Week 617

Sunday, 18th October, 2020

Pauline & her Mump

Ten years ago today, Pauline and I were camping out in the hairdressing salon of a sheltered housing property for elderly people. Pauline’s Mum had not been well, had been in and out of hospital and we had driven back from Greece early to be with her. Last week in 2010, she went to hospital for what we know now was the last time. In great pain and at the age of 96, she underwent an emergency operation to remove a gangrenous growth from the intestines. It was a huge risk at her age but there was no choice. The operation went well and we left her sleeping for the night, returned to her Anchor Sheltered Housing home and celebrated with a bottle of wine.

Early the next morning, the telephone rang and we knew before even answering it. She had gone. On the 18th October, 2010, she had gone. Every year, we have returned to the Crematorium in Oldham to remember and acknowledge her contribution to our life. This year, for the first and we hope the last time, we do that silently in our thoughts.


Autumnal chill in the air this morning. It’s not enough to change into wearing clothes and it is forecast to get warmer again this week but my legs and arms felt it as I worked outside this morning. I have spent an hour or so pressure washing the patio flags in preparation for it being extended in a couple of weeks time.

Brett Broadway Economy Riven Paving

Many people have increased their hard standing outside since we moved in but few have used the existing flags. The young ones have seen it as a way to demonstrate their ‘taste’, individuality and affluence as they choose polished, white marble or multi-coloured, geometric styles. They have developed their gardens with olive trees and banana plants, with exotic flowers and synthetic grass. In contrast, we have been through that in multiple locations in the past and we are happy to retain the economy paving that our builder laid down initially. It is non-slip, quick draining, reasonably attractive (to our eyes) and relatively cheap. We are well past impressing the neighbours.

Monday, 19th October, 2020


Amazing how time flies when your enjoying yourself in quarantine. Almost half way through already. Actually, today is such a wonderfully sunny and warm one that we would have liked to have walked on the beach but we are honest, upstanding citizens so we didn’t.

I’ve got a bad back this morning. A few days ago, I lifted some massive, clay pots planted up with geraniums which needed to be emptied out for the end of year tidy up. As soon as I did it, I had a feeling I might regret it later. No real problem for two days  and then, last night, I woke at 3.00 am in agony. I couldn’t move off my side and, when I did, I couldn’t move back again. This morning, I had to be rolled out of bed by my wife who makes a wonderful nurse. She prescribed using the Cross-Trainer for freeing up the spasms in my back. It worked until I sat down and seized up again. She says the moral is: Never sit down. Who can live their life standing up all the time?

Actually, I did a full workout in the gym and felt good after it. I walked out in to the garden saw something huge under the hedge, bent down to pick it and couldn’t straighten up.

It was a huge and beautiful mushroom the spores for which could have been seeded in the bark mulch we had put down. Inside, it was a delicious, pure white. I would loved to have cooked and eaten it but fear stopped me.

It brought back memories of Grandad Coghlan retiring down in the East Midlands countryside from a life in the city of London. He obviously had a pastoral dream of enjoying the fruits of the fields and enlisted some young kids – Me, Bob & Jane – to get up at 5.00 am to walk across the nearest dew-bespangled meadow with a wooden trug picking the abundance of mushrooms. It didn’t quite go to plan. Mushrooms were very hard to find. Grandad was attracted by the red ones and, quite sensibly, Mum wouldn’t let us eat any of them when we got home for fear of us dying.

We are expecting our first ever, Sainsburys Home Delivery this afternoon. We had to pay £3.00/€3.31 for it which I consider scandalous but quarantine demands it.

Tuesday, 20th October, 2020


Delicious morning with blue sky and warm sunshine at 17C/63F. Really pleasant for mid-October which is just as well because I had a terrible night. I was in agony for hours with back pain and, even if I found a comfortable position, just breathing was agony. I clearly managed some sleep but it wasn’t good quality.

We are due for our third Covid-19 test on Thursday. The result for my first one from 12 days ago arrived by post this morning. It was supposed to come by text message/email. How many people could I have infected over 12 days if it had been positive?

This really does seem to be one of the problems. Our swabs went to one of the Lighthouse Labs which are just not able to turn them round in time to be effective. Until that Test-Track-Trace works efficiently, nothing but a National Lock Down will improve the situation.

In spite of my back, I’ve still managed to do a full gym session. For half an hour afterwards, everything feels fine but then it seizes up so I have to walk around constantly. How do I read?

Wednesday, 21st October, 2020


Had a much better night although my back is still a bit of a pain. It’s amazing how disability in one area has such a debilitating effect on so many others. Walking, lifting, sitting, standing, turning, lying down are all compromised by a painful back. However, I am determined to work through it as far as I can. I have done 90 mins in the gym this morning and the back really feels looser after that.

Nikos & Moshka

I read a lot and listen to music a lot. Today featured Mozart Violin Concertos – Arthur Grumiaux and the London Philarmonic. I must have had this recording more that 30 years. It is always emotional and sometimes painful (for me) revisiting old friends. While I listened in the Office, I read some of my favourite Greek Blogs and Websites.

