Sunday, 16th August, 2020
We should be arriving here tomorrow. On the left of the shot up Navarchou Nikodimou is our hotel – Electra Palace. On the left, is Pauline’s hairdresser – Michalis Anousakis. We should be walking on this central Athens street but we won’t be and we bitterly regret it.
Instead, we have been out under grey, steamy skies to for a short, coastal drive. Littlehampton beach area is busy in spite of the weather. A dinghy regatta is going ahead. Bathers are happily swimming in the sea. It must be warm water because many ‘older’ citizens are cavorting in the waves as well as younger ones on surf board and in kayaks.
It is 21 years ago this week that we borrowed £50,000.00 and paid £60,000.00 for a field on a remote, Greek island. It was an incredibly scruffy field half way up a mountain and we didn’t have the money. We took this photo from Villa Margarita where we were staying across the valley. Buying a farmer’s field on a Greek island with no money is not a recipe for relaxation. We were in our late 40s and felt that, if we didn’t go for it then, we never would.
We borrowed £50,000.00/€55,300.00 although we were paying £60,000.00/€66,300.00 in Drachmas for 4 acres of Greek land. Above is what it looked like. We both thought ourselves stark raving mad and we were excited/terrified in equal measures. It all happened 21 years ago. It feels like a lifetime.
Monday, 17th August, 2020
A warm night during which, briefly, we had some loud rolls of thunder and bright stripes lightning overhead. I woke a couple of times to hear torrential rain in bursts of two or three minutes duration. This morning it is bright, sunny, warm but fresh. We have to stay at home because we are expecting an all-day delivery of stainless steel, industrial kitchen units for our garden kitchen.
These sort of things are notorious for damage in transit – scratches and dents – because of the brushed steel plate that they are constructed out of.
It was with trepidation that we awaited the delivery van of Tuffnells with our ‘delicate’ cargo. It arrived about 11.30 am and our trouble began. We were concerned about dents and scratches but we found it was attached to an incredibly heavy pallet and every surface was protected by s skin-tight film wrap that had to be peeled off. It took us two hours but we did it. Lookss great and does what we need. Some more to follow and a brushed metal upright freezer as well.
Next will be the electrician, the wifi extension, the television installation and the exercise equipment. Soon, we’ll actually be working out in there.
Tuesday, 18th August, 2020
Actually, a lovely, warm and sunny day. We didn’t get much above 22C/70F but without a breeze and without the uncomfortable humidity of late, it felt delightful. We were up at 6.00 am and shopping in Sainsbury‘s by 7.00 am. The supermarket was busy with shelf pickers for Click&Collect but few individual shoppers. The IT systems were just cranking up for the day and the same in Asda where Pauline was picking up orders.
Home before 9.00 am, my job for the day was to set about our bank’s travel insurance arm for prevaricating over a 4 month period and still not paying us out. We have had about £2,000.00/€2,220.00 back from our cancelled trip to Tenerife in May but we are still owed around €4,200.00/£3,790.00. I can tell you that we have been pushed through every imaginable hoop and we will not give up now.
We have seen the insurance arm of NatWest, which is underwritten by the Direct Line Group, develop self defence routines over the past 4 months making it ever more difficult to prosecute completely justified claims in an attempt to save themselves from pay-outs. Throughout, I have tried to stay polite and reasoned although it has been difficult at times. We will push until we are paid.
Today, we picked lots of ripe and bursting figs. They reminded us of our time in Greece but, eleven years ago, I recorded in my Blog that trees on our fields were producing a fruit we didn’t recognise. Locals told us that it was called Kidoni which I soon found, to my embarrassment, to be Quince.
Kidoni Glyko tou Koutaliou is a favourite with Greeks. It is Quince cooked until soft and then preserved in a sickly syrup. It is eaten with a spoon on its own or topping yoghurt. Greeks love very sweet sweets.
Wednesday, 19th August, 2020
A dark, wet morning of heavy rain but warmer – humid even. We were up at 7.00 am and addressing issues we need to sort out before 9.00 am. We have the new ‘outdoor freezer’ arriving on Saturday and the electrician coming for 3 day’s work on Monday. It is time to order gym equipment.
I have been looking at a company called Sportstech which is German. Their equipment looks great if expensive. When I started to do ‘Due Diligence’, I found that there were numerous problems with manuals only in German, poor delivery times, difficult self-construction demands, poor communications with the company and having to phone Germany for much of it.
