Week 566

Sunday, 27th October, 2019

A beautiful, sunny day which started off cool but warmed up rapidly. I had to juggle politics with rugby and gardening followed by gym routine and packing to go away for a month.

One of the values of renting a villa rather than a hotel room is that we can wash, dry and iron clothes – well, Pauline can. I haven’t got a clue. It means that we don’t have to carry too much with us. Other than shorts and tee-shirt, I will need little else. One set on and one in the wash would do me although I am told what I must take by my friend.

Our Villa’s Dining Room & Kitchen

We have learnt the hard way to scrutinise the villa’s facilities and this one includes a dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, ironing board and iron, Fridge, Hob, Oven, Microwave, Grill, and Coffee maker. We have developed the rule that anything we rent must provide at least as good as we’ve left at home.

We rarely eat out but really enjoy sourcing good quality ingredients and cooking for ourselves. It provides us both with a pleasurable experience. So, a well equipped kitchen is a prerequisite for us. We enjoy producing our own meals so much that Pauline takes one or two of her favourite knives with us to ensure quality preparation.

We will be picked up by taxi and taken to Gatwick because a month of carparking charges is not cost effective. The hour long journey will cost us £50.00/€58.00 each way. We will be taken to the Sofitel which is just a covered walkway from the North Terminal.

Sofitel Atrium, Gatwick Airport

We can check in at the hotel and then, in the evening, trundle our cases over to the bag-drop area in the terminal and drop them off through the automatic process. After a good night’s sleep, we will walk across to the terminal, go through security to airside and to an Executive Lounge where we will have a bit of breakfast before going down to Gate and setting off. Long ago, we Checked-In online for our flight and printed out boarding passes. It really is all so easy these days. It’s been a long time since we even suffered a delay. (Not wishing to tempt fate.)

Anyway, we have a few days to finish off all the jobs a house needs before being left for a month. I have to cut the lawns, sort out the automatic lighting system and make sure the central heating is set to frost-free. At least nowadays I can control all that from my smartphone.

Monday, 28th October, 2019

A cool but glorious start to the morning. We cooked outside yesterday and will do again today but, with days to go before we leave for a month, we will frost-wrap the fig trees this morning just in case. Shopping this morning and then gardening followed by a full Health Club workout.

Sunbathed in the back garden while Pauline griddled swordfish steaks. Yesterday it was tuna steaks. It is delightful to have such lovely weather. This is officially Half Term down here. We have always associated October Half Term with Autumn leaves. I have vivid memories of an image that summed up the epitome of futility. We drove through the Yorkshire Dales one Half Term week and the weather was blowing a gale. We came across an old man, miles from anywhere, sweeping dry, brown leaves as the strong winds blew them everywhere. What was he doing?

Autumnal Lille

I have other memories of walking the streets of Lille in France kicking through the leaves in the weak sunlight. I am a little ashamed to admit that these memories can make me rather maudlin. It felt wonderful and sad at the same time – the very definition of oxymoron. How many Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter seasons does a man have? It is a reminder not only of passing time, of the inevitability of death but of those loved ones who are gone. It is unbearable and inevitable at the same time.

Tuesday, 29th October, 2019

A nondescript sort of day with occasional, weak sunshine alternating with grey, forbidding skies. Not cold but fresher than it has been. We did a bit of garden tidying and clothes packing against a background of the political landscape playing out on our screens.

Huddersfield – beautiful but stark.

Our last day at the Health Club for a month was tiring. Somehow, it is easier when a run of continuity stretches ahead. Anyway, we did it while watching the Parliament Channel and then came home to cook our meal and watch the Parliament Channel for an hour or two longer. Reading back through my newly restored Blog, I found that this week in 2008, we were blanketed in snow and facing an Ofsted inspection at school. It was going to be a period of maximum stress. A year later, we had retired, spent six months in Greece and returned home to pay off our mortgage and embrace the future. How times and lives can change!

Wednesday, 30th October, 2019

Greece may be coming towards the end of its Μικρό καλοκαίρι (Little or Indian Summer) but we are just preparing to fly out and extend ours. Greece has, quite unusually, experienced a return to Summer weather in Autumn but it now seems to be coming to an end with much needed rains. We are about to fly to Tenerife for some much needed sunshine and warmth.

Resetting the Alarm System.

No Health Club today or for another month. I’ve cleaned the car and garaged it. The Alarm company have sent an engineer round to obviate any problems we might have over the next month. Actually, he has turned out to be a real expert. He has spent 3 hours working on the system and has replaced the sound box outside and three of the five infrared sensors in side the house. We remain in his expert hands for our ongoing security.

