Week 488

Sunday, 29th April, 2018

Coastal City of Valencia

Cold and grey outside. We have determined to stay in although we are expecting heavy rain and strong, cold winds over the next couple of days so we had to spend time in the back garden sheltering our herb pots and blanketing them with horticultural fleece. Even so, I fear for the welfare of the Basil which may need to be replaced with new plants if the cold blast hits them.

We are off to Valencia in a couple of weeks so I have been checking out plans for connections between airport and hotel and for interesting places to visit while we are there. I suspect that we will do what we always do which is not visit lots of ‘must see’ sights like the Science Museum but walk around the old town and sit in cafes watching the Valencian world go by. We have found a nice, 5* hotel with indoor and outdoor pools plus a good gym and with easy metro links with the city. Looking forward to exploring somewhere new.

Monday, 30th April, 2018

A vile night and day of strong winds, heavy rain and very cold temperatures (hovering around 5C/41F) to mark the end of April. We were up at 7.00 am and out by 8.30 am in heavy, fine and very wetting rain. The sea was grey and leaden as the sky as we drove in to Worthing town.

Pauline was picking up some clothes she’d ordered from Debenhams, having her hair cut at Toni & Guy and I was enjoying a pint of fresh coffee at Starbucks. We drove back through the village/town of Ferring to make a third attempt to pick up a parcel that UPS have been trying to deliver to me for the past 5 days. It still wasn’t there.

I am a mild mannered person who understands that arrangements can go wrong but this organisation is totally unacceptable. Since I ordered this parcel of medical supplies, I have had to make 5 phone calls and drive 3 trips to unsuccessfully collect from an office miles away from my home. Today, the company arrived at my house for the third time while I was out at the Health Club ignoring the fact that we had agreed last week that they would deliver to a UPS Access Point for me to collect.

When I got home I phoned and gave the unfortunate Desk Clerk both barrels. Within minutes, I received a mobile call to confirm that the driver would do what he was supposed to do the first time and actually deliver to the nominated office and that I will be able to collect on Wednesday. I have written to the management of UPS and to the medical company, CoaguChek expressing my disquiet at their level of service. It is one of those satisfying things that retirement gives one time to do.

Tuesday, 1st May, 2018

A cold and very sunny start to the morning. Happy May. I think it’s going to be good. The sunshine soon warmed up the back garden and I was able to take the fleece covers off my herb pots and let them embrace the day.

Embracing the day on the 1st of May is a lovely thing to do. I am still researching raised beds for the garden and, once again, the most amazing coincidence presented itself. I came across a company in Lowestoft, Suffolk who were marketing flat packs of raised bed kits. I went on their web site – Harrod Horticultural – and found a video presentation. Playing it, I was immediately struck by the presenter. I knew him well from my past life. In fact he used to make me coffee most days at work. The presenter, Paul Peacock, was a Science teacher at my school and Pauline’s Assistant for a short while.

About 10 years ago, I was sitting in my Greek house and reading some of the Blogs I follow. One, Democracy Street written by Simon Baddeley, referred to Simon’s relative, Jack Hargreaves, who spent years presenting a country skills programme called Out of Town on ATV. The Blogger, Simon, refers to a Lancashire man who has just written a short biography of Jack Hargreaves and he posts a photo of the author. I take one look at the photo and it is – Paul Peacock who made very poor coffee, by the way. Nice to see he’s still got some work.

Wednesday, 2nd May, 2018

The day started off with heavy rain. We needed to visit Honda because, although our 24 month service has been booked for the middle of June, we have suddenly heard a knocking noise underneath which sounds like the Macpherson Suspension Strut on the wheel mounting. We managed to secure an immediate appointment for tomorrow morning and may bring our service forward to combine and save time.

Getting home, the rain was really driving in and I decided that I didn’t need to put myself through going out in it again. We agreed that we would give the Health Club a miss and do jobs at home. Pauline did tidy up work on the stair case where new-build settlement had left some gaps to fill and repaint. I completed my complaint to UPS having finally collected my parcel today and then prepared our meal which was shallots, garlic, cherry tomatoes and tail-on-prawns with white wine sauce. I accompanied it with roasted yellow peppers and garlic mushrooms. Genius! Well, I enjoyed it anyway.

Thursday, 3rd May, 2018

A glorious morning and day. Blue sky, strong sunshine and increasing warmth which peaked at 20C/68F. We went out early to Yeomans Honda in Worthing. We had a concerning noise under the floor of the car which is just coming up to two year’s old and has only done 14,000 miles. Over the past 40 years, we have had 23 new Hondas and 12 new CRVs. We have never had any concern about any of them before this. The new, hybrid CRV is due out in UK at the turn of the year so we will be replacing this car after when it is about  30+ months old.

We are due a 24 month service in about 6 weeks time so we thought we would cover both things in one visit. We had a ‘courtesy’ CRV to get us through the day and so life could go on seamlessly. We went on to do a full exercise routine at the Health Club. Swimming was a particular delight with warm sunshine sparkling on the clear water and birdsong ringing round the hedges.

