Week 683

Sunday, 23rd January, 2022

A dull, relatively mild day. Some say it’s Sunday but I wouldn’t know. Apart from exercise, we are expecting two, new chairs for the conservatory windows to be delivered by the ubiquitous DPD. An hour and a half walking and the same again in the Gym.

I know this is trivial but it interests me. Trends for the coming year forecast that the top choice of name for a baby girl will be – not Jane or even Rebecca-Jane but – Hazel. Can you believe it?School registers in the next decade will call out Hazel, Hazel? Second choice for a girl will be Olive. How time leaves us behind!

Not Rebecca-Jane but Hazel

Top boy’s name will be Albie followed by Reggie. Maybe they are following some television soap. I remember a few years ago when many kids were named after characters from Dallas. Certainly John & Jane are out of time.

While we are having a gentle, mild Winter, Greece is being hit by real weather. Today, even the Cyclades has been covered in snow. This is Mykonos but nearby Sifnos has experienced it as well. Unlike us, they will be celebrating the unusual event with fascination and joy.

I have been selected for the Oxford University Vaccine Immune Genetics Study which involves providing a specimen for DNA sampling and analysis. Initially, I just have to provide a saliva sample to be posted off but, eventually, I may be invited down to the University for more detailed examination. It’s all good fun.

Much of the day has been given over to keeping up to date with friends’ communication. Julie, an old, College friend, contacted me yesterday with some 50 year old images she had found for me in her collection. Unfortunately, I couldn’t open them. They had .dfr file extensions. Never heard of it and she was struggling with old software and a dilapidated laptop so I’ve been trying to help her out. Hopefully, I will have something to post in the near future. I’ve also been writing to John in Ripon, preparing a Birthday card for Amanda in Florida and a report for Sharon in Aberdeen.

Monday, 24th January, 2022

It is an ‘official’ INR reporting day and then a follow up with the Anti-Coagulation nurse. Always a treat! INR reading of 2.3 is pleasing this morning. 

Found a nice photo of Milly-Molly yesterday and made a birthday card for her which will be viewed in Florida in a few hours. Hard to believe that the little girl I played hopscotch with is 57 today.

I think my wife is beginning to wonder how long I will be around and about ‘legacy’. The Blog – the story of our recent past – is 13 years old and she would like it crystallising into book form. Rather than paper, I am considering an e-book format that she can review on computer, iPad or Kindle.

Kevin phoned me this afternoon to ask about my welfare which was nice. Ironically, he was struggling with a heavy cold which he attributed to being around grandchildren. It’s not a problem I have.

Tuesday, 25th January, 2022

Depressingly grey again and forecast to remain this way all day. I am lightening it by looking back to sunnier times. My friend, Julie, who has been a professional artist-photographer since leaving college, sent me this last night after rummaging around in her collection.

The Beauty of Youth – 1971

Emblematic of the past, the College is now redeveloped and sold as apartments. They are incredibly cheap. A 2 bedroom / 2 bathroom apartment is just £245,000 sold here on Rightmove.

Of course, all these things grow old, decay and fall away unless they are repurposed. It is better to renew and breathe new life into things. Of course, sadly, people are not so easily reconfigured.

Recently, an obituary was posted of this lady who died at the grand old age of 97. It is Ida Hall who was Head Cook at the College in my day although I didn’t come across her much. In fact, I have very shadowy memories of eating in College having lived in Digs for 2 years and then out in a flat in town for my final year.

It is a very strange sensation reaching back into one’s past. It can appear purely sentimental, self-indulgent but I’ve found it a necessary stage in coming to terms with my life, its events and ultimate conclusion. Psychologically, it is healing.

Wednesday, 26th January, 2022

It is overcast and cool AGAIN. I am staying at home because I am expecting a phone consultation with my NHS doctor. I don’t like these things. I’m not comfortable talking about myself on the phone. I much prefer to be face to face but I have to accept what is available.

Nog Manet

My old college friend, Nigel, has always been very ‘alternative’ (compared to me) and ‘artistic’. He and a few friends run the Bridlington Contemporary Gallery and they are currently putting on 30 presentations for 30 days of January. I have to admit to being totally lost by them but they seem to be enjoying themselves.

My doctor has phoned and told me that the result of my hernia scan suggest it is not dangerous but she will still refer me for urgent surgery. On my current experience, urgent is a relative term both for NHS and Private health services. Everything now depends on next week’s visit to the Nuffield and phone call from the NHS Colorectal Surgery Department.

Walking this afternoon and the sun is out, the temperature distinctly warmer. Feels good to be moving. Helps keep the blues at bay! Just renewed my Norton 360 security software for another two years which may be a little optimistic but we all need hope.

Thursday, 27th January, 2022

Life is a little empty at the moment. Woke up and, most unusually, didn’t immediately think about the things I had to get on with today. Feel rather like I’m marking time … for what? I was looking back to these days in earlier times and a decade ago in late January I was feverishly making all the arrangements for driving to our Greek home, booking hotels in Colmar, Alsace, in Modena, Italy and in Ancona. I was booking ferry travel down the Adriatic to Patras on the Peloponnese  and buying things to get us through our 6 months there.

We got addicted to having a Luxury cabin after a long drive across Europe. We saw it as a reward for the effort. When we do something once, it is always hard to trade down so we were always intent on securing one of the very few top cabins. I’ve just done a check on the price it would cost this Summer and it is almost exactly what we were paying 7 years ago. Return sailings with our car ad a luxury cabin would cost around £1000.00. Adding 2 or 3  hotel stops each way would around double that cost.

Thinking of going back to Athens and Sifnos in September if things go well but flying and renting a car. We’ll probably be away around a month. We won’t think about fixing these arrangements until the health position is clearer and until we’ve flown home from America and that is another reason why I am in ‘holding’ position.

