Week 623

Sunday, 29th November, 2020

Lovely bright, mild day. Sunday, political programmes, newspapers. The Tories are revolting! No, the Tories are revolting against the lockdown conditions. If you ever thought Trump was an aberration, make no mistake. He was just Toryism writ large. A few decades ago, Thatcherism saw unemployment as a price worth paying. Now Death is a price worth paying as long as it isn’t their own. This strain of right wing, populist thuggery is so depressing and we must eradicate it. Trump’s been dumped. Next must be the Tories.

It’s still November but Christmas has come to our street. This morning, neighbours all around were holding ladders for each other as their lights went up. This evening they are being tried out.

Christmas has arrived …. unfortunately.

Any sort of Brexit is a disaster as the people in the Sunderland Nissan plant who voted for it are suddenly realising, as the fishermen in their droves who voted for it are suddenly realising and the farming community who voted for it in the belief that the EC subsidies would be maintained and markets would be enhanced are suddenly realising. Even more surprised are those brainless holiday home owners who liked to spend half the year abroad and half at home in UK as we used to do. Suddenly, they are screaming, We woz robbed. when they learn that they can only spend 90 days in any 6 month period. We only wanted to keep out the immigrants, they said as they temporarily emigrated to their European home. At the risk of sounding Biblical, You reap what you sow.

We are hoping to get across the Channel this week for a final shopping trip. We’ve booked the Tunnel crossing and just hope the French still let us in. I will keep you updated.

Monday, 30th November, 2020

Cool and little bit misty this morning. The view on Sifnos this morning is even less inviting. Given the lower quality of home building, heating and insulation on the island, it will certainly feel damp and cool.

Sifnos this morning.

I was amused yesterday to read that Greeks, who are experiencing quite a difficult second wave of Covid infection having done rather well in the first phase, attribute the second wave of the pandemic to the opening of tourism in summer practically without restrictions. People on Sifnos are saying just what the right wingers in England are saying about the control conditions imposed on them by central government. They observe that there is no infection on the island but they are being controlled just as much as Athens and Thessaloniki and where infection is rife. Like the right wingers here, they don’t seem to combine the two ideas and realise the movement of people could change that position completely.

Of course, France is under lockdown with limitations on citizen’s movement from their homes other than for specific reasons. They and we when we travel have to complete a form stating the legitimate purpose for our movement.

We have ordered £550.00/€615.00 worth of wine but have to travel to pick it up. We have been instructed by the company to tick Box 2 which says we are permitted to run errands to purchase basic commodities available in a business allowed to provide that service. Who knows whether it will work. Last time we went, we filled in the same form but no one asked us for it.

Tuesday, 1st December, 2020

Locked Down too long!

Happy December 2020 to you all. Special best wishes to Bob. Tomorrow sees the end of the second lockdown. We are expecting just one more in the New Year after Christmas jollities are over. Of course, we are volunteering for an extra lockdown by attempting to drive to France on Friday. 3  – 4 hours shopping will result in a ‘nominal’ quarantine of 2 weeks. Actually, we will take another test on Thursday for the ONS programme we are in although it will be at least 6 days before the result returns. 

We are a little unsure what the French Border Force will say to our application to enter but we will take it as it comes. It will be a nice day out to Folkestone otherwise although we are going rather early in the morning and it is forecast to rain. 

News from my brother has prompted me to seek an urgent prostate test. Pauline & I walked down to the surgery with a written request for my doctor. 

Flu will be replaced with Covid soon.

What a beautiful day for a walk. The sun was strong in our eyes, the birds were singing as if Spring had begun and there was no time like the present. All around us the world was bursting with optimism. I must admit, I still feel optimistic about life. This afternoon, Easyjet contacted me about a flight to Athens we have rolled over for late August 2021 and my heart leapt with anticipation. Our Octogenarian neighbours across the road say they will be spending Christmas at home without family just as we will but they are looking forward to flying back to Australia sometime in the new year. We look forward.

Wednesday, 2nd December, 2020

Busy and quite cool morning. Up at 6.00 am. How dark it is. Out by 6.45 am and still dark, cold – 5C/41F – and uninviting. Did my 5 mile walk as the sun rose with a pleasing pink light.

The road to Brighton backlit by a salmon sunrise.

My hands and nose were cold but my body was sweating by the time I got back to the car. As soon as we’d arrived home, I received a phone call from my doctor, not much more than 18 hrs after writing to her, offering a consultation prior to a prostate test. Very impressive.

Harbingers of my past – Joseph’s head held by Bluetac.

Skinny Liz sent an email round the family yesterday with a photograph that engendered fear & dread. It was of the the figures that Mum would trot out every Christmas and feature in a straw-topped Manger on display in the Lounge which we children were, generally, excluded from. As a confirmed and hardened atheist, for me this display is merely sentimental in value. It also represents one of those intangible links between brothers and sisters.

For me, the figures still strongly evoke authority, coercion, narrow mindedness allied to blind faith which I felt dominated my life at home. Ever since I was able to reason for myself, I have rejected what these figures represent. Having said that, the fact that they are over 80 years old (Even older than Ruth) and were taken by Liz in boxes with London stamps on them and wrapped in copies of The Guardian dated 1975 makes them interesting and moving. I’d love to know who was reading The Guardian in our house then.

Thursday, 3rd December, 2020

Very strange morning – cool with heavy rain in the darkness as we got up at 6.30 am in readiness for a workman to arrive and build some heavy, wooden furniture in our garden. Rather him than me as his frozen, wet hands sparked up an electric drill in a downpour.

We’ve got the next Covi-19 test today. We need the money. I also had a phone call from my doctor offering me an immediate Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA test in the next few days. This is such a fantastic service. She told me that I would automatically be referred to my local hospital for follow up.

