Week 743

Sunday, 19th March, 2023

Another sleepless night. Another beautiful morning – warm and sunny. The birds are going mad. They think it’s Spring … maybe it is now. There are mates to find, nests to build and young to produce. Life goes on. The lucky thing for birds is that they have no concept of cancer and its pernicious effects.

There are so many robins around here and they sing so loudly. They are feisty little birds. I have always loved feisty little birds. There is something attractive about being little and strong.

We learnt this morning that Lefteris was dead. We had known Lefteris Podotas for almost 40 years. We shopped at his supermarket – Arades aka Sainsburys in Exambela, Sifnos.

Arades Super Market aka Sainsburys
Where once there was life …

He was extremely suspicious of tourists in his shop, following them round to ensure they weren’t stealing until he realised they were going to spend lots of money and then he welcomed them with open arms.

He had two daughters , Chrysoula and Katerina, who served in the supermarket which was really a glorified corner shop. There are trolleys outside but there was hardly any room to wheel them on the inside. He sold island farmers’ produce but most things had to be brought in from the mainland by ferry/lorry two or three times a week. It meant that shopping was much more expensive although still cheaper than in UK

What we didn’t realise, until reading his obituary this morning, was how involved in island life he was and how much respect he garnered. There will be many at his funeral this afternoon. There won’t be many at mine.

Lefteris & daughters – carrying the icon in Kamares.

Just going out to fight off the inevitable. Actually, the walk was quite chilly this afternoon. Now I’ve got an hour in the garden, bringing the furniture out of winter wraps ready to enjoy the coming sunshine. The raised beds have to be prepared for planting and the pots cleaned up for the new season. Finally, the patio will be cleaned to bring it back to ‘new’. So much to do and so little time in which to do it.

Received a lovely, supportive message from my sister, Jane BG, this evening. It moved me more than I expected.

Monday, 20th March, 2023

Awake at 5.00 am to a world of soft, grey, driving rain. A bit ironic because today is the Spring Equinox bringing equal amounts of day and night on all parts of Earth. Radio news – Banking is trembling again. Not what one wants to hear at this stage. I am already thinking of preparing for an uncertain future. I want predictability not instability.

When you’ve got cancer, you know you’re in trouble when a Biologist sends you love and kisses. Still it was lovely and it was great to hear from her. I am talking to so many people now but it was a shock that my phone told me I used it an average of more than 2 hrs per day last week. I am using voice, text and Whatsapp as well as browsing when out of the house.

My iPad told me I use it an average of 4 hrs a day. I do read apps delivering The Times and The Telegraph so that takes quite a while each day and I sometimes listen to the radio or watch TV/Films on it. I Blog on it at times but I’m up to 6 hrs screen time before you count in my desktop computer. It’s a problem for me because that is something around 8 hours physical inactivity a day. No wonder I have to force myself to do 2.5 hrs exercise a day and only sleep about 4 hrs a day. It is not the best organisation.

My housemaid requires a new steam cleaner. After 7 years in this house, she decided we needed new carpets. Panicked, I suggested she try just cleaning the existing ones. She did and was delighted with the results but now wants to build in more regular maintenance and feels a new machine would greatly help with that.

On a cost-benefit analysis, it’s by far the best option particularly as the housemaid’s services are free so that is the next search. Clinch the deal before I’m dragged out to carpet shops.

I have only done 7 miles today and I’m shattered. I’ve got to get a grip! Instead, I’m retreating to the Office to read The London Evening Standard. It’s great reading. I follow it with the Manchester Evening News which sends me Oldham and Rochdale items.

Tuesday, 21st March, 2023

Didn’t go to bed until 12.30 am and it helped with sleeping longer. It rained over night but opened warm, grey and dry. Went out for an early walk to start the day. I’m pushing myself to stay motivated. My phone app this morning helped me by marking my current streak of 54 consecutive days although I have a long way to go to match my previous record of 371 consecutive days. At least I am on the right route and showing some mental strength to continue.

At this time 10 years ago, we were just preparing to set off on the drive to our Greek home for a 6 month stay. It was exciting to anticipate the trip as we booked hotels en route and ferries down the Adriatic to Patras. It was great to reacquaint ourselves with Greek friends and pick up our island life.

Things have moved on and, on this day last year, we were swimming and sunning ourselves here at the pool of the Bradenton IMG Sports Academy. It was a good time but so much has happened even since then and life looks so different.

This morning, I’ve spoken to Kevin, Julie and my brother, Bob, who kindly took the time to phone. My sister, Cathy, is coming for coffee tomorrow. People are so kind that it hurts. Even so, I have a sense of loneliness and dislocation at the moment.

Nothing is forever. Life is constantly in flux. My former flatmate, Nigel, who is now 75 and suffering from Non-Hodgkinson’s Lymphoma, is finally giving up the lease on his Gallery. We must all hang together or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately, as Benjamin Franklin said. We may have been thrown together by random circumstance but, ultimately, that is what life is.

