Week 483

Sunday, 25th March

A warmish day but rather grey. We reached 12C/54F but it didn’t really feel like it because of the lack of sunshine. We had no problem with losing an hour and were up at 7.00 am as normal. Politics programmes and papers plus an attempt to construct an introduction to Athens for my sister who has never been there before and is considering going. I always amaze myself how much I know about the place. We have spent time in Athens every year since 1980 and often two or more times each year. It feels like a second home.

Off to the Health Club for a full workout while it is relatively quiet and then back for our meal of cold roast duck and salad. Schools here break up for Easter on Thursday. We always used to consider the year was over by this stage. Yes we had public exams and things like that but there was little else we could do at this stage. We would go away to Greece and return to start preparations for the new school year before setting off for our 6 week summer holidays.

Monday, 26th March

Talking about Greece, the news today is of Greece turning orange. Strange? Well, it sems that the atmosphere has picked up, carried and dumped tons of red, Saharan sand mixed with wind and rain across the Mediterranean particularly across the Greek islands. This photo is not shot with a filter but an unreconstructed  view of a Cretan harbour. We had something similar but less dramatic here last year.

The weather wasn’t Cretan but it was pleasantly warm today. Swimming outside was lovely and relaxing this afternoon after our gym session. It was 12C/54F as we drove out this morning. As you know, we virtually never eat red meat now. This is not an ethical choice but one of changing taste. Nor are we even marginally religious.

Easter has only meant two things to us. Firstly, it was a holiday which is never bad. Secondly, in Greece, it was a time when we felt like a British Muslim at Christmas – totally on the outside and bewilderedly looking in. The one thing we did take from it was roast lamb. In a spirit of integration, we would purchase half a lamb from our local, island farmer and then, after our first meal, ask ourselves what we were going to do with the rest of it. Today, we drove to Sainsbury’s and bought a shoulder of West Country lamb for roasting this weekend. You’ve got to show willing, haven’t you?

Tuesday, 27th March

A damp start to the day but the afternoon was warm and sunny reaching a lovely 15C/59C as we swam outside. Pauline’s new fitness tracker had been excellent – for a week – but then refused to charge. I did a search on the net and found lots of disgruntled owners who’d had the same problem. One thing in favour of Amazon is the ease of sending things back. The watch has already been returned and the money credited to our account. We’ve ordered a different one from Currys/PCWorld which we pick up tomorrow.

This bracelet fitness tracker/watch for women provides all the data one could want for £70.00. Now I’ve got Pauline hooked on measuring her activities including sleep patterns, she is quite happy to pay for a better quality watch.

Today, I collected my new shaver. I bought the last one about ten years ago in a supermarket in Alsace. We were driving to our Greek home and I suddenly realised that I hadn’t packed my electric razor. It has done me well for all these years but Pauline started complaining that I was looking unkempt and poorly shaved. I hope that I will pass muster tomorrow after charging up my new machine.

I have spent part of my day completing an introduction to Athens to smooth my sister’s projected first visit. I have learnt a lot where I thought I knew as much as I needed to. My sister is a vegan. Yes, I know it’s madness but we all have our weaknesses. Did you know that Athens boasts three, vegan restaurants in the city centre. There is Vegan Nation on Ermou Street, Lime Restaurant in Dekeleon Street and Mama Tierra in Akademias. Who knew that?

Wednesday, 28th March

I must wish my sister, Mary-Jane, a happy 64th Birthday this morning. Let’s hope she enjoys it.

A wet morning that has soon faded to brightness but not particularly inviting outside. We will be going to the Health Club in early afternoon by which time sunshine is forecast. Talking about forecasts, the Met. Office has been warning of a return to winter over Easter. Because of that, I have left any work in the garden for a couple of weeks and smiled smugly when I heard my neighbours mowing their lawns. Now we are told that it will actually get warmer over Easter and that all threats of winter weather are banished. I do remember a Derbyshire cricket match at Buxton being abandoned in early May because of heavy snow but let’s hope that isn’t repeated.

