Sunday, 28th January
Quite a pleasant day. The sun is out and the sky is blue. Pauline is out in the garden boiling chicken bones – pressure cooking for stock actually – and the neighbour’s cat has just adopted her as his new, best friend. The cat’s called Como although I don’t know if that is from Perry or Lake. We have just been asked to feed him for 8 days in February which should be interesting. On current plans, they’re lucky to find us in for 8 consecutive days in February. I just hope I won’t be reduced to walking the neighbourhood late at night calling for a missing cat.
Sunday is a day of rest and, this week, so it is for us. Our bodies are telling us that is the right decision. I remember reading last year about a man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days which, even though he’s half my age, is very impressive. I bet my sister, Jane BG could emulate that. She probably has already. Think of the calories expended in running 26 miles every day. Pauline & I feel we’ve done enough after 5 consecutive days of exercise. Time for the sofa and the football.
Monday, 29th January
A dull and overcast day. You’ll be excited to know that our new window cleaner is a huge improvement on the one we sacked. For example, he has cleaned the windows. Got the smart meter technician coming from British Gas this afternoon so my exercise will be to vacuum the house and valet the car. Life doesn’t get much more exciting!
As the British Gas software engineer was working outside on the meter box, strong, fine, soaking rain was driven into his face by a chilly wind. He pulled up the zip on his quilted, rain proof jacket and pulled down his woolly hat over his forehead. Even so, I was pleased to be retired and in the comfort of my centrally heated Office. The engineer remained cheerful until he found he couldn’t install the new software ‘patch’ that would upgrade my smart meter and he announced he would have to return next week. Not a problem.
I took the opportunity of being at home to tie up the next element of our 2018 travels. I booked our hotel in Athens for the beginning of September and EasyJet flights. Our seats on the EasyJet flights are exactly the same as those we have booked on the Valencia flight in May. After trying their latest hotel – The Metropolis last time, we are going back to our favourite – The Electra Palace – this time. It is expensive but worth it. We are comfortable there. It has two pools and a gym. Its position suits us
Tuesday, 30th January
How many suitcases do you need? We have 5 or 6 already but Pauline decided that we needed a 7th. I know she has her reasons but it is becoming a problem storing them all. Today, we were out early on a morning that had a hint of light frost after a wonderfully clear night sky studded with stars and floodlit by a nearly full moon. Here, we are lucky to have little light pollution and the sky was exciting to view.
Living here, we often forget we are so near the sea. In Greece, it confronted us every minute of the day but here it is out of immediate sight and when we go to the shops in Worthing, it still surprises us that we are walking down the side of the beach. The sun was glinting off the quiet sea and out to the wind farm on the horizon as we walked to Debenhams to pick up yet another suitcase of the type we already have a sizeable collection. Actually, I’m sure it will be helpful to add to the other 3 in this style.
I read local, on-line newspapers from places in my past on almost a daily basis. Local papers from Derby, Oldham/Manchester, Huddersfield, Sussex although they are struggling now as like never before. Often, communities don’t realise how important they are until they lose them. In the past year, the century old Oldham Chronicle went under. There will be others to come. For 30 years, Pauline & I lived in Huddersfield. To the uninitiated, as I was, it sounds rather forbidding but it proved a class act compared to Oldham. It had some excellent shops, cinemas, theatres and restaurants.
We have always been ‘foodies’ and one of our treats – at first monthly and, later, weekly – was to eat at Sole Mio in Huddersfield’s Imperial Arcade. In the 1970s, it opened our eyes and palates to things we take for granted now. Pollo Allegro was my favourite dish – freshly made in the kitchen, it really amounted to a Chicken Kiev on the bone but with Mozzarella wrapped in Parma Ham in the cavity of garlic butter. It sounds daft now but these ingredients were unknown to me at that time.
Home made pasta was a revelation as was home-cured Bresaola. More than anything else, however, was the delightfully informal style of the Trattoria where Birthdays were celebrated by turning the lights out, Mario shouting, Musica, Maestro, Musica as Happy Birthday to you was played over the sound system and a giant ice cream sweet with a lit sparkler stuck into the mix was brought in for the celebrant who got a large and sloppy Mario kiss. The Huddersfield Examiner announced today that Mario – restaurateur, expert fly fisherman and talented amateur artist – had died at the age of 80. We all die a little with these passing of landmarks of our lives.
