Week 527

Sunday, 27th January, 2019

Lovely, sunny day and reasonably mild. Political programmes, Sunday papers, trip to the gym and home to slow-roast chicken with sage & onion stuffing. Lovely day in prospect. Especially lovely if you’ve got someone wonderful to share it with. We must remember those who don’t. 

Microsoft’s Cloud Storage

Apart from all of this and while Pauline is steam cleaning the floors, I am continuing with my long term task of digitising the contents of all our old photo albums. It is an emotional journey for softies like me. I am half way through our first album after we got married and covers the years 1997 – 1981. So far, I have backed-up 26Mb of photographs to memory stick and the Cloud. Pauline is concerned that there won’t be enough room and I am having to reassure her that we could live to be 100 before we use up all our storage space.

It’s going to take me a while to fill this.

I have long been a fan of Cloud storage because it fits with a travelling life style. I used to have a portable, back-up drive but found it a bit too cumbersome. To be able to pick up and work on files anywhere in the world is just right for me. I moved on to Microsoft‘s offering called OneDrive which gave me a terabyte or 1024 megabytes of storage for free. When Microsoft began charging ‘rental’ for MS Office, they reduced the ‘free’ storage to 50mb which is nowhere near enough and charge £60.00 per year for the 1tb. Fortunately, I pay for BT Broadband and get BT Sport and 1tb cloud storage ‘free’ plus free access to all the BT wi-fi hubs around Britain and that is what I now use.

Monday, 28th January, 2019

Glorious morning for putting the bins out at 7.00 am – blue sky, low sunshine, crisp. Could be an interesting week.

My Mum aged 57 – 38 years ago.

I am continuing my project of digitising our photographic record of the past 40 years. It is quite an emotional process which, last night, was interspersed with watching Call the Midwife which always makes me cry followed by Les Misérables which is just a laugh a minute. What is so scary is the difference and distance between 1979 and 2019. I am sitting in our Home Office with a framed certificate announcing that I was awarded my BA English 40 years ago in 1979 and my MA History 30 years ago in 1989. What seemed so important to me then really doesn’t now. I have subsumed that experience long ago.

It is hard to fully accept the passage of time. Actually, this digital project is quite helpful in that respect. Looking back through the tunnel of time, things have changed so much. I was born in 1951 and began Grammar School in 1962. By 1969, I was accompanying my girlfriend to the contraception clinic so she could get her free supply of pills. To see these developments depicted in Call the Midwife is rather like watching another world. It is a force of intellect and imagination to draw oneself to accept that it is my history. What it does underline is there was no Golden Age. There is nothing I would long to go back to. I feel so lucky to have survived it and I do not yearn to be young again. I love the age I am. I can be open, honest, blunt and unrepentant, scruffy, unshaven, unwashed, over fed and drunk. I can be whatever I want to be. I can even walk on walls.

Tuesday, 29th January, 2019

Had to be up early this morning and there was a slight hint of frost on the roofs. Crystal, clear morning with the sun rising in a cloudless sky. It is really noticeable that the sun is rising much earlier now and that gives us all hope.

Had to be up early because we have a telephone engineer coming between 8.00 am – 1.00 pm – an awkwardly wide time frame. The occasion of his visit is a response to my concern about my broadband speed. It shouldn’t worry me. Back at the opening of this century, I had just moved from dial-up to twin ISDN lines (a pre-cursor of Broadband) and I was receiving under 2 Mbps. Today, I am receiving 32 Mbps Download & 11 Mbps Upload. I really don’t notice any incapacity. However, I keep being bombarded by BT with invitations to take Ultra Fast Broadband with speeds of 100 Mbps. This is fibre to the house which we don’t have. Before we moved in and before the road surface was complete, I wrote to BT and asked them to contact David Wilson Homes in order to co-ordinate fibre-to-the-door broadband. Neither party did so. Two years later, most new homes are being offered that service.

In addition to that, our ‘Contention Rate’ (the sharing of broadband width in an area) is going up all the time as new builds come on stream and need broadband and the demands we are placing on our broadband is increasing exponentially with not just one PC per house but many and tablets, smartphones, smart televisions and the onset of the ‘internet of things’ meaning I can control so many actions in my house – lights, heating, blinds, fridge, even my toothbrush over the net. I have Superfast Fibre Broadband from BT. This is fibre to the street cabinet and then old copper from there to our house. According to BT, this service could yield 67 Mbps but, when I enquired, they said in our area, we should expect 44 Mbps.

The BT deal I’m currently on.

Still falling 25% short of that, I complained and a ‘next day’ engineer was despatched. Wayne arrived at 8.05 am and checked my phone line and the street cabinet and pronounced it ‘full’. It needs extra fibre capacity installing, Wayne announced. He gave me his manager’s personal office number to phone to have further discussions. And that is what I will do.

Wednesday, 30th January, 2019

The penultimate day of January has been a gorgeous, Spring-like one with blue skies, strong sunshine and moderate temperatures. We had woken at 7.00 am to a light touch of frost on the roofs but it was gone within an hour and forgotten.

View a 100 yards from my old school.
Manchester Airport Closed

On social media, people from our old stomping ground, the North of England, were posting pictures of a very familiar scene. Winter on the Pennines means almost invariably snow at some time and so it was today. Manchester and Liverpool airports were closed, the M62 was hazardous and the exit road we would have taken to our school was almost impassable. Schools across Oldham were closed and work journeys made extremely hazardous.

We remember these conditions only too well although it is 10 years now since we had to experience them. We certainly don’t miss them. In fact, we have hardly seen a sight of snow since we left West Yorkshire and that is fine by us. Snow is not unknow here. About 10 years ago, apparently, they were snow-blocked for a while. However, temperatures are definitely moderated by proximity to the sea and we bask in the warmth of that. We have been warned that we might get a bit of snow tomorrow but we’ll believe it when we see it.

Today,  I went shopping in my shorts and tee shirt, the outdoor pool was popular at the Health Club and we came home to griddle tuna steaks in the garden. We wouldn’t have been doing any of that in Huddersfield.

Thursday, 31st January, 2019

Well, January is going out with a bit of frost this morning. We have done our weekly shop by visiting Sainsburys and Tesco. If you include a tank of petrol, our outlay is around £200.00. Tesco was absolutely packed. We couldn’t decide whether the old people were stocking up in the event of heavy snow or the crisis that could be Brexit. Lots of tinned food flying off the shelves.

It is cold but not Northern cold. We have reached 7C/45F this morning. I am in my shorts and the sea breeze is a little chilly but I’m tough. On this week 10 years ago, we had just completed our final ever Ofsted inspection and I was preparing to visit a cardiologist for a heart scan which ultimately revealed my atrial fibrillation. I was also posting a montage of my Mum who had died 9 months earlier and whose memory had been evoked by a play on television. Heavy snow was forecast for tomorrow as it is this year and our retirement was just a couple of months away although we didn’t really know it at the time. How much has happened since then January 2009.

Friday, 1st February, 2019

Welcome February?

Just to emphasise that we have entered February, it decided to give us a dusting of snow overnight and the world came to an end. This morning the world was covered with, what Northerners would call a heavy frost but closed schools and offices down here. Bus time tables were cancelled and train timetables altered. Some commuters thought Friday was a good one to stay at home.

The unbelievable happened!

The man across the road asked me to collect any snow there was on my drive so his little girls could make a snowman. I suggested he took them to Yorkshire. On this day 10 years ago, heavy snow was falling in West Yorkshire and transport links were genuinely blocked or extremely hazardous. If UK ever Brexits, all of these weather conditions will be exported to Skiathos under a bi-lateral, free-trade agreement which will see hot sunshine proliferate in England from October – May. The Health Club was packed as so many had decided it was too difficult to get to work but they might just make it to the David Lloyd Club.

Saturday, 2nd February, 2019

A beautiful, bright, sunny morning. Still cold but all the signs of snow and frost have gone. Bring on the Spring! Actually, we are going to have a couple of days off from exercise. Pauline is re-waxing the dining table top (3 coats), making chicken stock in the garden, making a dozen salmon and cod fishcakes for the freezer, changing the bed, doing the washing and a bit of ironing, cooking whitebait with three salads for our meal, marinating a pheasant for tomorrow’s meal while I watch some sport and read the papers. It’s this division of labour that makes our marriage so stable.

Nextbase Duo HD Dash Cam

Watched England destroy the Irish backstop in a thrilling rugby international. I also watched a couple of enjoyable Premier League matches and a bit of the test match from West Indies. When I got stiff from sitting in the Lounge watching sport, I ambled over to the Office and researched Dash-Cams for our new car which can’t be far away now. I know I’ve written about this before but it is becoming more imminent. For a year or two I’ve thought of getting a Dash-Cam but have been put off by the idea of trailing wires cluttering up my car. I spoke to Honda about it when I enquired about the new car and they assured me they would hard-wire one in so I wouldn’t have to worry.

I spent an hour or so researching models and reading reviews and, finally, decided that the Nextbase Duo HD Dash Cam (£150.00/€172.00) would provide all the facilities I would need without breaking the bank. It fits just below the rear view mirror and features two, HD cameras – one for forward recording and the second, zoom one, looking back through the rear screen. Both have night vision. Both record simultaneously. Recording begins with the engine on and ends with the engine off. Although the unit uses a micro SDHC memory card which can be read straight into a PC, there is an app to produce immediate download wirelessly to a smartphone.

To a tech junkie, gadget man like me, it all sounds like heaven. I am obviously going to satisfy an urge I’ve been mulling over for ages. I was watching a video review of this particular model. The presenter listed all its admirable facilities and tried to clinch the recommendation by listing the reasons why I might want one. He managed two. It’s useful in the event of an accident and it might save you some money on your insurance premium. Is that compelling enough? I am determined to buy Pauline the best Dash-Cam I can find.

.

Week 526

Sunday, 20th January, 2019

Up early on a gorgeous but quite chilly morning. 2C/36F outside at 7.00 am and it is still only 3C/37F in mid afternoon. Still, no frost and beautiful sun. Our back garden feels almost Mediterranean.

Currently, we are re-waxing the top of our dining table in the kitchen. Having stripped the old coating, and not applied the new, we needed a table cloth temporarily. Out of a drawer of table cloths we drew this hippy-chick cloth from the 1970s.

It was given to us 40 years ago as a wedding present by my hippy-chick, baby sister, Skinny Liz and I have always kept it. It was for another time when penniless, young newly weds could only afford half a table. I have requested a replacement cloth but not received it yet. 