Friday, 4th May, 2018

It was forecast and it was delivered. A beautiful, warm, sunny day. From the moment we got up at 7.00 am, the sky was so inviting. We had to do our weekly shop but we managed that by 9.45 am. We were still driving a ‘courtesy car’ because they couldn’t work out what the noise was coming from below the passenger seat. We were driving home when the phone went to say that they had  finally identified the problem which turned out to be the failure of a small, rubber connector on the Macpherson Strut providing suspension to the front, nearside wheel. There was no charge, of course for the warranty work or the 24 month Service because we have 5 years’ warranty and a free, 5 year service agreement.

When we got home, we decided that the day was so delightful that we would give the Health Club a miss. I cut the lawns and trimmed the edges. We went round to our local Garden Centre and bought some more pots, some more Basil and Dill plants and potted them up. We have decided not to rush the raised beds but to install them in time for next season and, possibly, combine them with some more extensive hard garden design.

Sexy or What?

Not going to the gym today will give my poor feet a bit more respite from their regular pounding. Daily workout on the treadmill plus the drying effect of the chemicals in swimming water have combined to make the heals of my feet tough, thick skinned, dry and prone to cracking. I try to ignore it but, when the crack gets as deep as these, I have to have attention.

Every morning, I have my feet softened in a bowl of water, filed or scraped, creamed and taped to pull and knit the crack fissures back together. It is a labour of love that my wife willingly undertakes. This latest problem has been receiving daily treatment for more than a month and is better but not completely cured so a lighter day could well help.  That’s my excuse anyway.

Saturday, 5th May, 2018

Today is notable for two celebrations. Today is the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx birth. A massive influence on world thinking, analysis and subsequent events. Those who wrinkle their noses and scoff at the mention of his name, clearly don’t know how much of his thinking permeates modern life. Marx and Engels foresaw how globalisation would work. They wrote:

In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes.

In 2015, Socialism was the most searched word on Webster’s online dictionary. Socialism does not carry historical baggage for a younger generation left behind by the iniquities of capitalism. A Harvard study found that a majority of millennials reject capitalism and a third are in favour of socialism. Marxist thought will continue to inform Historical and current analysis generating new relations between workers.

Bishops Park Restaurant

On a lighter note, this weekend marks exactly 40 years since Pauline first asked me out. It was a good job she did because I was far too timid to ask her. We went to a small restaurant on the outskirts of Oldham near a golf course. I can still remember the evening with sharp definition which is impressive for someone without a memory.

Even then, it was more café-cum-restaurant and very relaxed. The tables had flowers in a jug centrally on gingham table cloths. Rather as I have remained, I over enthusiastically pushed the flowers aside and seized Pauline’s hand as soon as we sat down. I was dressed in a dark suit and pale blue shirt with dark blue tie. I have no idea what we ate but I remember walking back to the car in the pitch darkness of the carpark of this place on the edge of the moors. We had our first kiss and I knew immediately that I would ask her to marry me. I was just 27 years old and we got married 8 months later in December 1978. Happy, exciting times that I have never regretted for a single moment.

Week 487

Sunday, 22nd April, 2018

An early and still Marina.

Huge and prolonged thunder and lightning storm last evening. It was exciting to watch with sheet and forked lightning over towards the sea. Briefly, we were swept with heavy, driving rain and we feared for our newly potted-up seedlings but our fears proved unfounded. Usually, a thunder storm clears the air of humidity and draws in cooler temperatures. This did not and the night was rather hot and oppressive.

Two ghosts on the beach.

We woke early and got up. Without breakfast or even a drink, we were parked by the beach before 7.00 am. A beautiful, still day under a gorgeous, blue sky and early morning sun with just a hint of haze over the sea.By the time we get home at around 8.30 am, we have already done a large part of our daily 10,000 paces target and that’s before we go to the gym this afternoon.

By mid day, our meal has been prepared for when we get home from exercise. slices of cold, duck breast and mushrooms to be eaten with salad. If we are starving when we return, there will not be a long wait in food preparation. We might actually have time to read the Sunday papers. How things have changed. While I was working, my Sundays were sacrosanct and set aside completely to Sunday papers. Now I have all the time in the world, I am too busy being active to read them. On this day two years ago, I received my first State Pension and I realised I was old. What does that make me now? Old+2!

Monday, 23rd April, 2018

John – Sleep Pattern
Pauline – Sleep Pattern

Don’t you think sleep is a strange thing? It is something most of us take for granted and rarely reflect on but all humans spend approximately 30% of their lives laying down with their eyes closed and oblivious to the rest of the world. Bizarre isn’t it. Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness. It is a requirement of all sentient beings although, to many of us, it feels a bit of a waste of time.

I have written before that I tend to manage on 6hrs sleep per night, going to bed at midnight and waking at 6.00 am. Actually, last night I was so exhausted after doing 7 consecutive workouts at the Health Club and then walking on the beach yesterday before 7.00 am that I went to bed shortly after 11.00 pm. It felt strange. Of course, like everything else, I monitor my sleep patterns now with my smart watch and phone. I have been doing it for a couple of months and the sleep patterns are very similar.

