Week 573

Sunday, 15th December, 2019

It has been rather like April today. Sunshine and showers. Not cold but not warm. It has been a day of office work and kitchen preparations. I’ve done my final proof-read, re-edit and printing of the newsletter. It’s amazing how important these proof-reads are. We have received professionally published and printed leaflets from Lib. Dems. and Conservatives in the last few days with the most glaring errors in them.

Now, I know that I should be the last one to cast aspersions because my Blog is littered with spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. I even fail to get the correct date on my entries for days on end but my defence is that I am chiefly writing this for my own records and often very late at night. When I have time, I try to review the week on a Saturday and correct the most glaring errors but, often, they pass me by. Now Pauline is like a hawk. She could sub-edit for England. If my laziness and sloppiness annoys you, sorry but ‘tough’!

November 2020 in the sunshine.

After working hard and watching the most dire football matches for a while, we decided to decide about re-booking the villa in Tenerife for November 2020. That shows optimism and faith in a future. The price is almost identical to this year’s so there is little to think about. It will cost us £5,150.00/€6170.00 plus the flights for 30 nights.

Monday, 16th December, 2019

A nondescript day which gave us opportunity to complete tasks. We took out huge piles of Christmas cards for posting and then went on to Sainsburys for specific items for Pauline’s Christmas lunch. These are things on her ‘To-do’ list which was written on our return from Tenerife two weeks ago. I have done everything on my list apart from the last two. One I’ve been putting off for a while which is to find a new and better home for a lot of our savings. There seems no short or even medium term prospect of better investment rates for cash savings so I have got to look at invest bonds for a large proportion of the non-urgent cash.

I can’t allow our instant access accounts to drift on as they have fallen to just 1.2% but it’s shocking to find that locking our money away for 5 whole years would add less than 1% extra. I can’t see myself going for more than a 2 year fix at the moment.

Tuesday, 17th December, 2019

In 1984, Pauline and I flew to Athens late on Friday evening, June 22nd. We arrived in the early hours of the morning at Ellinikon International Airport and waited outside for a bus to take us to Piraeus Harbour. It was hot, sweaty and the bus was packed with island-hopping travellers and their rucksacks. We were very tired and, when we got down to the port at about 3.00 am, we went to the ticket offices and bought tickets for the 5 hr journey to the island of Sifnos on the F/B Ionion.

In those days, Boulis had a taverna on the keyside and he employed a young relative to wait on tables. That young man was John Kalogirou. His English was good and my Greek was non-existent. We talked and I learned that he came from a family home in Piraeus. He learned that I was a teacher. We were both called John but I was forever known as ‘teacher’. Whenever we were near, I would hear a voice shouting out: Ah, teacher! and there was John Kalogirou.

Beautiful view for a meal in the sunshine.

In those early days, we travelled around the island by bus. The bus stop in the square of Apollonia was outside a taverna rented and run by a Greek-Cypriot called Savvas. He was an absolutely excellent cook and Pauline, particularly, loved his dishes. At some point, and I’m not sure when but Savvas was eased out of the tenancy and moved to another taverna in Platys Gialos. Shortly afterwards my friend, John Kalogirou, turned up as its new owner under the less than subtle name of Beautiful Sifnos (Ωραiα Σiφνος).

Although his garden tables were blessed with the most wonderful, mountain views, he never seemed to be very busy. His cooking and that of his little wife, was pleasant but he always seemed to be teetering on the edge of failure. It was good to see him wishing his customers Happy Christmas today. Looks like things are still going on.

Wednesday, 18th December, 2019

This morning, I started the day by settling our destination for November 2020. We will go to Gatwick on October 31st, fly to Tenerife on November 1st and fly back to Gatwick on November 30th. The villa we so enjoyed this year was available so I secured it. Unfortunately, Easyjet flights to Tenerife are only available up to October 2020 so far so that will have to wait.

Easier than driving and cheaper.

I have now got to turn my attention to properties for rental in June-July 2020 in Tarragona/Salou and ferry crossings from Portsmouth to Bilbao. It is planning these sorts of things on grey winter days that makes life worth living. The ferry journey is 24 hrs but only leaves twice a week. The Brittany Ferries ship looks luxurious especially if we choose a Luxury Cabin. The drive on from Bilbao to Tarragona is just over 300 miles and will take about 5 hrs. Just perfect!

