Week 602

Sunday, 5th July, 2020

The weather is organising itself well. Rain overnight gave way to sunshine and blue sky with 22C/70F temperature. Regular readers will know the Sunday routine – political programmes, newspapers and then ….

Open dry the fish for 24hrs to produce the pellicle surface.

The salmon has been curing for 24hrs and it is time to wash off the cure, dry and replace in the fridge for another 24hrs to form the sticky texture prior to smoking. As the moisture has been drawn out by the salt, the fish has stiffened in texture. The next stage will see that increased.

Just perfect weather for our 90 mins walk with warm, sunny, dry but not to hot conditions. I don’t know why but I’m really tired after it every day. I thought my fitness level would increase and my recovery time with it but nothing seems to change and I hardly ever miss my target. I put it down to age.

Monday, 6th July, 2020

An overcast but warm morning which gave us lots of jobs. The first thing after breakfast was to start the smoker, get it going in the smoke chamber and then place the salmon on its trivet, adjust the bottom and top vents and leave to gently smoke away for the next 12 hrs. That’s why we were keen to start it by 8.00 am. It is sited in the back garden so the smell of smoke wafts away and doesn’t annoy any neighbours.

Next was my haircut. Of course, I’ve not been affected by the pandemic because min has been cut by my wife since 1978. She is brilliant at it and, more to the point, very cheap. She has all the correct equipment like cape, hairdresser’s scissors, electric trimmers, ear and nose hair trimmers (for the more sophisticated man), etc. It happens in the kitchen and takes about an hour by which time I am squirming to get away. At least I can watch the Sky Politics while I suffer.

Later, we trimmed up all the hedges which are growing non-stop at the moment, cut the lawns, strimmed the edges and swept up. Pauline griddled the most wonderful Tuna steaks in the garden and cut fresh lettuce which she served with griddled peppers.

Time on the Wall

Regular readers will already be familiar with my obsession with time and its graduation. For me, context is all. Our Office wall is plastered with graduations in time from our parents’ photographs to graduation certificates, houses we have owned and lived in over the past 40 years and other mementoes of times in our life. This week, marks 6 years since we sold our house and left Sifnos for the last time. Our house sale board has featured in Office/Studies ever since. We had intended to return this year. We won’t and very few regulars will. Optimistic tourist observers hope Greece will achieve 25% of normal business. Depending on conditions, we will look to returning in 2021.

Tuesday, 7th July, 2020

The smoked salmon was retrieved after 10 hrs last night and we tried it straight away. It is delicious but we both agreed that it would have been better with less smoking so the next one will be done for jus 6 hrs. Even so, it is a good first attempt and we won’t need to buy smoked salmon any more.

Shopping for the Few

I’m sure many, perhaps most of us have mused at some time or other about the [lack of] activity known as sleep. To think that every human being does it/needs it and we lie down in the dark, unconscious at the same time as all those in half of the globe. While we do it, the other half of the globe is walking round following conscious activity. The hinterland of this action, of course, comes at the variable start and finish. Some need 8 – 10 hrs, others need 5 – 7 hrs although we are told somewhere in the middle is best for our health.

All our married life, Pauline has had to put up with me sleeping for about 6hrs a night. To bed at midnight and awake at 6.00 am for the past 42 years and she is beginning to get used to it. When we were working, we were early embracers of the 24hr shopping revolution. After a long, working week, we were always early birds at the supermarket on Saturday and I was out at 6.00 am on Sunday to get the papers. We have bodies perfectly attuned to pandemic shopping. Miss the queues and get there early. This is what we did this morning. Up at 5.45 am, out 1 hr later and Pauline shops at Sainsbury‘s at 7.00 am while I go on my 5 mile/8km walk. Fortunately, once again it is dry and warm.

Life changed here 6 years ago today.

All week we will have Sifnos in our minds. It is 6 years ago this evening that we visited the little, white building you can see just beyond the wall. It is the office of our friend and Notary, Elerania Miliotie who had spent months guiding us through the process of selling our house. Six years ago this evening we received hundreds of thousands of euros that we needed to get out of Greece and back in to our UK bank. It was only because of the help of Elerania and the understanding of the local bank workers that we weren’t stymied by Greek tax avoidance/tax evasion red tape. Most of this was put through our long standing account at the National Bank but I also opened a second account at another bank – the Piraeus Bank – to separate and thus reduce the size of our receipts.

Our House in April 2002

Although we look back fondly on these times and are incredibly grateful for the experiences not to mention the financial security that the enforced saving through investment gave us, we are glad to have divested ourselves of the responsibility of Greek property ownership especially in these inauspicious times. 

Wednesday, 8th July, 2020

Woke up to rain again. Quite steamy warmth but wet early. Just as before, the rain stopped and we went for our walk in a beautifully clean-smelling world …. to Asda. It is a walk of about 35 mins each way which would take us 5 mins in the car. We were keen to be back for PMQs and the Financial Statement. 

As advertised, the lad has removed stamp duty from houses under £500,000.00/€556,000.00 which is pretty meaningless down here. Houses don’t cost under that mark. Still, if it motivates other parts of the housing market and keeps the builders working, it will have helped. We have received a very acceptable estimate for hard landscaping in our back garden. We are keen to keep the ‘economy’ patio paving slabs that we have already and considerably extend them. They are called Brett Economy Buff Riven. Brett is a company owned by Marshall‘s which is a long established West Yorkshire company we know well from an earlier life.

Marshall-Brett paving.

Although this is bog-standard, economy paving and many neighbours have ‘upgraded theirs, we actually like it. It is incredibly quick draining after rain and easy to keep clean. It is also cheap. Our extended patio will only cost £5,000.00/€5,560.00. The only downside is that groundwork companies are very much in demand after people have spent months locked down, saving money and thinking, If we can’t go abroad, we ought to develop our home. Ours won’t be able to start work until 9th November. For us, it’s not a problem. Currently, I think, they’re struggling to get the paving slabs as production cranks up again.

Actually, everyone is trying to look as if they’re back to normal but are paddling fiercely below the surface. We order and paid for outdoor storage containers from Homebase at least a month ago. They took our cash at £420.00 per container but now tell us that we are unlikely to receive them until October. We’ve asked for our cash back.

At least on this day 6 years ago we had our cash back and were plotting our course back to UK. It feels so far away now and yet so recent.

Thursday, 9th July, 2020

The world is really struggling to adapt to the new normal. The extension to our patio will need quite a few packs of Marshall-Brett paving flags. The builder has a flashy Marshall-Brett brochure but can’t get the flags because they haven’ been produced for months and manufacture is only just beginning to get going. They can’t do our garden until the first week in November.

We’d ordered some large, storage boxes for out in the garden. each one was £420.00/€470.00. We are hoping to declutter the garage by using them. The company took our cash but then told us that we wouldn’t receive the goods until late September because stock was not available. We have cancelled and asked for our money back. It was quite fortunate because we found almost identical boxes for almost half that price and they will be supplied by Amazon in a week.

We are going to France on a shopping trip next week. We have pre-ordered £550.00 of wine from our regular supplier – The Calais Wine Superstore. We have been buying there since the early 1980s. Then, we were driving Huddersfield to Hull and getting on P&O Ferries to Zeebrugge and on to Calais. For more the last 10 years, we have been going through the Tunnel on day trips. 

aka Mecca

Usually, a day trip would cost £60.00 return through the Tunnel. That was cheap enough to factor in. We usually save about 50% on UK prices. However, the wine store has long offered ‘free’ travel set against a pledge to buy £400.00/€450.00 worth of wine.  Since the pandemic, Tunnel crossing prices have gone up 3-fold or more. Next week, the wine store will cover our return tickets of £220.00/€246.00. Actually, I’ve pre-ordered £600.00 of wine with a UK saving of £500.00. We will aim to do a couple more trips before the end of the year.

Good job I don’t drink – just like Liz.

Just been told that the company buying our old phones will send the money to our bank account in the next few days.  Everything is jogging along nicely. Shame the weather has been so disappointing particularly as the south coast is hosting the Test Match. This morning was drizzly as Pauline shopped in Tesco and I did my 5 mile walk. Still, it was warm. I mused as I walked at 7.00 am this morning that I literally haven’t worn anything but shorts and tee-shirts since end of March. No wonder that I look like a leathery old prune.

Friday, 10th July, 2020

Lovely warm and sunny morning now England are doing badly in the cricket. We were going to do home work but have decided to walk along the coastal path from Goring Fishermen to Worthing Pier.

Beach Garden between Goring and Worthing.

Lovely blue sky and sunshine with 22C/70F with not even a hint of sea breeze made it a perfect day for the walk. It wasn’t too busy either although it was quite early in the morning and families were only just arriving as we walked back.

Pier café open again but outside.

Even so, virtually nobody wore masks. We didn’t because we were in the open air but the path goes quite narrow in places and distancing is difficult. I read someone on Twitter the other day asking if others were like her and held their breath while passing close to people and that is exactly what I do.

Social Distancing in Worthing – taken to extremes.

We got quite a shock, as we walked closer to the pier to see the Worthing Wheel had been put back up and already re-opened. Personally, I can’t see the point or the attraction in these things. When people raved about the London Eye, I had to stifle a yawn. I’m not a hampster!

Saturday, 11th July, 2020

An empty Kamares Port.

On this day, 6 years ago, we left Sifnos after 30 years continuous association with the island. Kamares harbour was bustling with cars and travellers. Our friends had come down to see us off. Little did we think that it would be so long before we returned. We are hoping it will be next year but Covid-19 will decide. Already there is rumour of Greece’s imported infection rate going up and of the closure of their land borders. KTG report 60 new infections on Friday with 42 found in tourists. Infection-free islands are torn between Scylla & Charybdis – between fear of infected tourists and fear of an impoverished winter. They will get Charybdis anyway. It is just a matter of to what degree. Reports out of Greece suggest that they think 25% of normal tourist trade will be a good result.

‘The Times’ cartoon.

As gyms announce their re-opening from July 25th, we have already decided that it won’t be safe to return until a vaccine is available. Gyms are particularly vulnerable areas with breath projected far and wide, with virus-laden sweat sprayed liberally around. We don’t want to wear a mask to exercise nor have to book specific times to attend. Type -2 Diabetes, overweight, and atrial fibrillation all combine to make me vulnerable and not inclined to take too many risks which is why we are developing our own, home gym.

Equally, if we visited Sifnos every year for 30 years and haven’t for the past 6, we have visited Greece every year for the past 40 but we will almost certainly miss this year. Fear of flying is part of it but the unrelaxing experience we would be flying to with great heat and face masks, difficult hotel conditions and in restaurants, one is left wondering what the point would be. We paid out over £2000.00 in for hotel and flights for 5 days in Athens so we will need a doctor’s letter to claim back from our insurance company.

Week 601

Sunday, 28th June, 2020

It is as if they knew. The Blog Gods I mean. Week 601 almost never happened. Since Christmas Day, 2008, the Blog has been hosted by a web hosting company called 1&1 which morphed into Inonos. It is a WordPress build which has been not only hosted but managed by Inonos. It enabled me to work almost without any prior knowledge. After all, I wanted to write a virtual stream-of-consciousness dribble without having to worry about the platform. I have done so with only one, major blip which I eventually solved. Today, it was much more serious.

The hosting company have not updated the WordPress version. I think because they want to stop managing it and cut customers loose to manage their own. I found Week 601 could not be published. The hosts make it increasingly difficult to contact them. Eventually, I was coaxed to cut myself loose of their management and branch out on my own. I did so ….. and lost 11 years of memories. Strangely, Pauline was much more upset than me. I had almost accepted it. A few minutes later, I returned to my site, refreshed it and …. IT WAS UP AND RUNNING!!!! Well, obviously, you can see it.

Memories will go on…..and on…..and on…..and on ….

Monday, 29th June, 2020

I’ve spent the entire day installing, upgrading and customising our new smartphones which were delivered today. Copying our old phones across to our new ones is so easy now that it took a couple of minutes. Setting things up into groups, re-establish accounts and passwords took a little longer. Actually, the import of of the process was so great that I could barely believe it.

As I went through my day, I kept returning in my mind to what might have been. In my head, I had really given up my Blog. What that really meant was that I was giving up on memories of the past 11 years of my life. That was worrying because it is fantastic to just refer back to be reminded of those events even if I couldn’t remember them actually. You ought to try reaching back to events from 2008/09 just to realise how difficult it is whatever the quality of your memory.

Tuesday, 30th June, 2020

Today started at 6.00 am as we got up to go to Sainsbury’s. No more queuing now. We arrived at 7.00 am and Pauline went straight in. Today, instead of starting my walk, I sat in the car and read The Times because it was raining outside. We drove home by 8.30 am and prepared to meet a Goundwork estimator who came round to give us a quote for flagging an area of garden. We have a very basic garden flag called Brett Broadway Buff Riven. It is an economy item but really useful and effective. When it rains, these flags are non-slip and quick to drain.

Brett Broadway Buff Riven

We look forward to the estimate and getting on with the work. As for me, after 11 years of recording my Blog, I have to learn new routines. I can tell you, I’m not complaining. Actually, I can hardly believe it is happening. Sounds straightforward but it is actually quite challenging.

Wednesday, 1st July, 2020

 

Happy new month to everyone – apart from Brexiteers who are condemned to rot in perpetuity. Looks like there will be a release of continental travel although not for Greece and who can blame them. If I was living on a covid-pure island, I would be tempted to keep the drawbridge up even if it did mean short term economic woes. If I was a Brit (I suppose I am.), I would be wary of flying to Greece with all the risks it carries with it and can you imagine 32C/90F of sunshine and heat and having to walk round in a face mask. Is that a relaxing holiday? I don’t think so.

