Week 670

Sunday, 24th October, 2021

What a wonderful world we live in. Floating on air this morning! Out early for a walk. Came home to construct my newly delivered rowing machine.

This will now become part of my regular routine. The tall, slim, sexy German from next door may be using my former X-Trainer but this old, chunky English man will be toning up his stomach muscles on a rowing machine which will take him through the next decade up to his 80s. Stay with me as I Blog along.

Been out for our walk this morning and come home for Pauline to make bread and then construct the gym equipment with me. Actually, nothing would have been completed without my wife’s technical brain. I would have employed a ‘little man’ to do it for me.

We griddled chicken in the garden this afternoon and ate it with salad. I am now preparing for our Greek travel followed by France. Against a backdrop of rising Covid cases, we have tested ourselves after our week of travel, kissing friends and close mingling. We were negative on the Lateral Flow test and hope to remain so. I have always felt responsible for smaller people in my life and do even now. I will help anyone who needs me for as long as I am capable of doing so.

Monday, 25th October, 2021

Sometimes life can feel so good. Had a great week last week and we are off to Athens in a couple of further weeks. In between, there are plenty of nice things happening. I’m going to go hard diet and exercise wise. The morning opened with light rain although very mild. By mid-morning, the sky had cleared completely to a delicious blue with strong sunshine just in time for us to go on a walk. The world looks lovely at the moment even though the first real signs of Autumn are on display.

I am very poor at human relations and really have to be guided and reminded by others. I have always been like that and those close to me often despair. Actually, I suspect that women are much better at it than men, in general and most people are much better at it than me, in particular. I suspect I am in the lowest percentile for most things. Last week was organised by three women, Pauline, Chris and Julie. What I am good at is words and communicating. I have resolved to use that skill.

I have decided to not allow my relationships with those from my past to deteriorate into the mists of time again. I am going to communicate with them on a regular basis and it is up to them whether they want to do the same. I will soon know where I stand based on their response. I have told them to make it clear if they don’t want to receive stuff from me and I will understand.

This morning, I have contacted 6 friends using a multiplicity of platforms including FacebookMessengerTwitterWhatsappEmail and Text. They all have a different preferred platforms for communication. Nothing earth-shattering but just telling them about things going on in my life since I last saw them and wishing them good luck with their immediate projects. Although I was in a College of 500 or so students, I actually knew very few. I was always otherwise engaged. It didn’t/doesn’t worry me but when Christine sent me the photo above of a reunion in 2019 and asked me how many I could identify, my isolation was emphasised.

I can identify 7 out of the 16 people. They include Christine herself, Derek France, John Ridley, Peter Holgate + wife and, in black, Judy Hall who is now deceased. Judy was Chris’s best friend and this was the last time she ever saw her as she died of breast cancer which is shocking in itself. The woman in the front centre is Liz Stansfield, a pretty and very shy girl who did subsid. Drama with me. Just as I was leaving the North to move house to Surrey, I discovered she had been living 5 miles away in Holmfirth all those years

Tuesday, 26th October, 2021

Up early and completed a few house jobs, ordered a large, fresh fish stock for delivery on Thursday and then set off for our walk. An hour and a half later, we showered and set off to drive up to Surrey. The task of the day was to help P&C sort out a travel insurance policy for their month of November in Florida with their daughter.

What an eye-opener that was. A sign of things to come. They are in their mid-80s and have pre-existing conditions as most people that age do but the cost of a single-trip travel policy for the USA is incredible. The cheapest price we could find for two people was £1,850.00 and the most expensive was £18,065.00. Who would pay that? Eventually, we settled for Staysure single trip cover of just under £2,000.00. It really does bring it home to us that we must travel as much as possible while we can.

Everything had to be done on -line. Phoning would have resulted in huge delays and agonising amounts of time. Policy documents could have taken a month to arrive – time they did not have – and payment required the use of the net and a smartphone for the Bank’s security checks. How any old person can do this alone, I don’t know.

Incredibly mild today, we drove home to griddle swordfish steaks in the garden after I had done my gym routine which was hard after the stress of the day and a strange sense of sadness that I had carried round with me all day. Must keep optimistic and fighting! My new clothes are starting to feel too big already and will not carry me much beyond our trip to Athens. In fact, Pauline is already ordering new things for me before we go away.

Wednesday, 27th October, 2021

Yesterday, we were helping relatives in their mid-80s navigate the intricacies of purchasing travel insurance on-line. It isn’t easy even for younger, more tech-savvy people and it did stretch us to the limit but we got it done. It did leave us wondering how much we will have fallen behind in 15 more years. I do try hard to keep up but you really need to be at the cutting edge to spot innovation. I design web pages and Blogs but with quite old software now.

Feels incredibly warm today for the end of October – 16C/61F at 7.00 am. This week in 2008, the Pennines were blanketed in heavy snow whereas heavy rain is forecast for the Northwest this week. In 2008, it was extremely cold. We were preparing for an Ofsted Inspection and feeling frazzled.

This week in 2009, Pauline’s Mum was still alive but suffering from painful Shingles across her eye. We were driving across the Pennine A62 road to visit her and I recorded the scene over the beautiful A62 which was the trans-Pennine crossing used by the pack mules in earlier centuries and which was replaced by the M62 in the last century. The A62, Nont Sarah’s route was always the most wonderfully relaxing drive back from work in the evening particularly as the moors displayed these gorgeous, Autumnal colours.

In the same week, in 2009, we received a letter from Northern Rock Bank confirming that we had just paid off the last £270,000.00 of our mortgage. We were mortgage-free for the first time since 1978 and it was a lovely feeling. We have never needed to borrow money since which is an empowering position to be in.

This morning we spotted our Fish supplier had one large Turbot – know as the King of Fishes in the restaurant trade. This one has been caught in local waters by a South Coast trawlerman. This 3 kg example is not cheap at £24.00 per kilo but it should be worth it. We ordered it immediately.

Thursday, 28th October, 2021

Beautiful morning with clear, blue sky and pink hue of the sun criss-crossed by orange-tinged plane exhaust trails leaving and arriving at Gatwick and Heathrow high in the sky. We have an early trip to the Local Authority tip to get rid of Gym equipment packaging. Back to see the window cleaners and receive £300.00’s worth of fresh fish. While Pauline skinned and portioned it for the freezer, I worked on the necessary travel documents for Athens. All these Covid conditions are easier but still a pain.

It is lovely to have a much healthier lifestyle now. I do still drink too much wine but I eat good food and I exercise plenty. I gave up smoking on the 15 November 1985 at 9.00 pm. I was sitting in a Masters degree research group at Huddersfield University delivering a paper on R.H.Tawney when I lit the wrong end of a tipped cigarette. It was disgusting and I resolved to give up there and then. To my surprise, I did it having failed so many times before.

In those days, I was smoking 2 x 20 cigarettes each day. They cost £4.00 per day or about £1,460.00 per year. I took out an investment plan instead and cashed it in for around £25,500.00 eventually. Today, the Budget put up the price of 20 cigarettes to £13.60 or, for me, £9,228.00. I would definitely have to give up.

Friday, 29th October, 2021

Lovely day but rather overcast. Out shopping and then for a walk. Really enjoyable. Had to help out elderly relatives who had been caught out on a new, parking fine at their surgery. Parkingeye had been introduced and they were being fined £60.00. They were panicking because, although they had paid the false, first fine, they had also been back twice since to the Pharmacy. We contacted the Surgery and cancelled the last two visits. They had paid the first one and we have claimed that back.

Been preparing for Athens trip in a week. Really looking forward to it after two years absence. Greek cooking, Greek food, Greek smells, Greek voices, Greek television, Greek chaos … heaven!! Really like the irony of staying in a 5* Hotel but eating in a street corner taverna.

