Week 610

Sunday, 30th August, 2020

Beautiful morning of bright sunshine and blue sky contrasting with the radiant, lush green of the lawn. Just 17C/63F but a joy to behold. Sundays are not particularly joyous days in my calendar so this is very welcome. 

Of course, Sundays will forever be associated in my mind with enforced Church attendance and deliberate indoctrination akin to the Chinese brainwashing treatment of the Uighurs. I hated it with a passion and couldn’t wait to get away from it. Funnily enough, the moment I did get away, something happened that I’ve scarcely admitted to myself never mind to others. It all came back to me last night as we watched an interesting, coming-of-age film on television. It was called Lady Bird.

Who the hell was Vieuxtemps?

The girl, called Christine but self styled Lady bird, growing up in a newly impoverished Catholic home and attending a convent school, manages to get a scholarship to university in spite of her middle class impoverishment. She is desperate to get away but, in her first week at university and after a difficult ‘Freshers’ experience, goes to church to seek solace. This triggered in me an immediate recollection and flood of emotion. Having been desperate to leave home, village, church, I found myself wandering the College campus alone and feeling alone. I found myself walking to the local Catholic Church. 

I can remember feeling utterly ashamed. I heard Stephen Dedalus recounting, Non Serviam in my ears. I can feel that shame flooding over me now as I recount it. I managed to stop myself going in to that church and have never gone in to any other than for politeness/social necessity – funerals, weddings, christenings, etc. However, it just goes to show how effective indoctrination can be.

We all carry baggage round with us and, the longer we live, the heavier our baggage becomes. I have been fighting a losing battle with music for years and have just started to come come back from the brink but it is still a struggle. Last week was dedicated to Violin Concertos by Bruch, Mendelssohn and Vieuxtemps. The latter was a 19th century Belgian composer who I’d never heard of. This week will be Beethoven Cello Sonatas. I’ve played them once this morning and I’m loving them all over again. I haven’t played this for almost 40 years.

Short walk in the sunshine this afternoon. The temperature has reached just 19C/66F but feels very pleasant. We didn’t stay out long and returned to eat cheese and biscuits with homemade tomato chutney and a lovely, chilled Savignon Blanc in the garden. This is the way to spend Sunday even if we are living in a populist prison.

Monday, 31st August, 2020

Roll Up!

Pleasant start to the morning which reached only 19C/66F and gradually became overcast. It felt warm enough as I pressure washed the patio in readiness for the work we are going to have done. The patio will be increased by its current size again and, after 4 years exposure, we would like the two sections to blend in fairly quickly.

In August on Sifnos, posters would go up for a visiting circus. We never went to see it. I have no interest in tawdry shows. This August in Angmering, these posters have been going up. It feels as 3rd World as Greece did. Who goes to circuses? Well, quite a few people it seems. From our garden, which is less than a mile from the local Rugby Club ground, we could hear music and the voice of an announcer over a public-address system so we walked down to have a look.

All the fun of the fair!

I must admit that, in spite of the idyllic setting, it all looked fairly tawdry even so. Bread and circuses will not distract me from the cause. However, on our village website there were lots of people emoting about the experience they and their children had just enjoyed and who could deny them?

I wrote recently that I didn’t think the effect of this pandemic would be confined to one summer and that flying alone would take two or three years to pick up. A report from Moody’s, the Credit Rating Agency, has backed that up. However, they believe those worst hit by a slump in tourism like Greece and Cyprus, will weather that storm by dint of their EU membership.

The decline in tourism in the countries of the European South is likely to last beyond 2020, but they can weather a prolonged tourism slump thanks to the adjustment they have made in recent years and the significant support from the policies of the European Central Bank and the EU recovery fund ….

Moody’s Credit Rating
Kamares Beach, Sifnos

It won’t fill the beaches, tavernas or bars but it will provide a buffer and encourage these countries to develop a more robust and diverse commercial sector. 

Tuesday, 1st September, 2020

September 2020

This is really getting ridiculous. The summer gone but we’ve been nowhere. I can’t bear it! The signs have been all around for a few days now but here is September. I woke Pauline at 1.00 am to say, “White Rabbit”. It is an indulgence that only the retired can afford. Just 5 hours later, we were up and off to Sainsbury‘s and Argos by 7.00 am.

Something else I can’t bear is waiting in for people to arrive. It’s been happening a lot recently. Since Friday, we’ve been waiting for a fence repairer to shore up one of our posts in the garden that was over tested by the strong winds last week. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of others are in the same boat around here. He was trying to come on Friday, put it off to Saturday after another big job which took so long that he phoned to say he wouldn’t be able to come until Tuesday because of Bank Holiday. He was supposed to be with us about 10.00 am and actually arrived around 2.00 pm.. At least he came and the job is well done. It took around 25 mins and cost us £70.00 but we can now breathe again and so can our neighbour.

Regular readers may know that the 1st of each month is the time for ritual recording of data. They will also know of our penchant for data of all kinds. We were married at the end of 1978 and Pauline started her many accounts books in which she itemised and recorded all our spending. That continued for 14 years and then, in January 1993, we switched to a digital accounting system and, 27 years later, that is still going strong. While we were busy working, the accounting records were updated each weekend. Now they are updated most mornings. We use Microsoft Money which was last revised 16 years ago and I have regularly had to contact Microsoft for a ‘software patch’ to shoehorn it in to another new operating system. There will probably come a time when we have to migrate to something else but, please, not yet.

We’ve got the Power!

As well as maintaining my INR results since January 2009 and our weight and blood pressure, I have always logged our power usage in the various properties in which we’ve lived. This is always done on the first of the month. As the graph above illustrates, our usage here over the past 4 or so years has been fairly constant other than for the troughs denoting time away. Only another 30 years of records to maintain. Please.

Turned out to be an absolutely delightful day with sunshine and blue sky. The temperature hovered around 22C/70F and there wasn’t even the hint of a breeze now I’ve had the fence fixed. We are looking for an ‘Indian Summer’ with all the kids back at school and adults back in their offices leaving the rest of the world to the ones who really matter. This is the time to duck and let the pigs fly by.

Wednesday, 2nd September, 2020

Lovely morning. We were up early. Well, there’s no time to lose. Pauline trimmed all the hedges and I, of course, swept up after her. I mowed and edged all the lawns and, of course, swept up after myself. This is what marriage is founded on – give and keep giving.

The man who came round yesterday to shore up a broken fence post, came back today at Pauline’s request. Between the side of our house and the garage is a passage which is where we store our ‘Wheelie Bins’ reasonably discreetly but which also serves as a bit of a wind tunnel. Pauline decided that she wanted it gated off before our patio was extended to shelter the garden from the wind and the sight of bins. He is a local man and obviously keen for the work so he came back today with all the materials to complete the job in under an hour. It has turned out to be a reasonable experience for him with a couple of hours’ work earning him about £400.00/€451.00.

New Covid cases continue to rise in Greece with 233 announced today. Scotland is enforcing quarantine on those returning already because of an entire plane-load of Scots returning from Laganas on Zakynthos are being forced to stay at home after a number tested positive. It will be no surprise if the same is confirmed by England on Thursday.

Zakynthos Town & Harbour

Almost exactly 40 years ago – August 1980 to be precise -we were spending three weeks in Zakynthos and arrived in this harbour by ferry from Killini on the Peloponnese. Just 4o years ago, we were tourist lining the streets to photograph the procession from St Denis’ Church (Agios Dionisos) having booked our first Greek Holiday through the long gone SunMed.

Couldn’t find the 1980 edition.

This was our first foreign holiday together, our first ever flight and our first time in Greece. We went on to revisit every year until this one. Zakynthos was in the early stages of welcoming tourists and few could dreamt of this year’s events. We owe so much of our married lives experience to that three week stay on Zakynthos back in August 1980.

Thursday, 3rd September, 2020

Quite a grey but warm start to the morning. The temperature did not drop below 17C/63F overnight and is hovering around 21C/70F in a fairly gloomy sky. A strong, warm breeze got up last night although not strong enough or warm enough to classify as Meltemi (Μελτέμι). That should probably have finished by now anyway. 

Sunny Sifnos this morning.

We were shocked how immediately the weather acknowledged the change of month. After years of leaving at the end of August, our first 6 month stint took us into October. The Greeks had always told us that September was the best month with warm seas, warm, sunny weather and a quiet island. Well the island went quiet but most of the rest was very patchy. Rain, low cloud, heavy mists and chilly evenings all screamed Autumn.  At least it turns out that those returning this week will not have to quarantine which is a better welcome home as long as they’re not going to Wales or Scotland.

My sad, August, Googlemap Timeline.

At least those people will have been somewhere. Google has sent me its chart of my travel destinations for the month of August. It’s so extensive, I wonder how I’ve coped!

Friday, 4th September, 2020

Had a phone call last night from our Bank’s Insurance Providers who I’ve been negotiating with since early May over a failed villa rental for around £4,500.00. The Bank believe that we should be getting our money back from the villa owner even though there was an upfront T&C of No Refunds which we accepted in the confidence of our insurance back-up.

For years we have been paying Bank Account fees and really not exploiting many of the attendant services. We have certainly used the ‘free’

  • Travel Insurance
  • European Car Breakdown Cover
  • House Emergency Service
  • Mobile Phone Insurance
  • Airport Lounge Access

We have never used

  • ID Theft Assistance
  • Preferential Money Exchange rates because we could always get cheaper.
  • Concierge Service for Special Events
  • 40% off Cinema tickets
  • 25% off Concert Tickets.

Now is our chance to extract full value. The Law is expensive and litigating in Europe will be even more so. Either way, we can’t lose. If legal action prevails, we get paid out. If it fails, the insurance arm are duty bound to pay out. The only thing is time. We’ve got plenty of that …. as far as we know.

Early Autumn by the Sea

We used our time today to visit the beach on a warm-ish afternoon. We found a quiet spot but many areas were teaming with parents and kids – many swimming in the sea.

Saturday, 5th September, 2020

A really delightful day of blue sky and warm sunshine with a few, fluffy white clouds. Could be Summer. The temperature actually reached 23.9C/75F. We were up early again.

