Week 492

Sunday, 27th May, 2018

The final week of May, 2018 and another hot and humid day. We have reached 26C/79F today and it feels much hotter in our sheltered back garden. We were forecast thunder and lightning followed by torrential rain last night. We received none of it. The morning broke to news of storms elsewhere but the sky was clear and sunny here this morning and the temperature rapidly rose from 16C/61F overnight.

We have been to the Health Club to do our exercise routine. The only thing we do differently at weekends is drop the swimming. It is no fun fighting for space with the sunbathing crowds or the poseurs in the pool. We are driving up to Surrey tomorrow but will be back in full exercise routine on Tuesday as the workers go back…. to work.

Isn’t it wonderful to see the Roman Catholic Church utterly rejected by one of its formerly staunch bastions – Southern Ireland. It just shows that blind prejudice and nonsense only ever is time-limited. Rationality will always, ultimately, win out. I don’t think I will live to see the ultimate triumph of the complete annihilation of Catholicism but it will certainly come. It will happen with EU Membership in just the same way. Already one can hear the Brextremists dying away.

Monday, 28th May, 2018

Box Hill

Wonderful day. Bank Holiday? I hate Bank Holidays normally! Today was a hot and sunny one which reached 28C/83F. We went out early and drove to Surrey to visit P&C. The drive up was reasonably quiet and pleasant. The countryside is at its most beautiful with thick, new growth in trees and hedges.

About half way through the 50 mile/1 hour drive, I made a strange connection which brought me up short. A sign post for Box Hill suddenly brought memories flooding back of a vaguely surreal recollection. More than 60 years ago, my brother Bob & I were visiting our Grandparents. Grandad took us on a walk up Box Hill. At the time, our grandparents lived in Purley, Croydon. I can remember that they lived in Laburnum Terrace but I have no recollection of how we got to Box Hill or back again. I have never been there since and the memory is hazy but what a strange coincidence that I find myself here again!

As we drove home, the brilliant, hot sunshine disappeared, spots of rain flecked the windscreen and suddenly we were in deep floods on the final stretch of 4-5 miles home. Flash floods had gathered as a cloud burst passed over. Traffic was slowing to negotiate the hazards. By the time we drove in to our drive, the sun was coming out again and all was well with the world.

Tuesday, 29th May, 2018

My Grandfather who I referred to in yesterday’s post was the son of Irish immigrants. He was born in abject poverty in Brighton in 1894 and was christened James Joseph Jeremiah Coghlan. You’d never guess he was an Irish Catholic would you? He worked in London as a French Polisher, Furniture Restorer and furniture salesman. Just before he was about to retire, he was knocked over by a London taxi and badly injured. He retired with my Grandma, Lily, to the small, East Midlands village of Repton where I was born.

As a child at the turn of the century, he learnt his humour very much from the ‘slapstick’ of the silent movies. I can still remember him now trying to tell us children through laughing till he cried eyes about an incident near his cottage. There was a small hump backed bridge across the brook and he was walking round to meet us for lunch. As he did, an elderly cyclist came too fast on his bike over the bridge, hit the hump and flew over the handlebars landing in a heap on the road. It could have been, maybe was, a serious incident but he could only see the funny side of it. He thought it was hysterical.

We had our own slapstick moment this morning which left Pauline mortified but me laughing like a drain (to coin a phrase). All signs of yesterday’s cloud burst had disappeared. Suddenly, while we were in Sainsbury’s, we heard the most almighty roar as torrential rain crashed down on the roof. As she drove us home, Pauline dodged deep puddles and drifts of water where she could. Facing passing traffic in the lane near our house, she had no alternative but to drive straight through a deep rainwater drift and I suddenly heard someone shout out loud,

Oh! Thanks very much.

I looked in the wing mirror and saw a middle aged man walking with a woman and his dog. He was wearing light beige trousers and was desperately trying to brush off the clouds of dirty water squirted up and drenching him. there was nothing Pauline could have done but it was a delightfully slapstick moment that Grandad Coghlan would have loved.

We finished the day with a full, workout session and swim at the Health Club. We came home feeling so happy with our selves and our lives. We feasted on cold salmon with pesto, prawns and salad. Let’s hope this is continued and nobody comes along in their car to drench us.

Wednesday, 30th May, 2018

A warm, steamy and very humid day. The temperature only reached 22C/70F but it felt very close. We did a full exercise routine and left the pool feeling absolutely knackered. I’ve set myself the target of doing Thursday and Friday as well.

