Week 673

Sunday, 14th November, 2021

Rather overcast start to a warm day for the Athens Marathon. We went down to the old, Olympic Stadium for the event. It was very busy but enjoyable. I was ready for the event.

The organisation was meticulous … for Greeks …. All down the street, vans delivered competitor’s clothes and emergency packs if required.

The whole event was really enjoyable. We might make it an annual event. As we left the stadium, our old friend and Notary, Elerania from Sifnos contacted me on Instagram and said she was in Athens and would like to meet up for Dinner. The last time we saw her and her family was in central London about 4 years ago and it will be lovely to see her.

Monday, 15th November, 2021

It was a lovely evening as we met Elerania and her brother, Philipo. They came to our hotel and we walked to a local taverna where we drank wine, ate fish and salad and reminisced. We walked back to our hotel on an incredibly warm evening and drank coffee and watched a film on Netflix on my iPad but not until Pauline had watched the latest vote on Strictly.

We walked to a local taverna where we drank wine, ate fish and salad and reminisced. We walked back to our hotel on an incredibly warm evening and drank coffee and watched a film on Netflix on my iPad but not until Pauline had watched the latest vote on Strictly.

Back street Athens – 5.00 am.

Up and out walking at 5.00 am this morning – a warm and quite humid morning. Few people are as mad as me but one or two, lunatic souls were out in the streets as we walked past the ruins of Greece.

Breakfast for stray cats.
Breakfast for stray pigeons

A couple of hours later and back at the hotel, we went for breakfast. It is a buffet breakfast with everything available you can imagine and a lot you can’t. People eating cereals and toast, bacon and fried eggs, poached or scrambled eggs. Salad and smoked salmon. Cheese and ham, yogurt and fruit, croissants and Danish pastries, Greek cakes and biscuits, creamy rice puddings and crème caramels, coffee, tea, orange juice, pomegranate juice, etc. The only thing is that Covid restrictions mean masks and disposable gloves which rather takes the shine off it. 

After breakfast, I had to go online and complete our UK Passenger Locator forms which take forever to do and are rather badly prepared. I did do them on my iPad out on the balcony in lovely, warm sunshine and, an hour later, they were complete. It has been complicated by my email address, which I’ve used for 30 years, suddenly stopping working. I phoned BT three days ago and have spent at least 2 hours on my mobile talking to them without resolution. Just as we were going out to Dinner last night, they phoned again and I’ve had to leave them sorting it out when we get home.

Took Pauline out to the Leather Shop for some more belts she had been thinking about. Three more today brings her total to six new, handmade belts this trip. Goodness knows when she will wear them but, if it makes her happy …

Tuesday, 16th November, 2021

Last night we had Dinner outdoors at a lovely restaurant/old-style taverna on Metropolis Street. Excellent food and I was amused to be an Englishman asking a Greek for a French Sweet in a mixture of all three languages for “Δύο (2) Mille-feuille, please.”

Final day started at 5.00 am and on the warm Athenian streets by 5.30 am. No one could accuse us of wasting our days. We were out for about 90 mins and gentle, light rain started to fall half way through. 

Back for Breakfast and then Pauline packed while I waded through about 900 emails that flooded in as BT restored my email address over night. Feels good to have my main communication mode, other than my mouth, back and working.

We are not flying until this evening so won’t leave for the airport until afternoon. We went down to the City Central Market to buy some more dried herbs. We use them a lot in cooking and the quality of Greek herbs is fantastic. As we walked, hot sun broke through and the sky cleared.

Athens Airport is so quiet. There are only 2 flights to UK – a BA to Heathrow & EasyJet to Gatwick. Almost all others are Domestic, inter-island flights. In 40 years of travelling, never seen it like this before.

Wednesday, 17th November, 2021

I was desperate to get back to Athens and absolutely loved my week there but it is just as enjoyable to come home. Just at the moment that the wheels hit the tarmac at Gatwick, a warm feeling of happiness enveloped me. The whole process of travel had been delightful. The people we had met had been lovely and the experiences of the week had raised my spirits.

Of course, I was aware that I was putting us in some risk and we did take two (negative) tests during the week after travelling on the plane and then crowded Metro trains.

This morning, we had to take our official, Day-2 Tests, photograph them and upload the images to an on-line testing site. Fortunately, we both tested negative again.

After going through the mountain of mail that had built up on the mat, we went out to Sainsburys to buy mountains of fruits and salads as we redouble our diet after a week of self-indulgence. We’ve got just under three weeks until our next trip to France and we are going to visit Pauline’s old College friend for lunch in Milton Keynes before then.

Absolutely beautiful , sunny day today as we go out for our walk but about 10C less than we were enjoying in Athens. I really am a sun worshipper at heart and the hotter the better although I do think age has tempered that a little.

We had to go down into the village and it’s late Autumn setting was lit by lovely sunshine from delicious blue skies. I was still wearing shorts and tee shirt as I did in Athens but it was not uncomfortable. Going to finish off in the Gym.

Thursday, 18th November, 2021

When Theresa May dismissed, deprecatingly, those Citizens of Nowhere who preferred remaining European, she was describing people like me. I have never felt rooted in any particular geographical place. I loved living in the North of England. I loved living in Greece. I love living where I am on the South Coast now but my memories are for people rather than places. I certainly have no longing to return to the place of my birth. I revisit it to remember the people not the place.

I found the village of my birth stultifyingly limiting and unprogressive. Even now I’m older, I have no sentimental longing to return. There was a thread on Twitter recently where people were asked to say how far away from the place of their birth they now lived. It demonstrated that there are two, distinctly divided opinions. Some haven’t moved more than 20 miles from the place of their birth and longed to remain strongly in touch with it. Others, like me, had been desperate to put as much time and space between their childhood experiences and emigrate to Erewhon. I suppose it depends how much you enjoyed your childhood, family life.

Got a Whatsapp message from Kevin in Leeds this morning. He was born in Huddersfield and hasn’t moved far nor has Christine. Heard from Julie yesterday and she lives only a few miles away from the place of her birth. Nigel and I have both ’emigrated’ to other ends of the country. More important are people and memories of people in our lives.

… and now there are three.

Pauline has integrated a number of objects that remind her of her Mum who died at the age of 96 – a lampshade in our bedroom, a moneybox made by her father. Last night she was so upset to smash a glass her Mother had given her many years ago. They are simple, cut glass tumblers of little monetary cost but so much human value.

This morning, we are having the next episode of tests – PCR and Antibody – from the Covid19 Zoe Project. Never has a couple been more tested.

Friday, 19th November, 2021

Quite a busy morning with trips out to Tesco in West Durrington and then shops in Worthing town centre. It is a mild but grey morning. I’m searching for something warmer and brighter. The town was quiet and rather downbeat. A few Christmas decorations were lit up and a Town Cryer announced shopping opportunities to a crowd of about 3 potential shoppers. I am an inveterate people watcher. I love people, our differences and commonalities and seaside towns are wonderful places to indulge that interest.

Not exactly going to town with the Christmas lights

The local shops were stocking their ‘free’ Worthing Lifestyle magazine which advertises a much more up-market view than the reality. We had the debate once again about whether to send Christmas cards or not. Tradition won out because we don’t want our friends feeling cold shouldered by impersonal email contact and it is no great sacrifice to us. Regular readers and receivers of Christmas cards will know that I am obsessed with robins. We have so many living around us all year and I prefer them as an Atheistic substitute to Christian, Christmas scenes. There are not so many around this year that I have not already sent in previous times.

We drove home via the beach and, in spite of the grey light, the tonal quality of the colours was beautiful in its own way.

Drove home for coffee before setting out on the day’s walk. Could do with some sunshine or something to brighten the day.

Saturday, 20th November, 2021

Today I am reflecting on the change, over time, of being grounded in location versus the search for contentment further afield. The history of my ancestors illustrates this change quite well. The literature of the 19th-20th centuries delineate that change and non-more than the writing of D.H.Lawrence who writes of man being grounded in woman at the core of life while being the explorer of new opportunities through The Rainbow and Women in Love.

My family moved to the East Midlands village of Repton, on the borders of Staffordshire and Derbyshire in the 1850s. They were Presbyterian/Methodist, entrepreneurial and political. They quickly established themselves as Millers, Carpenters and Builders. They featured centrally in the life of the village and Congregational Church with music and literature. They became leading politicians in the local district and nearby towns. They featured strongly in changing the conditions of working people and they became teachers.

Repton Mill – home for the Sanders Family in the 19th Century

Of course, in those early days, people didn’t travel much further than their villages. Forms of transport were limited. Horseback or horse & carriage were not conducive to long distance travel. Employment was mainly agricultural and locally based. Increasingly, industrialisation changed this – a change that informs Lawrence’s writing.

The Rainbow tells the story of three generations of the Brangwen family, a dynasty of farmers and craftsmen who live in the East Midlands of England, on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The book spans a period of roughly 65 years from the 1840s to 1905, and shows how the love relationships of the Brangwens change against the backdrop of the increasing industrialisation of Britain. The first central character, Tom Brangwen, is a farmer whose experience of the world does not stretch beyond these two counties; while the last, Ursula, his granddaughter, studies at university and becomes a teacher in the progressively urbanised, capitalist and industrial world.

Lawrence’s world was one in which he saw the woman at the centre, the home maker and sexual, emotional source of comfort as the male ventured out to explore the world. Because we live in a world structured by gender, the other sex is forever to some extent a mystery to us (and non-more than to me), with a dimension of experience that we can imagine but never inwardly know. The prevailing theme of Lawrence’s novels is that, in desiring to unite with the other sex, we are desiring to mingle with something that is deeply not ourselves, and which brings us to experience a character and inwardness that challenge us with their strangeness.

Modern invention changed all this for Lawrence’s characters and for members of the Sanders family who are now resident all over the country. Lawrence’s view of male/female relationships looks very outmoded. However, in all great literature, there is the kernel of truth, the delineation of a fundamental condition and the irony for me is that we travel to be grounded once again.

Busy morning down here on the South Coast: Haircut, Lawn Mowing, Patio spray-cleaning, Exercise routine. Got to get all this done in the morning so I can watch a big football match this afternoon.

Week 672

Sunday, 7th November, 2021

Better sleep last night but we were still up at 6.30 am. Out walking in sunshine before 9.00 am. It is a lovely time to be out in a lovely place. While so much of the world still sleeps after a hard week’s work, they leave the countryside and beach to us.

It’s lovely and green around our house and the grass, trees, birds, rabbits, squirrels combine to make it an enjoyable walk.

The sun rises over our beach of shingle.

Our beach is not so easy to walk on because it is loose, deep shingle but the paths along the edge are there to encourage us.

We have done a couple of early hours of exercise because we have guests for Lunch today. I’m looking forward to it. We’re having line-caught, wild sea bass griddled in the garden. Wonderful!

Monday, 8th November, 2021

Had a lovely day yesterday and a really enjoyable Lunch with M & P. We griddled fish outside in glorious sunshine and ate with the conservatory doors open as the sunshine streamed in. Lovely conversation. We talked about plans to visit them in Florida in March next year and about property prices. We are still looking for somewhere to invest from our Greek House sale. We have flitted from UK …. to France … to Spain. What about Florida? Property prices are incredibly cheap.

I was inspired to do some research. I have been looking in Manatee County, Florida near Sarasota on the coast just below Tampa. This property featured above is on at under £400,000.00. It’s on the Lakewood Ranch and comes with this lovely pool and fitness centre, a kitchen you’d need binoculars to see the ends of and 4 bedrooms plus 3 bathrooms. I don’t know how US property is in terms of an investment potential but it could produce a rental income when were are not there.

The world is a wonderful place. Yesterday I posted images of the present. Today I post pictures of the past and the potential future. John Ridley sent me this autumnal photograph of a scene from Ripon.

Lovely sunshine again this morning as we set out for an early walk. Tomorrow, I will have to be up very early to get my exercise in before we drive to Gatwick. Virtually everything is ready …

Tuesday, 9th November, 2021

Many would say I’m mad. Others say I’m obsessive. I prefer to think that I am committed to my goals. So it was that I got up at 4.00 am and was jogging down the road soon after. Got to get my exercise routine largely completed before we fly. Delightful morning. Really warm and quite light. I did my route with a happy heart. Exactly at 4.55 am, the birds started singing. I beat them to it by almost an hour.

Back home by 5.30 am , it was all systems go with last preparations before driving to the airport. First flight since November 2019 and first ever wearing a mask for the entire time. Going to be an interesting experience.

A kiss in the sky over Gatwick.

Everything about the flying experience illustrated how hollowed out it has been by the pandemic. The Long Stay carpark was half empty. Normally, we have to search for spaces. The airport was quiet and our flight half empty. We had 3 seats for 2 people. 

Having been up early and out exercising, I slept through a lot of the 3hrs 20mins flight although there was terrible turbulence as we crossed the snow covered Alps which woke me up. In Athens airport we have never disembarked, gone through security, collected our bags and got a taxi so fast in our lives. It was all down to lack of passenger demand. A 40 mins taxi ride – €45.00 – to our hotel, the Electra Palace.

More than 30 years ago, I read a book by Austen Kark, former Head of BBC World Service. It was about his love of Greece and described the journey he and his wife had gone through to build a house in Nafplion on the Greek mainland. It inspired us to buy a field and build a house on a small, remote Cycladic island over 20 years ago. Austen Kark was married to Nina Bawden, author of children’s fiction like ‘Carrie’s War’ which I had taught in my early career. As they supervised their house build, they would stay in the ‘Electra Palace Hotel’ in Athens. 

Sadly, Bawden was badly injured in the Potters Bar rail crash in 2002 in which her husband, Austen Kark, was killed. I went on to build my house and stay in exactly the same grand, old hotel in Athens. We have been staying there every year sometimes a number of times each year for the past 20. We really missed not going in 2020 and have returned this week to reconnect. This photo is of the little Lobby.

Wednesday,10th November, 2021

A lovely morning although we were up a little late … 7.00 am (Greek Time) / 5.00 am (UK Time). I ate scrambled egg for Breakfast and felt absolutely ‘stuffed’. Our table overlooked the Acropolis and so does the balcony of our Suite. It is really lovely to be back in Greece, in general, and Athens in particular. I want to share the experience with everyone!

After Breakfast, we went out to Monastiraki Metro Station and bought 5-Day travel passes for €8.00 each.This allows us unlimited travel and we set of for Kalithea in the sunshine.

We walked, went into a supermarket to buy some bottles of wine and then took the Metro back to our hotel. Coffee and newspapers and then out for a long walk through Kolonaki and the Embassy area towards Panepistimio and the University area all in lovely sunshine but quite busy and noisy with City traffic everywhere.