Wednesday, 22nd March, 2023

It’s 3.00 am and I am drinking tea in the Office. This has got to stop. Outside, soft rain is falling.

The day has opened dark and quietly wet. My sister is now not coming over for coffee. She contacted me by Whatsapp over Breakfast to say she had a prior engagement in Brighton. That’s not a problem. I get stood up by girls all the time. Went down to the Promenade to see a wild, high tide.

Didn’t stay to sunbathe. In fact, it felt cold in the wind and driving rain even though it was 11C/52F. Don’t think I’ve seen the estuary into the River Arun so violent at high tide.

Catterick Village, North Yorkshire

Kevin, Julie and John in North Yorkshire have lovely weather today. John lives in Catterick Village and sent a photograph of a lovely view this morning.

Thursday, 23rd March, 2023

Quite a pleasant morning. Really noticeable how light it is at 6.00 am now and the clocks go forward this weekend so that will be even more emphasised. The heating is off until next November and the Summer is coming. If I make it through unscathed, I look forward to good times in the future.

Fish Farm off Igoumenitsa

Today is one of fairly ordinary housekeeping activity. First thing, the large, refrigerated van of our fish supplier pulled up outside the house. A huge, ice-filled box of fish was handed over containing four large sea bass and two sides of salmon. We eat so much fish, I’m thinking of buying shares in a Greek fish farm. You see them particularly around Igoumenitsa. As the Adriatic Sea meets and mingles with the Ionian Sea the Sea Bass and Grouper farms are obvious.

We have a kitchen fitter here from Symphony. Even 7 years after they fitted our kitchen, they are still arriving – completely free of charge – to replace three doors which are showing signs of wear. Mind you, they weren’t cheap to buy. We were shocked to find that one, additional double wall unit cost us over £720.00 so ongoing support is rather costed in to the initial price. Even so, they are a reputable company from Barnsley.

I had to order more INR test strips. I use at least one a week and more some times. They now cost £90.00 for 24 and I get one pack free on prescription and buy the other myself to be fair to the NHS.

A packed Garden Centre.

By the time we got out to the Garden Centre this afternoon, the sun had gone so had the shoppers. They were advertising Spring but there were few takers. I just wanted about two tons of topsoil to top up and refresh the deep-beds.

Friday, 24th March, 2023

Diaries have been written for centuries from the ancient Egyptians on papyrus to the earliest recorded use of the word in Ben Jonson’s Volpone in 1605. The word ‘diary’ comes from the Latin diarium (daily allowance). The Diary of Samuel Pepys from the 1660s is well known but so many of us have disciplined ourselves to write down the thoughts and events of each day. One of my heroes, Tony Benn, faithfully recorded his day on cassettes forcing himself to work late into the night to do it and the arrival of the internet has made the activity even easier and more immediate. Blog is a portmanteau word derived from Web Log.

The Blog is not written for an audience although I know looking in on someone else’s life can be interesting at times. Although it is read every day by an audience of just over 250 people on two websites and across the world, I write the Blog every day for myself alone. It is how I reflect, record and remember the thoughts and events of the day. Most days they are routine and boring. Some days they are important, significant even life changing. My conversation is with myself, but I have spent my life talking to others in my head. I know there are others who do that in their heads. Some, on the other hand, are hardly self-reflective at all. Lucky them. I choose to put it into words. Words are my thing.

Bog within a Blog

If my thoughts are sad or depressing/depressive, Dear Reader, pay no attention. We all have those moments. I just choose to commit mine to the page. They may sound melodramatic, self-indulgent, emotional or even psychotic. In the end, I try not to worry about that. Just getting them out is cathartic for me. The more stoic among you keep your thoughts to yourself. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

We are the authors of our own misfortune. The wages of sin … and all that. If I am going through a difficult time, my Blog reflects that. Ultimately, it is my problem not that of my readers. I will crawl away under a rock and deal with them when it all becomes too much but writing brings them into the daylight of scrutiny and helps me understand. I have always written at difficult times in my life. It is who I am. If you find it concerning, turn away to the joys of your own life. I will continue to babble away in my head and on my Blog.

Saturday, 25th March, 2023

I am aware of time, the passage of time, the shortness of time more acutely than ever at the moment. In the early hours, all the missed opportunities and unfulfilled hopes float endlessly through the waking dreams.

I will sleep through the moments
All the moments you’ve stolen

Tonight, we lose a precious hour. Perhaps waking up at 4.00 or 5.00 am will seem more normal for a while.  I have always burnt the candle at both ends. While working, I would go to bed at midnight and get up at 6.00 am so this is not so strange although it’s hard on my bed-warmer.

Manca enter stage right.

Excitement of the morning – found a baby woodlice crawling across the kitchen floor. Can only suppose that it got in via the conservatory door vent. That’s children for you. No sense of danger. What would you have done, Dear Reader?

