Week 523

Sunday, 30th December, 2018

40 years ago today, everything was ready apart from the weather and the council workers. For weeks, Pauline had been preparing and freezing food. Some had to be left until the day before. A groaning table of roast meat joints – ham, beef, pork, etc. Home made bread and relishes. Home made sweets – trifles, cakes, etc. It was going to be a ‘homemade’ wedding for a home-loving couple. The taxis were booked for the Registry Office and the Church was booked for the ‘Blessing’ which was only arranged to satisfy my Mother. We were being married at Huddersfield Registry Office. The ‘Blessing’ was at Meltham Mills Church in West Yorkshire, 100 yds up the road from where we lived. The reception was in our small, coaching house in Meltham Mills.

Our families were coming from across the Pennines from Lancashire and up from Derbyshire plus many from West Yorkshire. My Best Man, Kevin and his wife, Christine were coming from Leeds. As the day opened, we knew there could be a problem. Heavy snow had fallen over night. Not unusual in this Pennine region but it was combined with strike action by the road clearers in our area. Pauline’s Mum phoned and tearfully explained that they would try but they didn’t think they could get across the Pennines.

Of course, everyone got there. The day was wonderful. I absolutely loved it. Pauline looked radiant and adorable and we collapsed at the end of the day, exhausted. I remember, I got up in the middle of my wedding night to finish the trifle which tells you all you need to know about me.

The ensuing years have been packed with incident including a life-changing car accident but we both look back across the time with enjoyment and a tinge of emotion. We are so grateful for the time we’ve had together and are both hungry for many more years to come. Next job is to plan out 2019!

Monday, 31st December, 2018

Although we don’t stand on ceremony or overdo the marking of anniversaries, yesterday did feel quite an emotionally charged event as we reviewed photographs of our Wedding Day 40 years into the distant past. I have no hesitation in saying that it was the best day of my life either before or after. It is one I hope I will never forget. I hadn’t realised but Pauline has been concerned about the degradation of our wedding photographs over this period of time. They were largely taken by my Brother-in-Law, Kevan, and very grateful we were too. Our wedding was done in a homely fashion and on a bit of a shoe string budget although it was no less magical for that. Yesterday I spent a few hours digitising the album and ‘recovering many from the ‘sepia fade’ of time. In doing so, it evoked so many memories.

The improvement is quite shocking and so shocking that I’ve now been charged with doing the same to about 2000 other photographs accumulated over the past 40 years. It is another life sentence but one which I am happy to serve.

Happy Anniversary Meal at Home

Our Anniversary meal was home made just as our Wedding meal was. We ate it alone and reminisced as we did. It was absolutely wonderful from the Starter of Scallops Meuniere to the Main Course Langoustines in Garlic Butter & Tomato & Broccoli Salads to the Sweet of Raspberry Pavlova. The meal was accompanied by what many would consider a wholly inappropriate wine – a Rioja Grand Reserva 2012 – but it was wonderful not least because it was a present from our dear, West Yorkshire friend, Margaret. Cheers everyone.

We are looking forward to 2019 and to another 40 years of marriage. If we make it, we will be 107 but why not? This afternoon, we are off to the Health Club for the start of the rest of our lives. In the meantime, I am continuing to firm up travel plans for the next 12 months. See you in the New Year.

Tuesday, 1st January, 2019

A cool, grey start to the day. We didn’t get to bed until 1.30 am after a bottle of champagne and nibbles. We were up late. It was nearly 8.00 am before we rose to the uninspiring sky. After orange juice, tea and coffee, we drove out to East Preston by the sea followed by Rustington and Broadmark Beach. The temperature had reached 11C/52F but the light had that grey, watery quality so reminiscent of this time of year.

Shades of Grey
All at Sea

The beach here is steeply sloping pebble/shell down to a sandy fringe. The light was struggling to break through the moody clouds. Except for a couple of dog walkers and their dogs, we had the place to ourselves. Even the seagulls had deserted the shoreline. It certainly wasn’t warm and we didn’t stay long but, as usual and under protest, I forced Pauline to pose for a photograph.

We drove home to have a cup of coffee and get on with the work of the new year. Pauline had ironing to do and I had football to watch. Of course, because I like to push myself, I did some newspaper reading at the same time.

Of course the new year has led to us making some resolutions. We are going to try a few months – maybe 4 or 5 – without alcohol and to reduce our calorie intake. We are going to increase our physical activity a bit to do about 100 mins per day for 6 days a week. We are going to complete a list of small ‘snags’ around the house which don’t warrant getting the builders back for. These are slight fill and paint touch-up where final resettlement has left a small gap, for example,  under the skirting board or at an internal door surround. We are going to do about 3 months travelling getting to Malta, France, Spain, Greece, Canaries plus West Yorkshire, London and Dorset. 

Wedesday, 2nd January, 2019

I have an addictive personality. I have written about this before. I can get addicted to anything. The trick is to avoid addiction to things which are bad for me and get hooked on things which are good for me. I got addicted to cigarettes in my youth and didn’t manage to shake it off until October 14th, 1985 at 9.00 pm. – some 15 years later. In the last ten years, I have become addicted to exercise – something I have rediscovered from my youth. In the past three or four years, I have broken my addiction for meat. My wife will tell you that, for most of our married life, I didn’t consider we had eaten a meal unless a roasted animal had featured at the centre of it. I also didn’t eat such a meal without a bottle of red wine to accompany it.

Gravadlax

My addiction, actually, is not true ‘addiction’ in the substantive meaning of the word. Maybe, the smoking was but, otherwise, it is the ‘habit’ which catches me. I get ‘addicted’ to the processes in my life. It is what makes me such an annoyingly strange personality. You probably do some of this yourself. I bet you and your partner sleep on specific sides of the bed and have done the same throughout your married lives. I bet that seating arrangements at your family meal table are long adhered to. You sit in the same place day after day. I, however, take it to another level. At the Health Club, I like to use the same jogging machine (There are about 40.), the same cycle (There are about 60.) the same shower (There are about 20.), etc. I always put my swimming shorts through the ‘spinner’ to dry twice each lasting 10 seconds.  I know these ‘addiction’ are weird but fairly harmless. 

