Week 641

Sunday, 4th April, 2021


There’s a hole in the world this morning. What are we going to do? Outside it is sunny but cool. Blue sky and sunshine does help but doesn’t make up for the absence of life. Certainly, money can’t plug it. Travel to France? Not sounding good at the moment. My cousin in Salles-Lavalette, SW France, is clearly in despair about her holiday lets. Even schools are closed again. We were there a couple of years ago and it is delightful.

I’ve requested details on some properties in the Murcian sea port area of Aguilas. Even if they come back favourably, we obviously wouldn’t buy unseen. We certainly won’t travel until a couple of weeks after our second vaccination which will take us close to the end of May. The hole deepens!

Aguila, Murcia

It’s amazing how time flies past but, in recollection, events feel so close. Ten years ago today, the removal van arrived to take all our possessions from West Yorkshire to Surrey. Although I remember it clearly, in retrospect so much has happened since then. We have sold and bought three properties since then, travelled thousands of miles in search of the sun, gone so far into retirement that it’s not so easy imagining going back into education now, had five new cars and at least five new diets. Throughout this time, I have carried with me some ambitions that I may never achieve but will continue until my last breath. I did say that I would never need to diet again by the time I was 70. I did say I would achieve fluent Greek. I Failed as I have with so much more. I keep trying.

The next challenge?

I did Spanish at school 55 years ago. I can still do bits but it will now be an ambition to learn more. We have driven across many European countries but not Spain. This will be the ideal new, learning environment. Portsmouth is not far away from here. Return journey by Brittany ferries for Portsmouth – Santander or Bilbao with cabin is only around £1100.00/€1300.00 and the drive across Spain will be fun. I’ve always wanted to go to Zaragoza and then on to the coast at Tarragona and then drive down the coast through Valencia.

You see, hope can be found anywhere and challenges are everywhere. This is the future!

Monday, 5th April, 2021

Time and Life are strange aren’t they? The past rises out of the mists, tantalises and then sinks back into it. It can be cruel but that always comes as a shock to me. When you expose yourself as I do every day to public scrutiny, you should expect it.  I never learn.

Last week someone emerged from the mists in the most magical way. Our house is full of televisions – 7 in all. I think it is a reaction to being denied one in my childhood.  I had the television in the kitchen on in preparation for watching some recording and a programme that I never watch because it is about skilled arts & crafts was on in the background. I was reading not watching until I heard the name, Linda Konieczny announced. I looked up and said to my wife, I used to teach someone called Linda Konieczny in the early days in the 6th Form.” It was only later that the mists really cleared.

A lad (now aged 72) from College contacted me and asked if I’d seen Linda on The Repair Shop that afternoon. Only then did I remember her. She was in the year after us but our paths had crossed a few times. I told him about my senior moment of memory. Next thing I know, I get a contact from Linda thanking me for the flattery of thinking she had been my student. She had remembered me quite acutely at college and certainly better than I remembered her. She sent me a photo to help.

It was quite an interesting episode she appeared in when she brought a large, toy racing car in for repair. Her recently deceased father had made it for her. As her name suggests, she is of Polish origin and her father had escaped Nazi internment camp and walked across Europe, finally getting to UK. He was a skilled metal worker and had constructed this mechanical toy at the end of the war but it no longer worked. Seeing it brought back to life was quite magical. Good things do come in small packages if you let them.

My sister Jane who lives on the Pennines when she’s not in her London home, posted a scene from her house on Twitter this morning. A smattering of snow arrived over night.

Yesterday, we spent a few hours sunbathing in the garden and it was so strong Pauline actually burned her neck through her blouse. It is beautiful here again today. At least we don’t expect snow this far south. Dispelling the mists of time, we are going out for a walk while the sun lasts although it is a little cooler this afternoon.

Tuesday, 6th April, 2021

I have been dreading this. I really can’t believe I’m 70 years old but, suddenly, it doesn’t matter at all. I have the loveliest people in my life and nothing else matters at all. Not sure why it’s taken me so long to realise. Perhaps I’m a slow learner and, maybe, some of them are as well. It doesn’t matter, I will go forward in the knowledge that I have them.

