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.

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