Prelude to Spring

One of the enjoyable things about retirement and, consequently, being able to spend to spend far more time out and about in the country, is that I’m noticing the seasons to much a greater extent than before. In the last couple of weeks I have noticed that the late afternoons are starting to get a little brighter (though the mornings seem as dark as they did when Winter set in). I’m not sure I would have noticed this quiet change sitting under the neon in a London office.

The daily walks to Nailsworth are already revealing the first hints that Spring is not too far off. Small birds are singing a little more vigorously. A pair of little egrets has arrived near the lake I walk past. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) has seen dippers and I have seen a yellow hammer. The kingfishers seem more visible and active. Snowdrops are starting to appear in clumps and the local supermarket has started to stock bunches of daffodils – very helpful in supporting my New Year resolution to buy LSW more flowers!

Snowdrops

Spring is Coming!

There are few weeks to go before the renewal of Spring really takes hold but, now Christmas and the New Year are past, I can now envision it – and far earlier, I think, than in previous years.

LSW and I plan to short circuit the wait by having a holiday in Cape Town in late February. This idea, and a separate one to spend a few days in Portugal, is not yet fully planned but it’s nice to have the flexibility to be able to think about avoiding the last vestiges of Winter’s cold and grey.

Meanwhile LSW and I are settling back into our domestic routines – punctuated by a very active and pleasant couple of days in London. The trip was primarily to celebrate Eldest Son’s 30th birthday but also included visits to Tate Modern, the Whitechapel Gallery, a 40th floor breakfast and dinner for two in one of our favourite restaurants (Morito).

Three Pieces By Ilya Kabakov

Three Pieces By Ilya Kabakov At The Current Tate Modern Exhibition of His Work (Not Sure Why I Liked It So Much, But I Did)

Either side of the London visit, LSW has been managing transformation of our muddy car park space into a walled garden. I am trying to balance clearing the fridge and freezer of food left over from the Christmas period with the need to lose the half a stone I put on during it. I have also resumed decorating the TV room; the brush strokes have become more rhythmic since I set up some music facilities in the room but are not necessarily delivering higher quality.

We are both striving to keep up to date with several catch-up TV series, stepping up reading, trying out new venues like the rather characterful Stroud Brewery Bar and getting out to see bands (This Is The Kit were marvellous) and cinema (we can now recommend Brad’s Status starring Ben Stiller and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri in which Frances McDormand is remarkable).

This is fun and I think Spring will be better!

First Daffodils of 2018

First Daffodils of 2018 – An Easy Way to Maintain My Record of Flower Giving!

2018 Resolution Setting

Happy New Year!

Fireworks

New Year Fireworks in Bath (More Impressive Than This Photo Reflects)

How lovely it is (and how smug I feel) not to have to re-galvanise myself for work as the first working week of 2018 starts up.

Not that we didn’t have a very early start this morning. We had to take Youngest Son (YS) and his girlfriend to the airport for their return to Australia – a process made more stressful by YS assuming they were leaving from Heathrow when in fact we needed to get to Gatwick! Having dropped them off just in time, I am able to consider my New Year resolutions in relative tranquillity.

I am the sort of person who makes lists and so making New Year’s resolutions comes naturally to me. Of course, this does not mean I am better than most at completing them.

As with all objectives the idea is to make the resolutions for 2018 challenging but achievable (and measurable). This year I need to attune them to my new retired status. Some are continuations of the 2017 resolutions – especially those that I failed – and a few are new. So here goes:

Resolution 1: Get Below 11 Stone. This will be the third year in succession I have had this resolution. A big effort will be required but achievement of Resolutions 2 and 3 will help – I’m going to succeed this year!

Resolution 2: Average 15,000 Steps/Day. This target is up from the 13,500 2017 target and from my achieved figure for 2017 of 14,200. Achievement will depend on staying fit but the reverse is true too. This level of walking will be fun given the attractiveness of local routes, should be achievable given the planned excursions on holidays, and will be necessary if I am to achieve Resolution 1.

Resolution 3: Have 140 No-Alcohol Days. This is the level of alcohol free days I achieved in 2012 but it is a 20% uplift on 2017’s level. It will be hard to meet this objective now I’m retired even though there is no work-related drinking now. This is because of the likely increase in holiday drinking and the temptation of evening drinks with Long Suffering Wife (LSW) in front of our wood-burner in winter or in our garden in summer. I will need to be disciplined.