I didn’t really want to leave it but I had to go to the gym. The workout was completed with such a headful of travel plans that I hardly noticed the time or effort and the swimming outside was absolutely wonderful. On these days of cooler air temperature, we like to follow up with a short spell in the Sauna and then I have 20 mins in the Jaccuzi/water massage area while Pauline is doing girl things in the changing rooms. It only takes me 7 mins for a shower, dried, dressed and out and, even then, I’m usually waiting for my wife. About 6 mins to drive home and, within 30 mins we are eating corn on the cob and griddling swordfish steaks on the Griddle/Plancha in the garden. Can life get any better? Well we have got to get through Christmas!

Thursday, 19th December, 2019

A dry, grey start to a day which, eventually, turned wet. We had to do our weekly shop at Sainsburys and Tesco. This is a great time of year for us. Supermarkets are hugely discounting fresh, whole salmon for the Christmas celebrations. Today, Tesco advertised their salmon as half price – £5.50/€6.43 per kilo for whole fish. Each fish weighed about 3.8kg at a price of about £21.00/€24.55. Pauline is an expert at filleting. In fact, she relishes it. We bought two, whole fish and will probably buy two more just after Christmas when they are being discounted for New Year.

Filleted, Skinned, Pin-Boned and Portioned by a skilled Chef.

Pauline called at the Doctors’ Surgery this morning to pick up a prescription. As she waited by the desk, she heard staff informing patients that there is a 3 week time lag for new appointments. It feels a hostile, atmosphere for anyone unfortunate enough to fall ill. Welcome to the Tory world of non-entitlement. It really emphasises the need to take responsibility for one’s own health because the State is certainly going to struggle to do it for one.

My brother, Bob, has a medical condition which he has been waiting to be operated on. It is a serious condition and should be treated urgently. Recently, he has been rushed to hospital with complications which cannot be separated from this delay in treatment. He is making no fuss about it but I’m not that stoic and would be lobbying everybody I could to get it dealt with. I wish him well in seeking a resolution. Talking about brothers, I heard from my little brother, Mike, for the first time in a couple of years. I found it quite emotional. I must be getting old.

Friday, 20th December, 2019

The reverse of yesterday. Heavy rain over night has left reports of flooding in the south east. Multiple vehicle accident closed the road to Gatwick this morning, the M23 is closed in both directions around Crawley and will be for the rest of the day. The train line to Brighton – some 10 miles away from here – is closed because of flooding and we read of a flood closing the road one way out of our village. We always predicted that Brexit would have this effect!

Now, at 10.30 am, the sun is out and all is well with the world …. apart from politically. Although the media is obsessed with Christmas, Sunday is the Shortest Day marking the lowest point of the year. Every subsequent day gets longer and brighter with a renewal of energy. The fight must go on.

We haven’t seen any Winter yet and, maybe, that is to come. The skimmias mass planted at the front of our new house are certainly packed with berries which all the old wives seemed to think presaged a hard season for birds but it will be  winter of discontent for many.

Saturday, 21st December, 2019

Exactly 25 years ago, a Norwegian lad who had taught at our school and then moved on to lecture at Edinburgh University sent us a Christmas card with a small, paper  insert wishing us season’s greetings and telling us briefly what had happened over his last year. We reciprocated with this card which has been shuttled back and forth alternately over the subsequent years. It has had to be repaired with grey, insulation tape on its spine and is stuffed full of newsletters so it will hardly close but it is still going .. and coming.

It makes fascinating reading for us. Almost everything we said we were going to do, we actually did … eventually. In 1997, we told Bjorn that we must go up and see him and we did … in 2018!

Angmering is quietly festive which suits our tone completely. It is important to mark the passing of the year without indulging in the self-deception of religious ritual. This is the Shortest Day and tomorrow opens on the Winter Solstice. We will do our annual cooking of the Christmas meal at Pauline’s family’s home and then retreat to the peace of our West Sussex village. After celebrating our Wedding Anniversary on December 30th, New Year the following day, we will get back into healthy routines of diets and exercise.