Week 632

Sunday, 31st January, 2021

For years we have bought cod and salmon from the wet fish counter at Tesco or Sainsbury‘s. Since the pandemic and wet fish counters have closed, we switched to a local company who we thought only supplied trade with local fish. The result has been quite a revelation. The fish is delivered to our door for ‘free’ in boxes of ice, the price is just as good and the quality is just unbelievably better. Yesterday, we had roast salmon and the difference of quality and taste is so marked that it is hard to believe. Of course, our new suppliers have been formerly supplying high end, London restaurants which are currently closed. Even so, we think they have been shocked by the local, domestic demand and are unlikely to turn away from it when things get back nearer to normal conditions.

Quite a cool night. We got down to 2C/36F and it is only 4C/39F at 8.00 am with grey, monotone sky. Once again, we are not going out. My job today is cleaning the gym before using it for exercise. Pauline is preparing roast chicken for our meal.

We received a letter from the ONS to tell us that our latest Covi-19 test was negative. That is now our 8th negative test result since we began in early October. We have each received £250.00 for this so far. It will continue long after we’ve been vaccinated which is nice.

We have been faithfully completing the Covid Symptom Tracker every day since the end of May. Run by Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London, it has consistently had at least 4.5 million daily contributors and allows the study to track the infectious symptoms across time and across the country. It tells us how our own, small region is doing on a weekly basis. Currently, infection rates are low and stable. Even so, only a vaccination will coax us out into the light of the real world.

Today I begin my 6th week without alcohol. For an addictive personality like mine, this means it will be harder to open a bottle of wine than to not. It will be hard to give up sparkling water and switch to red wine. I’m addicted to the pattern of my life not the substance.

Monday, 1st February, 2021

New month again. New February. I would like to wish you a happy, optimistic one but I’m afraid we all have to remain in the Holding Lounge for quite some time to come. January has been the coldest across UK for 10 years. Let’s hope we have a tropical February. It is as likely as Tories caring for the poor.

Almost a year has disappeared since we knew ‘normal’ life. This time last year, I was more concerned about securing virus software for my computer than worrying about a virus spreading across the globe. Yes, I was aware of it. Yes, I was talking about obtaining and wearing masks even before the Tory government denied their viability but I was also talking about the fact that we had booked 6 flights and 3 holiday stays but the first wasn’t until May so it should be alright. Within a couple of weeks, the doubts were flooding my mind and I was beginning to consider how to retrench and recoup.

Hope over Angmering Community Centre

Fortunately, the Tories knew just how to deal with the spread of virus. Go back to the Office and to the School encouraged the population to congregate in Workplaces and Classrooms having travelled on crowded public transport spreading infection as they went. Eat out to help Out encouraged millions to congregate in restaurants and exchange infection. Have a merry Little Christmas encouraged millions to visit family members to exchange presents and infection. The Tories definitely put their arms around the population and did everything they could to spread the Virus.

As Brexit narrows our options, increases our isolation and decreases our choices, the pandemic’s effect is magnified. Hope is currently in short supply.

Tuesday, 2nd February, 2021

We are a bit tired this morning. We were not in bed until 12.30 am and were up at 6.00 am. By 7.00 am, the Sainsbury’s delivery had been made and we were completing our breakfast drinks. Pauline is making the latest batch of Chicken Stock out in the garden to avoid that strong smell permeating the kitchen and the extraction system.

Our Neighbours are leaving.

We are very disappointed that our neighbours across the road have put their house on the market. As their son has moved on they think their property with 5 bedrooms and a double garage is too big for them. They are both in their 80s and have decided that upkeep will rapidly become too much so are looking to downsize. They are nice people and we will be sorry to see them go.

A shaft of light on Littlehampton Beach.

These are strange days of overcast gloom punctuated by brief periods of light. It is shocking how the weather alters our days. We have been enjoying ‘breaking out’ with walks by the sea but have felt rather confined of late by cold, damp days. We used to live in Woking which is being featured on the media because it is one of the sites of a new, Covid variant originating in South Africa. Mass testing and strict controls are descending on the Woking residents and we are grateful not to be involved in that.

M62 – 7.00 am today

Somewhere else we are glad to have left behind is pictured above. For 40 years, Pauline & I made the journey down the M62 across the Pennines at 7.00 am from Yorkshire to Lancashire and back in the evening. Barely a winter went by without heavy snow problems. On this day in 2009, I was recording heavy snow falling and we were closing the school for 2 days. Fortunately today, most teachers can look out of their windows on to a snowy scene and not have to take their life into their hands as we often had to do. There were times we had to be towed off snow drifts; I almost died of exposure on Standedge Moor trying to dig us out of a drift; we we hit by ‘white outs’ and drifted helplessly on sheet ice. I never want to see those days again.

Currently, I researching 3 month, summer lets on the French/Spanish border around Perpignan and Girona which we might drive to when we are fully vaccinated. You’ve got to live in hope haven’t you?

Wednesday, 3rd February, 2021

Up at 6.30 am and out to Asda for 8.00 am for a Click&Collect. It is not a pleasant morning having rained heavily in the night. It is still gloomy, raining lightly and the roadsides have lots of puddled water. It’s quickly brought out to us when we park outside the store and we are home within 20 mins. The process has been seamless and untroubled other than by the R4 Today programme I am listening to.

Tory after Tory is lining up today – (They have been most reluctant to appear for months.) – to tell us how much they admired Captain Tom Moore who has died. Of course, it would be churlish not to admire an old man struggling to keep purpose in his life, to maintain relevance and, particularly, a centenarian. My Mother-in-Law fought every way to the age of 96 before events overtook her and I found it admirable. What is worrying and why I find it so hard to join in the ‘Captain Marvel’ – ‘Hero of Our Time’ eulogies is the appropriation by the Right of these qualities. The simple ‘Old man shows optimistic spirit.‘ view is absorbed into a Nationalism that speaks to the Right-Wing cause and quickly spills into ugly jingoism.

This is the reason Tories are so keen to pop their heads over the parapet (to borrow a colonial/militaristic metaphor) this morning and to claim this old man and his exploits for themselves. Pictures of Captain Tom wearing his wartime medals are everywhere. The desire to paint him as the embodiment of British, wartime spirit, of stiff upper lip and a never-say-die attitude feeds the frenzy of nationalism engendered by the Tory Right and Brexit.

This morning, Tim Stanley – a Telegraph journalist and Roman Catholic convert – was presenting the Thought for the Day slot on R4 Today. His theme was the wartime and religious fantasy, ‘We’ll meet again’. We won’t and the majority of citizens know it if you question their religious beliefs but it suits the Nationalist, Royalist, British Exceptionalism that has been encouraged through Brexit. It chimes with the Robert Browning lines:

God’s in his heaven—
All’s right with the world!

It also recalls for Tories the All Things Bright and Beautiful description of the world:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

It encourages us to accept our position in life. The Monarchy is not elected but Anointed by God. They rule with Divine Right which is unchallengeable. In the same way, the social structure of rich man/poor man ‘The Lord God made them all.’ is not to be challenged. You must suffer the things your station in life brings upon you but there will, if you show fortitude and courage, be jam tomorrow.

If this was the mantra of some narrow, political sect as it was for many years after Thatcher, then we would have little reason to worry. Now, the Brexit debate has brought the ugly, national exceptionalism out of the shadows and into the mainstream light. The Labour Party have gleaned from their focus groups that working class Labour voters and particularly those in the Northern seats, want to see this simple patriotism embodied in their politicians. The Labour Party wants to increase its market share and will, inevitably, tack to the Right. In doing so, many of us will be left behind and look for another home. Panic Alert: I may have to vote Green! Jane BG will not stop laughing.

Anyway, home made fish cakes for tea. That will make a nice change from spam fritters and tinned pilchards now rationing is coming back!

Thursday, 4th February, 2021

The Daily Telegraph and The Times were the newspapers of my family home. Conservatism was the dominant political leaning. I was a teenager of the rebellious 1960s. I remember wistfully observing to my Mother that the disparity between different classes wasn’t fair. Her immediate response was, Life isn’t fair. My mental note said, We must do something about this! I have followed a left-leaning, Tertiary education particularly in my Master’s research. Here I learnt to apply Dialectical Materialism, a philosophy of Science, History, and Nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Marx and Engels. Marxist dialectics emphasizes the importance of real-world conditions, in terms of class, labour, and socio-economic interactions.