Today on apikou.gr-sifnos-cyclades I found some old acquaintances. I first met them 35 years ago although the photo of Nikos Kalogirou and his daughter, Moshka, was taken about 55 years ago. This photo will have been taken in Kamares around 1960-65 just at the time that the island was first acquiring mains electricity. How time moves on. It’s certainly moving on for us as we begin our second week of Quarantine today and our third Covid-19 test tomorrow.

Thursday, 22nd October, 2020


A chill in the air this morning although it is 15C/59F. It was a clear night of stars so I expected it to be colder. Eleven years ago this morning, we became mortgage-free. By 10.00 am we had paid off our mortgage and five accompanying Mortgage Insurance policies. We had retired 6 months earlier, set off for our Greek home. Our mortgage was large – taking the whole of one of our incomes – because we were financing two houses. We had re-mortgaged a number of times to raise the ever increasing demand for building funds. Our final mortgage was with Northern Rock.

October 2012

It took the Lump Sum from one of our Teachers’ Pensions but it felt weirdly wonderful. It meant that, in retirement, we felt incredibly comfortable with our income which had doubled over night. Almost exactly a year later, Northern Rock Bank collapsed leaving streams of worried depositors queueing at their doors desperate to reclaim their savings.

How many Christmas cards have you received so far? We got our first one yesterday along with a present from a Blog reader. A few weeks ago, I wrote about my pride in finally, successfully using a power drill/screwdriver to build some wine racks.

What could possibly go wrong?

It’s possible that I overstated my competence because the Christmas card was accompanied by an early present – a Drill Holster. I might look the part wearing it but I assure you I would look the wrong part. I have considered that it could be useful for carrying the television remote control around so, thank you.

Friday, 22nd October, 2020


Friday and day 10 of quarantine and we had to break out. We are out of bananas. Who can live without bananas? Exactly. We made a 5 mins drive to Asda – the home of top bananas. Pauline nipped in and out alone. It felt great to be outside and ‘free’. Sad isn’t it?

Chameleon Television

Even more ‘sad’ than that was how I spent my morning exploring the new television we had installed in the lounge about a month ago. Life has been interestingly busy and I hadn’t got round to it before now. When you see what I did, you will realise why I wasn’t in a hurry for this experience.

Firstly, this Samsung TV advertises itself as remaining ‘on’ but invisibly so when not in use. It does this by ostensibly adopting the colour of its background. I had to take a photo of the TV and the wall behind it and send this photo to the TV which takes the background colour/tone and adopts it for its screen. Having tried it, I’m not sure what this really achieves and I won’t be using it again but I had to try it.

All Star Movie

I had to download an app called Samsung SmartThings which allowed me to Bluetooth the screens of my phone and iPad straight to my TV screen. I had done that before on other TVs but I hoped this might be a more enjoyable, useful experience. It wasn’t and I won’t be doing that again for a while. Really, the whole process has been superseded by the broadband link into our TVs. Everything we can do on other things like phones and pads can be done over the net directly on TVs.

Just down the road from us, a large, new, private Care Home is being built in the grounds of a huge old house. It is close enough for us to walk to it in under 10 mins. Probably the true test is that we don’t need it if we can still walk to it in 10 mins.

Our Next Property?

However, it is good to know that preparations are being planned for our later years. We like it around here and hope to remain even in our dotage.

Saturday, 23rd October, 2020


Quite a grey start to the day and only 13C/56F. I have to admit, I am feeling a little stir-crazy today. I think we may nip out for an hour in the car just to see a different backdrop to our world.

I say different. It is still fairly grey. The Funfair on Littlehampton Marina Parade is open for youngsters this half term but it might as well not be. I didn’t see a single person there at 1100 am. Mind you, the water flume wouldn’t have drawn me in at any age.

Littlehampton Pier

We only did a brief walk to allow the sea air to blow across our minds. There were people on the beach but it was not sunbathing weather.

Half term holiday on the beach.

Back home for hot coffee and the warmth of our insulated house. We’ve got the final piece of our gym to be installed on Tuesday – the treadmill will make a big difference. Already, our attitude to exercise is more relaxed in that we can do it when we want rather when we can fit in a drive to David Lloyd. Instead of watching football in a semi-prone position, today I cycled as I shouted at the television. Even Saint Marcus has been better off the pitch than on in the past few days.

Week 616

Sunday, 11th October, 2020

A beautiful morning of clear blue sky and sunshine. A bit chilly at 9C/48F by 7.00 am but quickly warming up. All the national mood music appears to be moving towards increasing travel/relationship restrictions as the pandemic resurges. Not so much a second wave as a resurgence of the first. We think that our trip to France is particularly justified because of this. 

For entry to France, we have to complete a Sworn Statement about almost nothing other than we are physically well. Fortunately, they are not concerned by our mental impairment.

Actually, we will be quite happy quarantining at home. I think the front garden beds are looking as pleasant as at any time this year with their pinks and red basking in low sunlight along the drive.

We have a busy programme ahead with the Treadmill being delivered on Wednesday, the installers coming to build it for us in the gym shortly afterwards, the Landscapers coming to lay extra patio early in November and then we have to drive to Surrey to deliver Xmas cakes and puddings to Pauline’s family for their Xmas Dinners. We, of course will remain on the street so as not to also deliver or receive infection.

Monday, 12th October, 2020

Our current lifestyle encourages pictures of supermarket carparks. This morning at 7.00am, it is Tesco carpark taken by Pauline as she prepared to shop.

