Week 707

Sunday, 10th July, 2022

Woke up to an extremely warm morning. At 7.00 am we have 20C/68F although it felt warmer. It means an early walk before the full heat of the day. Final preparations for France to be done.

Home grown Dill planted out.

We use tons of Dill each year so I’ve been growing it from seed. Today I’ve planted out lots of plants I’ve grown in the past couple of months. They should get us through the Summer.

Automatic watering – Basil, Tomatoes and Bell Peppers

We have become so inundated with salad vegetables that I’ve been distributing them to neighbours.

T.S.Elliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock tells us:

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,”

Mine is a little more exciting but the principle is the same. I have measured out my life in houses and locations. Exactly 8 years ago this week, we sold our Greek house and left the island for the last time.

2014 online sale advert.

One has to hold on to these moments before they fade in to the mists of time. My job is to hold back the mists, to keep memories and connections alive. We have to go back to Sifnos. I have to go back and touch my past one more time.

Monday, 11th July, 2022

Valeted the car this morning ready for tomorrow. Walking in screaming, hot sunshine reminds me so much of Greece. Received a Direct Message from Dave Roberts who is on a Mediterranean cruise with his wife and will have a day in Athens tomorrow. He is asking for advice on places to visit. It is not an easy thing for me to answer. I have never been to Athens as a tourist. In 50+ stays, I have always been a traveller – a person who moves his life to the city temporarily. Tourist ‘must-sees’ really don’t interest me. It took almost 20 years of visits before we went up the Acropolis and visited the Museum. 

Psiri Taverna

I like to watch the people go by from Tavernas and Kafenions. I want to merge in to Greek-ness as much as I can. I am going to suggest David and his wife take the Metro to Kifissia for the shopping, take a taxi to Psiri for the restaurants and go to Lycebettus Hill and its cable car ride to the view right across Athens.

View from Lycabettus Hill

We will be back there in six weeks. I couldn’t do a cruise, though. The thought of being trapped on a ship appals me.

Lives fracture so easily. Our comfortable routines are no hiding place ultimately. Thinking of Kevin this evening. He will have a second review of potential bowel cancer tomorrow while I am off enjoying myself in France. I know just how jittery that can be and how tempting it is to brush it aside and pretend nothing is wrong. I have been trying to persuade him that a colonoscopy can be the most reassuring procedure. If they find something, it can be dealt with immediately. If they find nothing, the relief is palpable.

Tuesday, 12th July, 2022

Up at 4.30 am on a very hot morning. An hour in the gym and then a shower, orange juice and packing the car. Leaving for the tunnel at 6.30 am – especially early because of all the reported chaos backing up from the port of Dover. I don’t think I’ve seen the motorways – M23/M25/M20 – ever quieter. They were literally almost empty. We arrived at check-in very early and were offered an immediate crossing.

The temperature was rising rapidly from 22C/70F at 6.30 am to 27C/81 as we waited to board the Shuttle. Once again, very few customers for the 9.50 am crossing (in July!!) and we were rolling off into the French countryside before we knew it.

The French countryside is just massive. It goes on forever. Idiots in UK say, We can’t take any more immigrants. We’re full. I say drive the length of the UK and see how not full we are but the French could swallow half the world and not notice.

Wednesday, 13th July, 2022

Up at 5.30 am (4.30 am BST) and out walking by 6.30 am on a swelteringly hot and humid morning.

The French road to fitness.

After a 6 mile walk, we had freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee and then set off to drive to the lovely, old town of St Omer with its Gothic cathedral. It’s only 40 mins away and the roads were quiet and lovely.

I don’t do cathedrals but I do like restaurants. As we walked the friendly streets of St Omer, the Pharmacie sign flashed up 33C/91F at mid day. It certainly felt warm. We called in a Carrefour to buy a snack and some wine and went back to our hotel to download the Daily Politics programme with its analysis of Prime Minister’s Questions. Nice to see Boris Johnson go down howling!

Thursday, 14th July, 2022

A screaming hot night punctuated by fireworks under a full moon led to Bastille Day and an early start this morning. Still very hot but with a more hazy sky today. After a couple of hours walking in the countryside, we set of for the medieval town of Arras where my old Grammar school friend has lived for 50 years.

Ancient & Modern

We parked up in the Place des Héros, Arras about an hour’s journey across beautiful, open country on an empty motorway.

We had a walk round the squares basically visiting all the restaurants and reading menus. Settling on one that majored on fish, we had a lovely Lunch in the sunshine.

I have to say that the cooking and ingredients were not as good as my wife normally produces and this is often a problem with eating out. We drove back to our hotel and another walk followed by downloading this morning’s Daily Politics from BBC TV.

Friday, 15th July, 2022

A relaxed start to a warm day that reached 27C/81F. Out at 7.00 am for a walk and then set off to drive to the beach. Love the Wissant area so called because the French heard the British talk of its white sand. Don’t quite see it myself but it is still lovely.

It was certainly busier than when we come down here in the winter but relatively quiet compared to Brighton or Blackpool.

We walked the seafront in the burning sunshine and then drove back along the coast road. The White Cliffs of Dover are so appealingly close even I was tempted to buy a dinghy and do the crossing myself.

Illegal gull tempted by the White Cliffs

We drove back via Cite Europe and Carrefour where we tried to buy French Mustard. There was no Dijon Mustard and no French mustard of any kind. A simple shelf stacker explained in perfect English that they had stocked no mustard for the past 2 months because of a shortage of wheat, which is a central ingredient, due to the world wheat crisis.

Saturday, 16th July, 2022

Up early on a hot morning and out for am early walk. About 7 miles before breakfast and then down to the Tunnel where everything is going so well that we are put on a train that is so early it gets us home before we were booked to start.

We brought home all sorts of French produce from wine and cheese to herbs and garlic but we couldn’t buy Dijon Mustard because the shelves were bare.

Pauline uses huge quantities of this mustard in salad dressings and marinades and we usually buy it all in France. When we got home, Sainsburys had none either. Eventually, we had to buy from Asda their own Dijon Mustard. We cleaned them out so have enough to get us through the Summer.

It does show, however, that supply chains are not just truncated by Brexit. The war in Ukraine is also having its effect. Fractured lives and fractured supply chains. Nothing remains the same and we should embrace change.

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