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.

Tasty!

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.

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