Tesco Carpark at 7.00 am – Warn the shepherds!

Pauline went indoors while I walked off into the sunrise. It was remarkably mild and enjoyable walking. Still shorts and tee-shirt weather. I put on extra speed this morning but still failed to beat Pauline back to the car. Must try harder!

We are preparing for quarantine from Wednesday so trying to be as well stocked as possible. After Tesco, we did a quick visit to Asda as well. Tomorrow, we drive to Folkestone for a 9.20 am train. We have to be there at least 45 mins before although we don’t expect it to be as busy as before.

Pre-pandemic traffic

Chaotic Brexit planning has affected the drive to the Tunnel as the M20 turns in to a lorry holding park. On the French side, border officials are giving us a taste of what it will be like next year and it takes much longer to get through security checks as the queues build up. We just hope that the quarantine restrictions will deter many and leave us a free run. We’ll report back tomorrow with photos from the corner of some foreign supermarket carpark.

Tuesday, 13th October, 2020

Up at 5.00 am – raining. Out at 6.00 am – raining. Drive down to Folkestone Channel Tunnel by 8.00 am – raining. Very quiet compared with normal trips.

Empty Terminal Facility at Folkestone
Queueing for the train under the sea.

Train at 9.20 am – dry under the sea. Arrive Coquelles at 9.50 am (10.50 am CET) – raining. Drive to Calais Wine Store – raining. Spend €1,176.00/£1076.00 on wine and pack it in to the car – still raining. Drive off to Cité Europe and shop in Carrefour .

Cité Europe carpark – just a few Asylum seekers around.
Pauline fighting for space in Carrefour

We went off to the Lindt chocolate outlet nearby and spent another €120.00 of self indulgence and then back to the tunnel for an early train. It is still raining as we queue and board the 2.20 departure.. We roll off in Folkestone at 1.50 pm in light rain.

Officially, we are now quarantining. It feels excitingly clandestine. We drive home through a fog of hazy rain and lorry spray arriving at about 3.40 pm. Collecting up the post, I unload the car, and we have a light meal of French supermarket delicacies. After coffee and a short rest, I go into our gym and do an hour’s exercise followed by a warm, relaxing shower. It’s been a good day.

Wednesday, 14th October, 2020


Quite enjoying this. Blue sky, strong sunshine. Why couldn’t it have been yesterday? Anyway, this quarantine thing doesn’t seem to be getting us down. Mind you, it is only 9.00 am on the first day. Already received 6 phone calls. The first 3 were recorded messages from a nice, young lady who was warning me that my Broadband was going to be switched off in 24 – 48 hrs unless I pressed number 1 on my phone. I tried to chat to her but she was an automaton. The other 3 calls were from the delivery firm keeping me updated about where they were with my new treadmill. 

Around 9.00 am, a Prohire lorry drew up outside and 2 fairly burly gentlemen got out and started to struggle with 2 huge and very heavy parcels. This treadmill is absolutely massive. I’m glad we’re not having to assemble it. Unfortunately, we have to wait a couple of weeks for the installers to arrive. We’ll be out of quarantine by then. If we really enjoy it, we might just go back to France to invoke the Quarantine Rule for another couple of weeks and then the government can impose a national, total lockdown  and happy days!

This piece of machinery cost almost £2,000.00 but comes with on-site installation and 3 yrs Home maintenance/Service. It will be the centrepiece of the gym and the most used piece of equipment. We need it to operate perfectly so a professional setup is essential. Anyway, it is so heavy, I would struggle to lift the main section.

We should have been setting off for Yorkshire this week to visit our parents’ graves, visit wrinkly, old Ruth and Margaret & Little Viv and to see my old friend, Brian’s face again. He hasn’t worked for me for 12 years now but we have managed to meet up at least once and, often, twice a year. It isn’t easy maintaining a relationship at this distance. This morning Brian phoned me and it was really lovely to hear his voice.

Thursday, 15th October, 2020

Happy Birthday to my Dad. He would be 105 today but only managed 49 years before dying of a heart attack. So many wonderful years of life, experience and love lost!


Today should be Tesco and walk. It will not be. We know we could get away without quarantining but we are happy to observe it. We welcome small highlights and a robin sat on our hedge this morning to greet us. He has never been to France and wouldn’t quarantine if he had. Even so, he is very welcome.

At 11.00 am, we will receive our second Covid-Test visitor. We will have 3 more this month and then a further 11 over the following 11 months.

When our Greek house was built 20 years ago, we shipped the kitchen in from IKEA in Leeds. The dishwasher, hob and oven were purchased in Greece, however, from ΚΩΤΣΟΒΟΛΟΣ which is owned by Dixons Group

At the time – 20 years ago – we were thrilled with this.

Particularly, if one is buying in a foreign country, there is a temptation to look for familiar manufacturers. However, we were trying not to break the bank after over spending on the house build. We thought we’d get the kitchen up and running and gradually upgrade in time so we went for a fairly economically priced oven badged Pitsos. The name is not very inspiring but the Greeks appeared to be very proud of it.

Centenary advertisement – The islands were just getting electricity in 1965.

It was a Greek company founded in Athens in 1865. It had been bought up by by Bosch-Siemens by the time we purchased but we didn’t know it at the time.