In spite of the cold weather, I ventured out to clean the car ready for visiting Honda tomorrow to discuss changing it. Always beneficial to have a well valeted car valued rather than a filthy one. It is in excellent condition and only 2.5 years old. We’ve done just 20,000 ml/32,000 km and there is little sign of wear & tear. Webuyanycar value it at £20,000/€22,700.00  so I will want at least£21,500.00/€24,400.00 in part exchange. This will leave me finding about £17,000.00/€19,300.00 to replace with the new hybrid. We’ve always tried to pay cash rather than borrow. It sets us up with the discipline of saving for the next one by borrowing from ourselves.

Monday, 21st January, 2019

Chilly but bright and sunny start to the day. 1C/34F at 7.00 am which rocketed to 2C/36F by mid morning. Actually, we did reach a balmy 7C/45F by mid afternoon when we were returning from the Health Club.

Last Wednesday, two days after she spent the day in hospital. Pauline requested an appointment with her doctor to discuss the findings of the investigation and arrange some follow-up medication. This was January 16th. She was told that the first appointment would be February 25th – a wait of nearly 6 weeks. She could have seen a locum earlier but she wanted her regular GP to discuss serious and intimate circumstances. Today, she has been offered a telephone consultation next week as an alternative.

Fighting our way in  for an appointment.

Today, Robert Peston tweeted this:

Just two minutes after my GP surgery opens, I am already caller number 28 in the queue to speak to a receptionist – who will tell me the next appointment will be a month away. The gateway to healthcare here is shut.

We are probably suffering because we have chosen to move to a swiftly expanding community which favours older people because of its climate but makes disproportionate demands on its Health Care services. This is why we major on exercise by regular trips to the Health Club. We are working in the belief that, if we keep moving, we can’t be caught by ill health. Probably nonsense but one has to try.

Tuesday, 22nd January, 2019

Cold, bright start with lots of lovely sunshine all morning. We began to see reports of snow fall in our old haunts around the Pennine ridge from West Yorkshire to Lancashire, from Huddersfield to Oldham. Ex-pupils of ours were posting experiences of their children getting to school and it brought memories flooding back. We don’t really remember many years in the 37 we worked in schools when we didn’t have winter disruption.

A typical drive home on the M62.

Within a week of this 10 years ago, we were closed for 4 days firstly because staff couldn’t get in and, subsequently, because the huge campus environs were incredibly dangerous and it took our 4 man site team all that time to clear the snow and ice. Today, if we had been driving home over the Pennines, we would have been confronted by these conditions – snow, fog and an accident that led police to close two lanes.

It just so happened that our school closure ten years ago coincided with my diagnosis of atrial fibrillation which has condemned me to taking daily doses of rat poison for the rest of my life. Over those ten years, I have tested my INR every fortnight by drawing blood from a finger. I have managed to keep my INR between the levels of INR =2.0 – 3.0 most of the time. Unfortunately, jabbing a needle into your finger every fortnight leaves the tips very sore and piano playing almost impossible. I couldn’t play one anyway.

Wednesday, 23rd January, 2019

Out early on a cool morning without any frost. We were going to Rustington for Pauline to spend an hour at a beauty parlour to have a face lift Facial. I went to have my biennial, ‘free’ eye test at Specsavers and to look for some new glasses. I turned up at Specsavers on ‘spec’ and got an immediate appointment. My test was said to be ‘perfect’ despite being blind in my left eye but it was ‘recommended’ that I buy new glasses. I have no idea why.

These are my currently favoured style.

Actually, I had already decided that I wanted new glasses even though I have three pairs of Distance and three pairs of Reading glasses at the moment. They’ve taken quite a battering over the past two years and are chipped and misshapen. I like very light, delicate and inobtrusive face furniture. When one is as gorgeous as me, one doesn’t want anything to obstruct or detract from one’s gorgeousness. They seem to have gone down in price over the past two years and this price is for two pairs not one so only £84.40/€97.00 per pair.

I have worn glasses since the age of 7 and have been effectively blind in my left eye since soon after birth. My life has been littered with mistakes but my first one in my first days was to drop the use of my good eye and rely on the use of my short sighted one. For most adults, the muscles controlling the focal length slacken with age and worsen their sight. The change in my focal length has improved my sight. I have to wear glasses for driving but I wear them for very little else. Much of my reading is done with glasses but I can manage pretty well without them. I’m beginning to think it’s more habit than need most of the time.

Thursday, 24th January, 2019

Cold this morning at 0C/32F with a bit of frost at 7.00 am although it was soon dispelled by the time we drove out 2 hrs later and we reached the dizzying heights of 8C/46F by mid afternoon. A round trip of Asda, Sainsbury’s, the Post Office Main Depot to collect an undelivered parcel and then Tesco took just 2 hrs. Homemade Turkey soup and the Daily (Brexit) Politics / Politics Live.

As predicted, the David Lloyd Health Club has suddenly got busier. Start of the New Year with fitness resolutions allied to highly advertised short term memberships which can be cancelled after 3 months has brought about this sudden increase. Fortunately, as we know from experience, most resolutions don’t even last the 3 month trial and the newbies drop away quite quickly. This is why the 3 month trial is important. Many clubs expect a 12 month commitment which can be pricey if you stop going after a few weeks.

