Week 603

Sunday, 12th July, 2020

A lovely, Summer’s day with beautiful, blue skies and a few, high flying, fleecy white clouds with 22C/70F of warmth. After breakfast, papers and political programmes, we made a walk for ourselves. We need some more salad leaf seeds to keep us going through the rest of the season. Actually, they have been harder to source than one might expect. It looks as if lots of lock-downers have been doing the same thing – living on home grown salad.

One of four local Garden Centres.

We did a 5 mile round trip walk to Highdown Garden Centre which is one of four within easy walking distance of the house. They had a couple of packets of mixed, cut-and-come-again green leaves seed. and we returned to our house to cut the lawns, sow some beds of salad and enjoy the sunshine.

We drive across to France later in the week. It is no big deal. We have done it so many times that it is like driving to Sainsbury‘s. However, we haven’t done it for 7 months and not under these conditions. We have to stay in our car while travelling, to wear a mask in public and to fill out this form prior to approaching border controls.

UK and Greek newspapers/Blogs tell us what the Sunday Telegraph is trumpeting this morning:

Greece considers second lockdown after tourists bring spike of cases.

This was always going to be the danger for Greek islanders who had stayed safe throughout the height of the pandemic because of their location. Suddenly, they get what they need but don’t want – invading tourists some of whom are asymptomatic virus carriers. On small islands, this could run riot in no time. Nothing will be easy this year.

Monday, 13th July, 2020

Dad would have been proud of me. Actually, he probably wouldn’t. He never expressed an acknowledgement of pride in his son that I can remember in the whole of my/his lifetime. He was a builder and architect and wanted his son to grow up to take over the business. His son was a huge disappointment to him. He bought me MeccanoLeggo, a Draughtsman’s equipment (a special pen) but all fell flat. I had no interest in any of it. Now, Literature and Poetry and I was your man but construction? No! Only long after his death, I learned that he described my fingers as ‘sausages’. Although I wouldn’t disagree, I did find myself rather shocked. Could explain my love of pork bangers.

My Nemesis

My wife is the practical one. In Greece, it was not easy to get an odd-job man in. I took a box of tools including a drill to the island with the intention of doing my own jobs around the house. Of course, I didn’t do them. I paid someone else to. I brought the tools and drill back with me to Surrey and then Sussex where I paid someone else to do the work professionally. Today, I plucked up my courage, charged up the drill and set about fixing my wine racks safely to the garage wall. It worked! Flushed with success, I took on the more ambitious project of establishing door tie-back hooks on the Garage wall and the Laundry door. Of course, it went brilliantly although my wife was very nervous. She had images of having to rebuild the house after I had finished. I don’t know why I didn’t try all this before.

Tuesday, 14th July, 2020

We are feeling rather hemmed in and in need of some movement and European culture. The combination of the pandemic and these lunatic Brexiteers is combining to make it all the more difficult. We need to break out … and we will.

Poseidon Palace Hotel, Kaminia, Patras

On this day in 2014, we were spending it in a lovely hotel on the outskirts of Patras on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. We had stayed there for a number of years either side of our drive to Sifnos. The following day we were to sail down the Adriatic for 24 hrs to Ancona.

Giacomo Puccini’s birthplace in old Lucca

On this day in 2017, we were driving from Lucca to Bologna having spent the best part of a week visiting Torino, Genoa, Lucca old town, Pisa and Firenze. It was part of our month long grand tour which took in Coquelles, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Moderna, Parma, Piacenza, round the Milan ring road, round Lakes Como and Lugano and in to Switzerland to Bellinzona.

From there we travelled through the Ghotthard and the Seelisberg Tunnels to Mulhouse at the start of the Alsace Wine Route. We went on through Colmar and Strasbourg and then down the A4 through Metz and Epernay in Champagne country. 

Finally, we drove through Saint Quentin, Arras, Bethune, St Omer and back to Coquelles. It was tiring but expansive, outward looking and optimistic and it emphasised our roots based firmly in European life.

Ribérac Market – July 2018

Two years ago on this day in 2018, we were in the Dordogne and returning from visiting my cousin, Sue and her husband Phil in Salles-Lavalette when we came upon a delightful market in the Dordogne commune of Ribérac. It is these vignettes of travel that make us what we are. I, for one, will never allow myself to be defined by Little England. To that end, we are going to make a brief foray into France once again on Thursday.

Wednesday, 15th July, 2020

Pauline had her hair cut on the last day before the official Lock-Down on Saturday, March 21st. We could see it coming and just got a last day appointment. Some 16 weeks later, this is what she looked like.

Tuesday, July 14th after 16 weeks without a haircut.

An hour in Worthing and £80.00/€90.00 lighter my wife looks younger and happier …. er, no. She now thinks longer looks better. I’ll leave you to decide. I daren’t say anything.

Wednesday, July 15th after a haircut.

This is Pauline almost 4o years ago outside our first house in West Yorkshire. She was only 29 years old. These photographs were taken on our new, Polaroid Camera.

I had a fascinating walk through the streets of Worthing for an hour which I would normally have spent in a coffee shop. The sea front is putting on a brave face particularly near the pier but the people are absent and the shops are in a dire state of abandonment and disrepair.

