Week 690

Sunday, 13th March, 2022

Bit of a shock this morning. We were out at the old 6.00 am (FT) now 7.00 am (FT) because the clocks had gone forward two weeks before the UK. It was a bit chilly as we walked to the gym. Two hours later, I returned for coffee and the Sunday Times on my iPad. I sat with my leg up with an ice pack for a chunk of the day watching a couple of Premier League matches – Chelsea v Newcastle and Arsenal v Leicester. I enjoyed it.

We are going out for yet another meal and then, when we get home, I will ‘check-in’ on the JetBlue app for our flight to New York tomorrow. We leave from Sarasota airport in the evening and get to JFK International at 9.00 pm.

New York Central Station

I’ve got a list of places I want to visit from Times Square where we are staying. I am not a tourist and refuse to do all the must-see sights. I want to soak up the atmosphere and understand the people and their culture. I want to visit Little Italy and China Town along with Central StationGround Zero, etc.

Pier22 restaurant

We ate out again tonight at a dockside restaurant called Pier22. We ate pleasant fish and vegetables although it got quite chilly as the evening went on. Leaving for the airport mid-afternoon tomorrow. M&K have kindly offered to drive us there. We probably won’t get into our hotel in Times Square until 10.00 pm (FT)/4.00 am (GMT).

Monday, 14th March, 2022

This is going to be quite moving day. Well, we are flying to New York from Sarasota am (FT), out to the gym for 2hrs work. Back for coffee and then a 30 mins swim. Packing for colder weather in NY. Doing on-line Check-in; making sure our smartphones have pdfs of our Boarding Passes and asking M to print a hard copy for backup. Making sure everything is charged up and that we have all the required chargers packed.

We only have one check-in bag for the time we are there and carry-on luggage. M&K will drop us at the Main Terminal. Looking forward to exploring it.

These are all firsts which, at the age of 70, is quite nice. It will be our first flight on a JetBlue plane.

Amazing to think this internal flight is 3hrs or longer than to Italy or Spain from London. We are told there is little ceremony and internal flights are so commonplace here that they are treated like bus journeys.

Tuesday, 15th March, 2022

Yesterday was one of the more bizarre travelling days we’ve had for a while. M&K dropped us at the airport just after 3.00 pm as we requested. We were supposed to be flying at 6.00 pm on a 3hr flight to New York. Almost immediately, we found that there would be a delay of just under an hour. Not a problem. We were in a new and interesting airport. However, as 6.00 pm stretched to 8.00 pm, it was becoming a bit tedious.

We boarded at 8.00 pm but were told that we couldn’t use the ’bathroom’ because they were waiting for a spare part to fix it. It would be about 30 mins. That 30 mins sitting on the plane stretched to an hour and then 2 hrs before we took off around 10.00 pm just 4 hrs late. We landed in JFK at around 20 mins after midnight around 9 hrs after we started.

Our bag came off quickly and we set off to find a yellow cab. We were allocated one, gave the driver the name and address of our hotel in Times Square and asked for a price. It was exactly what we had researched at $52.00 + $3.00 taxes. The driver was a Greek Cypriot with family in Brighton, West Sussex. He said he’d been driving in the New York for many years and we settled back to enjoy our introduction to the city.

Things took a slightly weird turn as Andreas started telling us about his two wives and how he had recently hired two prostitutes who had robbed him of his money. He seemed to be struggling to find our well known hotel. Anyway, we did eventually get there and Andreas proudly announced it was only 1.00 am. He was a bit shocked when I pointed out that it was actually 2.00 am. He had forgotten that clocks went forward on Sunday.

We paid him $70.00 and checked in to our Hotel. The Suite with a terrace is pleasant but not huge and the lights from the buildings around are like Blackpool on steroids!

Anyway, this morning is a beautiful day. The weather is warm and sunny so we’ve probably brought a lot of unnecessary clothes. We have been down to get a ’Grab & Go’ breakfast and there is a ’free’ (We like that!”) acclimatisation, 2hr walking tour that the hotel offers and we are going with that this morning. Sending our love to all our readers from the Big Apple. Let you know later how it goes.

I’m not really a fan of these organised ’walks’ but it was extremely useful and a quick orientation to the place and its history.

We – 8 of us including 3 American women, a Glaswegian couple and our tour guide – walked around Times Square, learning about how the block road/property system made getting around easy and quite a bit of the history of its development. We moved on to the Rockfeller Plaza and the United Nations principles of its founder which became wrapped up in Capitalism and Communism as competing ideologies.

Rockefeller Plaza

Everything about this area makes it difficult to photograph. I went dizzy just trying. You can see the need to build upwards rather than outwards because of the premium on footprint but the multi million dollar apartments on the 26th floors of some of the buildings would give me nightmares. Just think of the danger of fires!

We broke the rules of the past decade and ate PIZZA today. After all that walking and fresh car fumes, we were starving. We found a little Italian sandwich shop which made huge, fresh pizzas with about 20 different toppings just as we’d buy in Italy as we travelled through. We bought 3 slices and shared them for Lunch and they were delicious but sinful and filling.

It has been a lovely day after only about 4 hours sleep. Our first day in New York will never be forgotten like so many wonderful experiences of our lives. A wise person once said that you never forget two things – your first love and your first day in New York City. Well our introduction to this city will linger long in my memory even over the delights of Mary with the long, blonde hair.

Wednesday, 16th March, 2022

A long, hot and tiring day but very rewarding. Against all my usual instincts, we’ve done the tourist thing.

  1. Breakfast in the Art Deco Diner of our 1930s Edison Hotel which was lit and opened by Thomas Edison of light bulb invention fame. Our hotel, which was extensively used in Sex in the City, has proved a good choice

2. Visit Grand Central Station which is still a fantastic structure although the pandemic has rather hollowed out many of the more interesting traders especially the food ones.

3. On to the Empire State Building which was closed to visitors until afternoon. I didn’t want to go up there anyway.

4. We walked around Macy’s but, like so many other Department Stores, it looked a bit seedy and fraying at the edges. We weren’t there long.

Clothes Shopping kills me more than any other activity in the world. We returned to our hotel for coffee and to watch a download of Prime Minister’s Questions. Refreshed by a dose of politics, we went out to walk down to the Hudson River in the most beautiful and warm Spring sunshine. 

Although I have done almost my entire fitness commitment for the day, I’ve spent a short while in the gym to top it up and wind down. Kevin has been communicating with me about watching Huddersfield Town v Milwall and bemoaning finally losing just as we were going out to eat at a lovely Italian restaurant we had found during our walks.

I’m really enjoying talking to and being involved in the lives of old friends. I’m not sure why but it has a sort of pleasing circularity for me as I renew old relationships. Julie contacted me this morning to ask how our trip was doing and to share a new print she was working on. She is redesigning her conservatory with light and a large table to do her art work on. I like to know this sort of detail about people. It really helps me to understand them and most feel quite happy to share it.

Thursday, 17th March, 2022

Glad we filled the past two days with so much because today has been wet. I had no idea that we had booked St Patrick Day’s celebration week but Manhattan has gone mad. There are Americans dressed as their Irish ancestors everywhere. The bars, restaurants and hotels are overflowing with ’green people’.

After an hour in the gym, we went out to 5th Avenue t0 watch the procession. Actually, the city police have kept everyone at quite a distance. I had to take photographs over the heads of the drunken crowds.

Couldn’t put up with this for long!

New York television has been making much of the fact that human connections have been severely disrupted by the pandemic. People have craved human connection and the Irish, in particular, have been desperate to reconnect. I know what they mean. I have been hugely lifted by reconnection with my past and with members of my friends and family who I have been distant from for so long. I hope they are reading this. I would like to think Jane is reading this and understands.

As I sit here in my hotel suite in Times Square, New York, writing my Blog and feeling strangely sad, I have just been contacted by an Oldham lad who was born in the year I started teaching. He is 50 this year and addresses me as ‘Sir’. Mind you, I insist my wife does as well. The internet is the most wonderful thing. We should never be afraid of it but embrace and exploit its ability to bring us together. Looking forward to a trip back to the North of England to meet up with friends and relatives just as much as I can’t wait to revisit France and Greece this summer.

Too late, we found that friends of ours from over 40years ago were staying a couple of streets away having arrived in New York last night and Pauline was trying to contact her relative who we both taught many years ago and who has lived in Boston for years. Actually, we are resolved to revisit my boyhood friend in Boston, Massachusetts and her relative next time we are here.

Friday, 18th March, 2022

Up early on a day that is sunny and bright. New Yorkers are celebrating the prediction that they will beat 70F/22C today. How unlucky were the Irish yesterday? These buildings, waking to a bright sun today, were shrouded in fine rain and mist yesterday. We are flying back to sunny Florida and a temperature of 30C/86F this morning. I’ve been in the hotel gym for a couple of hours between 6.00 – 8.00 am and had breakfast while Pauline packed. Instead of a mad, Greek taxi driver, we will be taken to the airport by the hotel shuttle which will cost half the price and take less than half the time.

Actually, the shuttle driver turned out to be a mad ’hippy’ who thought he was a comedian. His driving certainly suited him to it. Anyway, we were at JFK airport, Terminal 5 (internal flights) by 12.oo pm with 2hrs before our flight ….. except, once again, it wasn’t. As we dropped off our bags and went ’airside’, my JetBlue app messaged me with a 50 mins delay. We decided to have a drink at one of the many outlets in this one of 8 different vast terminals. As we sat down, my app informed me of a second delay of an hour +and we now know that we will be more than 3 hrs late.

Passing the time – Terminal 5 at JFK

We decided to have a meal and, just as in France, this most ordinary and commercial of outlets produced the most lovely meal. We shared a mixed-leaf salad with olives and feta cheese followed by pan-fried salmon with grilled vegetables. It was lovely. I am still there, with a cup of coffee and my iPad, writing up my Blog.

You couldn’t invent the next bit. Delay built on delay. Excuse built on excuse. We were told that the crew couldn’t be found, Air Traffic Control had forbidden take-off, a rocket had fallen on Sarasota Airport. Eventually, 2.00 pm became 7.30 pm and we took off. We landed in Sarasota by 10.30 pm. We waited a further hour for our baggage and long suffering M&K met us at the airport. By 11.30 pm, we were drinking red wine with cheese. Just right for bedtime.

Saturday, 19th March, 2022

We weren’t in bed until 2.00 am and the alarm went off at 5.55 am. Out to the gym at 6.55 am. Because of the hour forward, it was still dark and moonlit and very warm – 22C/70F. As we flew back from JFK to Sarasota last night, I vainly tried to photograph the full moon through the window.

As I walked to the gym this morning that same moon was shining down through the palm trees and over the pool. The sky was dark but cloudless.

I did a couple of hours in the gym and felt really tired after it. It’s not surprising, I suppose, after a hard week and little sleep. Even so, we have quite a busy day ahead. We are going to see the new house that M&K are buying, followed by a trip to see Dan’s University which he will attend after the Summer. Finally, we will go out to eat.

Kevin, who is heavily into Fine Art, sent me this over Whatsapp yesterday. He’s a happy, little chap. Certainly, flying between Florida – New York and back highlighted the mask use in America. Florida is very relaxed with fairly low observance whereas New York is the opposite probably because of the density of population. All airports and public transport demanded complete compliance on the pain of being stopped from travelling at all.

M&K drove us out to see their new, Winter home that they have just bought. It is in lovely, open countryside and has extensive grounds as well as a huge number of huge rooms. They are going to be very happy there and have very kindly extended an open invitation to us. I have a feeling they may regret that!

Dan and his American girlfriend, Babs, drove us over to St Leo’s University where he will be for the next 4 years studying Tennis & Business. It is the most incredible quality life compared with the sort of thing we experienced in the late 1960s/ early 1970s. He is very lucky to be born now and have the opportunity.

We drove on this evening to St Petersburgh and ate a lovely Italian meal and then walked in 80F/27C down the St Petersburgh Pier where all sorts of music was being played. It was a lovely end to a busy, tiring but lovely day. We have been up for 18hrs after just 4 hrs sleep but we are retired and have no time to waste. I hope you agree.

Week 689

Sunday, 6th March, 2022

Oh, think twice
It’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh, just think twice
‘Cause it’s another day for you
You and me in paradise

And it really is another day in paradise here which is starting before 7.00 am with a short walk to the gym.

The sun is just coming up. Exotic birds call from the trees and the lovely, gentle warmth of 22C/70F eases the aching muscles. After a couple of hours in the gym, I walk back to the house and collect Pauline for a swim. We only do half an hour but we have the pool entirely to ourselves and enjoying the sunshine which has now built up to 82F/28C by 9.30 am.

Back home for a shower, a glass of almond milk and a large cup of coffee as I start my new week of the Blog and communicate with friends across social media.

Just 12 months apart … the swift savagery of cancer.

This morning, shocking news came in of the terribly early death of Andy Remic who, as a young man, came to teach English in my school. He was very interesting and likeable. Of Yugoslavian origin, Andrey Remic wrote Science Fiction and even made a few films. He died of cancer at the ridiculously young age of 50. It should be a lesson to all of us to not put off things we want to do but go for everything because we never know when the axe will fall.

