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!

Gorgeous little Arthur

Gorgeous little Arthur!

But let me rewind to my Christmas in the UK. I arrived on the 10th and for the first 5 days I stayed with Zoe, Rich and Arthur in Golcar, Yorkshire, spending lots of quality time with my gorgeous new Grandson, Arthur who is just over 3 months old. We walked a little, shopped a little and enjoyed lots of lunches in quaint Yorkshire cafes (Umm… I do love a home-made scone with lots of jam and clotted cream!) We also did lots of chilling at home because the weather was very cold, miserable and forever drizzling with rain! We decided to go into Bramhall one day and I was lucky enough to meet up with Jill in a local cafe where we had lunch. It really was a spur of the moment thing because I otherwise would not have had the chance to see her this time round. But the sheer volume of traffic meant it took over two hours to drive back to Huddersfield. I am so glad that I don’t have to suffer these problems on Crete. I could not go back to being stuck in my car for hours on end, day in and day out! What a waste of precious time!

Ralph as one of the three Kings in his first Nativity Play.

Ralph as one of the three Kings in his first Nativity Play.

On Saturday we drove down to Bury St Edmunds and the military base where Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve live. Zoe and Rich were in one of the guest houses nearby and I moved into Emma and Ash’s for the next 6 days. The first two days Emma worked a 12 hour shift and the following day, drove 4 hours to York for an interview, where she and the family will be living from January onwards. She got the job, which made the 9 hours of driving all worth it. As for me – well I thoroughly enjoyed those two days of looking after Ralph and Neve. We all went to the church on the military base where we watched Ralph in his first Nativity Play.  Amongst all the children, many crying and running off the stage, Ralph played his part as one of the three kings so well and did us all proud! During those 6 days I loved all the rough and tumble games we played, all the things we did together… the hugs and kisses, the laughter and the fun!

All of us, except Ralph, out for a late pub lunch near Bury St Edmunds.

All of us, except Ralph, out for a late pub lunch near Bury St Edmunds.

WIth Cute little Neve

With Cute little Neve at the pub lunch.

We spent as much time all together as we could, given Emma’s commitments and Rich and Zoe‘s planned visits to all of Rich’s family in Norwich. Many had not yet met baby Arthur. But we enjoyed a late lunch at a cosy pub – all of us apart from Ralph, who was at nursery. One evening Zoe, Emma and I had such a laugh when we decided to have a girly night out at a local pub near the base. The rest of the time I just made the most of being with my family and playing with my Grandchildren.

With Zoe & Emma on our girly night out

With Emma & Zoe on our girly night out

For me it was all too soon when It came to parting with Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve. They were leaving for the Lake District and then Shrewsbury, where they would all spend Christmas with Ash’s family. So I left with Rich, Zoe and Arthur and returned to their home in Yorkshire for my Christmas with them. And it was lovely… relaxing and very happy! On Christmas Eve late afternoon, we went to a charming and very busy pub in Golcar for a lovely meal. In the morning, after opening all the presents (90% of which were Arthur’s!), Rich cooked up his speciality breakfast of poached eggs and smoked salmon. Delicious! Then we wrapped up warmly for a walk and ended up at a local pub for a tipple or two! Christmas dinner was just the finest, expertly cooked by our excellent resident chef, Rich! He did us proud and we are all so lucky to be eating so well. We had every intention of playing some games afterwards, but somehow Arthur stole the show! He is a joy to interact with, responding with lots of smiles, giggles and laughter. He is a dream baby and as long as he is getting plenty of stimulation during his awake periods in the day.. at night he is out for the count and sleeps for up to 11 hours, bless!

Rich, Zoe & Arthur on our Christmas day walk and tipple at the pub!

Rich, Zoe & Arthur on our Christmas day walk and tipple at the pub!

On Boxing Day Zoe and Rich drove me to Karen and Mike’s home in Bramhall. Zoe and Rich were staying for lunch and we arrived to a houseful of guests. All of Mike’s family were there and it was great to see Caroline and Tony amongst them, as I haven’t had the chance to catch up with them over the last year or so. Sadly, I didn’t get a proper chance to chat this time either, because it was all just a little chaotic with everyone else there too! So we all passed a pleasant few hours catching up with everyone, before it was time to say my tearful goodbyes again… this time to Zoe, Rich and Arthur. Although I’m always sad every time I part with any member of my family – It’s only a temporary feeling because I know that they will all be here with me on beautiful Crete again – at some time or another this summer.

I was only in Bramhall for two nights and a day, but it was enough to catch up with Karen, Mike, Sophie and Hannah, who are all happy and well. It was good to just chat and chill out and we ended up watching “It’s a Wonderful World” – a classic black and white 1946 American Christmas fantasy drama with brilliant emotional acting by James Stewart. It somehow popped up in a search when we were looking for a decent film to watch. I love the film and have seen it many times but the others had never seen the movie. I recommended we all watch it, and wasn’t at all surprised when everyone had tears in their eyes by the end of it!  For me the message is loud and clear. We can all be so grateful for the wonderful family and life that we have.