Pauline & I pay £1825.00/€2110.00 per annum for our joint membership. It might sound a lot but it is quite economical when you consider that we go 5-6 times per week for about 3hrs. Allowing for a couple of months abroad each year, we use the club for around 260 days per year. That is 520 person/days at a cost of just circa £3.50/€4.10 each per day. Our attendance has become part of our life routine as we intended it should. We always said we would use it as a replacement activity for work. I have to say, it’s much more enjoyable and rewarding.

Friday, 25th January, 2019

Friday already. I wish I was working then I could have really enjoyed it. As it is, we woke to a warmish but foggy morning. We think this is the first fog we have seen in three years here – if you don’t count Brexit and, unfortunately, I do.

Specsavers Rustington – Quiet outside but packed inside.

Out to Rustington to visit Specsavers again. I have decided to pick two pairs of distance glasses and two pairs of reading glasses. Having researched on-line, I realise how cheap Specsavers are compared with the limited number of alternative choices. The sorts of frames I want are £390.00/€450.00 per pair at Boots and at least £200.00/€231.00 at VisionExpress. Today, I bought two pairs of long sight and two pairs of reading glasses for £316.00/€365.00 total. Even I can see the value in that.

It was 13C/56F as we drove to the gym this lunchtime. It felt like mid-Summer after the past few days. As we drove home, we went past a couple of BT Openreach vans. That is not unusual because, as new homes become available, so their phone/broadband needs to be connected to the street cabinet. However, Friday evening and BT Openreach are not good combinations. As soon as I got through my front door, I checked my hub and was relieved to find it working.

We ate roast salmon and salads. I wanted to show Pauline a video clip on Twitter and, as she watched it, it froze. My worst fears were confirmed as darkness closed in at 5.00 pm on a Friday evening, my broadband had been unplugged down the road. This has happened before and I spent an impossible weekend without it.

I shot out of the house and sprinted down to where I had seen the engineers. They were still there huddled around a hole in the pavement full of a bird’s nest of wires. They knew before I spoke why I was there. Often at the end of a long week and desperate to get home for a rest, they pull one plug to accommodate the new one knowing they can sort it after the weekend. I’ve learnt the hard way. They quickly re-plugged me in and I came home a happy boy.

Saturday, 26th January, 2019

Pleasant and mild start to the morning – 10C/50F at 7.00 am and the mornings are rapidly becoming lighter. Certainly no heating needed today. Still basking in the enjoyment of Man Utd’s win over Arsenal last night. Off to the gym ourselves this afternoon.

Early post through the door is not post at all but the latest and last copy of Yellow Pages being delivered. I looked it up and found that Yellow Pages originated in Wyoming in 1883 when a printer ran out of white paper and completed his print-run with what he had left which was yellow. The concept caught on and spread across the world. It took another 83 years to reach UK where it was first produced just down the road in Brighton in 1966. We haven’t won the World Cup since and now we won’t be seeing any more copies of the Yellow Pages.

It won’t worry me. They go straight from the Hall floor into the recycle bin. I haven’t felt the need for one for 20 years. BT sold the Yellow Pages for £2.1bn in 2001 which now looks pretty good business. As an early adopter of on-line searching, it quickly became obvious that this would be the way to go. I rather worry nowadays that I have usurped my need for memory by adopting a Google-brain but we can’t go backwards. The problem is that there are still the dinosaurs and the elderly who unable or unwilling to move on and become severely isolated from the society around them. I had the same problem in Education as we rapidly moved curricula on-line when we had a number of households who didn’t even have computers never mind access to the internet. Eventually, of course, everything catches up but I am naturally impatient.

Week 525

Sunday, 13th January, 2019

Another lovely snap from Bob

A warmer but still sunless day today. We have been around 11C/52F all day. The additional warmth was just as well because we’ve had the patio doors open most of the day to stop us suffocating. We have been sanding the large, reclaimed wood table top prior to re-waxing. I bought a flat bed sander recently especially to do this job but I proved useless at doing it just as I am useless at every practical job known to woman.

I got the sander out of its case the other day to get to know it and how to fit the parts together.… but I couldn’t for the life of me find out how to put it back in its case afterwards. My wife stood over it for a couple of minutes, slotted everything back into its custom made case and snapped it closed. I just carried it to the garage.

Obviously politics and newspapers were my main feature today. We are all preparing for a big week of debate and cliff hanging. Certainly not going to book any trips or even flights until everything is clearer. Europe could be missing quite a few UK tourists if the uncertainty persists not to mention the agony of ex-pats over their legal status and healthcare arrangements and the effect of a plummeting pound on their pensions, etc..

This morning, I decided to get the job done. I got out the sander (but took photos on my phone so I could remember how it should go back) and fitted a sandpaper sleeve on it, switched on and panicked. I immediately saw me destroying the table. I did a little strip and seemed to get nowhere in making a difference. I tried a piece of sandpaper on a sanding block which had some effect but I looked at the size of the table and thought I couldn’t do all that. I called my wife. She picked up the sander and started. I watched for a couple of minutes and then wandered off to read the paper. Two hours later, Pauline had finished and was emptying the dust bag which was bulging. I cooked – our usual role reversal.

Monday, 14th January, 2019

Antique Pine?