Just a little glass of Vimto.

This evening out to our favourite street-side restaurant for grilled sea bass and salad and another walk before an earlier night to recover. Actually, it will be midnight (Greek Time/10.00 pm UK Time) for Pauline and 1.30 am Greek Time (11.30 pm UK Time) for me. I have to watch Sky Newspaper Review followed by BBC2 Newsnight before I can sleep.

Thursday, 11th November, 2021

A delightful evening visiting old times like the Ithaca Restaurant we ate at one cold night perhaps 20 years ago. We walked down Odos Ermou – Athens Oxford Street – and listened to the buskers and the excited chatter of all the young people. We were young once. Time is running out and we must take every chance that lies ahead. This chap was waiting just for me. I sent the photo by WhatsApp to Kevin. We ate griddled Sea Bass and Greek Salad for Dinner and walked back to our hotel to watch a Netflix film.

Slept quite well although I’m not coping with Breakfast. I’m really going to have to give it a miss. Went out for a sunny walk to look at the Omonia Square development. It wasn’t half as impressive as the Greeks would have us believe. Two years they’ve been working on it. We went round the huge fish and meat market. Pauline bought bags of dried Oregano for her store cupboard and we fended off all sorts of desperate hawkers from restaurants to clothes shops and two determined young women who insisted I was the double of George Clooney and should buy my wife a single stem rose. Funny to see all the Greeks wrapped up as if it was mid-winter whereas I was in shorts and tee shirt. They would never survive in Northern England!

Omonia Square

I spent an hour on the phone to Scotland this afternoon talking to a delightful girl from BT who was working from a shed in her garden as she tried to sort my email delivery out. It often goes wrong when I’m abroad and it is difficult to live without it it. The hour was enjoyable but not completely successful.

At least we managed to enjoy a complimentary bottle of the hotel’s red wine as I talked. Scotland, apparently, was cold and wet this morning and she had the heating on in her shed. I was sitting on the balcony overlooking Athens.

Friday 12th, November, 2021

Metropolis Square

We walked back in the darkness across Metropolis Square from the restaurant last night and then got up at 5.00 am this morning still in darkness. The Acropolis was still lit up and visible from our balcony.

We decided to go out for a walk in the quiet, dark streets that were still wet from the street cleaner’s work overnight. We walked around the base of the Acropolis past the Museum, through Thissio – the home of Theseus, the legendary King of Athens. Few people were about but lots of stray cats and the occasional homeless man, huddled under coats and sleeping on cardboard. We walked for about 90 mins and then returned for breakfast.

This is a lovely, old hotel and our suite is very comfortable. The corridors feature copies of ancient artefacts and reliefs like this one outside our door. The modern, top floor Restaurant looks out across the city.

The modern, top floor Restaurant looks out across the city and out towards the hills of Athens.

Through the Restaurant window out across the city.

After breakfast this morning, we are going to take the Metro down to the port of Piraeus to renew our acquaintance with the ferry traffic that we have used so much over the years.

Saturday 13th, November, 2021

Beautiful morning. The sun is up. The sky is blue. We’ve already had breakfast even though we pledged last night not to have any because we were so full. It is 7.30 am (GT)/ 5.30 am (UKT) and I’ve found my thoughts straying to what I’ve left behind just as much as what I’m going to do today. Strange but true. 

Yesterday was so warm and sunny. We took the Metro down to Piraeus and walked in the sunshine round the port we know so well. It was very quiet with Ferry boats tied up and few passengers. The colours were beautiful. 

“Deep greens and blues are the colours I choose.Won’t you let me go down in my dreams and rockabye sweet, baby James.” I just love the colours of the Mediterranean/Aegean seas, the warm air and the delicious smells as foreign languages drift over the city.

Fruit Seller outside Monastiraki Station

We took the Metro back to Monastiraki station and bought huge punnets of  sweet, ripe figs to carry back to the hotel. Pauline called at her regular leather shop in the Plaka where she has bought so many bags, sandals, shoes, etc. This time it was belts which all needed shortening and new holes punching. Lovely people who do the whole process from tanning hides in the local factory to selling finished products in their market shop.

The city is preparing for the Athens Marathon tomorrow. I’ve have been hard in training and think I’m ready. Unfortunately, my wife believes I would die in the attempt and, despite the lure of the insurance payout, insists I can only spectate although I could walk the course today.

Week 671

Sunday, 31st October, 2021

I love time. I love to know where I am in time. I love to place myself in the context of time and history. That is one of the reasons for the Blog. People, Places, Time – the stuff of Life! I hate wasting time although I’ve done enough of it in my life. Since Retirement, I’ve learnt to push myself and not to waste time, make the most of what I now see as a finite resource. That is why I am so (probably too) forceful with people.

Today is such a moment when Time is of the Essence. Clocks going back gives us an extra hour – not in bed but to do things. We have driven out in torrential rain at 8.00 am to travel 20 miles to Chichester for our Booster Jab. The roads were awash and many trees were down. The dual carriage way was wheel deep in water, wood and leaves.

When we got there, we had to get through a massive security system They had been besieged by mad anti-vaxxers yesterday and had erected caged barriers manned by burly security men this morning. When we got inside, it was full of ‘old people’ and I was the only one wearing shorts & tee-shirt. I don’t know why! It is gorgeously warm. Lovely volunteer people running the system. We were through and back home by 10.00 am.

John Ridley contacted yesterday to say he’d just had his Booster. Dave Weatherley is having his this week and David Roberts has to wait a fortnight. If we hadn’t demanded it, we might have been well behind the curve.

I have a huge confession to make. Whether it was for comfort food or the elation of getting our booster in time for flying to Athens, but I felt starving and ate some TOAST!!! Already, I feel terrible about it but it can’t be rescinded now. I’m going to have to live with that original sin. It won’t happen again I can assure you.

At the risk of boring you after my return to College roots, the Blog is a useful aide memoire of experiences through time. Until just over 20 years ago, we lived in or around the Pennine villages of Meltham & Helme.

We left in 2000 just as we were designing our Greek house with our Athens architect and starting an exciting, new chapter.

Just 5 years ago, just after we had finished furnishing our new house here in West Sussex, we were spending the month of November in the warmth of sunny Tenerife.

It was our 4th month in two, turbulent years. Nobody could accuse us of standing still and that will be my watchword until the end – keep pushing for new things, old things, new experiences, renewing old experiences, staying alive!

Monday, 1st November, 2021

The irony of it. Loving time and not knowing the date. I’m going mad! Anyway, belated happy November to all my confused readers.

Gorgeous morning of blue sky and warm sunshine. Out for an early, two hour walk. Felt absolutely great – healthy, fit and vigorous. I don’t remember getting up each morning with so much energy since I was 18. Might be a bit of an exaggeration because I can’t really remember what I was like 52 years ago but you get the idea.

When we got back home, all the conservatory doors were thrown open because it was so hot. I had my hair cut in the kitchen. It looks as if we won’t only cook outside but eat outside as well today. Good preparation for next week in Athens. I’ve been planning possible activities / trips while we are there. Of course, I will still have to do my exercise routine in the hotel gym & pools where I will be getting in touch with my feminine side because my wife has bought me pink swimming shorts, but I am also going to use the ancient Olympic Stadium – the Panathenaic Stadium (Παναθηναϊκό Στάδιο) which is within walking distance of our hotel. I’ll walk round the track a few times each morning just to say I’ve done it.

Panathenaic Stadium

We might take a short ferry journey to Aegina Island for a day trip. It is somewhere we’ve never been or Poros Island where Ellerania’s parents own property.

Omonia Square

Throughout the 40 years we have been visiting Athens, the decaying, neoclassical Omonoia Square (Πλατεία Ομονοίας) has been a seedy area of drugs and prostitution. Now it has had a major facelift and I am looking forward to seeing it with fresh eyes.

Tuesday, 2nd November, 2021

Up at 6.30 am after rather a fitful night. Woke at 4.00 am and didn’t go back to sleep. Glorious morning with sharp, clear blue sky and sunshine but quite chilly. We went down to 3C/38F last night and all the semi-ripe figs fell off the trees.

Busy day today. I’ve just written a To Do List of some 14 tasks to be completed or at least started today. In addition, Royal Mail have just sent me a text to say our Day-2 Lateral Flow tests which have to be taken on our return from abroad will be delivered this morning. A lot of the tasks are related to travel including booking the Airport Executive Lounge and deciding clothes to pack so my assistant can iron them. I have to vacuum the house and book a steam cleaning service for all the carpets which are coming up to 6 years old. I must also tidy the Office which is starting to drive me mad with so much out of place.

Don’t know if it is because I am tired after a poor night’s sleep but I’m feeling a little down this morning and I shouldn’t be. There are too many good things going on. Going out for an early walk which I hope will lift me for the rest of the day.

I record my life in words. Kevin Sellers records his in pictures. Must be wonderful to be able to produce such paintings up in the wilds of Northern Scotland although he’s currently in Tasmania where his son lives.

Glorious morning to walk through the park!

It’s not even mid day and I’ve managed half of my list of jobs including booking the Executive Lounge at Gatwick. It is ‘free’ through our Bank Account although there are very few Lounges open at the moment. Of the two, airside ones, I chose No.1 Gatwick North.

It really is such a lovely day that we are determined to spend a lot of it out in the garden including cooking and eating. Mixed fish platter! I’m looking forward to it after all the hard work.

Wednesday, 3rd November, 2021

Much better night’s sleep even though my Full Fibre Broadband went down at 10.00 o’clock last night. Nowadays, that sort of emergency is much more significant than it used to be. Everything in the house is connected in some way to the internet. All the televisions except the primary one in the Lounge are fed by the internet. Our home phone works exclusively over the internet – VOIP …Voice Over Internet Protocol. We have no copper wire phone line. Our central heating and home security is controlled over the internet. All communication is over the internet. I have a mobile phone which uses 5G but, most of the time, I’ve set it up to take its signal from the nearest wi-fi.

I have the fastest broadband that it’s possible to get in UK currently. A large chunk of the country doesn’t get much above 50mps download speed. Mine is 1000 mps. I pay for a premium service. Last night, I immediately chatted with BT Helpdesk on my mobile and was promised the service would be back up by 2.40 am but, if it wasn’t, a broadband dongle would be couriered to me for this morning to get my service back up.


I did wake feeling a little bit anxious a couple of times but managed to quell my concerns and get back to sleep. This morning such sweet messages sent by …. The steady blue light on my Broadband Hub. Normal service was resumed. Not only that but the world outside was bathed in beautiful sunlight. The day will be good. I feel more relaxed knowing that the travel planning is complete. The Day-2 Tests arrived yesterday afternoon and will be ready for our return. My assistant has agreed my choice of clothes for Athens and is busily ironing them in preparation for packing. All is well with the world.

Done a lovely walk in beautiful sunshine this morning. Got a real spring in my step. Ah, the power of the internet!

Now travelling is back on the agenda, Spanish Property is coming back in to focus. Right Move sent me an invitation to an on-line Property Show which immediately threw up interesting contenders.

The Harbour – Águilas, Murcia, Spain

Really good value properties overlooking the Harbour and Marina of Águilas with its lovely micro-climate. I am quite taken by a newish, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, top floor apartment with large, rooftop sun terrace for just £90,000.00.

Thursday, 4th November, 2021

Quite chilly, grey morning. Up early with lots to do. Out shopping to Asda & Sainsburys. I was the only one in shorts and tee-shirt. Back home, I had to write what Kevin described as an Encyclical for him to read out at the College Reunion tomorrow in Ripon. I will not be there because it is a long drive just days before I go abroad. I have told them that I will try to make it next year – just 50 years since I last saw them all. There is so much time to catch up!

I find these sorts of things easy and enjoyable to write. I spent about 40 mins on it and sent it over to Kevin with the instruction that it should be read to the backing of a recording of Handel’s Ode to Joy – the European Union Anthem. I tried to weave in comedic anecdotes about as many members of the original group of men I could remember. Kevin reminded me that I coined the original term, The Company of 24 although I don’t really remember it. Kevin will enjoy being in the limelight as he hams up presentation of my address.

Going out for our walk, the temperature was really cold in the sea breeze and I was forced to put on a long sleeved tee-shirt to keep comfortable.

By the time we had done our couple of hours and got back home, BT had already delivered my supplementary Broadband Hub which is independent of the existing one. It receives its feed from the 4G mobile network. This mobile network will be free to me so I can take it on my travels and plug it into my car to increase my internet sphere.

Continuing to look at properties on the Murcia coast on RightMove, I found this new build, 2 bed property for £130,000.00 just above Mazzaron where our friend, Margaret used to own and just below the more ‘popular’ resorts of BenidormAlicante and Torrevieja. It would have to be checked out and be a viable, rental property to be worthwhile.

Friday, 5th November, 2021

Glorious morning of clear, blue sky and gorgeous sunshine highlighting flight trails high above the garden. We have a frost – light but obvious on the roofs and grass. Just the right day for an insulation firm coming to look at treating the Gym ceiling. Got to make sure the wine store is safe! I’m also looking for some patio heaters so that we can continue to eat out in the garden over winter.

Long ago – maybe 30 years ago – we were in Le Touquet during a Winter Half Term and chose a Fish restaurant to eat at on a very cold day. Being young(er) and more enthusiastic, we chose to eat outside on the terrace. It was heated by huge, patio heaters and I have an abiding memory of eating delicious seabass in the open air comfortably heated by bottled gas burners. In Greece, Winters can be very cold but Greeks still eat outdoors with coats and scarves on. After all these years, it is rather in our blood.

Early walk in glorious sunshine for a couple of hours before the insulation man arrives. There is real evidence of increased air traffic across the sky from Heathrow and Gatwick towards the Continent. Looking forward to being up there myself next week. If you click this photograph to enlarge it, you will see that our helicopter security team tracked our progress on our walk and you will also see our next home in the process of being built to the left.

A couple of things to tie up before we go away. The insulation contract has been agreed at £1500.00 and will be done in about three weeks. Secondly, it looks as if I’ve managed to get 2/3rds of the Parkingeye fine my relatives received rescinded and I’m just left to retrieve the initial payment of £60.00 returned plus the ex-gratia bunch of flowers. I have contacted them again this morning and will not allow them to get away with any of it. Lovely people at Parkingeye …. except when they’re not! 

Saturday, 6th November, 2021

What a weird night that was. Got to bed around 11.30 pm and woke at 4.00 am. Drinking endless cups of tea, watching Sky News and reading The Times from my iPad until the sun rose. It was too late to go back to bed so freshly squeezed orange juice and freshly ground coffee provided a platform for an early walk.

