Week 598

Sunday, 7th June, 2020

A lovely, sunny morning although not over hot. There is a little bit of a breeze which is keeping the temperature to around 18C/65F. After the political programmes and newspapers this morning, we set off for a fairly brisk walk of about 90 mins. The weather is such a bonus in this. If it had been raining, I just don’t think I would have done it which is why we need an alternative and that is unlikely to be the Health Club for quite some time.

Opposite Sainsbury’s

Enjoyment in simple pleasures is making me feel rather old but there is no alternative until we can wave our passport around again. Simple scenes like this are really quite pleasing on the eye. Even so, I’d rather be in Valencia or Athens right now.

The right garden building but wrong colour.

We have been all over the decision making process about a new gym cum kitchen cum garden storage building outside. It looks as if we have (almost) come to a decision. We are taking so long because we estimate an overall cost of £25 – 30,000./€28,050.00 – 33,660.00. It will be 8′ deep x 14′ long but just low enough not to need planning permission. The price will include paving, electrical installation and gym equipment + TV installation. We will need electrical sockets galore for at least 2 exercise items + TV & Sky box, for at least 4 cooking items and for recharging at least 2 garden items. We will have to see if it will need any heating but we doubt it.

Although we can buy this building locally, if we want to see an actual example – and we do – we will have to drive to Staines where there is a branch showcasing an example.

Monday, 8th June, 2020

Quite a grey morning but warm. Today will be spent in two activities: firstly, marking out the area of the back garden where we will need additional flagging and the area a garden building will require and, secondly, following up insurance claims allied to reviewing our next, booked trip.

Our month in Tenerife that has now passed contained four elements. The flights with Easyjet were cancelled by them so we are entitled to a full refund. In spite of the fact that they wanted us to accept vouchers for future travel, we insisted that we wanted a refund and formally requested the return of our £540.00/€605.00 and we will get it but we don’t know when. Fortunately, we are not under threat of losing our job and worried about our income. We are not in need of the money tomorrow but we will get it.

We’ve already got two parts of our villa rental back amounting to about €800.00/£715.00 but the bulk payment, €4,500.00/£4015.00 is being covered by our bank’s travel insurance – we renewed our annual policy in July last year, long before pandemic exclusions came in to force. This morning we were told by the bank that this was being actioned this week so we look forward to that.

How confident would you be?

Thought I’d check if I could see any progress on our EasyJet money but there was nothing to see. While I was there, I looked at our next flights in August to Athens. They cost us £570.00/€640.00 for two returns. Firstly, they are still flying and are bookable although one of the Departure times has changed. However, the seats that cost us £570.00/€640.00 would now cost us £208.00/€233.00 or around 36% of the original price. Still, like so many people, we may not be brave enough to fly. Who knows?

Masked & Gloved but left out in the cold.

We walked down to our village surgery which has a Pharmacy attached to collect a repeat prescription. It was 12.30 pm and there were only 2 customers – Pauline and the person inside. I was reading my Twitter-feed while Pauline formed a queue of one. Actually, it felt quite pleasant at 20C/68F and we were getting part of our exercise target done.

Tuesday, 9th June, 2020

Out early on a morning in which the world smelled so fresh after over night rain. Quite warm – 17C/62F at 8.00 am. I parked in Sainsbury‘s underground carpark and set off for my walk while Pauline shopped. I walked to Rustington past some delightful houses and gardens. One garden gate featured a name plate that suddenly took me back more than 50 years. Woodbine Cottage immediately conjured up a packet of cigarettes. It was the cigarette of choice for almost all the men who worked in my Father’s Building Firm.

At the time, they were one of the cheapest so Mum and Dad needed to differentiate themselves from the workers by smoking the manly, Players Navy Cut in Dad’s case and the more sophisticated Senior Service in Mum’s case. Everybody smoked and social differentiation came to bear even there.

By the time I was 14, I was pinching cigarettes from packets on the mantlepiece and practising out in the village. As soon as I got some holiday earnings, I was smoking confidently. Of course, I couldn’t follow my parents. I had to strike out on my own with Players No 6. By the time I left home in 1969, I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day. By the time I was teaching in 1972, I was coping with the stress of work by smoking 40 cigarettes a day and had moved on to the modern but prestigious, John Player Special Black.