Home Fish Smoker

Of course, being addicted to red wine with my meal leads to charges of alcoholism. I am not blind to that and I have questioned myself. I don’t believe it is the ‘chemical’ of wine to which I am addicted but the expectation I have as I approach a meal. It is all in my head and not my belly. It is breaking the routine which I find hard. Cigarettes were my social prop as a young man and it was that I found hardest to kick. I don’t intend to give up alcohol but to assert my self discipline and not drink any for a few months. What I can’t give up is my addiction to fish in general and salmon in particular. I love roast salmon and eat it at least twice a week. I love smoked salmon and eat it regularly but is is so expensive for such a small amount that I resent buying it.

I am going to have another attempt to produce my own at home. I am going to start with Gravadlax which is not smoked but salt-cured salmon. We have tried it once before many years ago but didn’t really have time to take the process seriously enough. In retirement, we’ve time for anything and everything we like. Cured fish is probably healthier than smoked anyway but, if this fails, I will buy a home-smoking kit like the one above.

Thursday, 3rd January, 2019

A cold night but, living on the coastal fringe, we escaped any frost. It was only 2C/36F at 7.00 am and didn’t get above 9C/48F all day. We had a fairly standard day planned out with a trip to the Health Club later in the morning. However, events intervened. I won’t go into details at the moment but, suffice it to say, we had to cancel our trip and rearrange a host of future arrangements as well. Ultimately, we did one hell of a lot of shopping. Nothing new there.

Sander for a Sanders

We went out to M&S by Worthing Pier to collect some of Pauline’s order of clothes. The store was remarkably busy although I did notice that the longest queue was at the Returns desk. We went on to Tesco to do the weekly shop and then Screwfix to pick up a flatbed sander I had purchased. Don’t ask why but it will probably decorate the garage shelves for most of its life. I’ve bought it for one specific job so I went cheap. £55.00/€61.00 for the sander and sandpaper belts.

Blind Gadgets Coming! 

The dining area of our kitchen is south facing and can get very bright and hot. The leather dining chairs are in danger of premature fading. We have venetian blinds throughout the house but have decided to install added protection on these 7, floor to ceiling, glass panels. We have asked the blind man to call with a view to having electrically operated, automatic blinds which we can control over the internet via our smart phones and iPads. The motor will be programmable. Individual blinds can be opened/closed/partially/fully many times a day and the power will be supplemented by a small, solar panel. Don’t you just love gadgets?

Friday, 4th January, 2019

Went out early on a cold morning which started at 1C/34F but had doubled to 2C/36F by the time I arrived at the Municipal Waste Tip, in my shorts and tee-shirt, to drop off my old pressure washer. New Year and out with old; in with the new.

Actually, it’s a lovely, sunny morning. No gym again today because I am going for my annual eye test. It takes about two hours and involves two lots of very strong drops which means Pauline has to drive. The clinic is down near Littlehampton Beach and, after a couple of hours of strong eyedrops to expand my pupils for the camera, this is what the beach looks like:

Blur on the Beach

The light is intensely painful on my eyeballs and I have to be led by the hand to the car. The most annoying thing is that I can’t read or write for another hour or so but it is all necessary. I only have the sight of one eye and have had since birth so I need to be extremely careful of the other one. Although I no longer need medication for Type 2, I am still considered that by the NHS and provided with all the services to keep me in check. I am extremely grateful for all of them.

Saturday, 5th January, 2019

Another chilly day but without frost or snow unlike Greece where snow has fallen today. Haircut day for me – in the kitchen. Feels great when it’s done. I love post and as soon as it comes through the box, I run to get it. Pauline allows me to open all post addressed to her as well as my own. Today, we received a Christmas card featuring heavy snow – the first we’ve seen for a few years. It was from cousin, Sue, in the Dordogne although she drove to the Algarve for New Year and looks very happy there.

I bought our current car by using CARWOW – an online, new car broker. It just rebalances the power structure between Dealer and customer. So often, over the years, we have gone to buy a new car and felt almost like supplicant wanting a high trade in price to match low, new car price. For many years, we traded in and bought new every year. We used the same, Honda dealer who had also serviced the car and the price difference between old and new was marginal. I became addicted to the smell and feel of new cars. 

The new hybrid CRV

Since retiring, we have kept the car longer although we’ve never had to have an MOT. The current car is 2.5 years old and has done just under 20,000 miles/32,000 kms. There is a new, hybrid model coming out and, today, I received an email to inform me that it had arrived. On CARWOW, I have already received 2 offers from dealerships which would save me £2000.00/€2233.00 or 5% on RRP. I think I can do better than that because we know that the market is currently quite depressed. That is the power of this method of purchasing. I just have to play a waiting game for better offers to roll in. I can decide how long I’m prepared to wait. (Not long!)

Week 522

Sunday, 23rd December, 2018

A very wet and grey morning. All my political programmes have finished for the festive period – just one of the reasons why I hate Christmas. There are many others. However, one benefit is hearing from people from my past who get in touch at this time. So many lives that touch in crossing and move on. Yesterday, I also heard from my fairly reclusive brother, Mike, for the first time for a couple of years. That was nice.

Pauline is preparing things for the ‘family’ Christmas meal. I’m contemplating my navel (when I can find it) and wondering why the hair on my chest, etc., is going snowy white but the hair on my head is not. I’ve always had a strange body but that is unfathomable. Perhaps I’ll have to look around the changing rooms at the Health Club this afternoon to see if I am ‘normal’. I won’t hold my breath. I’m a bit shocked to find that the Health Club will be closed on Christmas Day. They’re giving the staff a day off! What am I paying my fee for? What is the world coming to?

As we left the Health Club this afternoon, the temperature had reached 13C/56F although still fairly grey. We felt good after our 6th day of exercise out of the past 7 and drove home to a meal of smoked salmon and prawns with salad. It was wonderful and I ate too much. Have to work harder at the Health Club tomorrow.

Monday, 24th December, 2018

Tsunami Christmas 2004

Time is a strange thing and it plays havoc with the human mind. On Saturday, a tsunami engendered by the eruption of volcano Krakatoa hit the Indonesian islands of Java & Sumatra. People around who heard the news, remarked that it was even more shocking happening in Christmas week. Although I don’t really think that, I understand the sentiment. It really can’t make drowning in a tsunami any worse if it coincides with others, elsewhere, celebrating. However, media reports included a reminder of a previous tsunami which devastated Sumatra at just this time of year. What was really shocking for me was that it occurred 14 years ago. I remember it well.

