Week 475

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.

We were only there for half an hour and then back to the roof top of the multi storey carpark to be rewarded with this lovely, tonal view of Worthing Bay.

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.

Cover the roof in solar panels.

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.

Week 474

Sunday, 21st January

Not a pleasant day. It has rained fairly heavily for most of it. It has been dark as well although not cold. Our reaction has been to stay indoors. Relaxing doesn’t come easily at the moment and I felt listless throughout the day. Political programmes, newspapers and a football match were the day’s distractions. Pauline served a wonderful, homemade, smoked salmon and poached salmon terrine which we ate with salad.

I did a bit of research on a short trip to Valencia in late April or early May at the time of the orange blossom. Found a lovely hotel and EasyJet flights which were very cost effective. Four days in Valencia in May will cost us half the price of our four day trip to Athens in September. It is nearly four years since we sold our Greek house and five since my friend and ex-colleague, Brian, sold his property in the Dordogne.

He contacted me today because he had found it for sale after the person he sold it to had finished the renovation. Brian sold it on partly refurbished five years ago for £42,000.00/€47,500.00 and he found it on re-sale today at £146,000.00/€165,000.00. It is a lovely, little cottage with a number of out-buildings which are ripe for development. Of course, he sold before the referendum and the subsequent crash in the Pound but he doesn’t really regret it. He has moved on with other areas of his life. And so have we.

Monday, 22nd January

It rained over night but dried up soon this morning and was distinctly warmer than of late. We were around 11C/52F as the day progressed. We set off around 9.30 am for Surrey and P&C’s. It is a delightful journey which took about an hour. We sat and talked over coffee for a couple of hours and then revisited our old property to see how it was faring before driving back to Sussex.

I cooked chicken thighs with peppers, mushrooms and onions for our meal and we went through the post. It included the apparatus for the ‘poo test’ which we are doing for the fourth time. Every two years from the age of 60, 62, 64 and now, 66. We will do it for another four occasions until we are 74. I read recently that they are going to start at 50 soon. Just hope people take it up and aren’t squeamish. I included extra onions and olive oil in the meal today to smooth the test’s progress. Now where are the surgical gloves?

Tuesday, 23rd January

What a depressingly dark, wet, misty day. I even woke up feeling fed up. Someone keeps stealing my hair in the night. It is getting thinner and thinner. At Grammar School more than 50 years ago, teachers said they saw me entering a room 10 mins  before I arrived because my ‘quiff’ was so resplendent.

If you don’t know what a quiff was, you’ll have to google it. Certainly, they would not say it now and I couldn’t grow a quiff now either. The only good thing is that I rarely see my own deficiency because it is behind me temporally and actually. I’ll have to do a Rooney and have it stitched back in.

Little Viv & Iris

We did a work out in the gym today but missed out on our swim because the rain and gloom was so insistent that we could not face it. As we drove home I received a text message from an old friend – Caroline who I employed as an School Attendance Officer in the 1980s. She was actually a past pupil of my school although long before I arrived.

As one of the ancillary staff, she maintains friendship groups with other non-teaching staff and had gathered together two others from the dim and distant past. We visit Little Viv regularly when we drive back but Iris, who was School Office Manager, I haven’t seen for 25 years. The text I received brought back lovely memories even if it won’t bring back my hair.

Wedesday, 24th January

Another soggy day. Another day of no outdoor swimming. We still did our gym work but can’t wait to go outside in the pool again. Tomorrow that looks possible. We were at 11C/52F which is about average down here for the time of year but these depressingly dark days do leave one yearning for something warmer and brighter. On that score, Pauline has found a new build property on the southern coast of Tenerife that is in the price bracket that we would be prepared to commit. She has sent for more details and will build up a portfolio of available properties for us to look at when we spend our month out there. I am now preparing to fix a short break to Valencia in May.

Mum was an Fine Art student and became an Art Teacher at the Girls’ High School. Her particular favourite was Augustus John and she had a number of books of his works. His life drawings of the nude, female form seemed to dominate I seem to remember so I wasn’t encouraged to look through those books. I was reminded of another favourite and a book I was allowed to flick through by an article on my local news tonight.