Quick trip to Sainsburys and then on to Asda. The latter is because my price monitor (Pauline) has found that my non-alcoholic, low calorie drink of choice is currently half price. Shloer Light is usually £2.20/€2.48 per bottle. Currently, it is exactly half price. This comes round about every couple of months and I then swoop. I never buy it at full price. Twenty bottles today and, maybe, another 20 tomorrow will see me through until the next offer. I’ve already got a store of 40 bottles. They will get me through dry October & November. That will make just over 5 months without alcohol in 2020.

The risks of relying on Tourism.

I was looking for some information and trawling through YouTube for a video of instruction when up popped a ‘Live’ VBlog from the centre of Costa Adeje. Two English-speaking residents were walking the streets in blazing heat but wearing face masks constantly telling us how uncomfortable they were and pointing out all the closed shops and restaurants, streets completely empty of tourists and with very few cars. The presenters were trying to persuade us that there couldn’t be a better time to visit but it wasn’t convincing. We had booked the month of November in Costa Adeje. Fortunately we got all our money back for that.

Week 609

Sunday, 23th August, 2020

Mum aged 25 – Birthday photo 1948

Apologies to Mum for forgetting to acknowledge her Birthday yesterday. I rarely forget. She would have been 97 yesterday although she died 12 years ago at the age of 85. To my hopelessly poor judgement, she looks a very young 25 here but I suppose this was still a reasonably innocent time. She is pictured here with her Mum – Lily Coghlan – who was 53 in this shot. I don’t know who the precocious little girl is/was.

Mum is within a year of moving North to the Midlands and our home village of Repton. She came specifically to teach Art at Burton upon Trent Girls’ High School and begin an independent life.  Within 2 years of this photo, she had met dad and would be married in 1950. How lives change!

Reclining Nude – Augustus John (1950s Porn.)

Mum was an Art teacher and we were encouraged (made) to paint pictures at home. Now I think back, there were amazingly few books in the house but she had some related to what she said was her favourite ‘modern’ painter – Augustus John, 1878 – 1961 a Welsh painter, draughtsman, etcher and exponent of Post-Impressionism. I remember being shocked and excited to find she had a book of nude sketches by Augustus John in the bookshelf in the Sitting Room where we were not allowed to go. I learned later that Augustus John was particularly known for his many mistresses and subsequent scores of children.

Aubrey Beardsley – ‘The Climax’. – Make of that what you will.

She also had Osbert Lancaster cartoons and Aubrey Beardsley, an English illustrator. His black ink drawings emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. Suddenly, I’m beginning to draw some dangerous connections here and plumbing depths about my Mother – places I’d rather not go.

Time to mow the lawns!

Monday, 24th August, 2020

Today is dominated by the visit of an electrician who will be with us for about three days. He is installing:

Consumer Unit
4 x Double Sockets
3 x Strip Lights
2 x Heating Tubes
PIR lamp outside

The biggest part of the job is running cable from the house outside in to the garden. The electrician was soon off for a longer masonry drill bit to go through the wall.

Old-Style Fluorescent Tubes

The most interesting thing today is the light fittings. Do you remember these things – Fluorescent Tubes filled with a powder and, I think, an inert gas (Don’t quote me on that.) each of which were started by their own, individual motor. Usually, the motor seemed to fail before the tube. We had them in garages, offices, schools, etc.

LED Strip Light

I haven’t even thought about one for 20 years. Suddenly, our gym needs good, sharp lighting. Fluorescent Tubes are the first thing that came to mind. I’m not sure our electrician has ever heard of them. Ah Yes, he said. These LED Strip Lights, he said, never need replacing. Youngsters have so little measure of ‘never’. They have at least a life of 25,000 hours which will last us around 20 years at 4 hours per day. If I have to by replacements at the age of 89, at least I will have had time to save up.

One delightful thing about our young electrician was to find out that he and all his family are committed ant-Brexit campaigners. I knew I liked him immediately. Actually, his wife turns out to be a trained teacher and they home-school their children. Intelligent, hard working people who understand the value and dignity of immigration desperate to retain Freedom of Movement for themselves and for others. You can always rely on a bright spark.

Tuesday, 25th August, 2020

The last week of August….. Let that sink in. While we were teaching and driving to Greece for the Summer Holidays, this is the week we would have been leaving the island and starting the long drive back across Europe to arrive home for the weekend and having just enough time to prepare for start of term next week. The journey of three days or so would help us to adjust to the battles ahead. 

Talking of battles, I’ve been having one for a few days with a company supplying industrial kitchen units. I paid for them and most were delivered last week. We’re absolutely delighted with what we’d bought. Unfortunately, one unit didn’t appear although they had taken our money for it. I phoned to enquire and I could never get anyone to answer the phone. It just rang forever and cut off. I began to get suspicious. Eventually I got through. The switchboard said they would get someone to check the warehouse and phone me back. I heard nothing. This whole process was repeated three times over three separate days. It was taking me hours.

Meanwhile I did some ‘due diligence’ on the company and the reviews were horrendous. It is one of the dangers of distance buying but it will be with us for a long time to come. I feel very old when I acknowledge a desire to deal face to face but, sometimes, I do. Anyway, yesteday afternoon i finally managed to get through to someone more senior at the company who checked my account, checked my order and said I would get it on Friday. Even then, I admit to being a little sceptical but, this morning, I received confirmation and a tracking link for Tufnell’s the Deliverers. This is the reward for persistence but I wonder when I would ever have achieved that while we were working. I rarely had 6 hours to waste other than when I was at school.

Joyce & Harry’s Wedding – 1956

This morning I received a photo of an event in 1956. I was 5 years old and Pauline just 4½. Pauline is centre front row and, as usual, trying to cover her face. Joyce is Pauline’s much, much older cousin. I’m sure Richard will be touched by this photo.

Wednesday, 26th August, 2020

Very windy night again and very warm again. We were awake quite a lot and, consequently, got up late – 7.15 am. It is a beautiful, warm and sunny day with no wind at all. We have a very busy day.

We had our Insurance Claim for our villa rental in May transferred to the Bank’s Legal Department who emailed me a Contract Dispute form to complete and return. It is amazing how long these things take to get absolutely right. This morning we completed it and sent it off. I’m not sure how we would have managed that without PDF editing software, a scanner and image editing software. For many/most it would have proved insurmountable.

On this day last year I was with this gorgeous girl in Gatwick Airport early in the morning preparing to fly to Athens for a week. Where are we now? Stranded on terra firma on a sea-locked, crushingly isolated, Brexit voting prison island with Covid19 controls. This has virtually made our mind up to buy another property abroad.

By 10.00 am, our first delivery had arrived. Fresh fish from our local wet fishery. We tend to order ever 3-4 weeks and portion and store/freeze.

The quality is fantastic with the Tuna at sushi-grade. The cod in large, loin joints is almost like a different fish to the fillets sold in supermarkets. The texture and flavour is magnificent. That order took Pauline about an hour to portion, parcel up, label and freeze. I was completing the legal submission as she worked. We finished just in time for Tufnell‘s the Deliverers to call with the final steel cabinet for our outside kitchen.

We spent a chunk of the afternoon stripping our new cabinet of skin-tight polythene wrapping. After we had finished and moved it in to place, Pauline spent for ever cleaning and shining it. We now have a run of brushed steel cabinets, upright freezer, griddle, hob and deep fat fryer soon to be supplemented by electric bar barbecue. 

We’ve got a man coming round to check on the fence this evening and the electrician is going to spend another day next week finishing off our work. 

Thursday, 27th August, 2020

Although she died 10 years ago, we never forget Mump as she became known. Today she would be celebrating her 106th birthday. Pauline still has the dress but she doesn’t have her Mum and she misses her hugely.

Mump circa 1990

Another busy day which started at 6.00 am with a lovely, clear sky on a warm morning. Out to Tesco for 7.00 am start. I did my walk which was really enjoyable. The trees around are absolutely laden with fruit and I don’t just mean fruit trees. I did pass a garden where trees we bending under the weight of gorgeous, red apples and our PYO farm is currently having its acres of Victoria Plums stripped for jam making but, all along my walk today, Blackberries are burgeoning along with Sambucas or Elderberries. The oak trees are full of acorns and so many others I’m not even sure I know the names off are producing seed balls ready for the new season. They say such fecundity presages a bad Winter. It may be an old wive’s tale. I really hope so. We have had enough bad winters on the Pennines to last us a lifetime.

This is my favourite.

The strong winds of the past couple of days have all but destroyed my ‘finger’ pepper plants. In reality, they needed another two or three weeks but I’ve been forced to take what I can now. They were covered in small fruit and lots of flowers but I don’t think they will make it to maturity now. They were grown from seed so really didn’t cost me much and we will eat them roasted stuffed with Feta cheese. However, I probably won’t do this again.

Friday, 28th August, 2020

Woke in the night to a cloud burst sustained for about 20 mins. Still warm and a bit sticky. Woke at 6.00 am to blue sky and sunshine and still mild. We are hoping to have a Fence company come round to repair a suspect post which is our responsibility. For that reason, we are going nowhere so we are in the Office on-line shopping … again.

Pauline is searching for a radiator for the gym. We are not going to the expense of extending the central heating out there so it will be wall-mounted electric.

Just to keep the Gym frost-free.

While Pauline is doing that, I’m researching a new television for the Lounge. Currently, we have a 55″ LG television in there and it will go out on the gym wall. I hope to fit a wi-fi extender and install my 5th Sky Q box so we can exercise and watch political programmes seamlessly.

We have quite a lot of televisions in the house but I am no aficionado of their quality. It really doesn’t worry me as long as it works well. We have one LG in the Lounge and five more Samsungs around the house. The picture quality of the LG is inferior to all the others but it will be fine for a gym. The new one I’m proposing to buy says it has ‘Adaptive Sound automatically adjusts to what you’re watching, so your entertainment feels more immersive‘. It also features ‘Multi View lets you watch your TV whilst commenting on social media, all at once on the big screen.’ so I can Tweet politicians while they are lying through interviews.

