Here’s Hoping 2018 will be a Good Year

For over a week now, I’ve been putting off writing this post. There have been so many ’niggly’ things to attend to and it’s been difficult settling back into and catching up with work. I am still grieving for the loss of my sister, Leonie.

Ralph at Attingham Park

Ralph – who is quite impossible to photograph when he is constantly on the go. Here I got lucky as he went to splash in a puddle at Attingham Park.

I returned to the UK for Christmas and New Year on the 19th December and spent the first four days with my lovely growing family! Zoe and Rich collected me from Karen and Mike’s and we drove down to Shrewsbury to stay with Emma, Ash and Ralph. As always, it was wonderful to spend quality time with everyone again, although I have to say that Ralph is still my favourite for playing with! That’s pretty much all I did at Emma and Ash’s, because he is just the cutest little boy and I am obsessed!

We all had three wonderful days relaxing, having fun, eating out, shopping and walks. We visited a beautiful park and stately home in Shrewsbury, called Attingham Park. When we arrived there we first asked to visit the Santa’s Grotto but sadly, it was fully booked so we couldn’t take Ralph for his first visit to Santa. I think that we were more disappointed than Ralph was! Never mind, we decided to take a good look around the mansion and found it to be quite fascinating!

All the family at Attingham Park

Rich, Zoe, Ash, Ralph & Emma – Inside the stately home at Attingham Park. There was a Christmas tree in almost every living room!

After we’d had some lunch in the cafe there, we went for a long walk in the woodlands and surrounding grounds. Ash pointed out several interesting features along the way, having lived and played in this area when he was a small boy and young teenager. The walk was exhilarating and Ralph was totally absorbed in exploring everything. He was such a joy to watch.  When he got tired, Ash carried him on his back, especially when we were able to walk so close to a small herd of Reindeer. We found lots of little dens made from broken tree branches, scattered around and just the right size for Ralph to walk comfortably into!

Ralph, Ash & Emma at Attingham Park

When Ralph got tired from running around, Ash carried him on his back

It was Ash’s Birthday on the Friday and in the morning Ash’s parents, Phil and Ange and also his brother and sister, Austin and Danielle, all popped in to wish him well. In the afternoon, we went into Shrewsbury town centre to do a little last minute Christmas shopping and discovered they had a Santa’s Grotto in the precinct! We were just in time to book a visit in for Ralph – the last one of the day! I wish I knew how to post up the video I took of him. He was so cute and polite and pleased with the book he got from Santa, Ralph loves his books! The days just flew by and the nights after Ralph had gone to bed, we watched some great movies which is something I rarely do.

Santa's Grotto

Ralph and I play with the false snow in Shrewsbury Town Centre, whilst waiting to see Santa!

Emma and Ash were spending Christmas Day with Ash’s family and Zoe and Rich were spending it with Rich’s Dad and anyway, Rich was on call all Christmas Day. So these few days we all had before Christmas were wonderful and special. It was indeed fortunate that Zoe, Emma, Rich and Ash were all able to get this time off work. Although I did not think I would be able to see them all again before my return to Crete, thanks to my new tablet we had skype contact for the rest of the time I was in the UK.

I was back at Karen and Mike’s by Saturday teatime. Mum was also staying and Sophie and Hannah had moved back home for Christmas and New Year. So there was just the six of us for Christmas Day and it was exactly what we wanted because we all miss our beautiful Leonie so much.

On Boxing Day Karen and Mike drove down to London to stay with their son Rob, his fiance, Emma and their new baby Grandson, Jack. Sophie and Hannah went too. With Mum and I left to our own devices – we got cracking on a jigsaw that was a Christmas present for Mum – and completed it in one day! Despite both of us coming down with colds and continuously blowing our noses, we just couldn’t stop doing that jigsaw!  Zoe was able to visit after work the next day and she stayed the night, so that was a bonus.

Debs, Karen and me

Deb, Karen and me, before we all went into Bramhall Village for the evening

Sadly the rest of my stay was dogged with cold symptoms and tummy cramps and as a result I got very little sleep. Luckily, after taking something to ease the cramps, I was able to enjoy a lovely evening with my dear friends Jill and Rick, who took me out for a great meal at Gusto’s, the night before New Year’s Eve. Jill booked a surprise holiday for Rick’s 50th Birthday and they will be staying with me in June. The medication also meant I didn’t miss out on the traditional Whelan New Year’s Eve Party, and so I am grateful for that. New Year’s Day was spent recovering from the night before and packing for my trip back home.

Back on Crete I have spent the last two weeks doing all the things I have been putting off for far too long. A priority was to finally search for someone who can promote my online Etsy shop, which I don’t have the time or ability to do myself. My unique style of fine art collages is in a very niche market, I think and I need a good marketing plan. I still have quite a list to do but feel I am finally getting somewhere.

