Week 656

Sunday, 18th July, 2021

Sometimes life heaps huge bowls of cherries on us and today is one of those days. The morning is beautiful again. Our little village is looking lovely although we don’t go down into it much except in the car. The old hill down is garlanded with self-seeded flowers which add to its charm.

Down into Angmering village

Yesterday, we reached 27C/81F and today is forecast to be even warmer at over 30C/88F. Our walk yesterday reminded us strongly of those in our 30s when we strode mile after mile across Greek islands, me stripped to the waist in tiny, white shorts absorbing 32C+/90F+ temperatures before stopping for an ice-cold bottle of local, white Demestica wine with some savoury snacks. Those were the days almost 50 years ago!

Talking about walking miles, the weight is falling away and my shorts are in danger of doing the same. My wife is nothing if not economical and she is boil-washing shirts and shorts to shrink them rather than buy new. Can you believe a wife who would do that? Well, I suppose I have got about 20 sets in different colours so I accept my fate. I really don’t care that much.

Yesterday was quite strange in the morning. We went out to Tesco and Asda and, finally, Sainsburys looking for sparkling water, fresh Dill and one or two other things as well as a stock of Shloer. It was quite shocking how poorly the shelves were stocked. There was almost no sparkling water in any of them. No Dill anywhere and so many had shelves empty or nearly empty around 9.00 am on a Saturday morning. People have been warning of this for a while but we saw it today in reality.

We have very few children in our neighbourhood but one house across from us has two girls. Richard and Melanie are Cambridge graduates and their girls are still in Primary school. One was 10 yesterday. Like so many middle class, parents of today, they really push the boat out for their kids. Huge, bouncy castle in the back garden, signs up directing lots of visiting little girls to the ‘fun’. Richard with water-gun in hand, dousing them all on the bouncy castle to shrieks of enjoyment. What it must be to commit so much as parents.

Monday, 19th July, 2021

Pauline thought I was sad yesterday. I’m not sure why but I really felt good as the evening developed. The world is a lovely place especially while Johnson keeps making a fool of himself but there are so many lovely people around that it is important to enjoy them. You know, when we are out walking, people really do go out of there way to wait, stand in lay-bys, walk in the road, to make us feel comfortable as we pass.

The real irony of this morning is that, as the government removes all restrictions on ideological grounds and to appease swivel-eyed back-benchers, infection cases are surging exponentially and leading members of the government are self-isolating. Wales is not releasing for almost another 3 weeks by which time, we may be locking down again although you get some people from England visiting Wales so national controls must be compromised. Kevin, an old College friend who lives in Scotland, put up a poster this morning.


When we were in Greece, we built our house just above the port looking down on the harbour. Up above us was the Boulis farm which featured hundreds of kids – young goats. When we first bought the land and built there, I wondered if that would be a problem. Actually, we found that we loved goats and their bells woke us in the mornings with the sound of Switzerland. They are incredibly inquisitive, friendly and affectionate. It didn’t stop us from eating them, of course. Roast baby goat with Rosemary & Garlic is just delicious although I don’t really eat that sort of meat anymore.

I have a strange relationship with nature as an older man. Someone told me I was too nice which I consider a savage rebuke but it is true that my attitudes have changed. If we get a bee, even a wasp, trapped on the conservatory doors, I try to usher it out rather than kill it. If a beetle crosses my path, I no longer step on it. I have even stopped pulling the wings off flies! I have always felt tender towards and protective of people smaller than myself not only physically but socially, mentally, emotionally. I feel naturally protective and inclined to fight their corner. I don’t say that it has stopped me from eating small things – Quail for example or Whitebait – but I do think about it more. My environmentalist sister Jane BG would be proud of me.  

Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant Tree
Not so Flamboyant Tree

Regular readers will know that, about 5 years ago, I collected and germinated seeds of a tree quite common in the Canaries – Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant Tree. I grew it on as a couple of trees and maintained them in our conservatory windows until they grew too high. Last Winter, I decided – well, it was decided for me – that I would leave it to its fate out in the garden. We only had one, strongish frost and it killed the trees. I potted one (‘stick’) up in a cheap, plastic pot and gave it a chance. It has repaid me by growing back although our Fig Trees are putting it to shame. It will be a little while until I can call it ‘flamboyant’.

We were talking about our car which, even though we’ve had it 2 years, has only done 8,000 miles. It still feels very new to drive. I saw a video clip of someone starting their car with a ‘key’ this morning. Can you imagine that? Haven’t used a key for so many years. Don’t use a key to open up the doors – just pull. Don’t use a key to open the boot – just swipe our foot across. Don’t use a key to start the car – just push a button.

Actually, we hardly have to bother driving the car at all. We set the destination, lane control, speed limiter, speed control, road sign recognition, automatic drive/brake and distance from the car in front, automatic handbrake when stopping. It is so automatic everything and I drive it so little at the moment that, when I do, I forget what it is to be a driver. I passed my test in Failsworth on Christmas Eve, 1975. It seems so long ago. It was a bit of a shock to have to renew my licence this year. We have been through a number of different models of the same vehicle over the years. Our car used to have a spare tyre on the back; then it put a temporary, mini tyre in the boot. Finally, we have no spare tyre just a do-it-yourself, puncture-seal kit for a run-flat tyre. We also have an emergency, 3G mobile button built in to call for help.

Having driven 2000 miles to Greece and then got a bad puncture, I tried to buy a replacement in Athens. Nobody could supply one. We had to fly home to complete the sale of our house in Yorkshire so I sourced a new tyre, packed it in a massive box and sent it Parcel-Force to our home in Greece. It got there before we did. We’ve only once in our driving lives had to buy a new set of tyres for a car. Usually, we have changed the car long before the tyres are reduced.

Tuesday, 20th July, 2021

Warm yesterday and we decided to go down to the beach for an hour or so before the schools break up and children flood the area. The Funfair was still closed but looked as if they were preparing for next week’s rush. Actually, it was comparatively quiet. We walked for about an hour and a half. The only problem with this time is having to dodge all the old people. I play guess-the-age as people shuffle along in front of us. How long until someone does that to me?

The beach itself was almost empty although there were a few swimmers. Rather them than me. I like a heated pool or the Mediterranean for swimming.Sound on, sit back & relax.

Thought you might like a little video clip of what I was experiencing yesterday morning. Few people but plenty of seagulls.

Coming back, we stopped off to buy baskets of fruit – peaches and apricots mainly – and then home. I cut all the lawns including my neighbours’ and then fed and watered them as well. At the moment, they need doing every 2-3 days and the hedge is almost as bad. I finished the afternoon in the gym for an hour where it was so hot that I could hardly peel my shirt off at the end.

The CCTV cameras are being installed tomorrow morning so we’ll be tied to home. The next project has got to be air-conditioning. Every summer we say it but, this time, we’ve got to do something about it. I want the Lounge to be cooler and the bedrooms to be definitely cooler. Pauline is very opposed to ugly boxes on the wall that looked appropriate in our Greek home but not here.

Old Fashion AC.

My solution is more expensive but much less obtrusive – ducted, house-wide cold air distribution.

Everything happens in the spaces above and between floors with ducting leading to discreet vents in the ceiling.

Modern-style AC.

My job now is to investigate suppliers/installers to do the job with the least amount of disruption. Can this be easily retro-fitted?

Wednesday, 21st July, 2021

The lovely days continue although it’s a bit annoying that the West of the country and Wales, in particular, are going to be warmer today. Anyway, they’re usually first to get rain so we’ll let that go. We’ve had a few days of walking by the beach but we’re at home having security cameras installed today. I’ll have to sweat it out in the gym this morning.

East Beach Cafe

Yesterday, we walked by the sea for an hour and a half. We walked the tourist, holiday-maker route past the modernist, East Beach Café and on towards Rustington village. Later, we did another hour’s walk around our local area. We were musing on the fact that we both find it difficult to sit inactively anywhere for any length of time nowadays. Not only do our watches buzz us to ‘MOVE’ but our bodies tell us we need to be active automatically. It’s not comfortable for someone who enjoys writing.

