Week 496.

Sunday, 24th June, 2018

Up early on a warm and sunny morning. Wonderful breakfast and then packed up for leaving. Out by 9.15 am and on the road to Orleans. The only problems was that, although 95% of the route was on open, clear, wonderfully flat and well maintained carraigeway, 5% involved the Paris Ringroad. We have a Garmin sat.nav. installed in our car. It is a replacement for the proprietary, Honda instrument we are used to and Garmin is absolutely dreadful. It sends us weird and less than wonderful ways that send my wife mad. Sometimes, it just loses all sense of direction at all and sits statically as I flail around the roads.

Today, as I entered the outskirts of Paris, the sat.nav. decided to both send us off the ringroad and through the centre of Paris and, when we got there and shouted at it, the sat.nav. decided to freeze altogether. As a result, we got to revisit so many of the capital’s attractions – the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elyse, etc. – at least twice before we worked out our own salvation having lost a great deal of nervous perspiration

Eventually, of course, the motorway route out presented itself and calm was restored. If anything, the drive was too quiet and beautiful. The effect was quite soporific although my wife doesn’t allow moods like that. We were certainly jolted back to reality as we negotiated the one way system of Orleans as we searched for our hotel but, once there, like giving birth (I’m told), all labour pains are forgotten. The hotel, a 4* Mercure on the banks of the Loire, is delightful. We have an excellent room with a large TV on which England score 6 goals.

View from our hotel room over the banks of the Loire.

Orleans is a lovely place to see. I didn’t realise that it was France’s second city after Paris for a long time. It was considered so important that it was heavily bombed by the Germans and had to be largely rebuilt. Many old buildings still remain and are worked in to the city’s fabric. The cathedral which is the same size as the Notre Dame is a magnificent structure that dominates the skyline. We certainly enjoyed our walk down the river bank and back through the old streets.

Old Orleans

A bottle of wine, some Brie cheese and cherry tomatoes and we felt very relaxed. All our good intentions of swimming and using the gym went out of the window and I settled for watching an excellent Columbia thrash an aggressive and poor Poland. Went to bed tired but happy.

Monday, 25th June, 2018

Lovely drive after breakfast round the pool in Orleans. Just 4hrs to Bergerac and shopping at Intermarche Hypermarket and then on to our gite in Saint-Sauveur. Boiling hot at 31C/88F with such strong sun. We unpacked and made a meal while watching Russia lose.  New places always make one tired and the complimentary red wine emphasised that. Tomorrow we will explore the vicinity.

Got the priorities right!

We have met our hosts. The owner is from Warrington and worked in  ….  Oldham. Unbelievable coincidence.

Tuesday, 26th June, 2018

A day which started hot and just got hotter. There was no movement of air as a strong sun beat down from peerless skies. We thought we would go down and explore the local village – St. Sauveur – first thing this morning. It didn’t take us long because there is virtually nothing there. A few houses, a church, a very old infants school, a boulangerie, a boucherie and a carpark with half a dozen locals crowding round three vans selling vegetables, wine and fish. We were told that they spend every Tuesday morning in this carpark and, today, we had struck lucky. We really had.

For the past three or so months in UK, we have been unable to source fresh, swordfish steaks which we both love. As soon as we approached the poissonnerie, we spotted huge  steaks of very fresh swordfish at an excellent price. That had to be our meal for the day. We had packed our ‘second best griddle’ for coming away and it was put to good use as we cooked our fish out in the baking sun. It was strange but it continued to get hotter as the day matured and topped 32C/90F at 9.00 pm this evening. We decided that lots of time swimming in the pool would be a good idea and that was our major exercise for the day.

Wednesday, 27th June, 2018

Up early on a very hot morning. Liquid breakfast – orange juice and tea – and then out to the city of Bergerac which is about 10 mins drive away. We had checked car parks and post codes for the sat. Nav.. Nothing is left to chance. The parking is on the banks of the River Dordogne but, by the time we got there it was full. We searched, drove further out and managed to squeeze in a roadside spot. Walking back along the river side towards the old town, I took this classic, cliché shot of the bridge over the river.

