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.

%d bloggers like this: