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!

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