I have talked about being on the early end of the autistic scale before. Really only in retirement have Pauline & I discussed it. Certainly, it is in retirement that those traits I exhibit which might be ascribed to autism have become slightly more pronounced. Perhaps that is only now that I have the time to indulge them. Things like enjoying symmetry, lining things up, leaving light switches in the ‘correct’ position give me satisfaction.

In school, of course, we had autistic kids who were on the extreme end of the scale and, although we employed Assistants to deal with them, I was aware that they found inter-personal relationships more difficult and took the use of language much more literally. Pauline has always said I do that when she says, Turn right and I turn into a Builder’s yard rather than at the next road junction. Why didn’t she say what she meant? Well, this week, I have caught myself doing it and I’m beginning to accept she might be right.

We went to the dentist to change our appointments at the dentist’s request. The receptionist asked my name and searched for it on the database. Having failed to find it, she looked up and asked, How do you like to spell your name, John? I found myself looking her straight in the eye and saying, Correctly. Pauline cracked up laughing as the poor woman looked away and thought about how she could deal with this idiot. She solved it by asking how I spelt my surname. Easy question which I responded to by spelling it. Afterwards, Pauline explained that she needed to know which spelling of the word, John/Jon, I used so she could locate it in the index. Why didn’t she say what she meant?

Thursday, 29th March

Can you believe that it is nearly the end of March? We went out to collect Pauline’s new Fitness Tracker/Watch from Currys. We were supposed to be informed by email that it had arrived. We weren’t and, when we got there, they couldn’t find it. Disorganisation seemed to reign supreme. Don’t buy shares. They could be on their way out. Anyway, Pauline now has a new, Garmin Fitness tracker which will keep her motivated.

We shopped in Sainsbury’s and they had huge, loins of fresh tuna ready for Easter. We bought 4 large steaks for £13.00/€14.83. Later, we had no sooner packed our bags for the gym than it began to pour torrential rain and we decided to give it a miss. A short time later the sun came out.

I completed my Athens guide for my sister and then agreed our meeting place with our Sifnos friends over Easter in Kensington. My next job is to photograph and measure Pauline’s skin ‘blemishes’ as the result of sun damage. We have to do it a few times over a period of time to see if they are developing or if it is our imagination.

Friday, 30th March

A wet day with only short dry breaks across the day. To avoid the crowds, we did our week’s shopping earlier than usual at 8.30 am which coincided with a dry spell. That done we went to the Health Club during a downpour which persuaded us not to swim. We did 70 mins. in the gym and came home.

I have written about sleep a number of times because it has always fascinated me. Are you a night owl or a lark? I am both. I have always worked best late at night. Often, in my early 20s, I went to work all day and then came home and worked literally all night on university essays, washed and shaved and went to work again. I can’t do that now but I do like to stay up ‘late’ and wake ‘early’. Margaret Thatcher was famously believed to be able to survive on 3-4 hours sleep each night. For most of my life, I have thrived on 6 hours.

Of course, I don’t need to now but old habits are hard to break. I have just started trying to go to bed by 11.30 pm. The 6.00 am news on Radio 4 still wakes me in the morning but Pauline says I tend to snooze through the first half hour. The moment I get up, soon after 7.00 am, I am lively in my head at least and increasingly in my body.

‘Now, not only do I monitor my exercise during waking hours but my fitness watch monitors my sleep patterns over night. I find it really interesting the spread of light and deep sleep I enjoy each day which adds up to at least 7 hours now. I am quite surprised to find how little I wake over that 7 hour period.

Saturday, 31st March

Greeted the last day of March with gorgeous blue sky and sunshine. Today is a ‘home’ day. House cleaning day. My jobs are to unstack the dishwasher, vacuum the house top to bottom, strip the bed for changing, dust the surfaces and drink coffee. Pauline is slow roasting lamb with garlic and fresh rosemary for our meal.

Slow-cooked Shoulder of West Country Lamb.

As the day has developed, the sun has withdrawn behind lightly grey skies. I watched Liverpool save their reputation against a well organised Crystal Palace. It was raining and cold in London which is disappointing because our Sifnos friends are arriving at Gatwick today. They are here for a fortnight and we are going to join them for their second week.