Heath Robinson, who is now an adjective in his own right, was a designer of wacky and over complicated contraptions of the ‘Wallace & Grommit’ type. There is an Exhibition of Heath Robinson designs in Southampton shortly. Might go and have a look if we can fit it in to our busy, travelling schedule.

Thursday, 25th January

Chalk & Cheese. That is the difference between yesterday and today. Grey and wet has given way to blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. Swimming outside this afternoon was almost akin to winter in the Med.. Ironically, the temperatures on both days hovered around 11C/52F.

While I was on the treadmill, I watched the news which was followed by the national weather. As is the custom, a viewer’s weather photo was featured and today it was from someone in Birstall near Leicester. No great import there. Certainly, I have never been there although in one, strange sense, I belong there.

I have lived, like so many of us in the modern world, in many places in my life. I celebrate that fact and feel I fit in perfectly to Theresa May’s vaguely pejorative description of citizens of nowhere. I was born in Repton in Derbyshire and moved away to Ripon in Yorkshire as a student where I lived in ‘digs’ and then a flat above an estate agents and below a rather noisy brothel. I moved to Oldham and lived in a flat in another former (just) brothel. It still had a red light in the hall (which passed innocent me by completely.).

I moved to Meltham in Yorkshire and then on to the village of Helme a few miles away. From there I moved to Longwood in Huddersfield and, briefly, to a small apartment in Salendine Nook a mile away. In the meantime, we were living in the house we designed and had built on the Cycladic island of Sifnos where we lived half the year while we moved for the other half of the year into a duplex apartment in Woking, Surrey. Finally, for now, we have moved to a new build property in Angmering, West Sussex.

Birstall Church – Thomas Sanders married Susannah in 1897

Birstall near Leicester is somewhere I have only visited genetically. My name is Sanders and the first record that family research has evidenced is of my ancestors living in Birstall in the 18th Century. Particularly, a boy, Thomas Sanders, was registered as born to the parents of Andrew & Elizabeth Sanders in 1770. There is record of a Thomas & Anne Sanders who died in 1771 and who may have been Andrew’s parents and may be my six times grandparents.

We are already talking about buying a small property – possibly in the Canaries and Pauline hasn’t given up hope of another new house in UK before we are finished – just to keep her hand in. I’ve often wondered if my maternal grandfather, James, Joseph, Jeremiah Coghlan, who was born in Brighton to Irish immigrant parents, was from a long line of travellers and I have inherited restless feet. I certainly didn’t get it from my Dad.

Friday, 26th January

Le Shuttle – Quickest & Cheapest

Another day of blue skies and strong sunshine. We did our fourth consecutive day of exercise. I found my muscles arguing back a little today. As we promised ourselves in our New Year Resolutions, we are gradually increasing our effort. We are now doing 70 mins cardio-vascular gym work and I am increasing my swimming from 20 x 25ms by 2 lengths each week for 5 weeks to reach 30 x 25 ms to make 0.75 km per session. It is starting to take its toll. I am up to 26 lengths each day and it is hurting. Even so, my weight is showing the benefit. I am approaching a weight I haven’t seen for more than 30 years and that is spurring me on.

Booked a shopping trip to France next month, taking advantage of the Shuttle’s regular discounting policy. Our tickets cost just £20.00/€22.80 return for the car with as many passengers as we wish to carry. This makes shopping really cost effective. We will do our week’s shop as well as stock up on wine. It’s a pleasant trip as long as the weather is kind. Before we go, we want to have tied up our trip to Valencia in May and one to Athens in September.

Saturday, 27th January

Valencia Town

A pleasant start to the day with plenty of sunshine but the afternoon brought a bit of rain. We decided to do the gym today because Sunday and Monday we are otherwise engaged. On Monday, we have a British Gas engineer coming to update the software on our smart meter which will, apparently, take a couple of hours. We’ve also got a new window cleaner coming. We’ve sacked the original one who charged £20.00/€22.80 per time and cleaned everything remotely and badly with a pole and water brush. The new one cleans every thing by hand and only charges £18.00/€20.50.

Hotel Valencia Palace

In our continued quest to plan our 2018, we booked a break in Valencia in May. I chose a lovely, 5* Hotel on the edge of the town. SH Valencia Palace has all the things we want like an indoor and an outdoor pool plus an excellent gym. It has a large room with tea/coffee making facilities, free wifi, satellite television and it has a good restaurant. The total cost was about £600.00/€684.00. The flights were booked with EasyJet and cost £240.00/€274.00.

