whitebait in the garden and the day wound down to relaxation once again. I have been doing some searching for rental properties in southern France for next June/July. We want a base with a Wi-Fi, a pool, cooking, and laundry facilities.

Tuesday, 5th December, 2017

My Incentive.

A rather grey day and not very warm reaching 11C/52F at tops. We did a trip to shops in the area sourcing Italian foodstuffs which we could pack into a large postage box to send to our dear little friend in the North of England. Bottles of wine, specialist pastas, lots of difference pasta sauces and pestos, a huge block of Parmigiana Reggiana, bread sticks, Pannetone, Amaretti biscuits, etc. We had great fun in finding them.

The shopping included a lot of walking about and we then went on to do our gym work and swim. By the time I got home, I had already done my 10,000 paces for the day. I am someone who is goal-driven. It is a great incentive to me when I feel like sitting down and resting. In the last 7 days, I have used a minimum of 70,000 paces / averaging 10,000 per day and covering 36.2 miles or more than 5 miles per day. In addition to this, I have swum just short of 2 miles. I’ve even caught myself running up and down stairs at home.

I Blog, Facebook and Twitter. I use each platform in slightly/very different ways. My Blog is read by one circle of people (poor things), my Facebook is read by a known and specific group of people and my Twitter feed is public. I like to express my views openly and strongly. I don’t feel unable to say what I think or to upset faint hearts. I am always fascinated to find followers and amazed how they find me. I only mention this now because I have been amused over the past few days to be followed by a professor from Bologna University who also presents a Social News magazine of the national television channel in Italy – Rai. The other new follower was a member of the Spanish judiciary and former member of the Catalan Parliament. Great fun to reach out to them from the South of England.

Talking of reaching out, we heard from an old, Sifnos friend this morning who is bringing her family to see us next Spring. She is a lovely lady who helped us sell our house and who we haven’t seen for three years. Reaching out from a speck of rock in the Aegean Sea to the South of England. How lovely!

Wednesday, 6th December, 2017

The Ensuite

Another grey day but mild-ish. It was 9C/48F at 7.00 am. We are up especially early this morning because we have an electrician arriving shortly after 8.00 am to install some new lights. We are having two ceiling spots put in the ensuite, another in the family bathroom plus a PIR above the garage door so I don’t spend hours in the dark looking for the key hole.

Because we are posting abroad, I have to do my Christmas newsletter to include with cards and I’m doing that today. It’s almost getting towards the time to send greetings electronically but maybe not just yet. Got to send a birthday greeting to David tomorrow. He’s at university so we will probably just do that on Facebook.

It’s a pretty good job where an electrician can do three hours work and ask for £275.00/€312.00 but they can and we are prepared to pay it. Our electrician supplied 3 spotlights plus a PIR and fitted them for that price. He did an excellent job and we settled in cash. We realise now that we should have done that work at the start.

By the time our electrician had finished, it was too late to get to the Health Club even though the temperature had reached 14C/57F. The breeze had picked up and that felt quite cutting. We posted our parcel to our friend in the North and did a bit of shopping in Rustington before driving home to cook roasted chicken breasts with peppers, onions and mushrooms. Lovely meal. Lovely day. We feel so lucky to enjoy it together.

Thursday, 7th December, 2017

The beautiful, Littlehampton Hospital

Grey, cool day. Had to go out to an old, dilapidated version of a hospital. Littlehampton Hospital for an early morning appointment. Although I am no longer taking medication for Type 2 Diabetes, I continue to be offered monitoring processes. Each year, I go for Diabetic Retinopathy examination. It is particularly helpful to me because I only have sight in one eye. Last year, I was told that my sight was getting better and it continues to do so. This goes against normal trends in which older eye muscles slacken and focal lengths extend which leads to increased short sightedness. In my case, I have found my eye sight improve to the point where I go out without my glasses which I have worn for almost 60 years and shock myself when I suddenly realise it.

I have to be administered strong pupil-dilation eye drops before my eyes are photographed with the negatives sent away for analysis. As a result, after my appointment, Pauline has to drive me home. As I step out in to the carpark on this dull and overcast day, my eyes sting and water as if I was stepping in to strong daylight. It hurts and I narrow my vision in self protection. As a result, we decide not to go to the Health Club but, even so, I struggle to read my iPad and watch the news and, for a number of hours, my pupils remained huge.

Last night, our little, local village put on their annual Christmas market accompanied by a small children’s fair. The roads were closed for 4 or 5 hours and the local traders showcased their wares. We walked down on a pleasantly mild night to see the spectacle which was predictably low key but delightfully homespun. It lasted for just those hours and was then just as quickly dismantled as the village returned to normality.

Friday, 7th December, 2017

A busy and rather cold day. It was 3C/37F when we got up at 7.00 am and didn’t rise much above 6C/43F all day. However, it was gorgeously sunny and bright which felt like some compensation. We did our weekly shop and came home to do necessary jobs. Pauline wrote about 70 Christmas cards. It was a point of debate this year for the first time. Could we send Christmas greetings by email/Facebook, etc.? It just feels a little bit early. Maybe next year.

My Christmas Newsletter. Should I print them all? I could get away with sending many electronically. My continual, year round spewing of news and information has almost obviated the need for a Christmas newsletter for many but obsession is a difficult thing to throw off. I will continue with it this year and send out some electronically and others in hard copy.

We have already started to get e-card Christmas wishes from some people but it doesn’t feel right to move completely that way and some of our friends don’t have that facility anyway. It would be so much easier and cheaper and we will re-examine it next year.

Anyone who gets cards from us will know that robins are a favourite and they will not be disappointed this year. Pauline writes them and I produce the address labels. It is an imbalance in labour rectified by my time producing the letter.

The car is filthy but the temperature was so cold that I shied away from cleaning it myself. We drove down to the nearest hand car wash but the queue was so long that we came home and I did it myself. I have always thought that car wash charges are exorbitant but bare hands, cold water and 4C/39F is worth a fortune avoiding.

Saturday, 8th December, 2017

I don’t miss this!

We awoke to reports of snow arriving in the North and Midlands. I lived in the former for 40 years and was born in the latter and lived there for my first 20 years. I am happy if I never see snow again having spent most of my adult life battling with the stuff as I criss-crossed the Pennine routes to and from work. It started with a bit of frost but strong sun soon dispersed that and the day was largely pleasant and reasonably mild. Unfortunately, we didn’t get out until late in the evening because we were stuck in the Office and Kitchen respectively.

Newsletters proof-read, edited, printed and folded for Christmas Card envelopes. Person specific adapted newsletters for other individuals across Europe and America. All now printed and despatched. Pauline wafted the fragrant scent of melted apricot jam across the kitchen as she prepared to cover the Christmas cake in marzipan. There was a time when I would have sneaked some of that wonderful almond paste but not now that I count calories.

Later, Pauline cooked the most wonderful meal of sea bass en papillote with salad. The fish had come from our local fisherman’s hut and was caught about 5 miles away from our house. For some reason, that made it taste all the better. Just as we were eating, the postman rang the doorbell and delivered a wonderful bottle of Spanish red wine and a guide book to Andalucía. It was a present from a friend and former colleague who has a property in Mazarron and keeps pestering us to go out there. The wine may well do it.