Sunday, 28th August, 2022
Began the day at 5.00 am. I know I am obsessive to the point of madness but I don’t ask anyone else to join me. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t trust me out on my own without much clothing. So it is that by 5,30 am, we are out on the road together for a couple of hours.
Actually, the truth is that I would get lost within a couple of hundred metres if she wasn’t with me as a guide.
The walk takes a couple of hours and reveals a capital city wakening up to a new day and a new week.
Cafe/Taverna owners pressure wash the cobbles in a vain attempt to present themselves well. After 2 sweaty hours, and a shower, we leave the hotel by taxi for the airport. The flight will be 20 mins delayed but that is fine. We go straight through security and in to the Goldair Lounge and ate Brunch with wine. As soon as we boarded, I fell asleep and woke up 20 mins before we landed. That’s the way to do it.
As we were landing, a message from Julie came in with a video clip of a wedding. No luggage to collect. Bus to the Long Stay Carpark and easy drive home. Home by 5.30 pm. Garden a riot of tomatoes and figs. That’s Dinner sorted!
Monday, 29th August, 2022
Lovely morning with warm sunshine. Out in the garden at 7.00 am, I picked another bowl of cherry tomatoes and a few more figs for breakfast.
They’ll probably be no better than those we buy from Sainsburys but picked freshly from our garden means they taste so much better in your mind.
I’ve been talking to people who I have reconnected with from 50 years ago quite a bit recently. It’s been quite good fun, on the whole, although a few of them have turned out to be a bit of a pain. What has really hit me is that, although they are physically older, the character traits we saw in their 20s are still there in their 70s and, in some cases even more strongly defined than in the past. I just love people. They are so rewarding.
Someone told me recently that I was materialistic. Can you imagine that, Dear Reader? I even went to Lidl today for Unsweetened Almond Milk. You can’t get much more man-of-the-people than that!
Tuesday, 30th August, 2022
Up early-ish on a bright, warm and sunny morning which eventually reach a pleasant 25C/77F. Listening to BBC R4 Today programme to an interview with a Brain Surgeon. He is 71 years old and has been diagnosed with advanced Prostate Cancer which will probably allow him 6 more months of life. He talked about it totally phlegmatically as if it was a tooth that needed removing or hernia repair as he said, Well, I’ve had a good life. I can’t ask more than that.
My immediate reaction was that he was a brave man to face imminent death so calmly. He had even written a book about it. But my next reaction was, 71? Had a good life? No way would I allow myself to resign to that. I would be screaming about it. I’m 71 and have so much more to enjoy. And then I thought of our friend, Frank whose funeral is being held on Thursday in Oldham at the age of 70. My reaction is immediate panic and there is nothing, currently, wrong with me …. as far as I know.
Actually, none of us know how we will face death until it is upon us. In the year I was born, 1951, the Life Expectancy of a UK Man was just 66 years. One year of State Pension and then off the roll. No wonder it was so much more affordable then. Males born in 1841 had an expectancy rate of 40 years. In 2021, Male expectancy is 79 years – a year less than before the Pandemic. Those figures are terrifying enough for me. My ambition is to live long enough to totally empty the entire Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
We have typical gardeners’ problem of everything coming to fruition at once and how to deal with it. The basil has gone mad this year. We could supply the whole street many times over. The tomatoes are all ripening at the same time and we are picking twice a day with so much more than we can eat. Pauline is cooking both together in huge amounts of tomato & basil sauce to be frozen for future use. Unfortunately, we are going to be away so much over the next 6 months that it is debatable when we will have time to eat it.
Wednesday, 31st August, 2022
Very warm night but with a sparklingly clear sky. Today is officially the Last Day of Summer. Enjoy it wherever you are.
We are celebrating by going to Tesco. I have actually done some cooking this morning. We have so many tomatoes that I’ve cooked a dish of Cherry Tomatoes, cubes of Feta Cheese, fresh Oregano from the garden and baby Finger Peppers with Greek Olive Oil. The kitchen smells delicious as they roast gently. We will eat them cold as a salad over the next couple of days.
I’m sorry to go on about inflation but it is currently unavoidable. Scary numbers have been bandied about recently …. 10, 12, possibly 15%. Yesterday, the scariest figure of all was put forward. Goldman Sachs, the Investment Bank, warned that UK inflation could hit 22.4% next year. For those who don’t understand the concept, this means that any wealth held in cash will lose almost ¼ of its value over a year. What that money will buy will be almost ¼ less than now. That would be fine if your assets rose in value accordingly but solid assets like property may well go the other way.
Rising inflation will provoke rising interest rates which will mean mortgages rise which means most people have less money to spend so they will not be able to buy new houses until the price comes down. Consequently, sellers are forced to reduce their prices to attract buyers and so on. Inflation makes all of us poorer apart from those who owe money which becomes less significant over time.