Seashell Mosaic Painting Collage - 40 x 50cms

Two boats in seashell mosaic under a palm tree – Seashell Mosaic fine art – 40 x 50cms

For the first time I have found it difficult to get back into my work, but now that I am sorting other problems out, my head is starting to clear and I really want to get stuck into a new project. I have a couple of commissions I would like to start working on and as soon as these other matters have been attended to, I will be doing just that. I also have some new ideas I’d like to progress and know that I will feel much better when I am back in the swing of things and am fully absorbed in my art again.

Looking to the future… it’s set to be a good year with two family weddings taking place and these are really positive things to look forward to in 2018. Rob and Emma are getting married in June in Oxfordshire and Zoe and Rich marry in May here on Crete.

Sad Times…

It’s been an incredibly sad couple of months. I have not felt like carrying on as normal. Nothing has felt normal since Leonie’s passing.

At the beginning of November I returned to the UK for two weeks, to be with my family and of course, for Leonie’s funeral.  It was so good for all of us to be together at this sad time, giving each other support, especially to our Mum who, as you can imagine was grief-stricken to lose her daughter.  Karen and Mum had already arranged most of the funeral, as Mum had  returned to the UK a couple of weeks before me.  It took much longer to arrange as Leonie had to be flown back from Cyprus and there were procedures to follow.  We spent hours together, writing Leonie’s Eulogy, which Mike delivered beautifully.  The private service was held at Stockport Crematorium, with only close relatives and friends. It was so poignant and we think – just what Leonie would have wanted.  Afterwards we went back to Karen and Mike’s for the wake. Sophie and Hannah created a wonderful tribute to Leonie’s life in words, pictures and video footage, which we projected onto the wall. The sun shone beautifully all the long day (the next day it was raining and miserable!) Leonie was… and always will be… our sunshine girl.

Birthday meal

“Us Four” at my Birthday meal in Bramhall Village

Karen, Mike and Mum took me out for a lovely meal on my Birthday two days later. Yes, life goes on… but now there’s a gaping hole in it… for ‘us four’ in particular.  I know that in time life will just swallow it all up. But the love will always be there. Karen sent me something someone once wrote…
“Grief never ends. But it changes. It is a passage. Not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness. Not a lack of faith. It is the price we pay for love.”

Remembrance Sunday

How cute is Ralph with his Remembrance Sunday Poppy!

A few days after the funeral, Zoe collected me from Karen and Mike’s and drove us both down to Emma and Ash’s new family home in Shrewsbury. I had a lovely few days with my two gorgeous girls, Zoe and Emma and adorable Grandson Ralph. It was so mood lifting to be with the three most precious people in the world to me. I can lose myself in Ralph’s little world and he never fails to make me smile and laugh. He was just the tonic I needed!  On Rememberence Sunday we all went to a lovely country pub for a Sunday Roast and Ralph was as good as gold.  He looked so cute and smart in his little coat with the poppy on it.  I was in the best place I could be and so cherish the quality time I spent with Zoe and Emma. I felt so loved and supported.

So I returned to the beautiful part of Crete I call home and resolved to catch up with my work. My flight back was late that night and the following morning I answered a call on my landline from Microsoft. To cut a probably ‘long and now familiar story short’… I let myself fall hook, line and sinker for a scam! My head was all over the place and they couldn’t have picked a better time to target me! I gave them remote control of my laptop and in so doing, access to my online banking and PayPal accounts! I felt such an idiot but very soon realised what had happened and immediately called my bank. I am well impressed with the fraud prevention efficiency of the RBS. Within an hour of the hacking, the bank had declined two large withdrawal attempts, prior to my telephone call.

The consequences of my rash and thoughtless actions cost me dear. I was without my laptop for a week while John gave it a complete overhaul. I tried to borrow a spare laptop but no one had one. I felt so isolated and cut off from the rest of the world! My laptop is my work, Skype contact with family, emails, online shop, telephone, radio and TV. Eventually I decided that the need for another device was well overdue. Otherwise how would I keep in touch with customers and how could I even work without my design references? Most people have iphones but I’ve just stayed with a very basic Nokia without internet – just calls and texts which is all I ever wanted a mobile for!  But I have been travelling back to the UK more and more these past few years and I’ve always had to rely on Family’s laptops and tablets, to access my emails.
So I treated myself to a Samsung Galaxy Tablet complete with stand-up case. I convinced myself that it was a smart business move too. It could open new avenues for accepting payments during the summer months as well as continuous access to my online shop when travelling.

