Week 510

Sunday, 30th September, 2018

A milestone achieved!

The end of September already. Pity really because it’s been a really good month. We’ve been Spring-Cleaning. A bit counter-intuitive I know but the windows and doors outside are looking grubby in this lovely sunshine so we did them anyway. We also went to the Health Club. Today was important in my goal achievement.

I started this Garmin App. for my new Garmin smartwatch in the middle of October last year. In spite of that, today, I reached a daily average paces for the past twelve months of 10,008.6 paces from a total of  3,613,156 paces for the year which equates to walking 1,874.2 miles in the year. Obviously, with 2 weeks still to go, I can improve on this and I motivated to do just that. Don’t ask me why.

Pauline’s sister, Phyllis is ill and in hospital. It looks like she is spending at least two nights there so it must be serious. She has a digestive tract problem which seems to run through the family and she is finding it hard to deal with. Let’s hope she is out soon because M&S could collapse without her.

Monday, 1st October, 2018

Welcome to a new month on the Blog as it careers towards the end of its 10th year. Less than three months to go. I won the battle to say White Rabbit first for a change.This morning is the most gorgeous, autumnal morning. Clear, blue sky and strong, uninterrupted sunshine. What could be better? Well a bit more warmth. It is only 9C/48F this morning at 9.00 am. I’m still in shorts and tee-shirt but rather more aware of my skin as we shop for essential supplies.

Of course, the first day of the month is marked with spreadsheets and readings. Gas and Electricity usage is recorded and analysed. You will, probably, all have been doing the same this morning – apart from Ruth. Often water consumption is checked but not this morning because we were feeling disinclined to lie on a cold, slightly damp lawn to read the water meter three feet below a manhole cover. Our water bills are fairly insignificant since we were metered.

We also tested and recorded our blood pressures with very satisfactory results. Tomorrow is INR testing. I have better record keeping than the hospital on that one. My spreadsheet records test results back to January 22nd, 2009. Of course, I married the right girl for my nature. Her financial records started on paper on the day we got married but every single transaction is available digitally from January 22nd, 1993. I’m not sure why January 22nd is significant.

I have written before of my sadness in losing my love of music. It has always been so emotionally and intellectually important to me. I am starting to do something about it. Perhaps maturity is allowing me more control over my emotional response. This morning, as I write, I am going back to basics – to the point of the start of my journey. Playing Handel’s Largo – the opening aria to his opera, Xerxses. I kept my emotions in check and progressed to Chopin’s Nocturnes which have meant so much to me over the years but which I coped with admirably today. Maybe I am on my way back!

Tuesday, 2nd October, 2018

A strangely bitty day. I started by scarifying my largely dead back lawn for the third time in a week and it is virtually ready for reseeding. I have six more bags of ‘lawn’ ready for disposal but our local tip is closed today so they are stored. We were both feeling tired and decided, extraordinarily, not to go to the gym. I have built up lots of little jobs which I have done this morning. We are flying to Tenerife in 4 weeks or so and our Airport Lounge memberships are being changed by our bank which provided them We are going from Priority Pass to Dragon Pass Premier.

If this seems rather superficial, I can assure you it is not. These lounges provide an oasis of calm and comfort allied to technical support – good Wi-Fi and charging points plus unlimited food and drink – both non and alcoholic. For two people, the cost of using an airport lounge each on  both legs of one’s journey would be at least £120.00/€135.00. We have done 4 double trips already this year with at least 2 more airports still to visit. This would have cost us at least £600.00/€675.00 just for this year’s travel. I phoned the bank to hurry them up for our new membership cards.

Some of our investments have matured and lost their ‘bonus’ rates of interest. Today was one for addressing that. Pauline had a doctor’s appointment during the morning and we also did a trip to the garden centre for grass seed and topsoil to start work on re-growing large areas of lawn in the next few days. I want to catch the warmer, autumn days for germination so it regenerates while we are away in November.

Wednesday, 3rd October, 2018

A beautiful day of blue sky, strong sunshine and warm temperatures which reached 22C/70F. It was ideal because we were driving to Dorset after breakfast to spend the day with our friend and ex-colleague, Jill. Actually, two ex-colleagues, one of whom was celebrating his 61st birthday, died last week. Such things bring one up short and evoke serious thought.

We had, fortunately, chosen the perfect day and our journey of just under two hours was delightful. Jill lives in Blanford Forum and has done for the past 20 years. It is a delightful, pastoral setting for an essentially quiet life. She was a good friend of Pauline’s at work and we have only seen her a couple of times since she left our school in 1978. Today was a delightful catch-up over a lovely, sea food lunch. Even the drive home was uneventful although I could feel the tiredness coming out after 4 hours driving. We had met Jill in Poole harbour this time last year but neither of us knew much about Dorset. It is a lovely area and full of interest. Jill’s husband is retiring at the end of this month so we are hoping to invite them to our home soon and to see a lot more of them.

Thursday, 4th October, 2018

Foggy but mild this morning. It is main shopping day and we visited Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose and the Post Office. It is Pauline’s birthday tomorrow. I am cooking so had to spend an hour sourcing ingredients in Rustington. We had gone out at 9.00 am and didn’t get home until nearly mid day by which time I had already completed 7500 paces so we decided to give the gym a miss and, after lunch of tomato salad, we went down to the beach to walk and ‘take the air’.

The weather was supposed to change from mist to sun but clearly hadn’t received the memo. Misty, sunless light was the order of the whole day. The beach was almost deserted apart from a couple of dogs with their owners. Dogs are allowed on the beach in the off-season (October – March). I wouldn’t allow them there at any time. I wouldn’t allow dogs in the country at all. This is what Brexit was about: Deport all Dogs!