Wonderful fillet Steak

I woke up at 5.30 am thinking, My Blog’s working! I have to tell you that it feels almost miraculous. When 11 years of memories are gone, it can feel quite daunting. To have them suddenly reappear is wonderful. As we walked out to Asda to source some of their finest fillet steaks, I was walking on air. Something which takes 5 minutes to drive, took us 30 minutes to walk. The shop itself was almost deserted. We bought 6 steaks, put them into our favourite Carluccio’s bag and set off on the half hour home.

We eat red meat very rarely but we’ve both been surprised to find how much we have enjoyed this steak. It is in great demand and it is difficult to source. If you see any, it is best to corner the market immediately. We ate it with just some fresh, green salad picked from the garden plus a lovely, cherry tomato salad.

I spent a chunk of the afternoon cleaning up our ‘old’ mobiles, removing all security setups and returning them to factory settings. They are going to a smartphone purchaser tomorrow who will pay us £116.00/€129.00 each for them. The new phones are free and £232.00/€258.00 for the last pair of ‘free’ ones feels like a nice return. I know we will have paid for them through our contracts but that’s gone now.

For some time now, Pauline has been complaining that her volume button on her iPad was not working. I must admit, I thought it was out of warranty and that we would have to get her a new one. I finally turned my mind to it today and found she still had 14 days on her warranty. I phoned Apple in Brighton. They appear so restricted in manpower that they try to force callers to deal with an ‘intelligent’ answer machine. I got nowhere and was reduced to talking gobbledygook in order to force the automaton to direct me to a human being.

After 20 mins waiting on the line a transatlantic voice went through my identity check and proceeded to ask the problem I was raising. I told her the fault and she proceeded to dial in to the iPad and run a diagnostic test. In the downtime while I was waiting, I asked her where she was. In the Philipines, Sir, she said. The nearest Apple centre is 9 miles/15 km down the road in Brighton and yet the iPad was being diagnosed 7,000 miles/11,000 km away in the Philipines. To cap it all, she asked me to remove Pauline’s iPad cover which immediately released the volume button and allowed it to work perfectly. Thank goodness she was so far away. She couldn’t see my embarrassment.

Thursday, 2nd July, 2020

Up and out early to be at Tesco for 6.55 am. One or two shoppers were already going in as we arrived. Pauline went in with her trolley, surgical gloves and mask on. I set off for my walk. The weather was warm but with weak sunshine. I walked for 45 mins and then met Pauline back at the car. She reported the Store to be fairly quiet and with significantly fewer people wearing PPE. This is going to be the most dangerous time.

The government wants us to think it’s all over so that they can get the economy back to work. People, therefore, and especially the thick ones, think it’s all over because “Boris says” and act with gay abandon. This is a mirror of the American style where right wingers shouted loudly about exercising their rights to freedom and trusting in God. (Something of a paradox there.) Now, many of those shouting the loudest actually have Covid19 themselves. Ignorant self confidence is no defence against a virulent pandemic. One only has to listen to the horrendous reports of those caught up in Intensive Care Units to know caution should come first. We would rather follow caution and live to fight another day.

The garden and the car have never been so well maintained. The house has never been so clean and tidy, our fridges and freezers have never been so well stocked and our current accounts so well filled. Lockdown has had these effects but they are only possible because we are retired with comfortable pensions. One only has to think of those furloughed and doubtful if their job will still be available in the near future. It must be dreadful for them. Talking of money, we walked down in to the village to post off our old smartphones to a company call Handtec who have agreed to send us £232.00/€258.00 in return. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of our phones, not a scratch or blemish so they will easily sell them on.

In our garden as, I suppose, in many gardens up and down this isolated land, it is hydrange time. We have always loved them although they were not so successful in the North. Here, they can be seen in abundance all round the village.

Friday, 3rd July, 2020

A beautiful morning. The sunshine got us up at 6.30 am. Sunshine encourages a positive outlook on life and the day ahead. It turned out to be more positive than we expected. Our insurance claim, which we initiated in the first week of May for around €5000.00/£4,500.00 looks like it will be paid back in full very soon. Pauline had a conversation with the assessors this morning and it was a really positive conclusion.

High Class Restaurants – Absolute Heaven!

Now we will have to consider our trip to Athens towards the end of next month. We paid up front in January just under £2,000.00/€2,220.00 for 5 days. We really don’t know what to do about it. I supposed you really could describe us as the ‘worried well’. However, it is hard to imagine enjoying the baking heat of Athens whilst wearing a mask, eating outside at our favourite tavernas and worrying to sit for 4 hrs in close proximity on an aircraft having got through procedures in a busy airport. If UK FCO advice changes to allow it and Greek government allow it then we will have a difficult decision to make. It is particularly poignant for two reasons. We have been to Greece at least once every year since 1980 and next week will mark 6 years since we sold our Greek house and land and left Sifnos.

We are long standing customers of the Electra Palace Hotel in Athens and expect to have our booking shifted to next year but we’d rather have the money now and decided what we want to do with it rather than someone else. The flights are about £530.00/€590.00 and we would lose that. Because I am (diet controlled) Type 2 and have medication for atrial fibrillation plus medication to control my blood pressure, we believe I am at greater risk than otherwise. On that basis, we will consult our doctor to provide ‘official’ medical grounds to claim on our insurance. Still, our insurance company tell us there is no time limit for claims so we can decided nearer the time.

Saturday, 4th July, 2020

A warm, wet morning. Not a problem. We have indoor jobs to do. Pauline has been sent out into the garden to harvest piles of basil and make pesto. Homemade pesto is unbelievable but high in calories so we have had to learn to control ourselves. We are also starting on our first attempt to create our own, smoked salmon.

Stage 1

The first stage is to cure the fish as Gravadlax. We have done this before but weren’t completely satisfied with it. For a side of salmon, which tends to come in at 1.5kg/3.3lb, we skin the fillet, trim off the thin end at the tail leaving it about 1kg/2.2lb for curing. The fish is then cured in a mixture of:

  • a cup of sugar,
  • a cup of salt,
  • a tbsp of freshly ground pepper
  • a handful of chopped dillweed
Stage 2

Half of this mixture is placed on a sheet of clingfilm and then the fish sits on top. The other half of the mixture is spread on the topside of the fish which is then tightly wrapped in the clingfilm. It is placed on a baking tray with another tray weighted down on top and put in the fridge for 24hrs. The fish is turned occasionally and, after taking it out,

Stage 3

After 24hrs curing in the fridge, the fish is removed from the fridge, unwrapped and wash clean in cold running water. It is patted dry with a paper towels and then returned to the fridge uncovered for another 24hrs. This process produces a sticky surface coating known as the pellicle. This stickiness encourages the smoking process to adhere to the fish.

The cold smoker engine.

After 24 hrs in the fridge, the fish is placed on a rack in the smoker and the sawdust is lit at one corner. Over the next 12 – 24 hrs, the sawdust smoulders around the maze-shaped container, smoking the fish. The first stage will be completed by 11.00 am on Sunday. We should be trying our first home=smoked salmon on Tuesday.

The rain is over and we are going for a 6 mile/10 km walk. I haven’t been to a pub voluntarily since the late 1960s and I will not be going now whoever deems it to be safe. Why would anyone want to cram into a noisy, crowded, uncomfortable environment full of strangers to pay over the odds for an alcoholic drink when one can enjoy a lovely bottle of red wine at a reasonable price and talk quietly with people one chooses to be with? I just don’t see it at all.

Week 600

Sunday, 21st June, 2020

The arrival of Week 600 has coincided with the Summer Solstice and the Longest Day. Only 8 more years for the 1000! For those who read the Blog, it probably always feels like the longest day but this one marks the start of Summer. The start of Summer? it’s almost over isn’t it? Certainly this coming week will feel much more like Greek Summer. We are forecast 4 or 5 consecutive days around 30C/86F. Today and tomorrow are a cool 22C/70F but that’s alright.

Having written a couple of weeks ago about seeing virtually no rain for the past three months, we have woken up over the past three mornings to find it had rained over night. If this is the new normal, bring it on. I cut and fed the lawns just before the first rains and they are now looking lush, green and in good health. the tomatoes are really fruiting well, the peppers are flowering and the figs are swelling and just starting to colour up. Really, these are the fruits of Lock-Down activity. In addition, we have acres (exaggeration) of successions of lettuce which we eat almost every day.

I eat a lot of smoked salmon. It is quite self-indulgent in its price – a moderately priced fish with ‘value-added’. That is cold smoked. We have been thinking of adding our own value to the wonderful salmon we buy every day around here.

A ‘starter’ Outdoor Smoker.

Today, Pauline is ordering me an outdoor portable smoker and some oak chips to smoke my own side of salmon. That will be fun to try. I just spent an hour watching videos on YouTube of how to cold smoke salmon. Fascinating.

Monday, 22nd June, 2020

Up early on a beautifully sunny morning that. again. reached 22C/70F. Clear, blue sky and delicious sunshine. We were setting out on a 6 mile round trip to Dunelm. Usually, we would jump in the car and be there in less than 5 mins.. Today, it was an excuse to get our exercise done. We walked there and back. Pauline had selected Click & Collect which we did but it took us 80 mins overall to get home. Amazing how pleasant the walk was and didn’t feel demanding at all. The car is feeling quite neglected. We carried our new, kitchen blow torch back home.

Back home, my job was water & feeding the tomatoes and the peppers. They are really coming on. Tomatoes already heavy with fruit. Peppers are in flower. I also gave the figs, that are covered in swelling fruit, a long drink from the hosepipe. Tomorrow, the lawns will be cut, fed and watered.

During the enforced closure, lots of establishments – pubs/restaurants have taken the opportunity of improving their properties. Down a muddy lane, we have a pub called The Spotted Cow. It is very popular. The owners have spent the past three months refurbishing the outdoor furniture and the gardens, repainting the outside and generally sprucing the place up. Although I am not a frequenter of pubs, it looks very inviting.

Development near our old home in Kamares.

The house we designed, had built and lived in on Sifnos for 10 years is the long, white streak in the top, right hand corner. The land on the mountain side lower down the road towards the port has laid bare for millennia. Now, slowly and quietly, development is taking place on the ‘hot’, ‘English’ side of the bay. Shows optimism at least. Look forward to seeing the completed buildings next year.

Tuesday, 23rd June, 2020

A rather bitty day. We were out early to shop at Sainsbury’s at 7.00 am on a very warm and sunny morning which eventually reached 26C/78F. I did a 4 mile / 6.5 km walk while Pauline shopped. Home for coffee and then we built our food smoker. It will be in use by the end of the week. I mowed, fed and watered the lawns while Pauline made a first harvest of the herb pots on the patio for chopping and freezing.

Our quarry garden – 2010

Ten years ago this week, we had returned to Yorkshire from our Greek home to clinch the sale of our Huddersfield home. This week 10 ,years ago, our buyers got their finances in place and we were finally certain the the sale would go ahead in the following week. This was good because we had flights back to Athens booked for 6 days time. We just made it. It was a happy time in Quarry Court.

We flew back to Athens and then by ferry to Sifnos where our garden had been watered automatically while we were away. We were trying our hand at growing vegetables in Mediterranean climate and on rocky island soil. It proved quite a difficult learn and, when went out into our vegetable garden after a month away, we didn’t expect to see the massive tangle of weeds and vegetable plants that presented itself to us.

In spite of that, we had vegetables as I proudly recorded even though it would have been so much better if we handed tended them.

Fruits of Neglect – Greece 2010

We drove back to UK in October 2010 homeless. We went to live in an Old People’s Home where Pauline’s Mum, who was 96, had lived for more than 30 years.

Mump – 2010

We stayed with her as she went in hospital, went through a serious operation and died less than three weeks after we had got home. It was an awful , awful time.

Wednesday, 24th June, 2020

The heat really hit the fan today. Woke up at 6.00 am to 18C/65F. Breakfast and out to walk along the sea shore at 8.00 am in 22C/70F of brilliantly Mediterranean skies.

Littlehampton Beach – 8.00 am.
The Garden on the Beach.

We walked for an hour – about 5mls/8kms – and then drove home for coffee and a long afternoon of garden watering as the temperature hit 31C/88F. If we had been in Greece, we would have stayed mainly indoors. Automatic sprayers are such a boon. I was able to intensively water front and back lawns plus the beds lining the drive without leaving my seat in the sun.

Thursday, 25th June, 2020

Up at 6.00 am to a temperature of 22C/70F. Out to Tesco by 7.00 am for an 8.00 am opening. I set off on my 5 mile/8 km walk only to be interrupted by a phone call telling me that the store has reverted to its original 7.00 am opening so I would only have 30 mins for my walk. I started to run. It was hot work. Even so, I was only 10 mins late back to the car.

Approach to Goring Beach.

Home for coffee and then out to Goring on sea beach for a walk in the sea breeze cooled sunshine. By 9.00 am, it had reached 30C/88F and, by the time we set off home at 10.00 am, it was the full 32C/90F – hotter than Greece and much of Spain. This is the sort of weather Pauline and I relish.

Home to enjoy the garden and water the lawns. Actually, it was just to hot and intense out on the garden furniture and very reminiscent of our Greek house patio which proved painful to walk on by mid day without shoes. I scalded the soles of my feet out on our patio flags this morning. We felt bad sitting inside on such a day and decided to take the car to explore places we had never been.

Swanbourne Lake, Arundel

Our housing development was given the temporary name of Swanbourne Park by David Wilson Builders. It was one of those advertising titles designed to catch the buyers on a website. We didn’t even bother to consider what it referred to. Today we found out. We drove out just 4 miles/6.5 km to Swanbourne Lake and Wetland near Arundale. It was quite delightful but dominated by seagulls on their holidays from the seaside.

Friday, 26th June, 2020

A warm but very humid day which didn’t read higher than 23C/74F but felt much hotter and less comfortable because of the humidity. All the doors and windows open found very little air movement and we couldn’t go out because we were expecting a delivery of flags and builders and for the back garden. We knew that these things would be annoyingly inconvenient and it has started today with a delivery time posted as 8.00 am – 7.00 pm.. Go to Jail & Don’t Pass Go!