We have cleaned out and restored the smoke alarms, set the automatic lighting and heating and put the garden to bed. Our neighbours all around are well aware of our plans and fully in the loop in case of problems. Everything for the trip has been packed. The itinerary has been typed out and printed. We know exactly what to do from the moment that the taxi picks us up to the time we leave our plane in Reina Sofía Airport. That is how we have always operated. Micro-planned down to the last degree.

Oh, I forgot. I’ve got to have my haircut to save Pauline carrying her hairdressing equipment. We have weighed the cases and they are well below our limit but the less we carry the better so I will be forced to spend an immobile hour in the kitchen with a hairdresser’s cape around my neck. Still, I’ll look even more beautiful after that.

Thursday, 31st October, 2019

Up early and finishing packing. By 9.00 am, I was sitting in the kitchen in the ‘Richard Chair’ having my hair cut by my wife while watching All Out Politics on Sky TV. The house and garden are spick and span. The car has been cleaned and garaged. The taxi is booked and we are off to …

Gateway to Europe

Actually, we will stop at the Sofitel Hotel ,where we have already checked-in online. We can drop our bags off between 8.00 pm & midnight and then go back to our hotel and sleep. Tomorrow morning we can walk through security unencumbered by baggage.

We are on the 7th Floor with a lovely view over the amazingly tree-lined countryside of Crawley. The drive here actually gave us the ability to look around at the autumnal Beauty of this area which is dominated by the airport.

7th Floor view over Crawley, Gatwick Airport
Descending to the Lobby in the glass elevator.

Why does travelling always make you tired? From the moment I got in the taxi, I felt exhausted. The taxi driver was a very friendly Northerner from Macclesfield. He had lived on the South coast for more than 20 years but recognised our accents immediately.

Friday, 1st November, 2019

Happy November

The start of a new month as October 2019 drops off the conveyor belt. Welcome to November which we are embracing in a new location. We have greeted the day at 5.00 am with a cup of tea and then checked out of our hotel.

Of course, as the Skiathan will tell you, there is more to celebrate than a new month. Today marks the start of the third Happy Non-Brexit period.

It is early – 5.00 am early. Waking up in a strange bed at this time is never ideal but needs must. Check-out from Hotel, walk down the covered path to Gatwick North Terminal and go through security to Airside. It is wet outside. At this time, the airport is reasonably quiet and we can walk fairly unhindered to our No1 Lounge where we will catch a little bit of Breakfast before going down to gate. We land in Reina Sofía Airport at around 12.35 pm and will be picked up by a driver arranged by our villa owner.

Our dining room for the next month.

Everything went wonderfully smoothly and we took off On time in rain and a temperature of 9C/48F. We landed On time in wonderful sunshine and a temperature of 29C/84F. We were met by villa owner, Darius, who drove us to our villa. It was exactly what we expected which is nice.

Saturday , 2nd November, 2019

Up at 6.30 am on a hot and sticky morning. The temperature hadn’t dropped below 24C/75F last night but we were so tired, we slept soundly until 6.00 am.. Pauline had brought a citrus juicer for me and we bought oranges yesterday along with porridge for Pauline. Breakfast over, we settled down with our newspapers and the rugby. It wasn’t a surprise that we lost and, in a strange way, slightly reassuring that the Tories who had tried to co-opt the English victory for Brexit, we left holding the losing baby.

7.00 am Sunrise as the ferry from La Gomera arrives.

We walked down to Siam Mall and did a full shop at HiperDino supermarket. They had wonderful joints of swordfish and we bought 4 huge ones for half the price we would in UK. We bought salmon steaks and chicken fillets. We took 4 of the biggest red peppers that you have ever seen. In Sainsburys, they would have been half the size and cost £2.40/€2.80. Here, all 4 cost a total of €0.75/£0.65. How can that be? I am going to live solely on peppers for a month.

Looking down from our villa to Siam Mall.

Well, thank goodness we’re going to win the election because, after England and then Man,Utd., I feel I’m on a losing streak! I did find my friend, Jeremy’s office near by ..

My mate, Jeremy’s Office. We’re going to nationalise it.

We came ‘home’ by taxi with all our shopping. The taxi cost just €3.50/£3.02 but I don’t think the driver was best pleased at such a huge fare. At least we had most of our provisions for the next few days and settled down to cook and eat the most wonderful swordfish steaks with Greek Salad and Green Salad. Now Pauline is fully involved in Strictly Come Something and I am out on the terrace doing this Blog.

