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.

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