We have got just over three weeks until we drive to the Dordogne. Looking back in my Blog, eight years ago this month, we were in a French DIY shop in Greece. Leroy Merlin in Athens is where we were shopping for air conditioning units to upgrade the original ones we had installed in our house and 200 sq.ms. of tiles for our patio which we had finally got round to upgrading. It was the beginning of our taking responsibility for the house after leaving that to Stavros for too long.

It felt good that we were no longer relying on someone else and not subject to the small island politics/commerce that had ruled our lives until then. As a loyal islander, Stavros tried hard to channel our cash through island businesses even if that meant limited choice and increased prices. By this stage, we were aware of this and striking out for ourselves saved us at least 50% of the cost and increased our choice of materials 500%. It was a good time as our house finally received our own stamp on it.

In Greece as in Italy, most are proud to be members of the EU. In Italy, unlike Greece, quite a few would like to be outside the euro. “We are worried that if there is instability in Italy and it has an impact on the financial situation, this financial situation could create extra problems for us,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said as he spoke in Europe. Speaking inside Greece, the public were told ‘everything is under control.’ Two contradictory statements on the same day is the stuff of Greek politics.

Thursday, 31st May, 2018

Oh no! We are losing May so quickly. Let’s hope we lose its torrential rain as well. We’ve had another downpour this morning. It was quite interesting the first time. It’s getting boring now. It was so wet, I had to send my wife out to do the first harvest of the summer’s herbs. It didn’t take her long and she only has to wash, chop and batch freeze them so that’s alright then. The Basil isn’t ready, of course but the picture shows plates of Oregano, Majoram (which is origanum vulgares), Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Tarragon and Wild Rocket.

Anyone who knows me knows I love gadgets. I would buy a gadget even if I didn’t need it just to prove to myself that I could master it. I told Pauline that I would like to convert our fixed heating controls to remote/Wi-Fi ones. This month, we have to reassess our fuel providers as our ‘fix’ is coming to an end in July. We are with British Gas because that’s what was set up for us by our builder. Actually, it has proved to be excellent both in terms of on-line service and price. We have Dual Fuel from them and our 12 month bill for a 4-bedroomed, detached house has been £977.00/€1115.00 which we think is fantastic. Searching around, I might save £50.00/€57.00 if I switched but without guarantee of the accompanying service so I’m not especially inclined to.

Now, they really have me hooked. They are offering a good priced fuel contract with an excellent additional package of Wi-Fi automation. It includes the Hive Active Heating Thermostat, a Hive Hub, Amazon Echo Dot controller, Hive Motion Sensor, some Wi-Fi controlled smart plugs and smart light bulbs. The whole thing comes for £220.00/€251.00 including 90 mins fitting which I think is a bargain. I’m staying with British Gas!

Friday, 1st June, 2018

Happy June 2018 to all our readers. Let’s hope that, after all the recent rain, it will be a warm, sunny and dry month. We will be in France before it ends. Last night I booked an extra trip for September. Shortly after we get back from Greece, we are flying to Edinburgh to meet up with some friends who we haven’t seen for 40 years. Every Christmas in that period we have shuttled the same two Christmas cards between each other with a new newsletter attached and the pledge to meet up soon.

Bjorn, a Norwegian, taught pottery in our school and his wife taught jewellery making. They went off to Edinburgh University to lecture in their disciplines. Bjorn is now retired but his wife continues to produce and exhibit world-renowned jewellery. It is going to be great to meet up again after all this time.

I have a confession to make. I couldn’t make myself go to the gym today. After a whole morning out walking round villages and shops with Pauline, I was tired. We decided to stay at home and do some jobs. By early evening, however, I was getting anxious about not achieving my target of 10,000 paces. I needed another 2,500 as a minimum. We went for a walk down a leafy, village lane past the old, abandoned (plant) nursery and the huge house and estate known as Tall Trees. It was owned until 6 or 7 years ago by the impresario, Lord Delfont. It is currently up for sale for £1,645,000 although it is rumoured that it will be bought for development potential. By the time I got home, I was reading 11,200 paces.

Saturday, 2nd June, 2018

A lovely, warm and sunny day. Mowed and edged the lawns. They are looking very green after all that rain. The basil is developing rapidly although the rest of the herbs are looking very sorry for themselves having been heavily harvested yesterday. They will be back and ready for another savaging when we get back from France in August.

