Week 514

Sunday, 28th October, 2018

The end of Oxi Day – Sifnos 2018

A beautiful day in West Sussex and a lovely evening on Sifnos in the Greek Cyclades. Here it is a relaxing weekend. There it is Oxi Day. This is the day of ‘No!’ for the Greeks.

At 3 a.m. on the morning of October 28th, 1940, Emanuele Grazzi, the Italian ambassador to Greece, delivered an ultimatum from Benito Mussolini to Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas. Il Duce demanded that Metaxas allow the Italian army free passage to enter and occupy strategic sites in Greece unopposed. Faced with this demand, Metaxas delivered an unequivocal response in French, the diplomatic language of the day, Alors, c’est la guerre. This brief phrase, Then, it is war, was quickly transmuted into the laconic Oxi, the Greek for No, by the citizens of Athens.

At 5:30 a.m., before the ultimatum had even expired, the Italian army poured over the Greek-Albanian border into the mountainous Pindos region of Northern Greece. There they met fierce and unexpected resistance. Within six months, Ioannis Metaxas would be dead; his successor, Alexandros Koryzis would commit suicide; Mussolini would be humiliated; and the Germans would raise the swastika over the Acropolis.

Despite Greece’s ultimate fall to Axis powers, Metaxas’ response resulted in a fatal diversion and delay for the Axis powers in general and the German army specifically. The Battle of Greece was decisive in determining the future course of the Second World War. Today and right across Greece, people celebrate by marching – military, religious and civil groups raise banners and walk before crowds of their neighbours to remember the strength of moral purpose displayed by their forebears in the face of Mussolini and Hitler.

Monday, 29th October, 2018

Up early on a chilly but beautiful morning. Checked my phone which said it was just 3C/37F outside. Went out to test it but the back garden was warm and sunny. My app said that south west Tenerife was 22C/70F at that time and would reach 27C/81F at peak of the day. It also doesn’t fall below 21C/69F at night time. A month of that will do.

Sunny Worthing

This morning, we were up at 6.30 am because we had booked our ‘snagger’ to arrive at 8.00 am. He’d done his job and was gone before 9.00 am and we were on our way to sunny Worthing – and it really was sunny. Pauline had a hair appointment. I had a meeting with Starbucks Coffee. The girl who served me was Polish. She told me that she was 34 and had lived in UK for 16 years. When I asked her about Brexit and how it had affected her, she told me that her parents-in-law had voted ‘Leave’ and that it had caused serious disruption in relationships but both now regretted their vote and hoped to change it. She, herself, had received far more personal abuse since the vote.

Back home, we confirmed our taxi for the airport, finalised our packing list, printed out research papers for the area we are travelling to and had a bowl of home made tomato soup prior to setting off for the gym. We both felt so much better after a couple of hours of exercise and enjoyed our meal of roast duck breast plus tomato salad and cauliflower salad.

Tonight will be relaxing. We will do one more exercise regime tomorrow before setting off for the sunshine. looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 30th October, 2018

Up early on a much warmer morning – 11C/52F – although not quite as sunny. Having had her hair cut yesterday, my darling wife is having a facial this morning at a ‘Beauty Parlour’ in Rustington. Once again, I am sitting in a coffee shop with my iPad. This time, I am in Waitrose café and the coffee is absolutely wonderful. The only problem with these places at this time of the day is that they’re so full of old people. They are shuffling along in slipper type shoes with sticks or trollies to lean on. They sit and complain about the weather – what ever it is – being too hot or too cold, too sunny or too rainy.

I’m constantly trying to guess their age. I am trying to compare them with myself. Do I look and act like them? I don’t think so but maybe I do. I think all old people should have to wear age badges in a prominent position so we can measure ourselves against each other. Have you noticed how a lot of men, as they get older, walk around with their mouth open? Pauline keeps telling me I do that. It looks inane! I’ve been trying to catch myself doing it by checking in shop windows and house mirrors and keep giving myself a good talking to about it. Unfortunately, the action is involuntary and happens when one least expects it.

When she comes out to meet me, Pauline is glowing with health and ‘new’ skin. Close your mouth, she says. We drive home for a bowl of home-made tomato soup and then off to the gym for our last session until December. In the past 12 months, I have averaged more than 10,500 paces every single day and covered almost 2,000 miles. Really enjoyed today’s session and we drove home to a meal of scallops and large, shell-on prawns in garlic oil and served with a tomato salad and a broad bean salad. This could almost be my favourite meal. We spend the rest of the day putting the house to bed for a month and speaking to our neighbours to keep them up to speed. This is our last night in our bed until December.

Wednesday, 31st October, 2018

Last day of October 2018. Enjoy it. You’ll never see it again….unless dementia gets you. In which case, every day could become 31/10/18. It is a lovely, sunny day outside and warm-ish at 11C/52F although it looks as if we’ve had a bit of rain over night.

