Week 686

Sunday, 13th February, 2022

I couldn’t sleep and was up at 3.30 am. I’m not sure why. I had a problem whirling round my head that  I had been trying to resolve in the past few days and a solution came to me as I lay restlessly in the darkness. I drank tea, sitting quietly alone in the Office as Pauline slept above. I watched Sky News and strained to hear so as not to wake her. 

As we prepare for a trip to America, I am gathering together all the necessary documents that are demanded of transatlantic travel now. Little M advised us to download a travel app called Verifly in which we can integrate all the disparate forms of proof/evidence for fitness to fly. When that has been achieved, a single QR-Code is produced which can be presented to Airport check-in.

Unfortunately, Pauline’s smartphone has suddenly gone haywire. Lots of apps refuse to open. Even AppStore refuses to open. We use Android smartphones and I hadn’t a clue what had gone wrong. At 2.00 am, I suddenly realised that it had something to do with her Google account. I opened it up, reset her Google password and everything went back to normal. Life could continue smoothly. By that time, it was 4.30 am and I was into my second cup of coffee. Pauline was snoring gently so I couldn’t wake her.

The bedside radio comes on at 6.00 am every morning – a bit late, I know, but we can be lazy in retirement. Breakfast at 7.00 am and then out on a 90 mins walk by 9.00 am. Our walk follows a familiar route around the perimeter of our Development, skirting the wood and past the Rugby fields which are on the far side.

Early on Sunday mornings, parents and girls and boys aged from about 5 – 20 years, congregate around about 6 different pitches. Mornings are training sessions and there are usually around 150 kids in different groups being commanded to Pass! or Run!. Girls groups are featuring much more commonly now – for Rugby! Surely they should be taking up crochet. This morning there was a cold wind as they trained. The kids were oblivious to it but I felt for the bystander parents and grandparents.

Our 90 mins walk was a bit more mind over matter than the usual enjoyment. I was tired before I started having slept only a couple of hours tthat night. With all this exercise, you would think it would knock me out. Instead, I carry the world’s problems on my shoulders.

Monday, 14th February, 2022


Gorgeous morning for a Birthday or anything else. My generation were 21 50 years ago this year. In older age many of us are becoming more health conscious. A former College friend who lives in West Yorkshire posted a photo yesterday and said that he had just bought a pair of 32″-waisted jeans for the first time since he was 21 in College days. For me that would be positively skinny.

I have walked at least 10 miles a day every day since April 6th – my 70th birthday. Actually, I’ve walked 3220 miles in that time. Last month, I averaged 11 miles a day. I’m afraid to say that I haven’t had a 32″ waist since 1965 and I’m never likely to see one again however much I ramp up my exercise.

I’ve been out to Sainsburys to satisfy my latest obsession – unsweetened almond milk. I bought some originally when we made a first ever visit to a Lidl supermarket. It cost £0.80 per litre. I loved it. Our normal shop is done at Sainsburys but the milk cost £1.20 and is quite unpleasant. Looks like Lidl will become one of our regular shops. Always liked the Germans.

Over night, our Honda sat.nav. updated itself over the satellite and 3G wifi. We locked it on Saturday and left Serena – a delightful girl announcer happily in the entertainment centre.

When we started off on Sunday, James had taken over and he was only giving directions without using street names. It’s never happened before. This morning, I have searched the settings and managed to reinstate Serena. Phew! Much prefer to listen to a woman.

Last job this morning is to make sure our smoke alarm batteries will get through the month of March without annoying our neighbours. We have mains-powered smoke alarms with battery backups all over the house. Last time we went away for a month, the backup batteries failed on our first night away and intermittently screamed for the next 48 hours until a neighbour with a key came in and turned them off. Can’t run that risk again. Too embarrassing.

Although they are mains-powered, the integrity of the whole system is compromised if just one battery goes down. Trouble is they only need replacing every couple of years or so and I forget how to get the casings off. I’m not very practical at the best of times. Fortunately, I found this clip on the internet that deals with our precise model. Amusingly, even the demonstrator here has difficulty doing the job.

Last job to be ticked off the list today is to widen our mobile roaming contracts to the USA. We have unlimited calls/texts plus 50mb of web data. We have to pay just £10.00 each extra to use our full allowance in USA for the month of March.

Tuesday, 15th February, 2022

We are forecast for some rain later in the morning so went out at 8.00 am for a 90 mins walk. We just got away with it before light rain began to fall. At that time in the morning kids meet in the park we walk through. Their school is nearby. We were just remarking how delightfu kids are round here. Having spent most of my teaching life in Oldham, the topic of kids in parks was associated with truancy, dug taking, drinking, sex in the bushes, fights and all other manner of anti-social activity.