Samsung Galaxy S20 5G

Tomorrow, after 24 months of our smart-phone contracts with EE, we are entitled to new phones. Actually, we have been very happy with our current Huawei P20 Pro contracts costing us £40.00/€44.00 each. However, Trumpian politics has led to the blacklisting of Google Apps on Huawei platforms.

The former is more important to us than the latter. Google Pay, Google Maps and our integrated calendar, etc, are all going to be lost on our Huawei‘s and ‘free’ phones worth around £1000.00/€1,100.00 each on the open market are not to be sneezed at. Just to add to that decision, the ultra fast 5G network which is already in Brighton just 10 miles away from us will make a huge difference. It will mean our contract price increases by about £20.00/€22.00 per month but it will be worth it.

I must admit that I use my smartphone more for its computing and photography utilities than I ever do as a phone. In that respect, I am much like my generation. At home, I reach for the landline long before I do the mobile. I have no idea why. All calls are ‘free’ – within each contract plan. Even so, I don’t make many phone calls anyway. I never have.

The building supplies arrived by mid afternoon by which time, I had fully valeted the car. As I did it, I realised that we hadn’t filled up with fuel for more than three weeks and we still had 250 miles in the tank. Now, I have a sparkling car in the garage with nowhere to go until Tuesday unless we decide to go on a jaunt. Anyway, now we were free to go out for a long walk in the sunshine. I have only failed to miss my exercise target once in the past five weeks. My alcohol consumption slipped a bit in the hot weather. I’ve drunk wine twice in the past five weeks which is not bad for me.

Next stop, a trip to France. We need a change of scenery.

Saturday, 27th June, 2020

Raining… Hurray! Warm but raining this morning and continued until 11.00am. The garden is loving it. I’m ordering the new phones and preparing to organise a French trip through the Tunnel. We heard that Eurotunnel’s booking site crashed under the release of pent-up demand. We will give it a few days before booking.

For the past couple of mobiles which means about the past 4 years, I have chosen leather flap covers because I got in the habit of dropping them from considerable heights onto hard floors. However, recent developments have hastened shops to accelerate use of self-scan and contactless pay using smartphones. Sainsbury’s and Argos have an apps that make shopping so easy with one’s phone – scan the barcode, itemise one’s purchases and keep a running total of expenditure. This process requires access to front screen and back camera all the time. This is infuriating with a cover flap.

Having said that, the cover has saved the quality of my old mobile so that I will now trade it in for £115.00/€127.00. I am buying an alternative back cover to counteract dropping and a screen cover to counteract scratching.

Wek 599

Sunday, 14th June, 2020

Glorious, warm, morning of blue sky and strong sunshine. Later it reached a very humid 23C/72F and, because of the humidity, it felt hotter. We watched the political programmes until just after 10.00 am and then set off for the Garden Centre on foot. I was going to buy a new tap connector for my outdoor, garden tap to fit the hosepipe.

When we got to the Garden Centre, there was a queue of about 5 people waiting patiently in the sunshine. The organisation is controlled by an operative who is there to ensure the Centre doesn’t exceed the maximum number of customers it considers safe. His other job is to sanitise the returned trolleys. He combines the two functions by only allowing another customer in when a trolley is returned by an exiting customer. This works very well at the moment but just wait till the weather turns. How many of us will queue in the rain for a tap connector? Even so, I still had to push a huge trolley around a garden centre following the one-way route to get to a tiny tap connector on a display a few feet from where I originally entered.

The shops are allowed to open tomorrow but, one of the few I want to visit, Currys PC World, is still only available for Click & Collect. We’ve built up a number of things we want to look at before we buy – a smart watch for Pauline, a computer for me and a television for the lounge. None of those will I buy without seeing and discussing with the trader. They will wait until I can.

Angmering Walks

Our walk back takes us through another newish house development about 10 years older than ours. Like so many of the developments around here, space is not at a premium and developers have built in lots of natural areas of grass and parkland planting which relieve the pressures of modern living. We were walking through this area when were heard a little lad – aged 5/6 – screaming with excitement under a conifer tree. His dad had given him a project of finding fir cones to take home. He was so excited that he had found lots under the trees. I’m so sorry they don’t excite me these days.

French Style

Cousin Sue posted this from a park in the Dordogne. Don’t the French have such style? No wonder the hooligans wanted Brexit. This is just too sophisticated for them. Heard a racist use that old trope, Britain’s Full yesterday. I don’t know where they drive or walk. Almost everywhere I go I see wide open spaces – lots of room for immigrant NHS workers, for immigrant Hospitality workers, lots of room for immigrant agricultural workers, lots of room for people who will far surpass Brexiteers and racists in life ambitions.

As a footnote to last week’s decision making process: we have finally decided that the Studio garden Room will have a footprint of 22ft/6.7m long x 8ft/2.5 deep. the hard standing flagged area will be that plus 2ft all round. My job now is to get builders to quote for the flagging and an electrician to discuss getting power in to it. Don’t worry, I’ll bore you plenty more before that’s all done.

Monday, 15th June, 2020

The summer is disappearing already and we’ve been nowhere. It is the Longest Day on Sunday and then all down hill from there. Winter draws on. Today is another lovely, bright and sunny morning with 16C/61F at 7.00 am. By mid morning, we are getting up to 70C/22F and everything is enlivened by sunshine. 

Pauline has taken her courage in her hands and booked a hair appointment but she can’t get one until mid-July. All the evidence is that parents are not going to be bounced in to sending children back to school before they feel it is safe and shoppers are reluctant to linger in commercial premises. Whatever the government want, people will vote with their feet. It was amusing to read the tweet of a Greek doctor on Crete I follow on Twitter who says July cancellations are at 80% and August cancellations are at 50% so why did the Deputy Mayor of Crete announced yesterday that Island bookings currently stand at 80%? This is so common in Greece. 

I have a paving firm coming round this afternoon to quote me for extending the patio and providing the hard standing for the studio garden room. After that, we will walk round to the garden centre where the garden building supplier is based and go through the details of the ordering process.

Tuesday, 16th June, 2020

Another beautiful and warm morning. I am missing being abroad, missing the demands of navigating a different culture with its smells, tastes, sights and sounds. I miss the challenge it brings to my settled routine. I can’t say I’ve missed the weather.

It has been so good here for the past3+ months that we are becoming quite blasé about it in the way a few weeks in Greece would lead us. There, sunshine and heat was the norm. One didn’t have to make the most of it while it was there. More often than not, like most Greeks themselves, we avoided the sun and shrank from the heat. Every afternoon in our house, we would close the shutters for about three hours as the intense sun beat straight into the windows. That way, we could open everything up as soon as the sun had gone down to cool the house for the evening.

Kamares – without tourists.
“This is a tragic, a disastrous year. We will just try to cover a fraction of our expenses this summer,” said Georgoulas, who runs a boat tour agency at Oia town on Santorini.

Greeks are preparing to tighten their belts this winter. Usually, those involved in tourism expect to earn enough over the frenzied tourist months – really only June-August and mainly August, to get them through the winter. Those low paid ‘hod-carriers’, employed only for the summer months to work in the service industry, would sign on for government support when the tourist leave.

Plenty of space on the beach in Platys Gialos.

This year, huge swathes of Summer Season workers will not get employment in the first place so this will knock on into island economies as shop keepers and their customers are impoverished. The big question is: will confidence have returned next year? Will there be a second spike? Will travellers feel safe to fly?

Back home today has been one of activity. Up at 6.00 am and out to Sainsbury’s for 7.00am. Pauline joins the queue which rapidly lengthens at this superstore. I set off to run to Rustington. It’s a round trip of only 2.5 miles but I’m shattered when I get back. Time for a drink and then lawn cutting for me and hedge trimming for Pauline. I used a lawn feed and thickener across front and back lawns so had to put the sprinkler on because we have no rain in the immediate forecast. It was hot work as the temperature went over 22C/70F for the umpteenth time recently.

Wednesday, 17th June, 2020

I have been dead for 40 years. On this day in 1980, the ambulance crew took me from my demolished car and put me in an ambulance believing I was dead. The ambulance driver placed an oxygen mask over my face and suddenly I started to fight for my life. I kicked him and he sat on my legs to control me. I did the only thing I could and bit his nipple. He ran out of the ambulance, clutching his breast and screaming in pain. I remember nothing of that at at all and have never met the man who was off work for a week afterwards.

1980 ‘V Reg.’

I spent more than a week unconscious in hospital and took nearly a year to recover fully. The compensation I received from the insurance company nowhere near made up for the disruption to our lives. Every year I celebrate how fortunate I was to have such a wonderful wife to nurse me back to health and put up with the aftermath of that accident. We were driving our first, brand new car together – a pageant blue, ‘V’ reg Mini which Richard Butterworth facilitated our purchase of. We were very proud of it for 10 months and then it was gone. Although we have had at least 20 new cars since then, we will never forget that day.

Even so, as we drive round in a 2020 ‘Hybrid’ 4-wheel drive ‘Utility’ vehicle with all the refinements, we don’t even have to open the windows manually. Can you imagine it?

Thursday, 18th June, 2020

Up at 6.00 am. It had rained over night. Joy of joys! Yesterday had been wall-to-wall sunshine. We walked along the shoreline from Littlehampton towards Worthing. There were a few little children in the sea and the Beach Lifeguards were setting up their summer stations on the beach.

Littlehampton Beach Yesterday
West Durrington Today

This morning we were out to Tesco for a weekly shop. On my walk around the area, trees were still dripping and puddles lingered. It was, however, steamy warm and I was sweating profusely by the time I got back from my walk and Pauline came out of the store.

We drove home and had coffee, did some jobs – Pauline preparing for our meal later and me searching out some new, smart phones for our automatic upgrade as our contract reaches 24 months. We’ve been using EE for quite a few years and been very pleased with the service. For the past two years, we have had Huawei P20 Pro which has been an excellent phone that I chose mainly for the quality of its cameras but has now been undercut by Trump’s war with the Chinese which has seen Google withdraw its apps on the phone. Immediately, Huawei loses all of their attraction for us. It looks like we will go back to Samsung (Galaxy S20 5G) and EE will buy our old, ‘free’ Huawei for £50.00/€55.50 each.

Findon Village, West Sussex

This afternoon, we drove out to Findon Village which is about 4 miles outside Worthing. It is a pleasant but rather a claustrophobic community which appears to be dominated by pubs and restaurants – all closed – attempting to maintain their place by serving take-aways. It features a lot of old properties some up to 450 years old. It feels a bit like a living museum.

Friday, 19th June, 2020

Garmin Vivosmart4 smart watch

We didn’t have to get up early today. We were up at 7.00 am to find the weather had been perfectly behaved. It had rained over night and was now drying up. After breakfast, we walked to Sainsbury’s – a 5 mile/8 km round trip. We weren’t shopping but collecting a click& collect from Argos. When we got there, a huge 100yd/90mtr queue snaked around the underground carpark. Because we weren’t going to the supermarket Pauline showed her text confirming her order was ready to collect but was denied entry. We had to stand in a queue for 25 mins before she was allowed in. I was quite happy recovering from the first half of the walk.

This is our 4th Garmin watch between us. I have one I am delighted with. Pauline has gone through two already because she will insist on buying cheap ones. Even this is relatively cheap at £74.99/€83.00. One would normally expect to pay 2 or 3 times that amount for a good one. Having said that, this one measures everything one could want and much one doesn’t. Steps, Heart Rate, Pulse, Distance travelled, Calories Burned, Blood Oxygen Levels as well as the weather, News Items, indications of phone calls, texts and emails. The biggest challenge is absorbing all that information whilst walking without falling over. One charge lasts 5 days and the whole thing is slight enough to please a girl while being almost big enough to read without one’s glasses.

Saturday, 20th June, 2020

This rarely happens but we got up this morning not knowing what we intended to do today. I like to have a pre-considered set of targets for my day. I gives me an immediate sense of purpose and allows me the sense of freedom to achieve my targets in my own time and order. Today, beyond drinking my orange juice, tea and coffee, I had nothing lined up at all. It was preparing to be a lovely day with high, fleecy clouds under blue sky and sunshine. The day eventually settled at a pleasant 22C/70F with virtually no breeze.

Bognor is definitely faded.

Being footloose and fancy free, we drove the 10 miles down to Bognor Regis. I have been there twice before – once a couple of years ago just as we were exploring our area and, the first time, 65 years ago with little Bob and Nana & Grandad Coghlan. The only thing I remember of the 1955 visit was a strong wind whipping up the sand on the beach and driving biting sand into our bare legs.

The sea never fades.

Today’s visit was warmer, sunnier and without even sea breeze. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has seen much interest from royalty for many years. In fact, probably it has not seen much since George V uttered the immortal words, Bugger Bognor on his deathbed in 1936. We did an hour or so walk on the coastal path with a fair few others enjoying the warm air. The Butlins emporium, which had £50 million spent on its upgrade 20 years ago, is lifeless and silent.

We drove home to a ‘normal’ Saturday afternoon football, lots of tea and then thick, roasted loins of code with roasted cherry tomatoes. I’m finding it hard to get back in to the football although the integrated sound-over s helping. I always find the first matches of a new season don’t draw me in and this feels just like that. Anyway, I was looking forward to cricket.

Week 598

Sunday, 7th June, 2020

A lovely, sunny morning although not over hot. There is a little bit of a breeze which is keeping the temperature to around 18C/65F. After the political programmes and newspapers this morning, we set off for a fairly brisk walk of about 90 mins. The weather is such a bonus in this. If it had been raining, I just don’t think I would have done it which is why we need an alternative and that is unlikely to be the Health Club for quite some time.

Opposite Sainsbury’s

Enjoyment in simple pleasures is making me feel rather old but there is no alternative until we can wave our passport around again. Simple scenes like this are really quite pleasing on the eye. Even so, I’d rather be in Valencia or Athens right now.

The right garden building but wrong colour.