We will be in Athens early in September because our time is already booked up for most of the year. Since we sold the Sifnos house, we have been staying in Athens in the early Autumn. It is there that we first ate filo lamb parcels. Pauline loved them and she will be using the left over lamb to make them again this evening to be saved in the freezer. Filo has been bought because we have decided that life is too short to make our own for this. Otherwise, we never eat pastry.

Week 482

Sunday, 18th March

Avalanche this morning.

Woke to a smattering of snow this morning. We had expected much more. Whether it was the Beast from the East or the Pest from the West, it rejected us on the coast. A little bit on the grass but not on the paths or the road. I don’t think we’ll be needing our snow shovel – at least not today.

The temperature is 0C/32F this morning and feels quite sharp when we go outside. Even so, we will go to the Health Club after the political programmes have finished. At least I won’t have to watch the desperately poor and embarrassing England Rugby Team perform today. While I exercised yesterday, I watched with abject horror as they handed the Irish a St Patrick’s Day present – at Twickenham of all places.

Monday, 19th March

The day feels bitterly cold although it has hovered between 0C-1C/32F-34F. We drove to the Health Club in the early afternoon but the carpark was packed – They must have been hosting some sort of promotion. – so we turned round and drove home. We had lots of other things to be getting on with.

Our Greek friends from Sifnos have been in touch to tell us when they will be arriving in England so that we can get together. We have decided to stay in London while they are here so that we can share time. We have booked a hotel in Kensington for a few days and we have arranged to meet up to see the sights together. It will be nice to talk to them again and to hear all the gossip. There is a lot that we need to catch up on.

As a child growing up in a rural village, not so many people had their own telephones at home. Most relied on the red telephone boxes in the street with ButtonA/ButtonB to press for payment. We did have a phone in our hallway like the one illustrated. It was also connected to Dad’s office a few yards away by the handle on the right. Turning it rang a bell on his hand set and he answered to be told lunch was ready.

Looking at it now, it feels as if I have come from a different world. How could I be that old? How far we have come to be carrying smartphones around in our pockets 60 years on. This thought was provoked by a report in The Times this morning about large proportions of the population no longer using fixed line services at home other than for Broadband. We use both. Even so, I am still uncomfortable using the phone. I would much rather speak to people face to face and often put off contacting friends for that reason. I use my smartphone for everything apart from voice contact.

Tuesday, 20th March

From Winter to Spring and back again. Today was warm-ish (9C/48F) and sunny. The garden was bathed in warm sunlight. We swam outside as if it was mid Summer. It was absolutely lovely. Out of darkness in to the light. I think I keep saying but this Winter seems to have been a long one.

Today is the Spring Equinox. This year’s Spring Equinox, also called the March or Vernal Equinox, falls today at precisely 08.15 am GMT. The sun sets and rises roughly 12 hours apart during the equinox. About 92 days and 19 hours after the Spring Equinox, the Earth will reach its Summer Solstice.

British Summer Time is on its way. On Sunday at 1.00 am GMT, the clocks go forward and my trouble starts. My wife will start agitating for blackout blinds at the windows and trying to get me to set the radio news to come on at 7.00 am rather than 6.00 am. We have had this battle every year for the past 40. So far I have won. I can see that coming to an end – one way or another!

Wednesday, 21st March

Lovely, sunny and Spring-like day. The birds had certainly got the message. I finally took the frost-free blankets off the fig trees and let them breathe in the sunlight. We went to our local garden centre and looked for a mature-ish olive tree. They have quite a few and I will be purchasing very soon. It is becoming time to plant out our fig trees and to accompany them with a couple of olive trees.

Olea Europea is the tree that we will be putting in our garden. Going on the small tree we pot-grew last year, we will be able to harvest a reasonable amount of olives fairly quickly. We brought home just a few kilos from the trees in our Greek garden and Pauline did a fabulous job in marinating/curing them. We had salad olives and made delicious tapenade from them and these were olives harvested fairly early in the season because we were leaving the island in the first week of October.

