Week 544

Sunday, 26th May, 2019

Our EU election is almost forgotten in the popular mind but today sees the majority of the rest of Europe go to the polls. Of course, as EU citizens, we are allowed to vote in any member country but additional registration is required. On Thursday when we voted, many – possibly 1000s – of foreign nationals were disenfranchised in spite of being formally and legally registered and entitled. The cock-up or conspiracy theories abound but The Guardian reports:

The government is facing the prospect of being sued by campaigners for EU citizens in the UK and British nationals abroad who were denied a vote in the European parliament elections.

As in so many other things, the Government blamed everything and everyone else including Local Authorities. That is fairly disingenuous. They were repeatedly warned that it would happen but, like about so many things, they were in denial. They didn’t want to admit the elections were taking place. They don’t want to admit Brexit just isn’t doable. I believe that our Government was culpably negligent. The payback will be the opposition parties uniting with disaffected Tories defeating the executive and forcing a General Election. The price of any voting pact will be the cast-iron commitment to a confirmatory referendum with Remain on the ballot. The only other process I can see being viable is to revoke A50.

Monday, 27th May, 2019

Bank Holiday Monday – apparently. It’s 8.40 am and all is quiet. The workers have turned over and are enjoying the bliss of another day off. Actually, we never did that. Days off were days to be enjoyed doing stuff. About 25 years ago, we went to Venice over this long weekend with an Occasional Day attached. That 4 days around San Marco were an absolute delight and one I would happily repeat. Arriving at Marco Polo Airport around midnight and taking a water taxi through the lantern-lit darkness to our hotel in Piazza San Marco was pure magic.

Piazza San Marco

The culture shock returning from the theatrical backdrop that is Venice to the offices and corridors of our old, mill-town school was defining in its contrast. Of course, you can’t live in a theatre and the economic reality of life reasserts itself.

Last night we stayed up until 1.30 am to follow the European Elections. As we have suspected for some time, the mood for Leave has softened considerably as this BBBC/Press Association release illustrates:

In spite of our late night, we were up before 7.00 am and enjoying the sunny day. Today, on a more prosaic level, we have gone out into the sunshine to try to source some Basil plants.  The Garden Centre is all ready to capitalise on Bank Holiday shoppers in the warming weather.

With 10 basil plants -8 Green, Sweet Basil & 2 Purple or Red Rubin Basil – for about £20.00/€22.70. Over the summer, these plants will provide us with material to produce enough pesto to get us through 12 months plus leaves for mixing with salads.

We will be at the Health Club around lunchtime as we were yesterday and the day before that and every day for the past 51 days – just missing 2 in that time. It is usually fairly quiet at holiday time and the facilities are left to odd balls like us.

Tuesday, 28th May, 2019

Wake to Radio4 Today programme at 6.00 am which is essentially focussing on all things Brexit but with other, interesting topics as well. It is on in the bedroom, in the dressing room and, downstairs, in the kitchen and in the office. It starts on the radio alarm and moves to digital radio via television in all the other rooms. It finishes at 9.00 am by which time real life begins but we have suddenly got hooked on Sky’s All Out Politics which runs from 9.00 am – 11.00 am. By 12.15 pm, it is BBC2’s Politics Live until 1.00 pm.

At 1.00 pm, we leave for the gym where we exercise for 90 mins and watch BBC/ITV News followed by the Parliament Channel which we continue at home over the afternoon. At 6.00 pm BBC News (again) is followed by Local News and then one of the highlights of the day with the brilliant Channel 4 News 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm. The day is topped out by ITV News at 10.00 pm, BBC2 Newsnight 10.30 pm – 11.15 pm and Sky Newspaper Review 11.30 pm – 12.00am.

Throughout this period, I am busy on Facebook and Twitter. The problem is where to make the time for anything else. I’ve got to clean the car. My coffee maker has sprung a leak and I’ve got to sort that out. My pressure washer has started playing up and I’ve got to sort that out. The first is 3 yrs old and out of warranty. The second is 6 mnths old but there is no one nearby to service it. And I’ve got to STOP BREXIT!

This is really becoming overload. Having said that, we do seem to be making real headway on the 2nd referendum. Our fitness regime, although time consuming,  is definitely showing signs of improvement. It just feels like turning up to work each day and our bodies factor in the demands of the routine. Strangely, on the 2 days in the past 52 that we couldn’t get there, our bodies felt lethargic and lacking. Even daily exercise can be addictive.

Wednesday, 29th May, 2019

Up and out early to go to our local Honda Dealership. Just 6 weeks until we collect our new car but we have to have ours Serviced and MOTd. They needed the car for an indeterminate span of time so lent us a ‘courtesy car’. It was a brand new Jazz.  It is always interesting to drive a different car for a while.

Honda Jazz Automatic – Courtesy Car

We have driven the developing editions of Honda CRV 4-wheel drive, automatics since 1997/8. Powerful engine, large cars with high driving positions, revering cameras have become so standard for us that, to get into something low (standard) to the road with reduced engine power and NO REVERSING CAMERA was something of a culture shock. Just getting to the first roundabout and putting my foot down only to find myself not accelerating away from the on-coming traffic was instructive. What was nice was the ‘new car’ smell. It was that as much as anything which persuaded us to change our car so often in the past.

