Week 536

Sunday, 31st March, 2019

A quiet day of sunshine but cool temperatures. All around us, neighbours were celebrating that commercially manufactured Mothers’ Day. We have no mothers so didn’t bother. To mark the start of British Summer Time, we broke the habits of a long time by eating red meat. It must be almost 12 months since we last did it. Today, we shared a roast leg of lamb. It was lovely and tasty but overwhelmingly fatty. We enjoyed the experience but won’t do it again in a hurry. Back to fish tomorrow.

We didn’t go to the Health Club either today which left me champing at the bit. No doubt, my legs will feel better tomorrow when we go. It is going to be another tumultuous political week although we will be away for most of it. We’ve chosen to go to Yorkshire just as snow is forecast. Looks like I will have to leave my customary shorts at home.

On this day 10 years ago, we had finally made the decision that we would accept a redundancy package and leave teaching forever. We were in some trepidation about our futures. We were uncertain about our financial security. We were just 3 days away from finishing and would never have believed how well it would work out for us. Finishing teaching was the best thing we ever did as I will expand on as the week unfolds.

Monday, 1st April, 2019

Happy April 2019. It is All Fools Day as few fools will be aware. Aside from picking spaghetti from our pasta tree, the fools who would be Tory politicians  will be centre stage today. The quest for Brexit (or not in my case) goes on this week. Actually, this morning has started with clear, blue sky and lovely, strong sunshine. It represents about the nearest clarity we can expect today.

Brexit is destroying our lives. We have even put off booking travel abroad because of it and I know many others have done the same. We wanted to drive down through France to Murcia in Spain to rent a villa for the month of July. I’ve even found a lovely one which would do fine. It has all our requirements – a heated pool, wi-fi, satellite television, kitchen, washing machine, iron+board. As usual, it is far too big with 3 bedrooms but it is standard fair. For the month of July it would only cost us £3,686.28/€4,300.00 which is a fantastic price.

We have a second problem which is causing us to rethink. We ordered our new car but have to wait  ….. until the start of July to have it delivered. Not only could the price go up by 10% if we have a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit but it blocks our attempts to commit to any dates. It might arrive at the end of June or be delayed into the middle of July. We want to drive there and we have fixed a trade-in of our current car based on a predicted mileage which would preclude an extra 3000 miles for a round trip to Spain.

It will be nice to do it in a new car so may have to be put off until next year. Nothing will prevent us returning to Athens in the Autumn nor spending a month in the Canary sun in November. The month in Spain would have cost somewhere around £7,000.00/€8,150.00 so we will bank that and use it to good effect next year.

Tuesday, 2nd April, 2019

Shortly after 9.00 am with rain spitting in the grey sky and a temperature of just 9C/48F, we drove off in the direction of Yorkshire. The journey – A24, M25, M1 – takes just under 5 hours. Traffic was delightfully easy, even the M25, but the weather was a different matter. Spitting rain gave way to torrential rain and standing water on the motorway with all the heavy goods vehicles creating spray blinding vision.

We had one stop at Toddington Services for a cup of coffee and a wee as we joined the M1. By that time, the sun was out but it was still fairly chilly and, as soon as we set off again, the rain came down again. Intermittent rain and sunshine with the temperature yo-yoing between 7C/45F and 3C/37F and back and a bout of wet snow as we drove through Derbyshire.

View from our Hotel Suite

We arrived in Huddersfield by 2.00 pm and filled up with petrol. £43.00/€53.36 that journey cost us. Fascinating to find Unleaded costing £1.27/€1.49 up here when it is £1.14/€1.34 at home in Sussex. Then we drove up to our hotel in Brighouse arriving in beautiful sunshine. The receptionist told me she went to Rastrick High School where the Headteacher was a friend and former colleague of ours.

The Lounge-Dining Room leading to the Bedroom & Bathroom of our Suite

We went to our Suite of rooms on the top floor and had a cup of coffee while we unpacked and watched Sky News to catch up on the Brexit developments from the Cabinet meeting. It consisted of a presenter and a reporter standing outside No10, looking at the comings and goings and talking about the cats in the street. We opened a bottle of Rioja and ate cold garlic chicken with tomato salad. Man.Utd. playing tonight.

Wednesday, 3rd April, 2019

A cooked breakfast – the only time we ever even contemplate it is in a hotel. We had one this morning before coffee in our suite and then driving off to Royton in Lancashire to meet our old friend, Brian and his wife, Val, for a catch up. It was fantastic and they will come down to visit us in the Summer.

We moved on to revisit old haunts in Oldham and then Huddersfield as the weather cycled between Winter, Spring, Summer and back again. It is exactly 10 years since we left our school for the last time after nearly 40 years of work. At the time, we had no idea how life would treat us and were in some trepidation.

Our school – 3/4/2009
Our school – 3/4/2019

Equally, we knew our school was finished and that, after 60 years, it would be bulldozed for other purposes but, further than that, we knew no more.

Life has treated us so much better than we expected and our school’s site has been sold to the House Building company, Redrow. Actually, standing there this morning, felt strange and rather out-of-body. New houses were going up at exactly the place where the two, caretakers’ houses once stood. Jack and Phil have been dead for some time. Now their physical existence has been totally expunged – the houses as well as Jack and Phil. The entrance to the main building is now the entrance to a building site upon which many, ‘Executive’ houses will be built right down the ski slope to Ripponden Road.

