Week 743

Sunday, 19th March, 2023

Another sleepless night. Another beautiful morning – warm and sunny. The birds are going mad. They think it’s Spring … maybe it is now. There are mates to find, nests to build and young to produce. Life goes on. The lucky thing for birds is that they have no concept of cancer and its pernicious effects.

There are so many robins around here and they sing so loudly. They are feisty little birds. I have always loved feisty little birds. There is something attractive about being little and strong.

We learnt this morning that Lefteris was dead. We had known Lefteris Podotas for almost 40 years. We shopped at his supermarket – Arades aka Sainsburys in Exambela, Sifnos.

Arades Super Market aka Sainsburys
Where once there was life …

He was extremely suspicious of tourists in his shop, following them round to ensure they weren’t stealing until he realised they were going to spend lots of money and then he welcomed them with open arms.

He had two daughters , Chrysoula and Katerina, who served in the supermarket which was really a glorified corner shop. There are trolleys outside but there was hardly any room to wheel them on the inside. He sold island farmers’ produce but most things had to be brought in from the mainland by ferry/lorry two or three times a week. It meant that shopping was much more expensive although still cheaper than in UK

What we didn’t realise, until reading his obituary this morning, was how involved in island life he was and how much respect he garnered. There will be many at his funeral this afternoon. There won’t be many at mine.

Lefteris & daughters – carrying the icon in Kamares.

Just going out to fight off the inevitable. Actually, the walk was quite chilly this afternoon. Now I’ve got an hour in the garden, bringing the furniture out of winter wraps ready to enjoy the coming sunshine. The raised beds have to be prepared for planting and the pots cleaned up for the new season. Finally, the patio will be cleaned to bring it back to ‘new’. So much to do and so little time in which to do it.

Received a lovely, supportive message from my sister, Jane BG, this evening. It moved me more than I expected.

Monday, 20th March, 2023

Awake at 5.00 am to a world of soft, grey, driving rain. A bit ironic because today is the Spring Equinox bringing equal amounts of day and night on all parts of Earth. Radio news – Banking is trembling again. Not what one wants to hear at this stage. I am already thinking of preparing for an uncertain future. I want predictability not instability.

When you’ve got cancer, you know you’re in trouble when a Biologist sends you love and kisses. Still it was lovely and it was great to hear from her. I am talking to so many people now but it was a shock that my phone told me I used it an average of more than 2 hrs per day last week. I am using voice, text and Whatsapp as well as browsing when out of the house.

My iPad told me I use it an average of 4 hrs a day. I do read apps delivering The Times and The Telegraph so that takes quite a while each day and I sometimes listen to the radio or watch TV/Films on it. I Blog on it at times but I’m up to 6 hrs screen time before you count in my desktop computer. It’s a problem for me because that is something around 8 hours physical inactivity a day. No wonder I have to force myself to do 2.5 hrs exercise a day and only sleep about 4 hrs a day. It is not the best organisation.

My housemaid requires a new steam cleaner. After 7 years in this house, she decided we needed new carpets. Panicked, I suggested she try just cleaning the existing ones. She did and was delighted with the results but now wants to build in more regular maintenance and feels a new machine would greatly help with that.

On a cost-benefit analysis, it’s by far the best option particularly as the housemaid’s services are free so that is the next search. Clinch the deal before I’m dragged out to carpet shops.

I have only done 7 miles today and I’m shattered. I’ve got to get a grip! Instead, I’m retreating to the Office to read The London Evening Standard. It’s great reading. I follow it with the Manchester Evening News which sends me Oldham and Rochdale items.

Tuesday, 21st March, 2023

Didn’t go to bed until 12.30 am and it helped with sleeping longer. It rained over night but opened warm, grey and dry. Went out for an early walk to start the day. I’m pushing myself to stay motivated. My phone app this morning helped me by marking my current streak of 54 consecutive days although I have a long way to go to match my previous record of 371 consecutive days. At least I am on the right route and showing some mental strength to continue.

At this time 10 years ago, we were just preparing to set off on the drive to our Greek home for a 6 month stay. It was exciting to anticipate the trip as we booked hotels en route and ferries down the Adriatic to Patras. It was great to reacquaint ourselves with Greek friends and pick up our island life.

Things have moved on and, on this day last year, we were swimming and sunning ourselves here at the pool of the Bradenton IMG Sports Academy. It was a good time but so much has happened even since then and life looks so different.

This morning, I’ve spoken to Kevin, Julie and my brother, Bob, who kindly took the time to phone. My sister, Cathy, is coming for coffee tomorrow. People are so kind that it hurts. Even so, I have a sense of loneliness and dislocation at the moment.

Nothing is forever. Life is constantly in flux. My former flatmate, Nigel, who is now 75 and suffering from Non-Hodgkinson’s Lymphoma, is finally giving up the lease on his Gallery. We must all hang together or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately, as Benjamin Franklin said. We may have been thrown together by random circumstance but, ultimately, that is what life is.

Wednesday, 22nd March, 2023

It’s 3.00 am and I am drinking tea in the Office. This has got to stop. Outside, soft rain is falling.

The day has opened dark and quietly wet. My sister is now not coming over for coffee. She contacted me by Whatsapp over Breakfast to say she had a prior engagement in Brighton. That’s not a problem. I get stood up by girls all the time. Went down to the Promenade to see a wild, high tide.

Didn’t stay to sunbathe. In fact, it felt cold in the wind and driving rain even though it was 11C/52F. Don’t think I’ve seen the estuary into the River Arun so violent at high tide.

Catterick Village, North Yorkshire

Kevin, Julie and John in North Yorkshire have lovely weather today. John lives in Catterick Village and sent a photograph of a lovely view this morning.

Thursday, 23rd March, 2023

Quite a pleasant morning. Really noticeable how light it is at 6.00 am now and the clocks go forward this weekend so that will be even more emphasised. The heating is off until next November and the Summer is coming. If I make it through unscathed, I look forward to good times in the future.

Fish Farm off Igoumenitsa

Today is one of fairly ordinary housekeeping activity. First thing, the large, refrigerated van of our fish supplier pulled up outside the house. A huge, ice-filled box of fish was handed over containing four large sea bass and two sides of salmon. We eat so much fish, I’m thinking of buying shares in a Greek fish farm. You see them particularly around Igoumenitsa. As the Adriatic Sea meets and mingles with the Ionian Sea the Sea Bass and Grouper farms are obvious.

We have a kitchen fitter here from Symphony. Even 7 years after they fitted our kitchen, they are still arriving – completely free of charge – to replace three doors which are showing signs of wear. Mind you, they weren’t cheap to buy. We were shocked to find that one, additional double wall unit cost us over £720.00 so ongoing support is rather costed in to the initial price. Even so, they are a reputable company from Barnsley.

I had to order more INR test strips. I use at least one a week and more some times. They now cost £90.00 for 24 and I get one pack free on prescription and buy the other myself to be fair to the NHS.

A packed Garden Centre.

By the time we got out to the Garden Centre this afternoon, the sun had gone so had the shoppers. They were advertising Spring but there were few takers. I just wanted about two tons of topsoil to top up and refresh the deep-beds.

Friday, 24th March, 2023

Diaries have been written for centuries from the ancient Egyptians on papyrus to the earliest recorded use of the word in Ben Jonson’s Volpone in 1605. The word ‘diary’ comes from the Latin diarium (daily allowance). The Diary of Samuel Pepys from the 1660s is well known but so many of us have disciplined ourselves to write down the thoughts and events of each day. One of my heroes, Tony Benn, faithfully recorded his day on cassettes forcing himself to work late into the night to do it and the arrival of the internet has made the activity even easier and more immediate. Blog is a portmanteau word derived from Web Log.

The Blog is not written for an audience although I know looking in on someone else’s life can be interesting at times. Although it is read every day by an audience of just over 250 people on two websites and across the world, I write the Blog every day for myself alone. It is how I reflect, record and remember the thoughts and events of the day. Most days they are routine and boring. Some days they are important, significant even life changing. My conversation is with myself, but I have spent my life talking to others in my head. I know there are others who do that in their heads. Some, on the other hand, are hardly self-reflective at all. Lucky them. I choose to put it into words. Words are my thing.

Bog within a Blog

If my thoughts are sad or depressing/depressive, Dear Reader, pay no attention. We all have those moments. I just choose to commit mine to the page. They may sound melodramatic, self-indulgent, emotional or even psychotic. In the end, I try not to worry about that. Just getting them out is cathartic for me. The more stoic among you keep your thoughts to yourself. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

We are the authors of our own misfortune. The wages of sin … and all that. If I am going through a difficult time, my Blog reflects that. Ultimately, it is my problem not that of my readers. I will crawl away under a rock and deal with them when it all becomes too much but writing brings them into the daylight of scrutiny and helps me understand. I have always written at difficult times in my life. It is who I am. If you find it concerning, turn away to the joys of your own life. I will continue to babble away in my head and on my Blog.

Saturday, 25th March, 2023

I am aware of time, the passage of time, the shortness of time more acutely than ever at the moment. In the early hours, all the missed opportunities and unfulfilled hopes float endlessly through the waking dreams.

I will sleep through the moments
All the moments you’ve stolen

Tonight, we lose a precious hour. Perhaps waking up at 4.00 or 5.00 am will seem more normal for a while.  I have always burnt the candle at both ends. While working, I would go to bed at midnight and get up at 6.00 am so this is not so strange although it’s hard on my bed-warmer.

Manca enter stage right.

Excitement of the morning – found a baby woodlice crawling across the kitchen floor. Can only suppose that it got in via the conservatory door vent. That’s children for you. No sense of danger. What would you have done, Dear Reader?

In any other time, I would have squished it and put it in the bin. Now, I cannot snuff out life so easily and chose to put him/her back in the garden to live another day. Did you now that baby woodlice are called Manca? Who could kill a little Manca? Life is too precious.

This morning at 5.00 am, the sky was bright and the dawn chorus was astonishingly loud. They know that time is short and the moment is now. For 72 year olds, the time was then. Found this photo from 1983 when porn star glasses were almost normal.

How easily we date! Even so, I have always tried to enjoy the age I was at any given moment and not regret the ravages of time. It is getting a little harder at the moment. One of my former pupils wrote this to me yesterday:

Every morning, I wake up and give thanks for what will unfold throughout my day.

This is the optimism of youth and I remember it well.

Week 742

Sunday, 12th March, 2023

I talk throughout the day to people around the country and abroad. I even talk to my wife at times … particularly when I need food. Most of my remote friends use Whatsapp which is an internationally available service and free to use. It is almost entirely used through mobile phones and one of its biggest assets is that, unlike texts, Graphics (photos etc.) are free to send. It also allows us to send attached documents. I have a mobile contract with EE which has unlimited calls and texts but an attached graphic costs an additional £0.73. So, if I send you a graphic by text, you know I think you’re worth at least £0.73 – which is a lot!

The other point about Whatsapp is its security. It includes end-to-end encryption which means nobody else can intercept and read it which is why politicians favour it. It’s not so usual to be talking to people 50 metres away by Whatsapp but that’s what happened this morning. Michelle, from the house you can see on the right, sent me a Whatsapp message asking if I was OK because she hadn’t seen me for a while. More or less checking up on the old people. Even so, she’s a lovely girl and very kind. People here are, generally.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4

This is what my Social Secretary requires for her next smartphone. It has all the attributes of her current phone but folds the screen in half to slip discretely into her bag. I like to keep my staff happy.

A 5 mile walk in the Spring sunshine this morning. Lovely! the condemned man freed to enjoy his final days. Heard from Michelle, M, Kevin, Julie, Nigel and John Rid this morning. Leaves a warm feeling of friendship.

Monday, 13th March, 2023

A relatively warm night of 11C/52C. Beautiful morning – warm and sunny but a bit windy – for a walk by the beach.

Ironically, I fully support this strike.

I had two phone calls last week, the first asking me to meet the consultant on Thursday and the next day asking me to go in on Tuesday instead. This morning we are told the dates of the Doctors’ strike – Monday to Thursday morning – which suggests it may impact my consultation. Ironically, I fully support this strike but I will be disappointed if it affects my health.

Is it inappropriate to discuss toilet paper? Well, tough …. or, in this case, soft. Toilet paper involves shopping. Shopping, in a long marriage, involves discussion. When I say ‘discussion’, I insist on thickly quilted toilet paper. (Don’t ask!) However, we may have to dispense (to coin a phrase) with toilet paper altogether.

Kelp, I need somebody ….

This morning, the news breaks that the stuff that we think rapidly biodegrades, as it is flushed down the sewers, actually includes a ‘forever chemical’. Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a large, complex group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in consumer products. It has carcinogenic properties and is used in the production of toilet paper to prevent pulp clogging up the machinery. PFAS never breaks down so is ever present in the environment. No more toilet paper? Now what are you going to do? At least the Blog remains educational.

Went on to the beach where the sea was retreating then on down the Marina Promenade which looked quiet as boats moored away from the wind. These experiences are too nice to lose!

