Week 602

Sunday, 5th July, 2020

The weather is organising itself well. Rain overnight gave way to sunshine and blue sky with 22C/70F temperature. Regular readers will know the Sunday routine – political programmes, newspapers and then ….

Open dry the fish for 24hrs to produce the pellicle surface.

The salmon has been curing for 24hrs and it is time to wash off the cure, dry and replace in the fridge for another 24hrs to form the sticky texture prior to smoking. As the moisture has been drawn out by the salt, the fish has stiffened in texture. The next stage will see that increased.

Just perfect weather for our 90 mins walk with warm, sunny, dry but not to hot conditions. I don’t know why but I’m really tired after it every day. I thought my fitness level would increase and my recovery time with it but nothing seems to change and I hardly ever miss my target. I put it down to age.

Monday, 6th July, 2020

An overcast but warm morning which gave us lots of jobs. The first thing after breakfast was to start the smoker, get it going in the smoke chamber and then place the salmon on its trivet, adjust the bottom and top vents and leave to gently smoke away for the next 12 hrs. That’s why we were keen to start it by 8.00 am. It is sited in the back garden so the smell of smoke wafts away and doesn’t annoy any neighbours.

Next was my haircut. Of course, I’ve not been affected by the pandemic because min has been cut by my wife since 1978. She is brilliant at it and, more to the point, very cheap. She has all the correct equipment like cape, hairdresser’s scissors, electric trimmers, ear and nose hair trimmers (for the more sophisticated man), etc. It happens in the kitchen and takes about an hour by which time I am squirming to get away. At least I can watch the Sky Politics while I suffer.

Later, we trimmed up all the hedges which are growing non-stop at the moment, cut the lawns, strimmed the edges and swept up. Pauline griddled the most wonderful Tuna steaks in the garden and cut fresh lettuce which she served with griddled peppers.

Time on the Wall

Regular readers will already be familiar with my obsession with time and its graduation. For me, context is all. Our Office wall is plastered with graduations in time from our parents’ photographs to graduation certificates, houses we have owned and lived in over the past 40 years and other mementoes of times in our life. This week, marks 6 years since we sold our house and left Sifnos for the last time. Our house sale board has featured in Office/Studies ever since. We had intended to return this year. We won’t and very few regulars will. Optimistic tourist observers hope Greece will achieve 25% of normal business. Depending on conditions, we will look to returning in 2021.

Tuesday, 7th July, 2020

The smoked salmon was retrieved after 10 hrs last night and we tried it straight away. It is delicious but we both agreed that it would have been better with less smoking so the next one will be done for jus 6 hrs. Even so, it is a good first attempt and we won’t need to buy smoked salmon any more.

Shopping for the Few

I’m sure many, perhaps most of us have mused at some time or other about the [lack of] activity known as sleep. To think that every human being does it/needs it and we lie down in the dark, unconscious at the same time as all those in half of the globe. While we do it, the other half of the globe is walking round following conscious activity. The hinterland of this action, of course, comes at the variable start and finish. Some need 8 – 10 hrs, others need 5 – 7 hrs although we are told somewhere in the middle is best for our health.

All our married life, Pauline has had to put up with me sleeping for about 6hrs a night. To bed at midnight and awake at 6.00 am for the past 42 years and she is beginning to get used to it. When we were working, we were early embracers of the 24hr shopping revolution. After a long, working week, we were always early birds at the supermarket on Saturday and I was out at 6.00 am on Sunday to get the papers. We have bodies perfectly attuned to pandemic shopping. Miss the queues and get there early. This is what we did this morning. Up at 5.45 am, out 1 hr later and Pauline shops at Sainsbury‘s at 7.00 am while I go on my 5 mile/8km walk. Fortunately, once again it is dry and warm.

Life changed here 6 years ago today.

All week we will have Sifnos in our minds. It is 6 years ago this evening that we visited the little, white building you can see just beyond the wall. It is the office of our friend and Notary, Elerania Miliotie who had spent months guiding us through the process of selling our house. Six years ago this evening we received hundreds of thousands of euros that we needed to get out of Greece and back in to our UK bank. It was only because of the help of Elerania and the understanding of the local bank workers that we weren’t stymied by Greek tax avoidance/tax evasion red tape. Most of this was put through our long standing account at the National Bank but I also opened a second account at another bank – the Piraeus Bank – to separate and thus reduce the size of our receipts.

Our House in April 2002

Although we look back fondly on these times and are incredibly grateful for the experiences not to mention the financial security that the enforced saving through investment gave us, we are glad to have divested ourselves of the responsibility of Greek property ownership especially in these inauspicious times. 

Wednesday, 8th July, 2020

Woke up to rain again. Quite steamy warmth but wet early. Just as before, the rain stopped and we went for our walk in a beautifully clean-smelling world …. to Asda. It is a walk of about 35 mins each way which would take us 5 mins in the car. We were keen to be back for PMQs and the Financial Statement. 

As advertised, the lad has removed stamp duty from houses under £500,000.00/€556,000.00 which is pretty meaningless down here. Houses don’t cost under that mark. Still, if it motivates other parts of the housing market and keeps the builders working, it will have helped. We have received a very acceptable estimate for hard landscaping in our back garden. We are keen to keep the ‘economy’ patio paving slabs that we have already and considerably extend them. They are called Brett Economy Buff Riven. Brett is a company owned by Marshall‘s which is a long established West Yorkshire company we know well from an earlier life.

Marshall-Brett paving.