Saturday, 29th August, 2020

Our monthly Village magazine

A bit cooler this morning – 16C/61F – but sunny and doesn’t feel bad at all. If you are a regular reader of the Blog, you will know that we are in the middle of a spending spree It is sublimated frustration at not being able to travel which is forcing us to appraise our home situation. At the same time, purchasing has been largely on the web because of the pandemic and this is fraught with difficulties because pre-Covid websites are still advertising products that have not been manufacture for months and turn out to be out of stock with a long replenish lead in time. 

Because of this, we have been forced back on to localism. Our electrician is a lovely lad who lives down Sea Lane just a mile or two away from us with his ex-teacher wife and 3 Home-Schooled kids. We were considering buying our gym equipment from Sportstech, a German firm but learned of the long wait times and difficulty with returning problem purchases. We turned to a company from Shoreham-by-Sea which is about 5 miles away. They have a shorter lead in time, deliver and construct on-site and provide comprehensive warranty and servicing for our area. It makes me feel a little old but also reassured.

Our local, Family-run Fencing Business.

In just the same way, our errant fence post will be fixed by a local fencing firm which we’ve got out of the monthly village magazine, All About Angmering. He was supposed to come yesterday but it absolutely threw it down so we will see him on Tuesday. You have to go with the local flow.

Week 608

Sunday, 16th August, 2020

We should be arriving here tomorrow. On the left of the shot up Navarchou Nikodimou is our hotel – Electra Palace. On the left, is Pauline’s hairdresser – Michalis Anousakis. We should be walking on this central Athens street but we won’t be and we bitterly regret it.

Ναυάρχου Νικοδήμου/Navarchou Nikodimou, Athina 

Instead, we have been out under grey, steamy skies to for a short, coastal drive. Littlehampton beach area is busy in spite of the weather. A dinghy regatta is going ahead. Bathers are happily swimming in the sea. It must be warm water because many ‘older’ citizens are cavorting in the waves as well as younger ones on surf board and in kayaks.

Our 4 Acre plot of land.

It is 21 years ago this week that we borrowed £50,000.00 and paid £60,000.00 for a field on a remote, Greek island. It was an incredibly scruffy field half way up a mountain and we didn’t have the money. We took this photo from Villa Margarita where we were staying across the valley. Buying a farmer’s field on a Greek island with no money is not a recipe for relaxation. We were in our late 40s and felt that, if we didn’t go for it then, we never would.

Poleitai – For Sale – 1999

We borrowed £50,000.00/€55,300.00 although we were paying £60,000.00/€66,300.00 in Drachmas for 4 acres of Greek land. Above is what it looked like. We both thought ourselves stark raving mad and we were excited/terrified in equal measures. It all happened 21 years ago. It feels like a lifetime.

Monday, 17th August, 2020

A warm night during which, briefly, we had some loud rolls of thunder and bright stripes lightning overhead. I woke a couple of times to hear torrential rain in bursts of two or three minutes duration. This morning it is bright, sunny, warm but fresh. We have to stay at home because we are expecting an all-day delivery of stainless steel, industrial kitchen units for our garden kitchen.

These sort of things are notorious for damage in transit – scratches and dents – because of the brushed steel plate that they are constructed out of.

It was with trepidation that we awaited the delivery van of Tuffnells with our ‘delicate’ cargo. It arrived about 11.30 am and our trouble began. We were concerned about dents and scratches but we found it was attached to an incredibly heavy pallet and every surface was protected by s skin-tight film wrap that had to be peeled off. It took us two hours but we did it. Lookss great and does what we need. Some more to follow and a brushed metal upright freezer as well.

Next will be the electrician, the wifi extension, the television installation and the exercise equipment. Soon, we’ll actually be working out in there.

Tuesday, 18th August, 2020

Actually, a lovely, warm and sunny day.  We didn’t get much above 22C/70F but without a breeze and without the uncomfortable humidity of late, it felt delightful. We were up at 6.00 am and shopping in Sainsbury‘s by 7.00 am. The supermarket was busy with shelf pickers for Click&Collect but few individual shoppers. The IT systems were just cranking up for the day and the same in Asda where Pauline was picking up orders.

Kidoni – Quince

Home before 9.00 am, my job for the day was to set about our bank’s travel insurance arm for prevaricating over a 4 month period and still not paying us out. We have had about £2,000.00/€2,220.00 back from our cancelled trip to Tenerife in May but we are still owed around €4,200.00/£3,790.00. I can tell you that we have been pushed through every imaginable hoop and we will not give up now. 

We have seen the insurance arm of NatWest, which is underwritten by the Direct Line Group, develop self defence routines over the past 4 months making it ever more difficult to prosecute completely justified claims in an attempt to save themselves from pay-outs. Throughout, I have tried to stay polite and reasoned although it has been difficult at times. We will push until we are paid.

Today, we picked lots of ripe and bursting figs. They reminded us of our time in Greece but, eleven years ago, I recorded in my Blog that trees on our fields were producing a fruit we didn’t recognise. Locals told us that it was called Kidoni which I soon found, to my embarrassment, to be Quince.

Kidoni Glyko tou Koutaliou is a favourite with Greeks. It is Quince cooked until soft and then preserved in a sickly syrup. It is eaten with a spoon on its own or topping yoghurt. Greeks love very sweet sweets. 

Wednesday, 19th August, 2020

A dark, wet morning of heavy rain but warmer – humid even. We were up at 7.00 am and addressing issues we need to sort out before 9.00 am. We have the new ‘outdoor freezer’ arriving on Saturday and the electrician coming for 3 day’s work on Monday. It is time to order gym equipment.

I have been looking at a company called Sportstech which is German. Their equipment looks great if expensive. When I started to do ‘Due Diligence’, I found that there were numerous problems with manuals only in German, poor delivery times, difficult self-construction demands, poor communications with the company and having to phone Germany for much of it.

Pauline, who is much more cautious (aka sensible) than I am, looked for alternatives and came up with a company in Shoreham on Sea about 3 miles down the coast. Their machine is not much more expensive and will delivered, constructed and installed and comes with 3 years on-site service warranty. We ordered it immediately but we won’t receive it until October. The pandemic has led to cancelled gym memberships and surging gym equipment sales for home use. 

The local company don’t sell one of these. We have to look elsewhere and the one above is where we are now.

In Greece, as Covid spikes, Kathimerini reports that:

The Greek cruise ship owners’ association (EKFN) is essentially asking for a ban on cruises this season, invoking the dangers of the pandemic.

and Norway has added Greece and UK to its quarantine list. The question is not about this failed tourist season but the next one or two. As we are constantly told, we will have to learn to live with this virus for some time to come and airlines are adjusting accordingly. Will people turn back to flying next Spring especially if there is a serious second wave of infection this Winter? It is doubtful. 

Thursday, 20th August, 2020

Out at 6.45 am to Tesco. Pleasantly warm on a day that reached 24C/75F by mid afternoon. Shopping was very quiet according to Pauline. I was out walking. When we got home, we were very disappointed and rather bemused to find that NatWest Travel Insurance had rejected our claim for €4,200.00/£3,800.00 lost on a villa rental in Tenerife last May. We now have to take our action to the NatWest Legal Team and, ultimately, the Financial Ombudsman. People like us will pursue this to the bitter end. We have very little to lose.

The day has a slight feel of end of Summer. There was a steamy, mistiness this morning. Squirrels are everywhere amongst the oak trees laden with acorns. The blackberry bushes are really fruiting strongly. The elderberries are being raided by diarrhettic birds who happily proceed to decorate cars.

By early afternoon, Hermes delivered two, more wine rack kits. The are produced in Poland and delivered as kits by Amazon for quite a cheap price. Each one takes 63 bottles. I now have a run of 4 racks but still have many more bottles than slots. I must drink faster.

Friday, 21st August, 2020

Went to bed at 11.30 pm. Up at 3.30 am and outside in the back gaden under a totally clear sky full of the most amazing stars. It felt like a Greek summer’s night at 20C/68F and humid. We drank tea and watch Biden’s Presidential Acceptance Speech on Sky News before going back to bed at 4.30 am for a couple of hours. 

Littlehampton Beach Huts

By 9.00 am, we were driving to the local Tip to get rid of lots of packaging from things delivered this week. It was reasonably quiet at this time of the day. We still have to show some photo ID to prove we are entitled. The wind was fairly gusty and launching large sheets of cardboard in to a skip was fairly hazardous but that complete, we went on to the beach to smell the sea air.

Littlehampton Beach

The smell of the sea and the warmth of the breeze was quite intoxicating. There is something unbeatable about it. In spite of the warmth, it wouldn’t really be described as holiday weather with strong wind and scant sunshine this morning. A few, hardy souls were opening up their beach huts. It reminded me of our family in the late 1950s. We went for 2 or 3 years to a rented villa called red roofs – not sure why. I remember, it always smelled musty as we went in as if it was just used occasionally.

Sutton on Sea – Lincolnshire

We always had a beach chalet for the day on the beach and it was very necessary. The wind off the North sea was cold even to a fit, young man like me. We swam but goodness knows how we managed it. I remember we needed a wind break on the sands to hold back the wind and the flying sand. I really don’t remember it as a joy of childhood although, I’m sure Mum and dad thought they were doing their best.

Saturday, 22nd August, 2020

It was a breezy but very warm night and I didn’t sleep particularly well. Around 4.00 am, we had a couple of bursts of torrential rain but not for long and when we rose around 6.30 am, the world looked fresh, bright and sunny. We are ordering so much ‘stuff’ at the moment that we are tied at home until things are delivered. Today it was an upright freezer for the outdoor kitchen. 

We’ve gone for the industrial look with the units, freezer and apparatus – Commercial Griddles, Deep Fat Fryer and Hob which will be supplemented with an electric Barbecue Grill. 

The gym equipment has been ordered but the pandemic has made people – like us – so averse to taking the risk in a Commercial Gym that so many are – like us – developing their own at home. 

As I complete my writing for this afternoon, I have had a very unexpected and valuable call from the Legal Services of our Bank’s Black Account. I have referred my ‘failed’ claim to them for pursuit. It cost us nothing other than our normal account fees. They will take up our case and employ Spanish lawyers to prosecute it. They have every confidence of success although it will take a while. Even if they fail ultimately, I will then have an unassailable case against my insurance company. What a way to open the weekend!