Right-wing populism, the leitmotiv of contemporary politics, has been on the rise over the past decade. Trump in America, Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Kaczyński in Poland and Get-Brexit-Done-Johnson in UK have all been swimming in this populist tide. The election of Biden is a sign that things may be changing but we have a long way to go. Will I see it in my lifetime? I must admit to some doubts.

Church Going

I was brought up in a large, matriarchal, Roman Catholic family. I was forced to attend Sunday Mass and forced to appear to be a Believer. Of course, the former was possible until I left home. The latter was merely superficial compliance. I couldn’t wait to leave home and this was one of the drivers. My wife was never subject to this control and, as she grew up, visited several different religious services just to understand them for herself. She rejected religion from an intelligent response to her own investigation. I rejected it largely as a juvenile rejection of authority. You can tell which is the more adult response.

I have spent the whole of my adult life openly opposed to religions of all faiths but Catholicism in particular. The national and international trend away from formal religion is extremely heartening. The Spectator this morning has a piece by a member of the Church of England bemoaning the pandemic’s effect on the Church in speeding up its decline. For years we have been pleased to read of declines in church attendance. Covid-19 has done more for this cause than any of us could have hoped. In essence, a falling attendance has been reinforced by church closures and the church management predict many not returning after the pandemic is over. They are closing churches, sacking staff and urging On-line Giving just to finance and maintain a reducing structure.

 ...  I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?

Philip Larkin - The Less Deceived (1955)

Philip Larkin prefigured this development 65 years ago in his poem, Church Going where he described the dying away of church communities leaving the structures to the architectural scroungers. After 40 years of persuading kids that religion was fantasy and that their real poverty was not inevitable, Covid-19 may have ridden to my aid.

Friday, 5th February, 2021

Up at 6.00 am on a mild but misty morning. Sainsburys arrived by 6.30 am and the excitement for the day was over. After coffee we decided we needed to get out. Pauline had to take a parcel return down to the Post Office in the village so we just carried on to the Marina after that.

Sun hats were the order of the day.

Of course, we were there about an hour too soon. People were greeting each other in an atmosphere of 1950s London. They used to called it a pea-souper in Estuary English although it wasn’t quite that thick.

Ships in the Night – Littlehampton Marina Meeting
We left before the sun came out.

We didn’t walk for long. We had no one to meet. A quick breeze around the Marina Walk and then back home for coffee. Like magic, almost as we sat down at home the mist lifted, the sky turned the most perfect blue and the sun shone strongly.

Pauline is cleaning the Gym which she says has become very grubby although I’d not noticed it. I have been given the job of photographing and documenting all the manholes around our property in preparation for our 5-Year Warranty ending. We have to seek insurance cover and emergency cover for boilers, central heating, burglar alarm, electrical installations, water pipes including waste water.

The problem is we have about 7 or 8 manholes/drain covers and, looking at the site plan, a number of them are not fed exclusively by us. They are on our property so we need to know who is responsible for their maintenance. I know you will be reading this and finding it hard to control your mounting excitement but these are weighty matters. My documentation will be forwarded to the Developers for their adjudication. We know that the first thing insurance policies want to know is clear ‘liability’. You didn’t know I led such a life on the edge did you?

Saturday, 6th February, 2021

Up late today – 7.30 am. For the rest of the day we went round feeling we had missed a whole chunk of the day. Gorgeous, sunny morning with clear, blue skies. It was great to watch a really good England performance in the Test in India while we started the day.

We thought it would be nice to give our eyes a chance to drink the sun’s rays in so we went for a walk.

We were out for about 90 mins and had time to talk to our favourite robin en route. He was singing away at the top of the same bush we see him in each time we go that way. He’s quite a character and I’m sure he sings louder while we are talking to him. We do have to be careful that walkers around us don’t think we are talking to a bush and send for the men in white coats but we feel old enough to get away with it now.

No jobs to do today so, with a longish walk under my belt, I don’t have to do as much in the gym. I have completed my target in terms of food, wine and exercise every day for 6 weeks now so I am allowing myself a relaxing day watching Cricket, Football and Rugby. Pauline says I’m really going to be fit after all that.

The Honda-E

We were remarking only this morning that our car had only done 7,300 miles since we bought it 20 months ago. This is quite remarkable. In the past, we would have expected to have covered 20,000 and be thinking about a new one at the 2 year mark. On this basis, the current one could be kept at least 4 years which is longer than we’ve ever kept a new car in our 43 years of marriage. The alternative would be to keep this one even longer and buy an all electric for all the day-to-day short trip driving that we do and use the bigger, Hybrid car for longer journeys and European travel. Worth considering!

Week 631

Sunday, 24th January, 2021

A wet morning which had clouds backlit by a rising, red sun. I’m watching England Test cricket in Sri Lanka while starting my Blog.

Looks like we are going to be under house arrest for quite some time to come. We always thought that the nonsense talked about schools reopening by Half Term was exactly that – nonsense. Now the speculation is whether they will reopen after Easter – circa April 12th. I think that is still very debatable. The talk about so many millions who have been vaccinated is equally duplicitous. Very very few have been vaccinated and won’t be until they’ve had their second jab. Everything else is spin.

January, 2011 – 6 month rental on new-build apartment coming to an end.

House arrest drives one back on to one’s own resources. For me, and Ruth’s going to hate this, it forces me to reflect on my history. Ten years ago today, we were drawing up plans to leave our temporary, new-build property in Yorkshire for a new-build property in Surrey we were purchasing. We had sold our Yorkshire home, spent 6 months in Greece and then 6 months in a rented apartment in Salendine Nook, Huddersfield.

Sunny Colmar, Alsace – 2011

At the same time as moving south, we were going back to Greece for six months and planning our journey. I sometimes wonder how we coped with the stress. Not only was I booking ferries but hotels en route. Ten years ago today, I was preparing to book this hotel in Alsace, France and another in Moderna, Italy. Oh to be doing that again this morning. Still, time for the gym!

…. Actually, I wrote too soon. The sky has cleared and strong sun has enticed us out for a walk. It was a reasonably warm and enjoyable hour’s long walk which really raises the spirits. Lots of other people out this afternoon doing exactly the same thing.

Monday, 25th January, 2021

Beautiful morning of clear, blue sky and strong sunshine. Well, we got away without any snow which is wonderful. The sky last night was clear as a bell with beautiful moon and huge, sparkling stars. This morning there was a light frost on the cars but not on the grass so we feel very lucky.

I ordered a webcam for my new computer yesterday. Ordered from Amazon at 2.00 pm on a Sunday and due to be delivered for free by 9.00 pm on Monday. Who needs the High Street anymore? I have no idea what I will use it for because I know no one who is on Zoom at the moment but I’m sure it will come in handy particularly if we want to contact the Doctors’ Surgery.

Something else which has come up this morning involves my INR testing at home. I test myself at home and email the result in to the Hospital. They email back with an official date for the next test. While things are going well, there may be up to 8 weeks between reporting results. In the past – 6 or 7 years ago – I used to have to drive to the hospital, sit in a crowded waiting room for half an hour, have an armful of blood removed and then wait 4 or 5 days before my result arrived by post. Now I test every week and report when I’m told to. In this way, I am in control of my INR which has to remain between 2.0 – 3.0. Last Monday, it was 2.5. Perfect.

In order to do this, I bought a quite expensive – £500.00/€563.00 – machine to test at home. The test strips cost about £80.00/€90.00 for 24 so that costs £160.00/€180.00 per year. It is worth it to avoid the crowds and the travel but it is all getting so much harder. I can order the test strips on prescription but, really, I only have to test every few weeks. I like to micro-manage my condition for safety and, therefore buy one box myself.

I order from Coaguchek, the manufacturers who, in turn, are owned by Roche Diagnostics which is Swiss. Today, it is much harder to order, the price has gone up hugely plus I now have to pay VAT as a purchaser from a ‘Third Country’. At the same time, Pauline has been told she can’t have a medication she has been prescribed for years and has to have an inferior one produced here. Brexit just gets so much better!

We went out for an hour or so walk in the lovely sunshine. I had hoped to have seen our friendly, fat rabbit but he/she was not to be seen and I suddenly realised why. This little chap was also looking for him.

At 2.00 pm, a lady turned up at our house to provide us with our 8th swab test kit. We perform our own throat & nose test. Put it in a test tube and seal it in a bag. Meanwhile, the lady retreats to her car outside. We speak on the phone as she asks us questions about our social contacts over the past month. I find those questions very easy to answer. She returns to our door to collect the tests and we get paid £25.00/€28.15 each. It’s a great system. I’ll be sorry when it ends in December.

