Week 610

Sunday, 30th August, 2020

Beautiful morning of bright sunshine and blue sky contrasting with the radiant, lush green of the lawn. Just 17C/63F but a joy to behold. Sundays are not particularly joyous days in my calendar so this is very welcome. 

Of course, Sundays will forever be associated in my mind with enforced Church attendance and deliberate indoctrination akin to the Chinese brainwashing treatment of the Uighurs. I hated it with a passion and couldn’t wait to get away from it. Funnily enough, the moment I did get away, something happened that I’ve scarcely admitted to myself never mind to others. It all came back to me last night as we watched an interesting, coming-of-age film on television. It was called Lady Bird.

Who the hell was Vieuxtemps?

The girl, called Christine but self styled Lady bird, growing up in a newly impoverished Catholic home and attending a convent school, manages to get a scholarship to university in spite of her middle class impoverishment. She is desperate to get away but, in her first week at university and after a difficult ‘Freshers’ experience, goes to church to seek solace. This triggered in me an immediate recollection and flood of emotion. Having been desperate to leave home, village, church, I found myself wandering the College campus alone and feeling alone. I found myself walking to the local Catholic Church. 

I can remember feeling utterly ashamed. I heard Stephen Dedalus recounting, Non Serviam in my ears. I can feel that shame flooding over me now as I recount it. I managed to stop myself going in to that church and have never gone in to any other than for politeness/social necessity – funerals, weddings, christenings, etc. However, it just goes to show how effective indoctrination can be.

We all carry baggage round with us and, the longer we live, the heavier our baggage becomes. I have been fighting a losing battle with music for years and have just started to come come back from the brink but it is still a struggle. Last week was dedicated to Violin Concertos by Bruch, Mendelssohn and Vieuxtemps. The latter was a 19th century Belgian composer who I’d never heard of. This week will be Beethoven Cello Sonatas. I’ve played them once this morning and I’m loving them all over again. I haven’t played this for almost 40 years.

Short walk in the sunshine this afternoon. The temperature has reached just 19C/66F but feels very pleasant. We didn’t stay out long and returned to eat cheese and biscuits with homemade tomato chutney and a lovely, chilled Savignon Blanc in the garden. This is the way to spend Sunday even if we are living in a populist prison.

Monday, 31st August, 2020

Roll Up!

Pleasant start to the morning which reached only 19C/66F and gradually became overcast. It felt warm enough as I pressure washed the patio in readiness for the work we are going to have done. The patio will be increased by its current size again and, after 4 years exposure, we would like the two sections to blend in fairly quickly.

In August on Sifnos, posters would go up for a visiting circus. We never went to see it. I have no interest in tawdry shows. This August in Angmering, these posters have been going up. It feels as 3rd World as Greece did. Who goes to circuses? Well, quite a few people it seems. From our garden, which is less than a mile from the local Rugby Club ground, we could hear music and the voice of an announcer over a public-address system so we walked down to have a look.

All the fun of the fair!

I must admit that, in spite of the idyllic setting, it all looked fairly tawdry even so. Bread and circuses will not distract me from the cause. However, on our village website there were lots of people emoting about the experience they and their children had just enjoyed and who could deny them?

I wrote recently that I didn’t think the effect of this pandemic would be confined to one summer and that flying alone would take two or three years to pick up. A report from Moody’s, the Credit Rating Agency, has backed that up. However, they believe those worst hit by a slump in tourism like Greece and Cyprus, will weather that storm by dint of their EU membership.

The decline in tourism in the countries of the European South is likely to last beyond 2020, but they can weather a prolonged tourism slump thanks to the adjustment they have made in recent years and the significant support from the policies of the European Central Bank and the EU recovery fund ….

Moody’s Credit Rating
Kamares Beach, Sifnos

It won’t fill the beaches, tavernas or bars but it will provide a buffer and encourage these countries to develop a more robust and diverse commercial sector. 

Tuesday, 1st September, 2020

September 2020

This is really getting ridiculous. The summer gone but we’ve been nowhere. I can’t bear it! The signs have been all around for a few days now but here is September. I woke Pauline at 1.00 am to say, “White Rabbit”. It is an indulgence that only the retired can afford. Just 5 hours later, we were up and off to Sainsbury‘s and Argos by 7.00 am.

Something else I can’t bear is waiting in for people to arrive. It’s been happening a lot recently. Since Friday, we’ve been waiting for a fence repairer to shore up one of our posts in the garden that was over tested by the strong winds last week. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of others are in the same boat around here. He was trying to come on Friday, put it off to Saturday after another big job which took so long that he phoned to say he wouldn’t be able to come until Tuesday because of Bank Holiday. He was supposed to be with us about 10.00 am and actually arrived around 2.00 pm.. At least he came and the job is well done. It took around 25 mins and cost us £70.00 but we can now breathe again and so can our neighbour.

Regular readers may know that the 1st of each month is the time for ritual recording of data. They will also know of our penchant for data of all kinds. We were married at the end of 1978 and Pauline started her many accounts books in which she itemised and recorded all our spending. That continued for 14 years and then, in January 1993, we switched to a digital accounting system and, 27 years later, that is still going strong. While we were busy working, the accounting records were updated each weekend. Now they are updated most mornings. We use Microsoft Money which was last revised 16 years ago and I have regularly had to contact Microsoft for a ‘software patch’ to shoehorn it in to another new operating system. There will probably come a time when we have to migrate to something else but, please, not yet.

We’ve got the Power!

As well as maintaining my INR results since January 2009 and our weight and blood pressure, I have always logged our power usage in the various properties in which we’ve lived. This is always done on the first of the month. As the graph above illustrates, our usage here over the past 4 or so years has been fairly constant other than for the troughs denoting time away. Only another 30 years of records to maintain. Please.