Wednesday, 31st January
A mixed but cool day with a cold edged breeze. We did a full gym routine and swam outside but the walk out and back were not as comfortable as we would have liked. At least the water is heated. We spent 10 mins. in the sauna afterwards to warm back up.
I was still thinking about this as I read the Greek newspapers tonight. Particularly, I read about an incident on the Blue Star Naxos as it was approaching the island of Syros in the Cyclades. A 60 year man was seen to climb on the side railings and jump overboard at 9.00 pm. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. In practical terms, can you imagine the temperature of the sea at this time of year and the terrible darkness at that time of night? In human terms, can you imagine the mental turmoil that brings a man to do such a thing? If you have ever been on such a ship, there is a slight temptation to consider the jump as one looks over the side but to actually do it is terrible.
Thursday, 1st February
Happy February. Hope you enjoy it as much as we intend to. Go for it! We celebrated it, as we do every new month, by reading and recording on our spreadsheet our consumption of electricity, gas and water. We were surprised to find that our figures were down compared to the same time last year. For us, that was quite counter intuitive but pleasing.
We did our normal weekly shop. I just thought I would share with you my wife’s dissatisfaction with her shopping experience. Pauline eats porridge for breakfast every day. Often it is raw in home made muesli but, currently, it is cooked with milk and fresh fruit. Of course, my boyhood hero, Dr. Samuel Johnson, once famously observed that oats is:
a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.
I don’t denigrate oats quite so strongly but it wouldn’t be my choice. Pauline is always looking for new productions of oats and, today, bemoaned the fact the Tesco was scaling back its range. I couldn’t believe it as I counted some 17 different producers of rolled oats. Some people are never satisfied! When Pauline found Quaker Oats in Sifnos supermarkets, people exclaimed, Ah, Quacker! So that’s what it will always be called in our house.
Another full exercise session and a really cold swimming session. Even so, I have fast forwarded my programme to do 30 x 25ms (0.75 kms) per session in the pool. I am such a poor stylist at swimming that it hurts but at least it is helping tone up my chest and arm muscles.
Friday, 2nd February
Out early on a mixed morning to Worthing. In Pauline’s eternal quest for the perfect pair of trousers, we were going to complete the ‘Click & Collect’ process at Debenhams. I hate Department Stores with a passion. Particularly, I hate the terrible stench of chemical perfume smell that hits me as I walk through the first few counters near the door. All Department Stores seem to be like this in England, France, Italy, Greece. They all look like relics of a bygone age of Are You Being Served? They give me the shivers! At 9.30 am on a Friday morning, Debenhams had more assistants than customers. One wonders if it can survive.
Went for yet another session at the gym and in the pool. This week, I have swum 4km/2.5mls in the outdoor pool and covered 82,000 paces or 68kms/42mls in cardio workouts in the gym. It feels good. We will have Saturday off and then get back to it on Sunday.
Saturday, 3rd February
I have always been an early adopter of innovative technology. Always embrace change and leave the past behind. Regularly, it comes back to bite me and early versions of new inventions fail but I can’t help myself. When we were buying our new-build house on a new, greenfield development, I wrote to the builders and to BT to suggest they might provide superfast, fibre-optic broadband instead of installing fibre-optic, green terminal cabinets and running old technology copper wiring to each house.
Of course, they both ignored me. We still have a respectable 40 Mbs of broadband width but it could and should be so much better. This week, BT have announced that new homes are going to receive fibre-optic cable direct. There will be no, last section copper wiring to slow the process down. Modern Britain will catch up with the Far East levels of provision by 2050 or so. We may have to move house again just for that.
Another thing I wanted on my new house was solar panels on the roof as part of the construction. I asked the developers for it. Not possible in late 2015/ early 2016. By mid-summer 2016 and a few months after we had moved in, they were offering solar panels to new buyers as an extra and, on top end models, they came as standard. At our time of life, installing solar panels would not, probably, be cost effective and I wasn’t thinking of saving the planet but I suggest house builders take this far more seriously. It is possible to construct roofs entirely from sun power generating materials. If the cost is greatly reduced through mass production – it would even pay the government to find ways to subsidise this process – then power generation could become something we largely didn’t have to worry about.
I was reading about a couple who had designed and built their own house along energy-saving lines. Solar roof panels and heat source technology were providing them with all the energy their house required. They had incorporated triple glazing and the house really requires no heating whatever the weather outside. With such a massive push on the building of new houses, why not try to proof them for the future – or next 50 years? These innovations will only be cost effective if they are mass adopted. We have to start demanding them.