Week 588

Sunday, 29th March, 2020

Woke early with a head full of jobs to do. It is a beautiful day – bright, sunny, blue sky but chilly and breezy. I am feeling energetic having slept well. The routine starts. I am a person of routine. Regular readers will know the routine so I won’t bore you but, I believe, most lives are lived largely in routine. In the currently uncertain times, routine becomes even more important. 

Over a routine breakfast of juice, tea and coffee, I’ve downloaded the newspapers, checked my Twitter feed, checked my Facebook pages and turned to the political programmes of the morning. No guesses for the main content. What caught my eye in my Twitter feed this morning was a tweet from one person I’m following who was having trouble sleeping. A few days ago, I wrote about exactly that and experiencing and remembering an ‘anxiety’ dream which is totally uncharacteristic and certainly not routine for me. This person on Twitter reported dreaming of people breaking in to her house and it was followed by lots of her followers reporting similar experiences. These are unsettling days.

Revisiting the Past

I am so pleased that I am returning to music. There is real comfort in Beethoven’s Symphony No.6. I haven’t played it for years. I associate it with driving home from work over the Pennine moors from Lancashire to Yorkshire on sunny afternoons with the car windows down and the sheep on either side of the road grazing unflinchingly although I was singing along, hopelessly out of tune. I relived that in my West Sussex office today and then followed it by the movingly beautiful, Violin Concerto in D Major.

I wrote yesterday about the crisis that has hit the tourist industry and how it might be longer term than some think. I think it my spell the end of many small suppliers of travel and accommodation across Europe. Today, I continued to contribute to that decline with cancelling/revoking bookings with several hotel chains, airlines and Channel Tunnel crossings. The money is already coming back in and it is amazing how accommodating companies are being but many say the crisis is stretching their capabilities to the limit. Their normal 5-7 days repayment policy is now likely to be weeks. That’s no problem. I just feel bad about having to do it at all.

It is walk time and beautifully sunny but too cold for shorts today. I go upstairs to change. I put long trousers and a jumper on. As I pulled the jumper over my head …. it began to darken and, by the time I had got down stairs, rain was driving across the front of the house. How could that happen? It certainly wasn’t forecast. Just as suddenly, sun breaks through and skies clear. We go out to walk. Just 5 mins later, we are home to escape torrential hail. In Sussex? What is happening? The start of Summer? I blame Brexit!

Monday, 30th March, 2020

Down here the weather is taunting us mercilessly. We were up early and out to Tesco under blue sky and strong sunshine. Nobody else around here seems capable of early rising. We had the supermarket to ourselves and the shelves had been well stocked. The roads look, feel and sound as if the entire population have been wiped off the face of the earth and left it to us and to the natural world. Never seen so many fat rabbits chomping on kerbside grass without a care in the world and without fear of disturbance.

Usually, around here it is just the seagulls who are that bold. They attack passers-by and steal anything that even begins to look edible. Today, they savaged our black bin bag which I put out for collection this morning. We had to sweep up and re-bag after they had scattered fish bones and used serviettes along the pavement. They even scare next door’s cat!

I’ve read a number of people’s recent comments on suddenly becoming aware of bird song in these peaceful times with few humans and even fewer cars around. Of course, it is nesting/breeding time and everybody is singing at the tops of their voices in the tops of the trees. 

It is strange to think that birds have no conception of what is happening to the human world. It has no sense of import or fear. As one population closes down so another expands and feels free to populate the space.

Tuesday, 31st March, 2020

An early start on a clear, sunny and cool morning. Up at 6.00 am and out at 7.00 am. We shop at Tesco twice a week but some things – especially fat-free milk has been removed from the shelves so we fit one Sainsburys in as well. They open at 8.00 am currently. We were there at 7.15 am and 2nd in the queue this morning. The carpark is underground and that is where the queuing starts. Even so, it was cold.

NHS workers are allowed in 30 mins before us at 7.30 am. I’ve always strongly supported the NHS but feel less supportive at this time in the morning. There is a competitive, hunter-gatherer element to this process and seeing people arrive and breeze past me, after I’ve stood in the cold for 30 mins, raises an unreasonable sense of resentment. 