We walked on into the old town and the covered market. We actually managed to buy large bunches of fresh Dill and Tarragon which cannot be found in the supermarkets. Outdoor market stalls were scattered all around the old quarter and, in spite of the strong sun and infernal heat of 32C/90F, we stayed all morning.

Drove ‘home’ in time to watch Prime Minister’s Questions at 1.00 (CET) and then go for an arduous but delicious swim in the pool. Pauline had marinated chicken boneless thighs with garlic, lemon and tarragon and she griddled it outside to be eaten with salad. I then settled down to glory in the thrashing of Germany. What a good day.

Thursday, 28th June, 2018

Up early on this hot and sultry day. We drove about 15 miles to the old, Bastide town of Eymet. A sleepy, rather decaying little place of medieval buildings and narrow, hot streets, Eymet was preparing for market day with stalls sprawling right across the central square and out into the side streets.

We arrived before 9.00 am and stayed until around mid day before driving on to the supermarket to do a shop and back home to cook Cod Provençal which we ate with griddled cauliflower. Later we did a long – around 50 mins – swim and another walk up towards the local chateau. Another really enjoyable day in Europe.

Friday, 29th June, 2018

Up at 6.30 am on a hot and sticky morning. We were going out early to a place called Sainte-Aulaye which is about 40 miles north west of here. My friend and former colleague, Brian (also former member of Greater Manchester Murder Squad), bought an extensive but run down property with lots of land in Sainte-Aulaye about 10 years ago but, after doing lots of work on it, he reluctantly sold it.

It was quite a demanding drive along very narrow, poor quality roads bounded by agricultural land and forestry. It was very hot when we got there and there was little to see. It is too layed back for its own good. It was lunchtime when we got there but, with little signs of food, we turned round and drove back.


By the time we got back and had done a quick shop en route, it was 2.30 pm and still 32C/90F. We were starving having just eaten one banana since getting up in the morning but decided to fight off our hunger and do a strong, 30 mins swim before preparing food.

Really lucky to have this.

Salmon with pesto topping was griddled outside and eaten with salad. Pauline then put a load of washing into the machine and we went for a long walk. It was a hot and sweaty affair producing more washing. It’s looking like being a long, hot night.

Saturday, 30th June, 2018

Well, the last day of June has been an exceedingly hot one topping out at 34C/93 F without a breath of wind. We went shopping for some chicken, langoustines and salad and came home to sit in and around the pool for the rest of the day. Pauline did wash and dry the sheets and some clothes but the only other activity was grilling duck breasts cut into strips and marinated in lemon and garlic. With fresh salad, it was a meal to remember. The washing machine is in the summer kitchen which is delightfully ‘open’ rather in the manner we are considering in Sussex.

View from the Summer Kitchen to the Pool.

I watched a couple of memorable football matches which ended in Argentina and Portugal going out but the standard was, generally, good. We’ve already planned tomorrow. We are going out early to make the short drive to Issigeac where a thriving market sets up on Sunday mornings and has done for centuries, apparently. We will try to get out for 8.00 am in order to find parking when we arrive.

Week 495

Sunday, 17th June, 2018

Today is a day to celebrate being alive. This is particularly true for Pauline & I. It is 38 years ago today that we had a near-fatal car crash. Driving to school with exam papers (marked) in the boot of our first, brand new car together, we were cut in two by a maniac driver who went out of control on a notorious bend and drove straight in to us. I was hospitalised for a fortnight with severe brain bruising and off work for the best part of a year. Pauline was badly cut and bruised. In fact, she came off worst because I have no memory of it at all. She still has flash backs.

Our first, new car was a pageant blue Mini with a registration prefix of ‘V’ which came in August 1979. As poor, young teachers, the only way we afforded it was because an in-law of Pauline worked in British Leyland management and got us a discount. Richard probably doesn’t remember it at all but he set us on our way and started our love of new cars. The mini was written off before it was a year old and we moved swiftly on to Nissan (Datsun). We had two of those before going to Honda where we have stayed ever since. Our second car was an ‘X’ registration Datsun Cherry followed by a ‘Y’ registration Datsun Stanza. I remember that, as we drove the Cherry to the garage to trade it in for the Stanza, the side door mirror fell off. The car was only just over twelve months old. The Stanza lasted just two years and we moved on to Honda. I think it is now eighteen new Honda cars we have purchased since then. The next one will probably be at the beginning of next year.

