Week 665

Sunday, 19th September, 2021

Wonderfully warm and sunny day yesterday. Returned to the familiarity and sameness of UK life. Unpacked the car. Stacked the 8 cases of wine (48 bottles) we are allowed to import – about 10% of normal purchases. Ate a meal of cold, cured duck and aged Brie cheese with salad and a bottle of Bordeaux Rouge in the garden. Unfortunately,  this morning has opened overcast.

Got lots of house jobs to do. The Hive, automatic switching system I use to control the indoor lighting and heating from my iPad/smartphone across the internet from anywhere in the world has to be restored to ‘normal’ settings. It was nice to monitor the outside of our home on the South Coast from our hotel room in France via the CCTV we recently had installed. Mind you, I noticed that the plant pots needed watering and I haven’t got that installed on remote … yet!

Had postings of this old man from my past. John Holden was in my year at College but I really think I look younger.

John Holden – back centre – in his heyday!

How life deals with us is quite astonishing. Above is John Holden in 2021 and below in his prime in 1970. What has 50 years done to us?

I refuse to accept this decline – Rage, rage against the dying of the light! – and will keep my exercise routine going as long as I can into my 90s and beyond. I have so many ambitions to achieve before then! Keep the faith!!


Really looking forward to meeting up with people from my past and it is pleasing that they are keen to meet up with a lunatic like me. At the age of 70, it feels right to reaffirm one’s past by reuniting with shadows that inhabited it. There is no reason to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about it. We all make mistakes and feel unsure but age should have compensations and one of those is not being scared of the past. I am already preparing a face to meet the faces that I will meet. I expect ghosts of earlier times will walk across our dreams but we will have to meet them face on.

Did have a strange message from an ex-College girl who says she well remembers me giving her a lift on my bike down the hill into Ripon and us getting stopped and warned by a policeman. The thing is, not only did I not have a bike or any memory of the incident but I don’t remember the girl either. One of us is losing it. I suppose it could be me!

One of my little girls from school who I’ve kept in touch with over the years is the grand old age of 30 today and is celebrating by holidaying in Magaluf. Mind you, she has 4 kids which she’s left in her Mum’s care while away. Nice, warm-hearted girl who has always had to fight for everything in life, it is good to see her happy and reasonably settled. As one of the shadows from her past, I wished her well this morning.

Monday, 20th September, 2021

Don’t know if it was returning back to normality or what but I have felt a sadness all day just going about the routine. Did our walk at 9.00 am and then went to Tesco and Asda early on for bottled water. There was none that we wanted. I am building up a stock of bottles of sparkling water against dire warnings of shortages. Shloer was on special offer but completely gone as well.

We went to fill up the car for the first time since buying it. Honda filled the tank which gave us 620 miles and all our driving of the past week to the Tunnel, around the Pas de Calais and back to Sussex and we still had 140 miles left in the tank. The Hybrid engine is delightfully quiet and frugal. Our car generates electric power to refill the battery as it drives and as it brakes. However, I look forward to the next one being a chargeable Hybrid so that I can drive more of the time without using petrol. I’ve already told Honda what we want.

The intricacies of the Day-2 Tests

Had to complete our Zava Day2 Covid Tests yesterday and send them off via a Priority Post Box which meant going down to the village. It wasn’t too complicated but it was detailed and required so much form filling and information gathering.

Nice start to this morning and we are forecast a sunny day. Got the lawns and hedges to do. The car needs cleaning after our French trip and I’ve got my exercise routine to complete as usual. Burying myself in routine! On the bright side, there is some suggestion that America may be persuaded to open their borders to UK travellers earlier than expected. Maybe something to look forward to there.

Don’t you just hate getting old? Some people go wrinkly and grey. I have found that my skin has become more fragile and quick to damage. Just caught my arm on a door handle this morning – a simple, everyday mishap which one would dismiss if one noticed at all. Nowadays, this leaves me ‘marked’ for days. Did exactly that this morning and, as I sat down at my computer, I noticed an angry blood blister forming under the skin of my arm. I know now that it will be there for a week or so. It annoys me!

Tuesday, 21st September, 2021

Well, yesterday turned out to be a lovely day with lots of sunshine and 22C/70F as we walked. Ironically, having avoided the mosquitoes in France last week, I got bitten all over my legs in Sussex today. I haven’t worn long trousers for so many months that I am very exposed to this. I don’t care really. They are not half as bad as the biters in Greece. They always seemed to love my flesh and who can blame them? Somebody has to!

Shortage of sparkling water and Shloer in our supermarkets at the moment. Both rely on carbonation to varying degrees and we know that there is a shortage of CO2 stocks which are a bi-product of Fertiliser manufacture which, in turn, has been halted by the increasing costs of energy. Luckily, I discovered another terrible, non-alcoholic drink to replace Shloer. For anybody who is as daft as me to be denying themselves wine, J2O_Spritz with apple & watermelon flavour is quite nice. Only about 20 cals per 100 mls.

A perfect storm is hitting post-Brexit UK. Shortage of labour as EU workers disappear. Shortage of European goods because of severed supply chains. Shortage of transport deliveries which rely on workers and shortage of products produced in UK because of shortage of workers to pick and pack and deliver. Shortages of anything automatically put up wages and prices which feed directly into inflation, the danger of which I have been flagging up for a while.

This turmoil is now being hit by the Tory government’s casual disregard of the energy industry. While trumpeting their Green credentials, they have failed to keep concentration on the Generation process. Because of this, UK residents are going to be paying massively increased fuel bills which are not being seen across Europe while coping with increased food prices on rapidly disappearing supplies that are not being seen across Europe.

Now throw into the mix, the removal of the £20.00 per week Universal Credit for the poorest and the increased National Insurance payments of the earners and the hugely increasing cost of heating their homes and you have a crisis of monumental proportions. This is unlikely to go well.

Within that context, it seems rather insensitively self-indulgent to celebrate the announcement, which I predicted recently, of the opening up of the US to UK/European visitors. I have no idea when we will go but I’ve started exploring flights from London to Tampa preferably Direct. It is a flight of about 10 hrs out and just over 8 hrs back. It will be the longest flight we’ve taken and we quickly decided that Economy wouldn’t do. We will go Business Class which provides individual pods and seats that fully recline into beds. I was surprised to find that the price really wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Sleeping across the Atlantic.

The illustration above is for Finnair Business Class which costs around £5,500.00 for 2 Direct Returns from Gatwick to Tampa. I checked out what this includes and I was persuaded immediately. It makes BA Club Class appear quite dated in comparison.  Looks now like we won’t be going out until February/March next year so we may try Athens in November instead.

Wednesday, 22nd September, 2021

Woke up in the middle of the night. I was woken from a dream of wandering, distraught, in a railway station. Wandered, lost, through a busy city. What on earth does that mean? Up early on the most beautiful morning. Busy day today so going out for an early walk at 8.30 am. We have garden furniture being delivered, fresh fish being delivered and a Covid-Project tester arriving for our monthly tests. My official Day-2 test from our French trip came through negative yesterday. Pauline’s isn’t available yet.