Tuesday, 26th January, 2021

A damp start to the day. We are up at 6.00 am for our Sainsbury‘s delivery. As this pandemic and accompanying restrictions continue, we have refined our shopping while trying to retain the quality and variety of produce we buy.

Open Air Shopping at Tesco

We have stopped going to shops completely at the moment in the light of the new, more contagious strains of the virus. All shopping is done remotely. We don’t pay for deliveries. Sainsbury‘s are the easiest and most accommodating. Tesco is almost impossible to book.

Taylors transmogrifying into an Indian restaurant.

For that reason, we are doing click-&-collect where we drive into their carpark and load the order into our boot. We are doing the same at Asda. In this way, we are able to maintain our choice of product and quality largely uninterrupted. So, this morning was a Sainsbury‘s delivery. Tomorrow is an Asda click-&-collect followed by another on Thursday at Tesco. It amuses me because 60 years ago Mum would phone through our main, Grocery order from Taylors Groceries which was 200 yards up the High Street but she was so hemmed in with children that she chose to have it delivered. The difference is just one of technology she couldn’t have dreamed of.

Frog Intranet Platform

This morning I was listening to a Tech entrepreneur being interviewed about the impetus the pandemic had given to moving education on line, remote learning. Twenty years ago, I was desperately trying to persuade staff, parents and pupils that on-line learning/working was the way forward. The limiting factors were the resistance of Staff who lacked much IT experience, the reluctance of parents who hadn’t got Broadband and laptops/computers at home. Tablets didn’t exist then. There was little reluctance on the part of the kids.

Now, it is the order of the day. Part of me wishes to be back there leading the troops but most of me says, Let them get on with it. My time is better spent elsewhere.

Alternatives to Dreamweaver website building.

Thirty years ago, I was teaching kids to build websites using Macromedia DreamweaverFireworks and Flash. It was quite cutting edge at the time. I have built websites in the same way for years. Today, I am trying out a more modern, WYSIWYG site designer/builder called NicePage which still allows one to intervene in the Html.

Wednesday, 27th January, 2021

Up at 6.00 am on a milder morning. Grey and damp but 9C/48F. Drive down to Asda carpark and park in a Disabled Bay.

The Disabled Bays have been taken over by Click & Collect for the pandemic. They are also fortunate that their store designs seem to build in covered walkways along the front of the store so customers can queue in the dry. We received a confirmation email of our order over night and we then just click the button to tell them we’ve arrived and a worker comes out to our car with the goods. They leave; we get out of our car and load stuff in to the boot and drive away. Quite slick, easy and safe. We’ll do that again.

Twelve years ago today, we were on the last day of our last Ofsted inspection which damned us with faint praise by delivering the verdict of Satisfactory. Within 10 weeks we had retired and I had been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. Momentous times for us. In retrospect, they felt even more momentous than current times.

Uighurs forced in to re-education camps.

It is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and it is especially good to see the Jewish community use this occasion to draw attention to the existential crisis for the Uighur community at the hands of the Chinese. It appears to be equally catastrophic and Western governments appear to similarly appease the Chinese by continuing to trade with a country who are committing genocide and ethnic cleansing. It is History that gives us this perspective. It is History that should teach us how to deal with them.

Thursday, 28th January, 2021

Up at 6.00 am. Over freshly squeezed orange juice and a large cup of Yorkshire tea my routine is to download the newspapers, check emails, check our bank account and unstack the dishwasher before making a large cup of freshly ground and brewed coffee with a frothy, cappuccino head sprinkled with chocolate.

Today, we had to be at Tesco by 7.00 am for our click & collect so I only got part way through my routine before we had to leave. I did manage to get to checking the bank account and was delighted to find that the insurance money had been put back in. We paid it out 12 months ago and I have been struggling since May, when we were supposed to go to Tenerife for a month but were stopped by the pandemic.

Should have been our home – May 2020

After hours of work, scores of emails and phone calls, of the insurance company denying liability to the legal group employing Spanish lawyers, the whole thing came full circle to the point where it should have been settled 10 months ago. It would have saved our Bank so much cash and me so much nervous energy and effort. However, almost a year on we have recouped the more than £5,000.00/€5,642.00 outlay and can move on.

The working day starts with Lemons.

After returning home and unpacking, Pauline starts on jam making. First more Lemon Curd and then Blackberry which has been a great hit in our house this year. We are surrounded by woods fringed with blackberry bushes and there was an abundance of huge, sweet blackberries very early in August. We got scratched to pieces but the harvest was worth it.

I’m continuing to learn a new piece of web design software, organising our cloud storage and reading/writing Blogs. This picture above taken on a polaroid camera 40 years ago on our first Greek holiday together spilled out of the cloud. Lovely memory!

Feels like Spring today. The sun is out, The temperature is a balmy 12C/54F. I’ve got 90 mins in the gym coming up followed by roast cod loin for my meal. Before that, I have the critical job of chief jam taster from the Setting Test plates. I can tell you now that both jams are incredibly delicious and may well have to be locked away from me.

Friday, 29th January, 2021

After strong rain last night, we’ve woken to a lovely, dry and sunny morning. It feels warm again at 12C/54F. We are going nowhere. I’ve spent my morning trying to get to grips with this new, web design software. I’m still using Dreamweaver at the moment so the impetus to learn is not really strong enough. I am trying to set some imperatives in my head to force me on. I know when it is really needed, I will not let go until I’ve cracked it. 

I regularly check my social media accounts for contacts from friends. I follow ex-colleagues, ex-pupils, former student-days friends, old Greek friends, relatives and then politicians, Historians, political journalists, etc..

It is very much my way of dealing with the world. I like social contact at one remove. It has almost always been that way. I like people very much and I very interested in their lives but it has to be on my terms. I love communicating and exchanging ideas and I don’t mind joining in with those who disagree with me but I don’t pretend about my beliefs if it offends them. They can take it or leave it. I think this has become accentuated with age.

This morning an old friend – Friend? Well, someone I lived in Digs with at College 50 years ago. – Dr. John Ridley,  originally from Whitley Bay, but for the past 50 years from Catterick, North Yorkshire – posted a lovely joke on Faceache. It came from Barry Cryer and was his wife’s favourite. I thought you might like it.

A man says to his doctor, “I think my wife is going deaf, but I don’t want to mention it. It’ll be tactless and insensitive. Is there any way of checking, without her knowing?”

The doctor replies, “Choose a moment when she has her back to you. Say something in a normal voice and, if she doesn’t answer, move a little closer and say it again. Then you’ll get an idea about her hearing.”

So, when he comes home from work, his wife is standing with her back to him in the kitchen. He asks, “What’s for dinner, love?” but gets no answer. He moves in a little closer. “What’s for dinner, love?” he repeats. Again, no response. He moves even closer. “What’s for dinner, love?” Nothing.

By now, he’s right behind her. He says again, “What’s for dinner, love?”

She turns round and shouts, “For the fourth time – chicken!”

My wife understood that immediately because I’m always accusing her of being deaf. She even went to the Doctor to have a Hearing Test and was told it is perfect. I couldn’t understand it.

Tenerife – January 2016

Five years ago today, we were enjoying an almost month long run of hot sunshine and temperatures in the upper 20Cs. We were also within weeks of moving down to West Sussex and our new house. How the world has changed since then.

Saturday, 30th January, 2021

It gets lighter every morning. Even today as the rain comes down lightly from leaden skies. Time and the passage of time is fascinating and exciting. That’s what grips me about History. In just 8 weeks the clocks go forward and new life begins. Who knows, we might even have been vaccinated by then.

This day in 1965 was also a Saturday. It was the day on which Winston Churchill’s coffin was carried up the steps into St. Paul’s Cathedral. I can see the black & white picture in my head now. I watched it on television. We didn’t have a television but Saturday afternoon/early evening was the time that Bob and I got to watch one round the corner with Nana & Grandad. I guess that I must have watched it there. It was Mum & Dad’s one concession to modernity. Television was the invention of the devil. It distracted people from the serious things in life like Homework! It was safe to allow us a discrete few hours with our Grandparents watching ‘rubbish’.