Actually, 10 years has almost completely anaesthetised the memories and we rapidly move on. Driving across the moors over the A640, Nont Sarah’s road to Huddersfield, we drop in on our old residence of Salendine/Longwood. Down in to Huddersfield town and a cup of tea in Sainsbury’s cafe and then back to our hotel to download and watch PMQs and drink a glass of wine. Tomorrow, we are meeting friends in Holmfirth for Lunch at a restaurant sited in an old, converted ‘Carding Shed’. Looking forward to seeing them again.

Thursday, 4th April, 2019

A relaxed morning of Breakfast and reading the papers. A little grey start to the day but it brightened up and we left around 10.30 am heading towards Holmfirth. We went through Huddersfield town centre going past the great, University buildings and on to Lockwood, Netherton and Meltham. It is strange how, returning to such familiar surroundings forces one to concentrate and resist the natural temptation to take the route for granted. We left here in 2011 and we spent this morning exclaiming, “They’re still going. They’re still here.”

Eventually, we drove through a rapidly changing Meltham village and climbed towards Holmfirth. We were meeting old friends, Margaret and Little Viv. Margaret is charged with finding a new and innovative venue every time we meet. Today, it was redeveloped woollen mill buildings on the outskirts of Holmfirth.

The former Carding building didn’t bode well.

It was the former ‘Carding Mill’ that we were going to which housed a vintage vehicle repair garage and sales area.

A passing distraction.
For those who mourn their past – not us.

There was a clothes shop where Pauline did some unsuccessful (thank goodness) shopping and a restaurant where we met up with our friends. We shared a sea-food platter and a Caesar Salad with fizzy water. Pauline went for it with cake & cream for pudding. I didn’t. It was a lovely time although we did reprise all the deaths in the past 6 months – John Gillespie, Marjorie Pogson, John Ownsworth, Harry Taylor, Pat Wild – and we pledged to meet again in October if Viv & Margaret can’t make it down to Sussex before that.

Friday, 5th April, 2019

Up early on a beautiful morning. Wonderful breakfast although we are pledged to not have hotel breakfasts ever again after this. We just eat too much. Coffee, packing and down to the car in lovely, warm sunshine.

The grounds really inform the enjoyment of this hotel. Rabbits and squirrels scuttling around under the blossom add to the delight. The M62 motorway is only 700 yds away but doesn’t intrude. It has been a lovely stay and we really enjoyed it but now we must make our way back.

M62, M1, M25, A24 are the roads we take from West Yorkshire to West Sussex on a drive of 260 miles. The drive was really easy and enjoyable. Now that the M1 has been completed in its transmogrification into smart motorway, there are no holdups and it is actually much quieter. We left Brighouse at 9.25 am and, even with a coffee stop, arrived home by 2.30 pm.

Saturday, 6th April, 2019

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birth…. well never mind. Who can really celebrate being 68? At least news on the Brexit front was improving this morning as negotiations run in to the sand and a ‘long extension’ is mooted. Lord Adonis and I have already agreed that around 500 years would be reasonable and then renegotiate.

Out this morning to Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco. Then we drove down to the fisherman’s hut at Littlehampton Marina and bought some Hake steaks cut from fish caught around Brighton. Apparently, Hake is, surprisingly, not so popular in the UK where much hake is caught but generally exported to Spain, Portugal and Italy where it is highly favoured. If we Brexit, that could be a problem for the generally Leave-voting fishermen who desert their primary markets.

Locally caught Hake

We also bought two, large, locally-caught sea bass which will be simply accompanied by Samphire for my birthday meal this evening. Finally, we bought a large joint of Tuna which will cut up into six, thick steaks for griddling.

The Fisherman’s Hut – Littlehampton Marina
Fresh, Locally-Caught Fish

It is a real bonus to be able to easily source fresh, locally-caught fish. While we lived in Huddersfield, our one, good fresh fish stall closed and left us without. In Surrey, we really had to rely on supermarkets and the occasional foray into the outdoor market. Here, we can buy fresh fish every day of the week depending on weather. We were told today that most of the fish was caught within a few miles of where we were and that, although locally caught crabs had been available all year round, he was short at the moment because the boats had been struggling with strong winds. I love fresh crab.

Week 535

Sunday, 24th March, 2019

Talk about Spring. Feels as if Summer has sprung today. No Gym today so spent the day in the back garden in warm (almost hot) sunshine. delicious!

Lady of the Manor

We unpacked the new furniture and enjoyed a relaxing time. Nice to find that the wireless net reaches out to the garden so we could follow twitter outside.

Nice to see the will of the British People is still speaking loud and clear while the Tory government is still floundering and falling apart. Fascinating week ahead.

Monday, 25th March, 2019

Gorgeous, gorgeous day. It was a bit unusual for us because we had the ‘snaggers’ in to retile the floor of an en suite bathroom. For that reason, we were up a little earlier and it was a good job we were. At 8.00 am, we received a phone call from someone who we had not seen for two or three years. It was an ex-colleague who was telling us of the death of his wife who was also a former, professional colleague.

