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.

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