Week 745

Sunday, 2nd April, 2023

A grey start to the day although the forecast is for wall-to-wall sunshine as the rest of the week develops. Been a busy start in communications. Every morning at 6.00 am I pick up an email from M in Florida. She’s not been in bed for long when I read it. Most mornings, Kevin checks in on Whatsapp. Yesterday was Chris’s birthday and I sent an e-card. Kevin was up and in touch around 9.30 am. By then, I had already had a Text from Liz who is staying in a hotel near the Brandenburg Gate. She had been reading the Blog and was pleased about my recent news.

The Brandenburg Gate

I must admit that, although I am a committed European, I am not particularly desperate to holiday in Germany. I don’t like the language and find it difficult to read. I am much more comfortable with the Romance languages of French/Italian/Spanish. I am not keen on the coarseness of German food and I don’t get their humour at all. We’ve flirted with/driven through Germany a number of times en route to Greece and that is enough for me.

Watched the early morning political programmes as normal on Sunday. They are my religion. Braverman was typically obnoxious although I’m sure she appeals to the Tories baseline racist Right and the rampant Xenophobes. Dave Roberts and John Morris contacted me almost immediately afterwards to express their disgust with her. Braverman comes across as a deeply dislikeable person and not terribly bright or articulate.

The day just improved with lovely, warm sunshine and we did two, long walks. I’ve managed 9 miles today. Just had a lovely WhatsApp message from Michelle across the road offering all support while I am in treatment and recovering. Some people are so lovely.

Monday, 3rd April, 2023

Exactly 14 years ago today, we retired after long and protracted negotiations for a financial package. My friend, John Ridley, retired on exactly the same day. It was the most wonderful feeling and now seems so long ago and frighteningly near as well.

Counthill School – opened 1951

It was one of those relieving and frightening moments of one’s life when all responsibilities are suddenly thrown off but Life momentarily appears empty. The routines of working life took years to be erased from my system and my dreams were populated by concerns that had featured in my career. Even now, I can see the corridors of stress, the Inspectors arrival, the expectations of success, the meaningless policy papers, endless meetings and pointless resolutions.

Derker Board School – opened 1885

Now, at 14 years distance, one of the things that really saddens me is the state of the buildings I worked in for 38 years from the pagoda- style, former Board School, 1885 building in Derker where I was Head, to the former Grammar School building which opened in 1951 with its dreadfully leaky and drafty, metal-framed windows. I worked in relative squalor all that time.

I had appallingly cramped offices and cold classrooms all of which were hard to keep clean. I introduced computers and the internet to Counthill School, eventually a campus-wide wi-fi network, on-line registration, school intranet and home-school teaching and learning systems. Every inch of that way was hard and resisted by many staff who were scared of the new. Can you imagine people wanting to resist new technology?

Waterhead Academy – opened 2013

The new school is like a comparative dream. Built with integrated technology, smart screens, wi-fi throughout, large, purpose designed classrooms, offices large enough to work in, good heating and air conditioning, lecture theatres and all-weather sports fields.

Tuesday, 4th April, 2023

Woken up to find myself still alive on this gorgeous day of cloudless blue sky and strong sunshine. No need to drive to school. I’m retired. It is going to be a gardening day.

Went to the Garden Centre yesterday and bought some seeds and bags of soil. I am going to spend the morning preparing the raised beds for sowing seeds.

Sharing gardening activities with my Allotment friend, Julie. I’m just playing at it while she’s seriously growing her food on a large scale. We did all that years ago when we had an acre of garden and installed formal deep beds for vegetables.

Teachers’ Pensions are uprated by 10.1% this month although we don’t feel the effect of it until our May pay. Even so, one of the good things about Teachers’ Pensions is they are index-linked and keep pace with inflation in perpetuity. I spoke to Kevin about it this morning. He had no knowledge of it. It always amazes me that intelligent people are so unaware of these things.

The beautiful 5G mast in the Park.

