Week 635

Sunday, 21st February, 2021

Our saviour – hopefully!

A mild but grey morning with temperatures at 13C/55F. The earlier light and warmer temperatures is encouraging and so is the news of our vaccine this morning. We had our first jab on Thursday which should take its full effect by March 11th and expect our second jab by May 12th which should give us the all-clear before June.

I wrote last week of accounts of the Pfizer vaccine showing worrying laboratory test signs of low efficacy against mutant strains of the virus. This morning this has been completely reversed by real life studies. Latest efficacy data from Israeli analysis – real, human data – suggests the following:

I think I’m prepared to live with a 1.1% of dying so we can start to think about travelling again. The Europeans, apparently, are balking at the thought of being given the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine because of its rumoured lack of data of its effectiveness against the South African and UK variants. If we are to travel, we will need Europeans to be vaccinated and to be comfortable opening up their borders. We are all in this together …. apart from the Brextremists, of course, who also tend to be Covid-sceptics and certainly can’t see the value in the whole world’s vaccination for the UK people and economy.

We’ve got our 9th Rapid Lateral Flow Antigen Test tomorrow. Another £50.00/€58.00 in our bank account. Something that should really be helping to boost our immune systems to fight infection is exercise. In the past two months since Boxing Day, (effectively 8 weeks) I have missed my exercise target just 4 times. I have walked/run 310 miles/499 km. Quite pleased with that. I’m going to maintain this standard for another month and then, as the weather improves, hope to increase it.

Monday, 22nd February, 2021

This was supposed to be a Spring day. The birds were expecting it. The flowers were assuming it and we were looking forward to it. The gap between aspiration and reality is great. We have, dark, gloomy skies with a maximum temperature of 9C/48F. It doesn’t feel inviting. Consequently, we are stuck inside once again.

More Painting

I am reading and doing some Ancestry work in the Office. Pauline has gone back to her painting. She will finish the ground floor today. The whole house is pervaded by a faint whiff of paint. Therein lies the problem. I am static, seated. Pauline is active standing and stretching. She is thin. I am fat.

Even so, we had Artichoke & Minted Peas Stew for our Lunch. instead of soup today. This is one of our long standing Greek favourites which we ate on a cold, March day in a warm corner of Simos’ Taverna in Kamares Port. After Lunch, we had a visit from a Covid Tester – A Brexit supporter (spit) – which took about 20 mins.

This was our 9th test and we will have now been paid £450.00/€520.00 between us for the privilege. It really is not inconvenient for us and provides us with reassurance of our current health while paying us into the bargain. What is there to complain about?

Of course, we are thinking more and more about going abroad either on a medium term basis – renting for 2-3 months at a time or buying a small, apartment on a sunny coast in France/Spain. The outlay for renting, particularly in Spain, is incredibly cheap. A villa with private pool, parking, 3 beds, washing & cooking facilities plus internet and satellite television for, say, June & July is only around £6,000.00/€7,000.00. A studio apartment on the Murcian coast can be had for about £75,000.00/ so an equation has to be done. Whatever, this is the way forward for holiday makers who want to avoid too much social contact.

As I suggested long ago, the Greeks are suddenly staring this conundrum in the face. Full of hope and bravado, they wrote off last year’s season and the debts they incurred while talking up the new one this Summer. Suddenly, they are beginning to realise that this season may be even worse. From the website, Sifnaika-Fos, this:

A very difficult year in ’21 for rental accommodation – Zero bookings & accumulated debts.

This is the very real danger of putting all your eggs in one basket. I have been warning of this, with relation to Greece’s reliance on the Tourist Industry, for years never even contemplating a pandemic. Now it has arrived and the warnings become reality. Greeks may have to start considering ‘real’ jobs.

Week 634

Sunday, 14th February, 2021

What is this Valentine’s rubbish. Every day is one of love-and-gratitude-day in our household. How lucky are we? So many we know no longer have the reassurance of their loved one by their side. It must be scarcely bearable and we feel for them.

