Week 733

Sunday, 8th January, 2023

The day is moderately warm and sunny. Unusually for January, we haven’t had the heating on for ages. Bought Pauline a new Liquidiser yesterday from Currys. It is by Bosch and the quality of the German manufacturing means that the solid glass goblet is so heavy, Pauline can hardly carry it empty never mind full of liquid. I’ve told her it will be good training for her upper arms.

My next toy is going to be a wireless colour laser printer which will free up space and cables in the Office and allow Wi-Fi printing from iPads and smartphones. 

I’ve decided on this one which is incredibly cheap until you realise that the toner costs almost as much as the original printer. 

It will be replacing another Brother which I’ve had for about 15 years. They are great workhorses and I hope this will be the same.

Did 40 mins on the treadmill yesterday. Going to do 50 mins this afternoon and then an hour on Monday. I intend to be up to 1.5 hrs by next weekend. Keep you informed if I live. …. I’ve done my 50 mins continuous and don’t feel too bad. Chatted to Kevin who is 73 today. Makes me feel so much better that most of my friends are so much older than me. Kevin seems happy going out on his bike each day. Must help keep him alive. I’ve also contacted my boyhood friend, Jonathan, who has lived in Boston, Massachusetts for 50 years and who I had hoped to visit this time but circumstances got in the way. Maybe next time.

Monday, 9th January, 2023

Lovely start to the day with clear sky and lots of sunshine. I’ve been eating porridge for breakfast since I’ve been ill and I’m getting addicted but, along with freshly squeezed orange juice, it feels very healthy. I know oats lower cholesterol so let’s hope its working.

Had quite a refreshing phone call over breakfast. It was from Printerland where I’d ordered from yesterday.

Are you sure you want to order that printer, Sir. Of course, we are happy to supply it but there is a much better one for your needs, a newer product which costs much less to resupply with toner. It costs just £40.00 more but you can claim that £40.00 back from Xerox and get extended warranty.

Quite refreshing really. Well it persuaded me and my new printer will arrive tomorrow. Two minutes later another phone call from The Urology Department at Worthing Hospital. I was only referred to them on Friday and the Consultant’s secretary was speaking to me first thing on Monday morning. Would I be available for a telephone triage consultation with the Consultant this afternoon? Of course I would. ….

… The Consultant has just phoned and told me I will be given an MRI scan in the next few days. I can hardly believe the NHS service I am receiving.

Electra Palace Hotel, Thessaloniki

If I’m going to die of prostate cancer, I’m going to enjoy myself first and definitely achieve my ambitions. I’ve always wanted to go to Thessaloniki (or as the Greeks know it, Saloniki) in Northern Greece. It has its own Electra Palace Hotel in the same group as the one we use in Athens.

Nice View

For a week at the end of May a suite with a lovely sea view will cost us around £2000.00 and Easyjet flights are incredibly cheap. So that is the plan. I am looking to book it today.

Well, I’ve achieved both aims for today. I managed an hour on the treadmill and I’ve booked 5 nights in Thessaloniki 15th – 20th of May. Easyjet flights are also booked. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 10th January, 2023

What a horrible, dark and wet morning. Not even warm today – only 9C/48F. certainly not inviting. However, I have to go out … to buy a light bulb. We have been in this house for almost 7 years and I cannot remember having to replace a light bulb. Last night, the central light in the bathroom flickered and died. When we unscrewed the glass, we found an element that we had never bought before.

This strange contraption has 4-pins and just pushes in. Where can you get them? Amazon will deliver this afternoon but I have found them at Screwfix and Toolstation which are not far away so that’s where I’m going this morning. At £15.00 for two, they are not cheap but 7 years is fairly economical.

Been out to Sainsburys where the carpark is under cover. The day is just incredibly horrible. Pauline says that prices in Sainsburys are noticeably going down. I am blissfully unaware of any of that just as I haven’t got a clue about practical things like light bulbs. I celebrate my lack of knowledge in these areas. That is what wives are for. I’m happy to concentrate on booking flights and hotels, buying computers and red wine. All the difficult things.

Going to do 70 mins on the treadmill today. Really feeling stronger by the day. Probably split my exercise in to two sessions so as not to overdo it too soon. The new printer is being delivered today and I don’t want it leaving outside in this weather so we are home for the day. Going to look at a couple of French trips for March and June/July. That’s my expertise even though it’s very stressful.

Google have sent me my travel record for the past year and it tells me that I have travelled the equivalent of once around the world. Now that’s an idea …. actually travel round the world in 180 days.

Wednesday, 11th January, 2023

Lovely, clear, dry morning with the remnant of a moon still up in the sky. Had a message from Kevin’s wife, Christine, over breakfast which was nice. She was asking about my recovery. Got to get away from talking about health. We had a pleasant exchange. I was able to tell them about our travel dates arranged so far including time in the North of England when we hope to meet up.

Levenshulme yesterday.

All my friends up there were telling me about too much rain and flooding was featured in the Manchester Evening News yesterday. It was so horribly wet down here yesterday that I decided to order light bulbs from Amazon rather than go out for them. A pack of 2 arrived at 7.00 pm last night. One of the two didn’t work. I’ve got the bother of returning it now.

On this day, 11 years ago, we were living temporarily in the ‘Shoebox’ in Huddersfield and we instructed our solicitors to go ahead with the purchase of our property in Surrey. Eleven years ago! Where is this life rushing to?

Well, today we were rushing to charity shops and clothes disposal banks. Pauline is spending hours going through wardrobes and throwing out clothes that we will never wear again. They are either two big or too garish or just haven’t been worn for so many years that it’s pointless storing them. Today, we took 4 black bags of my clothes plus a bag of knee length leather boots that Pauline hasn’t worn since we left the North of England

Normally, we take things to the Hospice Shop but they were closed so we took them to Link to Hope which was nearby.

As we were near the beach, we dropped in to enjoy the sunshine. Quite a few others had gone even further and taken to the waves.

Thursday, 12th January, 2023

Well, thank goodness for our Gym. Certainly not going to be out walking for a while. Rain, rain, rain and the darkness. Had a phone call from a Consultant in the Radiology Department at Worthing Hospital yesterday. She asked me if I was available to go in for a full body, MRI scan on Sunday afternoon. Who could say No to that. Of course I am available. I am extremely grateful.

My little sister, Skinny Lizzie, was featured in The Guardian yesterday. She has just taken on Head of Social Care at Surrey County Council. You can read it here.

Jeff Beck

At our age, the death of icons of our youth can really bring us up short. Jeff Beck’s death has been announced and, although he was 7 years older than me, it makes me pensive. I notice that Dave Weatherley posted a retrospective this morning. I must admit, I know very little about him other than early tracks of my youth. Let’s hope there is a Silver Lining.

Friday, 13th January, 2023

Friday 13th. If you are superstitious, which I am not, hold tight! Beautiful day here with lovely blue skies and sunshine. Out early for an annual review at the surgery. Things seem to be getting back on track … apart from the question mark hanging over the prostate scan on Sunday afternoon.

Kevin has contacted me and pledged to stay alive until October when we will meet up again. I like that commitment. I will meet it. It means more to me today for some reason. Do you care ?

I have been having a problem with DHL for a while. I ordered a new printer on Sunday and was told it would be delivered on Monday. On Monday, I was phoned and told that there was a better model. I accepted that and was told it would be delivered on Tuesday. DHL contacted me on Tuesday to say they had my printer but couldn’t deliver it until Wednesday. It wasn’t. I phoned them and they promised it would be delivered on Thursday, It wasn’t. I phoned and they said they were inundated with parcels and would deliver it on Friday.

It was delivered today after 4 days of inconvenience. I will put in a formal complaint. This is unacceptable. I had also ordered a new, bedside radio alarm to replace one that had been at my bedside for 15 years. It is one of the most important items of my daily life. It starts every day. The old one had buttons that were beginning to fail.

The new new one is DAB or has digital radio stations and will charge my smartphone over night. It will see me through the next decade and then I will only need to replace it twice more before I am admitted to the Care Home. Do you care? Probably not! Well Dear Reader, that is your choice.

Saturday, 14th January, 2023

Friday 13th turned out to be a good day in that Pauline was told the skin blemish on her cheek was sun damage but not cancerous. Additionally, she will be offered 6 monthly check-ups by the hospital going forward. Just hope the news from my scan tomorrow is as positive.

Still raining. The sea must be full by now. We live between the Sussex Downs and the beach. It provides us with beautiful landscapes. Julie was telling me about the screen printing she was working on in her conservatory when an invitation to a local gallery came in accompanied by this lovely piece.

Because of the weather, I’ve been spending my time doing things which stress me but which I enjoy. Firstly, I’ve set up the new printer on our Office network. Still trying to configure wireless ‘air’ printing but that is nearly solved. I’m also setting up the radio alarm which is proving more difficult with a dreadful manual from a respectable producer – Roberts Radio – but it is not as intuitive as it ought to be. I will get there in the end. …….

… Been mulling it over all afternoon while watching Man. Utd thrash a very poor Manchester City team to go 3rd in the table. Suddenly, the solution appeared before me. Final whistle, big cheer, went straight up and completed the setup. Good afternoon’s work! Poor old Kevin is bemoaning Huddersfield conceding a 98th minute equaliser to Hull of all people.

Week 732

Sunday, 1st January, 2022

Happy New Year from the Blog. I am feeling a lot better and more optimistic. Shared good wishes with friends and already planning the next travel opportunities. Hoping to do Europe in a big way this Spring/Summer so researching and booking starting points will be important early. I expect to do this mainly driving which is one of the joys of European travel but we may do a couple of short haul flight destinations as well as Athens.

I’ve been fancying a short break in Bordeaux for ages so we might fly there and, similarly, to the rather racy city of Marseille which would also merit a week without a car. I’ll be exploring those destinations and flights from London for late Spring/early Sumer. We will have a couple of separate weeks in the Coquelles area walking and exploring restaurants. We will go to Athens in late September and the North of England in October. So that will allow us to spend late June and the month of July driving in France & Italy. After that, who knows, maybe back to Florida for a while.

I’m going to spend a lot of January in here.

The first objective must be to get rid of this mysterious infection and start getting fit again. I’m on Day 5 of the double strength Antibiotics which appear to be working. Going to spend 15 mins in the Gym this afternoon and my focus for the next few weeks has got to be in there, building up my strength and endurance. It is amazing that a short break away allows one’s fitness to drain so quickly.

I’ve just been chased out of my Office by … a ROBOT and I obeyed. This is starting to get rather interesting.

Monday, 2nd January, 2022

Woke up feeling distinctly better physically but absolutely empty emotionally as if something huge has just gone, as if a major motivation has been snatched away. Just got to get my head down and move forward.

The Robot Vacuum has proved such a success downstairs that I’ve ordered another for the first floor. It will be delivered on Thursday. Having set up the first one, a second should be straight forward. Famous last words.

Our house is coming up to 7 years old. With only two of us living in it, the wear & tear is minimal but some, small jobs are starting to appear. We need a plumber to replace a seal in the kitchen tap which has sprung a gentle leak and we need a pop-up waste in the Ensuite sink repairing along with a pop-up toilet flush button replacing.