It doesn’t matter where I go, how I go or when I go, I always get a little manic just before travelling. I am determined that everything is planned and executed to within an inch of its life. I will not forget anything and then have regrets especially when we are away for  a month. This morning is just such a time as the deadline approaches. Just a space for PMQs at mid day and then a taxi (£53.50/€61.00) will appear to take us to Sofitel Hotel, Gatwick Airport.

We fly at 9.00 am tomorrow so this makes life easier and more relaxed. The hotel (£150.00/€169.00) is just a covered walkway away from our Departure Terminal. We’ve ‘checked-in’ on-line and we can drop our bags this afternoon so tomorrow morning will be even more comfortable. What can go wrong? Ah!!!

Thursday, 1st November, 2018

Fantastic start to the new month. I woke Pauline at 4.30 pm and said, White Rabbit. She said, Close your mouth. And then went back to sleep. We were up at 5.00 am and in the airport at 5.30 am. Having dropped our bags off the night before, we went straight through to airside and Airport Lounge No1. It was too early really but we knew we wouldn’t eat until the end of the day so we forced down good quality scrambled eggs and really good bacon. We washed it down with lashings of fresh orange juice. High speed internet and digital newspapers for a while.

No1 Lounge Gatwick

At 8.00 am, we were going down to gate and onboard by 8.30 am. We have extra legroom and the seats feel great. The captain announces that the flight will only be 3hrs 40 mins which is nearly an hour less than we had been told. We took off at 9.15 am and landed at 1.00 pm after an event less journey. I slept through most of it. Tenerife South was reasonably quiet and our bags came up fairly quickly and together. We walked out into the warmth – 26F/79F – to look for the taxi rank. Our taxi took 15 mins and cost us €16.00/£14.00. He was the normal ‘insane’ taxi driver’ and we felt that he was late for his mother’s deathbed but we eventually arrived in one piece.

Tenerife South Airport

We juggled with a large bunch of keys which fell out of the coded key box and then, gradually, got into our villa. As described, it has a large, heated pool outside with all day long sun on the patio. Inside, there is a large kitchen/diner and television room with Freeview channels. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Having dumped our bags, we did the five minute walk to the local ‘supermercado’ and sourced our meal – cheese, biscuits, pickle and some bottles of wine. We followed this with yoghurt.

By 7.00 pm, I only needed 1800 paces to complete my target for the day so we are going to do a short walk of the neighbourhood before settling down to coffee outside round the pool. With UK TV, we can watch Newsnight and the New paper Review before bed. Tomorrow, we have to decide whether to rent a car for the month or take taxis when required. That will be breakfast time discussions. For now, the temperature is 22C/70F here, 9C/48F in West Sussex and 5C/41F in Bolton. Oh to be in Bolton.

Friday, 2nd November, 2018

The night temperature didn’t drop below 22C/70F and the morning broke to a lovely, sunny day. We slept very well for our first night in a strange bed and were up just before 7.00 am. No oranges yet so it was tea and coffee outside around the pool while we downloaded and read our newspapers whilst listening to Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme. By 7.30 am, I was doing my first half hour swim. The water is deliciously warm. We paid €50.00/£44.00 per week to have the pool heated just to take the chill off the water that can appear over night at this time of year. Actually, the diurnal range is incredibly narrow here throughout the year. Today it spanned 22C-26C/70F-79F.

Early morning swim – delicious!

By 9.00 am, we were in full ‘Hunter gather’ mode and out in search of reasonably stocked supermarkets. We decided before we came that we would be reluctant to hire a car and would rely on walking as much as possible. We had researched and identified an area that looked a potential source of groceries. It included a supermarket intriguingly branded Iceland. We set off for what turned out to be an hour long walk and found the supermarket was indeed Iceland and it was well stocked. Amusingly, it also carried many Waitrose-branded lines which we recognised.

Iceland-Waitrose Outlet

We rapidly filled a trolley with lots of fish – salmon, cod and hake fillets, large and small prawns. We bought cheese, pesto, cornichons, houmus, yoghurt, etc. Nearby, we had already identified a fruit and vegetable wholesaler who had a small outlet for private customers. We were able to purchase about 3kgs of large and cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, sweet, juicy grapes and huge papaya for Pauline’s breakfast. We also needed washing powder and other cleaning items, kitchen towels, etc.

By this stage, we had 8 bulging bags and there was no way we could walk home with that. The lady on the supermarket till called a taxi for us and two minutes later we were packed into it with all our shopping in the boot. The young taxi driver drove like his life was coming to an immediate end and we were down the hill at our gate before we had finished breathing. We paid him €10.00/ £8.80 and collected our shopping which had been spread right across his boot. It was worth it though.