At last today the heating can be turned off. We will not fall below 8C/47F over night which is fine. I’ve done my workout for the day. I’ve only missed 3 days in the past 49. When it gets to this stage, it is harder not to do it than to do it. To see my stats with a blemish hurts more than the exercise itself.

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We received our Covid jab invitations yesterday. We probably won’t take them up. It is a national letter and the nearest place is in the centre of Brighton about 20 miles/32 km away. Our local one will be in the Community Centre about 10 mins walk away from our house. We will probably wait for that.

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A multiplicity of email clients

I’ve spent the main part of the morning working on our email/address book clients. We use Windows 10 Mail cloud client alongside Outlook mail client. Each have an integrated but separate address books. On our iPads, we use the Apple mail + address book client and, on our smartphones, we use Gmail +address book email client. I have organised the emails to synchronise across different platforms but the address books are a nightmare and the calendars are even worse. I’ve resorted to doing these manually. Still, I’ve got so much slack time at the moment that it doesn’t really matter.

Monday, 15th February, 2021

A damp, mild start that turned in to a grey, mild day. Actually, ‘mild’ is only a relative term. It has been 9C/48F and the breeze makes it feel cooler. We walked down to the Pharmacy attached to our Surgery to collect our repeat prescriptions. The round-trip walk takes about 70 mins and we wouldn’t have even considered it 12 months ago. Now, it doesn’t even occur to us to drive. If the weather’s alright, we walk. Wonderful, homemade Chicken & Sweetcorn soup for Lunch and then some Office work before a session in the Gym.

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Xmas 1979

I am loving using my new computer and I’m organising all my data sets in the cloud. Following that process this morning, the photograph above popped up and took me back to those exciting times 41 years ago on the Pennines. This is the first Christmas cake Pauline made for us and she has made at least one every year since.

I wrote only recently about not being a fan of fiction and it has been true all my life. This pandemic and the restrictions has helped to show me what can be gleaned from good drama. Particularly as national and international sport was restricted in the first half of the year and the empty stadium sport so lacking in atmosphere in the second half, we have searched for alternative forms of entertainment. We subscribed to Sky Cinema and to Netflix and found a wealth of compromises.

The compromise started off as dramas based on actual events. I have really enjoyed Thrillers connected to historical events. For example, Red Joan which is based on the Cambridge graduate of the late 1930s – a Fellow Traveller as they became known – who fed the USSSR with vital information which hastened the pace at which the Soviets developed nuclear bomb technology. Judy dench plays the eponymous Joan and I am comforted in knowing that much of this actually happened.

Recently, this leap of credibility has allowed me to move on to a psychological thriller set in Ireland on the North – South border. The geographical mood music feels right. The psychological tightness of border tensions appears accurate. That drew me in. having watched 2 Series each of 6 episodes, I feel rather committed but I have a hankering suspicion that the plot has spun nonsensically out of control. Although it seems a bit pointless going on, I find myself saying, Well you’ve come this far. This is the essence of my problem with Fiction.

Tuesday, 16th February, 2021

We have found Covid-19 Vaccinations slots at the Chichester Centre which we can attend together and provisionally booked both 1st and 2nd jabs there. If our own Surgery comes in with a booking before we go then we will cancel the Chichester one. Jab-1 is on February 26th and Jab-2 on May 14th exactly 11 weeks later.

We decided to go and look at the Centre to get out of the house and give our car a much needed run. As soon as I put the post code in, I thought we were going abroad. The Centre is on Via Ravenna which is located off Avenue de Chartres. We only deal in cosmopolitan culture down here.

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Our Covid Jab Centre – Italy.

I was amused to see a shop on Sifnos being offered for rent. It was fairly new when we were there and we used it to create our House Sale sign. This was almost 8 years ago now. Unbelievable!

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Gate painted & For Sale sign attached – May 2013.

