Week 597

Sunday, 31st May, 2020

May 2020 leaves us on a high. Outside at 7.00 am we measured 17C and 28C/82F by early afternoon. This morning, I raked, fed and watered the lawns. After a morning in the sun, we dipped into the cool shade of our wooded walk to get some exercise.

Back home, we cooked Sea Bass on the griddle using our new, non-stick sheeting. It worked perfectly. Sea Bass on the bone is absolutely delicious. We ate it with home grown mixed salad leaves and squeezes of fresh lemon.

We have almost come to a conclusion about a building in the back garden. It will be a three part structure which has a ‘garden shed’ at one end to store the mower, lawnraker and strimmer out of the garage. The middle section will be a cooking area with cupboards and work surface carrying griddle, deep fat fryer, hob + barbecue and/or/ pizza oven. The last section will house gym equipment – Treadmill, Lumbar Bike, Weights + Television. With hard standing and lawn repair, we reckon it will cost us about £25,00o.00/€28,000.00 but, over 10 years of life, that will be peanuts. We’d pay around £20,000.00/€22,300.00 just for Gym membership.

Monday, 1st June, 2020

The Summer just continues. We are 17C/63F over night and 26C/79F by mid day and 28C/82F by 3.00 pm. It genuinely feels Mediterranean. It feels like we are permanently on holiday. We have to push ourselves to do jobs. Just the mundanity of everyday life feels like it is intruding into Utopia.

I had to put the bins out this morning – all three of them. I unstacked the dishwasher while the sun blazed in to the kitchen. I was told I had to have my haircut and was pinned in a chair and covered by a barber’s cape while my wife performed the honours. These things have to be done but are resented as the sun beats down.

I’ve been staking my pepper plants this morning I’ve got about 10. – and inspecting the tomatoes – I’ve got about a dozen. – all of which I’ve grown from seed because I wasn’t sure the garden centres would re-open in time. We have allowed ourselves an hour or so sitting outside in the sunshine and now we will set off for our walk. Got to keep up standards whatever the weather.

One gorgeous foot!

About 18 months ago, I damaged my foot in Tenerife. We were in a villa in Adeje and I wanted to see the international space station go overhead. I turned all the lights off outside including those round the pool. I looked up in the sky, spotted the space station and turned and shouted to Pauline…. and fell into the pool, dragging my foot over the tiled edge. The pool cover was on and I hit it with a crash which sounded like the space station had fallen to earth. As I fell, I dragged my foot heavily down the edge of the pool. It swelled up like a balloon and then went a fiery purple. I still feel some pain from it 18 months later.

This morning I found a similar foot on Facebook. This one belongs to my sister, Catherine. I believe she got blind drunk in the garden and threw herself to the ground from a seated position. It resulted in damaged fingers and a damaged foot. Not as beautiful as mine but still has the unmistakable Sanders nobility about it.

Is Catherine washing enough?

When we were young – I mean late 20s. – Pauline & I would walk miles on Greek islands in the hot sun. We would be wearing very few clothes in the hope that we would get a good tan on our fortnight away. It was sweaty work and I usually ended up having too much sun. Fortunately, I tan very easily although I find the heat not as easy to cope with as I get older.

Our walk today reminded me of our earlier days. A blazing sun, 28C/ of heat with not a hint of breeze. An hour’s walking was enough and, instead of a bottle of Fix beer or a Sprite lemonade, we had a huge cup of Yorkshire Tea.

Pauline’s got to go back out in to the sun now to pick salad leaves and griddle swordfish steaks. It’ll be nice to spend an evening in the cool of the Lounge. I’m still enjoying the historically based, neo-noir drama series set in Berlin of the late 1920s – early 1930s during the Weimar Republic. I’ve really got in to it and I’m on the third series. Should keep me going until Sport returns.

Tuesday, 2nd June, 2020

We’ve certainly got in to a pattern of shopping and exercise which has been facilitated by the great weather. Tuesday is Sainsbury’s. It opens at 8.00 am. We leave home at 7.50 am. I drop Pauline at the door suited up with face mask and surgical gloves. I park the car and set off for a walk to the nearby town of Rustington. Before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have even considered doing anything but driving there. Now, I am still amazed each week that it only takes me 15 mins each way.

Conker World

The walk at the moment, is quite delightful. Some of the gardens and social areas that I pass are absolutely beautiful. I’ve never really noticed them before. Trees are wonderful and so varied. Some I’ve never seen before and cannot put a name to. Others, old favourites, have transitioned through their seasonal development while this period has developed. From buds opening to unfold vibrant, green leaves and the flowers which are setting with ‘fruit’ much of which is already swelling. I can’t say I’ve ever really looked at the early stages of a conker but I did today.

Our village symbol is a tree.

After getting home and having coffee, we walked down to the village to deliver an item for posting. It’s a lovely walk and we both enjoyed it but I noticed, I think for the first time, that Angmering village has a symbol of a tree as its feature. As we worked in the garden this afternoon, the temperature this afternoon reached 28C/82F for the third, consecutive day. Who needs Greece or Tenerife? Well, I’ll tell you later this week as the weather dips.

Wednesday, 3rd June, 2020

Up early on a slightly grey but very warm morning. Quick drink, masks and gloves at the ready and we drive the three minutes round the corner, just past the PYO farm to the new, Honda establishment. We can hardly believe it is time for our first, annual service. In fact, we were alerted to it by Honda themselves. We had almost forgotten that we had a car. Our mileage in the first 12 months has been 5085 miles/8,183 km. Compared with 12,000 miles/19,312 km a year that we used to do this is meagre although the Garage said it was quite substantial.

Our car outside after its first service.

Fortunately, we got 5 years ‘free’ service in our purchase agreement and everything, even the renewables like oil are in the price. The service took about 50 mins and would have cost £150.84/€170.00.

Our free first service.

In that time we walked across the road to Asda and bought some of their wonderful ‘Extra Special Fillet Steak’. We so rarely eat red meat but this is an absolute joy. It flies off the shelves so quickly that it is really difficult to find. Because we were there early, there were six steaks left and we grabbed all of them. We went for a short walk down the side of Asda and over to a small Garden Centre which was poorly stocked and clearly suffering because of the enforced closure.

Is this green manure?

Honda rang surprisingly quickly to say that the car was ready. Walking back to the garage, we passed this huge field of bright green, thin stalked plants flowering with a small, white flower at the tip. It had obviously been deliberately sown but why? I could only think it was for ploughing in as a green manure but I don’t know.

Strange feeling of being a little lost today. The sunshine, as we so often found in Greece, seems to link otherwise inconsequential sections of the day together. Nothing special to do for half an hour? Let’s just sit out in the sunshine for a while. Just like the aural wallpaper that is muzak, sunshine justifies doing nothing. It is a reason in itself. Not today. Actually, we have had about 10 mins of light rain this afternoon. The lawn is demanding more.

Thursday, 4th June, 2020

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner …

Thursday is Tesco day. Up at 6.00 am and at the store by 7.00 am. Pauline queues up – usually at second place and I go off for my walk. No 1 in the queue has been the same man for 8 weeks running. This morning, he wasn’t there. Hope the virus hasn’t got him. Probably, he’s just gone back to work. Today, Pauline was No 1. Winner!

I did a 90 mins walk around the West Durrington vicinity which is largely residential but also includes an ambulance station, an ancient religious centre and a huge park. It also had this which I noticed for the first time today.