Monday, 18th June, 2018

Greece is firmly back on the agenda this summer. Headlines like this are featuring in the UK press: Eurozone braces for row with Greece over bailout exit terms. and concerns are raised that Greece will suffer a fourth financial collapse unless an agreement is signed with the EU to write off some of its debt mountain. The Greek parliament last week adopted the 88 so-called “prior actions” that paved the way for a deal with euro zone finance ministers. Athens must continue to cut pensions and implement a wide range of public-sector reforms to satisfy its exit conditions.

Prime minister, Tsipras, continues to attempt his Janus act saying one thing to Europe and another to the electorate. He has told the country that they will, at last be free of supervision from Europe but is actually expected to agree to a tougher surveillance regime than that imposed on Ireland or Portugal, which both exited their bailout programmes early. He can expect plenty more protests and ND challenges but may just survive to reach the promised land.

Tuesday, 19th June, 2018

Greek & Italian Basil – the same fate!

Quite a grey and humid start to the day. I’ve just been out in the back garden to give the Basil a warning. Tomorrow is guillotine day. Pauline will harvest fairly savagely and spend the first part of the day making pesto. Basically, she makes Genovese Pesto using basil, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. The pesto will then be ‘portioned’ and frozen. Pauline makes it brilliantly and I am addicted to it particularly with fish.

Of course, we stayed in the port of Genoa last summer but a long life jar of pesto there is as unappetising as one in England. If you haven’t eaten fresh, homemade pesto, you’ve never lived. It is a revelation. Just don’t tell our basil plants which have tried so hard to put on growth recently. Oh, I feel so sorry for those who can’t summon up excitement about food. The eat-to-livers as opposed to the live-to-eaters.

One of the downsides in living where new homeowners are coming on stream regularly, and our area has seen a lot of recent housebuilding, is that new internet connections are almost a daily occurrence. BT Openreach should have an office in the village because they are constantly around at curb sides, fiddling with wire spaghetti in green ‘fibre boxes’. I have used BT as my broadband supplier since I first had an ISDN connection back in 2000. I have used Sky for a 5 year period but BT have been by far the most reliable and provide the best service.

New internet connections mean that we are quite often ‘temporarily’ unplugged accidentally or deliberately by network engineers. Once, I found the hub wasn’t seeing the net on a Friday night at about 5.30 pm of a Bank Holiday weekend. I couldn’t sort it out until the following Tuesday and had to resort to trips to Sainsbury’s café in order to download my paper and upload my Blog. Nightmare! When it went down this morning, my heart sank. Three minutes later, it soared again.

Wednesday, 20th June, 2018

Lovely, warm and sunny day. I don’t know if this happens to you but for many years we have reacted the same way before we travelled abroad. It didn’t matter how enjoyable or exciting travel appeared. It didn’t matter how much we wanted to experience new things, the comfort of the ‘normal’ sees us resenting ‘change’ at the last minute. We often say to each other, Why are we doing this? in the last days before we travel. It would be so much easier to stay in our pattern.

Orléans on the banks of the Loire

Of course, we can’t give in to that. Trying new things and new places will keep us alive and moving forward. Soon, we leave for France and an expansion of our life. We must embrace it. Our first night will be in Coquelles which we know well but night 2 will be in Orléans which we’ve never visited. We are staying in a Mercure Hotel for one night before driving on to Nouvelle Aquitaine. Today has been spent doing jobs before we leave. Cleaning the car, checking the oil, tyres and washer bottle has been my responsibility.  Pauline has been ironing and packing clothes.

Because of the required jobs, we agreed that the Health Club would have to be off the agenda until we come home. After our well established routine, that feels quite a wrench. However, I will still complete my 10,000 paces per day by going for a walk in the evening to supplement my totals.

