Week 579

Sunday, 26th January, 2020

The greyness continues although its is mild. Rain is forecast for later. It is a morning in and we have divided our work on traditional lines. Pauline made breakfast, set about cleaning the house and ended the morning with a bit of ironing. I was busy watching the cricket from South Africa and reading the newspapers.

Actually, I also spent some time tying up loose ends for our Springtime travel. When we go away for a month, we book a taxi to Gatwick and take a room at the Sofitel the night before. We drop our bags off at the airport in the evening and then just walk through the covered corridor to the Checkin in the morning. We go through security and down to a Executive Lounge, No1 Gatwick for Breakfast. If we had to pay for any of this we probably wouldn’t do so. Entry on the door is £40.00/€47.50 per person. Fortunately, we get a DragonPass Premier card from our bank which entitles to choose entry to all the Executive Lounges. However, we have found increasing pressure on entry to these facilities and now book ahead to ensure we have places available. The Lounges want to maintain the serene atmosphere and limit occupancy levels in order to do that.

We will have breakfast and download our newspapers in peace and quiet before venturing out into the teaming concourse with people walking everywhere at the slowest pace one can imagine and dragging their potentially lethal cabin case behind them.

No 1 Gatwick, Executive Lounge

It beats me why anyone shops for electrical goods or clothes at the airport because it isn’t really ‘duty free’ at all. Those shopping are oblivious to others just wanting to get on with their travelling. Anyway, we insist on booking ‘extra legroom’ on our flights so we automatically get ‘speedy boarding’ and don’t need to queue for hours.

With that trip done and dusted, we went out in light rain to the gym and did a full exercise routine. It makes sense for me to watch the cricket on the jogger and on the exercise bike than just on a settee in our lounge.

Monday, 27th January, 2020

Grey at first and wet later. The weather couldn’t get much worse. I’d rather be in South Africa for the weather and the cricket.

Whatever I was doing today, I was never far from a television screen for what turned out to be the final day of the Test Match. I’ve really enjoyed watching this series especially because we were winning. It is lovely to be able to be able to access live broadcasts and the time to watch them. It is one thing I missed in Greece where the satellite service providers didn’t deem their audience likely to want to pay for it. Perhaps there are a few in Corfu but not generally in Greece where Basketball, Football & Athletics reign.

Today we received a letter from our bank informing us that they owed us money. You don’t get one of those every day. Apparently, a recent historical audit had found that customers who had made international payments between 2010 – 2014 had done so with wrongly calculated foreign exchange rates. This was a time when we were spending half the year each year in our Greek home and using the bank’s services extensively. They have informed us that they will be paying back the deficit plus interest. I’ll drink to that …. on April 1st after my 3 month embargo.

Unpleasant outside though it was, we went out to do our exercise routine. Addiction is a terrible thing. I have missed just one day so far in 2020. My body expects it now.

Tuesday, 28th January, 2020

Ripon Market Square

The day has opened with beautiful sunshine and blue skies. We went for an unusually early Gym session because I had an appointment this afternoon. The day felt lovely after the persistent greyness of recent times. Driving with sunshine in our eyes felt delightful. The gym was busy at 11.00 am with people who we never meet in our normal slot.

Back home, I read for a while. On Faceache, an ex-college student had made a return to the town and taken pictures of a rainy Ripon a few days ago. I was immediately transported back to 1969 in Ripon market square and its obelisk where I first learned the power of red wine. I was 18 and in my first week away from home. Wonderful, wonderful days that I didn’t really want to end. Reading on, I went to the Huddersfield Examiner which reported the first snow of the season by publishing a photo taken in the lane next to our garden in the tiny village of Helme. We were working in that garden from 1984 – 2000. It was a joyous place where we were very happy and I, once again, didn’t want to leave.

The lane at the side of our garden – Helme.

I had to go out to the Hospital to have my annual, Diabetic eye check up which involves receiving iris-expanding drops followed by 3D photography of the eyes. Fortunately, I am no longer considered diabetic so the pressure on my sight is not so extreme but I value the service for my own reassurance. 

Pauline had to drive because of the drops effect on my eyes and I was carried home and ‘waited on’ for a couple of hours until I was prepared to admit that I could see well enough to look after myself. It was then that I opened my email to read the most shocking story of the day or week. When we sold our property in Helme in 2000, we moved to a house built in a disused quarry in Longwood. We really enjoyed it and the experience was made even better because we had such lovely neighbours. We hadn’t really had any neighbours for the past 20 years.