I’m coming to a momentous conclusion in the gym. I’ve spent the last 24 hours of exercise watching the most superficial soap/serial called Call My Agent. It is French and with subtitles. It should never be my sort of thing at all. It is like Hollyoaks on steroids but I’ve loved it. The characters are well drawn and the storyline is consistent and well constructed. I have really enjoyed it. It has taken me along some three weeks of exercise and I’ve lost myself in it against my will. I will be sad to lose it tomorrow when I finish the 24th hourly episode.

Saturday, 30th October, 2021

Busy day today after a rather fitful night. Finished the Appeal to the Parkingeye fine for Pauline’s sister. It is quite demanding but I love doing this sort of thing. I’ve done it before – challenging officious dogsbodies. They rarely put up much resistance if the challenge is powerfully worded. I enjoy the battle. I am confident that the fine will be returned fairly swiftly and I might follow that up with a demand for her to be sent flowers to compensate for the upset caused.

Next, I’ve completed the Greek Passenger Locator forms for our Athens trip. These things are a nightmare and all UK citizens will have to complete them online every time they visit a European destination for evermore. It is so unnecessary but that is a consequence of Brexit. Our trip to Athens and another to France in December will be the last times abroad that our mobile phone plans are useable in Europe. From January, roaming charges are reintroduced … because of Brexit.

We went out for a 90 mins walk under traffic light skies – brilliant blue with strong sun switching quickly to thunderous black clouds and torrential rain and, just as quickly back to blue again as the sun dried us out. Very warm throughout which was nice and shorts and tee-shirt was fine. While we walked, the company who are coming to insulate the Gym roof for the winter phoned and we sheltered under a tree and spoke over the noise of the rain. They will be with us on Friday.

Back home, I continued in Greek Geek mode. We have had a store of Euros for about 3 years and I’ve been reluctant to pay charges on converting it back to Sterling and then rebuying Euros later so they have been stored in our Travelling Folders. The last time I counted them and recorded it on my spreadsheet was December 2019. We’ve had two or three French trips since then so I re-calculated this morning. We’ve got more than we started with. Pauline was hiding it in reserve. Should be enough for meals and shopping for a week in Athens.

Ordering the Day-2 Tests we have to do when we get back to UK. At least they are the cheaper, Lateral Flow ones which will cost us £25.50 each. We perform the test ourselves but have to photograph the test strip and send that evidence by text or email to the testing company to prove we don’t have Covid. We have also got to complete a UK Passenger Locator Form … as a result of Brexit. We will have to do this every time we return from Europe in perpetuity. This last form can only be finally completed online 48 hrs before landing in UK and it must include the pre-booked Covid test code which must be administered within 48 hrs of landing in UK. I have just spent 3 hrs on the process today already and I’m going to ‘relax’ in the Gym for an hour.

Week 669

Sunday, 17th October, 2021

Up at 4.55 am and out on the walk by 5.00 am. Incredibly dark with few street lamps on although the sky was clear and full of stars. Never been so grateful for the ‘torch’ facility on my phone to light the dark paths. This shot after two hours walking was showing an interesting sky beginning to appear.

In the whole of my walk, I only met one other person – a tall and skinny girl with the longest legs you’ve ever seen. The moment she saw me, she began to (pretend to) talk on her phone and, with me around, who could blame her. Just as I got in the last half mile, I met my neighbours out for a walk with their dog which is massive – as big as a camel. Must cost a fortune to feed. They remarked on me being out early. I told them I was pleased to see they were as mad as me.

Fat little Julia and the hairy monster!

Over orange juice when I got back, this lovely and rather frightening photo fell out of my memory bank. It is a picture of the lifelong atheist godfather and little Julia Dagg who is now a gorgeous, 45 year old woman. I am going to meet her for the first time in 35 years on Tuesday.

We broke our journey into two parts. The first three hours took us to Repton to visit my parents grave for the first time in two years. We always visit at the same time of year and it is always, damp and Autumnal. So it was today and the weather seems to set the emotional scene. We didn’t stay long but I did my duty. Another 90 mins, including an annoying M1 hold up, saw us arrive at our hotel. We seem to have enough luggage for a year and it took me almost as long to carry up to our top floor suite.

The drive was amazingly quiet with almost no lorries all the way up. The most noticeable thing as we arrived is how far advanced the Autumn is up here compared with the South Coast. Still, it’s quite mild and we were able complete our exercise routine outside. I think I’ll be in the gym tomorrow morning. It opens at 6.30 am.

Monday, 18th October, 2021

Sheer madness after a long drive on Sunday but I had so much pent-up energy that I was up at 5.00 am and out walking. I dragged Pauline with me, poor girl. Did an hour and a half and came back for orange juice and a shower.

Drove to Oldham around 8.30 am and got to the Crematorium for 9.00 am. The Book of Remembrance was open at the right page for Mother-in-Law’s name. Fortunately, the toilets were also open because I was DESPERATE!

We drove on to Shaw to visit Brian & Val. I employed Brian and I love him. If you wanted someone to totally depend on and save your life, Brian would be the man. Ex Murder Squad / ex Drugs Squad in Manchester, he is one of the most honest people I know. Coffee with Brian and his lovely wife, Val, and then we drove to Huddersfield town centre to take Pauline’s reading glasses to Specsavers to be repaired after they fell apart yesterday. She’s using mine to read her Kindle/Book. We had to leave them to be collected later.

We left Shaw and drove to Netherton to meet old colleagues and girlfriends of Pauline. We met at Hinchcliffe’s Farmshop Restaurant for a long catch-up after two years absence. Had a lovely lunch. The girls all had huge slabs of carbohydrate in the form of doorstep sandwiches. I had braised cabbage with garlic chicken and crumbled goats’ cheese. It was really well done. Lovely long chat about people we knew for years but haven’t seen for ages. Enjoyable!

Drove back to our hotel via a very busy Huddersfield town centre packed with hoards of scruffy, University students and evening rush hour traffic. Pauline’s glasses were ready, repaired with no charge and she was able to read her bedtime book although she was almost too tired because I’m pushing her too hard.

Tuesday, 19th October, 2021

Awake at 4.3o am and got up to write yesterday’s Blog. As I logged on to my iPad, I was contacted by John Morris from my College days. I asked what he was doing up at 4.30 am and told me he had got up to go to the toilet, tripped over the dog, decided to do the Guardian crossword and nap later. That’s the high life, isn’t it? I was also contacted by Dave Weatherly who lives in Bolton – well, someone’s got to – and is 72 today. As a sign of the times, he will spend it looking after his granddaughter.

By 5.00 am, out walking for 90 mins and then back for orange juice, shower and check postcodes for the sat.nav. this morning. I am preparing to drive to Ripon to have coffee with John Ridley, move on to meet Chris & Kevin for lunch and then on to York to meet my ‘goddaughter’, Julia. She and I have been communicating on line recently and she is absolutely delightful. I am quite enchanted by her. She was just unlucky to get a godfather who has been a life long atheist. Doesn’t appear to have harmed her.

Damp start to the day which made the motorway very difficult as we drove up to Ripon. Typical of John Ridley (John-2), he wanted to meet us on the steps of the cathedral. Fortunately, by the time we met, it was dry and we walked a short way to have coffee. We sat and just talked for two hours. The time flew past. I felt quite emotional and ‘exposed’ which probably explains why I’ve been reluctant to do this over the years. 

We eventually agreed to meet Chris and Kevin in Shadwell at a pub/restaurant. It was great to see them again. We talked over a meal. As usual, I talked too much even though I was only drinking sparkling water. There was a lot to reminisce about and to be updated about those we had known. They have four lovely children and we heard about them. 