Thursday, 21st June, 2018

The equinox. The longest day. The official start of Summer and the day before we go abroad for the Summer. Jobs today are cutting the lawns to within an inch of their lives. We are going to be away for five weeks and don’t want a hay meadow to harvest when we come home. The herb pots must survive so I have had to set up the automatic spray system. It is set to twice daily misting for 10 mins each time. Every time I set it up, I have to go on line to remind myself how to do it. Fortunately, there is a short video on-line to remind me when I need it.

The timer can be set up to run 4 times per day and all or any combination of days of the week. It should maintain my herb pots until we get home. Today, Pauline portioned out the Pesto she made on Tuesday. It has produced 60 x 2-person portions so 60 meals for us. We eat it at least twice per week so a second cutting when we get back in August will easily see us through the next 12 months.

If you expand this, you will notice the rabbits.

I wrote the other day about the house building that is going on in our newly adopted area. Of course, we have no right to be critical. We are part of that development onslaught. We walked down a leafy lane not far from our house, past the Spotted Cow gastro pub. On one side of the lane, a disused horticultural centre stood ready for 30 more new homes. On the other side of the lane was a delightful, big field full of rabbits playing. On the tangled, iron gate was a yellow, development notice informing the neighbourhood of another 200 houses to be built there.

Friday, 22nd June, 2018

Warm and sunny as we tie up loose ends in and outside. The garden will take care of itself. The house is set up for an extended period of solitude with automatic lights set up. The cases are largely packed with clothes for 5 weeks including swimming and gym kit. All things electric are in a separate box:

  • 2 x electric toothbrushes
  • electric water picks
  • electric shaver
  • laptop
  • 2 x iPads + Kindle + phone chargers
  • hair dryer
  • electric griddle
  • Honda fridge

We like this sort of unplanned, seat-of-the-pants travel. Our Honda ‘fridge’ is beginning to show its age. Well, it is 20 years old this year. It came with our first, new CRV and has done every driving trip to Greece, around Italy, and sometimes to do UK supermarket shopping as well. We must get a new one but it will do this time. We intend to do French market shopping and the fridge will be invaluable.

Saturday, 23rd June, 2018

I was up at 5.00 am. Couldn’t sleep because I woke thinking of the last minute jobs I had to do before we go away. Must make sure I’ve got all my chargers. Must phone thye credit card provider to let them know our dates. Must give the fruiting figs and olives some more cans of water as no rain is forecast for at least a week.

The day at 5.00 am is absolutely beautiful with blue sky and already strong sunshine. 15C/59F outside. Our friendly blackbirds are clearing the lawns of slugs. Seagulls whirl high above the house and planes from Gatwick are silently soaring even higher, leaving white trace indicators of the route across the Channel. We are leaving at 9.00 am to go under the sea but our first leg has deliberately been chosen to be easy. A short hop to Folkestone, drive to a hotel in Coquelles for the rest of the day.

Holiday Inn,  Coquelles has been a favourite for years. We have a suite and we can swim and gym and then watch the football. Hopefully, we will see Sweden hammer Germany. We have a 4 hour drive tomorrow so we will leave about 9.00 am and take a break in the middle to reach our hotel in Orleans by 2.00 pm. The Mercure Orleans Centre also has a gym and an outdoor pool so we can get a bit of activity in before Dinner.

Week 494

Sunday, 10th June, 2018

A sultry morning to follow a sultry night. Humidity really makes moderate temperatures feel hot. Just 20C/68F outside but clammy as hell. Breakfast with all the conservatory doors and windows flung open. Water and feed the pots and then settle down for political programmes and the newspapers. Another trip to the gym this afternoon.

After a moderate year of travel last year, we are upping the activity this summer. Valencia, Calais, Dordogne, Athens, Edinburgh, Yorkshire, Tenerife – these trips add up to 80 days away. We’ll need Christmas to rest. Next year, we plan to still build in a couple of months away but add garden design to the mix. Our back garden is not huge but it is 260 sq.metres which is plenty for people who intend to travel a fair amount, be away from home and not available to maintain a garden much. Equally, we have to accept that, if we stay here until the lights go off, we will not want acres of ground to maintain.We have had acres of garden in other places and they dominate one’s life.