In any other time, I would have squished it and put it in the bin. Now, I cannot snuff out life so easily and chose to put him/her back in the garden to live another day. Did you now that baby woodlice are called Manca? Who could kill a little Manca? Life is too precious.

This morning at 5.00 am, the sky was bright and the dawn chorus was astonishingly loud. They know that time is short and the moment is now. For 72 year olds, the time was then. Found this photo from 1983 when porn star glasses were almost normal.

How easily we date! Even so, I have always tried to enjoy the age I was at any given moment and not regret the ravages of time. It is getting a little harder at the moment. One of my former pupils wrote this to me yesterday:

Every morning, I wake up and give thanks for what will unfold throughout my day.

This is the optimism of youth and I remember it well.

Week 742

Sunday, 12th March, 2023

I talk throughout the day to people around the country and abroad. I even talk to my wife at times … particularly when I need food. Most of my remote friends use Whatsapp which is an internationally available service and free to use. It is almost entirely used through mobile phones and one of its biggest assets is that, unlike texts, Graphics (photos etc.) are free to send. It also allows us to send attached documents. I have a mobile contract with EE which has unlimited calls and texts but an attached graphic costs an additional £0.73. So, if I send you a graphic by text, you know I think you’re worth at least £0.73 – which is a lot!

The other point about Whatsapp is its security. It includes end-to-end encryption which means nobody else can intercept and read it which is why politicians favour it. It’s not so usual to be talking to people 50 metres away by Whatsapp but that’s what happened this morning. Michelle, from the house you can see on the right, sent me a Whatsapp message asking if I was OK because she hadn’t seen me for a while. More or less checking up on the old people. Even so, she’s a lovely girl and very kind. People here are, generally.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4

This is what my Social Secretary requires for her next smartphone. It has all the attributes of her current phone but folds the screen in half to slip discretely into her bag. I like to keep my staff happy.

A 5 mile walk in the Spring sunshine this morning. Lovely! the condemned man freed to enjoy his final days. Heard from Michelle, M, Kevin, Julie, Nigel and John Rid this morning. Leaves a warm feeling of friendship.

Monday, 13th March, 2023

A relatively warm night of 11C/52C. Beautiful morning – warm and sunny but a bit windy – for a walk by the beach.

Ironically, I fully support this strike.

I had two phone calls last week, the first asking me to meet the consultant on Thursday and the next day asking me to go in on Tuesday instead. This morning we are told the dates of the Doctors’ strike – Monday to Thursday morning – which suggests it may impact my consultation. Ironically, I fully support this strike but I will be disappointed if it affects my health.

Is it inappropriate to discuss toilet paper? Well, tough …. or, in this case, soft. Toilet paper involves shopping. Shopping, in a long marriage, involves discussion. When I say ‘discussion’, I insist on thickly quilted toilet paper. (Don’t ask!) However, we may have to dispense (to coin a phrase) with toilet paper altogether.

Kelp, I need somebody ….

This morning, the news breaks that the stuff that we think rapidly biodegrades, as it is flushed down the sewers, actually includes a ‘forever chemical’. Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a large, complex group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in consumer products. It has carcinogenic properties and is used in the production of toilet paper to prevent pulp clogging up the machinery. PFAS never breaks down so is ever present in the environment. No more toilet paper? Now what are you going to do? At least the Blog remains educational.

Went on to the beach where the sea was retreating then on down the Marina Promenade which looked quiet as boats moored away from the wind. These experiences are too nice to lose!

Tuesday, 14th March, 2023

A beautiful, sunny morning to … talk about cancer. What more could one want. At least my consultation hasn’t been cancelled … yet. Mid day will be one of the ‘life’ moments whatever the verdict. Rather holding my breath this morning which isn’t easy because I’ve decided to stay busy – cleaning the car, tidying the Office and the Gym. Managed a beautiful urine sample to take with me.

I’ve cleaned the car. It’s 10.00 am on the first day of the doctors’ strike and I have had no contact so it looks like my meeting will go ahead. At this stage, do I want to know?

Well, now I do know. I have extensive prostate cancer. They think it is still confined to the prostate but I have to have a bone scan to see if it has gone further. If it hasn’t, I will take hormone boosting tablets followed by 3-monthly injections to shrink the prostate and the cancer within. Then I will have to have radiotherapy to ‘eradicate’ the remaining tumour.

The foreseeable future in the medical services was what I was hoping to avoid. I’m not scared of dying but the banality of being a health statistic is what I was hoping to avoid for a few more years at least. I have people to see and places to go, things to do.

My biggest fears are that the tablets are likely to encourage weight gain. The radiology means a 30 mile round trip to Brighton 5 days a week for 4 weeks and will dominate our lives. I can’t bear putting my Secretary through that. Health and survival are set to dog our lives for months if not years to come.