The last cigarettes I purchased in 1985.

In spite of trying to give up many times and lasting less than a few hours each time, I smoked for another 13 years until, in 1985, I woke up one morning and thought, I don’t need to smoke any more. Typically for me, I had bought an expensive new lighter a few days before and a new pack of cigarettes the night before. The pack of 20 cost me £1.22/€1.37 in 1985. Today, in Sainsbury‘s they would cost me £11.10/€12.45.

All of this was triggered by the Woodbine sign on the gate and the images flooding through my mind from last night when I watched two more episodes of the drama I’ve been enjoying called Babylon Berlin which is set in the late 1920s of the Weimar Republic. Overwhelmingly, it is set in a dark world where everybody and I mean everybody smoked almost all the time. We have moved so far since then that it is almost choking to watch.

Wednesday, 10th June, 2020

Woke up to a grey morning but warm and dry. We had gone to bed happy last night after receiving an email from EasyJet confirming that they had repaid the cost of our unused return flights to Tenerife in May. Our bank balance will improve to the tune of £640.00/€720.00. Such things always help the orange juice go down.

We are expecting patches of light rain today so need to snatch every possible dry spell to get our exercise done. This is exactly why we need a gym room in the garden for such difficult days. This afternoon we are doing the full costings in our estimation and then invite some groundwork firms to offer estimates for the doing the hardstanding and an electrician for installing sockets. The building itself will come with on-site erection built in so that price will be a fixed sum.

herbs and Bell Peppers have been outside since mid-May

All around the patios at the moment are collections of pots and containers with tomatoes and herb plants that need maintenance. We could not have dreamt of growing tomatoes outside in Yorkshire and certainly not safely since early May. These have been grown from seed and are now flowering profusely. They are tumbler, cherry tomatoes which we eat by the ton. The five plants we have will probably supply a couple of weeks worth of salads but it is the fun of cultivating them which has made it worthwhile.

Home grown tomatoes flowering profusely.

I grew Sweet Bell Peppers reasonably successfully in Greece but not as well here so I have half a dozen grown from seed and advancing quickly now outside.

We have watched Boris Johnson floundering once again under the forensic questioning of Keir Starmer. Always a pleasure. It is now dry and we are going out for our walk. Wish us luck!

Thursday, 11th June, 2020

Pauline got me up at 6.00 am on a rather grey morning. By 6.35 am, I was driving her to Tesco. We had been led to believe that it would be raining and I didn’t want her to queue out in the rain. She was just the first there at 6.45 am. I set off for my walk. Far from raining, it was warm and got warmer as the sun came out. The day has been delightful. I got back to the car after 90 mins and 6 miles walking. Not exactly record breaking but I was shattered when Pauline emerged with a laden trolley.

After coffee and the newspapers, we drove down to the local Authority Tip to take some defunct electrical items that can’t go in the collected bins. We were met by a long queue. Pent up demand over the lock-down allied to the need for social distancing has made access rather tedious. Only about 15 mins wait and we were on our way home. Driving through the village struck us how much we had settled in and how the inhabitants care for the environment. Angmering in Bloom is continuing to work in spite of the problems.

Angmering in Bloom

When we got home, we were contacted by our bank demanding additional information to support our insurance claim. It is worth £4,500.00 so, even though it is frustrating, it will be worth it. We had an hour or so tracking down documents, digitising them and uploading them to the Bank’s Insurance Claim site.

On our patio – 2012

From the moment that Pauline decided that we had to cut out salt to control my blood pressure, I have been addicted to herbs. There were only a few I remember from my childhood. Parsley was served every Friday in a sauce to accompany fish. Sage appeared with onion in annual stuffing. Mint accompanied roast Lamb. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any others. These days, we use Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Dill, Tarragon and particularly, Basil. I love garlic with everything. These flavours have been learned, ingrained and enjoyed throughout our time in Greece and they’ve followed us back to UK. We always grow Basil and Pauline makes Pesto. We never buy any ready made. Whatever it is, it’s not Pesto.