We have been all over the decision making process about a new gym cum kitchen cum garden storage building outside. It looks as if we have (almost) come to a decision. We are taking so long because we estimate an overall cost of £25 – 30,000./€28,050.00 – 33,660.00. It will be 8′ deep x 14′ long but just low enough not to need planning permission. The price will include paving, electrical installation and gym equipment + TV installation. We will need electrical sockets galore for at least 2 exercise items + TV & Sky box, for at least 4 cooking items and for recharging at least 2 garden items. We will have to see if it will need any heating but we doubt it.

Although we can buy this building locally, if we want to see an actual example – and we do – we will have to drive to Staines where there is a branch showcasing an example.

Monday, 8th June, 2020

Quite a grey morning but warm. Today will be spent in two activities: firstly, marking out the area of the back garden where we will need additional flagging and the area a garden building will require and, secondly, following up insurance claims allied to reviewing our next, booked trip.

Our month in Tenerife that has now passed contained four elements. The flights with Easyjet were cancelled by them so we are entitled to a full refund. In spite of the fact that they wanted us to accept vouchers for future travel, we insisted that we wanted a refund and formally requested the return of our £540.00/€605.00 and we will get it but we don’t know when. Fortunately, we are not under threat of losing our job and worried about our income. We are not in need of the money tomorrow but we will get it.

We’ve already got two parts of our villa rental back amounting to about €800.00/£715.00 but the bulk payment, €4,500.00/£4015.00 is being covered by our bank’s travel insurance – we renewed our annual policy in July last year, long before pandemic exclusions came in to force. This morning we were told by the bank that this was being actioned this week so we look forward to that.

How confident would you be?

Thought I’d check if I could see any progress on our EasyJet money but there was nothing to see. While I was there, I looked at our next flights in August to Athens. They cost us £570.00/€640.00 for two returns. Firstly, they are still flying and are bookable although one of the Departure times has changed. However, the seats that cost us £570.00/€640.00 would now cost us £208.00/€233.00 or around 36% of the original price. Still, like so many people, we may not be brave enough to fly. Who knows?

Masked & Gloved but left out in the cold.

We walked down to our village surgery which has a Pharmacy attached to collect a repeat prescription. It was 12.30 pm and there were only 2 customers – Pauline and the person inside. I was reading my Twitter-feed while Pauline formed a queue of one. Actually, it felt quite pleasant at 20C/68F and we were getting part of our exercise target done.

Tuesday, 9th June, 2020

Out early on a morning in which the world smelled so fresh after over night rain. Quite warm – 17C/62F at 8.00 am. I parked in Sainsbury‘s underground carpark and set off for my walk while Pauline shopped. I walked to Rustington past some delightful houses and gardens. One garden gate featured a name plate that suddenly took me back more than 50 years. Woodbine Cottage immediately conjured up a packet of cigarettes. It was the cigarette of choice for almost all the men who worked in my Father’s Building Firm.

At the time, they were one of the cheapest so Mum and Dad needed to differentiate themselves from the workers by smoking the manly, Players Navy Cut in Dad’s case and the more sophisticated Senior Service in Mum’s case. Everybody smoked and social differentiation came to bear even there.

By the time I was 14, I was pinching cigarettes from packets on the mantlepiece and practising out in the village. As soon as I got some holiday earnings, I was smoking confidently. Of course, I couldn’t follow my parents. I had to strike out on my own with Players No 6. By the time I left home in 1969, I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day. By the time I was teaching in 1972, I was coping with the stress of work by smoking 40 cigarettes a day and had moved on to the modern but prestigious, John Player Special Black.

The last cigarettes I purchased in 1985.

In spite of trying to give up many times and lasting less than a few hours each time, I smoked for another 13 years until, in 1985, I woke up one morning and thought, I don’t need to smoke any more. Typically for me, I had bought an expensive new lighter a few days before and a new pack of cigarettes the night before. The pack of 20 cost me £1.22/€1.37 in 1985. Today, in Sainsbury‘s they would cost me £11.10/€12.45.

All of this was triggered by the Woodbine sign on the gate and the images flooding through my mind from last night when I watched two more episodes of the drama I’ve been enjoying called Babylon Berlin which is set in the late 1920s of the Weimar Republic. Overwhelmingly, it is set in a dark world where everybody and I mean everybody smoked almost all the time. We have moved so far since then that it is almost choking to watch.

Wednesday, 10th June, 2020

Woke up to a grey morning but warm and dry. We had gone to bed happy last night after receiving an email from EasyJet confirming that they had repaid the cost of our unused return flights to Tenerife in May. Our bank balance will improve to the tune of £640.00/€720.00. Such things always help the orange juice go down.

We are expecting patches of light rain today so need to snatch every possible dry spell to get our exercise done. This is exactly why we need a gym room in the garden for such difficult days. This afternoon we are doing the full costings in our estimation and then invite some groundwork firms to offer estimates for the doing the hardstanding and an electrician for installing sockets. The building itself will come with on-site erection built in so that price will be a fixed sum.

herbs and Bell Peppers have been outside since mid-May

All around the patios at the moment are collections of pots and containers with tomatoes and herb plants that need maintenance. We could not have dreamt of growing tomatoes outside in Yorkshire and certainly not safely since early May. These have been grown from seed and are now flowering profusely. They are tumbler, cherry tomatoes which we eat by the ton. The five plants we have will probably supply a couple of weeks worth of salads but it is the fun of cultivating them which has made it worthwhile.

Home grown tomatoes flowering profusely.

I grew Sweet Bell Peppers reasonably successfully in Greece but not as well here so I have half a dozen grown from seed and advancing quickly now outside.

We have watched Boris Johnson floundering once again under the forensic questioning of Keir Starmer. Always a pleasure. It is now dry and we are going out for our walk. Wish us luck!

Thursday, 11th June, 2020

Pauline got me up at 6.00 am on a rather grey morning. By 6.35 am, I was driving her to Tesco. We had been led to believe that it would be raining and I didn’t want her to queue out in the rain. She was just the first there at 6.45 am. I set off for my walk. Far from raining, it was warm and got warmer as the sun came out. The day has been delightful. I got back to the car after 90 mins and 6 miles walking. Not exactly record breaking but I was shattered when Pauline emerged with a laden trolley.

After coffee and the newspapers, we drove down to the local Authority Tip to take some defunct electrical items that can’t go in the collected bins. We were met by a long queue. Pent up demand over the lock-down allied to the need for social distancing has made access rather tedious. Only about 15 mins wait and we were on our way home. Driving through the village struck us how much we had settled in and how the inhabitants care for the environment. Angmering in Bloom is continuing to work in spite of the problems.

Angmering in Bloom

When we got home, we were contacted by our bank demanding additional information to support our insurance claim. It is worth £4,500.00 so, even though it is frustrating, it will be worth it. We had an hour or so tracking down documents, digitising them and uploading them to the Bank’s Insurance Claim site.

On our patio – 2012

From the moment that Pauline decided that we had to cut out salt to control my blood pressure, I have been addicted to herbs. There were only a few I remember from my childhood. Parsley was served every Friday in a sauce to accompany fish. Sage appeared with onion in annual stuffing. Mint accompanied roast Lamb. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any others. These days, we use Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Dill, Tarragon and particularly, Basil. I love garlic with everything. These flavours have been learned, ingrained and enjoyed throughout our time in Greece and they’ve followed us back to UK. We always grow Basil and Pauline makes Pesto. We never buy any ready made. Whatever it is, it’s not Pesto.

This year, I’m growing 4 different types of basil – Italian Greeen, Purple, Greek and Cinnamon. It will mix in salads and be used for cooking. I’m eating so much smoked salmon at the moment that I’ll have to buy a smoker for the garden. When the Garden Building is up, it can stand on the patio. Small packs of good quality salmon are costing around £8.00/€8.92 for our meal. If I smoke whole sides and Pauline slices them thinly, it will save us so much money … and what fun for the neighbours.

Friday, 12th June, 2020

The forecast was for lots of very warm rain today. We were up to bright sunshine and clear skies. Pauline is expecting an ‘all day delivery’ from UPS so I took advantage of the weather to do a 5 mile walk. It was a lovely, freeing interlude. Mind you, I was shattered when I got back. Pauline had spoken to the Bank’s insurance arm and was told our claim was back in the queue after uploading additional evidence that they had requested.

Pauline was making salmon fishcakes for our meal later in the day. I love fishcakes! If it stays dry and it certainly looks like it at the moment, we will spend an hour or two marking out the back garden for the flagging which will be required for the footprint of the building we have selected plus some extra space. After that, it will be my job to price up the materials required and getting hard landscaping firms to provide estimates for the work. The worst thing about all of it is not the cost but the disruption. Residents around us have had additional paving laid and the work seems to have gone on for ever. I won’t enjoy that.

Banana Thief

Vindicated with my early start. The rain has come lightly and very warmly this afternoon. I am in my office enjoying Chopin Études and drawing up plans for development of our outdoor facilities. Certainly, life could be a lot worse.

Satuday, 13th June, 2020

I follow the weather for the week on the BBC website. It used to be provided by the Met. Office but now comes from the Meteo Group which, like all good things, comes from Europe. However, now we’ve left the EU, they’ve decided to give us any old forecast because they don’t care. Today, they told us we’d have lots of rain after noon so we went for our walk early in the morning. We were home by 10.30 am and the blue sky was unsullied as the temperature rose to 23C/73F and stayed there until after 5.00 pm. European relationships will be like that in future.

Our job at home today is to map out, on the ground, the area of the extending garden flagging and the footprint of the building to be erected on it. Yesterday’s rain prevented our intentions. We started by doing that with garden canes and a huge ball of string. Then, I decided that we needed to really visualise what we were going to do so I looked for a spray marker to mark out the grass. I found one in Screwfix and we shot off in the car to purchase it. …. only not that easy.

When we got there, we were told that they were only dealing with Click & Collect customers. We went through the farce of standing at the door, bringing Screwfix up on our smartphone, ordering the spray, paying for it with credit card and receiving an order number. Having walked 4 paces in to the shop from the door, we were presented with the spray with our name and order number wrapped round it. Covid safe or what!

Back home, we measured out the patio base we anticipated, inserted canes into the lawn and tied string along the lengths and widths. We then placed the building inside the extra patio base with canes and strings. We are told by the company that we have to allow 2 ft between any wall of the building and any other wall, fence, etc. to allow for maintenance. We have chosen a Studio Garden Room with Garden Storage Shed attached measuring 16ft x 8ft. The extra patio required is 20ft x 12ft (20ft/6.01 mtrs. x 3.7 mtrs.). As soon as we’d mapped it , we looked at each other and said almost synchronously, We ought to go for the next size up – 18ft x 8ft. That will give us so many more options.

So that’s a decision …. we think. Decision making isn’t easy is it? I’ve already picked out the gym equipment that we’ll need. It was important to check it fitted in easily. It does.

We’ve now got to find some kitchen cabinets and worksurface to put around one end and ask an electrician about the best way to get power and internet access into it. The machines take wi-fi and a Sky Q-Box would be useful. Instead of watching politics in a stationary position, it is better to be moving at the same time. This really does seem like a plan coming together…. although, this evening, we are considering extending the building to 20ft/6.01 mtrs. or even 22ft/6.7 mtrs.. I wonder if you can get a 3-piece suite in it?

Week 597

Sunday, 31st May, 2020

May 2020 leaves us on a high. Outside at 7.00 am we measured 17C and 28C/82F by early afternoon. This morning, I raked, fed and watered the lawns. After a morning in the sun, we dipped into the cool shade of our wooded walk to get some exercise.

Back home, we cooked Sea Bass on the griddle using our new, non-stick sheeting. It worked perfectly. Sea Bass on the bone is absolutely delicious. We ate it with home grown mixed salad leaves and squeezes of fresh lemon.

We have almost come to a conclusion about a building in the back garden. It will be a three part structure which has a ‘garden shed’ at one end to store the mower, lawnraker and strimmer out of the garage. The middle section will be a cooking area with cupboards and work surface carrying griddle, deep fat fryer, hob + barbecue and/or/ pizza oven. The last section will house gym equipment – Treadmill, Lumbar Bike, Weights + Television. With hard standing and lawn repair, we reckon it will cost us about £25,00o.00/€28,000.00 but, over 10 years of life, that will be peanuts. We’d pay around £20,000.00/€22,300.00 just for Gym membership.

Monday, 1st June, 2020

The Summer just continues. We are 17C/63F over night and 26C/79F by mid day and 28C/82F by 3.00 pm. It genuinely feels Mediterranean. It feels like we are permanently on holiday. We have to push ourselves to do jobs. Just the mundanity of everyday life feels like it is intruding into Utopia.

I had to put the bins out this morning – all three of them. I unstacked the dishwasher while the sun blazed in to the kitchen. I was told I had to have my haircut and was pinned in a chair and covered by a barber’s cape while my wife performed the honours. These things have to be done but are resented as the sun beats down.

I’ve been staking my pepper plants this morning I’ve got about 10. – and inspecting the tomatoes – I’ve got about a dozen. – all of which I’ve grown from seed because I wasn’t sure the garden centres would re-open in time. We have allowed ourselves an hour or so sitting outside in the sunshine and now we will set off for our walk. Got to keep up standards whatever the weather.

One gorgeous foot!

About 18 months ago, I damaged my foot in Tenerife. We were in a villa in Adeje and I wanted to see the international space station go overhead. I turned all the lights off outside including those round the pool. I looked up in the sky, spotted the space station and turned and shouted to Pauline…. and fell into the pool, dragging my foot over the tiled edge. The pool cover was on and I hit it with a crash which sounded like the space station had fallen to earth. As I fell, I dragged my foot heavily down the edge of the pool. It swelled up like a balloon and then went a fiery purple. I still feel some pain from it 18 months later.

This morning I found a similar foot on Facebook. This one belongs to my sister, Catherine. I believe she got blind drunk in the garden and threw herself to the ground from a seated position. It resulted in damaged fingers and a damaged foot. Not as beautiful as mine but still has the unmistakable Sanders nobility about it.