Pauline, who is much more cautious (aka sensible) than I am, looked for alternatives and came up with a company in Shoreham on Sea about 3 miles down the coast. Their machine is not much more expensive and will delivered, constructed and installed and comes with 3 years on-site service warranty. We ordered it immediately but we won’t receive it until October. The pandemic has led to cancelled gym memberships and surging gym equipment sales for home use.
In Greece, as Covid spikes, Kathimerini reports that:
The Greek cruise ship owners’ association (EKFN) is essentially asking for a ban on cruises this season, invoking the dangers of the pandemic.
and Norway has added Greece and UK to its quarantine list. The question is not about this failed tourist season but the next one or two. As we are constantly told, we will have to learn to live with this virus for some time to come and airlines are adjusting accordingly. Will people turn back to flying next Spring especially if there is a serious second wave of infection this Winter? It is doubtful.
Thursday, 20th August, 2020
Out at 6.45 am to Tesco. Pleasantly warm on a day that reached 24C/75F by mid afternoon. Shopping was very quiet according to Pauline. I was out walking. When we got home, we were very disappointed and rather bemused to find that NatWest Travel Insurance had rejected our claim for €4,200.00/£3,800.00 lost on a villa rental in Tenerife last May. We now have to take our action to the NatWest Legal Team and, ultimately, the Financial Ombudsman. People like us will pursue this to the bitter end. We have very little to lose.
The day has a slight feel of end of Summer. There was a steamy, mistiness this morning. Squirrels are everywhere amongst the oak trees laden with acorns. The blackberry bushes are really fruiting strongly. The elderberries are being raided by diarrhettic birds who happily proceed to decorate cars.
By early afternoon, Hermes delivered two, more wine rack kits. The are produced in Poland and delivered as kits by Amazon for quite a cheap price. Each one takes 63 bottles. I now have a run of 4 racks but still have many more bottles than slots. I must drink faster.
Friday, 21st August, 2020
Went to bed at 11.30 pm. Up at 3.30 am and outside in the back gaden under a totally clear sky full of the most amazing stars. It felt like a Greek summer’s night at 20C/68F and humid. We drank tea and watch Biden’s Presidential Acceptance Speech on Sky News before going back to bed at 4.30 am for a couple of hours.
By 9.00 am, we were driving to the local Tip to get rid of lots of packaging from things delivered this week. It was reasonably quiet at this time of the day. We still have to show some photo ID to prove we are entitled. The wind was fairly gusty and launching large sheets of cardboard in to a skip was fairly hazardous but that complete, we went on to the beach to smell the sea air.
The smell of the sea and the warmth of the breeze was quite intoxicating. There is something unbeatable about it. In spite of the warmth, it wouldn’t really be described as holiday weather with strong wind and scant sunshine this morning. A few, hardy souls were opening up their beach huts. It reminded me of our family in the late 1950s. We went for 2 or 3 years to a rented villa called red roofs – not sure why. I remember, it always smelled musty as we went in as if it was just used occasionally.
We always had a beach chalet for the day on the beach and it was very necessary. The wind off the North sea was cold even to a fit, young man like me. We swam but goodness knows how we managed it. I remember we needed a wind break on the sands to hold back the wind and the flying sand. I really don’t remember it as a joy of childhood although, I’m sure Mum and dad thought they were doing their best.
Saturday, 22nd August, 2020
It was a breezy but very warm night and I didn’t sleep particularly well. Around 4.00 am, we had a couple of bursts of torrential rain but not for long and when we rose around 6.30 am, the world looked fresh, bright and sunny. We are ordering so much ‘stuff’ at the moment that we are tied at home until things are delivered. Today it was an upright freezer for the outdoor kitchen.
We’ve gone for the industrial look with the units, freezer and apparatus – Commercial Griddles, Deep Fat Fryer and Hob which will be supplemented with an electric Barbecue Grill.
The gym equipment has been ordered but the pandemic has made people – like us – so averse to taking the risk in a Commercial Gym that so many are – like us – developing their own at home.
As I complete my writing for this afternoon, I have had a very unexpected and valuable call from the Legal Services of our Bank’s Black Account. I have referred my ‘failed’ claim to them for pursuit. It cost us nothing other than our normal account fees. They will take up our case and employ Spanish lawyers to prosecute it. They have every confidence of success although it will take a while. Even if they fail ultimately, I will then have an unassailable case against my insurance company. What a way to open the weekend!