Kids in the Park

As we walked through the park yesterday, kids were using the outdoor gym equipment that the park managers had provided to exercise together. Others were sitting at picnic tables using the 5G Wi-Fi signal that is strong there. Others were meeting up after school on their bikes or using the small skateboarding facility. Nothing was rowdy or excessive. Today, as we walked through, kids were on bikes on their way to school. Nothing is more shocking than when a teenager politely says, Thank you when we stand aside to let him bike past. It must be the sea air!

Late last night a man appeared at the door with a huge, Amazon box. His first question was, What year were you born? I told him 1951 and he replied, You’ve just made it! I thought it was a joke until I opened the box to find a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates. Apparently Amazon don’t deliver alcohol to underage clients. They were from our good friend and ex-colleague, Margaret in Oldham. Pauline had told her I had got the all-clear and she had taken the trouble to send me these gifts to celebrate my reprieve. Could almost have been my birthday!

I wrote a couple of weeks ago of a delightful telephone conversation I’d had with Jane Eyre, Surgical Registrar at Worthing Hospital. She was gorgeous to talk to and intelligent with a voice to drown in. This morning, I received a lovely, long letter from her confirming our conversation and what we had agreed. She had told me that she was 33 and kept responding, Cool to everything I said. Her letter today rather shocked me by referring to me as a 70 year old, independent gentleman who is a retired teacher. All of those things are accurate but faintly damning.

My job today to be ticked off from the list is choosing the best place to buy US Dollars. Because travel has been so restricted of late, a number of FX firms have closed down. I used to have Euros home-delivered by International Currency Exchange but they’ve gone out of business. I still have an account with Moneycorp who I used in selling our Greek home.

I spent an hour or so researching the options and thought Travelex looked the best for home delivery and exchange rate price until I found that nipping round to our local Tesco would give me quite a few more dollars for my pounds.

Wednesday, 16th February, 2022

Up early and out walking at 8.00 am. I need to get the first 5 or 6 miles in before I go off to the Hospital for a pre-op review of my hernia. If you ever wanted to be bathed in the glow of kindness and civility, this experience would have done it for you. My appointment was at 10.20 and I was told not to arrive before that. When I checked in, at the main desk, I was told to sit in the waiting room. I had hardly sat down when my name was called by an elderly, white haired lady. She took me to an office where she weighed and measured me.

She had barked out an order to follow her. I said, Are you Irish? She said, I am. How did you know? She became all coy, gentle and girlish. I told her I could hear the lilt in her voice. She was from Tipperary. I was there in 1966, I told her. You’ve been to Tip? You’ve been to Tip?, she exclaimed like some excited teenager. I told her about my trip and how an Irish girl had inducted me into smoking Sweet Afton cigarettes. She was putty in my hands. Oh, I haven’t heard those words for so long, she said, sighing.

She took me in to meet the Consultant who greeted me warmly. He had read all my notes and knew exactly my position. His badge said he was called Marcelo. He was Italian although his English was perfect. I told him I loved Italy and particularly, Lucca, Bologna and Parma. I rambled on about driving the Autostrada del Sol but he seemed extremely pleased I liked it. He told me that my hernia was significant and required surgery. I said I was going abroad for the month of March and he kindly volunteered to list me for after we came back. I will probably be a day patient.

Le printemps est arrivé …

I had gone to the hospital in shorts and tee-shirt. The temperature was 14C/57F and the Spring sunshine was delightful. We drove back via the beach where the tide was on the turn and the scene was lovely.

We had to be back for a visit from the ONS Covid Project who had come to take Lateral Flow tests and Antibody tests which we’ve become very proficient at. Kevin tells me he is off to Spain at the weekend and Julie seems happy with her lot although I do think she is rather lonely deep down. John Ridley and I are quite enjoying catching up on each other’s lives. He, like me, is perpetually busy and looking to travel particularly to South Korea where his son is teaching and making movies. Of course, they are all older than me. Everybody is thank goodness.

Thursday, 17th February, 2022

The days are running away but today is an absolutely beautiful one. En route to Sainsburys, I took a detour past the beach. So warm again this morning and none of the expected wind so far.


We had reports of the storm hitting North Yorkshire with this dramatic photo of Whitby harbour.


A wonderful, warm and sunny walk this morning with gulls circling, gliding overhead and daffodils and crocuses flowering under foot. Spring is a time of optimism and hope. I still have hope and I’m naturally optimistic.