These are just niggly little things but I like to keep on top of them. We also have one of the outside house lights which is operated automatically by light sensor repairing/replacing because the sensor has stopped working. So, to start the year as I mean to go on: book plumber and electrician as soon as possible.

Trying to stay positive although I admit it is a bit of a struggle at the moment. Getting out in the sunshine helps so we drove down to the beach. The roads were so quiet that it was as if a secret germ had wiped huge swathes of humanity from the face of the earth. Actually, I hadn’t realised that this was like a delayed Bank Holiday.

The beach and the road along side had lots of walkers, some hardy souls opening up their beach huts and eating sandwiches and coffee on tables at the front.

It was remarkably mild and beautiful but my mind and my body weren’t set for it, We took some lovely lungsful of sea air and then drove home through Rustington. When we got home, I was going to phone tradesmen but, now I know it is a holiday, I’ll wait till tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3rd January, 2022

Old memories, old friends are swirling round my head after a relatively good night. The past is almost like a bereavement. Although the people are gone, I continue to search for them, see them in a crowd … The past haunts me. People rise out of the mists of time and then fall back. I’m left hoping they continue to rise again. If they don’t, either I have dementia or I’m dead.

Rising out of the mists of this morning is this lad. His name is Russell Osman who lived in the Bull’s Head pub across from my childhood home in Repton. Admittedly, he is 8 years younger than me so was only 3 when I started at Grammar School and 15 when I left Repton for the last time. Russell’s dad, Rex Osman, had played for Derby County in the 1950s and Russell spent every spare hour of every day kicking a football around the pub carpark.

All that carpark practice paid off. Russell, who followed me by attending the Grammar School, eventually, went on to play for Ipswich and England. He was really good and had 10 years in the top flight of football. Now, at the age of 63, he is a pundit with the Indian football league,

This morning, Russell, that little lad from 1968, rose from the mists of the past to appear before me. I was watching Sky News in the Office and an article about Pele’s funeral came up accompanied by an interview with … Russell Osman.

Russell Osman

The beautiful, little lad of the 1960s is now a be-whiskered 63 year old man who has lots of life’s experience packed under his belt. In the end, it is not what we look like. It is what we are like that is important.

Wednesday, 4th January, 2022

I am waking up tired and shaky. I want to wake up looking forward to vigorous exercise. I am trying to force my head to tell my body but it isn’t really working at the moment. Kevin has been trying to gee me up but the body just isn’t willing right now. Amazing, though, how wonderful it is to have supportive friends in the background.

In spite of some horrible setbacks this week, I am trying to look to the future. I have forward booked two, separate weeks away for later in the year.

Electra Palace Suite

In mid-August, we will spend a week in Athens: 21st  – 28th. An Acropolis view Suite with balcony and breakfast will cost us £3,200.00 and the Easyjet flights with extra carry-on luggage, Extra Legroom and Speedy Boarding will cost £717.00 so the whole thing will come in under £4000.00

Electra Palace Acropolis View Balcony

In mid-October, we will spend 5 nights in Yorkshire – 16th – 21st. It will allow us to get round and see friends – well those who want to see us. My friend, Brian, from Royton phoned me last night to ask after my health and say how much he was looking forward to our next visit. I missed him last time and two years seems so long. We have to fit Margaret from Marsden in and John, Kevin & Julie in North Yorkshire.

It’s good to have things and people to look forward to. I trust that, by then, all this will be well behind me and I will be once again pounding the streets, enjoying my body.

Finding a good, local plumber is rather like finding a needle in a haystack. I asked around but neighbours couldn’t really help. They had the same problems. I searched the net and came up with a young-ish man from Worthing who had done his apprenticeship in the local college, set up his own company and survived for 9 years. I took a risk and phoned him.

Dan Proudfoot – Loved his name. – said he could visit us in a couple of hours. Couldn’t believe it. Our jobs were so small that plumbers haven’t bothered to get back to us. He turned up, saw the three jobs, popped out to the local Plumbers’ Merchants, returned and did all three jobs within an hour. I have already recommended him to my neighbours.

Thursday, 5th January, 2022

Warm but dismal, damp start to the day. I hesitate to write this but a blood testing appointment at 9.00 am got me out of the house and into an completely empty Surgery. Absolutely wonderful and comprehensive treatment.

Little John emerges from his lair under the stairs.

What a state of man have I become? I’m reduced to buying friends now. And robots at that! My new best friends are Little John and Little John’s Mate.

Little John’s Mate lives upstairs.

Little John and Little John’s Mate are very willing and have agreed to meet me any time I want. They just hang around charging on their docking stations until summoned. I’ve never seen the house so clean and I was responsible for vacuuming so I should know.

Definitely feeling a bit better physically than I was. Jill from next door has just Whatsapp’d me to ask how I was, which was nice. Unfortunately, she has just got Covid for the second time. I’ve had to instruct her not to kiss me.

Little Daryll came round this afternoon because we have a failing outside light. It is always switched on but only lights as the twilight arrives and goes off with the morning sunrise. After 7 years continuous working, it failed recently and our little electrician friend nipped out to replace it. He was here for half an hour while he kept us up to speed on the home-schooling of his kids, his own ongoing music education and the completion of a conservatory on his house. We introduced him to Little John and he took a photo to discuss with his wife. What lovely people there are in the world!

Friday, 6th January, 2022

Lovely start to the morning after a warm night. Feeling better again. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the fight back. I am trying to be optimistic. My doctor has just phoned to say that they have narrowed my health problem down to A-typical Pneumonia which is a form of Legionnaire’s Disease. It is typically caught from air conditioning units. I spent six weeks living in a house where the air conditioning was working 24 hrs a day. It is possible that is where I contracted it. Equally, it could just as easily have been caught in any of the shops/restaurants that we visited.

I have to renew my subscription to Microsoft 365 this week. It is about £80.00 a year for MS Office to be installed on 6 separate stations. We have it on two computers, two iPads and two smartphones. I use MS Word word processor and MS Excel spreadsheet most of all but a major draw is the huge cloud storage facility that comes with it. On OneDrive, we get 1 terabyte or 1000 gigabytes of storage and, although I am constantly using my phone to take photos which go straight to cloud storage, I will struggle to fill this facility for at least a decade.

All files and graphics are date indexed. They even stamp time, date, geographical location and, for me, go back as far as I’ve been storing photos. Each day, the cloud storage reminds me of all its records for that day back across the years. For example, over Christmas, it threw up this polaroid from 1979. I was going to caption it: The Young Revolutionary but suddenly realised that I wasn’t that young. At 28, I had completed 7 years of teaching including two promotions, completed a first Degree and got married. And yet …. I look so young.

Not as young as this young lady. This is Pocahontas in 1973, Rochester, Kent where I went to a party in August of that year. All seems so long ago and yet …

Our Office has a colour laser printer which I bought about 10 years ago and a mono laser printer which must be 15 years old now. Things have moved on a lot since then. I now want to print straight from my smartphone and iPad and modern lasers now do wireless printing. I’m researching them today.

Saturday, 7th January, 2022

A warm, drab but wet day. Going to start again in the Gym today. I was formally given permission by my doctor in a phone call yesterday with the caveat that I monitor my heart rate as I do. Fortunately, my treadmill has a built-in heart monitor so I shall have to pay more attention to it for a while. After yesterday’s quite definitive diagnosis from my doctor, I have had to instruct my wife to address me as Legionnaire Sanders as only they can get the disease.

I haven’t drunk any alcohol for 6 weeks but, as I’ve got better and started eating again, I’ve been drinking a low calorie, non-alcoholic grape juice. It’s a bit sweet for me (alright, it’s hideous) but I’m getting used to it. I’m preferring it to Shloer at the moment. We went out to Asda this morning to stock up on it. While we were out, the robots cleaned the house and were just returning to Dock as we got home. It’s a great system.

I am an atheist but I recognise that some lunatics believe in the fantasy of virgin birth, the appearance of three wise men and people ascending into heaven. That’s their choice. Yesterday is recognised by the fantasists as Epiphany which literally means revelation but of what we are not sure. Certainly religions around the world seem to celebrate it as a renewal which makes sense at the beginning of a new year.

The procession is important. Nice to see ‘our’ house at the back.

The Greek Orthodox Church particularly associates this renewal with the sea, the immediate source of their bounty. Every year, they process through the community and have religious ceremonies at the water’s side and then a cross is thrown into the waves and young men dive in and compete to be the proud retriever of the cross.

It might be Greece but the sea’s still cold!

After that, islanders, particularly, gather for a communal feast with music and dancing. It is all very simple, rudimentary and homespun but inclusive and reaffirming. So it is on Sifnos every year.

Lots of food, drink and music accompanied by ‘terrible’ singing and strangely uninhibited dancing. We know these characters so well. It is strange to be looking in from the outside.

Week 731

Sunday, 25th December, 2022

For all Blog readers who celebrate Christmas, we wish you a lovely day. It is quite warm, grey and misty damp down here this morning. We are preparing to drive up to Surrey to be with M&K, P&C and the boys which will be nice. Hoping the M25 will be clear at around 11.30am. It usually is on Christmas Day.

Boxing Day is set to be warm and sunny so we may be able to continue our tradition of going down to the beach. We had imagined ourselves barbecuing Christmas Dinner in hot, Florida sunshine but Spring Hill will only reach 7C today so it looks like we would have been rethinking that. My friend, Jonathan, in Boston, Massachusetts is experiencing -8C and lots of heavy snow. Wouldn’t volunteer for that.

Christmas week 2008.

The last two years of Pauline’s Mum’s life saw us not travelling down to Surrey because she couldn’t face the journey. She came to our house in 2008 & 2009 and we carried her up the steps on a chair. You can see from the photo across the fields of West Yorkshire that she had a cheeky, spirited personality which carried her through her 96 years.

Christmas Day 2009

Her last Christmas was in 2009 and, at least she spent it with us. It was a happy day although she struggled to get through it. Her whole life was a struggle but she fought and won 96 years. I hope I can be as strong.

We drove up to Surrey for Christmas Day. I slept most of the day and then we drove home early because I was absolutely exhausted.

Monday, 26th December, 2022

My night was a struggle last night. I cycled between hot and cold, freezing and boiling, shaking uncontrollably and sweating profusely. I have lost control of my drug platforms. My INR is going mad. I’ve had a range of INR 2.0 – 3.0 for around 15 years. I test myself once a week and record it on a spreadsheet. In the last month, it has veered wildly between 4.7 and 1.7.

I was determined not to break the tradition, and Pauline drove us down to the beach. It was a lovely day and crowds were out walking or just taking the air. Unfortunately, it immediately emphasised the problem. All those people enjoying a walk in the sun along Sea Road and there is no way I can join them let alone do 10 miles.

I tottered on to the beach feeling more like an old man than ever. Just these few paces took an enormous amount of mental strength.

Boxing Day on the beach … for three minutes.

As we drove home, I am near to collapse. I am hardly able to stand unaided and Pauline got her way. She phoned 111 who immediately said they were sending an ambulance. When it arrived, a lovely couple of paramedics started a long process of tests. Eventually, they said that they would normally take me straight to hospital but Worthing Hospital was bulging at the seams and the wait outside would be some hours. I think they were softening me up to take there alternative route which is via my surgery which was supposed to be open on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 27th December, 2022

Cathy & Baby Theo.