The College reunion yesterday was a rather spartan affair. I understand that this was largely down to fears of Covid and that it may be back to better numbers next time. Kevin, who has taken to communicating with me on Whatsapp, kindly sent me some pictures of some people who were there and I was likely to know.

Keith Lowry & Kevin Dagg
Derek (FA Bus) Coulson & Chris Tolley
John Ridley & Dave Weatherly

Also present were Andy Henderson and Dave Roberts plus a couple of others I couldn’t put a name to. In a way, I’m rather glad I didn’t make this year my first to attend because I think I would have been rather disappointed. Maybe next year ….

Week 670

Sunday, 24th October, 2021

What a wonderful world we live in. Floating on air this morning! Out early for a walk. Came home to construct my newly delivered rowing machine.

This will now become part of my regular routine. The tall, slim, sexy German from next door may be using my former X-Trainer but this old, chunky English man will be toning up his stomach muscles on a rowing machine which will take him through the next decade up to his 80s. Stay with me as I Blog along.

Been out for our walk this morning and come home for Pauline to make bread and then construct the gym equipment with me. Actually, nothing would have been completed without my wife’s technical brain. I would have employed a ‘little man’ to do it for me.

We griddled chicken in the garden this afternoon and ate it with salad. I am now preparing for our Greek travel followed by France. Against a backdrop of rising Covid cases, we have tested ourselves after our week of travel, kissing friends and close mingling. We were negative on the Lateral Flow test and hope to remain so. I have always felt responsible for smaller people in my life and do even now. I will help anyone who needs me for as long as I am capable of doing so.

Monday, 25th October, 2021

Sometimes life can feel so good. Had a great week last week and we are off to Athens in a couple of further weeks. In between, there are plenty of nice things happening. I’m going to go hard diet and exercise wise. The morning opened with light rain although very mild. By mid-morning, the sky had cleared completely to a delicious blue with strong sunshine just in time for us to go on a walk. The world looks lovely at the moment even though the first real signs of Autumn are on display.

I am very poor at human relations and really have to be guided and reminded by others. I have always been like that and those close to me often despair. Actually, I suspect that women are much better at it than men, in general and most people are much better at it than me, in particular. I suspect I am in the lowest percentile for most things. Last week was organised by three women, Pauline, Chris and Julie. What I am good at is words and communicating. I have resolved to use that skill.

I have decided to not allow my relationships with those from my past to deteriorate into the mists of time again. I am going to communicate with them on a regular basis and it is up to them whether they want to do the same. I will soon know where I stand based on their response. I have told them to make it clear if they don’t want to receive stuff from me and I will understand.

This morning, I have contacted 6 friends using a multiplicity of platforms including FacebookMessengerTwitterWhatsappEmail and Text. They all have a different preferred platforms for communication. Nothing earth-shattering but just telling them about things going on in my life since I last saw them and wishing them good luck with their immediate projects. Although I was in a College of 500 or so students, I actually knew very few. I was always otherwise engaged. It didn’t/doesn’t worry me but when Christine sent me the photo above of a reunion in 2019 and asked me how many I could identify, my isolation was emphasised.

I can identify 7 out of the 16 people. They include Christine herself, Derek France, John Ridley, Peter Holgate + wife and, in black, Judy Hall who is now deceased. Judy was Chris’s best friend and this was the last time she ever saw her as she died of breast cancer which is shocking in itself. The woman in the front centre is Liz Stansfield, a pretty and very shy girl who did subsid. Drama with me. Just as I was leaving the North to move house to Surrey, I discovered she had been living 5 miles away in Holmfirth all those years

Tuesday, 26th October, 2021

Up early and completed a few house jobs, ordered a large, fresh fish stock for delivery on Thursday and then set off for our walk. An hour and a half later, we showered and set off to drive up to Surrey. The task of the day was to help P&C sort out a travel insurance policy for their month of November in Florida with their daughter.

What an eye-opener that was. A sign of things to come. They are in their mid-80s and have pre-existing conditions as most people that age do but the cost of a single-trip travel policy for the USA is incredible. The cheapest price we could find for two people was £1,850.00 and the most expensive was £18,065.00. Who would pay that? Eventually, we settled for Staysure single trip cover of just under £2,000.00. It really does bring it home to us that we must travel as much as possible while we can.

Everything had to be done on -line. Phoning would have resulted in huge delays and agonising amounts of time. Policy documents could have taken a month to arrive – time they did not have – and payment required the use of the net and a smartphone for the Bank’s security checks. How any old person can do this alone, I don’t know.

Incredibly mild today, we drove home to griddle swordfish steaks in the garden after I had done my gym routine which was hard after the stress of the day and a strange sense of sadness that I had carried round with me all day. Must keep optimistic and fighting! My new clothes are starting to feel too big already and will not carry me much beyond our trip to Athens. In fact, Pauline is already ordering new things for me before we go away.

Wednesday, 27th October, 2021

Yesterday, we were helping relatives in their mid-80s navigate the intricacies of purchasing travel insurance on-line. It isn’t easy even for younger, more tech-savvy people and it did stretch us to the limit but we got it done. It did leave us wondering how much we will have fallen behind in 15 more years. I do try hard to keep up but you really need to be at the cutting edge to spot innovation. I design web pages and Blogs but with quite old software now.

Feels incredibly warm today for the end of October – 16C/61F at 7.00 am. This week in 2008, the Pennines were blanketed in heavy snow whereas heavy rain is forecast for the Northwest this week. In 2008, it was extremely cold. We were preparing for an Ofsted Inspection and feeling frazzled.

This week in 2009, Pauline’s Mum was still alive but suffering from painful Shingles across her eye. We were driving across the Pennine A62 road to visit her and I recorded the scene over the beautiful A62 which was the trans-Pennine crossing used by the pack mules in earlier centuries and which was replaced by the M62 in the last century. The A62, Nont Sarah’s route was always the most wonderfully relaxing drive back from work in the evening particularly as the moors displayed these gorgeous, Autumnal colours.

In the same week, in 2009, we received a letter from Northern Rock Bank confirming that we had just paid off the last £270,000.00 of our mortgage. We were mortgage-free for the first time since 1978 and it was a lovely feeling. We have never needed to borrow money since which is an empowering position to be in.

This morning we spotted our Fish supplier had one large Turbot – know as the King of Fishes in the restaurant trade. This one has been caught in local waters by a South Coast trawlerman. This 3 kg example is not cheap at £24.00 per kilo but it should be worth it. We ordered it immediately.

Thursday, 28th October, 2021

Beautiful morning with clear, blue sky and pink hue of the sun criss-crossed by orange-tinged plane exhaust trails leaving and arriving at Gatwick and Heathrow high in the sky. We have an early trip to the Local Authority tip to get rid of Gym equipment packaging. Back to see the window cleaners and receive £300.00’s worth of fresh fish. While Pauline skinned and portioned it for the freezer, I worked on the necessary travel documents for Athens. All these Covid conditions are easier but still a pain.

It is lovely to have a much healthier lifestyle now. I do still drink too much wine but I eat good food and I exercise plenty. I gave up smoking on the 15 November 1985 at 9.00 pm. I was sitting in a Masters degree research group at Huddersfield University delivering a paper on R.H.Tawney when I lit the wrong end of a tipped cigarette. It was disgusting and I resolved to give up there and then. To my surprise, I did it having failed so many times before.

In those days, I was smoking 2 x 20 cigarettes each day. They cost £4.00 per day or about £1,460.00 per year. I took out an investment plan instead and cashed it in for around £25,500.00 eventually. Today, the Budget put up the price of 20 cigarettes to £13.60 or, for me, £9,228.00. I would definitely have to give up.

Friday, 29th October, 2021

Lovely day but rather overcast. Out shopping and then for a walk. Really enjoyable. Had to help out elderly relatives who had been caught out on a new, parking fine at their surgery. Parkingeye had been introduced and they were being fined £60.00. They were panicking because, although they had paid the false, first fine, they had also been back twice since to the Pharmacy. We contacted the Surgery and cancelled the last two visits. They had paid the first one and we have claimed that back.

Been preparing for Athens trip in a week. Really looking forward to it after two years absence. Greek cooking, Greek food, Greek smells, Greek voices, Greek television, Greek chaos … heaven!! Really like the irony of staying in a 5* Hotel but eating in a street corner taverna.

I’m coming to a momentous conclusion in the gym. I’ve spent the last 24 hours of exercise watching the most superficial soap/serial called Call My Agent. It is French and with subtitles. It should never be my sort of thing at all. It is like Hollyoaks on steroids but I’ve loved it. The characters are well drawn and the storyline is consistent and well constructed. I have really enjoyed it. It has taken me along some three weeks of exercise and I’ve lost myself in it against my will. I will be sad to lose it tomorrow when I finish the 24th hourly episode.

Saturday, 30th October, 2021

Busy day today after a rather fitful night. Finished the Appeal to the Parkingeye fine for Pauline’s sister. It is quite demanding but I love doing this sort of thing. I’ve done it before – challenging officious dogsbodies. They rarely put up much resistance if the challenge is powerfully worded. I enjoy the battle. I am confident that the fine will be returned fairly swiftly and I might follow that up with a demand for her to be sent flowers to compensate for the upset caused.

Next, I’ve completed the Greek Passenger Locator forms for our Athens trip. These things are a nightmare and all UK citizens will have to complete them online every time they visit a European destination for evermore. It is so unnecessary but that is a consequence of Brexit. Our trip to Athens and another to France in December will be the last times abroad that our mobile phone plans are useable in Europe. From January, roaming charges are reintroduced … because of Brexit.

We went out for a 90 mins walk under traffic light skies – brilliant blue with strong sun switching quickly to thunderous black clouds and torrential rain and, just as quickly back to blue again as the sun dried us out. Very warm throughout which was nice and shorts and tee-shirt was fine. While we walked, the company who are coming to insulate the Gym roof for the winter phoned and we sheltered under a tree and spoke over the noise of the rain. They will be with us on Friday.

Back home, I continued in Greek Geek mode. We have had a store of Euros for about 3 years and I’ve been reluctant to pay charges on converting it back to Sterling and then rebuying Euros later so they have been stored in our Travelling Folders. The last time I counted them and recorded it on my spreadsheet was December 2019. We’ve had two or three French trips since then so I re-calculated this morning. We’ve got more than we started with. Pauline was hiding it in reserve. Should be enough for meals and shopping for a week in Athens.

Ordering the Day-2 Tests we have to do when we get back to UK. At least they are the cheaper, Lateral Flow ones which will cost us £25.50 each. We perform the test ourselves but have to photograph the test strip and send that evidence by text or email to the testing company to prove we don’t have Covid. We have also got to complete a UK Passenger Locator Form … as a result of Brexit. We will have to do this every time we return from Europe in perpetuity. This last form can only be finally completed online 48 hrs before landing in UK and it must include the pre-booked Covid test code which must be administered within 48 hrs of landing in UK. I have just spent 3 hrs on the process today already and I’m going to ‘relax’ in the Gym for an hour.

Week 669

Sunday, 17th October, 2021

Up at 4.55 am and out on the walk by 5.00 am. Incredibly dark with few street lamps on although the sky was clear and full of stars. Never been so grateful for the ‘torch’ facility on my phone to light the dark paths. This shot after two hours walking was showing an interesting sky beginning to appear.

In the whole of my walk, I only met one other person – a tall and skinny girl with the longest legs you’ve ever seen. The moment she saw me, she began to (pretend to) talk on her phone and, with me around, who could blame her. Just as I got in the last half mile, I met my neighbours out for a walk with their dog which is massive – as big as a camel. Must cost a fortune to feed. They remarked on me being out early. I told them I was pleased to see they were as mad as me.

Fat little Julia and the hairy monster!

Over orange juice when I got back, this lovely and rather frightening photo fell out of my memory bank. It is a picture of the lifelong atheist godfather and little Julia Dagg who is now a gorgeous, 45 year old woman. I am going to meet her for the first time in 35 years on Tuesday.

We broke our journey into two parts. The first three hours took us to Repton to visit my parents grave for the first time in two years. We always visit at the same time of year and it is always, damp and Autumnal. So it was today and the weather seems to set the emotional scene. We didn’t stay long but I did my duty. Another 90 mins, including an annoying M1 hold up, saw us arrive at our hotel. We seem to have enough luggage for a year and it took me almost as long to carry up to our top floor suite.

The drive was amazingly quiet with almost no lorries all the way up. The most noticeable thing as we arrived is how far advanced the Autumn is up here compared with the South Coast. Still, it’s quite mild and we were able complete our exercise routine outside. I think I’ll be in the gym tomorrow morning. It opens at 6.30 am.

Monday, 18th October, 2021

Sheer madness after a long drive on Sunday but I had so much pent-up energy that I was up at 5.00 am and out walking. I dragged Pauline with me, poor girl. Did an hour and a half and came back for orange juice and a shower.

Drove to Oldham around 8.30 am and got to the Crematorium for 9.00 am. The Book of Remembrance was open at the right page for Mother-in-Law’s name. Fortunately, the toilets were also open because I was DESPERATE!

We drove on to Shaw to visit Brian & Val. I employed Brian and I love him. If you wanted someone to totally depend on and save your life, Brian would be the man. Ex Murder Squad / ex Drugs Squad in Manchester, he is one of the most honest people I know. Coffee with Brian and his lovely wife, Val, and then we drove to Huddersfield town centre to take Pauline’s reading glasses to Specsavers to be repaired after they fell apart yesterday. She’s using mine to read her Kindle/Book. We had to leave them to be collected later.

We left Shaw and drove to Netherton to meet old colleagues and girlfriends of Pauline. We met at Hinchcliffe’s Farmshop Restaurant for a long catch-up after two years absence. Had a lovely lunch. The girls all had huge slabs of carbohydrate in the form of doorstep sandwiches. I had braised cabbage with garlic chicken and crumbled goats’ cheese. It was really well done. Lovely long chat about people we knew for years but haven’t seen for ages. Enjoyable!

Drove back to our hotel via a very busy Huddersfield town centre packed with hoards of scruffy, University students and evening rush hour traffic. Pauline’s glasses were ready, repaired with no charge and she was able to read her bedtime book although she was almost too tired because I’m pushing her too hard.

Tuesday, 19th October, 2021

Awake at 4.3o am and got up to write yesterday’s Blog. As I logged on to my iPad, I was contacted by John Morris from my College days. I asked what he was doing up at 4.30 am and told me he had got up to go to the toilet, tripped over the dog, decided to do the Guardian crossword and nap later. That’s the high life, isn’t it? I was also contacted by Dave Weatherly who lives in Bolton – well, someone’s got to – and is 72 today. As a sign of the times, he will spend it looking after his granddaughter.

