Week 583

Sunday, 23rd February, 2020

We made a major error last night and stayed up until 1.00 am today watching an Hungarian language film with subtitles. It was hard to follow because the plot was so dense but it was fascinating and gripping in equal degrees.  It is by Oscar winning Director, Laszlo Nemes and is set in 1913 Budapest. It concerns a young woman’s search for her past as the world moves forward to World War. If anyone else has watched it, perhaps they could explain it to me.

As a result of this folly, we didn’t get up until 8.00 am! It felt like we spent the rest of the day catching up for lost time. It goes without saying that we did our exercise regime and Pauline cooked the most wonderful haunch of Hake with roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic green beans. However, my main job today has been attempting to sort out my virus software.

I’ve been using Norton for years.

It has always been very reliable but, in the past few days, I have been getting an error message about Sonar Protection problems. I’ve tried running fixes. I’ve tried downloading and reinstalling. I’ve allowed Norton agents to dial in to my machine to fix it and they do so temporarily but it always come back. The real annoyance is how time consuming it has become. One thing is certain, I will not last long in a place where my data can be compromised. My next task is to take the software off my machine entirely and do a ‘clean install’. I know you will be on tenterhooks but, don’t worry, I will keep you posted.

Monday, 24th February, 2020

It’s been a bitty day of firefighting small but annoying problems. I had the Norton Security software to sort out. I have a problem with my website domain name to sort out. I have a claim for compensation for the damage caused by storm on the roof still to resolve. It’s amazing how days in retirement can progress so smoothly and so days like to day are actually unusual now. They say that, if you want a job doing, ask a busy man. There is a core of truth in that. In the cosiness of retirement and retreat from the world of work, small problems which one might have swept, dismissively away in the past suddenly become irritatingly disruptive of one’s life.

Gritting my teeth, I decided to clean every vestige of Norton software from my machine. I then downloaded a fresh copy, reinstalled and, hey presto, the problem was solved. Next, I addressed my website extension which I had deliberately chosen as .eu only recently available at the time.

I began my website back in 2008 and just chose a popular web host called 1&1 which was based in Germany. Recently, it has been bought up by an American hosting company called IONOS and they have informed me that my web address is under threat from Brexit. Having contacted them, they have offered me an escape route which involves reregistering in a shadow base in Europe. All sounds a bit cloak & dagger but I will be pleased if it works. What I am desperate to ensure is that my Blog is not compromised.

My neighbour and I have joined forces to fight for compensation for the damage caused by our roof pointing defect.. I had a smashed satellite dish – cost £220.00/€262.00 – while he had a damaged car – cost circa £1000.00/€1,191.00. The roof company are claiming it is “deemed an act of god” although they accept responsibility for the roof defect. I have a feeling we might win this.

Tuesday, 25th February, 2020

My GP is German. She is excellent and we hope she is allowed or even wants to remain in UK. I don’t trouble her. I have only seen her once in the past 18 months. I try to take as much responsibility for my own health as I can. I follow national screening programs like the bowel cancer one we’ve just completed and posted off. It was our fifth biennial such test. I have attended my annual Diabetic Retinopathy religiously. I exercise religiously. I have twice yearly Dental checks.

My recent eye tests have raised some concerns and, when we returned from our 8.30 am dentist appointments this morning, I had a phone message from my doctor asking me to go in for a blood pressure check. Fortunately, I had just completed a week of twice a day tests on my blood sugar and blood pressure recorded on my spreadsheet and which I was about to send to her. It felt good to be on top of my own condition.

Sin on a plate.

The gym was packed today and it was full of OLD PEOPLE! What’s wrong with these people? Haven’t they got Care Homes to go to? Still, we are old hands there now and we managed to get all our work done. We drove home and ate roast salmon with homemade pesto crust and salad. It is one of my favourite meals that Pauline produces without having to think much about she has made it so many times. We followed that by – I hardly dare admit it to myself – eating pancakes.

Every Shrove Tuesday in at least the past 10 years we have always been dieting and so pancakes were out of the question. After all, flour is banned. Pauline loves them and today I could deny her that pleasure no more. Well, that’s my excuse. We both had two, beautifully cooked pancakes and I covered mine with Golden Syrup – what we always mistakenly called treacle – with fresh lemon cutting through the sweetness. Absolute bliss!

Wednesday, 26th February, 2020

Quite a bright morning. although cool. No frost fortunately. By 8.30 am, we were on our way to Tesco to re-corner the market on non-alcoholic grape juice. Shloer is selling at £1.10/€1.31 per litre there at the moment – less than half normal price. It is a bit embarrassing to be seen drinking it at all However, I have just completed 8 full weeks without any alcohol and have 5 more weeks to go before I open a lovely, big, bottle of red wine. The world’s supply of Shloer will go some way to help me get there.

