Week 661

Sunday, 22nd August, 2021

I am driven by facts, data, records, calendars, history, memory. As a professional, these are the sorts of things that have to be recorded and inform one’s day, week, year. At the very early stage of the World Wide Web in the UK, I introduced an online calendar in school for all to see across the institution. At home, Pauline & I have been using an integrated, online but private calendar to record immediate and ongoing events for years. I never forget a birthday, anniversary, recurring event because it is recorded and flagged up days in advance. I can plan in advance and make sure I never miss or am late for a meeting.

It has wonderful juxtapositions like today’s entries inform me that the second freezer in our outdoor kitchen starts its 4-year extended warranty this morning and today would have been my Mum’s 98th birthday. I try to mark these things in my Blog.

Mum’s 98th Birthday

The problem is that I have run out of photographs and become even more repetetive than in my words. Even so, I mark the day.

It is a beautiful day here this morning and we are going out for an early walk in the sunshine. Everything is growing so fast that the lawns will need cutting and the hedges trimming again. Actually, the day reached 24C/75F A the afternoon progressed. I felt so let down that I opened iced  white wine to drink with home made crab cakes.

Got chatted up by a baby on my walk this morning. His Mother said he only used to talk to dogs. He was widening his social circle by making a concession for me. 

Monday, 23rd August, 2021

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
    “And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
    Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
    “I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
    Why, I do it again and again.”

Lewis Caroll – 1865

I have written before but it is worth repeating that the Nature/Nurture argument has become clearer to me over the years. In my youth, the left-wing view was that Nature – socio-economic – was the most important in the effect on human development and that the eugenicist view of inherited characteristics was dangerous. For that reason, and in later age, I have been astonished and had to acknowledge the power of heritability. The consequence of this is the overwhelming conclusion that none of us change fundamentally over our lives however much we develop superficially. My wife has just told me how annoying I can be. Nothing fundamental really changes.

Letter to a Friend about Fat Girls – Philip Larkin – 1945

The wife whose husband watched Away matches
While she behaved so badly in the bath ….
… I’m happier now I’ve got things clear, although
It’s strange we never meet each other’s sort:
There should be equal chances, I’d’ve thought.

Age changes us all superficially. We lose the lustre of youth. Our skin wrinkles; our hair goes grey; our weight increases; our eyesight weakens; our reproductive ability largely disappears. The list goes on but it is predictable. What is so important is the constant core of the character. This is what has so astonished me. It is almost immutable. Characteristics remain although we often don’t acknowledge them to ourselves.

We’ve been in a number of places where masks are difficult to wear. The car showroom involved lots of talking and nobody was wearing masks. The Tomato grower was wanting to talk and was not wearing a mask. Three days on, we take a Lateral Flow Test this morning and it is negative. I also did my weekly INR test and it is a perfect 2.5.

Negative Lateral Flow Tests

Accepting all my character strengths and weaknesses has often been painful to me. Today, I am coping with other, more physical pains. Last night I stubbed my little toe and this morning it is firey and swollen. I do it and ‘break’ it so regularly that you’d think I would learn. I don’t. Haven’t heard from the consultant about my potential hernia yet so my social secretary is following that up today. She is also driving me to the Opthalmology Department of the hospital where I have my eyes tested every 6 months. I have enlargement drops (Oh, how I need those!) which make driving impossible.

Overcrowded Opthalmology – Home of the Dyed Blonde

I could read the bottom line of the chart with confidence this morning so I am not in danger of losing my sight for a while. Can still see the truth! Just my luck that, when I emerged into the daylight with my pupils wildly dilated by the ‘drops’, the sun was shining strongly and burning into my retinas. It is an incredibly painful experience. Even the European Driving Lights on vehicles approaching us as I was driven home felt as huge, bright and intensive as floodlights at a football match. For the second day running, we have reached 24C/75F. I paid for it last night. I was already annoyed with myself for drinking wine outside in the sunshine. By midnight, my skin was clearly overexposed and uncomfortably hot. I didn’t sleep so well.

We are stopping supermarket deliveries at the moment and returning to our own shopping. Things are in such short supply and there are so many ‘substitutions’ in deliveries that it is more successful choosing ourselves.

Brexit has really taken back control!

With Afghanistan so much in the news currently, I just wanted to share this clever but sad image from Twitter this morning.

It’s entitled: The Disappearing Woman and depicts the power of a warped religion and ideology.

Tuesday, 24th August, 2021

It is 4.00 am and I couldn’t sleep …. Again! What the hell is happening this year? I have rarely had such difficulty coping with things. At the moment, I am regularly waking around 3.00 in the morning and failing to get back to sleep. Sometimes I lay there for hours thinking. Sometimes, I admit defeat and get up. So it is this morning – a warm morning after the most beautiful moon overnight. Usually, I would put Sky News on but I can’t even face that this morning. May go out for a walk.

Covid infection rates are surging in Greece probably because they have been forced for reasons of economy to accept tourist money. They decided that they couldn’t go for 2 years without earnings. They will pay a heavy price in the Autumn. We have deliberately held off going but I’m really missing it. At least I could have relied on a warm welcome.

Greek August – 2010

Eleven years ago this week, I was recording that we had been on the island for almost 5 months and had just 6 weeks left before departure. We had set off for the drive in the first week of April and would return in the first week of October. By that time, we were really ready for 1st World facilities again.

There is only so much staring at quiet, sandy beaches one can do. I found myself longing for traffic noise and bustle, for the ability to drive more than 5 miles without falling into the sea.

Stuffed full of life’s essentials plus French/Italian wine for 6 months on the way out, the car was emptier on the way home until we filled up again with French/Italian cheese and wine as we drove back across Europe. What were those Daily-Express-reading Brexiteers thinking of?

The Honda CRV pictured parked in Apollonia car park in August 2010 was our 12th year of owning them. Now, 11 years on, we have ordered another. I must check back and find out how much we paid for our first one in 1998. This was one of the few times we didn’t have silver. Exciting black didn’t really do it for me. Showed up all the dirt and dust of a Greek island car park. Actually, our first two in the early 2000s were orange and pearlescent yellow. Felt really brave breaking the mould in those.

It’s 5.45 am and I have a headache as if I’ve just been punched in the head. The BBC Radio4 Today programme starts in 15 mins. Not worth going to bed now. Feels like things have resolved themselves and it is time to get on with the day. When I get in the gym, I can continue a Netflix series that I’ve been really enjoying over the past week. It has a delicious irony and is entitled, The Defeated.

Set in post-war Germany, the bombed-out nation is trying to resurrect its pride while being ruled by the allies. The arrogance of Nazism which deludedly believed the Allied Forces were punching above their weight and found, to their cost, that it was they who had assumed a false superiority. The fall is all the harder for the proud!

Well, the day has really taken a turn for the better. Lovely, hot and sunny weather all day and currently reaching 25C/77F. Quelle surprise! After completing my gym routine, I’ve been able to sit out in the sun with a glass of iced-Shloer. What more could a man want?

We were supposed to be going to the North of England for a week in October. I had even toyed with extending that period. Today we have cancelled all that.

Wednesday, 25th August, 2021

Beautiful morning. We are going out for an early walk. I will complete my gym routine and then we are driving to Surrey to visit P&C. It will be the last trip of any distance that this car will do in my hands. Hope it enjoys the experience! It will turn 9,000 miles in the process.

Maybe you are tough. Maybe you are unsentimental. Maybe you are not susceptible to emotion. Maybe you are not Human. I am all of these things and extremely human and vulnerable. I have never considered it a weakness to admit it. Some have a strange belief in not showing one’s feelings. Maybe they receive it from their parents, maybe from their culture. There was a wartime pride in stiff-upper-lip that I have never subscribed to.

Some interpret that as weakness although they do so at their peril. Sensitivity, sensibility, self-awareness are strong leaders of an understanding of self and one’s place in the world. This sense empowers one to deal with difficult situations so much more decisively and with genuine understanding. It allows one to keep channels of thought open whereas blind strength shuts them off automatically.

Charlie Watts dead at 80!

I was thinking about frailty and death today. It was sparked by news of The Stones’ drummer, Charlie Watts, dying at 80. After all, 80 is the new 60. It feels far too young to go.

A big lad I know from College days is badly in need of a new hip. Nowadays, that is not easy to come by through the NHS in these Tory Government days. Today he was seen by a specialist and put on the waiting list. He is a keen walker and distinctly disadvantaged by any delay. I don’t know if he is in a position to buy ‘private’ treatment although I expect he is but I understand his reluctance to go down that route having subscribed to National Healthcare all his life. I am in the same position potentially with need of surgery on a hernia. I feel extremely young and any frailty like this pulls me up hard. I am not prepared to compromise on my lifestyle and physical fitness so, ultimately, will pay for treatment although it goes against the grain.

The C-19 Zoe Study that we contribute towards each day has announced this morning that efficacy of the jabs declines significantly at the 6 month point. Fortunately, the decline is much more for those with the Oxford AZ jab than the Pfizer jab that we had but it will necessitate a booster soon. The most vulnerable, especially the immune-suppressed such as cancer sufferers, will take priority but it will be for all over 70 at least. Unfortunately, Pauline is not 70 yet so that may be a problem.

I am still doing my full workout routine including a 7 mile walk each day. It starts off around the perimeter of our development which goes through a delightfully wooded area before leading out onto the local streets. It ends up in the gym for an hour.

There are some things we really missed when we spent 6 months in Greece. Locally grown sweet corn was one, strawberries/raspberries and Victoria Plums. Currently, we are gorging on Victoria Plums. They are particularly plentiful and wonderful this year. We used to pick them round the corner at the local PYO farm but are too lazy this year. They are not in the shops long so you have to make the most of them while they are. I am doing. What we do pick and eat as we walk are blackberries. It is a race of time with the birds but I’m not prepared to lose, as you know, so any tactics however underhand are employed.

It is 6.30 in the evening now. We are home and the sun is strong. The temperature currently is reaching 25C/77F and it looks as if the night will be a bit uncomfortable. Hope I manage past the 3.00 am line tonight.

Thursday, 26th August, 2021

Very warm night – sticky and uncomfortable. Out walking at 6.30 this morning. My head was buzzing but the countryside was almost silent. Quite a few jobs to get through so early exercise will help. Looks to be quite an average day weather-wise but warm.

Glorious weather for our drive to Surrey yesterday. We were going to collect a box of Pauline’s family’s old photos. It was initiated by the fact that her cousin, Joyce, was celebrating her 65th wedding anniversary. At 85 years, Joyce is so much older than Pauline and the photographs really illustrate the time-gulf.