Jean & Perry lived next door and we would often come home to find Jean mowing our lawns. Perry lectured at Bradford College in Crafts. In his spare time, he bought, renovated and let out properties in the area. He would often come round and do the odd bit of joinery for us because I certainly couldn’t. Jean is our age but Perry is about 14 years younger. He always said he would retire at age 55 which is this year. They have owned Spanish properties in the past and dreamed of buying another one for their Retirement. 

Today all those dreams are gone. Recently, Perry a fit workaholic, was diagnosed with Vasculitis which has resulted in him receiving a plasma cleansing treatment seven times in a short space of time followed by an infection that gave him fluid on his brain and then a massive blood clot on his lung. He has been left with little feeling in his feet and fingers and will always have to wear a splint and use a crutch. If that doesn’t put one’s troubles in perspective, nothing will. It certainly teaches us that we should never take our time for granted but make the most of every single minute we have here together. We never know when we might lose it.

Wednesday, 29th January, 2020

A gloriously sunny day but nor warm. Quite a chill in the breeze has kept the temperature at around 10C/50F. Quite a lot of Office work this morning – writing to friends, contacting our bank and our builders. 

French waves breaking on Sussex shores.

To enjoy the sunshine and get some bracing air, we nipped down to the beach where humans don’t exist. The tide was coming in and rattling the pebbles against the breakwaters. Amazing how the seagulls cope with such waves but they seem quite at home. There is something elemental down here that chimes with one’s sense of being. 

Toy Town on the Beach

The tugs and sways of the sea find echoes in our subconsciousness. I suppose, humankind crawled out of the primordial soup and back to it we will return. The shingle beach is scattered with death – shells, fish heads, etc. which will wash in and out on the tide until they are reduced to grains of dust.

Thursday, 30th January, 2020

Is this a boiler I see before me?

The penultimate day of January 2020 has reverted to recent type with dull, grey skies and intermittent rain.  We were receiving a tradesman this morning for our annual, central heating service. For the past 10 years, we have lived in new-build properties and heating has barely featured as something worthy of attention. We have lived in old houses. Our first was a coaching house built at the beginning of the 20th century. The heating was costly to run and not particularly efficient. We opened up a fireplace in the lounge to burn logs and provide direct warmth. The boiler was upstairs in the ‘Airing Cupboard’ and was drop fed from a cold water tank in the loft. 

When we lived in a 5-bedroom, 3-storey house in Yorkshire more than 10 years ago, the heating bill was about £2,500.00/€2,965.00 per year. The house was built in 1980 when insulation standards were so much lower. Here and 10 years on, our heating bill is less than half that because of greater efficiency of the apparatus and more modern approaches to insulation. However, one of the things you don’t really get in modern systems is a hot airing cupboard. In the past, our copper boiler was just lagged with an ill-fitting and laced-up boiler jacket. Lots of heat escaped which dried and aired the washed clothes. There is little or no heat escaping from the totally encased boiler which is directly fed from the incoming cold water pipe.

Of course, our boiler is connected to the web and we can control it from iPads and mobile phones which feels like light years away from the boiler we coped with in our first house more than 40 years ago. However, it still has to be maintained and we have an annual contract for a little man service. He spends about 90 mins and we spend £120.00/€143.00 but it’s worth it. 

Friday, 31st January, 2020

The days continue grey and damp and reflect our mood and that of millions of our fellow countrymen and women.

TV programmes this morning feature interviews with Brits who voted Brexit and didn’t think it would affect them in Spain. Now they are concerned about their pensions vis a vis uprating and exchange rate fluctuation. They are worried about how they will afford Healthcare now EHIC cover is disappearing and, of course, as our government rows back on early pledges over Europeans in UK, EU member states are likely to review their conditions for the residence of UK immigrants to their countries.

We were out shopping this morning with basketsful of European vegetables and fruit. Guaranteed supply for the rest of the year is not enough. 