Week 607

Sunday, 9th August, 2020

As the Summer hits its high points – and it’s already 23C/74F at 8.00 am in the garden – we are preparing for a long Winter. Well, squirrels do it. Why shouldn’t we? Fail to Prepare and you should Prepare to Fail. Exercise has been magical since the start of the pandemic even though we did, initially, miss the health Club. We know that this magical weather will end and that, although we are in a fortunate part of the country for warmth and sun, there will be wet days and relatively cold days when we won’t want to go our walking.

At 9.00 pm last night, there was a knock on the door and a young man handed over two, black, rubberised tiles each about 0.5 mtrs square. These will be the basis of our gym floor. We had been looking at buying the flooring from an on-line company. The materials alone would have cost us £500.00/€554.00. The work would have taken us days of sweat and frustration. Pauline found a company in Shoreham-by-Sea who have quoted us £561.0/€22.00 to supply and fit the whole floor and they’ll do it in 4 hrs.. Guess what we decided to do.

There are 2 styles in 4 different colours to choose from. We chose the roundal style in black. The sections are thick sop sound deadening and flexible which is good or an elephant like me. They are warm and moppable for those who sweat a lot. The tiles are designed like jigsaw pieces. They interlock with a good beating from a rubber hammer. What it does mean that, in the unlikely event one was damaged, it can be removed a replaced.

As the temperature has climbed to 36F/97F this afternoon, even our thoughts have turned to air conditioning. If this is to be the ‘new normal’, we are going to need some relief. We had it around the house in Greece and now will come to expect it in Sussex.

Monday, 10th August, 2020

A very hot night that didn’t fall below 22C/70F which officially designates it as a ‘tropical’ night. We were up at 6.30 am because we were both thirsty after losing so much liquid over night. We were facing a day of hot temperatures – We reached 32C/90F. – which were acceptable even for Greek summer and we were finishing our preparations for the gym flooring to go down.

Eleven years ago, we had been retired for 4 months and were preparing to drive to our Greek house until October. We had a new car which had been valeted. We were desperately trying to make sure that I had enough drugs to last me over the duration.

Packing drugs in the Dining Room – 2009

Looking at the photo I posted all those years ago, it carries so many connotations for me. The Dining Room is in Quarry Court, Longwood, Huddersfield. The Dining Room features a stripped, oak table that Pauline bought for a few pounds in 1974. The Drinks Cabinet came from my family. When I requested it, my Mother insisted I buy it from her. The chair is one of 4 carved, mahogany Dining chairs that Pauline and I bought from an antique shop in Yorkshire and had reupholstered. All the furniture was left for the house purchaser. The drugs are at my worst point. I no longer take Type 2 medication, Hypertension medication is almost gone and Cholesterol medication is halved.  The whole scene represents a distant existence.

Our route was from Huddersfield to St George’s Dock, Hull and overnight on P&O Ferry to Zebrugge. Drive like bats out of hell non-stop to Ancona … and rest. Luxury Cabin on Superfast for 24 hrs down the Adriatic.

Good Old Days

Arrive in Patras and drive to Piraeus to, hopefully, catch ferry to Sifnos that day. The whole journey was to take us 3 days although that didn’t always work. When I think now that I drove at speeds hovering around 100 mph most of the way through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy with the latter very fatigued and through the darkness of the early hours of the morning. Such brave-foolish things young people do. At least we survived and are still here to tell the tale until Covid-19 gets us!

They were exciting/challenging times but, although I long to get back on my travels, I’m not sure I would want to embrace this challenge again. We had thought of it this year. maybe the pandemic saved us from ourselves.

Tuesday, 11th August, 2020

Another hot, humid night led to a hot and humid early morning. At 7.00 am, as we walked in to Sainsbury‘s, the temperature was 21C/70F. It was the first time I had been in to a supermarket for quite a few weeks. The first thing that hit me was how few actual shoppers were in the aisles which were almost blocked by Click&Collect pickers with their full trolleys. They were all wearing masks although all the ‘directional’ arrow indicators had gone which meant that ‘distancing’ was no longer being strictly observed. Shelves were not really fully stocked. Fish counters, Delicatessen counters, Bakery counters were still not open although we were told last week that Tesco Fish counter will reopen next week. We suspect that supermarkets may take advantage of this pandemic to rationalise a number of facilities out of existence.

By 3.00 pm, the temperature has hit 33C/92F. I have spray-watered the lawns so that they look thick, green and lush. We have produced another batch of smoked salmon. We have been constantly refining our technique until we hit the recipe we both like. We are both amazed at the results of our experiments. The final solution has been a longer cured – 28 hrs – Gravadlax followed by a miniscule amount of smoking. We had been told by all the experts that smoking should be for between 24 – 48 hrs. The result was a product that burnt one’s throat and remained there for days afterwards. There was little taste of salmon and huge amounts of campfire. 

Home smoked salmon

We have refined it down until we do 28 hrs curing in salt, sugar and dill followed by just one hour smoking in apple wood. The final product is wonderful and costs about 25% of the shop packaged equivalent. Winner all round.

Wednesday, 12th August, 2020

As we got up at 6.30 am, the temperature was 22C/70f – so officially another Tropical Night. By 9.00 am it was 24C/75F and outside I was beginning to believe I was hearing the cacophony of cicadas across the garden. All it needed was the braying of a donkey from across the valley, the clip of goat hooves up the road, the long, low, boom of an arriving ferry and …

Out in the garden, the overnight warmth had encouraged even more tomatoes to scream out, Pick me!. I picked them. Just 3 pots of tomato plants have produced 5Kgs of fruit with about the same again to come. However, I really must read the seed packets next year. I bought what I thought were sweet, cascading cherry tomatoes. They are very ripe but not sweet by modern standards. They have cascaded but are much bigger than cherry tomatoes. Similarly, I grew the pepper plants from seed. I thought I was buying ‘bell’ pepper plant seeds. The first one fell off as I examined them this morning. It is in ‘finger’ shape. When I returned to the original seed packet, it clearly said, sweet tasting, elongated, finger peppers. Well, I’m only have a Research Degree. Don’t expect me to read things.

Two young men have arrived to install the gym floor. It is a thick, rubberised carpet of interlocking tiles. Warm, insulating and quiet to exercise on. They are interesting people – Poles who sound like Americans – who are much in demand at the moment. So many others are doing what we are doing and not returning to commercial gyms but developing gyms at home. It might be an extra up front expense but will pay dividends in the future. Certainly, I wouldn’t be surprised if homes in the country/on the coast carry a premium and especially with a home gym attached. People will want to get away from the density of urban dwelling and the risks of close contact exercise. I think we’re on to a winner here!

I am writing this at 2.30 pm. The temperature has hit 32C/90F once again and it feels very wet. Humidity makes everything more difficult. This morning we cut all the lawns, trimmed all the hedging, strimmed all the edges, swept up all the cuttings and watered all the grass. The weather made it twice as tiring.

Thursday, 13th August, 2020

Another hot, ‘Tropical Night’ with bursts of heavy rain opened dry and steamy at 6.00 am. This is a delicious time when so many lie-a-bed and leave the world to us. It looks and smells fresh and wonderful. We arrived at Tesco by 6.55 am as the temperature reached 24C/75F. Our ways parted as Pauline went in to the store and I set off on my walk. It was a very sweaty activity today as it has been for the best part of a week but enjoyable for all that. 

4 Wine Racks = 4 x 63 = 252 bottles

I ordered these wine racks from Amazon. They come flat-packed and require 36 screws. I have had an electric screw driver and an electric drill/screwdriver for more than 10 years and really been terrified of using them. Today, we built 4 wine racks with 144 screws and found that an electric drill/screw driver wasn’t so bad at all.

We also ordered our garden kitchen equipment – stainless steel, professional cabinets and a large, upright freezer. We have had the flooring laid and booked our favourite electrician to install 8 x double electrical sockets which will require a new, consumer unit. We will also have 3 double LED strip lights installed and a lantern with PIR sensor outside. I have worked out how to take wi-fi outside where I will have a large, 55″ TV with a Sky Q Box installed so that life can run seamlessly while we are exercising.

Just today’s harvest.

On this lovely evening in the garden, I’ve been picking tomatoes that have ripened over the day. We are already up to more than 7kgs/15.5 lbs from just 3 pots of plants. We are trying hard to eat them although they are softening fast in this hot weather. Today, our meal consisted of Roast Cod loin accompanied by roast tomato & garlic. That’s all. I ate so much tomato! I am really trying but one can only do so much.

Friday, 14th August, 2020

Up at 7.00 am to a very different day. Hot, steamy and overcast. It was 22C/70F from the start. We have a busy morning which, after Breakfast, starts with a trip to the Tip. We have huge piles of cardboard that came around a number of deliveries recently. Interesting to find that at 9.00 am, the long queues of recent times have now gone. Gone where? I’m not sure but certainly not to France. After emptying the car of rubbish, we drove on to Screwfix for our gym development materials for and then on to Sainsbury‘s. Everywhere was surprisingly quiet. We completed our morning activities with a long walk.

Of course, the shambles of the ludicrously revealing examination system were consciously knocked off the front pages by the viciously political  attack on tourism to France. Private schools grades marked up and State schools grades, particularly in deprived and impoverished areas, marked down. Everything done on the hoof after months when real thought could have been given to the situation. Ultimately, Tories have resorted to the age old method of discrimination. But don’t worry about that. Look at the little dinghy of brown people trying to reach Britain for a better life. 

Just to throw in to the mix another dead cat to bounce, the Tories add more misery to European Travel by forcing those returning from France to quarantine for 2 weeks. FCO advice officially becomes against all but essential travel which automatically negates insurance and leaves people swinging in the wind.

Greece has had a reasonably ‘good pandemic’ with very low death rates particularly on the islands although opening up to tourism has brought worrying, new rates of infection. Of course, Greek islanders only have the Tourist £/$/€ to survive the winter comfortably. They must be very worried about their futures at the moment. 

One of our old favourites – ‘Taverna Kamaron’ – with no queues for a table.

The Cruise industry is absolute dead – so much so that cruise ships are drifting around in the English Channel, apparently abandoned at sea. It is cheaper to anchor there than pay harbour fees. Who knows when it will be safe to go on a cruise again.