Week 565

Sunday, 20th October, 2019

Woke up at 6.00 am as normal and didn’t feel too bad after our long drive yesterday. We had a long list of jobs to get through so decided early on to restart our gym routine tomorrow.  The day was delightfully warm and sunny so, after doing our weekly shop at Tesco, we set about a couple of hours of gardening. Pauline trimmed the hedges while I mowed the lawns.

The back garden felt absolutely lovely and it was hard to believe that we are in the latter half of October. We cooked outside – griddled Swordfish Steaks – and enjoyed the fresh, warm air. The only thing about this time of year is that the evening time brings cooler temperatures and we had to close the patio doors by 6.00 pm.

My one other task was fitting new batteries in all three smoke alarms. We were told that they were interconnected and that fitting one wouldn’t be good enough. I proceeded to do just that. Of course, I could get the tops off and the batteries out but I couldn’t get the new ones in or the tops back on. Fortunately, my wife can do stuff like that. The first two alarms went back satisfactorily. The third one at the top of the stairs immediately started to bleep as soon as the new battery was inserted. We concluded that it was faulty and would need expert attention or completely replacing. We decided to phone for help on Monday.

In an idle moment this evening, I searched Google for methods of sorting out my troublesome smoke alarm. I immediately found half a dozen helpful videos on YouTube telling me exactly what the problem was and how to fix it.

All the answers on Youtube.

In the video I chose, I was taught to discharge any residual power after removing the battery by holding down the test button for 20 secs. After refitting the new battery, the bleeping restarted immediately. Next I was told that there could be dust or a web on the sensitive plate – called something or other – and it should be blasted with air through all its vents to clean it. I hadn’t got an air compressor to blast it but I have got a strong puff so I gave it full throttle, refitted the battery and everything appears to be working correctly. Let’s hope I’m not woken up in the night.

Monday, 21st October, 2019

Up early on a dark and damp morning. Bin day – all three today. That ‘s my job especially as it’s wet. Soon after, I have to go out to the Parcelforce depot to collect a package from BT Openreach which they tried to deliver on Saturday morning while we were travelling home. The package is a new, high-speed hub for full fibre connection plus 2 wi-fi extender discs. Actually, our house is fully wi-fi covered but these extender discs will reinforce that distribution and, I’m hoping, I can use one to provide a better performance out in the back garden.

New Fibre Hub + Wi-Fi extender unpacked.

We’ve managed to book the BT engineer to come to our house on Wednesday and the alarm engineer to call next week on the day before we leave for the airport. We’re working on the just-in-time principle.

We wouldn’t go back to those days.

Ten years ago this week we suddenly had a huge weight lifted from our shoulders. We had retired 6 months earlier and now we were paying off a relatively massive mortgage. It had been hugely increased as we borrowed to build our Greek house. I wrote at the time that “Pauline and I are flying around the lounge with the lightness of being mortgage-free.“ We have bought and sold two properties since then but never had a mortgage and it is enormously confidence inspiring.

Tuesday, 22nd October, 2019

The most glorious day of warm sunshine and wonderful, azure blue skies. We shopped in the early summer day; swam in the June warmth; cooked outside in the wonderful  weather. Have I said it was a lovely, warm day?

Lizzie Dripping – 62 Yesterday.

I forgot until the last moment that my little sister was 62 yesterday. Of course she is in denial and she has deliberately had her photo taken with my younger brother, Bob, in order to make herself look younger.

Liz & Bob

We are going away soon so we spent an hour or so packing up the garden furniture and storing it in the garage. Tomorrow, we will wrap the fig and olive trees against the risk of frost while we are away. We need to leave everything in order before we go. Today, I moved a major investment which had matured over to another year’s account which will nearly keep our capital up with inflation. It is not exactly reassuring. I have considered purchasing a Buy-to-Let property or a property abroad but decided that both are time/risk demanding at the moment.

Wednesday, 23rd October, 2019

Early up because of expecting BT Openreach engineers. Very excited! Just unstacked the dishwasher and a ring on the doorbell announced their arrival.

The Messiah arrives and parks up.

Fibre has already been brought to a box on the outside of our house and now needs to be brought into the Study/Office. This involves drilling through an outside wall which I’m not terribly happy about but needs must. Pauline has deep cleaned the Study/Office just in case a man with a drill notices a bit of unremoved dust. She’s never really understood men and their relationship with dust.

Peter the Openreach engineer told me he was just 6 years old when I started teaching. He has a 14 year old son and was going to a Careers meeting to his son’s school tonight. It made me feel very old although not as old as Ruth. We’ve had so many trades people come to our house to offer us their skills and it is distinctly humbling to find how ordinary but wonderful they are. Just really good human beings doing their best for their families and their customers with no great sense of ego.

