Week 652

Sunday, 20th June, 2021

Going away, going away … When will we be going away? Every time you go away … On this day of low cloud and darkness on the south coast, the sun centres of Europe are strangely quiet and largely deserted.

The UK coastal centres seem to be increasingly popular in contrast. Unfortunately, the sunshine is often missing. We walked through Worthing town centre yesterday and then right back along the beach path. It wasn’t hot and it wasn’t sunny. Plenty of people were dressed for the Mediterranean and wandering aimlessly, looking for the missing link – sunshine.https://www.youtube.com/embed/EImVucJO7Ok?feature=oembed

Twelve years ago today, I heard that my old friend, Nigel had become a Budhist monk. I don’t know why but I was shocked. Nigel was always alternative. When I was with him, he introduced me to Leonard Cohen another (temporary) budhist. Since then he has re-entered the real world, remarried, developed an artistic career and appears to be enjoying life. We have written to each other and, maybe, we will meet up.

I’m not sure how much we would have in common. I’m not sure how much we ever had in common. I liked being challenged by people from backgrounds I had no experience of before. Nigel’s ‘alternative’ was interesting, often bewildering and difficult for me.

What really brings me up short is the gradual aging process. Because we live with ourselves in real-time, we tend not to notice the small changes. Suddenly seeing someone from my past with their accumulation of ‘small changes’ brings one up short and forces self-appraisal. I am old. I look old. I am getting older. Time is running out until we go away for good. Must exercise to stave it off. Lots of experiences to come. Happy Sunday.

Well, the sun has come out. The temperature has struggled up to 22C/70F and I’ve just staggered out of the gym after 2¼ hrs workout. I am starting to break some personal bests with 65 miles covered in the past 7 days and 250 miles in the past 28 days. I’m really feeling a lot better after that. Younger? No! Fitter? Definitely.

Monday, 21st June, 2021

Summer Solstice. Longest Day. Start of Summer. Heavy Rain. What is happening?

Harry & Joyce

Have to wish Harry – Pauline’s cousin’s husband happy 85th birthday today. Haven’t seen them for a couple of years. We must call in this October.

I don’t know why we’ve moved home so many times. I do know that I’ve always been trying to escape my rural village childhood and have never felt rooted enough to one place. Perhaps I’ve been running away. Often people like to stay close to friends or relatives. For me, I think, it isn’t until I’ve left an area that something or someone pops up who I miss.

I did find that I missed Yorkshire when I moved to Surrey. It was the stark, moors landscape and dry-stone walls that had dominated my drive to work each day and become ingrained in my sensibility. Moorland landscape, sheep and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony are hard to beat at times although so much rain gives me pause for thought.

Marsden Moor

I do like to go back and visit my friends in the North. I keep in contact with lots of people from my past but it tends to be on my terms. The Greek interlude contributed to that distancing and encouraging long range contact. I know I’m not alone in this. Others like to reach out but control the contact. Maybe, I attract people similar to myself.

Moving south has been equally challenging. The first step was Surrey near Pauline’s family. It was intended as a stepping off point for driving to Greece but I didn’t enjoy apartment living and I didn’t really enjoy the intensity of bustling Surrey life. Moving further south to the coast has suited me. It is attractive, more relaxing and has wonderful facilities within easy reach although I still don’t feel anything other than dwelling without belonging.

We have always tended to see our properties as investments just as much as homes. Investment in them has always had one eye on re-sale values. Overall, that has paid off. The property I was least happy about certainly gave us the best return by almost doubling its value in 5 years. It looks as if we may have hit a sweet spot down here at this point in development.

Angmering, Arun, West Sussex

The pandemic has seen people flooding out of crowded urban areas into rural and coastal communities. The Sunday Observer had an article examining this yesterday. Prices are rising 14.2% a year in countryside locations on average compared with less than 7% in urban areas but the biggest percentage increases of up to 30% were in Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire, around Lancaster, in Arun in West Sussex and Amber Valley in Derbyshire. We live in Arun in West Sussex and have certainly been amazed at the heat in the property market. This morning, a property across the field from us went on the market for £10 million. Mind you, it has got an indoor swimming pool and a tennis court.

Of course, these valuations are only meaningful if one is prepared to cash in and move. To really capitalise, it would mean us moving back to the North where prices are so much lower. Would we exchange the weather and facilities for that? What neither of us is prepared to admit is that this could be our last property. It is tantamount to admitting defeat and things even worse than that.

Tuesday, 22nd June, 2021

Another grey morning. Not warm either. Going out to town to collect some orders. Not a day for walking on the beach.

In Summer 1966, I was 15 years old and had been smoking experimentally for about a year – on the school bus, in town with friends, never near authority. In Summer 1966, I went to Ireland on the day England won the World Cup. We sailed Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire. When we got to Dublin, my juvenile mind was excited to find how cheap Irish cigarettes were. I bought a packet of the local, Sweet Afton brand.

Even then, cigarette manufacturers were well aware of the toxic nature of their products and tried to disguise it by marketing them under healthy titles. Woodbine (Honeysuckle)  –  was popular. Gold Leaf conveyed a wealth of nature. Sweet Afton in Ireland was named after the Burns poem singing the praises of the pure waters of the Afton River in Scotland. They were very cheap but they made me terribly sick for days. Pity it didn’t put me off smoking sooner. I saw them advertised yesterday and felt pleased that I haven’t smoked for more than 35 years.

Maybe it’s because I’ve turned 70 but these past few months have been like a roller coaster ride of highs and lows which I haven’t experienced for years and haven’t found easy to cope with. Reaching back to 1966 feels such a long way away and yet also quite close. There is an enormity to Life and Death, to People and Loss that I struggle to get to grips with.

I am fighting to control it and to maximise the delightful parts while minimising the harsh sadnesses like Janus the god of beginnings, transitions and endings, of life & death. I am currently facing both ways. Janus was the god of gates & doors between what was and what is to come.

Facing the immediate future, I have booked 5 nights in the North in October 17th – 22nd which will give us more flexibility to visit and catch up. Something to look forward to.

Regular readers of the Blog will know that I brought a seed pod of a Canarian tree back from Tenerife about 3 years ago. I boiled the seeds and sowed them. They germinated with great success and I potted the seedlings up. They grew into trees of some 5ft tall. I couldn’t justify a potted forest in the conservatory windows so just one was nurtured through two winters. It grew too tall to come in last winter and appeared to die in the cold spell. On the off chance, I fed and watered it a couple of months ago and ….. shoots appeared. It just goes to show that anything has potential for being revived if we are only prepared to give it a chance.

Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

Oh, Delonix Regia, I thought I’d lost you. Now you are back. Grow old with me and I will take much more care of you. I must look for a good, protective blanket for this winter.

Wednesday, 23rd June, 2021

A nice and sunny morning. We have cancelled deliveries and are going shopping in Sainsburys early. Then I can cut the lawns and Pauline could harvest, prepare and freeze herbs from the garden. It will be nice to see the sun after a few days absence and to cook outside again. On this day in 2018, we were setting off to drive to the Dordogne for a month in the sun and to buy up a red wine lake. Now alcohol is banned.

All Mine … in the Dordogne – 2018.

I am doing just over 2 hrs of exercise a day and have done for the past 132 consecutive days. Once I’m in the pattern, it is harder to not do it than just complete my regime. It is actually giving me pleasure and encouraging me to watch a lot more films than I could have ever anticipated. An interesting article entitled Experimental Gerontology in The Times this morning by a Professor in the Centre for Health and Ageing at the University of Wales.

Not me but will I get there?

His central thesis is that a man in his late sixties can cut his biological age by up to 20 years through exercise alone. On average a man’s maximum attainable heart rate declines by about one beat a minute each year after the age of 30. About 90g of muscle is lost each year from the age of 40, meaning that a man in his seventies who does no exercise typically has a third less muscle than a 25-year-old. Regular exercise in older age and cutting out spam burgers can really turn back the clock. I, for one, am prepared to listen.

The word Patron is French for Boss. Patronise can mean to do business with although it can also mean to treat in a way that betrays a feeling of superiority. The two are obviously linked as the Boss deals with subordinates with an air of superiority. I can be bossy. I can be insensitive. I am obviously superior but, to call me patronising, is very hurtful. I was called patronising the other day because I described the facts about the North of England. Pointing out facts can never be patronising unless they are manufactured to establish a falsely superior position.

Now this Tory, Brexiter government really is patronising. Levelling up? In words only! Reports out yesterday say Barnsley Hospital in South Yorkshire is struggling to find beds for patients. This is the Red Wall! Vaccination and healthcare provision in the south means we have virtually no Covid cases and yet this is the headline in the MEN last night.

A friend of ours who is Deputy Head at one, large Oldham school has more than 30% of the pupil population isolating because of Covid today. Right across Greater Manchester the stats are not good. What are the Tories doing to help them? Words are cheap!

Levelling Up to rising Infection!

Anyway, can you imagine, dear reader, anyone actually ascribing such a description as patronising to someone as gentle as me? I bet they were a Brexit voter!

Thursday, 24th June, 2021

Lovely day yesterday. Good, warm sunny weather which helped. The garden ended up looking good after mowing, strimming, and sweeping and a long exercise session saw me lose another few pounds.