Our bustling seafront.

All the lovely, little eateries on the Italian row are grubby, isolated and depressing. It is open market day down the central street although there are no stalls today. There aren’t any shoppers. The multi-storey carpark which is normally full is absolutely empty today. Physical Commerce is on its last legs.

View from the (empty) carpark.

It’s all rather depressing really. One wonders how the streets of Worthing Town will ever climb out of this despond. It can only be by marketing itself as a very healthy, seaside environment where families will be safe to live and play, to have holidays and enjoy the coastline.

Thursday, 16th July, 2020

Past mid-July and it is becoming noticeable that mornings are a little darker and darkness comes slightly earlier in the evening. This is the downward slope into depression. To lift our spirits, we were up at 6.00 am and out by 8.00 am on the drive to Folkestone Eurotunnel. It is a couple of hours drive from here normally and we were travelling peak commuter time on the M25 so we have to give ourselves plenty of leeway. You have to check-in 45 mins before departure and we were crossing at 11.40 am so we thought we’d timed it right. 

We were shocked to find that there is no rush hour, no peak commuter time, no anything. The roads which are normally solid queues were all but deserted. 

Very quiet M25

We arrived with about 90 mins to spare which gave us time for Pauline’s wonderful coffee. The knock-on problem with that is that almost all public toilets are closed. The ones in the Tunnel Terminal were open but, in spite of social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing, everyone in the toilets was washing their hands and then using air-blasting dryers which had the effect of launching droplets of potentially infected water vapour in thick clouds through the enclosed space. I drew the management’s attention to it but received a blank stare.

A regular haunt.

We drove straight from the Tunnel terminal in Calais to the Wine Store, collected our order, added some additions, paid and left. It took about 20 mins. We drove down through Coquelles village to Auchan and bought a few things – Cheeses, cold meats, mustards, garlic, duck breasts and legs, etc.. As we drove towards Coquelles, immigrants bands were sprinting across roads into woodland. Police cars were parked, slewed across roads to block them and, when we reached Auchan, small groups of immigrants were furtively checking out the carpark. It made us feel a little uncomfortable. We were leaving a £40,000.00/€44,000.00 car unattended and containing £1,000.00/€11,000.00 of wine as a prime target.

Why does French produce look more interesting?

Anyway, all went well. We were back at the Tunnel early and got on an earlier train. I always fill out the Advanced Passenger Information (API) on-line and we filled out a mandatory Covid-tracing form which we handed in to the passport agency. She immediately told us it was for the French side who had not asked us for it. There is a UK one to do which we had to fill out when we got home.

The drive home at 4.30 pm was equally quiet and we arrived relaxed and early. It was our first, moderately long journey -4hrs driving – for quite a few months and I was tired after unloading all the wine and racking it. We’ve got to be up at 6.00 am tomorrow for Tesco’s so we must be in bed by midnight.

Friday, 17th July, 2020

Up late after a hot and humid night. Getting up at 6.30 am was a struggle after yesterday. I drove to Tesco in West Durrington about 10 mins away. Dropping Pauline off at the door, I parked and set off on my 5 mile/8km walk in warm sunshine almost reminding me of our walks abroad – Canarian not Greek. Although I was tired as I started, I soon found myself falling into a really enjoyable rhythm and was almost sorry when I arrived back at the car to find Pauline loading shopping into the boot.

On this day 6 years ago, we we driving from our hotel in Parma down the Milano Ring Road, round the Italian/Swiss Lakes, through Switzerland and on to Mulhouse in Alsace where we stayed tonight. Puts our French trip yesterday and our drive to Tesco this morning in to perspective and I found that rather depressing. To cheer myself up, I’m going to rake the lawns and clean the car.

Saturday, 18th July, 2020

Lovely, warm and sunny day although only 23C/74F. I woke up early thinking about our latest travel insurance claim. We have been pursuing it for weeks and, each time we think we have reached the end, they put in another hurdle to get over. Having demanded and received every imaginable piece of evidence, they have demanded that we put the claim to the credit card company first.

This is underhand and, in our experience, unprecedented. It is calculated to wear people down and encourage them to drop their claim. Fortunately, we are not easily worn down and do not give up. If the principle wasn’t enough, there is £4,000.00/€4,400.00 at stake. Anyway, we a Black Account holders at our bank which also insures us and we pay £350.00/€385.00 per year just to finance the services. We refuse to be given the run around by them. These are the thoughts that I awoke with at 5.30 am.

After juice and tea, I took my coffee into the Office and started searching the website for a form to initiate a Section 75 Claim against our credit card company. I entered a maze. I had tried phoning them only to be told pandemic-hit staff shortages made it impossible to discuss anything. The website just mirrored and amplified the phone approach. After an hour or so we found a link to a page that led to a claim form. This is all carefully calculated. In our case, it made us more determined.

First figs of the season.

I know we are in to mid-July but that would be at least 4 weeks early to be picking figs in Greece. In an English garden, it is astonishing to be finding ripe figs. Admittedly, this variety is Brunswick which is better suited to our climate. However, we have a Brown Turkey fig absolutely laden in fruit this year. They keep you going through second wave lock-down.

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