Week 647

Sunday, 16th May, 2021

Woke up at 6.00 am to really heavy rain. We are forecast to be wet all day today. Daren’t go out because I had my hair cut yesterday and don’t want to destroy the style. Looks like we have the poorest weather today. The North of England have a dry morning at least. I’m going to be working in the gym today. Haven’t even put sun cream on this morning. For years I resisted using any. Typical man being careless with my health and reluctant to use cosmetics.

Living in Greece forced me to re-think that and age has now forced me to be really serious. My wife’s Brother-in-Law has had numerous melanomas cut out. Our lovely neighbour has a serious melanoma which has moved into his lymph glands which we know becomes very serious at that stage. I now put this all-day-long, factor 30 sunscreen on each morning. It means I can forget about it for the rest of the day. Feels a bit ‘girly’ but, at 70, I’m confident enough of my sexuality to cope.

In spite of relaxation of the Covid rules, the threat of a new variant is putting the government under pressure to reconsider its timelines. We really are getting stir-crazy. Travelling will be the only way to relieve it. I am desperate to go back to France. I am very desperate to go back to Athens and nothing will stop me going to the North of England in October. The foreign travel requires a Covid-passport of some sort.

For that reason, I have installed the NHS-app on my smartphone. I have resisted it until now but it says upfront, This is not the NHS COVID-19 track & trace app. If it was, I wouldn’t have considered it. However, installing this app on your smartphone or iPad provides access to one’s whole-life medical history. Actually, mine goes back as far as June 17th, 1980 when I had a bad road traffic accident. To a dates/data freak like me, it is 7th heaven. Of course, it also provides an immediate record of our Covid vaccination record which will be recognised/accepted at a number of airports and European borders.

Well, 10.30 am and the rain has stopped, the sun is out and the garden is 13C/55F and feels very pleasant even in shorts. This has allowed me to set up the smoker in the garden to finish off the smoked salmon side which has been 48hrs in preparation.

Cured Gravadlax stage

The side of the salmon is frozen for 24hrs and then cured in salt and herbs for 24 hrs. The final stage is 1 hr cold smoking with apple woodchips.

Cold-smoked salmon – delicious!

I can get addicted to smoked salmon but have to ration myself. Anything smoked runs the risk of one ingesting carcinogens so has to be eaten in moderation. Next time we might just eat it at the Gravadlax stage and forgo the smoking.

Monday, 17th May, 2021

Big Day. New reading glasses this morning. Difficult to control the excitement. For years I have looked over half-moon glasses at pupils and staff alike, thinking myself endearing or scary. Today, I will return to ‘normal’, full glasses again. I’ve also got to have a blood test first but I know I will pass that. I’ve got blood. Later we will collect a new train ticket for Pauline. She and her re-found friend have decided to make it a sleepover – if that’s the right term – and she will go on the Thursday and come back on the Friday. I will be Home Alone.

Yesterday, a window of warm sunshine lured us out for a walk. As we got to the furthest point from our house, the heavens opened and my hair was utterly destroyed. Couldn’t do a thing with it. I even had to wring my shorts and tee shirt out.

I have only had the sight in one eye all my life and a fear has been that it made me vulnerable when I got in to fights as I did regularly in my school days being a bit of a bully and when I was playing rugby. Nowadays, I fear cataracts and the, admittedly, limited dangers of their removal. When my Mother-in-Law had her cataracts removed, she was warned that there was a reasonably high risk of complications and loss of sight. That would be catastrophic for me. Fortunately, my recent test showed no deterioration and my long sight has actually improved over the years.

Our own lemons – Spring 2011

Ten years ago this month, we were cultivating our Greek garden where I was growing Mediterranean vegetables, maintaining our olive trees and picking fresh lemons from our trees. There is something quite magical for an English person to grow and pick citrus fruit. So much Mediterranean cooking uses lemons and their juice but to just pick them from your own tree when you need them is unforgettable.

Dylan at 80

While I was growing up at Grammar School, the intellectual choice of ‘pop’ music was not the nascent Beatles or Rolling Stones but the poetry and politics of Bob Dylan. I would like to say I loved it but I was young and trying to develop thinking processes. The older lads initiated me in to the Dylan/student culture which culminated in the 1968 student revolution, the Paris riots and General Strike.

The BBC Radio 4 Today programme I wake up to was celebrating Bob Dylan turning 80 this week. A real sign of the times. Revolution aging and tamed although the lingering line still sings to me:

Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m so much younger now …

Bob Dylan – My Back Pages – 1967

There is a real sense in which aging takes us back to to our youth and childhood. The things I complicated in my youth, things I looked for hidden meaning in suddenly reveal themselves as far simpler and more accessible. The joy in simple pleasures becomes so much more obvious and attainable than youthful angst would allow. In age, there is no more reason to pretend. I’m younger than that now.

Turned out to be a lovely, sunny day and much warmer than the North of England at 17C/63F. Had a delightful walk with loud bird song all around as well as a gym workout. Life can be wonderful at times. I’m feeling really optimistic!

Tuesday, 18th May, 2021

Gorgeous morning with blue sky and strong sunshine. Everywhere is flooded in warmth and light. For me too, as if a trigger has been switched, I am flooded with happiness. It is a wonderful feeling of optimism. My reluctance to embrace life has been swept away and I will attack it with a will.

We were up at 6.00 am and already this morning we have had a Sainsbury’s delivery. After writing my Blog, and drinking coffee, I am going to spend the morning outside in the garden. The lawns are growing rapidly now and all need cutting again. I have herbs to plant out and pot up. The hedges need trimming and there are plants to be dead-headed. Later, we’ll go for a walk and I will do a workout in the gym. I am determined to improve.

The Memory Box threw up two images from 2010 at the Greek house this morning. We put our Yorkshire home up for sale in 2009. It was a good, big, 5-bedroomed house in a nice place but it didn’t sell. It was a difficult time for the housing market and it was a year before we had a single viewing. In 2010, I took the decision that we could wait no longer and cut the price. We then set off for our drive to Greece. Of course, just as we drove through Italy, we received a call from our estate agent to say an offer had been tabled for the house.

With our spirits raised, we drove on to Sifnos. Once there and with the internet re-established, all the negotiations were conducted via the net. I was fortunate to have a new computer and scanner in my Greek office and able to provide all the documents necessary. Because we were downsizing, we wanted to sell as much of the furniture as possible. We produced a price list and the family moving in bought virtually everything. It was a great result and put us in a happy position for the next stage.https://www.youtube.com/embed/3Gm5vGyOYmM?feature=oembed

It’s funny how writing about these experiences is cathartic for me, helps me come to terms with them and move on. I love writing. I think I could write an exciting and interesting film script as much about the future as the past. Having kept James Joyce’s, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man with me since my youth, I think I have one in me. Can’t put it off much longer. Running out of time.

The day has been wonderfully warm and sunny from start to finish. We did all the gardening. A lovely, little lady came and took pints of blood from us for the Oxford Covid survey we are taking part in. This is the anti-body test. We also did the swab test. We sat the testing lady in the sunshine of our back garden where the micro climate gives us a delightful atmosphere. I managed to extract her life story while she was there. At school she was teased about being a boy because her surname was Paul. She was also teased about being French because her first name is Renu. It doesn’t seem to have harmed her. She’s a lovely girl with a beautiful name.

Wednesday, 19th May, 2021

The morning has started off damp but warm. We are told it will get much better as the day progresses. Not a great deal on today so I will be concentrating on exercise and, maybe, a bit of gardening. I heard yesterday that I’d passed Monday’s blood test with flying colours so I will live another week. Also yesterday, I forgot to include my little sister, Caroline, who lives in southern Ireland and was a shocking 59 years old. I hope she had an enjoyable birthday.