Trip to Sainsbury’s which meant using my shopping app and Google Pay on my phone. Made me feel part of the real world again. Had a ‘fraud’ query from our bank this morning because we have used the online services so little in the past 12 months. We have to have new cards which would be welcome anyway.

Found photos of old friends from exactly 50 years ago. Lovely to see them again. This is from an Art trip to London in the sunshine.

Artistic Lineup – 1971

This morning is warm and sunny again but we are off to the Dentist for the first time in over a year. Not looking forward to it. Let you know later how it goes. …. Well, it was painful as the probe dug into my gums and I was admonished by the beautiful Persian lady for substandard oral hygiene. After signing up for £450.00 annual contracts, I have to see the hygienist again tomorrow morning. What get-out clause can I find this time?

Just 9 years ago, I was working quite happily in my Greek Office without a care in the world. So much has happened since then. In 9 more years, I will be almost 80. How can this be?

I’ve resolved to start my book. The book I’ve been promising myself for the past decade. It will be loosely based around my life story. I’ve been doing it for years in my Blog. Now, I am going to try to use certain important, traumatic, emotional, ecstatic events of mine and project them onto a central character. 

You may find this strange but it is exactly how my sense of motivation works. The impetus to start has been triggered by a new piece of software that will make the construction of the book enjoyable. I can already ‘see’ the process in my mind’s eye.

I have had my work produced in book form before. Over 30 years ago, I wrote R.H. Tawney and the Medieval Tradition for my research Masters Degree. It had to be professionally printed, bound and gold-tooled. It took almost 2 years of research and writing to get to this stage and it was all done in the evenings after work.

I must say that the process was long and painful and the finished product didn’t give me the feeling of joy that I had expected. I did feel that, at least, I hadn’t let myself down and I was pleased to have achieved the M.A. but I almost never referred to it or mentioned it afterward. It had no relevance to my professional career and didn’t help it one bit. It just helped me feel better about myself. I would have felt even better if I had gone on to the Doctorate but it seemed too self-indulgent and over demanding.

When we sold up in Greece I created a sales website to advertise the house. It involved dozens of photos and lots of information about the suppliers who had contributed to its construction. As we were leaving for the last time, I thought a permanent record of the journey to and from Greece along with a record of the land purchase and the property we built would be a nice thing to look back on. I used all the data I had to create a book. I did it online and had it printed and sent to me. It is a lovely memory.

Just staggered out of the gym at 3.00 pm and the sun has gone. I am shattered, wet and a little dejected. My shirt weighs more than I do at this stage. Time for a shower!

Friday, 25th June, 2021

Grey and damp start to the day. Woken to news of travel to the sun delayed even further. I’ve got a huge spot erupting on the side of my face like some love-sick teenager. What is happening to me? Am I regressing?

Had a phone call from a Spanish Estate Agent / Currency FX supplier yesterday asking if I was ready to proceed with property viewing. Daft question really and he admitted he knew the answer already. Nothing will happen until we can travel out. Ten years ago this morning, I was waving at you from the beach car park in Φάρος (Lighthouse) in 32C/90F of heat.

It was great to have our own car on the island because so few rentals featured air-conditioning. Today, you would be hard pressed to find 5 tourists on that beach and the islanders will be devastated by the UK government’s failure to allow Brits out there just as they will be worried by Europe’s attempt to keep Brits out. At least it may provide them with some compensation although it won’t really make up for 2 seasons without income.

I was thinking about Pocahontas overnight. Strange nightmare or what? When we first started going to Greece, it was a cheap, student, back-packing ‘hippy’ destination. Rooms were cheap, meals out were incredibly cheap and charter flights were very cheap. Gradually, the Greeks tried to develop and mature their tourist offering for the more affluent traveller. We matured with it. Who knows where it will go back to after the pandemic. Who knows where any of us will go back to after the pandemic.

Back to the Hygienist at lunchtime. If the Blog fails to materialise after this, it will be because I have been arrested for serious assault on a Hygienist. Those probes they stick in my gums are excruciating for a little person like me. Calm & Gentle they call it as they calmly torture my mouth. What I really need is the peace & love of the hippy style.

Saturday, 26th June, 2021

Lovely blue sky and sunshine this morning. The lawns are bright, vibrant green set against the pure blue of the sky but they need cutting again already. That is the highlight of the day! That and walking down to the surgery to collect repeat prescriptions. What is life becoming? Leaves me feeling a bit flat.

Well, I survived half an hour with the Hygienist but not her forward plan for me. She wants 2 x 1hr sessions with me immediately at a cost of 2 x £190.00 plus 3 x 30 mins sessions over 12 months at a cost of 3 x £95.00. Cost of being tortured by a Hygienist – £665.00. This is in addition to an annual dentistry plan. I swallowed quite hard when I was able to and said I would think about it. I can’t imagine an hour with a Hygienist at all never mind 2 in a fortnight.

Three years ago today, I was in the market of the small, southern French village of St. Sauveur. It is just outside the city of Bergerac on the banks of the Dordogne. We were buying fish from the mobile shop that turned up twice a week. The temperature was very hot – 32C/90F – and we were delighted to find swordfish steaks (Steaks d’Espadon) for the grill. I love the struggle with alternative languages and cultures. I like to be challenged and taken out of my comfort zone. It is enlivening and I miss it.

Albion Street, Oldham – 1972

Just 49 years ago this summer, I arrived in Oldham. I still don’t know why. I need to ask someone! I really knew nothing about the place and yet I spent most of my life there. This photo posted yesterday is from exactly that time. By the look of it, I am History although I am still determined to be Present & Future! My kiss & tell book will be sensational. Forward purchases will be welcome soon!

Week 651

Sunday, 13th June, 2021

Well, the Blog, like me, is staggering on to Week 651. That represents 12½ years of my life and we will see if it can quietly stagger to year 13. I will never be able to compete with my hero, Tony Benn, and his lifelong records nor will it be as significant. It will gently fade away with me.

The sky is blue and completely clear. The sun is strong and already warm. At 7.30 am, the temperature is 19C/66F and is forecast to reach 27C – 29C/81F – 84F during the day. I’m going in the gym now at 8.00 am before it gets a bit too hot. My orange juice, freshly squeezed and gorgeous, tasted slightly better this morning. My wife informed me that we had won the Lottery. The huge sum of £51.00 will not change my life but it will cover Pauline’s Beauty treatment later in the week. Fortunately, I don’t need anything.

The fairly meaningless replacements for the European Health Insurance Cards, the GHIC, arrived very swiftly yesterday. We requested them on-line and they have only taken a few days to come. What the hell we are going to do with them and how long it will be before we need them, goodness only knows. Some of the papers including the mouthpiece of the Tory Party – The Sunday Telegraph – are running a front-page report today that restrictions could be in place until next Spring when we will be 71!

Experiencing strange connections of people-places-times at the moment. A girl I taught and last saw circa 40 years ago was in contact with me yesterday. She was born in Oldham but now lives in Bournemouth and she and her family spent last Friday in Southampton walking in exactly the same places, photographing exactly the same sights that I had done the day before. I know this is not earth-shattering but that co-incidental link, that invisible thread across time and place is what fascinates and moves me.

I suspect that I would not be alive now if the events of 36 years ago hadn’t occurred. I was smoking 40 cigarettes each day. I know I have written about it before but I like to remind myself. I had given up the strong, acrid French tobacco in Gauloises cigarettes but 2 packets of anything was a lot and would cost me at least £23.00 per day at current rates. Sitting, delivering an M.A. paper one evening at Huddersfield University, I absent-mindedly lit a cigarette in my mouth but set fire to the filter instead of the tobacco. Anyone who has done that will know the acrid taste produced. It revolted me and I never smoked another cigarette nor did I suffer withdrawals in spite of having tried and failed to quit many times.

This week will also feature another life-threatening/life-saving event that I acknowledge annually. Healthier and wealthier is a good place to be. Now I will try to survive my gym session. My film today was Waiting for the Barbarians with the brilliant Mark Rylance. It is based on a novel by the literary titan and Nobel prizewinner, J.M. Coetze, and is a political allegory that deals with the savagery of colonialism. It invokes an anti-imperialist analogy to white supremacy through human history. Not an easy watch.

I have survived a hot and sweaty 2¼ hr session and emerged, blinking into strong sunlight as the temperature in our back garden hits 30C/86F. That was it for today. Relaxing in the sun. Griddled Tuna steaks with green bean & asparagus salad and iced, sparkling water. Really tired now. Just about enough energy to watch highlights of the England match. Won’t be running to the bar for Last Orders that’s for certain.

Monday, 14th June, 2021

We are only one week away from the Summer Solstice and Longest Day. Monday morning, 8.00 am, clear blue sky, strong sunshine, 22C/70F – a long, day empty as the sky lies ahead. What to do?

One answer is easy – put out the bins, do my weekly INR test, drink my orange juice, perform the Rapid Antigen Covid test, reply to people who have contacted me in another life. Submerge myself in everyday life ….

One success at least

My INR test result is near perfect. The Covid test is perfectly negative. My orange juice is delicious. I will complete my exercise regime and find jobs around the garden. And yet …what is it all for?

