Week 531

Sunday, 24th February, 2019

Late February going on early June. Blue sky. Strong sunshine. A temperature of 16C/61F. Optimism everywhere as mowers chug, edges are cut and soiled is turned over. We just couldn’t sit inside. We went to the beach around 10.00 am. Strangely, quite a few others had thought of doing exactly the same thing. Dogs were trotting, children scooting, Mums & dads were biking, Seniors were strolling, all basking in the rays of renewed Life.

Worthing Beach – packed

We walked for about 30 mins towards Lancing and then turned heel and walked 30 mins back. By the time we were leaving the coastal promenade and walking back across town to Waitrose carpark where we had left our car, the number of people out enjoying the air was incredible. I still can’t put my finger on what the precise attraction is of sea and beach but it is surely elemental. Pauline becomes a different person as she walks there. It stirs childhood memories or female, tidal movements. Who knows. I don’t question but go with the flow.

Monday, 25th February, 2019

The last week of February, 2019 is starting just fine. Long may it continue. Greece, on the other hand, has again suffered bad weather and lack of island transport as boats are tied up because of strong winds.

Worthing Beach  this morning.
Kamares, Sifnos this morning.

This morning, I have revelled in the warm sunshine so much that I have cut the lawns for the first time in weeks. It felt good to be doing something so optimistic. Orthodox Easter is April 28th, a week after Catholic Easter this year so the Greeks have just 61 days to prepare. First, the weather must dry up, warm up and brighten up. Paving will need to be painted. Buildings will need to dry out with bedding put outside to air. Maybe whitewashing can start and be finished during May. Most important of all will be fattening the lambs for slaughter. We’ve hardly eaten lamb since we left. 

Today, Sifnos has experienced a high of 11C/52F. UK has experienced an all time high of 21C/69F which is a record for  highest temperature in February. Swimming outside today was like being in Tenerife or Sifnos in late June. Absolutely delightful! It can’t last, of course but we will enjoy it while it does.

Today is officially the hottest February day on record in Britain as the temperature reached 20.3C in Ceredigion, west Wales.  

Tuesday, 26th February, 2019

The days just get better and better so much so that one is in danger of being lulled in to a false sense of security. Yesterday I cut the lawns and today I am feeding them but it could just as easily change in a few days time and turn really cold. Certainly, the garden centre where I went to buy my lawn feed was optimistically pushing Springtime products but there were few customers. We were reading 13C/56F by 9.00 am and the sun is strong in the sky. It just puts a little extra lightness in one’s step.

Unfortunately, we heard this morning that the lightness had gone out of one of our acquaintance’s steps last night. The husband of one of my Assistants at school died last night. Harry Taylor was also a Woodwork teacher in school in the 1970s -’80s. His wife, Norma, was my Assistant for a while. Harry had a terrible accident which debilitated him and, eventually, caused his early retirement. Up a ladder at home, he slipped and fell from a height causing him a brain injury and a stroke. He was impaired on one side of his body and, although he tried to carry on teaching, it eventually proved too much and he retired early. Harry kept active and did small woodwork jobs for people.

When my Mum died, I inherited The Richard Chair which I have featured here before. It was made by my Grandfather at the end of the Nineteenth Century, I think as an apprentice piece. Each first male in the line has Richard in his name. My Grandfather was Richard Watthew Sanders. My Dad was Eric Richard Sanders and I am John Richard Sanders. My brother, Bob, has a son with Richard in his name and the chair will go to him.

The Richard Chair

I remember Dad sitting on this chair at the head of the dining table for the years of my childhood. My Dad died in 1965.  The chair stayed with my Mum until she was selling the family home and I took it over. It was a bit the worse for wear and I asked Harry Taylor to refurbish it. He did an excellent job and it will, hopefully, survive another century which is more than can be said for Harry.

Absolutely delightful in the outside pool this afternoon with a temperature of 18C/65F and people not swimming but sunbathing in the beautiful light. After 70 mins in the gym, of course, we did our 30 mins in the pool as usual.

Wednesday, 27th February, 2019

The penultimate day of February, 2019 has been absolutely glorious. Hot, sunny and gorgeous. For some weird reason, Pauline & I had the outdoor pool to ourselves. It felt like we were back in Tenerife. We are doing 100 mins exercise each day for at least 5 and usually 6 days per week. We manage 600 mins or 10 hrs per week now which is not bad as we hurtle towards 68 years old. Must keep it up.

