Week 626

Sunday, 20th December, 2020

Hands up those who have managed 12 full years of a diary. That’s 625 weeks. That’s 4368 days’ records. No, I thought not. Actually, mine was a bit sketchy in the first few weeks but retirement has definitely given it full rein. As a digital autobiography, it has proved incredibly useful. I will be 70 in this Blog Year and seriously hope to post a Year 26 Blog notice. I mean, 83 is nothing nowadays, is it?

Two members of the Barnes family aged 94 & 56.

It is amazing what can happen in a life over 12 years. I draw strength from what has gone before and really look forward to what is to come. I will let you know at the age of 82 whether it has been as good or, perhaps, even better.

Monday, 21st December, 2020

The shortest day of the year and it has opened dark and damp. We were up at 5.45 am on a day when we will be doing quite a lot of driving. The enveloping chaos on the EU/UK borders – something which prefigures the outlook for post-Brexit Britain – will lead to panic buying in the last days up to Christmas.

Because of the Covid danger, Pauline and I go shopping at unearthly hours to avoid others. This morning was Sainsbury’s at 6.00 am followed by Asda at 7.00 am. Back home for coffee. Pauline is making Rabbit & Pork Pâté with Lemon & Thyme for our Christmas feast. The rabbit is French which makes all the difference.

Pauline has so much culinary skill and even more enthusiasm that she produces so many lovely dishes. We virtually never buy pre-prepared food of any sort. For weeks, Pauline has been making Christmas cakes, Christmas puddings, Vanilla Ice cream, etc..

She has been researching our fish medley Starter which will be King Scallops, Monkfish and Langoustines with a Gratin crust. I am salivating as I type. Main course will be Citrus Glazed Goose with Chestnut and Pork Meat Stuffing accompanied by honey-glazed roast parsnips and carrots. Pudding will be Homemade Christmas Pudding with Homemade Vanilla Ice cream.

The biggest challenge will be not eating rather than binging on this lovely stuff. We’ve already put weight on through eating too much and certainly drinking too much. As ever, we are going to punish ourselves in the New Year. We are in Tier 2 but it doesn’t look as if we will be travelling abroad until at least June. This gives us 5 months of purgatory to pay for the future enjoyment. We can make a big difference in 5 months. Anyway, we are setting off for Tier 4 Surrey this lunchtime to deliver Christmas cakes, Christmas puddings and one or two other cooked treats to Pauline’s family. We won’t be having any contact with anybody en route and, when we get there, we will drop the presents at the door and stand well back before beating a hasty retreat to sunny Sussex.

Our little village of Angmering popped up on Countryfile last night. It looked a nice place to live. I am not a big lover of villages but it is possible to live here and still remain anonymous.

The village is expanding rapidly as town dwellers desperately want to escape to a safer environment. Locals cannot afford to remain but have to move out to buy a house. We are comfortable in a village which has fantastic connections to all the things we want to do. My only regret is that it takes over an hour to drive to the tunnel but, currently, that is an asset!

Tuesday, 22nd December, 2020

What a depressing day. Dark, wet, cool. I took a long phone call from my old friend and mentor while I was a youth in my home village of Repton, Derbyshire. It was the first year anniversary of his wife, Sue’s death. They were married and inseparable for 50 years. They lived an isolated life bound tightly together on a remote, Welsh farm.

Dave indulged his passion for the Great Outdoors and for manual labour while Sue enjoyed horse riding and looking after 16 donkeys, a clutch of geese and some hens. I can only imagine how the loss of one’s partner like that feels and I don’t want to experience it although it will come to us all one day.

For all his resilience, Dave is struggling to come to terms with his new situation. The horse and donkeys have gone to new homes, the geese are still there but the hens have stopped laying. Dave is busy all day maintaining the property but Covid has stopped his sons helping out. I resolve to phone him more often. I know how much the younger me owed him. I have also emailed my friend in Massachusetts who also knows and respects Dave so that he can lend a hand in cheering him up as well.

British carrots grown in Spain.

On Saturday morning, we applied for new passports. Yesterday, we received texts to say our requests had been noted and today, less than 3 days since our application, we received texts and emails informing us that our new and old passports were in the mail. Have you ever known a government service like that? In a pandemic? Unbelievable! The only thing we can think is that the current situation is putting others off applying and the service is looking for customers.

The UK (shambles) government are so committed to increasing home production of fruit and vegetables that they have annexed Spanish farms to grow them on. Just open up the carrots to see.

Wednesday, 23rd December, 2020

Will reading stop?

Whilst everything else decays and falls off, my eyesight has steadily improved over the years. I rarely wear my distance glasses which were always on my face in my youth. Sometimes I find I’ve driven miles before realising that I hadn’t been wearing them. With age, people require longer arms or adopt glasses to read small print. I do wear reading glasses but, increasingly, can usually manage without them when pushed.

Well, I’m likely to find out soon. I spend most of my time with my half moons balanced on the end of my nose. I have three pairs – one chipped, one mangled and one which snapped this morning. With possible shut down of shops in the New Year, I may have to resort to on-line purchase. The problem is my prescription is almost out of date and I don’t understand it. I’m thinking of driving to Barnard castle to calibrate it.

Driving back from Waitrose

We were at Sainsburys for 6.00 am to buy plastic, freezer storage boxes for Pauline’s latest project – Don’t ask! She is organising the copious amounts of herbs we have harvested this year. We had to be at Waitrose for 9.00 am to collect the goose. When we arrived, the queue snaked all round the outside of the building. Pauline walked straight to the front and was waved through because she was only picking up an order by appointment. The others were looking to browse/shop and numbers in store were being strictly controlled.

