Living a Different Life

It is so hot hot hot! Right now we are in the middle of a heat wave.  A few days ago temperatures shot up into the mid 30’s and that’s in the shade.  The noticeable absence of any kind of breeze has made it feel even hotter.  According to Greek records, these are the highest May temperatures they have had for 50 years!  Personally I don’t tolerate these weather conditions well, as they drain all my energy and make me feel lethargic.  This is also one of those rare times when there is so much dust in the air that the sky seems almost white and the sunset from my balcony looks like an old sepia photograph – stripped of all colour.  Temperatures are not usually this high in May and because there are no tourists here, it just seems weird.

With all the dust in the air.. the sunset from my balcony lokks like an old sepia photograph.

With all the dust in the air.. the sunset from my balcony looks like an old sepia photograph!

Of course life has changed drastically for everyone in the world and I am no exception.  I can’t quite believe how different my life actually is right now.  As it is for most people, the main and biggest change concerns my work.  As a professional artist I have spent the last 11 years totally dedicated to my Art business.  Suddenly and because of Covid-19 I don’t know if I will have any kind of beach selling season this summer.  Normally I would already be down by the beach with my stall and display.  This realization hit me even before lockdown and has had quite an effect on my motivation to create more Seashell Mosaic Collages.  Indeed I could not even find inspiration to use this ‘extra time’ to bury myself in a creative splurge again, and produce some new designs.

Custom Artwork - Mother & Daughter on the beach painting with Seashell Mosaic & Sand - 30 x 40cms. Commissioned from my Etsy shop

Custom Artwork – Mother & Daughter on the beach Painting with Seashell Mosaic & Sand – 30 x 40cms. Recently commissioned from my Etsy shop.

However, during the lockdown I was thrilled to receive a custom sale from my Etsy shop.  It was a personalization of an existing design and I am pleased to say the client received her Artwork safely – even though it took just over 2 weeks instead of one, to reach her.

Overall, lockdown has been no real hardship for me personally.  I am extremely fortunate to be living in Greece, which appears to be one of the few safest places to be right now.  Indeed this fact is what the Greek government are proud to use in persuading tourists back from July to September.  But everything is still so uncertain and how can it be otherwise?

Thanks to WhatsApp and Skype – I’ve had plenty of regular video contact with all of my family and friends, but especially my Daughters and my Grandchildren.  It has been so wonderful to watch Ralph, Neve and Arthur playing in their respective gardens, enjoying the nice fine weather that the UK has been experiencing in the last few weeks.  I do miss them all and am only sad that it seems unlikely that they will be coming to see me this summer – as was originally planned.  So I feel as though I have nothing to look forward to this summer.

Emma - covered from head to toe in PPE.

Emma – covered from head to toe in PPE.

I am proud to say that both my daughters work for the NHS.  After Emma had her second child, she quit her career in the world of advertising and eventually wants to train as a midwife.  She has been a part time care assistant for about two years, but Emma has been working on the frontline as an assistant in the ICU for many weeks now. Although she never signed up for this – she is also doing night shifts.  The conditions in these rooms are awful because the ventilators drive up the temperatures and wearing all the PPE is claustrophobic and sweaty.  I do worry about her but she reassures me that at least the hospital she is working in has plenty of PPE, thank God.  Zoe will be returning to work after her maternity leave in just under 3 weeks time.  She also works for the NHS as an Occupational Therapist based at an intermediate care home.  I pray they both stay safe and well during this dreadful pandemic.

Meanwhile.. I feel as though I am living a different life too.  During the 6 weeks of lockdown here on Crete – instead of spending countless long hours working on my mosaics, which is the norm for me – I’ve been out exercising with Charlie.  So I have been training for 3 months now and am really pleased with the results.  I can do stuff like pushups and planks that I couldn’t come close to before!  I feel so much fitter and stronger.

Working out on Charlie's terrace and trying out 'superman'!

Working out on Charlie’s terrace and trying out ‘superman’!

Even my diet is different in so far as I have added a lot more protein and healthy snacks in between meals. The bike rides have felt easier, although recently they began to get more tiring as the temperatures started to climb.  During this heat wave it would have been madness to go out on the bikes, so Charlie had a much better alternative.  In his garage he has 2 exercise bikes and it is much cooler in there, especially with the addition of a large fan!  Of course it’s not the same as riding amongst the beautiful countryside, but at least I’ll remain fit and strong for when the temperatures drop and we can get on a real bicycle again!  We still do our workouts on the terrace by the swimming pool and how wonderful and refreshing it is to just jump in there after an hour and a half of strenuous exercise!

