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.

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