What a lovely day yesterday was. It started sweetly and just got better. Figs for Breakfast. I can think of little nicer.

Breakfast in the Sunshine

We went out early to Rustington in lovely, warm sunshine. Had to have new lenses put in my prescription sunglasses which were chipped. The lad who served us was so obsequious that he virtually licked the carpet clean as we walked on it. When it came to telling me the cost, he said, I want to be transparent about it. I pointed out that it was a good line for an optician. To give him his due, he saw the humour in it.

Regular readers will know I am a bit obsessive/addictive. If I do something, I don’t ever let go. The trick is to get me obsessed with good things and unhooked from the harmful. So, if I can establish a pattern of no alcohol and replace it with low-calorie soft drink, then I generally stick to that pattern. If I get myself hooked on an exercise routine, then it is harder for me to stop doing it than just carrying on. I know myself and I openly admit to being obsessive, quite arrogant and, occasionally condescending but, as anyone with half a brain knows, these character traits are integral to genius. One cannot escape one’s nature. That’s why I have a constant fight against my inclination towards self-indulgence.

In that vein, we walked for a couple of hours in the most wonderful sunshine this morning. I came home and cut the lawns and then went in the Gym. I completed my 222nd consecutive workout routine. I’m obsessed with stats and memories although the latter seems to have some patches missing these days. The one thing I have learned with age is not to be over embarrassed by one’s beliefs, obsessions and urges. You only get one life and often that is short so just go for it. What have we got to lose apart from our dignity?

Electra Palace Hotel, Athens

We learned yesterday that we are unlikely to go to the US until early next year so we are looking at things to do in November. We already have a booking for a suite overlooking the Acropolis in an Athens city centre hotel which we should have taken up in August 2020. We are thinking of taking that up this November unless anyone has any better suggestions. I have to check the travel requirements. It was only for 5 days originally so we will extend it to a week or just a bit more. Be nice to have some sun, hear Greek shouted across the streets and eat some Greek, peasant food. Our hotel is 5* and we rarely eat there because the food is quite pretentious as ‘posh Greek’ can so often be.

Thursday, 23rd September, 2021

Absolutely gloriously warm and sunny morning. This does feel a bit of a bonus in the final week of September. We are going to look to extend the good weather well into Winter by travelling abroad after braving the chills of the North next month. Looks like it could be cost-effective when we hear of raging fuel prices in Brexit Britain.

Wall to wall sunshine yesterday as well as from Dawn to Dusk. We were 22C/70F. Lovely, early walk. Garden Dining Furniture was finally delivered. We set it up in time for our afternoon meal.

We ate in brilliant sunshine which was nice. The test results from our French trip had finally come through negative for both of us. The London University project tester had spent an hour in our back garden running Lateral Flow and Anti-Body tests for the 17th consecutive month.

We had a day of weird, phone calls both to our mobiles and house phone. Whenever we picked up, no one answered. Very strange. At one point, my watch said I was receiving a phone call on my mobile but I couldn’t find it. After 20 mins of panic-stations, we found it in my shoe in the cupboard. I’m absolutely cracking up!

Christmas in the September sunshine.

It seemed strange that, on such a lovely, Summer’s day, Pauline was steaming Christmas puddings in readiness for late December. The steamer has to be run for about 8 hrs continuously so it sat outside in the garden where it would be least disruptive. It’s so nice having a practical wife when you are so impractical yourself.

On this day over a decade ago, I was recording the jobs Pauline undertook at our Greek home. From unblocking the drains to oiling the windows, annually, she did the work. Fortunately, it was just what she likes doing and is good at doing.

Friday, 24th September, 2021

Mum & Dad – Happiness 1950s style

Today marks the 56th anniversary of my Dad’s death from a heart attack while in hospital in Burton upon Trent where he was being treated for heart problems. It almost certainly wouldn’t happen today. He would be put on Blood Thinners and a Statin. When I review the sorts of things he was told during early treatment for angina, you can see how the science was evolving. He was told that eating fatty foods like bacon was bad for his heart. (✔) but he spent his Breakfast religiously eating every piece of bacon with a piece of bread to soak up the fat. Of course, he went on to eat both things together so consuming all the fat he was supposed to be avoiding. (✘) Can you imagine dying at 49 years old? Unbearable! I was just 14 years old. Ultimately, I feel I didn’t really know him.

What a lovely day it was yesterday. The sun shone hot and bright. We went out early to the Garden Centre and to Sainsbury’s instead of having a Delivery. We did a 90 mins walk and discussed our next foreign travel. We have a voucher held over from August 2020 for £1,340.00 which came from a cancelled 4-night booking back then. We have agreed that the French trip did us good and we should follow it up with a return to Greece as quickly as possible.

Yorkshire/Greater Manchester in October and I’ve just emailed a booking for Athens in November. Incredibly, it will be 7 years since we last spent November there. It will be nice to spend some Wintertime there. Fortunately, Greece will have plenty of sunshine to walk in. Instead of 4 nights, we are going to have 7 but prices have so crashed that it won’t cost me more than an extra £400.00 and the flight prices are almost give-away.

Easyjet is the go-to airline for Greece. It is Greek, after all. Outward bound our base ticket is an unbelievable £22.99 x 2. When we add things like self-select seats with extra legroom, additional luggage, early and exclusive bag-drop, Fast-track security and Speedyboarding, we are still only paying about £130.00 x 2 and about the same on Return. What’s not to like?

We will fly Gatwick – Athens. We will probably drive to Gatwick and stay at the Airport Sofitel the night before. This has a number of benefits. We don’t have to leave home too early. We can leave our car there for the week. We can drop our bag off at the airport the night before which makes life easier in the morning and we can go straight through to a Business Lounge which our bank account provides before going down to Gate.

Before we leave, we will contact island friends to see if they want to meet us in Athens. We won’t have time to go there this time but intend to next summer. It would be lovely to see Elerania again for Lunch in Athens. Just 12 years ago, we finally had the Log-burning stove we bought and shipped over from Halifax installed in our Greek house lounge. With just 2 weeks before we were ready to leave and Autumnal weather in the air, we lit it for the first time. It was too hot!

Saturday, 25th September, 2021

Yesterday was almost certainly the best day of the year. Incredibly hot and sunny from start to finish. Really lovely. Almost everything was in place to make it a perfect day. Oh, what a perfect day … We did some shopping … for a change. Wonderful fruit and vegetables for the next few days. We are just too healthy! A 2 hr walk in the sunshine was delightful and then we sat in the garden and soaked up the rays. Soon we’ll be in the North and it will probably be snowing. Still, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m intending to tough it out in shorts and t-shirt as I would if I was in the warmer South.

I have pinned down the day and times for meeting Chris & Kevin + Julia in York. Julie has contacted me to agree a date for our meeting in Bridlington. She was worried that her upcoming cataract operation might get in the way but it will be over before I see her. She says her pirate patch will be removed before I get there although I did offer to do it myself. She may try to arrange a meeting with Nigel at some stage. John Ridley will meet me in Ripon and we will have a coffee together and, perhaps, revisit our old Digs house.