Tuesday, 14th March, 2023

A beautiful, sunny morning to … talk about cancer. What more could one want. At least my consultation hasn’t been cancelled … yet. Mid day will be one of the ‘life’ moments whatever the verdict. Rather holding my breath this morning which isn’t easy because I’ve decided to stay busy – cleaning the car, tidying the Office and the Gym. Managed a beautiful urine sample to take with me.

I’ve cleaned the car. It’s 10.00 am on the first day of the doctors’ strike and I have had no contact so it looks like my meeting will go ahead. At this stage, do I want to know?

Well, now I do know. I have extensive prostate cancer. They think it is still confined to the prostate but I have to have a bone scan to see if it has gone further. If it hasn’t, I will take hormone boosting tablets followed by 3-monthly injections to shrink the prostate and the cancer within. Then I will have to have radiotherapy to ‘eradicate’ the remaining tumour.

The foreseeable future in the medical services was what I was hoping to avoid. I’m not scared of dying but the banality of being a health statistic is what I was hoping to avoid for a few more years at least. I have people to see and places to go, things to do.

My biggest fears are that the tablets are likely to encourage weight gain. The radiology means a 30 mile round trip to Brighton 5 days a week for 4 weeks and will dominate our lives. I can’t bear putting my Secretary through that. Health and survival are set to dog our lives for months if not years to come.

I will not subject my wife and friends to that. I have to learn to keep it within myself and to deal with it alone.

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.

East Coker – T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, 15th March, 2023

Who the hell is that?

The world looks very different and rather bleak this morning. There is a feeling of ‘What is the point of anything?‘ about it. I am going to be going through the motions but I will try to keep it out of the Blog as much as possible. Had delightful talks with Kevin and Julie last night. M said nice things from Florida and Bob and Liz sent lovely messages as well.

It sounds churlish but I find that sort of thing difficult to hear. Makes me feel ‘needy’. I suppose I am but don’t want to admit it. Have to let everyone else get on with their lives. Having said that, I am going to contact John and Nigel this morning. Been promising them a proper catchup for weeks.

I have a plan. I’ve started the course of hormone medication – not something that a man wants to submit to. I’ll probably have to go out and be fitted for a bra. To compensate, I am going to stop eating and live on fluids for a few weeks. It will mean I have less energy and I may have to moderate some of my exercise goals initially but I will hope to build them back up as time goes on..

What is this?

In other news, British Gas are here this morning servicing the central heating. It used to be a straight forward thing at one time – when they were called The Gas Board. It hasn’t been called that since 1972 which shows I haven’t moved on much. In those days, people had separate water tanks in the loft and the boiler was drop-fed. It was all very ‘mechanical’. Now, it feels quite out of my comfort zone. It is quite an involved service which involves inspecting the gas boiler in the Utility Room, the cylinder in what was usually called the Airing Cupboard, the Hive controls and the smart meter.

The cylinder has a compression chamber which is quite beyond me although we also had one in Greece. We have separate controls for upstairs and downstairs. This is the first house where that has been available but it is very useful so the Hive system has two, separate controllers. Joe, the British Gas man has been lovely and efficient. He finished by checking every radiator – 15 in all – in the house. He even found a loose socket in the Utility Room and fixed it for us before leaving. They may be a bit more expensive than individual traders but you do get what you pay for with excellent service.

I have been phoned this afternoon by the Nuclear Medicine Department of Chichester Hospital. What the hell am I doing? I have to spend over 4 hrs on March 28th being injected with a radio active substance that will give me an extra 1 in 5000 chance of cancer in order to investigate an existing one.

Thursday, 16th March, 2023

A good night’s sleep and the most beautiful, warm morning of blue sky and sunshine. We had shopping to do first thing. It was nice to be distracted and normal.

I received emails of sympathy from my sisters yesterday. Although I know they mean well and I love them for bothering, it is not what I want at the moment. A copy of the letter from my consultant arrived this morning and seeing the words unfortunately we have diagnosed rather extensive prostate cancer in black type made it all the more real.

I’ve decided that I need to build a bunker in the garden for the time when I am radioactive. An escape from the world. It’s amazing how much help one can get with such a project. The internet is full of advice and guidance. I haven’t told my wife yet in case she objects to the disruption but I’m telling you. It will have to have an internet connection and fresh coffee on tap. Otherwise, I’ll be ok.

Although I’m hoping to stick to the timetable, our October trip North may have to be moved on to November. You heard it here first. Keep your diary open.

Friday, 17th March, 2023

A depressingly grey and wet morning although relatively very warm at 11C/52C. It echoed exactly this day last year – in New York. We were there, quite by chance, on St Patrick’s Day and the city was absolutely flooded in green.

17/3/2022 – Fifth Avenue, New York

Actually, it made the visit more interesting and vibrant although the restaurants were very full and the streets were blocked off for the procession.

Received a lovely email letter from Dr John Ridley this morning. He is an amusing mix of ancient & modern. He has lived in the same house in Catterick since he got married 50 years ago. He has a boat on Lake Windemere which he sails regularly. He drives a Jaguar car and and takes the elderly and disabled on tours of Fountains Abbey. He goes round the North of England giving talks on his time as a Village Headmaster and he sings in a Folk Band. And then, he holidays in … South Korea.

1990s style

This morning he told me they had just had their Kitchen replaced for the first time in 30 years with their first ever DISHWASHER. He was very excited. Can you imagine living without a dishwasher all this time. It made me think back to our first dishwasher – a Hoover in 1984 – almost 40 years ago. I still can’t stack it without finding extra pieces of crockery after the wash cycle.

Dishwasher owner – going places. Love innovation and sucker for gadgets. It wasn’t long afterwards that I got a mobile phone. At home in Helme on the Pennines, I was shocked to find we had no 2G mobile signal and I had to drive out to the ring-road to make and receive a call. It was more trouble than it was worth but it was PROGRESS. I loved it. More than 30 years on, I am constantly using Whatsapp on my mobile to chat to random individuals.

The weather must be so much better in North Yorkshire. Julie is sitting out in her garden drinking coffee. It would be very diluted if I did that down here this morning.

Saturday, 18th March, 2023

Bad night. Radio on. Didn’t help. Shipping Forecast wasn’t riveting. Even Farming Today was a rehash of the week’s programmes. Anyway, it helps to drive the demons out for a while.

My Memory Box threw up a time in 1983. We had a log fire in our lounge and, to save money, we went to the nearby woods to collect logs. Usually, it was early on a Sunday morning because we weren’t completely clear if it was legal or not so we chose a time others were still in bed. Not so many young, married couples got out of bed early on a Sunday morning …. to collect firewood. No power chainsaw just a bow-saw and my youthful energy. It felt quite illicit at the time which gave it an extra frisson of enjoyment.

A year later, we had bought a house in an acre of grounds, had a number of huge trees felled and logged and the new log burner had fuel for the rest of time. Pauline will be keen to tell you that she still wears that jumper. I don’t. Nor do I have the moustache or what the school kids always described as my porn-star glasses.

Turned into a lovely, sunny day so going out for a walk. While I was out and to show a sign of optimism, our application for a French vignette issued to show our car’s compliance with European Emission Standards – Crit’Air – arrived to be mounted in the windscreen for our next French trip which can’t be far away. As a fuel-efficient, Hybrid, our car is awarded the highest criterion No. 1. It is needed when driving in most major cities of France – Paris, Lille, Bordeaux, etc..

Week 741

Sunday, 5th March, 2023

Some say that maintaining a Blog for over 14 years, as I have, underlines my obsession with the Past. I am exhorted to forget the Past and just live in the Present. I have been interested to hear that one of the current concepts doing political rounds as people discuss the failings of Brexit, the failures of Tory policy during the Pandemic, the failure of the Tories to deal with Immigration is based on the observation of the 19th century Philosopher, Kierkegaard:

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.Soren Kierkegaard

I could have chosen it for the Header of the Blog. It is exactly why I record things so that I can refer back in future times. Often what I record is mundane and boring but it is amazing how often I go back and check events, actions, thoughts, across the years. I think it is part of the human condition to view their existence through the passage of time. Even basic animals do it. They remember successful, enjoyable events or things which failed or hurt them and go forward on the basis of those memories. I like to think that I follow this principle on a more sophisticated level.

Little Catherine

After all, we feel the need to keep in touch with those who have died particularly on their anniversary. We understand the passage of time by acknowledging, even celebrating, birthdays. This week marks the 68th birthday of my little sister, Catherine. Brings me up short … and I need to be brought up short by the significance of that event. It tells me about myself and my journey across time. Who could imagine being 72? Too old for anything!

Too old to be cold that’s for certain! It is 11.00 am and still cold outside – just 5C/41F. It’s a good job I’m such hot stuff! I’m going to generate my own heat in the Gym now while reminding myself what a good barrister I might have been. Yesterday’s Blog will explain.

Our Office, in particular, and our house, in general, is full of charging points, USB points, wi-fi extender points, etc. They have been gradually accumulated over the past 7 years. Many are used when we travel so Laptops, iPads and phones can go with us and remain charged and connected to the web. This morning, I received a product recall warning from Amazon.

This multi-USB socket has been working under my desk since 2019. This morning, the government have instructed suppliers to contact customers because of imminent dangerThe product poses a high risk of electric shockCustomers should stop using it immediately. Fortunately, I bought mine from Amazon which is where I source most things. They have a full customer database and could contact me easily. They say I don’t have to send the product back but they will immediately refund the money.

Could have been a shocking experience. Even so, it might have short circuited the Prostate Cancer problem!

Monday, 6th March, 2023

The day is cold. The atmosphere is cold. The forecast for the week is cold. My Medical Secretary is phoning the Hospital this morning – two weeks since my biopsy – to see why I have not been called to discuss the results, to find out how cold it is really going to become.

…. The message is that my case will be reviewed on Wednesday by a meeting of doctors who will decide the way forward and I will be contacted on Thursday. Icy!

Kevin’s been researching solutions for my as-yet-to-be-defined problems which is nice of him. Unfortunately, it makes it feel even more real.

Of course, the prize is not just a long life but a long and healthy life. My really old sister, Ruth is currently recovering from a hip operation. I am spending more than two hours in the Gym each day wondering what is growing inside me. I really don’t have any symptoms. Bob had obvious ones which led to his cancer being diagnosed very early.

I have been Covid-free. There are so many who have been having their lives blighted by Long Covid. Our region has just recovered from a massive spike in Covid infections and is now almost entirely free.

The Sunday newspapers were full of features about growing your own and eating seasonably. There were lots of allotment users featured telling their stories about providing fresh fruits and vegetables for their families through allotments. It suddenly struck me that it would be a good project for Julie in North Yorkshire.

I’ve suggested a Blog but she says she struggles with words so I’ve suggested she combines her photographic skills with her first time Allotment experiences to produce a photographic record of her exploits. It would be an interesting little project for the year. We all need something to achieve.

Angmering Village 2023

Having said that, context is all. If you want to know how insignificant you are, whatever your personal problems, just look back in time.

Angmering Village 1883

Everyone you can see in this photograph is dead. They may well have experienced two World Wars, Serious Pandemics and little or no medical assistance. Their lives may have been loving and happy but they will have been harder, poorer and lacking the warmth, light and softness that marks out modern lives. It’s all relative.

Tuesday, 7th March, 2023

Just 14 years ago this week, we were deep into the final stages of negotiating an exit from work. The final stages of such a process is always nerve wracking and one has to be strong to get the best outcome. We vacillated between success and disaster for a few weeks which is not the way one expects to leave a long career but it was worth it. We held our nerve and won strong settlements.

But 14 years! Just saying those words makes it both real and unbelievable. Could it really be so far away? I can still see and walk the corridors and feel I could drop back into that life easily but I was shocked to read that Lisa (Head of Humanities) is just 55 today.

There is a tendency to think that, when we leave a scene, the film stops. It doesn’t. The story just goes on without us. To think that she has been fighting all the same battles, going through the same daily efforts, making all the same decisions for the past 14 years and still has a few more to go before she can escape the Rochdale cold and enjoy the warmth of her Spanish home. It makes me tired just to think of it.

One of the things about aging, though, is regretting all the innovations we will miss. Those people living in yesterday’s photo from 1883 won’t have enjoyed a life with central heating, television, the internet, foreign travel …. Whereas I will probably not benefit from guilt-free travel as suggested in The Times article above.

Most batteries for electric cars and for devices from drones to smartphones are powered by lithium, which has to be mined, but Bill David, Oxford Professor of Materials Chemistry, thinks that they will be overtaken by batteries made from sodium, which can be extracted from seawater, baking powder and salt. The future of air travel could also be greener thanks to biofuels.

I long to see those days … but I have to be satisfied with today – the now of time – and it is grey and moody. Dear Reader, are you with me?

Wednesday, 8th March, 2023

You know that you’re having a slow day when weather is the main topic of interest. My weather app told me it was snowing outside. Wrong. It was raining and not cold. We haven’t even got the heating on this morning.

Snow from Surrey to Scarborough this morning …

M messaged us – She was trying to sell her Mother. – to say it had snowed in Surrey and my sister, Liz, announced she was having coffee with the Countess of Wessex this morning if she could get through the snow in central London. I didn’t even know who that was and had to look her up. It is something to do with International Women’s Day. Do they do an International Men’s Day? Very few of us would like coffee with that strange guy with her! Now who is he?