Is Catherine washing enough?

When we were young – I mean late 20s. – Pauline & I would walk miles on Greek islands in the hot sun. We would be wearing very few clothes in the hope that we would get a good tan on our fortnight away. It was sweaty work and I usually ended up having too much sun. Fortunately, I tan very easily although I find the heat not as easy to cope with as I get older.

Our walk today reminded me of our earlier days. A blazing sun, 28C/ of heat with not a hint of breeze. An hour’s walking was enough and, instead of a bottle of Fix beer or a Sprite lemonade, we had a huge cup of Yorkshire Tea.

Pauline’s got to go back out in to the sun now to pick salad leaves and griddle swordfish steaks. It’ll be nice to spend an evening in the cool of the Lounge. I’m still enjoying the historically based, neo-noir drama series set in Berlin of the late 1920s – early 1930s during the Weimar Republic. I’ve really got in to it and I’m on the third series. Should keep me going until Sport returns.

Tuesday, 2nd June, 2020

We’ve certainly got in to a pattern of shopping and exercise which has been facilitated by the great weather. Tuesday is Sainsbury’s. It opens at 8.00 am. We leave home at 7.50 am. I drop Pauline at the door suited up with face mask and surgical gloves. I park the car and set off for a walk to the nearby town of Rustington. Before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have even considered doing anything but driving there. Now, I am still amazed each week that it only takes me 15 mins each way.

Conker World

The walk at the moment, is quite delightful. Some of the gardens and social areas that I pass are absolutely beautiful. I’ve never really noticed them before. Trees are wonderful and so varied. Some I’ve never seen before and cannot put a name to. Others, old favourites, have transitioned through their seasonal development while this period has developed. From buds opening to unfold vibrant, green leaves and the flowers which are setting with ‘fruit’ much of which is already swelling. I can’t say I’ve ever really looked at the early stages of a conker but I did today.

Our village symbol is a tree.

After getting home and having coffee, we walked down to the village to deliver an item for posting. It’s a lovely walk and we both enjoyed it but I noticed, I think for the first time, that Angmering village has a symbol of a tree as its feature. As we worked in the garden this afternoon, the temperature this afternoon reached 28C/82F for the third, consecutive day. Who needs Greece or Tenerife? Well, I’ll tell you later this week as the weather dips.

Wednesday, 3rd June, 2020

Up early on a slightly grey but very warm morning. Quick drink, masks and gloves at the ready and we drive the three minutes round the corner, just past the PYO farm to the new, Honda establishment. We can hardly believe it is time for our first, annual service. In fact, we were alerted to it by Honda themselves. We had almost forgotten that we had a car. Our mileage in the first 12 months has been 5085 miles/8,183 km. Compared with 12,000 miles/19,312 km a year that we used to do this is meagre although the Garage said it was quite substantial.

Our car outside after its first service.

Fortunately, we got 5 years ‘free’ service in our purchase agreement and everything, even the renewables like oil are in the price. The service took about 50 mins and would have cost £150.84/€170.00.

Our free first service.

In that time we walked across the road to Asda and bought some of their wonderful ‘Extra Special Fillet Steak’. We so rarely eat red meat but this is an absolute joy. It flies off the shelves so quickly that it is really difficult to find. Because we were there early, there were six steaks left and we grabbed all of them. We went for a short walk down the side of Asda and over to a small Garden Centre which was poorly stocked and clearly suffering because of the enforced closure.

Is this green manure?

Honda rang surprisingly quickly to say that the car was ready. Walking back to the garage, we passed this huge field of bright green, thin stalked plants flowering with a small, white flower at the tip. It had obviously been deliberately sown but why? I could only think it was for ploughing in as a green manure but I don’t know.

Strange feeling of being a little lost today. The sunshine, as we so often found in Greece, seems to link otherwise inconsequential sections of the day together. Nothing special to do for half an hour? Let’s just sit out in the sunshine for a while. Just like the aural wallpaper that is muzak, sunshine justifies doing nothing. It is a reason in itself. Not today. Actually, we have had about 10 mins of light rain this afternoon. The lawn is demanding more.

Thursday, 4th June, 2020

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner …

Thursday is Tesco day. Up at 6.00 am and at the store by 7.00 am. Pauline queues up – usually at second place and I go off for my walk. No 1 in the queue has been the same man for 8 weeks running. This morning, he wasn’t there. Hope the virus hasn’t got him. Probably, he’s just gone back to work. Today, Pauline was No 1. Winner!

I did a 90 mins walk around the West Durrington vicinity which is largely residential but also includes an ambulance station, an ancient religious centre and a huge park. It also had this which I noticed for the first time today.

“You’ve all done very well ….”

Actually, I felt really tired when I got back to the car at 8.30 am. Pauline hadn’t finished shopping by then. We were home for 9.00 am and the day could start.

The Beach was quiet but the roads were busy.

Today, we are going to drive down the coast to Brighton. It is about 15 miles away and means going through Shoreham Harbour which I find interesting. The sun came out but it felt a little cool – just 19C/66F with a sea breeze which made it feel fresh. Back home, we appreciated the micro climate of our back garden where the tomatoes are flowering profusely.

Friday, 5th June, 2020

A surprisingly bright start to the day and really quite warm although we never got above 22C/70F today. We did half our walk down to the Post Office in the village. The roads were still very quiet at 9.30 am. After walking back and having coffee, we thought we would go out for a short drive. Today, we chose Pagham Beach. Never been there before and it is beautiful. Only about 20 mins drive from home and an easy drive at that.

Alone on Pagham Beach.

Actually, the tide was coming in and the surface of small, loose pebbles was incredibly difficult and tiring to walk on. We just had a casual saunter to look around, smell the air and revel in the blues of sky and sea.

Beautiful Pagham Beach.

We drove home to have more coffee and do some more mundane jobs like watering pots and sowing some more salad leaves for the next succession. Now we are back on our diet, we are eating lettuce by the ton so we’re really getting through it.

Saturday, 6th June, 2020

Quite a cool and breezy start to the day with high clouds and some sunshine. We have decided to go down to the beach for a blow in a while. It is Saturday though so we need time to spend with our newspapers and emails. Heard from my friend, Brian, in Royton this morning. He’s been avoiding boredom in Lock-Down by making things to sell in his local Garden Centre. They wouldn’t be my choice but I’m sure they will appeal to many.

Made by Brian

Although kitsch doesn’t really appeal to me, I have to admire the skill shown in producing such things from scrap materials. Certainly I couldn’t. The other thing I’m impressed by is Brian’s ability to take a digital photo, down load it to his computer, attach it to an email and send it to me successfully. When he fist came to me on interview, he had never touched a computer and was terrified of them. I remember his first lesson on using a mouse. He was so scared, he moved it as if it would burn him.

Earbud Translation

I have no room to talk. I am well aware of so many weaknesses in my abilities. In spite of having a reasonable grasp of the English Language and some ability in reading/writing foreign languages, my ability and confidence in speaking another language is almost absent. Today, something arrived in my inbox that I’ve been waiting for but now could change everything.

I love gadgets a new processes. I love digital and tend to be an ‘early adopter’ for new products. For years in Greece and particularly when we were marketing our house, I was employing Google Translate to help me. Often it was laughably mis-translated particularly because Greek expression is so a flowery in its sentiment.

Certainly, although no where near perfect, Google Translate is much more accurate. I use it to translate whole websites as well as a few sentences. I have no way of knowing if the software behind this system sold by Touch of Modern – a company which sources and showcases innovatory products – is any good but I think I might have to try it out on a Greek TV programme and then on a Spanish one. What fun!

Is the Summer over?

Our trip to the beach was short and blowy. The wind off the sea reduced the temperature to a quite chilly 14C/57F. We only stayed 20 minutes then came back for hot coffee and the warmth of our kitchen.

Week 596

Sunday, 24th May, 2020

Lovely, sunny morning and 16C/61F at 8.00 am. The Government are showing all the signs of falling apart under the pressure of dealing with this pandemic which they are wholly unsuitable to do. The architect of Brexit also known as Vote Leave Svengali is the arrogant Dominic Cummings who has acted with impunity while threatening the British population with criminal sanctions.

The Prime Minister, who is well out of his depth, has relied on Cummings for the attention to strategic detail required to keep all the plates spinning. Unfortunately, Cummings lacks any real sense of a politician’s understanding of the electorate. A consequence of this has been the tendency towards favouring a ‘herd immunity’ strategy which would have been more at home in Nazi Germany or Eugenicist America than democratic UK. As a result, they have the deaths of thousands more British people on their hands than were necessary.

These are the ideas dominating this morning’s newspapers and political programmes and will almost certainly result in Cummings going soon which will expose Johnson even more. What is particularly despicable is the sight of Cabinet Ministers coming out to defend Cummings breaking laws he has been instrumental in forcing on the UK public. With Brexit negotiations going badly, life could become particularly interesting very soon.

Leather-Jacket grubs become Crane Flies

More important on the home front is the trouble with an ugly little grub commonly known as Leather-Jackets These grubs, which emerge as adult crane flies, are proliferating. Everyone around here is moving towards carpet lawns. I am suggesting they pop up to see Ruth’s in Bolton if they don’t know how it works. At the moment, I am persisting with grass although I have got some Leather-Jacket damage.

There is no longer an effective chemical treatment on the market and the only way to control them is to regularly scarify the lawn and pick up their larvae. In the past, of course, gardeners would have to be seriously fit to rake an entire lawn every week. I have got one of these manual rakes but I use it very sparingly on small areas of lawn. In previous centuries, fit, young apprentices would be given a couple of days work once a year raking all the moss and thatch from the Master’s lawn.

His Master’s Electric Lawnraker

Nowadays, there is powered help. I have a Bosch Electric Lawnraker. It takes no time at all to thoroughly rake out the front and back lawns without me passing out. however, this will be my exercise for the day. For the first time in the last couple of weeks, we are not going out for our walk.

Monday, 25th May, 2020

Another glorious morning opening up at clear blue sky, strong sun and a windless temperature of 16C/61F at 8.00 am.. Apparently it is Bank Holiday but nobody could be sure. We are going to walk up to a small, local nursery that specialises in herbs. We’re not desperate for anything but it will be a good walk with some interest at the end of it.

Dried Apple Slices

I am permanently having to think about my food intake. I had been able to enjoy good food by working hard at the gym each day. Now, with the Gym closed for the foreseeable future, I find it hard to break out of my eating regime and I’m struggling to readjust and control myself. We are still lots of walking but it is not a complete replacement for our normal routine.

I have always used bananas as a go-to snack when I am desperate. I still do although currently my palate is a little tired of them. Pauline who is ever vigilant, has bought me some packets of Dried Apple Slices. I never eat fresh apples. I don’t like them enough to want to reach for one. Dried Apple Slices, on the other hand, are something very different. I am finding them filling, energy -giving and pleasantly sweet. They are really helping me. Now, all I have to do is control my appetite for Dried Apple Slices because everything has calories. I fear I am a hopeless case.

We have now received half of all our claims for travel/accommodation that we have paid out for this year and we are completely confident that the rest will come back to us although it will take some time. EasyJet will pay us back for at least 4 and possibly six flights although they will make us wait. The Tenerife villa that we should be returning from on Thursday after four weeks away, will be paid out by our insurance company within the next couple of weeks. The Athens hotel suite we are still hoping to occupy but, if we can’t get there because of flights, our insurance company will, once again, reimburse us in full.

We are confident of these things but if, in these insecure times, someone goes out of business, our credit card provider will provide us with a ‘charge-back’ service. All in all, we are fortunate to not be desperate for the money and we can afford to sit back and wait unlike some who have lost their income because of the pandemic and who need that cash immediately to get by.

Tuesday, 26th May, 2020

A hot and sunny day. Up at 6.00 am and out at 7.30 am to Sainsbury‘s. Pauline shopped while I walked to Rustington. Just 15 mins each way amounted to 5,000 paces. Pauline was just returning to the car as I emerged into the darkness of the underground carpark. Back home and after coffee, we set about gardening work. I mowed all the lawns, strimmed all the edges and began to water them with the automatic sprays. Pauline trimmed up the hedges and I swept up the trimmings.

We had an hour or two in the hot sun outside in the back garden. The temperature reached 26C/79F and felt quite humid and oppressive. The temperature on Sifnos, by contrast, was just 16C/61F. No wonder Greece doesn’t want to let Brits in. It would just be too cold.

Six years ago, the year we left Sifnos, (Can you believe that it is six years since we set foot on the island?), the summer heat had just arrived. On this day in 2014 I wrote:

Because of the heat, we were out working on the land by 9.00 am and finished by 12.30 pm – exhausted and wet with sweat. We have just completed another level and, interestingly, a number of people – friends, taxi drivers, local farmers, lorry drivers all stopped to compliment us on our work. It makes no real difference but it was nice.

Cold pig for lunch. The pork had developed a wonderful flavour over night. Pauline knocked up a quick pear & onion compôte with cinnamon and ginger to go with it. How wonderful! She is so clever. We are also gorging on white-fleshed peaches at the moment.

May 2014 – Sifnos

Next year, 2021, will see my 70th birthday. It is our intention – Covid-19 allowing – to return for a couple of months to visit the ‘Poison Dwarf’. Maybe we can taker her a dose. I suspect she will be immune to all infection even so.

This evening, Sifniots in some vain hope of rescuing their ‘season’, are all out painting white lines.

Painting the white lines in Kamares Harbour.

This is a traditional, pre-Easter tradition which obviously was delayed by ‘lock-down’. Now the (mainly) women have been out this evening painting the white lines between the stone paving in Cycladic style.

Margarita Kalogirou – Stavros’ Mother

The lady out in the late evening sunshine today is Margarita who was always lovely to us, coming up to our house with meals she had cooked particularly Gigantes which she knew was a favourite of mine. We liked her particularly because she couldn’t stand the ‘Poison Dwarf’. Margarita’s husband, Nikos, died about 20 years ago now of heart failure. It is good to see her looking strong and happy.