The other thing we had to do today was to organise the transfer of our ‘cherished number plate’ to the new car. It used to be a really longwinded procedure in the past with forms to be filled out and posted off with a couple of weeks wait before the returned paperwork arrived. Now it can be done online and is almost instant.

Really good to see serial liar, Boris Johnson put on a path to the High Court to answer for his blatant but convincing (to the totally gullible) lie about £350 million a week currently sent to the EU which he said would be diverted to the NHS. It has been a long time coming but is well-deserved and underlines the fact that the Referendum was won on the back of duping the ill educated and poorly informed.

Thursday, 30th May, 2019

Lovely morning. We were out early to do our weekly shopping. Asda followed by Tesco. Home and then made a momentous decision. We weren’t going to the Health Club today. We both felt desperate but decided it was the right decision and got on  with it.

We spent the afternoon in the sunshine of the garden. We potted up 10 basil plants, sowed more Rocket and Cut-&-Come-Again Salad Leaves, cut the lawns, watered and fed the Fig and Olive trees and succession sowed salad and rocket leaves.

We harvested our first Rocket and could immediately tell the difference. Our bought Rocket from Israel was harsh, strongly peppered and strident in its quality. The home-grown, picked young was soft, delicate and lightly peppered. Delightful with griddled Tuna. The Government ‘Health Tsar’ was featured today trying to ‘nudge’ families away from highly processed foods in order to raise health levels and reduce mortality rates. We feel so lucky to have spent our lives avoiding processed foods and embracing fresh, home-made meals.

Friday, 31st May, 2019

We have seen May out with the most beautiful day which you could be excused in mistaking for mid-summer. Warm, sunny and brilliant with green grass, burgeoning hedgerows and cloudless, blue skies. Swimming outside at the end of our workout really felt as if we were on holiday. Actually, as we discussed it, we agreed that we are permanently on holiday. It is certainly impossible to differentiate between different days in different places as we trot through retirement.

Coquelles/Calais – Ancona, Italy = 976 miles

My watch app tells me that I have walked 50.2 miles in the past week and 198 miles in the past 28 days. At the end of this month, it tells me that I have walked an amazing 2030 miles in the past 12 months. Can you imagine setting out on a walk of 2030 miles? I checked it out and I found that I could have walked the whole of the drive we used to make from Calais in France to Ancona on the Italian coast and back again and still had another 80 miles to spare.

Saturday, 1st June, 2019

Happy June

Glorious day to welcome in the new month. We can hear mowers going all around as the workers find precious time to catch up with garden jobs that the real population – the retired or lame, sick & lazy – do during the week. We had an early breakfast in the sunshine and then potted up our tomato and pepper plants.

It’s all just a bit of fun which we’ve decided to do as we’re not going away for any extended period of time until the Autumn. When we first moved here I had real success with cherry tomato plants in pots and I’ve gone back to those. I bought some self-watering planting trays which will hold 3 plants each.

We’ve potted up 3 yellow cherry and 3 red cherry plants plus one each of the ‘bell’ peppers illustrated below. I haven’t tried those outside Greece so it will be interesting to see how they do. With our climate, I can’t see any reason why they don’t succeed but I will let you know. I know you’re on tenterhooks!

 We lived in Huddersfield for 40 years and have lots of friends still there. We go back at least once and, maybe, twice per year to meet many of them. One of our friends is tasked with seeking out a new eatery to meet up and eat in every time. She does it very well but it would be nice to beat her to it sometimes.

For quite a few years, I have followed Blogs from expats in Greece. One such is a lad who lived on Skiathos. I was in Greece reading about the experiences of another Englishman in Greece. I read one day of his plight as he ran out of Yorkshire teabags long before he could return to replenish them. I sent him a box as soon as I got home. I have followed his story and that of his Polish partner – especially through the nightmare that is cancer. Even though he has blocked me on Twitter because he is, inexplicably, a Faragist and can’t take me posting the truths about Brexit, I still follow The Skiathan’s Blog most days in a strange, addictive loyalty.

The Scullery Kitchen & Bar, Huddersfield.

This morning it paid off because he featured a couple – Judith & Steven Butcher – who had either owned or worked at a taverna on Skiathos but now had returned to UK to open up a restaurant in Huddersfield. The Scullery Kitchen & Bar looks like a good choice for our next meeting in October. I would even like to see Skiathan Man there to dicuss the inevitable defeat of Brexit. It would be nice to meet him after all these years.

Week 543

Sunday, 19th May, 2019

The Open University, celebrating its 50th birthday throughout 2019, was established by Royal Charter on 23 April 1969. It was conceived by Harold Wilson and its midwife was Jennie Lee. I entered the O.U. community 6 years after its inauguration. I actually believe that it saved me. I left Grammar School in 1969 with a sense of complete failure. I had been fortunate enough to be given all the tools for success and I had shunned them in favour of sport and laziness. While all my peers had swanned off to University, I had been forced to creep, quietly in to Teacher Training.