The thing that will dominate politics over the rest of this year will be inflation and cost of living. I predicted this months ago and so it is happening before our eyes. Petrol/Diesel is at a record high price and household fuel bills are massively increasing. Food and clothing prices are up. This morning, BT told me that my services – Fibre Broadband, Digital Phone and BT Sport are all rising by inflation of 5.4% + some nominally chosen 3.9%. The total increase will only be just over £10.00 per month but as everything rises the overall cost is considerable. The one compensation appears to be that the value of our house increased by £70,000 over the past 12 months but that is only helpful if we sell and realise the profit.

Friday, 18th February, 2022

A little breezy this morning but warm. Went out to the beach at high tide for a photo opportunity.

The sea was boiling cold today!

It is nice to see the coast in a different light. Quite a few people out being blown about. Amazing how powerful the sea is.

As we drove back from the beach, we found the road blocked by a fallen conifer. I had to take a detour but, by the time we went out on our walk which was wind-assisted in one direction, the tree had been logged and piled at the side to allow traffic through.

Kevin’s flying to Alicante from Leeds tomorrow and seems quite laidback about it although services are being cancelled everywhere today. Dave Roberts from Middleton contacted me this morning when I posted this photo. Strange to be in touch across time and space!

I am a member of B.A.’s Executive Travel Club. It gives me a number of privileges but we are struggling to complete all the on-line paperwork for our BA flight which is less than two weeks away. We can check-in on-line but not until the API is completed and it is notoriously flaky to do. I am tearing (what’s left of) my hair out but I WILL get there in the end …. and I did by using the app on my phone. Two hours of wasted time when a huge concern like British Airways can’t get their platform right.

Saturday, 19th February, 2022

Chill wind this morning. Even though it’s snowing at Leeds Airport this morning, I quite envy Kevin jetting off to Alicante and some relative warmth. Still, it won’t be long until we are in the sunshine.

I’ve only been to Leeds Airport once – in 1973. I was collecting a coach load of Dutch English teachers who I was helping to deliver an English Language course to at Ripon College. I remember it more as a shed in a field. It certainly didn’t look like this.

My little brother, Bob’s 70th Birthday. This photograph from circa 1956 tells me so much about him and about those times. Look at what we are wearing. I used to think Mum wanted girls really until History taught me that this was the sort of thing Victorians did to their kids.

Me & Bob – circa 1956

You only have to look at Bob’s face to see he can’t be trusted. Typical Aquarian! He always used to get away with stuff that I got punished for. Story of my life. Anyway, at least he is the same age as me for a few weeks.

As we were out on our walk this morning, a number of roofing companies were featured – repairing the effects of yesterday’s wind. Even so, it wasn’t half as bad as rolling News channels would have you believe.

Week 685

Sunday, 6th February, 2022

A wet start to the day and very blustery. Trying to remain optimistic and work on the basis that we will fly to Florida in 3 weeks time. Working through a checklist of tasks to be completed before we leave.

The ESTA is done but we have a pre-flight test to do 1 day before flying. There is a test centre at Gatwick Airport and we are going there a day early to stay in a hotel so that will fit in nicely. Got to book a taxi to the airport.

The sum of our January Travel movements.

Crossing the Atlantic will make a big change on recent trips as you can see from the Google Maps report. We were supposed to be going North but even that was altered by events.

The events of this coming week, of course, will decide many of our actions. We may have to cancel or adjust our travel insurance. Hopefully, we will just celebrate and open a bottle of champagne. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst!

Marriot Hotel – Times Square

After listening to others, we look like we have settled on a hotel in New York. We will go for about 5 days so we can see plenty. The Marriot in Times Square is likely to be our base for this part of the trip and to give M&K some respite from old people.

A Room with a View

Pauline is worrying about what clothes to take particularly because it will be hot & sunny most of the time we are there in Florida but cold for the few days we are in New York. Oh, the dilemma!

Fortunately, we escape the Brexit effect by travelling outside Europe. It doesn’t affect our Schengen 90-Day allowance so we can still do 3 months in Europe in the summer. I have to contact EE to clarify roaming charges in USA. It looks like it won’t cost much extra which will be helpful.

Monday, 7th February, 2022

Up early – 6.30 am – on a beautiful morning. The sky is gorgeously clear with the remainder of bright stars shining in the orange-blue light of the rising sun. It is not cold but there is a chilled edge on the air.