Margarita supervising white line painting in the port of Kamares.

With their three main tourist bases – UK, Germany & Russia banned from entry, the season’s pickings will be thin and the winter will be hard.

Wednesday, 27th May, 2020

Up at 6.30 am on another glorious, glorious morning. We are at 16C/61F at the outset an 22C/70F by 11.00 am.. After a drink for Breakfast, we nipped round the corner to Roundstone Pick Your Own Farm. Broadbeans, Rhubarb and strawberries are currently available. We were just needing strawberries.

Star of fruit & field

My lovely mother-in-Law, Jane (Janie) Barnes lived to 96. We stayed in the North until she died. Almost exactly 40 years ago, we moved her into her own ‘sheltered’ apartment. We furnished it for her to get her started. When she died, we brought her lampshade that had survived from all those years ago and it is now featuring on our bedroom ceiling. The wine goblets she so proudly bought us we still use regularly. The napkin holder we bought for from Greece has come down here with us for our Dining Table.

When we moved down here and were looking for shrubs to fill our border, we couldn’t resist a Hardy Fuschia called Janie. We planted it in Spring of 2016. It is small just like Jane Barnes. After the first winter, it looked as if it had died. There was nothing to be seen. We came back from a short holiday to find that Janie had risen from the dead. That was another of her characteristics. She was a deceptively tough little fighter. You don’t get to 96 without resilience. She was known affectionately by Pauline & I as ‘Mump’. Well Mump or Fuschia Janie is really going for it this year. May isn’t even out but she has been in full flower for a couple of weeks. You just cannot keep a good Mump down.

Thursday, 28th May, 2020

Up at 6.00 am on another beautiful day in paradise. We are flying home at the end of our month in Tenerife today – well, actually, we are going shopping in Tesco. I drop Pauline off at the doors where she begins queueing at 7.00 am in 2nd place behind the same man who has been first on a Thursday for the last 8 weeks. By the time the doors open, the queue behind Pauline is double-banked to 100 yards away.

A Magnificent Acer.

Every week for the past 8 I have gone on a 5 mile walk round the local area in the sunshine. I start my walk at 7.00 am and try to get back by 8.30 am. I always do the same route because, as I’ve often reported before, I have absolutely no sense of direction or memory of routes I have previously been on. Most people are incredulous when I say that I still require sat.nav. to find my way confidently to shops I’ve visited almost every week in the past 4 years. Before anyone diagnoses Dementia, It has always been like this for me.

Smartphone Sat.Nav..

This morning I had walked for about 20 mins and was thinking about the sights, sounds and smells I encountered on my way – a tiny, nondescript baby wren hopped out of the bushes to talk to me without any fear whatsoever. A young, grey squirrel almost ran over my foot as it darted out of the undergrowth. Suddenly, on an ordinary residential street, I realised that I was approaching the magnificent image of a mature, Acer tree. Pauline tells me to fix things like that as landmarks in my memory to use to retrace my steps.

I never saw that Acer again. Suddenly, I woke from my thoughts and realised I didn’t know where I was going. I found myself walking down the side of a dual carriageway on the way to BRIGHTON! I admit it. I did have a bit of a panic at that moment. I had no real idea of how to get back to Tesco where the car was parked. I didn’t want to have to phone Pauline to come and collect me. After all, I didn’t know where to tell her to come to.

One for Sorrow

A symbol of my predicament lay dead on its back on the edge of the pavement. I can’t stand magpies generally. They have become ubiquitously dominant birds in our gardens although they do get bullied by seagulls. It looked unusually beautiful in death as its iridescent plumage shone out against the dull concrete. I took out my phone to photograph it and suddenly remembered we had put a sat.nav. app on my phone. I have hardly ever used Waze but it picks up one’s location and talks one through the directions to walk back to ….. TESCO. Isn’t life wonderful?

Friday, 29th May, 2020

Up a little late at 7.15 am to yet another warm, sunny day. Are we still in Greece? As every day blended in to every other day of clear, blue skies, and strong sunshine, we actually found ourselves longing for some rain, a little chilly wind, a change of season perhaps. According to the Met. Office, we are heading for the sunniest Spring on record – and one of the driest and warmest. Relentlessly it seems, the sun keeps beaming down in apparent disregard for those trying to abide by Lock-Down advice and stay at home as much as possible. It looks like the Spring months of March, April and May will have seen record amounts of sunshine.

We have spent so much time walking in sunshine, queueing for shops in sunshine and sitting in our back garden in sunshine. I am beginning to look like a walnut – certainly more brown than at this time in Greece where much of the time was spent trying to avoid the sun.

Don’t want you to get too excited but I am having my haircut this morning out on the patio. There is quite a strong breeze so I probably won’t have to sweep up afterwards. Half my head will be floating across the valley by the afternoon. The weather forecaster is predicting new clouds of Saharan dust falling over the next few days. If my hair arrives first, it could prove puzzling to local farmers.

Discussions with the Notary about our house sale this morning. I always find that unsettling. Here we are, sailing blissfully along and reality keeps trying to intrude. Never mind. All will be as it will be

Blog Entry – 29/5/2013
View from our house – May 2013

Sitting under the pergola overlooking the port and reading was the order of the day. Of course, there is rather a different mindset when the sun shines intensely and incessantly for more than half the year. In UK the appearance of strong sun is more of a rarity and to be made the most of. As a consequence, we tend to stay out far too long and burn. This Spring, we have been able to enjoy it Greek-style in confident knowledge that it will appear again tomorrow.

All the way from China.

Last night we went to bed at 12.00 am. This morning, I opened the front door at 7.15 am to find a huge box standing in front of me. It must have been dropped off by Yodel after midnight or before 7.00 am. it was our replacement griddle. the last one has done 4 year’s service but the heat controller has failed. I searched for a new one. It was identical to the first but half the price. It came from China but arrived within 5 days. This afternoon, it cooked the most perfect swordfish steak which we ate with homegrown salad. Delicious!

Saturday, 30th May, 2020

The penultimate day of May, 2020 has opened as a scorcher. As June approaches, we realise that we are sleepwalking through our 69th Summer without realising it. While closing down and claiming back for travel/stay bookings, we are closing down the Summer. We still have a faint hope of Athens at the end of August but it is no more than that.

Which way to the beach?

This morning, a scorching hot and sunny morning on the south coast of England, we set out around 10.00 am to Middleton beach. It is about 5 miles/8.5 kms away.The houses surrounding the beach are quintessentially affluent.

Sea Lane, Middleton on Sea

The beach is quiet and beautifully open. We walked for 30 mins towards Bognor Regis and 30 mins back again. We said, Good morning to lots of people and Hello, to lots of dogs who don’t understand time.

Middleton Beach – packed beyond belief.

Once again, the day has shot past. Our meal was Cod fillets wrapped in Parma Ham with Asparagus Spears and roast Cherry tomatoes. It was absolutely wonderful. I then had a lengthy job watering all our plant pots and trees in the garden.

Week 595

Sunday, 17th May, 2020

Warm with weak sunshine has started the day. We are forecast for cloud and sun today but followed by clear skies and strong sun with relatively hot weather for the rest of the week. We have had a fairly relaxing morning spoilt by watching Gove on the Marr programme arguing that no teachers or children will be put at risk by going back to school in a couple of weeks followed by admitting that he couldn’t guarantee their safety from catching Covid-19 but thought teachers should take pride in going back to their vocation, to follow their ‘Calling’ as if they had enrolled in some mystical sect. This man is so duplicitous, he gives politicians a bad name – which is saying something.

Gove on ‘Marr’.

The television screen is still in tact although it was a close run thing. This is fortunate because I have found a niche, German Historical Thriller set in post First World War Berlin. I quite like it after the first episode in spite of the subtitles. I found I forgot them pretty quickly.

Babylon Berlin is described as a German neo-noir drama which takes place in the seedy underbelly of Berlin during the Weimar Republic, starting in 1929. If I’m going to get in to fiction, it helps me to grapple with historical realities while I’m doing it.

Before that, we’ve got some gardening to complete plus a walk. Today, we are feeding and watering the lawns through this extended dry spell. We’ve almost forgotten what rain looks or feels like. We are completing the potting up of seedlings – bell peppers and some more basil plus sage, and mint.

That completed, we are doing an hour’s walk in the vicinity before settling down to roast salmon and home grown salad.

Managed to source a reasonable quantity of Protective Equipment: surgical gloves – 100 x small + 100 x large – and 50 x facemasks – which will take us through the next few months.

Monday, 18th May, 2020

Glorious morning with clear blue skies and strong sun from 6.00 am. What a great day to … put the bins out! All three – Black bag, Recycle and Garden Waste – will have been emptied by Lunchtime. The temperature was 16C/61F by 8.00 am and is forecast to be excellent throughout the week. Another dry week.

One of the features of the Lock-Down period has been virtually no rain. I think we have experienced anything significant on only one day in the past 7 weeks. I have been watering everything outside and particularly the lawns. I have a rectangular, oscillating sprayer which I’ve used for many years.

It will do a large area in one full sweep. It will actually cover a large part of my back lawn without adjustment. Unfortunately, there are a number of areas at the back and the front which need more targeted spraying. I also need to control the height so it doesn’t invade my neighbours’ gardens.

This morning we walked – ‘walked’! – to our local, large garden centre to buy an alternative. I wanted a multi-programmable, circular one which I can use to control the height and reduce the area of coverage. We were shocked to find long queues outside in the carpark. At least we were all in the beautiful sunshine. We’ve been thinking that for some time. All the shops with ‘socially-distanced’ queueing outside will have another problem when it rains. Customers are going to be far less likely to stand patiently in the driving rain. Certainly we will think again and choose places that have covered waiting areas.

Malvern Studio Pent

We spent an hour or so measuring up, drawing plans and coming to conclusions about the garden building that we will have erected in our back garden. It started as a covered cooking area. It developed as a storage area for garden tools and then, thanks to the pandemic’s effect on the Health Club, it has morphed in to an alternative gym area. For that reason, although we look like going with the style illustrated above, but just over 30% longer and 25% deeper.

Tuesday, 19th May, 2020

Up at 6.30 am on a very warm but cloudy start to the day. We were out to Sainsbury’s at 7.30 am as the sun was starting to glimmer. Pauline went in to shop and I set off for a walk. I walked to Rustington again.

The Virus tossed into the gutter.

As I did, this packaging was in the gutter and pedestrians were giving it a 2 metre distance. Who could blame them. It was the extra strong version.

The one thing which is not suffering in this Covid crisis is our Bank Balance. There are just so few places to spend money. Television Sport has been missing for a couple of months and the companies I use are not charging me at the moment. It’s not a great deal of cash but it’s better than a poke in the eye.

Sky Sports is saving us £23.00/€26.00 per month and BT Sports is not charging £16.00/€18.00 per month. If you add that £49.00/€55.00 to our monthly £150.00/€168.00 for the Health Club and we are up to a saving of £200.00 per month. We’ve already received refunds from Travel bookings of around £2,000.00/€2,234.00 and we have another £5000.00/€5,586.00 agreed will be returned. Things look as if our Greek trip might just be on at the end of August but everything will depend on EasyJet and the flight. Clearly we won’t be doing quarantine at either end of the trip or we won’t start it.

With so many people unemployed through this crisis, so many ‘Furloughed’ on reduced earnings and so many furloughed who will never be taken back to work, being comfortably retired is, for the moment at least, an enviable position. In fact, salary levels were only just beginning to return to the levels before the last crash in 2008 when we retired and now look set to be deflated again. In spite of optimism in a ‘V’ shaped recovery rather than an ‘L’ shaped one, the Chancellor is even today talking about long term ‘scarring’ in the economy with particular problems for the young just entering the workforce and the older workers who may never get back in after layoff. This is not a good time to be a worker.

Wednesday, 20th May, 2020

Welcome to mid-Summer. What a delight. It was like waking up on a morning in Greece. Deliciousness on the senses. This morning I experienced a moment of χαρούμενη σύμπτωση or happy coincidence. Every time I switch on my desktop computer, I am presented with a new and usually wonderful start up photograph which fills the screen. Yesterday, it was the Taj Mahal from the back. The day before it was the central square in Bruges. Today, I was thinking about Greece and whether we’d get there this summer when my screen opened up on the delightful Greek Island of Leros.

Lovely Leros
Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

After Breakfast, I liberated the tree I have been growing for the past 18 mnths from a seed pod picked up in Tenerife – November 2018. It was moved outside for the first time in its pot a couple of days ago and planted out this morning in the secluded, sunny spot behind the garage next to the fig trees.

The tree is a native of North Africa and grows to about 30 ft with bright red bracts of flowers. This one won’t. I predict it will feel quite happy until the end of September and early in October will beg to return to its home. If I stand it up straight currently, it would stretch to 6 ft but I won’t be able to repatriate it so we will part our ways.

It will be sad because I have looked after it for so long but we both just have to accept the transience of life. My tree will never reach maturity and I am conflicted about bringing it to this stage in the full knowledge that it will never look like this:

Delonix Regia – Mature Specimen

I mowed the lawns front and back and then, after a light Lunch, we set out for our walk in the woods on the perimeter of our Development. We went from bright sunshine and hot, fresh air to dark, cool and damp smelling vegetation as we walked down the woodland path.

The Cool Woodland Tunnel

All around us entrepreneurs, professionals, small business owners who have been able to afford property in this expensive area are beginning to look a bit vulnerable. All are talking only tentatively about their way forward. Nobody really knows and that is destabilising for confident go-getters with expensive, new houses with large BMWs and Mercedes in the drive. They live and ride on confidence which has been punctured by this crisis. Everybody is watching closely while holding their breath silently.

We, on the other hand, received a boost from our May trip to Tenerife. The company paid our cost back into our account this morning. Actually, they repaid more than our outlay because of the changing currency exchange rate. We bought when sterling was high and were paid back when sterling was lower. We would rather have had the trip but this, at least, is compensation.

