Week 592

Sunday, 26th April, 2020

As we march through mid-Summer in late April, the wonderful days keep coming. Hot, sunny with blue skies and no rain. Actually, we are forecast to have another lovely day tomorrow and then some rain on Tuesday which the lawns will be pleased to receive. Last week, I cleaned the car, mowed the lawns, potted up the seedlings, tidied the garage and vacuumed the house. Today, I am reduced to tidying the Office while Pauline is making bread, soup, sage & onion stuffing to accompany the roast chicken and so much more.

Before we go out for a long walk in the sunshine, I need to explore a replacement for Pauline’s smartwatch the second of which has failed just after the year’s warranty is up – exactly as the first did. It is a Garmin_Vivofit4 which she likes because it is slim, light and waterproof for swimming. Unfortunately, it is also short-lived. It cost £50.00/€57.15 each time. To replace it now would cost £70.00/€80.00. Effectively renting a watch for that price each year seems daft so we are looking for a better alternative. I have a Garmin which is great and has now done 3 years but is too un-ladylike for Pauline. Garmin software is really pleasing to use so I need to find another Garmin if I can.

Old Angmering – the hill down to the village.

We set off for our walk at mid day. In lovely sunshine, we walked down in to the village, down the 19th century, raised pavement. The walk takes about 10 mins from our house.

The bustling Angmering Centre

Everywhere looked and sounded delightful. The skies were more blue; the birdsong was more audible; the gardens were more colourful and cared for; the roads were almost empty. We have to savour all the benefits of this time while hoping that it ends and doesn’t return.

Ceanothus does really well down here.

There are some plants and herbaceous bushes that do particularly well down here in the warmth and additional sunshine of the south coast. Blue is quite a rare colour to find in plants and the Ceanothus provides it in profusion. It does so well here. This example was flowering strongly on the outside of a garden that we passed on our walk today. “Ceonothus” comes from a Greek word meaning “spiny plant” – keanōthos – although the genus is native to North America.

Monday, 27th April, 2020

Today is the 12th anniversary of the death of my Mother. She was born in 1923 and would have been 97 this August. She died at the end of April 2008. Her maiden name was Coghlan.

Her father was James Joseph Jeremiah Coghlan and there are no prizes for guessing his Irish, Catholic origins. The surname Coghlan was first found in Munster in the Middle Ages and its origin appears to be in the Gaelic metonymic for a Priest or Monk as Cochlan, Cochal – a hooded cloak, a Cowl-wearer. Members of the Coghlan family were, unsurprisingly, Catholic clergy. Grandad Coghlan was born in Brighton – just down the road from where I now live – in to absolute poverty but he was an industrious man who trained as a French Polisher, was a natural salesman (of furniture) and taught himself about both the value and restoration of antiques.

He bought and sold many houses in his time and moved from his birth in a shanty shack in Brighton where he dived from the pier for pennies thrown over the side and ran behind the roast beef cart for a bread and dripping treat in the street to a life of relative affluence in the then leafy streets of bourgeoise Croydon.

I know Mum’s Irish origins were something of an embarrassment to her. We easily forget the way English society viewed Irish immigrants right up to the 1960s. Here the apocryphal signs are said to have appeared in the windows of properties for rent. Even if this is shown to be more myth than fact, it does illustrate the way in which all waves of immigration – Jews, Irish, Caribbean, post Colonial Indian sub-continent, were first received with huge suspicion until being accepted and subsumed. However, I know that Mum found some social rejection in her Convent school and Training College leading to the need to assert her status by overstating it. It led to a mild snobbery that many of us inherited.

Mum – circa 1925

I go back to her graveside every year to pay my respects. I feature her every year in my Blog to maintain the memory. I like to post a photograph from my collection but, this year, I have no new ones and I am grateful to Jane for the above. Jane tells me that Mum vividly remembers the bear she is holding being torn from her grasp and sent to be incinerated because it could be carrying disease. One of the stories from her past that Mum recounted and which clearly left a huge impression on her was contracting Tuberculosis at a very young age. If I remember rightly, she was confined in a sanitorium for the best part of a year. At the time, no one knew that tuberculosis spread through the air via microscopic droplets and that sneezing or coughing transported a bacterium capable of attacking the lungs of those who inhaled it. (Does that remind you of anything?)

TB sanitorium – Harefield, London – 1920s

One of the ‘cures’ was considered to be fresh air and Mum told of spending days and nights on her bed outside on the balcony as in the picture above. Whether she was exaggerating or not, she told of bats hanging from the rails at the foot of her bed at night time. What ever, she survived the experience and never showed any signs of the effects in her future health.

Tuesday, 28th April, 2020

We woke to the expected rain. It was beautiful, refreshing and welcome. We were going to Sainsbury’s superstore which has a huge, underground carpark with stairs/escalator up to the store which incorporates Specsavers, Lloyds Chemists, Timpsons, EE Mobile phone shop and Argos. We only needed a specific list of items so Pauline decided she would do it all herself. I was her driver and as then instructed to walk briskly around the carpark so I could do a proportion of my daily exercise in the dry.