I fall asleep almost the moment my head hits the pillow and I am into ‘deep’ sleep. Pauline is in very ‘light’ and fairly fitful sleep and wakes twice as many times per night compared with me. If I so much as twitch my toe, she is awake and asking if I am alright. She could fall out of bed and I would be unaware of it. Indeed, there was the famous time when, in another house, an earthquake shook and the garage door rattle like mad – or so Pauline reported because I slept right through and learnt about it over breakfast.

Of course, we now know that lack of sleep can cause heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Guess what I’ve suffered from in the past. Well, this morning I go for my annual Type 2 Diabetes check. I ceased to be Diabetic a couple of years ago but prefer the safety first attention of remaining on the books. I had to have a pre-meeting blood test and my Diabetes Control measurement expressed in mmol/mol has fallen even further into the ‘normal’ having gone through the Diabetic to Pre-Diabetic to Normal over the past couple of years. This, at least, is a reason to stay positive.

Tuesday, 24th April, 2018

Yesterday was St George’s Day (allegedly). I’m not convinced it has any significance although right wing nationalists have long tried to rally around this cause.

Cry ‘God for Harry, England and St George’ – (Henry Vth, Act 3)

I reject Deity, Monarchy and Nationalism. They are constructs that we can do without. So many of those baying for England and St George will be unaware that their hero is merely the stuff of legend which places him as part Turkish and part Greek and someone who never set foot in England – probably because he didn’t have a blue passport. Nationalists like to hang their predilections on this recruiting sergeant.

I have never really felt the need for communal identity. I have written before of hurrying away from the village in which my family were founded and in which I lived for 20 years. Anonymity has always appealed. Not staying in one place for too long feeds into that tendency. It is with some wry amusement that I find myself cataloguing my life in a public Blog and living in a ‘village’ community now although new house building is exploding that description fairly rapidly. The core of the villagers can be observed struggling hard to maintain the concept and we constantly get literature beseeching us to get involved.

‘Involved’ is something that scares me. Instinctively, I shun it. I am happy to observe others enjoyment in participation – even to vicariously participate through the sort of publication that comes through our door on a regular basis. Today it was a directory of local services but it is often publication of the scores of local groups for social interaction from Women’s Institute to Local History to learning Italian. It is amazing to me how social people around us are while I pursue my solitary observations.

Wednesday, 25th April, 2018

Another April day of sunshine and showers. I know this is of no real moment in the great scheme of things but we are trying to grow herbs in pots while spending approximately 12 weeks away. I managed it last year with an automatic water spray system but I am looking for a more reliable and sophisticated solution this (or next) year. I intend to install raised beds with an automatic, drip feed watering system and I used some of this morning to research the possibilities. What an enjoyable project to have the time to evaluate. How wonderful can retirement be?

We did our 10th consecutive day of formal exercise and seemed to be getting stronger as we did it. I am averaging 15,000 paces per day over the past week and have covered 55 miles. Back home, Pauline cooked an absolutely delightful meal of Dover Sole filet with scallops and prawns. Served with salad, it rounded off a lovely afternoon.

Thursday, 26th April, 2018

A quiet day in which we went through our normal routines. Morning was spent replying to correspondence, reading newspapers and Faceache/Twitter_feed, bit of housework, etc.. The weather outside has been decidedly Aprilion with sunshine and showers. Even our swim was started in warm sunshine and finished in breezy showers.

I was expecting a delivery of INR testing strips from Coaguchek which was delivered by UPS just as we were out at the Health Club. When I got home, I had a hell of a job to  trace the package, contact UPS and set up a delivery to a pickup point. Some companies make it easy and some have little idea. I could have been old, frail, alone and desperate for these supplies. Fortunately, I am none of these and have ordered them weeks early so my supply is seamless.

Friday, 27th April, 2018

Mum circa 1983 aged 60 in Bretby

Today is the 10th anniversary of my Mother’s death. It happened at a difficult time in my life. I was grossly overweight and had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Work was winding down towards retirement and we were searching for answers to our way forward. My relationship with my Mother had always been a confused and confusing one. I remember my emotional turmoil as I wrote an oration for the funeral service.

Mum circa 1943 aged 20 in Croydon

Strangely, although this may just be a trick of my memory system, it seems so much longer ago. It was a different world. She represented a different world, value system, morality, religion. It is a world which most of us have now rejected and replaced. Right up to the end, Mum still talked about the ‘nigger in the wood pile’ and ‘golliwogs’ – the dolls from her youth – without much sense of prejudice. She talked of ‘eye-ties’ (Italians) stinking of garlic and thought pork pie was for the Working Class. She went on a Nile Cruise and told me in horrified tones afterwards that some people on the boat wore ‘Trainers’ not nice ‘Court Shoes’ like her. She had a lot of Hyacinth Bouquet about her.

I understand that her tendency to snobbery and over exaggeration of ‘station’ came from her feeling the need to compensate for her, distant Irish immigrant background. Unfortunately, as any reader of this Blog will know, I well and truly caught the affliction. However, she also gave me so many tools which have stood me in good stead – a love of words and ideas, of argument and debate, of art and music, of nature. This August, she would have been 95 and I remember her here.