“You’ve all done very well ….”

Actually, I felt really tired when I got back to the car at 8.30 am. Pauline hadn’t finished shopping by then. We were home for 9.00 am and the day could start.

The Beach was quiet but the roads were busy.

Today, we are going to drive down the coast to Brighton. It is about 15 miles away and means going through Shoreham Harbour which I find interesting. The sun came out but it felt a little cool – just 19C/66F with a sea breeze which made it feel fresh. Back home, we appreciated the micro climate of our back garden where the tomatoes are flowering profusely.

Friday, 5th June, 2020

A surprisingly bright start to the day and really quite warm although we never got above 22C/70F today. We did half our walk down to the Post Office in the village. The roads were still very quiet at 9.30 am. After walking back and having coffee, we thought we would go out for a short drive. Today, we chose Pagham Beach. Never been there before and it is beautiful. Only about 20 mins drive from home and an easy drive at that.

Alone on Pagham Beach.

Actually, the tide was coming in and the surface of small, loose pebbles was incredibly difficult and tiring to walk on. We just had a casual saunter to look around, smell the air and revel in the blues of sky and sea.

Beautiful Pagham Beach.

We drove home to have more coffee and do some more mundane jobs like watering pots and sowing some more salad leaves for the next succession. Now we are back on our diet, we are eating lettuce by the ton so we’re really getting through it.

Saturday, 6th June, 2020

Quite a cool and breezy start to the day with high clouds and some sunshine. We have decided to go down to the beach for a blow in a while. It is Saturday though so we need time to spend with our newspapers and emails. Heard from my friend, Brian, in Royton this morning. He’s been avoiding boredom in Lock-Down by making things to sell in his local Garden Centre. They wouldn’t be my choice but I’m sure they will appeal to many.

Made by Brian

Although kitsch doesn’t really appeal to me, I have to admire the skill shown in producing such things from scrap materials. Certainly I couldn’t. The other thing I’m impressed by is Brian’s ability to take a digital photo, down load it to his computer, attach it to an email and send it to me successfully. When he fist came to me on interview, he had never touched a computer and was terrified of them. I remember his first lesson on using a mouse. He was so scared, he moved it as if it would burn him.

Earbud Translation

I have no room to talk. I am well aware of so many weaknesses in my abilities. In spite of having a reasonable grasp of the English Language and some ability in reading/writing foreign languages, my ability and confidence in speaking another language is almost absent. Today, something arrived in my inbox that I’ve been waiting for but now could change everything.

I love gadgets a new processes. I love digital and tend to be an ‘early adopter’ for new products. For years in Greece and particularly when we were marketing our house, I was employing Google Translate to help me. Often it was laughably mis-translated particularly because Greek expression is so a flowery in its sentiment.

Certainly, although no where near perfect, Google Translate is much more accurate. I use it to translate whole websites as well as a few sentences. I have no way of knowing if the software behind this system sold by Touch of Modern – a company which sources and showcases innovatory products – is any good but I think I might have to try it out on a Greek TV programme and then on a Spanish one. What fun!

Is the Summer over?

Our trip to the beach was short and blowy. The wind off the sea reduced the temperature to a quite chilly 14C/57F. We only stayed 20 minutes then came back for hot coffee and the warmth of our kitchen.

Week 596

Sunday, 24th May, 2020

Lovely, sunny morning and 16C/61F at 8.00 am. The Government are showing all the signs of falling apart under the pressure of dealing with this pandemic which they are wholly unsuitable to do. The architect of Brexit also known as Vote Leave Svengali is the arrogant Dominic Cummings who has acted with impunity while threatening the British population with criminal sanctions.

The Prime Minister, who is well out of his depth, has relied on Cummings for the attention to strategic detail required to keep all the plates spinning. Unfortunately, Cummings lacks any real sense of a politician’s understanding of the electorate. A consequence of this has been the tendency towards favouring a ‘herd immunity’ strategy which would have been more at home in Nazi Germany or Eugenicist America than democratic UK. As a result, they have the deaths of thousands more British people on their hands than were necessary.

These are the ideas dominating this morning’s newspapers and political programmes and will almost certainly result in Cummings going soon which will expose Johnson even more. What is particularly despicable is the sight of Cabinet Ministers coming out to defend Cummings breaking laws he has been instrumental in forcing on the UK public. With Brexit negotiations going badly, life could become particularly interesting very soon.

Leather-Jacket grubs become Crane Flies

More important on the home front is the trouble with an ugly little grub commonly known as Leather-Jackets These grubs, which emerge as adult crane flies, are proliferating. Everyone around here is moving towards carpet lawns. I am suggesting they pop up to see Ruth’s in Bolton if they don’t know how it works. At the moment, I am persisting with grass although I have got some Leather-Jacket damage.

There is no longer an effective chemical treatment on the market and the only way to control them is to regularly scarify the lawn and pick up their larvae. In the past, of course, gardeners would have to be seriously fit to rake an entire lawn every week. I have got one of these manual rakes but I use it very sparingly on small areas of lawn. In previous centuries, fit, young apprentices would be given a couple of days work once a year raking all the moss and thatch from the Master’s lawn.

His Master’s Electric Lawnraker

Nowadays, there is powered help. I have a Bosch Electric Lawnraker. It takes no time at all to thoroughly rake out the front and back lawns without me passing out. however, this will be my exercise for the day. For the first time in the last couple of weeks, we are not going out for our walk.

Monday, 25th May, 2020

Another glorious morning opening up at clear blue sky, strong sun and a windless temperature of 16C/61F at 8.00 am.. Apparently it is Bank Holiday but nobody could be sure. We are going to walk up to a small, local nursery that specialises in herbs. We’re not desperate for anything but it will be a good walk with some interest at the end of it.

Dried Apple Slices

I am permanently having to think about my food intake. I had been able to enjoy good food by working hard at the gym each day. Now, with the Gym closed for the foreseeable future, I find it hard to break out of my eating regime and I’m struggling to readjust and control myself. We are still lots of walking but it is not a complete replacement for our normal routine.

I have always used bananas as a go-to snack when I am desperate. I still do although currently my palate is a little tired of them. Pauline who is ever vigilant, has bought me some packets of Dried Apple Slices. I never eat fresh apples. I don’t like them enough to want to reach for one. Dried Apple Slices, on the other hand, are something very different. I am finding them filling, energy -giving and pleasantly sweet. They are really helping me. Now, all I have to do is control my appetite for Dried Apple Slices because everything has calories. I fear I am a hopeless case.

We have now received half of all our claims for travel/accommodation that we have paid out for this year and we are completely confident that the rest will come back to us although it will take some time. EasyJet will pay us back for at least 4 and possibly six flights although they will make us wait. The Tenerife villa that we should be returning from on Thursday after four weeks away, will be paid out by our insurance company within the next couple of weeks. The Athens hotel suite we are still hoping to occupy but, if we can’t get there because of flights, our insurance company will, once again, reimburse us in full.

We are confident of these things but if, in these insecure times, someone goes out of business, our credit card provider will provide us with a ‘charge-back’ service. All in all, we are fortunate to not be desperate for the money and we can afford to sit back and wait unlike some who have lost their income because of the pandemic and who need that cash immediately to get by.