I was teaching English to A Level in a Secondary School and felt like a charlatan. I had to assuage my shame and Harold Wilson & Jenny Lee gave me that choice. This Distance Learning approach really suited me. I would work a 10 hour day at school and then do a 4 (sometimes 6 or even 8) hour night in my grubby, little bedsit with my books spread all over the place and my Olivetti typewriter on the dining table. I was 25 and thought little of coming home from school, making a sandwich, opening a bottle of wine, turning on my B&W TV for the news and starting on a 5,000 word essay which needed to be posted in the morning as I walked to school.

Cost in 1975 – £1.25 / €1.43

I look back with amusement and pleasure at the activities I had to undertake – watching television programmes on at 4.00 am on Vasari and Italian Renaissance Art or on British, Romantic Poets and the Rise of Industrial Britain. Sheer madness! My excitement as new units of study arrived: Logic & Rational Thinking, The Philosophy of Descartes, Revolution and Karl Marx. This is what I had been dreaming of!

Finishing the wine, smoking my way through a packet of cigarettes and typing furiously until 2, 3, 4.00 am before catching 2 or 3 hours sleep, getting up, putting my suit on and walking up to school to work another 10 hour day. I had split up with my ex-College girlfriend and had all the time I needed to address this deficit in my life. I felt my self esteem growing as I did these courses although, by the time I completed my final course and received my Degree, the paperwork was no longer important. I had my certificate sent by post. I was already on to the next course – a research Masters Degree in The History of Political Ideas at Huddersfield University.

The Open University influenced the rest of my life. I became addicted to self-improvement, to life-long-learning and to a love for acquiring knowledge. I have tried hard to improve myself intellectually and culturally for the 40 years since I first graduated. If it hadn’t been for the relatively cheap and relatively simple to access Open University system, I really believe I would be a very different person now. Just as I finished my O.U. Degree, I got married, Pauline started an O.U. Degree of her own and then helped me through my Masters. We were both teaching full time but also feeling so grateful and fulfilled.

Monday, 20th May, 2019

Delonix Regia

The weather seems to have tilted significantly into Summer. We no longer expect shock, cold nights, we do expect plenty of sunshine down here. We don’t expect a great deal of rain. It seems appropriate to plant out without fear although I may give it another week before setting out pots of cherry tomatoes and basil plants. Today, I have Rocket … rocketing away, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Tarragon, Chives all growing strongly. This morning, we are potting up and putting out Geraniums and sowing cut-and-come-again salad leaves.

I’ve also got a chance now to use something I brought back from Tenerife at the end of November last year. A tree with red flowers and long, green, sheath-like pods which turn hard brown on maturity lined the streets where we had a villa. I picked a couple of pods and put them in our luggage. Today, I took the pod down from the bookshelves in the Office and looked up for the first time what the tree is called. Its name is officially Delonix Regia which is more commonly referred to as The Flamboyant Tree or Flame Tree.

Having looked the propagation of this tree up, I am advised that I must put the seeds into a jug of boiling water and leave them for 24 hrs after which they will be ready to sow. I’m going to try some indoors and some outside. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, 21st May, 2019

Glorious day, as I suspect most of the country are enjoying. In our sheltered, south-facing garden, the rays are concentrated and increased. It is hard to force oneself to work when relaxation in the sun is calling. Still, we forced ourselves to do a few jobs and a full workout at the Health Club. We’ve missed 2 days in the past 45. We’re still pushing ourselves.

Our village competes in the Britan in Bloom competition. Teams of amateur gardeners can be seen out in all weathers tending to all sorts of bankings, flower beds, woodland tracts, roadside verges. Many areas that look wonderfully ‘natural’ are the result of their hard work.

Pollarded trees in the Square thrusting out to the sun.

We were shocked to find that the trees in the Village Square are hard pollarded every Winter but they come back strongly in the Spring as you can see from the today’s photo above.

Wednesday, 22nd May, 2019

Lovely days just keep coming. Blue skies, strong sunshine, 22C/70F temperature, lush, green, striped lawns and complete freedom to enjoy the day. This is how Retirement was meant to be. The only problem on the horizon – well, on the lawn, actually – is a family of blackbirds who have discovered an excellent site for meal time on the newly seeded patch at the back of my lawn. I have become a living scarecrow and I excel at the job!

Andrea Loathsome resigns

The lawns are striped because I cut and fed them this morning in between political programmes. It is in Westminster that all the focus is trained on today. Will Theresa Dismay get the chop today or tomorrow. All credibility is gone. Her party want her to leave. This evening, as I write, her Leader of the House, Andrea Loathsome has resigned because she already feels tainted by her cabinet decisions and wants to stand for leader. She won’t get it but ego is everything. There will be more to go soon and the Prime Minister may not be far behind. Exciting times.

Whatever happens with Brexit and I still think Remain has a 50/50 chance of success – maybe better, politics will never be the same again. To someone like me who has lived and breathed politics for the past 50 years since the 1968 ‘Students Paris Revolution’, Harold Wilson’s White Heat of Technology and Tony Benn’s involvement particularly in the 1980s, this is the most glorious time to be living through and, particularly, in retirement.

