Week 739

Sunday, 19th February, 2023

I must first wish happy birthday to my little brother, Bob, who is 71 today. Just 10 months between us – that’s Roman Catholics for you. That and the natural fecundity of the Sanders family.

Having lived in the South of England most of his life, Bob won’t know what his name means to Northerners. As I learnt when I first went to Oldham and they said, That’s absolutely bob. they meant it was total rubbish. It derives from the Lancashire cotton mills, where used bobbins/spools were discarded as worthless. I think today is the day to enlighten him.

Lovely, warm and sunny day. I’m having my haircut. Apparently, I can’t have things shoved up me on Tuesday if I’m looking scruffy. I’ll probably be made to put on a suit at this rate.

Pauline & I are both a collectors of the past. I collect people. She collects items – mementoes – things that keep her in touch with events of her history. Around our house, there are small, ostensibly insignificant, objects that came from her mother. A lampshade, a serviette holder, a thermometer that barely functions and things she picked up in Greece – pieces of pottery, objects from the travelling.

Blue Star Ferries / Superfast Ferries / BA First Class

I was reminded of this because the objects are not just stored in a cupboard but put to use which makes them all the more significant to her. The lampshade is over our bed; the pottery is used to store sewing things, the little bags are used for all sorts of things including haircutting equipment. They were in use today.

Sexy ‘Proserpine

The first car ferry we ever took to our Greek house was Blue Star Ferries in a brand new ship – Blue Star 1 – from Ancona to Patras. We rewarded ourselves with a Deluxe Cabin. The experience was lovely and we continued with them or Superfast Ferries for 15 years. Now we fly and British Airways give us bags with eye masks, etc. We are building up collections of those.

Testament to my collection of people: I have even developed a text relationship with Pauline’s old College friend, Christine in Milton Keynes. She and I were exchanging texts yesterday while she was dining out in luxury in a box at Chelsea while watching her beloved team lose at home to the Premier League’s bottom team, Southampton. She took a bit of cheering up.

I’m really looking forward to meeting old friends in October but we are talking about slotting in another reunion for my birthday in April – assuming I’m still alive. On April 6th, the Tate Britain Exhibition – THE ROSSETTIS – opens to the public. Now, for a long time I have been obsessed with the women of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s life and art. Pauline had to put up with them hanging all over our Yorkshire homes.

Ravishing ‘Beata Beatrix’

You could say I was a collector. I amassed around 40 huge prints all around the house. They were prints unfortunately. Only Andrew Lloyd Webber could afford to buy the originals … and he did.

Monday, 20th February, 2023

Woke up thinking about tomorrow. Tomorrow is D-Day. Old college friend, Nigel, wished me good luck. He is quite a bit older than me and is in remission from blood cancer. I think he had been prompted by Julie. I also heard from Kevin, John Ridley, John Morris and Dave Roberts as he returned from Australasia. Nigel’s contact really moved me. He doesn’t reach out much and to make that effort meant even more.

If you are of a nervous disposition … look away now!

The news carried a report of the death of former sports commentator, Dickie Davies, at the age of 94. My waking brain instinctively said, Well, that’s not bad. If you’ve reached 90, you should be fairly satisfied. And then my slow, old brain calculated, That would leave less than 20 years to enjoy the people in my life, the places that I love, the words I want to write.

As the day approaches, I’ve been forced to focus on the precise procedure. Until now, I’ve tried to leave that to my Social Secretary. The section featured above makes my trip to the Dentist this afternoon seem like a festive outing. If there is anyone out there, male or female, who will volunteer to go through this biopsy for me, I will be pleased to hear from you. Money could change hands. … Kevin has just told me he is a good friend but not that good. He also said, in a state of shock having read the procedure, a number of things that I cannot report here but I suppose we are just a couple of drama queens together.

Tuesday, 21st February, 2023

The condemned man ate a hearty breakfast …. well, porridge and orange juice. My social secretary has reviewed the orders for today:

  • Urine sample
  • Covid Test
  • INR test
  • No Dairy Products after 11.00 am
  • Take antibiotic at 2.00 pm
  • Arrive at Worthing Urology Butchers’ Dept. at 2.45 pm
  • Butchery begins at 3.00 – 3.30 pm.
  • Released if not passing too much blood by 4.30 pm.
  • Driven home and waited on hand and foot in perpetuity.
  • Death Sentence pronounced within 10 days.

The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.Philip Larkin

Managed the sample. Looked beautiful. Covid Test was clear. INR test was very low at 1.0 so I won’t bleed to death when they cut me. I will drink orange juice after 11.00 am. I don’t have a problem with antibiotics. After that, the list gets a bit more problematic.

Urology Butchers’ Reception

Well, it is all over. The guidance they sent and which I posted yesterday was so scary that the actuality was wonderful. I had three very attractive girls looking up my bum. No real pain. We listened to Puccini and talked about the Labour Party. They said I was a lovely patient which, of course, I was. Before I knew it, they were offering to help me put my pants back on and I left feeling pounds lighter. It will be about 10 days until I get my results.

Wednesday, 22nd February, 2023

Another grey, damp day. I’m going to see a lot of the Gym today. As I woke and reviewed the day ahead, two deadlines loomed into view. The Repair Shop have to contact me in the next few days to say whether they have repaired my iPad and the hospital have to contact me in the next few days to tell me if I have prostate cancer. Can’t quite decide which is most important. I’m absolutely lost without my iPad.

