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?

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