Tuesday, 26th May, 2020

A hot and sunny day. Up at 6.00 am and out at 7.30 am to Sainsbury‘s. Pauline shopped while I walked to Rustington. Just 15 mins each way amounted to 5,000 paces. Pauline was just returning to the car as I emerged into the darkness of the underground carpark. Back home and after coffee, we set about gardening work. I mowed all the lawns, strimmed all the edges and began to water them with the automatic sprays. Pauline trimmed up the hedges and I swept up the trimmings.

We had an hour or two in the hot sun outside in the back garden. The temperature reached 26C/79F and felt quite humid and oppressive. The temperature on Sifnos, by contrast, was just 16C/61F. No wonder Greece doesn’t want to let Brits in. It would just be too cold.

Six years ago, the year we left Sifnos, (Can you believe that it is six years since we set foot on the island?), the summer heat had just arrived. On this day in 2014 I wrote:

Because of the heat, we were out working on the land by 9.00 am and finished by 12.30 pm – exhausted and wet with sweat. We have just completed another level and, interestingly, a number of people – friends, taxi drivers, local farmers, lorry drivers all stopped to compliment us on our work. It makes no real difference but it was nice.

Cold pig for lunch. The pork had developed a wonderful flavour over night. Pauline knocked up a quick pear & onion compôte with cinnamon and ginger to go with it. How wonderful! She is so clever. We are also gorging on white-fleshed peaches at the moment.

May 2014 – Sifnos

Next year, 2021, will see my 70th birthday. It is our intention – Covid-19 allowing – to return for a couple of months to visit the ‘Poison Dwarf’. Maybe we can taker her a dose. I suspect she will be immune to all infection even so.

This evening, Sifniots in some vain hope of rescuing their ‘season’, are all out painting white lines.

Painting the white lines in Kamares Harbour.

This is a traditional, pre-Easter tradition which obviously was delayed by ‘lock-down’. Now the (mainly) women have been out this evening painting the white lines between the stone paving in Cycladic style.

Margarita Kalogirou – Stavros’ Mother

The lady out in the late evening sunshine today is Margarita who was always lovely to us, coming up to our house with meals she had cooked particularly Gigantes which she knew was a favourite of mine. We liked her particularly because she couldn’t stand the ‘Poison Dwarf’. Margarita’s husband, Nikos, died about 20 years ago now of heart failure. It is good to see her looking strong and happy.

Margarita supervising white line painting in the port of Kamares.

With their three main tourist bases – UK, Germany & Russia banned from entry, the season’s pickings will be thin and the winter will be hard.

Wednesday, 27th May, 2020

Up at 6.30 am on another glorious, glorious morning. We are at 16C/61F at the outset an 22C/70F by 11.00 am.. After a drink for Breakfast, we nipped round the corner to Roundstone Pick Your Own Farm. Broadbeans, Rhubarb and strawberries are currently available. We were just needing strawberries.

Star of fruit & field

My lovely mother-in-Law, Jane (Janie) Barnes lived to 96. We stayed in the North until she died. Almost exactly 40 years ago, we moved her into her own ‘sheltered’ apartment. We furnished it for her to get her started. When she died, we brought her lampshade that had survived from all those years ago and it is now featuring on our bedroom ceiling. The wine goblets she so proudly bought us we still use regularly. The napkin holder we bought for from Greece has come down here with us for our Dining Table.

When we moved down here and were looking for shrubs to fill our border, we couldn’t resist a Hardy Fuschia called Janie. We planted it in Spring of 2016. It is small just like Jane Barnes. After the first winter, it looked as if it had died. There was nothing to be seen. We came back from a short holiday to find that Janie had risen from the dead. That was another of her characteristics. She was a deceptively tough little fighter. You don’t get to 96 without resilience. She was known affectionately by Pauline & I as ‘Mump’. Well Mump or Fuschia Janie is really going for it this year. May isn’t even out but she has been in full flower for a couple of weeks. You just cannot keep a good Mump down.

Thursday, 28th May, 2020

Up at 6.00 am on another beautiful day in paradise. We are flying home at the end of our month in Tenerife today – well, actually, we are going shopping in Tesco. I drop Pauline off at the doors where she begins queueing at 7.00 am in 2nd place behind the same man who has been first on a Thursday for the last 8 weeks. By the time the doors open, the queue behind Pauline is double-banked to 100 yards away.

A Magnificent Acer.

Every week for the past 8 I have gone on a 5 mile walk round the local area in the sunshine. I start my walk at 7.00 am and try to get back by 8.30 am. I always do the same route because, as I’ve often reported before, I have absolutely no sense of direction or memory of routes I have previously been on. Most people are incredulous when I say that I still require sat.nav. to find my way confidently to shops I’ve visited almost every week in the past 4 years. Before anyone diagnoses Dementia, It has always been like this for me.

Smartphone Sat.Nav..

This morning I had walked for about 20 mins and was thinking about the sights, sounds and smells I encountered on my way – a tiny, nondescript baby wren hopped out of the bushes to talk to me without any fear whatsoever. A young, grey squirrel almost ran over my foot as it darted out of the undergrowth. Suddenly, on an ordinary residential street, I realised that I was approaching the magnificent image of a mature, Acer tree. Pauline tells me to fix things like that as landmarks in my memory to use to retrace my steps.

I never saw that Acer again. Suddenly, I woke from my thoughts and realised I didn’t know where I was going. I found myself walking down the side of a dual carriageway on the way to BRIGHTON! I admit it. I did have a bit of a panic at that moment. I had no real idea of how to get back to Tesco where the car was parked. I didn’t want to have to phone Pauline to come and collect me. After all, I didn’t know where to tell her to come to.

One for Sorrow

A symbol of my predicament lay dead on its back on the edge of the pavement. I can’t stand magpies generally. They have become ubiquitously dominant birds in our gardens although they do get bullied by seagulls. It looked unusually beautiful in death as its iridescent plumage shone out against the dull concrete. I took out my phone to photograph it and suddenly remembered we had put a sat.nav. app on my phone. I have hardly ever used Waze but it picks up one’s location and talks one through the directions to walk back to ….. TESCO. Isn’t life wonderful?

Friday, 29th May, 2020

Up a little late at 7.15 am to yet another warm, sunny day. Are we still in Greece? As every day blended in to every other day of clear, blue skies, and strong sunshine, we actually found ourselves longing for some rain, a little chilly wind, a change of season perhaps. According to the Met. Office, we are heading for the sunniest Spring on record – and one of the driest and warmest. Relentlessly it seems, the sun keeps beaming down in apparent disregard for those trying to abide by Lock-Down advice and stay at home as much as possible. It looks like the Spring months of March, April and May will have seen record amounts of sunshine.

We have spent so much time walking in sunshine, queueing for shops in sunshine and sitting in our back garden in sunshine. I am beginning to look like a walnut – certainly more brown than at this time in Greece where much of the time was spent trying to avoid the sun.

Don’t want you to get too excited but I am having my haircut this morning out on the patio. There is quite a strong breeze so I probably won’t have to sweep up afterwards. Half my head will be floating across the valley by the afternoon. The weather forecaster is predicting new clouds of Saharan dust falling over the next few days. If my hair arrives first, it could prove puzzling to local farmers.

Discussions with the Notary about our house sale this morning. I always find that unsettling. Here we are, sailing blissfully along and reality keeps trying to intrude. Never mind. All will be as it will be

Blog Entry – 29/5/2013
View from our house – May 2013

Sitting under the pergola overlooking the port and reading was the order of the day. Of course, there is rather a different mindset when the sun shines intensely and incessantly for more than half the year. In UK the appearance of strong sun is more of a rarity and to be made the most of. As a consequence, we tend to stay out far too long and burn. This Spring, we have been able to enjoy it Greek-style in confident knowledge that it will appear again tomorrow.