At last, I’ve found out where my Prostate is …

Still, I can buy a new iPad whereas a new prostate?? I don’t even know what a prostate is really and, until now, I’ve been too nervous to look it up. My wife knows all about bodies but despairs of explaining it to me. Never having studied Biology can have its advantages. Sublime ignorance allows one to lead a carefree life. At times like this, however, it can be like living in a strange, misty world of fear.

On the off chance that I am allowed to live a bit longer, financial security is very important. You never know when you’re going to need money. Is it too soon to start thinking about Funeral Plans? I’m going for the cheapest – Cardboard coffin, no mourners, no religious service. I don’t mind flowers if someone else is buying. I used to want a burial with a headstone for the sake of History but oblivion through cremation is what now appeals.

However, money is the topic. I have cash accounts paying about 3% interest but our bank has recently brought out a Regular Savings Account which pays double that. Admittedly, we can only hold £10,000 in it but that’s better than nothing. If the rates improve, I may go back into ISAs just to save tax. I think I’ve got too much time on my hands!

Thursday, 23rd February, 2023

An improving day which turned sunny and bright but wasn’t very warm. Heard from the iPad repairers that it will cost me £240.00 for what is essentially a spare charging socket which I could buy for £3.50.

Unfortunately, all the skill is in removing the glass screen without breaking it, cleaning the computer board, removing the old socket and micro-soldering in a new one. This is all quite beyond me and cost effective. A new one would cost me about £1600.00 so the repair on a relatively new machine is well worth it.

A few more days before I hear if my own body is recoverable or even worth saving. Expecting a phone call within two weeks to deliver the sentence. I’d certainly pay a great deal more for that to be resoldered.

Certainly got that phone call in the back of my mind as I go about the day. It rather colours each activity from walking outside in the Spring sunshine to exercising in the Gym, from shopping for food to researching new travels. I feel like I am marking time rather than moving forward. Life is all about new goals and achieving them but I’m struggling to focus at the moment. There are nice things lurking away in the background but, for now, pleasure is hard to grind out.

Actually, the day really came alive as we walked a familiar path. The trees are well into bud, the rabbits are out and frisky, the birds are singing very loudly from the tree tops.

And this evening, the planets are aligned in our village. The Moon, Jupiter and Venus in a straight line. Must mean something!

Friday, 24th February, 2023

A cold morning. Had the heating on at breakfast. That’s a rare event. It is fairly grey outside as well.

I have to chauffeur my Social Assistant to Worthing on a clothes shopping expedition. Not that I will be much help.

Muted colours today.

The shops are near the beach so I can’t resist a sniff of the sea even though an icy wind made it less enjoyable than usual.

I hate shopping for clothes with a passion but the bright warmth of the department store was almost preferable this morning. Shopping for clothes illustrates as much as anything the differences between the sexes. If I want something, I check a shop has it, go to the shop and buy it. If Pauline wants something, she consults 20 sales catalogues, 20 more websites, selects 10 different items, colours, sizes and then goes to the store.

The bright and garish colours of the store.

When she gets there, she finds the item and holds it, rocking it backwards and forwards while simultaneously scanning the rails. She then walks round the store, holding the item that she came for but looking at every other item there. In the end, she will often forget the original and buy something completely different. What drives me mad is the indecision. I’m not a good shopping companion.

I love learning new things. Today it was paying a physical cheque in online. Don’t normally deal in cheques or hard cash but something strange happened when we bought a new car. Firstly, our insurance was £100.00 cheaper than for the identical but dirtier car that we were trading in. Absolutely no idea why. Next, we were provided with 12 months Road Fund Tax in the price of our new car and were entitled to 6 months remaining RFT from our old one. It arrived today in the form of a paper cheque for £77.50. With our banking app and smartphone camera, it’s as simple as photographing the cheque. Who needs banks?

Saturday, 25th February, 2023

Didn’t sleep well last night but woke to a reasonably bright morning. No earthquakes down here. I did sleep through one a few years ago in Yorkshire which my wife says rattled the garage doors. Those were the days when I slept soundly without concern.

Received a text this morning from my next door neighbour asking if I could help him out with his lawns. He runs a Building Firm. In fact, his firm built our house for David Wilson Homes. He is very proud of his lawns but doesn’t have much time to maintain them so, when he does, he cuts them so low he scalps them. They have a dog which wees on their front lawn and destroys it in patches. His lovely, skinny wife – an English Lit. lecturer – appeared at my door the other day to apologise for reversing over the grass when she came home tired after work. I didn’t make it easy for her!

Jason was offering to pay me to do the grass. Of course, I couldn’t contemplate that. I replied that I would happily bring his lawns back to life and he could just pay for the products but there would be a couple of things he should consider: selling the dog and banning his wife from driving. He immediately came back one better. He will discuss selling his wife and teaching the dog to drive. On that basis, I’ve agreed to help out.

I had just started to explore a June trip to Barcelona when the dreaded letter arrived. It confirmed that I have quite advanced prostate cancer. It is not clear to me what my prognosis is or what can be done to mitigate it but at least I now know.

Week 738

Sunday, 12th February, 2023

Early start this morning. Rather gloomy and overcast outside and not warm either but I wanted to do a walk. Before we left the house, Little John the robot was started off on his tour of duty. He only cleans downstairs which has 7 rooms but he’s not allowed in the Utility Room.

