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