Peter was just an ordinary man with no great pretensions but hopes for his young son and the future. He was keen to talk and share his life with me. There were so many coincidences in which his life had, unknowingly, collided with mine. He had started school in South Benfleet in Essex just as I was starting teaching in Lancashire. Just as he was going to Secondary School, I got a job as head of English in a Secondary School 2 or 3 miles away on Canvey Island. His best friend lives on Oriental Road, Woking, Surrey about half a mile away from where Pauline & I lived in Surrey. Now he lives in West Worthing just next to where Pauline & I go to our Health Club every day.

I love people and their lives and this poor chap was forced to divulge his full history in the half hour he was at our house. As soon as he’d gone, I had to set the new hub up with

  • 2 x Smartphones
  • 3 x iPads
  • 1 x Desktop
  • 2 x Laptops
  • 3 x Sky Boxes
  • 5 x televisions

Fortunately many of them have WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) buttons to talk to the hub. This makes it all so quick to link them up. We came back from our Health Club stint, cooked our meal and then I did the whole thing in an hour. Apparently, we have immediately increased the value of our house by installing super fast, fibre to the door, internet. I would have done it anyway.

Thursday, 24th October, 2019

The darker mornings slowly creep up and we suddenly realise that we put the light on when we get up. It is a source of regret for me although I do accept the seasonal range of changing days. I am not Canute although even he did not try to turn back the tide but demonstrated to his subjects that even Kings were subject to natural laws. Fortunately, Man has learnt to work around nature with the social constructs that only humanity can devise. On Saturday night, one of those constructs will come to the rescue temporarily. We turn back the clocks and push the darkness back round the diurnal circle to form darker evenings.

It is rather grey anyway this morning with soft, wetting rain which contributes to the gloom of the day. We have a plumber arriving this morning to fix a leaking tap. A tap which cost nearly £200.00/€232.00 really shouldn’t be leaking after less than 4 years use. Apparently, taps like these have ceramic gland cartridges. It is all quite beyond my understanding so I look forward to an expert arriving. I, for one, believe in experts what ever slimy Gove says.

We’ve got just one more ‘expert’ to come to our house before we fly off to the Canaries. Next week, the burglar alarm man is coming back to comprehensively check our system. We will need it while we are away.

While we are away, we will be spending Euros. We buy our travel and accommodation with our credit cards in UK but all spending abroad is in local currency to avoid huge currency conversion charges. Over the past year, I have been forward buying currency as the Brexit debate ebbed and flowed and the Pound rose and fell against the Euro. I use FX experts like ICE and Moneycorp with whom I have accounts and who home deliver. Recently, however, Tesco Bank have more than matched them in value and I only have to go to my local supermarket to pick the up. Earlier in the week, the £1.00 = €1.1640 and I bought another £1000.00 worth to store away for future use. It’s gone down a bit since then so my constant monitoring was worth while.

Friday, 25th October, 2019

This morning, I lost my life – well, a significant part of it. This Blog is published on a hosted WordPress platform. I have maintained it since Christmas 2008 – It will be 11 years old in a couple of months. It’s strapline is a quote from TS Elliot’s The Wasteland in which the Fisher King describes his final attempt at coherence. This Blog shores up the fragments of my life in a final attempt at producing some coherence as a result. Of course, like everything, it will end in tragedy and failure but the effort will deliver it from futility or so I hope….

Just a few of hundreds of WordPress Stylesheets.

This morning, I lost everything. WordPress works with style sheets which form the framework in which content is contained and presented. Over the years, I have used 2 or 3 different style sheets just to keep the appearance fresh and interesting although functionality has been at the heart of my choice. There are thousands of WordPress stylesheets and existing content is instantly refreshed with a new wrapper. On Thursday evening, in an idle moment, I trawled though stylesheets and considered a change. Eventually, I decided against it and closed my computer down.

This morning, I was locked out of the last 11 years of my life. ….

Saturday, 26th October, 2019

I went to bed at midnight thinking about my Blog and woke at 6.00 am thinking about my Blog. I had attempted to restore data but, overnight, I realised that it was just the stylesheet that was missing. As I had browsed the stock of new stylesheets, I must have half selected one but not fully and deselected my original. Sounds garbled but I understand it. The error message I kept getting was: No stylesheet attached. I woke up knowing what I had to do – sort of.

I opened my control panel from my hosts – Ionos/1&1 – found the stylesheets bank and selected one, held my breath and refreshed my Blog page and up popped….

My Life restored….

As I whooped round the kitchen, England scored their first try against New Zealand in what turned out to be a rout. England were brilliant and so was my mood. The day just couldn’t get much better. I’m going to the gym to celebrate.

Week 564

Sunday, 13th October, 2019

Vit.C hasn’t saved me.

