Week 680

Sunday, 2nd January, 2022

I must apologise for not wishing readers a Happy New Year. Even the white rabbit is late. I was too preoccupied to even think straight. Hope it’s better late than never. We went out to visit our former neighbours who moved last May but not too far away. They are settled in to their downsized house and are very happy. Both in their mid-80s, they exercise regularly and look fit for their ages. I intend to do the same.

First day of the new year saw me resolving to punish my failings by upping my exercise routine. I am going to try to get the main section of it over earlier so that I can do a second gym session in the afternoons. I spend too much time at my computer and moving would be better. Awake at 6.00 am, the regular, Sunday exploration this morning centred on a favourite topic for me – running away, from people, from places, from memories. My thoughts immediately turned to travel once again. Greek islands, Canarian islands, Spanish villas, Athens, Malta, America all flooded through my mind. Must get away!

The beauty of small, Cycladic islands is that it is easy to get lost and hide away. Certainly, for much of the year, they are quiet, almost deserted.

Of course, the other route of escape from reality is through fiction. What am I saying? By day in the Gym I’ve been watching a Netflix production of a Harlan Coben novel – Stay Close. It is an American Noir Thriller recast in Blackpool, UK. It has certainly distracted me from the walls of the Gym and the pain of the exercise.

By night, we have been deeply immersed in the political world of Danish government and the trials and tribulations of a magnetic, female prime minister. We are about to complete the 30th and final one hour episode and have become so involved in the lives of the central characters that losing them will be like a bereavement. I will need to find something else to distract me and salve the pain. I don’t deal with these things well.

Monday, 3rd January, 2022

So, ‘officially’, it’s New Year’s Day today. Someone should tell the wildlife around here. Birds singing like it’s Spring and they have to get on with it. Rabbits frolicking like they are getting on with it. Moles tunnelling like crazy and squirrels chasing around just for the fun of it. And yet we are told that this week is when peak ‘Blues’ hits with humans as they prepare to return to work. My little sister suggested that I might want to respond to the government’s request for retired teachers to return to the classroom as Covid depletes the workforce. I told her that I might be mad but not THAT mad!

Sifnian Bowl – circa 1980s

We all process experiences, emotions, memories in different ways. My experiences are encapsulated in words, fragments of poetry that helped me interpret what has happened over time. Things, the detritus of time, are not so important. In fact, I like a good clear out and a clean start.

Pauline deals with things very differently. Whereas I am as open as a book with my emotions, she has much more self control and parcels up her thoughts and experiences and invests those memories in things , artefacts of her past. Quietly, she imports them into her daily life and uses them to maintain her memory. The lovely bowl above was designed and made a few hundred meters from our Greek house and is now a store for cleaning things in the kitchen here.

The napkin holder above is old, chipped and definitely not to our taste but Pauline bought it for her Mum many years ago and we now use it daily as a reminder. On the window sill above the kitchen sink is a glass ornament that was in my Mother-in-law’s flat and was saved when we cleared it out. It features a butterfly above a flower in a single-stem vase. Kitsch it may be but it is a memory and a daily reminder of past times and a lot of love and warmth.

Forty years ago, we managed to secure a flat in a warden-assisted block in Waterhead for Pauline’s Mum. She had no furniture and we had to completely kit it out right down to crockery and cutlery. We bought lampshades that were available and popular in the early 1980s.

Not every man has his Mother-in-Law permanently overlooking his bed but this dome lampshade hangs and has hung in our bedrooms and was one of the originals that we bought for her and we saved when her flat was cleared.

Not every man has his Mother-in-Law permanently overlooking his bed but this dome lampshade hangs and has hung in our bedrooms and was one of the originals that we bought for her and we saved when her flat was cleared. 

Finally, à propos de absolutely nothing, this song by Elton John – Sacrifice – is driving me mad. I don’t even like and never have liked Elton John but I heard this song a couple of days ago in a film clip I was reviewing and it has taken over my head. I am leaving it here in the hope that that will be an end to it. It probably won’t!

Tuesday, 4th January, 2022

Another very warm day although not very sunny and we saw bouts of heavy rain at different points.

Sunrise on Littlehampton Beach

Had to do some shopping so went to Asda for some items – The shelves looked unexpectedly spartan. – and then on to Sainsburys where the shelves were shockingly empty in a number of areas and particularly fresh fruit & vegetables..

Sainsbury’s this morning.

We had to go to the independent Greengrocer in Rustington to source a lot of our fresh produce. As we drove back home for coffee, rain and sunlight combined to produce the strongest, longest and most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. Is there hope?

I love gadgets. I love automation. Automation-led gadgets are just wonderful. I’m an early adopter. Often, I pay for that literally in high early prices but also in many early failures. Today, I had some remote controlled spotlights delivered. They are controlled with a remote handset which allows one to switch on/off, choose the lighting colour and intensity and even set a time for automatic switch off. I’m going to enjoy playing with these.

I have upped my physical output and my body is starting to creak a bit but it will soon get used to the extra demands. We went out for our daily couple of hours walking and then I did another hour in the gym this afternoon. The punishment feels justified and necessary. I will only know in a couple of months by results.

Wednesday, 5th January, 2022

Glorious day of brilliant sunshine from clear, blue skies. Had to go into Worthing so took the opportunity to walk on the beach. The photos will already have become monotonous for some readers but they do record a moment in time.

Beautiful day in Marbella-on-Worthing looking over to the white cliffs of Brighton.

Plenty of people around enjoying the weather but, strangely, nobody swimming. We did our shopping including walking through the streets where the Wednesday Open Market weaves. Lovely to see French traders with cheese, wine and pastries on sale. If only I was allowed to eat them!

The wonderful Mediterranean colours.

Back home we have our walk to do and my cooking to eat. I have prepared two, Greek dishes – Ρεβυθιά (basically a chickpea soup) and Kοτόπουλο και πιπεριές (Chicken & Peppers). They are winter warmer / comfort foods. I love cooking although I’m nowhere near as skilled as my wife who makes it all look so easy.

Actually, what I have cooked is extremely healthy. Pulses, onion, garlic, tomato, olive oil and oregano. This is one of the reasons why Greeks live so long. If I’m going to get another 30 years, hopefully things like this will contribute. Now, we’re going out for a couple of hours walk followed by a short gym session happy in the knowledge that our meal will be ready when it’s done.

Thursday, 6th January, 2022

Glorious day with beautiful weather. The question is what to do with it. Actually, we are just carrying on carrying on. As on most days, we make a list of tasks to be completed, activities to be undertaken, achievements to be …. achieved.

Sad isn’t it?

As you can see, there is plenty to do but nothing too momentous. The most interesting thing will be filling out our ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) applications. It cost $14.00 and last for 3 years.

We are starting to prepare for that trip by ordering things we will need on a long flight such as the FFP3 ventilator masks and circulation support flight socks. We will need Summer clothes for Florida and Winter clothes for New York and Boston.

One of the more interesting events of today for a dusty, boring old sod like me is the release of the 1921 Census records. This has come about because there is an embargo on publication for 100 years. The records for 1931 & 1941 were destroyed in the war so the next release will be in January after my birth year. It means that I will probably not get to see my own records released for 1951 although I am trying and, on that note, my bowel test results have just come back with an urgent referral to the Colorectal Team so I may not make much longer at all.

Friday, 7th January, 2022

Tried to speak to a my doctor yesterday afternoon to get some context on my test results and the urgent referral on. The earliest I can be spoken to and then only by phone will be Monday. I have a vivid imagination and I’m a bit of a drama queen even though I try to portray calmness and stoicism.

I went to bed thinking through a scenario of bowel cancer and woke up convinced there was no alternative. Amazing how just the thought colours one’s judgement. Supposed to be buying things for our US trip in March. Suddenly struck me that it might not now happen. Even in the gym, I found myself thinking about whether it was worth the effort.

Still, life has to go on and Sainsburys was on the list for today. Out early – got to make the most of every minute – and the strangest thing happened again. I don’t know if we look needy or worthy old souls but, for the third time, an employee approached us at the self check out and gave us a bunch of flowers. I love cut flowers in the house and we still have a Christmas display spreading a delicious aroma of sandalwood and cinnamon in the Hall which Sainsburys provided ‘free’. Now these will grace the Dining Table for a few days. Mind you, I don’t think I would have forked out £20.00 for them which is what they were selling at.

I’m glad I got to reconnect with old friends from the North and both Kevin and Julie contacted me on Whatsapp after I posted a view of the beach in lovely sunshine on Wednesday. Ironically, both suggested they might come down for a swim in the sea off Marbella-on-Worthing. It would be nice to see them again. I hope I do!

The weather here is quite pleasant today. We’ve done our walk. In Yorkshire 12 years ago today, I recorded that the temperature went down to -12C/10F. Don’t miss that. We were just speculating what Northern weather does to classrooms with open windows and doors for anti-Covid ventilation. Can’t imagine it in our school. 

Saturday, 8th January, 2022

A warm but dark, wet morning. I’m feeling a bit sad, vulnerable and sorry for myself today. I’m going in the Gym to urge myself out of it. Just been watching a Rick Stein travelogue from Bordeaux. We’ve been meaning to visit for ages. I’d love to be there now. Wonder if I’ll make it.

Bordelaise Bean Stew

At least Stein inspired me to prepare a Bordelaise Bean Stew for Dinner. Rather like the last one I cooked but this time with Haricot Beans. I am going to serve it with pieces of cod, monkfish and king prawns. Hungry already.

Kevin has just contacted me to remind me he is 72 today. I must admit that although I store most birthdays in my memory banks, Kevin’s has not been one of them. I regret our lost time. So many of my contemporaries are actually older than me. I have to continue running to keep up!

It was 20 years ago this week that we joined a Health Club. It was Nuffield based in the Holiday Inn, Brighouse. Gym, Pool, Sauna/Steam Room, Jacuzzi. I was more playing at fitness in those days. It was more for recreation and relaxation.

Fitness was important back then!

We were paying about £1000.00 a year. When we ended our David Lloyd membership here two years ago, our fees were around £2000.00 annually.

Week 679

Sunday, 26th December, 2021

Heavy rain again over night and this morning looks distinctly gloomy. Did a couple of hours walk early on in a window of relative dry although all around were the signs of the morning after the night before. Even so, it is incredibly warm – 11C/52F.

Back home to coffee and communications for me – bread making for Pauline. We do what we enjoy! Pauline enjoyed pre-producing the Christmas meal for her family. Her only fear was that Mandy would destroy it but she seemed to cope.

The Abernethy – ‘Deliveroo’ Christmas Dinner

Amazingly, Mandy seems to have quite an artistic flare judging by her decoration of the Cheesecake. Who knew that?

I’d have liked some of that!

Find anything rich or sweet quite hard to eat now. My eyes say, Eat it and my belly says, You’re going to regret that! If I give in to my eyes, my belly says, Told you so!

Monday, 27th December, 2021

A dark, wet but very warm day. It’s going to be a gym session rather than outdoors today so another few episodes of Borgen will bite the dust. I am absolutely loving it. Politics, sex and intelligent drama – what’s not to love?

This series could have been made with me in mind. It makes one think; it makes one feel; it makes one cry. For me, it wraps up many of my thoughts, emotions and passions eclectically. Intelligence is so attractive and sexy because it isn’t comfortable and easy but difficult, prickly and challenging. It has to be won over.

This week marked the deaths of two, dispirit characters. Few would mention them in the same breath – Archbishop Desmond Tutu and DJ Janice Long. 

You only have to look at Tutu – endearingly know as Arch – to see the searing intelligence in those piercing eyes. A man who bravely challenged Apartheid but also challenged the subsequent ANC government and even chastised Nelson Mandela. A man who loved life and saw humour and delight in everything. His only weakness was a deluded belief in God!

I know little or nothing about Pop Stars or DJs after 1972. I knew of Keith Chegwin but didn’t know his sister was the BBC R1 DJ,  Janice Long   … until this week. Chegwin died 4 years ago at the age of 60. Janice Long died this week at the age of 66. Just look at the health and vibrancy of them both in this photo. Where does it all go … this 70 yr old asks? Well, I’m determined it’s not going to leave me and the people I love without a fight. Every time I go in the gym, it is a mind over matter fight and the hope is that it will all be worth it.

Oranges from Valencia

Every morning my Breakfast consists of the freshly squeezed juice of 3 Valencian oranges from the Martin Avarro producers. They taste like the condensed goodness of Spanish sunshine. Of course, I may well be deluding myself but I hope they will set the conditions for my continuing health.

Tuesday, 28th December, 2021

For late December, these are quite bizarre days – actually quite bizarre at any time. The weather is incredibly warm. All the talk of rising energy prices is laughed at by the weather which has meant not needing the central heating on. We are forecast to be an unseasonal 16C/61F over the next few days.

Night …

Of course, the sun is Winter-low but the beach looks wonderful in the strong, bronzed glow. Not easy to photograph but beautiful. Beautiful but sad in the distance of the horizon – the history of time and separation.

… and Day

There is a movement on the web for January challenging people to Run Your Age in miles over the month. If I did this, I would be expected to cover just 70 miles over the 28 day, 4 week stretch. I fact, I am committing myself to do 4 x that amount – 280 miles in 28 days (admittedly more fast walking than running). I will have done 10 miles every day for a year by the end of March as I approach 71 years old.

