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.

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