Joyce & Harry with about 60 yrs apart

It is 1956 and I was already 5 years old but in its grainy, black & white, it feels so out of my remembered experience. We forget how ‘grey’ life could be back then. Wartime rationing had only ended fully in 1954 and things we take for granted were still in short supply. The standard of living was incredibly ‘make-do-and-mend so many weddings were done on shoestrings.

I was surprised to find out that they had received their second letter of congratulations from the Queen. Apparently, they are given for 6oth, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries. Unlike us, Joyce & Harry have lived in the same house for almost all their married life. I can’t imagine it.

I bet they couldn’t have conceived of a beach hut like these on Littlehampton Beach selling for £30-40,000.00. Who would bother, I’m not sure but that’s the going price. I quite like going down there for a walk but I can’t imagine sitting outside a hut for the day as so many seem to. This in itself is a throwback to the time when Joyce & Harry were getting married. I remember my own parents renting a beach hut for the duration of our holiday and lunch being rustled up inside them. They are not particularly happy memories.

This photo popped up yesterday, ostensibly of boats in Kamares harbour but illustrating our former Greek home clearly nestling high in the foothills of the hillside and looking down over the port. Pauline had a Facetime video conference with her niece in Florida yesterday evening and the news is not terribly optimistic for UK-US travel in November. Apparently, there is a strong rise in infection there and, as we know, it is going up here and forecast to get worse in the Autumn.

After all our activities today, I relaxed watching the Test Match from Headingly. The garden was flooded with strong sunshine, warmth wafted through the conservatory doors but the television pictures showed a Leeds cricket ground shrouded in cloud and spectators huddled in quilted coats. Commentators talked of cold weather and I didn’t miss it one bit.

Today we had our Covid-free confirmation from the recent tests. We had our strong antibodies confirmed as well. My eye test was so good that I don’t have to repeat it for another 12 months. The only downside has been the lump in my groin which is huge today. The pain is moving around and I’m beginning to fear it might be something other than a mere hernia. We know a letter has been despatched to the surgeon but my social secretary is phoning tomorrow for an urgent review at the surgery and, if nothing can be speeded up, I will have to go privately.

Friday, 27th August, 2021

Today would have been my lovely Mother-in-Law’s 107th birthday. She died aged 97. She was the cause of us moving in to an Old People’s sheltered accomodation for the final weeks of her life. It was an education in itself and a humbling experience. She is featured on our Office wall and we talk about her regularly. She was extremely kind to me and one of the most forgiving people I have ever met. People like me need people like her.

Life feels a bit flat. There is a distinct absence of pinpricks of hope at the moment. Things to raise the spirits are fast disappearing. I was even reading the travel corespondent, Simon Calder’s assessment of the UK-US travel predctions this morning and they are so uncertain as to be gloomy. I was so tired yesterday that I went to bed at 9.00 pm and slept through until 6.00 this morning. Still feel rather tired.

I am being contacted by a doctor this morning about my problem which is becoming a bit more acute. I am attempting to push forward a precise prognosis and then we can decide whether I go privately or not. Need to get it sorted out because it’s beginning to impact on my activities. I will still walk 10 miles a day even if it is painful but it niggles the back of my mind before I set off and dominates me while I am doing it.

The sun is setting on the Future.

It was interesting to talk to P&C the other day when we went up to Surrey. They are in their mid-80s and Charlie Watts’ death had just been reported at the age of 80. I asked that really sensitive but important question: Does news like that panic you? Does it give you pause for thought. They said that it worried them more in their 70s than it does now. There seems to be an acceptance of the inevitable.

Doffcocker Lodge

A lad from College days, Dave Weatherley, has recently taken to contacting me. Incredible to find that he is from and has been in Bolton all his life. So many students in my year were living within miles of me. He has been posting photos of a nature reserve in Bolton call Doffcocker Lodge. It is obviously somewhere he retreats to regularly. You can see why. Who would have expected this beauty in Bolton of all places?

An amusing story that I recount over my own humiliation – It is the most delightful, warm and sunny day. We have a lot to get through today so decided to go out for an early walk. I am expecting a call-back on my mobile from the doctor. We have just set off when my mobile rings. The caller says in an almost unintelligible, Indian accent: You requested a callback. It is my intention to be as convincing as possible to expedite my referral to the specialist. I launch into a description of my groin problem and how it was worsening. The caller is silent and doesn’t respond. Suddenly, the call is dropped.

I check my phone for the number and don’t recognise it. Could it have been a fluke scam? Eventually, I redial the number to get the answerphone for SpecSavers who I’d forgotten were going to call me back when my reading glasses were available. I will be a little red-faced when I call in tomorrow to collect them. Hope they don’t demand to inspect my groin first.

Saturday, 28th August, 2021

This morning is lovely, warm and sunny and we have done early shopping for fruit and then a delightful, long walk enjoying the heat. As we walked, we talked about going to France in the new car which should be ready in just over a week. I installed the French equivalent of our Covid Certification – Tous AntiCovid app.

Eventually, yesterday my doctor did ring and typed a letter to the specialist to expedite my referral for surgery. She dictated the contents as she typed so that I knew exactly what she had said. If I don’t hear very quickly, I will go to the Nuffield or the Spire which both have hospitals not far away in Chichester for treatment. One of the complicating factors is my anti-coagulant treatment. I have to admit to being fairly scared because of the potential risks but I will have to face it at some stage. I am not prepared to accept 30 more years of pain and discomfort.

I am going through a strange phase of distraction and elsewhere-ness. I’m doing stupid things because I’m thinking about other than the moment. Last night, I went to bed at around 11.30 pm and found myself shaving rather than brushing my teeth. I use electronic tools for both activities and in similar places but, honestly …

I wrote the other day that I am prone to damaging my feet. I am regularly breaking toes through clumsiness. I am also prone to cutting myself and, with anti-coagulant, the damage lasts quite a long time. This afternoon, I stubbed my toe on a Dining Chair and thought nothing else of it until the meal was over and I looked down to see the damage.

A Temporary Plate

Earlier, in hot sunshine, we had done a walk, trimmed the hedges, mowed the lawns and I’d gone on to do my Gym routine before driving round to Honda to have our Licence Plate temporarily replaced with this one prior to delivery of our new car. Our cherished number plate will go on the new one and we are stuck with this for a week. Hope we don’t get stopped and challenged. There’s no way I will remember this one.

Our personalised number plate has been with us for 30 years. It was deliberately chosen to disguise the fact that we changed our car each year and each time it was silver. Staff at school began to remark that we were obviously too wealthy so we disguised it with a perpetual plate. It didn’t cost a lot but it did the job. It is a bit of a faff to move to a new car but we let Honda do that. I can’t be doing with old cars and MOTs and I love the innovations that bring us up to date. Now we will just need somewhere to drive in this new model. The last one went straight to France. I wonder if this one will.

Julia (Dagg) Crane posted a video of Christine (Burton) Dagg’s daughter, Lucy, singing and playing the piano. It caught my breath as I realised how much it reminded me of Chris when I first knew her. Heredity is an incredible thing.https://www.youtube.com/embed/puqIMsNj2pg?feature=oembed

Chris contacted me and gave me a YouTube link of her performance. She bills herself as part of a Leeds-based duo who perform at Weddings, Birthdays, Celebrations, etc..

The light dies over Littlehampton although a beacon retains possibility. Here is Hope and Despair juxtaposed.

Week 660

Sunday, 15th August, 2021

Lovely, sunny and mild start to the day. We were 17C/63F overnight. Sunday – just another day in the time continuum.

 My wife wants to learn a new language. She’s decided on French because she wasn’t allowed to take it at Hathershaw in the 1960s. She had to do German which she hated. When she’s mastered the rudiments of French, she will add starter Spanish because there is so much crossover. I did French and Spanish at school but need to do lots of brushing up so I will go through a higher level but parallel course.

Learning Languages in senior years is said to prolong one’s mental vigour. I find reading and writing foreign languages much easier than speaking them so I will have to concentrate on the latter. We are going to start with a ‘free’ teaching app called duolingo and, if that takes off, maybe we will enroll on a language school course. This app is installed on our smartphones and iPads and involves lots of speaking. May get even more strange looks in the street!

I’ve had to admit that the pain in my groin is getting worse. The swelling is increasing as I exercise and it can no longer be ignored. My wife will phone the surgery on Monday and make me an appointment which I may attend. If it is a hernia or worse, it could need a stay in hospital. I have only ever stayed in hospital once and that was after our car accident in 1980. I don’t know about you and not to get too technical, but I sleep naked and have done since I was 18. I don’t possess any pyjamas.

When I was in hospital for 2 weeks 41 years ago, I’m told that I regularly got out of bed and wandered the ward stark naked. Of course, I was much more beautiful then. Because of the nature of my head injury, I have absolutely no memory of this at all, fortunately. Just in case I need something, my wife has purchased me the above to keep me decent …. Or so she thinks. I think they will make me look rather like Christopher Robin but I don’t complain.

Some former College students have complained that I never submit current photos of myself on social media. At last, my wife has sanctioned this exhibit from Hermes. I had just come out of the gym.  I think it has a classic touch and doesn’t give too much away. A man should have an air of mystery. Within 5 minutes, it was viewed and commented on by 140 past students. I can’t say I’m surprised!

My weight is now sub-1985 and I am beginning to wonder why it has taken me until the age of 70 to really get to grips with it. Story of my life. I do everything the hard way but I do get there in the end. It doesn’t help, of course, that my wife is such a good cook. Everywhere we go, everywhere we have lived, she has produced tempting food.

Greek House Catering

This photo was taken in our Greek home over a decade ago and is typical of what I gave in to. So you see, it’s never been my fault!

Monday, 16th August, 2021

A wonderful start to this morning. Blue sky and lovely sunshine and warmth from the start for a change. Big day! Should have been flying to Athens this morning but just couldn’t leave. Instead, I’m going out to collect my new reading glasses …. again. I might even go mad and clean the car.

Regular readers will know that I am obsessed with Time. I have been for as long as I can remember. The Blog itself is driven by my need to describe, define and control time. Its passage is marked now by the tick of a clock, the beat of a heart, the setting of the sun at the end of the day, even the appearance of grey hairs on the head urging the application of blonde dye. People often tell me that I am living in the past. You can’t go back, they say but it betrays a lack of understanding of the concept.

Yesterday morning, I was jolted by the radio at 6.00 am and immediately thrown into R4 Something UnderstoodThe Time of our Lives. What a way to start Sunday! It wasn’t a shock. I had woken 30 mins earlier thinking of memories, of the times of my life and of experiences and conversations. They haunt my consciousness and have done all my adult life.