We definitely fit in to the group known as Worried Well. We try not to focus on illness but we do concentrate on fitness and wellness. We exercise every day. We monitor our weight. We test our blood pressure regularly. I test my INR every week. I have regular Type 2 Diabetes checks which I always attend and always take any medication prescribed.

At the age of 69, we are moving towards the most susceptible group in terms of the virus pandemic. We have been taking that reasonably seriously without allowing it to dominate our lives. We go out to shop when we want. We go out to exercise when we want. We bought a stock of face masks which we wear. We bought a huge stock of surgical gloves which we wear. the two main, measurable indicators of covid-19 are raised temperature and reduced oxygen saturation. We bought an up to date digital thermometer and, yesterday, we ordered a fingertip oximeter. It arrived today and we tested our oxygen levels. They were perfect.

Refreshed by Rain

We went out for our walk and were amazed to find how much fresher the countryside looked after the morning’s rain. Vibrant, green, growing explosively and totally oblivious to the world’s sickness. Everywhere was glorious and quiet apart from the wonderful accompaniment of birdsong.

Wednesday, 29th April, 2020

A pleasant and bright start to the day for lots of reasons. We were up at 6.00 am and the sky was bright although it looked as if it had rained over night. This morning, the Nat.West Black Account Insurance phone lines open at 8.00 am and we intend to be their first customer. This morning, we should have been loading our suitcases into a taxi and setting off for Gatwick Airport. We were going to the Gatwick Sofitel Hotel today (They have already refunded our payment of £140.00/€160.30.) and then flying early morning on Easyjet to Tenerife South–Reina Sofía Airport and then on to our villa for the month of May.

We booked and paid for the whole thing long before the pandemic was observed. The flights cost £640.00/€733.00 and although Easyjet had cancelled them some time ago, they make it incredibly difficult to seek a refund. They try to force their customers through a credit/voucher scheme rather than fulfil their legal obligations. It isn’t possible to get anywhere on the phone. The website sends one round in a spiral of despair in the search for anything other than what they want to concede. Fortunately, after hours of searching, I found and saved the link to Refund Request Form and put in our claim. We don’t have the cash in our Bank Account yet but we are confident of receiving it and we have our Insurance Policy + Mastercard to underwrite that.

HomeAway are a different case entirely. A lot depends on the individual property owner although initial deposits are held centrally. We were able to cancel our month in Tenerife in November after only having paid the deposit of £1,800.00/€2,060.00 which was immediately returned to us by the company. However, our May villa has gone long past the cancellation stage and we have paid £4,300.00/€4,917.00 and the owner has a ‘No refunds’ policy published. This morning, Pauline had the patience to sit at the phone for about 40 mins before getting through to our Black Account advisor who was completely reassuring of paying out our claim and guiding us through the claim process. Very satisfying! We will resolve that in the next couple of days.

I reported having bought and despatched a pack of dried yeast sachets to Mandy, Pauline’s niece, so she could make pizzas.She turned it into a competion for her family of husband and three sons.

Complete gang of hooligans!
Their quite impressive creations.

Mandy sent us the results last night and they look almost edible. The girl is James, by the way.

Thursday, 30th April, 2020

We are exercising every day but eating and drinking too much. We are putting on weight so tomorrow, the first day of a new month, has been chosen to become more strict on ourselves. Out goes alcohol again and food intake will be more rigorously controlled. We have to do it! Pauline decided to finish on a high by making a cake.

She never makes cakes and we never eat cakes …. but today we will. Tomorrow we will address the problem.

When we ordered fish the other day, they couldn’t source fresh swordfish only tuna which has proved to be absolutely wonderful. Today, we received a phone call to tell us a 2.5 kg joint of fresh swordfish would be delivered this morning.

The quality is wonderful. The weight is 2.5 kg and the price is £49.90/€57.50. It produced nine, large steaks. Griddled with salad, it will be wonderful. It is lovely to know that we have a long term stockist for wet fish.

We still managed to go out for our walk – about 70 mins today. The local area is looking lovely.

Angmering in Bloom

There is a committed and enthusiastic group of retirees who form the Angmering in Bloom team. They work hard and produce simple but effective views. It certainly makes walking round the village enjoyable.

Friday, 1st May, 2020

Happy New Month

The first day of May, 2020 should have seen us waking up for our first morning of 28 in the sunshine of our southern Tenerife villa and leaping into the pool for a swim before breakfast. Instead, we were up at 6.00 am and out before 7.00 am on a bright morning but chilled by stiff breeze as we set off for the Tesco Superstore.

Today, we decided that Pauline would go in clad in surgical mask and gloves while I walked round and round the huge carpark like some demented hamster. As I did so, the queue to enter the shop steadily grew until, by the time it opened, it was more than 100 strong and it only inched its way into the store on a one-in-one-out basis. The carpark perimeter walk was almost exactly 1,000 paces and I was half way round my 10th lap as Pauline re-emerged.

