Sunday, 19th August, 2018
Well, a grey and mild start to the day. It is just 20C/68F this morning and a little breezy. I’m told it’s Sunday by my phone although it makes little difference to me. It is nice to download a Sunday paper and to watch a bit of Test Match and Football but I can do most of that on so many days that it really doesn’t matter.
It mattered to my Mother who would have been 95 on this coming Wednesday. She was a totally committed Roman Catholic and she wanted her 7 children to be so as well. As I developed a thinking mind, I resented it hugely and, the moment I left home at 18, I dropped the ‘pretence’ immediately. Subsequently, all of my siblings have done the same. However, there is a saying that Once a Roman Catholic, always a Roman Catholic and there is some truth in that. For a long time, I didn’t recognise this but Catholicism imbues one with a sense of ‘original sin’ of being subsequently guilty and unworthy. I recognise, intellectually that such a position is not justified but, emotionally, it is much more difficult to jettison.
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature. .. It is the opium of the people.
Karl Marx – ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’.
We see that it is accepted most strongly in oppressed and/or impoverished groups – in the Third World, for example, but also in the black minority in Britain and in the Irish. Religion seems to ‘explain’ their poverty and place in inequality. The gradations of social standing from God in his Heaven, the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate made All Things Bright & Beautiful. Of course, Mum derived from Irish stock and inherited her Catholicism. She was by no means stupid but wasn’t prepared to look critically at her beliefs in the way those born further on in the Century are. She was furious when I told her that, just as she had tried to force religion on me so I saw it as my duty as a teacher to advise children to avoid that pernicious, world view.
I have long militated for the eradication of religion’s place in politics and social administration. I have been extremely heartened by the rapid decline in religious observance in Britain. Today, The Sunday Times runs this article:
On the eve of another papal visit, in pubs and parks Irish people say the Catholic Church has lost its grip on the nation.
It is enough to gladden an old man’s heart, to raise the spirits of Karl Marx and to answer my Mother’s attempts at indoctrination.
Monday, 20th August, 2018
Out early on a warm and humid morning which reached 24C/75F. Pauline was having her hair cut before we leave for Greece in a couple of weeks. The sea front was in busy, holidaymaker mode and the sea looked blue, warm and inviting. Back home, we booked the installation of a new garage door, a trip to the PYO Farm to pick Victoria Plums which Pauline has a passion for and to arrange a visit to Byfleet to visit her sister.
This time last year, we were in Haydock, Lancashire to say goodbye to Pauline’s cousin, Vivienne who had died of cancer. We are thinking of her husband, Richard who has had a year to come to terms with his grief. Neither of us is confident that we can really imagine what it is like to lose our close partner but know it will happen to one of us ultimately.
We set off for our 8th, consecutive visit to do our duty in the gym. It is becoming easy and routine at the moment and we are looking to increase our efforts by adding a piece of machinery – probably rowing – to our exercise regime. It will be good to get back in to swimming soon when the kids go back to school and the indoor pool repair is completed.
However, target driven as I am, I get real pleasure from screens on my smartphone like the one pictured here. I am uncomfortable if my chart has gaps on its daily report. Pleasure is a full row of yellow bars demonstrating my commitment. A daily average of 13,748 paces covering a total of 48.7 miles for this week makes me feel good. Did you know I was weird? It is something that retirement requires to be meaningful – target achievement. We wrinklies have to set our own targets and drive ourselves on to achievement. We are trying so hard to do just that!
Tuesday, 21st August, 2018
Cloudy and humid start to a day which never dipped below 19C/66F over night. We went out early to the local PYO farm just round the corner from our house. Victoria Plums are ready for picking. They are a favourite of ours. In 20 mins, we had two bags containing 8kgs/18lbs of plums. The trees are so prolific and easy to pick from. It was a delight. By the time we drove home, the temperature was 28C/82F although fairly dull and very humid.
Off to the supermarket for huge bags of sugar so the jam can be made. That is Pauline’s job for the rest of the day. A trip to the gym is cancelled. I am watering the lawn and trying to persuade it to regenerate. The plums were so easy to pick, we ended up with too many really. They have been stoned and quartered and cooked up. After the sugar has been added, I become an enthusiastic Chief Taster. I so rarely get to eat anything sweet that ‘normal’ jam now tastes almost unbearably sweet. Gorgeous!
We have two weeks until we leave for Athens and then a further two weeks until we fly to Edinburgh. My cousin in France has been trying to entice me into a cousins’ reunion in the Charente Department of south west France. That is where we visited her about a month ago and, because of that, we are not in a hurry to return. There are only so many places to visit in a lifetime and we are already planning events for next year. We are hoping to revive an Australia trip in the Spring, a month villa rental in July in Girona over the border from France to Spain, an Athens trip allied to an island visit in September and then a month in the Canaries in November. Quite a busy year.