Not Waiting for Godot who Becket never allows to arrive but rather marking time, just like the country, waiting for the Sue Gray Report and wondering how it is being edited in favour of the corrupt.

Friday, 28th January, 2022

Light FROST gave way to the most beautiful morning. Routine – Sainsburys shop followed by 90 mins walk. I will do another 90 mins in the Gym this afternoon. Going through a sad, flat, empty stage which is hard to deal with. We have a month before we fly to Florida and I’m trying to stay optimistic and believe it will happen. Seeing the specialist early next week and may have a better steer by then.

In the meantime, I am preparing for travel. My smartphone has suddenly gone haywire and I am having to do radical work on it but, today, I am downloading a travel app for flying to USA.

We already have dedicated apps for France and for Greece. These things really make travel so much easier and are worth investing time in advance of leaving.

There could be no better contrast between the past we leave behind and the future we embrace than illustrated by a story in the Oldham Chronicle today. I am a news junkie and I can feel the sadness of the oldest newsagent in Oldham closing after 100 years in business.

Hydes Newsagents in Tommyfield Market has been owned by a girl from Derker where I used to live and had been in existence since the 1920s. These places of historical interest have already lost to the digital age although some still haven’t admitted defeat. What is even more shocking is that some ‘old dears’ are still trotting out for their morning copies of the Daily MailDaily Express under the illusion that little has changed.

As I left the Gym physically exhausted so the sky spoke of the loneliness in the dying of the light. Do you ever look around and ask yourself, What am I doing here?

Saturday, 29th January, 2022

Beautiful and relatively mild morning opens a day which eventually reached 14C/57F with lovely sunshine. Out early for a 90 mins walk to get the first half of my exercise done. A woman came out of her house and said I was really pushing myself and asking how much weight I had lost. I’m always amazed that anyone notices although I shouldn’t be so surprised. We are always laughing about the fact that it is impossible to do the walk without seeing at least one DPD Delivery van. It’s almost become a challenge.

Woke at 6.00 am to the Farming programme on BBC Radio 4 and the topic was The Rising Price of Food. Pre-pandemic, there had been a trend to buying better quality food – fresher, more regional, more sustainable farming practices with less use of pesticides, more humane rearing of animals, etc. People were beginning to be prepared to spend more money for quality produce rather than go for the cheapest. This theme has been true of many parts of Europe for years. France, for example, spends a much higher proportion of their weekly budget on cooking and eating good food.

The UK has long been addicted to cheap food. I remember family Sunday Lunches in the 1950s when a whole roast chicken was considered a luxury for the Middle Class table. Mum & Dad would drink a bottle of sweet, white Sauterne wine with it – the height of fashion. We were a Middle Class family and ate relatively well for the time in which we were living. We were also living in the countryside which made good, fresh produce more easily available.

Beetroot Chutney making in the garden

Throughout our married life, Pauline & I have almost entirely eaten good food, usually made from good ingredients at home. We rarely bought ‘junk’ food, ‘fast’ food, ‘take-away’ food although Friday Night was Chinese Night for quite a few years while we were working. We had a wonderful Take Away in our home village of Helme with the loveliest Chinese family running it but Saturday morning was always greeted by mouths dry from the inevitable monosodium glutamate that is so often used for added heightening of flavour.

Although she rarely accepts it, Pauline is a genius in the kitchen. We rarely eat a disappointing or unhealthy meal. Every ingredient is carefully sourced for quality and price. In comparison, eating out in restaurants is so disappointingly second class that we just don’t do it. This weekend is making new batches of Beetroot Chutney, Tomato Chutney and Strawberry Jam. The chutneys are cooked out on the garden kitchen table to avoid the all-pervasive smell of warm vinegar which would linger in the house.

Beetroot & Apple Chutney

We will eat this chicken, slow roasted with garlic, lemon and tarragon tomorrow. It cost just £3.60 and will provide us with at least two meals. Absolutely incredibly cheap. Over the past couple of weeks, we have tried an experiment. We bought a similar size, ‘better quality’ chicken at a cost of £13.80 and, although the taste and texture was superior, it was nowhere near 4 times superior to merit such a price. Cooked in the right way, the much cheaper product is wonderful.

Week 682

Sunday, 16th January, 2022

Warm but overcast this morning although we are forecast for sunshine later. Feel a bit overcast anyway so going out for an early walk to blow it all away. Before I do, Google has sent me an interesting (for me) map-line of my geographical movements over the past 5 years. Most of this has been done in the car although recent Athens trips and the Tenerife trips have been flown. Hopefully, next time the line will extend across the Atlantic. Actually, although we collected our new car at the beginning of September, I noticed yesterday that we still haven’t quite reached 3,000 miles on the clock. That includes 2 trips to France and a week in the North of England.

Isthmus Korinthos – 1882

I’ve driven across the French/Italian/Swiss Alps many times and across the Peloponnese which takes one over the Isthmus Korinthos or Corinth Canal. It is a major feat of engineering from the late 19th century. To think how many men suffered and died in its construction is unimaginable. My friend, Kevin, told me recently that he had sailed up it on a cruise and thought it the most boring thing. Mind you, he is very much older than me so probably struggles with his mobility. Nice of him to keep in touch though.

Monday, 17th January, 2022

Up early and out at 7.30 am for a drive to Southlands Hospital in Shoreham-on-Sea. A beautiful sunrise promising a lovely day. 

Sunrise over the Sea – Worthing Beach – 7.30 am.

