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.
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 Understood: The 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 ….https://www.youtube.com/embed/ITXBjDTXS90?feature=oembed
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?