By 5.00 am, out walking for 90 mins and then back for orange juice, shower and check postcodes for the sat.nav. this morning. I am preparing to drive to Ripon to have coffee with John Ridley, move on to meet Chris & Kevin for lunch and then on to York to meet my ‘goddaughter’, Julia. She and I have been communicating on line recently and she is absolutely delightful. I am quite enchanted by her. She was just unlucky to get a godfather who has been a life long atheist. Doesn’t appear to have harmed her.

Damp start to the day which made the motorway very difficult as we drove up to Ripon. Typical of John Ridley (John-2), he wanted to meet us on the steps of the cathedral. Fortunately, by the time we met, it was dry and we walked a short way to have coffee. We sat and just talked for two hours. The time flew past. I felt quite emotional and ‘exposed’ which probably explains why I’ve been reluctant to do this over the years. 

We eventually agreed to meet Chris and Kevin in Shadwell at a pub/restaurant. It was great to see them again. We talked over a meal. As usual, I talked too much even though I was only drinking sparkling water. There was a lot to reminisce about and to be updated about those we had known. They have four lovely children and we heard about them. 

Later, we drove over to Julia’s house. It is a very interesting, former pub which they are converting. Julia is lovely, bright and vivacious – quite captivating. 


As we drove back to our hotel which we learnt was the setting for Julia’s wedding reception, all these thoughts of the day were coursing through my mind. Shortly after we got back, I fell fast asleep. The early walk, the day, the emotion had clearly caught up with me and drained my resources.

Wednesday, 20th October, 2021

Up late this morning – 6.00 am. Cup of tea and then out for a 90 mins walk. It was fine and dry with a clear sky and bright stars. Back for a shower and freshly squeezed orange juice. Everyone of the people I met yesterday had contacted me over night, thanking me for meeting them and requesting that we come back soon. I have already said we will but it is nice to have it confirmed. We didn’t bother visiting the college grounds yesterday because the buildings have almost totally been altered but John Ridley sent me a sad photo of the Art Block in rapid decline which he took after we parted.

Over coffee, we prepared our day in Huddersfield, where we were going and who we were seeing.

As we talked, the heavens opened and it poured for about 10 mins. The picture above illustrates the view from the window of our suite about 10 mins later. 

Out in Huddersfield town, the atmosphere is more down at heel than ever. It has the developing hint of Bradford. The commercial centre is increasingly boarded up. The going concerns are fewer and further apart. Not surprisingly, the number of shoppers is much smaller and the shops we went in were carrying little stock. Interestingly, the number of people wearing masks was much higher than the places we visited in Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire. I predict that another Lock-Down is on its way. This afternoon, we’ve just managed to book our Covid Booster in time for our trip to Athens. We have to go to Chichester next week.

We were still mentally and emotionally tired from yesterday and we have another difficult one tomorrow so we are pacing ourselves today. Mind you, I find shopping quite stressful in itself. We returned to our hotel rather earlier than we had anticipated and I used the time to write to lots of people and to plan the timings for tomorrow. I was last in Bridlington many years ago when we drove up there with for a Boxing Day picnic. Be interesting to see it again.

Thursday, 21st October, 2021

Up at 5.00 am on a crystal, clear morning. Lots of stars and a beautiful, full moon but cold. I was in shorts and tee shirt. My phone said it was 3C – feels like -5C. It certainly did. Within 10 mins of setting out, I couldn’t feel my hands. I didn’t give in, telling myself to scoff at cold temperatures. By the time it was finished 90 mins later, my hands so frozen that I couldn’t hold a cup of coffee.

We set off for the Bridlington coast in the most glorious sunshine from a clear, blue sky. The journey was delightful through the most wonderful, rich countryside. We arrived just before 11.00 am and Julie appeared minutes later. We were both wearing masks in the coffee shop but recognised each other instantly. We sat and talked for an hour and a half as we looked out over a sun-drenched beach. Memory is a draining, painful thing and the meeting absolutely tired me out.

We left the coffee shop and walked to Nigel’s Gallery. He was expecting us and we all four walked to the sculpture on the promenade that Julie had been involved in producing. That’s where I chose to take some commemoration photographs.

I walked and talked with Nigel for half an hour. I was preparing myself to meet a sick and frail man. He looked exactly the opposite, I was delighted to find. We walked arm in arm down the promenade and talked as if it was 1971 not 2021. It was really lovely. He was really lovely. I left them pledging to see them again soon.

Friday 22nd, October, 2021

Driving back South this morning with a feeling that I have achieved most things I set out to do. Up and out at 5.30 am.

It was dry and much warmer outside but, after 30 mins walking, the rain came and we ran back in and spent an hour in the Gym. In the days when we were members here, people queued at the door at 6.00 am to get on equipment. This morning hardly anyone appeared.

Workout completed we went back for orange juice and showers. Fielded and replied to texts/emails/social-media messenger contacts and completed packing. Feels sad in some ways to be leaving but we will return as long as we stay alive.

Great drive home – 5hrs door-to-door. Weather was good and traffic excellent even on the M25. Back home, I unpacked the car and opened all the week’s post while Pauline cooked us a lovely meal. Strange feeling this afternoon. This is one of the first times we have returned and thought, This is Home. At last we have lived here long enough to begin thinking that. More often than not, we have asked ourselves, What are we doing here? We don’t really belong anywhere. It is just two weeks until we go away again. Really looking forward to greeting the people of Athens again after a two-year break.

Saturday 23rd, October, 2021

Bit of a late start after a hard day’s drive yesterday. Didn’t get up until 7.00 am but woke up incredibly happy and satisfied. Not completely sure why. The Gym equipment delivery which had been listed for last Saturday has been rescheduled for this afternoon. Just as we were about to go out shopping, they phoned to say it would now be this morning.

Fresh Veg. Pictures

We rushed off to Sainsbury‘s and the experience was really interesting. Our diet has improved so much over the past decade that almost everything this morning came from the fresh fruit & veg. section where we spent £37.00. Unfortunately, this was made quite difficult by the huge swathes of empty shelves which had been infilled with photographs of produce which wasn’t available.

You can’t cook and eat print-outs. Ironically, this was featured in a number of newspapers this morning although we didn’t see the same problem in the North of England. It wasn’t restricted to fresh produce either. There was an absence of refuse sacks and paucity of bottled water. This is a Brexit-related problem and will not get better any time soon.

We rushed home to meet the Delivery men – absolutely charming, if simple, Romanian characters who just wanted to do a good job. I thanked them for their work and immediately completed the on-line review form giving them a glowing report.

The irony of all this is that you pay £700.00 for a piece of equipment that you then have to build for yourself. To some people, it may be simple but to a technical illiterate like me, it is life challenging.

Even the assembly manual is marriage challenging. I will probably have to lock Pauline in the Gym with the bits and the instructions and refuse to let her out until it is constructed. Notice above is only Page 10/Step 6 of the process. 

Week 668

Sunday, 10th October, 2021

A strange, grey start to the morning. I’m working on my backup Blog and playing a recording I made last night of Simon & Garfunkel. It was the Reunion Concert in Central Park in 1981. I suddenly realised that this was a reunion 40 years ago.https://www.youtube.com/embed/yB-Ds2E-BDk?list=PLVnkoLiLMTm7j0ZPI3xWEsAnCpKZ52czR

I heard these songs when they were first released never mind in a reunion. These are the sorts of insights that force us to confront our timeline of age. Actually, although the words come back easily, I don’t get quite the same pleasure. They are a bit tainted over time.

Hard to believe how lovely yesterday evening was. In warm October sunshine, we cooked and ate outside, talked and planned future travel. The past is important but the future is where we are going. We are already talking about a long trip to Greece next Summer (June & July), doing the drive we have done over 30 times before – Calais – Mulhouse, Alsace, – Ancona, Italy – Patras, Greece – Piraeus – Sifnos. It will probably be the last time we do it – a bit like a reunion concert. We will never desert Athens but the long island-stays will probably give way to Spanish ones instead. 

Monday, 11th October, 2021

Busy day and a busy week ahead with a lot to get through before we go away next week. Flowers started arriving at our house a week ago and are still looking good this morning. In fact, these Lillies are almost at their full-blown best and they smell wonderful!

This morning I started the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) process for entry to the USA all of which has to be done online.

Also had to do an online application for the car in France. Because we have a new car, we need a new CRITAIR air quality certificate for driving in major towns and cities.

Both applications are straightforward and easy to achieve and much easier than the UK government’s travel requirements applications. At least we don’t need an application to get into Yorkshire or Greater Manchester although some people would like to introduce one. Talked to my friend in Royton this morning and arranged a visit to see him while we are in the area next week.

The dreaded day has come when I have to try on about 15 new items of clothing and decide what will be kept and what sent back. That will be another uncomfortable activity for the morning and will be followed by lawn cutting and hedge trimming before a two-hour walk. I’ve also got to prepare the Gym for the arrival of the Rowing machine. Pauline’s got two doctor’s appointments today

Just spent an hour doing something I normally hate – trying on clothes – and found it almost enjoyable. Keeping everything in the smaller of two sizes ordered. Not an experience I have encountered for quite some time – in fact not for 30 years. Already, some of the wardrobe bought for me a couple of months ago is already far too big and has to be ditched. I suspect this batch will be redundant by the end of the year. Expensive business losing weight!

As we walked this morning in weak sunshine, I asked my wife if she thought I was too obsessive. She said, “Lets put it this way. You’re just on the other side of normal.” I thought that was fair.

Tuesday, 12th October, 2021

The day finished so hot and sunny yesterday that we cooked and ate outside in the garden. Wonderful start this morning which promises a good day. It is going to be busy. I’m taking Pauline to the Beautician’s for 9.15 am and then back for a walk and some gardening. Got an insulation firm coming in the early afternoon to quote on spray-foam insulating the garage/gym roof in time for colder weather. Later in the afternoon I’m taking Pauline to have two biopsies on suspect patches of skin which she had examined yesterday. She woke up worrying about it this morning.

The temperature dropped to 6C/43F last night and I’ve actually switched the heated seats, steering wheel and mirrors on this morning. I rarely have to do that down here but it is a nice facility to have. The Daily Mirror is running a story this morning that says the warm start to October will soon be replaced by arctic temperatures and that the whole of Wales and the North of England will be seeing snowfall by October 24th which is just a couple of days after we drive back South.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NBHHFnUqo5o?feature=oembed

As the newspapers feature the latest, Tory-dominated select committee report with damning accounts of the heartless incompetence in allowing thousands of unnecessary deaths in the early stages of the pandemic, particularly in Care Homes but also in failure to Lock Down early enough, a wonderful piece of 1986 video emerged which illustrates the enduring cynicism of Tory governments.

Another lovely end to the day. We cooked Calamari and Greek Salad and ate outside in the garden as the sun went down. It was delicious in the Autumn evening light. Life can be lovely, can’t it? It just doesn’t do to be too isolated!https://www.youtube.com/embed/efUpNxQPLMU?feature=oembed

Revisited one of my all-time pieces of music that carried me through dreadful times in dark days of 1974 in my Oldham flat. It was cold, dark and bleak with power strikes and a 3-day week outside as I fought against intellectual and emotional isolation inside. Chopin’s Etude Op.10 No.3 Tristesse (Sadness) played out on my battery-operated cassette recorder in darkness lit only by a 3-bar gas fire. It is an experience that I have not and will not ever forget.

Wednesday, 13th October, 2021

6.30 am

Glorious morning after quite a clear and cool night. The temperature went down to 7C/45F. In the Mediterranean corner of the garden, the fig leaves are starting to show signs of Autumn with edges browning and curling. All the remaining fruit is starting to blacken and give up the ripening process. The Tenerife tree had to be wrapped in a fleece blanket as it began to shed leaves as a result of the temperature drop. Only the grass still looks vibrantly green.

Yesterday ended with Pauline having chunks taken out of her body on a table at the Doctors’ surgery. One piece came out of the side of her nose and the other from her leg. This latter one bled profusely and she really looked like a wounded soldier when she walked back to the car. Fortunately, she was still able to cook when we got home. However, this was just an exploratory investigation. We will hear the results in the next three weeks.

Wounded Soldier!

This morning the exercise routine has to be completed early because we are driving up to Surrey to help P&C complete their NHS Covid passes on their iPads ready for travelling to the States next month. I also have to sort their central heating timer controls out for them which should be fun. Still, it is a glorious day for driving through the Sussex/Surrey countryside and I’m looking forward to it.https://www.youtube.com/embed/4KGmLLsdWCM?feature=oembed

Music, driving and emotions make me a frightening liability. The most beautiful scenery, a nice new car, wonderful weather and Canto della Terra playing combined to overwhelm me with happiness and I suddenly realised I couldn’t see through the mist of tears. It is so embarrassing but I’ve always been that way and I just have to plough on and hope it clears.

The Italian completely destroys me although the English is quite prosaic:

Must get a grip. I’m becoming obsessive again. Still, I’m going to learn all the Italian on this album before I do another long drive so I’m able to focus both on the music but also on the road!

Thursday, 14th October, 2021

Another eventful day although not significant in any special way. Quite warm this morning but rather overcast. Got a Covid tester lady arriving at 9.00 am. Not easy giving a pint of blood so early but it has to be done. Got to get my priorities right and it is worth £50.00 a time.

With the blood still flowing from my fingers, we set off to return clothes to Next, to shop at Sainsbury’s and then drive to Worthing to return clothes. Pauline ordered sets of clothes in two sizes and, I’m pleased to report, had to return the bigger of each pairing. I intend that it will not be long before she has to do the whole thing again.

Moody Worthing Seascape

Worthing town centre was lovely and warm, vibrant even. We were going to pick up some boxes of Lateral Flow tests for our travels. Don’t want to infect or get infected snogging people. Our Pharmacy hasn’t had any for a few weeks now so we thought Boots might. As we walked through the Piazza, a couple of young people had an outdoor NHS stall and were handing them out to passers-by. We took 4 boxes which amounted to 28 tests. Some will go to Athens with us and some to the North. We should have enough for France in December and any other trips we might sneak in before we go to USA in March.

We took four, massively heavy bags of clothes – virtually all my wardrobe – to St Barnabus Hospice Charity Shop in Rustington. The bags were so heavy, we had to keep stopping to rest as we walked down from the carpark. Some of the clothes still had their sales labels in them and many had never been worn. Hopefully, they should make good money for the Hospice.

Friday, 15th October, 2021

My Dad, who died 57 years ago, would be 106 today. Can you believe the waste of a life and a marriage and a family to die at the age of 49?