All the way from China.

Last night we went to bed at 12.00 am. This morning, I opened the front door at 7.15 am to find a huge box standing in front of me. It must have been dropped off by Yodel after midnight or before 7.00 am. it was our replacement griddle. the last one has done 4 year’s service but the heat controller has failed. I searched for a new one. It was identical to the first but half the price. It came from China but arrived within 5 days. This afternoon, it cooked the most perfect swordfish steak which we ate with homegrown salad. Delicious!

Saturday, 30th May, 2020

The penultimate day of May, 2020 has opened as a scorcher. As June approaches, we realise that we are sleepwalking through our 69th Summer without realising it. While closing down and claiming back for travel/stay bookings, we are closing down the Summer. We still have a faint hope of Athens at the end of August but it is no more than that.

Which way to the beach?

This morning, a scorching hot and sunny morning on the south coast of England, we set out around 10.00 am to Middleton beach. It is about 5 miles/8.5 kms away.The houses surrounding the beach are quintessentially affluent.

Sea Lane, Middleton on Sea

The beach is quiet and beautifully open. We walked for 30 mins towards Bognor Regis and 30 mins back again. We said, Good morning to lots of people and Hello, to lots of dogs who don’t understand time.

Middleton Beach – packed beyond belief.

Once again, the day has shot past. Our meal was Cod fillets wrapped in Parma Ham with Asparagus Spears and roast Cherry tomatoes. It was absolutely wonderful. I then had a lengthy job watering all our plant pots and trees in the garden.

Week 595

Sunday, 17th May, 2020

Warm with weak sunshine has started the day. We are forecast for cloud and sun today but followed by clear skies and strong sun with relatively hot weather for the rest of the week. We have had a fairly relaxing morning spoilt by watching Gove on the Marr programme arguing that no teachers or children will be put at risk by going back to school in a couple of weeks followed by admitting that he couldn’t guarantee their safety from catching Covid-19 but thought teachers should take pride in going back to their vocation, to follow their ‘Calling’ as if they had enrolled in some mystical sect. This man is so duplicitous, he gives politicians a bad name – which is saying something.

Gove on ‘Marr’.

The television screen is still in tact although it was a close run thing. This is fortunate because I have found a niche, German Historical Thriller set in post First World War Berlin. I quite like it after the first episode in spite of the subtitles. I found I forgot them pretty quickly.

Babylon Berlin is described as a German neo-noir drama which takes place in the seedy underbelly of Berlin during the Weimar Republic, starting in 1929. If I’m going to get in to fiction, it helps me to grapple with historical realities while I’m doing it.

Before that, we’ve got some gardening to complete plus a walk. Today, we are feeding and watering the lawns through this extended dry spell. We’ve almost forgotten what rain looks or feels like. We are completing the potting up of seedlings – bell peppers and some more basil plus sage, and mint.

That completed, we are doing an hour’s walk in the vicinity before settling down to roast salmon and home grown salad.

Managed to source a reasonable quantity of Protective Equipment: surgical gloves – 100 x small + 100 x large – and 50 x facemasks – which will take us through the next few months.

Monday, 18th May, 2020

Glorious morning with clear blue skies and strong sun from 6.00 am. What a great day to … put the bins out! All three – Black bag, Recycle and Garden Waste – will have been emptied by Lunchtime. The temperature was 16C/61F by 8.00 am and is forecast to be excellent throughout the week. Another dry week.

One of the features of the Lock-Down period has been virtually no rain. I think we have experienced anything significant on only one day in the past 7 weeks. I have been watering everything outside and particularly the lawns. I have a rectangular, oscillating sprayer which I’ve used for many years.

It will do a large area in one full sweep. It will actually cover a large part of my back lawn without adjustment. Unfortunately, there are a number of areas at the back and the front which need more targeted spraying. I also need to control the height so it doesn’t invade my neighbours’ gardens.

This morning we walked – ‘walked’! – to our local, large garden centre to buy an alternative. I wanted a multi-programmable, circular one which I can use to control the height and reduce the area of coverage. We were shocked to find long queues outside in the carpark. At least we were all in the beautiful sunshine. We’ve been thinking that for some time. All the shops with ‘socially-distanced’ queueing outside will have another problem when it rains. Customers are going to be far less likely to stand patiently in the driving rain. Certainly we will think again and choose places that have covered waiting areas.

Malvern Studio Pent

We spent an hour or so measuring up, drawing plans and coming to conclusions about the garden building that we will have erected in our back garden. It started as a covered cooking area. It developed as a storage area for garden tools and then, thanks to the pandemic’s effect on the Health Club, it has morphed in to an alternative gym area. For that reason, although we look like going with the style illustrated above, but just over 30% longer and 25% deeper.

Tuesday, 19th May, 2020

Up at 6.30 am on a very warm but cloudy start to the day. We were out to Sainsbury’s at 7.30 am as the sun was starting to glimmer. Pauline went in to shop and I set off for a walk. I walked to Rustington again.

The Virus tossed into the gutter.

As I did, this packaging was in the gutter and pedestrians were giving it a 2 metre distance. Who could blame them. It was the extra strong version.

The one thing which is not suffering in this Covid crisis is our Bank Balance. There are just so few places to spend money. Television Sport has been missing for a couple of months and the companies I use are not charging me at the moment. It’s not a great deal of cash but it’s better than a poke in the eye.

Sky Sports is saving us £23.00/€26.00 per month and BT Sports is not charging £16.00/€18.00 per month. If you add that £49.00/€55.00 to our monthly £150.00/€168.00 for the Health Club and we are up to a saving of £200.00 per month. We’ve already received refunds from Travel bookings of around £2,000.00/€2,234.00 and we have another £5000.00/€5,586.00 agreed will be returned. Things look as if our Greek trip might just be on at the end of August but everything will depend on EasyJet and the flight. Clearly we won’t be doing quarantine at either end of the trip or we won’t start it.

With so many people unemployed through this crisis, so many ‘Furloughed’ on reduced earnings and so many furloughed who will never be taken back to work, being comfortably retired is, for the moment at least, an enviable position. In fact, salary levels were only just beginning to return to the levels before the last crash in 2008 when we retired and now look set to be deflated again. In spite of optimism in a ‘V’ shaped recovery rather than an ‘L’ shaped one, the Chancellor is even today talking about long term ‘scarring’ in the economy with particular problems for the young just entering the workforce and the older workers who may never get back in after layoff. This is not a good time to be a worker.

Wednesday, 20th May, 2020

Welcome to mid-Summer. What a delight. It was like waking up on a morning in Greece. Deliciousness on the senses. This morning I experienced a moment of χαρούμενη σύμπτωση or happy coincidence. Every time I switch on my desktop computer, I am presented with a new and usually wonderful start up photograph which fills the screen. Yesterday, it was the Taj Mahal from the back. The day before it was the central square in Bruges. Today, I was thinking about Greece and whether we’d get there this summer when my screen opened up on the delightful Greek Island of Leros.

Lovely Leros
Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

After Breakfast, I liberated the tree I have been growing for the past 18 mnths from a seed pod picked up in Tenerife – November 2018. It was moved outside for the first time in its pot a couple of days ago and planted out this morning in the secluded, sunny spot behind the garage next to the fig trees.