Later, we drove over to Julia’s house. It is a very interesting, former pub which they are converting. Julia is lovely, bright and vivacious – quite captivating. 


As we drove back to our hotel which we learnt was the setting for Julia’s wedding reception, all these thoughts of the day were coursing through my mind. Shortly after we got back, I fell fast asleep. The early walk, the day, the emotion had clearly caught up with me and drained my resources.

Wednesday, 20th October, 2021

Up late this morning – 6.00 am. Cup of tea and then out for a 90 mins walk. It was fine and dry with a clear sky and bright stars. Back for a shower and freshly squeezed orange juice. Everyone of the people I met yesterday had contacted me over night, thanking me for meeting them and requesting that we come back soon. I have already said we will but it is nice to have it confirmed. We didn’t bother visiting the college grounds yesterday because the buildings have almost totally been altered but John Ridley sent me a sad photo of the Art Block in rapid decline which he took after we parted.

Over coffee, we prepared our day in Huddersfield, where we were going and who we were seeing.

As we talked, the heavens opened and it poured for about 10 mins. The picture above illustrates the view from the window of our suite about 10 mins later. 

Out in Huddersfield town, the atmosphere is more down at heel than ever. It has the developing hint of Bradford. The commercial centre is increasingly boarded up. The going concerns are fewer and further apart. Not surprisingly, the number of shoppers is much smaller and the shops we went in were carrying little stock. Interestingly, the number of people wearing masks was much higher than the places we visited in Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire. I predict that another Lock-Down is on its way. This afternoon, we’ve just managed to book our Covid Booster in time for our trip to Athens. We have to go to Chichester next week.

We were still mentally and emotionally tired from yesterday and we have another difficult one tomorrow so we are pacing ourselves today. Mind you, I find shopping quite stressful in itself. We returned to our hotel rather earlier than we had anticipated and I used the time to write to lots of people and to plan the timings for tomorrow. I was last in Bridlington many years ago when we drove up there with for a Boxing Day picnic. Be interesting to see it again.

Thursday, 21st October, 2021

Up at 5.00 am on a crystal, clear morning. Lots of stars and a beautiful, full moon but cold. I was in shorts and tee shirt. My phone said it was 3C – feels like -5C. It certainly did. Within 10 mins of setting out, I couldn’t feel my hands. I didn’t give in, telling myself to scoff at cold temperatures. By the time it was finished 90 mins later, my hands so frozen that I couldn’t hold a cup of coffee.

We set off for the Bridlington coast in the most glorious sunshine from a clear, blue sky. The journey was delightful through the most wonderful, rich countryside. We arrived just before 11.00 am and Julie appeared minutes later. We were both wearing masks in the coffee shop but recognised each other instantly. We sat and talked for an hour and a half as we looked out over a sun-drenched beach. Memory is a draining, painful thing and the meeting absolutely tired me out.

We left the coffee shop and walked to Nigel’s Gallery. He was expecting us and we all four walked to the sculpture on the promenade that Julie had been involved in producing. That’s where I chose to take some commemoration photographs.

I walked and talked with Nigel for half an hour. I was preparing myself to meet a sick and frail man. He looked exactly the opposite, I was delighted to find. We walked arm in arm down the promenade and talked as if it was 1971 not 2021. It was really lovely. He was really lovely. I left them pledging to see them again soon.

Friday 22nd, October, 2021

Driving back South this morning with a feeling that I have achieved most things I set out to do. Up and out at 5.30 am.

It was dry and much warmer outside but, after 30 mins walking, the rain came and we ran back in and spent an hour in the Gym. In the days when we were members here, people queued at the door at 6.00 am to get on equipment. This morning hardly anyone appeared.

Workout completed we went back for orange juice and showers. Fielded and replied to texts/emails/social-media messenger contacts and completed packing. Feels sad in some ways to be leaving but we will return as long as we stay alive.

Great drive home – 5hrs door-to-door. Weather was good and traffic excellent even on the M25. Back home, I unpacked the car and opened all the week’s post while Pauline cooked us a lovely meal. Strange feeling this afternoon. This is one of the first times we have returned and thought, This is Home. At last we have lived here long enough to begin thinking that. More often than not, we have asked ourselves, What are we doing here? We don’t really belong anywhere. It is just two weeks until we go away again. Really looking forward to greeting the people of Athens again after a two-year break.

Saturday 23rd, October, 2021

Bit of a late start after a hard day’s drive yesterday. Didn’t get up until 7.00 am but woke up incredibly happy and satisfied. Not completely sure why. The Gym equipment delivery which had been listed for last Saturday has been rescheduled for this afternoon. Just as we were about to go out shopping, they phoned to say it would now be this morning.

Fresh Veg. Pictures

We rushed off to Sainsbury‘s and the experience was really interesting. Our diet has improved so much over the past decade that almost everything this morning came from the fresh fruit & veg. section where we spent £37.00. Unfortunately, this was made quite difficult by the huge swathes of empty shelves which had been infilled with photographs of produce which wasn’t available.

You can’t cook and eat print-outs. Ironically, this was featured in a number of newspapers this morning although we didn’t see the same problem in the North of England. It wasn’t restricted to fresh produce either. There was an absence of refuse sacks and paucity of bottled water. This is a Brexit-related problem and will not get better any time soon.

We rushed home to meet the Delivery men – absolutely charming, if simple, Romanian characters who just wanted to do a good job. I thanked them for their work and immediately completed the on-line review form giving them a glowing report.

The irony of all this is that you pay £700.00 for a piece of equipment that you then have to build for yourself. To some people, it may be simple but to a technical illiterate like me, it is life challenging.

Even the assembly manual is marriage challenging. I will probably have to lock Pauline in the Gym with the bits and the instructions and refuse to let her out until it is constructed. Notice above is only Page 10/Step 6 of the process. 

Week 668

Sunday, 10th October, 2021

A strange, grey start to the morning. I’m working on my backup Blog and playing a recording I made last night of Simon & Garfunkel. It was the Reunion Concert in Central Park in 1981. I suddenly realised that this was a reunion 40 years ago.https://www.youtube.com/embed/yB-Ds2E-BDk?list=PLVnkoLiLMTm7j0ZPI3xWEsAnCpKZ52czR

I heard these songs when they were first released never mind in a reunion. These are the sorts of insights that force us to confront our timeline of age. Actually, although the words come back easily, I don’t get quite the same pleasure. They are a bit tainted over time.

Hard to believe how lovely yesterday evening was. In warm October sunshine, we cooked and ate outside, talked and planned future travel. The past is important but the future is where we are going. We are already talking about a long trip to Greece next Summer (June & July), doing the drive we have done over 30 times before – Calais – Mulhouse, Alsace, – Ancona, Italy – Patras, Greece – Piraeus – Sifnos. It will probably be the last time we do it – a bit like a reunion concert. We will never desert Athens but the long island-stays will probably give way to Spanish ones instead. 

Monday, 11th October, 2021

Busy day and a busy week ahead with a lot to get through before we go away next week. Flowers started arriving at our house a week ago and are still looking good this morning. In fact, these Lillies are almost at their full-blown best and they smell wonderful!

This morning I started the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) process for entry to the USA all of which has to be done online.

Also had to do an online application for the car in France. Because we have a new car, we need a new CRITAIR air quality certificate for driving in major towns and cities.

Both applications are straightforward and easy to achieve and much easier than the UK government’s travel requirements applications. At least we don’t need an application to get into Yorkshire or Greater Manchester although some people would like to introduce one. Talked to my friend in Royton this morning and arranged a visit to see him while we are in the area next week.