I will not subject my wife and friends to that. I have to learn to keep it within myself and to deal with it alone.

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.

East Coker – T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, 15th March, 2023

Who the hell is that?

The world looks very different and rather bleak this morning. There is a feeling of ‘What is the point of anything?‘ about it. I am going to be going through the motions but I will try to keep it out of the Blog as much as possible. Had delightful talks with Kevin and Julie last night. M said nice things from Florida and Bob and Liz sent lovely messages as well.

It sounds churlish but I find that sort of thing difficult to hear. Makes me feel ‘needy’. I suppose I am but don’t want to admit it. Have to let everyone else get on with their lives. Having said that, I am going to contact John and Nigel this morning. Been promising them a proper catchup for weeks.

I have a plan. I’ve started the course of hormone medication – not something that a man wants to submit to. I’ll probably have to go out and be fitted for a bra. To compensate, I am going to stop eating and live on fluids for a few weeks. It will mean I have less energy and I may have to moderate some of my exercise goals initially but I will hope to build them back up as time goes on..

What is this?

In other news, British Gas are here this morning servicing the central heating. It used to be a straight forward thing at one time – when they were called The Gas Board. It hasn’t been called that since 1972 which shows I haven’t moved on much. In those days, people had separate water tanks in the loft and the boiler was drop-fed. It was all very ‘mechanical’. Now, it feels quite out of my comfort zone. It is quite an involved service which involves inspecting the gas boiler in the Utility Room, the cylinder in what was usually called the Airing Cupboard, the Hive controls and the smart meter.

The cylinder has a compression chamber which is quite beyond me although we also had one in Greece. We have separate controls for upstairs and downstairs. This is the first house where that has been available but it is very useful so the Hive system has two, separate controllers. Joe, the British Gas man has been lovely and efficient. He finished by checking every radiator – 15 in all – in the house. He even found a loose socket in the Utility Room and fixed it for us before leaving. They may be a bit more expensive than individual traders but you do get what you pay for with excellent service.

I have been phoned this afternoon by the Nuclear Medicine Department of Chichester Hospital. What the hell am I doing? I have to spend over 4 hrs on March 28th being injected with a radio active substance that will give me an extra 1 in 5000 chance of cancer in order to investigate an existing one.

Thursday, 16th March, 2023

A good night’s sleep and the most beautiful, warm morning of blue sky and sunshine. We had shopping to do first thing. It was nice to be distracted and normal.

I received emails of sympathy from my sisters yesterday. Although I know they mean well and I love them for bothering, it is not what I want at the moment. A copy of the letter from my consultant arrived this morning and seeing the words unfortunately we have diagnosed rather extensive prostate cancer in black type made it all the more real.

I’ve decided that I need to build a bunker in the garden for the time when I am radioactive. An escape from the world. It’s amazing how much help one can get with such a project. The internet is full of advice and guidance. I haven’t told my wife yet in case she objects to the disruption but I’m telling you. It will have to have an internet connection and fresh coffee on tap. Otherwise, I’ll be ok.

Although I’m hoping to stick to the timetable, our October trip North may have to be moved on to November. You heard it here first. Keep your diary open.

Friday, 17th March, 2023

A depressingly grey and wet morning although relatively very warm at 11C/52C. It echoed exactly this day last year – in New York. We were there, quite by chance, on St Patrick’s Day and the city was absolutely flooded in green.

17/3/2022 – Fifth Avenue, New York

Actually, it made the visit more interesting and vibrant although the restaurants were very full and the streets were blocked off for the procession.

Received a lovely email letter from Dr John Ridley this morning. He is an amusing mix of ancient & modern. He has lived in the same house in Catterick since he got married 50 years ago. He has a boat on Lake Windemere which he sails regularly. He drives a Jaguar car and and takes the elderly and disabled on tours of Fountains Abbey. He goes round the North of England giving talks on his time as a Village Headmaster and he sings in a Folk Band. And then, he holidays in … South Korea.

1990s style

This morning he told me they had just had their Kitchen replaced for the first time in 30 years with their first ever DISHWASHER. He was very excited. Can you imagine living without a dishwasher all this time. It made me think back to our first dishwasher – a Hoover in 1984 – almost 40 years ago. I still can’t stack it without finding extra pieces of crockery after the wash cycle.

Dishwasher owner – going places. Love innovation and sucker for gadgets. It wasn’t long afterwards that I got a mobile phone. At home in Helme on the Pennines, I was shocked to find we had no 2G mobile signal and I had to drive out to the ring-road to make and receive a call. It was more trouble than it was worth but it was PROGRESS. I loved it. More than 30 years on, I am constantly using Whatsapp on my mobile to chat to random individuals.

The weather must be so much better in North Yorkshire. Julie is sitting out in her garden drinking coffee. It would be very diluted if I did that down here this morning.

