Week 604

Sunday, 19th July, 2020

Well, it’s wet but very warm this morning. Perfect for growing. We have changed our plans completely from outdoors to in-house. Pauline is touching up wall paint scrapes. I have been completing the resubmission to our insurance company. If I was skilled enough, I would rather have Pauline’s job. It is far less frustrating. I am trying to balance the need to express my frustration with my desire to move the process to a successful conclusion. I am being pragmatic by expressing compliance through gritted teeth.

I pinched this graphic from The Skiathan although I don’t know its true origin.

Something to gladden Brextremists’ hearts.

Our shopping jaunt in France last week reminded us of what we are missing. Getting away from this narrow, inward-looking, nationalistic, exceptionalist culture threaded through with naked racism felt such a relief. It has forced us to reconsider a home abroad once more. I only had to listen to Lord Botham talking about how proud he is of the island of England from his holiday villa in Spain to fall in to a deep depression.

However, for the near – medium term, we will remain cautious. Driving not flying. Tunnel not ferry. Renting villas not hotel rooms. Self catering not eating restaurants. Wearing masks in confined spaces and avoiding crowds. This will mean all our patterns of visiting friends and family will not happen this year. We may drive to a rented property abroad but we will not return to our Health Club here. It is disappointing but the consequences of infection particularly for me do not bear contemplation. 

Self Portrait with my wife – Symi, Kali Strata 1990

I thought James Collins from Symi Dream illustrated the dilemma we all have rather well. His smallish, Greek island is heavily dependent on Tourist income. We spent a few weeks there about 30 years ago. Most of you will be too young to remember but Tony Banks – one time Labour Government Sports Minister – had a house on Symi, was involved in the organisation of an annual cultural festival on the island and became an honorary Symian (or whatever they’re known as).

James’ Blog entry today expresses his worries which are undoubtedly reflective of other islanders’ concerns that the tourists who are arriving are not showing enough concern for Health & Safety – getting too close and without masks. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the beast. Those who have the confidence to travel abroad are the exact ones who won’t take other’s safety as seriously either. Who goes on holiday to a hot and sunny island to be clad in a face mask? The contradiction is obvious. In my view, that type of trip will have to wait.

Monday, 20th July, 2020

Beautiful morning … to put the bins out. We are confined to home until 11.15 am at the earliest because we await a delivery of two, huge outdoor storage boxes.

177 x 113 x 134 cm (L x W x H)

We are trying to declutter our garage and make some more space. We park our car in it every night and use every, single area for storage as well. The ceiling trusses are part boarded and store lots of stuff. I am about to order some more boarding to provide us with extra facility. These are the joys of pandemic time.

The packages arrived on time and two, tattooed gorillas cheerfully barrowed them into our back garden.After three hours in hot sunshine, we had assembled one complete with hydraulic roof lifts and hinged doors. We stopped about 1.30 pm for a drink and some salad. Unfortunately, the sunshine dictated that the drink was a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc which made the afternoon a little less productive.

Actually, we started the second container about 2.30 pm and worked until 5.00 pm. I was in and out of the kitchen to keep an eye on how the cricket was going. Great to see England win and keep the series alive. We had only half finished the second container by the time we stopped after the electric screw driver ran dry. My body ached in places that it didn’t know it had.

Still, it was a satisfying experience and one which just serves to illustrate the strength of our marriage. Neither of us considered divorce throughout the construction process. Interestingly, this bottle of wine is marketed by Vivino in UK for £7.99/€8.84 whereas I bought it in France for £2.99/€3.31 per bottle. There has got to be something wrong somewhere.

Tuesday, 21st July, 2020

A busy day at home under a burning sun. We were up early and got on with completing the second storage container. As with everything, we were confident in yesterday’s experience of the first one and it was finished in no time – well, about an hour. By lunch time, I had filled both containers with lawn mowers, rakers, strimmers, hedge trimmers, etc. Out of the garage went long term storage of tiles for the kitchen floor, for the bath room floors and for the walls. Friendly builders left them for us as insurance. The hard standing in the back garden won’t even be started until the first week in November.

After lunch, I’ve mowed all the lawns, trimmed the edges and watered copiously. In this hot, dry weather it is badly needed. It is important to keep the property looking good. In 2013, we had just put our Greek property on the market. The house had been painted and decluttered. We had cleared the ground; Pauline had painted the heavy, sliding iron gate and I had attached a House for Sale sign on the front. It felt strange but right. It certainly worked judging by the number of people who stopped to take down the contact details although it took until the Summer of the following year to complete a transaction.

Wednesday, 22nd July, 2020

Frightening how one can fiddle & faddle a day away without trying or achieving much. It is not my style and I would normally be furious with myself but today is such an occasion. Up early to a beautiful day. As I drank breakfast, I started watering the lawns. It is going to be a long, hot day and every one needs a drink. While I was out there, I picked a few more, early-developer figs which are coming on strong now but with lots more developing.