These days, we conceive of time as linear. It moves inexorably from A – B. From Birth to Death, from Creation to Expiration. According to Theoretical Physics, our Universe was formed by the Big Bang and that was when time & space were born. It is well portrayed by Holst in the Planets: Mars, Bringer of War.https://www.youtube.com/embed/L0bcRCCg01I?feature=oembed

In this concept of time, like the dark, wet cave-tunnel I described in the Blog last Saturday, there is little chance of going back but, the original and ancient concept of time was not linear as we tend to see it today. It was circular. It is this concept that Einstein re-conceived. He acknowledged the deeply mysterious nature of time & space and argued that the separation of Past, Present and Future is an illusion. Each element is relative to the other. Even TS Eliot recognised the circularity of life. In Sweeney Agonistes he wrote:

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.

Many experiences of time are circular in nature – Night-Day-Night, the changing of the seasons: We’re captive on a carousel of time… sang Joni Mitchell in The Circle Game.https://www.youtube.com/embed/V9VoLCO-d6U?feature=oembed

Ancient societies, which were founded upon Agriculture, were far more in touch with the cycle of Nature. Only relatively recently with the advent of recorded history have we started to think of time as past, present and future. We are constantly striving for a better future. It is part of the human condition.

Simon & Garfunkel wrote and performed an incredibly powerful elegy to the passage of time on an ill-fated love affair using the seasons as their vehicle: April Come She Will …

The autumn winds blow chilly and cold
September, I’ll remember
A love once new has now grown old

These are classic expressions of the modern world. Time is both circular and linear at the same time. We live in our past and present at one and the same time. We may try to block or deny it but that is futile. We are animals with memories. We take them both forward to our future. I will not, cannot and would not want to relinquish my past even if I could. Nor will I let it escape me. It informs and enriches my present. It will be an intimate part of me into the future and until I die …. or lose my memory.

Psalm 90 says: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. My Blog numbers our days until past, present and future become one.

Tuesday, 17th August, 2021

Overcast but forecast to be dry all day. Really will have to clean the car today. We have been invited to Honda on Friday morning to discuss a ‘special offer’ for changing the car. We’ve only done 8,000 miles but it is 2 years old and about as long as we’ve kept any car. If Honda come up with a really attractive offer for ours and replacement with a new one, I could easily be tempted.

Our current one cost £42,500.00 just over 2 years ago. A replacement is listed at £45,500.00. That includes 5 years servicing plus 5 years Hondacare Roadside Assistance in UK and Europe. We will go with an open mind. Might even park it by an Italian lake like this. Need a bit of self indulgence!

Yesterday was sunny and warm. We drove down to the beach and spent a few minutes just enjoying the sound of the sea and the gulls. We were almost the only ones there. It is so nice to be able to access this environment quickly and easily.

Medical Science has finally caught up with me. My wife phoned for an appointment for me yesterday morning. A ‘triage’ telephone consultation was arranged for the afternoon. In that conversation with a paramedic, I was invited down to the surgery in the evening.

I never go into that sort of meeting without my own research. I was reasonably certain that my problem is an Inguinal Hernia and that the only way to solve it would be surgery. I also got the feeling from the earlier phone call that they were reluctant to put me forward for it unless my life was threatened as it could be but only in extremis. I went prepared for the discussion.

After being examined, the paramedic confirmed he thought it was a hernia but said they are rarely operated on these days. I told him that wasn’t true and that this is probably an Inguinal which should be operated on. Some people’s faces give everything away. His certainly did although his mouth could not quite keep up with his mind.

He became a different person instantly. We’ll send you for an ultrasound and that will decide if you need to speak to a Consultant Surgeon, he said. I asked about timescales and he burbled. I thanked him for his time and left. By the time I had driven home – less than 5 minutes – he was on the phone to say he had consulted my doctor and that the ultrasound stage would not be needed. I would be referred urgently to a Consultant Surgeon. And that, dear reader, is how the inarticulate or ill-educated can be so done down by the gatekeepers of state services. I could easily have deferred to that medic, accepted his view and walked out to an ongoing lifetime of pain and discomfort. It should not be so.

Wednesday, 18th August, 2021

Went to bed happy and slept well. Woke to glowering, dark skies but warm – 17C/63F. Took Pauline to the Beauty Clinic early yesterday morning and driving her to the Hairdresser’s early today. We always book ‘early’ appointments for everything we can. People who know we are retired are regularly surprised. Workers expect retirement to be a chance for staying in bed. Nothing could be further from the truth for me.

Girl Reading – Charles Perugini

It was just 5 years ago today that I made the wrenching decision to give away all my pictures. I had collected them over a 40 year period and they had been carefully wrapped and catalogued for storage but I quickly realised they would never fit in our new, modern home. They were collected by the Hospice organisation, St Barnabas House and will have been sold for around £3,000 – £4,000.00. For quite some time they gave us updates.

Along with an obsession with time goes my fascination with the human connection across the years. I am gripped and saddened in equal measure. The most recent series of Long Lost Family has been a must-watch/can’t watch for me. The sofa is still damp from the previous week’s episode when I sit down to watch the next. What is most striking for me are the similarities rather than the differences in each narrative. The search begins with trepidation because of the initial feeling of rejection. Why was I rejected? is the primary question.

Research Tools

So many of the searches are for people who have tried for years to find the person they are separated from but have never really had the skills or know-how to be successful themselves. Some have put off searching for fear of rejection all over again or for fear of upsetting others in their lives. When they are about to be reunited, often their first questions are about what the person they are looking for looks like, then about their welfare and, finally, they ask the question, Do they want to see me? All the time, they are looking for and fearing the merest hint of rejection.

The rewards of the meeting are tangible, immense and, probably unknowable for those who haven’t lost. There is a sense of lifelong search and aching longing being over. The anxiety on their faces almost melts away in real-time. The worst outcome is when they find their connection too late. Death has beaten them and the longing is never satisfied or, even worse is when they find their connection but are rejected all over again and they are subject to lifelong torture.

So many expressions of reaching out over the years are displayed in accounts of former college students of my year regularly posted on social media.  Peter Holgate recently gathered his family around him to ‘celebrate’ his 70th birthday.

Last of the Summer Wine?

Tash Coates and his wife now regularly meet up with his old friend, Kevin Sellers and his wife as they are photographed here on the Murray Firth on the north coast of Scotland.

Thursday, 19th August, 2021

I’m sure you will remember where you were and what you were doing on this day exactly 30 years ago, dear reader. Of course, you do! We all remember where we were on the day when the success of the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, led by hard-line communist elements of the Soviet government and military was in the balance. The fall of communist Soviet Union was also in the balance although the reunification of East & West Germany was well on the way.

Lifeline to the World – 1991

Where was I? I was 40 years old and excitedly clutching my Roberts Shortwave World Radio to my ear with the BBC World Service broadcasting the developments in minute detail. Why? Well, because in those days my only contact with the real world while touring Greek islands was via the radio. No Broadband; no smartphones; no digital, satellite TV; just old-fashioned transistor radio and largely unintelligible Greek television blaring out the crisis. (The Greeks have long been allies of the Russians.) Where was I clutching my transistor? I was spending 3 weeks on the volcanic, Dodecanese Island of Nysiros.

On this day in 1991

 Nysiros was/is a tiny island with little tourist accommodation and meagre infrastructure which is what attracted me to it in the first place. I think I was running away. We were staying in the one, reasonable quality hotel which had a pool. Looking back, I am struck by how basic the Hotel Porfyris really was. What I didn’t know at the time was that the name, Porfyris, is the Greek for purple and came from a description of the colour of unhealthy urine. (Hope you’re still with me, dear reader.)

The one claim to fame of the island of Nysiros is that it is centred by a semi-dormant volcano. It was still smoking when we walked across it. We felt its heat under our feet and collected these warm stones shown above. The photograph shows chunks of volcanic rock collected 30 years ago but, actually, thousands of years old. The postcard is part of the collection I sent to myself from each island to greet us when we got home. At that time, Pauline was Head of Year and, as we walked in the harbour, she met a lad from her Year who had come over with his parents from Kos for a day trip to visit the volcano.

It was such a grey and dark day yesterday all day. We had the lights on for breakfast at 6.30 am. The scene on the street as I dropped Pauline off for her haircut was grey and depressing. I am trying hard to carry sunshine inside me and to look forward to future trips. This week, I am reviewing the requirements for a French trip in early September. It is so onerous with 2 tests to be booked and undertaken – one in France and another back here – that it seems to make a short trip not worth the effort. We have our trip to the North in October and then hope the US opens up in time to go over in November.

I was cold overnight and woke at 4.30 am. I hate that. I’m so wracked by thoughts that I can rarely get back to sleep. Let’s hope the day brightens and warms up. Picked figs from the garden for breakfast this morning but there are nowhere near as many as last year because of the weather.

Nil Desperandum … The sun is out and the day is warm by 11.00 am. We’ve been out plundering Tesco and Asda for half-price Shloer. I’ve bought up all the red and I’m on to the white at the moment. I’ve cleared the shelves in both supermarkets if you were thinking of buying. Now we’re going out for a walk in the sunshine.

Friday, 20th August, 2021

Up early on a very warm and humid morning with a clear, blue sky and strong sunshine. It had rained overnight which is the right organisation. At last I got the car valeted yesterday in time for our meeting at Honda this morning. I’ve done an on-line valuation and know how much they will need to offer for our current car. We also know how desperate they are to shift new cars in a very ‘flat’ market. We will expect some deep discounting to capture our interest. Looking forward to the game.

Greece – 2009

Took this photo of Pauline on this day in 2009 in our Greek home. It was a very hot day in real terms – 30C+/90F+ – throughout the day and not much cooler at night. Of course, 12 years on, she is much slimmer now. She has been forced to support my fitness/diet regime and her weight has fallen dramatically until she is fast approaching her wedding weight from 1978. We both feel so much better for our weight loss and increased levels of fitness. For me, it will continue to be a lifelong struggle.

At the same time, my instincts are screaming that our lives are running away without any fightback from us. I am constantly denying myself things and forcing myself to complete exercise goals. Keep hearing temptation on my shoulder: Go on. Give in. You could be dead soon and then you’ll regret not indulging yourself.

Captain Ridley

We heard the shocking news about the untimely death of Sean Locke, a highly intelligent and thoughtful comedian and an extremely perceptive but quietly spoken man who has succumbed to cancer at the age of 58…..58!! He had been successfully treated for skin cancer some years before but it had come back to take him. Not to be too morbid but life is highly unpredictable. We cannot afford to ‘mark time’.

My old digs-mate, John Ridley, is displaying real optimism at the age of 72 by going out and buying himself a new boat to sail up in the Lake District. He appears to make the trip from his North Yorkshire home very regularly in the Summer months and Dave Roberts seems to spend half his time there as well. The Lake District has never really held much attraction for me. It’s not Mediterranean enough!

After years of very big gardens, we are fairly minimalist these days, The drive is one area we do plant up and these little fuchsias are lighting up the beds this summer.