The dreaded day has come when I have to try on about 15 new items of clothing and decide what will be kept and what sent back. That will be another uncomfortable activity for the morning and will be followed by lawn cutting and hedge trimming before a two-hour walk. I’ve also got to prepare the Gym for the arrival of the Rowing machine. Pauline’s got two doctor’s appointments today

Just spent an hour doing something I normally hate – trying on clothes – and found it almost enjoyable. Keeping everything in the smaller of two sizes ordered. Not an experience I have encountered for quite some time – in fact not for 30 years. Already, some of the wardrobe bought for me a couple of months ago is already far too big and has to be ditched. I suspect this batch will be redundant by the end of the year. Expensive business losing weight!

As we walked this morning in weak sunshine, I asked my wife if she thought I was too obsessive. She said, “Lets put it this way. You’re just on the other side of normal.” I thought that was fair.

Tuesday, 12th October, 2021

The day finished so hot and sunny yesterday that we cooked and ate outside in the garden. Wonderful start this morning which promises a good day. It is going to be busy. I’m taking Pauline to the Beautician’s for 9.15 am and then back for a walk and some gardening. Got an insulation firm coming in the early afternoon to quote on spray-foam insulating the garage/gym roof in time for colder weather. Later in the afternoon I’m taking Pauline to have two biopsies on suspect patches of skin which she had examined yesterday. She woke up worrying about it this morning.

The temperature dropped to 6C/43F last night and I’ve actually switched the heated seats, steering wheel and mirrors on this morning. I rarely have to do that down here but it is a nice facility to have. The Daily Mirror is running a story this morning that says the warm start to October will soon be replaced by arctic temperatures and that the whole of Wales and the North of England will be seeing snowfall by October 24th which is just a couple of days after we drive back South.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NBHHFnUqo5o?feature=oembed

As the newspapers feature the latest, Tory-dominated select committee report with damning accounts of the heartless incompetence in allowing thousands of unnecessary deaths in the early stages of the pandemic, particularly in Care Homes but also in failure to Lock Down early enough, a wonderful piece of 1986 video emerged which illustrates the enduring cynicism of Tory governments.

Another lovely end to the day. We cooked Calamari and Greek Salad and ate outside in the garden as the sun went down. It was delicious in the Autumn evening light. Life can be lovely, can’t it? It just doesn’t do to be too isolated!https://www.youtube.com/embed/efUpNxQPLMU?feature=oembed

Revisited one of my all-time pieces of music that carried me through dreadful times in dark days of 1974 in my Oldham flat. It was cold, dark and bleak with power strikes and a 3-day week outside as I fought against intellectual and emotional isolation inside. Chopin’s Etude Op.10 No.3 Tristesse (Sadness) played out on my battery-operated cassette recorder in darkness lit only by a 3-bar gas fire. It is an experience that I have not and will not ever forget.

Wednesday, 13th October, 2021

6.30 am

Glorious morning after quite a clear and cool night. The temperature went down to 7C/45F. In the Mediterranean corner of the garden, the fig leaves are starting to show signs of Autumn with edges browning and curling. All the remaining fruit is starting to blacken and give up the ripening process. The Tenerife tree had to be wrapped in a fleece blanket as it began to shed leaves as a result of the temperature drop. Only the grass still looks vibrantly green.

Yesterday ended with Pauline having chunks taken out of her body on a table at the Doctors’ surgery. One piece came out of the side of her nose and the other from her leg. This latter one bled profusely and she really looked like a wounded soldier when she walked back to the car. Fortunately, she was still able to cook when we got home. However, this was just an exploratory investigation. We will hear the results in the next three weeks.

Wounded Soldier!

This morning the exercise routine has to be completed early because we are driving up to Surrey to help P&C complete their NHS Covid passes on their iPads ready for travelling to the States next month. I also have to sort their central heating timer controls out for them which should be fun. Still, it is a glorious day for driving through the Sussex/Surrey countryside and I’m looking forward to it.https://www.youtube.com/embed/4KGmLLsdWCM?feature=oembed

Music, driving and emotions make me a frightening liability. The most beautiful scenery, a nice new car, wonderful weather and Canto della Terra playing combined to overwhelm me with happiness and I suddenly realised I couldn’t see through the mist of tears. It is so embarrassing but I’ve always been that way and I just have to plough on and hope it clears.

The Italian completely destroys me although the English is quite prosaic:

Must get a grip. I’m becoming obsessive again. Still, I’m going to learn all the Italian on this album before I do another long drive so I’m able to focus both on the music but also on the road!

Thursday, 14th October, 2021

Another eventful day although not significant in any special way. Quite warm this morning but rather overcast. Got a Covid tester lady arriving at 9.00 am. Not easy giving a pint of blood so early but it has to be done. Got to get my priorities right and it is worth £50.00 a time.

With the blood still flowing from my fingers, we set off to return clothes to Next, to shop at Sainsbury’s and then drive to Worthing to return clothes. Pauline ordered sets of clothes in two sizes and, I’m pleased to report, had to return the bigger of each pairing. I intend that it will not be long before she has to do the whole thing again.

Moody Worthing Seascape

Worthing town centre was lovely and warm, vibrant even. We were going to pick up some boxes of Lateral Flow tests for our travels. Don’t want to infect or get infected snogging people. Our Pharmacy hasn’t had any for a few weeks now so we thought Boots might. As we walked through the Piazza, a couple of young people had an outdoor NHS stall and were handing them out to passers-by. We took 4 boxes which amounted to 28 tests. Some will go to Athens with us and some to the North. We should have enough for France in December and any other trips we might sneak in before we go to USA in March.

We took four, massively heavy bags of clothes – virtually all my wardrobe – to St Barnabus Hospice Charity Shop in Rustington. The bags were so heavy, we had to keep stopping to rest as we walked down from the carpark. Some of the clothes still had their sales labels in them and many had never been worn. Hopefully, they should make good money for the Hospice.

Friday, 15th October, 2021

My Dad, who died 57 years ago, would be 106 today. Can you believe the waste of a life and a marriage and a family to die at the age of 49?

Yesterday turned really warm and sunny as we walked for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Something quite nice happened as we walked around the perimeter of our Development. I was just remarking on how lovely the wide swathes of newly mown grass were looking. They were cut on Wednesday by the gardeners. I spoke to a man who was planting bulbs in one of the public spaces. His first response was:

You do plenty of walking, don’t you? Incredible what it’s done to your weight. The grasscutters were talking about it yesterday as you walked past. Amazing! Well done!

A sucker for recognition and praise, I did the next few hundred metres floating on a cushion of hot air.

I am a rule-breaker by inclination. If someone tells me I can’t do something, it is like a red rag to a bull. I have to prove them wrong. Rules really are made to be broken. My car reads speed signs, projects them on to the windscreen and gives me the choice of setting the ‘speed limiter’ which doesn’t allow me to break the speed limit of or ‘adaptive cruise control’ which makes sure I keep right up to the speed limit all the time. Of course, I can override them and I always set the cruise control to the maximum speed limit + 1mph in order to ensure I’m breaking the rules.

I was thinking about this as I drove yesterday. Our village has a 20-mph limit which feels incredibly slow. I do 21 mph but so many people ignore it altogether. I understand. In retirement, I can afford to go slowly. They are workers and when I was working, I drove everywhere at full throttle. Over the years, I’ve had 2 or 3 speeding tickets including one near the French Alps where I had been doing 120 mph in a 130 kmph/80mph limit non-stop for about 2 hours. They were very nice about it and only charged me €60.00.

Around 30 years ago, I was standing in the dock of the Crown Court, Manchester. I was the accused and a bit nervous although not particularly. I had taken the day out of school and driven with Pauline to the multistorey in Deansgate and walked to Crown Square where I entered the buildings. I was ushered into a room where we sat for hours and then to a corridor where I was told I was next up after the current murder trial.