Churchill Funeral – 1965

I was 13 years old and Bob was 12. Saturday afternoons were special. We would walk round to our Grandparents’ house and would be treated to freshly baked Victoria Sponge Cake that had risen so high it was almost impossible to get into mouths. Don’t worry, we managed it! If there was no sponge cake, Grandad would have bought jam doughnuts – my favourite. This was a little snatch of heaven. We would watch Saturday sport including Grandad’s favourite – Wrestling on ATV. We watched the football results while Grandad checked his Littlewoods Pools predictions. Then the pattern was continued every week: Dr WhoDixon of Dock GreenLaramie followed by a reluctant walk home to bed.

Over the next few months of 1965, Bob would be 13, I would be 14 and dad would die in hospital of a heart attack at the age of 49. It was a life changing year. Over the next few months of 1965, Bob would be 13, I would be 14 and dad would die in hospital of a heart attack at the age of 49. It was a life changing year.

Week 630

Sunday, 17th January, 2021

We are starting week 4 of our tightened diet, no alcohol and increased exercise. We have not fallen. The greater prize remains in sight provided we stay alive. Wrote to my brother, Bob, to tell him about my prostate cancer test and how fortunate I felt about the result. I felt rather awkward as he is still early in his uncomfortable diagnosis. Didn’t want to sound too celebratory even though I did rather feel it.

Home Made Lemon Curd – One in the fridge and two in reserve

Pleasant, sunny and relatively mild day in which Pauline made stock out in the garden for the local cats and dogs to drool over and, later, griddled swordfish steaks out in the late evening sun as seagulls circled overhead. In between doing those jobs, she did some washing and made pots of Lemon Curd jam. I didn’t know but proper Lemon Curd is largely fresh butter mixed with freshly squeezed lemons. Consequently, it has a very short shelf life which is why Pauline only makes three jars at a time. If you like Lemon Curd and you’ve only eaten shop bought jam, Pauline’s would blow your socks off. It is like a totally different animal.

This is where the problem lies. Pauline is constantly active and, consequently, stick thin. I sent my time reading the Sunday Times, writing emails and letters to friends and researching an urgently needed new computer Everything was done sitting down. As a result, it is encumbent on me to spend a 90 mins session in the gym while I watch a football match on Sky. The match – Sheffield Utd. v Tottenham – was not great and the exercise hurt. It was wonderful when I finished and had along, hot power shower. Amazing how reviving that can be. I used to love 20 mins in the jacuzzi after gym work at the health Club. That may have to be the next thing.

The next big (little)thing in my computer choice may turn out to look like this. It will not be a tower but a small, flat box on the desktop. It almost reminds me of the PCs I had 30 years ago where the monitor stood proudly on top of the case. If anyone out there knows of any reason I should go this way, I would be grateful for the advice.

Monday, 18th January, 2021

It is Christmas morning in the Sanders household and quite chilly it is outside. No I haven’t got the date wrong. I have just ordered my new computer system. Quite exciting although it wasn’t easy. Because of the pandemic, manufacturing in all areas is in deficit. A number of the pieces that were my first preference were not in stock and not currently being renewed.

When I finally decided on a reasonable package, and loaded it all in to my on-line basket, put in my credit card and pressed ‘BUY’, a message popped up: Credit Card not validated. Text messages from my credit card company asking me to contact them to discuss suspected fraud arrived. Long, Please Wait phone call to the Fraud Department. All verified and cleared. Go back in to pay again but … website timed out! Have I paid for it or not? Long, Please Wait phone call to HP UK. Eventually answered by wonderful young (30 yrs) lad who longs to be retired. I explained how delightful it is. He sighs, confirms my order hasn’t been paid for and takes payment over the phone. I am told it will arrive tomorrow.

Can’t believe how cheap this system is. I was paying three times as much ten years ago. Twenty years ago, I paid £3,500 for a huge, colour laser printer. It feels lovely. We have gone out for a bracing, one hour, Christmas walk. It’s these moments that I’m tempted to open a bottle of Rioja but … I won’t. It will stay behind me for better times.

Tuesday, 19th January, 2021

A damp but mild day. The temperature has remained 11C/52F overnight although it is a little breezy. Up at 6.00 am and Sainsbury‘s delivered at 6.30 am. I’d hardly finished my freshly squeezed orange juice. Life is shockingly fast paced. It is still largely dark when the doorbell rings although light sky is beginning to appear in the east which seems appropriate.

Ordered my new computer setup yesterday at 1.00 pm. It is being delivered this morning. Great service from HP (Hewlett Packard). What it does mean, however, is that I will have a lot of work and disruption of my systems for the rest of the day.

One of the things that happens with computer systems is that we build layer upon layer of software incrementally just as we add hardware gradually as we need it as well. The software and hardware is not there in its own right but to fulfil a function. It becomes a taken-for-granted facility. I can’t afford a long period of disruption while I try and remember how I performed regular tasks.

I’ve done this so many times over the past 40 years that I know how terrible my memory is in these processes. I now take photos on my phone of every piece of my PC that I will need to replicate on the new machine. I will probably set it up on the kitchen table and not disturb my current system until I have got everything up and working.

Highlights of the day after Sainsbury’s delivery and the arrival of my new PC include a worker coming to sort out our back gate which is malfunctioning and a delivery of fresh swordfish which has suddenly become available. It’s getting so exciting that I’m going to hide in the gym for an hour or two.

Wednesday, 20th January, 2021

Up early on a dark and breezy morning. Looks like it rained over night. We won’t be going out at all today other than to walk across the garden to the gym. I’ve got a day of work installing software on my new computer and learning new routines. I’m looking forward to it but it is also a stress I haven’t felt for a while.

When I’m stressed and determined to sort a problem urgently, the house is thrown in to turmoil. Yesterday, because of space, the new computer boxes had to be unpacked in the kitchen. Because I still needed to keep my work processes going, I will not replace the old PC system until I am completely confident that I’ve got the new one fully replacing it.

It started on the Kitchen Table …

Today, Pauline has been thrown out of the Office to make way for my two systems to work in tandem. She does have her own office cum ironing room cum dressing room upstairs but, for now, she is being moved in to the kitchen and on to the dining table.

Notice how neat Pauline is … in the Kitchen.

Currently it is chaos and there are cables everywhere. My current PC is hooked up to a Mono Laser Printer on one side and a Colour Laser Printer on the other via a switchable printer sharer. It is hooked up to a Label Printer and to a Flat Bed Scanner. Obviously, it is also hooked up to the BT Hub.

… and, eventually, moved to the Office.

Also on the desk I’ve got a Hive Hub and a Gigabit Switch plus a wi-fi extender out to the gym so I can run my Sky Q-Box. It’s a lot to get right and it is the reason buying a new set up is rather stressful. Pauline should be allowed back in by Friday.

Thursday, 21st January, 2021

Gorgeous sunny day although only about 10C/50F in the shade. I wasn’t thinking of spending too much time outside today anyway. Emails to our legal rep and to a friend in sunny Rochdale and then rebuilding our Office with the old machine gone and the new one being set up for all services. This is more complex than you might think and it took me all morning.

The Office is usable again.

Printers, printer sharers, scanners, hubs all hooked up as the old system is slowly and methodically dismantled and moved out into the back garden. In the old days, all peripherals had to be installed with their dedicated drivers and software before they can be used. Today, they really are plug & play through 64 bit Windows 10 Professional. Then, before I could do anything else, Pauline insisted on completely cleaning the area. It had 5 years of dust behind our L-shaped desk as we unplugged and threaded cables through the desktop cut outs. All surfaces were vacuumed, wiped and steam cleaned before I was allowed anywhere near it again. For the rest of the day, Pauline kept remarking, Doesn’t it smell wonderfully fresh in here? Of course, I am obsessed with tidiness and Pauline with cleanliness. Perfect match!

My copy of Dreamweaver 8 has become corrupted and it is almost impossible to buy. If you know of anyone who could give/sell me a copy, I would be happy to hear of it. It just remained for me to take my old PC apart in the garden and set about the hard drives with a lump hammer. Looking far the worse for wear, it has gone in the boot of the car to go off to the tip tomorrow.

Friday, 22nd January, 2021

Gorgeous morning in every respect. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. We went off to the Recycle Site to dispose of the old computer. It was so busy that we decided to go back later. On to the beach to enjoy a few rays.

Emptiness is what we like.

We walked for a while in splendid isolation. The beach was almost deserted and the Marina was little different.

Oyster Pond – almost deserted.