According to my Medical Secretary, I can expect a phone call this afternoon or tomorrow morning. I suspect that will tell me absolutely nothing other than to invite me in to a meeting with the Consultant. She will give the thumbs up/down or something in between.

K in Florida sent me a nice message with his Wordle answer this morning: Dum Spiro SperoWhile I breathe, I hope ….

Thursday, 9th March, 2023

A grey, wet but warm morning. Little Cathy is 68 today. We wish her a very happy day. I’ve made her a card. Homemade ones are so much more appreciated.

Time Frame

She doesn’t look too bad for 68, does she? She gyms and swims a lot and it shows. Mind you, I don’t think she would be swimming much today ….

And I will find comfort in the rhythm of the sea …

Warren Buffet famously said, Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked. … It was on its way out this morning but I didn’t stay long enough to view the nude swimmers.

This morning, I have been told the Urology Department want to see me next Thursday to discuss the results of my Biopsy … so another week in suspense or, as Kevin suggested, another drunken week.

Friday, 10th March, 2023

Warmest night for weeks. We didn’t fall below 10C/50F. It is one of those times when those of us in the South can gloat unless, of course, you like skiing. After 40 years of driving back and forth across the Pennines each day, facing terrible blizzards, snow drifts, ‘white-outs’ – setting off very early, trying to be in school before all the rest of the staff and students arrived. So often when we got there, the campus was so dangerous that the school had to be closed anyway but that decision had to be taken.

The new building has moved to lower ground but it is closed once again today. Staff and many pupils can’t get there and remote learning is in place.

Honda Prelude

In the early years living in Meltham, we would drive over the A62, across Standedge Moor, through Delph, up to Grains Bar and down into Oldham. For many years, we drove sports cars. We had lots of low-slung, Honda Preludes which could never really cope with thick snow.

Grains Bar this morning. A typical winter scene.

Just when I had got over the Moors and begun to relax, Grains Bar hill would prove even worse. This morning, I grabbed this picture from a video clip posted on Faceache.

M62 – a regular scene.

In later years living in Salendine Nook, near to Ainley Top, it was easier to take the M62 and the motorway from Junction 23 to Junction 22, Rishworth turn off is known as the highest piece of motorway in England. Dave Roberts sent this photo of Norden

Norden, Rochdale

Just been phoned by the hospital to have my appointment brought forward to Tuesday morning. Don’t know whether that’s a good sign or not.

Helleborus Orientalis / Lenten Rose

One good sign this morning is the Lenten Rose flowering at the side of our drive. Well, that’s what my mother called it with a sense of religious conviction. It is actually called Helleborus Orientalis.

Saturday, 11th March, 2023

Sunny, bright and pleasant day. Life goes on. Yesterday, the burglar alarm was serviced and next week the central heating will be serviced. The affairs of life continue.

Oh, I can’t get it out of my head
No, I can’t get it out of my head
Now my old world is gone for deadE.L.O.

I wonder if you know the feeling when your first thought on waking and your last thought before going to sleep are the same as the thought that haunts you during the day. I am no stranger to it. It is the way my mind works. I have learnt to compartmentalise the day, as so many of us do; to refocus on other things however trivial. In the waking hour 5.00 am – 6.00 am, I have developed a fascination for farming. BBC Radio 4 at 5.45 every morning has Farming Today.

This is the Future!

I am an expert on Pork MarketsWelsh Upland Sheep RearingVertical Salad Horticulture and the effects of Brexit on Farm Subsidies and Food Prices. It may sound weird but it works … sort of … until it doesn’t.

During the day, as I’ve written before, I retreat into myself, the Gym and Film. I’ve just finished a fascinating film on Amazon Prime called Enigma based loosely around the wartime Bletchley Park attempts to crack the German Enigma Machine which encrypted messages into gobbledygook at one end, transmitted it and deciphered it at the other end without the enemy understanding it.

It took an intelligent man and, later, an intelligent woman – Kate Winslett – to crack the code behind the machine and read the German’s messages and subsequently save many Allied lives. The whole thing was based on numbers and logic. I love numbers and logic. Pauline doesn’t but I’m making her watch the film now I’ve finished it so that we can discuss it.

Week 740

Sunday, 26th February, 2023

Didn’t sleep much but woke to a beautiful morning and my first thought was …. I’ve got cancer. Will it colour the rest of my life? Had lovely messages from friends.

Went out early for a walk in the park. Quite cold in the breeze but warm on our backs when the sun shone. My half hearted attempt at a photograph pales into insignificance when set against my brother, Bob’s recent efforts.

This is just beautiful and moving. The world is such a wonderful place full of views to explore and to share. I can’t be doing with my little brother beating me at something.

I’m going in the Gym. It feels safe in there. I am going to exercise and escape with a British Spy film.

Monday, 27th February, 2023

Another cold morning. I think we are forecast to wake up to these for most of the next week. We have workmen arriving this morning. After 7 years here and 2 years out of warranty, we have our builders returning to address an insulation problem free of charge.

After investigation, it turns out that an air-conditioning unit installation resulted in the loft insulation not being properly replaced and a couple of additional wiring installations for ceiling spotlights and a Sky TV dish led to wall insulation being compromised. Although they are not strictly responsible, David Wilson Homes have sent out people to sort it all out. As usual, they are lovely people. One comes from Catterick in North Yorkshire where John Ridley lives.

Gave the car its first clean since buying it. It was so highly waxed when we bought it that it instantly repelled all water this morning when I pressure washed it. Cleaning a new car is so lovely and quick.

I’ve retreated to the security of the Gym and a film. Something about exercise frees up the mind and that’s exactly what I need right now.

I’ve just been told that my iPad is ready for collection. Thank goodness. I’ve been absolutely lost without it. First thing tomorrow I’ll be going to the Laptop Workshop.

Tuesday, 28th February, 2023

Up early on a sunny morning and out to collect my iPad. It looked shiny and clean as if it was new. Worth £200.00 just for that. I’m sure it’s working better than before but it’s just lovely to have the mobile internet with a large screen but without being tied to the Office desk.

I clicked the iPad into its keyboard and cover and sat at the kitchen table revelling in the freedom. Today, Pauline is making Strawberry Jam and I am trying to escape reality.

Turks & Caicos

Feeling a bit down today. I have a sadness that I’m finding hard to dispel. I’m just waiting, waiting to see a consultant, waiting to know what the next stage is, waiting to find out if there is a future and, if there is, waiting to view it.

I’ve escaped to the Gym and, in there, I’ve escaped to the Turks & Caicos Islands in the second film of a spy trilogy written by David Hare and featuring Bill Nighy. It’s almost working. Unfortunately, reality and fantasy are so far removed that it just points up the truth.

Wednesday, 1st March, 2023

Happy new month to all readers. Let’s hope it really is. Struggled to sleep again but at least I sorted out the world. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a white rabbit in real life. Ours around here are big, fat and brown. They all look very healthy.

I remember the talk of Myxomatosis in my home village in the 1950s. It all but wiped out the rabbit population. As boys, we regularly found dead or dying animals in the fields around the village. It wasn’t a pretty or painless death for rabbits. I had a pet rabbit at home and, when she died, I locked myself in the downstairs toilet and cried for hours, refusing to come out. … So not much has changed.

Because I am a data nerd, regular readers will know that I record all sorts of statistics on spreadsheets. The first day of the month is peak record-keeping time. Our power usage is recorded and compared with the previous month and the same time back over the years.

Of course, smart meters are a real help. You should see where our actual gas meter is sited – in a flower bed at the front of the house. I’m not grovelling down there every month but it is fascinating comparing usage in different properties across different lifestyles. Our heating system had to be extended into the Gym both for comfort and to protect the machinery. We thought that would greatly increase our costs but, in fact, we’ve used less this year than last.

We eat lots of fish and regularly order from our beach-side suppliers. This morning we will be ordering two, full sides of Salmon, locally caught Plaice, 2kg bag of Prawns and their special choice of the month, Sunshine (Florida) Bass. All sounds such healthy food. Let’s hope it’s worth it.

It must be a man thing but Kevin is very keen on data and statistics. He sends me copies of his cycling achievements, So here are mine:

Since starting to record my exercise on my Garmin App in 2019, I have walked 13,350 miles or 26 million steps. Even though I was only playing at it in the early days, I have walked an average of 6.5 miles every day for the past 4 years.

Something for Kevin to ponder on as he luxuriates on his pedal cycle.

Thursday, 2nd March, 2023

Touch of frost in the sunshine this morning. Outdoor walking is still quite cold and I’m rather retreating into myself at the moment so Gym-work is the order of the day. Time in the Gym means I am voraciously consuming drama, films, series. Yesterday, I completed a trilogy of British Spy Thrillers based around the laconic English spy played by Bill Nighy. In order to watch it, I needed to subscribe to Britbox. It costs £5.99 per month.

The trouble is that I have subscriptions to so many other providers in order to download something I have found worth watching. I was led to the spy thriller because it was based loosely around Tony Blair’s government and it was well worth it. Well, I say well worth it but adding the monthly subscriptions up comes to about £35.00. I like to start and stop many of these as and when I need them. I’ve just started watching a series set in Barcelona on Alibi which I may not use again for months when I’ve finished it so I will stop it. Most of the stuff on Britbox is rubbish so I pick that up and drop it. Netflix is a keeper and Amazon Prime is invaluable for free, next-day deliveries never mind films.

The research for today is preparing for a Summer that I will see. We have already booked quite a lot of time away already. Climate change is bringing hotter, drier summers and the garden will need to be watered automatically. Now the lawn has been replaced, I don’t need to use a wide-sweep sprayer. I’m going to install drip feed piping in the raised beds and connect the system up to an automatic timer fitted to the garden tap. This can be timed to water during the hours of darkness which should mean less water is needed and less is lost to evaporation.

Friday, 3rd March, 2023

Didn’t sleep last night. One of the first things I heard this morning on BBC R4 was someone singing, Help me make it through the night. Life is strange!

It is a beautiful morning of clear, blue sky and sunshine. Quite cold – just 6C/43F – and awakening.

Had to report my first INR since the Biopsy and it was back to normal at 2.3 which is pleasing. Still haven’t seen the consultant yet. It will be two weeks on Monday so I will be proactive from then. Can’t stand the waiting much longer.

This is what Oblivion looks like ….

Went down to the beach for some air this morning but left it a bit too late and the best of the sunshine had gone. That’s life!

Article in The Times today.

A report of this piece of research appeared in The Times this morning. Don’t you just love the irony of it? Here I am doing over 20,000 steps a day and yet …

Saturday, 4th March, 2023

Heavy cloud cover this morning. I will be in the Gym while my Social Secretary will be in the kitchen. We have Lunch guests and cooking is the order of the day. Homemade Pea & Mint Soup is being prepared followed by Salad, Salmon & Dill Pâté, cheese and biscuits and the pièce de résistance, Fresh Strawberry Sponge Cake. Salivating already!

Kevin and I had a falling out recently. Some home truths spoken. They needed to be. You can’t maintain a relationship on pretence. I fully cleared the air and we are back on terms this afternoon. Feels better to be straight. After 50 years of individual development, we can’t expect things to have remained the same. It feels good that we understand each other. Had a lovely message from Christine as well. It’s good to have friends who care enough to understand.

I never really wanted to be a teacher. Barrister was what I aimed for. I went to Newcastle University in 1969 to interview. The girls there were amazing. I was desperate. I failed. I was rejected. My offer was 2 As + B at A Level which at that time almost amounted to rejection. Very few people achieved such grades in the 1960s. I am horrendously ashamed that I didn’t make it. I really thought I would make a world beating barrister. I became a teacher.

Tonight, I am watching David Tennant playing an invincible barrister – which, of course, I would have been – defending the indefensible and winning.

Week 739

Sunday, 19th February, 2023

I must first wish happy birthday to my little brother, Bob, who is 71 today. Just 10 months between us – that’s Roman Catholics for you. That and the natural fecundity of the Sanders family.

Having lived in the South of England most of his life, Bob won’t know what his name means to Northerners. As I learnt when I first went to Oldham and they said, That’s absolutely bob. they meant it was total rubbish. It derives from the Lancashire cotton mills, where used bobbins/spools were discarded as worthless. I think today is the day to enlighten him.

Lovely, warm and sunny day. I’m having my haircut. Apparently, I can’t have things shoved up me on Tuesday if I’m looking scruffy. I’ll probably be made to put on a suit at this rate.

Pauline & I are both a collectors of the past. I collect people. She collects items – mementoes – things that keep her in touch with events of her history. Around our house, there are small, ostensibly insignificant, objects that came from her mother. A lampshade, a serviette holder, a thermometer that barely functions and things she picked up in Greece – pieces of pottery, objects from the travelling.

Blue Star Ferries / Superfast Ferries / BA First Class

I was reminded of this because the objects are not just stored in a cupboard but put to use which makes them all the more significant to her. The lampshade is over our bed; the pottery is used to store sewing things, the little bags are used for all sorts of things including haircutting equipment. They were in use today.

