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.

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