Tourists watching cruise ships anchored in the English Channel.

Saturday, 15th August, 2020

An on-off grey and misty day with little sunshine but lots of warmth. It has turned quite wet so we’ve been house-bound. I’ve been fighting with insurance companies while Pauline has been far more constructive. She’s been making strawberry jam and tomato chutney. They are in separate jars and smell very differently but look quite similar.

Tomato Chutney & Strawberry Jam

These lovely flavours will fortify us over the Winter. The summer is still with us – just. It is looking less and less likely that we will do anything significant this year. Let’s hope there is a vaccine before the new year is much developed.

Week 606

Sunday, 2nd August, 2020

A day without going out walking – warm and sunny but not hot. Maximum 22C/70F but very comfortable. This is a planning day. Things are moving rapidly in the outdoor cooking and gym installations.

My neighbour from the house behind us invited me to see his gym room. He has laid rubber flooring, gym equipment, a television and a fridge full of beer. Well, I can manage without the beer but I like the way he’s done things. The out door cooking kitchen will consist of two, stainless steel industrial catering base units plus to similar wall units.

Part of the outdoor kitchen.

In the gym area, we will have a Treadmill, a lumbar bike and a cross trainer.

The flooring will be an interlocking rubberised tile system. his will provide some flexibility and extra warmth. We will need an electrician, to come and assess the installation. We will probably install the floor matting ourselves. We will need a kitchen fitter to install the kitchen units and then a tv installation man to put a tv on the wall. We expect the whole thing to be up and running by late September just in time for the cooler, wetter weather to appear and make outside exercise more difficult.

The whole thing won’t cost much more than a couple of years gym membership for the two of us. Of course, we won’t have a pool. We are still talking that over but it seems a bit over indulgent at the moment.

Monday, 3rd August, 2020

A busy and warm, rather close morning. We were up early and the temperature had soon risen to 24C/75F with a sticky humidity.

A couple of days ago, my next door neighbour who was born in West Yorkshire, told me that his rhubarb plant he had stuck behind his garage 4 years ago had really  grown for the first time. It is on the other side of the fence to where I planted my fig trees that are now an embarrassing 15ft/4.6 mtrs tall and weighed down with fruit Earlier in the year, I was flooding the fig trees with water to encourage swollen, juicy fruit. It has worked too well. The trees have shot up and the figs are as big as apples.

All that watering has had an equal effect on his rhubarb. Just after breakfast, my neighbour who is also called John, called round with an armful of rhubarb. Two hours later, Pauline had turned it in to Rhubarb & Ginger jam to eat with yoghurt. Delicious!

We should be walking into the foyer of the Electra Palace, Athens in just over three weeks. We won’t be and I informed them of that this morning. 

We have been staying in Electra Group Hotels in Athens for more 30 years – The Electra Hotel on Ermou Street, The Electra Palace Hotel on N. Nikodimou Street and The Mitropolis Hotel on Mitropoleos.

We have been in Greece every year since 1981. The Electra Palace was a haunt of children’s author, Nina Bawden and her husband, Austen Kark who was managing director of The BBC World Service. They renovated an old house in Nafplio.

It may look rather staid but its cool and calm atmosphere is the perfect retreat from a day in the hot and noisy streets of Athens.

The hotel responded to my communication by immediately providing me with a voucher for the full value of my booking – €1,400.00 for 4 nights stay + an extra 10% which can be used at any time and will be repaid in full if I don’t use it within 18 months. So many British companies could learn from this. It immediately makes me want to return as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 4th August, 2020

Started the day like every recent Tuesday by getting up at 6.00 am and driving out by 6.50 am so that Pauline can enter Sainsbury‘s by 7.00 am. It provided us with the least contact with ‘people’ that we can manage while still conducting our lives. As regulars will know, I did my walk and arrived back 40 mins later with a bit of a sweat on.

Very sunny but incredibly humid day. Back home by 8.00 am, we tried to sit outside to discuss some things we have to make decisions on but found it almost too intense to remain there. To add to the humidity, I’ve been watering everywhere until the steam rises.

Quite productive – Grown from seed.

The topic for discussion of our garden meeting today was our investment portfolio. We have five savings/investment accounts which were paying us a reasonable if not fabulous return until recently. In the last couple of months all have reduced their returns to a massive 0.35% per annum. Nobody can countenance that. With the UK CPI at 0.6%, the savings would actually be losing money. I have never allowed them to do that.

I am going to do something unprecedented for me and use the-safe-as-houses, inflation-beating NS&I. National Savings & Investments  has always seemed so staid that I’ve looked for other investments vehicles. Now, I am retrenching. They have a number of benefits:

  • Boring but safe as houses;
  • Inflation busting investment rate of 1.15% (Can hardly believe I’m writing that!);
  • We can hold joint investment accounts so Pauline can easily access all when I die;
  • We are not limited to a 2 x £85,000 = £170,000 FCS Compensation Scheme;
  • Instant access without loss of earnings

The one downside of this is having to give up the ISA shelter on a good chunk of the investment which we’ve built up over the past 20 years. However, 0.35% is untenable. Time to move on.

Wednesday, 5th August, 2020

Lovely day but once again it is hot and humid. We have been planning our new, home gym. We have builders and electricians coming round tomorrow with a start date of November. After breakfast, we finalised our plans in anticipation of our coming meeting. Then, we set off on a walk down to the Post Office in our local village centre.

Life is crawling back to ‘normal’ for some.

Thursday, 6th August, 2020

Glorious, August day. We were up at 5.45 am and out by 6.30 am. We were on our way to Tesco in West Durrington at the start of a morning of shopping. Pauline did £100.00/€111.00 of shopping for ‘free’ while I did my walk. Why was it for ‘free’ – well, because we had built up around £100.00/€111.00 of vouchers converted from Clubcard Points and these were cashed-in. We have about £50.00/€55.50 worth of vouchers for Sainsbury‘s as well so I am pushing Pauline to use rather than hoard these things before they are lost in inflation.

I have written recently of feeling trapped with travelling becoming so difficult for people like me. The Daily Telegraph is running a number of articles today which seriously undercut any confidence that might be returning to tourism this summer.

This one appears to suggest that the threat will come from the Greeks themselves – imposing travel bans or prohibitive quarantines because of rising infection rates – some imported but now, increasingly home-grown. 

Other countries and particularly France may require UK quarantine on return from abroad. There is a sense in which this is seen as threatening behaviour by UK Plc as part of Brexit negotiation – or failure of it by the Bungling Brits. It is definitely time for us to make a second trip to France in case it is our last chance.

I am writing at 7.00 pm and the temperature is 29C/85F. It feels very hot, still and sultry. The night will be hot and tomorrow even hotter. This is what we like if we can’t travel.

Friday, 7th August, 2020

After a Greek night of heat and humidity, we were up at 6.00 am and out to Worthing town centre via the beach by 7.30 am. We had a click & collect from M&S to make. The beach and the town streets are extremely quiet.

Even the tide was out although it wasn’t yet 8.00 am. The temperature was 27C/81F and the sun was strong. The sea – far out – was like glass and really reflected the sky.

We collected our purchase, nipped in to Waitrose for some Feta Cheese and Kalamata olives and were back home by 9.00 am. 

After coffee, I set about watering roadside lawn, front lawn and Drive side-beds. Meanwhile, I was picking tomatoes from the plants I grew from seed believing them to be cherry tomato plants. They are nothing of the sort. We would not buy this sort of size fruit from the market. They are also incredibly prolific. We have so many that Pauline is thinking of roasting them with garlic and putting them in jars for anti-pasti.

We don’t usually eat lunch but today was one of those lovely days of wonderful weather combined with some excellent news from the past 24hrs (which I’m banned from reporting) which just had to be celebrated. Our lunch included lettuce, tomatoes and figs picked a few minutes earlier from our garden. Anyone who has done that knows this sense of achievement adds a frisson of euphoria to the flavour.

Saturday, 8th August, 2020

2013 – £17.60
2020 – £46.50

On this seriously hot, Greek day, the humidity was high and the temperature was 27/81F by 7.30 am and, ultimately reached 34C/93F. The humidity was there all day and was energy sapping. Even so, we did plenty of work. I cut all the lawns again and watered everywhere.

Our meal was griddled Tuna steaks with Greek Salad. Real echo of the past. On this day 7 year ago, I recorded our change from buying litres of Italian olive oil on our drive home to buying 5ltr cans of Greek oil to bring home in the car. This was our favourite and cost €19.50/£17.60 for 5ltrs. It is delightful with salad but, at that price, we used it with so many types of cooking.

Today, of course, we don’t have the opportunity of carrying 20ltrs of oil back to our Sussex home but we still prefer Greek oil. Pauline sourced Kalamata oil in ½ltr of bottles for £4.20/€4.65 (£42.00/€46.50 for 5ltrs). The price is irrelevant now but the oil is delicious and we don’t cook with it but dress our salads instead. However, it is difficult to beat Greek olive oil.

As I write at 8.00 pm, the temperature is a wet and sweaty 28C/82F. It is on nights like this we wish we had installed air-conditioning in the bedroom.

Week 605

Sunday, 26th July, 2020

The last week of July. In fact August on Saturday. Summer is running away. I have to keep telling myself these things to maintain equilibrium and context. The first Test series of the Summer draws to a close this week and, hopefully, Manchester weather will allow England to bring it to a successful conclusion.

Fun in the Sun

At the same time, the government announce new travel restrictions and the pandemic which was said to be “contained very soon” and then “over by Christmas” is now triumphantly to be “over by the middle of next year”. The Transport Secretary had just got off a plane in Spain for his holidays and less than 6 hours later his own department announced a 14 day quarantine for all people flying from Spain. This type of action really undercuts the whole travel industry. If you can’t book with confidence then you are unlikely to book at all.

I’m going to clean the car, watch the cricket followed by the football and read the newspapers.

Monday, 27th July, 2020

Actually, I didn’t clean the car because today was forecast to be wet and I knew I had to go out and collect packs of wood. One of the things that interests me is the information bodies give out to ameliorate authorities and smooth their path through Covid-19 re-opening. We ordered the loft boarding from Jewson in Worthing. They told us that it would be collectable after 10.30 am on Monday. We would be sent a text to be told what time to turn up to collect so that social distancing could be maintained. By 11.00 am on Monday, we had heard nothing and I phoned them.