Sexy ‘Proserpine

The first car ferry we ever took to our Greek house was Blue Star Ferries in a brand new ship – Blue Star 1 – from Ancona to Patras. We rewarded ourselves with a Deluxe Cabin. The experience was lovely and we continued with them or Superfast Ferries for 15 years. Now we fly and British Airways give us bags with eye masks, etc. We are building up collections of those.

Testament to my collection of people: I have even developed a text relationship with Pauline’s old College friend, Christine in Milton Keynes. She and I were exchanging texts yesterday while she was dining out in luxury in a box at Chelsea while watching her beloved team lose at home to the Premier League’s bottom team, Southampton. She took a bit of cheering up.

I’m really looking forward to meeting old friends in October but we are talking about slotting in another reunion for my birthday in April – assuming I’m still alive. On April 6th, the Tate Britain Exhibition – THE ROSSETTIS – opens to the public. Now, for a long time I have been obsessed with the women of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s life and art. Pauline had to put up with them hanging all over our Yorkshire homes.

Ravishing ‘Beata Beatrix’

You could say I was a collector. I amassed around 40 huge prints all around the house. They were prints unfortunately. Only Andrew Lloyd Webber could afford to buy the originals … and he did.

Monday, 20th February, 2023

Woke up thinking about tomorrow. Tomorrow is D-Day. Old college friend, Nigel, wished me good luck. He is quite a bit older than me and is in remission from blood cancer. I think he had been prompted by Julie. I also heard from Kevin, John Ridley, John Morris and Dave Roberts as he returned from Australasia. Nigel’s contact really moved me. He doesn’t reach out much and to make that effort meant even more.

If you are of a nervous disposition … look away now!

The news carried a report of the death of former sports commentator, Dickie Davies, at the age of 94. My waking brain instinctively said, Well, that’s not bad. If you’ve reached 90, you should be fairly satisfied. And then my slow, old brain calculated, That would leave less than 20 years to enjoy the people in my life, the places that I love, the words I want to write.

As the day approaches, I’ve been forced to focus on the precise procedure. Until now, I’ve tried to leave that to my Social Secretary. The section featured above makes my trip to the Dentist this afternoon seem like a festive outing. If there is anyone out there, male or female, who will volunteer to go through this biopsy for me, I will be pleased to hear from you. Money could change hands. … Kevin has just told me he is a good friend but not that good. He also said, in a state of shock having read the procedure, a number of things that I cannot report here but I suppose we are just a couple of drama queens together.

Tuesday, 21st February, 2023

The condemned man ate a hearty breakfast …. well, porridge and orange juice. My social secretary has reviewed the orders for today:

  • Urine sample
  • Covid Test
  • INR test
  • No Dairy Products after 11.00 am
  • Take antibiotic at 2.00 pm
  • Arrive at Worthing Urology Butchers’ Dept. at 2.45 pm
  • Butchery begins at 3.00 – 3.30 pm.
  • Released if not passing too much blood by 4.30 pm.
  • Driven home and waited on hand and foot in perpetuity.
  • Death Sentence pronounced within 10 days.

The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.Philip Larkin

Managed the sample. Looked beautiful. Covid Test was clear. INR test was very low at 1.0 so I won’t bleed to death when they cut me. I will drink orange juice after 11.00 am. I don’t have a problem with antibiotics. After that, the list gets a bit more problematic.

Urology Butchers’ Reception

Well, it is all over. The guidance they sent and which I posted yesterday was so scary that the actuality was wonderful. I had three very attractive girls looking up my bum. No real pain. We listened to Puccini and talked about the Labour Party. They said I was a lovely patient which, of course, I was. Before I knew it, they were offering to help me put my pants back on and I left feeling pounds lighter. It will be about 10 days until I get my results.

Wednesday, 22nd February, 2023

Another grey, damp day. I’m going to see a lot of the Gym today. As I woke and reviewed the day ahead, two deadlines loomed into view. The Repair Shop have to contact me in the next few days to say whether they have repaired my iPad and the hospital have to contact me in the next few days to tell me if I have prostate cancer. Can’t quite decide which is most important. I’m absolutely lost without my iPad.

At last, I’ve found out where my Prostate is …

Still, I can buy a new iPad whereas a new prostate?? I don’t even know what a prostate is really and, until now, I’ve been too nervous to look it up. My wife knows all about bodies but despairs of explaining it to me. Never having studied Biology can have its advantages. Sublime ignorance allows one to lead a carefree life. At times like this, however, it can be like living in a strange, misty world of fear.

On the off chance that I am allowed to live a bit longer, financial security is very important. You never know when you’re going to need money. Is it too soon to start thinking about Funeral Plans? I’m going for the cheapest – Cardboard coffin, no mourners, no religious service. I don’t mind flowers if someone else is buying. I used to want a burial with a headstone for the sake of History but oblivion through cremation is what now appeals.

However, money is the topic. I have cash accounts paying about 3% interest but our bank has recently brought out a Regular Savings Account which pays double that. Admittedly, we can only hold £10,000 in it but that’s better than nothing. If the rates improve, I may go back into ISAs just to save tax. I think I’ve got too much time on my hands!

Thursday, 23rd February, 2023

An improving day which turned sunny and bright but wasn’t very warm. Heard from the iPad repairers that it will cost me £240.00 for what is essentially a spare charging socket which I could buy for £3.50.

Unfortunately, all the skill is in removing the glass screen without breaking it, cleaning the computer board, removing the old socket and micro-soldering in a new one. This is all quite beyond me and cost effective. A new one would cost me about £1600.00 so the repair on a relatively new machine is well worth it.

A few more days before I hear if my own body is recoverable or even worth saving. Expecting a phone call within two weeks to deliver the sentence. I’d certainly pay a great deal more for that to be resoldered.

Certainly got that phone call in the back of my mind as I go about the day. It rather colours each activity from walking outside in the Spring sunshine to exercising in the Gym, from shopping for food to researching new travels. I feel like I am marking time rather than moving forward. Life is all about new goals and achieving them but I’m struggling to focus at the moment. There are nice things lurking away in the background but, for now, pleasure is hard to grind out.

Actually, the day really came alive as we walked a familiar path. The trees are well into bud, the rabbits are out and frisky, the birds are singing very loudly from the tree tops.

And this evening, the planets are aligned in our village. The Moon, Jupiter and Venus in a straight line. Must mean something!

Friday, 24th February, 2023

A cold morning. Had the heating on at breakfast. That’s a rare event. It is fairly grey outside as well.

I have to chauffeur my Social Assistant to Worthing on a clothes shopping expedition. Not that I will be much help.

Muted colours today.

The shops are near the beach so I can’t resist a sniff of the sea even though an icy wind made it less enjoyable than usual.

I hate shopping for clothes with a passion but the bright warmth of the department store was almost preferable this morning. Shopping for clothes illustrates as much as anything the differences between the sexes. If I want something, I check a shop has it, go to the shop and buy it. If Pauline wants something, she consults 20 sales catalogues, 20 more websites, selects 10 different items, colours, sizes and then goes to the store.

The bright and garish colours of the store.

When she gets there, she finds the item and holds it, rocking it backwards and forwards while simultaneously scanning the rails. She then walks round the store, holding the item that she came for but looking at every other item there. In the end, she will often forget the original and buy something completely different. What drives me mad is the indecision. I’m not a good shopping companion.

I love learning new things. Today it was paying a physical cheque in online. Don’t normally deal in cheques or hard cash but something strange happened when we bought a new car. Firstly, our insurance was £100.00 cheaper than for the identical but dirtier car that we were trading in. Absolutely no idea why. Next, we were provided with 12 months Road Fund Tax in the price of our new car and were entitled to 6 months remaining RFT from our old one. It arrived today in the form of a paper cheque for £77.50. With our banking app and smartphone camera, it’s as simple as photographing the cheque. Who needs banks?

Saturday, 25th February, 2023

Didn’t sleep well last night but woke to a reasonably bright morning. No earthquakes down here. I did sleep through one a few years ago in Yorkshire which my wife says rattled the garage doors. Those were the days when I slept soundly without concern.

Received a text this morning from my next door neighbour asking if I could help him out with his lawns. He runs a Building Firm. In fact, his firm built our house for David Wilson Homes. He is very proud of his lawns but doesn’t have much time to maintain them so, when he does, he cuts them so low he scalps them. They have a dog which wees on their front lawn and destroys it in patches. His lovely, skinny wife – an English Lit. lecturer – appeared at my door the other day to apologise for reversing over the grass when she came home tired after work. I didn’t make it easy for her!

Jason was offering to pay me to do the grass. Of course, I couldn’t contemplate that. I replied that I would happily bring his lawns back to life and he could just pay for the products but there would be a couple of things he should consider: selling the dog and banning his wife from driving. He immediately came back one better. He will discuss selling his wife and teaching the dog to drive. On that basis, I’ve agreed to help out.

I had just started to explore a June trip to Barcelona when the dreaded letter arrived. It confirmed that I have quite advanced prostate cancer. It is not clear to me what my prognosis is or what can be done to mitigate it but at least I now know.

Week 738

Sunday, 12th February, 2023

Early start this morning. Rather gloomy and overcast outside and not warm either but I wanted to do a walk. Before we left the house, Little John the robot was started off on his tour of duty. He only cleans downstairs which has 7 rooms but he’s not allowed in the Utility Room.

Only one of those rooms is carpeted so the dust container shows how dirty our hard floors get as he goes out three times a week.

He takes about 45 mins to do downstairs. In each room, he does the bulk of the floor and then goes back and cleans along the walls. In order to go right out to the edge, a circulating brush protrudes and brings any dirt out and underneath his suction area. All the dust is pushed through a slatted filter with such force that it produces a matted material.

As soon as he’s finished, he returns to his base under the stairs, mounts the connectors and starts to recharge. At the same time, he alerts me to the fact that he has finished and reports any problems he encountered. He also tells me how much charge he has left in case I want to send him out again soon.

Upstairs, Little John’s Mate does the same thing. There are 6 rooms plus landing to cover up there and all but two are carpeted. He has less objects to negotiate upstairs than his friend downstairs so he completes rather more quickly.

We tend to set them off as we go out so we/they don’t get in the way. The one downside is, we can’t set the house alarm because it would be immediately triggered by these little bodies zooming round the floors.

While I was walking, Kevin contacted me to say that he’d read the Prostate Cancer article from The Times and everything would be alright. After all, as he pointed out, he is a doctor. Julie sent me photos of her allotment which, after a week, has been transformed from a rough, grassed area into a beautifully dug plot ready to plant. Of course, she didn’t do it herself. She sweet talked two old guys to do it for her. Well, she would, wouldn’t she?

Monday, 13th February, 2023

Lovely morning of sunshine but a much bigger one tomorrow. Can’t wait to see if I get a Valentine’s card. Preparing for it already. My exercise reached 8 miles yesterday so I am nearly back to full madness. Jobs today include trying to work out how to transfer Sat. Nav. data from the current car to the new one.

I can’t find a way to do it although it should be possible. Particularly, we want to save the European destination list but I am tearing my hair out trying to find a way.

I’m told that the new car will have an improved infotainment unit which will allow me to connect Google Maps through the car screen. I would like to be able to do that particularly abroad.

This old lady appeared on my computer yesterday. She is Margarita from Sifnos and she is the same age as me but I bet you she won’t be using a computer. Island life can be a hard life. Religion is still all pervasive particularly in her age group. I could never accept that.

Out walking, Kevin contacted me. He had only just got up at 11.00 am. When I chastised him, he told me he had been up half the night watching the American Superbowl. I had considered it myself but was too tired. Later, another very old lady phoned asking for help because her email had stopped working on her iPad.

As we explored the remedies over the phone, it became apparent that it had stopped working on her iPhone as well. As we gradually inched towards a resolution, I learned that she had changed her password on her BT account yesterday. All that was left to do was to talk a partially sighted old lady through the multi-layered and quite tricky process of changing her password on the machines. She managed it though.

Tuesday, 14th February, 2023

The start of a special day. Happy Valentine’s Day dear reader. The sun is up. The sky is blue … all the rest is up to you. Actually, it’s quite cold here – only 1C/34F – but lovely. Apparently, the North is going to be carpeted in Saharan Dust today. Don’t want that down here because ….

Why is it a special day? Because we pick up the new car this afternoon which is always an enjoyable experience. Love the smell and tight feel of a new car. This morning, I have to clear all our personal possessions out and clean off the sat.nav. All the paperwork was signed digitally last night and the cherished numberplate has been put on the new car. The transfer will be completely painless. It will include a full tank of petrol for me and a bouquet of flowers for Pauline. Actually, it should be the other way round.

Wimereux Plage

The tradition is that we pick up a new car and drive to France to start its life. Unfortunately, I’ve got the hangman’s noose over me at the moment and, until that’s settled, I’m not going anywhere. A week today is my biopsy but I will have a couple of weeks to wait for the results. What will I do then?

It is strange how different people react. If the verdict is good, I will probably open a bottle of wine and book a trip. If, as I expect, the verdict is not good, my instinct is not, like some people, to start fulfilling a ‘bucket list’ of ambitions. Mine will be to hunker down, retreat into myself and prepare for the inevitable. Being optimistic, we could be walking on Wimereux Beach in March/April time. Being pessimistic, I could be organising my finances.