The morning has been really delightful with birthday wishes from all around the country and from Europe. As someone once sang, Love is all you need. It is certainly good enough for me. I have all the material things any man could want. How fortunate is that? If I haven’t done so personally, thank you to every one who has wished me well.

Garden Mezedes in the Spring Sunshine

It is the most lovely day of warm sunshine. I’ve still done my exercise routine because I’ve just beaten my record of achieving it every day for 54 consecutive days. I’m very target driven. People who set me targets regret it because I never give up until I achieve them. Tomorrow, I will try even harder. My birthday meal will be monkfish and king prawns in tempura batter with green salad and garlic dip. Looking forward to that.

Tonight I’m going to be indulged as I watch Real Madrid v Liverpool followed by another episode or two of Keeping Faith. I have really enjoyed this although I didn’t expect to. It is originally made by Welsh TV but I’ve completely fallen in love with this feisty woman. It is 3 series of 20 episodes all together and you have to watch the first series to really understand the rest. She ‘loses’ her husband and the search is gripping. Anyone who has that much intelligence, fight and determination is really attractive. For me, it is far more compelling than physical beauty.

Wednesday, 7th April, 2021

What a beautiful morning of strong, warm sun from a lovely sky. Sussex is a lovely place to be on these days. Yesterday, an old friend from Manchester saw my photograph of Lunch in the garden and said it’s snowing here. If I never see snow again it will be too soon. You really should be here! We spend a lot of time out of the house because of the weather.

I know everywhere can be lovely and there is pleasure to be taken in all circumstances but the opportunities seem increased in our area. Mind you, I would rather be in the Mediterranean walking on a scorching hot beach.

I calculated that we have spent more than 5 complete years living in Greece over our travelling lives mostly in 6 month spells but also 2 months spells pre-retirement. Our Local Authority clung to the 19th Century Mill holiday pattern of Wakes Holidays which, ironically, was Wimbledon fortnight. I must admit I didn’t bother to investigate its origin more than that at the time. It originated from pre-industrial revolution tradition with a night of prayer which was called a vigil, eve or, due to the late hour “wake”, from the  Old English Waecan.

There is jovial, joyous hour,
Of mirth and jollity in store:
The Wakes! The Wakes!

The Village Festival – Droylsden poet, Elijah Ridings 1802-1872

For years before Retirement, we would fly to Greece for Wakes Holidays fortnight and then drive to Greece for 6 week Summer Holiday. Looking back, I can hardly believe it now. I know we were so much younger but the effort we were prepared to go through for this I wouldn’t even consider now.

Ironically, the Saint George bound for Sifnos.

We would fly through the night, arrive at Piraeus Harbour for about 4.00 am on Saturday morning and wait for the ferry to board at 8.00 am. I woke up once on a dockside bench being licked by a stray dog and having been bitten badly by mosquitoes. I rather snobbily chose Greece as a more bohemian, intellectual alternative to Spain where so many of our pupils’ families were going. I don’t regret it but we can both afford and crave so much more comfort nowadays. If it hasn’t got a 5* Hotel or villa, what’s the point? We might as well be at home.

Everyone everyone can you hear the soldiers coming
Everyone everyone every man and every woman
We all fall in the end we’re just miracles of matter ….

The one thing that yesterday has taught me is that we are running out of time and must seize the day!

Today we have seized some lovely, fresh fish. The quality of this swordfish and salmon is hard to match. You should taste it.

Got a surprise in the post today. It was a card from a lovely girl who I taught 30 years ago. I don’t know where she got my address from. Must have been playing my game and researching Census returns. As she left, she had been going through a difficult time and I suppose I helped her more than most other pupils I dealt with. I even did a bit of match making for her when she was leaving school. I felt a bit like a Dad for a while. She has been happily married to an ex-pupil for some years and has three, lovely and successful kids.

It just underlined what a sad, old man I am becoming because the card got to me immediately. I am shocked and embarrassed at my current responses. It is looking as if internal travel will be our first trip and Greater Manchester will be our first destination. I will have to go and see her.

Thursday, 8th April, 2021

Lovely morning with lots of sun. Even the window cleaners have turned up so sunlight doesn’t make the windows look dirty. The day got better when I received a phone call from Spain. An Agente Inmobiliario in Aguilas was responding to my request for information on a new-build property.

