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.