On the more important side, we took delivery this morning of our 3rd digital kettle in 3 weeks. Consider it a Valentine’s present for a 72 yr old. Each one has been a ‘variable temperature kettle’. The first one stopped working after a couple of weeks. The second one worked fine until it reached 100C when it just continued to boil and turned the kitchen into a Turkish Bath …. I imagine. We have gradually moved up the price range from £50.00 through £80.00 to this 3rd one at £130.00.

The old saying that you get what you pay for is definitely borne out in kettle purchase, dear reader, if you’re thinking of it. This latest one is German made by Carrera – a company I’ve never heard of. You can tell immediately the quality of construction and operation. Reassuringly, it offers a 3 yr warranty. I’ll be 75 before I buy a new kettle. Look forward to it.

We were at Honda at 3.30 pm to collect our new car. It was outside gleaming in its new metal coat. I got my bouquet of flowers and Pauline got a tank of petrol which said it would do 625 miles before refilling. Probably not the way I drive but I am trying to be gentler. Its first trip wasn’t to the beaches of France but to Sainsburys for some milk. Story of my life!

Wednesday, 15th February, 2023

Didn’t sleep well last night. Went to bed late and woke at 4.00 am when my leg went absolutely rigid with the pain of extreme cramp. It is one of the effects of getting back to my full exercise routine and makes me feel old. Leaping (struggling) out of bed at 7.00 am, I opened the blinds and said, It’s very foggy this morning. and then I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and realised it was clear, bright and sunny outside. Do you ever feel old, Dear Reader?

Driving up to Surrey this morning to help a very, very old lady sort her iPad out to do Facetime video calling. Yes, some very, very old people do try to keep up with new technology. I’m sure it helps to ward off dementia and keeps the brain more alert. What day is it? I am beset by old ladies!

Anyway, before we drive off into the sunshine, I have to set the car up. We have to fix two, different seating positions for driving. These are tied to each of our keys and sets the seats as we open the door. It is also set on the door with buttons. The Owner’s Guide runs to 450 pages and nothing is easy to find.

Just 16 miles on the clock and 650 miles in the tank. Always a moment to savour!

I have to redo the preset stations for the DAB Radio. The mechanics seem obsessed with Radio Sussex and 1BTN. I had to look it up. It is a specialist ‘Indie’ radio station from Brighton. I want Radio 4. I have to set the steering wheel tilt and the reversing method on the rear camera. I have to set our home position on the sat.nav and P&C’s home postcode we’re driving to. I’ve also got to do part of my exercise routine before we go. The obsessive has to be satisfied.

… well, at least that’s one old lady’s problems sorted out. Lovely drive up to Surrey in the new car. C&P’s iPad and iPhone Facetime problems sorted out. The weather has been beautiful – 16C/61F – and Springlike. The birds think so anyway. The road from Sussex into Surrey is really lovely and especially so in the sunshine. (Am I sounding old?)

I came home thinking about the fact that I would be in hospital next Tuesday and I have to stop taking Warfarin tomorrow until they cut me open in case I bleed to death on the table. As if by a process of osmosis, this charity knew I had a problem and decided to warn me of my fate. They are right to draw attention to it. Makes it even more important to achieve my goals. We are going out for another walk and then I am going to cook Linguine Marinara for Dinner. I’ll enjoy doing that.

Thursday, 16th February, 2023

A grim, grey morning of that horrible soft, wetting rain. It started even worse for me. Nobody’s day should start with insults but mine did.

My iPad and phone are extensions of me.

Not only was the weather hurling insults down but the IT Gods were also. I plug my iPad in every night and just start using it over breakfast in the morning. I had a little accident yesterday. Trying not to drink wine, I had a glass of disgusting, non-alcoholic grape juice. I hate it normally and I hate it even more now. I knocked it over my iPad – it is a large iPad Pro with keyboard case – and, although my maid wiped it clean, this morning I found it had failed to charge over night.

I plugged it in but there was clearly something wrong with the charging point. So I researched the net for answers. I tried everything they suggested but without success so I’ve got to seek help. Found a shop called Laptop Workshop some 5 miles away and took it out to them. I thought it would be a simple, while-you-wait solution. Sorry, Sir. These things are very difficult and often impossible to fix. It could be up to two weeks before we know. I asked if they couldn’t speed it up and do it in the next 10 mins but their faces were stony.

What am I going to do? I am in despair! A new one will cost me £1600.00 so I will claim on the insurance. That will teach me. I should have been drinking red wine after all.

Friday, 17th February, 2023

Must have been very tired. Something very unusual happened this morning. I didn’t get up until 7.50 am!! Immediately felt lazy. According to my Blog, the last time I did that was this day exactly 2 years ago. Spooky. Once every two years is just about acceptable, I suppose. In the Gym at the moment I’m watching a Drama called The Devil’s Hour in which the central character wakes up every night at exactly 3.33 am which is also known as the devil’s hour. Still, it is helping me through 9 miles a day now. I’m not obsessive!

While I was there, my Blog informed me that two years ago tomorrow is a very significant occasion. Amongst other things, we had our first Covid vaccination and we still haven’t been infected … yet.

Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire

Opened my computer to this photo this morning. Was last there about 60 years ago. It was one of our family Sunday afternoons out in the countryside. At the time I really didn’t appreciate it but now …. I think it’s beautiful.

It’s a bit like gardening. Dad had the Dig for Victory enthusiasm although he got his employees to do much of the hard labour for him. He tried to get me interested in growing lots of different vegetables. I hated it. Now, 58 years after he died, I love it. Julie keeps sending me photos of seed potatoes and broad bean plants for her allotment and I’m actually quite jealous.

Kevin contacted me with warm words this afternoon. He is constantly trying to reassure me about the potential of cancer in the prostate. He knows no more than me but it is nice to hear his encouragement.

The MEN this morning announced an incredible statistic. Apparently, 70% of all homes in Bolton and Rochdale are Band A & B for council tax. Band B there is about £1,200 a year. We are in Band F for quite an ordinary house. We are going to be paying £3,100 a year. Think we’ll just have to move back North! The trouble is it’s so cold up there.

Saturday, 18th February, 2023

Another bad night. Woke up at 4.00 am and had to get up. I had a cup of tea and wrote for a while.

Starting the countdown to the death sentence on Tuesday by taking this drug which has interesting side effects. Apparently, they can include extended erections for up to 4 hours. As Pauline says, You probably won’t notice any difference then.

We have another Estate Agent’s flyer through our door imploring us to have a valuation and extolling the virtue of a sale in this buoyant market. Values seem to be holding up extremely well in spite of increased interest rates. This is an expensive area to purchase property. Just an ordinary house is out of the ambit of many people.

Oxfordshire – £4,000,000

I was reading that Boris Johnson had just agreed to pay £4 million for the above property with tennis court and 5 acres. Just across the road from our house is the property below with less grounds and less bedrooms although it does have an indoor pool. It is on the market for £9 million.

Angmering – £9,000,000

We are often tempted to sell, trade down and take a big profit but who wants to downsize really? I certainly wouldn’t live in either of these two properties even if I could afford them. I like modern, preferably new-build properties with all mod-cons not draughty, old places with centuries old insulation and archaic heating systems.

Week 737

Sunday, 5th February, 2023

Lovely, sunny day which is useful because I’ve got jobs outside to do today. We will be meeting the Honda sales team tomorrow morning. It will involve valuing our car and trying to sell us a new one. Important jobs this morning include valeting the car so it is presented at its best tomorrow but first I am seeking a market valuation guidance to go armed with.

There are so many online purchasers now that valuations are easy and keen. I was pleased to find that there was reasonable consensus around £33,500 which gives me strengthened bargaining power…

…. It’s 2.30 pm. I’ve been working for about 3 hrs and the car looks so good even I’d buy it again. It is a gleaming example of Japanese quality. I’m not gleaming. I’m shattered and now I have to do my Gym workout. At least I have a gripping, WW2 drama to watch. On Sky Movies, I’m watching Colin Firth and Penelope Wilton in a true story about a counter intelligence running a plan involving a ruse to persuade the Germans that they were about to defend Greece whereas they were really concentrating on Sicily. Entitled Operation Mincemeat, it’s central character is a corpse. You’d love it!

In the Gym, I’ve got myself back up to 7 miles a day for the past 10 days. I’m getting it back but slowly. When you’re in the maelstrom of illness, you don’t always appreciate the severity of your condition. To be honest with you, for quite a while I was out of it completely. It is only now that Pauline tells me how worried she was for my existence. At least someone is. When I complain how long it is taking me to return to full strength, she reminds me how ill I was.

My Windows PC opens with new photos each morning. Today it was this wonderful snap of tree trunks. Click on it to open it fully. I absolutely love it. Hope you do to.

Monday, 6th February, 2023

The lovely morning of gorgeous sunshine started with an early call from the Hospital Urology Investigation Team. I have an appointment for February 21st. I could even pick my own time slot out of 3 in the afternoon. I chose the earliest to get it over as quickly as possible.

Then out to Honda just 5 minutes away. I parked our car, gleaming in the sunshine, right in front of the salesman’s desk. It looked so good, he didn’t even bother to go out and check it over which was a pity because I had done a wonderful job on the interior.

Honda showrooms are always quiet, with respectful sales staff sitting quietly at desks, using their computers as shiny, new cars make their own statement. The salesman today is one who has already sold us two new cars over the past 5 years and he already knows he will sell us another one today. We also know that he will come up with an attractive enough proposition that we will buy one today.

Modern Steel Metallic

He has the cars in the country and available for delivery in about 2 weeks. He offers a Honda incentive of £1,500.00 off the list price plus 5 years ‘free’ servicing. He will handle all the transfer of the ‘cherished numberplate’ that we have used for 25 years.

Most important of all, he has the colour we (I) want – modern steel metallic. It cost £670.00 more but we have driven silver cars for years and I decided it was time for a change. It may be a bit too garish and bright for you, Dear Reader, but the condemned man gets to choose.

As the salesman went into a flurry of paperwork, urgent phone calls, form filling for the DVLA, etc, we shook hands and left with this folder. The car should be available just before I hear of my fate from the hospital.

Tuesday, 7th February, 2023

Glorious blue sky but … we’ve got frost. Athens, of course, had snow yesterday but weather is certainly changing.

Julie’s off to a party. Kevin’s out on his bike. I’ve been scanning some old photos of a friend. She wants to send them to people. Past & Past in a nutshell!

The permanent globe trotter, Dave Roberts, is in Australia now. I’m never going to keep up with that.

Looked a bit stormy over Sydney Harbour yesterday. Even so, I would have liked to have been there for the experience. I had to make do with Littlehampton Marina. Mind you, it was a lovely day and remarkably warm.

Still got an hour to do in the Gym before Dinner. Pauline’s cooking Stuffed Peppers tonight which I love. We are both on a strict regime of no alcohol, no carbs and full exercise routine. It’s always hard getting back into the straightjacket of self discipline but it has to be done.

Wednesday, 8th February, 2023

Another cold start to the morning with some frost on the ground. Beautiful sky. Drink in the bright colours. First job this morning is moving money around for the new car which is only a couple of weeks away. Always hurts to take money out of a savings/investment account. I am dedicated to increasing not depleting it. Re-reading the paperwork, the salesman has got the details of our current, trade-in car wrong again. This will be the 4th car we have bought from him since 2016 and he’s lazily just accessed the details of the 2016 car by mistake. I think he did that last time as well. It all needs to be put right before the forms go off to the DVLA.

Our ‘landline’ phones were converted to digital VOIP status over a year ago by BT. This morning, they are unusable because of severe interference. There is nothing wrong with our broadband service so I need to contact BT to find out how to deal with it. Why isn’t life simple? For months, we have been concerned that a couple of kitchen doors were showing bubbling in the paintwork on the edges. The suppliers Symphony Kitchens agreed to supply and fit new doors.

Twice now, the company have sent replacement doors and twice they have been the wrong size. Twice they have booked a fitter and twice they have cancelled him. On each occasion, they don’t want the doors back. Keep them or throw them away, we are told. They are for our kitchen and would fit elsewhere so we (or whoever lives here) will have replacements for the next 20 years but we are left having to rebook, re-receive deliveries and make new arrangements for the fitter. It is incompetence and costly .. for them. Mind you, they are from Barnsley so …!

We are regularly being told to beware the growing threat of Chinese technology which has built in spyware. Phones, televisions, Fridge/Freezers, etc all have computer board controllers which can be engineered to monitor you in your dressing gown, what you are doing and who with.

A couple of weeks ago, we bought some very expensive, Egyptian Cotton bed linen. Pauline had to buy an extra sheet to cut up and make pillow cases because the standard ones don’t fit our huge pillows. In doing so, she cut off the manufacturers tab. Of course they were made … in China and each tab on each sheet and Quilt cover contained one of these specifically sewn in to the fabric. They are circuit board chips. Were they spying on me in bed? I can’t say I blame them!