Entrance to Sainsburys is undercover – ideal for early queuers.

We are extremely lucky. We want for nothing ….. except for SKIMMED MILK and GHERKINS and MEDJOOL DATES!!!! Fortunately, we found them all at Sainsbury’s today. We queued for 45 mins and shopped for about 20 mins. One of the real boons that we bought last time was a box of 100 pairs of latex gloves.

Barriers against the world.

Instead of spending half my time cleaning my hands with sanitiser and wipes, I put on a pair of gloves as I leave home and remove and throw them away as I get in the car to return.

When we got home, I spent the rest of the morning working to get refunds for Easyjet flights to Tenerife that they’ve already announced are cancelled and a Channel Tunnel trip in a couple of weeks time. Actually, we are not particularly bothered about the cash and will happily accept vouchers for future travel because we will certainly make use of them when the coast is clear.

Wednesday, 1st April, 2020

This is the only April Fool’s Day that I have ever known when it was impossible to shock others outside daily reality. One of my ex-pupils wrote yesterday that she was going to wake her kids early this morning and get them dressed in their school uniforms just to shout April Fool at them. In reality, that seems almost normal in the context of the times. If you told someone that they couldn’t go out and live a normal life for months, they would call your bluff. I wish you a happy new month and I wish you survival.

On our walk today, the fat, brown rabbit that we pass on the edge of the wood can hardly be bothered running away any more he/she has become so accustomed to see us walking the perimeter path. The first time we met, fat rabbit shot into the brambles instantly. Today, our footsteps failed to move the rabbit at all as it lay in the long grass munching away. As we came within a few feet, the rabbit slowly stood up and ambled away with utter nonchalance. In these unprecedented times, the natural world is reclaiming its domain.

We walked in the wonderfully strong sunshine. I was in tee shirt and shorts. These are delightful times for vibrant colours to walk in. The exercise is so different compared to our gym workouts. The fresh air is incredibly tiring. When we got home after about an hour and a half’s walk, I was absolutely shattered. I was going to sow some seeds but just couldn’t face it. I elected to read instead.

We’re going to be eating a lot of salad this summer …

Just before shops were forced to close and with no clear inkling that they would close, I went to the garden centre and bought grass seed to reseed a bit that had suffered over the winter, lots of bags of soil, Lawn Weed & Feed and a few packets of salad seeds. I wanted to grow some peppers but the new season seeds weren’t in so I thought I’d wait. Little did I know that the next day all non-essential outlets closed down.

I wanted to grow some peppers but the new season seeds weren’t in so I thought I’d wait. Little did I know that the next day all non-essential outlets closed down. Today, I’ve found I can get them delivered by Amazon so normal life can be restored. We’re certainly going to eat a lot of salad this summer.

It’s beginning to look as if this is the first time I won’t need my automatic watering system because I’ll be at home to do it myself. If we survive this pandemic, we’re going to spend years criss crossing the globe while we can!

Thursday, 2nd April, 2020

Up early in a fairly mild morning and out to Tesco. We were there by just after 7.00 am for an 8.00 am opening. By the time the store opened, people were queueing (socially-spaced) round the carpark perimeter. We weren’t. We were second in the queue. It is lucky, however, that the weather has been so benign because queueing outside would certainly hit many of us. 

New Trends in Shopping

The shelves were well stocked and we could get what we wanted including skimmed milk which delighted me. The latest innovation was arrows stuck on the floors everywhere illustrating the direction of travel to maintain safe spacing.

Keep Everyone Safe. Wear a Mask.

Since this crisis started, I’ve been genuinely puzzled why NHS staff have been desperate to obtain face masks but the general population have been told that they are pointless or positively dangerous. Immediately the virus was announced, I ordered facemasks online and received them from China. It took strength of self belief to wear them when we go out near people but we did when few around us followed suit. Today, we are told that this policy is being reviewed in the light of research in other countries which have always found them more culturally acceptable and where the virus appears more contained. It seems essentially sensible to construct a barrier against air-borne-virus spores however imperfect. Received wisdom seems to be catching up with me.