I was greeted by an incredulous voice saying, Just come when you like. We went immediately. The huge store was absolutely empty and the five assistants were without masks. Our packs of loft boards were stacked up waiting for us. There were no other orders left out. It looks as if there is little take-up currently.

We drove home and I spent the next 3 hrs in the garage installing the new ceiling, moving storage boxes and freeing up the parking area. It was an absolutely satisfying activity. I had offered the floor staging to my neighbour and he told me this morning that he would like it in his garage so that will clear some more space.

Last night we heard that the UK had scuppered travel to Spain and its islands by insisting on them quarantining on return to UK. It is a bit of a joke because, generally, UK has a worse Covid-19 incidence than other EU countries. We suspect another agenda but it was interesting how Brexiters and far-right Tories were already denying the facts. One of our relatives watched some pappy, ITV morning programme and insisted that this quarantine requirement was false. She had heard a contributor announcing that it could easily be subverted. Within minutes, government spokesmen insisted that it would remain in place.

There could be more quarantines to come.

I struggle to understand why people just swallow that nonsense without exercising some critical judgement but then that is what Brexit was all about.

Tuesday, 28th July, 2020

Up early at 6.00 am on a lovely morning. Out to Sainsbury‘s at 7.00 am and I did my walk. I admit, I have been a little disincentivised since last Thursday when Garmin Connect – the app/website that integrates my watch with my phone – was taken down because of an extraordinary outage’. I seems that they had been hit by a ransomware attack which freezes the company’s IT systems and demands payment to release them. That tells you everything you need to know about me. I am utterly target driven!

We have 8 months left of our 5yr warranty on this house. Any snagging/problems need to be raised with the builders before the end of March 2021. A house near us suddenly found a problem with their bay window roof and had a team of workers fixing it for 3-4 days recently. We have decided that we must really go for it.

Major Panic – a failing rubber seal.

Yesterday, a rubber seal on a pop-up sink waste valve split and fell apart. Last night the dual flush push button on one of the toilets sprang out and refused to go back. A small section had broken off.

Catastrophe – a broken toilet flush button.

Not on the scale of a leaking bay window but these niggly small things will be fixed by a little man in a builder’s van without causing us inconvenience.

Finished decluttering the garage, valeted the car and watched England win the Test series against West Indies. Garmin came back up for the first time in 4 days and registered that I had well exceeded my targets. A very rewarding day!

Girl from the past.

Totally out of the blue, I found a message from a girl I last saw in 1973-4. She was about 1-2 years old and her name was Julia. I have to admit that my memory is rather hazy but I remember snatches of it. It makes me a little shaky trying to recall those distant days.

Wednesday, 29th July, 2020

I must wish my skinny sister, Jane BG, a very happy 68th birthday. She is a champion runner and puts me to shame and, at her age, leads the way for all of us. 

A day at home in beautiful weather with blue sky and lots of sunshine. After breakfast at 6.30 am, we prepared to approach the nightmare that is an insurance claim. Today, it was dealing with a  Credit Card ‘Claim-Back’. After half an hour on the website  claim area going round in circles, we were seriously frustrated and decided to take our lives in our hands and phone up.

Jane B. G. – 68 today

Ignoring all the dire warnings that we couldn’t phone and should use the web; ignoring all the dire warnings about the effect of the pandemic on their phone service; ignoring all their dire warnings about the suggestion that we would be put on hold for hours, I went on hold and was answered within 2 mins. The lovely lady dealing with my claim apologised for keeping me waiting and promised a written reply within 24 hrs. This is all I was requesting and will fulfil my claim requirements immediately.  

I was so happy after this result that I set about mowing the lawns and pressure washing the car for the next couple of hours. We did our next round of smoked salmon. I have now refined it to just 3hrs of smoke. It is plenty and suggests those sites which talk about 24 hrs must be hard core smokers. I am pleased to say that my Garmin service is now fully restored and our exercise targets are fully restored. Life is back on an even keel.

Surrey

In this week 5 years ago, we were just meeting a buyer for our Duplex Apartment in Surrey which, ultimately led to our purchase of this new home on the Sussex coast. Time just eats away at one’s life but we don’t regret this move at all.

Thursday, 30th July, 2020

Roadside Beauty!

Another wonderful day and we were up at 6.00 am, out by 6.45 am. Pauline was shopping at 7.00 am while I did my walk. I’ve been doing it so long now that I’m on acknowledging terms with lots of regulars. The man with the bobble hat and Dalmatian dog comes jogging past. We nod and say, Morning. It is only on a Thursday that we meet but the bond is strong. The nurse in her blue, linen coat with badge and name tag is getting in to her Ribena-coloured Ford Ka outside the block of flats. She doesn’t speak but her face acknowledges weeks of familiarity. Even the bent-over old man with a shock of white hair and face parallel to the pavement attempts to raise a smile. as he does his morning walk at 7.15 am. He is not giving up! Nor am I. look at this bearded clematis just woven in to the hedgerow on my walk around West Durrington this morning. Understated, roadside beauty.

The sun is increasingly heating up. It rapidly reaches 26C/79F. Pauline will be quite quick today because there are so few people shopping at this time. I don’t know why. It is a wonderful time to be out and about. I need 45 – 55 mins for my walk. I deliberately break in to a faster walk/jog in order to not keep her waiting too long. I am sweating by the time I reach the car and my legs are quite tired.

Doorside Beauty

We are home by 8.30 am and the day can start. Coffee for me and porridge for Pauline. An hour in the Office bringing the accounts up to date and following up emails. Then, outside to start our jobs. By 10.00 am, I am turning the automatic watering system to water the lawns. First the grass strip outside our property edging the pavement/road. Mine is the greenest most luscious section on the road. I even weed and feed it, mow it twice a week and water it as often as possible. Then on to the front lawn. and round to the back lawn.

While that’s going on, I start to clean the downstairs woodwork which is white and shows all dirt and stains around the ground floor of the house. I’m not going any higher. In fact I haven’t got a ladder for it. We will pay the window cleaner for that service. It is so hot that I tire quite quickly and by 12.00 mid day, we stop for a lunch of home-smoked salmon and garden peas in the garden.

I meant to say, we have had our Hybrid CRV for 13 months now and I am still learning its new features. We have only driven 5500 miles so far. Recently, I have ben getting myself used to Automatic Brake Hold. This is a cross between the facilities of manual and automatic driving. With a manual drive which I last had in 1984, a handbrake is essential. With an automatic, I rarely bothered about setting a handbrake ever. Just leave it in ‘Park’ and go! This hybrid which we’ve driven fore over a year and which straddles Manual/Automatic, has three buttons for braking.

Automatic Brake Hold

In the top centre, the ‘P’ you can see is the equivalent of ‘park’ on an automatic gearbox. The ‘P’ on the top right is a switch you pull and, in effect, is the old handbrake. The button below is the interesting one I am just starting to use. The ‘Brake Hold’ is fantastic. When you come to the lights and stop, you just press ‘Brake Hold’ and the car is in automatic ‘foot pedal brake’ but without exerting your foot. When you want to set off, you just depress the accelerator and away you go. At the next stop, you just bring the car to a stop with the foot brake and the brake hold takes over until you set off again.

Now I am comfortable with it, it is a delight. Why has it taken me so long to learn? I refuse to blame my age! Great news to end the day. Mastercard has written back to us confirming their rejection of our £4,000.00 charge back claim against them. Rarely has been a denial of liability been so welcome. This means that the last flailings of our insurance company have been satisfied and they must pay out. Can’t wait to get back to them tomorrow!

Friday, 31st July, 2020

For no reason at all, we were up at 5.45 am and drinking orange juice and tea before the 6.00 am Today programme had started. I had a list of jobs to complete in my head as I began to shave and, by 8.00 a,m., I had completed them. 

  1. Write letter to doctor asking for supporting letter to supply Insurance Company with reasons why we should not fly to Athens in three weeks time under current  conditions.
  2. Supply the final piece of evidence to the Insurance Company from our Credit Card organisation which should trigger the final repayment on our May/Tenerife break.

    (We have already received £1,250.00 from the airport hotel, from the villa rental company and from Easyjet.) Now we want £4,000.00 from our travel insurance for the loss of our villa rental. We should now get it this week and we can then submit our second claim for the August trip.

By 10.00 am, we were on the 5 mile / 8 Kilometre round trip to the Doctors’ Surgery and then on to Dunelm for an order that Pauline had placed on-line. The temperature had hit 31C/88F and the walk reminded us of exploring Greek islands in the early days when we were young and spent our whole time hiking in the baking sun.

Harvest done already!

We were amazed to see that the harvest was in already and it is not even August. The blackberries are in full fruit and huge and sweet. What a strange year it has been! 

Back home, I have mowed all the lawns including my elderly neighbour’s across the road and instigated a full, automatic, spray  watering programme that goes on all afternoon. Everything looks luscious in the sunshine. The grass is iridescent blue-green and the tomatoes are ripening rapidly to orange – red. 

Saturday, 1st August, 2020

Happy? August?

August already in this prison of a time and a country. We should be flying to Athens in just over a fortnight but we won’t. It is both too risky and would not be enjoyable under current conditions. Both Easyjet and our hotel – The Electra Palace – have, without our request, offered the possibility of re-arranged dates. We would prefer our money back and to re-arrange at our own behest.

Consequently, we have sought our doctor’s support in cancelling this trip. Actually, we are doing this in a climate of rising spikes and local lockdowns in UK and increasing outbreaks in Greece. There is still a chance that one government or another will take the decision out of our hands but we will prosecute our own case in the meantime. It seems daunting because we are still concluding a claim from a cancelled May trip to Tenerife but we don’t give up.

The summer is running to seed!

As we did our walk this afternoon past harvested cornfields and Anthriscus Sylvestris or Cow Parsley running to seed, I couldn’t help but reflect on my life losing one of its limited summers almost without acknowledgment. I feel imprisoned in a time and a narrow, illiberal country which still believes itself ‘Great’ even as it prepares to disintegrate. The poorly educated, ‘red top’ influenced, blue rinse brigade have brought us to this. There is one thing we are certainly not doing – Taking back control!

