Week 606

Sunday, 2nd August, 2020

A day without going out walking – warm and sunny but not hot. Maximum 22C/70F but very comfortable. This is a planning day. Things are moving rapidly in the outdoor cooking and gym installations.

My neighbour from the house behind us invited me to see his gym room. He has laid rubber flooring, gym equipment, a television and a fridge full of beer. Well, I can manage without the beer but I like the way he’s done things. The out door cooking kitchen will consist of two, stainless steel industrial catering base units plus to similar wall units.

Part of the outdoor kitchen.

In the gym area, we will have a Treadmill, a lumbar bike and a cross trainer.

The flooring will be an interlocking rubberised tile system. his will provide some flexibility and extra warmth. We will need an electrician, to come and assess the installation. We will probably install the floor matting ourselves. We will need a kitchen fitter to install the kitchen units and then a tv installation man to put a tv on the wall. We expect the whole thing to be up and running by late September just in time for the cooler, wetter weather to appear and make outside exercise more difficult.

The whole thing won’t cost much more than a couple of years gym membership for the two of us. Of course, we won’t have a pool. We are still talking that over but it seems a bit over indulgent at the moment.

Monday, 3rd August, 2020

A busy and warm, rather close morning. We were up early and the temperature had soon risen to 24C/75F with a sticky humidity.

A couple of days ago, my next door neighbour who was born in West Yorkshire, told me that his rhubarb plant he had stuck behind his garage 4 years ago had really  grown for the first time. It is on the other side of the fence to where I planted my fig trees that are now an embarrassing 15ft/4.6 mtrs tall and weighed down with fruit Earlier in the year, I was flooding the fig trees with water to encourage swollen, juicy fruit. It has worked too well. The trees have shot up and the figs are as big as apples.

All that watering has had an equal effect on his rhubarb. Just after breakfast, my neighbour who is also called John, called round with an armful of rhubarb. Two hours later, Pauline had turned it in to Rhubarb & Ginger jam to eat with yoghurt. Delicious!

We should be walking into the foyer of the Electra Palace, Athens in just over three weeks. We won’t be and I informed them of that this morning. 

We have been staying in Electra Group Hotels in Athens for more 30 years – The Electra Hotel on Ermou Street, The Electra Palace Hotel on N. Nikodimou Street and The Mitropolis Hotel on Mitropoleos.

We have been in Greece every year since 1981. The Electra Palace was a haunt of children’s author, Nina Bawden and her husband, Austen Kark who was managing director of The BBC World Service. They renovated an old house in Nafplio.

It may look rather staid but its cool and calm atmosphere is the perfect retreat from a day in the hot and noisy streets of Athens.

The hotel responded to my communication by immediately providing me with a voucher for the full value of my booking – €1,400.00 for 4 nights stay + an extra 10% which can be used at any time and will be repaid in full if I don’t use it within 18 months. So many British companies could learn from this. It immediately makes me want to return as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 4th August, 2020

Started the day like every recent Tuesday by getting up at 6.00 am and driving out by 6.50 am so that Pauline can enter Sainsbury‘s by 7.00 am. It provided us with the least contact with ‘people’ that we can manage while still conducting our lives. As regulars will know, I did my walk and arrived back 40 mins later with a bit of a sweat on.

Very sunny but incredibly humid day. Back home by 8.00 am, we tried to sit outside to discuss some things we have to make decisions on but found it almost too intense to remain there. To add to the humidity, I’ve been watering everywhere until the steam rises.

Quite productive – Grown from seed.

The topic for discussion of our garden meeting today was our investment portfolio. We have five savings/investment accounts which were paying us a reasonable if not fabulous return until recently. In the last couple of months all have reduced their returns to a massive 0.35% per annum. Nobody can countenance that. With the UK CPI at 0.6%, the savings would actually be losing money. I have never allowed them to do that.

I am going to do something unprecedented for me and use the-safe-as-houses, inflation-beating NS&I. National Savings & Investments  has always seemed so staid that I’ve looked for other investments vehicles. Now, I am retrenching. They have a number of benefits:

  • Boring but safe as houses;
  • Inflation busting investment rate of 1.15% (Can hardly believe I’m writing that!);
  • We can hold joint investment accounts so Pauline can easily access all when I die;
  • We are not limited to a 2 x £85,000 = £170,000 FCS Compensation Scheme;
  • Instant access without loss of earnings

The one downside of this is having to give up the ISA shelter on a good chunk of the investment which we’ve built up over the past 20 years. However, 0.35% is untenable. Time to move on.