Our landline is working again after I contacted BT and I didn’t speak to a single human being. I searched the BT website, was told to send a text with my phone number and the word HELP and a web bot told me it would refresh my Office hub remotely and then reconnect my phone system to the net. A bot is a software application that is programmed to do certain tasks. Bots are automated, which means they run according to their instructions without a human being intervening. True to its word, we were up and working 5 mins later.

Thursday, 9th February, 2023

A dull but mild start to the day. After juice/tea/coffee and porridge, we have to do our monthly test for the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey. They only pay us £40.00 each month now instead of £50.00 but it’s the act that counts.

Preparing to give blood.

Mouth and nose swab is the easy part. Next we have to elicit a phial of blood from our finger. Over the sink in the kitchen, we soak our hand in hot water and then jab one finger with a sharp, medical lance. Over the next 5 minutes and squeezing the flesh hard, blood flows and has to be scraped into the little glass pot until it is full. I collapse at the sight of blood so I have to get a friend to squeeze my finger but she tells me it flows well.

Next we have to access the website to answer some straight forward questions about the test procedure and our current health and then parcel up the swab and the phial of blood and take it to a Priority Mailbox in the village. We are sent a voucher for £40.00 which we convert into a Sainsbury’s voucher online and go out and spend it. We get back two results – Covid Infection = yes/no and Antibody Level = High/Moderate/Low. We both have no Covid and have never had it and our Antibody Level is High. It is always good to know as the infection levels in our area soared recently.

Our new pool is rapidly taking shape. It is hard to imagine Florida weather without one but this is going to be great. We may even let M&K use it as well … when we’re not there.

Friday, 10th February, 2023

I have started the day as a chauffeur. Pauline is having her hair cut and the parking is difficult. It is a beautiful day but the strong sun makes driving quite difficult. The strobe effect through the trees is the hardest part. Good job I’m not epileptic.

Huddersfield Town Centre

I spent much of last night haunted by my past. It was painful, emotional. To be so far away and yet I chose it. When we left West Yorkshire where we lived for 35 years, I embraced a new future in the South. Yes, I missed the North and its moors, I missed the people but I was moving forward. For the first few years the landscapes of West Yorkshire and Lancashire formed the backdrop to my dreams. The accents, the dialects played the soundtrack. The stone walls and buildings loomed large in my imagination.

As you will know, Dear Reader, all things fade and we get on with our lives. New landscapes/seascapes start to appear normal, everyday, comfortable and the nagging memory of the past is pushed away. But, with me, the past constantly bleeds back into my memory. The last few days have seen just that.

We never watched Happy Valley when it was shown on TV. Sarah Lancashire, an Oldham girl who was educated at Hulme Grammar School, plays the central character of the drama. Suddenly, the last episode of the final series was lauded by so many on the media that we thought we should try it. I downloaded Series 1, Episode 1 from 2014 and we were hooked. Although it is set in Halifax and we lived in Huddersfield, so many familiar scenes came back instantly.

Of course I know that we cannot go back to our past. We all grow and move on but that is not an excuse to shun it completely. I love to revisit … places, people, to touch them and remind myself of what went before, what made me the person I am now, to understand time and distance is only a construct which can be broken down in an instant if we only will.

Just as a foot note: Sarah Lancashire was married to a lad called Gary Hargreaves for a decade. He was Pauline’s former boyfriend. Fame at last!

Saturday, 11th February, 2023

To sleep, perchance to dream ..

My Prostate biopsy is on Tuesday, 21st February. I am expecting the worst while hoping for the best. I have no real idea even what the biopsy entails …. well I didn’t until this scary item appeared.

Just as I was going to bed last night, the Saturday Times arrived with this article. It is a shocking and quite long read but worth it if you want to know the potential nightmare for about 20% of the male population. At 11.45 pm, I had to read it but wished I hadn’t.

Of course, there is nothing I can do about it. I must have the biopsy and I must live/die with the consequences but I resent it. I want another 28 years+ and I have much to do in that time. I accept, I deserve it. I have been reckless with my lifestyle and many have warned me of the dangers. I am obstinate in all things and I deserve my fate.

Ironically, my fitness levels are returning fast now. I am back to 7 miles a day and 10 will not be far away. The mild, dry weather drew us outside today for a walk in the Spring air. The mornings are light and the sun is going down later.

Snowdrops are flowering profusely in our village and even daffodils are opening up. The strange dichotomy between a personal death sentence and the emergence of new life in the natural world makes me so sad. At times like this, I retreat deep into myself. My wife never understands it but it is the only way I know to deal with personal threat. I have to fight it alone.

Week 736

Sunday, 29th January, 2023

Quite a grey, cool day. Although the temperature is 9C/48F, it still feels quite cool. Sunday is a politics day. My Mother is turning in her grave. She scoffed at the idea of supermarkets opening on a Sunday. She wouldn’t believe that it is now one of the most popular for shopping. For me, the political week starts on a Sunday. The interviews start on Sky with Sophie Ridge.

The same people do the rounds. Today, it was greasy Gove. He was totally unconvincing in his defence of Zahawee. By the time he got to the BBC studios  to be interviewed by Laura Kuenssberg, Zahawee had been sacked and Gove looked even more oily.

There will be many who are totally oblivious to all this turmoil. They send out for their Daily Mail/Express and are quite prepared to believe the headlines and the pictures that hit them. Those that can read will be thinking differently.

We now know that there are dozens of senior civil servants who have complained about the bullying of Raab and the explosive revelation this week of a leaked N10 document showing that Boris Johnson was warned not to continue seeking financial advice from Richard Sharp who he shortly appointed as Chairman of the BBC. Equally, Sharp wrote to all BBC employees telling them he had never advised Johnson on finances. Both were lying and both are in trouble.

Sunak has to explain why breaking the Ministerial Code means Zahawee has to be sacked for the ‘crime’ but Braverman doesn’t require the same punishment. All of this, of course, will pass the average Mail/Express picture browser by. Do they even know who these characters are?

Monday, 30th January, 2023

A relatively mild night and start to the day. We didn’t fall below 8C/47F. I woke up feeling empty – not physically but emotionally. It has been a week since I learnt that they had found something on my prostate scan which would require a biopsy but I haven’t got a date yet. That is hanging over me like a black cloud.

Hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts

I am an inveterate list maker. I love to wake to a list of tasks for the day. Things to achieve over the next 24 hrs. When I woke this morning, my first thought was, Must put the Black Bin out. What sort of life is that? I have nothing on my agenda. The calendar is blank for the day. I hate it.

Over breakfast, I have got to create jobs. I am going to split my exercise in to two, separate sessions in the Gym. I’m going to tidy the garden (What am I saying???). I am going to set the two robots off on their tasks. I am going to try to repair an old, colour laser printer which is producing poor quality copy. I am going to talk to my friends in the North. Can it get more exciting than this?

Even the French Drama Series I’m watching in the Gym isn’t really gripping me. It should be. The subject matter is fascinating. In English, Netflix title it, Women at War although the French original is just, Les Combattantes or The Fighters. The drama deals with the German invasion of France in the First World War, the terrible casualties of the men sent out to the trenches at the Front and the women back home suddenly realising that they no longer had to remain domesticated at home but were needed to replace the men.

I am already enamoured of Sofia Essaïdi who plays a central part in the drama. She is French Moroccan born in Casablanca -how exotic is that? Her part is replacing her father in running the family factory producing Trucks. Pre-1914, it would have been no place for a woman but now there is no other option. The women struggle against prejudice but soon learn the skills both managerial and mechanical which is why the world was never the same when the men came home from the war.

Tuesday, 31st January, 2023

As January comes to a close, have you noticed how quickly the days are lengthening already? It is noticeably lighter in the mornings which ought to make me more optimistic but I don’t feel that. Something sad is niggling away. I don’t feel particularly old but I will be 72 soon. This morning I learned that my PSA test – Prostate Antigen – was 7.0 which is apparently a sure sign of cancer and makes me sad.

So many of my friends are in the same situation. I was talking to John Morris this morning. He is 72 today. He is feeling his age because he has had hip and knee replacements recently but so many of the group echo the sentiments on this tee-shirt.

We really have been the fortunate generation. We own our homes which have soared in value. We retired at young ages – well many of us. Pauline & I were still just 57 when we left to enjoy a life of ‘playing out’. We have good, protected and inflation-proofed pensions which allow us to travel and enjoy comfortable retirements. The generation before us seemed to accept old age whereas we increasingly resist it.

I was sent this photo from 1972 which features the Students Union reps. I never got involved in that sort of stuff preferring to be on the outside looking in but I knew all these people. They all look very different now as I do but it is not what you look like but what you are like that counts so I fail on both counts.

The Florida pool develops.

If things hadn’t gone wrong, we would have landed back at Gatwick Airport from Tampa at 8.45 this morning. It’s a pity but this PSA test wouldn’t have happened so soon if I hadn’t so it may turn out to be fortunate if the problem is caught early.

Wednesday, 1st February, 2023

New month. Hope you are happy and enjoy February 2023. Up early and by 6.30 am had already spoken to Kevin. Good to have him back in my life. He is very supportive. Driving up to Surrey this morning and that will include the M25 at rush hour on a day when there are no trains.

Optimism for the future is sometimes in short supply. Gardening is a process which relies on and implies optimism for the future. There is little point in preparing ground, sowing seeds or planting if you don’t expect to live to see the result. I tidied up the raised beds and lawn a couple of days ago and caught myself planning things for the Spring. Julie told me yesterday that she had just acquired an allotment plot in North Yorkshire and sent me photographs over Whatsapp.

A lot of hard work needed to get it in shape but it will be lots of fun doing it. If we were in UK consistently enough, I would consider an allotment myself but they are too tying and demanding. I’m not ready for that yet. Might have to go up and see Julie’s though.

Just had a three hour round trip through rush hour to take C to St Peters Hospital in Chertsey for what turned out to be a 10 mins appointment. Home in time for a session in the Gym this afternoon.

Thursday, 2nd February, 2023

Yesterday, amongst all the other dire warnings, there was one that appeared in a number of newspapers but which struck me particularly.

Warning as popular food and drink ‘increase your risk of dying from cancer by up to 30%’ … Ultra-processed foods such as sliced bread, breakfast cereals, fizzy pop and ready meals have long been singled out for their high levels of salt, fat, sugar and artificial additives.

The Mirror – 1/2/2023

It is ironic really because I am facing a potential cancer verdict myself and yet we have made a life’s mantra of avoiding processed foods. I would say that 95% of our diet is based on fresh ingredients cooked at home.

I was thinking about that as we assembled the weekly shopping list. For a while, we have been eating a roast chicken at the weekend with home made sage & onion stuffing. Gone are the days of the £3.00 chicken. We decided long ago to go for quality and ignore the price. A Norfolk Black chicken from Sainsburys costs around £16.00 – £20.00 and will make two meals plus stock for the future. It is very economical. It also clearly tastes better than cheap chicken

We certainly didn’t eat processed foods in my family as a child. My mother prided herself on cooking fresh things each day. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a brilliant cook like the one I have now. Once you have tasted Pauline’s food, you wouldn’t want to go out to eat or buy ready meals to bring home.

Just finished the French Drama Series, Les Combattantes, and had to get off the treadmill to mop the tears from the gym floor. It was horrendously sad as the two, long lost lovers reunited in the fog of war and were killed as their hands and eyes met. I am too soft for such sadness.

Friday, 3rd February, 2023

I’ve received a letter from the Urology Depart to say that it may be some weeks before I am called for my biopsy. A bit worrying but, with rolling strikes in the Health Service and GPs now balloting to join them, it is what I can expect. It may, of course, be a positive thing if they don’t think it so urgent after viewing the scan.

Just getting on with the day. What are you doing? What can anyone do? With Bank Rate going up to 4% yesterday, I’m hoping that savings accounts are improved very soon. Keep checking the best rates tables.

I start the day by reading the newspapers – The TelegraphThe TimesThe Independent and The Guardian – and I’ve got subscriptions to the first two. I can get into the others freely and then, if I have time, I browse the colour comics – The MailThe Express and The Mirror. They are free because … well, who would pay for them?

Each morning I’m sent updates by the Manchester Evening News and particularly for Rochdale and Oldham and from the Huddersfield Examiner so I follow them up during the day.

I am putting on weight and eating and drinking too much. Think I’m trying to drown my sorrows but I’ve got to get a grip. Going in the Gym is not enough. Got to make a plan!

Saturday, 4th February, 2023

I wrote on Monday about having to make lists of jobs to motivate myself. Well, the car is cleaned; the garden is tidied, the house is clean and tidy. What can I tick off next? It would be nice to say life was tidy but there are so many loose ends that I have to address. I will get there. You can be assured but they need more work. I never give up how ever much I flounder.

The big job today, along with my exercise routine and watching the 6-Nations Rugby, is sorting out the Office. Yesterday, I threw out the colour laser printer. I bought it 7 years ago just as we moved here. We took it to the tip. The new one I bought recently is far superior. As soon as I moved the cabinet it was sitting on, my friend moved in with the cleaning equipment. As you will know, she is cleaning mad while I am tidiness obsessed.