After 8.00 am Dentist/Hygenist appointments, the morning has involved small, house jobs. A plumber called on ‘snagging’ duty and we turned our minds to finding a wood satin to finish off our reclaimed timber table top. We went through all the main retailers and found nothing appropriate. I spent some time on the web researching it and found the best solution on Ebay of all places.

We bought this table, which is made from reclaimed wood, in Manchester although it was imported from Lithuania. It is 2.2 metres x 1.2 metres and very heavy. It looks like Antique Pine is the colour we need to bring it back to original although Light Oak is another possibility. I’ve ordered a couple of Test Pots to try out before we buy enough to do the whole thing.

Tomorrow we face the next big test when I take Pauline to hospital for the third time in a week. We have to be there for 7.30 am so it will be an early start out at 6.30 am for Chichester. We don’t know what time the morning rush hour starts around here. We can’t afford to be late although her operation could be any time during the day.

Tuesday, 15th January, 2019

Up at 5.30 am on a fairly chilly morning. Out by 6.15 am and off to Chichester Hospital. It is a very pleasant place under other circumstances. At least driving in at 7.00 am is very good for parking. I am going, with Pauline, up to the ominously named Treatment Centre where we have to report to the Pagham Suite for 7.30 am. Pauline is nil by mouth since midnight and already thirsty. She is being operated on by a Consultant Surgeon who is renowned for packing lots of operations in to her 2 days per week at the hospital and for setting a patient order but changing it many times paper day as she sees fit. Initially, we have been led to believe that Pauline will be seen in the morning.

Waiting for Ever

To say I am geographically challenged is a massive understatement. I could lose my way in a cul-de-sac. Hospital corridors are the height of nightmare to me. Pauline is far more concerned that I will get lost and never find her again than she is with her operation. This will be the fifth time I have walked from the carpark to Reception to the Treatment Centre to the Pagham Suite and, although I know all the names, I am no clearer how the places are linked than I was the first time. I take pictures on my phone as we walk to serve as aides memoire for my return.

Up at the Pagham Suite, we learn that Pauline is 5th of 8 and will probably be dealt with in mid-afternoon. Spirits fall a bit because she is not allowed even a sip of water. At around 9.00 am, Pauline meets the consultant who says that, having read all the notes and reviewed the scans, she doesn’t think she needs to operate at all. Spirits soar. The consultant says, however, she will need to undertake further investigation to be sure and that will mean a General Anaesthetic. Spirits sink a bit although it could be much worse. Pauline is put in hospital gown and slippers and I make a discrete retreat, following my original ball of string from the Pagham Suite to the Reception where there is a large Costa Coffee and a table for my iPad.

The Pagham Suite – perhaps overstates it a bit.

Today is a big day all round. The Politics is all. By 12.15 pm, I am fully ensconced in the Daily Politics programme on BBC2. All thoughts of PAULINE are gone. The excitement is almost unbearable. Who knows what will happen? I decide to write my Blog to fill in time. By 2.30 pm, I get a text to say she is in Recovery but has to give a urine sample before she can leave. I happen to be in the toilet at the time and text back offering to give one for her. She texts back to say she doesn’t think it is feasible. I go up to the Recovery area to wait for information and instructions.  

Pauline comes out, looking very white and shaky, at about 4.30 pm to tell me that nothing untoward has been found and she is completely healthy. We embrace. The relief is incredible. She then says, to cope with the invasive procedure she has undergone, she has been prescribed some medication which the hospital pharmacy is providing. It has been ordered from the ward but it will take 1 – 1.5 hrs to arrive because they are so stretched. At this stage, we have been there for over 9 hrs and are both rather tired. Eventually, Pauline tells them that she will cope tonight at home but return tomorrow to collect it. That is how we leave it.

Drive home on a crest of relief. Normally, we would open a bottle of champagne and toast the future. We are not drinking alcohol until July and Pauline can’t drink for 48 hrs anyway so a cup of tea is ordered. We settle down to watch the speeches prior to the Meaningful Vote in Parliament and the vote. The Government, in general and the Prime Minister, in particular, suffers a defeat by 230 vote – the most crushing defeat in modern, British history. The government is in total disarray. The opposition has put down a Vote of No Confidence which they will lose because the Tories know they will be slaughtered in an election so the next Referendum gets closer.

Wednesday, 16th January, 2019

Recuperation Day. Pauline is feeling sore, uncomfortable and still rather tired after her experiences of yesterday. She still looks very pale and drawn. It isn’t too surprising considering the effects of a general anaesthetic. We decided to stay at home. I didn’t go to the gym but followed politics instead.

Skinny Whippet – Milos, 1982

I have continued my task of digitising our photograph library. It runs to many hundreds of fairly dreadful snaps which would mean little to anyone other than us. However, it is evoking many, sentimental memories because those times are gone and will never be reclaimed. I thought I would cheer Pauline up by showing her how slim and young she once was but she didn’t appear very enamoured. I don’t know why.

Thursday, 17th January, 2019

To distract from the flailing around of the political classes over a failed Brexit, right wing news organs are trailing an environmental/public health issue. The Planetary Health Diet is something they have dug up from a Swedish University research project. It suggests that humankind which, for as long as one can find in research, has lived on a meat and dairy products diet integrated with plant food, should become mainly vegan. Suddenly, the exhalations of animals is unacceptable and threatens our planet’s climate. I can barely contain my incredulity.

