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 I think that, for Greek Youth, the pride in being seen by their community as the ‘winner’ has long superseded any religious accolade but still they dive and still they must be the one to hold the cross aloft for applause of the wiser and warmer old people at the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.
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.
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
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.