Thursday, 21st May, 2020

May is running away. We would be completing our third week in Tenerife today.. Only one week to go is a feeling that sees optimism slide a little. We start to think of all the things to be done like book a taxi, check-in online for the flight, Make sure clothes are washed and reading for packing. Because we would be in the villa, we would be still buying in food but planning and managing how much we need. For example, with a week to go, we would be buying a joint of Swordfish and a joint of Tuna from the HiperDino Supermercado to get us through the week

We are not in Tenerife but we are in the sunshine. Up at 6.00 am, today is even hotter than yesterday which reached 254C/75F, by 9.30 am, I had already walked 5 miles/8 kilometres while Pauline was shopping in Tesco. I was walking mainly through typical coastal suburbia. Bungalows abound. Gardens are small but generally well maintained and shrubs we have struggled with for 40 years in Yorkshire grow abundantly and richly down here.

Coastal Suburbia

Back home we were visited by a Mediterranean man in a white van who dropped off 3kg of Swordfish, 3kg of Tuna and 2kg of Cod all packed in ice. The delivery man asked if he could come to Dinner because we had chosen his favourite fish. We apologised and said we didn’t think there would be enough to share.

Not Sifnos but Sussex

The above is the sort of sight one would see regularly in Sifnos with deliveries piled up outside a shop/taverna and left in the scorching sun with no concern for pilfering. Today, this scene is outside Subway next to Tesco in West Worthing.

Not wanting to rest on our laurels, Pauline set about portioning the fish into steaks and bagging it up for the chest freezer in the garage. Approximately 8 kilos of fish produced 15 excellent meals for two at an average cost of about £5.00 per person per portion. The quality is unrivalled and well worth the cost. While that was going on, I set about cleaning and valeting the car. Now that is exhausting especially as the temperature climbs to 25C/77F. Things got better as my gorgeous, little assistant finished her jobs and came out to help me complete my very arduous task.

Friday, 22nd May, 2020

A warm night opened with 16C/61F at 6.00 am but unusually grey skies. A weak sun broke through by mid-morning but it is rather windy so we decided not to go on the planned Pick-Your-Own trip round the corner at our local farm. Currently, they are open for Strawberries, Rhubarb and Broadbeans. We will probably go on Monday if the day is bright. Instead, Pauline is cooking and I’m searching for jobs to do. I have to vacuum the house at some point before we go out for our walk.

Just over 4 years ago, we bought a commercial, electric griddle/cooking plate. We have used it 2 or 3 times every week and, recently, the thermostatic controller has become unreliable so one of my jobs is to source a replacement.

A great way to cook fish and meat.

In this difficult, commercial world, prices are certainly under pressure. This one I’ve found this morning is less than half the price I paid 4 years ago

Since the start of Lock-Down, we have had an app on our iPads and smartphones which asks people to report whether they are well or have any Covid symptoms and whether they have had a Covid test. It is completed each day by well over 3.7 million people and informs a database analysis led by Kings College, London. It takes about 30 secs a day and may prove worth while. I’ve just completed it for the 50th consecutive day.

We did a 2hr walk before we ate and I was exhausted by it. We went down through the village towards Sainsbury’s. On the left is the fat dual carriageway and Sainsbury’s Superstore. On the right is old Angmering.

Is this Wheat or Barley? Who can tell?

The joy of our village is the mix of rural relaxation with suburban facility – on one side a superstore and on the other a cornfield. It is absolutely delightful. We only reached 19C/66F with a stiff breeze but it was a sweaty walk and we were pleased to get home. Our meal was cod goujons and green salad. Absolutely wonderful!

Saturday, 23rd May, 2020

Lovely but windy day. Quite warm all the same and we now know that it is going to get much warmer for the coming week. We nipped round to the PYO strawberry fields in the hope of giving Pauline a chance to make a few pounds of jam this weekend but, by 9.30 am, it was absolutely packed. We turned round and drove to the beach which was virtually deserted. The tide was coming in and there were one or two windsurfers and a canoeist in the sea. One man had a couple of fishing rods set up to catch a Sea Bass, Plaice, Grey Mullet or two.

A deserted Rustington Beach

We walked on the beach as the tide came in. The air was delicious and the sun warm. It was surprising how quickly the tide did come in and the sand we walked on one way had disappeared by the time we turned to go back. We moved higher up the beach for our return as the waves of the turning tide crashed on the pebbles.

A wind swept girl.

Pauline loves this. I like it but there is something elemental and, maybe, in her memory banks that is satisfied by this experience. We walked for an hour or so and then drove home for coffee.

Blurry mage of 1950.

My lovely sister, Ruth, is 73 today. It is amazing to think this photograph was taken 70 years ago and the year before I was born. It would explain why she is so much more wrinkly than me but it is still a shock. When we review our lives and I’m not sure how much Ruth does of that but I do it constantly, the change is immense.

Instead of moving forward from 1950 to today, try moving back 70 years to 1880. From candlelight, oil lamps to electricity. from horse and cart to steam and combustion engine. From cottage industry to Factory production line. From steam ship to air travel. From printing press to radio and television. from telegraph to telephone. So much changed.

In my view, however, so much more has changed in Ruth’s lifetime. The development of communication via television, mobile phone, internet has absolutely transformed the world. The jet engine and the electric car are totally demolishing the ancien régime. Ruth talked to me this morning about conducting Zoom nights with her extended family during this pandemic crisis. Imagine that 73 years ago. At that time, Dad had just finished building his own transistor radio to listen to the BBC News. I inherited part of that but not the technical bit.

Week 594

Sunday, 10th May, 2020

Lovely, warm morning which has reached 22C/70F by 11.00 am but rather grey and overcast which comes as something of a shock after the past few weeks. By 2.00 pm, it has started to rain gently but is providing a real tonic for the lawns and shrubberies.

We have decided, mainly because of the weather, to forgo our daily walk and do other things at home. Pauline prepared roast chicken with sage & onion stuffing accompanied by roasted carrots & parsnips and cauliflower & broccoli for our afternoon meal. I vacuumed the house. In the mean time, we are discussing alternatives to travel in the short term. Probably, like many people, we are looking to invest in/upgrade our home facilities if we are to spend more time here. We have long been talking about extending our patio flagging. Talk has always been terminated by the observation that we will be away a lot so let’s put it off until we’re older.

This pandemic has suddenly made us feel older. We are beginning to draw in our horns ad to consider time at home. We are also spending so little money. If only investment packages made our involvement worthwhile. Not only have we talked about extending flagged areas of our garden but we’ve anticipated erecting a formal, garden kitchen. It looks like a good way to invest for our future.

A nice environment for a garden kitchen.

We will use this building to put in kitchen staging with a series of electrical sockets and lighting. We will install a large, commercial griddle, a electric hob, a deep fat fryer and a wood-fired oven. This building is sold at an outlet which is within walking distance of our house. We are inundated with firms wanting to lay flags in our garden. If we are limited in our travel this summer, it looks an opportune time to do the work.

2005 Ashes – the magic of Flintoff

I don’t know about you but I am missing watching sport. Strangely, I am missing cricket more than football. This afternoon, I watched the 2005 Ashes Test series. I knew the result of each match and yet I still got seriously nervous, frustrated, ecstatic as the matches unfolded. I was told off by my wife for screaming uncontrollably as we won the Ashes. It didn’t stop me.

Monday, 11th May, 2020

A cooler, greyer, breezier day. Much of it was spent at home fiddling around with small jobs that amounted to very little. It is looking possible that our Athens hotel could receive us but our Easyjet flight might not take us in mid-August. It’s possible that we will get a break in France sooner.

60 years of life demolished in days.

We went for a 90 min walk which has settled in to a daily routine. We walk around our Development and past the new building work where a huge, old house in a couple of acres garden is being demolished to make way for a new Care Home. We wonder if it will be ready in time for us. The partly demolished building is at the stage where we can peer over the wall and see inside the bedrooms which have been exposed. We stare in fascination although it feels almost indecently nosey.

I can’t help but think of the lives that have been lived, the loves that have been experienced and the sadnesses felt in those rooms. All now gone from the earth. It reminded me of the day I saw my old school in its last vestiges of crumbling façade as it was levelled to the ground in preparation for its redevelopment as private housing. In this case, many of my own years of experiences were being swept away but also those of many others I had known – some dead, some having moved on. Hopes and dreams had either been dashed or rewarded; relationships maintained, strengthened or broken and dissipated.

These uplifting considerations populated my thoughts as we walked down the woodland path which presented its own signs of demolition.

The strengthening winds of last night had brought a healthy young tree down and it was now blocking our path. Of course, being impetuous youngsters, we scrambled over it and continued on our way. I even considered trying to move it myself but was instructed not even to try. Of course, I always do as I’m told.

Tuesday, 12th May, 2020

We were up at 5.30 am for no other reason than the sun was streaming in and a cup of tea was calling. Freshly squeezed orange and tea and then out at 7.30 am to ….. Sainsburys. The morning was glorious and, while Pauline shopped, I walked to the nearby town of Rustington. Rather as its name suggests, Rustington is dominated by the older generation. It is a little chintzy and sentimental and, in these dangerous times, fairly deserted.

Sunny … Quiet … Rustington

I didn’t realise how easy it was to walk here. I have only driven in the past. By the time I’d got back to Sainsbury’s, Pauline was loading her bags in to the boot. Just for fun and from a distance of 30 mtrs, I remotely shut the boot on her head. As a result, I was told off for being reckless.

We both got over the fun, drove home, unpacked, had coffee and then set off for the beach.

Middleton Beach

Today we went to Elmer & Middleton Beaches. They are about a 10 – 15 mins drive away. When we got there, they were almost deserted save for a few dog walkers.

Elmer Beach

We walked for 30 mins or so in this lovely environment. It is too lovely and too peaceful. It fills visitors with absolute joy.

Middleton Beach

By the time we had arrived back home, a bit of cloud cover was arriving and the air felt cooler. We were going to sit out in the garden but thought better of it. There will be plenty of warmer, sunnier days to come … as long as we live.

Wednesday, 13th May, 2020

Crimson Peonies

Nice, bright sunny morning although a little on the sharp side. We went out fairly early for a 90 mins walk. It was still tee-shirt and shorts weather for exercise. The gardens down here are so much more advanced than in the North. We used to feature Peonies in our garden in Yorkshire. They were at their crimson, blowsy best just as we were going away for Wakes Holidays in the last week of June. Here, they are in full bloom now – about six weeks earlier.

Our nearest Garden Centre.

Planting is really spectacular in this village as we have found on our daily walks during lock-down. Of course, it used to be totally dominated by Horticultural industries – acres of glass houses which grew and supplied outlets with herbs and salad vegetables, vineyards, garden centres, garden designers, etc.. A number of those enterprises have be sold on for new housing including where we are but we still have around 4 garden centres and 2 vineyards within walking distance. Today, the biggest and nearest garden centre, Haskins, has reopened. Joy of joys. We will there in the next few days.

As a result, the local gardens seem to be well stocked with interesting and less usual plants. On our walks, we have been marvelling at the quality of the Ceanothus flowering profusely in deep blue and gorgeous, pendulous racemes of mauve/pink Wisteria set against Sussex stone.

Dramatic waterfall of white Wisteria.

On the corner of an older house just a little way down from our house, a white Wisteria Alba has been developing. Just as the pink ones are fading, the white one is in full bloom. I’ve never seen one before and I love it now I have.

Thursday, 14th May, 2020

Glorious if rather cool start to the morning at 6.00 am. We were out at 6.50 am and off to Tesco in West Durrington. Pauline queued up at number 2 in the list while I set off for a walk. This is a fascinating area that neither of us know anything about. I walked for about 75 minutes which was plenty but meant Pauline had only just entered the store at 8.00 am to start shopping. She had mask and gloves on. I was unencumbered.

I was interested to go past something I spotted the other day. A working class response to hardship and being a third class citizen.

St. Symphorian’s Church & Working Men’s Club

I have never heard of St. Symphorian and had to find out about him. I found that Symphorian was a Christian executed in Autun near Dijon in France. Flavius Heraclius, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in the first century AD had Symphorian’s head chopped off for refusing to worship pagan gods. Why? I’d have readily worshipped a packet of crisps to keep my head. Still, I suppose I wouldn’t have had a church dedicated to me. Oh dear!

The St Symphorian Church was established in Durrington in the 13th Century and rebuilt in the 17th Century.

St Symphorian’s Church, Durrington, West Sussex.

Poor deluded people were persuaded that religion would explain and ameliorate their poverty and inequality, that they would be compensated in death for what the rich had received in life. I know which I would prefer. Religion certainly was the opium of the people. As the poet and C-of-E vicar, Charles Kingsley wrote, the bible is a mere book to keep the poor in order. Interesting to find a Working Men’s Club next door although I can find no history of its inception.

Friday, 15th May, 2020

Straight lines of gardening delight.

Today is gardening day. We don’t have to shop. We don’t have to go anywhere. We have some regular jobs to get through even on this sunny morning but the core of the day is gardening. I am mowing the lawns before the garden refuse men come for my bin on Monday. It’s an extra, ‘paid-for’ service but well worth the money. While we are not able to travel, I have taken it on myself to look after all the street-side lawns of my road. The couple across the road are 80+ and fitter than me but I tell them I’m working for Help-the-Aged.

I love the natural world and love to identify and remember all the Latin names of the plants, shrubs and trees that I see. I love trying to grow plants and sometimes successfully. One of the early hobbies Pauline & I found we had in common was gardening. I was fascinated to find a joint love of growing plants was where it began and ended. While Pauline likes natural disorder (in my eyes) and unstructured collections of plants which mimic the anarchy of Nature, my eye cannot cope with that and immediately needs to tame and structure the natural world with classical symmetry.

Nature enhancing the human world.