Saturday, 28th April, 2018

First trimmings of French Tarragon.

A grey but mild day. We’ve decided to have a couple of day’s rest. Pauline is looking forward to making a new batch of bread – for herself – and I have done a bit of tidying up in the garden. We did have a fruitless trip out to Ferring to collect a parcel which still hadn’t been dropped off and to Sainsburys for Tahini paste which they hadn’t got in stock. Traffic around here on a Saturday is very busy and to be avoided if at all possible.

Pauline is roasting chicken for our meal and flavouring it with the first trimmings of the new season’s French Tarragon from our garden. The herbs and salad leaves are growing well inspite of the rather poor weather. The recently planted out fig bushes and olive tree all seem to be loving their release from pots and into open ground. I have high hopes for them.

In Greece, it is reported that eight years of austerity imposed by its Eurozone partners will end this summer. At the same time, however, it is also reported that

Greece’s economic crisis is over only if you don’t live there.

Everyone else, in other words, might have moved on because Greece isn’t threatening to knock over the other dominoes that are known as the global economy anymore, but its people are still stuck in what is the worst collapse a rich country has ever gone through. Indeed, if the International Monetary Fund’s latest projections are correct, it might be at least another 10 years before Greece is back to where it was in 2007. And that’s only if there isn’t another recession between now and then

Week 486

Sunday, 15th April, 2018

The day has opened much cooler and rather grey. I suppose it is only the middle of April but I expect better. I will get better tomorrow, I hear. It was ever thus!

James Joseph Jeremiah Coghlan (1894 – 1976)

Politics programmes, Sunday papers, blah, blah, etc. You’ve read it all before. Actually, I helped Pauline prepare a document for our Greek friends on the merits of Tumble Dryers (You heard it here first!) and their availability in Greek outlets like Kotsovolos. The cheapest ones can be purchased for just over €320.00/£277.00 which is not too extortionate.

A member of my family then started a chain email concerning the possibility of seeking dual nationality through our Grandparents’ Irish heritage. They were seeking information of the birthplace of our Grandfather. Unfortunately, I was about to dash their hopes because I knew that Grandad was born in Brighton – an irony that is not lost on me considering where I have ended up. Our Grandfather – James, Joseph, Jeremiah Coghlan – couldn’t have been more Irish in origin but he was born in 1894 to Irish immigrants in Brighton. It just goes to show that you can’t even rely on your own Grandfather over Brexit. He is pictured opposite during the First World War when he served in the Cavalry.

Monday, 16th April, 2018

Gorgeous, gorgeous day. Blue sky and warm sunshine. After mowing the lawn for the second time this month, we returned to the exercise regime. It felt great and swimming in the outdoor pool under strong sun and blue sky felt positively Mediterranean.

The first part of the day was taken up with a visit from a painter who was going over the filled and sanded plaster work which had received remedial work. The painter, a lovely chap, did the work – two coats – in just over an hour. We now have the exact name of the paint so that we can do incidental touch-ups ourselves. We have three years left on our warranty but getting people in can be a bit of a pain so it is good to have a supply in the garage to do small jobs ourselves.

We bought a £1000.00 of Euros yesterday at £1.00 = €1.1301 online on Saturday and picked them up today. We will continue to forward buy currency as the rate dictates over the next few months to fund future travel. I use International Currency Exchange  and I am an account holder of Moneycorp – both specialist FX Traders – and yet Tesco are currently offering better rates than both.

Tuesday, 17th April, 2018

Another lovely day. The garden was in sunshine. My friend, Brian from Oldham, phoned which was nice. It is one of the penalties of living at either end of the country that we don’t get to meet so often. Another really enjoyable session at the Health Club. The pool was delightfully quiet, sunny and warm.

Strange to think we would now be back, hard at work if still in Education. Members of staff who are still there have been recording the end of their holidays as they dash back from Spain or wherever. Instead, we have meandered through our day indulging our preferences. This life could be so much worse.

My INR, which I test every week, has to remain between 2.0 – 3.0. For many months it has been near perfect. Because of that, I have been allowing myself to eat illicit things like Rocket Salad which contains high Vitamin K that mitigates against the efficacy of the anti-coagulant, Warfarin, I take each day. I used to call green salads Rabbit Food but, as soon as they were prohibited, I craved them. Well, today has proved a step too far as I have fallen to the bottom of the scale with INR = 2.0. All green vegetables are back off again.

Wednesday, 18th April, 2018

Glorious day of sunshine and 72F/22C temperatures. It is really good to see some Summer weather after such a long Winter. For some strange reason, the outdoor pool was madly popular. All the stalwarts of winter swimming were looking at each other and suggesting their fair weather friends ought to have served their time if they wanted parity outside.

Common Thyme & Lemon Thyme

We had done a morning of shopping for building/’snagging’ materials plus plants for our herb collection. This year we are going to concentrate on Tarragon (which we already have and has overwintered well), Oregano, Dill, Basil, Chives and Thyme. We can only cope with an assembly of patio pots this year because we will not be at home enough to manage anything else. I use an automatic watering system and all the herbs are regularly cropped and frozen for use across the year. Particularly, we need lots of basil to make Pesto which we use a lot with Salmon dishes and Dill which we use with most other fishes.

