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!!

5/8/1972

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.