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.

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