Week 562

Sunday, 29th September, 2019

The penultimate day of September 2019 opened with strong winds and rain. Surprisingly warm –  18C/65F at 7.00 am. We will only go out to the gym today so we hope it clears up before that. Newspapers and political programmes form the first couple of hours and then my job is to vacuum the house and do some dusting. Pauline is steam-cleaning the hard floors downstairs. Unalloyed joy!

Just as Greeks thought the economy was ticking up, Moodys, the credit rating agency throws a wet blanket over it:

The collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook is “credit negative” for Greek and Cypriot banks because it reduces the cash flow of businesses in the tourism sectors of both countries … This development will result in a reduction in tourism revenue and investment … it may even lead to business closures. It could also affect other sectors linked to tourism, such as transport and trade…. the exposure of Greek banks to businesses (hotels and restaurants) that worked with the bankrupt company was 10.8%, and 13.9% for Cypriot lenders at the end of March 2019.

Thomas Cook employed around 1,000 people in Greece and accounted for around 3 million tourist arrivals per year, or about 9% of the country’s total arrivals of 44 million in 2018, according to Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος data. Thomas Cook had a particularly strong presence in Crete and Kos, where around 70% and 25% of the two islands’ hotels, respectively, had contracts with the company. The effect of Thomas Cook’s liquidation on Cyprus’ tourism sector is also likely to be substantial. Around 250,000 tourists annually travel to Cyprus with Thomas Cook and generate revenue of €187 million.

We, of course will go back to Greece in 2020 but we will also spend about 3 months in Spain/Canaries. We still intend to take our car on a ferry from Portsmouth – Bilbao or Santander. Because we know so little of Spain, we have been wildly casting around for where to spend the Summer. We will rent a villa which must have its own pool and all facilities for cooking, washing clothes and television + wi-fi. We will need somewhere to park our car securely. Originally, we were thinking of Murcia where our friends had an villa but they have sold it recently so we are now looking at Tarragona as a destination.

Bilbao to Tarragona is only 350 miles/550 kms. It would take around 5 hours to drive that which is a comfortable day out depending on when the ferry docked. I’ve been checking out places available on various villa rental websites. This is just outside Tarragona:

Only £70.00/€79.00 per night on average to rent.

One thing that is immediately obvious is that mainland properties in Spain are much cheaper than those we rent in the Canaries. It seems that guaranteed winter sunshine carries a premium.

50 miles this week.

Did a full workout routine in quite a quiet Health Club this afternoon. The weather probably put many people off although it did dry up and reached 20C/68F. It is surprising how many go to eat in the restaurant without exercising. We have really been trying to push ourselves over the past few months and see that as a way to enjoy some extended times away without feeling guilty. We will feel that we have earned them.

One of the problems an obsessive like me suffers from is an addiction to little, orange bars on his smartphone. It genuinely pains me if one of them is blue – meaning a daily goal unachieved. It leads to the most ridiculous attempts to fulfil the target wherever I am. I am taking my gym and swimming wear when I go to France so that I can go to bed without worrying. Our hotel has a huge, indoor pool and a small gym which will do for the few days we are away. We will also be doing lots of walking anyway so I have high hopes of success.

Monday, 30th September, 2019

We are saying farewell to September 2019 with the most gorgeous morning. which I wasn’t up to photographing. A little bit cooler start at just 12C/54F but dry and glowing. Eventually, as we left the Health Club in mid afternoon, we had struggled up to 20C/68F with weak sunshine. We have done our last, formal workout for a short while but we will use the Hotel’s gym and pool to fill in while we are away.

The forecast as we travel tomorrow morning is for heavy rain but nothing as bad as the storm that will hit Manchester and the Tory Party non-conference. They have already had a lot of water dumped on them but there is a yellow weather warning out for tomorrow. Good job Ruth lives in the penthouse.

Greater Manchester flash flooding.

Had a delightful email yesterday from our Honda dealer. Their premises are rather cheap-by-jowl with housing in an old area near the sea. It takes about 10 mins to drive to them currently.

About 5 mins drive from us is a Peugeot dealership which recently has had a huge new development added. I thought it strange because I wasn’t aware that Peugeot were popular enough to merit it. Now we realise that Honda have taken over that franchise and built a huge new outlet for themselves as well. This will be wonderful for us. It is closer, more spacious with lots of parking.

Tuesday, 1st October, 2019

There are times when I really struggle to get to grips with the passage of the days. October already. All one can do is shrug and get on with the new day, month… Happy October, 2019 to you all anyway.

We are celebrating getting another month older by driving through the Channel Tunnel to one of our favourite hotels for a short stay. We will do some walking if the weather is friendly, some shopping and some wine buying. We will eat some nice food and try to forget that Pauline is 68 on Saturday.  I never thought I’d be married to an old woman but it comes to all of us at some stage …. if we are lucky enough to last that long.