I hate the idea of being associated with age and infirmity of medical activities and conditions but I can’t avoid it at the moment. Up early and testing my INR after 2 days without warfarin followed by a Covid PCR test which I must get to the Nuffield before 10.00 am and for which they have charged me the privilege of £76.00. I am then supposed to self-isolate until my investigation on Thursday. I already know I am covid-free because I self-tested yesterday but I have to prove it to the hospital.

We have a dual-fuel supply contract with British Gas. To be honest, it came with the new house and we just continued it. We fixed our price towards the end of last year for 12 months and will avoid any great cost rises for 12 months. Our hot water system is so efficient that a couple of hours in the early morning is enough to keep it hot all day. The central heating is rarely used and, when it is, our Hive, wi-fi system makes its demands absolutely minimal. They wrote to me yesterday to assure me that any price rises featured in media reports would not affect my contract. Just as a matter of interest, I checked our current position and found this.

British Gas currently hold almost £850.00 of our money in credit. I am contacting them this morning to demand that they return it. I would rather that it was in our account than theirs. They may argue that it will even itself out over the year but we have had a remarkably mild winter and we hope to be away for the month of March. I think we won’t meet their predictions at all this year. 2021/2022 has been so much warmer. We were constantly running the heating over night in the Gym last year and hardly at all this time. We didn’t go away at all last year. This time we have already done 3 weeks abroad and are expecting another 4 soon.

Near the Nuffield Hospital, we found this – a big, Lidl supermarket. Never been in one before so it was an interesting thing to do in this morning’s sunshine. It was quite a revelation – spacious and well stocked with excellent produce and really good prices. It is strange to walk down an aisle and find socks and gloves alongside pots and pans on one side and biscuits and cakes on the other but, putting that aside, it was fun. We spent £80.00 on various items including an additional 2-ring hob for the garden which was badged in English and Greek.

Just goes to show that there’s a first time for everything and one should embrace all experiences.

From Lidl Supermarket to the Intercontinental Hotel in New York. Milly-Molly suggested it and that we look for a package of flights and hotel.

I did that and Expedia came up with return flights from Tampa – JFK – Tampa with 4 nights in the Intercontinental which is an IHG hotel of which I am a member and get bonus points for just £550.00 pp. Unbelievably cheap. I really hope Thursday allows us to do this.

Tuesday, 8th February, 2022

The day is getting closer and we are in countdown mode. I have a list of strict instructions from the Nuffield in the run-up to my investigation. Having done and submitted my Covid test, I now have a diet instruction sheet which begins tomorrow. Typically, my wife who knows too much about diet and nutrition makes it harder for me than the hospital prescribes.

The hospital say start on Wednesday so she decides that I will start on Tuesday. She says that ‘fibre’ takes longer to go through the body than they say so, this week is cutting down rapidly on fibre intake and today is my last day for any fibre at all until Thursday night.

I haven’t generally eaten bread, potatoes, pasta or rice for about 10 years. It affects my blood sugar, makes me feel bloated and I find it best to avoid. Amazingly, I have taught myself to love green vegetables – salad, green beans, etc. – I know nothing about it but, apparently, these green things as well as fresh orange juice are high in fibre whereas rice is not. Today, I am being treated to what used to be my favourite meal 10 years ago – fish risotto.

The bottle of wine on the right is currently doing the rounds of social media. Seems to speak to the political and my personal situation. Just as we predicted, I have a colonoscopy on Thursday and, while we were out, Worthing hospital phoned to offer me a hernia repair on …. Thursday. Fortunately, the lovely girl who phoned was able to find me an appointment for the following Wednesday so I am very lucky.

Had to nip into town this morning and couldn’t resist the beach. It is muted and moody but smells delicious. 

Just cut all four lawns and fed them in this lovely, Spring weather. Eaten a delightful fish salad lunch of scallops, baby squids, octopus and mackerel with an iced bottle of Lidl’s finest Pinot Grigio. Had delightful and supportive messages from Kevin in Leeds & Julie in Bridlington which really moved me. Paid £2,200.00 to the Nuffield in advance for my colonoscopy (which moved me even more) and I’m now going in the gym for my final session of the day. Whatever comes, it has been a good day.

Wednesday, 9th February, 2022

I am in to countdown mode and following precise intake instructions. From this morning, I can ingest no fibre. My freshly squeezed orange juice had to have the fibre filtered out. I will have to drink lots of ‘clear’ fluid until 7.00 am tomorrow and then nothing until tomorrow night.

Bodegas Zaragoza

Over a 12 hour period, I have to drink two bottles of Sodium Dihydrogen Phosphate Dihydrate. Ironically, my prescription originates from Zaragoza, a Spanish city I’ve always wanted to visit. I wonder if I will survive to do it.