I have so much to catch up on with all of them and so much to tell them of my history. I last saw Kevin in 1978. Christine visited us with Julia in1985 in our home in Helme, Meltham. Julie, I last saw at a party in her home in Rochester, Kent in Summer 1973. She told me yesterday that she left that area in 1974 and I haven’t seen or heard of her since until she contacted me last year. I am so looking forward to seeing them all again and giving them a hug. I have no doubt the years will drop away. They all sound keen to see me and why shouldn’t they? It is good to close the gap of missed years.

Our trip to Athens is now completely tied up. We fly on November 9th from Gatwick and home on November 16th from Eleftherios Venizelos. The Accor Sofitel Hotel we chose to book at Gatwick is closed for the pandemic until next year so we will drive in the morning and park at the Long Stay Carpark. It is amazing how the international travel scene has changed since the pandemic. Our hotel can be cancelled up to 7 days before arrival. Our flights can be changed up to the day we fly. We feel quite secure in our bookings for that reason.

As we sat in the sunshine yesterday afternoon, we planned out the next few months with US travel sometime in Feb/March/April next year, hopefully. We will look to drive to Greece in May/June and then plan a Spanish drive to Aguila, Murcia. We need to be there to search out villas for the future. It feels a bit like life is re-starting! From the Past Forward!

This morning has opened a bit grisly with mist and lack of sun but we know that it is going to get much better on the South Coast this morning. An old friend from school who lives down the coast from us in Dorset and a neighbour up the road from us have both told us that they are still swimming in the sea at the moment. Makes us feel very unambitious!

Week 664

Sunday, 12th September, 2021

Woke up at 4.30 am again this morning. You’d think I wasn’t active or tired enough to induce long sleep.  Well, my sad, lonely and monotonous life was lit up, warmed up and filled with sunshine yesterday. Reunited with lots of old friends without rejection. I haven’t treated them well over the past 50 years but there is obviously a pent-up desire to meet again.

College Road, Ripon

I spent a few hours on Messenger talking to Dr. John Ridley in Catterick and arranging to meet him for coffee in Ripon on the morning of a day that I will also be reunited with Kevin & Chris Dagg and my ‘God daughter’, Julia. We have agreed to meet for tea in the afternoon in York and then on to Julia’s home also in York when she gets home from work. Really looking forward to that. Haven’t been to York for a long time.

We’re going to visit this lovely, York village.

Then contacted Nigel and Julie in Bridlington. I agreed to go up there for a day. Julie will show us around the seaside town that I’ve never been to before. As long as Nigel is well enough, we hope to meet him and his wife as well. Either at the beginning or the end of that day, I hope to visit poor, old Tash in Leeds and maybe meet Chris Tolley as well.

Sunny Bridlington

This is all quite revolutionary for me. I’ve hidden myself away for so long – going as far as a remote, Greek island to be isolated. Arriving at the age of 70 and other things happening this year releasing memories have opened me up and made me more receptive to this. I feared rejection but found, instead, that others feared the same. Julie is incredibly nervous that she won’t look the same as I remember. I assured her she and me both!

Before all that, we have our French trip. We will have to leave the house at 7.00 am tomorrow so I will be up at 5.00 am and in the gym for 90 mins before showering and packing the car. The crossing is around 11.00 am and we will have the afternoon shopping in Cite Europe and relaxing in the hotel’s Health Club. Feels quite exciting to be moving around again although there are lots of other places I would like to go and things to do as well.

Today is delightfully warm and sunny. Got to mow the lawns, water the tubs and then do my walk and gym work. Sorry if this is such a boring routine. It is, of course, Retirement.

Monday, 13th September, 2021

Madness! Sheer madness! Woke at 2.30 am but couldn’t get back to sleep. Well I am up at 3.30 am and in the gym. By 5.00 am, into the shower and by 7.00 am the car is packed and we are on our way to the tunnel. It will take us about 2hrs 30 mins to get there and we will have time for coffee before driving on to the train. It is very warm and humid this morning. I’m feeling good after my shower and fresh orange juice. Looking forward to the adventure.

The joy of Le Shuttle!

Our train departs at 11.50 am and takes just 35 mins but, because of the time difference, we arrive at 13.35. Off to Cité Europe for some shopping and then check-in at our hotel for rest and relaxation. I may have to do an hour in the gym when I get there because I am an obsessive.

Cite Europe is quite quiet!

The major shopping centre was quite quiet. We bought wine and salad and returned to our suite to indulge our senses. The wine was delicious and makes a mockery of the stuff we buy in UK. For just €5.20/£4.43, I bought this delicious bottle from Carrefour. Really enjoyed it with garlic olives. Je t’aime! The bottom of the bottle gives it away with a wonderful sediment. I will buy lots more of this to take home. Je t’adore!

For anyone who likes pints in Irish pubs and shouted conversations over loud pop music, this isn’t for you. Gentle, thoughtful and indulgent experiences are more my style. The day has been delightful with lovely sunshine and a top temperature of 27C/81F. I have managed a better than usual exercise target and finished the day better than I started. Sometimes, we are rewarded for our goodness. 

Tuesday, 14th September, 2021

Great sleep last night – the sleep of the good. Woke at 6.45 am (5.45 am UK). Going to get my exercise done early and then enjoy the day. Confucius, he say, You can do both!

Early Morning Walk

Lovely walks around our hotel. Vast, open spaces, France is so … French. Dozens of huge, brown rabbits everywhere. Walked for a couple of hours and then back for Breakfast – Yoghurt & Fruit for Pauline. Freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee for me.

We are going out to the shops but not for me. Pauline is going to throw our euros at dress/shoe/bag shops. I will be the supporting act.This is not somewhere I feel comfortable but sacrifice is necessary. For me it is enough to know that others are happy. I am selfish enough as it is.

I will plan tomorrow. I think we will drive along the coast – Sangatte, Wissant, Le Touquet, and on. This evening is incredibly warm and emotional. I am incredibly emotional. I have spent all my adult life trying to control this tendency, maintaining a plateau of response. Suddenly, this year, emotion has flooded back and overwhelmed me from every angle. This has not been me for 50 years. It slightly embarrasses me but I can’t currently stem the tide. It is just something I have to resolve.

An incredibly warm Summer evening in September.

The wonderful, warm and moonlit evening makes me emotional. I’ve just been watching Long Lost Family on my iPad and wept at the sadness of three siblings in their 40s missing finding their Mother by a matter of 4 years as she died in her 90s. My head is screaming, Why didn’t you look earlier? My heart is bursting for them. The sheer sadness of life-long separation!

‘Well met by moonlight.’

Wednesday, 15th September, 2021

A lovely, warm and sunny morning for walking early through the fields of France. Just under two hours breathing the glorious warmth of cut grass, reaped wheat and baled hay under a big blue sky.

Back for Breakfast. Still associate Hotels with self-indulgence and big, cooked Breakfasts. Unfortunately, that has to be denied at the moment and, maybe, for ever. Now, I pass the Salle de Petite Dejeuner and exercise instead. I am paying for a lifetime of self-indulgences with self-flagellation.

