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

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.

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