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

When You Are Old’ (1892) by W.B.Yeats

I lead a number of lives. There is my day to day which I record in the Blog. There is the fantasy life that I suspect most of us have but few of us talk about. For me it is fed by literature, the arts of drama, poetry and music and then there is a political, intellectual life that informs and analyses the world around us. These days, I am reduced to discussing, debating, arguing with old ‘friends’/associates. It has even extended my understanding of people who I knew in my past but haven’t seen for so many years.

John Morris

Peter Holgate for example and the well-travelled, John Morris have re-appeared since I retired and proved interesting examples of the error of my tendency to erase the past. I follow and have quite a few followers on Twitter. I ‘talk’ to politicians, barristers, journalists throughout the day in this alternative world. I try hard to keep them apart and the Blog rarely features these political debates if I can help it.

There is the world of Bloggers that I follow avidly – Dominic Cummings Blog, Professor Chris Grey’s Brexit Blog can be riveting reads at times. I follow Greek Blogs like Keep Talking Greece which keeps me up to date. However, occasionally, on mornings like this one, I wake and ask myself, Why?

Although a 4 week delay to release of Covid restrictions is baked-in to the system, Twitter is convinced that will not be the end. This from an epidemiologist this morning:

No chance they’ll relax further in 4 weeks’ time. That will be at the peak of the current wave of cases. Essentially this means no change of further relaxation til at least mid-August

Even a government minister has said this morning that 4 weeks may not be enough. That would scupper even our Greek trip.

Just been phoned by the Oxford University research team to say they want to come round this afternoon. We will host them in the garden where it is 27C/81F….. Lovely girl arrived for a pint of blood. Ex-teacher doing a long day testing old souls like me. Tempted her with a glass of white wine. She has two more calls to make before home. What a job!

Tuesday, 15th June, 2021

I take Warfarin or rat poison every day of my life and have done since 22nd January 2009. Many would say that rat poison is totally appropriate for me. It prevents my blood from clotting during the heartbeat cycle and, therefore, creating a stroke or heart attack. It is no big deal and I test my clotting rate once a week with my home INR machine.

What I am sensitive to is cutting myself, internal bruising and blood tests. Yesterday evening, I did a blood test and an hour after the young lady tester had left, I was still bleeding. I had my hand wrapped in an old tea towel to absorb the drips and protect the furniture. On days like this, I don’t volunteer to play the piano.

On days like this, one can feel the life drain out of one, the love of life swiftly follows leaving the body empty and unfeeling. And so it goes. Life’s blood, Love’s blood drains away into the earth. Dispersed and not accounted for. And so it goes

The day is hot and sunny again. We need ice! Our fridge/freezer came with the new house. It doesn’t have an integrated water/ice dispenser that we would have chosen. We are receiving an ice-making machine from a Brighton company today.

If we are going to be stuck here this summer and it looks as if we will be, we have decided to augment our patio furniture with a dining table and chairs. We’ve ordered them but so have a lot of other people.

Wednesday, 16th June, 2021

Up at 6.00 am this morning to a hot and sunny start. Quite a few things to fit in and Pauline is going for an early Beauty treatment. Even at this time it is 17C/63F and humid.


Another glorious, hot, sunny but humid day yesterday. We went for a drive down the coast which was busy with tourists on the beaches, in the cafes and on the roads. We drove through Worthing, Lancing, Shoreham by Sea, Brighton, Rottingdean and Saltdean.

4th April, 1957

Two days before my 6th birthday in 1957, the Queen and Prince Philip were escorted round Repton School by the Archbishop of Canterbury who had formerly been Head of the school. The Queen was opening a new wing and simultaneously considering a placement for Prince Charles who, ultimately, went to Gordonstoun. The whole village turned out to greet her and this photo includes my maternal Grandfather in his trademark bow tie on the back right.

Grandad & Mum – 1936

Grandad James, Joseph, Jeremiah Coghlan was of Irish Catholic heritage but born in Brighton coincidentally just 10 miles from where I now live. When Bob & I were 3-4 years old, Grandad took us to Bognor Regis, Brighton where he rode a huge, white horse on the beach and through the waves to remind himself of his days in the WW1 Cavalry Regiment.

He particularly loved Rottingdean and Saltdean just further on from Brighton and took us in an open-top bus ride there and back. A memory of 1955. Can you imagine it? It is strange how somethings fade completely and others, so long ago, burn inside one’s memory for ever. Sometimes the stick-dry and wrinkly benefits of people from the past flicker into flame and start to burn in the tinder of those memories. Sometimes the winds of change just blow them out.


All of this is clear in my pre- 5 yr old’s memory. I remember being allowed to eat pork pie and baked beans for tea for the first time. Trashy but Paradise! Mum was not happy to hear of that when we got back to Repton.

There was a time when I loved all those foods that were forbidden at home. I even know of people who like crisp sandwiches. Can you believe it? Carbohydrate filled with carbohydrate. Guaranteed for weight gain. All of these things are forbidden by me now. It is different when the prohibition is self-applied. Well, it is for me. My character automatically rebels against any authority and I refuse to be beaten!

I’ve had a nagging toothache for about three weeks now. It isn’t terrible and is very unusual for me but it has forced us to address the search for a new Dental practice. We have finally decided on Calm & Gentle ,Rustington and have taken out contracts and made opening appointments for next week.

I have been allocated to this lovely lady who is said to be the most calm and gentle of the staff. I am led to understand that she also supplies glasses of red wine for nervous patients like me. She sounds my sort of girl. There can be genuine benefits in pain.

Glorious day which has hovered around 27C/81F throughout. The sun is intense and strong and I am beginning to look like a refugee from the sub-continent.https://www.youtube.com/embed/90mnNUi__yg?feature=oembed

As I conclude this with last night’s sunset in East Preston, it fills me with a huge and swelling feeling of loss that can probably never be reclaimed. Life falling inexorably into a sinking ball of fire. Dying in the sun…

Thursday, 17th June, 2021

A warm and humid night. The temperature didn’t fall below 17C/63F although we had some welcome rain. It is going to be a muggy but overcast day for us. There is light sunshine and we’ve reached 22C/70F but feels very downbeat after yesterday.

Visited our favourite Green Grocers in Rustington yesterday for bunches of delicious asparagus. When I get addicted/committed, I find it hard to let go.

A friend sent me this a couple of days ago and kindly included a memory jogger. This photo is of almost exactly 50 years ago. There is not so much about the scene to age it. The hair styles maybe. Of course, re-meeting the people would certainly move time on. I wasn’t on this trip but just one glance at the faces and I am transported to those days. I must admit I had forgotten four of the characters but Nigel, Chris and Christine were part of my circle.

A college London Art Expedition in Summer 1971. L to R: Pam Drake, (mature) Bill Walker, Chris Tolley, Christine Barnes, Bill Thwaites, Nigel Folds & Jenny Probert

What this photo does emphasise is the painful loss through time. The lightness, the freedom, the insecurity celebrated as absence of responsibility are all left back there in the sunset of those 50 years ago. We are all heavier now – some of us much heavier – weighed down by the experiences of the years, carrying the responsibilities of our situations as our lives have matured.

It is fascinating to find that so many of our cohort have reached out to reconnect particularly since retirement and especially spurred on by arriving at 70 years old. They appear to have found real enjoyment in reopening the past. I have found it much harder in reality.

Ripponden Road, Oldham – June, 1980

Move on just 9 years from this and on 17th June, 1980 I all but ended my life on this bend in Oldham, Lancashire of all places. Regular and long serving readers of the Blog may turn away and stifle a yawn at this point. I know I do it every year but this is my record and the event was so almost terminal for me – falling through the sunset into eternal darkness – I feel it just as necessary to annually observe  as I do deaths of other friends and relatives.

I was so lucky. So lucky to be hit by a car and badly injured, so lucky to be recuperating for the best part of a year, so lucky to have lost almost two years out of my career, so lucky to be alive. I could have died and not been able to say, Goodbye. The really strange thing about this is that I remember almost nothing about it. Unlike the events of 50 years ago, the event a decade later was never presented to me in any coherent fashion. Anything I really pretend to remember was retold to me later in recovery.

Friday, 18th June, 2021

Heavy rain this morning. The whole world looks fresh and clean. Wonder what this one will bring. Certainly, I will be exercising in the gym and not out on the roads today.

Strange day in prospect. We had just filled the car with enough fuel to drive approximately 500 miles when we received a call from Honda to say that there was a recall on our Hybrid CRV to cover an issue with the fuel pump. Could we book our car in for the upgrade but it would need to be low on fuel at the time? Consequently, we have done trips to Southampton, Brighton, Worthing and all points in between to get rid of 460 miles from the tank. This morning, it is going in at 8.30 am for the upgrade.

Our local Dealership

The roads are awash with the night’s rain and the fuel light comes on as we drive but a cup of coffee and Honda’s wi-fi see us through the 40 mins wait.

Yesterday, this ex-college, young man proudly announced that he had completed the last 2 of the 214 ‘Wainright’ peaks in the Lake District. He said it had taken him 7 years. Today, it was announced that this young woman below had just broken the record by completing the full 214 peaks in just 6 days.