Down at the Mall

The axe will fall for me this afternoon when I accompany two, young women to the shopping ‘Mall’ to look at/buy clothes. It will test my patience to the limit but I will try to look as if I’m with them and interested. Before that, we have walked to the Pharmacy to buy mouthwash which cost $7.50/£5.70 in US but would have cost £4.50 in UK. The price of paradise!

A famous Department Store but disappointing.

The trip to The Mall wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. It cost me a pair of new flip-flops which felt like being let off lightly. We visited the famous Macy’s store but were not over-impressed. We ended the day at a Greek restaurant drinking Mythos beer and Retsina wine with Mezedes which was wonderful. The temperature was still hovering around 31C/88F as we left the restaurant which felt very Greek in itself.

Monday, 7th March, 2022

In the gym at 7.00 am and then out walking shortly after 10.00 am. It was already hot. We are living in a property on the IMG Tennis Academy where Dan is studying. It really has all the facilities one could want on site including a gym and pool for us.

I do a couple of hours in the gym and then we share half an hour in the pool to cool off. We always have it completely to ourselves.

Walking out of the complex brings us immediately face to face with the naked capitalism that is America. Building goes on everywhere in this vast country and property is constantly for sale.

We might even have considered looking for one of these lovely apartments if we could afford it but M&K have already generously offered us the chance to use their new property whenever we would like to even when they are in England so we’ll keep our cash in the bank.

Cortez Fish Market

For the first time since we arrived, we are not eating out. Pauline is doing the catering and we had to go shopping to the fish market and the supermarket. We bought Tuna Steaks, peppers and asparagus for the adults and chicken for the kids. She will griddle on the barbecue outside which will be interesting.

The barbecued Tuna Steaks and Chicken went well. The evening has filtered out into family discussion and the time now is 23.40 (FT)/4.40 (GMT). The temperature outside is still 74F/24C – a balmy end to a very hot day. Tomorrow, we’ll do it all again.

Tuesday, 8th March, 2022

Paradise opened at 5.30 am and the walk from our house to the gym at 7.00 am, as always was magical.

.

The smells of the flowers and trees in the humid air and the sounds of exotic birds combine to create a magical atmosphere. Two hours in that steamy atmosphere is enough at one go. I walk back for coffee and then we do another hour walking in the neighbourhood and the strong sunshine. We quickly burn in this strong sunshine and return for half an hour in the pool.

In the afternoon, we went down to the local beach with its gorgeous, fine, soft white sand and shallow, gently lapping warm water. We walked for an hour. Although I am getting fitter, 4 hours of walking was taking its toll on my legs as we set off for a nearby dockside fish restaurant.

I had crab which I love with a glass of Pinot Grigio. Eating outside in the balmy air is delightful. We drove home to have coffee, watch BBC News and compete at the new craze, Wordle. This is a game made for people like me and hosted by the New York Times. I won the first two games that I played but only came third tonight so I won’t be able to sleep thinking about it.

Wednesday, 9th March, 2022

Well, we are just completing our first week in Paradise – first of many to come in the future, we hope. We have just over 3 weeks left on this trip and we intend to make the most of it. Someone asked me yesterday if I was enjoying my holiday and I told them I never considered myself as ‘on holiday’ but just ‘living somewhere else’. I really do try to continue my life but through the lens of a different culture. I still exercise, try to follow my diet, write, Blog, correspond just as ever.

In the past couple of days, Kevin and I have exchanged banter on Whatsapp; John Ridley and Julie have shared their days with me by email; I have sent a restaurant postcard to Caroline in Saddleworth and my Blog has been maintained for anyone interested. There must be one!

A Highway Walk

I won’t bore you with the early up/exercise/walk/swim routine although, of course, I just have. However, I thought I would mention the hot topic of fuel prices as a result of post-pandemic demands + Russian sanctions. Americans are alarmed at having to pay $4.21/£3.20 per gallon. Here, car is king! The huge amounts of space and distance between places and facilities means that everyone from 16 years old up drives everywhere.

A petrol station called RaceTrac?

How they would feel to know our fuel is almost double the price, goodness knows but they definitely have to drive further than us for everything.

The day has ended beautifully. Pauline has cooked chicken wings with barbecue sauce and the most wonderful giant prawns with green salad. We are eating in one of the two Lounge/Dining rooms. I am drinking local, red wine and feeling mellow! What more could one want? I’m sure you know what I mean! Well, I could win the daily Wordle contest but that will come later.

Thursday, 10th March, 2022

We’ve been here a week already. We have exactly 3 weeks left this time. I won’t bore you with the routine but we were joined on our walk to the gym by a white Florida Egret this morning. Quiet and statuesque, beautiful in the urban surroundings. Not a pheasant, admittedly, but lovely in its own way.

We are going out for a 16k walk and then Pauline & M will probably go clothes shopping and I will stay at home researching things to do in New York where we fly on Monday. Looking forward to seeing JFK International.

Actually, we did 16k on the long, wide straight sidewalks. The weather is more cloudy this morning but still 80F/27C and very humid.

The roads are edged with lots of fascinating, exotic trees and plants and I spotted this unusual weeping bottle brush tree (Callistemon Citrinus) which originates in Greece. I was tired and wet by the time we got back from our walk. Went for a swim. This afternoon, we are going in to the Sports Academy to watch Daniel play tennis and then on to the supermarket for food.

This is bizarre but clocks go forward in Florida 2 weeks before they do in UK. This weekend we lose an hour here and not until the 27th of March does this happen in UK. So, for a couple of weeks, we will only be 4 hrs behind UK.

Friday, 11th March, 2022

We visited the IMG Tennis Academy training facilities yesterday afternoon. We even went in to one of the vast, covered areas of courts where Dan was working with his coach.

It was suggested that we walk to a local Italian restaurant for Dinner but the heavens opened with thunder and lightning and torrential rain which temporarily turned the road outside into a river.

We drove instead to an All-American-Diner with more televisions around the walls than I’ve ever seen in one room. It was busy, noisy and brash – not my favourite location but a great experience none the less.

This morning, of course, we do it all over again. Awake at 5.30 am (FT))/10.30 am (GMT) and down to the gym just before 7.00 am (FT). The house is kept deceptively cool Night & Day by air con. so, stepping out even at that time in the morning, just as the sun is coming up and the temperature is already 22C/70F, is something of a shock. The natural humidity is added to by the overnight sprinkler systems leaving pools of water on the roadside. Walking back from the gym at 9.00 am, the temperature has reached 27C/81F and it is going to be a lovely day.

Ribs were a real success … and no Spam in sight.

After 2 hours in the gym, we are going out for an hour’s walk in the sunshine followed by a swim in the pool. Pauline is cooking American-style sweet & sour spare-ribs. There are 6 of us and we bought enough to feed 12 at least. She is marinading them throughout the day and will then slow roast until the meat just falls off the bones. We would never normally eat like this so it will be another challenge.

Saturday, 12th March, 2022

Really strange but exciting day which started off normally in the gym at 6.55 am (FT)/11.55 am (GMT). I have been doing so much pounding of treadmills and pavements that I have produced a massive blister on the pad of one of my feet. It is agony but I am trying to work through the pain because I have my 10 miles a day commitment to meet whatever. I am currently moving on a foot which is plastered and padded but the electric shock of putting my weight on it is difficult.

So, this morning I just had to steel myself and do around 3 hours in the gym to get it all done in one go because I knew I wouldn’t feel like it later. At around 9.30 am, the clouds outside darkened, lighting flashed across them followed by bangs of rolling thunder and the downpour had to be seen to be believed. It reminded us of Greece.

I gave it half an hour until the lightning had stopped and I’d completed my 10 miles and then waded through the temporarily flooded pavements back to the house. In the gym I watch BBC World News which is fascinating, but I am also able to access my Netflix account where I am watching Suranne Jones in Doctor Foster. Once again, it is not something I would normally watch but, in the gym and in a foreign country, it has proved quite absorbing. It is about marital infidelity and the conflict resolution involved.

Back at the house, I am watching two sports at the same time. Pauline is catching up with Doctor Foster on the laptop while I am watching 6 Nations Rugby – England v Ireland on my iPad and simultaneously discussing it with Kevin in North Yorkshire on Whatsapp as well as keeping in touch with the Man.United score against Spurs while Pauline is commiserating with her friend, Christine, on Whatsapp, because she has caught Covid-19. By 2.00 pm (FT), the skies are clear blue and the sun is beating down. The world is back to normal.

This evening we walked to a lovely, little warm and cosy, unassuming Italian restaurant. Luigi’s Il Farinaio Grille is owned and run, apparently, by a mercurial Italian New Yorker whose mood is difficult to predict from one visit to another. We chose Chicken Milanese with salad and it was enjoyable although, we are struggling to eat out so much. We are far more used to controlled, home cooking.

Week 688

Sunday, 27th February, 2022

Up at 4.00 am. Couldn’t sleep. Too hot! It’s insane. There’s nothing worse than lying awake with thoughts coursing across one’s mind, telling oneself to empty one’s head and get back to sleep and to dismiss the desire to get up. Why am I too hot? We only have a 1-tog quilt on the bed.

That was one of the thoughts I couldn’t get out of my head. What is a ‘tog’? Where did it come from? Why was it called a Continental Quilt? When did they first become popular? I remember those heavy blankets on the bed of my childhood and first buying a quilt when I left College in 1972. What am I doing at 4.00 am, drinking tea and researching duvet togs. 

The term duvet comes from the French for feather ‘down’ and was first used by Dr Samuel Johnson in 1760 although duvets originated in rural Europe and were filled with the down feathers of ducks or geese. The insulation rating, tog, derived from Togs – the slang word for clothes and probably originated from Toga. We have duvets of varying tog ratings from 12 through 7, 5, 3 and 1. This house is a 1-tog requirement because of its insulation. Even then, it can be too hot. With that sorted out, maybe I can go back to sleep now.

Bradenton Beach

We are going to spend the month of March here in Bradenton, Florida. I’ve at last got round to researching the place. This is their Welcome brochure for tourists. Certainly looks an interesting place. The weather forecast for our first week there says it will be sunny and 28 – 30C. Should be better than UK.

Pauline bought two Lottery tickets yesterday. Both of the won – one for £5.00 and the other another Luck Dip ticket. Think I might retire!

On our walk this morning, we came across an old man staring at a missing piece of fence on the perimeter of his garden. I asked if the recent wind had done it and he said that it had been deteriorating for a few years. He had installed it himself more than 30 years ago. I asked him how old he was. He was clearly pleased to be speaking and to be asked about. He asked me what I thought. I said he was 83. I’ve know idea why. He looked astonished. I worried I had insulted him as he invited me to guess again so I deliberately went down to 73. That clearly pleased him as he told me he was actually 93. He was obviously lonely and told me he hadn’t seen his children for a while. This is what will happen to us all … our fences will fall down!

Monday, 28th February, 2022

Every bone in my body aches this morning. I’m not sure why but at least, sometimes, lovely things happen. This morning was one such time. We are going to America tomorrow. This morning I booked our New York trip. We will be there for 5 days although only 3 will be full, tourist ones. Flying Jetblue from Sarasota Airport to JFK New York and then staying in the Edison Hotel, Times Square for 4 nights.

New York hotels are incredibly stingy with space. The rooms are places we would store luggage in or use as Dressing Rooms. We have decided that this will be a one-off and pushed the boat out. We’ve booked a Suite which is positively luxurious for this city. It is 400 sq. ft. in space.

We have 4 days in the heart of the action for around £1,200.00. The return flights with Jet Blue cost £675.00 so the 5 days will cost us around £2,000.00. You only live once.

I went out on my walk with real optimism in my heart. Aching bones are nothing when other things lift you. The taxi will arrive tomorrow afternoon to take us to a hotel at Gatwick Airport and then we will fly on Wednesday morning for around 10 hours. We will arrive in Florida at 4.00 pm (21.00 GMT). Looking forward to Florida heat!

Tuesday, 1st March, 2022

Happy new month and officially welcome the Spring. Actually, we and the wildlife around us have been welcoming it for weeks. We’ve had such a long run of lovely days with clear blue skies and strong sunshine. Ironically, this morning is dark and wet.

I hesitate to report this because I know it will just convince you of my madness but I don’t care. In line with my personality, I never, ever, ever give in. I had 4.5 hours sleep last night. Up at 3.30 am and into the gym. Did 2.5 hours workout – 2 hrs on the treadmill and 30 mins on the bike – while finishing my Politico-Scandi thriller – the last episode of 25. Like so many of these things, the longer the writers went on the more flabby their ideas became but the parallels with the current Russian invasion of Ukraine mirroring the Russians invasion of Norway to take control of the oil fields.