Only one of those rooms is carpeted so the dust container shows how dirty our hard floors get as he goes out three times a week.

He takes about 45 mins to do downstairs. In each room, he does the bulk of the floor and then goes back and cleans along the walls. In order to go right out to the edge, a circulating brush protrudes and brings any dirt out and underneath his suction area. All the dust is pushed through a slatted filter with such force that it produces a matted material.

As soon as he’s finished, he returns to his base under the stairs, mounts the connectors and starts to recharge. At the same time, he alerts me to the fact that he has finished and reports any problems he encountered. He also tells me how much charge he has left in case I want to send him out again soon.

Upstairs, Little John’s Mate does the same thing. There are 6 rooms plus landing to cover up there and all but two are carpeted. He has less objects to negotiate upstairs than his friend downstairs so he completes rather more quickly.

We tend to set them off as we go out so we/they don’t get in the way. The one downside is, we can’t set the house alarm because it would be immediately triggered by these little bodies zooming round the floors.

While I was walking, Kevin contacted me to say that he’d read the Prostate Cancer article from The Times and everything would be alright. After all, as he pointed out, he is a doctor. Julie sent me photos of her allotment which, after a week, has been transformed from a rough, grassed area into a beautifully dug plot ready to plant. Of course, she didn’t do it herself. She sweet talked two old guys to do it for her. Well, she would, wouldn’t she?

Monday, 13th February, 2023

Lovely morning of sunshine but a much bigger one tomorrow. Can’t wait to see if I get a Valentine’s card. Preparing for it already. My exercise reached 8 miles yesterday so I am nearly back to full madness. Jobs today include trying to work out how to transfer Sat. Nav. data from the current car to the new one.

I can’t find a way to do it although it should be possible. Particularly, we want to save the European destination list but I am tearing my hair out trying to find a way.

I’m told that the new car will have an improved infotainment unit which will allow me to connect Google Maps through the car screen. I would like to be able to do that particularly abroad.

This old lady appeared on my computer yesterday. She is Margarita from Sifnos and she is the same age as me but I bet you she won’t be using a computer. Island life can be a hard life. Religion is still all pervasive particularly in her age group. I could never accept that.

Out walking, Kevin contacted me. He had only just got up at 11.00 am. When I chastised him, he told me he had been up half the night watching the American Superbowl. I had considered it myself but was too tired. Later, another very old lady phoned asking for help because her email had stopped working on her iPad.

As we explored the remedies over the phone, it became apparent that it had stopped working on her iPhone as well. As we gradually inched towards a resolution, I learned that she had changed her password on her BT account yesterday. All that was left to do was to talk a partially sighted old lady through the multi-layered and quite tricky process of changing her password on the machines. She managed it though.

Tuesday, 14th February, 2023

The start of a special day. Happy Valentine’s Day dear reader. The sun is up. The sky is blue … all the rest is up to you. Actually, it’s quite cold here – only 1C/34F – but lovely. Apparently, the North is going to be carpeted in Saharan Dust today. Don’t want that down here because ….

Why is it a special day? Because we pick up the new car this afternoon which is always an enjoyable experience. Love the smell and tight feel of a new car. This morning, I have to clear all our personal possessions out and clean off the sat.nav. All the paperwork was signed digitally last night and the cherished numberplate has been put on the new car. The transfer will be completely painless. It will include a full tank of petrol for me and a bouquet of flowers for Pauline. Actually, it should be the other way round.

Wimereux Plage

The tradition is that we pick up a new car and drive to France to start its life. Unfortunately, I’ve got the hangman’s noose over me at the moment and, until that’s settled, I’m not going anywhere. A week today is my biopsy but I will have a couple of weeks to wait for the results. What will I do then?

It is strange how different people react. If the verdict is good, I will probably open a bottle of wine and book a trip. If, as I expect, the verdict is not good, my instinct is not, like some people, to start fulfilling a ‘bucket list’ of ambitions. Mine will be to hunker down, retreat into myself and prepare for the inevitable. Being optimistic, we could be walking on Wimereux Beach in March/April time. Being pessimistic, I could be organising my finances.

On the more important side, we took delivery this morning of our 3rd digital kettle in 3 weeks. Consider it a Valentine’s present for a 72 yr old. Each one has been a ‘variable temperature kettle’. The first one stopped working after a couple of weeks. The second one worked fine until it reached 100C when it just continued to boil and turned the kitchen into a Turkish Bath …. I imagine. We have gradually moved up the price range from £50.00 through £80.00 to this 3rd one at £130.00.

The old saying that you get what you pay for is definitely borne out in kettle purchase, dear reader, if you’re thinking of it. This latest one is German made by Carrera – a company I’ve never heard of. You can tell immediately the quality of construction and operation. Reassuringly, it offers a 3 yr warranty. I’ll be 75 before I buy a new kettle. Look forward to it.

We were at Honda at 3.30 pm to collect our new car. It was outside gleaming in its new metal coat. I got my bouquet of flowers and Pauline got a tank of petrol which said it would do 625 miles before refilling. Probably not the way I drive but I am trying to be gentler. Its first trip wasn’t to the beaches of France but to Sainsburys for some milk. Story of my life!

Wednesday, 15th February, 2023

Didn’t sleep well last night. Went to bed late and woke at 4.00 am when my leg went absolutely rigid with the pain of extreme cramp. It is one of the effects of getting back to my full exercise routine and makes me feel old. Leaping (struggling) out of bed at 7.00 am, I opened the blinds and said, It’s very foggy this morning. and then I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and realised it was clear, bright and sunny outside. Do you ever feel old, Dear Reader?