Thursday, 23rd May, 2019

Gorgeous day for Ruth’s 72nd birthday. Let’s hope she enjoys it. She seems very content with her life. She deserves that because she has obviously worked hard at it.

Ruth & friend.

The beauty of the day for me is VOTING. We went out shortly after 8.00 am to our local community centre/polling station. We were the only voters at that time.

Packed carpark at the Polling station.

We put our crosses for Remain parties and set off for the weekly shop. Asda and Tesco today.

In Tesco, the fishmonger had Ray Wings. Had Skate before but never Ray so we bought a couple. I think they cost £9.00/€10.20 for a Kilo of fish. Looking forward to cooking and eating that.

I don’t know if it is because we have not been travelling for a while and need a frisson of interest but we seem to be obsessed with the idea of buying a Canary island property. The idea of having somewhere warm and sunny to spend a good chunk of our Winter is currently quite appealing. Rather than pay out large rental fees, maybe it would make more sense to buy and sell at a future profit. We are looking for somewhere with good, local connections, a couple of bedrooms, a pool and sun terrace and somewhere that we can install broadband internet/wi-fi and Sky television reception. We don’t want to spend much more than £200,000.00 / €230,000.00. Currently, we are looking in southern Tenerife.

Friday, 24th May, 2019

The day has opened with joy – but enough about the resignation of the Prime Minister –  blue sky, sunshine and 23C/73F. We have had to make a trip about 10 mins away to the Honda dealership who are supplying our new car. Because delivery has been delayed (Because of Brexit, Honda has closed Swindon and moved production to Japan) until July, we will have to have our car serviced (free) and MOT’d. In the past 40 years, we have bought 30 new cars and only one has been kept long enough for an MOT. This is number 2. We’ve only done about 22,000 miles/35,400 kilometres so there will be no work on it. We won’t even need new tyres but we will have to hand our car over for a day and drive a courtesy car for a few hours.

Our Honda dealership.

We are looking in the Canaries for a winter holiday property because, we can be sure of good weather, can get reliable internet provision and British TV. I wouldn’t buy in Greece again. Greece is not somewhere to spend the winter months and is not politically & economically stable enough. It doesn’t provide Health services that people approaching their 70s require.

For months – maybe a couple of years – we have been told that Greek tourism is booming. So often, Greek government statistics are heavily revised and so these are being now. Interestingly, Kathimerini is running an article today that rather undermines the buoyant portrayals of arrivals at the airport. The large inflow of tourists from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the last 15 years has led to a 30 percent decline in the per capita spending of holidaymakers in Greece over the last few years.

Last year the average per capital expenditure of visitors to Greece amounted to 519.6 euros: Compared to 2005, when average spending was 745.7 euros per trip, expenditure was down 226.1 euros or 30.3 percent.

This was happening before we left. Taverna owners were telling us that tourists were buying food in supermarkets and taking it back to their hotel rooms to prepare and eat. One-step-up-from-camping was depriving them of revenue. Certainly, the eastern Europeans do holidays on a shoestring which takes the Greek tourist industry back to the ‘hippy’ days of the 1970s and isn’t conducive to raising high profit margins.

Saturday, 25th May, 2019

The start of yet another Bank Holiday. I’m sick of them. Does nobody ever work these days? And, it’s a beautiful day of sunshine and 23C/73F. The world feels wonderful. The rest of Europe goes to the polls tomorrow so we have to wait for our results. Early indications are that heavily Remain areas have shown an increased turnout while Leave areas have seen depreciable falls in interest in the democratic process. So win-win all round.

We went out early to Sainsburys and the Garden Centres. I want Basil plants and Cherry Tomato plants for the patio collection. Actually, for the start of a Bank Holiday weekend, quality plants were a little thin on the ground. Hardly any Basil at all. We’ve decided to leave it a week.

Thought I’d clean the car for the last time. I got my pressure washer set up and did a couple of runs through with a dirt-buster lance and a shampoo spreader. As I went to change to a pressure-rinse lance, I couldn’t get it to fit. After 20 mins frustration, I had a strop and gave up. Having calmed down, I thought I would contact Karcher. After all, I’ve only had it 5 months and it has a 24 month warranty. Of course, the helpline unhelpfully told me that they would not be back until Tuesday.

Built by Karcher. Fixed by John.

Regular readers will already know that I am not practical. I find it difficult – and this is no exaggeration – to change many/most lightbulbs, particularly these new-fangled halogen ones. I was helped by ‘sealed’ plugs because I had real difficulty changing one of those and don’t get me started on drilling holes or cutting wood because it would quickly become a disaster area. Today was going to be different.