When Pauline phoned at 8.00 am, the recorded message still said they were open but they weren’t. I have a series of blood tests tomorrow and we can pin the surgery down to a plan of action. The Paramedics have sent all their notes and test results to the surgery. They thought it it was a urine infection which would be great in that a course of antibiotics should clean it out. Certainly, dropping the statins doesn’t seemed to have changed anything.

We are looking at Nuffield in Chichester to get a CT scan or an MRI scan. The problem is, we have ben given three, very different prognoses: a problem between the liver and the pancreas; a result of long term Statins use; a urinary tract infection.

Catherine sent me a photo of her latest grandson, Theo Servante. It obviously makes her very happy. Kevin and John Rid are incredibly proud of their grandchildren too. Just think this little one will have an average life expectancy of 100.

Maybe I will get back to writing something more interesting soon….

Wednesday, 28th December, 2022

…. but not yet, I’m sorry to say. Had another of those nightmare nights when I sweated so heavily that I woke up wet, all the sheets and duvet were wet and, at 3.30 am, Pauline was stripping and remaking the bed for the umpteenth time recently. More blood tests at the surgery this morning followed by a doctor consultation.

Springtime in Paris

Horrible, grey, wet day out there. My doctor was fantastic and gave me 30+ mins of his time on a pressured, post-Christmas day. I feel so lucky and grateful. Not only that but he will ring me before he leaves tonight if the results are in. He will also arrange scans. I really am beginning to sound like the old man I am determined not to be. Hopefully, I will break out of this cycle soon.

Summer in Provence

I am daring to believe there is a future and that it needs to be planned for. France would be good to drive through this new year.

Thursday, 29th December, 2022

Didn’t sleep well and had another odd dream. Saw myself walking on Ilkley Moor which I only did once in 1974 with my friends, Kevin & Chris. It is just a fairly bleak moor with rough grass and huge rocks thrusting through towards the sky.

Why is this illness prompting these old pictures in my sleep? They must have lurked around for all these years in my subconscious and are just now being released.

Like some hourly bulletin on a dying Monarch posted on the Palace gates, here is the latest: I collected the Antibiotics prescribed at 9.00 last night. They appear to cover most of the areas of concern in one, huge pill, 3 times a day for 7 days. The pills are big enough to give a horse pause for thought never mind a little human like me. Still, if they work, I will be delighted.

This afternoon, I am off to the Radiology Department of Worthing Hospital to have some scans and I will see my doctor at 9.00 am tomorrow to go through the results. How unbelievably good is our NHS? … Well, even more than that.

Even Worthing Hospital welcomed us after finding somewhere to park. Straight to Radiology, just manged to take my coat off when a little girl called my name and took me into her room. I was told to take my shirt off, press my chest against a screen, hold my breath and that was it. As we went to pay for the carpark, we found it was free. We had been there less than 15 mins including searching a busy carpark. Absolutely wonderful service.

Forgot to say, Big John may be fading fast but Little John arrived this morning in preparation for a quick take over when required.

Friday, 30th December, 2022

Another weird night. Woke up soaking wet and Pauline was soon completely stripping the bed and remaking – which is a strange activity at 3.00 in the morning.

Sunny morning at the Surgery.

Had to be down at the Surgery (Yes, I know, I do go on.) for a review of yesterday’s scans, the results of which were in last night. There is no lung disease or sign of Pneumonia. A Liver scan has been booked and more blood tests including for Prostate cancer. Another review to see how things are progressing next Friday. If you tot up the hours of face-to-face I am being given, you would only conclude how lucky I am being in my treatment. I, for one, am embarrassed and determined to get well and out of their hair as quickly as possible.

Petite Jean est arrivé.

You will know that Little John arrived yesterday very neatly packaged but with minimal instructions. I was guided to an on-line video which was very helpful and I quickly set it up, started it charging while installing the smartphone app to control it. This afternoon was time to see what he could do.

Before cleaning, Little John has to do a map of the ground floor to work out the most thorough but efficient route to take for the rest of his life. Only took about 15 mins. Next, he was instructed to start work. This whole ground floor would have been given 20 mins attention by me. Little John gave it 1 hour 25 minutes of full and non-stop attention before returning to base to dock.

When he switches off to recharge and await instructions, we have chance to empty him. Some, maybe most, of the robots have special dust catching bags which are held in the Docking Station and have to be removed by the user and replaced. This is an ongoing financial commitment. Ours has a pull-out cassette with filter lid which contains the compacted waste, It is emptied and can then be rinsed before putting it back.

It’s rare to get such fun on our Wedding Anniversary. We don’t take these things seriously. They are just another day in the year of fun and frolics. This one happens to mark our 44th year of marriage. The one difference is that we won’t be celebrating with Champagne or any alcohol this time.

Saturday, 31st December, 2022

A horrible, dark day of driving rain. Not a day for going out but for being tucked up and contemplative as we leave this year behind. Spent a self-indulgent morning in the Office playing The Moody Blues on Spotify on the TV app.

There is one, specific moment that I can pinpoint quite accurately in my teenage years when my developing brain was illuminated. A young man trapped in a large family and a small village was literally almost knocked over by this event. An epiphany of such proportion was delivered by a pop song. It was so significant that I can see it with such clarity as I write. I was just 14 years old and in my bedroom one afternoon and listening to (pirate) Radio London when this came on. I know many will find the ‘telling’ all too melodramatic but I promise you it is true and has stayed with me for the rest of my life.

Regular readers will know that music makes me cry. At the age of 14 I didn’t.  Standing in the centre of my bedroom alone a new release from The Moody Blues (who I knew nothing about) came on the radio: Go Now in 1965. I drew breath, felt unsteady on my feet and said in my head, That’s the Answer and was amazed to find tears pouring down my face. I felt like the song had spoken directly to me and me alone. It was giving me answers but it was 4 years before I actually did ‘Go’.

I had been looking out for a long time. Perhaps I should have been looking in on myself but do young men really do that? The next song to point the way was Voices in the Sky in 1968.

Children with a skipping rope
Tell me what you sing
Play time is nearly gone
The bell’s about to ring
Voices in the sky

Just what is happening to me
I lie awake with the sound of the sea
Calling to meVoices in the Sky – The Moody Blues 1968

I was on the cusp of ‘A’ Levels and leaving. What was happening out there on the rim of the new world? If only this innocent, cocky lad had realised. When he got away. When he got there, things were not as he expected or predicted. It was scary, exciting, bewildering, challenging all rolled into one. It offered more questions than answers. Certainly more answers than I’d got at the time.

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it’s done to me …Question – The Moody Blues 1970

When life had moved on, I was teaching and just completing my first Degree, the Moody Blues brought out this much more maturely themed piece – Forever Autumn – which almost destroys me even now as I listened to it this afternoon. The events of the past are so far away that it hurts.

Week 730

Sunday, 18th December, 2022

Today has opened warm and wet and rather dark. It is exactly a week since we landed back in UK from the bright, stark sunshine of Florida. I would like to say that I’m feeling completely better but I’m not. I’m tired all the time. I’m tired of feeling tired. I should be out walking, exercising in the Gym and keeping the years at bay. At the moment, I feel old, weak and emotional.

Probably not the time to watch Lady Chatterley’s Lover as we did last night on Netflix. It is the third version of the book I have seen in film with this being made for Netflix in 2022. I first read the book at Grammar School in around 1966. It was almost my only sex education I received there other than reading Somerset Maugham’s, Cakes & Ale. All the important pages had been well thumbed by many boys before me. D.H. Lawrence’s book, of course was prosecuted for obscenity. The prosecution was lost and it marked the end of the old world of restricted morality and the welcoming of a more liberal, new world.

The chief prosecution barrister turned to the jury with disdain and asked them if this was the kind of book “you would wish your wife or servants to read“. It showed how out of touch the old, pre-war world was from the new world anticipating the white heat of technology. No wonder the prosecution failed.

This latest film version took some liberties with the original narrative but I found it moving. Too moving. For 50 years I have tried to keep my emotions in check, to live on a ‘flat’ plane of emotional control. I didn’t read and watch fiction for fear of its effects. Letting myself go is difficult … almost scary. I am safer with politics or sport.

Monday, 19th December, 2022

Every day a little bit stronger. I have driven today for the first time for three weeks. We did some shopping – Pauline needed ingredients to make Christmas biscuits and home made chocolates. The Christmas cakes and puddings were made and delivered before we left for Florida but this picture from 13 years ago in our Huddersfield kitchen echoes the same, old rhythms of the season. 

Christmas 2009

We drove down to the beach but I was struggling to make the most of the walk so we didn’t stay long. As you can see, not many did on a grey day like this. 

I am getting increasingly frustrated with my lack of energy even though I am pushing myself to try harder, go further. I feel pathetic. You probably feel I am too.

Tuesday, 20th December, 2022

Although the Blog began on Christmas Day 2008, in numerical terms it began its 15th year this week. It has become part of my life and has reached out, quite surprisingly, to many people. I write it for myself but I am pleased others read it and I try not to be too self conscious in that knowledge. I am too old to be embarrassed about expressing what I think and feel. I am what I am – here to be accepted or rejected according to your understanding of my character. For those still with me, you need to live at least another 29 years before you can rest.

Regular readers will know that history and statistics are important to me and for 26 years – since 1996 – we have been shuttling two Christmas cards between ourselves and a Norwegian friend, Bjorn, and his wife, Anne-Marie.

This is the card that we chose in 1996. Each year it either leaves us bound for Edinburgh or leaves them bound for us. It contains a newsletter and is now so thick and well used that it is re-spined with grey, sticky tape. It is like a 26 year old blog in that it chronicles two couple’s lives over that period. I love it.

Sainsburys set up for those with cash.

It is an absolutely gorgeous, warm and sunny day down here. A day to be relished. A day to be walked in. I wish I could do it justice. Maybe soon. We made a special trip to Sainsburys this morning to buy things for the local Food Bank which is currently appealing for help. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to rely on charity for food. The fact that people do shames our country.

Wednesday, 21st December, 2022

A dark and misty start to the day in total contrast to yesterday. It is, of course, the shortest day of the year. When you’re 71, what you need is as much time as possible with long days and as little time wasted sleeping as possible. The only thing about the shortest day is that it can only get better from here.

Yesterday, we went to Sainsburys to buy things for the local Food Bank. I think we spent about £50.00. The request from the food bank was for long-life food and not fresh fruit and vegetables or other perishable goods. We just bought lots of tins of meat and vegetables with ring pulls because many don’t even have can openers

As we walked out, a member of Sainsburys staff stopped us and offered us two, free bunches of flowers and they are lovely. Really like the purple, Ornamental Cabbage set against the blush of the Lilies.

I am feeling better but not ready to do my 10 mile walk yet. I am going to try a bit on the treadmill in the Gym today. Hope that works and I can regain some confidence. I had thought that the Health bills from the USA were settled. I had even gone as far as to initiate a claim with the insurance arm of my bank. I now find that the American Healthcare system has other ideas.

Further invoices for another $579.00 have come in from the Testing Centre – labcorp – and the Hospital – Care One – which I will have to phone them to settle. I’m going to use my Skype phone through the internet to do that – something I haven’t done for years. Assuming this is an end to it, our insurance will be paying $1,014.00 to pay the bills.