After our short drive home, I found that I had received an invoice from the villa owner in Tenerife which itemised a sum of money he had sent back to me, a sum of money which the HomeAway company was sending to me and the precise amounts which the insurance company will pay back to me. For the first time, I am completely confident that I will get all the outlay back. The only thing I expect to have to wait for is the Easyjet refund. This is rumoured to be something between 4 – 6 months potentially. If Easyjet go under because of the massively reduced demand for air travel, we will go back to our insurers and claim from them. At least we are in the extremely fortunate position of not being desperate for the cash even if we are desperate to get it back.

Nil Desperandum! In a sunny back garden this afternoon, we griddled steaks from the newly delivered swordfish and the quality was unrivalled. Sometimes, it is important to focus on what one has rather than what one hasn’t. Somebody has just told me it’s Friday. Friday night used to be Chinese takeaway night. Haven’t had one for well over a decade and I wouldn’t go back to all that monosodium glutamate but I can recall the pleasure of the experience.

Saturday, 2nd May, 2020

Beautiful day of sunshine, blue sky and gentle warmth but enough of that. I must tell you about my balls.

High Energy Balls.

Yesterday we started a month – maybe two … three of dietary restrictions. No alcohol and less food basically. Currently, it wouldn’t be easy to do more physical exercise so it is calories in that we need to reduce. However, there will always be times when we crash and crave so Pauline makes High Energy Balls to be kept in the fridge for just those moments.

They consist of Dates, Dried Apricots, Dried Apples, Sultanas, Almonds, Rolled Oats, Lemon Zest, Vanilla , Cinnamon and Honey. The whole mixture is roughly chopped, formed in to balls and wrapped in Desiccated Coconut and then left to chill in the fridge. Of course, we have to be careful about our trips to the fridge because the whole thing could be counterproductive but we treat it as emergency rations and exercise self-control.

A gardening day today in this beautiful weather. The tree which I grew from a seed pod gathered in Tenerife two years ago is venturing out into the fresh air and sunshine for the first time in its life. We are preparing it to be planted out to enjoy its summer before the Autumn chill ends its life. It is a native of Africa after all.

Stages 1, 2 & 3 – Seed Pods, Seedlings, Potted On.
Stage 4 – Growing into its looks.
After 18 months it is 6 ft tall and desperate for freedom – like all teenagers.

It has been quite fun looking after it for all this time but we knew it wouldn’t sustain once it grew too big for the kitchen. It will be planted out in the next couple of weeks and will then fend for itself.

Week 591

Sunday, 19th April, 2020

Gorgeous, hot and sunny day – 22C/70F – and delicious. The seedlings in our conservatory windows – basil, tomatoes, peppers, salad leaves, etc., are growing apace. This morning, I’ve been pressure washing all the large, clay pots from last year in readiness for potting everything up. We have managed to recycle the geraniums from last year. The Winter was so mild that they were screaming, “Save me! Save me!” even before the lock-down. Now, it is a necessity.

That Geranium seems a little out of focus!

Soon I will be potting up cherry tomato and bell pepper plants because we expect the main part of our summer to be spent at home which will be an unusual chance to see them through to fruition.

The figs are more than vigorous!

We planted out fig twigs which were single strand and less than 24″/60cm behind the garage in a warm and sheltered spot. Three years later, they are vigorous, multi-branched bushes at a height of 100″/250cm and already presenting lots of fruit for the coming summer. We know from last year that the fruit is extremely sweet and has a wonderful flavour.

Monday, 20th April, 2020

For years we have been paying plenty of cash each month for a private account with our bank. Banking has never been ‘free’. The reason we have been prepared to do it has been for the individual service and extra but peripheral benefits. From ‘free’ overdrafts to Airport Lounge Membership and Mobile Phone Insurance, we generally thought it worth the price on balance.

We have always used their Travel Insurance but never had to claim. It has been important to our confidence particularly when we were away in Greece for 180 days at a time.

The ‘Benefits’ of the peripheral cover.

Suddenly, never has this service been more important. Consulting the website, the travel Advice is absolutely wonderful. It all is predicated on bookings made before March 18th and on FCO advising against all but essential travel within 28 days of travelling. If those conditions are fulfilled, we can claim a full refund. We booked every element of our times away this year before March 18th so we are going to claim every euro back and reassess when travel becomes comfortable.

We are still holding out the hope that we can fly to Athens in late August and go to our favourite hotel. Our commitment there is around £2,000.00/€2,900.00 but our insurers say we can leave that right up until the day of travel and beyond. NatWest assure us that there is no time limit to register your claim. I’ve always spoken highly of them!

Tuesday, 21st April, 2020

Glorious, glorious day which started at 6.00 am. We were out at 7.00 to Sainsburys and, having secured skimmed milk, fresh sweetcorn and fish loins – haddock & cod plus a couple of tuna steaks, we were home long before 8.00 am. We eat tuna and swordfish steaks griddled outside in the garden at least twice a week. Our fish monger on the beach has been closed for 3 weeks and we have run out of supplies. Although we have managed to buy some tiny, pre-packaged steaks today, I have made a real breakthrough. A local supplier of wet fish to hotels and restaurants appeared to be still trading

Our new, local fish supplier.