Did a cardio regime in the gym but gave the pool a miss because the weather was so pleasant that we expected it to be busy. School goes back on Monday and we will return to swimming. Today, the sun was out all day and the temperature was 23C/74F. We went home and cooked whitebait in the garden, Whitebait & Salad with ice cold Sauvignon Blanc is a wonderful meal on a day like today.

Week 491

Sunday, 20th May, 2018

Morning started quite dull – rather mirrored my mood after the yawn of yesterday. No, I didn’t watch the wedding (I’m with SWMBO on that!) but, unfortunately, I did watch the Cup Final and United didn’t even look like winning. I am really not convinced by Mourinho or his tactics any more.

With the tiredness of travel out of our systems, we are getting back in to the old routine this morning. It is mid morning and the sun is coming out. We are going to the Health Club and the week gets under way. We have just 5 weeks of routine before we set off on our drive to the Dordogne where we have rented a Gite in Saint-Sauveur about 10 mins drive from Bergerac. We will be there for a month. The website describes it as:

A traditional Perigordian Building of beautiful warm stone with oaks beams featuring a large Infinity Pool within 3 hectares of garden full of fruit trees and roses.

As I so often say in these situations, We’ll be the judge of that! However, one must approach it with optimism like everything else in life – even the Cup Final. What I ensured was that it has Wi-Fi and British Freeview Television so life can have some continuity.

Monday, 21st May, 2018

A very humid day of alternating sunshine and thunder clouds. We did our exercise routine and, after an hour and a half, we went out to the pool in brilliant sunshine. Swimming was delicious with the warmth, the brightness, the beautiful, clipped green hedges and tall bordering from which the blackbirds and thrushes singing their hearts out. Suddenly, as we swam in the Garden of Eden, dark clouds loomed and then emptied all over us in heavy, driving rain. It drove us out of the pool – we didn’t want to get wet after all – and we moved on to the Sauna, Jacuzzi and Water Massage.

By the time we were showered and changed and walking to our car, the sun was out once again. The temperature had dropped a little after the rain and read 24C/75F.

Our region is served by Southern Railway. They run services to all sorts of interesting places along the South Coast as well as up to London, etc.. Pauline and I could almost count the number of times we have used trains in the past 40 years on one hand but we thought we might use some down here. We’ve used the train three times and each one has been a disaster. Southern Railway is renowned for terrible service currently because it has such poor labour relations.

Today, all the timetables have been altered.  I know we are not the only region to suffer that today but Southern have cancelled many trains and quoted ‘logistical problems’ as the cause. They’ve known for months that this would be coming up but plans quickly went awry. One enterprising executive with an eye for publicity has offered ‘free’ use of his helicopter on a first-cum-first-served basis for a week between Shoreham Airport and London Battersea for a week until rail services are back on track. Apply on Twitter.

Tuesday, 22nd May, 2018

Warm and sunny day which reached 25C/77F. Lovely to be out and about. Especially lovely for outdoor swimming which is, once again, feeling Mediterranean.

Someone had the effrontery to imply that posting pictures and notes about food we prepare and eat in our daily lives is boring, ridiculous, pointless. I always reflect on criticism. I am very introspective by nature and I continually re-examine my thoughts and actions. One criticism of I make of myself would be that I am too self reflective. As is my way, I have pondered on the criticism and why my interest (obsession) with food should annoy someone.

The stuff of life – Fresh Tomato Sauce

I went back to basics and analysed my relationship with food from an early age and how that coloured my development. Being born in 1951, the immediate post-war years still had rationing until 1954 and were informed by ‘filling’, energy giving foods that I couldn’t contemplate now. Bread, Pastry, Suet, Potatoes were the staples. Fried Breakfasts were de rigueur. A number of my siblings and I developed weight problems ultimately. My sister went to Domestic Science College, my brother and I both married girls who went to Domestic Science/Teaching Training Colleges. Subsequently, I have fought a 40 year battle with being overweight. My food now bears little resemblance to my childhood. In fact, it is almost a rejection of it. I remember Mum’s reaction to the idea that one might eat garlic or olive oil as one of sheer disgust. In my life now, those two ingredients allied with tomatoes are my staple.

Sifnos Revithia – Chickpea Soup

If we are what we eat, I am fresh tomato sauce made with olive oil, garlic, dill and a splash of dry, white wine. It reminds me so much of Italy and that is how I experience life through the food and wine of my situation. My abiding memory of Sifnos is of chickpeas – Revithea (Chickpea Soup) was served every Sunday across the island and Revithea Keftedes (Chickpea Balls) are a staple taverna offering. In France, I will never forget dropping in to a fairly shabby looking, old house restaurant when no where else was open and we were starving. We were offered boned & stuffed quails (Cailles) that were amazing and showed such love for the process of cooking. As someone once said : Food is not just eating energy. It’s an experience. That is how Pauline & I and thousands of others like us calibrate our lives and travels through the experience of food. It is woven in to our memories.