Saturday, 18th March, 2023

Bad night. Radio on. Didn’t help. Shipping Forecast wasn’t riveting. Even Farming Today was a rehash of the week’s programmes. Anyway, it helps to drive the demons out for a while.

My Memory Box threw up a time in 1983. We had a log fire in our lounge and, to save money, we went to the nearby woods to collect logs. Usually, it was early on a Sunday morning because we weren’t completely clear if it was legal or not so we chose a time others were still in bed. Not so many young, married couples got out of bed early on a Sunday morning …. to collect firewood. No power chainsaw just a bow-saw and my youthful energy. It felt quite illicit at the time which gave it an extra frisson of enjoyment.

A year later, we had bought a house in an acre of grounds, had a number of huge trees felled and logged and the new log burner had fuel for the rest of time. Pauline will be keen to tell you that she still wears that jumper. I don’t. Nor do I have the moustache or what the school kids always described as my porn-star glasses.

Turned into a lovely, sunny day so going out for a walk. While I was out and to show a sign of optimism, our application for a French vignette issued to show our car’s compliance with European Emission Standards – Crit’Air – arrived to be mounted in the windscreen for our next French trip which can’t be far away. As a fuel-efficient, Hybrid, our car is awarded the highest criterion No. 1. It is needed when driving in most major cities of France – Paris, Lille, Bordeaux, etc..

Week 741

Sunday, 5th March, 2023

Some say that maintaining a Blog for over 14 years, as I have, underlines my obsession with the Past. I am exhorted to forget the Past and just live in the Present. I have been interested to hear that one of the current concepts doing political rounds as people discuss the failings of Brexit, the failures of Tory policy during the Pandemic, the failure of the Tories to deal with Immigration is based on the observation of the 19th century Philosopher, Kierkegaard:

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.Soren Kierkegaard

I could have chosen it for the Header of the Blog. It is exactly why I record things so that I can refer back in future times. Often what I record is mundane and boring but it is amazing how often I go back and check events, actions, thoughts, across the years. I think it is part of the human condition to view their existence through the passage of time. Even basic animals do it. They remember successful, enjoyable events or things which failed or hurt them and go forward on the basis of those memories. I like to think that I follow this principle on a more sophisticated level.

Little Catherine

After all, we feel the need to keep in touch with those who have died particularly on their anniversary. We understand the passage of time by acknowledging, even celebrating, birthdays. This week marks the 68th birthday of my little sister, Catherine. Brings me up short … and I need to be brought up short by the significance of that event. It tells me about myself and my journey across time. Who could imagine being 72? Too old for anything!

Too old to be cold that’s for certain! It is 11.00 am and still cold outside – just 5C/41F. It’s a good job I’m such hot stuff! I’m going to generate my own heat in the Gym now while reminding myself what a good barrister I might have been. Yesterday’s Blog will explain.

Our Office, in particular, and our house, in general, is full of charging points, USB points, wi-fi extender points, etc. They have been gradually accumulated over the past 7 years. Many are used when we travel so Laptops, iPads and phones can go with us and remain charged and connected to the web. This morning, I received a product recall warning from Amazon.

This multi-USB socket has been working under my desk since 2019. This morning, the government have instructed suppliers to contact customers because of imminent dangerThe product poses a high risk of electric shockCustomers should stop using it immediately. Fortunately, I bought mine from Amazon which is where I source most things. They have a full customer database and could contact me easily. They say I don’t have to send the product back but they will immediately refund the money.

Could have been a shocking experience. Even so, it might have short circuited the Prostate Cancer problem!

Monday, 6th March, 2023

The day is cold. The atmosphere is cold. The forecast for the week is cold. My Medical Secretary is phoning the Hospital this morning – two weeks since my biopsy – to see why I have not been called to discuss the results, to find out how cold it is really going to become.

…. The message is that my case will be reviewed on Wednesday by a meeting of doctors who will decide the way forward and I will be contacted on Thursday. Icy!

Kevin’s been researching solutions for my as-yet-to-be-defined problems which is nice of him. Unfortunately, it makes it feel even more real.

Of course, the prize is not just a long life but a long and healthy life. My really old sister, Ruth is currently recovering from a hip operation. I am spending more than two hours in the Gym each day wondering what is growing inside me. I really don’t have any symptoms. Bob had obvious ones which led to his cancer being diagnosed very early.

I have been Covid-free. There are so many who have been having their lives blighted by Long Covid. Our region has just recovered from a massive spike in Covid infections and is now almost entirely free.

The Sunday newspapers were full of features about growing your own and eating seasonably. There were lots of allotment users featured telling their stories about providing fresh fruits and vegetables for their families through allotments. It suddenly struck me that it would be a good project for Julie in North Yorkshire.

I’ve suggested a Blog but she says she struggles with words so I’ve suggested she combines her photographic skills with her first time Allotment experiences to produce a photographic record of her exploits. It would be an interesting little project for the year. We all need something to achieve.

