Sunday, 11th November, 2018
It was 49 years ago last month that I left home. It was a comfortable, middle class home in a small and comfortable, East Midlands village. Repton felt claustrophobic, narrow and suffocating and I was delighted to escape although I was naive, very innocent and unprepared for the real, often cold world I found myself in. Soon, a sense of being out of my depth in an alien environment felt appropriate and right. I wasn’t trying to recreate the cosy, family life I had left and I seldom returned to over the next 40 years or so.
I wanted to go to Newcastle University to read English Lit. but I couldn’t bring myself to work hard enough at my Grammar School where A Level preparation definitely didn’t suit my learning style. I was good at and hard working in Rugby and Contract Bridge. Instead, I went to Ripon College in North Yorkshire to train as a teacher which is what I had considered from early, teenage years. Although I harboured a real sense of failure over those three years, I loved being there. The work was undemanding – easy, actually – and it gave me the space I hadn’t had at home to learn what sort of person I was going to be rather than what my Mother wanted me to be.
I learnt how to get on with people and, particularly, girls who I knew virtually nothing about having attended an all-boys school. I failed spectacularly many times but learned how to cope with failure. I had some real successes and understood the joy my talents could bring me. I grew up. While teaching full time, I had completed an English Lit. B.A. through the Open University and went on to complete a M.A. History of Ideas research degree at Huddersfield University soon after. I’ve always done things the hard way as my Primary School teacher told me when I was 7 years old.
It was when I got married in 1978 that I last saw friends from college. I don’t know why but I’ve always just moved on with my life and not had much inclination to go back. Just as I rarely went back to my family home, so I’ve just been back for a few minutes to show my wife where I was at college. That college was an all female, Church of England training college. I was a male, (nominally) Roman Catholic. It was a time when English and Maths teachers were in desperately short supply and the college were instructed to grab men off the streets. I was one of just 20 men within a college of 650 young women. It was a culture shock but not one I rejected.
Each year, some of the men meet in Ripon to remember their experiences. It is always on the second Saturday of November. I am usually abroad as I am now. These photos were taken last Saturday at the event in Leeds. I am rather shocked at the effects of the aging process. It is 45 years since I last saw them but I think I’m the only one who hasn’t aged.
Monday, 12th November, 2018
After another hour’s swim, we did a long walk around the area. We walked over a lot of manholes which Pauline is very wary of. In Athens once and in torrential rain we were walking along the pavement when Pauline suddenly disappeared down a submerged manhole where the cover had been dislodged by the force of water. It could have been the last time I saw her. She could have been badly injured. I managed to react to her shriek and haul her out of a hole. Since then, she has always skipped over manholes. I, on the other hand have caught Jeremy Corbyn disease. You may know that he collects (photographs of) manhole covers. I feature the most common one on the pavements around here. It caught my eye because it mentions BT.
Looking it up, I found that BT were intimately involved in Telephony/Broadband infrastructure for a number of years in the Canary Islands. In our rented villa, the broadband speed is excellent. So many of the villas have huge satellite dishes which are now redundant because UK TV is available over the internet. Here, we have Freeview + Sky Sports + BT Sports all over broadband plus super fast wi-fi. Everything comes through a supplier called Movistar.
Internet and English language TV were stipulations of mine in booking this villa for a month but the quality of both is absolutely excellent. I am able to transport my life seamlessly to this location and continue as if nothing has happened apart from an improvement in weather. Another stipulation was a private pool and this has proved a massive success. Although we paid extra for the pool to be heated, it has allowed us to transport our Health Club routine without a hitch. Over the weekend, we had an electrician arrive to replace a light and today saw the arrival of the pool cleaner/maintenance man and the gardener. We are certainly getting our money’s worth.
Tuesday, 13th November, 2018
Another delightful day. I can hardly believe that we have so many satisfying experiences. Maybe it is just frame of mind. We hardly complete a day without being really satisfied and fulfilled. Up at 7.00 am to lovely, warm sunshine. Juice & tea and then outside for a 30 mins swim. Coffee in the sunshine and reading.
I prepared roast tomatoes with garlic, onion and oregano. This will accompany roast haddock loins for our afternoon meal. Watched the Daily Politics before setting off on a long, coastal walk round the Marina to a supermercado we had found the other day. Hyper Dino Express Golf was neither Hyper, Express nor Golf but who knows if it was Dino. We needed cherry tomatoes and grapes and celery. It took just under an hour to walk there and the same back. When we got ‘home’, we had a cup of tea and then did our second 30 mins swim. We will not rest!
As the afternoon came to an end, clouds rolled in and threatened rain. At 9.00 pm, it is still 22C/70F but who knows what will happen over night.
Wednesday, 14th November, 2018
A lovely day of sunshine, swimming and walking punctuated by engrossing bouts of political reportage. We are pushing ourselves and our muscles are beginning to push back. As we did our morning walk, which followed 30 mins swimming, my calves were tight and painful. We had to really fight on through it. We returned in time to watch PMQs and eat tomato and humous salad and then we were out again for a second walk before returning to do a second 30 mins swim. After all that, we really feel we are due a restful evening. Unfortunately, there is not much on TV so we catch up on correspondence – in this case, emails.
