Fond Farewell to 2016

The stunning view from my balcony

Back at home on Crete – the stunning view from my balcony!

Happy New Year!
I’m sitting on my fabulous balcony, stroking Clio who is sitting in my lap (a story for another time!) I am spellbound as I stare at the sheer magnitude and majestic splendour of Crete’s White snowy Mountains. It is late afternoon and the sun is about to go down on what has surely been an idyllic winter’s day on Crete. I am so completely at peace in my world right now and am amazed to realise that my life appears to have been a long series of struggles, until I moved to Crete. From the moment I stepped onto Cretan soil, I knew I had found my sanctuary… and all my past wounds began to fully heal. I have been reflecting on the two wonderful weeks I’ve just had in the UK during Christmas and New Year and I cannot begin to tell you how happy it makes me feel! And so it is almost with a tinge of sadness that I bid a fond farewell to 2016.

Gorgeous Ralph!

Gorgeous Ralph!

In the afternoon of the day I arrived in the UK Emma and Ralph came to stay with me at Karen and Mike’s. It was so wonderful to see and hold Ralph again! He is unbelievably gorgeous and has such a sweet and happy nature. He never cries and is such good fun to play with! He slept right through the night, as always and continued to do so for the three nights we stayed at Zoe and Rich’s over Christmas. I know that as his ‘Yia Yia’ I am totally biased but he is truly a dream child.

Because Emma had to work the next day, I had the unbridled pleasure of looking after Ralph for the whole day. My Mum (Great Yia Yia) and I decided to take a walk to the local shops with Ralph in his buggy, but got caught in a heavy downpour leaving us all drenched! Luckily Karen rescued us and we all changed into dry clothes when we got back. Apart from that unfortunate incident the day flew by as I played with and looked after my gorgeous Grandson.

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Playing with my cute and gorgeous Grandson!

All of the following day was spent shopping with my Mum. Apart from a quick coffee and cake stop, we must have walked a solid four hours, traipsing the streets and shops for last minute bits and bobs for Christmas etc. I honestly can’t believe my Mother’s stamina! For a woman who is fast approaching 80 years old, she is incredibly fit for her age! I had a really lovely day with my Mum and felt thoroughly spoilt! We ended our day with dinner and wine at a lovely restaurant (another treat!) before catching a taxi back to Karen and Mike’s. At their house it was as busy as ever with family continuing to arrive for Christmas. My Nieces Sophie and Hannah with Sam, Nephew Rob with fiancé Emma, as well as Mike’s Brother with Martha and their two children! So you can imagine that Karen and Mike’s large family home was more like a hotel – with NEVER a dull moment!

Christmas night out.

Ange, myself and Fran on our Christmas night out in Cheadle Hulme.

On the Friday before Christmas Eve I went out with my friends Fran and Ange. We met at the Church Inn in Cheadle Hulme at around 6.30pm and it was buzzing in there! We enjoyed catching up on all our news whilst drinking several glasses of wine. Fran was not drinking because she was driving and when, at around 10.30pm, we decided to move on to the John Millington, Fran decided to go home, which was a real shame. There was live music and we met some people we knew, so we carried on drinking till after midnight. Great fun!

Ralph with one of his pressies

Emma, Ralph and Zoe on Christmas morning. Shame the photo is a bit blurry!

At lunchtime on Christmas Eve Rich came to collect my Mum and I and drive us to Zoe and Rich’s lovely new home in Golcar. Emma, Ash and Ralph arrived about an hour after we did and I can’t tell you how happy I felt to have all my family together with me! On Christmas morning we spent at least two hours opening our pressies one by one and loving Ralph’s reactions and delight in opening all of his presents! Christmas really feels like Christmas when there are young children in the family. We’ve not experienced that for a very long time. So it was all quite simply – wonderful!

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Christmas Day in the local pub. Emma and Ash with baby Ralph asleep in his arms..Aahhh!

Once dressed, we all wrapped up warm for a lovely pre-dinner walk. We stopped at a pub for a Christmas drink and because it was packed in this bar, we didn’t stay long and Rich needed to see to the dinner anyway. Oh what a Christmas feast Rich cooked for us! It was delicious and how lucky is Zoe to have a fiancé who can cook like that?! I am jealous!