Tsunami Christmas 2018

Setting aside both of those tragic events for one moment, let’s concentrate on me! 14 years ago, I was only 53! As far as I knew at the time, I had another 7 years to go until retirement. Our Greek home was not quite completed. I would not be diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic nor suffering from Atrial Fibrillation for another 5 years. Our Mums were still alive. We would move house 3 times. I would lose 10st. in weight and start to get fit again. We would buy 5 new cars, visit 7 different countries and I would start this Blog.

14 years ago! I can see it like it was yesterday. I remember sitting in Pauline’s family’s lounge trying to avoid the jollity of Christmas, reading a book about political philosophy on my iPad and glancing at a television report about the devastating effects of the tsunami. People affected were starving and homeless at just the time we were filling our faces with food and drink.

How can so much happen in 14 years? What it does teach one is the difficulty of projecting forward 14 years and predicting what will have happened. The one thing we can be certain of is that we will both be 81 if we survive. Now that is seriously scary. And just think of 14 more Christmases to get through!

Tuesday, 25th December, 2018

I was brought up in a Roman Catholic household. I objected, made it clear that I didn’t believe but it was insisted that, unless I complied and genuflected, there was no future for me. I hated it but acquiesced. From the day I left home in October 1969, I rejected the nonsense of organised religion and became a fierce opponent of it. Long before I left home, I was convinced that the Roman Catholic Church was a weird and sinister organisation but it wasn’t until later in life that the edifice truly become crumbling down. The scandal of Paedophile priests and the Magdelane Laundries are just the tip of a shady and selfish organisation more caring for its self than its followers.

My Mother fervently believed that it was her, God-given mission to bring up her children as practising Catholics. She even enlisted nuns to cajole my brother and I to attend a Seminary in an attempt to encourage us to train as priests. All 7 of her children rejected this and it was predictable. Nobody with a brain gets bullied in to believing anything. In fact, if you are pushed one way, the natural reaction is to go the opposite. And so it was.

How much of my early life was wasted in the meaningless symbolism of a failed belief system? The Sunday morning masses? The nightly prayers? The barmy rituals of Fish on Fridays, Fasting for Lent, daubing burnt palm leaves on the forehead for Ash Wednesday, manufactured sins to be ‘confessed’ on Sunday, etc.. Remembering makes me shudder and that is not how one should recall one’s childhood. I remember reading James Joyce’s A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man in my teen years and being hit between the eyes with such an epiphany of understanding. I was not alone! Stephen Daedalus, aka young James Joyce, was rejecting the Catholicism of his Mother and his Country. He was rejecting the narrow and cramping beliefs of Southern Ireland. On his Mother’s deathbed, she begs him to reaffirm her beliefs and he repeats the refrain of Lucifer, Non Serviam. I swore there and then to make those my watchwords.

These plaster figures must be at least 80 and, maybe, 90 years old.

Christmas was a ritual in itself. An Advent calendar and the setting out of the Crib were pre-requisites. The crib, which Mum had brought from her own childhood, was laid out in the Lounge or ‘Front Room’ as it was known. The Front Room was somewhere that children were not allowed apart from highly controlled, special occasions. Otherwise, it was Mum & Dad’s private space. They had their own ‘Parker-Knoll’ arm chairs, a polished beech wood radiogram sitting on a polished walnut, splay-legged ‘occasional’ table and an inglenook fireplace now housing the latest, coke-fired stove. Bookshelves with copies of Art History books, religious-based fiction and reference books stood against the wall. Christmas Eve was always marked with the festival of Carols from Kings College, Cambridge and Christmas morning began with an early walk up to Mass before walking home for breakfast and presents.

My sister, Skinny Liz, tweeted today a picture of the crib that had come from Mum’s childhood to our childhood in our family home. Obviously, Liz had snatched it like some ‘ruin-bibber’ (Philip Larkin’s description) of her past. It works. I was quite shocked how much those paltry, plaster figures evoked emotion in me. I found myself weeping for a lost time I once longed to leave and now can never retrieve. At least Catholicism, organised religion in general, is all but beaten in the developed world. I will not live to see its total abolition but feel confident of its complete eradication – like polio and malaria ultimately.

Wednesday, 26th December, 2018

Our 67th Christmas has passed. Actually, we quite enjoyed yesterday. We were up at 6.00am, tea and juice and then packing the car with food for 9 people. Drove to Surrey taking about one hour on surprisingly busy roads for 7.00 on Christmas morning. Pleasant, warm day. Well, actually, we left Sussex in 8C/46F and drove to 0C/32F in Surrey. Pauline & I quickly began to prepare the turkey and the day began.

We all exchanged presents. The children are children no more. They are young men and have all grown bigger than me. I used to beat them all up. Now they all bully me. I still try but come off worse. They went out to play tennis at the Nuffield Health Club while we completed the cooking. At 3.00 pm, we sat down to a meal of:

Starter – Anti Pasti

Prosciutto, Bresaola, Parma Ham, Pancetta, Mortadella, Salami, Smoked Salmon, Olives, Artichokes, Baby Peppers stuffed with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with Humous. All accompanied by Rocket Salad and home made Chive and Parmesan bread. Might have slightly overdone it because everyone needed quite a rest before the main course.

Main Course

Turkey with Sage & Onion Stuffing plus Sausage Forcemeat Stuffing. This was accompanied by King Edward Potatoes roasted in Goose Fat, Roasted Carrots , French Beans with Garlic, Baby Sprouts with Bacon & Chestnuts plus Gravy and Cranberry Sauce.

Sweet

Pauline’s Christmas Pudding with Double Cream Custard  and/or Lemon Meringue Pie plus whipped cream.

Pauline’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Anyone who was hungry after that must have hollow legs. Even though I didn’t feel that I ate so much, I felt ‘stuffed’ for the rest of the day. By 7.30 pm, we were just leaving the Dining table and thinking about packing up the car. The drive back was reasonably quiet and we were home for 9.00 pm. We live in quiet, anti-social isolation and spending a day with other ‘people’ is extremely tiring. We had an early night. Only 12 months until our 68th Christmas.