Shades of Grey on Littlehampton Beach

All the beachside infrastructure was closed up – boating lake, cockles & whelks stall, rock shop, tourist tat shop. Even the lifeguard stations had packed up and gone on holiday. We enjoyed the warm, damp, grey air and walked for about an hour. It felt lovely to be fit, healthy and alive.

Friday, 5th October, 2018

Pauline & her Dad









Happy Birthday, on this gloriously sunny morning, to my darling wife. For our 67th birthdays, I had a self-portrait commissioned. I think you’ll agree we don’t look too bad for our age. We have spent the past 40 years welded together at the hip. We’ve spent just one night apart in those 40 years when Pauline was in hospital and we are looking for at least another 25 years more. I just hope the Skiathan and his family are thinking along those lines as well.

I rarely remember to buy her a card. She usually gets a folded A4 sheet of printer paper with Happy Birthday X scrawled in red ink. At least I don’t sink to typing and printing it out. This year, I managed to get away long enough to buy a real card. I am cooking the meal of Lobster, scallops and langoustines in a roasted tomato and dill sauce with slices of potato and rosemary bread to mop up the juices. Scallops and mopping up juices are her absolute favourites but she will have to work for them. I expect her to spend the morning helping me re-seed the lawn and then we will do a full gym session before I display my dazzling culinary expertise.

Saturday, 6th October, 2018

It is 7.30 pm and my wife is in the lounge watching Come Dancing. I am skulking in the Study watching anything else but, particularly, Man. Utd. staging a miraculous comeback against those Premier League titans, Newcastle.

Earlier, the weather proved us right. Yesterday, we spent it feeding, raking, re-seeding, top-soiling and re-treading the the rear lawn. It took about 5 hrs in total to work the 200 sq. ms.. By the end of it, I was shattered. This morning, I have swept the patio clean and then the rain has arrived to start the germination process.

By the time we set off for the gym, it was absolutely throwing it down. Fortunately, tomorrow will be dry and the week ahead will get progressively warmer. This is the perfect climate for grass seed germination. The grass seed we chose was coated with a water absorbent gel to speed up and maintain the process. It cost about £60.00/€68.00 and left a bit to spare. If you add a 10kg pot of Growmore at £12.00/€13.70 and 4, huge packs of compost at £30.00/€34.00, the whole thing was achieved for under £110.00/€125.00. This evening, it feels good to have done all our jobs and exercise routine as well.

Week 509

Sunday, 23rd September, 2018

A cooler but bright and sunny day. Newspapers, football and gym exercise fairly sum up the day. Having been away this week, it is a time to enjoy HOME. Be that as it may, we have places to go over the next couple of months. We are going to Dorset to meet up with our friend, Jill, although not staying over this time. We are going to Yorkshire to see old friends and visit our Mothers’ graves. And then we are flying out to spend the month of November on the south east tip of Tenerife.

Sunny Girona

Even so, we know that we cannot stand still and are beginning to plan next year’s trips. We are still toying with a Springtime trip to Australia although, in our discussions, it is on and off the agenda every other day. The length of the flight is at the core of our vacillation. An hour’s flight to Edinburgh was ideal. Two and a half hours flight to Valencia was perfectly acceptable. Three and a half hours to Athens was beginning to become uncomfortable and four and a half hours to Tenerife will really be stretching it. A twenty four hour flight to Australia, even with one stop, feels like a step too far and then again it might be worth it.

Our annual Athens trip will include a Greek island stay next year. In fact, we are expecting to spend a month on an island sandwiched either side with a few days in Athens making it about five weeks in all. We have already been invited to stay in the home of a friend on Sifnos. That is likely to be in September.

We will almost certainly do a couple of short breaks in France after Christmas and we will probably rent a villa for the month of July on the French/Spanish border. We haven’t decided which yet but that is one discussion today. It will be somewhere between Perpignan and Girona. I fancy the latter.

We are very much hoping that the villa we are renting in Tenerife will be to our liking – it has its own heated pool, wi-fi and English Freeview television plus a fully kitted out kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine. We don’t want to camp out but we do want to extend the 2018 sunshine experience. If we like this villa, it may become a recurring experience over the next few years. As we start the final week of September 2018 and the start of Winter, we are thinking about the future with optimism.

Monday, 24th September, 2018

A beautiful morning of blue sky and strong sunshine as we got up at 6.30 am. It isn’t warm at just 7C/45F because of those clear skies at this time of year. We have a ‘snagger’ coming to redo the sealant around the bath and one of the shower trays.

We learned that 2 -2½ years after completion of a new-build property is just the time to address resettlement issues but it is also the time when builders’ warranties run out. We were lucky to buy just at the time when 5 year warranties were on offer. They have since been withdrawn for new purchasers. With 2½ years still to run, we feel very fortunate and relaxed about the years ahead. What is particularly reassuring is that everything is included in that warranty right down to the white goods that came with this new property. Cetainly, I would never buy an old property again.

Tuesday, 25th September, 2018

As the Skiathan observed, the view might be of Summer but the feel is distinctly Autumn. At 7.00 am, we were reading 7C/45F and didn’t rise above 19C/66F all day although it felt much warmer in our back garden and around the pool as we swam outside this afternoon. It is almost October but members were sunbathing outside around the pool.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about renewing our mobile phone contract and receiving an upgrade smartphone. We chose a Huawei P20 Pro which we were told would cost us £800.00/€900.00 each for our phones. I must admit, I was sceptical until I searched for one to buy and found that was exactly the price demanded on the open market. When we received our smartphones, we were told that a ‘special offer’ for people ‘buying’ their phone in September included a ‘free’ pair of Huawei ‘earbuds’ which were valued at £80.00/€90.00 per pair. Once again, I was incredulous. How could a pair of earphones be worth that much?