As Orson Welles said: Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.

Wednesday, 23rd May, 2018

Happy 71st Birthday to my sister, Ruth. Lets hope she has a lovely day. It’s certainly been a beautifully warm, sunny and increasingly humid day down here. Unfortunately, we are not allowed cakes. Ruth doesn’t need to but we were busy exercising.

All around the pool, people were sunbathing on loungers and being served with food and drink from the restaurant. We (who are holier than thou) were staggering out of the gym and gasping up and down the pool for half an hour. Of course, we felt so much better for it as we drove home in a temperature of 22C/70F but with some cloud drawing over and threatening rain.

Of course, I am so much younger than my sister and still learning new skills. Regular readers will be familiar with my total impracticality. My wife is the person who takes responsibility for anything of a practical nature from rebuilding dry stone walls, plastering, tiling, painting, etc., etc.. We are 2 years in to a 5 year total warranty on our house and all the fittings including white goods. Recently, our externally ducted extractor hood has started rattling like an old car when it is switched above slow speed. Pauline said she would contact the helpline for a an engineer to look at it.

I thought I might take a look and removed the filters. When I turned on the fan and fiddled around, it was obvious that the rattle was coming from a specific area where a screw held the motor. I checked the screw head and found a screwdriver of the right type and right size and tightened the screw. To my amazement, the rattle ceased immediately. Pauline looked at me with eyes wide and astonishment on her face. I couldn’t believe it but turned triumphantly, replaced the filters and got on with the day – with an extra spring in my step. I may not get away with a reputation for total inability again.

Thursday, 24th May, 2018

Up at 5.00 am on a fine, warm and lovely morning. An hour later, we were on the road to the Channel Tunnel. It was a lovely drive along roads edged with the blooming verdant, Spring growth of trees and bushes. Two hours after leaving home, we were on the train going under the sea. The crossing was incredibly busy. The train was full.

Driving off into the streets of Coquelles and then Calais, we drove straight to the Calais Wine Store which paid the £60.00 for our crossing. Everywhere groups of illegal migrants were congregating. Unusually, large groups of Gendarmerie were in evidence. The two groups didn’t seem to be interacting. The migrants focus was the nearby woods where they were camped out and the lorry park which they saw as their target.

We chose and paid for around £600.00/€685.00 of wine (This observation in itself seems ironic.)  and packed up the car. We drove on to Auchan where we bought fresh fish.

Why can they put an island nation’s fish shops to shame. The had a whole tuna fish on the counter and steaks a couple of inches thick were being cut from the middle. We couldn’t walk past. We had to buy some.

After loading up the car, we were back at the Tunnel sous la Manche by 1.20 pm (CT) and back in UK by 12.50 (GMT). The drive home was nice and quiet apart from an articulated lorry that had fallen off the motorway and landed on its side in a hedge. Looked as if the driver had lost concentration.

Home just after 2.30 pm, the car was unpacked and put away in the garage as we reflected on an enjoyable day. We feel lucky to be able to do it.

Friday, 25th May, 2018

The final week of May, 2018 has opened warm and sunny. We are still tired after yesterday. Out early-ish (8.50 am) to do our weekly shop and then home before going out again to 4 different garden centres, all within a couple of miles of our house, to source extra Greek Basil plants. Actually, we bought 4 Italian and 4 Greek Basil plants to supplement our stock.

The temperature was reading 22C/70F, the sky was summer blue and the sunshine was strong. Feeling as we did, the gym was cancelled and enjoyment on the menu. We had to do a trip down to the village which always looks pleasant in the sunshine. Isn’t life wonderful when you’re retired? We’ve been harvesting some of our herb pots – Dill, Oregano, Marjoram and Mint along with a lovely, big bag of fresh Rocket Leaves and Chives for our salads.

Saturday, 26th May, 2018

Greek Island – Halkidiki – this week.

A very warm, sunny but humid day. We are reading 28C/83F at 4.00 pm. We’ve just done a gym workout and come home to a meal of cold, roast salmon with pesto accompanied by tail on prawns and a simple tomato and cucumber salad. It is perfect and delicious. We have a bottle of ice-cold Portuguese red to accompany it and the combination is perfect. It is ironic to be sitting in this sunshine when reports of the weather on the Greek island of Halkidiki have produced the above picture this week. It is not unknown but it is pretty unusual in our experience.

