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.

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