Yesterday turned really warm and sunny as we walked for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Something quite nice happened as we walked around the perimeter of our Development. I was just remarking on how lovely the wide swathes of newly mown grass were looking. They were cut on Wednesday by the gardeners. I spoke to a man who was planting bulbs in one of the public spaces. His first response was:

You do plenty of walking, don’t you? Incredible what it’s done to your weight. The grasscutters were talking about it yesterday as you walked past. Amazing! Well done!

A sucker for recognition and praise, I did the next few hundred metres floating on a cushion of hot air.

I am a rule-breaker by inclination. If someone tells me I can’t do something, it is like a red rag to a bull. I have to prove them wrong. Rules really are made to be broken. My car reads speed signs, projects them on to the windscreen and gives me the choice of setting the ‘speed limiter’ which doesn’t allow me to break the speed limit of or ‘adaptive cruise control’ which makes sure I keep right up to the speed limit all the time. Of course, I can override them and I always set the cruise control to the maximum speed limit + 1mph in order to ensure I’m breaking the rules.

I was thinking about this as I drove yesterday. Our village has a 20-mph limit which feels incredibly slow. I do 21 mph but so many people ignore it altogether. I understand. In retirement, I can afford to go slowly. They are workers and when I was working, I drove everywhere at full throttle. Over the years, I’ve had 2 or 3 speeding tickets including one near the French Alps where I had been doing 120 mph in a 130 kmph/80mph limit non-stop for about 2 hours. They were very nice about it and only charged me €60.00.

Around 30 years ago, I was standing in the dock of the Crown Court, Manchester. I was the accused and a bit nervous although not particularly. I had taken the day out of school and driven with Pauline to the multistorey in Deansgate and walked to Crown Square where I entered the buildings. I was ushered into a room where we sat for hours and then to a corridor where I was told I was next up after the current murder trial.

Eventually, I was called and led into the court and up to the Dock. My wife sat in the Gallery. After what seemed like forever, the judge in full regalia and wig appeared. I was asked who was representing me and was faced with incredulity when I said I was representing myself. Even so, the judge sat down and waved the proceeds on.

At this point, I should step back and explain and if I’ve reported this before, I apologise. On the penultimate day of Summer term 1991, I was summoned to an urgent school meeting at Royton Town Hall. It was a screaming hot day and I was late. I was driving a new, Honda Prelude sports car and really going for speed to make my deadline.

When I arrived, I was told the meeting had been cancelled and my journey unnecessary and I raced back to school to complete the day. The following day, we left school at 1.00 pm and drove home to Huddersfield, packed the car and on to Hull Docks for an overnight journey Hull – Zeebrugge and then across Europe to Greece and our island.

Fast forward 6 weeks, we drove back across Europe and arrived in Huddersfield on the first Friday of September before school Training Days on the Monday. As usual, our doormat was mountainous in 6 weeks’ mail. It always took hours to wade through but I loved it. Well, I did until an official letter from Manchester Crown Court appeared and I realised I was summonsed to appear. I eventually found a letter of notification of speeding on Shaw Road, Oldham at the end of July. It gave me 14 days to reply. A second letter then appeared telling me that, as I hadn’t replied within 14 days, I had another 14 days to pay my fine. I then had a third letter telling me that, because I hadn’t paid my fine, I would have to go to court.

I phoned the court and said I was appealing against the ruling and that’s how I got summoned to the High Court under a judge. When I stood up in the court and the judge in a wig and full regalia addressed me, I said I was representing myself. The judge actually smiled, listened to my explanation of having been abroad for 6 weeks and soon told me, after consultation, that he would dismiss the case because it was a nonsense that I had been summoned there at all. Of course, I agreed and left happily. Pauline and I went straight out and celebrated with an Italian meal in a nearby restaurant.

The murderer before me had been found guilty and my experience became the stuff of legend. These are the sorts of crazy experiences that make us what we are. Some things happen in our lives we wish had never occurred and which we want to put right. Some we can sit back and relish in memory. This was one of the latter.

Saturday, 16th October, 2021

Woke up at 3.00 am thinking about the events that lay ahead. Downstairs drinking tea and watching rolling news on Sky. Did go back to bed and slept a bit. A lovely start to the morning even though the sky outside was fairly brooding. So much to get through today in preparation for driving North tomorrow – from packing, contacting people, even arranging for our neighbour to put the bins out and bring them back in. We have new, gym equipment arriving this afternoon. I’m looking forward to that.https://www.youtube.com/embed/B9SZjLW44Ko?feature=oembed

The last time I used a rowing machine at David Lloyd, I tore a muscle in my back. Must be more moderate when I start. I won’t even try until we get back from the North.

In order to relax about the preparations, we went out on an early walk. Just managed to get back after 90 mins as light rain began to fall. We are forecast for a sunny afternoon which will be nice. I’m going to do an hour in the gym and then sort clothes out for my wife to pack. I might even be able to watch some football this afternoon. Quite typically, after weeks of little problem, my hernia pain has come back to bite me today. Pauline has wanted to phone the hospital to expedite my treatment but I have been stopping her. I don’t want it to interfere with the travel arrangements we have made. Let’s hope it settles down again.

Ripon College posted this photograph from the developers which features a well-known staircase known by Kevin and I as the staircase to heaven aka Byland.

Week 667

Sunday, 3rd October, 2021

Wet and warm yesterday, grey but dry and warm this morning. We are driving up to Surrey this morning so Pauline can have lunch with her sister as a pre-celebration of her birthday. On Tuesday, I am cooking so somebody will die! Anyway, got to get my exercise routine done before we set off at 11.00 am. Even though I woke at 4.00 am and didn’t get properly back to sleep, I have got up feeling very lively and energetic. I think I’m regressing to childhood although not in the mental capacity yet, fortunately.

Feeling optimistic and fortunate. Don’t really know why. Anyway, better not to analyse it too much in case it evaporates under scrutiny. When we get back from Surrey, I’ve been instructed to look through about 20 emails my wife has sent me – from the Kitchen to the Office – of clothes she is considering sending for to replace the ones I have been throwing out. How do people without email buy online?

And John will be modeling…although I don’t think I can live up to these men. Not young enough; not slim enough and not hairy enough. Still, I’ll try. It’s all for a good cause!

Lovely walk this morning. The sun came out and the temperature rose. Lovely to be walking in shorts & Tee-shirt in October. Talking about regressing to childhood: as we walked the church bells began to ring out and I was suddenly reminded of that childhood joke about the old couple who made love once a week on a Sunday to the rhythm of the church bells. One day a fire engine went past and the old man had a heart attack. Really appealed to a 12 yr old!

I’ve been researching weather patterns for the area of Florida we are going to next Spring. We are thinking April would be a good time. We would like to visit New York and then fly over to Boston, Massachusetts as well to visit my childhood friend who has lived there for the past 50 years. We would aim to be in the USA for a month to make it worthwhile.

Lovely drive up to Surrey under clear, blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. I sang all the way to Take That & James Taylor. Felt like I was driving across Europe. Really enjoyed my ‘naff’ little self!

Images of the afternoon in Surrey

Driving back we couldn’t get any petrol. Most stations were empty and those that were not had huge queues. Only got 400 miles left in the tank!

Monday, 4th October, 2021

Heavy bursts of rain overnight but this morning is sunny and warm. I like the weather organised in this way. I like organisation altogether. I hate indecision. I almost hate choice. I am a nightmare when shopping. I choose the first thing I see rather than have the agony of having to view lots of examples and then make a choice. That’s why my wife does the clothes shopping.

I check the bank accounts ritually every morning online and had a bit of a shock to find Pauline had ordered me around £700.00 worth of clothes online. She told me not to worry because most of it would probably go back and that she had ordered multiple choices of the same things. It feels weird to be ordering clothes for me at all but quite nice.

We’ve finally got round to advertising our X-Trainer which has hardly been used at all in the past 18 months since we bought it.

I’ve decided that I need a rowing machine instead so space has to be made for it in our restricted gym area. Actually, the Rower is cheaper although goodness knows what I will get for the X-Trainer secondhand.

Going out to see if we can get petrol this morning. It isn’t easy down here. I wonder if it will be in the North when I get up there soon. Tomorrow, I am cooking a Birthday meal of Monkfish Tails, King Scallops and King Prawns in a White Wine & Garlic Sauce and I’m serving it with French Beans and Asparagus Tips so I have to make sure I have all the ingredients.

As we drove, we saw huge queues at petrol stations for fuel where they had it. At Tesco, we drove straight in and filled up. I’m back to a tank of 570 miles now. I now have a USB in the car on which I already saved about 20 assorted CDS and, as I started the car, this song came on automatically and at high volume.https://www.youtube.com/embed/N2ICtCO8TCw?feature=oembed

As we walked into Tesco, what was playing over the Supermarket audio system but:

Whatever I said, whatever I did
I didn't mean it
I just want you back for good
Want you back, want you back
I want you back for good

I’d been singing it at the top of my voice in the car minutes earlier. How do these things happen? Coincidence can be incredible. Can’t get rid of it now!

Tuesday, 5th October, 2021

 I must firstly wish Pauline a happy 70th birthday. She doesn’t look a day over 50 and probably won’t for years to come. She is blessed with the fairy genes of eternal youth. I hope she has a lovely day to remember. She received a second bouquet of flowers from her friend, Margaret, in Marsden who we will have lunch with in a couple of weeks.

Glorious morning after a night of strong winds and heavy rain. We are going out for a walk under clear, blue skies and gorgeous sunshine.

Yesterday was a day of sunshine and showers but mainly sunshine and we had a wonderful walk.  I’ve now completed 16 kilometres a day every day for 235 consecutive days or about 8 months. Quite pleased with that and it has built up an expectation in myself that I cannot let go of. I’ve got to do it every day for a year ….. at least!

I’ve got a nightmare few days ahead. Tomorrow, we are going to pick up lots of new clothes and I will have to try them all on. I cannot think of anything worse. I hate trying clothes on but it has to be done! I will not be taking any photographs for the Blog. That would be too embarrassing. My other test today is cooking which I’m quite looking forward to. I enjoy cooking but don’t get much chance with a specialist in the house.

Our lovely, Italian neighbours across the road have just had a new baby. A gorgeous little boy they have named Lorenzo. It is the Latinate name for the anglicised Lawrence and means Laurel Crown. As we walked, I imagined what it would be like to be 3 weeks old in late 2021. Little Lorenzo, with just a modicum of luck, will see 2121 and could see much more. Modern science is already talking of human life span being extended to 130 quite normally. Of course, there is a difference between Life Span and Healthy Life. Certainly, I would choose the latter over the former.

Pauline spoke to her niece in Florida on a webchat yesterday afternoon. We have tentatively agreed to go over for the month of March next year and to spend a couple of days in each of New York and Boston, Massachusetts. Having never been before, I’m rather looking forward to it.

Well, I acquitted myself reasonably well with the birthday meal. First, a bottle of Prosecco from P&C with some olives and then a mixed fish dish of monkfish tails, scallops & king Prawns in a white wine, garlic and butter sauce with tarragon accompanied by roast tomatoes with grated parmigiana, green beans and asparagus. Went well. We were both totally stuffed. Lots of lovely neighbours came round with flowers and cards.

Wednesday, 6th October, 2021

Got up a bit late this morning – 7.30 am – after a busy day yesterday. This morning is glorious and sunny with clear, blue sky just as it was yesterday. When I posted a picture of Pauline setting out on our walk yesterday with a clear, blue sky behind, Dave Roberts from Rochdale said it was raining there and friends from Oldham agreed. Other’s misfortune is so heartening, isn’t it?

I think I managed to make Pauline’s 70th Birthday enjoyable.  She has far more friends than she realises and they are drawn from across the world, across the country and across the decades. She heard from her niece in America and her friends in Malta, Spain and Greece. She heard from her friends in Dorset, Buckinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire. She has heard from distant relatives, old school friends, from old College friends, from former teaching colleagues and from people we’ve got to know on our travels. She also had neighbours knocking on the door bringing cards and flowers. The kitchen table is smelling delightful this morning and, for once, it’s not me.

There is new housing going up all around us. Our walk takes us through this park attached to some new housing and the builders appear to be using the idea of a drainage-soakaway to create a small lake. It is gradually filling under the sunshine to the joy of dogs and seagulls. Must be lovely to have a lake to walk around. Actually, it is such a lovely, warm day that we have cooked and eaten outside in the brilliant sunshine. Life can be good, can’t it?

We won the Euromillions lottery last night. Actually, the first prize of £153 Million wasn’t won but our £2.50 ticket produced a prize of £3.00. What shall we do with it?

Thursday, 7th October, 2021

After the most wonderful day yesterday with wall-to-wall sunshine, living, cooking and eating outside in the delicious warmth, this morning has opened quite grey. It is lovely and warm though so we are going out for an early walk.

Links across time, with our graduated past, are an essential part of the human condition. At times, we try to deny them, shut them out, concentrate only on the present, the now, but it is ultimately impossible. I have written before of my side on the Nature/Nurture debate shifting radically over the years, of looking in the mirror each morning to shave and seeing my Mother’s face. This morning on BBC R4 Today programme, I heard a poet reading this:

Mother, I find you staring back at me.

When did my body agree

to wear your face?

Imtiaz Dharker, from ‘Postcards from god

Why didn’t I write that? It is exactly how I feel. It challenges all my intellectual understanding of the human condition.

One of the things I really enjoy about the current use of social media is the way people I meet and ‘speak’ to and who have never met each other but connect just through my account eventually strike up an independent friendship. I am the ‘matchmaker’. I feel great about that. At the moment, for example, I’ve got a lad/man from College who I haven’t seen since 1972 striking up a friendship with a man from my school who I haven’t seen for 20 years. It’s lovely and they are brought together on a platform in which they find their political views coincide. They live nowhere near each other and may never meet in person but it opens and expands their lives.

Our home 1984 – 2000

In just the same way, we can maintain old relationships which we would otherwise have allowed to lapse in the past. Over a decade ago, our doctor bought our house in Helme, West Yorkshire. We left for Surrey and then Sussex. In the past, that would probably be an end to it but both he and his nurse wife have kept in contact with me through email and Twitter. They both contacted us yesterday to congratulate Pauline on looking so good at the age of 70. This sort of contact may seem intrusive but is well-meant and gives pleasure. We all need positive stroking! Hopefully, we’ll drop in and see them in a couple of weeks if we can fit it in. Our schedule is rapidly filling up now.

The other thing that means a lot to me is Travelling. Maybe it is the escape, maybe the anonymity of the foreign. It is certainly the challenge of different language and culture. Greece has always offered me that challenge. We will renew our relationship with the Greek language and culture next month.

