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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.