Thursday, 22nd December, 2022

Slept well and feeling decidedly better today. Well, until we went to Sainsbury’s … again. I don’t know why we don’t live there at the moment. It was packed at 9.30 am but Pauline is responsible for salad Starters and alternative Sweets for Christmas Dinner so they couldn’t be bought too early. She assures me this was our last shop this week. We’ll see!


Former flat mate, Chris Tolley, who I haven’t seen since 1972, sent me best wishes this morning which was nice. It must be part of the aging process but these things mean so much more to me now. Not sure about the jumper though!

Toned-down Lights

We really don’t celebrate Christmas other than to be social with others. Some of the houses in our street have children although we virtually never see them. For the last few years, the houses have been covered in Christmas lights. The children are a bit older and the lights, this year, are distinctly toned down. Our lovely Italian neighbours from across the road came over last night and brought a nice bottle of wine to wish us well. I’m not drinking alcohol at the moment but it will go into the Chiller for when I am.

I have spoken to the insurers this afternoon and they have confirmed that they will pay my claim in full which is nice to know. There is no reason why they should challenge it but they usually do so it’s good to have a straight forward payment this time.

Friday, 23rd December, 2022

It’s an absolutely horrible, dark and wet day down here this morning. I’m feeling a bit lost and moody. I said I was going in the Gym on Wednesday but didn’t feel up to it in the end. Going to try again this morning. Looks like we have dodged the coldest Christmas in Florida for 50 years so every cloud has a silver lining.

I am working in the Office to the soundtrack of James Taylor which is a bit worrying. It is the soundtrack to sadness. Got to stay positive.

Nat.West Black Account Insurance not only said they would pay us out in full for our Florida expenses but actually did so on the spot without my having to provide any proof of my bills. They just took my word for it and thanked me for coming back early to the NHS to limit the charges. Quite refreshing.

Having spoilt Pauline with a new steam iron, I really went mad yesterday and ordered this robot vacuum from Currys. It is a Samsung which can be controlled from our smart phones and will map the house floors over the first few outings allowing us to use it selectively or just leave it to roam one entire floor of the house at the time we set.

Saturday, 24th December, 2022A warm night and a brighter start to the day. I was right to be sceptical about no more shopping. Pauline suddenly realised that she didn’t have any Mascarpone Cheese for a sweet she was making. We have 5 superstores within about 3 miles of each other but the ingredient couldn’t be found in WaitroseSainsbury’sTesco or Morrisons. Finally, we went to Asda and there was plenty.

Pauline’s hair is dancing.

Mind you, the frantic whirligig of the search just typified for me everything which is wrong about these festivities. Had lovely contacts from Kevin and Julie yesterday plus e-cards cards from Caroline in Ireland and Ruth in Bolton which was heartening. I even managed 15 mins on the treadmill for the first time in a month.

CT Scanner

By January, I intend to build back up to a couple of hours. Pauline wants me to pay for a CT Scan after Christmas so we can finally eliminate some of our wilder fears. I don’t know anything about these sorts of things but, apparently, it is a whole-body scanner which is able to see deep into the body and provide images of internal organs like the Liver and Pancreas. Looks like I will be given no choice.

The turning tide this morning.

Tradition in our Christmas over the past 40 years has been Christmas Day with family and then Boxing Day picnic on the beach – Blackpool & Fleetwood for Pauline’s Mum and Scarborough & Whitby for our choice in the North. Here it is so much nearer. Just over 5 mins and we are there. This morning the tide was high and turning as joggers/walkers enjoyed the beach.

Pleased to report that not only did I manage a walk on the beach this morning but I did 30 mins on the treadmill in the Gym this afternoon. It gave my confidence a boost.

Week 729

Sunday, 11th December, 2022

Landing on time at Gatwick at 8.00 am, we were told two things. Firstly, the temperature was -5C and secondly we had landed in a remote part of the airport to avoid skidding. It certainly was very white outside.

A frozen Gatwick

We were stuck on the plane for quite a while as mobile step structures and buses were brought out to us. It must have added at least 40 mins to our arrival. Anyway, we were soon through all the checks and our taxi driver was waiting for us. The roadside trees and bushes, fields around Gatwick as we drove away were just caked in frost. It got less as we drove closer to the coast and there was nothing in our village as we approached our house.

We were home by 10.30 am to find that the weird battery in our new Honda Hybrid was completely flat. Honda Assist came out and tried to re-charge it. They managed enough to drive it round to Honda and leave for Monday to be dealt with. Pauline got Jason next door to nip her to Sainsburys to buy essentials and that was it for the day.

Monday, 12th December, 2022

Early assessment at the Health Centre. Richard across the road took us down there and picked us up when we asked. When I met the clinician, I realised it was the one who I first consulted about my hernia so he knew what a mad old bugger I was. I had made this appointment from America and sent across the American Hospital’s results by medical link.

I rehearsed my theory about sunstroke putting my Liver in to shock which had subsequently produced all the other nasty effects. This was basically the American theory and led to the need for multiple body scans and interventions which they warned would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

More than a decade of Statins.

Luckily, he had had three days to consider the notes I sent him across the Atlantic and he knew more or less what my problem was from the outset. It is believed at my surgery it is little to do with sunstroke or my Liver but was a well known effect of long term Statin use in some people. To eliminate any problem with my heart, I will have an ECG later in the week and, after two weeks without statins, another set of blood tests. I really believe I did the right thing returning home for this.

The car is on charge over night at Honda and will, hopefully, be delivered back to us tomorrow morning. Enough for today.

Tuesday, 13th December, 2022

A much better night. Slept until 4.30 am and then on and off with the radio on until 6,30 am. Up on an attractive morning of weak winter sunshine. Honda phoned at 8.00 am to let us know that our car was completely recharged and ready for the road. Pauline got John next door to run her over there and she returned with the car. Good start to the day.

A quiet Winter Marina Scene

We nipped down to the Marina where the tide was high. It wasn’t too cold so we had a little walk to stretch our legs.

Winter Sun

This afternoon, we have put together an insurance claim for just over £500.00 to reclaim medical expenses – £300 for two Hospital assessments and £200 to BA for the change of flights. We don’t anticipate any problem with that because it is entirely reasonable.

Wednesday, 14th December, 2022

Feeling a little worse this morning. Bit shocked to have gone back a bit. Struggling to get going. However, life goes on. Pauline did a large fish order yesterday as it looks like we will be home for a while. It is delivered mid-morning so she has a lengthy job skinning and portioning it up. It should make about 12 meals apparently. While she is doing that, she is also making bread – 4 x Brown Loaves. I am sitting round rather uselessly.

My brothers and sisters meet more often on Twitter and Facebook than in reality. Bit of an indictment but there it is. Jane put on her annual, Christmas posting which I always think strange as she swears not to eat cakes and sweets. She obviously likes the tradition of Betty’s of Harrogate.

Bob, on the other hand, who is a photographer in retirement, posted this lovely shot of a walk around his local area in Maidenhead in Berkshire.

You really know who your friends are when things are not going well. Richard in Chorley kindly sent us an e-card and wished me well. Julie contacted me to say that she had stopped her statins because she was also having adverse Liver problems and wished me well. David from North Wales has contacted me twice and Kevin from North Yorkshire has tried to keep my spirits up by making me laugh.

Our neighbours have been absolutely lovely, sending us messages of sympathy that our American trip was cut short and wishing me a speedy recovery – offing any help that they can provide. It is all rather humbling.

Seems rather strange that we have received £500.00 Winter Fuel Payment plus £20.00 Christmas Bonus plus £400.00 additional fuel bill support but we are going to supplement that by completing a medical bills claim for around £500.00 this afternoon.

Thursday, 15th December, 2022

An absolutely beautiful day of clear blue skies and strong sunshine. I’ve got up feeling genuinely much better this morning and more optimistic than for about 3 weeks.

The Beach Garden

Early on, I received a phone call from a nice lady from Nat West Insurance Services being friendly but probing the veracity of the claim I submitted yesterday. Being a nice, honest person, she knew my claim was genuine almost instantly and ended up telling me about her Mother’s health and what she was doing for Christmas rather than quizzing me. She told me my claim would be paid in full but I told her that two more receipts for about another $250.00 would be coming in the next week and she agreed to hold off and wait for them. A claim that would come to less than £750.00

My brother, Bob, who lives in Berkshire, has cold, Winter conditions and took the photo above this morning. Glad we haven’t got that.

A lovely, quiet spot.

We drove out along the sea road towards Lancing to drink in the sunshine and get some fresh air. It was absolutely delightful.

Lancing Beach

We didn’t stay long because it wasn’t terribly warm but the time was enough to stretch our legs and fill our lungs with sea air.

On home for a bowl of hot, homemade, Pea Soup and then down to the surgery for an ECG – heart trace – to see whether this recent incident has affected or damaged my heart function. I doubt that myself but it has to be checked to rule it out.

I’ve had a sudden rush of blood. It must be the illness but I’ve bought Pauline an early Christmas present. I’m sure she’ll love it. I’ll make sure she has plenty of time to play with it.

Friday, 16th December, 2022A strange night of figures dancing through my head. This is an odd thing I’m going through. Leonard Cohen sang to me. Faces smiled and blew kisses. Places appeared and faded. I woke late. Outside there were signs of frost on the roofs. I didn’t know frost was allowed on the South Coast. Anyway, the sky is clear blue and the sun is strong. The world looks beautiful and I am feeling a little bit more optimistic.

NHS Provision has been wonderful.

People talk about the paucity of service in our current NHS without acknowledging that the Tories have spent 12 years running it down, underfunding it, allowing staff to go unreplaced and preparing it for privatisation. I can tell you. Dear Reader, we will all regret it if it happens. Two simple visits to a doctor plus simple blood and urine tests cost me £750.00 and the service was less accurate (more money driven) and the facilities were no more plush.

Our Peaceful Village

People in America saw me the day I turned up and they said, I’m sure you wouldn’t get this in UK. In reality, Pauline booked me a doctor’s appointment in UK from America on Friday and I was seen at 8.00 am on the Monday. Yesterday I had an ECG and that full heart trace found no problem. I must admit that I didn’t think it would. The Statins have been removed and I will have repeat blood tests after they are completely out of my system. I couldn’t ask for or pay for better and more thorough treatment.

Quaint little Angmering.

I am not completely right yet as a couple of hours shopping showed me this morning. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of it. I don’t like it and I don’t know why it’s happening.

Saturday, 17th December, 2022

Quite a cool but wonderfully bright start to the day. Went out early to collect Pauline’s new, Christmas steam iron and some 2kgs of frozen strawberries. My chef is making strawberry jam this afternoon.

The source of the problem.

We’ve finally tracked down the source of our flat battery that dogged us as we arrived home from America. Our car has a wireless smartphone charger where you just lay your phone and the engine trickle charges it as you drive. As soon as you switch the engine off, the charger should go off. We realise, now that the charger had stayed live for a week since it had been driven and even that small discharge of power had been enough to run the battery down. It hasn’t happened since.