Getting back into the swing of my art business has been slow. I lost a week when I couldn’t progress on a commission that was required by December, because I didn’t have my laptop. I still had to place a shell order with Rose and when I finally emailed her and explained about Leonie, she replied with such poignant words which I’d like to share. Rose said, “Getting back to being busy is a very good start to healing.  Many customers tell me that they have found a real peace when working with seashells. Getting lost in the beauty of nature helps get your mind off other things in life” So so true.

3 Granddaughters in Seashell Mosaic 40 x 30cms

Commissioned work – 3 Granddaughters in Seashell Mosaic.

I did complete the artwork of the customer’s three Granddaughters in seashell mosaic, which he was taking to Dubai as a Christmas present for his Son and Daughter-in-law.  I loved every minute of its creation and it really brightened my mood and lifted my spirits when I saw Bob’s reaction and realised how thrilled he was with it!  For me… creating this artwork was so therapeutic, absorbing and rewarding. The fact that I had recently acquired a large and very special shipment of beautiful Coquina and was able to start using them for Bob’s artwork… was just what I needed to shake my shroud of sadness off for a while. Heartfelt thanks to Bonnie and Nancy, who were in the middle of dealing with my Coquina order when Hurricane Irma struck in Florida. I was actually in email contact with them as they were hunkering down for Irma’s arrival and the ensuing storm! We lost contact for a week or so, while they lost power and services. But thankfully the order survived and I finally got my precious cargo!

So I have been busy with all manner of things that must be attended to in the month of November – particularly my car and as usual I’ve had car trouble! Not just repairs but also insurance and tax to pay. Because I wasn’t home during the first two weeks of November, everything was late. In fact at one point I was without my car as well as my laptop. Talk about everything happening at once!

Fisherman & his Boat in Seashell Mosaic - 50 x 70cms

Fisherman & his Boat in Seashell Mosaic – 50 x 70cms

I have been working on some of the larger designs that I sold during the busy summer season. I’ve just completed a large artwork of a fisherman and his boat. I sold the last one to a couple who had purchased my seashell mosaics before. In April the couple came to my house and picked it from my lounge wall! I also finished a couple of designs I had started before I heard the tragic news about Leonie.

I really should have done some work on my Etsy shop. I have much to do in terms of its marketing as I am selling in such a niche market. But the last month has been all about catching up slowly and doing only what I feel in the mood to do. Other things will have to wait until after Christmas and New Year. I’m returning to the UK for two weeks on the 19th December to spend a very special Christmas with my family and I am so looking forward to it!

A Heartfelt Tribute to my Beautiful Sister Leonie

This is the hardest post I have ever had to write… but write it I will…for I must.

Two weeks ago today my beautiful sister Leonie passed away.  We are all devastated and cannot begin to describe how much we will miss her.

She had overcome some major difficulties these past couple of years, and was just beginning to rebuild her life when it was snatched so suddenly away. Leonie was my youngest sister and she was only 52 years old.

In spite of everything, Leonie always lived her life to the full. She stayed strong and coped with all her difficulties with dignity and integrity… and I admire her so much for that.

Sunny Leonie

Leonie… our Sunshine Girl. Last picture taken Sept 2017

Leonie was always loving, caring, thoughtful, generous and kind… and such good fun to be with! There have been so many happy times to cherish over the last ten years or so. Our family holidays every year at our respective homes in Spain, the UK, Crete and Cyprus. They’ve all helped to build such wonderful memories to cherish for always. Memories that we were so glad to have shared with her. Leonie… our sunshine girl. We will always celebrate your life and sunny nature.

Beautiful Leonie, inside and out. Know that you were loved very much. And I choose to believe that you are not gone from us. You may not be in Cyprus anymore… but you are everywhere now… in the UK, in Spain and in Crete. You ‘are’ where we are. You will remain forever in our hearts.

Family Holls Leonie's 50th Cyprus 2015

Family Holls – Leonie’s 50th, Cyprus Sept 2015

Family Holls Cyprus Sept 2012

Synchronised swimming – in Cyrpus, Sept 2012

Crete May 2013

In fits of giggles.. Leonie and I in Vangeli’s – May 2013

Family Holls in Cyprus Sept 2012

Family Holls in Cyprus Sept 2012

Crete June 2012

At the bar on the Rooftop of Almyrida Residence – Crete June 2012

 

Cyprus Oct 2008

Cyprus Oct 2008

Picturesque Almyrida

Here on the beautiful Island of Crete it’s been a long hot summer and it isn’t over yet! September is proving to be a hot one too and I’m pleased to say that sales have really picked up during the last two months. Hence the reason I’ve not written for a while, because much has been happening in my life both professionally and personally and it’s all taken precedence over this Blog!