I had an enjoyable morning before PMQs writing a piece for an old friend who I haven’t seen since June 1972. He asked me to record the books that have influenced my life and I have spent an hour or so trawling through my collection. I don’t normally indulge in such sentimental trivia but it is nice to reach out to a shadow of my past.

I have spent a life time trying to educate myself and these, two books illustrate two strands of that attempt. The Arts and Political Philosophy represent the twin enthusiasms that I’ve followed. Of course, they are not mutually exclusive and often the latter can be better understood through the study of the former. Having taken my B.A. and my M.A., I was asked if I wanted to commit another 2-4 years completing a Doctorate. I would have loved to have gone on to that but the thought of meeting so many demands was ultimately too daunting. I don’t regret it now. In fact, the Degrees I achieved mean little to me now but the ideas and the experiences will inform me until the end.

Thursday, 28th February, 2019

Interesting day of sunshine and showers and a few degrees cooler than of late. We have done our weekly shop by visiting Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco. Nice to see Asda‘s new petrol station is now open and offering Unleaded at 6p per litre cheaper than any other outlet. It will become our regular for fuel now.

David MacAndrew !932 – 2019

I was at Ripon (CofE, All Women’s) Teacher Training College between 1969 – 72. I didn’t do any work. Literally didn’t do any work. The country was desperate for English teachers and I filled the bill. They begged me to take a job and I duly obliged. Although I did no work, I began to learn a little about the real world, the opposite sex, different social classes, different geographic locations, a little bit about the meaning of money and how to order my own life rather than have it ordered for me. I reacted rather like a newly released prisoner who has spent decades being told what to do every minute of the day, released in to freedom and stumbling through a newly discovered decision making process.  Intellectually, I started to grow up.

My English Lit. tutor was one David MacAndrew. He was a quietly spoken lover of and writer of poetry. Actually, his poetry was dreadful and pretentious but he introduced me to published poets and publishers of poetry who would influence me for years to come. In 1970, David introduced me to the work of a Cumbrian poet, Norman Nicholson and then introduced me to him in person. We did a joint poetry reading in Leeds Town Hall.

On the occasion of David’s death, I am reminded of a poem from Norman Nicholson’s collection:

Friday, 1st March, 2019

Happy new month although it feels as if we have left Spring weather behind with a temperature of just 9C/48F and grey skies.

Out early this morning because Pauline has a hair appointment in town. I have the luxury of an hour in a coffee shop with my iPad which feels wonderful. Doesn’t the weather change one’s perception of the world? The whole area felt slightly depressing and sub-optimal as the new, terminology would describe it. Everywhere feels damp and chillier and, consequently, down at heel.

Grey Seaside Day

We have done 400 minutes exercise at the gym/pool this week and are feeling fairly stiff. We took the decision to give ourselves a day off today. It feels absolutely  terrible but we have stuck to it and just done a bit of shopping instead. Hopefully, we will go back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, 2nd March, 2019

We get restless feet after a week or two at home. It’s been almost 3 months this time since we went away. We are going shopping in France next week and we have got a trip to Yorkshire to meet friends at the beginning of April to coincide with the 10 year anniversary of our retirement from work but, we are struggling to commit to the plans we have been talking about for this year’s foreign travel. You’ll probably know why and, if you don’t, The Times this morning would have reminded you….

Of course, it’s not just Easter for most of us. Will we have new driving (Green Card, etc), passporting (Ours have less than a year to run.), health & insurance problems (No reciprocal cover through EHIC)? Will we have exchange rate problems? The Greek watchers and government have sort to reassure travellers and expats but even they certainly can’t be sure of Healthcare provision for Greeks never mind travellers. They certainly can’t be sure of exchange rates going forward.

Our new car, which has almost a 20 week lead-in time is manufactured in Japan. What will trading arrangements be like if we actually leave the E.U. which has a trade agreement with Japan but we don’t? What will the exchange rate be nearer to delivery time? Fortunately, although we had to put down a deposit of £1000.00 / €1162.00, we have a withdrawal clause in the event of increased cost. Just a 10% increase of £4000.00 / €4648.00 is substantial and might make us think again.

Week 530

Sunday, 17th February, 2019

Started this beautifully sunny and mild morning optimistically We’ve booked a trip to France in early March. Looks like we will have to be in London for the penultimate weekend of March and are planning a quick trip to Yorkshire in early April. If you keep moving, you know that you’re still alive and that’s the deal. On this day 10 years ago, I wrote: Early off because we have a very busy Half Term week ahead. Today I say, What is Half Term?