I’m repeating myself, I know, but their name is Janey. As I’ve said before, there are a lot of Janes in my life. Indeed, it is a name running through the history of my family. I love Jane as the female equivalent of John.  I was going to call my daughter Rebecca-Jane but these fuchsias were planted in memory of my lovely Mother-in-Law who would be 107 next week. These shrubs die away every Winter and then magically re-emerge in the Spring. They seem to symbolise her tenacity for survival against all life threw at her.

Worthing Pier

Thought I’d share with you a lovely, drone shot of our local pier in Worthing that appeared yesterday. The tide is out and the Worthing ‘Eye’ is on the left of the pier. Coming off the back of the pier would mean going left to Goring, Ferring, Rustington and Littlehampton or going right to Lancing, Shoreham by Sea, Hove and Brighton.

Saturday, 21st August, 2021

Yesterday, we went to Honda Littlehampton to discuss the idea of a new car. It will be like-for-like but just a bit cleaner and fresher smelling. In the 2 years since we bought the current one, Honda have added a wireless phone charger in the central console which will be helpful. I already knew that I expected a price of £30,00.00 for our old car as a minimum. They offered £28,000.00 and we walked away. An hour later, as we did our walk in the sunshine, they phoned and offered £30,000.00 and I accepted.

We should get our new car in three weeks’ time. The only thing we couldn’t get is exactly the colour we wanted. We have had silver for the past 40 years with a couple of ‘zany’ exceptions. We had decided on gun-metal grey this time, but the wait would have been January 2022. We decide to accept silver and an immediate delivery. They will do all the troublesome bits like swapping the cherished number plate, etc..

We went to our Italian tomato supplier. Filamenos, the patriarch, is a sad, old 81 year old man. He is from southern Italy originally although his name is Greek and means Good Friend. I spent some time talking to him. He came to Angmering 60 years ago and found employment in the market gardening industry of the early 20th century.

Our whole area has some of the most fertile soil in the country and the most warmth and sunshine although you wouldn’t believe it this year. Filamenos and his son grow tomatoes, Peppers, Basil, Figs, Lemons etc.. He is sad, bordering on depressive. He is 81 years old. His wife died 26  years ago. He is lonely and sad. When I asked him whether he would like to be in Italy or Sussex, he replied by pointing to the earth. I would rather be under here, he said. I can understand the total loss like that which leads to despair. I felt for him, put my arm around him in solidarity as he walked me round his greenhouses proudly showing me fruiting lemon trees and huge, fig trees, aubergine plants and acres of tomatoes.

Later yesterday,we walked in the sunshine although my hernia was really troublesome, and I had to manage it carefully. It is incredibly painful, and I was hit by a huge sense of sadness last night. Is this all there is?

This morning is appropriately grey although very warm and we are going out for an early walk in case it rains. Then it will be humdrum jobs like lawn cutting and hedge trimming if the weather allows. Could it get any better?

Week 659

Sunday, 8th August, 2021

Another fitful sleep last night. Woke at 4.30 am. The mornings are a bit darker and the evenings darken noticeably earlier now. The days are shortening. Is Summer over? Schools go back in 4 weeks. Lucky teachers!

Feeling lighter this morning. I always find eating fish for my meal makes me feel better, less heavy and ponderous. Wonderful Sea Bass fillets from the fish farms of Igoumenitsa in Greece for my meal yesterday and Samphire from the estuaries around the coast of North Wales – an excellent place to come from – made a fantastic meal.

I could eat fish everyday for ever. I wish I could reel them in myself. Lots of calcium for regeneration of old bones. Plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2. My new bathroom scales say my bone density is good for my age and, inspite of all this walking/cycling/jogging, I show no signs of knee or hip problems. What’s a dodgy groin amongst friends. Don’t answer that!

Next week, we should have been flying to Athens, Although I feel slightly regretful we cancelled, overall I am relieved. Covid is rampant there at the moment. Wildfires are leading to evacuations across the city and the Peloponnese and daytime temperatures are above 100F currently. Would love to be world-watching in baking sun with an iced Café Frappé. Even as far away as our Cycladic island, the fires from Attica were clouding the sunny skies with smoke drifting across the beaches. Wouldn’t volunteer to experience that especially in the heat. Even wet Wales seems more attractive.

Kamares Beach in the smog.

For those still labouring under the misapprehension that they live in the best country in Europe with a world-beating government, this should give them pause for thought.

Imagine not having a private pension and having to rely on the State alone. Well, it doesn’t bear thinking about for someone at the end of their life. 

Monday, 9th August, 2021

The weather was wet yesterday although we had a wonderfully hot and sunny section for our walk. Overnight, Shakespearian weather – strong winds, torrential rain and thunder woke me at 4.00 am. The dramatist used it to symbolise the breaking and cleansing of the old world, and the reordering of old relationships in a new world. I was up drinking tea and watching BBC news until 5.00 am and then, of course, found it difficult to go back to sleep.

This morning has started off the same way. It will get better … we are told. It’s just that I have to put all the bins out this morning. I really do need a little slave! Anyway, I’ll just have to keep my exercise routine going and look to the future.

Unbelievably, it is 4 years since the death of Viv. Butterworth and we send our heartfelt condolences to Richard on what must be an even more difficult day. We often talk about her and she lives on in our memories.

My weight is reducing and my clothes need replacing. I spent an hour or so of Sunday morning removing 23 long sleeve and 26 short sleeve T-shirts from my ‘casual’ wardrobe. They are going to have to be taken to the Hospice Shop. Some still have their purchase labels attached so haven’t been worn. I must admit to feeling a little ashamed of this self-indulgence but at least I admit it. So, now, my sports/casual wear and my suits/shirts/formal wear all need replacing. I’m enjoying being lighter and I am determined to never return to that size.

In the Gym, I am watching the 2nd series of Bitter Daisies on Netflix. It is a thriller set in Galicia. I can see why it won awards because it is well written. Watching it on a treadmill is a bit of a risky proposition because I am having to read subtitles and stupid people like me find it difficult to do two things at the same time. If you remember, they always used to say about President Ford who constantly had gum in his mouth and fell down the plane steps on disembarking that he couldn’t chew and walk at the same time. I’m a bit like that with my mind constantly somewhere else and, watching a film, I am completely lost in it like a child.

People told me that I would enjoy Line of Duty long ago. I resisted until recently and then we watched Series 1, Episode 1. Halfway through, we gave up and thought it wasn’t for us. We were persuaded to go back to it and got absolutely hooked. We are already well into Series 2. Keeley Hawes is such a good actress and she speaks without subtitles. My problem is remembering which plot I’m in from Bitter Daisies or Line of Duty. The crossover is confusing. I think it will be a sign of success when I feel I don’t need to escape but can just enjoy the real world. I wonder what will make that happen.

Throughout the past 40 years, we have pushed hard to save, invest and improve our financial positions. We tried to balance the pain with pleasure. We didn’t deny ourselves experiences like travel and entertainment but, more than anything else, we ploughed cash into property and always tried to go further than was comfortable.

We experienced interest rates at 15% at one stage and, although it seems small beer now, borrowing £¼million in the 1980s felt pushing it. I know that we didn’t have to find the size of deposit that is required nowadays but just a glance at the chart on the left suggests a big leap of faith is well worth taking for young house buyers. I would advise hurting themselves in the short term for the pleasure of the future.

I have spent all these years trying to educate myself in classical music and opera, eschewing ‘pop’ music as if it would corrupt me. In just the same way, I have told myself that fiction is unnecessary escapism and that fact is where truth lies. In my dotage, I find that the fiction of film is exactly what I need to escape the persecution of fact and some ‘pop’ music speaks so directly to me that I’ve become infatuated by it. These two elements have combined to fix me in this song:https://www.youtube.com/embed/7gzZEtiusO4?feature=oembed

Some would say I am returning to my juvenilia. I say I am going forward to an excitingly invigorating future!

Tuesday, 10th August, 2021

Great sleep last night for the first time for a couple of days. I’ve written before that I virtually never dream or I’m not aware of it at least. Last night, I dreamed I was a ruthless blackmailer. I turned out to be quite good at it with my acumen for record-keeping. I also woke with my face stinging as if I’d burnt it in the sun yesterday … or was it walking through hellfire overnight? Woken up with real optimism this morning which makes me feel good.

This morning has opened dry and fairly sunny and yesterday turned lovely and hot for our walk. According to our forecast, we have a couple of weeks of dry weather to come which will be nice after Sunday night. We have a Covid Lateral Flow Test and Blood Antibody test at 8.00 am. I am expecting two, DPD deliveries including my new lawnmower. Then I have to go down to the surgery for my Shingles injection. How I will cope with the excitement, I don’t know.

Well Thierry, a delightful, gay Frenchman has spent an hour in the sunshine of our garden providing our latest Covid Tests. He is a bee keeper and says this season has been one of the worst. It certainly has been for our figs.

When we were trawling through a box of photograph memories last night, this young man fell out. I last saw him in 1995 just after he left school. He had spent the Summer term after exams at our house doing some building work but he had worked with me in school for 5 years learning computer management skills and become an adoptee, coming out on meals, trips to the coast, etc..

Mark was one of those delightful human beings who made life seem worth living. We still laugh at his expression when we took him to the bakery in our village and bought a freshly, baked loaf. He took one look and then in astonishment exclaimed, No way is that bread not sliced! For me, it was his syntax that made me laugh but, he had never experienced good bread in his life only sliced, white pap. I put out a query to other adoptees and was told last night that Mark had moved to London recently and was living there. May have to look him up.

The influential, political blog, Reaction, ran an article by Deloitte’s Chief Economist this week headed:

UK house price boom is here to stay

Brexit and the pandemic are now making significant changes to the UK’s housing market. But their effects are likely to be more pronounced in narrow sub-markets (micro) rather than come in the form of broad-based (or macro) changes. As migration slows and post-pandemic hybrid working arrangements transfer households from cities to suburbs or adjoining towns and villages, demand is likely to be better distributed geographically.

This might mean weaker prices in urban conurbations but strong demand in adjoining areas. As people place greater emphasis on space, demand for small flats is likely to weaken while pushing up prices of larger properties with outdoor space.

Worth bearing in mind as I was considering investing in inner-city apartments. I have gone back to reconsider Spanish holiday apartments which are likely to be more popular than ‘communal’ hotel environments for some time to come. The development in Aguilas, Murcia is still available at circa £120,000.00 and there are plenty more starting around £75,000.00. As soon as we start European driving again, Aguilas must be a priority.

Aguilas Development – Still at the drawing board stage

Of course, a major setback will be the use of our smartphones which provide so much service abroad normally to access information apps and radio/tv media. Now, we will have to pay at least £1.00 a day to even access the network all as a benefit of Brexit.