Any regular reader of the Blog will know that I am a news junkie. I listen to news, watch news, read news and analyse news, Blog news, Tweet news and post it on MessengerFacebook and Instagram as the day progresses. I follow local newspapers from places I have lived or meaningfully visited. I believe it is important to keep the cultural identity one forges in life up to date. As you will see below, a couple of recent items really caught my eye.

In the early 1970s, I was introduced to the city of Chester. I think I had visited it once with my parents who wanted me to understand the history en route to a holiday in Wales. The second time round and with real generosity of spirit, I was taken to the racecourse, on the river where I found I was a natural oarsman, to Sealand Road to watch Chester City draw 0-0 and the shops and bars of the city at Christmas time.

Who’d have thought this in Chester? Although, now you come to mention it ….

I remember being entranced by ‘exotic’ products I found in one shop and bought my Mum a tin of octopus salad as part of a Christmas present. The moment she saw it, her nose turned up, it went in the pantry and was never seen again. It was a time when the English thought garlic was for smelly-breathed Italians and olive oil was purely medicinal. Nowadays, Octopus salad is high on my list of delicacies and we cook and eat it regularly.

Lovely warm sunshine for our walk and gardening this afternoon. Sun just transforms everything as very few other things do.

Thursday, 20th May, 2021

Feel a bit sad and frustrated this morning. I like to be in control of my life and the decisions that decide how it progresses. My wife would say I am a control-freak. Currently, I feel totally out of control. Others have me in their hands. The general direction of travel is essentially imprisonment at the moment. This vacillating, Tory government are making European travel look like a distant mirage. Keen to view Spanish properties. Desperate to get to France soon. Absolutely determined to fly to Athens later. I can go but with huge penalties. My heart says I refuse to be dominated by anything or anybody. My head says chill. Calm down and wait.

Ancona – Patras

Just to provoke me, conditions today conspire in some sick joke. Outside, it feels cool in the off-sea breeze and the sky is overcast. Strong winds and rain are forecast for later in the day. My Inbox delivers an advert from Superfast Ferries for ‘privileged customers’ offering reductions on early booking. We have made 30 crossings from Ancona in Italy to Patras on the Greek Peloponnese. Having driven 1000 miles to get on the ship, we rewarded ourselves with a Luxury cabin for the 24 hr trip down the Adriatic. Today, a return trip would cost us €1,200.00/£1035.00 which is a hefty but necessary price. I would pay it without thinking if it got me anywhere.

At the same time, my Memory Box throws up photos from this day in 2010. We had been in our Greek house for 6 years and things were working smoothly. We thought life was developing quietly and well. I felt I had just transferred my UK life to the idyll of a small, Greek island. It allowed my wife to continue doing the things she enjoyed in her English home – cooking, making marmalade, etc. and I had my Office, computer, the internet, writing and photography.

In the days when I ate sausages.
In the days when I ate toast.
Our island Electrical Megastore

Here, my wife is ordering a new fridge-freezer which was delivered to our house roped to the back of a very strong Greek man. I remember its maker was not very inspiringly called Pitsos but it turned out to be excellent.

People and events intervened and we felt compelled to sell and retreat back to our UK home. And so it is now. People and events are pulling the strings.

Friday, 21st May, 2021

Need some warmth from somewhere. Strong, chilly winds are stalking the area. Mediterranean it is not! Been up since 6.00 am and the winds have been strong all night.

Fifty years ago this Autumn at midnight on a very dark and chilly evening, I was hurtling down the motorway from Ripon to West Yorkshire in an old Morris Minor. In the car were Nigel, Kevin and Chris.Tolley? I had no idea where we were going and, largely, neither did they. I had run from the Cottages to the student bar for last orders. They had been extended by an hour after closing time and alcohol had clouded our judgement. We embarked on some madcap scheme to just drive anywhere. I remember things being collected en route like traffic cones and toilet seats and stuffed into the boot. We were really living life on the edge. We ended up in Huddersfield, at Kevin’s request, outside an all-night chip shop opposite the University. It was near where Kevin went to school at Salendine Nook.

It was my first time in Huddersfield. I had not visited any other post-industrial, Northern town in my life. I remember this building pictured below which was just round the bend from the chip shop. It struck me as incredibly modern and forward-looking with its modernist, concrete frieze compared with the buildings of my home village. Actually, it had only been built months before we arrived. We didn’t stay long and were soon on a return trip up the motorway to a Service Station where we all ordered huge, fried Breakfasts and recalled tall tales of the night’s high jinx. Fairly typical student stuff, I suppose, but significant enough for me to remember.

Sign of the times. The Huddersfield Examiner features photos of this structure being torn down exactly 50 years on. The concrete used has been found to be unsafe and the area will be redesigned. Huddersfield is moving on without us. Still our film script is evolving on a different path and, between us, we must make sure the future is good.

The times they are a changin ...

I embrace and welcome change. Standing still is never an option. We all have to move forward and extract every ounce of enjoyment from our lives. I was looking at one of the changes that modern life has meant for me echoed by my Bank Account. The modern world of communication is so important. I pay out each month quite a lot to send and receive information. None of us could have ever conceived of this 50 years ago.

 Monthly Cost
Daily copies of The Times on iPad x 2£  26.00
TV Licence£  12.00
Sky-Q£  95.00
Mobile contracts x 2£111.00
BT Phone/Broadband/Sport£111.00
Web Site + Blog£   30.00

£4,620.00 per year on information communication

Went down to the beach this morning just as the tide was receding. Very windy and rather cold.

There was sea foam all over the beach where the angry water had been. That is how life can be. We move forward, leave traces on the beach, recede, move forward ….

Saturday, 22nd May, 2021

This is one of the stranger and longer Blogs of the year. It begins with Socrates goes on to Take That and ends with the North Yorkshire Moors and Witches. They are very unlikely associates. However, it might be interesting to some.

Baruch Spinoza  1632 – 1677

I don’t believe in god. I don’t believe in an after-life. I don’t believe in completely free will. I have long believed in Determinism. When I say long, I remember really annoying my Mum at the Dinner table when I was 18 explaining the 17th Century Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. Actually, Spinoza did believe in god and that all things were ordained by god denying his creations free will. As a Roman Catholic, denying people the freedom to do right and wrong is not an option. Heaven & Hell are there for a reason – to reward and punish – to morally control society.

490 – 377 BC

Initially found in Socratic dialogue, Determinism is the belief that all human behaviours flow from genetic or environmental factors that, once they have occurred, they are very difficult or impossible to change. For example, a determinist might argue that a person’s genes make him or her anxious, alcoholic, overweight, aggressive, etc. A causal determinist would look for the prior environmental factors leading to murder, suicide, love, betrayal and would be unlikely to lean on concepts like evil and guilt or culpability.

Although my intellect accepts this theory, my spirit fights against it energetically. I have always thought strength of character and determination can effect change. It fits with my character. Bulls in china shops don’t take, No, for an answer. If I want something, I don’t accept failure very easily. I bend every sinew, intellectual or physical, to achieve it. And yet, maybe that whole approach is genetically programmed. It may be in my DNA. We are, after all, just miracles of matter.https://www.youtube.com/embed/AffZUJE7oNw?feature=oembed

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
So come on, let me love you….…This is the life we’ve been given
So open your heart and start loving
We can make a start if we only learn to listen

The Garden – Take that

You may see what sparked this bonkers Blog this morning. This song written and performed by Take That – not a group I would have come across without the coaxing of my wife, perfectly encapsulates the determinist/free-will dilemma in all of us. You can hear the soldiers (of time) coming because We all fall, in the end. We’re just miracles of matter. This is the life we’ve been given. presents the determinist case set against the free will of open your heart…We can make a start if we only learn to listen.