The shop is attached to a grubby little 2* hotel in Kamares. It was quite impressively kitted out for digital Sign Writing and we were one of its early customers. We were so pleased with their work which attracted lots of attention.

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Shop for Rent after Pandemic destroys economy.

Addendum: By chance this afternoon, we became aware of a message from a local person saying that we could book our Covid test at our local Community Centre. The GP website didn’t say we could and their recorded message didn’t say we could. We phoned and booked our jabs for two days time. We learnt that this government is trying to dissuade the public from being jabbed by GPs but pushing them to attend distant, mass vaccination centres instead. Centralised control continues. We now have vaccinations booked in two areas although our local one is much earlier so we will cancel the other but not until the first is successfully completed.

Wednesday, 17th February, 2021

Woke up late today and stayed in bed listening to R4 Today until 7.50 am! Wednesday has added routines for me. Apart from shaving and cleaning my teeth (recharged my tooth brush last night and nearly lost my teeth this morning!), Wednesday is bedlinen changing. My job is to strip the bed and take the linen down to the Utility Room. Pauline is expert in using the washing machine so she puts the white things on to wash. I would almost certainly shrink and re-dye them given a chance. Pauline remakes the bed because I hate doing it. This is how division of labour works in our house.

I forgot to mention. I haven’t got dressed yet. Having stripped the bed stark naked (me & the bed), I go into the dressing room. Having got dressed, I open the blinds and look out on to the back garden. Everything looks fine …. apart from a demented little blob of fur going frantically round and round on the spot on our patio. It is chasing its tail. When I get downstairs and onto the patio, I realise that it is a tiny, Field Mouse. It has obviously been using the plant pots for cover and come out to enjoy the warmer morning and some sunshine.

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Strange sights in Greece.

While we are enjoying warmer weather, Greece is suffering snow – quite heavy snow. Sifnos island has been covered with dramatically heavy snow. Athens has a heavy blanket of snow. As they say, views of the Acropolis surrounded by thick snow are quite rare and some are considering skiing down the side. I, for one, would love to see it.

Vaccinations tomorrow morning. If there’s no Blog tomorrow night, send flowers.

Thursday, 18th February, 2021

On the morning we prepare for our first Covid-19 vaccination, this appears in the news headlines:

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The dilemma is immediately obvious. What confidence can one have in returning to normal life after effectively sheltering for a year? Wanting to believe something is effective does not bring that about. What would it be like to sacrifice a year of one’s life to succumb when one least expects it?

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No guesses which vaccine we had today. We were at our local Community Hall with rows of chairs spaced out for customers to wait. We were wearing double masks and visor but I felt more vulnerable there than I have anywhere for quite a while. I haven’t been in a closed environment with so many people for almost 12 months. Very efficiently run, we were in and out in about 30 mins including having to wait for 15 mins afterwards to see if the jab had killed us.

We felt comparatively alive as we went home for coffee. I should be alright to do my gym routine later. I’m looking forward to continuing a film I am watching on Netflix called Rebellion which honours the 100th anniversary of the start of the Easter Uprising in 1916, a defining moment in Irish and British history. It is not the best dramatisation I have seen – a bit sanitised and light weight but it does remind one of the sacrifices the Irish have been prepared to make to throw off the yoke of British Imperialism. What none of them could have conceived of is that Membership of the European Union and a foolhardy Brexit is the most likely avenue to delivering a United Ireland.

After all that bloodshed and colonial stiff upper lip, to subjugate a people who were entitled to self determination and who will almost certainly get it by the unthinking hand of British, right wing extremists. How ironic!

Friday, 19th February, 2021

Incredible how light it was at 6.00 am as we got up for our Sainsbury’s delivery. The Spring is creeping up on us. Snowdrops and Daffodils are starting to decorate the landscape. The Summer is coming! Unfortunately, as time marches on, so do we. I have to wish my brother, Bob, a very happy 69th birthday today.