Four weeks today, we set off for our French adventure. We are driving to Saint-Sauveur in the Dordogne where we have rented the property featured above for a month. Our first stop will be in Coquelles and the second night in Orleans before driving to the property featured above which looks over the vineyards of Chateau Monbazillac. I have a cousin who has a property about an hour’s drive away and we will go over and see her during our month away.

Week 490

Sunday, 13th May, 2018

Sunday – a day of rest and we are not going to the gym today. Newspapers, football, Formula 1 and correspondence. The temperature has been quite warm – 16C/61F – and weakly sunny.

Junk Stone Mail

I don’t know if I have ever written about this before but I am an addict for mail – snail or e. I love it. If I hear mail coming through the letterbox, I am the first to get it. Pauline knows that I must be allowed to open the mail whoever it is addressed to. I make no distinction between significant and junk mail. Mail is mail! Equally, I don’t ‘unsubscribe’ from junk email. I like to browse and delete. I hate the idea of missing out. For that reason, as you can imagine, Sunday is not my favourite day because there is no post. Until today.

Today, I discovered that we had received ‘junk’ mail of the most unusual kind. Outside the door on the garden path was a stone collected from the beach. It had been written on with an inscription that said:

Made to make a stranger smile. Hope it worked.

Love from Helen Joy from Empower Hypnotherapy.

Of course it didn’t work. I don’t need or have interest in Psychco-babble of any sort but it does amuse me greatly. I even bothered to check this out on the internet and found it here – Empower Hypnotherapy. It’s obviously gibberish but good luck to those who pay for it.

Monday, 14th May, 2018

Nice, sunny and warm Monday. Put the bins out. Cut the lawns. Set up the automatic watering system. We are off to Gatwick in the early hours of Tuesday morning so Pauline has been ironing and packing.

EasyJet – We’ll be the judge of that!

We’ve done ‘Check-in’ on line as well as download our ‘Boarding Passes’ to our phones. I must admit that I always like to have a hard copy printed out and in my bag just in case. We fly at 9.00 am so our drive to the airport is an uncomfortable time of 5.00 am.. We will drop off our bags and head for a Lounge (My Lounge or No1 Lounge) at North Terminal to wait for our flight. Our seats are pre-booked each way so nothing has been left to chance. We’ve got ‘speedy boarding’ and  ‘extra legroom’. Now we have to weigh our cases to ensure neither exceeds the 15kgs. We are taking our exercise clothes as well as everything else but it should be straight forward. We’ll probably be in bed by 10.00 tonight so we get about 6hrs sleep. At our age, we don’t adapt to early starts as well as we used to.

Tuesday, 15th May, 2018

Up at 3.00 am and out at 4.30 am on the most glorious morning one could imagine. The sun was rising in a mild and red tinted sky. We drove to Gatwick North Terminal Long Stay Car Park. Even at 5.30 in the morning, the carpark bus was packed with prospective travellers. Everything is automatic in the airport. We had chosen our seats and checked in on line. We went to automatic bag drops, printed out and attached our own luggage labels, went through passport control and into the Aspire Airport Lounge. Orange Juice and coffee but not too much. I never use aircraft toilets!

5* Valencia Palace Hotel
We’ve chosen a really good hotel.

Down to Gate. I have to say that EasyJet have hit a sweet spot over the past couple of years. We took one of the first ever EasyJet  flights from Athens in the 1990s. It was thought of as cheap and unreliable.  We used to rely on British Airways and Olympic Airways in those days. Now, British Airways  feels rather tawdry for short haul and our experiences of EasyJet flights has been well priced, efficient, on-time and comfortable. It is great not to be badgered with airline food nowadays, isn’t it?

The  app on my phone contains my Boarding Pass, tells me which Gate to go down to, whether we are on time or, as recently, early. It tells me which baggage carousel to collect my cases from when I arrive, where to get a taxi from and what’s worth seeing at my destination. I would really recommend it.

Taxi from the airport – just €25.00 for a 15 km trip through the centre of Valencia. It was a fascinating introduction. Our hotel is opposite the Orchestral Centre and the separate and architecturally delightful Opera House in the huge and beautiful park. Throughout the park and throughout the day, young and old walk, jog, run, bike, do outdoor gym work on public equipment in the open air. We were there on a Tuesday evening as hundreds trooped out of the latest Beethoven Recital – training for the mind and emotions as all around others trained their bodies, This is a place of wonderful, modern architecture created for people and their lives now.

