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.

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