Home by mid-morning and, as we drank coffee, received a phone call from the legal firm my bank had appointed to try and get back £4000.00/€4,500.00 from a Tenerife villa rental last May which we couldn’t take up. Both services are provided by our bank’s Black Account. They use Direct Line to provide us with ‘free’ annual travel cover and Simpson Millar to provide us with ‘free’ Legal Cover. We had already successfully claimed about £1,500.00/€1,700.00 before we asked the insurance company to pay back the rest.

They prevaricated for months and then said they thought it was legally recoverable and asked the legal arm to pursue it. All this time, I am doing lots of paperwork to both teams proving the worthiness of our claim. Lots of people, we know, give up at this stage. The bank’s website encourages this with encouragingly big, clickable buttons to Cancel Claim. We persisted. Today, we were rewarded with the news that our bank’s insurers had accepted the advice of our bank’s legal team that the project was not cost effective and they are going to immediately refund all our money.

If only we had got somewhere to spend our money. Even the efficacy of the vaccine is sounding a little less certain and airlines are not expecting flying to recover much at all this year. We have flights and hotel in Athens rolled over to the end of August. I am desperate to use them but I will not be taking big risks. European tourist destinations are going to see another bleak season this summer.

Pleased to say that I found an old copy of Macromedia Dreamweaver in an old, school file and it installed easily. This has saved me about £480.00 per year which is what Adobe (who bought Macromedia) now charge to rent the software. I’ve accepted MS Office Pro rental at £90.00/€102.00 per year because of the greatly enhanced cloud storage it brings but almost £500.00 year for software I use only once a month for a few hours is going too far. My old copy will do me for the next decade.

Saturday, 23rd January, 2021

Another cool start to a morning. We were up at 6.00 am. Sainsburys delivered at 6.30 am. and, by 8.30 am we were out walking wearing Fleeces and woolly hats. We did an hour’s walk which encompassed taking ‘Returns’ to the Post Office from a mail order.

I want a camellia in my garden.

Really enjoyed the walk. Everywhere was deserted for a Saturday morning. Anyone we do meet is desperate to distance but also communicated at least, Good Morning. Walked past the bush with the same robin singing away and noticed this lovely camellia flowering beautifully in the garden.

Deserted as if hit by a deadly germ attack.

This picture is taken from the Post Office door and shows our normally bustling village square totally deserted. Pauline was the only person in the Post Office. The whole experience is quite disconcerting.

The North of England – Yorkshire and Lancashire where we have spent so many years of our lives – is currently experiencing snow. We swore when we left ten years ago that we never wanted to see snow ever again having battled it for the best part of 40 years across the Pennines. Today, Pauline has griddled fish outside in the garden under a lovely, clear and sunny sky. This is the sort of service I expect! Completed four weeks of no-alcohol today. I last drank wine on Boxing Day. I have absolutely no idea why I’m doing it. I love wine. However, I told myself I would so I am.

Week 629

Sunday, 10th January, 2021

The coldest night of the season so far has left us with a frost which has lingered. We’ve had the heating on upstairs and down. Watched the political programmes. Keir Starmer on Marr was depressingly bad. Can’t face any more of that today. We went out for a long walk although Pauline was complaining about the cold on her face.

Soon, the energy kicked in and we were both roasting hot, over dressed and sweating. We have developed a regular route that is an easy way to fill just over an hour without getting muddy so we took that today. Amazing how many people passed us in cars as we walked. Almost looked busier than a work day.

I have no idea what the Lock Down is supposed to be this time. So many are going to work and so many are going to school that the atmosphere is very busy. This Tory government are playing with fire at all our expenses. You have to hope that it all comes back to bite them and that mini-Trump gets his come-uppance just like Trump is doing. All these populist Nationalists will see their day end badly and we must punish them for their crimes.

At home, it’s FA Cup weekend and, at this stage at least, I can’t really get in to that. Perhaps I’m not a football purist. I am only really attracted by big confrontations of fairly equal sides. We will be downloading something from Sky Cinema / Netflix / Film on 4, etc. Last night we watched a mildly interesting recent film called Greed featuring Steve Coogan and David Mitchell and loosely based on the career of Philip Green. It wasn’t good but it was enough to amuse us for a couple of hours. That’s not a real justification but the best I can do.

I notice that The Skiathanhas finally given up the ghost. Brexit has done for him. Exiled from his island, he no longer has enough to fill his pages. Now, because of Brexit, he would either have to emigrate fully or just holiday there on a short break like so many others. Makes you wonder why he was a Brexiteer.

Monday, 11th January, 2021

A grey, sombre day. We have to stay in because we are having our central heating serviced sometime between 10.00 am – 3.00 pm which virtually destroys the day.

Last night we were in China in the 1920s. We were watching a film based on the Somerset Maugham novel, The Painted Veil. It is essentially a love story (ugh!) but set in the middle of a cholera epidemic in small Chinese enclave which featured a dilapidated old convent building where the Mother Superior – Diana Rigg in what must have been her last performance – was ‘saving’ the children of the town through indoctrination allied to social care and education.

A young and ambitious epidemiologist volunteered to go out from London to replace the previous doctor who had died of cholera in trying to combat the epidemic. He was forcing his new, young, bride to accompany him. Without going through the tedium of the Love Regained theme, the underlying action centred on the inventive, young scientist identifying the water source of the infection and constructing a Heath-Robinson, bamboo construction to deliver an alternative and healthy drinking water for the town. Essentially, he was bringing Colonial can-do of the 1st World to the 3rd World Chinese peasants. Of course, the young scientist caught cholera and died. Even I could have told him that was going to happen.

My Masters thesis integrated an analysis of Historian, R.H.Tawney’s travels in a peasant, and largely pre-industrial China of exactly this period. He was enchanted by its agrarian, peasant, craft society and believed it was what England could return to. This chimed with the Arts & Crafts movement of William Morris, Ruskin and Pugin which had so informed Tawney’s early life. Disease epidemic and savage poverty didn’t feature largely in his account which focussed more on sunshine and socialism. I read his account 43 years ago in the blistering heat of a Greek island beach. Happy days!

Boiler Pressure Gauge

Well the boiler service threw up a problem just in time. There is a fault on the Pressure Gauge and we still have 10 weeks of our full warranty left so it will be replaced without cost. We are going to have to take out a service plan for future years.

Tuesday, 12th January, 2021

I love carrots!

Up at 6.00 am on a dark, damp but very warm morning. It had remained 9C/48F over night which is only very warm in relative terms but we’re not complaining. Sainsbury‘s were delivering at 7.00 am. It’s a fantastic service and costs only £1.00/€1.12. Next week’s is free so, overall, it is negligible. Of course Brexit has hit our salad order. We’ve had to accept less enjoyable substitutes but that’s what they all voted for – wartime rations! We will also do a Tesco Click & Collect later in the week. We don’t have to go in to the store. The collection point is outside in the fresh air of the carpark which is fine. We will have fresh fish delivered to our door later in the week as well so I don’t think we’re going to starve.

We are taking legal action in Spain for recovery of villa rental of just over €5000.00/£4,480.00 for loss of use because of the pandemic. Our bank account gives us travel insurance and legal cover. The travel insurance arm told me the monies should be recoverable through legal action. The law firm’s Spanish office has told me that it could cost the full value of the claim to take the action to court. I predicted this from the outset. It looks like it will go back to the insurance arm for settlement. We paid it out 12 months ago. Whatever, I will not give it up.

I do 90 mins in the gym every day. I usually start around 2.00 pm. What worries me is that I don’t appear to be getting any fitter. I am completely wiped out by the end and only revive after a long, hot and powerful shower. I would have expected this to get easier and the recovery quicker but that is not the case. Nothing seems to change. If anything, I get more tired and take longer to recover. Is it my age? Still waiting for my second PSA test result to appear in the notes on my surgery’s website. It’s nagging at me a little.

Wednesday, 13th January, 2021

The first Lock Down was greeted by wonderful weather throughout March and April. This latest one is being played out against a dull, damp and fairly unsympathetic backdrop. At times like this, I retreat into my head and other occasions. Yesterday we heard from a dear friend from Sifnos and it reminded me to visit a local Facebook page where I found these photos.

A Sifnos chimney pot.

Sifnos is famous for its Keramica or pottery and one product that appeared to be largely confined to the island is its distinctive chimney pots. Above is one example. Below are a few more.

