Week 677

Sunday, 12th December, 2021

I couldn’t have conceived of this day arriving and yet this year has been momentous for all sorts of reasons. However, this morning I mark the first day of the 14th Year of the Blog. It may be inconsequential to most but, as a record of my daily life, it has meaning for me and what else can I offer?  As T.S. Elliot writes in Sweeney Agonistes:

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.

A dark, dampish start to the morning but incredibly mild. Having returned from France, Christmas planning is accelerated. Pauline has been marzipanning two Christmas cakes – once again, something I won’t get to taste! This morning we have to go out to Hobbycraft for decorations. I have done my jobs and printed out banks of address labels, and 70 copies of the newsletter. They will soon be winging their way to friends and relatives in America, Greece, France, Malta and, of course, many parts of the UK.

Marzipan Done

Out on our walk this morning under low cloud, fine, wetting rain started to fall and made it rather unpleasant. At least it got me clean! Going to finish off in the Gym watching the F1 motor racing and rooting for Hamilton.

Monday, 13th December, 2021

I have an early, Doctor’s appointment this morning. The investigation starts with blood tests. I’m sure I’m dying but aren’t we all? Until then, life goes on.

Christmas cards are going abroad this morning and UK cards out tomorrow. The card pictured above has been on the go, to and from our Norwegian friends, since 1997. Every year a newsletter is inserted and 24 years of to & fro has made it quite a bulky document. The spine has split and is patched up with Gaffer Tape but it appeals to me as an historical document. Nowadays, it goes to their Edinburgh home which we visited three years ago.

Pauline’s laptop is about 5 years old and not good enough for daily use so I’ve been looking for a replacement for her. HP are, in my view, currently the best company in terms of quality and support and that is where I’ve been looking.

PCs are incredibly cheap now and this model doesn’t even have a separate CPU but does include a solid state hard drive, CD read/writer and screen cam..

I must be one of the few people left in the world who have not watched the Norwegian, political thriller, Borgen. It is a drama about a prime minister’s rise to power and how power changes a prime minister. I wonder if Boris Johnson’s watched it. It should be just right for me but it is 3 series of 10 x 1hr episodes. To commit 30 hrs is quite considerable but it could get me across the awful, Christmas period.

Incredibly mild this morning after a warm night that didn’t drop below 11C/52F. It is mid December and I am going out in shorts and tee shirt. Feels good to be able to do it. I’m afraid the news is bad from my doctor’s appointment …. for my friends and family at least. I am expected to live a little while longer.

Tuesday, 14th December, 2021

It’s 6.00 am and I am awake, up and drinking coffee. I am a tormented soul. Yesterday I did a bad thing. Actually, two very bad things. I think it was as a reaction to my medical appointment.

The girl who reviewed my current health was effusive in her praise over my blood pressure, weight loss, skin quality. I don’t say this to brag but to mitigate my ill deeds subsequently. The girl who was reviewing me had a card on the windowsill of her office saying, Just Engaged. As I walked in she said, You don’t look 70! Who was I to disagree? I asked her about the card and she told me she had got engaged over the weekend. She didn’t seem over enthusiastic about it and she immediately pulled up her trouser leg and held her leg against mine, saying, Where do you get that lovely colour from?

She took my blood pressure. I warned her that I suffered white coat syndrome which was exacerbated by beautiful women. She said she would factor that in. Relax, she said. I closed my eyes as the monitor sleeve began to tighten. Suddenly, all hell broke loose and I shot up at the sound of a fire alarm. It was her mobile phone with a call from her boyfriend. It didn’t seem to spoil my blood pressure. She cooed over it. 

Came home feeling pleased with myself. Went out for a couple of hours walking and finished off in the Gym. It all went downhill from there. Wine with our meal …. and then chocolate!! To be honest, one thing led to another. I woke at 4.30 am hating myself. Why did I do it? Must focus and get back on the path of righteousness!

Positive moves at last!