I’ve been researching designs of other’s gardens to give us ideas to consider. I like grass and I don’t mind feeding, weeding and mowing it but month long trips away complicate that. Even so, I don’t want to eradicate nature altogether unless we really are radical and install something we have long talked about – an endless pool which is a smallish pool with a strong, counter current that means you can swim as hard as you like but you will never reach the other end. The other thing we want is a permanent, covered, outdoor kitchen because we do so much cooking in the garden.

Monday, 11th June, 2018

Jane & Catherine celebrating the extension of the franchise to all men.

Another hot and sultry day. Apparently, we were the hottest area reaching 26C/79F at peak. We drove out to Worthing at 8.30 this morning because Pauline was having her hair cut. I did my hour in a coffee shop and then we drove home. We did a session at the Health Club and by the end of it I had completed 15,000 paces. We came home to cook whitebait in the garden sunshine.

In 1918, a coalition government passed the Representation of the People Act 1918, enfranchising all men.The Fourth Reform Act extended the franchise to all men over 21, whether or not they owned property and I was pleased to see that two of my sisters saw that as important enough to celebrate by marching in London over the weekend. Apparently, some women were also given the vote as well.

Tuesday, 12th June, 2018

A thinly sunny but humid day of around 21C/70F. We spent the morning out and about. We visited a couple of local garden shed/summerhouse/garden office retailers. We have a nicely secluded patch of just 3ms  x 3ms behind the garage where we can site our outdoor kitchen.

One of the retailers deals in a company called The Malvern Collection from Worcestershire and we think we have found a suitable building from them. We will take power for lights and sockets from the garage and the building will be erected on additional paving which will have to be laid down first.

Eventually, we decided that today was the day for a rest from the gym. We will go for a walk this evening in order to meet our minimum target of 10,000 paces and that will allow us to sleep easy. Tomorrow, we will get back to the grindstone.

Wednesday, 13th June, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny day which only reached 22C/70F but felt warmer. Everything is growing so quickly. We have made our first harvest of the Dill which Pauline will chop and freeze for future use. Hopefully, by the time we return from France in August, the next crop will be ready. The Basil, both small leaved Greek and large leaved Italian are developing very quickly and will be turned in to Pesto just before we cross the Channel. That will also give us at least one and, maybe, two more cuttings before we leave for Tenerife in November.

Spent some time this morning with photos that I’d taken of the back garden. I was Photoshopping them to illustrate how it will look after we’ve had it re-developed with additional paving and a garden room for outdoor cooking. I’ve measured up and estimated the materials required. We have a fairly popular paving slab which I’ve been able to price up at a case of 20 for £167.00/€190.00. My estimate is that we will need 260 will cost us around £2200/€2500.00 + other materials + labour. We will also need about £3000.00/€3,400.00 for the garden building. I believe we will do the whole project within about £10,000.00/€11,370.00 which is very pleasing.

Thursday, 14th June, 2018

Saint Sauveur, Nouvelle Aquitaine.

Quite surprised to find it dull and lightly rainy outside this morning. I was due to mow the lawns. So, this morning will be indoors. (Did I really start a sentence with ‘so’? I must be getting younger!) I’ve got lots to do with only a week until we go away. We usually micro-plan our route even though we follow sat.nav..

We sit down with our map-book and AA route print off and lots of coloured highlighters. I check contentious sections with Google Maps Street View. Pauline works out her ideal route and highlights it on the map. She annotates her AA printout and then uses all that information while we are driving to hold a running argument with the sat.nav. directions. As a result, we never get lost. For Pauline, this is one of the happiest parts of any trip. Yes, I know that’s sad but chacun à son goût.

We are going to be away for 5 weeks so we are busily arranging things. My job is to arrange early repeat prescriptions and Pauline’s is everything else. She is ironing and setting aside clothes for 5 weeks ( We do have a washing machine in our rented property.) and saying to me, You can’t wear that! It is a well worn routine that I am very familiar with. We will have a break and go to the gym this afternoon. The rain is stopping so we might even get a swim.

After 70 mins in the gym, we went outside to find the skies had cleared and the sun was beating out of clear blue. We had the pool largely to ourselves and really enjoyed a 30 mins hard swim followed by Sauna, Jacuzzi, Water Massage, shower and home. Goodness, I felt clean! We griddled Sea Bass in the garden, paired it with an icy Sauvignon Blanc and prepared for a relaxing evening. I’m researching supermarkets near our holiday rental.