I never give up. When I get a desire fixed in my head, I never stop until I’ve achieved it. Many would say it is obsessive and weird. I am perfectly prepared to acknowledge that and admit it. It is true and something I don’t quite understand about myself. It can be something quite small like yesterday when I had begun to obsess about fresh crab. My wife isn’t even keen on it but I love this summer delicacy. We contacted the fish suppliers. No crab. We went down to the pier for a walk – no crab. We went to the supermarkets – no crab. Tomorrow, we are expecting Billingsgate market to deliver what I want or there will be trouble.

I don’t really know where this aspect of my character derived from. I blame my Mother. I was taught: Never give in! I never give in. I might wait for 50 years but I never give in! It may be just crab tomorrow but, ultimately, ….Meanwhile, we wait and watch and expect …

The Icecream Van

My wife has an ice cream maker. She makes ice cream at home. She is brilliant at it. We haven’t had any ice cream for years – maybe 10 at least. I haven’t seen an ice cream van in our locality since childhood. Yesterday evening, I looked out of my Office window and found an ice cream van parked outside. I despatched my wife immediately for ice cream. We ate it in the Office and it was delicious. I was back in the 1950s. I would have loved to have bought you all an ice cream.

It has been hot down here but it is never hot enough for me. I have been spray, irrigating the lawns and flower beds throughout the afternoon. Our meal has been, cold, roast salmon with Greek Salad. I am in my element – brown as my skin will allow and glowing with health. I am hungry for activity and exploration. Open the gates and let me out!

One of the problems down here is that homes being built in large numbers are generally not ‘affordable’. They are in the high-end sector. They also tend to be on green belt land rather than redeveloped. I was reading the MEN last night about the redevelopment of a brownfield site – the former Rex Mill site Middleton – with 330 homes ranging from one-bed mews properties to large detached properties – built on a 30-acre piece of land. Just over a third of the homes would be ‘affordable’, with the rest split roughly equally between houses for market-rate sale and private rent.

This is the sort of thing that is needed to house those unfortunate enough to be struggling on the housing ladder! We just read last night of another 200 homes here being proposed on green belt land near us – currently a golf course – although some will be apartments as well as 4-bedroomed houses.

Thursday, 22nd July, 2021

A hot and sunny day of high humidity. The CCTV installer arrived early on the most delicious morning yesterday and worked around the outside mounting cameras and then in the loft to place the wi-fi distribution box. All of this fed down into the Gym/Garage where the recorder was sited. We have software installed on our smartphones, iPads, PCs and laptops to review, edit and save clips. Someone said I give too much of my personal information away on my Blog and invited burglars. Well, at least I will be able to picture those who are robbing me now.

In the gym, I’m still watching this Mancunian-Ibizan serial, White Lines, on Netflix. It has 10 episodes and I’m only on Episode 5. For me, it is quite a hard watch although I’ve been quite captivated by the central character, a North Manchester girl who is seeking the truth about her brother’s murder two decades earlier. The actress is Laura Haddock and she presents a convincing Mancunian girl in my experience. Actually, she is a 35 year old Londoner which is a testament to her acting.

I’ve already identified my next one which will be based on a true story in the 1940s about Florence Foster Jenkins. New York socialite, Florence Foster Jenkins dreams of becoming a great opera singer. Unfortunately, her ambition far exceeds her talent. The voice Florence hears in her head is beautiful, but to everyone else it is quite awful. This film features Meryl Streep & Hugh Grant both of whom I enjoy.

Apart from my Blog, I haven’t done any writing for a day or two. I’ve been deserted by my Muse, I think. Must get back to it urgently and renew the flow which I found recently. It was actually giving me so much pleasure. It has been a little warm in the Office to be sitting around missing the sun. I don’t remember when I was last so brown – certainly not since 6 months in Greece although we deliberately avoided the intense sunshine in those days.

I wrote recently, to some derision, about the paucity of produce on supermarket shelves. The Mail today is featuring exactly that as well as Royal Mail deliveries across the country hit by the pandemic. Brexit and the pandemic provide the perfect storm for a civilised life although not many Brexiters stoked up by the false, Tory culture war will acknowledge it.

Far be it from me to want to spend money on my wife but I’ve been trying to persuade her to have a new computer for a while. Hers is old and slow and new ones are so cheap nowadays that it would make sense. In addition, she is constantly Facetiming/Video-conferencing her friends and her sister and demanding my large screen iPad to do it.

A new computer like this would cost less than £1000.00, take up less space, run so much more quickly and have a pop-up webcam integrated for video conferencing. It’s the way forward but why can’t she see it? Some women just lack technological enthusiasm!

Last night at 9.00 pm it was hot, hot, hot – still 26C/79F – when I went out in the garden and captured the moon on my phone. Beautiful but slightly mournful, golden misshape in a hot, dark sky. I had one of those speculative moments wondering who else was looking at the moon at that self-same time. Greek friends, at their 11.00 pm would be feeling hot as they finished Dinner under this moon. Old Northern friends would be outside staring up at this lump of gold. I suspect not many of them would be dreaming this romantic (sentimental?) dream.

Friday, 23rd July, 2021

Another beautiful, sunny morning and a humid 24C/75F although this may be the last for a short while. Exactly 55 years ago this morning, ( I have to catch my breath when I say such things! 55 years ago!!) I was standing on the platform at Burton-upon-Trent railway station waiting for a train to Holyhead. I was going to take the night ferry to Dun Loghaire – the port for Dublin. I was with a group of lads and we were going to journey round Loch Derg, County Donegal in a horse-drawn (tinker’s) caravan. I arrived in the centre of Dublin after a tumultuous sea crossing of the Irish Sea just weeks after the IRA had blown up a statue of Nelson on top of a 41m-high pillar in the very centre of Dublin. Now, the Brexit Agreement is, at last, moving both sides towards a united Ireland.

Hot, hot, hot day yesterday. Loved it! Went out early to Tesco and then on to the beach. It was not quiet yesterday. Some schools had broken up and some were on last day visits to the seaside. The beach and promenade were really busy. Right from the Marina Promenade, there were lots of youngsters and parents and proud grandparents (What must it be like to be a proud Grandparent?) helping and safeguarding youngsters who were catching crabs over the side with a single line and reel.

The excitement of the catch!

The crabs, of course, were only inches in size and not edible but the kids were absolutely delighted with the creatures struggling to escape from the inch or so of water boiling under the sun in their buckets. On the opposite side, the Funfair was limbering up to open at the weekend.

We walked for an hour or so down the beach road and there were so many swimming in the sea, we felt like cowards in comparison. It was incredibly warm and the sea temperature had gone up 1C to 19C but it wasn’t enough to tempt us. I needed a slave to send on ahead as a tester. There must be a philistine who could do that job!

Back to the 1950s?

It was good, old-fashioned bucket & spade fun from the 1950s so reminiscent of the time Brexiters wanted to return to. We even had the Promenade train rides to avoid.

Train tastefully painted with the EU flag!.

I told you I never give in and I got (part of) my reward yesterday morning with the most delicious crab you can imagine. We also bought half a dozen local (Portsmouth) scallops in their shells for our meal. They were gorgeous on a bed of samphire. If you’ve never tried samphire, dear reader, get some. Lightly boiled and tossed in a bit of butter, it is the food of angels. After that meal, I felt savagely energetic and up for anything.

My choice of music today is the Slave song from Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco. If you give it a few moments and get over the opening bars, it is sublime:https://www.youtube.com/embed/2VejTwFjwVI?feature=oembed

I retired 12 years ago last April and, no longer earning, one of the concerns has always been that inflation and earnings would reduce the value of our savings/investments. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Office for National Statistics has just released figures to show that teachers’ pay is still 8% below the place it was 12 years ago. Teachers have just had a pay freeze announced again this year. I certainly don’t rejoice in that and there are definitely inflationary tendencies in the current economy but, as a teacher/pensioner, the trend could not have been much more helpful.

Saturday, 24th July, 2021

It was one of those weird nights of heat and high humidity, very reminiscent of Greek summers. In just the same way, it produced a long, loud, thunderstorm with an hour of continual white flashes and bangs to shake the house. If we’d driven down to the beach, we might have seen this just as we used to watch across the bay in Sifnos.