Our walk today started off with warm, damp air but saw the sun break through over the two hours we were out. We meet lovely people while we are out and, having followed that route for quite a few months now, many are becoming very familiar to us. Even the rabbits, squirrels and robins are not shying away any more. It’s lovely!

We keep getting forced to accept free bouquets by Sainsbury’s staff. It must be the early time of day that we shop when they are replacing stock. This morning, it was a Christmas display infused with scent of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger. Not wishing to disappoint them, we accepted gracefully and it is now on display in the Hall.

Wednesday, 29th December, 2021

A dark, wet, depressing day. Got a Doctor’s appointment and a visit to neighbours so we’re doing a Lateral Flow Test first…. We are both Negative! Next a couple of hours in the Gym. 100 is the new 70! Keep going you mad fool. However, can’t ignore the hernia any longer.

Skinny Lizzie

My little sister, Liz (aged 64), has just messaged that she has now recovered from Covid after two, unpleasant weeks but her husband is still infectious.

Had a full service at the surgery today with checks for prostate and bowel cancer along with further checks on a inguinal hernia. I was comprehensively examined by a wonderful, female doctor from Romania. She told me that she qualified in Bucharest and then had to do the full re-qualification in London before she could work here. Now, after Brexit, she is preparing to go back to her home country to be with her family.

Poo-in-a-bag kit

I had the full, digital-rectal examination. An absolute delight. She felt my hernia. That’s big, she said. I bet you say that to all the boys, I couldn’t help replying. Her faintly amused reaction suggested she had heard it all before. She is at least fast tracking an MRI scan but told me not to expect surgery unless I was in emergency bowel strangulation. I asked, as a doctor, would she advise people to wait for an emergency to address a problem when the outcome would be far less optimistic.

She said, Of course, I wouldn’t. Welcome to the modern NHS. The government are trying to encourage you to pay for private treatment.

This is exactly the reason I’ve been resisting it but we do have one of the finest Hernia Departments in the country about 15 miles away in Chichester at the Nuffield so it looks as if I will be buying my treatment there at a cost of about £4,000.00. Before that, I have to poo in a bag and deliver it to the surgery by 11.00 am any weekday for analysis. Now that is a job to be envied.

Just to complete the medical theme for today: Roger Gale who you will all know as a Kent MP was reporting on Twitter this morning that it was impossible to get PCR/LF test kits in his county today in advance of New Year celebrations. He had telephoned the Secretary of State (just like we all do) and got no reply. Three hours later, the Minister of Health phoned him back to say, There is a world shortage of Lateral Flow & PCR test supplies. Within the hour, Boris Johnson was interviewed on TV telling everyone to celebrate carefully by taking a test before mixing with others. Joined up government? Across Twitter, people from France, Germany, Switzerland were tweeting, No shortage here!

Thursday, 30th December, 2021

On this day, 43 years ago, in a small Pennine village church, Pauline and I got married. We had been ‘going out’ for less than 8 months and had lived together for 7 of them. The day was freezing cold with heavy over night snow and the council gritters were on strike making it very difficult for our guests to get there. I don’t know if men are supposed to or not but I really enjoyed the day and look back on it with lovely memories. Pauline had done all of the catering for the celebration.

Today, we are celebrating that day with a special meal accompanied by a very generous bottle of champagne given to us by Mandy. Pauline is enjoying herself preparing a celebratory meal once again:

  • Roast Pigeon served cold & sliced on a bed of Salad Leaves and dressed with Raspberries & Balsamic Vinegar.
  • Griddled Sea Bass with Garlic & Green Beans.
  • Vanilla Cheesecake.

Of course, somethings never change. We went out for our two hour walk in very gloomy conditions. Actually, we are getting considerably quicker at completing it now. Today, for example, we arrived back home almost 10 mins earlier than we were doing some months ago. We’ll probably have to do another one after this meal.

Friday, 31st December, 2021

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. As one year ends and another prepares to open, we look to the Future while remembering the Past.

On this day in 2008, I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and have taken daily doses of warfarin (rat poison which some would say is very appropriate). For the past 13 years, I have been monitoring and recording my INR. It was discovered purely by luck when I went for an eye test at Specsavers and it has almost certainly saved my life.

On this day in 2009, we were still in Yorkshire and the Pennines were blanketed with heavy snow and we were driving over to Oldham to visit my Mother in Law. A year later, Pauline’s mum was dead and we were in London.

On this day in 2010, I was doing things I would never normally dream of doing – wandering around Covent Garden, Lunching at Wagamama, on to the Dominion Theatre to watch the ‘Queen’-based musical written by Ben Elton. Not my sort of thing at all but the others enjoyed it. Back to TGIFridays in Covent Garden for Dinner before taking a late train back to Surrey.

Our home for the month of January, 2016

On this day in 2016, we were making our final arrangements before setting off for a second month in Canarian sunshine prior to moving in to our new, Sussex home. We were staying in the sleepy, South Tenerife area of Los Gigantes where we enjoyed wonderful sunshine and warmth during a British winter.

New Year’s Eve – 2020

Today, the world is depressingly grey, damp and downbeat. My weather station says humidity is 93%. Warm but wet. On this day last year, we were bathing in Sussex sunshine on our local beach. …. and time moves on.

Saturday, 1st January, 2022

A strangely ‘flat’ end to the old year – we didn’t even open the champagne. Feels quite an uncertain start to the new year.

It feels harder to be sure of anything at the moment, harder to make plans. We sent about 40+ Happy New Year texts whizzing around the country/world but they couldn’t convey the uncertainty. Before we started, we had already received greetings from our Greek friends who arrived in 2022 two hours before us.

Will we make more tracks in the sand in 2022?

Later, I received video footage from Kevin in York celebrating by watching one of his daughters perform in a local pub. She’s a singer in a band and looks a carbon copy of her Mother 50 years ago. Life goes on and rather leaves us behind. Sometimes, I think my need to travel is as much running away from something as running towards it. At least the last year saw a breakthrough in reuniting with friends from the past and Kevin is one.

First activity of the New Year – exercise. Going out for a walk on a beautiful, warm and calm morning. The sky is criss-crossed with plane trails and, as I stand out in the garden, three sparkling, silver slivers are hurtling high above my head towards the Continent. It would be nice to be on one to …. anywhere!

Week 678

Sunday, 19th December, 2021

A cold, crisp morning which was chilly on the face and hands as I walked this morning. Didn’t go out until 10.00 am because I was watching the final Marr political programme ever. With the chaos going on in government currently, he chose a good day to go out.

Covid, Brexit and Sleaze dominate and thread through every pore of power. With Frost resigning, there are two, major possibilities. Firstly, Brexit is really falling apart. Giving in over the ECJ and now over Northern Ireland look major planks of the right wing extremists policies falling away. Secondly, Frost knows that walking out leaves Johnson incredibly more vulnerable to the lunatic fringe that John Major called The Bastards

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world ..

W.B. Yeats: The Second Coming

With Covid raging, Johnson incredibly weak and in hoc to his extremists, he is in little position to be mandating strong, new restrictions even though that is exactly what is required to save lives. Got a Whatsapp message from Julie this morning telling me that they suspect Nigel – who is immuno-compromised – has caught Covid from their son and is being taken to a testing centre this morning.

The Sleaze story might have gone quiet but it will be back very soon. Frost resigned, we believe, on a promise of a top job from Sunak. – probably Foreign Secretary. Frost resigning moves Johnson closer to the edge and brings Sunak to the fore. The rumour is that a newspaper (read probably the Daily Mirror) will be running a scoop on Johnson’s former lovers and illegitimate children which could really pile on the pressure. How much will he want to take before running away?

What do you give someone like me for Christmas? There is almost nothing material I can think of that I want. It is a lovely position to be in until someone wants inspiration. I’ve asked for a delicious bottle of Greek Olive Oil. Hope Santa brings it!

Monday, 20th December, 2021

Cold here today although quite bright. Going to need a few extra layers on to go out walking. I’m certainly going to disappoint the lady who complained I wasn’t wearing shorts the other day.

This is the scene on the Greek island of Evia yesterday. Amuses me to think they have snow and we don’t.

Over night, we took the difficult decision to cancel our Christmas plans. We don’t need government to tell us what we can and can’t do but we haven’t come this far to take a risk for a few hours on one day this week.

We certainly won’t be short of food. Pauline has been doing the catering preparations for quite some time. The cakes were finished this morning. There are two Christmas Puddings, two sides of salmon, Starters to feed the 5,000 and wine to drown the 5 million. We will drive up to Surrey to deliver food parcels and then anyone else who needs feeding should just write in.

Just received a card from our friend and former neighbour, Colonel Vicky. Back in 2010 we found a property in Surrey which fitted our needs at the time. Vicky arrived at the same time. She had just retired and was looking for friends and sailing/golfing partners. She was a fit, energetic mid-50s girl and lovely to get on with. Soon after she arrived, she found she had breast cancer. It was successfully dealt with and she went on with her life. We sold and moved on. She sold and moved on. We continued to write to each other. 

This morning her card brings awful news. Her breast cancer is back but much worse. It is now Grade 3 and Invasive. She is on her second round of chemotherapy and trying to stay cheerful. Life treats some nice people so badly.

Tuesday, 21st December, 2021

Today is the Shortest Day – the Winter Solstice. Everything improves from this moment. Hold on to that thought. The sun is very low. Even so, it does feel distinctly raw outside right now.

Just written back to Vicky having heard about the recurrence of her breast cancer and offered her support. Then I had a message to say that Nigel & his wife had tested negative for Covid which in his condition and at his age could have proved dangerous. I’ve written to him congratulating him on the result and pointing out I’ve considered him quite negative since 1969.

A Ripon friend sent me this graphic this morning and it appeals to my sense of humour. You will smile at least:

I’m going to wear a woolly hat for my walk today. I’ll look ridiculous but feel warm. Age dictates that I ignore the former and embrace the latter. Lovely day which feels very happy and optimistic. I feel so thankful for my life. Just got to arrange the next 30 years!

Wednesday, 22nd December, 2021

Up really early this morning to a sparklingly clear sky of stars and bright moonlight. Just 4C/39F and felt quite cold. Quite a lot to get through today so out to Sainsburys at 8.00 am. The roads are empty. The carpark is quiet. Even the shelves are not well stocked.

Down to the beach for a walk. Very few people out. I prefer it like this. Space to walk, think and talk. Space to breathe, dream and plan.

To the east, the sun was barely rising over Brighton but it was too cold to stay long and the car drive home was comfortingly warm.

Over hot coffee, I took a telephone call from the Diabetic Paramedic at our Health Trust. It was a follow up to my blood tests. She said immediately, I’ve just been checking your blood test results and then had to check I was phoning the right person because there is no trace of diabetes in your tests. The results are fantastic! It is nice when you’ve been trying hard and consistently to do the right things to be rewarded with that sort of assessment. I was going to ask if she would award me a badge in recognition but thought that was probably pushing it a bit at my age.

Pauline is making jam, preparing food for the Christmas meal we won’t be attending, preparing to home-cure smoked salmon for our own meals plus fit in two hours of walking with me. I’m playing my favourite game of ticking off on my database the addresses of all those who have sent us Christmas cards and those who haven’t yet. I don’t stop sending them even if they have because, quite often, they start again if I don’t give up on them. Got cards this year from people we haven’t heard from for quite a while. It’s a lovely surprise when that happens.

We didn’t manage to get to the Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy because of the pandemic. I now hope to see the Whistler, Woman in White exhibition next Spring.

There is so much in life left to enjoy. I demand 30 more years as a minimum to experience it!

Thursday, 23rd December, 2021

The morning is amazingly warm in contrast to yesterday. Yesterday morning – 4C/39F – and this morning – 8C/47F. My computer has a new picture each day which appears out of the websphere. Today it is the wonderful Canaletto, Venice Grand Canal.

Going out for an early walk. Out on the walk, we usually pass our postman at some point. He is an old man with a limp which is not a good sign. All around him delivery vans from DPD and DHL and Hermes are zipping to addresses and away. Paul the Postman limps slowly along with his wheeled trolley of letters and cards. He gets nowhere very fast. Even our post boxes all have Last Collection – 9.00 am on them but we can’t believe collection is synchronised around the area by one postman.

Paul the Postman stops to talk to so many people and is obviously much loved in the community. He sent each one of us a Christmas card himself this year and the community collected £500.00 and presented him with it earlier this week. Even so, the postal service is rather homespun in nature compared with last century with two deliveries a day. We’ve still got one or two cards to arrive and I’ve only had three, online greetings this year so tradition has prevailed. Christmas Newsletters seem to be even more popular but one of my favourite cards came from Kath, my former cleaner in school, who always signs herself, from Mrs Fernandez.

This is a man in tune with my own spirit. His name is Phil and he is my cousin’s Australian husband. They live in the Charente region of SW France. I love Christmas almost as much as him. They are very sociable people and love good food and wine but, like me, don’t need an excuse to enjoy it.

Friday, 24th December, 2021

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
No one was stirring …
apart from me.

A mild, even warm, night for Christmas week – 10C/50F. It contrasts so starkly with previous years. Some snapshots from 2009 illustrate this easily.

Our back garden – Xmas 2009

On Christmas Eve, 2009, we were hit by a blizzard. Pauline’s mum was too old and ill to travel to Surrey any more and so we stayed in Yorkshire and drove over the Pennines to collect her from Oldham.

Cross-Pennine route – Xmas 2009

We didn’t know then although we had some suspicions that this was to be her last Christmas at the age of 96. At least we were able to make sure it was a happy one for her though we were aware she was struggling.