Like so many people who are incapable of DIY, I have a plethora of tools all neatly filed in a large tool box. All have been purchased at a time of stress in the belief that they will bless me with the skill to use them. They don’t. I can’t and they get stored in the toolbox until someone with a bit of skill needs to use one. Usually that person is Pauline. Today, she was cooking. I decided to take charge. I Googled my problem and a man showed me how to fix it on a YouTube video. I thought, I can do that. It had taken the man 3 minutes to remove the connector, refit it and snap everything together again. You will be impressed to learn that it only took me 30 mins with the help from a couple of tools from my box. As a result, I am thinking of going into business ….

Week 542

Sunday, 12th May, 2019

Another gorgeous morning. They tell me it’s Sunday. I just get up, celebrate the fact that I’m still alive and get on with my orange juice. Really enjoying Sophie Ridge on Sunday on Sky TV. She seems to have arrived at a much better balance than the BBC and the Andrew Marr Show. Interesting to hear the inside story of Labour Party machinations. The Janus head is criticised roundly across twitter. We will not vote for their ‘soft Brexit’ choice. We will vote tactically for Lib. Dems.. I have been putting this out everywhere I can think of on Twatter and also on Faceache.

I am hearing that Corbyn’s stance is likely to be challenged by Tom Watson’s group if he tries to push through a deal with the Conservatives without a second referendum. There are over 100 Labour MPs supporting Tom Watson and his Future Britain Group which would make Corby’s position nigh on impossible.

On a more serious side, we are thinking of taking the new car, when we collect it in early July, out for a test drive along the French coast for a few days. We haven’t a clue where. The furthest we have driven down that coast was to Le Havre. We went in a February many years ago. I remember it was freezing and we sat outside a backstreet fish restaurant and ate the most wonderful, grilled seabass under the warmth of a patio heater. It is an experience that has stayed with me over the past 30 years.

Calais to Rouen is 135 miles – just a morning’s stroll.

We’ve always wanted to see Le Havre and Rouen so that would be an interesting drive. It would take a couple of hours down the A16 and the A28. A nice hotel for a couple of nights and then back to Calais for a night before increasing our wine stock and driving home.

Rouen centre

The new car should arrive on July 2nd as long as the container ship from Japan gets a move on and Prime Minister Farage doesn’t declare war on the Orient before that.

Monday, 13th May, 2019

Sunshine all day and a temperature of 19C/66F. Sun, blue sky and bright light just makes the day feel ‘lighter’ for some reason. That’s one of the things I particularly enjoyed about living in Greece. Of course, there were grey, damp days but the sunshine was never far away. The island we lived on has been establishing an ‘event’ over the past 2 or 3 years which brings people to the economy in that flat time between Easter and Summer.

Sifnos Run – 2019

The Sifnos-Run was held yesterday and seemed to have plenty of entrants. Andrea, the Mayor, was competing again even at his age although he was a young boy when we first met him. We were pleased to see two, old friends popping up in the pictures after the finish.

Nikos & his Grandmother

We first met Margarita and her husband, Nikos in the Summer of 1984 – 35 years ago. We had started travelling to Greece 3 years earlier. Arriving on Sifnos seemed to be the answer that we were looking for. We certainly touched down there at least once every one of those 35 years. We watched little Nikos grow from birth to age 20. Here he is, having taken part in the run, being hugged by his Grandmother with a face showing pride and eternal sadness. We wish them both well.

We are getting on with our lives. There is so much more to see and do. Life on Sifnos was a little restrictive and isolating. We have done so much more and seen so much more by leaving. Today, we got up, opened the blinds to the blinding sun and considered what we would choose to do.  What more could anyone ask for? We chose to go to Asda to buy 3 x 60 ltr bags of ‘potting compost’ and then on to the garden centre, which is 5 mins. drive from the house, to buy some Geraniums.

We chose a premium cultivar Kalliope. Kalliope (Καλλιόπη) or ‘beautifully voiced’ was the lover of Ares, the god of war. She was renowned for her eternal beauty. Just what you want in a geranium! 

Tuesday, 14th May, 2019

I thought I would really miss Yorkshire when we left in 2009 having lived there for nearly 40 years but the feeling soon faded. Thought I would miss Sifnos when we left in 2014 after 30 years there but the feeling has soon faded. After just 3 years, I absolutely love it down here on the south coast.

I spend about 20hrs per week here.
Spot the Bees’ Nest.

Today, our village has been bathed in wall-to-wall sunshine and looked wonderful under the perfect blue sky. The flint & brick properties clad in Wisteria, currently stongly in racemes of flower, and the fading Lilac trees mingle with heady blossom of Photinia  and Laurus Nobilis. I cut the lawns, raked them out and cut them again. They are looking lush, shiny and green. By the time I went to the Health Club, the temperature had reached 22C/70F so the air-conditioning was working overtime.

The residents around here have their own Faceache page on which they ask each other for help and advice about various topics they largely share in common. As we are all new to our properties and new neighbours are coming on stream all the time, the in-comers’ pets take time to orient themselves to their new area. Cats, particularly, seem to disappear regularly as their ‘owners’ panic when they don’t come home. At this point, pictures and plaintive messages are put up on Faceache with requests for help.

