Week 556

Sunday, 18th August, 2019

Another lovely day. Another lovely week to come. I’m going to start by cleaning the car. Every weekend for years in the North of England, I would drive down to the local carwash, read my paper in the queue and feel a little uncomfortable as a team of immigrants slaved over my car for 10 mins. They relieved me of about £10.00/€11.00 or so but I felt my working week justified the cost.

Northern Humour

Even in retirement, I continued for many years but now I do my own. I love the exercise. I spend a couple of hours every couple of weeks and save at least £20.00/€22.00 per month.

Pauline is busily cooking ginger biscuits which she loves and then completing preparations for our coming trip abroad. The carparking at Gatwick is booked. The hotel is booked. Clothes are being ironed although I wouldn’t care if she ironed them or not. Shorts and tee-shirts looked better crumpled on me. Because Greece is on the outer edge of satellite reception for UK, I’ve decided to use a VPN.

This is a Virtual Private Network for the uninitiated which disguises where one is operating from. It has been a genuine source of irritation and puzzlement to me why it has not been possible to access most UK media whilst abroad. Fortunately, there has been a notable exception. BBC Radio is open but why can’t everything else be behind a paywall with login access?

I pay for my Times  newspaper and access it through a paywall. I pay my BBC Licence Fee. Why should I be denied access to it while abroad? I pay my Sky TV and BTSport fees. I can access them on my iPad around UK. Why not in Europe? They should be available to me. Now, they will be. It doesn’t cost much financially although I have been concerned about it slowing internet access down a bit. In European hotels, the internet access is getting quicker and more reliable all the time but I don’t want to compromise it if I can avoid it. Early trials don’t suggest my access is slowed down at all. All the hubs have shown up in Addlestone, Surrey so far. The cost is just £60.00/€65.70  per year.

Monday, 19th August, 2019

Up early for a drive to Surrey. We are visiting P&C and delivering a renovated laptop to a student without one. While there, my job was to set up P’s new iPad and clear her old one for a boy without. He hadn’t had in his hands for 2 mins before it was up and working and looking to install Netflix. Who the hell watches Netflix? I have the Parliament Channel on my iPad. Now, that’s more like it!

Brown Turkey finally ripening.

The drive to Surrey and back was delightful and uneventful. It took us about an hour each way. Even the M25 didn’t have its customary holds-up. I did my duty and delivered a working laptop, setup a new iPad and cleaned an old one for reuse all in a couple of hours. When we got back, I had a lengthy job of watering all the patio pots which are still delivering kilos of red & yellow cherry tomatoes. We eat tomato & basil salad virtually every day at the moment. One thing that is pleasing us is that our second fig tree – the Brown Turkey – is finally ripening and we have started to pick. They are delightful! 

Feels strange to have not been to the gym today. It is only the 3rd time in the past 6 weeks. I feel that I’ve let myself down somehow. Anyway, back to work tomorrow. Even so, we are coming up to travelling time. Greece very soon followed by short breaks in France and Yorkshire and then a month in Tenerife. That will destroy my gym routine so I’d better get used to it.

Tuesday, 20th August, 2019

A pleasant, warm day. We have been sorting out travelling arrangements for this week with suitcases out, clothes ironed and timings checked. Out in the garden, we continue to pick figs and tomatoes. We have done a final sowing of salad leaves and the lawns and hedges will be trimmed tomorrow. We have got back in to gym routine and feel much better for it.

I back everything up in triplicate. Belt & Braces has nothing on me. We have used Cloud Storage Backup for years with MS. OneDrive initially and until they limited ‘free’ storage to 5Gb. I then moved on to BT Cloud which came ‘free’ with my internet and gives me 1000 Gb.. It is invaluable because we can back up our PCs, our Laptops, our iPads and our smartphones all to one cloud area and each of us can access the other’s saved material. Today, we bought some additional USB sticks for to back up specific elements separately.

It is all so cheap these days. My first Desktop PC only provided 42MB hard drive although it was only text-based MS-DOS. However, it had to be partitioned at 32MB because that was the maximum a hard drive could cope with at the time. Of course this was about 1987-8 as my starter Amstrad PCW which had no hard drive at all was being replaced. I wrote my entire 50,000 word, Masters’ Dissertation with the Amstrad saving every precious page on floppy disks.

Today, I popped out to Argos and bought 112,000MB of storage for just £27.00/€30.00 and I can carry all of them around in my pocket. I can retrieve information from them almost instantly as opposed to the minutes/ 10s of minutes sometimes required to access fairly simple text-based files from the floppy disks we had for storage back then. Having said all that, I wouldn’t have missed being in at the start of this information revolution for anything. It was exciting, challenging and rewarding beyond belief. I count myself incredibly lucky to have been in at the start.

The next advance will be the redundancy of fixed-link broadband by 5G mobile signal. Until recently, I have been berating the telecoms companies for not delivering fibre to our doors. This would provide us with 200 – 300 mb/s download speeds. Now, it seems %G will provide us with 20,480 Mb/s. It is almost unbelievable and wonderful and …. I want it NOW!

