Week 607

Sunday, 9th August, 2020

As the Summer hits its high points – and it’s already 23C/74F at 8.00 am in the garden – we are preparing for a long Winter. Well, squirrels do it. Why shouldn’t we? Fail to Prepare and you should Prepare to Fail. Exercise has been magical since the start of the pandemic even though we did, initially, miss the health Club. We know that this magical weather will end and that, although we are in a fortunate part of the country for warmth and sun, there will be wet days and relatively cold days when we won’t want to go our walking.

At 9.00 pm last night, there was a knock on the door and a young man handed over two, black, rubberised tiles each about 0.5 mtrs square. These will be the basis of our gym floor. We had been looking at buying the flooring from an on-line company. The materials alone would have cost us £500.00/€554.00. The work would have taken us days of sweat and frustration. Pauline found a company in Shoreham-by-Sea who have quoted us £561.0/€22.00 to supply and fit the whole floor and they’ll do it in 4 hrs.. Guess what we decided to do.

There are 2 styles in 4 different colours to choose from. We chose the roundal style in black. The sections are thick sop sound deadening and flexible which is good or an elephant like me. They are warm and moppable for those who sweat a lot. The tiles are designed like jigsaw pieces. They interlock with a good beating from a rubber hammer. What it does mean that, in the unlikely event one was damaged, it can be removed a replaced.

As the temperature has climbed to 36F/97F this afternoon, even our thoughts have turned to air conditioning. If this is to be the ‘new normal’, we are going to need some relief. We had it around the house in Greece and now will come to expect it in Sussex.

Monday, 10th August, 2020

A very hot night that didn’t fall below 22C/70F which officially designates it as a ‘tropical’ night. We were up at 6.30 am because we were both thirsty after losing so much liquid over night. We were facing a day of hot temperatures – We reached 32C/90F. – which were acceptable even for Greek summer and we were finishing our preparations for the gym flooring to go down.

Eleven years ago, we had been retired for 4 months and were preparing to drive to our Greek house until October. We had a new car which had been valeted. We were desperately trying to make sure that I had enough drugs to last me over the duration.

Packing drugs in the Dining Room – 2009

Looking at the photo I posted all those years ago, it carries so many connotations for me. The Dining Room is in Quarry Court, Longwood, Huddersfield. The Dining Room features a stripped, oak table that Pauline bought for a few pounds in 1974. The Drinks Cabinet came from my family. When I requested it, my Mother insisted I buy it from her. The chair is one of 4 carved, mahogany Dining chairs that Pauline and I bought from an antique shop in Yorkshire and had reupholstered. All the furniture was left for the house purchaser. The drugs are at my worst point. I no longer take Type 2 medication, Hypertension medication is almost gone and Cholesterol medication is halved.  The whole scene represents a distant existence.

Our route was from Huddersfield to St George’s Dock, Hull and overnight on P&O Ferry to Zebrugge. Drive like bats out of hell non-stop to Ancona … and rest. Luxury Cabin on Superfast for 24 hrs down the Adriatic.

Good Old Days

Arrive in Patras and drive to Piraeus to, hopefully, catch ferry to Sifnos that day. The whole journey was to take us 3 days although that didn’t always work. When I think now that I drove at speeds hovering around 100 mph most of the way through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy with the latter very fatigued and through the darkness of the early hours of the morning. Such brave-foolish things young people do. At least we survived and are still here to tell the tale until Covid-19 gets us!

They were exciting/challenging times but, although I long to get back on my travels, I’m not sure I would want to embrace this challenge again. We had thought of it this year. maybe the pandemic saved us from ourselves.

Tuesday, 11th August, 2020

Another hot, humid night led to a hot and humid early morning. At 7.00 am, as we walked in to Sainsbury‘s, the temperature was 21C/70F. It was the first time I had been in to a supermarket for quite a few weeks. The first thing that hit me was how few actual shoppers were in the aisles which were almost blocked by Click&Collect pickers with their full trolleys. They were all wearing masks although all the ‘directional’ arrow indicators had gone which meant that ‘distancing’ was no longer being strictly observed. Shelves were not really fully stocked. Fish counters, Delicatessen counters, Bakery counters were still not open although we were told last week that Tesco Fish counter will reopen next week. We suspect that supermarkets may take advantage of this pandemic to rationalise a number of facilities out of existence.

By 3.00 pm, the temperature has hit 33C/92F. I have spray-watered the lawns so that they look thick, green and lush. We have produced another batch of smoked salmon. We have been constantly refining our technique until we hit the recipe we both like. We are both amazed at the results of our experiments. The final solution has been a longer cured – 28 hrs – Gravadlax followed by a miniscule amount of smoking. We had been told by all the experts that smoking should be for between 24 – 48 hrs. The result was a product that burnt one’s throat and remained there for days afterwards. There was little taste of salmon and huge amounts of campfire. 

Home smoked salmon

We have refined it down until we do 28 hrs curing in salt, sugar and dill followed by just one hour smoking in apple wood. The final product is wonderful and costs about 25% of the shop packaged equivalent. Winner all round.