I’m afraid I don’t have a photo to commemorate her here but Pat Wild, who was the matchmaker between my wife & I more than 40 years ago, has died of bowel cancer. She had fought it off twice before but finally succumbed last night. She had taught in the Arts & Technology building of our school and delivered courses in Fabrics & Weaving for many years. Her husband, Derek, who phoned us, had been Head of Chemistry for equally many years. They have lived in Uppermill, Saddleworth for 47 years.

These events are immediately evocative of life past. Hearing of Pat this morning and we are back in those buildings, those offices, those corridors – places Pat had not graced for 20 years and we have not seen for a decade. Pat’s death is a symbol of the passing of the lives of all who met in that place.

Because the builders were in and will be for three days, I had to go to the gym on my own. Pauline was making endless cups of tea for plumbers and tilers. She also took the chance to bake loaves of bread and make her favourite ginger biscuits. I have been captivated by the Prime ministerial statement concerning her total failure to cobble together support for her ‘deal’. The best way forward is to revoke Article 50 and the petition is already over 5.5 million signatures and increasing by almost 300 per minute. Ultimately, the Commons must take notice.

Bakaliaros, Skordalia & Banzari blending freedom & union

Today in Greece they celebrate Independence Day under the shelter of the European Union. Britain should remember that. The Greeks certainly don’t want to leave the EU but they are proud to be independent. The two are not incompatible. They blend beautifully like Bakaliaros, Skordalia & Banzari – salt cod (hake), garlic sauce & beetroot which are traditional fare on this day.

Tuesday, 26th March, 2019

Snaggers arrive for Day2/3

Another beautiful morning and we have the tilers in for the second of three days of ‘snagging’. I’ve written how lucky we are to have a 5-year warranty because we are now just into year 4. Our next door neighbours signed for their property a few weeks after us and only received a 3-year warranty because our builders had downgraded their offer in that time. Incredibly unfair to them but fortunate for us.

Wednesday, 27th March, 2019

The tiler and plumber came back for a couple of hours this morning to replace the sink and toilet and grout around them. Two, lovely, hardworking and gentle men. Polite, dedicated and delightful, they have highly sympathetic and pleasant. We have found so many skilled men of genuine kindness in the process of purchasing and configuring our home. It is constantly uplifting to meet them.

Our Healtrh Club

The workmen finished and left by mid-day which freed us to go to the health Club together. I was doing the 12th routine in the past 14 days but felt good and really enjoyed it. The swimming at the end was just wonderful. The water was warm as was the air temperature at 16C/61F even though we had no sun by afternoon.

Couldn’t wait for parliamentary proceedings as we drove home around 4.00 pm. Today, the House of Commons took control of the order paper and held indicative votes. A second referendum came with 27 votes of being approved and will go forward to the second round on Monday. The Prime minister has offered to resign to buy votes for her ‘deal’ but the DUP have pledged not top support he so it looks as if she’s thrown herself under a bus prematurely and unnecessarily.

Thursday, 28th March, 2019

Jane + insignificant other.

Sister, Jane, comes of age today with her 65th birthday. Quite unbelievable. To think it is 50 years since we shared a bus together as I got off at the Boys Grammar School and she went on to the Girls High School. We haven’t seen much of each other since then but, now, we are both playing out in retirement. I wish her a very happy birthday.

A warm day and lovely and sunny after a grey start. We did our round of supermarkets for the week’s shopping and then home to do jobs. The back garden was bathed in sunshine and quite delightful. The re-seeded lawn is lush, thick and healthily green. In a secluded, warm spot behind the garage, the fig trees are loving their situation. they are covered in baby figlets ready for the summer harvest. The coming nights are forecast to be cold so we have covered the trees in nets to protect them. We are looking forward to making fig jam again after five years without it.

Figlets abound.

The potted herbs – Tarragon, Oregano and  Laurel Bay are doing well. I will replace the Thyme, Basil, Dill and Sage in a couple of weeks. We use so herb in our cooking now and so little salt that it is good to have large stocks of frozen, fresh chopped herbs in our freezers.

Another, full Health club exercise routine again today. it is my  19th out of 20 days. The swimming today was quite delightful. Warm sunshine, warm water, tuneful birds singing optimistically all around us.

Friday, 29th March, 2019

Happy Independence Day and what a day! Blue sky, strong sun, warm temperature which reached 20C/68F by mid afternoon. Although we went to the gym to do our exercise routine, the day was dominated by Brexit proceedings in the House of Commons. Our house had the Parliament Channel in Quadrophenia throughout the morning.

Wrap around Parliament

Televisions were on in two rooms upstairs as Pauline ironed and put things in the wardrobes and in two rooms downstairs as I moved between the Office and the Kitchen. I have to admit that although I believed, intellectually, that the Government was going to lose, emotionally, I had grave doubts. Something could go seriously wrong. My real concern was that Labour rebels would turn fright at the last minute and back the Withdrawal Agreement.