Turned out to be an absolutely delightful day with sunshine and blue sky. The temperature hovered around 22C/70F and there wasn’t even the hint of a breeze now I’ve had the fence fixed. We are looking for an ‘Indian Summer’ with all the kids back at school and adults back in their offices leaving the rest of the world to the ones who really matter. This is the time to duck and let the pigs fly by.

Wednesday, 2nd September, 2020

Lovely morning. We were up early. Well, there’s no time to lose. Pauline trimmed all the hedges and I, of course, swept up after her. I mowed and edged all the lawns and, of course, swept up after myself. This is what marriage is founded on – give and keep giving.

The man who came round yesterday to shore up a broken fence post, came back today at Pauline’s request. Between the side of our house and the garage is a passage which is where we store our ‘Wheelie Bins’ reasonably discreetly but which also serves as a bit of a wind tunnel. Pauline decided that she wanted it gated off before our patio was extended to shelter the garden from the wind and the sight of bins. He is a local man and obviously keen for the work so he came back today with all the materials to complete the job in under an hour. It has turned out to be a reasonable experience for him with a couple of hours’ work earning him about £400.00/€451.00.

New Covid cases continue to rise in Greece with 233 announced today. Scotland is enforcing quarantine on those returning already because of an entire plane-load of Scots returning from Laganas on Zakynthos are being forced to stay at home after a number tested positive. It will be no surprise if the same is confirmed by England on Thursday.

Zakynthos Town & Harbour

Almost exactly 40 years ago – August 1980 to be precise -we were spending three weeks in Zakynthos and arrived in this harbour by ferry from Killini on the Peloponnese. Just 4o years ago, we were tourist lining the streets to photograph the procession from St Denis’ Church (Agios Dionisos) having booked our first Greek Holiday through the long gone SunMed.

Couldn’t find the 1980 edition.

This was our first foreign holiday together, our first ever flight and our first time in Greece. We went on to revisit every year until this one. Zakynthos was in the early stages of welcoming tourists and few could dreamt of this year’s events. We owe so much of our married lives experience to that three week stay on Zakynthos back in August 1980.

Thursday, 3rd September, 2020

Quite a grey but warm start to the morning. The temperature did not drop below 17C/63F overnight and is hovering around 21C/70F in a fairly gloomy sky. A strong, warm breeze got up last night although not strong enough or warm enough to classify as Meltemi (Μελτέμι). That should probably have finished by now anyway. 

Sunny Sifnos this morning.

We were shocked how immediately the weather acknowledged the change of month. After years of leaving at the end of August, our first 6 month stint took us into October. The Greeks had always told us that September was the best month with warm seas, warm, sunny weather and a quiet island. Well the island went quiet but most of the rest was very patchy. Rain, low cloud, heavy mists and chilly evenings all screamed Autumn.  At least it turns out that those returning this week will not have to quarantine which is a better welcome home as long as they’re not going to Wales or Scotland.

My sad, August, Googlemap Timeline.

At least those people will have been somewhere. Google has sent me its chart of my travel destinations for the month of August. It’s so extensive, I wonder how I’ve coped!

Friday, 4th September, 2020

Had a phone call last night from our Bank’s Insurance Providers who I’ve been negotiating with since early May over a failed villa rental for around £4,500.00. The Bank believe that we should be getting our money back from the villa owner even though there was an upfront T&C of No Refunds which we accepted in the confidence of our insurance back-up.

For years we have been paying Bank Account fees and really not exploiting many of the attendant services. We have certainly used the ‘free’

  • Travel Insurance
  • European Car Breakdown Cover
  • House Emergency Service
  • Mobile Phone Insurance
  • Airport Lounge Access

We have never used

  • ID Theft Assistance
  • Preferential Money Exchange rates because we could always get cheaper.
  • Concierge Service for Special Events
  • 40% off Cinema tickets
  • 25% off Concert Tickets.

Now is our chance to extract full value. The Law is expensive and litigating in Europe will be even more so. Either way, we can’t lose. If legal action prevails, we get paid out. If it fails, the insurance arm are duty bound to pay out. The only thing is time. We’ve got plenty of that …. as far as we know.

Early Autumn by the Sea

We used our time today to visit the beach on a warm-ish afternoon. We found a quiet spot but many areas were teaming with parents and kids – many swimming in the sea.

Saturday, 5th September, 2020

A really delightful day of blue sky and warm sunshine with a few, fluffy white clouds. Could be Summer. The temperature actually reached 23.9C/75F. We were up early again.

Quick trip to Sainsburys and then on to Asda. The latter is because my price monitor (Pauline) has found that my non-alcoholic, low calorie drink of choice is currently half price. Shloer Light is usually £2.20/€2.48 per bottle. Currently, it is exactly half price. This comes round about every couple of months and I then swoop. I never buy it at full price. Twenty bottles today and, maybe, another 20 tomorrow will see me through until the next offer. I’ve already got a store of 40 bottles. They will get me through dry October & November. That will make just over 5 months without alcohol in 2020.

The risks of relying on Tourism.

I was looking for some information and trawling through YouTube for a video of instruction when up popped a ‘Live’ VBlog from the centre of Costa Adeje. Two English-speaking residents were walking the streets in blazing heat but wearing face masks constantly telling us how uncomfortable they were and pointing out all the closed shops and restaurants, streets completely empty of tourists and with very few cars. The presenters were trying to persuade us that there couldn’t be a better time to visit but it wasn’t convincing. We had booked the month of November in Costa Adeje. Fortunately we got all our money back for that.