The tree is a native of North Africa and grows to about 30 ft with bright red bracts of flowers. This one won’t. I predict it will feel quite happy until the end of September and early in October will beg to return to its home. If I stand it up straight currently, it would stretch to 6 ft but I won’t be able to repatriate it so we will part our ways.

It will be sad because I have looked after it for so long but we both just have to accept the transience of life. My tree will never reach maturity and I am conflicted about bringing it to this stage in the full knowledge that it will never look like this:

Delonix Regia – Mature Specimen

I mowed the lawns front and back and then, after a light Lunch, we set out for our walk in the woods on the perimeter of our Development. We went from bright sunshine and hot, fresh air to dark, cool and damp smelling vegetation as we walked down the woodland path.

The Cool Woodland Tunnel

All around us entrepreneurs, professionals, small business owners who have been able to afford property in this expensive area are beginning to look a bit vulnerable. All are talking only tentatively about their way forward. Nobody really knows and that is destabilising for confident go-getters with expensive, new houses with large BMWs and Mercedes in the drive. They live and ride on confidence which has been punctured by this crisis. Everybody is watching closely while holding their breath silently.

We, on the other hand, received a boost from our May trip to Tenerife. The company paid our cost back into our account this morning. Actually, they repaid more than our outlay because of the changing currency exchange rate. We bought when sterling was high and were paid back when sterling was lower. We would rather have had the trip but this, at least, is compensation.

Thursday, 21st May, 2020

May is running away. We would be completing our third week in Tenerife today.. Only one week to go is a feeling that sees optimism slide a little. We start to think of all the things to be done like book a taxi, check-in online for the flight, Make sure clothes are washed and reading for packing. Because we would be in the villa, we would be still buying in food but planning and managing how much we need. For example, with a week to go, we would be buying a joint of Swordfish and a joint of Tuna from the HiperDino Supermercado to get us through the week

We are not in Tenerife but we are in the sunshine. Up at 6.00 am, today is even hotter than yesterday which reached 254C/75F, by 9.30 am, I had already walked 5 miles/8 kilometres while Pauline was shopping in Tesco. I was walking mainly through typical coastal suburbia. Bungalows abound. Gardens are small but generally well maintained and shrubs we have struggled with for 40 years in Yorkshire grow abundantly and richly down here.

Coastal Suburbia

Back home we were visited by a Mediterranean man in a white van who dropped off 3kg of Swordfish, 3kg of Tuna and 2kg of Cod all packed in ice. The delivery man asked if he could come to Dinner because we had chosen his favourite fish. We apologised and said we didn’t think there would be enough to share.

Not Sifnos but Sussex

The above is the sort of sight one would see regularly in Sifnos with deliveries piled up outside a shop/taverna and left in the scorching sun with no concern for pilfering. Today, this scene is outside Subway next to Tesco in West Worthing.

Not wanting to rest on our laurels, Pauline set about portioning the fish into steaks and bagging it up for the chest freezer in the garage. Approximately 8 kilos of fish produced 15 excellent meals for two at an average cost of about £5.00 per person per portion. The quality is unrivalled and well worth the cost. While that was going on, I set about cleaning and valeting the car. Now that is exhausting especially as the temperature climbs to 25C/77F. Things got better as my gorgeous, little assistant finished her jobs and came out to help me complete my very arduous task.

Friday, 22nd May, 2020

A warm night opened with 16C/61F at 6.00 am but unusually grey skies. A weak sun broke through by mid-morning but it is rather windy so we decided not to go on the planned Pick-Your-Own trip round the corner at our local farm. Currently, they are open for Strawberries, Rhubarb and Broadbeans. We will probably go on Monday if the day is bright. Instead, Pauline is cooking and I’m searching for jobs to do. I have to vacuum the house at some point before we go out for our walk.

Just over 4 years ago, we bought a commercial, electric griddle/cooking plate. We have used it 2 or 3 times every week and, recently, the thermostatic controller has become unreliable so one of my jobs is to source a replacement.

A great way to cook fish and meat.

In this difficult, commercial world, prices are certainly under pressure. This one I’ve found this morning is less than half the price I paid 4 years ago

Since the start of Lock-Down, we have had an app on our iPads and smartphones which asks people to report whether they are well or have any Covid symptoms and whether they have had a Covid test. It is completed each day by well over 3.7 million people and informs a database analysis led by Kings College, London. It takes about 30 secs a day and may prove worth while. I’ve just completed it for the 50th consecutive day.

We did a 2hr walk before we ate and I was exhausted by it. We went down through the village towards Sainsbury’s. On the left is the fat dual carriageway and Sainsbury’s Superstore. On the right is old Angmering.

Is this Wheat or Barley? Who can tell?

The joy of our village is the mix of rural relaxation with suburban facility – on one side a superstore and on the other a cornfield. It is absolutely delightful. We only reached 19C/66F with a stiff breeze but it was a sweaty walk and we were pleased to get home. Our meal was cod goujons and green salad. Absolutely wonderful!

Saturday, 23rd May, 2020

Lovely but windy day. Quite warm all the same and we now know that it is going to get much warmer for the coming week. We nipped round to the PYO strawberry fields in the hope of giving Pauline a chance to make a few pounds of jam this weekend but, by 9.30 am, it was absolutely packed. We turned round and drove to the beach which was virtually deserted. The tide was coming in and there were one or two windsurfers and a canoeist in the sea. One man had a couple of fishing rods set up to catch a Sea Bass, Plaice, Grey Mullet or two.

A deserted Rustington Beach

We walked on the beach as the tide came in. The air was delicious and the sun warm. It was surprising how quickly the tide did come in and the sand we walked on one way had disappeared by the time we turned to go back. We moved higher up the beach for our return as the waves of the turning tide crashed on the pebbles.

A wind swept girl.

Pauline loves this. I like it but there is something elemental and, maybe, in her memory banks that is satisfied by this experience. We walked for an hour or so and then drove home for coffee.

Blurry mage of 1950.

My lovely sister, Ruth, is 73 today. It is amazing to think this photograph was taken 70 years ago and the year before I was born. It would explain why she is so much more wrinkly than me but it is still a shock. When we review our lives and I’m not sure how much Ruth does of that but I do it constantly, the change is immense.

Instead of moving forward from 1950 to today, try moving back 70 years to 1880. From candlelight, oil lamps to electricity. from horse and cart to steam and combustion engine. From cottage industry to Factory production line. From steam ship to air travel. From printing press to radio and television. from telegraph to telephone. So much changed.

In my view, however, so much more has changed in Ruth’s lifetime. The development of communication via television, mobile phone, internet has absolutely transformed the world. The jet engine and the electric car are totally demolishing the ancien régime. Ruth talked to me this morning about conducting Zoom nights with her extended family during this pandemic crisis. Imagine that 73 years ago. At that time, Dad had just finished building his own transistor radio to listen to the BBC News. I inherited part of that but not the technical bit.

Week 594

Sunday, 10th May, 2020

Lovely, warm morning which has reached 22C/70F by 11.00 am but rather grey and overcast which comes as something of a shock after the past few weeks. By 2.00 pm, it has started to rain gently but is providing a real tonic for the lawns and shrubberies.