As it was, we sat in the comfort of our Lounge drinking cups of tea and watching the sky light up.

We were out cornering the market for Shloer yesterday and again this morning. Tesco is advertising it at half price – £1.10 – although it often sells at even more than double that. Anyway, it is so disgusting that there can’t be many people in the world desperate enough to buy it. For me, it is just a way to avoid alcohol. I’ve only got about 60 bottles in my stock at the moment so this was a time to build it up. Another 40 over 2 days brings it up to a good, round number which appeals to me. Anyone out there who feels deprived is welcome to come round for a bottle. These are the sorts of daft things that 70 yr olds can and should do. Life really is for enjoyment and packing in as much of it as possible. I think I’m going to take up walking on walls again.

The Queen, famously, never carries money. Of course, I have done exactly the same since I got married. My wife was given all charge of day-to-day spending. She buys everything. She loves buying things. Boil-washing my old shorts to shrink them to fit my new size has ended. A dozen, new, appropriately-sized pairs of shorts arrived yesterday and they fit beautifully.

I deal with savings & investments. If I wanted to buy anything independently, I have an array of credit cards but I use them so rarely that I can never remember the PINs. Suddenly, along came smartphones and new, associated payment methods. Google Pay is a boon because, having set it up, one doesn’t need to remember anything. However, it used to be limited to £30.00 and then increased to £40.00 but that felt very restrictive. Yesterday, I learnt that there is no longer any upper limit. I’ll buy my next car with it! How anyone can cope without smartphones and modern payment methods is a mystery to me but then, many things are. I’m sure I will get to understand at some stage.

We managed a good walk outside in the sunshine and a sultry temperature that reached 28C/83F yesterday. I combined exercise and sunbathing as I pressure-washed the patio flags. I gave my wife three jobs – making a batch of bread, making fresh, strawberry jam and cutting my hair. She didn’t complete any of them but she did suggest I might like to look for a new or additional wife. I am actively considering it.

I’m still watching the Manchester/Ibiza serial inspired by carpets and this image came up on social media yesterday. It amused me. Maybe it will you.

Week 655

Sunday, 11th July, 2021

Even though I was shattered last night and went to bed just after 11.00 pm, I was awake at 2.30 am and didn’t really get back to sleep again. It’s amazing how one’s head rules one’s body in times like this. Tired this morning when I got up at 7.00 am but a lovely, sunny morning has helped.

The quote for our CCTV installation came in yesterday and, at £780.00 for supply & installation, was below the figure we had expected. We have instructed the company to go ahead with the plan as soon as possible.

Also in the post yesterday were our official, NHS Vaccination Certificates required for European and Transatlantic travel. Very efficient system in which we applied online and received by post within 5 working days. Unfortunately, Covid cases are exploding exponentially in England just as Johnson looks to open up. Already, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with patients who have contracted the Johnson (formerly Delta/India) Variant. England’s R number is back up to 1.2 – 1.5 again.

Covid cases are soaring in Spain and Portugal and increasing in Greece and Turkey as Johnson Variant takes hold – just as lots of Brits prepare to fly to Europe. Only fully vaccinated will be allowed out/in and, even then, will require expensive PCR tests each way. At the moment, we think the best we can do is a French drive.

Day 4

Roast salmon with Pesto Crust
Samphire & Green Beans with Garlic

Not too many calories in this meal apart from in the pesto. Yesterday’s exercise in the Gym was an absolute killer but I forced myself to do it. I have completed my routine for 149 consecutive days. I am managing about 65 miles a week at the moment although my weights work has been a bit sporadic. I’m giving myself a good talking to and will renew my effort in that from the start of the new week.

TV and print media are really going over the top about football this morning. I enjoy football and watch lots of it but this is not really about sport. It is all about politics. It makes me very uncomfortable. Of course, I remember dear Harold Wilson not being shy about milking World Cup glory in 1966 so it is nothing new.https://www.youtube.com/embed/euveRgxXB2g?feature=oembed

In an effort to make the ‘news’ about football, one commentator also reminded me that the No.1 single at the time in 1966 was Chris Farlowe’s Out of Time. I was embarrassed to find that I still knew all the words. Why do I remember such meaningless rubbish but forget all the important things?

Monday, 12th July, 2021

Everywhere was quiet, silent even and this on an evening of international football. There were a number of reasons. Firstly, having lived here for over 5 years, we have never had a power cut. There was one last night just an hour before the game kicked off. We were reduced to the idea of watching on smartphones or driving out and finding a hotspot to link up our iPads. Pauline’s friend was preparing to keep us up to date and her niece in America was watching live and texting her. Fortunately, Southern Electricity rode to the rescue and found there had been a number of substations that had tripped out. Just before the kick-off, a worker arrived at the perimeter of our Development to fix ours and the power came back on.

Even so, as rain fell, planned football parties in back gardens were moved inside behind closed doors. So, when England scored early on, any cheering was unheard. Finally, when Italy equalised and then won, the silent depression of England supporters was matched by the silent but respectful celebration of our Italian neighbours.

Tory England

I’ve been reading an interesting article by Andrew Adonis in Prospect Magazine, Andrew remembers Johnson musing over two, particular ideas in a conversation just before he took on the Referendum campaign. Firstly, he was totally undecided which side of the Brexit vote he should come down on which tells you much about his personal ambition overriding his principles. Secondly, he said whichever side he came down on, the British people would be malleable. In Latin, he quoted the Roman poet, Virgil, “Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.” By playing the clown to the audience; by allying himself to English sporting achievements like the European Football Championship in which he has no interest, Johnson is harnessing the Bread & Circuses distraction.

The objective manifestation of this could be seen in Leicester Square last night as the foolish led the idiotic in Tory, nationalist England. And none of these people will have the slightest inkling that their rights of protest are currently being legislated out of UK law. The international rights of asylum claim are being severely truncated. The conditions of exercising a vote are being made less easy. This is how the Bread & Circuses trick works. Of course the pickanniny/letterbox prime minister has come out to condemn the racist abuse of his followers that he legitimised in the first place.

I used to think I was brave and something of a risk taker. Now, I’ve realised how weak and pathetic I’ve become. Why? Well, in the past, I would happily invest comparatively large amounts of money in investment vehicles. We didn’t really have one significant failure in that policy. In the past few days, I’ve merely wanted to move largish sums of money from one account to another online instead of asking the bank to do it and found myself really scared in pressing the final, ‘SEND’ key. Is this a sign of age? I WILL do it … soon.

Day 5

Chicken in White Wine, French Mustard & Tarragon Sauce
Broad Beans
Cauliflower & Broccoli Salad

You might spot the weakness in the latest meal-pic. Yes, I gave in and drank red wine. Well, everyone else with some notable exceptions, seemed to be drinking yesterday.

Firenze/Florence Railway Station – 2017

Just 4 years ago today, we were in the hot and sweaty but beautiful Florence railway station having travelled from our base in Lucca. I bet it will have been a lot noisier last night.

Tuesday, 13th July, 2021

Halfway through July already! The end of the school year this week. I know it’s stupid but these things suddenly jump up and bite me – the passage of time, the speed of it. Been out early to Rustington to buy fruit – peaches from Spain and Apricots from Portugal. Nice, warm morning with sun breaking through. Got the Covid-Testing Lady from Oxford University arriving at 10.00 am for a Lateral Flow test followed by another pint of blood. No wonder I’m losing weight.

Hampstead Swimming Baths

A lovely morning of warm sunshine yesterday which made our walk down to the village delightful. I came back and did some writing. Getting beyond the planning stage has been really hurting me. Suddenly, this morning it flowed quite naturally from a simple idea, a memory, a picture. I had a feeling it might happen in this way but was beginning to get a bit despondent. When it started, the flow was so enjoyable, I couldn’t stop. Like the sudden sharp hot stink of fox … It enters the dark hole of the head. … The page is printed. Not getting ahead of myself but hope my muse visits again today!

Talking about flowing, central London streets were awash yesteday afternoon after a cloud burst. Our neighbour, Dorset suffered similarly. We had thunder but without the water.

