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.

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