Yes, I know, just dismiss it as the whimpering of a sad, old lunatic. Return to the real world and dismiss this from your mind. I’m going in the gym to exorcise such demons but, before I do, just one more memory of exercise 50 years ago…. And, once again, it started in the Students bar.

The Lyke wake Walk

It was Summer, 1971 and late – 10.50 pm. I left Byland corner hurriedly and sprinted to the bar. Something unusual was going on. People were gathering in unusual numbers. The Reverend Kent was there. It was as if I had stumbled into a religious meeting. After a couple of quick drinks, Kevin (Why did I listen to him?) said, Shall we go as well? Where, I had no idea. There was a coach outside with a large number of students on it dressed for hiking. I was in jeans, tee shirt and desert boots and a little light headed from two, quick drinks. Kevin & I went to the back of the coach, as usual, and I soon learnt that we were going to be doing the traditional Lyke Wake Walk but in darkness for the first 5 hours.


I had never heard of The Lyke Wake Walk and, by the next morning, I never wanted to hear of it again. It is a complete crossing of the North Yorkshire moors and a distance of, approximately, 40 miles. Kevin had been told that the army had run the entire course in under 5 hours. He suggested that we try to beat it…. while dressed for an evening in the bar and in total darkness. All I remember was the beauty of Fylingdales at night, the total exhaustion as we finished and the huge blisters that lasted over a week. Still, I’m entitled to a certificate officially naming me as a Dirger. The girls were pronounced Witches but I’ve no idea who that applied to.

Week 646

Sunday, 9th May, 2021

Weak sunshine but quite warm at 16C/61F this morning. Went out for an early walk which I will follow by a hard, gym session. Our regular route takes us through our Development to the wooded perimeter and we noticed a new house with scaffolding up for the past few days. A couple of days ago, an array of solar panels were attached to the roof. We moved in 5 years ago. The Development was completed 18 months later. Most of the later houses had solar panels included because of a change of government policy and subsidies. The back of our house is south-facing and would be ideal for solar power generation.

This morning we noticed the owners in their front garden as we walked. I took the opportunity to speak to them. They were delighted to talk about it and not the least affronted that my first question was about the price. Everything here – 12 panels, storage battery, cabling and smart meters fitted and working for just £8,500.00. Sounds a bargain. The panels supply the storage battery which supplies the house during the day and the National grid during the night which reduces household bills and brings in a small income. Unfortunately, the cost/benefit analysis shows that it would take 11.5 years to break even. At the age of 81, I suspect I won’t be too worried about cheap electricity. I have much more important ambitions to achieve by then!

It is looking rather uncertain for foreign travel at the moment. Spain may have to wait for next Spring. Our first trip will almost certainly be to France. Brexit means I will have to smuggle most of my wine purchase but I’m not drinking at all at the moment so I won’t need too much anyway.

Lovely Gym!

I have a store which would provide me with a bottle each day for 3 years. I know what you’re thinking. Who could manage with just one bottle a day? At this rate, I might just become a White Ribboner. I now preach moderation. We are still holding on to the possibility of our trip to Athens in late August and we will spend some time in the North of England in October.

Monday, 10th May, 2021

Lovely, warm and sunny start to the morning just after 6.00 am. Mondays are always so exciting – INR self test, putting the bins out, exercise. Providing all the services. I need a trip away! Actually, I think I need some excitement and a bit of danger to liven me up.

Instead, I am going to Rustington Specsavers for an eye test and to buy a couple of new pairs of reading glasses. Nothing has changed in my eyesight for years. I have been wearing reading glasses for 15 or so years but my distance has been improving with age and I rarely wear my main glasses at all.  Booked 8.30 am appointments and arrived early. During the pandemic, Rustington, a small town dominated by the wealthy retired, has installed canopies over all the pavements so we don’t have to queue in the rain.

No need for canopies today. Warm sunshine and hardly any wrinklies up yet. Specsavers was fun. I was tested by a lovely, young girl called Shiela who had come from Hong Kong to do a Cambridge University degree 7 years ago but had stayed in UK as the situation on her home island deteriorated. She does return to see her family in the summer but things are getting worse and she’s not sure how long she can continue. She offered to take me with her next time, which was nice. My eyes were unchanged, by the way.

I wanted two, new pairs of reading glasses and the little girl doing that part of the service was from Colorado. I had already chosen my frames and was trying to get an invite to her family home but didn’t make a lot of headway. She was definitely less friendly. There are some very unfriendly people in the world … or is it just me?

While I was out, a message came in on my phone. Love getting messages on my phone. It was from Dr Rob who bought our house in Helme, West Yorkshire over 20 years ago. It had almost an acre of garden and we had spent a fortune on plants. Just before we left, we had put in some small rhododendron plants. Just 21 years later, he sent me a photo via Twitter of a couple of those plants flowering happily.

Slade House, Helme

I have a very selective memory. I always remember plant names. People accuse me of forgetting important events but I remember the genus of the crimson rhododendron was Britannia. I replied to Dr Rob with that information and apologised because we are both vehemently anti-Brexit although it wasn’t conceived of in the 1990s. He replied saying he would have to replace it with a Europa one if available. I have found Rhododendron Europa and have agreed to take it up to him in October when we call in for coffee.

Looks like I’ll have to book at least 4 if not 5 days to fit all our visits in. I want to take a tram ride for the first time to Manchester. Andy Burnham is pledged to extend the tram to Middleton now which ought to sway some voters’ minds when he moves on to lead the Labour Party.

Tuesday, 11th May, 2021

Lovely, lovely morning. Up to sunshine and blue sky. It was presaged by this gorgeous sky over the Marina last night.

Red Sky at Night …

Dave Roberts posted this of Rochdale last night which doesn’t bode well for his weather today.

Dark, Satanic … Hills

Domestic things going on today include a Sainsbury’s delivery and a fresh fish delivery. Probably go out to the Garden Centre for fresh season’s herbs which no cook could be without.

Pauline is going to be connecting with her, old college friend by phone for the first time since 1973 when they went their different ways. She’s upstairs getting changed for the call. It’s fascinating the difference between the sexes. In these nervous situations, Men tend to think they can busk it and often fail badly. Women pay attention to things that give them confidence and ‘looking good/feeling good about themselves’ is one of those things. I have no doubt that Pauline and her friend, ‘Blondie’ will make a great success of it because they both really want to. The next stage will be for them to meet in person.

Care Home, Waterhead, Oldham

This time 12 years ago, we were retired and preparing to drive off to Greece for the Summer. We had two, major concerns: Pauline’s lovely Mum who was 96 years old and struggling and selling our Huddersfield house. Just up the road from Mum-in-Law’s flat was this newly appointed care home. We didn’t tell her but went for a visit to check it out. I got the shock of my life.

Ellen Aged 96

As we were shown round, a woman recognised me. I recognised her. She was our former Head of Governors, Ellen Brierly. I didn’t know the context of why she was there but it soon became apparent. She started spouting miles of educational language and I listened respectfully. Suddenly, I began to realise that she was using all the right words but in all the wrong order. Nothing she said made sense. She kept saying, It is nice to see you again. When I said, I had to move on with my tour, her old face crumpled and she expressed disappointment. I was rescued by a nurse/orderly coming in, taking Ellen by the arm and saying, Shall I read the newspaper to you? Another one whispered that Ellen was suffering badly with Dementia. Ellen lived another year sinking slowly into oblivion. Pauline’s Mum lived another year but stayed in her flat and was sharp as a button right up to the end.