Wednesday, 11th August, 2021

Quite a grey start to the day this morning at 6.00 am. The long-range forecast says we can expect no rain for two weeks but temperatures are not expected to be great.

About 10 years ago or so, I fell out of bed in my sleep while I was in Greece. I hit my head on the bedside cabinet and ripped my ear on the sharp corner. It bled for hours and I should have had it stitched but that is not easy on a small island and I just left it to heal. I did it again last night, crashing into the bedside cabinet and cutting my arm and almost taking out my left eye. I must stop being so vigorous, especially with my groin! My arm is already very painful from my Shingles jab yesterday.

Took delivery of a new lawnmower yesterday and was outside trying to start it around 7.00 this morning. Took a while to get used to a new system but I got there. I love that sort of techie challenge. It is cordless like my current one. It makes mowing the lawns so easy. I was always put off by the effort of starting classic petrol ones and hated corded electric even more. It takes about an hour to fully charge and runs for around 40 mins which is plenty. I’m actually inclined to do the house vacuuming because the machine is also cordless.

Of course, now I need to get rid of the old mower. We have excellent Recycling Sites around here but, recently, they are requiring us to book a slot for visiting. It’s a bit of a pain but retirement makes it easier.

The day has turned lovely, warm and sunny. Blue sky and 22C/70F. We’ve done our walk, been to Sainsbury‘s for Courgettes to griddle in the garden this afternoon with Tuna steaks and now I’m going in the Gym for an hour. It will help me calm down and stave off the next topic a while longer.

The Guardian is featuring this morning an article on a really important topic for people of my generation – the Care System. The problem is that no government is prepared to take on such a thorny issue because it involves forcing difficult funding decisions on people. Because I have no children and no one to leave my estate to, I was always attracted to my assets being sequestered after my death to pay for it – notoriously dubbed the death tax. I am really not worried about dying and I’m certainly not worried about my estate. You really can’t take it with you!

Building up a good savings pot is important for enjoying life but equally important in those final years to death.  I don’t think the public sector is ever going to provide truly acceptable conditions and we will have to fund it ourselves if we can.

On the edge of our Development, work is well on the way on the construction of a 64-bed Hallmark care home which will provide residential and dementia care. The luxury development is being constructed at a cost of £11m on a 1.9-acre site. Of course, it won’t be cheap but it will include a café, a state-of-the-art cinema, a hairdressing salon and therapy room. Spacious bedrooms will have their own full en-suites with showers and all bedrooms on the ground floor will have access to their own patio. Other innovations will include an ice cream parlour, reminiscence lounge, garden room, and an outdoor roof terrace. I’m putting our names down. We can grow old together in luxury!

Thursday, 12th August, 2021

What a lovely day it turned out to be after an uncertain start yesterday. Really warm for our walk. This morning looks as if it’s going a similar way. Apart from a Sainsbury’s and a fish delivery early on, we have a clear diary today so we might go down to the beach.

All the main roads around the outskirts of our village are being redeveloped – widened into dual carriageways to cope with the additional traffic brought about by house building. I often wondered what sorts of jobs people do who move here. A lot of the high-end housing is snapped up by London commuters or techie homeworkers but the Service Industry and, in particular, Retail Supply and Delivery is massively expanding.

An Amazon Warehouse & Distribution Centre was opened about 5 miles away and long lines of these vans started to stream through the village in mid-morning out on delivery. It must have been very annoying for villagers and complaints have finally re-routed them but the L.A. has had to balance the creation of lots of new jobs against residents’ irritation. The MEN yesterday featured a new Amazon Centre in Kingsway Business Park, Rochdale which will create around 150 new jobs so valuable to the area but something to watch.

I moved to Oldham with my little friend in 1972. I don’t mind admitting that it was a massive culture shock for me. I had never lived in a town in my life. I hadn’t even spent much time in any town at all. I was particularly struck by the awful state of the buildings in general and the domestic dwellings in particular. Blake’s phrase, Dark Satanic Mills seemed to be written with Oldham in mind. I remember searching for a flat was so depressing and soul-destroying that I began to think we had done the wrong thing.

This is Barker Street which ran between Rochdale Road and the Market. This is the time we arrived in Oldham. I gulp when I see it and wonder what the hell I was doing in the town. I don’t even really remember why we went there in the first place.

No one who regularly shops in supermarkets can have failed to notice the signs of supply chain problems. Last week it was bottled water. This week it is French/Italian cheese and quite low stocks of fresh fruit and vegetables. Racks spread wide but thinly to disguise the shortages.

This morning, I read a really interesting and informed Twitter thread about serious shortages in the Construction Industry not just of labour which is affecting Agriculture as well but materials. Social Media is full of cartoons like this but the situation is much more serious than that. The knock-on effects for all of us could have major implications.

The headline is that construction costs have gone up about 40-60% on average. Electricians will not quote for jobs now unless they are immediate starts as the wholesale cost for cabling/copper is only guaranteed by the wholesaler for 3 days. Fixed price quotes are now a thing of the past. Cement and plaster have doubled in price. Some timber has tripled. Many Brickyards have zero bricks in stock and some roof tiles now have a 48-week lead time. Almost one whole year.

Our new, Italian neighbours had two tiles fly off the roof in the recent winds and no one can source the right colour replacements. I stupidly smashed a huge, conservatory window 10 days ago. The glazier came round within 4 hrs but he warned us there were virtually no replacement units available and we still haven’t got one. Fortunately, it crazed the outside pane of the double glazing but didn’t affect the inside.

All this might sound fairly trivial but it has huge implications for the economy in general and the housing market in particular. It will create two opposing pressures. The U.K. economy is underpinned by housing/building. The eye-watering increase in cost will inevitably lead to higher house prices, but they’re already so unaffordable that too much of an increase could lead to a collapse. This could, potentially, trigger a U.K. ring-fenced credit crunch. If that happens, everything will get more expensive for the U.K.. Interest rates and inflation would go through the roof. Do not be retired in that environment.

Friday, 13th August, 2021

The date suggests that this will not be the luckiest one but don’t worry, dear reader, that’s a lot of nonsense.

In my beginning is my end ….

Strange pattern to the days at the moment. For the 3rd day running, yesterday opened grey and damp but turned gloriously hot and sunny. Today is fairly overcast at 6.30 am. Completed my 183rd consecutive day of exercise goal. I’ve gone so far, you would have to shoot me to stop me now. Pretty sure I’ve got a hernia in my groin but I’m not prepared to let it affect my routine so the doctor will have to fit a solution around that.

Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

Finally, the glazier has given us a price for the window unit replacement and it is excellent at £160.00 although I don’t think he has been able to source one yet. Must be more careful with my strimmer in future.

The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

On this day in 1961 under the auspices of Kruschev, The Berlin wall was erected. The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin. Construction of the wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic on 13 August 1961. The Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. I was 10 years old and I remember my parents’ discussion about it around the dining table.  

Berlin Wall being erected – 13th, August 1961

I was 38 before it fell and, when it did, few were prepared for it. The West Germans took great risks and invested huge amounts of money reintegrating their backward Eastern half. They have even elected an East German citizen Chancellor of Germany for the past 16 years. Now, European internal borders are completely open other than to Brexit Britain. I do miss the long, cross Europe drives

I can’t sleep through the moments
All the moments you’ve stolen ..

Fresh, dressed, Devon Crabs for our meal yesterday with green salad and tarragon tzatziki in the sunshine was absolutely wonderful. Actually, it was so good, I ate too much. Must control myself!

Sorry about all the quotes interspersed this morning but they have been flooding through my mind over night and it seemed the best way to clear it. All but the last couplet come from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: East Coker. The only explanation I can offer is that an item about a crime in East Coker came up on a newsfeed yesterday and it immediately triggered a memory of the long poem that I last read in the mid-1970s.https://www.youtube.com/embed/7my5baoCVv8?feature=oembed

If you want to know how juvenile my humour is, turn your volume on and listen to this clip. I almost fell off my chair shrieking with laughter.

Saturday, 14th August, 2021

Many years ago, when I was about 14 years old, I went caving with a group of boys. The experience is hard to visualise unless you were there but, essentially, we went out of the sunshine through an increasingly narrowing cave entrance to a rapidly dark and confining tunnel. Eventually, we were crawling on our hands and knees in water and pitch darkness through a tight tunnel where we couldn’t stand up and could only go forward or back according to the person in front and behind us. I can remember the ‘trapped’ feeling rising in me. Although I didn’t know the term, claustrophobia at the time, that’s clearly what I was experiencing and it was a useful learning experience. That is how we test ourselves.

Woke up this morning with a sense of sadness and distance. My past seems untouchable and down a tight, dark tunnel in which I’m stuck. My future is dark and unknowable. I can’t go forward or back and am reliant on those behind and in front. I am suffering from temporal claustrophobia.

My 14-year-old self got through the tight tunnel and was able to stand up in the most beautiful, high-ceilinged chamber. The nightmare was that, to get back, I had to go through the whole experience again. The nightmare of time is that we can never go back but only move forward into the darkness.

Once again this Saturday morning, the light is poor and vaguely grey. Lovely afternoon and evening of hot sunshine … again yesterday. The Mediterranean corner of our garden was flooded with warmth. The fig trees and Canarian tree and Mediterranean herbs were all loving it. Beautiful, crescent moon last night and warm overnight.

On this weekend each year, the Greeks go on holiday for around 2 weeks. In teaching times, we would already have been there for a fortnight and, suddenly, the island and its shops would become flooded with double the number of customers. In retirement, we would have been there for 4+ months already and were preparing to book hotels and ferries for our return drive through Europe in a couple of months.

The Windmill Supermarket aka Sainsbury’s

For all the lovely weather, the gorgeous, warm sea-swimming, the delicious taverna food and the stimulating challenge of coping with a foreign language and culture, there comes a time when change is desired. Of all the things we longed for, a well-stocked, British supermarket was high on the list. The Windmill Supermarket was lovely. Run by Maria, it supplied us with fresh oranges from her father’s orchard and eggs from their own chickens, pork from the next-door farm, etc. but so many of the staples one gets used to at home were difficult to find.

These sorts of projects are always risky.  Must admit I’ve always thought that taking a risk was the only way to move forward. I am a risk-taker although I do try to think things through and do due diligence as well. Buying land and laying out £200,000.00 in a building project on a small, Greek island was always going to carry an element of risk. It paid off and gave us a lot of pleasure but it took some nerve.

It’s impossible, said Pride.
It’s risky, said Experience.
It’s pointless, said reason.
Give it a try, whispered the Heart.