We have decided, mainly because of the weather, to forgo our daily walk and do other things at home. Pauline prepared roast chicken with sage & onion stuffing accompanied by roasted carrots & parsnips and cauliflower & broccoli for our afternoon meal. I vacuumed the house. In the mean time, we are discussing alternatives to travel in the short term. Probably, like many people, we are looking to invest in/upgrade our home facilities if we are to spend more time here. We have long been talking about extending our patio flagging. Talk has always been terminated by the observation that we will be away a lot so let’s put it off until we’re older.

This pandemic has suddenly made us feel older. We are beginning to draw in our horns ad to consider time at home. We are also spending so little money. If only investment packages made our involvement worthwhile. Not only have we talked about extending flagged areas of our garden but we’ve anticipated erecting a formal, garden kitchen. It looks like a good way to invest for our future.

A nice environment for a garden kitchen.

We will use this building to put in kitchen staging with a series of electrical sockets and lighting. We will install a large, commercial griddle, a electric hob, a deep fat fryer and a wood-fired oven. This building is sold at an outlet which is within walking distance of our house. We are inundated with firms wanting to lay flags in our garden. If we are limited in our travel this summer, it looks an opportune time to do the work.

2005 Ashes – the magic of Flintoff

I don’t know about you but I am missing watching sport. Strangely, I am missing cricket more than football. This afternoon, I watched the 2005 Ashes Test series. I knew the result of each match and yet I still got seriously nervous, frustrated, ecstatic as the matches unfolded. I was told off by my wife for screaming uncontrollably as we won the Ashes. It didn’t stop me.

Monday, 11th May, 2020

A cooler, greyer, breezier day. Much of it was spent at home fiddling around with small jobs that amounted to very little. It is looking possible that our Athens hotel could receive us but our Easyjet flight might not take us in mid-August. It’s possible that we will get a break in France sooner.

60 years of life demolished in days.

We went for a 90 min walk which has settled in to a daily routine. We walk around our Development and past the new building work where a huge, old house in a couple of acres garden is being demolished to make way for a new Care Home. We wonder if it will be ready in time for us. The partly demolished building is at the stage where we can peer over the wall and see inside the bedrooms which have been exposed. We stare in fascination although it feels almost indecently nosey.

I can’t help but think of the lives that have been lived, the loves that have been experienced and the sadnesses felt in those rooms. All now gone from the earth. It reminded me of the day I saw my old school in its last vestiges of crumbling façade as it was levelled to the ground in preparation for its redevelopment as private housing. In this case, many of my own years of experiences were being swept away but also those of many others I had known – some dead, some having moved on. Hopes and dreams had either been dashed or rewarded; relationships maintained, strengthened or broken and dissipated.

These uplifting considerations populated my thoughts as we walked down the woodland path which presented its own signs of demolition.

The strengthening winds of last night had brought a healthy young tree down and it was now blocking our path. Of course, being impetuous youngsters, we scrambled over it and continued on our way. I even considered trying to move it myself but was instructed not even to try. Of course, I always do as I’m told.

Tuesday, 12th May, 2020

We were up at 5.30 am for no other reason than the sun was streaming in and a cup of tea was calling. Freshly squeezed orange and tea and then out at 7.30 am to ….. Sainsburys. The morning was glorious and, while Pauline shopped, I walked to the nearby town of Rustington. Rather as its name suggests, Rustington is dominated by the older generation. It is a little chintzy and sentimental and, in these dangerous times, fairly deserted.

Sunny … Quiet … Rustington

I didn’t realise how easy it was to walk here. I have only driven in the past. By the time I’d got back to Sainsbury’s, Pauline was loading her bags in to the boot. Just for fun and from a distance of 30 mtrs, I remotely shut the boot on her head. As a result, I was told off for being reckless.

We both got over the fun, drove home, unpacked, had coffee and then set off for the beach.

Middleton Beach

Today we went to Elmer & Middleton Beaches. They are about a 10 – 15 mins drive away. When we got there, they were almost deserted save for a few dog walkers.

Elmer Beach

We walked for 30 mins or so in this lovely environment. It is too lovely and too peaceful. It fills visitors with absolute joy.

Middleton Beach

By the time we had arrived back home, a bit of cloud cover was arriving and the air felt cooler. We were going to sit out in the garden but thought better of it. There will be plenty of warmer, sunnier days to come … as long as we live.

Wednesday, 13th May, 2020

Crimson Peonies

Nice, bright sunny morning although a little on the sharp side. We went out fairly early for a 90 mins walk. It was still tee-shirt and shorts weather for exercise. The gardens down here are so much more advanced than in the North. We used to feature Peonies in our garden in Yorkshire. They were at their crimson, blowsy best just as we were going away for Wakes Holidays in the last week of June. Here, they are in full bloom now – about six weeks earlier.

Our nearest Garden Centre.

Planting is really spectacular in this village as we have found on our daily walks during lock-down. Of course, it used to be totally dominated by Horticultural industries – acres of glass houses which grew and supplied outlets with herbs and salad vegetables, vineyards, garden centres, garden designers, etc.. A number of those enterprises have be sold on for new housing including where we are but we still have around 4 garden centres and 2 vineyards within walking distance. Today, the biggest and nearest garden centre, Haskins, has reopened. Joy of joys. We will there in the next few days.

As a result, the local gardens seem to be well stocked with interesting and less usual plants. On our walks, we have been marvelling at the quality of the Ceanothus flowering profusely in deep blue and gorgeous, pendulous racemes of mauve/pink Wisteria set against Sussex stone.

Dramatic waterfall of white Wisteria.

On the corner of an older house just a little way down from our house, a white Wisteria Alba has been developing. Just as the pink ones are fading, the white one is in full bloom. I’ve never seen one before and I love it now I have.

Thursday, 14th May, 2020

Glorious if rather cool start to the morning at 6.00 am. We were out at 6.50 am and off to Tesco in West Durrington. Pauline queued up at number 2 in the list while I set off for a walk. This is a fascinating area that neither of us know anything about. I walked for about 75 minutes which was plenty but meant Pauline had only just entered the store at 8.00 am to start shopping. She had mask and gloves on. I was unencumbered.

I was interested to go past something I spotted the other day. A working class response to hardship and being a third class citizen.

St. Symphorian’s Church & Working Men’s Club

I have never heard of St. Symphorian and had to find out about him. I found that Symphorian was a Christian executed in Autun near Dijon in France. Flavius Heraclius, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in the first century AD had Symphorian’s head chopped off for refusing to worship pagan gods. Why? I’d have readily worshipped a packet of crisps to keep my head. Still, I suppose I wouldn’t have had a church dedicated to me. Oh dear!

The St Symphorian Church was established in Durrington in the 13th Century and rebuilt in the 17th Century.

St Symphorian’s Church, Durrington, West Sussex.

Poor deluded people were persuaded that religion would explain and ameliorate their poverty and inequality, that they would be compensated in death for what the rich had received in life. I know which I would prefer. Religion certainly was the opium of the people. As the poet and C-of-E vicar, Charles Kingsley wrote, the bible is a mere book to keep the poor in order. Interesting to find a Working Men’s Club next door although I can find no history of its inception.

Friday, 15th May, 2020

Straight lines of gardening delight.

Today is gardening day. We don’t have to shop. We don’t have to go anywhere. We have some regular jobs to get through even on this sunny morning but the core of the day is gardening. I am mowing the lawns before the garden refuse men come for my bin on Monday. It’s an extra, ‘paid-for’ service but well worth the money. While we are not able to travel, I have taken it on myself to look after all the street-side lawns of my road. The couple across the road are 80+ and fitter than me but I tell them I’m working for Help-the-Aged.