We returned from Athens three days ago so we’ve done a Covid test this morning. Greece currently has a rising infection problem and it was a bit of a concern. Anyway, we are clear and the infection rate in our area has plummeted in the past few weeks so Winter will probably be the next pinch point. Fortunately, we won’t be here so may avoid the crisis. We do have to get our Booster before we fly in November although we both know we have high immunity at the moment from our contribution to the ongoing ONS survey results.
Thursday, 1st September, 2022
A new month and a new season. Hope September is happy for you. Incredibly warm night and bright, sunny day. The Summer is officially over and Autumn begins. Actually, we have been experiencing a premature Autumn for some time because of the drought. Flowers are fading. Leaves are turning colour and falling. Blackberry season is over almost a month early. The times they are a changing …
Nothing brightens the fact that our friend, Frank’s funeral is at Hollinwood Crematorium this afternoon.
I found the whole process incredibly moving particularly by the humanity of the service. It had no religious content at all but members of his friends and family spoke brilliantly. Frank’s brother, a former Oldham GP and Oldham Royal doctor spoke about their humble childhood. His son spoke about the enormous number of activities he took part in and his best friend spoke about their competitiveness particularly in the last 5 years since he retired and they trained on their bikes. Diane, his wife, was inconsolable and who could blame her.
I was shocked at how moved I was and how hard I found it to move on. Frank was younger than me and he was dead. His wife has to continue alone. It is hard to imagine but it is certainly a time when friends are needed more than ever. Maybe, my shock was more for myself as I am older than him. I have communicated with Kevin, Julie and John this morning. They are from a different life and know nothing of Frank but just having them there somehow helps.
Friday, 2nd September, 2022
Yesterday was a difficult and sad one. Confronting death and the consequences of death is not a happy experience. The family’s orations at the Crematorium service really stayed with me all day. Old friends, long since gone were mentioned. Sam, my friend and mentor, who died 15 years ago and whose funeral I attended in St James’ Church, Derker, was cited as an influence on Frank as a pupil as he was on me as a young teacher. I can’t help but dwell on the tide of time flowing before me and of those people leaving, never to be seen again.
Talking about flowing tide, Julie sent me a photo from a boat trip of the North Yorkshire coast she took yesterday when a pod of dolphins accompanied them. I remember our delight in the Aegean some years ago when dolphins dived back and forth through the wash of our little boat, just having fun.
Back in the real world, on a very warm and sultry morning, we were informed we had won the Lottery last night. The sum of £100.00 will be paid into our bank account this week which will be nice. I’ve been addressing our November trip to Florida. We fly British Airways at 12.30 pm from Gatwick to Tampa. We will stay in the Sofitel the night before so can bag-drop that night and go straight through Security unencumbered in the morning. Pre-planning makes the start to this 9hr flight much more relaxed. With the time difference, we arrive at 17.30 on the day we leave which is helpful for coping with jetlag. Luckily, we have 3 months to acclimatise before returning to UK.
We had some rain over night and this combined with the temperature means the garden is growing vigorously. We are eating tomatoes and figs like there’s no tomorrow and still they’re backing up. Herbs are expanding exponentially but we have no more storage space so they are being left to build up their strength for next season … assuming we’re still alive.
The afternoon was delightfully sunny and quite hot – 27C/80F. We ate Dinner in the garden which is sheltered and south facing. Whatever the sensors say, it felt hotter than 80F. Be nice to have this weather prolonged through September. October in the North is never brilliant and often wet but I will know I’ve got 3 months of Florida to follow as compensation. Got to start booking up Friends meetings dates soon.
Saturday, 3rd September, 2022
Lovely day of warm, still, sunshine which reached 23C/73F. Mr Obsession just completed his 114th consecutive day of walking 11 miles since being in hospital. That’s 1,254 miles in just over 16 weeks. Just hoping all those studies that suggest daily, moderate exercise can stave off Dementia are accurate. What is good for the heart is good for the brain. Never give in!
"You are old, Father William," the young man said, "And your hair has become very white; And yet you incessantly stand on your head- Do you think, at your age, it is right?" "In my youth," Father William replied to his son, "I feared it might injure the brain; But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none, Why, I do it again and again." Lewis Carroll - 1865
Of course, I have to recognise that I am old. I only have to observe those dying around me to know what that means. Stop me if I’m depressing you but I feel the need to set my own life into context. My fear is that, otherwise, it will pass me by unnoticed. Bill Turnbull, someone who I watched and liked, died this week of Prostate Cancer at the age of 66. These things give one pause for thought. When you live with yourself for over 70 years, you don’t always recognise the small and incremental changes taking place in yourself.
I know I have white hairs, wrinkles and excess flesh. I know my face looks lived-in and care worn. If you’ve had as hard a life as me, what can you expect. But I only know these things fleetingly – when I get out of the shower and walk past a mirror, when I have my hair cut, when I get up aching in the morning. Often even then I don’t quite take it in.
It is when I focus on people of my generation that I realise we really are old and it comes home to me. I am old so it is important that I do lots of daft, young things to keep the inevitable at bay as long as possible. What worries me most of all is accepting my age and sitting back to drift into a quiet senility. Let’s take some risks. There will be no chance when we’re dead!