An hour’s walk in the sunshine. Two hours gardening and another hour’s walk in hot (well 13C/56F) sunshine and I’m completely knackered. They say that the treatment program I’m on will make me tired in the afternoons. I am not prepared to acknowledge that but I’m feeling tired this afternoon and in need of comfort.

Wednesday, 5th April, 2023

Nice morning. Going out for an early walk because I’ve got a busy day. My sister, Cathy, is coming round for coffee. Had to source Vegan Biscuits just for her. Can you imagine it? I didn’t know there were such things. I didn’t really know what Veganism actually involved.

Vegan Biscuits ….. Exciting!

Basically, it means no animal-based products – no meat, dairy, or fish. Only plant-based products. What do they wear on their feet? Leather shoes? I’m going to find out today.

I love my Memory Box. It throws up so much that I’ve forgotten and brings it back to life. On this day in 2009, we were in our second day of retirement and had just landed at Ellinikon International Airport – the old and now demolished Athens Airport – to find our ferry to the island had been cancelled. We had to get a hotel quickly and went to the Electra Hotel on Ermou Street. We had to fight our way through a noisy demonstration in favour of sacked workers in front of the parliament. The next morning, on my 58th birthday, we were off to our island house.

In 2012, we were living in Woking, Surrey during the winter months. A woman and her son bought a duplex apartment across from ours. The son, Lawrence, was a chef in an upmarket restaurant in the city. The mother, we soon learnt, had cancer. She was in her late 50s and worked from home. She wasn’t very friendly or communicative but she sat outside and worked in the sunshine.

Things happened quite quickly. Lawrence’s mother suddenly disappeared. We later learned she was in a hospice and then, on this day in 2014, this floral tribute appeared outside their apartment. She was gone. Later that year, Lawrence sold the property and moved on with his life. His mother lives on only in his memories and ours. And so life goes.

Thursday, 6th April, 2023

My little sister, Cathy, arrived an hour early yesterday afternoon. I nearly turned her away but relented because we hadn’t seen each other for quite a while. Actually, it was lovely. We talked over coffee for a couple of hours. It almost always comes down to the dysfunctional relations of family which ultimately results in humour and tears. We parted vowing to meet more often in the future however much there is of it. I am acutely aware of the significance of renewing my relationships now. This morning, she sent me Birthday greetings which was nice.

Birthday Lunch 2022

It was much warmer and sunnier on this day last year. I don’t think we will be eating Lunch in the garden today.

I have joined the club of old, wrinkly people. I am 72 today. So many lovely people have sent me best wishes … and some not so lovely. I’ve had best wishes from a girl who I first met in 1973 and I haven’t seen for around 20 years. Ex-pupil, Marie, wrote: Happy Birthday, Sir. Best Teacher Ever. XXX !!! The fact that she’s in her 60s and still calls me Sir is neither here nor there. Ex-pupil Emma sent me love and kisses. Sue from Oldham did as well. Sue in France wished me, Joyeux Anniversaire. Sue in Gozo, Malta sent me best wishes.

Had good wishes from P&C in Surrey, A&K in Florida, Bob in Maidenhead, Ruth in Bolton, Kevin, Julie, John R., John M. in North Yorkshire, the lovely Julia in York, Peter Holgate in Knaresborough, Kevin Sellers in Ulverston, Dave Weatherly in Bolton, Charlotte and Lindsay from school. Fiza defied the wrath of her Muslim husband to send me her love. Even heard from Hilary-Jane for those old enough to remember. With time running out, it is good to reconnect as often as possible before the light fades.

Villa in Aguilas, Murcia.

Trying to stay positive but short term at the moment. Considering properties in Aguilas, Murcia which are easily drivable to from here with just one stop. Property is so cheap compared with Greece and Italy. This villa sleeping 6 people with pool, air con. and wi-fi is just £900.00 per week. Cheaper than living at home and with additional sunshine. Worth considering maybe for the month of July.