We are also setting in train plans to trade in our ‘old’ car in exchange for the latest, all-wheel-drive, petrol/electric hybrid, 2.0ltr model. We were told it would be in the showrooms by early February but only the smaller engine 1.5ltr  has arrived so far. Honda are trying to entice us with

What they don’t realise is that these things will make absolutely no difference to people like us. A good purchase price allied to a good trade-in price will be the substance of our decision. For many years we have received ‘free’ servicing with our cars as well as ‘free’ emergency cover with AA and European Green Card Insurance. We have never had an MOT on any car because we never keep them long enough. Who has to pay for interior mats these days?

Off to the Health club again. Hope everyone else is out enjoying the sunshine by the sea so we have the facilities to ourselves. Griddled tuna steaks for our meal when we get home. Who needs Half Term when you’ve got a lifetime of self-indulgence like this?

Monday, 18th February, 2019

Contacted our local Honda Dealer to ask when the CRV 2.0, Hybrid, All Wheel Drive, Automatic would be available to purchase. We were shocked to find that, although they had a lower level model available, the one we wanted would not be available until June. Just as we were absorbing that disappointment, the news began to break that what Brextremists had been dismissing as Project Fear had become Project Reality. Honda announced that it was closing its Swindon Factory where the CRV is manufactured and moving back to Japan after 35 years in UK.

Of course, Brextremist are already scrambling to deny its connection to Brexit but you only have to look at the facts. Margaret Thatcher enticed Honda to UK by promising them an easy gateway to the European market. In the past couple of months, the EU has signed a huge trading agreement with Japan which means they don’t need the UK as a gateway even if we Remain. Swindon voted Leave and now cannot feel aggrieved that they have shot themselves in the foot. We await Toyota in Derby next.

Tuesday, 19th February, 2019

Happy Birthday to my brother, Bob who catches me up today at the age of 67. Of course, I look a lot younger but he’s had a much harder life than me. He likes cold weather and snow. he likes walking in the Lake District. All of these things make one age prematurely. Let’s hope he has a few more years left in him. He really seems to be enjoying his retirement. It is certainly one scary thing to be hurtling towards announcing that we are 70.

I have searched for a new car on Carwow and already had one good offer from only 40 miles away in Bracknell. I’ve had my car priced up for trade-in at £20,200.00/€23,265.00 and the new one is offered at £37,100.00/€42,725.00. This is a fantastic deal so I will be following it up tomorrow.

Lovely time at the Health Club in spite of the fact that it is Half Term and there are a few kids let in during the afternoon. Just nice to get the exercise done in lovely weather.

Wednesday, 20th February, 2019

Gorgeous, warm and sunny day with lovely, blue sky. Before PMQs, I have had some ‘stuff to do’. We want to visit our friends in the North so I booked 3 nights at a hotel we have used for years – Holiday Inn, Brighouse. We used to be members of their Health Club for a number of years and we have made the hotel our base when we return to Yorkshire over the past decade. They have a couple of Suites and, because we don’t go more than a couple of times a year, we always book a suite. It has a large bedroom with TV, a lovely bathroom, a large lounge with TV and a dining area with drinks-making facilities. It gives a feeling of home-from-home.

Now, I forgot to mention that I’ve had a heavy, head cold for a few days. When I’m like this – which is very rare nowadays – I am absolutely dozy. I usually ask my wife to drive because it’s safer. Today, I was just printing out my confirmation of the hotel booking – 3 nights with breakfast for £491.00/€565.00 – when I realised that I had booked the wrong month. I am, fortunately, an IHG member and phoned the helpline who immediately rebooked the 3 nights for me and the bill was reduced to £390.00/€448.00. Good result. No idea why the previous week was so much more in demand.

Just as that process was finished, the postman pushed a small parcel envelope through the letterbox. A couple of days ago, as the cold was at its height, I ordered a new phone cover for Pauline. Today, it arrived and … it was the wrong one. We both have Huawei P2 Pro smartphones. I ordered a cover for its smaller, sister model. I have to re-order and let Pauline drive tomorrow.