Climate change enthusiasts told us that we would have to stop driving, flying and conducting our life as we prefer. Energy generation was said to be to poisonous so we should find ways of depriving ourselves of that facility by grossly reducing our consumption. We should deprive ourselves of the facilities that modernity affords us. I always thought that this was putting the problem the wrong way around. If the combustion engine or the jet engine was the problem than science would have to react and come up with something else. If coal fired or gas fired  power stations are bad for our environment then science must offer something else not deprive humanity of energy.

And so it has been. Now renewable energy solutions abound. Although no one could sensibly argue mankind should go backward by rationing heat and light or road and air transport, scientist are well on the way to solving the problem. Wind and  solar generation are already making a considerable contribution. I would happily have bought a new house with its entire roof covering made out of solar panel/tiles. Why wouldn’t one vote for ‘free’ energy. In just the same way, the scientists must come up with solutions to the downsides of meat & dairy diets not the consumers.

The view from Sainsbury’s window.

As it happens, Pauline & I have made great strides towards such a diet anyway. We never and I mean never buy ready made food. Everything is cooked freshly by us. Our daily consumption consists of mainly fish and shell fish, some chicken and the occasional game – pheasant and rabbit. We eat at least 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and our shopping trolley is full right from the outset at the supermarket which starts with fruit and veg.. This hasn’t happened for any, principled reason other than we fell into the pattern and find it hard to break away. A couple of months ago, we had some red meat out of curiosity and both agreed we had moved on from that and wouldn’t return.

We feel incredibly lucky to afford our diet. Today, we bought two cod loins, 2kg of fantail prawns, four sea bass, two smoked salmon fillets and two packs of chicken fillets. These are incredibly healthy items but they are not cheap. We put in our trolley a cauliflower, a head of broccoli, a large bag of rocket, onions, celery, eight, large peppers, eight packs of cherry tomatoes, a pack of pears, four packs of black grapes, two packs of button mushrooms, a fennel and sixteen, large, sweet oranges. We will almost certainly shop again for veg before next Thursday.

This sort of diet would get formal approval but is just not available to the poor who find themselves falling back on cheap, salt-heavy and sugar-rich, ready-made meals, starchy fillers with little, quality protein. Then, we wonder why whole swathes of the population suffer more illness and die earlier than they should.

Friday, 18th January, 2019

A chilly morning at 3C/37F which eventually rocketed to 4C/39F although we had no frost at all. Off early to Worthing to take Pauline to have her hair cut. She is feeling much better and we are trying to boost her. She has done two, light gym routines in the past couple of days and we will book her in for a beauty treatment soon. I enjoyed a quiet hour in Starbucks with my iPad. The wi-fi provision is so much better nowadays. I was able to multi-task as if I was at home.

Wind Power where it should be – out at sea.

Pauline met me at the coffee shop by 10.00 am and the sun had started to shine across the sea. It felt so cold that even the dog walkers and joggers had stayed at home. There is something serenely beautiful about a deserted seashore. In the breeze, however, it felt so raw that I didn’t stick around long enough to explore that concept this morning.

Saturday, 19th January, 2019 

As the week closes on a grey, damp and rather depressing morning with the temperature hovering around 4C/39F, it is important to have optimistic things to hang on to. I’m at the point of ordering my new car and that is always enjoyable. Because the new car is a brand new model, I am doing some research about it. It comes in four model levels from the basic S to SE, SR & EX. We have driven EX models from the outset in about 1998. The new one will be about the 5th version and about our 13th new CRV. We have always driven Automatic Petrol models and this will be our first Hybrid.

The new hybrid uses petrol and electric intelligently. The battery isn’t a plug-in but is recharged by driving the petrol engine. It also draws charge from braking. The result is that the engine is said to be very quiet and starts off in electric mode. As speed builds up, the petrol engine kicks in and works in tandem with the electric drive which, eventually is dropped altogether as one hits cruising speeds. The result is greatly increased fuel economy. Currently, I only get 23 mph on short run driving and 32 mph on long drives. The hybrid tested by motoring journalists have obtained 53 mph particularly in short run driving because the electric drive is mainly used.

The new CRV features CVT or Continuous Variable Transmission which means there is no gear shift sound. Currently, my automatic tells me it is shifting up and down albeit quietly. The new car has no gear lever but just a row of buttons. That will take a little bit of getting used to. It can be driven in Economy, Electric Drive & Sport. Currently, I have Economy selected permanently and really see no difference in performance. The new CR-V seamlessly selects the appropriate drive mode.

Why does a 2019 car need wood trim?

Apparently, they are available for pre-order only at the moment so there is no rush. With such a new model, I am unlikely to be able to negotiate much of a discount even though the car market is very subdued at the moment.

Week 524

Sunday, 6th January, 2019

Another grey morning although rather warmer with 4C/39F at 7.00 am and reaching 10C/50F by mid afternoon. Newspapers, political programmes and discussion this morning. Trip to the Health Club and pounding the jogger this afternoon. Home for roast salmon and salad.