A better product of Zaragoza

Apparently, the body reacts quickly and violently to the first bottle of laxative, so violently that they caution ‘old’ people to take care. They describe old people as aged 65+ or an age at which many could still be working. I have to drink the first bottle at 7.00 pm tonight and the second at 7.00 am tomorrow. Could be an interesting night!

We have driven to and stayed in Patras on the Greek Peloponnese many times and driven across the Rio Bridge. This short video of thousands of starlings dancing a gloriously artistic display across and under the bridge was posted last night. It is delightful to watch.

Our walk this morning has been done in lovely, warm, Spring weather with a chorus of birds singing all around us and daffodils flowering. We reached a balmy 14C/57F. The world is a wonderful place!

Thursday, 10th February, 2022


It’ s 4.00 am and, not being able to sleep, I’m going in the gym. By absolute coincidence, Terri-Lee, one of my former pupils, messaged me while I drank tea. What she’s doing up at this time in the morning, goodness knows. I haven’t seen her for 13 years. She certainly didn’t look like this when I last saw her. It sounds like she is haunted by the idea that she was capable but under achieved. We are all haunted by that in one way or another aren’t we?

She wanted to tell me her problems and ask my advice. Strange at 4.30 am but quite flattered that I was the one she turned to and thought I would be available at this unearthly hour to provide solace. I will never understand people in general and girls in particular.

Managed an hour in the Gym. Got to take the second bottle of laxative at 7.00 am and then nothing more to drink after 8.00 am until I get home tonight around 7.00 pm. Losing all this liquid and not replacing it is already making me feel dehydrated. I’ve checked my INR this morning in case they need to cut me. It is 1.1 which is just about right. Going to do a Lateral Flow test now although I’m sure that will be fine.

Got to get my 10 miles under my belt early today. My chauffeur will drive me to the Nuffield at 2.00 pm and I won’t be home until around 7.00 pm so I suspect that, whatever the verdict, I won’t feel like exercise by then. This is the upside and the downside of an obsessive personality in a nutshell. I never give up on my targets until, of course, they give up on me!

The clouds have lifted. After 3 hours at the Nuffield, I am informed that 3, large but benign polyps have been removed by a team of of 5 medics including one who was born in Oldham and who went to school at the Bluecoat school. It appears I am fine but will need a check-up in 5 years – 2027 aged 77!

Friday, 11th February, 2022

Up at 4.30 am but with a happy heart. I feel like the condemned man has been reprieved. All the things I was putting on hold can now be approached with renewed optimism. Our American trip can go ahead and all the final planning can be started today. I produced a 20-point list to get through. I do like ticking off lists!

I don’t let many people look up my bottom but I will make an exception with you. I certainly wouldn’t eat while reading this. I have to deliver a copy of this report to my GP this morning. You can see why I am considered a sex-God. Can you believe that anyone could have this going on inside themselves and still live? As my wife said, At least it’s clean!

Spring sunshine and warmth bathe the South Coast. Everything is so bright and vibrant. The world is so lovely! Even Worthing Beach looked welcoming this morning.

The Town was packed today. The lovely weather must have brought people out. It was beautiful so who could blame them?

Saturday, 12th February, 2022

Up early to another, sunny Spring day. Trip to Rustington to have my prescription sunglasses straightened in readiness for Florida. Message from Kevin welcoming me to the 2nd day of my new life and from Julie, wishing me well. John Ridley is on my list to connect with today and I may speak to John Morris as well.

Buying new wardrobes for our American trip has been on hold during the recent scare but, now the path is clear, we are back in action. Had to return some clothes to M&S this morning which takes us to the pier and the beach.

It is amazing how a health scare can focus the mind on the small things of life like lots of fresh air and exercise, sunshine on the beach, sweet messages from friends and relations, a rugby match, roast chicken for Dinner, a lovely bottle of Rioja, a good film in the evening.

We leave for America on the 1st day of March – just 17 days away. We have to remain Covid-free for that time and take a test at the airport on the day before we fly. This shouldn’t be a problem because, throughout the pandemic, our area has had very low infection rates – certainly compared to places like Greater Manchester.

Unfortunately, just as Greater Manchester is showing falls in infection, our region of Arun is rising rapidly and steeply. The Zoe-Covid London University Study that we contribute each day on our phone app traces and charts the data for us. You can see the exponential rise in our area. We will be extra careful until we get on the plane.