Driving up to Surrey this morning to help a very, very old lady sort her iPad out to do Facetime video calling. Yes, some very, very old people do try to keep up with new technology. I’m sure it helps to ward off dementia and keeps the brain more alert. What day is it? I am beset by old ladies!

Anyway, before we drive off into the sunshine, I have to set the car up. We have to fix two, different seating positions for driving. These are tied to each of our keys and sets the seats as we open the door. It is also set on the door with buttons. The Owner’s Guide runs to 450 pages and nothing is easy to find.

Just 16 miles on the clock and 650 miles in the tank. Always a moment to savour!

I have to redo the preset stations for the DAB Radio. The mechanics seem obsessed with Radio Sussex and 1BTN. I had to look it up. It is a specialist ‘Indie’ radio station from Brighton. I want Radio 4. I have to set the steering wheel tilt and the reversing method on the rear camera. I have to set our home position on the sat.nav and P&C’s home postcode we’re driving to. I’ve also got to do part of my exercise routine before we go. The obsessive has to be satisfied.

… well, at least that’s one old lady’s problems sorted out. Lovely drive up to Surrey in the new car. C&P’s iPad and iPhone Facetime problems sorted out. The weather has been beautiful – 16C/61F – and Springlike. The birds think so anyway. The road from Sussex into Surrey is really lovely and especially so in the sunshine. (Am I sounding old?)

I came home thinking about the fact that I would be in hospital next Tuesday and I have to stop taking Warfarin tomorrow until they cut me open in case I bleed to death on the table. As if by a process of osmosis, this charity knew I had a problem and decided to warn me of my fate. They are right to draw attention to it. Makes it even more important to achieve my goals. We are going out for another walk and then I am going to cook Linguine Marinara for Dinner. I’ll enjoy doing that.

Thursday, 16th February, 2023

A grim, grey morning of that horrible soft, wetting rain. It started even worse for me. Nobody’s day should start with insults but mine did.

My iPad and phone are extensions of me.

Not only was the weather hurling insults down but the IT Gods were also. I plug my iPad in every night and just start using it over breakfast in the morning. I had a little accident yesterday. Trying not to drink wine, I had a glass of disgusting, non-alcoholic grape juice. I hate it normally and I hate it even more now. I knocked it over my iPad – it is a large iPad Pro with keyboard case – and, although my maid wiped it clean, this morning I found it had failed to charge over night.

I plugged it in but there was clearly something wrong with the charging point. So I researched the net for answers. I tried everything they suggested but without success so I’ve got to seek help. Found a shop called Laptop Workshop some 5 miles away and took it out to them. I thought it would be a simple, while-you-wait solution. Sorry, Sir. These things are very difficult and often impossible to fix. It could be up to two weeks before we know. I asked if they couldn’t speed it up and do it in the next 10 mins but their faces were stony.

What am I going to do? I am in despair! A new one will cost me £1600.00 so I will claim on the insurance. That will teach me. I should have been drinking red wine after all.

Friday, 17th February, 2023

Must have been very tired. Something very unusual happened this morning. I didn’t get up until 7.50 am!! Immediately felt lazy. According to my Blog, the last time I did that was this day exactly 2 years ago. Spooky. Once every two years is just about acceptable, I suppose. In the Gym at the moment I’m watching a Drama called The Devil’s Hour in which the central character wakes up every night at exactly 3.33 am which is also known as the devil’s hour. Still, it is helping me through 9 miles a day now. I’m not obsessive!

While I was there, my Blog informed me that two years ago tomorrow is a very significant occasion. Amongst other things, we had our first Covid vaccination and we still haven’t been infected … yet.

Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire

Opened my computer to this photo this morning. Was last there about 60 years ago. It was one of our family Sunday afternoons out in the countryside. At the time I really didn’t appreciate it but now …. I think it’s beautiful.

It’s a bit like gardening. Dad had the Dig for Victory enthusiasm although he got his employees to do much of the hard labour for him. He tried to get me interested in growing lots of different vegetables. I hated it. Now, 58 years after he died, I love it. Julie keeps sending me photos of seed potatoes and broad bean plants for her allotment and I’m actually quite jealous.

Kevin contacted me with warm words this afternoon. He is constantly trying to reassure me about the potential of cancer in the prostate. He knows no more than me but it is nice to hear his encouragement.

The MEN this morning announced an incredible statistic. Apparently, 70% of all homes in Bolton and Rochdale are Band A & B for council tax. Band B there is about £1,200 a year. We are in Band F for quite an ordinary house. We are going to be paying £3,100 a year. Think we’ll just have to move back North! The trouble is it’s so cold up there.

Saturday, 18th February, 2023

Another bad night. Woke up at 4.00 am and had to get up. I had a cup of tea and wrote for a while.

Starting the countdown to the death sentence on Tuesday by taking this drug which has interesting side effects. Apparently, they can include extended erections for up to 4 hours. As Pauline says, You probably won’t notice any difference then.

We have another Estate Agent’s flyer through our door imploring us to have a valuation and extolling the virtue of a sale in this buoyant market. Values seem to be holding up extremely well in spite of increased interest rates. This is an expensive area to purchase property. Just an ordinary house is out of the ambit of many people.

