Week 555

Sunday, 11th August, 2019

I’ve been awake since 5.00 am. The bedroom window was open on a close night and I was woken by the cooing of wood pigeons in the scots pines across the field and then by the screeching of marauding and ever present herring gulls above the house. Lovely morning and quite warm over night at 19C/66F. We went out for a walk around the local area this morning. We were doing it for a reason. On the grassed area of our development which was built on the site of an old Nursery, an old apple tree was spilling its fruit on the floor as a result of the winds. We filled a bag with a few kilos in readiness for making apple & beetroot chutney.

Nature’s Bounty

While we were there, we noticed the abundance of juicy, ripe blackberries. We went back with Tupperware containers and picked for 30 mins or so which resulted in about 2kg of beautiful fruit and terribly scratched and sore limbs. Pauline is such a wizard in the kitchen that this fruit was turned into jars of jam in no time at all and ready to put on our yoghurt for sweet.

Essence of Hedgerow

After we had pulled all the thorns from our arms and our legs, bathed our wounds and washed away the blackberry stains from our hands, we set off for the Health Club. I was shattered before I started having survived on about 5 hrs sleep and then had an active morning but it has to be done. At least I got home to watch Man. Utd. thrash Chelsea 4-0 in the first game of the new season.

Monday, 12th August, 2019

A little damp today. Still pretty warm and we have had thunder circling the area. Of course, it’s my job to get soaked (possibly get struck by lightning) and put the bins out. With great courage, I pulled through. Then, it was time to go out and source beetroot, red onions and red wine vinegar to combine with the windfall apples we collected the other day and from which Pauline will craft a delicious chutney.

The fundamentals of Beetroot Chutney.

We could have got the constituents from the local, PYO farm but, in the proportions we required, Asda was more economical. Although we’ve done a full, gym workout this afternoon, Pauline will be storing a good few jars of chutney before the end of the day.

Home grown salad

We’ve been enjoying our own, garden produce for a while now. Figs and lots to come, green peppers griddled with swordfish steaks, homegrown tomato & basil salad, lettuce and rocket salad – all but the fish produced by us. A bit romantic, I know, but to eat tomatoes & basil both of which were growing in the garden 5 mins before is a lovely experience.

Tuesday, 13th August, 2019

Up at 6.00 am and out by 7.30 am this morning because we both had Dentist & Hygienist appointments. We had alternate half hour sessions with each one starting at 8.00 am.. Of course, at our age, our teeth don’t change a lot and, once again, we have no follow-up work to do. Our contract entitles us to 2 visits to the Dentist and 2 to the Hygienist per year for a price of £100.00/€108.00 per year.

My dentist is a young, intelligent Brazilian man and I thought I would be able to teach him a new word today that I had discovered recently. I had accidentally come across the term Lusophone. It means Portuguese language speaker. It derives from the Romans name for Portugal which was Lusitania and the Roman word for voice which is phone. He thought about that for a while and then said, Ah yes, we pronounce it Looso-pho-nia and we call the Portuguese Losers.

Can’t resist a bargain!

We drove on to Rustington for some stuff from the chemist and bought a couple of Kilos of cherries to snack on and 3 kilos of Victoria plums for Pauline to turn into jam. Last year we picked our own but we haven’t got time this year. We also went in to The Works and bought a copy of the Highway Code. We have meant to for a time because we are both moving rapidly towards 70 and though we ought to refresh our memories and check changes to the law. We may be slow, elderly people but we intend to keep driving for many years to come.

In Surrey, we were always being nearly run over by cyclists on the pavement. The Council allowed/encouraged it. The Highway Code still says emphatically and unequivocally that it is not allowed to ride cycles on the pavement. Down her in Surrey, one is more in danger from being knocked over by aggressive drivers of motability scooters. The Highway Code states clearly that drivers of motability scooters must give precedence to pedestrians on the pavement. I can see that I will be keeping this book with me at all times.

Ten years ago today – 13th August, 2009 – I recorded in my Blog the following:

Ten years ago we asked our bank for a £50,000.00 ‘Bridging Loan’ to buy a field on an island in Greece. We were incredibly lucky to ask a bank manager who not only harboured the same ambition as us – to build a house in Greece – but one who knew our island and where the field was. She helped us have the confidence to go ahead with our project and commit some £200,000.00 that we didn’t have. We quickly paid back the bridging loan and now own the house outright. We retired this summer and, fortuitously, so did she. Sue Riding was lovely to us as Manager of our Nat. West branch. Soon after helping us, she visited our island. She then moved on to work for Coutts Bank. Today I wrote to her with pictures of the house and wishing her happy retirement.

Amazing to think it is 20 years ago since we started this process by instigating a bridging loan but how fortunate the whole process turned out for us!