So that’s another part of the plan resolved. Now I just have to secure our Athens trip for September, our Yorkshire trip for October and then work out when we can fit in Edinburgh and Cheltenham. Could be a good year.

Week 473

Sunday, 14th January

A lovely, sunny day …. of rest and I’m feeling so energetic! May have to go out for a walk later but there are two reasonable matches to watch this afternoon including Liverpool v City. Trouble is that I’m becoming addicted to my exercise app and it  shows I’ve only covered 750 paces this morning. No wonder I’m bouncing around like a mad thing! Or it could be the Turkey Soup. Those bones keep on coming. Why did we buy such a big one?

Canal du Midi

Some of my spare time today is given over to finding the best place to rent in France this summer. I favour the Mediterranean side. What do you think about Beziers? I like the idea of it for lots of reasons. It is where the Canal du Midi runs out into the Mediterranean. The Canal featured in the Rick Stein classic barge journey cookery series on British television. It provides my favourite cooking style and majors on fish. The weather is almost guaranteed It has lovely countryside and vineyards and is close to Med. beaches and sea. The town is interesting in itself and there are plenty of places to explore round about.

We are looking for a villa which must have outside space – eg a garden. It must have wifi internet access and satellite television. It must have full cooking facilities and clothes washing facilities. It must have air conditioning and it must be rentable for 1 – 2 months in the summer excluding August. It is amazing how affordable they are. Beziers is a relatively short drive of 650 mls/1050 kms which we could do in under 10 hours but would split into a couple of stages en route. With winter rumoured to be about to start in UK, this is a lovely task to pursue.

Monday, 15th January

Central Greece

The day has opened with blustery winds, dark skies and intermittent rain. At 11C/52F, it’s not cold but outside is not inviting. It is bin day and I am pleased I put them out last night in the dry. We will still go to the Health Club after our day off but it is not a day for outside entertainment – or sleeping rough. We will probably have to swim outside even before we get to the pool. The standing water is currently so unpleasant.

Strikes paralyse Greece.

Northern and Central Greece is blanketed in snow and there are reported deaths of fishermen and infrastructure damage on the Halkidiki Peninsular because of dreadful weather with strong winds. At the same time, Greece in general and Athens in particular is being paralysed with a wave of strikes protesting against the next round of reforms demanded in exchange for a third bailout by the EU. There is no public transport today including flight disruption. The Civil Servant’s Union is rallying against intended curbs on their ability to strike.

Tuesday, 16th January

A sunny but cool day which we spent sorting out future events. We did do another full session at the Health Club including an extended swim outside and it really feels as if it is beginning to pay dividends. Our weight its falling quite rapidly as we burn considerably more calories than we consume. We are finding the ‘recovery’ period is much quicker and our ability to ‘repeat’ the routines much more possible.

Villa in Amarilla, Tenerife

We think we have found a pleasant villa in Amarilla on the southern coast of Tenerife for the month of November. It is much bigger than just two of us require but that is necessary to get all the facilities we want. A 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom property with private, heated pool and which includes a fully fitted kitchen + outdoor Barbeque, laundry, wifi, satellite television with British channels + Sky Sports.

The villa is 10 minutes walk to the beach and grocery shops. This is almost the precise description we could have designed for our search. Even better than that is the price. For the month of November, the villa will cost us £2,800.00/€3,150.00 which is about half the cost of the hotel we would otherwise have booked. This way of travelling is much more to our taste and allows us to self-cater in the way we like. We can do plenty of walking and swimming as well as cook for ourselves which is just what we enjoy.

Wednesday, 17th January

Villa in Amarilla, Tenerife

Lovely blue sky here but very chilly in the breeze although the gauge read 10C/50F. The walk outside to the pool took a bit of doing. Still, we did another full exercise programme and felt good for completing it. We’ve missed only one day in the past fifteen. Before going out, we had to shell out £150.00/€170.00 for a man to come and ‘service’ the boiler. He was here 20 mins and really only read the dials then pronounced it ‘fit’ as it should be after less than two years work.