Thursday, 19th April, 2018

Haskins Garden Centre

A beautiful day. The Met. Office says it has been the hottest April day in my lifetime. We didn’t go to the beach because of predictable human behaviour. You can guarantee that hot sunshine will have brought out many sun worshippers on the beach. Instead we went to the garden centre where the other half of the world had considered it a good place to congregate.

In spite of the scorching weather, we went to the Health Club and did our full gym routine but the world had moved from the garden centre to the outdoor pool so we didn’t swim. We rather resented it but it would have been too stressful to fight for space to swim. We went home and sat in the sunshine.

Friday, 20th April, 2018

Well mid-Summer in mid-April is very welcome. We seem to have gone from 0 – 60 in a matter of a few days. The sticks have become hedges all around our village. As I drove, I was accustomed to viewing fields and vistas that now are obscured by burgeoning hedges. One’s heart leaps to see this. Re-birth everywhere. A school of young starlings have adopted our back garden lawn and are learning to launch themselves from the fence. Flowering trees decorate the roads and gardens. Thrushes sing from the trees around. Our fig trees open their beautiful, new year’s leaves and the lawn is blooming with verdant energy.

Looked back in my Blog to 9 years ago. I recorded:

Spent the week playing at being retired: getting up after 7.00 am, reading the newspaper, gardening, shopping off-peak, popping out to the Garden Centre.

Nine year’s on, we ‘popped out to the Garden Centre’ and bought Dill, Sweet Italian Basil and small leaved Greek Basil. We will pot it up tomorrow and look forward to growth.

Saturday, 21st April, 2018

An hot, sleeping out of the duvet, night. We are still on 3.5 tog but will reassess in a few days and look to go down to 1 tog unless, of course, it suddenly snows. Today, we will pot up our Basil, Oregano and Dill plants ready for their Summer encouragement. Other than Tarragon, these are the herbs we use most on a regular basis.

We use so much Pesto that the Basils will have to work hard. This year we have 6 plants and would expect to harvest them at least twice and, hopefully, 3 times. This should combine with pine nuts & Parmisan to make enough Pesto to get us through the year. Pauline separates it into 50g parcels for freezing. When you’ve got a chef in the family, things go very smoothly.

The temperature read 18C/65F at 9.00 am and 25C/77F by mid afternoon. We did our 6th, consecutive full workout and swim and really enjoyed it. Back home, we cooked an old favourite outside in the garden – fried calamari. We ate that for the first time in Sifnos almost 30 years ago. The evening has developed into quite a humid one that is reminiscent of elsewhere.

Week 485

Sunday, 8th April, 2018

Καλο Πασχα  to all our Greek friends. We watched last night’s celebrations through the main street of Kamares. Cool but dry meant that the candlelit procession was comfortable.

As predicted, today is a wet one here. Even so, we will not rest. The Health Club has to be visited this afternoon. I am on a winning streak having already reached my target every day for the past 7 and I’m bidding to make it an 8th. I have managed a daily average of 12,000 paces over the past week and covered around 43 miles. I won’t be able to bare looking at my phone unless I achieve my target today. It’s got to be done!

Monday, 9th April, 2018

A warm, grey and wet morning. Suitcases are at the bottom of the stairs. John is just trying to remind himself how to lock/unlock them and what the combination is. Haven’t used them for a few months and I can hardly remember yesterday. Taxi booked for lunchtime then train to London Victoria and tube to Kensington High Street – Holiday Inn.

I chose it for its location, because I am a member and receive members’ rates and because it has a large indoor pool and large gym both of which has been fully refurbished in the past 18 months.

Tuesday, 10th April, 2018

Lovely hotel with great gym and pool. We did our routine there yesterday to get travelling tiredness out of ourselves. Lovely sleep in a very comfortable bed and quiet room. Grey, vaguely misty and dull here on Kensington High Street this morning. Of course, we were forced out of our routine to eat Breakfast around 8.00 am. We struggled to eat it but certain things just have to be done.

After recovering from morning food, the next test of endurance was ‘shopping’. For once, I achieved almost a score draw this morning and escaped with the single purchase of a new umbrella for Pauline which appealed to my gadget enjoyment with a button that not only opens automatically but also closes automatically as well. That had to be worth £15.00/€17.21. I almost had to buy sunglasses in the same expedition but managed to convince Pauline that they didn’t suit her. She trusts my judgement!

We went for a walk around a misty Kensington Palace gardens. It was a quiet morning and it gave us an excuse for some exercise. Royal Palaces are such tawdry things in rainy reality and no amount of gilt on the gates can raise the profile. I longed to drape my ‘Corbyn for King’ banner across them but I hadn’t got one and wouldn’t have got away with it anyway.