Re-installed the British Airways app.

George Bernard Shaw said that Britain and the US are “two nations separated by a common language“. Certainly, the culture is very different and not one I buy into easily. That’s going to have to change. Last night we bought return flights for Gatwick-Tampa / 2nd – 30th March. We decided to splash out and go Business Class so we can have beds to sleep properly. The flight out is 10hrs but only 8½ hrs on the way back. We had to pay an additional £170.00 just choose our own seats/beds but the total cost was still an amazingly reasonable£4,950.00. Something to look forward to!

Friday, 8th October, 2021

At 8.00 am, we took the car in for the dent/paint repair it needed after some old dear opened their car door on to it in a windy carpark. We will be without it for about 8hrs but it is close enough to walk home through the woods and back again later to collect it.

The repair shop is on the edge of the PYO farm just 20 mins walk away. Such an idyllic setting fringed by these fruiting Sweet Chestnut trees. Our walk home is beautiful and peaceful.

The local Council has recently spent a couple of months resurfacing the woodland path with a light gravel mixture that drains well but looks natural and makes walking easy.

When we got home, a worker from Southern Water knocked on our door and asked if he could test the water quality. Don’t think we’ve ever had that before and, initially, I was suspicious. However, that’s exactly what he did and, apparently, the company does this constantly around the region. I have to say that we never trust tap water since living in Greece and everything we drink or use in cooking is filtered first. Just a long-term habit we have found unable to shake off. I drink sparkling water and certainly nothing from a tap unless you count a wine barrel.

To anyone who prevaricates and puts things off for years, my advice would be DON’T. You never know when the chance will be lost. I have never voted Tory. I will never vote Tory but, today, we learned of the untimely death of James Brokenshire, a pleasant, mild-mannered Tory minister who had never smoked but was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer in 2018, left government for treatment, was declared cancer-free but had it recur this year and died this morning at the tender age of 53. How awful is that? Think of all the hopes and dreams he will never achieve. Never leave things unsaid or undone. You never know!

We have now really got the travel bug back. Yorkshire soon. Athens in November. Florida in March and we have agreed to sneak another quick Christmas shopping trip to France in to December. Feels really good to be moving again.

Saturday, 9th October, 2021

What a lovely, lovely day! Warm – hot even – with blue sky and strong sunshine. To feel 22C/70F in October is wonderful. Packed quite a bit in. Up early and out to Rustington for fruit & vegetables. Next to the Garden Centre and Hobbycraft for Christmas Cake boards for the Domestic Goddess! Just walking in the sunshine is a delight. Next, on to Worthing to collect clothes orders.

It looked beautifully French this morning bathed in sunshine. Quite a few people around. We went to a Department Store and collected 14 parcels of clothes that Pauline had ordered for me. While we were there, she picked out three more shirts and bought them. I’m going to have to arrange a mortgage at this rate.

After that, we moved on to the Pier and Beach. Everything is changed by warmth and sunshine. People everywhere were enjoying life.

Must be lovely to be so relaxed about your life to be able to spend Saturday morning fishing at the end of the pier. While I was working, I could never have done that. I was constantly striving to improve and succeed.

Now, there are lovely things to achieve. For example, I’m getting fitter and actually buying clothes. I can hardly believe it. This afternoon, two of my neighbours came round to collect my Step-Climber machine. They tried to buy it but I just wanted it moving so I had space.

After they’d gone, Pauline ordered a rowing machine to put in its place. That will be much more useful. I might actually develop stomach muscles!

Week 666

Sunday, 26th September, 2021

Well, Brexit really is the gift that keeps on giving. Now we have panic buying of petrol. The cheapest fuel in our area is at Asda Superstore and people were queueing out onto the dual carriageway this morning. Incredibly dangerous. I panicked because I thought they were queueing for cut-price Shloer. We filled our car up a week ago and we still have more than 500 miles in the tank.

Really incredible that The Tories have had to re-embrace Freedom of Movement but think that all those European HGV drivers they made feel so unwelcome that they went home will now immediately reverse their decision and uproot themselves for a temporary job. That is the arrogance of the Right Wing. Even more galling is that this feeble government has had ministers out all week denying that the shortage of labour has anything to do with Brexit as Project Fear becomes Project Reality.

Our walk yesterday morning left us wet as the Sea-Mizzle got heavier before the sun came out. Fortunately, it was very warm which made it all bearable. We’ve got just over 3 weeks before we drive North for a week and we will try to cover all bases while we are there. I will still have to complete my daily exercise routine being a renowned obsessive. Our hotel houses the Health Club we were members of for so many years so that should help. We just have to hope the weather is kind to us. I must admit it is often a shock returning.

It will be 2 years since I have visited my parents’ and grandparents’ graves in the family graveyard in Repton. Similarly, it will be 2 years since we have visited Hollinwood Crematorium where Pauline’s Mum’s ashes were scattered. It will be good to do them that honour of remembrance again. It is a small gesture but worthwhile and makes us feel better.

Last night I wept …. again! I finally gave in and watched Judy Dench & Steve Coogan in Philomena. I have put off watching it for lots of reasons. If you can watch this film without getting absolutely furious, you are not me. If you are an ex-Catholic and watch this film without being driven to hatred, you get somewhere close. If you have ever lost a child and can watch this film without weeping copiously, you are absolutely heartless.

We have known for a long time about the Magdalene Laundries which were RC church institutions in which young women considered guilty of licentiousness, unwed motherhood or prostitution were incarcerated and forced into menial labour. The nuns treated the women so appallingly because their religion taught them that ‘sin’ must be ‘punished’ and atoned for. Philomena suffered a breech birth but was forced to cope without painkillers. She was allowed to see her baby for an hour a day until it was sold to American adopters. Although Philomena was incarcerated there in 1952, the last laundry in Ireland closed in 1996.

Martin Sixsmith, the former BBC reporter, accompanied Philomena to the USA to search for her son and I won’t spoil the story for any reader who is brave enough to watch it but …. it isn’t happy. I just so wish my Mother could have seen it. She would probably have denied its veracity anyway.

What a delightful day Sunday turned out to be. Our walk was in full, boiling hot sunshine. We returned in time for me to do my Gym routine (obsessive?) and then to cook our meal and eat it outside in the garden. Griddled Swordfish Steaks with Greek Salad was just wonderful in the sunshine. I wish the joy of these days on all my readers!

Monday, 27th September, 2021

Dark, wet and warm – sounds sensual, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s just the weather this morning. The temperature remained a humid 18C/65F overnight.

There are some horrible things that happen to old men. I know we hear women complain about the aging process a lot but men really suffer. Prostate problems, bladder problems, are common. We don’t suffer wrinkles and don’t have wrinkly skin as much as women but we do find hair sprouting from every orifice. Shaving every day is demanding enough and I had to order a new electric shaver last week but hair sprouting out of my ears and nose are horribly embarrassing. I’ve had to order a new ear/nose hair trimmer as well. What was once a slow and simple development, is now a strong and wiry protrusion. I don’t deal with these things easily or happily. I often look to my wife to sort them out for me. I can’t really see the grass sprouting from my ears but I’m determined not to look like an old, out-of-control man.

I try to be nice although I do realise I am disgusting. I try to be presentable although I do know I can be off-putting. I try to treat people well although I know I can be arrogant and opinionated. The last thing I ever want is to hurt someone. At the same time, we all have to hold views, opinions, positions and they will offend others of another persuasion. That can’t be avoided. All intellectuals expect and accept this division. Others maybe not. I do have to remind myself about the rough and tumble of intellectual debate. The overall rule I think one should abide by is not to deliberately hurt or belittle. Generally, I believe I live up to that principle.


Pauline’s closest school friend, who lived and taught in Halifax for 40 years, sold up and moved permanently with her husband to the small, Maltese island of Gozo where they bought and renovated a property and have been living there for about 5 years. We said we would go out and visit them and an article in the Sunday Times yesterday highlighted the superb weather Malta enjoys – over 300 days of sunshine, for example. Looks like it is one to put on the must-visit list. We must go where we are wanted and Malta definitely wants UK tourists at the moment. Could be a Winter destination.

Actually, we’re after Breakfast and the clouds have blown away, the sky is lovely and blue and the sun is shining. How life can change at the flick of a switch! We’ve had a lovely walk in hot sunshine. I’ve done my Gym routine (obsessional) and then we’ve eaten outside for the 5th, continual day. Strong sunshine over the Dining Table and goodness on it. This is the way to stay alive and meet one’s destiny!

Tuesday, 28th September, 2021

A warm night with a short burst of explosive rainfall. It woke me at 4.30 am. I didn’t mind at all. I listened to the World Service and then BBC Today programme and still got up feeling lively and optimistic. We decided to go out early for a walk as sunshine broke through the clouds. The walk was lovely, bright and warm. I felt good, fit and bouncy on my feet and found myself internally singing a song I haven’t thought about for over 50 years. This was released in 1966. It looks and sounds very much of its time:https://www.youtube.com/embed/U9zxj4RE0O8?feature=oembed

Sunshine came softly through my a-window today
Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways
It’ll take time, I know it but in a while
You’re gonna be mine, I know it, we’ll do it in style
‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine

Having done my exercise and showered, we were off to the Health Centre for our ‘Flu jabs. The jabs were free but it proved an expensive experience. I was inside the Medical Centre getting exasperated with all these old dears around me. They must have been at least 70 years old if they were a day! Anyway, having survived the Care Home atmosphere, we got out to the car – our new car with hardly any miles on the clock – to find someone had failed to hold their door in the wind when they got out next to us.

The wind was quite strong and we had a deep dent that cut right through the paintwork. The offending car was still there but I couldn’t face the wrangle of Insurance documents so we just drove straight down to our local car accident/body shop and booked it in for repair. The car will go in for one day in just over a week and the work will cost me £312.00. Annoying but at least it will be restored quickly. At least it will be done before we drive North. Pauline has requested our Covid Boosters before then as well. We will see.

I know this isn’t significant to write about really but it just shows the minor irritations of retired life. We’ve been in this house for 5½ years and we’ve hardly had to replace a single light bulb. It is a sign of the times. We have 18 still working in the Kitchen alone. However, one of the Cooker Hood bulbs had gone this morning and Breakfast was dominated by trying to work out how to get the old one out and a new one in.

The hood is a substantial, externally-ducted one that tantalises our neighbours with Pauline’s cooking smells. There was no shifting the glass cover on one of the bulbs. I always approach things like a bull-in-a-china-shop and with all the subtlety of a brick. I have a screwdriver out and start prizing the glass off. No luck. Pauline sprays it with WD-40 and out pops the glass without force at all. I’m afraid, I will never change!

I found out today that our car no longer has a CD player. I have to download from the internet straight onto the car audio system or convert all my CDs to MP3 format on a stick and plug into one of the USB ports in the car. I can do it but it is a bit long-winded because I have so many CDs to convert. Amazing to think this one USB stick will hold 877 media CDs. I will have James Taylor jostling with Mozart and Take That with Puccini.

Wednesday, 29th September, 2021

What a wonderful morning. Woke at 5.00 am and the sky was bright with stars. As the sun came up, the gorgeous blue of the sky gradually lightened and revealed a wonderful world. What will happen today? Went out for a walk at 8.45 am and it was absolutely delightful. My hernia pain has been a lot better for a week now.

I have never been practical but I have been logical. It is the way I think. When we looked at the learning styles required in Education, I was definitely a Abstract Sequential learner. I like logic. I love technology. I was quite shocked to find that I was quite good at I.T. but it has given me great fun for the past 30 years. Of course, Retirement can be dangerous because it is easy to fall behind with developments. I have tried to keep up and face new challenges.

I really enjoyed getting to grips with converting (ripping) my media CDs to MP3 files stored on a USB stick. When I tried it out on the car’s media console, it was immediately really simple and good to use and provides so much choice without fuss. Being Abstract Sequential, I am a bit uncomfortable with Fleetwood Mac & Rumours rubbing shoulders with Chopin Études and Elgar’s Enigma Variations but I’ll cope.

Something else which has been upgraded in the new car (It may be commonplace to many Readers already.) is the utility where text messages and emails come into the console, are posted up on screen and one can choose to have them read out loud by the media unit automatically so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

There is also a ready-made bank of replies chosen to fit the text that one can send back at the press of a finger.

This is what technology should be doing for us and I love it. I want more of it. Took Pauline out for her mammogram screening this morning. It was at a mobile unit in Tesco‘s carpark because every little helps. Quite fortuitously, actually, because I was able to fill up with petrol at the same time – a whole £11.00’s worth. I’ve only got 570 miles in the tank now. There was no diesel which should be banned from the earth anyway but there were no queues either.

Really loved today. Been walking on air. Lovely weather, enjoyable experiences. Happy times! There should be more of it. I’m so easily pleased really!

Thursday, 30th September, 2021

Yesterday, we were cooking outside in the sunshine. This morning is grey and brooding. It is still mainly dark at 6.00 am.  Even so, I have woken feeling optimistic and light, happy and hopeful. It may be misplaced. I may be deluding myself but it is definitely there. Went to bed late and got up early but feeling very energetic. Actually, the day will be quite busy.

I bet they don’t gleam like this!

We’ve got two firms coming today: our window cleaners are doing a full, autumn clean of windows, woodwork, soffits and guttering. It will take a couple of hours. We also have a company coming to look at insulation of our garage/gym roof. It is a garage and, instead of running a radiator throughout the winter in there as we did last winter, we want to conserve the heat we put in as much as possible. The process that we think will be most effective is a spray-foam one and we are looking for a quote today from a Southampton-based firm.

I won’t be doing this!

I am a planner and organiser by nature. It makes me look controlling which, of course, I’m not … very much. Got to organise timings for the next few trips. Firstly, I need to work out driving times so I can arrange meetings with people in Lancashire and Yorkshire. I’m going to go mad and give them my mobile number so it’s easier to control. I hope to use my ‘free’ day to go to Manchester on the tram from Oldham Mumps. Haven’t been to Manchester for so many years. I used to travel Mumps to Victoria on the train twice a week at one time particularly when I was going to the Business School in Oxford Road. Be interesting to see the developments over the past 20 years.

Only 2 Business Lounges available at Gatwick currently.

Next we’ve got to work out times for driving to Gatwick for our Athens flight, bag-drop times and going through security control. We are Gatwick ‘members’ and have been offered Premium Security to get through checks more quickly. I’ve got to book the Business Lounge according to times of arrival because we are allocated time-slots for arrival. At the moment, there are only two Lounges available at North Terminal so pre-booking is important although the cost is funded by our bank accounts through our DragonPass service.

