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.

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