A hamper of goodies from Margaret & Tony

We’ve got this age old dilemma of cards or not cards this Christmas. I know Ruth will be saving postage again but we can’t quite bring ourselves to do it yet. We drove out to buy an armful of stamps. We were out for about 5 mins and came home to find a Parcelforce card on the mat to say they had been unable to deliver a parcel. The postman had left it 6 mins ago. We got in the car, shot round the area and found his van. He’s a lovely man. He handed over the parcel which had an Ebay inscription on it. Had I ordered something from Ebay by mistake?

It was a sizeable box which we opened immediately we got it home. like small children at Christmas. And that’s what it was, a Christmas present from our lovely, Huddersfield friends, Margaret & Tony. A hamper of goodies from our favourite farm shop just half a mile from where we used to live a decade ago. What joy!

Friday, 4th December, 2020

Oh, what a day! Up at 4.00 am to pitch black rain and not warm. Driving out at 5.00 am to Folkestone. Lovely, quiet roads. I really enjoy night time driving. The drive should take us 90 mins or so. We also build in a 30 mins contingency so estimate 2 hrs. Although it looks as if we are closer to the Channel Tunnel to a Geographical illiterate like me, actually, we have to drive North to get South East. On that basis, we should have driven in to the Tunnel check-in by 7.00 am at the latest.

Experienced Blog readers will know that I have no idea where I am going even in my locality never mind on a longish journey like this whereas Pauline loves navigation and route planning. In many ways, although we’ve driven this route from Surrey and Sussex for a decade, Pauline would rather try a new way each time just to test herself.

Cick & Enlarge to follow the pilgrimage.

Driving North on the A24 – A272 – A23 – M23 – M25 – M26 all went well. On to the M20 and it all started to go pear shaped. We were informed that a lorry had jack-knifed and gone through the central reservation around Leeds Castle area. We were diverted on to the A20. That’s no big problem because it runs parallel but it was busy. With so much traffic pushed on to a smaller road, just one, unattended roadworks caused miles of tailback costing us lots of time. Not only did we miss our check-in time but our Departure time as well.

A deserted Euro Tunnel terminal
Euro Tunnel Toilet

As we inched our way through Kent, we began to see SNOW. We had pledged to never see that stuff again. We were plagued with it in the North! The further we inched, the thicker the standing snow got. Ploughs had been despatched to clear the road but it was banked up at the sides. Through the roadwork blockage and we were on our way at speed with a totally empty road ahead. When we arrived, we were allocated the next train with just time for a cup of coffee and the toilet. We reflected that we would never wee there again as Europeans. (Ah!hhhh!)

The train was on time but very quiet and we drove off into sunshine. Straight to Calais Wine Store with no sightings of Asylum Seekers other than those poor souls huddled together at a soup caravan. The wine store was totally empty. We were the only customers. They had paid our travel through the Tunnel. If we had booked it ourselves, it would have cost £250.00/€278.00 day return. In return for our travel, we pledged to spend a minimum of £500.00/€556.00 on wine. In doing so, we would save around £520.00 on UK prices for the same wines. This is and has been for years a great deal. This is, almost certainly, our last visit and we bitterly resent that.

A quick drive on to Auchan for some food. You can’t beat a French chicken, some cheeses and then Pauline likes to browse the Utensiles de Cuisine (Kitchen Tools) section before we leave.

Pauline in the Kitchen Gadget section – Auchan, Coquelles.

As we are about to leave, a massive hailstorm hits the area but we have no time to wait. A run to the car and we drive back to the Terminal Tunnel sous La Manche. We were waved straight through on to the next, available train. The French asked us for none of the official ‘permission’ papers. The UK force reminded us we had to quarantine and then waved us through. We were back in Folkestone by 13.55 (UK time).

As soon as we landed, we found that the M20 motorway was still completely blocked all lanes driving West. Pauline perked up immediately. Here was a real life challenge. She decided that we would take the local, A259 coast road home. What a brilliant idea that was although the sat. nav. didn’t like it.

Cick & Enlarge to follow the journey home.

We drove through Hythe, Dymchurch, Romney Marshes, Rye, Hastings, Bexhill, Pevensea, Polegate, Lewes, Shoreham by Sea, Worthing and home. We were back home by around 5.30 pm – later than expected but safely and having really enjoyed our journey.

Saturday, 5th December, 2020

Quarantine Day 1 (again)

We didn’t get up until 9.00 am! Can’t remember how many years it has been since we did that – probably after a drive back from Greece some 6 years ago. First thing Pauline did was book a Sainsbury’s delivery slot for Wednesday. Interestingly, we picked 6.30 am – 7.00 am and it was ‘free’. I wonder why? Many other slots were only charged at a £1.00/€1.12 but we like ‘Free’! 

The day will be filled by many jobs but, particularly, Christmas card signing and addresses + stamps printed and affixed. They will be posted on Monday. I have to complete my Newsletter to accompany the cards. After only 4 hrs sleep on Thursday night and 6 hours of driving after so little across this past 12 months, we are both rather tired and not inclined to do much at all. We are already on episode 3 of Series 2 of The Crown. We may watch some more tonight.

End of an era!

We have just taken our last trip abroad as European citizens. It is something we will never forgive or forget. However, our current passports were issued on 19th October, 2010 and we now have to apply for new ones. On that day, we were both only 59 years old and we went to the Registry Office to register the death of Pauline’s Mum after 96 years of tenacious life. We also had to put out the money for her milkman in the brown envelope she had pre-prepared. It was the momentous end of an era. We will be almost 80 yrs old when we next have to get new passports. We are determined to do it and will work to make them European again.

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