Enjoying a walk In deserted Georgioupoli, when the weather was much cooler at the beginning of May.

Enjoying a walk In deserted Georgioupoli, when the weather was much cooler at the beginning of May.

We came out of lockdown on 4th May and so Charlie and I celebrated by driving to Georgioupoli, as we were allowed to travel within the prefecture of Chania.  It was a cloudy day but really pleasant for strolling on the very long sandy beach there.  Of course we knew all the restaurants and tavernas were still shut up and so we packed a picnic and ate it on the beach, which was devoid of any sign of life.  In fact there was actually nobody else there but us!  It seemed really strange.  We also visited the miniature buildings of famous Greek ancient monuments that I love.

One of the miniature buildings,cleverly created and situated by the sea in Georgioupoli.

One of the miniature buildings, cleverly created and situated not far from the sea in Georgioupoli.

Then last week Charlie and I visited Stavros for the day, which is also situated within the prefecture of Chania.  Naturally… I wanted to go beachcombing again because I have missed it so much this winter.  It was a gorgeous warm sunny day and we did lots of walking and exploring the coastline.  We enjoyed our picnic lunch and then I discovered a really good area of beach, full of such a variety of seashells, that I was totally absorbed for the following 2 hours!  On the way back we managed to get a takeaway latte and a crepe, but we sat on stools outside the taverna and so it felt quite normal again.

In my element.. amongst a large patch of seashells on one of Stavros' beautiful beaches.

In my element.. amongst a large patch of seashells on one of Stavros’ beautiful beaches.

The Greek government recently anounced that all tavernas and restaurants can re-open on 25th May. It will be really nice to meet up with friends socially again, although I have met Lisa a couple of times on Kalyves beach, it’s not the same as having an ice cold beer at a taverna on the beach!




All that really matters…

We are currently living in such unprecedented times right now that I wasn’t sure whether to write this next post. As I reflect on all that has been happening with this deadly pandemic in just a few short weeks… sitting outside on my balcony I feel almost cocooned. There is no sound outside except for the waves rolling onto the shores of Almyrida Bay, the odd seagull squawking, the odd sheep bleating. Everywhere is deserted of people, cars and bikes.

The Greek government closed down everything weeks ago and have acted responsibly from the outset. The population of Crete is so small in comparison to it’s size, so I am feeling extremely fortunate to be living on this beautiful island during these exceptionally uncertain times. What matters is that – thanks to modern technology we can at least maintain virtual contact with all our loved ones – no matter where in the world they might be. But isn’t it at times like these, that we should all question our priorities? Family has always been top of mine, but I also believe that if you don’t have good health – you have nothing!

Ralph, Neve & Arthur - 3 of my most precious jewels.

Ralph, Neve & Arthur – 3 of my most precious jewels.

In such a short time everything has come to a standstill and the only thing that matters to the human race right now is our health. Without it, life as we have come to know it, may cease to exist. Is this our “wake-up” call, a time for us to review the way we live our lives and the things we put importance on?

So I can only write about how the Coronavirus has impacted on my own life. I was so looking forward to seeing Zoe, Rich and baby Arthur, Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve this summer and now they may not be able to visit me on Crete.  For the first time I have no idea when I will be with my family again.  This matters more to me than any loss of income from my art business.  All my precious jewels live in the UK and so of course I have been following the English news, to see how this worldwide crisis is affecting them.  Also, 3 weeks ago I realized that Almyrida may not get many tourists – if any this summer. Nobody knows where all this is leading. Still… I’d like to stay positive without being too unrealistic. For the last 3 weeks I have not worked as much on my Seashell Mosaic Collages, freeing up time to do other things instead. In true ‘Michaela fashion’ – this means getting the very most out of every single day!

Nautilus Shell in Seashell Mosaic on Sand - 30 x 40cms - available to purchase from my online Etsy shop.

Nautilus Shell in Seashell Mosaic on Sand – 30 x 40cms – available to purchase from my online Etsy shop.

I’ve still been keeping fit with work-outs, weights and power walks, but the gym I go to shut 2 weeks ago, so I couldn’t do my crossfit classes anymore. However and luckily for me – this didn’t matter because Charlie returned from New Zealand middle of February and we resumed our bike rides and work-outs. After training with Charlie for over a month I am happy to say that I can see and feel subtle but positive changes as I get stronger and fitter. I am improving on the bike all the time, gradually getting used to cycling up the hills and slopes, with Charlie introducing short sprints in between. The regular bike rides and working with the weights has done wonders for my muscles! Despite all the lockdown restrictions, thank God we are still allowed to look after our personal fitness, especially now when it matters more than ever.

