Week 712

Sunday, 14th August, 2022

Unbelievable start to the day. Exactly what we would have expected on a hot, Greek morning. Didn’t fall below 22C/70F last night and we reached 27C/81F very early. We did an early walk. That takes 2 hrs. Met lots of nice regulars en route. Home for coffee and then jobs around the garden including harvesting peppers. There is something really nice about picking, cooking and eating your own produce.

Julie messaged me to say that she was digging early potatoes for her Mum to take home with her. Kevin messaged to say he wasn’t. 

The peppers are being roasted with olive oil and home grown Oregano then eaten cold in a salad with Italian tomatoes from the local farm.

Been having some lovely Text-Banter with Christine, Pauline’s old college friend. She is a Chelsea supporter and they are playing today. It is a lovely thing to do and makes so little demands on one. I’m talking to people in North Yorkshire, Rochdale and Milton Keynes. Pauline is talking to Florida. She always was more exotic than me!

Monday, 15th August, 2022

A hot, sunny, sultry, sweaty day that really saps the energy. Had work in the garden to do in readiness for going away. Will we get any rain. Not today, anyway, so watering is one of the jobs along with trimming the hedge. Later, the 2 hr walk was really mind over matter.

I know I’m tasty but this is going too far ….

I spend so much time out of doors these days dressed in shorts and tee-shirt but I am rarely bitten even in Greece. Pauline smothers herself in insect repellent but I just can’t be bothered. I may have to change my attitude. I’ve got some really annoying bites recently and they’re driving me mad. At least my latest ONS Survey test came back to say I am positive for antibodies at a higher level. Quite reassuring before the scrum that is Gatwick Airport!

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

One of the people I have admired for most of my life and who has lived inside my head since the 1960s was born 100 years ago this year. Like me, he was born and brought up in the Midlands. Like me, he was an atheist and, like me, he tended to make the sadness in life inform his writing. Philip Larkin was born in Coventry in 1922. Unfortunately, unlike him, I did not go to Oxford. He went on to be Head Librarian for Hull University. It was a job that allowed him the time and space to be a poet.

I first came across him in Grammar School days but then increased my knowledge while at College with lecturer, David McAndrew and even more when I spent a University year studying 20th Century Poetry. My tutor there was Larkin’s Publisher and Biographer, Harry Chambers, Founder of the Peterloo Poets Publishing House.

Simon Armitage

To celebrate Larkin’s centenary, Simon Armitage, the Huddersfield born poet and current Poet Laureate, has been presenting a reappraisal of Larkin on BBC-R4 in Larkin Revisited. What I like about Larkin is the everyday nature of his subject matter from which his intelligence and perception draw out meaning. Today’s choice is from the 1964 collection: Whitsun Weddings.

Talking in Bed
Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside, the wind’s incomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds in the sky,
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind

For Larkin, what should be the easiest thing to do such as talking in bed after the most intimate of human intercourse, in reality, becomes still more difficult to find words both honest and kind. The relationship, and he had many, was turning perfunctory and sterile as he feels his life is doing. It is a damning, hopeless, helpless view of life.

Tuesday, 16th August, 2022

The morning has started beautifully. At 7.00 am, gentle, warm and soft, sweet rain began to fall and has now been falling for 2 hrs. How wonderful! This is our first meaningful rain for over 2 months. Looks like I will be in the Gym this morning although warm and wet is a great way to exercise.

I will be trying out one of my pairs of new trainers that were delivered yesterday from Skechers who make the sort that suit me. They are like walking on air.

Yesterday, amid the furore that is breaking about fuel price increases, I received this email from British Gas who supply us with electricity and gas. Lovely people! Always liked Bristish Gas!

I have to go for my 6 monthly eye check-up at the hospital. It involves eye drops and cameras and being driven home by my wife because I can’t see for a couple of hours. I always dread being told, Well, your eyes have deteriorated badly since your last visit and you must inform the DVLA immediately and hand back your Licence. Not being able to drive would be a killer for me but both Julie in Yorkshire and John Morris in the Midlands have suffered this indignity recently. Fortunately, both have subsequently got their licences back but there is no guarantee.

PASSED!!! In fact my eyesight is a little improved. I am one of those weird people whose eyesight improves with age rather than deteriorates. The optical muscles slacken my focal length to a point where I hardly need my glasses at all. That’s a relief!

Wednesday, 17th August, 2022

Warm outside – 22C/70F – but noticeably cooler than over the last couple of weeks. We had some rain yesterday and and are forecast for more today. We will see but it will be very welcome. We are flying to heatwave Athena very soon and we are preparing for that.

Pauline is in charge of packing. Anything other would be a disaster. Because we are only away for 8 days or so, we have decided to avoid as much airport chaos as we can by surviving on ‘Carry-On’ Luggage. Fortunately, we are each allowed two, carry-on bags and clothes for Athens are minimal. You don’t really need much more than shorts and tee-shirts. I can delegate that to the servants.

We will drive to the airport and park. The car park is booked. We have already Checked-in online and printed out our Boarding Passes so going through Security to Airside is all we need to do about 3hrs before Departure. I’ve booked an Executive Lounge to have some comfort while we wait. Because we have no Hold Luggage, we can’t take liquids through security. First stop on Airside will be Boots to buy Aftershave, Toothpaste, etc.

