Week 547

Sunday, 16th June, 2019

There are times that one must be grateful for one’s own life. I constantly reflect on how lucky I am. Pauline says, Not Lucky. We worked hard for this. I suppose she’s right but events constantly underline my view. I was reminded of this by three occurrences this morning: a posting on Facebook, an article in the Sunday Observer and a reminder from my on-line calendar.

A girl who we taught some 30 years ago posted on Facebook this morning that she was feeling depressed. She lives, of all places, in Derby and worked for Rolls-Royce. She has a good job and enjoys it. She has a happy marriage and a young child. Ostensibly, she has little to be depressed about and yet we know that her early life and experiences created in her a residual depression that can never be fully expunged. What a dreadful legacy for a vivacious and energetic young woman!

I was reading an article about the projections for the newish, automatic enrolment pensions which the government forced on employers. They run the risk of retiring on a pension of far less than £15,000.00/€16,800.00 per year, the equivalent of the current national living wage. That’s bad enough but, what struck me even more forcefully was the quoted average national wage before tax is £27,500 and I realised how fortunate we are. Our pension income, after tax, is much greater than double the average national wage before tax. Yes, we did work hard for it but many people out there work just as hard without the same rewards.

You can’t beat homemade Pest.

Of course, life is not made happy by money. It helps and lack of it can be very depressing. My on-line calendar reminded me that tomorrow will mark the 39th anniversary of an horrific car accident that almost took our lives away. The things we’ve done in the last 39 years  …. more of that tomorrow. (Sorry!) …. Today, we made our first pesto of the season. Even in this relatively cool and damp June, our basil plants are thriving. Glossy, green and juicy leaves when combined with good olive oil, ground cashew nuts, garlic, and lemon juice produce the most wonderfully sweet-tasting, verdant pesto. If you’ve only ever eaten commercially produced pesto, you’ve never known the real thing. They are poles apart.

Monday, 17th June, 2019

A surprisingly lovely day reaching 22C/70F with lots of sunshine. We drove to Rustington at 9.00 am for Pauline’s hairdressers’ appointment and my date with Waitrose Coffee Shop.  

Waitrose Coffee Shop, Rustington

We returned to sit in the garden sunshine with our coffee and decided we had too many jobs to fit in so cancelled our trip to the health Club. Even so, I easily completed my 10,000 paces by mowing the lawns, watering all the plants and hoovering the house.

Today is the day, 39 years on from our car accident. I spent a fortnight in hospital with brain bruising and the best part of 12 months convalescing. So many exciting things have happened to us since that time and we will never forget our good luck. Every succeeding day is a joy not least more than 10 years of ‘playing out’ in retirement.  And tomorrow – France with all the fun that will entail.

Tuesday, 18th June, 2019

Up early on a lovely, warm morning, drink, pack the car, set the automatic lights and off to the Channel Tunnel. Travellers have to be checked in at least 45 mins before driving on to the train so has to be factored in to the trip time. I know that Brexit Security checks have also caused some longer delays so our mindset is already prepared for that too. Fortunately, we have no real deadline today. Check-in at our hotel in Coquelles is not until 2.00 pm so things are relaxed. We have our newspapers downloaded and every thing prepared for a wait. Let’s go!

….. No delays at the Tunnel but plenty of slowing roadworks en route. We were even offered an earlier train but declined. The drive was our first, lengthy drive and it really was a sharp learning curve. Driving with ACC and ILA switched on was akin to a sitting in a driverless car. Adaptive Cruise Control allows one to set a cruising speed but leave the car to adjust that speed according to traffic in front. This feature speeds up and slows down the car according to circumstances. Intelligent Lane Assist and Blind Spot Warning combine to keep the car within the white lines and warn of anything over or undertaking. This actually guides the steering wheel, unless the driver overrides it, and keeps it within the lines which is a slightly unnerving experience at 70 mph on the motorway.

Breakfast was running round the carpark,

As we drove in to the hotel grounds and carpark, we were greeted by a ‘flock’ (??) Of newborn (hatched) chicks that ran towards Pauline – obviously recognising her maternal qualities. We had specified which suite we wanted and were duly shown up to it. The evening was interesting as we watched the bonkers Tory Party hustings which was followed, quite appropriately, by a massive thunder storm with flashes of lightning, crashes of booming thunder and a roar of torrential rain. Shakespeare would certainly have approved. He may, even now, have staged it.