Although leaving Greece 7 years ago was painful, a year later we felt fully vindicated when these headlines started appearing:

The crash begins – 2015

We managed to avoid the financial hit and/or long wait for Greek property price recovery. Even now, we would still be waiting and the pandemic would have meant us leaving our property empty and untended for 18 months. So, pain is tempered by relief. We still have vague hopes of returning at the end of August but that hope is increasingly feint.

Saturday, 19th June, 2021

Rather overcast and cool this morning. Definitely not one for sea swimming. Pity really because I could shown off my new haircut. I had it done by one of my favourite barbers yesterday. Have to pose in the mirror instead! My wife is going for her 3rd attempt at getting the right hairdresser in 6 weeks on Thursday. It appears to be a very difficult task. I have been urging her to go back to Sassoon’s in London and I think she will if this one doesn’t turn out to be ‘acceptable’.

There were some reasons for optimism yesterday if not particularly in the football. The revival of liberal England is definitely a reason to be hopeful.  The Lib.Dem. by-election win in a previously ‘safe’ Tory seat sends out a strong message to both Left and Right. This was the first solidly ‘Remain’ seat to be contested and it sent a message to the Labour Party that Embrace Brexit is not a winning message. It also sent just as strong a message out to the Tories that to concentrate on the Red Wall, less educated, less affluent, less liberal demographic is to desert their core support. The two parties are almost having to swap places.

This book is going to be on my reading list. Always liked Gillian Tett. One to take to the beach. The demise of the DUP in Northern Ireland and the lost Brexit vote allied to Johnson’s hopeless Withdrawal Agreement/NI Protocol is proving an almost unstoppable force towards Irish Reunion. Who needs the I.R.A. when you’ve got the Tories?

On the downside: A new wave of infections is definitely under way in England, says Prof Adam Finn of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. It does not bode well for summer travel. The Greeks still expect mask wearing indoors and out and have a night time curfew from Midnight to 5.00 am. This is not the way to enjoy a holiday and certainly not if the weather is warm and sunny.

Benidorm – Masked tourists pass Souvenir shop selling Masks.

Over 90% of the UK’s infection increase is Delta (Indian) variant whereas France and Germany have around 2%. New cases are now increasing exponentially in Russia, China, Mexico, Argentina & Brazil.

Despite this, I’m feeling much more optimistic today. I don’t know why. I’ve just been checking our Easyjet flights which are 58 days away. At least now we can cancel without loss right up to the day before. We can change dates without additional cost and, currently, there is so little demand that next year’s tickets would cost us less than half this year’s. Newspaper headline this morning: UK holiday costs more than Europe as demand grows.

Week 650

Sunday, 6th June, 2021

Well, there certainly ain’t no sunshine today. Warm but overcast. So emphasises the difference sunshine makes to one’s life. It sort of links the everyday mundanities into a coherent whole … but you don’t always get want you want!

 The Agente Immobiliario in Aguilas, Spain contacted me yesterday while I was out and our hotel in Athens also emailed me about our rolled-over Summer booking. It is so frustrating that I can’t do anything about either at the moment.

WebCam 2 – Kamares

Our island of Sifnos has installed another webcam which pans (after a long time) up the valley and towards our house. It is almost too painful to watch because we know every inch of every road, beach & pathway. We recognise old friends as they drive or walk down to the port. We can monitor the new developments that have taken place since we were last there. Hope falls on stony ground.

Did an hour in the gym and then an hour walking in the emerging sunshine. Lovely and warm on our faces one way and on our backs returning. Only 21C/70F. Quite tired now. My recovery rate does not seem to be improving fast enough. I am only 70 after all.

Monday, 7th June, 2021

Our local beach is fringed with rows of Beach Huts – white sheds. I remember my childhood holidays often included a beach hut so we could spend the day down at the beach and catering for the family of kids. I must admit, those experiences coloured my judgement and I saw them as outmoded features of a bygone age. The Sunday Observer had a report yesterday about the value of these ‘sheds’.

The headline was:

The trend for UK holidays has pushed prices for the UK’s 20,000 candy-coloured seaside cabins through the roof.

and the article featured some ‘sheds’ on the beach in Essex which were bought for £10,500.00 4 years ago and are now on the market for £48,500.00. Some on the North Norfolk coast resort of Wells-next-the Sea, Pauline’s old, family home, are going for just under £100,000.00. Mind you, it is known as Chelsea-on-Sea.

John Ridley posted a photo of his house in North Yorkshire. He bought it from new in 1980. I find it hard to conceive of staying in one place for over 40 years. In that time, we have bought and sold 8 properties and speculated to accumulate. I am one of those that Theresa May sneered at as citizens of nowhere or Erewhon as Samuel Butler entitled his famous novel.

1980 – 2021

We are going out to shop today. Our region has almost no Covid infections. We feel very comfortable out and about although we are still wearing masks. Might go for a walk on the beach later particularly now the kids are back in school.

The lonely sea & the sky.

The beach was a lonely place today. Children back at school and sea mist down on the horizon. The tide was almost in and lapping gently around the rocks. Perhaps I should take a few more risks like Christine Dagg celebrating her 70th birthday with a first-time Glider experience.

An hour in the gym and an hour out walking has left me tired but feeling I’ve fulfilled my commitment. The day has ended with gorgeous, hot sunshine.

Tuesday, 8th June, 2021

Sea mist start to the day again but it presages a hot and sunny one later. Humidity is rising. Looking for pinpricks of light in the gloom, I applied to replace our expiring EHIC cards for the new, GHIC ones. This is more in hope than expectation but hope is all we have. The Global Health Insurance Card reminds us of Brexit but we’ll use it for now.

As soon as travel is freed up, we need to be ready. Hopefully, European and Transatlantic travel will become a possibility again and we can escape this gloom. The application was a fairly simple, on-line affair which took about 5 minutes and promises to deliver our new cards with 10 working days. I.T really has made life so much more simple.

Pauline’s old school friend, who moved out to live on Gozo two or three years ago, messaged me this morning to say it was 28C/83F and very sunny there this morning. I immediately wanted to jump on a plane but it is just not possible currently.

I’ve decided we can’t just wait around for things to happen. We need to get out. We’ve decided to drive down to Southampton for the day and the weather looks like it is genuinely improving over the next few days. We’ve only been to Southampton once since we got here. It’s only about an hour’s drive away as is a lovely city of ancient and modern contrasts. It has the nearest IKEA to our home although one is currently under construction about 10 miles away now.

Southampton Ancient – could be Chester
Southampton Modern

Sainsbury’s and Parcelforce deliveries will keep me at home this morning so a hard stint in the gym will be my initial exercise. It’s 9.20 am and all sea mist burnt off revealing clear, blue sky and strong sunshine. A hot walk will be this afternoon’s activity.

Of course, talk about ‘heat’ is all relative. In 2013, this was the scene around our house shortly after we had employed workers to clear the grounds.

I then went on to employ a little goblin for ‘free’ to spray weed killer on the residual areas so that the grounds – a number of acres – remained clear until we left in October. The sun is so strong that nothing regrows without watering during the summer months.

Well, today went on to reach 25C/77F and I did 2 hrs straight in the gym and then ruined it all by drinking a bottle of wine. I’ve been driven to it by demons. Our region has 21 cases of Covid infection. Sky News is reporting that Greater Manchester is being advised to minimise travel out of the region and that there is concern at a ‘very serious’ Conwy county cluster. It is hard to see what the connection is but there must be something.

Wednesday, 9th June, 2021

A blue, cloudless sky with hot sunshine this morning. It is 19C/66F at 9.00 am but forecast to get somewhere near 25C/77F later. However, it all feels a bit aimless. I am looking for work to do to keep me sane. The garden will need watering. We are having a delivery of fish – just two sides of salmon of about 4kg.  I will need to prepare the car for the drive tomorrow. I will punish myself with another, hard, 2-hr workout in the gym.

Last night, we were casting round for something to watch on TV. The recent BAFTA winner, I May Destroy You, was downloadable from SKY. I felt like I had moved into a parallel universe from the start. Even so, I watched the first 3 episodes but it didn’t get any easier. I tried to give it a genuine chance but the events were so out of my experience that jumping the credibility gap was to0 much.

I was much more gripped by Newsnight on BBC2 and the discussion of the Northern Ireland Protocol. It was clear from the start that Johnson blithely signed the ‘Deal’ knowing that it sold Ireland, the fishing industry and the City of London Financial hegemony down the river in order to say he had got Brexit done and to win an election while arrogantly believing he could renege on it all later and just carry on as if nothing had happened. He actually appeared on camera telling the Irish traders exactly that. Now, it has come back to haunt him and Biden will be forced to sort it out.

Talking about dodgy dealing, the Memory Box threw up a strange record this morning which illustrates completely the dodginess of the Greeks. For the first 10 years of using our Greek house, we didn’t fully understand the supply of services. Electricity, particularly, was extremely cheap.

