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.

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