My skinny, little sister, Liz, has told me that she is now teetotal having received professional help to give up drinking although my very old sister, Ruth, tells me Liz is regularly giving up alcohol. I have no such desires or pretensions. I love wine. It will continue to play a significant part in my life. I have a store of around 500 bottles which I plan to supplement on our next trip to France in April. I am spending 3 months denying myself wine just to prove to myself that I am in control of the alcohol not the other way round. It will also, of course, save me more than £1000.00/€1,187.20 in cash terms and about 45,000 calories.

We have already committed to about 3 months abroad this year – in a year when a virus nears reaching pandemic level. We are spending 2 of those months on Tenerife in Costa Adeje. In the past 24 hrs, a hotel in Costa Adeje, Tenerife has been quarantined.

We have booked 6 flights so far with more to follow. Fortunately, we are staying in private villas on Tenerife so contact with lots of people will be kept to a minimum but we will have to visit supermarkets. Aircraft, airports, supermarkets all could pose infection risks. Although we’re not convinced by their efficacy, we have taken the precaution of sending for a box of surgical face masks. One size fits all although I’m not sure about the colour. I mean, what colour shoes would you advise wearing with these?

Thursday, 27th February, 2020

The day opened with heavy rain but, as forecast, turned gorgeously bright and sunny. We did our weekly shop at Tesco and, as we drove back through the village towards home, it looked and felt like Spring. Birds are singing, nesting and producing young and it’s still February. The crocuses are already fading out. The daffodils are in full bloom and the Magnolia trees are looking just as my Mother would have loved and it’s still February.

Sunshine, Daffodils & Magnolia paint our local scene.

Unlike our ancestors who lived in semi-darkness without the benefit of electric lights, who live in dark, cold and smoky world without central heating, we are less in tune with the seasons, hanging on through the Winter, longing for and greeting the Spring, making the most of the growing weather and the Summer sun, making hay while the sun shines before hunkering down through dark, cold months. We fly out to the warmth and the sunshine or stay at home in heated, bright, warm houses. Even so, there is a vestigial longing for and celebration of the end of Winter and the start of the new shoots of Spring. I felt it today.

Another little ray of sunshine this morning came in the guise of a phone call. It was a a consultant from my web management company, IONOS. My annual fees for webspace rental and domain name rental come to around £200.00/€235.00 per year. I’ve been paying out for them for the past 12 years since I left an earlier company. They told me a couple of weeks ago that my fees were going up again.

I thought it was worth contacting them. I have a personal account manager who is supposed to help me. Today he phoned to say he hadn’t realised that I wasn’t a multi million business with a web presence after I had pointed out my age and the usage I put my web space to. On the spot, he cut my costs from £200.00/€235.00 per annum to about £30.00/€35.20. That was worth it. I will stay with them.

Friday, 28th February, 2020

Heavy rain today. We had to go to Sainsbury’s which, fortunately, has a covered carpark leading to an escalator up into the store. We found a new system had been introduced over night. It won’t mean much to most people who will be left scoffing at this but it brought pleasure to these shoppers. Waitrose, Tesco, Asda & Morrisons have all offered a scan-as-you-shop service for a long time. Sainsbury’s has lots of good products but not the same service. Today all changed. 

We had already downloaded apps to our smartphones in anticipation. The barcode reader on the phone only has to be roughly lined up over the product’s barcode and from quite a distance – perhaps a metre – and it reads, records and totals up. How much more fun can an elderly gentleman have?

Returning from playing at Sainsbury’s, I had to find a way to  ward off depression triggered by the wet world outside. We have decided to make this a travelling year and, this morning, we booked a few days away in France after we have returned from Yorkshire. We will have completed our alcohol prohibition period and will be able to spend a few evenings indulging in some nice, French food and wine. We may also go over to Arras to meet up with my Grammar School friend who was an English teacher there and now lives out his retirement. Of course, we’ll do a bit of shopping before we come home. Got to keep stocks up.

Greece is starting to feel vulnerable again. Erdogan has deliberately opened its borders to the West and allowed a stream of refugees to flee and Greece will be an early target.

Erdogan plays the blackmail card.

To make matters worse, Coronavirus has invaded Greece – probably from Italy. Greece is not the strongest country to cope with this. Currently, they are toughening up border controls which will make it less easy to enter Greece. Internally, they are cancelling all regional Festivals – it is festival season in Greece. This will harm the economy because festivals bring internal and external tourism. We, for example, considered flying to Patras for their renowned festival.

Already tourist organisations within the country as in many others are reporting the crisis hurting bookings. It has badly impacted airlines which are the staple of Greek tourism. It underlines what I have long said that Greece is most vulnerable to – a reliance on tourism for its GDP. We will see how this plays out.

Saturday, 29th February, 2020

The last day of February, 2020 opened with strong winds and heavy rain but ended with beautiful skies and sunshine. Harbinger of what March will bring? I would be cautious on that. However, we drove down to the beach to get a bit of bracing, sweet air or ozone. It was quiet, beautiful and …. cold.