Then, when we were thinking of selling, we found out why. We had been living on Agricultural Electricity rates for all those years which was strictly illegal but encouraged by our Greek friends as a good way to cheat the system. Greeks are never happier than when cheating the state system. In order to formalise our supply for the purposes of selling, we had to jump through all sorts of hoops and feign ignorance about the rules over previous years. Even the Δημόσια Επιχείρηση Ηλεκτρισμού (Electricity Office) man had to be bribed with bottles of whisky. What strange, invigorating times.

Thursday, 10th June, 2021

Up early on a warm and humid but overcast morning. Orange juice and tea and then straight into the gym where I did a hard 2hrs workout being urged on by a voice in my head. That voice congratulated me on having lost 3 st since my birthday 9 weeks ago. Shower and change and then off to Southampton – a 49 mile/1hr drive. Actually, the traffic was heavy and it took us a little bit longer.

Down at the port, the activity was minimal. A TUI Cruise ship and a Carnival one but little going on. Not much action on the Red Funnel, Isle of White ferry either.

Southampton itself didn’t look so exciting as it can do in hot sunshine. The pandemic has clearly had a big effect on travel and trade. IKEA was very quiet. The streets were distinctly underused. The Leonardo Royal Hotel Southampton Grand Harbour looked far from grand and the Marco Pierre White restaurant inside was closed.

The Leonardo Royal Hotel, Southampton Grand Harbour housing the Marco Pierre White restaurant

There is a jarring of old and new in the architecture which isn’t handled as well as some cities.

Old & New – Southampton

All the mood music seems to be for a stay on relaxation of Covid restrictions which is not good news but, when you see the Red List of rapidly increasing infection rates, it becomes clear why. They are largely concentrated in the North of England in general and Greater Manchester in particular.


The 25 areas placed on Delta variant watchlist are revealed below as this strain is said to be ‘60% more infectious’ than the original:

However, local lock downs have generally proved unsuccessful so it will probably make sense to continue a blanket policy until the R-Rate, which many consider to be between 2.5 – 2.8, is brought below 1.0 again.

Friday, 11th June, 2021

Another morning of Mizzle (mist & drizzle) just as Cornwall is experiencing as well. It reflects my feelings exactly. Very warm, humid night. Nothing much on the horizon today unless you include a trip to Tesco this morning. I have been completing this Blog for 650 weeks of my life but I am beginning to wonder if I can carry on with it.

In the gym, I’ve been watching a terribly harrowing film called 1917 directed by Sam Mendes. It is a true story and deals with people dying without the support of their loved ones. The concept is so unbelievably sad that I found it almost impossible to watch. Not being able to say, Goodbye, has to be one of the worst things in the world.

When we were researching places in Sussex to buy houses, we looked at Horsham. It is rather more expensive because of its easier commuter links and we were attracted by its café culture with excellent restaurants and shops. It was a choice between that and proximity to the beach and, ultimately, the latter won out.

Horsham isn’t far away if we want its facilities but an easy walk to the beach is far more appealing. We had a quick drive to Horsham this afternoon and quickly realised that we made the right decision.

Saturday, 12th June, 2021

Blue sky, sunshine and real warmth. Everything is set for a lovely few days but they feel empty. Never needed friends more than now. My travel app tells me that we have 65 days until we fly to Athens. Will it happen? Who knows? If travel restrictions are eased by mid-July, we will try a French trip but the 3rd Wave of infection, which is surely starting, may extend the shut down even further. This morning, it is reported that British Airways is to put thousands of its staff back on full-time furlough which is an ominous sign. It’s really feeling like imprisonment and that things are getting worse not better.

Highlights of the day: early trip to Sainsburys followed by lawn mowing and patio cleaning. What more could anyone want? A hot and sweaty gym session is coming and then … ???

Inflation is coming but there is so little opportunity for safe savings products at the moment. I’m constantly searching for other possibilities. Reading the Manchester Evening News last night, this appeared.


Manchester Waters transforms a former 26 acre dockland site located between the residential neighbourhood of Castlefield and Salford Quays into a first-class city-living development. Buying ‘off-plan, the apartments start from £124,995 and could ‘expect’ a return of 6% outside capital appreciation. Looks like an exciting proposition that might be worth investigating.

Exactly a year ago today, I snapped this little chap in Tesco carpark. I wonder if he is still alive. Will we be this time next year?

For someone who hadn’t watched a film – even a piece of fiction for absolutely years until 12 months ago, I now escape into unreality at every possibility. Tells you something about how I’m viewing my life. I do two hours in the gym each day and almost watch a full film each time. I subscribe to Amazon Prime, NetflixSky CinemaFilm 4, as well as having BBCiPlayer and ITV Hub.

I can’t decide whether I choose sad films to suit my mood or sad films create my mood. Whatever, sadness seems to pervade the atmosphere at the moment. I am fixated on Ireland currently. Today, I was watching a British/IRA conflict film called ’71. It is my history. The year 1971 was a critical almost momentous year for me but the Irish conflict was just a back drop at the time, a feature on television news.

In retrospect, I should have taken it more seriously. There were a lot of things I should have taken more seriously but youth can never be told. In age, it appears too late. In the film, the young soldier on his virgin mission in Belfast gets in to trouble, is deserted by his friends and forced to fend for himself. Although it makes him stronger, it also breaks him inside. His trust in people is destroyed. It is a cruel lesson for a good person and a shaming lesson for mankind.

Week 649

Sunday, 30th May, 2021

Summer was back across the country yesterday. Wall to wall sunshine and 23C/74F. Even late in the evening, people were sitting out with friends. We had a trip to the Garden Centre and started to ‘dress’ our extended patio area with pots of colour.

We will have to rig up some automatic watering system when we go away but at least they will provide some interest for a few weeks. Geraniums which I love because my Mother hated them and Impatiens which we all used to know as the house plant, Busy Lizzie, but are now developed for long-lasting and tough garden plants.

Having spent years doing extensive gardening and, particularly, vegetable growing, we bought this property with minimal garden because we expected to be travelling a lot. Now, we feel a bit frustrated. A trip to the Garden Centre is agony because we want one of everything but have nowhere to put anything.

I raked and fed the lawns. We enjoyed an afternoon of intense sun. Our one meal of the day was Roast Salmon with pesto crust, Tomato & Basil salad and Asparagus. It is plenty for me. I’ve now lost all my pre-Covid weight gain and I’m into new territory. It’s a lovely feeling.

Angmering Yesterday

Caught a recent recording of A Place in the Country this afternoon which featured West Sussex and our village of Angmering. The area was presented in a very attractive light. West Sussex is officially the sunniest county in the UK and the price of an average house is currently £570,000.00. Property is in great demand down here and sells within days of it going on the market.

A cheering piece of news arrived in the post this morning. Pauline and I try to support the Oxford University and ONS Statistics Survey by entertaining a researcher once each month to provide a swab test and now a blood sample. We are being tested for Covid infection and now anti-bodies in our blood sample which help us fight off the virus. Today we both had negative virus samples but, more importantly, positive anti-body readings.

Relative Security

We live in the local government district of Arun which contains the towns of Arundel, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, and takes its name from the River Arun, which runs through the centre of the district into the sea. Arun now has only 6 Covid infection cases and we feel very safe. I was reading in the MEN yesterday that:

Coronavirus infection rates have gone up in every borough in Greater Manchester except Bolton, the latest figures show. In Oldham the number of cases has trebled week-on-week, while it’s doubled in Wigan and more than doubled in Salford.

150 people tested positive for Covid in Bury and Rochdale recorded 165 coronavirus cases …

These are quite worrying statistics and may well result in control relaxation being slowed.

Monday, 31st May, 2021

Yesterday the weather replayed 23C/74F with long periods sunshine. We went back to the Garden Centre but it was packed with long queues snaking out of sight, waiting for the cashiers. We didn’t stay. It will all quieten down on Tuesday. Apparently, it’s Bank Holiday today. Apart from not meaning much to the Retired, I never really liked them as they encourage crowds in places that are usually comfortably quiet.

We went out for our first hour’s walking in the sunshine.  We are so lucky to have lovely countryside on our doorstep and be within minutes of several beaches. It is so long since we were serious gardeners that I am beginning to forget the names of so many plants we grew in the past. I used to pride myself on knowing all the ‘official’ Latin names. Now I struggle to remember even their common ones.

This wonderful shrub/tree is Ceanothus. In this photo, it looks more purple than blue but Ceanothus is one of the most wonderful electric blue colours in nature. I grew it in Yorkshire but it was never more than a low-growing bush. Here the shrubs can be found growing wild and as full tree size. This one is just on the roadside and looks spectacular.

We had coffee in the garden sunshine and I burnt my neck. Brilliant! Our second walk was through the cooler and shadier woodland on the fringe of our Development. Haven’t been that way for a while and it was lovely to see all the changes the last few weeks have made to the trees and bushes. The bird song was incredible and we met the fat, brown rabbit eating out again. We seem to have so many robins around us. Must have been a good winter for them to survive.

M&K are back from America for about 3 weeks so we are going to drive up and see them probably at the end of this week. It will be nice to give the car a chance to stretch its legs and us to see some new scenery. We have been imprisoned for too long. It is good to reacquaint ourselves with people we haven’t seen for quite a long time.