This morning, we didn’t get up until 8.00 am. We spent the morning festively re-organising the garage and then went to the Health Club to work yesterday off. Our meal today was leftovers from yesterday’s starter. Never let me look at food again!

Thursday, 27th December, 2018

Supermarkets after Christmas are great places for bargains. Today in Tesco we bought two, huge salmons for £13.00/€14.50 each. I bought two, large packs of smoked salmon for reduced price. I then went to collect another Christmas present – a pressure washer from Halfords. What more could a man want?

I’ve had umpteen pressure washers over my adult life and I always mistreat them and find myself replacing them fairly quickly. The most recent one was bought 3 years ago as we moved in here but the pressure hose has almost burst and needs replacing. Halfords have a reasonable one for £160.00/€180.00 so I bought it. Now, of course, I’ve got to clean the car. I wonder how many times I could have had it cleaned by somebody else and still have saved money. Still, the exercise does me good.

The Health Club was quite busy today as people worked off their Christmas food. As regulars, we soon get to know regulars. Today, there weren’t many people we recognised. The turn of the year is always the time when reluctants come out on a mission. It doesn’t last long for many. We look forward to them all going back to work and education and leaving the facilities to the old wrinklies.

Friday, 28th December, 2018

Well, I opened the box of my new, Karcher pressure washer this morning. Taking 25 pieces of plastic and metal out of the plastic wrapping, I thought I had better read the instruction booklet. I couldn’t. There were some incredibly badly drawn diagrams and some unintelligible text in Arabic.

IQ test for this morning.

Three cups of coffee later, my wife had constructed it. I, proudly, took it out to the garage. Exhausted, I decided to try it out tomorrow. Today, I went on line, with my fourth cup of coffee at my side, to register my new product with Karcher and to set up the 3yr warranty.

That done, I set the pressure cooker up in the garden to produce stock from the turkey carcass and to drive the local cats mad. It will all be done by the time we go to the Health Club.

The gym was full of people working Christmas off. Adverts suggest new members might like a cheap. three month starter membership to attack their resolutions. The club, of course, hopes they will stay and pay their £1200.00/€1335.00 per year on an annual basis. In our experience, it increases every January without fail. Once you’re hooked, you swallow the increase and move forward. For many, however, the first throes of ambition fade and April sees a quieter period. Our membership is off-peak because we don’t need the busy time of post-work. Even so, it still costs us £2000.00/€2230.00 per year for a couple.

Friday, 28th December, 2018

A grey and uninviting morning. Having done 10 of the past 14 days at the Health Club, we decided to take the weekend off. We have a special celebration on Sunday which we will mark by going for a walk by the seaside early in the morning. Today, I celebrated early by valeting the car including using my new pressure washer. What fun!

Pauline had the pressure cooker up in the garden to produce more stock from the turkey carcass. It’s getting to the point where we haven’t enough storage space in our freezers for all this stuff. This evening, I watched Liverpool thrash Arsenal and boost their hopes of winning the Championship for the first time in 27 years. That would be good to see.

This time, 40 years ago at 11.30 pm., I was polishing Pauline’s tan boots ready for her big day tomorrow. ….

Week 521

Sunday, 16th December, 2018

The journey towards December, 2028 begins with a beautiful morning – bright, sunny and sharp. I hope I can describe myself in that way in ten years time. Phlebas the Phoenician featured in Eliot’s The Wasteland. In the section, Death by Water:

He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool

This started as The Hellas Blog and has transmogrified into a Sanders Retirement Blog. Although I should have predicted it, the change has completely surprised me. It is different rather than disappointing and outward looking rather than confining.

Interestingly, this morning the Sifnos site featured a grey, cold and misty Kamares harbour with our, former house nestled into the hillside. We wonder how the new owners are enjoying it and wish them well.

Monday, 17th December, 2018

A gorgeous morning of blue skies and sunshine. Spent it doing some financial work including a couple of niggling things which one should not have to address. The villa we rented in Tenerife took an ‘accidental damage’ deposit. We’ve been back more than two weeks now and it hasn’t been repaid so I’m following that up. Pauline buys books for her Kindle on my Amazon account. Actually, like so many she buys electronically, it was a ‘free’ book. Cunningly, they charged her for an audio book. I had to do an on-line chat with them to get it refunded. That was no problem but it will take up to 7 working days to appear in your account. Think of all the interest they will generate on my £3.99/€4.44 in those 7 days!

The other thing I am doing this morning is exploring a trip that we are now considering in June to Malta & Gozo to visit one of Pauline’s oldest friends from school days who has retired to live on Gozo. It is a nice, warm month and we will hope to have a pleasant week or so. Easyjet prices are incredibly cheap for flights in June. Return tickets cost around £100.00/€111.30 per person in mid-June.

St Paul’s Bay, Malta

So many lovely things to look forward in the new year as long as we survive Christmas. As determined forward planners, we will spend the next couple of weeks making more firm plans and looking to book as early as possible.

Tuesday, 18th December, 2018

Glorious opening sky at 6.30 am soon gave way to grey and wet morning. We love this time at the Health Club. Everybody is so tired and looking forward to a holiday from work, holiday celebrations and many other things other than exercise. The Club is very quiet and left to the maniacs like us. We know that the new year and resolutions will bring a surge of new members and that will last until around March when the 3 month trial ends. Then it is left to the committed until the next surge.

New Honda CRV Hybrid

Pauline & I don’t give each other Birthday or Christmas presents. Every day is a birthday and Christmas rolled into one. Apart from lots of travel to be booked, we are also looking forward to the new, improved model of our car. The Honda CRV Hybrid will combine petrol and electric seamlessly. The combustion engine charges up the battery. At slower speeds, it automatically selects the battery drive and then combines with the petrol engine in acceleration and, finally, uses just the petrol at cruising speeds. It never has to be plugged in and charged because it is self-charging but delivers considerable improvements on fuel efficiency.

I love gadgets and the new car will be loaded with them including:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Keeping Assist System
  • intelligent – Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Intelligent Speed Limiter
  • Traffic Sign Recognition
  • intelligent Multi Info Heads up Display
  • Blind Spot Information incl. Cross Traffic Monitor
  • Infotainment System with full internet access

There are just two problems. We will have to find around £40,000.00/€44,500.00 and it won’t be available for around three months. Must start saving!

