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.

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