Day 6

Pan-fried Cod Loin
Artichoke Hearts & Peas

I read the Manchester Evening NewsOldham Chronicle and Huddersfield Examiner most evenings and have really been struck by the level of violent crime featured in them. I may be wrong but it doesn’t feel as bad in my local papers. Last night, the MEN reported two men with serious stab wounds being dumped at the doors of the Oldham Royal Hospital. They had been attacked at Middleton Junction. At the same, the Oldham Chronicle was reporting a murder by shooting in streets of terraced houses. How much anger and violence there is in our society, however impoverished, astonishes and saddens me.

Bad, Sad Memories

Watched another episode of Long Lost Family last night and, although it seems obvious, it suddenly dawned on me that it was the constant searching, the constant looking, the constant enquiring for the missing person that was so soul-destroying. So often that searching needn’t have been so prolonged. Often, when the reconnection takes place, the separated have been living within miles of each other most of their lives. There is a compounding of the tragedy that destroys their lives. The thread with one fixed in time and the other loose and flailing is the image on which to pin my writing.

Wednesday, 14th July, 2021

This morning has opened with lovely weather, remaining 17C/63F overnight and we are forecast to get better as the week advances. We have a fresh fish delivery of Cod, Swordfish, Tuna, Calamari and Dressed Crabs – enough for the rest of the month.

Yesterday we did the next installment of the Lateral Flow and Blood Antibody tests for the Oxford University Covid Project. An interesting lady from the Gatwick area sat in the sunshine of our back garden to carry out the Tests & Questionnaire. She used to be a Monarch Airways hostess and, later, a British Airways hostess but had been forced into this project by the cut in travel. The sun was hot and the temperature reached a quite sultry 25C/77F. It was almost too bright for her to use her iPad.

Day 7

Pan-fried Fillet of Sea Bass with King Prawns,
Asparagus, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Oregano & Basil and Samphire

Having now completed the 7 days Food Record, readers will see that it is dominated by fish and vegetables. This week, it has included 2 meat days but that is one more than normal. It represents a massive shift from our working life when I would eat a huge bowl of cereal for Breakfast, a spam burger from the school Canteen at Break. I would have a school Lunch which would invariably include chips and then a Pasta dish in the evening at home with at least one bottle of red wine. All this stress-eating! How I coped with all that carbohydrate, I have no idea.

You know, I’ve thought about writing a book, a fiction, a story for so many years. I had told myself that my time had passed. I was kidding myself. I couldn’t do it. Perhaps I couldn’t be bothered. Suddenly, something happened and, at the age of 70, I began to think again. I don’t know what sparked it but it has been churning round in my head for the past few months without really taking off. Suddenly, it has spurted into my mind.

Call it what you will but I’ll fall back on that old cliché, my Muse has appeared. Years late – nothing changes. Old, wrinkly but not dry, the creative juices have started flowing. Will it last? Who knows. I have a feeling it will. Today, I’ve found an interesting book to help me. I know people who publish their books purely to Kindle format and avoid all publishing costs but this, Manchester man, has done it the hard way and may well have some useful lessons to teach me.

I could buy it from https://www.abebooks.co.uk/ for £12.78 or download it to my Kindle Reader app for ‘free’. Guess? Who are these people who haven’t arrived at e-books yet? Must be very wealthy! Thank goodness I found this book. Let’s hope my wrinkly old Muse doesn’t see it as cheating and dry up!

Guo Gangtang searching for his son

Wonderful story reported by the BBC last night. A Chinese man, Guo Gangtang’s son had been snatched aged two by human traffickers in front of their home in the province of Shandong. His son’s disappearance actually inspired a movie in 2015. After his son was abducted in 1997, Mr. Guo reportedly travelled to more than 20 provinces around the country on the back of a motorbike chasing tip-offs.

In the process, he broke bones in traffic accidents and even encountered highway robbers. Ten motorbikes were also damaged. Carrying around banners with his son’s picture on them, he is said to have spent his life savings on his mission, sleeping under bridges and begging for money when he ran out of cash. However, Guo was rewarded for such tenacious and dedicated effort and he has been reunited with his son after a 24-year search that saw him travel over 500,000km on a motorbike across the country.

Do I have that staying power? I’d like to think I do but would rather not be put to the test!

Just an interesting coda: The police are reporting 2,300 incidents of attacks on Italians across the country following the football final. That is the sort of country the Tories’ populist nationalism with all its flag-waving has created.https://www.youtube.com/embed/iMJPZ-mu-Ts?feature=oembed

To encourage them, I feature the most appropriate music for a day like today: Beethoven’s 6th Symphony – Pastoral. Forget the flags and move to the country!

Thursday, 15th July, 2021

Yesterday was warm and sultry. We reached 26C/79F in the afternoon. I was busy all through the day cutting lawns including my neighbours, doing my exercise routine for the 153rd consecutive day including a very warm walk outside.

Up at 6.30 am this morning with a gorgeous prospect for today. Blue sky, strong sun, green lawns, bright flowers – 18C/65F at this time. We have a Sainsbury’s delivery at 7.30 am. Although we have a lovely day in prospect, I still feel trapped by my circumstances.

Three years ago we were spending a month in the Dordogne and called in to visit one of my cousins who has properties there.

Cousin Sue & (Australian) husband, Phi Tuffin in Salles-Lavalette

Four years ago we were spending a month driving round Tuscany and were enjoying the wonderful town of Bologna in incredible heat.

Reserving a seat for the film – Bologna centre – 2017

Ten years ago, we were halfway through our 6 months stay on Sifnos and eating out in the quiet, fishing village of Vathy eating in one of our favourite restaurants.

A quiet lunch in Vathy – 2011

These are the sorts of things we are absolutely desperate to continue even though it feels like running away from reality. Living in a ‘nice’ place pales into insignificance when it begins to feel like a prison.

Pauline has text or phone communication with her old, College friend from 1973 almost every day which is lovely for her. She is really enjoying it. They will meet up again soon. This time, I may drive her to Milton Keynes and meet Chris myself. Having heard her on the phone, she sounds delightful and I’m looking forward to meeting her. Her husband died 2 – 3 years ago of cancer. The other two girls of the quartet we have not met yet. One is on her 2nd marriage and the other is on her 3rd husband and has just heard that he has terminal cancer. How stark lives can be! I find these hard messages unbearably difficult to cope with. I was told this yesterday and carried it round in my head as I worked and walked. I know I am over-sensitive, weak and pathetic but that’s how it is.

Few of us are untouched by cancer at one remove at least. My mother had bowel cancer and surgery resulted in a colostomy bag which I know she found very uncomfortable and limiting. Our lovely neighbour, Pat, is suffering from stage 4 cancer which has moved into his lymph glands making it inoperable. How do you cope with that news?  It panics me and urges on my project. I have so many goals to achieve before I go.

Just been listening to the former Children’s Commissioner talking about child poverty and citing the case of a boy sleeping on a Palet with only a blanket to cover him and of a family sleeping on a bus overnight to keep warm. In the UK!! I cannot bear the thought of it and weep as I think about it. How can people be put in that situation? Maybe it is because we don’t have the distraction of travel or just that I am getting older but I’m finding it hard shutting these things out.

Friday, 16th July, 2021

Wonderful, wonderful morning. Hot, sunny, welcoming, embracing. Going down to the beach this morning to enjoy the weather and the smell of the sea. Before that, a quick trip to the Garden Centre for supplies for the lawns.

Up early yesterday and out for a walk in the strong sunshine by 9.30 am. The temperature was already 23C/74F and we felt its power as we walked in our local area. It is the first time for a couple of weeks that we have done this route and it’s amazing how far the countryside has advanced towards the end of Summer.

The fields of barley are turning rapidly golden and ready for the harvester. The field edges are really the most beautiful areas with their diversity of plants. These thistles (Echinops) are almost over but are all the more dynamic for their seed heads. Yesterday, from the fields’ margins, we picked and ate handfuls of wild raspberries with the most wonderful flavour.

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold …..

I hate, resent the way that music draws out of me emotions I desperately want to repress. Even so, I have to recognise their existence. Nigel, Julie and John-2 have acknowledged my photos of the fields of barley which I’ve posted on social media. That is nice and gives me a sense of reconnection.