Wednesday, 19th December, 2018

Horrible, wet and grey start to the day although it has brightened up with some sunshine by mid day. Not a day for outside jobs so I’ve been looking at things to upgrade our office.

Almost 20 years ago, I bought a early, colour, laser printer which was as big as a washing machine and cost £3,500.00 / €3,900.00. It was incredibly slow in bringing the first page out and not much quicker in printing subsequent copies. The quality was good but not brilliant and the cost per copy meant I had to ration my usage of it.

In our home office nowadays we have two laser printers – one mono and one colour. They are connected by manual switch to our two PCs. We don’t conduct print runs on an industrial scale and the, relatively cheap, toner cartridges last a long time.

Today, I had cause to replace one of the cartridges which had cost me about £60.00/€67.00. Thinking about it, we’ve had these printers for over 5 years. When the toner runs out, I think I will replace the two printers with one, wireless Colour laser which not only negates the need for manual switching but also allows ‘airdrop’ printing from our iPads and smartphones. I did a quick, on-line check and the cost of a perfectly good quality, reasonably fast, Brother laser will be under £200.00/€222.00. It will certainly improve the speed and effectiveness of our activities and make a bit of extra space in the office.

Thursday, 20th December, 2018

Fresh Salmon – What a Feast!

A lovely, sunny day but not warm at only 9C/48F. Actually, we got to 13C/55F this afternoon. We have decided to do as much of the shopping for Christmas Day meals as we can today and very early tomorrow. Storage is one of the problems. We have a fridge-freezer in the kitchen and a chest freezer in the garage but still we are struggling to fit things in. We have a wine fridge which may have to be used for other things for a few days. Sorry about such parochial matters but some days life is like that. I’m sure I’ll get back to contemplating the meaning of life soon. Today, however, Sainsbury, Asda, Waitrose and Tesco call. After all, Christmas is a religious festival and where better to worship?

You can’t beat Smoked Salmon!

Even the Health Club is serving festive meals, putting on parties for members and generally trying to be all things to all women. I have no interest. I just go to exercise and come home. Actually, the past 3 days have been remarkably quiet. I do like that. I wish it could be Christmas every day-ay. I say this not least because of the special offers the supermarkets put on at this time of year. Whole, fresh salmon at almost half price. We bought two this morning. Another of my favourites – smoked salmon – is often sold off shortly after Christmas Day at a hugely reduced price and I cash in again. I like lots of different fish but really can’t beat salmon.

Had Christmas newsletters from lots of my friends and ex-colleagues over the past couple of weeks. One today informed me of five former colleagues who have died in the past few weeks. I always remember acknowledging the fact that so many teachers in my early days in the teaching profession seemed to retire one year and die soon after. In some respects, they were representative of their generation. The State Pension was never designed to be paid for 20 or 30 years. On average, 5 years was about the survival rate after retirement at 65. As I went on in my career, early retirement became much more the fashion with staff leaving aged 55. Actually, it is that group who are dying off after 25+years of retirement. Coming to the end of our first decade of retirement, we feel very fortunate for what we have had but hungry for so much more.

Friday, 21st December, 2018

Today is the shortest day. The winter or hibernal solstice marks official start of winter. It certainly doesn’t really feel as if we’ve experienced any winter at all so far. This morning, we’ve woken to 12C/54F at 6.00 am although the light outside is dull. Final Christmas purchases this morning before the trouble starts so we were out by 7.30 am. Perishables like double cream which we don’t want or have no room to freeze having been purchased, we drove home through still quiet streets. Actually, it looks as if most people have gone to work today.

The schools finished on Wednesday and I had assumed that workers might be off today. Just shows how out of touch I am with the work place. It does suggest that the High Streets will be manic on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and that we have been fortunate to be able to do our shopping early.

You can buy this in Argos.

Of course, the British public will all soon be out practising their drone-flying skills and what better place to do it than over wide, open spaces like an airport. It beggars belief that someone with a remote control can shut a major airport down for 24 hrs without being stopped or detected. This beast of a drone with 20mp, HD camera, can be purchased in Argos for just £13,00.00/€1,450.00 and could have something far more sinister – say explosives or Novichok attached to it. Of course Failing Grayling, Transport Minister, has made such a good job of the railways that we probably don’t need to worry but if some, sinister geek can do this on a shoestring without a reasonable response, just imagine what the shattering of the Open Skies Agreement by a hard Brexit will do for our aviation.

Saturday, 222nd December, 2018

Fuschia ‘Janey’ aka Mump

Beautiful morning of sunshine after quite a clear, moonlit night. The temperature is 10C/50F and windless. We may be in mid winter but we were just remarking yesterday that a number of plants which disappeared completely over the past two years have held their leaves and even some flowers right up to this point. We have two, small fuschias called Janey which we bought only because that was Pauline’s Mum’s name although we both, affectionately, called her Mump. Each of the past, two years, they have disappeared entirely. I wrote them off; cleared away the dry stick remains and prepared to buy replacements. The next Spring and quite late on, they reappeared from below the soil’s surface and flowered more strongly. This year, they have stayed around and continued to flower. Even now, although looking rather worse for wear, they are still with us.

Week 520

Sunday, 9th December, 2018

The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dali

The final week of the 10th year of the Blog has given me pause to think and assess where I am. My thoughts were particularly provoked by waking early this morning and listening to a programme on Radio 4 – Something Understood – a regular spot on Sunday at 6.30 am which is basically an extended Thought for the Day. Today, the theme was Living in the Moment with the strapline: If not Now, When? For those of you who have a simple answer to that question, you shouldn’t waste your time ‘now’. This includes a relative of mine who reacts every time I mention planning for the future by singing:

Enjoy yourself, Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think…

At the outset, I must confess to being deeply conflicted on this topic. It is partly driven by my notoriously poor memory and my love of History to my genuine enjoyment of personal planning and preparing for the future. Living in and for the moment is anathema to me. I am the embodiment of seeing life as a rehearsal because I always feel I have failed and want to leave that failure behind so I can move forward and try again.