We have to have two Covid tests – one in France & one in UK. The one here has to be done three days before we set off back. This morning, we walked into the village to the Pharmacy.

Pharmacie Guilbert – lovely people!

I was ready to use my basic French to request a Covid Antigen test:

Pouvons-nous faire un test Covid ici?
Combien de temps cela prend-il et combien cela coûte-t-il?

I felt quite cheated when the notice in English on the door announced that we could have tests at a cost of €38.00 each and would take 20 mins for a result. They were lovely people and very friendly. We both tested negative and we’re provided with paper and electronic copies of the results. We walked back, past the magnificent Maison du Maire.

Maison du Maire

We watched Prime Minister’s Question Time and then we drove out to Wissant Beach. It is popular with the British although we were virtually the only ones there today. It is called Wissant because the locals heard the British describe it as White Sand. Unfortunately, by the time we got there today, the sun had largely disappeared. 

Uk immigrants prepare to invade French beaches!

Tomorrow,we are intending to drive down to Boulogne to do some shopping and visit the Fish Market. All that IT preparation has allowed me to watch Liverpool on BT Sport via my iPad. Great match!

Thursday, 16th September, 2021

Up early on hot and sunny Summer’s day. Out for a two hour walk in the beautiful countryside before Breakfast and then driving to Boulogne. We have been here many times but recent events have badly affected it.

Boulogne looking like Littlehampton.

We parked up at the Fish Quay which is still functioning but minimally. Shabby and run down would describe it now.

Fish straight off the boat.

We have been coming to Boulogne for well over 30 years and the wonderful cheese shop of Philippe Olivier for just as long.

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to eat such calories but I can look. Story of my life! It does look good but so is my self discipline.

We drove to the Auchan hypermarket on the outskirts of Boulogne and bought some food for our meal. We chose roast chicken with salad and a lovely bottle of red wine that went straight to my head. We ate crab & langoustines with salad last night and a bottle of white wine that went straight to my head. French food and wine is a nightmare. It tests my self control to destruction immediately.

No shortages here!

The abundance of fresh and healthy produce in French markets is something to behold. There are no empty shelves or shortages of products anywhere. They are untouched by Brexit in that respect.

Shiny & Fresh!

Friday, 17th September, 2021

Up early on a warm, Friday morning. Out for a two hour walk that, fittingly, starts at the tribute to the workers who constructed the Tunnel. I remember being excited about driving under the sea until I realised we drove on to a train.

We were still mainly travelling Hull – Zeebrugge in those days but we were early ‘tunnellers’. While I was out, I heard from my cousin, Sue, who lives in South West France. I had unearthed a photo that was sent to me from an Ancestry site which featured my Grandfather, Richard Watthew Sanders who started the family Building Company; his sister, Kesterton Sanders who was a spinster Headmistress of a school in Derby and one of Grandad’s daughters, Edwina, who was a classical pianist and Mother of Sue.

Sutton on Sea – 1953

Sutton-on-Sea was a horribly staid (and cold) East Coast, seaside town that was the base for all our early, family holidays. I hated it with a passion. We rented a house and a beach hut for the fortnight. Brrrr!!

Knowing how much I love getting mail, I bought this postcard for friends in UK who don’t have email addresses. I really hope they enjoy getting it.

The local Post Office.

Walking down into the village to the Post Office now. Wonder how long this will take to reach the North of England!

Now 7.00pm and still warm. We’ve been at 24C/75F during the day. I haven’t slept under the bedsheet all week. We had to buy fly spray yesterday after squishing a mosquito and finding a tissue full of blood. Fortunately, haven’t found any bites yet. It’s been a lovely few days and done me good to break out of the UK island prison. There are very few things that I’ve missed, I have to say, though the re-entry requirements are incredibly demanding although an IT genius like me will manage it in the end.

Saturday, 18th September, 2021

Up to 5.45 am and out on a jog by 6.00 am. It was still dark but warm. Sheer madness but it has to be done. Travelling back through the Tunnel at midday so I’ll be busy for the rest of the day.

The day begins at 6.00 am.

At the outset, it was so dark that I was struggling to see the track. On the return, beautiful colours of the day were obvious although the floodlights from Eurostar were still standing out.

Eurotunnel over the field.

Out for almost 2hrs and then back for a shower, coffee and packing the car. All the forms have been completed so it ‘should’ be straightforward.

Last minute shopping for Fresh Produce.

Off to Auchan for fresh produce like salad, duck and fish. Immediately down to the Tunnel sous La Manche. Unlike any other time we have been, there is almost nobody there. There are almost no lorries lined up.

Where have all the travellers gone?

We drive off the empty train onto an almost empty M20, M25, M23. The journey down and home has taken us about an hour less than normal. We are home, in the garden with a mountain of mail, a bottle of Bordeaux Superieur and 24C/75F of warm sunshine by 2.00 pm. It’s been quite a busy day but I’ve still got an hour in the Gym before my meal and relaxation. Slept really well last night. Let’s hope I do tonight. Back in my own bed usually makes things easier.

I’ve had a week of self-indulgence but now have a month of hard, crackdown on diet and exercise. That will mean no alcohol, low-calorie meals and a controlled mindset. I have to take control of myself and my body. Self-denial is good after self-indulgence. In a stupid sort of way, I’m quite looking forward to it. Soon, I will be fitted for some new suits and I will be at the next stage for new clothes all round. No point in stopping now.

Week 663

Sunday, 5th September, 2021

Conservatory panel fixed yesterday. New car this week. Trip to France next week. Lovely weather projected to last for a while. You would think that things were going well and life would feel good. On one level, it certainly is but I’ve woken today and for a few days with an all-pervasive, underlying sadness that colours my judgement. I haven’t been writing for quite a while now and I will have to address it directly very soon.

On our regular, outdoor walk yesterday morning, a comfortably upholstered young woman called out that I was getting slimmer by the day. She had been watching me for the last few months and noticed the change. How did I do it? The fact that I’ve walked past her house every day, twice a day didn’t seem to register – or perhaps it has.  I thanked her for her kind words. It does rather underline the fact that we have calculated I haven’t been this weight since 1987. Yesterday, another couple who we regularly meet on our journey had said more or less the same thing. Gives me a bit of a boost.

My Garmin watch/smartphone app records that I have only missed my target of 10 miles per day twice in the past 8 months. I am nothing if not dogged and determined. Unfortunately, I do everything to excess – both good and bad. Even though I’ve managed 10 miles per day, every day for 8 full months with the exception of 2 days, those 2 days really niggle me! I am already planning how to fulfill my obligation on the day that I drive down to the Tunnel. We will leave at 7.30 am. I will be up at 6.00 am and do an hour in the Gym before we go. When we check-in at the hotel, I will have to use their gym to complete my target.

