Week 575

Sunday, 29th December, 2019

As Christmas week ends, the Blog begins its 12th year of inconsequential babble. For me, it is structure, routine, purpose, context, diary, memory…. Whatever it is for you, Dear Reader, you have my sincere sympathies. The anniversaries come thick and fast around now. Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Wedding Anniversary (41st tomorrow – Thank you, Richard.) New Year’s Eve, Start of New Decade – the 2020s.

Over the years, I have not been brilliant at maintaining friendships in any meaningful way. I have not been prepared to go the extra mile for anyone other than my wife. It’s not that I don’t care but that I don’t care enough. If have to be blunt. I know, because my Mother warned me over 50 years ago that I would die a sad and lonely death through lack of friends and she will probably be proved right. I think, in many ways, she did the same.

However, on retiring and having time to reflect upon my life, I took stock of the support significant people gave me at strategic points in my development. I realised that there were people who went beyond the call of duty – unlike me – to help me find my way. I realised that I owed them the duty of gratitude I should have bestowed at the time but was too much in a hurry to leave that stage of my life behind and move on to the next to do it.

There was my Rugby/Athletics/English mentor who helped me through the time after Dad’s death. I hadn’t seen Vic Roebuck for 40 years and he was in his 90s when I tracked him down. I wrote him a long letter of thanks for all the precious time he had spent on me and what it had meant to me. He wrote back with real gratitude that I had ‘remembered’ him. He died a couple of years later. I wrote to my College English tutor, David McAndrew who had supervised my thesis and started me on the path of life long learning. He provided me with the spark I needed to forge ahead in my academic development. David was in his 90s when I finally tracked him down through the publisher of his last volume of poetry. I actually received an email of thanks from him. He died the next year. At least I manged to acknowledge my debt to them before they went and I recorded it in my Blog with their photographs at the time. 

From the left – Spud Murphy, Mick Holmes, Me, Dave Beasley

As a child, I did not really like large family life or small village life. I found them both claustrophobic. I was desperate to break out, to break away. Of course, as a young lad, I was unable to do either but I was given one, genuine escape by David Beasley. He was/is about 12 years older than me. He ran the village Scout Troop and his wife ran the Cubs. In the Winter of 1957, David put me on the back of his motor cycle and drove me all of 200 yds up the village High Street to the Village Hall to join the brotherhood of males in the Cubs. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.

As I progressed from Cubs to Scouts, etc, I received huge support and advice from David Beasley. He took me on my first journey outside UK …. all the way to Southern Ireland. In the summer of 1966, just as England was winning the World Cup, we toured around Loch Derg in SW Ireland in a horse drawn ‘tinkers’ caravan. I first learned to smoke and be violently sick on that trip. I learned that Catholic priests got drunk and that Irish horses farted all the time. I haven’t seen David since 1969. I moved away to college and he moved away to live in his beloved Wales with his dear wife, Sue. He was the third person I had to track down and thank and, 10 years ago, I did just that. We have corresponded ever since.

Yesterday, an old scouting friend who has lived in Massachusetts for the past 50 years emailed me to say he had phoned Dave over Christmas only to be told that Sue died in her sleep a week ago. She was just 76. Like Pauline & I, Dave and Sue had led a quiet, fairly isolated life on a remote, Welsh farmstead relying on each other and troubling no one else. I can only imagine how he is feeling now.

Monday, 30th December, 2019

The penultimate day of 2019 and my 41st Wedding Anniversary has opened with an orange light illuminating a foggy sky. My phone says it is just 3C/37F but it is bin day and feels quite mild as I venture out to do man’s work. By 9.30 am, we are out and down on Littlehampton Pier. 

Morning looks like Evening.

The sun is fighting the mist and will obviously win eventually but the battle is beautiful. Everywhere was almost deserted save for the occasional dog taking its old man for a walk. We both rejoiced in the acknowledgement that we lived in such a beautiful place. 

Life is a beach … almost deserted.

Even so, we still did our gym routine and then returned to cook scallops, prawns and Sea Bream in white wine and garlic sauce with Gruyère cheese topping accompanied by roasted endive. What a wonderful, celebration meal.

Tuesday, 31st December, 2019

Overcast and cool this morning to mark the end of 2019. Although we’re going to the gym, we have jobs to do beforehand. It is my job to unstack the dishwasher. So that’s done. It is my job to vacuum the house. So that’s done. Now I am going to turn my mind to New Year Resolutions.

  1. First on the list is actually making the Hotel/Flights booking for Athens in August/September. Prevarication has stopped and that will be done today. Next, I will try to firm up Summer travel with a drive across Spain and a villa in Murcia for June/July. In between these travelling events, we will intersperse shorter trips to France although we would like to arrange a week in Bordeaux at some stage.

  2. Second, we are going to tighten up on our diet starting with a complete embargo on alcohol for 3 months. This will be accompanied by renewed vigour in the gym & pool. Particularly, we are going to start adding a new piece of resistance equipment in to our routine to work on our stomachs.

  3.  I am going to address one of my other, life-long weakness once again. That is learning to program. I have decided to become a child again and learn Python.

I think I’ve written before that I am a strong ‘end-user’. I have no understanding of the ‘back office’ at all. I can drive a car but know nothing about its workings at all. I couldn’t repair one and I’d struggle to change a tyre. I know how to use my body but I have no idea what parts it is made up of or what could go wrong with it. I use lots of computers but, even though I went on a course to teach me, I still could not possibly build my own.