The Greeks have been scrabbling to avoid Covid-19 insinuating itself on to the islands. Today we learnt that 6 refugees on Lesvos have tested positive and, on Mykonos, a 69 year old Greek woman who has not been abroad nor know anyone recently who has been abroad. That is really serious because it means that a secret spreader lives on the island. It means that this is not going to be contained at the moment. It is very hard to see Greek islands open themselves to international tourism safely within the next 4 months. If they manage to keep an island Covid-9 free at the moment, they will have built up no immunity to survive the tourist onslaught.

Thessalonika Today

To add to their problems, snow has fallen heavily in Thessalonika. You can certainly say that Greek Easter is cancelled this year and Greek Summer is likely to go the same way.

Friday, 3rd April, 2020

I know you will find this weird but I check two, financial apps every morning. Actually, I check the £/€ rate a number of times a day. It is a carry over from buying/selling property in Greece. These were crucial times and made a big difference in getting it right. We also check our bank account/credit card statement every morning. Pauline updates her ‘Money Program‘ records. We are always up to date and have been for the past 40 years. This morning, HomeAway had paid our deposit for a property in Tenerife back into our account because we can’t complete the transaction. This is a company who deserve to be recognised for their integrity. We will certainly book with them again as soon as this pandemic is over.

These are difficult times for everyone We went out in mid morning to Worthing town to Wilko’s to purchase some garden products. I managed to get seeds, lawn food and plant food to tide me over. Even here, there was a measured, queueing process but we soon worked through the store and were on our way home. We stopped at the seaside for a few minutes fresh air and a walk. It was delightful and enjoyable.

Back home, we sat in the peaceful sunshine with a glass of wine to celebrate some anniversaries. It is exactly 11 years ago today since we last went to work. On this day in 2009, we drove away from our school for the last time, reached home and felt the extreme anti-climax of retirement. This is what I wrote:

We have retired! Pauline & I left our School at 1.00 pm today after 37 years of loyal service. We cleared our desks and the Office we shared, gave our kettle and fridge away, left our keys in the draw and walked out. It was a very strange experience and soon became totally anticlimactic. We left a couple of years early without loss of pay which suits us fine. Now on with our lives…

Kitchen 4 years apart

Exactly 11 years ago and via Yorkshire and Surrey, almost 4 years ago today, we moved into our new home in Sussex. The kitchen was furnished with old, garden dining furniture which now has disappeared to the junk yard in the sky. It seems so long ago. If we have to be in relative ‘lock down’, we couldn’t ask for a nicer prison.

Saturday, 4th April, 2020

Up early on what is forecast to be a lovely weekend. For us, it is going to be a gardening weekend. Jobs include:

  • Final pruning of hydrangeas;
  • Tidying and weeding of side beds;
  • Cutting the lawns plus feeding them;
  • Tidying up and feeding herb pots;
  • Opening up the fig trees;
  • Sowing salad seeds – various lettuce leaves outside and tomatoes started off inside;
  • Cleaning the patio flags.

Of course, we will be still going out for our walk in the sunshine. It is amazing how civil and friendly a pandemic can make strangers. When we walk on narrow village paths, people coming the other way stand back to let us through while keeping a safe distance. Even driving in the car, it is noticeable hat others are far more charitable than normal. Of course, part of it is because the stress of work and time-pressure has been removed.

How times have moved on. Exactly 11 years ago today, we woke up early on our first day of Retirement, went out to buy Euros, put the house to bed and set off for Manchester airport. We had hand luggage only because we were going to our house on Sifnos. We were catching an Olympic Airlines flight which left at 10.30 pm.

Olympic Airlines closed 2009

Olympic, famously once owned by Onassis and the national carrier of Greece, was a really good service to Athens. Unfortunately, we caught one of its last flights. It ceased trading 6 months later. Actually, this was our last flight to Greece for another 5 years as we drove there and back until we sold our property.

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