Speculatively, I emailed them and asked if the current crisis had led to a change of business model and if they would now be delivering to home customers. I was contacted by return and offered ‘free delivery’ to our house of 3 kg joint of fresh yellow fin tuna at a cost of £59.25/€67.50 and a 3 kg joint of fresh swordfish at a cost of £74.85/€85.25. It will be delivered, packed in ice, on Friday morning. Joy of joys!

Deserted beaches of Sifnos destined to remain deserted this year.

The Business Insider website reports that

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the Greek tourism sector hard with 65% of hoteliers saying they could face bankruptcy.

The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels found that 65% of Greek hoteliers said that bankruptcy of their business is either “likely” or “most likely.” They said, “We obviously believe it’s a year that, touristically, will be lost.” The really big question for me is, Will it all come back and will it be in the numbers of the past? I have a feeling that this experience will change people’s view of travelling and that could seriously impact tourism for years to come.

Wednesday, 22nd April, 2020

Another wonderful day of hot sunshine and 24C/75F, we stayed at home doing jobs. I have been doing some gardening including weed killing lawns. Pauline has been hedge trimming. I’ve also cleaned the car. All these exciting jobs I was longing to do. This wonderful weather is set to continue for a while yet. I’ve given the lawns a long and sustained watering today because there is no rain in sight for the near future down here. In Greece, by contrast, the press is reporting April weather of Snow and rainfalls, powerful wind and Saharan dust.

Greek April Holidays?

Any of those keen to get travelling again soon, sources in our government are suggesting that lockdown for older people may have to continue until the new year. Certainly, the E.U. is saying that air travel will be governed by social distancing both in airports and on airplanes with the middle seats being kept free although it is hard to see how much good that will do.

Thursday, 23rd April, 2020

Mid-Summer continues in mid-April. Today was wall-to-wall sunshine with temperatures peaking at 24C/75F. We were up at 6.00 am to go shopping at Tesco. Home by 8.30 am via Asda with shopping to get us through until the middle of next week. We do this on Thursday and Tuesday, Tesco & Sainsbury. We are scrupulous in our hygiene. We arrive early and are either first or in the first few. We wear masks and gloves. We use our phones to scan and pay for our goods. We clean everything minutely as we finish.

We are good at hunter-gatherer techniques. Our neighbours needed flour. We sourced and bought flour for them. Pauline’s sister wanted flower seeds to try out through the summer. We found them and sent them to her in the post. Pauline’s niece said she couldn’t get yeast to make a pizza. We sourced dried yeast in Tesco today and put it in the post to her immediately. It all adds to the fun.

When we got home, I cut the lawns. I cut the grass verges throughout our road. I fed and watered after that. They are looking pleasingly healthy after such a difficult winter. Shiny, green and striped. Even the die-back has been filled in with healthy grass.

Feeding & Weeding

The big moment of the day was the delivery of a spray bar fitment for my watering can. Unlike the normal rose attachment, this provides a bar with small perforations which make weed filler application simple and economical. It arrived by post today and, tomorrow, I will be able to weed treat the grass verges up and down my road.

Friday, 24th April, 2020

I shall miss these wonderful days when they end. The sunshine I mean not the lock down. I cannot imagine what it would be like to spend it in a flat without a garden or just to spend it on one’s own. Pauline and I motivate each other during the day from springing out of bed shortly after 6.00 am to turning out the lights shortly before midnight. This morning we couldn’t go out because we were expecting a delivery. A large joint of Tuna and of Swordfish from a local supplier.

Browns – our new best friends.

When the van arrived and dropped off a 2.6 kg joint of Tuna packed in ice, we were told that they couldn’t source the swordfish this week but would try again next. The price of the fish came to £49.27/€56.30 which we were able to phone through on Mastercard so the whole process was easy. Lovely people and lovely service!

While we were waiting, Pauline was making a batch of vegetable soup and I was downloading the travel insurance claim form and collecting up the necessary evidence to retrieve all the cash for our May holiday. Each morning I take the covers off the garden furniture but, in spite of the glorious sunshine, we hardly allow ourselves much time to relax and enjoy it. Relaxing is for old people. We have to keep motivated and active and, at 11.30 am, we walked down to the village – about 25 mins – to collect Pauline’s prescription. The queue outside was only 5 people and it only took 10 mins to start walking home. This is the new normal.

Our beautiful village.

Back home, we had a bowl of home made soup and then potted up some seedlings of cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and basil. Out for a walk around the area for about an hour and then home to griddle fresh tuna steaks in the garden and to eat them with salad. Absolutely wonderful. Apparently it’s Friday today. Haven’t had that feeling since March, 2009.

Saturday, 25th April, 2020

Shock as the morning opened overcast. Shock over as the sun broke through by 7.30 am and the day got going. We have decided to stay at home today and leave our exercise target unfulfilled for the first time in three weeks.