Thursday, 21st February, 2019

After yesterday’s dozy debacles, they were compounded by a phone call from my bank’s Fraud Department doing a ‘routine check’ on our credit card purchases which I didn’t notice had come through as a text on my phone and resulted in our account being ‘temporarily frozen’. By the time I noticed and had it ‘unfrozen’, the IHG booking was showing ‘Payment Declined’. When I rang them, they said they knew me well and would take payment when I arrived at the hotel, thankfully. Just as a coda to these events,  this morning I ordered another ‘wrong’ replacement case before cancelling and reordering the right one. Pauline will still be driving today. I am trying to buy a new car today so let’s hope I choose the right one……

………… Well, I didn’t even get the chance to buy the wrong one. The supplier didn’t even bother to phone me back. I have a feeling that I’ll be having a sharp word tomorrow before visiting another dealer.

Who wants wood in their new car … in 2019?

One thing I have found out is that the interior wood trim which they must think enhances the car but reminds me of the 1950s can be replaced by polished metallic finish at an additional cost of £375.00/€431.00. I think I’ll have to pay it.

Friday, 22nd February, 2019

This morning, we found that the new car is no longer made in UK but in Japan and we can’t have one until the end of July. We’ve ordered it. We’ve chosen to have the wood trim removed. We’ve ordered it from our local Honda dealer where we bought the last car because nobody has a new, hybrid model of the level we want. They will not be in the country at all until late July. The Dealer assessed our car and gave us a good trade-in price which takes in to account another 4 months of driving. We also have all the other ‘incentives’ I listed on Sunday including free servicing for the next 5 years which is useful to have banked.

It is a mild but quite foggy morning. Because we were early in our meeting at Honda, we went a little further into the Marina. It looked so different in this ghostly light.

Sunbathing at Littlehampton Marina.

The fishing boats were late in – perhaps because of the fog – and the fisherman’s shed  stood waiting for the catch to sell. It all looked a little depressing and uninviting as seaside resorts tend to in Winter. This afternoon, the fog lifted, the sun beamed out and the temperature rose markedly. We decided that we’d been to the gym a great deal in the past two weeks – only missing 2 days – so we decided to relax and plan some time away in the sunshine.

Saturday, 23rd February, 2019

Chalk & Cheese – yesterday and today. Yesterday, dark, damp and foggy. Today, bright, sunny, blue sky, Mediterranean. It really does feel like Spring is coming although it could be a false dawn. The grass is certainly growing. I will be cutting, feeding it and reseeding areas in the next few days. It’s not looking to bad but some spots are decidedly thin.

Having sold the car yesterday, I cleaned it today. Wrong way round, I know but it needed it and we won’t be exchanging it for another 4 months. Full valet including treating leather seats, steam cleaning carpets and pressure washing the outside with wax shampoo took two hours. Before that, I had unstacked the dishwasher and hoovered the house top to bottom. A ma’s work is never done. After it we did more than two hours at the Health Club by which time I was almost out on my feet.

Week 529

Sunday, 10th February, 2019

Another grey and damp day and not desperately warm. Football, Rugby and newspapers indoors. I’ve never understood those who choose to jostle with crowds of other people to queue in inclement weather and pay through the nose for an unsatisfactory view of a match I can watch in close up and glorious technicolour in the comfort and seclusion of my own home. There are people people and there are the others. I am of the others.

Today, I am producing two digital birthday cards for the coming week. My favourite is for my brother-in-law, Kevan. I’ve managed to snatch a photo from Facebook and dress it up for the occasion. Hope he likes it. It is becoming a real dilemma these days – whether to use email as we do every day or to stay traditional and post a card. We debated it at Christmas but came to the conclusion that it looked too cheapskate to just use email and a number of our older friends don’t use it anyway. Only Ruth did it this year but you can see it coming.

Fantastic England rugby against France. It is only Half Time and England lead 30 – 8. Jonny May has a hat trick of tries that made the French look slow. I’ve now got a real dilemma – watch the second half of the rugby or the first half of Man.City v Chelsea. Problems, problems and Pauline is calling me to eat roast cod loin with garlic fan tail prawns and salad. Fortunately, she won’t mind me watching one of these while we eat but…which one?

Monday, 11th February, 2019

A beautiful day which starts off with attention to services – all three bins out for collection, Recycle, Garden Waste & Black Bag – over the space of about 3 hours. Next, haircut. It used to drive me mad when I was working but now, I love to get rid of all that curly excess. And it’s free! Finally, out to the garage to tidy up the ‘loft storage’.

Every time we buy something, I am restrained from my automatic instinct which is to tear open the packaging and start assembling/using the item without reading the instructions or consideration that it might not be suitable/workable. Pauline is my conscience and ‘control’ and I am advised to open the packaging carefully and then store it in case the item needs to be returned. Consequently, our garage loft space is absolutely full of empty, just-in-case, cardboard boxes which sit there for months and sometimes years.  