Saturday, 3rd November, 2018

Wonderful day although we are absolutely exhausted this evening (19.30). 22C/70F at 7.00 am and 26C/79F at peak. We have been here two, full days and swum for two, complete hours and walked for four hours. We said that we would use this relocation month to up our fitness levels and we have hit the floor walking/swimming. I am having orange juice and tea for breakfast and then doing 30 mins swimming. Coffee and then out for some shopping because everything is closed tomorrow.

Light lunch of tomatoes and humous and the out for a walk to the Marina San Miguel. It means walking round the Amarilla golf course along volcanic, cinder paths to the huge marina. The walk took about an hour and the return felt quicker but was very similar. Why does that so often happen?

Before we went out for our walk, I watched Man.Utd. steal a win over Bournemouth on BT Sport. When we booked this villa, I stipulated some English language television. I was told we would have Freeview channels and I was happy with that. When we arrived, we found we had all of that plus Sky Sports and BT Sports channels. My cup runneth over! The broadband/wifi is fantastic and the TV is supplied by the internet feed as well. Many villas around here are clogged up with huge satellite dishes. Ours has simply upgraded to digital reception. It is clearly the way to go as Sky customers in UK are about to discover with the Q Box. 

Week 513

Sunday, 21st October, 2018

Another absolutely glorious day. They just keep coming. After breakfast, Pauline made bread – 4 large loaves – while I did the vacuuming and watered the pot plants. We decided that it was such a beautiful day that we would go down to the sea side and walk. We started on Goring beach next to the fisherman’s hut. He was open and selling fresh fish.

We walked on towards Worthing. A morning Yachting Regatta was finishing and the yachts being taken from the water and back to the clubhouse where drink seemed to be flowing freely on the terrace.

We decided to turn round at Worthing Pier. It had taken us about an hour to get there and we had another hour back to the car in the fisherman’s carpark. The Pier was busy and the ice cream sellers around were doing good business. Multitudes of children were living other lives in the play area and dogs, dreaming of exciting smells, strained on their compulsory leashes.

The hour walk back seemed to go much quicker and we were glowing as we got in our car to drive home.

Back in the garden, Pauline cooked calamari and served it with tomato salad and rocket salad – lovely meal to end a lovely afternoon. Still the sun beat down on the luscious green of the newly sown lawn. Hope you are enjoying your day.

Monday, 22nd October, 2018

The fun days continue. Peerless, blue skies and strong sunshine greet us after a clear and moonlit night. Pauline’s doing the washing while I catch up on correspondence. Seems a reasonable division of labour. We are off to the gym and swim around 1.00 pm and we will be back to griddle Tuna Steaks in the garden around 4.00 pm. The fish will be accompanied by tomato salad which I eat at least 5 times per week. I am just addicted to tomatoes.

Morning becomes Tomato

I was reminded of this by an article in The Times which describes the ubiquity of tomatoes in our culture. Tomatoes are such a mainstay of our diet that it’s easy to forget they were unknown in Europe until the 16th century, when they arrived from Central America.

Those early tomatoes would be barely recognisable to us today: they were yellow in colour and probably striped. The people of what is now Italy took to them quickly, calling them pomi d’oro – golden apples – which became today’s pomodoro. The taste of a tomato is a unique combination of five ‘tastants’ – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury (Umami) compounds. That’s why they are so delicious. I grew them successfully last year and now I raid Sainsbury’s for them.

Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018

On Sunday, the temperature on Goring Beach was 25C/77F. On Tuesday, we were still in full sun but didn’t get above 16C/61F. Today, the sky is a little hazier but we have reached 20C/68F. Although we are off to the warmer weather of the Canaries in a week, it is possible that we will be hit by a cold blast before we go.

Zakynthos – Argassi 1981

We learnt while we were away that a girl – She’s a woman of 58. – who Pauline & I both taught and who is related to Pauline, has just retired from nursing and gone on a holiday to Zakynthos. She stayed in Argassi. It just so happens that we were there 37 years ago on our first foreign holiday together. We had been married for two years and had never flown before. In those days, there was no airport in Zakynthos and we flew to the old, Athens Airport – Ellinikon International – and then drove for about 8 hours across the Peloponnese to the port of Kylini, stopping only for a few minutes at the Corinth Canal and again in Patras for drinks.

In those days, Argassi barely existed.   A few houses, a couple of tavernas, a roadside shed selling local fruit and one hotel – the Mimosa Beach Hotel which I know is still there. We fell in love with Greece over that three week stay and the next year visited Naxos for two weeks and Milos for three weeks. We were hooked. We visited Greece every single year after that. We went to other countries too but always to Greece at least once each year. I imagine it will be that way until we can no longer travel.

Wednesday, 24th October, 2018

Another glorious day of clear blue sky and sunshine. Only 18C/65F maximum but delightful for all that. After years eating out in Greece, we love Marides or Whitebait which is known on some islands as Athenians or small fry. On a Greek island, the quality can vary enormously. Occasionally, the little, silver fish are carefully prepared but, generally, they are floured and deep fried in their crude and natural state. Often, it is served with Skordalia or Garlic Sauce.