Week 684

Sunday, 30th January, 2022

Bierre Cote d’Opale
Le Chemin de Wissant

It is the most lovely day of warm sunshine and blue skies. The air is calm. No strong winds here. Our walk was delightful. Having got back, I’ve sampled a bottle of beer I bought when we were last in France.

I never drink beer. I really prefer wine. I come from beer country – Burton on Trent. The home of WorthingtonBassMarstonInde Coop, etc.. I went to school where the smell of brewing drifted over the town like a drug. I did buy some specialist beers (lagers) in France last year as Christmas presents and I’ve still got them. Tried one today and quite enjoyed it. Hasn’t quite lifted the emptiness I’m feeling at the moment but it helped.

Our walk was quite delightful with warm, strong sun and nature convinced that Spring was upon the world. This approach to our local park will look very different in April when we return from Florida – if we are lucky enough to get there. Should know more in this next week one way or the other.

I’ve never been a fan of the Honours System. It is so open to abuse. However, I’ve spent the past couple of hours helping a friend to sharpen up their written recommendation of someone I’ve never met and never will. Reading the support material of the selfless acts of this individual quite changed my mind. What motivated these people? I don’t believe I could ever rise to it. As someone recently pointed out, I am far too selfish!

Monday, 31st January, 2022

The month is going out in Spring-like weather. We’ll see if February will be as kind. We have a central heating engineer here this morning doing our annual service. We have a space-age boiler and an even more space-age hot water system that come with new homes. I couldn’t fix anything on my own although we use internet-based, smart technology to control the heating, hot water and lights with its own hub and software on smartphones, iPads and PCs. That I can sort out myself. We have the windows and doors open and don’t need heating at all this morning.

Entrance to the internet – 25 years ago.

Pauline’s making bread and I’m dealing with my internet company who have tried to more than double my rental for my website and Blog site webspace. I have been involved in internet work since 1994 when we had the crash-bang-wallop of a dial-up modem connection. Young ones now would not believe what we had to go through or the poverty of the text-only screens we found when we got on line.

I can remember the excitement of uploading my first, basic website after hours of frustration at my inability to understand was conquered. My impetus was to provide my school with an early, onsite presence. I taught myself at home in my spare time, went on courses and then used my newly gained skills at work. I found that it was something that came naturally to me and gave me real enjoyment.

Circa 1994

Since 2008, I have rented webspace and maintained a couple of websites plus my Blog through a ‘Hosting’ service. I taught myself the then industry-standard web development software – Macromedia Dreamweaver – and have not needed to go much further than that. My Host is a company called IONOS which is German and I use an .eu domain which UK users have now lost since Brexit. IONOS offered me the chance to get round that by hosting mine in Germany for me. I was pleased with that.

German company, website hosted in Germany, who do I speak to when I phone to make an enquiry at 9.00 am …. a lad called Brex who is having his evening sandwiches in the sunny Philippines. I’m glad I did. He was a lovely, friendly lad who immediately recognised that I was not only a long standing customer but an old gentleman who is running small websites not some great conglomerate, multi-national business with a huge IT department of young tech graduates. Before I’d finished with him, he was apologising profusely to me, completely removing all increases and returning my charges to 2021 levels. He finished by extolling the joys of the Philippines and suggesting I visit to see for myself. Who knows!

Tuesday, 1st February, 2022

New day, new month, old challenge. Hope you enjoy February as we all get older. Hard to believe that it’s 50 years since my generation were 21. We are as far away from the time of our birth as our birth was from late Victorian England of the 1880s. On this day in 1880 – 71 years before we were born and 71 years after we were born – Britain managed the first successful import of frozen lamb from Australia. According to the Tories, we may see another shipment soon.

Age brings frailty and attacks upon our health. Strange day. Could be a decisive day. Going to see a private, Nuffield Health specialist consultant about potential bowel cancer and my inguinal hernia.

Did 3 hours of exercise before mid day in order to dedicate myself to health checks this afternoon. By 1.00 pm, we are driving to Chichester in lovely sunshine. The weather contrasts with my feelings. We arrive at the Nuffield Hospital and go in, Pauline is told she cannot stay. She goes back to the car. I sit and wait for my fate.

The consultant I’ve chosen, Dr Adam Stone, meets me and we go through my case. My inclination is to find more about him. I learn that he is from York. He went to St Peters School and knows Ripon and St Johns well. I relax. I tell him I am from Repton. He knows it and the school. He volunteers that he has accessed my medical records and says, Your blood test results are ‘fantastic’. This is the actual term he uses. I tell him that I’ve drunk a bottle of wine every day since my early 20s. He says, Your liver reports that it hasn’t done you any harm at all!

