I had the best time in the UK over Christmas and New Year. It was packed with social engagements of quality time with my family and friends. My two weeks were filled to the brim with happiness, laughter, fun and yet more wonderful memories to cherish!
Not one day was I poorly, my preparations for the flights over having paid off, thankfully! What a contrast it was to last year, when I just wasn’t feeling like myself. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.
I landed at Manchester Airport at 10.35 in the morning and was met by my sister, Karen. After spending a few hours chatting and catching up, I packed a small case for my visit to Norwich. My daughter, Emma and her partner, Ash collected me early Christmas Eve and we drove down to a little village in Norfolk called Lyng. Here, my other daughter, Zoe and her partner Rich live in a charming 300 year old cottage. The drive down took about four and a half hours but we stopped for something to eat along the way. It was beautifully clear and sunny all the way and I really enjoyed the chance to study the countryside.
As soon as we stepped foot in the cottage it was all hugs, kisses and happy exclamations! Then we just had to explore it from top to bottom! Mulled wine was put on the stove to warm up and a couple of hours passed while we drank and chatted. Late afternoon we popped almost next door – to the village pub which was packed with all the locals having a jolly old time! We had a great Christmas Eve in there, before walking back to the cottage to end the evening with some tasty food and a nightcap.
Christmas Day couldn’t have been better! We were all so completely relaxed and just enjoying being together and in each other’s company. After all the presents had been opened Rich cooked an amazing feast and we all helped out in some way or another – even if it was just to make sure all our drinks were topped up! Zoe and Rich’s cottage is in such a lovely location and Emma, Ash and I couldn’t wait to take a walk and explore the surroundings.
So after our scrumptious meal we wrapped up warm and within minutes, were strolling through leafy lanes and around tranquil lakes surrounded by woods. It really perked us up and though the light was fading, we spent a fun and pleasurable couple of hours admiring and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature in all its glory. When we returned to the cottage we had great fun playing a few games including a picture quiz I put together before I left Crete. Then we watched an old Christmas movie and the new animated ‘Frozen’ – which we all viewed through 3D glasses that looked like cool sunglasses! There was me – expecting to wear those flimsy green and red eye specs!
Boxing Day was just as good, with another long walk in the morning followed by a drink or two back at the local pub. We indulged in more wonderful food and wine, interspersed with more games and a movie. It was so nice to chill on the large comfy corner sofa, keeping toasty warm in front of a roaring log burning stove. Zoe and Rich’s home is just enchanting and a delightful place to chill on cold winter days with your loved ones. I couldn’t have been happier with the quality time I got to spend with Zoe, Emma, Ash and Rich – just the five of us.
The following lunchtime, Emma and Ash had to leave for their drive to Shrewsbury, where they would spend a few days with Ash’s family. Zoe, Rich and I went to Holkham Bay, a half hour drive from Lyng, had lunch in a lovely traditional country pub and then took a leisurely stroll through the woods and onto the beach there! It was the last thing I was expecting to do here in the UK and it was just fab! It was a freezing and blustery day but it didn’t stop our enthusiasm and delight in exploring this huge sandy but desolate beach, with the sea miles out and looking so dark and muddy and rough! So very different from Cretan seas but equally stunning. We even picked some seashells to take home with us as souvenirs. I am so pleased that Zoe has finally settled in the sort of place she always wanted to live in. She is so like me in preferring nature’s surroundings to urban environments. She has everything on her doorstep she could wish for, a promising career and a wonderful partner to share it all with. I couldn’t be happier for her!
Back at the cottage, later that day, we relaxed in front of the fire for the whole evening, chatting, drinking and watching TV.The next day we didn’t do much except chill out and enjoy more of Rich’s culinary delights. Talk about being spoilt! Zoe and Rich laid on a truly fine spread for us all to enjoy during these past few days and Emma and Ash provided a complete range of all the alcohol you could possibly fancy and some! You couldn’t have asked for more!
So the time had come for me to catch my train back to Stockport. Zoe had work the following day and I would not be seeing her again until the summer and so we said our tearful goodbyes. I think it’s always particularly hard to part with a loved one when you have spent such a wonderful time together and I told Zoe how tearful I always am every time she leaves Crete after her holiday with me. But oh what cherished memories we have to keep!
I didn’t arrive back at Karen and Mike’s house in Bramhall until late that evening. So it wasn’t until the following day that we had the chance to share all our Christmas stories and it was so good to see Rob, Sophie and Hannah again and to hear about everything that’s going on in their lives. Our large and ever expanding family just gets better and better and it’s a really wonderful bonus to know that each and every one of us is living happy and contented lives. We did miss my Mum this year, as she was spending the festive period at home in Spain. But thanks to Skype we had the next best thing, having plenty of face-to-face contact. I am happy to say that Mum had a great Christmas too.
For the remainder of the day I was busy with making phone calls and arrangements to see other family and friends. On the Tuesday, my sister Annette and her husband, Ian took me out to lunch, which was really lovely – as lunches out are apt to be! We had much to catch up on and only one lunch/afternoon in which to fit it all! The next day, on New Year’s Eve, my friend Jenny treated me to a champagne lunch at the Botanist in Alderley Edge. What a great way to start New Year’s Eve! We chatted about Cretan Life (more about that in a future post) and the plans we’d made along with Jenny’s proposed visit to Crete in February. Then in the evening it was Karen and Mike’s Party where it was great to see people like Caroline and Tony, whom I’d not managed to see yet and a few other people too. We all had a brilliant night, packed with everything from quizzes to crazy dancing and singing whilst drinking and eating and having fun. Such indulgence lasted well into the wee hours and we all agreed it was a great party!