Interests rates went up again last Thursday to what people are laughably calling historic levels of 3.5%. It is the highest for 14 years but miniscule for people of our generation. However, although I’ve got most of our money tied up in higher rate investment bonds, We have a fair chunk in a YBS ‘rainy day’ Easy Access account. It only pays 2.6% which is criminal set against an inflation rate of 9.3%. I put £35,000 in there in July but it is still about the best available at the moment. I don’t think institutions have been quick enough to react to the rate rise but maybe something will happen soon.

Littlehampton Beach yesterday evening.

These are lovely times for wonderful skies on the coast. I stare into that seascape and find it rather scarily bleak and infinite …. like death. It makes me want people.

The chef has produced another 11 pots of delicious strawberry jam and has now been allowed time off to play with her new steam iron. I’m watching the Test match from Pakistan.

Week 728

Sunday, 4th December, 2022

Day 5 of the Sun/Heatstroke and it is very unpleasant. I am constantly tired and cycling through hot and cold. Mainly I feel cold although others say I feel very hot and my body, unpredictably, starts to sweat heavily.  It has meant that I haven’t been outside for two days. It feels seriously weird.

The temperature has been quite hard to live with. Pauline found this wrap-on plastic thermometer which I’ve never seen before.

She wrapped it across my forehead for about 20 secs and a green, indicator line appears to show my current temperature is 38.5C. The standard adult reading would be 36.1 – 37.2C and 39.4 is phone the hospital.

Our beach in West Sussex yesterday morning.

Confined to the house, I’ve reached out to male friends as we all watched the matches today and shared our views on them. It is nice to know good people.

Angmering Village Christmas decoration launch.

Back in our Angmering village, Jason, our builder, will have taken the car out around the Development to keep it ticking-over and charged. We’ve been here 6 years now and the first 2 saw us socially committed. We went down to the village ‘do’. When we realised it was too exciting for people of our advanced years, we stopped going.

Monday, 5th December, 2022

Sorry to go on but this illness has gone on too long. Woke up soaked again. Talked it through and decided to get some professional advice. Phoned 111 this morning. They just said the wait to be spoken to individually would be a few hours and that the website could be consulted. The first 4 questions I answered each responded with, Phone 999 so that wasn’t much help but it was a bit scary.

It has been decided that I need to go and see a Doctor which is where we are going now. Could be an interesting experience.

Basically private A&E.

The place was fairly routine and not particularly well appointed but the people were lovely. We were seen by a very fat, black lady Doctor and her chavvy, black, tattooed Assistant. They were both absolutely lovely thoughtful although neither side really understood what the other was saying. 

Golf Fanatics in this surgery.

How much do you weigh? I told her in  ‘Stones’. How much is that in Kilos? I told her. 

What medication are you taking?  ‘Doxazozin’

How to you spell that? D O X A Z O Z I N

I spell it over and over until she says, You mean A zee, O zee? 

I said, You are weird people! 

She replied: You think we’re weird. You weigh yourself in ROCKS.

Now take this next door and stick your ‘spotted dick’ in it and fill it. I said we cover ours with custard. They both thought I was mad and stuck a huge needle in my arm. One pint of blood (maybe a bit of an exaggeration) later, my urine sample – brilliantly presented and without custard – brought the news I hadn’t got heat/sunstroke all along and it was almost certainly an unrelated liver/kidney infection that my blood analysis would reveal in a few days. A cheery farewell and don’t forget to pay $165.00 on the way out. If you feel bad and would like to pay some more, don’t hesitate to call.

Tuesday, 6th December, 2022 

I slept throughout the day until a phone call from the Path Lab late in the evening told me my results were in and they didn’t look good. I had Elevated (double normal) liver enzymes which they needed to see me about tomorrow at 9.00 am.

Suddenly, a man who got up early to embrace the joy of a 10 mile walk, loves to write and communicate, is specialised in research has found himself having to think 10 times before shuffling off to the toilet and struggles to maintain his balance in that process. Has struggled to write anything coherent for days

Wednesday, 7th December, 2022 

Pauline and I discussed over night what our response should be tomorrow and it was soon proved right. We were back at the clinic. It was as we had suspected. They had found Liver damage. They recommended Ultra Sound which would cost around $1000.00 moving up toa CT scan which she instantly warned was not cheap. How much? Well in to the multiple $1,000.00s and it is the treatment that it reveals is needed which really costs.

Of course, we have insurance which will pay for all of this but there is the sense of escalating cost set against increasing treatment. We had decided if the process sounded too intricate or costly, we’d go back to UK and the NHS. M&K have been unbelievably nice to us and they already sense our disappointment. They have said immediately, you come when you want and stay for as long as you want. It makes the leaving seem so much easier.

One of the immediate problems with this illness is that it has attacked my ability to think clearly, make decisions confidently write directly. I’ve had M help me contact my UK Dr’s Surgery through Patience Know Best. We copied the identical blood test which I had in September which produced ‘Satisfactory’ results and the pdf them for the surgery here to compare.

After we’d made the decision to return, she helped me find and book a similar Premium Economy flight from Tampa. I felt like a geriatric as we did it. Same Flight, same airports, same timings. The price of $2,620 x 2 = $5240 which seemed reasonable at such short notice but the whole thing was waived. We just had to pay a $200 administration cost.

It was obviously horribly cold when we booked and received the details on my BA app. The current temperature at Gatwick, which is renowned for low temperatures at night, says we will land in 2C.

Thursday, 8th December, 2022

Slept for a large chunk of the morning and then went out with M&K to return the hire car and then on to visit a few local beaches. I wasn’t really up to it but I did my best. I even had my photo taken with Pauline.

Ill, spaced out and really struggling

I was wearing winter clothes because I felt so cold even though the temperature was about 28C at the time. It is one of the symptoms of my problem which I think started with heatstroke. Enterprise, the hire car firm, returned all our unused deposits instantly and everything was done so easily that we will almost certainly use them next time.

I actually ate some pizza for tea – my first food for a week – but almost instantly regretted it.

Friday, 9th December, 2022

Our last full day here. Pauline was packing but I was so tired I slept almost all the time. I’ve been having lurid dreams but last night’s really shocked me.

In 1972, I was starting my first teaching job and was given a list of rentals I could try by the LEA. They were all absolutely dire. The best of them was the most deadful ‘Room’ in a former stone mason’s house which had, until very recently, been used as a brothel. I arrived there desperate for accommodation.

The ground floor room was as basic as you could get. It had a double bed in the corner, a sideboard where I could put a TV, a Dining Table and chairs under the window and an armchair next to a small, tiled, open fire. The one other room was a tiled kitchen which held an old, sit-up-and-beg gas cooker and a sink and drainer. Toilet/washing facilities were upstairs and communal.

I can describe that in detail now because of my dream. For all these years I had blocked out that awful experience. It was the most uncomfortable and unhappy of my life. In my dream, I was standing outside in the courtyard through the gate looking in on my younger self sitting in the armchair completing another Open University Essay at 4.00 in the morning before setting off for work. For the first time in all those years, my mind had allowed myself to see the memory in an accurate way. I woke up in tears.

The other dream was a typical ‘fever’ one for me. It was all very vague and difficult to recall but we were on a train in central France in pitch darkness. If you know anything about me, you will know that Pauline is my sat.nav. I am so useless geographically that I can get lost going to my local supermarket.

We got off the train in to sheer pitch blackness. I turn to Pauline for guidance. She is nowhere to be seen. I reach for my mobile but it isn’t in my pocket. I think, I am in central France in pitch darkness without my mobile and unable to call anyone for help. My mind is panicking and I am going mad as Pauline touches my wrist. I hear myself say, Is that you? A groggy voice says, Yes, what’s wrong?

Apparently, she didn’t touch my wrist. She was deeply asleep when I woke her shouting, Is that you? which she thought wasn’t normal as she was the only other in the bed. Just shows the turmoil that goes on in my subconscious.

Saturday, 10th December, 2022

Travelling day. Our BA flight doesn’t leave until early evening but the dilemma is where to watch the Match. Pauline & I decide not to put M&K to any more inconvenience and chose to go to the airport early rather than have them make a mad dash after the match.

We were there before 1.00 pm, said our goodbyes to M&K, found comfortable armchairs with charging points for our phones, iPads and Laptop and settled down to watch the match. The airport wi-fi was reasonable but the match wasn’t.

As soon as the game ended, we quickly went through the World Traveller bag drop desk and down to gate.

BA Tampa Gate

Everything was totally efficient. Boarding started completely on time by ticket price. We were on early and had an overhead locker to ourselves. Very soon after the 7.30 pm departure, Dinner was served. Unfortunately, this was one occasion that I wasn’t hungry and couldn’t really enjoy it but Pauline compensated for me. We both had the chicken and it was lovely.

After Dinner, I just pulled the blanket over me and slept and slept …. until Breakfast was announced about two and a half hours from London which was 6.30 am (UK). I just had a glass of orange whereas Pauline stuffed herself with chicken sandwiches. She certainly deserved it after being so worried about me.

Week 727

Sunday, 27th November, 2022

November 2021 – Athens

A lovely day which reached 28C/83F. Although I did my exercise routine this morning fairly early, the day has otherwise been one of relaxation. The exercise is so taken-for-granted now that I feel lazy over the rest of the day. A year ago this month, I was at the Athens Marathon. In the 12 months since, I have walked the equivalent of 150 marathons and there is still time to go. Actually, I’ve got to keep it going for another 29 years yet.

My walking has allowed me to see so much wildlife – rabbits, squirrels, red kites, hawks, geckos, etc. Today, I was excited to photo a long, black snake in the garden as it disappeared under a conifer.

It was much more frightened of us than we were of it.

The garden is a delight to live and work in. M&K inherited a garden buggy and a ride-on-mower which were left in the huge garage when they bought the property. M loves wizzing round the garden on both.

M&K have both got the gardening bug since moving here. Pauline & I are going to contribute by creating a herb garden. Almost every herb known to man can be easily grown in this climate so we are looking forward to it.

K has already developed his golf practice range on the back lawn where the pool will be installed over the next 6 months. He has always had a hankering for a fire-pit table so that is what he brought home today and set up working. For a house with three kitchens, they won’t really need its cooking function. For a climate which is fairly sweaty at night, its heating facility won’t be much needed either. It looks nice, though, doesn’t it? That’s the main thing.

Monday, 28th November, 2022

Warm and sunny morning – which eventually reached 28C/83F – to visit garden centres. We drove to a nearby one called Lowes. It was very much like a B&Q in Uk but not so impressive.

We were looking for Herbs (which Americans didn’t recognise until we said, erbs.) The plants were quite disappointing, but the barbecues were the best. Massive and really cheap. Might have to export one to Sussex.

Drove home to do a two hour walk which Pauline joined me for half of. While I was walking, a message came in from my little sister, Liz, who is usually living in London or Newcastle but was messaging from …. Athens. I have been there 60 – 70 times but it was her first visit and she was asking for ideas to visit.

The paths I walk.

My walk was dry, hot and dusty. It is such a shock to be messaged out of the blue by someone from my family. She was messaging from the Electra Metropolis Hotel which we have used and know well. We remember the building as the former Ministry of Education and saw striking teachers massing there. Now it is a 5* hotel beyond the reach of Greek teachers’ salaries.

I wrote her a potted guide in 10 minutes on my phone with pictures of places to visit and sent it all across on Whatsapp for her consideration. Even though I was in the middle of nowhere, Mobile 5G signal is everywhere in USA and there is little problem in communicating.