Beautiful Bordeaux

We have 2 months planned abroad in the Canaries so far this year plus a week in Athens. We have 2 x 4 days stays in Yorkshire and we expect to arrange similar shopping trips to France in June and September. We want to do a couple of European City Breaks as well which will include Bordeaux and, possibly a Spanish city as well. We’ve wanted to go to Bordeaux for quite a while and I am currently exploring hotels and flights. Easyjet flights from Gatwick are incredibly cheap but I haven’t really found a good hotel within walking distance of the town centre so that is my current quest. Whatever anyone else says, we will be travelling as citizens of Europe!

Saturday, 1st February, 2020

Week 578

Sunday, 19th January, 2020

Another glorious day with a hint of frost around. It is so lovely that we went for a walk around our Development to enjoy the sun and fresh air. We had woken up to a disappointing message to tell us that the villa we had booked on Lanzarote for the month of May is no longer available.

Apparently, the owner has two booking platforms and one had failed to communicate with the other. The villa was already booked but it failed to show on the Booking Chart. I had even booked Easyjet flights yesterday at a cost of £540.00/€634.00 for the two of us. Fortunately, Easyjet have a cancellation policy which meant it only cost us £33.00 and the rest was repaid to us. We discussed it as we walked and decided to look again.

Two days ago, Pauline took a photo as we left the Health Club. Today, I took the same photo.

What a difference sunshine makes. It’s even stiffened the backbone of that previously wilting lamp post. We have now done every day for 3 weeks here and I’m really feeling weary but my target is 91 so only another 70 to go. 

Monday, 20th January, 2020

Beautiful day of blue sky and sunshine. We had been led to expect very low temperatures last night and heavy frost this morning but it failed to appear even though the sky was so clear. I think we are saved by proximity to the sea.

I am addicted to politics, current affairs and news as well as really enjoying sport. I regularly move between the kitchen, lounge and office as I did this morning watching the last throes of the 3rd, S. Africa v England Test Match. England were going to win as long as the weather held out. It did and they did. I was determined to watch the victory. The televisions were on in all three rooms where there Sky boxes.

My current Sky receivers
  1. In the lounge we have the main box – a Sky+HD 2TB Box – allied to a 55″ smart screen. This allows me to record 2 programmes at once + download catchup programmes saving up to 350 hrs of material.
  2. In the kitchen we have a Sky+HD WiFi Box allied to a 42″ screen. This allows me to record one programme + download catchup programmes saving up to 60 hrs of material.
  3. In the office we have a Sky+ Multiscreen Box which just allows us to watch any other Sky programme. 

So, practically, we could have 3 different Sky programmes on in 3 different rooms at the same time. We also have 3 ‘Freeview’-receiving televisions in 3 of the 4 bedrooms upstairs.

Today, I gave in to Sky’s persuasion and agreed to swap over to Sky Q boxes. This has been prompted by our newly acquired super, super fast, fibre to the door broadband. Sky Q boxes are largely run on wi-fi not all relying on satellite dish reception. It is about time. After all, all the Spanish properties we’ve stayed in have received/supplied all Sky channels through internet alone.

My new Sky receivers

The main Q box currently will connect to the satellite dish but will then feed all the other mini boxes via wi-fi alone. This means that the main box will record 6 shows and watch a 7th live. It will also allow users to watch different Sky programmes on 3 different televisions at the same time. It is also possible to freeze a live or saved programme in one room and pick it up at the same point in another room. Finally, it allows one to download programmes/films to an iPad and watch them at a later date.

I was paying £101.00/€118.40 per month for my current package. By making this switch to a larger Q box + 4 mini boxes and taking their incentive of Sky Cinema, the monthly price will be ….. £98.00/€115.00. A Sky engineer will be calling soon.

Tuesday, 21st January, 2020

A hint of frost and a beautiful day. We decided to go out to a different beach. I looked at the map and just picked one. Our sat. nav. said it would take us 20 mins to drive there and so we set off. We were going somewhere we had probably been just once before – Elmer Beach just outside Bognor Regis. George V famously is reported as saying, Bugger Bognor when he was asked to endow it with Regis in its title. Pauline had  similar view of it when we went there a couple of years ago. Elmer Beach, on the other hand, is a jewel.

Elmer Beach …. well, rockery.
Cormorant on a stick.

Miles of virtually deserted pebble beach, beautiful sunshine and vibrant colours all provide a wonderful counterpoint to Winter’s greyness. We walked and drank it all in. Fresh sea air, brilliant sunshine a Mediterranean colours do so much for the spirits. We even enjoyed talking to the cormorant.