That gets the basic health and fitness related resolutions that are carried forward from 2017 out of the way. The others are more trivial or more oriented to specific tasks.

Resolution 4: Grow a Beard. This is like an anti-resolution in that it involves a reduction in effort. I used not to shave at weekends but retirement has meant that Saturdays and Sundays are largely the same as other days. Rather surprisingly, given that shaving is a bit if a chore, I reverted to mid-week habits and, since retirement last July, I have shaved every day. All three of our sons have beards and, at Christmas, they suggested I grow one too. Unexpectedly, that got LSW’s enthusiastic approval so I’m already on my way.

Resolution 5: Sort Our Internet Out. Recent road repair and housing development in the village, has enabled new fibre connection. I need to master how to take advantage of this to improve our Internet quality so we can watch uninterrupted catch-up TV more consistently and not suffer the abuse we get from our city-based sons about our chronically poor download/upload speeds. I hate doing this sort of thing but LSW is keen that I take on more house utility management and responsibility.

Resolution 6: Implement Better Composting. I love making and then using compost in the garden. Almost three years ago, I was given a wooden frame compost bin kit for self-construction and installation but it remains untouched. To install the bins in the right location means dismantling the current temporary arrangements, fixing the shed guttering which currently pours water into these, and digging deep holes in rocky, sloping ground. It’s a major project (for me) but this is the year to do it!

Resolution 7: Change All My Passwords. At the risk of confusing my online/mobile password use even more than now, I want to drive a systematic change to all of them. Most have been unchanged since I first set them up, often years ago. Several are written down. I need to improve my personal security by changing them and by making them less obvious; a boring but probably sensible objective.

Resolution 8: Buy LSW More Flowers. Especially now circumstances have changed and I’m a cost not a revenue, I need to work at being a worthwhile, retired husband. This resolution would be a good, if symbolic, start to that. Given my mediocre record of flower-giving last year, I’ll aim for a small improvement of at least once a month. I know that LSW would like me to do more driving rather than flower-giving so I’ll try to do both.

Flowers

Flowers for LSW. Not Much Choice In Nailsworth Shops Today – But A Start!

I could add objectives around clarifying how to spend the rest of my discretionary retirement time; for example, revisiting my attempts to learn Italian, doing political history courses, documenting local circular footpath walks, doing something constructive in the local community, and doing something creative. But that feels like too much of a hook to put myself on right now. It’s weak, I know, but I’m enjoying myself too much without these extra pressures and will think again about this in Spring.

I hope you have decided your resolutions for 2018.  Have a great year!

2017 Resolution Review

I hope that you had a great Christmas.

I enjoyed the festive period a lot, and probably even more than usual. There was variety – terrific Christmas lunch with family, visits from very old friends, and sunny walks with local, relatively new friends. There was proper Winter weather with quantities of snow we haven’t seen for a few years. Critically, for the first time in a while, we had all three sons with us plus the added dimension of Middle Son’s girlfriend and a great friend of Youngest Son over from Australia. Things were going on a lot of the time but it was relaxed.

Nailsworth In Winter

Nailsworth (My Local Town) In Winter

The snow made the landscape beautiful. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I had a lovely walk through it just after Boxing Day with a friend from university (and Best Man at our wedding). His Christmas period visits over the years have often coincided with cold, crisp weather and he wasn’t disappointed this time around. The only down side was the ice which caused us both to fall over like little old men – in my case leaving me with a ricked neck that I am still nursing. Since then, LSW has frequently pointed out the efficacy of actually wearing the ‘Yak Traks’ that aid shoe grip rather than just having them in one’s pocket!

Snowy Cotswolds
Snowy Cotswolds

 

Inevitably perhaps, I ate and drank a lot over the Christmas period. That messed with two of my 2017 New Year resolutions concerning weight loss and the count of no-alcohol days. Before resetting the resolutions for 2018 I have briefly taken stock of how I did in 2017.

Resolution 1: Retire. That was achieved and made 2017 a momentous year for me. It impacted – mainly favourably – my ability to achieve the other resolutions I made a year ago.

Resolution 2: Increase My No-Alcohol Days from 2016 (124 days). I failed on this by 8 days. It is noticeable that the number declined after retirement in July. I used to drink almost exclusively at weekends and, now every day feels like a weekend….. well, it’s harder to maintain discipline.