I love the natural world and love to identify and remember all the Latin names of the plants, shrubs and trees that I see. I love trying to grow plants and sometimes successfully. One of the early hobbies Pauline & I found we had in common was gardening. I was fascinated to find a joint love of growing plants was where it began and ended. While Pauline likes natural disorder (in my eyes) and unstructured collections of plants which mimic the anarchy of Nature, my eye cannot cope with that and immediately needs to tame and structure the natural world with classical symmetry.

Nature enhancing the human world.

The joy I get after cutting the lawn, edging it with my electric strimmer and sweeping away the cuttings to reveal that clean, straight line of grass neatly butting up to patio flags is immense. You will notice above the pot of geraniums which I’ve allowed to be placed to slightly break the lines. After a deep breath, I can cope with that. Compromise is what marriage is about.

Pauline does have her uses. She is a little more delicate and considered than I am. When I was 6 years old, I will never forget running excitedly out of the classroom in my little, village school and, in my eagerness to get out, I knocked my teacher’s cup of tea off her dais-mounted desk. Miss Marlor, a kindly, grey haired lady near retirement from teaching in 1957, called me back and lectured me on the impetuosity of St Peter. I understood the analogy and knew what she had identified in me.

Unfortunately, bull-in-a-china-shop impetuosity has remained with me ever since. I try to temper it and do sometimes manage but it is always my first instinct. Because of that, jobs which need care and subtlety like sowing seeds and potting up seedlings are done by Pauline. Jobs which require physical strength and brute force are done by me. Like Jack Spratt and his wife, we complement each other.

Today we potted up home grown tomato and basil plants some of which are going outside. We are already eating huge amounts of our own lettuces. Tomorrow we will pot up our bell peppers but we’ll need a trip to the Garden Centre first. Thank goodness it’s open. Thought I’d include this delightful photo from the front of The Times this morning. It was taken by a teacher who was in her garden participating in a Zoom conference call with colleagues. As she held her smartphone, a robing came to say, Hello. Don’t you just love robins? There are so many around this year.

Saturday, 16th May, 2020

Officially, we should be into our 3rd week in a villa in Tenerife. Of course, we’re not. We’re sitting at home in West Sussex wondering if we’ll ever travel again. It is looking more and more as if this year is over which is rather a depressing thought. It wasn’t helped by an photo sent from Sifnos this morning.

Kamares Today – Beautiful but Lonely.

They are going entering an early heatwave of 40C/104F but without the benefit of tourists. That is hot although were in Athens one year to buy floor tiles for our house when we experienced 43C/109.F. I could barely walk. Greece has just confirmed a continued ban on passenger flights to and from Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. We are supposed to flying to Athens in late August and have been really looking forward to the newly refurbished Omonia Square.

Newly refurbished Omonia Square.

Omonoia Square – Πλατεία Ομονοίας, Plateía Omonoías, –  Concord Square is one of the oldest squares in the city of Athens. It is located at the centre of the city at the intersection of six main streets: Panepistimiou, Stadiou, Athinas, Peiraios, Agiou Konstantinou Street and 3rd Septemvriou Street. If we can’t go in August, we have already decided that we will try to go October/November. We’ve only been once before in Winter which was after we had sold and were repatriating a large amount of money from an Athens bank. Nervous but successful times.

Week 593

Sunday, 3rd May, 2020

Feels quite chilly at 6.30 am at it was just 9C/48F. The contrast between the micro and the macro level of my world experience is immense. From reading, analysing and railing against Trumpian America, social Europe and the eugenics of Tory Britain to sourcing our own PPE and tending lettuces in the back garden. All of this flashes across my mind over Breakfast.

I’ve rejected the idea of injecting myself with bleach. I hate injections. From Day-1 of the lock down, I have been advocating the use of facemasks for personal and social protection and always thought that this disgraceful government manipulated ‘expert’ advice for their own purposes. Having not followed up the pandemic planning and committed cash to stockpile enough PPE for the future, they had to dissuade the public from buying up stocks of PPE and so depleting that available for the NHS.

At least I chose plain green.

In just the same way, Staying at home, closing schools and social distancing has been the mantra until someone who wanted/needed to get the economy going again suddenly ‘discovered’ that social distancing is perhaps not so important, children do not suffer from or transmit the virus to others and staying at home is just as dangerous to mental health and well being so the economy can get going again as long as we all carry a Government led tracker on our phones. No!

Many of you will remember that mad man, Keith Joseph, who was Education Secretary under Thatcher-the-milk-Snatcher between 1981 – 1986. When the Tories wanted to cut the Education budget and employ less teachers, Keith Joseph, who declared his Conservatism was founded in Christian Democracy and who was educated at Harrow public school where classes were so small they could happily self-isolate, argued that it was a well known fact that children learnt much better in very large classes. He was neither Christian nor democratic in that regard but his disingenuousness is reflected in the latest pandemic policies of his Tory successors as they clapped in the Commons at defeating the nurses pay claim and then clapped on the street to show their appreciation for the nurses ‘cheap’ commitment to saving lives.

I’m going to be eating a lot of lettuce!

Back on the ground, in spite of chilly weather, the lettuce leaves are growing quite rapidly. I have chosen cut-&-come-again leaves which incorporate soft green leaves, Ruby, Oak-leaved variety, Rocket, Frieze and Mizuna. When this is combined with basil leaves and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, it is absolutely delicious. I will successionally sow them and hope they take us through the Summer or until we go away – whichever comes first.

Monday, 4th May, 2020

Lovely day in which we did very little. We prepared all our documents for our latest insurance claim. It involved scanning in documents, highlighting relevant areas, turning them into PDF files and preparing them for uploading. Actually, it’s a quite a long winded process but, when you consider it’s worth around £5,000.00/€5,720.00, then the couple of hours is well worth it.

When the whole process has been completed, there is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from untangling a mess of loose leads and we can relax. Actually, it gives one a real sense of the strength of one’s claim. Of course, we didn’t relax. We went out for a 90 mins walk in the woodland path around our development. The birds were at full hue and cry in their search for mates and defence of territory. Back home, Pauline griddled the most wonderful Tuna Steaks in the garden which we ate with salad. Life felt good.

Stranded in Greece

I’ve been following the unfolding story of a German couple who have been stranded on the Peloponnese in their campervan since the Greek lock-down. Each year they spend six months touring Greece before returning to Germany. They are stuck and they say they know of at least six other couples in the same position but with properties in the country.

It is six years since we left Sifnos. We would set off for our drive across Europe at the end of March and return at the beginning of October. We crossed the borders of Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and, finally, Greece.

We sold 6 years ago in July.

The current situation would have ensured that our house stood empty and unmaintained for at least a year. We would have been extremely frustrated. One can only imagine what those stranded in a campervan are feeling.

Tuesday, 5th May, 2020

Gorgeous pink-purple sky last night and a beautiful day with blue sky opening up this morning. I’m really getting in to this new shopping mode. It is really easy for me. I drive to the chosen supermarket and Pauline goes shopping. I use the spare time to get some exercise. On Tuesdays, it is Sainsbury’s which has a football pitch size, underground carpark. Last week it was raining so I walked round the perimeter in the dry. This week it is warm and sunny so I’ve ventured outside and across the shopping park development, past Pets at Home and Halfords, on past the extensive Dunelm to the leafy path towards Rustington.

