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.

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