Resolution 3: Get Below 11 Stone. In practice this meant losing about 10 pounds; I failed. I got close in mid-December but failing on Resolution 2 and overeating during the festive period put paid to success. I feel retirement has allowed more control over what I eat and I am helped by LSW also managing her weight proactively. I can achieve this target in 2018.

Resolution 4: Average 13,500 Steps/Day. This fairly aggressive increase on previous years – as measured on my iPhone – was achieved easily due to my new pattern of daily living post-retirement. My daily average for 2017 was 14,200.

Resolution 5: Read the Daily Newspaper Thoroughly. This was in response to my feeling that my attention span was becoming shorter. I think this had been the result of increasing reliance on the Internet as a way of receiving and digesting news. I felt I was missing out on depth of analysis. Retirement has given me the time to achieve this resolution – although it’s hard to measure the success and impact on my understanding of current affairs.

Resolution 6: Keep Going to Gigs and Cinema. This has been partially achieved in that I have been to lots of gigs before and after retirement. Several recent local ones have been excellent. However, local availability of the sort of cinema I like is very limited now I have retired to the country. I am retreating to boxed sets on catch-up TV and that’s fine for now.

Resolution 7: Read 16 books. Retirement has really helped here and I achieved this with 3 weeks to spare. My most enjoyed book this year was Under Major Domo Minor by Patrick De Witt.

Resolution 8: Buy LSW Flowers Occasionally. This was achieved, although ‘occasionally’ is the operative word here. I promise to do better Dear!

Making A New Friend

Christmas – A Time To Make New Friends

Time to get busy setting resolutions for 2018….. Have a Very Happy New Year!

The Quickening Pace Toward Christmas

In my working life there were, of course, deadlines every week, every day and, often, very hour. I have grown used to not facing them since retiring. Now, the days tend to drift by guided by to do lists with ambiguous or undetermined timelines and I can do what I want, when I want. That’s great. However, the last couple of weeks have seen a quickening of life’s pace, a variety of social events and a few deadlines that have shaken my reverie.

The main imperative has been to complete painting of the window alcoves in the upgraded TV room before arrival of the plumber to install new radiators. My inexperience in decoration led me to be surprised by the need for four coats of paint, day long drying times in between each and sanding down after each intermediate coat; that all created a lead time that left me feeling under significant time pressure. However, I managed to meet the deadline.

This early success (another 90% of the room remains to be decorated!) was despite a brief trip to London to enjoy a catch up with old friends from our time in Kew nearly 20 years ago. We enjoyed a delightful evening party with and then a lovely bagel-based breakfast in two different couples’ houses. Where we stayed overnight was almost directly opposite where we lived for several years.

An even longer standing friend, dating back to LSW’s and my first months in London 40 years ago, visited us in Gloucestershire. We had a few bottles of wine with her, Youngest Son (YS) and his girlfriend. That was sufficient to make the idea of going to the local village disco seem like a good idea. That turned out to be excellent with music expertly sampled from the last 40 years and daft dancing fuelled by inexpensive but powerful cocktails. We had such a laugh! My challenge with the decorating was more than matched by the challenge LSW faced in having to get up at 5am next morning to take YS and girlfriend to the railway station – ouch!

Other events this week have included celebration of the re-opening of the main road between our village of Horsley and the local town of Nailsworth. The closure has been for over 4 months and has been an economic blow for the local pub, The Hog. We had a few drinks there to mark the road re-opening and the end of the ‘rat run’ congestion in the lane outside our house.

I also saw the new Star Wars film with Eldest Son (ES) and YS. I’ve seen all the Star Wars films but I struggle to follow the plot that has run back and forth through them. ES and YS tried to educate me by getting me to re-watch the previous film earlier in the day and their guidance helped. The latest addition to the series is well-made and the formula worked again. It was rare fun to have an outing with two sons.

Amid all this hustle and bustle, dancing and decorating, I have managed a few long walks. The weather has been variable as we have approached the year’s shortest day but retirement offers the chance to get out and about whenever it perks up. I’m very lucky to find myself retired in such a lovely part of England and be able to enjoy it.

Mossy Banks and Big Skies Near Horsley

Mossy Banks and Big Skies near Horsley

Finally, Happy Christmas to you all. Have a great festive period.

Christmas Tree

Happy Christmas!

