Sunday, 7th March, 2021
The morning opened beautifully all round. Strong sunshine encouraged us out early. We went down to the beach. We’ve been here almost 5 years now but have never seen the Oyster Pond being cleaned out. The displaced swans were flapping around on the beach.
All around Europe, coastlines have been experiencing extremely low tides. Kamares port on Sifnos has seen its beach stretch well out into the sea over the past week. Littlehampton Beach is usually shingle but consists currently of vast swathes of sand.
The deserted breakwater reaches out as if for a hand to hold but in vain. Sometime soon, the tide will come back in and envelop it in the soothing waters that are its destiny and purpose.
I had a horrible ‘senior moment’ yesterday. When she was 96, Pauline’s lovely Mum was in and out of hospital quite frequently. When she was at home in her apartment, she had a rigorous skincare routine. All the stuff that women plaster their bodies with was applied. In one of her final hospital visits, Pauline was at her bedside and helped her walk to the toilet. As she passed a mirror and not having her creams and lotions with her, the 96 year old exclaimed, Oh no, my wrinkles are coming back. It was one of those seminal, never-give-in moments. Yesterday, I found a wrinkle on my arm!!!
Pauline has asked my help to find some friends from her college in London 1970 – 73. It doesn’t exist anymore having been absorbed by London University. If you don’t know, Pauline is the blonde on the back, left. I always went for the small, intelligent ones but rarely for blondes. I’m proud to say that I never asked a girl out in my life. I always got selected by them. Actually, I don’t think I was capable of such a nerve-wracking move. I didn’t and still don’t understand girls.
Monday, 8th March, 2021
Cold over night and we opened the morning with yet another lovely, sunny day but only around 10C/50F. Feeling a bit of an emptiness this morning. Something is missing. Just going through the humdrum of everyday life. Putting the bins out, unstacking the dishwasher and so on. Had to do my Official INR and email it off to Worthing Hospital. Spent some time in the gym not exercising but servicing the equipment. I’m not practical at all so I had to have an Assistant who is.
I have been trying to find a photo of the College building Pauline spent three years in at the start of the 1970s. I get accused of living in the past but we all need to touch our history at some stage. My need is just much greater than some others. The college was absorbed in to London University by 1978 and the building demolished. We think this is a photo of its last years.
In 1972, a friend and I were looking for teaching jobs. Ironically, one of the first places we looked was in London. I had a job interview in Ealing. I was offered a post teaching English but my friend, who I think was looking in Haringey, wasn’t so we moved on. However, I’ve been sent this unwritten and pristine postcard which features a private residential Club in Lansdowne Road, Tottenham. I knew immediately what it was but not my historical connection to it. I can actually remember walking down Lansdowne Road but did I stay there? I have no memory. Answers on a postcard, please.
Done an hour’s walk in lovely sunshine and I’m now going to finish off with another hour in the gym. Give me strength!
Tuesday, 9th March, 2021
Woke at 5.30 am and felt real optimism and hope. Who knows why. We were having a Sainsbury’s delivery at 7.00 am but that certainly wasn’t it. Quite cold – just 2C/36F – but blue sky and sunshine as far as the eye could see. Pauline’s iPad had given her notification over night that the order would not arrive until 8.00 am and would not contain skimmed milk. No skimmed milk? Who can live without that?
So it was for that we were out to our nearest supermarket, Asda Ferring, at 7.00 am. I was walking round the enormous carpark in the sunshine while Pauline indulged herself and went shopping for skimmed milk. It doesn’t get much better than this!
As soon as we got back, I made a digital card for one of my little sisters – Catherine who prefers to call herself Cathy nowadays. She is 66 which shocks me because it makes me feel old. People tell me not to worry but approaching landmark ages such as 70 does make one question one’s own mortality. In the end, of course, we can run away and hide or seize the day. It is our choice. My day is going to be seized by going for a long walk in the sunshine. Actually, it might be a bit painful because I’ve twisted my knee. This is what you get for carpe diem at (nearly) 70!
My cloud storage system throws up photographs of the past which I haven’t see for years. This morning it is really poking fun at me by putting up a picture taken almost exactly 40 years ago. I was 30 years old and spending 3 weeks on the island of Zakynthos/Zante. The worrying thing is that I remember the island. I remember the villa. I just don’t remember a body like that at all. Unfortunately, not many people do. Oh, my knee hurts!
We should have our second vaccination in early April – 2 days after I’m 70 – and be largely safe by the end of that month. How we will feel and what we will do, I have absolutely no idea. Today in the gym I will be watching a Swedish wartime love story with subtitles which is how I twisted my knee because I find it hard to read and run at the same time. Trouble is, I don’t learn.
Wednesday, 10th March, 2021
First grey day for a while. Not cold but only 8C/46F overnight. As a sun-worshipper, I find greyness depressing. Looking for lightness elsewhere in life instead so I’m continuing to mine the treasure trove of memorabilia I’ve been exploiting recently.