Soon after we got married at the end of 1978, I became really interested in photography. I can hardly believe it now but we started with a Polaroid camera. Many of you will not even have heard of it but it was big, boxy, quite heavy thing that contained the film and developer for about 12 photographs which came out, nearly fully developed from the front. As it came out, one had to wave it around in the air for a few moments before the picture magically appeared before our eyes – often to great disappointment as we noticed the subject’s head was missing. However, they provided almost instant gratification.

Of course, serious students of photography, at the time, wouldn’t take polaroid seriously and, by 1981, Pauline had bought me a Single Lens Reflex camera which was much more respectable and open to manipulation. It was a Ricoh KR-10 and it felt, at the time, as if it cost an arm and a leg and extra lenses were enormously expensive but, if I was going to be a serious photography student, it was necessary kit. I remember that we would get up early and walk in the countryside around our area and particularly the woods in order to find interesting pictures.

Of course, unlike the Polaroid, the SLR had rolls of film that had to be developed. I took them to a local shop at first and then used a send away and return service. Whichever choice was expensive and long winded. I did B&W and colour photography. I even considered developing and printing my own. We had a dark room and all the equipment in school but I never got round to it. I have no practical abilities at all. Our bookshelves began to groan with hundreds of albums of small prints.

Eventually, of course, we all moved on to digital photography. School bought me a Digital SLR – a Canon EOS 30D – which cost £750.00 in 2003. I absolutely loved it. It coincided with my designing and building websites and with the building of our Greek house. It was invaluable as an illustrator of the former and a documenter of the latter. I manipulated my own pictures with Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Fireworks almost entirely in web quality.

A cool dude 40 years ago with Gemima the cat.

At Pauline’s request, I’ve just started to digitise the Polaroids which go back to 1979. They have survived remarkably well although we wouldn’t claim they were ‘good’ photography. Polaroids always had a tear-off strip so you could write a record of the event. Always useful after 40 years.

The more beautiful photographer with the new SLR.

Nowadays, of course, my smartphone has a two camera lenses which both provide double the megapixel quality of my old Canon DLSR standard lens. It is much easier, lighter, and convenient for someone who no longer pretends to be good at photography. You should see those photographs taken by my brother who is talented and really takes it seriously.

These are the photographs of Bob Sanders. I’ve stolen them without his permission but he is my little brother. Like so many of his, they really appeal to me. I could have done better, of course, but I haven’t got the time.

Monday, 7th January, 2019

Big day today. Taking Pauline to Hospital in Chichester for an investigation. Lovely drive down the 15 miles  then quite a problem finding a space in the carpark.  Lovely hospital which greeted us as if it were a shopping centre. Lovely people with excellent organisation and lightness of touch. We went up to a waiting area where only one other couple were sitting. We were there for a couple of hours and, unfortunately, it wasn’t successful. Pauline will have an operation next week but we have to go back again this week for pre-operation preparations. We are both very disappointed but resigned.

When we got home, I cooked roast duck breast with braised celery and garlic mushrooms. We also had our first taste of the salmon gravadlax that we have been curing for the past 48 hours. It is absolutely delicious and a real success.

Tuesday, 8th January, 2019

Today has opened slightly warmer and sunnier at 7.00 am. We learned today that this has been the greyest – or least sunny – January for over 90 years. Today, 6C/43F with largely blue sky and weak sunshine feels like mid-summer. This is in stark contrast to Athens which is blanketed in snow this morning. Bit of a shock if you’ve gone there for a short break.

Sunny Athens this morning

We have a plumber coming round this afternoon so we won’t be able to go to the gym. Quick shopping trip out. Good to be out under brighter skies. We are so lucky to have found this lovely village to spend a few years in.

20mph through our village
Home-cured Gravadlax

We ate some of our home-cured Gravadlax for lunch with tomatoes and celery. It has been cured for about 30 hours in the fridge and I have to say that it is absolutely delicious. I suspect it will become a regular in our diet and I may well move on now to smoking salmon out in the garden.

Wednesday, 9th January, 2019

Up early on a gorgeous morning of blue sky and sunshine. The window cleaners arrived at 8.00 am and relieved us of £18.00/€20.00 in a swap for some water on our windows. An hour or so later, we were driving the 15 miles/24km to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester. It was a quiet and enjoyable drive through lovely countryside. It is our second visit this week. Today, it was a pre-operation meeting in which Pauline had to provide two samples of blood, fill out a sheaf of forms and was measured for her height, weight, BMI and blood pressure. We were there for almost two hours.

A sunny day at the hospital.

While waiting in the consultation area for Pauline, I watch BBC’s Daily Politics on my iPad. One of the fantastic things provided in hospitals now is strong wi-fi for all. I love it. If my router ever goes down, I’m going to break a leg. Anyway, we will be back on Tuesday for the operation and, hopefully, that will be an end to it.

After this, and having driven home, we couldn’t face going to the gym. Fortunately, exciting times were lighting up in the House of Commons and we sat, entranced, as the Government were writhing on the wrack of Brexit, flailing around, attacking the Speaker, attacking the Opposition, attacking members of their own party and, ultimately, losing another vote which will bind their hands and make their plans nigh impossible.

This tug of war played out across the Tory Party is just the latest edition of a perennial battle over Britain’s Trading relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. If you know your political history, you will remember that much of this was prefigured by the Balfour government a century ago and its policy of Imperial Preference. As a result, the Tory Party were decimated in 1906 General Election. Nothing good will come of it now either for the country or the Tory Party. On the day that the Brexit result was announced, I said that the Irish Border would be the defining element and so it has proved.