Back in the kitchen by 6.00 am just as Pauline is woken by the BBC R4 Today programme. A large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice finishing the last 3 oranges, a cup of tea and tick off the jobs still to be done. The automatic lights need to be set up. There are 7 of them around the house which will have an initial schedule setting but which I will change remotely as the clocks go forward. All the chargers and electrical paraphernalia needed for a month including iPads, Kindle, Laptop, phones, watches, shaver, toothbrushes needed to be wrapped and packed.

Seems such a pity to bin them ..

Left over food which can’t be frozen had to be thrown out along with the lovely ‘free’ flowers that have been performing so long.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Eo2ZsAOlvEM?feature=oembedI’ve gone to look for America …

I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America

Taxi picks us up at Lunchtime for the hour’s drive to the Sofitel Gatwick Airport and then the required Covid Test at the airport walk-in. We can drop bags off the night before and then have a relaxed evening because every bone in my body aches even more after this start to the day.

The Covid test was successfully negative. All the required documents were accepted by BA. We checked in on-line and downloaded our boarding passes. I’ve checked out the hotel gym in readiness for tomorrow morning. It looks good.

Wednesday, 2nd March, 2022

Up at 3.30 am and down to the hotel gym. Listened to radio news on my phone while doing 2 hrs 30 mins exercise.

Back to find Pauline was already up and about. Breakfast, check out of hotel and off to bag drop, through passport control with multiple apps to present on my phone and then the sanctuary of the BA Business Lounge – No.1 for a glass of orange juice before boarding. No sooner than we had found and sat down in our seats but a glass of champagne was thrust into our hands and we were off.

Pillows, blankets, TVs with multiple films and other facilities were provided for our 10 hour flight along with this menu for Lunch.

I couldn’t face watching films but I did read The Times on my iPad. We were constantly plied with drinks and really enjoyed the space and comfort Business Class gave us.

I drank large quantities of Rioja with my meal and promptly fell asleep. I couldn’t face watching films although there were about 50 to choose from. I woke up to find an ‘Afternoon Tea’ of smoked salmon sandwiches followed by scones and clotted cream being served. I found it increasingly difficult to cope with all this food.

The last couple of hours of the flight seemed to go on for ever but we finally landed in brilliant sunshine and 27C of warmth at Tampa Airport where M&K were there to meet us. Shortly after settling us in to their home, we were whisked off to a Marina-side restaurant. I must admit to struggling to eat but managed a seafood salad and shared a bottle of white wine.

It is now 22.30 Florida time which is 3.30 am UK time – exactly 24 hrs since I started the day in the gym. I am quite tired but not excessively so. However, it is time for a shower and bed.

Thursday, 3rd March, 2022

It is 3.30 am (Florida Time – FT) / 8.30 am (UK Time – GMT) and we are just settling an insurance claim and drinking Yorkshire tea. Mad? Yes of course but it is not my fault this time. Pauline has just received a call on her mobile from our insurance company telling us they were paying our claim of £200.00 for a pair of my glasses that smashed in the gale a couple of weeks ago. Could they have our bank details to pay it in. Not easy to supply at this time in the morning so we settled for a cheque. The girl on the phone asked us to give her love to New York. Strange world but fascinating.

Kevin & I communicated on Whatsapp. Kevin Sellers contacted me on Messenger. Even received a text message from P in Surrey. What’s she doing up so early. She doesn’t usually get up until Lunchtime. Everyone suddenly feels so far away.

M bought all this for me …

M, on the other hand, has gone out of her way to make us feel welcome and prepare for our stay right down to an alcoholic health freak like me. She has even enrolled us in the Development’s Gym and pool.

Although we are going to the beach this afternoon, we are going to try out the gym and, maybe, the pool this morning. Just getting our bearings today. The TV in our bedroom has a local channel which gives detailed advice on how to cope with the weather. This snap feature Thursday’s weather. Actually, all the local displays made it 87F at midday.

Did 90 mins in the gym followed by an hour’s walk round the neighbourhood and then 30 mins in the pool and jacuzzi. We walk back at around 12.45 pm (FT) wondering why we were so hungry until we realised that our body clocks still thought it was nearly 6.00 pm. (GMT).

It is 2.00 pm (FT), 7.00 pm (GMT) and we are going out for a walk on the beach with our hosts followed by eating at beachside, fish restaurant for Dinner. I could get used to this life … and may have to!

Friday, 4th March, 2022

It was lovely to be in warm sunshine yesterday. It was 28F/82C and a very comfortable temperature without being too humid. Today is going to be 86F/30C rising to 88F/31C over the weekend. Could be worse!

Down on the beach …

I walked a record 16.3 miles in the gym, in the local community and on the beach where we went to drink wine, eat fish and watch the sun set on a lovely day. This sand is a fine, white dust and sets off the beautiful blue of the sky reflected in the sea which is shallow for a long way out.

We are staying with M&K who are currently living in the IMG Tennis Academy. I’ve been conferred with temporary residency so I can use the facilities like the pool and the gym. It all feels very nice and welcoming.

I am already into a routine of getting up early and going to the gym, doing a couple of hours then back for orange juice & coffee before going for a walk around the local area which is full of fascinating people and places but also plants and birds. I saw a bright red parakeet-type bird this morning as I walked to the gym and little, grey terrapins run everywhere in the warmth.

The highlight of the day will be a trip to two, major supermarkets. You can learn so much about a people and their culture by their products and the way they shop. Apparently, Americans are not big on imported goods but prefer to stock locally sourced products. What they lose in variety, they gain in freshness.

We visited the two, big supermarket chains – Publix and Walmart. I have to say there was nothing particularly different other than size. Prices were similar but choice was rather more restricted.

Later, we drove out to the seashore for Dinner in the heat of the evening. I had salmon and it was delicious.

Saturday, 5th March, 2022

Up at 5.30 am on another lovely morning and in the gym I did 2.5 hrs of exercise followed by half an hour in the pool with the sun on my back. Today is really warm and has stayed around 30C/86F which is delightful.

In the middle of the day, as the sun was at its hottest, we went down to the docks and out for a couple of hours on a rented boat. It was a lovely, comfortable family experience.

The boat cost almost $500.00/£380.00 for the trip but it was enjoyable to share with M&K, Pauline + Bumface & Babs. We took a cool-box of beers, cocktails, crisps & nuts and explored the area seaside.

It was a delightful experience as we watched the pelicans dive for fish and the dolphins surf the boats’ wake, the multi-millionaire, waterside mansions and the ultra-rich’s boats. Actually, I hanker for neither which is fortunate because I won’t attain them either. My dreams are much cheaper than that!

Tonight we will return to the same area for Dinner in another seafood restaurant. Salad and fried Grouper was our meal and delicious.

Week 687

Sunday, 20th February, 2022

An interesting day of three, distinct parts. Out early for a 90 mins walk of just over 6 miles. The weather was fairly overcast and breezy but warm. 

Off to drive up to Surrey to visit P&C and M who had nipped back from Florida for a week. She was suffering with a bad cold. You know how the young are so vulnerable! We talked about our trip out to see her in less than a couple of weeks. She was very generous and we are looking forward to seeing her there very soon. She advised us to consider the much more local Sarasota Airport for our trip to New York. 

We didn’t even know there was one but, apparently, it is only 15 mins drive from where we will be staying so it will be much more convenient. I am already looking at potential bookings.

The drive between our house in Sussex and their house in Surrey is about 1hr 15 mins. It is a lovely, clear and quiet drive apart from the M25 which was very quiet today. Back home by mid-afternoon, I had 90 mins to do in the gym while I watched some football but then swiftly moved on to my current obsession which is a Scandi-Political Intrigue called Occupied.

The plot could not be more on trend. In the near future, Norway is occupied by Russia with the tacit consent of the European Union because the newly-elected environmentally-friendly Norwegian government has stopped the all important oil- and gas-production in the North Sea. The story features the struggles between Norway and the EU/USA axis in dealing with a bullying, invading force of the Russian State. The EU states are more interested in securing their power supply than dealing with Russian aggression. The USA are more interested in maintaining Global Political stability than helping a minnow like Norway.

We will see how that plays out in Ukraine but it is fascinating to find Boris Johnson living up to the old political maxim of ‘not failing to make the most of a political crisis’. He certainly sees his ‘Churchill’ moment even though he is a minnow on the world stage.

Monday, 21st February, 2022

A bit blustery this morning but lovely. A huge list of jobs to get through. First we had to go out shopping and so we called in on the beach as we did. It was beautiful.

One man & his dog spotted …

John Ridley in North Yorkshire, Derek France in West Yorkshire, friends in Greater Manchester all posting pictures and accounts of rising, overflowing, flooding rivers. One of my ex-pupils in Oldham writing of wading through water in her kitchen. Certainly feels lucky to be down here.

Just been contacted on Messenger by a lad – well, a 47 year old ex-pupil who is Director of Swimming at a private school in Nairobi, Kenya. He did a Degree in Leeds and an MSc in Leicester.

I must admit, I wouldn’t have predicted it but it looks like he’s made a good life for himself which is always gratifying.

More jobs completed today towards our trip included updating the medical insurance and buying a mountain of Dollars from … Tesco of all places. Milly-Molly, on the other hand, has been thinking of our welfare and mine, in particular. She’s suggested we all go to the Sarasota Opera House where they will be performing Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers and Puccini’s Tosca. I absolutely love Puccini!

Tuesday, 22nd February, 2022

Beautiful day again. lovely sunshine. Gardeners are out in our development cutting all the grass. Birds have gone mad on the mating signs. Out for an early walk as a prelude to completing travel jobs. I have to make sure that we have paper and digital (pdf) copies of 4 documents:

  • Proof of full vaccination
  • Proof of Covid Negative Test – 24 hr prior to flying
  • Successful ESTA application
  • Attestation Form

It can’t be completed until we have had the Covid Antigen Test on Tuesday, March 1st. We have booked our taxi to the Sofitel Gatwick and our subsequent test at the Express Test in Gatwick Airport North Terminal which is 5 minutes walk away. Under an hour and £35.00 each should produce a paper and digital copy of a negative Covid test. Goodness knows what we will do if one of us proves otherwise.

I have been sorting out contact sheets for our neighbours with mobile numbers, Florida address and burglar alarm details. Of course, something always comes up on these occasions. Today, I received an appointment form the hospital for my hernia repair on … March 10th. I have now got to phone and beg for a delay after begging for an urgent appointment.

I didn’t have to beg. They were wonderful and have given me an appointment just over two weeks later and 4 days after returning form Florida. How lucky am I?

Johnson is being lambasted in all quarters of Twitter. The Twitterati all know his game. Deflect failings and crimes by pretending to be a player on the world stage. It worked for Thatcher with The Falklands.

Wednesday, 23rd February, 2022

It is the most lovely, Spring day – warm and sunny. Early trip to Sainsburys. Getting tricky to control what is required for our last 5 days here. At least we got our customary, ‘free’ bunch of flowers. They had been on sale for £10.00.

There is a feeling of optimism in the air. Even the sky over the park sent us a kiss. Everything centres on travel plans at the moment. Still done an early, 7 mile walk. Felt great! Only 4 miles to complete this afternoon. The groundsmen on our Development were cutting the grass and it smelt and looked wonderful. Walking in just tee-shirt this morning it is so warm and nice.

Back home, all that the talk is about clothes and packing, baggage allowances and luggage labels. These are things I don’t get involved in if I can help it. Questions like how many tee-shirts and pairs of shorts to pack I leave to underlings. As long as I’ve done the essential documentation then I feel my work is done. I just have to get the cases out and carry them to the Dressing Room and wait for my next instruction.

We are only going for a month so we won’t need to much. M&K have a Laundry so clothes will be recycled. We do have the added complication of two, diametrically opposed climates in Florida and New York but it is not beyond simple logistics to cater for that.

The British Airways Business Class Luggage allowance is just incredible. We didn’t take this much to Greece for 6 months at a time. It’s hard to imagine a taxi that could accommodate them on the drive to the airport.

This allowance is per person. I don’t think I’ve ever owned enough clothes to fill the possible maximum weight. I’m told that things like Sketchers‘ trainers are much cheaper in the States and we should take an empty suitcase to carry back our purchases. That is one justification at least.

Thursday, 24th February, 2022

Another beautiful Spring day. I’m not finding it so easy. I feel I have something missing that I can’t put my finger on. Still, continuing to try. In Alicante, Kevin is carrying on. In Bridlington, Nigel and Julie are carrying on. In Catterick, John is carrying on and in Royton, Brian is carrying on. I’ve been in contact with them all in the past couple of days and they are all ‘carrying on’ but I’m left feeling, Is that enough? There has to be more than this. When your closing in on 71, there has to be more than this.

Went out to Sainsburys for …. a net of 3 Spanish onions. I am cooking today. The onions cost £0.95p but we were given a ‘free’ bunch of flowers that had been on sale until yesterday at a price of £15.00. So, in the past 2 days, we have had cut flowers to the value of £25.00 for ‘free’. They look and smell lovely – just like me!