If you’re not I.T. tech-savvy, I would advise you not to even attempt a European trip at all at the moment. Having booked and paid for Covid tests online, they have arrived by mail but the results will be emailed to us. The test booking numbers have to be uploaded to the Government website along with an online Passenger Locator Form which cannot be completed until you’ve had a test abroad up to 3 days before arriving home. Those results have to be filled out on the online form as well as passport details, etc.. They really are making it difficult to escape.

On the European side, they are expecting us to download and install the TousAntiCovid app and dovetail our NHS QR codes now compatible with France’s TousAntiCovid app (connexionfrance.com)

We cancelled so many trips last year, we have a stash of €5, 350.00 in our travel pack ready to spend on our short trip next week. We might as well really indulge ourselves. I feel a French Fashion shopping trip coming on!

Monday, 6th September, 2021

Feeling a bit empty this morning. Hard to describe why. It’s already a lovely day at 7.00 am and is going to get hotter. We’re going down to the beach for a while to enjoy the sun on the water and wander in the waves. Still got plenty to do for Friday’s exchange of cars and Monday’s exchange of countries but I really can’t be bothered. I feel quite preoccupied. Even so, all the mundane, ritualistic activities have to be completed including putting out the bins and testing my INR. I’m reading that a number of areas in the UK are having their bin collections placed under threat because of the shortage of drivers. If that happened here, at least we have time to take our own to the local tip.

Had a lovely Messenger communication from Chris Dagg. She is obviously nervous that I will not commit to a meeting. Having made up my mind that I will, I won’t go back on that. It makes me feel quite emotional that she doubts it. Maybe it is because I have been so reluctant until now. I have assured her I will go to her house in Barwick-in-Elmet to meet up for the first time for 43 years. She has just got back to me to say Julia would like to meet me as well. It could be fun.

Fantastic day yesterday. We reached 26C/79F with a sultry atmosphere. I am brown as a berry and even tastier!

Our former home on Greek TV

Fascinating to see our former Greek home, the one we designed and had built on land we bought more than 20 years ago, was shown on Greek television yesterday. Didn’t know whether to feel proud or sad.

Greece 2011

Exactly 10 years ago today, this little, feral cat appeared at the back door of our Greek home and begged for attention. If she doesn’t melt your heart, nothing will. She brought her mother and brother with her but she was the leader because she understood her human appeal.

Athens 2018

Every year apart from 2020/2021 we have returned to Athens. I really miss it and will go there at the first opportunity.

Tuesday, 7th September, 2021

Didn’t sleep well and woke at 5.00 am wet with sweat. The temperature had hovered around 18C/65F overnight. We really are going to have to look at getting air conditioning installed.

Incredible day yesterday. You missed it, you should have been here. We reached 28C/83F yesterday afternoon and we expect warmer today. Lots of jobs done and our exercise routine plus sunbathing. Down at the seaside, life was wonderfully quiet now that schools have gone back. Good to see teachers getting down to work after all this holidaying.

Down at the Beach – peace!

Today is set to be even better. I’m driving Pauline to the Beautician’s where she will be treated for an hour. She is having a ‘Facial’ which she loves but I can see no tangible benefits in at all. I will go for a walk by the sea and then take her home. I have a number of jobs to complete today including lawn cutting and travel documents to fill out.

While I am parked up and waiting, I have been walking in 24C/75F of sunshine to a park near the Beauticians. It must be my age but the things that most catch my eye on these walks are plants. The shrub illustrated below is a Mediterranean favourite that I found thriving in a garden I passed this morning. It is rather tender and wouldn’t survive in the North.

Brugmansia Sanguinea, (Red Angel’s Trumpet)

Another favourite around here is one that we grew all around our Greek home. The Bottle Brush shrub or Kalistamon which comes from the Greek Kali (good) stamon (flower stamen).

Bottle Brush shrub or Kalistamon

We are fixing a date that we can meet Chris & Kevin + Julia and it feels the right thing to do. With so much invested in our joint pasts, it is time to draw on that rich experience. It is possible that they will invite others from my past to join us. That would be enjoyable. The time for hiding away is over. I have withdrawn from this for the best part of 50 years but I could die any time and should embrace my past as soon as possible. Obscurity is for the graveyard.

A neighbour across the road has Covid. It is the first person we have known who actually got it. There is the wide expectation of another ‘Lockdown’ at the end of October with Schools’ Half Term being extended by at least a week into November to perform a firebreak

Wednesday, 8th September, 2021

What a day yesterday and night turned out to be. Under cloudless skies all day, we reached 29C/84F and the temperature didn’t drop below 19C/66F overnight and it is 22C/70F by 7.00 am. Even so, I managed about 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This morning has opened beautifully. The clear, blue sky is crisscrossed with high, white plane trails as the journeys from Europe to and from Gatwick/Heathrow increase.

It is forecast to be a better and hotter day than yesterday and the fig trees, which are over 16ft tall now, are absolutely covered in fast ripening fruit. Hope the weather is good enough for another 2-3 weeks and we will be gorging on them. Don’t think the olives, lemons and pomegranates from our Greek garden are going to be viable here for a few more years. I am still eating Victoria plums and fresh cobs of corn from our area. They are so delicious.

One of the things I have to do before travelling, is make sure my IT equipment is functional enough to get me through time away from the Office at home. I have a laptop which would normally go with me but I haven’t turned it on for about 3 years. My iPad has taken over. I have the largest, professional iPad and set it in a case which incorporates a keyboard through Bluetooth. Effectively, it becomes a laptop but is light enough to fit in my Man-Bag.

Most of us access all tv and radio channels digitally, across the internet feeding through our TV or DAB radios. I can generate an internet connection anywhere in the world even when there is no wifi available. Smartphones come with large data supply contracts. It is easy to create a wifi hotspot with your smartphone which can feed your iPad. My smartphone accesses the fast, 5G network and its wifi is really fast.

In order to access UK TV/Radio abroad, one needs to disguise one’s location and make the broadcaster believe you are still in the UK. To do this, we install a VPN – Virtual Private Network – which re-routes our wifi through a UK base. In that way, we can get everything we would at home. This has been made even more important since Brexit which has removed the ability to access UK media and Sky satellite broadcasts. After so long without travelling, I am having to address these services urgently before we go away on Monday.

Two days ago, we received a text to say Flu jabs wouldn’t be available immediately. Today, we were told we can book straight away. Because we are going away, we have had to set an early October date. My suspected hernia problem has been remarkably better for the past few days but I have just heard from the surgery department at the hospital to say I am on the list but not yet. I’ll see how my body develops before deciding what to do.

Thursday, 9th September, 2021

Another wonderful, hot and sunny day yesterday. In fact, I have a guilty admission to make. The ice cream van came round in the evening and we both had DOUBLE 99s!! They were glorious. They cost £2.25 each. Can you imagine that? Mind you, we both regretted it immediately after eating them – incredibly filling and manufactured in flavour and quality.

Actually, on our walk through the park yesterday, we saw 3 lovely, young lads queuing at the icecream van, hot and sweaty after playing football in the sunshine. Just as we passed, one lad asked the price of an icecream and was told £1.50. He turned away sad-faced saying, Oh, I haven’t got enough. Pauline went back and offered to pay for him. He was incredibly nice and polite but his friend stepped in to make up the sum. Lovely moment.

