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.
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
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.
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.