I cooked chicken & oregano casserole today to give Pauline a rest. Of course, it was a triumph and we ate the lot after completing the 11 mile target for the day. Ironically, my hernia was painful as I exercised today. It was on a day when I received a delightful, personal letter from the most wonderful Italian Consultant, Mr Valerio Di Nicola MD, PHD, FRCS who I met last week. He has fast tracked me for surgery and dated it immediately after my American trip. The NHS is staffed with the most wonderful people who are so generous with their time. I just love intelligent people!

Friday, 25th February, 2022

You should be here! The sky is pure blue and the sun is warm. It is forecast to remain this way until we leave on Tuesday. The air is clean and the birds are singing.

New Developments down here are required to build-in green space. We have lots of them and this one always makes me think of Telly-Tubby Land. The sea may still roll in this afternoon.

Out to collect currency this morning and some luggage labels. We ordered the dollars before the invasion of Ukraine and so before the weakening of the pound/dollar exchange rate. Not massive but we gained a bit. Unfortunately, the Ukrainians are losing everything! Trump and Farage have both spoken to justify Putin’s aggression which tells you all you need to know about the anti-democratic Right.

$2,670 looks nothing on our kitchen table in the sunshine. Never used dollars before – Francs, Lira, Drachma, Krone, Punta, Peseta, Euros but never dollars. I suspect we will be using our credit card plenty and seeing Non-Sterling Transaction charges racking up on our account. Might even view this as a bit reckless as the UK will be hit by the triple whammy of Brexit, Covid and Russian Isolation massively impacting the cost of living in UK.

Loss of Russian gas will impact everything – from Petrochemicals to industrial manufacturing to home heating. Prediction is that the Home Fuel Price Cap which was to double to around £2,500.00 per year on average, will now triple to around £3,700.00. The cost of filling the tank of an average 4×4 vehicle is expected to hit £145.00 but, of course, it will hit the cost of delivery of goods which will impact general inflation and hurt everyone. Russia is the breadbasket of the West and shunning their supplies will make shortages of all things wheat-based as well as raise the prices due to scarcity. Bread and pasta are the core of high energy, belly-filling, poverty food. There will be many more people forced into real hardship.

We got home from town to do our 90 mins walk and then have the burglar alarm serviced. Give the lawns a cut tomorrow and then most things will be done. Going out to Specsavers this afternoon to collect two pairs of prescription sunglasses in time for Florida del sol! I’m also going to drop off two more, huge bags of clothes at the Hospice Shop. Kevin’s still in Alicante but at least he seems to have found a new friend.

Saturday, 26th February, 2022

Unbelievably beautiful and warm day. Early walk and then lawn cutting in the Spring sunshine. Quite delightful!

Trying to tie up all the loose ends before we go away including completing my correspondence. Received a letter from this man earlier this week. He is the consultant I met at Worthing Hospital and I had to write to him to express my gratitude for his support.

Dr Di Nicola hails from the Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza, one of the largest European universities and one of the oldest in history, founded in 1303. I found him an instantly attractive personality to relate to.

When I want something, I want it NOW! I am terrible at waiting even though I have got better with age. When I want something, I will have it whatever I have to do and that hasn’t got easier with age. I like things to be settled. I don’t like prevarication. This is my personality. It makes taking me shopping impossible for ‘normal’ people who like to consider different options. The current demands of travelling at the moment are definitely inappropriate for people like me.

I work in a linear, tick-off, mode and need to meet the challenge head on, like the Arian ram I am. I have to butt my way to the winning post. The trip we leave for in a few days has a number of requirements. They can all be assembled in this single app, Verifly. Unfortunately and annoyingly, they can’t be uploaded until tomorrow – 48hrs before departure. This means that I cannot tick-off my list!

Week 686

Sunday, 13th February, 2022

I couldn’t sleep and was up at 3.30 am. I’m not sure why. I had a problem whirling round my head that  I had been trying to resolve in the past few days and a solution came to me as I lay restlessly in the darkness. I drank tea, sitting quietly alone in the Office as Pauline slept above. I watched Sky News and strained to hear so as not to wake her. 

As we prepare for a trip to America, I am gathering together all the necessary documents that are demanded of transatlantic travel now. Little M advised us to download a travel app called Verifly in which we can integrate all the disparate forms of proof/evidence for fitness to fly. When that has been achieved, a single QR-Code is produced which can be presented to Airport check-in.

Unfortunately, Pauline’s smartphone has suddenly gone haywire. Lots of apps refuse to open. Even AppStore refuses to open. We use Android smartphones and I hadn’t a clue what had gone wrong. At 2.00 am, I suddenly realised that it had something to do with her Google account. I opened it up, reset her Google password and everything went back to normal. Life could continue smoothly. By that time, it was 4.30 am and I was into my second cup of coffee. Pauline was snoring gently so I couldn’t wake her.

The bedside radio comes on at 6.00 am every morning – a bit late, I know, but we can be lazy in retirement. Breakfast at 7.00 am and then out on a 90 mins walk by 9.00 am. Our walk follows a familiar route around the perimeter of our Development, skirting the wood and past the Rugby fields which are on the far side.

Early on Sunday mornings, parents and girls and boys aged from about 5 – 20 years, congregate around about 6 different pitches. Mornings are training sessions and there are usually around 150 kids in different groups being commanded to Pass! or Run!. Girls groups are featuring much more commonly now – for Rugby! Surely they should be taking up crochet. This morning there was a cold wind as they trained. The kids were oblivious to it but I felt for the bystander parents and grandparents.

Our 90 mins walk was a bit more mind over matter than the usual enjoyment. I was tired before I started having slept only a couple of hours tthat night. With all this exercise, you would think it would knock me out. Instead, I carry the world’s problems on my shoulders.

Monday, 14th February, 2022

Derek

Gorgeous morning for a Birthday or anything else. My generation were 21 50 years ago this year. In older age many of us are becoming more health conscious. A former College friend who lives in West Yorkshire posted a photo yesterday and said that he had just bought a pair of 32″-waisted jeans for the first time since he was 21 in College days. For me that would be positively skinny.

I have walked at least 10 miles a day every day since April 6th – my 70th birthday. Actually, I’ve walked 3220 miles in that time. Last month, I averaged 11 miles a day. I’m afraid to say that I haven’t had a 32″ waist since 1965 and I’m never likely to see one again however much I ramp up my exercise.

I’ve been out to Sainsburys to satisfy my latest obsession – unsweetened almond milk. I bought some originally when we made a first ever visit to a Lidl supermarket. It cost £0.80 per litre. I loved it. Our normal shop is done at Sainsburys but the milk cost £1.20 and is quite unpleasant. Looks like Lidl will become one of our regular shops. Always liked the Germans.

Over night, our Honda sat.nav. updated itself over the satellite and 3G wifi. We locked it on Saturday and left Serena – a delightful girl announcer happily in the entertainment centre.

When we started off on Sunday, James had taken over and he was only giving directions without using street names. It’s never happened before. This morning, I have searched the settings and managed to reinstate Serena. Phew! Much prefer to listen to a woman.

Last job this morning is to make sure our smoke alarm batteries will get through the month of March without annoying our neighbours. We have mains-powered smoke alarms with battery backups all over the house. Last time we went away for a month, the backup batteries failed on our first night away and intermittently screamed for the next 48 hours until a neighbour with a key came in and turned them off. Can’t run that risk again. Too embarrassing.

Although they are mains-powered, the integrity of the whole system is compromised if just one battery goes down. Trouble is they only need replacing every couple of years or so and I forget how to get the casings off. I’m not very practical at the best of times. Fortunately, I found this clip on the internet that deals with our precise model. Amusingly, even the demonstrator here has difficulty doing the job.

Last job to be ticked off the list today is to widen our mobile roaming contracts to the USA. We have unlimited calls/texts plus 50mb of web data. We have to pay just £10.00 each extra to use our full allowance in USA for the month of March.

Tuesday, 15th February, 2022

We are forecast for some rain later in the morning so went out at 8.00 am for a 90 mins walk. We just got away with it before light rain began to fall. At that time in the morning kids meet in the park we walk through. Their school is nearby. We were just remarking how delightfu kids are round here. Having spent most of my teaching life in Oldham, the topic of kids in parks was associated with truancy, dug taking, drinking, sex in the bushes, fights and all other manner of anti-social activity.

Kids in the Park

As we walked through the park yesterday, kids were using the outdoor gym equipment that the park managers had provided to exercise together. Others were sitting at picnic tables using the 5G Wi-Fi signal that is strong there. Others were meeting up after school on their bikes or using the small skateboarding facility. Nothing was rowdy or excessive. Today, as we walked through, kids were on bikes on their way to school. Nothing is more shocking than when a teenager politely says, Thank you when we stand aside to let him bike past. It must be the sea air!

Late last night a man appeared at the door with a huge, Amazon box. His first question was, What year were you born? I told him 1951 and he replied, You’ve just made it! I thought it was a joke until I opened the box to find a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates. Apparently Amazon don’t deliver alcohol to underage clients. They were from our good friend and ex-colleague, Margaret in Oldham. Pauline had told her I had got the all-clear and she had taken the trouble to send me these gifts to celebrate my reprieve. Could almost have been my birthday!

I wrote a couple of weeks ago of a delightful telephone conversation I’d had with Jane Eyre, Surgical Registrar at Worthing Hospital. She was gorgeous to talk to and intelligent with a voice to drown in. This morning, I received a lovely, long letter from her confirming our conversation and what we had agreed. She had told me that she was 33 and kept responding, Cool to everything I said. Her letter today rather shocked me by referring to me as a 70 year old, independent gentleman who is a retired teacher. All of those things are accurate but faintly damning.

My job today to be ticked off from the list is choosing the best place to buy US Dollars. Because travel has been so restricted of late, a number of FX firms have closed down. I used to have Euros home-delivered by International Currency Exchange but they’ve gone out of business. I still have an account with Moneycorp who I used in selling our Greek home.

I spent an hour or so researching the options and thought Travelex looked the best for home delivery and exchange rate price until I found that nipping round to our local Tesco would give me quite a few more dollars for my pounds.

Wednesday, 16th February, 2022

Up early and out walking at 8.00 am. I need to get the first 5 or 6 miles in before I go off to the Hospital for a pre-op review of my hernia. If you ever wanted to be bathed in the glow of kindness and civility, this experience would have done it for you. My appointment was at 10.20 and I was told not to arrive before that. When I checked in, at the main desk, I was told to sit in the waiting room. I had hardly sat down when my name was called by an elderly, white haired lady. She took me to an office where she weighed and measured me.

She had barked out an order to follow her. I said, Are you Irish? She said, I am. How did you know? She became all coy, gentle and girlish. I told her I could hear the lilt in her voice. She was from Tipperary. I was there in 1966, I told her. You’ve been to Tip? You’ve been to Tip?, she exclaimed like some excited teenager. I told her about my trip and how an Irish girl had inducted me into smoking Sweet Afton cigarettes. She was putty in my hands. Oh, I haven’t heard those words for so long, she said, sighing.

She took me in to meet the Consultant who greeted me warmly. He had read all my notes and knew exactly my position. His badge said he was called Marcelo. He was Italian although his English was perfect. I told him I loved Italy and particularly, Lucca, Bologna and Parma. I rambled on about driving the Autostrada del Sol but he seemed extremely pleased I liked it. He told me that my hernia was significant and required surgery. I said I was going abroad for the month of March and he kindly volunteered to list me for after we came back. I will probably be a day patient.

Le printemps est arrivé …

I had gone to the hospital in shorts and tee-shirt. The temperature was 14C/57F and the Spring sunshine was delightful. We drove back via the beach where the tide was on the turn and the scene was lovely.

We had to be back for a visit from the ONS Covid Project who had come to take Lateral Flow tests and Antibody tests which we’ve become very proficient at. Kevin tells me he is off to Spain at the weekend and Julie seems happy with her lot although I do think she is rather lonely deep down. John Ridley and I are quite enjoying catching up on each other’s lives. He, like me, is perpetually busy and looking to travel particularly to South Korea where his son is teaching and making movies. Of course, they are all older than me. Everybody is thank goodness.

Thursday, 17th February, 2022

The days are running away but today is an absolutely beautiful one. En route to Sainsburys, I took a detour past the beach. So warm again this morning and none of the expected wind so far.

Worthing

We had reports of the storm hitting North Yorkshire with this dramatic photo of Whitby harbour.

Whitby

A wonderful, warm and sunny walk this morning with gulls circling, gliding overhead and daffodils and crocuses flowering under foot. Spring is a time of optimism and hope. I still have hope and I’m naturally optimistic.

The thing that will dominate politics over the rest of this year will be inflation and cost of living. I predicted this months ago and so it is happening before our eyes. Petrol/Diesel is at a record high price and household fuel bills are massively increasing. Food and clothing prices are up. This morning, BT told me that my services – Fibre Broadband, Digital Phone and BT Sport are all rising by inflation of 5.4% + some nominally chosen 3.9%. The total increase will only be just over £10.00 per month but as everything rises the overall cost is considerable. The one compensation appears to be that the value of our house increased by £70,000 over the past 12 months but that is only helpful if we sell and realise the profit.