As with all good birthdays, the sun came out and the air was gorgeously warm. Did two, long walks in the sunshine and planned out more trips abroad to the sun. Our poor neighbours are away for an Easter break in Skiathos during some of the worst Greek weather for a while. They will certainly be clean when they get home!

Friday, 7th April, 2023

A gorgeous day to reflect on connections and coincidences down at the Pier. The sun is strong and hot. It’s nice down here on the South Coast. We came down here 7 years ago almost accidentally. Having left a Greek island, my Housekeeper craved the sound of the sea and this is where she chose. Quite coincidentally, it is 5 miles from where one of my sisters has lived for nearly 40 years and 15 miles from where my maternal Grandfather was born. My Mother’s cousins had a number of Antique shops along the South Coast. None of these things occurred to me until later.

Worthing Pier looks very ordinary from the opening. It has a Theatre and some tacky tourist shops. My Grandfather, from an Irish emigree family, was born in Brighton in 1894 and told tall tales of diving off Brighton Pier as a young lad for coins thrown by tourists. In later life, having worked in London throughout his career, he dressed in his trademark bowler hat and Dicky Bow and opened an Antiques shop in our village of Repton in Derbyshire.

So, by coincidence, we are down here after having lived in Huddersfield for 40 years. Our Pier has had a multi-million pound redevelopment and now looks quite good when you get on it. A new restaurant has opened at the end and is starting to get great reviews. I thought I’d look up when it was built and I found that it arrived in the mid 19th century and was designed by Robert Rawlinson. Nothing particularly special about him although he came from Chorley in Lancashire but he married a girl called Ruth (my sister’s name) from Lockwood in Huddersfield just a short spit from where we lived for 40 years.

Piers are strange places and being on one is to transport one’s self out into the sea, Looking over the edge, many are given to the awful temptation to throw themselves into the watery unknown. It is strange how that happens. I get it when I’m crossing the Aegean and looking over the ferry railings. Piers are derived from Peter, The Rock, and first arrived in the early 19th century. They certainly have rather an anachronistic feeling when I’m on one. They probably say the same about me!

Saturday, 8th April, 2023

Gloriously warm and sunny day. Easter weekend in UK. Greek Easter is next weekend. We spent some 30 Easters in Greece where it is the equivalent to Christmas. Lamb is roasted by some on Saturday – all day in the bread oven – and eaten at the midnight feast. Our cultural rhythms are still set to that sway.

Littlehampton Town Centre

Before we went out into the warm sunshine and down to the beach, my chef started the process of slow cooking a leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary. The vacuum robots were started on their tasks upstairs and downstairs and we were free to indulge ourselves in the season.

We drove down to Littlehampton – about 10 mins away – and parked up. We walked down to the Marina to join the Easter crowds promenading (βολτα) along the Marina/Beach path.

It is school holidays which means the Funfair is open and parents can let their troubles while away some time in fantasy land. I have to admit, it all looks and feels very ‘tacky’ to me but each to his own.

Back home, we ate salad in the sunshine and I did something I rarely do. I drank a bottle of beer. No ordinary beer, of course. It was one from Northern France – Houle du Blanc Nez – Surf of the White NoseThe White Nose is a cliff pointing out to sea. It is brewed in Wissant and delicious.

The tools of my trade are words. they always have been. It is something I owe to my Mother. I love words, sounds of words, meanings and their origins. I love the concepts that they paint and the ideas that they help to construct. I love communication. It is one of the few things I am good at. I am often shocked by the power my words have on others.

I sent a letter of Coincidences & Connections to a number of friends yesterday. I was absolutely shocked by the emotion of their responses. They shared it with their wives and read it to their Mothers. It obviously touched a nerve, resonated with a memory, evoked an emotion which builds up in all of us. I have that ability with words to move others. If there is any time to talk it is now before the going down of the sun. To hold back because of reservation will make it too late.

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