They arrived today and are pretty much state-of-the-art. The case they are stored in is powered up by USB cord and the earphones are blue tooth with controls for receiving smartphone calls, etc. I went on line to buy a pair and couldn’t get a pair below £85.00/€95.00. Actually, we will each pay around £1002.00 over the 2 yr contract and receive unlimited calls, texts + 10GB of Data per month. It is a deal we are happy with.

Had a very active day in the strong sunshine today. The morning was spent weeding, pruning and trimming the hedges. Later we went to do our full gym routine and a wonderful swim outside in the sunshine.

Wednesday, 26th September, 2018

Rustington in (mid-Summer?) late September.

Time is rushing away. We are in the last 5 days of September. Today, I received my new, Bank Debit card with an expiry date of the end of 2021. I will be 70 years old by the time I receive it. What the hell is happening? I remember 1984 with Orwellian dread. I remember 2000 with a trembling computer. I remember thinking reaching 50 (2001) was the zenith of achievement particularly as my Dad died at 49. I remember thinking 60 (2011) meant I was officially a senior citizen. Surely, 70 (2021) means I am officially dead? I am trying to keep my expectations low. Getting to 80 (2031) would be a real achievement. Getting to 90 (2042) would be the height of good fortune. Of course, age without good health is a questionable attainment. That’s why a daily gym session is so important.

We went out early to Rustington in Mediterranean weather. It is an attractive town at the best of times with good shops and lots of facilities but was particularly enjoyable in the sunshine today. Pauline was having a facial and I was having a mooch and a coffee at Waitrose. By 11.00 am, it was 25C/77F in the wonderful sunshine. Home to watch Corbyn’s speech and then off to the Health Club for a couple of hours. Chicken marinated in lemon, tarragon, garlic and olive oil, griddled outside in the sunshine with tomato salad was just wonderful.

Thursday, 27th September, 2018

What a glorious day of wall to wall sunshine. It is a day to celebrate being alive. Pauline observed this morning, as I continued to obsess about the passage of time, that just 20 years ago we were still in our main, Yorkshire home which we only sold in 2000. So much has happened in that time.

In the past 20 years, both our mothers have died. We have retired. We have sold 4 houses and bought/built 4 houses and rented two others. We have moved out of Greece and branched out in our travels. We have bought 10, new cars – all Honda CRVs. Pauline has been operated on to remove a benign tumour from her arm and had her gall bladder removed. I have been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and Type 2 Diabetes. The former is being successfully managed and the latter is gone. I have lost 11.0st/70kgs and gone down 2 shoe sizes.

So many of these events have been life changing. Retirement, losing our parents, leaving an adopted country, leaving our homes, addressing life-challenging conditions. they are not minor events in a individual’s life. They are perhaps not as seismic and life-threatening as the Skiathan Man has had to face but, in our small world, they have been big events. If we can grab another 20 years, we think of how much we can pack in. We may not have so many new homes although there may be one or two in the timeline. Similarly with new cars. We hope for more travel and less medical attention but that is in the lap of fate. Keep looking forwards. Keep moving on.

To that end, we did a morning out in the wonderful sunshine in which we reached 23C/74F and then three hours at the Health Club with a full exercise session. I have managed 16,000 paces today and I am averaging 10,000 paces per day for a calendar year. If I can keep that going, perhaps I can see 2038.

Friday, 28th September, 2018

One of the things about aging is feeling that a younger generation is leaving one behind. All generations feel that at some times and in some ways. Pauline & I always pledged that we would never say, We’re too old for all that! or that equally defeatist exclamation, Thank goodness I won’t be alive when that happens! There are some things that I will not embrace for reasons of safety or taste rather than age per se.

I have no desire to walk across an open road while texting on a phone. Actually, (and this is an admission) I can’t bring myself to write ‘hip’ texts without punctuation or use smiley-face emoticons instead of words. After all, I was an English teacher. Equally, I have no desire to bungee jump or paraglide.

When I was in my formative years in Grammar School, I wouldn’t have been seen dead with a handbag. It was a struggle to make me carry a raincoat. I certainly wouldn’t have had a tattoo even had I been allowed to by my parents which wouldn’t have happened even on pain of death. Now, in the changing room at the Health Centre, one feels positively freakish not being decorated from head to foot in blue ink.  Equally, I wouldn’t have been seen blow drying my hair or preening in the mirror for hours while applying body lotion. I hold to those principles still but I have cracked on one line of development.

For years I watched Mediterranean men walk around casually sporting a shoulder/handbag. I was a bit shocked but regularity breeds familiarity and, as I travelled more and required more backup – reading glasses, toothpicks, tissues, Sweetex tablets, medication tablets, smartphone, iPad, etc. – I found my pockets were not enough. I took the plunge and bought a leather, man-bag in Athens. At first, I was very self conscious and tried hard to not stand with my hands on my hips but, eventually, it became part of daily attire. Like so many Greek things, it wasn’t built to last and started to fray at the seams. My next bag was bought in M&S of all places. It has been all over Europe with me. After almost 10 years, it too is showing signs of wear and I’ve had to order a new one. My only embarrassment this time is that it will cost almost £80.00/€96.00. You could have bought a car for that in my day!

Saturday, 29th September, 2018

The penultimate day of the month has been glorious. Wall-to-Wall sunshine from peerless skies. and really warm. We had already decided to take a day of from the Health Club and to fill it with jobs. It was a busy day. By 9.00 am, I was scarifying our ‘dead’ back lawn. By 10.30 am, we were at our local pharmacy for our Flu’ jabs and, by 11.30 am, we were at the Local Authority Tip with bags of lawn and then back at the house to watch an abject Man. Utd. lose to West Ham. of all  people.