Drone photo of Littlehampton Marina

Lovely photo taken from a drone camera yesterday of the River Arun running into the sea at Littlehampton Marina where we walk so often. The picture is so sharp that you can see the wind farm out at sea. We will be down there today.

Saturday, 17th July, 2021

Up at 4.00 am. Couldn’t sleep. My head is full of thoughts. Sometimes I think I’m losing the plot. On others, I think I never had it in the first place. Out walking by 5.00 am. The sky is like a backlit stage as the sun begins to rise. The birds and rabbits have the world to themselves until I arrive. Actually, a lady is watering her front garden and I meet a couple of girls out walking as well. Pauline woke to find me gone and phoned when I was at my furthest point from the house. I was back by 6.30 am and we were soon out to Tesco and then Asda to re-corner the market in Shloer because my stocks are running down and they are on half-price offers.

The lovely days continue and this one is going to be even better. It’s just as well because all ideas of a French trip seem to be on hold as the government has moved France on to the ‘red’ list with quarantine required even for the fully vaccinated. Looks like Yorkshire/Lancashire will be the extent of our travels this year. Still, there are lots of lovely people and places to revisit there.

Yesterday, we went down to the beach. Because schools are still in session, it was very quiet and peaceful at 10.00 in the morning.

Lovely, empty beach.

A few old men sat around Oyster Pond sailing their model boats but the cries of children were obviously missing.

The old men play at Oyster Pond

As we walked along the beach path, a crocodile of children in high-viz vests wound down the beach and set up with their teachers for their Sports Day which I thought was a nice idea.


As we walked by the beach yesterday morning, two, grey haired ladies walked by talking. I love to overhear this sort of conversation. It’s the sort of thing writers feed off. One was saying, Well, we all went to the reunion and then, you know, two months later she was dead. Can you believe that? I really never want to have that conversation myself. Pauline has an emergency investigation at the hospital next week which is worrying us but we are both working hard to keep fit and stay healthy. We are determined to never give in to ageism! It is important to do everything to keep at bay the decline of the intellect.

One of the clear signs of aging is accepting. It is fatal. Never give up trying new things. Never say you are too old to try that. Never think it is just for younger people. Never give up!

It hurts me when I hear people say they are too old. We are only too old when we are dead! It is a mindset that can be cultivated. It separates two types of human beings. Reader, you really must fall on the right side of this divide. New things; new inventions; new routines; new relationships are what keep us young and alive. The challenge is all!

Recent research has found that those who continue to pursue intellectual activities – reading, writing, etc., are the most likely to delay the onset of aging, of Dementia/Alzheimer’s by at least 5 years which, at our age, could be significant. Embracing new technology, learning new languages, travelling, learning new skills are all ways of staving off the closing down of the brain. Rage, Rage against the dying of the light!

Really struggling to find new things to watch in the gym at the moment. My latest, Netflix distraction is called White Lines and is set in 1990s Manchester and 2020s Ibiza.

It is like the old BBC ‘Eldorado’ from the 90’s and ‘Hollyoaks’ rolled into one in Ibiza. Sex scenes and nudity mostly for no reason at all, but a nice back drop and distraction from sometimes misplaced humour.

Film Critic

The former centres around the 1990s, Manchester music scene which, of course, I am not an expert in. I’m told it features Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, the Inspiral Carpets. Can you imagine being inspired by carpets? The latter largely centres around the drugs scene which I’m also not expert in hence the white lines. It’s all a bit daft but it is 10 episodes and I’m reluctant to stop halfway through. I’m reluctant to give up on anything worth having.

Week 654

Sunday, 4th July, 2021

Warm but heavy rain over night. Nice of the philistines to send it down South. Up at 6.30 am and it is soon dry again. Everywhere looks lovely and luscious just like me. My new trousers arrived yesterday and fitted me perfectly. The waistband has returned me to 1985. I’ve got 3 more pairs arriving over the next few days even though my fitness programme will continue. Good job we’ve got lots of ‘overspill’ wardrobes. Success will be relegating these new trousers to there.

Our next door neighbours bought us some lovely roses as a thank you for a small favour we had done for them. They were bought in Waitrose and have been scenting the kitchen for almost 2 full weeks. Absolutely lovely to have cut flowers in the room and to last so long.

How do people survive without modern technology? I know of those who don’t use a computer, don’t use email, don’t even have a smartphone. I only ask because I have realised as I have gone back into the shopping world that I couldn’t manage without any of these things. My smartphone pays for almost everything that is contactless. My watch tells me that emails and text messages are coming in as long as my smartphone is close. If I’m out of the house, I get notices of breaking news, I can check the weather and I can be warned that something is being delivered and when. All banking is done on line. Haven’t had money or been to a bank for years.

I usually found that those who didn’t embrace technology were basically rather frightened of it, frightened of ‘breaking’ it or embarrassed that they would be found wanting. It has been my mission in life to convert them to the modern world. Ever the teacher, all it takes is compassion and reassurance. Anyone who intends to live for another 20 years will find themselves completely left behind by the fast pace of the technological society.

I love writing. I write something every day. I am forcing myself currently to map out a potential book based on life events. It is amazing how difficult it is to visualise the central theme. It needs to be a weave of the emotional and the intellectual but it needs to be gripping. It occupies my thoughts whatever I am doing during the day. At 5.30 am, I was listening to a BBC Radio 4 programme about the nature of inspiration which provoked this thought today but I have always liked Ted Hughes description of the creative process as a sensual, sexual one which he describes in his poem, The Thought Fox.

Hughes compares his mind sniffing out the ideas for his poem like a fox sniffing out its mate in the forest. It is slow, silent, gentle at first but

A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now ….

…Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

Ejaculation and fertilisation is the inspiration of the imagination. Writer’s block is erectile dysfunction. And in the same vein (if you will pardon the allusion), my most recent gym film was a bonkers one called Sirens with Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald. It has an 18 certification and is not right for a 70 yr old on a treadmill. Unfortunately, I have to finish when I’ve started.

I don’t advertise its address but I have bought separate, WordPress space to do an entire backup and replication of my Blog in case anything happens to it. I really couldn’t stand the idea of losing so many years of my life. There are so few people left alive who could help in recalling it for me. Every Sunday evening, I back up the previous week’s Blog in its entirety for posterity.

Monday, 5th July, 2021

Lovely, sunny and warm morning – quite the opposite of what was forecast. My jobs are pressure washing the patio and cleaning the car. Can’t wait!

Aneurin Bevan

On this day in 1948, just 3 years before I was born, the Labour Government’s Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan, launched the new, National Health Service which would be free at the point of delivery. It transformed the lives of the English population and gave me a great start in life. I had so many serious Rugby injuries that I made full use of it in my youth. From cradle to grave it was intended to support us against the exigencies of life. Now we await the Tory’s Care Plan which they said was already ready but seems to have got lost in translation. I wonder if it will arrive before I need it.

I have driven around Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy at least 30 times in my life en route to/from Ancona via Milano. I must admit that it never looked like this beautiful painting from more than 100 years before when I was there. Even so, I am painfully, heart-rendingly conscious of the fact that I have been on the same patch of earth that some random, American artist occupied however fleetingly as well.

Isola Bella in Lago Maggiore – Sanford Robinson Gifford – 1871

I am constantly taunted by this concept as I review my life. The patch of earth where I spent my childhood in a Midlands village and all the human connections and experiences that came with it. The patch of earth in North Yorkshire and all the pleasure and torment that I associate with that time. The patch of earth I briefly inhabited in Lancashire and the events interwoven in my consciousness followed by those patches of earth I lived on for 30 years in Yorkshire. There is the tiny chunk of rock in the middle of the Aegean Sea where I spent so much of my adult life and the patches of earth in Surrey and Sussex where I’ve passed the time in retirement.

All of these patches of earth have been imbued with my life’s blood, with my tears of sadness and of joy, where I have celebrated congregation and mourned separation. Yet I have an overwhelming desire to cling on, to revisit, to not let go. Letting go would represent relinquishing life itself.https://www.youtube.com/embed/SN2fOgfFnDo?feature=oembed

I have just done an idle search on YouTube and watched footage of each of these places. I know them so well, I can feel, hear, taste and smell each of them in my memories. They move me to tears in the sense of lost time. And yet I hear that song which so struck me so forcibly alone in my bedroom back in 1964 – The Moody Blues, Go Now. Then, I was desperate to get away. Now, it must be aging and the need to cling on that has changed my perception of these experiences.