Friday, 18th February, 2022

A little breezy this morning but warm. Went out to the beach at high tide for a photo opportunity.

The sea was boiling cold today!

It is nice to see the coast in a different light. Quite a few people out being blown about. Amazing how powerful the sea is.

As we drove back from the beach, we found the road blocked by a fallen conifer. I had to take a detour but, by the time we went out on our walk which was wind-assisted in one direction, the tree had been logged and piled at the side to allow traffic through.

Kevin’s flying to Alicante from Leeds tomorrow and seems quite laidback about it although services are being cancelled everywhere today. Dave Roberts from Middleton contacted me this morning when I posted this photo. Strange to be in touch across time and space!

I am a member of B.A.’s Executive Travel Club. It gives me a number of privileges but we are struggling to complete all the on-line paperwork for our BA flight which is less than two weeks away. We can check-in on-line but not until the API is completed and it is notoriously flaky to do. I am tearing (what’s left of) my hair out but I WILL get there in the end …. and I did by using the app on my phone. Two hours of wasted time when a huge concern like British Airways can’t get their platform right.

Saturday, 19th February, 2022

Chill wind this morning. Even though it’s snowing at Leeds Airport this morning, I quite envy Kevin jetting off to Alicante and some relative warmth. Still, it won’t be long until we are in the sunshine.

I’ve only been to Leeds Airport once – in 1973. I was collecting a coach load of Dutch English teachers who I was helping to deliver an English Language course to at Ripon College. I remember it more as a shed in a field. It certainly didn’t look like this.

My little brother, Bob’s 70th Birthday. This photograph from circa 1956 tells me so much about him and about those times. Look at what we are wearing. I used to think Mum wanted girls really until History taught me that this was the sort of thing Victorians did to their kids.

Me & Bob – circa 1956

You only have to look at Bob’s face to see he can’t be trusted. Typical Aquarian! He always used to get away with stuff that I got punished for. Story of my life. Anyway, at least he is the same age as me for a few weeks.

As we were out on our walk this morning, a number of roofing companies were featured – repairing the effects of yesterday’s wind. Even so, it wasn’t half as bad as rolling News channels would have you believe.

Week 685

Sunday, 6th February, 2022

A wet start to the day and very blustery. Trying to remain optimistic and work on the basis that we will fly to Florida in 3 weeks time. Working through a checklist of tasks to be completed before we leave.

The ESTA is done but we have a pre-flight test to do 1 day before flying. There is a test centre at Gatwick Airport and we are going there a day early to stay in a hotel so that will fit in nicely. Got to book a taxi to the airport.

The sum of our January Travel movements.

Crossing the Atlantic will make a big change on recent trips as you can see from the Google Maps report. We were supposed to be going North but even that was altered by events.

The events of this coming week, of course, will decide many of our actions. We may have to cancel or adjust our travel insurance. Hopefully, we will just celebrate and open a bottle of champagne. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst!

Marriot Hotel – Times Square

After listening to others, we look like we have settled on a hotel in New York. We will go for about 5 days so we can see plenty. The Marriot in Times Square is likely to be our base for this part of the trip and to give M&K some respite from old people.

A Room with a View

Pauline is worrying about what clothes to take particularly because it will be hot & sunny most of the time we are there in Florida but cold for the few days we are in New York. Oh, the dilemma!

Fortunately, we escape the Brexit effect by travelling outside Europe. It doesn’t affect our Schengen 90-Day allowance so we can still do 3 months in Europe in the summer. I have to contact EE to clarify roaming charges in USA. It looks like it won’t cost much extra which will be helpful.

Monday, 7th February, 2022

Up early – 6.30 am – on a beautiful morning. The sky is gorgeously clear with the remainder of bright stars shining in the orange-blue light of the rising sun. It is not cold but there is a chilled edge on the air.

I hate the idea of being associated with age and infirmity of medical activities and conditions but I can’t avoid it at the moment. Up early and testing my INR after 2 days without warfarin followed by a Covid PCR test which I must get to the Nuffield before 10.00 am and for which they have charged me the privilege of £76.00. I am then supposed to self-isolate until my investigation on Thursday. I already know I am covid-free because I self-tested yesterday but I have to prove it to the hospital.

We have a dual-fuel supply contract with British Gas. To be honest, it came with the new house and we just continued it. We fixed our price towards the end of last year for 12 months and will avoid any great cost rises for 12 months. Our hot water system is so efficient that a couple of hours in the early morning is enough to keep it hot all day. The central heating is rarely used and, when it is, our Hive, wi-fi system makes its demands absolutely minimal. They wrote to me yesterday to assure me that any price rises featured in media reports would not affect my contract. Just as a matter of interest, I checked our current position and found this.

British Gas currently hold almost £850.00 of our money in credit. I am contacting them this morning to demand that they return it. I would rather that it was in our account than theirs. They may argue that it will even itself out over the year but we have had a remarkably mild winter and we hope to be away for the month of March. I think we won’t meet their predictions at all this year. 2021/2022 has been so much warmer. We were constantly running the heating over night in the Gym last year and hardly at all this time. We didn’t go away at all last year. This time we have already done 3 weeks abroad and are expecting another 4 soon.

Near the Nuffield Hospital, we found this – a big, Lidl supermarket. Never been in one before so it was an interesting thing to do in this morning’s sunshine. It was quite a revelation – spacious and well stocked with excellent produce and really good prices. It is strange to walk down an aisle and find socks and gloves alongside pots and pans on one side and biscuits and cakes on the other but, putting that aside, it was fun. We spent £80.00 on various items including an additional 2-ring hob for the garden which was badged in English and Greek.

Just goes to show that there’s a first time for everything and one should embrace all experiences.

From Lidl Supermarket to the Intercontinental Hotel in New York. Milly-Molly suggested it and that we look for a package of flights and hotel.

I did that and Expedia came up with return flights from Tampa – JFK – Tampa with 4 nights in the Intercontinental which is an IHG hotel of which I am a member and get bonus points for just £550.00 pp. Unbelievably cheap. I really hope Thursday allows us to do this.

Tuesday, 8th February, 2022

The day is getting closer and we are in countdown mode. I have a list of strict instructions from the Nuffield in the run-up to my investigation. Having done and submitted my Covid test, I now have a diet instruction sheet which begins tomorrow. Typically, my wife who knows too much about diet and nutrition makes it harder for me than the hospital prescribes.

The hospital say start on Wednesday so she decides that I will start on Tuesday. She says that ‘fibre’ takes longer to go through the body than they say so, this week is cutting down rapidly on fibre intake and today is my last day for any fibre at all until Thursday night.

I haven’t generally eaten bread, potatoes, pasta or rice for about 10 years. It affects my blood sugar, makes me feel bloated and I find it best to avoid. Amazingly, I have taught myself to love green vegetables – salad, green beans, etc. – I know nothing about it but, apparently, these green things as well as fresh orange juice are high in fibre whereas rice is not. Today, I am being treated to what used to be my favourite meal 10 years ago – fish risotto.

The bottle of wine on the right is currently doing the rounds of social media. Seems to speak to the political and my personal situation. Just as we predicted, I have a colonoscopy on Thursday and, while we were out, Worthing hospital phoned to offer me a hernia repair on …. Thursday. Fortunately, the lovely girl who phoned was able to find me an appointment for the following Wednesday so I am very lucky.

Had to nip into town this morning and couldn’t resist the beach. It is muted and moody but smells delicious. 

Just cut all four lawns and fed them in this lovely, Spring weather. Eaten a delightful fish salad lunch of scallops, baby squids, octopus and mackerel with an iced bottle of Lidl’s finest Pinot Grigio. Had delightful and supportive messages from Kevin in Leeds & Julie in Bridlington which really moved me. Paid £2,200.00 to the Nuffield in advance for my colonoscopy (which moved me even more) and I’m now going in the gym for my final session of the day. Whatever comes, it has been a good day.

Wednesday, 9th February, 2022

I am in to countdown mode and following precise intake instructions. From this morning, I can ingest no fibre. My freshly squeezed orange juice had to have the fibre filtered out. I will have to drink lots of ‘clear’ fluid until 7.00 am tomorrow and then nothing until tomorrow night.

Bodegas Zaragoza

Over a 12 hour period, I have to drink two bottles of Sodium Dihydrogen Phosphate Dihydrate. Ironically, my prescription originates from Zaragoza, a Spanish city I’ve always wanted to visit. I wonder if I will survive to do it.

A better product of Zaragoza

Apparently, the body reacts quickly and violently to the first bottle of laxative, so violently that they caution ‘old’ people to take care. They describe old people as aged 65+ or an age at which many could still be working. I have to drink the first bottle at 7.00 pm tonight and the second at 7.00 am tomorrow. Could be an interesting night!

We have driven to and stayed in Patras on the Greek Peloponnese many times and driven across the Rio Bridge. This short video of thousands of starlings dancing a gloriously artistic display across and under the bridge was posted last night. It is delightful to watch.

Our walk this morning has been done in lovely, warm, Spring weather with a chorus of birds singing all around us and daffodils flowering. We reached a balmy 14C/57F. The world is a wonderful place!

Thursday, 10th February, 2022

TLK

It’ s 4.00 am and, not being able to sleep, I’m going in the gym. By absolute coincidence, Terri-Lee, one of my former pupils, messaged me while I drank tea. What she’s doing up at this time in the morning, goodness knows. I haven’t seen her for 13 years. She certainly didn’t look like this when I last saw her. It sounds like she is haunted by the idea that she was capable but under achieved. We are all haunted by that in one way or another aren’t we?

She wanted to tell me her problems and ask my advice. Strange at 4.30 am but quite flattered that I was the one she turned to and thought I would be available at this unearthly hour to provide solace. I will never understand people in general and girls in particular.

Managed an hour in the Gym. Got to take the second bottle of laxative at 7.00 am and then nothing more to drink after 8.00 am until I get home tonight around 7.00 pm. Losing all this liquid and not replacing it is already making me feel dehydrated. I’ve checked my INR this morning in case they need to cut me. It is 1.1 which is just about right. Going to do a Lateral Flow test now although I’m sure that will be fine.

Got to get my 10 miles under my belt early today. My chauffeur will drive me to the Nuffield at 2.00 pm and I won’t be home until around 7.00 pm so I suspect that, whatever the verdict, I won’t feel like exercise by then. This is the upside and the downside of an obsessive personality in a nutshell. I never give up on my targets until, of course, they give up on me!

The clouds have lifted. After 3 hours at the Nuffield, I am informed that 3, large but benign polyps have been removed by a team of of 5 medics including one who was born in Oldham and who went to school at the Bluecoat school. It appears I am fine but will need a check-up in 5 years – 2027 aged 77!

Friday, 11th February, 2022

Up at 4.30 am but with a happy heart. I feel like the condemned man has been reprieved. All the things I was putting on hold can now be approached with renewed optimism. Our American trip can go ahead and all the final planning can be started today. I produced a 20-point list to get through. I do like ticking off lists!

I don’t let many people look up my bottom but I will make an exception with you. I certainly wouldn’t eat while reading this. I have to deliver a copy of this report to my GP this morning. You can see why I am considered a sex-God. Can you believe that anyone could have this going on inside themselves and still live? As my wife said, At least it’s clean!

Spring sunshine and warmth bathe the South Coast. Everything is so bright and vibrant. The world is so lovely! Even Worthing Beach looked welcoming this morning.

The Town was packed today. The lovely weather must have brought people out. It was beautiful so who could blame them?

Saturday, 12th February, 2022

Up early to another, sunny Spring day. Trip to Rustington to have my prescription sunglasses straightened in readiness for Florida. Message from Kevin welcoming me to the 2nd day of my new life and from Julie, wishing me well. John Ridley is on my list to connect with today and I may speak to John Morris as well.

Buying new wardrobes for our American trip has been on hold during the recent scare but, now the path is clear, we are back in action. Had to return some clothes to M&S this morning which takes us to the pier and the beach.

It is amazing how a health scare can focus the mind on the small things of life like lots of fresh air and exercise, sunshine on the beach, sweet messages from friends and relations, a rugby match, roast chicken for Dinner, a lovely bottle of Rioja, a good film in the evening.

We leave for America on the 1st day of March – just 17 days away. We have to remain Covid-free for that time and take a test at the airport on the day before we fly. This shouldn’t be a problem because, throughout the pandemic, our area has had very low infection rates – certainly compared to places like Greater Manchester.

Unfortunately, just as Greater Manchester is showing falls in infection, our region of Arun is rising rapidly and steeply. The Zoe-Covid London University Study that we contribute each day on our phone app traces and charts the data for us. You can see the exponential rise in our area. We will be extra careful until we get on the plane.

Week 684

Sunday, 30th January, 2022

Bierre Cote d’Opale
Le Chemin de Wissant

It is the most lovely day of warm sunshine and blue skies. The air is calm. No strong winds here. Our walk was delightful. Having got back, I’ve sampled a bottle of beer I bought when we were last in France.