Wednesday, 12th May, 2021

Pleasant morning but I’ve woken up aching all over. Yesterday, I really pushed myself in the gym and I’m paying for it this morning. Woke up in the middle of the night aching and found it hard to get back to sleep. As a consequence, didn’t get up until 7.00 am. Outside it is 13C/55F and weakly sunny but is forecast to be a pleasant day. Going to do a bit of gardening potting up the herbs that we bought yesterday – Sage, Thyme, Oregano and Rosemary. Bit early for Basil which we use on salads and to make pesto. Don’t know why but I can’t seem to get in to it as much this year.

My wife is unhappy with the results of her first haircut in 6 months. She went to her usual hairdresser but thought the cut was poor. When we were in the North, she went to Vidal Sassoon in Manchester and later in Leeds.

Hair Salon? Looks more like our Dining Room!

There isn’t one here without her going to London. I wanted her to go to the salon in Covent Garden but she’s found a Sassoon-trained stylist near us and is going to have her second cut in a week there on Thursday morning.If that doesn’t work, we are off to the city. The International Creative Director who charges £320.00 (sharp intake of breath) per cut in Covent Garden was a young trainee in Manchester when Pauline first went there.

Βαθύ – Deep – Lunch on this day – 2010

Memory Box is painful today. On this day in 2010, we drove in baking sunshine down to Vathi Bay for Lunch at one of our favourite tavernas, Okeanida – The Wave.

The Wave – Vathi

Thursday, 13th May, 2021

As expected, it is wet this morning. Yesterday, I managed to rake, cut and feed the lawns and my neighbour’s. The rain this morning is just in time to water the feed granules in. Have woken up to bits of seagull strewn across the beautifully striped grass but no body – must have been just a skirmish.

Pauline is off for her second haircut. I am kicking my heels at home. Actually, I am in the gym punishing myself as any self-respecting lapsed Catholic should be doing! Ironic to see rain today because it has been so warm that I have designated it officially the start of shorts & Teeshirt season which will, hopefully, last well in to October. No clothes for 6 months!

It is more than a year since we last went to the David Lloyd Health Club. Because we have constructed our own gym with high quality equipment, we don’t miss their apparatus. We do miss meeting nice people a little but we especially miss swimming in the heated outdoor pool which we used all year round. For more than 20 years, we have discussed a pool in the back garden at various houses. Not a huge pool, of course, but one which is becoming increasingly popular from Endless Pools. An outlet has been established in our local Garden Centre Business Park. We called in yesterday.https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ5dIrGA6pg?feature=oembed

An endless pool is only about 12ft long and contains a powerful motor which creates a current of water strong enough to keep the most powerful swimmer static but afloat. The full exercise is possible without ever having advanced along the pool at all. There are seats at one end for a jacuzzi and a motorised canopy to keep out the rain. Effectively, only one person can swim at a time but that doesn’t really matter, because, if one drowns the other is on hand to sign the death certificate.

The cost, including installation would be around £50,000.00 which is a lot of money and cost effectiveness has to be considered. Even if it was used for an hour a day, every day for 10 years, it is still quite expensive. Ten years membership of the Health Club for two people would only cost about £20,000.00. Assuming the Covid threat goes away, it might be better to just take up our membership again exclusively for swimming but so many people around us are installing Living-Room-sized Hot Tub / Jacuzzis that we thought we might just go one better.https://www.youtube.com/embed/BlCbWrkt7SY?feature=oembed

I don’t know anything about Ed Sheeran although I have heard of him but I came across this with Bocelli and really enjoyed it. Thought I’d store it here.

Friday, 14th May, 2021

Up early for Sainsbury’s delivery. Rained over night and quite overcast this morning. Domestic life continues with another side of salmon being prepared and cured for smoking. We are going out to a pottery store which specialises in huge, garden pots which we passed on the road to Gatwick Airport. With foreign travel increasingly looking difficult, pots may remain viable for the summer this year and our expanded garden patio is looking a bit bleak so pots and plants will soften it.

Fortunately, Pauline was delighted with her 2nd haircut yesterday. That’s saved some cash! It looks nice and it isn’t far from home so it makes life easier. The thought of a train into London every time was a bit daunting. She’s also arranged to meet her closest college friend for the first time since 1973. Her friend is widowed and very keen to meet up which is nice. She sounds a really lovely lady.

Anyway, Pauline is getting a train to Milton Keynes quite early in the morning on May 27th. We were surprised how difficult it is to get there. Just driving, which wouldn’t be fun for her alone because it involves the M25 + M1, is a 2.5 hr journey. The train involves a change at Clapham Common and takes just over 3 hrs. To make it worthwhile, she will leave before 7.00 am and not get back until after 9.00 pm. Still, it sounds like it will be a lovely reunion and, hopefully, a continuing relationship beyond texting or Christmas cards. Perhaps, next time, I will drive her and meet the ‘girls’ myself.

Papadopoulion, Kalamata, Peloponnese

I‘ve always wanted to drive to the south coast of the Greek Peloponnese. Especially, it would be lovely to stay in Kalamata which is famous for the best, Greek olive oil. The whole region has the most wonderful, all year-round climate. So many ambitions have got to be achieved soon when your 70 already. I read Greek newspapers most days to keep up with the country I’ve spent so much time in. An article this morning in Kathimerini featured a luxury residential development for the over-65s.

It has all the fitness services – gyms/indoor and outdoor pools, integrated Spa/Massage/Beauty Treatment – that one could want to stay alive for decades to enjoy the experience plus luxury restaurants for those reluctant cooks and cleaning services. Properties include wifi, satellite tv, etc. and are set in olive groves and citrus gardens.
(Price on Application)

So often the saying that Life isn’t a rehearsal has impacted my life. Everything I do feels like a rehearsal all the time. Next time I will do it differently. Next time I will do it better. Next time I will succeed. It is so hard to realise that we write our own film script. It doesn’t just happen to us. Why does it take so long, until the age of 70, to realise that seizing the day is so important? The rehearsal is over and real time is here!

Saturday, 15th May, 2021

What a poor day. Grey skies and feeling cold. I don’t think we are getting much above 13C/55F in mid-May. A year ago, temperatures were nearer 22C/70F and we were on the beaches of the south coast.

Middleton Beach

We went out to buy things for the garden yesterday. First to a pot seller where we splashed out about £150.00 on 6 largish pots. Not quite sure what will go in them yet. We came back and visited our local garden centre of bags of soil and grit in readiness for planting them up.

I don’t quite seem to have the enthusiasm for gardening that I have had in recent years. I don’t really know why although it might have something to do with my strict diet and exercise regime. I seem to be tired all the time. But I am losing weight which is spurring me on. My mistake was marrying a fantastic cook. Our meal yesterday was griddled swordfish steaks with wonderful asparagus spears. How can one avoid eating too much? I really should have married someone who couldn’t cook at all. Now, I would be nibbling the occasional sandwich and looking stick-thin.

I heard of someone described as a gym bunny the other day. You would never describe me as a bunny anything ever! However, I am improving. Thought for the Day this morning had this aphorism: It never rains roses. If you want more roses, you have to plant them yourself. I am trying hard to plant roses with the faith that they will eventually flower.