Winter Weather

Youngest Son (YS) has just returned from Brisbane, Australia with his girlfriend for three weeks visiting their respective families. It’s lovely to see them again and to have YS stay with us, off and on, for a couple of weeks in between his trips to London, Bristol and Belfast.

The weather has been a bit of a shock for them both though. They swapped temperatures of over 30° in Brisbane for what was, on Tuesday night, -13° and instead of Australian sunshine they got snow, ice then steady rain.

We don’t seem to have had proper snow for a few years and, initially, it is always welcome. It quietens everything and makes even messy areas – like the current building and landscaping works in our garden – look pretty.

YS managed to get his drone up (an essential part of his equipment for his business at Cactus Juice Cinematography) and took some video and pictures. Our hamlet was a picturesque winter scene with a steady fall of snow, whitened trees and happy tobogganers in the field opposite our house.

Drone View of Downend

Drone View of Our Hamlet in Winter

But then, after the initial impact, snow becomes a bit annoying. In part this was because YS had to drive his girlfriend to Bristol so that she could catch an onward flight to Northern Ireland. That was a challenge given the steep roads around us but the village ‘Snow Warden’ had been out gritting and she made it. Others haven’t been so lucky and there have been a few accidents in the area.

Lorry Crash

A Victim of Black Ice

Back at home, the snow, and its subsequent freezing then melting, highlighted a couple of issues with unplanned permeability of our house. The weight of the snow has also played havoc with the guttering on the shed so the raised vegetable beds are now raised above a big puddle.

Nonetheless, on balance, I think snow is a good thing. It feels like an essential characteristic of winter and a small rebellion against the inevitability of climate change and global warming. Some more snow around Christmas with cold clear days would be ideal (provided it doesn’t mess with the football fixtures!)

Winter From Our House

Winter View From Our House

Drone View of Sunrise Near Our House

Drone View of Sunrise Near Our House

One other impact of the snow, ice and then rain is that it has given me no excuse not to progress painting of our recently upgraded TV room. I can’t remember the last time I did any decorating but it was decades ago. I’m re-learning – the hard way – the need to sequence the process correctly. For example, having carefully put down protective masking tape on the edges to be painted, scraping it off accidentally while sanding down created irritating re-work. But progress is being made and I like the deep blue colour LSW has chosen – a significant departure from her white and grey norm.

Me Decorating

A Very Rare Sight of Me Decorating (Applying Undercoat Slowly)

6 Months On (Part II)

The last post listed the first five lessons learnt since my retirement six months ago. They were:

  • Work didn’t and doesn’t define me and I don’t miss it,
  • There is plenty to do in retirement,
  • There is still need for structure,
  • Holidays (trips away from home) are more relaxing now,
  • I miss London, but not as much as I expected.

A few others that come to mind are:

Summer Is A Good Time To Retire. The sun tends to shine, it’s relatively warm and there are few weather related impediments to doing whatever one wants. Given I wasn’t sure how would fill my time as I moved into retirement, that was important for me.

Derry Watkins's Garden

Summer in Derry Watkins’s Special Plants Nursery Garden, Near Bath

Remember That Retirement Affects One’s Partner Too. Many cautioned me about how Long Suffering Wife (LSW) might react to having me ‘under her feet’ for so much more time relative to when I was living through the week in London. In fact, LSW’s work takes her out of the house two days a week and she continues her normal round of visits to friends and relatives so we still spend a lot of the day apart. That’s good since I am conscious of the need to maintain independence and separation as well as togetherness.

Also, I am still only gradually accommodating the little compromises to living together full time. For example, cutting up the salad much more finely than I prefer, compromising on the music we listen to when we are both around, drying up with a tea towel after washing up (what is the point of not just letting things dry naturally!) and using LSW’s brand of yogurt. We are getting by pretty well I think – but maybe I should ask again…..

Spend Time Getting to Know One’s (New) Neighbourhood. I have enjoyed the daily walks into town and the variations in route I have been able to build in to widen and deepen familiarity with the local views, footpaths and houses. LSW and I have also gone further afield (for example, Bristol, Cheltenham and Tetbury) and gradually my knowledge of South Gloucestershire is becoming more commensurate with having had a family home in here for 20 years. I’m also getting better at remembering local peoples’ names now I meet them more routinely – much to LSW’s relief.