This week we learnt that the historic Greek factory , PITSOS  a leading manufacturer of household appliances and one of the largest industrial units in the country is to close down by the end of the year and being transferred from Greece to Turkey.


It must be an even greater blow to Greek pride to find their industry moving to Turkey – their perennial and mortal enemy.

Friday, 16th October, 2020


A beautiful, warm and sunny day with blue sky and no breeze. Because it is such a lovely, sunny day, we decided to dispense with quarantine rules and go for a walk around our Development. I know. What criminals! Pauline was a little nervous. She thought they would phone up to check while we were out. Fortunately, I pointed out that we had only provided our mobile phone numbers for that very reason. We had to give two, contact numbers. I gave mine and Pauline’s. Pauline gave hers and mine. Should be fool proof. Unfortunately, the moment we stepped outside and I had locked the door Pauline’s phone went off in her bag. She visibly quaked. 

The conversation went like this:

Pauline: Hello
Caller: This is HMRC.
Pauline: Oh yes.
Caller: You have an unpaid, outstanding tax bill. You must settle this immediately. To contact us press 1 now. Failure to do so will result in automatic arrest.

Pauline visibly relaxed and closed the call. We went on with our walk.

Received our first £100.00/€110.00 payment between us for our initial Covid-19 tests with £50.00 more to come in a few days from last Monday’s tests. Every subsequent test we’ll receive £50.00/€55.00 until they’ve paid us £850.00/€935.00 for all 15 tests. You don’t get actual cash, you nominate somewhere to spend your vouchers. There is a huge choice which includes Amazon and every major supermarket and many more outlets. Normally, we spend at least £100.00/€110.00 per week at Tesco so we’ve accepted vouchers worth £100.00/€110.00 to spend there so far but you can split them between a myriad of High Street and online retailers.

Escapee from Quarantine – between a rock and a hard place.

Saturday, 17th October, 2020


A fairly dull but mild morning. The trees around have suddenly started to show the season with yellow, gold and orange appearing in the leaves. We are on the downward slope of October and, suddenly, I am aware of it. The clocks go back into darkness next weekend. The world goes back into darkness next year.

I did an hour in the gym this morning and we then had a Birthday card to post. Quarantine or not, the post box – a 19th century one set into a stone & mortar wall is only a 10 mins walk away. When we got there, we found the post had gone at 7.00 am and the next collection would be Monday. Never mind, Michael’s birthday isn’t until Wednesday. It should get there.

What is this?

Growing over the same wall was this, astonishing tree. I have never seen anything like it before. I pride myself on knowledge of trees and shrubs, their Common and Botanical or Latin Names although it is 20 years since I was a seriously committed gardener and I have noticed some are slipping away from the memory bank.

Please tell me what this is. Ruth? Liz?

If expert plants women like Ruth & Liz can’t tell me, I’ll be forced to knock on the owner’s door and infect the entire village.

Pauline & I have had 2 Covid-19 tests each so far over the first week. Today, Pauline received news by post that her 1st test was negative. Mine didn’t arrive. They were supposed to be communicating via text or email but it was obviously considered too efficient. Thank goodness the payments are on time.

Week 615

Sunday, 4th October, 2020

Another gloomy, wet morning. Life isn’t supposed to be like this. We should be elsewhere. Greece is going through a mini-heatwave. In Costa Adeje, Tenerife where we would have been spending a month soon, actually it is also raining as well but it is 26C/79F which makes dancing in the rain much more enjoyable.

We are preparing for a number of firsts in the next few days and weeks. This is already the first year for 40 years that we haven’t set foot in Greece. We bitterly regret that. For the past 20 years we have had gym memberships in Yorkshire then Surrey and, most recently, West Sussex. Now, we have our own gym instead. We celebrate that. Every year for as long as I can remember, and I think it is around 30 years, we have spent Christmas Day away from home. This year we will be at our home. Every year we have eaten turkey for Christmas lunch. This year we are going to eat roast Goose for a change.

For the past 34 days, I have not drunk alcohol. I love rice but have not eaten it once for 10 years. Tomorrow, I will celebrate Pauline’s Birthday by my making Prawn & Broadbean Rissotto and drinking a fine bottle of Rioja.

Pauline will make a Raspberry Pavlova which is her Sweet of choice and she will make some Vanilla Ice cream to accompany it. The skills involved in this part are way above my pay grade. We will sit back and say afterwards, We really shouldn’t have done that. and then go back to the diets on Tuesday. I will try to refrain from alcohol again until the beginning of December which will mean I have managed 6 months of the year alcohol-free.

Now I’ve got to go to the gym just for thinking about my calorie intake tomorrow. I am feeling very self indulgent but I know I’m only doing it for Pauline really.

Monday, 5th October, 2020

Pauline aged 9

Happy Birthday to my darling Wife. She is 69 today. She complains about her wrinkles every day but I honestly don’t think she looks her age. So many people are amazed when I publicly announce how old she is. We met when she was 21 and I was 22 but it was 6 years later that we go together and married. It was the best thing I ever did. Pauline has made my life a wonderful one. We have shared rich experiences together and, like every couple, had to cope with serious crises which could have tested our relationship but, instead, served to strengthen it.