Nice to see that the world of politics is entering a more positive phase. Twitter is alive with anti-Johnson/anti-Tory sentiment.

The wages of (wine) Sin.

The local news this morning featured a building that was dominant in the landscape of my teaching life – Hills Stores was the name the huge and beautiful Oldham Equitable and Cooperative Society building was known by.

Oldham Equitable and Cooperative Society – Hill Stores

The architect, Thomas Taylor, was commissioned to build this at the end of the 19th century. It must have been resplendent in its day. My sister-in-Law and her husband went dancing there in the 1950s. Pauline did Troupe Dancing there in the 1960s. When I arrived in Oldham in 1972, the building was already in a sorry state. Now, this Grade 2 listed building is on the Victorian Society’s top ten most at risk buildings. Even I’m in better condition!

Wednesday, 15th December, 2021

Another depressingly dull, dank day. It is mild and we have been 11C/52F night and day for three days now but so boringly dark. We need some excitement!

Headline agreement on the serious Press.

The political scene is starting to crank up. The Covid scene is coming to boiling point again. The UK Health Security Agency is warning of a huge wave of millions of infections coming by year end which will require far more stringent controls to avoid considerable deaths. The informed expectation is that family gatherings at Christmas will be severely reduced and pubs and restaurants may have to close through lack of staff because they are infected and isolating. This, of course, particularly exercises Tories who believe that we should be left to take our own decisions although they can never say why that doesn’t apply to drinking and driving or drug taking. See what I focus on in these empty, quiet days. Revolution!

Interesting piece on R4 Today this morning. First, a huge rise in inflation of 5.1% – the highest for a decade. Next was an interview with Banking Chief Executives who are announcing the closure of another swathe of branches on the High Street. They are being pressed to create some cross-bank facility for small businesses which are still accepting cash and need to bank it and some old people who don’t have smartphones and don’t bank online.

The only time I have and use cash is in Europe with a stash of euros to get rid of. I virtually never use a credit card directly now. Everything is paid through my smartphone and Googlepay particularly now the limit has been removed. It must be so difficult for people who don’t use and are scared of adopting these methods. This is always the problem with innovation. A few people are left behind and concern about them is a drag on progress. In this particular case, the pandemic has cut through the problem. Not ‘handling’ things like money has forced the move to alternative payment methods and ushered in the cashless society much quicker.

The scene on the beach …

Back in the mundane world, the walk this morning was hard. My legs are heavy and tight. The lack of sunshine makes it more of a chore but it has to be done. My app shows I have missed just one day completing my exercise regime in the past 11 months. I am determined not to pause until that is 12 months. I have managed 10 miles a day every day since April 6th and that will continue until I drop off my perch.

Thursday, 16th December, 2021

Every morning over Breakfast, we update our entry on the Zoe Covid-19 symptom tracker app along with 4.8 million other people across the country. Each day, infection rates in our local area of Arun are reported. Throughout the pandemic, we have been impressively low but not any more. In the past two weeks, rates have exploded, more than doubling in that time. We’ve got a tester coming from the Office for National Statistics Covid Study for their monthly check-up this morning as well. Got to stop living the high life.

I had done something quite revolutionary. I arranged to drive up to Maidenhead to have coffee with my brother, Bob and his wife, Jane. We haven’t done something like that for 50 years. Eventually, I thought the time was right and texted him. Of course, being daft, I chose exactly the wrong time. He has a shielding member of his family who he wants to see on Christmas Day and, although he is happy to meet us, I had to decide to postpone the reunion. Now, we will wait until the new year. A reunion postponed is an event to be savoured.

Bob & Jane with a couple of happy, little beans!

It certainly looks as if we did our foreign trips just in time. Greece has now moved to much more stringent testing demands for entry and France has reintroduced quarantine. It’s looking like Scotland, Ireland and Wales may close to English travellers very soon to limit virus spread. It’s beginning to look a lot like last year.

