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.

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