It is impossible to know how one feels until an important person in their life leaves them. We all react differently. Pauline and her Mum had an incredibly strong bond which was fractured by her loss although she coped with it amazingly stoically. However, our house is littered with memories that she managed to collect over the years and sustain her into the future.

I know that’s all a bit sad for Christmas Eve but I’m afraid I was given some more bad news this morning. My old friend and flatmate, Nigel, who I was reunited with a couple of months ago after a 48 year hiatus and who is suffering from blood cancer, was suspected of catching Covid and was rushed into hospital last night with severe chest infection and breathing difficulties. Now is not the time for emergencies and I will be keeping in contact over the holiday in case there is something I can do to help.

We got up early, did a two hour walk and then packed the car up and did an emergency dash to the Home for the Bewildered in Surrey. A couple of inmates were even allowed to come to the door – under supervision – to receive a fully prepared Christmas Dinner which they only need to re-heat tomorrow.

Embarrassingly, we were showered with lots of expensive presents which we don’t deserve. I always find it so much more difficult to receive than to give. I don’t know why but I generally feel unworthy. There is something so positive to giving and so self-indulgent to receiving. Just shows how socially inept I am. They may be bewildered but they are lovely people who are generous and caring. When I reach their stage of bewilderment, I may need someone else to care for me because I’m not sure they’ll be up to it.

Saturday, 25th December, 2021

Christmas morning 2021 – my 70th – and I woke at 4.30 am to the sound of torrential rain battering everything outside. Up at 6.00 am and (whisper it) eating BACON SANDWICHES at 7.30 am thanks to Mandy.

Started to receive lovely Texts, Messenger and Whatsapp messages from around the country including from Kevin in Leeds who proudly displayed his new guitars that he received as presents. Isn’t it wonderful to use technology to cover the world with chat and good feeling in an instant from the kitchen? I love it.

Somebody actually told me yesterday that they read the Blog and found it interesting. I was flabbergasted. Mind you, she was from the Home for the Bewildered but, even so, I’ll take that! Done a trawl this morning of Christmases past for photo memories. It really does have its uses. I know I’m weird but, at 5.00 am today, I was listening to a talk by a neuroscientist about memory and the loss of it.

I have a fantastic memory … sometimes …. but on other occasions I find I have huge blanks. Sometimes, I find that the pain of the past has been erased for my own survival. There are somethings that seem so unimportant to me that I make no attempt to remember. I have a fantastic, linguistic memory. Often I write a word then think that I’m not even sure what it means but on looking it up find it is exactly the word that I needed. The other day, I found myself using the words frisson and illicit. Most people don’t use them every day and I could sense readers Google-ing them. Frisson – a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill. Illicit – forbidden by law, rules, or custom. Aren’t they lovely words? Just the feel in my mouth gives me pleasure.

I can remember long strings of numbers after one reading because I hear them musically in my inner ear but I often can’t remember how to get to Tesco. I can see my house and I can see where Tesco is. Linking the two together to form a route is the problem and I’ve had it all my life. That is the reassuring thing. It is not a sign of deterioration over time and, as I’ve written before, Satellite Navigation was actually invented for me personally.

I wouldn’t normally list Mandy as subversive – she looks at the pictures in the Daily Express for goodness sake – but she is having a very good go with us. Mountains of confectionary, glorious bottles of wine and some exercise equipment. Which will win. I think she’s trying to kill us!

Deep Fried Fish Goujons – alternative Christmas Lunch

It was lovely to have an alternative Christmas Lunch of goujons of Monkfish, Cod and King Prawn with roasted Fennel and Asparagus. Wonderful Christmas present wines followed by homemade Christmas Pudding and Double Cream Custard. Can’t wait to get back to the diet.

Week 677

Sunday, 12th December, 2021

I couldn’t have conceived of this day arriving and yet this year has been momentous for all sorts of reasons. However, this morning I mark the first day of the 14th Year of the Blog. It may be inconsequential to most but, as a record of my daily life, it has meaning for me and what else can I offer?  As T.S. Elliot writes in Sweeney Agonistes:

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.

A dark, dampish start to the morning but incredibly mild. Having returned from France, Christmas planning is accelerated. Pauline has been marzipanning two Christmas cakes – once again, something I won’t get to taste! This morning we have to go out to Hobbycraft for decorations. I have done my jobs and printed out banks of address labels, and 70 copies of the newsletter. They will soon be winging their way to friends and relatives in America, Greece, France, Malta and, of course, many parts of the UK.

Marzipan Done

Out on our walk this morning under low cloud, fine, wetting rain started to fall and made it rather unpleasant. At least it got me clean! Going to finish off in the Gym watching the F1 motor racing and rooting for Hamilton.

Monday, 13th December, 2021

I have an early, Doctor’s appointment this morning. The investigation starts with blood tests. I’m sure I’m dying but aren’t we all? Until then, life goes on.

Christmas cards are going abroad this morning and UK cards out tomorrow. The card pictured above has been on the go, to and from our Norwegian friends, since 1997. Every year a newsletter is inserted and 24 years of to & fro has made it quite a bulky document. The spine has split and is patched up with Gaffer Tape but it appeals to me as an historical document. Nowadays, it goes to their Edinburgh home which we visited three years ago.

Pauline’s laptop is about 5 years old and not good enough for daily use so I’ve been looking for a replacement for her. HP are, in my view, currently the best company in terms of quality and support and that is where I’ve been looking.

PCs are incredibly cheap now and this model doesn’t even have a separate CPU but does include a solid state hard drive, CD read/writer and screen cam..

I must be one of the few people left in the world who have not watched the Norwegian, political thriller, Borgen. It is a drama about a prime minister’s rise to power and how power changes a prime minister. I wonder if Boris Johnson’s watched it. It should be just right for me but it is 3 series of 10 x 1hr episodes. To commit 30 hrs is quite considerable but it could get me across the awful, Christmas period.

Incredibly mild this morning after a warm night that didn’t drop below 11C/52F. It is mid December and I am going out in shorts and tee shirt. Feels good to be able to do it. I’m afraid the news is bad from my doctor’s appointment …. for my friends and family at least. I am expected to live a little while longer.

Tuesday, 14th December, 2021

It’s 6.00 am and I am awake, up and drinking coffee. I am a tormented soul. Yesterday I did a bad thing. Actually, two very bad things. I think it was as a reaction to my medical appointment.

The girl who reviewed my current health was effusive in her praise over my blood pressure, weight loss, skin quality. I don’t say this to brag but to mitigate my ill deeds subsequently. The girl who was reviewing me had a card on the windowsill of her office saying, Just Engaged. As I walked in she said, You don’t look 70! Who was I to disagree? I asked her about the card and she told me she had got engaged over the weekend. She didn’t seem over enthusiastic about it and she immediately pulled up her trouser leg and held her leg against mine, saying, Where do you get that lovely colour from?

She took my blood pressure. I warned her that I suffered white coat syndrome which was exacerbated by beautiful women. She said she would factor that in. Relax, she said. I closed my eyes as the monitor sleeve began to tighten. Suddenly, all hell broke loose and I shot up at the sound of a fire alarm. It was her mobile phone with a call from her boyfriend. It didn’t seem to spoil my blood pressure. She cooed over it. 

Came home feeling pleased with myself. Went out for a couple of hours walking and finished off in the Gym. It all went downhill from there. Wine with our meal …. and then chocolate!! To be honest, one thing led to another. I woke at 4.30 am hating myself. Why did I do it? Must focus and get back on the path of righteousness!

Positive moves at last!

Nice to see that the world of politics is entering a more positive phase. Twitter is alive with anti-Johnson/anti-Tory sentiment.

The wages of (wine) Sin.

The local news this morning featured a building that was dominant in the landscape of my teaching life – Hills Stores was the name the huge and beautiful Oldham Equitable and Cooperative Society building was known by.

Oldham Equitable and Cooperative Society – Hill Stores

The architect, Thomas Taylor, was commissioned to build this at the end of the 19th century. It must have been resplendent in its day. My sister-in-Law and her husband went dancing there in the 1950s. Pauline did Troupe Dancing there in the 1960s. When I arrived in Oldham in 1972, the building was already in a sorry state. Now, this Grade 2 listed building is on the Victorian Society’s top ten most at risk buildings. Even I’m in better condition!

Wednesday, 15th December, 2021

Another depressingly dull, dank day. It is mild and we have been 11C/52F night and day for three days now but so boringly dark. We need some excitement!

Headline agreement on the serious Press.

The political scene is starting to crank up. The Covid scene is coming to boiling point again. The UK Health Security Agency is warning of a huge wave of millions of infections coming by year end which will require far more stringent controls to avoid considerable deaths. The informed expectation is that family gatherings at Christmas will be severely reduced and pubs and restaurants may have to close through lack of staff because they are infected and isolating. This, of course, particularly exercises Tories who believe that we should be left to take our own decisions although they can never say why that doesn’t apply to drinking and driving or drug taking. See what I focus on in these empty, quiet days. Revolution!

Interesting piece on R4 Today this morning. First, a huge rise in inflation of 5.1% – the highest for a decade. Next was an interview with Banking Chief Executives who are announcing the closure of another swathe of branches on the High Street. They are being pressed to create some cross-bank facility for small businesses which are still accepting cash and need to bank it and some old people who don’t have smartphones and don’t bank online.

The only time I have and use cash is in Europe with a stash of euros to get rid of. I virtually never use a credit card directly now. Everything is paid through my smartphone and Googlepay particularly now the limit has been removed. It must be so difficult for people who don’t use and are scared of adopting these methods. This is always the problem with innovation. A few people are left behind and concern about them is a drag on progress. In this particular case, the pandemic has cut through the problem. Not ‘handling’ things like money has forced the move to alternative payment methods and ushered in the cashless society much quicker.

The scene on the beach …

Back in the mundane world, the walk this morning was hard. My legs are heavy and tight. The lack of sunshine makes it more of a chore but it has to be done. My app shows I have missed just one day completing my exercise regime in the past 11 months. I am determined not to pause until that is 12 months. I have managed 10 miles a day every day since April 6th and that will continue until I drop off my perch.

Thursday, 16th December, 2021

Every morning over Breakfast, we update our entry on the Zoe Covid-19 symptom tracker app along with 4.8 million other people across the country. Each day, infection rates in our local area of Arun are reported. Throughout the pandemic, we have been impressively low but not any more. In the past two weeks, rates have exploded, more than doubling in that time. We’ve got a tester coming from the Office for National Statistics Covid Study for their monthly check-up this morning as well. Got to stop living the high life.

I had done something quite revolutionary. I arranged to drive up to Maidenhead to have coffee with my brother, Bob and his wife, Jane. We haven’t done something like that for 50 years. Eventually, I thought the time was right and texted him. Of course, being daft, I chose exactly the wrong time. He has a shielding member of his family who he wants to see on Christmas Day and, although he is happy to meet us, I had to decide to postpone the reunion. Now, we will wait until the new year. A reunion postponed is an event to be savoured.

Bob & Jane with a couple of happy, little beans!

It certainly looks as if we did our foreign trips just in time. Greece has now moved to much more stringent testing demands for entry and France has reintroduced quarantine. It’s looking like Scotland, Ireland and Wales may close to English travellers very soon to limit virus spread. It’s beginning to look a lot like last year.

Still 11C/52F as I went out on my walk but I wore long trousers because it was so gloomy. A woman walked past – I have no idea who she is. – and rebuked me for not having my shorts on today. We just got home and the Covid tester arrived for an armful of blood. We are so well tested currently, there is little chance of being ‘positive’.

Friday, 17th December, 2021

I try to keep party politics out of the Blog as much as possible but, this morning, it feels as if the tectonic plates may just be on the move as the Tories lose one of their safest seats in the country. It has been Tory since its creation in 1832. Being a world beater, Boris Johnson has managed to turn that around. You can fool all of the people some of the time ….

Christmas is a sentimental time. It recalls friends and relatives. It involves contacts that, often, are only renewed at this time. We receive cards from staff and friends we haven’t seen since the 1970s. They live in far flung parts of the UK and even further flung parts of the world. These contacts always touch me and I make resolutions that I must do something more to keep in contact than an annual card. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Some memories are more important to me than others. I’m not bothered about Christmas but I really value the personal contact across time and space.

The Mabel Connection

Thought I’d feature a card which arrived yesterday. It is from Mabel who is in her mid-90s and lives in Uppermill. For many years, she was Head of Domestic Science in our school. She even taught Pauline at Hathershaw in the 1960s. Her husband died in his 90s over a decade ago. Our only contact is via our card and Newsletter and her card and scribbled note. The unbearable loss of time and space is encapsulated in that card and I always find it so hard to bear.  

This is why it is so important for me to Blog and record, to describe and remember. Life and the events of life are too important

The Sun is Risen.

Back in the real world, the beach was scruffy, deserted and bleak but the sun was pushing up against a blanket of cloud. Lots of little jobs today that amount to … almost nothing. Life is more important than this! I feel isolated from my past in an important way. I have to reconnect.

Saturday, 18th December, 2021

Lovely, sunny day. Did an early walk to blow away yesterday’s cobwebs. On the national front, the government is holding a COBRA meeting this morning with mounting Omicron infections on the agenda. All the informed talk is that there will be a nationwide lockdown with no inter-household mingling mandated as a circuit breaker. The only question is if it comes before or after December 27th.