One of Ash’s surprise presents to Emma, was the re-edited version of their Wedding video. The first had been disappointingly awful – so bad that Emma and Ash would not let anyone see it. Emma had requested the videographer to send her all the raw footage so that she could arrange for the video to be professionally re-edited. Knowing Emma, I had resigned myself to not seeing it for even a few years! It just wasn’t a priority for her. With Ash away training in the RAF, Ralph to look after on her own – not to mention a full time demanding job – she already has her hands full! So Ash had secretly organised the re-edit and during the late afternoon, whilst we were all relaxing on the sofas after our fabulous Christmas feast, we watched Emma and Ash’s Wedding video for the first time! Watching this two hour film brought back all the feelings and emotions I felt during that so special day. Naturally I have my own copy – a treasured memory of a treasured day spent here on this beautiful Island of Crete.

Playing with Ralph in his new Mini Cooper!

Playing with Ralph in his new Mini Cooper!

We ate, we drank, we laughed, we played games; we watched a movie and did all of those things that families do at Christmas time with their loved ones. How fortunate I am to be blessed with the wonderful family I have. Boxing Day was much the same with more wonderful food, more playtime with Ralph and more games.

At around lunchtime the following day, Emma, Ash and Ralph left to spend a few days with Ash’s parents in Shrewsbury. Then Rich drove Mum and I back to Karen and Mike’s. It was great because the next day my Brother Mark came for a two day visit. He wasn’t able to bring Honey and Ted because they both had other commitments, but it was really good to see Mark again, especially as the last time I saw him was over two years ago, when he, Honey and Ted came to stay with me in Crete!

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Karen, Mark, Mum and me – celebrating Mum’s soon-to-be 80th Birthday.

As Mum’s 80th falls in January and because she lives in Spain, we took Mum out for dinner and then drinks at Mike’s parents’ apartment afterwards. It was a lovely evening which all ten of us thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t believe my Mum is going to be 80 years old – she is truly amazing!

Karen and Mike’s closest friends, David and Deborah arrived to spend New Year. People have been coming and going continuously so there was still room at the ‘Whelan Inn’ – believe it or not! I made plans to meet with my lovely friend Gill and another friend I’ve not seen since she left the UK and moved to Spain over 10 years ago. I had finally got back in touch via Facebook. She now lives back in the UK after her recent split from husband, Jon. Gill’s husband Rick collected me and then Chris and kindly drove us all to Bramhall village, dropping us off at the Bubble Room. It has been over 10 years since the three of us enjoyed an evening out together and we had such a good time! We met lots of different people including two lovely women I would definitely have seen more of, had I still been living in the UK. Wow, how the three of us chatted and I realised how much all our lives had changed over these past 10 years.

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Chris, myself and Gill during our night out in Bramhall Village.

At around 11pm we strolled around the corner to the Yardbird, for some good music and maybe dancing? Karen, Mike, David and Deborah had all eaten at Mercato’s – across the road and were enjoying a few nightcaps in there. So naturally we joined them for an hour or so, squeezing ourselves into the seating booth they were in! Mike kindly treated us to a bottle of wine and after they left, Gill, Chris and I carried on the evening, dancing, chatting and having fun. We all had a great time!

New Year’s Eve came around so fast! Karen and Mike threw yet another of their legendary New Year’s Eve Parties and this year there were lots of younger people there as many of Sophie and Hannah’s friends came along too. I was so happy that Zoe and Rich were able to make the party and stay over. It meant I got to enjoy some more time with Zoe. Emma and Ash spent the evening at theirs with Ralph, preferring to stay home alone together and I can’t say I blame them!

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I didn’t take many photos at the party – too busy enjoying myself!

We did a couple of great team quizzes , played a drinking game I’ve forgotten the name of and were entertained with charming live Irish music performed and sung by Charlie and her partner, Steve! Some of us (not me though) even got up for some Irish jigging! The food was as fabulous as it always is and the wine – the best, especially given what I’m used to in Crete! David and Deborah joined a dance class in Dubai and had been showing us all how to dance the Rumba. We also had a little expert tuition from my Mum – having once been a champion ballroom-dancer herself, in Holland! I even managed to do a little ‘Swing Roc’ with David. I’d not done that for over 10 years either! The Last few guests left after 4am!

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Ralph in his miniature Mini Cooper!

Naturally, New Year’s Day was a little jaded for all of us but we soon perked up when Emma, Ash and Ralph popped in for a visit in the afternoon. I was thrilled to get this last opportunity to see Ralph. We did a couple more quizzes together and I so enjoyed playing with gorgeous Ralph again. It was quite heart-wrenching when we said our goodbyes.

On my last day we all decided to visit the Trafford Centre in Manchester and enjoyed lunch at one of the Asian restaurants in the Centre. Back at Karen and Mike’s I packed my cases ready for my flight back to Crete in the morning. Then we all had a relaxing evening chatting about the events over Christmas and New Year – another fabulous and memorable two weeks to end what was a wonderful 2016 for me.