Back in UK, these little fish are less easy to source particularly having been prepared. We are not natural shoppers at Iceland but we were told that they sold frozen, floured whitebait. We bought a pack at the massive cost of £2.49/€2.82. One pack is plenty for two people. They turned out to be fantastic quality and flavour. We got into a routine of buying 10 packs at a time and storing them in our freezer. We would eat them about once a week.

Suddenly, after nearly three years, Iceland  have dropped this line. I have been trying to find out why. Today, we were going round local branches to buy up existing stocks. They have ‘use-by’ dates of the end of 2019. They are being sold off at the grand price of £0.50/€0.57. At the same time, I have been lobbying the company’s management and, simultaneously, been trying to find out the source of their supply so that I can contact them. What fun you can have when your retired!

Thursday, 25th October, 2018

Another lovely day with lots of sunshine but a rather cooler at 16F/61F. Early out to the hospital for Pauline and then our weekly shop at Tesco. Actually, that was more difficult because we go away for a month on Wednesday so all our ‘normal’ purchases had to be tempered by that fact. Tesco had a special offer price on sides of salmon. We normally buy two but there is no point leaving that in the freezer to de-nature while we are away so we had to control ourselves. That done, we decided to take a day off from the gym and get small tasks done at home.

One of my jobs was reading up on Greek news. We are reminded, this week, of the source of Greek’s problems. In a week when Kathimerini’s leader article reflects that the Greek economy remains very weak and at risk in today’s worsening environment, with trade wars and market turbulence around the globe. International investors are already sceptical about the prospects of the Greek economy and it is becoming even more difficult for those investors to place their money in Greece.

Ironically, it is in this same week when it is reported that former Greek minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his wife Stavroula Kourakou were incarcerated in Korydallos prison near Piraeus port. Greek judicial authorities ordered that the couple be remanded in custody following their testimony on charges of money laundering. The 69-year-old former minister (in the Simitis government 2001-2203) and his spouse denied charges of having laundered 2.8 million euros/2.5 million pounds in kickbacks for a contract to upgrade six navy frigates, according to Greek, judicial sources. They were considered a ‘flight risk’ because of their Swiss property and Swiss bank accounts.

This is the background against which Greece’s economic and political system foundered and, with E.U. membership or not, it will only be salvaged until such corruption ceases to be endemic.

Friday, 26th October, 2018


Looks like today may be my last of wearing shorts until we get to Tenerife. It is forecast to be much colder. Today was only 13C/56F and felt chilly in the breeze. We had a builder here first thing to do a bit of ‘snagging’ and then went out to the gym. At least we were sweating by the time we returned home. The forecast is for 26C/79F for our first week away and that will do fine. In our own garden, many plants which are still flowering are going to get a shock.

Earthquakes, predictably, in Lancashire have stopped fracking for the second day. It’s beginning to play into the sceptics hands from the outset. Less predictably, Zakynthos/Zante in Greece, which suffered a massively destructive earthquake in 1953, has suffered another of 6.4-magnitude off the coast.

Earthquake – Zakynthos – 1953
Earthquake – Zakynthos – 2018

Of course, the destruction nearly 65 years ago was almost total. The destruction today was shocking for the residents but relatively minor. One, noticeable result was the splitting of the harbour jetty – no small problem for islanders!

Saturday, 27th October, 2018

Today is distinctly different. We have woken to 4C/39F but with a lovely, clear blue sky and rising sunshine. We are not prone to frost here and the extremes of weather are moderated by the coastal breeze and sea temperatures but 4C bites into one’s body through clothes.

Hall North to Kitchen South

Our back garden faces South and is sun-filled from dawn to dusk. The front of the house, with its north face, is very different. The transition from back to front has to be experienced to be believed. Fortunately, the kitchen where we spend so much of our time is at the back and sun floods in through the conservatory windows and doors raising the temperature massively when compared to the hallway and the front.

I have put on long trousers today. I was hoping to last a few days longer in shorts leading up to our flight to the sun. Never mind. Comfort before ambition. Today we are completing travel preparations. We are staying at the London Gatwick Sofitel the night before we fly. It means that we can drop our bags off at the airport the day before we fly and then just walk from our hotel through the covered walk way to the airport terminal in the morning carrying only hand luggage.

Packing preparation

When we get to Tenerife South–Reina Sofia Airport, we will take a taxi to our property about 20 mins away. The first thing we will want to know is the location of a reasonable supermarket to start the stocking up process. This morning, I’ve been searching out supermarkets in our area and then walking to them on google earth to check out their accessibility. Thank goodness for such modern technological solutions. Back on the analogue front, Pauline is finishing collating clothes and essentials for a month. Everything is being laid out in one of the spare bedrooms. Fortunately, we have all mod cons so clothes can be washed, dried and ironed. No need to carry hairdryers although we do have a 40kg hold luggage allowance. We rarely use anything like that.

