Week 675

Sunday, 28th November, 2021

After a cold night with a magically clear and star-studded sky, the morning has opened distinctly cool at 1C/34F but with azure-blue and gorgeous sunshine. Isn’t life good? Well, we soft Southerners do feel the cold more easily than the peasants in the North who have long been inured to it with their diets of spam sandwiches and fishfinger butties but preparation is all and I don’t have any ‘Thermals’.

Damart Families are Happy Families

Going to have to search out the Damart catalogue that comes through the door on a regular basis.

I have got a woolly hat & gloves + Fleece for my outdoor walk and I think I’m going to need it today. Thank goodness we’ve got efficient central heating which we control over the web at the touch of a smart phone app. Everyone should use Hive or its equivalent.

Well, I’ve spent the weekend updating my circle of friends from College on current news and wishing them well for the coming month. One drew my attention to an article about the Horn Blower headed: Ripon’s first female Hornblower; ‘I feel very proud. It only took 1,131 years!’ For those who don’t know, the ancient city of Ripon has had a Hornblower closing the day at the obelisk in the city square since the year 886 and they have just appointed their first female one. Seems a bit premature to me although she is only an Assistant!

A female Hornblower? … Whatever next?

We have a busy few days coming up at the end of the week. Friday to Gatwick to collect P&C from America. This has now been complicated by the forthcoming requirement to take a PCR not just a Lateral Flow Test on Day-2 and then to quarantine until a negative result is confirmed. Hotel in Milton Keynes on Friday night. I then become a taxi driver on Saturday so Lunch with Pauline’s friend, Christine, can include wine. Monday we drive back down to the Tunnel and off to France for a few days Christmas shopping. Once again, this has been complicated by the introduction of PCR tests which have to be sent away and we have to quarantine until a negative result is emailed. Pauline has a hair appointment the day after we return so she will be scabbling around tomorrow morning trying to bring it forward to this week.

What a difference a day makes …

This is the same shot I took yesterday on Littlehampton Promenade. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was grey and cold. Today is bright and … cold.

Monday, 29th November, 2021

Identical opening sentence to yesterday. After a cold night with a magically clear and star-studded sky, the morning has opened distinctly cool at 1C/34F but with azure-blue sky and gorgeous sunshine. Strangely, my mood is diametrically opposed to yesterday when I was happy and relaxed. This morning I feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable. Why?

As the government is struggling to get to grips with the threat of the new, Covid strain on the one hand and with the threat of their Libertarian Right Wing on the other, so we are rapidly readjusting our arrangements in the light of the likely narrowing of possibilities. The change of testing regime at such a moment could really cause us difficulties. The requirement to isolate until a negative test has been posted will also cause us trouble.

However, for the Tories in general and Boris Johnson, in particular, the government have really got problems. Confected migrant crisis – we are in net, negative migration at the moment. Confected Brexit crisis – everything that they don’t like was negotiated by them and signed off by Johnson. The Tories and Johnson’s standing in the party are losing ground quite rapidly to Labour currently. Now their British Exceptionalism theme is under threat because of a resurgence of a new Covid strain. The Far-Right want to deny it’s happening. Oh, we’ve got to learn to live with it. (Code for: We’ve got to learn to die with it!).

The graphics accompanying this are trending on social media and are fairly representative of the current flow certainly on my wing of politics. I love people. I don’t know if I would be considered a Socialist but I love people. I am incredibly moved by people’s circumstances especially if they are less than my own. I instinctively want to help. Some, cynical people, doubt me and, sometimes, I doubt myself but I do try hard to be true to my principles.

Πάμε βόλτα / Let’s go promenading on a Monday morning ….

Today, our exercise involves two visits to Worthing town centre. Pauline was ‘feverishly’ buying outdoor coats. She accepted hers. I rejected mine. She was happy. I couldn’t care less!

Tuesday, 30th November, 2021

Olaf Palme

Woke at 5.00 am today on a grey morning. I’ve got quite a few things to get through. Firstly, I’ve had to buy two, new PCR Day-2 tests for our French trip next week. The Lateral Flow tests I bought for £55.00 are now redundant. I have had to buy two more PCR tests for £138.00. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate the return of the initial payment so it is a little less painful. Secondly, I’ve got to prepare PDFs of the documents required to show at the border and in shops, etc to prove Covid-Health-Status.

