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.

Φάρο

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.