As the debate continued, we drove to the gym and spent 90 minutes watching the Parliamentary proceedings as we exercised. We finished just as the speeches wound up and the Commons moved to vote. Today we didn’t swim for the first time this week and I went off for 30 mins in the jacuzzi and water massage area. As I shared and changed, I realised that I was thinking about the vote and the result. I was actually quite nervous. I left the changing room to meet Pauline in the Lobby where she had been watching the proceedings on television as she waited for me. She immediately greeted me with thumbs up. The motion had been defeated by 58 votes which was more than I expected and enough to deter the Government from bringing it back. What joy!

It’s going to be a good weekend. Maybe a good few years. Anyway, chicken griddled in the garden with tomato and rocket salad and a bottle of delicious Bordeaux rouge. Life could be a lot worse. I’m raising a glass to the Skiathan.

Saturday, 30th March, 2019

Ribes is back in fashion.

This is the day that leads to BST. It is a beautiful day of warm sunshine. 16C/61F by mid morning. Tomorrow marks the start of British Summer Time although our village is looking incredibly summery already. One minute everything was dead as a dead thing and then everything was a riot of colour. Particularly, now, our village is seeing the last of the daffodils fade, the magnolia blooms still at peak fullness and now the Ribes – Flowering Currant everywhere alight. The crimson of Ribes set in front of the blushed white flowers of magnolia is inspired planting in gardens around here.

White flowering Blackthorn

Driving around the West Sussex roads, the hedges are vibrant with the white flowers of the inappropriately named Blackthorn hedging which is abundant down here and stands out starkly in the sunshine. Nothing is standing still, however. Trees, hedges are suddenly green without any real warning. The grass is growing lusciously as the frolicking cattle outside with sun on their backs gorge and graze. This is such a time to be alive and feel optimistic. It is a time to be grateful for being alive and feel able to be optimistic.

I cannot sit still any more. I have to be active. This morning, under a strong, warm sun, I spent 2 hours fully valeting the car. Then we went to the Health Club for the 20th day in the last 22. Actually, we will have tomorrow off which will be strange but allow us to adjust to the loss of an hour.

Week 534

Sunday, 17th March, 2019

So many of our friends are posting pictures of flooding in the North. Here, the weather has finally returned the sun. After a third, consecutive early night, I woke at 4.00 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. By 6.00 am, I was desperate to get up.

After breakfast, we decided it was nice enough for a walk down on the beach. It wasn’t so warm and the sea breeze kept us aware of that but it felt so healthy. We parked at the marina’s edge and walked up the promenade.

Littlehampton Marina Promenade

A few people were already out with their dogs and one or two couples were sitting on the beach, making sand castles with their toddlers. We walked along the sea’s edge and inhaled the salt & ozone air.

Here comes Summer ….

Still did a full Gym & Swim session this afternoon. We had the pool to ourselves although seagulls were squawking overhead. We both felt good as we drove home to cook roast cod loin with prawns and accompanied by cauliflower and Broccoli salad. I’m starving!

Monday, 18th March, 2019

Always looking for things to lower my calorie intake without compromising life too much. For quite a while, I substituted a sparkling grape juice from Asda which costs £1.00/€1.17 and contains circa 150 cals per 750 mls compared with a similar size bottle of wine which packs around 600 cals. The flavour and effect are, admittedly, not equivalent but I can kid myself through it.

I buy it in collections of 10 bottles at a time and keep it in the wine cooler/fridge. I went to Asda today to replenish my stock but was shocked to find the shelves were bare. When we enquired, we were told that it had been discontinued. I felt quite lost, bereft and searching for an alternative. There is Shloer but it is quite disgusting. I had to resort to one of my favourite Riojas instead. Bit of a rude name but a lovely flavour. It cost me £4.99/€5.90 to import but would cost £9.50/€11.15 to buy in UK.

Speaker Bercow

I am increasingly finding myself impressed by Speaker Bercow. I don’t know why but there it is.

Tuesday, 19th March, 2019

Bright but coolish day. The lawns are growing fast and the daffodils are going over as we approach ‘official start of Spring’ tomorrow. UK (Catholic) Easter is just 4 weeks on Sunday and Greek (Orthodox) Easter the week after. Our friends on Sifnos sent us a photo of little piece of us that remains on Sifnos. We gave these things to Elerania, our Notary, when we left and she has maintained them in her garden and office.

We remain in Greece.

It is lovely to feel that contact still remains however tenuous. We look forward to our return this Summer/Autumn. Let’s hope conditions ease and we feel free to commit ourselves to European travel once again.

Wednesday, 20th March, 2019

Well, the first day of Spring has not started well – grey skies and 13C/55F. The window cleaner has been and relieved us of £18.00/€21.00. At least the windows are sparkling. I’ve mowed the lawns which makes the world look a little tidier after treating the broad-leaved weeds that have crept in over the Winter. I did that a few days ago but I still have one or two areas that will need a little reseeding. I still love my cordless mower which is moving into its 4th year and going well. It takes all the hassle out of mowing and I can do everything in around 30 mins.

It’s a joy to cut the lawns with.

The only problem is that you have to remember to charge the battery in advance. This morning, I tried it without and the machine died after 5 stripes. Now I’ve got to wait before finishing – a bit like Theresa May!