Looks more like a Care Home than a Private Hospital.

I’m shocked how busy this private hospital is and I’m told it is because of the NHS backlog. I’ve had to wait for 2 weeks for a consultation. I have immediately formed a rapport with my chosen consultant, Dr Adam Stone. He says I require an urgent colonoscopy which he will perform next week. It has some serious risks for me whatever they find because of my atrial fibrillation and warfarin use. I have to take those risks. Do you care? I don’t blame you if you don’t but I have to take the risk anyway. Not looking forward to the enema substance that I will have to take next week. 

I have a strange and threatening process to go through if anyone is interested or cares. An enema is not a pretty sight for a man of my age. I will struggle with it over the days of next week. Happiness will be an empty bowel. I will keep you informed. You lucky people!

Wednesday, 2nd February, 2022

Lovely morning with wonderful skies. Still processing the events of yesterday and you may want to leave now because there is going to be quite a bit of this over the next few days. I hope it will be over by the end of next week but that is just hope.

It all starts on Monday when I have to stop taking Warfarin until after the procedure. I have never done this since I started taking it daily in January 2009. If they find something and need to remove it, I cannot risk a prolonged internal bleed which anticoagulant would encourage so I do have to take a risk and stop taking it for a week. The day before the procedure, I am confined to a liquid intake which will also include a ‘bowel cleansing’ solution. (Too much information?) I asked if I could mix it with a bottle of Rioja but was told red wine wasn’t advisable – stick to white!

The morning has started with an early delivery of fresh fish. The bill is £220.00 on this special date of 02.02.2022. Pauline is portioning Cod, Hake, Salmon, Tuna and Tiger Prawns prior to freezing. Assuming we set off for America at the start of next month, this fish will get us through February. You will notice that the refrigerated box our fish was delivered in originated in Shetland which is closer to Bergen in Norway than the Sussex coast.

Although I still can’t believe I’m actually writing this and I’m almost embarrassed to admit it but I am increasingly retreating from a painful reality by escaping into a fictional alternative and exercise. I actually look forward to going in the Gym and punishing myself. It feels good to be occupying body and mind fully and, if I can watch some more ‘difficult’ material, then I am pushing both parts of me to improve. What a saint!

Currently, I’m watching a Period, Norwegian Drama based on novels written by the Nobel Prize winning author, Henrik Pontoppidan. In it, a gifted engineer university graduate flees his austere roots to pursue wealth and success among Copenhagen’s elites but the pride propelling him threatens to be his ruin. I haven’t finished it yet but I do know he dies of cancer.

Thursday, 3rd February, 2022

A dull start to the day. After the most delicious, sunny and warm end to yesterday. Had a great walk, another bottle of French beer – two in a week – after none for years and picked out the timeline for next week.

Biere Griz Nez
  • Saturday – Stop taking Warfarin
  • Monday – PCR Test taken and delivered to Nuffield by 10.00 am
  • Wednesday – No solids after 4.00 pm / Take laxative at 7.00 pm
  • Thursday – Take second bottle of laxative at 7.00 am / Drive to Nuffield for 3.00 pm

With all that liquid sloshing around and mixing with liquid laxative, I have got to fit in my 10 miles walking before I leave. Could be an interesting/embarrassing morning. We’ve decided to keep it really ‘local’ so I am never far from the house in emergency. I am preparing to receive a phone call from my local, NHS Colorectal Consultant this morning but my inclination is to stick with the Nuffield initially. It is a full month since my abnormal FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) result and the sooner I get the brutal truth the better. I can at least plan for the future – long or short.

The beer has reminded me of all the lovely times we have had in France and, particularly, near Wissant and Cap NezGriz Nez, of course, is Grey Nose which is the anglicised version of the jutting out cliffs. I’d rather be there!

Griz Nez

I have had lovely support from my wife, her family and a number of friends in the North. I am largely self-contained and retreat in to myself in defence but this outside help has been very much appreciated even if I find it hard to demonstrate that.

You may think it madness to carry on the exercise routine in this situation but I am absolutely committed. Some say I should be committed … to an institution but I can’t let go of anything that is really important to me. In the past 12 months, I have only missed my target once and I am furious about that. I have increased my target to a minimum of 10 miles a day since my 70th birthday – 303 days ago – and I haven’t missed a single day since then. I am proud of that and I won’t relinquish it easily. 