We do take our own coffee and tea although we have found Yorkshire Tea does depend on the type of water available. We always take a multi-socket with integrated USB ports as the use of rechargeable multi-media has expended exponentially. Apart from iPads, Bluetooth earphones, smartphones and watches to be charged and interfaced, we now take electric tooth brushes, electric, tooth water flossers, and my shaver.We should save on our electricity bill for a month although we have had to pay an extra €50.00/£44.00 per week for our pool to be heated but that feels just fine.

Week 512

Sunday, 14th October, 2018

The warmth just goes on. We are reading 17C/63F at 8.00 am. Actually, I forgot and left the thermometer outside last night. The night was punctuated with a short burst of heavy rain. By the time I had rescued the thermometer, it had switched from Centigrade to Fahrenheit. Must be a Brexit message there. At least it is now dry and we can look forward to swimming outside after our gym session this afternoon.

I have written before about my proclivity to bulk buy and stockpile. I was reminded of it by reading Hunter Davies’ article in the Sunday Times this morning. If you don’t know Hunter Davies, he has been a journalist all his life and really came to prominence in the late 1960s by writing the Beatles Biography. Davies is 82 and recently widowed but has contributed to the Sunday Times ‘Money’ section for many years, developing a reputation as a curmudgeonly, old skinflint. He bemoans the cost of things and looks for ways of saving money plus making money through investments. He is usually very amusing and, although much older and wealthier, reminds me of me a bit. This millionaire currently forward buys and stockpiles bags of porridge oats which he purchases from Morrisons at £0.75/€0.85 per bag.

I used to think I was odd until I read Hunter Davies. I bulk buy and stockpile many commodities when I know they are greatly reduced. I use a particular ‘Gum Health’ Mouthwash which usually retails at £5.00 per bottle. Every so often, it is reduced to £2.50 and I go in for the kill. Actually, it is currently £1.98/€2.25 in Superdrug and £4.00/€4.55 in Boots. I will often have two boxes each containing 24 bottles of mouthwash adorning the storage racks in my garage. If you want to know something even more weird, I always open a new bottle on a Friday evening and make it last exactly two weeks. That’s how I know we are approaching the weekend. Hunter Davies doesn’t need to budget like this and nor do I but it is fun and gives us pleasure. Mind you, he is Scottish.

He also ruminates constantly on the tightrope balancing act between how long he will live – His wife of 56 years died recently. – and how much money he will have. He doesn’t want to run out but doesn’t want to leave much behind either. It is one of life’s great dilemmas!

Hope you enjoy the new week. It could be your last.

Monday, 15th October, 2018

Happy Birthday to my Dad. He would have been 103 today but was cruelly removed from our lives at the age of 49. I was 14 at the time and remember so little about his influences in my life which is a pity. He died in hospital where he was being treated for heart problems. One can only think that he might well have survived with a heart bypass operation today and gone on to live a long and happy later life. I am just grateful that I have had 18 years more than him already and still counting.

A grey, warm day greeted us at 7.00 am with 17C/63F on the thermometer. Shorts and Tee-shirt  on and down for fresh orange juice and tea. The newly sowed lawn has grown amazingly over night. By the time we return from Tenerife, we will be mowing it with stripes as if nothing has happened.

Moody Skiathos

The order of the morning has been packing for our trip to Yorkshire (Pauline), sorting out new, bonus+ savings accounts (Me) and following the latest Brexit talks before setting off for the Health Club. We did our full gym routine but gave the pool a miss today. There is so much to do before we set off around 9.00 am tomorrow.

If you read the Skiathan’s Blog or just visited Skiathos, you will be alarmed to read that Skiathan Man is so influential that his presence has produced earthquakes over the weekend. If you like small, Greek islands, visit Skiathos immediately – before Skiathan Man and/or Brexit destroys it!

Tuesday, 16th October, 2018

Up early on a gloriously warm (17C/63F) and sunny morning. Driving to Yorkshire which will take us between 4 and 5 hours depending on the motorways. ….

Autumn is well advanced in Yorkshire.

The drive was completely smooth and uneventful. The M25 at one end was busy but moving. The M1 in the middle was rather quiet and the M62 at the end of the journey was … well, the M62. We did it in 5 hrs and the most notable things were the change in temperature and seasons as we moved North. Touching 20C/68F in Sussex, we arrived to 14C/57F in Yorkshire. The advance of Autumn was the most noticeable change across the country.

Looking forward to meeting up with old friends and neighbours tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day

Wednesday, 17th October, 2018

After a fitful night, – I usually don’t sleep well on the first night in a new bed. – we were up early and down to breakfast. Eating feels sinful but ‘required’. It is a lovely, autumnal morning and we have a busy day ahead.

Old friends: Pauline, Little Viv & Margaret.

Driving through old haunts is the most bizarre experience. It is hard to stay sharp and appreciative of the landscape. I find I have gone miles almost without thinking about the very familiar landmarks. I know them, in retrospect, so well.

