Week 674

Sunday, 21st November, 2021

… at 5.00 am

A gorgeous morning although I was up at 5.00 am making a hot drink for my wife who is unwell. Pauline has a heavy cold and has been suffering for a few days. Fortunately, I have not caught it. It is definitely not Covid. We have been tested ‘negative’ 31 times over the recent past and the last one was two days ago. I am on duty today and will be cooking!

The sky outside is clear blue with strong sunshine but the temperature outside is only 7C/45F which is quite cool. Not sure if shorts and tee-shirt will do for my walk this morning. Hard to believe that we are nearly at the end of November already. In fact, because Pauline was unwell and I was awake early, I found myself thinking about my age and that there is so much more behind me than in front. It is scary and is the reason why I feel I’ve got to get on with things rather than sit around. There is no time to waste!

I have been trying not to waste time in pushing my exercise program. It is 228 days since I turned 70 and, since then, I have covered 2300 miles / 3,700 kilometres in exercising. It feels good to be back to fitness and it gives me the impulse not to sit still writing but to get outside doing. Today, I’ve set myself patio cleaning and house vacuuming as well as walking. 

The walk was sharp but delicious. Walks are always times to think. It’s interesting how the movement of walking stimulates the brain and moves thought patterns on. I always find conversation is more fluid when walking and never really understood why.

Today, the Mediterranean richness of the light pulled everything into sharp focus. I woke up this morning thinking about age. I know too much self-reflection isn’t necessarily good for one but I am an addict. My thoughts were crystalized as I walked past the developing Care Home (specialising in Dementia Care I think) on the periphery of our Development. Must get my name down while I remember!

Everywhere we walk there is decay – not to depress you, Dear Reader. Autumn is rapidly advancing and its debris is everywhere in our path. Let’s hope the Winter passes quickly and we soon see the green shoots of Spring. There I go again, wishing my short time away!

Wonderful meal today even if I say so myself. An economic, one-pan special of Chicken Thighs marinated in lemon, oregano & garlic and roasted with peppers, chickpeas and asparagus. Success again. The wine helped!

Monday, 22nd November, 2021

A happy marriage definitely involves separate bathrooms. I remember but don’t really remember living in a large, family home in the 1950s with no central heating and one bathroom. We had a second toilet and Mum & dad had a wash basin in their bedroom but the whole thing seems so centuries ago.


Unfortunately, I had 5 sisters which didn’t help. Of course, boys/men don’t really wash … they just pretend to but the girls take it all so seriously! In those days, baths were the thing and the water was heated by a Back Boiler which rather limited the number of people who could use it each day.

Nowadays, I hardly ever have a bath but I love showers. My wife has the biggest bathroom but I have the biggest shower and with a body like mine, it’s needed. In the Mediterranean, they can’t understand the British love of baths. They can’t understand people wanting to wallow in the water already dirtied by their bodies. Showers are de rigueur and, of course, they use less water for places that are hot, dry and where water is at a premium.

For me, there is something special about standing under a powerful force of hot water after exercising. And the water is always hot. We no longer have to wait for the heating to build up. The facility is there immediately we turn the taps. These are things we couldn’t have conceived of when I was in Primary School and using outside toilets in the school yard in the middle of Winter.

Gorgeous day outside with clear, blue, Mediterranean skies and strong sunshine. Still only 7C/45F but beautiful. Let’s hope we have a good day. At least we will be clean!

Tuesday, 23rd November, 2021

Another beautiful morning but cold – only 4C/39F at 7.00 am. A silver half moon is shining out of a crystal clear sky with sunshine coming over the horizon. At least there is no frost because I cut the lawns two days ago.

Something very strange has happened to me this year. Well a few strange things to be honest. Exercise is one change. For years I’ve been going to the Gym but, since developing a gym in the garage, I’ve taken it much more seriously. Walking outdoors is another thing and improved diet is a third.

On yesterday’s walk, and not for the first time, a man called out, You’re half the man you used to be! I pointed out that my wife had been saying that for years but it was nice to hear. I’m always amazed that people are noticing me at all although I suppose my radiant beauty does shine out and illuminate the area.