New Year’s Day was obviously a ‘slobbing’ one! A ‘fall asleep on the sofa’ day – a ‘recovery’ day. Although there were still lots of family and friends staying over and you were lucky if you got space on the large and comfy corner sofa! On Friday I helped Mike, Karen and Hannah take down all the decorations before going out for the evening with Fran and Angela. We kicked off the evening with a drink in the John Millington but the live music in there was so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves think! Fran, Angela and I have all known each other since we were eight or nine years old and were, of course, eager to share all that’s happened in our lives during the past year. We don’t often get the chance to chat via phone and Skype and so we had a lot of chat to fit into the evening! We finished off our drink and moved on to The Church Inn in Cheadle Hulme (a pub we used to turn our noses up at, calling it an old man’s pub!) – much more to our liking now! A further three hours just flew by while we each related the ups and downs of our year 2014. We couldn’t have predicted or even dreamed all those years ago, that we would all three be single and still finding it financially hard. But I couldn’t help thinking I was the luckiest out of the three of us because of two simple facts – I live on Crete and I am my own boss. Then I have to remind myself that it wasn’t luck but my determination to live a much better life, that led me to Crete. I have made my wonderful life happen!
The next day I met up with my mate Nick and that was a real bonus because we don’t usually get the opportunity to meet up in the UK. We went for a couple of walks and enjoyed a big Chinese feast at a restaurant in Cheadle Hulme. I love Chinese food but rarely get a chance to eat it so that was a real treat! We chatted and drank for hours, never enough to fill and talked about his next visit over to Crete in April.
On Sunday I couldn’t wait to see Emma again! She picked me up at Lunchtime and we went back to her lovely home in Heaton Norris. Emma has created such a warm and cosy home and I was amazed at all the work Ash had done in the back courtyard garden. It may be winter, but I could still imagine what a pretty place it will be to sit in and enjoy during the summer months. We had tea and a good long chat before heading out to the shops, where Emma helped me buy the last few items on my list, before meeting Ash at the Costa Coffee shop. There we had a long and leisurely lunch and all too soon it was time for Emma to take me back to Karen and Mike’s where another tearful goodbye ensued and was shared. I am equally thrilled to know that Emma is living a happy and contented life with Ash. She has a wonderfully successful career, gaining yet another promotion and allowing her a good standard of life, as well as being able to make exciting new plans for their future. I hope to spend more quality time with Emma in May, when she comes to see me in Crete.
That evening I finally got to spend time with my wonderful friends, Jill and Rick. However, they were the last people who stayed with me at the end of September so I had seen them more recently. I was invited round to their home in Bramhall and treated to a gorgeous three course meal! Rick was chef for the night and whisked up a prawn cocktail to start, then the juiciest steak you ever saw, well chunky and perfectly cooked to medium-rare, followed by Eaton’s Mess – which was Jill’s culinary delight and I could have eaten a double portion of that! To sum up – all my favourites – Prawns, Steak and Fruity meringue! Wow! I do get spoiled rotten!
On Monday I said my sad goodbyes to Karen, Mike and Sophie and then packed my case for the return trip back to Crete. Hannah took me to the airport at around 9.30am and I started my journey home, completely oblivious as to what lay ahead! The flight from Manchester to Athens left a little late but meant I had less time to wait at Athens before boarding for a flight from there to Chania. After some delay and before take-off, the captain announced that Chania Airport had closed due to severe snow blizzards. So I called my friend Ian, who was picking me up from Chania airport. Luckily he hadn’t driven too far because snow blizzards had blocked all visibility on the roads. I am glad that he didn’t have to collect me on a night like that. But I was nonetheless dismayed to hear the flight was cancelled and I envisaged a horrible night in ‘very uncomfortable’ Athens Airport! Not so! Luckily this year I flew with Aegean Airlines and I must say that I am impressed with their service not only through the whole flight experience but also in their handling of a totally unexpected crisis! We disembarked from the plane, collected our luggage and queued at the Aegean Desk where we each received paperwork to take to the check-in desk for our early morning boarding passes. Then a convenient short walk across the road to a very large and luxurious hotel for the night. The longest wait was at the hotel check in but you couldn’t fault the facilities that were laid on and all the passengers got an evening meal at about 12.30am! The room was the height of luxury but I couldn’t sleep those few hours and was up for breakfast at 5.30am before catching my flight back to Crete. This time I’ve had the shortest journey I’ve ever had to the UK at this time of year but certainly the longest return journey. It was so good to be home and sleeping in my own bed again. I have slept in so many beds over the last two weeks, yet there’s nothing in the world better than your own!
I’ve so enjoyed writing up this post because I have loved reliving all the special moments of my Christmas and New Year. I’ve had just the best time and it really did fulfil all my wishes for happy quality time with Zoe and Emma. While I’ve been writing this, the sun has come out and the clouds have lifted away from the mountains so that I can now see them in all their beautiful glory! Somehow the thick snow has defined all their intricate contours and I am sitting on my balcony enthralled at this most majestic sight! Save for the absence of my two gorgeous daughters, Zoe and Emma – I know that this is my home right now. I feel it’s where I belong.