Friday, 15th June, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny day which reached 23C/73F. We did a last full shop before going abroad and then went to the gym. After 70 mins cardio workout, we did a delightful 30 mins in the outdoor pool in gorgeous sunshine. Coming home, Pauline griddled chicken and peppers in the garden – a delightful way to end the (non) working week.

Our back lawn is the meal table for an increasing family of Blackbirds. First it was two adults searching morning, noon and night but now it is two adults plus five youngsters. The young ones are bolder than mum & dad. Eventually, they realise that I’m not ‘bird’ and jump up on to the perimeter fence where they balance noisily and giddily to wait until I’ve returned in doors so that they can go back to collecting slugs and worms. They seem to eat an amazing amount of food like all growing children. I feel bad disturbing them but I will have to mow the lawns tomorrow. There are other lawns nearby to feed from.

Saturday, 16th June, 2018

The Greeks have been struggling with their economic crisis for so long, it has become a way of life. Although they are continually told that it is coming to an end, there are more cuts in pensions and social support along side further sales of National assets in the pipeline. These are bitterly disputed every time but, in spite of regular demonstrations, the government presses on and has so far survived.

The Last Supper for Tsipras?

There has been one theme which has run almost since the break up of Yugoslavia after the death of its hard man president, Tito. The struggle has been over the name Macedonia which the Greeks have always claimed was theirs. It has been bad enough to be the ‘vassal state’ (to coin a phrase) of Germany for so many years. They certainly aren’t prepared to cede the name of Macedonia to near neighbours. Recently, it was looking as if an agreement for the Former Yugolavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was moving towards a conclusion with Republic of Northern Macedonia as an acceptable title.

Many Greeks  are vehemently opposed to this and particularly the opportunistic, right wing, New Democracy party. This week they raised a No Confidence vote in Parliament. Yesterday, the opposition failed in their bid but the government lost another MP and put their coalition under severe strain.  It might be a sign of the tide turning in Greek politics.

Week 493

Sunday, 3rd June, 2018

Planes heading over the coast to Europe.

What a gorgeous, sunny day which reached 26C/79F at peak. The sky was blue all day. I sowed some Rocket seeds for Pauline in the hope that they would be ready just before we go away. I will harvest them hard and hope they will be back by the time we return. It is always difficult growing anything when we are away for weeks.

When we lived in Surrey, we were very aware of planes overhead flying from/to Gatwick & Heathrow. We were about 33 miles from Gatwick and 15 miles from Heathrow. Down here on the south coast, we are about 36 miles from Gatwick and hear no large plane noise at all although we see the sort of sky traces illustrated in this mornings photo as planes cross the coast and the Channel. Of course, we see some smaller aircraft from the local, Shoreham Airport but that is rare and no discomfort. We are extremely lucky. In Surrey, we heard the constant drone of distant traffic punctured by a train somewhere off over the town. Here, we are troubled by none of that.

Monday, 4th June, 2018

Another lovely day of sun and cloud which felt distinctly sultry although only reaching 23C/74F. I spent the morning reviewing our power supplies.

We use British Gas for Dual Fuel supply. It costs us just over £1000.00/€1139.00 per year. It has been fixed for 2 years and runs out in July. I am going to fix it for one more year and the cost will be just £4.56/€5.20 more per year. I was surprised after all the price rises that have been announced recently. I will also take BG up on their service to provide a Wi-Fi based and remotely controlled Hive thermostat which will enable us to switch the heating on/off over the Net.

I like reaching the target.

We did another gym session. I was tired before I got there and even more tired when I left for home. I have completed my target every day in the past 7 and 14 out of the last 16. Pauline thinks I am pushing it too hard but I know that, as soon as I make an excuse to myself and chicken out, I will use that excuse to myself increasingly.

This was the topic for discussion as we drove home and then cooked Calamari outside in the sunshine. I have been persuaded to take a day off tomorrow but I might make a late bid for a swim some time in the morning.