Really do feel a bit lost at the moment and at a loose end. I have always woken up with a plan for the day in my head, things I need to achieve, actions I need to take. I am really suffering from a lack of that at the moment. I feel like I’m not in control of events and that is not an enjoyable sensation at all. I am continuing to deal with diet and exercise although warm sunshine is more conducive to relaxation, socialising and wine drinking. Must stay strong and believe the sacrifice will be worth it.

Anne Keen MP

The Christian faith constantly reminds me why I rejected it. Been watching the Long Lost Family series and it emphasises why women of my youth so often were parted from their babies because of the ‘scandal’ of illegitimate pregnancy and the view of it as immoral within organised religion. At the weekend, The Times featured Ann Keen, a Labour MP, who got pregnant at 17 and was despatched by her family to a religious order, Moral Welfare Association just over the Welsh border from Chester. There she gave birth in 1967 and she was given an episiotomy but refused any pain relief to teach her a lesson. Her parents insisted that she give up her baby for adoption and was told it would be taken on day 10. She woke on day 7 to find her baby gone. This was the Christian spirit of our youth.

Quarry Court Garden – 2005

Memory Box produced a photo of our garden in Quarry Court, Huddersfield from 16 years ago and a shot from the Kafenion in Apollonia 8 years ago in 2013. Lovely memories to reflect on.

Coffee in the morning in Apollonia – 2013

Pauline has just taken a self-administered Rapid Antigen Test 3 days after her trip to Milton Keynes and it has proved negative so all is well. We are going to trim hedges and lawns before going out on a walk in this beautiful weather. The temperature has reached a pleasant 24C/75F and the sun has been extremely strong. We are giving serious consideration to installing air conditioning in the Lounge and the bedrooms because this trend is unlikely to be reversed in our lifetimes. Our house is built for high insulation energy efficiency not to keep cool.

Tuesday, 1st June, 2021

June Already!

June already. Life is running away. The weather outside is glorious and was 17C/63F at 7.00 am but the atmosphere in my head feels like a rather depressed cloud. The optimism of recent weeks is closing down. French travel was shut down a couple of days ago. UK conditions look as if they will remain for some time longer. Any foreign travel is set with draconian conditions.

This morning, the BBC-R4-Today was interviewing Beach Hut owners on Frinton Beach and doing that typical, media vox pop trick of just featuring the views they need for the occasion. As one woman who has used her hut every year for 30 years said, I’ve got my mug of tea. I’ve had my bacon sandwich and the sun is out. Who needs Portugal or Spain when you’ve got this? I wanted to throw my orange juice at the radio. She obviously hadn’t experienced the joy of European travel for many years and almost certainly voted for Brexit.

My favourite style of cooking is definitely Mediterranean. I love all the fresh ingredients. I particularly love Pesto – on Saladon Fish in fact almost anywhere. Originally from the wonderful, Italian town of Genoa, Pesto traces its name to the Italian word “pestare,” which means “to crush or pound”. It is made from Basil leaves crushed with Pine Nuts, Garlic, Parmesan Cheese and Olive Oil. Italians would make their Pesto freshly but most British people’s experience of it will have been from a jar. I can tell you, there is no comparison. They are like comparing freshly squeezed orange juice with a can of Fanta.

We have long tried to avoid eating any processed food. Pauline makes Pesto and freezes it in batches which works extremely well. We grow the Basil in the garden and have a continuing production process throughout the Summer. That process has begun again and yesterday’s weather was perfect for encouraging Basil. These plants will be ready for a first harvest in about 3 weeks and will continue to perform until September. The Pesto produced will be more than enough for a year.

Basil for Pesto Production

Our neighbours who moved last week have called back round to see us. Pat has a recurrence of his cancer which has now moved, ominously, to his Lymph Nodes. He is going to begin his Chemotherapy at Brighton Hospital later in the week and is clearly feeling rather fragile. Who can blame him? He will have 12 sessions of treatment and he is already saying that, if he feels awful after the early ones, he will stop attending and prepare to die. I can’t even imagine being in that position. Pauline’s friend, Christine, was widowed when her husband’s Melanoma, which they both thought had been caught early, reappeared and killed him at the ridiculous age of 62.

We were parked on the edge of Kamares Beach – this day 2012.

I love hot sun. That’s one reason why I loved living in Greece. I tan easily without burning … or I did. I wonder if it is my aging skin but I seem to be burning more easily at the moment. I must be more careful. We know so many older people suffering from Melanomas. I want to Live … I think! Anyway, with people back at work this morning, we are going to the beach ourselves for a while.

I’m completing this at 5.00 pm as the sun is still shining and the temperature is 26C/79F. The entire garden has been watered and is glistening bright green with health and vitality. I wish the same could be said for me.

Wednesday, 2nd June, 2021

Another beautiful but empty and aimless day. A long warm day yesterday that peaked at 26C/79F. On this day last year, it was even hotter. It is Half Term and children were out with parents enjoying the beach. To be honest, there was plenty of room for everyone because the tide was fully out. We walked for an hour in the sunshine.

I was surprised to see how many were swimming. The Life Guards’ noticeboard said the water was 13C/55F which sounds far too cold for me. The David Lloyd outdoor pool used to be maintained at a minimum of 20C/68F and that was only just acceptable. Still, kids don’t even seem to notice. They certainly wouldn’t have read the latest bathing water quality report out yesterday which told us that UK has the dirtiest waters in the whole of Europe.

This little chap was happy in his own world, fantasising some part of a game he had invented for himself in the middle of boggy sand with a world of sky above him. We walked for an hour and he was still alone with his world when we left the beach. Life can be rather like that at times.

Venice of the South

By 8.00 pm, it was still 26C/79F so we nipped back to the sea to watch the sunset. It was busy everywhere. People were out keeping cool. The Tapas Bars were packed with people sitting outside in the warm air.

The big events today include a trip to Asda to refuel the car for a drive North on Friday and a return to the Garden Centre to buy a new Parasol for the garden. All life is here!

Thursday, 3rd June, 2021

Another lovely day. Normally, I would expect to feel lifted but I remain flat. I associate good weather with travel, enjoyment, good food and wine, the sounds of foreign languages, the challenge of foreign words on road signs, menus, newspapers. There is currently none of that. I apologise to regular Blog readers but I am finding it hard to dig my way out of this slough of despond.https://www.youtube.com/embed/kn1gcjuhlhg?feature=oembed

This is the mood music for the day – Stjepan Hauser on cello playing the Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Albinoni.

Sunshine, neat and tidy garden. Birds singing and flowers flowering. Lounging on a settee in the garden with my iPad, smartphone, chilled red wine and nibbles. What more could one man want. Well, it’s not doing it for me at the moment. There are bigger things in life but it is a real struggle. Still committed to no alcohol and controlled calorie intake. Still forcing myself to complete my exercise routine. I’ve walked/jogged 59 miles in the last 7 days and 220 miles in the last 28 days. It takes every ounce of my determination. Sunny outside but ain’t no sunshine. The last few days have been particularly difficult for some reason but I refuse to give up!

Honda arrived at the house at 7.40 am to take our car for service. Two years old and we’ve only done 8,000 miles. At my current rate, I could have jogged more than 5000 of those in the past two years. That’s another thing. I love driving. I can drive all day and be really happy, especially if I am in some, strange country on foreign roads with real challenges to follow signposts and speed limits and searching for interesting restaurants and hotels. None of that even in prospect at the moment so I can’t escape the mood. They will deliver the car back home but we will probably walk round to collect it earlier.

Watched the Keir Starmer – Piers Morgan interview today. He came over as extremely likeable and very damaged by his childhood. It is a very sad but grittily determined story of triumph over adversity. If you missed it, really worth downloading at …

Other items of interest – to me at least – include the news that our house has increased its value by £140,000 over the 5 years we have been in it. Sounds a lot but is, actually, about half the increase our Surrey apartment put on in exactly the same time length. Really illustrates how location makes such a difference. However, the pandemic is encouraging people to move out of crowded, urban areas towards the coast and the countryside so prices may well be lagging that process.

Bridget Reilly at 90

Newsnight on BBC2 last night featured an artist from my past. Bridget Reilly is 90 and still working. She looks good and sounds lucid and vital. She has a new exhibition at the Lightbox Gallery which is a couple of miles from where I used to live in Woking.

Friday, 4th June, 2021

Another lovely, warm morning but won’t have to water the garden because we have some light rain. Driving Northwards today. Hope the M25 will be kind to us. The car was serviced yesterday so it will be interesting to see if there is much difference in the setup. At least Honda gave it a full valet service before delivering it back to us.

BT have switched us to digital phone connection this morning. They told us it would happen. We no longer need the copper wires of old. We have had to plug our house phone into the Hub/Router and all calls will be delivered over the internet from now on. They didn’t really give us a choice although I was happy to do it.

It does mean that our new, digital phones, and I ordered a set of 5, will connect to Alexa and allow us to voice-dial numbers and send/receive texts like a mobile service. This arrangement brings us so in line with our mobile services which I already put through our broadband connection while in the house that a separate number is almost pointless. BT say all customers will be moved to this service over the next few months.