Staying at home allowed me to have my haircut. This is a tried and tested routine which has been going on for over 40 years. Pauline is brilliant at it and, even more importantly, cheap. I don’t have any pretensions about my appearance. If you could see me, nor would you. Just after finishing my haircut, the door bell rang and our neighbour across the road appeared with a bag of scones which she placed on the hedge.

From our neighbours.

I’m embarrassed to tell you that we ate them immediately. We have so little self control.

We sat in the sun for an hour or so and then I vacuumed the house while Pauline steam cleaned the hard floors downstairs. Our meal on this sunny and warm day will be cold. Smoked salmon, cold, roast salmon tails with pesto topping and tail-on-prawns accompanied by homemade hummus and salad. These are pinpricks of light in our darkness.

Week 590

Sunday, 12th April, 2020

There was a beautiful sunset last night and I told Pauline to come out to the front of the house to look. She was reluctant but obedient and was rewarded with a little present and card left at the front door for us by our next door neighbours. Two crème eggs and a card had an amazing effect of raising our spirits. It is the first chocolate we’ve eaten since Christmas and was incredibly sickly. We won’t eat chocolate again for a few months.

Angmering Village

After the political programmes this morning, we set off for our walk in glorious sunshine. I have never seen so many fat dogs being forced to go on walks or stroppy kids being forced to go on family bike rides, or reluctant parents being forced to take their kids out to get fresh air and exercise an we are really getting to know our local area as we explore on foot what we normally passed in the car.

Freshly Baked Hot X Buns – one for each neighbour.

We have no religion. We abhor religion. Even tradition is something to be wary of. However, years of Greek Easter have accustomed us to eat lamb and we just couldn’t miss it this year. Interestingly, we could only get New Zealand lamb legs in Tesco. Where is all the Welsh lamb going? We don’t eat bread and cakes but Pauline loves making them. Today she indulged herself and made a batch of wonderful, hot-cross-buns. She bagged them up and I delivered them to our neighbours. On each door I rang the bell, put the bags of buns on the step and walked away. What a strange world!

Monday, 13th April, 2020

I really do not read or watch fiction. The main caveat to that over the years has been reading fiction written at a particular time in history to inform other research into that period. I genuinely struggle to escape from reality and to suspend my scepticism. The circumstances surrounding this pandemic have changed many people’s view of many things. I have managed to reconnect with music although I am still having to force myself to remember that. The lack of sport on television has created quite a vacuum and, yesterday, I even found myself tensely watching a replay of the Cricket World Cup last year. I knew the result. Everyone did but I still found myself getting nervous in that final over.

However, political reporting, exposition and analysis are so dominated by Covid-19, we have had to resort to looking for FILMS and DRAMAS to fill the gaps and relieve the tension. Quite by chance, I found a series that was first shown in 2014 while we were in Greece but is available for download. Many of you will probably know of it already.

The Missing – series 1 involves the snatching of a young child from the father’s care while on holiday in France with his wife. It has echoes of the Madeleine McCann saga. It featured James Nesbitt, who I knew of, and an interesting man called Tchéky Karyo I’ve never heard of. He plays a grizzly but thoughtful, retired French detective called Julien Baptiste. This detective links Series 1 & 2.

The second series is centred around young women imprisoned by lone man for long period rather as we have seen in Belgium and America over recent years. It features David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes both of whom I have already heard.

Elements of these two series – amounting to 16 hours of drama in total, are interesting, thought provoking and the French detective, Baptiste, is an unusually rounded and sympathetic character but, in both storylines, we were both left feeling strangely unconvinced. Having fought to get to grips with the narratives throughout, the denouement in each case was a step too far. This leaves one feeling short changed and questioning why one bothered to invest one’s time in them.

Going out in the real world now for a 90 mins walk. Decidedly chillier this morning. At 1.00 pm, it is sunny but windy and reading only 12C/53F which is almost half yesterday. I’m debating the possibility of shorts and tee shirt or warmer coverup. We Derbyshire men can’t show weakness!

Tuesday, 14th April, 2020

A lovely day of warm sunshine and blue skies. Our neighbour is desperate for self raising flour. This morning, we tried to help her get some by rising early and driving to Asda at 7.00 am for an 8.00 am opening. We were 3rd in the queue which stretched all round the car park and into the next door Garden Centre by the time we got in. They were lucky it was dry and sunny. As soon as we were let in we knew they didn’t have any flour of any sort at all. We bought a few other things on our list and left. As we walked out of the store 20 mins later, we realised that the queue had disappeared completely. Two lessons learned there.

Catherine gave us these Cyclamen almost 4 years ago.

When we got home, I found I had received a voucher from Eurotunnel for £150.00/€173.00 to replace the travel we should have been using this morning. We had booked a hotel for a few days in France. We received the money back for that almost immediately I cancelled but a voucher for Eurotunnel which will be valid for 2 years will definitely equal money in the bank which we’re bound to spend …. if we live.

The woodland path on the perimeter of our Development

Our walk today was on the woodland path at the perimeter of our development. It is where the ‘Fat Rabbit’ lives and who could blame it. The path is set in the most idyllic woodland situation.