Really, the change that has most shocked me is my attitude to Fiction. For an English Lit. graduate and former English teacher, you would expect me to be a big reader of Fiction. As I’ve written before, almost since my initial Degree, I’ve not read Fiction for pleasure but always seen it as ‘work’, as historical evidence, as an empirical challenge. That was accentuated when I did a research Masters and I read 19th Century literature for its representation of historical ideas.

The world of Netflix

Fast forward to this year. Although I’m still centrally interested in politics and political philosophy & ideas, I have found myself gravitating back to Fiction on television. This has been partly because the post-Brexit political scene has been so unpalatable and partly because I needed distraction while working out in the Gym. I’ve been watching things I would never have even considered in the past. Call My Agent, for example, is a light, French series of inconsequential relationships so out of my experience that I could not believe I was getting sucked in and enjoying it but I was quickly hooked and binge-watched the whole 24 x 1hr episodes in the gym.

I’m now moving on to Glória – a Cold War, Espionage thriller set in Portugal and Germany. I like spy fiction I’ve found. The thing I particularly like about the Netflix platform is that it is cheap and universal. I can watch it on television, iPad or smartphone anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, 24th November, 2021

Overcast and cool morning. Had to go out to collect a parcel which UPS failed to deliver properly yesterday. Why Amazon can get it so right but others have such a poor service reputation, goodness knows. I ordered yet another smart watch, another Garmin. I use mine so much throughout the day to do so many things from telling the time to checking the temperature, to monitoring my activity and heart rate, to reading texts, emails and news flashes on the move that it quickly becomes scratched and battered.

Old & New

The current one on the left is becoming a bit the worse for wear so I’ve bought a new one which will do all the above plus play music and pay contactless without my phone or cards. Yesterday, UPS sent me a text to say they would deliver today. I went out for a walk yesterday afternoon and 10 mins after I’d left the house, they put a card through saying they had unsuccessfully tried to deliver. So, this morning, I’ve had to drive out to a collection point to pick it up. I now have the enjoyment of setting it up.

Next week, we are going to visit Pauline’s old College friend, Christine. We will first go to collect P&C from Gatwick airport on their return from Florida and then go on to a hotel in Newport Pagnell for one night. We are going to have Lunch with Christine in a Greek restaurant which will be nice and then drive back home before setting off again on the Monday to the Tunnel and a few days in France.

Thinking of taking the train into Gare du Nord and spending the day in Paris. Haven’t been there for a while and it would be nice to spend a crisp, Winter’s day walking the streets and visiting the shops and restaurants. It will be much more relaxing than driving round the Champs-Élysées three times as our sat.nav. once forced us to do on our drive back from Greece. This morning I ordered the Day-2 tests which we still have to go through when we get back. At least I got a 15% Black Friday discount.

Thursday, 25th November, 2021

Feeling happy and lively this morning. Beautiful morning as hell freezes over. Love these skies. they are so photogenic. Perfect day for a ‘selfie’! Waiting for it to warm up a little before going out walking. I’m enjoying getting to grips with my new watch. I’ve set it up without reading the manual … which is a typical ‘man thing’. I will download the full instructions after I’ve tested intuition to the max.

It is quite good fun using the music app to find things I like to listen to on my watch dovetailing in with my phone. 

We have the complex problem of arranging to collect an elderly couple, one of whom is partially sighted, from a flight landing at Gatwick North. Nowadays, you can’t just drive up to Arrivals and grab their suitcases. We have to book the Short Stay Carpark and hope the flight isn’t delayed. The website says it will cost us £35.00 for the privilege even if they are on time. Lovely!

While the temperature is going up outside as the sun takes effect, I am catching up on correspondence. I owe emails to Nigel, Julie, Christine and a Whatsapp to Kevin. I had a chat with a girl from 50 years ago the other day. I had no idea who she was but she knew me. It turns out that she had been the girlfriend of the unfortunate Bob Stephens who died very young of lung cancer. There are some amazing connections like that which give me pleasure. 

David Roberts, who seems to spend his time roaming the country and goes back to Ripon with incredible frequency, posted this advert for the Developers of the old Lecture Building at the College which is finally going under residential conversion. It is amazing how many of the past students express interest in returning to live there. It’s not something that would appeal to me at all. I’m more interested in people than places.