Pauline is a fighter. She never gives up She has carried this quality throughout the 42 years we’ve been married and that strength has helped me more times than I can recount. One of her idiosyncrasies is that she refuses to admit she will ever die. Of course, she will but it won’t be as a result of weakness or resolve. I may not get that far but I wish her the long life of her Mum who died aged 96. 

Pauline aged 69.

One Blog reader – Yes, there is at least one. – sent this card and had the temerity to imply Pauline was married to an obsessive compulsive step counter. Can you believe that dear readers?

Isn’t this a brilliant idea?

My Broad Bean & Prawn Risotto was good and Pauline’s Raspberry Pavlova was wonderful. What will we do for our 70th? I suspect we will do nothing but mourn our lost youth.

Tuesday, 6th October, 2020

Oh the mornings are dark now. 6.00 am is almost like midnight. I was pounding the pavements on my walk by 7.00 am and Pauline was shopping in the peace and quiet of Sainsbury‘s. For an isolationist, obsessive compulsive step counter, these are magical times. No danger of anyone calling in unexpectedly and people step aside as one walks down the street. No one thinks it strange if we don’t drop round for coffee or visit for any reason. All invitations can be refused without social embarrassment. The regimens of pandemic were designed with me in mind.

Surgery ahead & Pharmacy to the left.

We have an excellent local surgery which seems to be coping with the burgeoning population although I have only been in about an average of once for each year we have been here. We did have our Flu jab at the Pharmacy recently but I won’t have been in the Surgery for two years. I know it sounds silly but we pride ourselves in maintaining our own health. We go down to collect repeat prescriptions and I have a telephone annual review. For me at this time in my life, this is an excellent service. Of course, as we get older this may/will change.

Having done my morning walk and driven home for coffee, I was informed that we were walking down to the village surgery to collect our repeat prescriptions. It was a lovely, warm and gentle morning. It is amazing how slowly the trees are showing any signs of deterioration at all. Maybe the pandemic has caused the seasons to be arrested. There have to be positives.

Wednesday, 7th October, 2020

At 7.00 am the light was dark but promised a good day with sunshine rising over the roof tops in a pink glow. The sky was clear last night and the temperature fell in to single figures for almost the first time this year. We’ve had the central heating on for just one hour since April and the current forecast is that we won’t need it in the near future. I am still doing my walks in shorts and tee-shirt, trying to get as much vitamin D in to our systems through daylight/sunshine as we can. There is evidence that Vitamin D deficiency has a dramatic effect on adverse effects of Covid-19.

Maybe one of the reasons for this is that Vitamin D is not a vitamin at all but a hormone. It is an essential hormone which the immune system requires in order to function adequately. Of course, sunlight is one of the best sources of the hormone and, having gone through a summer of sunshine and walking barely clothed, I am as brown and wrinkled as an over enthusiastic, geriatric pirate. If I have put any weight on, it is mainly very heavy Vitamin D. However, as Winter draws on and we retreat more into the sunless cave that is our gym, our sources of Vitamin D will have to come more from our diet. The main sources are found in oily fish, particularly Salmon, Swordfish and Tuna which we must eat 5 times each week. With a small, daily supplement we will probably live forever …. or die tomorrow.

Ethernet Gigabit Switch ordered.

I have found that my Wi-Fi connection to the Sky-Q Box in the gym was not consistent enough. I had a Sky engineer out this morning to walk through potential solutions. He was excellent and we have concluded that the only secure way to do this will be to run an ethernet cable directly from the hub in our Office to another gigabit switch in the gym 10 metres away and then ethernet into the Sky-Q mini.

All of this costs money but it is long term investment which will be spread over a number of years. The reward for Pauline is that I will spend many hours in the gym watching football, rugby and cricket while exercising rather than vegetating.

Pauline & I were invited to take part in an Office for National Statistics research study into Covid-19. It means us being tested every week for a month and then every month for a year by a visitor who will conduct fairly lengthy interviews to provide background information. All of this is done without the visitor entering our house. We discussed it and thought it could be quite interesting so accepted their invitation. That was two months ago and we heard nothing. This afternoon, a Frenchman called Thierry phoned to say he would like to come tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to playing football with him in the back garden.

Thursday, 8th October, 2020

Gloomy morning with fine, driving rain. A footballing philosopher named Thierry Rousseau appeared at our door exactly at 10.00 am. He was a tall, slim 50 year old Frenchman from the city of Tours. Lucky man! Whatever is he doing here? I didn’t ask.

Tours, France

Officially, he is not allowed to enter our house but should conduct the whole visit from the garden or from his car. Because we are like this, I had prepared a complete data sheet for Pauline & I long before he arrived. He was surprised and told us we were the only people who had ever done that for him. I’m not sure what that tells you.

Officially, he is not allowed to enter our house but should conduct the whole visit from the garden or from his car. Because we are like this, I had prepared a complete data sheet for Pauline & I long before he arrived. He was surprised and told us we were the only people who had ever done that for him. I’m not sure what that tells you.

Covid Swabs

We had set out our IDs, addresses, Home & Mobile phone numbers, email addresses, Doctors contacts. The Frenchman arrived in driving rain and was delighted to be offered our door mat to stand on. All three of us were masked up. The skinny Frenchman stood on our doormat with clipboard, test kits and papers in one hand and his mobile phone in the other. He was allocated 30 mins for each of us so 1 hour on our doorstep.

