A Christmas of Joy Worth all the Stress of Covid

I arrived home to Crete on 2nd after leaving a very cold UK and I am blown away by the wonderful weather I’ve come back to!  I am amazed to be sitting here on my balcony with warm and tranquil sunshine washing over me like a comfort blanket. It’s been blue skies and sunshine ever since I returned and it’s forecast to be 24 and 25 degrees at the weekend. Wow!  Despite having a list of stuff I need to deal with – I just have to sit here and enjoy it!  My view is magical and my recent memories are magical… so I am perfectly placed to write all about them here and now.

I never left Crete on the 8th December, as I was supposed to. I had to re-book and pay for all 3 flights the next day instead, otherwise I doubt I would have made it back to the UK at all!
Never book anything through Lastminute.com. I cannot actually find the words to describe how utterly appalling they are! It’s an ugly story but one I think which needs to be told. I will dedicate a whole post to it in the next two weeks.

Not today though… today I am only reminiscing over the amazing three and a half weeks I’ve had with my family during Christmas and New Year. My sister, Karen collected me from Manchester airport late on the 9th and although my time with Karen and Mike was cut short a day – we still managed to achieve lots while also enjoying each other’s company and catching up with all that’s been happening there in the UK. We had a really nice shopping day with lunch (lucky they were in a low tier) and my Christmas pressie from Karen and Mike was a fab new Antler suitcase! My 30 years old one was cumbersome and finally falling to pieces, so this was an amazing gift for me and I love it!

Our Christmas Eve dinner at a local pub

Our Christmas Eve dinner at a local pub

After only a couple of days with Karen, she dropped me off at Zoe’s workplace at the end of her shift, so that I could go straight to their new home in Yorkshire… and see my gorgeous 15 month old Grandson, Arthur. I had four blissful days with Zoe, Rich and Arthur, loving their company and playing with little Arty, who is a crazy little bundle of energy! His curiosity knows no bounds and whenever he isn’t sleeping – he’s on the go go go! I was more than happy to give his Mummy and Daddy a bit of a break!

Christmas Eve and kids all ready for bed in their matching Christmas PJ's!

Christmas Eve and kids all ready for bed in their matching Christmas PJ’s!

I then went to the other side of Yorkshire to spend the next ten days with Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve. We would all (including Zoe, Rich and Arthur) be spending Christmas here at their home on the military base, which is large enough to accommodate us all. The first two days of my visit I had Ralph and Neve practically all to myself because Emma was working. It was a double whammy really because I got to help out and spend all that quality time with them on my own. Ralph is five and Neve is two and so it was hectic, energetic and full of fun and laughter! I loved all of my playtime with them and especially the kisses and cuddles! Emma had to work two further days later in the week and I also babysat whilst Emma and Ash went out for his Birthday. They were in tier two which meant that restaurants and bars were still open. Earlier in the week we were also able to visit a children’s indoor soft play centre, which Ralph and Neve enjoyed so much.

Christmas DInner!

Christmas DInner!

That day I found out that my return flights with KLM had been cancelled. With the new strain of Covid in the UK causing rapidly rising cases – I wondered if I’d be stuck in the UK indefinitely? I certainly did not want to dwell on the difficulties of getting home then, because I am a person who lives totally in the present and I was having such a wonderful time with my family. I would worry about getting home sometime after Christmas.

Boxing Day walk around the reservoir.

Boxing Day walk around the reservoir.

I spent a very novel evening with Emma in their hot tub. Earlier in the day I had taken the kids into the large garden for some fresh air and it was so cold that we were all collecting pieces of ice to put in a bucket. This is what Ralph and Neve were so excited to do. So there was no way I felt like stripping off and putting a swimsuit on to go out into that icy cold night! Nevertheless Emma persuaded me it would be worth it and we took a bottle of wine with us to liven things up a little. Well it was so good and we spent around three hours in that hot tub, with Ash joining us for the last hour. The only awful part was getting out every time I needed a pee! It was so so cold… but then so so hot when I got back in! I really enjoyed the whole experience and it reminded me of the spa day that Zoe and Emma organised as a Birthday gift for me two years ago at Christmas.

On Christmas Eve Zoe, Rich and Arthur joined us for an early dinner at a charming pub nearby. So we were all now together for Christmas. I really couldn’t have been happier because I was never sure this would happen with Covid dominating our lives so much. I feel so lucky and thank God that we are all in good health. After we had put all the kids to bed, we chilled for a while before getting everything ready for the morning, complete with Santa’s snowy footprints in the house! Then we went to bed as we knew the kids would be up at the crack of dawn, because all three of them were in the same room. One would wake the other two!

Early Christmas morning was magical and it started with Ralph screaming with delight when he saw Santa’s snowy footprints leading all the way to the Christmas tree! For around three hours it was totally chaotic but so entertaining to watch my three Grandchildren’s joy and delight in their new toys, whilst we adults sipped our Prosecco. Yes, way too early to be drinking but hey – it’s a really special occasion! It was Zoe and Rich’s turn to cook Christmas dinner and Rich, being the great cook he is, delivered the very best as usual and it was delicious! Again I have to think how very lucky we all are. In the evening we all played some games and had a really good laugh.

On Boxing Day we had a slap-up breakfast and then went for a long walk around a reservoir where Ralph got covered in mud! It was certainly invigorating and at the end of the walk, when we were back at the cars, it was time to say my tearful goodbyes to Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve. Zoe, Rich, Arthur and I then returned to their home on the other side of Yorkshire.

After the weekend I started trying to sort out my return flights. True to form – Lastminute didn’t want to do anything and so they kept on insisting that as far as they were concerned – my KLM flights were still operating. Unbelievable when you consider it was all over the national news 2 weeks ago! Luckily, KLM were brilliant when I finally got through to them. They re-booked all three flights for the 2nd January so that just left me with the problem of how to get a Covid test and results done within the time scale the Greek Government specified. The test had to be done privately as a certificate with passport ID was required. Luckily Boots do them for 120 pounds as all the other companies were charging a minimum of 180 pounds! However Boots had no available appointments until 5th January and so I called them at the Huddersfield branch and they kindly squeezed me in 3 days before my flight. I cannot tell you how relieved I was and the results came back negative less than 24 hours later. I just had to hope the authorities wouldn’t be too strict about it being over the 72 hours from arrival in Athens.

Ralph & Neve dressed as super heroes!

Ralph & Neve dressed as super heroes!

Zoe had to work for 2 days including New Year’s Eve, so I gladly looked after Arthur. This turned out to be a bonus for both Zoe and me as I had originally booked to return before New Year on 29th December. Rich finished work earlier on New Year’s Eve and immediately went to work in the kitchen, making a wonderful Curry with the leftover Turkey, including delicious home-made Naan bread. We had a lovely chilled New Year’s Eve, enjoying the curry and drinking Prosecco and Bailey’s. But we were all so tired that we fell asleep on the couch and missed New Year altogether! There is a reason you’re meant to have kids when you are young. I was thoroughly exhausted from all the rough and tumble and playtimes I’d had with my gorgeous three grandchildren over the last three and a half weeks and the stress of re-booking my return flights and Covid test, no doubt contributed to my tiredness.

Ash with Ralph & Neve in their hot tub.

Ash with Ralph & Neve in their hot tub.

Late afternoon on New Year’s Day I said my tearful goodbyes – this time to Rich and little Arthur. Then Zoe drove me back to Karen and Mike’s, so that I could get a taxi to Manchester airport for 4am on 2nd January. It was a long and tiring day as I had missed out on sleep the night before. All the checks were done at Amsterdam and my Covid certificate checked before boarding to Athens. Although they queried the date at first, I was finally given a PCR check sticker on my passport and continued my journey to Athens. There my PLF was scanned and I was given a lateral flow covid test before making my way to the final gate for my flight back to Chania, Crete.

I can honestly say that my journeys both to and from the UK were not something I would ever want to repeat. But I meant what I said in my previous post and the amazing time I had with my family was well worth all the stress and worry I had to go through to make that happen. I feel so fortunate to have made many more wonderful memories this past Christmas, when all around the world in 2020 this Pandemic has been and still is, dictating our lives on a daily basis. We can only hope and believe that 2021 will turn out to be so much better for everyone.

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