Week 691

Sunday, 20th March, 2022

Up at 6.00 am and out at the gym by 7.00 am. We are going to have a quiet, ‘home’ day so I needed to put in 3hrs work. By 10.00am, I was given freshly squeezed orange juice and yoghurt with a banana for my breakfast. Shower and Blogging. At 12.3opm (FT)/4.30pm (GMT), I’m going to watch Tottenham v West Ham on Sky Sports on my laptop. Apparently, M is cooking chicken for Dinner tonight. It will be nice to eat at home rather than a restaurant for a change.

At the risk of boring you, I thought I’d put on a couple of photos from yesterday. Firstly, M&K’s Winter Home or as we are now calling it, J&P’s Summer Home. It has 3 kitchens for goodness sake and a cinema room to die for. They are having a pool and jacuzzi put in and there are acres of beautiful countryside to walk in.

St. Petersburgh Pier

America could never get the idea of Brexit. The entire country is made up of generations of immigrants. The Irish are so populous and so celebrated because they were central and instrumental in building industrialised USA but there is an area called Venice, LA and another called Naples, L because the architects had spent early stages of their lives in those places. There are lots of Poles and Russians here who will remember St. Petersburgh, Russia as Leningrad but nobody seems to hold that against them. They are assimilated US citizens.

St. Petersburgh Pier

Thought I’d share with you a joke that is swirling round social media. Even in the USA, where petrol is half the price of UK, there is indignation at the rising cost of filling a car.

In the UK, there is genuine pain for some people managing their daily commute, driving to their holiday home or whatever.

Monday, 21st March, 2022

Another lovely morning begins at 6.00 am (FT) and, in time for a 7.00 am start, we are walking a couple of hundred metres to the gym through immaculately maintained fern and palm fringed gardens. As we walk, four, huge eyes stare at us from a tree, They belong to two, baby racoons about 5ft up in the crook of a tree and they spot us walking and try to reach out, to make a connection. It is incredibly touching. I am so wrapped up in the moment that I forget to get my camera ready to record it.

All to ourselves … again.

Warm at 7.00 am (FT) – 22C/70F, it gets really warm as the sun comes up. We did just an hour in the gym this morning and then another hour walking in the area.

On our walk in the local area.

It is just before 6.00 pm now and the temperature is still 30C/86F. This is the sort of climate I absolutely love. We’ve been up for 12 hrs, done 11 miles walking and are going out to eat at a restaurant on the quayside.

Dave Weatherly, an old College friend, sent an early morning photo of his walk around the nature reserve in Bolton. Heavy frost comes as quite a shock from this distance.

Bolton this morning!

Even more of a shock is news from Athens. In earlier years, we might well have been driving through the Patras – Athens – Piraeus area this time in March as we arrived at our house in time for Greek Easter.

Athens this morning.

Certainly wouldn’t have been pleased to see this. In fact, in all those years travelling there, we have never seen it at this time of year. I suspect that Florida has never seen a frost never mind snow!

Tuesday, 22nd March, 2022

This is how a wonderful day starts. We are forecast to reach 30C/86F today but outside the gym at 7.00 am the temperature was already 22C/70F and humid.

After 2hrs work the walk back revealed this little chap. He was going the wrong way and we reset his journey towards the water. By the time we returned to check, baby turtle had disappeared. Love babies. Always been denied them. Is it an old man thing? Must be in my dotage!

I am cooking tonight. My signature dish – Risotto. I’m going to do at least two, maybe three: Mushroom Risotto, Broadbean Risotto, Prawn Risotto. It will be accompanied by fillets of fish – salmon, sea bass, grouper, etc. and salad. Looking forward to the challenge. Actually, prefer this to eating out. The challenge of beating the professionals is half the fun.

Out to Publix supermarket for quite a big shop of fish, wine and salads. The thing I like about this, apart from sourcing different products, is meeting people. Every counter I come to, I get chatting to people and, by the time I’ve gone, I have a large proportion of their life history. This afternoon, I met Chuck, a retired builder aged 68 who has 3 kids and is divorced. He used to live in Minnesota but retired to Florida for the climate. I met a really lovely girl called Maria at the check-out just packing bags. Aged 25, she was pretty, intelligent and interested in other people. She said this was her only job but it can’t have been enough for her.

We bought far more than we needed because everything looked so nice and interesting. This jar of minced, fresh garlic in olive oil is fantastic. I’m taking some home and I’m going to source it from UK if I can. The total bill came to $280.00/£211.00 which is quite high for the last couple of meals we will cook here. We only have 8 days left until we fly but you only live once.

Wednesday, 23rd March, 2022

The meal went well last night and we enjoyed cooking. I have been developing a head cold for a few days since returning from New York and it seems to have reached a peak today. I am a typical man – rarely ill but really ill when I am. I have still done my early start and full exercise routine completing 11.6 miles plus a swim but I will be unbearable for the rest of the day. Things are stomping all over the inside of my head and I have to wait for them to resolve themselves. I am going to stay at home and Blog and write to people.

It is Pauline’s sister and her husband’s 65th Wedding Anniversary. Can you imagine that? Of course, they are both very, very old and wrinkly but still breathing. I had to make a card for them last night.