I never drink beer. I really prefer wine. I come from beer country – Burton on Trent. The home of WorthingtonBassMarstonInde Coop, etc.. I went to school where the smell of brewing drifted over the town like a drug. I did buy some specialist beers (lagers) in France last year as Christmas presents and I’ve still got them. Tried one today and quite enjoyed it. Hasn’t quite lifted the emptiness I’m feeling at the moment but it helped.

Our walk was quite delightful with warm, strong sun and nature convinced that Spring was upon the world. This approach to our local park will look very different in April when we return from Florida – if we are lucky enough to get there. Should know more in this next week one way or the other.

I’ve never been a fan of the Honours System. It is so open to abuse. However, I’ve spent the past couple of hours helping a friend to sharpen up their written recommendation of someone I’ve never met and never will. Reading the support material of the selfless acts of this individual quite changed my mind. What motivated these people? I don’t believe I could ever rise to it. As someone recently pointed out, I am far too selfish!

Monday, 31st January, 2022

The month is going out in Spring-like weather. We’ll see if February will be as kind. We have a central heating engineer here this morning doing our annual service. We have a space-age boiler and an even more space-age hot water system that come with new homes. I couldn’t fix anything on my own although we use internet-based, smart technology to control the heating, hot water and lights with its own hub and software on smartphones, iPads and PCs. That I can sort out myself. We have the windows and doors open and don’t need heating at all this morning.

Entrance to the internet – 25 years ago.

Pauline’s making bread and I’m dealing with my internet company who have tried to more than double my rental for my website and Blog site webspace. I have been involved in internet work since 1994 when we had the crash-bang-wallop of a dial-up modem connection. Young ones now would not believe what we had to go through or the poverty of the text-only screens we found when we got on line.

I can remember the excitement of uploading my first, basic website after hours of frustration at my inability to understand was conquered. My impetus was to provide my school with an early, onsite presence. I taught myself at home in my spare time, went on courses and then used my newly gained skills at work. I found that it was something that came naturally to me and gave me real enjoyment.

Circa 1994

Since 2008, I have rented webspace and maintained a couple of websites plus my Blog through a ‘Hosting’ service. I taught myself the then industry-standard web development software – Macromedia Dreamweaver – and have not needed to go much further than that. My Host is a company called IONOS which is German and I use an .eu domain which UK users have now lost since Brexit. IONOS offered me the chance to get round that by hosting mine in Germany for me. I was pleased with that.

German company, website hosted in Germany, who do I speak to when I phone to make an enquiry at 9.00 am …. a lad called Brex who is having his evening sandwiches in the sunny Philippines. I’m glad I did. He was a lovely, friendly lad who immediately recognised that I was not only a long standing customer but an old gentleman who is running small websites not some great conglomerate, multi-national business with a huge IT department of young tech graduates. Before I’d finished with him, he was apologising profusely to me, completely removing all increases and returning my charges to 2021 levels. He finished by extolling the joys of the Philippines and suggesting I visit to see for myself. Who knows!

Tuesday, 1st February, 2022

New day, new month, old challenge. Hope you enjoy February as we all get older. Hard to believe that it’s 50 years since my generation were 21. We are as far away from the time of our birth as our birth was from late Victorian England of the 1880s. On this day in 1880 – 71 years before we were born and 71 years after we were born – Britain managed the first successful import of frozen lamb from Australia. According to the Tories, we may see another shipment soon.

Age brings frailty and attacks upon our health. Strange day. Could be a decisive day. Going to see a private, Nuffield Health specialist consultant about potential bowel cancer and my inguinal hernia.

Did 3 hours of exercise before mid day in order to dedicate myself to health checks this afternoon. By 1.00 pm, we are driving to Chichester in lovely sunshine. The weather contrasts with my feelings. We arrive at the Nuffield Hospital and go in, Pauline is told she cannot stay. She goes back to the car. I sit and wait for my fate.

The consultant I’ve chosen, Dr Adam Stone, meets me and we go through my case. My inclination is to find more about him. I learn that he is from York. He went to St Peters School and knows Ripon and St Johns well. I relax. I tell him I am from Repton. He knows it and the school. He volunteers that he has accessed my medical records and says, Your blood test results are ‘fantastic’. This is the actual term he uses. I tell him that I’ve drunk a bottle of wine every day since my early 20s. He says, Your liver reports that it hasn’t done you any harm at all!

Looks more like a Care Home than a Private Hospital.

I’m shocked how busy this private hospital is and I’m told it is because of the NHS backlog. I’ve had to wait for 2 weeks for a consultation. I have immediately formed a rapport with my chosen consultant, Dr Adam Stone. He says I require an urgent colonoscopy which he will perform next week. It has some serious risks for me whatever they find because of my atrial fibrillation and warfarin use. I have to take those risks. Do you care? I don’t blame you if you don’t but I have to take the risk anyway. Not looking forward to the enema substance that I will have to take next week. 

I have a strange and threatening process to go through if anyone is interested or cares. An enema is not a pretty sight for a man of my age. I will struggle with it over the days of next week. Happiness will be an empty bowel. I will keep you informed. You lucky people!

Wednesday, 2nd February, 2022

Lovely morning with wonderful skies. Still processing the events of yesterday and you may want to leave now because there is going to be quite a bit of this over the next few days. I hope it will be over by the end of next week but that is just hope.

It all starts on Monday when I have to stop taking Warfarin until after the procedure. I have never done this since I started taking it daily in January 2009. If they find something and need to remove it, I cannot risk a prolonged internal bleed which anticoagulant would encourage so I do have to take a risk and stop taking it for a week. The day before the procedure, I am confined to a liquid intake which will also include a ‘bowel cleansing’ solution. (Too much information?) I asked if I could mix it with a bottle of Rioja but was told red wine wasn’t advisable – stick to white!

The morning has started with an early delivery of fresh fish. The bill is £220.00 on this special date of 02.02.2022. Pauline is portioning Cod, Hake, Salmon, Tuna and Tiger Prawns prior to freezing. Assuming we set off for America at the start of next month, this fish will get us through February. You will notice that the refrigerated box our fish was delivered in originated in Shetland which is closer to Bergen in Norway than the Sussex coast.

Although I still can’t believe I’m actually writing this and I’m almost embarrassed to admit it but I am increasingly retreating from a painful reality by escaping into a fictional alternative and exercise. I actually look forward to going in the Gym and punishing myself. It feels good to be occupying body and mind fully and, if I can watch some more ‘difficult’ material, then I am pushing both parts of me to improve. What a saint!

Currently, I’m watching a Period, Norwegian Drama based on novels written by the Nobel Prize winning author, Henrik Pontoppidan. In it, a gifted engineer university graduate flees his austere roots to pursue wealth and success among Copenhagen’s elites but the pride propelling him threatens to be his ruin. I haven’t finished it yet but I do know he dies of cancer.

Thursday, 3rd February, 2022

A dull start to the day. After the most delicious, sunny and warm end to yesterday. Had a great walk, another bottle of French beer – two in a week – after none for years and picked out the timeline for next week.

Biere Griz Nez
  • Saturday – Stop taking Warfarin
  • Monday – PCR Test taken and delivered to Nuffield by 10.00 am
  • Wednesday – No solids after 4.00 pm / Take laxative at 7.00 pm
  • Thursday – Take second bottle of laxative at 7.00 am / Drive to Nuffield for 3.00 pm

With all that liquid sloshing around and mixing with liquid laxative, I have got to fit in my 10 miles walking before I leave. Could be an interesting/embarrassing morning. We’ve decided to keep it really ‘local’ so I am never far from the house in emergency. I am preparing to receive a phone call from my local, NHS Colorectal Consultant this morning but my inclination is to stick with the Nuffield initially. It is a full month since my abnormal FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) result and the sooner I get the brutal truth the better. I can at least plan for the future – long or short.

The beer has reminded me of all the lovely times we have had in France and, particularly, near Wissant and Cap NezGriz Nez, of course, is Grey Nose which is the anglicised version of the jutting out cliffs. I’d rather be there!

Griz Nez

I have had lovely support from my wife, her family and a number of friends in the North. I am largely self-contained and retreat in to myself in defence but this outside help has been very much appreciated even if I find it hard to demonstrate that.

You may think it madness to carry on the exercise routine in this situation but I am absolutely committed. Some say I should be committed … to an institution but I can’t let go of anything that is really important to me. In the past 12 months, I have only missed my target once and I am furious about that. I have increased my target to a minimum of 10 miles a day since my 70th birthday – 303 days ago – and I haven’t missed a single day since then. I am proud of that and I won’t relinquish it easily. 

Just had a telephone conversation with a lovely, young doctor who told me her name was Eyre “As in Jane Eyre if you’ve read it”. Everything I said to her was responded to with, “Cool” which is a sign of her age. She told me she was 33 and already looking forward to Retirement! I reassured her that she would be allowed that luxury by the time she was 75. She offered me a colonoscopy but a week after the Nuffield so I told her I will stick with that at this time. Jane Eyre apologised profusely for making me wait so long. She had tried so hard to help me and to offer me treatment that I felt a burning sense of betrayal by opting for private treatment. When I put the phone down, I was utterly overwhelmed with a sense of shame and I wept. 

Friday, 4th February, 2022

Friday already. By this time next week I should know my fate. Couldn’t sleep. Up at 5.00 am for a cup of tea. Listening to the news of Johnson’s hold on power weakening by the day. I expect to live to see him gone at least. It really can’t be that long now. The economy and inflation is, as I predicted, becoming the primary concern. I didn’t see inflation reaching 7% which is where it is now expected to peak. Anyone with any reasonable pot of savings will have to think very carefully about how to protect and invest it. Anyone who is poor and without a cushion of substantial savings will really have major choices of cutting back their lifestyles with some even making the terrible and unacceptable choice between eating and heating.

How lucky are we? I regularly reflect on that. When I say it out loud, Pauline responds that it is not luck but hard work and saving in earlier years. I’m not so sure. I never worked that hard nor denied myself that much and I was lucky to be born into a middle-class family who valued education and instilled the value of money and saving for the future. Many are not that fortunate.

I was quite shocked to find yesterday that, when the government set out who would get help with Council Tax, they restricted it to Bands A – D which we were told covers 80% of households. We are Band F. Bands F & G represent the top 8% of households. We are certainly not wealthy so it tells you how much under financial pressure large swathes of the population are. The poorer you are, of course, the older and less well insulated your home is likely to be – the more it will cost to keep warm and the harder you will be hit by the ensuing energy crisis.

BA Business Lounge – Gatwick

These thoughts were swirling round my head but mixing with thought of getting away. I was struck by the obscenity of the luxury we’d bought … just because we can …. in our Business Class flights across the Atlantic next month. Actually, I was thinking about whether I would need to pre-book an Executive Lounge at the airport but checked the British Airways Business Class benefits.

In summary here are some of the amazing benefits awaiting BA Business Class passengers (their advert says):

  • BA Lounge access offering comfortable surroundings as well as free food and drink
  • Faster check-in through the dedicated Business Class desks, as well as being the one of the first people to board the plane
  • Your seat is in its own personal space and gives you a 6ft lay-flat bed
  • Order food and drink whenever you choose
  • Your ticket entitles you to take 2 suitcases of up to 32kg
  • A dedicated a-la-carte meal offering on board, just for Business Class flyers

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I’ve driven Pauline to the hairdressers – not that she couldn’t drive herself but parking isn’t easy or guaranteed so it’s useful to have a chauffeur. It is 12C/54F but feels colder in the breeze. I walk the streets for an hour while Pauline is coiffured. We will do another 90 minute walk later in the morning followed by a Gym session for me. Will it be worth it. I’ve got to believe it will.

Saturday, 5th February, 2022

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.
I’ve been born, and once is enough.
You don’t remember, but I remember,
Once is enough.

Sweeney Agonistes – T.S.Eliot (1924)

Nihilism in a nutshell! I have never moved beyond it over the past 50 years and I am unlikely to recant now … whatever happens to me.

As we move through our Aquarian phase and on into Piscean, we are having fish for tea. We had the most wonderful sushi- quality fresh Tuna delivered on Thursday and some will be grilled in the garden this afternoon. We will eat it with one of my current obsessions – garlic green beans.

Preparing for my date with destiny on Thursday. This morning, I didn’t take Warfarin for the first time since 15th January, 2008. A bit scary! Also done a lateral flow test this morning because Covid would stop my investigation. It was negative … again.

The post has come early today for the first time in years and brought this. Is it a sign? What do they know? Pure Cremation quite appeals to me as a concept. It is cheap, efficient and unassuming. The body of the deceased is collected, turned into ashes and then returned in a container to significant other(s) without ceremony.

The demand on the living is minimal. The cost is much cheaper than a full cremation/funeral and it doesn’t involve religion. In my case, I don’t want to be a burden on my wife or anybody else. When I’m dead, there is nothing.

We had gone down to the beach on this glorious morning. It was quite quiet and bathed in sunshine.