After that, I gave the car a full valet including treating the leather upholstery, hoovering the whole of the inside and wax polishing the outside. It took me the best part of two hours and I was really tired by the end of it. I was rewarded with a rare treat. In fact, I haven’t had it for about 20 years. Pollo Allegro or Italian Chicken Kiev. It is chicken breast with a pocket slit in the centre which is filled with garlic butter and mozzarella cheese. The breast is wrapped in pancetta ham and then coated with bread crumbs. (I’ve had absolution for eating bread today.) It is deep fried usually but we pan roasted ours in the oven. It was absolutely wonderful and took us back to our Friday nights after a hard week at work when we would go to Sole Mio in Huddersfield for an indulgent, Italian meal.

Week 508

Sunday, 16th September, 2018

Gorgeous day again. These are always considered bonus days in the second half of September. 22C/70F and lots of clear, blue skies with uninterrupted sunshine. Why are we going to Scotland? It can’t be better than here. Anyway, at least we will be reunited with our friends after all this time.


Our neighbours installed their new/our old garage door and then came over with a ‘thank you’ pot plant. I must admit, we don’t ‘do’ pot plants these days but politely received it. It is an Anthurium which originates from Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Venezuela. It was brought to Europe in 1876. The name Anthurium derives from the Greek words ‘anthos’ and ‘oura’ which mean ‘bloom’ and ‘tail’.

Apparently, ‘House Plants’ are back in fashion. In the 1960s and 1970s, when we were setting up house, they were all the rage. No home was complete without a Monstera Deliciosa  or Swiss Cheese Plant growing up in the corner or a Wandering Jew or Tradescanthia hanging down from a basket. They thrived in the damp conditions of student flats or first time buyers houses. As my generation moved up market, cleaner, dryer conditions were de rigour. Even the Che Guevara posters have gone. However, in time-honoured tradition – what goes around comes around – house plants are back in fashion. Who are we to resist?

Monday, 17th September, 2018

Summer in full bloom. The whole day has been sunshine-filled and a temperature of 24C/75F. We won’t expect any more of the Canary Islands in November. I have been watering pot plants on the patio prior to leaving them to their own devices tomorrow morning. We expect to continue cutting Rocket leaves for a little while to come. The lawns (lol) are cut and the hedges trimmed. We’ve done another gym workout today and packed our bags. Actually, it seems strange to be flying but staying within UK. We’ve packed our passports anyway because we will need Photo I.D.. We made them anyway if Scotland breaks away. It will be good to get in before we need a visa and before mobile roaming is cut off.

Edinburgh Station looks very interesting!

The flight from Gatwick to Edinburgh is 1hr 35 mins long at a cost of £227.66/€257.00 for the two of us which compares well with a train journey from our village to Edinburgh of 10hrs 11 mins. costing £330.53/€373.00 for the two of us and a of a drive of 461 miles and 8 .0 hrs non-stop driving costing £158.00/ in Unleaded Petrol for the return trip without stops but also takes a few years of your life.  Edinburgh Station looks very interesting but after 10 hrs? Probably not so much.

Tuesday, 18th September, 2018

Up at 7.00 am to a grey and blustery but very warm (18C/65F) morning. I have scheduled ‘Hive’, internet-controlled, light bulbs around the house so that I can play with them while we are away. Having announced that publicly, of course, I have negated their effectiveness but who reads this nonsense. Final packing – phone/iPad/watch chargers + multi-socket still have to be packed. Breakfast juice enjoyed and dishwasher stacked and then we are off.

Descending in to Edinburgh

We are driving to Gatwick at 9.30 am – timed in order to miss the worst of rush hour. Normally, it would take about 40 mins but we expect at least an hour at this time on a week day. …. The drive was good. We soon went through to No1 Lounge and relaxed before going down to gate. Early take off and early landing. The plane was not full. Plenty of room for spreading out. Took this photo as we were descending to land.

Edinburgh Airport small and friendly and easy to use. Taxi to Queensferry Road was immediately available. Our taxi driver shocked me immediately when he replied to my questions: Did you vote for Independence? No. / Did you vote for Brexit? Yes. These answers go against all the trends for younger Scots. He went on to explain that he voted on selfish (his word) grounds. He dealt in Bitcoin as a hobby and he was likely to make more money out of chaos. He was also a fan of Farage.

When we go to our hotel, having contributed to our taxi driver’s next crypto currency purchase, a lovely girl checked us in. She wouldn’t have voted Brexit even if she was allowed to. As a Moldovan, she was working hard in our service industry and providing an excellent service. A Moldovan accent with a Scottish twang overlaid is really rather nice although not so easy to understand.

Wednesday, 19th September, 2018

Pauline with Bjorn & Anne-Mari

What a day to choose to explore Edinburgh. Gale force winds and torrential rain. Actually, we had a wonderful day which began with a lovely, hotel breakfast and then a taxi into the city centre because of the inclement weather. We were dropped at a previously agreed coffee shop and, within a few minutes, 40 years were rolled back and in walked Bjorn and Anne-Mari. We last saw them in 1978.

Bjorn is Norwegian and Anne-Mari was born in Africa. All those years ago when we met them, they were living in our (then) home village of Meltham in West Yorkshire. Bjorn is a potter who taught in our school. Anne-Mari is a jewellery designer. In 1978, they both left for posts in Edinburgh University and remained there until they retired. For years, we have been promising to visit them and exchanging Christmas cards. The same two cards with infill newsletters have been shuttling between us for 40 years. Today, Pauline fulfilled her promise of seeing them again. In spite of the weather, it was a lovely day which ended in a meal back at their big, old Edinburgh stone house.

The photograph above, shows us in a bookshop where we found a copy of Anne-Mari’s book on jewellery design. At their home, they introduced us to 3D printing which I knew about but had never actually seen in reality. They were using a 3D printer to produce prototype items of jewellery. It was an interesting experience.

