Week 537

Sunday, 7th April, 2019

The first night of my 69th year was rudely interrupted. Around 2.30 am and in darkness, I found myself hunched over the dressing table in our bedroom, stark naked and howling in pain. My wife – also stark naked – was heavily massaging my inner thigh. Even at that time of night, I hadn’t expected such activity. I had leapt out of bed with the most chronic cramp which felt as if my thigh muscle had turned to a rod of iron. It took me back more than 50 years when Saturday night/Sunday morning was often punctuated with such problems after the rugby game I had played that day but it is rare at my current age.

She’s Eaten It Already!

My wife’s hands managed to soothe the tension and relieve the pain and I gingerly returned to bed but took quite a while to get back to sleep. Consequently, I was tired when the alarm went off at 6.00 am and we lazily stayed there for another hour. As ever, Sunday mornings are newspapers and political programmes and then off to the gym which was incredibly quiet. Half Term has started and a lot of families have gone away.

We did our full routine including a delightful swim outside and then left via the café where Pauline insisted on claiming the ‘free’ birthday cake that I was entitled to as a member of the club. She even took it home to eat after her meal.

She eschewed the ‘free’ coffee that was included in the members’ birthday offer. The meal was tuna steaks griddled outside and accompanied by three, different salads. Looking forward to the laying on of hands again tonight.

Monday, 8th April, 2019

No problems in the night. Didn’t get up once. The day has been lovely with warm temperatures – 18C/65F – and sunny skies. I cut the lawns and pruned back the herbs in pots ready for lots of new growth. Later we went to the gym and also did a wonderful swim under sunny skies with bird song all around.

We should have been in Lancashire. We feel dreadful that we aren’t there for our friend, Pat’s funeral. We have both known her for 45 years or more and she laid claim to be the matchmaker between Pauline & I although she wasn’t really. We continued to indulge her in her view. Pat taught in our school Craft Block – Art & Fabrics, particularly weaving. She married Derek, Head of Chemistry, a saxophonist and karate enthusiast.

We last saw them about three years ago in their Uppermill home and just did not know that Pat had already suffered and fought off two bouts of bowel cancer. They thought they had beaten it but, before Christmas, it was confirmed that it had returned and this time there was no coming back. Pat died two weeks ago at the age of 78. When our generation was young, death at that age would have been considered a success and a ‘good innings’ as it was euphemistically described. Today, it feels cruelly short.

Unfortunately, we were in the north for four days last week and don’t feel able to make the long trek again so shortly afterwards. We have spoken to Derek and our friend, Little Viv, will represent us at the funeral. She sent us a copy of the Order of Service with the photographs I’ve posted above.

Tuesday, 9th April, 2019

A wet, wet day on the south coast. We did a trip through Littlehampton and Wick to Curry’s Superstore where we were collecting Pauline’s new smartwatch, a Garmin Vivofit4. It measures lots of things including her daily paces, interfaces with her smartphone and it also tells the time which is useful. It is, importantly, swimming-proof. As smartwatches go, it is very cheap – £49.99/€58.00 – and does everything she needs.

The road was damp as we drove to Wick and, some way before the roundabout, we hit a traffic jam. Traffic is increasingly heavy around here like most places but this was unusual at 10.30 am. As we got closer, we saw the tell-tale flashing blue lights and closer still two police cars and two ambulances were attending an accident on the roundabout. A middle aged man was on the floor, wrapped in a blanket and being attended to by paramedics. His motorbike was absolutely crushed just nearby. A van and a car were parked at the site. For the rest of the day, we carried that sight round with us in our heads and it wasn’t a happy experience.

Wednesday, 10th April, 2019

This morning has opened with dry and brighter skies and reasonably warm although only 9C/49F. This morning is Politics, Politics,Politics, + PMQs. Wonderful!  Meanwhile, the temperature on Sifnos is double ours as they start to pull away towards Easter. This is the view from the back of the beach in Kamares this morning:

Kamares Beach this morning.