Eventually, I was called and led into the court and up to the Dock. My wife sat in the Gallery. After what seemed like forever, the judge in full regalia and wig appeared. I was asked who was representing me and was faced with incredulity when I said I was representing myself. Even so, the judge sat down and waved the proceeds on.

At this point, I should step back and explain and if I’ve reported this before, I apologise. On the penultimate day of Summer term 1991, I was summoned to an urgent school meeting at Royton Town Hall. It was a screaming hot day and I was late. I was driving a new, Honda Prelude sports car and really going for speed to make my deadline.

When I arrived, I was told the meeting had been cancelled and my journey unnecessary and I raced back to school to complete the day. The following day, we left school at 1.00 pm and drove home to Huddersfield, packed the car and on to Hull Docks for an overnight journey Hull – Zeebrugge and then across Europe to Greece and our island.

Fast forward 6 weeks, we drove back across Europe and arrived in Huddersfield on the first Friday of September before school Training Days on the Monday. As usual, our doormat was mountainous in 6 weeks’ mail. It always took hours to wade through but I loved it. Well, I did until an official letter from Manchester Crown Court appeared and I realised I was summonsed to appear. I eventually found a letter of notification of speeding on Shaw Road, Oldham at the end of July. It gave me 14 days to reply. A second letter then appeared telling me that, as I hadn’t replied within 14 days, I had another 14 days to pay my fine. I then had a third letter telling me that, because I hadn’t paid my fine, I would have to go to court.

I phoned the court and said I was appealing against the ruling and that’s how I got summoned to the High Court under a judge. When I stood up in the court and the judge in a wig and full regalia addressed me, I said I was representing myself. The judge actually smiled, listened to my explanation of having been abroad for 6 weeks and soon told me, after consultation, that he would dismiss the case because it was a nonsense that I had been summoned there at all. Of course, I agreed and left happily. Pauline and I went straight out and celebrated with an Italian meal in a nearby restaurant.

The murderer before me had been found guilty and my experience became the stuff of legend. These are the sorts of crazy experiences that make us what we are. Some things happen in our lives we wish had never occurred and which we want to put right. Some we can sit back and relish in memory. This was one of the latter.

Saturday, 16th October, 2021

Woke up at 3.00 am thinking about the events that lay ahead. Downstairs drinking tea and watching rolling news on Sky. Did go back to bed and slept a bit. A lovely start to the morning even though the sky outside was fairly brooding. So much to get through today in preparation for driving North tomorrow – from packing, contacting people, even arranging for our neighbour to put the bins out and bring them back in. We have new, gym equipment arriving this afternoon. I’m looking forward to that.https://www.youtube.com/embed/B9SZjLW44Ko?feature=oembed

The last time I used a rowing machine at David Lloyd, I tore a muscle in my back. Must be more moderate when I start. I won’t even try until we get back from the North.

In order to relax about the preparations, we went out on an early walk. Just managed to get back after 90 mins as light rain began to fall. We are forecast for a sunny afternoon which will be nice. I’m going to do an hour in the gym and then sort clothes out for my wife to pack. I might even be able to watch some football this afternoon. Quite typically, after weeks of little problem, my hernia pain has come back to bite me today. Pauline has wanted to phone the hospital to expedite my treatment but I have been stopping her. I don’t want it to interfere with the travel arrangements we have made. Let’s hope it settles down again.

Ripon College posted this photograph from the developers which features a well-known staircase known by Kevin and I as the staircase to heaven aka Byland.

Week 667

Sunday, 3rd October, 2021

Wet and warm yesterday, grey but dry and warm this morning. We are driving up to Surrey this morning so Pauline can have lunch with her sister as a pre-celebration of her birthday. On Tuesday, I am cooking so somebody will die! Anyway, got to get my exercise routine done before we set off at 11.00 am. Even though I woke at 4.00 am and didn’t get properly back to sleep, I have got up feeling very lively and energetic. I think I’m regressing to childhood although not in the mental capacity yet, fortunately.

Feeling optimistic and fortunate. Don’t really know why. Anyway, better not to analyse it too much in case it evaporates under scrutiny. When we get back from Surrey, I’ve been instructed to look through about 20 emails my wife has sent me – from the Kitchen to the Office – of clothes she is considering sending for to replace the ones I have been throwing out. How do people without email buy online?

And John will be modeling…although I don’t think I can live up to these men. Not young enough; not slim enough and not hairy enough. Still, I’ll try. It’s all for a good cause!

Lovely walk this morning. The sun came out and the temperature rose. Lovely to be walking in shorts & Tee-shirt in October. Talking about regressing to childhood: as we walked the church bells began to ring out and I was suddenly reminded of that childhood joke about the old couple who made love once a week on a Sunday to the rhythm of the church bells. One day a fire engine went past and the old man had a heart attack. Really appealed to a 12 yr old!

I’ve been researching weather patterns for the area of Florida we are going to next Spring. We are thinking April would be a good time. We would like to visit New York and then fly over to Boston, Massachusetts as well to visit my childhood friend who has lived there for the past 50 years. We would aim to be in the USA for a month to make it worthwhile.

Lovely drive up to Surrey under clear, blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. I sang all the way to Take That & James Taylor. Felt like I was driving across Europe. Really enjoyed my ‘naff’ little self!

Images of the afternoon in Surrey

Driving back we couldn’t get any petrol. Most stations were empty and those that were not had huge queues. Only got 400 miles left in the tank!

Monday, 4th October, 2021

Heavy bursts of rain overnight but this morning is sunny and warm. I like the weather organised in this way. I like organisation altogether. I hate indecision. I almost hate choice. I am a nightmare when shopping. I choose the first thing I see rather than have the agony of having to view lots of examples and then make a choice. That’s why my wife does the clothes shopping.

I check the bank accounts ritually every morning online and had a bit of a shock to find Pauline had ordered me around £700.00 worth of clothes online. She told me not to worry because most of it would probably go back and that she had ordered multiple choices of the same things. It feels weird to be ordering clothes for me at all but quite nice.

We’ve finally got round to advertising our X-Trainer which has hardly been used at all in the past 18 months since we bought it.

I’ve decided that I need a rowing machine instead so space has to be made for it in our restricted gym area. Actually, the Rower is cheaper although goodness knows what I will get for the X-Trainer secondhand.

Going out to see if we can get petrol this morning. It isn’t easy down here. I wonder if it will be in the North when I get up there soon. Tomorrow, I am cooking a Birthday meal of Monkfish Tails, King Scallops and King Prawns in a White Wine & Garlic Sauce and I’m serving it with French Beans and Asparagus Tips so I have to make sure I have all the ingredients.

As we drove, we saw huge queues at petrol stations for fuel where they had it. At Tesco, we drove straight in and filled up. I’m back to a tank of 570 miles now. I now have a USB in the car on which I already saved about 20 assorted CDS and, as I started the car, this song came on automatically and at high volume.https://www.youtube.com/embed/N2ICtCO8TCw?feature=oembed

As we walked into Tesco, what was playing over the Supermarket audio system but:

Whatever I said, whatever I did
I didn't mean it
I just want you back for good
Want you back, want you back
I want you back for good

I’d been singing it at the top of my voice in the car minutes earlier. How do these things happen? Coincidence can be incredible. Can’t get rid of it now!

Tuesday, 5th October, 2021

 I must firstly wish Pauline a happy 70th birthday. She doesn’t look a day over 50 and probably won’t for years to come. She is blessed with the fairy genes of eternal youth. I hope she has a lovely day to remember. She received a second bouquet of flowers from her friend, Margaret, in Marsden who we will have lunch with in a couple of weeks.