Lovely meal eaten outside by the water.

In the late afternoon, we drove into Tampa and went to a waterside restaurant for a 21st birthday meal. It was lovely. I remember some enjoyable 21st birthdays in the past and this was a grown-up attempt to give a young girl a memorable experience.

Tuesday, 29th November, 2022

Up early for a walk on a day that eventually reached 28C/83F. I split the exercise in two halves so that I could do other things including watch the Eng v Wales match at 2.00 pm here. Glad I did.

The long & very straight road leads me to your door ….

It was international day in more senses than one. Liz is in Athens and I chatted to her and sent her some restaurant suggestions near her hotel that cater for weirdos like her – vegetarian/vegan stuff. We exchanged messages while we walked. At the same time, I was joking with my cousin who is English but lives in France. She has returned to her roots for a brief visit and immediately tested positive for Covid.

Also, while I was walking, I was communicating with Lancashire, Yorkshire and Australia to add to Greece and France. My friend, John, sent me this photo that he took in 1969 and developed in the College Art Block. He & I plus Nigel lived there for two years with the Boyd family at 12 College Road (1969-71). I have featured it before but this is the actual picture he took as we started our lives there. Kevin suggested it should have a Blue Plaque. I’m not sure if the blue denoted literary, artistic or pornographic achievement but I’m sure he’ll tell me.

12 College Road, Ripon – 1969

There could not be much greater contrast between the two photos. The bottom one taken with a basic, b&w camera and hand developed. The whole feeling of cramped and stuffy propriety allied to the absence of colour and warmth doesn’t make one want to return to those times. The top photo with its vibrant, hot colours that so attracted Hockney as a painter but in a countryside of luxury and prosperity where anything feels possible just begs one to make the most of every day.

England 3 – 0 Wales in the Cinema Room this afternoon.

I do love reaching out across the space and time of life. It feels rich and enthralling. To be able to go back and talk to my past but move forward and explore the present while planning for the future is exactly what I want to do.

We finished the afternoon enjoying the football in the cinema room with nuts and iced-white wine. No popcorn in sight thank goodness although I think there is a machine in there to make it.

We eat about 6.30 – 7.00 pm here and I sat down wondering if Liz had been to our table at the restaurant we suggested in Athens where the time is +7hrs. She’s going out for the day to Delphi tomorrow but I’m afraid it’s going to pour down all day. At least she’ll come back clean.

Wednesday, 30th November, 2022

I can’t remember struggling so hard to motivate myself today. My exercise routine was a real struggle both physically and mentally. I had to keep talking myself through it. Just another half an hour; just another 4 miles, soon be going back for a drink. Think how much better you will feel when you’ve achieved it. My body was creaking and I was feeling my age. Out here in gorgeous scenery and 28C/83F – which is what it tends to be most days – I ought to be relaxed and full of life but, sometimes, things gnaw away at my mind and sap my energy.

No school bus run for us ….

It’s great to be retired isn’t it and free to do all these wonderful things. I meet lovely people, watch wonderful wildlife and keep in contact with friends across the world. On my morning walk, I see fleets of these yellow school buses which have priority on the roads. If I do a second walk, I usually see them delivering children to their individual homes at the end of the day.

Little Liz

While I was walking through the sunshine of Florida, Little Liz and her husband were in Athens celebrating Liz’s 65th birthday. Today she went on a trip to Delphi to consult the oracle. I warned her it would be wet and it just shows that you should always listen to your big brother.

Liz in Delphi

I’m sure she enjoyed it whatever the weather. After all, she’s spent a good chunk of her early, professional life in Newcastle so most things are better than that.

All eyes on Chester tomorrow. It is the first By-election of note for quite a while and, certainly, since Labour went into a massive, 18% lead in the polls. However, in these one-off By-elections, LibDems usually do well so we will see. Labour held it with about 9,000 majority last time so it is quite an ask for the LibDems.

Thursday, 1st December, 2022

Florida White Rabbit.

Doesn’t quite make sense but the month of December has opened on strong sunshine and me still suffering from sun/heatstroke. Everyone here says, Have a day off. Rest & Relax. My body says, That makes sense but my brain screams, Never give in.

Pauline went out with M clothes shopping to the ‘Mall’. (Quite difficult to write that word but I got there. She gets so little chance to do it at home so I hope she really enjoys it and spends all our money.

I set out on my morning walk and felt as if I was battling against the whole world. Of course, I wasn’t. I was battling my mental attitude and the soreness of my bones, particularly my pelvic area which feels as if it hasn’t been oiled for a long time. I’m still feeling quite light-headed and strangely emotional. I’ve been given this rehydration pack which is full of minerals and water. I’ve finished it so we’ll see.

I hate feeling out of control of myself just as I hate not being able to help others. It’s one of those things I’ve just got to get my head down and work through. I’ve set out on my second session and got home by 3.00 pm. I sat in front of my laptop and started to do my Blog. A few lines in, I was asleep and slept for the best part of 3 hrs. I went down for cheese & biscuits and found I just couldn’t eat. I was even too exhausted to talk.

K was watching Ice Hockey. M&P were going to the Cinema Room and I was looking for the Chester Byelection result. It is 9.00 pm (Fl) now and 2,00 am (UK). I am tired but determined to hear the result. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Lib Dems got it and I wouldn’t mind.

New Labour MP for City of Chester

The majority was well above what was expected – with 17,309 votes – a 61% share of the vote and nearly 11,000 more than the Conservative candidate.

Friday, 2nd December, 2022

Had a lot of sleep yesterday and woke feeling tired. Went out for an early-ish walk to fight off sore bones, light head and general feeling-sorry-for-myself-itus. It worked. Fortunately, although the sun was strong, the temperature did not go much higher than 26C/79F which made things easier. I managed 8 miles and will do the rest this afternoon.

Colin the automatic vaccum cleaner.

I suddenly realised that there is one member of the family that I haven’t introduced you to yet. Colin named himself and was given a post-it note in case he forgets. Colin is a vacuum robot who stalks the floors downstairs keeping them immaculate. He lives in the Storeroom where the docking-station stands. Tell Colin to start cleaning and he undocks and starts roaming the floors.

Colin can cope with most things such as piano legs or doorways. What he can’t do is climb up or down and he doesn’t do well with long pile carpets.

The White Room

So, the unfurnished White Room has a large step/step down and a fairly deep pile carpet, so someone actually has to do that by hand. When Colin has finished or, if he feels the need for recharging, he just glides back to his docking station, automatically empties himself and starts charging ready for next time. Colin never complains.

Saturday, 3rd December, 2022

Had a horrible night. Embarrassingly pathetic! Pauline woke me at 3.00 am to say we were swimming in water and I was leaking from every pore which was strange because I felt freezing. I was, in fact, burning up and the sheets really were saturated. I haven’t wet the bed for almost 70 years. Just to get some sleep, we put towels down beneath us, turned UK radio news on and, eventually drifted off.

Getting up just after 7.00 am, I was told that I would not be walking today. Now usually, I would say yes and then do it anyway because I have a slight tendency towards belligerency but today, I have had to swallow my pride and accept. It is a personal tragedy and shame but there it is. My base target has been 10 miles per day since my 70th at the beginning of April 2021. I think I did 81 days and then was stupid enough to have a day off.

The effect of that on me was so infuriating that I vowed to do a complete year. You will see, I actually completed 371 continuous days before my hernia operation stopped me for 6 days. After that I was seriously hitting back until today and you can see this run stops at 204 consecutive days of 10+ miles a day.

I am rarely ill but, like most men, when I am, I’m completely incapacitated. Actually, I really don’t like people fussing round me. Like a sick dog, I prefer to curl up in a corner and wait for the affliction to pass. Unfortunately, Pauline has decided that this condition could lead to thickened blood supply and trigger a heart attack so, for her peace of mind, I am doing as I’m told.

I have a growing list of things in this house that I intend to take home with me:

  1. The Outdoor Kitchen
  2. The Indoor Kitchen
  3. The (eat anything) Toilets
  4. The live-in Masseuse
  5. Colin the Robot Vac.

I looked for a Robo-Vac today and found lots available in the UK cost low end (£190) and high end around £1500). The one I’m featuring is around (£500) and will do 3 hrs running around cleaning up before for going back to base and emptying and recharging.

It will map each floor of the house and save that in its memory to help future trips. All our downstairs rooms are wood or tile apart from the Lounge which has very low pile carpet and the same upstairs. It can even be controlled remotely by smartphone if you want the house immaculate when you get home as I know we all do.

Week 726

Sunday, 20th November, 2022

Strange day but very enjoyable. Quite a cool and overcast start. I did a couple of hours walking then came back to catch up with the UK political programmes and read the downloaded Sunday Times + Sunday Telegraph. As I got back to the house, light rain began to fall and never really stopped for the rest of the day. 

In the afternoon, we all went out to the Southern Hills Plantation Club. The idea was to spend an hour in the gym and then to swim but the weather kept us inside. 

We decided to drive out to a shopping mall about an hour away. M&K still need more furniture to fill this vast house and so visited Home Furniture shops like Rooms to Go in an area called Wesley Chapel.

Afterwards, M&K treated us to Dinner in a lovely restaurant which served just the food we like. I had Lobster Linguini and Pauline had beautiful, fresh Scallops.

I must admit that, as we left the restaurant, it felt more like Manchester weather than Florida but at least we know tomorrow will be back up to 26F/79F. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and we started our 3rd week here today. Incredible.

Tomorrow I am hoping to include a rave from the College grave which popped up yesterday. Oh, how we are aging!

Monday, 21st November, 2022

Gorgeous, hot and sunny day. I’m told that the North of England had their first frost of the year. Julie went down to the sea and took a ‘selfie’. Those without smartphones are really depriving themselves,

The North Yorkshire sea looks quite tempestuous but attractive. We, on the other hand were back to 27C/81F which was lovely for walking in.

I was sent a photo of an old friend who I haven’t seen since 1972. Bill & Jimmy came as a pair. They were from Liverpool and couldn’t look more different. Bill looked older, taller and rather ‘lanky’. Jimmy was smaller, neater and looked younger. He usually wore sunglasses. I understand why.

We know that Bill died some time ago but nobody had seen Jimmy. He appears to have re-surfaced at the latest reunion in Ripon this month. He is photographed here with Chris Tolley November 2022. How we are all dealing with the ravages of time.

I am trying to deal with it by exercising and reaching out – partially successfully – to old friends. It is interesting, painful and exciting in equal measure. Today, Kevin sent me a jokey cartoon. Julie sent me a photograph and John sent me a memory of days gone by. All are nice and rewarding in their own way.

I have walked 80 miles in the past week and 4000 in the past year. I am feeling quite fit and enjoying it. Pauline has stopped walking because her foot is swelling up. I am looking for a witch’s spell to cure her.

Do you know any witches? Answers on a postcard!

Tuesday, 22nd November, 2022

Yesterday the roads were lined with blue Waste (Trash) Bins. Our day in Sussex is Monday as well but there we have general waste every week and recycle every fortnight. Here they don’t do recycling at all and the bins are emptied twice each week.

One of the glories of this house is the garden. It is vast and well stocked with trees and plants as well as extensive lawns and water features.