I draw your attention to the death reported yesterday of Caterina Irene Elena Maria Imperiali dei Principi di Francavilla. I met her in person in the early 1960s in my home village of Repton in Derbyshire. She was an early, television celebrity and was known as Katie Boyle. She was born in Tuscany but married in UK and became a television personality, regularly appearing on panel games and programmes such as What’s My Line? and Juke Box Jury. I met her when she opened the Summer Fete for Repton Public School and it was considered quite a coup to get her.

It scares me to think back to that time. She died this week aged 91. She must have been 36 when I met her and I was 11. I have to keep saying these date and ages to myself to fully realise the context in which I live. Failing this, it is easy to sail through life oblivious to the parameters of our existence.

Thursday, 22nd March

A rather overcast morning. We were up early in readiness for a building ‘snagger’ to arrive. He duly did, and agreed that all our snags were legitimate. They will be done over the next two or three weeks. It is dry lining work which is minor but necessary. Apparently, they expect these things to happen and factor them in to the new-build costs. Even so, it is quite a long winded and time consuming process which will have cost quite a bit.

This afternoon, we went to the Health Club and did our full gym programme but decided to miss the pool because we both felt tired after doing 6/7 days in succession. As we drove home, the sun came out and the temperature read 11C/52F. It was delightful to griddle chicken breasts in the garden for our meal.

Friday, 23rd March

Don’t know why but I keep thinking it’s Saturday. Of course, it wouldn’t make any difference if it was but it is Friday. And it is an absolutely beautiful day which has reached 13C/55F around the pool this afternoon. We were just reflecting, as we got out from our swim, that we wouldn’t have been doing this in Greece until June at the earliest. Even then, the sea temperature would have made us wince initially. People all around us are cutting lawns and planting out bedding plants. We are just hanging fire for a short while because a return to cold weather is predicted and we are in no hurry.

Modern Retirement

As we walked in the warm sunshine this morning, we talked about being on permanent holiday. That’s what retirement feels like. We have no commitments, no responsibilities, no debts and no demands on our time. We get up each day and do what makes us happy. Nobody holds an expectation of us that we feel necessary to fulfil. In so many senses, it is an idyllic state and we really do not want to change it. It does feel almost wrong – immoral and about to hit the reality buffers at any time. So many people we have known in an earlier time who worked until they were 65, had a year or so of retirement mixed with some ill health and then died. For us, this is an absolutely purple patch.

We have done 7 out of the last 8 days but today’s session was quite delightful. The Health Club was a little quieter and the pool was beautiful in the sunshine. Tomorrow, if the weather’s nice, will be a walk on the beach. Am I dreaming?

Saturday, 24th March

Worthing Wheel

A day off from the gym. Encouraged by a relatively warm and bright day of 11C/52F, we drove along the coast road from Littlehampton to Worthing and on to Lancing. Unfortunately, so had many others and we soon found ourselves in long streams of traffic. In Worthing, holiday makers were everywhere. The restaurants were very busy and the beach path full of walkers/bikers/scooters/dogs, etc.

The lawned area near the beach that was recently covered in a marquee housing a temporary skating rink now features a temporary Ferris Wheel. It may be me but I cannot understand the appeal of a circus attraction in the centre of town. I wouldn’t even entertain it. I feel exactly the same about the London Eye on the South Bank. What is the point?

Anyway, we soon returned home away from the crowds and back to normality. I griddled chicken and mushrooms in the garden for our meal and then settled down to answer a raft of emails. I received one from my sister who is thinking of visiting Athens and wants advice on when to go and where to stay. I think I can manage that.

Week 481

Sunday, 11th March

A warmer and bright morning – 10C/50F by 11.00 am  and 12C/54F by mid afternoon – which is dedicated to newspapers and Politics. What are Sundays for otherwise? Actually, we are going back to exercise today after sitting around so much yesterday.