Tuesday, 6th July, 2021

Warm, wet and windy this morning. I will spend it in the gym and the office. Yesterday really did turn out much better than expected with lovely, warm sunshine as we walked. I also did a really hard gym workout to help the cause.

It is nice to get fun and cheeky texts and my little sister, Liz, thought it would be amusing to emphasise the aging process by sending me an article illustrating two parents and their child who were photographed on the same day each year over a period of about 30 years.

The passage of Time

Last week my dentist took one look at my notes and said, You don’t look 70! I thought you were about my age – 56. On Friday, our new neighbours exclaimed, You certainly don’t look anything like 70. You have to be a bit sceptical about these protestations but maybe being denied children has kept us younger. Who knows? I certainly know a few 70 year olds who are distinctly more wrinkly – not that I would ever point it out …. unless I had the chance! Pauline thinks I am so fat I just fill and stretch my skin better but she’s just jealous of my innate beauty.

This week 7 years ago, we had agreed a price for the sale of our Greek house and were preparing to sign the sale documents after quite a tortuous process. It marked a sad but profitable end to our time there and we were just looking forward to the long drive home. I suppose all lives have these landmarks in them. They make us who we are. The differences between the two photographs above will have been fashioned by events like these although we will never know their personal circumstances.

I stare at these people and try to imagine what has happened to them, their loves and fears, arguments and celebrations. We all have disasters and successes, losses and gains. It may be my imagination but there seems to be a small element of reticence, resignation and defeat in the couple as they’ve aged. I stare and want to shout to them,

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas – 1952

Whatever little Liz thought she might achieve; I intend to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. There are lots more things to explore and enjoy. Hopefully, lots of this will include travel, interesting places and lovely people.

Dijon 2017 – Home of French Mustard

Four years ago this week, we were driving through France to Italy and staying in Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin, Genoa, Lucca, Florence, Pizza, Bologna, Parma, etc. An epic month away. This year a week in Yorkshire feels quite a bonus. Perhaps there will be more than that. Keeping optimistic and working on material for the book.

I don’t know why I do it because it always gets to me but I watched the first of a new series of Long Lost Family last night. The format was the same as always. Two people had started searching for people from their past, from almost 50 years ago. They have often held back for years for fear of rejection.

Initial search and contact is made by the professionals and then one writes a letter for the other and supplies a photograph. The photograph is so important. Almost always, there has been an empty divide, a longing for reunion, an emotional completion on both sides although each is uncertain of the other. They are concerned how others in their lives will react.

When contact is finally made, there is an overwhelming release of the pent up emotion which has been held at bay over years. Sometimes, it is too much for those involved and the relationship doesn’t develop. More often and certainly last night, the participants find reunion extends and completes their lives. Even for the viewer, this is an emotional and enriching experience. I sob quietly into my coffee.

Wednesday, 7th July, 2021

Yesterday turned out very warm and sunny and we managed a good hour’s walk. The birds were out in force and singing very loudly. Whole schools of young starlings were being given flying lessons on the fence. To be honest, they seem naturals.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

I’ve always found this anthem strangely contradictory. Britons seem to believe they will never be slaves (unless as a lifestyle choice) but just let us live under an unelected monarchy and a ruling aristocracy who have inherited power and influence with an unelected House of Lords and a House of Commons dominated by the privileged of public school education.  

Bryan Ferry,extreme Brexit supporter with his sons at Public School, widely criticised as a Nazi apologist, sang Slave to Love. He was certainly a slave to the concept of authoritarian politics:https://www.youtube.com/embed/9kp3N3wQPO0?feature=oembed

I am a lifelong republican although, in America, I would be a Democrat. I reject any form of rule that cannot be removed by democratic, peaceful means if we are not satisfied with it. I reject populism, jingoism and all those other isms of flag-waving nationalism because they embody the demand for authoritarian government. Populism and authoritarianism thrive on flag-waving which it encourages by demonising outsiders. It is classic Orwell and Animal Farm.

For this reason, I have a problem wholeheartedly embracing the national euphoria around the England football team and shudder to watch politicians who have little knowledge or love of the game trying to expropriate the national team’s success. I enjoy watching football, rugby and cricket. Only football is dominated by flag-waving. It almost signals a lack of self-confidence in the country’s desperate assertion of collectivity.

My online calendar reminds me that it is 7 years (7 years!) tonight – a very sweaty 34/93F – in Greece that we signed over our island home and started to work out how to repatriate all that cash without paying tax on it.

The Tesco of Sifnos – Apostelos, Nikos & Moshca

These two photos illustrate the ‘supermarkets’ which were really no more than corner shops in UK terms where all our groceries were sourced for so many Summers.

Arades – Sifnos ‘Sainsbury’s

It is unbelievable to think, in one week’s time, it will have been a whole 7 years since we left for the last time. What will we achieve in the next 7 years? Maybe you know!

This morning we have been out to real supermarkets and have rushed home because DPD have pinged my app to tell me they are making a delivery. Pauline needed a more powerful hob for outdoor cooking.

It is being delivered by Shaun who is married with 2 kids and has worked for DPD for 2 years and made 40K+ deliveries. Shaun used to play rugby but now only watches. This potted biography is helpfully supplied by DPD on my app.

Thursday, 8th July, 2021

Another dull, overcast morning although it had been warm – 16C/61F  – all night. Up early for a Sainsbury‘s delivery at 7.00 am. Got a CCTV installer arriving at 10.00 am and then we can get on with the day. 

Everybody seemed to want to give me money back yesterday. I haven’t denied them. Our Sky monthly bill went up to £121.00. I’d had no warning so I looked it up on the website. There, having logged into my account, I was told that my contract was up for renewal and that, if I agreed to a 18 month renewal, they would reduce it to £99.00 per month. Eventually, a phone call allowed me to negotiate another reduction to £81.00 per month which was a considerable reduction on our current contract. I’ve no idea what was going on other than a crude incentive to renew my contract. I had no intention of leaving Sky anyway.

Well, it looks like we won’t be getting to Athens in the next few weeks. Easyjet have so altered our flights as to make the trip almost pointless. We would lose the best part of 2 days out of a 5-day trip and pay for an expensive test to get on the flight and again to return.

Fortunately, Easyjet have refunded our total outlay for the Return flights – £702.98. Our hotel will also refund our total outlay of £1140.00 for the 4 nights. We know that Greece is struggling with a new wave of virus and we think we must wait until the position is clearer before we re-book.

I know this isn’t really the done thing but I am trying hard to eat a healthy and controlled diet. For a week, I am going to include a record of the one meal a day I eat accompanied by a photo. I must stress that I don’t eat everything in the photos but it is available for the meal. I eat after exercise each afternoon around 4.00 pm and I am not drinking alcohol so usually accompany it with sparkling water and Shloer.

Day 1

Smoked Mackerel / Prawns
Asparagus / Cucumber Salad
Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese/Mozarella and Balsamic Dressing.

To end the meal, I have a measured amount of Greek Yoghurt followed by coffee. I will not have eaten during the day at all although I will have the juice of 2 freshly-squeezed oranges for breakfast. During the evening, I might have fruit – banana, peach or apricot – plus coffee and tea. I work out that my daily intake is around 1500 calories. My output is around 3500 calories. A lot of my exercise routine is spent walking. Yes, I’m walking my way back. I am averaging just over 9 miles per day over the past 3 months. If I can get it up to 10 miles per day, it will help but we’ll see.

Friday, 9th July, 2021

Beautiful, warm, sunny morning. You really ought to be here. The lawns are looking luscious; the flowers are bright and thrusting; the birds are singing. What more could one want? Well, I can think of a few things but it’s a good start.

We met the CCTV installer yesterday morning. He is the brother of one of our neighbours across the road. He drove from the Gatwick region where he lives and says it was torrential rain there. Arriving in Angmering, it felt like a different country with its beautiful, sunny weather. Of course, for a nomad like me, that is not unusual.