Wednesday, 16th May, 2018

A hot and sunny morning. After Breakfast, we set off walking across the city to the Central Market. Why don’t we have a market like this. Every fish known to man is on display at reasonable prices. Scores of butchers, Vegetable sellers, Nuts and Olives, Dried Pulses, everything we love is available here. Some people eat to live and others live to eat. We are most definitely the latter.

Food production, markets and cooking tell one so much about a culture. It provides endless fascination. Of course, those who eat to live see it as a mechanical process reduced to calories and nutrients but come to Valencia and see the excited crowds vying for air-cured hams and beef, for loins of fresh tuna, for myriad choices of olives and olive oils , for herbs in huge bunches, for the most amazing, local tomatoes looking more like star fruit.

Back to the hotel after it seemed like we had been walking all day. Now for a swim. The roof top pool is enclosed during the ‘winter’ with a removable glass roof. We had been amused to see Valencians walking around in jumpers and heavy coats in spite of a temperature of 26C/79F under clear blue skies and scorching sun. I’ve heard of “Ne’re cast a clout til Spring is out” but that’s ridiculous. Well, in the hotel pool, it is still winter and the glass roof remained on meaning a humidity to blow your head off.

Even so, we did a good 30 mins swim. We had the pool to ourselves which was nice. After that, we went up to the roof garden and sat in the sun with a bottle of wine and some olives once again on our own in peace and quiet. We are in the city but undisturbed by roaring traffic and noisy crowds. That is just how we like it.

Thursday, 17th May, 2018

No real sign of fishing in this fish-mad city.

Up for what is only the second breakfast this week and already we are begging for mercy. How do people cope with breakfast every day? Anyway, we force ourselves and then start a long walk in hot sun down to the port and the beach. Actually, it was a fascinating 40 mins walk past schools, supermarkets, restaurants, greengrocers, estate agents etc.. We had to stop and look in many places and even tour round a couple of supermarkets to see what produce looked good. Food is so important in life. You will all remember the famous Oscar Wilde observation: After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.

Valencia parks are beautiful.

We stopped at the port for a drink and a rest before walking back to our hotel for a swim. Actually, while we were there, we got in to a conversation with a Scottish couple and watched three, Valencia teachers working their socks off trying to control about 40, Junior School kids on an outing round the port on a boat. Rather them than me. I’d be amazed if one of those kids didn’t end up in the water even if it was just me pushing them in.The morning’s outing had accrued 13,000 paces without feeling arduous at all. This is such a people-friendly place with such soft and gentle planning that walking is a delightful, leisure exercise.

Our last night. Tonight we are going out for Tapas and a walk in the warm air before packing for our return to Sussex tomorrow. It has been so enjoyable and absorbing that we have already pledged to return and spend longer next time. But there are so many places waiting to be explored. How will we fit them all in?

Friday, 18th May, 2018

Valencia (Manises) Airport

Up early and down to BREAKFAST. I can’t take any more FOOD! When we are leaving a place. however lovely, we don’t like to linger but get on and go. We settled our bill in Euros cash and went outside to get a taxi. A 30 mins drive to the airport cost just €15.00 and was delightful.

Valencia Airport is deceiving. From the outside it is, like all the others, a fairly conventional, concrete structure but inside it is delightful. Of course, it is helped by not being over used. It is, after all, only the 10th busiest airport in Spain. Having said that, it is very well appointed and slickly managed. It has the best Business Lounge – Sala Joan Olivert – we have been in and we have used a large number over the years. It looks as if it has been newly designed and furnished with USB charging points in the sides of all the chairs, fantastic wi-fi speeds and delicious free food and drink. We were there for about an hour reading our iPad papers when a message came in on the Easyjet app to say the plane would be about 15mins late arriving and expressing profuse apologies. It also informed us of a new Gate No. to go to for Boarding.

As we went down to Gate, I spotted someone I thought I knew but couldn’t place him. He was absorbed in his phone messages and I probably stared a bit too long trying to place him. Suddenly, I realised where I knew him from. We watch Saturday Kitchen on television and Matt Tebutt has replaced James Martin as presenter. This was Matt Tebutt with a small Research/Production team. He also presents another programme which we are fascinated by – Food Unwrapped. I was amused that he was flying on an economy, Easyjet flight and I was just chatting to Pauline about it as we took our seats at the front of the plane. Who should sit down immediately behind us but Matt Tebutt and his party.