Beach to ourselves today…

Pauline should have been a builder not a teacher. She loves doing building work and is brilliant at it – from rebuilding dry-stone walls to painting guttering to roller painting walls and glossing doors. She even knows how to re-wire plugs and replace fuses. This is quite fortunate because it’s all out of my sphere of competence. She has the sort of attitude which is known as ‘can do’ whereas my attitude is more ‘would do but wouldn’t be worth it’. Anyway, after 4 years in this house, all resettlement has finished and any, minor cracks can be filled and repainted. That is what Pauline has begun to do. Meanwhile, I went for a walk in the local area.

A peaceful walk near our house ….

We are so lucky to live in such a lovely place. The Times reported on Saturday that Worthing was moving in to fashion for the 25 – 35 yr olds.

The things that lure retired people to these shores — with their fresh sea air, sense of community and relatively affordable housing — are increasingly tempting families seeking to swap city life for a calmer atmosphere on the coast…………..Nearly three quarters of the people who moved to Worthing, Eastbourne, Bournemouth, Bognor Regis, Brighton and Margate in 2018 were in their twenties and thirties,

The Times / Bricks&Mortar – 28/2/2020

I don’t think it will take Pauline more than a week to get the whole thing completed. I hope not. She keeps putting dust sheets down!

Week 582

Sunday, 16th February, 2020

We did get some strong winds over night but nothing like what we had been expecting. I am writing the bulk of this at 1.30 pm and it is certainly raining hard outside but we have just been shown shots of the Arsenal ground where one match will be played this afternoon and the weather looks absolutely horrible – torrential, driving rain and heavy mist. The other game is from Aston Villa in Birmingham where the railway station next to the ground is submerged in flood water. Police are declaring a major incident across large swathes of Wales where whole communities have been cut off by floods.

I report the above to justify not going to the gym today. We are having a ‘tucked up’ day. House work and self indulgence will be the orders of the day. About 45 years ago, my Sunday morning would be getting up at 6.00 am and walking about a mile to the paper shop to buy a copy of the Sunday Observer and The Sunday Times. I was in Oldham and the newsagents only stocked a couple of copies of each. They were hidden behind huge piles of the colour comics and, particularly, The News of the World which has to have been one of the most misleading titles ever. I was always nervous and got up increasingly early on Sundays because I feared missing out on my newspapers. Back home with toast, fresh coffee and my newspapers, I would read them from cover to cover while, in the background, Chopin played. I was addicted to the études and nocturnes. I wore out the cassette tapes.

Sky-Q box makes app access so much easier.

From cassette tapes to digital Spotify is quite a stretch and yet it defines the context of 45 years. As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with music for quite a few years and have been trying to reclaim my enjoyment. Today I enjoyed the new facilities of my Sky Q box to much more easily access on-line apps and signed up to Spotify – media services provider which allows one to play music online.

An heroic return to Chopin.

So this morning I was ‘tucked up’ with my digital newspaper and on-line recordings of Chopin piano pieces and it was lovely.

Back home on Sifnos

In an idle moment, I thought I would explore some of the other apps available. YouTube was available and I rarely access it on my computer so I thought I’d try it out on my television. What to search for? I don’t know why but I put in Sifnos and the very first video that came up was one taken last summer. It was taken through the windscreen of a car as it was driven down the mountain from Άγιος Συμεών. As it sped down the road that I knew every inch of, I realised that we were passing our (ex) house. Actually, of course, it only caught the open gate and the drive but, having spent so many years there, it felt really weird.

Monday, 17th February, 2020

Out at 8.00 am this morning on a damp and gloomy morning which soon gave way to pleasant blue sky and sunshine. We were driving to Chichester to St Richard’s Hospital Ophthalmology Department. The people at this hospital are fantastic and gave me an appointment at the drop of a hat and even phoned me back to provide  an earlier alternative. At this time in the morning, rush hour traffic makes it rather a tricky journey. Today and in school Half Term, we whizzed along unhindered.

Almost empty Hospital Carpark.

Crowded NHS hospitals? Not today and rarely at St Richard’s. They serve a huge population with a bias toward the elderly so one can only conclude that their case management is really excellent.

Completely empty corridors.

It is a lovely, friendly, people-centred hospital. Staff walking round the place go out of their way to ask if they can help visitors find their destinations. It even treats its staff with thought and care.

No picnics today.

I’ve had some early signs of Diabetic Retinopathy and asked for some further investigation especially because I have only ever had the sight of one eye and, to lose that, would be disastrous. Because the traffic had been so unusually light, we arrived about 45 mins early for my appointment. Happily, I was almost immediately called in and had powerful drops administered to expand my pupils. It was a quick procedure which soon led to optical photography and I will get analysis within 2 weeks.

Back home and courtesy of Spotify, I have renewed my long lost acquaintance with Sergei Rachmaninoff today. In the mid 1970s, I became obsessed with Rachmaninoff and today I replayed the first piece I ever listened to – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. From a new, 4 bedroomed home on the West Sussex coast, I was immediately transported to a scruffy old bedsit in a Lancashire mill town. The span is almost unbridgeable but Rachmaninoff did it.