One of the problems with older age is altering eyesight. As optical muscles contract and focal lengths change, eyesight can be affected and become problematic. Because I’ve always been short sighted, I have been delighted to find that my eyesight has actually improved marginally and I wear my glasses less than I used to do. Pauline, who has always had excellent eyesight has been shocked and rather hurt by the rapid deterioration in her ‘close’ sight even though her long sight has been unaffected. She now has three, different pairs of glasses for reading. A pair for using her computer are not right for reading her Kindle and she has a third pair for sewing.

For quite a long time, I’ve been wearing smart watches  that link to my smartphone and measure everything from heartrate to footsteps used to distance travelled to calories burnt. I am very target-driven and feel very uncomfortable if I don’t achieve my minimum 10,000 paces. I wear my watch for everything so it has to be waterproof for swimming and showering. It can be set to measure swimming sessions which is useful. I have a Garmin watch which links to my phone and tells me how I’ve performed each day/week/month/ in terms of paces taken, distance travelled and calories burned. It also gives me a constant heartrate report. I can read it without glasses.

Pauline received a ‘free’ fitness tracker with some clothes she bought but, unsurprisingly,  it isn’t much good. What it has done is waken her interest in a better one. I’ve researched and found one that is attractive enough for her to wear, provides all the data anyone could wish for and costs just £30.00/€33.75. Guess where I’m sourcing it? Amazon, where else?

Monday, 12th March

Subdued light on Worthing Beach.

Rather a grey and, intermittently, damp day. Mild though at 11C/52F. We went out early to Worthing for Pauline to have her hair cut. We always park in the multi-storey carpark near the beach. We automatically drive straight up to the top, open air floor to park because it is much quieter there. At 9.00 am, we were the only ones today but we soon found out why. The lifts were out of order.

The beach to ourselves.

I walked down to Toni&Guy with Pauline and then on to Starbucks for myself. An hour’s good Wi-Fi accompanied by a delicious, large (half pint) filter coffee made the morning very enjoyable. We drive to and from Worthing following the beach road and we stopped this morning to walk on the pebbles. The dampness had stopped temporarily but the light was grey and subdued. Few people were out there this morning and the atmosphere was quite delightful. Just to listen to the waves and smell the sea air is simultaneously a relaxing and stimulating experience and gulls were wheeling and swooping, looking for any food washed up amongst the pebbles.

Ivan Savvidis – owner of PAOK Fc.

In the Health Club changing room yesterday, all the talk was about the demonstrations at West Ham Football Club on Saturday. Some were incensed with the football but more were incensed with the mid match demonstration by a few supporters which led to some parents removing their children from potential danger and the owner of the club withdrawing to calm the protest down. What would they say if they read the Greek papers today to find the headline:

Greek football match abandoned as club owner storms pitch with gun

Apparently, PAOK Salonika’s president invaded the pitch with a gun during a match on Sunday. Ivan Savvidis – one of Greece’s richest men who is a close friend of President Putin – tried to confront the referee with a gun in a hip holster after his side had a late goal ruled out for offside. You couldn’t make it up!

Tuesday, 13th March

What a glorious, sunny and warm Spring day. I have spent most of it outside in the wonderful air. Breakfast was at the table with the patio doors flung wide open for the first time this year. A large cup of freshly ground coffee with frothy, skimmed milk and topped with cinnamon drunk in the warmth of Spring sunshine. How could life get much better?

I went on to spend a couple of hours giving the car a full valet while Pauline made her next batch of chicken stock outside in the garden. The smell of chicken bones reduced to deeply unctuous liquid in the pressure cooker pervaded the air of the garden and reached me out on the drive as I cleaned the car. Next door’s cat got quite excited but his anticipation was wholly unrequited.

Naxos hotel – We stayed here in 1982.

We went to the Health Club and did a full exercise session. Swimming outside has suddenly become more popular and there were even a few people sunbathing outside round the pool today as well. We did our 30 x 25 meters swim and a spent half an hour in the Sauna, Jacuzzi a Water Massage before driving home to griddle Tuna Steaks in the garden.