We are going to have 3, small, white cameras networked to a box in the Gym/Garage. They will cover the entire perimeter of our property and will have High Definition, colour video capture which will be relayed directly to our smartphones and iPads and to my Office computer. I can see a new, morning routine of fast forward play checking recording from the night before. I may have to employ a little philistine to check it for me after initial novelty wears off.

Day 2

Griddled Fillet Steak with red wine reduction jus
Field mushrooms stuffed with onion and blue cheese
Green beans with garlic

I cut all the lawns yesterday including my new, Italian neighbours’ lawn across the road. It’s the generous sort of community thing we socialists do. Anyway, I’m hoping for an invite to their family home in Italy next year.

70 Today

This little chap popped up on my screen this morning. I haven’t seen John (Tash) Coates since he attended my wedding in 1978. He bought us an egg coddler as a present. He seems to be very happy in his retirement.

Saturday, 10th July, 2021

Wet but warm and that’s just the day at the moment. Looks like I’m going to be working out solely in the gym this morning. We spent the entire day outside yesterday and I was exhausted after it but I didn’t sleep well for some reason.

Writing a daily Blog like mine is exposing. It exposes one to ridicule, anger, sadness and irritation. Occasionally, readers contact me to express their views. More often than not, it is sympathetic or advisory. Sometimes readers correct a factual point I’ve got wrong. Occasionally, it is highly critical. I received one of the latter from a reader who had been trawling my back catalogue which at least shows genuine inquisitiveness. They wrote to me suggesting, at the end, I had been counting the days to retirement and looking for a big pay-out. I found that quite hurtful.

I was still doing my utmost to dig our school out of Special Measures before it became an Academy. I saw absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t maximise our pay-out in retirement. After all, I would use it far better than Oldham Education Authority and I have. I am always open to fair criticism but I fight my corner when it isn’t.

Toni-Michelle & Marie

Because I had been denied a child of my own, I used to ‘adopt’ kids who needed some support or just seemed a bit different. I still communicate with most of them. I was reminded of this as Pauline got a text from Derby yesterday afternoon not far from my family home from a girl who was in just that category. She is in her 40s with a family of her own now but occasionally checks that we older ones are alright. It is a lovely thing for her to do.

Emma & Peter

I taught these two girls above and we chat occasionally. The one on the right, Marie, is in her late 50s now with a grownup son of her own but still insists on calling me Sir.

The young lady (left) – Emma and now in her mid 40s with 3 graduate kids and one living in Italy – was one of my adoptees for a few years. I played matchmaker for her (just one of my great skills) and she and her boyfriend would come over to our house. We took them out to the seaside and out for meals. I think I was playing at being a Dad – always looking for Rebecca-Jane.

Emma sent me the most moving card for my 70th birthday. I was really touched by it. She was and is a lovely girl. By contrast, Terri Lee (Below) was an absolute hooligan who drove me mad. She was always truanting and very aggressive when she was in school. She was very skinny and always looked as if she needed a good meal.

Terri Lee

She was intelligent but her life didn’t allow her to use it. We became friends before she left and have remained in regular contact ever since. She is 30 this year and has 3 kids. She is clearly a good Mum and does so much for her family.

Women’s Final at Wimbledon this afternoon. The morning news shocked me with the reminder that it is exactly 50 years since a 19yr old Yvonne Goolagong won the title. She was never quite the same for me when she became Cawley. Tomorrow, our neighbours across the road will be supporting Italy. They told us yesterday that they were a little nervous about reaction around the area. I told them that, if fighting broke out, I would be on their side. Might get an invite to Parma yet!

Day 3

Griddled Tuna Steaks
Greek Salad and Asparagus

Along with the reminder of Goolagong/Cawley, this morning I also learnt of the death of Paul Mariner, former Ipswich and England centre forward. He was 68 – just 68! He died of brain cancer. It really underlines how precious life is and how we must make the most of it.

Week 653

Sunday, 27th June, 2021

Lovely, warm and sunny morning. Lots of nice things to start the day. Freshly squeezed orange juice with the conservatory doors flung wide open. The lawn is looking so beautiful and inviting.

It is jab-a-youngster weekend around here and they are desperate for it. This was the scene yesterday as we walked past our Community Centre where Vaccinations are being conducted:

Youngsters queuing for a jab.

The travel industry is really being forced into unpalatable conditions by the pandemic. Our Easyjet flights in August which were rolled over from last year can be changed without charge at any time up until the day we should fly. Our Athens hotel which we have also rolled over will provide a full refund if we don’t take it up. The IHG booking I’ve made in the philistine territory of the North of England is cancellable up to 3 days before the date. Mind you, it would need a lot to stop us from taking that up.

Overall, I am feeling very optimistic this morning, I’m sure you will be pleased to know. Things will only get better. Probably be living in a tent tomorrow!

Bergerac – Bridge over the Dordogne

On this day 3 years ago, we were wandering through the city of Bergerac on the banks of the Dordogne. Ironically, this evening in 2018, Germany got thrashed by South Korea which bodes well for next Tuesday evening.

The day is ending steamy and humid down here on the South Coast. It’s been enjoyable and I’ve completed my gym session without keeling over.

Monday, 28th June, 2021

Hot and humid start to the morning but dark and gloomy. We have the lights on for breakfast. Sometimes life kisses us and lifts our spirits. I felt like that all day yesterday. Everything felt as if it was lifted on a wave of warm air. The day had started with warm sunshine and 22C/70F and ended in hot and humid conditions. It is my sort of weather. The hotter the better.

Michalis Anousakis

Seven years ago, we were close to sealing the deal to sell our Greek property. It had been an intense few months and, to take the pressure off, we took a ferry to Athens for a few days break from the process. Pauline booked an appointment at the hairdressers across the road from our favourite hotel.

The top stylist only cost about €35.00 and she was thrilled with the result. This week she is going for her 3rd haircut in less than two months. If that doesn’t satisfy, we will be off to Covent Garden Sassoon’s.

When we got back from our 4 day break, the feral cat who had adopted us a couple of year’s earlier was sitting very grumpily staring us out from the patio wall and demanding attention and food. It is one of the things which has tormented us since leaving that we deserted this animal and her family. The people who bought our property didn’t want feral cats as they were expecting a baby imminently.

The poor, old cat would have to pack her bags and make the arduous journey to find new benefactors. She had groomed us very successfully for three years and now would either start all over again or starve. I didn’t want that on my conscience. Everybody deserves a good Breakfast.

I am at the planning stage of my book. Immediately, it throws up problems, demands resources that I struggle with. Writing forces us to expose ourselves to scrutiny. It is painful and embarrassing. You could say I’ve had plenty of practice in my Blog but, make no mistake, this writing holds so much back that a book will expose. Raw, sore, painful honesty will be required. Difficult admissions even to myself and I’m only at the Planning stage. Memories of things I’ve blotted out subconsciously will need to be resurrected. I do ask myself if it is worth it but, if I don’t do it now, I never will.

Just thought I’d insert this here!

The day here has turned out really hot and sunny. Our walk was quite sweaty. I found that, all the time I was walking, I was constantly preoccupied by my writing. I’ve got 3 or 4 working titles which I’ll be canvassing to gauge opinion.

Tuesday, 29th June, 2021

Yesterday was lovely, sunny and hot. Last night, we had a cloud burst at around three in the morning. Now, everywhere is fresh and clean. It looks like the next couple of days will be largely overcast. Keep seeing people going away. It’s making me increasingly itchy to travel. Spent an hour or two checking availability and prices in French hotels so I’m ready to go as soon as it’s possible. Our Greek arrangements can be triggered very quickly when we are able to. Our Yorkshire trip is booked. I am not going to be left behind!

About 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes and high blood pressure. I was prescribed drugs to control them both but, eventually, decided that I had to take my own control. Through diet and weight loss, I managed to completely eradicate my Diabetes and massively reduce my blood pressure drugs. Part of this involved cutting out salt. We replaced it with herbs and it was transforming.

The main herbs our diet features are Oregano, Tarragon, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, Chervil, Chives and Basil. We grow them rather than buy them in packets or dried. When they are abundant, like now, Pauline harvests, prepares and freezes to get us through the year. That is what was happening yesterday.

Well, it did!