Actually, we reached 14C/57F as we swam outside in lovely sunshine. Just 30 mins per day about 6 times per week leaves me looking like a weather-beaten beachcomber. It’s quite amazing how little daylight and not always sunshine one needs per day to top up the vitamin D. We are certainly lucky to live in an area with one of the highest sunshine rates in the country. My sister drew my attention to this article in the local paper, The Argus:

Worthing has the UK’s best pier.

I must say that the West Sussex coastline is really attractive and enjoyable to walk along. I wouldn’t say the town and pier are a wow. Like so many British seaside towns, it has quite a strong whiff of decay which will always be hard to regenerate until global warming brings the Mediterranean to us.

Thursday, 11th April, 2019

Quite a chilly start to the day. The temperature read 2C/36F on our smartphones although it was just a clear sky with lovely, early sun outside. If you follow the Blog day by day, you will have noticed that I reverted to confusing the days and dates this week. My only excuse is that I copy & paste from one entry to another to save time and sometimes absent mindedly forget to update the paste. I’ve corrected it this morning but not before I committed another, stupid error in the supermarket.

Cornering the red pepper market!

Everything is automated in our shopping. We do self-scan and pay by smartphone at the checkout. It is all so quick, easy and painless. We don’t even feel we are spending money most of the time. We instantly have digital records of our purchases and payments. Even so, Pauline is eagle-eyed and sceptical about everything. Today, as we neared the end of our shop which normally hovers around £100.00/€116.00, Pauline noticed that the handset was reading £138.00/€160.00. I immediately blamed Brexit but Pauline insisted on scrolling back through the handset. It turned out that I had been heavy handed and entered 44 red peppers rather than just 4. Major crisis over, we drove home.

Friday, 12th April, 2019

One of the real bonuses of being retired – and there are many – is that it is possible to visit places in relative peace while the thronging crowds are at work. This morning, we went to our local garden centre at 9.30 am and it was wonderfully empty. The extensive grounds are in full bloom and ready for the Easter crowds.

They didn’t make much out of us. We only went in for a tub of Growmore and to look at the early pots of herbs for future purchase. It was lovely just to be walking in the warm, Spring sunshine.

We did our exercise routine but it is a little less relaxed at the moment. The builders are completely gutting the men’s changing rooms and re-fitting them. When they have finished, they will move on to the Female changing rooms and the women will temporarily move in to the Men’s and the men move into the Women’s – because the builders are male. The men lose out for about 6 weeks. We are cramped up in to less than luxurious conditions while still paying out a large, monthly fee. The male members are revolting!

Saturday, 13th April, 2019

I’m currently working hard on my diet. I had been slipping a bit and had to pull it back. My friend, Brian, has just been diagnosed as pre-Type 2 Diabetic and is worrying about dying. I wrote to him yesterday and it made me reflect on the changes I’ve made since my first diagnosis. Eschewing starchy carbohydrates – bread, pasta, rice, potatoes – has been one of the most important things. The other is discovering a love of salad something which amazes me. In the past, salad was just an adornment for a real meal. Now, I eat the salad first. It is the staple of a meal. This has been a major shift.

Fruit virtually didn’t feature in my eating or drinking at all. Now, the things that get me through the hungry times are pieces of fruit. The fruit bowl on the dining table in the kitchen is permanently full of oranges for juicing in the morning – 2 produce a glassful for breakfast – and bananas which are my go-to if I’m desperate for energy. The other thing which is really useful and enjoyable is grapes. Currently, I am hooked on a black, seedless variety called Sable from South Africa (via Sainsburys/Tesco/Asda). It has a distinctive and delightful flavour. I have to control my intake of these because of the high sugar content.

My youngest brother had a heart attack in his early 30s and my dad died of a heart attack in his late 40s. Having taken my health for granted for years and feeling invincible, as young people do, for much of that time, I am seriously addressing my own mortality. Life is such fun and so enjoyable that I just want more of it – much more.

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