As our house was being designed and built, we decided that a huge, tiled floor area would be better heated by underfloor cables. There was a British company called Warmup who had an Athens office. We bought materials from UK because it was so much cheaper and the Athens office came to the island to supervise installation. It worked excellently although there were only a few weeks at the beginning and the end of our stays that we needed it.

Log Stove from Halifax / Pew from Oldham

We had considered doing some times in the winter and shipped a log burning stove over from Halifax to the island and had it installed. We soon discovered that, although a number of islanders had open fires for the Winter, the island had almost no reserves of burnable wood. Why hadn’t we noticed that over the 20 years before? Wood has to be brought from the mainland. You only have to experience a cold, winter day in Greece to know it feels much more savage than almost anything we experience here.

We wanted to have underfloor heating installed here but our builders wouldn’t allow it because of their 5 year warranty. They had a formula and wanted to stick to it. We were offered personalisation choices but only within the builders playbook. Having said that, we have smart controlled, dual zone central heating which is wonderfully sensitive and easily controlled. We have smart controlled heating in the garage/gym as well.

I’ve just received a text message from my doctor to say that the result of my second PSA test is reassuring and within reasonable levels for my age range. If I was drinking, I would be opening a bottle of red wine right now. As it is, I’m drinking a cup of fresh coffee.

Thursday, 14th January, 2021

Up early after about 6 hrs sleep because a worker was attending our house at 9.00 am. He was replacing a double glazed, floor-to- ceiling window in our garden area while we are still under warranty. It was just becoming light at 6.30 am and the temperature had not fallen below 10C/50F over night. Eventually, we received a text to say he wouldn’t appear until early afternoon. When he did, he heaved a big sigh of relief and said nothing needed replacing but the drain holes needed cleaning out and the sealant replacing. He was present for 30 minutes and he skipped back to his van and a long lunch break. I know we paid a lot for this house but it almost feels wrong to be claiming for repairs after 5 years of use.

We’ll forget out discomfort because there are more important things to think about. Something strange has happened to Pauline’s OneDrive automatic backup process and I’m getting it in the neck. She is compiling a book of recipes and has been working hard for hours in the evening. Her material is placed on her desktop and it is automatically uploaded to her Cloud Storage – Ms OneDrive. It means she has a Local and a Cloud copy.

Suddenly, over night, OneDrive seemed to decide to reverse the process and download all her old, disorganised material over the top of her newly organised local material. I’ve had to spend a large part of the day investigating that. I won’t bore you any more with the solution but I think I’ve found it and we can move on.

Did a big exercise routine in the gym this afternoon to counterbalance the morning spent at my computer. Actually, I worked out in 1989 East Berlin as I watched Atomic Blonde which revolves around a spy who has to find a list of double agents who are being smuggled into the West on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It was during this year that brought Dr Angela Merkel out of scientific research in east Germany and into politics. I like the challenge of mental espionage and it certainly takes me out of the exercise-pain zone although I’m not sure this was the best example of the genre.

Friday, 15th January, 2021

Can you believe that it’s the middle of January already? Even so, we are trying to make use of every single minute. We were up at 6.00 am and had breakfasted and received our Sainsbury’s delivery by 7.00 am. It’s going to be a long day. Hard to believe that it is 12 years since we were getting up at 6.00 am every work day and out on the road by 7.00 am. It’s 10.30 am and it has felt quite a long day already.

We have had a visit from the heating engineer who has removed the old (5yrs) Hot Water Expansion Chamber (No further explanation required.) and fitted a new one. Fortunately, this is a free service. In 3 months time, it would have cost us a fortune apparently.

As you will recognise, this is a Hot Water Expansion Chamber.

Costing us money now is a problem as a direct result of the Brextremists’ actions. Of course, most Little Englanders will be blithely unaware of the change at all because they have no desire to communicate with foreigners. When we were sending Christmas cards to Greek friends, we had to download Customs Declaration Forms to be stuck on the back of the envelopes. Postage for each card was £1.70/€1.91 in addition.

Today, the postman delivered this. We believe it is a letter or card from Europe which now attracts additional postage fees. We have to drive down to the Sorting Office to pay our £2.00/€2.25 excess fee to release the letter. This is the sort of country we have become.

Saturday, 16th January, 2021

Up a bit later today. After 7.00 am and it has completely thrown us out for the morning. After Breakfast, we drive out to the Postal Sorting Office. It is only a couple of miles away. We have come to pick the letter that requires £2.00/€2.25 excess fee to release. It is something of an anti-climax. Not from Greece but Rochdale. An elderly former colleague of ours who lost his wife six months ago has sent us a second Christmas card and newsletter but wrongly addressed and without a stamp. It comes on the day that we hear that another, elderly ex-colleague of ours who lost his wife a year ago has had a breakdown and is struggling to hold on to reality. Life can be savage!

The Old man at the Sea.

We drove back via the beach because Pauline loves to be in contact with the sea. The tide was on its way in and there were a few seagulls on the water and the odd crow on the beach but, otherwise, we were alone.

That it should come to this.

The dreaded form arrived this morning. I filled it in on-line in about 10 minutes rather than go through the rigmarole of sending it off. I am now on-licence for life. Every 3 years, I have to prove my worthiness. Bring back Ofsted!

Week 628

Sunday, 3rd January, 2021

It’s Sunday but who would know it? Actually all the houses around here, who vainly believed it was Christmas recently, are outside taking down their lights. At last, Pauline and I can celebrate. Normality is resumed!

Well, almost… Normally, as I wrote last week, we would be committing ourselves to an aggregate of about 3 months of travelling costing anything between £10 – 15,000.00/€11.3 – 17,000.00 of spending. Not this year … yet. Like so many people, we are storing up our money. Normality means facing reality. The beginning of the year is a time for renewing policies and getting servicing done. This year it is exacerbated by the fact that our House 5-Year Warranty runs out. Everything including the white goods will need cover.

For the past 5 years, everything apart from Contents has been covered by the builders including Emergency Cover. This is Pauline’s domain. She researches, discusses with me then purchases this sort of contract and I am happy to have my minions do that for me. We have the burglar alarm and the boiler to be serviced this month and Pauline will deal with that. Pauline arranged the renewal of our driving licences and passports. She will renew our annual travel insurance and European Green Card. I have to keep my mind ‘free’ for higher things and there a lot of football matches on again today.

Trapped by Brexit?

Interesting developments reported this weekend of expats who had flown back to UK for Christmas with relations being denied seats on the flights from Heathrow back to their homes in Spain. We would really be struggling in our Greek house. The cost and effort of getting there merited a six month stay. Now, we would only be allowed 3 months and have to return to UK. We could go back after that for another 3 months but really couldn’t justify it so we would have to pay a caretaker to look after the property and maintain the grounds for 9 months of the year. This would include going in once a week to turn over the water pump so it didn’t seize up. The only option would be to sell.

Monday, 4th January, 2021

Sunny Sifnos

One of the amazingly widespread illusions held by many holidaymakers who spend a couple of weeks on a Greek island is that the hot sunshine prevails all year round. Greek Tourist agencies would love that to be the case. It is the reason why the Canary Islands and Cyprus are so popular but above is the reality. Cold, damp, often grey and very quiet. Of course, it is exacerbated by the pandemic and restrictions on movement but even in March, as we battled through the driving hail, living conditions were very bleak.

This morning, it is not much better here. Damp, cool and gloomy, I am going to go to the gym. Before that, I’ve tried to buy a new computer only to find most parts out of stock. I video conferenced the sales girl at Hewlett Packard to be told that they were desperately embarrassed to be out of stock as the pandemic was seriously affecting production. I was quoted a date of mid-March for new products. It is all a bit depressing. Thought Brexit would have sorted this out!

A long way away …..

Had to email my little sister this morning. I last saw her in 2018 although she only lives 5 miles/ 8 km away from me. I don’t want to cramp her style. We last met purely by chance in Tesco carpark in West Durrington. We were born in a small, East Midlands village and we met, purely by chance, 60 years later in a carpark in West Sussex. I love coincidences like that. Anyway, I needed a new Emergency Contact for my new passport and she has kindly offered to be that. If my body is sent home in a bin bag from some foreign field, she will put it in Recycle.

Tuesday, 5th January, 2021

We are just completing our 10th day of our new diet/exercise regime. No alcohol or complex carbohydrates, smaller portions and religious adherence to our exercise circuit every day. We are both feeling much better after over indulgence leading up to Christmas/Boxing Day. I am actually helped by Lock Down coming in to place because I can use that isolation to focus on my project. We’re really enjoying the gym in these dark, damp, depressing days. The latest distraction from the pain of running is a film that really suits me.