We last shared a bedroom 52 years ago although, perhaps, I shouldn’t talk about it. He certainly seems happy and contented with his life and what else can one ask for? We wish him another 69 years of happiness.

A grey & bitterly cold day on the beach.

We nipped down to the beach for a few minutes of bracing sea air and it certainly was ‘bracing’. The official temperature at 9.30 am was 8C/46F but the wind chill effect of the sea breeze almost took our breath away.

School Trip to the beach.

It was nice to see (from a distance)a crocodile of little kids enjoying the beach. There were even a couple of people in the sea wind surfing fearlessly. You certainly wouldn’t catch me doing it.

Saturday, 20th February, 2021

Getting a Little Woman in.

In Retirement, Saturdays are always difficult days. After that Friday Night Feeling was satisfied by a Chinese Takeaway and a bottle – sometimes two – of wine followed by a complete ‘slump’ at the end of a hard week’s work, we would have been up at the crack of dawn to make the most of our ‘day off’. Usually there were so many jobs to fit in that couldn’t be done during the week. We were always some of the first shoppers in to Sainsbury‘s and home for coffee. Then the house jobs of cleaning, washing, ironing, gardening, car cleaning had to be done. Sunday was papers and politics before school work and other preparation for another hard week ahead.

I still quite often get up and think, I don’t have to go to work; I still dream sometimes of walking the school corridors and hearing the teacher-class hum. Even after 12 years away, I still wake up in a blind sweat occasionally worrying that I haven’t done everything needed for my new day. The Friday Feeling is long gone, Sunday preparations are no longer required and Saturday has lost its impetus. Nothing has to be done. We have all the time in the world to get jobs done.

It will be 12 years in the first week of April since we retired and it will be 5 years in the first week of April since we moved in to our new home. We are now responsible for its complete upkeep. We try to set high standards for ourselves in maintenance of our properties. Cleanliness, tidiness and presentation are important. Fortunately, Pauline loves DIY and, particularly, decorating. We have toured every inch of the house together with clipboard and pen, noting every scratch, chip, smudge, which needs attention. Pauline has done all the repairs, repaints of the walls and is just completing the same with the woodwork.

Martin McGuiness

I used to feel embarrassed about my lack of contribution but, after 43 years of marriage, we have come to the agreement that it is best left to Pauline. I have spent my day exercising, watching football and reading some historical background to the formation of the Irish Republican Army.

I have been transported back to my youth in the 1960s – 70s and how Sinn Féin IRA were spoken of as murderous criminals. It took quite a while before I realised the injustice of that position. I have long believed and supported the concept of a United Ireland. It was a major move forward to see a former IRA Leader and Sinn Féin politician as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland but it is even better to see the complete failure of the DUP to defend the Union through Brexit.

Week 633

Sunday, 7th February, 2021

We went down to 3C/37F and this morning had started with some sunshine. I wanted to show you what happened last Friday after we had been to walk in the sea mist. Almost as soon as we left, the sun came out and a phenomenon apparently called a fogbow appeared. Had to rely on someone else’s photo for this.

A Fogbow on Littlehampton Beach

This was the scene yesterday evening on the same beach. I missed this too and have stolen someone else’s photo. We’ve said for a long time that we must make the effort to get down to the beach for sundown. We’re going to have to stop being lazy.

Sunset last night on Littlehampton Beach

This morning, I’ve been watching the Test match from India where the temperature was a delicious 30C/86F and then Tottenham v West Brom. where the temperatures were sub-zero and they had light snow falling. It is now 2.00 pm and we have had a bit of sleet and the temperature has fallen from 3C to 2C/36F. I’m going to brave walking across the patio to the gym to do my exercise while watching Wolves v Leicester. I will be well and truly footballed out by the end of the day after Liverpool v Man. City and then Sheffield v Chelsea. Need to get a life!