This year, I’m growing 4 different types of basil – Italian Greeen, Purple, Greek and Cinnamon. It will mix in salads and be used for cooking. I’m eating so much smoked salmon at the moment that I’ll have to buy a smoker for the garden. When the Garden Building is up, it can stand on the patio. Small packs of good quality salmon are costing around £8.00/€8.92 for our meal. If I smoke whole sides and Pauline slices them thinly, it will save us so much money … and what fun for the neighbours.

Friday, 12th June, 2020

The forecast was for lots of very warm rain today. We were up to bright sunshine and clear skies. Pauline is expecting an ‘all day delivery’ from UPS so I took advantage of the weather to do a 5 mile walk. It was a lovely, freeing interlude. Mind you, I was shattered when I got back. Pauline had spoken to the Bank’s insurance arm and was told our claim was back in the queue after uploading additional evidence that they had requested.

Pauline was making salmon fishcakes for our meal later in the day. I love fishcakes! If it stays dry and it certainly looks like it at the moment, we will spend an hour or two marking out the back garden for the flagging which will be required for the footprint of the building we have selected plus some extra space. After that, it will be my job to price up the materials required and getting hard landscaping firms to provide estimates for the work. The worst thing about all of it is not the cost but the disruption. Residents around us have had additional paving laid and the work seems to have gone on for ever. I won’t enjoy that.

Banana Thief

Vindicated with my early start. The rain has come lightly and very warmly this afternoon. I am in my office enjoying Chopin Études and drawing up plans for development of our outdoor facilities. Certainly, life could be a lot worse.

Satuday, 13th June, 2020

I follow the weather for the week on the BBC website. It used to be provided by the Met. Office but now comes from the Meteo Group which, like all good things, comes from Europe. However, now we’ve left the EU, they’ve decided to give us any old forecast because they don’t care. Today, they told us we’d have lots of rain after noon so we went for our walk early in the morning. We were home by 10.30 am and the blue sky was unsullied as the temperature rose to 23C/73F and stayed there until after 5.00 pm. European relationships will be like that in future.

Our job at home today is to map out, on the ground, the area of the extending garden flagging and the footprint of the building to be erected on it. Yesterday’s rain prevented our intentions. We started by doing that with garden canes and a huge ball of string. Then, I decided that we needed to really visualise what we were going to do so I looked for a spray marker to mark out the grass. I found one in Screwfix and we shot off in the car to purchase it. …. only not that easy.

When we got there, we were told that they were only dealing with Click & Collect customers. We went through the farce of standing at the door, bringing Screwfix up on our smartphone, ordering the spray, paying for it with credit card and receiving an order number. Having walked 4 paces in to the shop from the door, we were presented with the spray with our name and order number wrapped round it. Covid safe or what!

Back home, we measured out the patio base we anticipated, inserted canes into the lawn and tied string along the lengths and widths. We then placed the building inside the extra patio base with canes and strings. We are told by the company that we have to allow 2 ft between any wall of the building and any other wall, fence, etc. to allow for maintenance. We have chosen a Studio Garden Room with Garden Storage Shed attached measuring 16ft x 8ft. The extra patio required is 20ft x 12ft (20ft/6.01 mtrs. x 3.7 mtrs.). As soon as we’d mapped it , we looked at each other and said almost synchronously, We ought to go for the next size up – 18ft x 8ft. That will give us so many more options.

So that’s a decision …. we think. Decision making isn’t easy is it? I’ve already picked out the gym equipment that we’ll need. It was important to check it fitted in easily. It does.

We’ve now got to find some kitchen cabinets and worksurface to put around one end and ask an electrician about the best way to get power and internet access into it. The machines take wi-fi and a Sky Q-Box would be useful. Instead of watching politics in a stationary position, it is better to be moving at the same time. This really does seem like a plan coming together…. although, this evening, we are considering extending the building to 20ft/6.01 mtrs. or even 22ft/6.7 mtrs.. I wonder if you can get a 3-piece suite in it?

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