The flight was fantastic and the journey so short. We have spent most of our adult lives doing interminably long ‘short haul’ flights to Greece, Cyprus and the Canaries. Our early flights to Greece in the 1980s were all over 4hrs long. It felt like forever. This flight was just under 2hrs and it was a dream. I even had the energy to photograph the snow on the Pyrenees as we passed over. The world is a wonderful place from above it. You suddenly realise how lucky birds are.

Back on terra firma, our bags came out together and very early and we were off to get the bus to the Long Stay carpark. Just as it was about to leave for its circuitous journey, a panicking woman leapt on and told the driver she had left her passport in her car and had to get there and back in 20 mins before her flight closed. In spite of looking totally bored with his repetitive route, the driver was fantastic and he leapt into action as well as arranging another to follow him and take the woman back to airport terminal with her passport. Ordinary people can be so impressive sometimes.

Saturday, 19th May, 2018

Up early and out without BREAKFAST. What a relief! We had to do our weekly shop at Sainsbury’s and Tesco. In warm sunshine, shopping can be a delight. The supermarkets were surprisingly quiet at 9.30 in the morning. We zipped round and go home to find television was being dominated by a royal wedding.

What is wrong with these people? How can poor, struggling people lose their hardships by sublimating them into the idolising of a group of people who will never know their struggles or sense of deprivation. I understand the establishment encouraging this ‘bread & circuses’ approach to bolster their own position but why do the disenfranchised fall for it? To people like me of a vehemently anti-monarchy, pro-republican persuasion, the whole thing is incomprehensible. It leaves one thinking, as royalty are fawned over by the impoverished classes, that they get what they deserve. However, I am not defeatist and care to dream of a better future.

Village Humps

We live on the edge of what once was a small village. It is expanding rapidly and exponentially. With expansion come people and cars. The clogged up roads are becoming a big, political issue in our local politics. Traffic-calming measures since before we arrived have included chicane-type barriers to allow flow control but the increased pressure of cars has made these pinch points a serious area of frustration. After endless debate, the chicanes have been taken out and replaced by speed bump/humps that fit in to a 20mph – 30mph limit through the village. It has taken weeks of upheaval but is finally finished. Of course, many are still complaining. That’s villages for you!

Week 489

Sunday, 6th May, 2018

The sun changes everything and so it does today. I’ve got so much free time that all the garden jobs have been done already and I can sit out in the sun with a coffee and the Sunday papers. Actually, the papers are almost impossible to read on my iPad in strong sunshine but I’m sure I will catch up later in the day. The poor neighbours are still having to catch up with car cleaning (Mine was done by Honda as part of the Service.), lawn mowing (I did mine to make up paces during the week.) and plant watering (I have to restrain myself from overwatering.).

Tarragon, Dill, Oregano, Marjoram, Greek basil, Italian Basil, Thyme, Chives and Rocket

Today might appear to be one for going to the beach but there will be hundreds of others with that idea so we will go to the Health Club which should be all but deserted. That sums us up perfectly – crowds go one way and we head in a diametrically opposed direction. After a couple of hour’s exercise, I will griddle chicken and peppers in the garden and then water the herb pots before settling down with the newspapers.

Monday, 7th May, 2018

As we move into the hottest Bank Holiday Monday since records began, – only since the 1970s – we were up early and out to the beach. We spent an hour walking along the beach path before most of the world was up. Shopkeepers – Shellfish sellers, flip-flop, sunglasses and Worthing Rock sellers, deck chair renters, etc. – were just thinking about opening up. Families, keen to establish their pitch for the day on the beach, were arriving with children, parasols and dogs. The temperature at 9.00 am was 22C.

We drove home by 10.00 am and had coffee before doing jobs. I had to sand down our outdoor cooking table which has served as the base for Griddle, Deep Fat Fryer, Pressure Cooker and outdoor Hob. It took me a couple of hours sanding by hand. I should have bought a power tool but thought it was a bit indulgent. Tomorrow, Pauline will revarnish the wood to get us through another year.

Yesterday reached 26C/79F. This morning was 20C/68F by 9.00 am and reached 29C/84F as we left the Health Club at 3.00 pm. Now, at 7.30 pm, the temperature is still 25C/77F. We will keep these temperatures for another day before returning to the season’s norms.