Half an hour later, the scene was very different. Down the coast to Shoreham-on-Sea and into Southlands Hospital. Reasonably empty carpark and extremely empty hospital. This was the scene:

Sunset on Health

When I tried to be proactive and phoned the Hospital to find out when I will be seen under the 2-week referral rule for colorectal cancer, I was told that the 2-week rule was being stretched to a 4-week wait and then only followed by a telephone call which may lead to them examining me. This just seems deliberate prevarication. As a result, I have reluctantly booked a private appointment at the Nuffield in Chichester with a doctor who specialises in colonoscopy and hernia repair. May kill two birds with one stone – to coin a phrase.

We promised ourselves that we would stay healthy and never become ‘ailment bores’ and, here I am, becoming exactly that. I will try not to mention it again … until tomorrow. Meanwhile, never pay for flowers in Sainsburys. Just ask us. We keep having flowers thrust upon us for ‘free’. It wasn’t even too early but we were offered 4 bunches of roses that were past their sell-by date. They’ll be fine for at least most of the week and then we’ll go back for some more.

Tuesday, 18th January, 2022

We were out walking at 8.30 am today in lovely weather with bright sunshine. We had determined to set off driving to Southampton by 10.30 am so had to get the exercise in early. As we drove down the 50 mile trip to IKEA in the centre of Southampton, a text from my lovely doctor, Giorgeta, told me she would phone to talk me about my scans on Wednesday. She’s a lovely girl and I’m lucky to have her. Kevin sent me an encouraging message asking after my welfare as I drove. You really do find who your friends are in this situation. Kevin suggested that people who shop at IKEA suffer from Stock-Home Syndrome.

Southampton is actually lovely but the view from the carpark at IKEA is not the best as it looks over the container port:

Haven’t been to IKEA for around 5 years but little has changed. We wanted a couple of slightly quirky, retro chairs for the conservatory windows and thought these in IKEA would be alright. They are cheap at £200.00 each and worth a try but we thought it would help to sit on them first. 

After a pleasant hour’s drive out and a nightmare negotiating the multi-storey carpark, we got to sit in a number of chair styles and, finally, decided on these. They will be occasional chairs in the conservatory corners for slumping to watch television before our meal is cooked.

Wednesday, 19th January, 2022

Beautiful morning and quite mild. Expecting a phone consultation with my doctor first thing and then out for a walk. While waiting for that, I am trawling the news websites – internationals, nationals and locals – and a regular is the Manchester Evening News. Just can’t let go of old haunts.

Heywood, Lancashire

As Boris Johnson and the Tory Government are on the skids and quite possibly falling out of power, the MEN has taken the temperature of one of the red-wall seats in its area. This picture of Heywood tells one so much about the ‘Forgotten North’ and why they thought the great, blonde walrus would be their saviour. When you are so down-at-heel, a major change seems very appealing. Unfortunately, it is losing its attraction and recent polling suggests the Tories are not going to be retained in this constituency.

Tory Bury South MP, Christian Wakeford has, as I write, defected to the Labour Party and David Davis, former Brexit Secretary quoted Oliver Cromwell in Prime Minister’s Questions today saying:

In the name of God, go!

Oliver Cromwell – 1653

This is devastating for Johnson, in particular, but for Brexit and the Tories in general. The waters are lapping around the foundations of the Government. We just have to see how long it takes for them to collapse.

It is 6.00 pm and a young girl with ‘red-lead’ coloured hair has appeared at our door for the monthly Covid tests. We are so accomplished in them now that the whole thing is over in 30 mins. So £50.00 for half an hour or earning power of £100.00 per hour is a reasonable rate even now. Sainsburys will benefit at least. When I took the results out to her car, I found it was a grey Mini with a ‘read-lead’ coloured roof to mirror her hair. I like quirky things like that!

Thursday, 20th January, 2022

Another beautiful morning. This really is turning out to be a non-winter winter. We are out early to Sainsburys which is shockingly low on fresh produce this morning. At least we passed Go and collected our latest bunch of cut flowers. I’ve bought a new, low calorie drink which really appeals to me – Coconut water which is only 50 calories for a litre. Pauline says it tastes like soap but I like it. I like coconut and it is good for me.

I am struggling at the moment to balance calorie intake which has led me to eat lots of green vegetables against my blood coagulation or INR which is controlled by Warfarin but counteracted by the Vitamin K in the vegetables. Currently, I am having to take increasing amounts of the blood thinner and this is not completely comfortable. I’m getting a lot of agonisingly painful abdominal discomfort.

Really lovely walk this morning without discomfort. Winter sunrises can be so delightful in that lonely sadness.

Friday, 21st January, 2022

Glorious morning of clear, blue sky and strong, low sunshine. High in the sky heading across the Channel are the aeroplane exhaust trails sunlit in deep orange, symbolising hope and possibility. Up early and going out for a walk immediately after Breakfast because we are driving up to Surrey for a couple of hours to visit P&C. Just hope the M25 is alright.

As I was reading yesterday, I found this animation which shows plants taking up and releasing carbon as the seasons change. The Earth seems to inhale and exhale in an animation that shows how carbon is taken up and released through the year. The irony of the juxtaposition in these two paragraphs is not lost on me and not, I hope, on my readers. Still, we have to live (or die) and life requires hope both in the short and long term.

The closest we’ll get to the Christmas Cake.

Really enjoyable drive up to West Byfleet, Surrey to visit P&C. The roads were delightfully quiet even the M25. We stayed a couple of hours and ate delicious cheese-straws. We even tried a bit of the Christmas Cake but left the rest for C to finish. Unfortunately, we left warm sunshine in Sussex and entered the chilly, grey atmosphere of Surrey but you can’t have everything.

While we were there, I received a call from the hospital offering me an urgent, Consultant contact on February 3rd. Doesn’t seem that urgent to me. It will only be an initial phone consultation and there is no guideline as to the wait for a colonoscopy. I’m glad I’ve booked an earlier, private one but will still speak to the NHS consultant. I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst!

