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?