Wednesday, 22nd January, 2020

In total contrast, today is dull and cold. Why did I decide to clean the car? Anyway, it had to be done so I did it. In this week back 11 years ago in 2009, we were just entering our last Ofsted inspection of our careers. How far away that feels. I do know I’d rather be cleaning the car whatever the weather.

Coming back in from the depressing weather, I made an enquiry about a villa in Costa Adeje, southern Tenerife for the month of May. 

It looks interesting, reasonably well appointed with its own, heated pool and may give us an enjoyable month in the sun. We’ll see.

Returning from the gym, we cooked our meal outside but it was rather cold – only around 8C/47F – and the air was damp. Where is that global warming when you want it?

Thursday, 23rd January, 2020

Grey, grey, grey and the same temperature as yesterday – 8C/47F – but feeling cuttingly colder in the coastal breeze. Today, we were dragged out of the E.U.. On this exact day 7 years ago in 2013, I wrote in my Blog:

Snowing lightly this morning. It is 1C/34F here and, in Greece, 15C/59F.  ‘Call-me-Dave’ Cameron finally made his speech this morning. It is the first step of the Conservative party sleep walking out of Europe. An in/out referendum by 2018. What fools!

We were out early to do our weekly shopping at Sainsbury‘s and Tesco. Our bill struck me as quite high – circa £160.00/€190.00 – although that did include two, large, sides of salmon, 3 cod loins, and a large, quality fresh chicken which certainly adds to the cost.

We went to Sainsbury‘s first and rather regretted it. It was in darkness and the escalator was stationary. There was a power cut which, unbeknown to us, was being experienced over a wide part of our, local area including our own home which we found as all the clocks were flashing when we returned. Sainsbury‘s announced, when the power came back on, that their computerised tills would take some time to re-boot. They did but, just as customers goods were being swiped through, the power went off again and the whole process started over again. This happened three times before order was restored. Amazing how much relies on computers and, therefore, on electricity.

Our former home in Kamares, Sifnos.

The photograph above appeared in my inbox yesterday. I was immediately take back over the past 20 years of our lives. This is the port of the Greek island on which we bought a field and built a house. Looking back now, it almost feels unreal and yet the memories are testament to its reality. Must go back and see it soon.

Friday, 23rd January, 2020

Between 1969 – 1978, I wasn’t registered with a doctor at all. I never needed one. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t visit a dentist either. Between the ages of 18 – 28, many of us are generally healthy and too busy living our lives and dreaming of immortality to worry about our health. Getting married, of course, changes all that. In my experience, women think and know about bodies more than men and Wives like to organise their maintenance. Well, that may be a big generalisation but it certainly applied to me. I don’t like to acknowledge illness but, if something goes wrong, I don’t understand it and panic.

Diabetic Retinopathy Image

In the space called Retirement, we have more time to contemplate our navels .. and other bits. I am constantly amazed to learn what bits we have got and which I’ve had for almost 70 years without realising it. Of course, increased knowledge of body bits means increased areas of concern. I have always been, essentially, blind in my left eye. I was born with it and never even thought about it as a youth. In my 50s, I had a ‘vision episode’ which led to me visiting Specsavers exactly 11 years ago. The young girl there who checked my sight probably saved my life. She picked up an irregularity which led me to a cardiologist who diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation and prescribed life-long warfarin. Without that, there is a huge chance that I would have suffered a stroke or heart attack by now.

Although I am no longer considered Diabetic, I still feel reassured by attending annual Diabetic retinopathy test in which my eyes are scanned in 3D for any blood vessel abnormalities. Of course, this is made even more important in someone with sight in only one eye. Next week will be my annual test. As regular readers will know, I am religious about testing my INR or coagulation rate of my blood vis-à-vis my Atrial Fibrillation and next week will be my bi-monthly hospital report. Bi-annually, as senior citizens, we do the poo test. It is, of course, more formally known as the Bowel Cancer Screening Test. Next week, we will be undertaking this for the 5th, consecutive time.

Let’s hope we pass that lot …. if you’ll pardon the expression!