Been watching the replaying of the Jeremy Thorpe saga. I remember it clearly in the original and the increasing incredulity I felt at the time. I can’t believe the strength of the establishment cover-up and the slapstick joviality with which it is now reviewed. From politicians to Director General of the BBC to top policemen and security forces, the arms of the national establishment closed around Thorpe to ensure the general population didn’t lose faith in/respect for/obedience to the elite.

Tuesday, 5th June, 2018

Sky Q box soon to be replaced by pure Wi-Fi.

Tuesday, as everyone knows, is a Day of Rest. Well, it is in our house anyway. To hell with the God Squaders! They probably voted Brexit anyway. We have decided not to go to the gym today. Ok. We feel a bit twitchy but our minds are made up. I’ve been examining the process of moving us to Sky Q, a platform which allows us to carry television viewing from room to room. We already have 6 televisions but satellite on only half of them. Sky Q allows us to pause in one room and continue in another or to save to our phones or iPads to watch on the go. Useful but self-indulgent. I’ve decided to wait because the whole thing will be obviated later in the year when Sky service will become totally on line.

After that brush with new technology, I needed a lie down. Actually, I really enjoyed it. I love these new challenges. Now, I have to embrace computerised control of watering systems to maintain our herbs for 5 weeks while we are away. This is what life’s about – controlling one’s life remotely. In just the same way, I tested myself and sent off my INR result this morning and had an assessment within the hour without ever visiting the hospital. Pauline received a phone call from her doctor to resolve an issue which didn’t need to take up face-to-face surgery time. Soon we will never see anyone ever again. How good can life get?

Wednesday, 6th June, 2018

Life rocketing away!

Warm and humid with the temperature reaching 26C/79F, everything is growing. We spent the morning cutting the hedges for the second time this month. Plants have been trimmed back in the borders. Tomorrow the lawns will need cutting again. I sewed pots of Rocket Salad seeds on Sunday and, true to their name, they are up and rocketing away already.

We went off to the Health Club to do a full gym workout and a part swimming routine. Hot sunny weather brings part time swimmers out and I don’t find it enjoyable and relaxing to have to fight for swimming space. We did 10 lengths (250 ms.) and then stopped. Apparently, the UV levels in our region are at their most dangerous at the moment so cutting down exposure is no bad thing.

As soon as we get back from France, we come to the end of our current EE mobile contracts and are entitled to move or choose new smartphones in exchange for another 2 year contract. I’ve spent some time today looking at alternative smartphone models because our EE service is worth continuing. I expect we will just upgrade to a Samsung S9. We don’t make so many phone calls with it but we do text, access the internet on the go and send and read emails. I follow and update my Twitter feed and Facebook pages. I’ve found I use my camera a lot so a reasonable standard will help. The cameras is a 12mp one which is not the best but will certainly do for anything I want to produce. The contract will be for two phones at £38.00/€43.30 each for unlimited 4G calls and texts and 4mbs of data. This will do fine.

Thursday, 7th June, 2018

A bright but overcast and muggy morning. At 10.00 am the temperature is 17C/63F but feels warmer. The Irish Times has reported this morning that the UK Supreme Court has ruled the Northern Ireland abortion law to be in breach of Human Rights. As a life-long enemy of Roman Catholicism, this is another, wonderful breach of that ludicrously anachronistic religion. It is a cause for celebration.

I grew up in a predominantly Roman Catholic household ruled by my mother. All things about life, food, clothing, finances were tied to religious obedience. I cannot believe now that I submitted to such tyranny but times were very different. My hero was James Joyce’s altar ego, Stephen Daedalus who refused, even on his mother’s death bed to acknowledge the ‘faith’ by muttering Lucifer’s words, Non Serviam. I took succour from that while all the time wondering if I was really strong enough to do the same. It is/was a belief system of utter hypocrisy. Witness in modern times the Magdalene Laundries, the plethora of paedophile priest cases, etc..

I was forced to live a lie – going to church every Sunday under threat of punishment, going to confession every month to ‘confess’ a mere confection of lies that I knew and the priest knew were a confection. Being sent to a Seminary totally against my will but arranged and reinforced by a nun in the hope that I would see the light and become a priest. I marched with the scouts on St George’s Day up to but not in to the village CofE church because, to cross that threshold, would be tacit acknowledgement of another, ‘legitimate’ religion.