I must be using my phone too much. My wife says it is permanently glued to my hand. I’m on my 3rd screen cover in just over a year and I’ve had to send for some more. I’m not offered a replacement phone until next June. This evening I weighed myself and was delighted to see that I had reached the same weight I last saw 36 years ago. I knew things were changing. I am getting younger by the day.

Friday, 1st October, 2021

Happy New Month to all our readers and all who don’t read the Blog as well. Important to mark the start of October. Got up to dark and wet this morning at 6.30 am but the weather has soon cleared up and we are destined for a dry day.

I’m reviewing my wardrobe once again as the weight falls. Last night I removed every, single, formal shirt and put them in a bag. This morning, we drove into Rustington and took them to a charity shop – Link to Hope – which was delighted to receive them. There is something quite exhilarating about getting fitter and losing weight and it becomes a project in itself. Throwing out clothes is rather re-affirming. It frames the determination never to return to the old ways. Could just do with a tummy-tuck now.

Saturday, 2nd October, 2021

Up at 6.30 am and out for a jog by 8.30 am. It was dry and reasonably bright but rain is forecast. After 90 mins of exercise, the world looks a much better place. Actually, it does anyway. I’m feeling so much more optimistic and confident now. …. hope it’s not misplaced! I think losing weight and getting fitter, having lots of exercise and fresh air has made a huge difference. Lots of vitamin D through sunshine has left me tanned and healthy. Probably drop dead tomorrow.

When I’ve finished my gym work-out, I’ve been told to return to my wardrobes and start throwing out all the rest of my clothes. Pauline loves buying clothes and she rarely gets the chance to buy any for me. I rarely wear clothes. Shorts & tee-shirt are enough. She took me to Next yesterday. Can you imagine it? I’m looking forward to buying some new suits really but I might lose a bit more weight first. I’ve been looking at Brook Taverner for suits. Not only do they look good but they are incredibly cheap. Back in the 1980s, I was paying £700.00 for handmade suits in Huddersfield.

I know of an on-line company called Moonpig who arrange digital greetings cards. This afternoon, out of the blue, a company delivered a large, pink box from moonpig.com. It was flowers for Pauline who is 70 on Tuesday. The flowers were sent from her niece who is living in Florida at the moment.

I know they are for Pauline but I love cut-flowers in the house and these gorgeous, Autumnal colours are lovely. We’ll be happy to accept a weekly order, thank you. I remember that I was quite disdainful of the fact that the Common Room of my College had vases of cut flowers refreshed a number of times a week when I was there. Almost certainly a hangover from when it was an all-female College for demure, young ladies. I didn’t meet any of those but I have matured and would appreciate the flowers now.

Equally, I will help out with the lovely bottle of Champagne that was delivered shortly afterward from …. www.moonpig.com but without any sender’s name. Frantically scrabbling around for the sender’s identity so she can thank them. Moonpig confirmed that the classy bottle of champagne was from Pauline’s niece as well along with an open invitation for us to go out and stay with them in Florida. How lucky are we?

Week 665

Sunday, 19th September, 2021

Wonderfully warm and sunny day yesterday. Returned to the familiarity and sameness of UK life. Unpacked the car. Stacked the 8 cases of wine (48 bottles) we are allowed to import – about 10% of normal purchases. Ate a meal of cold, cured duck and aged Brie cheese with salad and a bottle of Bordeaux Rouge in the garden. Unfortunately,  this morning has opened overcast.

Got lots of house jobs to do. The Hive, automatic switching system I use to control the indoor lighting and heating from my iPad/smartphone across the internet from anywhere in the world has to be restored to ‘normal’ settings. It was nice to monitor the outside of our home on the South Coast from our hotel room in France via the CCTV we recently had installed. Mind you, I noticed that the plant pots needed watering and I haven’t got that installed on remote … yet!

Had postings of this old man from my past. John Holden was in my year at College but I really think I look younger.

John Holden – back centre – in his heyday!

How life deals with us is quite astonishing. Above is John Holden in 2021 and below in his prime in 1970. What has 50 years done to us?

I refuse to accept this decline – Rage, rage against the dying of the light! – and will keep my exercise routine going as long as I can into my 90s and beyond. I have so many ambitions to achieve before then! Keep the faith!!


Really looking forward to meeting up with people from my past and it is pleasing that they are keen to meet up with a lunatic like me. At the age of 70, it feels right to reaffirm one’s past by reuniting with shadows that inhabited it. There is no reason to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about it. We all make mistakes and feel unsure but age should have compensations and one of those is not being scared of the past. I am already preparing a face to meet the faces that I will meet. I expect ghosts of earlier times will walk across our dreams but we will have to meet them face on.

Did have a strange message from an ex-College girl who says she well remembers me giving her a lift on my bike down the hill into Ripon and us getting stopped and warned by a policeman. The thing is, not only did I not have a bike or any memory of the incident but I don’t remember the girl either. One of us is losing it. I suppose it could be me!

One of my little girls from school who I’ve kept in touch with over the years is the grand old age of 30 today and is celebrating by holidaying in Magaluf. Mind you, she has 4 kids which she’s left in her Mum’s care while away. Nice, warm-hearted girl who has always had to fight for everything in life, it is good to see her happy and reasonably settled. As one of the shadows from her past, I wished her well this morning.

Monday, 20th September, 2021

Don’t know if it was returning back to normality or what but I have felt a sadness all day just going about the routine. Did our walk at 9.00 am and then went to Tesco and Asda early on for bottled water. There was none that we wanted. I am building up a stock of bottles of sparkling water against dire warnings of shortages. Shloer was on special offer but completely gone as well.

We went to fill up the car for the first time since buying it. Honda filled the tank which gave us 620 miles and all our driving of the past week to the Tunnel, around the Pas de Calais and back to Sussex and we still had 140 miles left in the tank. The Hybrid engine is delightfully quiet and frugal. Our car generates electric power to refill the battery as it drives and as it brakes. However, I look forward to the next one being a chargeable Hybrid so that I can drive more of the time without using petrol. I’ve already told Honda what we want.

The intricacies of the Day-2 Tests

Had to complete our Zava Day2 Covid Tests yesterday and send them off via a Priority Post Box which meant going down to the village. It wasn’t too complicated but it was detailed and required so much form filling and information gathering.

Nice start to this morning and we are forecast a sunny day. Got the lawns and hedges to do. The car needs cleaning after our French trip and I’ve got my exercise routine to complete as usual. Burying myself in routine! On the bright side, there is some suggestion that America may be persuaded to open their borders to UK travellers earlier than expected. Maybe something to look forward to there.

Don’t you just hate getting old? Some people go wrinkly and grey. I have found that my skin has become more fragile and quick to damage. Just caught my arm on a door handle this morning – a simple, everyday mishap which one would dismiss if one noticed at all. Nowadays, this leaves me ‘marked’ for days. Did exactly that this morning and, as I sat down at my computer, I noticed an angry blood blister forming under the skin of my arm. I know now that it will be there for a week or so. It annoys me!

Tuesday, 21st September, 2021

Well, yesterday turned out to be a lovely day with lots of sunshine and 22C/70F as we walked. Ironically, having avoided the mosquitoes in France last week, I got bitten all over my legs in Sussex today. I haven’t worn long trousers for so many months that I am very exposed to this. I don’t care really. They are not half as bad as the biters in Greece. They always seemed to love my flesh and who can blame them? Somebody has to!

Shortage of sparkling water and Shloer in our supermarkets at the moment. Both rely on carbonation to varying degrees and we know that there is a shortage of CO2 stocks which are a bi-product of Fertiliser manufacture which, in turn, has been halted by the increasing costs of energy. Luckily, I discovered another terrible, non-alcoholic drink to replace Shloer. For anybody who is as daft as me to be denying themselves wine, J2O_Spritz with apple & watermelon flavour is quite nice. Only about 20 cals per 100 mls.

A perfect storm is hitting post-Brexit UK. Shortage of labour as EU workers disappear. Shortage of European goods because of severed supply chains. Shortage of transport deliveries which rely on workers and shortage of products produced in UK because of shortage of workers to pick and pack and deliver. Shortages of anything automatically put up wages and prices which feed directly into inflation, the danger of which I have been flagging up for a while.

This turmoil is now being hit by the Tory government’s casual disregard of the energy industry. While trumpeting their Green credentials, they have failed to keep concentration on the Generation process. Because of this, UK residents are going to be paying massively increased fuel bills which are not being seen across Europe while coping with increased food prices on rapidly disappearing supplies that are not being seen across Europe.

Now throw into the mix, the removal of the £20.00 per week Universal Credit for the poorest and the increased National Insurance payments of the earners and the hugely increasing cost of heating their homes and you have a crisis of monumental proportions. This is unlikely to go well.

Within that context, it seems rather insensitively self-indulgent to celebrate the announcement, which I predicted recently, of the opening up of the US to UK/European visitors. I have no idea when we will go but I’ve started exploring flights from London to Tampa preferably Direct. It is a flight of about 10 hrs out and just over 8 hrs back. It will be the longest flight we’ve taken and we quickly decided that Economy wouldn’t do. We will go Business Class which provides individual pods and seats that fully recline into beds. I was surprised to find that the price really wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Sleeping across the Atlantic.

The illustration above is for Finnair Business Class which costs around £5,500.00 for 2 Direct Returns from Gatwick to Tampa. I checked out what this includes and I was persuaded immediately. It makes BA Club Class appear quite dated in comparison.  Looks now like we won’t be going out until February/March next year so we may try Athens in November instead.

Wednesday, 22nd September, 2021

Woke up in the middle of the night. I was woken from a dream of wandering, distraught, in a railway station. Wandered, lost, through a busy city. What on earth does that mean? Up early on the most beautiful morning. Busy day today so going out for an early walk at 8.30 am. We have garden furniture being delivered, fresh fish being delivered and a Covid-Project tester arriving for our monthly tests. My official Day-2 test from our French trip came through negative yesterday. Pauline’s isn’t available yet.

What a lovely day yesterday was. It started sweetly and just got better. Figs for Breakfast. I can think of little nicer.

Breakfast in the Sunshine

We went out early to Rustington in lovely, warm sunshine. Had to have new lenses put in my prescription sunglasses which were chipped. The lad who served us was so obsequious that he virtually licked the carpet clean as we walked on it. When it came to telling me the cost, he said, I want to be transparent about it. I pointed out that it was a good line for an optician. To give him his due, he saw the humour in it.

Regular readers will know I am a bit obsessive/addictive. If I do something, I don’t ever let go. The trick is to get me obsessed with good things and unhooked from the harmful. So, if I can establish a pattern of no alcohol and replace it with low-calorie soft drink, then I generally stick to that pattern. If I get myself hooked on an exercise routine, then it is harder for me to stop doing it than just carrying on. I know myself and I openly admit to being obsessive, quite arrogant and, occasionally condescending but, as anyone with half a brain knows, these character traits are integral to genius. One cannot escape one’s nature. That’s why I have a constant fight against my inclination towards self-indulgence.

In that vein, we walked for a couple of hours in the most wonderful sunshine this morning. I came home and cut the lawns and then went in the Gym. I completed my 222nd consecutive workout routine. I’m obsessed with stats and memories although the latter seems to have some patches missing these days. The one thing I have learned with age is not to be over embarrassed by one’s beliefs, obsessions and urges. You only get one life and often that is short so just go for it. What have we got to lose apart from our dignity?

Electra Palace Hotel, Athens

We learned yesterday that we are unlikely to go to the US until early next year so we are looking at things to do in November. We already have a booking for a suite overlooking the Acropolis in an Athens city centre hotel which we should have taken up in August 2020. We are thinking of taking that up this November unless anyone has any better suggestions. I have to check the travel requirements. It was only for 5 days originally so we will extend it to a week or just a bit more. Be nice to have some sun, hear Greek shouted across the streets and eat some Greek, peasant food. Our hotel is 5* and we rarely eat there because the food is quite pretentious as ‘posh Greek’ can so often be.

Thursday, 23rd September, 2021

Absolutely gloriously warm and sunny morning. This does feel a bit of a bonus in the final week of September. We are going to look to extend the good weather well into Winter by travelling abroad after braving the chills of the North next month. Looks like it could be cost-effective when we hear of raging fuel prices in Brexit Britain.

Wall to wall sunshine yesterday as well as from Dawn to Dusk. We were 22C/70F. Lovely, early walk. Garden Dining Furniture was finally delivered. We set it up in time for our afternoon meal.

We ate in brilliant sunshine which was nice. The test results from our French trip had finally come through negative for both of us. The London University project tester had spent an hour in our back garden running Lateral Flow and Anti-Body tests for the 17th consecutive month.

We had a day of weird, phone calls both to our mobiles and house phone. Whenever we picked up, no one answered. Very strange. At one point, my watch said I was receiving a phone call on my mobile but I couldn’t find it. After 20 mins of panic-stations, we found it in my shoe in the cupboard. I’m absolutely cracking up!

Christmas in the September sunshine.

It seemed strange that, on such a lovely, Summer’s day, Pauline was steaming Christmas puddings in readiness for late December. The steamer has to be run for about 8 hrs continuously so it sat outside in the garden where it would be least disruptive. It’s so nice having a practical wife when you are so impractical yourself.

On this day over a decade ago, I was recording the jobs Pauline undertook at our Greek home. From unblocking the drains to oiling the windows, annually, she did the work. Fortunately, it was just what she likes doing and is good at doing.

Friday, 24th September, 2021

Mum & Dad – Happiness 1950s style

Today marks the 56th anniversary of my Dad’s death from a heart attack while in hospital in Burton upon Trent where he was being treated for heart problems. It almost certainly wouldn’t happen today. He would be put on Blood Thinners and a Statin. When I review the sorts of things he was told during early treatment for angina, you can see how the science was evolving. He was told that eating fatty foods like bacon was bad for his heart. (✔) but he spent his Breakfast religiously eating every piece of bacon with a piece of bread to soak up the fat. Of course, he went on to eat both things together so consuming all the fat he was supposed to be avoiding. (✘) Can you imagine dying at 49 years old? Unbearable! I was just 14 years old. Ultimately, I feel I didn’t really know him.

What a lovely day it was yesterday. The sun shone hot and bright. We went out early to the Garden Centre and to Sainsbury’s instead of having a Delivery. We did a 90 mins walk and discussed our next foreign travel. We have a voucher held over from August 2020 for £1,340.00 which came from a cancelled 4-night booking back then. We have agreed that the French trip did us good and we should follow it up with a return to Greece as quickly as possible.