Saturday, 22nd January, 2022

Very different morning after quite a difficult, fitful night. Not cold but overcast and sombre. Out early to Worthing town centre. We rarely if ever go there on a Saturday. Being retired, it is easier to shop on the quieter weekdays days. As we drove in down the coast road, we saw streams of runners jogging past the beach.

It turns out that there is a park (aqua) run of about 5km at 9.00 am every Saturday. All age groups, body sizes and running/walking styles were there. Cyclists were going in the opposite direction ….

…. and down below the shale, dog walkers were throwing balls across the low tide sands. Above them all was a grey morass of heavy cloud.

Got back from our walk this morning to find a card from Florida had arrived. It was from Milly-Molly and friends saying the had booked us a reservation at the local Tommy Bahama restaurant in Sarasota.

Already choosing from the menu – fish, fish and more fish! Nice of them to send it. Really hope I get there. Only just over 5 weeks to go.

Week 681

Sunday, 9th January, 2022

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S.Eliot – 1910

I come back and back and back to Prufrock and the fragmentary tangle of life’s stream of consciousness encapsulating anxiety, desire and disappointment.  We all experience it. Some of us allow it into our thoughts and some of us successfully rebuff it.

In line with making the most of every minute, we are going out into a beautiful morning and under a lovely, clear sky to walk for a couple of hours. I really had to work hard in the Gym yesterday because it was wet most of the time. We were able to grab an hour of dry in the evening for a walk round the area. Just illustrates how ‘etherized’ I am. Not in the pub or the restaurant, not even on the couch before the TV but pacing the countryside under a rapidly dying sky, nodding at dog walkers and courting couples who have a lifetime ahead of them.

The parkland about 20 mins walk from our house shows the signs of yesterday’s heavy rain. It is lovely to see blue sky and walk in the sun. It’s good to do it early as well. Liz has just messaged me to say she’s done a long swim and saying age is irrelevant. She’ll soon enough find that age is the only thing left! Poor girl.

Today is Annual Accounts Day. Everyday, Pauline records our financial movements in & out. She forward projects financial positions across the year. This is all computerised but, once a year, we produce hard copy for her files and today is the day. Financial Report number 43 will be committed to 38 pages of transactions to file this morning. The rituals of marriage!

Monday, 10th January, 2022

Out for an early walk at 9.00 am on a dull but reasonably mild morning. Doing it this way makes it easier to do a couple of hours in the Gym in the afternoon. I am expecting a phone call from my doctor about my recent test results and the reason for my urgent referral on. Resigned to it.

Nuffield Department of Medicine – Oxford University

When we got home, I had received a letter from the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University under the auspices of the Office for National Statistics. They have selected me for a further study called the Covid Immune Genetics. It will involve me providing them with material to establish my DNA and then I will be invited to their Labs to provide 2 Tablespoonsful of blood to compare my T-Cells and Antibodies with my DNA. Sounds interesting. Mind you, if the results of my bowel test are bad, I won’t be able to take part.

Just 10 years ago this week, we were living in Surrey and we drove down to the South Coast in search of ‘the best fresh fish’. I had found this company in Brighton and thought it sounded a good source. It turned out to be a beautiful place but little did we know then that we would sell up in Greece and move down here to live. It’s strange how lives turn out isn’t it?

I have received no phone call from my doctor just a postponement. I had built myself up and I am in anti-climax. A number of my friends have contacted me supportively. Of course, it is times like this that we realise who our true friends are. I am not afraid of dying but I need to make things right for my loved ones.

Red sky at night … across the sea from Littlehampton Beach. Maybe a delight will follow. We will see later in the week.

Tuesday, 11th January, 2022

Up at 4.30 am. Couldn’t sleep. Too many thoughts charging around my head. Pauline checked my on-line medical notes at the surgery to find that they had said the ‘abnormal faecal haemoglobin’ result of my test had been recorded as ‘Expected’ and that ‘No Further Action’ was recommended. Was this good or worrying news?

I know this is very self indulgent but it’s my Blog and I can indulge myself. Until the Doctor phones me, I won’t know why she should have ‘expected’ a result that was off the scale. I can only speculate that it is my daily doses of Warfarin or my current Hernia which has some overlapping symptoms. Is it an NHS economy response? When I discussed my hernia with her, she openly admitted that it is just the NHS cutbacks that prevent me having automatic referral for surgery. Reading about Colonoscopies, the NHS is hugely stretched and referrals on are strongly discouraged at the moment. I am totally opposed to it but I have already started pricing up private treatment for both problems.

Under lowering, darkened skies, today has been a stretch. After getting up at 4.30 am and not returning to bed, tiredness, exercise and more tiredness has left me reflective and empty. Must get an early night.

Wednesday, 12th January, 2022

Awoke to a glorious morning after a better sleep. Going to be an interesting day. Certainly be interesting to see Johnson on the spot at PMQs at lunchtime. My computer’s bootup screen threw up a photo of Central Park, New York this morning. I’m looking forward to visiting it in March.

Central Park – New York

While we were in Sainsbury’s today, I passed the ‘Travel Section’ and bought a couple of US plug adapters with USB sockets as well. Never knew before in all my 70 years what American electrical sockets looked like. Quite interesting. We carry so many gadgets now that we need a portable power station to charge them.

Instead of leaving early morning for Gatwick prior to a long, transatlantic flight, we’ve decided to book an airport hotel for the night before. We like the Sofitel which is walking distance of the Terminal so we will treat ourselves to a nice room with a runway view. We might even be able to check in for our B.A. flight the night before which will leave us unencumbered by baggage in the morning.

Incredibly lovely, warm and sunny day here today. On our walk we pass people out gardening, sunbathing and just enjoying the world. Wildlife has once again been fooled into thinking it is Spring as birds advertise their prowess loudly from the tree tops.