Standing by Imbros gorge on the way to Frangokastello.

Standing by Imbros gorge on the way to Frangokastello.

I’ve had some wonderful beachcombing days out – also with Charlie and right up until the lockdown. We’ve visited Falasarna, Frangokastello and Bali as well as other places along the way. The Cretan weather has been so mild this winter, with plenty of warm sunny days which are perfect for beachcombing. In fact it was so hot in Falasarna that we stripped to shorts and t-shirts and were still too warm!

With Charlie, overlooking Imbros Gorge, on the way to Frangokastello.

With Charlie, overlooking Imbros Gorge, on the way to Frangokastello.

At Frangokastello the seashells were just not there when we went. Sure we picked up a few, but I am extremely selective as to what shells I use in my seashell mosaics and it is always pot luck as to what is left on the beach to collect. The oceans deposit their treasures on the sandy shores and then take them away again the next day. We explored quite a bit of the coastline there before deciding to visit Chora Sfakia, which is situated further along the south coast of Crete. We walked along the seafront of the deserted town and managed to get a takeaway latte, served through a hatch at the only place we could find open.

At the deserted seaside town of Chora Sfakia on the south coast of Crete

At the deserted seaside town of Chora Sfakia, on the south coast of Crete

Just before we were locked down we squeezed in a visit to Bali. We explored all 4 beaches without results. The seashells I normally collect from Bali were conspicuous by their absence, but again – it didn’t matter because it just meant we had more time to explore other places. With Charlie driving and navigating – he soon found access to new areas of coastline I hadn’t been to before. Each beach or cove so different and unique and all wonderful places to have a picnic lunch!

Near Bali, at one of the coves Charlie managed to find access to!

Near Bali, at one of the coves Charlie managed to find access to!

I absolutely adore these days out, am always in awe of the breathtaking scenery we travel through and always grateful for these opportunities to experience  the awesome nature the beautiful Island of Crete has to offer. I wonder when we’ll be able to go out exploring again?

Yet as I sit in the warm sunshine on my balcony, writing up this post… I am still counting all my blessings.

Lovely Cretan Winter Sun & Working Outside on my Balcony

During these last five or six weeks I have thrown myself back into my Art and creating Seashell Mosaic designs in readiness for the coming summer beach selling season. Designs such as Seagulls, Girls on Swings, “Always Believe…” sand quote and Pink Flamingos were in great demand, yet I could not produce enough last summer, after selling out of the ones I created over the winter months. So I am hoping I will be better prepared this year. Continue reading

The Year 2020 is Sure to be a Good One!

I came back home to Crete for New Year, after having had a wonderful Christmas in the UK with all my family. I returned on the 28th December to dreadful weather, having missed all the best of it whilst I was in the UK. The thunderstorms in Plaka were so severe that most of us didn’t have internet for days and power cuts were frequent. My car battery had died and it appears that there are some electric issues too, which I am still trying to sort out. I am thankful for my good friends Atremis and Rob, who both went out of their way to help me.. right up until New Year’s Eve! Continue reading

August is Still the Busiest Time of my Year

Even though I wrote in my last post that I was having a more relaxing summer.. August has ended up being surprisingly busy for me!  I say this because – like all the other businesses in Almyrida this summer – customers have been few and far between.  August has always been my busiest month for sales and I am pleased to say that this year was no exception!  In the current circumstances, I count myself extremely fortunate to have sold 54 Artworks in August, including a couple of sales on my Etsy shop – Continue reading

Enjoying More Free Time This Summer.

The summer months from May through to September are normally so busy and hectic for me!  Looking back over the last ten years – I really have spent long and crazy hours producing and selling my unique Seashell Mosaic Paintings and Collages.  It has been all about supply and demand!  My Art Business has totally consumed my time and energies but don’t get me wrong because I have loved every moment of it! Continue reading

Celebrating 10 Wonderful Years on Crete!

Yes, I cannot believe that I have lived on this wonderful Island of Crete for ten years! Those ten years have seen me living out my dreams because I have always wanted to live like this… by the sea and so close to nature and all her awesome glory. The lifestyle I’ve enjoyed has been so perfect for me and is everything I could have hoped for and more! How far removed it is from the life I led in the UK because here I have lived a simple, busy but contented, peaceful and happy life from the moment I stepped onto Cretan soil. Continue reading