All around us children have gone back to school. Little Rebecca-Janes in starched white blouses and school bags as big as themselves have been excitedly walking to Angmering School. I remember it myself; 1962 saw me taking the bus to Burton upon Trent, getting away from the tyrany of home and making my own way in the world. I loved it. Girls from the nearby High School. Can you believe it? They were on the bus!

The morning light and the evening dusk are both displaying the decay of the Summer. We did a lovely walk around the perimeter of our Development and through the newly discovered park. The walk takes just under 2 hours each day.

On the outer edge of our Development, the builders placed a terrace of 2-bedroomed, ‘afforable’ properties. They are next to the wood which masks the main road and has considerable traffic noise. The terraced houses shield the rest of the development from the noise. These tiny, ‘affordable’ properties are selling at around £400,000 which is quite astonishing. The park we’ve recently discovered on our walk and features a beautiful, 5G phone mast, is beginning to show early signs of Autumn as the hedgerows are flecked with yellow, dying leaves. It is planted with fruit trees which are heavy with apples and the blackberries are almost gone. The Summer is over.

Down at the beach last evening.

The daytime temperature of 26C/79F was replaced in the evening by distant thunder and lightning which brought cooler air. Before it arrived, there was the most beautiful sunset. There are some good things in the world!

Even so, this morning has opened hot and humid. Can’t decide whether to clean the car before I trade it in tomorrow. We learnt that some garden dining furniture which we ordered months ago in time for the Summer months may actually be delivered soon. Brexit has been used by the company for its inability to import. Brexit is the lunacy that just keeps on giving.

Latest HGV trainee – courtesy of P. Holgate.

What I am pleased by is to find that so many of my ex-college friends are so vehemently opposed to Brexit from right across the country. From Kevin Sellers in Scotland to John Morris in Nottingham, Dave Weatherly in Bolton and Peter Holgate in Knaresborough plus so many more artists across Yorkshire and Lancashire, they regularly respond positively to my political postings. It is only in the past 3 years or so that I’ve been in touch with them and I’ve learnt so much about them and myself by reaching out.

This could be coming to your doormat.

Of course, it is so easy across the internet. I receive dozens of communications overnight, during breakfast, through the day on my watch and phone. Some of it I even want to see. I have lots of followers on Twitter including fascinating barristers, politicians and writers. Even so, I have a strange addiction to post, even junk mail and particularly old-fashioned postcards. I’ve had it for such a long time.

I like to visualise people scampering down to be first to the post-delivery just like me. My wife has been trained never to open anything but to leave it for me. I expect to send a few from France next week. My old friends, Caroline in Greenfield and Brian in Royton, will definitely get one. Generally, people without email are recipients of postcards. It is lovely to make connections and postcards are such simple, naive forms of communication.

Friday, 10th September, 2021

Today it is an incredible 15 years since Pauline’s brother, Jack, died of a brain tumour at the age of 72. It all happened very quickly and we remember being very shocked that nothing could be done for him. His other sister is 84 and he would have been 87 this year. How fragile life is!

Yesterday turned out to be another glorious one. Blue sky, strong sunshine and 22C/70F which made our walk enjoyable. For some daft reason, the fact that it wasn’t forecast made it even more enjoyable. After the walk and my Gym routine, we sat outside in the sunshine for an hour. Would have been nice to have had our new garden Dining Furniture delivered while the weather is good but we just ate in the kitchen with all the doors thrown open. We have actually been given a date for delivery soon after we return from France but it will be mainly too late for this year.

In the Summer of 1972, I went for an interview and got a job to teach in the London Borough of Ealing. I actually fancied teaching in the City although I think the schools were pretty rough. Ultimately, I didn’t take it up because I had a more pressing engagement in OLDHAM!! What was I thinking? With short attempts to get out – a job in Essex, a job in Huddersfield – I was marooned there for the rest of my career.

This morning, a report in The Spectator magazine talks about property around the Ealing area going for £175,000 in 2000. The same properties in 2021 are selling at over £1 million. If only I’d known.

Can you believe £1 million?

We sold a house in Yorkshire for around £270,000 in 2000 and I don’t think it’s worth so much more even now.

Spoke too soon about my ‘hernia’ problem. Yesterday after exercise it was large, swollen, firey and uncomfortable. Decided that I will have to pursue a more proactive course when we get back from France. Woke up AGAIN at 4.30 am, like the sad, lonely old man I am and I was aware of it. It stopped me from getting back to sleep. At least an operation will make life interesting!

Just heard from John Ridley who is going to meet me in the morning for coffee in Ripon and then a sentimental walk up College Road and, perhaps, calling in at Cottages for old time’s sake. I will visit the Daggs in the Afternoon/Evening. Looking forward to that already!

Saturday, 11th September, 2021

A hot and humid night is being followed by a warm and muggy day. Picked the new car up yesterday and our first trip this morning has been used to set up the seat positions memory, the reversing camera arrangements, the sat.nav settings for units of time/distance. It’s all very familiar – actually identical – apart from wheel styles and a wireless smartphone charger. It is registered in Pauline’s name as all the 20+ new cars we have bought have been. I don’t know why but I just like her to have the reassurance that everything we buy is hers, not mine. Just a weird quirk of mine!

Pauline in her new car at Waitrose.

Love the new-leather smell of a new car. It is even quieter than the last one. All around, people are driving smelly, noisy diesels and leave them idling in stationary traffic. Hybrids like ours are as near silent as is safe and the engine cuts out completely at stationary points like traffic lights. We took the last one straight to France 2 years ago and this one will be doing the same journey. Hope we can put a few more miles on it this time. Pauline has already ordered another new one for 2023!

One thing we do need in France is a Breathaliser. We can be fined if found driving without two disposable ones. We’ve got two but they are both out of date now. There are none in stock here so we have to hope they don’t check us. The other thing I need is James Taylor – Sweet Baby James CD to sing along to while we drive:

Boring and monotonous or not, I have to complete my exercise routine. A sunny and warm walk today has been followed by an hour in the Gym while Pauline gets packing together for France.

We spent quite a bit of cash on ‘professional’ quality gym equipment as we left our Health Club. The Treadmill and Bike have proved invaluable but the Cross Trainer has hardly been used. I want to replace it with a Rowing Machine so I’ve got the problem of selling the Cross Trainer to make space. I’ll have to solve that when we come home.

Yesterday morning I heard the very sad news that an old, College friend, John ‘Tash’ Coates had been hugely debilitated by a massive stroke and was in hospital in Leeds. I heard it on the College grapevine – John Morris, heard from John Ridley who heard from Chris Tolley who lives near Tash.

John ‘Tash’ Coates

I’ve written to his wife and I will go up to try and see him. Tash is a few months younger than me but, we all fear this sort of disaster striking at our age.