If you want something better. If you want something to change. The only way is to hold your nerve and take a bit of risk. The rewards can be enormous. Some old people in a Care Home once told us: Don’t hold back. Do it. You only get one life and it is short. We regret not having followed our dreams. As they spoke, they were confined to an immobile, old age in fraying chairs and watching the traffic pass on the road outside – not able to go back and waiting for their future to come them.

Week 658

Sunday, 1st August, 2021

New month, new week, new day. August already although it feels more like April or September. In Greece, they are expecting temperatures of 42-46C/108-115F over the coming week and that might be a little excessive but we are forecast 20C/68F for the first week in AUGUST.

In spite of the forecast, yesterday was lovely, sunny and warm throughout. We really enjoyed visiting our new, local Italian nursery and buying a variety of tomatoes, peppers and garlic.

The family is from Southern Italy and grow tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, garlic, basil, fennel – all the sorts of Summer vegetables to build an Italian feast. They also grow their own fig trees and grapevines and make their own, family version of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo as they would have done back home. We are surrounded by former commercial nurseries around here and the Italians had just bought one up to use for small-scale production. We have told our new, Italian neighbours.

This produce will help me in next week’s push for a renewed diet. I will be eating lots of Italian tomatoes, homegrown basil and Greek olive oil. It’s making me hungry just thinking about it.

Yesterday, we had already done a good walk in the sunshine and I followed that with about 90 mins in the Gym. I was watching an award-winning Galician television series, Bitter Daisies (O Sabor das Margaridas) which is 2 series of 12 x 70 mins episodes. Should keep me going for a while.

I think I’m going to need it. Feel a bit deserted. The Summer is disappearing fast and there is little good weather to look forward to. Travel is still very uncertain. The Tories seem to be making it deliberately difficult to place confidence in a booking for Europe. Plan as we might, there is not a lot to look out to.

At least this morning is reasonably pleasant and we are going out for an early walk. Rain is forecast for this afternoon which is a bit dispiriting. …. Actually, the clouds parted and I felt the burning sun as I walked. Amazing how quickly things can change when you put your mind to it. It is almost like parallel universes – the forecasts and the actualités. Perhaps we make our own predictions!

Monday, 2nd August, 2021

Up at 6.00 am to early sunshine but the sky soon clouded over and the forecast is not good. If we are to have a walk, it must be in the morning before any rain arrives. Great start to the morning. Switched the kettle on and tripped the entire power network to the house. Scrabbling around for the battery/fuse store box and resetting the main switches, resetting the cooker clock, the Sky-Q boxes and the wi-fi connections between them – all before my orange juice! A new kettle is to be ordered this morning.

I like tea but I love coffee. I particularly love freshly ground coffee and I’m excited to have found some wonderful beans by accident. Ran out of normal beans and, passing Waitrose, I bought these to try. They taste like butterscotch and toffee mixed with dark coffee. I love it.

This week over the years was a popular time for events like weddings and christenings. I like to record them in order to keep control of time. If I don’t, time runs away unnoticed and I can’t allow that. If we don’t control Nature then Nature will dominate us … as I point out to the lawns every time I cut them. Yesterday was 40 years since we attended Jill & Geoff’s wedding in Middleton. I don’t have a photo of this, unfortunately.

Today, it is 40 years exactly since we attended the christening of Sue & Eddie’s daughter, Laura in Halifax. It says more about us than her that she is 40 years old now and her 70-year-old parents live permanently on Gozo off the island of Malta. We have been hoping to visit them for quite some time. What a social whirl we lived in then – wedding one day and christening the next.

I had been bought my first SLR camera for Christmas 1980 and was still learning to use it. Focusing clearly was a little bit tricky still and I hadn’t fully mastered it. Even so, I absolutely loved the challenge and threw the Polaroid away instantly. Just one, standard lens to start with and then I added a wide-angle and a telephoto. Soon, I was having to lug a huge, photographer’s bag of equipment around along with a tripod.

I got into moody, artistic (or what I thought were) shots and was always sending off reels of film to those postal service developers that were the mainstay of cheap prints in the 1980s. Look at these magnificent figures from 1981.

Of course, the downside is in the comparison with today. From these beautiful, young (well 30 year old) things to the old wrinklies of today. Actually, on exactly that subject, I am looking for a professional mouth coach. My wife is standing in at the moment but it is too much to ask of her ultimately.

I have known for a long time but have been savagely reminded recently that I walk around half my time (maybe more) with my mouth open like some vacant, old man and I DRIBBLE!! For someone whose nickname is Sex-on-Legs, it is not a good look. For me, it is almost as bad! I have to be reminded constantly to breathe through my nose and out through my mouth. This morning, I was reviewing the CCTV footage from the past 24 hrs and a man came out of our house, overweight, hair thinning and with his mouth open looking like a loon. Who the hell could it be? I suddenly realised it was me. I’ve got to do something about that now! Experienced Mouth Coaches please apply. Good rates of pay but no holidays.

Not many photos of me nowadays. Who wants to look at moody shots of a vacant, old man with his mouth open? That’s why so many of my generation are snapping shots of the countryside on smartphones – well, those who can cope with modern technology.

Adonis in Cornfield – Summer 1981

There are still some people without smartphones! How do they cope? Still see a few old people ambling uncertainly back from the newsagents with Daily Express/Mail under their arm in the mornings. They are obviously Brexit supporters! My newspaper – The Times – is delivered to 2 x iPads at 5.00 am every day for a third of the price of one paper edition excluding travel or delivery and all that grubby newsprint. I fear for their ability to exist in this fast-changing world.

The computer controls of all new cars will terrify them. How will they cope? Soon, they won’t be able to manage new TVs, new fridges, new everything. The internet of things is taking over. Could be scope for a good IT teacher!

Tuesday, 3rd August, 2021

Went out for a walk in light rain yesterday morning. The swelling in my groin was agony and my wife is insisting on making an appointment with the doctor for me. As soon as she said that, the pain cleared up but she still phoned when we got home. Fortunately, there are no available appointments. I might get away with it and buy time for the problem to solve itself as I so often do. Can’t decide what to do about anything at the moment. Life is rather imploding. Puts a dodgy groin into perspective somewhat.

I just love gadgets and we’ve ordered another one. It was only the fuse in our kettle which failed yesterday but the whole thing is looking the worse for wear after 5 hard years’ work so a new one is justified. Over the past 5 years in this house, Pauline has migrated from tea & coffee to just peppermint tea to only drinking hot water. I can’t even begin to imagine such an existence but it suits her. Of course, she can’t cope with the temperature of immediately boiled water and it needs topping up with cold. I have found the perfect answer.

This new kettle has Variable Temperature Control which features 4 temperature control settings and a keep warm function that continually keeps water at the selected temperature for 30 mins. What more could a gadget-freak want?

The weather is on the gloomy side of good this morning. I have to mow the lawns. Pauline has been persuaded not to phone the surgery again this morning for an appointment. I’m going to give natural recovery a chance.

Well, the day couldn’t get much better. I was mowing and edging the back lawn. I have a strimmer to do the edging. At one point, a pebble flirts up and I hear it hit a door. A cursory look doesn’t shown anything damaged. I finish the job, start to sweep up and then realise that one, full length conservatory double-glazed panel has been completely shattered by the stone. A window man has been summoned to sort it out this afternoon.

Came across this old chap from the Scottish Highlands advertising his latest work. The thing that cheers me up is that he is younger than me.

The afternoon has turned out hot and sunny. We’ve done a walk. The window man is expected and the new kettle is being delivered. I am going in the gym to test my groin in secret! Amazing how much of one’s groin is used in sweeping!

Wednesday, 4th August, 2021

Well, yesterday turned into an absolutely delightful and warm spell in which we cut the lawns, trimmed the hedges, watered all the plants and left the area looking well cared for. We did a walk and I did my gym session without too much discomfort. I do think my body is deteriorating from the inside out. I make no attempt to understand it but push on regardless. Pauline’s next investigation is in the hospital on Thursday. This must be the lot of 70 year olds. It is a depressing and lonely affair which each one of us must face in time.

Received a text message this morning. Don’t get many of those and this was from the Surgery. It was offering me an injection against Shingles. They are offered to all 70 – 79 year olds. My brother had a painful bout of shingles on his back in his teenage years which was bad enough but two members of Pauline’s family have experienced excruciating shingles in older age and I don’t want that. If I died tomorrow, it wouldn’t worry me at all but don’t let it be painful because I am a coward.   

We have spent every August for 30 years away from the UK and on this little spit of rock in the Aegean. We know every inch of every village of the island so intimately. The photo is of the village square in Artemonas with Manganas Taverna on the left, the Fournos (Bakery) at the far end with the sun setting down over our house and Kamares Port in the distance.                                                                                                                  

In those days the Bakery was one of the most important sources of food. The one in Artemonas produced the most wonderful bread and sweets. Just looking at the picture above transports me to the sounds, smells and body-wrapping humidity of a Greek August evening. Today it is 36C/97F and, this evening, it will be still be 32C/90F in that square as Diners sit, sweating over their salads.

One of our biggest dilemmas was leaving people behind in the UK while we were so far away. Principally, my Mother-in-Law was in Oldham and, latterly, in her 80s – 90s. She was fiercely independent and pushed us to be ruthless with our lives. She made it clear she wanted us to go out and do what we wanted to but she was always in the back of our minds. I felt bad because I was the instigator of Pauline leaving her Mum. Now I have no one to worry about and that almost feels worse.  

Bought some new bathroom scales for the En Suite a few days ago. They cost £30.00 and were absolutely rubbish. I don’t weigh that much! They went back this morning and have been replaced with these techie ones. They measure Body MassBody FatBody WaterBone Mass and it even states one’s weight. I’m sure it will give me a better answer.

Coreopsis – Early Sunrise

Just trying to bring a bit of sunshine into life this morning. Went to the Garden Centre. Well into August, it is still packed with flowering plants that should have been sold in June. As we’re pinned in our garden so much, might as well fill it with bright colours. This morning, I chose a Coreopsis. We’ve grown a lot of them over the years but this is a particularly bright one. It should flower strongly into October. …. that’s if I’m still alive.

I’m going for my Shingles injection next Tuesday. I read this morning, rather belatedly, of the death of Bill Haire who was one of the first 20 men at my College and who was always partnered by Jimmy Shaw and Mike Ennion. He had been ill for some time and died in hospital a few months ago. Really brings one up short and immediately makes me focus on what I want to achieve before I go.

Mike – (L) & Bill – (R) so alive!

Like yesterday, the afternoon has brought really hot sunshine and blue skies. Our walk was in 24C/75F of warmth. I was almost reluctant to go inside to do my gym work afterwards. However, I’ve only missed one day in a complete 6 months now and I bitterly regret missing that one. It’s a good job we’ve got some sun. It is still not possible to fly into the US without going to an intermediate country and quarantining for 10 days which I’m not going to do. France is difficult as is Spain. Greece is showing a huge spike in infection. Might have to holiday in Newquay at this rate!