Valencia Palace Hotel – this day 2018

Had a stream of Direct Messenger contacts flying around this morning. Currently it is the best way to stay in touch with people who are distantly located. This morning it was my cousin in the south of France and my brother in Maidenhead intervening in my orange juice & coffee. Yesterday, it was a girl from college, who I haven’t seen for nearly 50 years, sending me an animated-gif. My mind struggles to get to grips with the significance of time and space but it is fun.

Valencia – a beautiful city

I record, tabulate, Calendar, Blog all the events of my life. Many people find it weird, amusing, sad but I can’t help it. I love to be able to recall events that my memory only hazily brings back. Sometime, without my records, I find that I have totally redesigned an event so that it has little relation to what actually happened. This morning, the memory box reminded me that just 3 years ago today, we were checking in to the Valencia Palace Hotel for what turned out to be a lovely, short break. It actually feels so much longer ago.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NGorjBVag0I?feature=oembed

I found myself listening to Leonard Cohen yesterday. It is sad almost mournful sense of loss that permeates his songs. It certainly reminds me of my old friend, Nigel, who is an artist in North Yorkshire. It doesn’t help. I cry a lot anyway. I was interested and rather reassured listening to Gary Lineker this morning describing how he cries when he’s happy and he cries when he’s sad. Thank goodness I am not the only one. It is not a weakness but a strength. Pretending to be strong when you’re not is a weakness.

Week 645

Sunday, 2nd May, 2021

Lovely, warm & sunny morning. Going to do some gardening – feeding the lawns which I cut yesterday, completing the hedge trimming and generally preparing plants for the summer. Going to do this before our walk later in the day.

I’ve got a couple more entries that involve College days so grit your teeth if you hate it and look away if it gets you down.

Tash in his Digs – 1970

There were a lot of Johns in my College intake. In 1951, I think it was the most popular First Name in the country. This young man was a John but popularly known as Tash – I don’t know why! What really struck me from this photo was how ‘old’ it looked. Frighteningly so. The curtains, the chair, the television and the calendar on the wall all scream another age. Who has a printed calendar nowadays? We use online, synchronised calendars

Tash front right 50 years on.

It is so hard to accept we change with age. Many of us are far too vain to expose ourselves to scrutiny. At least these old men were brave enough to do it. I have written before of my struggles against age. I always hated old men walking round with their mouths open looking vacant. In recent years, I have caught myself doing exactly that and have a campaign with myself to curb it not entirely successfully. If you catch me, hit me!

Monday, 3rd May, 2021

I have to go back up to Surrey this morning to help my sister-in-law with an IT problem. She is 84 and very wrinkly plus partially sighted but she fights to use modern technology more than many of her age. It is important not to let yourself fall behind. Fight to keep up. Giving in is decidedly aging. P went to the Blue Coat school in Oldham at a time when people generally had no conception of a computer at all. It is a steep learning curve and I applaud her for making the effort.

You hear of people who don’t even have email accounts. Can you believe that? I couldn’t cope without one. Actually, I’ve got three for different people. How do people buy things online if they don’t have an email to send a confirmation or invoice to? How do you do online banking, investing, reading an online newspaper, having a BBC account without an email?  You can’t even register an iPad without an email. All our televisions are online and surely you need an email to signup to Netflix and Spotify. How does anyone cope without one?

Admittedly, I have been involved in IT and computers for 40 years. My whole life is controlled by and recorded on them. I am a natural teacher and I cannot bear to see intelligent people failing to keep up with the technological world. A few days with me and they would be converted. It is one of the things that you must do before you die. In fact, it will prolong your life. Book Medical Appointments online, record them on your web calendar along with your hair dresser appointments. It gives you such control.

Being one of the 20 men (boys) in a college of around 600 women was quite a stressful experience but I survived it. The men, being in such a minority did develop a group identity and I was one of 5 Johns. 25% of the male intake were called John. I am in contact with some of them. My old friend, John Ridley, who held my head over the toilet that night I got drunk will always be on my contact list.

John Holden – 2019 – Morecambe

I haven’t seen John Coates for years now although he bought me an egg-coddler as a wedding present and I have never seen John Holden since 1972. I don’t think anyone has apart from John Ridley.

I don’t think I had one conversation with John Morris while I was at college but he was told of my political views by John Ridley and contacted me to discuss them. I have really enjoyed corresponding with him. He is an interesting man who has travelled all over Europe as an Education Adviser and has lots of interesting tales to tell.

John Morris with John Ridley – 2019

Received a Messenger contact from Peter Holgate at 7.00 this morning. I’m not sure why but he is trying to keep his spirits up.

He’s a sad kid! Actually, if I’m honest, we are all a bit sad at the loss of our youth. We just struggle to keep cheerful.

Tuesday, 4th May, 2021

Lovely, sunny, mild but breezy morning. Going to do some work outside, a walk and then time in the gym. Got to keep active. Might nip down to the beach to see a fairly rough sea crashing dramatically on the esplanade.

I wrote recently how much I enjoyed and was quite surprised to enjoy a 3 series drama called Keeping Faith. I casually watched Series 3, episode 1 and then realised it was important to watch from the start and I was so pleased I did. The narrative is gripping; the central character is compelling and I found the soundtrack quite obsessive. It reaches deep down inside me quite frighteningly.https://www.youtube.com/embed/7gzZEtiusO4?feature=oembed

Who has ever heard of Amy Wadge? I’ve captured my favourite songs and embedded them here for you to try out but they are all worth listening to and available on YouTube. You can even access it without an email address because you don’t need to register.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Gun6Jsmf7WQ?feature=oembed

I am not an actor. I can’t pretend to be someone else convincingly. I find it hard enough to play myself at times. I had to do subsidiary Drama as a concomitant of English Literature. Right from the start, I wasn’t comfortable with rolling around on a Drama Hall floor pretending to be imaginary animals, animated trees and reluctant lions. My strength and interest was in analysing text.

Val Folb – Top Right

The Drama teacher was a 30-something, rather scatty and scruffy young woman who always looked like she had just got up. Soon after we left, she married an air force officer from nearby RAF Topcliffe and moved away. I understand she is still alive although her husband died quite a while ago of cancer. She got us to put on our own productions for the end of course. Most selected a piece from an established play. I, of course, in my arrogance, wrote my own on the subject of Sentimentality. It was a typically pretentious teenager piece which I would cringe at now.

Lovely down at the beach this morning …

Unfortunately, it was low tide when we got down to the beach but had a lovely walk for an hour in wonderful sunshine.

Wednesday, 5th May, 2021

Absolutely beautiful, warm morning again after wall-to-wall sunshine yesterday. Watched a good game at Man. City last night after they had scraped snow from the pitch at Maine Road. I support United but wanted City to win last night and they were excellent.

Manchester City last night.

The sunshine makes me want to walk. Actually, I will drop my wife at the supermarket and then set off for my own walk in the sunshine. No clothes to be returned today. The past few days seem to have hit a rich seam for her. The bank account lists:

… and that’s just this month. She’s also looking for a new, Garmin smartwatch so we are going to Currys/PCWorld this morning.

Actually, I’ve got a couple more day’s entries of College photos to store. Today I am focussing on girls/women. Of course, throughout the 3 years, I was fairly saintly and really didn’t get to know many of these girls at all. As a result, I am struggling to name them. Maybe others can. For example, I visited the Cottages once or twice in 1972 but haven’t got a clue who this is.

This woman/girl was definitely in Cottages and called Annette. I can half recognise her face:

Annette & Husband

The Sports Teams are largely a mystery to me. In the first cricket photo, I can name just 5 girls:

FR/L-R:   Linda /  ?? / Julie / Liz / ??
BR/L-R:   ?? / ?? / Anne / Frances?? / ?? / ?? / ?? /

In the second photo I can only name 4:

FR/L-R:   ?? /  Linda / Julie / ?? / ??
BR/L-R:   ?? /  Chris / ?? / ?? / Liz

This posting is a bit niche but I hope some people will appreciate it. It’s always nice to reminisce occasionally. 

The memory box stabbed me with a 9-year-old memory this morning as it featured these photos from 2012:

We had already been in our Greek house for a month and enjoyed Greek Easter celebrations. The weather had been wonderful and we had completely repainted the outside of our house until it was a blinding, Cycladic white. It needed doing every 3 or 4 years because of the strength of the sun. Happy days!

Thursday, 6th May, 2021

In our house, I have nothing to do with spending money only saving and investing it. Total control of spending was handed over to my wife on Day-1 of our marriage. Money really doesn’t worry me. I wanted her to feel secure in the event of something happening to me. I am confident that I will always have enough for what I want to do. When she first rescued me from the Brothel, I had 3 or 4 uncashed monthly salary cheques in a draw. I really didn’t need them. We have joint accounts but my wife does all the monitoring of them. I set targets for our savings and investments. I do the research and preparation. I know which investments will pay what over which timescale. Pauline micro-manages the current account recording every single outgoing daily on an accountancy software program just as her mother did on scraps of paper for years.

Latest arrivals
Reckless Spending!

Retiring, inheriting, paying off the mortgage, selling the Greek house have combined to make us feel totally relaxed. It is a lovely feeling and one within which I can happily hand over all responsibility. So, the list of shops I posted yesterday that purchases have been made from recently was nothing other than a casual observation.

I had two, new pairs of trainers ordered for me. They arrived yesterday and they are fine. They’re trainers. When I went to store them in my shoe cupboard, I found I had three new pairs already there unopened. I won’t need any for years now. Note to feet: don’t change size!

Just to make her smile, I left an accusatory symbol of her reckless spending on the stairs this morning. She was completely unashamed and unapologetic about them. Apparently, they were bargains. I will be 80 before I have outworn them. Will I still be running? You can be absolutely sure I will. I will not give in until I drop!

Three years ago, there was a lot of excitement amongst the Ripon alumni. York St John University invited past students of Ripon who graduated before 1980 to apply to have their Certificates upgraded to Honorary Degrees. The excitement generated was so great, it bordered on the orgasmic. Arrangements were made months in advance. Wardrobes were co-ordinated, gowns & mortars booked and meals arranged. I didn’t go. I didn’t need an honorary degree and I didn’t want to be spooked by ghosts of my past. Little did I know.

Graduation Day – 2018

These young things without a care in the world thought they could carry the Common Room furniture, paintings and standard lamps out onto the lawns and have their pictures taken. Oh, how we laughed!

High Jinx – 1972

Now they are aged and world weary. They will all have seen, countered and survived life’s problems. I have been fascinated to hear about some of them. Not one of us escapes them. And although I’m broken, I am still breathing…

50th Anniversary Celebrations

2019 saw the 50th anniversary of our year’s entrance to the college. I was abroad but was sent some photos of the day.

50th Anniversary Celebrations

Few of these people have met for 50 long years and are suddenly converging on their past. It is a hard concept to struggle with. I wonder how they related to each other.

Friday, 7th May, 2021

Sometimes life can feel so optimistic. At the age of 70, it is important to have new challenges to look forward to. I am beginning to see my way forward to setting some new goals. Fitness and weight loss are high on the agenda. I’m really punishing myself at the moment. Just one, small meal mid-afternoon and about 30% more exercise. I’ve gone through the hard part when mind and body fight to adjust and am in the sweet spot of actually enjoying it. It’s going to be a very energetic Summer.

Angmering Bluebell Wood Yesterday

Went out to vote twice yesterday. The first time, the queues were so long, we turned back. On each occasion, we walked. It was about a 15 mins walk each way and, until recently, I wouldn’t have considered doing anything other than driving. Now, I can’t believe I did that. Walking was so enjoyable. I’m now covering about 200 miles per month. My smart watch and phone app set the targets. I am a sucker for targets. I have to meet/beat them. Sad really, isn’t it?

Pre-cut / Post-cut – the only difference £100 and the sunshine in the kitchen

This morning, my wife is having her first haircut for 6 months. She has got so used to longer hair that she has decided not to have much off. Still, it will make her feel better. My attempts to reunite her with friends from her London College have worked out spectacularly. She exchanges almost daily emails with Blondie aka Christine who was her best friend at college and will soon be arranging to meet all three girls who live close together in Milton Keynes. I’m really pleased for her. At least my research works sometimes.

Before her appointment, we walked on the promenade. The Worthing ‘Eye’ is back up for the Season.

While Pauline was in the hairdressers, I was having a wonderful time in the sunshine pacing the totally empty rooftop of the multi-story car park overlooking the sea. Suddenly, a car park worker appeared in High Vis. jacket and approached me very cautiously.

Are you alright, Sir? he asked.
I’m absolutely fine, I replied.
Only, he said, we’ve been monitoring you on the cameras for the past 20 mins and we were a bit worried about you.
We thought you might be thinking of jumping.

I was so touched that I gave him a hug. Bet they’ve got that on camera as well. I know I look desperate and, probably, I am but it would have taken something to get me scaling the barriers if I wanted to die. I don’t.

I have so much to live for. The reasons to live seem to increase every day. Might be a bit depressed about the Hartlepool byelection and the fact even some intelligent people think Boris Johnson is doing a good job but jumping to one’s death is on another level!

Saturday, 8th May, 2021

What a wonderful morning. The world has changed! It is pouring with rain – quite a rare event. At 6.30 am, the lights are on in the kitchen for the first time for weeks. Water is bouncing down on the patio and Breakfast is liquid too. I am losing weight rapidly and looking to the future. It was a lovely day yesterday and they will get increasingly better now. The Summer is coming. The rain is just an intermediate but necessary stage.

A Coign of Advantage’ – 1895 — Lawrence Alma Tadema

I wrote a few weeks ago about the artwork I had in past houses and how it hadn’t seemed appropriate in more modern homes. Before the pre-Raphaelite period moved into the radical edge of James Whistler it had dissipated into the indulgence of Lawrence Alma Tadema and Frederick Lord Leighton and the walls of our house depicted that.

Flaming June – 1895 – Frederick Lord Leighton

Gradually, we moved a number of pictures to our Greek home. Ultimately, everything went to the Hospice in Worthing. I’m not scared of doing away with the old and starting afresh. To get what one wants, sometimes breaking things is the only way. It can be a strength and a weakness.

The Bigger Picture – David Hockney

So it was that our next two properties have had blank, white walls for a decade. Having lived in galleried walls for so long, it has been quite a release. However, we are edging towards something new. I don’t know if you like Hockney because for a long time I didn’t.

The Arrival of Spring – Hockney’s new exhibition

However, over this decade of purity at home, Hockney has been working his way into my consciousness. This is especially significant because he has refused to accept his age and, unlike many wrinklies, now works exclusively with his iPad to create his pictures. For that reason, the larger ‘canvasses’ are constructed of panels from the screen of an iPad.

Hockney, in his 80s, now lives in Normandy and he has spent the pandemic creating scores of pictures. He has a new exhibition of this latest work in London which I’ll have to visit. Something else to look forward to.

My dear friends in Greater Manchester will be pleased to know that not only did Andy Burnham retain his Mayoralty by a proportion of 4-1 against his nearest challenger but Labour retained control of the majority of councils across the borough. They held on to power in Rochdale, Bury, Oldham, Salford, Tameside, Trafford , Manchester and Wigan. The people of GM are eminently sensible of course.