Oxfordshire – £4,000,000

I was reading that Boris Johnson had just agreed to pay £4 million for the above property with tennis court and 5 acres. Just across the road from our house is the property below with less grounds and less bedrooms although it does have an indoor pool. It is on the market for £9 million.

Angmering – £9,000,000

We are often tempted to sell, trade down and take a big profit but who wants to downsize really? I certainly wouldn’t live in either of these two properties even if I could afford them. I like modern, preferably new-build properties with all mod-cons not draughty, old places with centuries old insulation and archaic heating systems.

Week 737

Sunday, 5th February, 2023

Lovely, sunny day which is useful because I’ve got jobs outside to do today. We will be meeting the Honda sales team tomorrow morning. It will involve valuing our car and trying to sell us a new one. Important jobs this morning include valeting the car so it is presented at its best tomorrow but first I am seeking a market valuation guidance to go armed with.

There are so many online purchasers now that valuations are easy and keen. I was pleased to find that there was reasonable consensus around £33,500 which gives me strengthened bargaining power…

…. It’s 2.30 pm. I’ve been working for about 3 hrs and the car looks so good even I’d buy it again. It is a gleaming example of Japanese quality. I’m not gleaming. I’m shattered and now I have to do my Gym workout. At least I have a gripping, WW2 drama to watch. On Sky Movies, I’m watching Colin Firth and Penelope Wilton in a true story about a counter intelligence running a plan involving a ruse to persuade the Germans that they were about to defend Greece whereas they were really concentrating on Sicily. Entitled Operation Mincemeat, it’s central character is a corpse. You’d love it!

In the Gym, I’ve got myself back up to 7 miles a day for the past 10 days. I’m getting it back but slowly. When you’re in the maelstrom of illness, you don’t always appreciate the severity of your condition. To be honest with you, for quite a while I was out of it completely. It is only now that Pauline tells me how worried she was for my existence. At least someone is. When I complain how long it is taking me to return to full strength, she reminds me how ill I was.

My Windows PC opens with new photos each morning. Today it was this wonderful snap of tree trunks. Click on it to open it fully. I absolutely love it. Hope you do to.

Monday, 6th February, 2023

The lovely morning of gorgeous sunshine started with an early call from the Hospital Urology Investigation Team. I have an appointment for February 21st. I could even pick my own time slot out of 3 in the afternoon. I chose the earliest to get it over as quickly as possible.

Then out to Honda just 5 minutes away. I parked our car, gleaming in the sunshine, right in front of the salesman’s desk. It looked so good, he didn’t even bother to go out and check it over which was a pity because I had done a wonderful job on the interior.

Honda showrooms are always quiet, with respectful sales staff sitting quietly at desks, using their computers as shiny, new cars make their own statement. The salesman today is one who has already sold us two new cars over the past 5 years and he already knows he will sell us another one today. We also know that he will come up with an attractive enough proposition that we will buy one today.

Modern Steel Metallic

He has the cars in the country and available for delivery in about 2 weeks. He offers a Honda incentive of £1,500.00 off the list price plus 5 years ‘free’ servicing. He will handle all the transfer of the ‘cherished numberplate’ that we have used for 25 years.

Most important of all, he has the colour we (I) want – modern steel metallic. It cost £670.00 more but we have driven silver cars for years and I decided it was time for a change. It may be a bit too garish and bright for you, Dear Reader, but the condemned man gets to choose.

As the salesman went into a flurry of paperwork, urgent phone calls, form filling for the DVLA, etc, we shook hands and left with this folder. The car should be available just before I hear of my fate from the hospital.

Tuesday, 7th February, 2023

Glorious blue sky but … we’ve got frost. Athens, of course, had snow yesterday but weather is certainly changing.

Julie’s off to a party. Kevin’s out on his bike. I’ve been scanning some old photos of a friend. She wants to send them to people. Past & Past in a nutshell!

The permanent globe trotter, Dave Roberts, is in Australia now. I’m never going to keep up with that.

Looked a bit stormy over Sydney Harbour yesterday. Even so, I would have liked to have been there for the experience. I had to make do with Littlehampton Marina. Mind you, it was a lovely day and remarkably warm.

Still got an hour to do in the Gym before Dinner. Pauline’s cooking Stuffed Peppers tonight which I love. We are both on a strict regime of no alcohol, no carbs and full exercise routine. It’s always hard getting back into the straightjacket of self discipline but it has to be done.

Wednesday, 8th February, 2023

Another cold start to the morning with some frost on the ground. Beautiful sky. Drink in the bright colours. First job this morning is moving money around for the new car which is only a couple of weeks away. Always hurts to take money out of a savings/investment account. I am dedicated to increasing not depleting it. Re-reading the paperwork, the salesman has got the details of our current, trade-in car wrong again. This will be the 4th car we have bought from him since 2016 and he’s lazily just accessed the details of the 2016 car by mistake. I think he did that last time as well. It all needs to be put right before the forms go off to the DVLA.

Our ‘landline’ phones were converted to digital VOIP status over a year ago by BT. This morning, they are unusable because of severe interference. There is nothing wrong with our broadband service so I need to contact BT to find out how to deal with it. Why isn’t life simple? For months, we have been concerned that a couple of kitchen doors were showing bubbling in the paintwork on the edges. The suppliers Symphony Kitchens agreed to supply and fit new doors.

