Week 10

Got an email from Bob today. Not desperately friendly but never mind. His daughter is appearing in a ballet performance in Inverness next Saturday. It is Ballet West’s peformance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. If you want to book a seat, from what I can see they are all available at the Eden Court Theatre.

eden_court_theatre_wh250108_3.jpg

Gorgeous sky tonight over the Colne Valley from our house.

sky.jpg

We spent the afternoon preparing the garden for Spring. It doesn’t feel far away. In six weeks we will be in our Greek house. Bliss!

February 23rd, 2009

The day has been so eventful I will tell you what I had for tea – Chicken Supreme made by Pauline. It was delicious.

chicken_supreme_cr.jpg

508 days – Can you believe it?

February 24th, 2009

We first came to Greece in 1981, the only source of inter-island travel was Ferry. The craft were almost entirely ex-British Channel, old and uncomfortable. Tickets were sold in umpteen different offices across the country without any real regulation on numbers. The ferries chugged along desperately slowly. It took 6 hours to get from Piraeus to Sifnos. Gradually the ferries got newer and a little quicker. Sometimes they could do it in 5 hours. I’ve already featured the F/B Agios Georgios

ag.jpg

It was first built in Holland in 1974. It ran under the name of F/B Free Enterprise VIII own by Thonsend Thorenson.

tt.jpg

It was bought by P&O in 1989 and was renamed F/B pride of Canterbury.

po.jpg

It first came to Greece in 2000 for GA Ferries and called F/B Romilda.

ga.jpg

Recently it has been owned by Ventiuris Ferries under the name Agios Georgios.

During the good weather we now have catamarans that can do the trip in just 3hours. It is like a dream to get Hi-speed or Speed Runner.

hispeed.jpg

February 25th, 2009

When we go to the house on Saturday/Sunday April 5th/6th, Speed Runner leaves Piraeus at 11.00 am and arrives in Kamares, Sifnos at 2.15 pm. We don’t need an overnight in Athens on the way out. This has just been announced on the inter-island ferry site.

Only 506 days!

February 26th, 2009

I am becoming what the kids in school call a Demic! A sickly old bugger. For 15 years in my 30s and 40s I didn’t visit the doctor once. Now, I’m thinking of marrying one. I spend so much time with them. All I talk about is Hospital appointments I have to juggle, diagnoses I have received and treatments I am receiving.

I am going to try to sum them up and then never mention them again:

Just before Christmas 2008 I go up one Sunday morning at 7.00 am, bleary eyed and drove down to the paper shop for the Sunday Times & the Sunday Telegraph. Arriving back home to tea & toast made by Pauline. I sat down to read the Times and found I couldn’t see the print. I got my reading glasses out (which I rarely use) and I still struggled to read it. I put it down to tiredness and strain particularly when I struggled to read my computer screen. I live on the web and thought I must have been overworking like most teachers. On Monday, I had to teach a lesson and couldn’t read the text on a computer without putting my face so close I could lick the screen. I panicked.

What do you do when you’re panicking? Go to Specsavers! Obviously. My eyesight returned to normal by Tuesday but I had booked an appointment and  on the Friday I went to Specsavers. This gorgeous girl (I could see by then.) tested my eyes. My sight was perfect, she said, for a 57 year old, short sighted diabetic man with only one eye. However, she would take the precaution of writing to my GP. My GP is also gorgeous and blonde. She immediately referred me to an Opthalmologist who was (You’ll never believe it.) an absolutely gorgeous, black eyed beauty – a young Peruvian lady – called Ms D’Souza. I kept wanting to ask her if she played the tuba but I couldn’t stop drewelling. The black eyed Ms D’Souza found that I had a split in the membrane at the centre of the retina of my one good eye. It had sealed itself but she was concerned that it might have been caused by a small stroke. She referred me on to a stroke specialist, Dr Rana.

Unfortunately, Dr Rana was neither female nor gorgeous although he was a skinny Asian man who looked like he ran 5 miles in between meals. He conducted a carotid duplex uiltrasound and a ECG which established categorically that I hadn’t had a stroke but that my heart was in Atrial Fibrillation. Apparently lots of people suffer from this, particularly in their 50s and many don’t know about it. He prescribed the blood thinning agent Warfarin which I will take for the rest of my life and ordered an Echo Cardiogram which checks all the functions of the heart. I used my BUPA insurance to short cut the wait for this and found out to my horror that ………………my heart is in perfect working order. I have the hear of an Olympic rower …………..who has been dead for twenty years.