Tuesday, 18th February, 2020

I don’t know about you but I have resisted getting a cloud-based voice service like Amazon‘s Alexa or Echo because I need to move more than I need to speak. However, our new Sky-Q handsets obviate the need to manually search for channels, programmes, titles, people, etc by providing a voice command service. The last time I used a voice recognition facility was 20 years ago in a text scanning software suite which allowed one to read it in to the page. It created so many typos that it was more trouble than typing the text out oneself. 

Two of the five new handsets.

Our new, Sky-Q handsets travel smoothly through about 800 channels but take a long time to get there, However, we are having fun using the voice-command facility which never stumbles and drives the software at lightning speed. I really should have ordered this system 12 months ago. It’s providing lots of new facilities and actually costs me less than the old setup.

We had a pleasantly dry and sunny morning after a clear sky last night. We drove to the Health Club early today – at mid day – in good weather but came out about 3.00 pm in rain and darkness. The David Lloyd Club was quiet and has been so recently inspite of many special offers of ‘free’ day-passes and ‘cheap’ 3-month tasters. Recently, they have been running an expensive television advertising campaign which emphasises the family quality of exercising together in the clubs.

Television Advertising Campaign

We are torn between wanting David Lloyd to attract enough members to maintain the facilities but not so many to make it feel crowded and definitely not ‘kids’! 

Wednesday, 19th February, 2020

Our fisherman’s shed is closed on Monday and Tuesday and any other day of bad weather. We arrived this morning just as a full supply of fresh fish arrived. It looked wonderful. We bought a joint of Tuna, a joint of Swordfish and a huge, whole Hake. 

Hake – Not a pretty fish!

We seem to be going once every couple of months at the moment and the more we get known, the better deals we get. We spent £152.50/€182.20 this morning with them and that seemed to make us their new best friends. Commerce is so shallow and fickle isn’t it?

Quite a catch!

Portioned, it makes 3 meals for 2 people of Swordfish and 7 meals for 2 people of Tuna. The Hake is cut into 3 meals for 2 people. So, in all, we will get 13 portions each out of this catch which works out at just £11.73/€14.02 for each meal for 2 people aka Pauline & I.

With all this lovely food, I need to work it off. I felt absolutely knackered after my gym workout today. I don’t know why but I refuse to admit it has anything to do with age!

Thursday, 20th February, 2020

There is anticipatory joy and celebration in the Sanders Household this morning. We will be playing Poo Sticks again. 

Our biennial Bowel Cancer Screening test kit has arrived. For those readers much younger – and I don’t mean Ruth – the NHS provides bowel screening tests every two years between the ages of 55 and 75 although Ruth will be pleased to learn that she can continued to receive them on request.

What Fun!

Until now, this was quite a demanding test performed over 3 separate days. The first 2 days’ results had to be kept in the ….FRIDGE! Now, it has been refined and can be conducted and posted off on the same day. 

Of course, taking the test at all is a sign of age. We spend all our time trying to avoid acknowledging the process of aging. I was actually delighted yesterday to wake up with a huge spot on the end of my nose like some love-sick teenager. When I squeezed it the mirror was showered with gunge. However, when I see aging in others, I know I am just denying a reality.

Panos, Nefelli & Rania

Yesterday, a friend sent me a photo of people we knew on Sifnos and who we haven’t seen for 5 years. We were shocked to see how much older they looked. In just the same way, I walk around with pictures in my head of people I last saw in the early 1970s. My first reaction is, Do I look that old? Of course the answer must be in the affirmative although I can’t see it myself. 

Friday, 21st February, 2020

If Pauline reads this, she’ll probably kill me but here goes. One of my abiding memories of my Mother-in-Law was of her sitting at the window of her flat with mirror in one hand and tweezers in the other plucking hairs from her chin. I must admit, it had never really crossed my mind that women ever needed to do it. Well they do and now it is Pauline’s turn. 

As a sign of the times, she has booked a course of 6 treatments at the Beauty Parlour to have hers removed by electrolysis which, apparently, removes the entire root of the hair so it doesn’t return. I’m thinking of having my entire face treated so I don’t need to shave again. Anyway, I drove Pauline down to Rustington for her 4th of 6 sessions. We went on to the Health Club for our usual couple of hours. As for most of the week, there were quite a few students down from University (Do they have Half terms?) in on their parents Family membership. Aren’t students annoying! That wasn’t a question.

The ‘Shoebox’.

In 2011, just 9 years ago this week, we were living in the ‘shoebox’, a temporary home for us after we sold our Yorkshire house and were waiting to move to a new-build in Surrey. We were renting a new-build, 2-bedroom apartment for 6 months before we moved down to Woking and then drove off to Greece. This was not our favourite time but it was a means to an end. The Blog is a great reminder of the path we have travelled.

