Sunday, 7th May, 2023
Glorious day with warm sunshine reaching 18C/65F. Been on a long walk – 7 miles – round the area, policing developments. No street parties to stop. No festivities to stamp out. A few, discrete barbecues and chinking glasses of chilled Sauvignon Blanc from back gardens but nothing too outré.
There was a Vintage Car Rally at the Rugby Club but it was very controlled and there were no union jacks to tear down. So, all was calm. No loud music, brash, ill-mannered Northern behaviour. Normality reigned. What a lovely place we have come to!
As I know I have written before, in September 1969, Mum drove me to this place on College Road in Ripon, North Yorkshire. I had all my worldly goods in a few boxes and was wearing the clothes she thought a country gentleman who was training as a teacher should wear – Sports Jacket, Flannels, Striped Shirt and mustard coloured Cravat. I sold them all within a week of arriving.
I was in Digs in the middle house which was owned by a Scottish family – Mr & Mrs Boyde and their two children, Andrew and Sheila – and I was sharing the top floor with two other students, Nigel and John-2 (so named because I arrived first.) We went upstairs to my rooms and from the small lounge area an almighty racket was emanating. When I opened the door, Nigel was sitting on the floor with a record player blaring out Leonard Cohen’s
Like a bird on the wire; Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried in my way to be free …
Mum took one look at Nigel, looked at the delight on my face and fled down the stairs to her car and drove straight home never to return. The Boydes were a lovely family. The father, Geoff Boyde, was stationed at RAF Leeming. The Mum, Sheila, cooked us massive Breakfasts and even more massive Dinners. She knew what growing lads needed and we were never hungry.
We were treated like part of the family. Their son, Andrew must have been about 14 and he went to Ripon Grammar. The daughter, Sheila, was 10. I remember little about her. I had enough sisters as it was.
Move on about 25 years and I was in London attending a conference. I was late for a meeting and rushing through the underground to get a train. I had to push my way through a huge queue of people who were lining up at a ticket machine. As I did so, a couple stepped aside to let me through and I was shocked to see it was Geoff & Sheila Boyde who I last saw in 1971 in Ripon. We only had a brief moment to say Hello and I ran for my train.
I never saw them again but, yesterday, John-2 contacted me and said he had found the daughter, Sheila still living in Ripon and working in Harrogate as a Sports Nutritional Consultant. Today she is 62 and pictured above. But that is not the end of the story. Sheila has been a star of long distance running just like my sister JaneGB.
Pictured above is Sheila winning the Glasgow Half Marathon in 1988. A book on Scottish Athletics says, Sheila Catford is ranked fifth on the Scottish all-time list for the marathon behind Liz McColgan, Kathy Butler, Hayley Haining and Lynn Harding. Wikipedia tells me she was a British long-distance runner, who competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand.
A year later she won the Florence Marathon and represented Britain in the 1991 World Marathon Cup which was run as part of the London Marathon. From a ten year old to this makes me feel so old. Those days are in the past but available to be recaptured with the right imagination. Reject it as you will, I embrace the change with realism.
Monday, 8th May, 2023
Lovely warm morning. Went out for an early walk because we have lots of jobs to get through today. I find it really helpful for thinking and planning. Something about the movement encourages the brain to process.
We set off for Thessaloniki next week and the Gatwick Airport Parking has to be booked. The DragonPass Premier+ reservation at the Airport Lounge needs to be confirmed. Then I am forced by my Housekeeper to predict what I will wear so it can be washed, ironed and packed. We can each take onboard a medium suitcase plus hand luggage so we won’t be wasting time waiting for cases to come from the hold.
Our hotel is the sister of the one we use in Athens and it is located on Aristotelous Square around 100 mtrs from the sea and near to the main Department stores, fashion outlets, Tavernas, Restaurants and bars. The hotel has an indoor and an outdoor pool plus Fitness Centre so there will be lots to do. I will just be happy to hear Greek voices, read Greek language on billboards, Shop signs and menus and catch up on some of our favourite Greek television programmes.
Our flight home is late at night so we need a late checkout. Fortunately, I am a holder of an Electra Hotels Rewards card which entitles us to exactly that so I am arranging that as well. There have to be some benefits to long term loyalty.
Kevin, who is currently auditioning as an old, Spanish Hooker, has just contacted me to say that one of our old friends Keith – although a little younger than us – has advanced prostate cancer. It has spread beyond the prostate and he has been receiving chemotherapy without much success.
The news rather brought me up short. Keith, a strong Geordie, and I played football together. He was friendly and kind like so many Northerners. I know how he and his wife must be feeling. The thought that hope is beginning to run out must be absolutely devastating.
Tuesday, 9th May, 2023
Heavy rain over night but lovely warm and dry this morning. It’s how we insist on the meteorological organisation in Sussex. Everywhere looks fresh and so green. New leaves and fresh grass are almost luminous in their vibrancy.
Walking through the park, the rain had refilled the lake and dogs were excitedly splashing in it as they were chasing balls thrown for just that purpose.
The political tide is definitely changing across Britain. The newspapers this morning illustrate that just as clearly as last week’s local elections did. It’s making lots of the Blogs I read much more interesting. Really looks like the Red Wall, Northern voters are finally realising that they were conned by the political glitterati and that Brexit and Levelling-Up were just empty bribes. Why it has taken them so long? You only have to look at the Express and The Daily Fail to understand.
Wednesday, 10th May, 2023
Really strange night dreaming of grass and wrinkly, old witches. Don’t ask. I have no idea why. A bit disturbing though.