Twice now, the company have sent replacement doors and twice they have been the wrong size. Twice they have booked a fitter and twice they have cancelled him. On each occasion, they don’t want the doors back. Keep them or throw them away, we are told. They are for our kitchen and would fit elsewhere so we (or whoever lives here) will have replacements for the next 20 years but we are left having to rebook, re-receive deliveries and make new arrangements for the fitter. It is incompetence and costly .. for them. Mind you, they are from Barnsley so …!

We are regularly being told to beware the growing threat of Chinese technology which has built in spyware. Phones, televisions, Fridge/Freezers, etc all have computer board controllers which can be engineered to monitor you in your dressing gown, what you are doing and who with.

A couple of weeks ago, we bought some very expensive, Egyptian Cotton bed linen. Pauline had to buy an extra sheet to cut up and make pillow cases because the standard ones don’t fit our huge pillows. In doing so, she cut off the manufacturers tab. Of course they were made … in China and each tab on each sheet and Quilt cover contained one of these specifically sewn in to the fabric. They are circuit board chips. Were they spying on me in bed? I can’t say I blame them!

Our landline is working again after I contacted BT and I didn’t speak to a single human being. I searched the BT website, was told to send a text with my phone number and the word HELP and a web bot told me it would refresh my Office hub remotely and then reconnect my phone system to the net. A bot is a software application that is programmed to do certain tasks. Bots are automated, which means they run according to their instructions without a human being intervening. True to its word, we were up and working 5 mins later.

Thursday, 9th February, 2023

A dull but mild start to the day. After juice/tea/coffee and porridge, we have to do our monthly test for the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey. They only pay us £40.00 each month now instead of £50.00 but it’s the act that counts.

Preparing to give blood.

Mouth and nose swab is the easy part. Next we have to elicit a phial of blood from our finger. Over the sink in the kitchen, we soak our hand in hot water and then jab one finger with a sharp, medical lance. Over the next 5 minutes and squeezing the flesh hard, blood flows and has to be scraped into the little glass pot until it is full. I collapse at the sight of blood so I have to get a friend to squeeze my finger but she tells me it flows well.

Next we have to access the website to answer some straight forward questions about the test procedure and our current health and then parcel up the swab and the phial of blood and take it to a Priority Mailbox in the village. We are sent a voucher for £40.00 which we convert into a Sainsbury’s voucher online and go out and spend it. We get back two results – Covid Infection = yes/no and Antibody Level = High/Moderate/Low. We both have no Covid and have never had it and our Antibody Level is High. It is always good to know as the infection levels in our area soared recently.

Our new pool is rapidly taking shape. It is hard to imagine Florida weather without one but this is going to be great. We may even let M&K use it as well … when we’re not there.

Friday, 10th February, 2023

I have started the day as a chauffeur. Pauline is having her hair cut and the parking is difficult. It is a beautiful day but the strong sun makes driving quite difficult. The strobe effect through the trees is the hardest part. Good job I’m not epileptic.

Huddersfield Town Centre

I spent much of last night haunted by my past. It was painful, emotional. To be so far away and yet I chose it. When we left West Yorkshire where we lived for 35 years, I embraced a new future in the South. Yes, I missed the North and its moors, I missed the people but I was moving forward. For the first few years the landscapes of West Yorkshire and Lancashire formed the backdrop to my dreams. The accents, the dialects played the soundtrack. The stone walls and buildings loomed large in my imagination.

As you will know, Dear Reader, all things fade and we get on with our lives. New landscapes/seascapes start to appear normal, everyday, comfortable and the nagging memory of the past is pushed away. But, with me, the past constantly bleeds back into my memory. The last few days have seen just that.

We never watched Happy Valley when it was shown on TV. Sarah Lancashire, an Oldham girl who was educated at Hulme Grammar School, plays the central character of the drama. Suddenly, the last episode of the final series was lauded by so many on the media that we thought we should try it. I downloaded Series 1, Episode 1 from 2014 and we were hooked. Although it is set in Halifax and we lived in Huddersfield, so many familiar scenes came back instantly.

Of course I know that we cannot go back to our past. We all grow and move on but that is not an excuse to shun it completely. I love to revisit … places, people, to touch them and remind myself of what went before, what made me the person I am now, to understand time and distance is only a construct which can be broken down in an instant if we only will.

Just as a foot note: Sarah Lancashire was married to a lad called Gary Hargreaves for a decade. He was Pauline’s former boyfriend. Fame at last!

Saturday, 11th February, 2023

To sleep, perchance to dream ..

My Prostate biopsy is on Tuesday, 21st February. I am expecting the worst while hoping for the best. I have no real idea even what the biopsy entails …. well I didn’t until this scary item appeared.

Just as I was going to bed last night, the Saturday Times arrived with this article. It is a shocking and quite long read but worth it if you want to know the potential nightmare for about 20% of the male population. At 11.45 pm, I had to read it but wished I hadn’t.

Of course, there is nothing I can do about it. I must have the biopsy and I must live/die with the consequences but I resent it. I want another 28 years+ and I have much to do in that time. I accept, I deserve it. I have been reckless with my lifestyle and many have warned me of the dangers. I am obstinate in all things and I deserve my fate.

Ironically, my fitness levels are returning fast now. I am back to 7 miles a day and 10 will not be far away. The mild, dry weather drew us outside today for a walk in the Spring air. The mornings are light and the sun is going down later.