Information Technology I was good at. Computing I failed completely. It always surprised me because, in spite of being an Arts student, I was always good at Maths & Logic. I thought they would lend themselves to programming. I spent £1500.00/€1765.00 on a course to learn how to program but found I was out of my depth immediately and, although I was reluctant to admit it, I just gave up ultimately.

Twice I have tried to confront my failure but never with any real conviction. This time is different. I can feel it. I will learn to program in Python!

Wednesday, 1st January, 2020

Warning! This year will include flashing images…

I must admit, our acknowledgement of the New Year was fairly cursory. We drank our last glass of wine for 3 months together, Pauline exclaimed, White Rabbit and we went to bed. That’s what old people do. We heard the occasional firework although most of the people around us have gone away for New Year. I don’t know if they’re trying to tell us something.

Even so, we allowed ourselves 10 more minutes in bed this morning. Over breakfast, the normal conversations of the day took place like, What shall we eat for our meal today? We settled on roast salmon and salad. What do we intend to achieve over the day? Pauline will steam clean the floors downstairs. I will vacuum out the car but, before that, I must cancel my Amazon Prime (temporary, free) Membership. I watched about 5 Premier League games over Christmas and then searched to see if there was any other content I would like to see. There wasn’t but, even if there was, I couldn’t have saved it to my Sky Box so it was pointless. There is nothing I buy that is needed at break neck speed so it’s over.

We’ve had a lovely, long chat with our Sifnos friend, Elerania, who was wishing us Happy New Year and commiserating over Brexit. She was our Notary and her husband was our Dentist. They have two, delightful children. One is studying in Athens and may even come to London to university. 

Kastro, Sifnos

They live in the fortified settlement or castle, Kastro. They all seem well and happy and would like us to visit soon. Who knows …

Thursday, 2nd January, 2020

What a depressing day! Dark, grey and gloomy from start to end. We went out shopping early in the gloom. We swam outside in darkening gloom and we cooked in the garden in near darkness but with the outside lights on at 4.00 pm. It was 10C/50F but felt quite cool. Contrast this with the gorgeous day on Monday pictured in the photo below when the temperature was only 8C/47F but felt much warmer in the sunshine.

Dancing in the Sunshine.

I think it is the very darkness of the day that pushed me on to look for additional travelling possibilities. The Spanish trip is becoming more focussed in our minds and I hope to tie something up very soon. Today, however, I heard from my friend, Brian, who lives in Shaw, Lancashire and we have decided that we must go up to see him at the beginning of April. No travel before then because we are concentrating on Exercise, Diet and being alcohol-free for 3 months. That would all go by the board if we were travelling and socialising so early April it will be.

Friday, 3rd January, 2020

Slightly brighter morning and a bit warmer than recently. We were reading 11C/52F  at 7.00 am. Mind you, it’s not half as bright as the morning in Cape Town where the cricket I am watching is coming from. While I am watching, I’ve seen something completely new to me which is nice.

Mistle Thrush

Do you ever think about birds? I must admit, I rather take them for granted most of the time and then, suddenly, I realise that there are these entities carrying on their lives largely high above our heads. Tweet of the Day precedes Radio4 Today programme at 5.55 am. This morning, it was David Attenborough presenting the Mistle Thrush. Hearing it, I realised immediately that that was the bird I hear every afternoon singing high up in the surrounding trees while I’m swimming at the pool.

Grey Heron

We live above Water Lane in Angmering. Obviously, it is always better to live above rather than below it. In the Winter when the water table rises, a hidden brook runs openly on the surface of the grassland. This year, we’ve noticed two, grey herons fishing there which was quite exciting. Reading up, I realise it is quite a common sight and I do remember herons eating all our fish in the pond of the picnic area in our Repton garden. Even so, I have seen them only rarely. 

Hadida Ibis

An intruder appeared on the Test Match outfield in South Africa which the commentators laughingly referred to as a Hadida. I have never heard of or seen one before. Looking it up, I found that it is a form of Ibis. Nice to learn something new.

Saturday, 4th January, 2020

Yet another grey start to the day and quite cool – only 5C/41F. I was going to cut the lawns this morning but have decided to give it a few days for warmer, drier times. Actually, I was looking back at earlier times as I watched England take 3 South African wickets in Cape Town. Ten years ago this week, I was sitting in the hospital carpark listening to Test Match Special from South Africa as Pauline’s Mum was being prepared for cataract operations. 

Pennines, January 2010

We had driven across a snowy Pennine route. This sort of scene seemed to be a big feature in our daily lives for the best part of 40 years. We have hardly seen snow for the past 10 years and would be quite happy to never see it again. 

Pauline’s been allowed out on her own this morning because she’s got the first of 6 appointments  to ‘improve’ her face. We are still going out to exercise in the early afternoon. Let’s hope the air has warmed up for our venture out to the pool! …..

……. and, suddenly, the clouds disappeared, the sky was blue and the sun shone strongly as we started our swim. Mind you, we ran back to the sauna as soon as we got out. 

By the way, I don’t know if you noticed but today at 8:20 pm and 20 seconds it was 20:20:20 2020.

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