I do like well written spy thrillers particularly if they set in a realistic, historical context. Quite by accident, I found one on Netflix. Red Sparrow is set in modern-day Russia and is keeping me guessing until I am in the final third of the narrative. It is based on based on Jason Matthews’ 2013 book of the same title. I think I am, very belatedly, becoming addicted to Fiction

Of course, as well as physical projects, we also need mental/intellectual ones. Today I’ve been updating our data backup facilities. We both have large amounts of data we back up in various areas of cloud and hard memory every day. Our Broadband supplier is BT and they are fantastic both for price and service. However, the huge, 1 terabyte cloud facility they provide us with is so difficult to access in any useful way that we have given up. We have cloud facility from NortonSymantec but not much and the most accessible is cloud space from Microsoft – OneDrive.

I was intending to buy a new desktop setup with a Home Cloud Solid State Drive which I could access from anywhere with anything across the web. It would only cost circa £150.00/€166.00. However, a new computer setup will have to wait until lockdown is over and new products are built again. A home cloud drive will also have to wait for that. Today, I’ve chosen to rent more space from OneDrive at a cost of £50.00/€55.40 per year.

I can’t spend my days watching sport and films so I’ve decided to revive my Ancestry membership. It is a long time since I did anything. Last time I was on it, I was building Pauline’s Family Tree.

When I logged in and paid my subs for the month, I accessed my original copy of the Family Tree and most people had green leaves topping their name plates indicating additional contacts worth following up for each of them. That will be one of my projects for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 6th January, 2021

Cold, wet, dark and uninviting outside. We’re staying in apart from when we walk across the garden to the gym. This morning I am continuing to work on ensuring all my/our data is securely backed up and easily retrieved from computer, laptop, iPad or smartphone. It is important to have this stuff easily available wherever we are in the country/world which is the real value of ‘cloud’ storage.

While I was checking the automatic backup process, some 40 year old photos popped up. Older readers will immediately recognise that they were taken on the now mainly defunct Polaroid camera process which was popular then because of its instant results. These were in contrast with others which were set off in the post and returned weeks later. This was the first camera of our married life.

Looking like a cross between The Hairy Monster – aka Bearded like the Pard – stroking our cat, Gemima – aka Mammoth Task – in the kitchen of our first house. It was a renovated Coaching House in Meltham, West Yorkshire. Pauline had done a lot of this work before I had arrived on the scene. She had bought the property for £4,500.00/ €5000.00 and done a large part of the work with an local Authority improvement grant.

On the left is our black and white bedroom replete with its state of the art, black & white television. I notice that I took this photo because of the avalanche of snow sitting outside the bedroom window. It was at this window that the cats rattled the latch to be let in long after we had gone to bed.

By the time we had got together, Pauline had two sister cats – Flossie and Gemima – who she had adopted as baby kittens. It was a very romantic time. We had only just been married for a couple of years.

For her Christmas present after 3 years of marriage I really pushed the boat out and bought Pauline a MICROWAVE. I remember that it was massive and I could hardly lift it. I also remember that it was a Philips and we had it for about 15 years. I think it cost £270.00/€300.00 in 40 years ago which was quite a lot. Look how beautiful Pauline was. She’s hardly changed a bit since then.

Thursday, 7th January, 2021

Beautiful, bright and sunny morning with a hint of frost. We will be able to go for a walk in the sunshine this afternoon and to griddle Swordfish in the garden later. It is particularly important to cook swordfish outside because it leaves an intense – almost unpleasant – acrid aroma lingering for days and we would much rather bequeath that to our neighbours than harbour it ourselves.

My Christmas present to Pauline.

We don’t just love good food and eating it but we love kitchens and kitchen gadgets. Pauline makes lots of jam which we eat mainly with yoghurt. Unfortunately, having sealed the jars successfully, she can never re-open them. I have bought her umpteen jar openers which have worked patchily but she complains they destroy the lids she wants to use again.

I found the gadget above which is brilliant. It is battery operated and has plastic arms which close on the jar and hold it firmly while the lid is progressively clamped and turned by more plastic arms. The result is a quiet ‘pop’ as the seal is broken but the lid is undamaged. I can’t wait for the next jar that needs opening.

The Greek words – The cross in the sea.

Ecclesiastical Epiphany yesterday and this was the scene on Sifnos. The normal experience in Greece is that a priest throws a crucifix into the sea and brave young men dive into the icy water to be the first to bring it up off the sea bed. That has been banned because of Covid restrictions. This character is a potter. He is called Adonis and we used to call him the Poseur because he was given to marching bare chested up and down the beach picking pretty, young tourist women up. In recent years he has become increasingly, overtly religious and yesterday he had himself filmed walking through the port carrying a homemade cross which he proceeded to throw in to the sea and then wade in to retrieve it.

It was all a bit Monty Python. The cross was wooden and didn’t sink. The middle aged potter didn’t dive into the freezing briny but waded into the harbour to pick up the floating cross in a less than mystical demonstration. For him it may have been a religious epiphany but for the rest of us it is an epiphany of the zealotry of religion. In American politics all Trumps supporters are suddenly standing back and declaring they thought he was mad all along and they never really supported him. Increasingly humankind is standing back from this lunatic religiosity and embracing alternative understandings of what it means to be human. The churches are withering on the vine. The sooner the better for both.

Friday, 7th January, 2021

Quite a sharp frost this morning. We were out about 8.30 am. Because the car is now out on the drive since we have redeployed the garage, it has some ice on the windscreen which I have to spray clean before we set off for Halfords for … de-icer. Then I have to go to the surgery for my second PSA blood test. Soon, I will get the thumbs up or the thumbs down depending on Caesar’s mood.

Home for coffee and then we drove down to the beach which was remarkably popular. There were people and dogs all over the place. I’m not keen on dogs but they looked amusing charging through the water as the tide went out.

We park on the Littlehampton Marina Parade and then walk for half an hour towards Worthing so that we complete an hour by the time we get back to the car. We are both clad in a number of layers to keep warm and are really glowing as we finish our walk.

To get to the beach from our house, we have had to drive 2-3 miles. Most people have done that this morning. When we got home, I found an article on the BBC site about a couple of young women who had driven 5 miles to a reservoir to do their daily walk. When they parked in the carpark, some policemen got out of their car and arrested them for travelling out of their area. They issued them with fixed-penalty notices which will carry a £200.00 fine each.

I was last here almost 70 years ago.

When I read the article I found this had taken place at Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire. I spent the first year of my life in Foremark although I haven’t any memory of it.

Friday, 7th January, 2021

Lovely morning. After Breakfast, Pauline started making bread. She has a lot of wholemeal flour she needs to use up. The bread will go in the freezer for future use. We’re not eating it at the moment. I’m two weeks in to my no-alcohol already. Only another 22 to go. Oh God!

Talking about God, I had a fascinating if spiky email exchange with one of my sisters this morning. I had asked her for a memory of our past. She was telling me that she eschewed history and preferred to live in the present. It is something I can’t even begin to understand. People who don’t take account of their past would be constantly repeating their mistakes. Every time they burned themselves on a flame, it would come as a complete shock. Flames burn? Well, I didn’t know that. In the next breath she was telling me that she would be worshipping her God tomorrow.

Leaving aside the fantasy of deity, all religion is based on faith in a past. For people like me, the bible is a complete fiction. For believers, the bible is an historical account of god made man? I will never forget a documentary I once watched about a man who had lost a part of his brain that dealt with memory. He had been a classical conductor but could no longer do it. He had to be institutionalised and his wife visited him every day. When she arrived, he didn’t recognise and had to be told who she was and he did the same every few moments, greeting her with the same phrase, Until this moment, I didn’t know who you were. He had no history even lasting minutes. It destroyed his life.

We pantheists don’t need a god to legitimise our lives. Look at this winter scene above. This saturnalian scene speaks for itself. It’s beginning to feel as if Spring is not so far away.

Took these photos this morning as we did an hour’s walk around our local area. It was absolutely delightful communing with Nature. We even saw our friendly rabbit. Got back to the good news that our 7th Covid test had come back negative. Phew!