So I can go on abusing all my organs – red wine by the barrel, Italian meals twice a day and my only risk is going blind. At the hospital today I noticed a little old man shuffling across the carpark. It was Mario Bortoletto who, for 30 years had run a wonderful and our favourite Italian restaurant – Sole Mio

sole_mio.jpg

– in our home town. I asked him what he was doing there. My eyesight, he said, I am losing my eyesight! Is that what happens after eating Italian food all your life? I think I’ll have some toast.

February 27th, 2009

Received a letter today containing a cheque. I don’t remember ever crying at receiving a cheque before.

Re: The Estate of Catherine Lily Bennett – DECEASED

That word hit me like a hammer blow and I crumpled instantly. The episodes are coming less frequently now but still they come.

Week 9

Early off because we have a very busy Half Term week ahead. Toast for breakfast and then off to buy newspapers and give Phyllis one more help on the internet before setting off back up the motorway to Huddersfield. The journey took us just over 3 hours on Sunday. Trip to Sainsburys and then home to relax and read.

February 16th, 2009

Got up at 6.00 am as if it was a normal work morning. It isn’t. It is Half Term and at 8.00 am a team of men will appear and begin to knock out all our windows. They are all being replaced over the next couple of days by Coral Windows. We had to take down all the curtains and blinds. We did it with minutes to spare. At the end of the week, all the carpets are being replaced.

Unfortunately, Pauline has had to dash over to Oldham and take her Mum to hospital. She has blacked out and fallen. They may keep her in over night.

mumb.jpg

February 17th, 2009

I was going through memorabilia of Mum’s when I cam upon this match report from November 1968

match_report.jpg

I had been selected as the youngest member of the First Team in 1966.

team_66.jpg

February 18th, 2009

Spent the entire day taking up the carpets. A skip was delivered and tomorrow all the old carpets will go into it as well as some garden rubbish. At the same time, Carpetright will deliver and fit the new ones. What fun!

February 19th, 2009

Really exciting day. We went out and ordered new curtains for our Lounge. The windows are in. The carpet is down. Obviously, we need new curtains. The fabric is a multi brown stripe affair called cappuccino. The curtains will cost £570.00 and will be ready in 4 weeks. Will I be ready? We have ordered them from our local branch of Dunelm.

February 20th, 2009

We had ordered a skip to put all the old carpet in to. It is a huge amount of old carpet. The skip cost £75.00. It’s still on our drive but it is almost empty. Why? Because of a bizarre happening. I’m parked outside the chemist shop waiting for Pauline. The local Thai Restaurant is being renovated and has a skip outside on the pavement. Suddenly an elderly man and a young boy drive up, park and get out. The walk over to the skip and start rooting through it. The first thing the old man picks out is a piece of old carpet. Ironically, it looks exactly like one of the pieces that I have put in to our skip.

The next thing I know was akin to an out of body experience. I see myself getting out of the car and going over to this skip rooter. I say to him, “If it’s carpet you want, I’ve got loads of it in my skip on my drive.” He looks interested and he turns out to be Irish. The little lad with him is Asian. I haven’t really got time to roll that story in my head. It’s his grandson – His son/daughter married an Asian. He’s kidnapped this lad off the street saying, “Come and help me steal old carpet from a skip near the chemist’s shop.

It turns out he wants the carpet to suppress the weeds on his allotment. He appears outside my house and takes most of the carpet in two or three trips. Now I’ve paid £75.00 for a skip that is empty. I’m going to my neighbours, “If you’ve got anything to put in a skip, feel free.”. Why do I get myself in these positions?

February 21st, 2009

Heard from Ruth yesterday and Liz today. Ruth told me she is going to Bob’s next weekend. I thought I would go with her but it turns out I’m busy. Liz has not been invited. However, it looks like she will be shopping in Geneva next Saturday.

lake_geneva.jpg

Hope she sends me a card.

Week 8

May have to do a few hours at work this week although heavy snow is forecast to fall over the Pennines on Monday night so I may have to find things to occupy myself on Tuesday. Only eight weeks until we fly to Greece for the Easter Holiday. Although we booked the Olympic Airlines flight nearly a year ago, there are other details to finalise.

