Week 625

Sunday, 13th December, 2020

Quarantine Day 9 (again)

A depressingly grey, breezy and cool morning not improved by the smirking, Tory faces populating our television studios telling us not to be worried about a No Deal Brexit with one breath while telling us to prepare for hardship to come in the next. The trouble is, the barmy, British Brexiteers want to believe the former and close their eyes to the latter. A hard rain’s gonna fall!

Rosemount Point, Byfleet, Surrey

On such a depressing day, I am choosing to return to the archives in search of better memories. Around this time 11 years ago, we were retired and looking to move South. We had set off for Surrey to look at what we considered a ‘posh’ and expensive apartment which would be a good Lock-Up-&-Go for the 6 months we were not in Greece. They were just finished being built and there was an apartment left but our house in Yorkshire took too long to sell and we lost the Surrey one.

The Pinnacles, Woking, Surrey

Fortunately, after we had sold our house in the North, we found a duplex apartment built on the site of a former Convent. Although it was perfectly adequate for our temporary needs, we couldn’t have understood its real value. The property we lost has risen and fallen in value over the past 11 years and is now on sale at barely 15% above the price at which we were prepared to buy. The property we did buy and owned for a little over 4 years, almost doubled in value when we sold. Since then, other owners have really struggled to sell and have accepted prices nearer to the one we originally paid. It is not often that fate works for one but, on this occasion, it did massively.

We are imagining the next few months. We will be successfully vaccinated by … say March. We will need a month for that to take effect. By April, we can drive abroad and stay in a hotel. The first place we will go is the hotel in Coquelles which immediately refunded our booking as the pandemic struck.

We don’t forget good, honest service and will go out of our way to reward it. We will use this hotel where we book a suite as a base from which to visit friends and places in Nord Pas de Calais. My Grammar School friend, John Whetton in Arras will be on the list.

The phone rang at 6.30 this evening. It was a lady called Audrey wanting to speak to John. Pauline answered but quickly realised it wasn’t me she wanted. It was a wrong number. She engaged the lady in conversation and found out she was 94 years old. Pauline asked her what number she really wanted and she read back our number exactly from her phone book. Where are you? Pauline asked and, instead of replying generally, Audrey gave out her precise address which is about 10 mins drive from us. Pauline told her, We are in Angmering. but said it wasn’t safe to give out her address to total strangers. She said, You’re right I suppose but you could come round for a chat if you like. Just phone to make sure I’m in. I’m very active you know. We are going to take a Christmas card round for her tomorrow and we will call in as soon as it’s safe.

Monday, 14th December, 2020

Quarantine Day 10 (again)

Actually, I freely admit to breaking Quarantine rules this morning. I drove Pauline to Waitrose where she bought a little Stollen cake and took it round with a Christmas card to our new, best friend, Audrey who phoned by mistake yesterday. It turns out that she has a lovely, big, seaside bungalow in a gated development. She told Pauline yesterday on the phone that she was becoming forgetful and, true to her word, this morning she couldn’t really remember speaking to Pauline yesterday afternoon at all. However, she was pleased and grateful to receive a gift and card. She invited Pauline in but she declined because of Covid which made the old lady laugh and we left.

My Corona

If you are my age, you will remember these things. The one on the right is my Corona Typewriter. I have no idea how much it cost in 1975 but it wasn’t significant. If you wanted to buy one now, it would cost you £250.00/€276.00 but I don’t think you could get an ink ribbon for it. In 1975, I was doing a much-belated Degree course and this typewriter was my essential tool. I was also living in a dive of a flat in a (very recently) former brothel with a coal fire to heat it. I was teaching by day and studying by night. I was also, as ever, dieting!

This morning, I received a letter which I wrote in the hovel of a flat in 1977. Watching the episode of The Crown last night which featured Heath’s 3-Day Week and National Power Cuts, I was immediately transported back to that flat and listening in the darkness to Chopin Nocturnes on a battery driven Cassette Player by the glow of the fire. We really knew how to live in those days.