Saturday, 22nd February, 2020

A quiet day of exercise for us and watching sport. We did our full workout at the gym but I also had time to watch some 6-Nations Rugby Union and a Premier league match in which Leicester unfortunately just lost to Man. City.

These days are good ones for reading newspapers and catching up with Blogs. We do try to push ourselves most of the time so it is pleasant to have a down day once in a while. It is relatively mild here today – 12C/54F – although still rather grey and a bit damp. At least we’re not having flooding. According to a Greek Blog I follow, KTG, it was snowing in Athens today and there was quite an accumulation on higher ground. North winds are blowing in the Aegean up to Beaufort 8 and the daytime temperature is forecast as peaking at 9C/48F. 

Many European countries that had expected reasonable and pleasant reciprocal treatment of their expats in UK are beginning to realise that the xenophobic rhetoric of Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary, Priti Useless Patel, is not just hot air but could become a reality. Katimerini reports:

The negotiations will be rough and it is quite likely that Britain’s target of a final agreement by the end of the year will not be met. As if anticipating failure, the British government has adopted a hard line against EU citizens who live in Britain or who would like to move there. It has announced strict criteria and expensive visas for them, like those for citizens of states outside the EU.

Anecdotally, many European countries are beginning to flex their own muscles. We have been reading reports of people being denied entry/exit through EU channels at airports and ports and being forced to queue in ‘Third Country’ status lines. We, ourselves, have had similarly slower services in and out of the Channel Tunnel. UK citizens are reporting having their paperwork – passports, etc. – scrutinised very closely at borders. This is all giving Brits a taste of their own medicine.

Whither these feet?

The Greeks, of course, who know on which side their bread is buttered – although butter on bread is not a big thing in Greece – want to be far more conciliatory. There is a movement towards associate membership of the EU for Brits who don’t accept Brexit and Kathimereni says this:

Instead of reciprocating with similar measures, the EU should offer special citizenship status to the people of Britain. As a living reminder of past friendship.

That is a hand that few others seem prepared to hold out at the moment and it hasn’t escaped notice that the Turkish tourist industry is currently splurging huge funds on advertising in Britain with the added bonus of a much more favourable exchange rate than the EU. That must concern the Greeks.

Week 581

Sunday, 9th February, 2020

All the talk of the coming storm caused us to expect an uncomfortable night and to decide not to visit the gym today. Although the web is full of reports and pictures from around the country, so far we have escaped. Maybe it is all to come. We have light rain and blustery wind but nothing exceptional. 

Blackpool this morning.

Disappointingly, the Manchester City v West Ham match this afternoon has been called off this morning ‘Due to extreme and escalating weather conditions’. However, I am watching England absolutely slaughter South Africa in the final One Day International from a sunny place. 

Another sunny place in early Summer is southern France and, today, I am booking a few days in Bordeaux  in June.

UNESCO Heritage site – Old Town Bordeaux

We have decided to rent an apartment in the centre of the Old Town and I have found a good one on Rue du Pas-Saint-Georges, an old street liberally scattered with cafes/restaurants spilling out on to the pavements. The old market is within walking distance as is a large supermarket. The train station isn’t far away. 

Monday, 10th February, 2020

We had strong winds last night and quite heavy rain but none of it was really out of the ordinary. However, this morning the Sky dish was out of operation and, when I went out to check on it, I saw this below:

Found below the Sky Dish.

When I looked up at the edge of the roof, I could see where the mortar had fallen from and I realised that we would be phoning more than just a satellite engineer.

Call the Builders … Quick!

Fortunately, the roof is covered by our 5-Year warranty and David Wilson will send someone out today to sort it out. I’ve engaged a same-day-service satellite firm to come and repair or replace the satellite dish. It will cost me £69.00/€82.00 which is fine but I have to be prepared to stay in between 9.00 am – 6.00 pm which is a pain. In the meantime, I am running Sky‘s All Out Politics on one of my iPads.

Well, the original call-out charge soon escalated into a new satellite dish and fitting costing £220.00/€260.35. Believe me, I would have payed double that for normal service to be resumed. The builders will now be out tomorrow to make good the damage. They sounded extremely chastened when we contacted them this morning. They were particularly concerned about the safety of people underneath. They could see huge compensation claims in the pipeline. Fortunately, we got away with a broken satellite dish and a smashed wheelie bin lid. We can’t decide whether to be so petty as to reclaim it from the builders. They’re nice people.

Tuesday, 11th February, 2020

The winds continue. Although not really terrible, they are bringing a cutting edge to the temperature. At 8.00 am, the builders arrived to assess the damage. In itself, it is minor but it damaged our Sky dish and they have agreed to refund of the cost of repair. I discovered last night that our neighbours’ car had been damaged. Fortunately, ours was in the garage.

Happy Birthday to Kevan today. As if coping with Ruth wasn’t enough, now he also has to contend with aging. Life really isn’t fair!