By weird coincidence, Mum’s family originated in Brighton. She would be surprised to find me living down here now. I must admit, I didn’t realise where her love of Magnolia trees came from. Sussex seems to provide the perfect environment for them to thrive and flourish. In her East Midlands home, she was incredibly proud of a massive (over large) Magnolia tree that dominated the top of her garden. She was always nervous as the buds were about to open because they were very prone to frost damage which was quite common up there. Here, on the South coast, frost is much less a threat. Our village has been illuminated by the most magnificent specimens for around three weeks. As we move into the start of Spring, Magnolias and daffodils are fading already.

Thursday, 21st March, 2019

Recent winds revealed a problem with a stretch of garden fencing which separates our garden from our neighbour’s. The installers are being brought back by our builders to address the two posts which seemed to have not been sited properly. It is another great value of a 5-year warranty on everything. I already have one or two thin patches that need additional re-seeding. Newly dug holes for fence posts will need it now too.

Fencing this Morning – Touché.

No shopping this morning because the contractor was here but politics was plenty absorbing anyway. As we move into the Brexit endgame, another referendum is rapidly being replaced by the urgent need for revocation of Article 50. Fortuitously, a girl with a Greek name, Margarita Georgiadou, put up a petition on the Government website demanding just that – revocation of Article 50. Within 10 hrs, it had more than 1.5 million signatures and was so popular that it kept on crashing. Quite amazing how these things sometimes arise out of the zeitgeist and take off. We are writing the government’s Plan B.

I am desperately tired tonight. We have just completed the 6th out of 7 days of exercise – 600 mins. When we have completed tomorrow, we will have done 13/14 days or just short of 23 hrs effort. It is no wonder we are beginning to feel it. May have to take Saturday off although it’s looking less likely we will get to the London rally. No coach spaces left. The train service which should be just one journey is already advertised as two trains plus a bus replacement each way and, from our last experience, there is a good chance that we might not get home.

Friday, 22nd March, 2019

Another grey and cool day. We did our weekly shop and then decided NOT to go to the gym. We have been really good recently and feel distinctly tired so a less energetic day was planned. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

The political scene is captivating at the moment. The government is falling apart. The referendum decision is contributing to that disintegration. We know it was a major mistake for the referendum to be called, for a binary decision to be placed, for the national suicide that is Brexit to be chosen and for an incredibly right wing clique to place its own interpretation on that result.

What is more surprising are the people who have gone along with that movement. One person I follow who maintains a Blog, who is a former expat on a Greek island and who has a European partner/wife actually believes that UK should withdraw from Europe with all that entails. To realise that leaves me in despair and wondering what people think Brexit will practically do for them. What is the actual upside? I just cannot get in to that mindset at all. Today, a Revoke Article 50 petition, which was only listed yesterday, reached a record-breaking 3.5 million signatures. Tomorrow, we will see a huge demonstration of national will in favour of a second referendum and Remain in the EU. Anybody with strong links with the EU and a love of Greece should support it.

Saturday, 23rd March, 2019

What a grey day! Spring warmth but not light. We woke up thinking about the People’s March and feeling ashamed that we had not managed to arrange to be there. We followed it on Twitter Live Streaming as the crowds built up to a crescendo of 1,000,000 +. Even the BBC and Sky News were quoting those figures as the day went on. People at the event like my sister, Jane BG, messaged me to say that the numbers were so much greater than the previous march that she thought that, headline figure was probably an underestimate.

1,000,000 March

While that demonstration of people power played out with members of all political parties speaking out, the Revocation Petition was powering on and is currently standing at 4,630,000 signatures. Any politician who ignores these signs is signing their own demise.

Fighting against our demise, we spent the morning stockpiling against the threat of a No Deal famine – buying staples like toilet paper, washing tablets, tinned pulses, bottled water, etc, supplies of which are threatened by this lunatic suicidal tendency. We then did our 12th exercise session out of the last 14 days. I had cooked Cassoulet for our meal so it was ready when we got home some 3hrs later. Now, we are so tired, it is all we can do to listen to this afternoon’s speeches. They were good, though. Let’s hope the Skiathan was listening.

Week 533

Sunday, 10th March, 2019

A windy night which left us repositioning the garden furniture this morning. Mild and bright but windy. May not swim today but just do our gym work. Big football match this afternoon.

The big Brexit week to come has been prefaced by a number of pieces of news about Greece.

The first and not immediately Brexit-related came concerning American tourists who form a large part of tourism to Greece. Travelling to Europe will become more complicated for Americans beginning in 2021. The European Union announced Americans will need to obtain a visa known as a European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, to travel to 26 nations starting in 2021. Among the nations included are France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The second is for British Expats in Greece. The Head of Greek Customs has made an announcement confirming that, in the case of no-deal, all imports and exports from and to the UK, including 7,000 products imported daily from e-shops, will be subject to the customs checks associated with third country nations. Tariffs will also be imposed. This includes parcels through ELTA and Courier services. Greek businesses will need an EORI number to make declarations.

The third is for tourists. 4,200,000 UK tourists a year will be subject to irritating baggage checks and will be unable to carry more than 10,000 euros cash with them. He says that a no-deal Brexit would cause huge problems. It certainly will if the combined changes persuade the lucrative tourist market to look elsewhere.