Tuesday, 8th May, 2018

Another wonderfully warm and sunny day. We spent the morning gardening – mowing the lawns and trimming the hedges – as well as watering potted plants. I’ve got my automatic watering system out ready to set up for next week when we go away. I was tired by the end of the morning but we were determined to do our exercise routine and we were rewarded with a quiet gym and a fairly quiet outdoor pool.

As we drove home through the village, we couldn’t help reflect how beautiful it is. Particularly, at the moment, so many houses are festooned with the most beautiful racemes of wisteria. It grows and flowers particularly well down here and, as a result, is very popular. As the evening came on, the temperature became quiet oppressive and the house felt uncomfortable. We walked outside under the stars. Quite magical!

Wednesday, 8th May, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny day. We had to do some shopping and the trip out was delightful. When we got home, we did jobs outside in the sunshine. I prepared the meal for the afternoon. It is going to be my version of Bouillabaisse consisting of Salmon, Cod, Scallops and Tail-on-Prawns. They were set in a sauce of shallot, garlic, celery, white wine and chopped dill with cherry tomatoes.

In spite of the lovely weather, our exercise at the Health Club began to take its toll today. We have been pushing ourselves quite hard over the past week. In the past 7 days, I have completed 95,500 paces which is an average of 13,650 daily. In the past week, I have covered 50 miles. As Pauline pointed out, if someone said that I should walk just over 7 miles each day for 7 days, I might balk at the suggestion. Still, I’ve done it.

On this day 9 years ago, we were in hunkered down in our Greek house and suffering strong winds and violent hail storms. Symbolically, today in Sussex has been calm, warm and peaceful.

Thursday, 9th May, 2018

Lovely morning. My exercise app awarded me a special flag for achieving 8 hrs sleep for the first time since I’ve been using it. I spent the morning doing some I.T. work. I’ve needed a photo manipulation app for my iPad for some time. I never take my SLR camera with me now when we go abroad and my smart phone camera is better than my iPad camera by quite a long way. The problem is that my smart phone pictures are so huge – up to 7.5 mbs – that I need to reduce them without compromising quality. On my computer, I use Macromedia Fireworks or Adobe Photoshop but these are not available for the iPad. I have managed to combine two apps – Image Diet and Affinity Photo –  which will allow me to do the job and complete my Blog with illustrations of a 100 kb or less which is what I aim for.

I decided that I needed a day off from the health Club and the weather immediately heated up. Strong sunshine and 18C/65F made the day seem really relaxing. We did a spot of shopping and a trip to the garden centre. Pauline griddled Tuna Steaks in the garden which she served with lemon and olive oil dressing accompanied with tomato salad. It was absolutely delicious. We having been eating so much fish and, consequently, drinking so much white wine – mainly sauvignon blanc – that we are rapidly running out. We are going to have a day trip to France to replenish our stocks shortly after we get back from Valencia.

Friday, 10th May, 2018

Lovely warm and sunny day after quite a chilly start to the morning. We reached a balmy 19C/66F as we swam outside this afternoon. The day had started off with a quick trip to Tesco. This week we needed little because we are off to Valencia at the beginning of next week. Did a full exercise programme including a full swim outside and came home for a delightful meal of smoked salmon salad eaten in the garden. Sometimes, one has to be so grateful for these experiences.

Tomorrow, I have to set up the automatic watering system for all the pot plants. The lawns need to be cut and the bags prepared for packing. We will do two more trips to the gym and there is an excellent gym and two pools at our hotel so we will need our exercise clothes.

Saturday, 11th May, 2018

We are off to Valencia for a short break next week. As soon as we get back we are going on a shopping trip to France. After using The Calais Wine Superstore for about 25 years. Even in these straightened times, we still get wine around 40 – 50% cheaper than in UK. I haven’t bought a bottle of wine in UK for over 30 years. As the Pound has weakened and the Euro strengthened, people have been less inclined to make the trip across the Channel in search of duty free booze.

As a result, the Calais Wine Store has teamed up with Eurotunnel to offer ‘free’ crossings in return for a guaranteed purchase of £250.00 of wine. We’ve never bothered to use it but, for the first time, we’ve taken advantage of the offer. We will buy around £500.00 of wine which will save us around £400.00 on UK prices and then save £60.00 on our return Tunnel trip which can’t be bad for poor, old pensioners. Can it? This time we are going to do a one day trip instead of having a couple of nights in a hotel as well. Crossing the Channel at around 9.00 am, we will be home by about 4.00 pm. Just in time for tea (or cheese & wine).