Wednesday, 12th August, 2020

As we got up at 6.30 am, the temperature was 22C/70f – so officially another Tropical Night. By 9.00 am it was 24C/75F and outside I was beginning to believe I was hearing the cacophony of cicadas across the garden. All it needed was the braying of a donkey from across the valley, the clip of goat hooves up the road, the long, low, boom of an arriving ferry and …

Out in the garden, the overnight warmth had encouraged even more tomatoes to scream out, Pick me!. I picked them. Just 3 pots of tomato plants have produced 5Kgs of fruit with about the same again to come. However, I really must read the seed packets next year. I bought what I thought were sweet, cascading cherry tomatoes. They are very ripe but not sweet by modern standards. They have cascaded but are much bigger than cherry tomatoes. Similarly, I grew the pepper plants from seed. I thought I was buying ‘bell’ pepper plant seeds. The first one fell off as I examined them this morning. It is in ‘finger’ shape. When I returned to the original seed packet, it clearly said, sweet tasting, elongated, finger peppers. Well, I’m only have a Research Degree. Don’t expect me to read things.

Two young men have arrived to install the gym floor. It is a thick, rubberised carpet of interlocking tiles. Warm, insulating and quiet to exercise on. They are interesting people – Poles who sound like Americans – who are much in demand at the moment. So many others are doing what we are doing and not returning to commercial gyms but developing gyms at home. It might be an extra up front expense but will pay dividends in the future. Certainly, I wouldn’t be surprised if homes in the country/on the coast carry a premium and especially with a home gym attached. People will want to get away from the density of urban dwelling and the risks of close contact exercise. I think we’re on to a winner here!

I am writing this at 2.30 pm. The temperature has hit 32C/90F once again and it feels very wet. Humidity makes everything more difficult. This morning we cut all the lawns, trimmed all the hedging, strimmed all the edges, swept up all the cuttings and watered all the grass. The weather made it twice as tiring.

Thursday, 13th August, 2020

Another hot, ‘Tropical Night’ with bursts of heavy rain opened dry and steamy at 6.00 am. This is a delicious time when so many lie-a-bed and leave the world to us. It looks and smells fresh and wonderful. We arrived at Tesco by 6.55 am as the temperature reached 24C/75F. Our ways parted as Pauline went in to the store and I set off on my walk. It was a very sweaty activity today as it has been for the best part of a week but enjoyable for all that. 

4 Wine Racks = 4 x 63 = 252 bottles

I ordered these wine racks from Amazon. They come flat-packed and require 36 screws. I have had an electric screw driver and an electric drill/screwdriver for more than 10 years and really been terrified of using them. Today, we built 4 wine racks with 144 screws and found that an electric drill/screw driver wasn’t so bad at all.

We also ordered our garden kitchen equipment – stainless steel, professional cabinets and a large, upright freezer. We have had the flooring laid and booked our favourite electrician to install 8 x double electrical sockets which will require a new, consumer unit. We will also have 3 double LED strip lights installed and a lantern with PIR sensor outside. I have worked out how to take wi-fi outside where I will have a large, 55″ TV with a Sky Q Box installed so that life can run seamlessly while we are exercising.

Just today’s harvest.

On this lovely evening in the garden, I’ve been picking tomatoes that have ripened over the day. We are already up to more than 7kgs/15.5 lbs from just 3 pots of plants. We are trying hard to eat them although they are softening fast in this hot weather. Today, our meal consisted of Roast Cod loin accompanied by roast tomato & garlic. That’s all. I ate so much tomato! I am really trying but one can only do so much.

Friday, 14th August, 2020

Up at 7.00 am to a very different day. Hot, steamy and overcast. It was 22C/70F from the start. We have a busy morning which, after Breakfast, starts with a trip to the Tip. We have huge piles of cardboard that came around a number of deliveries recently. Interesting to find that at 9.00 am, the long queues of recent times have now gone. Gone where? I’m not sure but certainly not to France. After emptying the car of rubbish, we drove on to Screwfix for our gym development materials for and then on to Sainsbury‘s. Everywhere was surprisingly quiet. We completed our morning activities with a long walk.

Of course, the shambles of the ludicrously revealing examination system were consciously knocked off the front pages by the viciously political  attack on tourism to France. Private schools grades marked up and State schools grades, particularly in deprived and impoverished areas, marked down. Everything done on the hoof after months when real thought could have been given to the situation. Ultimately, Tories have resorted to the age old method of discrimination. But don’t worry about that. Look at the little dinghy of brown people trying to reach Britain for a better life. 

Just to throw in to the mix another dead cat to bounce, the Tories add more misery to European Travel by forcing those returning from France to quarantine for 2 weeks. FCO advice officially becomes against all but essential travel which automatically negates insurance and leaves people swinging in the wind.

Greece has had a reasonably ‘good pandemic’ with very low death rates particularly on the islands although opening up to tourism has brought worrying, new rates of infection. Of course, Greek islanders only have the Tourist £/$/€ to survive the winter comfortably. They must be very worried about their futures at the moment. 

One of our old favourites – ‘Taverna Kamaron’ – with no queues for a table.

The Cruise industry is absolute dead – so much so that cruise ships are drifting around in the English Channel, apparently abandoned at sea. It is cheaper to anchor there than pay harbour fees. Who knows when it will be safe to go on a cruise again.

Tourists watching cruise ships anchored in the English Channel.

Saturday, 15th August, 2020

An on-off grey and misty day with little sunshine but lots of warmth. It has turned quite wet so we’ve been house-bound. I’ve been fighting with insurance companies while Pauline has been far more constructive. She’s been making strawberry jam and tomato chutney. They are in separate jars and smell very differently but look quite similar.

Tomato Chutney & Strawberry Jam

These lovely flavours will fortify us over the Winter. The summer is still with us – just. It is looking less and less likely that we will do anything significant this year. Let’s hope there is a vaccine before the new year is much developed.

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