The American poet, Emily Dickenson said: Forever – is composed of Nows and, of course she is right but that is not how I experience it and have always thought, by association, did most other people. I have always been obsessed with time to many people’s amusement/annoyance. I constantly calibrate my life with a variety of metrics – How many steps I’ve done per day/month/year; how much Electricity/Gas/Water I’ve used this month/year; how much income I’ve received this month/year/decade and how much I’ve spent or put into investments; how many years since I retired or since I last saw someone or since so & so died. The statistics provide a meaning and a context to my life. They are the humdrum continuum of my days.

The poet who speaks most for me is Philip Larkin. I was immediately touched by and learned off by heart his poem, Days and, 50 years on, I can still recite it:

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Like me, Larking acknowledges there is nothing but earthly time and that is calibrated in days but he also recognises it is not as simple as that and the human condition searches for meaning to join up the ‘nows’ or ‘days’. In that search, we are bound to reflect on what has been and consider what might be in the future.  That is one reason why I write my Blog and, as Dali’s picture illustrates, memories decay and slip away through time. The tree is already dead. The pocket watches soften and bend, are flyblown or eaten by ants. Even the cliffs are eroded by the sea. Everything will leave this place but at different rates and in different timescales. It is up to us to fight to keep control of it as long as we can because letting go leads to madness and death.

Have a lovely week. Enjoy yourself. It may be later than you think.

Monday, 10th December, 2018

Up early in the dark. Many of our neighbours are up at this time to commute to London. We were driving down to the Channel Tunnel for a 8.50 train. Although it is reasonably close, the circuitous route we have to drive takes a minimum of 90 mins and in the early rush hour down here took 2hrs. We were there for 7.30 am to be greeted by a glorious sun rise and a very quiet parking area.

Morning Glory at the Tunnel

It was unusual to say the least but we were on to our train and under the sea exactly on time. Driving off from a very quiet train, we went on straight to the wine store. We had pre-ordered £250.00/€278.00 of wine which provided us with ‘free travel’ and then went on to spend another £300.00/€333.00. Fortunately, on a day when the Tory party went even more loopy than usual and the Pound crashed, our order and the day’s prices were already fixed. It would explain why the store was almost deserted this morning.

The Land of Milk & Honey.

Our saving on UK prices was about £500.00/€555.00 plus the £100.00/€111.00 return fee on the Tunnel. With the car packed up, the next stage was driving to Cité Europe for groceries and other things at Carrefour. Duck – legs and breasts were one item, swordfish another. As you can see from my photo, the carpark was almost deserted – in the run up to Christmas.

Brexit Europe – Empty

We drove on to Coquelles and Auchan where we completed our shopping including some Christmas presents. It wasn’t difficult. We have been at this time of year for the past 20 years or so and never had such free run of the shops.

Desperately looking for a parking space.

We were back at the Tunnel and on our train early – 1.50 pm (CET) and off in Folkestone by 1.25 pm (GMT). Even the drive home was quick and quiet. When we got home at around 3.00 pm, we realised where everyone was. They were glued to their television sets watching Theresa Dismay acknowledging her latest failure in the House of Commons and Corbin’s latest failure to bring her down. Should have stayed in France. At least it was quiet there!

Tuesday, 11th December, 2018

A lovely, mild and sunny day which allowed me to cut the lawn for the first time since I reseeded it following the disastrous drought over the summer while we were away. I had bought a huge bag of pelleted grass seed and lots of topsoil and we both worked for a full day preparing and seeding and treading and watering. The weather was reasonably warm in October and the seed germinated well but we went away for the month of November before anything more could be done. Today, we have mowed and striped the lawns and they are looking healthy and well. I can look outside with pleasure once again.

Addicted to the Palace of Varieties.

This afternoon we both have dentist’s appointments. Certainly not my favourite way to fill my time but a necessary policy for insuring diminishing assets. Before that I have been indulging myself with one of my favourite  pastimes  – watching the Parliamentary Debate on the Meaningful Vote. I can’t get enough of it but I know some would still prefer the dentist.

Girona – Spanish Venice?

While watching/listening to the debate in our Office, I researched one of the trips we are proposing to make in the new year. Girona is just over the French border into Spain. It is about 20 miles inland from one of those old, coastal favourites, Lloret de Mar.

Wednesday, 12th December, 2018

Calamity! In the final week of the 10th year of the Blog, I couldn’t access it. Trying to just produced a fatal error message. I have been using 1&1, an American platform provider for the past 10 years. Recently, it was taken over by Ionos, a German internet company and now things are changing.

I must admit, after 10 years of precious records, I do worry about losing the lot. I sometimes think of migrating to the public, WordPress platform but have never plucked up the courage to take the plunge. Today’s blip has made me reconsider it.

I thought I had done something wrong but it turns out that the new, parent company had upgraded the platform with a much updated WordPress Platform and just hadn’t bothered to inform us. I made a phone call and was answered by a young Philipino lady who was actually in the Philippines. I told her that 10 years of records were extremely important to me and, within 5 mins, she had sorted my problem out. She even invited me to the Philippines but I had to decline.

The new platform is very different and, this evening, I am still struggling to get to grips with it. This is one of the joys and frustrations of I.T. development. Learning new skills and fighting to produce results is at the heart of why I do this.

Thusday, 13th December, 2018

A chilly 4C/39F start to the morning with a lovely, clear sky. I went out in a short sleeved shirt and quickly regretted it although I affected not to even notice the temperature. This is about the coldest we have felt it down here. Of course, it is reminiscent of mid-summer in Yorkshire. Drove to Tesco and an eerily quiet carpark. Perhaps everybody’s died in the night. However, even the few people shopping were a few too many. People are so annoying but they are especially annoying at Christmas!

John Gillespie

My first teaching job was in Oldham, Lancashire. I knew nothing about the place when I applied. For example, I didn’t know that it was one of the most deprived areas in the country and that the school I had applied to was served by population in the most deprived place in UK at the time. It was May 1972 when I entered the building housing the Education Authority offices – a dark, red brick, Victorian, satatanic mill if you’d ever seen one which I hadn’t. I was being interviewed by the Director of Education who had attended Repton Public School where Roald Dahl and Jeremy Clarkson were educated and the school’s Headteacher who had been a pupil at Gordonstoun Public School where Prince Charles was educated. If you knew Oldham, this pairing were these least likely introduction to the town one could imagine.