One of Almyrida's pretty beaches

One of Almyrida’s pretty beaches where Zoe spent much of her time relaxing.

Zoe came to stay with me for a much-needed break from the stresses of her job. She was in desperate need of some rest and of course was also here to progress with her wedding plans. Rich had too much work on so she came alone.  Originally, Emma and Ralph were trying to get flights out for the same week, but sadly Emma also had work commitments and so I didn’t get to spend time with her or Ralph and oh I do miss my cute little Grandson so much!  Such is life… but I really do believe things always  happen – when they happen… and for a reason.

One of Almyrida's pretty beaches

The other side of the beach, where Zoe and I spent quality time and swam last weekend.

That week with me in Crete turned out to be just what Zoe needed! We got so many important details about the wedding sorted and on the days I was selling, she was quite happy spending time by herself; lots and lots of swimming and relaxation; reading her book and feeling completely at home In Almyrida. Zoe has visited Crete so many times now, that it feels a little like her second home!  It’s the same for Emma when she visits.   I was able to join Zoe on other days and I couldn’t help taking some snapshots of the beautiful and peaceful setting we were relaxing in! I may live here but I rarely find the time to appreciate how lovely and picturesque Almyrida is!

On Thursday evening we met Neisha, the wedding planner and Kirsten in Chania – at the caterer’s cafe restaurant. Here we were treated to samples of all the dishes Zoe has decided to go for including the wine – all of which were complimentary. That done and food and wine decided, we moved onto the Harbour Front to a restaurant called Salis and who’s owner is a friend of Neisha’s. We drank a cocktail and I have to say that the food at Salis is all organically home-grown and deliciously different! I would definitely recommend this place!

At Salis Restuarant on Chania Harbour Front

At Salis Restaurant on Chania Harbour Front – Zoe, Kirsten, Neisha & I.

The following evening we went to Maddie’s in Kefelas, to watch a band that has been highly recommended and is a strong possibility for the wedding. We thought they were brilliant! They had everyone up and dancing all night and they were talented and accomplished musicians. When the gig had finished Zoe approached the lead and singer for a chat. What a genuinely nice guy he is, with no airs and graces and he has readily agreed to perform at Zoe and Rich’s wedding at the end of next May.  Fingers crossed that Rich will like them too, after he hears them on Zoe’s video clips and Youtube.

On the beach in front ofCafe Franscoise in Almyrida

Zoe and I on the beach in front of Cafe Franscoise in Almyrida.

And so it was a different Zoe I took back to the airport than the Zoe I had collected the week before. She was tired, negative and on edge when she arrived, but rested, positive and happy when she left and although she did not want to leave, I reminded her that in just over seven months she’ll be back again for three whole weeks around the wedding. Needless to say I did my usual crying all the way back from the airport, but (practicing what I preach) with my flight back to the UK for Christmas and New Year already booked, I know it won’t be long before I can see and spend time with everyone dear to me again.

Since Zoe left I have been busy trying to keep up with demand for certain designs of my Seashell Mosaic Collages which have been particularly popular in August and September. I’ve already mentioned how sales have improved during these months and this means I have more work to fit into less available time! Same old… same old story.

Lisa and I at Nikita's in Almyrida

Lisa and I at Nikita’s in Almyrida last night, where 4 different bands were playing.

My social life has been busier again too and yesterday I spent the day showing my good customers and friends – Paul, Sheila and John – all round Chania and they treated me to a lovely lunch at a restaurant situated high above the Harbour. Last night I went to a four band gig at Nikita’s in Almyrida and have to say that was a cracking night! Such a variety of music styles, entertaining and great to dance to! My Friend Lisa plays the beat box in one of the bands and so I went along to support her. There were heaps of people I knew there and I partied until collapsing onto my bed at around 2am this morning!  There is a big party taking place in Plaka Square on Thursday Evening.  There will be more Live music from Backtrax and I missed last year’s party, so I was told last night that I had better be there this year!

Almyrida has that Holiday Atmosphere Again!

It’s Easter Sunday and I’ve been busy getting the spare room ready for Zoe and Donnas’ visit in a couple of days. The weather has been glorious again and so later this afternoon, I couldn’t resist a couple of hours working mosaic on my amazing balcony! Now I am enjoying the peace and tranquillity and the early evening sun, whilst I lounge comfortably on the balcony sofa. Continue reading

Help! I Desperately Need Colourful Coquina Seashells!

It’s been a while since my last post and that’s because I’ve been totally absorbed in my art, continuing with my creative splurge while I can. I have loved and enjoyed every single minute of it! All of my new designs can be purchased from my Etsy shop – the link for which is just above on the menu bar. Continue reading