Before that, Pauline had pre-prepared a cold meal of salmon with pesto topping accompanied by cauliflower salad dressed with olive oil and lemon. Absolutely delicious. With it we drank a bottle of chilled Rioja Blanco – Bodega de Abalos – which I know absolutely nothing about other than it costs a staggering price of €3.50/£3.05 for a delightfully light and citrus-edged white wine. All my life, I have drunk and acquired a knowledge-base of mainly red, French and Italian wines. In the early days, I flirted with Greek but not for long. It is really good fun to buy wine and feel out of my comfort zone. There are so many lovely surprises.
Thursday, 15th November, 2018
Up at 7.00 am and swimming by 7.30 am. The pool man was due by 8.30 am and we were going out by 9.00 am.. It was a lovely, warm and sunny morning. We set off for an hour long walk to an area called Chafiras where there is a major and well stocked supermarket. It is not a HiperDino but a MegaDino and it has a wonderful, fresh fish counter plus a large, wine stock.
We bought half a kilo of swordfish (Espada) which cost us €6.05/£5.30, two, huge sea bass (Lubina) weighing one kilo between them and costing €6.03/£5.28, plus two, large white fish fillets of a deep water fish related to the Hake species and called Brótola which cost €6.75/£5.92. We also bought 6 bottles of wine – to get us through the evening – two, huge papayas, four packs of tomatoes and a few, household items and the whole bill came to a total of €64.00/£56.10. Quite unbelievable. The cashier even called a taxi for us to take our shopping home.
Of course, by the time we got home, all hell was let loose in the Commons. Rubbish Raab had resigned earlier, Greasy Gove had been offered but not accepted Raab’s post. May was fighting, largely unsupported by those behind her.Her case seems unwinnable and a People’s Vote much closer. I suspect it is likely to be run in May next year as Brexit is ‘frozen in time’ by the EU. It is not a foregone conclusion but I respect Remain will win.
What really amuses me is the reaction of our fishing industry in UK. They voted overwhelmingly to Leave the EU. They did so because they believed that the Common Fisheries Policy allowed ‘foreign’ fishermen to take a lot of the fish stock from their, home waters. Take Back Control was the mantra but they forgot one thing. Taking back control for themselves meant ceding back controls to the other, European nations. Where do our fishermen sell 80% of their stock – to France & Spain and, of course, their response will be to apply tariffs thus making ‘our’ fish less attractive and border controls will slow down the shipping process which puts a perishable commodity like fish at real risk. This was the stupidity of a binary brexit vote. Even the people deeply involved in the industry are shocked to discover the ramifications of their decision.
Friday, 16th November, 2018
I started the day at 6.00 am like it ended yesterday at midnight – glued to the news. The British government doesn’t implode every day of the week so current developments are fascinating. Greasy Gove is playing it true to his name and hasn’t resigned …. yet. He’s still hoping to get the top job although he would be a nightmare. It was 11.00 am before we surfaced from the TV room and did our first swim of the day.
I have to be honest with you, we didn’t walk today for the first time in over two weeks. We moved just metres between the TV, the pool, the sun beds and the dining table. Actually, we both agreed that it made a lovely change although I did feel guilty all day. Even so, sun is a wonderful, life-affirming commodity and we certainly soaked it in today. Our villa and its pool are south facing and receive sunshine all day long. We did two half hour swims and spent most of the rest lounging on the sun beds. We didn’t waste our time completely. We planned out the Christmas meal and started to work on our travel for 2019. So exhausting!
Saturday, 17th November, 2018
Up just after 7.00 am and looked out on the patio/pool to find hints that it may have rained a little last night. Cutting up and squeezing oranges, making tea, slicing papaya and banana – all the daily breakfast routines – laughed about how well the Canarians organised their weather. Never falls much below 20C/68F or much above 26C/79F and just rains occasionally, lightly and at night.
Drinking our breakfast and downloading copies of The Times digital edition, our attention is suddenly drawn to a roar outside. It soon becomes obvious, we are being deluged by a ‘tropical’ storm. We are relatively new to the Canaries having visited 30 years ago for a week and done 4 months in the past 3 years. Certainly, we have never seen rain like this. We actually have a pool on our pool cover. It is really good fun. If we’d come for a tourist week of sunshine, we would be very upset but having come for a month of living in a different location, this is just great fun.It rained heavily, on and off all morning.
I am writing at 2.00 pm and the sun is out as if nothing had happened. We are going out to do double swimming before our meal which will be roast hake and (my) roasted vine tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, diced onion and oregano. This will be well worth doing a 60 mins swim to earn. After our meal, there is a rugby match to watch. Pauline’s got ‘Come Dancing’ on her agenda and, while she’s otherwise engaged, I am writing to my MP again to demand he supports a People’s Vote. The support for Remain around West Sussex in general and our village in particular is palpable.