Angmering Village 2023

Having said that, context is all. If you want to know how insignificant you are, whatever your personal problems, just look back in time.

Angmering Village 1883

Everyone you can see in this photograph is dead. They may well have experienced two World Wars, Serious Pandemics and little or no medical assistance. Their lives may have been loving and happy but they will have been harder, poorer and lacking the warmth, light and softness that marks out modern lives. It’s all relative.

Tuesday, 7th March, 2023

Just 14 years ago this week, we were deep into the final stages of negotiating an exit from work. The final stages of such a process is always nerve wracking and one has to be strong to get the best outcome. We vacillated between success and disaster for a few weeks which is not the way one expects to leave a long career but it was worth it. We held our nerve and won strong settlements.

But 14 years! Just saying those words makes it both real and unbelievable. Could it really be so far away? I can still see and walk the corridors and feel I could drop back into that life easily but I was shocked to read that Lisa (Head of Humanities) is just 55 today.

There is a tendency to think that, when we leave a scene, the film stops. It doesn’t. The story just goes on without us. To think that she has been fighting all the same battles, going through the same daily efforts, making all the same decisions for the past 14 years and still has a few more to go before she can escape the Rochdale cold and enjoy the warmth of her Spanish home. It makes me tired just to think of it.

One of the things about aging, though, is regretting all the innovations we will miss. Those people living in yesterday’s photo from 1883 won’t have enjoyed a life with central heating, television, the internet, foreign travel …. Whereas I will probably not benefit from guilt-free travel as suggested in The Times article above.

Most batteries for electric cars and for devices from drones to smartphones are powered by lithium, which has to be mined, but Bill David, Oxford Professor of Materials Chemistry, thinks that they will be overtaken by batteries made from sodium, which can be extracted from seawater, baking powder and salt. The future of air travel could also be greener thanks to biofuels.

I long to see those days … but I have to be satisfied with today – the now of time – and it is grey and moody. Dear Reader, are you with me?

Wednesday, 8th March, 2023

You know that you’re having a slow day when weather is the main topic of interest. My weather app told me it was snowing outside. Wrong. It was raining and not cold. We haven’t even got the heating on this morning.

Snow from Surrey to Scarborough this morning …

M messaged us – She was trying to sell her Mother. – to say it had snowed in Surrey and my sister, Liz, announced she was having coffee with the Countess of Wessex this morning if she could get through the snow in central London. I didn’t even know who that was and had to look her up. It is something to do with International Women’s Day. Do they do an International Men’s Day? Very few of us would like coffee with that strange guy with her! Now who is he?

According to my Medical Secretary, I can expect a phone call this afternoon or tomorrow morning. I suspect that will tell me absolutely nothing other than to invite me in to a meeting with the Consultant. She will give the thumbs up/down or something in between.

K in Florida sent me a nice message with his Wordle answer this morning: Dum Spiro SperoWhile I breathe, I hope ….

Thursday, 9th March, 2023

A grey, wet but warm morning. Little Cathy is 68 today. We wish her a very happy day. I’ve made her a card. Homemade ones are so much more appreciated.

Time Frame

She doesn’t look too bad for 68, does she? She gyms and swims a lot and it shows. Mind you, I don’t think she would be swimming much today ….

And I will find comfort in the rhythm of the sea …

Warren Buffet famously said, Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked. … It was on its way out this morning but I didn’t stay long enough to view the nude swimmers.

This morning, I have been told the Urology Department want to see me next Thursday to discuss the results of my Biopsy … so another week in suspense or, as Kevin suggested, another drunken week.

Friday, 10th March, 2023

Warmest night for weeks. We didn’t fall below 10C/50F. It is one of those times when those of us in the South can gloat unless, of course, you like skiing. After 40 years of driving back and forth across the Pennines each day, facing terrible blizzards, snow drifts, ‘white-outs’ – setting off very early, trying to be in school before all the rest of the staff and students arrived. So often when we got there, the campus was so dangerous that the school had to be closed anyway but that decision had to be taken.

The new building has moved to lower ground but it is closed once again today. Staff and many pupils can’t get there and remote learning is in place.

Honda Prelude

In the early years living in Meltham, we would drive over the A62, across Standedge Moor, through Delph, up to Grains Bar and down into Oldham. For many years, we drove sports cars. We had lots of low-slung, Honda Preludes which could never really cope with thick snow.

Grains Bar this morning. A typical winter scene.

Just when I had got over the Moors and begun to relax, Grains Bar hill would prove even worse. This morning, I grabbed this picture from a video clip posted on Faceache.

M62 – a regular scene.

In later years living in Salendine Nook, near to Ainley Top, it was easier to take the M62 and the motorway from Junction 23 to Junction 22, Rishworth turn off is known as the highest piece of motorway in England. Dave Roberts sent this photo of Norden

Norden, Rochdale

Just been phoned by the hospital to have my appointment brought forward to Tuesday morning. Don’t know whether that’s a good sign or not.