Today, it was slightly different. A woman in a new property somewhere in the area posted a photograph of a swarm of honey bees that had entered her back garden and formed a nest suspended from her little daughter’s tricycle. She had contacted the local council offices only to be told that someone would visit in just over a week. A quick post on Faceache today immediately brought three offers of help from local beekeepers.

Wednesday, 15th May, 2019

Another lovely day for mid-May. Blue skies and sunshine with a top temperature of 22C/70F. While we were walking out in shorts and tee-shirts, swimming outside and using sun cream, may areas of the Mediterranean were experiencing ….. SNOW! This on Corsica this morning:

Corsica in mid-May?

The world is really going mad.  As long as it is mad in our favour, I will welcome the changes.

Pauline & I taught in the Lancashire, Pennine town of Oldham for most of our 40 years. It was always an impoverished place and, particularly as the mills closed, alternative jobs were few and far between and an Asian community who had been lured to Oldham by the mill work were gradually left in difficulties as they lost employment. My school drew on a wide catchment area which included one which was listed in the government’s poverty report as THE poorest ward in England. Coldhurst ward has now been replaced as the poorest in England by Werneth also in Oldham and it’s been joined by a 3rd, Oldham ward of St. Mary’s.

Werneth in Oldham

The real irony is that Werneth was, during the Industrial Revolution, part of an affluent area of Oldham known as the ‘Grand West End’. In the 14th century, a manor house in Werneth was owned by a family called Oldham. Werneth is based on a coal field which was extensively mined from the early 19th century and, during the industrial revolution, the Platt Brothers were based in Werneth as they designed and built cotton-spinning machinery for the many mills in Oldham and south Lancashire. The tide of history moves in and then recedes. Werneth and Oldham have waited a long time for the waves of affluence to break once again on its streets.

Thursday, 16th May, 2019

A warm and sunny day that reached 21C/70F. Because of a real lack of rain down here, I spent a couple of hours watering the lawns and flower beds. We had gone out to do our weekly shop at Tesco early this morning. Shopping at that time is lovely and quiet and so much quicker.

Cheap & Brilliant.

Back home, the watering took care of itself. Over the years, I have had an assortment of very expensive sprinkler systems but today my apparatus cost £5.50/€6.30 from Argos. It works brilliantly. And while the sprinkler did its job, I spent an hour or so lobbying MPs on Brexit.

The internet and the social platforms – particularly Facebook and Twitter are such instant and democratising tools. As I drive down through the village at 10.00 am, having already skimmed The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian plus half a dozen News Blogs, I see elderly gentlemen returning from the local papershop with their folded copies of The Telegraph in one hand and their dog lead in the other. They are the final, analogue generation.

They received their political information strained through the muslin of formal media outlets – radio, television and newsprint. Apart from writing Letters to the Editor, their ability to influence political events was largely restricted to the ballot box. Now, we are energised and enfranchised by the internet. If a politician speaks on radio or television, I can reply immediately by email or Twitter.

Here, within 5 mins of receiving a Remain Labour email, I was able to respond by circulating my amended copy to every Leave MP in Labour. It basically pointed out that the Janus approach of the party was driving voters away. In the analogue age, any response from me would have taken so long, I wouldn’t have bothered. Now it is a joy. The interesting thing is that it works. Views do change with pressure from people like me.

Friday, 17th May, 2019

Out early on a grey and cool morning. After such a good run of weather, today seems depressingly dark. We were going to Worthing to pick up 3 pairs of shoes. Why we need 3 pairs of shoes, goodness only knows. I have more shoes than space to store them or time to wear them but Pauline is obsessed with buying shoes and when they are not for herself, they are for me. When I challenge her about it she just brushes it off with, Well, they’re cheap and will be useful in the long run. I know I go to the gym every day but I now have 3 pairs of trainers. I will be jogging until I’m 90 just to get full value.

While we were walking through the town, we went down Bank Passage and I noticed a Gentlemen’s Barber Shop. Look at the price of a haircut. I last had my hair cut by a barber in September, 1969 and it cost 10 shillings – £0.50/€0.58 – but £8.50/€9.71! People tell me that this is actually quite cheap but I would need first aid if I had to pay it. My wife is worth so much – as a barber.

Do you remember men’s barbers back in the 1960s? A seated row of men. A fraternity of conversation in a smoke-filled atmosphere with piles of hair clippings on the floor, wafts of clove-scented pomade in spray bottles on the shelves along with ‘Something for the weekend, Sir?’. Old Mr. Coates had the barber’s shop in my home village and the memories of it make me shudder. He was particularly good at ‘pudding basin’ cuts for boys. I’m going to block this memory out!

Saturday, 18th May, 2019

Slightly brighter and warmer today – 16C/61F – but not so exciting. A bit like the idea of Boris Johnson as prime minister! It must be the reason why I am cooking today – comfort food. I am cooking duck cassoulet. We are gradually reducing our stocks of French duck legs & breasts. Soon be time to return for new supplies.