We drove to a Bistro in an old, mill owner’s house on the outskirts of Huddersfield. We were there for just after 10.30 am. Huge cups of Yorkshire tea and Columbian coffee, savoury tarts and sweet confectionaries came and went. The conversation flowed so easily and the memories fell softly as three hours passed in no time at all. Eventually, we had to leave and parted with the promise that our friends would visit us in Sussex next.

We drove on to our old home in Longwood that we left in 2010 to move to Surrey. Our lovely next door neighbour, Jean, had arranged to meet us. Her husband, Perry, a lookalike Rod Stewart, is a technical lecturer in Bradford but preparing to retire soon. Jean has lived there for 25 years but they are about to embark on a house building project in Halifax. We swap recent experiences, reminisce about past events and, after a couple of hours, agree to keep in email contact until our next meeting.

We have been out for about six hours and are exhausted. We are unused to socialising and suddenly parachuting into such a series of situations is very tiring. I remember the same feeling after 6 weeks quietly in our Greek house. The first day back at work of speaking, planning, interacting with others for hours left us shattered. Of course, we also had to do it all again the next day. Just so now, we are off to Lancashire tomorrow to visit two, different friends plus some of Pauline’s relations.

Thursday, 18th October, 2018

The most perfect day of clear skies and continual sunshine. It was a clear, star-filled sky over night and the result was an early morning frost and ice on the car windscreen. After breakfast, we drove over to Hollinwood to view Pauline’s Mum’s commemoration book at the crematorium. It is 8 years since she died at the age of 96 and we have attended to bear witness every year on this day since.  Of course, nature is always sad. The trees around the park weep russet-coloured leaves to mark the occasion. Usually, the sky weeps light rain but gave us reason to rejoice today.

After a short while, we drove over to Shaw to visit my old friend and colleague, Brian. It was a lovely few hours gossiping about people we have known and how their lives have developed in absentia. 

Marsden Moor

Our next appointment was with two elderly relatives of Pauline – her cousin, Joyce (81) and her husband, Harry (82) who have lived in the same house in Littlemoor for 56 years. Pauline & I taught their, two children – Susan & Andrew – who are now 58 & 53. How old that makes us feel.

We drove on to the site of our old school which is now a field with the foundations in place for a huge number of new houses. Very strange feeling. We also visited the school where I was Headteacher which has also been demolished and now has been turned into a public park. We drove on to the new Academy which has replaced the schools and then back over the Pennines and Marsden Moor on the A62 past the Nont Sarah’s Pub and into Outlane.

By the time we got to our hotel, we had been out and meeting people, talking and listening for 7 hours. We were exhausted and ready for rest and isolation before planning tomorrow’s trip back to West Sussex via my home village of Repton and my Mum’s grave.

Friday, 19th October, 2018

We always wake at 5.59 am every morning in time for full consciousness and the BBC_R4_Today news at 6.00 am. The only difference is that, when we were working, my head would groan as I rehearsed what I had to get through that day and what I hadn’t done to prepare for it. It would immediately make me feel tired and reluctant to get up. In retirement, I immediately begin to think of all the things I want to get done in the day and I am itching to get up and started. The whole thing is psychological and pivots on the words Requirement & Expectation/Choice & Anticipation. It is amazing how being in charge of one’s own destiny empowers one and engenders optimism and enjoyment.

This morning, our hotel decided the words were going to be Requirement & Expectation. We were woken in our darkened room to the sound of an alarm at 5.25 am. I had been in a deep sleep and woke with a jolt, thinking I was at home. I leapt out of bed, turned left and walked into the wall. I suddenly realised that I was not at home. The noise was a fire alarm. Shorts and tee-shirt on, I went out into the lobby outside our suite. As I did so, the alarm stopped. I was the only person to be seen. It turned out later that some flight crew who had an early off at Leeds/Bradford airport had made and burnt toast and set off the alarm.

It was too late to go back to bed. Cups of tea in our suite, showers and down for Breakfast. Can you eat at 6.30 in the morning? Well, we managed to force it down and go back to finish packing. By this time it was the most glorious day beginning. We checked out around 8.30 am – after I had cleared ice from the windows. I was still in my shorts and tee-shirt which suddenly seemed wholly inappropriate.

We drove off to the Capital of Mercia, Repton in Derbyshire where I originated. We had done our duty in visiting Pauline’s Mum’s crematorium and we were now doing the same for my Mum & Dad who are buried together in the village. We visit on the same day each year – October 18th – and the scene is similar in its autumnal sadness. The grave and the graveyard littered with damp, dead and decaying leaves, we only stay a few minutes to concentrate our thoughts and memories …. and then life goes on.