The gardens in this weather were not too exciting but rather more so than shopping for women’s clothes. We returned to our hotel for coffee and a rest in which to read our newspapers. When we got there, our meeting with our Greek friends was postponed by email because a problem had arisen. They were supposed to be coming to our hotel for 11.00 am but now would come at 3.30 pm.. That’s alright. We were ‘free’ all day. We went to the gym and did a workout. It felt good and the facility was remarkably popular with guests. It is one of the best exercise facilities I have ever seen in a hotel.

We know from experience what a Greek appointment time is like – movable without explanation. We sat in the lobby of our hotel for an hour but, by 4.30 pm., they hadn’t arrived. We went back to our room for a cup of tea and email our friends. By 5.00 pm, we had  not heard from them and we had virtually resigned ourselves to not seeing them. Then, at 5.30 pm, two hours after we were expected to meet, the phone went and a concierge announced, We have a Ms Elerania in the Lobby to see you. We hurried down and there they all were frustrated having gone twice round the Circle Line looking for the Kensington High Street stop and trying to get off the underground before the doors closed and the train moved on.

Apostolos, Maria, Nikos, Elerania & Pauline

We went down into the Lounge and the Greek adults had coffee, the Greek children had ice cream and Pauline & I had a pot of tea. We talked and talked and talked and talked. We talked for four hours. We talked until we were all exhausted. Our conversations covered what was going on with all our friends and some less friendly islanders, what was going on in the island politics and economic developments, what was going on with our friends in front of us and what we should do in the future. They have offered accommodation on Sifnos and we will take them up on it next year. This year is too busy now. They will convey our very best wishes to Emmanuella & John, to Flora and to Olga.

At 9.30 pm, our Greek guests left to try and navigate the three remaining underground stops to their hotel in Sloane Square and we returned to our room and ordered ‘Room Service’. We hadn’t eaten since 8.00 am but hadn’t even noticed and now had little hunger. We order two starter portions – of cold meat and salad and one of smoked salmon and salad with a bottle of wine. It was enough. I watched Newsnight and then fell into bed after a very long day in which I had covered 16,500 paces and then talked for England.

Wednesday, 1th April, 2018

Up at 7.00 am. Forced to eat another ‘Breakfast’ and then coffee with the newspapers in our room. We contacted our Greek friends at their hotel to thank them for a lovely meeting and their offer of accommodation on Sifnos. We wished them a safe flight back to Athens tomorrow and told them that we looked forward to seeing them on Sifnos once again.

We checked out, walked to the Kensington High Street Underground Station and took the Circle Line to Victoria Station. That is where our problems started once again. Since we have been down here and using Southern Railways, we have been on just three rail journeys. The first one to a Celebration Dinner followed by a show, we returned to Victoria for the last train and it was promptly cancelled. We took a train to a midway point and then had to go home by taxi at an extra cost of £80.00/€92.00. Pauline subsequently went shopping with her sister and the train was late and then re-routed.

Today, our train started about 20 mins late apparently because some idiot had driven his car into the railway bridge in Croydon and delayed the service. Then, when we were about half way home, the guard announced that they had decided not to stop at our home destination in order not to slow the train down for everyone else and thus avoid paying ‘lateness’ compensation. Instead, we were going to have to go to Littlehampton which is further away and……take a taxi at our expense. At least we had transferred from a cool and damp Capital to a warm (17C/63F) and sunny coastal village where, even after 3 days away, the lawns were growing very quickly.

Thursday, 12th April, 2018

Up early because we have a ‘snagger’ coming to the second of three phases of work on our resettlement cracks. Stage one was filling the cracks with plaster. Stage two is sanding down the dried plaster to a smooth finish. Stage three will be repainting. Stage two took less than an hour with a dust collecting sander so minimum mess and disruption. The jolly worker came and went. Pauline followed up by vacuuming and steam cleaning the floors anyway.

Soon, I have to go to the Doctors’ surgery for an annual pre-diabetic review. Although my readings no longer indicate Type 2 Diabetes, I remain on the books for life in case of relapse or recidivism. I am happy about this because I get better monitoring of my health and any perks that come with Diabetic Care. For example, I have a specialist eye check each year which I wouldn’t normally do. I got free prescriptions although now they are free anyway.

Of course, now, I have an even greater health scare to worry about. I have had three, notable head traumas in my life. When I was about 10, I was so determined and intent on winning a playground race that I ran straight into the finishing line which was a brick, school wall. I was knocked clean out. About 5 years later, i was knocked out in a tackle on the rugby field and played on for about 20 mins with severe concussion. At the age of 29, we were involved in a car smash which left me with severe brain bruising having been knocked out in the collision. You can imagine how delighted I was to read yesterday that new findings show the Dementia risk rises 17% after suffering a single concussion and are far worse for those with severe brain trauma. These risks are exacerbated by diabetes. There is no hope. Take me now!

Monbazillac area, Aquitaine.

Actually, could you wait until December? I’ve got quite a lot of travel booked and paid for. This morning, we paid for our villa in the Dordogne. We are staying in the Monbazillac area and about 10 mins. drive from Bergerac. A month in a lovely looking Gite with a pool, gym, Wi-Fi and UK television channels is costing only €2400.00/£2086.00. You can’t say fairer than that and, at the moment, I can still remember it – more or less. Can I push myself to go to exercise this afternoon? Of course I can!