Thursday, 5th August, 2021

Lovely morning of sunshine. Pleasantly warm at 7.00 am. Taking Pauline to hospital this morning. She’ll be there for a while so I’m driving home and will try to do a couple of hours in the gym. Hopefully, this will be her last visit and there will be no intervention required. We will see.

I’m not drinking at the moment and I’m finding it particularly hard when the sun comes out as it has done very warmly in the past couple of afternoons. I don’t know if it is just my psyche or a universal tendency but I associate hot sun with relaxation, encouraging self-indulgence, wine drinking and the blurring of inhibitions. Those who have never enjoyed alcohol will find this hard to understand but they will have missed an essential experience.

I haven’t cracked but I have been tempted. Every day I go into the gym and punish my body while being taunted by racks of Bordeaux, Pinot Noir, Rioja, Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc … Oh stop!!


The crisis of self-control is made even harder when I’m feeling down. I start to think, Oh, what’s the point? A glass/bottle of wine will numb the sadness. Of course, it never does but I am a slow learner as my readers will know.

Exactly 49 years ago today, I went with a little friend to the wedding of Christine & Kevin who were friends from college. The wedding was in Shadwell, Leeds and the weather was hot and sunny. My little friend recently sent me our copy of the Wedding Service and, for the first time in all those years, I have acknowledged it by writing to them and wishing them well. It feels nice to be doing it.

My sister, Catherine (Cathy), who lives about 5 miles away, popped out of social media yesterday. She obviously thinks she is a work of art. She is certainly looking slim and vital at the moment but then she is so much younger than me. Good to see her happy. Most members of my family seem to be enjoying their retirement. Liz hasn’t quite made it yet but is winding down.

It is 13 years since Mum died and the experience has faded in my sensibilities although there are moments that I want to phone her. Apart from last year, we always return to visit her grave. Every time I look in the mirror, I see her face in mine and increasingly in my sisters. I regularly curse her for bequeathing me her facial moles which she spent so many years trying to eradicate herself.

Fascinatingly, I was told in the past week that Mum’s will is going to be finally wrapped up this month with the sale of Barclays shares and the disbursement of small, remaining amounts to members of the family. We forget so easily. I am secretly (not) pleased that I sold my allocation of the Barclays shares for £2.80 each years ago and those family members who hung on to theirs in the hope of improvement are only achieving circa £1.78 per share. They should have trusted the judgement of their older brother. They never do!

Friday, 6th August, 2021

Woke up feeling rather sad this morning. Didn’t want to open my eyes. When I did, soft, grey rain was falling on the world outside.

Still falls the rain
Still falls the blood from the starved man’s wounded side
He bears in his heart all wounds – those of the light that died
The last faint spark

Sitwell – 1940

Yesterday, the drive to the hospital down the beach road was busy and in full holiday mode. Happy children with lilos, buckets and spades and stressed parents all over the sand. Traffic was difficult in mid-morning but we got there on time. I dropped Pauline off at the doors and drove home.  

An hour in the Gym watching this very sad, sub-titled, Spanish thriller which has taken me 8 hours to complete ended so painfully.  Never knew I had so much emotion inside me. No wonder I have spent a lifetime avoiding fiction. It’s just too painful. I have a very low pain threshold and don’t cope with sadness well at all. Pathetic!

I would have taken this as a student!

Fortunately, I received a text to say she was ready for collection after just one hour so I was saved from any more tears washing down the Treadmill and I set off without a shower, back down the beach road and up to the hospital. The news was good. No problems that are insurmountable or serious. That’s one worry to tick off. We drove home and went out for an hour’s walk in 22C/70F of lovely sunshine. When we got back, I did a final hour in the gym before showering and a meal. I am fighting hard and closing in on a weight I haven’t been for the past 35 years. I love the new bathroom scales!

I have been worrying about resurgent inflation for some time. We have been through the most incredibly extended period of low inflation but the Bank of England’s target rate of 2% is set to be seriously breached by 4% inflation this year. For people like me holding cash reserves in low-interest savings accounts, 4% inflation can be highly destructive. For illustration: a 4% inflation over 10 years would reduce £100,000.00 to just £67,500.00 in today’s terms.

The normal bank response would be to raise interest rates which would help cash investments like mine. Unfortunately, the crashed economy and the post-pandemic recovery would be damaged by increasing costs of borrowing. We have already committed to saving a minimum of £1000.00 per month just to counteract this effect. However, I am convinced that the best way to shelter saving from this threat is to invest in property.

I’ve looked at city centre apartments in Manchester, harbourside apartments in Southampton and Pauline found new, student-let apartments in Liverpool which offer a guaranteed return of 8% per annum on an outlay of just £75,000.00. Of course, the other alternative we have been considering is holiday properties in Spain with rental potential.

Housing in UK is going wild. Older residents of our village constantly complain that there is so much new development that it is now a town. Of course, we are beneficiaries of that explosion in house building which has brought the most wonderful facilities and shopping all around. I was reading in the MEN recently of a huge, new development in Oldham near where I initially lived and where I taught. At the end of Broadbent Road, Oldham has agreed the plans for 837 new properties to be built. and another 415 at Mumps. Rochdale Council have agreed another 300 homes on an old mill site in Middleton expanding eventually to 717 new homes because Middleton has ‘excellent access to the rest of Greater Manchester particularly if the tram serves it.

A typical house on our Development.

The big difference between the development North-South is that the MEN says at least 30% of the housing will be ‘affordable’ and much on Brown Field sites. Here, most are on Green Field land and hardly anything is affordable by anyone.

Saturday, 7th August, 2021

This morning has opened dry and fine but soon turned wet. Actually, got up late after a bit of a fitful night. The radio goes off at 6.00 am although I fell back to sleep this morning.  Radio 4 Today programme has driven me mad. Can’t listen to any more of the sheer excitement of Tom Daley’s knitting hobby or his plucky bronze medal. That England has been brought to this!

Wanted to smash the radio but it is my best friend. I’ve had it for almost 30 years and it still remains at my side working beautifully. I don’t think it looks very dated either although my wife’s biggest concern is that it looks dusty in this photo.

The day has changed completely by 11.00 am. The sun came out and stayed out. It was hot as we went for our walk. I did another gym session and came out of the darkness, blinking in to the bright sunshine of the garden. Sea Bass and Samphire for our meal today. I’m starving!

Life is such a roller coaster. Finding it quite hard over the past couple of days. Tried to keep busy yesterday and work hard. Wasn’t completely effective but I did exhaust myself.

All yesterday morning we were zipping around shopping areas – new reading glasses (Half-Moon for the elderly.) from Rustington SpecSavers. Lots of lovely Fruit & Veg from the Greengrocers – today: Peaches, Plums, Apricots, Asparagus.

On our walk

Next was a frantic search for bottled water. Almost all the local superstores are empty of bottled water. I can’t live without sparkling water. Eventually, we found one store and bought up almost the total supply.

On to the fish man for Sea Bass and a large bunch of Samphire. Finally, we returned to the Foschini Nursery for a variety of Tomatoes plus some Garlic and a bunch of Basil.

Back home for coffee and then out for a walk in 22C/70F of really warm sunshine. We have rather become tied to a set route at the moment. It is about 7 miles round trip and, when we get back, I follow that with an hour in the Gym. I finish around 2.30 pm and I’m quite tired by then. Of course, I haven’t eaten anything by that time in the day.

Pauline cooks while I shower and then we eat at about 3.30 pm. That’s the routine of the day. I think I’m trying to block the world out and be quite ruthless in addressing my fitness and weight loss at the moment. I read a lot but writing has really come to a halt at the moment. Unlike us, Muse appears to have gone on holiday.

Each month I am presented with my Google Travel record taken from my smartphone. It really is an indictment of the prison cell in which we are living. Such restricted travelling. After 26 months, our car still hasn’t reached 9,000 miles. No one could call me a nomad!

Sue & John Ridley – 1978, Richmond

It seems that 1978 was a popular year for getting married amongst my friends. John Ridley, who always referred to me as John-1 and himself as John-2 in his typically self-effacing way, was celebrating his 43rd wedding anniversary yesterday. It took place in the picturesque setting of Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Week 657

Sunday, 25th July, 2021

Another surprisingly hot day yesterday. 27C/81F. We did a walk and then I followed that with some gardening plus gym work. No writing. My Muse has left me at the moment. I have a separateness and a sadness at the moment.

Our local beach – Littlehampton

The sky has become quite dramatic over Littlehampton Marina which suggests we are in for another sticky night. We will see ….

Yesterday, the results of our anti-body tests arrived to show that we were both well covered. Also, Pauline received her 70  year old’s Driving Licence renewal request. She still has another 3 months to go but it makes me feel better.

Couldn’t sleep last night. Awake at 4.00 am and up at 6.00 am. As predicted, gentle warm rain was falling. The smells from the garden are delicious. They remind me of our Greek garden which we left for the last time 7 years ago this week. Our English figs produced lots of fruit last summer but have hardly any this year probably because of a difficult Spring. They are all leaf growth that produces the evocative scent of Greece. However, we are bang-on-trend as the jargon goes. The Sunday Observer this morning says roses are out but figs and olives are in. We have both for normal summers down here. Not sure I’d recommend them for Lancashire yet but the time will surely come.

We had received our payment for the house, put it through two separate Greek banks into a Foreign Exchange account with a third financial organisation and got it to our UK bank. Officially, it should have been thoroughly checked at the Greek end and then again for money laundering at the UK end. We manged to forestall the Greek procedures because of our small-island relationships and through the UK end because I prepared the arrival of a large amount of money from abroad by talking to our private account manager by phone in advance. Even so, we were very nervous about potential hitches in the process and incredibly relieved when it all went to plan.

There was the matter of part payment left to receive and we returned to Athens in September to withdraw that from the Greek bank and send it back to UK. Ultimately, we didn’t have to pay any tax on our sale which felt fantastic particularly as the Tax Office had spent months pursuing Pauline for little more than 5p unpaid tax on her financial settlement from ending teaching and then intimidating her with tax return forms each year for a while after as if she were a criminal.

An untidy test!

Since October last year, we have taken 20 tests for Covid-19. Most have been Lateral Flow, Swab tests but, more recently, have included finger prick, Antigen (antibody) tests. Almost all have been as part of the Oxford University Project but we have also done a few when we have had close contact with people we don’t know. For example, 3 days after visiting the hairdresser, Pauline would do a test and 3 days after having the CCTV installer in the house, we did a test. We have passed every one which is reassuring

I have written before that Pauline & I are like Jack Spratt & his wife. She is obsessed with cleanliness and I am obsessed with tidiness. This is the scene of a test we did yesterday and is so untidy it drives me mad. At least my wife is knuckling down and getting her jobs done. She made jam yesterday and is making bread today as well as cutting my hair. As a result, the floors will have to be vacuumed and steam-cleaned to allow her to sleep tonight.