Posted a card today to a lovely, little girl. She lives in Aberdeen but until recently was our neighbour. She is called Sharon which always struck me as an old fashioned name for someone so young. She split from her husband and moved away to be with her father who has now died. It’s funny and a sign of my age but she must be in her late 30s. Even so, I always thought of her as a ‘girl’.

After all these years of silence, Kevin has taken to sending me ‘stuff’ on Whatsapp. Today it was a Led by Donkies video message about sleaze in the Tory government. At least his heart is in the right place!

With inflation raging – as I predicted – and year end arriving, I am returning to consider what to do with money sloshing around in savings accounts earning virtually nothing. I can’t let it go on any longer.

The climate for buying and managing other properties feels too complicated at the moment. A series of variants and a series of lockdowns would make property management life just too complicated for a simple mind like mine. (You don’t have to agree!) At least in the short term, I need a home for money which doesn’t allow it to be eroded in value by inflation of 5% +. To do this, I don’t want to pay huge, management charges and so I’m considering a passive, FTSE-100 Tracker fund.

I like Hargreaves Lansdown and Fidelity which I’ve used before but I can’t decide how much to commit. Around 20 or 30 years ago, I didn’t worry about that at all. I just got stuck in. Being 70 has made me so much more cautious and I don’t like it. I am Aries the Ram after all. I don’t believe a single word of Astrology but I can’t believe how closely it fits me: “Qualities of Aries are courage, physical vibrancy, a strong will, bold directness and lust for life.” Of course there are some parts of Aries that don’t apply to me: “The irksome traits of Aries are being pushy, lacking any subtlety, wilful and arrogant.” Nobody could accuse somebody as wonderful as me of being arrogant! However, we Aries are risk takers. What is happening to me?

Just thought I’d include this item from social media to cheer up the sad and bored. There is always a bright side.

Week 676

Sunday, 5th December, 2021

Quite tired when we got home after 2½ hours of M1 +M25 driving. I was driving so that Pauline and her friend could share a bottle of Prosecco with their meal. I drove Christine back to her home after a long and lovely Lunch with lots of talk. Her husband died 4 years ago. She still lives in the house they bought together almost 50 years ago. I sat in her husband’s customary chair. She has three grown up sons which helps but she lives alone and clearly finds it difficult. I felt terrible driving away, leaving her to spend the evening alone having drunk more than half a bottle of wine. It will have felt very lonely.

When we got home, we called in at our local Asda for petrol so we were ready for our French drive on Monday morning. In the bus shelter on a cold and windy evening was a youngish couple with push chair, a small baby, another toddler and huge bags of shopping. They were spending their Saturday evening getting the bus to do the shopping. I couldn’t imagine it and it instantly saddened me. As we drove away about 20- mins later, they were still sitting there, huddled against the cold wind and waiting for a bus. Every instinct in me screamed, Offer to drive them home. but Pauline cautioned me to curb that feeling. Covid has made these connections so much more problematic. They stayed in my mind all night.

Glorious morning today with lovely blue skies and strong, winter sunshine. Going out for an early walk because I have quite a few jobs to do before we leave tomorrow morning around 7.30 am. Clean the car, pack the car’s fridge and prepare all the paperwork for the crossing each way. Of course, yesterday, as we drove home, we heard that an extra testing hurdle had been added. We have to get a test in France before we return. Doesn’t worry me. If they don’t let us back in, I’ll cope.

Holyhead Ferry Terminal

My mind has turned to the The Menai Strait, to Anglesey and to the Holyhead ferry Terminal. I was last there 55 years ago and it didn’t look like this. It was night time, very dark and the ferry was full of drunken Irish. I was 15 years old and so excited. I have no idea what it cost because I didn’t pay but now it would be about £400.00 return including the car. I have a sister in Ireland who I haven’t seen for over 10 years. I think I’ll have to go over and visit her and fancy checking Anglesey out again.

This chap is my contemporary. His politics aligns with mine and he has taken to writing to me recently from his home in the Scottish Highlands. Social Media is so wonderful. It can cross 50 years and 730 miles at the touch of a button. Pity he doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe!

Monday, 6th December, 2021

Up at 4.55 am and out walking at 5.00 am. Dry, warm and quiet. In a couple of hours I came across just two others. A young girl jogging who I would have cautioned against the risk and a blue light darting across the park which turned out to be a man throwing a ball for his dog with an illuminated collar. Actually, this is a wonderful time to be out and experiencing the world. The mornings are getting lighter earlier and the birds started singing at 5.35 am today.

Red Sky in the Morning as we drove down.

By 7.30 am, we were on the road to Folkestone. Wonderful drive today with no hold-ups. Almost no lorries which tells you something. We arrived about 40 mins early.

Tunnel Terminal Christmas – Isolation

The Tunnel Terminal at Folkestone was almost empty. Normal times they are not. About 20 vehicles on the train instead of 220. The terminal was deserted. We sat in our car until called to load. The crossing was quick and easy and we drove off and straight to our Hotel. Our Suite was ready and it looks as if few guests are booked in for tonight. This hotel is predominantly used by UK visitors and they are in short supply at the moment.

Le Touquet Plage

John Ridley and John Morris contacted me this afternoon to wish me well and express regret that they weren’t here too. John Morris had wistful memories of Le Touquet which is one of my favourites as well. I offered to meet them there if they could stagger through all the barriers put up at the moment. I know they haven’t got a chance!

Tuesday, 7th December, 2021

Up at 6.00 am (GMT) on a cold – 3C/37F – morning. Outside, Christmas has visited the Channel Tunnel Constructors’ Memorial.

It was dark but the sun rose quickly to reveal a beautiful morning. I know I quote it with monotonous regularity and I’m sorry but Wordsworth informs the way I see things and Intimations of Immortality plays straight across this scene …

The watery sun of a Winter Sky

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come ….

A couple of hours walking left me thirsty and starving but I controlled myself with coffee and a banana. Soon we are going out Christmas shopping but, first, we will walk down in to the village to the Pharmacie to enquire about Lateral Flow tests required before we leave.

We had to take our tests within 48 hours of arrival in UK so couldn’t do it until 3.00 pm. The people at The Pharmacie are delightful. Aren’t all French women delightful? Of course we both tested Negative and received paper and digital copies of our certificate. I did all the uploading online and received clearance to travel on Thursday afternoon. 

Millions of Calories at the Chocolate Shop

We visited three fantastic chocolate shops later in the day and managed to splurge hundreds of Euros on stuff that I will never taste. So much French chocolate even feels immoral but we will spoil people on Christmas Day with it.

Wednesday, 8th December, 2021

Woke up early to heavy rain outside and quite windy. After orange juice (from a bottle) and tea, went down to the hotel’s Gym. The Hotel is very quiet for lots of reasons.

It was popular with Brits. Brexit has hit British traffic. It is a relaxed hotel with a fine dining restaurant. Covid has killed the hotel & restaurant trade. It has lovely grounds to be enjoyed in the Summer and Winter weather makes it less attractive.

Our Suite is on the top floor – or prison landing – and looks out over the extensive grounds which appear distinctly sodden this morning.

The Gym was completely empty so I didn’t need to wear a mask which made it much more bearable. Had to listen to French ‘Rap’ music in the Gym which drove me close to suicidal and definitely urged me on to work harder and faster in order to escape the utter madness! Cycled 25 kms today and I’m beginning to feel it now. In between rain/hail storms, we’ve driven out to source Christmas food and presents. Bonkers really as it’s all for one day but it has to be done.

Thursday, 9th December, 2021

A wet and wild day and night gave way to a cool and dark morning at 6.00 am (CET) / 5.00 am (GMT). Out on a 2 hr walk, the ever-present lights of the Eurotunnel Freight Depot polluted the sky but lit the path.

Walking at that time in the morning and in that location is quite magical. In the course of the two hours, the sun comes up and totally transforms the stage.

We nipped down to Auchan for some late fresh produce and then drove off to the almost deserted tunnel. The sun was out. The queue was short and we were on a train around 2 hrs earlier than planned.

The drive back was wonderfully quiet and quick. As soon as we were back, I unpacked the car and then carried out the necessary Day-2 PCR Tests, uploaded all the data online and then drove out to post them off via a Priority Post Box.

My little sister, Catherine (Cathy), lives about 5 miles away from me. In the 6 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen her 5 times. Two of those occasions have been when I invited her to my house and 3 have been by pure coincidence. We have met in Tesco carpark, in the Garden Centre and today, we met in Sainsburys.

Spot the Criminal!

We were supposed to be in quarantine but had to post our tests off so we stocked up in Sainsburys and met this shadowy figure not wearing a mask. It was lovely to see her and her husband, Laurie.

Now I am dreaming of home and cool, white, Egyptian cotton sheets and ….

Good to hear tonight that our work to appeal the Parkingeye charges P&C received and expected to receive have been repaid and rescinded in full. I knew they would be and I wouldn’t have let it go until they were. Just love those fights with petty Bureaucracy. They are so easy to defeat and yet so brazen in their contempt for little people! P&C had two fines cancelled and one that they had paid repaid.

Friday, 10th December, 2021

Yesterday, we performed a DAy-2 PCR test and drove down to the Priority Post Box in the village to send them off to Zava for analysis. We are supposed to quarantine until we receive a negative result. It’s bonkers really because we had to go out to the post and to Sainsburys last night and so we are going out for a walk this morning on what is a wonderful, sunny day with sharp, clear blue sky.

The lake is coming back ….

Leaving the French landscape behind, we are back to walking through the park. Looks like it rained heavily in the night although I didn’t hear it. I was quite tired.

Lots of Jabbing at the Community Centre

Our walk takes us through the park and round the Community Centre that has almost entirely been taken over by Covid vaccinations. Most days, the carpark is packed and Hi-Vis jacketed volunteers are organising entry/exit. The council have recently even spent money erecting this tribute to the NHS. Of course, the complaints about roll out of the vaccination program were expressed, the Tories called it the NHS Vaccination program. As soon as they felt able to claim a success, it suddenly became a hugely successful government program. This sort of duplicity was always likely to fail eventually and so it is:

The Party’s Over …

Johnson’s own dishonesty was always likely to be the fatal flaw. Those who support him have tended to say, Well he’s not perfect but he’s doing his best. as if he’s some Primary School kid who needs encouragement. He’s not and it has all caught up with him. Today, the YouGove Poll for The Times shows Labour with a 4% lead over the Tories.

This afternoon, the Covid Testing company emailed us to confirm we were still negative and were released from self-isolation. We were confident of that even though there was an announcement of a new, French Covid variant found in Marseille this morning.

Saturday, 11th December, 2021

A mild, grey day which felt a little empty. The resurgence of pandemic has prompted us to order more masks and more Lateral Flow tests. The first will be FFP2 masks and will be delivered by Amazon. The tests are free from the Surgery Pharmacy. We order those via the NHS app and collect them immediately. The peak of this latest wave is predicted to be at the end of January and we expect considerable new restrictions long before then so now is the time to act.

A couple of hours of walking was followed by Christmas preparations. About 70 cards to be written. Books of stamps to be purchased and stuck on envelopes. Database -Spreadsheet layout of sheets of addresses to labels printed and stuck on envelopes. Before that an editing job – Whose died? Whose moved? Etc.. I am in the process of producing the annual newsletter. It’s been an eventful year full of surprises to recall.

Christmas Card Production Line Begins

Cards to go abroad must be posted by Monday. Presents to be sent will need posting boxes so they have been sourced. and shredded Christmas paper to cushion the contents prepared.

Trial Salmon Dish

It was agreed recently that the meal we will prepare for the family will not involve TURKEY for the first time I can remember. My sister, Cathy, told me they were going out for a Curry on Christmas Day. Maybe the trend is away from Turkey! Instead, we will eat roast Glazed Salmon. Pauline is a technician and always trials her meals. I usually have to eat it at least twice before she settles on a formula. This picture features the first trial which will be rejected. It is layered salmon with pesto filling and citron topping. Nice but not good enough. The next attempt will involve honey & orange I’m told.

I don’t know why I do the newsletter these days. I print it in colour and send it with cards. Why do we send cards? I would happily send email attachments but one or two people don’t have any and most send cards anyway. I feel it is only polite to reciprocate. Everything will be done by tomorrow and then we can get back on with our lives – whatever that is.

Week 675

Sunday, 28th November, 2021

After a cold night with a magically clear and star-studded sky, the morning has opened distinctly cool at 1C/34F but with azure-blue and gorgeous sunshine. Isn’t life good? Well, we soft Southerners do feel the cold more easily than the peasants in the North who have long been inured to it with their diets of spam sandwiches and fishfinger butties but preparation is all and I don’t have any ‘Thermals’.

Damart Families are Happy Families

Going to have to search out the Damart catalogue that comes through the door on a regular basis.

I have got a woolly hat & gloves + Fleece for my outdoor walk and I think I’m going to need it today. Thank goodness we’ve got efficient central heating which we control over the web at the touch of a smart phone app. Everyone should use Hive or its equivalent.

Well, I’ve spent the weekend updating my circle of friends from College on current news and wishing them well for the coming month. One drew my attention to an article about the Horn Blower headed: Ripon’s first female Hornblower; ‘I feel very proud. It only took 1,131 years!’ For those who don’t know, the ancient city of Ripon has had a Hornblower closing the day at the obelisk in the city square since the year 886 and they have just appointed their first female one. Seems a bit premature to me although she is only an Assistant!