We were waiting in for a delivery of fresh fish but they can’t source it all until tomorrow so that felt like time wasted but we did receive a visit from the builder with a contract to sign in readiness for the first week in November and we had another, on-line insurance claim form to fill out which takes some time and fortitude. We also had to renew our annual travel insurance policy which we get, largely ‘free’ through our bank account but my ‘conditions’ require a top-up and, half way through the next year, I will be 70 which also requires a top-up. I expected that to cost an arm & a leg but it only amounts to £75.00 extra and continues to include ‘pandemic inc. Covid-19 insurance’ which has surprised us.

Nowadays, they want to know every detail of one’s repeat prescription right down to the cream Pauline uses for dry skin and the drops she uses for dry eyes. Whoops, have I said too much? Anyway, let’s hope we get to use our travel insurance before I’m 70.

Thursday, 23rd July, 2020

Lovely, warm and sunny day which has one, central task concerning Rubbish. Pauline did our Tesco shop at 7.00 am as I completed my 5 mile walk around the West Durrington area. Shopping is so easy and relaxed now that Pauline is walking straight in without queueing at that time.

It’s all Rubbish!

After a trip to France produced another 40 empty boxes to dispose of plus we had two, huge storage boxes each of which came in carboard with polystyrene infills meant a trip to the tip was in order. I can’t quite rationalise it yet but since the reopening after lock-down, the queues of cars for the local refuse tip are enormous and growing. What is going on? Anyway, we had 30 mins to waste so we waited and our property is now breathing a sigh of relief as it is decluttered.

You can hardly find a seat on Sifnos!

Decluttering is not a problem Sifnos has at the moment. It is still so quiet that they will even entertain animals. The Greeks are not renowned as romantic about animals. Greek men celebrate their macho with gun dogs and discipline.

It is interesting how many still really believe that this season isn’t lost and, maybe, the next. If a second wave puts paid to next year, driving not flying, self-catering not hotels will be the order of the day. Ally that to the Brexit-induced problems of more expensive insurance, medical cover, pet passports, mobile roaming charges and European driving licences and that might really make Greece too unattractive for most UK travellers.

Friday, 24th July, 2020

Lovely breakfast from the garden today. We are so pleased that we decided to plant some figs even though we hadn’t too much optimism at the outset. 

Figs from our garden for breakfast.

We had set ourselves a series of tasks to achieve today and we both got up early thinking about them. One was to renew our insurance claim with new evidence. We did that together online. Next, we had decided to mow the lawns and trim the hedges. That took longer than expected. Lunch and then I tried to source some loft boarding to board up an area of our garage  to store more stuff off the ground and make more space. 

You would not believe how difficult it is to source basic, everyday items of building materials at the moment. The world maybe trying to move on but manufacturing is still lagging way behind. Recently, I was trying to find paving slabs for our patio extension. Non in stock and production had not restarted yet. Today, I tried to find simple, chipboard loft panels. Unless you want enough to do an entire house loft, you just can’t get them. I only wanted 5 packs each of 3 boards. They should have cost me less than £50.00/€55.00 but, unless I ordered a minimum of £100.00/€110.00, I would have to pay £30.00/€33.00 for delivery. I would not be allowed to Click & Collect.

We received an acknowledgement from our Health Club that we were resigning with immediate effect from our membership. It felt strange but absolutely right. We had asked our doctor to provide supporting evidence of our decision but, to David Lloyd‘s credit, it turned out to be unnecessary. Even so, after going there most days for 4 years, it is a wrench. The next thing will be our flights to Athens and hotel stay which has to go. Now is not the time to indulge ourselves and to take risks. 

Social Distancing at Heathrow yesterday.

You only have to consider the position these people travelling through Heathrow were put in yesterday. If they then disembarked in a steamy, hot Athens with a view to relaxation and enjoyment and you can see the contradiction. We will ask our doctor for support in an insurance claim on that one.

Friday, 24th July, 2020

This morning, we have woken up to light rain. It is quite a surprise because we didn’t expect it until this evening. It does illustrate why we need our own, home gym. The weather has persuaded us to stay in and do things out of the rain – house jobs. It looks like I might have found a Loft Board supplier where I can Click & Collect. I’m going to order from Jewson which is only 3 miles away and, hopefully, collect it on Monday.

We have owned 6 houses over our marriage. We were always looking to add value to them by improving and upgrading. We always bought and upgraded with a view to future saleability. It is hard to lose that attitude although we both know that this house will, probably, be our last before. We are trying to educate ourselves in improving for our needs alone. That is why we are preparing the ground for a home gym.

This morning David Lloyd, Worthing wrote to us acknowledging our resignations and wishing us well. It was only a couple of weeks ago that they were threatening to hold us to our contract. I suspect that they already realised they had no chance of doing that because so many of our age group were saying the same as us.

Ten years ago, after living in our Greek house just for school holidays for 5 years, Retirement and 6 month residency meant we needed to do some serious finishing.

It’s a bit like child birth (as if I’d know) in that the pain or inconvenience of the work is all forgotten in the enjoyment of the finished product. We know that, as they bring digging machines into our back garden and take delivery of packs of paving slabs which will have to be stored, our daily life will be a bit disrupted. We won’t be able to get the car in to the garage. We may have to park on the roadside. However, as soon as its over, life will be so much better.

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