Burgeoning Nature eschews the Lock Down.

Things are definitely changing. The store opened at 8.00 am and we arrived 10 mins after. Pauline was able to walk straight in and almost had the store to herself. There was nothing she couldn’t get apart. Of course, the wet fish counter has gone. Wonder if it will ever come back? Anyway, we have found such a brilliant supplier that we probably won’t need it. The roads were very busy. People round here are certainly anticipating change. To be blunt we haven’t really let it cramp our style with the exception of travel.

Interesting thread on social media from ex-pupils and ex-(young)-colleagues. Pupils have been asking after our welfare which is nice but the staff who were young when we left but are now in middle age are throwing copious amounts of cold water on the idea of going back or sending their children back to school safely. Anybody who has any experience of education management will know immediately that it is impossible to get children to socially distance. It would be like herding cats. Corridors, old classrooms

Wednesday, 6th May, 2020

Up late today at 6.50 am on a beautiful, sunny morning with clear skies. After breakfast, we were straight down to the Office to officially file our insurance policy claim for our May Tenerife Holiday. The claim comes to around £5,000.00/€5,720 so is not insubstantial but we are confident of getting it all repaid. It may take about four weeks but it will come. The £700.00/€800.00 for the easyJet flights will also come but it will probably be 6 months in the wait. We uploaded all our documentary evidence and then felt satisfied that the nagging injustice had been, temporarily, removed.

Littlehampton Promenade

We went on to do gardening in the sunshine. Pauline trimmed the hedges until she was shaking with the stress of the hedging tool. I mowed the lawns and all the street-side edging strips.

After lunch of homemade soup, we went to the eye clinic for my Diabetic Retinopathy check up. It was very different from any other I had ever been to. I was the only client present. The clinician came to greet me at the door of the building completely suited in PPE. I was taken up alone while Pauline waited in the carpark. My pupils were dilated with drops and then my eyeballs were photographed. In a couple of weeks, I will hear of the results.

Serious Social Distancing on the Beach.

We drove back via the seaside where there were crowds of people walking along the coastal path along with dogs and cyclists, skateboarders and joggers. Nobody seemed to be bothered about spacing or health aspects. All seemed intent on socialising rather than isolating. Do they know the dangers?

Back home, we griddled swordfish steaks – the best we have ever eaten – with home grown salad. The meal was quite delightful. We have completed our exercise targets for 50/56 days of Lock Down which we think demonstrates good self-discipline. Most people agree that we won’t be going back to the Health Club any time soon so walking the local area will continue.

Thursday, 7th May, 2020

Up at 6.00 am and out by 6.45 am to Tesco on a glorious, warm and sunny morning. We have accidentally fallen in to a pattern of Pauline shopping while I exercise. Tesco opens at 8.00 am so, when we arrived an hour early, Pauline was 3rd in the queue. I left her reading her phone and set off to walk to our Health Club. The day was delightful and the bird song was wonderful as I walked. It took me about 30 mins.

David Lloyd Health Club – abandoned.

After a walk round the Health Club car park to take some pictures and then a walk back, Pauline had been in the store shopping for about 10 mins.

The queueing at Tesco this morning. … Just wait till it rains!

By this stage, the double-backed queue stretched to infinity and was constantly growing. Before joining the shopping queue, there was a queue to get a shopping trolley. It really does pay to go early not least because, for all their efforts, supermarkets are fairly slow to re-stock the shelves so being first means a wider choice.

Back home before 9.00 am, we have a lovely, sunny day in the back garden to enjoy. Pauline is out there now using her new skipping rope which she hasn’t done for at least 40 years and she’s breathing quite heavily. This skipping rope has digital handles which allow her to input her weight, set the time and it will out put her total ‘skips’ and ‘calories burned’. If she doesn’t collapse completely, she will continue with her bread dough which is rising outside in the warm sunshine. I’ve been marinating (garlic, dill, salt, pepper and olive oil) boneless chicken thighs for griddling out in the garden this afternoon.

Friday, 8th May, 2020

Wonderful day of long, hot, sunny hours. We were up early before 7.00 am. After a liquid Breakfast, I set the sprinkler system up to water the back lawn because it has been so dry. We don’t have any sign of rain in the next couple of weeks so the grass must be supported.

The media was dominated by VE Day. Victory in Europe Day celebrates the Allied Forces defeat of Nazi Germany’s armed forces, marking the end of World War II in Europe. Who could not wish to celebrate that? Well I have a serious problem with the way it is presented. The British Nationalists like to have us believe that Brits won it unaided. Actually, it wouldn’t have happened at all without the allies which included – apart from U.S. – Poland, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Luxembourg plus lots of non-European countries. UK has always belonged to and needed Europe to support it.

VE Day morphs in to Brexit which morphs in to Covid-19 compliance.

Currently, it is not possible to be objective about these ‘celebrations’. Is it right to be celebrating the defeat of a fellow European friend? Our next door neighbour is German. We don’t mention the war. We are going to need a strong relationship with Germany in the future. As we went on our neighbourhood walk today, slightly less than a quarter of the houses were advertising their Nationalism. There is a paradigm shift of ideas which integrates base Nationalism, Brextremism, Boris-worship and Tory policy on Covid-19 control. It is a bit like National Front made (marginally) respectable.

A Tweet from this morning rather succinctly summarised my view:

Don’t wave your Union Jack in my face. A lot of us, each in our own ways, fight against the nationalism, racism and xenophobia that gave birth to Nazism everyday of our lives. That’s why we opposed and oppose #Brexit. #VEDay2020

Boris Johnson, under pressure from Keir Starmer at PMQs, hinted blunderingly that the Lock-Down would be lifted at the end of the week. It was another sign of his inability to control the situation. So many people have taken it as a hint that they can go where and when they want. The roads around here are roaring with a back-to-normal traffic flow. Barbecues are being fired up for ‘Patriotic’ street parties. The Tories are going to find it hard to hold on to the public’s coat tails for another month.

Saturday, 9th May, 2020

If there can be a better day than today, please let me see it. Up at 7.00 to 16C/61F with lovely sunshine. After Breakfast, we drove down to the beach for a walk. It was still fairly quiet although the roads were quite busy.

Littlehampton Beach – 27C/81F by 10.30 am.

The tide was out and the sand was empty. We walked for miles in the sunshine with the soothing sound of the waves gently lapping the shore. It was idyllic! There is something timeless and eternal about the sea that strikes to the heart of humankind.

The Tenerife seedpod tree

After driving back home, I used my electric rake to rake thatch out of the back lawn. It looked wonderfully healthy with its green/blue iridescence after I had finished striping it. I then watered the front lawn and the roadside verge for a couple of hours with my automatic sprayer as we went out for a walk. Back home, our lunch out in the heat of the garden was green lettuce leaves, sweet cherry tomato halves and smoked salmon with a few prawns. Absolutely joyous!

I turned my attention to the seedlings/plants. The seedpod I grew into a tree is now over 5ft tall. It is champing at the bit to be planted out but is unaware that cooler nights are on the way. I am determined to plant it out in June and let it enjoy a few months of Sussex sky before the winter cool brings an end to its life. It would be lovely to see it flower crimson red before then but we can only hold our breath.

As it is, today has been wonderful. I feel so fortunate to be alive and enjoying this time with my lovely wife. What more can any man want or expect?