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.

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