Saturday, 20th October, 2018

Although the drive down and back was as good as it has been for years, the weather was delightful and we were buoyed by lovely experiences and memories, the week has been quite intense for a retired and retiring gentleman. This morning, I can feel the tiredness of the past few days, of all the driving, talking, thinking, kissing. Ruth will tell you that, as you move nearer to 70 years old, these things can take there toll and you need a little time to recuperate. I should have been in London marching with the Brother/Sisterhood but it was a stretch too far. I had to leave my sister, JaneBG, to represent me. With ¾ million marchers, a little, old man like me wouldn’t be missed. Anyway, I do my bit in other ways!

Back on more mundane matters, it was great to see that I have a lawn again. We reseeded it just two weeks ago and a combination of a really rainy day followed by lots of warm and sunny weather has resulted in a thick, sward of luscious, green growth. I was so tired today that I cancelled a trip to the gym and just stood in the sunlit garden admiring the grass. Pauline griddled peppers and swordfish steaks outside in the sunshine and it provided the most wonderful meal to end the day with a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc. Life can be good, can’t it?

Week 511

Sunday, 7th October, 2018

Gorgeous, sunny day that reached 19C/66F. The perfect day for my newly reseeded lawn after yesterday’s good watering in by the rain. The days ahead are said to be returning to warm and settled and in the low 20sC/70F-ish.

I’ve always been interested in, as opposed to good at, photography. Pauline bought me my first SLR in 1980 – a Ricoh KR10 Super – and I took to it straight away. I documented the early years of our married life and, particularly, trips to Greece. Photography in those days was dominated by film and sending rolls of it off to be processed. I even did some black & white. We had a dark room in school and I entertained fantasies of developing my own negatives. Of course, I am as impractical as my fantasies and I ended up sending them all away to be processed. We had to wait weeks for the prints to be posted back and then only a handful were worth keeping.

Later, school splashed out £750.00/€855.00 on a Canon DSLR for me to upgrade to digital photography that cut out the middle man and we lashed out £3,500.00/€4,000.00 for a colour laser printer to produce quality hard copies. I was never good enough to really justify it but I soon began to realise that one could rescue many images with a little help from Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks which is still my favourite.

I love images. They can say so much. My little brother, Bob, is a gifted photographer although it pains me to admit it. He has the patience and tenacity to find perfect shots. He has been posting them on Twitter and other sites for quite some time in his early stages of retirement. I think many of them are lovely. Look at these:

Aren’t they so delightfully evocative? You wouldn’t think a scientist had that in him. He must get it from me. These are just the sorts of things I would happily have framed and hanging on my wall if they would stand blowing up. He’d probably charge me too much for the privilege so I may have to bootleg them.

Monday, 8th October, 2018

Up at 6.30 am to a cold but gorgeously orange sunrise-lit sky. The sky reminds one of the backlit stage of a pending drama. We are driving up to Surrey this morning to visit Pauline’s sister, Phyllis, who hasn’t been well recently. Before that, I have lots of jobs to get through. Bin day so I have to drag out three wheelie bins – green for recycle, black for landfill and brown for garden waste. Black is every week and the other two bi-weekly. Not a bad service.

We set off for Surrey about 9.30 am and were there for about 10.30 am. I went off to Tesco to have the car cleaned while Pauline talked to her sister. By 12.00 pm we were driving back to Sussex and arrived at a busy Health Club. Two hours of workout and half an hour of jacuzzi/water massage and we drove home for 3.00 pm. Pauline has a hospital check-up and had to follow that up while I prepared our meal – sword fish steaks, griddled mushrooms and tomato salad – which Pauline finished off. Hope the Skiathan‘s news is good. I’m rather reluctant to ask in case it’s not.

Tesco on the right and Brooklands original track on the left.

It is always strange returning to a place that we’ve once lived. Driving around streets without having to think about directions even though I haven’t frequented them for about three years is the weirdest feeling. I can’t even manage that in the place where I currently live. As I drove to Tesco in Byfleet next to the original Brooklands Race Track first built in 1907, I got a twinge of nostalgia …. but nothing more than that. Surrey was not my favourite destination.

Tuesday, 9th October, 2018

A warm and sunny day reaching 20C/68F in the afternoon while we were swimming outside in Indian-summer weather. We are well in to our 3rd year of warranty in our house and had to call for the plumber this morning because one of our bathrooms developed a leak from the shower. We had already had the mastic sealant replaced without a solution. Today, integral, modern, plastic plumbing dictated that a square be cut out of our kitchen ceiling; the problem identified as a plastic pipe joint which had slipped apart; the pipes reconnected and resealed followed by a water test to make sure that the problem was solved.

A ‘snagging square.

The whole process took less than an hour but the square hole in our kitchen ceiling is filled with a white, plastic trap prior to a visit from a plasterer who will do an ‘invisible’ repair and then a visit from a painter to repaint the ceiling. All of this is called ‘snagging’ and just this one problem will have entailed 4 separate tradesmen calling and working on 6 separate occasions. Plumbers have now done 3 visits. The mastic sealant specialist has visited. The plaster will do at least one session and the painter will do a visit. One is left wondering how much this all costs and, consequently, how much profit is actually built in to a new-build to insure against these inevitabilities. To give David Wilson Homes their due, there is no prevarication. We report a problem and they arrange for a specialist to sort it out and that will continue until 2021.

