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 ….

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