Worthing Household Waste Recycling Site
A Bin Rammer

I have written before – maybe because of my rubbish clearance obsession – that West Sussex waste disposal services are fantastic. Our experience has got better the further south we have moved. Huddersfield was terrible although claimed to be wonderful. They had built a power generating unit in their waste disposal site but access for Council Tax payers was awkward and time consuming. At home, collections were every fortnight but now have moved to every three weeks. I actually bought a bin-rammer which helped me ram the waste more compactly into the bin so that it took up less space but made the bin so heavy that I could hardly wheel it out.

In Surrey, Council Tax payers were treated like the enemy as they were continually threatened over recycling their waste and collections were every fortnight. Here in West Sussex, our Black Bin is collected every week and our recycling and garden waste every fortnight. The household Waste Recycling Site is staffed by the most delightful people who actually help you empty your car and guide you to the correct dumping bins. Waste Paradise!

Tuesday, 12th February, 2019

As one gets older, the figures that have illuminated the tableau of one’s life begin to fall off the conveyor belt which is our time continuum. So it was with Kennedy, with Martin Luther King, and with Mandela on the World stage as with Harold Wilson, Barbara Castle, Tony Benn, Dennis Healey in the British sphere. The poets, Norman Nicholson, Ted Hughes and Philip Larking figured highly in the tapestry of my 1970s as politics and poetry were interwoven in my development and formed a significant backdrop to the events of my 20s.

What a clean oven!

Today, we hear that Gordon Banks, an iconic figure from my teens, has fallen off the conveyor belt of time. At the age of 15, on Saturday 30th July, 1966, I was standing on a platform in Derby railway station. It was hot and sunny and we were listening to The Shadows (I think it was Foot Tapper) and then on to the World Cup Final. The names from that day will ever decorate the memory in contemporaries’ minds. Gordon Banks will feature brightly in that scene.

The kitchen is smelling so Greek this morning. Pauline is making Ginger & Cinnamon biscuits. She has such skill that she knocks them up quicker than I could drive to Sainsburys to buy some and with so much better effect. Of course, I’m not allowed to eat them but I am permitted to sniff the air!

Wednesday, 13th February, 2019

Harbingers of Spring.

Another beautiful morning. Not very warm yet but warm enough that the outdoor pool will not be visibly steaming in the sunshine. This week has seen that change. Birds are singing optimistically, crocuses and even some daffodils are flowering enthusiastically.  

Isn’t this so emblematic of life that, yesterday, I was writing about lost figures from the past and, today, we are looking forward to the Spring. Life is in constant flux but, as one gets older, longing for the next season incorporates a wish for bringing the inevitable closer. Officially, the start of Spring this year is Wednesday, March 20th – 5 weeks away. I, along with the birds and bulbs, will enjoy early Spring weather as I swim in the sunshine.

Snow over Lesvos Today

Meanwhile, Greece is still very much in the grip of Winter. Force 10 winds, snow, driving rain and ferries tied up are not so inviting are they? Many parts of central and northern Greece lie covered in a blanket of snow today as a new cold front holds the entire country in its frigid grasp. There are no ferry services to the Cyclades but, at least the beaches are not crowded.

I’ve been busily badgering BT (not easy for me to say) about my broadband speed. Two weeks ago, I had an engineer come to see me about my broadband speed which is 32 Mbps Download & 11 Mbps Upload. When I complained, they told me that I should be getting a minimum of 44Mbps and I had a personal conversation with my engineer’s Line (Get it?) Manager. He assured me he would work on it and I should contact me in a fortnight. Today I phoned him and he told me nothing had yet been done and I should phone him … in a fortnight. I will.

Thursday, 14th February, 2019

Thursday has opened cold but beautiful with clear, blue sky scored by airplane tracks and strong sunshine. It is shopping day. Central in our shopping nowadays is the excellent wet fish counter at Tesco. We have become friendly with the head fishman. He has certificates on the wall behind his display which is always attractive. Because we spend so much with him each week, he is very amenable to special requests. He supplies us with newly delivered, ‘joints of Tuna’ which we can cut into our own steaks. A joint provides about 6 huge steaks and will cost us about £34.00/€38.50 which is quite economical.