Spending 6 months each year in Greece led me to stockpile drugs because they weren’t really obtainable abroad. In fact, when we were there, the Medical Centre & Pharmacies put out pleas for people to donate their unused/unwanted drugs back to the central stores for other’s use. Repeat prescriptions and a generous doctor made my stockpile fairly easy to build. Unfortunately, as we stopped those half years abroad, I continued to build my store. 

Today, we addressed the drug mountain. We filled two bin bags with out of date drugs. Even so, it felt rather reprehensible.

Wednesday, 12th February, 2020

Worthing Pier in the sunshine this morning.
Medjool Dates

We drove into Worthing early this morning. It was beautiful as we went down the coast road. We were going to the open market for our latest addiction – Medjool Dates. They are absolutely delicious and a great substitute for sweets which we are not allowed. 

On Wednesday, there is a linear open market in a Worthing street parallel to the sea front. We don’t go very often but we found a stall that sells high quality Medjool dates at a price far cheaper than the supermarkets. We bought a kilo for £6.60/€7.90 and they will last in the fridge for up to 6 months theoretically. Actually, they will be gone in 2 weeks in our house.

I am addicted to fruit & vegetables.

My recent diabetic eye check-up has resulted in a follow appointment because a problem was found. This is always concerning for me because I only have sight in one eye. Anything wrong with my good eye terrifies me. The letter told me that I would be invited back within the next 3 months. I phoned immediately and the specialist in charge said, What are you doing on Monday. I could see you around 10.00 am. Fantastic response from a fantastic National Health Service. 

Southlands – state of the art eye hospital, Shoreham on Sea

I also learnt that we have a hospital down the road in Shoreham on Sea – Southlands which is home to a new, state-of-the-art eye care centre and specialises in outpatient services, diagnostics, day surgery and more. If you’re going to go blind, you might as well do it somewhere nice!

Thursday, 13th February, 2020

Well a dark, wet day and not very warm in the stiff breeze. As we drove out to the supermarkets. There was evidence on the roadsides of strong rain from the previous night. While we were in Tesco, the rain roared on the metal roof and the floods were more obvious as we drove home. We drive up Water Lane (Wondered where it got its name.) as we go towards our house. It starts off in the village and this is what it looked like 3 years before we moved in. Fortunately, our Development is much higher than this.

Angmering Village Square – 2013

In Littlehampton, Climping Beach has been hit by falling rain and rising tides to break through the sea defences and flood the roads and surrounding farm land.

Dilapidated Sea Groynes on Climping Beach

The Environment Agency say they cannot afford to replace them at a cost of £100,000.00/€120,000.00 per groyne. This deliberate neglect has been going on for around 10 years we are told and is not exclusive to Sussex. All round the country’s coastline, the sea defences have been allowed to deteriorate and fall. It doesn’t affect us personally but the facility of the shores are a huge advantage and we regret any degradation.

No cooking outside today. As soon as we got back from the gym, the house smelt deliciously of roasted loin of Hake with scallop and prawn topping served with roasted tomatoes. Absolutely wonderful and cosy as the rain bounced down outside. Could have done with a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc but still got 47 more days to go.

Sunny Barcelona

As a direct reaction to the weather here, I have set aside this evening to research a hotel for a week in Barcelona in the summer. We need lights at the end of the tunnel to walk towards.

Friday, 14th February, 2020

We went out early this morning to our local refuse disposal site. To get there, we have to drive over the railway lines and we were held up to wait for a train and held up again on the way back. Strangely, for 9.00 am, the trains were almost empty.

After driving home, we prepared the house for a Sky engineer who is visiting tomorrow. He is going to install a Sky Q 2TB box in our lounge. It will mean moving the sideboard/cupboard on which the tv stands. It is full of all sorts of things we couldn’t decide where to store and is very heavy.

Behind the cupboard is the media panel installed by the house builder and the engineer will need access to it. After we had emptied the cupboard, and moved it out, we realised that it hadn’t been moved since it was delivered 4 years ago. The spiders which had taken up residence were not happy at being exposed to the light and even less happy to find themselves being sucked into our vacuum cleaner. Pauline would have been mortified if the Sky engineer had found out she hadn’t cleaned there for so long. I, on the other hand would have been quite relaxed about it.

This system connects one box – the 2TB box – to the satellite dish via hard link HDMI cable and then up to 4 mini boxes linked to that via wi-fi. One will go in the Kitchen, one in the Study, one in our Bedroom and one in the Ironing Room. The main box allows one to record 6 programmes and watch a 7th at the same time. The mini boxes allow one to watch independently other live programmes or programmes saved to the main box or to pause a program on the main box and pick it up in another room. They also make it much easier to pause live tv and restart it. It just suits the way we use our media as we walk from room to room arguing with politicians and journalists alike.

I’ve just told Pauline that the engineer will need access to 4 additional rooms and she has gone absolutely mad. Fortunately, I will be out of the way watching football tonight so she will be left in peace to clean the 4 rooms.

