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.
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.
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.