Apparently, 65 years of marriage should be celebrated with blue sapphires. We are working on the principle that they are so gaga that they won’t know that.

Little Andrew Jones and his wife.

Dan’s current girlfriend is a trainee lawyer from Boston. They are flying up there for the weekend – as students do! My boyhood friend, Jonathan, has lived in Boston for 40 years. Last night Pauline phoned her relative, Andrew, who is a chemical engineer with a doctorate and who I last saw in my classroom in the early 1970s. He has lived in Boston for 30 years. Next trip will have to include a flight to Boston to meet up with these people.

Little Andrew Jones was a shy, polite and delightful little lad to teach. His parents have lived in Littlemore, Oldham for more than 60 years. Andrew now looks exactly like his dad. Really scary how that happens. Still, it will be good to meet up with more people from my past.

Thursday, 24th March, 2022

Heavy rain over night. Out at 7.00 am on a very humid and steamy morning. After 90 ins in the gym, an hour out walking and 30 mins in the pool and I feel I have done my commitment for the day. Out on the walk, there was a dead and mangled armadillo which had obviously been caught crossing the road. I’ve still never seen a live one.

This afternoon we did my least favourite activity – shopping. We went to a huge outlet shopping ‘mall’. I get tired walking round one shop never mind 51! It looked a bit like a 15th century, cloistered monastery but it was encompassing so many well know outlets.

To keep me on side and interested, we visited a huge Trainer warehouse of a Skechers shop which you needed to be fit just to walk around.

I bought a new pair of trainers for $100.00 which works out slightly cheaper than back home plus 6 pairs of trainer socks.

We were joined by Dan and his girlfriend. We ended the afternoon/evening by eating Dinner at a delightful Italian restaurant where I had prawns and scallops – absolutely delicious! They are flying down to Boston for the weekend and we are flying back to UK on …. Wednesday night and arrive back on Thursday morning. It will mean a whole month gone. It’s amazing how quickly it has flown by.

Good to see the Chancellor’s Economic Statement falling apart within 24 hrs and to watch Johnson an uncomfortable and isolated figure at the NATO conference. For the first time since I was student, a British Prime Minister was not needed or invited to take centre stage amongst the elite of Europe. His despicable analogy of Brexit with the invasion of Ukraine has left him isolated and humiliated. There will be more to come as the economy tanks and inflation rips the heart out of the British nation.

Friday, 25th March, 2022

Lovely morning of warmth, sun and exercise. For some strange reason, things and friends in England have been playing on my mind. Walking round my head. I have no idea why. I am just a sad individual. The children have flown to Boston for the weekend. Pauline is roasting salmon for Dinner for the adults.

Sarasota Opera House

We are going to Sarasota Opera House tomorrow evening for the Jubilee Concert to pay tribute to Maestro DeRenzi’s 40th Season as Artistic Director. Tickets for the performance and the Prime table at dinner will only cost $10,000.00 but …. we decided not to purchase them. We decided to go for the more modest $50.00 tickets in front of the orchestra.

Kevin and I have been chatting today. He sent me some obscure Kevin-joke-Fact as an intro to conversation. I shouldn’t complain. He is obviously keen to rekindle and bolster an old relationship and he is trying his best.

I really want to reaffirm old relationships because I think they are important and contribute to giving our lives meaning across time. For that reason, I’ve continued to talk to Kevin, Nigel, Julie, John and Brian to share my life events with them. I have already agreed that we will meet up once more in October if not before.

Before then, we fly home on Wednesday/Thursday next week after a lovely month here. M&K have gone out of their way to entertain us. We are extremely grateful to the young people. In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to have a hernia operation, make a couple of trips to France, spend a week in Athens and, maybe, even return to Florida. It is strange but I feel much more comfortable in these ventures when I have a secure base of friends back home.

For a traveller, my sense of place and geography is terrible. If you open this map, the blue spot marks Tampa area where we are set in the Gulf of Mexico and so close to Cuba and the Bahamas. It really is idyllic.

Saturday, 26th March, 2022

On our walk …

Lovely warm and sunny morning. Just got back from a long walk. I am a naturally friendly person. I can’t control my inclination to communicate. Some people shun me but most welcome the contact. I speak to people in shops, in the street, even service people I speak to on the phone. I am interested in them and their lives. My wife says I can find out more about a total stranger’s life in a few minutes than most people divulge about themselves over decades. It’s all about showing an interest.

This morning, a man with a walking stick passed us going the opposite way. Eventually, we turned round from our walk and headed back and we passed the man and walking stick returning from his walk. His style was a little laboured and his stick was used for support. As we recrossed, I said with throwaway cheeriness, “Glad to see you made it to your turn round point.” That was all the invitation he needed to talk for the next 20 mins. He was 85 years old and said we were ‘just kids’. His origins were in Northern Ireland. He taught Biology for 40 years and was married to an Italian nurse.

Racoon snapped by M at the pool. Can they swim?

We will almost certainly never meet that man again but the time we talked was enjoyable and instructive. These moments of human interaction are what illuminate a life.

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