Monday, 11th March, 2019

The winds have dropped, temporarily, but they are forecast to be back in the early hours and for the first half of tomorrow. Today is an absolutely lovely day with blue sky and sunshine.

Lovely sunshine on Sifnos yesterday for their annual carnival with the ‘folk’ pageant in Artemonas village. Plenty of people doing ‘silly’ things for the enjoyment of the crowds. Today is a  Bank Holiday for Καθαρά Δευτέρα or ‘Clean Monday’ – the start of Lent. Fasting starts today and traditionally no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products or oil are allowed to be eaten for the 48 days leading up to Easter. And, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. It’s certainly all Greek to me!

Tuesday, 12th March, 2019

Strong winds this morning. The bins are rattling around. The natural world is in turmoil. We went to bed last night in mental turmoil as we listened to news that May & Cox had returned from Strasbourg with a ‘Deal’ which would ‘get Brexit across the line’ as common parlance would have it. How would the DUP and the ERG groups view it? This was the crucial thing. By midnight, the tiredness of the day had snuffed out the cares of the evening and brought the soothing sleep of night.

At 5.55 am the radio awakes us and the news tells us that the legal text will be available by mid morning but that they have secured ‘legally binding changes’ to the Backstop. That is the worst nightmare. It could bring the hard-line Leavers on board. Depression over orange juice at 7.00 am. By 9.00 am it is announced that the legal text has been released and it says in cold, factual text that the legal position has not changed at all since the last, huge rejection.

Attorney General, aka Rumpole of the Bailey, admits nothing has changed.

As we set off on our trip to the Health Club, Attorney General, codpiece-Cox explains the lack of change to the House of Commons. Working out on the jogger and the exercise bike while watching the proceedings makes the time wizz past. The Tory Benches are full for the Attorney General but sparse when the Prime minister gets up to speak. It soon becomes obvious that she hasn’t got support of her own side never mind the Labour Party. The question is can she squeeze her vote out? Nervous wait until it is announced that the DUP and ERG will not support the deal. Joy but nervous.


The Commons troops through the Lobbies at 7.00 pm and we hear that the Deal will fall. The ‘No’ lobby, we hear, is absolutely packed. The announcement and time to pop the corks as Brexit deal defeated by a huge 149 votes. The next two days will see votes to take ‘No Deal’ off the table and then, on Thursday to vote for an extension to Article 50 which will help facilitate another vote. This is the playing out of the scenario we have been envisaging since A50 was so perceptively triggered without any plan. Brexit is in the Terminal Ward.

Wednesday, 13th March, 2019

After the elation of last night, we were brought back down to earth this morning with the arrival of the post. Our Council Tax demand for the next year came through the door.

Actually, although the increase of 5.6% appears high in percentage terms and certainly high set against the current UK inflation rate of 2.1%, in reality it is not so high financially. Actually, although we’re starting our 4th year here, I couldn’t remember our Banding. When I looked up what Band F valuation was, I found our valuation in 1991 would have been £160,000.00/€187,000.00. If only we had bought it then. Of course, the lunacy of this system is that our house wasn’t built until 25 years after that indicative valuation.

Thursday, 14th March, 2019

A wild and windy morning that was extraordinarily mild – reading 15C/60F. We did our weekly shop at Asda and Tesco before setting off for the Health Club and our 7th consecutive session. Swimming was wonderful but the breeze across our backs was a little chilly as it whipped up spray and dashed it, even colder, down into our faces. We always follow 70 mins in the gym with 30 mins swimming outside and with 10 mins in the sauna. I follow that with 20 mins in the jacuzzi and water massage pool. By the time we leave, we have been there over 2 hours. By the end of all that and a shower, I feel fit, relaxed, excessively clean and fresh and ready for my meal.

My school 10 years ago.

Walked just short of 50 miles this week and 160 in the past month. In the past year, I’ve covered 1900 miles. I am quite pleased with that. In just over 3 weeks, I will be 68 years old and it will be almost exactly 10 years since I retired. On the exact anniversary of that day, I will stand outside my school and take a photo which will be placed in contradistinction to the scene pictured above. You may be surprised to see the difference on April 3rd. Everything changes, I know but I do get flash backs. I don’t long to go back ever. I am very happy with the present and look forward to the future but I do think one’s history informs future stages and keeping things in context is important.

Friday, 15th March, 2019

Almost three years ago, we were moving in to our new home without furniture. We had ordered a dining table and chairs from a shop in Oldham/Manchester but it hadn’t fully arrived. We needed somewhere to sit and eat so we rapidly bought a six-seater garden table and chairs from Argos and put it in the kitchen while we waited.

Chairs arrived without dining table – April 2016

The garden furniture set cost about £300.00/€352.00 and we’ve had it three years. A cost of £100.00/€117,30 per year seems excessive but we needed more comfortable seating outside and so the old has to go. It was only ever a stop-gap. Today, we cleaned it up and stacked it on the drive – 6 x chairs + 1 x glass topped table + umbrella, pole and weight-anchor. It was collected by the local hospice charity, St Barnabas House which we used when we first arrived to donate about £3000.00/€3520.00 worth of artwork.