Today, I am sorting out the bookcases. Most books now go unread. Everything is digital. Some of the very elderly, I know, still take paper books to bed with them but what else is there? What I have still got with me are memories that I have carried from place to place – not willing to let go. Above is the book I chose as my prize for Literature student in the Sixth Form at Grammar School. Could you get more exciting and sexy than this?

It is followed by Deus Nobiscum – God with us – the motto of my Grammar School which was founded in 1520. My Dad went there in the 1930s. I left in 1969. It closed in 1972. It just couldn’t go on without me. The book was written by my old music teacher. She had huge bosoms but we knew her as Fanny Radford.

The third book is worth a fortune and is the history of my home village, Repton – the capital of Mercia. Chester thought it was special. It had nothing on Repton! It was a present to my Dad from his Auntie Kesssie over 60 years ago. I had to fight my siblings for it. I won!

Time moves on. I move away from my village and my family. I make new friends. Some support me and some don’t. My friends, Kevin & Chris, are rocks at a time of tempest. I don’t even understand their appreciation of my friendship. I saw it as all one way. I sucked up their support.

Even so, in 1976, as I was completing my BA Degree with a course on 20th Century Poetry, they bought me an anthology of Thomas Hardy’s poetry. I was moved by the gesture and inscription. It has travelled with me throughout the rest of my life.

I have my own leather-bound Masters thesis on the works of Professor R.H. Tawney which I’ve featured before but the other item on my bookcase which is so significant in my life is that chronicling our Greek lives on Sifnos spanning 30 years. It was a major part of our lives and, although I created a website for it at the time, it just had to be recorded in a hard copy.

How time flies. It is 8 years in July that we sold our house and left our island for the last time. In doing so, we just managed to reclaim our investment before the Greek economy imploded. It has allowed us to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Even so, it is great to have this memory as ours become a little hazier than we would like.

Week 735

Sunday, 22nd January, 2023

Glorious day of beautiful sunshine and blue sky. The car is gleaming like a new machine outside as the sun glints off its sparkling metallic paint. The leather seats have been completely restored with a rich cream and the tyres look like new. The valet has taken me about 3 hours but I actually enjoyed it. Probably have to do it again before it is officially valued.

My whole, adult life I have been interested in Poetry and Politics. In fact, PPE would have been the perfect University course for me. Normally, it means Politics, Philosophy and Economics but I would have had to add an additional P for Poetry. It would have helped me understand all the little wrinkly people of the world as well. We have been going through the most exciting and challenging times in political life over the past decade and it is culminating in the total decay of the Tory government. 

The cartoon above from the Tory supporting, Murdoch owned Sunday Times, makes a trenchant comment on the Sunak government and the Tory governments it has succeeded. If you need any help, Pork Barrel Politics originated in the USA and refers to bribing the electorate with a barrel of pork, for example, to support/vote for the provider. Cleverly, the cartoon suggests that, with one hand the Tories are trying to bribe the electorate with ‘Levelling Up’ cash while covering up the Tories individual avarice with a tissue of lies. It is quite typical of a decaying of power.

When political power deserts a government, they find themselves fighting on multiple fronts – some trivial and some very serious. Boris Johnson tried to bury the Russia Report but it is about to hit him as the country becomes aware of the sheer duplicity of his actions. Of course, they will also become aware of the dodgy relationship between Johnson and the man he appointed to Chair of the BBC as he helped him to a £800,000 loan.

We have a Deputy Prime Minister – Raab – who is currently being investigated for multiple instances of bullying in the workplace …

… and a Prime Minister who has received two fixed penalty notices from the police. Nobody in that office has done that before. These things are unprecedented but we also have a former Chancellor who is now Chairman of the Tory Party who was found to have claimed public money to heat his horses’ stables during the MPs’ Expenses scandal which he said was a careless mistake and now he is being fined by the Tax Authorities for another careless mistake as he failed to pay millions of pounds in tax on an off-shore investment designed to avoid paying tax.

It hasn’t been explained how it is possible to be so careless that you set up an off-shore investment to avoid paying UK tax without knowing but that is the defence. It is tired and a sign of resignation. They are on their way out and they know it.

Monday, 23rd January, 2023

Cold night down to -2C/29F. Frost this morning under crystal clear skies but with early sunshine melting it quickly. Don’t need to go out today. It’s correspondence day. I’ve got three people to phone – Brian in Royton, Dave in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, John in Yorkshire. Looking forward to that.

I’ve written before about my love of Mail, even Junk Mail which we still get by the ton. I am always the first to the Mail and I open all the mail whoever it is for. My wife is perfectly happy to indulge my excitement. In fact, she prefers me to get any bad news and to break it to her gently.

Daily Excitement!

Pauline believes my phone is permanently attached to my arm. It is the first thing I look at in the morning and the red number disks on phone apps. Here, this morning, I have a Whatsapp message from North Yorkshire in Social Media group, 3 newspaper reports in the News group, 11 alerts about things I’ve been searching on Google apps. Down at the bottom, I have a mystery text, 3 emails and an item message from our online calendar which turns out to be a reminder that I have to put all three bins out today.

Most of my email is junk mail as well. Any company I have bought from or even made an enquiry with bombards me with daily emails. I could block them but I don’t because I like to see what they are offering. Does this make me appear to be one sad man? Probably but who cares? I am too old to be self conscious about it.

My whole life has been centred around words, concepts, ideas and communication. I love to connect and to get connections. Who is that text from? Well, of course, I’m not telling you.

Everything comes to an end ultimately and 7 years seems to be a trigger. So many things have been breaking down in the past couple of months. Today, it is the cordless vacuum cleaner. I bought a Gtech and it has been fine but it finally died. We have ordered a Shark even though the obvious one would be a Dyson. We could never buy one of those because of his fervent support for Brexit as he moved his production abroad. I don’t even like using Dyson hand dryers in public toilets. Now sharks I’m all for!

Tuesday, 24th January, 2023

Up early because we have an electrician arriving at 8.00am to fix a problem that has developed with the garden lights. It will only take a half an hour. Fortunately, it is dry and mild. It is just starting to become apparent that the days are lengthening. It is definitely lighter earlier. Thank goodness for that!

Driving up to Surrey this morning with a coffee cake that Pauline made yesterday. It is to celebrate the 58th birthday of Little M. The first time I met her was in 1978 and we played hopscotch together. I don’t think she does it any more.

Around 58 years ago or more, Pauline was learning to play the piano. She says that, although she enjoyed it, she wasn’t very good and has always had a hankering to try again. We have talked about it many times without following it up. I always thought that it would be a two minute wonder and any piano we bought would then gather dust for years.

We have decided that she must have a keyboard and we have chosen a ‘starter’ kit which can be set up in the Ironing/Sewing room for her to practice. It’s only £130.00. Headphones will maintain my sanity and she can play away to her heart’s content. If it proves a success, we can move on to something bigger and better. We will see.

Wednesday, 25th January, 2023

Not a good day. Grey, cold and slightly damp. The Hospital phoned to confirm that they had found something on the prostate in my MRI scan and told me I had to go in for Biopsies. No prizes for guessing what they found. I just have to hope that it is one of the slow growing, non-invasive cancers that take so long to kill me that I die of something else first. Suddenly feel very alone. Even so, Pauline is immediately supportive and Kevin phoned to say he knew I would be alright.

Went out to Littlehampton to collect the digital piano and then on to Chichester to collect the vacuum. As an old hand at this, I photograph the unpacking at every stage. It makes re-packing and returning so much easier. The vacuum turns out to be excellent but the piano is rubbish. Perhaps it is my fault for not reading the advert carefully enough but it seems to be less about piano and more about synthesizer. The sound and tone was very poor – for £150.00. We set it up, tried it out , repacked it within a couple of hours.

As we prepared it for return, I realised it had come from Middleton in M24. Nothing reliable ever came out of that postcode. I will look for something better tomorrow. The budget will have to be increased considerably to get a quality machine.

I use IT for almost everything. I love its universality. I can control my lights, cameras, heating, etc from anywhere in the world. Of course, it is fine until something goes wrong and then everything is thrown out of kilter. I use Hive to control everything until I can’t and then I feel lost. Today, I really feel lost and then Hive went down.

At first, I resorted to analogue. I phoned the company. They told me there was a 30 mins minimum delay. Eventually, I learned that there was a nationwide problem and, at 7.00 pm, there is still a connectivity problem. It is really difficult although not as bad. Can you imagine, Dear Reader, having to walk to the wall control to switch up your heating manually? Nightmare!

Thursday, 26th January, 2023

I gave over a few hours yesterday to getting our digital platform, Hive, back up and working. It turns out, the problem was not just mine but national. I found a number of newspapers running articles about it. Everyone was screaming that they couldn’t put their heating on from the train home from work or couldn’t monitor the security of their homes from the camera systems and alarms.

It reminded me of an event we experienced in Athens when a lightning strike cut the power supply to the shopping streets. Pauline was just in the process of paying for clothes she had chosen and the shop just refused to proceed because they couldn’t just take cash in the hand. Everything relied on credit card payments and stock control databases which were shut down at the time. We take these things for granted until they go down and illustrate our reliance on them. That’s when the wrinkly, old people scoff and feel justified in not entering the modern world of IT. I am determined never to enter that stage.

David’s isolated home.

Had a phone call from a man who played quite a significant part in my life growing up in a small and very insular village. David, moved to live in Wales 40 years ago. Actually, I haven’t seen him since 1969 when he was only 28 but seemed so much older to me. Now his wife is dead and he lives alone in this isolated, beautiful but bleak place in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I certainly couldn’t live anywhere so remote or so wet. Wales is so WET. I wouldn’t even consider it.

The hospital paperwork has just arrived. Sounds horrendous. They’re certainly not going to stick needles and instruments where they think they are. It would be unspeakable! It says: Prostate biopsies are taken through the perineal skin. I’ve just had to look it up and IT’S NOT NICE! Phoned my little brother, Bob, in Maidenhead. He has already been through all this. He sounded fine and was enjoying my utter ignorance about my own body. I suppose that’s what brothers are like. Talked to Kevin who was all sloppy but very supportive.

Friday, 27th January, 2023

Lovely morning of bright sunshine – 11C/52F. Strange how it can be darkened by events out of one’s control.

You know you’re on your way out when you get something like this and it colours all your activities. I found it difficult to exercise. Is there any point? Well, my addictive nature forced me on but these thoughts play across one’s mind. Will there come a day when I can stop talking about health, doctors, hospitals? My Blog reflects what’s in my mind at the time. I’m only 71. Grow old with me!

Suddenly, politics feels hollow and pointless just when the political scene is becoming so interesting. Imagine when that senior political spokesman, Rod Stewart, phones in to a discussion programme on Sky and tells the audience that the Tories are destroying the NHS and they should vote for Labour instead. We’ve only been screaming this for years: turn, turn, turn and now the times they are a-changing.

On this day 13 years ago, we finished our final Ofsted inspection with the damning verdict of Satisfactory and I was going for a heart scan which found Atrial Fibrillation. I’m not sure if the two events were connected. Now, my heart could not be stronger or healthier. If only the rest of me would keep up!

Saturday, 28th January, 2023

Cold start to the morning – just 4C/39F but feels colder. It is a day at home doing jobs …. well, for my housekeeper. We love new houses but can’t move too often and so maintenance is all important.

Our house has to be pristine and as good as new. Even two old codgers leave their mark on a house over a number of years. This morning I have had to instruct my housekeeper to address some of the grubby marks and scrapes on the walls and ceilings where life has left its imprint. I opened a bottle of red wine yesterday and the cork went straight in leaving a fountain of red which sprayed the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, two drops hit the ceiling and need to be painted out today. Perfect opportunity for her to get rid of marks around light switches, etc..

I am more a gadgets person. I love learning what they can do to make life easier. I’m not very practical so it is always a challenge. It even took me a while before I could get the best out of my coffee maker but now we’ve got a new kettle which has flashing lights and lots of different temperature choices. Boiling water has never been so exciting.

The Florida pool design.

Life is all about self improvement, moving forward and making one’s position better. M&K in Florida have only been in their new house a matter of months and already part of the garden is being dug up and a pool with jacuzzi installed. M sent us this enticer yesterday. Who would not be happy with this?

Work has begun already.

My self improvement today will be back in the Gym. My fitness is coming back but it is slower than I’d hoped. I’ve got to be more consistent and more determined. I have so much to live for. I have aims to pursue and targets to meet. It is important to remain focussed!

Week 734

Sunday, 15th January, 2023

Beautiful, sunny and bright morning spoiled by a phone call to say my MRI scan is cancelled because the equipment has broken down. I will be sent a new appointment as soon as possible.  Real sense of anti-climax. Still, at least any bad news is delayed.

In November 2021, we were in New York and flew back to Tampa just hours after Frank & Diane, friends from Oldham who we hadn’t seen for years, flew in and stayed just a block away from our hotel. They were en route to visiting their son and his wife just outside NY city. Frank & Diane had bought and run a  private school in Oldham for about 30 years and had just retired. Lovely times lay ahead of them.

Frank’s hobbies were fitness and, in particular, cycling but also music and playing one of his numerous guitars. While in New York, he was desperate to visit Woodstock which is where this happy photo was taken. Just 9 months later, at the age of 70, Frank was dead from an inoperable brain tumour and the dreams of a happy, adventurous retirement were over.