As we ate our meal, we watched a programme called something like New Life in the Sun. It was a couple looking for a home on the Cycladic island of Naxos. It immediately brought back memories of our holiday there in 1982. It was there where we were first offered retsina and whitebait which they laughingly referred to as small fry or ‘little Athenians’ which they told us should be eaten by biting off their heads first. We were immediately hooked by these lovely people. As we discussed that, we suddenly realised it was 36 years ago! How could that be. So much has happened since then. What’s next?

Wednesday, 14th March

Just a lovely, happy, ordinary day of sunshine and pleasant, Spring warmth. We did a little shopping which was made rather more problematic because most of the local roads are being closed for new, traffic management changes. Diversions are in place and all traffic is being pushed into one, main road. This is creating, long queues. It is the sort of thing which, when we were working and time-poor, would really frustrate us. In retirement and with no, pressing engagements, we just go with the (slow) flow.

This time 9 years ago, we were just going through our final, retirement negotiations with the Local Authority. Everything was uncertain apart from the fact that we would stop working. We were bargaining hard for good payoffs and sorting out the mysteries that are pensions. Two weeks this weekend will mark exactly 9 years since we have worked. So much else has happened but we finish most evenings saying to each other that we have really enjoyed the day. When it comes down to it, what more can we ask than that?

Found our exercise routine hard today. My calf muscles felt like they were cracking and, by the time I got in the pool, I was fighting cramp. Did the full session though and didn’t give up. Makes me feel better about myself for not backing down. I cooked this afternoon – chicken thighs and mushrooms with garlic and tarragon. I hate to say it but it was gorgeous. We are very lucky people!

Thursday, 15th March

Dry Lining needs replacing.

Can you believe that we are half way through March already? I thought it was supposed to be heavy rain today but, once again, we have blue skies and sun with a temperature of 10C/50F.

In 2 weeks, it will be exactly 2 years since we moved in to our new house. We have a full, 5 year warranty but 2 years is about the time to be assessing and having resettlement cracks, etc. seen to. Today, we have been walking round the house, doing a tour of inspection and photographing anything which we need to bring to the ‘snaggers’ attention. We’ve identified 5 snags which will need adressing. They are mainly to do with the ‘dry lining’ process on the plaster board joins. Our builders are absolutely excellent and anything we ask for is done swiftly and efficiently without demur. That is what you want when you buy a house.

We were preparing for our visit to the Health Club when we received a phone call to be told that both P &C were unwell. C had gone in to hospital to have some carcinomas removed from his lip and ear. This is just another bout of a series of carcinoma removals which he has suffered over the past few years. Unfortunately, while they were there and C was in mid=operation, P collapsed and spent a subsequent number of hours on a trolley in the A&E department of St. Peters Hospital. She was suffering from gastroenteritis and really experiencing extreme dehydration. This is not the first time.

We decided that we should go up to see them so we cancelled our exercise trip and set off for Surrey. The weather was gorgeous and the drive was delightful. The temperature read 16C/61F as we drove up in brilliant sunshine. We spent 2 hours with P&C and then left for Sussex. Our return journey wasn’t quite so smooth because we hit ‘rush-hour’ traffic but we were home for 5.00 pm and relaxing with some sea food for our meal

Friday, 16th March

I was writing about retirement day on Wednesday. Today, I was listening to someone talking about the insecurity of managing a mortgage. Of course, we were very lucky not to experience that sort of feeling. We took out larger and larger mortgages over our married life and never really worried about affording them in spite of interest rates of over 15% for a while. Well, that’s not quite true. We always stretched ourselves to our limit in terms of borrowing and then budgeted to within an inch of our lives in the early stages. That soon passed and we looked to the next extension.

We paid off our huge mortgage as we retired  with the aid of lump sums and severance payments. It was the first time in 30 years of marriage that we were completely debt free. It was almost an uncomfortable feeling and, in some ways, continues to be so. We are constantly grateful for the quality of our State and Teachers’ pensions, our investments and savings and the freedom they give us. We feel totally uninhibited and able to fulfil our dreams. We live a lovely standard of life and want for nothing. I don’t write any of this to boast. In some ways, quite the opposite. We regularly feel so undeserving of our position. We have worked hard for nearly 40 years to achieve this situation but there are lots of people who have worked equally hard and will never achieve it.