When we do go back to France, it will be in the new car. I was preparing my finances this morning for that event. We have virtually never bought a car on borrowed money in the past 40 years – unless you include borrowed from ourselves. I remember friends in my youth buying cars on hire-purchase. By the time they had paid off the debt, they were going back for a newer car and another long term debt. Basically, a large chunk of their income was deducted immediately throughout their working lives just to drive a car. We always tried to get ahead of that and save throughout our ownership so that we could buy the next. That always put us in the driving seat, to coin a phrase. It certainly allowed us to drive a better bargain on a new car.

E-Call & Emergency Stop

I was interested to see that our new model includes Honda E-Call & Emergency Stop Signal. That sounds impressive, I thought. Good for Honda! Then I read that this is a safety system required by EU Regulation. There is no mention of the requirement of our mobile phone having to be present so I’m not really sure of the connectivity here but the chart above describes its modus operandi.

There is an SOS button which one can press manually if the car hasn’t sent the signal automatically. What you can’t do is turn the signal off. Over all, however, I love these innovations. Anything which will make life safer automatically will be beneficial for me. My only question is: What happens if Brexit does go ahead? Will we lose European connectivity? Like most other things Brexit, nobody seems to know.

Week 541

Sunday, 5th May, 2019

A bright but chilly start to the day – one which didn’t get above 13C/55F. I’ve been in shorts & tee-shirt for the past couple of months. Actually, I’ve never lived anywhere that I’ve seen so many men in shorts & tee-shirt almost all year round. Today, our bare flesh was something of a bellwether for the changing temperature.

Sundays are newspapers and politics and today was no different. I’ve been finding it difficult to remember that it is a Bank Holiday weekend. While working, I’d have had no problem in remembering we had an extra day to come. Now, I just find it annoying that the workers aren’t away in their …’works’ and leaving the real world to us.

Actually, the Health Club has been almost deserted for the past couple of days. Once again today, after doing our full gym workout, the outdoor pool was completely empty for the 30 mins we were there. We did our full swim followed by 10 mins in the sauna and 30 mins in the jacuzzi and water massage. It’s been a good month of our new resolve. You will notice that my watch has transmitted 28 days of data to my phone. It shows that I missed just one day’s exercise because I drove to Surrey to visit relatives that day.

My personality hates seeing that one blip in the orange bars but I am pleased that I have covered almost 195 miles in this period from 376,000 paces. I am averaging almost 14,000 paces per day for 28 days. I have still not touched a drop of alcohol and have followed a more restrictive diet. Only another 4 months to do!

Monday, 6th May, 2019

Gorgeously sunny morning with beautiful, blue sky. Warm enough to go out in shorts & tee-shirt. I’m told that it is Bank Holiday and, as we went out at 9.00 am, the roads were very quiet. The workers were making the most of it and staying in bed. The retirees were making the most of it and ‘playing out’. Hope that keeps the Health Club quiet this afternoon.

Actually, I was going to Asda to corner the market in Shloer. It is helping me drink more water and abstain from wine. In Waitrose and Tesco the price is £2.20/€2.58, but it has been reduced in Asda to £1.00/€1.17 and I am taking advantage of this and bulk buying. It is not a straight replacement nor could I drink it neat too often. It is bearable mixed 50%/50% with sparkling water. It is also low calorie so it has two benefits of reducing my calorie intake and increasing my water consumption.

In my Blog-post of 10 years ago today, I was enjoying the fact that we were in our second month of retirement and contrasting the before and after states of our changing life style. I wrote this:

After I had got home, I would have opened a bottle of wine while I/we started the cooking, finished that bottle at the start of the meal, opened a second and drunk half or more before the end of the meal. After a sweet and coffee, I would have fallen asleep for an hour or so before waking up and wandering into the Study to start preparing for Friday.

It is difficult now to get back into the mindset that produced these actions but I’m glad I am in a very different place today.

Tuesday, 7th May, 2019

Some people think I ignore ‘Green’ issues. One of my sisters accused me last time we met of being a climate change denier. Neither of these two charges are accurate. There is no doubt in my mind that the climate is currently changing. I would describe myself as something of a sceptic about its causes and resolution. Climate changes and has done over all known records. Man has always found solutions for the effects of those changes. Man will again. What I could not accept is the solution that says,

We invented motorcars but we must eschew them and return to the horse & cart or bicycle. We invented the jet engine but we must now all stop flying. We have been meat eaters from time immemorial but now we must all become vegans.

Returning to the early 19th century or before is not the answer. We cannot and should not uninvent things. We need to find ways in which these inventions are bent to the environmental cause. Hybrid and electric cars are already arriving rapidly. All-electric aeroplanes are not far away. These things will be available without our need for a medieval hair shirt.

Off-shore Wind Farm – Worthing

A perfect example, for me, is the wind turbine. Few people want one near their house. They are noisy and intrusive. Not many would really object to them out at sea. The port of Zeebrugge has been surrounded by them for 20 years without complaint. Worthing has a wind farm off shore which really doesn’t trouble people. I wanted solar tiles to be used for the roof of our new house but we weren’t even offered solar panels. We live in one of the sunniest areas in the country. Within 6 months of moving in, all the new properties delivered on our development had solar panels on the roofs. I enquired about the costs of fitting solar panels privately. On current projections, we would have to live to 95 to make it cost effective.