Well, we’ve actually taken a decision! We’ve booked a villa in Tenerife for the month of November and followed that up by securing reasonably timed flights with Thomson Airways. Thank goodness for that. I couldn’t stand my own indecision for one minute longer. Now we can turn our attention to the Summer and securing a villa in southern France for a month or so to idle away June – July. Once again, we have precise requirements – a pool, cooking and laundry facilities, wifi and air-conditioning. We will also require private parking and outside space. It will be nice to secure this before the weekend is out.

Thursday, 18th January

A sunny but cold and blustery day. We did our weekly shop and then prepared for our exercise routine. By mid day, we decided to have a ‘let go’ day and decided not to go to the Health Club. We sorted out the final details of our November trip to Tenerife. Particularly, we downloaded apps on our smartphones to monitor and control our villa rental and, separately, our flights. Contacted our airline to upgrade our seats to ‘extra legroom’. This cost us an extra £100.00/€113.50 for two people return which is scandalous.

With the early winter sorted out, we are now turning our minds to the summer and urgently attempting to fix a period of some six weeks in France for June-July. I have been looking at a villa in Beziers but it could be Narbonne or Montpellier. We just want relaxed sunny, warm conditions. We also want to arrange a Greek island holiday with stays in Athens at each end for September. We are hoping to do a short break in Spain in the Spring and at least one trip to Yorkshire in October. We don’t do spur of the moment travel. This is the time to research, check, check again and book well ahead to ensure we get what we want.

Friday, 19th January

Clear skies last night delivered blue skies and sun this morning with a light touch of frost. Having said that, we feel very lucky to not have the cold and snow of the North to cope with. We had quite enough of that for 40 years crossing the Pennines and queuing on the M62 for hours in snowbound gridlock. Instead, we were outside in the sunshine, exercising at the gym and swimming in the sunlit, outdoor pool.

Chateau de Monbazillac

Well, we’ve secured the second element of our 2018 travels with 5 weeks (June/July) in France. After quite extensive searching, I pulled back from the Beziers coast to the Dordogne and the outskirts of Bergerac. We are renting one of two Gîtes in the grounds of Chateau de Monbazillac. The Gîtes are owned by a couple from Yorkshire and have their own, huge infinity pool, and fully kitted out gym. We will have all home comforts including dishwasher and laundry facilities, wi-fi and English satellite television to while away the evenings’ wine tasting. Total cost is fantastic at £2,200.00/€2,500.00. Now we can turn our attention to a short, Spanish trip in the Spring and a Greek trip in the Autumn.

Saturday, 20th January

Stop over at the Mercure Orleans

A wet day. We decided fairly early on that we would have a day off and not go out so we did ‘home’ things. I had my haircut. Pauline made salmon terrine for next week. I vacuumed the house and then completed the Summer trip planning. We will drive to the tunnel, make the crossing and then stay in Coquelles for the first night. From there, the journey is about 8.5 hrs which we will split into two legs. The first will take us to Orleans where will stay in a Mercure hotel. I am a member so I get a 10% discount. The hotel is lovely with pool, gym and restaurant. The second leg of the trip will take around 4 hrs. On the way back, we will also stay in Orleans and Coquelles. With that all booked up, we can relax.

In the next few days, we want to have tied up our Greek trip and a short break in Spain – we are thinking of Seville or Valencia. After cancelling our Gran Canaria month last November, this Winter has felt a long, hard slog and we are looking forward to indulging ourselves in some warm weather again.

Week 472

Sunday, 7th January

 A beautiful, sunny morning that makes one glad to be alive. I think I am although this may just be an altered state aka death. Maybe, I will never know. Having watched the Marr Show, I am convinced the prime minister is not just in an altered state but on another planet. When discussing the Health Service today, it was less a case of, Nothing Has Changed and more a case of Everything is Planned and Wonderful.

Watched a very old episode of Dad’s Army last night (Desperate or What?) which reminded me of reports I had read earlier on a Greek blog. In the wartime comedy of the British Home Guard, the old codgers were drafted in to help with the war effort by working in the fields bringing in the harvest. The threshing machine was steam powered and the whole process harked back to the agricultural revolution and a time when religion insinuated itself into every sphere of human activity. After gathering in the bags of grain, the vicar and the verger put it upon themselves to perform a service out in the fields to bless the bounty of their god. (You see, I find it hard to write it even now.) Of course, in this comedy the whole scene develops into arguments and recrimination, pushing and shoving about nothing of any importance. Fade to credits.