Snowdrops are flowering profusely in our village and even daffodils are opening up. The strange dichotomy between a personal death sentence and the emergence of new life in the natural world makes me so sad. At times like this, I retreat deep into myself. My wife never understands it but it is the only way I know to deal with personal threat. I have to fight it alone.

Week 736

Sunday, 29th January, 2023

Quite a grey, cool day. Although the temperature is 9C/48F, it still feels quite cool. Sunday is a politics day. My Mother is turning in her grave. She scoffed at the idea of supermarkets opening on a Sunday. She wouldn’t believe that it is now one of the most popular for shopping. For me, the political week starts on a Sunday. The interviews start on Sky with Sophie Ridge.

The same people do the rounds. Today, it was greasy Gove. He was totally unconvincing in his defence of Zahawee. By the time he got to the BBC studios  to be interviewed by Laura Kuenssberg, Zahawee had been sacked and Gove looked even more oily.

There will be many who are totally oblivious to all this turmoil. They send out for their Daily Mail/Express and are quite prepared to believe the headlines and the pictures that hit them. Those that can read will be thinking differently.

We now know that there are dozens of senior civil servants who have complained about the bullying of Raab and the explosive revelation this week of a leaked N10 document showing that Boris Johnson was warned not to continue seeking financial advice from Richard Sharp who he shortly appointed as Chairman of the BBC. Equally, Sharp wrote to all BBC employees telling them he had never advised Johnson on finances. Both were lying and both are in trouble.

Sunak has to explain why breaking the Ministerial Code means Zahawee has to be sacked for the ‘crime’ but Braverman doesn’t require the same punishment. All of this, of course, will pass the average Mail/Express picture browser by. Do they even know who these characters are?

Monday, 30th January, 2023

A relatively mild night and start to the day. We didn’t fall below 8C/47F. I woke up feeling empty – not physically but emotionally. It has been a week since I learnt that they had found something on my prostate scan which would require a biopsy but I haven’t got a date yet. That is hanging over me like a black cloud.

Hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts

I am an inveterate list maker. I love to wake to a list of tasks for the day. Things to achieve over the next 24 hrs. When I woke this morning, my first thought was, Must put the Black Bin out. What sort of life is that? I have nothing on my agenda. The calendar is blank for the day. I hate it.

Over breakfast, I have got to create jobs. I am going to split my exercise in to two, separate sessions in the Gym. I’m going to tidy the garden (What am I saying???). I am going to set the two robots off on their tasks. I am going to try to repair an old, colour laser printer which is producing poor quality copy. I am going to talk to my friends in the North. Can it get more exciting than this?

Even the French Drama Series I’m watching in the Gym isn’t really gripping me. It should be. The subject matter is fascinating. In English, Netflix title it, Women at War although the French original is just, Les Combattantes or The Fighters. The drama deals with the German invasion of France in the First World War, the terrible casualties of the men sent out to the trenches at the Front and the women back home suddenly realising that they no longer had to remain domesticated at home but were needed to replace the men.

I am already enamoured of Sofia Essaïdi who plays a central part in the drama. She is French Moroccan born in Casablanca -how exotic is that? Her part is replacing her father in running the family factory producing Trucks. Pre-1914, it would have been no place for a woman but now there is no other option. The women struggle against prejudice but soon learn the skills both managerial and mechanical which is why the world was never the same when the men came home from the war.

Tuesday, 31st January, 2023

As January comes to a close, have you noticed how quickly the days are lengthening already? It is noticeably lighter in the mornings which ought to make me more optimistic but I don’t feel that. Something sad is niggling away. I don’t feel particularly old but I will be 72 soon. This morning I learned that my PSA test – Prostate Antigen – was 7.0 which is apparently a sure sign of cancer and makes me sad.

So many of my friends are in the same situation. I was talking to John Morris this morning. He is 72 today. He is feeling his age because he has had hip and knee replacements recently but so many of the group echo the sentiments on this tee-shirt.

We really have been the fortunate generation. We own our homes which have soared in value. We retired at young ages – well many of us. Pauline & I were still just 57 when we left to enjoy a life of ‘playing out’. We have good, protected and inflation-proofed pensions which allow us to travel and enjoy comfortable retirements. The generation before us seemed to accept old age whereas we increasingly resist it.

I was sent this photo from 1972 which features the Students Union reps. I never got involved in that sort of stuff preferring to be on the outside looking in but I knew all these people. They all look very different now as I do but it is not what you look like but what you are like that counts so I fail on both counts.

The Florida pool develops.

If things hadn’t gone wrong, we would have landed back at Gatwick Airport from Tampa at 8.45 this morning. It’s a pity but this PSA test wouldn’t have happened so soon if I hadn’t so it may turn out to be fortunate if the problem is caught early.

Wednesday, 1st February, 2023

New month. Hope you are happy and enjoy February 2023. Up early and by 6.30 am had already spoken to Kevin. Good to have him back in my life. He is very supportive. Driving up to Surrey this morning and that will include the M25 at rush hour on a day when there are no trains.

Optimism for the future is sometimes in short supply. Gardening is a process which relies on and implies optimism for the future. There is little point in preparing ground, sowing seeds or planting if you don’t expect to live to see the result. I tidied up the raised beds and lawn a couple of days ago and caught myself planning things for the Spring. Julie told me yesterday that she had just acquired an allotment plot in North Yorkshire and sent me photographs over Whatsapp.