I am interested in people and, particularly, people through time. I remember very distinctly the shock at the murder of the Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme, who was shot dead in the street in 1986. I was 35 and Palme was 59. Like Palme, I considered myself a social democrat. His murderer was never found. Someone was initially imprisoned but subsequently cleared. Another man, who was long considered a suspect but eventually committed suicide, continues to be a shady prospect. At the moment in the Gym, I am watching this process played out in a drama.

Soon, I will be moving on to the story of Marseille, the Provence city on the French Mediterranean coast. It’s been on my list of places to visit for years. The city has long been a rich source of crime and deprivation seeing a confluence of French North African migrants and the drugs trade. The migrants live in deprived areas of high rise, shoddy apartments. The drugs trade operates rather like the Italian Mafia and the Mayors of Marseille have long been tainted by large amounts of money and the numerous murders associated that trade.

Marseille was founded as a Greek colony and later was a focus of the French Revolution before becoming a centre of French, post-colonial migration from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The Netflix series I am going to embark on, explores modern Marseille through its Mayor played by Gerard Depardieu. Sex, drugs and political power in the Mediterranean sunshine – what’s not to like?

Port de Marseille

Just as the pandemic began to strike, I was looking at apartment rental in Marseille so we could explore the culture. The idea was that a month or so there would get us in to the life of a Marseillais.

Had some lovely correspondence from North Yorkshire. Kevin managed a Whatsapp post. Emails from Julie and John Ridley. Both lovely, friendly tone. John Ridley was effusive in his friendship and has suggested that he would like to come down here to visit us with his wife. Because I am an avowed atheist and I’m always ribbing him about his Methodism, he headed his email with a coat of arms reading: Nisi Dominus Frustra (Without the Lord there is Frustration). You can say that again! I issued invitations to them all when we met recently. It would be lovely to entertain them here.

Wednesday, 1st December, 2021

Happy December to all my readers. Incredibly mild for the time of year. Being data-driven and obsessive, every first of the month has a number of obligations. As regular readers will know, that includes recording power consumption for the previous month on my spreadsheet and comparing it with the same time in past years. Yes, Bonkers, I know but … I am.

In the past, we have become accustomed to spending the month of November away in the sun. Because that hasn’t happened this year, I expected a large increase in power consumption but, because the weather has been so mild, we haven’t needed the heating and consumption has been quite low. As all readers will know, it is through data that we know the world and you can rely on me to record it.

However, I am no more bonkers than local newspapers. The MEN featured a major news story yesterday. Pupils throw Snowballs. Can you believe it? This was a Hold the Front Page Shock Horror of Snowfall in Rochdale which encouraged Langley pupils to throw snowballs into a bus as it passed.

Here, in the sunshine, it looks rather grim but we definitely had our fill of cold, snow and pupils slinging ice balls at each other. It was interesting and quite alarming to find the Health & Safety changes that  made us legally responsible, under Public Liability law, for the potential injuries that such traditional winter larks wrought upon us.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ehek4WPuXZY?feature=oembed

I was looking at the possibility of returning to Sifnos in the Summer and came across this film made about 4 years ago but set on the island and using all those backdrops that we know so well. I even spotted our house in the background. The acting, like so much Greek TV, is awful but the events leading from a ferry journey to walking the streets of the port and the Hora are so evocative that I have embedded it here.

On Sifnos, the Geraniums would easily get through the Winter still flowering but ours are still going in West Sussex. A bit faded I admit but I may get another Summer season out of them at this rate.

Thursday, 2nd December, 2021

Difficult day yesterday. I spent the morning preparing documents for entry and exit from France. This has been made more urgent because we will be away from home on Friday & Saturday. I sat back with a sense of satisfaction in the early afternoon feeling that everything was in order. I made sure we both had on our smartphones:

  • photos of our passports
  • Pdfs of the French Declaration d’Honneur
  • NHS app with 3 x Covid jabs listed.
  • French app – TousAntiCovid  
  • Pdf copies of the above
  • UK Passenger Locator Form
  • Day-2 Testing codes

All this just for a short trip to France? Just as I relaxed, we noticed the tickertape on Sky News saying France had reintroduced the entry requirement of a negative Covid Test result even in those full vaccinated. These have to be taken within 48 hrs before travel. How could I arrange that with 4 days until we travelled and how much would it cost?