The rest of this letter, which I haven’t included, went on to talk about my study of the poetry of W.H.Auden. I was doing my final year study for my B.A. in Twentieth Century Poetry from Thomas Hardy, Auden, Eliot, Pound and Rainer Maria Rilke through W.B.Yeats and Dylan Thomas to Larkin and Hughes. If I’d wanted to plan my own course, this would have been it.

As my wife said to me this morning when she read the letter from my 26 year old self, You’re still weird now. If I’d known you were that weird then, I would have thought twice. So, thanks to Chris & Kev. I’d hoped to bury that!

Tuesday, 15th December, 2020

Quarantine Over (again)

Lovely day for a jog!

We went out early to Sainsburys so Pauline could source ingredients for a Pickle that se is making. I went on my run for the first time in a while and it felt good.

A lovely day for a walk on Littlehampton Beach.

After coffee at home, we decided to use our new, won freedom by nipping down to the beach for a walk. The tide was crashing right up the beach and on to the esplanade where people were walking.

Great day to fill our lungs with sea air.

There is something special about being able to just nip out to the beach without effort and to walk with the sight and sound of crashing waves and foaming water at our side. We both returned home feeling enlivened by the outing.

Wednesday, 16th December, 2020

Lovely morning although a little breezy. Sunny and bright. I’m going out for a PSA blood test. Pauline is receiving a ‘snagger’ to fit a cowl over an air vent which is noisy in the loft during strong winds.

We have now each had 6 negative Covid-19 tests and been paid £350.00/€390.00 for the privilege. We will have another 10 tests each over the next 10 months which will be reassuring and profitable. We each received our £100.00/€111.00 this morning which is better than a poke in the eye but could, possibly, more usefully directed if the cost of that process wasn’t prohibitive.

This is OURS!

While I was out at the surgery – the 2nd surgery because the main one was solely occupied in providing Covid-19 inoculations. They will do 1000 jabs in 3 days this week. – Pauline was filling in idle time completing 3 Christmas cakes and completing production of her homemade pickle. I don’t like her to get bored without me. By the way, the cake decorations are 53 years old. Pauline bought them as a 16 yr old school girl doing Home Economics. We both like that sort of circularity.

Thursday, 17th December, 2020

Gorgeously sunny and reasonably mild morning. Actually, there was a cloud burst of torrential rain around 4.30 am and I got up half an hour later because I couldn’t get back to sleep. I couldn’t face the continual scenes of Worklife-Past which suddenly began to play across my mind. I was back in school, walking the interminable corridors I inhabited for so many years. When I made a cup of tea at 5.00 am, the sky was light and the sun was coming up. It seemed a bit early. Ten years ago today, we were in Yorkshire and coping with heavy snow. At least life is easier here. It’s the second half of December and I’m cutting the lawns this afternoon.

Tesco shopping for Pauline. Walking for me. Back home by 9.00 am and then out again after coffee. We drove down to the Local Tip to dump the original computer chairs. I am being forced to sit on the first pair of new replacements. The second pair of new replacements are supposed to be delivered on Christmas Eve. I bet they won’t be.

The Establishment was complaining about The Crown on Netflix so it sounded worth watching. I am about as anti-monarchy as one can get without committing murder but this dramatisation of the historical background to my life affected me in a way I didn’t predict. Of course, the whole premise on which their position is founded remains just as untenable but I found myself genuinely sympathising with the psychotic characters the family ‘business’ threw up. The complete and utter loneliness of The Queen Mother, The Queen and Prince Charles is shocking. The aimless, lack of purpose of Philip, Margaret and Diana is painful and destructive. And for what?

Pauline’s got to repaint a section of the ceiling this afternoon. I was opening a bottle of red wine with a ‘plunger action’ cork screw. The cork went straight down into the bottle followed by Rioja fountaining up in my face, on the kitchen floor and over kitchen cupboards. As I was wiping everything down, I suddenly spotted a wide pattern of spray stains across the ceiling. It wouldn’t sponge off so Pauline is tasked with restoration today. We have a 5 litre tub of paint set aside for the walls and ceiling. The slightest mark that appears gets touched up immediately.