Summer View in Cheltenham

Summer View in Cheltenham

Don’t Rush Into Any New Big Time Commitments. Maybe I’ll get around to it but I just haven’t felt any great compulsion to take on any worthy (or unworthy for that matter) commitments since retiring. I suppose reigniting my participation in the Forest Green Rovers Football Supporters Club or volunteering in the village shop are the obvious possibilities; but not yet.

Health, As Always, Is Critical. One of the factors in retiring when I did was a concern for my health. Old age is, of course, creeping on, but health hasn’t stopped me doing anything yet. I’m going to press on while I can and do things such as eating sensibly, walking and gardening that, hopefully, keep me healthy.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Home Grown Jerusalem Artichokes Made Into Jerusalem Artichoke and Pea Soup – Very Healthy!

I Really Don’t Like Snakes. I recall seeing a grass snake that had got caught in some netting in the garden of our previous house 15 years ago. That frightened me near to death when it moved. But that was nothing compared to the mean look of the snake I near stepped on in Australia. That look it gave me as it slid off with me reeling back and falling on my bum will stay with me forever.

I’m sure that there will be many more lessons to be learned in the next six months of retirement.

6 Months On (Part I)

I retired from work six months ago. In some ways time has gone quickly but in other ways, not. Sometimes I wonder how I have frittered the time since I retired away on so little. In other ways, and on other days (like today), walking through those revolving doors on Canary Wharf for the last time feels like ages away and that life since has been very rich.

View From My Work Desk Earlier This Year

View From My Work Desk Earlier This Year

So what have I learned? Here are the first five things that come to mind.

Work Didn’t and Doesn’t Define Me. I didn’t expect to miss work – its pressures, the meetings, the schedules/routines, the achievements/failures and the PowerPoint – and I don’t. I might do something resembling work in the future but its currently way down the agenda to even think about that.

Leaving the Building

Still From A Video I Took As I Went Through The Office Revolving Doors For The Final Time

There Is Plenty To Do In Retirement. I used to work 50-55 hours a week plus there was the 12 hours a week travelling to and from work. Retirement has freed up a lot of time. Filling the released time hasn’t been difficult. A lot more walking, more reading the newspaper to catch up with world events, more TV box sets, much more reading, more gardening and a bit more cooking has expanded into the space. And that is before the holidays, the time spent on this blog, and my scrappy attempts at learning Italian (not unfortunately something I can include on this things learnt list!).

There Is Still Need For Structure. A few months into retirement, I realised I needed to drive myself a bit more to get things done. I needed to supplement the bucket list of broad things to do with retirement with a list of almost daily items ‘to do’. I like routines and my new one, dotted with one off tasks, works for me.

Holidays Are More Relaxing Now. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) continues to work part time so holidays still need to be scheduled around that. However, holidays can be longer now I have retired. That, in itself, increases the relaxation of going away. On our almost four-week Australia trip, there was no tension of clearing the desk in the build-up and no concern about returning to a backlog of work email and issues. Also, I’m happier about having trips away from our home in Gloucestershire rather than holidaying there now that I‘m no longer spending the majority of my time in London. LSW and I only did the Australia trip aboard in the last six months but we are planning more for 2018.

I Miss London, But Not As Much As I Expected. The loss of immediate access to London night life – music, restaurants and cinema especially – was a worry to me as I retired. This concern has proved to be largely unfounded in practice. LSW has been especially supportive in trying out local music venues with me and the new Marshall Rooms in Stroud is promising. The quality (the ambience especially) of local medium-priced restaurants is poor relative to the best of the constant and hectic turnover of new strivers in London. However, we are learning to love the local pub(s) and saving our food money for our occasional trips to London – like the one earlier this week which was excellent. While there are independent cinemas locally, rural film watching was always going to struggle to compete with living over Barbican Cinemas 2 and 3! I’m filling the gap satisfactorily with European box sets. It’s not so bad…

I realised as I was writing this that the lessons learned above are just a few of them. They may not even be the main ones. So I’ll think again and augment this list shortly….

Tetbury: On The Way To London

Last week, Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I attended a social and shopping event at her place of work near Tetbury. It was nice to be invited (albeit, last minute), fun, and good to meet some of her work colleagues so as to put faces to names.

This week, LSW has shuffled her work hours to the start of the week so we can slip up to London for a couple of days. We’ll be staying in my previous Barbican flat while Eldest Son (ES) is away on a work trip to Helsinki.