That is where you find me. I love innovation. I am an early adopter by nature. I will try new things if I think they will be beneficial to my family but I am not magnanimous enough to sacrifice myself for somebody else’s family long after I’ve gone. I will not vote for hardship now to deliver gains for people I will never meet when I am long dead.

Wednesday, 8th May, 2019

We’ve got rain! I think that’s what you call it. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it. I don’t remember before having to water the lawns in April/May but I have this year. It’s actually lovely to see – rather like the first strong rains of Autumn in Greece.

Because it’s wet and because we aren’t going out this morning, I am doing some of the ‘minority’ jobs that I’ve had in mind for some time. For example, I’ve had in mind for some time, to deal with the burgeoning problem that so many of us suffer from as we increasingly negotiate moving from analogue activity to digital.

Particularly, I am talking about passwords to secure entry to our sites of business. They are a nightmare to record securely and remember or retrieve when required. I am considering buying a Password Manager to help me. Having installed it and stored passwords for different sites – We need passwords for 3 different Banks, for Health accounts, for power and water suppliers, for retailers sites, for web development sites, for on-line newspaper purchases, etc., etc. – all one requires is one password to enter the software to retrieve all the others. One can even store Bank Account & Credit Card numbers securely in this way.

StickyPassword costs less than £20.00 to download and works across all one’s platforms on all one’s instruments – PCs, Macs., iPads, Android smartphones – and syncs continually. It helps with dementia symptoms or just someone like me who has never had a memory.

Thursday, 9th May, 2019

A day of sunshine and showers. As we drove from our garage, where rain had lightly fallen, a mile away to Asda, where no rain had fallen at all and then on to Tesco about 3 miles away where raining was still falling, the temperature read 16C/61F. It continued that way throughout the day although sunshine beamed out strongly as we swam in the tranquillity of our Health Club’s outdoor pool.

Kamares Beach 9th May, 2012

The weather in Greece should be warming up and the dry season really should be underway. We wouldn’t have expected any rain from now until September. On this day in 2012, the temperature was 26C/79F and we went down to the beach to test the water – it was a bit too cold for swimming.

Ioannina – 7/5/2019

Two days ago, Greece had snow. Kathimerini told us that:

The weather in Greece has obviously gone crazy. Beginning of May and some landscapes in the country look as if they are still in January. Heavy snowfalls were recorded in North-Western Greece on Tuesday morning in Nymphaio by Florina in West Macedonia and some mountainous villages by Ioannina or by Metsovo in Epirus.

Certainly, Greece’s weather has been in a strange state of flux for the past 12 months.

Friday, 10th May, 2019

Out early on yet another beautiful day. They just keep on coming. We were off to Worthing – a 10 mins drive away – to collect some ordered shoes and do a bit of shopping at Waitrose. We always take the coast road just to enjoy the views. Of course, people are at work and school and the beach was lovely and quiet. It was 16C/61F at 9.30 am – just lovely for a walk.

It is good to remember where we live. It is so easy to get trapped in our narrow corridor of life. Pauline chose our village specifically because it gave us quick and easy access to these views and we don’t look at them often enough.

Actually, today we walked away from the beach and into the town. Nice surprise was to find a French Market setting up down the centre of Montague Street. Unfortunately, they were selling all the things we are avoiding like bread, cheese, tarts, cakes, olives, etc. Still, maybe we will visit them in France during the Summer after we’ve collected our new car.

Back to the Health Club at mid day for our 34th consecutive session of exercise. Generally, the club is quite quiet. This may be down to the inconvenience of the changing rooms being completely refitted. It is also the time when those who took out ‘New Year Resolution’ memberships and have now fallen by the wayside. Whatever, it makes activity very relaxed and swimming outside in the sunshine and bird song is idyllic. The temperature reached a really pleasant 18C/65F this afternoon as we swam in paradise.

Saturday, 11th May, 2019

Bright and sunny but cool this morning. We went out early to the Post Office to return, yet again, clothes Pauline had ordered but rejected on first sight. We went on to Sainsbury’s for tomatoes and Aldi for smoked mackerel. Later, we went to do our 35th consecutive day of exercise and came home to a roast salmon & salad meal.

We only buy the plain smoked on the leftjust £1.49/€1.72  from Aldi.

We are also on our 35th day of diet and ‘no-alcohol’. I wasn’t putting weight on but I wasn’t losing it either. I wanted to start moving it downwards again. I decided that I was prepared to take a bit of pain for a few months.

In terms of my diet, I have come a long way from my past.  I was thinking about it this morning as we purchased smoked mackerel. I wouldn’t have entertained this in my younger, more indulgent days. Now I love ‘oily fish’.

In the past, I would have snacked all day on sweets, chocolate and biscuits. Now, I don’t touch any of that ever. My snack of choice is fruit and particularly bananas, grapes and dried fruit. Even then, I have to fight to control myself. My first bulwark against hunger is a drink of coffee, tea or sparkling water. It means I seem to spend a lot of my time in the toilet but, at my age, I do anyway.