Yesterday was Epiphany for some. Our neighbours took down the Christmas lights around the outside of their houses and the Greeks threw crosses into the freezing sea for bonkers men and boys to dive for in the hope of receiving Christ’s redemption. The world has most definitely gone mad.

Although the grip of orthodox religion is gradually being forcibly loosened by the left wing government, it is still constitutionally there and permeates the whole social fabric on the less cosmopolitan islands. I think that, for Greek Youth, the pride in being seen by their community as the ‘winner’ has long superseded any religious accolade but still they dive and still they must be the one to hold the cross aloft for applause of the wiser and warmer old people at the quayside.

Before the cross is tossed into the foaming briny by the priest, he releases doves (pigeons) as a symbol of peace to calm the tempestuous waves so fishermen can ply their trade safely through the year. I was amused to read of one dove which, when ‘released’ by the priest, fell like a stone to the bottom of the water like the proverbial dead parrot. Definitely no luck there! Another on the northern Peloponnese ended, just like Dad’s Army, in pushing, shoving, fisticuffs, having to be separated by port police, civil police, religious luminaries and elders followed by threats of legal action. Why? Because one boy got the cross first and had it snatched out of his hand raised in victory by another boy – who was rumoured to be a GYPSY! Fade to credits.

Greek island life really hasn’t moved on enough for a modern economy. That, of course, is half the charm for the two week holiday makers.

Monday, 8th January

It’s fleeing it today. As Oldhamers will tell you, that means it’s bloody freezing! As we drove out along the coast road to Worthing, the car told us it was only 3C/38F and very grey. Pauline was returning some shoes she had bought but wasn’t satisfied with. We parked in Waitrose carpark and walked through the town exploring different streets as we went. We are having a day off from the gym today to give our muscles a rest and so a more relaxed jaunt through town is really enjoyable.

Warwick Street, Worthing – The Italian Centre

We came upon the Italian Quarter – a street which had 7 or 8 Italian Restaurants or Delicatessens within a 100 metres of  each other. Italian language floated over the breeze. It was a lovely discovery ….. except, as we read the menus, we realised that our old passion for English/Italian cooking was no longer appropriate. Flavours sounded wonderful – tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil, etc. but always combined with those gross carbs that we no longer eat – pasta (in an Italian?), rice (in Risotto?) and potatoes (in chips??). Of course, who has ever started an Italian meal without the nibbles of crostini with tapenade?

We came home mourning the loss of our old, eating life and fell back upon grilled salmon and salad – our current staple. For sweet, we really went for it with Greek Yoghurt and Damson Jam. Who needs Seafood Risotto?

Tuesday, 9th January

Up early on a grey and cool day to go to the Dentist. Great start to the day. Actually, it was the Hygienist I was seeing and I hate them even more than the dentist. It did turn out to be better than anticipated and I was home by 9.30 am. At home, my wife is reprising her Christmas triumph by making another meat terrine – Duck/Pork/Chicken wrapped in Bacon. I am doing man’s work – sorting out the smart meter with British Gas and reading the newspapers.























The smack of firm government (not) resounds around front pages this morning. I  have been trying quite hard to keep political campaigning out of the Blog and confine it to Faceache/Twatter but it is such a nondescript day otherwise that I can’t resist. I keep going back in my mind to the Yeats poem – The Second Coming – and the lines:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

It seems to describe this Tory administration perfectly and you could not want more of a dream team to tear us out of Europe.

Off to the Health Club soon to try and get it out of my head. In the past 7 days I have done 90,000 paces covering 43.5 miles or 70 kilometres. Got to keep it going. Will I still be able to do this when I’m 75, 80? Don’t answer that!

Wednesday, 10th January

Lovely day of blue sky and sunshine which reached 11C/52F. Our muscles are beginning to show signs of fatigue after meeting and exceeding our 10,000 paces target for 10 consecutive days. Even so, we will be off to the Health Club again this afternoon.