Monday, 8th February, 2021

We woke up to find an embroidery of snow on the pavements. We were making an early walk down to the Post Office in the village with a clothing ‘return’. We seem to do this a lot. 

The walk took us about 70 mins round trip and was bitterly cold. The temperature was -1C/30F with a biting breeze. The sky looks rather forbidding. If we were in Yorkshire, we would be predicting heavy snow. We walked past a children’s playground where Mothers and toddlers were desperately trying to scrape up something approximating snow to make their first ever snowball.

As we walked, we reflected on that. Years of annual snowfalls, roads closed, schools closed, etc. have made us fairly blasé about the concept of snow – even anti. To think, for these young children on the south coast, this is the first ever experience of snow. It makes us feel, suddenly, very old. We go on through our days feeling the same as we have for years and then something like this pulls us up short. I am old. There are very few things that I will experience for the first time in my life. Well, there is death but then it will be all too late. I will never experience the wonder of my first snow ever again.

At least the cricket is going well. It’s even kicked politics off the early morning screens. I’m really enjoying watching a hot, Indian day being decorated by some excellent Test teams.

Tuesday, 9th February, 2021

Up at 6.00 am. Still -1C/30F outside but we’ve managed to avoid the snow we were fearing. Sainsbury’s delivery by 7.00 am. Before that, Pauline books the next one. New slots are released at midnight but 6.00 am is early enough to get a ‘free’ early delivery slot. We don’t pay anything for our deliveries in this way.

What a wonderful time of day 6.00 am is! Especially when you are watching the cricket while enjoying a huge cup of Yorkshire tea.

Fantastic Anderson Performance!

India are the No.1 team in the world at the moment and England have beaten them comprehensively on their home soil in the first Test Match. It was a joy to watch.

In spite of the cold, we are going out for a walk. It’s good to see the daylight and feel the fresh air in our faces. I was noticing the uncertain messages in Greek newspapers this week. They report that

Amid fears of new variants of the coronavirus, new restrictions on movement have hit just as people were starting to look ahead to what is usually a busy time of year for travel.

Kathimerini – 8/2/2021
Ermou Street with facemasks – just not a holiday.

Already, face masks are mandatory in the street. Can you imagine hot sun and face masks? Greece has increased its restrictions on travellers this week including enforced vaccinations and quarantine which adds to this climate of difficulty. The Greek Hotel industry is badly suffering and is central to the economy. They are demanding government support to just survive. 

Wednesday, 10th February, 2021

Up at a reasonable time – 7.00 am – and, although the outside temperature is 0C/32F, their was no ice or frost to be seen. By mid day, the temperature outside has soared to 2C/36F and the sun is shining. We were up early because we had an Asda Click & Collect at 8.00 am.

A week ago, I wrote that our neighbours across the road had put their property up for sale. Exactly a week later, a sold sign has gone up. The speed of sale is both surprising and encouraging. The price is even more encouraging. When we bought and sold in Surrey, our property almost doubled its value in 5 years. Down here, even in the midst of a pandemic, our neighbours’ house has provided a profit of £125,000 in just 5 years and, like ours, it is a new-build which are notorious for normally losing some value in the early stages.

I have been highly amused and infuriated in equal measures by an interview Kate Hoey did with Sky News where she bemoaned the Brexit Agreement for punishing Northern Ireland’s trade. Imagine having the chutzpah of having created this situation, promoted it, ignored the Remain vote of Northern Ireland, and then making this statement. She also blames Southern Ireland for colluding with the EU – completely ignoring the fact that Southern Ireland is the EU. Brexit chickens are really coming home to roost!

I’m off out to the gym now to suffer in every way. The exercise still hurts but I watch television to distract me a bit. Unfortunately, I am currently watching a film called The Photographer of Mauthausen which is based on real events; a photographer tries to save evidence of the horrors committed inside the walls of a Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen.