In the past week, Tesco announced that it was closing its fish counters at Tesco Extra stores – the largest stores where specialist counters ought to be a real attraction. It seemed madness. Tesco’s reasoning said that consumers are not shopping for ‘specialist’ delicatessen-type goods including wet fish and were rather favouring pre-prepared, pre-packaged items picked from shelves. We were disappointed at that news and resolved to write to Tesco management. This week, our fishman told us that they had been called in and reassured that their counter would remain. That’s one strong vote for Remain with one more still to go. We’ll get there!

Friday, 15th February, 2019

Another gorgeous day that has reached 14C/57F with clear, blue sky and strong sun. Similar weather is forecast for the next few days and we are beginning to think we will need sun-screen on for swimming and that is something we haven’t said since November when we were in Tenerife.

The waves of Brexit-crisis are crashing around our ears and we have reason to be unsettled but not half as much as all those ex-pat Brits living in other European countries.

I was surprised to find that Greece only has about 15,000 ex-pat Brits but I wasn’t surprised that Greece is one of the least prepared EU countries to offer advice to them. This comes from an English Language, Norwegian Newsletter:


Greece has been quiet on whether it will create legislation to allow more than 15,000 Brits who live in the country to remain should the UK exit from the European Union (EU) political bloc on March 29th, 2019, without a deal with the EU. As at February 6th 2019, Greece has made no announcements on UK citizens rights after Brexit.

According to the Living in Crete website, the British Ambassador says: ” The UK has unilaterally committed to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK in the event of a no deal scenario, and want to see our EU Member States do the same. My colleagues at the British Embassy in Athens and I have been in frequent contact with the Greek authorities, including at the highest levels in government, to share details of our offer and to press for reciprocity for UK nationals in Greece.”

The Local Europe AB

There are already many threats to UK travellers including

  • immediate loss of Mobile Roaming
  • immediate loss of EHIC reciprocal medical services
  • immediate requirement to have European Driving Licence
  • pre-booked ferries & flights threatened with removal or repricing

Saturday, 16th February, 2019

John’s Cassoulet

A grey start to the day and just 9C/48F but set to get a lot warmer before I make the (semi) naked trek out to the pool. We are certainly moving in to easier times. My job today is to prepare our meal for this afternoon so that it is ready when we get back from the Health Club at about 4.30 pm and starving.

My dish starts with two onions, four carrots, four sticks of celery and a bulb (yes, bulb) of garlic all roughly chopped and sweated off together. I am using one of the large, heavy, cast iron pans we bought almost 40 years ago – bright orange, Le Creuset ones. We don’t use them so much these days because they are so heavy but they are perfect for this dish. We have a large, heavy duty, cast iron trivet-topped, gas hob which can take such a heavy skillet and I sweat the vegetables off on there and throw in a packet of fresh sage roughly chopped. I also brown off two (French) duck legs and six pork sausages cut into pieces on this hob.

The meat and the vegetables are joined by haricot beans, chopped, plum tomatoes and a bottle of red wine and the whole thing goes into the oven to cook slowly for around 2.5 hours. Anything we don’t eat will form the basis for soup which we eat a bowl of each day before we go out to the gym. It is always home-made by Pauline. In fact, the one thing we will have eaten in the past couple of months that is not entirely home-made is the pork sausages in the cassoulet. We have and do make our own but not on this occasion and it does feel a little treacherously inconsistent but we all have to live a little bit dangerously.

While I was preparing the meal, Pauline was making another batch of ginger & cinnamon biscuits (She wasn’t totally happy about the last lot.) and making 4 loaves of wholemeal bread for herself.

Week 528

Sunday, 3rd February, 2019

Beautiful morning with clear sky and strong sunshine. Started off cold at 1C but rapidly warmed up until we reached 8C at mid morning. I must admit, I much prefer the milder conditions that are forecast for the weeks ahead. My brother, Bob, who is weird, goes around celebrating snowfall. He actually volunteered and spent 3 years of his life in the Antarctic as part of the survey team on South Georgia. It takes a specially weird type of person to want to do that. However, he has become a really good photographer of landscapes.

A Bob Landscape  –  cold!

It is the sort of thing I once had pretentions to do but, like so many things, I didn’t want it enough to put in the time. I think Bob gets up early and goes out on his own looking for places and scenes to photograph. It does need some dedication. I am dedicated to may things but photography has turned out not to be one of them.