It is 7.20 am as I write and light rain has just begun to fall. It looks like any walking will be inside today. I will be visiting the hotel’s gym and swim before I open my first bottle of wine in 31 days. Looking forward to it. I suspect that one glass will have a considerable effect never mind a bottle. Whatever, it will have to be red.

Lovely drive to the Tunnel. The hotel desk greeted us and we settled in. Out to the hypermarkets and then back to the hotel for a gym session followed by a meal and the wine. It’ s always a bit of an anti-climax after the build up over a dry month

Fitness Queen

It was good to complete our fitness targets after a day of sitting. It was nice to drink a glass of red wine after a month of abstinence.

Wednesday, 2nd October, 2019

Up at 7.00 am (ET) to listen to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme at 6.00 am (GMT). Down to a wonderful breakfast at 8.00 am/7.00 am with fantastic scrambled eggs. I always think one can judge the cooking by the quality of scrambled egg. It is not as easy to do well in catering, buffet proportions. The French bacon was quite delicious.

Pauline, as I enjoy repeating, will be 68 on Saturday. Because of that, she deserves being indulged. I hate shopping for clothes. She loves it. Today is her day so we have visited a huge, Designer retail Outlet in Coquelles. We have been there once before but didn’t stay because it was absolutely packed. Today, it is anything but.

Very quiet shopping mall in France.

If its not clothes, it is chocolate that Pauline likes to shop for. We spent quite a bit of time in shops like this:

Pauline’s Passion.
Pauline’s other Passion.

We did so much walking today that we didn’t need the gym. We drove down to our wine supplier and had to dodge groups of immigrants running across the dual carriageway as they fled the local gendarmarie who were following to move them on. The migrants tried to stop lorries and get into the back of them as they were held up on the highway. The irony of the contrast between our indulgence of bulk wine buying set against the subsistence struggle of the dishevelled migrants was not lost on us.

We drove back to our hotel where we had a suite of rooms. We choose this hotel as much for its grounds which are extensive and are surrounded by farmers’ fields. On the grass was a mother hen with her newly hatched chicks. As I approached them, they rushed straight up to me to get the food they thought I was bringing.

Not easy to control that class!

As soon as they realised that I was empty handed, they were off back under the rhododendron bush. As we walked away, a spy had insinuated himself into the arch of my car’s wheel

Staring at the chicks from our front wheel.

Beautiful sunshine today but not warm. I don’t think we got above 15C/59F. The white cliffs of Dover and the broad sides of cross channel ferries have been picked out in the strong, sharp light of an autumnal sun.

Thursday, 3rd October, 2019

Up early and down to BREAKFAST. Won’t see that again for a long while. Scrambled egg …Oh, scrambled egg. Packed up and off. Down to the hypermarket for a few supplies and then to Euro Tunnel.

Why would you take the Ferry?

We are booked on a 12.50 (ECT) /11.50 (GMT) train but, as always, we are early. As always, the French are happy to put us on an earlier train although they are making it considerably more uncomfortable to experience security checks with long queues to get through. They are definitely emphasising the conditions we can expect as a Third Country if we’re ever stupid enough to Brexit.

The train journey was quiet, quick and uneventful. We read our digital newspapers and, in no time at all, the daylight began to flood back in to the train. From drive on to drive off was just 35 mins. Why would anyone volunteer to spend three times that on a ferry? As soon as we stop at the station, the train is so quiet that the doors open and we are driving off on to the Kent roads. The drive back is also quiet and uneventful apart from being slowed by the roadworks being carried out to facilitate a lorry stack in the event of Brexit. Of course, it doesn’t matter how short a period one is away, it is always nice returning to home familiarity.

Friday, 4th October, 2019

One of the problems with growing older is that our friends, neighbours and family grow old with us and … We have a number of octogenarian family members – which is a sign of the times – and, this weekend, our neighbour across the road will ‘celebrate’ being 80. We have been invited to help him and we bought him a card in France to test his linguistic skills.

Happy Birthday from France.

I’ve bought and stored a card for Ruth’s 80th as well because it won’t be long. Even my wife will be 68 tomorrow. I am cooking a special, birthday meal – but not until we have done our gym workout. It will include langoustines, large scallops, monkfish and tail on prawns. I have to sneak out and source them tomorrow.

Saturday, 5th October, 2019

Happy Birthday to my darling wife. She was born on this day in 1951. In my view, she certainly doesn’t look 68 and she doesn’t act 68. We are going to celebrate by a trip to the gym. I am cooking supper – that should be interesting.

I am making two, fish dishes –

  1. Langoustines in a tomato, white wine and dill sauce.
  2. Monkfish & King Scallops in a garlic and tarragon butter sauce.

I am following that with Raspberry Pavlova with fresh, sweet raspberries and whipped cream. This is one of Pauline’s favourites. Anything with lots of whipped cream will be a favourite of Pauline’s.

I’m pleased to report that, even though we were shattered after 2 hrs at the gym, I managed to cook a really lovely meal accompanied by  bottle of dry champagne and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. We needed a rest after that.