I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to going to one of our favourite restaurants tonight (Campania), seeing old friends tomorrow, and then breakfasting at The Ned on Friday. Saving up our eating-out entertainments for these short bursts in London sounds good to me!

Meanwhile I have been dropped off in Tetbury while I wait for LSW to complete her final shift at work (and write this post) before we can leave for London.

View Of Tetbury From the South

Tetbury is a old wool market town. Today, it buzzes with antiques shops and (mainly) attractive, independent outlets. The main streets around the market house are lined with lovely aggregations of old houses and the town centre exudes a feeling of wealth.

Tetbury Church and Market House

The town is surrounded by pretty, rolling and well maintained countryside. However, there are some new and large housing developments on the edge of the town. They look well built and neat but are all faux Cotswold stone, small windows and packed in. Fortunately I found other vistas to enjoy with frosty ground below and clear blue sky above.

Walks Near Tetbury

Passing a few rather aimless hours in and around Tetbury has been very relaxing. Now on to London…

Getting Moving Again

The anti-climax since the trip to Australia via stops in Singapore and Hong Kong remains palpable. I miss the almost daily imperative of having to get from one location to another and to ‘tick off’ the sights. I just haven’t got fully back up to speed in getting to grips with the more mundane things in my retirement routine yet.

I am starting to get the to-do lists moving again but what has struck me in the last two weeks has been how fortunate I was to be able to retire in summer when the weather was much less of a constraint (and excuse) than it is becoming now. Also, a brief spell of illness last week reminded me of how lucky I have been to have been fit and well through the last 5-6 months.

In reality, I have no excuse not to get on with as much of my plans and to-dos as possible. I must, for example, restart my Italian for Absolute Beginners. I’m hoping I haven’t forgotten all I learnt in the first three units of the course!

I have been keeping up attendance at local music events. In the last week or so LSW and I have paid a couple more Sunday afternoon visits to a local bar (The Vault) which hosts a series of singers and small bands each week. We also made it to a venue we hadn’t tried before, the nearby Ruskin Mill College, and saw The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc. These are a triumvirate of fiddlers from The Shetlands, Sweden and Norway. They sustained a full evening of quality fiddling with a remarkable variety of styles and considerable talent. It was intimate, foot tapping and fun and I’ve signed up for more events of this type.

Ruskin Mill College - Nordic Fiddlers

Nordic Fiddlers Bloc Explaining Fiddles At Ruskin Mill College

Next week, LSW and I are in London for a couple of days. That should help shake me out of my relative torpor.

Managing the 1%

When Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I were preparing for our recent holiday, and while we were on it, we relied hugely on the internet. We used it to guide us on which motel, apartment or AirBnB to rent, which restaurant to try, what sights to see and how to get to all these places. We were even able to continue our routine of doing the daily Guardian Quick Crossword together albeit this was on an iPhone in rooftop bars, coastal cafes or craft beer emporiums rather than with a pen and paper over a cuppa in our kitchen as per our previous norm. Like so many other parts of life, the internet has transformed holiday making.

View From the Great Ocean Road

Gratuitous Picture from the Great Ocean Road (Just Because the Trip was so Marvellous)

Google Maps made it so easy to plot our drive around Northern New South Wales and along the Great Coast Road but it was especially useful in getting us to places we were interested in in the cities we visited. Youngest Son (YS) showed us around most of Brisbane so Google Maps came into its own for us most in Melbourne.

It wasn’t all plain sailing however. For the first day or so there I found myself constantly questioning what Google Maps was telling LSW about which way to go. LSW was getting the direction consistently right using the internet and my Geography Degree sense of direction was getting increasingly frustrated. Finally, on the second day in Melbourne, I worked out that I was always wrong because I had forgotten that the sun was in the north not the south. Doh!

The other main challenge was managing the level of battery in our phones that we used to access the internet for all sorts of purposes during the day. My challenge was particularly acute – though self-inflicted – as I used my phone to keep my position in a couple of computer games up to date and tried to capture Asian-only Pokemon. LSW did allow me to use her remote charger but you can imagine that I got little sympathy. Either way, we both spent much of most days checking battery levels and wondering how long the last 1% would hold out.

I think we will transfer our holiday mode of operation to our next trip to London. Rather than rely on increasingly out of date memory, we will use the internet more to guide us to the best places for breakfast or the top 5 things to see now and so on. That may uncover some surprises even after 40 years of living there.

And I’m putting a remote phone charger on my Christmas present list!