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!

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