Yorkshire/Greater Manchester in October and I’ve just emailed a booking for Athens in November. Incredibly, it will be 7 years since we last spent November there. It will be nice to spend some Wintertime there. Fortunately, Greece will have plenty of sunshine to walk in. Instead of 4 nights, we are going to have 7 but prices have so crashed that it won’t cost me more than an extra £400.00 and the flight prices are almost give-away.

Easyjet is the go-to airline for Greece. It is Greek, after all. Outward bound our base ticket is an unbelievable £22.99 x 2. When we add things like self-select seats with extra legroom, additional luggage, early and exclusive bag-drop, Fast-track security and Speedyboarding, we are still only paying about £130.00 x 2 and about the same on Return. What’s not to like?

We will fly Gatwick – Athens. We will probably drive to Gatwick and stay at the Airport Sofitel the night before. This has a number of benefits. We don’t have to leave home too early. We can leave our car there for the week. We can drop our bag off at the airport the night before which makes life easier in the morning and we can go straight through to a Business Lounge which our bank account provides before going down to Gate.

Before we leave, we will contact island friends to see if they want to meet us in Athens. We won’t have time to go there this time but intend to next summer. It would be lovely to see Elerania again for Lunch in Athens. Just 12 years ago, we finally had the Log-burning stove we bought and shipped over from Halifax installed in our Greek house lounge. With just 2 weeks before we were ready to leave and Autumnal weather in the air, we lit it for the first time. It was too hot!

Saturday, 25th September, 2021

Yesterday was almost certainly the best day of the year. Incredibly hot and sunny from start to finish. Really lovely. Almost everything was in place to make it a perfect day. Oh, what a perfect day … We did some shopping … for a change. Wonderful fruit and vegetables for the next few days. We are just too healthy! A 2 hr walk in the sunshine was delightful and then we sat in the garden and soaked up the rays. Soon we’ll be in the North and it will probably be snowing. Still, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m intending to tough it out in shorts and t-shirt as I would if I was in the warmer South.

I have pinned down the day and times for meeting Chris & Kevin + Julia in York. Julie has contacted me to agree a date for our meeting in Bridlington. She was worried that her upcoming cataract operation might get in the way but it will be over before I see her. She says her pirate patch will be removed before I get there although I did offer to do it myself. She may try to arrange a meeting with Nigel at some stage. John Ridley will meet me in Ripon and we will have a coffee together and, perhaps, revisit our old Digs house.

I have so much to catch up on with all of them and so much to tell them of my history. I last saw Kevin in 1978. Christine visited us with Julia in1985 in our home in Helme, Meltham. Julie, I last saw at a party in her home in Rochester, Kent in Summer 1973. She told me yesterday that she left that area in 1974 and I haven’t seen or heard of her since until she contacted me last year. I am so looking forward to seeing them all again and giving them a hug. I have no doubt the years will drop away. They all sound keen to see me and why shouldn’t they? It is good to close the gap of missed years.

Our trip to Athens is now completely tied up. We fly on November 9th from Gatwick and home on November 16th from Eleftherios Venizelos. The Accor Sofitel Hotel we chose to book at Gatwick is closed for the pandemic until next year so we will drive in the morning and park at the Long Stay Carpark. It is amazing how the international travel scene has changed since the pandemic. Our hotel can be cancelled up to 7 days before arrival. Our flights can be changed up to the day we fly. We feel quite secure in our bookings for that reason.

As we sat in the sunshine yesterday afternoon, we planned out the next few months with US travel sometime in Feb/March/April next year, hopefully. We will look to drive to Greece in May/June and then plan a Spanish drive to Aguila, Murcia. We need to be there to search out villas for the future. It feels a bit like life is re-starting! From the Past Forward!

This morning has opened a bit grisly with mist and lack of sun but we know that it is going to get much better on the South Coast this morning. An old friend from school who lives down the coast from us in Dorset and a neighbour up the road from us have both told us that they are still swimming in the sea at the moment. Makes us feel very unambitious!

Week 664

Sunday, 12th September, 2021

Woke up at 4.30 am again this morning. You’d think I wasn’t active or tired enough to induce long sleep.  Well, my sad, lonely and monotonous life was lit up, warmed up and filled with sunshine yesterday. Reunited with lots of old friends without rejection. I haven’t treated them well over the past 50 years but there is obviously a pent-up desire to meet again.

College Road, Ripon

I spent a few hours on Messenger talking to Dr. John Ridley in Catterick and arranging to meet him for coffee in Ripon on the morning of a day that I will also be reunited with Kevin & Chris Dagg and my ‘God daughter’, Julia. We have agreed to meet for tea in the afternoon in York and then on to Julia’s home also in York when she gets home from work. Really looking forward to that. Haven’t been to York for a long time.

We’re going to visit this lovely, York village.

Then contacted Nigel and Julie in Bridlington. I agreed to go up there for a day. Julie will show us around the seaside town that I’ve never been to before. As long as Nigel is well enough, we hope to meet him and his wife as well. Either at the beginning or the end of that day, I hope to visit poor, old Tash in Leeds and maybe meet Chris Tolley as well.

Sunny Bridlington

This is all quite revolutionary for me. I’ve hidden myself away for so long – going as far as a remote, Greek island to be isolated. Arriving at the age of 70 and other things happening this year releasing memories have opened me up and made me more receptive to this. I feared rejection but found, instead, that others feared the same. Julie is incredibly nervous that she won’t look the same as I remember. I assured her she and me both!

Before all that, we have our French trip. We will have to leave the house at 7.00 am tomorrow so I will be up at 5.00 am and in the gym for 90 mins before showering and packing the car. The crossing is around 11.00 am and we will have the afternoon shopping in Cite Europe and relaxing in the hotel’s Health Club. Feels quite exciting to be moving around again although there are lots of other places I would like to go and things to do as well.

Today is delightfully warm and sunny. Got to mow the lawns, water the tubs and then do my walk and gym work. Sorry if this is such a boring routine. It is, of course, Retirement.

Monday, 13th September, 2021

Madness! Sheer madness! Woke at 2.30 am but couldn’t get back to sleep. Well I am up at 3.30 am and in the gym. By 5.00 am, into the shower and by 7.00 am the car is packed and we are on our way to the tunnel. It will take us about 2hrs 30 mins to get there and we will have time for coffee before driving on to the train. It is very warm and humid this morning. I’m feeling good after my shower and fresh orange juice. Looking forward to the adventure.

The joy of Le Shuttle!

Our train departs at 11.50 am and takes just 35 mins but, because of the time difference, we arrive at 13.35. Off to Cité Europe for some shopping and then check-in at our hotel for rest and relaxation. I may have to do an hour in the gym when I get there because I am an obsessive.

Cite Europe is quite quiet!

The major shopping centre was quite quiet. We bought wine and salad and returned to our suite to indulge our senses. The wine was delicious and makes a mockery of the stuff we buy in UK. For just €5.20/£4.43, I bought this delicious bottle from Carrefour. Really enjoyed it with garlic olives. Je t’aime! The bottom of the bottle gives it away with a wonderful sediment. I will buy lots more of this to take home. Je t’adore!

For anyone who likes pints in Irish pubs and shouted conversations over loud pop music, this isn’t for you. Gentle, thoughtful and indulgent experiences are more my style. The day has been delightful with lovely sunshine and a top temperature of 27C/81F. I have managed a better than usual exercise target and finished the day better than I started. Sometimes, we are rewarded for our goodness. 

Tuesday, 14th September, 2021

Great sleep last night – the sleep of the good. Woke at 6.45 am (5.45 am UK). Going to get my exercise done early and then enjoy the day. Confucius, he say, You can do both!

Early Morning Walk

Lovely walks around our hotel. Vast, open spaces, France is so … French. Dozens of huge, brown rabbits everywhere. Walked for a couple of hours and then back for Breakfast – Yoghurt & Fruit for Pauline. Freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee for me.

We are going out to the shops but not for me. Pauline is going to throw our euros at dress/shoe/bag shops. I will be the supporting act.This is not somewhere I feel comfortable but sacrifice is necessary. For me it is enough to know that others are happy. I am selfish enough as it is.

I will plan tomorrow. I think we will drive along the coast – Sangatte, Wissant, Le Touquet, and on. This evening is incredibly warm and emotional. I am incredibly emotional. I have spent all my adult life trying to control this tendency, maintaining a plateau of response. Suddenly, this year, emotion has flooded back and overwhelmed me from every angle. This has not been me for 50 years. It slightly embarrasses me but I can’t currently stem the tide. It is just something I have to resolve.

An incredibly warm Summer evening in September.

The wonderful, warm and moonlit evening makes me emotional. I’ve just been watching Long Lost Family on my iPad and wept at the sadness of three siblings in their 40s missing finding their Mother by a matter of 4 years as she died in her 90s. My head is screaming, Why didn’t you look earlier? My heart is bursting for them. The sheer sadness of life-long separation!

‘Well met by moonlight.’

Wednesday, 15th September, 2021

A lovely, warm and sunny morning for walking early through the fields of France. Just under two hours breathing the glorious warmth of cut grass, reaped wheat and baled hay under a big blue sky.

Back for Breakfast. Still associate Hotels with self-indulgence and big, cooked Breakfasts. Unfortunately, that has to be denied at the moment and, maybe, for ever. Now, I pass the Salle de Petite Dejeuner and exercise instead. I am paying for a lifetime of self-indulgences with self-flagellation.

We have to have two Covid tests – one in France & one in UK. The one here has to be done three days before we set off back. This morning, we walked into the village to the Pharmacy.

Pharmacie Guilbert – lovely people!

I was ready to use my basic French to request a Covid Antigen test:

Pouvons-nous faire un test Covid ici?
Combien de temps cela prend-il et combien cela coûte-t-il?

I felt quite cheated when the notice in English on the door announced that we could have tests at a cost of €38.00 each and would take 20 mins for a result. They were lovely people and very friendly. We both tested negative and we’re provided with paper and electronic copies of the results. We walked back, past the magnificent Maison du Maire.

Maison du Maire

We watched Prime Minister’s Question Time and then we drove out to Wissant Beach. It is popular with the British although we were virtually the only ones there today. It is called Wissant because the locals heard the British describe it as White Sand. Unfortunately, by the time we got there today, the sun had largely disappeared. 

Uk immigrants prepare to invade French beaches!

Tomorrow,we are intending to drive down to Boulogne to do some shopping and visit the Fish Market. All that IT preparation has allowed me to watch Liverpool on BT Sport via my iPad. Great match!

Thursday, 16th September, 2021

Up early on hot and sunny Summer’s day. Out for a two hour walk in the beautiful countryside before Breakfast and then driving to Boulogne. We have been here many times but recent events have badly affected it.

Boulogne looking like Littlehampton.

We parked up at the Fish Quay which is still functioning but minimally. Shabby and run down would describe it now.

Fish straight off the boat.

We have been coming to Boulogne for well over 30 years and the wonderful cheese shop of Philippe Olivier for just as long.

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to eat such calories but I can look. Story of my life! It does look good but so is my self discipline.

We drove to the Auchan hypermarket on the outskirts of Boulogne and bought some food for our meal. We chose roast chicken with salad and a lovely bottle of red wine that went straight to my head. We ate crab & langoustines with salad last night and a bottle of white wine that went straight to my head. French food and wine is a nightmare. It tests my self control to destruction immediately.

No shortages here!

The abundance of fresh and healthy produce in French markets is something to behold. There are no empty shelves or shortages of products anywhere. They are untouched by Brexit in that respect.

Shiny & Fresh!

Friday, 17th September, 2021

Up early on a warm, Friday morning. Out for a two hour walk that, fittingly, starts at the tribute to the workers who constructed the Tunnel. I remember being excited about driving under the sea until I realised we drove on to a train.

We were still mainly travelling Hull – Zeebrugge in those days but we were early ‘tunnellers’. While I was out, I heard from my cousin, Sue, who lives in South West France. I had unearthed a photo that was sent to me from an Ancestry site which featured my Grandfather, Richard Watthew Sanders who started the family Building Company; his sister, Kesterton Sanders who was a spinster Headmistress of a school in Derby and one of Grandad’s daughters, Edwina, who was a classical pianist and Mother of Sue.

Sutton on Sea – 1953

Sutton-on-Sea was a horribly staid (and cold) East Coast, seaside town that was the base for all our early, family holidays. I hated it with a passion. We rented a house and a beach hut for the fortnight. Brrrr!!

Knowing how much I love getting mail, I bought this postcard for friends in UK who don’t have email addresses. I really hope they enjoy getting it.

The local Post Office.

Walking down into the village to the Post Office now. Wonder how long this will take to reach the North of England!

Now 7.00pm and still warm. We’ve been at 24C/75F during the day. I haven’t slept under the bedsheet all week. We had to buy fly spray yesterday after squishing a mosquito and finding a tissue full of blood. Fortunately, haven’t found any bites yet. It’s been a lovely few days and done me good to break out of the UK island prison. There are very few things that I’ve missed, I have to say, though the re-entry requirements are incredibly demanding although an IT genius like me will manage it in the end.

Saturday, 18th September, 2021

Up to 5.45 am and out on a jog by 6.00 am. It was still dark but warm. Sheer madness but it has to be done. Travelling back through the Tunnel at midday so I’ll be busy for the rest of the day.

The day begins at 6.00 am.

At the outset, it was so dark that I was struggling to see the track. On the return, beautiful colours of the day were obvious although the floodlights from Eurostar were still standing out.

Eurotunnel over the field.

Out for almost 2hrs and then back for a shower, coffee and packing the car. All the forms have been completed so it ‘should’ be straightforward.

Last minute shopping for Fresh Produce.

Off to Auchan for fresh produce like salad, duck and fish. Immediately down to the Tunnel sous La Manche. Unlike any other time we have been, there is almost nobody there. There are almost no lorries lined up.

Where have all the travellers gone?

We drive off the empty train onto an almost empty M20, M25, M23. The journey down and home has taken us about an hour less than normal. We are home, in the garden with a mountain of mail, a bottle of Bordeaux Superieur and 24C/75F of warm sunshine by 2.00 pm. It’s been quite a busy day but I’ve still got an hour in the Gym before my meal and relaxation. Slept really well last night. Let’s hope I do tonight. Back in my own bed usually makes things easier.

I’ve had a week of self-indulgence but now have a month of hard, crackdown on diet and exercise. That will mean no alcohol, low-calorie meals and a controlled mindset. I have to take control of myself and my body. Self-denial is good after self-indulgence. In a stupid sort of way, I’m quite looking forward to it. Soon, I will be fitted for some new suits and I will be at the next stage for new clothes all round. No point in stopping now.