The delicious bite of Manzanilla!

There are some compensations that come with Christmas. I’m allowed to drink sherry without being seen as a maiden aunt. It’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but who drinks sherry these days? I love ice cold, bone dry, Manzanilla sherry. I only ever seem to drink it on special occasions. Pauline has bought me two different Bodega’s offerings to contrast and compare. Well, someone should do it. Why not me?

Friday, 18th December, 2020

Up at 6.00 am on a dark and damp morning. The temperature says 11C/52F but it feels distinctly cooler in the breeze. I drive Pauline to Sainsburys and then set off on my walk. It is not pleasant. The roads have taken on a lot of rain over night and large, kerbside puddles with cars wizzing past make me nervous. I don’t fancy a soaking. the air is damp and uninviting. Still, I work up a sweat by the time it’s over. Pauline and I arrive simultaneously and drive home for coffee.

Regret the passing of Stilton

We have an appointment with 3 fresh salmon at Tesco at 9.00 am so we are out of the house quite quickly. One of the things about the poor management of this government over the entire period of the pandemic is that decision making has been late and indecisive and communication has been muddled and duplicitous. As a result, the population have found it difficult to plan their lives. I couldn’t care less about Christmas but the freeing of restrictions will be paid for with a very heavy price of infection and death. Two weeks ago, the infection rate was down to 14,000 per day which is bad enough in itself but, yesterday, it was more than 35,000 within 3 days of relaxation. Everything has consequences often unforeseen.

Turkey farmers, sprout producers, Christmas Pudding manufacturers, Stilton Cheese producers will have brought their production lines to a climax just as we are slimming down or cancelling our celebrations completely. Prices are already being cut hard. I’ve given up buying Stilton altogether. It’s just too rich for me nowadays but Pauline collected 6 full sides of fresh, Scottish salmon at half the normal price. Today it was just £5.50/€6.10 per Kilo. Let’s hope it doesn’t impact on future production.

I don’t know if I’ve told you but I’m not a fan of Brexit and it will have so many unexpected downsides that the Brextremists wouldn’t even have considered. One would have thought that everybody had taken the problems of integrated supply lines in the manufacturing industries and the food import/export lines in to account, would have considered integrated defence and the Schengen Information Systems as important for future development but I wonder how many considered the Website Domain extension – .Eu?

My web domain is www.jrsanders.eu. I only use it as a shell link base at the moment but I am intending to redesign and update it. I am a committed European. My website is European. From the end of December, this will not be viable. We lose the .eu extension. My webhost has offered me a work-around which involves registering my domain with their Belgian office and continuing as if nothing has happened. If only the rest of our arrangements could be sorted out as easily.

Saturday, 19th December, 2020

A lovely, bright and sunny start to the day although we weren’t intending to go out at all. After breakfast, we were due to renew our passports. They expire today along with the past decade. Unfortunately, our renewal will not identify us as Europeans which we are.

We went on line and had to do just three things:

  • Record our old passport details.
  • Take a passport photograph.
  • Pay a £75.00/€83.00 each.

Everything went well until we submitted our photographs. I had complied with every stipulation:

  • Use a plain, light-coloured background
  • Keep even lighting and no shadows
  • With a plain expression and face in full view
  • No headwear
  • Eyes fully visible
We will buy covers to hide the humiliation of this thing on the left.

The website rejected my photos because they said the lighting was not bright enough, the colouring was not natural enough and my eyes were not open enough. How can one show disdain with open eyes?

We tried three times with rejection each time and were so annoyed that we went out immediately and had it done at the Post Office as the Christmas post crowds built up behind us. The process to 15 mins and cost us an extra £16.50/€18.25 each. It was a cheap price to pay for such efficiency and what lovely people!

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