We went to the Health Club late because of the Hospice Pick-up. We had also been to collect another tranche of Euros bought at £1.00 = €1.18 which was a recent high. We just did 70 mins and not our swim. It wasn’t pleasant weather anyway. Light rain made it feel unpleasant. When we drove home, I cooked a dish of roasted Fennel, Onion, Red Pepper with sliced field mushrooms and dressed with Dill and olive oil. The chicken thighs were dressed with tarragon and Parmigiano Reggiano. It represented an answer to that Friday feeeling.

Saturday, 16th March, 2019

We are told that the weather is moving towards a fine, dry and settled spell. No real signs yet. It feels nice and mild although isn’t especially at 11C/51F and 4C less than yesterday. It is still spitting with rain and fairly grey above. Time for a change – to coin a phrase.

Switzerland – 15/3/2010

This time 9 years ago we were just boarding an Anek Lines vessel at Ancona bound for Patras. The day before, we had driven at top speed through Switzerland (as any sane human being would do) and on to Moderna in Italy where we stayed the night.

Patras bound – 16/3/2010

Only 9 years ago but it all seems a life time away. We still haven’t finalised travelling arrangements this year until Brexit uncertainty is resolved and it appears that we are not alone.

Anyway, back to the grindstone and a 9th consecutive day of exercise. If we don’t turn up, people will be starting to worry for our safety. However, the most amazing thing has happened over the past couple of nights. I have always woken at 6.00 am and gone to bed at midnight. I’ve done this most of my adult life apart from when I was teaching and studying for a Degree at the same time. Then, I rarely slept much at all. For the past two nights, we have gone to bed at 10.00 pm and 9.30 pm and slept like logs throughout. Although it seems a waste of time, we must have been tired.

Week 532

Sunday, 3rd March, 2019

We made the right decision to stay at home today. Very unwelcoming outside – wet, grey and windy. So many bushes and particularly hydrangeas are budding up in anticipation of the Spring warmth. Daffodils have been flowering so early that many are already starting to go over.

Looking back, I find that 10 years ago today we had heavy snow in our Yorkshire, quarry garden but that it didn’t last. In retrospect, it seems a lifetime away. Our working lives were in their last few weeks although we couldn’t exactly be sure of that. Things were still being negotiated.

We still owed £65,000.00/€76,000.00 on our mortgage 10 years ago although it turned out that we only had another five weeks of paying it. At the signature of a pen, we stopped work, paid off our mortgage and set off for Greece. Now, in five weeks time, we are going back to see what has actually changed 10 years on.

Monday, 4th March, 2019

A quiet day at home in the morning and Health Club in the afternoon. We are beginning to pluck up courage to book our future trips but we will obviously spend some part of the summer in our deliciously, warm and sunny garden. We’ve decided to do it in comfort by ordering more comfortable garden furniture.

Reasonable price for Sofa, 2 x Arm Chairs, coffee table plus weatherproof covers. I ordered it and received an email back within minutes to say that it would be delivered on Thursday. It’s coming from Farnworth in Bolton, Lancashire. There is only one day this week that we will not be at home and that is …. Thursday. We are shopping in France. I emailed them back and received a message by return to say it would arrive on Friday instead. Incredible service!

Tuesday, 5th March, 2019

Did the pheasant cross the road?

A busy morning out around the area including collecting ‘repeat prescriptions’ – Makes us sound so old. – and trips to Asda and Sainsburys. We leave the house at 1.00 pm and return from the Health Club at 4.00 pm. It does take a chunk out of the day but it makes us feel so much better. The trip from our house to the David Lloyd Health Club takes about 5 mins and there are notable views on the way. Before we drive through a heavily wooded stretch of road, we pass a couple of farmers’ fields which, on some days, are full of sheep and on others are covered in pheasants. Now I love pheasants to eat and the males look absolutely wonderful.

Back 60 years ago in rural Derbyshire, Dad used to go on a New Year’s Day pheasant shoot and then hang his kill in an outhouse to ‘mature’ before they were roasted and eaten. To a young lad, they seemed very strong in flavour. The joke was that game should be hung until it moved involuntarily (with maggots) before it was ready to be plucked, gutted and roasted. Dad also joked of running pheasants over on the roads around our village and sticking them in the back of his car to be taken home. For quite a few years, Pauline and I have been buying pheasant carcasses for about £3.50 each and enjoying them roasted at home.

As I drove to the Health Club today, a magnificent, cock pheasant scurried out of the woodland and across the road towards us. I didn’t have time to think but jammed on my brakes as ABS kicked in and I ground to a halt. Fortunately, the car coming the other way also saw what was happening, braked and the startled pheasant stepped back in to the woodland. It lives to be shot another day before ending up in my oven.

Wednesday, 6th March, 2019

A fairly uninspiring day of grey clouds and spits of rain which is a pity because our village has suddenly become a riot of colour with carpets of crocus and daffodils in full bloom and trees and bushes – cherry, magnolia, forsythia all shocked into colour by the recent warm weather. The two elements seemed rather incongruous as we drove out to Tesco this morning.