Early searches suggested it would be very expensive and quite slow to arrange. Costs ranged from £120.00 per person with a 4 day turn around which would be cutting it far to fine. Eventually, we found a company who would deliver today and return our test result within 12hrs for … £22.00 per person. Even so, this raised stress levels.

This morning, and we still don’t know why, just before Pauline went out to the hairdressers, our mobile banking app went down. Another 20 mins of nervous energy spent at 7.30 am sorting that out. I managed it but could do without the stress!

Goring High Street

Drove Pauline to Goring for her haircut. The fairly mundane High Street was busy but freezing in spite of the sunshine. I did some walking while the haircut was done. Back home to meet DPD delivery of these extra tests and then out to Town to collect some new, ‘smaller’ trousers!

I have not really enjoyed Christmas since being a child. We have always ‘celebrated’ in the most minimal way. I certainly haven’t felt the need to do what so many of our neighbours do down here and even my sister who lives 5 miles away which is light up their homes. I’ve heard someone say they needed cheering up so started their lights in November. I need cheering up but lights certainly won’t do it!

The Jump of Doom

I don’t know if it’s just me or a common response but I often have the weird desire to jump when I look in to the watery abyss below. In these temperatures, it would be certain death from hyperthermia so there is no chance but that temptation/compulsion is there.

Gorgeous day but freezing!

Had to drive back into Worthing to collect … more clothes for me!!! I can’t cope. I’ve never had so many new clothes in my life.

Friday, 3rd December, 2021

Up at 5.00 am on a cold, dark and wet morning. In the Gym for an hour. Orange juice, shower and out on the road for 6.30 am driving to Gatwick Airport. I felt quite flat and the drive was horrible in dark and rain which refracted all the lights annoyingly. Worked out the intricacies of the Short Stay Car Park arrangements just in time to meet P, C & D from their Florida flight.

Drove them back to one of our old stomping grounds – West Byfleet. Always feels strange to return to these familiar yet unfamiliar places, to know instinctively where I am going yet feel uncomfortable in that knowledge.

The cleaners were just leaving the house as we arrived. The next big job after getting them home was to organise the conduct and despatch of their Covid PCR tests. Left to their own devices, they wouldn’t have had a hope of doing these successfully. After the expending of more nervous energy, the tests were done, the online forms filled in and, because they now have to quarantine until the results come through, we took them to the Post Office for despatch to the Lab..

Can you believe – a Holiday Inn?

They’ve all gone to bed to sleep off their 12hr flight. We walked to Tesco – about 30mins each way – to buy them a copy of the (shhhhh) Daily Mail. Now we are going to drive about 90 mins to Newport Pagnell to stay the night at the Holiday Inn before meeting up with Pauline’s old, College friend for coffee at her house and then Lunch at a local, Greek restaurant.

Saturday, 4th December, 2021

Well the attractive, Georgian house exterior didn’t quite live up to its billing inside. It lacked the modern comforts of sound and heat insulation. It was too noisy and alternately too hot and too cold. The bed was only a Double. We’ve been married so long we need at least a King-size! We had a Suite but it reminded me more of a Student Flat. I certainly won’t be using it again.

I was up and wandering round the hotel at 5.00 am looking for the Gym. Fortunately, I wandered in to the Kitchens where a young University student was preparing Breakfasts. I was taken up to the Gym by an IT Student from the University of Bedfordshire. We talked IT for a few minutes which was riveting at that time in the morning and then I did two hour’s workout.

We are having Lunch in a Greek restaurant so the workout this morning has been essential. Now, after a shower and cups of tea and coffee, the day is absolutely beautiful and sunny with clear, blue sky. Can look forward to the day now. Plenty of banter to come. We are meeting a self-proclaimed, Mouthy Londoner for Lunch so my style of sarcasm will be right in place.

Had a lovely time with Christine. I felt so sorry for her. Her husband’s cancer at 60 had been declared ‘free’ by age 62 and then reoccurred by age 68 and that’s when it beat him. Nice people should not have that battle.

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