Although this is bog-standard, economy paving and many neighbours have ‘upgraded theirs, we actually like it. It is incredibly quick draining after rain and easy to keep clean. It is also cheap. Our extended patio will only cost £5,000.00/€5,560.00. The only downside is that groundwork companies are very much in demand after people have spent months locked down, saving money and thinking, If we can’t go abroad, we ought to develop our home. Ours won’t be able to start work until 9th November. For us, it’s not a problem. Currently, I think, they’re struggling to get the paving slabs as production cranks up again.

Actually, everyone is trying to look as if they’re back to normal but are paddling fiercely below the surface. We order and paid for outdoor storage containers from Homebase at least a month ago. They took our cash at £420.00 per container but now tell us that we are unlikely to receive them until October. We’ve asked for our cash back.

At least on this day 6 years ago we had our cash back and were plotting our course back to UK. It feels so far away now and yet so recent.

Thursday, 9th July, 2020

The world is really struggling to adapt to the new normal. The extension to our patio will need quite a few packs of Marshall-Brett paving flags. The builder has a flashy Marshall-Brett brochure but can’t get the flags because they haven’ been produced for months and manufacture is only just beginning to get going. They can’t do our garden until the first week in November.

We’d ordered some large, storage boxes for out in the garden. each one was £420.00/€470.00. We are hoping to declutter the garage by using them. The company took our cash but then told us that we wouldn’t receive the goods until late September because stock was not available. We have cancelled and asked for our money back. It was quite fortunate because we found almost identical boxes for almost half that price and they will be supplied by Amazon in a week.

We are going to France on a shopping trip next week. We have pre-ordered £550.00 of wine from our regular supplier – The Calais Wine Superstore. We have been buying there since the early 1980s. Then, we were driving Huddersfield to Hull and getting on P&O Ferries to Zeebrugge and on to Calais. For more the last 10 years, we have been going through the Tunnel on day trips. 

aka Mecca

Usually, a day trip would cost £60.00 return through the Tunnel. That was cheap enough to factor in. We usually save about 50% on UK prices. However, the wine store has long offered ‘free’ travel set against a pledge to buy £400.00/€450.00 worth of wine.  Since the pandemic, Tunnel crossing prices have gone up 3-fold or more. Next week, the wine store will cover our return tickets of £220.00/€246.00. Actually, I’ve pre-ordered £600.00 of wine with a UK saving of £500.00. We will aim to do a couple more trips before the end of the year.

Good job I don’t drink – just like Liz.

Just been told that the company buying our old phones will send the money to our bank account in the next few days.  Everything is jogging along nicely. Shame the weather has been so disappointing particularly as the south coast is hosting the Test Match. This morning was drizzly as Pauline shopped in Tesco and I did my 5 mile walk. Still, it was warm. I mused as I walked at 7.00 am this morning that I literally haven’t worn anything but shorts and tee-shirts since end of March. No wonder that I look like a leathery old prune.

Friday, 10th July, 2020

Lovely warm and sunny morning now England are doing badly in the cricket. We were going to do home work but have decided to walk along the coastal path from Goring Fishermen to Worthing Pier.

Beach Garden between Goring and Worthing.

Lovely blue sky and sunshine with 22C/70F with not even a hint of sea breeze made it a perfect day for the walk. It wasn’t too busy either although it was quite early in the morning and families were only just arriving as we walked back.

Pier café open again but outside.

Even so, virtually nobody wore masks. We didn’t because we were in the open air but the path goes quite narrow in places and distancing is difficult. I read someone on Twitter the other day asking if others were like her and held their breath while passing close to people and that is exactly what I do.

Social Distancing in Worthing – taken to extremes.

We got quite a shock, as we walked closer to the pier to see the Worthing Wheel had been put back up and already re-opened. Personally, I can’t see the point or the attraction in these things. When people raved about the London Eye, I had to stifle a yawn. I’m not a hampster!

Saturday, 11th July, 2020

An empty Kamares Port.

On this day, 6 years ago, we left Sifnos after 30 years continuous association with the island. Kamares harbour was bustling with cars and travellers. Our friends had come down to see us off. Little did we think that it would be so long before we returned. We are hoping it will be next year but Covid-19 will decide. Already there is rumour of Greece’s imported infection rate going up and of the closure of their land borders. KTG report 60 new infections on Friday with 42 found in tourists. Infection-free islands are torn between Scylla & Charybdis – between fear of infected tourists and fear of an impoverished winter. They will get Charybdis anyway. It is just a matter of to what degree. Reports out of Greece suggest that they think 25% of normal tourist trade will be a good result.

‘The Times’ cartoon.

As gyms announce their re-opening from July 25th, we have already decided that it won’t be safe to return until a vaccine is available. Gyms are particularly vulnerable areas with breath projected far and wide, with virus-laden sweat sprayed liberally around. We don’t want to wear a mask to exercise nor have to book specific times to attend. Type -2 Diabetes, overweight, and atrial fibrillation all combine to make me vulnerable and not inclined to take too many risks which is why we are developing our own, home gym.

Equally, if we visited Sifnos every year for 30 years and haven’t for the past 6, we have visited Greece every year for the past 40 but we will almost certainly miss this year. Fear of flying is part of it but the unrelaxing experience we would be flying to with great heat and face masks, difficult hotel conditions and in restaurants, one is left wondering what the point would be. We paid out over £2000.00 in for hotel and flights for 5 days in Athens so we will need a doctor’s letter to claim back from our insurance company.

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