M&K are having a large pool area installed and K has already put in a golf driving feature. We are going to help by installing a herb garden and we have our eye on a gorgeous blue/green palm tree as a statement plant as well.

The climate makes outside living really enjoyable and the garden encourages that. This seating area at the front of the house is lovely for evening sunshine and warmth before retreating to the air-conditioning.

Wednesday, 23rd November, 2022

A warm and sunny day. I was walking in the morning. Pauline is still troubled by her foot which is rather swollen. When I got back, we nipped out to Publix for some bottles of wine and fish for Dinner.

A typical holiday sales paper.
Biden pardons the Turkey

The supermarket was very busy because it is the last day before the Thanksgiving holiday. We watched PMQs together and then spent a while in the sunshine in the Jacuzzi with a glass of iced white wine.

M&K have booked us a Thanksgiving meal together at the Country Club where we go to the gym and have a large pool.

This evening, my chef is cooking fish goujons and serving it with green salad. Sounds lovely and, after all that exercise, I’m starving!

Thursday, 24th November, 2022

A warm and sultry day that reached 27C/81F. It is Thanksgiving Day in US which means a long weekend holiday. We are booked in for a meal at the country club at 12.30 pm and are all going to exercise first. I was out at 7.30 am for my first walk. We then all drove out to the club. M&K played golf while Pauline and I went in the gym.

Where is everyone?

It is very exclusive. In fact, I don’t think I have seen more than three other people there while we were working out. David Lloyd Health Club it is not. I was able to watch political programmes from the BBC on my iPad while I exercised which was useful.

K&M gave us a lovely day.

The meal was fascinating with elements one would never predict. Who eats sweet almond butter with the savoury course? – Americans. Who mixes sharp cranberry sauce with marshmallow? – Americans. The turkey was lovely and the stuffing is torn shards of bread soaked in savoury sauce which was surprisingly nice. I had pumpkin pie for sweet and that was enjoyable but unusual for me.

Back home – full & exhausted.

Pauline met a woman in the shower who came from Clitheroe, Lancashire. Unfortunately, we rather landed M&K in it because she immediately wanted to arrange a dinner party which we couldn’t refuse. She was obviously in need of Home-origin contact and grasped the first opportunity she could. I’ve suggested we all catch Covid in time for that date but we’ll see.

When we got home, Pauline & I were too full and exhausted to enjoy the lovely sunshine outside. We slumped with coffee and newspapers.

Friday, 25th November, 2022

Screamingly hot and humid day. K came back from a morning’s golf shattered and I came back from three hour’s walking with my shirt heavier than me. It was as if I had showered in it.

We went out to a bar to enjoy the fully immersed experience of the Eng v USA match. Was really hoping to get into a fight. Actually, the ‘Sports’ Bar was running about 10 TV screens simultaneously, was populated by a lot of older and grossly unfit, overweight men many of whom were watching the ice hockey or the golf rather than the football.

Didn’t manage to get the fight. In fact, there was little to get excited or controversial about. People seemed to be more energised by the Boston Bruins beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in the ice hockey. Even so, it was good to have the experience.

What was strange was that I received a message from Leeds in Yorkshire while I was sitting in that bar. It was from John Coates who appears to be on the mend after a terrible stroke. Haven’t seen him since he came to my wedding in 1978. I will visit when I return to UK.

Saturday, 26th November, 2022

Over breakfast on this hot and humid day, we learnt that our next-door neighbours in Sussex had put their house on the market. They had talked about it but we hoped they wouldn’t. They are lovely people and you don’t know who will come in their place.

Our Neighbours for sale.

It is on at £830,000 which is a reasonable price and will almost certainly sell quickly as everything does down here. We are all constantly bombarded with leaflets from local estate agents urging us to have our properties valued and to consider going on the market. Who knows, Pauline is already getting itchy feet and, dependent on what our new neighbours are like, maybe we will take the plunge.

It’s the sort of thing one sits outside on a warm evening with a glass of chilled wine and muses on. Well, we do anyway. I know some people are happy to stay in the same house for most of their lives but it wouldn’t suit us and there will come a time in their old age when they will miss the equity they should have built up.

The house prices in USA seem quite reasonable set against those back home. This substantial property with heated pool is on at $590,00 / £488,000 which is certainly less than would be demanded in Sussex … and the weather comes with it.

Week 725

Sunday, 13th November, 2022

Very humid this morning. Went to bed late because we have a visitor staying. We ate late, stayed up talking. The visitor is the Head of a company which advises other tech-y companies how to solve development problems almost before they know they have them. He is only in his early 40s which is annoying but he is interesting to talk to. We ate outside in the Sanders Kitchen

The Sanders Kitchen

It is only ‘outside’ in the sense that the side walls are just mesh screens to allow the weather in and keep the creepy crawlies out.

Callicarpa ‘Beauty Berry’
Florida Woodpecker

It has all the mod cons that any kitchen has – sink, dishwasher, gas hob and barbecue, fridge, wine fridge, etc. It is a lovely place to sit and eat. There is a much bigger, indoor kitchen next door.

The morning walk takes us along woodland roads and the animals and birds just going about their daily lives are wonderful. Saw a Florida Woodpecker yesterday hammering hell out of a tree trunk and beautiful, little finches with red breasts and black & yellow striped coats. This afternoon, I was taken by this bush which is abundant here. With its pink/purple berries, it looks quite striking. There’s something pure, simple, sweet and non-malicious about Nature which is to be admired. It has no designs on those observing it. It just is.

Monday, 14th November, 2022

Last night we were taken out to Dinner by the businessman, David, who is staying with us. We went to a local Italian Trattoria. It wasn’t brilliant as a restaurant but we were out with friends and business was paying. No complaints here. We ate seafood, badly cooked and poorly presented but no problem.

The Cinema Room

After Dinner, the girls went up to the Cinema Room to watch Strictly Come Dancing. I am not a fan of the programme but I will use it to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime.

A warmish day – 27C/81F – which was lovely to walk in. This is redneck, Republican territory for people who have money and don’t want to share it. Properties are huge and defended vigorously.

Red Kneck Country

This ranch-style property on our walk is typical rather than unusual for the area. Huge tracts of land with huge drives leading up to huge properties where they park huge vehicles. The sign on the gate says, We don’t call 911 (Emergency/Police). We use weapons/hand guns. ‘Welcome‘! We don’t welcome the dreadlocked. Lovely people.

It is Daniel’s 19th birthday this week. He is in need of nothing so I thought we would buy him something stupid. I thought I might get him a mad, baseball cap in Wallmart. Pauline was forced to model it for me. They made her look too erotic so I decided it wasn’t right and we chose something much more bonkers. He’ll love them because he is equally daft.

It is lovely to have our own car and chose when we go where and when rather than be beholden to others. Today we nipped to Walmart for some things and on to Publix for the rest. Back ‘home’, Pauline completed the production of a huge Lasagne for this evening when the workers get back from Tampa. It will be one of the best meals they’ll ever eat and it will be ‘free’.

Tuesday, 15th November, 2022

Hot and humid start to the day although we are constantly surprised because the house is permanently air conditioned throughout night and day. As soon as we step outside, the heat and humidity hit us. This morning, my valet has to do the washing.

A Launderette near us …

I get through at least two pairs of shorts and tee shirts every day. It’s also sheets washing today. Do you change your bedding at least once a week? Pauline was talking to a couple of our friends recently who were absolutely shocked we did that. You hear all the big news in this Blog!


Some of my friends are in regular contact through Whatsapp as we share the experiences of our lives. Kevin is in Benidorm again but he hasn’t picked a good week. He’s already sent me two videos this week of torrential rain and rivers in the street. He’s also sent me an extended clip of his karaoke performance. I must admit, it wouldn’t be for me at all. In fact, I would absolutely hate it. Having a friend who is so far removed from my world is quite good fun. I think he would feel the same about me.

David, the businessman who is staying with us, runs Clarify. He is a really personable and intelligent individual. Tonight is his last night here before he flies back to UK not far from where we live in the South. M&K were going to take him out to Dinner but he has requested Pauline’s cooking instead. Very wise man. She is producing tarragon & garlic, flame griddled chicken breasts with sautéed wild mushrooms, dauphinoise potatoes, asparagus and broccoli. I’m quite looking forward to it myself.

We went out to Publix (Sainsburys) for the ingredients. American supermarkets put ours to shame. They have everything in multiple choices and huge proportion. Living with a chef, I am used to hunting for specific types of potato, exactly the right fresh herb and the most unusual types of mushrooms, etc.. It is not cheap. This pack of washing pods does 61 washes but costs $42.00/£35.50. We have been here for just 8 days and our supermarket shopping is already £350.00. Good fun though!

Wednesday, 16th November, 2022

Woke up to a message from Jay, my next-door neighbour, asking if we had watched the space rocket launch this morning. Mind you, it was sent at 7.00 am (UK) / 2.00 am (F). He said that the house is fine and particularly clean because it hasn’t stopped raining since we left and that he would take my car out for its first run at the weekend. Really reassuring to have him there. I’ve already checked the house on the cameras at 6.00 pm (UK) / 1.00 pm (F) and it is still raining and amazingly dark. We are just about to go out for a long walk in the sunshine.

My chef’s task tomorrow morning is to make a birthday cake for a youth who will be 19 years old. Can you imagine it? It will be a chocolate cake baked in the main, indoor kitchen.

We had to go shopping for the ingredients and Chef’s enjoyment is in selecting precisely the best items. It’s all incredibly expensive though. Here is the Sales Receipt. A simple chocolate cake will cost around £21.00! I can’t afford that! As we walked into the store, they were playing The First Cut is the Deepest – P.P. Arnold. How appropriate!

Thought you might like to see my favourite part of the house. I haven’t played the piano since the early 1970s. The Art Block at College. I recreated the piece I was working on all those years ago. It is distinctly introverted and sad. It predicted the future.

Thursday, 17th November, 2022

A cool start to what turned out to be a lovely, warm and sunny day. I watched the UK Budget speech before setting off for my walk alone. Pauline is making a chocolate birthday cake so I have left her in peace. We are going to Tampa this afternoon for a birthday meal and then we are all going to an Ice Hockey game because that was his choice.

Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay

I wrote yesterday about being contacted by my neighbour to reassure me about the house. Since then, two amazing coincidences of contact across time and space have occurred. I have written before about ‘adopting’ kids while we were teaching. Yesterday, a girl called Fiza contacted me with the most moving message. She was/is a very bright girl who should have gone to Oxbridge but was prevented from going to university at all because of her culture. She went early into an arranged marriage and had kids.

She still called me, Sir and said she was contacting me without her husband knowing because he wouldn’t approve. At the age of 41, she is finally doing a Counselling & Psychotherapy BSc at Manchester and she wanted us to know. She said I was the first person she thought of when she got the acceptance letter. She said, I honestly wish you were here so I could hug you. Just letting you know that even after all these years your support and love at that time still kept me going through so much.

I was just drying my eyes when I received another Direct Message from circa 1984. I didn’t do a lot of teaching of English or reading of Fiction but one book which went down well was an American one set in New York. I have spent my life quoting bits from Harriet the Spy to friends. Last night, a message came in from a girl called Lisa who must be nearly 50 now. I can barely remember her as a child but she obviously remembered me and the first thing she reminded me of was her enjoyment of Harriet the Spy which I read to her all those years ago. She was contacting me because she had just passed her GCSE English at Grade A and she thought I would be pleased. Even at her age, she is working at Oldham College now.

