Week 751

Sunday, 14th May, 2023

A warm and tranquil morning after quite a disturbed sleep. Doesn’t matter what one does to prepare, there is always so much to do in the hours before travel and, I can tell you now that, as we drive away from the house, we will both say, What have we forgotten?

This morning, I have had my haircut, set the lights and automatic switches on Hive, watered the plants, charged my shaver and toothbrush, put the Long Stay Carpark postcode into the Sat.Nav. and done a 2 hour walk.

My neighbour behind our house, who has a dog as big as a horse, is moving to Spain. Her house was listed as ‘Sold’ but it turns out that the sale fell through. She’s still moving to Spain but leaving the house empty and open for the estate agent to dispose of at … £1,000.000.00. I’ve suggested that they rent out their dog for donkey rides on the beach.

Kevin is in the 36 hrs before his next colonoscopy. I know he is nervous. I am trying to calm him down by making fun of him. Do you think of people you are leaving behind when you are going away? I do. How will I help them if they need me? If I die while I’m away, how can I tell them? I know they don’t care but, unfortunately, …. I do!

This really is what we eat …

Of course, we must all do as much as we can to stay fit, healthy and alive. I keep impressing that on the people who are my friends. I am determined to hold a centenarian party for those who manage it. Although this idea has been around for ages, a recent and authoritative study has demonstrated that a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit and vegetables, nuts and pulses, oily fish and seeds reduces the risk of heart disease by 28% and Alzheimer’s by 25% … as long as you remember to stick to it.

Kevin and I are sad, old men. We exchange exercise statistics. He has cycled over 1000 miles and swum a similar amount in the past year. In the last 12 months, I have walked 3,200 miles. We are obsessive. Perhaps men are. I get newspaper reports sent to me daily.

M24 Hero!

I automatically receive news from M24 every morning and evening including traffic, crime, social events and property prices. It’s fascinating. This 85 year old Rochdale pensioner was featured yesterday. He has set himself the goal of completing one million press-ups before his 90th birthday and 100 ultramarathons before his 100th birthday. Now that is something I can aspire to!

Monday, 14th May, 2023

Out early for the drive to Gatwick Airport this morning. Only us and some badgers and rabbits on the road.

Standing room only at Gatwick this morning.

Arrive at Thessaloniki Airport just after 9.00 am (UK) / 11.00 am (G). Taxi to the hotel takes about 35 mins. Always wanted to go to Macedonia. …. and now I am doing.

Flight was fine – only 3 hrs.15 mins. Our first flights to Greece in the early 1980s were 4.5 hrs. Things have moved on so much! We met a delightful taxi driver who took us to our hotel for €25.00.

The hotel manager, Alexia Kolatskou, proved to be a fan of Roald Dahl who went to my local school of Repton. She was excited to hear of the novelist, Nina Bawden and her husband, Austen Kark, former Head of BBC World Service and their connection with me and with Greece and, particularly, her own hotel chain – Electra.

Had lovely contact from Kevin, Julie, John R., John M, Emma, Margaret and Tommy. Strange how poignant contact from friends feels when you are abroad. Sunday will see the Greek General Elections and there are stalls being set out all around the city for political rallies in the build up to the vote. Down by the harbour, this KKE (Communist Party) stall was being prepared with seating and TV cameras for the weekend.

Tuesday, 15th May, 2023

I’ve only been in Greece 24hrs and I’m already … shopping! As usual, the weather is warm. We are in shorts and tee shirts and Greeks are still dressed for Winter. It is 21C/70F but they think fur-lined hooded Anoraks are still appropriate.

First, I ate bacon & scrambled egg for Breakfast. Big mistake! I may never eat again. Now, I really need to walk it off but the most pressing need is to sort my room mate’s email out. BT Email constantly suspends our service from a foreign broadband connection. They think it has been ‘hacked’ even though I use a VPN. Fortunately, I am now confident in resetting the email accounts and normal service is quickly restored.

Then out into the city. It has echoes of Athens but also of Venice and Bologna. It has lots of old buildings but better maintained than those of Athens. It is calmer and the people are friendlier. We’ve met some lovely people here already.

Anyway, I soon found myself in Department Stores like the Hondas Centre and then down to the Fresh Food Market. That’s what I like to see – all the fresh fish in this port city but wonderful fruit and vegetables (Don’t tell Sainsburys!) and so many herbs and spices.

It’s a 15 minute city designed hundreds of years ago. You can walk anywhere within15 minutes. They didn’t know I need to be stretched and forced to walk further.

We followed that by a walk down the Old Port which has been redeveloped into a Cultural Centre with a Film Museum, Fashion Museum and lots of trendy bars and restaurants.

One of the notable works of art in this trendy city of fashion, culture, politics and protest is the sculpture commemorating many of their Jewish community who were rounded up and murdered in the extermination camps during WW2. The sculpture represents the sorrow of their twisted bones.

