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.

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