At 7.00 am, the morning is mild (16C/61F) but grey and monochrome. My head-cold is still fairly monochrome as well. Any Blog reader will know that I live inside routines. Every morning starts at 6.00 am with BBC Radio 4. Up at 7.00 am, Pauline makes me fresh orange juice by juicing 2 large oranges. After that, I am handed a large cup of Yorkshire tea and my Breakfast is completed by some freshly made banana milk shake with fat free milk and calorie-free sweetener. Generally, that will carry me through until our meal at around 4.00 pm. Pauline makes porridge with fresh fruit for herself and drinks a cup of hot water. She hasn’t drunk tea or coffee for  almost 2 years now.

While Pauline makes Breakfast, I download the newspapers on our iPads and check email. Our mobile phones tell us what the temperature is outside. The house is so well insulated that it doesn’t provide much hint of external conditions. As I went through the emails, one stood out – You have won a National Lottery prize. Pauline pointed out that it was supposed to €15 million but the a check found our prize was £140.00/€161.00. Still, it’s better than a poke in the eye. It almost covers the cost of our hotel room at Gatwick airport at the end of the month.

Harold of Huddersfield

This week, we are driving up to Yorkshire. I am looking forward to being reacquainted with my old friend, Harold Wilson, who we left standing outside the magnificent façade of Huddersfield Train Station. Like so many memories, time and distance soften the loss but returning evokes much emotion and so many memories.

Monday, 14th October, 2019

A grey, damp day which didn’t get above 17C/63F. It doesn’t matter. Yorkshire wouldn’t seem the same if it wasn’t like this.

Oldham Hospital

Ten years ago, we were spending a lot of time in Oldham Hospital with Pauline’s little Mum who suddenly had shingles across her eye. It is a horrible, painful condition for anyone but, for someone in their mid-90s, it is very unfair. She made light of it and recovered.

My weather app. tells me that we are distinctly average for rain over the past 30 years and not so far off the average high temperature. Tomorrow should be dry for our drive to the North.

Got home from the Health Club today to find BT Openreach parked in our drive. They were pulling fibre optic cable through the ducts from the street cabinet to our house. Gone are the days when they had to dig up the road and drive. A junction box has been attached to the outside of our house in the flower bed and, next week, they will turn up to install the new hub and wireless extension equipment. A week on Wednesday, we will go from 30Mbs to 300Mbs in the blink of an eye. Apparently, at the same time, it will significantly increase the value of our house by improving its desirability. It will certainly be more desirable to me!

Tuesday, 15th October, 2019

Up at 6.30 am on a grey but mild morning. Final packing of suitcases and the car. Out by 8.45 am and on the road to Yorkshire via Repton in Derbyshire. Our sat.nav. And the AA app calculated 3.5 hours to Repton followed by 1.5 more hours on to Yorkshire. The first couple of hours’ drive were excellent and enjoyable and then we met a motorway closure around Leicester. The reason was a collision between a lorry and a van which completely closed the M1 for an air ambulance to land. The tailbacks were frustrating but we didn’t have a deadline so lived with it and got on our way again.

The changing face of my old, home village was fascinating/shocking. This picture below features a residential property know as The Manse. In the century between the 1870s and the 1970s, it was the manse serving the attached Congregational Chapel which had been central to so many of my family ancestors. The building to the right of the manse is a hair and beauty salon.

The Congregational Manse & the Cobblers + Forge

Ironically, the left hand side where the brown door now is was a pitch black cave of a place in which sat a grimy, one-legged war veteran who spent his day repairing boots and shoes. It was a place where old men gathered to gossip. For a young lad, it was quite a scary place. The right hand side was Wainright’s Forge where a furnace was constantly being stoked with fire irons and metal was beaten in to shape. The smell of tempered metal haunts me as I looked through the windows.

Dad – dead for 54 years – 104 today

Today would have been Dad’s 104th birthday. Unbelievable to think he missed 55 of those years. Although I remember him, I often find myself questioning whether those memories are real or received. I wonder how we would have got on in my adulthood. I have a feeling that he wouldn’t have approved of me and my views.

A total of 5 hours driving plus a Coffee/Toilet break, visit to my parents grave and a short excursion around my home village stretched to near 8 hrs. When you haven’t got a deadline, delays don’t seem so important. Fortunately, the holdup didn’t happen until shortly after the toilet break which was lucky. We arrived at our hotel in Brighouse by 4.30 pm. Check-in, a cup of tea and then down to the gym to make sure I achieved my targets before settling down for the evening.

Wednesday, 16th October, 2019

The morning opened dark and wet but soon brightened up. We were up early and down to breakfast and then out in the car towards Huddersfield town centre. We were going to Bolton to visit my sister, Ruth and her husband, Kevan. We had to take them some flowers and we went out first to buy them.

Horrible journey in heavy rain and even heavier traffic with deep, surface water and terrible road spray. However, we got there and were just parking up when Pauline’s mobile rang. It was our next door neighbour. Our smoke alarms were all going off in the house and he couldn’t stop them. A few weeks ago, he phoned us while we were in Athens to say our burglar alarm was going off. When we got home, our three fire alarms had set of spontaneously for the first time. This time, there was little we could suggest to our neighbour but to turn the mains supply off and let the batteries run out for us to deal with when we get home.

We spent a lovely couple of hours with Ruth & Kev who are both looking extremely happy, healthy and hearty in spite of being so much older than Pauline & I. Annoyingly, I forgot to take a photo before we left. I will do so next time.

The drive back to Huddersfield was totally different. The weather was dry and sunny with blue skies and sunshine. The traffic was much lighter as we drove into Huddersfield town centre and then on through Netherton, Meltham and Helme.

Meltham Village – We left here in 1984
Slades Lane – at the end of the drive to the house we left in 2000.

We drove on past a green, Holme Valley as the sun shone over it towards Longwood where we lived until 2010

Sun shines over a green Holme Valley.

We left the North of England almost 10 years ago and, although we had spent almost 40 years together there with wonderful memories, it is not somewhere I could move back to now. It feels hard, harsh, lacking in the softness of indulgence. As a beautiful, theatrical backdrop, it has a lot to recommend it. As a place to call home, I have moved on to sunnier climes.

Thursday, 17th October, 2019

Can you believe it? Yorkshire has frost at 6.00 am this morning. It does presage a beautiful morning and this is the carpark from our suite on a the upper storey of our hotel.

Autumn in Yorkshire

Certainly, the onset of Autumn is more pronounced up here than is evident on the South Coast. At around mid day, we drove in to Huddersfield and up to The Manor House Restaurant in Lindley.

The Manor House Restaurant, Lindley.

We met up with our old friends and ex-colleagues, Little Viv and Margaret. It has become a tradition and Margaret is tasked with choosing a new venue each time. She has rarely let us down.

The Girls – 2019

A light lunch of Caesar Salad and sparkling water but with lots of heavy talking passed 2hrs very quickly. We split after agreeing to meet again in March. We drove in to town where the exciting new university buildings dominate the skyline. Today was Open Day and the town was flooded with hordes of excited young people dreaming of leaving home and setting out in the world.

Negotiating strange people like that, we drove back to our hotel for a cup of tea and to catch up on political events. I still am extremely optimistic about beating this Brexit nonsense!

Friday, 18th October, 2019

Up in the darkness at 6.30 am. It had rained torrentially in the night but was dry now. After breakfast, we drove over the Pennines to Oldham to the Crematorium to pay our respect to the memory of Pauline’s Mum who died 9 years ago today. We have done this every year since and will try to continue to have this focus in her memory. She deserved it.

Reading the Book of Rememberance.

We drove on to visit my friend and ex-colleague, Brian and his wife, Val, in Shaw. We only meet a couple of times each year. I love talking to him. There is no one more down to earth.

Brian & Val

After a couple of hours with Brian & Val, we drove up to see the site of our old school completely covered in 40-50 new, Redrow homes. It felt quite divorced from our long term recollections. It underlined our distance between reality and memory and, without sentiment, we moved on. We drove on to visit relations of Pauline – Joyce & Harry. It was nice to see them and we had a delightful conversation for an hour or so before setting off over the Pennines to Huddersfield.

Moorland under brooding skies.

When we got back to our hotel, the final nail in our run of bad luck arrived. An email from our neighbour said, Smoke Alarms still not turned off but burglar alarms have now joined in.

Saturday, 19th October, 2019

Up early and very light Breakfast at 6.30 am. On the road by 7.00 am. Almost immediately told by our sat.nav. of an accident/holdup on the M1. It turned out to be a 25 yr old ‘pedestrian’ killed on the motorway by a Mercedes. What he was doing there goodness only knows although it was late on a Saturday night.

The diversion, which thousands took, added about 90 mins to our journey and left us exasperated. One thing saved our sanity and you will be shocked to hear what it was.

Scintillating Entertainment

Today, Parliament met on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands war. Boris Johnson was trying to get his EU Withdrawal Bill through the Commons. We knew he’d fail but there was always some tension about it. The debate went on for about 4 hrs and was absolutely fascinating. I managed to get live Parliament TV on my mobile and put it through our car Infotainment unit. As a result, although our journey took about an hour longer than it should have done, I hardly noticed any of it because I was gripped by the drama of the debate.