Wednesday, 10th October, 2018

Kwikfit Worthing

A glorious day – Summer revisited – which was cloudless blue sky and sunshine. By 8.30 am, the temperature was 18C/65F and 22C/70F this afternoon around the pool. We were up early because we found a nail/tack embedded in the tread of one of our tyres. There was no deflation. Our warning system would have flagged that up but it needed to be checked out. We went out to Kwikfit in Worthing at 8.30 am.

The tyre was checked and the ‘tack’ removed, all pressures checked and we were on our way. It took about 40 mins in all. They had a comfortable seating area with good wi-fi. Lovely people who provided a good service. We were on our way by 10.30 am and watching PMQs before going out to the gym. After 70 mins in the gym, the outdoor pool felt like high summer. Home for 4.00 pm, we cooked Whitebait outside in the garden. It’s been a lovely day – the sunniest and warmest in October for many years – until next year.

Thursday, 11th October, 2018

Another lovely, warm and sunny morning. We went out early to every supermarket in the area to do our weekly shop. Yesterday, it was my rear, nearside tyre that needed attention. Today, it is my left foot that needs some work – from my wife not Kwikfit.. All the pounding on the treadmill in the gym has led to my flesh on the base of my foot splitting quite painfully. Because of that, I’ve decided to give exercise a rest and pursue more sedentary activities for one day.

I spent the afternoon looking at on-line savings accounts to move money to from investments that have matured and lost their bonuses. I’ve also been contacting the owners of the villa in Tenerife that we will be travelling to in three weeks. Before that, we are visiting friends in Huddersfield, Yorkshire and Oldham, Lancashire for a fleeting visit next week and we have been arranging dates and times for that. Because of slightly optimistic noises coming out of Brexit negotiations over the past few days, the Pound has risen and I have been buying £3000,00 of Euros at €1.14 = £1.00. Says a lot for the state of UK/EU relations that I should consider that exchange rate acceptable.

South Western Tenerife Coast

We haven’t used our central heating since last April and I’ve been in shorts since June. I’m hoping that spending the month of November in southern Tenerife will allow me to extend that until December. The temperature for the next two weeks in south Tenerife is forecast by the BBC to be around 27C/81F every day. That will do nicely as Halloweeen (What’s that all about?) and Bonfire Night come and go. Home for that unusually tropical, 2018 December. Maybe!

Friday, 12th October, 2018

It seems more than 8 years ago.

Warm day – unusually warm – reaching 22C/70F at peak. We’ve done a full gym session and swim in the warm outdoors. We feel as if we are swimming in the Mediterranean. Soon, we will be in Tenerife and a month in that climate will be really enjoyable. Today, I’ve been finalising our arrangements for arrival at our rented villa in La Quinta, South Western Tenerife. We will spend a night at a Gatwick hotel and then fly on November 1st. We return on November 30th. If we like the property, we may book another month in the early new year. February in the sunshine would be rather nice.

Rose Hill Bistro

Before that, we’ve got an incredibly busy few days in Yorkshire reconnecting with old friends. We are visiting old, school colleagues/friends who we left behind 10 years ago. Even the building is gone now. We are visiting Pauline’s Mum’s crematorium spot, as part of an entire day in Lancashire – the Oldham/Royton area. We are visiting our lovely next door neighbours in Huddersfield who we left 8 years ago as well as our lovely school friends who we spent a lifetime with.

Our friend, Margaret, who used to work for Pauline, always comes up with interesting new venues to meet. This year, she has chosen Lunch at Rose Hill Bistro in Birkby. We know the area well but the establishment is new and very interesting. We are looking forward to it. Let’s hope the weather is good!

Saturday, 13th October, 2018

As predicted, it has been the warmest recorded October day in history of our area. We reached 25C/77F and it is still 23C/74F at 7.00 pm. Our gym routine was followed by a 30 mins swim outside in lovely sunshine. It has been the perfect time for re-seeding the lawn. Warm and dry to prepare the soil followed by lots of rain and then very warm dry weather for germination. Soon, we will have a few hours of rain before warm, dry weather returns.

We drove up to Surrey a week ago and noticed immediately how advanced the Autumn was ahead of us. Even now, the trees and hedgerows are still clinging to Summer’s bloom although Parthenocissus aka Virginia Creeper aka Boston Ivy is really showing its age. Autumn is a very comfortable season down here and there is little sign of nature’s distress. In the North, I once remember our Lancashire Pennine school being closed just before Half Term because of heavy snow. I will be happy if I never see snow or frost again. I doubt we will see it in Tenerife.