Back home. I cooked our meal to give Pauline a rest. She was baking bread in the meantime. I cooked strips of roast chicken thigh in tarragon & garlic with green pepper, onion and mushroom. I have to say it was delicious.

Wednesday, 15th April, 2020

Already mid-April. My life is running away in this lunacy. Up at 6.00 am to the most beautiful day. After juice, we drove to Worthing multi-story carpark. We were going to Wilko for garden products. They open at 8.00 am. When we got there, there was a queue of 5 or six people spaced out in a line, basking in the town centre sunshine.

Where better to self-isolate?

Wherever we go in a social situation, we are dressed in face mask and surgical gloves. It feels weird but necessary. We were in the store in minutes and I was buying lawn weed & feed, plant food and packs of seeds. We are sending some flower seeds to P&C who will be social isolating for the next 5 years at their advanced age. We thought we might give them an interesting project for the summer. We went on to Waitrose to buy things we had been struggling with like fresh corn-on-the-cob.

We drove home slowly but couldn’t resist a walk on the beach. It looked deserted, sharp and beautiful. The air is sweet and the sound of the sea is soothing. At home we have a ritual of disinfecting handles and doorknobs, mobile phones, etc.. We wash our hands in anti-virus gel after unpacking our shopping. The big worry about this routine is how quickly we are feeling it is normal. It is quite ridiculous.

Fancy a swim?

After coffee, I water all our salad seedlings. Tomatoes and Peppers are doing well now. My tree grown for a Canarian seed is now around 5ft tall and really ready to go out but it will have to wait for another month to avoid all risk of frost. We went out for a couple of hours walk in the countryside before coming home for a meal of smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, prawns and salad. Lovely day again.

Thursday, 16th April, 2020

Up at 6.00 am and out at 7.00 am for the short drive to Tesco. Suited and booted in surgical gloves and masks, we lined up behind two others in the lovely sunshine. My task was to go straight down to the Home Baking aisle to get flour. Miraculously, there was flour. The shelf said we were limited to 3 items per customer. I put 3 x 1.5 kg bags of self raining flour in my bag and took 3 x 1.5 kg of strong bread flour to put in Pauline’s bag. I had a list to complete and so did Pauline. We managed most of it and then went, individually, to pay. As supermarkets control purchase proportions and the force couples to shop separately, the increase the number of shoppers and double the amount households will buy.

As soon as we got home, our next door neighbour received 2 bags of self raising flour which she hasn’t been able to get for over a fortnight. She is a keen cakemaker and has been frustrated at not being able to make any since the lockdown. Pauline calculates that she now has enough bread flour to get her through until October. Life in UK is reasonably serene for us although not for the poor, the newly poor and those on the margins of society.

On the margins of economic society, Greece is being hit hard. The I.M.F. forecasts a nightmarish deep recession for Greece in 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. They expect the Greek economy to shrink by 10% of GDP and unemployment to jump to 22.3%. They are still in lockdown and the staple of their economy, the tourist industry, will remain there for some time to come. Imagine inviting visitors from around the infected world back into your country after you have done your best to keep it infection free.

Now is the time to take the Syndagma Metro.

Of course the coming weekend is Greek Easter and, usually, Greeks leave the cities to go back to islands to celebrate with their families. Not this year. Nobody is allowed to take the risk of delivering infection back to the islands.

Snow in Florina, Northern Greece today.

While we are basking in the sunshine and we have been for a couple of hour’s walk and I’ve mowed and fed the lawns including those for neighbours all around, Greece was experiencing something less seasonal.

Friday, 17th April, 2020

In bed last night at around 1.00 am, I heard the fairies drumming across our roof in their hobnail boots as torrential rain crossed the south coast. I was immediately reminded of the joy we felt when the same noise, rather amplified, woke us in Greece as the first rains of the Autumn washed our flat, Cycladic roofs. It disappeared as soon as it arrived but left a world freshly washed as we awoke this morning. At 6.00 am, the world was bright, green and renewed.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Just as we were going out for our walk at about 11.00 am, it began to rain again. After 10 mins, we decided to give it up as a bad job and go home. We have only missed our targets on 6 days in the past two months so I won’t feel too bad about today.

I have taken advantage of the weather by continuing the progress of claiming money back from firms we have booked with and paid for future travel/accommodation. All those represented above have paid us back with the exception of Eurotunnel who are holding our crossing tickets for a maximum 24 months. We are confident of using them before then. Easyjet were trying to avoid refunds by offering vouchers for future travel but we held fire and today it was announced that they would be paying full refunds. This is good news because we have 4 flights booked with them this year at a cost of £1,300.00/€1,500.00. Initially, we are only reclaiming cancelled flights for May. We are really hoping that Athens at the end of August will go ahead.

Today, the car will remain in the garage and not be taken out until Tuesday. Although we’ve visited plenty of places, I haven’t filled up with fuel for 4 weeks. The price of Unleaded seems to have been reduced by £0.15/€0.17 per litre in that time. I want to buy cheap petrol!