Friday, 13th April, 2018

Up early on a grey and cool morning. We had our weekly shop to do – Asda and Tesco. It took a couple of hours. We came home for coffee and got ready for the gym. Just as we were going out of the door, I felt, I don’t want to do this. I feel really tired. We turned round and thought again. Not wanting to do nothing, we chose to visit a couple of our local garden centres.

The weather is set to warm up dramatically in the next couple of days. The garden centres are stuffed full of the most wonderful plants and shrubs. I could happily buy one or ten of each but, because we are away so much this year, we are going to restrain ourselves. Of course, we don’t have the garden for most of them now anyway. Pots of herbs which can be automatically watered while we are away for months at a time will be the order of the year.

Kotsovolos is owned by Dixons.

Greek island weather can be extremely cold and very damp. Humidity is a very  uncomfortable thing which makes for  unpleasant conditions in houses and on clothes, bedding and furnishings. One of our Greek friends has asked for information on Tumble Dryers. A strange request, you might think but, when we lived on Sifnos, a tumble dryer costing £100.00/€115.50 in UK cost €500.00/£433.00 in Greece. Very few people had them because the weather was so reliable for half the year. During the other half, people hunker down and cope.

ΚΩΤΣΟΒΟΛΟΣ/Kotsovolos is probably the largest electrical retailer in Greece. They do have more choice than when we were looking but the price differential is still high. We managed to source ours in UK and put it in the shipping container we sent over but Greeks don’t have that luxury.

This Tumble Dryer – Greece=€539.00 / UK=€265.00.

In spite of the price, we would have always bought one. Who couldn’t live without soft, fluffy towels?

Saturday, 14th April, 2018

Well, we survived Friday 13th and woke up this morning to thick fog. It was a prelude to a lovely, warm and sunny day with blue skies. We have missed that for a whole week. On the wave of this beautiful start to the day, we decided to indulge ourselves and not return to the Health Club until Monday.

On this day 8 years ago, we were just driving off the P&O ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge en route to our house on Sifnos. We spent so many happy hours on those ferries from 2000 – 2010. They were pretty basic then and I don’t think much has changed all this time later.

When I think about what we did, it makes me shudder. A bottle or two of wine for Dinner to celebrate the start of our journey followed by a poor quality sleep in our cabin and then drive off for a 15 hr, unbroken journey across Europe until we stopped at the port of Ancona. No wonder we crashed out on the Ancona – Patras ferry and saw virtually nothing of the Adriatic. It all seems light years away. Still, we wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything. The drive to the Dordogne this summer will seem like child’s play by comparison.

Week 484

Sunday, 1st April, 2018

Happy April 2018. Good to see the EU is providing us all with an updated passport to start the new tax year. It’s going to be a busy few months of travelling.

The month has opened with fairly grey skies and not particularly warm either. We did Easter yesterday with our roast shoulder of lamb. It felt slightly strange and distinctly fatty to be eating meat again. Today, we are off to exercise and then feast on roast salmon to be eaten with salad. Meanwhile, stranger things are happening in our house….I am taking pictures of Pauline’s body.

Pauline has worried for years, particularly because of our time in Greece, that she is damaging her skin with the sun. Her Mum had lots of dark, skin spots and, of course, you grow like your Mum. Pauline consulted the doctor who wasn’t particularly concerned but advised her to photograph and measure some of the worst blotches. That is what we have been doing today. We will do it every couple of months over the rest of the year and then see what changes have taken place. Hopefully, there are none.

Monday, 2nd April, 2018

The day started off with torrential rain which was a pity because I had to put the bins out for collection. We are going to London for a few days next week to share with our Sifnos friends so we researched and booked our train tickets this morning. It turned out to be amazingly cheap – just £27.00/€31.00 return for two people from Angmering to London Victoria. We chose to select our specific times of travelling – otherwise it would have cost us £74.00/€85.00. We are staying on Kensington High Street which should be an education. We are looking forward to it. We booked online at the Southern Rail site which is incredibly easy.

Tomorrow, we will drive down to the station and collect our tickets using the code generated by our online purchase.

We drove to the Health Club at 1.00 pm as normal and did 70 mins in the gym. As we walked through to the outside pool, the rain stopped and we spent an enjoyable 30 mins completing our 0.75 kms of swimming before finishing off with half an hour in the sauna, Jacuzzi and water massage. We were home by just after 4.00 pm by which time it had started raining again.

Tuesday, 3rd April, 2018

Typical Spring day of sunshine and showers. We went down to our local station to collect our tickets and arrange taxis for next week’s trip to London. These are the occasions when one appreciates living in a smaller, more rural community. Everything is small scale and friendly. People very chatty in the ticket office at the front of the station. Just opposite is the taxi office – well garden shed with a telephone. The man behind the desk was very pleasant and, when I commented on the sign above his head banning abuse and violence, he informed us that he didn’t mind abuse but he drew the line at violence. To think you need to specify. A bit like teaching!

Spring on the Beach.