Thursday, 13th January, 2022

Early phone call this morning from my Doctor to inform me that I had been urgently referred for a Colonoscopy at Worthing Hospital. I don’t really know what that means. I don’t really know where my colon is or what it does. I know nothing about my body at all. Never did any Biology in school ever. I did Physics and Chemistry. Girls did Biology. I’ve had to look it up and I don’t like the look of it.

Can you imagine it?

This procedure will take place within the next 10 days apparently. I have also now had three referrals to the Radiology Department concerning my suspected Hernia. We spoke to them this morning and I expect to hear back sometime today about a CT Scan. I’ve no idea what that is either.

I prefer this one!

I’ve looked it up and it appears quite straightforward. I’ve just had a phone call back to say I am going in first thing on Monday morning. At least things are moving although I really am not used to thinking about medical conditions and I’m very uncomfortable doing it now. Let’s hope I can get some definitive results soon – however bad.

Absolutely gorgeous day and we drove out to Lancing Beach to enjoy it. On this South Coast, the lead on to most beaches is via a wide stretch of grass fringed with Chalets.

We had gone to Shoreham-on-Sea to seek out the hospital where I will go for a scan on Monday. It is quite a nice drive of about 9 miles down the costal road.

There is something so uplifting about this Mediterranean light and these wonderful, rich colours. It felt deliciously warm and comforting. Ironically, it heightens the sensuality and joy of life even as it is most threatened.

Friday, 14th January, 2022

I’m afraid that this is going to become even more boring than usual for readers of the Blog. I record events of my daily life and, I am ashamed to admit it but my body is currently dominating events.

Yesterday, my doctor told me I had been referred for urgent, 2-week endoscopy investigation. This morning, in a phone call to the NHS hospital, we were told that 2-week urgency was now being stretched to 4 week and, even then, it would only be a telephone consultancy before any physical examination booked. This is too protracted and I’ve decided to buy private treatment. I have spent the morning trawling through hospitals, operation fees and consultant’s expertise and reputations. I find it all a bit demeaning but I am shocked at the effects of the pandemic on the NHS’s ability to work.

With all this going on in the background, it is ironic to find the world outside painted with the most wonderful sunshine. We are going to visit the beautiful Elmer Beach .

Elmer Beach – Bognor Regis

This is the most beautiful, lonely space like some lunar landscape. It is a place to reflect on existence, on sadness, on the brevity of life. The parking is a nightmare! The residents definitely don’t want us there. Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not wanted anywhere?

Saturday, 15th January, 2022

Early walk and then cleaning the car. Life doesn’t get much better than this. Actually, assuming we do make it to America in March, I’ve been looking at hotels for a stay in central New York. It will probably be a one-off so I’m not going to stint on it. We will need somewhere nice. I’ve been looking at a couple of places.

New York Hilton Midtown

The New York Hilton Midtown is within walking distance of Central Square5th Avenue and the Theater District.

The Millenium Hilton Downtown

The Millenium Hilton Downtown is near the World Trade CentreCity HallWall StreetLittle Italy and China Town. They are not so expensive but almost all rooms in the centre of the city seem to be disappointingly small. Struggling a bit at the moment so trying to do future projections to take my mind off it.

Week 680

Sunday, 2nd January, 2022

I must apologise for not wishing readers a Happy New Year. Even the white rabbit is late. I was too preoccupied to even think straight. Hope it’s better late than never. We went out to visit our former neighbours who moved last May but not too far away. They are settled in to their downsized house and are very happy. Both in their mid-80s, they exercise regularly and look fit for their ages. I intend to do the same.

First day of the new year saw me resolving to punish my failings by upping my exercise routine. I am going to try to get the main section of it over earlier so that I can do a second gym session in the afternoons. I spend too much time at my computer and moving would be better. Awake at 6.00 am, the regular, Sunday exploration this morning centred on a favourite topic for me – running away, from people, from places, from memories. My thoughts immediately turned to travel once again. Greek islands, Canarian islands, Spanish villas, Athens, Malta, America all flooded through my mind. Must get away!

The beauty of small, Cycladic islands is that it is easy to get lost and hide away. Certainly, for much of the year, they are quiet, almost deserted.

Of course, the other route of escape from reality is through fiction. What am I saying? By day in the Gym I’ve been watching a Netflix production of a Harlan Coben novel – Stay Close. It is an American Noir Thriller recast in Blackpool, UK. It has certainly distracted me from the walls of the Gym and the pain of the exercise.

By night, we have been deeply immersed in the political world of Danish government and the trials and tribulations of a magnetic, female prime minister. We are about to complete the 30th and final one hour episode and have become so involved in the lives of the central characters that losing them will be like a bereavement. I will need to find something else to distract me and salve the pain. I don’t deal with these things well.

Monday, 3rd January, 2022

So, ‘officially’, it’s New Year’s Day today. Someone should tell the wildlife around here. Birds singing like it’s Spring and they have to get on with it. Rabbits frolicking like they are getting on with it. Moles tunnelling like crazy and squirrels chasing around just for the fun of it. And yet we are told that this week is when peak ‘Blues’ hits with humans as they prepare to return to work. My little sister suggested that I might want to respond to the government’s request for retired teachers to return to the classroom as Covid depletes the workforce. I told her that I might be mad but not THAT mad!

Sifnian Bowl – circa 1980s

We all process experiences, emotions, memories in different ways. My experiences are encapsulated in words, fragments of poetry that helped me interpret what has happened over time. Things, the detritus of time, are not so important. In fact, I like a good clear out and a clean start.

Pauline deals with things very differently. Whereas I am as open as a book with my emotions, she has much more self control and parcels up her thoughts and experiences and invests those memories in things , artefacts of her past. Quietly, she imports them into her daily life and uses them to maintain her memory. The lovely bowl above was designed and made a few hundred meters from our Greek house and is now a store for cleaning things in the kitchen here.