LATE NEWS – By 5.00 pm, the rain stopped; the skies cleared and sun began to shine weakly across the land. We went out and did our walk as quickly as we could. I was shattered by the end of it. Over all, we haven’t done too badly over the past month of ‘lock down’. I have only missed my target on 4 occasions and I’m still averaging 6 miles/ 9.7 kilometres walking each day for a month. I really need these sorts of targets to motivate me.

Saturday, 18th April, 2020

Feels like we are sleep walking through the month of April – busy doing nothing. Well not exactly nothing but certainly not what we expected to be doing. We should have been driving back from a week in France today. Instead, we were re-arranging travel for the month of May in Tenerife. We’ve already been repaid for the month of November but this one is a bit more tricky.

Travel Journalist, Simon Calder – online video podcast.

Every day for the past week or so, the travel journalist, Simon Calder, has been addressing the crisis/dilemmas in the travel industry caused by the pandemic. It is broadcast by The Independent newspaper and has proved useful in pursuing our commitments. Until yesterday, the Easyjet website was making it almost impossible to reclaim payments for flights. This position is not a legal one. Their answer, was to make everyone phone and wait for hours to get a refund. Yesterday, Calder found a route through this. I followed that route and claimed my full refund.

Angmering Village

Assuming our trip to Athens goes ahead in late August, we have sorted everything out apart from a villa in Tenerife booked for the month of May. The owner is offering us a credit to rebook at any time and that appears to be the best resolution for all concerned. We will check with our insurers on Monday. It is €5,000.00 that we had already spent and which we can use as soon as the ‘lock down’ is opened.

Lovely walk around our village today although the sky was fairly heavy and the atmosphere was rather humid. The backdrop to our walk was a symphony of birdsong punctuated by the drumming of a woodpecker which resonated all along the road. We walked for about 80 mins and came home to slow roast chicken with root vegetables and sage & onion stuffing. Absolutely wonderful! Life, even in lockdown, can be so good.

Week 589

Sunday, 5th April, 2020

My last day being 68 years old. I am imminently rising 69. It could be worse, of course, but not a lot. As you will notice, I have hardly changed over the years:

Me: Aged 9

Mum loved curly hair and so did all the old ladies in the village who cooed over me. I always wanted straight hair.

You can’t beat this hairstyle at College aged 19.

I needed a wife so had to improve my appearance temporarily. Not sure about the 1970s pornstar glasses but, otherwise, I’m gorgeous!

Aged 29 in Zakynthos

Too busy and too fat for photographs for many years. I next felt it was important to record my image soon after I retired aged 59.

Retired Old Man aged 59.

At least today has been one of those wonderful and optimistic preparations for the future. Today, in scorching sunshine, we sowed 4 different types of salad greens, cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers. We trimmed up, fed and watered our herb pots to face another summer of harvesting. We are trusting in Nature to see us through. What else is there?

Monday, 6th April, 2020

We are 69. I have received Birthday wishes from many people and most of my thousands of brothers and sisters via text, email, Facebook and a card from my favourite, wrinkly sister, Ruth. She is so old she understands me perfectly.

From Ruth

Ruth, of course, is much older than me but I love her all the same. She seems to have the idea that I like red wine and that I am tempted not to stay at home. Of course, she is absolutely right in both instances. We will go back to our diet and exercise regime tomorrow.

Flowering Bay Tree

Today we have been sowing two different types of Basil in pots to grow indoors. I do the donkey work and Pauline sows the seeds because she is delicate. Our Bay Tree is flowering in this beautiful sunshine. I’ve never noticed how beautiful these small clusters of primrose yellow flowers are. We have sat outside in the warm sunshine with a bottle of iced Sauvignon Blanc and thought through our future travel strategy for European travel. The only thing about being 69 is that being 70 would/will be worse

Tuesday, 7th April, 2020

Another bitterly wonderful day with hot sunshine – 18C/65F – which drove us to spend so much time outside. First, however, we spent time speaking to Eurotunnel / LeShuttle about a booking coming up. We have accepted vouchers in lieu of cash refund. We could have spent another 3 or 4 hours on the phone arguing about a refund but life is/could be too short. We have cash-equivalent vouchers valid for 24 months. We will certainly be using them within that time so it is money in the bank.

Outside in the sunshine, Pauline trimmed up the hedges while I weeded and fed the roadside grass borders for us and our neighbours. We reseeded an area of the front lawn that had faded and thinned over winter. By the time we had finished, the exercise, fresh air and hot sunshine had tired us out. Pauline had made pea soup for lunch and then we went out for our walk.

Nature Bursting with Life!

Under this gorgeous sky, nature was bursting with optimism in its normally, chaotic way. There was no stopping it We passed a couple of people as we walked and they immediately stepped away to let us pass at a safe distance. We live in the purview of Arun District Council.

I think we win but, embarrassingly, in the conformity stakes. This is not a badge I wear comfortably.

Wednesday, 8th April, 2020

In Covid-19 lock down, people worry about getting supplies of food and other supermarket products but it takes an incident that is not foreseen to really make one think. For example, a couple of days ago, while unstacking the dishwasher, I ‘broke’ it. I’m not subtle in my actions. Something happened when I pulled out the bottom tray/basket and ‘pieces’ fell in to the bottom of the washer. Instinctively, I looked in and then away with horror. Surely I imagined it? Who could manage without a dishwasher?