Monday, 26th July, 2021

The weather was largely wet and very warm yesterday. I did 2 hours in the gym after which I was very wet and warm. I have now done my target for 165 consecutive days which I think is testimony to my determination and consistency. I know some who will think it a sign of madness. After exercise, I had my hair cut and then tried on my suits which have been hanging in the wardrobe unworn for some time. When I appeared before my wife, she shrieked with amusement and said they all had to be thrown away because I looked like a ‘clown’ in a joke suit in each one. It’s always nice to be appreciated.

Emma & her little son

This morning is lovely and warm. I was awake at 5.00 am but managed to stay in bed, listening to the World News followed by R4 Today programme until 7.00 am. Up for breakfast with the conservatory doors open on to the garden. Who could start without freshly squeezed orange juice and a huge cup (never a mug) of Yorkshire tea? Everything until I eat my meal in the mid-afternoon is liquid which plays havoc with an old man’s bladder.

One of the things about life at the moment is that absence of doing leads to introspection. This morning, my calendar reminds me that Emma – one of our past-pupil adoptees – is 42 today. She is married with 3 children and her eldest recently graduated from university. He is also a professional rugby player and an amateur boxer. It gives me quite a warm feeling reminiscing about those times 25 years ago. Pathetic, I can hear you scoff but I don’t care.

I’ve been thinking about Sifnos because it was 7 years last week that we left and this picture of Lakis Kafezaxaroplasteio (Coffee & Sweet Things) came up this morning. When we first went there, it was 1984 and I was just 33 years old. The original old man was running the shop. As we went through the 1990s, the old man died and his son took over running the Café. Now, it is run by the next generation who have smartened the old place up. Will we see it again? We must trust in the future!

Lakis Kafezaxaroplasteio

Feel genuinely happy and optimistic this morning. Absolutely no idea why. Must be all the tea for breakfast!

Talking about breakfast, I’m trying to persuade my wife that I need one of these. It would make me feel as if I was in a nice hotel every morning. She says I’m being over-ambitious. Story of my life! Instead of a juicer, she has ordered me a new lawnmower. I don’t know what she’s trying to tell me!

41 years ago last month, we had a near-death experience car accident. The MEN sent me this event from Manchester this morning. Rather reminds me:

This is Middleton Road, Blackley partially blocked northbound outside the entrance to Heaton Park. By the look of the car in the foreground, this could have been a race going on. In our case, we were in a mini and destroyed by an old, Ford Cortina.

Tuesday, 27th July, 2021

Incredibly hot and muggy evening last night and thunder, lightning and torrential rain struck at around 4.00 am. I always find it hard to get back to sleep after that with thoughts flooding across my mind for ages.

Sifnos Evening

The hottest temperature I have ever experienced is 42C/108F ten years ago this week in Athens and that is exactly what is expected there again today. I certainly don’t envy them. It is actually quite frightening. Walking in that heat is rather how one might imagine dying slowly would feel.

I have to complete my exercise routine early today because I am taking Pauline to hospital later. It is an initial investigation. She seems quite unfazed by it. Girls always seem to handle these things better than I do. I am, on the other hand, always nervous but I have no understanding of bodies. They are a mystery to me.

At least we do have an excellent hospital in our area which is reassuring. I suspect that they understand bodies.

Moving Fruit!

On Sunday, I featured our fig trees which now tower at around 10ft tall even after winter pruning. Yesterday, we ate our first fruit and it was absolutely delicious. I made the mistake of suggesting I wouldn’t try growing them in Lancashire yet. I meant to produce fruit. A Blog reader from the wilds of the North took umbrage and contacted me to say they had two, lovely little ones …. There are no words!

Wednesday, 28th July, 2021

This morning has started off quite warm -19C/66F at 7.00 am. Suddenly, as I drank breakfast, the heavens opened and we had 5 mins of torrential rain. Just as suddenly, blue sky appeared with strong sunshine. Looks as if that is how it will go for a day or two. I am distraught. My lovely lawn has developed brown patches and areas are dying. Having ignored it for a week, I have to rake out the dead and reseed. I’m going to do that today. I would love to grow Bougainvillea on the fences of the back garden but I don’t think it would survive anything but the warmest winter. Used to love this peach-coloured variety that we grew in Greece.

Bougainvillea from our Greek home.

Did my full exercise routine by mid-day yesterday. It had turned out a completely different prospect from forecasts. Warm – 22C/70F, sunny and dry, the morning was wonderful. We did our walk twice and then prepared to go out for the afternoon. I drove to the hospital where I spent an hour walking round the car park. Actually, we had a huge shock as we entered the hospital car park. A young woman was on the floor in the middle of the road surrounded by policemen and police cars. She didn’t look well but it wasn’t obvious what had occurred.

Nightmare place to park.

Those not there for ‘official’ reasons are not allowed in. The woman parked next to me returned to her car saying she had been refused entry for being 10 minutes too early for her appointment. Anyway, ultimately, everything went well. The biggest problem was trying to park. It is a full-time job looking for a space in the mid-afternoon.

Worthing Promenade taken from the car.

We drove home down the coast road, past the pier where full holiday mode had been reached. The fair with amusements was in full swing. Food outlets and entertainments were touting for business and traffic was heavy. By the time we ate around 6.00 pm, we were hungry and tired. It had seemed a long day already. Mind you, I had been awake since 4.00 am so 14 hrs had elapsed already.

Thursday, 29th July, 2021

Today we are driving up to Surrey to see M&K and P&C for the first time in a while. It takes about an hour to get there if the M25 is kind. We will spend a couple of hours there and then another hour driving home. I’ve got to get my exercise routine completed before we set off so an early start in the gym. No spam burgers for me! It is an absolutely beautiful, warm and sunny morning with crystal clear blue sky.

We’ve decided to consider at least a surprise visit. Pauline’s longest surviving friend is Sue who used to go to school at Hathershaw in Oldham where Pauline was Head Girl in 1970/71. They went to Newquay (Cornwall) together in their final Summer before going their own ways in 1971. Newquay would be a lovely place to live and property prices are very strong there at the moment. 

5* Hyatt Regency – St Julian’s Bay, Malta

We haven’t seen Sue and her husband, Eddie, since the early 1980s. In retirement, they have sold their property in Halifax and moved to Gozo – the small island off Malta. They have bought an old, traditional house and refurbished it over the past 3 years. We are considering going to Malta towards the end of August and dropping into surprise Sue. It will be fun as part of a sun-filled experience. At the same time, I might be able to do something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now. My cleaner from school is Maltese. Cath cleaned my office and I always referred to her as The Maltese Falcon. She is/was a lovely woman who originated in Malta but had lived in Oldham since the 1970s. She had adopted Pauline’s Mum as her own Mother and went to clean for her in her final years in her Waterhead flat.

Every year, Cath would return to Malta for the summer to stay with her family. I would like to surprise her there in August this year.

I am researching Hotels we could stay in for a couple of weeks or so. I am thinking of the 5* Hyatt Regency in St. Julian’s Bay. It has a Gym, Pools inside and out and good rooms. Excellent wi-fi and satellite TV are a prerequisite and this hotel has an excellent review. The whole package for 15 nights is just under £3,000.00 plus flights which seems good value. It will be tying in appropriate flights that will be crucial. After all this time, it will feel slightly treacherous leaving the UK … but not a lot! Of course, we’ve had these flights of fancy before only to withdraw so I’m not holding my breath.

Friday, 30th July, 2021

The morning has started breezy, grey and sporadically damp. Typical English summer. We are going out shopping for fruit and to refuel the car which is quite a rare activity at the moment.

Yesterday, in contrast, was warm – 22C/70F – sunny with white clouds and comfortable. Did half my exercise routine early and then drove up to Surrey. The car was thanking us all the way for giving it an outing. Just a 50 mile drive was a joy of release. So was being with people.

We drove to M&K’s house where P&C are staying. It is so strange chatting in a social setting after so long. We just sat around a buffet and talked for a couple of hours. I have to admit to a sin here. I ate a Cheese Straw!

M&K are home from America for a couple of weeks – half of which is quarantine – and then back there.

Meanwhile, P&C are house and dog sitting. They have made friends with the swans at the bottom of the garden and C has even named them. He is visited by a female and her Cygnets. I’m not sure that they were quite as trusting of me but who could blame them?

M&K return to Florida soon and have been very generous in saying they would welcome a visit from us. They even went as far as offering us one of their cars when we are there. I said I would like to visit my childhood friend in Boston, Massachusetts at the same time and they told me it is just a simple internal flight. We are not allowed in yet but they are there until at least May so things will change. I look forward to it.

For now, back to the English weather, shopping and exercise. At least M gave me a list of Netflix offerings to watch in the gym.

Saturday, 31st July, 2021

Out early to Argos to collect some new bathroom scales and then on to a newly discovered Nursery which has opened a mile or so from our house. Foschini Nursery has been opened by Italians from Montepulciano. I’m sold on that immediately.

They say we are what we eat. Some people are pure spam. If you cut me through, I would be pure tomato. Foschini Nursery are growing and selling multiple varieties of Italian tomatoes which have been receiving rave reviews from chefs in the area.

We hope to come back on this warm day of sun & cloud to do some walking. I have been pushing myself quite hard since the beginning of April when I turned 70. I have just started to pay for it with a lump or swelling appearing in my groin – no jokes, thank you. It has persisted for a couple of weeks and, if it doesn’t disappear soon, I will have to consult a doctor. Haven’t done that for so long. Haven’t seen any doctor for anything in over two years and I am reluctant to go now but it may be more serious than I realise so may have to face it soon. My wife is pushing me to go. I think she has an eye on the Life insurance.

I did 2 hrs in the Gym yesterday and watched the whole of the modern, film edition of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. That is my sort of film and the time passed quite quickly although I was in some discomfort. The trouble is, my mindset will not allow me to dodge the routine. I just hope I am not exacerbating something. The one thing I can’t afford to do is sit still.

Just 49 years apart.

For anybody in the ‘know’, I was contacted out of the blue by Dave Weatherley yesterday. He was asking after my welfare which was nice. He still seems just as obsessed with 60s/70s music as when I knew him at College and is happily retired and living in Bolton if that isn’t a contradiction in terms.

Bob’s starting to get the hang of photography.

My little brother, Bob, posted a photo of his wife, Jane, on their 44th wedding anniversary yesterday. Bob has been retired for a couple of years now and seems to be very happy with his life at home in Maidenhead. There are a lot of Janes in my family.