Fly Saturday evening. Arrive Sunday morning. Hotel Electra in Athens for Sunday. Up at 5.00 am on Monday and taxi down to Piraeus (40 mins) where we will board F/B Agios Georgos at 7.00 am.  It sails at 8.00 am and stops at Kithnos and Serifos before arriving at Sifnos by 1.30 pm. Stavros will have left us a car in the Port carpark with the keys in the ignition. We will drive to the house (3 mins) and open all the shutters & windows. The underfloor heating will go on to air the house and the sheets will go in the drier to make sure they are perfect. The fridge will be switched on and we will go out to buy basic provisions and have lunch at Simos Restaurant – usually pork and potatoes with lemon sauce.

porklemon.jpg

We will stay in the house for ten nights and the do the return journey to Piraeus and the Electra Hotel for two nights. Pauline likes to do some shopping in Athens before we fly home on Saturday evening. The time lag makes this quite advantageous. Leave Athens at 19.30 and arrive Manchester 22.00. Not bad for a four hour flight.

Still, better do a couple of days teaching before we go.

February 9th, 2009

Hard going to work after the larks of the past week. And the sky is so grey and leaden. Thick snow and sheet ice still surrounds our school building in Lancashire and our home in Yorkshire. To add to the fun, it has started snowing again tonight.

February 10th, 2009

Burnt my hand tonight. Ow it hurts! Happy Birthday to Kevin – 66.

kev.jpg

February 13th, 2009

Hard Week – Lots of Bad Stuff in it. Drove straight down to Surrey to see Pauline’s Family on Friday night. We were exhausted. It was lovely to see them all but we were just too tired to really enjoy it.

February 14th, 2009

Woke up to a glorious morning – sun shining, blue sky. Went out to watch the boys play rugby – on to a coffee shop with Phyllis & Colin

wbyfleet.jpg

and then off to help Phyllis with her computer and email. It went well. In the evening, we went to our favourite Italian Restaurant. We had Stuffed Pepper starter with Sea Bass and vegetables for the main course. It was all washed down with Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Wonderful.

montepulciano-dabruzzo.jpg

Week 7

Heavy snow is forecast. Light flurries during the day but tonight it is coming down hard and covering the road. Tomorrow is supposed to be worse. We will see. On Sifnos the forecast is for clear skies, warm sun in the mid 60s for the whole week. Oh well.

sif2.jpg

February 3rd, 2009

Two days at home. What Joy! Today, a snow plough got to the road linking Quarry Court to the world by just after lunch. Even so, the roads are littered with cars and extremely icy. If we had managed to get to the M62, it was clear but our Exit – 22 to Oldham was blocked. Our section of the M62 is the highest motorway in Britain.

snow2.jpg

Even if we could have got to school, it would still have been closed. Our school campus is vast and on three different levels. It takes twenty minutes to walk from one side to the other. It would only take one child to slip and injure themselves on one of dozens of sets of concrete steps outside for a major compensation claim to be made. We cannot afford that. Nor do we have time to get the school grounds cleared before children arrive. And what if they damaged the concrete when they fell on it?

February 4th, 2009

Thursday will be our fourth day out of school this week. The building is open for those staff who want to go in but the campus is judged far too dangerous for young people in these litigious times. What a good decision.

I’m off to the heart specialist anyway so I don’t care. Atrial fibillation is what I’ve been diagnosed with. I think we used to call it heart murmur. Let’s hope it is nothing more serious.

heart.jpg

February 5th, 2009

The BUPA heart specialist decided that there was nothing wrong with me although he didn’t like to say it but he thought I was a bit over weight. Nice man. Although school is open tomorrow for children, parents have been advised that the campus environs are very dangerous because of ice and snow. The children won’t attend for two reasons: firstly, their parents don’t want them in danger; (They would rather they were out playing on the road.)  secondly, it is Friday and no one goes in for one day. I’m going back to the BUPA hospital tomorrow for a second round of tests.

I’ve been looking at an e-book reader for Pauline to dowload novels to and me to download The Times to while in Greece. They are still quite pricey but might be convenient. Antbody got any experience of them?

ereader.jpg

February 6th, 2009

Been back for my Echo Cardiogram today. My heartbeat was regular; my blood pressure was perfect and my heart valves were all healthy. The consultant said I had the heart of an Olympic Rower …………………..who had been dead for twenty years. Got to go to school this afternoon.

February 6th, 2009

Managed two hours in school without too much difficulty. Only 523 days to go. Spent the day watching football and rugby (Got to keep fit you know.), creating the Bob Album and emailing an aging hippy called Martin who works in a bookshop in Stroud in Gloucestershire. The last time we saw him was two years ago having lunch with us in our Greek house. Ruth has been lovely this week and taken an interest in my medical bulletins which, thankfully, have been fine.

Week 6

Just watched a  harrowing play on assisted suicide with Julie Walters in the main role. I cried for an hour and a half. If only I could have got there a couple of hours earlier and said goodbye to Mum. It would have made so much difference to me if not to her. I do miss her so.

mum1.jpg

January 26th, 2009

Ofsted will finish with us by Lunchtime tomorrow. We who are in the know already know what the verdict will be. On a 4-point scale of Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Failing, we will be damned with faint praise – Satisfactory. Do I really care? With 535 days to go – not a lot!