Still 11C/52F as I went out on my walk but I wore long trousers because it was so gloomy. A woman walked past – I have no idea who she is. – and rebuked me for not having my shorts on today. We just got home and the Covid tester arrived for an armful of blood. We are so well tested currently, there is little chance of being ‘positive’.

Friday, 17th December, 2021

I try to keep party politics out of the Blog as much as possible but, this morning, it feels as if the tectonic plates may just be on the move as the Tories lose one of their safest seats in the country. It has been Tory since its creation in 1832. Being a world beater, Boris Johnson has managed to turn that around. You can fool all of the people some of the time ….

Christmas is a sentimental time. It recalls friends and relatives. It involves contacts that, often, are only renewed at this time. We receive cards from staff and friends we haven’t seen since the 1970s. They live in far flung parts of the UK and even further flung parts of the world. These contacts always touch me and I make resolutions that I must do something more to keep in contact than an annual card. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Some memories are more important to me than others. I’m not bothered about Christmas but I really value the personal contact across time and space.

The Mabel Connection

Thought I’d feature a card which arrived yesterday. It is from Mabel who is in her mid-90s and lives in Uppermill. For many years, she was Head of Domestic Science in our school. She even taught Pauline at Hathershaw in the 1960s. Her husband died in his 90s over a decade ago. Our only contact is via our card and Newsletter and her card and scribbled note. The unbearable loss of time and space is encapsulated in that card and I always find it so hard to bear.  

This is why it is so important for me to Blog and record, to describe and remember. Life and the events of life are too important

The Sun is Risen.

Back in the real world, the beach was scruffy, deserted and bleak but the sun was pushing up against a blanket of cloud. Lots of little jobs today that amount to … almost nothing. Life is more important than this! I feel isolated from my past in an important way. I have to reconnect.

Saturday, 18th December, 2021

Lovely, sunny day. Did an early walk to blow away yesterday’s cobwebs. On the national front, the government is holding a COBRA meeting this morning with mounting Omicron infections on the agenda. All the informed talk is that there will be a nationwide lockdown with no inter-household mingling mandated as a circuit breaker. The only question is if it comes before or after December 27th.

Posted a card today to a lovely, little girl. She lives in Aberdeen but until recently was our neighbour. She is called Sharon which always struck me as an old fashioned name for someone so young. She split from her husband and moved away to be with her father who has now died. It’s funny and a sign of my age but she must be in her late 30s. Even so, I always thought of her as a ‘girl’.

After all these years of silence, Kevin has taken to sending me ‘stuff’ on Whatsapp. Today it was a Led by Donkies video message about sleaze in the Tory government. At least his heart is in the right place!

With inflation raging – as I predicted – and year end arriving, I am returning to consider what to do with money sloshing around in savings accounts earning virtually nothing. I can’t let it go on any longer.

The climate for buying and managing other properties feels too complicated at the moment. A series of variants and a series of lockdowns would make property management life just too complicated for a simple mind like mine. (You don’t have to agree!) At least in the short term, I need a home for money which doesn’t allow it to be eroded in value by inflation of 5% +. To do this, I don’t want to pay huge, management charges and so I’m considering a passive, FTSE-100 Tracker fund.

I like Hargreaves Lansdown and Fidelity which I’ve used before but I can’t decide how much to commit. Around 20 or 30 years ago, I didn’t worry about that at all. I just got stuck in. Being 70 has made me so much more cautious and I don’t like it. I am Aries the Ram after all. I don’t believe a single word of Astrology but I can’t believe how closely it fits me: “Qualities of Aries are courage, physical vibrancy, a strong will, bold directness and lust for life.” Of course there are some parts of Aries that don’t apply to me: “The irksome traits of Aries are being pushy, lacking any subtlety, wilful and arrogant.” Nobody could accuse somebody as wonderful as me of being arrogant! However, we Aries are risk takers. What is happening to me?

Just thought I’d include this item from social media to cheer up the sad and bored. There is always a bright side.

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