Today, we embrace the start of our 10th year of Retirement. Who’d have thought we would have managed all that? It feels a remarkably recent memory and yet so far away. It has been an enjoyable, exciting and rewarding period. It could go on for another 40 years or end tomorrow. We constantly feel we are walking on air and eggshells at the same time.

Optimism and pessimism are two sides of the same coin. I was listening to reports of the ex-Health Minister, Andrew Lansley, who went to his doctor because his wife nagged him about a persistent back pain, only to discover that he has stage 3 Bowel Cancer. These are the egg shells we all live on. My back’s been aching all morning.

Wednesday, 4th April, 2018

Cool Couple – circa 1978

Early shopping day at Sainsbury’s this morning. We are going to be away for a chunk of next week and we have a workman coming early tomorrow so our routine has had to change. Went to the garden centre as well for bags of soil and gravel in preparation for tomorrow when we won’t go to the Health Club. We intend to plant out two fig trees and an olive tree with, perhaps, one more to follow.

Did our 5th, consecutive trip to David Lloyd and our muscles were cracking but we got through it. It is the second week of Easter Holidays and quite a few students were there. The New Year Resolution crowd have faded away and the Health Club are desperate to entice in a new crowd with special offers. We are just plodding on regardless.

Pauline & I have been together 40 years next month and married 40 years in December. A relative wrote to me today and included a photo of 40 years ago. Nice to see. It was taken in Yorkshire and the backdrop is beautiful. We are not sure if it was Summer 1978 or Summer 1979. Which ever, it is nice to see and reminisce.

Thursday, 5th April, 2018

A lovely, lovely day. We were up early for a plasterer to do some ‘snagging’ work – resettling cracks 2 years after we moved in. It took him all morning. While he was working, I gave the lawns their first cut.

Over the years, starting the mower for the first time after a winter break, was a nightmare which left one with strained arm ligaments after tugging the start-up cord. This Spring, all I had to do was charge the battery over night and click it in to place this morning. A push of the button and we were away. Cut on ‘high’ the grass looked lush and beautifully striped when I’d finished. I completed the process by broadcast-applying ‘Aftercut weed and feed’.

We went on to move some plants around in the front flower beds and then planted out the fig trees and an olive tree in the back garden. We have a very sheltered, sunny and warm spot behind the garage and next to the fence where the figs can develop and be trained. By the time I had completed these activities, I was absolutely shattered – much more than a trip to the gym. I guess that I was using different muscles that hadn’t had a workout for quite some time. Tomorrow is forecast to be sunnier and warmer and could reach 16C/61F which should be enjoyable. We will be gyming and swimming.

Friday, 6th April, 2018

Start of the new tax year and I was born 67 years ago today. The world was so different. Dad’s demob trunk containing his uniform, gasmask and suit was stashed in an outhouse at home. Rationing was still prevalent and wartime vocabulary was on every lip. When we went out for our Sunday afternoon family walk, the wartime phrases tumbled out from Mum & Dad – best foot forward, plan of campaign, sucky sweet, chilly pom pom, etc..I was born into a rural, family business, Conservative, village world. That backdrop was the substance of my rejection. On escaping, I embraced a Northern, industrial, town, anonymous life which released me from the shackles of my birth. I have been running ever since as far as a Greek island.

Unfortunately, we can never escape our origins. My childhood was one bereft of animals. I’m not sure why but my Mother thought that 8 children was enough for anyone without dogs and cats. I was allowed a rabbit at the age of 11 but I managed to kill it very shortly after. Mum taught us that dogs were dirty and that we shouldn’t touch them. Consequently, I have always hated – maybe feared – dogs and avoided them like the plague. There is nothing I can do about that now. It doesn’t concern me but I like to understand its origins. Today, with a good sense of irony, my little sister sent me a birthday card which acknowledged my sensibilities. Can you imaginine touching a dog’s wet nose? I shudder to comprehend!

Saturday, 7th April, 2018

A warmish and sunny day which saw me move into short-sleeved shirts for the first time since November last year. We had decided not to go to the Health Club because we had jobs to catch up on. We are having a few nights in London next week and ironing and packing are Pauline’s focus while I had house duties – stripping the bed, vacuuming the carpets, dealing with the dishwasher – followed by completing outdoor jobs which involved pressure washing the patio flags, the tarmac drive to the garage and the front paths, plus washing clay flower pots for new season use, etc..

I want to buy some more comfortable garden furniture to replace the rather harsh wrought iron stuff that we rapidly bought from Argos to get us started two years ago with more comfortable, rattan furniture which will, perhaps, dominate the patio less. There is a debate in our household on the correct way to go but this is the sort of thing that I am favouring. By its very nature, garden furniture is limited in its use. Good weather is required and reasonable temperatures for sitting outside. Months of the winter mean the furniture sits outside unused. Ergonomically designed units appeal to me to satisfy that dilemma. These are the sorts of ‘cube’ arrangement that can be covered with a waterproof throughout the winter and which don’t dominate the area. I think they are the way forward. These are the big issues of the day!

The other big issue of the day was Manchester City against Manchester United. At least this was settled before Saturday was out. A really absorbing match which held its audience until the end and the right team won.