A female Hornblower? … Whatever next?

We have a busy few days coming up at the end of the week. Friday to Gatwick to collect P&C from America. This has now been complicated by the forthcoming requirement to take a PCR not just a Lateral Flow Test on Day-2 and then to quarantine until a negative result is confirmed. Hotel in Milton Keynes on Friday night. I then become a taxi driver on Saturday so Lunch with Pauline’s friend, Christine, can include wine. Monday we drive back down to the Tunnel and off to France for a few days Christmas shopping. Once again, this has been complicated by the introduction of PCR tests which have to be sent away and we have to quarantine until a negative result is emailed. Pauline has a hair appointment the day after we return so she will be scabbling around tomorrow morning trying to bring it forward to this week.

What a difference a day makes …

This is the same shot I took yesterday on Littlehampton Promenade. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was grey and cold. Today is bright and … cold.

Monday, 29th November, 2021

Identical opening sentence to yesterday. After a cold night with a magically clear and star-studded sky, the morning has opened distinctly cool at 1C/34F but with azure-blue sky and gorgeous sunshine. Strangely, my mood is diametrically opposed to yesterday when I was happy and relaxed. This morning I feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable. Why?

As the government is struggling to get to grips with the threat of the new, Covid strain on the one hand and with the threat of their Libertarian Right Wing on the other, so we are rapidly readjusting our arrangements in the light of the likely narrowing of possibilities. The change of testing regime at such a moment could really cause us difficulties. The requirement to isolate until a negative test has been posted will also cause us trouble.

However, for the Tories in general and Boris Johnson, in particular, the government have really got problems. Confected migrant crisis – we are in net, negative migration at the moment. Confected Brexit crisis – everything that they don’t like was negotiated by them and signed off by Johnson. The Tories and Johnson’s standing in the party are losing ground quite rapidly to Labour currently. Now their British Exceptionalism theme is under threat because of a resurgence of a new Covid strain. The Far-Right want to deny it’s happening. Oh, we’ve got to learn to live with it. (Code for: We’ve got to learn to die with it!).

The graphics accompanying this are trending on social media and are fairly representative of the current flow certainly on my wing of politics. I love people. I don’t know if I would be considered a Socialist but I love people. I am incredibly moved by people’s circumstances especially if they are less than my own. I instinctively want to help. Some, cynical people, doubt me and, sometimes, I doubt myself but I do try hard to be true to my principles.

Πάμε βόλτα / Let’s go promenading on a Monday morning ….

Today, our exercise involves two visits to Worthing town centre. Pauline was ‘feverishly’ buying outdoor coats. She accepted hers. I rejected mine. She was happy. I couldn’t care less!

Tuesday, 30th November, 2021

Olaf Palme

Woke at 5.00 am today on a grey morning. I’ve got quite a few things to get through. Firstly, I’ve had to buy two, new PCR Day-2 tests for our French trip next week. The Lateral Flow tests I bought for £55.00 are now redundant. I have had to buy two more PCR tests for £138.00. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate the return of the initial payment so it is a little less painful. Secondly, I’ve got to prepare PDFs of the documents required to show at the border and in shops, etc to prove Covid-Health-Status.

I am interested in people and, particularly, people through time. I remember very distinctly the shock at the murder of the Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme, who was shot dead in the street in 1986. I was 35 and Palme was 59. Like Palme, I considered myself a social democrat. His murderer was never found. Someone was initially imprisoned but subsequently cleared. Another man, who was long considered a suspect but eventually committed suicide, continues to be a shady prospect. At the moment in the Gym, I am watching this process played out in a drama.

Soon, I will be moving on to the story of Marseille, the Provence city on the French Mediterranean coast. It’s been on my list of places to visit for years. The city has long been a rich source of crime and deprivation seeing a confluence of French North African migrants and the drugs trade. The migrants live in deprived areas of high rise, shoddy apartments. The drugs trade operates rather like the Italian Mafia and the Mayors of Marseille have long been tainted by large amounts of money and the numerous murders associated that trade.

Marseille was founded as a Greek colony and later was a focus of the French Revolution before becoming a centre of French, post-colonial migration from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The Netflix series I am going to embark on, explores modern Marseille through its Mayor played by Gerard Depardieu. Sex, drugs and political power in the Mediterranean sunshine – what’s not to like?

Port de Marseille

Just as the pandemic began to strike, I was looking at apartment rental in Marseille so we could explore the culture. The idea was that a month or so there would get us in to the life of a Marseillais.

Had some lovely correspondence from North Yorkshire. Kevin managed a Whatsapp post. Emails from Julie and John Ridley. Both lovely, friendly tone. John Ridley was effusive in his friendship and has suggested that he would like to come down here to visit us with his wife. Because I am an avowed atheist and I’m always ribbing him about his Methodism, he headed his email with a coat of arms reading: Nisi Dominus Frustra (Without the Lord there is Frustration). You can say that again! I issued invitations to them all when we met recently. It would be lovely to entertain them here.

Wednesday, 1st December, 2021

Happy December to all my readers. Incredibly mild for the time of year. Being data-driven and obsessive, every first of the month has a number of obligations. As regular readers will know, that includes recording power consumption for the previous month on my spreadsheet and comparing it with the same time in past years. Yes, Bonkers, I know but … I am.

In the past, we have become accustomed to spending the month of November away in the sun. Because that hasn’t happened this year, I expected a large increase in power consumption but, because the weather has been so mild, we haven’t needed the heating and consumption has been quite low. As all readers will know, it is through data that we know the world and you can rely on me to record it.

However, I am no more bonkers than local newspapers. The MEN featured a major news story yesterday. Pupils throw Snowballs. Can you believe it? This was a Hold the Front Page Shock Horror of Snowfall in Rochdale which encouraged Langley pupils to throw snowballs into a bus as it passed.

Here, in the sunshine, it looks rather grim but we definitely had our fill of cold, snow and pupils slinging ice balls at each other. It was interesting and quite alarming to find the Health & Safety changes that  made us legally responsible, under Public Liability law, for the potential injuries that such traditional winter larks wrought upon us.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ehek4WPuXZY?feature=oembed

I was looking at the possibility of returning to Sifnos in the Summer and came across this film made about 4 years ago but set on the island and using all those backdrops that we know so well. I even spotted our house in the background. The acting, like so much Greek TV, is awful but the events leading from a ferry journey to walking the streets of the port and the Hora are so evocative that I have embedded it here.

On Sifnos, the Geraniums would easily get through the Winter still flowering but ours are still going in West Sussex. A bit faded I admit but I may get another Summer season out of them at this rate.

Thursday, 2nd December, 2021

Difficult day yesterday. I spent the morning preparing documents for entry and exit from France. This has been made more urgent because we will be away from home on Friday & Saturday. I sat back with a sense of satisfaction in the early afternoon feeling that everything was in order. I made sure we both had on our smartphones:

  • photos of our passports
  • Pdfs of the French Declaration d’Honneur
  • NHS app with 3 x Covid jabs listed.
  • French app – TousAntiCovid  
  • Pdf copies of the above
  • UK Passenger Locator Form
  • Day-2 Testing codes

All this just for a short trip to France? Just as I relaxed, we noticed the tickertape on Sky News saying France had reintroduced the entry requirement of a negative Covid Test result even in those full vaccinated. These have to be taken within 48 hrs before travel. How could I arrange that with 4 days until we travelled and how much would it cost?

Early searches suggested it would be very expensive and quite slow to arrange. Costs ranged from £120.00 per person with a 4 day turn around which would be cutting it far to fine. Eventually, we found a company who would deliver today and return our test result within 12hrs for … £22.00 per person. Even so, this raised stress levels.

This morning, and we still don’t know why, just before Pauline went out to the hairdressers, our mobile banking app went down. Another 20 mins of nervous energy spent at 7.30 am sorting that out. I managed it but could do without the stress!

Goring High Street

Drove Pauline to Goring for her haircut. The fairly mundane High Street was busy but freezing in spite of the sunshine. I did some walking while the haircut was done. Back home to meet DPD delivery of these extra tests and then out to Town to collect some new, ‘smaller’ trousers!

I have not really enjoyed Christmas since being a child. We have always ‘celebrated’ in the most minimal way. I certainly haven’t felt the need to do what so many of our neighbours do down here and even my sister who lives 5 miles away which is light up their homes. I’ve heard someone say they needed cheering up so started their lights in November. I need cheering up but lights certainly won’t do it!

The Jump of Doom

I don’t know if it’s just me or a common response but I often have the weird desire to jump when I look in to the watery abyss below. In these temperatures, it would be certain death from hyperthermia so there is no chance but that temptation/compulsion is there.

Gorgeous day but freezing!

Had to drive back into Worthing to collect … more clothes for me!!! I can’t cope. I’ve never had so many new clothes in my life.

Friday, 3rd December, 2021

Up at 5.00 am on a cold, dark and wet morning. In the Gym for an hour. Orange juice, shower and out on the road for 6.30 am driving to Gatwick Airport. I felt quite flat and the drive was horrible in dark and rain which refracted all the lights annoyingly. Worked out the intricacies of the Short Stay Car Park arrangements just in time to meet P, C & D from their Florida flight.

Drove them back to one of our old stomping grounds – West Byfleet. Always feels strange to return to these familiar yet unfamiliar places, to know instinctively where I am going yet feel uncomfortable in that knowledge.

The cleaners were just leaving the house as we arrived. The next big job after getting them home was to organise the conduct and despatch of their Covid PCR tests. Left to their own devices, they wouldn’t have had a hope of doing these successfully. After the expending of more nervous energy, the tests were done, the online forms filled in and, because they now have to quarantine until the results come through, we took them to the Post Office for despatch to the Lab..

Can you believe – a Holiday Inn?

They’ve all gone to bed to sleep off their 12hr flight. We walked to Tesco – about 30mins each way – to buy them a copy of the (shhhhh) Daily Mail. Now we are going to drive about 90 mins to Newport Pagnell to stay the night at the Holiday Inn before meeting up with Pauline’s old, College friend for coffee at her house and then Lunch at a local, Greek restaurant.

Saturday, 4th December, 2021

Well the attractive, Georgian house exterior didn’t quite live up to its billing inside. It lacked the modern comforts of sound and heat insulation. It was too noisy and alternately too hot and too cold. The bed was only a Double. We’ve been married so long we need at least a King-size! We had a Suite but it reminded me more of a Student Flat. I certainly won’t be using it again.

I was up and wandering round the hotel at 5.00 am looking for the Gym. Fortunately, I wandered in to the Kitchens where a young University student was preparing Breakfasts. I was taken up to the Gym by an IT Student from the University of Bedfordshire. We talked IT for a few minutes which was riveting at that time in the morning and then I did two hour’s workout.

We are having Lunch in a Greek restaurant so the workout this morning has been essential. Now, after a shower and cups of tea and coffee, the day is absolutely beautiful and sunny with clear, blue sky. Can look forward to the day now. Plenty of banter to come. We are meeting a self-proclaimed, Mouthy Londoner for Lunch so my style of sarcasm will be right in place.

Had a lovely time with Christine. I felt so sorry for her. Her husband’s cancer at 60 had been declared ‘free’ by age 62 and then reoccurred by age 68 and that’s when it beat him. Nice people should not have that battle.

Week 674

Sunday, 21st November, 2021

… at 5.00 am

A gorgeous morning although I was up at 5.00 am making a hot drink for my wife who is unwell. Pauline has a heavy cold and has been suffering for a few days. Fortunately, I have not caught it. It is definitely not Covid. We have been tested ‘negative’ 31 times over the recent past and the last one was two days ago. I am on duty today and will be cooking!

The sky outside is clear blue with strong sunshine but the temperature outside is only 7C/45F which is quite cool. Not sure if shorts and tee-shirt will do for my walk this morning. Hard to believe that we are nearly at the end of November already. In fact, because Pauline was unwell and I was awake early, I found myself thinking about my age and that there is so much more behind me than in front. It is scary and is the reason why I feel I’ve got to get on with things rather than sit around. There is no time to waste!

I have been trying not to waste time in pushing my exercise program. It is 228 days since I turned 70 and, since then, I have covered 2300 miles / 3,700 kilometres in exercising. It feels good to be back to fitness and it gives me the impulse not to sit still writing but to get outside doing. Today, I’ve set myself patio cleaning and house vacuuming as well as walking. 

The walk was sharp but delicious. Walks are always times to think. It’s interesting how the movement of walking stimulates the brain and moves thought patterns on. I always find conversation is more fluid when walking and never really understood why.

Today, the Mediterranean richness of the light pulled everything into sharp focus. I woke up this morning thinking about age. I know too much self-reflection isn’t necessarily good for one but I am an addict. My thoughts were crystalized as I walked past the developing Care Home (specialising in Dementia Care I think) on the periphery of our Development. Must get my name down while I remember!

Everywhere we walk there is decay – not to depress you, Dear Reader. Autumn is rapidly advancing and its debris is everywhere in our path. Let’s hope the Winter passes quickly and we soon see the green shoots of Spring. There I go again, wishing my short time away!

Wonderful meal today even if I say so myself. An economic, one-pan special of Chicken Thighs marinated in lemon, oregano & garlic and roasted with peppers, chickpeas and asparagus. Success again. The wine helped!

Monday, 22nd November, 2021

A happy marriage definitely involves separate bathrooms. I remember but don’t really remember living in a large, family home in the 1950s with no central heating and one bathroom. We had a second toilet and Mum & dad had a wash basin in their bedroom but the whole thing seems so centuries ago.