It is horrifying and fascinating but it is not easy watching. Sometimes, I am willing myself to get to the end of my exercise just to have a rest from the misery. It is so hard to believe that humans can do such things to humans but then we must remember that this Tory government is still prepared to trade on with a Chinese nation who are persecuting the Uighur people with an inhumanity that closely parallels the Holocaust. 

Thursday, 11th February, 2021

We were up so late this morning that it felt like tomorrow. To get up at 8.00 am is almost unheard of but we weren’t in bed until 1.00 am so feel almost feel justified. The temperature went down to -2/28F last night but has heated up massively to 1C/34F and we are going out for a walk on the beach or, probably a swim because it is High Tide at 11.00 am today.

Down-lit Goring Beach

Actually, we didn’t stay long on the beach. Within a few minutes of getting there, we couldn’t feel our faces. Even so, there were quite a few people around, walking on the beach and along the shoreline path. They would do well in the North.

A former fellow student who now lives on the Cumbrian coast posted this photo of his garden this morning after a night at -15C/5F. Why would you want to live there? Think of the heating bills.

After 40 years living on the Pennines with all the wet, cold and difficult weather that brings, I was genuinely concerned about leaving. I longed to see dry stone walls and heather-covered moors after those views being the daily wallpaper of our working lives. I noticed my brother, Bob – former Antarctic Explorer – longs for snow in sunny Berkshire. He really needs to move to Yorkshire. His skills would really come in to action.

Bolster Moor, Kirklees yesterday

We experienced these conditions just getting to work most winters. We took our lives into our hands just going out to school. In fact, Britain has not experienced such a cold spell for 11 years which is when we last lived in the North of England. There are better ways to spend one’s time than being dragged out of snow drifts by tractors. Now I’m going to brave the 2C/36F in the back garden to go out to the gym which is snugly heated by a radiator. While I’m working out, I’ll be watching a barely credible film of Jews suffering sub zero temperatures with little clothing and even less food in the prison camp of Mauthausen.

Friday, 12th February, 2021

Up at 6.00 am and -1C/30F to welcome the Sainsbury‘s delivery man. Major problem this morning – No Medjool dates!

Along with bananas, Medjool dates are our go-to snack for quick calories. They are healthy but provide a quick hit of energy. If you haven’t tried them, you should. They are like, soft, gooey toffees but are full of nutrients and antioxidants. There are lots of dates but best are Medjool.

Turned in to a lovely, sunny morning but feels raw at just 1C/34F. Pauline’s cooking but we might find space to walk on the beach later.

More bracing than sunbathing but always ‘chic’.

This was yesterday. It might be a little more inviting today. At least there is still no snow. Five years ago, we were living in P&C’s attic and preparing to make the move down to West Sussex. Only 5 years but it all seems so far away.

I have to apologise for missing Albert, Kevan’s birthday yesterday. It was very remiss of me. My calendar should have reminded me but failed to do so. Yesterday, my brother-in-law, A.K. Butcher was 78 and it should be marked. I hope he had a happy day. I certainly hope I get to that great age.

Saturday, 13th February, 2021

It has been cold again overnight at -2/28F. What it has meant is that the gym has had to be heated all day and all night for the best part of a week.

Keeping the Gym comfortable.

The gym equipment is controlled by sensitive computer circuits which don’t respond well to low temperatures. Along with the television and Sky-Q box, they amount to about £6,000.00/€6,900.00 worth of equipment and then add to that about £5,000.00/€5,800 of wine to keep in reasonable condition and heating was the only, sensible answer. We installed from the outset a vertical, ‘ladder’, oil-filled radiator which isn’t too expensive to run but can be left on continuously and provides a background heat. Of course, the garage isn’t as well insulated as the house and we may well address that this summer. A small outlay then could pay off in the long run.

Trafalgar Square this week.

This is the coldest Winter for a decade apparently so this may not be a continual problem. Certainly, we haven’t had it as bad down here on the South Coast as many other places. No snow, little frost and moderate temperatures all help.