After all the mobile phone/form filling, we were asked to perform our swab tests. This was the reason we first agreed to get involved in the project. They charge £150.00/€165.00 in airports for this test. We’re getting it for ‘free’! Well, actually, we’ve just found out that we are not getting it for ‘free’. We are going to be paid for our involvement. We are going to have 5 tests this month plus one each over the next 11 months. For 16 ‘free’ tests we are going to each be paid £420.00/€461.00. So, the test results are texted back to us and sent to our doctor as well and we receive £840.00/€922.00 towards a lovely case of red wine. Now that’s what I call looking after one’s health.

Friday, 9th October, 2020

Thursday is normally Tesco-Day but we had to stay at home for our Covid Project visitor so we were up at 6.00 am on quite a chilly morning – 8C/47F – and still dusk. By 7.00 am, we were parking in Tesco carpark. Pauline went inside in her mask and surgical gloves. I walked towards the sun in my shorts and tee-shirt.

Study: Sunrise over Tesco carpark

An hour later I got back to the car feeling a lot warmer, in fact, glowing. We drove on to Waitrose to order a Goose for Christmas Dinner and then home in time to receive the first of 3 parcels. Pauline had ordered a pair of ankle boots from Jones Bootmaker that made her look like a curb side prostitute. They are going back. Next arrived a weird solid foam roll which Pauline’s niece suggested would be good in the gym for stretching one’s back. I don’t need it because my back’s long enough but Pauline was keen so we ordered one.

Finally, my ethernet switch is arriving this afternoon which will allow me to add additional ports to my hub and expand connectivity.

Pauline and I have taken the (long brewing) snap decision to not allow the madness that is Brexit to imprison us. We are going to France to do some shopping. We have a free crossing with Eurotunnel because of an earlier cancellation. We will do a day trip on Tuesday and still have cash in our Eurotunnel account for the future. We will have very little contact with human beings, not getting out of our car other than to enter a supermarket as we would do in UK. We have to quarantine for two weeks on return but we can easily deal with that.

Saturday, 10th October, 2020

There are many things in life that it is hard to predict but this morning really took me by surprise. It was 3.30 am. I was woken by a sharp elbow in the ribs. Pauline was saying, John, I’m worrying about the Le Creuset dish I put in the freezer last night. I’m not sure it can take such low temperatures. My brain did a sort of double-take. Had I really heard it or was I dreaming? While I was still processing that question, Pauline was leaping out of bed and throwing clothes on. Of course, I couldn’t let her go alone.

The Le Creuset was used for a a Semi-Fredo (Cream, Chocolate & Coffee) frozen desert. Pauline was using up the remains of materials left over from her Birthday meal. The cast iron, Le Creuset was a the best shape for her purposes so that’s what was used. After production, the concoction was frozen but not in anywhere simple or user-friendly. It was placed in the freezer outside in the garage. That’s why I could be found at 3.45 am on a crystal clear night, under a sky studded with piercing stars and lit by a half moon standing in the garden in just my shorts. It wasn’t warm

The Le Creuset was brought from garage to house where it needed 30 mins to warm enough for the Semi-Fredo to be prised out of its container, wrapped in clingfilm and returned to the garage. While that was happening, I watched a fascinating documentary on Sky about the dreadful conditions prisoners are held under in South American countries. Not my usual viewing choice but needs must and it was gripping. Remember, all of this was in the middle of the night in my shorts! No wonder I didn’t get up until 7.15 this morning.

After juice and coffee, I was informed that we were going to do a 4 mile round trip walk to HobbyCraft for ‘stuff’. Back in my shorts and tee shirt, with a temperature of only 9C/48F, the walk had to be brisk to stay alive.

Pauline leading me up the garden path as usual.

We walked around our Development and down the woodland path to the Garden Centre park which also houses HobbyCraft. Who’d have thought a small, niche shop like this would be so popular but it is. Once again, the queues outside were so long that we didn’t wait. We walked home and will try again on Monday. We need the exercise.

Had a lovely email from my very much older sister, Ruth yesterday. Haven’t heard from her for ages and haven’t seen her for a year. I had to tell her that we had cancelled our pilgrimage to the North of England aka The Land of the Brexiteers because of pandemic spread – sounds tasty but, actually, isn’t. I am genuinely disappointed and a little worried. She is so old, we can’t be sure how many more chances we have to meet.

Week 614

Sunday, 27th September, 2020

Well, that was a short Winter. In fact the heating was on for a hour last night before we both declared it was far too hot and it was switched off again. Back to Autumn this morning. We were out at 8.30 am to the Littlehampton Household Waste Recycling Site.

Local Waste Recycling Site – Sunday 8.50 am.

Although we arrived 10 mins before it opened, there was already a long queue. Nowadays, we are stopped and checked on the gate. We have to show photo I.D. to stop rogues costing the Council erroneous waste management expenses. On the left of the queuing cars are the allotments. On the right are some quite large and reasonable houses. Goodness knows how they are coping with constantly queuing traffic and on a Sunday especially.

