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!!

Terri-Lee

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!