Wednesday, 22nd August, 2018
Today, my Mum would have been 95 years old. Unfortunately, she died 10 years ago and the pain is rapidly greying into recession. In the photo, I was 2½ years old and she was 30. It is so unsettling how these experiences and memories have run away into the mists of time. It is exactly what will happen to me and my darling wife and to all of you. We cannot escape it but it is so difficult to embrace and accept it.
Living one’s life in the here-and-now is the only option but these pinch points of memory are painful in the extreme and even more so as reality is replaced with the chimera of memory. I remember my relationship with my Mother in the awkwardness of its reality and, talking to my sisters some years on, I am surprised and vaguely shocked that our memories and judgements have an uncomfortable similarity. I wasn’t as odd and mad as I have thought over these past 50 years. Still, I find myself hard to live with.
In the here and now, my lawn is still a dying mess after no rain for the five weeks I was away. I can’t quite decide what to do about it or how far to go to revive it. I may have to re-seed whole areas of it this Autumn although I’m going to be away for a lot of that too. I may have to get a professional company in to advise me although, if we redesign the garden anyway, I don’t want to go mad with the original lawn. What a dilemma!
Thursday, 23rd August, 2018
Woke early – 5.00 am – after a hot and humid night. Left for Surrey around 9.30 am. We were visiting C&P in Byfleet. The first three quarters of the 50 mile journey were pastoral and delightfully quiet. The last section should have joined the M25 but our sat.nav. warned us of a 40 mins delay on our section so we detoured through Cobham which is a delightful town but can be frustratingly busy to navigate. A journey which usually takes us an hour actually took us 90 mins and the frustration made me tired.
It was nice to return to the area. After all, it is only two and a half years since we left, having completed five years living in the area. It is strange how one drops back, almost unconsciously, into the routes and routines of places once so familiar. It was nice to see C&P again. As we talked, I dropped back into the routine of sitting talking and upgrading their iPad as I did so. They never do it for themselves. I’m not sure if they know how to. Anyway, that was always my job – downloading and updating the operating system, updating the apps, cleaning up the messages, etc..
We stayed around three hours and then drove back incorporating the M25 leg without any hold-ups in that direction. Even so, after sleeping for only 5 hours last night and then doing some 2½ hours busy driving, I was tired. Pauline did the cooking – roast cod loin with garlic and white wine fantail prawns and more salad. Two glasses of wine and I was ready for a sleep.
Friday, 24th August, 2018
Woke up at 5.00 am for the 3rd time this week and didn’t really get back to sleep. Beautiful, sunny day with clear, blue sky although a little edge on the air this morning. In the modern way of things and quite without any formal intention, we shop in almost every different supermarket there is according to what my wife considers best quality and best value.
Bananas are my go-to energy replacement food and, although it will sound pretentiously fussy, the bananas from Asda are a quality level higher than all the other suppliers in terms of taste. We eat a box of cherry tomatoes per day on average and are addicted to a variety called Vittoria which we buy in Sainsbury’s. Our salads always include capers which Pauline buys in large jars from Waitrose. The salad is dressed with Kalamata Olive Oil which is great value from Aldi. Any fish that we don’t get from the local fisherman’s shack is bought in Tesco although Morrisons is the only one to always have a supply of fresh, locally caught Octopus and we buy supplies of Whitebait from Iceland.
Because of this, we had a busy morning visiting supermarkets. We also went to the Post Office ‘Sorting Office’ to collect a parcel that we missed while we were out yesterday. The parcel was two more, pairs of shorts for me. I haven’t worn any, normal clothes since the beginning of June. I haven’t slept under the bedsheets in that time either. We are off to Athens and later a month in Tenerife which could well see me extending the naked legs and short sleeved T-shirts until the beginning of December. Long may it last. Global Warming is working for me at least.
Saturday, 25h August, 2018
Another pleasant start to the day with lots of sunshine. The day just struggled to 22C/70F but felt really lovely. It has been quite quiet. Pauline has done a 3rd harvest of our basil pots and made another, huge batch of Pesto which is then bagged up in 50g packs which is enough for one meal for two people. We have about a dozen plants of Italian – large leafed – sweet basil and Greek – small leaved. We already have enough Pesto to get us through the next twelve months but we may have one more cutting in late September.
I have been catching up with correspondence. I wrote to my Sifnos friend, Martin, who I haven’t seen for quite a few years now but we have agreed to visit him to catch up. Instead of just sitting down to watch football now, I try to time my exercise in the gym so I can watch at the same time as sweating. Actually, I really enjoy it and it makes me feel quite virtuous. Today has been another lovely day. We are so lucky. We say that to each other almost every day. If only we could freeze time NOW.