Unfortunately, I had 5 sisters which didn’t help. Of course, boys/men don’t really wash … they just pretend to but the girls take it all so seriously! In those days, baths were the thing and the water was heated by a Back Boiler which rather limited the number of people who could use it each day.

Nowadays, I hardly ever have a bath but I love showers. My wife has the biggest bathroom but I have the biggest shower and with a body like mine, it’s needed. In the Mediterranean, they can’t understand the British love of baths. They can’t understand people wanting to wallow in the water already dirtied by their bodies. Showers are de rigueur and, of course, they use less water for places that are hot, dry and where water is at a premium.

For me, there is something special about standing under a powerful force of hot water after exercising. And the water is always hot. We no longer have to wait for the heating to build up. The facility is there immediately we turn the taps. These are things we couldn’t have conceived of when I was in Primary School and using outside toilets in the school yard in the middle of Winter.

Gorgeous day outside with clear, blue, Mediterranean skies and strong sunshine. Still only 7C/45F but beautiful. Let’s hope we have a good day. At least we will be clean!

Tuesday, 23rd November, 2021

Another beautiful morning but cold – only 4C/39F at 7.00 am. A silver half moon is shining out of a crystal clear sky with sunshine coming over the horizon. At least there is no frost because I cut the lawns two days ago.

Something very strange has happened to me this year. Well a few strange things to be honest. Exercise is one change. For years I’ve been going to the Gym but, since developing a gym in the garage, I’ve taken it much more seriously. Walking outdoors is another thing and improved diet is a third.

On yesterday’s walk, and not for the first time, a man called out, You’re half the man you used to be! I pointed out that my wife had been saying that for years but it was nice to hear. I’m always amazed that people are noticing me at all although I suppose my radiant beauty does shine out and illuminate the area.

Really, the change that has most shocked me is my attitude to Fiction. For an English Lit. graduate and former English teacher, you would expect me to be a big reader of Fiction. As I’ve written before, almost since my initial Degree, I’ve not read Fiction for pleasure but always seen it as ‘work’, as historical evidence, as an empirical challenge. That was accentuated when I did a research Masters and I read 19th Century literature for its representation of historical ideas.

The world of Netflix

Fast forward to this year. Although I’m still centrally interested in politics and political philosophy & ideas, I have found myself gravitating back to Fiction on television. This has been partly because the post-Brexit political scene has been so unpalatable and partly because I needed distraction while working out in the Gym. I’ve been watching things I would never have even considered in the past. Call My Agent, for example, is a light, French series of inconsequential relationships so out of my experience that I could not believe I was getting sucked in and enjoying it but I was quickly hooked and binge-watched the whole 24 x 1hr episodes in the gym.

I’m now moving on to Glória – a Cold War, Espionage thriller set in Portugal and Germany. I like spy fiction I’ve found. The thing I particularly like about the Netflix platform is that it is cheap and universal. I can watch it on television, iPad or smartphone anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, 24th November, 2021

Overcast and cool morning. Had to go out to collect a parcel which UPS failed to deliver properly yesterday. Why Amazon can get it so right but others have such a poor service reputation, goodness knows. I ordered yet another smart watch, another Garmin. I use mine so much throughout the day to do so many things from telling the time to checking the temperature, to monitoring my activity and heart rate, to reading texts, emails and news flashes on the move that it quickly becomes scratched and battered.

Old & New

The current one on the left is becoming a bit the worse for wear so I’ve bought a new one which will do all the above plus play music and pay contactless without my phone or cards. Yesterday, UPS sent me a text to say they would deliver today. I went out for a walk yesterday afternoon and 10 mins after I’d left the house, they put a card through saying they had unsuccessfully tried to deliver. So, this morning, I’ve had to drive out to a collection point to pick it up. I now have the enjoyment of setting it up.

Next week, we are going to visit Pauline’s old College friend, Christine. We will first go to collect P&C from Gatwick airport on their return from Florida and then go on to a hotel in Newport Pagnell for one night. We are going to have Lunch with Christine in a Greek restaurant which will be nice and then drive back home before setting off again on the Monday to the Tunnel and a few days in France.

Thinking of taking the train into Gare du Nord and spending the day in Paris. Haven’t been there for a while and it would be nice to spend a crisp, Winter’s day walking the streets and visiting the shops and restaurants. It will be much more relaxing than driving round the Champs-Élysées three times as our sat.nav. once forced us to do on our drive back from Greece. This morning I ordered the Day-2 tests which we still have to go through when we get back. At least I got a 15% Black Friday discount.

Thursday, 25th November, 2021

Feeling happy and lively this morning. Beautiful morning as hell freezes over. Love these skies. they are so photogenic. Perfect day for a ‘selfie’! Waiting for it to warm up a little before going out walking. I’m enjoying getting to grips with my new watch. I’ve set it up without reading the manual … which is a typical ‘man thing’. I will download the full instructions after I’ve tested intuition to the max.

It is quite good fun using the music app to find things I like to listen to on my watch dovetailing in with my phone. 

We have the complex problem of arranging to collect an elderly couple, one of whom is partially sighted, from a flight landing at Gatwick North. Nowadays, you can’t just drive up to Arrivals and grab their suitcases. We have to book the Short Stay Carpark and hope the flight isn’t delayed. The website says it will cost us £35.00 for the privilege even if they are on time. Lovely!

While the temperature is going up outside as the sun takes effect, I am catching up on correspondence. I owe emails to Nigel, Julie, Christine and a Whatsapp to Kevin. I had a chat with a girl from 50 years ago the other day. I had no idea who she was but she knew me. It turns out that she had been the girlfriend of the unfortunate Bob Stephens who died very young of lung cancer. There are some amazing connections like that which give me pleasure. 

David Roberts, who seems to spend his time roaming the country and goes back to Ripon with incredible frequency, posted this advert for the Developers of the old Lecture Building at the College which is finally going under residential conversion. It is amazing how many of the past students express interest in returning to live there. It’s not something that would appeal to me at all. I’m more interested in people than places.

Absolutely freezing this afternoon as we went for our walk. I don’t know if it was the cold but I got terrible stomach cramps as I walked and really had to fight hard to complete. After a rest, I did a Gym session to complete my day. A shower followed by the most wonderful meal of Green Salad and Griddled Sea Bass fillets with Asparagus. There are only one or two things nicer in life than that but I won’t list them!

Friday, 26th November, 2021

Went to bed with a sore throat and painful ears. Slept well and got up early feeling full of life. Pauline is still suffering a bit with this horrible cold and the chat among old College friends is of many suffering from a horrible, persistent cold bug that’s ‘going round’. I refuse to be ill at any time! Watch this space.

It feels really bitter outside this morning and rather overcast. It is only 8C/46F but feels a lot colder. I am going out wearing CLOTHES today. To Rustington to buy fruit & vegetables and Christmas Cards. Later to Worthing town centre to collect new clothes ordered for ME!

Our Marks & Spencer is opposite the pier beach. Down there, the temperature was slightly warmer but, with sea breeze, it felt even more bitter. As you can see, there was no one on the beach even strolling and I didn’t stay long

Tempus Fugit

We were reflecting on one of our favourite topics this morning – the passing of time. It will be six years in March since we moved here from Surrey and over eleven years since we left the North of England. I always think of myself as cultured and sophisticated (irony alert!), of course but as soon as we start to speak to people down here, they say, You’re from the North.

It shocks me because I think I speak with fairly open vowels as my Mother, born in Croydon, taught me. She always mocked the Working Class voice and talked of Received or BBC ‘Estuary’ English speech. Certainly, Working Class or Dialect voices were rarely heard on the BBC in the 1950s and Announcers tended to affect a cut-glass pronunciation. Now Regionalism is in and ‘Posh’ is mocked.

I always remember being shocked and just faintly amused by a senior teacher in my school when I arrived in 1972. He said, I’m going there me. I had never heard that grammatical construction before nor had I heard of goin’ up the brew to the ginnel or wearing Keks. When Mum read stories to us as children, all ‘working class’ characters were given the same, guttural pronunciation. We knew what it was meant to convey – a lesser, lower status.

It was rather like golliwogs which were thought toys or collected with marmalade and had no racist connotation at all. Of course they did but it was so embedded in the culture that even many black people didn’t see it or voice it. How life and culture has changed over my 70 years. It leaves one wondering what those born now will look back on with amazement.

Saturday, 27th November, 2021

Quite a cold night – down to 3C/37F – and only vaguely sunny this morning but what people in our area long to see is SNOW. They almost certainly won’t and many here have never seen snow here in their lives. It was a constant factor in our Winter lives for 40 years traveling backwards and forwards over the Pennines and I will be pleased never to see it again. I checked my records for this time in 2010 and we travelled down from Huddersfield to Folkestone on a wine-buying trip in France but had to turn back because of a blizzard. We had a hazardous journey home and the next night went down to -19C/-2F which was the coldest we had ever experienced. Later that week, we completed a purchase of a property in Surrey and collected our new car. Busy times 2010!

Winter has returned over night to the North of England. The section of the M62 and A62 which we used every day in our professional lives was blocked over night and, although it will be passable this morning especially in a 4-wheel drive, I can well do without the additional risks. Of course, it can be beautiful. You only have to look at this Lowry-esque picture of Heaton Park today but it is not enough to persuade me. At least I am walking round our house this morning in shorts and tee-shirt but with no need for the central heating on.

Heaton Park Today

Our car insurance was up for renewal this week – two named drivers. Last time it was £392.00 and the automatic renewal was £420.00 this time. My wife, who doesn’t give a single penny out when unnecessary, went online as a new customer with LV and was offered the same cover for £361.00. She phoned the company and told them that is what she wanted and saved us almost £60.00. I’ve no idea how that compares with other people but it seems quite economical to me.

Bridget Riley across the years

Bridget Riley was an artist of significance in my student days for all sorts of reasons. She seemed to hold the zeitgeist in her eyes. Mary Quant, Carnaby Street, The Beatles, The Stones, Le Corbusier, Seurat and Pointillism all came together in her work. I have thought about her only occasionally over the years until a retrospective exhibition of hers was announced in Woking earlier this year. I have illustrated her here looking back from the age of 90 at her younger self. For me and my people it is poignant. Life is poignant, isn’t it?

Our walk on the Promenade today was definitely cooler than usual. Come back Summer. All is forgiven!

Week 673

Sunday, 14th November, 2021

Rather overcast start to a warm day for the Athens Marathon. We went down to the old, Olympic Stadium for the event. It was very busy but enjoyable. I was ready for the event.

The organisation was meticulous … for Greeks …. All down the street, vans delivered competitor’s clothes and emergency packs if required.

The whole event was really enjoyable. We might make it an annual event. As we left the stadium, our old friend and Notary, Elerania from Sifnos contacted me on Instagram and said she was in Athens and would like to meet up for Dinner. The last time we saw her and her family was in central London about 4 years ago and it will be lovely to see her.

Monday, 15th November, 2021

It was a lovely evening as we met Elerania and her brother, Philipo. They came to our hotel and we walked to a local taverna where we drank wine, ate fish and salad and reminisced. We walked back to our hotel on an incredibly warm evening and drank coffee and watched a film on Netflix on my iPad but not until Pauline had watched the latest vote on Strictly.

We walked to a local taverna where we drank wine, ate fish and salad and reminisced. We walked back to our hotel on an incredibly warm evening and drank coffee and watched a film on Netflix on my iPad but not until Pauline had watched the latest vote on Strictly.

Back street Athens – 5.00 am.

Up and out walking at 5.00 am this morning – a warm and quite humid morning. Few people are as mad as me but one or two, lunatic souls were out in the streets as we walked past the ruins of Greece.

Breakfast for stray cats.
Breakfast for stray pigeons

A couple of hours later and back at the hotel, we went for breakfast. It is a buffet breakfast with everything available you can imagine and a lot you can’t. People eating cereals and toast, bacon and fried eggs, poached or scrambled eggs. Salad and smoked salmon. Cheese and ham, yogurt and fruit, croissants and Danish pastries, Greek cakes and biscuits, creamy rice puddings and crème caramels, coffee, tea, orange juice, pomegranate juice, etc. The only thing is that Covid restrictions mean masks and disposable gloves which rather takes the shine off it. 

After breakfast, I had to go online and complete our UK Passenger Locator forms which take forever to do and are rather badly prepared. I did do them on my iPad out on the balcony in lovely, warm sunshine and, an hour later, they were complete. It has been complicated by my email address, which I’ve used for 30 years, suddenly stopping working. I phoned BT three days ago and have spent at least 2 hours on my mobile talking to them without resolution. Just as we were going out to Dinner last night, they phoned again and I’ve had to leave them sorting it out when we get home.

Took Pauline out to the Leather Shop for some more belts she had been thinking about. Three more today brings her total to six new, handmade belts this trip. Goodness knows when she will wear them but, if it makes her happy …

Tuesday, 16th November, 2021

Last night we had Dinner outdoors at a lovely restaurant/old-style taverna on Metropolis Street. Excellent food and I was amused to be an Englishman asking a Greek for a French Sweet in a mixture of all three languages for “Δύο (2) Mille-feuille, please.”

Final day started at 5.00 am and on the warm Athenian streets by 5.30 am. No one could accuse us of wasting our days. We were out for about 90 mins and gentle, light rain started to fall half way through. 