The napkin holder above is old, chipped and definitely not to our taste but Pauline bought it for her Mum many years ago and we now use it daily as a reminder. On the window sill above the kitchen sink is a glass ornament that was in my Mother-in-law’s flat and was saved when we cleared it out. It features a butterfly above a flower in a single-stem vase. Kitsch it may be but it is a memory and a daily reminder of past times and a lot of love and warmth.

Forty years ago, we managed to secure a flat in a warden-assisted block in Waterhead for Pauline’s Mum. She had no furniture and we had to completely kit it out right down to crockery and cutlery. We bought lampshades that were available and popular in the early 1980s.

Not every man has his Mother-in-Law permanently overlooking his bed but this dome lampshade hangs and has hung in our bedrooms and was one of the originals that we bought for her and we saved when her flat was cleared.

Not every man has his Mother-in-Law permanently overlooking his bed but this dome lampshade hangs and has hung in our bedrooms and was one of the originals that we bought for her and we saved when her flat was cleared. 

Finally, à propos de absolutely nothing, this song by Elton John – Sacrifice – is driving me mad. I don’t even like and never have liked Elton John but I heard this song a couple of days ago in a film clip I was reviewing and it has taken over my head. I am leaving it here in the hope that that will be an end to it. It probably won’t!

Tuesday, 4th January, 2022

Another very warm day although not very sunny and we saw bouts of heavy rain at different points.

Sunrise on Littlehampton Beach

Had to do some shopping so went to Asda for some items – The shelves looked unexpectedly spartan. – and then on to Sainsburys where the shelves were shockingly empty in a number of areas and particularly fresh fruit & vegetables..

Sainsbury’s this morning.

We had to go to the independent Greengrocer in Rustington to source a lot of our fresh produce. As we drove back home for coffee, rain and sunlight combined to produce the strongest, longest and most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. Is there hope?

I love gadgets. I love automation. Automation-led gadgets are just wonderful. I’m an early adopter. Often, I pay for that literally in high early prices but also in many early failures. Today, I had some remote controlled spotlights delivered. They are controlled with a remote handset which allows one to switch on/off, choose the lighting colour and intensity and even set a time for automatic switch off. I’m going to enjoy playing with these.

I have upped my physical output and my body is starting to creak a bit but it will soon get used to the extra demands. We went out for our daily couple of hours walking and then I did another hour in the gym this afternoon. The punishment feels justified and necessary. I will only know in a couple of months by results.

Wednesday, 5th January, 2022

Glorious day of brilliant sunshine from clear, blue skies. Had to go into Worthing so took the opportunity to walk on the beach. The photos will already have become monotonous for some readers but they do record a moment in time.

Beautiful day in Marbella-on-Worthing looking over to the white cliffs of Brighton.

Plenty of people around enjoying the weather but, strangely, nobody swimming. We did our shopping including walking through the streets where the Wednesday Open Market weaves. Lovely to see French traders with cheese, wine and pastries on sale. If only I was allowed to eat them!

The wonderful Mediterranean colours.

Back home we have our walk to do and my cooking to eat. I have prepared two, Greek dishes – Ρεβυθιά (basically a chickpea soup) and Kοτόπουλο και πιπεριές (Chicken & Peppers). They are winter warmer / comfort foods. I love cooking although I’m nowhere near as skilled as my wife who makes it all look so easy.

Actually, what I have cooked is extremely healthy. Pulses, onion, garlic, tomato, olive oil and oregano. This is one of the reasons why Greeks live so long. If I’m going to get another 30 years, hopefully things like this will contribute. Now, we’re going out for a couple of hours walk followed by a short gym session happy in the knowledge that our meal will be ready when it’s done.

Thursday, 6th January, 2022

Glorious day with beautiful weather. The question is what to do with it. Actually, we are just carrying on carrying on. As on most days, we make a list of tasks to be completed, activities to be undertaken, achievements to be …. achieved.

Sad isn’t it?

As you can see, there is plenty to do but nothing too momentous. The most interesting thing will be filling out our ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) applications. It cost $14.00 and last for 3 years.

We are starting to prepare for that trip by ordering things we will need on a long flight such as the FFP3 ventilator masks and circulation support flight socks. We will need Summer clothes for Florida and Winter clothes for New York and Boston.

One of the more interesting events of today for a dusty, boring old sod like me is the release of the 1921 Census records. This has come about because there is an embargo on publication for 100 years. The records for 1931 & 1941 were destroyed in the war so the next release will be in January after my birth year. It means that I will probably not get to see my own records released for 1951 although I am trying and, on that note, my bowel test results have just come back with an urgent referral to the Colorectal Team so I may not make much longer at all.

Friday, 7th January, 2022

Tried to speak to a my doctor yesterday afternoon to get some context on my test results and the urgent referral on. The earliest I can be spoken to and then only by phone will be Monday. I have a vivid imagination and I’m a bit of a drama queen even though I try to portray calmness and stoicism.

I went to bed thinking through a scenario of bowel cancer and woke up convinced there was no alternative. Amazing how just the thought colours one’s judgement. Supposed to be buying things for our US trip in March. Suddenly struck me that it might not now happen. Even in the gym, I found myself thinking about whether it was worth the effort.

Still, life has to go on and Sainsburys was on the list for today. Out early – got to make the most of every minute – and the strangest thing happened again. I don’t know if we look needy or worthy old souls but, for the third time, an employee approached us at the self check out and gave us a bunch of flowers. I love cut flowers in the house and we still have a Christmas display spreading a delicious aroma of sandalwood and cinnamon in the Hall which Sainsburys provided ‘free’. Now these will grace the Dining Table for a few days. Mind you, I don’t think I would have forked out £20.00 for them which is what they were selling at.

