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!

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