Friday, 18th November, 2022

Lovely day yesterday. When I got back from my walk, the postman had delivered us a Christmas present all the way from Marsden, West Yorkshire. It was sitting on the Kitchen worksurface.

Christmas Comes Early

It was from our friend, Margaret. There are some lovely, genuine people in the world along with the shallow ones. Margaret is beset with the problems of her elderly parents and her own grandchildren, but she has found the time to do that for us.

Around mid-afternoon, we drove the hour’s journey to the centre of Tampa. It is a beautiful, modern city next to the ocean.

We had booked a table for Dinner outside overlooking the Bay. It was lovely and the food was good. After Dinner, we walked to the Amalie Stadium to watch the ice hockey.

There is ice hockey and then there is the American take on it which is absolutely mad. Every couple of minutes, the game would have a time-out and the music would blare out over the system. Most committed fans – and lots of them looked like the woman in front of me – would be up and dancing, whooping, singing and watching the screen to see if they would be featured. If they were, they would go absolutely ‘ape’. This is definitely not the place for a shy and retiring Englishman like me. Even so, I quite enjoyed it.

Saturday, 19th November, 2022

Lovely hot and sunny walk this morning. Blue skies, strong, warm sunshine, the beautiful scent from the pine trees and the noise from marauding flocks of crows looking to harass the predatory Red Kites circling lazily above. If you weren’t here, you missed a treat.

Met this little chap scuttling relatively swiftly across the sandy woodland track. As soon as I went to photograph it, it stopped dead and shrank into its shell. I tapped the top of the shell and it stuck its head out and a gave a large hiss. I got my photo anyway.

These properties back in the woods feel very remote. For the past couple of weeks walking, we’ve been watching the development of this, new property. It is not lived in yet but we know the owner is called Julio because someone living on the same track thought I was him. Two weeks ago, there was no grass here at all. A company have been laying turf in hot sun for days on an area which must be at least two acres.

Week 724

Sunday, 6th November, 2022

Up at 5.00 am leaving my valet and social secretary silently sleeping. Straight down to the basement gym for a couple of hours. Strangely, I was the only one there. 

This morning the weather had deteriorated badly at the airport.

Breakfast at 8.30 am and then out to get the shuttle to South Terminal. Through priority security quickly and down to No1 Lounge.

By 12.30 pm, we were boarding and offered a bottle of red wine. Great for encouraging sleepiness. Just woken for Dinner. I had chicken with another bottle of red wine.

A 9 hour flight went very quickly and we were soon descending into Tampa Airport. As we did, dozens of friends’ texts/Whatsapps/Facebooks/Twitters shouted out of my phone. Lovely feeling although sad to leave them behind.

After the arduous security checks – finger printing, etc, – we were out to collect cases and be picked up by A&K and whisked off to the house for …. Red wine and barbecued salmon. Delicious. By this time, I was tired. I had been up and active for 22 hours. Time for bed. Oh, Pauline & M have to watch the ‘Strictly’ results programme before bed. 😵

Monday, 7th November, 2022

Time zones do rather mess with your head. Despite being active for 22 hours on Sunday, I was awake after about 3hours sleep. At 7.00 am (UK) / 2.00 am (Fl), I awoke thinking about what was going on in the world. Fortunately, I gave myself a good talking to and went back to sleep.

I woke at 7.00 am (Fl) / 12.00 pm (UK) just in time to watch the Daily Politics on BBC2. It was excellent and geared me up for the day. Took this photo from our bedroom window out on to the front garden. At 7.00 am, the temperature is 23C/72F nice and cool because I’ve got to sort out a 3 hr walk this morning after a big cup of Yorkshire Tea.

I’m going to have to mow the grass.

This is a lovely place to be in the Florida countryside. Still very open and under populated the properties are huge and widely spread. Everywhere is big and surrounded by huge lawns.

Been on a lovely, two hour walk around the neighbourhood this morning. It got a bit hot but it was great to explore the area.

Made a new friend today. Just wouldn’t leave me alone. I do tend to have that effect on girls. Not even sure what she is – Grasshopper? Cicada? Locust? Anyway, she has very good taste!

Tuesday, 8th November, 2022

Adjusting to the time change already. Went to bed early last night – 9.30 pm (F) / 2.30 am (UK) and slept well. Woke at 5.00 am (F) / 10.00 am (UK) feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Yorkshire tea and then out for a walk to see if I could reconnect with my new best friend the grasshopper who I’m going to call Jenny.

Everything appears to be organised on a grid, ‘block’ system and there are miles of rolling hills cut through by roads on which the occasional house, each big enough to be a small town in itself, is standing.

Since meeting my new girlfriend yesterday, I have Googled her. All men should do due diligence on their girlfriends. She is a Florida native – a Lubber Grasshopper – and can be poisonous to small mammals and birds but not to humans and, particularly kind ones like me.

On my walk today, I came across this post box outside a huge, sprawling country property. Suddenly realised it was a grasshopper support. Nobody walks anywhere in America. Nowhere is close enough to anywhere else to walk to it. Everyone has multiple vehicles in the drive and petrol is incredibly cheap.

When they saw us walking down the road yesterday, people stopped to offer us a lift. They assumed we had broken down and were walking for help. The idea of walking for fitness in the fresh air and sunshine is complete anathema to Americans. I have to say, I am really enjoying it.

There is something quite delightful about walking in the fresh air while being bathed in hot sunshine. Today, we set off a bit earlier in 25C and returned a couple of hours later in 28C. Gorgeous. While I walked, I chatted through Whatsapp messages to John, Kevin and Julie in Lancashire, Spain and Yorkshire.

In the afternoon we went out for our first big shop at Publix supermarket. It is a lovely, well stocked shop. Every employee is super helpful, incredibly polite and upbeat. We bought fresh Dover Sole and said to the lady on the counter, We’re from Dover. (It’s a bit of a stretch, I know but it was meant to be light hearted.) You’re from Dover, she said dryly. Well, this isn’t. It was caught a few miles away from here. Of course, you can tell a good shop when it stocks the best brands as illustrated in this photo.

Wednesday, 9th November, 2022

Still haven’t completely adjusted to the time shift. We’ve got the US Mid Term election coverage meshing in with UK PMQs. Actually managed to stay in bed until 7.15 am (F) / 12.15 pm (UK) in order to watch Prime Ministers Questions on Sky TV on my iPad. Florida is on a storm warning so I’ve put off hiring a car until Friday.

A Nissan Rogue – The clue is in the name.

There is an Enterprise Rental outlet just 3 miles away so I’ve been finalising availability and prices. We want something similar to what we drive now. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to settle for a NISSAN. Can you believe it. Who would volunteer to drive a NISSAN? We had a brand new one about 40 years ago and the wing mirrors fell off while we were driving.

Even so, it offers plenty of what we would expect in a car if not everything. It is for three months and it will get us around. We don’t expect to be doing many long journeys ….

…. I’ve booked the car for Friday but not through Enterprise who wanted $3,700 per month. On the advice of K, I did a fresh search and found the same model but at Hertz for half that price. Might buy him a present for that. Some chewing gum or something similar.

Thinking about English friends tonight. Feel so far away. Do you ever get that? Travelling is wonderful. I love it but I feel I am leaving and letting down others. I know I’m bonkers but there it is. Kevin is in Spain anyway.

The chef cooked a lovely meal Dinner this evening – pork spare ribs with green beans and asparagus. It was wonderful. A lovely end to the day. We are expecting a Tropical Storm tomorrow. Should be exciting.

Thursday, 10th November, 2022

Every television screen in Florida, yesterday and again today, has been dominated by two topics – the Mid Term Election results and Trump’s lack of success and the coming Hurricane Nicole to a Tropical Storm.

In UK, it seemed that every effort went into keeping places – schools, offices and shops – open. In Florida, they appear to go all out for safety. In this litigious country, the media is dominated by the dangers of storms advising extreme caution.

I have to do my exercise target whatever the weather so I went out in torrential rain and blustery winds to walk for a couple of hours. To be honest, for all the furore in the media here, it really wasn’t worse than a bad day on the Pennines but much, much warmer.

Now, it is only 2.00 pm (F) / 7.00 pm (UK) and I am shattered. I am reduced to self-portraits of my leg from a prostrate position on the bed.

Friday, 11th November, 2022

The Tropical Storm of yesterday that American media played as life threatening, turned out to be a whimper of rain. This morning opened hot and steamy with high humidity. My walk yesterday left me soaked to the skin with driving rain. This morning’s walk left me soaked to the skin with oozing sweat. (Too much information? Hard Luck!) As I walked, I was contacted by David in Rochdale, John & Julie in Yorkshire and Kevin in rainy Benidorm. We exchanged experiences and it felt nice to do that.

The countryside showed the effects of the heavy rain and everywhere smelled gorgeously of pine needles as they carpeted the ground. Everywhere smelled fresh and new. The world looked great and the woods rang round with the calls of exotic birds. Actually, I’ve known quite a few exotic birds in my life. You can still see the scars.

M&K really kindly drove us out to collect a hire car. We had to go to Hertz in Brooksville for the car which turned out to be a rather bigger Toyota which meant we dodged the lowly NISSAN! Everyone at Hertz was pleased to acknowledge British people – Oh, love your country! – and were super friendly as they took our money. Have a nice day, now.

Don’t know how they chose the numberplate. Seems a bit rude! M&K really kindly guided us home and gave us controls for all the electric gates and garage doors. Later, we did our first trip out alone to shop for tonight’s meal – roast salmon with pesto topping accompanied by roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

Saturday, 12th November, 2022

We still haven’t got this time zone yet and were up at 2.00 am / 7.00 am drinking tea and downloading The Times. Back to bed at 4.00 am for about 3 hours and then out walking in the already warm day which eventually reached 28C/83F of sweaty humidity and sunshine. The woodland paths are teaming with wildlife. Squirrels everywhere too fast to photograph apart from this one which had obviously left the Home for the Visually Impaired.

Wonderful bird song echoes all around. Huge properties set in even greater land are fenced and patrolled by guard dogs who come up to challenge us. Actually, they’ve seen us so much in the past week that many can’t even be bothered to bark any more.

As I was walking, I passed a lady who had driven down her long drive to the gate to collect her post. She looked up and said, You really walk. I’ve seen you so much recently. I told her that I had to do a minimum of 10 miles per day. Ten miles! Get out of town, she exclaimed. Actually, we were in the middle of a forest and well out of town but I held back from pointing that out.

Everyone has a Winnebago bigger than a Northern Semi on the drive. Goodness knows where they take it.

We drove out to Walmart (sort of the equivalent of UK Asda which they once owned.) A woman on the door asked where we were from and, when we told her England, she said, Just love England. I asked if she’d been there and she said, Oh no but I love watching Keeping Up AppearancesOh, Hyacith Bouquet, I said. Bucket, she relied snappily. I just love her. We went on to Publix which is rather similar to UK Sainsburys. It was nice to do it under our own steam. An English, business guest is arriving this evening and Kieron is cooking steak on the barbecue in the Sanders Kitchen tonight so we can just sit back and relax.