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.

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