I’m glad I got to reconnect with old friends from the North and both Kevin and Julie contacted me on Whatsapp after I posted a view of the beach in lovely sunshine on Wednesday. Ironically, both suggested they might come down for a swim in the sea off Marbella-on-Worthing. It would be nice to see them again. I hope I do!

The weather here is quite pleasant today. We’ve done our walk. In Yorkshire 12 years ago today, I recorded that the temperature went down to -12C/10F. Don’t miss that. We were just speculating what Northern weather does to classrooms with open windows and doors for anti-Covid ventilation. Can’t imagine it in our school. 

Saturday, 8th January, 2022

A warm but dark, wet morning. I’m feeling a bit sad, vulnerable and sorry for myself today. I’m going in the Gym to urge myself out of it. Just been watching a Rick Stein travelogue from Bordeaux. We’ve been meaning to visit for ages. I’d love to be there now. Wonder if I’ll make it.

Bordelaise Bean Stew

At least Stein inspired me to prepare a Bordelaise Bean Stew for Dinner. Rather like the last one I cooked but this time with Haricot Beans. I am going to serve it with pieces of cod, monkfish and king prawns. Hungry already.

Kevin has just contacted me to remind me he is 72 today. I must admit that although I store most birthdays in my memory banks, Kevin’s has not been one of them. I regret our lost time. So many of my contemporaries are actually older than me. I have to continue running to keep up!

It was 20 years ago this week that we joined a Health Club. It was Nuffield based in the Holiday Inn, Brighouse. Gym, Pool, Sauna/Steam Room, Jacuzzi. I was more playing at fitness in those days. It was more for recreation and relaxation.

Fitness was important back then!

We were paying about £1000.00 a year. When we ended our David Lloyd membership here two years ago, our fees were around £2000.00 annually.

Week 679

Sunday, 26th December, 2021

Heavy rain again over night and this morning looks distinctly gloomy. Did a couple of hours walk early on in a window of relative dry although all around were the signs of the morning after the night before. Even so, it is incredibly warm – 11C/52F.

Back home to coffee and communications for me – bread making for Pauline. We do what we enjoy! Pauline enjoyed pre-producing the Christmas meal for her family. Her only fear was that Mandy would destroy it but she seemed to cope.

The Abernethy – ‘Deliveroo’ Christmas Dinner

Amazingly, Mandy seems to have quite an artistic flare judging by her decoration of the Cheesecake. Who knew that?

I’d have liked some of that!

Find anything rich or sweet quite hard to eat now. My eyes say, Eat it and my belly says, You’re going to regret that! If I give in to my eyes, my belly says, Told you so!

Monday, 27th December, 2021

A dark, wet but very warm day. It’s going to be a gym session rather than outdoors today so another few episodes of Borgen will bite the dust. I am absolutely loving it. Politics, sex and intelligent drama – what’s not to love?

This series could have been made with me in mind. It makes one think; it makes one feel; it makes one cry. For me, it wraps up many of my thoughts, emotions and passions eclectically. Intelligence is so attractive and sexy because it isn’t comfortable and easy but difficult, prickly and challenging. It has to be won over.

This week marked the deaths of two, dispirit characters. Few would mention them in the same breath – Archbishop Desmond Tutu and DJ Janice Long. 

You only have to look at Tutu – endearingly know as Arch – to see the searing intelligence in those piercing eyes. A man who bravely challenged Apartheid but also challenged the subsequent ANC government and even chastised Nelson Mandela. A man who loved life and saw humour and delight in everything. His only weakness was a deluded belief in God!

I know little or nothing about Pop Stars or DJs after 1972. I knew of Keith Chegwin but didn’t know his sister was the BBC R1 DJ,  Janice Long   … until this week. Chegwin died 4 years ago at the age of 60. Janice Long died this week at the age of 66. Just look at the health and vibrancy of them both in this photo. Where does it all go … this 70 yr old asks? Well, I’m determined it’s not going to leave me and the people I love without a fight. Every time I go in the gym, it is a mind over matter fight and the hope is that it will all be worth it.

Oranges from Valencia

Every morning my Breakfast consists of the freshly squeezed juice of 3 Valencian oranges from the Martin Avarro producers. They taste like the condensed goodness of Spanish sunshine. Of course, I may well be deluding myself but I hope they will set the conditions for my continuing health.

Tuesday, 28th December, 2021

For late December, these are quite bizarre days – actually quite bizarre at any time. The weather is incredibly warm. All the talk of rising energy prices is laughed at by the weather which has meant not needing the central heating on. We are forecast to be an unseasonal 16C/61F over the next few days.

Night …

Of course, the sun is Winter-low but the beach looks wonderful in the strong, bronzed glow. Not easy to photograph but beautiful. Beautiful but sad in the distance of the horizon – the history of time and separation.

… and Day

There is a movement on the web for January challenging people to Run Your Age in miles over the month. If I did this, I would be expected to cover just 70 miles over the 28 day, 4 week stretch. I fact, I am committing myself to do 4 x that amount – 280 miles in 28 days (admittedly more fast walking than running). I will have done 10 miles every day for a year by the end of March as I approach 71 years old.

Our walk today started off with warm, damp air but saw the sun break through over the two hours we were out. We meet lovely people while we are out and, having followed that route for quite a few months now, many are becoming very familiar to us. Even the rabbits, squirrels and robins are not shying away any more. It’s lovely!

We keep getting forced to accept free bouquets by Sainsbury’s staff. It must be the early time of day that we shop when they are replacing stock. This morning, it was a Christmas display infused with scent of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger. Not wishing to disappoint them, we accepted gracefully and it is now on display in the Hall.