Sides of Norwegian Salmon.

We have gone fish mad in the past two years and today, when we went to the fish counter at Tesco, asked for a side of salmon and the fishman/salesman whispered to us that today was exactly the day for salmon. He was selling it at ‘half price’. A side of salmon weighing 1Kg each cost £7.50/€8.51. Elsewhere in the store, we could have bought a half side at 0.5 Kg for £7.90/€8.96. We eat salmon at least twice each week both hot and cold. We were very happy to take advantage of the ‘special offer price’ and buy 4 sides of salmon at a total of £30.00/€34.00 plus 2Kg of tail on prawns for £25.00/€28.35. Even so, it felt quite self indulgent.

Saturday, 17th March

A cold day in which temperatures didn’t rise much above 2C/36F. Strangely, it didn’t feel that cold although we did have a few flurries of wet snowflakes. Nothing settled. We did a gym session but did not go outside to the pool. We felt that 70 mins. cardiovascular in the gym on Saturday and Sunday would be good enough and then we could get back to the full programme on Monday or Tuesday.

The temperature in Yorkshire is -2C/28F as I write. When we were in Huddersfield, our annual gas and electricity bill was about £2,200.00/€2,500.00. This was 10 years ago and it felt a lot then but it was a necessary evil. The house we lived in was not much larger than the one we are in now but it was 25 years old. Since then, we have bought new-build properties and the difference in heating and insulation is immense. In our first, two years in this property, we have been paying  £1010.00/€1146.00 for dual fuel from British Gas. Today, they have asked us to reduce that to £890.00/€1010.00. In a year in which this winter seems to have been rather colder than average, we thought we had been profligate. Quite the reverse. Why would anyone buy an older property if they didn’t have to?

Week 480

Sunday, 4th March

At home today. Political programmes, newspapers, football matches and then Pauline is emptying her wardrobe to donate to British Heart Foundation collection box at our Health Club. It is a symbiotic donation in that Pauline gets rid of unwanted clothes, the BHF gets clothes to sell. Pauline gets an empty wardrobe and the chance to say, I think I need new clothes.and I get to answer, Of course, Darling, if you need them. When I have a triple bi-pass, Pauline will be able to say, my clothes contributed to the research on that. Most of us are winners!

While that’s going on, I’ve been investigating replacements for my increasingly clunky Macromedia Dreamweaver MX. It’s a school copy and, like so much of my inherited school software, is feeling out of date. I can cope with writing some Html but, in retirement, I prefer wysiwyg software. Dreamweaver falls largely in to the latter category but things have moved on so much in the last 10 years. I stopped keeping up and developing just as CSS or Cascading Style Sheets became de rigueur and any re-entry into the market must include that.

At the same time, ten years ago, I was just designing for Desktops and Laptops. Now, websites need to work on Tablets and scale down to smartphones. I have found a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) designer software that provides CSS and scalability for differing platforms. It costs $180.00/£150.00 so I will have to negotiate with my wife against the cost of her new wardrobe.

Monday, 5th March

Beginning to feel a bit like Spring at last and the birds are very active. A beautiful thrush has adopted our garden for his food shopping. Down in the village, there are small hints of the change of season. The daffodils are out and the air is pleasantly mild. The pollarded trees haven’t got the message yet.

I really am a creature of habit. The trick is to get me hooked on good rather than bad habits and I find it hard to change. I know I love exercise but the weather has caused a slight hiatus in our programme and going back to it today has been an effort. As soon as I started in the gym, I loved it and came home glowing after our outdoor swim followed by a sauna session. It is great to be back. I read that exercise releases endorphins – one’s body’s feel-good chemicals – which can lift one’s mood and improve self-esteem. I would say that it definitely does all of that for me.

Tuesday, 6th March

Our new, local Aldi.

Lovely, warm day. We were out early to collect 8 pairs of shoes for Pauline from Next. She has been looking for this style of shoe for quite a while, apparently, and when they appeared on-line, she ordered four pairs in four different colours and in each of two, different sizes. We went to  the store and she tried them on. Both sizes were wrong. Fortunately, they do a half size and Pauline has ordered another, four pairs to fit. As long as she’s happy, I am.