Wednesday, 19th June, 2019

We thought France, mid-June, new car, no set times or dates, just freedom. We’ll drive down the coast with the sunroof open and the sun beating down on our heads, highlighting and warming the beaches ….. We’ve woken to more thunder and rain from dark skies. We’ve eaten a little breakfast and are now settling down with coffee and newspapers, Radio4 Today followed by Sky’s All Out Politics before we set out into the world. It might have stopped raining by then.

…….. it has and the sun is out, shining from blue skies. the temperature has reached 24C/75F. We drove down the coast to Wissant and walked in the warm sunshine. Quite delightful!

Wissant Beach – Dutch ‘Wit Zand’ / English ‘White Sand’

We’ve been here many times before but hadn’t learnt of the Wissant School of Painters featured on the cliff.

The Wissant School of Painters

It has been a lovely, gentle day of sunshine, walking and I’ve learned something new about the car. For years, as we’ve driven into Europe, Radio 4 reception has faded. We’ve switched to the decreasingly usable Long Wave until Switzerland or Southern France has blanked us out completely. Now, Smartphone connectivity has allowed us to access radio over internet and put it straight through our car radio. It has changed life completely.

Thursday, 20th June, 2019

The morning started grey but, like yesterday, quickly turned warm and sunny with delightful blue sky and bright light. We had a leisurely start to the day. Radio 4 Today from my iPad at ECT 7.00 am (GMT 6.00 am) with a cup of Yorkshire tea. Down for Breakfast before 8.00 am and back for coffee and Sky’s All Out Politics for an hour until 10.00 am. Out into the delightfully warm sunshine.

We took the A16 down the coast through Sangatte, Wimereux, Boulogne, Neufchatel, Le Touquet and then inland to Montreuil-sur-Mer. It is both much the same as so many small, French towns and yet delightful in its provincial charm. We drove down lots of narrow, cobbled streets banked on either side by tall, 3-4 storey 18th/19th century buildings. This is the origin of Les Misérables and it shows. We parked up on the cobbled, market square at the town centre.

Miserable Chocolates

My usual way of getting to know a new place is to sit and eat and drink while watching the world go by. I’m afraid that approach has long gone which is a pity because these French, provincial towns are just full of eating and drinking places advertising everything I’m not allowed to have. So it was that we set out on foot to walk around and look and smell but not touch.

Jean Valjean was Mayor here.

One can immediately understand the ‘metalled’ footwear of the past because walking for long on cobbled streets becomes excruciating. If you wanted a symbol of European sentiment and unity, this last scene pictured below, shouted it out to Brits feeling sensitive about their host’s view of them.

A moving symbol of Unity.

We drove back to the hotel in the afternoon to find out about the Tory, It’s a Knockout competition and then went out shopping in Cité Europe. The sunshine had lasted and improved throughout the day and into the evening. Our meal was smoked salmon salad instead of all those calorific offerings shrieking out at us in the town centre. End of a lovely day.

Friday, 21st June, 2019

Beautiful morning to open the Summer Solstice. We are actually making the longest day even longer by leaving France at 1.00 pm and arriving in UK at 12.35 pm.

Our hotel grounds in Coquelles.

We left our hotel at 9.30 am and drove down to Carrefour Hypermarket where we plundered the fresh fruit & vegetables mountain. Such wonderful choice and quality at this time of the year.

You can’t beat 40 varieties of tomatoes – guaranteed for taste and freshness!
Bottom right – Fennel bulbs the size of footballs.

The fishmonger had a huge 3 kilo chunk of swordfish (Trois kilos d’espadon) costing €40.00/£36.00 which will do for a couple of weeks and is so difficult to source in UK at the moment.

Espadon – 3Kg of swordfish to be sliced into steaks & griddled

We drove back to the Tunnel Sous La Manche and checked in for a train one hour earlier than intended. Leaving at 12.15 pm, we arrived in Folkestone at 11.50 am thus making the Longest Day even longer than usual.

Saturday, 22nd June, 2019

Lovely, warm and sunny day. We decided to do some supermarket shopping followed by garden jobs. I mowed the lawns and we re-potted the Bell Peppers into bigger pots with a wigwam support of canes. We cut back the sage and Oregano plants for use in the kitchen. Pauline washed, spun and chopped them for the freezer. The cherry tomatoes are in full flower so they were fed and watered. The Rocket was ready for cutting again and we had that for our meal.

Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a tree that we found in Tenerife. I brought some seeds back and sowed them recently. Well, today they are starting to show their true natures with secondary leaves opening like their parent tree. Soon, I will have to pot them up and take them outside to see if they can survive a Sussex Winter.

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