The tide was going out and revealing cleanly washed sand. A breeze was coming off the sea and reduced the temperature a bit but the experience was lovely and refreshing.


We drove home and did a 90 mins walk. Contact from Julie in Bridlington wishing me well which is nice. Amazing how important friendship can feel at times!

Week 683

Sunday, 23rd January, 2022

A dull, relatively mild day. Some say it’s Sunday but I wouldn’t know. Apart from exercise, we are expecting two, new chairs for the conservatory windows to be delivered by the ubiquitous DPD. An hour and a half walking and the same again in the Gym.

I know this is trivial but it interests me. Trends for the coming year forecast that the top choice of name for a baby girl will be – not Jane or even Rebecca-Jane but – Hazel. Can you believe it?School registers in the next decade will call out Hazel, Hazel? Second choice for a girl will be Olive. How time leaves us behind!

Not Rebecca-Jane but Hazel

Top boy’s name will be Albie followed by Reggie. Maybe they are following some television soap. I remember a few years ago when many kids were named after characters from Dallas. Certainly John & Jane are out of time.

While we are having a gentle, mild Winter, Greece is being hit by real weather. Today, even the Cyclades has been covered in snow. This is Mykonos but nearby Sifnos has experienced it as well. Unlike us, they will be celebrating the unusual event with fascination and joy.

I have been selected for the Oxford University Vaccine Immune Genetics Study which involves providing a specimen for DNA sampling and analysis. Initially, I just have to provide a saliva sample to be posted off but, eventually, I may be invited down to the University for more detailed examination. It’s all good fun.

Much of the day has been given over to keeping up to date with friends’ communication. Julie, an old, College friend, contacted me yesterday with some 50 year old images she had found for me in her collection. Unfortunately, I couldn’t open them. They had .dfr file extensions. Never heard of it and she was struggling with old software and a dilapidated laptop so I’ve been trying to help her out. Hopefully, I will have something to post in the near future. I’ve also been writing to John in Ripon, preparing a Birthday card for Amanda in Florida and a report for Sharon in Aberdeen.

Monday, 24th January, 2022

It is an ‘official’ INR reporting day and then a follow up with the Anti-Coagulation nurse. Always a treat! INR reading of 2.3 is pleasing this morning. 

Found a nice photo of Milly-Molly yesterday and made a birthday card for her which will be viewed in Florida in a few hours. Hard to believe that the little girl I played hopscotch with is 57 today.

I think my wife is beginning to wonder how long I will be around and about ‘legacy’. The Blog – the story of our recent past – is 13 years old and she would like it crystallising into book form. Rather than paper, I am considering an e-book format that she can review on computer, iPad or Kindle.

Kevin phoned me this afternoon to ask about my welfare which was nice. Ironically, he was struggling with a heavy cold which he attributed to being around grandchildren. It’s not a problem I have.

Tuesday, 25th January, 2022

Depressingly grey again and forecast to remain this way all day. I am lightening it by looking back to sunnier times. My friend, Julie, who has been a professional artist-photographer since leaving college, sent me this last night after rummaging around in her collection.

The Beauty of Youth – 1971

Emblematic of the past, the College is now redeveloped and sold as apartments. They are incredibly cheap. A 2 bedroom / 2 bathroom apartment is just £245,000 sold here on Rightmove.

Of course, all these things grow old, decay and fall away unless they are repurposed. It is better to renew and breathe new life into things. Of course, sadly, people are not so easily reconfigured.

Recently, an obituary was posted of this lady who died at the grand old age of 97. It is Ida Hall who was Head Cook at the College in my day although I didn’t come across her much. In fact, I have very shadowy memories of eating in College having lived in Digs for 2 years and then out in a flat in town for my final year.

It is a very strange sensation reaching back into one’s past. It can appear purely sentimental, self-indulgent but I’ve found it a necessary stage in coming to terms with my life, its events and ultimate conclusion. Psychologically, it is healing.

Wednesday, 26th January, 2022

It is overcast and cool AGAIN. I am staying at home because I am expecting a phone consultation with my NHS doctor. I don’t like these things. I’m not comfortable talking about myself on the phone. I much prefer to be face to face but I have to accept what is available.

Nog Manet

My old college friend, Nigel, has always been very ‘alternative’ (compared to me) and ‘artistic’. He and a few friends run the Bridlington Contemporary Gallery and they are currently putting on 30 presentations for 30 days of January. I have to admit to being totally lost by them but they seem to be enjoying themselves.

My doctor has phoned and told me that the result of my hernia scan suggest it is not dangerous but she will still refer me for urgent surgery. On my current experience, urgent is a relative term both for NHS and Private health services. Everything now depends on next week’s visit to the Nuffield and phone call from the NHS Colorectal Surgery Department.

Walking this afternoon and the sun is out, the temperature distinctly warmer. Feels good to be moving. Helps keep the blues at bay! Just renewed my Norton 360 security software for another two years which may be a little optimistic but we all need hope.

Thursday, 27th January, 2022

Life is a little empty at the moment. Woke up and, most unusually, didn’t immediately think about the things I had to get on with today. Feel rather like I’m marking time … for what? I was looking back to these days in earlier times and a decade ago in late January I was feverishly making all the arrangements for driving to our Greek home, booking hotels in Colmar, Alsace, in Modena, Italy and in Ancona. I was booking ferry travel down the Adriatic to Patras on the Peloponnese  and buying things to get us through our 6 months there.

We got addicted to having a Luxury cabin after a long drive across Europe. We saw it as a reward for the effort. When we do something once, it is always hard to trade down so we were always intent on securing one of the very few top cabins. I’ve just done a check on the price it would cost this Summer and it is almost exactly what we were paying 7 years ago. Return sailings with our car ad a luxury cabin would cost around £1000.00. Adding 2 or 3  hotel stops each way would around double that cost.

Thinking of going back to Athens and Sifnos in September if things go well but flying and renting a car. We’ll probably be away around a month. We won’t think about fixing these arrangements until the health position is clearer and until we’ve flown home from America and that is another reason why I am in ‘holding’ position.

Not Waiting for Godot who Becket never allows to arrive but rather marking time, just like the country, waiting for the Sue Gray Report and wondering how it is being edited in favour of the corrupt.

Friday, 28th January, 2022

Light FROST gave way to the most beautiful morning. Routine – Sainsburys shop followed by 90 mins walk. I will do another 90 mins in the Gym this afternoon. Going through a sad, flat, empty stage which is hard to deal with. We have a month before we fly to Florida and I’m trying to stay optimistic and believe it will happen. Seeing the specialist early next week and may have a better steer by then.

In the meantime, I am preparing for travel. My smartphone has suddenly gone haywire and I am having to do radical work on it but, today, I am downloading a travel app for flying to USA.

We already have dedicated apps for France and for Greece. These things really make travel so much easier and are worth investing time in advance of leaving.

There could be no better contrast between the past we leave behind and the future we embrace than illustrated by a story in the Oldham Chronicle today. I am a news junkie and I can feel the sadness of the oldest newsagent in Oldham closing after 100 years in business.

Hydes Newsagents in Tommyfield Market has been owned by a girl from Derker where I used to live and had been in existence since the 1920s. These places of historical interest have already lost to the digital age although some still haven’t admitted defeat. What is even more shocking is that some ‘old dears’ are still trotting out for their morning copies of the Daily MailDaily Express under the illusion that little has changed.

As I left the Gym physically exhausted so the sky spoke of the loneliness in the dying of the light. Do you ever look around and ask yourself, What am I doing here?

Saturday, 29th January, 2022

Beautiful and relatively mild morning opens a day which eventually reached 14C/57F with lovely sunshine. Out early for a 90 mins walk to get the first half of my exercise done. A woman came out of her house and said I was really pushing myself and asking how much weight I had lost. I’m always amazed that anyone notices although I shouldn’t be so surprised. We are always laughing about the fact that it is impossible to do the walk without seeing at least one DPD Delivery van. It’s almost become a challenge.

Woke at 6.00 am to the Farming programme on BBC Radio 4 and the topic was The Rising Price of Food. Pre-pandemic, there had been a trend to buying better quality food – fresher, more regional, more sustainable farming practices with less use of pesticides, more humane rearing of animals, etc. People were beginning to be prepared to spend more money for quality produce rather than go for the cheapest. This theme has been true of many parts of Europe for years. France, for example, spends a much higher proportion of their weekly budget on cooking and eating good food.

The UK has long been addicted to cheap food. I remember family Sunday Lunches in the 1950s when a whole roast chicken was considered a luxury for the Middle Class table. Mum & Dad would drink a bottle of sweet, white Sauterne wine with it – the height of fashion. We were a Middle Class family and ate relatively well for the time in which we were living. We were also living in the countryside which made good, fresh produce more easily available.

Beetroot Chutney making in the garden

Throughout our married life, Pauline & I have almost entirely eaten good food, usually made from good ingredients at home. We rarely bought ‘junk’ food, ‘fast’ food, ‘take-away’ food although Friday Night was Chinese Night for quite a few years while we were working. We had a wonderful Take Away in our home village of Helme with the loveliest Chinese family running it but Saturday morning was always greeted by mouths dry from the inevitable monosodium glutamate that is so often used for added heightening of flavour.

Although she rarely accepts it, Pauline is a genius in the kitchen. We rarely eat a disappointing or unhealthy meal. Every ingredient is carefully sourced for quality and price. In comparison, eating out in restaurants is so disappointingly second class that we just don’t do it. This weekend is making new batches of Beetroot Chutney, Tomato Chutney and Strawberry Jam. The chutneys are cooked out on the garden kitchen table to avoid the all-pervasive smell of warm vinegar which would linger in the house.

Beetroot & Apple Chutney

We will eat this chicken, slow roasted with garlic, lemon and tarragon tomorrow. It cost just £3.60 and will provide us with at least two meals. Absolutely incredibly cheap. Over the past couple of weeks, we have tried an experiment. We bought a similar size, ‘better quality’ chicken at a cost of £13.80 and, although the taste and texture was superior, it was nowhere near 4 times superior to merit such a price. Cooked in the right way, the much cheaper product is wonderful.

Week 682

Sunday, 16th January, 2022

Warm but overcast this morning although we are forecast for sunshine later. Feel a bit overcast anyway so going out for an early walk to blow it all away. Before I do, Google has sent me an interesting (for me) map-line of my geographical movements over the past 5 years. Most of this has been done in the car although recent Athens trips and the Tenerife trips have been flown. Hopefully, next time the line will extend across the Atlantic. Actually, although we collected our new car at the beginning of September, I noticed yesterday that we still haven’t quite reached 3,000 miles on the clock. That includes 2 trips to France and a week in the North of England.

Isthmus Korinthos – 1882

I’ve driven across the French/Italian/Swiss Alps many times and across the Peloponnese which takes one over the Isthmus Korinthos or Corinth Canal. It is a major feat of engineering from the late 19th century. To think how many men suffered and died in its construction is unimaginable. My friend, Kevin, told me recently that he had sailed up it on a cruise and thought it the most boring thing. Mind you, he is very much older than me so probably struggles with his mobility. Nice of him to keep in touch though.

Monday, 17th January, 2022

Up early and out at 7.30 am for a drive to Southlands Hospital in Shoreham-on-Sea. A beautiful sunrise promising a lovely day. 

Sunrise over the Sea – Worthing Beach – 7.30 am.

Half an hour later, the scene was very different. Down the coast to Shoreham-on-Sea and into Southlands Hospital. Reasonably empty carpark and extremely empty hospital. This was the scene:

Sunset on Health

When I tried to be proactive and phoned the Hospital to find out when I will be seen under the 2-week referral rule for colorectal cancer, I was told that the 2-week rule was being stretched to a 4-week wait and then only followed by a telephone call which may lead to them examining me. This just seems deliberate prevarication. As a result, I have reluctantly booked a private appointment at the Nuffield in Chichester with a doctor who specialises in colonoscopy and hernia repair. May kill two birds with one stone – to coin a phrase.

We promised ourselves that we would stay healthy and never become ‘ailment bores’ and, here I am, becoming exactly that. I will try not to mention it again … until tomorrow. Meanwhile, never pay for flowers in Sainsburys. Just ask us. We keep having flowers thrust upon us for ‘free’. It wasn’t even too early but we were offered 4 bunches of roses that were past their sell-by date. They’ll be fine for at least most of the week and then we’ll go back for some more.

Tuesday, 18th January, 2022

We were out walking at 8.30 am today in lovely weather with bright sunshine. We had determined to set off driving to Southampton by 10.30 am so had to get the exercise in early. As we drove down the 50 mile trip to IKEA in the centre of Southampton, a text from my lovely doctor, Giorgeta, told me she would phone to talk me about my scans on Wednesday. She’s a lovely girl and I’m lucky to have her. Kevin sent me an encouraging message asking after my welfare as I drove. You really do find who your friends are in this situation. Kevin suggested that people who shop at IKEA suffer from Stock-Home Syndrome.