Wednesday, 29th December, 2021

A dark, wet, depressing day. Got a Doctor’s appointment and a visit to neighbours so we’re doing a Lateral Flow Test first…. We are both Negative! Next a couple of hours in the Gym. 100 is the new 70! Keep going you mad fool. However, can’t ignore the hernia any longer.

Skinny Lizzie

My little sister, Liz (aged 64), has just messaged that she has now recovered from Covid after two, unpleasant weeks but her husband is still infectious.

Had a full service at the surgery today with checks for prostate and bowel cancer along with further checks on a inguinal hernia. I was comprehensively examined by a wonderful, female doctor from Romania. She told me that she qualified in Bucharest and then had to do the full re-qualification in London before she could work here. Now, after Brexit, she is preparing to go back to her home country to be with her family.

Poo-in-a-bag kit

I had the full, digital-rectal examination. An absolute delight. She felt my hernia. That’s big, she said. I bet you say that to all the boys, I couldn’t help replying. Her faintly amused reaction suggested she had heard it all before. She is at least fast tracking an MRI scan but told me not to expect surgery unless I was in emergency bowel strangulation. I asked, as a doctor, would she advise people to wait for an emergency to address a problem when the outcome would be far less optimistic.

She said, Of course, I wouldn’t. Welcome to the modern NHS. The government are trying to encourage you to pay for private treatment.

This is exactly the reason I’ve been resisting it but we do have one of the finest Hernia Departments in the country about 15 miles away in Chichester at the Nuffield so it looks as if I will be buying my treatment there at a cost of about £4,000.00. Before that, I have to poo in a bag and deliver it to the surgery by 11.00 am any weekday for analysis. Now that is a job to be envied.

Just to complete the medical theme for today: Roger Gale who you will all know as a Kent MP was reporting on Twitter this morning that it was impossible to get PCR/LF test kits in his county today in advance of New Year celebrations. He had telephoned the Secretary of State (just like we all do) and got no reply. Three hours later, the Minister of Health phoned him back to say, There is a world shortage of Lateral Flow & PCR test supplies. Within the hour, Boris Johnson was interviewed on TV telling everyone to celebrate carefully by taking a test before mixing with others. Joined up government? Across Twitter, people from France, Germany, Switzerland were tweeting, No shortage here!

Thursday, 30th December, 2021

On this day, 43 years ago, in a small Pennine village church, Pauline and I got married. We had been ‘going out’ for less than 8 months and had lived together for 7 of them. The day was freezing cold with heavy over night snow and the council gritters were on strike making it very difficult for our guests to get there. I don’t know if men are supposed to or not but I really enjoyed the day and look back on it with lovely memories. Pauline had done all of the catering for the celebration.

Today, we are celebrating that day with a special meal accompanied by a very generous bottle of champagne given to us by Mandy. Pauline is enjoying herself preparing a celebratory meal once again:

  • Roast Pigeon served cold & sliced on a bed of Salad Leaves and dressed with Raspberries & Balsamic Vinegar.
  • Griddled Sea Bass with Garlic & Green Beans.
  • Vanilla Cheesecake.

Of course, somethings never change. We went out for our two hour walk in very gloomy conditions. Actually, we are getting considerably quicker at completing it now. Today, for example, we arrived back home almost 10 mins earlier than we were doing some months ago. We’ll probably have to do another one after this meal.

Friday, 31st December, 2021

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. As one year ends and another prepares to open, we look to the Future while remembering the Past.

On this day in 2008, I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and have taken daily doses of warfarin (rat poison which some would say is very appropriate). For the past 13 years, I have been monitoring and recording my INR. It was discovered purely by luck when I went for an eye test at Specsavers and it has almost certainly saved my life.

On this day in 2009, we were still in Yorkshire and the Pennines were blanketed with heavy snow and we were driving over to Oldham to visit my Mother in Law. A year later, Pauline’s mum was dead and we were in London.

On this day in 2010, I was doing things I would never normally dream of doing – wandering around Covent Garden, Lunching at Wagamama, on to the Dominion Theatre to watch the ‘Queen’-based musical written by Ben Elton. Not my sort of thing at all but the others enjoyed it. Back to TGIFridays in Covent Garden for Dinner before taking a late train back to Surrey.

Our home for the month of January, 2016

On this day in 2016, we were making our final arrangements before setting off for a second month in Canarian sunshine prior to moving in to our new, Sussex home. We were staying in the sleepy, South Tenerife area of Los Gigantes where we enjoyed wonderful sunshine and warmth during a British winter.

New Year’s Eve – 2020

Today, the world is depressingly grey, damp and downbeat. My weather station says humidity is 93%. Warm but wet. On this day last year, we were bathing in Sussex sunshine on our local beach. …. and time moves on.

Saturday, 1st January, 2022

A strangely ‘flat’ end to the old year – we didn’t even open the champagne. Feels quite an uncertain start to the new year.

It feels harder to be sure of anything at the moment, harder to make plans. We sent about 40+ Happy New Year texts whizzing around the country/world but they couldn’t convey the uncertainty. Before we started, we had already received greetings from our Greek friends who arrived in 2022 two hours before us.

Will we make more tracks in the sand in 2022?

Later, I received video footage from Kevin in York celebrating by watching one of his daughters perform in a local pub. She’s a singer in a band and looks a carbon copy of her Mother 50 years ago. Life goes on and rather leaves us behind. Sometimes, I think my need to travel is as much running away from something as running towards it. At least the last year saw a breakthrough in reuniting with friends from the past and Kevin is one.

First activity of the New Year – exercise. Going out for a walk on a beautiful, warm and calm morning. The sky is criss-crossed with plane trails and, as I stand out in the garden, three sparkling, silver slivers are hurtling high above my head towards the Continent. It would be nice to be on one to …. anywhere!