Put the radio on at 4.00 am but it was so interesting a news programme on the World Service that I didn’t fall asleep until 6.00 am and had to get up an hour later. It’s strange, though. I’ve got up raring to go, not at all tired. I seem to need so little sleep these days. I was talking to Julie yesterday. Same age as me, she often gets up at 4.00 am and works on her art without suffering. What I don’t understand about it is, after I did so much exercise and had so much fresh air, why I’m not tired.
The day is absolutely beautiful with clear blue sky and strong, warm sun. It’s been very warm – 14C/57F all night. The French Beans planted out yesterday have settled in well and, hopefully, will have really developed by the time we get back from Greece.
It’s time for sun cream before walking now. The sun is quite burning this morning. Before we set off, the robot vacs are set on their tasks upstairs and down. That’s my day’s work done.
Each day, I walk a familiar route and people say hello as if they know me. They only know me as the idiot who walks this way at the same time as them every day. Yesterday, a lady who I’ve said Hello to for quite a while, decided to volunteer, I’m Jane, by the way. Quite shocked me. I don’t know why. I really hadn’t expected it.Anyway, I tried to keep it superficial.
My next door neighbours are lovely but they are busy working people. Dee is a lecturer in English at the local College and he runs a bricklaying company who were employed to build our house. They love Greece and holiday on the island of Skiathos. They want to retire in the next 5 years or so and buy a property there for holidays. Their front door is less than 100 mtrs away from ours but we rarely meet to talk. I do go into their back garden to work on their awful lawn. We have now taken to communicating on Whatsapp.
A long standing joke has been that Jason would sell his wife because she accidentally reversed over my immaculately manicured lawn and teach the dog to drive. I am advising him on lawncare and her on 18th century novels. We are in a private Whatsapp group called Wives&Weeds. We could shout over the fence but this is more comfortable. They are lovely, kind people and have offered to help me if my cancer treatment gets too tiring.
Thursday, 11th May, 2023
Gorgeous sunny and warm morning again. All signs of witches and worries abandoned. Chatted to Julie and Kevin over breakfast and then went out shopping to Sainsburys. We go away in 4 days so the shopping list was tailored to that.
Today, the Bank of England raised the Lending Rate by 25 basis points to 4.5%. It is still ludicrously low even though our younger – pre 60 yrs – friends scream blue murder. For people like me, it couldn’t be better unless it was more. Haven’t had a mortgage since 2009. It was massive – one entire salary – right up until the end. We deliberately hurt ourselves to gain later and we certainly did that. In retirement, when people are meant to draw in their spending, we have felt better off than when we were working. We are spending and saving happily. Haven’t borrowed money for as long as I can remember. We have become lenders of first resort ourselves.
The problem has been, of course, as inflation has increased, our cash reserves are being eaten away with few places to shelter and grow. Each year, I search for the best interest rates both fixed and easy access. They both mature in July and I am looking for 2-yr fixes to beat the inflation cycle. The problem is that we can only earn £2000.00 between us in investment income before paying tax.
I used to have tax-free ISAs but the rate has been so poor that I moved out of them like so many others. Now, I am going to start moving back but we can only feed in £40,000.00 a year. It will take quite a while to shelter everything over the longer term. Hopefully, we will have two more, small increases to push inflation down and savings rates up and I can pounce and fix until 2025. Might even be in positive territory by then.
Friday, 12th May, 2023
Up early and out for a long walk to enjoy the weather. Lots of jobs to get through today so exercise must be ticked off first. Cases are waiting outside the Ironing Room to be packed for Sunday.
I leave all washing, ironing and packing to my Housekeeper. It is quite relaxing to allow her free reign in these matters.
Everywhere is looking lovely. Trees, shrubs, grass, sky make me feel old as they are renewed in vivid colour. Pity bodies can’t renew each year in the same way.
Walked through the park and then on through the wood. The contrast was lovely. Amazing how calming the colours and textures of the natural world can be. Really pleased not to be a town dweller.
I hate being ‘ill’. I hate having to be involved in the medical process. This morning I was phoned by an Oncology nurse who was asking about my welfare. You would think I would see that as a nice thing to do. I don’t. She sounded a lovely girl and was wishing me well with my treatment but my mind is fighting the fact that I am needing treatment at all.
I think I am refusing to accept the aging process. My friend, Kevin, who is so much older than me, is going through a third colonoscopy in months. I should accept this but I am really finding it difficult to do. I’ve noticed that what medics say when they first meet me is, Well, you’re a 72 year old gentleman and … This seems so old fashioned to me. I have pledged to myself to resist these age expectations as long as I possibly can.
It will be good to spend some time away in the sunshine and to forget medics, appointments, treatments, etc..
Saturday, 13th May, 2023
It’s great to get home, isn’t it? Doesn’t matter where you’ve been. ‘Home’ is different. We are going away but we know that home will be lovely when we return. At least, it won’t be Wales!
Our area is bathed in sunshine and painted in green and blossom. We really couldn’t ask for more. And yet, we are flying to Northern Greece – to Thessaloniki – for an interesting short break. Never been there. Will be fun.
The temperature is 21C/70F and the sun is strong. I have cut all the neighbours’ lawns prior to going away and they will look after everything for me over that time. Who knows when we will be back. If we are enjoying it, our open ticket may stay open for weeks. I have to be back for medical appointments but nothing else. We will make it up as we go along.
A suite in the Electra Palace, Thessaloniki will be a lovely retreat from the world. We will walk in the sunshine, swim in the pool, eat in local Tavernas and relax with the Greek language TV. Home form Home!
Will you be watching the ‘bonkers’ Euro Gay-fest tonight? I have never watched Eurovision but the EU demonstration tonight might entice me. Alright, it probably won’t but I’ll look at the highlights. Absolutely astonishing that these oddballs vote to leave Europe and then are desperate to be back in it for the most spurious of reasons and you can’t get more spurious than this rubbish!