I was a fairly arrogant young man who thought he was an absolute gift to teaching. I still had long, ‘College’ hair of the ’60s style and I had chosen to cover it up with a gingery wig from the Props Department at college in order to pass the suitability test. I have to say that the interview did not seem to be going too well until the Director asked me where I was from. As soon as I told him Repton, the whole mood changed and I knew I had a job. All the Director wanted to discuss was the village shop, the day Len Hutton scored a century on the school pitch and the Fives Courts in the school grounds. All thoughts of Oldham Education, of poverty and deprivation evaporated and I was ‘one of them’.

John Gillespie was a fairly ‘other worldly’ man with the best of intentions to educate children in the high culture he loved. He spent his days largely in thought, singing the classical music that the ensemble he and his wife played in were currently rehearsing. We were pushed in to difficult productions of Brecht and Becket rather than Shakespeare or Shaw as if he were directing his own am.dram. group in the town. Still, his heart was in the right place and he looked well when I saw him about three years ago. Unfortunately, I learned yesterday that he is seriously ill in hospital at the age of 92.

Friday, 14th December, 2018

A really cold feel to the morning. We went out to Waitrose in Worthing and the car was reading 3C/37F and it felt bitter in the breeze. We were shopping for antipasto – Prosciutto Crudo, Milano Salami, Bresaola, Bologna Mortadella, sun dried tomatoes,  baby peppers stuffed with humous, piquante peppers stuffed with mozzarella, green olives stuffed with pimento, Calamata olives – for a special meal. For a period which is quite close to Christmas, shopping was quiet and relaxed. Maybe news this morning of the High Street dying more rapidly than we think is true.

I don’t know if you have this experience but my mobile phone and my Desktop computer open up each day with new, photographic screens. I look forward to seeing what comes up. Today, my desktop gave me this:

I absolutely love Venice and the Grand Canal. It is 25 years since we were there and it is one of the few places that I would love to go back to. Having said that, everything I’ve read suggests that it is more difficult to enjoy today than it was back then. The pressure of tourism is increasingly taking its toll on the city. 

Saturday, 15th December, 2018

The passage of time is amazing, startling, frightening, lots of ings but, not the least, it is humbling. Ten years ago, I was only 57 and still working although I thought that my time in education was coming to an end. I had started to keep a diary so many times before but this was different. It continued beyond the first week. Chronicling my life’s events and emotions seemed a useful thing to do – essentially for me. One of my heroes has been Anthony Wedgewood Benn. He had a lifetime commitment to socialism. He also recorded his life, day by day, in taped recordings that he made every evening before he slept. I don’t pretend to be recording anything as significant although many of my entries have real import for me.

The lines:

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

are from T.S.Eliot’s 1925 poem, The Hollow Men. For me, it describes the ultimate futility of life and the fact that, for most, it ends in failure. In a hedonistic sense, existence is justification enough. Tomorrow, we will turn our face to the next decade. See you back here at the end of 2028.

Week 519

Sunday, 2nd December, 2018

Quite busy after our month away. The mountain of post at the door was something to behold. Most of it, of course, was catalogues and brochures. In a digital age, it is amazing how much these companies must spend on printing and posting. A ‘Next’ catalogue weighed in like a tome of Encyclopaedia Britannica and that’s showing my age. The rest was appointments with medical services to be entered up on our on-line calendar, end of term accounts from investment companies/banks, etc all of which has to be filed appropriately. All of this is my job.

Mixing at its finest!

Pauline had a really easy day. She made three Christmas cakes and two Christmas puddings. The latter were cooked most of the day in the steamer. The former were baked and tested, baked and tested as the timer dinged and they were taken out, checked and put back in in a rhythm that seemed to go on forever. So much cooking went on that our meal today was cold, roast chicken and salad. It was delicious with a glass of dry sherry from a bottle bought to pour poured into the cake mix.

Three Wise Christmas Cakes

Pauline obviously enjoyed getting back to her high-order skill as she selected the best ingredients, combined them with real experience and then suddenly realised that her mixing bowl was not big enough to take materials for three cakes in one go. Her jam kettle which would normally have helped here was left in Greece.

Cue a trip to Sainsburys and a £2.50/€2.82 plastic, washing up bowl which was perfect although the traffic there and back was absolutely manic. I’ll soak my feet in it later. Of course, while all of this was going on, I had to watch three, really top class football matches won by Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Back to the gym for us tomorrow to continue the good fight.

Monday, 3rd December, 2018

A grey day which produced lots of rain and only a little sun. We were out early because one of us was having a mammogram. The next one will be when we are 70! Amusingly, the scanner was parked in Tesco carpark which is somewhere we are quite familiar with. We were there for a 9.00 am appointment although it does seem strange to me that a medical procedure should be scheduled in a supermarket carpark rather than a hospital.

After driving home, we have spent the day getting up to speed on administrative tasks. Pauline has renewed the car insurance after some strong bargaining. She saved at least £10.00/€11.21 on the published update. I was charged with renewing our security software for our digital instruments which are up for renewal in mid-December every year. We use Norton Security and have done for the past 20 year. It has proved reliable, flexible and economical and we have expanded it from one PC in the 1990s to 3 computers, 2 iPads and 2 smartphones today. I managed to find a seller of 10 licenses for £24.95/€28.00. This is so much cheaper than we were paying 20 years ago and provides us with daily updates of the software. As we spend the entire day connected to the internet with all 7 devices, using banks, insurances, making purchases with credit cards and providing addresses and pin numbers, we feel confident that we are protected.

We’ve been home for three days now and are beginning to feel itchy feet. This morning, I booked a short, shopping trip to France. We will leave next week and concentrate on things for Christmas – mainly sparkling wine for us but we will think of others if we can afford it and we’ve got time. Our travel through the tunnel is free courtesy of the Calais Wine Store. I will spend about £500.00/€561.00 on wine but only need to pre-order £250.00/€280.00 in order to have the £70.00/€79.00 ‘free’ return ticket through the Tunnel.

Tuesday, 4th December, 2018

Out early on a clear and low sun morning to Worthing. Driving down the beach road, sunlight scorched the water and backlit the furniture on the horizon – wind turbines, a rig, anchored engineering vessels, etc. We drove to the multi-storey carpark which announced ‘Full’. We drove up to the top floor and parked alongside the only other car up there. The day was laid out in all its glory around this rooftop. Even the seagulls were content.