I went to a Grammar School which rather fashioned itself on the Public School ethic of Academic and Sporting excellence. I didn’t excel academically. I did in sport. My school was renowned for its Rugby Union and I was a big, strong, fast-running lad who was up for a fight. I absolutely loved it. I got my First Team colours a year early and played on the Left Wing. I played for Staffordshire. I was a sprinter and was made captain of the school Athletics team. I was constantly training but not revising for exams.
At College in 1969, the dominant sports were Football and Cricket. I was an embarrassment at both of them but there were just not enough ‘men’ to fill the teams so I was drafted in. As more men arrived in subsequent years, I was very understandably dropped. If Kevin is reading this, he will be nodding in agreement. Even so, my hairstyle was more of a joke than my sporting prowess as the photo above illustrates.
A lot of pandemic exercise has involved walking by the sea. My precious smartphone is clutched tightly in my hand and used to photograph anything of interest. It also collects location which is recorded and mapped. Never commit a murder or have an affair! What does it say about my life that my movement map is so restricted?
Thursday, 11th March, 2021
Didn’t sleep well. The night was dominated by the disturbance of strong, blustery wind which is so unsettling. I know I’ve quoted these lines before but they are so apposite.
This house has been far out at sea all night,Ted Hughes – Wind – The Hawk in the Rain, 1957
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet …
In Hughes case, the atmospheric situation mirrored the turmoil in his mind, crashing around in the darkness towards a decision. It is possible to view that as a romantic, dramatic conceit or the attempt to describe an internal struggle.
The morning broke with beautiful sunshine but blustery, cool winds. We went down to the sea where a high tide was boiling on to the beach driven on by the wind. Actually, there were windsurfers out in the huge waves but few takers for coffee in the sunshine.
The afternoon finished in a gym session which will mean I have achieved my effort target every day for the past 30 days and covered 170 miles. Looking forward to expanding horizons again soon and walking in Mediterranean sunshine. The news isn’t good across Europe in that infection rates are surging again while tourism centres of Greece, France, Italy and Spain are hoping to gear up for the Summer. Here, we are told that the vaccine has much weaker effectiveness in Cancer sufferers and those with a depleted immune system which must be worrying.
It has been a dramatic day – for me a dénouement and the evening sky confirmed it. Ever seen something like this? It felt barely real. Let’s hope it portends a better future!
Friday, 12th March, 2021
Up early on an uncertain new day. Sainsbury’s delivery at 7.00 am. Lovely, sunny morning that was quickly interrupted by heavy, driving rain. That seems rather how life is at the moment. Hope for the best but expect the worst ….
“I have spread my dreams under your feet;‘Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ – W. B. Yeats
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
The rain stopped and, just needing to get out of the house, we drove out to the nearby historical town of Steyning which dates back to Anglo Saxon times. It has a 12th Century church and many Tudor and earlier buildings. Parts reminded me of Chester, parts of Montreux in Northern France. I can’t stop living in the past.
I must admit, it made me feel rather old just going out for the sake of it – filling the time sight seeing but this is what we seem to have come to.
It is 27 weeks since Pauline had her hair cut. This morning we both remarked that it was looking better than ever. When I first met her in 1973, her long, blonde hair flowed down to her bottom. In recent years and particularly when she went to Sassoons, it has got progressively shorter with age. She hasn’t got even a hint of grey and Lockdown may prove a turning point for style.
Saturday, 13th March, 2021
Torrential rain storm battered the house in the middle of the night … so I’m told. I slept through it. The morning has opened with lovely sunshine but still breezy.
An item on R4 Today programme caught my attention this morning. It was about F.O.R.E or Fear of Re-Entry. For people who have been shielding – at least in part – over the past year, going back in to society raises some anxieties. People teetering around the age of 70 like us will have concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine, the dangers of becoming infected if we return to ‘normal’ life suddenly. I haven’t been in a shop for so long that I’ve forgotten what they look like on the inside.
The first test will be when Pauline goes for a haircut. I will sit in a coffee shop for an hour or so. Mind you, if it’s as socially distanced as last time I took this photo, it shouldn’t raise concern.
What we really want to be doing is travelling, driving to the North of England and then right across Europe. We normally make two trips to Yorkshire/Lancashire each year to visit old friends and I can’t wait to do it again. We set retirement plans to travel across Europe and have done plenty of it but this year has been so hard – trapped and aging.
We have been so used to just deciding at the drop of a hat that we need some cultural change and booking Gatwick flights and a hotel over the ‘net’ and going. It is one of the joys of a comfortable retirement. Three years ago, on a whim, we spent some time in the city of Valencia. It was an absolute revelation. The weather was wonderful and the people delightful.
If I were to choose one place to move to now, it would be Valencia. Just a little apartment would do which we could run to for a few weeks when we felt like it. Even the flight is only a couple of hours which makes it all so easy. The time is running out. It would need at least £100,000/€117,000 to get something really comfortable which is what we would want. How many years would we use it for?