Helleborus Orientalis / Lenten Rose

One good sign this morning is the Lenten Rose flowering at the side of our drive. Well, that’s what my mother called it with a sense of religious conviction. It is actually called Helleborus Orientalis.

Saturday, 11th March, 2023

Sunny, bright and pleasant day. Life goes on. Yesterday, the burglar alarm was serviced and next week the central heating will be serviced. The affairs of life continue.

Oh, I can’t get it out of my head
No, I can’t get it out of my head
Now my old world is gone for deadE.L.O.

I wonder if you know the feeling when your first thought on waking and your last thought before going to sleep are the same as the thought that haunts you during the day. I am no stranger to it. It is the way my mind works. I have learnt to compartmentalise the day, as so many of us do; to refocus on other things however trivial. In the waking hour 5.00 am – 6.00 am, I have developed a fascination for farming. BBC Radio 4 at 5.45 every morning has Farming Today.

This is the Future!

I am an expert on Pork MarketsWelsh Upland Sheep RearingVertical Salad Horticulture and the effects of Brexit on Farm Subsidies and Food Prices. It may sound weird but it works … sort of … until it doesn’t.

During the day, as I’ve written before, I retreat into myself, the Gym and Film. I’ve just finished a fascinating film on Amazon Prime called Enigma based loosely around the wartime Bletchley Park attempts to crack the German Enigma Machine which encrypted messages into gobbledygook at one end, transmitted it and deciphered it at the other end without the enemy understanding it.

It took an intelligent man and, later, an intelligent woman – Kate Winslett – to crack the code behind the machine and read the German’s messages and subsequently save many Allied lives. The whole thing was based on numbers and logic. I love numbers and logic. Pauline doesn’t but I’m making her watch the film now I’ve finished it so that we can discuss it.

Week 740

Sunday, 26th February, 2023

Didn’t sleep much but woke to a beautiful morning and my first thought was …. I’ve got cancer. Will it colour the rest of my life? Had lovely messages from friends.

Went out early for a walk in the park. Quite cold in the breeze but warm on our backs when the sun shone. My half hearted attempt at a photograph pales into insignificance when set against my brother, Bob’s recent efforts.

This is just beautiful and moving. The world is such a wonderful place full of views to explore and to share. I can’t be doing with my little brother beating me at something.

I’m going in the Gym. It feels safe in there. I am going to exercise and escape with a British Spy film.

Monday, 27th February, 2023

Another cold morning. I think we are forecast to wake up to these for most of the next week. We have workmen arriving this morning. After 7 years here and 2 years out of warranty, we have our builders returning to address an insulation problem free of charge.

After investigation, it turns out that an air-conditioning unit installation resulted in the loft insulation not being properly replaced and a couple of additional wiring installations for ceiling spotlights and a Sky TV dish led to wall insulation being compromised. Although they are not strictly responsible, David Wilson Homes have sent out people to sort it all out. As usual, they are lovely people. One comes from Catterick in North Yorkshire where John Ridley lives.

Gave the car its first clean since buying it. It was so highly waxed when we bought it that it instantly repelled all water this morning when I pressure washed it. Cleaning a new car is so lovely and quick.

I’ve retreated to the security of the Gym and a film. Something about exercise frees up the mind and that’s exactly what I need right now.

I’ve just been told that my iPad is ready for collection. Thank goodness. I’ve been absolutely lost without it. First thing tomorrow I’ll be going to the Laptop Workshop.

Tuesday, 28th February, 2023

Up early on a sunny morning and out to collect my iPad. It looked shiny and clean as if it was new. Worth £200.00 just for that. I’m sure it’s working better than before but it’s just lovely to have the mobile internet with a large screen but without being tied to the Office desk.

I clicked the iPad into its keyboard and cover and sat at the kitchen table revelling in the freedom. Today, Pauline is making Strawberry Jam and I am trying to escape reality.

Turks & Caicos

Feeling a bit down today. I have a sadness that I’m finding hard to dispel. I’m just waiting, waiting to see a consultant, waiting to know what the next stage is, waiting to find out if there is a future and, if there is, waiting to view it.

I’ve escaped to the Gym and, in there, I’ve escaped to the Turks & Caicos Islands in the second film of a spy trilogy written by David Hare and featuring Bill Nighy. It’s almost working. Unfortunately, reality and fantasy are so far removed that it just points up the truth.

Wednesday, 1st March, 2023

Happy new month to all readers. Let’s hope it really is. Struggled to sleep again but at least I sorted out the world. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a white rabbit in real life. Ours around here are big, fat and brown. They all look very healthy.