Saturday, 15th February, 2020

I hate days like this. The Sky engineer is expected between 8.00 am – 5.00 pm. Do not pass Go! Do not leave the house! We are told that the storm will hit us about 11.00 am

It is 11.00 am and the sun has started to trickle out. My Sky account informs me that the Sky engineer will be with us between 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm. We decide to pop down to the beach for a walk in the sea breeze. Signs of the previous storm allied to high tides are still absolutely obvious with shale strewn across the coastal path, across the coast road and up adjoining streets. 

Not sunbathing in Littlehampton harbour.

The sun very quickly gave up the struggle and settled in to a gentle greyness. Although the temperature registered 11C/52/F, it felt much more bracing in the stiff breeze coming off the sea.

Mark the Sky Man.

Over the past 4 years here, we have welcomed so many tradesmen and, almost without exception, they have been delightful, with a pride in their job and keen to provide a good service. Mark from Sky arrived at 3.05 pm. By 3.10 pm, I had learnt that he was born and bred in Littlehampton, went to the local school, lives in a flat near the beach, is 29 years old and engaged to Jenny who works in a Call Centre. They will be married in Worthing in April.

Mark brought with him the Main Q-Box and one mini-box. I asked him to supply me with three additional mini-boxes which I had earlier been told would cost me an extra £300.00/€361.00. I thought it was a reasonable price but Mark told me it would only cost half that. Who was I to argue? He finished by 5.00 pm – just in time for me to watch Liverpool win again. Mark told me that we was rewarded with £3.00/€3.62 for each of the 3 extra boxes he sold me. This is how wonderful workers are exploited. It wasn’t much but I gave him a couple of bottles of wine as he left. I was very grateful for his work.

Week 580

Sunday, 2nd February, 2020

Well, Brexit hasn’t improved the weather even on this palindromic day – 02.02.2020 – Grey and wet this morning although mild at 12C/54F. It’s enough to turn one to drink although not me. We Derbyshire-bred men are made of sterner stuff. Yesterday, I began my second month of abstinence with equanimity. Today, I have only 59 more days to go. They would go and make February 29 days this year. Still, with resolve stiffened, I go forward to the gym.

Get behind me … for 59 more days.

It could be worse. On this day in 2009, it was snowing across the Pennines. The roads were blocked and school was closed for 4 days. I was visiting a Cardiologist who ordered an echo cardiagram and diagnosed me with Atrial Fibrillation. I have been an imbiber of rat poison ever since.

Monday, 3rd February, 2020

We are pushing ourselves for the first 3 months of this year with a view to ‘earning’ and indulging ourselves in a sustained period of travel after that. Today, against a backdrop of grey skies that turned, eventually, to more rain, I pursued a rental property in central Bordeaux. We intend to spend a week of June in the city and have decided not to stay in a hotel but rent an apartment instead. 

We are ‘foodies’ and one of the frustrations when we are staying in hotels in European cities is to browse the local market, find lots of exciting ingredients but not be able to do anything with them. An apartment will provide that opportunity. 

We love these places.

We intend to take an apartment in central Bordeaux where we can shop in the nearby Marché des Capucins which appears to feature the most wonderful fish, meat, game, fruit and vegetables that will give us great enjoyment.

Tuesday, 4th February, 2020

Lovely sunny day with clear blue sky and sharp, rich colours. Pauline has gone out to the Beauticians for her 3rd of a course of 5 facial treatments – electrolysis on her chin.  We are both being visited by the evils of old age. Pauline has about 5 hairs appearing on her chin. They are so slight that I haven’t even noticed them. I am too worried about my own degradation. I am starting to develop grey hair. I am constantly catching myself walking round with my mouth open. I’ve noticed that lots of old-er men do the same. When you walk round with your mouth open, not only do you look brain dead but there is a tendency to slobber. Sexy it is not. 

Rue des Faussets – Bordeaux

To distract myself from slobbering, I am continuing to research our Bordeaux trip. I have found a pleasant apartment just off Rue des Faussets which will be worth following up. The area is teeming with small restaurants and leads out on to a lovely, sunny square – Place Saint-Pierre.

Place Saint-Pierre – Bordeaux

What is so lovely is to be able to find the property on a website – today I am using Booking.com – and then to be able to walk around the area on Google Maps and search out all the attractions without getting exhausted.

Having used my fingers to do the walking in France, I am now off to exercise in the gym. I have now done 5 full weeks without alcohol and missed just 2 days exercise targets. Must try harder!

Wednesday, 5th February, 2020

Sunrise over Worthing Pier

We were out early on a beautifully bright morning. Pauline had to be at her ‘new’ hairdressers for a 9.00 am appointment. I walked along to the pier where scores of noisy school children were supposed to be queueing for a production in the pier theatre of Jane Eyre. My head immediately switched into ‘teacher’ mode and I was about to bark out a few orders but managed to restrain myself.

Exotic Early Morning!