Week 604

Sunday, 19th July, 2020

Well, it’s wet but very warm this morning. Perfect for growing. We have changed our plans completely from outdoors to in-house. Pauline is touching up wall paint scrapes. I have been completing the resubmission to our insurance company. If I was skilled enough, I would rather have Pauline’s job. It is far less frustrating. I am trying to balance the need to express my frustration with my desire to move the process to a successful conclusion. I am being pragmatic by expressing compliance through gritted teeth.

I pinched this graphic from The Skiathan although I don’t know its true origin.

Something to gladden Brextremists’ hearts.

Our shopping jaunt in France last week reminded us of what we are missing. Getting away from this narrow, inward-looking, nationalistic, exceptionalist culture threaded through with naked racism felt such a relief. It has forced us to reconsider a home abroad once more. I only had to listen to Lord Botham talking about how proud he is of the island of England from his holiday villa in Spain to fall in to a deep depression.

However, for the near – medium term, we will remain cautious. Driving not flying. Tunnel not ferry. Renting villas not hotel rooms. Self catering not eating restaurants. Wearing masks in confined spaces and avoiding crowds. This will mean all our patterns of visiting friends and family will not happen this year. We may drive to a rented property abroad but we will not return to our Health Club here. It is disappointing but the consequences of infection particularly for me do not bear contemplation. 

Self Portrait with my wife – Symi, Kali Strata 1990

I thought James Collins from Symi Dream illustrated the dilemma we all have rather well. His smallish, Greek island is heavily dependent on Tourist income. We spent a few weeks there about 30 years ago. Most of you will be too young to remember but Tony Banks – one time Labour Government Sports Minister – had a house on Symi, was involved in the organisation of an annual cultural festival on the island and became an honorary Symian (or whatever they’re known as).

James’ Blog entry today expresses his worries which are undoubtedly reflective of other islanders’ concerns that the tourists who are arriving are not showing enough concern for Health & Safety – getting too close and without masks. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the beast. Those who have the confidence to travel abroad are the exact ones who won’t take other’s safety as seriously either. Who goes on holiday to a hot and sunny island to be clad in a face mask? The contradiction is obvious. In my view, that type of trip will have to wait.

Monday, 20th July, 2020

Beautiful morning … to put the bins out. We are confined to home until 11.15 am at the earliest because we await a delivery of two, huge outdoor storage boxes.

177 x 113 x 134 cm (L x W x H)

We are trying to declutter our garage and make some more space. We park our car in it every night and use every, single area for storage as well. The ceiling trusses are part boarded and store lots of stuff. I am about to order some more boarding to provide us with extra facility. These are the joys of pandemic time.

The packages arrived on time and two, tattooed gorillas cheerfully barrowed them into our back garden.After three hours in hot sunshine, we had assembled one complete with hydraulic roof lifts and hinged doors. We stopped about 1.30 pm for a drink and some salad. Unfortunately, the sunshine dictated that the drink was a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc which made the afternoon a little less productive.

Actually, we started the second container about 2.30 pm and worked until 5.00 pm. I was in and out of the kitchen to keep an eye on how the cricket was going. Great to see England win and keep the series alive. We had only half finished the second container by the time we stopped after the electric screw driver ran dry. My body ached in places that it didn’t know it had.

Still, it was a satisfying experience and one which just serves to illustrate the strength of our marriage. Neither of us considered divorce throughout the construction process. Interestingly, this bottle of wine is marketed by Vivino in UK for £7.99/€8.84 whereas I bought it in France for £2.99/€3.31 per bottle. There has got to be something wrong somewhere.

Tuesday, 21st July, 2020

A busy day at home under a burning sun. We were up early and got on with completing the second storage container. As with everything, we were confident in yesterday’s experience of the first one and it was finished in no time – well, about an hour. By lunch time, I had filled both containers with lawn mowers, rakers, strimmers, hedge trimmers, etc. Out of the garage went long term storage of tiles for the kitchen floor, for the bath room floors and for the walls. Friendly builders left them for us as insurance. The hard standing in the back garden won’t even be started until the first week in November.

After lunch, I’ve mowed all the lawns, trimmed the edges and watered copiously. In this hot, dry weather it is badly needed. It is important to keep the property looking good. In 2013, we had just put our Greek property on the market. The house had been painted and decluttered. We had cleared the ground; Pauline had painted the heavy, sliding iron gate and I had attached a House for Sale sign on the front. It felt strange but right. It certainly worked judging by the number of people who stopped to take down the contact details although it took until the Summer of the following year to complete a transaction.

Wednesday, 22nd July, 2020

Frightening how one can fiddle & faddle a day away without trying or achieving much. It is not my style and I would normally be furious with myself but today is such an occasion. Up early to a beautiful day. As I drank breakfast, I started watering the lawns. It is going to be a long, hot day and every one needs a drink. While I was out there, I picked a few more, early-developer figs which are coming on strong now but with lots more developing.

We were waiting in for a delivery of fresh fish but they can’t source it all until tomorrow so that felt like time wasted but we did receive a visit from the builder with a contract to sign in readiness for the first week in November and we had another, on-line insurance claim form to fill out which takes some time and fortitude. We also had to renew our annual travel insurance policy which we get, largely ‘free’ through our bank account but my ‘conditions’ require a top-up and, half way through the next year, I will be 70 which also requires a top-up. I expected that to cost an arm & a leg but it only amounts to £75.00 extra and continues to include ‘pandemic inc. Covid-19 insurance’ which has surprised us.

Nowadays, they want to know every detail of one’s repeat prescription right down to the cream Pauline uses for dry skin and the drops she uses for dry eyes. Whoops, have I said too much? Anyway, let’s hope we get to use our travel insurance before I’m 70.

Thursday, 23rd July, 2020

Lovely, warm and sunny day which has one, central task concerning Rubbish. Pauline did our Tesco shop at 7.00 am as I completed my 5 mile walk around the West Durrington area. Shopping is so easy and relaxed now that Pauline is walking straight in without queueing at that time.

It’s all Rubbish!

After a trip to France produced another 40 empty boxes to dispose of plus we had two, huge storage boxes each of which came in carboard with polystyrene infills meant a trip to the tip was in order. I can’t quite rationalise it yet but since the reopening after lock-down, the queues of cars for the local refuse tip are enormous and growing. What is going on? Anyway, we had 30 mins to waste so we waited and our property is now breathing a sigh of relief as it is decluttered.

You can hardly find a seat on Sifnos!

Decluttering is not a problem Sifnos has at the moment. It is still so quiet that they will even entertain animals. The Greeks are not renowned as romantic about animals. Greek men celebrate their macho with gun dogs and discipline.

It is interesting how many still really believe that this season isn’t lost and, maybe, the next. If a second wave puts paid to next year, driving not flying, self-catering not hotels will be the order of the day. Ally that to the Brexit-induced problems of more expensive insurance, medical cover, pet passports, mobile roaming charges and European driving licences and that might really make Greece too unattractive for most UK travellers.

Friday, 24th July, 2020

Lovely breakfast from the garden today. We are so pleased that we decided to plant some figs even though we hadn’t too much optimism at the outset. 

Figs from our garden for breakfast.

We had set ourselves a series of tasks to achieve today and we both got up early thinking about them. One was to renew our insurance claim with new evidence. We did that together online. Next, we had decided to mow the lawns and trim the hedges. That took longer than expected. Lunch and then I tried to source some loft boarding to board up an area of our garage  to store more stuff off the ground and make more space. 

You would not believe how difficult it is to source basic, everyday items of building materials at the moment. The world maybe trying to move on but manufacturing is still lagging way behind. Recently, I was trying to find paving slabs for our patio extension. Non in stock and production had not restarted yet. Today, I tried to find simple, chipboard loft panels. Unless you want enough to do an entire house loft, you just can’t get them. I only wanted 5 packs each of 3 boards. They should have cost me less than £50.00/€55.00 but, unless I ordered a minimum of £100.00/€110.00, I would have to pay £30.00/€33.00 for delivery. I would not be allowed to Click & Collect.

We received an acknowledgement from our Health Club that we were resigning with immediate effect from our membership. It felt strange but absolutely right. We had asked our doctor to provide supporting evidence of our decision but, to David Lloyd‘s credit, it turned out to be unnecessary. Even so, after going there most days for 4 years, it is a wrench. The next thing will be our flights to Athens and hotel stay which has to go. Now is not the time to indulge ourselves and to take risks. 

Social Distancing at Heathrow yesterday.

You only have to consider the position these people travelling through Heathrow were put in yesterday. If they then disembarked in a steamy, hot Athens with a view to relaxation and enjoyment and you can see the contradiction. We will ask our doctor for support in an insurance claim on that one.

Friday, 24th July, 2020

This morning, we have woken up to light rain. It is quite a surprise because we didn’t expect it until this evening. It does illustrate why we need our own, home gym. The weather has persuaded us to stay in and do things out of the rain – house jobs. It looks like I might have found a Loft Board supplier where I can Click & Collect. I’m going to order from Jewson which is only 3 miles away and, hopefully, collect it on Monday.

We have owned 6 houses over our marriage. We were always looking to add value to them by improving and upgrading. We always bought and upgraded with a view to future saleability. It is hard to lose that attitude although we both know that this house will, probably, be our last before. We are trying to educate ourselves in improving for our needs alone. That is why we are preparing the ground for a home gym.

This morning David Lloyd, Worthing wrote to us acknowledging our resignations and wishing us well. It was only a couple of weeks ago that they were threatening to hold us to our contract. I suspect that they already realised they had no chance of doing that because so many of our age group were saying the same as us.

Ten years ago, after living in our Greek house just for school holidays for 5 years, Retirement and 6 month residency meant we needed to do some serious finishing.


It’s a bit like child birth (as if I’d know) in that the pain or inconvenience of the work is all forgotten in the enjoyment of the finished product. We know that, as they bring digging machines into our back garden and take delivery of packs of paving slabs which will have to be stored, our daily life will be a bit disrupted. We won’t be able to get the car in to the garage. We may have to park on the roadside. However, as soon as its over, life will be so much better.