Thursday, 20th September, 2018

A totally different day with the morning opening on clear blue sky although still a little breezy. My phone shows me that the temperature at home on the Sussex coast at 7.00 am is 17C/63F but only 9C/48F here in Edinburgh. We are going to do one of my least favourite activities today – shopping. Pauline gets so few chances to indulge herself in actual (as opposed to virtual) clothes shopping that it is time for me to indulge her and just take the pain.

Walking on Princes Street, Edinburgh

After breakfast this morning, we had the day to ourselves so we sat with coffee and our digital newspapers. At 10.00 am, we set off to walk from our hotel up Queensferry Road with views of Fettes School (alma mater of Brown & Blair) in the distance, into Queensferry Street and then Princes Street. The weather was brilliantly blue sky and strong sunshine but with a cold, blustery wind – a hangover from yesterday’s gales. In the Orchard Park as we walked past, huge branches torn off in the wind lay strewn across the grass, debris blown from roofs littered the gardens and the pavements. The temperature at this time in the morning was 9C/48F compared with a reading of 17C/63 F in our home village in Sussex.

Closing Down

As we turned in to Princes Street, we enter House of Fraser department store. I hate those sorts of places at the best of times but today it was more depressing than ever. As I so often do in these situations, I found a chair to sit and browse and watch the world go by while Pauline set off across the store to look at clothes. Today, the store was being plastered with ‘Closing Down – 20% off marked price’ posters by the very staff who now knew they were losing their jobs. I found the scene profoundly depressing and I felt so sorry for all those loyal workers who were still doing their best for the Management.

We are notoriously bad at this shopping process and Pauline’s heart really wasn’t in it. We did some window shopping, a bit of seeing the sights and then set off back on the 2 mile walk to our hotel to catch the Daily Politics. and the One o’Clock News  followed by Scottish News which was nice to see although difficult to understand. Isn’t town walking tiring? Hard pavements and lots of noise and people. Who can cope with people? They constantly get in one’s way, take specific lines of walking and refuse to budge unless I barge them. They smell of sweat, cheap perfume, cigarette smoke, stale coffee and all sorts of unspeakable other things. Give me a solitary life by the sea!

Friday, 21st September, 2018

Woke to a pleasant but greyish morning – at 7.00 am, Edinburgh 7C/45F – West Sussex 14C/57F. Ate a third, consecutive hotel breakfast and vowed never to eat again … for life. The morning was spent packing up, charging phones and tablets, doing emails and reading the newspapers. An email came in from Easyjet to warn us that our flight was delayed by 15 mins. Not a problem.

Our taxi arrived on time and we were at the airport 30 mins later. Edinburgh Airport was absolutely packed. Looked busier than Gatwick. We thought we would be ok by going to one of the two private lounges airside and relaxing with a glass of wine. That’s when the day took a bit of a down turn. Arriving at No1 Lounge, we were told that it was absolutely full and had a waiting list that would take 2 hrs to clear. We went on to Aspire lounge to find a notice on the door saying ‘Currently Full’. On inquiry, we were told that there would be a wait so we sat in the foyer for 30 mins aspiring to get in before finally finding to a comfortable chair and table with charging points, strong wi-fi and some refreshments.

As we settled back, we checked the Easyjet app to find that our delay had been extended to an hour. By this stage, we just hunkered down with another glass of red wine and watched other people come and go. Eventually, we were called to gate and then to board a newish and very comfortable plane. It was a good flight but, because of our delayed take-off in Edinburgh, we had to wait for a landing slot by circling the airport for about 20 mins. Eventually, we landed about 90 mins later than timetabled.

Fortunately, our bag was off first from the carousel, the bus back to Long Stay carpark was waiting outside and we were soon in our car on the road home. It really doesn’t matter where we go, how long we stay for, how much we enjoy it – coming home is wonderful! And so it was.

Saturday, 22nd September, 2018

The thing that strikes one immediately is the difference in temperature. It is really noticeable. Back home, the house feels almost uncomfortably hot even though we haven’t had the heating on since last March/April. I have gone to do the supermarket shop in shorts and short-sleeved tee-shirt. I don’t feel out of place because half the men there are doing the same.

Our shopping today really reflects our current dietary patterns. I am still a real pain. I always need to follow a low-ish calorie content regime. I am constantly searching for food elements which are full of flavour, and stomach-filling texture but low in calories. Unfortunately, I am not able to use green vegetables like lettuce, broccoli or cabbage because they contain high levels of Vitamin K which militates against the Anti-coagulant drug, Warfarin which I take for Atrial Fibrillation.

Latterly, I have been majoring on tomatoes – virtually every day as a side salad – and cauliflower which I also eat cold and dressed with olive oil and lemon as a salad. These two have become staples and are combined with a central component of protein such as fish or chicken. Recently, we have also been turning to pulses and a mixed-bean salad. This is just simply dressed with olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Everything is dressed with herbs and rough, black pepper to replace salt. We do use flakes of sea salt but sparingly.

Today, we had roasted loin of cod with tail-on prawns and roasted cherry tomatoes in garlic and oregano. The depth of flavour is extraordinary and lingers for quite some time after we have finished eating. It is of a quality that one would rarely expect to receive in a restaurant at home or abroad and leaves one feeling better about one’s self than before it was consumed.

Week 507

Sunday, 9th September, 2018

Bosch Electric Lawn Raker – £170.00/€191.00

Lovely warm and sunny day that reached 22C/70F here on the south coast. We did our gym routine and I cleaned and tidied the garage in preparation for the new door being installed on Tuesday.

I am struggling to cope with my main, back lawn because large areas of it died in the five, dry, hot weeks I was away in the Dordogne. I am going to buy an electric lawn rake/scarifier for a start and then reseed the bald areas. I had one of these machines before and, if you’ve never used one, I can tell you that it is one of the most labour-relieving implements you can ever own. If you’ve ever tried to rake out a large lawn with a hand rake, you will know immediately.