Week 662

Sunday, 29th August, 2021

Had an extended conversation with Chris Dagg yesterday over Messenger. We haven’t done that for a long time. It started off about a video of her daughter looking and sounding more like her than her. Unfortunately, it moved on to her wedding in 1972 and the death of her best friend and bridesmaid, Judy Hall, at the tender age of 69. Christine is obviously still very shaken by it. She sent me a photo of the two of them in 1969.

I wasn’t particularly friendly with Judy but just had a passing acquaintance. Even so, it is really shocking to hear of her untimely death. Nowadays, it seems so wrong to die so young. Judy Hall, I think, was considered one of the college beauties at the time and featured in the College Prospectus in 1970.

Chris suggested they would like to meet and talk to me after all this time and I have agreed to contact them to arrange it. Hauling in the years will be interesting!

Glorious and warm sunny morning. Had to be at Specsavers for a 9.00 am appointment – on a Sunday! Went on to the beach for a walk in the sunshine. It was low tide and the Marina looked delicious in that Mediterranean light producing those colours.

There weren’t many people about at 9.30 am but these boy-racers were on the water, setting out to sea.

We did a short walk down the shoreline as the Shellfish, Coffee, Burger and Fish&Chip stalls were just opening up.

Families were just starting to park up and walk onto the beach, laden with chairs, tables, picnic baskets and everything else needed for an extended day. They were getting there early to secure their favourite area for the day. That was the signal for us to return home to our garden.

Monday, 30th August, 2021

A grey, overcast but humid morning. I’m wearing grey and feeling rather grey. There are few, rays of sunlight on the horizon – literally or metaphorically. Don’t often get that Monday-Morning-Feeling much since being retired but it is all-pervasive today. To-Do list today includes: Exercise routine and going through the wardrobes to throw out so many sets of clothes which are no longer useful. They will go into the clothes bank bins at the local supermarket apart from suits which are still wearable and will go to a charity shop.

Had a lovely, late-night contact from Chris Dagg again last night. I had noticed a girl/woman had commented on Chris’ daughter’s video on Youtube. Her name was/is Janiceanne Wollstein who lives in Munich. I searched her out and saw a photo of her face and it looked familiar. I did some more research and found she had attended Ripon at the same time as us so I asked Chris what her name was.

Little Anne (Janiceanne Wollstein) Robinson

These things so often come in waves of remembrance. Her name was Anne Robinson and she was a small, happy, jokey girl. I remember her sitting in her PE knickers in the Bishops Chase Common Room larking about. It was the passion-killer knickers I remember most! Until recent problems, Chris has gone to visit her regularly in Germany.

Chris, Judy & Anne

I’ve agreed, after all this time, to drive up and meet them in the near future. Should be an interesting occasion and something to anticipate.

How high can Rioja go?

Sometimes things just go against one and continue on downhill. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ve been driven back to drink …. well wine with my meal. For some time, I’ve used an arch-lever-corkscrew which is brilliant and undemanding. It has never failed … until now. Yesterday, I was opening a bottle of Rioja in the kitchen when the lever pushing the screw into the cork just met no resistance and a fountain of red wine shot up all over me and over the kitchen cupboards.

It was instantly pointed out to me that I hadn’t checked the ceiling where the wine shower had ended up. Even after wiping it down, a stain remains. Somebody other than me will be repainting it this morning. Fortunately, the developers left us some of the paint for just these occasions. Equally fortunately, my wife relishes doing jobs like this.

We still haven’t got our conservatory window unit replaced a month after I smashed it while gardening. The glazier says he will fit it the moment units arrive in the country from Europe. Bloody Brexit!

I think I’ve sorted out all I need to do in the complex of routines required to hop a few miles over to France. To think there was a time we could almost just turn up and go at a whim and now it takes days just working through the process. It almost takes all the enjoyment out of it. When we return, we can still bring back cheese and other things less available here but only 24 bottles of wine per person. So much control taken back!

Tuesday, 31st August, 2021

The last day of Summer 2021. Up at just after 6.00 am after a broken night’s sleep. World Service/Radio 4 since 4.30 am mainly about the US withdrawal and betrayal in Afghanistan and 90 mins of that is enough for anyone. Feels like we are marking and wasting time which is running away into the Autumn. There is so much more we could be enjoying. This morning feels fairly autumnal in that it is grey, dark, misty and uninviting. At least it is warm. Breakfast with all the lights on tells us the days are already shortening.

Lights on in August?

Just 6 years ago today, our current home looked like this. We had bought it off-plan, which makes the asking price cheaper, and the builders were sending us an update.

Just over 5 years on, we have had it valued and the increase is a pleasing 37%. This is all the more reassuring because it is 37% of a much higher price than we would have had to find in the North. In Surrey, our property sold for about 80% increase over 5 years but this will do. Maybe, we will have to move back to the North and cash in. Having said that, our local beach has been voted well into the top 10 beaches in the country.

The great thing about being a nomad is that you can go anywhere that you like without feeling guilty. You can even spend half your time in one home and half in another as we did in Greece/Surrey. This is a lovely place to live but, when it comes down to it, everywhere we are is lovely. It’s what you make of it.

Peter Holgate & wife, Karen

Former College friend, Peter Holgate, lives in Knaresborough but travels far and wide in retirement. This morning, he sent me this photo from his trip to Kilburn High Street Underground station. Rather cheered me up.

I need a bit of cheering up. The prognosis for US travel in November became even more gloomy yesterday as the BBC announced that:

The European Union recommended a pause on all non-essential travel from the US as Covid-19 cases surge. The daily average for hospital admissions has risen past 100,000 for the first time since last winter.

This will not encourage the Americans to open up their travel conditions for tourists. Quite the opposite.

The other big news of the day is that 3 coats of paint have solved the Rioja stain on the kitchen ceiling. As soon as my decorator completed that job, she cut my hair so at least she is paying her way! As we extended our walk to 90 mins this morning, the clouds disappeared revealing blue sky and lovely, warm sunshine. We discovered a huge park complete with outdoor exercise equipment, an ornamental pond and lovely planting just 10 mins walk from our house. It’s only taken us 5 years to find it.

Wednesday, 1st September, 2021

Now, where did you go …..?

Summer has departed and Autumn ushered in. It really feels like a retrograde step that will leave us all worse off. Our Fig trees are loaded with fruit but most are unlikely to swell and ripen in time to be enjoyed. Outside, the world is grey but warm. This is our 70th Autumn on this earth and still we journey. These changes are much more significant than any of us can know. We are all punching above our weight.

As life goes on, our calendar includes taking delivery of our new car – probably on Monday or Tuesday next week. Ultimately, it will cost us less than £9,000.00 to buy a cleaner car. So the existing one will have cost just £346.00 per month excluding fuel and insurance. Everything else is ‘free’ including full Service for 5 years, Hondacare breakdown assistance and roadside recovery Europe-wide. Not that we’ve ever needed it. Our current car has been the first one to include the new, European requirement for an emergency-call button which provides a ‘free’, 3G signal to local recovery firms via Hondacare. European innovation has been a wonderful thing!