January 29th, 2009

Been laid low with a terrible cold in spite of my ‘flu jab. I am a sickly specimen. Even had to have Wednesday off work. Going for a heart scan next week.

January 31st, 2009

Finished the week feeling slightly better. I sound like an old codger. I suppose I am really. Two weeks to go until Half Term.

Week 5

In these dark, dog days of January, it is hard to raise the spirits. My retirement counter says 544 days to go. And yet we will be flying off to Greece in just less than 11 weeks. We are already thinking about booking Hotels in Athens either end of our Easter trip. We fly Olympic on the Saturday night but there is no ferry on Sunday. (See ferry timetable) We have to stay in Athens and get the boat on Monday. We stay at The Electra Hotel in Athens. it is a delightful, 4* Hotel on Ermou Street in the centre.

electra.jpg

We have been staying there for quite a few years now. I first read about it in a book written by Austin Kark who was the Head of the BBC’s World Service.

ak.jpg

He was married to Nina Bawden the children’s fiction writer. He had been stationed in Greece in the early ’60s and, when they were both rich and famous, they had decided to buy an old property in the ancient coastal capital of Nafplion and to renovate it. Each time they flew out to Greece to check on progress, they had to stay in Athens and they chose the Electra Hotel. Kark’s book started me on the ambition to buld a house in Greece and to stay at the Electra Hotel.

nb.jpg

Just as a sad post script to that tale, Austin Kark was killed in the Potters Bar rail crash in July 2006. His wife, Nina Bawden who is in herself 83, was knocked unconscious and broke her pelvis. She has campaigned for victims of the accident ever since.

January 20th, 2009

Dear old Mr Pericles Panagopoulos, owner of Blue Star Ferries & Superfast, has been released by his kidnappers but for the reported ransom of 40 million euros which, at today’s exchange rate is £37,000,000.00. Just a snip!

January 21st, 2009

Just heard this afternoon – Ofsted in on Monday. Can life get any better? Oh to be in Hellas.

Week 4

I have only one observation today: Man. United 3 – Chelsea 0.

manu.jpg

January 12th, 2009

It has been wet, windy and dark all day. I long for my house on Sifnos.

gh.jpg

January 13, 2009

The founder and chief of Superfast Ferries and Blue Star Ferries, Mr Pericles Panagopoulos, was kidnapped yesterday from a coastal suburb of Athens. The kidnappers subsequently demanded a ransom of 40,000,000 euros.

superfast.jpg       superfast2.jpg

Athens is becoming worryingly lawless – anarchic maybe – and the right wing government of Costas Karamanlis have got to get a grip super fast.

January 15th, 2009

The Greek newspapers or εφημερίδα are beginning to echo my sentiments. Now a young policeman has been shot by an anarchist group call ‘Revolutionary Struggle’. The Greeks, who are highly dependant on tourism, realise they have shot themselves in the foot. Karamanlis has reshuffled his Cabinet and it appears that the Left Wing are still not strong enough to topple him.

karamanlis.jpg 

At the same time, the Greek economy is being painted as the basket case of Europe and there is a move from within the country to leave the Eurozone. I do hope not!

Week 3

The week has started well. I woke up to find an email from Jonathan Kelly in Boston, Massachusetts. He lives there with his wife, Kathy who he met in Repton nearly 40 years ago and his two dogs. He also has two grown up children. He is well and happy and sends the family his best wishes. What shocked me is that he looks exactly as I remember his father 40 years ago – right down to the jumper and the background of boats.

jonathan.jpg

I also received a lovely photo from Dave Beasley of himself in his garden/small holding. I can’t believe he’s gone grey.

db.jpg

January 5th, 2009

Today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year across Britain. I can confirm that. I went back to work.

January 6th, 2009

Stavros phoned today. He had arrived back in Sifnos but he was suffering badly with gastric flu. Nikos had been sick at the airport and on the plane and they had stayed at a Piraeus Hotel before getting Agios Georgios back to the island.

ag.jpg

January 9th, 2009

Found a lovely little Italian restaurant in the backstreets of our home town. Strangely for an Italian restaurant, it is called Mona Lisa and it is owned and managed by Greek-Iranians but the cooking is wonderful. Like a typically homespun Trattoria, it is small, quaint and in a basement.

ml.jpg

It is informal, welcoming and crammed into a small space. See this local review. We had:

Crostini with salad and olives
Deep-fried cheese
Chicken breasts in cream and garlic with seasonal vegetables
Hot chocolate pudding with ice cream
½ Litre House White
½ Litre House Red

The whole meal came to just about £45.00. It’s hard to believe nowadays. No wonder we had to beg for a table.