Monday, 10th September, 2018

We have a 5 year warranty on this house and all its fittings. We are only half way through that period so we have called the joiner out to fix a slightly moveable bannister rail. These are the sorts of things that I wouldn’t want to do myself nor would I want to pay a man to do for me. Being able to ring our house builder and get a joiner sent out pronto and free of charge is wonderful. Gordon the joiner is coming this morning at 8.00 am which will be good because it forces us to get up early and start the day positively.

When he arrived with large white van and almost as large toolbox, Gordon removed a small wooden patch to reveal a screw which he tightened with one of his 40 screwdrivers and then replaced the patch. Off he went back to Brighton leaving two happy customers in his wake.

We ordered a new tumble dryer a week ago from Currys. Pauline had very specific requirements and, when their website said it would take 10 – 21 days for delivery, we went ahead and still ordered. We were a little disconcerted when the follow up receipt of the order had altered the wait to 2 – 4 weeks. Even more annoying was the fact that they drew the money on our credit card immediately rather than waiting until they were ready to despatch. So, this morning, I phoned them – well, I am still on hold now after going through more menus than an ordinary person has breath to sustain – only to be told that there was an unusual demand on their services and it could take at least 10 mins before they answered me. I hate making phone calls at the best of times but this really winds me, an essentially calm man, UP!

David Lloyd, Worthing – Gym

Did another full routine at the gym and pool on a quiet Monday. Time of year when everyone is back at school/work and many have given up on fitness until January when life will become frenetic again.

Tonight I received a text message informing me that the Tumble Dryers had been received in the warehouse and would be out for delivery urgently. We are going away in a week. Let’s hope they get on with it.

Tuesday, 11th September, 2018

Up at 6.00 am after a very warm night for mid-September. We didn’t drop below 18C/65F. We have the garage door company coming at 8.30 am and Pauline has a Doctor’s appointment at 9.00 am. My official INR test has to be emailed through to the hospital this morning and it is good at 2.8.

By 11.30 am, the new garage door was fitted and working and we were able to prepare for our trip to the Health Club. I will have achieved my target every day this month apart from one, averaging 13,000 paces per day over 28 days and covering 178 miles. That excludes swimming which adds quite a bit to my physical output. The reward will be a day off tomorrow when we have a list of 14 tasks to complete which will be incorporated with a walk on the sea shore for lovely, fresh air.

Our tasks include a trip to Screwfix to collect 4 Hive bulbs which I can program or control from my phone/iPad while we are away. It is a step into the modern world after spending so much time and money on plug in timers for table lamps to give the appearance we are at home. They are expensive but they do have smart wi-fi connectivity which makes remote operation so useful.

Wednesday, 12th September, 2018

Hold the Front Page! We are not going to the Health Club today. I am genuinely feeling guilty and rather uncomfortable particularly with no cricket to distract me.

Greeks are not cricket fans or cricketers – with the noble exception of the Corfiots. Because of that, Greek TV stations didn’t commission cricket coverage on their satellite Sports Channels. We took Nova Satellite package because it gave us UK Premier League football. We then switched to OTE Satellite package when they bought the Premier League rights. In the early days, I could even switch from Greek commentary to the original English one but later lost that. Only once did we get Cricket Test Matches when England were in South Africa and I could never understand why. It has been a real bonus this year to be in UK and to enjoy a fantastic England-India series. Really enjoyed it – especially the result.

Went out to pick up my lawn rake/scarifier this morning from Argos and then on to Screwfix to collect my Hive, wi-fi bulbs. After that, we drove on to the Littlehampton Marina and bought fish – a swordfish joint and two seabass. Home for PMQs which was poor and then on to more jobs. We are expecting Currys to deliver our new Tumble Dryer which is why we are housebound this afternoon. I have mowed (what I still laughingly call)the lawns while Pauline has done the third and last major harvest of the Basil Plants and made even more Pesto. The basil is definitely much more ‘woody’ by this stage and needs picking over carefully. We could now live solely on Pesto until 2020 but I bet we eat it a lot quicker. I love it!

The new tumble dryer arrived about 5.30 pm delivered by two Sri Lankans. They took the old (2.5 yrs) one away at the same time. We were just relieved that we had a new one at a price of around £315.00/€354.00. Normal life will be resumed tonight….. and we’ll dry some clothes.

Thursday, 13th September, 2018

Quite a day. Absolutely beautiful blue skies with strong, uninterrupted sunshine and a temperature of 22C/70F. We prepared the garage to put down parking lines so I can garage the car on my own rather than expect my assistant to be constantly in attendance. Off out to Sainsburys and then the Chemists and home by 9.30 am.. Harvested the last of the Thyme and Oregano plants for the season; washed and froze the produce. Picked up and assembled (with my wife’s help) the new lawn rake & scarifier.

Did a really enjoyable session in the gym. Amazing how much better a day off made us feel. Pauline has decided she wants to work on her upper arms by using dumbbells. I have ordered some for home so she can do the exercise when she wants. It’s the sort of thing you need to do every day – maybe more than once – in order to really get some benefit. I will supervise her exercise if I’m paying out the princely sum of £9.99/€11.20.

Friday, 14th September, 2018

Warm but grey day which reached 21C/70F but didn’t get the pulses running. We did some jobs around the house and then a gym workout. I am averaging 14,500 steps per day over this week and more than 13,000 per day for the past month. I am still a month short of completing a full year with this watch but I’m already averaging 9, 500 steps per day over a nominal 12 month period.

Whenever we go away, I struggle to pick up news channels, Parliament debates, etc.. Often, even in good hotels, I just get BBC News Channel or even just CNN. One can access BBC Radio over the internet abroad but not TV. By chance, I was reading an expat in Greece Blog the other day and learnt of an app which didn’t sound promising but I thought there was, maybe, something in it. ‘TV Catchup’ suggests exactly that but was discussed as a source of real-time reception abroad. It sounded too good to be true.