Hondacare Included

September has been a popular time to change cars for a number of years and my on-line memory box threw up this image today:

Honda Prelude

I think we had 3 of these before we moved on to the 4-wheel drive, CRV. Enjoyed driving it but can’t believe how low down the driving position was compared to our current car. The Boot was incredibly small and it would never have coped with our Greek travel or wine-buying trips to Europe.

Crag Hall, Derbyshire

My cousin, who lives in the Charente in southwest France, has contacted me today to suggest that we have a family, long weekend next year and book this house which will accommodate about 20 of us and cost just £3,500.00 for 3 nights. The house is in the Peak District which is not my favourite place but I can manage 3 days.

Thursday, 2nd September, 2021

Another grey and dark morning. Yesterday did turn out warm and there were periods of sunshine but not enough. We need to get away. We need to go abroad, to hear foreign languages, taste different tastes. We need to see different sights.

My face gives everything away. I could never be a poker player. Sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, lust, hunger, joy – my face immediately displays all these inner conditions outwardly to those who know me. Unlike T.S.Eliot’s Prufrock, I am constitutionally unable to prepare a face to meet the faces that I meet.

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

New car by Tuesday and then we will go to France for the following week. I’ve booked a suite in a hotel in Coquelles (£800.00) for 5 nights beginning Monday, 13th September. I’ve booked return trips by Eurotunnel (£312.00). We will drive out to interesting towns and villages to shop and walk over the week.

Tests to be delivered this morning.

In order to facilitate this, I’ve had to download and fill out a Déclaration d’honneur (honesty form) for entry to France on which we declare we have no Covid problems. We have also had to order test kits to be used within 2 days of returning to UK at a price of £138.00. While we are in France, we have to go to a pharmacy to have a test (cost unknown) within 3 days before crossing back into UK.

After all that, the hotel’s prices have decreased so much that the cost far outweighs the additional Covid charges. It will be so nice to get away and it is a lovely, comfortable hotel.

The Suite has plenty of space and is really a home-from-home. Particularly at times like these, we prefer to be able to keep at a distance from others and a suite allows this.

Importantly, the hotel has a lovely pool and well appointed Fitness Centre. Although we will do plenty of walking, we will need an additional facility over the week.

When I get to this stage, it almost feels wrong to be leaving but I’ll steel myself and do it. After all, there’s nothing holding us back.

Of course, there are all those incidental things like travel insurance to sort out. We have annual travel insurance ‘free’ from our Bank’s Black Account. Unfortunately, old codgers like me have to declare conditions that require a bit of an additional charge. A suspected hernia can now be added to that.

Friday, 3rd September, 2021

Hardly a chink of sunlight yesterday although we reached 22C/70F. Just a few miles away at the Kennington Oval, the Test Match eventually was bathed in sunshine. This morning is much brighter and sunnier and forecast to improve as the day develops…. Actually, the day improved remarkably and our walk was in hot sun. The temperature hit 25C/77F and made the day so much more enjoyable.

Autumn in Le Touquet

I’ve been contacting our French hotel this morning to make sure my wife gets her favourite suite and to ask about Testing Centres before we return home. Apparently, we can be tested and receive the result while we wait at the Pharmacy in the village. We are looking forward to visiting some lovely, coastal towns like Le Touquet and Wissant.


We might go to Arras to look up John Whetton, my old, Grammar School friend who has lived there since 1968. We need to do lots of walking so that will partly govern our destinations. I’ve also got to control my diet in this festival centre of food & wine.

Received a call from our Honda Dealer with good news and bad news. The bad news is that the car won’t be ready until Friday 10th. We leave the following Monday. The new sat.nav. will need reprogramming over the weekend, the smartphones paired up to the audiovisual unit, the iPads Bluetooth-paired and all the seat, mirror and door settings set up before we leave.

The good news is that they had overcharged us by £500.00 and that was being removed. Some arcane process with Honda last time and this meant, if we took out Honda Finance to partly pay for the car, the price of the car was reduced by £1,500.00 and a number of other things were provided for ‘free’ like the 5 years servicing, etc. We do not borrow money and, currently, it wouldn’t be cost-effective anyway. However, that means our credit rating is damaged because we have no borrowing record. So, we agree to borrow a nominal £5,000.00 and get all the attendant benefits of it for a month and then completely repay it and retain all the benefits plus enhancing our credit rating.

I have long enjoyed Whistler and had a large print of his Little White Girl hanging in our houses over the years.

Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl – Whistler 1864

Today, the Royal Academy has announced its upcoming Whistler Exhibition for next February. I wonder what our lives will be like that far ahead. Will we still be alive?

Saturday, 4th September, 2021

Very warm this morning and the sun is out but with cloud around. As we moved into the afternoon, we reached 24C/75F and quite humid. The forecast is for some lovely weather to coincide with schools going back – which will be nice. Talking about schools, we had a frantic discussion this morning about how long we’d been retired and whether it was April 2009 or 2010. It was 2009 and we will have been idle for 13 years in April next year.

I was thinking about retirement and work yesterday when the girl at the Greengrocers asked me if I had that Friday Feeling? I assume I read her right and said, Is it Friday? That Friday night at the end of a week was always delicious. For us, it would be Chinese Takeaway night. Wouldn’t even entertain the idea now. All that Monosodium Glutamate used to enhance the flavour that left one with such a dry mouth on Saturday morning. I remember it well although we haven’t eaten one since retirement.

Memory is such a strange thing. It absolutely torments me. Flashes of my past and particularly past failures haunt my daily present time. I will groan and someone nearby will ask why. Of course, I never admit the true reason. I make something up and try to push the thought back into the mists of time. This year, I’ve found that even more difficult to do. I’ve tried facing it head on but not succeeded. What is shocking and cruel is the difference between memories that are as acute as yesterday and those I just cannot recall at all.

Going by the brain graphic, my strengths are in the Temporal and Parietal lobes. The Frontal lobe is a confusing mixture for me. The executive functions of Thinking, Planning, Organising and Problem Solving are strengths for me but Emotions, Behavioural Control and Personality are distinctly weak areas.

Not being sure which year I retired; not being sure what day it is; these things undermine one’s confidence. Remembering the enjoyment of a Friday night; recalling the aftertaste on the Saturday morning quite acutely; these things are the ironic torture of lost times.

If I was to take the Dementia Memory Test, I’m sure I would fail. One of the first questions they ask is, What Day is it? They also give you a name and address to recall at the end of the test. Those sorts of things I have never remembered. That’s why I’ve got so many recording systems. Forgive me if I’ve told this story before and I’ve forgotten but the story of Jane.F.’s Mother-in-Law always appealed to me. During the memory test, one is shown ordinary objects, animals, etc. and asked to identify them. In her 90s, Mrs. F. was shown a picture of a camel and she studied it for a moment and then said, Now is that a camel or a dromedary?  Of course, the young tester hadn’t got a clue. That is the sort of thing that would happen with me. Pedantic to the end!

Wonders will never cease. The glazier has turned up with a replacement full-length, double glazed unit for the conservatory at the back of the house. It has been a month now and he says he has had to bully the suppliers to get this. All the cost is in the materials. The labour took less than 10 mins to fit.