Back home, we watched the political programmes we had recorded and then got on with work. I raked the lawns prior to treating them for Dragon Fly larvae tomorrow. As I raked, clouds of Dragon Flies flew up. No wonder the little birds have been so happy on our lawn lately. While I did that, Pauline steamed the Christmas Pudding outside in the garden. Yes, you read me right. First Christmas at home alone will be celebrated with homemade Christmas Pudding. Actually, it always is anyway.

Today, instead of sitting around watching football, I was able to go into our gym and exercise while I watched. It felt like a big leap forward and very rewarding. It was such a good match with Man. City being thrashed by Jamie Vardy and Leicester. A good day!

Monday, 28th September, 2020

Lovely, bright and sunny morning. We don’t need to go out today so our next project is to prepare the back garden for the hard landscapers to move in with their earth-moving machinery. The garden furniture has been covered and stored down the side of the house. Now, we have to move the storage boxes. Later, I am going to try to apply the nematodes to my lawn. I am a bit sceptical but I’ve bought them and stored them in the fridge over the past couple of days. They are desperate for release.

Live insects – killers – kept chilled in the fridge.

Steinernema Carpocapsae are microscopic, parasitic roundworm that have evolved an insect-killing symbiosis with bacteria, and kills its hosts within a few days of infection. I am keen to encourage it to follow its nature and I have a potential host for its enjoyment. As I raked and then mowed the lawns, clouds of Crane Flies or Tipulidae fly up from the grass where they are laying their eggs before they die. Within a few days, those eggs become larvae which, in turn, are meat & drink to Nematodes. They stand on their tails in an upright position near the soil surface and attach themselves to passing hosts like Crane Fly larvae which they infect.

The beauty that is Steinernema Carpocapsae.

After two days in the fridge, my silent killers have been taken out and warmed up. I was surprised that they were embedded in a white, soluble matting. They are then diluted with water and sprayed across the grass. This has to be done when the grass has been scarified, is wet and not in full sun but at a minimum of 12C/54F soil temperature.….. I hope you’re keeping up.

After care means keeping the grass wet for up to 14 days. Fortunately, we seem to have an extended period of wet weather forecast which will save me a lot of work. While in the garden, I had to prune the fig trees which have grown from 18″/46 cm sticks to 20 ft/6 m trees.They look wonderful but I can turn my neighbour’s garden into a shady wood and I can’t climb that high to pick figs. We’ll see what effect pruning has.

Tuesday, 29th September, 2020

A warm night that didn’t drop below 17C/63F opened on a fairly gloomy sky this morning at 6.00 am.. I parked in Sainsbury’s underground carpark by 7.00 am and left Pauline shopping as I went on my walk. Yes, we have the gym but, while conditions are good, I intend to still walk in the fresh air.

Back home before 9.00 am, I had half an hour for a drink before going out on to the front lawn where I was meeting my neighbour, Pat. He is an 83 year old, retired electrician and he has constructed a wooden framed tree surround to insert into the lawn and in which Pauline will plant Lavender. He works with the speed and skill of a tradesman and the job is done in half an hour.

While we are working together, another neighbour goes by as she returns from walking her dog. She comments on her envy of our lawn quality and bemoans all the weeds in hers. I offer to go over and weed and feed her lawn today so that it can be watered in by the rain promised for tomorrow. I end up doing most of the grass strips either side the length of our road. I am beginning to worry about myself because I am not, naturally a good neighbour at all. Is something going wrong?

By 12.30 pm, a British Gas van drew up at our house. I had rung, speculatively, about a presentation on my BG app about my Dual Fuel Billing. It said, we were £58.00 in credit for Gas but £458.00 in credit for Electricity. I went on-line to our account on the web and found that we were in debit for both supplies. British Gas told me that it looked as if the Smart Meter was playing up. They booked a visit to our house.

Shadows of old Sifnos

If the British Gas experience was one across the world, the picture above is one back through time. When we first landed on Sifnos in June, 1984, we found ourselves in a world that had not experienced electricity for long; a world without a recognised, formal bank and a corner shop known as the supermarket. This photo montage takes me back there immediately physically and through time. Two of these characters are alive and four are dead. They have all been involved in the commerce of the small island. The background reminds me of the horror of our first shopping trip 36 years ago in a dark, dusty threadbare shop run by the wizened, old man pictured here. However, it didn’t put us off. We persisted as the old shops and shopkeepers died. 

Wednesday, 30th September, 2020

The last day of September 2020. It’ll be Half Term soon. Fortunately, it is nearly 12 years since that was a thing. The day was expected to be consumed with heavy rain but, at 7.00 am, it is a relatively warm 18C/65F and reasonably bright. As the rain looks like it will hit us with a vengeance from about 2.00 pm now, we decide to go down to the beach for as walk in the wonderful air. 

Moody sea under a placid sky.

When we parked on Littlehampton Marina Parade, we noticed that dredging was going on at the point that the River Arun meets the English Channel. Tons/tonnes of gravel were being extracted and loaded on to lorries to be taken away.

Dredging the Channel.

We walked down the Marina path, past the boats and yachts moored up for the impending Winter weather. We have a few hours of strong winds forecast on Friday which should test their ropes. On the other side of the path are the banks of sea-view apartments – some swanky but some old, salt-eaten and battered. 