With Ray, Karen, John & Chrissie at the New Year's Eve Party at Captain Jack's in Almyrida.

With Ray, Karen, John & Chrissie at the New Year’s Eve Party at Captain Jack’s in Almyrida.

I made the absolute most of the time I had with my family this Christmastime and then took the long journey home to Crete. Every Christmas it is the same – a 14 hour trip because there are no direct flights to Chania over the winter period. So I am always relieved to be home again. Even though there have been problems to deal with and really bad weather, I was looking forward to seeing some of my friends at the New Year’s Eve Party, as I rarely spend New Year on Crete. There has only been one other year but I can’t remember which one.

WIth Chrissie, Lisa & Brian at the New Year's Eve Party

WIth Chrissie, Lisa & Brian at the New Year’s Eve Party

I could not believe the state Almyrida is in again! The central area between the hotels is flooded with two feet deep seawater and there are rocks and debris strewn everywhere. Almyrida looked totally storm-damaged! But I arrived at Captain Jack’s, just opposite the beach where the waves were crashing, and realized that the bad weather hadn’t deterred anybody from celebrating the start of 2020, because lots of people turned out and it was busy. A couple of local bands provided the live music, the food was good, the wine flowing and there was a real party atmosphere. We greeted the New Year in with a glass of champagne and a fabulous firework display that gave us all a scare when a large spark fell amongst us, hitting Brian on the foot and Ray on the top of his head! Thankfully no-one  was hurt and it did give us all a really good laugh afterwards!

A great New Year's Eve fireworks display and I even managed to capture this one!

A great New Year’s Eve fireworks display and I even managed to capture this one!

Yesterday I woke up to see blue skies and sunshine again and it spurred me into doing my first power walk of 2020. It was hard going after all the Christmas and New Year indulgences, but I persevered and felt so much the better for my efforts. So I will continue my keep fit programme, knowing that it is so good for me… and I can’t shake the positive feeling that 2020 is sure to be a good year.

Living on Crete Just Gets Better and Better!

We’ve had such a mild start to our winter this year on Crete. Ever since I returned from the UK we’ve had wonderful warm and sunny weather.  A few thunderstorms but very little rain. How lucky we are and how pleased I am that I have been able to take full advantage of it!

But first I had some important stuff to take care of, matters I had been putting off for a while now. Always bearing in mind what happened to my Sister Leonie and my Mum, and add this to the fact that Brexit is looming – I needed to finally take out some private Health Insurance. I’d already done a fair amount of research into private healthcare over the last 18 months or so, but never took it any further. Now I have complete peace of mind, thanks to a very reasonable deal through Piraeus Bank, where I hold a Greek Euro account.

Scarrrrry Ralph at Halloween!

Scarrrrry Ralph at Halloween!

Neve... cute little witch at Halloween!

Neve… cute little witch at Halloween!

In order to be accepted for the insurance, I first had to undergo a full medical examination, which the manager of Piraeus Bank organized and which was all available locally in Kalyves. I had a heart examination – an ECG and a Full Heart Scan. Thankfully all the results were normal. I also had my blood tested for practically everything! Again, all the results were good and normal, apart from my cholesterol, which was slightly up and which I am addressing. Last year I was able to get a chest X-ray whilst in the UK and this also showed up clear. I am totally thrilled with all these excellent results, which prove I am as healthy as I’ve been feeling! Needless to say, I was offered the health insurance without a hitch!

Birthday Party at Umami, Almyrida

Cutting the cake at my wonderful Birthday dinner with friends at Umami.

I have to admit that I haven’t worked on my Seashell Mosaic Collages as much as I would normally have been doing at this time of the year. This is because for this last month I have been going out more with lots of my friends here and having an absolute ball! The Halloween Party at McGinty’s Irish bar was great fun and Carl Axon and his band were brilliant! Two days later Carl threw a party at his fabulous home in Gavalochori. There were lots of people I knew there, the food was delicious and the booze flowed. Carl’s playlist was so good that we all enjoyed plenty of dancing too. He even laid on an impressive fireworks display which we all viewed from his top terrace. Carl is a brilliant host and certainly knows how to throw a great party!

At Brian's Birthday party in Chrissie's garden

At Brian’s Birthday party in Chrissie’s garden

Then it was suddenly my Birthday and it seemed to last all weekend because there was something going on every day! For my Birthday celebration on the Friday night, my new friend Charlie had booked a table at Umami – the Asian Fusion restaurant I have mentioned in my last post – where, with just a few of my friends, we enjoyed more of their fabulous food, and Charlie took care of everything including a lovely Birthday cake! Talk about being spoilt rotten – champagne, Prosecco, flowers, chocolates and more!