It always struck me as odd that a dishevelled man on the streets of Derby, muttering to himself about god was dismissed as a madman who should be locked away but a man dressed in a black frock, walking round the outside of a church, chanting about god was considered the ultimate authority and beyond reproach and was to have his hand obsequiously kissed in an act of fealty. A man from Africa chanting and dispensing felicitations by wafting smoke or spraying water on their followers was to be dismissed with amused contempt as an ignorant savage but a man in a church wafting smoke or spraying water on their congregation was to be lauded as the true representative of ‘god’.

Of course, this religion is founded in hypocrisy by appealing to the natural, human condition of searching for something outside one’s self. It led to my final argument I had with my Mother just before she died. As a teacher, I saw it as my mission to redress the balance and never hesitated to tell children that I didn’t believe in god and could see no, logical reason why anyone would. I told my mother this and she was scandalised by that information. I asked how she could believe in imaginary concepts of authorities which were only social constructs. She asked me why I would deny her the comfort, in dying, of belief in god and heaven. This self delusion is the ultimate hypocrisy. So I suppose it was my Stephen Daedalus Non Serviam moment.

The real irony here is that the predominantly Catholic South have elected a gay prime minister and voted to allow abortion while the predominantly Catholic North have a dour, Presbyterian party calling the shots in denying the population abortion. Never has a united Ireland seemed more possible.

Friday, 8th June, 2018

A hot and very humid day. It reached 26C/79F in early afternoon. Of course, this was nothing like Greece which is experiencing its first heatwave of the year with temperatures approaching 35C/95F in places. We threw caution to the wind and decided to miss our gym routine.

We drove 10 miles down the coast to Bognor Regis made famous by George Vth with his renowned, Bugger Bognor, remark as he recuperated from a chest infection. Actually, it is more Cyril Regis than George Vth. Like so many English seaside resorts, it is fairly tawdry and depressing without its teaming throngs of tourists. Even with them, it is hard to feel affectionate for its charms. It compares poorly with Littlehampton, Worthing and Brighton. We parked up and walked the promenade, down the scruffy pier and back to the car.

Saturday, 9th June, 2018

Another hot and humid day but a little more overcast this morning. Woken by a phonecall from British Gas reminding me that an engineer would be round by 8.00 am to reset my smart metre which had stopped transmitting to them although I could see everything reported fine in my Office. Rushed orange juice and tea and then let in a lovely chap from BG. He was with us for about 20 mins to do something I could have done for them if someone had told me. He said not many of his customers know how to read their smart meter never mind reset it. By 8.30 am, I was making fresh coffee and downloading my paper.

Little time to read the paper though. By 9.30 am I had cut, edged and fed the lawns – front and back – swept the patio and tidied up the garage. Another cup of coffee and I was on to vacuuming the house from top to bottom. A man’s work … Actually, I want to get my ‘step’ ratio up. We are going to the gym at 2.00 pm so I would like to have a reasonable start recorded on my watch. I’m averaging 12,000 paces per day over the past two months so I have a reputation to keep up. An athlete’s work …

Regular readers will know that I love gadgets as well as being target driven. Cordless lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners give me incentive enough to do what I would rarely have done before. Last Thursday, I went to the Dentist. It was just a 6 monthly checkup on my dental plan. Older readers will know that older teeth can be a nightmare when eating. As teeth separate and gaps appear, they are (not to put too finer point on it) food traps. It is impossible for me to travel anywhere without tooth picks.

The dentist asked me if I used dental floss but I find it so hard to get my fat fingers into my mouth and particularly to reach back teeth. He told me I should buy a water jet tooth flosser. I think I had seen one before but never really focussed on it. However, he immediately hit my gadgeteer’s sweet spot and I looked them up on-line as soon as I got home. I’ve got to have one. In fact, Pauline immediately ordered one for me. At a cost of £55.00/€62.70, I will have a gadget which will jet water or air into the crevices of my back teeth without having to swallow my own hand. It will also help eradicate the gingivitis that I have suffered with since my teenage years. Could life get any better?