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

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