Glorious morning after a night of strong winds and heavy rain. We are going out for a walk under clear, blue skies and gorgeous sunshine.

Yesterday was a day of sunshine and showers but mainly sunshine and we had a wonderful walk.  I’ve now completed 16 kilometres a day every day for 235 consecutive days or about 8 months. Quite pleased with that and it has built up an expectation in myself that I cannot let go of. I’ve got to do it every day for a year ….. at least!

I’ve got a nightmare few days ahead. Tomorrow, we are going to pick up lots of new clothes and I will have to try them all on. I cannot think of anything worse. I hate trying clothes on but it has to be done! I will not be taking any photographs for the Blog. That would be too embarrassing. My other test today is cooking which I’m quite looking forward to. I enjoy cooking but don’t get much chance with a specialist in the house.

Our lovely, Italian neighbours across the road have just had a new baby. A gorgeous little boy they have named Lorenzo. It is the Latinate name for the anglicised Lawrence and means Laurel Crown. As we walked, I imagined what it would be like to be 3 weeks old in late 2021. Little Lorenzo, with just a modicum of luck, will see 2121 and could see much more. Modern science is already talking of human life span being extended to 130 quite normally. Of course, there is a difference between Life Span and Healthy Life. Certainly, I would choose the latter over the former.

Pauline spoke to her niece in Florida on a webchat yesterday afternoon. We have tentatively agreed to go over for the month of March next year and to spend a couple of days in each of New York and Boston, Massachusetts. Having never been before, I’m rather looking forward to it.

Well, I acquitted myself reasonably well with the birthday meal. First, a bottle of Prosecco from P&C with some olives and then a mixed fish dish of monkfish tails, scallops & king Prawns in a white wine, garlic and butter sauce with tarragon accompanied by roast tomatoes with grated parmigiana, green beans and asparagus. Went well. We were both totally stuffed. Lots of lovely neighbours came round with flowers and cards.

Wednesday, 6th October, 2021

Got up a bit late this morning – 7.30 am – after a busy day yesterday. This morning is glorious and sunny with clear, blue sky just as it was yesterday. When I posted a picture of Pauline setting out on our walk yesterday with a clear, blue sky behind, Dave Roberts from Rochdale said it was raining there and friends from Oldham agreed. Other’s misfortune is so heartening, isn’t it?

I think I managed to make Pauline’s 70th Birthday enjoyable.  She has far more friends than she realises and they are drawn from across the world, across the country and across the decades. She heard from her niece in America and her friends in Malta, Spain and Greece. She heard from her friends in Dorset, Buckinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire. She has heard from distant relatives, old school friends, from old College friends, from former teaching colleagues and from people we’ve got to know on our travels. She also had neighbours knocking on the door bringing cards and flowers. The kitchen table is smelling delightful this morning and, for once, it’s not me.

There is new housing going up all around us. Our walk takes us through this park attached to some new housing and the builders appear to be using the idea of a drainage-soakaway to create a small lake. It is gradually filling under the sunshine to the joy of dogs and seagulls. Must be lovely to have a lake to walk around. Actually, it is such a lovely, warm day that we have cooked and eaten outside in the brilliant sunshine. Life can be good, can’t it?

We won the Euromillions lottery last night. Actually, the first prize of £153 Million wasn’t won but our £2.50 ticket produced a prize of £3.00. What shall we do with it?

Thursday, 7th October, 2021

After the most wonderful day yesterday with wall-to-wall sunshine, living, cooking and eating outside in the delicious warmth, this morning has opened quite grey. It is lovely and warm though so we are going out for an early walk.

Links across time, with our graduated past, are an essential part of the human condition. At times, we try to deny them, shut them out, concentrate only on the present, the now, but it is ultimately impossible. I have written before of my side on the Nature/Nurture debate shifting radically over the years, of looking in the mirror each morning to shave and seeing my Mother’s face. This morning on BBC R4 Today programme, I heard a poet reading this:

Mother, I find you staring back at me.

When did my body agree

to wear your face?

Imtiaz Dharker, from ‘Postcards from god

Why didn’t I write that? It is exactly how I feel. It challenges all my intellectual understanding of the human condition.

One of the things I really enjoy about the current use of social media is the way people I meet and ‘speak’ to and who have never met each other but connect just through my account eventually strike up an independent friendship. I am the ‘matchmaker’. I feel great about that. At the moment, for example, I’ve got a lad/man from College who I haven’t seen since 1972 striking up a friendship with a man from my school who I haven’t seen for 20 years. It’s lovely and they are brought together on a platform in which they find their political views coincide. They live nowhere near each other and may never meet in person but it opens and expands their lives.

Our home 1984 – 2000

In just the same way, we can maintain old relationships which we would otherwise have allowed to lapse in the past. Over a decade ago, our doctor bought our house in Helme, West Yorkshire. We left for Surrey and then Sussex. In the past, that would probably be an end to it but both he and his nurse wife have kept in contact with me through email and Twitter. They both contacted us yesterday to congratulate Pauline on looking so good at the age of 70. This sort of contact may seem intrusive but is well-meant and gives pleasure. We all need positive stroking! Hopefully, we’ll drop in and see them in a couple of weeks if we can fit it in. Our schedule is rapidly filling up now.

The other thing that means a lot to me is Travelling. Maybe it is the escape, maybe the anonymity of the foreign. It is certainly the challenge of different language and culture. Greece has always offered me that challenge. We will renew our relationship with the Greek language and culture next month.

Re-installed the British Airways app.

George Bernard Shaw said that Britain and the US are “two nations separated by a common language“. Certainly, the culture is very different and not one I buy into easily. That’s going to have to change. Last night we bought return flights for Gatwick-Tampa / 2nd – 30th March. We decided to splash out and go Business Class so we can have beds to sleep properly. The flight out is 10hrs but only 8½ hrs on the way back. We had to pay an additional £170.00 just choose our own seats/beds but the total cost was still an amazingly reasonable£4,950.00. Something to look forward to!

Friday, 8th October, 2021

At 8.00 am, we took the car in for the dent/paint repair it needed after some old dear opened their car door on to it in a windy carpark. We will be without it for about 8hrs but it is close enough to walk home through the woods and back again later to collect it.

The repair shop is on the edge of the PYO farm just 20 mins walk away. Such an idyllic setting fringed by these fruiting Sweet Chestnut trees. Our walk home is beautiful and peaceful.

The local Council has recently spent a couple of months resurfacing the woodland path with a light gravel mixture that drains well but looks natural and makes walking easy.

When we got home, a worker from Southern Water knocked on our door and asked if he could test the water quality. Don’t think we’ve ever had that before and, initially, I was suspicious. However, that’s exactly what he did and, apparently, the company does this constantly around the region. I have to say that we never trust tap water since living in Greece and everything we drink or use in cooking is filtered first. Just a long-term habit we have found unable to shake off. I drink sparkling water and certainly nothing from a tap unless you count a wine barrel.

To anyone who prevaricates and puts things off for years, my advice would be DON’T. You never know when the chance will be lost. I have never voted Tory. I will never vote Tory but, today, we learned of the untimely death of James Brokenshire, a pleasant, mild-mannered Tory minister who had never smoked but was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer in 2018, left government for treatment, was declared cancer-free but had it recur this year and died this morning at the tender age of 53. How awful is that? Think of all the hopes and dreams he will never achieve. Never leave things unsaid or undone. You never know!

We have now really got the travel bug back. Yorkshire soon. Athens in November. Florida in March and we have agreed to sneak another quick Christmas shopping trip to France in to December. Feels really good to be moving again.