Week 644

Sunday, 25th April, 2021

A really good sleep last night and woke up refreshed to a lovely morning. Didn’t last long. All but the main Sky-Q box were refusing to work. Breakfast orange juice, tea and coffee accompanied by frantic resetting of all the boxes without success. As soon as you consult the website, it says check your internet connection. How it is possible to read that website without one, I don’t know. Anyway, I have as strong an internet feed as it’s possible to have in UK. Fibre to the door providing Gigabit – well 940mbs download and 120mbs upload – delivery. 

I phoned Sky Technical Help. I was answered by a lovely young woman who I soon found out was 26 years old and called Katy. She was working from Leeds but came from Bradford. She had been intending to get married over a year ago but had been forced to postpone it twice because of Covid and was hoping to go ahead this June.

There are quite long gaps between doing some resetting of the equipment and waiting for the result. We chatted away quite happily. Suddenly, and I am rather slow, I realised she was flirting with me. I said, I am 70 you know. She said I didn’t sound 70 and asked me how I spent my retirement. As I told her about all the travelling I did, she said, I need to get to know you. I told her I would arrange another Sky technical problem before I set off abroad again just to give her the option. She ended the conversation with, Is there anything else I can do for you? before collapsing into a fit of the giggles. For anyone else considering it, this is how to raise the spirits of a sad, old man. The technical problem still isn’t solved, by the way. They are sending an engineer out for that.

Aging can be scary. My wife is obsessed with it. Everyone says she looks 20 years younger than her age but she worries about wrinkles, sagging skin on her arms, sun spots on her skin, lines around her eyes. The two young ladies above were in the 3rd year when we arrived at College. They were thought to be ‘movers & shaker’ by some. Moving and shaking changes its connotation as we age. We just have to learn to embrace it. Fortunately, aging has passed me by and I have retained all my youthful features!

Monday, 26th April, 2021

Wonderful start to the day. Beautiful sky, warm sunshine and …. the lovely girl I spoke to at Sky yesterday had ‘fixed’ all 4 Q-boxes over night. I suspect that she arranged for the software to be ‘flash’ upgraded remotely. All done. I might have to phone her this morning to say thank you. I am getting better at phone calls.

Memory is a mystery to me. Somethings were so delightful that I will never forget them. Somethings were so unbearably painful that I can never wipe them from my mind. In between, there is this continuum of pleasant and dispiriting experiences that quickly fade into the morass of time. That is what the Blog is for and that is what the Cloud storage system serves.

In ‘normal’ times, we would go to France 3 or 4 times a year shopping. We always have a suite in a pleasant hotel on the outskirts of Coquelles with wonderful, well-kept grounds. It is a short drive from the Tunnel and major shopping outlets. Food & wine is the very stuff of life. My Memory Box delivered this scene this morning.

Lovely feet!

I remember it well although it is more than 12 months since we stayed there. What I didn’t remember was that, on this day 4 years ago we arrived in a heavy hailstorm.

Hailing in Cite Europe

We did some shopping, had a wonderful meal in the most unpretentious restaurant before checking in at the hotel.

No Spam here!

As we entered the hotel car park, we were greeted by these little creatures who were herding a flock of chicks supervised by a fat, tabby cat who showed no interest in eating them. Only in France would one not be surprised by this scene although, come to think of it, could have been a donkey or goat in Greece but without the tarmac.

Don’t mate under my car!

These little memories get us through our lives and keep the major movements at bay to surface in the waking hours.

Tuesday, 27th April, 2021

In her 40s

Today is the 13th anniversary of my Mum’s death. The pain of it has faded now as it becomes a blur of memories. My mother was articulate, educated, forceful (controlling even), snobbish, Conservative and conservative, strongly Roman Catholic. She gave me a very stable childhood which she took too far. She really subscribed to the Jesuit, Ignatius of Loyolla, maxim: Give me the child for the first seven years and I’ll give you the man. She tried to control every area of our lives from how we dressed and ate to how we thought. She was quite clear to me that my girlfriends weren’t appropriate and made it clear to them as well.

For someone like me, who inherited her articulacy and strength of character, it was like a red rag to bull. Anything my Mother said, liked, thought, believed, had to be totally rejected and opposed. This particularly centred around religious rejection. I was impressed by the James Joyce character, Stephen Daedalus who rejected his Mother’s entreaty even on her death bed to come back to Roman Catholicism by repeating Lucifer’s Non Serviam. This meant that we weren’t close after I left home. I went home very rarely other than in emergencies although I did ring her twice a week to make sure she was alright. I was aware of my filial duty.

In her 80s with Mike

Right to the very end, having survived umpteen medical problems including cancer and bad falls, she continued to do things her own way. I regularly entreated her to sell her house and move into a community of people. She lost her temper and put the phone down. Even at the end; unable to breath and suffering from worsening Pneumonia, she went to hospital without telling most of us and she was effectively dead before I could get to the hospital. It is one of my big regrets that I didn’t get to say goodbye to her in person. However, I wrote and delivered the Eulogy in one of the few times I have been in a church since leaving home. It did give me some sort of closure.

I was amazed at the views of my brothers and sisters after Mum’s death. I had always thought she saw me as a failure and all of them as more successful. It turns out that they had each been given that view of themselves. She played us off against each other. I’m not sure why but others believe it was to drive us on to compete to be better. There is also that strand of a Catholic catechism that installs original sin in the psyche and leaves us feeling forever unworthy. I rejected Catholicism internally soon after leaving Primary School but feelings of unworthiness have remained with me all my life.

Bit of an emergency yesterday rather threw plans in to disarray. Phone call mid afternoon from Brother-in-Law up in Surrey to say that Pauline’s sister had been taken in to hospital with a suspected heart attack. It took just over an hour to drive up there on what was the most beautiful afternoon of delicious sunshine. It involves a spell on the M25 which seemed quite light luckily. They are both well in to their 80’s and quite frail. Pauline was the ‘mistake’ baby of the family and 14 years younger than her sister. Their daughter is currently in America chaperoning her son at a tennis academy so we had to step in to the breach.

We went round packing bags with clothes and toiletries, phone charger, etc. Off to St Peters Hospital in Chertsey. It felt strange to be back somewhere we lived for 5 years. I didn’t miss it. Hospitals are a nightmare at the moment and this one was worse than most. Spent more time in the carpark than the hospital. When we did get out, we drove back late at night under a pitch black sky with the most beautiful, huge full moon illuminating everything. The M25 has never looked more lovely. Shattered when we got home but had to be up early this morning for a Sainsbury’s delivery. Going for a walk down to the village Post Office to post back … more rejected clothes.

Wednesday, 28th April, 2021

I was looking for a photograph for Pauline’s friend yesterday when I came across this picture from 1974.

Not Rebecca-Jane but Julia

I messaged her last night and attached a copy of the photo. She says that she no longer has the duck. However, she does seem to have turned out to be a lovely girl.

National Bank of Greece – Sifnos 2010

It was eleven years ago that our confidence in the Greek economy was beginning to be shaken. The picture above shows our island branch of the National Bank of Greece (Εθνική Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος). We had spent a decade channelling over £200,000.00 through it for design and building work. On this day 11 years ago, we had over £10,000.00 in our account and there were rumours of financial instability in the country’s banking system. We thought there was a possibility of accounts being ‘locked’. We withdrew it immediately and stored it in cash. Fortunately, we had a few more years before we had to sell the house to protect our investment.