Fortunately, I have a resident mechanic/electrician/builder/decorator and, after she had finished beating me for being so clumsy, she simply clipped the parts back in and walked away with a grin.

What this did lead to, however, is consideration of all those absolutely essential services one might have problems with and find difficult to have restored under current conditions. A friend of mine lost his Sky reception and believes the LNB has failed. This really does require a ‘little man’ to replace it and set up a new one. Can you imagine being without TV/Radio reception at this time ?

Over the past week, at Boot Up, my Desktop PC has been holding up at this error message. Having suffered a chip overheat and burn out long ago, I was suddenly faced with the prospect again. Pressing F1 does proceed Startup smoothly and, as time has gone on, I have come to believe that this is a BIOS error rather than a physical fan error. Thre is no sign of overheating. I am a computer user not an expert mechanic. Updating the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) looks fraught with difficulties. Could I cope without a Desktop PC? Probably in the short term but I wouldn’t want to. Where to buy a replacement in extremis? Relief, Curry’s/PC World is still open on-line and delivering to homes. …… and breathe (hopefully).

Thursday, 9th April, 2020

What a wonderful day! It started at 6.00 am for us as we got up and drove to Tesco. We were there for 7.00 am and in for 8.00 am. They had everything we wanted and we were out in just over 30 mins.. By the time we got out, the queue was too long to view the end. The only consolation for all of them was the wonderful sunshine to stand in. We drove home for coffee in the garden where the temperature steadily rose to 24C/75F. It is only 14C/57F on Sifnos today. Know where I’d rather be. We have just been acknowledging that we would be setting off for our house around now in the past but failing to get there. It could have been left unattended for two years. What a waste!

Talking about waste. We didn’t get much post today but we did get this:

Apparently, it cost more than £5 million to print and distribute. You have to ask yourself WHY? It says nothing that hasn’t been repeated ad nauseam across all forms of media. The one thing that stood out for me was this chart below.

I have a Masters Degree in research and, I have to admit to struggling to make sense of this. I think of the kids I taught over the past 40 years who are now parents and ask myself if they would understand the message here. I have to say, I doubt. There again, it may just me being dim.

Friday, 10th April, 2020

Up early on another beautiful morning. It is 20C/68F by 10.00 am. All my seedlings are loving it. I am going to celebrate the weather by raking the main lawn. Gone are the days when I have to use a manual lawn rake. I have a wonderful, electric one nowadays. It is so easy to use that I am encouraged to do it more often than I otherwise would.

Across the media one question dominates and it is when this lockdown will end and when it will be safe to follow normal social movement including travel. The answer will vary across the world and across Europe but what we can be sure of is that this year’s Summer tourist season will not proceed. It is dead. European economies that depend on tourism and small businesses may suffer the most. No country in the eurozone is more dependent on tourism than Greece and it is a nation of small businesses, which typically do not have many resources to weather hard times.

Cleansing Athens of Tourists

At the start of this year it seemed as if Greece might have turned a corner. After a downturn that lasted longer than America’s Great Depression, its economy was growing again. Market capitalisation at the Athens Stock Exchange rose by 47% in 2019, the sharpest increase in the world. Tourism was booming, consumers were spending and Greek banks were reducing their burden of non-performing loans. Greece’s attempts to recover from its long economic crisis are now being threatened by the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to deliver a heavy blow to the country’s tourism revenues.

It will be the longer term effect on people’s confidence in flying, in traveling to countries with less well equipped medical facilities, in the virus mutating and resurging in changed form and in the fear of trusting bookings which are suddenly cancelled without recompense that will undercut the tourist industry. Greece needs to diversify rapidly.

Saturday, 11th April, 2020

Gorgeous sunshine. Clear, blue skies. Warm temperatures. Give me lock-down any day if it’s like this. Birds are singing; rabbits running; bees are buzzing and grass is growing. Life goes ahead at pace ….. except, it doesn’t. This is no more evidence than in the world of agriculture/horticulture. In Greece, Kathimerini reports that prices for fruits and vegetables in Greece are up by 200% because of labour shortages for harvesting and packing.

Life giving Mediterranean food.

In UK, this is Easter weekend, a religious festival for the few but a gardening ritual for the many. Garden Centres could expect to be super busy. Instead, millions of plants and shrubs will be binned in the coming weeks, with garden centres and nurseries facing financial ruin amid mass closures due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Horticultural Trades Association warned a third of UK producers could go bust imminently.

My Contribution.

I would have been an enthusiastic visitor to my local Garden Centres – we have four within a mile of our house. I managed to buy potting soil and Lawn Seed before the lock down. Since, I have found that Wilko’s sell plant food, lawn weed & feed and vegetable seeds with very short queues to get in. It is hard to believe that these little things will develop into 3ft/1 metre high plants that will keep us happy all summer. Nature is fabulous!