I like people. I can’t help myself. I have to know the sort of person I am talking to on the phone. Before he could tell me anything about the property, I had got from him that his name was David. He was 32 with 2 kids and he was living in Aguilas but had a home in York. He was born in Ripon where his parents still live. I told him of the obvious coincidence and, by the time I had done, his sales patter was shattered and we got down to business.

We established that I only needed a one bedroom apartment but sea-facing. The floor plan fits exactly what we would need with a huge balcony/outdoor living area for Dining/Relaxing.

The Development still has quite a way to go before completion and we would be buying off-plan with payments in 3 stages before. The price on-line had been a come-on for the cheapest, least desirable but even the €145,000.00 is a steal for what is included. As well as the apartment, the Development has two pools, an out-door gym, restaurant and underground carpark. That is important because we would want to drive there and stay 3 months at a time.

How often do you buy something and, within days of the warranty running out, it breaks down. Well yesterday, I was on the treadmill when I heard a loud clicking. I thought there was a mechanical problem so I got off to look but the clicking carried on. It was my knee. It sounded like starting pistol. I know I was 70 on Tuesday but I didn’t know that marked the end of the warranty! I have completed an average of 6 ml/9.7 km jogging/walking/cycling every single day for the past 3 months which may account for it. Even so, I am loathe to miss a day and rest.

Friday, 9th April, 2021

Lovely, sunny morning but not warm. I’m having my haircut again. I don’t have to wait for Monday. I don’t like waiting for anything especially as time runs out. All things will come to pass. 

5* Valencia Palace Hotel

We’ve spent less than a week in Spain in our lives. Three years ago, we had the most delightful few days in Valencia. It won me over immediately. We stayed in the rather ornate but very comfortable Valencia Palace which was pleasant but the vibrancy of the city and the lovely people really made the visit. It was one of the few times in my life that I considered myself a ‘tourist’ as opposed to a ‘traveller’. It is bonkers, I know, but I can’t do a ‘standard’, 2 week holiday anywhere for just that reason. I have to go and ‘live’ somewhere for a while.

4* Los Gigantes, Tenerife

Our introduction to Spain was through the Canary Islands. We had been to Fuerteventura years ago – the 1980s I think but we found ourselves ‘homeless’ 6 years ago having sold our Surrey home before our Sussex house was completed so we spent 2 months in a hotel in southern Tenerife.

4* Los Gigantes, Tenerife

I did French and a bit of Spanish at school and I was quite surprised how quickly I could reacclimatise to Spanish while we were there. The ‘Romance’ languages are quite accessible. We were there for the month of November 2015 and January 2016 and we were basically just transferring our lives from UK to the sunshine. I wouldn’t go to the Canaries for the culture. We did a 3rd month over that year but went to the 5* Adrian Rocca Nivaria in the November 2016.

5* Adrian Rocca Nivaria, Tenerife

The problem with the comfortable hotels is the food. It just keeps coming. We had Half Board basis for the 3 months and I was eating Breakfast which I never normally do followed by a huge, buffet meal in the evening and I was piling on the weight even though we were working out in the hotel gym every day.

Saturday, 10th April, 2021

A cool, grey morning and wall to wall coverage of DofE death is just so over the top it’s depressing. Have to do a hard gym session today.

Little Julia Dagg – 1978 – Roundhay Fair

I love photography even if I’m not brilliant at it. I bought an SLR 40 years ago and a Digital SLR around 20 years ago. The equipment is a lot to lug around so I usually find my phone enough nowadays. I take dozens of pictures just to get one good one and, even then, I have to manipulate them on my computer. We have a huge box of pre-digital photos from across the past 40 years. Currently, I am digitizing them through my scanner and putting them up in the Cloud so they are available for my wife when I’m gone.

How did she turn into this? – 2020

Yesterday, this little girl popped out of the box. It is a terrible, 1978 photo reminiscent of the time. I am her godfather in spite of being a life-long atheist. Now she has her own, lovely family and looks very happy.

It all feels a bewilderingly long way away. How fate deals with our lives! I like to control things and although time is the one thing we can’t control, we can choose how to use it.

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