Thursday, 10th January, 2019

Almost three years since we moved in to our new house, we still have small, ‘snagging’ jobs cropping up. When we bought, we were given a 5 Year Warranty. Only 6 months later, the buyers of the house across the road from us were given just a 2 Year Warranty. For them, all snagging responsibilities are theirs. For us, all arising problems are swiftly and freely dealt with by our builders. How lucky was that? Today, two more small snags were sorted out and a building resettlement requiring replacement floor tiles in one of the bathrooms will be sorted out tomorrow. For this reason, however, we have been confined to the house with workmen coming in and out all day. It’s very tiring!

Because we were housebound, I was able to indulge myself in the excitement of parliamentary politics which formed the backdrop for everything I did today. I am enthralled by the fireworks of the current, political scene. How wonderful that we have a strong and experienced Speaker of the House who has the interests of backbenchers at the heart of his deliberations. While I was listening, I was reading, Tweeting, Face-aching and continuing my long term scanning of our considerable library of photographs going right back to our wedding in 1978.

Putting logs I chopped in a fireplace I built.

I am up to 1979 and it was a time when we had nearly gutted our ‘coaching house’ home, put in a new damp course, new gutters, opened up the fireplace in the lounge and built a new one ourselves with local stone, laid Quarry tiles in the hallway and decorated throughout the ground floor. It was the sort of thing that newlyweds dream of although, at the age of 28, we were not spring chickens.

What’s its name?

As I hurtle close to the great age of 68, like so many of us I begin to worry about failing powers. I have always had a horribly selective memory. I can remember all sorts of things that I consider important but not where I left my car. I can remember Kierkegaard’s theory of Existentialism but I can’t remember the name of this vegetable. I love it but I can’t remember its name however many times I’m told. Fortunately, I know that this is not a new thing for me. For all I know, it may be experienced by most people but I have always had an inexplicable word-blindness about certain words. I can never remember the name of Capers, for example. Oh, I just have.

I cooked this afternoon, roast chicken thighs on a bed of fennel slices accompanied by baby sprouts with lardons of pancetta. Could be a windy night!

Friday, 11th January, 2019

It was a windy night in Greece at the end of a unpleasant few days of weather. Snow, freezing rain and strong winds which led to school closures and ferry cancellations.

Major damage on in Kamares, Sifnos

Here, a slightly warmer and brighter start at 9C/48F as we went outside at 7.00 am. We have a blind man visiting this morning. After being so pleased with Hive, on-line control of our lights and heating, we are going to install automatic blinds which can be controlled in the same way. We had looked at three or four different companies and had intended to make this the first of at least two estimates.  The consultation was thorough, useful and answered all our queries and, as we do so often in these situations, we signed up for the process there and then. Appeal will relieve us of around £1,300.00/€1,460.00 and deliver blinds made to measure in Bristol within about four weeks.

Saturday, 12th January, 2019

A grey and slightly damp start to the day. We really do need some sunshine. On this day ten years ago, I wrote in my Blog: It has been wet, windy and dark all day. I long for my house on Sifnos.

Do you ever think about dying. The common response to that question is recoil. What on earth is he talking about? The suggestion is, that even thinking about it, will hurry it along. The feeling that life is for the living and we should let death take care of itself. Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think, as the song goes. That view is anathema to me.

I am a planner. I constantly want a handle on my life. It is mine, after all, although I accept that I have sub-let it to my wife. I love my life as well as my wife but things cannot be harmed through preparation. Readdressing these thoughts was provoked by a series of podcasts by Joan Bakewell – formerly known as The Thinking Man’s Crumpet – as she moves in to her mid-80s.

I don’t know if I mentioned this but, I do not believe in a god or an after life except in memory. For a long time, I thought I favoured burial because of its historicity. I like researching gravestones in graveyards and the people buried beneath. Cremation has always struck me as an obliteration of history akin to burning books. I quite liked the idea of someone in the distant future finding my headstone and wondering about my life. At the same time, I couldn’t really conceive of been sent off with the traditional funeral service with all that entails. I can’t imagine anyone would want to attend it and I wouldn’t want them to be inconvenienced by it.

At the same time, increasing age brings all those things that younger lives eschew – reviewing events from the past, researching origins, reconnecting with past relationships, considering the future and the concept of posterity creeps in there. If you don’t believe in life after death, the possibilities of posterity are limited. There is history, historical evidence and records but, for people like me with no offspring, there is little else. For that reason, some people discover the value of a belief in the eternal but an invented comfort blanket really doesn’t do it for me.

Here Lies ….

I found myself turning away from burials towards cremation purely to give my wife less hassle when she is grieving. I don’t want her to have to maintain a grave or even feel the need to visit it. Our local crematorium offers a pre-paid cremation plan which costs £5,000.00/€5,600.00 for the two of us how ever long we live and wherever we are when we die including abroad. I also think I could solve the ‘posterity’ requirement by having my ashes put in a hole over which a tree sapling would be planted.

Anonymity with continuity appeals to me. It will be just my luck to have some starving animal graze the life out of it before it gets going but it will all be part of the cycle of life. Philosophical to the end! Sorry if this is too depressing for your weekend but you will thank me for it ultimately if you have a plan in place.