Wednesday, 5th August, 2020

Lovely day but once again it is hot and humid. We have been planning our new, home gym. We have builders and electricians coming round tomorrow with a start date of November. After breakfast, we finalised our plans in anticipation of our coming meeting. Then, we set off on a walk down to the Post Office in our local village centre.

Life is crawling back to ‘normal’ for some.

Thursday, 6th August, 2020

Glorious, August day. We were up at 5.45 am and out by 6.30 am. We were on our way to Tesco in West Durrington at the start of a morning of shopping. Pauline did £100.00/€111.00 of shopping for ‘free’ while I did my walk. Why was it for ‘free’ – well, because we had built up around £100.00/€111.00 of vouchers converted from Clubcard Points and these were cashed-in. We have about £50.00/€55.50 worth of vouchers for Sainsbury‘s as well so I am pushing Pauline to use rather than hoard these things before they are lost in inflation.

I have written recently of feeling trapped with travelling becoming so difficult for people like me. The Daily Telegraph is running a number of articles today which seriously undercut any confidence that might be returning to tourism this summer.

This one appears to suggest that the threat will come from the Greeks themselves – imposing travel bans or prohibitive quarantines because of rising infection rates – some imported but now, increasingly home-grown. 

Other countries and particularly France may require UK quarantine on return from abroad. There is a sense in which this is seen as threatening behaviour by UK Plc as part of Brexit negotiation – or failure of it by the Bungling Brits. It is definitely time for us to make a second trip to France in case it is our last chance.

I am writing at 7.00 pm and the temperature is 29C/85F. It feels very hot, still and sultry. The night will be hot and tomorrow even hotter. This is what we like if we can’t travel.

Friday, 7th August, 2020

After a Greek night of heat and humidity, we were up at 6.00 am and out to Worthing town centre via the beach by 7.30 am. We had a click & collect from M&S to make. The beach and the town streets are extremely quiet.

Even the tide was out although it wasn’t yet 8.00 am. The temperature was 27C/81F and the sun was strong. The sea – far out – was like glass and really reflected the sky.

We collected our purchase, nipped in to Waitrose for some Feta Cheese and Kalamata olives and were back home by 9.00 am. 

After coffee, I set about watering roadside lawn, front lawn and Drive side-beds. Meanwhile, I was picking tomatoes from the plants I grew from seed believing them to be cherry tomato plants. They are nothing of the sort. We would not buy this sort of size fruit from the market. They are also incredibly prolific. We have so many that Pauline is thinking of roasting them with garlic and putting them in jars for anti-pasti.

We don’t usually eat lunch but today was one of those lovely days of wonderful weather combined with some excellent news from the past 24hrs (which I’m banned from reporting) which just had to be celebrated. Our lunch included lettuce, tomatoes and figs picked a few minutes earlier from our garden. Anyone who has done that knows this sense of achievement adds a frisson of euphoria to the flavour.

Saturday, 8th August, 2020

2013 – £17.60
2020 – £46.50

On this seriously hot, Greek day, the humidity was high and the temperature was 27/81F by 7.30 am and, ultimately reached 34C/93F. The humidity was there all day and was energy sapping. Even so, we did plenty of work. I cut all the lawns again and watered everywhere.

Our meal was griddled Tuna steaks with Greek Salad. Real echo of the past. On this day 7 year ago, I recorded our change from buying litres of Italian olive oil on our drive home to buying 5ltr cans of Greek oil to bring home in the car. This was our favourite and cost €19.50/£17.60 for 5ltrs. It is delightful with salad but, at that price, we used it with so many types of cooking.

Today, of course, we don’t have the opportunity of carrying 20ltrs of oil back to our Sussex home but we still prefer Greek oil. Pauline sourced Kalamata oil in ½ltr of bottles for £4.20/€4.65 (£42.00/€46.50 for 5ltrs). The price is irrelevant now but the oil is delicious and we don’t cook with it but dress our salads instead. However, it is difficult to beat Greek olive oil.

As I write at 8.00 pm, the temperature is a wet and sweaty 28C/82F. It is on nights like this we wish we had installed air-conditioning in the bedroom.

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