Week 627

Sunday, 27th December, 2020

So our 69th Christmas is over and we move on. Our Wedding Anniversary is on Wednesday and New Year’s Eve on Thursday but we started our diet this morning. No more alcohol. No more carbohydrate. Much smaller portions of everything and lots more exercise. It looks like it will be at least March before we are freed by vaccination so this project will fill the gap. We won’t book anything until the position is clearer.

The P & O ferries terminal at St George’s Docks, Hull in earlier times.

In the past, the end of year would signal moves to book up for the next. Until ten years ago, we would be booking a P&O car ferry from King George Dock in Hull to Zeebrugge in Belgium for the Friday night that we finished school in July with a return at the beginning of September. The sailing was at 7.00 pm and arrived next morning around 12 hrs later. We droved off across Europe well slept and breakfasted ready for 18hrs behind the wheel to Ancona.

Pride of Bruges – Hull-Zeebrugge route.

For young people as we then were, this was quite a romantic introduction to Europe. We actually looked forward to it. Today we learned that P&O was ceasing this long established route altogether. All round, European travel will never be the same.

Monday, 28th December, 2020

A miserably dull and cool morning. I have spent it writing to every single member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet – and there are 96 of them – about the upcoming Brexit vote. Even though they can’t change it, I want Labour to not be complicit. They must be free to oppose and criticise from a position of strength not guilt by association.

I have done this many times before and it was very time consuming. Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet was made up of unreconstructed digital luddites who refused to list anything but an email which they never read. One or two refused even that. You can’t run a modern country without modern tools. I was able to write my message and access every one of the 96’s Twitter accounts at a click of a mouse.

We are having our 7th Covid Test this afternoon. The previous 6 have all proved negative for infection but have provided positive reassurance plus £400.00 towards our Tesco bill. We will continue until next October even though we should have been vaccinated long before that.

Beautiful Bergamo

May be by then we will have visited beautiful Bergamo. Never been there but the town was featured recently on TV in terms of its reaction to the pandemic. We both thought quite independently that it looked the most wonderful place and the people seemed delightful. Both impressions may be completely wrong but I’d like to find out for myself. It is just 37 miles from Milano and 70 miles from Verona. We really enjoyed Milano but have never visited Verona. A stay in Bergamo with a visit to Verona sounds like a lovely aspiration on a dark, cold and dank day.

Tuesday, 29th December, 2020

Much brighter this morning with an orange sky radiating from a long, low sun. We were expecting a frost at least but it is quite mild.

Orange Littlehampton

My job is vacuuming the house this morning followed by a hard workout in the gym. First, though, I have correspondence to keep up with. My friend from Boston, Massachusetts has written to me and so has a friend from Sifnos. I have to phone the surgery and make arrangement for a second PSA test because my first one produced a worryingly high result. I am a little reluctant to visit a centre for the unhealthy but this certainly merits the risk.

Otherwise, not going out is the old staying in. My elderly sister, Ruth, is much more adventurous than me. She is responsible for this lot:

Compare and Contrast with 20009

Have they been feeding these children too well? Contrast with last week’s photo from 11 years ago. Isn’t it amazing and an heuristic demonstration of the passage of time. These kids, like bean sprouts, have thickened and shot up. Ruth looks even more beautiful than usual and Kevan …. never changes.

Fashion Shoot

Plans changed as the sun came out and we decided to go out for a walk. We were out for about 70 mins and covered about 5 miles/8km. I dress for comfort and activity. Pauline always looks like she is on a fashion shoot. She even strikes a good pose!

Another Poseur!

As we walked, the most beautiful bird song trilled out. I searched the tree tops to find it and suddenly realised that it was much lower and just above my head in a bush. We stood as the robin looked at us directly and sang away so strongly. Eventually, we left him singing and walked on. As we did, I suddenly realised that I should have taken a photograph. Instant regret! I’ll get it on the way back in half an hour. What’s the likelihood of him still being there? Even before we turned the corner on our way back home, we could hear him singing and, amazingly, he hadn’t moved at all. What absolute joy in that little creature!

Wednesday, 30th December, 2020

Bright, sunny but with a light frost this morning. Exactly 42 years ago, the Pennine moors were heavily blanketed in snow. It was our wedding day. The council gritter teams were on strike and the roads were barely passable.

All our friends and family made a huge effort and we didn’t get married alone. It was a wonderful day and I have been the most fortunate man for 42 years. Not everything has been straight forward, as you might imagine, but never have I doubted Pauline’s complete and utter support. There have been so many times when I have needed it and, sometimes, desperately. She has always been there.

Some years after our wedding and on an anniversary when we had exhausted the need for presents, I bought a £3.00 little book of quotations to give her on the day. Grow Old With Me it was entitled and she has done. The little book has been on her dressing table at the side of every bed we have slept in for the past 30+ years. Please let us grow even older!

It is so lovely this morning that we are going for a walk on the beach, arm in arm and in love. Sorry!

Posing in front of socially distanced sun bathers on Littlehampton Beach.

Thursday, 31st December, 2020

Walking but not arm in arm this morning. At 7.00 am on a cool morning, Pauline was shopping in Sainsburys and I was walking to Rustington and back. It’s not a long walk. I do it in about 45 mins but I was really glowing when I got back to the car. Home for coffee and Pauline orders an industrial blower heater to quickly raise the temperature in the gym when we need to. It already has a wall-mounted oil filled ladder radiator which provides a slow, low, background heat but these upcoming days we may need a booster. She found a good one in Screwfix, orders it on-line and, within 30 mins, we have collected it.

Our Gym in the Garage

What we didn’t realise is that we had to construct it ourselves. I have to say that £50.00/€56.00 for the privilege of being allowed to build my own heater does not recommend itself to me. especially when it involved 16 bolts with 16 nuts and 32 washers. Still the partnership managed it reasonably quickly.

Still Posing

From Screwfix, we drove home via the beach. Pauline is getting an appetite for posing on the beach. It was a gorgeous day!

We’re not doing anything to see in the new year but then we never do. The only difference this year is that we are not drinking so the champagne will remain in the wine cooler. Midnight will be celebrated with a glass of sparkling water and a kiss. It might be wishful thinking but, unless we’ve been freed by vaccination and are off on our travels, I’m hoping I can maintain my discipline through to the end of June. After that, all bets are off!

I put a photo of Pauline on Facebook and Twitter as we celebrated our Wedding Anniversary with a walk on the beach. I was amazed to find 60 friends and relatives wished us well including from our doctor in Yorkshire of 20 years ago. That was lovely and we received e-cards from Ruth and Richard which was very kind.

Friday, 1st January, 2021

Well we have started the New Year with the British Exceptionalists crowing about leaving Europe as the establishment quietly admits that they have hyped up the availability of vaccine to get us out of this pandemic. Suddenly, as the new year opens, Chief medical officer Chris Whitty warns coronavirus vaccine shortages will last for months. Imprisonment circles us at every turn. Cut off from Europe and … cut off from Europe. What’s worse, we have to live and listen to this gang of sheisters!

It is cold outside. Nobody is about. The world is closed. I am reduced to watching old Test Match series on Sky TV and building Office chairs. If you follow the Blog, you will know that I have recently made a foolish decision in purchasing totally inappropriate replacements. Yesterday, the replacements for the replacements arrived unexpectedly. As with so much now, we had to construct them. It’s not a particularly difficult job for two people in love but it shouldn’t have to be at all.

It took us at least an hour with an allen key and some frustrating bolts but we got there. Sitting is much more cushioned now.

On this day last year, I was optimistic for the future, setting resolutions which started with booking foreign travel. Well that went well. I’ve spent the rest of the year fighting to get my money back. There is still a legal case in a Spanish court waiting for resolution and a flight and hotel suite in Athens waiting to be taken up. If we live until the end of the summer, may be we will see slightly better times.

Saturday, 2nd January, 2021

A monotone day – not cold but not inviting either. The furthest I have gone outside today is across the patio to the gym. I put in a really hard session and absolutely knackered myself for the rest of the day. Fortunately, I was then free to cope with five, Premier League matches spread from 12.30 pm to 10.00 pm. Actually, I just use the commentary as aural wallpaper as I read the newspapers and write to friends.


Is grey, cool monotone generally our experience at this time of year? This above was East Preston Beach on this day 4 years ago.


This was our road across the Pennines from Yorkshire to Lancashire 11 years ago – beautiful but stark and rather cruel. This is the sort of place my brother, Bob, would be happy. It is an environment for aesthetes and masochists. I’m not sure which one fits him! Personally, I am glad to be in the softer South.