Saturday, 9th October, 2021

What a lovely, lovely day! Warm – hot even – with blue sky and strong sunshine. To feel 22C/70F in October is wonderful. Packed quite a bit in. Up early and out to Rustington for fruit & vegetables. Next to the Garden Centre and Hobbycraft for Christmas Cake boards for the Domestic Goddess! Just walking in the sunshine is a delight. Next, on to Worthing to collect clothes orders.

It looked beautifully French this morning bathed in sunshine. Quite a few people around. We went to a Department Store and collected 14 parcels of clothes that Pauline had ordered for me. While we were there, she picked out three more shirts and bought them. I’m going to have to arrange a mortgage at this rate.

After that, we moved on to the Pier and Beach. Everything is changed by warmth and sunshine. People everywhere were enjoying life.

Must be lovely to be so relaxed about your life to be able to spend Saturday morning fishing at the end of the pier. While I was working, I could never have done that. I was constantly striving to improve and succeed.

Now, there are lovely things to achieve. For example, I’m getting fitter and actually buying clothes. I can hardly believe it. This afternoon, two of my neighbours came round to collect my Step-Climber machine. They tried to buy it but I just wanted it moving so I had space.

After they’d gone, Pauline ordered a rowing machine to put in its place. That will be much more useful. I might actually develop stomach muscles!

Week 666

Sunday, 26th September, 2021

Well, Brexit really is the gift that keeps on giving. Now we have panic buying of petrol. The cheapest fuel in our area is at Asda Superstore and people were queueing out onto the dual carriageway this morning. Incredibly dangerous. I panicked because I thought they were queueing for cut-price Shloer. We filled our car up a week ago and we still have more than 500 miles in the tank.

Really incredible that The Tories have had to re-embrace Freedom of Movement but think that all those European HGV drivers they made feel so unwelcome that they went home will now immediately reverse their decision and uproot themselves for a temporary job. That is the arrogance of the Right Wing. Even more galling is that this feeble government has had ministers out all week denying that the shortage of labour has anything to do with Brexit as Project Fear becomes Project Reality.

Our walk yesterday morning left us wet as the Sea-Mizzle got heavier before the sun came out. Fortunately, it was very warm which made it all bearable. We’ve got just over 3 weeks before we drive North for a week and we will try to cover all bases while we are there. I will still have to complete my daily exercise routine being a renowned obsessive. Our hotel houses the Health Club we were members of for so many years so that should help. We just have to hope the weather is kind to us. I must admit it is often a shock returning.

It will be 2 years since I have visited my parents’ and grandparents’ graves in the family graveyard in Repton. Similarly, it will be 2 years since we have visited Hollinwood Crematorium where Pauline’s Mum’s ashes were scattered. It will be good to do them that honour of remembrance again. It is a small gesture but worthwhile and makes us feel better.

Last night I wept …. again! I finally gave in and watched Judy Dench & Steve Coogan in Philomena. I have put off watching it for lots of reasons. If you can watch this film without getting absolutely furious, you are not me. If you are an ex-Catholic and watch this film without being driven to hatred, you get somewhere close. If you have ever lost a child and can watch this film without weeping copiously, you are absolutely heartless.

We have known for a long time about the Magdalene Laundries which were RC church institutions in which young women considered guilty of licentiousness, unwed motherhood or prostitution were incarcerated and forced into menial labour. The nuns treated the women so appallingly because their religion taught them that ‘sin’ must be ‘punished’ and atoned for. Philomena suffered a breech birth but was forced to cope without painkillers. She was allowed to see her baby for an hour a day until it was sold to American adopters. Although Philomena was incarcerated there in 1952, the last laundry in Ireland closed in 1996.

Martin Sixsmith, the former BBC reporter, accompanied Philomena to the USA to search for her son and I won’t spoil the story for any reader who is brave enough to watch it but …. it isn’t happy. I just so wish my Mother could have seen it. She would probably have denied its veracity anyway.

What a delightful day Sunday turned out to be. Our walk was in full, boiling hot sunshine. We returned in time for me to do my Gym routine (obsessive?) and then to cook our meal and eat it outside in the garden. Griddled Swordfish Steaks with Greek Salad was just wonderful in the sunshine. I wish the joy of these days on all my readers!

Monday, 27th September, 2021

Dark, wet and warm – sounds sensual, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s just the weather this morning. The temperature remained a humid 18C/65F overnight.

There are some horrible things that happen to old men. I know we hear women complain about the aging process a lot but men really suffer. Prostate problems, bladder problems, are common. We don’t suffer wrinkles and don’t have wrinkly skin as much as women but we do find hair sprouting from every orifice. Shaving every day is demanding enough and I had to order a new electric shaver last week but hair sprouting out of my ears and nose are horribly embarrassing. I’ve had to order a new ear/nose hair trimmer as well. What was once a slow and simple development, is now a strong and wiry protrusion. I don’t deal with these things easily or happily. I often look to my wife to sort them out for me. I can’t really see the grass sprouting from my ears but I’m determined not to look like an old, out-of-control man.

I try to be nice although I do realise I am disgusting. I try to be presentable although I do know I can be off-putting. I try to treat people well although I know I can be arrogant and opinionated. The last thing I ever want is to hurt someone. At the same time, we all have to hold views, opinions, positions and they will offend others of another persuasion. That can’t be avoided. All intellectuals expect and accept this division. Others maybe not. I do have to remind myself about the rough and tumble of intellectual debate. The overall rule I think one should abide by is not to deliberately hurt or belittle. Generally, I believe I live up to that principle.


Pauline’s closest school friend, who lived and taught in Halifax for 40 years, sold up and moved permanently with her husband to the small, Maltese island of Gozo where they bought and renovated a property and have been living there for about 5 years. We said we would go out and visit them and an article in the Sunday Times yesterday highlighted the superb weather Malta enjoys – over 300 days of sunshine, for example. Looks like it is one to put on the must-visit list. We must go where we are wanted and Malta definitely wants UK tourists at the moment. Could be a Winter destination.

Actually, we’re after Breakfast and the clouds have blown away, the sky is lovely and blue and the sun is shining. How life can change at the flick of a switch! We’ve had a lovely walk in hot sunshine. I’ve done my Gym routine (obsessional) and then we’ve eaten outside for the 5th, continual day. Strong sunshine over the Dining Table and goodness on it. This is the way to stay alive and meet one’s destiny!

Tuesday, 28th September, 2021

A warm night with a short burst of explosive rainfall. It woke me at 4.30 am. I didn’t mind at all. I listened to the World Service and then BBC Today programme and still got up feeling lively and optimistic. We decided to go out early for a walk as sunshine broke through the clouds. The walk was lovely, bright and warm. I felt good, fit and bouncy on my feet and found myself internally singing a song I haven’t thought about for over 50 years. This was released in 1966. It looks and sounds very much of its time:https://www.youtube.com/embed/U9zxj4RE0O8?feature=oembed

Sunshine came softly through my a-window today
Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways
It’ll take time, I know it but in a while
You’re gonna be mine, I know it, we’ll do it in style
‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine

Having done my exercise and showered, we were off to the Health Centre for our ‘Flu jabs. The jabs were free but it proved an expensive experience. I was inside the Medical Centre getting exasperated with all these old dears around me. They must have been at least 70 years old if they were a day! Anyway, having survived the Care Home atmosphere, we got out to the car – our new car with hardly any miles on the clock – to find someone had failed to hold their door in the wind when they got out next to us.

The wind was quite strong and we had a deep dent that cut right through the paintwork. The offending car was still there but I couldn’t face the wrangle of Insurance documents so we just drove straight down to our local car accident/body shop and booked it in for repair. The car will go in for one day in just over a week and the work will cost me £312.00. Annoying but at least it will be restored quickly. At least it will be done before we drive North. Pauline has requested our Covid Boosters before then as well. We will see.