Braised pheasant for our meal tonight. Now that’s something I could dedicate myself to although my enjoyment will be narrowed somewhat because of the alcohol ban. Pheasant and red wine are a match made in heaven but I am on a dry few months. I did the whole of January alcohol-free and then celebrated with a bottle of claret. I am now doing the whole of February alcohol free and then will take it month on month. I would like to get through to June with just 6 bottles of wine. I can do it but do I want to? We’ll see.

Monday, 4th February, 2019

Horrible cold, grey, wet morning. The bins have to go out – in this weather? My mind immediately turns to where we can go to find warmth and sunshine. We are stuck at 7C/45F. Tenerife is currently 22C/70F and sunny. That would do. If things don’t pick up soon, we will have to do something.

I want that blue sky!

Greece’s National Meteo Service  has issued a Red Alert warning of extreme weather phenomena – heavy rainfalls, powerful storms, hail-falls and snow. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t go looking for warm sun there. Actually, British Holiday Companies are reporting strong bookings for Summer travel although with an increased bias away from Europe possibly because of Brexit uncertainty. Turkey is a big winner, apparently, although it won’t be with us.

When we go to the Health Club, we are always amused that people paying to exercise try to park as close to the front doors as they can possibly get even if it means cramming their car into an unacceptably small space. We always park as far away as we can across the huge carpark so we have a long walk in and back. We regretted it today as we scurried the 200ms in driving rain and cold, blustery winds. It was actually 9C/48F but the brisk breeze made it feel freezing especially as we were only wearing shorts and tee-shirts.

Tuesday, 5th February, 2019

I try to be honest in my Blog. If I cannot be blunt with my thoughts here, where can I be. I lay myself open to ridicule and humiliation. One of the ‘problems’ I have is being a slave to routine. It can have a positive spin because I am driven to complete tasks without questioning and to adopt life-enhancing activities even when I don’t feel like doing them. However, Pavlov’s dogs and I have quite a bit in common. I don’t know if it has got worse in older age or just that I have more time to observe, acknowledge and reflect on it but it touches all areas of my life. I have ordered routines when I get up in the morning. I have ordered routines before I go to bed at night. I have very ordered routines when I have a shower whether if I am in the gym or at home.

Web Pages updated monthly.

Aside from Daily ordered routines, I have monthly and yearly ones as well. On the first day of each month, I take and record certain statistics from the previous month – gas & electricity consumption for example. At the opening of the new month, the filter on the water purifier has to be changed – a spill over from our time in Greece. Also, at the opening of the new month I update my home web pages which are my default pages and links on all my browsers.

I won’t bore you any more by listing examples of my annual routines but they exist and bind me in. Of course, many would describe this as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I find that too medicalised and official. They’ll be describing my forgetfulness as Alzheimer’s next.

Wednesday, 6th February, 2019

I see no ships!

Another grey day but incredibly warm – 11C/52F at 7.00am. We were out by 9.30am for a trip to Worthing on Sea on open market day. It wasn’t very inviting for shoppers who were greeted with grey sea skies shrouded in sea mist. It isn’t the most exciting light wherever you are but seaside towns seem particularly depressing and sad in this weather – perhaps because we associate them with holidays and sunshine. The streets, buildings, outdoor stalls all had a mantle of dampness. The seascape was heavily redacted by mist.

We had saved a number of tasks until we went to Worthing so did a brisk walk across town to visit M&S to spend a voucher Pauline had received for a Christmas present. Wilko‘s and Waitrose were also on the list and then a drive to B&Q. The whole trip had to be completed in time for PMQs with the Politics Live programme starting at 11.15 am.

Lovely to see the Brexiteers, who have spent years slagging the European Union off, screaming blue murder when the compliment is returned by Donald Tusk. The more the Brextremists are alienated, the less likely they will be prepared to accept May’s deal and the more they will demand No Deal. Political paralysis is what will lead to a second referendum on May’s deal or Remain which we are working towards. We need to be expanding the referendum electorate to include young people and expats who it will affect most. I really can’t understand how an ex-expat and lover of Greek Island life can favour UK’s severance from Europe and the loss of so many privileges/facilities that their expat friends rely on/enjoy. There must be a logic in it somewhere.

Thursday, 7th February, 2019

Out early on a wonderfully bright and sunny morning but one which felt much colder than its 10C/50F because of a strong and biting breeze. Shopping Day – when isn’t it? Asda for bananas because they are the best quality of all the supermarkets and then Tesco because of habit and they have a petrol station. The price of petrol today is 1.18.9p/€1.35 per litre but, because of our spend, we get a 5p/€0.57 off per litre voucher. Filling up only every fortnight, we’ve got six weeks of reduced bills to come. Generally, however, Asda petrol stations are the price leaders by some way and, after a long battle with local residents, Asda won their fight to add a petrol station to the carpark. We are absolutely delighted and found it developing well when we went shopping this morning.