I read a strange article in the Greek Newspaper, Kathimerini, yesterday which reminded me of an experience we had on a Greek island around 25 years ago. We were finding the rented accommodation on Sifnos increasingly unsatisfactory and we began to branch out by visiting and staying on Paros, Milos and Folegandros in the Cyclades and Symi and Nisyros in the Dodecanese. While we were on the tiny island of Nisyros, we were walking, barefooted at the sea’s edge, when we were strangely assaulted by the sight of a white-haired cow staring at us from the waves. It turned out to be just its head floating alone and we left the island thinking that some anti-social farmer or butcher had just tossed the unwanted body part into the sea.

Washed up on a Sifnos Beach.

Yesterday, Kathimerini reported that carcasses of cows had begun to wash up on the beaches of Cycladic islands including Syros and Sifnos. This cow washed up on the beach in Vathi, Sifnos was said to be part of the normal, Greek tradition of throwing overboard carcasses of animals which die in transport. If you’re thinking of visiting Sifnos, beware floating cows.

Thursday, 11th January

Great rejoicing in the Sanders’ Household this morning because we have been sent notice of our latest round of Bowel Cancer Screening aka the poo test in our house. In the case of my bowel, a very large screen is absolutely recommended. The test is available to people aged 60 – 74 (It is anticipated that one loses control of one’s bowels after that age.) and is offered every two years.

After writing this Blog for nearly ten years and with my distinct lack of memory, I am in danger of repeating myself many times. I am biologically illiterate. I know almost nothing about my body or how it works. I know absolutely nothing about female bodies and how they work. One of my problems is that it doesn’t really bother me. The more I learn about my body and others, the more I shrink from the knowledge. It’s pretty disgusting, you have to admit. Who, for example, would know that we don’t just have one bowel but two?

I could extend this happy ignorance to many areas of my physical existence. I have no real idea what my kidneys or liver really do and I definitely don’t know where they are. I have been forced to look at the working of my heart but my understanding is very simplistic just as my understanding of the internal combustion engine is. Sex has never been explained to me which is just as well because it would have scared the hell out of me. What I do know is that this is a fantastic service provided by the NHS (the poo test not sex) and incredibly reassuring. Whether I should be reassured by it or not, I don’t know.

Friday, 12th January

William Blake’s The Sea of Time and Space (1821)

My degree, which concentrated on the influence of Literature on our understanding of History included looking at the contribution of William Blake’s Art and Poetry to the development of English Romanticism. I realise now that I had little knowledge of his biography. I actually thought, in my ignorance, that he was London based. Today, I learned that he lived in West Sussex for a time. Petworth and Bognor Regis claim Blake as a former resident and an exhibition – William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion – opens today at Petworth House. As an impoverished poet and artist almost unrecognised in his own time, he decided to leave the capital. He moved with his wife, Catherine, to a cottage in the village of Felpham where he enjoyed some of his most productive years. If you’re going to be impoverished, there is no better place.

Saturday, 13th January

We’ve finished the week as it has been most days – under a leaden, grey sky. We did another workout at the gym and will take Sunday off – probably. I’ve done 85,000 steps covering 44 miles/71 Kms and swum 3 kms in the past 7 days so I think I we are due a rest.

We celebrated with the most wonderful meal cooked by Pauline. It is one of my favourites but it is a little indulgent so we don’t eat it often. I adore chicken with tarragon cream sauce. We have bags and bags of our own frozen tarragon in the freezer. We don’t make it with chicken breasts but pan fried boneless thighs. The sauce is cooked with the residue from the chicken and allowed to thicken a little through reduction. We fight quite hard each day with our diet so this is an occasional indulgence. The flavours which one would characterise as classic French is very much my choice. I noticed a dish tweeted by The Skiathan today involving Toulouse Sausage and spicy Chorizo. These are the polar opposites to my taste. Even so, I hope he enjoyed it.

Over the past five years, I have become a lover of fruit. I have said before that, if we are what we eat, I am a tomato. I could have added that I am also quite fruity. The morning starts with the juice of two freshly squeezed oranges. As the morning develops, I will eat a couple of bananas. I will also have a glass of pure apple juice. With my meal, I will eat blueberries with my yoghurt and we have become accustomed, lately, to sharing mango in the evening. We eat so many, we have started buying them by the box. Tesco sell a box of 6 for £4.00/€4.50 which is fantastic value. Unfortunately, I am denying myself the delights of grapes in all forms at the moment.