I know this isn’t significant to write about really but it just shows the minor irritations of retired life. We’ve been in this house for 5½ years and we’ve hardly had to replace a single light bulb. It is a sign of the times. We have 18 still working in the Kitchen alone. However, one of the Cooker Hood bulbs had gone this morning and Breakfast was dominated by trying to work out how to get the old one out and a new one in.

The hood is a substantial, externally-ducted one that tantalises our neighbours with Pauline’s cooking smells. There was no shifting the glass cover on one of the bulbs. I always approach things like a bull-in-a-china-shop and with all the subtlety of a brick. I have a screwdriver out and start prizing the glass off. No luck. Pauline sprays it with WD-40 and out pops the glass without force at all. I’m afraid, I will never change!

I found out today that our car no longer has a CD player. I have to download from the internet straight onto the car audio system or convert all my CDs to MP3 format on a stick and plug into one of the USB ports in the car. I can do it but it is a bit long-winded because I have so many CDs to convert. Amazing to think this one USB stick will hold 877 media CDs. I will have James Taylor jostling with Mozart and Take That with Puccini.

Wednesday, 29th September, 2021

What a wonderful morning. Woke at 5.00 am and the sky was bright with stars. As the sun came up, the gorgeous blue of the sky gradually lightened and revealed a wonderful world. What will happen today? Went out for a walk at 8.45 am and it was absolutely delightful. My hernia pain has been a lot better for a week now.

I have never been practical but I have been logical. It is the way I think. When we looked at the learning styles required in Education, I was definitely a Abstract Sequential learner. I like logic. I love technology. I was quite shocked to find that I was quite good at I.T. but it has given me great fun for the past 30 years. Of course, Retirement can be dangerous because it is easy to fall behind with developments. I have tried to keep up and face new challenges.

I really enjoyed getting to grips with converting (ripping) my media CDs to MP3 files stored on a USB stick. When I tried it out on the car’s media console, it was immediately really simple and good to use and provides so much choice without fuss. Being Abstract Sequential, I am a bit uncomfortable with Fleetwood Mac & Rumours rubbing shoulders with Chopin Études and Elgar’s Enigma Variations but I’ll cope.

Something else which has been upgraded in the new car (It may be commonplace to many Readers already.) is the utility where text messages and emails come into the console, are posted up on screen and one can choose to have them read out loud by the media unit automatically so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

There is also a ready-made bank of replies chosen to fit the text that one can send back at the press of a finger.

This is what technology should be doing for us and I love it. I want more of it. Took Pauline out for her mammogram screening this morning. It was at a mobile unit in Tesco‘s carpark because every little helps. Quite fortuitously, actually, because I was able to fill up with petrol at the same time – a whole £11.00’s worth. I’ve only got 570 miles in the tank now. There was no diesel which should be banned from the earth anyway but there were no queues either.

Really loved today. Been walking on air. Lovely weather, enjoyable experiences. Happy times! There should be more of it. I’m so easily pleased really!

Thursday, 30th September, 2021

Yesterday, we were cooking outside in the sunshine. This morning is grey and brooding. It is still mainly dark at 6.00 am.  Even so, I have woken feeling optimistic and light, happy and hopeful. It may be misplaced. I may be deluding myself but it is definitely there. Went to bed late and got up early but feeling very energetic. Actually, the day will be quite busy.

I bet they don’t gleam like this!

We’ve got two firms coming today: our window cleaners are doing a full, autumn clean of windows, woodwork, soffits and guttering. It will take a couple of hours. We also have a company coming to look at insulation of our garage/gym roof. It is a garage and, instead of running a radiator throughout the winter in there as we did last winter, we want to conserve the heat we put in as much as possible. The process that we think will be most effective is a spray-foam one and we are looking for a quote today from a Southampton-based firm.

I won’t be doing this!

I am a planner and organiser by nature. It makes me look controlling which, of course, I’m not … very much. Got to organise timings for the next few trips. Firstly, I need to work out driving times so I can arrange meetings with people in Lancashire and Yorkshire. I’m going to go mad and give them my mobile number so it’s easier to control. I hope to use my ‘free’ day to go to Manchester on the tram from Oldham Mumps. Haven’t been to Manchester for so many years. I used to travel Mumps to Victoria on the train twice a week at one time particularly when I was going to the Business School in Oxford Road. Be interesting to see the developments over the past 20 years.

Only 2 Business Lounges available at Gatwick currently.

Next we’ve got to work out times for driving to Gatwick for our Athens flight, bag-drop times and going through security control. We are Gatwick ‘members’ and have been offered Premium Security to get through checks more quickly. I’ve got to book the Business Lounge according to times of arrival because we are allocated time-slots for arrival. At the moment, there are only two Lounges available at North Terminal so pre-booking is important although the cost is funded by our bank accounts through our DragonPass service.

I must be using my phone too much. My wife says it is permanently glued to my hand. I’m on my 3rd screen cover in just over a year and I’ve had to send for some more. I’m not offered a replacement phone until next June. This evening I weighed myself and was delighted to see that I had reached the same weight I last saw 36 years ago. I knew things were changing. I am getting younger by the day.

Friday, 1st October, 2021

Happy New Month to all our readers and all who don’t read the Blog as well. Important to mark the start of October. Got up to dark and wet this morning at 6.30 am but the weather has soon cleared up and we are destined for a dry day.

I’m reviewing my wardrobe once again as the weight falls. Last night I removed every, single, formal shirt and put them in a bag. This morning, we drove into Rustington and took them to a charity shop – Link to Hope – which was delighted to receive them. There is something quite exhilarating about getting fitter and losing weight and it becomes a project in itself. Throwing out clothes is rather re-affirming. It frames the determination never to return to the old ways. Could just do with a tummy-tuck now.

Saturday, 2nd October, 2021

Up at 6.30 am and out for a jog by 8.30 am. It was dry and reasonably bright but rain is forecast. After 90 mins of exercise, the world looks a much better place. Actually, it does anyway. I’m feeling so much more optimistic and confident now. …. hope it’s not misplaced! I think losing weight and getting fitter, having lots of exercise and fresh air has made a huge difference. Lots of vitamin D through sunshine has left me tanned and healthy. Probably drop dead tomorrow.

When I’ve finished my gym work-out, I’ve been told to return to my wardrobes and start throwing out all the rest of my clothes. Pauline loves buying clothes and she rarely gets the chance to buy any for me. I rarely wear clothes. Shorts & tee-shirt are enough. She took me to Next yesterday. Can you imagine it? I’m looking forward to buying some new suits really but I might lose a bit more weight first. I’ve been looking at Brook Taverner for suits. Not only do they look good but they are incredibly cheap. Back in the 1980s, I was paying £700.00 for handmade suits in Huddersfield.

I know of an on-line company called Moonpig who arrange digital greetings cards. This afternoon, out of the blue, a company delivered a large, pink box from moonpig.com. It was flowers for Pauline who is 70 on Tuesday. The flowers were sent from her niece who is living in Florida at the moment.

I know they are for Pauline but I love cut-flowers in the house and these gorgeous, Autumnal colours are lovely. We’ll be happy to accept a weekly order, thank you. I remember that I was quite disdainful of the fact that the Common Room of my College had vases of cut flowers refreshed a number of times a week when I was there. Almost certainly a hangover from when it was an all-female College for demure, young ladies. I didn’t meet any of those but I have matured and would appreciate the flowers now.

Equally, I will help out with the lovely bottle of Champagne that was delivered shortly afterward from …. www.moonpig.com but without any sender’s name. Frantically scrabbling around for the sender’s identity so she can thank them. Moonpig confirmed that the classy bottle of champagne was from Pauline’s niece as well along with an open invitation for us to go out and stay with them in Florida. How lucky are we?