January 10th, 2009

The week has finished bitterly cold. It is only -3°C today but it has been down to -5°C over the past few drives to work. Greece is about 11°C – day and night at the moment. Still cool but acceptable.

Week 2

This is the week when my previous Blogs have petered out – but not this time.

Do you remember Keith Venables? His family lived next to Grandad Coghlan and Peter Stimpson in Well Lane. His Dad, Peter, was on the Scout Committee with Mum and they became friends. Keith left Repton Primary in 1959 – three years before me – and then he went on to Etwall and the Staffordshire Police Force for thirty years leaving in 2000. He now lives on the Greek Island of Kefalonia where he is an entertainer for seven months each year. How do I know all this – I found his posting on Friends Reunited.

kef.jpg

Looks a nice island. It is particularly popular with wind surfers – which tells you something about the weather.

December 29th  2008

I emailed Keith via Frends Reunited and got an immediate reply. He remembered the first three children – Ruth, John & Robert – and asked after us. He has been living in Greece – Kefalonia – for the past seven years and a couple of years ago bought a villa. He supplements his police pension by doing some sort of entertaining in bars or hotels in the summer season. Keith left Repton Primary three years before me so he must be 60 years old now.

athriot.jpg   athsnow.jpg

At least Keith doesn’t have this. Rioting continues in Athens in spite of snow in Viotia, north of Athens, on Saturday.

December 30th, 2008

It is 30 years ago today that Pauline & I were married. We were anxious because when we woke up that morning there had been a very heavy snowfall and the men who gritted the roads were on strike. It was touch and go whether anyone one would arrive. Pauline’s Family phoned to say that they couldn’t get across the Pennines.

We set off for the Registry Office in Huddersfield accompanied by Chris & Kevin Dagg. Fortunately, both families made it plus lots of friends.

registry.jpg     registry2.jpg

The wedding was followed by a ‘Blessing’ at Meltham Mills Church

church.jpg       cutting-cake.jpg

and then wonderful eats, all made by Pauline , back at 164 Huddersfield Road where we spent another happy five years before moving to Slade House in Helme.

December 31st, 2008

What a end to the year. This morning I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation or irregular heart beat. I have to have a heart scan and they want me to take Warfarin – a blood thinning agent. Pauline is terrified that I will suffer a brain bleed because of it.

Happy New Year everybody.

January 1st, 2009

Today I launched the new Sanders Website. I hope to develop its content along with this Blog over the next 30 years. Something to look forward to, eh, Bob?

blog1.gif    blog2.jpg

January 2nd, 2009

We drove over to see Stavros in Hull this morning but we just missed him. When we got home, he had left a message on our answer phone to say he was on the train back to Luton Airport for their flight on Easyjet back to Athens.

The Times reported this morning that Stelios’s father had died. He was born in Cyprus in the Troodos Mountains and, subsequently named his company Troodos.

troodos.jpg

Pauline & I were there in 1994 – 15 years ago.

January 3rd, 2009

We have finished the holiday by pressing on with our house refurbishment in England. We came home from Greece in the summer, where work is now largely finished and anything that needs doing can be taken care of by Stavros, saying we must do something to freshen up our house in England. We have really got on with it. New bedroom furniture in Bedroom 2 and in the Dressing Room have been followed by new carpets throughout the house and new windows right across the front of the house.

house.jpg

Quarry Court

Week 1

December 25th, 2008

Welcome to the Hellas Blog on Christmas Day 2008. A particular welcome to all the Sanders Family and those closely associated with them.

December 26th, 2008

Boxing Day – Who needs it? Spent today driving around the Moors in weak winter sunshine. They remind me so much of Greek Island scenery – desolate and brown, undulating and punctured by volcanic rock erupting through the heather.

21.jpg       3.jpg

At least the girls looked good.

December 27th, 2008

Spoke to Stavros about our log burning stove – a Jotul. We bought it in Halifax and had it shipped out to Sifnos. I don’t think Stavros has been confident about installing it because the stove – a F250 – has stood in the lounge for nearly four years uncommissioned. The installation instructions are in Norwegian and he is Greek. At last we have linked him up with a Greek installer and the job is going ahead in January ’09.

jotul1.png         lounge1.jpg

All I’ve got to do now is find some logs on an island with few trees. Any ideas?