Week 603

Sunday, 12th July, 2020

A lovely, Summer’s day with beautiful, blue skies and a few, high flying, fleecy white clouds with 22C/70F of warmth. After breakfast, papers and political programmes, we made a walk for ourselves. We need some more salad leaf seeds to keep us going through the rest of the season. Actually, they have been harder to source than one might expect. It looks as if lots of lock-downers have been doing the same thing – living on home grown salad.

One of four local Garden Centres.

We did a 5 mile round trip walk to Highdown Garden Centre which is one of four within easy walking distance of the house. They had a couple of packets of mixed, cut-and-come-again green leaves seed. and we returned to our house to cut the lawns, sow some beds of salad and enjoy the sunshine.

We drive across to France later in the week. It is no big deal. We have done it so many times that it is like driving to Sainsbury‘s. However, we haven’t done it for 7 months and not under these conditions. We have to stay in our car while travelling, to wear a mask in public and to fill out this form prior to approaching border controls.

UK and Greek newspapers/Blogs tell us what the Sunday Telegraph is trumpeting this morning:

Greece considers second lockdown after tourists bring spike of cases.

This was always going to be the danger for Greek islanders who had stayed safe throughout the height of the pandemic because of their location. Suddenly, they get what they need but don’t want – invading tourists some of whom are asymptomatic virus carriers. On small islands, this could run riot in no time. Nothing will be easy this year.

Monday, 13th July, 2020

Dad would have been proud of me. Actually, he probably wouldn’t. He never expressed an acknowledgement of pride in his son that I can remember in the whole of my/his lifetime. He was a builder and architect and wanted his son to grow up to take over the business. His son was a huge disappointment to him. He bought me MeccanoLeggo, a Draughtsman’s equipment (a special pen) but all fell flat. I had no interest in any of it. Now, Literature and Poetry and I was your man but construction? No! Only long after his death, I learned that he described my fingers as ‘sausages’. Although I wouldn’t disagree, I did find myself rather shocked. Could explain my love of pork bangers.

My Nemesis

My wife is the practical one. In Greece, it was not easy to get an odd-job man in. I took a box of tools including a drill to the island with the intention of doing my own jobs around the house. Of course, I didn’t do them. I paid someone else to. I brought the tools and drill back with me to Surrey and then Sussex where I paid someone else to do the work professionally. Today, I plucked up my courage, charged up the drill and set about fixing my wine racks safely to the garage wall. It worked! Flushed with success, I took on the more ambitious project of establishing door tie-back hooks on the Garage wall and the Laundry door. Of course, it went brilliantly although my wife was very nervous. She had images of having to rebuild the house after I had finished. I don’t know why I didn’t try all this before.

Tuesday, 14th July, 2020

We are feeling rather hemmed in and in need of some movement and European culture. The combination of the pandemic and these lunatic Brexiteers is combining to make it all the more difficult. We need to break out … and we will.

Poseidon Palace Hotel, Kaminia, Patras

On this day in 2014, we were spending it in a lovely hotel on the outskirts of Patras on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. We had stayed there for a number of years either side of our drive to Sifnos. The following day we were to sail down the Adriatic for 24 hrs to Ancona.

Giacomo Puccini’s birthplace in old Lucca

On this day in 2017, we were driving from Lucca to Bologna having spent the best part of a week visiting Torino, Genoa, Lucca old town, Pisa and Firenze. It was part of our month long grand tour which took in Coquelles, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Moderna, Parma, Piacenza, round the Milan ring road, round Lakes Como and Lugano and in to Switzerland to Bellinzona.

From there we travelled through the Ghotthard and the Seelisberg Tunnels to Mulhouse at the start of the Alsace Wine Route. We went on through Colmar and Strasbourg and then down the A4 through Metz and Epernay in Champagne country. 

Finally, we drove through Saint Quentin, Arras, Bethune, St Omer and back to Coquelles. It was tiring but expansive, outward looking and optimistic and it emphasised our roots based firmly in European life.

Ribérac Market – July 2018

Two years ago on this day in 2018, we were in the Dordogne and returning from visiting my cousin, Sue and her husband Phil in Salles-Lavalette when we came upon a delightful market in the Dordogne commune of Ribérac. It is these vignettes of travel that make us what we are. I, for one, will never allow myself to be defined by Little England. To that end, we are going to make a brief foray into France once again on Thursday.

Wednesday, 15th July, 2020

Pauline had her hair cut on the last day before the official Lock-Down on Saturday, March 21st. We could see it coming and just got a last day appointment. Some 16 weeks later, this is what she looked like.

Tuesday, July 14th after 16 weeks without a haircut.

An hour in Worthing and £80.00/€90.00 lighter my wife looks younger and happier …. er, no. She now thinks longer looks better. I’ll leave you to decide. I daren’t say anything.

Wednesday, July 15th after a haircut.

This is Pauline almost 4o years ago outside our first house in West Yorkshire. She was only 29 years old. These photographs were taken on our new, Polaroid Camera.

I had a fascinating walk through the streets of Worthing for an hour which I would normally have spent in a coffee shop. The sea front is putting on a brave face particularly near the pier but the people are absent and the shops are in a dire state of abandonment and disrepair.

Our bustling seafront.

All the lovely, little eateries on the Italian row are grubby, isolated and depressing. It is open market day down the central street although there are no stalls today. There aren’t any shoppers. The multi-storey carpark which is normally full is absolutely empty today. Physical Commerce is on its last legs.

View from the (empty) carpark.

It’s all rather depressing really. One wonders how the streets of Worthing Town will ever climb out of this despond. It can only be by marketing itself as a very healthy, seaside environment where families will be safe to live and play, to have holidays and enjoy the coastline.

Thursday, 16th July, 2020

Past mid-July and it is becoming noticeable that mornings are a little darker and darkness comes slightly earlier in the evening. This is the downward slope into depression. To lift our spirits, we were up at 6.00 am and out by 8.00 am on the drive to Folkestone Eurotunnel. It is a couple of hours drive from here normally and we were travelling peak commuter time on the M25 so we have to give ourselves plenty of leeway. You have to check-in 45 mins before departure and we were crossing at 11.40 am so we thought we’d timed it right. 

We were shocked to find that there is no rush hour, no peak commuter time, no anything. The roads which are normally solid queues were all but deserted. 

Very quiet M25

We arrived with about 90 mins to spare which gave us time for Pauline’s wonderful coffee. The knock-on problem with that is that almost all public toilets are closed. The ones in the Tunnel Terminal were open but, in spite of social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing, everyone in the toilets was washing their hands and then using air-blasting dryers which had the effect of launching droplets of potentially infected water vapour in thick clouds through the enclosed space. I drew the management’s attention to it but received a blank stare.

A regular haunt.

We drove straight from the Tunnel terminal in Calais to the Wine Store, collected our order, added some additions, paid and left. It took about 20 mins. We drove down through Coquelles village to Auchan and bought a few things – Cheeses, cold meats, mustards, garlic, duck breasts and legs, etc.. As we drove towards Coquelles, immigrants bands were sprinting across roads into woodland. Police cars were parked, slewed across roads to block them and, when we reached Auchan, small groups of immigrants were furtively checking out the carpark. It made us feel a little uncomfortable. We were leaving a £40,000.00/€44,000.00 car unattended and containing £1,000.00/€11,000.00 of wine as a prime target.

Why does French produce look more interesting?

Anyway, all went well. We were back at the Tunnel early and got on an earlier train. I always fill out the Advanced Passenger Information (API) on-line and we filled out a mandatory Covid-tracing form which we handed in to the passport agency. She immediately told us it was for the French side who had not asked us for it. There is a UK one to do which we had to fill out when we got home.

The drive home at 4.30 pm was equally quiet and we arrived relaxed and early. It was our first, moderately long journey -4hrs driving – for quite a few months and I was tired after unloading all the wine and racking it. We’ve got to be up at 6.00 am tomorrow for Tesco’s so we must be in bed by midnight.

Friday, 17th July, 2020

Up late after a hot and humid night. Getting up at 6.30 am was a struggle after yesterday. I drove to Tesco in West Durrington about 10 mins away. Dropping Pauline off at the door, I parked and set off on my 5 mile/8km walk in warm sunshine almost reminding me of our walks abroad – Canarian not Greek. Although I was tired as I started, I soon found myself falling into a really enjoyable rhythm and was almost sorry when I arrived back at the car to find Pauline loading shopping into the boot.

On this day 6 years ago, we we driving from our hotel in Parma down the Milano Ring Road, round the Italian/Swiss Lakes, through Switzerland and on to Mulhouse in Alsace where we stayed tonight. Puts our French trip yesterday and our drive to Tesco this morning in to perspective and I found that rather depressing. To cheer myself up, I’m going to rake the lawns and clean the car.

Saturday, 18th July, 2020

Lovely, warm and sunny day although only 23C/74F. I woke up early thinking about our latest travel insurance claim. We have been pursuing it for weeks and, each time we think we have reached the end, they put in another hurdle to get over. Having demanded and received every imaginable piece of evidence, they have demanded that we put the claim to the credit card company first.

This is underhand and, in our experience, unprecedented. It is calculated to wear people down and encourage them to drop their claim. Fortunately, we are not easily worn down and do not give up. If the principle wasn’t enough, there is £4,000.00/€4,400.00 at stake. Anyway, we a Black Account holders at our bank which also insures us and we pay £350.00/€385.00 per year just to finance the services. We refuse to be given the run around by them. These are the thoughts that I awoke with at 5.30 am.

After juice and tea, I took my coffee into the Office and started searching the website for a form to initiate a Section 75 Claim against our credit card company. I entered a maze. I had tried phoning them only to be told pandemic-hit staff shortages made it impossible to discuss anything. The website just mirrored and amplified the phone approach. After an hour or so we found a link to a page that led to a claim form. This is all carefully calculated. In our case, it made us more determined.

First figs of the season.

I know we are in to mid-July but that would be at least 4 weeks early to be picking figs in Greece. In an English garden, it is astonishing to be finding ripe figs. Admittedly, this variety is Brunswick which is better suited to our climate. However, we have a Brown Turkey fig absolutely laden in fruit this year. They keep you going through second wave lock-down.