Home for coffee and the clouds parted; the sun came out; the temperature rose to 14C/57F and the world looked better. We are actually going out for a walk this afternoon. Haven’t done that for a few days now.

Thursday, 24th December, 2020

Gorgeous day! We pottered around until mid morning. Pauline prepared the goose for tomorrow and I did my customary, anal-retentive activity of going through the Christmas Cards, ticking off those who had reciprocated and putting red marks against those that haven’t. Actually, very few have failed to contact us this year apart from my eldest sister, Ruth, who has obviously written me off. Quite surprised, really. Haven’t heard from her at all. I’ve even had a lovely card from my fellow reclusive brother, Mike so something’s gone wrong in Bolton. Is Tier 57 not allowed to write to people?

Can’t tell you how much this means!

It seemed a shame to miss the sunshine so we went for a walk on the beach. There were a few others out there doing exactly the same.

Christmas Eve walk.

I began my Blog on Christmas Day, 2008. Tomorrow, will see the true beginning of Year 13. It has reached the stage when my, obsessive compulsive character will not allow me to stop. I cannot end a day without recording it. As another year begins and many of us resolve to keep a diary, I thought I would draw your attention to some of the great exponents. Of course, they can’t compare with me but, as also-rans, they are worthy of note.

  1. The most famous of all English diarists, Samuel Pepys, began his diary in 1660, just before he secured a position as Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board, and brought it to an end nine years later because he believed (mistakenly) that his eyesight was deteriorating so badly that he risked blindness.
  2. Virginia Woolf kept a diary that ran from 1915 to her death in 1941 which is eminently emulatable although she ended her life by drowning herself in the River Ouse at which I draw the line.
  3. Tony Benn kept a diary and refused to go to bed without recording the events of his day. Latterly, it was an audio diary that he recorded on tape. I relate to him completely although I didn’t quite have the interesting daily events to record.
Preparing the Goose for tomorrow.

Friday, 25th December, 2020

The Blog wishes you all a happy day as it starts its 13th year. Let’s hope we all see 14. I woke up thinking, I don’t have to drive up to Surrey today. Because we are not going up to Surrey, we had a leisurely breakfast and then I did my Boxing Day routine of ‘Bringing the Christmas Address List up to date’ and printing out the address labels for 2021 so that Pauline’s alright if I die. I’m sure most of you do exactly the same thing. I’ve even left Ruth’s address on there in spite of the fact that she hasn’t contacted me. I live in hope.

We are free for the day. By 10.00 am, we were nipping down to the Marina. Actually, there were plenty of people about. We walked down to the Jetty in the sea and were surprised to see a boat returning from a night’s fishing.

Fish for Boxing Day.

Got Pauline to pose for me on the Jetty but it was so cold in the cutting sea breeze that we couldn’t stay out long.

We drove home for coffee followed by a bottle of champagne and pottering through the day. Pauline was cooking Forcemeat stuffing and Bread Sauce. This was a tradition in the Sanders household. We loved bread sauce with Turkey and game. An onion stuck with cloves is simmered in milk and, when the flavours have been absorbed, white bread crumbs are folded in. Pauline adds butter and double cream which makes the whole thing wonderful. It is magical and evocative for me. I haven’t eaten it for the past 40 years because our hosts aren’t keen on it. This year, oh, this year! We are indulging ourselves.

Saturday, 26th December, 2020

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!!!!

Ruth has sent me an E-Card. I always knew she would. She’s lovely really. I don’t care what the rest of the family say about her. Funnily enough, it arrived just as I was sending a picture of her Penthouse Apartment to my friend in Massachusetts. I love these weird connections. I start a conversation on Facebook or Twitter and, suddenly, two, totally unconnected people from my past who have never met and never will take over that conversation and develop an on-line relationship which I can stand back and watch.

Never has this been more noticeable than the past few years as the Class/Education/North-South divide has been exposed in this crazy, Brexit debate. I’ve had University friends debating with past work colleagues and family members. Recently, a girl I haven’t seen for fifty years was debating with a cousin who lives in France. They didn’t need me at all. I love being the observer.

Goose Roast – definitely dead.

When it comes to food, I’d love to be the observer but I find it so difficult not to be a participant. We spend all our days eating fish and salad and, suddenly, thrown into a rich meal of roast goose, stuffing, bread sauce, roasted root vegetables feels all too much. Our bodies aren’t acclimatised. Our Christmas meal was wonderful and we both enjoyed it but the autopsy found that we both felt it was all unnecessary. The Goose was lovely but not spectacular. An £80.00/€90.00 5kg bird actually only does 4 generous portions and the carcass does not produce a pleasant stock. It was pleasing to change from Turkey but next year, we will spend that money on a wonderful fish – probably Turbot or John Dory which we don’t usually splash out on.

The fish medley gratin was fabulous and the Christmas pudding with homemade ice-cream was gorgeous but it was all too rich. Our stomachs can’t cope with cheese and cream as they used to. Maybe next year will be a minimalist Christmas.

Ruth & Kevan – Christmas 2009

You would be hard pushed to say that this photograph above was taken 11 years ago until you look at the one below taken on the same day in 2009.

Add 11 years to these hooligans …. and hide!

Who is that one in the red hat? I want him on my side! I suspect Ruth would happily go back to 2009 although I’m not sure I would.