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.