Littlehampton Marina

Back home, I fired up the smoker and Pauline put in another fillet of salmon. We only smoke it for about an hour these days using apple wood sawdust. It produces a lovely product which we eat with salad if we get peckish in the middle of the day. I have now completed a calendar month alcohol-free and have been dry for 5 out of the past 9 months. It is Pauline’s birthday on Monday so we will share a bottle of wine with her meal but then hope to go on until November without alcohol. I will be quite proud to have disciplined myself to spend half the year alcohol-free.

Thursday, 1st October, 2020

Heavy rain over night gave way to a beautiful, sunny morning – warm (20C/68F) and delightful. Especially enjoyable for my walk while Pauline did the Tesco shop at 7.00 am. Home by 8.15 am and then out to the local Chemist/Dr’s surgery for our ‘Flu jab. It was delivered by a lovely chap whose family fled Iran in 1979 after the over throw of the Shah. He fled to Sweden, learnt Swedish, trained as a Pharmacist, met and married a Swedish girl who was back visiting her parents from her job in England. Twenty years ago they married, settled in England and have been here ever since. He speaks fluent English, Iranian, Swedish and French. I feel like an idiot beside him.

He said he would never return to the chaotic regime in Iran. I pointed out that he was living under a chaotic regime in England with these mad Tory criminals. He laughed and said, the English are such a wonderfully tolerant people. I looked quizzical but he said that he thought we developed our tolerance from invading so many other countries. There was a pause and a nervous giggle when he realised what he’d said. I told him not to be embarrassed. The one thing we are good at is invading other countries. He relaxed and stuck the needle in to me.

Mangled Moshca

This is an old acquaintance from our Sifnos days. Moshca and her husband, Apostolis own and run the local branch of Tesco aka a little, Greek ‘Convenience Store’. It has everything you ever wanted plus many things you didn’t know you needed crammed into high shelves and accessed down short, narrow aisles. You don’t need a trolley and it is quite tight to carry a basket. Moshca sits at the till by the door watching all the comings and goings, taking the money and, nowadays, giving out the obligatory receipt. She is the woman in the black & white montage posted on Tuesday.

Her husband and her sons work there as well as running the small farm just up the mountain from where our house was situated. Moshca is pictured with a damaged leg. Wonder what she’s done? She is sitting on the verandah of their farm house looking over the valley to the port of Kamares and the sunset. 

Sun setting over Kamares Harbour.

We sat and watched this every night after night for years. When one does such things, it is easy to become blasé about them. We were aware of that and used to say to each other, Drink it all in. Drink it all in for the memory banks. And so it has come to pass.

Friday, 2nd October, 2020

Torrential rain last night and still raining this morning but none of the strong winds we were forecast. Still quite mild. As soon as the rain abated, we set off for the beach to go a blow of fresh air. In the 5 mins getting there, we had another big downpour and then it cleared again as we parked up. There was only one other car parked.

The not-so-welcoming beach.

Of course, as soon as we walked across the shingle, the rain poured down and the wind drove it stingingly into our faces. It was warm wind and rain so we indulged it for all of 2 minutes and then ran as fast as one can over deep, loose shingle, back to the car and back home. Even so, it is amazing how much a few minutes out there invigorates one.

Glorious Todmorden – circa 1974

By the time we got home, the sun was out and the back garden was bathed in sunshine. We settled down to indoor pursuits. I’ve spent the day thinking it is Saturday. In spite of however many times I’ve told myself it isn’t, my thought processes bring me back to that misconception. This morning, Pauline has cut my hair. We spent an hour in the gym during which I watched a programme about Harold Shipman and the 232 old people that he killed. The programme took us back to 1974 when he was a GP in Todmorden and 1975 when he moved across the Pennines to the Lancashire town of Hyde. The black & white film of that West Yorkshire village/town took me back to my early days – 1972 – in the Mill Town of Oldham. Forget all the murders Shipman planned and committed, just revisiting that time takes one’s breath away.

Saturday, 2nd October, 2020

A wet night and we’ve woken to a wet morning. The thing I cant get used to is the darkness. Rain just increases that lack of light. However, we have had no strong winds and it remains warm-ish. We didn’t fall below 14C/57F over night.

It will be an ‘in-day’ because of the weather so I’ve been going back over this day in previous years of the Blog. Eleven years ago today, we had just 2 days left in our Greek house before we started on the long drive home. We were taking the ferry to Piraeus on Pauline’s birthday. It was 85C/29C and we were doing ‘last things.

Harbour view from our house – October 2009

Two days later, we were closing the house up, shutting down all the services, packing the car, saying farewell to the cat and setting off for Piraeus and then Patras on the Peloponnese where we celebrated Pauline’s 58th birthday.

Ready for the ‘Off’ – October 2009

It took us 5 days to get back to West Yorkshire where we found that Pauline’s 95 year old Mum was suffering a painful bout of Shingles across her face and in her eye. 

We are still waiting for the most important piece of equipment – the Treadmill – but other than that, the gym has been completed with a couple of smaller items this week. I have to do some trunk curls for my stomach flab so we bought a Yoga Mat. Pauline wants to do steps so we bought a Step Bench. Partly, Pauline thinks the Step Bench will be there to help me get up from the Yoga Mat. She is hilarious like that but she is also near the truth.