Wednesday, 14th August, 2019

Strange to see a damp, dark day but that’s what we’ve got today. Pauline was engaged in her final preserves of the year – Victoria Plum Jam. We have both loved Victoria Plums for years but usually the time when they are available has coincided with us being abroad. Last year we picked our own from the orchards round the corner from our house. This year we’ve just bought them from the glut hitting the shops.

Victoria Plum Jam.

I was free to explore our travel plans for next year. We are going to take the ferry from Portsmouth (just 30 miles from here) to Bilbao or Santander and then drive across Spain to Murcia region. I was looking at the drive when we get off the ferry in Spain and where likely stops would be. Nowadays, I try to limit our driving time to about 4hrs per day if I can and that would take us to the city of Zaragoza. Here, I must digress.

There is something about the word Zaragoza that reaches back across the years for me. It is blended in my mind with Zagreb and Zarathustra and linked to a purchase my brother, Bob, made in the 1960s. When I was about 14, Bob went to a jumble sale and bought an old radiogram. The woven speaker cover was fraying and holed but the radio worked and the sound was fine. We used to listen to Dick Barton Special Agent in the darkness of our bedroom and be sorely afraid.

We also used to listen to Pick of the Pops and started to get in touch with popular culture which our family life starved us of. But there was one element that silently imprinted itself on my imagination and that was the cities listed as stations on the dial. They sounded distant, exciting and unreachable. They challenged the sense of myself constrained by the shackles of a small, East Midlands village

For some reason, the cities of Zaragoza and Zagreb spoke to me particularly. I certainly hadn’t a clue where they were and, now I think about it, not much impetus to find out. They existed as distant, future but exciting escapes from my provincial prison. Quite by accident, these chiming words from my past led me to pick up the philosophical work of Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra which turned out to be seminal for my development. In it, Nietzsche states that “God is dead” and that Christianity is decadent and leads mankind into a slave morality concerned with the next life rather than this. My reading of Karl Marx was leading me down a similar path if I really needed leading.

To think that I may visit Zaragoza next year seems to complete a circle of development that will urge me on to visit Zagreb. I realise now that it is in Croatia which is somewhere we have been intending to visit for some time. Having sailed up and down the Croatian coast so many times for years en route to Greece, it would be good to visit and spend some time there.

Thursday, 15th August, 2019

I apologise in advance for the nonsensical religiosity of this entry but today is a big one in Greece. It is colloquially known as the Summer Easter. In the rapidly declining Roman Catholic world, it is known as the Assumption of Mary. In Greece, it is known as the Dormition of Virgin Mary. I always thought of it as Choc.Ice Day.

View from high above Agios Symeon
Map of Sifnos

Our house on Sifnos was built just above Agia Marina and high above us on the mountain was the monastery of Agios Symeon. On this day every year pilgrims – which means huge numbers of islanders and tourists – would drive/walk past our house and on up to the monastery for the Festival celebrations. I always wanted Pauline to stand at our gate with bottles of water and a tray of Choc Ices to capitalise on this deluded nonsense. We could have made a fortune.

The map of Sifnos still features on our hall wall and it holds great affection for us. However, doesn’t this tradition of small world introspection, of old world ritual and tradition illustrate the yawning gap between us and that goldfish bowl world we left behind. It hurts me to say and even think it but, even when we were there, we would hold our breath and allow these things to pass us by rather than getting involved and criticising as I would in UK. The Tsipras government has made a concerted effort to loosen the Greek institutions’ attachment to the Orthodox submission – sorry, religion – but there is a long way to go.

Friday, 16th August, 2019

Warm but overcast day. We were out by 9.00 am driving down to the fisherman’s hut on the Marina.

Looking for Fish on Littlehampton Marina

We wanted a joint of sword fish. It produces 8 big slices for about £40.00. It was waiting for us when we arrived.  Wonderful quality for a reasonable price.

Swordfish with homegrown Peppers & Tomatoes

We did our daily trip to the Health Club for a couple of hours work and then came home for a lovely meal of roast cod loin with salad. Unfortunately, the Test Match was stopped for rain and the rain soon appeared over Sussex shortly after 4.00 pm.. It’s Friday so the workers will already be celebrating.

Saturday, 17th August, 2019

Busy day although we didn’t get up until nearly 7.00 am.. My job this morning was picking tomatoes from our patio plants, harvesting Tarragon, Thyme and Sage and then washing, stripping, chopping and freezing them for the winter use. Ought to be good fun but immensely back breaking and fiddly. The plants will produce one more cutting before the Winter. While I was doing that, Pauline was upstairs in the ironing-room getting clothes ready for our upcoming trip. I finished the morning by vacuuming the house.

Sage & Thyme with Tarragon to come.

Of to the Health Club for what turned out to be a really enjoyable session and then home for roast salmon and salad and the test match followed by Man. City v Spurs which ended in a 2-2 draw because of the video referee spotting a handball. Excellent.

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