The Fish Market have delivered 6 lovely, fat Sea Bass packed in ice. They are so big that one will feed two of us easily. They are from the Mediterranean sea and that is as close as we’re going to get for a while. The news is that even Portugal is being removed and Greek islands, which had hoped to be made available, have not been included at all.

It is going to be a very lean time for the tourist industry at home or away. Even Wales is looking at possible tightening. There is a concentration of the Indian variant in Llandudno, Llandudno Junction and Penrhyn Bay. I know the Greeks were panicking already and this could tip them over the edge. Two years of little or no income. We have flights and hotel rolled over from last year for time in Athens towards the end of August. It looks like we may be pushing that back until at least September and maybe even November. Certainly, the airports and hotels around them are looking at another barren Summer.

I signed up to the Professionals networking site, Linkedin, nearly 20 years ago. I used it only sporadically and, although retired for 12 years now, I’ve never withdrawn from it. Occasionally, they contact me offering me a list of jobs. Today, they’ve really hit the jackpot.

Can’t imagine anyone better equipped to teach Relationships and Sex Education than me? Well, apart from almost any other member of the human race!

Saturday, 5th June, 2021

Woke up at 6.00 am to another warm and sunny morning – 17C/63F. Couldn’t be bothered getting up. That is not me but I could not be bothered. Didn’t get up until 8.00 am. Then the day kicks in and everyday jobs need doing but I am performing them without enthusiasm.

Quite a difficult drive up to Surrey yesterday. The rain stayed much longer than forecast and the M25 was terrible. Long, slow-moving queues. At least it was one of those moments when the self-drive facilities on the car come into full use. Setting an automatic speed means the car moves forward when the one in front does and stays a regulation distance from it, breaking automatically when the one in front breaks. Lane-keeping means exactly that – the car is kept within its lane automatically. This is exactly what one needs on the M25.

We arrived in time for Lunch and it was nice to see them after such a long time although Pauline has been talking with Amanda in America and P&C in Surrey by FaceTime on her iPad about twice a week if not more.

Lunch is served.

I stuck to my diet and only ate a banana which I had brought with me. To drink? Just a glass of iced Shloer. There are some things of which I just can’t let go.

I am a gadgets man. I love a technical challenge. The digital phones arrived this morning. I’ve already set 3 of them up as well as done an hour’s walk in beautiful, hot sunshine, mowed and edged all the lawns and swept up after Pauline’s hedge trimming. Just 22C/70F this afternoon and a bit sultry.

These phones, I find, actually work with our existing network of 5 cordless handsets so we will have 10 now which means we could put one in almost every room excluding the toilets. The new, digital handsets allow us to make calls to two different numbers at the same time or make a call and receive a separate call at the same time. We receive voicemail like a mobile service and can send & receive text messages. Junk calls can be blocked at the touch of a button.

Two of the five new phones I ordered didn’t arrive. I’ve just phoned BT and they are giving them to me for free because of the inconvenience. I like BT.

Week 648

Sunday, 23rd May, 2021

The morning started off sunny and bright at 6.00 am. By 9.00 am, it is grey and dull. Certainly not the warmth one might expect of late May. Even Sifnos has been suffering some unusually cold, wet and windy days.


Sifnos came to my Breakfast table this morning. A girl I used to flirt with outrageously, even though she is gay, contacted me on Instagram. Anna is a lovely girl/woman from Northern Greece who had settled on our Cycladic island and worked in a restaurant we used regularly in the summer months. Her English was broken but quite good and she had a lovely sense of humour. In the Winter, she runs a walking business taking off-season tourists on hikes around the island. Using the Sifnos-Hiking account, Anna Graikou sent me best wishes and the memories came flooding back to warm the morning.

I am the last person to ask about ‘pop’ music but a name sprang out at me from a girl who I was at College with. She was asking about Atomic Rooster. I don’t remember them for their music or their appearance but the words in the name are the sort of thing I don’t forget. They appeared at college in 1971. Looking at this, it certainly puts my college hairstyle into perspective! End of memory.

Ruth & her lovely daughter, Joanne

Must publicly wish my oldest sister, Ruth, a happy 74th birthday in case she forgets her date of birth. Well, at her age, anything is possible.

Just finished 2 full hours in the gym and I am quite tired. I really am trying hard and pushing myself. I like targets and stats.. These are my current ones:

 Daily Average PacesDistance in Miles
Last Week15,43156
Last 28 days13,823201
Last 12 months11,6922,204

At the same time, I am trying to restrict my calorie intake to about 1200 per day. My fitness app. tells me I am using 2,706 per day split almost equally between active & resting calories. I’ve gone through the constantly tired stage now and I’m in to the addictive part that feeds in to my personality. Now, I can’t let go.

Monday, 24th May, 2021

Sunday evenings involve watching Call the Midwife. Pauline really enjoys it. She taught childcare and is fascinated by the development of knowledge over the 1950s/60s. I watch it in support but it almost always upsets me. The dire living conditions of the poor in London Docklands tears at my heart but it is the joy of parents at the birth of new born children which makes me so sad, sometimes to the point of tears, having missed out myself. 

We all need friends.

Growing old can be scary especially for the childless. We fit in to that category but I don’t believe for one minute that we should have done otherwise as an old-age insurance policy. Who will be there at the end? Who will tell others of our demise? Will it be instant as in a heart attack or long and slow requiring care and support. None of us know and that is the problem. My wife has always refused to even acknowledge the possibility of dying. I am actually quite blasé about it. As long as I leave the world without too many open questions, without unfulfilled and burning ambitions, then I am happy to go and without ceremony. I would rather it was not long and painful but I realise I have no choice. I don’t care about a funeral. A heavy duty bin bag will suffice.

The poet, Robert Browning’s poem, Rabbi ben Ezra, in 1864 included the lines:

Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be

The opening lines are quoted in a 1978 film and were picked up by John Lennon for his last song – Grow Old With Me written for Yoko Ono ironically just before he was assassinated. 

Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one

Of course, in the end, childless couples are left with just one. Now that is a scary prospect. My mother had the comfort of believing she would be reunited with her loved ones in another life. I do not. It is one of the reasons I am so pleased that I have managed to reunite Pauline with her friends. She is going to stay over night with Blondie on Thursday and I really hope they both enjoy it.

Tuesday, 25th May, 2021

Although it is a beautifully sunny morning, the days are feeling very empty and rather without optimism. Feeling a bit dead inside. I am desperate to get away but to where? There has to be more to life than this! I don’t know why but I can’t summon up enthusiasm for anything. I feel that I am constantly punishing myself with exercise and dieting but all the future rewards are moving further away. I’m even seeing the aging of my body made more visible by the day. My legs are starting to develop knots and lumps probably because of all the exercise but are making me feel even older than I did.

Nigel the Artist

I can hardly listen to the news or read the newspapers anymore. I am desperate to travel and feel actually unwanted here, rejected. Today we learn that France is considering even tougher restrictions for UK travellers due to the Indian variant and I really don’t want the hastle of quarantine after my return. There has to be more to life than this!

I think I will go to see Friends in the North from my past. My old flatmate, Nigel, is an artist with some reputation. He has a gallery on the East Coast and it would be nice to visit and see my old friend again. His ex-wife is also an old friend of mine and lives in the same town. Might even look her up as well. She takes photographs and exhibits them.

Would love to see John Ridley while I’m up there and, maybe, even make my peace with Kevin & Christine after all this time. It really is a chance to reconnect and not feel isolated any more. I have kept that period shut and bolted for so long like a long, distant pain which it is time to heal. If I can’t do it now, I will never be able to. John and Kevin & Chris all live in North Yorkshire. It will be nice to drive up there.

Chris & Kevin and John

It is so long since I was in North Yorkshire. I was always abroad when things were going on. I have only returned to Ripon once in the whole of my married life and that was for about 20 mins. I don’t even know if I can do it now but I really ought to steel myself. Of course, we will also visit our friends in Greater Manchester, in Shaw, Oldham, Marsden and Helme. It feels so long since we saw them. Let’s hope some still want to see us. We will be up in October as usual but, as things are, we may make a much earlier, additional trip as well even though this morning’s news that parts of this area are shutting down again is not encouraging.

Wednesday, 26th May, 2021

Didn’t sleep last night. Walked at least 50 years. Feels like something huge has happened. Absolutely exhausted this morning but there is a lot to do. Pauline is going for another facial in Rustington. I am the chauffeur. I’ve had tooth ache for 2 -3 days. First time for about 15 years. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, I haven’t been to the dentist for more than 12 months and, now, our Dental Practice has closed down.

We are going to look at a new one this morning. Of course, I am very fragile and need careful handling. The Calm & Gentle Dentist in Rustington sounds just right but I want to check her out first. Does she look calm and will she be gentle? These will be the questions I need to satisfy myself in before signing up to an annual contract. The basic 12 month contract is just over £200.00 per person for twice yearly inspection, cleaning and polishing, twice yearly hygienist treatments and all x-rays.