Wednesday, 21st August, 2019

Lovely day of gardening in the morning and gym work in the afternoon. Sunny and warm – 22C/70F – and delightful in the garden, we’ve really enjoyed our time. Pauline has trimmed all the hedges and I’ve swept up after her. The climate is relaxing and pleasant without being taxing and over hot.

Ten years ago, we were spending our first summer of retirement at our house in Sifnos.


We were clearing the garden and painting the outside of the house. Particularly, this week, Pauline was repainting the intricate sliding iron gate at the opening of our drive.

The view from our house – August 2009

It was incredibly time consuming to paint and the hot sun made the paint go thick, gloopy and impossible to apply after a few minutes outside. To add to her problems, Pauline suffered with the extreme heat of August. We forget how uncomfortable that could be in August. Certainly we found it harder to deal with as we grew older.

Thursday, 22nd August, 2019

Mum graduating aged 21 in 1944

I start the day by acknowledging my Mum’s Birthday. Born in 1923, she would be 96 today. She died 11 years ago. I find it hard to believe so much has happened for all of us since she died. I still have the unconscious impulse to phone her to tell her of something I’ve been doing but that impulse has faded and comes less often. I’ve posted two photographs 4 years apart when she was 21 and 25. The first was just as she was graduating in 1921 in London and the second was just as she started teaching at Burton upon Trent Girls High School in 1948. She and her friend and fellow teacher, Margaret were sharing a flat together above Goodall’s Garage in Repton. Joey Crowther, also in the photo was a Biology teacher at the Boys’ Grammar School and was still there 20 years later as I was preparing to leave.

I must admit, I do find my memories of Mum fade rather with time although specific interactions still bite into my thoughts. It is just the same with my general memory. This morning, the GCSE results come out in UK. We were always in Greece on this day and would phone school to find out the important statistics. What it also meant, however, was that we would soon be packing up the car and preparing to leave the island for the long drive home.

Mum, Joey Crowther & Margaret Adams – 1948

We found ourselves talking about this at 6.00 am today as Radio 4 announced exam results day. We started driving across Europe 20 years ago. In the early and younger days, we would try to do the journey with just 2 stops. From the island to Piraeus and then drive across the top of the Peloponnese to Patras where we would have a night at the Patras Palace. One night in a cabin followed on the Patras – Ancona ferry. Then we drove hell for leather round the Italia Lakes and through Switzerland, just stopping in a motorway service station around Aire de Keskastel for a few hours sleep. Next morning, on to Zeebrugge and P&O overnight back to Hull.

To achieve our timetable, we had to leave Sifnos on the Monday so we got back to Yorkshire on the Friday. This gave us time to do the washing, supermarket shopping and look out our suits and briefcases ready for Monday start. It took us a week to acclimatise to the temperature and the time zone. So much of this, which I had forgotten, came back from the trigger of the exam announcement.

Friday, 23rd August, 2019

Out early today. First, we took our rubbish to the local tip because we won’t be here to put it out for collection on Monday. Next, we drove to Rustington so that Pauline could visit the Beauty Parlour to have a ‘Facial’. I had the joy of an hour in the Waitrose coffeeshop. While I was there, I tried to use my earbuds to listen to the Sky Politics programme, All Out politics. It was only then, for the first time, that I found my new iPad Pro didn’t have a standard earbud connection jack socket. I’ve had it over a month and not realised. With less than 24 hrs until we go abroad, I had to scramble to get a USB-C adaptor for it.  After Argos relieved me of £9.00/€10.00, I was on my way.

Final trip to the Health Club which was fairly busy today. We worked hard and then came home to griddle Filet Steak in the garden to be served with 3 different salads – tomato, cauliflower & broccoli and green leaf. Unfortunately, I watched the cricket in the kitchen as we cooked and ate. No good for the digestion.

Saturday, 24th August, 2019

Last week of August 2019 coming up. We are going to Gatwick and to Athens. I was expecting to watch England destroy Australia in the Test match but now I’m going to mow the lawns and clean the car. I’m not really sure why I’m doing the latter because it will be left in the Long Stay carpark but at least it will look its best.

Gatwick Long Stay North

As someone who never remembers where he’s parked his car in Tesco’s, the huge expanse of Gatwick Long Stay is a nightmare. It was just the same on Superfast Ferries. Fortunately, I was accompanied by the perfect answer – Pauline. Before we leave the car, she writes in her notebook the Zone number and Section letter so we know exactly where to get off the shuttle bus. I know it sounds obvious although I always think I’ll remember but never do.

Ferry Garage, Car Deck 5, zone C  – but where’s the car?

We used to sit and laugh when, using Pauline’s attention to detail, we got down to the 4th or 5th car deck to sit in our car prior to disembarkation (on the left near the bulkhead) and then watched families searching for their car. Often they would leave in desperation and then reappear two or three times, looking more and more anxious and still carrying bags, children, car keys, etc..

Having taken the car out of our garage this afternoon, I opened the bonnet to check the oil and realised this was the first  time I had ever opened the bonnet in the 2.5 months since we bought it. The engine is pristine but I couldn’t find the dipstick.

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