Just had a telephone conversation with a lovely, young doctor who told me her name was Eyre “As in Jane Eyre if you’ve read it”. Everything I said to her was responded to with, “Cool” which is a sign of her age. She told me she was 33 and already looking forward to Retirement! I reassured her that she would be allowed that luxury by the time she was 75. She offered me a colonoscopy but a week after the Nuffield so I told her I will stick with that at this time. Jane Eyre apologised profusely for making me wait so long. She had tried so hard to help me and to offer me treatment that I felt a burning sense of betrayal by opting for private treatment. When I put the phone down, I was utterly overwhelmed with a sense of shame and I wept. 

Friday, 4th February, 2022

Friday already. By this time next week I should know my fate. Couldn’t sleep. Up at 5.00 am for a cup of tea. Listening to the news of Johnson’s hold on power weakening by the day. I expect to live to see him gone at least. It really can’t be that long now. The economy and inflation is, as I predicted, becoming the primary concern. I didn’t see inflation reaching 7% which is where it is now expected to peak. Anyone with any reasonable pot of savings will have to think very carefully about how to protect and invest it. Anyone who is poor and without a cushion of substantial savings will really have major choices of cutting back their lifestyles with some even making the terrible and unacceptable choice between eating and heating.

How lucky are we? I regularly reflect on that. When I say it out loud, Pauline responds that it is not luck but hard work and saving in earlier years. I’m not so sure. I never worked that hard nor denied myself that much and I was lucky to be born into a middle-class family who valued education and instilled the value of money and saving for the future. Many are not that fortunate.

I was quite shocked to find yesterday that, when the government set out who would get help with Council Tax, they restricted it to Bands A – D which we were told covers 80% of households. We are Band F. Bands F & G represent the top 8% of households. We are certainly not wealthy so it tells you how much under financial pressure large swathes of the population are. The poorer you are, of course, the older and less well insulated your home is likely to be – the more it will cost to keep warm and the harder you will be hit by the ensuing energy crisis.

BA Business Lounge – Gatwick

These thoughts were swirling round my head but mixing with thought of getting away. I was struck by the obscenity of the luxury we’d bought … just because we can …. in our Business Class flights across the Atlantic next month. Actually, I was thinking about whether I would need to pre-book an Executive Lounge at the airport but checked the British Airways Business Class benefits.

In summary here are some of the amazing benefits awaiting BA Business Class passengers (their advert says):

  • BA Lounge access offering comfortable surroundings as well as free food and drink
  • Faster check-in through the dedicated Business Class desks, as well as being the one of the first people to board the plane
  • Your seat is in its own personal space and gives you a 6ft lay-flat bed
  • Order food and drink whenever you choose
  • Your ticket entitles you to take 2 suitcases of up to 32kg
  • A dedicated a-la-carte meal offering on board, just for Business Class flyers

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I’ve driven Pauline to the hairdressers – not that she couldn’t drive herself but parking isn’t easy or guaranteed so it’s useful to have a chauffeur. It is 12C/54F but feels colder in the breeze. I walk the streets for an hour while Pauline is coiffured. We will do another 90 minute walk later in the morning followed by a Gym session for me. Will it be worth it. I’ve got to believe it will.

Saturday, 5th February, 2022

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.
I’ve been born, and once is enough.
You don’t remember, but I remember,
Once is enough.

Sweeney Agonistes – T.S.Eliot (1924)

Nihilism in a nutshell! I have never moved beyond it over the past 50 years and I am unlikely to recant now … whatever happens to me.

As we move through our Aquarian phase and on into Piscean, we are having fish for tea. We had the most wonderful sushi- quality fresh Tuna delivered on Thursday and some will be grilled in the garden this afternoon. We will eat it with one of my current obsessions – garlic green beans.

Preparing for my date with destiny on Thursday. This morning, I didn’t take Warfarin for the first time since 15th January, 2008. A bit scary! Also done a lateral flow test this morning because Covid would stop my investigation. It was negative … again.

The post has come early today for the first time in years and brought this. Is it a sign? What do they know? Pure Cremation quite appeals to me as a concept. It is cheap, efficient and unassuming. The body of the deceased is collected, turned into ashes and then returned in a container to significant other(s) without ceremony.

The demand on the living is minimal. The cost is much cheaper than a full cremation/funeral and it doesn’t involve religion. In my case, I don’t want to be a burden on my wife or anybody else. When I’m dead, there is nothing.

We had gone down to the beach on this glorious morning. It was quite quiet and bathed in sunshine.

The tide was going out and revealing cleanly washed sand. A breeze was coming off the sea and reduced the temperature a bit but the experience was lovely and refreshing.

We drove home and did a 90 mins walk. Contact from Julie in Bridlington wishing me well which is nice. Amazing how important friendship can feel at times!