The rabble were admitted to the restraint of mid 19th century Bronte of and I continued to late Victorian Worthing Pier. Later, I rested in Costa Coffee with a giant coffee and my iPad until the most beautiful girl in the world returned.

Back home, we did something fairly revolutionary. We decided not to go to the gym. Instead, we walked around our Development and then the local area. I manged to achieve my target even so. As we walked, the most massive rabbit I have ever seen in my life darted out of the hedgerow, saw us and darted straight back in. I didn’t really believe what I was seeing. It was huge. Have to take it with me to the gym tomorrow. 

Thursday, 6th February, 2020

A busy, early morning which opened with clear skies and a touch of frost on the lawn. Major supermarket shopping day starting with Asda and then on to Sainsbury‘s followed by Tesco. My mother’s generation wouldn’t begin to understand our style. For most of my life at home, she shopped locally and expected everything to be brought to her baskets by the shopkeeper. Service was all. Most things were wrapped in heavy duty paper including meat and fish. After I had left home and she had moved on to supermarkets, like us she did one, main shop per week at one, main supermarket although I could never understand why she chose to do it on Saturday when she had all the quiet times of the week to avoid crowds.

Our trip today results from Pauline’s research into which supermarket is best for each item. She uses a supermarket comparison app to compare prices and special offers. We have the time and it is amazing how much she saves in that way. It isn’t only about price. Individual supermarkets have items which are consistently better than from their rivals. The only downside is that we like to do everything ourselves. Scan as you Shop is what we like to do. We use it in Asda and Tesco but it is not available in Sainsbury’s. As a result of that system, we can just scan our phones across the terminal to pay and have an immediate digital record of our purchases.

I started bright, sunny but cold and it didn’t really get above 9C/48F all day. This afternoon, we drove down to Rustington Beach which was bathed in sunlight as the tide was far out. We parked up and set off to walk to Littlehampton Pier. As we walked, the breeze was at our backs and the effort of walking raised our breathing and our temperatures. 

Shades of Rustington Blue

Walking back, the bitter breeze attacked our faces and left us keen to turn on the heated seats, the heated steering wheel and the climate control. Still, amazing how good, clean, seaside air can make one feel!

Friday, 7th February, 2020

Went out early on a cold and bright morning to … Hobbycraft. Pauline had noticed that she could save £1.00/€1.18 on cake containers. She will need 2 next Christmas so we ventured out to save £2.00/€2.36 over a 12 month period. You can take this enthusiasm too far, you know.

I don’t use texting on my smartphone very much. I have big, fat fingers and I don’t find the keyboard easy to use quickly. Consequently, I don’t receive many texts on it either. You will never find me sauntering across the road replying urgently to a text from someone. Even if I got one, I would always respond in repose with forethought. I get out of the habit of checking texts unless my bank or similar require identification. 

Skinny Liz & Alistair Shanghai Airport

This morning, purely by accident because my fat finger caught the text app, I noticed that I had a message from Lizzie Dripping. She is one of my many little sisters. She had the brilliant idea of going to China for Chinese New Year. Actually, her son is married to a Chinese girl so it was obviously a nice idea until coronavirus struck. She texted me to say they had been forced to leave early because Shanghai Airport was about to be ‘locked down’. I texted back – Don’t come near me for at least 2 weeks. but, as she has not come near me for 40 years, I suspect that I am safe.

Saturday, 8th February, 2020

I retired 11 years ago in April. Most of my major software came with me from work. Well, it would have cost thousands of pounds to buy for myself. I’m still using Macromedia Web Design suite and Adobe Acrobat Pro from 2008. 

I have updated my 2007 copy of MSOffice a few times when I could scrounge a copy from somewhere but now, Microsoft have got wise to this policy and are forcing customers to ‘rent’ their software on an annual licence basis. 

I run Ms. Office over multiple machines and it would cost me about £80.00/€95.00 per year. I’m not paying that! After searching, I found an Office 2019 for £36.00/€42.50 as a download. What’s not to like about that. I paid, received my download button and registration key and roared ahead. Except, I didn’t. As soon as I tried to download, the software didn’t come. I immediately thought that I’d been scammed and they had my credit card details. 

I hate it when old people get to scared to make transactions online for fear of fraud. Was I falling into that category? I even phoned the card company with my concerns. They didn’t seem over worried and didn’t suggest ‘freezing’ my account. I got into a rather fragile online chat relationship with the company’s technical help who told me that I needed to remove every last vestige of any, older Office components. Never had to do that before. I had 2010 & 2016 copies on my machine. Having done that, the download went smoothly and the installation but, when I came to register my software, Microsoft told me the software key had been used to many times already. My ‘scam’ fears rose again but, as soon as I informed the company, they sent me a new ‘key’ and the job was done.

Apart from a bit of nervous perspiration, I have a fully working copy of MS Office 2019 which will last me a few more years for the sole cost of £36.00/€42.50 so I’m already squids in!