Back for Breakfast and then Pauline packed while I waded through about 900 emails that flooded in as BT restored my email address over night. Feels good to have my main communication mode, other than my mouth, back and working.

We are not flying until this evening so won’t leave for the airport until afternoon. We went down to the City Central Market to buy some more dried herbs. We use them a lot in cooking and the quality of Greek herbs is fantastic. As we walked, hot sun broke through and the sky cleared.

Athens Airport is so quiet. There are only 2 flights to UK – a BA to Heathrow & EasyJet to Gatwick. Almost all others are Domestic, inter-island flights. In 40 years of travelling, never seen it like this before.

Wednesday, 17th November, 2021

I was desperate to get back to Athens and absolutely loved my week there but it is just as enjoyable to come home. Just at the moment that the wheels hit the tarmac at Gatwick, a warm feeling of happiness enveloped me. The whole process of travel had been delightful. The people we had met had been lovely and the experiences of the week had raised my spirits.

Of course, I was aware that I was putting us in some risk and we did take two (negative) tests during the week after travelling on the plane and then crowded Metro trains.

This morning, we had to take our official, Day-2 Tests, photograph them and upload the images to an on-line testing site. Fortunately, we both tested negative again.

After going through the mountain of mail that had built up on the mat, we went out to Sainsburys to buy mountains of fruits and salads as we redouble our diet after a week of self-indulgence. We’ve got just under three weeks until our next trip to France and we are going to visit Pauline’s old College friend for lunch in Milton Keynes before then.

Absolutely beautiful , sunny day today as we go out for our walk but about 10C less than we were enjoying in Athens. I really am a sun worshipper at heart and the hotter the better although I do think age has tempered that a little.

We had to go down into the village and it’s late Autumn setting was lit by lovely sunshine from delicious blue skies. I was still wearing shorts and tee shirt as I did in Athens but it was not uncomfortable. Going to finish off in the Gym.

Thursday, 18th November, 2021

When Theresa May dismissed, deprecatingly, those Citizens of Nowhere who preferred remaining European, she was describing people like me. I have never felt rooted in any particular geographical place. I loved living in the North of England. I loved living in Greece. I love living where I am on the South Coast now but my memories are for people rather than places. I certainly have no longing to return to the place of my birth. I revisit it to remember the people not the place.

I found the village of my birth stultifyingly limiting and unprogressive. Even now I’m older, I have no sentimental longing to return. There was a thread on Twitter recently where people were asked to say how far away from the place of their birth they now lived. It demonstrated that there are two, distinctly divided opinions. Some haven’t moved more than 20 miles from the place of their birth and longed to remain strongly in touch with it. Others, like me, had been desperate to put as much time and space between their childhood experiences and emigrate to Erewhon. I suppose it depends how much you enjoyed your childhood, family life.

Got a Whatsapp message from Kevin in Leeds this morning. He was born in Huddersfield and hasn’t moved far nor has Christine. Heard from Julie yesterday and she lives only a few miles away from the place of her birth. Nigel and I have both ’emigrated’ to other ends of the country. More important are people and memories of people in our lives.

… and now there are three.

Pauline has integrated a number of objects that remind her of her Mum who died at the age of 96 – a lampshade in our bedroom, a moneybox made by her father. Last night she was so upset to smash a glass her Mother had given her many years ago. They are simple, cut glass tumblers of little monetary cost but so much human value.

This morning, we are having the next episode of tests – PCR and Antibody – from the Covid19 Zoe Project. Never has a couple been more tested.

Friday, 19th November, 2021

Quite a busy morning with trips out to Tesco in West Durrington and then shops in Worthing town centre. It is a mild but grey morning. I’m searching for something warmer and brighter. The town was quiet and rather downbeat. A few Christmas decorations were lit up and a Town Cryer announced shopping opportunities to a crowd of about 3 potential shoppers. I am an inveterate people watcher. I love people, our differences and commonalities and seaside towns are wonderful places to indulge that interest.

Not exactly going to town with the Christmas lights

The local shops were stocking their ‘free’ Worthing Lifestyle magazine which advertises a much more up-market view than the reality. We had the debate once again about whether to send Christmas cards or not. Tradition won out because we don’t want our friends feeling cold shouldered by impersonal email contact and it is no great sacrifice to us. Regular readers and receivers of Christmas cards will know that I am obsessed with robins. We have so many living around us all year and I prefer them as an Atheistic substitute to Christian, Christmas scenes. There are not so many around this year that I have not already sent in previous times.

We drove home via the beach and, in spite of the grey light, the tonal quality of the colours was beautiful in its own way.

Drove home for coffee before setting out on the day’s walk. Could do with some sunshine or something to brighten the day.

Saturday, 20th November, 2021

Today I am reflecting on the change, over time, of being grounded in location versus the search for contentment further afield. The history of my ancestors illustrates this change quite well. The literature of the 19th-20th centuries delineate that change and non-more than the writing of D.H.Lawrence who writes of man being grounded in woman at the core of life while being the explorer of new opportunities through The Rainbow and Women in Love.

My family moved to the East Midlands village of Repton, on the borders of Staffordshire and Derbyshire in the 1850s. They were Presbyterian/Methodist, entrepreneurial and political. They quickly established themselves as Millers, Carpenters and Builders. They featured centrally in the life of the village and Congregational Church with music and literature. They became leading politicians in the local district and nearby towns. They featured strongly in changing the conditions of working people and they became teachers.

Repton Mill – home for the Sanders Family in the 19th Century

Of course, in those early days, people didn’t travel much further than their villages. Forms of transport were limited. Horseback or horse & carriage were not conducive to long distance travel. Employment was mainly agricultural and locally based. Increasingly, industrialisation changed this – a change that informs Lawrence’s writing.

The Rainbow tells the story of three generations of the Brangwen family, a dynasty of farmers and craftsmen who live in the East Midlands of England, on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The book spans a period of roughly 65 years from the 1840s to 1905, and shows how the love relationships of the Brangwens change against the backdrop of the increasing industrialisation of Britain. The first central character, Tom Brangwen, is a farmer whose experience of the world does not stretch beyond these two counties; while the last, Ursula, his granddaughter, studies at university and becomes a teacher in the progressively urbanised, capitalist and industrial world.

Lawrence’s world was one in which he saw the woman at the centre, the home maker and sexual, emotional source of comfort as the male ventured out to explore the world. Because we live in a world structured by gender, the other sex is forever to some extent a mystery to us (and non-more than to me), with a dimension of experience that we can imagine but never inwardly know. The prevailing theme of Lawrence’s novels is that, in desiring to unite with the other sex, we are desiring to mingle with something that is deeply not ourselves, and which brings us to experience a character and inwardness that challenge us with their strangeness.

Modern invention changed all this for Lawrence’s characters and for members of the Sanders family who are now resident all over the country. Lawrence’s view of male/female relationships looks very outmoded. However, in all great literature, there is the kernel of truth, the delineation of a fundamental condition and the irony for me is that we travel to be grounded once again.

Busy morning down here on the South Coast: Haircut, Lawn Mowing, Patio spray-cleaning, Exercise routine. Got to get all this done in the morning so I can watch a big football match this afternoon.

Week 672

Sunday, 7th November, 2021

Better sleep last night but we were still up at 6.30 am. Out walking in sunshine before 9.00 am. It is a lovely time to be out in a lovely place. While so much of the world still sleeps after a hard week’s work, they leave the countryside and beach to us.

It’s lovely and green around our house and the grass, trees, birds, rabbits, squirrels combine to make it an enjoyable walk.

The sun rises over our beach of shingle.

Our beach is not so easy to walk on because it is loose, deep shingle but the paths along the edge are there to encourage us.

We have done a couple of early hours of exercise because we have guests for Lunch today. I’m looking forward to it. We’re having line-caught, wild sea bass griddled in the garden. Wonderful!

Monday, 8th November, 2021

Had a lovely day yesterday and a really enjoyable Lunch with M & P. We griddled fish outside in glorious sunshine and ate with the conservatory doors open as the sunshine streamed in. Lovely conversation. We talked about plans to visit them in Florida in March next year and about property prices. We are still looking for somewhere to invest from our Greek House sale. We have flitted from UK …. to France … to Spain. What about Florida? Property prices are incredibly cheap.

I was inspired to do some research. I have been looking in Manatee County, Florida near Sarasota on the coast just below Tampa. This property featured above is on at under £400,000.00. It’s on the Lakewood Ranch and comes with this lovely pool and fitness centre, a kitchen you’d need binoculars to see the ends of and 4 bedrooms plus 3 bathrooms. I don’t know how US property is in terms of an investment potential but it could produce a rental income when were are not there.

The world is a wonderful place. Yesterday I posted images of the present. Today I post pictures of the past and the potential future. John Ridley sent me this autumnal photograph of a scene from Ripon.

Lovely sunshine again this morning as we set out for an early walk. Tomorrow, I will have to be up very early to get my exercise in before we drive to Gatwick. Virtually everything is ready …

Tuesday, 9th November, 2021

Many would say I’m mad. Others say I’m obsessive. I prefer to think that I am committed to my goals. So it was that I got up at 4.00 am and was jogging down the road soon after. Got to get my exercise routine largely completed before we fly. Delightful morning. Really warm and quite light. I did my route with a happy heart. Exactly at 4.55 am, the birds started singing. I beat them to it by almost an hour.

Back home by 5.30 am , it was all systems go with last preparations before driving to the airport. First flight since November 2019 and first ever wearing a mask for the entire time. Going to be an interesting experience.

A kiss in the sky over Gatwick.

Everything about the flying experience illustrated how hollowed out it has been by the pandemic. The Long Stay carpark was half empty. Normally, we have to search for spaces. The airport was quiet and our flight half empty. We had 3 seats for 2 people. 

Having been up early and out exercising, I slept through a lot of the 3hrs 20mins flight although there was terrible turbulence as we crossed the snow covered Alps which woke me up. In Athens airport we have never disembarked, gone through security, collected our bags and got a taxi so fast in our lives. It was all down to lack of passenger demand. A 40 mins taxi ride – €45.00 – to our hotel, the Electra Palace.

More than 30 years ago, I read a book by Austen Kark, former Head of BBC World Service. It was about his love of Greece and described the journey he and his wife had gone through to build a house in Nafplion on the Greek mainland. It inspired us to buy a field and build a house on a small, remote Cycladic island over 20 years ago. Austen Kark was married to Nina Bawden, author of children’s fiction like ‘Carrie’s War’ which I had taught in my early career. As they supervised their house build, they would stay in the ‘Electra Palace Hotel’ in Athens. 

Sadly, Bawden was badly injured in the Potters Bar rail crash in 2002 in which her husband, Austen Kark, was killed. I went on to build my house and stay in exactly the same grand, old hotel in Athens. We have been staying there every year sometimes a number of times each year for the past 20. We really missed not going in 2020 and have returned this week to reconnect. This photo is of the little Lobby.

Wednesday,10th November, 2021

A lovely morning although we were up a little late … 7.00 am (Greek Time) / 5.00 am (UK Time). I ate scrambled egg for Breakfast and felt absolutely ‘stuffed’. Our table overlooked the Acropolis and so does the balcony of our Suite. It is really lovely to be back in Greece, in general, and Athens in particular. I want to share the experience with everyone!

After Breakfast, we went out to Monastiraki Metro Station and bought 5-Day travel passes for €8.00 each.This allows us unlimited travel and we set of for Kalithea in the sunshine.

We walked, went into a supermarket to buy some bottles of wine and then took the Metro back to our hotel. Coffee and newspapers and then out for a long walk through Kolonaki and the Embassy area towards Panepistimio and the University area all in lovely sunshine but quite busy and noisy with City traffic everywhere.

Just a little glass of Vimto.

This evening out to our favourite street-side restaurant for grilled sea bass and salad and another walk before an earlier night to recover. Actually, it will be midnight (Greek Time/10.00 pm UK Time) for Pauline and 1.30 am Greek Time (11.30 pm UK Time) for me. I have to watch Sky Newspaper Review followed by BBC2 Newsnight before I can sleep.

Thursday, 11th November, 2021

A delightful evening visiting old times like the Ithaca Restaurant we ate at one cold night perhaps 20 years ago. We walked down Odos Ermou – Athens Oxford Street – and listened to the buskers and the excited chatter of all the young people. We were young once. Time is running out and we must take every chance that lies ahead. This chap was waiting just for me. I sent the photo by WhatsApp to Kevin. We ate griddled Sea Bass and Greek Salad for Dinner and walked back to our hotel to watch a Netflix film.

Slept quite well although I’m not coping with Breakfast. I’m really going to have to give it a miss. Went out for a sunny walk to look at the Omonia Square development. It wasn’t half as impressive as the Greeks would have us believe. Two years they’ve been working on it. We went round the huge fish and meat market. Pauline bought bags of dried Oregano for her store cupboard and we fended off all sorts of desperate hawkers from restaurants to clothes shops and two determined young women who insisted I was the double of George Clooney and should buy my wife a single stem rose. Funny to see all the Greeks wrapped up as if it was mid-winter whereas I was in shorts and tee shirt. They would never survive in Northern England!

Omonia Square

I spent an hour on the phone to Scotland this afternoon talking to a delightful girl from BT who was working from a shed in her garden as she tried to sort my email delivery out. It often goes wrong when I’m abroad and it is difficult to live without it it. The hour was enjoyable but not completely successful.