Tomorrow will be a fascinating day. Have to get Pauline to the station for about 6.30 am as she sets off to visit her old friend in Milton Keynes. Blondie sounds absolutely delightful and is very keen to reunite with Pauline. That is lovely but I will be home alone over Thursday and Friday. I will sleep alone for the first time for around 40 years. I have absolutely no idea how I will react. I am fairly self-sufficient. I can wash and dress myself. I can cook and I know how to switch on the TV for United in the Europa Cup final in the evening. I spend quite a lot of time reading and writing alone but I know someone is always within earshot if I need a drink, etc.. I don’t think for one minute I will sleep. I am alcohol-free for 7 weeks so I can’t induce sleep. I’ll probably just write until I keel over on the desk.

In this week in 2010, we were just getting round to having our Greek kitchen tiled. We had spent a few days in Athens sourcing the tiles and a nice, Greek man was coming to do the job. So we didn’t get in the way, we left for a local resort, Platys Gialos on the south of the island. It was still May but we thought we should test the water temperature for swimming.

Parked up at Platys Gialos – May, 2010

It was another month until we were swimming happily every day until we left in October. I think we have had 5 new cars since then but the time and place feel even further away than that.

CCTV Installations

I received some security advice from a former reader the other day. This evening a CCTV security installer arrived. We don’t really see much crime around here but we have been talking about surveillance of the property linked to our smart phones and tablets for quite a while.

Weybridge, Surrey

At the risk of boring you, Dear Reader, I refer back to happier, more normal times. Just 5 years ago, we were having Lunch (What is Lunch?) with P&C and Amanda at the Hand & Spear gastro pub/hotel in sunny Weybridge. I recorded what we had to eat and that is the most distant part of this: Roast Pigeon with Beetroot and Beetroot Jus for our starter followed by slow roasted Lamb with Celeriac Fondant accompanied by a bottle of chilled, white wine. Sociability plus haut cuisine is now gone.

Thursday, 27th May, 2021

A huge, bright moon overnight drawing the past away. Up at 5.30 am on this absolutely beautiful morning to ferry Pauline to her train. It is a ridiculously long and awkward journey just to get to Milton Keynes. She will go via Gatwick Airport and change at Clapham Junction in a 3hr journey. I will definitely drive her there next time.

She has prepared as much as she can to get me through the next couple of days. I’ve been taught how to use the dishwasher. I’ve rehearsed how to use my credit card in emergencies. My fresh orange juice for breakfast tomorrow has been squeezed and stored in the fridge. What more can I want? Don’t answer that!

Pauline is reuniting with friends and I need to as well.  I’ve driven home to start my Blog and will then spend 2 hard hours in the gym.

Our lovely, across-the-road neighbours came over to say goodbye to us yesterday morning. Pat is 83 and June 81. They are both very active although Pat is now suffering badly with cancer which has spread into his Lymph glands. In the 5 years we have been here, they have been friendly and kind to us and we will miss them.

Actually, we won’t miss them too much because they are only moving about 5 miles away and we will call round to see them when they are settled in. Their Daughter-in-Law is moving to Aberdeen and invited us to stay with her if we go up. I fancy driving to Aberdeen so we will. I hate losing contact with people It feels like something of a bereavement. Still, sometimes it is necessary.

Ζωντανές Web Κάμερες Σίφνος – Καμάρες (skylinewebcams.com)

We will not be on Sifnos island for a while but we can get a little bit closer. The island’ s webcam from ‘our’ side of the harbour runs 24hrs a day. The only excitement occurs if a ferry or fuel ship comes in to dock but it is reassuring just to watch the ripples on the water as we did from our verandah. The EU Digital Covid Certificate for travellers entry will not be launched until July. It will make arrangements for travel very rushed this summer.

My Memory Box threw up this image this morning. Rather shocked me. All looks a bit too classical and refined for the people we are now. The gallery house as I tried to create it at the time. We were finalising the sale remotely from my Office in Greece in 2010 prior to flying home for a month to sign the documents and putting our few, remaining effects into storage.

After a lovely morning in the sun and 20C/68F in our back garden, my performance in the gym was not a pretty site today. Plenty of sweat but also lots of salty tears. I am watching a biopic of Marcel Marceau, the famous (Jewish) French mime artist. Certainly I didn’t know that his early manhood life was in Occupied Poland and then Occupied France as the Nazis swept away the Jewry. Marceau’s contribution was to set up a line and smuggle Jewish orphans to the safety of neutral Switzerland. 

There is sadness everywhere. I don’t know why I chose it to watch particularly when I’m on my own. Parents executed in front of children. Children shot in front of parents. True love torn apart by fear and violence. The sadness is deepest in the individual acts of selfless love and bravery.

Even so, the distraction is useful in that my exercise routine is showing real signs of working. I am pushing it hard and seriously restricting my intake. In the past 2 months, I have lost more than 2 stones in weight. It isn’t comfortable but it is pleasing. 

Friday, 28th May, 2021

What a strange night. Isn’t silence disturbing? I deliberately stayed up until midnight and, even then, woke at 3.00 am and again at 5.00 am.. The radio went on at 6.00 am. Normally, we would be up between 6.00 – 7.00 am. Was woken this morning at 7.56 am by my watch buzzing text messages from my wife.

I was and I hadn’t. I was still in bed and I hadn’t remembered to take the orange out of the fridge. Life is hard for a man!

Early Figs

I looked at myself in the mirror. Not a pretty sight and my face and body were showing the signs of too much sun yesterday. Of course, I hadn’t put any sunscreen on. I have a wife to do that …. only I didn’t yesterday. It hasn’t been the best Spring for warm, sunny weather but I took a photo of the fig trees last night after the sun had gone down. They are starting to grow back vigorously now after the savage Autumn pruning. Young fruit are developing everywhere. Let’s hope we have a long, hot Summer and a big harvest. Love, freshly picked figs. They’ll never be as abundant as our Greek garden trees but they are a reasonable substitute.

Really feeling sad and empty this morning. Don’t know what I’m going to do. Feel like doing something dramatic and rash but it wouldn’t help. I’ll just go on punishing myself in the gym. While working out this morning, I am going to indulge myself with Pavarotti in Puccini’s opera Turandot with its most famous aria from the final Act: Nessun Dorma or “None shall sleep.” Could have been written for me last night.https://www.youtube.com/embed/cWc7vYjgnTs?feature=oembed

Wherever we go, I push hard to get the things that we need to make life easier and more enjoyable. That is what I do – push the boundaries as hard as I can to achieve. One of the big requirements of life is fast broadband provision. Whenever we choose a new house, that is one of the first requirements. When we moved to Sussex, I actually lobbied the BT management long before the house was built and told them I wanted superfast fibre broadband straight to our door. I couldn’t see why that would be a problem on a new-build house. Not long after we moved here, I had exactly that, way ahead of most of the country.

Broadband Centre of Sifnos

Our Greek island provision was the hardest to manage but this little Germanos shop did their absolute best for us and we were able to function well enough to access all our Office documents, Radio & TV and Blog. It was a struggle but that was half the fun of living abroad. Solving difficult problems and achieving long-held dreams.

After a marathon 2½ hrs in the gym, I cleaned the car and unstacked the dishwasher. I even started to examine the washing machine and thought about learning to use it. This is how loneliness and boredom affects people. Put a suit on this afternoon and it nearly fell off me I’ve lost so much weight. When I think I’ve gone as far as I can, I must have some more made.

Saturday, 29th May, 2021

The end of the week, almost the end of the month, end, end, end. Up at 6.00 am and warm but a little overcast. Sainsbury’s delivery at 7.00 am. We are going to the Garden Centre this morning although I’m finding it quite difficult to summon up the enthusiasm. I don’t know what’s happened to my emotions recently. Seem to be all over the place. Everything seems to be touching me off. 

I ‘enjoy’ watching a TV series called Long Lost Family where people who have lost touch with or never met members of their family are helped to search and locate them. Occasionally, those who are found, do not want to reunite and, occasionally, it is already too late because they are have died but the successful ones are emotional and heartening. It is hard to imagine a life of lost connection and meaning, not knowing what could have been. People who are without ‘connection’ feel dissociated and they are constantly searching for something. It must be the ultimate pain.

The most recent series focuses on ‘Foundlings’. These people really have no idea who their parents were or even when they themselves were precisely born. Worst of all, they live with the ultimate sadness that they were discarded unwanted. The first two programmes have featured people who were left on the steps of Churches, Hospitals in bags and boxes. The most recent one featured a woman of 75 who was left on the luggage rack of a train. They are introduced to newspaper cuttings featuring their ‘finding’ all those years before which give them meaning but the ultimate prize is a DNA trace that produces living relatives. The meetings are incredibly emotional affairs.

Pauline had a wonderful reunion with her friend, Christine, who she hadn’t seen since 1973. They fell back in to their relationship as if it had never been lost. They had exchanged Christmas cards each year until recently when Christine’s husband died of cancer and she rather lost the will to do anything social but they had a lovely couple of days.

Both highly trained cooks, Pauline was amused to find Chris was reluctant to cook for her and they were eating M&S meals instead. Next time, I will drive her there and they will include the other two girls of their college quartet. Christine is a mad keen Chelsea fan so I will be texting her tonight as the big match with City is played in Portugal.

Julia Dagg Crane’s lovely kids.

Julia posted a picture of her lovely family. It makes me feel horribly old to realise that one was finishing 6th Form and another finishing 5th Year yesterday. They look delightful kids!