I downloaded the app to my iPad and tried it out in our hotel room in Athens recently. To my amazement, it worked. I could pick up UK Freeview Channels and they were not blocked like the iPlayer. I have a 12.5″ screen iPad Pro which was good enough to watch on but it got me thinking of putting that through the hotel’s TV screen to make it more user friendly. A quick search on the internet brought up a Digital AV Adapter which had an Apple lighting connector and a port for its charger. This is important to maintain the iPad’s charge in a battery-hungry process.

The adapter  plugs into the TV’s HDMI slot and allows the TV screen to mirror that of the iPad. Today, I tried it out on a small TV set upstairs at home with perfect results. As the ‘A’ in Audio Visual suggests, I got both Sound and Pictures which I could control with the TV remote. As almost every flat screen TV nowadays has an HDMI socket, this will be of immense use in our travels across Europe.

Saturday, 15th September, 2018

In the coming week, we are flying from Gatwick to Edinburgh to meet up with a friend and ex-colleague of ours who we haven’t seen for almost exactly 40 years. Bjorn, a Norweigan Potter, taught at our school from 1975 – 78. He then went on to lecture at Edinburgh University where his wife – a jewellery designer – also lectured. For the past 40 years, we have exchanged the same two Christmas cards with newsletters enclosed to the point where one is nearly falling apart. We have been promising to visit him for the past 30 years and this is the year where we will live up to our promise.

Bergen Harbour

It is exactly 50 years ago this summer that I spent a month on a motorbike touring Norway with a friend. Excluding a couple of weeks in Southern Ireland ( which most people would do), this was my first time abroad. It left an indelible impression on my young (17 yr old) consciousness. We drove up to Newcastle and got the ferry to Bergen. I don’t remember every stop but Bergen, Lillehammer, Oslo and Stavanger Fjord stand out.

Stavanger Fijord

We stayed in Youth Hostels which were the cheapest way to do it but were positively plush compared with their English counterparts. We had the most wonderful, hot, sunny weather and I have an image indelibly implanted on my memory that has remained all of those 50 years.

We were driving over the mountains under a strong sun from clear blue skies. All around us was thick snow which our road cut through. Suddenly, some 50-60 metres to our right and out in the middle of the snow-covered mountainside, a young couple sat at a table with a lit candle in between them. They had a bottle of wine and two glasses and were toasting each other. That seemed strange enough to a young, impressionable lad like me but even stranger was the fact that there was no sign of a vehicle to get them up in the mountains and no signs of disturbance (footsteps) in the snow from the road to their table.

We whizzed past on our motorbike and only discussed it when we settled back in our Youth Hostel for the night. However, both of us saw it and neither of us could explain it. Answers on an email.

Week 506

Sunday, 2nd September, 2018

Yesterday, on the first day of Autumn, we reached 23C/73F and this morning has opened with clear, blue skies and strong sunshine. At 6.30 am, it is a little cooler than one would choose but the day is going to be great. We are going to do one, final trip to the gym before leaving for Greece. We will have missed just one day in the past three weeks. In our Athens hotel, we will swim but not gym. We get plenty of walking done in the city. Looking forward to meeting old friends.

Fruits of Autumn

This is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness to quote John Keats’ Ode to Autumn. It is characterised by mild days but cooler nights, by later sunrises and earlier sunsets. In the past and for many years, it meant going back to work after 6 weeks in Greece so there was always a hint of sadness. I tell myself that enjoyment can be sucked out of all the seasons although Summer warmth is still my real enjoyment. That is why we are buying extensions to our ‘Summer’ with trips to Greece and to Tenerife which will take warm weather well in to the British Autumn. Even so, we have just been told that this has been the joint hottest Summer in British history – equalling 1976. I had just completed 4 years of teaching and was living in a pokey little flat in down town Oldham. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Monday, 3rd September, 2018

Just as we prepared for going away, our 30 month old Tumbled Dryer died. It’s hardly done much service for two people using it a couple of times per week. Like everything else, as soon as we use lose the facility, it becomes indispensable. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day yesterday and we were able to put the clothes outside in the sun to dry but we anticipate a lot of dirty washing when we return from Greece and will urgently need a dryer.

Hoover Condenser Dryer

If you are not a tumble dryer aficionado, you may not know that there are three, main types. The first is a vented machine that emits water-laden air from a hole in the front/back/side. We’ve had many of that type in the past. They are the cheapest of the three. The second is the condenser dryer which – you’ve guessed it – condenses the water vapour before it can escape and is collected in an integral container. This type is more expensive than the former but considerably cheaper than the final type which is Heat Pump. The Skiathan can stop making notes now.

While conventional tumble dryers release the hot air used to dry the clothes, the Heat Pump technology conserves and reuses it, so less energy is used and it reduces energy consumption further. Sounds wonderful but, at £1100.00/€1220.00, it is a wonder I can manage without. A Hoover Condenser Dryer (10kg load) costing £300.00/€335.00 will do just nicely, thank you, although there is a 10 day wait for one to come back in to stock and be delivered. Thank goodness we will be away for a while.

Tuesday, 4th September, 2018

She’s such a messy eater!

Wandering through the streets of Athens in 34C/93F of sunshine from strong, blue skies, we felt we were home. It is as if we had never left. In our flight yesterday my mobile was contacted by service providers in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The flight was wonderful and lasted only 3hrs 10 mins although I was only awake for 40 mins of that. Athens airport was so slick, with luggage on the carousel before passengers were there to collect and the Metro left the moment we had picked seats and sat down.