The purpose of our trip was Christmas related. We haven’t had time to buy Christmas cards or presents. Pauline needed Christmas cake accoutrements and had been sourced on-line and purchased in town. The other thing we had to do was take a suitcase back to Debenhams where we bought it as a set of 4. We bought it almost a year ago and have used it 3 times. As we packed to fly home from Tenerife, we found one of the locks jammed and could not be locked. Today, the store didn’t bat an eyelid and repaid the price straight back on to our card so we can look again at leisure for a replacement.

Having almost bought out a chocolate shop, Pauline spotted a ‘bag’ shop as we walked back to the car. A few minutes later, we were on our way home with two, extra bags in the back of our car. They were a canvas, ‘carry-on’ bag for flying with and which will take her iPad and Kindle plus all the other paraphernalia that we cannot afford to lose en route. It felt like a good day all round.

Wednesday, 5th December, 2018

£12.00/€13.50 for 10 Aegean Seabass fillets

A fairly grey and overcast day in which we have a list of jobs to complete. Having been away for the whole of November, we are now in catch-up mode. However much I don’t like Christmas, I recognise my duty to others who do. Our neighbours have already started decorating their houses with lights. It is not something I would contemplate even under threat of torture but I recognise their right to lose all sense of propriety and stress the National Grid. We have already started to receive Christmas cards and, therefore, have an obligation of civility to reciprocate.

We were out early to go to Rustington. Shopping at Iceland to buy seabass fillets for meals over Christmas. On to Asda to buy sweet sherry for the Christmas cakes. Took the opportunity to sneak a bottle of Manzanilla sherry in to the trolley for myself. I rarely buy it but I love, aridly dry sherry and Manzanilla is the ultimate. Most supermarkets don’t stock it apart from at Christmas so it is a good time to indulge. Rather like your maiden aunt, I only drink it for medicinal purposes although I don’t restrict myself to one, small glass. I like it ice cold with salted nuts. My body shudders with anticipation as I write this.

Putting all thoughts of food and alcohol aside, we have jobs to do at home. First, 60+ Christmas cards to write and 60+ stamps to lick and stick. My job is running the address database and mail merge it with sheets of laser labels. That done, I have to start work on my annual, Christmas newsletter. In spite of my Blog, I am finding it hard to let go of this tradition. It does reach some people who don’t have access to the Blog – some who don’t have a computer or internet. It also just satisfies my personality trait of desire for continuity, determination to remain consistent, determination to maintain my own processes. My one, nod to change is that many will be emailed rather than posted this year.

Thursday, 6th December, 2018

Mainly a day of administration. We did have to do our weekly shop at Sainsburys/Tesco and then complete the Christmas cards and the Newsletters. We also watched quite a bit of the Brexit debate in parliament before facing the evening traffic to take Pauline to hospital for a CT scan.

Our hospital in Worthing manages to look completely calm and under control. The car parks are nearly full but the reception areas are really peaceful and quiet. Walking past X-ray into Scan we were struck by how few patients were around. In fact, the seating area we were directed towards only had one other patient. I was amazed how polite, supportive, welcoming and gentle the staff were with their clientele as their service was accessed – far more understanding than I was as a teacher.

Eventually, Pauline was called 20 mins early for her appointment. Actually, the procedure took a lot longer than either of us had imagined. We arrived at 5.40 pm and didn’t get out until 7.00 pm but that was because of the nature of the procedure rather than pressure of patients. She will hear the results of her scan in around 2 weeks and we await, with trepidation, the pronouncement. We are optimistic but very worried and there is nothing we can do about it.

Friday, 7th December, 2018

A morning of really heavy rain. Outside was not inviting at all. We completed indoor jobs. Finally, the Christmas cards are done. We had already bought 60+ stamps. When Pauline told me, I was absolutely shocked that each one cost £0.56/€0.63. I understand why she chose Second Class. I haven’t bought any, personally,  for at least 40 years just as I never have any money, never use credit cards or anything else in shops. I ask for things and my assistant pays.  I know you will be incredulous at that but it is absolutely true. From the day we got married, I handed all my money and control of it over to Pauline. The only financial transactions I make are, occasionally buying on-line with my credit card and I make the decisions about investments. It works really well.

We posted about 8 cards to America and Europe and they, alone, cost £14.00/€15.64 and we had to drive down to the Post Office to have each one weighed individually. What is the world coming to? Weighing Christmas cards? Afterwards, we went on to the Doctor’s Surgery to pick up my prescription for INR Test Strips. If I bought them privately, they would cost me £80.00/€90.00 so I at least felt I was still in credit for the day. I do save the Hospital/Surgery by doing all my own testing so I don’t feel too bad about the cost although, if I’d known 20 years ago what I know now, I might have saved them any cost at all by not putting on so much weight.

All around us, people are decorating their houses with lights. We really feel the humbugs of the street. I suppose that they are all happy to be in new properties and some have children but I just can’t bring myself to join in that spirit. Actually, Pauline & I are having our first of two Christmas dinners tomorrow. Each year, we buy a turkey to eat because we like it but mainly for stock to make soup for us and the gravy on Christmas Day when we cook for the family. Quite expensive turkeys, aren’t they?

Saturday, 8th December, 2018

Little Liz

Another grey, day which started damp and improved slightly over the afternoon. According to the weather forecast we should have a run of dry and bright days to come. Wrote a review of our Tenerife rental property this morning. I like to do that because I prefer to see honest appraisals when I am choosing.

Otherwise, it has been a quiet day of cleaning up my computer, upgrading the core system on our iPads, and replying to my sister Liz. Every year she asks for my address in order to send me a Christmas card. I know I move quite a lot but she has known this one for three years and still hasn’t recorded it. Baby sisters are hopeless.

The kitchen has been smelling tantalising today with turkey roasting in the oven. It is something of an indulgence because it will largely become turkey soup and turkey stock for Christmas Day Lunch but it has provided us with a delightful meal this afternoon. Otherwise, Brexit takes centre stage as we near the dénouement to use that well known English term. All around the country and in spite of terrible weather, People’s Vote rallies have been taking place although you wouldn’t know that from the BBC who studiously missed it while leading on the protests in France. Strange that!