The joy I get after cutting the lawn, edging it with my electric strimmer and sweeping away the cuttings to reveal that clean, straight line of grass neatly butting up to patio flags is immense. You will notice above the pot of geraniums which I’ve allowed to be placed to slightly break the lines. After a deep breath, I can cope with that. Compromise is what marriage is about.

Pauline does have her uses. She is a little more delicate and considered than I am. When I was 6 years old, I will never forget running excitedly out of the classroom in my little, village school and, in my eagerness to get out, I knocked my teacher’s cup of tea off her dais-mounted desk. Miss Marlor, a kindly, grey haired lady near retirement from teaching in 1957, called me back and lectured me on the impetuosity of St Peter. I understood the analogy and knew what she had identified in me.

Unfortunately, bull-in-a-china-shop impetuosity has remained with me ever since. I try to temper it and do sometimes manage but it is always my first instinct. Because of that, jobs which need care and subtlety like sowing seeds and potting up seedlings are done by Pauline. Jobs which require physical strength and brute force are done by me. Like Jack Spratt and his wife, we complement each other.

Today we potted up home grown tomato and basil plants some of which are going outside. We are already eating huge amounts of our own lettuces. Tomorrow we will pot up our bell peppers but we’ll need a trip to the Garden Centre first. Thank goodness it’s open. Thought I’d include this delightful photo from the front of The Times this morning. It was taken by a teacher who was in her garden participating in a Zoom conference call with colleagues. As she held her smartphone, a robing came to say, Hello. Don’t you just love robins? There are so many around this year.

Saturday, 16th May, 2020

Officially, we should be into our 3rd week in a villa in Tenerife. Of course, we’re not. We’re sitting at home in West Sussex wondering if we’ll ever travel again. It is looking more and more as if this year is over which is rather a depressing thought. It wasn’t helped by an photo sent from Sifnos this morning.

Kamares Today – Beautiful but Lonely.

They are going entering an early heatwave of 40C/104F but without the benefit of tourists. That is hot although were in Athens one year to buy floor tiles for our house when we experienced 43C/109.F. I could barely walk. Greece has just confirmed a continued ban on passenger flights to and from Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. We are supposed to flying to Athens in late August and have been really looking forward to the newly refurbished Omonia Square.

Newly refurbished Omonia Square.

Omonoia Square – Πλατεία Ομονοίας, Plateía Omonoías, –  Concord Square is one of the oldest squares in the city of Athens. It is located at the centre of the city at the intersection of six main streets: Panepistimiou, Stadiou, Athinas, Peiraios, Agiou Konstantinou Street and 3rd Septemvriou Street. If we can’t go in August, we have already decided that we will try to go October/November. We’ve only been once before in Winter which was after we had sold and were repatriating a large amount of money from an Athens bank. Nervous but successful times.

Week 593

Sunday, 3rd May, 2020

Feels quite chilly at 6.30 am at it was just 9C/48F. The contrast between the micro and the macro level of my world experience is immense. From reading, analysing and railing against Trumpian America, social Europe and the eugenics of Tory Britain to sourcing our own PPE and tending lettuces in the back garden. All of this flashes across my mind over Breakfast.

I’ve rejected the idea of injecting myself with bleach. I hate injections. From Day-1 of the lock down, I have been advocating the use of facemasks for personal and social protection and always thought that this disgraceful government manipulated ‘expert’ advice for their own purposes. Having not followed up the pandemic planning and committed cash to stockpile enough PPE for the future, they had to dissuade the public from buying up stocks of PPE and so depleting that available for the NHS.

At least I chose plain green.

In just the same way, Staying at home, closing schools and social distancing has been the mantra until someone who wanted/needed to get the economy going again suddenly ‘discovered’ that social distancing is perhaps not so important, children do not suffer from or transmit the virus to others and staying at home is just as dangerous to mental health and well being so the economy can get going again as long as we all carry a Government led tracker on our phones. No!

Many of you will remember that mad man, Keith Joseph, who was Education Secretary under Thatcher-the-milk-Snatcher between 1981 – 1986. When the Tories wanted to cut the Education budget and employ less teachers, Keith Joseph, who declared his Conservatism was founded in Christian Democracy and who was educated at Harrow public school where classes were so small they could happily self-isolate, argued that it was a well known fact that children learnt much better in very large classes. He was neither Christian nor democratic in that regard but his disingenuousness is reflected in the latest pandemic policies of his Tory successors as they clapped in the Commons at defeating the nurses pay claim and then clapped on the street to show their appreciation for the nurses ‘cheap’ commitment to saving lives.

I’m going to be eating a lot of lettuce!

Back on the ground, in spite of chilly weather, the lettuce leaves are growing quite rapidly. I have chosen cut-&-come-again leaves which incorporate soft green leaves, Ruby, Oak-leaved variety, Rocket, Frieze and Mizuna. When this is combined with basil leaves and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, it is absolutely delicious. I will successionally sow them and hope they take us through the Summer or until we go away – whichever comes first.

Monday, 4th May, 2020

Lovely day in which we did very little. We prepared all our documents for our latest insurance claim. It involved scanning in documents, highlighting relevant areas, turning them into PDF files and preparing them for uploading. Actually, it’s a quite a long winded process but, when you consider it’s worth around £5,000.00/€5,720.00, then the couple of hours is well worth it.

When the whole process has been completed, there is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from untangling a mess of loose leads and we can relax. Actually, it gives one a real sense of the strength of one’s claim. Of course, we didn’t relax. We went out for a 90 mins walk in the woodland path around our development. The birds were at full hue and cry in their search for mates and defence of territory. Back home, Pauline griddled the most wonderful Tuna Steaks in the garden which we ate with salad. Life felt good.

Stranded in Greece

I’ve been following the unfolding story of a German couple who have been stranded on the Peloponnese in their campervan since the Greek lock-down. Each year they spend six months touring Greece before returning to Germany. They are stuck and they say they know of at least six other couples in the same position but with properties in the country.

It is six years since we left Sifnos. We would set off for our drive across Europe at the end of March and return at the beginning of October. We crossed the borders of Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and, finally, Greece.

We sold 6 years ago in July.

The current situation would have ensured that our house stood empty and unmaintained for at least a year. We would have been extremely frustrated. One can only imagine what those stranded in a campervan are feeling.

Tuesday, 5th May, 2020

Gorgeous pink-purple sky last night and a beautiful day with blue sky opening up this morning. I’m really getting in to this new shopping mode. It is really easy for me. I drive to the chosen supermarket and Pauline goes shopping. I use the spare time to get some exercise. On Tuesdays, it is Sainsbury’s which has a football pitch size, underground carpark. Last week it was raining so I walked round the perimeter in the dry. This week it is warm and sunny so I’ve ventured outside and across the shopping park development, past Pets at Home and Halfords, on past the extensive Dunelm to the leafy path towards Rustington.

Burgeoning Nature eschews the Lock Down.

Things are definitely changing. The store opened at 8.00 am and we arrived 10 mins after. Pauline was able to walk straight in and almost had the store to herself. There was nothing she couldn’t get apart. Of course, the wet fish counter has gone. Wonder if it will ever come back? Anyway, we have found such a brilliant supplier that we probably won’t need it. The roads were very busy. People round here are certainly anticipating change. To be blunt we haven’t really let it cramp our style with the exception of travel.

Interesting thread on social media from ex-pupils and ex-(young)-colleagues. Pupils have been asking after our welfare which is nice but the staff who were young when we left but are now in middle age are throwing copious amounts of cold water on the idea of going back or sending their children back to school safely. Anybody who has any experience of education management will know immediately that it is impossible to get children to socially distance. It would be like herding cats. Corridors, old classrooms

Wednesday, 6th May, 2020

Up late today at 6.50 am on a beautiful, sunny morning with clear skies. After breakfast, we were straight down to the Office to officially file our insurance policy claim for our May Tenerife Holiday. The claim comes to around £5,000.00/€5,720 so is not insubstantial but we are confident of getting it all repaid. It may take about four weeks but it will come. The £700.00/€800.00 for the easyJet flights will also come but it will probably be 6 months in the wait. We uploaded all our documentary evidence and then felt satisfied that the nagging injustice had been, temporarily, removed.

Littlehampton Promenade

We went on to do gardening in the sunshine. Pauline trimmed the hedges until she was shaking with the stress of the hedging tool. I mowed the lawns and all the street-side edging strips.

After lunch of homemade soup, we went to the eye clinic for my Diabetic Retinopathy check up. It was very different from any other I had ever been to. I was the only client present. The clinician came to greet me at the door of the building completely suited in PPE. I was taken up alone while Pauline waited in the carpark. My pupils were dilated with drops and then my eyeballs were photographed. In a couple of weeks, I will hear of the results.

Serious Social Distancing on the Beach.

We drove back via the seaside where there were crowds of people walking along the coastal path along with dogs and cyclists, skateboarders and joggers. Nobody seemed to be bothered about spacing or health aspects. All seemed intent on socialising rather than isolating. Do they know the dangers?

Back home, we griddled swordfish steaks – the best we have ever eaten – with home grown salad. The meal was quite delightful. We have completed our exercise targets for 50/56 days of Lock Down which we think demonstrates good self-discipline. Most people agree that we won’t be going back to the Health Club any time soon so walking the local area will continue.

Thursday, 7th May, 2020

Up at 6.00 am and out by 6.45 am to Tesco on a glorious, warm and sunny morning. We have accidentally fallen in to a pattern of Pauline shopping while I exercise. Tesco opens at 8.00 am so, when we arrived an hour early, Pauline was 3rd in the queue. I left her reading her phone and set off to walk to our Health Club. The day was delightful and the bird song was wonderful as I walked. It took me about 30 mins.

David Lloyd Health Club – abandoned.

After a walk round the Health Club car park to take some pictures and then a walk back, Pauline had been in the store shopping for about 10 mins.

The queueing at Tesco this morning. … Just wait till it rains!

By this stage, the double-backed queue stretched to infinity and was constantly growing. Before joining the shopping queue, there was a queue to get a shopping trolley. It really does pay to go early not least because, for all their efforts, supermarkets are fairly slow to re-stock the shelves so being first means a wider choice.

Back home before 9.00 am, we have a lovely, sunny day in the back garden to enjoy. Pauline is out there now using her new skipping rope which she hasn’t done for at least 40 years and she’s breathing quite heavily. This skipping rope has digital handles which allow her to input her weight, set the time and it will out put her total ‘skips’ and ‘calories burned’. If she doesn’t collapse completely, she will continue with her bread dough which is rising outside in the warm sunshine. I’ve been marinating (garlic, dill, salt, pepper and olive oil) boneless chicken thighs for griddling out in the garden this afternoon.

Friday, 8th May, 2020

Wonderful day of long, hot, sunny hours. We were up early before 7.00 am. After a liquid Breakfast, I set the sprinkler system up to water the back lawn because it has been so dry. We don’t have any sign of rain in the next couple of weeks so the grass must be supported.

The media was dominated by VE Day. Victory in Europe Day celebrates the Allied Forces defeat of Nazi Germany’s armed forces, marking the end of World War II in Europe. Who could not wish to celebrate that? Well I have a serious problem with the way it is presented. The British Nationalists like to have us believe that Brits won it unaided. Actually, it wouldn’t have happened at all without the allies which included – apart from U.S. – Poland, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Luxembourg plus lots of non-European countries. UK has always belonged to and needed Europe to support it.

VE Day morphs in to Brexit which morphs in to Covid-19 compliance.

Currently, it is not possible to be objective about these ‘celebrations’. Is it right to be celebrating the defeat of a fellow European friend? Our next door neighbour is German. We don’t mention the war. We are going to need a strong relationship with Germany in the future. As we went on our neighbourhood walk today, slightly less than a quarter of the houses were advertising their Nationalism. There is a paradigm shift of ideas which integrates base Nationalism, Brextremism, Boris-worship and Tory policy on Covid-19 control. It is a bit like National Front made (marginally) respectable.

A Tweet from this morning rather succinctly summarised my view:

Don’t wave your Union Jack in my face. A lot of us, each in our own ways, fight against the nationalism, racism and xenophobia that gave birth to Nazism everyday of our lives. That’s why we opposed and oppose #Brexit. #VEDay2020

Boris Johnson, under pressure from Keir Starmer at PMQs, hinted blunderingly that the Lock-Down would be lifted at the end of the week. It was another sign of his inability to control the situation. So many people have taken it as a hint that they can go where and when they want. The roads around here are roaring with a back-to-normal traffic flow. Barbecues are being fired up for ‘Patriotic’ street parties. The Tories are going to find it hard to hold on to the public’s coat tails for another month.

Saturday, 9th May, 2020

If there can be a better day than today, please let me see it. Up at 7.00 to 16C/61F with lovely sunshine. After Breakfast, we drove down to the beach for a walk. It was still fairly quiet although the roads were quite busy.

Littlehampton Beach – 27C/81F by 10.30 am.

The tide was out and the sand was empty. We walked for miles in the sunshine with the soothing sound of the waves gently lapping the shore. It was idyllic! There is something timeless and eternal about the sea that strikes to the heart of humankind.

The Tenerife seedpod tree

After driving back home, I used my electric rake to rake thatch out of the back lawn. It looked wonderfully healthy with its green/blue iridescence after I had finished striping it. I then watered the front lawn and the roadside verge for a couple of hours with my automatic sprayer as we went out for a walk. Back home, our lunch out in the heat of the garden was green lettuce leaves, sweet cherry tomato halves and smoked salmon with a few prawns. Absolutely joyous!

I turned my attention to the seedlings/plants. The seedpod I grew into a tree is now over 5ft tall. It is champing at the bit to be planted out but is unaware that cooler nights are on the way. I am determined to plant it out in June and let it enjoy a few months of Sussex sky before the winter cool brings an end to its life. It would be lovely to see it flower crimson red before then but we can only hold our breath.

As it is, today has been wonderful. I feel so fortunate to be alive and enjoying this time with my lovely wife. What more can any man want or expect?