I remember the talk of Myxomatosis in my home village in the 1950s. It all but wiped out the rabbit population. As boys, we regularly found dead or dying animals in the fields around the village. It wasn’t a pretty or painless death for rabbits. I had a pet rabbit at home and, when she died, I locked myself in the downstairs toilet and cried for hours, refusing to come out. … So not much has changed.

Because I am a data nerd, regular readers will know that I record all sorts of statistics on spreadsheets. The first day of the month is peak record-keeping time. Our power usage is recorded and compared with the previous month and the same time back over the years.

Of course, smart meters are a real help. You should see where our actual gas meter is sited – in a flower bed at the front of the house. I’m not grovelling down there every month but it is fascinating comparing usage in different properties across different lifestyles. Our heating system had to be extended into the Gym both for comfort and to protect the machinery. We thought that would greatly increase our costs but, in fact, we’ve used less this year than last.

We eat lots of fish and regularly order from our beach-side suppliers. This morning we will be ordering two, full sides of Salmon, locally caught Plaice, 2kg bag of Prawns and their special choice of the month, Sunshine (Florida) Bass. All sounds such healthy food. Let’s hope it’s worth it.

It must be a man thing but Kevin is very keen on data and statistics. He sends me copies of his cycling achievements, So here are mine:

Since starting to record my exercise on my Garmin App in 2019, I have walked 13,350 miles or 26 million steps. Even though I was only playing at it in the early days, I have walked an average of 6.5 miles every day for the past 4 years.

Something for Kevin to ponder on as he luxuriates on his pedal cycle.

Thursday, 2nd March, 2023

Touch of frost in the sunshine this morning. Outdoor walking is still quite cold and I’m rather retreating into myself at the moment so Gym-work is the order of the day. Time in the Gym means I am voraciously consuming drama, films, series. Yesterday, I completed a trilogy of British Spy Thrillers based around the laconic English spy played by Bill Nighy. In order to watch it, I needed to subscribe to Britbox. It costs £5.99 per month.

The trouble is that I have subscriptions to so many other providers in order to download something I have found worth watching. I was led to the spy thriller because it was based loosely around Tony Blair’s government and it was well worth it. Well, I say well worth it but adding the monthly subscriptions up comes to about £35.00. I like to start and stop many of these as and when I need them. I’ve just started watching a series set in Barcelona on Alibi which I may not use again for months when I’ve finished it so I will stop it. Most of the stuff on Britbox is rubbish so I pick that up and drop it. Netflix is a keeper and Amazon Prime is invaluable for free, next-day deliveries never mind films.

The research for today is preparing for a Summer that I will see. We have already booked quite a lot of time away already. Climate change is bringing hotter, drier summers and the garden will need to be watered automatically. Now the lawn has been replaced, I don’t need to use a wide-sweep sprayer. I’m going to install drip feed piping in the raised beds and connect the system up to an automatic timer fitted to the garden tap. This can be timed to water during the hours of darkness which should mean less water is needed and less is lost to evaporation.

Friday, 3rd March, 2023

Didn’t sleep last night. One of the first things I heard this morning on BBC R4 was someone singing, Help me make it through the night. Life is strange!

It is a beautiful morning of clear, blue sky and sunshine. Quite cold – just 6C/43F – and awakening.

Had to report my first INR since the Biopsy and it was back to normal at 2.3 which is pleasing. Still haven’t seen the consultant yet. It will be two weeks on Monday so I will be proactive from then. Can’t stand the waiting much longer.

This is what Oblivion looks like ….

Went down to the beach for some air this morning but left it a bit too late and the best of the sunshine had gone. That’s life!

Article in The Times today.

A report of this piece of research appeared in The Times this morning. Don’t you just love the irony of it? Here I am doing over 20,000 steps a day and yet …

Saturday, 4th March, 2023

Heavy cloud cover this morning. I will be in the Gym while my Social Secretary will be in the kitchen. We have Lunch guests and cooking is the order of the day. Homemade Pea & Mint Soup is being prepared followed by Salad, Salmon & Dill Pâté, cheese and biscuits and the pièce de résistance, Fresh Strawberry Sponge Cake. Salivating already!

Kevin and I had a falling out recently. Some home truths spoken. They needed to be. You can’t maintain a relationship on pretence. I fully cleared the air and we are back on terms this afternoon. Feels better to be straight. After 50 years of individual development, we can’t expect things to have remained the same. It feels good that we understand each other. Had a lovely message from Christine as well. It’s good to have friends who care enough to understand.

I never really wanted to be a teacher. Barrister was what I aimed for. I went to Newcastle University in 1969 to interview. The girls there were amazing. I was desperate. I failed. I was rejected. My offer was 2 As + B at A Level which at that time almost amounted to rejection. Very few people achieved such grades in the 1960s. I am horrendously ashamed that I didn’t make it. I really thought I would make a world beating barrister. I became a teacher.

Tonight, I am watching David Tennant playing an invincible barrister – which, of course, I would have been – defending the indefensible and winning.