Now alone, Diane has returned to New York to spend Christmas with her son but also to revisit Woodstock and to scatter Frank’s ashes. It is hard to accept that this is how all lives end but accept it we must.

This is one reason why I love to travel. The sense of movement and exploration obscures and distracts me from the reality of what is to come. But it is also why reaching out to friends has become so important and largely so rewarding. Who knows when we will need them even more?

One of those who rivals me for travel, Dave Roberts from Rochdale, really seems to be constantly globe trotting. Currently, he is in New Zealand. Only 3 months ago, he was on a boating trip down Le Canal du Midi and visiting Narbonne, Beziers and Carcassonne.

In July, he was on a cruise visiting Athens from where he contacted me for advice on places to see and then Napoli on the south west coast of Italy. That is definitely the way to keep the looming terminator at bay. Keep fit. Keep moving. Keep looking for new experiences without ditching your past.

Just had a phone call from the hospital to say my scan will now be on Tuesday afternoon. I’m really pleased, very grateful and just a little bit apprehensive.

Monday, 16th January, 2023

The morning opened at quite a cold 5C/41F and didn’t get much higher all day. Kevin said he’d had his coldest bike ride of the year. Mind you, it is only half way through January. We left the house shortly after 9.00 am to drive to Surrey. We had to leave the burglar alarm off because we had set Little John and Little John’s Mate to vacuum the house while we were out. As we drove up the M25, we received messages on our phones to tell us that they had completed their jobs.

M is in Surrey having returned from Florida. It was lovely to see her. She is so caring. She had returned to spend time with her elderly parents. She has the age-old problem of parents who need care and a family in a different part of the world who need her too. In the end, she has to lead her own life. She can’t sacrifice it for her parents but it is hard. They will have to go into supported accommodation or have social support in their own home but it is always difficult making that choice when you are elderly and frail.

In the end, M has to live her own life and her parents have to live theirs but getting there is not easy. Sometimes, P&C don’t realise when they are well off. I didn’t give up so much of my life for my Mother nor would I. She didn’t expect it. She had her life and wanted me to have mine. The same with Pauline’s lovely Mum. We went to our Greek home with her blessing but we came home immediately she needed us.

This is what I went for really. Pauline makes Christmas cakes every year for other people and we never get to taste any. Well, today we did and they were wonderful. Apparently, K’s eaten most of his. I had a huge piece and it was WONDERFUL.

Tuesday, 17th January, 2023

Quite a cool start to the morning. There was even a slight trace of frost on the roofs around. I have my scan this afternoon and Kevin messaged me this morning to wish me good luck. In fact, I think he’s going sloppy in his old age. He wrote, When they examine the film, they will find a heart of gold. I’m sure some of my old friends wouldn’t say that but it was nice of him anyway. 

Before that, what I experienced yesterday made such an impression on me that I had to do something. My little sister is Head of Adult Social Care Services for Surrey County Council. I saw M coping with two elderly people who are rapidly moving towards the point when they are going to need just such services. In her Guardian article, Liz makes a lot of her desire to deliver integrated health and social care services to the adult population of Surrey. M has two adults with multiple health and welfare requirements so I thought I would go to the top and seek Skinny Lizzie’s advice. The photo on the left is how I remember her.

From the sublime to the trivial. My new Xerox printer came with a £40.00 cash back offer. I had to apply with copies of my invoice and printer setup page. I sent off what I thought was sufficient but they rejected it for lack of evidence. It’s only £40.00 but rejection is a red rag to a bull with me. I phoned my supplier, got all of the information required, submitted it to Xerox. A £40.00 cash back is winging its way to my account.

Worthing Pier this evening.

That done, I turned my thoughts to my existence. My longevity. Is prostate cancer going to get me? Someone told me the other day that most men of my age were living with it. Actually, it is only one in eight and I don’t intend to be one of them. If they find a problem, I will opt for surgery whatever the risks. I intend to live to 100 and to meet my destiny whatever it takes.

Got to live to share this.

The MRI scanner was very noisy and incredibly long. I was in it for just under an hour. As soon as they moved me down the tunnel and said, Now don’t move, I got a terrible itch on my cheek. I zoned out and fell asleep. I awoke to find my leg trembling. Nobody complained. The person administering the injection into my arm was called Fabio. He was from Milan. I love Milan and have driven through it many times. We had a lot to talk about. It is hard to believe my fate has been decided today in this place.

We drove home down the coast which was looking illuminated by sky and by man. I find this sort of thing quite threatening but everything is threatening at times. I maybe in my death throes but that will make me even more reckless. Beware!

Wednesday, 18th January, 2023

Up early this morning to a clear sky of stars and this beautiful little chap in the lightening sky. Just took it with my phone camera in the garden. Another hint of frost and certainly feeling cold.

Up early because we’ve got a person from our Developers coming with a thermal imaging camera to test heat loss. We have been saying for a while that one bedroom was significantly colder than all the others and that maybe the insulation was defective there or the window was badly fitted.

Our house is almost 7 years old and almost 2 years out of warranty but our Developers – David Wilson Homes – are a class act. They take customer satisfaction very seriously and immediately offered to investigate our problem.

The representatives of the company are lovely, friendly and helpful people and so it was this morning. Within minutes of inspecting the problem, Steve said there was clearly an insulation problem – either missing or slipped insulation boards – and he would bring someone else from the company to assess how to rectify it. Can’t quite see how they will do that retrospectively but that’s why they are the experts.

A very kind Blog Reader has done me the honour of official recognition and sent me a card of greeting. My friends tell me I have earned it although I’m not sure my wife would agree.

We retired in April 2009. We took lovely, big redundancy packages as the school prepared to combine with another and move into a £25 million, new Academy building. In our last decade, we had bumped along the Ofsted ratings of ‘Satisfactory’ (Damned with feint praise.) to ‘In Need of Improvement’ to ‘Special Measures’ twice when the Headteachers were expected to resign/sacked.

The new Academy was ostensibly an answer to the Oldham race riots of a decade before. One, mainly Asian school was being integrated with another, mainly white school. Neither school had good reputations and the strange belief was that a swan would arise out of the mating of two, ugly ducklings. Old timers like us were scorned for our scepticism. The BBC featured the school as a brave new dawn in race relations. £ millions more were poured into extra staff and facilities. Everyone interviewed spoke highly of the changes. Within 3 years, they were ‘In Need of Improvement’. By 2016, they were in ‘Special Measures’. In 2019, they were ‘In Need of Improvement’ and this week, they are back in ‘Special Measures’

The big thrust of the Academy raison d’etre was to demonstrate that race relations across the divide in Oldham could be healed. Huge, social integration programmes were foisted on the kids and their families to that end. The Ofsted report this week strongly criticises discipline and behaviour with particular note of use of racist language and abuse. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Thursday, 19th January, 2023

We dropped to -1C overnight and we have a frost this morning. I am considering submitting an official complaint. I didn’t move to the South Coast to see cold weather. It’s costing me a fortune keeping the central heating on in the Gym to protect all the sensitive computer elements of the exercise equipment. It’s intolerable.

If you live in the North – Yorkshire/Greater Manchester – you expect harsh conditions at this time of the year but on the South Coast??? We had enough of it while we were there. The photo from the Huddersfield Examiner above is of Castle Hill in Huddersfield this morning. It brought it all back to me particularly the trials of driving across the Pennines every day to work.

Our school was old and the campus was hard to make safe in these Winter conditions. For that reason, we were often one of the first to close. Certainly wouldn’t miss Greater Manchester now. I pledged to avoid snow for the rest of my life if I could. The photo above from the MEN is of Manchester Airport which had to close two runways this morning.

This is the colour I want – Modern Steel Metallic.

Honda contacted us this morning. They said they were contacting long standing customers. We always treat all such approaches with huge scepticism. We have driven Hondas since 1984 and have bought more than 20 new vehicles from them including 11 or 12 CRVs. I am a sucker for new cars although the current one is only 18 months old and has only done 7,500 miles. Honda are, ostensibly offering lots of discounts on new cars plus ‘special’ values on used ones. We will talk to them next week but they will have to beg hard and very nicely.

Friday, 20th January, 2023

Beautiful day of Mediterranean sunshine and blue sky. Not exactly Mediterranean temperatures but not bad. It is a day to celebrate being alive. I am doing it with a full, exercise program. Yesterday, I did 1.5 hrs on the treadmill and really enjoyed it so my fitness is coming back although it is amazing how quickly one can lose it by taking a break from making the effort.

The Film.

One of the things that helped me through the exercise yesterday was watching an absolutely wonderful film – Bank of Dave – which I urge you to see. It is based on a true story about a man called Dave Fishwick from Burnley who owned a number of outlets selling Vans across Lancashire. He made a lot of money but loved his community and was determined to help the members of it.

Dave, who is brilliantly played by Rory Kinnear, Roy Kinnear’s son, wanted to open a community bank which took deposits and lent out just to the people of Burnley. He wanted to lend to people who were commonly rejected by the national banks. All profits he made were to be given directly to Burnley charities.

He applied for Bank status giving him the right to take deposits and lend money. The major banks saw this as a threat to their old boys’ club and tried to put things in his way including having him arrested.

The real Bank of Dave in Burnley.

Needless to say, Dave won the day and opened his bank. I knew quite a lot of this background before I watched the film and it didn’t spoil it one bit. There is also a delightful, romantic sub plot running through the film which builds to a climax. A must watch!

Our lovely next door neighbour, Dee, has just called round with her face full of fear and trepidation. She lectures in English at the local College and last night, coming home from work, she misjudged her reversing in her BMW and WENT OVER THE GRASS! I can’t be angry with someone so beautiful but I did my best. I thought you were going to confess to something trivial, I said with a stern face. She quavered and then realised I was joking. It’s lovely to have nice neighbours.

I’m cooking tonight giving Pauline a night off. I’m doing Chicken thighs with onion, garlic and parsley and a medley of diced celery, carrot and mushroom. It maybe a disaster but Pauline will still say it’s a triumph so I’ve got nothing to lose.

I’ve just been seeking an online valuation of our car and I think a new one will only cost us £8,000.00 on £42,000.00. Could be a possibility. I’m not terribly bothered but it would save cleaning this one.

Saturday, 21st January, 2023

Another gorgeous morning. Might go mad this morning and clean the car. Well, I might be trading it in soon. There again, I may not. My phone buzzed at Midnight. It was Kevin from North Yorkshire. He had got my recommendation of the film – Bank of Dave – and he and Christine had just finished watching it. They really enjoyed it and were thanking me for the recommendation … at midnight.

Housekeeping today includes having my haircut, valeting the car in case I trade it in and watching Liverpool v Chelsea while doing a couple of hours on the treadmill. You see what you’re missing, Dear Reader? I’ve also got to look at best Easy Access Savings AccountsYorkshire Building Society has just increased our rate to 2.95% yesterday but I will keep searching.

It looks like High Street Bank branches will just about have gone in the next 5 years. Another great swathe of closures was announced yesterday. There is a widespread expectation that cash payment will largely have gone in the same timeframe. This has been hastened by Covid. The old, infirm and IT illiterate may be restricted to Post Office accounts.

None of this particularly worries me because I never use cash. I don’t even know what some coins are worth. I was shown a £2.00 coin the other day and it could have been 2p for all I knew and, did you know that there is a 20p coin? I’m more at home with Euros than these things. I have a Charge Card which is badged Mastercard, A Mastercard Credit Card and a Visa Debit Card none of which I use directly at all. They are all stored electronically in my Google Wallet app on my phone. I also have Airport Lounge cards, Foreign Exchange cards, Hotel Reward Cards and Supermarket Club Cards all of which can be stored there too.

So, I only use my phone to access these cards and my face/fingerprint gives me controlled access. All of this is great … until something goes wrong. This week, our Credit Cards were renewed and I had to delete the old and establish the new on my app. Simple task. I did it on Pauline’s phone but my app wouldn’t let me do mine. I phoned the bank. A recorded message told me they didn’t deal with it over the phone anymore but I had to go through the app. I am not given to tantrums but I had one then. The app told me I had to go through the online chat engine – Cora.

Cora‘ usually turns out to be a young man from the Asian sub-continent who is very polite but absolutely useless. This afternoon, I have been sent round and round in ever decreasing circles trying to deal with a problem which could have been solved in 5 minutes on the phone. Tomorrow, we will contact our Personal Banking Manager and tell her what we think of the service but this is likely to become an increasingly common concern as those who are not comfortable with smartphones – and I can think of a few – begin to grapple with these problems. Forget the Industrial Revolution, the Financial Revolution is changing / will change the whole way society interacts.

Who would have predicted that I would be paying my window cleaner by Bank Transfer or my Electrician using the app on my phone. Who would think that the Greengrocer would need wifi to allow online payments or the carwash would need a card machine? These are big steps forward but, just like the electric car market, the infrastructure can’t afford to lag behind. The one, underlying theme here is that the ‘official’, tax collecting authorities can monitor these digital interactions which makes their life much easier. When cash disappears, the Black Economy is dead.