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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.