At the Souda War Cemetery - Soldiers parading during the Remebrance Sunday Memorial

At the Souda War Cemetery – Soldiers parading during the Remebrance Sunday Memorial

The next day we went to a Birthday Party in the lovely garden of my friends, Chrissie and John. Chrissie did us all proud with her wonderful curries and from noon until early evening, we basked in the glorious Cretan sunshine. It was a relaxing day of socializing in great company again.

It was Remembrance Sunday, the next day and we met before 10am to go to the Souda War Cemetery (next to the American Military Base) for the Memorial. It was a beautiful and moving service conducted outdoors in the sunshine, in the immaculate grounds. Afterwards we all drove to a large taverna in Likotinara, where they had laid on a big lunch for over 100 people. This taverna was decked out to look like it was the 1940’s, complete with bunker. There was even a singer called Pru, who was dressed in 40’s style clothing and who sang all the old war songs brilliantly. It was very atmospheric and even moved a dear old gentleman to tears. Later we all took part in a fun quiz about famous celebrities born during the war years. We were shown a picture of the celebrity as a child and then had to guess who they were. This was hard! When it came to the answers, we found we could get a few more when seeing their photos for a second time, but by then we had already passed our answers to the team next to us! All in all – a very enjoyable full day out!

On a bike again, after 25 years!

On a bike again, after 25 years!

Aside from all this partying and going out I’ve been doing… there is another thing I have been thinking about for a while. The medical I had for my health insurance also made me think about my fitness. Sure it would appear that I am healthy, but fit?! Definitely not! Right up until I left the UK in May 2009, I had been regularly running 3 and half miles, 3 times a week with my Brother-in-law, Mike.  I was as fit as a butcher’s dog! I told Mike that I’d continue to run when I was in Crete – only on the beach instead of the road! But I never did because I was always too absorbed with my business. About 7 years ago I did some pilates and circuit training for a short while but gave it up because I was too busy with work. So I’ve done nothing to improve my fitness since.

My fit Personal Trainer and new friend, Charlie!

My fit Personal Trainer and new friend, Charlie!

Ah yes, my new friend Charlie… they say people come into your life for a reason.. well he has certainly inspired and motivated me into my new fitness regime! It all started with him telling me about how he enjoys his bike rides.  I loved riding my bike when I was young and so all I wanted to do was go on a bike ride with him! I had not ridden a bike properly for over 25 years and was quite nervous about how I would fare. At first I was wobbling all over the place and couldn’t seem to steer properly – talk about embarrassing! Charlie had done all the adjustments to the saddle and he gave me a cycling helmet – but a bike with gears? I don’t ever remember using gears! Anyway, that was nothing compared to the actual ride. Crete is not an easy place to ride a bike and he had chosen a roughly 9 kilometre route with as few hills and slopes as possible, but there were still some long, if only gradual hills to climb that really took it out of me! When we got back Charlie had worked out a short (as it was my first session) exercise routine showing me how these exercises will tone and firm me up! He has also been looking at my diet and suggested extra foods to include, so that I don’t lose weight, but hopefully gain a little in all the right places!

Charlie and me after one of our bike rides!

Charlie and me after one of our bike rides!

Having always kept himself fit as part of his lifestyle, Charlie is certainly qualified to advise me. For many years he was a karate instructor so he fits the bill perfectly as my new Personal Trainer! The weather has been perfect and so far I have had three bike rides followed by about 45 minutes of varied exercises – with Charlie upping the tempo slightly each time. I feel absolutely great after the training, what a buzz! Charlie has now gone to New Zealand for 3 months but he has left me a programme to follow while he is away. I definitely intend to keep this up and yesterday I did my first power walk – all uphill from Almyrida to my house! I will also be going once a week to the open Gym, Crossfit in Kalyves and taking part in a keep fit class there. I have not been doing keep fit for long, yet already I feel like I have more energy! I feel so alive!

In the coming months I will start beachcombing again and of course I will be working on my Seashell Mosaics, building up my stock for next summer. There are always plenty of social events going on here in the winter, so I will also be out and about lots with friends and maintaining this new balance I have recently worked into my everyday life. Living here on Crete really is wonderful and just gets better and better. I am in such a good place right now and feel even happier than I usually do!  I have so much to look forward to in the coming months and In just over 2 weeks I’ll be back in the UK with my wonderful family again for Christmas, returning to Crete for New Year.

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

Remembering My Lovely Mum

Following New Year I had been home for barely two weeks when I received a phone call from my sister Karen, to tell me that Mum’s health had seriously deteriorated and so I immediately flew back to the UK. She had just been moved to St. Ann’s Hospice so that they could better manage her condition and make her more comfortable. Thankfully I was able to spend the last week with her in the hospice, along with many other family and friends who visited regularly up until the end. Continue reading