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!