At least we managed to enjoy a complimentary bottle of the hotel’s red wine as I talked. Scotland, apparently, was cold and wet this morning and she had the heating on in her shed. I was sitting on the balcony overlooking Athens.

Friday 12th, November, 2021

Metropolis Square

We walked back in the darkness across Metropolis Square from the restaurant last night and then got up at 5.00 am this morning still in darkness. The Acropolis was still lit up and visible from our balcony.

We decided to go out for a walk in the quiet, dark streets that were still wet from the street cleaner’s work overnight. We walked around the base of the Acropolis past the Museum, through Thissio – the home of Theseus, the legendary King of Athens. Few people were about but lots of stray cats and the occasional homeless man, huddled under coats and sleeping on cardboard. We walked for about 90 mins and then returned for breakfast.

This is a lovely, old hotel and our suite is very comfortable. The corridors feature copies of ancient artefacts and reliefs like this one outside our door. The modern, top floor Restaurant looks out across the city.

The modern, top floor Restaurant looks out across the city and out towards the hills of Athens.

Through the Restaurant window out across the city.

After breakfast this morning, we are going to take the Metro down to the port of Piraeus to renew our acquaintance with the ferry traffic that we have used so much over the years.

Saturday 13th, November, 2021

Beautiful morning. The sun is up. The sky is blue. We’ve already had breakfast even though we pledged last night not to have any because we were so full. It is 7.30 am (GT)/ 5.30 am (UKT) and I’ve found my thoughts straying to what I’ve left behind just as much as what I’m going to do today. Strange but true. 

Yesterday was so warm and sunny. We took the Metro down to Piraeus and walked in the sunshine round the port we know so well. It was very quiet with Ferry boats tied up and few passengers. The colours were beautiful. 

“Deep greens and blues are the colours I choose.Won’t you let me go down in my dreams and rockabye sweet, baby James.” I just love the colours of the Mediterranean/Aegean seas, the warm air and the delicious smells as foreign languages drift over the city.

Fruit Seller outside Monastiraki Station

We took the Metro back to Monastiraki station and bought huge punnets of  sweet, ripe figs to carry back to the hotel. Pauline called at her regular leather shop in the Plaka where she has bought so many bags, sandals, shoes, etc. This time it was belts which all needed shortening and new holes punching. Lovely people who do the whole process from tanning hides in the local factory to selling finished products in their market shop.

The city is preparing for the Athens Marathon tomorrow. I’ve have been hard in training and think I’m ready. Unfortunately, my wife believes I would die in the attempt and, despite the lure of the insurance payout, insists I can only spectate although I could walk the course today.

Week 671

Sunday, 31st October, 2021

I love time. I love to know where I am in time. I love to place myself in the context of time and history. That is one of the reasons for the Blog. People, Places, Time – the stuff of Life! I hate wasting time although I’ve done enough of it in my life. Since Retirement, I’ve learnt to push myself and not to waste time, make the most of what I now see as a finite resource. That is why I am so (probably too) forceful with people.

Today is such a moment when Time is of the Essence. Clocks going back gives us an extra hour – not in bed but to do things. We have driven out in torrential rain at 8.00 am to travel 20 miles to Chichester for our Booster Jab. The roads were awash and many trees were down. The dual carriage way was wheel deep in water, wood and leaves.

When we got there, we had to get through a massive security system They had been besieged by mad anti-vaxxers yesterday and had erected caged barriers manned by burly security men this morning. When we got inside, it was full of ‘old people’ and I was the only one wearing shorts & tee-shirt. I don’t know why! It is gorgeously warm. Lovely volunteer people running the system. We were through and back home by 10.00 am.

John Ridley contacted yesterday to say he’d just had his Booster. Dave Weatherley is having his this week and David Roberts has to wait a fortnight. If we hadn’t demanded it, we might have been well behind the curve.

I have a huge confession to make. Whether it was for comfort food or the elation of getting our booster in time for flying to Athens, but I felt starving and ate some TOAST!!! Already, I feel terrible about it but it can’t be rescinded now. I’m going to have to live with that original sin. It won’t happen again I can assure you.

At the risk of boring you after my return to College roots, the Blog is a useful aide memoire of experiences through time. Until just over 20 years ago, we lived in or around the Pennine villages of Meltham & Helme.

We left in 2000 just as we were designing our Greek house with our Athens architect and starting an exciting, new chapter.

Just 5 years ago, just after we had finished furnishing our new house here in West Sussex, we were spending the month of November in the warmth of sunny Tenerife.

It was our 4th month in two, turbulent years. Nobody could accuse us of standing still and that will be my watchword until the end – keep pushing for new things, old things, new experiences, renewing old experiences, staying alive!

Monday, 1st November, 2021

The irony of it. Loving time and not knowing the date. I’m going mad! Anyway, belated happy November to all my confused readers.

Gorgeous morning of blue sky and warm sunshine. Out for an early, two hour walk. Felt absolutely great – healthy, fit and vigorous. I don’t remember getting up each morning with so much energy since I was 18. Might be a bit of an exaggeration because I can’t really remember what I was like 52 years ago but you get the idea.

When we got back home, all the conservatory doors were thrown open because it was so hot. I had my hair cut in the kitchen. It looks as if we won’t only cook outside but eat outside as well today. Good preparation for next week in Athens. I’ve been planning possible activities / trips while we are there. Of course, I will still have to do my exercise routine in the hotel gym & pools where I will be getting in touch with my feminine side because my wife has bought me pink swimming shorts, but I am also going to use the ancient Olympic Stadium – the Panathenaic Stadium (Παναθηναϊκό Στάδιο) which is within walking distance of our hotel. I’ll walk round the track a few times each morning just to say I’ve done it.

Panathenaic Stadium

We might take a short ferry journey to Aegina Island for a day trip. It is somewhere we’ve never been or Poros Island where Ellerania’s parents own property.

Omonia Square

Throughout the 40 years we have been visiting Athens, the decaying, neoclassical Omonoia Square (Πλατεία Ομονοίας) has been a seedy area of drugs and prostitution. Now it has had a major facelift and I am looking forward to seeing it with fresh eyes.

Tuesday, 2nd November, 2021

Up at 6.30 am after rather a fitful night. Woke at 4.00 am and didn’t go back to sleep. Glorious morning with sharp, clear blue sky and sunshine but quite chilly. We went down to 3C/38F last night and all the semi-ripe figs fell off the trees.

Busy day today. I’ve just written a To Do List of some 14 tasks to be completed or at least started today. In addition, Royal Mail have just sent me a text to say our Day-2 Lateral Flow tests which have to be taken on our return from abroad will be delivered this morning. A lot of the tasks are related to travel including booking the Airport Executive Lounge and deciding clothes to pack so my assistant can iron them. I have to vacuum the house and book a steam cleaning service for all the carpets which are coming up to 6 years old. I must also tidy the Office which is starting to drive me mad with so much out of place.

Don’t know if it is because I am tired after a poor night’s sleep but I’m feeling a little down this morning and I shouldn’t be. There are too many good things going on. Going out for an early walk which I hope will lift me for the rest of the day.

I record my life in words. Kevin Sellers records his in pictures. Must be wonderful to be able to produce such paintings up in the wilds of Northern Scotland although he’s currently in Tasmania where his son lives.

Glorious morning to walk through the park!

It’s not even mid day and I’ve managed half of my list of jobs including booking the Executive Lounge at Gatwick. It is ‘free’ through our Bank Account although there are very few Lounges open at the moment. Of the two, airside ones, I chose No.1 Gatwick North.

It really is such a lovely day that we are determined to spend a lot of it out in the garden including cooking and eating. Mixed fish platter! I’m looking forward to it after all the hard work.

Wednesday, 3rd November, 2021

Much better night’s sleep even though my Full Fibre Broadband went down at 10.00 o’clock last night. Nowadays, that sort of emergency is much more significant than it used to be. Everything in the house is connected in some way to the internet. All the televisions except the primary one in the Lounge are fed by the internet. Our home phone works exclusively over the internet – VOIP …Voice Over Internet Protocol. We have no copper wire phone line. Our central heating and home security is controlled over the internet. All communication is over the internet. I have a mobile phone which uses 5G but, most of the time, I’ve set it up to take its signal from the nearest wi-fi.

I have the fastest broadband that it’s possible to get in UK currently. A large chunk of the country doesn’t get much above 50mps download speed. Mine is 1000 mps. I pay for a premium service. Last night, I immediately chatted with BT Helpdesk on my mobile and was promised the service would be back up by 2.40 am but, if it wasn’t, a broadband dongle would be couriered to me for this morning to get my service back up.


I did wake feeling a little bit anxious a couple of times but managed to quell my concerns and get back to sleep. This morning such sweet messages sent by …. The steady blue light on my Broadband Hub. Normal service was resumed. Not only that but the world outside was bathed in beautiful sunlight. The day will be good. I feel more relaxed knowing that the travel planning is complete. The Day-2 Tests arrived yesterday afternoon and will be ready for our return. My assistant has agreed my choice of clothes for Athens and is busily ironing them in preparation for packing. All is well with the world.

Done a lovely walk in beautiful sunshine this morning. Got a real spring in my step. Ah, the power of the internet!

Now travelling is back on the agenda, Spanish Property is coming back in to focus. Right Move sent me an invitation to an on-line Property Show which immediately threw up interesting contenders.

The Harbour – Águilas, Murcia, Spain

Really good value properties overlooking the Harbour and Marina of Águilas with its lovely micro-climate. I am quite taken by a newish, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, top floor apartment with large, rooftop sun terrace for just £90,000.00.

Thursday, 4th November, 2021

Quite chilly, grey morning. Up early with lots to do. Out shopping to Asda & Sainsburys. I was the only one in shorts and tee-shirt. Back home, I had to write what Kevin described as an Encyclical for him to read out at the College Reunion tomorrow in Ripon. I will not be there because it is a long drive just days before I go abroad. I have told them that I will try to make it next year – just 50 years since I last saw them all. There is so much time to catch up!

I find these sorts of things easy and enjoyable to write. I spent about 40 mins on it and sent it over to Kevin with the instruction that it should be read to the backing of a recording of Handel’s Ode to Joy – the European Union Anthem. I tried to weave in comedic anecdotes about as many members of the original group of men I could remember. Kevin reminded me that I coined the original term, The Company of 24 although I don’t really remember it. Kevin will enjoy being in the limelight as he hams up presentation of my address.

Going out for our walk, the temperature was really cold in the sea breeze and I was forced to put on a long sleeved tee-shirt to keep comfortable.

By the time we had done our couple of hours and got back home, BT had already delivered my supplementary Broadband Hub which is independent of the existing one. It receives its feed from the 4G mobile network. This mobile network will be free to me so I can take it on my travels and plug it into my car to increase my internet sphere.

Continuing to look at properties on the Murcia coast on RightMove, I found this new build, 2 bed property for £130,000.00 just above Mazzaron where our friend, Margaret used to own and just below the more ‘popular’ resorts of BenidormAlicante and Torrevieja. It would have to be checked out and be a viable, rental property to be worthwhile.

Friday, 5th November, 2021

Glorious morning of clear, blue sky and gorgeous sunshine highlighting flight trails high above the garden. We have a frost – light but obvious on the roofs and grass. Just the right day for an insulation firm coming to look at treating the Gym ceiling. Got to make sure the wine store is safe! I’m also looking for some patio heaters so that we can continue to eat out in the garden over winter.

Long ago – maybe 30 years ago – we were in Le Touquet during a Winter Half Term and chose a Fish restaurant to eat at on a very cold day. Being young(er) and more enthusiastic, we chose to eat outside on the terrace. It was heated by huge, patio heaters and I have an abiding memory of eating delicious seabass in the open air comfortably heated by bottled gas burners. In Greece, Winters can be very cold but Greeks still eat outdoors with coats and scarves on. After all these years, it is rather in our blood.

Early walk in glorious sunshine for a couple of hours before the insulation man arrives. There is real evidence of increased air traffic across the sky from Heathrow and Gatwick towards the Continent. Looking forward to being up there myself next week. If you click this photograph to enlarge it, you will see that our helicopter security team tracked our progress on our walk and you will also see our next home in the process of being built to the left.

A couple of things to tie up before we go away. The insulation contract has been agreed at £1500.00 and will be done in about three weeks. Secondly, it looks as if I’ve managed to get 2/3rds of the Parkingeye fine my relatives received rescinded and I’m just left to retrieve the initial payment of £60.00 returned plus the ex-gratia bunch of flowers. I have contacted them again this morning and will not allow them to get away with any of it. Lovely people at Parkingeye …. except when they’re not! 

Saturday, 6th November, 2021

What a weird night that was. Got to bed around 11.30 pm and woke at 4.00 am. Drinking endless cups of tea, watching Sky News and reading The Times from my iPad until the sun rose. It was too late to go back to bed so freshly squeezed orange juice and freshly ground coffee provided a platform for an early walk.

The College reunion yesterday was a rather spartan affair. I understand that this was largely down to fears of Covid and that it may be back to better numbers next time. Kevin, who has taken to communicating with me on Whatsapp, kindly sent me some pictures of some people who were there and I was likely to know.

Keith Lowry & Kevin Dagg
Derek (FA Bus) Coulson & Chris Tolley
John Ridley & Dave Weatherly

Also present were Andy Henderson and Dave Roberts plus a couple of others I couldn’t put a name to. In a way, I’m rather glad I didn’t make this year my first to attend because I think I would have been rather disappointed. Maybe next year ….