Our hotel, the Electra Palace, had already upgraded us because of our frequent bookings and provided us with complimentary drinks, Premium Superfast Wi-Fi  plus other trappings. We settled in, went out for a walk, bought a bottle of wine and some salted pistachio nuts and went back to relax with Sky News. Later, we went out to eat at our favourite, street-side taverna – Evegenia’s Paradosiako – where we ate Greek Salad with Garlic Sauce followed by barbecued Sea Bass. Dreamy!

We went up to the Roof Garden this evening and sat around the swimming pool overlooking the Acropolis. It was moonlit, bright and warm with 30C/86F at 9.00 pm. The whole atmosphere takes us back to good times. Next Summer, we have been invited to Sifnos for the Summer. It is something we are seriously contemplating. It would be nice to see Stavros again.

Wednesday, 5th September, 2018

Very hot today. Woke up to 25C/77F at 7.00 am but reached 35C/95F as we walked out in mid morning. Our first task was to find a new restaurant we had read about for dinner this evening. It is on Odos Erotokritou

We liked what we saw on the menu and decided to return in the evening. We walked on down to Monastiraki Station to take the train to ‘posh’ Kifisia. It was hot – very hot – and our walk didn’t last long. We took the train back to Monastiraki and then walked back through Plaka, stopping only to buy a punnet of juicy figs from a street barrow.

The Fruits of Greek Autumn

Back at our hotel and with the air conditioning down low, we drank coffee and watch Prime Minister’s Questions although little good it did us. Then we were out again and taking the train down to Piraeus. It has always been a dive but even more so in recent years. We were travelling on a €4.50 / 24hr Athens unlimited travel ticket. Enforced payment is supposed to be introduced but many station barriers were left open and people just blatantly climbed over the fence where the barriers were in use. Nobody has to pay unless they choose to.

Down in Piraeus, one is overwhelmed by the detritus of travelling humanity. It is grubbier than ever but the anticipation of travel is as exciting as ever.

We just touched base but didn’t stay long. Most of our regular haunts have closed down which is sad but not surprising. We took the train back to our hotel and had a good swim before going out to Dinner.

Thursday, 6th September, 2018

Hot again. We’ve seen 33C/92F and quite high humidity. Today was walking in Athens streets. Down to Omonia and the markets. It was so hot that we couldn’t face the stench of the meat market. The outdoor, vegetable market provided anything to rival the Dordogne.

Outdoor Market – Omonia

We were visiting old haunts, places we have walked a hundred times but are now seeing with fresh eyes. We bought grapes and figs from a street seller and took them back to the hotel for our lunch. We went for a swim and did a 30 mins workout .

Going out for grilled Sea Bass and salad for Dinner this evening and linger over a carafe of chilled wine under a hot and humid sky as the light dies. How lucky are we?

Friday, 7th September, 2018

Up early – 6.00 am (Greek Time) / 4.00 am (UK Time) – and down to breakfast. The last breakfast for a while, thank goodness. Even so, scrambled egg and bacon, washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice is a pleasant treat. The sunshine really adds to the flavours and feeds the eyes for the day ahead.

By 9.00 am, we were off to the Syndagma underground station and, with 2 x €10.00 tickets in hand, we crowded on to a commuter train to the airport. By 10.00 am, we were walking into the airport, dropping off our bags for Easyjet and going down to the Goldair Handling Lounge to relax in peace, drink a glass of fresh, orange juice and read our on-line newspapers.

On board our Easyjet flight by 11.30 am, we heard that a 30 minute delay with refuelling would hold us up. It is the first Easyjet delay we have experienced over many flights. The journey back was uneventful and we landed at Gatwick around 2.35 pm.. Quickly through the airport, successful baggage reclaim and out to the Long Stay Carpark shuttle bus. In to our car and a short hop of 45 mins back home via Tesco for some essential supplies.

Sitting back in our kitchen, it seems barely believable that we were breakfasting in Athens only a few hours ago and fighting our way through the crowded underground system to travel to the airport and then sitting high up above the only too tangible clouds over the patchwork fields of France. Life is strange and magical but it was brought back to earth with a bump when we received an email from our next door neighbours to say that their cat, Como, who we had recently looked after while they were away, had been found, run over, more than a mile away from home. They are lovely people and the are heartbroken.

Saturday, 8th September, 2018

Time zones are one of the things that I take time to adjust to. After the last few days spent 2 hrs ahead of UK, we woke at 5.30 am and were up soon after. We had a fairly busy day planned so it was quite helpful. Around 8.30 am, we set off for Worthing. Even then, the coastal road was busy with joggers, cyclists and dog walkers. We parked in the multi-storey car park and set off for the Sports Direct shop in the centre of town. It always amuses me that, potentially, it is most popular with sporty, fit people and yet access to and from the shop is via an elevator. What’s wrong with stairs?

I was picking up a new pair of trainers for use in the gym. I’ve been using the same, cheap pair for the past 15 years and they are beginning to show their age. So am I, of course, but I am not so easily replaceable. (I hope.) We went on to visit Asda and Sainsburys after not doing our weekly shop this week. Home to watch the cricket and then out to the gym. By the time I had done 70 mins exercise there, my watch was showing 16,500 paces completed and I was feeling reasonably satisfied with myself. One eye on the England ‘friendly’ with Spain tonight and one eye on catching up with correspondence.

Another fun-filled day tomorrow. Today has finished with another, old fogey moment. We have had new smartphones for about three weeks. We have both had Huawei P20 Pros. Suddenly, Pauline recently noticed small scrapes on the side of her screen. This really upset her because she had no idea how they had been caused and is meticulous in her care for things. Today, I noticed similar small scrapes on my screen. I ran my finger over them and suddenly realised that the screen didn’t feel like glass. Flicking the screen edge with my finger nail brought up the plastic protector that the manufacturer had covered the screen with and which had started to bubble. I pulled them off both screens which now look pristine. I feel rather more stupid than usual.