I had a task to do before I went out. It is Day 7 of my ‘challenge’, from an old, college friend, to review books which have most shaped my Life. For my final day, I recalled my post-formal education influences and described my personal attempts to widen my knowledge of the world of Music & Art. These were areas in which I felt my personal education was badly lacking.

I forced myself to buy and play classical works – starting with Chopin and Rachmaninov, moving on to Mozart, Beethoven, Sibelius and Shostakovich. Often, I hated what I was hearing but, by constant repetition, I began to learn and to love the music. For the first time, I found music profoundly moving. The Études and Nocturnes of Chopin could reduce me to a blubbering wreck. I learned something about myself that was a little frightening but I was pleased that I had confronted it.

Next, I had to try to break in to the world of Opera. It is quite daunting. My local newsagent – back in the day that I was going out to buy physical copies of The Times and we were still buying magazines – had a new publication on the shelves. It was a monthly booklet called Discovering Opera. Each month it featured a major work and was a collation of biography of the composer/librettist, a simple outline of the opera narrative, information of famous artists who had performed in past productions and a Cassette/CD of recordings of significant sections from those productions. Issue 1 was Bizet’s Carmen, followed by Puccini’s Tosca, Verdi’s La Traviata and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. After two years, Issue 24 and final edition featured Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin.

Of course, Opera is a performance art and we did go to some performances but it was soon apparent that it was not right for me. Music makes me cry. Lots of things make me cry but especially music. I cannot get through La Bohème without soaking my shirt but, worse, I cannot stop myself singing out loud along with the professionals. For that reason alone, I have been banned from live performances.

Thursday, 7th March, 2019

The entrance to Auchan, Coquelles

Up at 5.00 am and out by 5.30 am just as the light was rising. Driving to the Tunnel for an 8.30 am crossing. The traffic was light and very light at the tunnel. Actually, we left at 8.20 am (9.20 am CET) and drove off at 9.55 (CET). Our crossing was ‘free’ because I had pre-ordered £250.00/€293.00 of wine from Calais Wine Store. It was already on a trolley for me when we arrived. We picked another £250.00 worth of additional wine and loaded up the car after putting the back seats flat.

We drove on to Auchan in Coquelles with still signs of illegal immigrant penetration around the area. There was a strong, blustery wind which had a biting edge to it and a group of immigrants huddled together for warmth and protection from the elements in a bus shelter. As we drove past, a Gendamerie car stopped and they began to disperse. After loading our trolley with about £200.00/€234.00 of goods mainly dominated by Duck Breasts, Duck Legs and fish, we set off for Cité Europe a shopping centre located next to the French terminal of the Channel Tunnel at Coquelles.

Lots of fresh fish available.

It is all very convenient. Pauline bought a couple of pairs of summer shoes to add to the other 150 pairs that she rarely wears which are stored in her wardrobes. We bought cheeses and cured meats, some vegetables and lots of large jars of Moutarde Dijon which we love especially for cooking and in sauces.

Off back to the Tunnel sous le manche just 5 mins away at 12.30pm CET. That’s where the fun started. The passports and customs checks are being imposed as if we have left the EU and we immediately get stuck in horrendous queues for checking of vehicles and then for checking of passports. It is taking five times as long as it used to do and is very frustrating.

Things turn uncomfortable at the border.

Just to add to the dissatisfaction, the weather changed rapidly to dark and brooding with blustery, cold and driving rain. As we drove to the UK tunnel entrance, we saw the motorway reduced to 2 lanes with the third reserved for queuing lorries and even worse was the freight queue on the French side. Just-in-Time will certainly become Just-in-Time-for -next-week if we Brexit. The French border is already beginning to look as bad as the Swiss crossing.

Friday, 8th March, 2019

Out with the old …

Quite a long day yesterday and about 4 hours of driving. This morning we were a bit tired. We’ve got a delivery of garden furniture from Bolton. The company have sent me a text to say it will be between 12.30 – 14.30 which is just when we would have been off to the Health Club so tiredness and other circumstances conspire to keep us at home today. As a result, I decided to do a bit of garden tidying.

The hydrangeas are budding and opening so I have pruned back all the dead heads of last year. Quite a symbolic act. Unfortunately, I had only been outside for half an hour and I was really chilled. It is 10C/50F outside but there is a strong breeze and it feels so much colder. Why fight it. I gave up and settled for a cup of coffee.

The furniture has arrived, been unpacked in the garage, had its weather-proof coverings put on and set out on the patio. As we moved the furniture out of the garage and on to the patio, Pauline stumbled and fell, grazing her knee and bruising her ankle, thigh and hip. Fortunately, none of her injuries were very bad but bad enough and warning that we must take more care. The car is now stuffed to the gunnels with folded, cardboard boxes and polythene covers which will go to the local tip tomorrow. Outside, it has just started to rain lightly and we are going to spend the afternoon tucked up indoors.

Saturday, 9th March, 2019

For little Catherine.

When you have sisters in their 60s, you know you are in trouble. I’m in trouble! When we moved in to our new house, Catherine came round and brought us some small, cyclamen plants. Just over two years later, they are thriving, flowering and multiplying. As I photographed these this morning, a huge bumble bee sat on the petals. Signs of a nature’s cycle re-awakening.