Friday, 23rd January, 2020

Recently we have got used to getting up and observing a grey world outside. Today was no different. I resolved to complete a Springtime booking in the sunshine. The previous villa I featured on Wednesday has been rejected in favour of a new-build villa that we know of from our walks last November. It is built on 3 levels at the back overlooking the sea and one level on the front overlooking the extinct volcano with the banana plantation.

The back of the villa is on 3 levels.
The Lounge-Diner is at the back overlooking the sea.
The balcony out from the bedrooms.

The problem with these rentals for just two people is that, to get all the facilities we want, you have to rent a property which is far to big for us. This is huge in footprint and has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a large, open plan lounge/dining Room, kitchen, laundry room, pool, verandas all round plus garage. The cost for 4 weeks is €4,567.00/£3,850.00 + flights. We have booked Easyjet return flights with extra legroom and speedy boarding for £640.00/€760.00. On a grey day like today, I would have paid double for everything!

Week 577

Sunday, 12th January, 2020

A lovely day of blue sky and sunshine. I am on the 12th day of 91 days without alcohol. I must say that I have hardly thought about it but I control the circumstances.  We had considered a few days in France but that would be fatal. Going to a dinner party, going out to a restaurant, anything out of routine, in fact, would severely test me. Drinking wine is essentially a social act and, for me, is intimately wrapped up in eating good food.

I use one specific replacement for alcohol. It is not pleasant but I can easily become addicted to it. I drink Shloer and sparkling water in spritzer form. The wine racks remain absolutely full and the Shloer boxes rapidly become empty. Over Christmas, supermarkets sell a lot of Shloer and, in the new year discount it. This year, standard price is £2.20/€2.58 and I found that Morrisons was selling it discounted at £1.00/€1.18. Too good to be avoided for an addict like me. This morning we drove down there to stock up. 

Pauline’s Grandparents she never met.

I completed scanning in Pauline’s memories box with the help of her sister’s memory. Pauline didn’t know who these people were although they were in her box. The photograph was taken in Oldham in the early 20th Century and were, in fact, the Grandparents she never met.

We did our gym workout and then Pauline griddled Tuna steaks in the garden. It is noticeable that the afternoons are remaining lighter longer which is a lovely prospect of what is to come.

Monday, 13th January, 2020

Another beautiful morning which is lucky because I have to wheel 3 bins out on to the roadside for collection this morning. I’m a bit tired because we went to bed well after midnight. We were watching a film. It is a very rare event for me. I am not a fan of films or fiction generally. I am more attracted by facts and ideas. Also, I don’t cope with late nights as well now as I did in my youth. However, one of the benefits of retirement is the ability to choose to do whatever one wants and hang the consequences.

I am rarely if ever conscious of dreaming although I am aware of specific triggers in me that cause it. Since childhood, if I had a temperature through illness, a common dream for me was to be on a high cliff or building and feel the sensation of falling. I know we are all believed to dream every night particularly in our REM state. During Rapid Eye Movement sleep, our brain is almost as active as it is when we are awake. REM sleep is thought to help consolidate memories.

It is almost 11 years since I retired from teaching and I haven’t taught an English lesson since the 1980s but, recently, I’ve been waking up genuinely concerned that I am going in to a classroom this morning where my class is about to sit an examination on a book which I have not taught them – actually, I’ve not bothered to teach them. In real life those sorts of things didn’t really worry me. I took them in my stride and always found a solution – usually it was just CHEAT. However, in my dream I wake slightly fearful of the consequences and then reality suddenly dawns on me.

          You’re not a teacher. You have no responsibility. It’s somebody else’s problem.

I am instantly bathed in a warm enveloping sense of relaxation and calm. It is the calm of retirement that everyone should experience.

Tuesday, 14th January, 2020

Tuesday is INR testing day. Recently, I have been so stable that I’ve reduced it to fortnightly. Actually, if I didn’t have my own machine, I would be having the test only every 8 weeks which is a little too scary for me. That is how often that I have to report my reading to the Hospital which I do via email. It is so convenient.

I am fortunate to be able to fund myself. The machine is about £600.00/€699.00 to buy and, although I get 24 test strips on prescription from my doctor, I buy a backup pack at a cost of £80.00/€93.22 per year as well. I suppose I could demand additional ones on prescription but I decide to make it equitable. My INR range should be between 2.0 – 3.0 and, mainly, it is. I have kept a spreadsheet since January 2009 recording every single reading which is more than can be said of the NHS. Every time I have moved, my records have not moved with me.