One of the things that contributed to my health getting out of control was Ofsted. Our inner-city, impoverished-catchment school was constantly dipping in and out of Special Measures in the last decade of our careers. It was hugely stressful. My response was to work hard but compensate by eating and drinking too much as well. My image bank for this day 16 years ago reminded me of the specific concern I was focussing on at the time – School Attendance rates. Strategy papers, management meetings, staff training sessions, digital registering, pupil incentives all were tried but we moved the dial by mere single-digit percentage points. At this distance in time, at least I can say, Who cares?

Now, I am working hard to improve my health through daily exercise. They say, No gain without pain. I am finding that is true for me at the moment. To add to my stamina work, I have moved on to weights and my stomach muscles are agony this morning. Even so, I am going to push myself through the pain barrier for a few months. I’m also going to continue restricting my calorie intake. My coffee maker will be my best friend.

Wednesday, 30th June, 2021

The last day of June has started well. Took Pauline for an early appointment at a third, new hairdresser and it looks to have gone well. This hairdresser trained as a ballet dancer with Ballet Rambert (speaks volumes) but then went on to train as a Hairdresser with Vidal Sassoon himself in London before moving on to work in Sassoon‘s Manchester branch. The cut looks good. Fortunately, she has no grey so doesn’t need colouring and the cut only cost £50.00 so will probably merit at least one more visit later.

Come on Down!

I wrote recently of the ‘heat’ in our local, property market. This week, an article appeared in the MyLondon publication which rather confirmed what was happening. The pandemic has encouraged a move from the intensity of London life to the more open and healthier environment of seaside villages like ours. Angmering is described as ‘gorgeous’ which I think is going a bit far but it is pleasing if wealthy Londoners think so. They are welcome to come and inflate our property values.

Chez Nous

I was born into a family home actually built by my own family firm for family life. We have not had children so that necessity never arose. There is a sense in which family encourages the feeling of a house being a home rather than just another property. We have always bought, invested and sold properties as much for profit even though we have enjoyed living in them. It has, I suppose, contributed to my feeling of rootlessness and not belonging. (Cue sarcastic singing!)

The search, purchase, development and marketing have almost become ends in themselves. We have actually talked about having this house valued and looking again now we have been here 5 years. There is a refusal to accept that the process has finished at the age of 70. Although my mother was from London and her parents from Brighton, she married into a family totally rooted, fully located in the small, Midlands village life with its history, its suffocating cultural, religious and commercial life that I became so desperate to escape. Her world was one of faith, of moral and political certainties, of unquestioning belief that I utterly rejected although her certainty, possibly, made her less troubled than I have been.

Awful news about our old haunts in the North of England this morning. The coronavirus death rate in Greater Manchester has been 25% higher than in the rest of England, new research has found. Long-standing health inequalities, high levels of economic deprivation and wide social disparities have meant the region has suffered especially acutely during the pandemic, the study by Professor Sir Michael Marmot says. To make matters worse, Life Expectancy in Greater Manchester is said to have declined by 2 full years. If you needed a reason to move then this would be it.

Thursday, 1st July, 2021

Happy July! July already? The year, the time, the Life is running ahead too fast. The new month is being greeted by a really lovely morning. The day is warm, sunny and cloudless. Breakfast is taken with the conservatory doors flung wide open and bird song competes with R4 Today.

Sainsburys delivery early, window cleaner arriving and then we are going out to Tesco before more lawn mowing, hedge trimming and a long walk. Pauline’s haircut appears, after one sleep, to have been quite effective so we can relax on that subject for a while.

It is cherry season. I love cherries and am inclined to gorge on them when they are available. The greengrocer in Rustington has two, beautiful types for sale at the moment and I am really enjoying them.

Cherry Season

I have been preparing for the slightest window of possibility when we might be able to drive across the Channel by exploring hotel bookings.

Holiday Inn, Coquelles, Pas de Calais

It would just be nice to get a suite at our favourite hotel in Coquelles and use it as a springboard to drive to nice places for lunch – Wissant, St Omer, Arras, Le Touquet.

Skinny Liz

My little sister, skinny Liz, is Director of Social Care & Public Health at Richmond and Wandsworth councils. It always brings me up short when her face comes up on social media. This morning, I accessed Linkedin and there she was, sitting on an empty train from Chiswick to Wandsworth.

Friday, 2nd July, 2021

Interesting morning which started brightly but very quickly became enveloped in a drifting sea mist. It’s a gardening day as the weather is encouraging so much growth everywhere.


I am troubled by my life now that my Blog is so hard to write. On one side, everything is going along quite normally although monotonously and, on the other, the future is turbulent and uncertain. How can I resolve this? I am trying desperately to look to the future with travel plans but it is all hypothetical.

Brighton & Worthing

The French will allow fully vaccinated people in but we will need evidence of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, or an antigen test within 48 hours of departure. Of course, these are available but at quite a cost both in terms of travel and payment. The most rapid and certain test costs around £110.00 per person which is quite steep for a few days away.

Stephanie Davis, 28

What this will mean is that younger ones who are reluctant to be vaccinated will be penalised. Something reported this morning might give them pause for thought. Hollyoaks tends to have a younger audience although I know some wrinklies watch it. Last night a 28-year-old actress from the soap was rushed to hospital with some severe Covid symptoms. She is on oxygen support and was suffering from excruciating skin pain. 

Of course, new Covid cases increased by 50,000 in the past week which is a 46% increase and UK has more new Covid infections than the whole of the EU put together so they may harden their stance to our entry as Merkel is requesting. For that reason alone, it is a bit risky to book anything yet.

Just to add to the joy, our mobile phone charges, which are significant when we travel, will increase hugely as roaming charges are being reintroduced because of BREXIT!! I use my mobile phone for lots of things abroad not least to stream BBC Radio 4 and the Parliament Channel through the media centre in our car as we travel further south into Europe and the DAB & FM signals disappear. This will become an increasingly expensive luxury. 

The skies have cleared and hot sunshine poured through as we gardened. Just met our new neighbours from across the road. EU nationals, Philippo & Christina are from Parma in Italy. Beautiful place and lovely ham. We have been there many times en route to Greece and back. 

Holiday Inn Express, Parma

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, Parma just off the Autostrada del Sole. I’m not a fan of Elvis but the Manager there was christened Elvis and the hotel proudly advertised it. Really must get to know our neighbours better!

Saturday, 3rd July, 2021

Weather’s a bit depressing this morning – warm but grey. Still, life could be worse. Nice things still happen. I’m losing weight and having new clothes ordered for me. Pauline loves buying things. Actually, I don’t wear clothes very often but there may come a time … Early out to buy fruit – apricots, peaches, cherries – and the sun has come out. It is warm on our faces as we walk.

Tampa Bay, Florida

Never been to America although I always thought I should. I know Pauline has been reluctant but, now, she has an incentive with members of her family living there for the next 18 months. They are in Tampa, Florida which could be interesting. My boyhood friend, Jonathan, has lived in Boston, Massachusetts since the early 1970s and I would like to see him again. Currently, we just communicate occasionally by email. His sister, an early girlfriend of mine, lives in Canada. Can you imagine seeing someone again that you haven’t seen for almost 50 years. It will be fascinating. Jonathan was always the polar opposite of me – scientific and not sporty, not really physical at all and certainly not a literature reader or political. He was scientific, didn’t go to University but went straight into industry and made a real success of it.

The Fall – Boston, Massachusetts

Of course, Florida and Massachusetts are almost a continent apart and we would have to fly between the two but it would make an interesting early winter trip. November would probably be the time we would look to travel which may be just too late for Boston’s Fall but that’s not a problem. Would just be lovely to catch up with my Past again.

The Blog is still limping on while Bloggers that I’ve been following for years are falling all around me. Bart Simpson from Paros ceased some time ago. The Skiathan followed into the abyss. Now the Symi Dream boys are no more. Even the Democracy Street lecturer in Corfu writes only very occasionally. Anyway, I write for myself as much as anything else so it will continue. I’m really enjoying Dominic Cummings two Blogs – Dominic Cummings Blog & Dominic Cummings Substack and Professor Chris Grey’s Brexit Blog is a delight each Friday.