Another thing which persuades us to do our main shop in Tesco is the savings vouchers we accrue each week. Today, our £100.00/€113.60 bill was reduced by £16.00/€18.20 as we cashed in last month’s vouchers – a saving not to be sneezed at.

We like to do all our shopping with a hand scanner. It is so much quicker and more controlled. When it comes to Checkout, I pay with my phone using Tesco Pay+ app which is so convenient and that is where the financial vouchers arrive as well so there is no paper involved at all. In Asda, we do the same but pay with Google Pay but that is limited to contactless limit of £30.00/€34.08 which makes it less useful. However, the ability to do the whole shop without human contact is delightful.

Friday, 8th February, 2019

Beauty in the eye of ….

Out early on a mild but grey morning. We were going to Rustington to collect my new glasses. It comes to something when that is the highlight of the day. Rustington is a town centre dominated by the older shopper.  Old people congregate in groups, standing around blocking pavements and shouting, What? at each other as they adjust their hearing aids.

Today I was collecting two pairs of long sight glasses and two pairs of reading glasses. Total price of £316.00/€361.00 feels reasonable and they will last me a couple of years at least. The previous two pairs will be stuck in a cupboard just in case – just in case what? I have no idea but it seems profligate to throw them away. The two pairs that I had been keeping ‘just in case’ can now be thrown away. The emotional attachment of four years ago has been weakened enough for that. The reading glasses are just replacement lenses because Specsavers no longer stock the ‘half-moon’ frames that I prefer. May have to keep these going for a few more years until they come back into fashion.

When we bought our new house in March 2016, we opted for a ‘upgrade’ kitchen mainly because we wanted a wine cooler and a swan-necked tap and a double oven. (Oh God!) As a result, we got things we didn’t really want which included one real shock when we moved in. The plinth at the base of the kitchen cupboards was illuminated a la Blackpool.

Who needs lights on the floor?

Today, one of those lights failed. One of the few things that aren’t covered by our 5-Year Warranty are light bulbs. We were going out near an electrical shop so I thought I would take this failed one with me to replace. Having checked behind the plinth, I looked this light (which came on a plugged lead) up on the internet.

This is it so I phoned the manufacturer but the company wouldn’t sell us any. The line has been discontinued although they have some still in stock. They sell to Trade only. Like so many new house developments, our kitchen was supplied by Symphony. We phoned them. They said they could sell us a pack of 4 for the amazing price of £126.00/€144.00. They are solid-state LEDs and really shouldn’t have failed at all but we had little option but to purchase them. It does go a bit against the grain though.

Saturday, 9th February, 2019

John Gillespie as I knew him.

After 5 hard days of activity including 5 consecutive sessions at the Health Club, we have decided to stay at home for the weekend. Football matches, Rugby matches, newspapers and political programmes will dominate. The weather has actually been quite warm and pleasant. We griddled tuna steaks outside in the garden for our meal. As we went through our day, we carried sad and heavy memories of our past lives with us.

Today was the memorial service of our first headteacher who died at the end of December. John Gillespie was a interesting man. He had taught at Gordonstoun School and then, having married a young cellist from that school, he moved on to become Head of an International School in Nigeria. Tragedy befell them when his wife contracted polio swimming in infected water out there and they returned to England where John got a Headship in Oldham of all unlikely places.  

In his last stage role.

Not to be defeatist, he and his severely handicapped wife, threw themselves in to all the cultural activities which they so loved. John was an avid amateur actor. His brother was a professional actor. John became an important member of the Saddleworth Players and remained so for almost 50 years. With his wife, he also set up the Saddleworth Concert Society in which both of them performed. His wife, Ruth, died about 10 years ago. John Gillespie died last December aged 92. It seemed a long way to drive for a memorial service but we carried thoughts of him round in our head all day.

He finished teaching in 1984 and had a long and rich  retirement of 34 years. As we approach our first 10 year anniversary of laziness, another 24 would not go amiss. Just think of all the travel we can do in that time and all the new cars. Will we still use cars in 2043? Will we still be in the EU? Will global warming have brought the Mediterranean to us by then? It seems so long off but we know it really isn’t.