Carol, Husband & little Cathy – 1966

Following on from yesterday’s theme (sorry). Mum was born and lived in London. When war broke out, London children were evacuated to the countryside to avoid the Blitz. Mum was sent to a farm in Wales. I think she was in Builth Wells near Hay-on-Wye. As a 15 year old Townie, she learned to love it. She also fell in love with a lad in the family she was lodging with. After Dad died, she went back to visit him but realised he wasn’t the person she remembered.

However, she always loved Wales after her evacuation experience and persuaded Dad to take us on holiday there. We stayed at Tenby, Saundersfoot and Colwyn Bay. It is there, I fell in love with Carol. I was 15 and she was about 35. I was immediately and absolutely infatuated with her. I think she knew it and rather played along. After the two week holiday, we exchanged addresses and wrote to each other for 2 or 3 months. I’ve always fancied older women!

Forgotten who this is!

I just had to ‘dump’ Carol and move on when I was picked up and taken for a walk by this young lady at Scout-Guide camp. It’s all a learning curve, isn’t it?

Thursday, 29th April, 2021

Glorious morning. Going out for a long walk very early because I have to drive back up to Surrey later on to visit Pauline’s sister in hospital. There’s a chance that we may even be taking her back to her home after her procedure. It sounds daft but I’m quite looking forward to 2-3 hours driving because I’ve done so little of it in the past few months.

I’ve been working hard in the gym and walking each day for 4 full months now. I have only missed my targets 3 times in the past 12 weeks. I have also tightened up my food intake quite considerably and am now into my 4th week without alcohol. I do feel a lot better. In 12 weeks, I have walked/jogged 660 miles or almost 55 miles per week. I am now resolved to increase my efforts. Got to get in shape in case Katy from Sky Technical calls!

At least we have some lovely walks around here. The Sussex Downs are famous for tourist walkers. We have this delicious bluebell wood within easy reach.

Of course, most people come for the sea and the beaches. We are a sunny county and walking by the sea can be quite delightful. This little chap appeared in the shallows the other day.

Worthing Beach

These things are nice distractions and help me to exercise but there is much in life that is so much more important to me. Really miss friends. Six years ago this morning, we were meeting Viv, a lovely girl who did Reprographics for us in our school and was paid peanuts for doing it. We were having coffee with her in the coffee shop in Oldham Library and then went on to meet Brian in Shaw followed by Margaret in Marsden. So many people in the North that I miss!

Friday, 30th April, 2021

The last day of April, 2021. Everything is running away. It is, I must admit, another lovely, sunny day. Up at 6.00 am for Sainsbury’s delivery and then out for an early walk. Going to do some gardening but, otherwise, it is a bit of an empty day today.

I must apologise to regular readers of the Blog who haven’t any connection with my Training College. I have been collecting and collating pictures of that time all those years ago from and for friends who have lost contact. I have spent the past few years communicating with old friends/acquaintances and collecting memories for myself so I will just store them here for future reminiscence. Over the next few days, I will post a number of photos which I will try to link with narrative but which will mainly be for future reference of aficionados.

I was taking English as my main subject but I was mainly surrounded by artists. My mother was an art teacher. I love art but I have no skill at making it. I enjoyed the work many fellow students produced. I was given a grainy, old brochure for the college with what looked like ancient photos of ex-students. When I focussed in on it, I realised that many of the illustrations were from my time. It is a shock to realise how old we are, how black & white our history is and that now is the only time left to address it.

For reference, I think I recognise one of the girls in the top left photo and I think it is Steve Gill in the top right. However, it is the central panel which features my old Digs-mate, John Ridley and, I think, Julie in the centre. Above is Judy Hall in the foreground, a mature student and the Potter, Victor Priem in the back, centre.

I did a bit of research on Victor Priem because he was a fascinating character. The first thing that came up was one of his 1970s pots for sale at auction.

I was shocked to find that he died at the ridiculously young age of 64 but soon found out what a hard start to life he had when I found this.

It was only then that I realised he had lived and worked just a few miles away from my current home. I even found a Times Obituary of another artist who Victor Priem had taught at school in Brighton.

Kevin Sellers was a significant member of my group and he continues to produce art work at his home in Cumbria.


Chris Tolley & his wife live in France, as I understand it although I haven’t had contact with him.

Chris & Margie

I lived with Nigel for all three years of my College life in Digs and in a ‘flat’. He was an extremely interesting lad who taught me a lot. I had never heard of Leonard Cohen in my life until I met Nigel. I was immediately attracted by his anarchy. What would my Mother think?

Steve, Nigel & Julie

I had never drunk wine in my life but Nigel introduced me to red wine and I have never been able to shake it off since. Within weeks of arriving in Ripon, Nigel got me drunk for only the second and last time in my life and I found myself sitting on the white line at the centre of College Road at midnight singing the Beatles, Why don’t we do it in the road? What would my Mother think??

Nigel as I remember him.

The last time I saw Nigel and the lovely Julie was at a party at their home in Rochester, Kent in 1974. How lives change. They split up. Nigel became a Buddhist Monk although he has since emerged back into the world as an artist. Julie did an MA in Art History at Leeds but never remarried. At this distance, it makes one’s heart ache!

Julie as I remember her.

Just one coda for today. The Head of Art at the College was the irascible Derek Bolton pictured here with John Lee, the Mens’ Tutor.

They both look so young. As a student, I remember them as being so much older. John Lee, who I didn’t find easy to relate to, caught me with a girl after hours in the student bar in the Summer of 1973 and gave me a real telling off until I reminded him that I was no longer a student there at which point he turned his ire on the girl. Such memories!

Saturday, 1st May, 2021

Happy first day of May, 2021 to all our readers. It is the most beautiful day down here this morning and all is well with the world. Hope you have a lovely month. 

I am going to start the morning in quite customary way by walking down to the Post Office in the village. I don’t need to tell you why but I do observe that most of the clothes order is being kept this time. Success was modelled happily yesterday and only two items repackaged for return.

When I arrived at college 52 years ago this October, it was a scrambled event. I had learned at the end of August that my A-Levels were not good enough to get me into Newcastle University and I was scrambling around to avoid having to get a job. Ripon, like many Training Colleges, had been instructed to take English students to fill serious gaps in the country’s Teaching Force. My mother was desperate to get rid of me and saw the advert. 

With about two weeks to go before term started, I went up for interview. I had to report to the Porters’ Lodge like some latter-day, minor public school. It was unlike any interview I had been to before. I was not the supplicant. They were desperate to attract men for the government’s funding-stream. They had heard of Burton Grammar School and were impressed. They had heard of Men and were impressed. What’s not to like? Could I cope with all those women? I had been to an all-boys Grammar School but I pretended to be a man-of-the- world who wouldn’t be phased by lots of girls. After all, I had 5 sisters. How difficult could it be? Little did I know!

Coffee Bar

The College was still in the first half of the 20th Century, still demure as befits a Ladies, Church of England College. This brochure page from 1970 is illustrative of the interior. Fresh cut flower arrangements were put in the Bishop Chase Common Room every morning. Decorum was the watchword although the young men throwing a ball about rather ruined it.

No men in rooms after 10.00 pm was still in place and there were stories of students’ doors having to be left open when ‘entertaining’ people. The buildings and the regulations, the culture and the staff were rather from a different era. They were definitely worried about the effect the new Men would have on their Ladies. Of course we were saintliness personified!

The last rights.

The Ladies College had begun in 1862, took its first male intake in 1969, merged with the Men’s College of St. John’s in York in 1974 and, finally, moved there completely in 2002. The building has since been turned into private apartments.