Absolutely freezing this afternoon as we went for our walk. I don’t know if it was the cold but I got terrible stomach cramps as I walked and really had to fight hard to complete. After a rest, I did a Gym session to complete my day. A shower followed by the most wonderful meal of Green Salad and Griddled Sea Bass fillets with Asparagus. There are only one or two things nicer in life than that but I won’t list them!

Friday, 26th November, 2021

Went to bed with a sore throat and painful ears. Slept well and got up early feeling full of life. Pauline is still suffering a bit with this horrible cold and the chat among old College friends is of many suffering from a horrible, persistent cold bug that’s ‘going round’. I refuse to be ill at any time! Watch this space.

It feels really bitter outside this morning and rather overcast. It is only 8C/46F but feels a lot colder. I am going out wearing CLOTHES today. To Rustington to buy fruit & vegetables and Christmas Cards. Later to Worthing town centre to collect new clothes ordered for ME!

Our Marks & Spencer is opposite the pier beach. Down there, the temperature was slightly warmer but, with sea breeze, it felt even more bitter. As you can see, there was no one on the beach even strolling and I didn’t stay long

Tempus Fugit

We were reflecting on one of our favourite topics this morning – the passing of time. It will be six years in March since we moved here from Surrey and over eleven years since we left the North of England. I always think of myself as cultured and sophisticated (irony alert!), of course but as soon as we start to speak to people down here, they say, You’re from the North.

It shocks me because I think I speak with fairly open vowels as my Mother, born in Croydon, taught me. She always mocked the Working Class voice and talked of Received or BBC ‘Estuary’ English speech. Certainly, Working Class or Dialect voices were rarely heard on the BBC in the 1950s and Announcers tended to affect a cut-glass pronunciation. Now Regionalism is in and ‘Posh’ is mocked.

I always remember being shocked and just faintly amused by a senior teacher in my school when I arrived in 1972. He said, I’m going there me. I had never heard that grammatical construction before nor had I heard of goin’ up the brew to the ginnel or wearing Keks. When Mum read stories to us as children, all ‘working class’ characters were given the same, guttural pronunciation. We knew what it was meant to convey – a lesser, lower status.

It was rather like golliwogs which were thought toys or collected with marmalade and had no racist connotation at all. Of course they did but it was so embedded in the culture that even many black people didn’t see it or voice it. How life and culture has changed over my 70 years. It leaves one wondering what those born now will look back on with amazement.

Saturday, 27th November, 2021

Quite a cold night – down to 3C/37F – and only vaguely sunny this morning but what people in our area long to see is SNOW. They almost certainly won’t and many here have never seen snow here in their lives. It was a constant factor in our Winter lives for 40 years traveling backwards and forwards over the Pennines and I will be pleased never to see it again. I checked my records for this time in 2010 and we travelled down from Huddersfield to Folkestone on a wine-buying trip in France but had to turn back because of a blizzard. We had a hazardous journey home and the next night went down to -19C/-2F which was the coldest we had ever experienced. Later that week, we completed a purchase of a property in Surrey and collected our new car. Busy times 2010!

Winter has returned over night to the North of England. The section of the M62 and A62 which we used every day in our professional lives was blocked over night and, although it will be passable this morning especially in a 4-wheel drive, I can well do without the additional risks. Of course, it can be beautiful. You only have to look at this Lowry-esque picture of Heaton Park today but it is not enough to persuade me. At least I am walking round our house this morning in shorts and tee-shirt but with no need for the central heating on.

Heaton Park Today

Our car insurance was up for renewal this week – two named drivers. Last time it was £392.00 and the automatic renewal was £420.00 this time. My wife, who doesn’t give a single penny out when unnecessary, went online as a new customer with LV and was offered the same cover for £361.00. She phoned the company and told them that is what she wanted and saved us almost £60.00. I’ve no idea how that compares with other people but it seems quite economical to me.

Bridget Riley across the years

Bridget Riley was an artist of significance in my student days for all sorts of reasons. She seemed to hold the zeitgeist in her eyes. Mary Quant, Carnaby Street, The Beatles, The Stones, Le Corbusier, Seurat and Pointillism all came together in her work. I have thought about her only occasionally over the years until a retrospective exhibition of hers was announced in Woking earlier this year. I have illustrated her here looking back from the age of 90 at her younger self. For me and my people it is poignant. Life is poignant, isn’t it?

Our walk on the Promenade today was definitely cooler than usual. Come back Summer. All is forgiven!

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