The flight is 3hrs 40 mins – a lot quicker than in the early 1980s when it was well over 4 hrs. We will take the Metro to Syndagma and walk down to our hotel. I have been looking at things to do while we are there.

Athena Coastal Tram

We are going to take the new, Coastal Tram to Glyfada on the Athenian Riviera. We were last in Glyfada in about 1988. I suspect we might see some changes.

National Inflation hit 10.1% today but what I didn’t realise is that regional inflation is much higher. In Burnley, inflation is 13% and, even in leafy Greater Manchester areas, inflation has been over 12% for some months. Apparently this is because poorer areas tend to spend more on staples like bread, milk, cheese, eggs and ready meals, etc which have increased in price much more than other daily items. I used the BBC personal Inflation Rate Calculator and found our inflation rate was slightly below the national at 9.0% which is heartening.

Thursday, 18th August, 2022

Lovely warm and sunny day after yesterday’s rain. Everything is ‘coming back’, heaving a sigh of relief, putting on a spurt before Autumn. Teachers will hardly believe there are only two weeks left of the Summer holidays. Children will be oblivious for a few days more until parents talk about new, school shoes and uniforms to grow in to. A lovely, little, Polish girl I see on my walk can’t wait to go to ‘Big School’ and it reminds me how excited I was to start Grammar School in September 1962. It was 60 years ago. Where were you then?

A friend sent me this in my Breakfast mail. Almost made me laugh, particularly, HGBM. I sent it to Kevin who is anal enough at the moment. Hope it makes you smile.

Although I’m off to Athens shortly, I’m currently juggling dates for Our Friends in the North. We travel up on October 16th and back on 21st so, effectively, we have 4 full days to fill. I have to be in Oldham for the 18th which is Mother-in-Law’s anniversary. Helpfully, Kevin can do any day. He is disappointed I can’t make the College 50th Reunion but I am in Florida and he says it is too late to relocate all the men in time. Maybe next year.

Here, a couple of days of some rain and the grass is greening up already. The trees take longer to react and premature Autumn is showing in August. Be interesting what the world will look like when we return from Athens. We should have lots more figs and tomatoes to ‘pick’.

Friday, 19th August, 2022

The forecast said, Hot and full sun all day. The weather said, Rain. The weather was right. I was just outside picking tomatoes when the heavens opened and the garden drank again with a huge sigh.

Everything is geared to going away. Refuse is collected on Mondays so we had a trip to the Tip to take our own. It is quick – about 5 miles away – easy and a pleasant service. The workers there are delightful people, keen to advise and help to carry things from cars. This is so different to the service in Surrey and Yorkshire where it was almost inquisitorial.

Returning home to check electrical items to go – 2 x iPad, 2 x smartphone (How could we manage without them?) 1 x Kindle, Shaver, 1 x multi-socket with plug and USB sockets. Make sure iPad is set up with VPN to disguise our Banking apps and access UK media and Netflix. Nothing is ever left to chance. Can you imagine a week away anywhere and not able to access Sky NewsBBC Newsnight and BBC R4 Today?

Can you imagine the xenophobic Brexiteers reaction to the latest news from the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, who is in need of thousands of more workers to deal with the Socia Care crisis. Normally, the jobs would have been filled by European workers with good English but Brexit has persuaded them to go elsewhere. Now, Barclay is exhorting NHS Recruitment Managers to go out to India, Pakistan and the Philippines to seek workers. The sub-continent’s English Language skills are notably lower than those in Europe and their culture is markedly different. The lesson is, Be careful what you wish for!

I can hardly believe I am posting this. Diane is going through a nightmare. If you knew her backstory, you wouldn’t believe how hard this is going to be on her. Hollinwood Crematorium, September 1st. I have been there so many sad times. For those of us who have chosen to shut ourselves off from our past, this is a real wakeup call. Our past will come back to haunt us and rudely fracture our present!

Saturday, 20th August, 2022

A day of warm but intermittent sunshine. Doesn’t matter. The day of travelling is always mad and busy. There are so many things that can’t be done until the last minute and I have to walk 11 miles as well.

2mins between Terminals on the shuttle.

We use Easyjet for Greece and BA for USA. We flew one of the first ever Easyjet flights when we needed an emergency flight back from Athens in the late 1980s. It is still the most convenient for Athens particularly if you want to go from Gatwick. We buy the best seats and can carry on a large bag of 15kgs each. Makes you wonder why anyone needs to pay for Hold LuggageEasyjet go from North Terminal and BA go from South Terminal so we get to know the Airport quite comprehensively.

Today, because we are only taking Carry-on luggage and we’ve payed for Premium Security Lane access, we can nip through to the Executive Lounge without having to get stuck in Bag Drop queues and Bag Check queues and miss out on all that stressy, sweaty mass of people anxiously hopping from foot to foot. The service only costs £5.00 each. Bargain!

We are going at a busy time of year because we have so many things to fit in this year and we know that the Airside concourse will be busy, noisy and smelly. I can’t stand the throat-challenging odour of all those false fragrances being tested and bought in the Duty Free shops that really aren’t duty free.

Actually, the afternoon has been one of pure blue skies and hot sunshine. I just hope there is some rain while we are away. The garden should survive for quite a while …..

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