I have now completed 2 weeks without alcohol and my test today reflects that. For the first time since April last year, I am outside my required range. I tested 1.8. This is because my blood is slightly too thick. Alcohol contributes to blood thinning/anticoagulation and my test reflects that. I have two choices: take more Warfarin or drink wine. I have decided to ….. take more Warfarin.

Storm Brendan meets Littlehampton

It is a horrible day outside – grey and wet. Coastguards have issued an urgent warning for West Sussex, as the remains of ex-Storm Brendan sweeps in. We are still going to the gym but I can’t see myself swimming today.

Wednesday, 15th January, 2020

We went out early to buy fish from the fisherman’s shed on Littlehampton Pier. At that time, the day was dire – grey, cold and wet. Fresh fish was just being displayed as we arrived. Usually, we can only order large amounts of Tuna and Swordfish which, of course, is not caught locally but today, a joint of each had just been delivered.

A desolate Marina

A 1.3 kg joint of Swordfish cost us £31.00/€36.17 which compares with today’s market price of £32.00/€37.30 per kilo. The 4.3 kg joint of Tuna cost us £98.00/€114.28 which compares with a market price today of £60.00/€70.00 per kilo. 

Sunny Littlehampton Beach

We moved on to Littlehampton Beach which was much less inviting than usual even the seagulls had left for the land and allowed the rooks to move in. Certainly not a day for a swim in these waves.

Thursday, 16th January, 2020

We seem to spend our lives shopping. Yesterday we were out on the shoreline to buy fresh fish.

4.3 Kilos of ‘Sushi Quality’, Yellowfin Tuna
The toilets are on the furthest left.

Today it was Sainsbury’s and Tesco for our main, grocery shoppingThis split photograph shows the shop frontage of Tesco Extra. The right hand side is the first quarter and the left shows the other three quarters. The toilets are at the bottom of the far left corner. This is not good news for old men. Walking from one end of the shop to the other is a reasonable workout in itself. No wonder you see so many old people bent over their trolleys in exhaustion.

Talking about exhaustion, I’m feeling it today. I didn’t sleep well again last night and I have no idea why. I’m not troubled in the slightest. Quite the reverse. I am into the 16th day of a rather calorie-reduced period. I am about to go to the gym for the 18th consecutive day of my current piece. These things do take their toll but my mind just fights back and shouts, Keep going. Don’t let yourself down. Who could ignore that?

Friday, 17th January, 2020

Pauline went out this morning in rain to go to the Beautician’s in Rustington and returned an hour or so later in brilliant sunshine out of clear, blue sky. I’ve certainly had enough of grey, English days. I really wish we had booked some time away in the sunshine.

This morning I booked us a month away in Lanzarote in a 2 bedroom villa with a pool, washing machine wi-fi and English language tv. 

Nice Pool Area
Outdoor Cooking
Sky Sports available

For the month of May, it will cost us £3,850.00/€4,520.00 + Return Easyjet Flights at £540.00/€634.00 for the two of us.

Kitchen with oven, hob, microwave & dishwasher
Not sure about the miror.

We will go to Gatwick the day before, drop off our bags early and stay in the Sofitel for the night because we fly early the next day which gives us plenty of time on arrival at our villa for orientation.

Saturday, 18th January, 2020

Gorgeous morning with a hint of frost in the fields. We drove down to the beach to let our eyes drink in the sunshine and banish the Winter Blues. The tide was out and the sand exposed, strewn with pebbles.

Pauline always comes prepared for every, climactic condition  and she posed in her Mediterranean sunglasses to the total admiration of all the passing dogs and their owners.

We walked along the waterline for a while and breathed in the ozone being greeted by trotting dogs, large and small before driving home for coffee. 

We went off to the Health Club at 1.00 pm for our 21st, consecutive day and did a couple of hours exercise before driving home to griddle chicken thighs and mushrooms in the garden. I watched Cricket in the gym and was disappointed when rain stopped play but I caught the last few overs of the day back home. Great to watch Newcastle beat Chelsea in the last minute of extra time this evening.

Week 576

Sunday, 5th January, 2020

The weather has turned out to be completely wrong. Supposed to be pleasant this morning according to BBC forecasts. I planned to clean the car. Actually, it is cold with light rain falling. I have decided to watch the cricket from South Africa where the sky has also taken an overcast demeanour. Fortunately, the cricket is going England’s way – at the moment.