A lot of hard work needed to get it in shape but it will be lots of fun doing it. If we were in UK consistently enough, I would consider an allotment myself but they are too tying and demanding. I’m not ready for that yet. Might have to go up and see Julie’s though.

Just had a three hour round trip through rush hour to take C to St Peters Hospital in Chertsey for what turned out to be a 10 mins appointment. Home in time for a session in the Gym this afternoon.

Thursday, 2nd February, 2023

Yesterday, amongst all the other dire warnings, there was one that appeared in a number of newspapers but which struck me particularly.

Warning as popular food and drink ‘increase your risk of dying from cancer by up to 30%’ … Ultra-processed foods such as sliced bread, breakfast cereals, fizzy pop and ready meals have long been singled out for their high levels of salt, fat, sugar and artificial additives.

The Mirror – 1/2/2023

It is ironic really because I am facing a potential cancer verdict myself and yet we have made a life’s mantra of avoiding processed foods. I would say that 95% of our diet is based on fresh ingredients cooked at home.

I was thinking about that as we assembled the weekly shopping list. For a while, we have been eating a roast chicken at the weekend with home made sage & onion stuffing. Gone are the days of the £3.00 chicken. We decided long ago to go for quality and ignore the price. A Norfolk Black chicken from Sainsburys costs around £16.00 – £20.00 and will make two meals plus stock for the future. It is very economical. It also clearly tastes better than cheap chicken

We certainly didn’t eat processed foods in my family as a child. My mother prided herself on cooking fresh things each day. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a brilliant cook like the one I have now. Once you have tasted Pauline’s food, you wouldn’t want to go out to eat or buy ready meals to bring home.

Just finished the French Drama Series, Les Combattantes, and had to get off the treadmill to mop the tears from the gym floor. It was horrendously sad as the two, long lost lovers reunited in the fog of war and were killed as their hands and eyes met. I am too soft for such sadness.

Friday, 3rd February, 2023

I’ve received a letter from the Urology Depart to say that it may be some weeks before I am called for my biopsy. A bit worrying but, with rolling strikes in the Health Service and GPs now balloting to join them, it is what I can expect. It may, of course, be a positive thing if they don’t think it so urgent after viewing the scan.

Just getting on with the day. What are you doing? What can anyone do? With Bank Rate going up to 4% yesterday, I’m hoping that savings accounts are improved very soon. Keep checking the best rates tables.

I start the day by reading the newspapers – The TelegraphThe TimesThe Independent and The Guardian – and I’ve got subscriptions to the first two. I can get into the others freely and then, if I have time, I browse the colour comics – The MailThe Express and The Mirror. They are free because … well, who would pay for them?

Each morning I’m sent updates by the Manchester Evening News and particularly for Rochdale and Oldham and from the Huddersfield Examiner so I follow them up during the day.

I am putting on weight and eating and drinking too much. Think I’m trying to drown my sorrows but I’ve got to get a grip. Going in the Gym is not enough. Got to make a plan!

Saturday, 4th February, 2023

I wrote on Monday about having to make lists of jobs to motivate myself. Well, the car is cleaned; the garden is tidied, the house is clean and tidy. What can I tick off next? It would be nice to say life was tidy but there are so many loose ends that I have to address. I will get there. You can be assured but they need more work. I never give up how ever much I flounder.

The big job today, along with my exercise routine and watching the 6-Nations Rugby, is sorting out the Office. Yesterday, I threw out the colour laser printer. I bought it 7 years ago just as we moved here. We took it to the tip. The new one I bought recently is far superior. As soon as I moved the cabinet it was sitting on, my friend moved in with the cleaning equipment. As you will know, she is cleaning mad while I am tidiness obsessed.

Today, I am sorting out the bookcases. Most books now go unread. Everything is digital. Some of the very elderly, I know, still take paper books to bed with them but what else is there? What I have still got with me are memories that I have carried from place to place – not willing to let go. Above is the book I chose as my prize for Literature student in the Sixth Form at Grammar School. Could you get more exciting and sexy than this?

It is followed by Deus Nobiscum – God with us – the motto of my Grammar School which was founded in 1520. My Dad went there in the 1930s. I left in 1969. It closed in 1972. It just couldn’t go on without me. The book was written by my old music teacher. She had huge bosoms but we knew her as Fanny Radford.

The third book is worth a fortune and is the history of my home village, Repton – the capital of Mercia. Chester thought it was special. It had nothing on Repton! It was a present to my Dad from his Auntie Kesssie over 60 years ago. I had to fight my siblings for it. I won!

Time moves on. I move away from my village and my family. I make new friends. Some support me and some don’t. My friends, Kevin & Chris, are rocks at a time of tempest. I don’t even understand their appreciation of my friendship. I saw it as all one way. I sucked up their support.

Even so, in 1976, as I was completing my BA Degree with a course on 20th Century Poetry, they bought me an anthology of Thomas Hardy’s poetry. I was moved by the gesture and inscription. It has travelled with me throughout the rest of my life.

I have my own leather-bound Masters thesis on the works of Professor R.H. Tawney which I’ve featured before but the other item on my bookcase which is so significant in my life is that chronicling our Greek lives on Sifnos spanning 30 years. It was a major part of our lives and, although I created a website for it at the time, it just had to be recorded in a hard copy.

How time flies. It is 8 years in July that we sold our house and left our island for the last time. In doing so, we just managed to reclaim our investment before the Greek economy imploded. It has allowed us to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Even so, it is great to have this memory as ours become a little hazier than we would like.