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 ….
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.