I’ve had superfast, fibre -to-the-door from BT for a few months. I pay for a guarantee of 300 mbps download speed which is 10 x faster than before. I also expect around 50 mbps upload. I thought I would do a check this morning and received this result.

My Broadband Speeds.

I do find BT incredibly reliable and worthwhile. It costs me £75.00/€88.00 per month but that also includes ‘Unlimited Anytime Landline calls’. What I find astonishing is how these communication/information/entertainment bills  have gradually been incorporated in to our monthly outgoings over the years. We pay:

  • BT Broadband + Landline Calls = £75.00/€88.00
  • BT Sport = £10.00/€11.74
  • EE – 2 Mobiles = £89.00/€105.00
  • Sky TV = £102.00/€120.00
  • TV Licence = £13.20
  • Web Space + Domain Name rental = £16.50/€19.40

So that is a total of £305.50/€408.40 per month or an astonishing £3,666.00/€4,900.80 per year and this has just insidiously crept up. We always had a landline in our house as a child although we were not allowed to use it. Many people, probably most in the early 1950s, had to rely on the red box public telephone on the street. Making a call involved pushing a few pennies into the phone box and pressing Button A. In those days people did not have access to mass communication or information gathering. The nearest source for that was the local library.

Personally, I believe that all such access to information and communication should be a right and ‘free’ to individuals financed through progressive taxation. Of course, entertainment is a different matter. People should not have to decide whether to eat and heat their homes as opposed to hearing/watching the news of world events or being able to telephone their friends and relatives. 

Monday, 6th January, 2020

Didn’t sleep well last night and woke up tired. The day was grey and the street had taken down its Christmas lights thank goodness. In the religious calendar, it is Epiphany. I’m pleased to know that I had my own epiphany many years ago and saw sense. The Greeks, of course, take it to extremes and dive into the Aegean in spite of the season. 

I saw a video clip of snow falling today at Σταθμός Δουκίσσης Πλακεντίας, the last Metro station on the way out of Athens before reaching the Airport. Quite amazing. These days are featuring cold, strong winds, rain and snow across the Hellenic lands. What a time to throw oneself into the sea. On Σίφνος, just one person volunteered at πλατυ γυαλο and you can see how sunny and warm it was.

πλατυ γυαλο

In Φάρο, no one could be found and the cross was thrown in attached to a string only to be retrieved by the priest himself by hauling in the string. I’m sure the sea gods understood in those conditions.


I didn’t need a god to persuade me in to the water today. My wife is fearsome enough. Actually, it’s easier when the water’s heated. Someone should tell the Greeks!

Tuesday, 7th January, 2020

A week in to the new year already as the travellator speeds up. Today, I have booked up another chunk of the year. Yorkshire in March will be interesting. Friends from our past who we were thinking of visiting in Australia have helpfully saved us a pile of cash by getting themselves deported back to UK. Their visas have run out and there son’s job and that of his Australian wife has meant a move to the U.S. so they have failed to get their visas renewed. We are going to visit them in Saddleworth in their new home. It will coincide with the first day of our 12th year of Retirement. Really hard to believe.

The day is lovely which bodes well for our gym & swim. Before that, I’ve had to read my new car manual because, when I was cleaning the car the other day, I looked at a row of switches below the steering wheel and thought that I wasn’t completely sure what all of them were.

One of five banks of switches in the car.

Now I am clear, will I remember? I will do my best. I love the car and love driving it. I have never had a more relaxing driving experience from any car. This would have been ideal for driving to Greece. Let’s hope it is as we drive across Spain in the Summer. I’m already wishing my time away! 

I am such a lucky man. Every day I finish my meal and observe how wonderful it was. Today, Sea Bass with Scallops and Prawns in a light, Garlic Sauce with roasted peppers & endive. If I died now, I’d die a happy man!

Wednesday, 8th January, 2020

Yet another grey day. It’s depressing. Pensioners shouldn’t have to put up with this. Actually, it is forcing us to reassess our future arrangements. We have been discussing reallocating our travelling times to alleviate this darkness. Maybe we should return to our previous pattern and do two months in the Canarian sunshine in November and January/February and then enjoy the warmer months at home in Sussex. We are going to toss that idea around in heads before making any firm decision.