Southampton is actually lovely but the view from the carpark at IKEA is not the best as it looks over the container port:

Haven’t been to IKEA for around 5 years but little has changed. We wanted a couple of slightly quirky, retro chairs for the conservatory windows and thought these in IKEA would be alright. They are cheap at £200.00 each and worth a try but we thought it would help to sit on them first. 

After a pleasant hour’s drive out and a nightmare negotiating the multi-storey carpark, we got to sit in a number of chair styles and, finally, decided on these. They will be occasional chairs in the conservatory corners for slumping to watch television before our meal is cooked.

Wednesday, 19th January, 2022

Beautiful morning and quite mild. Expecting a phone consultation with my doctor first thing and then out for a walk. While waiting for that, I am trawling the news websites – internationals, nationals and locals – and a regular is the Manchester Evening News. Just can’t let go of old haunts.

Heywood, Lancashire

As Boris Johnson and the Tory Government are on the skids and quite possibly falling out of power, the MEN has taken the temperature of one of the red-wall seats in its area. This picture of Heywood tells one so much about the ‘Forgotten North’ and why they thought the great, blonde walrus would be their saviour. When you are so down-at-heel, a major change seems very appealing. Unfortunately, it is losing its attraction and recent polling suggests the Tories are not going to be retained in this constituency.

Tory Bury South MP, Christian Wakeford has, as I write, defected to the Labour Party and David Davis, former Brexit Secretary quoted Oliver Cromwell in Prime Minister’s Questions today saying:

In the name of God, go!

Oliver Cromwell – 1653

This is devastating for Johnson, in particular, but for Brexit and the Tories in general. The waters are lapping around the foundations of the Government. We just have to see how long it takes for them to collapse.

It is 6.00 pm and a young girl with ‘red-lead’ coloured hair has appeared at our door for the monthly Covid tests. We are so accomplished in them now that the whole thing is over in 30 mins. So £50.00 for half an hour or earning power of £100.00 per hour is a reasonable rate even now. Sainsburys will benefit at least. When I took the results out to her car, I found it was a grey Mini with a ‘read-lead’ coloured roof to mirror her hair. I like quirky things like that!

Thursday, 20th January, 2022

Another beautiful morning. This really is turning out to be a non-winter winter. We are out early to Sainsburys which is shockingly low on fresh produce this morning. At least we passed Go and collected our latest bunch of cut flowers. I’ve bought a new, low calorie drink which really appeals to me – Coconut water which is only 50 calories for a litre. Pauline says it tastes like soap but I like it. I like coconut and it is good for me.

I am struggling at the moment to balance calorie intake which has led me to eat lots of green vegetables against my blood coagulation or INR which is controlled by Warfarin but counteracted by the Vitamin K in the vegetables. Currently, I am having to take increasing amounts of the blood thinner and this is not completely comfortable. I’m getting a lot of agonisingly painful abdominal discomfort.

Really lovely walk this morning without discomfort. Winter sunrises can be so delightful in that lonely sadness.

Friday, 21st January, 2022

Glorious morning of clear, blue sky and strong, low sunshine. High in the sky heading across the Channel are the aeroplane exhaust trails sunlit in deep orange, symbolising hope and possibility. Up early and going out for a walk immediately after Breakfast because we are driving up to Surrey for a couple of hours to visit P&C. Just hope the M25 is alright.

As I was reading yesterday, I found this animation which shows plants taking up and releasing carbon as the seasons change. The Earth seems to inhale and exhale in an animation that shows how carbon is taken up and released through the year. The irony of the juxtaposition in these two paragraphs is not lost on me and not, I hope, on my readers. Still, we have to live (or die) and life requires hope both in the short and long term.

The closest we’ll get to the Christmas Cake.

Really enjoyable drive up to West Byfleet, Surrey to visit P&C. The roads were delightfully quiet even the M25. We stayed a couple of hours and ate delicious cheese-straws. We even tried a bit of the Christmas Cake but left the rest for C to finish. Unfortunately, we left warm sunshine in Sussex and entered the chilly, grey atmosphere of Surrey but you can’t have everything.

While we were there, I received a call from the hospital offering me an urgent, Consultant contact on February 3rd. Doesn’t seem that urgent to me. It will only be an initial phone consultation and there is no guideline as to the wait for a colonoscopy. I’m glad I’ve booked an earlier, private one but will still speak to the NHS consultant. I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst!

Saturday, 22nd January, 2022

Very different morning after quite a difficult, fitful night. Not cold but overcast and sombre. Out early to Worthing town centre. We rarely if ever go there on a Saturday. Being retired, it is easier to shop on the quieter weekdays days. As we drove in down the coast road, we saw streams of runners jogging past the beach.

It turns out that there is a park (aqua) run of about 5km at 9.00 am every Saturday. All age groups, body sizes and running/walking styles were there. Cyclists were going in the opposite direction ….

…. and down below the shale, dog walkers were throwing balls across the low tide sands. Above them all was a grey morass of heavy cloud.

Got back from our walk this morning to find a card from Florida had arrived. It was from Milly-Molly and friends saying the had booked us a reservation at the local Tommy Bahama restaurant in Sarasota.

Already choosing from the menu – fish, fish and more fish! Nice of them to send it. Really hope I get there. Only just over 5 weeks to go.

Week 681

Sunday, 9th January, 2022

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S.Eliot – 1910

I come back and back and back to Prufrock and the fragmentary tangle of life’s stream of consciousness encapsulating anxiety, desire and disappointment.  We all experience it. Some of us allow it into our thoughts and some of us successfully rebuff it.

In line with making the most of every minute, we are going out into a beautiful morning and under a lovely, clear sky to walk for a couple of hours. I really had to work hard in the Gym yesterday because it was wet most of the time. We were able to grab an hour of dry in the evening for a walk round the area. Just illustrates how ‘etherized’ I am. Not in the pub or the restaurant, not even on the couch before the TV but pacing the countryside under a rapidly dying sky, nodding at dog walkers and courting couples who have a lifetime ahead of them.

The parkland about 20 mins walk from our house shows the signs of yesterday’s heavy rain. It is lovely to see blue sky and walk in the sun. It’s good to do it early as well. Liz has just messaged me to say she’s done a long swim and saying age is irrelevant. She’ll soon enough find that age is the only thing left! Poor girl.

Today is Annual Accounts Day. Everyday, Pauline records our financial movements in & out. She forward projects financial positions across the year. This is all computerised but, once a year, we produce hard copy for her files and today is the day. Financial Report number 43 will be committed to 38 pages of transactions to file this morning. The rituals of marriage!

Monday, 10th January, 2022

Out for an early walk at 9.00 am on a dull but reasonably mild morning. Doing it this way makes it easier to do a couple of hours in the Gym in the afternoon. I am expecting a phone call from my doctor about my recent test results and the reason for my urgent referral on. Resigned to it.

Nuffield Department of Medicine – Oxford University

When we got home, I had received a letter from the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University under the auspices of the Office for National Statistics. They have selected me for a further study called the Covid Immune Genetics. It will involve me providing them with material to establish my DNA and then I will be invited to their Labs to provide 2 Tablespoonsful of blood to compare my T-Cells and Antibodies with my DNA. Sounds interesting. Mind you, if the results of my bowel test are bad, I won’t be able to take part.

Just 10 years ago this week, we were living in Surrey and we drove down to the South Coast in search of ‘the best fresh fish’. I had found this company in Brighton and thought it sounded a good source. It turned out to be a beautiful place but little did we know then that we would sell up in Greece and move down here to live. It’s strange how lives turn out isn’t it?

I have received no phone call from my doctor just a postponement. I had built myself up and I am in anti-climax. A number of my friends have contacted me supportively. Of course, it is times like this that we realise who our true friends are. I am not afraid of dying but I need to make things right for my loved ones.

Red sky at night … across the sea from Littlehampton Beach. Maybe a delight will follow. We will see later in the week.

Tuesday, 11th January, 2022

Up at 4.30 am. Couldn’t sleep. Too many thoughts charging around my head. Pauline checked my on-line medical notes at the surgery to find that they had said the ‘abnormal faecal haemoglobin’ result of my test had been recorded as ‘Expected’ and that ‘No Further Action’ was recommended. Was this good or worrying news?

I know this is very self indulgent but it’s my Blog and I can indulge myself. Until the Doctor phones me, I won’t know why she should have ‘expected’ a result that was off the scale. I can only speculate that it is my daily doses of Warfarin or my current Hernia which has some overlapping symptoms. Is it an NHS economy response? When I discussed my hernia with her, she openly admitted that it is just the NHS cutbacks that prevent me having automatic referral for surgery. Reading about Colonoscopies, the NHS is hugely stretched and referrals on are strongly discouraged at the moment. I am totally opposed to it but I have already started pricing up private treatment for both problems.

Under lowering, darkened skies, today has been a stretch. After getting up at 4.30 am and not returning to bed, tiredness, exercise and more tiredness has left me reflective and empty. Must get an early night.

Wednesday, 12th January, 2022

Awoke to a glorious morning after a better sleep. Going to be an interesting day. Certainly be interesting to see Johnson on the spot at PMQs at lunchtime. My computer’s bootup screen threw up a photo of Central Park, New York this morning. I’m looking forward to visiting it in March.

Central Park – New York

While we were in Sainsbury’s today, I passed the ‘Travel Section’ and bought a couple of US plug adapters with USB sockets as well. Never knew before in all my 70 years what American electrical sockets looked like. Quite interesting. We carry so many gadgets now that we need a portable power station to charge them.

Instead of leaving early morning for Gatwick prior to a long, transatlantic flight, we’ve decided to book an airport hotel for the night before. We like the Sofitel which is walking distance of the Terminal so we will treat ourselves to a nice room with a runway view. We might even be able to check in for our B.A. flight the night before which will leave us unencumbered by baggage in the morning.

Incredibly lovely, warm and sunny day here today. On our walk we pass people out gardening, sunbathing and just enjoying the world. Wildlife has once again been fooled into thinking it is Spring as birds advertise their prowess loudly from the tree tops.

Thursday, 13th January, 2022

Early phone call this morning from my Doctor to inform me that I had been urgently referred for a Colonoscopy at Worthing Hospital. I don’t really know what that means. I don’t really know where my colon is or what it does. I know nothing about my body at all. Never did any Biology in school ever. I did Physics and Chemistry. Girls did Biology. I’ve had to look it up and I don’t like the look of it.

Can you imagine it?

This procedure will take place within the next 10 days apparently. I have also now had three referrals to the Radiology Department concerning my suspected Hernia. We spoke to them this morning and I expect to hear back sometime today about a CT Scan. I’ve no idea what that is either.

I prefer this one!

I’ve looked it up and it appears quite straightforward. I’ve just had a phone call back to say I am going in first thing on Monday morning. At least things are moving although I really am not used to thinking about medical conditions and I’m very uncomfortable doing it now. Let’s hope I can get some definitive results soon – however bad.

Absolutely gorgeous day and we drove out to Lancing Beach to enjoy it. On this South Coast, the lead on to most beaches is via a wide stretch of grass fringed with Chalets.

We had gone to Shoreham-on-Sea to seek out the hospital where I will go for a scan on Monday. It is quite a nice drive of about 9 miles down the costal road.

There is something so uplifting about this Mediterranean light and these wonderful, rich colours. It felt deliciously warm and comforting. Ironically, it heightens the sensuality and joy of life even as it is most threatened.

Friday, 14th January, 2022

I’m afraid that this is going to become even more boring than usual for readers of the Blog. I record events of my daily life and, I am ashamed to admit it but my body is currently dominating events.

Yesterday, my doctor told me I had been referred for urgent, 2-week endoscopy investigation. This morning, in a phone call to the NHS hospital, we were told that 2-week urgency was now being stretched to 4 week and, even then, it would only be a telephone consultancy before any physical examination booked. This is too protracted and I’ve decided to buy private treatment. I have spent the morning trawling through hospitals, operation fees and consultant’s expertise and reputations. I find it all a bit demeaning but I am shocked at the effects of the pandemic on the NHS’s ability to work.

With all this going on in the background, it is ironic to find the world outside painted with the most wonderful sunshine. We are going to visit the beautiful Elmer Beach .

Elmer Beach – Bognor Regis

This is the most beautiful, lonely space like some lunar landscape. It is a place to reflect on existence, on sadness, on the brevity of life. The parking is a nightmare! The residents definitely don’t want us there. Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not wanted anywhere?

Saturday, 15th January, 2022

Early walk and then cleaning the car. Life doesn’t get much better than this. Actually, assuming we do make it to America in March, I’ve been looking at hotels for a stay in central New York. It will probably be a one-off so I’m not going to stint on it. We will need somewhere nice. I’ve been looking at a couple of places.

New York Hilton Midtown

The New York Hilton Midtown is within walking distance of Central Square5th Avenue and the Theater District.

The Millenium Hilton Downtown

The Millenium Hilton Downtown is near the World Trade CentreCity HallWall StreetLittle Italy and China Town. They are not so expensive but almost all rooms in the centre of the city seem to be disappointingly small. Struggling a bit at the moment so trying to do future projections to take my mind off it.