We arrived home about 1.30 pm and took bottles of wine to our neighbours either side to say ‘sorry’ for the disturbance of our smoke/burglar alarms disturbing their week. We griddled chicken out in the garden where the sunshine shone and the temperature made it delightfully warm. We were able to watch the voting conclusion to the Parliamentary debate on television and applaud the Opposition in their victory. Now we have to unpack and get on with normality.

Week 563

Sunday, 6th October, 2019

12 years to go… for us

A lovely, warm sunny day which reached 18C/65F. Morning on Sunday is papers, political discussions and home jobs. I actually spent a couple of hours cleaning the car. A trip to the Health Club which was very quiet and then home, shattered, we went round to our neighbour’s house. Drank a couple of glasses of red wine with them and chatted to neighbours from all around us as we wished Pat Happy 80th Birthday. It was nice to get to know them better. Let’s hope we get to celebrate such a birthday.

I threw in the bomb of Brexit to liven up the conversation and it didn’t disappoint. One chap just walked off to the other side of the room because he couldn’t cope with it. Our next door neighbour is a German lady who has lived in UK for 20 years and worked as an English teacher. She has been resisting regularising her status here because she resents having to do so after 20 years of public service and paying taxes to the UK state coffers and who could blame her? It is shameful that anyone in her position should be asked to do anything at all.

Monday, 7th October, 2019

The guilty body?

Mild morning with brilliant, orange, mackerel sky. A bit of a breeze. We had a couple of tradesfolk attending our property. First to arrive was the Burglar Alarm installers who came to provide a 3 year service. When we went to Greece recently, our alarm went off. We think it could have been a spider. They are invading our house in abundance at the moment. As the service engineer finished his survey without finding anything specific, this little chap walked silently by.

Pauline learns some Plumbing.

Next up was the plumber. We have a flexible, pull-down, swan-neck tap. Recently, it started to leak from the base of its neck. The builders said it would be either a washer or a cartridge that needed replacing. The plumber decided he could fix it but would need a replacement part. He would have to return. At least Pauline was able to see what to do after our warranty runs out. The alarm man decided that it was about time to replace the back-up battery which he didn’t have with him. He would need a replacement battery which he would have to return to fit.

We will need two more appointments before we go away and we’re running out of days. We are off to Yorkshire soon and then to Tenerife until December. So little time yet so much to achieve!

Tuesday, 8th October, 2019

Venice in Greece

A mild -17C/63F – with weak sunshine. Pauline went out early to have her face rearranged at the Beauty Clinic. I stayed at home because my face is beyond repair. We only have three weeks to go before we fly out for a month in the Canarian sunshine. Before that, we will spend a few days in sunny Yorkshire. We are hoping to not need our central heating until we return in December.

Greece has already been hit by some difficult weather. Mount Olympus has seen snowfall but, over the past 24 hrs, the Cyclades islands including Syros and Andros, Sifnos, Tinos and Milos have been hit by strong winds, prolonged thunder and lightning and torrential rain leading to flooding. A video clip of a river running over the main street of Sifnos port, Kamares, was sent to me this morning and this of a venetian street on the island of Syros appeared this afternoon.

We always watch the Lunchtime Politics Live programmed on BBC2 and have become accustomed to setting off for the gym as it finished at 1.00 pm.. Recently, we adjusted our timing so we can watch while we are exercising. It is a great improvement and has made the routine go so much more quickly.

Wednesday, 9th October, 2019

Almost a full moon last night – apparently it will take another 3 days. Awoke to heavy rain in the middle of the night. Awoke at 6.00 am to dry and warm weather. By just after 7.00 am, the sun was up and blue skies slowly emerged. Looks like it will be a nice afternoon for swimming outside.

This time last year, I collected a huge, leathery seed pod from a tree in Tenerife and stuck it in my bag. When we got home, I researched it and found that I had collected seeds from Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree. I read up about cultivation and learnt that one should put the seeds in boiling water for 24hrs. I did that with one half of my seeds and not with the other. The advice was totally vindicated because all those not boiled failed to germinate and all those boiled did germinate.

This is an extremely tender plant/tree. It is native of tropical climes. Although I grew my germinated trees on in pots outside, I knew that even a mild winter here would be a danger to them.  Recently, I brought two specimens indoors. In the following graphic, I feature the view from mid-July on the left set against one from today.

Three months apart.

Although I am doing this for a bit of fun, it has to be taken very seriously – like Brexit. When we are away for a month, P&C are going to look after these fast growing trees. If they can make 3 ft in 3 months, October could be interesting for P&C. This is how a fully grown tree can look.

Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

I just hope I can get them out of P&C’s conservatory by December and then fit them in the car to bring home.

We are almost half way through October but swimming outside is still absolutely delightful. Today, with sunshine on our backs and under blue skies we swam as squirrels chased other on the surrounding trees and birds feasted on the festoons of orange, Pyracantha berries that are set off brilliantly against the backdrop of the yew hedges. After more than an hour in the gym, swimming in this environment is a relaxing delight. We feel so lucky to have this facility.

Thursday, 10th October, 2019

An absolutely delightful day of warm sunshine and blue skies. We still have Basil thriving outside in pots in our back garden. Admittedly, the large leaved, Italian basil has finished but this hardier, purple-veined, Aramato Basil is still going strong. It tastes and smells exactly the same although its leaves are a little tougher and smaller.

Aromato Basil – (Ocimum Basilicum)

My Broadband is supplied by BT. It is reliable, sufficient and reasonably priced. I get a download speed of around 32Mb and upload of circa 11Mb. However, for a couple of weeks last month, BT Openreach vans have been working in our street quite intensively. Today, I learned that I can now have fibre direct to my door for just £8.00/€9.17 per month extra. It will provide me with a huge increase in performance – almost beyond my expectations.

As our demands on our broadband bandwidth increase all the time with 6 televisions, plus control of heating and lighting services in addition to computers, laptops, iPads, Kindles and smartphones all drawing down from it, the increased speed particularly in wi-fi will be very welcome. It may be that the introduction of 5G will obviate some of this demand but, for now, we will take anything we can get with real gratitude.

Friday, 11th October, 2019

This is one of life’s ironies. Yesterday I wrote of arranging for our BT Broadband to be upgraded from 30Mbs to 300 Mbs. Upgrading from fibre-to-cabinet to fibre-to-home. Eliminating the copper from the street cabinet – even though it isn’t very far -makes such a huge difference. In about 10 days, I will receive new equipment – a new hub and wi-fi extender discs. The irony is that, within 5 hrs of booking this upgrade, our current BT Hub went down. I realised when we checked the Hive hub which piggybacks on the BT one and controls the hot water, central heating and lighting to find it wasn’t working.

BT & Hive Hubs

Unfortunately, I realised it as I was going to bed at midnight. By 1.00 am, I had both hubs up and working so I could sleep without worrying. However, this morning, as we finished our coffee, all our smoke alarms went off.

Three of these can make a hell of a row!

They are incredibly noisy and difficult to silence. There was no smoke or steam or cooking. We can only assume it was a spider that set one off but the noise could be heard out in the garden and up the street even with everything closed.

After a while, even calm people working their way steadily through the problem become rather tense and tetchy. The alarms are mains powered with battery backup. Finding the isolation switch was an adventure. Getting to the toolbox and picking out the correct screwdrivers. Searching out a screwdriver to prise off the cap and then release the battery took a while. Eventually, we were able to stop, reset and reassemble the three units and, as we did, a small, black spider abseiled down from the one on the landing. We tested all and all were working correctly.

In the past week, we have had to address a leaking tap, a misfunctioning burglar alarm, wi-fi and Hive hubs down and misfunctioning smoke alarms. As a backdrop to this, I have contracted a severe head cold which is making my exercise routine more difficult than usual. I refuse to give in to it!

Saturday, 12th October, 2019

A grey damp day. My head cold seemed to get worse as the morning went on. We debated whether to go to the gym or not but I couldn’t let it go and forced myself through it. To cheer myself up and lift the gloom of the day outside, I spent a bit of time researching the immediate area of our home for the month of November.

Our sun terrace looks down to the sea and Costa Adeje.

Apparently, it is possible to walk to Siam Water Park and the Siam Shopping Mall in just over 5 mins and to the centres of Costa Adeje and Playa de las Americas in around 20 mins. This is ideal for us. We like to walk and explore new places.

Zakynthos Town Harbour

Just over 38 years ago, we had got back from our first, Greek venture. Zakynthos was our first island. It didn’t have an airport so we flew to Hellinikon International Airport. From there, we got on a minibus to be driven across the Peloponnese to the port of Killini  and then ferry to Zakynthos Town dominated by the church of St Denis (Dionysius). Zakynthos was all but destroyed during an earthquake in 1953 and, after buildings were rebuilt with earthquakes in mind, a year ago, they were hit by another big one. Quite a bit of damage was caused although not on the earlier scale.

Earthquakes off south west Zakynthos today.

This morning, 2 more 4+ Richter shocks hit the island. They are said to be after shocks from last year.