Birds maraud the White House.

If you want grey, you can have grey and we did this morning as we walked on the beach with the gulls and the rooks.

You won’t buy fresher fish than from here….

Although the sight and sound of waves breaking on the pebbled beach raised our spirits, we definitely felt that our get-up-&-go was missing this morning. It was a real effort to do our exercise routine today … but we did. As we drove home, Pauline read a report of a man suffering a heart attack on a jogging machine in our gym about a week ago. Fortunately, there are defibrillators everywhere and all the staff are trained in CPR. The man was resuscitated and has been released from hospital unscathed. Reassuring. Now where’s the sun?

Thursday, 9th January, 2020

Another dark, damp morning although mild at 12C/54F. Today is shopping day – Post Office, Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco. After that and before we go to the gym, we discuss our other trip to Yorkshire which will be in October. This trip has to include October 18th which, unfortunately, this year falls on a Sunday. I went on my IHG app and put in the dates. Just 4 nights in our normal suite including member discount was coming out at £650.00/€765.00 which seemed a bit steep. We decided to look around for alternatives. We never eat in our hotel other than for Breakfast so we looked at a development that was being designed as we were leaving Huddersfield in 2011.

Just down the road from where we used to live, a beautiful, 18th century textile mill stone building was being converted into apartments. Subsequently, they were let out on short/medium terms with accompanying facilities like gym, spa, coffee shop, bistro, hair salon, conference & meeting centre.

We would rent the penthouse which is sited at the top of the old water tower. It has a roof terrace which provides panoramic views over Huddersfield. More to the point, it has a fully equipped kitchen which will allow us to do our own catering which suits us very well.

We had never considered it before but, when we put our dates in to the booking form, it came up with a price of £350.00/€412.00. That is quite a persuasive argument which we expect to follow up tomorrow. 

Friday, 10th January, 2020

Well, something has gone seriously wrong this morning. Blue sky, bright sunshine and reasonably warm. How did that happen? We celebrated by doing a bit of gardening – pruning and tidying. It was nice to be out there and active.

View of Kastro – 1928

This morning I received a fascinating photograph from a Sifnos friend. It shows what looks like tourists in white, summer suits with straw boaters posing for pictures with Kastro as a backdrop. It just underlines how slow the pace of change was up to the 1970s. 

The great Sifnos Cheese export machine – circa 1962

Of course, Sifnos time differs from that in the rest of the world in one major respect. Whereas we all work on BC & AD, Sifnos just has Pre-PD & Post-PD. These two photographs feature Sifnos in gentler times, pre-Poison Dwarf.

Saturday, 11th January, 2020

We had a panic two days ago because Pauline had lost her autograph book. She got it in 1960 and her enthusiasm for collecting signatures lasted long enough to get about 8 specimens. However, it is priceless to her because one of those eight is her father’s. It is a link with him that has endured since his death in 1961 when she was just 10 years old.

Pauline’s Dad’s signature the year before he died.

It always sat in an old, oak box on the mantlepiece in other houses. We don’t have a mantlepiece here and the oak box is empty. Everywhere has been searched twice until this morning when a clutch of old photographs revealed the autographs nestling inside. Pauline’s Dad was there and will never be lost again. He is to be filed carefully after I have scanned him in and saved the scan in triplicate – on a USB Memories stick, in the Cloud and on this Blog. 

We both love our iPads. Particularly, I love my huge iPad Pro with its attached keyboard cover that turns it almost into a laptop. However, its main drawback is that the screen is unreadable in sunlight and we love to spend our spare time in sunlight whether in the garden or abroad. Pauline has long used an Amazon Kindle to read books. She reads every night in bed and often in the evening and outside in the sunshine because the paperwhite, liquid crystal display doesn’t degrade in sunlight. 

Kindle 1 and Kindle 2

She has 2 Kindles and the first one was bought in December 2010 for £150.00/€177.00. She bought a larger one with a backlight and sharper screen display since then but both have ‘free’ 3G/4G AT&T connectivity to download from the Amazon shop, collect emails and slowly browse the web. This element is fairly basic but has been invaluable when we’ve been in isolated places without wi-fi.

Today, it looks as if Kindle 1 is dying. Only 9 years service? They just don’t make things to last these days. Of course, Brexit will put all that right.