Perfectly pleasant Aldi presentation.

We shop at Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose normally but we are increasingly going to Aldi. They have some excellent quality produce at excellent prices. We particularly like their Smoked Salmon, Parmigiano Cheese and Kalamata Olive Oil. We went there today to stock up. In fact, our meal was smoked salmon, large prawns, cold salmon with pesto topping and salad. It felt right in this opening of Spring.

We did our second day of full exercise this week, finishing with ¾ of a kilometre in the outdoor pool. It felt absolutely fabulous and we drove home in high spirits. This has been only our 4th exercise session in the past 7 days but we intend to do every day until Sunday so that will really put us back in the groove.

Wednesday, 7th March

An absolutely lovely day but one in which I struggle to identify any real achievements. It has been warm – 10C/50F around the pool this afternoon – with blue sky and gorgeous sunshine. We did do a full exercise regime again today and swimming under a warm sun felt like being on holiday.

I spent part of the morning going through the old software on my desktop computer and looking for prices to update it. It is 9 years since I retired and I have been using a copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2010. There is nothing wrong with it and, I must admit, I do really only use Word & Excel on a regular basis. However, I do like to have the choice of building a database with Access and I would like to have the email client, Outlook, as a backup to the web-based client. The last time I bought this suite of programs, it cost hundreds of pounds. In those days, it came in CD format and took a few days to arrive. Today, I bought it for £25.00/€28.00 and it came an as immediate download with a ‘key’ accompanying it. So much change and so much for the better.

Thursday, 8th March

Beautiful day of blue sky and sunshine which reached 10C/50F. We did some shopping this morning which allowed me the opportunity to challenge my little brother, Bob, at photography. Bob is regularly posting lovely, landscape photos that have obviously taken a long time to scope and set up. I, on the other hand, eschew all that malarkey and shoot from the hip with spectacular effect. I won’t brag but leave you to judge.

Bob’s picure hasn’t even got a title!
The immortal ‘Sun over Asda’.

If you’re wondering about the UFO in the top left, it’s my thumb. You have to admit, I’ve really got the hang of composition. Please don’t tell Bob.

Shattered after another full workout. We will force ourselves to do Friday and then have a day off. I was pleased to find today that I have lost 1.5 stones/9.5 kilos since 1/1/18.

Friday, 9th March

A grey and cooler day which didn’t get above 8C/47F. We went to Tesco for our weekly shop and it afforded me the opportunity to produce another entry in my much-acclaimed photo series.

The eternal: ‘Grey over Tesco’.

We went to the Health Club and did our 6th exercise routine in the past 7 days. Our limbs really began to feel it and will welcome tomorrow off to rest and recuperate. We will return to work on Sunday. This past week has featured an item that the BBC headlines as: How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining. The fabulously named, Prof Norman Lazarus, aged 82, of King’s College London, who took part in and co-authored research, said: “If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system.”

We’ll be the judge of that!

Saturday, 10th March

We’ve certainly chosen a good day to stay at home. Outside it is grey and heavy, fine, ‘wetting’ rain is falling. I know you will be excited to read that I am going to tidy the garage. It is already tidy in most people’s eyes but I have been instructed to find storage space for preserving jars which have been slowly accumulating over the winter and starting to out grow the Laundry room storage areas. That is my task. If I don’t complete this Blog post, you will know that I have been denied access to the televisions to watch Rugby and Football matches because of failure to complete prior instructions.

Job done but England lost to France and so to Ireland. A disappointing end to the day …. if it wasn’t for Aldi. I love and am nearly addicted to smoked salmon. This week we bought a pack from Aldi. They may not be your first choice for quality products but suspend your scepticism. This 200g pack of smoked salmon was one of the nicest I have eaten for a long time and I’ve eaten a lot. Not only that but it was exceptionally cheap – comparatively. This 200g pack from Aldi was £2.99/€3.37 whereas a 200g pack from Tesco would have been £5.50/€6.19. I would recommend it on quality alone.