Wednesday, 16th May, 2023

Up early because I was contacted by M from Florida. She is 7 hrs behind us so speaking at 10.00 pm the night before when were 5.00 am. It’s not a problem. I was awake anyway. Tea and Sky News and then Muesli for breakfast.

Aristotle Platia at 5.00 am.

Went out for an early walk before the sun was too hot. We followed the promenade road round the coast. This is a delightful, friendly and cultural city. Art and sculpture are everywhere. I nodded to Aristotle in our square, chatted to Alexander the Great on his horse, waved at Papandreou and laughed at Mitsotaxis all in statue form. We walked 8 miles and the sun got stronger as we went.

Executive Lounge

Back at the hotel, we went in the Executive Lounge reserved for residents of Suites. It works on the principal of an Airport Lounge. We had no idea it was on offer until we arrived. We can retreat from the crowds, enjoy the facilities we choose and order any food and drink free of charge throughout the day. We ordered smoked salmon sandwiches and a bowl of Greek salad with a bottle of wine. May never eat or drink again.

Thursday, 17th May, 2023

This really is a lovely place. On one side is the ocean and on the other views reach to Mount Olympus. The streets are full of lovely, kind and respectful people, people who are interested in politics, culture and fitness. Early morning walkers, runners, cyclists, canoeists, sailboarders are everywhere. The squares are constantly vibrant with political debate. There marquees set up with sound systems proselytising loudly their political party’s policies and candidates.

This man was one of the quieter ones. Aristotle has been dead for almost 2,500 years but he is still revered and gives his name to the Platia in which our hotel stands.

It is a great place to walk and talk, to sit and watch, to share a bottle of wine and Mezedes – usually, nuts, crisps, olives, tomato & feta – and just enjoy the world. It is such a wonderful place.

Of course, it all had to go down hill at some stage. When my Dresser suggested going for a walk, I had a bad feeling and it was completely justified. Fortunately, it didn’t cost me money today.

Friday, 18th May, 2023

Hot, sultry, rather humid day especially for walking. The sun felt a bit too intense. I am rather a creature of habit in my exercise. I immediately found a walk that suited me along the edge of the water and the harbour. One hour out and another hour back. In fact, I’m slightly quicker on the way back because all my old muscles are warmed up and working well.

The promenade around the bay is pebble-dashed concrete which isn’t the most comfortable but it is wide and flat. Along the route, there is so much artwork which makes me want to stop.

Alexandra the Great is a son of Macedonia and he is celebrated on his horse in a statue by the sea …

…. but there are so many interesting pieces like the Sunshades and the Tree of Light. The city is big on environmentalism and ‘green’ living. The lights on the tree are solar powered like so many things in this country of sunshine.

The Tree of Light

What a lovely, civilised and vibrant city this is. All week, there has been a Climate Activist Booth on the Square handing out leaflets, playing music and then a Procession in support of Ukraine across the Square this morning. All totally appropriate in a Square dedicated to Aristotle, the ancient philosopher dedicated to politics and ethics.

Saturday, 19th May, 2023

A gorgeous morning. We eat breakfast outside on the balcony overlooking Plateia Aristotelous and the Thermaic Gulf.

Breakfast is a weird thing across the world. To cater for all nationalities is something of a challenge. Next to us is a Greek couple eating dry sesame rusk with thick, black coffee. A Arabic man has chosen cheese and cherry tomatoes with raw fish. Americans are eating waffles with melted chocolate. We are eating cereals followed by bacon & eggs but there is also mountains of smoked salmon, cold ham and salami, chocolate cake and cinnamon & apple tarts and much more.

No better evidence needed that we must seize the day and enjoy every minute came yesterday when my old school’s jungle telegraph line contacted me to say that an old friend and colleague, who had fallen into Dementia and recently died in an Oldham care home, was buried yesterday. A lot of people I haven’t seen for years had attended and I would have liked to see them again.

It was kind of my friend, Little Viv, to let me know of Derek’s funeral and it underlines the importance of friends. Viv’s husband died of a heart attack years ago. Derek’s wife, who also taught Art in my school, died of cancer about 5 years ago and he rapidly went downhill after that. It’s scary!

In Florida, our new pool is coming on. It will be good to get out and use it if I get through this current cancer problem. M sent me an update this morning along with her Wordle contribution.

It will certainly look good when it’s finished. A barbecue area is being constructed at one side. This is my sort of living.

Been chatting to two characters – Damon Albarn (who I’ve never heard of) and Midge Ure (who I’ve sort of heard of) on Twitter. They have been following me on Twitter.

They are big in popular music, I understand, and their industry has been destroyed by the lunacy that is Brexit. Free Movement of people, which so many of us want, has been stymied by the Xenophobia of the Little Englanders. These two like my views on Brexit and want to re-tweet them. Feel free!

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