Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Airports have ground to a halt while snowploughs clear runways and taxiways; train companies cancel services for fear of frozen signals or points; motorways are down to a slithery crawl whilst other roads are awash with vehicles abandoned or sliding treacherously in any direction but the one planned by the driver; hundreds of schools across the land are closed for 'health and safety' reasons.
And what has happened to that characteristic phlegm and pragmatism in the face of adversity? Gone. Vanished. Buried under a mountain of outrage and indignation.
Vox pops on BBC news rage at the incompetence of rail companies curtailing services for snow that never arrives; parents demand to know how they are supposed to get to work if their kids can't go to school, and supermarkets rub their hands as people raid their shelves in case they should get snowed up. I, on the other hand, pressed technology into service; online, I have presented the weekly shopping list to Waitrose and booked a slot on Friday; let them fight through Siberian conditions to feed us, while I stay indoors keeping warm, and if they can't well that's what the fridge/freezer is for - the larder of last resort!
Meanwhile across snowbound, arctic France, Germany, Belgium and the rest - even the Spanish Meseta - people just carry on as usual.
It's ironic that the country that brought the world the Carry On films appears to be the one that can't.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018
Much has changed over the past few months. We were with our daughter for much longer than we anticipated when we returned to England. Our initial thoughts had been to head back to Lancashire which we are familiar with - we lived there for close on forty years before moving to Spain - and where property is much cheaper than in the South. The trouble was, we had spent too long in the sun; Lancashire, to be precise Southport which we had decided upon, was too grey, windy, wet and cold. On top of that, Southport is no longer what it used to be. It has suffered the same fate as so many other British seaside resorts following the arrival of cheap holidays in good quality hotels along the Mediterranean. The once elegant, fashionable shopping and leisure area of Lord Street is now a mix of charity shops and empty units and the main catering outlets are fast food brands, pizzerias and fish and chip shops.
Back to the drawing board and a map of the South Coast and its hinterland. Everywhere we considered was out of our price range it seemed, the most promising destination being Dorset, but even that was more than we wanted to part with. One possibility was available; residential park homes did fall within our budget but a lot of research was called for before venturing down that path. So, much time was spent trawling the internet to learn more, and the more I learned the more it seemed that it was a safe option subject to certain precautions along the way. And that has led to where we now live, on a residential park on the outskirts of Ferndown in Dorset in the village of West Moors. We have the family around us; Mandy and the girls are about an hour and a half away, whilst Nicky is also less than two hours away; my sister-in-law and her partner are an hour away in Dorchester and we have nephews in Worthing and Waterlooville.
The area has lots to attract us - Poole, with the Jurassic Coast as well as ferries to the Channel Islands and Cherbourg, Portsmouth (home to Brittany Ferries with links to France and Spain) and the Isle of Wight, Christchurch, Bournemouth, Salisbury, Winchester and the New Forest. We have been in our new home since mid-January and have spent the past month taking a selfish pleasure in not being exposed to the gales, storms, snow and cold that Southport is enduring.
On a personal note, at the end of November I had surgery to remove the cataract in my right eye and marvelled at the huge improvement in my vision; I am promised treatment for my left eye some time around April and hopefully then I'll be able to return to painting which is something that I have missed since my eyesight got so bad.
One coincidence that brings an amused smile to my face is that the local Catholic church about half a mile away is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua - or San Antonio de Padua, as he is known in Frigiliana.
Friday, 15 September 2017
We are back in Surrey after our trip north. We are now much more focused in terms of what we are looking for, and one thing we are really clear on is that no matter how attractive the prices may be, we don't wish to return to Lancashire. The bulk of our family live in the south - West Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Dorset, and we are getting too long in the tooth to be looking at a five hour drive in UK motorway traffic. Southport we discovered, is not what it was. We did find one location that was appealing, as I wrote last time, but that on its own is not enough.
One of Mary’s work colleagues lives in a park home and is very happy with what it provides, so that is another avenue to explore at this end of the country, so it's back to Rightmove and a new property search.
Thursday, 7 September 2017
We are spending a week in Southport to begin our serious search for a new home. We arrived late on Tuesday afternoon and set off on Wednesday to view three properties. In the heart of Southport we found a three bed house on a very small, quiet development which ticked about all of our boxes. Then it was off to look at a couple of apartments each of which had problems that ruled them out. Not disheartened I was back on the phone in the afternoon and booked more viewings for tomorrow and Saturday.
Today we set aside to explore more areas around Southport and found one area that we absolutely love; Birkdale. The station is in the centre of the village with level access to the platforms, which is ideal for me. The shops, cafes and bars clustered in the centre had me salivating profusely. A local butcher, a fishmonger, a specialist cheese shop, greengrocer, deli, lots of tempting ‘shop local’ opportunities.
We will obviously need to come up again to continue the search so we are briefing local agents to fossil on properties in Birkdale. In the meantime we are enjoying ‘eat local’' fresh brown shrimps in butter, hand-dived king scallops. Southport is looking and feeling good.
Monday, 14 August 2017
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
We went into Guildford this morning, using the park and ride facility. Getting off the bus at the top of High Street, we headed downhill and immersed ourselves in the farmers’ market which is held here on the first Tuesday of each month. There is a wide variety of stalls all run by local producers of meat, fish and shellfish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables, craft beers - a genuine cornucopia.There were also stalls offering freshly baked pies, pastries and breads, several with an international twist. We were looking for two lunches and two evening meal items (today and tomorrow), and by the time we reached the bottom of the hill we had collected two giant Cornish-style pasties, samosas, borek, and arancini. I was tempted by freshly boiled brown crabs, oysters, impressive lemon soles, smoked trout, just too much to contemplate on one visit; we will just have to come back in September.
Nostalgically there was a stall cooking an authentic paella to tempt us, but we resisted. We are still enjoying getting reacquainted with all those things that you can get here but not in Spain. As a bonus, the day is sunny and warm (but not too warm).
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
We have a week booked in a hotel in Southport back in Lancashire at the beginning of September to see whether that is where we would like to settle. I'm already property hunting on Rightmove and Zoopla, so I've short-listed a number of estate agents to contact nearer the time. I've also drawn up a spec of what we need/want which includes the requirement that whatever property we buy must have two toilets; that is the deal breaker. Just shows how old we both are, even though we don't feel it.
We've got our bus passes, I'm waiting for an appointment with an orthopoedic specialist to see what if anything can be done about my back problems, yesterday I had a full diabetic review (all fine on that front) and I'm hoping that my application for a 'blue badge' for the car will soon be approved.
So slowly but surely we're getting there.